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The First Ten Seconds: Introduction

The title of this series is “The First Ten Seconds.”  It’s not relationship advice for meeting that certain someone across a crowded room…unless you’re trying to beckon that certain someone over so you can kill her and loot 91 silver off her corpse.  No, it’s based on a maxim about tanking that I just made up a while back, and it goes like this:

As go the first ten seconds, so goes the entire fight.

It’s a little saying that I’d completely forgotten during the later part of Wrath of the Lich King, especially when doing heroics.  WotLK heroics had turned into a complete joke in high-end raid gear, of course, and all of us were just bull-rushing our way through them like our asses were on fire, in the pursuit of the Holy Badgers of Whatever.  Then Cataclysm hit, and suddenly, heroics became, well, heroic again.  They were, as those of us with brains figured they’d be, damned hard.  Crowd control, the fine art of hexing and sheeping and banishing and shackling, went from useless to mandatory in the span of a few weeks.  And with even more difficult heroics on the horizon–the new Zul’whatever heroics in 4.1 will require a minimum item level of 346 just to get past the bouncers at the door–crowd control won’t be neglected anytime soon.

And with the rediscovery of crowd control came the rediscovery of the art of pulling and control.  In late Wrath, control was easy:  charge into the center of a bunch of mobs and push every AoE button you’ve got, then watch as the DPS pulls them off you anyway, but that was OK because the mobs all died in four seconds.  Now in Cataclysm, if you, as the tank, lose the handle on a trash pull, you’re probably going to wipe.  We’ve all had to rediscover the timing and interplay between the tank and the crowd controllers and the healers and the rest of the DPS.

So that’s what this series is going to be about…the first ten seconds of a pull, mostly as it pertains to trash.  It’s going to be about that period of time from the moment the first button is pushed to start a fight, until the mob(s) are settled in on the tank and the fight really “starts.”  In most trash pulls, this (in my experience) takes about ten seconds.  If you, as a group, execute these ten seconds properly, you’ll probably have a boring and uneventful trash pull.  If you don’t, even if you don’t wipe, you’ll probably end up with a bunch of trouble, raw tempers, and frustration.  (And in my case, a tank screaming obscenities at the screen and a wife rolling her eyes listening to me.  “GET BACK HERE YOU LITTLE FUCK GODDAMMIT I’VE GOT NO RAGE LET ME GET AGRO YOU STUPID BASTARDS STOP NUKING FFFFFFFF…”)

Preparation is Key

The next post in the series is going to concentrate on pulling.  Pulling in the latter stages of Wrath, as mentioned before, largely didn’t exist.  You, as the tank, just ran or charged in and spammed whatever you could knowing that it didn’t matter a bit–the DPS was going to go apeshit anyway and even the healer would just spam Smite or Moonfire or Chain Lightning or whatever.

But any tank who survived the sheer hell of heroics in The Burning Crusade knows how important pulling is.  Remember the gladiator hallway in Shattered Halls?  Groups of six mobs down the middle with wanderers in between and a few static singles as filler.  Move too far to one side and you’d pick up a group of five adds.  Don’t get them back far enough, and you’d get the wandering Houndmasters and their dogs, or the guys working out on the target dummies.  At least one, usually two of the group mobs were hunters, ranged and largely immobile.  Given all that, how do you pull it?

Cataclysm heroics aren’t quite that bad, but they’re a step back toward that level of difficulty from the overgeared facerolls of late Wrath.  You will, until we’re all running around in tier 13 or whatever, need crowd control and intelligent pulling to get through them.  Maybe some of you cutting-edge raiders are at the point where you can start to brute-force these things, but those of us down here with our average ilevel in the 330s or 340s (OK, Linedan’s is 351 right now) can’t.

So there you are, the tank, standing at the entrance of your favorite dungeon, ready for another exciting round of Will Anything Drop That I Can Actually Use.  You’ve got buffs, you’ve got food, you’ve got adult beverages (in RL), and you’re staring at the first trash pack.  And four pairs of virtual eyes are boring into your back, waiting for you to get the ball rolling.  The temptation is strong to just put the hammer down and gogogo.

Not so fast.

The first thing you should do, PUG or guild group or whatever, is decide who’s marking targets.  Somebody should always mark targets these days.  And when you decide who should mark targets, you also have to decide what each target means.  In a group that runs together a lot, that’s usually not an issue, everybody knows what each mark means.  But in a PuG especially, you can’t be sure.  A square may mean “mage sheeps it” to you, but to XxArthaslolxX from a PvP server, square may mean that he’s supposed to offtank it.  Never, ever, assume.  Get the definitions straight beforehand.  Somebody needs to, and if nobody steps up, you as the tank should be ready to do the marking and designation.  Put the symbols over the first trash group and say what they mean–”sheep square, trap moon, kill order is skull, X, moon, square.”  It’s not worth having a massive argument over, but it’s still something that should be laid out before the pull actually happens.

The other usual bone of contention in an unfamiliar group is–who actually pulls?  Normally, I always preferred to be the one to push the button to start the fight.  But the way things are working these days in Cataclysm, I now actually prefer to let the crowd controllers start the pull.  I’ll go into more detail in the pulling post, but my standard procedure, after we mark and decide who’s doing what, is to let the crowd controllers cast.  Their cast will aggro the group.  That exact moment is when I hit Heroic Throw on either the kill target, or an unallocated caster mob if we’re short on CC.  (That pulls that one particular mob to me, with a silence component to bring those inconvenient casters that much closer.)  It’s then on me as the tank to get the other uncontrolled mob or mobs on me before they eat the crowd controller.  It can be a tricky dance, but is more easily done with proper positioning.  All people doing ranged CC should stand pretty much together, and in a position where the tank can easily get to them.  (If they have to LOS pull, that needs to be taken into account.)

Again, I’ll talk about this more in the pulling post, but I’ll throw one other tidbit out there for my fellow warriors:  Charge is not necessarily your friend.  Charge Stun only hits one mob.  If there’s a second, it’ll keep on trucking for your squishies, and you’ll be playing catch-up.  And when I get to the post on initial control of the pull, we’ll see why playing catch-up is a recipe for disaster.  If you’re fast on your fingers, Heroic Leap can solve this problem.  I’m not, so often I tend to just run in.

The Gospel According to Marks

Before each pull, unless it’s obviously not needed, mark.  Use symbols consistently from group to group based on what you decided at the start of the run.  And your number one CC priority should be…(drumroll please)…hunter mobs. Casters can be silenced by ranged abilities from at least a few classes–Heroic Throw from me, Counterspell from a mage, Wind Shear from a shaman, etc.  When they’re silenced, they’ll run at their current agro target until they feel like casting again, which will usually get them in range of some sort of centered AoE or multi-target ability (Consecrate, Cleave, etc.).  But pure ranged hunter-class mobs are a stone bitch to position.  A death nugget can Death Grip them, which is hella handy if you’ve got a DK around or you’re a DK tank.  And of course you can LOS them if there’s a corner to run around.  But if you’re DK-less and in an open area with nothing to block sight, that hunter is just going to sit out there plinking somebody, and it’s probably not going to be the tank unless he goes and gets it.  And then we’re back to playing catch-up again.

So my priority list for CC is, in a nutshell:  hunter mobs, spellcaster mobs, and then everybody else.  There’s exceptions, of course, but in terms of keeping things simple, that’s how I like to see things marked.  Which priority you use inside those general categories (i.e., which spellcasting mobs get CC if you can’t get them all) is up to the particular group and instance.  There are even situations where you might want to pick a melee mob over a caster to CC–for example, if the caster is particularly squishy and you know you can (or need to due to mechanics) drop him fast.  This is where a knowledge of the instance is vitally important as a tank, so you can make intelligent choices about which mobs get a knock on the head or stuck into an ice cube, and which just get terminated with extreme prejudice immediately.

Next up:  The pull itself.  How do you get the mobs from points A, B, C, and D to point X?  We take a look at how to get a trash pack moving right where you want it…into the kill zone!


Coming Soon: The First Ten Seconds

So.  First off, let me apologize, yet again, for my slackness in updating this here fine upstanding blog.  There are a few reasons for this.

First–and I hate to admit it, but it’s true–I wrote most of my blog posts at work.  I know, I know, I shouldn’t be doing it, but come on, folks.  I know when you people read my blog, and here’s a hint–it’s between 9:00 and 5:00 in your appropriate time zone.  Otherwise my readership wouldn’t crash through the floor on Saturdays and Sundays.  Let he who is without slack cast the first Nerf dart and all that.  Well, a couple months ago, I was moved to a new cubicle that’s very much more out in the open than my old, isolated, rather private digs I had for almost three years.  Basically, I can’t keep the WordPress editor up all day and hammer posts into it by the thousands of words like I used to.  When I get home, I have a tendency to be pretty tired and more interested in playing games than writing about them.  So that has rather badly cramped my output.

Second, RL has been, as it has for the past few years, teabagging me like I’m a dead resto druid and it’s a rogue.  No need to go into the details (I’ve got a personal blog for stuff like that, and someday maybe I’ll update it again) but suffice to say that it’s taking a big chunk of my focus just to get through the days and weeks, without a lot left over to produce quality content.  And if I can’t at least attempt to produce quality content, I don’t produce content.  (Most of the time.)

And third, well, I just haven’t had that much to say about WoW.  Cataclysm is humming along.  4.0.6 has caused some of us to have to relearn some of our favorite classes (marks hunter wut wut).  Other people in the WoW blogosphere have been doing a fantastic job talking about things that I had formative ideas about.  It just feels like that for whatever reason, there hasn’t really been that much for me to say.  Like, say, “heroics are hard.”  Well, duh.  Of course they’re hard, they’re designed to be hard at this pre-raid level of gear a lot of us are rocking.  Give it six months and they won’t be (as) hard anymore.  The push to get Linedan to 85 and repped up with Dragonmaw and Therazane has, as I knew it would, caused me to back off a little bit and play less while I recharge to get my alts leveled, filling the slack with a bit of Star Trek Online, a bit of EVE Online, and a bit of various single-player games.

So, a quick update from Panzerville, and then I’ll get to why I’m actually posting this.  Linedan, the titular Panzercow, is back raiding again as one of the full-time tanks in a 10-man called “Doom and Blet,” expertly cat-herded by former Anvil Chief Cat Herder Dorritow and veteran Anvil raider and Seven Deadly Divas contributor Hammaryn.  So far, we’ve been poking at Blackwing Descent, and have dropped tne Omnomnomnomitron Defense System (I can haz tank lootz?) and Magmaw, the Giant Lava Penis, and have gotten Atremedes down to about 55%.  That, IMO, is not half bad after four weeks for a raid running only one night a week, 9:00-12:30 Eastern.

Beltar, my dwarf hunter, is my other character at 85 right now.  He hasn’t raided, in fact he hasn’t done any heroics yet (I hope to fix that soon).  This is largely because of my PUGaphobia, and the fact I’m still learning how to trap and CC.  Oh yeah, and re-learning his rotation because 4.0.6 took everything I’d learned about marks and stood it on its head.  (Aimed Shot useful again?  Seriously?  Getouttahere.)  All my other characters are at various places between level 82 and level, uh, 5.  I’ll get alts up someday, but I need to get over my burnout on the 80-85 Cata zones first.

Anyway.  The real reason I’m posting this is as self-motivation.  I’ve had an idea bouncing around my skullcage for a while, inspired by some heroics I’ve run on Lin, to do a small series on pulling and initial control of pulls.  It’s based on a very, very simple theory, to wit:  The first ten seconds of a fight is the most important part. If you can pull properly and control the fight for the first ten seconds, you are well on your way to victory and loot.  If you can’t, you’re well on your way to heartbreak, frustration, and getting kicked from PUGs.  And with the re-introduction of crowd control into instances with Cataclysm, pulling and grabbing initial control of pulls, especially trash packs, has gotten more complicated.  Who pulls, you or the CC?  Who decides kill order?  Who should you CC, who should you leave?  What do you use to pull?  Do you LOS?  Do you just charge in?  This is all stuff that, as a tank, you need to think about before pushing buttons.

So where’s the self-motivation?  I’ve told you about it now.  I have to write it.  Otherwise people on Twitter will hound me to no end about it.  Peer pressure is a wonderfully useful thing sometimes, isn’t it?

I can’t guarantee it’ll be done quickly, as I haven’t written any of it at all yet.  But watch this space, and hopefully in the next few days, I can get the first installment up.  In the meantime, peace out, kids.


Random Acts of Friday II

I swear I’ve got some good posts percolating.  Somewhere.  No, seriously.  Really.  But in the meantime, have another fun-size grab-bag of “oh shit I really should post something” desperation…

- Bad news, melee DPS and tanks:  Nerfs are on the horizon with the latest 4.0.3 PTR patch build 13245.  MMO Champion has the details…it looks like that passive self-healing took a hit across the board, but none were worse than the nerf to Blood Craze in the Fury tree.  Previously it would heal 2.5% of max health per talent point over 10 seconds (so 2.5/5/7.5%); with 2/2 Field Dressing, that netted out to 9.6% of maximum health restored over 10 seconds, on a 10% chance per hit taken.  Build 13245 slashes that healing to 1/2/3%.  I don’t know what the final number will be with maxed Field Dressing, but I think it’ll be somewhere just north of 4%.  Obviously that’s a significant cut, and it remains to be seen whether that will render Blood Craze a much less “mandatory” talent.  I’ve been of the opinion that it’s a no-brainer to take it just to lessen the strain on our healers, but so far, our healers haven’t been straining, even on ICC-level content.  That may change once we head into Cataclysm and see the instances there.  In the meantime, I’m giving serious thought to dropping Blood Craze at least temporarily and loading those points over into maxing Shield Specialization in the hope of solving some of the occasional rage issues Linedan and Latisha are both running into.

- The Anvil, our 25-man raid, folded up shop for the duration last night with a final run through the raid weekly (Malygos).  We’re now on hiatus and will be back in action for Cataclysm around January 13, 2011.  Our final scorecard:  Cleared Naxx, cleared Ulduar normal with a few hardmodes here and there, cleared Trial of the Wake Me Up When It’s Over, and never bothered with Trial of the Wake Me Up OH GOD MY FACE (the heroic version).  We completed normal 25-man ICC with our single hard-fought and emotional Arthas kill, and did get two heroic encounters in there done, Lootship and Rotface.  It’s not exactly a record that the Paragons or Ensidias of the world would find impressive, but it’s by far the best we’ve ever done for an expansion, and I wouldn’t trade the fun and hilarity we had for all the world-firsts in the, uh, world.  It was a hell of a ride, kids, and I’m glad I was along for it.

- That doesn’t mean I’m quite done with raiding, though.  I tank a 10-man that runs for three hours each Saturday afternoon, and with The Anvil shutting down temporarily, that means we’ll be going back into ICC for more heroic modes (we’re currently 7/12 HM) and a crack at those tasty proto-drakes.  Of course, that means heroic Putricide…and heroic Sindragosa…and what I know is going to be the bane of my existence, All You Can Eat.  Oh God.

- There was a minor kerfuffle in the WoWosphere over the past couple days when Frostheim, WoW Insider hunter columnist and main guy over at the Warcraft Hunter’s Union blog, posted a story about running heroic Old Kingdom and what happened therein.  (It’s too complicated to rehash here…go read Frostheim’s post and the rest of this will make sense.)  Most of his commenters backed him up on it, or at least thought it was funny (and honestly, I can see that).  Well, Amber at I Like Bubbles offers the counterpoint, in which she brings up the valid (and, IMO, accurate) point that when you’re a higher-visibility member of a community, you really shouldn’t go around acting like a penis.  Not that you ever should anyway, but you get the idea.

And, here’s a few random gems from the Interwebs:

Y’all have a good weekend, and remember, it’s all fun and games until Deathwing puts somebody’s eye out.


I’m ready for my close-up (I’m on the WoWPhiles Podcast!)

A couple of weeks ago, the guys at the WoWPhiles Podcast put the call out on Twitter asking for people to volunteer to be on their podcast talking about their favorite class and spec, providing advice for new players and stuff like that.  For reasons still as yet unknown to me, I volunteered.  Also for reasons still as yet unknown to me, they accepted.

So after a hurried install of Skype (which caused a few blown eardrums in my raid after it automagically jacked up my mic volume in Ventrilo, BTW) and some quick research, I hooked up with Jason from WoWPhiles and recorded a segment for Episode 47 of the show, which is now up for download or listening on their website.  The show also features Bliky from One Man Raid talking about survival hunters, and the lovely and talented Liala from Disciplinary Action talking about everybody’s favorite bubble vendors, disc priests.

I’m actually listening to my segment as I type this, and boy, you’d think I’d know this by now considering I’m 44 years old, but I didn’t quite realize my voice was that high-pitched.  My wife calls it a “tenor.”  To me, it sounds like Red Shirt Guy on helium.  More precisely, Red Shirt Guy on helium and meth, because I was so nervous, I was talking about a hundred miles an hour.  Oh, and Time Warner can lick my sweaty balls because our upload bandwidth is crappy enough that it cut me out a few times.  I have enough issues with sounding like a gnome IRL without also sounding like Max Headroom.

There’s some great information on the podcast.  It’s two hours and twenty-seven minutes of jam-packed WoW information, with a dash of Panzercow topping.  So go check it out!

 


Random acts of Friday

I don’t know if this is going to become a regular feature of Achtung Panzercow or not–is anything ever regular around here?–but hey, it’s Friday, and I’m feeling random.  So here’s a grab bag of stuff.

- I ran ICC 25N last night with Linedan in our “third tank” position.  Basically, it’s the utility infielder job, where sometimes I tank and sometimes I DPS.  I think I swapped specs six times in three hours, going Prot for Marrowgar, Deathwhisper + trash, Putricide, and Team Edward Sparkle Disco Party and Blood Wing trash, and Fury for everything else.  (We cleared everything but Sindragosa and Arthas.)  It’s kind of a crappy job, because being the third tank on fights like Marrowgar and Putricide is pretty boring.  You stand there, you do lousy DPS.  And the constant spec-switching makes it hard to get into a good rhythm.  But, since we rotate our four tanks around week to week, everybody gets to do it.

- Last night was my first raid trying out Fury in 4.0.  It’s…interesting.  My damage was up from 3.x, not as far up as the casters of course (warlock sustaining 18k for the first half of ICC…wtf?) but still up about 15%.  The rotation’s changed a bit, with Whirlwind’s damage nerf removing it from common use in favor of Raging Blow on single targets, I guess.  The numbers I saw flying across the screen were impressively big, with lots of five-digit crits bouncing around, but the overall damage wasn’t reflecting that.  I’m guessing that’s because I no longer have Deep Wounds ticking constantly, and the change to Bloodsurge (only firing off Bloodthirst hits and not Heroic Strike hits) means a lot fewer free Slams.  Still, I managed to crack 10k DPS on Saurfang and 12k on Festergut.  Frighteningly, 12k DPS was only good for tenth place on Festergut.

- Further on Fury…the damage feels “lumpy,” for lack of a better word.  It comes in bursts, like when Raging Blow and Heroic Strike come off cooldown at the same time, or when I get a lucky streak of Bloodsurge procs.  There aren’t a whole lot of dead spots, and in general it feels a bit more active than the 3.x “Bloodthirst, Whirlwind, oh look, let’s spam Heroic Strike/Cleave and pray I get a Bloodsurge proc before I fall asleep” setup.  However, I was surprised to find that my rotation wasn’t always cooldown-limited, but rage-limited.  I rarely had rage issues as Fury in 3.x.  There were a fair number of points last night where everything on my bar was either dark or on cooldown, and the waits to rebuild rage were agonizing.  Just like with Prot, overuse of Heroic Strike or Cleave for Fury left me in a bad spot quite a bit.  Finding the balance of when to HS and when not to HS is going to take me some time.

- One more thing on Fury…Execute spam is back with a vengeance.  The tooltip seemed to indicate that it would only do about 4000 damage.  I was dropping regular hits in the 13-17k range, with crits as high as 34,000.  On Blood Queen Lana’thel, when I got bitten late in the fight, I hit a lucky streak and was able to land six Execute crits in a row for between 55,000 and 65,000 damage each.   I AM A LARGE FURRY VAMPIRIC GOD.

- I am in the process of doing some adjustments on Linedan and I need help from the Prot community.  When in his normal tank gear, which is mostly ilevel 264ish, he runs about 50k health, 22% dodge and parry, 30% block (no mastery yet), 4.5% hit, and 12 expertise.  I’ve decided I need to boost his hit and expertise back up toward the caps in this brave new world of lower tank threat and higher DPS.  I actually reforged him out of about 1.2% of dodge this morning to get him to a bit over 6% hit and 15 expertise, and am seriously considering replacing the Mongoose enchant on his tank weapon with Accuracy (+25 hit, +25 crit).  Right now, he’s gemmed straight +30 stamina except for other stuff to get his meta activated.  If anyone wants to take a look at his Armory (link over to the right in the sidebar) and toss out an opinion on where I can close the gaps to 8% hit and 23 expertise, it’d be appreciated.

- Speaking of tanking, we got some fairly significant shield-related changes announced yesterday.  MMO Champion has the blue posts on Shield Block changes reposted here, and Zellviren over at The Dead Good Tanking Guide has an explanation of why the reduction of the Shield Block bonus block chance from +100% to +25% really isn’t that big a nerf.  (Zellviren’s excellent link courtesy of Rhidach at Righteous Defense.)  In addition, the latest beta build 13221 has significantly increased the base damage on Shield Slam–as in, a 125% increase, about 1100 points before attack power’s added in.  But, the catch is that Shield Slam damage now scales less with attack power.  So my guess is that our normal Shield Slams will hit harder, which is good, because they’ve been behind Revenge for a while in beta now.  But once we get our Vengeance on and are wandering around with five-digit attack power and Shield Block activated (with 2/2 Heavy Repercussions), we probably won’t see those massive wood-inducing crits anymore.  Good-bye, 46k Shield Slam crits.  I’ll always remember our crazy nights together.

- Have a few other great blog posts from this past week, around the WoWosphere:

  • Vosskah at Sword and Board talks about his first impressions of 4.0.1 tanking.
  • Kadomi at Tank Like a Girl is putting together a list of warrior blogs for all specs, not just Prot.  DPS warriors in particular seem very underserved in the WoWosphere, so if you know of a good warrior blog, send it her way.
  • Amber at I Like Bubbles has cat macros.  What else do you need?
  • The saga of Gerald continues at Righteous Orbs.
  • Finally, the community is losing two outstanding bloggers.  Laranya at Root and Branch has decided to pack it in after a short but spectacular run; thank you, Laranya, and keep hanging out on Twitter, we miss you!
  • And one of the best warrior tank resources, Tanking Tips, is closing its doors.  Veneretio has been bringing the theory for a long time now, and his departure is going to leave a big void.  Vene, as one of the tanks who have been immeasurably helped by your hard work, thank you, and we’ll really miss your insight.

- And, in closing, I can announce that yours truly, the Panzercow, has completed his first attempt at podcasting!  I will be doing a segment on Prot warriors on the WoWPhiles Podcast that should be out this weekend.  Keep an eye out for it, and you too can hear that, in fact, I sound absolutely nothing like a Tauren.  (Plus, Liala from Disciplinary Action is on there too!)


The Department of (no more) Defense

To me, one of the best tanking changes that’s come along with Cataclysm and patch 4.0.1 is the complete removal of the Defense stat from WoW.  At first, when I heard about it, I was a little annoyed, because I thought it was going to upset the whole apple cart in terms of how I geared.  Then when I heard about the trees, I was a little annoyed that I’d have to blow two of my precious first 31 points in the Prot tree in order to be uncrittable.

I was, as usual, completely wrong.

The removal of Defense from the game opens up a veritable world of possibilities for us as tanks.  Think about it.  By putting two talent points in Bastion of Defense, we’re accomplishing the same thing as stacking 689 (I think) Defense rating, or 140 Defense points, on our gear at level 80.  And honestly, you’d almost certainly take Bastion of Defense anyway because of the 10%/20% Enrage chance on a successful block, dodge, or parry.  So it’s all gain, no real loss.  We can equip anything and we’re still uncrittable.

In this strange interregnum before the world falls apart, where we’re dealing with classes balanced for level 85 stuck at level 80, where we overgear 95% of the content, this removal of Defense is having something of an odd effect on one of our common tanky pastimes…the random heroic.  Yeah, I know, running random PUGs is about as much fun as a prostate exam (or a pap smear for you ladies) these days, but there’s still reasons that we have to do it–snagging Justice Points for offset upgrades, or heirlooms for your alts, or gearing up guildies.

Now if you’ve tanked some heroics the past two weeks, you know that your AOE threat is down a bit, or maybe more than a bit depending on your class.  At the same time, the badge to Justice Point conversion has let some people drastically upgrade their gear, as their stockpile of Triumph badges let them buy some more Tier 10.  Add in the huge DPS increases that some classes got (yes, mages, you can stop cackling gleefully now), and the fact that people still cannot grasp the concept of “wait two seconds to let the tank get agro,” and I’ll bet you’ve been having a moderately frustrating time running your heroics.

Well, ol’ Uncle Panzercow is here to give you a tip:

Run them in your DPS gear.  Or your PvP gear.

You do have DPS gear, right?  I imagine that most tanks do have a DPS offspec.  Many of you have probably accumulated some PvP gear, maybe even the high-quality arena stuff.  Some, I know, do have dual prot or other tanking specs, or no offspec at all, and if you do, that’s OK, but you still might want to rummage around for some DPS gear here and there.  Here’s why.

If you are badge-geared in T9 or T10-level tank stuff, you overgear the hell out of every single heroic out there–yes, even Halls of Will You Idiots Line-of-Sight the Goddamn Phantom Mage, Please.  You’ve got so much avoidance stacked, you’re starved for rage because you aren’t getting hit.  Your crit%’s in the single digits and you’re rocking far north of 40,000 health, maybe more than 50,000.  Healers fall asleep because you never get in trouble.  Thing is, though, with the 4.0 threat changes, now you’re probably having a lot more trouble keeping agro on trash packs when the DPS decide to go “DUUUURP BIG NUKE” right at the start of the fight.  No rage, no threat, and here comes the spew in /party of “zomg wtf ur bad tnak.”

Now suppose you have a near-equivalent set of DPS gear–again, T9ish or higher.  Try an experiment.  Stay in Prot spec and Defensive Stance, but put the DPS gear on with your tank weapon and shield.  Now look at your stats.  You do still have some dodge and parry percentages, I’ll guess they’re in the high single digits.  Your block percentage hasn’t changed much, it’s 30% plus whatever mastery you’ve reforged onto either set of gear.  Your AP is probably up (remember, no Armored to the Teeth anymore), your crit% is way up, and your health isn’t down nearly as far as you thought.  Most DPS plate still stacks a big chunk of stamina on it, and you still get that +15% to your stamina from mastery.  If you have PvP gear?  Same thing, with even more stamina.

Voila.  You’re basically in tank gear a tier or two below your “real” tank gear…except your DPS is going to skyrocket.

I’ll use a real-world example with Linedan.  He’s fully geared in sanctified T10, ilevel 251 and 264 tank items.  In a random heroic, that gives him, eh, 23% dodge and parry each, 55,000 health buffed out, 27k armor, 2.6% base crit, 3600 attack power.  If I swap over to his Fury set, but stay in Prot spec/Defensive Stance, use his Scourgebourne Waraxe as a weapon, and keep his shield equipped?  9% dodge, 13% parry, about 22k armor.  But…try 35% crit, 4400 attack power, and still well over 40,000 health.

I have tanked a couple of heroics using the hybrid DPS gear/Prot spec setup and let me tell you, it’s been brilliantly effective.  The acid test was in Forge of Souls last night.  We had a death nugget, a boomkin, and a rogue for DPS.  The rogue liked to sneak forward and had an odd knack for picking the wrong target to attack.  And we all know that  boomkins can be serious threat monsters now.  Also, don’t forget that FoS is one of the trickier instances for pulling and gathering due to the wide spacing of the trash groups between the entrance and Bronjahm.

It turned out to be probably the smoothest and fastest FoS run that I’ve ever tanked…and I didn’t do anything differently from how I ran it in 3.3.  Except in my Fury gear, I was generating insane threat.  Enough to keep a slightly trigger-happy rogue, a critchicken, and a T10-geared DK alive with only a few taunts here and there.  Blood and Thunder was very effective, and I was getting enough rage from incoming hits that I could use Cleave and Thunder Clap reasonably often to hold threat over the healgro.  I ended up pumping out an astonishing 3600 dps for the run, just behind the DK’s 3800 and just ahead of the rogue and boomkin.  That’s not half bad for a warrior tank in an heroic.

Now, was I getting hit more?  Yep.  Did that make the healer (a priest) work harder?  Well, technically, yes, but when’s the last time you saw a healer have to work at all to keep a T10-geared tank up in a heroic?  The priest never went below 70% mana, and I rarely went below 70% health.  In fact, it was a good thing that I was getting hit more.  Remember Vengeance?  I take more damage, I get more attack power, I deliver more damage, which means more threat, which means the DPS can go harder?  It’s the great Circle of Pain, as Elton John might sing.

Now, DPS gear is viable for tanking any content that you outgear, certainly not for progression stuff.  I don’t think I’d try taking on Arthas in my T10 Fury gear, and I probably wouldn’t even use it in Trial of the Oh God It’s The Same Round Room Again Kill Me Now, but weekly raids in Naxx or Ulduar or Eye of Eternity?  Heroics?  Yep.  I’d do it in a heartbeat…after clearing it with the healer(s) and the raidleaders.  You will get hit more, and you’ll need to be careful of encounters that toss out a lot of damage–for example, I put the real tank gear back on for Devourer of Souls in FoS, simply because Phantom Blast hits very hard, and I wanted a little cushion in case I missed a Spell Reflect or interrupt and something went sideways with the healing.  But for trash?  DPS gear, kids.  It works.

In fact, come Cataclysm, I think it may work better for us to level as Prot in our DPS or PvP gear.  I didn’t try it much on the beta but I probably should’ve.  We would still get the benefit of Prot’s survivability, with higher DPS.  It’s definitely something to think about.


With great Vengeance

“And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers! And you will know my name is the Lord [pulls out his gun and aims it at Brett] when I lay my vengeance upon thee!”    –Samuel L. Jackson, “Pulp Fiction”

I’ve been a bit behind the curve on getting up to speed with the changes that hit us in patch 4.0.1–being out of town for five days just after the patch dropped will do that, since it meant I missed The Anvil’s first 25-man raid last Thursday.  But I was there for this week’s hoedown, and I was front and center in the main tank slot for Sindragosa and Arthas.  It was, in several ways, a very edumacashunal (as we said back in the sticks where I grew up) evening.

Really, tanking last night didn’t feel very different from when I tanked Sindy and Arthas in 3.3.  As a prot warrior, my priority system has changed very little; less Heroic Strike, one Rend at the start of a fight followed by a Thunder Clap to stick it on all mobs, and other than that, it’s the same old same old.  Sword and Board proc’d Shield Slams come first, then Shield Slam, then Revenge, with Devastate as the filler, Heroic Strike to bleed rage, and at least one Thunder Clap every 12-15 seconds to keep Rend and the slow up.  The biggest change to my years of muscle memory is that I now have to unlearn something that it took me two years to learn, which is Heroic Strike spam.  I never used to hit it enough.  Now I’m hitting it too much.  I actually found myself badly rage-starved early in the Lich King fight on two or three occasions, when I got an avoidance streak combined with overaggressive HS use.  Since Lin doesn’t have any points in Shield Specialization, he doesn’t get any rage back when he blocks.  If I’m careful with HS, no problem.  If I’m not, I can dig myself a momentary hole.

The biggest changes had to do with threat.  My main education last night was seeing how threat works in the 4.0 world, and what I need to do as the tank–and what the DPS needs to do–to make everything go smoothly.

Our first Arthas pull was a disaster.  One of our ret paladins ripped agro off me in less than ten seconds.  Then a warlock pulled off her, then a feral druid pulled off him…two people dead almost instantly.  And the DPS didn’t back off to let me get him back.  I admit I let out a growl that scared the cats and probably made my poor wife think I was turning into a worgen IRL.  I hate losing agro…I don’t generally get mad at the person who pulled unless they did some serious durp, I just generally chalk it up to me not being able to put out the threat.

After that, the raid leaders asked the DPS to wait before unloading, both to give me more solid threat time and to give the offtank more time to get more ghouls on him, for Necrotic Plague stacks.  I didn’t have any more significant threat issues after that, but I did notice something.  My snap agro at the beginning of a fight is definitely off from the world of 3.x.  My usual opening combo of Heroic Throw/Shield Slam just wasn’t sticking mobs to me like it used to.  Combine that with the huge DPS gains that certain classes (I’m looking at you, warlocks) have received in 4.0, and the old adage of “wait for the sunders” suddenly becomes more important than ever.  Opening with a big nuke is going to get your face eaten.

And the reason for this, I believe, is the Vengeance mechanic.  It’s a mastery that all tank class/spec combos–blood death nuggets, prot pallies, beardurids, and prot warriors–get in Cataclysm.  Put simply, whenever you take damage, 5% of that damage number is added to your attack power for 10 seconds, up to a total maximum of 10% of your maximum health.  So if Arthas smacks you upside the head for 20,000 damage, you get 1000 added to your attack power for 10 seconds.

When Vengeance first came out in the alpha, it looked pretty much like it does now.  And I was convinced at the time that it would never go live in that form, because the numbers shaped up to be ridiculous.  When tanking ICC, Linedan typically buffs out at over 72,000 health.  So merely by getting hit by Arthas a few times, he could pick up as much as 7200 attack power?  That would put him well over ten thousand AP.  No way that Blizzard would ever let a tank have that much AP, right?

Shows you how much I know.

My first indication of the effect that Vengeance was having was when I started seeing some big yellow numbers float up on my screen during Arthas phase 1.  I mean, big yellow numbers.  Five-digit big.  As a prot warrior, I rarely see five-digit yellow numbers on Lin, so out of curiosity, I opened up his character pane.

Attack power?  Wobbling between 12,000 and 12,500.  His base AP with buffs at pull time was roughly 4700.  Throw in a few other buffs in combat, and the difference would be around 7,000…indicating that he’d hit the ceiling on Vengeance.

You can imagine what a prot warrior with twelve thousand AP was doing.  18k Revenge crits.  15k normal Shield Slam hits without Shield Block up.  The night’s crowning glory was a Shield Blocked Shield Slam crit for precisely 41,564.  On one Arthas attempt where we never got out of phase 1 due to the OT dying, Lin did well over 8000 dps.  On the attempts where we got well into phase 2 before it all fell apart, he was still doing around 6000 dps.  That’s double what he was doing in 3.3.

And here’s the kicker…he needed it.  Because once the DPS got the clearance to put their foot to the floor, that six to eight thousand DPS was giving me the threat-per-second I needed to stay ahead.  Without it, there’s no way.  We had three warlocks each doing well north of 10,000 DPS consistently.  That’s a lot of threat to have to overcome.  At Lin’s normal 3000 DPS, I really don’t think he could have stayed ahead of them.  But at 6000, 7000, 8000 DPS?  He did.  If they gave me 10 to 15 seconds of light DPS at the beginning–not even no DPS, just taking it easy–then dropped the hammer, I could stay ahead of them easily.  If they went for it right from the start?  No chance I could hang on.

So it seems obvious to me after this experience that Blizzard is now balancing tank threat around the Vengeance mechanic.  On boss fights, they are expecting the tank to have a huge boost in attack power thanks to Vengeance, and be putting out damage that’s pretty insane compared to pre-4.0 levels.  DPS threat will be tuned around that.  If we take that as a given–and it’s not, it’s just my observation and opinion, but let’s just roll with it–it leads to a couple of interesting conclusions.

First, every tank class, even prot warriors, the previous “kings of snap agro,” now has a ramp-up time on their maximum threat.  Beforehand, if we had enough rage, we could just unload a couple of high-threat moves and get a solid hold on the target, or a DK could just inappropriately Icy Touch something and it would be stuck on him like glue.  No more.  If our threat in relation to the DPS’ is balanced around us having six or seven or eight thousand more attack power than we do at the start of a fight, where they don’t have the same restrictions, it means we will always need a period of time to take a few hits to the head and get good and pissed off before we’re putting out enough pain to let the DPS go nuts.  This is an important point for DPS to remember.  We massively overgear heroics now and can just durp our way through them (that’s my next rant, coming soon), but that stuff won’t even work in 80+ normals from what I’ve seen in the beta.

Second, tank-swap fights just got a little more interesting.  We saw this on Arthas last night when Haicu (my DK tank partner) and I would swap Arthas at Soul Reaver time.  It’s similar to the problems tanks deal with on Festergut and his damage-increasing Gastric Bloat.  The tank who has just taunted has not taken huge amounts of damage so he hasn’t had time to ramp up his Vengeance.  The tank who has just been taunted from, on the other hand, is probably maxed out on his attack power and hitting like a dump truck with no brakes, full of angry burning bears.  The “from” tank is going to have to watch himself for about 10 to 12 seconds after the swap and perhaps not go full-out, especially if he significantly outgears the other tank, or he may rip agro right back.

It’s very easy to dismiss Vengeance if all you do is normal questing or even random heroics.  Current non-raid content simply doesn’t hit hard enough for long enough to give you the most benefit from the mastery.  But when you get into a situation where you’re on a big boss, especially a raid boss, Vengeance comes into its own.

Now, does a 41k Shield Slam crit make up for not being at Blizzcon this weekend?  No.  But it does soothe the pain, just a little bit…


So You Want to Be(ta) a Prot Warrior: Bump and Grind

This week, Blizzard gave us a firm date for the Cataclysm to tear Azeroth asunder…December 7.  With all the new content coming at us in just two months–and with the mechanical changes to classes, talents, items, etc. possibly coming as early as next week–I’ve been putting a bit more time in on the beta servers lately.

As a result, Linedan on beta is now level 85.  (I’ve also been working a bit on Latisha…she’s 82, and I’ll chronicle her story in another update on The Latisha Experiment a bit later.)  Along the way there, I’ve picked up some information that will hopefully help anyone planning to level a Prot warrior from 80 to 85, as Prot, once Cataclysm drops for real.  (PLEASE NOTE:  I’m going to leave lore spoilers out of this post as much as I possibly can, but I will be talking about Cataclysm mechanics and zones in a general sense.  If you want to be totally surprised, stop now.)

First of all, remember that all of the changes to talent trees, class mechanics, and gear itemization will be coming with patch 4.0.1, which could happen as soon as October 12 (that’s next Tuesday as I write this).  I would highly recommend reading Naithin’s outstanding 4.0 Prot warrior guide over at Fun in Games to get a great summary of the changes that we’re going to face in the interregnum between Arthas falling and Deathwing rising.  It’s a good starting point for looking at the new zones and the level 80-85 grind.

Even Flow

The leveling flow through the new zones is pretty straightforward, and each zone is more linear than ever as to how quests are handled.  This is the basic flow you’ll see:

  • Mount Hyjal (80-82) or Vashj’ir (80-82)
  • Deepholm (82-83)
  • Uldum (83-84)
  • Twilight Highlands (84-85)

The reason that Mount Hyjal and Vashj’ir can cover two levels is not that they’re bigger than the other zones, although Vashj’ir is actually three separate maps and covers a lot of ground…uh, water.  No, it’s because of the experience required to level.  80 to 81 and 81 to 82 both require about 1.75 million xp, not too much more than the high 70s did in Northrend.  But when you hit level 82, that changes.  Each of the next three levels required somewhere around 6.5 million xp.  That’s not a typo.  Six point five million xp per level. That’s an intimidatingly large number, but it shouldn’t be.  There are a lot of quests in the 82-85 zones, and they give from 40,000 to 55,000 xp each on completion (except for simple stuff like breadcrumb or “go over here and talk to this person” quests, of course).  Mob-killing xp has been adjusted upward as well, to the point where Linedan was getting over 10,000 per kill (rested) against level 84s in Twilight Highlands.

Within each zone, the quests are organized in a pretty logical manner.  Breadcrumb quests into each of the new zones are easily available from “boards” all over Stormwind, or outside the new Grommash Hold (or, as I like to call it, “Garrosh’s Overcompensation For His Small Wee-wee”) in Orgrimmar.  Once you establish yourself in one of the new zones, portals will open up at Earthen Ring sites in Stormwind and Orgrimmar.  Also, all the zones except Deepholm can be flown into by your own flying mounts, and there are convenient flightmasters scattered around.

Spec Racer

As a Prot warrior, your abilities and rotation haven’t changed that much from Wrath of the Lich King. The changes are subtle, like Heroic Strike being an instant attack for 30 rage instead of an on-next-swing for 15; or the crit-boosting being removed from a lot of our talents (like Gag Order).  But the abilities, in general, do the same things and get used in the same order.  There really are two big changes:  the addition of Rend as a useful ability (paired with the Blood and Thunder talent), and Heroic Strike becoming less spammy and more situational.

This is the spec that Lin entered Hyjal with at level 80.  I went with 2/2 Blood and Thunder more out of curiosity than anything else.  2/2 Hold the Line’s in there because, in T10-level tank gear, his crit dropped at 80 to less than 2.5%, and with almost all of our crit-increasing talents changed, I figured he needed all the help he could get while questing.  His talent choices at each level were:

(I’m probably going to tweak the spec to ditch Incite completely and pick up 2/2 Thunderstruck.)

Grinding it Out

As Prot warriors, we had an extremely easy time of leveling in Northrend.  Yes, our single-target DPS was low.  Who cared?  We could charge into a camp and massacre it in seconds with a combination of Damage Shield, Cleave, Thunder Clap, and Shockwave, while shrugging off the feeble blows of our assailants.

Things aren’t quite as easy in Cataclysm.  The foremost reason for that isn’t the changes that were made to Prot spec.  It’s the mobs themselves.

A level 80 Northrend melee (non-casting) mob has precisely 12,600 health.  A level 80 Cataclysm melee mob has just over 30,000 health.  And it goes up radically from there.  Level 81, about 37,000.  Level 82, about 44,000.  Level 83, around 52,000.  Level 84, around 65,000.  The only level 85 mobs I’ve seen yet had 96,000 health each, but I’m not sure if those were special and if that’s normal for level 85 non-elites.

They’re not just tougher, they hit harder too.  By the time Linedan got to Uldum, the level 84 melee mobs there were hitting him for over 2000 base damage…and that’s with him having over 31,000 armor and a physical damage mitigation right at 60%.  Stuff in Cataclysm doesn’t tickle when it hits.

So when you combine all that health, high damage, and our traditional low DPS, it doesn’t bode well, right?  Well, it’s not so bad.  You’re still a spellcaster’s nightmare, you’ve got your stuns, and you’ve got two other powerful counters to keep you in the fight:  Blood Craze and Victory Rush.  Blood Craze, in my experience, is probably ticking about a third to a half of the time during any given fight.  That’s 1.5% of your max health at the time Blood Craze activated, every second, for five seconds.  Victory Rush, now usable in Defensive Stance, gives you a big heal–20% of your current max health–whether or not the attack actually lands.  And, both these abilities are boosted by Field Dressing from the Arms tree.  Plus, you can take points into Impending Victory to give yourself a “mini” Victory Rush (for 5% of your health) whenever a mob is below 20% health.  If you’re just out grinding, the talent’s usefulness is marginal, but keep an eye on it when you start raiding.  In a long fight, it could provide a useful amount of healing.

So our pull strategy really doesn’t change that much.  We need to pull (fairly) big and (fairly) fast.  Two or more mobs at a time is optimum for us.  By the time you beat down the first one, you’re probably wounded; hit Victory Rush, get 20% of your health back, and you’re good to go on the next one.  If you have to pull one at a time, you have to rush and find the next mob within 20 seconds before Victory Rush wears off.  And even if you can’t, don’t despair.  Out-of-combat health regen on the beta (as of build 13117) is insane.  Linedan is regaining well over 600 health per tick while standing up.  The new bandages also heal for useful amounts (around 20,000 to start with) so make sure you get your First Aid skill trained up pronto.

One thing you will have to watch for is rage starvation.  Our rage generation is generally good enough, due to the high incoming damage and the tuning they currently have in place.  If you take a few points into Shield Specialization, it gets better (especially if you can Spell Reflect something!).  But you must be careful about your Heroic Strike use.  HS is no longer spammable, and it costs 30 rage.  Chances are, you’re not going to be able to hit it every time it’s up, and keep up Devastate spam, Shield Slam/Revenge as available, and Rend/Thunder Clap if you’re using Blood and Thunder.  Be judicious in your use of Heroic Strike.  Cleave, you’ll probably have less trouble with; I never had much problem with rage when fighting 2+ mobs.

Top Gear

You’ll start replacing anything less than T10 gear almost immediately in Hyjal or Vashj’ir.  This new gear is the only way, other than Reforging, to get Mastery rating.  Our Mastery rating increases our block chance, and it is, in fact, the only way to increase our block chance, as there is no more separate block rating.  If you have T10 gear, it will probably hold you into Deepholm or even Uldum.  Currently at 85, Lin is still wearing his sanctified T10 helm and T10-level rings and trinkets, he’s replaced everything else in his Prot set.

One thing to think about…with Defense no longer being in the game, you can become uncrittable by placing 2 talent points in Bastion of Defense.  This frees you up to try Prot grinding with DPS armor.  I have yet to try this, but I should; in tank gear at level 85, Linedan’s crit rating is an appalling 0.75%, and he’s badly short on +hit and +expertise (both of which are still needed).  DPS armor still has a lot of stamina on it, and Mastery rating is Mastery rating regardless of what gear it comes on.  The upside of using DPS armor would be increased +hit/+crit/+expertise at the cost of a bit of health; the downside would be lower avoidance due to losing +dodge and +parry.  Does the increase in offensive stats balance the decrease in health and defensive stats?  It might be worth trying if your grinding feels too slow, but you don’t want to go to, or don’t have, a DPS offspec.  (FWIW, Linedan started at about 2000 DPS in Vashj’ir; he’s now doing about 2800 DPS in Twilight Highlands, and that number increases substantially fighting multiple mobs.)

Dungeoneering

Finally, I’ll briefly talk about instancing…briefly, because I’ve only done it once, on a normal Stonecore run along with my wife and three guys from the LFD tool.  After all, if you’re a dedicated tank, you’re going to want to instance a lot, right?

You may have heard a lot of doom and gloom about Prot warriors’ ability to tank in Cataclysm, and how it’s a fallback to the horrible days of The Burning Crusade, when paladins kicked our asses at tanking heroics.  Don’t panic.  It’s not quite that bad.  Yes, these are not Wrath of the Lich King dungeons.  They do require some amount of brains, strategy, and crowd control to succeed in.  But they aren’t quite as brutal as, say, heroic Shattered Halls.

Crowd control is back, and it’s necessary, but for normal instances, you don’t need a huge amount of it.  One competent trapping hunter or sheeping mage should be able to get the job done in most cases, provided the rest of your group doesn’t break it (this includes you).  On our Stonecore run, we were fortunate to have both a hunter and a warlock with glyphed Fear, which leaves mobs cowering in place instead of causing them to run.  Between that and his Banish, the ‘lock did a great job on CC.

Your tanking doesn’t change all that much.  The difference is largely in the incoming damage, which is a LOT higher (but so is your health).  Also, without Damage Shield to provide that little passive threat boost, this is where Blood and Thunder comes into its own.  It’s not much use just out questing, but in an instance, being able to place and keep a Rend on every mob you’re tanking helps your threat.  Just make sure you’re clear of any CC’d mob before doing this, otherwise the mages will hate you.

Your TAB key will get more of a workout on trash if your group can’t stick to a kill order.  (Kill order is VERY IMPORTANT now.  Seriously.  VERY VERY important.)  You will be shifting between mobs to drop Devastates and other damage.  Take Vigilance and use it–but remember, Vigilance doesn’t transfer threat anymore, it just reduces the damage on your chosen target and refreshes your Taunt.  Use your cooldowns like Shield Block or your emergency buttons (Last Stand/Shield Wall) to try and offload some work from your healer, because healers are really having to work much harder in 4.0.  Because of threat decay entering the equation, you can’t coast at all during a fight–you’ve got to keep pushing your threat as much as you can and stay on top of things.

On bosses, again, it is key to avoid as much avoidable stuff as possible.  Don’t stand in Bad(tm).  Use your cooldowns when something big and ugly is about to land.  Healers are stretched to their limits under these new mechanics, and anything that you can do to help keep yourself alive early in a fight may give them the mana to keep you alive at the end.

And it’s in instances, and presumably raids, where Vengeance really comes into its own.  Vengeance gives you 5% of your taken damage as attack power for 10 seconds, and it “rolls”–any number of damage that you take just stays as AP for 10 seconds and then it’s gone, so it wobbles up and down.  Once you see how much damage you’re taking in a Cataclysm instance, you’ll realize that you’re getting an absolutely insane amount of attack power from this mastery ability.  Linedan normally runs around 4500 AP now.  While tanking Stonecore, I opened his character sheet at one point and was shocked to see him–literally–OVER NINE THOOOOOUUUSAANNND attack power.  This directly translates to a big damage boost, and, therefore, a big threat boost. I didn’t think Vengeance was very useful when I first started leveling, but after doing just one instance, boy am I a believer now.


Checking up

What follows, Dear Reader, is a cautionary tale about staying on top of your game, proof that, yes, even Kingslayers can come off looking like that doofball from your Halls of Stone random PUG last week.  I don’t tell it just to be funny, though it is (in retrospect).  I tell it to make a point, which I’ll get to further on.

So.  Last week was The Anvil’s first post-Kingslaying raid sequence.  Thursday night was a run back into ICC, in which we did our first heroic modes (just Lootship and Rotface, but, hey, you have to start somewhere, right?).  On Friday night, real life dickpunched us again and left us with only about 20 people.  So our officers did what we’ve done so often on Friday nights this summer…stalled by doing the weekly in the hopes that competent raiders would hear our pleas, magically drop from the sky, let us fill our slots, and head on to ICC.  (They didn’t.)

The weekly was Razorscale.  Ho hum, right?  Lawl T8 content and all that.  So we ended up with a lot of people switching over to alts, and a raid that was about half mains (including Linedan as one of the two tanks) in mostly ilevel 264 items, and half alts of various gear levels, still mostly part-Triumph-geared at worst.  Not a group that you would expect to have trouble on Razorscale, considering the last time we had her on the weekly, she dropped like the housing market.

So we cruised through Flame Lootviathan, formed up on Razorscale’s platform, started the encounter…

…and it all went horribly wrong.

There were iron dwarves running loose everywhere.  The big Sentinel was whirlwinding its way through the raid slaughtering alts.  Gorebash, our longtime warrior MT, was doing fine, but for some reason, I couldn’t hold agro on anything to save my, or anyone else’s, life.  I had no clue what was going on until just before I finally died…and that’s when I saw my bar was totally wrong.

I was in Berserker Stance.  So I hit F6 and swapped myself over to Defensive Stance…and my bar was still wrong.  And then I died.

And that’s when I figured out what had happened.  I’d run a random on Linedan earlier in the evening.

As DPS.

And I’d never changed back to Prot spec from his Fury spec.

I’d switched to his Prot gear.  But I hadn’t gone in and switched his spec.  So he was running around, in his full T10 kit, trying to tank things while generating no threat and no rage, in the wrong stance.

I’ve done some dumb shit in my time in WoW.  I mean, really dumb shit.  Dumber than you’ve probably done, or at least will admit to like this.  But that right there–getting a raid half-full of Kingslayers to wipe on Razorscale, for God’s sake?  That’s top 5 all-time, kids.

Well, I fessed up immediately.  And actually, everyone was so shocked, we all (well, almost all) had a good laugh about it.  And of course we went right back in there and killed us a dargon, with no more fatalities, so we could get our badges and 26 gold and pretend that the whole embarassment never happened.

The whole mess got me thinking, though.  Earlier, on Flame Leviathan, I’d been confused.  I had my Prot gear on, but Lin’s health wasn’t adding up.  He normally has, in the gear he has as I write this, 45,687 health.  But while we were waiting to start FL, I noticed he had only a bit over 42,000 health.  I checked his ItemRack, because it bugs out sometimes, but nope, he had his Prot gear on.  Before I could check any further, we started FL, and off we went.  The health difference, obviously, was because he wasn’t in Prot spec and didn’t have his Vitality talent.

This is where another one of my geeky hobbies enters the picture…aviation.

I’m not a real pilot, but I’ve always wanted to be one.  I love airplanes and aviation.  There’s a reason my Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and Flight Simulator X installs, combined, are pushing 100 GB…way too many add-ons, planes, terrain, etc.  I’ve used MSFS to learn just a little bit about how commercial aviation works.

Everything in a commercial airliner is done “by the book.”  Pilots, in addition to all the pilot training they go through, have to learn a lot of aircraft-specific (and airline-specific) procedures.  And most all of it is codified in those wonderful things called “checklists.”  The checklists are there so all the flight crew on the same type of airplane at the same airline do things the same way (since pilots and copilots aren’t assigned as a unit).  There are checklists in an airliner for damn near everything. There are checklists for first accepting the plane at the start of a day, before engine start, engine start, after engine start, taxi, takeoff, climb, descent, approach, landing, after landing…and that’s just the normal ones.  Then there’s an emergency checklist for almost any possible situation you can imagine.  Strange indication on one of the engine instruments?  Checklist.  Engine failure?  Checklist.  Flight instruments go wonky?  Checklist.  Fire in the bathroom?  Checklist.  Pressurization goes kablooey?  Checklist.  Flight crew eats the fish?  Checklist.  You get the idea…there are literally hundreds of the damn things, in big books stored in the cockpit.

When the time for a checklist comes around, or something hits the fan, the copilot grabs the Big Book of Checklists (or on the newest planes, pulls them up on screens), finds the right one, and starts reading it off.  Each item on a checklist is read, and the checklist says who is supposed to respond and what the result should be–and they don’t go on to the next one until the current one is done and checked.  So if the first item on the checklist says “disgronification switch – ON,” the copilot says “disgronification switch,” the pilot reaches up, turns it on, and says, “on.”  Then the copilot checks it.  Then they go to the next line.  And the next.  And so on.  There is no variation, and there is no exception.  By the book, step 1, step 2, through to step N.  Boring?  Well, maybe.  But if checklist items get skipped, and something important gets missed, people can and will die.  It’s serious business.

WoW, of course, is not that serious (for most people).  But thinking about it…what’s wrong with the idea of a little mental checklist before you start your raid or instance run or PvP?  No, you don’t need to put on a white shirt and tie and epaulettes and get your significant other to read the Pre-Raid Checklist to you after she does the safety briefing.  (“In the event of Serpentshrine Cavern, the Draenei female members of your raid can be used as a flotation device.”)  But what’s wrong with training yourself to make sure that everything’s squared away before first pull?

Let’s go back to Linedan and my unfortunate derp before Razorscale.  What might Lin’s little pre-pull checklist look like?  Here’s my quick stab at one:

  • Spec – verify that it’s correct for the role he’s assigned tonight (Prot for tank, Fury for DPS).  If not, change it.
  • Gear – verify that it’s correct for the same role.  If not, go into Itemrack and change it.
  • Stance – verify correct, Defensive for tank, Berserker for DPS.  Hit F6/F7 to change appropriately.
  • Flask – use as needed (before boss pulls).
  • Repair – 100% repair at the start of an instance.  At the least, nothing should be showing yellow.
  • Buffs – all necessary buffs on, including Feasts if we’ve got them.  If not, start bothering slacker paladins.
  • Encounter – understand what his role is in the encounter, strategy, what color poo not to stand in.

That whole sequence can be done in, what, maybe twenty to thirty seconds max?  Had I done that, I would’ve caught the problem in the very first second when I saw I was still in Fury spec, I would’ve swapped spec, we wouldn’t have wiped on Razorscale, and I wouldn’t have a blog post topic for today.

So basically, I do stupid shit for you, people.  All for you.


What a long, strange trip it’s been

Back before Wrath of the Lich King was released, the officers of The Anvil, the 25-man Horde raid on Feathermoon that I tank for, sat down and set one simple goal:  The Anvil 25-man would kill Arthas before the next expansion came out.  That was it.  Everything, all the other raid instances, all our activity as a raid, was pointed toward that goal.  Naxxramas, Ulduar, Trial of the Big Round Room…they were steppingstones toward Icecrown Citadel and our ultimate goal of doing something we’d never done before:  beating “the” boss of an expansion while that expansion was still current content, and making the Lich King our Bitch King.

Now this was a stretch for us.  Since the days of 40-man raiding, we’ve never been a cutting-edge progression raid…call us “hardcore casual” if you will.  In vanilla, we never cleared Blackwing Lair, much less Naxxramas 1.0; Nefarian only died after The Burning Crusade came out.  When we hit Outland, we stalled at the end of both Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep.  Vashj eventually went down after six or seven weeks, but we never really even got close to killing Kael’thas until patch 3.0 dropped, at which point the fight instantly turned from a near-impossible exercise to a stupidly easy no-death one-shot.  We managed to get 3/5 in Hyjal before 3.0 hit, but never visited Black Temple except for one visit post-patch, where we one-shotted the first seven bosses and couldn’t get past the Illidari Council.  Linedan’s still never seen or killed Illidan, Archimonde, or anything in Sunwell Plateau.

Four months ago we dropped Sindragosa for the first time and took the teleporter up to stand before our final goal.  That night, we began working on the fight.  And through the summer, we kept at it.  Again.  And again.  And again. I started likening progress on the Lich King fight to the Battle of the Somme…immense casualties for just a few yards, or in this case percent, gained.  We extended lockouts and threw ourselves at him for three straight hours some nights.  I counted fifteen wipes one night, that’s a 200 gold repair bill for me.  We tried several different strategies regarding Defiles and val’kyr handling, with varying degrees of success.  Time and again normal summer schedule issues ravaged our lists and left us frantically pulling in subs, or dropping back to clear lower ICC again, or even calling the raid entirely.

Last night, we faced down Arthas again.  We started off with two excellent attempts that moved efficiently through phase 2 and got into phase 3 with most of the raid still standing.  Our DPS was the highest I’d ever seen it, across the board.  Unfortunately, both times things fell apart fast and we died quickly in phase 3, not getting Arthas below about 35%.  Then we started backsliding into the pattern that’s dogged us the whole time…mistakes in phase 2, bad placement of Defiles, unlucky timing on the different cooldowns for valks vs. Defile, stuff like that.  After a few more of those, we took a break, came back, and went at it again.

It was the sixth, or seventh, or eighth attempt, I’d lost track at that point.  We started off same as the others–me on Arthas, our paladin tank Keltyr on the ghouls and horrors in phase 1.  Phase 1 was dispatched quickly and smoothly, likewise the 1-2 transition.  We hit phase 2, and the real fight began.

You know that feeling you get when you just know that everything is starting to fall into place?  We had that.  Defile placement wasn’t perfect, but it was workable.  Everyone adjusted, standing behind Arthas, all facing the same direction to keep the valks clustered together.  For once, the timers worked properly so that we weren’t all clustered up for valks and getting hit with Defile instead.  We shifted, we adjusted, we moved in and moved out, and we got to 45% with everybody still up.

Then at 43%, here came the valks.  And the shout went out from our Chief Cat Herder:  “Forget them, burn Arthas down!”  It was a crapshoot.  If we couldn’t get him to 40% while dodging the upcoming Defile, we’d lose two DPS and a healer.  Everybody ran for Defile, ran back in and laid into the Lich King while I drug him toward one edge…

..at the last possible second, he dropped to 40%, ran back to the center, and started the phase 2-3 transition.  The ledge reappeared, and all three of our raidmates landed on solid ice with just mere feet to spare.

The spirits came up and we laid into them like we never had before.  At the end of the transition, two were dead, one was at 30%, and the fourth was full up.  I had the weaker spirit on me, so I headed back in and said hi to Arthas again, and phase 3 began.

The next few minutes are still a blur in my sleep-deprived mind.  Phase 2 is barely-controlled chaos.  Phase 3 felt like it removed the “barely-controlled” part.  People were scattering everywhere to avoid Vile Spirits and Defile.  We were handling tanking differently in the 25 than we did when I got Arthas in my 10, and I had only the vaguest of ideas when to taunt Arthas and move him.  More than once I taunted Arthas and immediately got a Soul Reaper countdown, and only Keltyr’s fast action saved me.

Things were getting nuts.  We had a death or two.  The fight devolved into a screaming mass of taunting, moving, and keyspamming.  Calls of “I can’t reach the tanks!” followed by another healer saying “I’ve got ‘em.”  Vile Spirits exploding everywhere.  “Defile, move!”  “Spirits coming down!”  “Gore’s harvested!”  And all the while, I saw that big Threat Plate over Arthas’ head slowly count down numbers.  Twenty-three percent.  Twenty percent.  Eighteen percent.  Fifteen percent.  Holy shit, are we actually going to do this?

I taunted him back at about 13%.  I was getting ready to hit Vent and say “a million to go, guys, WE’VE GOT THIS”…and I died.  I got too damn far away from my healers trying to get Arthas clear of the Vile Spirits, and there I was, in the Sprawl of Shame, with the Lich King at 12% health.

“Shit, Lin’s down!”

“Want me to pick him up?”

About four of us (me included) said “No!” at the same time.  He was at 7.1 million health, under 12%, one tank up, don’t shift out to battle rez just burn his ass down.  One million more health to go, dear God please don’t let me dying fuck this up now go go GO GO GO DAMMIT GO…

His health on the plate ticked over to 9%.

I won’t spoil the fight for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, but let’s just say, if you get him to 10%, you’ve won, despite appearances.  There’s a pause for some in-game exposition that you get to watch.  When that started, there was a second of stunned silence, as if all 25 of us couldn’t believe we were seeing what we saw, and then Vent erupted with screams.  And just as quickly, was shushed…after all, many people there hadn’t had a chance to see the show before.

I didn’t say a word.  I was too busy sitting there, staring at the screen in slack-jawed shock, my hands shaking and tears forming in my eyes.  We had done it.  We killed the Lich King.

Two minutes later, the hoedown was over, and the fight entered the last 10%, aka Pinata Mode.  And then, it was truly over, cue the acheesement spam.  At 11:33 pm Eastern time, Thursday, September 16, 2010, Arthas Menethil, the Lich King, whatever you want to call him, lay dead at The Anvil’s feet, and we sat in silent shock and relief while Cutscene Happened.

We were Kingslayers.

We had won the game.

I spent the rest of the evening in an advanced state of shock.  It took my hands half an hour to stop shaking and I didn’t get to bed until well past 1:00.  The happy crew gradually dropped off Vent and out of WoW, off to bed.

While that happened, I sat and reflected, and got hit by an incredible wave of emotion that almost started me crying.  The realization of what we’d just done, and my small part in it, hit me.

A bit over four years ago, I first started running with The Anvil as a scrubstitute, a few months after the raid initially formed.  I had no business being in Molten Core given that my gear was mostly greens and I was a pretty shitty warrior, but in 40-mans, you could carry scrubs, and after weeks of not being selected to go, my wife Rashona and I finally wormed our way in.  Back then, our daughter Nublet was only an infant so Rashona and I basically had to alternate weeks to go on those Sunday afternoon MC runs…one of us raided while the other tended the baby.  We switched weeks, sometimes we even switched mid-run if the officers were OK with it.

I hung in there and kept getting invites despite the fact I really did suck.  My DPS was lousy, I couldn’t offtank rock elementals on Garr to save my ass (or anyone else’s), I wiped the raid running the wrong way on Geddon more than once.  Slowly, on the long grind through Molten Core to Ragnaros and then into Blackwing Lair, I got better.  Not good, but better.

The Burning Crusade came out.  By the time I made it to 70, I was behind most of the other Anvillains.  The Anvil had formed two 10-man Karazhan raids and didn’t have enough people for a third, leaving me and Rashonakitty screwed.  Fortunately a friend of ours was starting up her own Kara (called “Dissonant’s Softcore Raiders”) and the wife and I came on as the two tanks.  I went Prot, and never looked back.  We helped take that raid from wiping all night on Attumen all the way to one-night full clears and lots of Prince kills.  It was a fantastic experience.

When The Anvil went back to running 25-mans in Gruul’s Lair, I got in again despite the raid being overloaded on tanks.  And somehow, I guess through just sheer attrition and my own stubbornness, by the time our TBC raiding career ended, I was the permanent second offtank.

Wrath of the Lich King brought us death nuggets, and one of our warriors switched to DK (realm first 80 DK, in fact) and became astoundingly good at DK tanking–so good that he pushed me down to the #3 offtank, in an instance (Naxx 2.0) where few fights needed four tanks and dual specs hadn’t come in yet.  The raid officers kept me on, thank God, and we’ve carried four tanks all through Wrath (the original DK left and has been replaced by an even better DK), eventually going to a rotation system where we all take turns tanking and DPSing.

The Anvil took me in when I had no business raiding.  They let me back in after I took time to head to greener pastures in Karazhan.  They kept me on and rewarded my persistence with a permanent slot.  They kept me on again when better-geared, better-skilled tanks “took my jerb.”  They kicked my ass when I needed it and reassured me when I needed it.  They had faith in me when I had lost my own faith in my ability to play this game.  They gave me the room and opportunity to develop the confidence to turn, eventually, into a pretty decent warrior tank.  They are my friends, and I’ll do anything for them.

And last night, the scrubby hybrid-spec warrior in the mismatched level 55 greens…now transformed into the fully-sanctified-T10-wearing badass tank he never thought he could become…tanked the bloody Lich King. And won.

All of the problems that were spinning around me yesterday are still there this morning.  Our one working vehicle is still laid up at the mechanic and we don’t know how we’re going to pay to fix it.  One of our cats is still a bit sick in his tummy and stinking up the place.  We’re still broke.  The house is a mess.  I still have four projects at work in various stages of “oh shit.”  None of that has changed.

But for a few magical minutes last night, none of it existed.  There was nothing but a group of friends, accomplishing a task set in front of them, and culminating a journey that started four and a half years ago.  Winning the game.

For now, the world can bite my shiny metal ass.  I’m a Kingslayer, biatch.


The Latisha Experiment, Update #4

At roughly 7:15 pm Eastern Daylight Time last night, the Latisha Experiment reached the conclusion of its first stage when Miss Latisha Morganson, twenty-year-old disowned rich daughter of a noble and unscrupulous Stormwind merchant family, hit level 80.  She did it while talking to a dead gnome (Arly, the gnome DK questgiver at Blackwatch in Icecrown).  Despite being level 80, Latisha is still squicked by dead gnomes, and still washes her hands frequently after interacting with them.  (She’d totally be carrying around a giant bottle of Purel, if the stuff had been invented by fellow dead-gnome-germophobes yet.)

Regular readers of Achtung Panzercow know that I rolled Latisha last year as an experiment to use my own So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior guides to actually level a warrior as hardcore Protection all the way from 1 to 80.  The goals were to validate my own guides; to prove that it was not only viable, but fun, to level solo as Prot; and so I had a tank Alliance-side on Feathermoon just in case I ever needed her.

Based on the results, I’d say all three goals were fully met and then some.  I used my own talent suggestions with only two minor variations (taking Improved Disarm early and not shifting out of it to pick up Vigilance until the mid-60s, and shifting the two points in Cruelty over to Shield Specialization to end up with a 15/3/53 build instead of 15/5/51).  She actually required virtually no outside money from Beltar while leveling.  I gave her some gold for bags to start with, and funded one 30-40 gold AH buying spree in her 20s, but other than that, she’s been completely self-sufficient, getting by on quest rewards, drops, and the money from mining and skinning auctions.  She arrived at level 80 with about 2600 gold to her name, and that was without really trying to stop the leveling process just to make gold.  She’s still only got a slow flying mount, and no dual-spec, but those were personal choices–I could’ve easily ground the money for either one, but I wanted to save the maximum amount to kit her out once she got her special present in the mail from Rhonin Sue.

As for leveling her, it was easy.  Yes, there were bumps, and yes, I’m still hearing the female human “not enough rage!” in my sleep, but quite honestly, I found it much easier leveling her than I did leveling my enhancement shaman Sakula last year.  I don’t know if that means I’m really good at Prot warriors or that I’m utter fail at enhancement shamaning (more likely the latter), but getting Latisha to 80 was really pretty unspectacular.  I borrowed some help from friends at times to hammer out group quests like the ones in Dragonblight (teaming with my wife’s 80 Draenei enhancement shaman to do every group quest in Dragonblight, Grizzly Hills, and Zul’Gurub in one run) and used the LFD tool extensively once she got into Northrend.  In terms of leveling, it’s still far faster to grind quests than dungeons, but the dungeons are where the loot is.

Actually, by level 79, thanks to the LFD tool and some trips to the AH, she was pretty well set for tanking normal instances.  She had several pieces of Tempered Saronite crafted armor off the AH, a Riot Shield from Violet Hold, various other blue bits from dungeons, topped off with a Crusader’s Resolution from questing in Icecrown, and the Crescent of Brooding Fury from killing Ragemane in Zul’drak.  She could get herself over 21,000 health with Commanding Shout up and had around 505 Defense.  I never had any significant issues with her tanking a Northrend regular dungeon.

Heroics, however, are quite another matter.  So as soon as she dinged 80, I immediately headed to Ironforge on a spending spree…and spend I did.  A Titansteel Shield Wall.  A Tempered Titansteel Helm.  A Tempered Saronite Belt to replace her Cobalt Belt.  Some gems (and thanks a ton, Arrens, for sending me those Enduring Eyes of Zul–a big help!) and enchants.  Then I flew around and picked up all of the faction tabards I’d need and did more shopping–grabbing the Special Issue Legplates from the Argent Crusade, and swapping that very slow (speed 2.60) axe for a nice fast (speed 1.50) Fang of Truth from the Wyrmrest Accord; even though it cost me Defense points, I’m far more used to tanking with a fast weapon and very much prefer it in instances.  (Plus, she desperately needed the +hit.)  By the time I was done, she’d gone from 2600+ gold to less than 10…and still only 527 Defense.  Not the 535 she needed to be crit-immune in heroics.

Accepting her non-heroic status, I ran a normal Utgarde Pinnacle to get some money.  Interestingly, from doing the quests in there, I picked up the Silver-Plated Battlechest.  Between that, and her raw Defense skill finally hitting 400…she had 537 Defense.  Y halo thar, magic number.

Unbuffed:  21,251 health.  22,450 armor.  537 Defense.  17.1% dodge, 15.46% parry, 14.48% block.  A Gearscore well south of 2900.

So of course, I queued to tank a heroic.

And the Wheel of Suck came up…Halls of Motherfucking Stone. Oh great.

Now I freely admit, I expected what sometimes happens when a low-geared fresh 80 tank shows up at an random instance…a chorus of “wtf??  u tank?” from DPS or healers with 6000+ Gearscores and egos to match, followed by some insults and group-dropping (or kicking).  Instead, to my utter astonishment, I found that my group was perfectly cool with me being there.  I had more health than everybody but the death nugget, and he only beat me by about 1200.  We were all roughly around the same gear level, give or take a bit.  For once, the LFD tool actually matched five people who realistically belonged in the same instance!

And thus, we ended up taking a 45-minute jaunt through Halls of Stone…but we did it.  Killed all four bosses with just one wipe (totally my fault when I screwed up a pull and got three groups) plus one extra death on Sjonnir.  No deaths on the Tribunal of Ages.  Let me tell you, I don’t work that hard when Linedan is tanking Arthas.  It was crazy, it was hard work, and it was stupidly fun to tank that place on a character that could’ve rolled need on half the loot that might drop.

So there you have it.  A tank, with no heroic or badge loot whatsoever, who bought her own gear and got herself to the point where she could tank heroic dungeons with very little outside help.  The only “gift” in all that loot are two of those Eyes of Zul from Arrens.  The rest, she’s earned via questing, drops, or bought on the AH with her own gold.

I know that life is harder for a tank at 80 than for a DPS or healer.  DPS can walk straight into heroics and get carried to an extent and gear up that way (I’ve done it, several times).  A healer needs to work a bit harder at it but can still move into the world of badge collection with not a huge amount of effort.  But a tank, at least a warrior tank, takes a lot of effort to get ready for heroic tanking.  But here’s the proof, guys, you can do it. Don’t despair if you’ve got a baby tank in the 70s and you don’t know how you’re going to get her into Badgeland.  I’ve done it.  Here’s proof.  It takes a bit of a judicious eye about loot, minimal faction grinding, and some gold (or friends willing to help you out).

At this point, life for Latisha diverges into two separate paths.  On Feathermoon, I will continue to tank with her, probably normals and heroics, and gear her up a bit.  In fact, she’s got 28 Badgers of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, so she’ll be able to get a piece of T9 very soon.  (Had I run more instances while leveling in Northrend, she’d already have at least one.)  Her “other” life will soon find her on Lost Isles, in the Cataclysm beta, just as she is right now as I write this, with no tier gear, no badge gear, and nothing over ilevel 200.  I already know how leveling is over there with a highly-geared raider…let’s see how it is with a fresh-faced 80 who’s never set foot inside a 10- or 25-man.

Maybe I can slow down and even get some roleplay in with her now.  We’ll see.  One thing’s for sure, I’ve grown attached to my six-foot-one poor little rich girl.  She may be my sixth character to level 80, but she’s definitely a keeper.


My name is Panzercow…

…and I approve this message.  Not least because I can’t think of a better artist to filk for a song about tanks than the Man in Black, who was basically the Avatar of Badass wearing a guitar.

(Yes, I know it’s two years old, I just saw it.  Shut up or I’ll Shield Slam you so hard they’ll be picking your teeth out of your ass.)

Hat tip:  our raid’s Chief Cat Herder, Itanya Blade and her paladin’s Helmet Hair of the Gorilla.


The Latisha Experiment, Update #3

I'm not overcompensating for anything. I'm too busy trying not to fall over to worry about overcompensating.

I’ll admit, I’ve been slack about reporting on the progress of the Latisha Experiment–my attempt to use my own So You Want To Be A Prot Warrior guides to level a Prot warrior all the way from 1 to 80.  That’s largely because I’ve been slack about leveling her in the first place.  Latisha, sad to say, is not yet 80.  She is 75, but on the upside, she’s a veteran of the Wrathgate, is mostly done with Dragonblight outside of a couple of the dragonshrines and group quests that I’m not worrying about for now due to lack of help, and best of all, is getting xp at a solid clip from a mixture of questing and random dungeons.

Now, this is where I admit I’ve disregarded my own advice in her spec, just a little.  I’ve swapped her spec to be more like Linedan’s…x/3/53 instead of the x/5/51 I originally stated in the SYWTBAPW guides.  See, as I was leveling her, I skipped Vigilance, because I started her before the LFD system, and she didn’t get many chances to tank.  Likewise, it was quicker through the old world and Outland to just quest and grind along.  But now in her 70s in Northrend, she can take advantage of the near-instant queue times that even normal-dungeon tanks get.  So I decided to tweak her spec to be more “tanky” as opposed to “grindy”.  This involved dropping the two points out of Cruelty in the Fury tree, picking up Vigilance, and basically setting her Prot side up to be a carbon copy of Linedan, who is himself fairly cookie-cutter.  There really isn’t that much difference performance-wise between 15/5/51 and 15/3/53 Prot specs right now, but the two extra points over in the Prot tree allow for a little flexibility–in my case, that usually means two more points into Shield Specialization.  Right now, she is 10/3/53, with her last five talent points going to fill out Impale and Deep Wounds in Arms.  I also picked up a Glyph of Cleaving in her second major slot, which is a big help in tanking instances.

Gear-wise, she’s better than I expected she’d be at this point.  She’s got a few pieces to swap back and forth for questing versus tanking.  With her “tank” set in place, she’s got 464 defense at level 75, reasonable avoidance, and about 14.5k health.  So far, it’s been enough to tank any normal instance up through Drak’theron Keep without too much trouble.  I’ve actually been surprised by how well she can hold agro with a level-appropriate group against even large groups of trash.  Having a few years of experience on another Prot warrior helps, of course, but she is proving to be a very competent tank.  I just make sure I go back to the AH every so often and keep an eye out for crafted pieces like cobalt, or later on, saronite.

Tanking normal random PUGs is refreshing, in a way.  I rarely tank heroic PUGs on Linedan anymore.  I use them to practice his Fury spec…and quite honestly, after raid tanking two or three nights a week, I’m happily content to find something to do around the house during the 13-15 minute wait as DPS, and then just merrily roflcowpter my way through an instance as Fury.  Tanking heroics, at this stage in the game where Lin needs nothing more than Frost badges, is just usually not worth dealing with the durpdurp.  But Latisha has to tank…I haven’t bought dual-spec on her yet, and don’t plan to right away, since I save her money for prowling for upgrades on the AH.

So we know heroic PUGs are all about the “gogogogogo,” where nobody talks, tanks pull before everybody’s zoned in, any thought of strategy or skill goes out the window and it’s a straight-up bulldoze toward the end boss at the highest possible speed so everybody gets their two frost badges and gets on with their lives, right?  Well, normal PUGs can be a totally different animal.  I’m on my seventh character over level 70, so I have a bad case of “been there done that”–and I’m surprised at the number of people in normal PUGs who are setting foot inside Utgarde Keep or the Nexus for the very first time ever.  People actually talk.  They apologize when they make a mistake instead of screaming at somebody else.  They make jokes and are even *gasp* social.  Pacing is slower.  There is occasionally even…wait for it…crowd control. Running Drak’theron Keep with a 75 tank and four 74s in the party is a far cry from steamrolling it with five 80s in T9 or T10 gear, that’s for sure.  And I really like it.

Of course, sometimes she does get groups like the one with the two level 80 death nuggets who would’ve had no trouble running it on heroic.  (Tanking for DKs doing 3k dps, at level 75…not fun.)  Or the one with the 74 rogue who did 250 dps for the entire run because she was alternately working up her gun skill and her sword skill…and attacking mobs from the front while doing it.  But for every one of those, there’s been at least one where everybody is pleasant, we move at a nice steady pace, nobody loses their cookies when we wipe, and we have a fun time doing the instances the way Blizzard intended them to be done originally.  It really is a nice change from the typical heroic PUG.

I’ve had people tell me I must be crazy for leveling a second Prot warrior.  Why?  I have a character who, while she doesn’t kill things at breakneck speed, kills them quickly enough to quest efficiently, has tremendous survivability, gets into randoms almost instantly, has a fairly interesting backstory even though I haven’t had a chance to RP much with her yet, and, best of all, uses a playstyle that I’m already fairly good at.  Yeah.  I’m crazy.  Like a fox, baby.


Blue bars are important…one in particular

Here’s a little message from me, your friendly neighborhood Panzercow, to all you other tanks out there currently doing heroic PUGs:

Check your healer’s mana before you pull.

A lot of you are probably saying, “well, durrrrrr, Panzercow,” right now.  Yeah, it does seem pretty obvious, doesn’t it?  But sometimes people miss even the obvious.  When I was sixteen, I looked right at a pickup truck, didn’t “see” it, and then pulled out into an intersection directly in front of it and wound up shifting the front end of my car a foot to the right.  You’d be surprised how often the “obvious” isn’t to some people.

This got brought home to me last night.  I was on my dwarf hunter doing a random, and the Wheel of Suck came up Halls of Stone.  We had a dwarf death nugget as our tank–yes, apparently, they do actually exist!  He asked us “long or short run?”, by which I assumed he wanted to know whether we cared about Krystallus and Attack of the Fifty-Foot Tall Emo Woman.  We didn’t.

And off he went, in classic heroic PUG fashion…straight ahead, pull pull pull, no time to even loot.  Things were pretty uneventful, but as we got to the area leading up to Brann, I noticed that the healer, a holy priest, didn’t have much blue in her blue bar.  And then she said, in party chat (and obviously macroed), something like “Please do not pull, I need mana!”

He pulled.  She got a sip or two out of her Honeymint Tea, and then had to go back to healing the DK.  By the time the fight ended, she was at around 10 to 15% mana.  She said in party chat again, “Please do not pull, I need mana!”

He pulled the first two constructs in Brann’s room.

At which point, by one of those wonderful hivemind happenstances that pop up occasionally, we all just stood there and watched him die.  It did take a while, I’ll give him that.

Then we ate the wipe.

As we were heading back in, here’s what the conversation looked like:

DK tank:  wtf

me:  Healer told you twice they were out of mana and you pulled, that’s wtf

DK tank:  i don’t read chat

me:  …

Yes, you read that right, kids.  “i don’t read chat.”  Well, tell me something there, Captain Speedpull, do you look at blue bars, your healer’s in particular?  You don’t need things like, I don’t know, literacy to be able to look at your party frames and see that the healer doesn’t have much in the tank to keep your ass alive, now do you?  (Then again, considering right as we pulled Sjonnir, he typed “i <3 wEED LOL”, there may have been another reason…)

It always amazes me that PUGs, when it comes to stuff like this, are much like the corporate world that I spend 40+ hours a week in.  There’s never time to do something right, but somehow there’s always twice as much time to do it over when it gets cocked up.  The priest would’ve been mana’d back up in twenty seconds, and we could’ve moved on with our run.  You could’ve done what PUG tanks generally seem to do in those twenty-second pauses, and randomly bounced around, or inspected everybody, or whatever.  Instead, Mr. Ants in his Pants put his blinders on, said “DAAAAAH GOTTA KEEP PULLIN’ GEORGE,” and ended up wiping us and costing us five minutes to recover and several gold in repairs.  Contrary to what some people may think nowadays, yes, it is possible to go too fast in a heroic.  This was proof.

So tanks, please.  Yes, the chances are very good that your healer will never need you to stop.  Most healers in random heroic groups nowadays never seem to run below 75% mana, ever.  Hell, it’s the healers more than anyone else that are doing the “GOGOGOGOGOGO” that annoys me so much.  But do not assume your healer can do that. You may be paired with an undergeared or inexperienced healer.  Always check before the next pull, and if your healer’s mana is low, for the love of all that’s holy, wait. A few seconds’ pause every now and then so everybody can get mana’d back up for the next frantic stretch is not going to kill you.  If everybody’s good, then pull fast and pull big.  But never, never assume.


Breaking bad habits

As Cataclysm draws nearer and nearer, Blizzard has been releasing information about projected class and game mechanic changes, one class at a time.  Everybody should have theirs within a few days of me posting this…except paladins, who for some reason, have to bubblehearth until April 16.  Warriors haven’t gotten ours yet got ours about three minutes after I initially hit “Publish”, dammit, but we, along with beartanks, did get some very pertinent (and interesting) information regarding rage and on-next-swing mechanic changes.  I’m not going to go digging into huge detail on those just yet–instead I’ll just refer you to Matthew Rossi’s wow.com article on the changes, and save my comments for later after the full warrior preview is released.

But still, reading those changes got me thinking about a few things…not so much nuts-and-bolts warrior and tanking things, but more general things about Cataclysm and what happens when we finally get to the 80-to-85 grind and new content.  And an incident this morning crystallized those thoughts into this blog post.

This morning, I got up at zero-dark-thirty because, with the weather the way it’s been in North Carolina this week, it’s the only time that our sunroom-converted-into-computer-room is actually tolerably cool.  I got on Linedan and ran a heroic (perfectly unexceptional, smooth Forge of Souls) and then switched over to Illithanis to do her daily heroic–she’s very close to being able to get the frost badge belt so I wanted to make sure I got hers in today.

After the obligatory 11-minute wait, what should appear but the Gundrak splash screen.  And then it happened.  Before I could run a quarter of the way down the ramp (I run down the ramp instead of jump, because, y’know, I have a freaking pet), the healy shaman is screaming at the warrior tank “rush gogogogogo.”  And so he did.  He ran into Sladran’s room and pulled all three patrolling three-snake groups before I could even get down to the doorway.

Nine and a half minutes later, we were standing over the end boss’s corpse.  In that time, nobody died, nobody said a word, nobody ever stopped, and my DPS sucked because the fights were half over before I could even get there and start firing…and forget about Misdirects, who had time?  I didn’t get a chance to loot half my mobs, and they didn’t wait for me to dismiss my pet before the two shortcut jump-downs everybody does after the Colossus and Moorabi.  It wasn’t a bad group, truth be told.  We got the job done, got our two Frost and three Triumph badges and our shards, and moved on.  But it got me to thinking…

Thinking about the bad habits that we’ve picked up in Wrath of the Lich King, especially how we run our random heroics that are all the rage these days.  Think about it.  How do your groups do heroics?  Probably the same way just about everybody else’s do.  Foot-to-the-floor, balls-to-the-wall speed runs.  The first pull probably happens so fast, the tank leaves skid marks behind like a muscle car peeling out.  From there on, it’s a mad dash through the instance like the hounds of Hell themselves are nipping at your feet, quite possibly punctuated by shouts of “gogogogogo” from random party members if the tank dares to take a second to actually, y’know, loot something to cover his repair bill.

Pulls are generally done by the tank:  (a) charging into the center of the group and spamming every AOE move he’s got; (b) running into the middle of the group and spamming every AOE move he’s got; (c) death-gripping one member of the group to him, then meeting the rest of the group halfway and spamming every AOE move he’s got, assuming the DPS hasn’t already scattered the rest of the pack to the four winds.  Most of the time, the damage is all AoE…Volley, Seed of Corruption, Blizzard, Flamestrike, Whirlwind, Cleave, Thunderstorm (grumble), insert your favorite hits-lots-of-targets button here.  Cooldowns are blown every time they’re up.  Meters are linked after not just boss fights, but some trash pulls as well.  If the tank loses agro while the mage has popped two trinkets and started firing Blizzards 0.6 seconds after entering combat, then it’s obviously the tank’s fault.  Polymorphs, Hexes, and Frost Traps, on the rare occasion they’re seen, are usually followed by “oops, wrong button.”  Healers can often be seen sneakily dropping Holy Novas and Smites in between casting heals, to avoid falling asleep at the keyboard.

Yep, kids, let’s face it…a lot of us overgear the content.  A lot. There’s only so many times that we can run Violet Hold or Gundrak before we get bored and just want to get it the hell over with, not spending one single extra second in the place because we’ve got four other alts to do random heroics on as well.  I get that.  We do it for the badges, not the challenge or the mob loot.  It’s all about speed and efficiency.  And that’s all well and good.

So what happens when, after 6+ months of speed-grinding heroics, Cataclysm drops on our heads and we head back into instances that we don’t overgear?

We saw a bit of that when the ICC five-mans came out, particularly Halls of Reflection (Pit of Saron and Forge of Souls to a lesser extent).  Those three are a good bit tougher than the older WotLK five-mans.  HoR is the only instance now where I see crowd control used at all (the rare priest shackle, usually).  Those instances gave people fits for a few weeks until even the densest PUG idiot figured out that, hey, line-of-sighting the Falric/Marwyn trash spawns actually works! And it’s OK to shackle and polymorph and frost-trap stuff, really it is!

Cataclysm has the potential to be Halls of Reflection times a lot.  Why?  Because we don’t know what sort of things Blizzard is going to do in terms of tank threat.  Right now, even warriors can generally put out enough AoE threat to handle tough multiple pulls like, say, HoR–that is, assuming the party focuses targets correctly.  What happens if we can’t?  What happens if things slide back to a more Burning Crusade-like level where some or all tank classes don’t have the massive Velcro AoE threat that they do now…and yes, fancylads, I’m looking squarely at you.  What happens if the “AoE it all down” paradigm we’ve been learning since Naxx-freaking-ramas suddenly goes right out the window and we’re back to the TBC days of “kill order is skull, X, square, sheep the moon, trap the circle, shackle the star?”  Will people be able to adapt?

Personally, I would love to see crowd control make something of a comeback, but it’s a risky strategy.  Because when you do that, you start laying restrictions down on group composition.  I’d like to see something more than “burn it” as strategy, but I also don’t want to return to “well, I’d love to do Shattered Halls, but all we can find is a warrior tank and no mages for sheeping, so we can’t.”

The “AoE is all down” strategy may be here to stay, I’m not sure.  If it is, then we’ll have to see what the changes bring for the various tank classes in Cataclysm to see if we can keep pace with DPS threat.  But while I never want to go back to the TBC days of skipping Outland heroics because they were just too damn difficult for this average warrior to tank, part of me secretly yearns to have to do a little bit more than Charge, Thunderclap, Revenge, and Cleave-spam…and make the nine-and-a-half minute brute-force “RUSH GOGOGOGO” instance a thing of the past, at least for a little while.


So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior: The Dreaded Heroic PUG

Your PUGs may be this successful, but I doubt they'll ever be this cute.

Patch 3.3 is simultaneously the best of times and the worst of times for new up-and-coming tanks.  It’s the best of times because the old sequential gearing paradigm–you need to do normal 5-mans to gear up for heroic 5-mans to gear up for Naxx to gear up for Ulduar to gear up for Trial of the Crusader to gear up for Icecrown–is right out the window.  It is now possible to skip many of the middle steps and load up on tasty Tier 9-level gear by nothing more than running heroic 5-mans and the occasional raid for weekly quests.  (Whether you’ll actually be able to get into a raid once you get that gear is another matter entirely, and not in scope for this post.)

It’s also the worst of times, though, because in order to get that gear, you’re going to have to run a lot of heroics.  And that almost certainly means, unless you are blessed with lots and lots of friends, sooner or later, you’ll end up using the Looking for Dungeon tool and end up as the tank…of a cross-server pick-up group.

(Insert lightning flashes, thunder, and jarring pipe organ chord here.)

You’ve probably heard the horror stories flying around about cross-server PUGs.  Of trigger-happy DPS who throw all their threat-management skills out the window and go balls-to-the-wall trying to top the Almighty Recount, and expect the tank to magically be able to save them from their own e-peenery.  Of healers belittling tanks and bailing on groups when the tank has less than full T9 and 40k health unbuffed.  And yes, those things do happen…but not always.  Not even the majority of the time, in fact.

Are you are a shiny fresh new level 80 tank ready to get on the LFD PUG treadmill to Triumph and Frost Nirvana, but you’re scared to press that first “Find Group” button?  Never fear, Panzercow is here.  What I’m about to tell you is all common-sense stuff that you may have already figured out–trust me, I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, so if I know this stuff, it ain’t rocket surgery.  But it’ll help, and it’ll give you the foundation you need to stride forth into the world of cross-server PUGs and survive.

It all basically comes down to what I call the four “bes”–be knowledgeable, be prepared, be honest, and be confident.

Be Knowledgeable

Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.  –Sun Tzu

Tanking, with any class, is a learned process.  You need to have a sound, well-researched spec.  You need to learn your chosen class’s abilities, rotation or priority system, and emergency buttons.  Then you need to learn how to extend that to controlling agro on multiple mobs.  Then, on top of that, you need to build the situational awareness that all good tanks have, and advanced techniques like LOS pulling.  And then, as the final layer on the cake, you have to know the specific instance–patrol paths, where you can LOS pull safely, kill orders of specific groups, and, of course, boss strategies.

A cross-server PUG, with four people you don’t know, is not the time to be learning all of it.

If you don’t know an instance, run it with friends first–or at least read up on it on any of the various sites out there on the Web.  If your babytank is an alt, start paying more attention to “tanky” things when you’re in the instance on your main.  Watch how your tank grabs groups and where he tanks them.  Watch his facing.  Note which mobs are casters that need to be silenced.

As for your own tanking, it should go without saying…you need to have a solid grasp of the basics of tanking instance pulls before setting foot in a heroic PUG.  Run more forgiving normal groups (PUGs if need be) or heroics with friends.  You should’ve been instancing as you leveled anyway, quite honestly, so by the time you’re ready to do heroics, tanking instances should be second nature to you.  Chances are, a PUG is going to push your tanking skills to (or beyond) their limits, especially if you are a fairly new 80 grouped up with well-geared DPS.  Be ready for it–have your own skills squared away before you queue up.

Be Prepared

Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy… use the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength.  –Sun Tzu

There are some very unrealistic expectations floating around in PUGs these days.  Yes, sometimes, people flip out and drop the group when the tank isn’t already ridiculously overgeared–God forbid some of these mouth-breathers actually have to take ten extra minutes to finish Azjol-Nerub.  You, as a fresh 80, can’t do anything about that.  You have to run the heroics to get the gear.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t be as well-prepared as possible going in.  Once you hit 80, find a friendly neighborhood blacksmith and make friends.  Things like the Tempered Titansteel Helm, Tempered Titansteel Treads, and especially the Titansteel Shield Wall will go a long way toward getting you to where you need to be.  Before trying a heroic, your goals, in my opinion, should be:

  • 23,000 health unbuffed
  • 21,000 armor unbuffed
  • 535 Defense (this is non-negotiable and should be your top priority)
  • 130 hit rating (+4% hit, half of what you need to never miss unless you’re Draenei)
  • at least some expertise, preferably over 10

Now, I know people are often slack about gemming and enchanting sub-ilevel-200 stuff.  The thought is, “why waste the money when I’m just going to replace it in a few weeks?”  Well, sorry, folks, but that’s a bad thought to have.  You should always gem and enchant your gear with something. You don’t need to be dropping 250 gold on Solid Majestic Zircons to put into an ilevel 187 breastplate unless you’re absolutely dripping in gold.  But you can pick up blue- or green-quality gems for a fraction of the cost and use those instead.  Similarly, true, a chest enchant like Powerful Stats (+10 all stats) would be a waste.  But what’s wrong with Super Stats (+8 all stats) or even Powerful Stats (+6 all stats)?  You can snag scrolls of those on the AH for much less money, and they provide a good benefit.  Make sure you get factional enchants (like Sons of Hodir shoulder or Argent Crusade head) as soon as you can–snag them on your main if your babytank is an alt.  It is especially important for a tank to push their gear to the limit and get as much out of it as possible.  Don’t slack.  Gem and enchant, but do it wisely.  Make the most out of what gear you have and you maximize your chances of success.

Also, do not be afraid to use buff food, potions, elixirs, scrolls, or anything else you’ve got in your backpack.  Every little bit helps.  When you’ve got 40,000 health, you won’t have to worry about “flasking up” before a heroic.  When you’ve got 23,000 health, it’s not a bad idea to go ahead and do it, just in case.

Be Honest

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.  –Sun Tzu

So you know how to tank, you know the instances, and your gear is as ready as you can make it.  And there you are, standing at the entrance to your first heroic…grouped with four people from different servers, none of whom you know and none of whom know you.  And you can tell by your unitframes that they’re all targeting you and wondering why you have 23,300 health when you’ve got the little shield icon by your name.

This is not a situation you can bullshit your way out of, so don’t even try it.  Be honest and get it all out right up front.  Say, “hey guys, FYI, if you couldn’t tell, I haven’t been 80 for long…work with me on this and I’ll do my best for you.”

If people start giving you crap like “lol” and “ffs noobtank” and bailing out?  Screw ‘em.  You wouldn’t have wanted to run the instance with them anyway.  I think, though, that you will be surprised at just how many people will respond positively to you being honest with them.  We tend to think of PUGs as being composed of nothing but nasty knuckle-draggers who actually want to make your life a living hell, but that’s not true.  The majority of the hundreds of people in the Cyclone battlegroup that I’ve run heroics with, on five different characters (one tank, four DPS), have been competent, and if not pleasant, at least polite.  They want to finish the run as quickly and smoothly as possible, get their badges, and move on.  No, they don’t want to take an hour to run Azjol-Nerub, but they also don’t want to go hellbent in there, pull all three Watchers at once and wipe, either.

If you’re a little fuzzy on part of the instance, don’t hesitate to ask.  If you think you need assistance as you’re going along, don’t hesitate to ask–”hey, Mr. DK, think you could death grip that second caster over here when I heroic throw the first one?”  Don’t try to bluff your way through, because it won’t work.  Honesty talks, bullshit walks.

Be Confident

The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.  –Sun Tzu

Now that you’ve got yourself ready, your gear ready, and you’ve prepped the group for what to expect…take charge.

Now by “take charge,” I don’t mean start acting like a douchemuffin and bossing people around.  That’ll get you votekicked in short order.  But, you are the tank, are you not?  You are the one who does the pulling and controls the agro, yes?  Then do it. Make sure everybody’s ready, take a deep breath, and pull.

“Taking charge” means that you assert yourself as the tank.  You, as the tank, are going to control the speed of the run, so pull at a pace that’s fast but comfortable for you.  Check the healer’s mana before every pull–his is the blue bar you care about far more than the others (except your own if you’re a paladin).  If the healer’s drinking, wait.  If people are falling behind, wait a second for them to catch up, then go.  If they’re yelling “gogogogogo” in your ear, do not speed up unless you and the healer are comfortable with doing so.  NEVER let yourself get pressured into going faster than you can handle.  At your gear level, you are not going to be able to bulldoze an instance at the speed of a well-geared tank, and you’ve already let your group know that up front.  It’s their decision whether to work with you or to bail out.

You may get people who decide that they should pull “for” you.  Personally, I have zero tolerance for this, and you shouldn’t either.  When I’m tanking a heroic, I pull, period, unless I work out with a hunter to do a misdirect pull (very rare).  Otherwise I tend to see mobs running at a squishy while I have no rage to do anything.  So if you get “assistant” pullers, I say let them tank it!  If they somehow manage to live, great.  Before they run off and do it again, tell them in no uncertain terms that you don’t want them to do it.  If they do it again, wish them fun tanking, and drop group.

Likewise, if people are rude to you because they don’t think you’re going “fast enough?”  Let it slide off your back.  If they continue to insist upon being assholes, thank the good people in the group, and leave.  (Or votekick the asshole if possible, which is the best outcome!)  Tanking is a stressful activity at the best of times, you do not need somebody insulting you while you’re trying to give your best effort.  Do not take crap from haters.  Stand your ground, and if it gets too nasty, leave.  Take a break while your timer ticks down.  Then immediately requeue, as soon as you can.  Get right back on the horse.  You’ll probably get a better group and have a more pleasant time.

My final thought is this:  A significant portion of what makes good tanks good is mental toughness.  You’re going to screw up.  You’ll wipe groups.  You’ll get mental midgets who aren’t fit to carry your mousepad insulting you because you’re a “noobtank.”  Do not let it get you down.  Stay strong.  Take a break if you’re not feeling like tanking–hey, it is still a recreational fun activity, right?–but don’t get run off from it permanently.  In the end, if you are knowledgeable, prepared, honest, and confident, you will prevail.


3.3.2 prot warrior changes announced

Blizzard has released the patch notes for the next minor content patch, v3.3.2, over on the Korean WoW site, and wow.com picked them up.  For those of us of the Prot warrior persuasion, here’s the changes we’ve been waiting to hear about:

Warrior

Protection

  • Concussion Blow: Damage decreased by 50%. Threat level remains unchanged.
  • Devastate: Damage increased by 20%.
  • Shield Slam: Damage modifier from block value decreased, and scales worse at low block value levels. Players in high-end gear shouldn’t notice the change. In addition, threat generated by Shield Slam has been increased by 30%.
  • Warbringer: This talent no longer allows Charge and Intercept to break roots or snares. Intervene remains unaffected. In other words, you can still Charge and Intercept in any stance and while in combat.

Basically, there’s nothing here that we didn’t expect.  The Warbringer change is a straight-up PvP nerf, which will have limited effect to those of us who hang out mostly on the PvE side…although let’s just say I’m not looking forward to dealing with Faction Champions without my snare breaks.  The Concussion Blow nerf was one I hadn’t heard about, and I assume that’s a PvP nerf as well, because honestly, I don’t think we were exactly blowing the top off the charts on Festergut with our l33t 30-second-cooldown Concussion Blow deeps.  Actually, while Concussion Blow can hit for a few thousand damage, I can’t see why it’s getting nerfed at all considering the 30-second cooldown.

The Shield Slam change…now that’s interesting.  “Damage modifier from block value decreased, and scales worse at low block value levels.”  But weren’t Prot PvPers stacking huge amounts of +block value?  Or, were they stacking huge amounts of +armor penetration instead?  In any case, I’ll be tracking how this affects things not just on Linedan, with his full rack of T9/T10-level epics and 2600 SBV in his block set…I’ll also be looking at how it effects Latisha, my 71 Alliance-side Prot warrior, with her level 70ish quest greens and King’s Bulwark.  If Blizzard’s found a way to fix the problem with Prot PvP burst damage (and you have no freaking idea how weird it is for me to type that) and not significantly lower Shield Slam damage in PvE, I’ll be mightily impressed.  In fact, if they didn’t lower Shield Slam damage by 30% at the high end–which would be a massive damage nerf–they’ve just increased its net threat, which may mean our snap threat, which was already excellent, is even better.  We’ll have to see once it goes into place and people can run some tests.

Finally, Devastate continues to get buffed.  Everything I’ve written on Prot warrior priority systems last year looks like it may be out the window now, because +20% more damage on Devastate will move it way up the list.  It may not be the “do it if everything’s on cooldown” move anymore.  It already hits quite hard once fully stacked at 5, so +20% may move it above Revenge in terms of sheer damage output.  Goody, yet more keys to frantically spam every GCD!

(EDIT:  I’m also wondering if yet another Devastate buff will drag the Puncture talent off the scrapheap.  Very few of the “conventional” 51- or 53-point Protection builds take Puncture right now, preferring the more general boost from Focused Rage instead.)


There are numbers, and then there are numbers

As you probably know if you keep up with things involving Prot warriors, there’s a bit of a snitstorm going on regarding potential changes to Warbringer and Shield Slam brought on by the fact that Prot warriors have occasionally been committing unauthorized pwnings of their betters–y’know, mages, hunters, etc.–in arenas.  Now one of the things that we in the Prot community have been maintaining is that Prot warriors generally have the lowest damage output of the four tank classes when we’re tanking, and that this change will lower that damage even further.  Ghostcrawler, while acknowledging that this change will slightly lower Prot warrior PvE damage output, doesn’t seem to think it’s a serious problem:

We understand that warrior damage is on the low end but regarding the raid progression, it’s a hard case to say that your wipe on Festergut (as an example) was caused by the difference between tank damage when the dps from focused classes like rogue, warlock, etc. can probably improve to beat the enrage timer.

And in response to Prot warriors worried that the lack of Prot DPS output will cost us raid spots on balls-to-the-wall DPS races like Festergut, he says:

[...] I honestly think it’s hard to argue that your choice of tank often costs you a kill because of the dps of the tank. Often those numbers are rounding errors compared to the damage capable by the dps specs in the raid. However, I don’t think you even need to invoke that argument. I think it just feels crappy when your dps is lower than other tanks.

(Quotes catalogued by my brother in beef Tarsus over at Tanking for Dummies.)

Now, I don’t know any Prot warrior who thinks we should be cranking out 6000+ DPS like the rogues and the hunters.  That’s crazy talk.  It’ll never happen and it shouldn’t happen.  But there’s an open question here–just how low is Prot warrior damage compared to the other tanking classes?  Is it just a “rounding error,” or something more?

Enter Warwench over at Tankspot, and a Google spreadsheet comprising tank-spec DPS log parses of the top 120 attempts logged at World of Logs so far on each of the Icecrown 25-man bosses currently available.  (The thread over at Tankspot is here.  Thanks to Veneretio over at Tanking Tips for originally Tweeting this yesterday.)  This is an attempt to quantify what tank-spec characters are putting out in the pain department on cutting-edge content.  It’s not complete, because WoL apparently can’t break out tank-spec death nuggets from DPS-spec, so Warwench couldn’t include DKs in the data–a significant omission.  But it’s a start.

The results, I think, are surprising.  Not that paladins are the top DPS-output tanks, we knew that already.  But druids are doing very well for themselves.  Bares, clearly, are storng for fite.  And warriors aren’t just at the bottom…we’re in the basement.  In fact, on some fights, we’re not even in the basement–we’re doing a Jimmy Hoffa in the foundation.

On Lord Marrowgar, for example, we seem to be running about 15% below the average damage output of paladins, bears, and warriors combined.  Lady Deathwhisper?  20% down.  Festergut, the biggest straight-up pure DPS race since Patchwerk?  18% down.  Rotface?  A bit closer at about 11% under average.  Saurfang, a fight where we can just stand in one spot and tee off with occasional back-and-forth taunts?  A very consistent 17% to 18% under average.  Only on Professor Putricide, for some reason–maybe the mechanics?–do Prot warriors seem to be able to score consistently above average.  Warwench also added in a set of about 40 data points for the “gold standard” of DPS yardsticks, Patchwerk.  On those Patchwerk fights, warriors were about 10% under the combined average for paladins, druids, and warriors.

What these numbers seem to indicate is that warriors consistently rank 500 to 1000 DPS behind paladins or druids in every fight in ICC-25 save one.  Looking at Festergut, the average difference seems to be about 1000 DPS.  In a five-minute fight like Festergut, that 1000 DPS difference comes out to three hundred thousand damage. That’s about 1% of Festergut’s health.  How many raids have wiped on Festergut at 1% so far?  A few, I guess, maybe not many.

Numbers can be twisted a lot of different ways–lies, damned lies, and statistics, and all that.  Personally I think Warwench has done the whole tanking community a service by putting these out there so we can see what the top tanks can do in terms of DPS, and how at least three of the four tank classes compare to each other.  But the question still stands–are Prot warriors so far down on DPS that raids might not take them in place of a paladin or druid or DK?

Well…maybe.  I don’t know.  There’s a lot of other factors involved.  The Anvil, for example, has two warrior tanks, and as far as I know, neither of us are going anywhere no matter how many 1% wipes we ever do on Festergut.  Other raids, where loyalty is less important than pushing the envelope, may factor this into their decisions on who goes and who sits.  1000 to 2000 DPS can, as GC says, probably be made up by the DPS classes fine-tuning things (especially since there’s usually about 15 of them compared to two or three tanks).  So no, I don’t think this is the end of the world for warrior tanks.  But it is, as Ghostcrawler says, normal to “feel crappy” when your damage is that far down compared to your brothers in the trenches.

All I know is this…the damage output difference between warriors and the other tank classes, as documented here, is damn sure not just a “rounding error.”  And with the proposed Prot warrior Shield Slam scaling changes, along with some others (Rune Strike changes to DKs a while back as an example), Blizzard seems to be backsliding from the Wrath of the Lich King principle of “threat through damage” and returning to the older paradigm of lower tank damage, but using “bonus threat” to make up for it.  Well, at least for some tanks.


The nerfing will not be televised

I think I’ve left this world behind and fallen through some bizarre space-time portal into a mirror universe.  Seriously.  Superman’s a bad guy, pizza is good for you, and hey, there’s Mr. Spock in a goatee and carrying some neural torturer device thing.

How else can I possibly explain seeing this little nugget pop up from the esteemed Ghostcrawler:

– Protection warriors have too much utility and damage for PvP. (We don’t want to hurt their tanking in PvE of course.)

…wut?  I mean, wut? Protection.  Warriors.  Too.  Much.  Damage.  DOES NOT COMPUTE.

As near as I can tell, this was brought on by the fact that somebody actually got killed in an arena match by a Prot warrior–probably a mage.  This is apparently a violation of some sort of arena rule that Prot warriors are not ever actually allowed to kill anything, or be anything more than “annoying.”

Now, frankly?  Arenas can go die in a toxic waste spill for all I care.  My only arena experience was helping a couple of friends intentionally wreck their 3v3 rating to see how low they could go.  (799, btw.  Do you know how freaking hard it is to actually lose a match in the 900 bracket, even if you’re trying?)  As a PvE player, arenas have done nothing for me except to screw up various and sundry of my toons in various and sundry ways, as they get nerfed to compensate for the hardcore e-sporters screaming “zomg unbalanced!”

And now, this.  Protection warriors–protection warriors, people–are doing too much damage in PvP and have to get nerfed.  So just how does Blizzard think they’re going to nerf us incredibly overpowered Prot warriors, as we go slaughtering everything in sight in PvP (cough cough)?  Well, here’s some info from Bornakk about it:

In the next content patch the current plan is to change Warbringer a bit so that it no longer allows Charge and Intercept to break roots or snares but Intervene would remain unaffected.

We’ll see if any further changes come down the pipeline.

Not a massive nerf for PvE.  I like having Charge and Intercept bust me out of snares, but I could live without it.  As long as we can still use all our abilities without having to switch stances…meh, it’s a nerf, but not a huge one.

We are also considering some changes to Shield Slam to where it won’t affect players in normal tanking gear but it will affect the scaling of block value for those who are stacking it. This isn’t guaranteed as we still want to make sure it doesn’t have a real negative effect on PvE, but in turn we may have the threat caused by Shield Slam just straight increased. We’ll see how this goes as we test it internally.

DANGER.  DANGER, WILL ROBINSON.  DAMAGE NERF INCOMING.

There seems to be some confusion on what changes we are currently looking at that will affect Shield Slam.

What we are changing is block’s scaling on Shield Slam and not block value itself. Shield Slam’s scaling is being altered so this includes Shield Block Value, but it also includes all of the Strength on the PvE dps gear.

For players wearing normal PvE tanking gear, they should not see much of a difference, but we are increasing the threat of Shield Slam to make sure. Anybody stacking a lot of damage gear will probably notice a difference in their Shield Slams though.

Spock:  “Captain, sensors identify a damage nerf incoming, bearing two two six mark eight five, speed Warp Six.”

The problem with the PvP side of Warbringer is that when you consider prot warrior versus mage (just as an example), there was nothing a mage could do to a well versed warrior. The warrior carries a lot of stuns, silences, and then any attempt to root him is broken by multiple abilities. So then the warrior’s teammate (like a hunter) is just doing tons of damage while the target has no defenses.

Um…wait.  Wasn’t there a word for what used to happen when a warrior chased after a mage and couldn’t catch up because of roots or snares and the mage could just /point, /laugh, and /nuke?  Oh yeah, kiting. Apparently it is preferable for a mage to be able to kite a warrior than a warrior to be able to bitchslap the mage.  I guess the mages have a better political action committee than we do.

Here are some more specifics on the (possible) Shield Slam changed. Remember, nothing is finalized at this point.

The diminishing returns on shield slam damage now starts to kick in when shield block value is more than 1960 (at level 80). It maxes at behaving as if your shield block value is 2072 when your block value is actually 3160 (again, at level 80). Remember this includes the scaling from both shield block value on gear AND shield block value from Strength.

Oh, but “it won’t affect us in PvE.”  Uh…yes it fucking will.

Linedan’s tank gear–not stacked for shield block value at all–has almost 2000 SBV when he’s raid buffed.  His threat set, which stacks strength and SBV to maximize damage, has closer to 3000.  In his threat set, he’s already gotten nerfed damage-wise once.  And now he’s about to take another one.

All of this might not send me into the realm of a full rage bar IRL except for one undeniable, cold, hard fact:  warriors are already the lowest-damage class out of the four tanking classes. Look at your raid’s or guild’s tanks on Recount sometime.  Compare what the death nuggets and paladins and even druids can do compared to a warrior.  Boy, I’d sure love to be able to crank out 3500 dps while tanking a raid boss.  I do, typically, somewhere in the low 2000s…less if it’s a fight where I have to switch off with another tank (Saurfang) and spend significant time not being hit, even less if I’m offtanking and have to run around and gather adds without the benefit of Consecrate or Death & Decay or Death Grip.

“But your job isn’t to do damage, it’s to hold threat!”  Yes, I know.  That’s a frequent argument that DPS throws at tanks.  It’s a correct one…to a point.  But answer me this, Gentle Reader…if you’ve got two capable tanks, and you’re staring a DPS race like Festergut in the face, who would you rather have?  The death nugget who can push 4k DPS on the fight, or the warrior who does 2k?  What if you’re the offtank, what do you do during the part of the fight when it’s not your job to hold threat?  Have your damage lowered even more?  Would you rather have “bonus threat” instead of damage?  I wouldn’t.  Screw “bonus threat.”  I want to generate my threat the way that Blizzard said that threat would be generated in Wrath of the Lich Kingthrough damage. Instead, I get lowered damage and “bonus threat.”

So here we are, the lowest-damage tanking class by a mile…and Blizzard is talking about lowering our Shield Slam damage even more because of fucking arenas. Well yay.  Excuse me if I’m not sitting in the stands at the next MLG event.

Guess it was our turn in the gunsights sooner or later.


Shining Pearls of Wisdom–Your PUG Tank and You

The awesome orcish hawtness that is Kadomi tweeted this beautiful little nugget from the WoW Europe forums today…it’s so good, I think it needs its own blog post.  An excerpt:

“Gogogogogogogogogogogogogo”:
This actually enrages basicly every tank, it’s pushing and annoying, and could easily be repaced by: “I’m ready ” or “Pull when you are ready”.
- If you want your tank to accidentaly let you die, use gogogogo.
- If not, just use a more friendly way to let the tank know you want to move on.
- Give the tank some time to get ready, find out what is the best way to pull the mobs, regain mana/rage etc.
- Keep in mind that the Tank might be waiting for the healer to be on full mana.
- Don’t pull. And by that I really mean, don’t pull. If you’re out of luck, the tank and healer will just let you die.

You have to read the entire post to understand just how fantastic it is.  Sourabaya (the OP) pretty much hits every annoyance that a tank can run into when tanking a PUG.  “Helpful” pullers, people ragging on your gear, the “zomg pull fastur u noob” spam, it’s all there.

I may have a deeper post on this later, but honestly, I don’t think I can add very much to what Sourabaya posted.  Read it for now, and maybe I can find a different tack on this later on this week.


LFD: Looking For D-Bags

(Before we begin, please observe a moment of silence for my home computer’s hard drive, whose crappy firmware last night decided to depart this fallen earth and leave behind its bricked metal shell.  This may also be used as a cautionary tale…if you’ve got a Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 SATA drive in your machine, back the damn thing up now. This is the second one I’ve had fail in less than eighteen months.  DIAF, Seagate, I’m done with you.  It’s off to Worst Buy tonight for some Western Digital lovin’ and an evening spent reinstalling everydamnthing on my computer instead of hanging out with my guild for our in-game Winterveil party.)

Obviously, a lot of the chatter in the WoW blogosphere has been about patch 3.3′s awesome new Looking for Dungeon cross-server instancing tool.  It is, after all, simplicity itself.  It removes anything resembling thought, effort, or social interaction from running your favorite five-man instances!  Just push a few buttons, sit back and wait (note:  the waiting part is optional if you are a tank or healer), and voila.  You too will be thrown into a wonderful garden spot like Utgarde Keep or Gun’drak with four total strangers with whom you will engage in 10 to 30 minutes of frenzied activity and then never see again.  As others are wondering, is this what casual sex feels like?

I have run about, eh, 25 or so random heroics since the patch went in.  About half have been on Beltar, my dwarf hunter, with the remainder split between Linedan and my other level 80 alts.  I’ve only tanked three randoms on Lin–the others, I’ve gone as DPS to practice on his new offspec (more on that in another post).  And much to my surprise, generally, my experiences have been neutral to pleasant.

Now, I’m not generally accused of a huge amount of charity toward my fellow WoW players.  I never liked to PUG that much before the LFD tool came along.  But suddenly, I find it strangely addicting.  Part of it, I think, is that I’m finding that my two most undergeared alts–Illithanis the BM hunter and Moktor the blood DK–don’t actually suck as much as I thought they did, or perhaps I don’t suck as much at playing them as I thought I did, or some of both.  (The links are to their respective Armory pages, so you may gaze upon them and laugh.)  Both of them are generally running with a good bit of ilevel 200 gear, Illy more so because she actually got into a few 10-man Naxx runs several months back.  Both seem capable of consistently bringing 1800-2200 dps in heroics, despite Illy’s wasp dying regularly and my seeming inability to grasp the DK concept of “PS – IT - HS – HS - DS - RP  //  DS – HS – HS – HS – HS - RP”.  (I get my DS before my HS, or I stop and RP instead of actually using runic power, or some such.  Letturs r hard.)  Anyhoo, while neither of them are going to rizzock the hizzouse in Ulduar or higher anytime soon, so far, they’ve not even been laughed at by a heroic group, much less votekicked.  In fact, Illy, with her pedestrian 2k dps, has topped the meters more than once.

No, really, I’ve only seen one person get kicked (a rogue, in full Hateful Gladiator’s with 25k health, only doing 800 dps), and no massive displays of incompetence.  Now what I have seen are a few examples of some pretty serious douchebag ex machina, and the one overriding thing…silence.

Let’s talk about the d-bags.  There haven’t been many, and contrary to what some of us RP-server types might think, these weren’t primarily from PvP servers.  Probably the biggest example I saw was when I had dps!Linedan on a heroic Azjol-Nerub run.  The tank was a death nugget that had about 29,500 health buffed out.  Nobody said anything, even though there seems to be this unspoken rule that if your tank has less than about 45k health, THERE IS NO WAY YOU CAN POSSIBLY TANK A HEROIC AZJOL AMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE.  Never mind that I tanked heroic AN back in the day with 25k in crafted blues and epics.  Poorly, but I did it.  And I had to walk uphill in the snow four miles each way to do it.

So off we went, and it was a perfectly normal dungeon run.  Nobody died, we killed Anub v1.0 and everything was peachy.  Then the following conversation ensued between the healer, a tree druid from Uldum, and the tank:

Tree says, “hey, (tank name here)?”

Tank says, “huh?”

Tree says, “Nothing.  I just wanted you to respond so I could ignore you and never group with you again.  Get some gear, noob.”

Now mind you, nobody died.  We never wiped.  The tank never lost agro, even on the trash-filled last part of Anub, which can still get a little bit pear-shaped even in high-zoot Tier gear.  Apparently, the tree actually might’ve had to work a little at healing the DK, and we can’t possibly have that.

I tried to buck up the DK by telling him, “look, my main spec is prot, I’ve got 4/5 T9.25, I tank ToGC and Icecrown.  I know tanking even if I don’t know how DKs do it.  You did fine.  Screw the haters.”  I hope he believed me.  I wish I could remember the guy’s name and server, so I could give him a shout-out.

And speaking of shouts or the lack thereof…that’s the other creepy thing about LFD.  The total silence.  I’ve gone complete instance runs without anybody in the party–me included–saying a damn thing.  We land at the entrance, buffs fly, and then the tank wordlessly runs off and grabs the first trash group without saying a word.  And off we go to the races, the tank setting a blistering pace (almost without exception) while the DPS and the healer pant along behind.  Chain-pulling is the order of the day, crowd control is not needed.  No strategy, no breaks, no drinking.  I’m damn glad my only mana-using class I’ve taken through randoms has been a hunter, because the ability to regen on the run with Aspect of the Viper is the only thing keeping me from ending up half a mile behind the main group.

Eventually we’ll kill the final boss, get some screen spam and extra emblems…and then, maybe, somebody will say “thanks” or “gg”, and that’s it.  The group’s dissolved, and I’m back wherever I was before I queued, richer by some enchanting mats and badgers, and maybe, on my lesser-geared characters, some new toys.  It’s a fun experience, but it’s oddly empty.  I console myself with the thought that probably I don’t really want to talk to the other four people I just grouped with…but that’s not much of a way to play, and not a very good thought to have, now is it?

I really don’t like only having one roleplay server per battlegroup.  I would love to be able to instance-group with RPers from places like Argent Dawn and Sentinels and Moon Guard (leave your vampire catgirls and sons of Arthas at home plox), and do some of these heroics at a slightly more relaxed pace in-character.  Instead, this is a strictly OOC business we’re in, running these randoms.  It’s all about speed.  I know on the ones that I’ve tanked, I feel pushed because I’m not normally a chain-puller.  I cut my teeth as an undergeared tank that had to wait for healers and DPS to fill their tanks before pulling again, and that’s carried over into Lin’s current pimped-out status.  My very first tank run, I had a DK “helpfully” start pulling “for” me.  Nothing frosts my cornflakes faster than somebody else doing the pulling when I’m the tank.  My theory is simple:  I’d rather take two minutes longer to finish the instance than risk a wipe that’ll cost us five minutes.  So in randoms, I do pull faster, but I always check that there’s at least some blue in the blue bars in my party frames, and that we’re all gathered, before pulling.

Heck, sometimes, I even say things in party chat.  RANK HERESY!


Panzercow hits 3.3. 3.3 hits back.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been pretty short on blogfodder.  I’ve been going through a mild burnout with the game and been dabbling in EVE Online and Dragon Age instead.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love my friends in game, raiding with The Anvil, all that fun stuff.  But things had stalled a bit.

For Linedan, the satisfaction was bleeding out of raiding.  Trial of the Crusader was, frankly, nothing more than a one-hour expedition to dispense 15 badges.  Trial of the Grand Crusader was nothing more than Trial of the Crusader with the red numbers on my screen turned up to ridiculous levels…and maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about taking a fight that we usually roflstomp on normal (Beasts) and having it pimpslap us into the ground on heroic that just grates me a bit.  I don’t get mad at my raid, I just get annoyed with Blizzard for undertuning ToC so badly that they left a cliff wall the size of El Capitan between normal and heroic.  I could, and should, RP with him more, but Lin is not exactly Captain Happy Fun Tiems in his personal interactions.  Besides, a schedule change has left me unable to attend Noxilite’s Monday night storytelling/guild meetup in the Barrens.

With Beltar, it was kind of the opposite.  He doesn’t have a regular raid.  He’s largely a roleplay character these days, and a great one.  But at the same time, I am serious about advancing him gear-wise.  On the rare occasions I can raid with him, I do.  That doesn’t happen often, though…and once you’re through the solo quest content, which he mostly is except for some Icecrown stuff, and you’re already wearing a mix of stuff from a few Naxxes 6-7 months ago and some loot-trashcan pieces from the rare Ulduar, what then?  So while I’ve been having fun roleplaying him, I often wonder just what the little guy could do if he was geared up like Linedan was.

And then there’s my stable of alts–Illithanis (80 BM hunter), Moktor (80 orc death nugget), my up-and-comers like Sakula (77 troll shaman and ladies’ man) and my prot warrior experiment Latisha (currently 68, and yes, she’s wearing Outland slut plate).  They need some love too.  But after the fourth or fifth time, even Storm Peaks gets old.  What to do with them after cap?  All of them are sub-Naxx geared.  They’ll never get into raids–too much of a gear gap to overcome, I’m needed as a tank where I am now, and I don’t have time to raid on any more than two characters as it is.  So why put forth the time?

Enter Patch 3.3:  Fail of the Lich King.  (Yes, I know it’s “Fall of the Lich King.”  Look at the font on the logo when you open your Launcher and tell me it doesn’t look like “Fail of the Lich King,” dammit.)

Suddenly, most of these problems have been solved.

Linedan has a new raid to play with.  No more Trial of the Big Round Room With Two Settings, Too Easy and Too Hard.  Welcome to Icecrown Citadel, and kids, let me tell you, it kicks so much ass it’s painful.  I rang up over 200 gold in repairs in there over the weekend and we only downed one boss (Lord Marrowgar)…and I don’t care. It’s fantastic.  You’d better bring your “A” game, because Arthas is not playing flag football.  Crowd control is back, with a vengeance…most of the trash pulls we’ve seen so far are between six and nine mobs.  (Priests, time to get your shackles out for more than just private fun in the cloisters.)  Lord Marrowgar is challenging but doesn’t seem to be over-the-top impossible once you use a little brainpower and figure out a good movement/tanking strategy.  The two fights we’ve seen so far on 25-man require three tanks–oh frabjous joy for a raid that carries four tanks every week, fewer people forced into their secondary role!

And for a second, ditch the mechanics, ditch the loot…this is Icecrown, people.  That’s Arthas up there.  That’s the Big Bad who’s been hovering over the Warcraft franchise for nigh on ten years now.  The special guest stars are everywhere…Tirion Fordring, Saurfang the Elder (and his son, in a way), Bolvar Fordragon, Muradin Bronzebeard.  Lore whores and roleplayers like me are loving this.  It looks good.  It sounds good.  It is good.

And then there’s the five-mans.  Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron, Halls of Reflection.  I’ve only run them once, on normal, with one other attempt (unsuccessful) at the HoR gauntlet on heroic.  Forge of Souls looks big, but actually is fairly small and linear, and doesn’t appear too awful hard, though all these instances are considerably harder than existing level 80 5-mans, both normal and heroic–think Magister’s Terrace for the difficulty jump.  Pit of Saron is my favorite, a giant outdoor quarry full of Alliance and Horde slaves, with some awesome NPC interaction, funny boss fights (leper gnomes with mohawks FTW), a nasty but cool gauntlet, and twists near the end.

And then there’s Halls of Reflection.  Any instance that can simultaneously have me gushing at how awesome it is and literally screaming in frustration is probably doing something right.  HoR is brutal on tanks from a technical standpoint.  The first boss fight in there left me with an aching wrist and exhausted…and then I had to turn around and flee for my life while holding off waves of undead with the Lich King his own mother-humping self coming to eat my face.  The final gauntlet in HoR is simultaneously brilliant and frustrating, at least if you’re a warrior or a bear.

What about Beltar and the alts?  Looking for Dungeon, baby.  Random heroics.  It works brilliantly.  You can accumulate badges at a ridiculous rate, and at least so far, the idiot quotient seems to be quite low.  Most people I’ve run with have been quiet, and none have been RPers, but they’re mostly at least competent enough to get the job done.  The tanks and healers I’ve run with have, for the most part, actually been quite good.  Oh, and how ridiculous is “a ridiculous rate?”  Ridiculous as in, in one weekend, Beltar has gotten two pieces of Tier 9 (gloves/shoulders), a new gun from heroic Coliseum, a bronze drake from CoS, and the Northrend Dungeonmaster achievement.  In one weekend.

So the final score for WoW over the past four days?

Thursday:  Icecrown Citadel 25-man on Linedan, downed Lord Marrowgar.

Friday:  Icecrown Citadel 25-man and Trial of the Crusader 25-man on Linedan.  Full clear on ToC, didn’t quite get Lady Deathwhisper in ICC but we’re doing better.

Saturday:  Trial of the Crusader 10-man (full clear, 5 for 5 on one-shots), Onyxia 10-man, Naxx 10-man (weekly raid quest, just Anub’rekhan) and ICC 10-man on Linedan with Lord Marrowgar one-shotted.  Plus a couple random heroics on Beltar, and all three of the new 5-mans on normal with Linedan.

Sunday:  7 random heroics on Beltar, two on Moktor my DK, one on Linedan.

Soooo…what do you guys think?  Think I’m burned out any more?

Me neither.

I’ve got a bunch more 3.3 posts mentally lining up.  One on the LFD system and its quirks, one on the five-mans in which I fully accept that Halls of Reflection has made me its bitch and I don’t mind, and one on Icecrown’s first two bosses with a little about strategery and a little about tanking.  Stay tuned.


Linedan takes a survey

I saw this courtesy of Tarsus over at Tanking for Dummies…this is a tank version of Miss Medicina’s healer survey, done up by Dammerung over at The Children of Wrath.  It’s long, but this is a really good set of questions.

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary tank?
Linedan, 80 Tauren warrior on Feathermoon-US (RP).  His spec is the old bog-standard 15/5/51 Impale/Deep Wounds cookie-cutter; supposedly 15/3/53 is the “new black” but I still have those two points in Cruelty, at least for now.  I expect I’ll end up going 15/3/53 at some point soon.  I also have Latisha, a 66 human prot warrior, also on Feathermoon…she has yet to actually tank anything, though.

What is your usual tanking environment?
25-man raiding–currently Trial of the Crusader and Ulduar, poking at some Ulduar hardmodes and ToGC–with The Anvil raid group on Feathermoon.  We have four tanks in our core group (me, another prot warrior, prot paladin, frost DK) and we raid two nights a week, so we have a set two-week rotation where each of us gets to fill in the role of MT, OT, swing OT/DPS, and DPS (or in my case, loldeeps) for a given night.  Prior to the rotation setup, I was almost always slotted as an offtank and MT’d only occasionally.

What is your favorite encounter to tank, and why?
XT-002, Iron Council, and General Vezax.  They’re straight-up mano-a-mano brute-force tests of strength for the tank, and I like those.  Auriaya is fun with the precise interrupt timings and fears, and I like Anub’arak as well.

What is your least favorite encounter to tank, and why?
Faction Champions in ToC may kindly go die in a mother-humping fire immediately and never come back.  Nerfs or not, I positively despise that fight.  Keep your badly-executed bastardized faux-PvP out of my raids, Blizzard.  I also have a strong dislike for heroic Gormok, because it feels like survival in that fight is out of my hands…the RNG decides whether I avoid that 40k Impale or not and there’s damn all I can do about it except pray I anticipate it.

What do you think is the biggest strength of your class, and why?
I used to say single-target snap threat, but DKs can beat us on that, so I’ll say mobility.  Nobody is more mobile than a prot warrior.  Single-target threat is still our best tanking area, and we still may have the best two-second burst threat of any class, but overall, with Warbringer, we’re probably the most mobile class on any raid battlefield…ironic, considering we’re wearing the heaviest armor.  Also, all warriors automatically spec 5/5 Improved Badass and 3/3 Irresistable Sexeh, which are talents not available to any other tank class.

What do you think is the biggest weakness of your class, and why?
Three things–our DPS while tanking is weak compared to other classes, especially death nuggets.  Our AoE threat is weak compared to other classes, especially death nuggets.  And the Heroic Strike mechanic is effed-up beyond all recognition and forces us to repeatedly and rhythmically pound a button every 1.5-2 seconds for no bloody reason whatsoever in order to keep our threat near other classes…especially death nuggets.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel is the best tanking assignment for you?
Anything except pure AOE tanking.  Personally I kind of fall down on constant-mobility fights like a Grobbulus or a Razorscale, but other than that, I can do any single-target job you need.  Main tank, pinning down adds, kiting, I can do it, and do it well.  The only thing that is really out of my realm is pure AOE tanking, like Freya flower trash or rubble on Kologarn.  That is the home of the paladin and the death nugget.

What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with the most?
Any class, really, as long as the player knows how to use their abilities and we know how to complement each other.  We have no beartanks in our raid (sadly) so I have limited experience in working with one.  Warrior/paladin is a ferocious team that complement each other very well.  Warrior/death nugget can work very well together as well, especially if the DK is good at AOE tanking (as ours are).

What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with the least?
Stupid ones.  Stupid death nuggets are the absolute worst, just because the DK class has a lot of abilities that can make a tank’s life a living hell if they’re misused.

What is your worst habit as a tank?
I don’t Heroic Strike enough.  Yes, I’m the only guy in WoW who literally doesn’t hit “2″ enough.  It’s easy to forget HS spam, but not hitting it enough gimps my damage and threat output, so I have to get better at it, or I think Kadomi will fly over from Europe and kick my ass.  On the flipside, I also tend to overuse Devastate–oddly enough, 3.2 made that less of a problem, since it hits so much harder now.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while tanking?
Other tanks who won’t let me do my job, taunt off me, “help” me when I don’t need it. DPS who overburn on pulls and don’t let me get solid agro.  And, most of all, Army of the Dead.  Keep those taunt-happy little bastards away from my mobs.

Do you feel your class/spec is balanced with respect to the other tanking classes?
Generally, yeah.  I wish we did more DPS while tanking, and could do more DPS in prot spec while not tanking, but in general, I think we are reasonably well-balanced against druids and paladins.  Death nuggets, well…”they’re a hero class,” that’s what I keep hearing, anyway.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a tank?
My eyes, my ears, and my brain. I look at logs to an extent, and glance at Omen and Recount occasionally, but for the most part, I look back and think about what I did and what went right and wrong. I talk to our raid officers and the other tanks frequently, too.

What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have with your tanking class?
There’s two–first, that we’re uber, just because we were uber in vanilla.  We’re not.  And second, that leveling a prot warrior is hard and painful.  In the post-3.0 world, it isn’t anymore.

What do you think is the toughest thing for new players of your class to learn about tanking?
The priority system that you have to use to maximize DPS and threat. Warriors are, as far as I can tell, far and away the most complicated and active of the four tank classes. We have a veritable metric assload of abilities that we use, and we don’t have a fixed rune rotation like DKs or a “969″ setup like paladins.  We have to make split-second decisions based on what’s off cooldown and what’s lit up.  It’s not hard to learn, but it takes some work for it to become second nature.

If someone were to evaluate your tanking ability via tools like fraps, recount, and World of Logs, what tendencies would they notice?
I tend to faceroll a bit and spam keys instead of cleanly hitting my priority system, when I get stressed.  I don’t Heroic Strike enough.  Sometimes I stand in Bad(tm).  And when I’m DPSing, I tend to lose targets in all the flashy glittery glowy clutter of a 25-man fight.  Yes, I’m extremely critical of my own performance, can you tell?

Stamina or Avoidance, and why?
Avoidance is based on the random number generator, and the RNG will screw you sooner or later.  Health is always there for you.  (Besides, Lin’s a Tauren wearing plate armor…how can he have a near-30% dodge rating?  He’s humongous and weighs a squillion pounds.)  Stamina is your tried and true friend.

Which tanking class do you understand the least?
Paladins.  I’ve done beartanking back in BC, and I have a DK (though she’s blood DPS) so I sortakinda understand how they work, even if I don’t know the details of how they tank.  But I’ve never gotten a paladin past level 33, and that was ret.  I have no clue how fancybelves do what they do.

What addons or macros do you currently use to aid you in tanking?
Nothing too out of the ordinary.  The normal stuff, of course–threat meter (Omen), DPS meter (Recount), raid assist (oRA2), and boss mods (DBM).  I use ItemRack to switch gear sets quickly, and have recently started using the wonderful and versatile Satrina Buff Frames to replace Elkano’s Buff Bars.  I also use Bartender4 for bars, XPerl for unitframes, ChocolateBar and Data Broker addons for a top status bar, and the old warhorse, Scrolling Combat Text.  (I think it may be time for a Panzercow’s UI post very soon.)

Do you strive for a balance in tanking stats, or do you stack some higher than others, and why?
Stamina in general is my #1 priority–I’m down on health compared to our other three tanks because I’m slightly behind them in gear level, so that’s my biggest thing to catch up on.  Plus, Ulduar hardmodes and ToGC are the home of the “holy crap, how much did that thing just hit for?” fight (hi Gormok), and there’s no replacement for a huge health pool as long as I can still crank out enough threat to keep the mob on me.  Other than that, I try to maintain a balance, but don’t usually succeed.  Right now, Lin’s under the hit cap, near the expertise cap, heavy on defense, way heavy on dodge, and light on parry.  I keep an alternate set of gear that’s still crit-immune, but gives up stamina and some avoidance to load the hell out of shield block value…for those times where nothing else will do but an 11k Shield Slam across the face.


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?


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