An Ex-Gnome Tank's World

Victorious Interventions

May 18th, 2009 Posted in Bosses | No Comments »

Hodir is one of those fights that’s highly mobile, and if you (and they) are doing it right, involves the dps generating far more threat than most people would ordinarily think sensible. It’s a fight where I’m constantly keeping one eye on Omen, one eye on the ground to make sure I’m not standing in a rune, and another eye on where the moonbeams are now. Admittedly that’s three eyes, but what the hell.

Anyway, good DPS will all be threatening you all of the time in terms of pulling aggro. You can yell over teamspeak for your teammates to watch their threat, but that will only get you so far. You can ask for Hand of Salvation to be cast on someone, but again, there’s the little issue of the cooldown on the spell meaning it can’t be used that often (and in any case, the Paladin is probably a little too busy doing things like keeping your plate-covered arse alive).

No, warriors, and especially warrior tanks, have a secret weapon when it comes to keeping at the top of the meters. Intervene isn’t very useful for most single-tank fights, but there is one occasion that makes the Hodir fight so much better than most for it – Flash Freeze.

The moment that Flash Freeze is cast, I target the person who’s highest on Omen and Intervene to them. If your raid is sufficiently clueful, they’ll be standing next to a snowdrift, so that moving across the room isn’t going to be a problem – you’ll have plenty of time to get into a safe position. If your DPS are nowhere near a safe place, then intervening to them and getting frozen yourself is the least of your problems.

If you can afford (or even need) to be mobile while a boss is casting something, don’t be afraid to intervene. The extra DPS that might allow the raid to squeeze out can make all the difference.

Cool down!

May 14th, 2009 Posted in General | No Comments »

Recently I’ve been taking two tanking specs to Ulduar – the good, ol’ Deep Wounds threat spec, and a new and shiny spec – Cooldown spec. When paired with the Glyph of Shield Wall and Glyph of Last Stand, it brings the cooldown of each of those two abilities to 2 minutes, each. I’ve also taken a few more talents to reduce my incoming damage rather than increase my outgoing threat.

When fighting the Keepers of Ulduar, how has that impacted on me? To be honest, most of the time, I don’t miss the extra threat, the main place it’s a problem being the Hodir encounter, when I’m not wearing conventional tanking gear anyway.

It’s saved me more than a few times in fights we’re just learning, where healers have a lot of other things to cope with, such as the Auriaya’s Feral Defender running amok in the raid, or people being just that little bit too slow to avoid getting frozen on Hodir (Happily, this doesn’t happen very much any more).

So, in answer to Spink’s question, When to use Shield Wall? My answer is “All the freakin’ time”. These days my old threat-oriented spec only gets aired when I’m soloing or outgearing content. The rest of the time, knowing that my cooldowns will still be available later on is a fantastic motivator for me to use them now, too.

It’s not quite a case of “If it’s off cooldown, you’re doing something wrong”, but it’s a nice middle ground between that and saving it in vain for a more perilous situation than I’m currently in.

Pride comes before a fall

May 12th, 2009 Posted in Dungeons | 1 Comment »

In order to get some idea of how the upcoming bosses in 25-man Ulduar work, I’ve been running the 10-man version on Sunday afternoons. And our latest run was nothing short of specatularly successful – we ended up wiping on  Mimiron’s Trash by the end of the raid (aside: I see what you did there, Blizz.  Hoho.).

And there’s the rub. Because we’re 25-man geared, we were afforded the opportunity to screw up far more than we otherwise would have. Things like missed interrupts on Iron Council, me forgetting to equip my frost gear on Hodir until the split second before it was too late. We still one-shotted him, but I’m sure that healing would have been easier on me if I’d remembered what I was doing in time.

Thorim was a walkover – we killed him on our second go; Freya too was a fairly straightforward encounter, her trash taking longer to kill than she did.

So, after a few hours’ break, it was back to Thorim again, full of expectations of a kill. After all, the main difference was that we had more people, right? Then reality showed up to provide a much-needed kick in the arse. Much like Yakra had done once before, I’d forgotten just how much more forgiving 10-man Ulduar would be to those raids who were almost entirely geared up in 25-man Naxx gear with a fair bit of 25-man Ulduar gear thrown in there.

Of all the attempts in the evening, we got as far as Thorim’s balcony a grand total of once. The most frustrating thing about the fight is not knowing what’s happening to the other group, in the arena – all we can see are the steady stream of raid frames turning black. It’s hard to offer suggestions when you can’t see anything of what’s going on.

So, next week, back to it. Will we down Thorim? Of course. Will it be a pushover? Hell, no.

Violence-free Gold, Fast.

May 3rd, 2009 Posted in General | 2 Comments »

For a long time, protection warriors had to struggle with not being able to kill things quickly, as did healers. Nowadays dual-spec has reduced the problems of grinding, as has the buff to prot DPS. But there are still going to be those people who for whaever reason take two healing specs or can’t otherwise farm effectively. Luckily there’s a veritable cornucopia of daily quests that require absolutely no killing whatsoever.

Here’s a few of my favourites, in some semblance of a tour guide:

  •  King of the Mountain. Just 30 seconds work gets you 13G. Not a bad time/gold ratio. Despite this being a a PvP quest I’ve never once come across a member of the opposite faction while doing this. There’s a free taxi ride to the nearby Skybreaker (or Ogrim’s Hammer) from Dalaran, too.
  •  Vile Like Fire! Fly over the hill, jump on a proto-drake, set fire to things. Job done.
  •  Shoot ‘Em Up On your way back from (or to) the above, jump in a harpoon launcher and shoot anything that moves. A minute later, less if you can group with someone else, job done.
  •  We can’t forget the Argent Tournament, especially Among the Champions  (23G reward!). While we’re here, the killer combination of A Valiant’s Field Training and Taking Battle to the Enemy will do you very well, too if you’re in the mood for a little bit of killing stuff. 36G in return for killing 15 nearby scourge can’t be beaten.
  • Moving to the east and staying on the Argent Tournament theme, A Chip off the Ulduar Block can easily be done without aggroing anything. Just don’t tell Brann Bronzebeard you’re destroying his precious relics.
  • Most people have probably had enough  of the Sons of Hodir by the time they get to exalted, but Thrusting Hodir’s Spear is a quick quest with a decent reward. And after you’re done with it, you can move on to
  • Back to the Pit (if it’s up). If not, some of the other quests offered instead are almost as combat-lite. And there’s always that slim chance you’ll end up with a Polar Bear at the end of it.
  • Head down to K-3 and Overstock. Unfotunately the reward here isn’t as high as most quests, but then, there’s no risk of having to fight things (directly) either.
  • In Dalaran there’s the daily fishing quest, from Marcia Chase. You do fish to get your food buffs, right? Bit of a lottery this one, the rewards can be anything from 10 to 100G, but on the other hand it helps get your fishing up. And fishing is the only way to get a 40 stamina food buff that doesn’t require Northern Spices.
  • Just across the street from Marcia (for alliance, anyway), there’s the daily Cooking quest from Katharine Lee. Unfortunately only Cheese for Glowergold is killing-free, but the others involve only lower-level animals in Northrend’s starter zones and shouldn’t be too much of a chore. On the other hand, if you don’t need the spices, they can sell for huge amounts of money on the Auction house (7G each, for example, on my server)

At this point quests start to be a bit spread out, so if you’re not desperate for gold I’d probably stop here. If you’re venturing further afield, though, Aces High shouldn’t involve deaths if you’re doing it right and is invaluable practice for the Malygos fight.

All in all,  theabove should do you fine. It’s not quite a night of wiping for me, but it’s a good start towards one.

Player versus… Ally?

May 2nd, 2009 Posted in General | 3 Comments »

Ahhh, Childrens’ Week! I don’t know why, but it’s one of my favourite holidays. Probably because the activities revolve around a small storyline and have a definite linear conclusion, unlike the “drink yourself stupid” activities of Brewfest or the “Why the hell do the Alliance even particiapte in this?” puzzle that is Hallow’s End.

This year, as usual, I’ve picked up my orphans from Stormwind and Shattrath, plotted out a course that minimises the amount of backtracking I have to do, and gone forth sightseeing.

However, there’s something else to be done, too, as there is every in-game holday – achieve a new title and progress toward that ever-elusive Violet Proto-Drake.

I’ll admit that I was dreading Childrens’ Week for exactly that reason – I took one look at the PvP achievement, School of Hard Knocks, and knew I was in for a challenge. I’m a prot warrior. I barely PvP, and when I do it’s usually because of a holiday achievement. I have memories of pain any time I tried PvP in the past, so I stay well away, especially for Warsong Gulch where I don’t think I’ve won, ever. So how, in the end did I find the process?

Warsong Gulch

Easy. Easier than easy. As a protection warrior what I don’t have is a lot of DPS, but what I do have is something much more useful for chasing down enemy flag carriers – Warbringer. Combine this with the stuns from Concussion Blow and Shockwave, and while I can’t kill a flag runner quickly, I can bring one down. Got the achievement in the first battleground, before I’d died even once.

Arathi Basin

Harder than WSG, but not by much. In fact all I had to do was waltz in past the horde that were defending a flag from my teammates and capture it. Plenty of opportunities here as bases change hands so often.

Eye of the Storm

I was expecting this to be tricky, but in fact within seconds of the BG starting (I had slow fall), the flag was in my hands and then delivered to the Mage Tower. I can imagine if I hadn’t been first to the flag, things would have got much sticker and I’d have been there for hours.

Alterac Valley

The pain point if ever there was one. There are four towers to capture in AV; once captured they are unlikely to change hands again (at least in my battle group). So during a prime-time Alterac Valley match, there are likely to be 40 people all who want to capture a tower. That’s a success rate of only 10%. Suddenly the battleground takes on a whole new direction entirely, as the need to slay the opposition turns on its head and it’s a race to the finish line. The first time I failed miserably because my Mammoth wouldn’t fit through the gateway of the Horde base. The second time I was just too slow. Paladins with their speed boosts taking a non-optimal way there and still getting there faster were a big annoyance. What eventually prompted me to throw in the towel for the evening was being overtaken at the very last second, at the top of the tower by people using speed potions.

The key to winning at anything is to stack the odds in one’s own favour, whether it’s by being a paladin, using temporary speed boosts, or anything else that will give you an advantage. My only advantage was knowledge – outside of peak there would be fewer people queueing for the battleground and hence less competition. So, I came back the next morning. Even on a weekend, mornings are quiet. So quiet in fact that in the first AV I joined, only myself and one other person were chasing achievements, and it was as easy as the others. 

A lot of people, most notable WoW Insider, have said that they expect the Hard Knocks achievement to be removed from the meta-achievement. It won’t. The end reward is supposed to be hard to get, but not impossible (hence the changing of some of the harsher RNG-based achievements from past holidays). In this case it’s much easier to stack the odds in your own favour, by either coming up with a cunning strategy (such as the best time to try) or simply forming a group to achieve the objectives together. There’s no single way of doing this – it’s up to you to come up with your own strategy. Players have a lot more control over the PvP achievement than they do the random number generator.

Hardcore Pwnography

April 29th, 2009 Posted in Rants | 2 Comments »

Though I’m sure it wasn’t meant as anything, Jacob accused me of being “hardcore” below, after I mentioned my surprise at parts of Ulduar being nerfed after the instance had been out for only a week. I’ll admit I was fairly taken aback by that. Me? Hardcore? I have a life!

The problem is that no-one believes they are hardcore. In the past, I played a lot more than I do now, for sure. Perhaps I was hardcore then. But if that’s the case, why did I rarely see a 25-man raid, and fail to beat the third boss in Zul’Aman? These days, I have even more time to give to things outside of WoW. I don’t spend every waking hour thinking up new boss stategies, I don’t spend my days poring over spreadsheets trying to work out the best upgrade (well, OK, maybe I’ve been known to do that, but only on my lunch break, and not very often).

A famous man once said:

“Anyone more progressed than you is hardcore, and anyone less is casual or a slacker”.

It’s true, to an extent. But only to an extent. I know hardcore players that haven’t even set foot in Ulduar (and have only seen Naxx a couple of times). There are several people in  The Hidden Circle who come to raids but just aren’t around that much the rest of the time.

To understand my feelings on how Ulduar should feel, I think it’s worth going back in time to the launch of Zul’Aman. I was in a position of having cleared Karazhan multiple times but couldn’t hold on to enough people for Gruul’s Lair (that’s another tale). ZA was hard, and that was with the best players in the guild in a run. It was a logical (but difficult) progression from Karazhan. We walked away from that first week with just a single boss down. And that was on the first instance with a normal and a hard mode (timed bear runs).

This was what I was expecting from Ulduar. We had the power to progress, just much more slowly than zerging everything down in a few weeks.  Instead I’m still seeing ever-increasing nerfs, even to optional bosses (Ignis and Razorscale, for two). The argument that I’m obviously hardcore because I hold a title afforded to one in five people who’ve downed a single 25-man boss (I looked it up) doesn’t sit well with what I see as belonging to that label. Yes, there are hard modes, but I sit in the uncomfortable position of being not hardcore enough for hard mode (we’re nowhere near even getting XT-001′s heart killed) and being too casual for the hard modes (at present).

And there’s the problem. No-one will admit to being hardcore, unless they’re in the top 2%. I think when it comes down to it, hardcore is a state of mind.

From one of my guildmates:

This is where I spend my leisure time, so I want it to be fun. I want it to be the raiding guild it is, which is an inclusive one, where there is space for the ‘characters’ of wow… The nab huntards who pull the entire dungeon, or who let their pets pee up Kirin’s treeform, or who fry Grog’s Brown Rabbit… Where there is space and time to wait for the little Parisian gnome who fall off slippery pipes and tries to find his way back, or dumb shadowpriests who fail at voids…

To me this says “We are not hardcore”. We’re progressed, but not hugely so.

Labels like “Slacker”, “Hardcore” and “Casual” are simply too wide ranging and encompassing to be useful to anyone. There’s far too much stigma, frequently unintended, attached to each for anyone to truly wear such badges with pride.

Who trashed Ulduar?

April 28th, 2009 Posted in Dungeons, Wrath of the Lich King | 4 Comments »

Another week, another few bosses down. Farewell to Ignis the Furnace Master, Kologarn and Auriaya (though on 10-man only). But wait. What’s going on with the trash?

The first time we took a look at the trash in the Antechambe of Ulduar, we wiped. More than a few times, in fact. There were runes to stay away from, Baron Geddon – style blowings up of people and, well, general carnage. Maybe not so much of the wipings with Ignis’s trash, but getting to him too was a challenge. Now? It’s a foolish raider that gets himself killed on trash. Somewhere between the first week and the second, something happened to Ulduar. The trash got easier. And the bosses got easier too. XT-001 had his enrage timer extended, as did the Assembly of Iron (massively, in fact).

The question I have to wonder is – why? At a time when hard modes are being buffed, why make normal modes easier? It’s not as if they were excessively difficult. The Hidden Circle are a country mile away from hardcore and yet we made some good progress in the first week.

In the second? The only trash to cause us major issues was Auriaya’s. I’m somewhat disappointed that things have been nerfed so swiftly and brutally. I’m aware I said this before, at the release of patch 3.0, talking about the Black Temple, but this time it’s only a week since the content’s release.

There’s still a challenge, but how many more stealth nerfs are going to sneak through?


April 21st, 2009 Posted in Dungeons, Wrath of the Lich King | 1 Comment »

It doesn’t seem like a week has passed since our first foray into Ulduar, but it very nearly has. So far, I’ve seen five bosses and beaten four of them. Ignis was the only one that defeated us, though to be fair, we didn’t spend very long on him at all. So, what are my thoughts on the instance as a whole, rather on any of the bosses?

It’s all very Karazhan. And for all the bitching, and the moaning that I made about the place after seeing it week in, week out for over a year, it was still a fantastically designed instance, far more than any of the other raids in the Burning Crusade, some of which seemed to have no story at all (Zul’Aman) and some of which just didn’t seem as epic as they could have (Shade of Akama in particular).

No, there’s a polish there that seems to have been lacking in my raiding for a while, and I like it. The difficulty level is maybe pitched just a little on the wrong side of “easy” for some of the regular modes, but not so much that I’m overly complaining.

Doing Kara before patch 2.1 felt a lot like doing Ulduar does now; there’s a dead easy boss first up (Attumen / Flame Leviathan), followed by a set of harder bosses only some of which need to be defeated to progress. The trash is a threat -we even wiped more times on Assembly of Iron trash than we did on the Assembly themselves (so, yes, I think they’re probably too easy).

I only worry if the rate at which Ulduar gets easier week-on-week is the same as Kara. Hopefully Hard Mode can put paid to that.

Let’s Go Farmin’ Now…

April 17th, 2009 Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

For me, one of the gret mysteries of Ulduar was “How can the instance crash in such a way so much?” on Wednesday night. At least between the place being unplayable we were able to down the Flame Leviathan, which granted me a new toy. We were able to clear Ignis’s trash too, but just before the first pull, the instance crashed. By the time it came back up again, trash and all, the raid had been called.

Thursday was an altogether different story. This time we cleared the trash to Ignis, and actually got to engage him. After a couple of goes, and talking to other guilds, it emerged that the bugs reported (shattering not working, meleeing people in the slag pot) were still present.So we moved on to Razorscale. And in one sense, eveything fell apart.

That would be a good sense, though. The encounter wasn’t a faceroll. It was difficult, and we made some definite progress on it by the end of the evening. It was the sort of difficulty that might in the past have resulted in people screaming to go back to an easier instance to farm more gear. But as there isn’t any more gear – we’ve been farming Naxx for months, it’s all down to our own execution.


  • Total repair bill over 2 days: 250G
  • Money spent on flasks: 100G
  • Having an instance with isn’t nearly as easy as I was beginning to fear: Priceless

Looks like it’s time for me to actually do some dailies for a change…


April 14th, 2009 Posted in Dungeons, Healing | 4 Comments »

So, what are my initial thoughts on healing as a resto druid? Having spent some time yesterday, as promised, healing my way through instances rather than facing the quest grind, I specced tree and put on my very best (read: probably pretty awful) quest healing greens I’d picked up along the way.

First up was Draktharon Keep. Admittedly at 77 I’m probably a little high for the instance, but my gear sucked and I thought it best to start out with something easy-ish. And we ended up with a level 80 druid tank (though not one that was particularly well geared).  About the only time I struggled at all with the healing was when we had 3 groups pulled at once. I had a bit of problem decursing on the second boss but nothing too bad. A nice ego-boost, at least after I’d looked at the healing meters and verified that yes, it was all me.

Then, a much fairer challenge. Gundrak. This time the tank was an average-geared 76 paladin. Everyone was around an appropriate level. And here there was a sign of a little bit of a challenge. The first boss, in particular, we downed, but only just – I died before he did and only my HoTs were enough to keep the tank up. Other than that, a pretty short and successful run again. But what have I learned?

  • I really, really need to get a click-casting mod and learn how to use it. There were a few times when I tried to heal the wrong person because I just wasn’t targeting fast enough
  • Coupled with the above, I just wasn’t fast enough on decursing / poison cleansing as I should be.
  • I need to pay more attention to my health. I was often too busy looking at everyone else’s health bars to notice my own sinking down.
  • I wholeheartedly and unreservedly apologise to any healer for whom I’ve tanked and consistently run out of LoS, or pulled when there isn’t really enough mana.

Anyway, Ulduar appears to have finally materialised on my doorstep so it’s back to the plate for me. No doubt I’ll come back to the healing soon, but I’ve already learned a lot about tanking from this other side, and there’s no doubt more to go.