An Ex-Gnome Tank's World

Where have all the tank spots gone?

February 17th, 2010 Posted in Bosses, Burning Crusade, Dungeons, Wrath of the Lich King | 4 Comments »

A warrior, a paladin, a druid and a death knight walked into Icecrown Citadel.

“Hey,” said Tirion Fordring as they entered the antechamber. “Is this some kind of joke?”

I’ve recently had occasion to go through my old screen grabs, and one in particular grabbed my attention. It’s of The Hidden Circle in Serpentshrine Cavern, and it was taken by my girlfriend during an attempt against Morogrim Tidewalker.

The big thing to notice is that there are four tanks in the Main Tank frames. A paladin, a bear and two warriors. Thinking back to that level of content, almost everything needed three or more tanks. There were the odd fights that needed one or two, but they were an exception much more than a rule.

THC’s current regular tanking team consists of one of each of the current tanking classes, and these days we can never take more than three of us into a raid. And three tanks is one too many for most fights in Icecrown, the vast majority being suited to exactly two (the same number as are needed in the 10-man versions of the same fights).

If all four of us do get in the same raid, it’ll be because at least one person needs to DPS rather than tank because we don’t have enough DPS signups. And that’s a damn shame. I long for fights like Al’ar where two tanks are taunt-swapping the boss while another two deal with phoenix adds, or for Kael’thas where we all had something to grab hold of.

Instead the limitations of encounters scaling between 10 and 25 players swing into force. In the cases where a third tank is needed, it’s down to lazy encounter design – witness Professor Putricide where tank no.3 has nothing to do but pretend to DPS for phases one and two and most of phase 3, or the “Add one more target to the saber lash” scaling of Marrowgar. Even on the add fights – Lady Deathwhisper and Valrithia Dreamwalker, we’re better off with fewer tanks and more DPS as it’s all about raw damage output.

This can only be bad for tanking in the long run; tanking was already the hardest role to land a regular raid spot with. And now the encounter design doesn’t lend itself to tank scaling, I wonder how long it will be before the number of tanks in the 25-man raid is “fixed” at two, simply because the encounter’s easier to code that way.

Blizzard may have said that they didn’t wany dual-spec to influence raiding, but given the challenges in meeting some encounters’ hard enrage timers, I do have to wonder if that is really the case.

Still Alive (No instance servers are available. Please try again later).

February 16th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

We’ve had more than our fair share of problems getting into raid instances recently. As we’re a late-night guild, everyone else is already inside and we keep getting the error message that used to be familiar to players everywhere when it caused issues for every 5-man group.

The following is borne out of my frustration at bouncing against the instance portal for an hour and a half come raid time, destined for a GM ticket. Unfortunately amusing as it is, the GMs can’t help here.

This is no triumph.
I’m making a note here: NO SUCCESS.
It’s hard to understate my dissatisfaction.

The Hidden Circle:
We raid what we must because we can.
For the good of all of us
Even the ones who are dead.

But there’s no sense crying over every boss missed
We’d just keep on wiping till we ran out of fish.
And raiding should be done and we’d have a lot of fun
With the people who are still alive.

I’m incredibly annoyed.
I’m being so sincere right now.
Even when you broke my shield and killed me
We managed to zone in -

And now we can’t even manage that.
As we bounce it hurts because
You said “We’ve fixed it for you.”
Now, we’re not in beta so what’s wasting our time?
We’ve run out of patience for what Blizz think is fine.
We’re not glad we got spurned – think of all the things we learned
Outside the instance, we are still alive.
Go ahead and leave us.
I think we prefer to stay outside.
Maybe we’ll find somewhere else to kill things.
Maybe Warhammer-
Anyway, to raid was great -
And our frustrations are voiced.

Look at me still talking when there’s raiding to do.

When I look in there it makes me wish I was you.
I’ve got instances to run, there are boss kills to be done
With my guildies who are still alive.

And believe me I am still alive.
I’m outside the instance and I’m still alive.
I feel FANTASTIC and I’m still alive.
While you’re dying I’ll be still alive.
And when you’re dead I will be still alive.

Still alive.
Still alive!

A tale of two twonks

January 4th, 2010 Posted in Dungeons, Healing, Rants | 5 Comments »

It’s been nearly a month. Random dungeons are still the flavour of the month. And, for the most part, they’re highly enjoyable.

I’ve mostly stopped running random dungeons with Namthe now, except once daily to get my emblems of Frost. On the druid, however, I’ve got plenty of gearing up still to do. And there have been a couple of abusive idiots.

The first, a Moonkin (from my own server, no less, though it makes no real difference) didn’t know what he was doing against Forgemaster Garfrost. Standing out in the AoE, he got killed in fairly short order and then unleashed a slew of curses at me for failing in my duty to keep him up (I should note as well that the tank was relatively undergeared – around 30k HP).

My respose? “You wouldn’t have needed so much healing if you’d LoSed the AoE even once”. The tank backed me up and the guy immediately quit the group. Score One for common sense.

Second fun group member was very shortly afterward. Zone into Halls of Lightning. Buff up. And the hunter immediately lays into our pallytank.

“What the f*** do you paladins think you’re doing, always give me wisdom? Stop being such a f***ing idiot and give me Kings, you c***!”

Charming. And it carried on in that vein for a while. At that point I decided that I’d like to kick the guy. Unfortunately the dungeon timer was still up so we were stuck. So I did the next best thing. I deliberately didn’t heal him. To his credit he lasted a while, but when he finally bit the dust, our warlock asked:

“Res the hunter?”

“Nah,” both the annoyed tank and I replied in unison. A few minutes after that, we kicked him. Good riddance.

Moral of the story? Don’t swear at the people playing your support classes. You wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.

Here endeth the lesson.

The World Has Changed (and not necessarily for the better)

December 15th, 2009 Posted in Dungeons, Rants | 1 Comment »

I’ve been spending a lot of time getting intimate with the new Dungeon finder tool recently, though not yet enough to get me a new pet. And, on the whole, unlike a lot of people it seems, my experiences have been overall positive. Every run I’ve been placed with has, had enough DPS to clear the place, so I don’t really see what the fuss is about if one or two members are less well geared than I am.

The big thing I miss is the whole travelling across the world to get to a destination. Even if it’s just being summoned, it feels a lot more epic than being unceremoniously whisked away from wherever you were, and whisked back when you finish.

Of the negative experiences,  there have been two. The first one was entirely not the group’s fault. It turns out that if your world server crashes in a certain way, you’ll disconnect from a shared instance server too. Given at the time I’d just pulled a boss and when I managed to get back online ten minutes later, I could see that there had been a wipe, it wasn’t surprising I’d been kicked by the group.

The second one was caused by Oculus, Destroyer of Pugs. On zoning in, two people immediately left the group. Of those remaining, one hadn’t done it before, and admitted as much. I asked him to listen to my instructions so that we’d get through the last boss fine. The replacement players were happy to do occulus, and had done it before multiple times.

So, after downing the first boss in relatively short order we moved onto the drakes. This was where things began to fall apart. It turns out that the last member of our party also had never been here before, had kept quiet, and was now demonstrating the most Epic of Fails I’ve seen in a long time. He had no vehicle bar. He claimed he’d never used a vehicle before, and couldn’t get off the dragon once he was on it.All the while others were pulling the random flying dragons from all directions. I’ve no idea how they were managing it.

The excuse? “I don’t PvP”. Obviosuly you don’t raid or level, either, matey, given the huge numbers of vehicle quests out there.

Anyway, in the 10 minutes it took us to clear the trash, he’d “discovered” how to unmount. Suspicious. The second boss was a nightmare – I ended up soloing it after everyone else failed to get out of the AoE. Third boss was OK, but not great, idiots with the time bomb debuff running toward the group rather than away from it.

And the fourth… after people ignored my requests to actually get a green drake (I was on red, everyone else on yellow) and ran into the boss without actually checking who was near for a second time, I said a single word. “Bye”. And I ninjaquit the instance.

I’m not proud, but Occulus has a reputation for being difficult and now I see why. It’s not that it’s hard (it isn’t). It’s just that two people unwilling to listen even for a second if they’ve never been there before make things impossible.

I tank to enjoy myself. Hell, most situations I can salvage, like pulling many packs at once in a conventional dungeon (my record so far is five, and I did that knowing full well that everyone was well geared and would cope). But having to sit back and watch as someone who’s never been there costs me 14G every time I die because they know better? No thanks.

Perhaps I’m being overly negative. There have been far, far more good experiences than bad. It’s unfortunate that the bad ones overshadow the good.

Arthas who?

December 14th, 2009 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

It’s been a few days since 3.3 launched. Things have changed big time in the World of Warcraft.

Sure, there’s the new raid encounter (and a very fine one it is too), but that’s not all. Three new dungeons, which link together to tell a story. I only had a chance to play through them from Saturday onwards, and the story they tell is one that I find somewhat satisfying. I have also been spending multitude time with the new LFG tools, but that’s another post entirely.

Arthas / The Lich King (depending on who you listen to) has cropped up a lot over the entire expansion – in fact, I think he appears in encounters at least once in each zone, and then again as an uninvited guest in the Trial of the Crusader.  The trouble with all of these encounters, though, is that he loses. The sole exception is the Drakuru encounter in Drak’tharon Keep, and that turns out to just be a waypoint in a longer story.  The net effect is that he seems rather too much like a pantomime villain, whose parting catchphrase may as well have been “I would have got away with it if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids, er, adventurers”

And so for me Halls of Reflection was something of a triumph. We actually lose, and have to run away. The blow still doesn’t seem so hard, though, as everyone gets out alive. If I’d had my way, we’d have seen a repeat of the Wrathgate scenario, and lost another major faction leader. The Lich King is badass, and yet he allows us a fair chance at escaping? Give me a break.

In terms of Icecrown Citadel, I’ve seen the first three encounters. Well designed, but we seem to be spending most of out raid time bouncing against the “Additional Instances cannot be launched” problem. Yeesh. I don’t enjoy spending my raid time being punished for being a guild that raids later in the evening (9PM server time). And the trash seems somewhat undertuned thus far – pulling both main packs of Lady Deathwhisper’s room at once and AoEing them down? I long for the carefully calculated pulls in Black Temple and Sunwell.

Blueberries have more fun

November 21st, 2009 Posted in General | 1 Comment »

A whole new meAs you may have guessed from my last post, I’d been feeling the burnout fatigue for a while. And while we did eventually get Anub down in hardmode, it was a long time coming. It annoys me that even (or maybe especially) in 10-man, raid makeup makes such a huge difference to the end result.

I haven’t been writing recently for a number of reasons, prime of which is having nothing to write about. There’s only so much you can say about a raid encounter that kicks your arse week after week. So I’ve been on hiatus from blogging, and from doing anything other than raiding in WoW. The other thing that’s keeping me busy(and I really should be working on now!) is NaNoWriMo. When you’re channeling all your energy into writing fiction around an ever-more demanding  job, something’s got to give, and recently it’s been this blog.

I’m still here, though, and some things have changed, while others stay the same. I’m still tanking, still cursing the overly hardcore, but I’m generally chilled out more. The other thing that’s changed is my race. That’s right, the gnome is gno more (groan) - I switched to the draenai race. There’s a couple of reasons, but mostly I was bored of looking like a gnome, bored of the line-of-sight issues that gnomes suffer from on sloping terrain, and just generally being short.

Historically The Hidden Circle’s tank groups have also lacked heroic presence in 25-man raids too, lacking a draenai tank as well as group arrangement not generally being kind to us on that front. So I picked my new race knowing that all of our tanks would get a potential threat boost from the change. Ironically, we also took on a new draenei Death Knight tank in the same week, so now we have two shots at the buff depending on who is around on a given night. The other consideration is that I liked the look of the Draenei most out of all the other options. I would always hope for the spacegoat race to come up when I experienced a transporter malfunction, as the animations always looked the best, and given I have to stare at these pixels every time I play I may as well make them pixels I want to look at.

So, a whole new me. And I’m happy about the change, even if the changes were mostly for cosmetic reasons.

Go Team! (A tale of woe)

October 12th, 2009 Posted in General, Rants | No Comments »

Like many guilds, at the moment we’re struggling for new content. Ulduar is dead and gone, and all we have left to entertain us are Trial of the Crusader and Onyxia.

After a few too many “close, but no cigar” moments on the 25-man heroic Northrend Beasts encounter, it’s been suggested a couple weeks’ more gearing up is needed. I can’t honestly find a reason to disagree with that decision, given the number of times things have happened that could be avoided with just a little more practice. And how are we practicing? In 10-man heroic mode, of course.

It’s worked rather well – we breezed through the first four bosses in our first twenty-five attempts or so. None of the held us up for too long. However – then, along came a spider, in the shape of Aub’Arak.

70 attempts, and several changes of strategy later, things are getting… somewhere. We can get to phase three much of the time, and then things just fall apart. And there’s the gist of the problem. Raid makeup.

And I don’t mean the classes we’re bringing along. I mean the players.

Raiders are generally one of four archetypes:

  • Excellent at doing their jobs, but impatient with others who aren’t so excellent
  • Excellent at doing their jobs, patient with others
  • Reasonable at doing their jobs, but able to improve
  • Bleeding awful.

Now, fortunately, we don’t have many of the latter (and they don’t generally get invited to raids). Most people are somewhere around the second, and unfortunately we have some people who fit into the first category. Ordinarily this isn’t a problem as progress can be good enough to keep them satisfied. Unfortunately, sometimes, things don’t go the right way fast enough. It just takes a few words. In this case, the words were:

“Guys, I don’t think this is working. I want to give up”

Of course, no-one paid much attention to this. After all, the hardcore player expressing doubt is something that most of us have come across at one time and another, and we try not to pay it much mind. Unfortunately the subconscious isn’t so easily fooled. The next attempt, our DPS was down a full 15%. Not so much as to stop us getting to phase 3, but enough that phase 3 was now more of a problem.

It didn’t get better. After a few more goes, the raid was (not unexpectedly) called. The few negative comments made (not directed at any one person) had been enough that on some level raid performance was predestined to fail.

Next time, I hope we will have a different raid makeup, one where everyone is at about the same level of improvement, or able to be patient enough with the others.

Bosses aren’t the hardest thing a raid has to face. No, that honour goes to the raid’s own members and their expectations of each other.

What content glut?

September 25th, 2009 Posted in Bosses, Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King | 3 Comments »

A lot of people have complained that Lich King doesn’t contain as much raid content as Burning Crusade. Personally, I think the problem is elsewhere. The first thing to do is dispel the myths surrounding the number of bosses available:

Burning Crusade Lich King
Tier 4 Tier 7
Karazhan (10-man) 11 Naxxramas (10/25) 15
Gruul’s Lair (25) 2 Obsidian Sanctum (10/25) 1
Magtheridon’s Lair (25) 1 Eye of Eternity 1
Total first tier bosses: 11 (10-man) / 3 (25-man) Total first tier bosses: 17 (10 / 25-man)
Tier 5 Tier 8
Serpentshrine Cavern 6 (25) Ulduar 14 (10/25)
Tempest Keep: The Eye 4 (25)
Zul’Aman 6 (10)
Total second tier bosses: 6 (10-man) / 10 (25-man) Total second tier bosses: 14 (10 / 25-man)
Tier 6 Tier 9
Black Temple 9 (25) Trial of The Crusader 5
Hyjal Summit 5 (25) Onyxia v2.0 1
Total third tier bosses: 14 (25-man) Total third tier bosses: 6 (10 / 25-man)
Tier 6.5 Tier 10
Sunwell Plateau 6 (25) Icecrown Citadel 12
Total fourth tier bosses: 6 (25-man) Total fourth tier bosses: 12
Total overall bosses: 17 (10-man) / 33 (25-man) Total overall bosses: 49 (10 / 25)

So, overall, we have about the same number of bosses in Lich King than in Burning Crusade (and I haven’t even counted the loot pinata that is Vault of Archavon). Admittedly, that includes a number of recycled bosses, but in the case of Naxx almost nobody saw it at level 60, and Onyxia is only a single digit drop if we discount her.

No, the problem is this – difficulty level. Those raids who worked hard because they want to see the content now have to work less hard, and get through it more quickly than they did before.

Normal modes are about pitched between the old bosses and the new hard Modes. Many see the content, they see no reason to do hard mode, they get bored. There’s no less content, it’s just easier. Perhaps a little too easy. By allowing more people to see the content, perhaps Blizzard have shot themselves in the foot. Those who wanted to see it before now do it in half the time and get bored. Those who stood no chance before for whatever reason still haven’t.

There’s more content than ever before. The trouble is it doesn’t last anywhere near as long.

A Long, Strange Journey

September 20th, 2009 Posted in General | 2 Comments »

Silliness is part of life, and it doesn’t get much sillier than the bright purple Violet Proto-Drake, a testament to the insanity of doing all the holiday achievements (though I note that a new one based on the US’s Thanksgiving has been added since).

A very strange proto-drake

Of course, I’ve always gone for the sillier end of the spectrum. I play a gnome warrior, a class that never should have existed if there was such a one, ride around on an elekk or a mammoth. I’ve always liked the look of the proto-drakes, and I’ve not been lucky enough with the RNG nor sufficiently hardcore in PvE nor PvP to get hold of one up to now.

I’d been planning this since before Achievements were even released. Joined the Brew of the Month club, kept all my seasonal clothes in the bank, and waited. Most holidays weren’t an issue, the two big issues being Christmas, where I didn’t log in at all between 14th and 31st December, and Childrens’ Week and that ridiculous “Capture a tower in AV” achievement. I managed all the RNG achievements long before they were toned down too.

Now though? To be honest I’m a little burned out on holiday achievements. I’m not honestly sure if I can force myself to do it all again on my druid. Maybe I’ll give Brewfest a miss this year and start again with Hallow’s End. Part of the appeal was it was all content that was new to me, and that just isn’t the case any more.

Koralon the Faceroller

September 7th, 2009 Posted in Bosses, Wrath of the Lich King | No Comments »

This isn’t the much-awaited second post on how to tank. I’ve had a lot on my plate recently out of game, so blogging has had to take a bit of a pushback until everything else. In any case, Kadomi appears to have written an excellent post on pretty much the same things I was going to cover, in Tanking School: The Pull. Have a read, it’s good stuff.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. Two new bosses this week, and then we have to wait until Onyxia (and then Icecrown) before there’s any more new gear available. And, to be honest, they were both somewhat of a disappointment. First up, Koralon the Flame Watcher. I knew vaguely what he was capable of, and went into the encounter expecting something straightforward. I wasn’t quite prepared for how incredibly straightforward it was going to be. An air of definite anticlimax accompanied the kill; all the more because it felt orders of magnitude easier than the Coliseum bosses. The gear just didn’t feel earned.

And then there was Anub’Arak. Also quite straightforward – one-shotted in 10-man, got him second go on 25. The sole problem was too many DPS on the adds rather than the boss himself. Admittedly the entire encounter feels epic thanks to the lead-in to the boss, but, still, Faction Champions feels like the hardest boss in there by a long way. Doesn’t feel right.

In any case, killing Anub means that we can now attempt hard mode. And we did – to say it was hard would be an understatement. I’ve not done badly out of gear from normal Trial of the Crusader, but … well, insane isn’t really the word. At times we had 60k+ damage coming in to tanks in half a second. Given I have 48k health raid buffed, there’s just a smidgeon of difference there. By rotating cooldowns, we managed to down Gormok, but only just. I have no clue how we’ll see Dreadscale and Icemaw through. There’s scope for improvement, but… damn, perfection as a requirement I haven’t seen in a long, long time.

Now I know how people raiding Sunwell pre-nerf felt.