Taunt No More

There are some very interesting trends emerging since Ruins of Kunark released, most of them relating to the Fighter Archetype and how they approach their primary job: Tanking.

The first observation is that tanks are generally parsing very high these days. As often as not, they top the parse in the groups I’ve been in. (Grr, that means they are beating me, but then, I’ve usually given them some very generous assistance via haste and a third arm). This helps them do their job, since 1 point of damage = 1 point of hate. So parsing high means they keep aggro better. And all else being equal, more dps is better. So I don’t blame them for this.

The thing is, tanks now claim that taunting isn’t that important to them in terms of keeping aggro. Because they have good strength, good weapons, and at least adept 3 level combat arts, a hit with a combat art is going to do as much for them, if not more, than a taunt. In fact, in some cases, an autoattack hit will do more, and not cost any power like a taunt does. This seems odd to me.

The game seems intended to have aggro control be a cooperative venture. Why else would they have hate-transfer abilities, and hate-reducing abilities? It’s one of the ways that the game becomes a cooperative venture rather than a “blast-away” free-for-all. That’s why tanks have taunts, which seem to me like they should represent a tradeoff between actual dps and hate. But they don’t any more, dps is better, almost all the time.

There’s another way this is showing up. Most tanks now tank in offensive stance, because they do more dps. If they tank in defensive stance, they lose aggro because they aren’t hitting enough with their combat arts. This goes even for bruisers (and, I assume monks, though I haven’t talked to any) who have weak mitigation being leather wearers. So they are willing and able to forgo the greater mitigation and avoidance granted from defensive stance in order to dps more, and thus hold hate more.

So taunts are definitely not really cutting it. They are used when other CA’s are not up. Maybe to pull, too. Or in special situations. But keeping the taunt button dark isn’t a priority any more. Was this intended?

Another trend in tanking is the level of avoidance that good plate tanks are able to accomplish. I friend who is a guardian can self buff avoidance to something like 50 percent. And the guardian epic weapon will only make that better when he gets it, since he will be able to use a tower shield where he used to be able to use a buckler to get it.

A significant fraction of that avoidance is uncontested. For those of you who may not be aware, normal skills, such as defense and parry are compared with the mobs skills to determine how effective they are. The more skill your opponent has, the less effective your skills will be. This is what it means for a skill to be contested.

An uncontested skill is a fixed percentage. Usually, figures given in flat percentages (“3% chance to riposte”, e.g.) This figure does not change with the level of the mob. It works just as well on red con mobs as on grey ones. Which makes uncontested avoidance especially valuable when battling top end encounters.

Ok, where were we? Oh yes, plate tank avoidance is getting very good. Avoidance caps at 80 percent. That is, after any contested evaluation of mob hit skill versus character’s avoidance skill, avoidance skills might be derated to have only an 80% chance of avoiding an attack. More skill matters, but only against higher level mobs.

To plate tanks, especially raiding ones, the ability to increase avoidance is welcome. This is because they have reached the limit of what mitigation can do for them. Between very good plate armor, and Adept3/Master 1 buffs to mitigation, they are well along the diminishing returns curve. They can’t get much more damage reduction out of more mitigation.

This trend is fueling both the move to offensive stance and more avoidance. I don’t blame players for doing this. They are doing what they need to do to be more effective. And doing a damn good job of it. But it’s giving me the sense that the game is starting to break down.

For one thing, can the brawlers get more mitigation somewhere? Well, no, but it doesn’t seem like they need it, at least not in the group game. In raids though, they can be one-shotted by raid mobs, even trash raid mobs, so that’s a problem, because brawlers can’t get more mitigation than what comes on the best leather armor. Unlike avoidance, mitigation does not come on jewelry.

One of the qualities I like in any game MMORPG or otherwise, is openness. There should be more than one way to do things, and players should need to exercise judgement in balancing one thing off for another.

Should the game become all about DPS, pure and simple, that would be a less fun game for me. I don’t mind people realizing that mitigation is giving diminishing returns and putting their plat to work elsewhere. That’s a good thing.

But tanking in offensive stance and ignoring taunts, while parsing in the top reaches? That seems busted.

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