Or "How Warriors Are Better Tanks Without Actually Being Better Tanks."
(posted on the official WoW-US Paladin forums as well)
For those of you who don't know me, I'm a Tankadin. My guild, in which I am the tanking role officer as well as assistant raid leader, is doing fairly well on progression, having recently downed Vashj and currently working on Kael'Thas. As a break from the heavier raids, I do Karazhan outside of raid hours on one of my alts. I generally play my Warlock for most of the instance, but as the little group of friends that I run with has no Warrior tank, I brought my Warrior in for Nightbane when we tried him for the first time this last week.
Now, my Warrior has terrible gear. He sits at about 14k HP fully buffed with Commanding Shout (and that's with the Tauren 5% bonus as well). He has a whopping 11% dodge and 15% parry. Hell, he doesn't even have 490 defense. I really have no business tanking anything bigger than a low-end heroic with him (most of which he's not even keyed for). And when I put him up against Nightbane, it shows. On the first pull, I died in about 12 seconds flat.
However, there's one oft-overlooked skill available to the Warrior class that no one really thinks about: Thunder Clap. If you're unfamiliar with the skill, with talents it's a 20% reduction to attack speed, usable on just about any mob in the game. Given that most bosses' primary source of damage output is melee attacks... that's a pretty huge reduction in damage taken. On our second pull, I hit thunder clap right away and made sure to keep it up for the rest of the encounter. Second attempt ever for most of the people in the group. We downed him flawlessly.
All was well and good, loots were handed out, everyone was happy. But it got me thinking. Thunderclap literally just meant the difference between life and death for my Warrior. That also lead me to wonder -- just how often do the mobs I'm tanking on my Paladin have thunderclap up? I kept an eye out for it all through this week in SSC and TK: the answer is "almost never."
So what can be done about it? Well, the immediate conclusion would be to have a Warrior thunderclap for me. That's not as simple as it might sound, however. First and foremost, the mob I'm tanking isn't always the mob being DPS'ed, which means there probably isn't a Warrior nearby to hit thunderclap. Secondly, DPS warriors (who spend most of their time in Berserker stance) are typically loathe to ditch all their rage to switch to Battle stance, thunderclap, and switch back. They certainly [i]can[/i] do it, and by all rights they probably should, but it just doesn't always happen. There isn't always a warrior available either, particularly in 10-man content. The end result? Paladin tanks (and Druid tanks as well) end up taking about 20% more damage than they need to -- and it's 20% damage a Warrior tank would not be taking. So in that respect the Warriors are right; Paladin and Druid just plain take a lot more damage than them, most of the time.
At the same time though, it's a debuff that CAN be on the mob I'm tanking. So obviously, the different tanking classes have to be balanced as though the debuff is ALWAYS on the mob being tanked, or else the pendulum would swing the other way. If a Paladin tank can do as well without Thunderclap up as a Warrior tank can WITH it up, what happens when the Paladin tank has Thunderclap up? So if you remove Thunderclap from the equation entirely, the gap between the Warrior and Paladin tank narrows dramatically - leaving things about where the developers believe them to be. So in that scenario, Paladin tanks are just fine.
If you're not convinced, have your tank try it sometime. Go fight Maulgar or Curator or something and have him take Thunderclap clear off his bar. You'll notice he seems to be taking a heck of a lot more damage than usual, and you'd be correct. He IS taking more damage than usual - about 20% more.
So back to the earlier question: What can be done about it? Probably the most immediate answer would be "Nerf thunderclap." I'm not a big fan of that option, and I don't believe the developers are either (besides, then they'd have to nerf Thunderfury again). Another possibility would be to make Thunderclap usable in Berserker Stance. It still wouldn't be up all the time, but at least when DPS warriors were nearby it wouldn't be as big of a deal. There could also be some sort of non-stacking debuff ability given to Paladin and Druid tanks, but that seems a bit involved and against Blizzard's typical methods of dealing with things anyway.
Honestly, I'm not sure how it could be fixed, but it's a pretty big issue that needs to have some attention paid to it. Thunderclap gets swept under the rug in all too many "Warrior vs. Paladin" debates, and since it's twice as effective as defensive stance for reducing boss white damage (and over three times as effective as improved Righteous Fury), at the very least I think a lot more people need to be aware of it.