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Posts tagged “instance

Looking For Durp

Recently I’ve had something of a yen to start playing my sorely neglected dwarf hunter Beltar.  Now Beltar has finished all the Cataclysm zone and quest content, pretty much, and is walking around with a typical mixture of quest rewards and a very few dungeon pieces, giving him an ilevel of 346.  That’s good enough to do normal heroics, but not good enough for patch 4.3 heroics or anything bigger than that.  So if I wanted to gear him up–and improve my somewhat marginal huntarding skills in the process–there was really only one place for the grizzled old gunbunny to go.

The Dungeon Finder.

So last night I decided that it would be Dungeon Finder night.  I would queue and queue and queue again in LFD.  Normally I avoid LFD like I’d avoid, say, a glass-shard lollipop drizzled in Ebola and tetanus.  But that’s as a tank on Linedan.  I figured, with gearing to the point where normal Cataclysm heroics are starting to approach faceroll status, a semi-competent knowledge of Basic Marks Huntering 101, and 340-level gear, I could hold my own, work on improving my rotations and DPS, pick up the Ramkahen rep I need to hit Exalted and get the +agi head enchant, and score at least one piece of loot.

I don’t know when I turned into such a raving optimist.  I really don’t.

So with his Harkoa-cat Longpaw by his side and his newly transmogged gun-that’s-actually-a-crossbow cocked and locked, I hit “I”, clicked “Enter Queue,” waited 10 minutes, and set off on my adventure…

First dungeon:  Blackrock Caverns.  It set the tone for how the rest of the evening would go that the poor DK tank couldn’t hold agro on anything, even with my Misdirects, from a geared and aggressive mage.  (He wasn’t trying to be a jerk, he was just putting out a lot of pain.)  We wiped on Rom’ogg Bonecrusher but got him on the second try after I stupidly ate a Skullcracker and died.  Then when we were heading down to Corla, we shortcut down the rough ground to the left instead of going down the ramp to the right.  Guess which way Longpaw went and brought some friends?  Yeah.  Stupid cat + stupid hunter = fail.  After the wipe, I dropped group to save them the trouble of votekicking me over it.

Second dungeon:  Deadmines.  I cringed when I saw this one.  I always hated tanking heroic DM.  Fortunately we had a monster of a tank, a death nugget with over 200,000 health that was simultaneously doing over 16,000 DPS.  (I’m fine.  Really.  That totally didn’t rekindle my deep-seated hatred of DK tanks who can top the DPS charts while tanking.  At all.)  We started off, of course, at “gogogogogo” pace, the tank not even waiting for the healer to be in line-of-sight to do pulls because, hey, he’s a DK with over 200k health, he can do that.  Everything was going pretty well and I was starting to get into something resembling a groove–even though the healer dropped without a word in mid-trash-pull after we killed Helix.  The DK survived because, hey, he’s a DK with over 200k health, he can do that.  Then we got to the Foe Reaper 5000.

We wiped on him the first time because nobody got into the Prototype Reaper to handle the Molten Slag adds.  The tank linked the Recount from the fight…because, hey, he’s a DK with over 200k health, he can do that.  The healer dropped without a word, as did the tank.  We got another tank, a warrior, who promptly pulled FR5000 while the mage and myself were standing around the Prototype Reaver at the top of the room.  Again, nobody got into the Reaver and we died.  The warrior asks “wtf have any of you done this before?”  As it turns out?  The mage hadn’t seen the instance before.  Everybody else but me and him instantly drop.

Third dungeon:  Deadmines again, because the RNG is laughing at me.  This time, the tank was a feral druid, and he was even healthier (207k!) and better than the previous run’s death nugget.  And he pulled even faster.  Healer around the corner?  Didn’t matter, he was a BARE STORNG 4 FITE.  And truly, it didn’t.  We demolished our way up to Foe Reaper again.  And again, on the first attempt, nobody got in the damn Prototype and we wiped.

On the second attempt, this time, I got in the Prototype.  I had never done it before and had no clue what to do, but fortunately, Rashona the Aggrokitty was at her computer next to me and talked me through it.  I did a truly shitty job of Molten Slag control, but we got FR5000 down.  Somehow.

We moved on, and got to Ripsnarl.  We dropped him and he dropped his two-handed agility axe, Rockslicer.  Now Beltar is still using the blue ilevel 318 polearm quest reward from Deepholm, so that axe would’ve been a nice upgrade, the first I’d seen in the heroic runs.  So I rolled Need.

So did the fury warrior.

He won.

Oh, and on Vanessa?  I missed the rope on the first rope phase, fell off the boat, walked through fire, swam around, and got back up top just in time for her to die, greeted by a chorus of “lol” and “wtf” from my teammates.  But at least I finally finished a heroic and got my 150 Valor Points.

Fourth dungeon:  Once more into the durp, dear friends, and this time, it was Stonecore.  Cool, I thought, I never did finish off the quest to kill the end boss in there.  Unfortunately, I realized quickly that this wasn’t going to be a full instance run, because when I blipped in, I saw myself staring at Ozruk, along with two DPS.  We picked up another healer and a high-health feral tank, and pulled.

The tank promptly faced Ozruk toward us at point-blank range with us penned into a corner.  Ozruk then Ground Slammed before we could find a clear spot and killed both me and the healer, and the rest of the group wiped shortly after.  The tank yelled at us “wtf does nobody know how to play wow anymore” and dropped group.  (Obviously, that was a rhetorical question on his part.)  So did one of the DPS.

We got a replacement DPS and another tank, a paladin this time, and even though the pally had much less health than the bear, his tank job on Ozruk was absolutely perfect.  Ozruk and Azil fell easily and for the second time I got myself 150 sweet tasty Valor Points.  We did so well, in fact, that we requeued as a group save the healer.  Things were finally starting to look up!

Fifth dungeon:  Lost City of the Tol’vir.  Excellent, another dungeon that I had a leftover quest in (Oathsworn Captains).  The run started off completely uneventful.  We killed the first boss without issue.  Then we hit the trash pack after the boss.  The tank immediately keeled over.  We wiped.  The healer dropped without a word, as did the tank, and the group fell apart.

Sixth dungeon:  Grim Batol.  Fun times.  With our DK tank in the lead, we set off and proceed to have a fairly uneventful run…until after the second boss.  Then the healer, who had been catching a bit of flak from the tank, drops and we pick up another.  We keep going and then we get to the third boss, Dragha Shadowburner.

We ended up winning, but the fight didn’t go well.  Our fury warrior died, got battle-rezzed, and died again.  The fight seemed to take absolutely forever compared to the other times I’ve done it.  And then after the fight, the tank went nuts.  He linked the Recount for the fight, showing him doing 11k dps, me doing 10k, the fury warrior doing 8k, and the lock doing 6k.  He started berating the warrior, testing the limits of the profanity filter in a way that’d make R. Lee Ermey sit up and take notice.  He screamed at the fury warrior for dying twice (the warrior said he was hung over), then screamed at the warlock for only doing about 6k dps on the fight.  The lock dropped group.  Then the tank said “votekick plz.”

And I found myself standing in a field in Western Plaguelands where I’d been doing archeology when the queue popped.

I got votekicked.

For doing more DPS on a boss fight than the other two DPS.

At which point, I said “fuck it,” went back to Stormwind, hung out in the Pig and Whistle, RP’d with a few of the Wildfire Riders, and got Beltar shitfaced.  (See picture above.)

And thus ended my evening of dungeoning.  The final totals?

Six instances.  Two completed (one partial).  300 Valor Points.  Around 600 Justice Points.  About 7,000 Ramkahen rep.  120 gold in repair bills from all the wipes.  One piece of greed loot (an agi sword) that I can use as RP gear and nothing else.  And 25 points in Archeology in between queue pops.

So what did I learn from my three hours of sheer heroic hell?

1.  I have the worst luck in the universe.  This isn’t new, I’ve known this since my D&D days, where it was a complete certainty that if I needed a good dice roll–as player or DM, didn’t matter–I wouldn’t get it.  I was the Master of the Badly-Timed Fumble.  My dice logged a lot of frequent flyer miles after being thrown through the air in frustration.  Rashona, who runs LFD almost every day on one of her immense stable of alts, was boggled at the run of bad groups I had.  She has issues in LFD, who doesn’t?  But never that many, that fast.

2.  I’m not a very good hunter.  I need to get better.  People are telling me that the 10-11k DPS range I typically do is low for Beltar’s level of gearing.  I need to go do some spec and rotation theorycrafting for marks.

3.  LFD is even worse now than it was during Wrath.  I didn’t think that was possible, but it is.  It’s not so much the skill or gear level of the players, because that’s always going to be a mixed bag.  It’s the attitudes.  I really couldn’t imagine people being less patient than they were when we were running Halls of Whatever in our sleep, but they are.  If the slightest little thing goes wrong, people will drop.  There’s no thought toward just sticking it out with a group and succeeding.  It’s all me, me, me, me, me.

4.  Please, let me apologize on behalf of the good and kindly tanks out there, of which I think a few may still exist.  I refused to believe it, but yes, we tanks really have turned into a bunch of entitled prima donna douchebags.

5.  I’m going to keep trying.  Why not?  I won’t get any better on Beltar, or won’t get him any better geared, if I don’t run instances, and Looking for Dumbassery is still the quickest and easiest way to gear him up and work on my huntering, if also the most soul-crushing occasionally.

6.  Tanks who can simultaneously tank an instance in their sleep and blow away the DPS meters still piss me off.  It’s not you guys, it’s me.  I’m just jealous.

My wife has the best attitude toward PUGs, because she (bless her heart) tanks a lot of them on her various druids.  She just says, “I don’t see it as a dungeon group.  I see it as an escort quest.”


Tis the season…to be jerks

Well, here it is.  Christmas.  The day where lots of us celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Or where we come together with our families for togetherness, football, and excessive alcohol consumption.  Or even where you don’t believe in either of the above, but appreciate a couple of days off from work.  It’s supposed to be a time of fellowship and good cheer, right?  Fa la la la and all that.

Unfortunately, Dear Readers, I bring you a tale that proves that assholishness is a 24/7/365.25 kind of thing.  It comes, not surprisingly, from the WoW random dungeon finder.  And it involves not me, your humble Panzercow, but my wife, your slightly less humble (with good reason) Aggro Kitty.

A bit of background on my wife.  She’s been playing WoW almost as long as I have, a bit over five years.  In that time, her main has always been Rashona the Tauren druid.  And Rashona has always been feral.  She was feral before feral was cool.  She was feral when being feral meant “lol, shut up and heal me.”  She has catted and beared her way through vanilla and three expansions now.  She knows her feralness.  (Ferality?  Feralosity?)  She raids with The Anvil 25-man, as feral kitteh DPS, and I daresay, she’s pretty damn good at it.  In a class with one of the two nastiest rotations for DPS in Wrath of the Lich King, she was a consistent performer in our raid.  She may not be a theorycrafter and number-cruncher at an Elitist Jerks level, but she’s a solid, competent, skilled feral cat durid, and is very, very storng 4 fite.  (She also has seven level 80s to my six, because she actually likes leveling.  Yeah, I don’t get it either.)

So like me, she’s been running normals here lately to get her gear up to the magic number of 329…which is the average item level, as calculated by the client, that lets you use the LFD tool to queue for heroics.  Yesterday, she hit it.  So last night, while I was flying around Twilight Highlands strip-mining it of its valuable natural resources, she entered the interminable DPS queue for her first heroic.  And 30 minutes later, she got it.  She landed in an in-progress heroic Blackrock Caverns with four others, all from the Mug’thol (US) server.  Their names were Butternuts (hunter), Soad (mage), Cartol (paladin tank), and…wait for it…Dudeihealu (holy paladin).

Now my wife, being the polite Georgia girl that she is, said hello, and then asked something like “btw, this is my first heroic…is there anything special you need me to do?”  This was the result:

Well.  Sort of defeats the purpose of the random dungeon finder being, uh, random, doesn’t it?  “Yeah, listen, we don’t know anything about you other than you can type in complete sentences with punctuation, which scares the hell out of us.  But you look too scrubby in our considered opinion, so could you please eat a deserter debuff after waiting 30 minutes in the queue to get in, so we could get some deeps that lives up to our arbitrary standards of l33t, plox?  Thanks ever so much.”  (Please note that she has done BRC on normal at least four times on two different characters, so she knows the basic layout and mechanics of the place.)

Now my wife is no wilting flower.  She’s a steel magnolia.  So she stood her ground.  That resulted in:

“Man up get over here and prove your feathers.”  Fair enough.  A little difficult when you’re feral, but, hey, “w/e i don’t c around it.”

At this point, I imagine she was torn between standing her ground to “prove her feathers,” and running screaming away from the stupid.  (Even though I was sitting just a few feet to her right, I heard nothing about this.  I was too busy drooling over elementium nodes.)

So they pulled Corla, Herald of Twilight, aka Netherspite with Boobs.  And for whatever reason, they wiped on her.  And that caused this one final example of Christmas good cheer:

At this point, even my wife had had enough and left our four heroes from Mug’thol to pick up the pieces.  Then she told me about what happened.  And as you can probably guess by the fact that I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, I was furious. My Southern chivalry kicked in, I guess, even though Rashona is perfectly capable of defending herself.  Stuff like this sits at the conjunction of three things that make me rage:  insults against my family or friends, unwarranted gear elitism, and general assholier-than-thou behavior.

So listen here, you Mug’tholian Four Horsemen of the Dumbassaclypse.  The LFD tool is random, you jackholes.  You don’t get to pick and choose “340+ ilevel, PST armory link and notarized letter.”  You take what you get and you work with it…a fact those of us with actual functioning brain cells are far too aware of when we end up stuck with droolers like you.  You couldn’t find one other magically l33t DPS on your server to avoid having to PUG a fifth?  Clearly you guys had already run off at least one DPS since Rashona fell into a BRC where you’d already killed the first boss.  Nope.  Y’all get a DPS out of the queue who is technically capable of entering the instance, with ilevel 329, and decide that’s not good enough.  I guess you guys didn’t think you were good enough to cover for her, huh?  Wanting to get carried, maybe?

Oh, and Cartol.  The tank.  The one who kept repeating “leave rashona” over and over again like some sort of yoga mantra for the socially deficient.  You get special attention, son.  If I were churlish, I could mention that you didn’t even qualify for your own group’s internal ilevel 340+ restriction because you’re just at ilevel 334.  Or I could mention that you don’t have a single gem or enchant anywhere on your gear as I write this, even on stuff that the activity feed says you’ve had for days.  Or I could mention that you’re showing six empty glyph slots.  Karma is a bitch, homeboy, and so is the Armory.  I would actually understand your pretensions to l33th00d if you’d actually take the time to fix your own shit up before jumping on somebody just six item level points under you, with more glyphs, more enchants, and more gems.

Fortunately, there is a happy ending to this tale of stupidity.  After taking a few minutes to calm down, Rashona got into a group of friends running heroic Lost City of Tol’vir (thank you, Destril, for making room for her–you did not need to do that and it was very sweet of you to do so <3 ) and had quite a good time.  As for what happened to the other four…who cares?

Then the Ghosts of Dickheads Future disappear in a rattle of chains and a wail of “6.6k gs wtf,” snow starts to fall, a gnome limps into the frame and shouts “God bless us, every one!”, and we all go have a happy Christmas holiday.

Rant completed.  I have to start wrapping presents, go to Christmas Eve service tonight, and get ready to make a 125-mile drive tomorrow morning for Christmas with the in-laws’ family.  So from here in the Dumpster of Love, deep in the maybe-snowy urban wilds of North Carolina…from the Panzercow family, Linedan, Rashona, and Nublet, may you all have a merry and blessed Christmas.  May your drops always be purple and your groups be durp-free.  Love ya, guys.


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.


A little randomness never hurt

Lately, my blogging Muse seems to have deserted me.  So while I wait for her to return from wherever she’s gone off to–my guess, personally, is that she’s on a bus heading for a gambling weekend at the Harrah’s casino down near Cherokee–here’s some random and semi-coherent rantings for a Good Friday:

- 0.9% wipe on Putricide last night in The Anvil’s 25-man.  ZERO POINT NINE BLEEPING PERCENT.  Maybe 400,000 health from our first Putricide kill after weeks of trying.  That’s just brutal, especially given our track record of being short on people for Friday raids (and this week looks to be no exception).  We executed near-perfectly on him last night on all attempts, for the most part, but even with Hellscream’s New and Improved Buff of Pity, we wiped at 3% and 0.9%, among a few others.  It can get frustrating as hell when you do everything (or almost everything, as close as you’ll get with 25 people and lag and whatnot) correctly, the abomination driver noms up all the slime and keeps Putricide slashed up, nobody dies to the oozes, and come phase 3, you still can’t quite seal the deal.  And that’s the killer part–we know we own this dweeb, he just hasn’t actually fallen over and coughed up the loot yet.  We need to get The Good News Man down so we can move on to Valithria Dreamwalker, Team Edward, and Blood Queen Gaga.

- I guess the Random Dungeon Gods like me.  I haven’t had any truly bad LFD groups in a couple of weeks.  Oh, there’s always some with some durp durp here and some durp durp there, here a durp, there a durp, everywhere a durp durp, but in general, I haven’t run across any real mind-bending Stupid for a while now.  In fact, since I run almost all my randoms as DPS (yes, even on Linedan–sometimes I just can’t be arsed dealing with tanking when I’m tired), I’ve been fortunate to get a string of modestly-geared yet extremely competent tanks.  It warms my heart to see a warrior tank with 32k health do a whale of a job tanking Forge of Souls–not an easy dungeon to PUG even at Lin’s inflated gear level–and have the other four people in the group work with him, not bitch him out for being geared at the appropriate level for an ICC heroic.  Of course, the next night, I get Lin-as-Fury into a FoS group where he’s out-DPSed by the tank…a druid with 58,000 health pulling 4300 dps, while Lin did 3900.  Wow.

- Speaking of Forge of Souls…I’ve taken to random specific heroics on a few characters, in addition to random dailies.  Linedan is stacking armor penetration as part of his Fury build…hence, trips to Forge of Souls for the tasty Needle-Encrusted Scorpion.  (Irony:  Beltar, my dwarf MM hunter who isn’t stacking passive arpen?  Got the Scorpion last week.)  My blood elf BM hunter Illithanis runs one of the three ICC heroics, because there’s something for her in each one–the Scorpion from Forge, the Felglacier Bolter from Pit of Saron, or the Orca-Hunter’s Harpoon from Halls of Waves of Trash.  For RP purposes, I’d prefer to get Illy one or two swords, as they seem more “elvish” a weapon than polearms or staves, but I’m not sure where I can even find hunter-itemized 1H or (especially) 2H swords these days without raiding.  No luck on the up-gearing yet, but it’s only a matter of time, right?

- I don’t get all the BM hunter hate.  Yes, I know, BM is weak sister to marks and survival in SRS BSNS progression raiding right now.  (Although we have a BM hunter in The Anvil who is absolutely wrecking shit…and proving a few people wrong about BM and raiding, at least in our behind-the-cutting-edge way, in the process.)  Personally, I think BM as a spec is slightly harder to raid with than MM.  I’ve got limited raiding experience in both, and honestly, I’ll take the somewhat trickier shot rotation of MM over the pet micromanagement of BM if I’m looking for “easy.”  MM feels like I’m more powerful because I’m seeing these crazy large numbers spamming down the right center of my screen…then I go look at Recount, and Illithanis, with modest gear compared to Beltar, is within 500 dps of the dwarf in heroics, and pulling solid numbers on her very rare ventures into Big Round Room.  Consistently.

- Highest Revenge crit since 3.3.3:  12,294.  Oh yeah.  I think I like this.

- But not even New Revenge compares to the power that is death nuggets’ new boosted Icy Touch–or, as the Twitterati have dubbed it, Icy Dickpunch.  Moody over at Death Grip My Heart (warning:  possible NSFW artwork of hot dead blood elf chick) has a pretty good post on it.  Short version:  It’s doing up to fourteen and a half times more threat than it did pre-patch.  And I believe it.  Revenge’s high damage has boosted our threat gen considerably, but now, our raid DK tank can accidentally pull mobs off me with Icy Touch crits.  Beforehand, if I could gain the threat lead on a mob we were both tanking, like Festergut or Saurfang, I could hold it without difficulty.  Now?  I lost the handle on Saurfang twice last night because of Icy Dickpunch crits pulling him back over onto the DK immediately after a taunt.  I thought I was suddenly missing taunts, but instead, it was just good old-fashioned accidental agro pong.

- Tamarind wrote a fantastic post over at Righteous Orbs on why “casual” raiding doesn’t–or shouldn’t–mean “roll in 15 minutes late and then go AFK to pinch a loaf.”  He said it a lot better than that, of course.  He’s British.  They do that.  Say things better, I mean.  (BTW, if you are not reading Tamarind and Chastity over at RO, you should.  You’re missing out.)

That’s pretty much it from the Panzercow Bunker.  Here’s hoping my Muse catches the bus back from Harrah’s, hopefully not too broke, next week.  Have a happy Easter weekend, kids.


Shutting down the haters

Today, I bring you an “it came from the PUG” story with a happy ending.

Our setting:  The Nexus.  I was there on my enhancement fail!shaman Sakula, who is geared…modestly, let’s just put it that way.  Can’t recall offhand if he’s got any greens left, but he’s just gotten his second piece of base T9 and is otherwise mostly rocking item level 187/200 blues and the occasional 200 epic.

We all zoned in, and as always, I scanned my party frame to pick out the tank.  It’s a reflex that comes from having two hunters–on them, the very first thing I always do is target the tank and make him/her/it my focus target so my Misdirect macro works properly.  I saw that our tank was a female blood elf paladin…and she had 22,600 health.

I moused over her, and my tooltip told me she was prot spec.  I looked, figuring she had her ret gear on…nope, that’s a shield and a one-handed mace.  Hmm, this is cool.  Maybe we can get her some upgrades!  I mean, sheesh, it’s Nexus, right?  We’re not exactly talking heroic Halls of Reflection here.  So I dropped target on her and went back to making sure my totems were set the way I wanted them.

Next thing I see is the party healer, a tree druid, say:  “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

Ah, it never fails.  A tank with less than 40k unbuffed health walks into a heroic, and people start crapping themselves.  Before the first pull, before the tank had a chance to prove themselves, the tree took one look at the tank’s gear and immediately thought “fail.”

To her credit, the paladin stood her ground and said, “Is there a problem?” or something similar.  Oh yeah, you go pallytank.  The druid didn’t say anything.  The paladin, honor apparently satisfied, turned around and headed off to pull the first drake.

And so, off we went toward the Halls of Stasis.  The only other comment the druid made the entire time was, a couple pulls in, another snide comment to the tank:  “Could you at least buff yourself so I have something to heal?”  Oh, this guy’s a real douchetree.  One Blessing of Kings later, she was up to about 24.5k health, and on we continued.

We took the usual route through Nexus, and other than the undergeared-worse-than-me mage dying twice on Grand Magus Telestra trash, it was a solid, unexceptional heroic Nexus run.  The paladin tank did a solid job holding agro and other than one somewhat cocked-up trash pull where agro went wonky (causing us to scramble like hell, me to bring out the spirit doggies early, etc.), everything hummed along in the fine boring manner you’d expect.

20 minutes later, we stood in front of Keristrasza’s corpse.  And I couldn’t resist, after seeing the “undergeared” paladin tank shut up Mr. “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me” Treebag with a great tank job.  I turned to the paladin and said “Great tanking, Renai, thank you.”  Other than a “thank you” from Renai, want to know what the two replies I got were?

Rogue:  “lol easy with tricks”

Druid:  “pfft great heals more like” *drop group*

Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to ignore the druid, or to personally compliment the tank before she dropped group.  So I’ll say it here instead, and hope there’s a 1-in-1000 chance it gets back to him/her/it:  Renai of Suramar, I salute you for a job well done.  And, most importantly, I salute you for standing your ground in the face of Non-Overgeared Tank Hate, and for shutting down the haters.


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.


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.


So awful, it was awesome

Everybody’s got pick-up group (“PUG”) horror stories.  If you’ve played WoW for any length of time, and grouped with total strangers to try and get a quest or instance or raid completed, you’ll quickly start building a list of tales of woe.  If nothing else, PUGs should make you feel much better about yourself, I think…after all, since you’re smart enough to be reading this fine blog, obviously you are a top-notch human being in general and WoW player in particular, and do not deserve to group with people so stupid that they have to put a sticky note on their monitor to remind themselves to breathe.

But even the best of us–and I–sometimes have to PUG.  And last night, I ran across a doozy.

I was on my hunter alt, and wanted to run the daily heroic, which was Gundrak.  Now Gundrak isn’t the easiest WotLK heroic out there, in my opinion.  Slad’ran (the poison snake boss) has wiped me more times than I care to think about; even with excellent players and a top healer in T7/T8 raid gear, his Poison Nova can throw out more damage than we can power through.  The Drakkari Colossus is a pain-in-the-ass pray-your-and-your-healer’s-latency-is-low movement fight.  Even Gal’darah, who’s pretty straightforward, will gib a strong tank if the tank has a brain fart and doesn’t get out of whirlwinds.  (Don’t ask me how I know this.  Please.)

But, against my better judgement, I joined the LFG queue for it anyway.  And a couple of minutes later, I got a whisper–”h gun?”

Let’s see.  No complete words, all lowercase, and this on an RP server.  I feel a winner of a run coming on.  Eh, toujours de l’audace, dude, what the hell…”Sure!”, I replied.  I immediately found myself in a group with the group leader (a boomchicken), a warlock, and a male human paladin–obviously the tank, since he had over 40,000 health–named…Hotbox.

Ohhhhh yeah.  The stench of quality is overpowering with this one.

I flew for Gundrak while the leader druid rustled up a healer (another druid), and the five of us headed inside.  I was immediately greeted with Blizzard’s lovely new feature…the “ZOMG are you sure you want to save to this instance??!?!?11?” dialog box.  Hmm.  That’s not supposed to happen.  Well, we were all a bit confused by this, but all of us accepted and thus saved ourselves to that heroic Gundrak instance.  And down the stairs we went toward Slad’ran’s area.

We got to the entrance, ate a Fish Feast, and the paladin “Hotbox” pulled.  Without warning.  Two groups.  Hoo boy.  A frenetic and confused fight ensued in which the warlock and tree died, but we got both the trash groups.  The resto druid popped (yay soulstones) and started rezzing the warlock…as the paladin pulled more trash without saying anything.  Ugh.  We four-manned the trash, got the warlock back in…and then the tree said, “no boss.”

We looked.  Slad’ran wasn’t in his alcove.  We walked over to the alcove and saw that the alcove bridge gizmo had been activated.  In fact, all the gizmos had been activated, the bridge to Gal’darah’s ramp was aligned, and had the trolls and rhinos in position.  That meant that Slad’ran, the Colossus, and Moorabi were all dead.

Now people started getting pissed.  The critchicken who had the “hat” denied vehemently that he’d been in Gundrak that day, as did the rest of us.  And yet somehow, we were looking at an instance where the trash was up, but the bosses weren’t, the worst possible combination.

So the rest of the party started jumping off the ledge into the water.  I was last because, of course, I had to dismiss my pet.  In that period of time, people started getting eaten by the fish.  A clusterfuck ensued, resulting eventually in us getting to the ramp with two more deaths, to which the group leader said, and I quote exactly, “lol.”

Yeeeeah.

We formed back up, buffed, and fought our way up the ramp to Gal’darah’s area…

…and he wasn’t there.  His bodyguards and their rhinos were.  But he wasn’t.

The paladin pulled the rhinos (without saying anything) anyway, and nearly died because we were all too busy going “wtf?!?” in party chat, but we got them.  A ferocious argument ensued where the boomkin protested his innocence and swore he hadn’t been in Gundrak for at least a week.  Hotbox also said he hadn’t been in Gundrak for at least a week.  The other two said it had been longer than that, and I hadn’t had my dwarf in there for literally a couple of months.

So there our tale ends.  Hotbox (!) the male paladin, plus the other four of us, all hearthed our separate ways, probably to never see each other again except amidst the bustling crowds of Dalaran…or in the LFG tool someday, God forbid.  I had a pittance of silver and a locked instance with no way to score the two Triumph badges I wanted.  Either somebody was lying their ass off, or had gotten tricked, or we had a bugged instance.  And it was 25 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.

I balmed my wounded soul by wandering off to the Pig and Whistle in Old Town Stormwind for four hours of the best RP I’ve had in many a month…culminating in a raid by the Stormwind Guard, two near-arrests, three strained marriages, a couple of damaged friendships, and one of the Wildfire Riders’ red-haired paladins telling another of the Wildfire Riders’ red-haired paladins to go fuck themselves, while the third of the Wildfire Riders’ red-haired paladins stood there and shook her head in disbelief.

What’s two Triumph badges in comparison to that?


Now why didn’t I think of this?

This idea from Llanion at Mad Cow Chronicles may be the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.  Get some friends together, strip down naked, start at Ragefire Chasm (or Deadmines for you Alliance types), and tear through instances of increasing difficulty, equipping only what you loot.  How cool is this?


If you’ve ever been That Guy in a PUG:

Hannelore over at The Egotistical Priest has a few things to say to you.  Take them to heart, and you may spontaneously evolve into something with an actual functioning nervous system.


Good things come to those who wait

Last night I noodled around on my alt hunters a bit before logging on Lin and doing a couple of Icecrown quests.  Meanwhile, my wife Rashona was running through normal Halls of Lightning with some mutual friends.  Suddenly on one of my chat channels, I see a member of that party asking “can anybody come and finish HoL with us?  Z’s connection is going flaky.”  Well, I’d been planning to give my aching wrists a night off from tanking, but these are my friends, and that is my wife, and it is Halls of Lightning…

15 minutes, five trash pulls, and one dead Loken later, look what I found.

Happy Panzercow, I am.  Picking the Seal up in place of my old Coren’s Lucky Coin let me yank a +16 defense gem out of my T6 shoulders and replace it with a +7 crit/+11 stamina sparkly out of the guild bank.  Then this morning, I made Revered with the Argent Crusade (I hate you, Alchemist Finklestein, so much) and got the +20 defense/+37 stamina enchant on ye olde Crusader’s Resolution.  23637 health and 21661 armor unbuffed now, 555 defense–and that’s without Titanweave on my cloak and without +20 defense on my shield, so I’ve got a good solid defense cushion now.  Overall, my stats are now solidly enough for most heroics, maybe even the really hard ones like Pinnacle and HoL with a good healer.

I do feel bad about my bud Zemmen not getting this, though.  Don’t worry, Z.  Get that connection fixed and I’ll give Loken the pimp hand all you want until he coughs one up for you.


Heroic cow is heroic

So Linedan is finally starting to tank a few heroics; so far, just Nexus, Drak’theron Keep, and Violet Hold. 

I was admittedly very skittish starting out; folks who know me know that I tend to be pretty insecure about my ability as a tank, even though I’m perfectly competent at it.  But after a few horrid experiences with Burning Crusade heroics–the worst of which was a seven- or eight-wipe run in heroic Slave Pens, the “easy” heroic, back in the day–I basically gave up tanking heroic five-mans until 3.0 and WotLK came out.  I concentrated on raid tanking in Karazhan and beyond for my badges, and left the overtuned BC five-man heroics to the paladins.

Well, despite my fears that Lin’s 22,500 health and 21,500 armor weren’t going to be enough, it all worked out OK.  The Nexus run went well aside from a couple of wipes on Telestra.  The Drak’theron and VH runs were with three people cranking out insane DPS and a very good druid healer, and other than a wipe on King Dred in DK, there were no worries.  We nailed VH with the shield still at 100% and got the achievement for never using a defense crystal…not that I even knew where they were if we did need them.  22-and-a-half-thousand unbuffed health is low for some instances, when you consider that King Dred landed a mangling hit on me for well over 12,000 at one point.  But a good healer, and intelligent planning of cooldown use (saving Shield Wall or Shield Block for special attacks, for example) can help with that.

He’s gotten a few upgrades, and now he’s at 23127 health, 21661 armor, 17% dodge, 15.5% parry, 13.8% block, and 544 defense, all unbuffed.  Tricked out with level 80 buffs in a five-man, he checks in at about 25,500 health, which can be pushed close to 28,000 if I go with Commanding Shout.  I don’t know if that’s enough for Naxx or not (one month and counting!) but it’s enough to get him through heroics for now.  Now, if we can convince Loken to drop his trinket, and Ymiron to part with a Red Sword of Courage…


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