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Archive for September, 2009

The Latisha Experiment: Update #2

Yep, thats Shattrath behind her.  Shes workin on her clown suit.

Yep, that's Shattrath behind her. Thanks for the free flight point Blizz!

So when last we left the intrepid Miss Latisha Morganson, late of Stormwind and Northshire Abbey, she had just broken level 39 and was working through various odd jobs in Theramore while resisting the crude advances of Theramore Deserters.  That was a bit over two months ago.

And here is Latisha now, resplendent in her twink plate, level 59 as of this morning.  (What can I say, I woke up early.)  As I expected, the grind post-40 got a bit easier than the grind pre-40.  She is still pure Prot, currently 0/0/50, although I did deviate from my own build advice a bit; she’s still got 2/2 Improved Disarm.  My plan is to respec her at 60 to the same 0/0/51 build that I reference in the So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior series, dropping Improved Disarm for 5/5 Toughness, and then follow my own advice from there.

I haven’t quite had the guts (or masochism, take your pick) to try tanking a pickup group with her…not that anybody actually gets groups together for old-world instances anymore, sadly.  She’s gotten blendered through Zul’farrak to clean up quests for xp, and other than that, she has been leveling the old-fashioned way, solo grinding.  Not exactly optimal for a prot warrior, but quite workable.  It’s left her gear a tick behind where I’d like it, although it’s certainly not bad.  I got lucky and found some crafted Imperial Plate pieces on the AH for reasonable prices, but before that, she didn’t ditch her last piece of mail until somewhere around level 49.  Why?  Because anything “of the Bear” was commanding triple-digit prices, no matter how crappy it was, and her Raging Berserker’s Helm and Scarlet Leggings were very good pieces of mail armor indeed.  Other than that, she’s geared up through quest rewards and a little AH here and there.  She’s even rocking an honest-to-Light Belt of Valor, picked up on the AH for a mere 20 gold.  Now she’s got something that Linedan never even had.  (Oh, and I did break down and spend almost all of Beltar’s Conquest badges on a Polished Breastplate of Valor for her.  I hardly ever get to raid on the dorf anymore so I figured why not, he can hang with his Naxx gear for now.  Besides, the breastplate’s a lot better looking than the shoulders.)

Particularly past level 50, with Devastate and then Critical Block becoming available, her DPS picked up markedly.  No, she’s no mage capable of vaporizing stuff, but then again, there’s certainly nothing wrong with being hard to kill and occasionally being able to produce a 1300+ Shield Slam crit.  With her gear optimized for simple strength and stamina, with agility here and there, she has a respectable 12% crit.  Yes, she misses a lot still, especially when fighting things over her level, but that just goes with the territory.  Hit and expertise gear is almost impossible to find in the 50s (since expertise kinda, y’know, didn’t exist in vanilla).

Bringing her to Outland at level 58 has proven to be a mixed bag.  She actually hasn’t died yet, her closest call being in Zeth’gor where she ended up killing two grunts, a wolfrider + wolf, a peon, and a bonecaster + skeletons and came out with exactly 23 health after blowing all cooldowns and using a potion.  But she’s really being pushed to the limit.  Her agro range at 58-59 means she’s always got an escort of helboars anywhere she goes, and makes working around Zeth’gor problematic as hell, because that place will unload an assist train on you in a heartbeat if you’re not very careful.  She misses a ton fighting level 60-61 fel orcs, and forget getting her across the Path of Glory to burn Horde siege engines quite yet.  Sure, my DK Moktor blew through Hellfire Peninsula like it was a kiddie ride…but let’s face it, a level 58 DK fresh out of Acherus with a diploma and a full set of blue gear is redonkulously overpowered compared to a level 58 prot warrior with mostly level 52ish greens.  My advice to prospective prot warriors is, if you want to try HFP at level 58, go for it, but make extra-sure your gear is up to snuff beforehand.  Otherwise you’ll just frustrate yourself.

So sadly, she may have to retreat back through the Dark Portal for a level.  That would give me time to complete some quests in the Plaguelands that I want to do, or maybe visit Silithus.  (OK, Plaguelands.)  It’ll also give me a chance to catch her mining up to where it needs to be.  She has picked up enough initial upgrades–sword, pants, shield–that nothing back in the Plaguelands should give her much trouble.  And at level 60, I can train the huge amount of new ranks of abilities she gets, plus Shockwave, and be much more ready to face Hellfire Peninsula.  Plus I need to get her rested XP built back up, I burned it all leveling her quickly between 54 and 58.

I’m looking forward to leveling her in Outland.  It’s been long enough since I leveled a character there–my last was Moktor many months ago–that I’ve gotten over any burnout I suffered with it.  I’m going to try and hit some areas that I skipped on Moktor, places like the Bone Wastes, and maybe head to Netherstorm and Shadowmoon instead of just immediately hopping the boat to Northrend at 68…because quite honestly, having gotten four characters through the 70-80 grind in 10 months, and with two more now at 72, I’m fried on Northrend leveling.  I really want to see how Prot Warrior v3.0 carves a path through Outland content.  I expect it’ll be pretty damn fun.

If you’ve got any questions about her experiences leveling as pure Prot through the 40s and 50s, fire away!


Four whole seconds to spare

Yeah, uh, Orkin here, were gonna have to charge extra for this one...

Yeah, uh, Mr. Fordring? Orkin here. Listen, we're gonna have to charge extra for this one...

Well, actually, four and a half seconds if you’re being really precise.

That’s how much time The Anvil had left on the enrage timer last night when we finally downed Anub’arak in 25-man normal Coliseum, after three weeks of trying.

To say that Anub’arak was a notch higher on the difficulty scale than the rest of the fights in the Coliseum (Faction Champions excluded, but more on that later) would be an understatement.  After all, Northrend Beasts is basically three gimmick fights in a row.  Lord Jaraxxus makes the healers cry, but as long as people know to run toward the wall and not stand in Bad(tm), it’s not too rough.  Twin Val’kyrs?  The ultimate gimmick fight, but if you can tell light from dark and can interrupt Twin’s Pact, it’s no big thing.

The Nub is a little rougher.  We’d gotten several good shots at him last week but the healers were having real trouble keeping the offtanks up.  Our plan was to have the offtanks grab and hold both pairs of Burrowers so DPS could focus on the big guy; otherwise we had no shot at dropping him inside his short enrage timer.  But despite having excellent healers in the raid, our DK offtank (who’s got more health than any of the other three of us) kept falling over.

It was then that our raid officers, looking through the logs, discovered what Spinks posted about over at Welcome to Spinksville yesterday:  The Anub’arak fight is one of the only encounters in WoW where Shield Block rules.

The Nerubian Burrowers stack a debuff called Expose Weakness.  Each stack causes you to take 25% more damage, up to a maximum of 225% (9 stacks, down from 10 pre-3.2.2).  But the catch is, apparently if you block one of their attacks, your shield block value is subtracted from their damage before the Expose Weakness debuff multiplier is added.  Burrowers only hit for about 2500 to 3000.  See where this is going?  Our 46,000-health DK, with no shield, had no way to mitigate the 12,000 to 15,000 he was taking per hit from two burrowers except his jealousy-inducing 33%+ dodge.  Our warrior, the other offtank, did.  The DK died.  The warrior didn’t.

So last night I was the #3 tank, and I was on burrower duty.  I dutifully loaded up my “trash” set instead of my normal boss-tanking set.  My trash set is a real hash of things, built for block value over even block rating.  I still rock the T7 helm with it, plus some of my four T8 pieces, other bits and pieces from Ulduar and maybe one other from Naxx still.  It isn’t so much designed for block tanking as it is designed for DPS…I even normally run two crit trinkets instead of tank trinkets (although for this fight, I strapped my tank trinkets back on) because it’s a set designed for light-hitting trash and any situation where I need to rip an 11k Shield Slam out of my ass.  I ended up losing about 10 points of Defense, a crapton of dodge%, and maybe 1500 health from my boss set, but my buffed shield block value was a tasty 2593, and I was still at 543 Defense and 42,200 fully buffed health.  My block rating was a bit low at 22.78%, but as a warrior, I’ve got two other tricks up my sleeve for that–Shield Block, for almost complete immunity to damage for 10 seconds out of 40, and 3/3 in the recently-buffed Critical Block talent, meaning 60% of those blocks wouldn’t be for 2593, they’d be for almost 5200.  I couldn’t block everything, but when I did block, I made it count.

The strategy, I’m pleased to say, works like a charm, and you don’t have to build a super-block set that gimps everything else to do it…well, on normal, at least.  (On heroic, yeah, you probably do.)  We did run into trouble on the first time we got Anub’arak to phase 3 when we had four burrowers up.  As good as our healers are, keeping up a tank with two burrowers, with 50% haste, and 9 stacks of Expose Weakness, and Swarming Leech, just wasn’t happening.

The last two attempts we got him to phase 3 with only one set of burrowers up, and as long as we kept the burrowers separated so they didn’t buff each other, the healers could keep myself and the other OT (paladin) up without much trouble.  Tanking one burrower, even with 9 stacks of Expose Weakness, isn’t too bad.  The first attempt, we just ran out of time and he enraged at 4%, finishing the last of us at 2%.  On the killshot, I thought we weren’t going to make it because he was still at 18% health with one minute left.  A couple of the healers shifted over to DPS, we lowered everybody else’s health in the raid even more to slow down the Leeching Swarm, and all of us blew everydamnthing we had (I was tanking a burrower while beating up on Anub).  And he fell over with precisely 4.5 seconds left on the enrage timer.

Now is Blizzard going to “fix” this little trick?  I don’t know.  Shield Block has evolved into a mechanic that doesn’t really fit with anything…it’s overpowered against trash and underpowered against bosses.  It’s good to see a fight where it actually matters, and fortunately Anub’arak is quite easy for a druid or DK to tank so there’s still great use for them there.  It seems mighty cheesy to be able to build a set that allows one warrior to tank four burrowers–on heroic, no less, as Spinks documented–with impunity, but that’s a very extreme example.  I wouldn’t put it past Blizzard to break our little Shield Block trick, but if they don’t, and until they do, we’re going to take full advantage of one of the few bones they throw us on a fairly challenging fight.

Oh, and as you may remember from the rant immediately below this one, I kinda hate Faction Champions.  And by “kinda,” I mean I’d like to find the guy at Blizzard who thought this was a good idea and beat him silly with a wiffleball bat.  Well, there was a little patch note in the 3.2.2 release that mentioned some changes had been made to this fight.  We didn’t know what to expect going in last night.  But here’s what you need to know.

First week, seven wipes.  Second week, five wipes.  Third week, three deaths.

Faction Champions got nerfed TO THE GROUND, BABY.

The biggest change?  Taunts no longer have diminishing returns on them.  Think about that for a second.  That one change alone, not even including the damage reduction they put in, turns the fight into cheesymode.  Seriously.  They assigned me to harass the death nugget.  I could just spam Taunt every 8 seconds, with total impunity, to pull him off of a squishy for a few…enough time for me to drop a Charge or Intercept on him, or Shield Bash him to slow him down, or Concussion Blow or Shockwave to stun…oh, and they didn’t go immune to my stuns, either.

Sure, there were times where the DK got away from me.  But not many.  And when he did, I got him right back.

As much as I hate that fight–and I still do, with every flabby fiber of my being–I almost felt dirty at the end of it, that’s how easy it was.  It reminded me of an AB match when a premade runs up against a PUG, except the Faction Champions didn’t /afk out halfway through.  Yep, after whooping it up at our expense for a couple of weeks, ol’ Wrynn the Chin saw his boys and girls get a straight-outta-Compton gangsta beatdown, Hordesiyyyyyde style.  Word up, yo.

Finally…so what reward does ol’ Tirion Fordring give us for completing the Trial of the Crusader?  The chance to do it all over again on heroic!  Well fuckin’ yay there big guy, excuse me if I’m somewhat less than enthused about going Groundhog Day on your little spectacle.  Catch me next week and we’ll talk about it.


Faction Champions: a “worthless scrub” of a fight

I’ve decided that I, the player behind your kindly, warm, fuzzy Panzercow, am going to learn a foreign language.  Maybe Russian, that sounds pretty macho.  Or German…lots of glottal stops and hard vowels and eleventy-syllable compound words, and besides, my wife majored in it in college.  Heck, maybe I’ll just have some fun and go for Klingon.  Klingon is pretty metal.

Why, you ask?  Because English, as wonderful a language as it is, simply does not have enough nasty-sounding words for me to express just how incredibly fucking much I hate the Faction Champions fight in the Crusader’s Coliseum. 

Not even “fucking,” that wonderful all-purpose spiked warhammer of a dirty word, quite gets the point across just how much I despise the Delrissa-on-Steroids encounter–even if I use italics.  Let’s take a look at all the various bits and pieces of this lovely little ten minutes of computerized Hell and see how they combine to turn the entire thing into a giant toasted turd sandwich garnished with fail and lovingly drizzled in noobsauce, shall we?

First, there’s the setup.  My thoughts about the entire Icecrown County Fair in general have been well-documented, and need not be repeated in depth here–overall, I think it’s kind of stupid.  The principle behind the Crusader’s Coliseum kicks it up a notch…gee, Tirion, I thought your Light-worshipping kinder-and-gentler human kind had evolved beyond bloody gladiatorial spectacles.  And then there’s Varian “The Chin” Wrynn–former slave gladiator–standing up there getting off on the entire thing having a grand old time like he’s parked on the fifty-yard line on NFL game day.  I can see Garrosh thinking the entire thing is great fun, but Wrynn?  A guy who’s literally “been there, done that, got the scars to prove it” is standing up there whooping it up with a big blue “Alliance #1″ foam finger and watching people die?  I don’t doubt for a second that Wrynn’s various ordeals have knocked a few things out of alignment upstairs, but I have a hard time believing that somebody who was enslaved and fought beasts to the death for a living would wish it on anybody else, at least on his own Alliance.  (OK, he probably would love to see us Horde get nommed by not one, but two Jormungar.)

So then the entire thing takes a bit of a turn after Lord Jaraxxus eats dirt.  (As an aside, why don’t we just kill the gnome?  It’s more fun and saves a lot of trouble.)  Garrosh gets his ass up on his shoulders about the Alliance summoning a demon…well, duh, Einstein, Tirion Fordring said the gnome was a warlock and that he was working for the Crusade, not for the Alliance.  But of course, Wrynn loses his cookies like a seven-year-old at the swingset, and the “nuh-uhhh” “uh-huh” “no u” “no u” “ur mom” “no ur mom” flies back and forth over our heads for a minute until Fordring has to sigh and say, “OK, Varian, send your people down to fight their people if it’ll shut you two the fuck up.  Oy, I’m getting a headache.”

(An aside:  Where are Thrall and Jaina through all this?  Why doesn’t Thrall turn around and lay the Doomhammer upside Garrosh’s punk head?  Why doesn’t Jaina raise one perfectly manicured hand and tell Wrynn he’s being a doosh?  Listen, you two, stop making goo-goo eyes at each other from across the arena and act like you run things, k?  K.)

The concept behind the fight itself is simple enough.  25 of you, 10 of them from the opposing faction, chosen from 14 different characters.  (On 25-man heroic, I think it’s supposed to be 25v13.)  It is a pretty straight copy of the Delrissa encounter from Magister’s Terrace.  The faction champions don’t have normal agro tables.  They switch targets frequently.  They have, and use, almost all the capabilities of their designated class–especially the annoying ones.  So the arms warrior pops Retaliation, Bladestorms, Mortal Strikes, Hamstrings, etc.  The resto druid pops various heals, thorns, etc.  The shamans (one resto, one enhancement) drop appropriate totems, they pop Heroism or Bloodlust, they heal, etc.  It’s a fight where you can’t simply say “tank this, offtank this, burn down this,” because you can’t control their agro.  It favors crowd control over raw DPS.

That’s the theory.  In practice, it combines the worst elements of PvE and PvP into one big spring roll of suck.

Where it runs into difficulty is in the entire concept of “locking down” certain faction champions, and the concept of “diminishing returns.”  We all know that things like taunts and stuns are on diminishing returns timers…by the fourth time or so that you use any one of them in rapid succession, the target is immune.  Now in PvP, that’s not always that big a problem, because your target’s got maybe 40 or 45 thousand health, max.  If you can keep them stunlocked or controlled and you have a couple of people to focus fire on them, by the time your control mechanisms become ineffective, your target’s going to be dead.

Try that when the target has 1.9 million health.

With 10 (or more) champions to worry about, unless you dogpile everybody on one or two and let the others roam free, you can’t truly “lock down” any of them, even the healers.  They will get heals off.  You can partially control them, but not totally.  Your hope is to reduce their effectiveness to the point that they aren’t contributing too much to things.

Meanwhile, it doesn’t matter if you’re a tank or not.  You’re getting stunned.  You’re getting shept.  You’re getting crowd-controlled and bitchslapped by bladestorming warriors and FoKing rogues.  Your AoE damage is reduced by 75% to keep you from just piling them up in the center and having everybody burn them down.  Their AoE damage isn’t reduced at all.  They have 2 million health each.  You have 25 to 45 thousand.

People call this a “PvP fight,” because certain pieces of PvP gear like CC-breaking trinkets help.  But it’s not.  It’s nothing more than a clusterfuck of a PvE fight where agro control is basically unworkable, where you have to try to use certain PvP-like mechanics to survive.  As a tank, these types of fights are mind-blowingly frustrating to me, because our job–the entire damn reason we’re even in the raid with our l33t 2000 dps–is control.  We are the controllers.  We make order out of chaos.  We control who attacks what (on both sides) and where and how the fight happens.  If you take the ability to control out of the fight…I think you can see how infuriating that can be.

And then, there’s the folks who just don’t really like PvP all that much.  Yes, skilled PvPers can be more effective in this fight because they’re used to the total chaos of it all, the fast target-switching, the situational awareness.  If you’re a raider who doesn’t PvP, doesn’t like it, and never learned it, why should you suddenly have to act like you’ve got a 5v5 rating of 1900 in order to get through a PvE raid fight?

Another reason I hate it?  I hate what it does to my raid.  We’re a fairly even-keeled bunch.  Yeah, we get frustrated after repeated wipes, but for the most part, we constructively channel it into thinking about strategy and how we can do better next attempt.  The first week we did Faction Champions, it took us seven tries to beat it.  By the fifth one, our Chief Cat Herder was probably thinking “if you kids don’t stop, I’m going to turn this raid around right now.”  People were snapping at each other like I hadn’t heard in quite a while.  Faction Champions raises the frustration and anger level of people like no other fight I’ve ever seen.

Finally–and tied in with the previous point–there’s a little piece of atmosphere Blizzard throws in for good measure.  Every time one of you dies, Wrynn (in our case) says something.  Sometimes it’s just “HAH!”  More commonly, it’s “Worthless scrub!”  Think about that.  The King of Stormwind, Big Cheese Kahuna of All Humanity and the Alliance and Yes, Even Gnomes, is using the word “scrub.”  (I’m sure Garrosh is equally charming when my Alliance friends have to go through this little ordeal.)  Hey, Blizz, was that really necessary?  You’ve already constructed a fight that sends PvEers like me into rabid convulsions of anger, do you really need to add that little extra cherry on top of Varian Wrynn verbally teabagging the casualties from the peanut gallery?

It’s all enough to make me convinced that the Alliance should’ve just let Wrynn get eaten in his slave pit, and I should’ve left Garrosh sitting in the dirt in Garadar those many months ago, listening to Simple Plan and cutting himself.  The world would’ve been made brighter thereby.


The Anvil Wants You, Part Deux

Hi. I’m Linedan.  And it’s time for my every-so-often raid recruiting blog post.

The Anvil is a Hordeside 25-man raid on Feathermoon-US (a Pacific timezone RP server).  We are currently 12/14 Ulduar, with only The Yoggster left to go on non-hard-mode 25, and 4/5 25-normal ToC (more on that later) with a few Ulduar hardish modes under our belt.  We raid Thursday nights from 6 to 9, and Friday nights from 6:30 to 9:30 (Pacific time).  We also have a couple of 10-mans that are not technically part of the Anvil but are run by and composed of Anvil members, and we have a chat channel and Ventrilo available for use for raids, instances, PvP, Silvermoon cyb0rz, whatever.  You do not need to join one of our component guilds to be a part of the raid.  

Right now, Real Life has cost us a couple of our regular healers.  So, we needs us some replacements.  We need healers, of any class, that are good, competent, strong, and secure in the knowledge that the big cow in the plate is the one that should really be getting most of the heals. Really.

I know nothing about healing other than needing a lot of it, so as far as I know, here are the prerequisites for the job:

- You need some spellpower. I think somewhere between “a lot” and “a metric shitload” (which is, as you know, 0.6 of an Imperial shitload) is sufficient.
- The more flashy procs, effects and symbols that happen when you cast, the better. If you can singlehandedly cause an epileptic seizure by casting a Flash Heal, that’s bonus points.
- Disc priests are wonderful, but Regatta may challenge you to a trial by combat, or a bake-off, her choice.  Watch out for the pig, he’ll cheat. 
- Bonus points also if you’ve got a DPS spec and would be willing to pew-pew or bonk-bonk on some occasions. Flexibility is always good. And remember, Smite is a valid spell.
- The ability to psychically interpret what Ghaar says during healing assignments and understand that when he says “whelps,” he means “you’re healing the raid.”
- A love for burop soup, burop fish, burop chowder, burop strudel, and burop fish chowder strudel a la mode.
- The ability to keep both tanks alive while simultaneously cranking out bad puns.  Also, a deep and heartfelt desire to teabag Varian Wrynn is a huge plus, especially if you want to rip his own testicles off and use them to do it. 

If you would like to join our merry band of maniacs as we prepare to turn Yogg-Saron into so much gelatinous loot pinata and impress the hell outta the ladies in the crowd at the Argent Tournament of What the Fuck Are We Doing Here Instead of Kicking Arthas’ Ass, please head over to the Thundering Hammer Clan forums to get in touch with one of our highly-trained raid occifers for an interview, drug screening, psychological profile, and prostate exam. Bribes happily accepted.  Operators are standing by, call now! 

Mmmmbuhbye!


So You Want to Be A Prot Warrior: Endgame Gearing, Part I

You’ve arrived.  You’re level 80.  No more level grinding for you, no sir!  Now it’s time to go forth and tackle the real game of World of Warcraft!  TO HEROICS!  TO RAIDS!  LET’S DOOOO IIIIIITT!  (Done in my best TF2 Demoman voice.)

Not so fast, Spanky.  Uncle Panzercow is here to give you a little 411 on the reality of being a prot warrior starting at the endgame.

It’s a sad fact of life, really, but a fact nevertheless.  You, as a prot warrior tank, have extra steps to take before you’re ready to sally forth and start acquiring tasty, tasty epix.  See, because of the bog-standard “1/1/3″ method of instance grouping (one tank, one healer, three DPS), Joe Scrubdeeps can finish opening his package from Rhonin and promptly walk into a heroic dungeon…and if the other four members of the party can write their own name and all five of them aren’t the product of a brother-sister marriage, generally, he can survive.  It’s possible to carry one weak DPS through a heroic…hell, even two, if your third DPS is really tricked out and your tank and healer are either very good or very overgeared, or both.  It’s also difficult, but possible, to work with an undergeared healer in a heroic–again, everybody else has to be on their game, the composition has to lend itself toward crowd control, and the healer has to be very good at what they do, just lacking high-level items.

You can’t do that with a tank.  If you walk into a heroic–or God forbid, a raid–wearing a mish-mash of level 77 greens and a couple of quest-reward blues, rocking 500 Defense and 19k health, and try to tank it, you’re going to die.  The DPS can’t just turn it up to 11 to compensate for you, because then they’ll yoink agro off you and they’ll die.  There’s no way around it.  The one member of the group that absolutely, positively, has to be geared up somewhat before they can enter a heroic is you, the tank.

Fortunately, things aren’t quite like they were in Burning Crusade, where if you were a warrior, it felt like you needed to be wearing Tier 5 epix from SSC/TK before you could even think about tanking a five-man heroic.  If you’re smart about your gearing and willing to be patient, you can be quite ready to run a heroic without setting foot in one–and you don’t need a raid willing to carry you through Ulduar and give you a full rack of T8 to do it, no matter what that idiot death nugget told you in your last PUG.

So what I’m going to do here is tell you what stats to prioritize.  I am not going to give you a hyper-detailed gear list.  There are a lot of them out there that are much better than anything I could come up with.  A number of the excellent tank websites like Veneretio’s Tanking Tips, or Elitist Jerks, or Tankspot, or even the Blizzard warrior or tanking forums, have great and specific lists of gear that you can look for.  I’ll mention a few pieces, but not many.

The two most important things to worry about first off, in my opinion, are Defense and Stamina.  Stamina is a no-brainer, of course–more health is always good.  But especially in the beginning of your heroic career, you simply cannot brute-force stack enough stamina to handle a heroic without also loading up on Defense.  The reason is critical hits.  Defense reduces your chance to get critted.  Pushing critical hits off the table smooths out the damage that you take and makes it easier on your healer(s).  Damage doesn’t necessarily kill you, but damage spikes will.  And a crit is the ultimate damage spike.

You have a base 5% chance to be critted by a mob of the same level at level 80, plus 0.2% for each mob level over 80.  So since heroic bosses are level 82, you need to reduce their crit chance by 5.4%; skull-level raid bosses are always considered your level +3 (level 83), so you need 5.6% crit reduction.  In order to completely remove your chance to be critted, you need 535 Defense skill for heroics, and 540 Defense skill for raids. 

I italicized “skill” because the pieces of gear you get will have Defense rating on them, and as you should know by now, rating != skill.  At level 80, to reach the “floor” of 540 Defense skill (often erroneously called a “cap”), you need a base Defense skill of 400 augmented by 689 Defense rating from your gear.  It sounds like a daunting number, but actually, stacking 689 Defense rating isn’t that hard.  Defense stacking should be your number-one priority when getting ready to tank a heroic, and Stamina stacking should be number two.

Fortunately, you can load both stats off the same pieces of gear.  Blacksmiths can make some really good “starter” gear for the budding heroic tank–for example, Daunting Handguards and the Tempered Saronite set (especially the Tempered Saronite Helm) are easy to make, relatively cheap, and provide the basics of Strength, Stamina, and Defense while filling in gaps in your current set.  If you have built up a significant amount of money–enough to afford things like Titansteel Bars and Frozen Orbs from the AH–then you can go for the high-end blacksmithing gear and be really good to go–the Tempered Titansteel Helm and Treads, and the Titansteel Shield Wall.  Expect to pay several thousand gold to get all three of those crafted, though, unless you have friends and/or a guild to help out.

If your healer’s willing to risk it, of course there’s nothing stopping you from tanking a heroic with less than 535 Defense skill.  Each point of Defense below 535 means there’s a 0.04% chance of you eating a crit, every hit.  Hey, if you want to swim with great white sharks wearing nothing but a chum bikini, go for it.  Me, I’d take the safe route and load up my Defense first.

Now, on to Stamina.  Once you get your Defense up to scratch, start adding in +Stamina pieces as you can.  You might be wondering, “how much is ‘enough?’”  When I first started tanking heroics on Linedan several months ago, he had between 22,000 and 23,000 unbuffed health.  Compared to the 33k+ he’s got nowadays that doesn’t seem like much, but add on a PW: Fortitude or Blessing of Kings and Commanding Shout and you’re looking at between 26,000 and 28,000.  That should be more than enough to handle some of the “starter” heroics like Utgarde Keep, assuming your healer is reasonably competent and your DPS pumps out enough pain to kill stuff before your healer runs out of mana.

This same refrain–Defense and Stamina–holds true for enchanting and gemming…up to a point.  I’ll talk more about enchants in the second part of this post, for now, I’ll just say this about gems.  Do not gem for Defense or any other rating-based skill (parry, dodge, hit, crit, expertise, etc.) unless you absolutely have to.  Why?  Those slots can be better used giving you more Stamina or Strength, depending on what type of set you’re building.  (More on that in the next part, too.)  If you’re turning up a few points short of 535 or 540, then go ahead and slap in something like a Thick Autumn’s Glow.  But remember, you’re only going to get about 3 points of Defense skill per blue-quality yellow “pure” +Defense gem, and slots are precious on “starter” heroic/raid gear.

In Part II of my extremely long-winded treatise on endgame gearing, I’ll talk about why you, as a level 80 tank, need not only one set of good gear, but two–a set for big bosses and a set for small trash.  I’ll talk about avoidance versus health, enchanting, and after all that, I’ll throw in how version 3.2 throws the old gearing paradigm out the window because of the easier availability of badges and Tier 8-level gear.


But I don’t want to go in the cart!

Hello, little blog.  My, you’re looking a bit dusty.

So yeah.  One of the “rules of blogging” is that you’re never supposed to make a post about why you haven’t been blogging when you drop off the face of the Earth for a few weeks.  I guess you’re just supposed to pick up and move on and hope nobody noticed that you’ve been gone.  Well, that’s not how I roll.  I figure if you’re interested, or bored, or crazy enough to read this here blog thang, you deserve an explanation of why things have been very quiet in the Panzercow Bunker since mid-August.

First of all, there’s the work stuff.  I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I do most of my blogging at work when things are slow; when I’m at home in front of the computer, generally, I’m either gaming or performing other activities that don’t require a brain, since a full day of work plus a couple hours of my daughter destroys any brain I’ve got.  Let’s just say that things have not been slow at my job over the past month.  They have, in fact, been pretty damn crazy.  Logged on from home at 1:30 in the morning crazy.  Working Saturdays crazy.  No time for me to write posts crazy.

Then, there is the Great Circle of Gaming Life.  I don’t know if anybody else works like this, but my interest in any recrecational activity, especially a computer game, is very cyclical.  I’ll get something and hit it hard for a period of time–a couple of weeks, maybe a month, even longer if it really grabs me.  But sooner or later, I’ll get tired of it and move on to something else.  Eventually, if I like it, I may come back to it.

I’m split several different ways on my game interest.  There’s WoW, of course, which has been the Big Kahuna since February 2005.  There’s EVE Online, my other MMO.  But the Second Biggest Kahuna, for almost six years now, is flight simulation–Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004, and a couple weeks back, I bought and installed Flight Simulator X (the latest and greatest).  From the time I was but a wee little armored car, I’ve been a frustrated fantasy pilot.  Airplanes and aviation have always fascinated me.  I know way more about them than I should considering I’ve been off the ground maybe eight times in my 43 years on the planet  I have 71 gigabytes of addons installed for FS2004.  Yeah, I’m an addict.  I haven’t been doing much with it this year, but lately, the jones has come back.

Tack on to this the fact that my adorable wife bought me Bioshock for our 8th anniversary a couple months ago.  Normally I’m not much on shooters, but that game really hooked me in.  The artwork, the graphics, the voice acting, the story, all of them are great.  Then she bugged me to try out her copy of Mass Effect…and there went more late nights.  Again, stunning visuals, great dialogue and voice acting, and a killer story.  And honestly, saving the galaxy surrounded by hot babes didn’t hurt.  (Get over here, Ashley.  Booyah.)

Third, there’s WoW itself.  I wouldn’t call what I’m feeling “burnout.”  That’s too strong a word.  It’s not even really “boredom.”  I still raid with The Anvil and have fun doing it, and we’ve recently shifted to a four-tank rotation system that means some weeks I’ll be MT, some weeks I’ll be OT, some weeks I’ll be laughably attempting to DPS.  We haven’t headed into the Coliseum yet, but we will starting next week, and I’m looking forward to it.  No, call what I’m feeling “pre-burnout” if you will; that feeling that yeah, I really should be grinding Hodir faction on Beltar or working on getting Linedan his third faction Champion title or leveling Latisha past 51, but…meh.  I can’t work up the enthusiasm to see the same content again for the umptysquillionth time.

And finally, there’s the personal stuff.  I can’t and won’t go too deep into it because, well, it’s personal.  But I can say that the Panzercow family has been dealing with some issues.  Nothing earth-shattering–no divorce, no health problems, nothing like that.  We’re worn down from the little day-to-day shit that’ll pile up and bury you, really.  Money issues, raising a kid issues, the “fun” of being in a town where you don’t know very many people and trying to do everything with no family and almost no backup.  Some days it feels like the two of us are trying to two-man raid content and we’re wiping repeatedly.  Deal with that for a couple years and it’ll mess up anybody, and that’s where we are now.  It’s not a state of mind that’s particularly conducive to creativity.  My writing’s suffered, my roleplaying’s suffered, and my creative output in general has suffered.  It’s hard for me to bring USDA Grade A Choice snark when I’m so mentally bludgeoned down that I can’t even think straight, y’know?

So that’s why things have been quiet.  And no, you don’t get a TL;DR version.  You knew going in that I ramble, deal with it.

My promise to you, the folks who read Achtung Panzercow, is that I’ll do my best to keep good, useful, funny content coming out, even if it’s at a somewhat reduced pace for a while.  I’m not leaving blogging, and I’m not leaving WoW.  I have a lot still to do here–more So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior, more on the Latisha Experiment, more on everything.  I might even broaden my horizons and do a few posts on other things, who knows.

Thanks for bearing with me, and please don’t leave.  Because I’m not.


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