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Archive for October, 2009

Why I love my warriors

The always-readworthy Spinks has an outstanding post up over at Welcome to Spinksville about why people love their warriors.  She quotes responses from a post on the Blizzard warrior forums where warriors talk about why they love the class.

There’s a common thread through most of the four pages of replies over there, and as Spinks notes, it’s not the game mechanics:

Here’s a few snippets, sorted into categories. The most interesting thing to me is that no one has mentioned the mechanics — not a single person said that they liked the rage mechanic. I bet hunters and warlocks would have mentioned their pets, death knights would have mentioned runes, rogues would have mentioned the energy ticks and finishers, shamans would have mentioned the totems, etc. But nope, mechanics are not part of the warrior appeal.

Truer words have never been spoken.  Yes, the warrior class in general has some cool mechanics–Charge and Intercept do keep getting mentioned–but overall, the warrior players that I know that are “hardcore” about the class, including yours truly, aren’t in it for the button-pushing.  Yes, warrior tanking is probably the most active and engaging of all the tank classes, because we don’t have a fixed rotation like paladins and we have more buttons to hit than beardruids.  But there’s significant problems too…Heroic Strike spam for threat is just silly IMO, and Shield Block has morphed into a neither-fish-nor-fowl bastard of an ability that Blizzard has no clue what to do with to balance it.

No, the appeal of the warrior is much more visceral than “o hai, cool stuph.”  It seems to strike an emotional chord in people that provokes an attachment few if any other classes have.  It’s about the look and feel and sound, how the toon looks in high-end armor wielding two two-handed weapons or a giant shield.  It’s about watching and hearing your character use their shield to backhand some poor bastard straight into the graveyard, or Bladestorming their way through a pile of enemies.  It’s the thrill of tanking, standing in against large numbers of foes and surviving, about being the focal point of the entire encounter…about being The Man (or The Woman).  About having no magic, no pet, no range, no Light…it’s just the character, their items, and their own ability keeping them alive and getting the job done.

I’ve never heard other classes’ players get as rawly emotional about what they play as warrior players do about their characters.  (Hunter players, in my experience, have been the closest, with priests in third place.  I think the pets draw hunter players, and hardcore players of priests just love healing.)  It’s odd, but I understand it.  Some people “get” it, and some don’t, and that’s cool.

Besides, any discussion where I get to drag out this little piece that I wrote many years ago, back in my Everquest days circa 2000, is a good one.  Behold…”The Warrior.”

I am the Warrior.

When you see me, I will, most likely, not be attired formally. I will be encased in my steel. It will be dirty, bloody, and battered. I do not have a quick tongue or eloquent speech. I know nothing of the manners of the King’s court, or the ettiquette of the formal ball.

I am known by many names. Tank. Meatshield. Fighter. Brawler. Corpse.

I am the Warrior.

I have not the capability, nor the inclination, to hide. I cannot strike from stealth with devastating blows, then fade into the darkness. I cannot incinerate a foe from twenty paces away. I cannot deal death from a distance, safe from the return attacks of my enemy. In order to kill, I must close with the enemy. I see his eyes. I smell his breath. I taste his fear. And he tastes mine.

I cannot bend Nature to do my bidding. I cannot tap into the Nether and force it to do what I command. I cannot study the arcane and master it to my control. I command nought but my mind, my body, and my will. It is by those, and those alone, that I stand or fall.

I have no friends on my journey. No walkers of the void, summoned from the Nether as servants and bodyguards. No loyal beasts of the plains or woods, to defend me and comfort me in my pain. My sole companion is my weapon. I must care for it better than any hunter has ever cared for his beast. I must master it more than any warlock has ever mastered his demon. Without me, it is useless. Without it, I am nothing.

I cannot heal. I cannot shield. I cannot call upon the gods and see my prayers answered. I call to the spirits of my ancestors in the heat of battle, and they are silent. My only ability to protect is to offer myself, my blood and bone and sinew, as a sacrifice. To draw the attacks of our foes. To take the blows that would kill a lesser being, and continue to fight on.

I cannot kill with the speed and grace of the rogue, the suddenness and shock of the hunter, or the flamboyance and power of the mage. When I kill, it is a slow business. Slow and bloody for all concerned, myself included. I fight on, pummeled and battered so that my companions may receive the glory of the kill and the wreaths of victory. If I die and they yet live, it is an expected sacrifice.

I come in all races, all sizes. I fight under a thousand flags, on a million battlefields. I am dismissed by the highborn, scorned by the noble, lectured by the priest, and forgotten by the peasant. Until the time when the trumpets of battle sound, and those who would destroy them come forth. And then the cry goes up…”Where, oh where, is the Warrior?”

Pray to your gods that I continue to answer that call.

Few do answer the call. Fewer still survive. It is a long and hard road, this way of the Warrior. Along it lie pain, and fear, and death. Scant rewards and scanter gratitude. At the end, for most, is an anonymous grave on some windblown battlefield. If they are lucky.

And yet, I fight on. I do not even know why. Perhaps for glory, perhaps for fame, perhaps for money, perhaps for my country, perhaps for my family. Perhaps it is simply all I know how to do. But fight I will. Whether you appreciate it or not. Whether you even notice it or not. I will be out there, on the battle lines. Fighting. Killing. Dying.

I am the Warrior.

Death is my business.

Be it yours…or mine.


The Zombiepocalypse, One Year On

This time last year in WoW, we were fighting for our lives.  Or, maybe running for our lives might’ve been more appropriate.  Our towns and cities were overrun by gigantic hordes of shambling, terrifying zombies, and they only wanted one thing…braaaaaiiiinnnnss.

Yep.  Last year, in the runup to Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard decided to give us a world event we’d never forget.  Forget the 2008 recycle of the 2006 Naxxramas opening event, where you got to go out to various zones and then get camps of undead stolen from you so you couldn’t get those l33t [Jockstraps of Undead Slaying].  No, Arthas had a little more in mind this time than sitting there and waiting for us to smash up some crystals and scream at people for jacking our mobs.

Remember how it started?  Boxes of tainted food started appearing, mysteriously, in towns.  And then came the zombies…well, OK, ghouls, but they were called zombies, because zombies are cooler than ghouls.  If a zombie bit you, or you messed with a food box, or you splattered a tainted bug or rat, you got cooties.  If you didn’t get cured by the time the cootie timer ran out, you became a zombie, with a whole new set of abilities…including having to fight nearly-constantly or your health would drain away and you’d die.  Zombies aren’t exactly known for just standing around and chillaxin’, y’know?  They feel the need…the need to feed.

At first, the disease timer was 10 minutes and it was easy to cure…no worries.  Then the disease timer dropped to 5 minutes, and then two minutes, and then one minute.  By that time, it was World War Z time, baby.  There were zombies everyfrickinwhere, man.  Cities became deathtraps as guards and NPCs got zombified by the dozens.  Death and undeath were spread across Azeroth and Outland.

And just like that, it was over.  Grand Apothecary Putress came up with the cure, and the Argent Dawn delivered it…and all that was left was to clean up the streets of Orgrimmar and Stormwind, burn the bodies, and count the cost.

There’s no doubt that Blizzard absolutely swung for the fences with what we’ve termed the “Zombiepocalypse.”  This was not just another holiday, or some optional event for certain levels.  This was specifically designed to get the point across that the Lich King wants your ass dead.  Yes, you.  And he doesn’t much care about your daily quest grind or your current assignment to retrieve eight [Bear Asses] for some idiot in Thelsamar.  This is total war, son.

There’s also no doubt that the Zombiepocalypse was the most contentious and divisive world event Blizzard’s ever done.  It affected almost everyone who played during that week last October, whether you wanted to be affected or not.  The only way to “opt out” was not to play.  The potency of the disease in the last few days, plus the ease of catching and spreading it, made Hakkar’s old Corrupted Blood look like a minor sniffle.  You either loved the Zombie Invasion of 2008, or you hated it.  There was no in between.

Well, except for me.  I can find the in-between on anything.  (Yes, I am the world’s only wishy-washy tank.)

Let’s take a look at the bad, and then the good, that came out of the Zombiepocalypse, and what lessons Blizzard can hopefully take away from it for any world-shattering–literally–events they may want to try for Cataclysm’s ramp-up.  First, the bad:

- Griefing.  The Zombiepocalypse proved that there’s a population of people on every server who are nothing but raving assholes who get a good laugh out of ruining other people’s fun…but can’t handle it when their own plans get thwarted.  Stories ran rife of groups of level 70 player zombies tearing a swath through newbie towns, infecting the guards, causing level 1-5 characters to get one-shotted again and again.  Questgivers and flightmasters were dead or undead for extended periods.  Auction house bombing (run into an AH and zombie-explode, thus infecting everyone around) became an art form.  Protests from the affected parties brought forth streams of “lololol cry more noob.”  And yet, when a paladin or priest would “fight back” by actually, y’know, cleansing the disease off the zombie, oh, the four- and five- and twelve-letter bombs that flew from the newly de-zombified!  Newsflash, Griefer Boy:  If you get to run around and make life miserable for level 10s, then we get to cure you back from zombie form into douchebag form, even though your spelling and grammar is better when you’re screaming “braaaaiiiinnnnsss lol.”  Yes, I know the event was designed to force people out of a comfort zone–I get that (see below).  But like every other thing that griefers get a hold of, many times, zombiedom was turned into nothing more than an excuse to be a dong.

- Non-consensual PvP.  Here you are, Joe Noob, level 11 mage, rolling around Westfall wondering why the hell Old Blanchy can’t just graze her own oats and HAY WTF LEVEL 70 ZOMBIE ZOMG I’M DED.  Zombies, see, know not of your PvP flags.  A zombie could attack, and be attacked by, anybody, anytime.  They were, effectively, their own faction…and you were always flagged to them.  Don’t want to PvP?  Tough toenails.  If a player zombie wants to PvP with you, you can outrun him, yeah, because he’s a zombie, but other than that, you’re PvPing regardless.

- Shattrath.  Nowhere did the problems with the event loom larger than Shattrath City.  Shattrath, of course, is a Sanctuary–no PvP combat allowed.  This included zombies.  Which means that once a player turned into a zombie, they were, for all intents, immune from attack from other players.  Similarly, player zombies could not infect other players directly…but they could chain the infection among the hordes of Aldor and Scryer and refugee NPCs running around, and those NPC zombie swarms could zombify or kill a player in short order, because of the additive nature of zombie bites–the more you get hit, the more it cuts the timer down.  As long as the player zombies could find the occasional NPC to nomnomnom, there wasn’t a damned thing zombie-fighters could do to stop the root cause of the problem.  It was a gaping hole in the “ruleset” for Zombiepocalypse, if you will, and it was exploited to the utmost.

- Melee need not apply.  That week was an awesome time to be a priest, or especially a paladin.  Everybody snuggled up close to you because, hey, hordes of undead are what you live for, right?  You can heal the sick, or you can protect the innocent, or you can just ret up and kick massive zombie ass.  Well, conversely, trust me, it was a shitty time to be a warrior.  The last couple days of the plague, the infection timer was a mere one minute…and each zombie bite cut it down by something like ten seconds.  Just a few nibbles and you were a zombie, whether you wanted to be or not.  There was no place for warriors in particular (although I’m not sure shamans could clear it off themselves, or if rogues could CoS out of it).  Even if I had a paladin behind me spamming cleansing on me while fighting a zombie horde, all it’d take is one resist or one lag spike, and poof, Zombiepanzercow.  I had really wanted to play Linedan through the end of the Zombie Invasion, but it quickly became so obviously pointless that my fearless Panzercow ended up not logging on for the last two days of the fight.  Beltar, my dwarf hunter, became my primary character, and I had a much better time.

Now, all that said, do I think Zombiepocalypse was a failure?  Hell no.  Here’s the good stuff:

- Arthas wants to eat your face.  Nothing drives home the fact that Arthas is the Big Bad like having your entire city overrun by brain-eating zombies.  We, as players of WoW (especially if we never played any of the Warcraft RTS games, as I didn’t), will never really feel the despair and desperation of the Third War, of the loss of Lordaeron and Stratholme and Darrowshire, the scouring of the Ghostlands and Eversong and the desperate stand at the gates of Silvermoon.  That one week, a week of increasing disruption and violence and vicious fighting in the streets, is the closest we’ll get.  If you’re a bit of a lore nerd like I am, that alone makes putting up with the negatives a ton easier.

- The RP was awesome.  Since I ended up on my dwarf for most of the latter half of the Zombiepocalypse, I ended up fighting in Stormwind along with his guild, the Wildfire Riders.  And there was crazy fighting going on.  The zombie-lovers were constantly infecting the Trade District and Old Town.  There were pitched battles in the streets all that last night, literally for hours.  Zombies were popping out of every building as vendors got infected.  The “front” shifted constantly, from the Trade District to the Harbor to Old Town and back to the Trade District.  We gave it a name…”The Longest Night.”  And the roleplay and stories that came out of the last night of the event still resonate among us to this day, so much that we’re having a little in-game get-together soon to remember the night that the Pig and Whistle became Old Town’s last redoubt against the forces of undeath.

- You got to be a zombie!  I had a rule of thumb.  I’d fight like hell against any zombie I saw, but if they got me, they got me fair, and I proceeded to go all-out as a zombie.  (My exception was Shattrath…the situation was so screwed up there thanks to the Sanctuary rules, I’d just go off in a corner and suicide.)  Why not?  Being a zombie, if you’re reasonable about it, is hella fun.  You can control NPC zombies, you can lurch around yelling “BRAAAAAIIIIINS,” you eat tasty human fase to regain health.  What’s not to like about it?

- Beltar got to pretend he was Bruce Campbell.  Sort of.  Shooting zombies in the middle of the Trade District while ripping off one-liners in /say?  Hell yeah.

I really hope that Blizzard has something as epic as the Zombiepocalypse planned for the Cataclysm rollout.  I just hope that if they do, they take a hard look at what went wrong last year (and there was a lot) and don’t just dismiss the legitimate complaints as “a bunch of noob carebear whiners,” like a lot of the forum idiots do.  Obviously you can’t have something like this without disrupting people’s play, at least some.  But with some thought, they should be able to at least mitigate some of the griefing and make it more enjoyable for more people, of all levels.


In the grim future of Panzercow 40,000…

Sometime late on Sunday night, Achtung Panzercow passed the forty thousand pageview mark in just under 11 months of existence.  I still don’t know how.  I mean, it’s just me, one fat guy in the American South, taking time out of his occasionally-busy workday to randomly wank about WoW, right?  A little roleplay here, some warrior advice there (some of which is even, on occasion, almost correct!), a bit of raiding in the middle, all garnished by snark and profanity?  Doesn’t exactly sound like a winning combination…and yet, a couple hundred people a day troop through here, day after day.  (And half of you forget to wipe your feet.)  Thank you all, so much.  I couldn’t do this without the folks who come through here and read and comment, and I wouldn’t want to anyway.

The Anvil’s raiding this past weekend was a mixed bag.  This was the weekend we decided we were going to start making serious pushes on some Ulduar hardmodes.  But first on Thursday night, we stopped through ToC for our weekly visit.  They really just need to put a vending machine outside the place…we do a retinal scan, it gives us our 15 Triumph badges, and we head on to something actually, y’know, interesting, instead of spending an hour and a half staring at the same room and listening to Garrosh and Wrynn stroke their peens.  (OK, an hour ten minutes staring at the same room and then 20 minutes in Anub’arak’s pad.  Whatev.)  We went five for five on one-shots, including the hated Faction Champions, culminating on a nice clean kill on Anub’arak.  We are, unfortunately, falling into that large gap between Trial of the Crusader and Trial of the Grand Crusader.  We’re able to cruise through 25 normal with relative ease now,  but 25 heroic would probably gut us like a fish.  It’s a somewhat awkward position to be in.

The second half of Thursday night was spent in Ulduar.  We went for Shutout on Flame Leviathan, with no towers up–a pure speed kill.  Well, how does fifty-four seconds flat sound for a speed kill?  (Pyrite spam is love, baby.)  Then it was on to XT, where we forced his hardmode for the first time by finally bringing enough deeps to destroy his heart.  We couldn’t quite bring him down–our best wipe was about 35%–but that’s OK, as it was the first time a lot of us had seen hardmode on XT and we’re still learning how to handle Life Sparks and voidpoo and whatnot.  We rounded out the night with Kologarn and Razorscale.

Thursday was interesting for me because it’s one of the few times–maybe the only time, come to think of it–that I’ve been pure DPS for every one of those fights except Faction Champions (where prot > everything).  My Arms gear is still at least a full tier below where it needs to be, not to mention badly itemized, and Arms is not a killer DPS spec for personal glory anyway.  But I managed, according to World of Logs, to squeeze out around 3500 DPS for the entire three hours, and actually beat a couple of other people on aggregate damage and DPS for the first time.  It’s still not my favorite thing to do, but all four of us who tank for The Anvil rotate in and out, and all four of us get our turn in the deeps barrel occasionally.  I got some deeps upgrades, ditched some of my excess +hit (maybe too much!), and once I get my new toys enchanted and gemmed, should be able to see a bit of an increase.

Now, Fridays have been our bane lately.  We’ve really had to scramble to fill 24 or 25 slots.  Because of the number of subs we were running, we pretty much knew that hardmodes weren’t going to work on Friday, so it ended up being a relatively laid-back three-hour tour of Onyxia, Auriaya, Hodir, Thorim (who gave us a fair amount of trouble, more than usual), Freya, and Ignis.  I’m pretty sure our officers are going to extend the Ulduar lockout so we can take cracks at Mimiron (NO FIREFIGHTER), one of the IC hardmodes, Vezax, and Yoggy next week.

Personally, I’m pleased that Lin is closing in on a second piece of T9.25, because the warrior Tier 9 set bonuses are sweet.  My problem is, I don’t have a ToC 10-man.  All the 10-mans that my guildies, raidmates, and friends run are completely locked-in for tanks.  So I’m only getting 15 badges a week, meaning it takes quite a while to accumulate 45 or 75 for a T9.25 piece (or even 30 or 50 for the vanilla T9).  My wonderful wife tried to throw a 10-man ToC together on Saturday afternoon…yeeeah, it didn’t go well.  It’s easy to get cocky when your raid group walks through Northrend Beasts like a tank through a sheet of paper, and then you take a mixture of friends’ alts and a couple pickups in and Gormok hands you your ass after he’s bitten it off and had a snobold roast it.  It helps you remember that yes, it’s quite possible to dominate on Thursday night and look like a scrub on Saturday afternoon.

Oh, and Linedan, Azeroth’s Most Humorless Cow, has Hallow’s End wands.  Whether he actually uses them or not, we’ll have to see.  More than likely, he’ll accidentally hit somebody with one and be mortified.


Hit rating: How much is too little?

If you’re reading this expecting an answer to the question above…sorry, folks, I don’t have one.  Because, see, it’s my question.

As I posted in my latest installment of So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior on endgame gearing, there’s certain magic numbers that you strive to hit when you first move up to tanking heroics or raids.  One of those numbers is 263 hit rating, otherwise known as the magic rating number that gives you +8% chance to hit–needed to push misses out of the picture completely.

If you’ve had a chance to run through Ulduar a bit, or have looked at some of the items that come out of there, you may notice that it seems like almost everything’s got +hit on it.  I know many melee DPS, despite their best gearing efforts, who came out of Titan Disneyworld way, way over the hit cap.  My wife, a feral druid who Knows What She’s Doing, is stuck with 313 hit rating–and that’s after replacing some Ulduar pieces with Trial of the Crusader stuff.  Our raid’s Chief Cat Herder was pushing nearly four hundred hit rating–11 or 12 percent +hit–at one point.  Even Lin’s arms gear, a grab-whatever-I-can-find hashup of badge, Naxx-25, Ulduar-10, Ulduar-25, and a couple of ToC pieces, sticks him with 300 hit rating and not nearly enough expertise to balance it.

Lin in tank mode was no exception through Ulduar.  Recently, I finally got his hit rating to about 265, with his expertise in the low 20s–not quite dodge-capped, but close.

Enter Trial of the Crusader and other Tier 9 content.

Suddenly, +hit is gonzo.  Last night, I got a nice upgrade from Faction Champions in ToC-25…the very tasty ilevel 245 version of the Belt of Bloodied Scars, to replace his Shieldwarder Girdle.  The BoBS is great for his “boss” avoidance set.  More strength, more stamina, lots of dodge, parry, and defense.  But…no +hit.  The Shieldwarder’s Girdle had a lot of +hit.

And so, I, der Panzercow, the guy who just told you aspiring nubwarriors last week that you need 263 hit rating…is running around with 159.  Three full percent below what you are supposed to have.  At least I have 28 expertise.

I almost didn’t take that BoBS because of what it’d do to my hit rating.  A couple of my fellow tanks had to smack some sense into me before I went ahead.  But now, here I sit, with a 3.07% chance to miss on every swing.  Every taunt.  Every…well…everything.

Now here’s the weird part.  I’ve spoken to two people, one in my raid, one in another raid that’s slightly ahead of us in progression.  And they’re saying that from what they’ve seen, it’s now no big deal for tanks to be running around at 5% or even lower +hit.  Because, apparently, just as it seemed like everything in Ulduar had +hit, stuff in ToC and Onyxia’s Lair 2.0 doesn’t.  So tanks are having to adapt.

That brings me back to the question at the title of this post.  If you’re tanking a raid at this level–hardmode Ulduar, normal or heroic ToC–are you doing it with less than 8% +hit?  If so, how is it working out?  What are you doing to mitigate the chance of misses, especially on taunt-sensitive fights like Gormok?  Am I being a nubsauce for worrying about this?  Why does it burn when I pee?  And, of course, are we there yet?


Redemption (Beltar’s backstory)

Linedan is my main–he always has been and barring catastrophe, he always will be.  But my “Alliance main,” the dwarf hunter Beltar Forgebreaker, is probably my most fun character to roleplay.

On the surface, he looks like your typical fantasy dwarf…irascible, sarcastic, a bit on the greedy side, inordinately in love with his guns.  But dig deeper and you’ll find that Beltar’s not exactly a stout-hearted dwarven hero in the Gimli mode.  For over a hundred years, he’s wandered the Eastern Kingdoms as a gun for hire, on both sides of the law (sometimes simultaneously), not settling in any one place for long.  He’s been a mercenary, an assassin, a guard, a hitman, a bodyguard, and more.  His idea of a fair fight has always been one where he shoots his opponent in the head without ever being seen.  And now, late in his life, he’s found his calling as an adventurer and general ne’er-do-well with the Wildfire Riders.

But even anti-heroes have to start somewhere.  And in a fashion typical of the accidental nature of his wanderings, Beltar’s first steps on his wandering path didn’t happen the way you’d envision they might.

“Redemption” was a story that I wrote in late 2005, a few months after Beltar’s creation in August.  I don’t remember how this backstory came to me, really  It just popped into my head and I had to take some time out and write it right now dammit…so I did.  I always knew Beltar was oldish, and a wanderer, but until this story body-checked me out of nowhere, I had no clue as to what started him on his lifelong odyssey of the gun.

It’s below a cut, because it’s hella long–4400 words.  In case you haven’t noticed, I do tend to run on a bit.

I hope you enjoy it.

Step herein, if you dare, for tales of dwarven delinquency and apostrophe abuse


The Sweet and the Bitter

The sweet:  Friday night, The Anvil, on the sixth try of the night, dropped Yogg-Saron to complete our run through normal 25-man Ulduar.  We had to extend our lockout two weeks to do it, so we’d have enough time on Friday to get some good attempts in on the Old God, and finally, everything came together.

The bitter:  While the rest of The Anvil was beating the Yoggy out of, uh, Yoggy…my lovely wife, my charming daughter Nublet, and I were in a motel room in Perry, Georgia, asleep.  We would be getting up the next day to sell my wife’s handmade shinies at a very cold but very fun craft festival.  (Aside:  54 degrees, 15 mph north wind, wind chill in the low 40s.  30 miles south of Macon.  In fucking October.  Global warming, my big fat hairy ass.)

Finding out on Saturday evening that the raid killed Yoggy gave me some mixed emotions.  Of course, I’m happy that “we” finally got the chance, by extending the raid lockout another week and creatively scheduling, to get enough attempts in to work through the chaos of the fight and bring it to a successful conclusion.  Even though I missed part of the week before as well due to catching a cold or hamthrax or plague or cooties or something that I’m still not quite over yet, I was still a part of clearing at least the front of Ulduar in that lockout, and had been there for our earlier attempts on Yogg as well.  We’re a pretty tight group, and like most good raids (cutting-edge progression or not), we live or die as a team, and team accomplishments are more important than individual glory.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a tiny pang of “well, shit.”

I wasn’t there.  I wasn’t there for our first Yoggy kill.  I had a legitimate reason for not being there, of course…we do this craft show every year on the third weekend in October, it’s basically a (hard-)working vacation for us because my wife grew up going to it–her mom sold her handmade cornhusk dolls at every show for twenty-seven straight years until she got too sick to go.  In fact, we even now have her mom’s old booth spot…booth A1, right by the entrance gate.  It’s vastly more important that we be there–to make some money, to see old friends, to watch Nublet have the time of her life charming people and playing in dirt and riding hayrides and petting cows–than to attend our raid.  My raid friends understand that.  It was all planned out ahead of time, and honestly, my attendance has been so good in the past, even missing two weeks (one sick, one traveling) isn’t an issue.

But I wasn’t there for the first kill.  I wasn’t there to see my chat window vomit forth 25 peoples’ achievement spam.  I wasn’t there for the obligatory celebratory screenshot.  We’ll kill Yoggy again, I have no doubt, but when we do, it won’t be the first time.  It’ll be smoother and less painful, but it won’t be the first time.  (Draw your own analogies.  They’re glaringly obvious.)

And then there’s The Voice In The Back Of My Head.  I hate that bastard.  He’s the one that says things like, “see, they killed Yogg-Saron without you and we’re running a four-tank rotation as it is, they don’t need you.”  I don’t listen to him as much as I used to when he’d make me doubt myself and have me half-convinced every week that the raid was about to dump me for poor performance, but he’s still there, and there’s still a little part of the ol’ brain that buys into his bullshit.  Yes, I have a bit of a gear gap to the other three tanks because they’re all in 10-mans in addition to our 25, and none of the 10-mans I know have any tank slots available.  Yes, I am still the Minister of Silly Mistakes.  Yes, when I’m assigned DPS, my DPS is laughably bad, and when tanking my DPS is below our warrior tank and far below our paladin and DK.  But I’ve also successfully MT’d everything in Ulduar 25 up through Vezax and everything but Anub in ToC 25.  I’m not uber, but dammit, I don’t suck.

So here’s today’s topic for discussion.  How have you felt when you haven’t been there for a big important raid first–a first kill, a first clear, a first achievement or hardmode?  I think it’s natural to have a little undertone of bitter along with the sweet when knowing that your team pulled it off, but they did it without you.  Deep down, I think we all want to feel a little indispensable.  But the most important thing is that the team, the raid, pulled it off.  And even if you weren’t there for the actual kill, you did your part to help them get there.


So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior: Endgame Gearing, Part II

Yeah, I know, I know.  I’m not exactly the fastest in the world at cranking out these things, but, hey, quality takes time, right?  And if I ever produce something that’s high enough quality to justify taking this much time, I’ll let you know!

Anyhoo…in the first part of our SYWTBAPW treatise on endgame gearing, we talked about stamina and Defense and why they’re your priority stats, at least at first–and why “540″ is the first magic number you need to remember when getting ready for tanking heroics and raids.  There are two other magic numbers that we’ll blow through very quickly, because we already talked about these months ago in the SYWTBAPW post on tanking stats:

263 – this is the amount of hit rating you’d like to get.  You have a base 5% chance to miss a mob of your level on any attack, assuming it’s the same level you are and you’re swinging a single weapon.  (When dual-wielding, it’s more like 24%.)  That goes up by 1% for each level higher that the mob is.  Since bosses are always considered as your level +3, you need 8% hit to push misses completely off the table; at level 80, that translates to 263 hit rating.  If you’re a Draenei, or have managed to graft one to your back, you only need 7% hit, or about 230 rating, thanks to the Draenei racial Heroic Presence.

26 – this is the amount of expertise you’d like to get.  Mobs have a base 6.5% chance to dodge you, and each point of expertise reduces your chance to be dodged or parried by .25%.  In order to push dodges completely out of the picture, you thus need 26 expertise points; that translates to about 140 expertise rating.  Note that I was wrong when I wrote months ago; the chance for a mob to parry is actually a lot higher than 6.5% (I don’t remember the exact number, but it’s around 12-15%); it’s probably not feasible to stack that much expertise without crippling yourself somewhere else, so don’t worry about it.  Just remember that any expertise over 26 is definitely not wasted.

Which one you should prioritize?  That’s a tough call.  I’ve heard opinions expressed both ways.  What I’ve found on Linedan is that it seems to be easier to stack hit rating than it is to stack expertise.  You probably won’t have either of these maxed out when you start tanking heroics, and that’s OK.  In general, stacking expertise will increase your threat by the greater amount; stacking hit will too, to an extent, but it’s more helpful in preventing catastrophic failures like a missed Taunt or a missed Shield Slam as an opener.

One thing to remember–expertise over the “magic number” is not wasted.  Hit rating over the “magic number” is wasted.  It’s not an uncommon malady among tanks or melee DPS at the Ulduar level of content to have excessive hit rating, because Blizzard put +hit on everydamnthing in Ulduar.  Linedan, ironically, only has 215 hit rating as I write this, though he is set on expertise (28).  But in his DPS gear, he’s got 300 hit rating.  That’s wasted stat points, but I haven’t been able to get his gear switched around to fix it.

Now, speaking of gear…you may think that a given class and spec only needs one set of gear.  Generally, that’s true.  I can’t think of a circumstance where a marks hunter would need two distinctly different sets of gear to be, well, a marks hunter.  Oh, you may switch trinkets for certain fights, yeah.  But all your stuff?  Nah, that’s crazy talk.

It’s not crazy talk for a warrior.  As a prot warrior, you’re going to find that you need two near-complete sets of gear for your prot spec by itself.  To shorthand things, I’m going to call them the “trash” set and the “boss” set.

A trash set (sometimes called a threat set) is optimized for two functions–large amounts of relatively light-hitting trash, and situations where you’re forced to DPS in prot spec because you may have to either offtank later in a fight, or be ready in case of emergency.  It is a more offensive-minded set of gear, which gives up effective health (stamina and avoidance) to concentrate on stats that give you more damage and threat output.

Trash sets tend to lean heavily on shield block rating and value, because we as prot warriors lean heavily on Shield Slam as one of our two big nukes (Revenge being the other).  Plus, the entire concept of block value is as overpowered against trash as it is underpowered against bosses–you’ve noticed that as you leveled, hitting Shield Block can all but make you invulnerable for 10 seconds against many mobs.  So look for pieces that have high +Strength and/or high +block rating or value.  Pieces with +block value aren’t hard to find.  By the time you hit T8-level gear, a single piece of armor can carry over 150 block value.

A boss set is the opposite.  Boss sets are designed for tanking single, hard-hitting bosses.  They are built around maximizing your effective health, through a combination of high raw health (via +Stamina) and high avoidance (block rating, dodge, parry, defense).  They do this at the expense of DPS and threat.

There’s two ways to build a boss set.  Some go for brute force by maximizing stamina; others try to be slippery and maximize avoidance by stacking +dodge and +parry.  I try to steer a balanced middle ground, but in general, I tend to slide toward the +stamina side of things.  Part of that is with Lin being a Tauren, I just can’t picture him as the most, y’know, agile thing on two hooves.  But I can sure picture him shrugging off a hit that’d cleave a gnome into gnome chops.  The random number generator can always find a way to screw up your dodge and parry, but big health numbers are always there for you.

Now, one caveat here–of course, your trash set still needs 540 defense and enough stamina to survive while tanking (or avoidance to avoid getting hit).  And your boss set still needs a reasonable amount of +Strength so you can crank out enough DPS and threat to actually keep agro.  But within that, you will, after a while, find that having these two sets of tank gear, and being able to switch quickly between them, helps your flexibility…and flexibility, IMO, is a hallmark of a good tank.

Here’s what I mean by that.  Linedan has a boss set and a trash set.  In his current boss set, he’s got a bit north of 550 defense and about 34k unbuffed health, but only 1700ish shield block value even with raid buffs.  In his trash set, his defense drops to 543 and he gives up over 2000 health, but his block value catapults up to a very tasty 2593 with a full rack of 25-man raid buffs.  I even swap in two crit trinkets on the trash set, just for higher DPS output.  When running up against a slightly gimmicky fight like the Nerubian Burrowers on Anub’arak in ToC, all I have to do is swap my two tank trinkets back in but keep the rest of the +block set on, and now I’m only down 1400 health from my boss set, still above the defense floor, still rocking almost 2600 SBV, with a 60% chance (due to Crit Block) of that doubling, and able to double it again 10 seconds out of every 40 with Shield Block–which makes tanking the block-sensitive Burrowers easysauce.  The ability to mix-and-match gear for any situation is a huge help to any tank.  It means you’ll never have any bag space anymore, especially if you’re like Lin and have to lug around a third set of gear for your dual-spec, but hey, bag space is overrated, right?

Now you may feel overwhelmed when first starting out–”wait, I don’t even have one decent set of stuff yet and you’re telling me I need two?”  Well, no, not at first.  Having two sets of gear is something that you tend to end up needing when you raid.  For heroics or regular five-mans, one good, solid set of items that give you the basics–540 defense, 20-21k health for regulars and 23-25k for heroics, as close to 263 hit rating and 26 expertise as you can get–will serve you just fine.  As you work your way up through heroics and maybe get a crack at raids, you’ll find that you can pick up pieces that will serve as the foundations of trash or boss sets.  Don’t sweat it, the gear will come naturally…especially now that Badges of Conquest drop out of each heroic, and the heroic daily gives 2 Badges of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.  Run heroics regularly, which you should be doing to keep your tanking chops up, and you’ll have yourself one (hopefully more!) nice set of gear soon enough.

Happy tanking!


Alone (Linedan RP circa 2005)

This is a story that I wrote in August of 2005, back when Linedan had not quite reached level 60 yet and was still struggling along as an arms warrior.  I had originally given him the last name “Granitehoof,” because the original Linedan, my warrior in Everquest, had taken the last name “Granite.”  And, y’know, Lin’s a Tauren, so, yeah, “Granite…hoof.”  Get it?

Yeah, I hated it too after a while.  So I decided to ditch the last name…and this story was what I came up with to do it.  The story of the “curse” and the slow decline of the Granitehoof clan had been part of Lin’s background since I created him, this was just the culmination of it.  To this day, four years later, Linedan has no last name.  I wanted to get Exalted with all of the other Horde factions before getting it with Thunder Bluff, but things didn’t work out that way; nevertheless, Lin doesn’t use his “of Thunder Bluff” title and I pretend like it doesn’t exist.  He is, in my mind, still “one-named,” somewhat dishonored before Tauren society, and will remain so until something happens that would allow him to join another clan, or even (should he marry) found one.

I put the story below a cut because it’s long, about 2600 words.  So without any further exposition, here it is…”Alone.”  I hope you like it.

- In which, as usual, I mercilessly abuse my poor Linedan. Again.


Congratulations to Cadistra

All of us here at the Panzercow Bunker–uh, that’d be me, I guess–would like to give humongous tankycow cheers and hugs to Kelly “Cadistra” Aarons over at WoW, Eh?, for winning the September 2009 Blizzard comic contest with her hilariously accurate history lesson of exactly how the worgen came to be.  As with everything else in the universe, it’s the elves’ fault.

If you aren’t reading WoW, Eh? every week, you should.  It’s hilarious.  Plus, Cadistra?  Yep, you guessed it.  Tauren. Proving the inherent superiority of bipedal cows yet again.  Mooyah.


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