An Ex-Gnome Tank's World

Tunnel Vision

July 8th, 2009 Posted in Dungeons, Healing | No Comments »

One of the first things that I was good at, way back in my pre-warrior days, was learning not to stand in fire. Or poison clouds. Or any other sort of AoE effect that did Bad Things to my health. One of the first things you need as a tankis situational awareness, and I had bucketloads. Once I switched to my warrior, I had at least that down before I even started about the other stuff, like keeping aggro, and worrying about when and how to use my cooldowns.

Now, I’ve noticed something interesting happen. While tanking, my abilities at staying out of stuff that might hurt me remain unparalleled; however when healing, things are a different kettle of void zones altogether.

Let’s take The Nexus as an example. I’ve run it in heroic mode a few times, and it’s not been too bad – except for the fact that I forget to jump to clear the debuff too often, straining my own healing even further.

And then there’s the Four Horsemen. I won’t say I was an unmitigated failure at the back of the room, but I seemed to be far too slow to react when a void zone appeared beneath me, even when I wasn’t casting, as well as seemingly having lost every ounce of sense as to where to stand so that I was only in range of one of the bosses.

And there’s the thing. When you’re spending 90% of your time staring at a little black box which contains pretty much all the information you’ll need about the entire raid, it’s easy to miss things that happen outside it. It’s a matter of where the focus lies, and while it can improve with practice, there’s always going to be an inherent delay while things like casts finish.

So, when you wonder why your healers seem to spend longer getting out of AoE, it’s not because they’re inferior. It’s merely that they have a different frame of reference, which encourages tunnel vision. Sure, it can be broken, but it’s always there. Give them a break – they’re staring at their unit frames so intently so you don’t have to.

The Red-Headed Stepchild of Tanking Stats

June 25th, 2009 Posted in Class Discussion | 1 Comment »

Block. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it…. Ah, no, hang on. Nobody gears for block these days, it’s a wasted stat. Back in Naxxramas it was godlike, a successful block taking a healthy chunk of the incoming hit. Nowadays, it’s a bit, well, like one of those games from years ago that you remember playing endlessly for hours and yet, when you come back to it, you can’t for the life of you remember why (Hello, X2: The Threat). Something about it just hasn’t kept up with the times.

And now, are things changing? Well, maybe. In the patch notes, we see that bonus shield block value on items is being doubled. “So what?” I hear you ask. “My regular tanking gear has almost no bonus SBV as it is”. True, neither does mine. But hidden away in the cupboard, destined only to come out for certain fights, is another set of gear, my Shield Block Value set. And I can see things changing here – rather than some people using Frost Resistance gear on Hodir, I can see all of us moving to using SBV gear because it will mitigate Frozen Blows in its entirety.

There’s the rub. This change isn’t huge, but it does introduce choice in how we gear that was less present. Sure, for someone like General Vezax, who hits for 30k, isn’t going to be the fight you use your SBV gear on – a chance for a 10% reduction in incoming damage is nothing – but there are plenty of other fights where the melee hits come more often and for less. A good example might be the crusher tentacles of Yogg-Saron, where a good amount of block value (especially with shield block up) would help immensely.

Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of these changes – maybe a change in the percentage block you get per point of block rating will crop up too – but I’m intrigued as to what we’ll end up with. More choice over what gear is feasible can only be a good thing.

Tier 8 Bonus? Overrated

June 17th, 2009 Posted in General, Theorycrafting | No Comments »

The protection warrior tier 8 set bonuses have cause some consternation; the 2-piece bonus which boosts the critical strike chance of Devastate by 10%. A small threat boost, but nothing huge. And then there’s the 4-piece bonus:

“Shield Block also grants you 20% reduction to magical damage taken”

On the face of it this sounds absolutely fantastic. However, having looked closer, I’m not so sure. Just taking the tier 8 content into account that I’ve seen so far (ie, everything up to General Vezax), exactly how useful is it?

  • Flame Leviathan. You’re in a vehicle. Nothing to see here, move along
  • Ignis the Furnace Master – well, there’s Scorch, so it might be useful if you’re an offtank standing in the fire for a long time, but that’s about it
  • Razorscale – Useless in phase 1, nice to have in phase 2, but Flame Breath comes too quickly to negate it all the time. So kind of useful, but by the time you have 4 pieces of tier 8, you probably have good enough gear to survive the breaths anyway.
  • XT-002 – Pretty much all physical damage, except for bombs, and if you’re getting hit by those you have bigger problems
  • Kologarn. Again, all physical damage. Move along, nothing to see
  • Assembly of Iron – Fusion Punch was made for the bonus. A nice reduction on an ability which can be reacted to. A decent use for it at last.
  • Auriaya – well, if your raid’s doing it right, Sonic Screech will hit for so little as to be trivial. No really good uses here either.
  • Hodir – Well, Frozen Blows might count, but odds are that if you’re wearing full frost resistance gear, you don’t have the 4-piece bonus. And if you don’t have full frost gear, you’re likely to be wearing SBV gear (Frozen blows that are completely blocked do no frost damage).
  • Thorim – Steadily increasing physical damage. Not really much help
  • Freya – Nothing hits very hard, really. I guess it might be useful for holding Exploding Lashers in place, but really, why dice with death when you don’t have to?
  • Mimiron – Leviathan Mk2′s Plasma Blast was made for the set bonus. But after that? Maybe to relieve your healers a little in phase 2.
  • General Vezax – again, if the tank’s taking magical damage, someone’s doing something wrong.

So, not great, really. In a fit of curiosity I looked over some old Sartharion + 3 drakes log parses to see if it might have been useful there. It definitely wouldn’t help enoughwith main tanking Sarth himself – the breaths come too often for that. For Shadron, Tenebron and Vesperon, maybe, but not a huge amount.

So, yeah, there you go. I wouldn’t say to knock yourself out trying to get the 4-piece warrior tier 8 set bonus, at least not yet anyway. There just aren’t enough practical applications to make it the killer upgrade it might appear to be on first sight.

EDIT: Veneretio points out that the set bonus comes into its own a lot more once you start to attempt some of the hard modes. I can see how that might be the case, but as I’m not yet running hard modes, I’ll wait to see them before completely reversing my opinion. On top of that, not everyone cares too much about hard modes.

The Importance of Being Earnest

June 14th, 2009 Posted in Healing | No Comments »

The World of Warcraft is many-faceted. It’s easy to forget what the world is like outside the confines of my raiding guild - that there are many players of varied skills and social abilities. And, as I took my first steps into the world of pugged heroics, I was plunged into a world ever-so similar but utterly different from what I was used to.

And of my first experiences of heroics, how have I found things? Let’s examine each in turn.

  • Utgarde Pinnacle. Yes, my first heroic was one that I was expecting to be hard. We had a reasonably geared tank, and DPS who knew how to behave correctly (even if they ignored the expected tactics on occasion). A couple of wipes on the gauntlet, mostly due to no-one noticing the casters trying to take me out with shadowbolts, and the rest was pretty straightforward. All-in-all, a nice confidence booster.
  • Caverns of Time: The Culling of Stratholme. Again, manageable once I’d got into the swing of things. Unfortunately Arthas bugged after the second boss so it was wait ages for a GM to reset or give up on it. Shame, because it was all going rather well.
  • Utgarde Keep (attempt 1). Things began to fall apart here. The last pull before the first boss, with no issues up to then, I was unceremoniously booted from the group for someone’s better-geared friend. To say I was annoyed was an understatement.
  • Gundrak. We opted for the kiting strategy and killed the second boss first. That wasn’t too bad except for the DPS who insisted on standing in purple goo. And then the kicker – the snake boss, which I remember being brutal back when I tanked it, was horrific. It wasn’t helped by the fact that I was getting verbal abuse from the DPS, especially the DK who thought he was a tank (he wasn’t supposed to be), pulling multiple packs at once then cussing me once he died. After a single wipe, he was off, a barrage of swear words his only goodbye, taking the other DPS with him. The tank, however, was extremely gracious in defeat and was very understanding when I told him I didn’t want to go on.

So, after taking several hours out to calm down, it was back in with:

  • The Nexus. My faith in my fellow players was restored, big time. Despite having an obviously eBayed shadow priest with us (“What are Emblems of Heroism for?”) We made pretty short shrift of the place, even surviving after a bad fear on the first boss. Then, this morning:
  • Utgarde Keep (attempt 2). Brought in as a subsitute healer (hey, I needed the badges) after the first boss, the place was fine, except for Ingvar the Plunderer, which we wiped on once (and almost a second time) because I didn’t know anything about tactics for the healer. I apologised, explained I’d never healed the place before, and they were very gracious about it.
  • Azjol’Nerub. Almost a non-starter, we wiped a couple of times in the first boss’s packs thanks to things eating me, and we nearly called it. Again, everyone was polite and there was no insulting anyone. I’m glad we tried a third time, though, because after that we proceeded to one-shot everything.

So, then, out of seven runs, four-and-a-half were fine. 70% isn’t too bad at all for a first weekend’s healing, and it’s brought me to realise one thing - things go a lot more smoothly where there’s understanding between everyone in the run. The bad runs were directly accountable to one (or more people) who had no respect for other people and insisted on doing everything their own way. So some have found their way onto my ignore list (the abusive ones), while some of the others I’ve made a note to be cautious about. When I was struggling, and people noticed, but were polite about it, things went a lot better than when a barrage of “heal ffs” was the most polite thing said to me.

I’ve got my Idol of Lush Moss, though I haven’t been too lucky on other drops so far. Roll on next weekend, when I can get in more practice!

…In which Namthe admits defeat

June 11th, 2009 Posted in General | 2 Comments »

I’ve documented before my utter hatred of macros, especially castsequence macros. While I have a couple of timesaving ones bound, for the most part I try to stay away from anything that restricts my choices.

However, recent WWS parses have shown me a problem. My uptime on Demoralizing Shout is utterly abysmal. And on top of that, I’m refreshing Thunder Clap about twice as often as I need to. I know why this is, too – Thunder Clap is bound to the 2 key, Demo Shout to shift-2. At some point along the way I’ve lost the muscle memory needed to hit shift when I want to apply demoralizing shout.

There are two approaches to this problem, and I’m taking both of them. The first is to force myself to hit shift when I mean to use Demo Shout. The other, and it pains me to say it, is a macro:

/castsequence reset=30 Thunder Clap, Demoralizing Shout

This takes the place of my old Thunder Clap key (and Ctrl-2 is bound to just Thunder Clap, if I need it).

An interesting feature of castsequence macros is that if a spell in the list is cast outside the macro, it still moves on to the next action. So if I hit the right button for Demo Shout, the next action taken will be Thunder Clap. If I hit “2″ instead as my muscle memory tries to make me, Thunder clap will still be available the next time I press the key.

So, it’s a crutch, but while I’m training myself to do things the right way again, it’s a useful one. And it’s a useful compromise between helping the raid not wipe and improving my own game back to a point where I’m satisfied with my performance again. Last night’s raid showed an immense improvement. I can only hope to keep it up once I remove the temptation of button mashing again.

Joining the Clique

June 2nd, 2009 Posted in Dungeons, General, Healing | 2 Comments »

Despite its title, this isn’t just a post about healing. Tanks, don’t skip this one over…

There comes a point in every character’s leveling career whereby instance levelling begins to get ever-more difficult. Not because the instances are too hard (they aren’t), but because the number of people willing to run those instances slows to the barest of trickles.

I’ve hit that point with Druziraa – halfway through level 79, and there are four instances I want to run. Halls of Lightning, Oculus, Caverns of Time: Stratholme, and Utgarde Pinnacle. They give me XP, they give me loot that will be useful when I start to run heroics in half a level’s time. Unfortunately, this is where the demand for instance runs seems to peter out. Nobody wants to run the plain old 80 instances and I spend a lot more time in LFG advertising my presence than I did a couple of levels ago.

However, I’ve had enough practive to get the hang of click-casting now. I’m still not 100% there, but definitely good enough that I can keep everyone alive without too much hassle. For the odd thing (Innervate, maybe, though I really haven’t had much cause to use it) I’ll go back to the old ways. Soon my healing spells won’t even be on any action bars, removing the temptation altogether.

Healing, enjoyable as it is, isn’t what I enjoy the most though. I’m still very much a tank at heart, and as such a lesson learned while healing isn’t a good lesson unless I can apply it elsewhere. And in this case, while my unit frames are staying as they are on Namthe (Grid’s displays just tell me too much I don’t care about, and aren’t pretty enough), Clique has come with me, for two abilities in particular:

  • Intervene
  • Vigilance

Mousing over a raid-frame and shift-clicking to intervene to someone seems a lot easier than trying to find them to click in whatever’s going on on-screen, especially if they’re out of your current camera angle. Similarly, ctrl-click on a unit frame to change the Vigilance target on the fly during a fight works particularly well, for those times when your main vigilance target isn’t doing as much threat as your expected, or is dead. It feels a lot like the original design of the Vigilance talent (akin to Hand of Salvation) and isn’t nearly as disruptive as I’d thought it might be.

My raiding UI has changed somewhat since the last time I posted it over a year ago; sometime soon I might get around to a post discussing why it’s changed, and how it’s helped me.

In General, tanking Vezax is a pain

May 31st, 2009 Posted in Bosses, Wrath of the Lich King | 1 Comment »

Our first attempts at General Vezax were less than stellar. It’s all too easy to stay in the saronite clouds too long and commit suicide, or misjudge an interrupt or your distance when kiting him.

However, our strategy was eventually formed, and it’s a little different than what I’ve seen elsewhere. Rather than kite the boss, we aimed to keep him in one place all the time.  This helped immensely with spacing as well, giving us one less thing to worry about. Of course, the problem is that there are new things to worry about. However, by treating the fight like the three drakes fight, and arranging cooldowns accordingly, we were able to arrive at a strategy that worked reasonably well.

We used the following:

  • A Warrior tank with Improved Disciplines, Glyph of Shield Wall and Glyph of Last Stand
  • A Holy Priest
  • A Discipline priest

The cooldown on Vezax’s tank-splatting move, Surge of Darkness is sixty seconds. Armed with that knowledge, we were able to use the following spell rotation so that the boss didn’t have to move:

  • 1st cast: Shield Wall
  • 2nd cast: Pain Suppression, Last Stand and dodge trinkets
  • 3rd cast: Shield Wall
  • 4th cast: Guardian Spirit, Last Stand and dodge trinkets
  • 5th cast: Shield Wall
  • … and so on

A different strategy to what’s recommended, I know, and one that’s slightly more healing intensive, but it works for us. And once our DPS have learned to not suicide in the saronite clouds (best attempt was 6%), then I’m pretty sure we’ll see him dead.

A Professional Professional?

May 27th, 2009 Posted in General, Healing | 1 Comment »

For the first time in approximately forever, I find myself missing a raid because I had to stay in the office late. And while I’m disappointed with that (especially as my girlfriend is sitting close by healing on that self-same raid), I’m also fine with it. Anyway, that’s not what I’m writing about. Missing the raid has given me time to think about putting keyboard to blog.

Since patch 3.1 landed, I’ve had very little time to play with my Druid, preferring instead to devote my online time to keeping my gold supply high. Now, though, through minimal dailies, it’s hovering around the 2.5k mark. It could be much higher, but why farm when I don’t have to? What’s there is a more than adequate supply for a few weeks’ raids, especially now I don’t need to flask up for so much content – it’s back to the old favourite elixirs.

So recently I’ve found the time to play Druziraa again and, while some things never change – I’ve still not sorted a click-casting addon – some things do.

My first taste of failure came, as it no doubt did for so many others, in the Halls of Lightning. And with retrospect, the fact that I was expecting to fail doesn’t really come close to covering it. Our tank, a level 77 paladin, would be fine, right up until he got hit by a crushing blow. Then he’d be dead, as I failed to keep up. Two undergeared players in a dungeon slightly too high for them falls on the wrong side of fail. Of course, once we moved to Halls of Stone, I could more than cope.

But my real question is this – I had been vaguely pondering taking Inscription and Herbalism on Druziraa, in the hope of avoiding the Sons of Hodir grind. But are there better options? I’m already familiar with the benefits of Alchemy, and they don’t strike me as being that great. Engineering, great as it was in TBC (the good ol’ Tankatronic Goggles lasted me from Karazhan to Sunwell) really doesn’t have enough going for it these days. Jewelcrafting is about to get horrendously nerfed. The only things I don’t know much about are Tailoring and Leatherworking, but half of me wonders if they’ll be as equally disappointing as all the other professions. I don’t want to make money from them, I just want something that will help me. Trouble is, I don’t have the time to research it during lunch breaks these days and it’ll either be a stab in the dark (bad) or end up not picking anything at all (worse).

I wonder, where does Dru go from here?

A Sense of Entitlement

May 22nd, 2009 Posted in General, Rants | 1 Comment »

It’s happening more and more, and I can’t help but be irritated by it as time goes on. I’m in the Ironforge Auction House, or in Dalaran running errands, and before too long, I get a whisper:

“hey m8, wanna run Naxx 10?”

As a matter of fact, I don’t. One of Namthe’s rules for a stress-free life at the moment is:

  • Namthe does not run Naxxramas. At all.

This is mostly due to the fact that after running it so much pre-ulduar, I don’t want to see it again. In addition, it’s an ugly, ugly dungeon that really feels like more could have been done to it to bring it up to date when it was re-released.

Inevitably I turn to my approacher, and notice that invariably he has me targeted- he’s inspecting me. Nothing wrong with that in itself – I’ve often been known to inspect other players to see what they’re wearing. However, more than that, I’m being vetted.

Most of what I’m wearing these days is i226; I don’t (ordinarily) wear gear with an ilevel below 213. This appears to make me ideal for their purposes, being both (apparently) available and ridiculously outgearing the content they want me to run. Invariably the person approaching me is wearing a mix of i187 and 200 blues and maybe a couple of Heroic epics.

If I’m feeling curious, I’ll reply, along the lines of “I have all the gear I could possibly want from Naxx, plus 350 badges. What could I possibly want from there?” The answer is always “Badges, for gems or frozen orbs,” like they didn’t bother to read the question in the first place.

What I find more surprising is that often these people aren’t even looking in LFG for a tank; they’ve spotted me and real soon now they’ll find another eight people to fill in their dream run. I suppose that what I’m really wondering is this – why do people I’ve never met have this strange idea that I might be willing to run a dungeon that I quite obviously massively outgear for them?

No idea what happened there…

May 19th, 2009 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

But anonymous commenting is once again enabled. Puzzled as to how that changed as I’ve never even been near that options screen before. I should have suspected something sooner –  my spam queues were suspiciously empty…