When Mythic announced they are changing guard to require a shield in 1.4, most of the tanks understandably went apeshit. The change has later been pulled, but thinking about it still upsets many players. Having two tanks myself and quite a bit of experience with them, I’ve been giving this problem some thought. It may be a bit late, but with Mythic announcing that they intend to have a look at this at a later date, I feel it’s still very relevant.
The Problem: In situations where excessive survivability isn’t needed a S&B (Sword and Board, Shield and Blade) tank has nothing to offer their group that a two-handed dps tank couldn’t. This usually occurs in small-scale combat (scenarios, roaming with a small group) which seems to be the direction the game is heading. A change to the viability of a S&B tank in those situations is warranted.
Mythic’s Solution: Punish two-handed tanks that have adapted to the small-scale playstyle by equipping a greatweapon and gearing for damage by taking away the most important tool they can offer their group, guard. While this will force the tanks to equip a shield even for small-scale it isn’t the most sensible of solutions. What happened to the unofficial motto of Mythic’s C&C team: buff the underpowered instead of nerfing the overpowered? Key word here is punishment, when it should be incentive.
Alternate Solution 1: Incentivise S&B tanks by giving them something two-handed tanks don’t have. First, take a look at the CC tanks have and make sure it’s evenly distributed. Then give them a tactic that increases the duration/effect of their CC when wearing a shield by 50%, possibly replacing one of the less used tactics in the tanking mastery tree. This would mean that a stagger from a S&B tank would last 15 seconds, a knockback would send the target flying 50% further, a snare/root would last 15 sec, a knockdown would last 50% longer… This would make a tank equipping this tactic a CC powerhouse, while not punishing two-handed tanks for going for damage.
Alternate Solution 2: The tactic would make all tank CC (after the balancing of tank crowd control across the board) incur 50% shorter immunity timers if used when wearing a shield. This would mean that if the tank uses a knockdown on a target that lasts 3 seconds, the target would only get 15 sec of Unstoppable immunity, instead of the usual 30 sec.
Alternate Solution 3: Tie the strongest CC in the game, AoE staggers, to the shield and give them to all tanks. There is no reason for a CC that strong to be exclusive to one career, especially if that career already has several other things going for them. While this may be seen as a nerf to KotBS/Chosen, it’s an overall buff of tanks, as I’m sure the aforementioned careers would rather lose the ability to stagger with a greatweapon than to lose the ability to guard with a greatweapon.
Plenty of other possible and sensible solutions have been posted by players and bloggers. It shouldn’t be hard to pick a suitable one and fix the problem without pissing off most of the tank playerbase. The key thing that will help any attempt to balance two-handed and S&B tanks is balancing all CC and taking a long hard look at the power of each tank career when playing two-handed and S&B. Supposedly Mythic will be doing this in the near future.
Ignored Problem: In situations where excessive survivability is the prefered playstyle for tanks two-handed tanks are useless. And while the sentiment of “tanks should be tanks” usually holds true, the way tanks (especially certain ones) are designed in WAR makes it obvious that they need to be viable, in order to justify damage trees and their ability to wear greatweapons. Currently there is nothing to justify dropping survivability for a tank in large-scale battles (with the possible exception of Arcing Swing for the KotBS, which is more a case of stupid design decisions and realm balance).
Pigeon-holing into certain specs is quite a big problem in WAR. Making different tank playstyles viable in most situations would be a big step forward. But again, the key word is incentivising, not punishing.