There isn’t much use for a tank simulator unless you have something to tank. I know, I’m captain obvious over here.

The boss mechanics and how tank ‘rotations’ interact with them are the core of tank simulations (and I think, the most interesting). I’m covering both of those things in this post (Part 2).

Boss mechanics & taking damage

We model actual boss fights in the simulator by programming in the specific abilities and timing, just like you would experience in-game. This makes the tank simulations realistic enough to determine the value of talents and gear.

To see how these thing are programmed into the simulator, let’s walk through a simple example.

The simplest thing to look at first: Boss auto attacks. Boss auto attacks happen on a fixed timer with a specific damage range. To program that into the simulator, I would do something like this:

  • Target: Main Tank
  • Type: Physical
  • Start at beginning of fight and repeat every 1.5 seconds
  • Damage: 100,000 +/- 20% (unmitigated)

Let’s get just slightly more complex: imagine the boss also uses a magic spell that hits hard enough that you need to use a cooldown to mitigate the damage. That would look something like this:

  • Target: Main Tank
  • Type: Magic
  • Start 15 seconds into the fight, repeat every 20 seconds
  • Damage: 75,000 (unmitigated)
  • Predictable Big Hit: Yes

You might have noticed that parameter, “Predictable Big Hit.” This tells the simulator that a real player would know when this is coming – that it is predictable. This lets us program realistic reactions into the ‘rotation,’ like using a big cooldown right before the boss casts this spell.

Bosses often put a stacking debuff on the tank. Let’s take an example debuff that increases the amount of magic damage you take by 20% per stack. The extra incoming damage doesn’t get dangerous until 4 stacks, but you can’t tank swap until 6. Since things start to get dicey at 4 stacks, I’d program it like this:

  • Target: Main Tank
  • Type: Magic
  • Start: 20 seconds into the fight, stack every 5 seconds
  • Damage increase: 20% per stack
  • Predictable Big Hit: Yes, at 4 stacks

The simulator will treat the stacking debuff as a big problem only when it reaches 4 stacks, using cooldowns right before that 4th stack is applied.

This stacking debuff requires a tank swap, which is programmed into the simulator specific to the situation. For example:

  • When there is only 1 boss and nothing else, the Boss won’t target you on a tank swap until you take aggro back. You will still take damage from any other spells that might hit you, like raid-wide AoE spells or a DoT that hasn’t fallen off yet.
  • When there is a secondary add, or a group of adds, we program the simulator so that you are tanking those instead of the main boss during the tank swap (assuming that’s appropriate, otherwise, we won’t!).

These different types of boss mechanics let us program rules into the simulator so the tank can react (or plan ahead) like you would in a real fight. These get programmed into the ‘rotation.’

Simulating a tank: rotation rules

Tanks don’t really have a rotation. You aren’t using defensive cooldowns on a fixed schedule, rather you’re reacting to your health, your debuffs, and what the boss is about to cast next. But the term ‘rotation’ (which is used for DPSers) has stuck. So you will see it get thrown around for lack of a better term.

If tanks don’t have a ‘rotation,’ how does this get programmed into a simulator? We make rules that mimic human logic, which the simulator acts on. Some example rules for a tank might look like this (I’m using a Protection Paladin, with comments in gray italics if you aren’t familiar with that spec).

  • Use Shield of the Righteous (SotR) whenever you have 2 or more charges. (SotR reduces incoming damage and can have up to 3 charges, so it’s important to use this when you have 2 charges and your 3rd is recharing (but not yet charged). You don’t want to get to 3, because that means you are wasting recharge time)
  • Use Lay on Hands if health is below 15% and you don’t have the Ardent Defender buff. (Lay on Hands heals you to full, but can only be used once per fight. So it’s often saved for a big emergency. Ardent Defender saves you if a hit would have killed you, so using Lay on Hands while this buff is active would waste it)

As a tank, you react to your current health pool like the Lay on Hands rule shows. But you aren’t just reacting to incoming damage, you are also planning ahead. You know when big hits are coming and you preemptively use big cooldowns.

This is where the “Predictable Big Hit” from the boss script comes into play. Here’s how a rule looks when planning ahead:

  • Use Blessing of Spellwarding if a Predictable Big Magic Hit is coming in 1.5 seconds or less (Blessing of Spellwarding protects the target from all magic hits for 10 seconds)

If you want to get even more granular with cooldown management because you plan ahead with your healers, you can do that too. It’s very customizable.

Understanding priorities in tank ‘rotations’

In a real boss fight, you have this complex set of rules in your head, and you also know their priority. You know that if your health suddenly drops to 10%, you drop everything else you are doing and hit your emergency button. That rule takes top priority.

To make a good rotation for tanks, we need to take every rule and put them in priority order, just like you do instinctively in-game. Let’s take the 3 rules we already outlined and put them in order.

  1. Lay on Hands rule – This is the most important because if your health drops below 15%, you need to survive
  2. Blessing of Spellwarding rule – It’s important to plan ahead so that your health doesn’t drop dramatically. So if you aren’t in immediate danger (below 15%), this is the next most important rule if a Predictable Big Magic Hit is coming up.
  3. Shield of the Righteous rule – Using this helps mitigate damage, but it’s not as important as the other 2 rules

These are obviously just a small sample of rules, but you can see how the programmed rotation is shaping up to mimic a real player’s decisions.

While the main objective is survivability, tanks can contribute meaningful damage to the raid. DPS rules get added in to the ‘rotation’ as well, but at a lower priority than the rules that keep you alive.

Coming up next

Since the simulated boss is hitting you with ‘real’ abilities for actual damage, that means you might die in the simulator (just like in a real fight).

To make this model realistic, we’ve also included a ‘real’ healing team as well. Your simulated healing team reacts to your health like your actual healers would. All of this gets factored into the metrics that measure your survivability.

There also comes a point where you are tough enough that you are willing to sacrifice some survivability gear (or talents), in favor of DPS. The system allows you to do that as well.Simming Tanks - Part 3 - heals & tank DPS