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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.


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.


So You Want to Be(ta) a Prot Warrior: Climbing Trees

(Did you see what I did there with the title?  Damn, I’m smooth.  Hurr hurr.)

OK, kids, it’s finally time for Uncle Panzercow to take a look at Prot warriors in the Cataclysm beta.  Both of mine are over there now.  Linedan is casually slaughtering his way through Mount Hyjal in his usual efficient, taciturn Panzercowing manner.  Latisha, on the other hand, threw on her bikini and took a little vacation…she went on a “three-hour tour” booze cruise toward an island off Stormwind, but instead of chatting up the hunky SCUBA instructor, she found herself, well, drowning.  Then she woke up at the bottom of the Great Sea in the bilge of the SS Poseidon, surrounded by dead Alliance soldiers, beautiful coral, and pissed-off naga.  She’s done the first few Kelp Forest quests in Vashj’ir; unfortunately, after taking her back to Stormwind to train Mastery, a bug has stuck her in limbo between Stormwind and Moonglade, and she may be out of action until I can either re-copy her (giving her the T9 shoulders she picked up last night) or wait for a fix.  I may just wait for a fix, I want to retain the option to copy another character over at some point.

I’ll do another post talking about the actual Prot leveling experience once I do more of it–Lin’s only 2/3 of the way through 80, and Latisha’s barely done anything at all.  What I want to look at in this post are the warrior trees, from a Prot standpoint of course.  I’m not even going to suggest specific builds, because really, I haven’t absorbed all of this stuff yet, and I’m sure I’ll be wobbling back and forth on builds constantly over the next couple months.  Instead, I’m going to look more at the talents and abilities that you’d see at level 80.

DISCLAIMERS:  This is all based on beta build 12759 as of 19 August 2010 and is subject to change anytime Ghostcrawler wants to change it.  Your mileage may vary.  Void in Middle-Earth and where prohibited.  Side effects may include dizziness, nausea, hair loss, carpal tunnel syndrome, hot warrior groupies throwing themselves at you, frequent death, high repair bills, and hearing “not enough rage” in your sleep.  Any rebroadcast of these talents without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is prohibited.

Cutting Down the Trees

So that having been said, let’s take a look at the talent trees.  The first thing you’ll notice upon hitting “N” for the first time in the beta is that there’s a new first screen where you are shown the various masteries available.  (The three Mastery abilities only seem to kick in when you train the Mastery skill.)  We’ll be looking at Prot, of course, so you see there’s one ability exclusive to us–our old friend Shield Slam, no longer baseline, sorry Arms and Fury–and three Masteries; Vitality, Vengeance, and Improved Block.

Vitality replaces the old Vitality talent; it’s just a flat 15% boost to Stamina, nothing fancy here.  Vengeance is a mechanic that I’m still trying to get my noggin around.  The tooltip says:  “Each time you take damage, you gain 5% of the damage taken as attack power, up to a maximum of 10% of your health.”  Does that mean that my 50,000 health Linedan can get up to 5000 bonus attack power?  Well, not practically.  Any bonus you get from a particular hit seems to roll off after 15 seconds.  So the AP boost seems to fluctuate up and down.  During normal questing on Lin, it seems to wobble around +100 to +200 AP, but I imagine it will be considerably more useful on instance fights, especially bosses.  Finally, Improved Block is just what it says it is, +15% to shield block chance.  Except I noticed something odd on Latisha.  When she first arrived and spec’d out, she had exactly 20.00% block chance, which I thought odd.  When I trained Mastery, that chance went down to exactly 15.00%, which is what Lin has.  I don’t know if that’s a glitch or what.  But now both their character sheets show only a 15% chance to block.  That indicates to me that either this is a bug, or warriors have a base non-Mastery block chance of zero…which should be a bug.

When you start looking at the trees themselves, you’ll see some familiar talents about where you expect them.  Last Stand, Concussion Blow, Improved Revenge, Devastate, Shockwave, Gag Order…old friends, like the crew at Cheers.  You just expect Devastate and Shockwave to stand up and yell “NORM!” when you pick talents from this tree.  But even old dogs learn a few new tricks, so we need to go through this one talent at a time.  Strap in, it’s going to be a long ride…

Protection

Incite (3 points)Increases the critical strike chance of your Heroic Strike by 5/10/15%, and your Heroic Strike critical strikes have a 33/66/100% chance to make your next Heroic Strike also a critical strike.  This effect cannot occur more than once every 6 seconds. Veneretio had a good discussion of Incite over at Tanking Tips a couple weeks ago.  I think the jury is still out on this one largely because Heroic Strike isn’t what it used to be.  Remember, it’s no longer an on-next-swing with no cooldown.  Now it’s instant and off the global cooldown, but it costs 30 rage with a three-second cooldown.  How our rage generation works out will make or break this talent.

Toughness (3 points)Increases your armor value from items by 3/6/10%. Straightforward, and necessary as always because bonus armor and armor on trinkets get removed in Cataclysm.  Lin’s down 6000 armor from live right off the bat.

Hold the Line (2 points)Increases your critical strike and critical block chance by 10% for 5/10 seconds after a successful parry. This just in:  PARRY GETS LOVE.  About damn time.  Veneretio covered this talent as well and did a thorough job of covering the good and bad of it.  Bad:  Not all that great against bosses.  Good:  Useful against multiple targets, and when your crit percentage is as horrendous as ours is, you take whatever help Blizzard throws to you.  Probably a keeper.

Shield Specialization (3 points)You generate 5/10/15 extra rage when you block an attack.  You generate 20/40/60 rage when you Spell Reflect a magic attack. Hmm.  Note that Shield Spec now doesn’t give you a better chance to block, it’s just about rage generation.  Right now, in build 12759 of the beta, prot warrior rage generation is actually very good, almost too good.  I’m getting full rage bars on Lin while only fighting mobs two at a time without anything to Spell Reflect…with his ICC-level avoidance, that’s shocking.  (It also means I’m not Heroic Striking enough.)  If rage generation is not an issue, then this isn’t necessary.  If we get as rage-starved in Cataclysm as we did in Wrath of the Lich King when grinding, then it becomes much more useful.  Time will tell.

Shield Mastery (3 points)Reduces the cooldown of Shield Block by 10/20/30 seconds, Shield Wall by 60/120/180 seconds, and Spell Reflect by 1/2/3 seconds. Why on earth would you not take this?  It’s better than the old Improved Disciplines because it affects three of our best defensive cooldowns.  You end up with being able to bump your block up for 10 out of 30 seconds, reduce all incoming damage by 40% for 12 out of 120 seconds, and reflect a spell every 7 seconds.  (Also?  Shield Block now costs 10 rage, unfortunately, but Spell Reflect only costs 15, down from 25 in live.)

Blood and Thunder (2 points)When you Thunder Clap a target affected by your Rend, you have a 50/100% chance to affect every target with Rend. OK, maybe I’m missing something here, but…do Prot warriors keep Rend on their bars?  Seriously?  I think I’ve got it shoved off in a corner somewhere bound to ctrl+shift+6+standonmyhead or something.  I haven’t used it in years. Are they expecting us to start?  I don’t think I got that memo.

Gag Order (2 points)Gives your Shield Bash and Heroic Throw abilities a 50/100% chance to silence the target for 3 seconds.  Also lowers the cooldown of your Heroic Throw by 15/30 seconds. It doesn’t have the +5/10% damage to Shield Slam that it used to, sadly, but this is still a useful talent for pulling.  I think it may have gone from “must have” to “nice to have” depending on the composition of instances.

Last Stand (1 point, cooldown 3 minutes)Temporarily grants you 30% of your maximum health for 20 seconds.  After the effect expires, the health is lost. Nothing’s changed here, this is our reliable old ass-saver from live, right down to the three-minute cooldown.

Concussion Blow (1 point, cost 15 rage, cooldown 30 seconds)Stuns the opponent for 5 seconds and deals (38/100 * AP) damage (based on attack power). Again, no functional change here, even the cooldown remains the same at 30 seconds.  It’s just been moved down to Tier 3 in the tree.

Bastion of Defense (2 points)Reduces the chance you’ll be critically hit by melee attacks by 3/6%.  In addition, when you Block, Dodge, or Parry an attack, you have a 10/20% chance to become Enraged, increasing physical damage done by 10% for 12 seconds. Exit stacking Defense, enter Bastion of Defense.  This is how warriors become uncrittable now.  It also takes the enrage from the old Improved Defensive Stance talent, although instead of the chance being 50/100%, now it’s only 10/20%.  If you don’t take 2 points in this talent, GTFO my class and roll a rogue.

Warbringer (1 point)Your Charge, Intercept, and Intervene abilities are now usable while in combat and in any stance.  In addition, your Intervene ability removes all movement-impairing effects. No change from live, this is another near-mandatory talent; it’s what gives us our legendary pinball-of-death mobility.  When I’m in Lin’s Fury spec, honestly, this talent is the biggest single thing I miss.

Improved Revenge (2 points)Increases the damage of your Revenge ability by 30/60% and causes Revenge to strike an additional target for 50/100% damage. No functional change from live on this one either, it’s a big DPS and threat boost so I think it’s mandatory.  But that’s just my opinion.

Devastate (1 point, cost 15 rage)Sunders the targets armor causing the Sunder Armor effect.  In addition, causes 120% weapon damage + 58 for each stack of Sunder Armor on the target.  The Sunder Armor effect can stack up to 3 times. Other than the overall reduction of Sunder Armor stacks from 5 to 3, there’s no change at all to Devastate.  Even the damage is exactly the same.

Impending Victory (2 points)Using Devastate on a target with 20% or less health has a 25/50% chance to allow the use of Victory Rush, but that Victory Rush only heals for 5% of your health. Now this is an interesting little talent.  On low-health mobs, this talent gives you the opportunity to trigger Victory Rush, gaining a single rage-free attack that will give you a mini-heal of 5% of your max health (instead of the 20% from a normal VR).  Even with mobs now having 30k+ health in the 80-81 areas, I can’t see this being useful during level-grinding.  But how useful might this be at the end of a tough boss fight, when he’s sub-20% for a couple minutes?  You’re hitting Devastate all the time anyway, why not have a 50% chance to give you a free attack and heal yourself for several thousand health?  It’s better than Enraged Regeneration by a long shot.

Thunderstruck (2 points)Improves the damage of your Cleave and Thunder Clap by 3/6%.  In addition, your Thunder Clap improves the damage of your next Shockwave by 5/10%.  Stacks up to 3 times. All I can think of for this one is “meh.”  The damage boost is nice, but spending two points on it in Tier 5 doesn’t seem like a very good return.  Maybe someone can prove differently to me.

Vigilance (1 point)Focus your protective gaze on a group or raid target, reducing their damage taken by 3%.  In addition, each time they are hit by an attack your Taunt cooldown is refreshed, and you gain Vengeance as if 20% of the damage was done to you.  Lasts 30 minutes.  This effect can only be on one target at a time. Sharp-eyed readers will notice something missing from that blurb…that’s right, the 10% threat transfer is gone.  Is it worth putting a point into this for a small AP boost and the taunt refresh?  I’m not sure yet.  For grinding, definitely not.  For instancing or raiding, maaayyyybe.

Heavy Repercussions (2 points)When Shield Block is active, your Shield Slams hit for an additional  50/100% damage. Pretty straightforward, although it’s a little disappointing to have to spend two points in Tier 5 for what we used to get for free with Shield Block.

Safeguard (2 points)Reduces the damage taken by the target of your Intervene ability by 15/30% for 6 seconds. Uh…yeah.  Somebody please make a case for this talent, because I’ve never seen it to be useful.  Then again, I know I don’t use Intervene nearly enough.

Sword and Board (3 points)Increases the critical strike chance of your Devastate ability by 5/10/15%.  When your Devastate or Revenge abilities deal damage, they have a 10/20/30% chance of refreshing the cooldown of your next Shield Slam ability and reducing its rage cost by 100% for 5 seconds. Good old Sword and Board, basically unchanged.  DING!

Shockwave (1 point, cost 15 rage, cooldown 20 seconds)Sends a wave of force in front of the warrior, causing (75/100 * AP) damage (based on attack power) and stunning all enemy targets within 10 yards in a frontal cone for 4 seconds. Interestingly, Shockwave, our top talent, hasn’t changed.

Fury

Blood Craze (3 points)After taking any damage, you have a 10% chance to regenerate 2.5/5/7.5% of your total health over 5 seconds. Wow.  This is big, gang.  7.5% of your total health over 5 seconds…in beta!Linedan’s case, that’s about 3500 to 4000 health.  This talent is almost like having an inattentive druid trundling along behind, occasionally pulling himself away from watching “Dancing with the Stars” and dropping a Rejuv on you.  Between this, Victory Rush, and Enraged Regeneration…kids, if you’re a well-geared Prot warrior, and this stuff stays close to the way it is now?  You will have to work to die while grinding.  If you thought we had good survivability before, it’s beyond insane now.

Battle Trance (3 points)Your Bloodthirst, Mortal Strike, and Shield Slam hits have a 5/10/15% chance to make your next special attack consume no rage. Again, the usefulness of this talent will depend on rage generation.  Right now, our rage generation is very good.  I don’t expect that to continue.  I don’t know if spending 3 points is worth it to get a 15% chance of rage reduction on an attack we only fire off every four to five seconds (averaging in S&B procs) anyway.

Cruelty (2 points)Increases the critical strike chance of your Bloodthirst, Mortal Strike, and Shield Slam hits by 5/10%. Gee, you’d almost think they don’t want our white attacks critting anymore.  A 10% crit boost on Shield Slam only for two points…not sure the math on this one works out any better than Battle Trance, to be honest.  We’ll have to see.

Rude Interruption (2 points)Successfully interrupting a spell with Shield Bash or Pummel increases your damage by 5/10% for 15 seconds. This is a Tier 2 talent that’s gotten more press for the alleged political incorrectness of its icon than its actual use.  You can make an argument, as often as we interrupt spells, that the damage boost might be worth having to put 5 points into Fury to get it.  Well, I can’t, but maybe you can.

Piercing Howl (1 point, cost 10 rage)Causes all enemies within 10 yards to be Dazed, reducing movement speed by 50% for 6 seconds. The fact that this is now a Tier 2 Fury talent puts it, potentially, within reach of Prot warriors.  I’m not sold on its usefulness for a PvE tank, but I can sure see Prot PvPers all over it.

Arms

War Academy (3 points)Increases the damage of your Heroic Strike, Cleave, Victory Rush, and Slam abilities by 5/10/15%. Hmmm.  That’s actually pretty tempting.  HS and Cleave won’t get spammed as much as they used to (well, Cleave might, HS, not so much).  But when you see other talents in this tier, it definitely becomes second fiddle.

Field Dressing (2 points)Increases your self healing abilities by 10/20% and all healing effects on you by 3/6%. It doesn’t take too many brain cells to see this being mandatory for tanks, and quite honestly, good for grinding as well.  Right now, normal level 80 trashy quest grind mobs hit a lot harder than they do on live–try three times as hard.  Any boost to the considerable self-healing we’re now provided (Blood Craze, Victory Rush, Enraged Regeneration, even bandages) is a big plus.

Blitz (2 points)Your Charge ability generates 5/10 additional rage and stuns 1/2 additional targets. I’ve always liked the old Improved Charge talent, and this is its successor.  But with only 41 points to spread around, I’m not sure we’ll have room.

Abilities

Phew!  Well, that’s the tree changes…but we’ve still got to get to the major changes to some of our abilities…

On-next-attack abilities are gone. Cleave and Heroic Strike are now instant attacks with short cooldowns.  This means the (probable) end of having to bind HS to your mouse wheel and spinning while tanking.

Shout mechanics have changed. Battle and Commanding Shout are much more like death nuggets’ Horn of Winter.  They generate rage now instead of costing it, but have long (1-minute) cooldowns.  Since our rage decays so fast out of combat, they’re actually more useful to hit in combat as a backup to Bloodrage, which breaks my old technique of hitting whichever Shout I’m using after I kill something, to keep it refreshed.

Victory Rush. As currently implemented in build 12759, Victory Rush has suddenly become your best friend ever.  It’s now usable in Defensive Stance, and as always, gives you a single rage-free attack.  Oh, and now in the beta, it heals you.  For 20% of your maximum health. You heard me right, kids.  Between this, Enraged Regeneration for emergencies, and the Fury talent Blood Craze, a well-geared Prot warrior simply never stops killing.  You need to keep killing to get that tasty multi-thousand-point heal from VR.  And since Victory Rush has no cooldown…you can pull big and hit VR after each mob in the pack dies for a big shot of health.  I will actually be surprised if this goes live the way it is now, because it’s that awesome and I’m that big a pessimist.

No more Shield Block Value. When you block, you block 30% of the incoming damage.  On a crit block, you block 60%.  The Shield Block ability still basically lets you block everything for 10 seconds, but it’s no longer the total immunity against trash that it was in Wrath.

The order in which you get abilities is scrambled. I’m not even trying to figure it out.  I haven’t leveled a Prot warrior in the beta, and probably won’t try it until after Cataclysm goes live and I have some time to work on my mains and existing alts.

Shield Wall isn’t as effective. The damage reduction in the beta is down to 40% from 60% in live…but with three points in the excellent Shield Mastery talent, the cooldown is only 2 minutes.  Basically, you can talent into what is now the glyphed version of Shield Wall.  Less absorption, more often.

OK, that’s enough for one day.  Hell, that’s more than enough for one day.  If you’ve made it to the end of this wall-o-text, congratulations!

Soon I hope to have more posts up on the Prot leveling experience in Cataclysm’s beta…both from the point of view of a highly-geared raid tank (Linedan) and a fresh 80 with relatively minimal gear (Latisha).  Stay tuned.


The obligatory UI post

I’m pretty sure that there’s a rule of WoW blogging, buried somewhere in the middle of the handbook between sections on “How to Handle Trolls” and “Things You May and May Not Call Ghostcrawler,” that sooner or later, you’re required to show your UI off to the world.  I have successfully avoided doing this for 15 months because, quite frankly, most of the various iterations of my UI are a horrible mess that are sure to cause panic in the aisles like the original screenings of King Kong.  Brave men will go weak in the knees, frail women will get the vapors and faint, children will be scarred for life, and pets will hide under the furniture and not come out, all because my UI finally saw the light of public scrutiny.

The hell with it.  A little chaos is good for the world every now and then.

Plus, I’ve actually got it kitbashed up to the point where, while it’s not super-polished and pretty, and still has some problems, I actually get good use out of it.  It’s not the most elegant use of phospors and pixels out there, but it actually works for me, and that’s the most important thing, right?

See, my UI, like many, is a work of evolution, and my evolution only occurs when something I already have doesn’t work.  Patch days are when my UI takes steps forward out of the primordial ooze.  I have this cycle:  I find something I like and I use it, and won’t change…until a patch breaks it and there’s no update available.  Then I grumble a bit, go find something to “temporarily” replace that function, and fall in love with it so the “temporary” replacement becomes permanent.  That’s just how I roll.

So.  Without any further stalling, here’s the business.  Click to see my UI during a 10-man Saurfang at 1024×768, click again for it in all its dubious full-sized 1680×1050 glory:

I’ve numbered each feature, or at least most of them, so let’s go through them one by one:

(more…)


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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy tanking!


The Latisha Experiment: Update #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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