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Archive for June, 2009

I finally found a healer I like playing…

…trouble is, it’s not in World of Warcraft. >.>

I’ve been on a bit of a sabbatical from WoW on non-raid nights (which partially explains the lack of content on the blog this week–that, and work’s ramping up into a very busy July).  My latest addiction is, surprisingly enough, Team Fortress 2.  I say “surprisingly” because I’ve never been big into shooters, especially multiplayer ones.  I’ve never been a big LAN-party ZOMGFRAGFEST kind of guy because, quite frankly, I suck at them.  A combination of poor reflexes, hypercompetitiveness, and a dislike of braggadocio in general has left me with a sour taste every time I’ve tried.  I dabbled in Planetside for a while but gave it up, and still keep my Battlefield Europe:  WWII Online account open mainly because of the very cool people I know there.  But stuff like Counterstrike, Team Fortress, BF1942, etc.?  That’s never really appealed to me.

Enter Team Fortress 2, which I got as part of the Orange Box a while back after buying it to get the two Half-Life 2 expansion episodes.  I went ahead and installed TF2 on a whim after some friends from Feathermoon started playing, and lo and behold…I liked it.  It’s just too humorous and cartoony to get all pissed off when I die.  The graphics are straight out of a 1940s-era Looney Tunes–I keep expecting Wile E. Coyote to step out from behind a mesa and frag me in the face with a rocket launcher.  The sound and voice acting is hilarious.  (Go out on Youtube and search for “TF2 meet the” to get an idea of how awesome it is.)  And the gameplay is fast, furious, and fun.  Yes, I do still suck.  But I don’t care nearly as much when I can jump on a Pyro and just suicidally charge stuff, firing my flamethrower and screaming through my voice-muffling gas mask like the bastard child of Kenny from South Park and Charlie Brown’s teacher from Peanuts.

One of the classes in TF2 is the Medic.  The Medic is a very proper Germanic fellow whose primary job–don’t be shocked, kids–is to heal the other classes.  Yeah, you get a dart gun that shoots syringes (not very far and not very accurately) and a bonesaw for melee.  But your primary toy is your firehose-like medigun.  Just put the crosshairs on a friendly close by and push the button, and glowy tendrils of goodness not only gradually heal them, but boost their health by 50% temporarily.  It even works around corners (to an extent).

What’s even better is that while you heal people, you build something called Ubercharge.  When your Ubercharge hits 100%, you can right-click your target, and you and he will both be completely immune from all damage for 10 seconds.  This is why Medics are so essential.  A well-timed Ubercharge of a good player can be a gamebreaker.  A couple of Ubercharged Heavies or Demomen can be the spearhead of smashing the other team’s defense and winning a round.  (There’s a second medigun you can unlock, called the “Kritzkrieg,” that instead of making the target invulnerable, makes all their attacks automatically do critical damage for 10 seconds.)  Oh, and if you’re healing somebody and he gets a kill?  You get the kill assist and rating points for it, a nice touch.

So basically, as a Medic in TF2, I heal people with glowy red or blue pewpews, and can shield them from all damage or make them vastly more powerful.  Yep.  The TF2 Medic is obviously a disc priest.

Look, I’m not even going to pretend that point-and-click healing in a fast-paced shooter like TF2 is anything like trying to keep 24 other people alive in WoW.  But I’ve never liked playing the healing support role in any game before, until this.  In trying to figure out why it suddenly appeals, I hit on two main reasons.

1.  The fact that I really am awful at all the other eight damage classes (except Pyro, which I’m merely bad at) means that I can do more for my team by picking up a medigun than a grenade launcher or a chaingun.  Which leads into…

2.  While there are TF2 servers that run arenas and deathmatches, the ones I play on use the more “goal-oriented” maps–stuff like grab and hold all the capture points, push the railroad cart into the enemy base, capture the briefcase and return it, etc.  I like team, goal-oriented gaming.  I’m not in it for individual achievement, because I know I’m not (yet?) skilled enough to gain it.  I want my team to win, be it defense or attack.  I’d rather get 2 kills and die 20 times but see us “push little cart” into the enemy base, than get 20 kills, die twice, but watch us lose.

This is the same way I approach raiding.  Yeah, I look at DPS charts on those times I DPS.  I was pleased to see that Linedan did 3750 dps as Arms last night on our first Hodir attempt, a personal best, and was #7 on the meter in total damage done for the fight.  But that means absolutely nothing, because he enraged at 3% and wiped us.  The goal is not to top the meters.  The goal is to kill the boss.  Meters are great for telling you how you’re doing and what you can improve upon.  But if you’re bragging about being top of the meter on a raid that can’t execute well enough to kill bosses in Naxx?  Totally worthless.


Why my daughter will probably end up on a PvP server

This morning I got to sleep in a bit and wound up chilling out in bed while my three-year-old daughter (aka Nublet) “read” me a story from an illustrated book of cat poems.  (And by “read,” I mean she looks at the pictures and makes up her own words.  Thanks to a healthy dose of Dr. Seuss at bedtime, the girl actually has a frighteningly good sense of meter and rhyme.  She is a nascent bookworm and geek, and me and my wife are thusly Very Proud Parents.)

She got to a poem with a drawing of two cats at a cat show, one smugly wearing a blue ribbon and the other sulking.  She stared for a second, and then said:

“I’m a winner.  You’re a wooser.  A big, biiiig wooser.”  *pause*  “My skin is furry.”

Whaddaya think, gang?  3v3 arena material when she gets a little older?


Patch 3.2: All Argents, all the time

Random Friday afternoon thoughts as I try to make it through my last hour and a half at work this week, laying low with the Robert Earl Keen turned up to 11…

So this week, the WoWosphere exploded with the release of the first round of release 3.2 PTR patch notes.  Now I’m not going to go over them bit by bit by bit here; everybody’s already dissected those notes like a frog in biology class.  I don’t get too bent about class changes in preliminary PTR notes like these, because they always get tweaked, at least a little, based on testing on the test realm.  I’m not even going to go into the mount changes except to say “woot!”, or the badge changes except to say “boy, the Blizzard general forums are full of tardburgers.”

No, my thoughts today are about everybody’s favorite Scourge-slaying, scrupulously-neutral, joust-loving party animals, the Argent Crusade.  More specifically, about the little place that they’ve put up on the ass end of Northrend…yup, the Argent Tournament, or as I call it sometimes, the Icecrown County Fair.

When I read the 3.1 patch description talking about the Argent Tournament, I’ll admit it, my WTFometer pegged.  Not because of anything to do with the actual game itself, mind you–even though jousting could, IMO, be done better, and I despise the “before the gate” dailies, especially the Champion version.  No, the mechanics were fine.  My bogglement at the Argent Tournament was strictly, I assure you, rooted in roleplay and lore.

Think about it.  The Argent Crusade, Horde, and Alliance are standing before the seat of the Lich King’s power.  Icecrown requires a massive cleansing that will require an immense amount of effort and the blood, sweat, and lives of thousands of heroes.  The Crusade’s job is made more complicated by escalating tensions between the Horde and Alliance in the wake of the Wrathgate (thanks ever so much, Putress and Varian), forcing the Crusade to rely more and more on the death knights of the Ebon Blade, their own smaller armies, and free agents–that’d be us, kids–and less on the elite forces of Thrall and Varian.  The financial and logistical strain is immense…the personal one, even more so.

So with this incredibly daunting task ahead of them, the leadership of the Argent Crusade decides to take their precious, limited resources…

…and build a fucking jousting tournament.  On the wrong end of the glacier from both their own base, and from Arthas’ doorstep.  Sweet jumping holy goblin Jesus on a friggin’ pogo stick, are you kidding me?

Excuse me, folks, but exactly how is this going to kick Arthas’ undead ass?  “Oh, but we’re seeing who the greatest champions of the Horde and Alliance are!”, you might respond.  Riiiiight.  Sitting on the back of a wolf or kodo or chicken, beating each other over the head with a blunt lance (that does 0.3 dps, by the way), is going to show you who’s capable of leading the charge against the Lich King.  Boy howdy, I know I’d be scared of seeing a line of Argent Jousters, pennants flying, riding their mighty war chickens toward the gates of Icecrown Citadel.

Actually, no.  I’d be laughing my ass off right before Scourge Happened and I’d have both new ghoul soldiers for my army and Kentucky Fried Hawkstrider for dinner.

OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, but not much.  Do you see why I thought (and think) the concept of the Argent Tournament made no sense?  It’s jarring to me to put this thing in Icecrown given everything else that’s going on.  It doesn’t fit.  You’re engaged in, literally, a life and death struggle for the future of the entire world against Azeroth’s biggest home-grown evil Big Bad and his endless armies, and you’re taking time out to freaking joust?  Do you seriously think that Thrall wouldn’t take one look at this and laugh himself silly?  Tirion Fordring is really going to buy into this fluff?

(Now this hasn’t stopped me from getting Linedan involved, because hey, excellence in combat–any kind–is what the Panzercow is about, so he’s a Champion of Thunder Bluff and is currently working on Silvermoon.  If I ever ratchet up any more interest in the daily grind-a-thon, he’ll eventually be an Exalted Champion or whatever the title is for five Champions and all factions exalted.)

Enter patch 3.2.  The Icecrown County Fairgrounds expand with a new big arena, and I somehow think it’s not going to be used to hold L70ETC concerts.  All the new content in this patch centers around the Tournament.  A new 5-man instance.  A new raid instance involving the Colosseum–or as Anna called it, “Onyxia v4.0.”  New dailies.  A Cult of the Damned camp attacking the Tournament (took ‘em long enough).  The return of the Black Knight!  (Uh…woo.)  Other than defensive operations against the Cult of the Damned, I haven’t yet seen anything to indicate that any of this content actually involves…wait for it…a substantive fight against the Scourge.

Please note that as far as we know, the war against the Lich King hasn’t moved forward much at all.  Arthas sits inviolate in the Citadel.  He’s still holding us off at Corp’rethar.  The forges at Malykriss are still producing.  The Vrykul still hold Ymirheim and new slaves trickle into the saronite mines, no matter how many we free.  The only real success you see as you proceed through Icecrown’s questlines, after the establishment of Crusader’s Pinnacle, are the opening of the Shadow Vault and the destruction of the Fleshwerks…and both of those were courtesy of the Ebon Blade, who seem to be out doing the actual dirty work while the Argent Crusade goes into the fourth month of their little Ren Faire on the north coast.

Maybe it’s me.  I dunno.  But from a lore standpoint, the whole Argent Tournament concept just doesn’t fit, and dumping all this extra content into it for patch 3.2 makes it even worse.  It may well be because I only have one character who, from a roleplay standpoint, gives a damn about the Tournament.  Beltar, my dwarf, has not done a single AT quest and may never; he’s old, he’s crotchety, and he would much prefer blowing a jouster’s head off at thirty paces than running the risk of getting unseated from a ram.  Illithanis would be offended that they won’t let her use her wasp pet, and Moktor’s never met a fair fight in her entire life and subsequent unlife.

Maybe my sense of lore and roleplay is offended.  Or it could be that it’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon and DAMMIT I WANT HOMETIEMS NAO.  I dunno.

Discuss among yourselves.  Peace out.


Vanity, for once, thy name is Linedan

I normally don’t care much about fashion on Linedan.  Some of my characters do care about how they look; I admit, somewhat grudgingly, that I picked one of my hunter Illithanis’ pets because it was red and most of her armor was matching red mail at the time.  But Lin?  Nah.  He’s a function-over-form kind of cow.  Besides, so much armor just looks strange on the weird proportions of the male Tauren–bracers disappear completely under the gloves, the legs are so small that pants are hard to even see much less admire, stuff like that.

So it is a rare moment indeed when I have a squee like this.  The Anvil did Flame Leviathan with one tower up for our first hard mode attempt in Ulduar last night.  (It really should be called “sorta kinda hard” mode…even with a tower up, Loot Leviathan still isn’t too bad.)  And he gave us a little something for our extra effort…the Anvil’s first ilevel 232 epic loot.

A Titanguard.

You can't see it, but there's a big stupid grin under that helmet.

You can't see it, but there's a big stupid grin under that helmet.

HOLY SWEET ZOMBIE JESUS DOES THAT THING LOOK INCREDIBLE OR WHAT.

Forget that it’s an epic.  Forget that unlike my old Broken Promise, it actually looks like a fecking sword you use to stab people with instead of a railroad signal.  Forget that I’m enjoying actually tanking with a fast weapon (1.6) again instead of a slow Broken Promise (2.5).  Just look at it, man.  It’s bacon-wrapped badass.  It screams, “hi, I’m Linedan, and I’m going to gut you like a fish and then hit you in the face with my shield until you stop moving.”

I have not been this stupid giddy gleeful happy about an upgrade in a long time.  And it’s not even because it’s a good weapon.  It’s just because of how it looks.  Crikey, next thing you know, I’ll be taking Linedan to the barber shop.

…nah.

(FYI, question for you cutting-edge tank types–what enchant should I put on this beast?  Right now I have a self-made Titanium Weapon Chain on it, which hit-caps me in my block gear and over-hit-caps me in my boss tank gear.  Is Blade Ward worth the ridiculous prices it commands, considering nobody in our raid can apparently do it yet (we’ve had lousy luck on drops)?  What about our old BC friend Mongoose?  You can see his Armory from the link at the top of the page if you’re curious.  Thank you!)


The Latisha Experiment

Yes, that's a rolling pin.  Deadmines FTW.

Yes, that's a rolling pin. Deadmines FTW.

This charming young lass you see before you–all nineteen years and six-foot-one of her–is Latisha Morganson, youngest daughter of highly successful Stormwind merchant and all-around dick Robert Morganson.  Latisha was thrown out of her father’s house one rainy night when she refused to go along with an arranged marriage to another merchant noble thirty years and a hundred pounds her senior.  She ended up on the doorstep at Northshire Abbey, where they took her in.  She showed no aptitude with the Light, no ability with the arcane, and she was too clumsy to be a rogue…but she was a tall, healthy, and fairly strong girl, if a bit soft and flabby.  So they taught her a little bit about how to stab people with swords and bash their heads in with maces and then sent her out into the world to do things like kill kobold vermin and decapitate Defias.  Surprisingly, despite a lifetime sitting around in the Stormwind Park lusting over studly guardsmen, attending fancy balls, and generally leading a life of leisure, it turned out that she wasn’t too bad at it.

Latisha is my latest alt.  And she’s also an experiment.  See, when I originally started writing my guides, primarily the So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior series, I was writing them without any practical experience of leveling a Protection warrior in the world of post-3.0 World of Warcraft.  Linedan leveled from 1 to 60 four years ago–he started in March of 2005 as best as I recall, and hit 60 sometime around August.  For most of that way, except the last few levels, he was Arms or Fury.  Then in Burning Crusade, I wibbled back and forth between a few different specs, again mostly DPS, before getting him to 70 and settling him in as a tank because friends were starting up a Karazhan run, needed an offtank, and I knew I couldn’t do it as DPS spec.  The only leveling experience I have as Prot, other than 57 through 60, was 70-80 in Northrend…and as we all know, the Protection tree now is nothing like it was back in the day.

So I figured, y’know, if I’m going to tell people how to build a Prot warrior and get them to 80–and if people are going to be gullible enough to believe me–I’d damn well better make sure that I’m not full of crap.  Hence, Latisha.

Latisha is currently level 21, and spec’d 0/0/12, right out of the SYWTBAPW guides.  I plan to strictly follow my talent guide all the way up as far as I get her–might be 80, might not.  We’ll see.  She is, I readily admit, somewhat twinked, with me sending her money from Beltar as needed (hence my half-assed “rich family” RP justification).  Although in total, the expense hasn’t been that bad–no more than about 40 gold, and she’s got 20 on her right now.  She’s also had a lovely guardian angel paladin run her through the Deadmines (in record time, may I add) and as a result, she’s got a few very good bits of kit that will hold her for a few more levels…including Cookie’s Tenderizer (see above), Smite’s Reaver, Rhahk’Zor’s Hammer, and the quest reward pants for turning in Van Cleef’s noggin.

The biggest thing I’m having to get used to as I level her is the incredible lack of rage generation.  That’s endemic to all warriors at lower levels, but it’s worse with a 1-hand + shield setup, and Charge only generating 9 rage at low ranks.  I’m used to tanking on Linedan where rage is, largely, a non-issue because he’s getting rocked so incredibly hard.  On Latisha, it’s more like “chop…chop…oh look, I can Thunder Clap now…chop…chop…Battle Shout…chop…chopzzzzz…”

That having been said, despite the fact she kills slowly, some of the survivability of the Prot spec is already showing through, even at low level.  She can wade into camps of three or four equal-level mobs and with some luck, if there aren’t too many casters, pull it off.  One thing that I knew instinctively, but is still shocking to see in action, is that it’s quite possible to do more damage in Defensive Stance than in Battle Stance, because new-and-improved 3.x Revenge hits so damn hard.  At level 21, it hits for close to 100 damage, and she’s guaranteed at least one, usually two, when she uses Shield Block.  With the damage penalty for Defensive Stance now only 5%, it’s even more viable to use it to grind, switching out only to Charge into combat.  (This requires using Shield Bash to slow down runners, which can be tricky with the 12-second cooldown…miss or get it dodged/parried/blocked, and you’re in trouble.)

She’s now in Menethil, where she will be slogging her way through the Wetlands for a few levels before heading back south to Lakeshire and Duskwood and the level 24+ quests there that she’s not quite ready to handle at 21.  All in all, I’ve found leveling her as Prot to be no worse–and in some ways better–than leveling other alts.  It’s not just for masochists anymore, that’s for sure.

I’ll be giving more updates on how she’s doing out in the world as she levels.


The best raid analysis tool ever

There are a lot of really excellent raid analysis tools out there these days.  There’s WoW Web Stats, the original; there’s WoW Meter Online; and there’s the new kid on the block, World of Logs.  They’re all very helpful at parsing combat logs and pointing out areas where there could be problems.  I use WWS all the time, along with my personal Recount, to see how I did on a raid and improve my personal performance, and our officers use them to post-mortem (often literally) our attempts and see what happened.

But I’m pleased to announce that Feathermoon’s own Father Bregdark has come up with a tool that will make all of those log parsers obsolete.  And you don’t even need to send it a combat log!  It’s quick, it’s easy, and it uses state-of-the-art technomancy to be 100% accurate as to why you just wiped.

Just mash here and this tool will tell you exactly why you wiped.  Do it.  No, really.  DO EET NAO.

(EDIT:  Be sure to hit refresh on the Wipe Analyzer once or twice (or more).  It helps with the accuracy.)


So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior: Levels 61-70

A group of tanks meet to discuss strategy, resplendent in their high-60s Outland gear.

A group of tanks meet to discuss strategy, resplendent in their high-60s Outland gear.

Well, here we are again, gang.  I’ve gotten you to level 60 and all the way through the Prot tree up to the pinnacle, Shockwave.  And there you are, in Hellfire Peninsula, ready to rock and roll your way through Outland and get ready for the ultimate challenge of Northrend.  So let’s see if we can get you Northrend-ready!

Here is our starting spec for this discussion:  0/0/51.  All Prot, all the time.  (Yes, I know I have too many glyphs in there for a level 60; don’t sweat it.)  Now, you’ll start learning that yes, Virginia, there are other two other warrior trees, and they can serve you well even as a tank!

Levels 61-62:  2/5 Cruelty.  Finally, we branch out into the Fury tree and take what is, for any DPS warrior spec, a 5/5 required talent.  2/5 Cruelty gives us +2% crit chance.  Why don’t we take 5/5 Cruelty as a tank, you may ask?  Because we already have +15% crit to five of our most important abilities from our talents.  So instead, we take…

Levels 63-65:  3/3 Armored to the Teeth.  When you’re running around Northrend at level 80 with over 24,000 armor value in your epics, you’ll really appreciate Armored to the Teeth and its 3 bonus AP for each 180 armor value you wear.  Even a modestly decent set of Outland tank armor, with a good shield, will give you over 200 bonus AP with this talent…you’d be hard-pressed to squeeze that much out of stat boosts on your gear.  Now note that this gives AP, not Strength, so it won’t boost your block value or the damage on your Shield Slams.  (The originally planned version of this ability did give +Strength, but Blizzard changed it.)  But the bonus AP will increase your damage output on all your weapon-based attacks, and more damage equals more threat and faster kills.

Levels 66-70:  5/5 Deflection.  Pretty straightforward here…+5% to your Parry.  Yes, a handy defensive talent in Arms, supposedly a DPS tree.

Now you can change the order up on these to suit your needs.  If you are running around with gear that gives you adequate crit, but you’re short on AP, take Armored to the Teeth first.  If you’re tanking a lot of instances, you can load up on Deflection first for better damage avoidance.  The journey here is not so important, it’s the destination–5/5/51 at level 70, so we can load the last 10 points in the Arms tree in Northrend and come out with our cookie-cutter 15/5/51 spec at level 80.

As for spells and skills, you start getting some new ones again after going for quite a while only leveling up old ones.  (Remember, starting at 60, you can train something every level, not every two levels!)

Victory Rush (level 62):  Yay for free attacks, boo for stance restrictions.  Victory Rush allows you to get what amounts to a free attack within 20 seconds of getting the killing blow on something that gives you honor or experience.  It costs no rage, so it literally is free except for a global cooldown cycle.  The catch?  You can’t use it in Defensive Stance, and you’re going to be in Defensive Stance most of the time from here on out because it’s more efficient to grind that way.  Still, if you’re DPSing in a group or find yourself in Battle or Berserker for whatever reason, it’s free damage.

Spell Reflection (level 64):  CRY MORE, MAGES.  As if being able to slam somebody in the face for 6000 damage isn’t enough reason to carry a shield, this skill seals the deal.  It’s expensive at 25 rage, but hit it, and it will reflect the first spell cast on you within five seconds back at the caster, hitting them with the full normal effect of their own spell.  Now there are a lot of restrictions with it.  It won’t stop you from taking AOE damage in, say, a Hurricane or Blizzard.  It’s on a 10-second cooldown and only lasts 5 seconds, so timing is critical.  It reflects one spell, although sometimes, latency will cause weird things to happen like being able to reflect two or three that hit you at the same time–don’t count on it, though, it’s not reliable.  And certain mobs simply are not reflectable, because Blizzard loves giving us abilities and then making them useless on many boss fights.  (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, KARAZHAN.)  Still, this is an awesome ability.  It’s one more weapon we have against casters both in PvE and PvP.

Commanding Shout (level 68):  A very, very nice ability for tanking instances and raids, especially if you’ve got a paladin with Greater Blessing of Might in your back pocket.  It adds a significant amount of health to everybody within range in your group or raid.

Intervene (level 70):  This is the third leg of what I call the “mobility trinity,” Charge and Intercept being the other two.  Intervene allows you to charge at a group or raid member and intercept the next attack made on that person; in addition, it lowers their total threat by 10%.  Personally, I don’t use it as much as I should, because it’s tricky as hell to switch targets mid-fight.  There’s ways around that with macros, though.  It has a myriad of uses; in PvP, it’s great for catching up to friendly forces, in PvE, it’s obviously good for saving squishies that pull agro.  We used it in Gruul’s Lair for occasionally eating hits off the main tank to keep rage up and stay higher on the threat list (when I was supposed to be eating Hateful Strikes).  Blizzard added the 10% threat reduction specifically to break this strategy of using Intervene on a main tank.  Your talent point in Warbringer allows Intervene to be used in any stance, and it does not share a linked cooldown with Charge or Intercept.  Once you get good at using those three abilities, you become a giant plate-clad pinball of doom.

You can hit Outland as early as level 58, and most people nowadays do that.  The reason is simple–the gear they throw at you in the introductory quests is a quantum leap over anything but the best of old-world dungeon blues or level 60 40-man raid gear.  You’ll start building your “Outland clown suit” not long after you set foot on Hellfire Peninsula.  You may have a little trouble with some quests at first if you’re 58 or 59 and your gear is weak coming in, because certain areas (Zeth’gor comes to mind) are crowded and can have fast respawn rates.  Just consider it good practice for instance tanking, and learn to love the inherent survivability of the Prot spec as you slowly grind down entire groups of fel orcs.  This is where all those hours spent leveling first aid, cooking and fishing can pay off; a good stock of bandages and buff food will go a long way toward making the early Hellfire levels less painful.  Once you push forward into Zangarmarsh or Terrokar, things actually get easier; your gear’s improved, you’ve got a few levels, and the mob concentration is more spread out in most areas.

Instance tanking in Outland is simultaneously better and worse.  Better because the instances are no longer as massive or confusing as a Mauradon or BRD; worse because some of them feature huge trash pulls that will push your tanking skills to the limit.  Prior to 3.0, despite Linedan being very well-geared, I would simply refuse to tank heroic Shattered Halls or Shadow Labyrinth (OK, I wouldn’t tank most Outland heroics), simply because both dungeons featured many five- and six-mob pulls that were beyond brutal for a warrior to keep agro on.  With our new and highly improved AOE tanking abilities, it’s a lot less painful now, but still not easy.  The same tips still apply–use a kill order and crowd control in level-appropriate groups on big pulls.  Work on line-of-sight (LOS) pulling to bring casters to you, this is a skill that you should learn now because you’ll surely need it in raids.

Again, I can’t state this enough–tank something every chance you can get.  Tank outdoor group quests, tank instances, act like you’re tanking when you grind by pulling multiple mobs and practice shifting targets to spread agro.  You don’t want to get to level 80 and then have to learn this stuff on the job in a Northrend heroic.  A significant part of being a good tank is mindset.  You need to have the mindset that you WANT to tank.

My apologies if this is a little disjointed today.  I’m tanking three projects at work while I’m putting this together.  But, hey, at least I’ve got solid agro on ‘em all, eh what?

Coming soon to SYWTBAPW…welcome to Northrend!  It’s cold.  It’s full of things trying to eat your face.  And it’s where you’ll finish your journey–for now–and get ready for the ultimate test of your tankitude, level 80 heroics and raids.  Tune in again, same bat-time, same bat-channel!


What I think of healers

He'd probably let me die to the boss, but at least there'd be Vicodin afterward.

He'd probably let me die to the boss, but at least there'd be Vicodin afterward.

The folks over at Blog Azeroth have an interesting shared topic this week:  What do non-healers think of healers?  It’s a thought-provoking subject that’s spawned some great thoughts, but it’s one that I’m not sure I’m qualified to blog upon.

You see, I have a dirty little secret.  I’ve never played a healer.  Never.

I have three healing-capable alts, a 70 druid, a 69 shaman, and a 32ish paladin.  They have never for one second of their lives been resto, resto, or holy respectively.  They’re feral, enhancement, and lolret.  I’ve never offspec healed an instance with any of them. 

What’s worse, the even dirtier part of my dirty little secret is that basically, I’m a DPS whore.  Yes, I have a prot warrior as my main, and I have no plans to change that aside from continuing to develop Linedan’s arms offspec so he can contribute more on one-tank raid fights.  But my other high-level alts–two hunters, one blood DK, one feral druid, and one enhancement shaman–are all about various ways of bringing the pain.  The thought of trying to heal even a weak normal instance, on any class/spec combination, scares me far worse than tanking any heroic raid encounter in the game.

So this leaves me in a quandary.  How can I possibly discuss “what a non-healer thinks of healers” when I’ve never played a healer and have only the vaguest idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the various classes and specs?

The fact is, I really don’t care how a healer keeps me standing, only that they do.  You can use big heals, medium heals, little heals, pew-pew heals, bubbles, shields, HOTs, bandages, duct tape, spackle, grout, little cartoon Thrall Band-Aids, Red Bull, medkits from Half-Life 2, Class II controlled substances…I.  Don’t.  Care.  Just keep me alive to keep the mobs off you, and I’ll let you worry about the mechanics of how you do it.  You don’t tell me how to tank, I don’t tell you how to heal, and together, we will rule the galaxy as…uh…tank and squishy or something.

I trust my healer(s) implicitly when I tank.  I picked up a bad habit in vanilla WoW that’s carried through Burning Crusade and into Wrath, and while I’ve gotten better about it, I’ve yet to completely shake it.  I don’t pay as much attention to my own health as I should.  This came about because when I was learning to tank, at level 60, I had to focus every one of my few remaining brain cells on gaining and holding agro on multiple mobs…while tanking for one of the highest-DPS rogues on the entire server.  (This was, of course, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and warriors’ multiple-target tanking required a hell of a lot of work.  And I could barely stay ahead of this guy on a single boss target, much less multiples.)  Combine that with the fact that we had a couple of really solid healers in the crew, and I tended to just forget about my health, put it in their hands, and focused everything forward on the mobs.

I still do it, more than I should.  I dutifully get a healthstone at the start of every raid, and every raid, no matter how many times I die, I still have it when I log out.  I accumulate redonkulous amounts of healing potions.  I still lug around a single Nightmare Seed that I haven’t used in months.  I just have a simple faith that no matter how deep the kimchi gets, if I’m doing my job and intelligently using my cooldowns like Shield Wall and Shield Block, and if I’m not standing in Bad Stuff, the healer or healers that I’ve got behind me are always going to save my ass.  Period.  And the best part is, 99.9% of the time, I’m right.

I have a lot of respect for healers.  It’s not nearly as much fun as DPS and just as, maybe more, stressful than tanking.  The players who are hardcore dedicated to the art of green glowy whack-a-mole or shiny golden PEWPEWPEW have my undying lessthanthree and my eternal gratitude.

But if you want to know whether I think a holy paladin or a disc priest is better for healing me?  Brother, I have no damn idea.  I love you all equally.


Gardening and snowblowing, Ulduar style

When The Anvil walked into Ulduar Friday night–with a full 25-man Friday complement for the first time in nearly a month–we’d already had what could be classified as a good weekend.  We’d shaken off the failkarma of a few weeks prior and downed Auriaya and the Iron Council for first-time kills on Thursday night.  Friday’s menu was a spicy appetizer of Crotch Pockets (Ignis), followed by a vegetarian main course (Freya) and some tasty ices for dessert (Hodir).

And we had extra incentive.  One of our raid officers, the gracious and charming Dorritow, told us that if we cleared Freya, Hodir, and Thorim, and got to Mimiron trash, she’d dye her hair purple.  Not in-game.  In real life.

Clearly, we had incentive.

A good primary tanking weapon for the Conservatory of Life.

A good primary tanking weapon for the Conservatory of Life.

Ignis fell, and so it was on to see Freya.  If Auriaya is Crazy Cat Lady, Freya is that woman who calls in to the local AM radio gardening show every Saturday morning and rambles on about her begonias before the host has to gently tell her that 7:45 am is too early to be spiking her Ensure with vodka, and then hangs up on her.  Her area is filled with different plant adds, all of whom are out to get revenge for every bite of salad you’ve ever eaten and every bouquet of roses you’ve ever given your significant other.  Basically, it’s PETA–Plants Eating Terrified Attackers.

Now many of us in the raid had never seen the Conservatory before, at all.  I sure hadn’t, in 10- or 25-man.  So you know how it goes on your first time into a place.  Wipe on the trash, steady things up, clear the trash, start grinding down the boss and do a little better each time until you hit your stop time or the boss dies.  Well, surprisingly, we cleared the trash with no wipes (though a few deaths), and set up for our first pull on Freya and her six exciting and dynamic waves of trash ™.

We dropped her.

Let me repeat…we kicked her ass the first time we ever saw her.

It was as close to a perfect performance as I have ever seen us give.  We never got behind on the waves of adds.  Each one died with a couple of seconds to go before the next one spawned in.  Once we got a hold of Freya, it was all over…we quite literally beat the Yoggy out of her in short order.  And everybody was standing at the end!

…for about one second.  That’s how long it took the little bombs that I couldn’t see to go off right next to me, hitting me for about 35k damage and leaving me in the Sprawl of Shame(tm) as the raid celebrated our awesome one-shot.  That is, if you’re keeping track at home, the third new boss kill of the lockout period, and the second which I was face down at the end of due to a lack of being observant.

We're calling this Hodir's Bane.  Obviously it's an epic.

We're calling this Hodir's Bane. We're going to put Berserking on it.

After Freya, it was time for Hodir.  Now we knew that Hodir wasn’t going to be as much of a pushover as his sister…uh, cousin…uh, common-law wife…?  was.  Despite the fact that pretty much all of us had conned his Sons into believing that we were generally cool and froody individuals who should get 20% discounts on their monopoly shoulder enchant prices, Hodir didn’t take it too well when we asked, “so, big guy, what’s in the box?”  Frozen pain ensued.

I lost count of how many times we wiped on the big blue bastard–five or six, maybe seven, I dunno.  This was raiding old-school, biyatch.  This was grinding and grinding and grinding some more, refining our strategy, tweaking assignments here and there, learning things the hard way that weren’t in the explanation–after all, you can read about a fight, and even see movies of it, but until you’re actually there, it just isn’t as good for learning, at least not for me.  Plus, I was in “roflcowpter” mode for this one (arms spec) since it’s a one-tank fight, so I had to shift gears and remember my “waiting for Godot” rotation that I hadn’t played in a few weeks.

But y’know what?  We eventually beat the Yoggy out of him, too.  Our fourth new kill of the weekend, and a great way to end an awesome lockout period.  Sadly, we didn’t have time to attempt Thorim, so Dorritow gets to keep her hair its natural color.  For now.  Doom comes for you, darlin’, and it comes with a bottle of purple hair dye.


Today I didn’t even have to use my AK…

I gotta say it was a good day.

We finally got ourselves back on track last night in The Anvil…two, count ‘em, two new bosses tasted floor.

First, Auriaya the Crazy Cat Lady.  We’ve been working on her, when we had the people, for three weeks.  And it took us about that long to finally work out the logistics of the pull.  This fight is a lot like old High King Maulgar…it’s all about the complex pull.  Get the pull right, and you’re well on your way.  Get the pull wrong, and you’re kibble.  Literally.  Those four cats following her around in 25-man mode will kill a single tank with 40k health, through a Shield Wall, in one second if they aren’t split apart immediately.  (Don’t ask how I know this.  Just don’t.)

So we did it by having hunters and shamans lay down a veritable forest of traps and totems on the lower platform to one side of the stairway, at the end of her pathing.  (One of our tree druids also threw in an exploding bunny decoy for lulz.  Cats love it!)  Meanwhile, the rest of the party cowered stealthily hid themselves in ambush behind the wall to the right of the stairs.  When Auriaya saw the mess we left and stopped to angrily clean it up, two hunters targeted two of the cats and misdirected them onto we two offtanks, and we had to taunt the other two, while the MT grabbed Auriaya and pulled her off to one side.  The whole thing, of course, had to be executed without anybody getting in line of sight of the cats too early, otherwise it was nomnomnom time.

That part, we got, although a badly-timed fear killed me once (not good to have all the healers feared when I’m taking 16k damage per tick from Rip Flesh).  What kept kicking our asses was the Feral Defender.  Oh, Feral Defender, how I hate you.  Hate hate haaaaaate.  How in the name of Friskies do you fracking control this thing as an offtank?  They tasked me and the DK offtank with trying to hang onto it at first, and let the DPS focus on Auriaya.  That didn’t work.  I’ve never had a mob go immune to Taunt due to diminishing returns before, but damned if that cat didn’t do it.  Even with the trick of keeping Vigilance on the MT for faster Taunt refreshes, I couldn’t hang onto the dumbass thing for longer than a second.

After the first wipe, new plan:  We’d kill it and just deal with the big pile of voidpoo it leaves behind every time it dies and resses.  OK, good enough.  But it was still curbstomping its way through the DPS.  I just couldn’t handle it, which annoyed the piss out of me.

On our successful attempt, the other offtank, a DK, did most of the work on kitteh.  He was able to handle it much better than I did; whether through my own incompetence, the general overpoweredness of death nuggets, or a better suitability for that particular task, he did a better job of keeping it out of the DPS.  On its fourth incarnation, we just decided to leave it up because by that time, Auriaya was down to 30% anyway.  And then, with a bloodcurdling scream, she was dead and coughing up our lootses.

After that, we paid a visit to the Iron Council.  Generally it’s a pretty easy fight, which of course means I managed to find a way to cock it up at least once.  Our MT handled the big golem and his FALCON–uh, FUSION POOOOOONCH, I handled the vyrkul and his runes, and the DK played with the flying iron dwarf.  Two wipes ensued while the healers worked through the insane damage of Fusion Punch and we learned the fight in general.

On our third attempt, we were sailing along, having just dropped the golem, when I was a half-second slow in getting my guy out of a Blue Rune of Pwn.  31k to the side of the head, GOOD NIGHT CLEVELAND WE LOVE YOU YOU ROCK.  The ensuing conversation went like this:

Druid 1:  “My res is up, who should I get?”  (We had me and a rogue dead at this point.)

Raid officer:  “Shukir.” (the rogue)

Druid 2:  “Should I get Lin?”

Raid officer:  “No need.”

*sigh*

So I got to watch the rest of the fight, and the raid first kill of the Council, from the Sprawl of Shame.  Although I think I did win an Internets when I mentioned on Vent that when he’s flying around the room, the iron dwarf looks like some kind of bizarre electrified Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon.  “Garfield, noooooo!”

I got some loot, namely Veranus’ Bane from Razorscale and Mimiron’s Inferno Couplings from Flame Leviathan.  That’s cool.  More importantly, though, the raid felt better than it had in weeks.  Even on the repeated Auriaya wipes, people kept a good attitude and made constructive suggestions, and sure enough, we had our “click” moment and got a first kill.  Iron Council, even with the first two wipes, never felt like it was in doubt before the night was over.

So tonight, we visit Captain Crotchpocket, and after that it’s on to Freya.  I’ll bring the Weed-B-Gon.


Vista

WoWScrnShot_060409_203622

There are very few things that make a Tauren feel small.  This view is one of them.  (Clicky for full size 1680×1050 goodness.)


Full Stop

This is not the kind of news you want to see when you sit down to lunch.

Stop, we’ll miss you in the WoW blogging community and we’ll miss you on Feathermoon.  But you’re doing the right thing, man…like I said on Twitter, priorities is priorities.  Be well.


So you want to be a prot warrior: What do all those stats do?

china-great-wall-of-china

Prepare for the Great Wall of Text!

Up until about level 50 or so, gearing up your protection warrior is pretty straightforward.  You want gear with as much stamina and strength as you can stack.  Agility, crit, hit, and defense are good secondary stats, but not as important–at first–as strength and stamina.

But as you start heading toward being able to tank the high-end “vanilla” instances–Scholomance, Stratholme, Dire Maul, anything with “Blackrock” in the name–or to head to Outland, your gearing requirements begin to subtly change.  You have to start looking at more than just raw strength and stamina.  You have, in fact, a metric bleepton of stuff to take into consideration as you get closer and closer to level 80, and not all of the stats are as important as others.  You need to know what’s indispensable and what you can live without.

If your prot warrior isn’t your first character, you should already be familiar with Blizzard’s sliding-scale “rating” system.  Instead of increasing your abilities like Dodge, Parry, Block, Defense, etc. by a fixed amount, these “ratings” are variable.  If you get a piece of armor that has +20 Dodge rating, that increases your percentage chance to dodge more at level 50 than it does at level 60.  It’s designed to keep you constantly grinding for replacement gear, because your current gear becomes less and less effective as you level.

Now, for this part of SYWTBAPW, I’m not going to get too much into the math behind the numbers to tell you how much a point of Dodge rating gives you at level 60 versus level 69, for example.  Why?  Because until you reach the endgame, it really doesn’t matter that much.  With your newfound warrior abilities and some practice, at level 60 you can walk into any old-world instance and tank the place in any reasonable mixture of easily-obtained items.  You don’t have to start really pushing the min-max on your gear until you’re closing in on level 80.  That doesn’t mean that you won’t make choices and need to keep your items as updated as possible, but in general, you’re not going to be worrying about squeezing every single point out of what you wear.  At this intermediate stage of your career, the concepts are more important than the actual numbers.

(My suggestion, if you’re a number-cruncher like I am, is to go snag a wicked nice little add-on called Rating Buster.  This slick piece of work will convert ratings to percentages and put them right into your item tooltips.  You can see it in action on most of the tooltip pictures here on Achtung Panzercow.  I find it indispensable when I’ve got to make quick decisions about whether or not I’m going to ask for loot during our raids.)

So let’s talk about what each of these various ratings do, why we need them, and their relative importance for a tank…

Defensive Stats

Dodge. It’s pretty self-explanatory.  You dodge an attack entirely, taking no damage.  Since druids don’t have shields and can’t Parry, this is their primary method of avoidance, but it’s also quite important for warriors.

Parry. You parry the attack entirely, taking no damage.  Note that being parried, however, speeds up the mob’s swing timer so that it can hit you again faster.  Back in Burning Crusade, many tanks facing Prince Malchezzar in Karazhan fell victim to “parry gibbing” during phase 2 of the fight when repeated parries caused him and his axes to hit that much faster and spike a ton of damage. It’s still a good stat to have, though.  (EDIT:  Your Panzercow is a moron.  I got this completely backwards.  When you parry, your swing timer is decreased by up to 40%.  When a mob parries you, their swing timer is decreased.  So tanks got parry-gibbed on Prince Malchezzar not because they were stacking too much parry, but because they didn’t have sufficient expertise, and Malchezzar was parrying them or other melee stacked in front of them. This is one big reason for melee DPS to do their attacking from behind.  Thanks to Zippy in the comments for pointing this out!)

Block. Block is your chance to passively shield-block an attack, removing part of the damage.  Don’t confuse your block rating or block percentage with block value.  Your block percentage is how often you block; your block value is how much you block.

Defense. Defense is an interesting stat.  It does multiple things.  Its primary function is to reduce your chance to be critically hit.  Its secondary function is to provide small increases to dodge, parry, and block per point.  It can be a confusing stat to track, because it’s actually a skill, same as a weapon skill, and thus levels up from 1 to 400 as you level.  Additions to Defense from items use the same sliding-scale rating system as everything else; an item that says it’s got “+40 defense rating” might actually only improve the Defense score on your character sheet by, say, 12 points.  Defense is a vital stat for a tank to stack.  To give you an example of how important, at level 80, in order to reduce your chance to get critted by a raid boss to zero, you need 540 defense skill on your character sheet; that means +683 +689 defense rating from your items, gems, and enchants, assuming your Defense skill is maxed at 400.  That’s a lot. You can, of course, tank with less, but that leaves you risking getting critted for OMGWTF damage and making your healers cry.  (Thanks to ribby47 in the comments for catching my error on the needed +defense rating.)

Stamina. Hey, look, it’s your good old friend stamina.  Stamina is NEVER a bad thing.  Why?  Because you get hit in the face for a living, you doofus, and the bigger that pool of health is, the better.

Agility. Agility is both a defensive and an offensive stat; it provides a tiny increase per point to your dodge and your crit percentages.  That having been said, it’s not worth intentionally stacking it.  The returns are far too limited and you can get more from other things like stamina, or dodge rating.

Offensive Stats

Hit. Hit rating is good for tanks because, let’s face it guys, whiffing does not impress the ladies.  That, and whiffs give you no rage and generate no threat.  Fortunately, figuring out how much +hit you need is pretty easy.  You have a base 5% chance to miss an attack on a mob that’s the same level as you, and that number goes up by 1% for each level the mob is higher than you–since raid bosses are always treated as three levels higher than you, that means you need 8% extra hit at level 80 to never miss a boss.  The tooltip for hit rating tells you what percentage of +hit your current numeric hit rating translates into.  (At level 80, you need 262 hit rating to reach the magic 8%.)  If you’re a Draenei, or have one for a Siamese twin and are always grouped with them, the handy-dandy Heroic Presence racial means you only need 7% hit.  By the way, +hit does not affect whether a mob dodges or parries you.  That’s controlled by…

Expertise. Expertise reduces your chance to be parried or dodged by an opponent.  It’s a good stat to have, because you get no rage (and generate no threat) if you’re parried or dodged.  In order to not be parried or dodged at all, you need enough expertise to get 6% worth; at level 80, that’s 26 expertise points, or about 140 rating.  If you’re a human using maces or swords, or an orc using axes, of course, you need less due to your racial abilities.

Crit. Not so important.  You get +15% bonus crit to many of your best abilities from your talents, so unlike many other classes, you don’t need huge amounts of +crit to still deliver pain.  That having been said, if you’re building a set for daily grinding or other DPS use and not for boss tanking, crit can be useful.  (Full disclosure:  Linedan uses two crit trinkets in his “trash” tanking set for extra damage output.  Handy for powering through dailies or smashing instances he overgears, but when it’s time to head to Ulduar, he puts them away.)

Strength. Still very important, because as you know by now, 1 strength = 2 AP.  More AP directly translates to more damage dealt and more threat generated.  Strength also gives tiny increases to your parry chance, and to your shield block value.

Putting It All Together

So.  Now that you’ve got all this knowledge, how do you actually apply it?  I’m going to talk more about that when we get into endgame gearing for the 70s and 80s, but there’s a few principles that hold true through the 50s and 60s as well.

- Stamina and strength are, and will forever be, your friends.  More of those is always good.

- Defense is probably the best bang-for-the-buck tank stat there is.  It reduces your chance to take painful crits, and boosts all three of your avoidance/mitigation stats (dodge, parry, block).  Even in the 60s, good +defense pieces are worth their weight in gold.

- Stamina, dodge and parry are better if you are building a set designed to keep you alive fighting a big boss, because they remove all damage–if you dodge or parry, you don’t get hit at all, but you gain no rage from it.  Strength, block rating and block value are better if you’re building a set designed to generate high threat and high damage at the expense of taking more damage yourself; you only mitigate part of the incoming damage on a hit, but you get rage, and the extra strength and block value boost your Shield Slam damage and overall threat generated.  You will almost certainly end up building at least two sets of gear, one for avoidance/mitigation and one for threat/damage…but that’s a subject for another post, later on toward endgame.

- Don’t gem for +hit and +expertise if you can possibly avoid it.  The “bang-for-the-buck” on hit and expertise gems isn’t generally worth it.  You can pick up hit and expertise rating off your gear and save the gem slots for stamina, or defense if you’re approaching 80 and need to reach the defense “magic number” of 540.  You can also gem for strength if you need red slots to activate a meta.

Is this a pretty generic post?  Yep.  Because as with a lot of the other topics in SYWTBAPW, I want to give you the information and then let you use your own brainmeats to figure out how to apply it!  There is, for the most part, no One True Way to Tanky Enlightenment.  If you’re smart and take time to understand what the various stats do and how they interrelate, you should be able to see how your gearing choices will affect your abilities going forward.  And honestly, the game really is much more forgiving than it used to be when it comes to warrior itemization…until you get up to level 80 and the endgame.  But that’s a ways off yet.

Next time, we’ll talk about levels 61 through 70 and your fun vacation in scenic, fragmenting Outland.  You’ll come for our friendly fel orcs, but you’ll stay for our disintegrating magic-ravaged deserts!


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