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Posts tagged “Linedan

Loading Up the Kodo

I just wanted to toss out a quick note here, with a longer post to follow somewhere down the road…I have server transferred Linedan, the titular Panzercow of this blog and the smiling (?) face you see in the banner above, from his 7 1/2-year home of Feathermoon-US over to another roleplay server, Sentinels-US.  There he will be joining Portent Alliance to tank in whatever 10-man adventures they may face in the upcoming WoW expansion, My Little Panda:  Friendship is Overrated.

All the rest of my myriad characters will be staying on Feathermoon.  Beltar is still going to be killing things at a distance and getting into trouble along with the other “legitimate businessmen” of the Wildfire Riders, and my other three 85s have their own stories to tell and adventures to write.  But as for Lin, well, I had an opportunity to shake things up and raid with some folks that I know from Twitter and have met in meatspace a couple of times and hit it off with, and decided to go for it.

So come tomorrow when the Mists of Pandaria finally part, the Panzercow will have a new group of compatriots to beat things up with.  He leaves behind on Feathermoon 6+ years of awesome raid memories in Dissonant’s Softcore Raiders, The Anvil, and Doom and Blet, and hopefully will be creating new ones to add to that formidable stack.


Gracefully letting go

You see me now, a veteran of a thousand psychic wars
I’ve been living on the edge so long, where the winds of limbo roar
And I’m young enough to look at, and far too old to see
All the scars are on the inside
I’m not sure that there’s anything left of me

Don’t let these shakes go on, it’s time we had a break from it
It’s time we had some leave
We’ve been living in the flames
We’ve been eating up our brains
Oh please, don’t let these shakes go on

Sometime in the early fall of 2005, a level 60 warrior walked into Molten Core for the first time.  He was wearing a mixture of low- and mid-50s green and blue gear, maybe one or two pieces of Tier 0 dungeon set stuff, a few “of the” bits here and there.  In his giant, three-fingered hands, he wielded a Fist of Omokk; in his backpack, a shield and some one-hand weapon infinitely worse than even the Fist.  He was spec’d 31/5/15, back in the days of vanilla WoW when warriors occasionally tried a hybrid spec to off-tank while still doing DPS.  He had been level 60 for less than two months, and existed in Azeroth overall for maybe six.

His player had taken him from Arms, to Fury, to Prot, and back to Arms, and now Arms/Prot hybrid.  His player had no clue what he was doing.  His player was scared and excited as he got on Ventrilo with 39 other people and headed toward his very first raid pull.

Last week, a level 85 warrior walked onto the top of Wyrmrest Temple for the fifth time and peered down at the fallen corpse of Ultraxion, Deathwing’s ultimate creation.  He was wearing three pieces of Tier 13 armor, with a token for a fourth just placed in his bags.  He carried a sword and shield torn from the depths of the Firelands.  His average ilevel of the gear on his body and in his bags was 388.  He was a dedicated, skilled Prot warrior, four years running, with a Fury offspec that he never used, because he was the raid’s tank on single-tank fights and shared duties with a longtime paladin friend on the tank-swap fights.

His player had played him for going on seven years.  His player had a blog now, and had written guides about How to Be a Prot Warrior (even if those guides were one expansion old).

His player was miserable and burned out.  And had been for months.

How did it come to this?

You ask me why I’m weary, why I can’t speak to you
You blame me for my silence, say it’s time I changed and grew
But the war’s still going on, dear, and there’s nowhen that I know
And I can’t stand forever
I can’t say if we’re ever gonna be free

Don’t let these shakes go on, it’s time we had a break from it
It’s time we had some leave
We’ve been living in the flames
We’ve been eating up our brains
Oh please, don’t let these shakes go on

I took a long and convoluted path through raiding over my years in WoW.  In the beginning I had no intention of taking Linedan protection, I always wanted him to be a DPS warrior.  But the downsizing from 40- to 25-man raiding in The Burning Crusade, and having to hook up with a friend’s Karazhan 10-man as a tank because The Anvil, my current raid, had no room in the two Kara groups they’d formed, forced me to take Lin tanky…and the rest is history, I guess.  I grew to like it, then love it.  And I was able to work my way back into The Anvil and hang on to a spot as an offtank through TBC and into Wrath of the Lich King.

In Wrath, the raid went from three tanks to four in a rotation system.  There was tank drama as two different death knights came in at various times and moved into my raid role as #2 offtank.  Hence the rotation system, so they could keep four tanks on staff.  Despite that, I nearly lost my spot a couple of times and had to step my performance up.  But the rotation also meant that I got to actually main tank some fights for the first time.  And I was one of the two tanks the night The Anvil reached its crowning achievement, our lone Arthas 25-man kill.

Then the Cataclysm hit, in more ways then one.  The Anvil fell apart as people headed to guild 10-mans and the officers, after five hard years of cat herding, burned out.  Some of us formed two 10-man raids out of it, sharing some people but run separately one night a week, one on Wednesday and one on Friday.  After just a couple months, though, the two raids effectively merged into one two-night-a-week, three-hour-a-night raid.  With that raid, we moved through Tier 11 and 12 content.

It was partway through Bastion of Twilight/Blackrock Caverns that I began to notice that I wasn’t having as much fun in the 10s as I did in our old 25.  At first I chalked it up to less activity on Ventrilo and a slightly higher level of sobriety (but only slightly).  But as we slowly ground our way toward Cho’gall and Nefarian, the fun continued to lessen.  Then I thought that maybe I was just bored with the instances, and that it would pick back up when patch 4.2 dropped and we got to go to the Firelands.

It didn’t.  Firelands felt more like a slog than a fun way of overcoming challenges with friends.  I began to come to a horrifying realization.  After years of struggling and working to become a good tank, after finally achieving what I’d always wanted–a secure spot as a raid main tank–I was burned out.  Just when I’d hit my goal, I’d lost the fun of it.

So I went to our officers–my guildleader Ghaar and our Chief Cat Herder Dorritow–and asked for a sabbatical.  It would be the first true raid break I’d taken in over five years.  They approved, and so partway through Firelands I took a month off to recharge my batteries, the first time that I’d ever not attempted to raid when I was at home and the raid was going on.  And it helped.

But not enough.

When I came back, I fell back into my deepening spiral of burnout, made worse by the depression I’ve been flirting on-and-off with for years.  I only logged on during the week to raid, not even logging on alts to roleplay or Lin to accept calendar invites.  Instead of my old chatterbox self on Vent, I became more and more monosyllabic.  I found myself crossing my fingers that we wouldn’t find enough people so the raid would be cancelled.  When that tenth spot filled in, and the call went out to head to Firelands or Dragon Soul, I would sigh, shift in my chair, grumble a little bit, and head on inside.  Things that I never gave a damn about before–turns of phrase, certain fight mechanics, etc.–grated on my nerves like crunk in an old folks’ home.  My right hand was giving me low-grade chronic trouble on raid nights after a couple hours of hard tanking.  The second the raid was over, I would hearth back to Orgrimmar and immediately log out of WoW and Vent with nary a “good night.”  And I came to the dawning realization that this wasn’t salvageable.

I was done.  My raiding days, at least for quite a while, were over.

But obligation and pride are tough things to overcome.  Obligation, because I follow through on my commitments; me not wanting to be there didn’t matter, because the rest of my raid did, and therefore I was going to do what I always did–my best, whatever that was.  I worked hard to make sure that my performance never suffered no matter how badly I felt, and I think I pulled it off, if I’m honest.  Not to mention, these people are my friends, I’ve been raiding with most of them for years.  If I couldn’t raid for me, then I would suffer through the burnout and raid for them.

And pride, because I had finally “made it.”  I’d spent years falsely worrying that I was one step from being dropped from the raid every time I made a mistake.  I watched death knights move into my tanking spot and shatter my confidence because I thought the raid officers had brought them in to replace me instead of supplement us.  And through attrition and sheer dogged persistence more than anything else, I came out the other side as one of “the” two tanks in the surviving 10-man.  It is a very hard thing to let go of that after years of struggle.  I like being the main tank.  I like being on point.  I’m not the greatest tank in the world, never have been, never will be.  But I do the job that’s put in front of me to the best of my ability, and that’s gotten me to tanking a fairly successful (5/8 normal) T13 ten-man, so I guess I’m not that bad.

Well, matters came to a head this week.  There was no drama, no meltdown, no spectacular failure.  Dorri simply came to me and said that the officers had noticed the shape I was in–it wasn’t much of a secret, as I’m a very bad actor–and that if I needed to drop out, I could, they could find another tank.  And after we talked it out, I realized that she was right…that I was doing a disservice to myself and my friends in Doom and Blet if I kept digging myself into a hole and coming when I just wasn’t having any enjoyment with it.  It can have a subtle, corrosive effect on a raid over time when someone is so obviously down and depressed about being there.  I should know, I’ve seen it happen.  And now they were seeing it happen with me.

And so, I made the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in World of Warcraft.

The mighty Panzercow hung up his sword and shield.

You see me now, a veteran of a thousand psychic wars
My energy is spent at last, and my armor is destroyed
I have used up all my weapons, and I’m helpless and bereaved
Wounds are all I’m made of
Did I hear you say that this is victory?

Don’t let these shakes go on, it’s time we had a break from it
Send me to the rear
Where the tides of madness swell
And men sliding into hell
Oh please, don’t let these shakes go on

So is this the end of WoW for me?  Not quite.  While I’m done with the raid effective immediately, I’m going to give it a month before I decide whether to suspend my account or not.  I haven’t had any desire to level alts so far in Cataclysm–my goblin is level 6, my worgen doesn’t exist, and my little dwarf tribute to the Tiny Angry Woman is only level 15–but maybe now I might.  I still should log Beltar on more to RP with the Wildfire Riders.  And it’s not like my game-playing schedule is empty outside of WoW.  Old Republic, iRacing, Skyrim, Mass Effect 3 coming out on March 6…trust me, my leisure time can be as full as I want it to be right now.  I’ll see most of my WoW raiding friends in Old Republic, and continue to follow WoW news through my hundreds of Twitterati.

And even if I do cancel my account and leave the game, it’s not necessarily permanent.  Rumor has it there’s a mysterious island full of pandaren out there, and I’m fairly sure that when the Mists of Pandaria finally lift and there’s evil to be fought there, a certain very large cow in very heavy armor will be on the first boat heading that way.  I don’t think Linedan’s story in Azeroth is quite done yet.

But even if it is, it’s been one hell of a ride.  Seven years, 85 levels, and thousands of memories.

I figure the big guy deserves a little R&R well off the front lines.  And, in the end, so do I.


The Hunt (Linedan RP)

This is a very old story.  In fact, it’s the first piece of fic that I wrote for Linedan, back in March of 2005 when he was still leveling through his 20s.  It has an interesting story behind it, too.  First off, I was, at the time I wrote this, doing the “gather 30 skulls for the Deathguard in Tarren Mill” Souvenirs of Death quest.  Also, the meeting that takes place in the middle of the story actually happened in-game, at the lake outside Bloodhoof Village.  This was a time when random walk-around roleplay was still prevalent on Feathermoon, but even so, the encounter–which took place exactly as I wrote it in this story–stands out.  I don’t remember the shaman’s name.  I surely wish I did.  And finally, yes, I did drop the quest.  (Although I admit to going back and doing it later when I was trying to get Loremaster.)

I like to think I’ve gotten a bit better at my writing and roleplay since I wrote this, but the themes in this story are the same ones that drive my roleplay on Linedan almost six years later.  The struggle between the berserker and the protector, the toll that war takes on the warrior, and how far one is willing to go for their faction…they’re still as relevant to me now as they were back then.

Enjoy.

The sky over Mulgore was its usual brilliant, deep blue, broken only by a few puffy white clouds drifting east toward the Barrens.  A gentle breeze pushed those clouds, and ruffled the grass along the shore of Stonebull Lake.

A lone Tauren sat on the edge of the lake, staring out over its shimmering water.  In one hand, he held a fishing pole, its line played out ten paces from shore where a small bobber bounced on the ripples.  In the other hand, he held a small white object.

A human skull.

The boomstick shot hit the peasant in the right shoulder and spun him around.  As he recovered, he saw me.  His face twisted into a snarl, he raised his pitchfork and bravely charged as I set the blunderbuss aside, grabbed my shield from my back, and drew Truecleaver…

The bobber abruptly dipped.  Linedan carefully set the skull down in the grass and reeled in a small brightfish, which joined several others on a stringer hooked to his belt.  He rebaited the hook and cast the bobber back out into the lake, farther this time, then sat back and closed his eyes.  He leaned back to face the bright sun, hoping that even though his closed eyelids, the light could fade the images from his view.  But sunlight cannot block images from the mind.

…Truecleaver thudded into the farmer’s side.  The human’s shirt began to stain red as he bellowed in pain and twisted away.  That gave me an opening, and I took advantage by slashing low, the sabre tearing into his right leg and hobbling him…

Even in the quiet and peace of the lake, Linedan could hear the sounds of battle in his mind.  It seemed that was all he ever heard, these days.  The clash of swords, the screams of pain, the bellows of anger.  It felt odd for his hand to be holding a fishing pole instead of the hilt of Truecleaver, his sabre.  His left arm didn’t feel right unencumbered by a shield.  He sat forward and closed his eyes again, his breathing coming a bit faster, the memories still raging.

…He hooked Truecleaver with the pitchfork.  A quick flick of both his forearms, and my sword was wrenched from my hands and landed on the ground two paces away.  He faced me, and smiled.  Actually smiled.  He was still smiling when I punched him full in the face, he never saw it coming.  I felt the flesh part, felt the bones splinter under my mailed fist…

Linedan was agitated now.  He stood up and dropped the fishing pole, paced three steps one way, turned, then three steps back the other.  He saw the skull, still sitting in the grass.  In one motion, he bent and snatched it into his massive hand.  The front of the skull was malformed, crushed.  The bone under one eyesocket was smashed in and partially missing, and the lower jaw was gone, just as it had been since he had first placed it in his backpack days earlier.

His head bowed, almost involuntarily, as if a ton of weight had landed hard on his shoulders.  His empty fist clenched.  He reared his arm back, as if to pitch the skull into the lake…and froze.  He couldn’t do it.  For long seconds, he stood there, locked in time, one arm back with the skull in his hand.  Then, slowly, he brought his arm forward and looked again at the skull in his hand.  At its smashed face, into its empty sockets.

And he remembered the eyes.

…He was hopping, then crawling away from me.  I tripped him, and he landed on his back, looking up to where I loomed over him.  And as I brought Truecleaver up to finish him, I saw his eyes.  Full of fear, full of rage, maybe a bit of resignation, even relief, knowing that his life was over in a few seconds.  Totally devoid of hope.  They were blue.

They were still open after I killed him.  They were still open after I cut his head off.  And they were still open as I began to deflesh the skull to add to the collection that Deathguard Samsa in Tarren Mill asked me to provide.

A motion off to Linedan’s left started him.  He dropped the skull behind him and whirled, his right hand falling to his sabre’s hilt.  A fellow Tauren stood there, dappled black-and-white, wearing ragged leathers, a staff slung over his back and a small ball of lightning orbiting his chest.  A shaman, and a young one at that.  The shaman showed no fear, didn’t flinch a bit when Linedan spun on him with Truecleaver half out of its sheath.  He just stood there, smiling.

Linedan let his hand fall back to his side.  “My apologies, friend,” he muttered.  “You startled me.”

The shaman spread his hands by way of apology, then raised a single finger as if to say, “Wait a moment.”  As Linedan watched, the young Tauren pointed up to the sky, to one of the white clouds drifting over.  Then he held out his left palm and used his right hand to mimic the motion of someone walking.  Then he pointed to the east.

Linedan was puzzled.  “What do you…can you speak, friend?”

The shaman shook his head, with no trace of embarassment or discomfort.  He made the same motions again–pointed to a cloud, then made walking motions with his hand, then shrugged.  He stood, looking at Linedan, still smiling faintly.

“I am confused, young one…you seek a windrider?  Or Thunder Bluff?  Walking in the sky, I don’t understand…”

Again, the young shaman held up a finger in the “wait” gesture.  He reached into a pouch at his belt and showed Linedan a parchment.  He couldn’t read most of it, but the heading was clear enough to him…”Venture Company.”

Of course!  “Ah!  You seek Morin Cloudstalker!”, Linedan exclaimed.  The shaman nodded vigorously.

“Well, then, you can find him on the road east of Bloodhoof, friend,” he answered.  “He wanders the path there on guard.  I’m sure he’ll be quite happy to see that.”

The shaman nodded again and made a slight bow toward Linedan.  Then he turned to leave, stopped, and turned back to face Linedan.  The two of them locked eyes.

Linedan noticed that the young Tauren had the kindest, gentlest eyes he’d ever seen.  There was no trace of fear in them, no anger, no rage.  Only kindness, and friendship.  And hope.  They were blue.

The shaman patted Linedan’s shoulder gently, then turned and walked slowly back toward the road.  Linedan watched him go, then called after him, “Earthmother protect you, brother.”  He turned, bowed to Linedan, and continued walking to the road, turning east toward the Barrens.

Linedan stared after him for a long minute, watching his back recede into the distance, still feeling the touch of that gentle hand on his shoulder, still seeing those eyes, yet untouched by war and darkness.  Eyes that must have somewhat resembled his own once, when he was much younger.  Before the killing began.

He turned and saw the skull still sitting in the grass where he dropped it.  Gently, he bent down, picked it up, and put it in his backpack.  He looked up at the sky, and nodded.  The sun was lowering in the west.  If he hurried, he could be in Hillsbrad by nightfall.

Hillsbrad village was all but silent that night.  The only movement was from two footmen who stayed together and looked nervously out into the darkness, hoping that yet more villagers would not disappear, would not be struck down by the Horde.

On the outskirts of the village, Linedan straightened up, panting.  Digging the hole had not been easy in the wet, heavy clay, especially with a dull half-broken shovel that he had “borrowed” from a shed in Tarren Mill.  Fortunately, he had not needed a large hole, but he knew he had to make it deep, to keep scavengers away from the contents.

He reached into a mageweave bag and pulled out first one skull, then another, then another.  All told, he carefully, reverently placed eight skulls into the small trench.  The last one was the skull with the smashed face.  He placed it beside the other seven.

He said a quick prayer to the Earthmother to guide their spirits to whatever god or gods they worshipped, to give them a safe journey through the spirit world, and to watch over their families and friends in the village.  Then he put shovel to dirtpile and began filling the hole back in.

In the village, the footmen heard the scraping.  They dared not go into the dark to investigate.

At dawn, a weary Linedan walked back into the Tarren Mill inn and gathered up the last of his possessions to leave.  As he walked out, he almost literally bumped into Deathguard Samsa.

“Ahhhh, Tauren,” he hissed.  “I have tasssked you with obtaining my trophieessss.  Thhhirty human sskullss.  How goesss your collection in Hillssssbrad, fleshhhling?”

Linedan never paused.  He just glanced over his shoulder at Samsa as he walked out of town.

“Get them yourself.”


Get this heavy cow off me

Well, I think that’s what it looks like the dragon is saying, anyway.

That is a Bloodbathed Frostbrood Vanquisher, and yes, that’s the Panzercow on the back of it.  The 10-man raid that I tank for made one last run into Icecrown Citadel on Saturday afternoon to clear the final obstacle we needed to get 10-player Glory of the Icecrown Raider…heroic Sindragosa.

I know there are those who are strict 10-man raiders who say that having 25-man gear, as most of our raid did, “trivializes” the 10-man content.  I can see that; we can pretty much roflstomp most of ICC on normal, even normal Arthas didn’t give us too much trouble.  And the more straightforward heroic-mode fights pushed us a little bit, but still, we were making solid progress toward our raidleader’s goal of getting drakes before Cataclysm dropped.  We even, amazingly, downed heroic Putricide after just five attempts.  Some of the acheesements gave us trouble (Been Waiting a Long Time For This was particularly annoying) but not too much…we even got Sindy’s acheesement, All You Can Eat, by just zerging her down from 35% instead of actually attempting to do the normal tank-switch method.

Heroic Sindy, however, was a different matter entirely.  It’s a brutally unforgiving fight, the already-intolerant mechanics turned up to 11 by frostbombs that can one-shot even the tanks, debuffs that cause casters to asplode, and frost breath that hits like a very icy truck once the Mystic Buffet is opened for dinner.  We threw ourselves at Sindy hard week before last, without success.  So if we were going to get her before Cataclysm released and everybody quit caring about “old” content, we had three hours on a Saturday to do it.

For two hours and fifty-six minutes, things didn’t look good for our heroes.  We wiped, and wiped, and wiped.  The best we’d done was get her to 18%.  Phase 2, at 35%, was just not working.  We couldn’t time the tank transitions right, or I’d forget a cooldown and get ganked by her frost breath, or a badly-timed Blistering Cold would slaughter half the raid, or she’d drop a bomb right on top of us during an air phase…it was always something.  None of the attempts had that smooth, well-oiled feel to them that you need to beat a fight like heroic Sindragosa.  I was frustrated and absolutely furious with myself.  I hadn’t played in several days leading up to the raid and it showed.  I made a lot of avoidable dumbass mistakes.  I don’t think I actually cost us a kill at that point, but it sure wasn’t helping.

So then, there we were.  4:57 pm Eastern with a stop time of 5:00.  The last attempt, on the last boss, on the last day, of the last raid before the expansion.  One shot.  All or nothing.  It looked like fourth-and-11 on our own 41 with one second on the clock…time to load up three receivers to the left and let fly a Hail Mary downfield.

And we did it.

That fight, that three hours of stress and wipes, was, in a way, this entire raiding expansion for me in miniature.  Starting off flailing and failing, making mistakes, then hanging in there and keeping on digging, grinding it out, persevering, and at the end, at the last possible moment, somehow it just all comes together.

I’ve always said that the two accomplishments I’m proudest of on Linedan in Wrath of the Lich King are his Loremaster title first and his one Arthas 25-man kill second.  That hasn’t changed.  This achievement, however–Glory of the Icecrown Raider–is a very, very close third.  It took us several months, but our little 10-man raid that ran for just three hours, just one afternoon a week, ended up the expansion as 11/12 heroic ICC.  That is an achievement to be very proud of indeed.  And this one comes with a big, bony, loud-flapping tangible reminder that I’ll see as I enter the brave new world of Cataclysm.

So to Ghaar, Grizz, Tahlian, Dorritow, Nikara, and all the rest–and to our regulars who never were able to get their drakes, Ghorr, Alanth, and Seijitsu–thank you.  It was a privilege to get hit in the face for you guys.  See you on the other side.


Random Acts of Friday II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

 


Random acts of Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


With great Vengeance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shows you how much I know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Even Flow

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

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

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

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

Spec Racer

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

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

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

Grinding it Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Gear

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

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

Dungeoneering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


One More Dream (Linedan RP)

I talked in a post a while back about wanting to shake Linedan’s somewhat stony personality up a bit, and, honestly, what better time to do it than a world-shattering apocalypse, right?  This is the first part of some RP that I hope to develop over the next few weeks leading up to whatever happens with the Cataclysm.  It’s the story of a simple Tauren who’s been fighting on the front lines for five and a half long, hard, bloody years and has sacrificed everything to succeed there…his friends, his family, even his very heritage.  What happens when the battles are won and the burden becomes too much?

He had suffered the dreams for so long that he thought little of them anymore.

They didn’t always come every night.  Sometimes they would come for two, three, or four straight nights and then leave for just as many.  He had once gone over a week without one.  Most of the time there was only one a night, but not always; occasionally there were two.  There had never been three.  On the nights where a second one had caused him to wake up sweating, he either stayed awake until the dawn, or found a bottle of alcohol to send him into a dreamless “sleep.”

They followed the same pattern, all of them, but they were by no means identical.  Sometimes he was alone, sometimes with a few of his friends, sometimes with a small army.  Usually he was clad in his sturdiest armor with weapon and shield, geared for endurance and protection; but he had also had dreams where he was in his lighter armor, wielding two huge weapons, fighting in the berserk way that the troll spirit had taught him years ago.

The locations changed as well.  The steaming jungles of Zul’Gurub, the fiery pits of the Molten Core, the frozen halls of Icecrown Citadel, even the scrub-covered plains of the Barrens.  The antagonists changed, chosen seemingly at random from an endless list of those he’d faced in combat.  And the location and antagonist didn’t always match; once he remembered a dream of fighting the Soulflayer, Hakkar, in Winterspring of all places.  The dreams were totally accurate and vivid, drawn from memories that Linedan didn’t even know he retained.  The sounds of clashing metal and breaking bones, the stench of blood and the dying voiding their bowels, the sweat, the shadows, the glare, the screams…all of them were reproduced with perfect precision.

There were, really, only two constants in the dreams’ plots, and for years, they were rules that were never broken.  The first was that regardless of numbers or foes, Linedan and whoever he was allied with always lost.  They always ended up dead or dying on the battlefield; no mercy was ever given.  And the second was that, invariably, as the blow came down that would kill Linedan, he woke up, heart pounding, breath coming in gasps.

This night, Linedan found himself atop Icecrown Citadel, surrounded by his friends from The Anvil.  He was staring up at the Frozen Throne, the black figure of the Lich King seated upon it, but Tirion Fordring was nowhere to be found.

There was no warning, no talking.  Suddenly Arthas was right there in front of Linedan, and battle was joined.  It became a whirling blur of shouts and clanging metal, the howl of the frozen wind and the cries of descending val’kyr.  The Lich King was wounded again and again, but he fought on, and slowly, one by one, Linedan’s fellow adventurers began to collapse onto the icy stone.  The Lich King laughed, and raised Frostmourne for the downstroke that would finish the bleeding Linedan and end the dream…

…the sword slammed into Linedan’s shield and skittered down it with a tortured skree-ee-ee of metal on metal and a shower of sparks, before ringing against the stone.  Arthas stopped; it was quite possible to imagine him blinking in surprise behind the blue glow of his helmet.

Linedan swung his shield upward with all his might and slammed the edge into the Lich King’s side, then backhanded it up into Arthas’ chin.  With his other hand, he slashed forward with his great Scourge axe–how did that get there?  I normally use a mace–and felt the blade crunch through the thick saronite armor into the frozen, rotted flesh beneath.  He stepped aside as the Lich King fell to his knees in front of him, blood pouring from his chest through the rent in the armor.  Without a word, he raised the axe, and brought it down with a roar.  The Lich King’s head parted cleanly and rolled away as the body collapsed, coming to a stop a few paces away face-up.

Linedan blinked, staring dumbly at the severed head as the blue glow faded from the eyes.  I…I won?  That’s…never happened before…

He looked up.  No longer was he standing atop Icecrown.  Instead, he saw around him the rolling plains of Mulgore atop Red Cloud Mesa, the plains of his childhood.  But they weren’t as he remembered them.  They were scorched and blackened.  The grass was wilted, dying, even burning in a few spots.  Ravens croaked and vultures called.  Smoke hung in the air, and the scent of death hung thick.  In the distance, he saw the tent where he grew up.  Something compelled him to head for it.

All around him as he walked, there were bodies on the ground, hundreds of them.  He recognized them…the bodies of his friends.  Ghaar, his guildmaster.  Gorebash, Keltyr, and Haicu, his fellow fighters on the front lines.  Davien, Loremistress of Noxilite.  Mirandella, the priestess that had driven him to the edge of insanity.  Bricu, the human paladin whom he had nearly died trying to protect, along with Threnn, his lifemate.  Corspilla, the mage he had very nearly had to kill when she was possessed.  He recognized them all, and more…all those who he had ever fought beside, year after year.  They all lay dead around him.

As he reached the tent, the flap opened.  To his astonishment, his mother, Muatha, walked out of the tent and up to him.

“Mother,” Linedan gasped.  “I…”

“Linedan,” she interrupted him, solemnly.  “Last of the Granitehoof clan, until you forced me to make you of the Disowned.”

“I…forced?”, he sputtered, growing angry.  “Mother, I did not…”

She ignored him and began to pace.  “You have done well in the five turnings of seasons since you defied me, Linedan of the Disowned.  Many say you are a hero.  You have seen and done things that few ever have.  You have fought the greatest foes, and emerged victorious.”  She stopped in front of him and stared up, her eyes boring into his, her voice growing colder.  “But you are Disowned.  You are not Shu’halo.  You are as much a foreigner as those you associate with.”  She touched the armor he still wore.  “Was it worth it, you who was once my son?  Giving up your identity and your people, your birthright and your history?  Was the gold worth it?  Was the thrill of the fight, the killing, worth it?”

“What would you have had me do, Mother?”, he snapped.  “Ignore that my destiny lay out there?  Ignore my call to defend and protect the Horde, including the Tauren?  Ignore my duty to my friends?  If you would not have me, then this…”  He plucked at the black-and-silver symbol of the Noxilite Eye he wore on his tabard.  “…this is my clan.  These are my people.”

Mautha stood silently for a moment, then nodded her wizened head.  “I would expect nothing less from you, calf.  You always were too stubborn for your own good.”  She turned to face the corpse-littered field in front of her and raised her hands.  “Your people, you say.  Let us see what they think of your call and your duty.”  She threw her head back.  “Come to us, spirits!  Rise up, and give your thanks to he who is not my son!  RISE UP!!”

From the field in front of him, the corpses began to stir, to move, to stand.  They still bore the means of their death…bloody from wounds, or charred with fire, or disfigured by shadow.  They stood by their dozens, the lifeless, shambling bodies of those whom Linedan had known for years.  And as they came toward him, backing him against the tent, he heard his mother’s cackling laughter rising behind a crescendo of voices that spoke, over and over again, as one:

“Was it worth it?  Was it worth it?”

This time, Linedan did not wake up when the first blow fell.  He only woke up after feeling himself be torn apart while alive, unable to block out the chanting, and his mother’s laugh, with his own screams.


Checking up

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

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

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

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

…and it all went horribly wrong.

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

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

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

As DPS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What a long, strange trip it’s been

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Shit, Lin’s down!”

“Want me to pick him up?”

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

His health on the plate ticked over to 9%.

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

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

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

We were Kingslayers.

We had won the game.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


For the times, they are a-changin’

Soon I’m going to start putting up some Cataclysm beta stuff on the blog, hopefully every few days, as I get time to play.  I’ll keep the actual content spoilers in terms of plot, story, art, etc. to a minimum, and try to focus instead on the mechanics of playing a Prot warrior while leveling from 80 to 85 in the brave new sundered world we’ll all be facing.

In order to do that, I’ve re-copied Linedan over so instead of being level 82, he’s back to level 80.  I was going to level him through Vashj’ir, but a couple of nasty quest bugs blocked progression there, so he’ll be grinding along in Hyjal.  This also gives him the solid raid gear that he’s accumulated over the three months since I got in the alpha.  So he’ll be leveling along with four-piece Sanctified T10, and most everything else ilevel 251 or higher.  Nothing so far has given him any significant trouble, although not being able to run addons means that I can’t really determine if his damage is really down, or if it just feels down because everything has so much more health now.

What I’m also going to do is, as soon as she hits 80, copy Latisha, my other prot warrior, over.  Latisha is the polar opposite of Lin.  She is going to hit 80 (hopefully tonight!) in a mish-mash of blue and green quest and dungeon drops, barely scraping 20,000 health in her tank gear.  And I’m going to keep her that way.  I want to see how bad it might be for a character who hasn’t spent well over a year at level 80 accumulating raid goods…what will it be like for somebody who just hit 80 in their quest greens and didn’t stop, but immediately headed back from Northrend to EK or Kalimdor and started dealing with the new zones where mob health is 30k instead of 12.6k and stuff hits much harder.  Their builds will probably be similar, but their items are worlds apart.  It should be an interesting experiment.

I’ve got other stuff on my mind with Cataclysm, though, and it involves Linedan.  I play on Feathermoon, a roleplay server, and I frequently admit that I should be doing a lot more roleplay than I do, especially with Lin.  He’s my main, after all, my beloved Panzercow, but he doesn’t get the RP love that he should, and it’s my fault.

I had a defined idea in mind that slowly developed over Lin’s first year or two.  He’s basically a decent cow–not particularly bright but not stupid, stoic, loyal, honorable as his culture sees it, dedicated to excelling in his chosen art of combat.  When I decided I didn’t like the clan name I’d given him (“Granitehoof”), I ended up ditching it by inventing a little bit of Tauren culture and making him clanless, something of an outcast from Tauren society.  He transferred his clan loyalty to his guild instead; he refers to the other people in Noxilite, regardless of race and without irony, as his “brothers and sisters.”  Yes, even the blood elves, albeit reluctantly sometimes.

That loyalty and stoicism is layered over a lot of built-in rage…yes, he’s a Cow with Issues.  He pushed harder and harder as he trained to earn the respect of those around him, and sometimes, he’s felt like he hasn’t when he should’ve.  As a warrior, he’s constantly walked a tightrope between the protector of his people and the berserk reaver of his enemies.  In fact, when I tried him out Fury for a bit, I wrote up a whole storyline about how he’d been possessed by what he thought was one of the troll spirits around Warlord Mandokir in Zul’gurub–remember the ones that would auto-rez you?–and it taught him the ways of how the trolls fought, furious, with total abandon.

My problem is, as the years have ground on, I’ve let the stoicism take over.  I’ve painted myself into a corner with him.  He’s gone from having a quiet personality to having no personality.  He’s fossilized.  That’s due to two problems not with him, but with me, the player.  First, despite having this blog and vomiting forth too much information on a regular basis, I’m actually quite shy when it comes to real-time interactions in-game.  I can roleplay within my friends, but around strangers, I lock up for fear of any sort of mockery that I’m convinced will come my way.

The second is the amount of mental energy it takes for me to stay in-character.  The past three and a half years have been…well, let’s be polite and call them “demanding.”  Moves, job changes, deaths in the family, mental health issues, financial stress, a high-energy daughter, so many other things…they all combine to leech my focus and energy, what my wife and I jokingly call “noodle,” right out of me.  There are many who view RP as a refreshment, a rejuvenator.  I don’t deny that, I know how fun it can be.  But staying in-character for me takes a particular kind of concentration that I simply haven’t had.  Paradoxically for somebody who claims to be a roleplayer and has been called an “RP nazi” more than once…it’s easier for me to focus on mashing buttons in the right order while tanking Arthas for three hours than it is for me to work out how Linedan would interact in a simple five-minute conversation with a guildmate.

This has left me with a main that I basically don’t RP anymore.  And I don’t want that.  I want to get my Hordeside RP back, with Linedan.  The buildup to and release of Cataclysm seem like a perfect time for it.  I’m just not sure what to bloody do at this point.  I’m toying with the concept, once The Anvil finally kills Arthas (ohpleaseletitbesoon), of Lin simply deciding that he’s done with all the slaughter and death and retiring back to Mulgore, just in time for all Deathwing to break loose.  Or maybe I can come up with something else to happen that will crack his shell a bit.  Right now, though, I don’t know what’s under that shell yet.  Is he stable?  Is he unbalanced?  Is he good?  Is he bad?  Will he stay loyal to the only home he’s known for the better part of five years?  I don’t know, and that’s a bit frustrating, and I can only hope that it will come to me over time now that I’m thinking about it.  Character changes like that, I’ve found, aren’t something that can be forced.  At least for me, they tend to blindside me when I’m thinking about something else.

In the meantime, how are you planning for your characters’ roleplay to change come Cataclysm?


The finish line is in sight

Yes, there are naked people up there. Beating Arthas makes one do strange things.

It’s been a strange weekend here at the Bunker of Love, no doubt about that.

See, North Carolina has been getting hammered by a nasty heat wave.  Now yes, it’s the South, and yes, of course it gets hot in the summer.  I know this.  I’m Virginia-born and -bred, with the added resume entries of surviving three summers near Washington, DC (why did we build our nation’s capital in a bloody swamp?) and seven years in Columbia, South Carolina, a place that you could use for testing manned expeditions to Venus.  I know from hot, people.

But you see, the Bunker of Love, nice as it is, does not have central air conditioning.  This is a small, old house with “character” (translation:  a disturbing number of corners that aren’t 90 degrees) in an older neighborhood.  It was built before the word “insulation” entered the national consciousness.  Hot and cold just seeps in, despite our best efforts.  And what’s worse, our computers are in the only available space for them–a converted sunporch that was added on sometime after the house was built.  There are several large windows in this room.  They’re old and single-pane.  Do the math.  We have two small window units (one in our bedroom, and one in the living room behind us) and one box fan trying to push the output of the living room A/C in here.  It works reasonably well, as long as the temperature is a more normal, say, 90 degrees.  100 degrees with a heat index over 110, not so much.

And thus it was that on Thursday night, The Anvil spent three hours on Arthas with me as main tank, keeping one eye on the Lich King and one eye on the display of my Logitech G15 keyboard watching my video card temperature skyrocket, while sweating like a pig and trying to hydrate in between wipes.  Yes, I know how stupid it sounds talking about sweating my ass off while playing a video game.  Remember–I’m a fat white pasty guy, it was pushing 85F in here, and it’s the motherhumpin’ Lich King, people.  Things get a little intense even for keyboard warriors.  We did make some good progress, with some strategy adjustment on phase 2 of the fight, but we’re still getting our asses kicked by badly-placed Defiles or losing people to val’kyr.  We’re consistently getting late into phase 2, and we got to see the 40% transition a couple times.

Friday hit 101 degrees.  My wife and I ended up doing something I’m still sad about–we bailed on the raid due to the heat.  I take my raiding commitments seriously.  When I sign up, I show up, even if I don’t really want to.  But with the temperature in the room pushing the mid- to high 80s, and my video card reporting 83 degrees Celsius just while sitting looking out over the porch at Ulduar, we both knew that a couple hours of this, and we’d be not only miserable, but making serious mistakes when we tried Arthas again.  I can’t rationalize and say we did it for “the good of the raid” though.  Fact was, it was just too damn hot in here.

Now, come Saturday afternoon for the 10-man that I MT on Linedan, the temperature had not abated outside–heading for 100 again.  But since it doesn’t get really intolerable in here until about 5 or 6 pm, and the raid runs from 2 to 5, I figured I’d be able to hang in OK on our all-Arthas-all-the-time attempts.  (Side note:  I love extended lockouts.  Awesome invention, Blizz.)  So we got to work.

As you can guess from the picture up top, we got the bastard. Linedan is now, at least for a day, Linedan the Kingslayer.  (Then I’ll switch it back to Loremaster.)

We got him, in fact, despite most of us never really having gotten good looks at phase 3, the Vile Spirits phase, before.  I know that phase 2 is the hard part, and that phase 3 is easier, but still, we wiped a good 10 times in that phase before we worked out a strategy for saving me from getting my face eaten by Soul Reaper.  Once we did that?  I’m not going to say it was easy, because it wasn’t.  But our killshot wasn’t one of those nail-biting super-close shaves.  We just…got him.  Fairly smooth, no big issues.

That fight is so much easier on 10-man than on 25-man.  As are, in fact, most fights that require a lot of maneuvering.  To me it seems pretty obvious why.  You’ve got the same area of platform to drop Bad(tm) in, but 40% of the people taking up the room.  You’re less likely to get a Defile in a bad place, and if you do, you’re less likely to get somebody moving through it or standing in it and expanding it.  And yes, I’ll admit, a good chunk of us in this raid are wearing 25-man gear, and yes, having a nice big rack of ilevel 264 stuff does help compared to doing it in 251s or lower.

So now that Arthas has fallen in 10-man, I have one goal left in Wrath of the Lich King for Linedan…Kingslayer 25-man.  That’s it.  As soon as we get that, I will have accomplished everything I set out to accomplish for him in this expansion.  I called it the Four Big Titles–World Explorer, Seeker, Loremaster, Kingslayer.  Well, right now, he’s three-and-a-half out of four.  We’ll keep raiding after The Anvil drops Arthas, I’m sure of it, and our 10-man is going to start on hard modes in at least a few fights next week.  But after I get that 25-man Kingslayer title attached to Linedan’s name, everything else is just sprinkles on the cupcake, and the Cataclysm countdown begins.


The obligatory ZOMGWARRIORCHNAGES post

Yeah.  Everybody else is going to be dissecting these bad boys like a bucket of frogs in biology class, so why shouldn’t I, right?  Just remember:  half this stuff will never happen as written. Seriously.  We in the WoW playerbase have a tendency to hang on Blue Words as if they’re embossed on stone tablets, carried down the side of Mount Sinai by Moses “Ghostcrawler” Heston.  Yeah, well, read Exodus 32 sometime.  The original tablets?  They got broken. So don’t get too worked up.

That having been said, banzai, my peeps, here we go…
(more…)


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.


Patch 3.3.3: Revenge of the Revenge

YO DAWG. I HEARD YOU LIKE TO REVENGE SO HERE'S SOME REVENGE SO YOU CAN REVENGE WHILE YOU REVENGE.

Yesterday, after the servers came back up and people got to start playing with patch 3.3.3, I felt a great disturbance in the Force.  No, really.  It felt as if millions of Prot warriors simultaneously hit their Revenge button…and suddenly went all Rotface and screamed “WHEEEEEEEEE!”

There was some serious giddiness around the Prot warrior side of the WoW blogosphere yesterday, and no doubt it’ll continue to today.  This is mostly because of the massive double buff that our Revenge ability received in 3.3.3.  Revenge had its damage improved by 50% anyway…and then the Improved Revenge talent was modified to remove the random stun chance, but now buffs Revenge’s damage by a further 30/60% and allows the ability to hit an adjacent target for 50/100% damage.  As I said yesterday, this makes patch 3.3.3 “Revenge of the Revenge.”

I think I can best sum up my opinion of what they did by recycling a tweet I did yesterday afternoon:

“Revenge used to hit like a truck. Now it hits like a truck towing a truck. Full of explosives. Driven by angry bears.”

Seriously.  In terms of raw, single-event damage, talented Revenge has leapt to the top of the charts.  Between these changes and the 3.3.2 damage reductions on Shield Slam, from the numbers I’m seeing in various spots around the Intertubes, Revenge is now top dog, dawg.  For some gear combinations, the change is so drastic that there’s actually talk of moving Revenge ahead of Shield Slam (including Sword and Board procs) in the Prot warrior priority system.  Veneretio espouses this in his post on the buffed Revenge.  He states test numbers of ~3800 damage on Revenge versus ~2000 damage on Shield Slam.  That’s huge.

I decided to try some informal testing of my own.  So I took Linedan out and played around with the big level 82 elite undead giants (Pustulent Horrors) that patrol the top of the Ironwall Dam in Icecrown.  They’re not hard to solo at his T9/T10 gear level, drop decent money, and have 68,000 health so the fights last long enough to get an idea of how things work.

I was surprised to find that my Shield Slams were averaging about 2800-2900 per normal hit.  My Revenges were averaging slightly over that, at around 3000.  That surprised me enough, but when I went back and thought about it, I came up with three things that put Revenge in an even better light:

  • Linedan has 4315 unbuffed attack power–that’s a bit low for his gear level.  He’s short on bonus armor (which translates to AP through Armored to the Teeth).  Revenge scales off AP; Shield Slam scales off shield block value.
  • He’s wearing two-piece T10, which provides a set bonus that boosts Shield Slam damage by 20%.
  • He only had one point in Improved Revenge, not two.  That means he was only getting a +30% damage boost to Revenge, not the full +60%.  (I have since rectified that problem by moving a point from Shield Specialization into Improved Revenge.)

And despite all that, it still scraped out higher than Shield Slam.  So it’s a no-brainer, right?  Revenge moves up in the rotation, Shield Slam goes and sits in the corner for a while.  Right?

Well, allow me to put on my best Jeremy Clarkson voice and say…not so fast.

Here’s the reasons why Shield Slam may still be better than Revenge for threat, even if it isn’t for damage:

  • Remember that Shield Slam, after patch 3.3.2, had its damage reduced but had bonus threat added.  Per folks on Tankspot, Shield Slam gets an extra 770 threat added to the damage, and then that sum is multiplied by 1.3.  Revenge doesn’t get the same bonus threat, it just gets the normal boost from being in Defensive Stance, as does Shield Slam, so that cancels out.
  • Shield Slam’s cooldown is 6 seconds compared to Revenge’s 5, but remember that Shield Slam can also come off cooldown at any time thanks to Sword and Board procs.  I have no numbers to back this up, but it wouldn’t surprise me if, factoring in SnB procs, Shield Slam’s “effective” cooldown is less than 5 seconds, meaning that’s how often you get to use it in a fight.
  • Shield Slam gets +15% crit chance thanks to Critical Block.  In fact, Revenge is one of the few big warrior heavy hitters that don’t get a +15% critical boost from either Incite, Critical Block, or Sword and Board–Heroic Strike, Shield Slam, Devastate, Thunder Clap, and Cleave all do.  Revenge doesn’t.  When you’re a tank like Lin with a base crit chance under 8%, and maybe 16.5% raid-buffed, that extra 15% is massive.

Some of the boffins over at Tankspot have been taking a few pokes at grinding out numbers, and so far, the preliminary results seem to indicate…it’s close.  Very close.  Close enough that there is no one hard-and-fast answer for whether you should prioritize Shield Slam over Revenge.  It’ll largely depend on gear (higher AP favors Revenge, higher shield block value favors Shield Slam), and whether you’re pushing for raw damage or threat.  Personally, I’m probably going to stick with Shield Slam before Revenge on Linedan due to his two-piece T10 set bonus (he’s routinely critting SS for over 10k in raids now), and the fact that I’m old and set in my ways.

One other point of interest.  These changes have revised interest in one of the weirder warrior specs that popped up initially about a year ago…the 37/2/32 (or thereabouts) Unrelenting Assault Arms/Prot hybrid.  Veneretio had an article on it last year.  The spec is designed around the Arms Unrelenting Assault talent–which reduces the cooldown of Overpower and Revenge by four seconds–so you can see why 3.3.3 has brought it out of stasis.  The ability to hit this immensely powerful buffed Revenge every single time you dodge, block, or parry, with no cooldown to speak of, is pretty tempting, and makes the spec capable of simultaneously boss-tanking and putting out high DPS.  There’s a significant cost to pay, though.  It’s horrible on trash, doesn’t work if you aren’t tanking, gives up a lot of the best Prot warrior toys (Devastate, Sword and Board, Critical Block, Shockwave), and requires a lot of avoidance to keep Revenge constantly lit up.  It doesn’t sound like a viable everyday tank spec, but for certain fights, it may be worth playing with.

There’s a bit of irony to this whole thing, at least for me as an old-school warrior who played a bit of Prot during the days of vanilla WoW.  Revenge used to be nothing but a threat ability.  The damage it did was beyond negligible.  It lit up, you hit it, you basically tickled the mob but it pissed it off that much more.  Well, five years on, we’ve gone from tickling with a feather to hitting with a cruise missile.  And I, for one, welcome our new vengeful overlords.


Visiting roads less traveled

MANY NERD POINTS. LEFT SIDE. EVEN SIDE. HANDLE IT.

For some unknown, masochistic reason, I’ve always had the long-term goal of getting Linedan both the Loremaster and Seeker (3000 quests completed) titles.  Call me a “completionist,” call me a perfectionist, call me an idiot, whatever.  But from the time I first saw the Loremaster achievement, I said to myself, “you will be mine someday.  Oh yes.  You will be mine.”

Apparently, 15 March 2010 is “someday.”  After months of off-and-on work to backtrack through the old world, he is Loremaster Linedan, achieved when turning in overall quest number three thousand and ten in Stonard.

This title is the culmination not just of several months of going on quest-completing binges in zones seventy levels too low.  In a way, it’s the end of a chapter–and the beginning of another–in Linedan’s entire story.

Linedan is five years old this month.  When he first embarked on his career at Red Cloud Mesa in March 2005, the world was yet young and very, well, “vanilla.”  Mobs outside instances were still elite.  Escorts were group quests.  Getting to Camp Taurajo required a long and marginally dangerous run instead of a short flight.  And the world was a big, dangerous place for a simple Tauren warrior with no sugar daddy to support him.  There were times, around level 13 or 14, where Linedan literally did not have enough copper to pay his repair bills, because I didn’t know anything about this “auction house” I kept hearing of, and was dying way too much.

Later on, about level 18 or so, I joined a guild called Hand of the Forsaken.  HotF was the biggest guild Hordeside on Feathermoon at the time, but the majority of the members were level 35+.  They were pushing their top people to level 60 and preparing to hit the endgame–Onyxia and Molten Core at the time–and there wasn’t a lot of time for a lowbie warrior who didn’t have anybody else his level in the guild to pair with.  So I soloed through Lin’s 20s and 30s and into his 40s, always broke and always behind on gear.  It wasn’t until I left Hand and joined an insanely fun bunch called The Sidewinder Band that I actually got to tank instances (they didn’t go well) and run a few group quests with people my level.  A month later, Linedan was in Noxilite–the guild he’s still in today, four and a half years later–and finally hanging with a semi-regular group of friends with whom I could instance or do group quests.

I relived a lot of those memories as I went back to places he hadn’t been in years…or ever, in some cases.  I marveled at the sheer number of quests that he hadn’t done in Stranglethorn the first time through because he’d always been alone.  It felt like I’d had him there for bloody years, and yet he apparently never did any of the Nesingwary quests.  He’d never killed the ship captains off Booty Bay, or the giant up the coast, or saved Yenniku, or retrieved that gnome’s damned Pupellyverbos Port from the sands of the Hinterlands.  He ran through Silvermoon, Tranquilien, Durotar, Tirisfal, Silverpine…doing kid’s errands for a few copper.

He stalked the burning streets of Stratholme and the sweltering halls of Blackrock Depths, doing by himself in minutes what used to take five friends several hours.  He “saved” Bronzebeard’s get from Dagran Thaurissian, and slew Baron Rivendare, and retrieved Atal’ai artifacts, and got some damn weird (and annoyed) looks from level 20s who watched him one-shotting bears.

Ironically, he still did most of it alone.  I had a lot of help along the way, true, but in the end, Lin still cleared his final Northrend stumbling block in Icecrown by soloing all the five-man group quests there save one.

And so, after chipping away at it for months, last night, Linedan crossed the finish line.  His reward is a title, a nice note from Cairne Bloodhoof, and a very ugly tabard.  That title is now in front of his name, and will stay there in preference to any others–yes, even Kingslayer–until Cataclysm comes along.  It’s one thing that I’ve done that actually feels like a significant accomplishment.

This will also play into Linedan’s roleplay quite nicely.  Lin is clanless, and has been something of an exile from Tauren society because of it.  Well, not only is he Exalted with Thunder Bluff and all the other Horde factions, now he’s got the Seeker and Loremaster titles to back it up, and that note from Cairne (which I saved).  I haven’t decided yet how or if I’m going to use this going forward…maybe he’ll have a last name again?  Who knows.  Maybe I’ll finally integrate him back into Tauren society in time for Cataclysm to come along and go Cro Threadstrong on the whole apple cart.

Now what?  I’m not sure.  The next logical thing for me to work on is the World Explorer achievement.  Outland and Northrend were no problem, of course, with flying mounts.  Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms?  That’ll be a bit tougher considering that I’ll be groundbound…and repair bills due to guard death can hurt when a death costs 12 gold, not to mention the chances of having to spirit rez.  That means I’d have to go naked, or at least with no armor.  Hmm.

So over the next couple of months, if you’re on Feathermoon, and you see a Tauren in a Pink Mageweave Shirt and a Haliscan Brimmed Hat riding through Alliance-controlled territory…could you give me a few seconds to make sure I get the discovery of where we’re currently sitting before you gank me?  Thanks.  I appreciate it.


Let me axe you something

Awww yeah. That's one FINE piece of axe right there.

I haven’t been blogging a whole lot about raiding with The Anvil lately.  That’s because we’ve managed to get our collective ankles wedged firmly into a gap that Blizzard’s left in the content.

We didn’t have too much trouble getting through the Lower Spire in ICC 25-man.  Marrowgar, Lady Deathwhisper, the Gunship Battle, and even Saurfang fell before us with relative ease.  I wouldn’t call them pushovers the way that, say, Trial of the Wake Me When It’s Over was when we first started.  But we moved through Icecrown’s first four bosses in fairly good time, and prepared to assault the rest of the Lich King’s stronghold.

Then we slammed head-on into the Plagueworks.

If you’re just getting ready to head into Icecrown, 10- or 25-man, consider this a warning:  There is a big jump in difficulty between the first four bosses and the middle portion of the instance, the Plagueworks (Festergut, Rotface, and Professor Putricide) and the Crimson Halls (Blood Princes, Blood Queen Lana’thel).  That jump in difficulty has stopped us dead in our tracks.

We quickly reached a very unpleasant realization on Festergut, supposedly the “easiest” of the bosses…we couldn’t kill him.  Not “we can’t kill him because we’re making too many mistakes”–a totally unqualified “we can’t do this right now.”  We ran up against cold, hard math.  Festergut’s enrage timer is so short (5 minutes) and he has so much health (40.44 million) that how well we handled the mechanical aspects of the fight with gas spores and healing through his insane damage didn’t matter.  You need a five-minute average of roughly 135,000 dps from your raid to drop Festergut before he splats you.  Before last night, on our best attempt, we had 91,000.  No amount of sleight of hand or focusing on eliminating mistakes could get around the fact that if you don’t bring that 135,000 dps, you don’t kill Festergut.  Full stop.  Before last night, our best attempt on Festergut was hitting the enrage timer at 30%.  Not.  Even.  Close.

Rotface isn’t quite the insane DPS race that Festergut is, but it’s a crazy fight–Grobbulus on speed, with even more raid-wide damage and shadow-crash-style flying angry exploding poo-poos to dodge.  And you still need a ton of DPS, because otherwise, you get so many oozes running around that your coordination breaks down in terms of the kiting that’s required.  Our best attempt to date on Rotface is around 17%, which, considering the insanity of the fight and our relative DPS level, ain’t shabby.

Well, last night, we went to try and sell Arthas encyclopedias yet again.  We did it in the middle of the godawful crippling lag that has had the entire Cyclone battlegroup by the balls since the Love is in the Air event started up.  (Servers in Cyclone, Ruin, Bloodlust, and Reckoning have been getting crushed for days now with 5+ minute zone times, minutes-long loot lag and mailbox lag, etc.  Multiple maintenance downtimes haven’t done a damn thing to fix it.)  The lag was so bad that my wife couldn’t even join the raid, and then we lost two more regulars due to illness.  We managed to pick up enough subs to fill out the roster, and gave it a try.

Go figure, but it was the best raid night we’ve had in a month and a half.  Maybe the lag got people to dial it in and focus, or maybe the phase of the moon was just right, I don’t know.  Not only did we one-shot all four bosses in the front, but we had two near-perfect Festergut attempts and got him to 8%, and then 6%, before he enraged.  Magically, we’ve somehow picked up over 30,000 dps on that fight in just a few weeks.  If we find about 10,000 more in the glovebox and under the sofa cushions, we’ll own that mutant potato right in his ugly face…uh, OK, one of his ugly faces.  He’s got spares.

It was one of those nights that invigorates my desire to raid with this awesome bunch of maniacs I run with, because we were hitting on all cylinders and having a great time doing it.  The one sad part was that my wife missed it…especially when the druid loot dropped.

And out of all that, I got a new toy to play with:

Now, I got a whisper last night asking me why I’d blow a “suicide” on a one-handed DPS weapon that wasn’t a tank weapon, when my DPS offspec is Fury and thus needs two-handers.  It’s a legit question, deserving of an answer.  The short version is, despite it not being a tank weapon, it’s a significant upgrade for me.  Now, the long version–half because I’m paranoid and still justifying to myself why I took it, and half as explanation of why a tank sometimes gets very good use out of a “non-tank” weapon.

Right now, Lin’s tank weapons are a Titanguard and a Burnished Quel’serrar from 25-man Ony.  The Titanguard has been Lin’s bread-and-butter tank sword for almost a full year now, and while it’s an excellent item (it was our first hard-mode Ulduar loot ever), it’s a tier or a tier-and-a-half behind current content.  I picked the BQ up to use as a situational weapon when I had to bring more DPS as Prot; it’s been part of my block-heavy gear set, and also has been what I use to tank heroics.  But it’s not well-itemized, and despite the old-school cool factor of it being a Quel’serrar, I’ve never warmed to it.

True, the Scourgeborne Waraxe isn’t a classic +str/+sta/+defense/avoidance tank weapon.  It is, first and foremost, a rogue axe in no uncertain terms–not really itemized awesomely for hunters and way, way too fast for enhancement shamans.  But for starters, 48 dps more on the tooltip is damned hard to ignore.  It’s even faster than the Titanguard (1.5 vs. 1.6), and fast for a tank weapon is good.  The stat tradeoff is surprisingly even–I lose the +str from the Titanguard costing me 24 shield block value, but I end up net gaining about 10 attack power, the stamina is close to even (loss of ~110 health), and the extra agility gives me enough dodge that even after losing the 33 parry rating from the sword, I only lose a net of 0.30% total avoidance.  In return, I get a huge burst of +crit (over 2%), a token bit of armor penetration, and a sizeable damage increase over the Titanguard, both overall and at the top end for attacks like Devastate.  It’s going to be a significant bump in my threat generation.  And I’m already running with so much excess Defense (578 with the sword), I can afford to lose 7 points of it.

In the end, I had to make a quick decision when interest in the weapon was called; using Rating Buster‘s breakout of stat pluses and minuses (which I trimmed from the tooltip screenshot), I decided to go for it.  And once I get that new axe Mongoosed, it’s going to become my primary heroic and trash tanking weapon.  The Titanguard stays in my bag for situations where absolute maximum avoidance and health are needed and threat is less of an issue–for example, if I’m kiting on Rotface, playing kissyface with Muradin on the Gunship Battle, or eating saber lashes on Marrowgar.

Besides, just look at it, peeps. It’s beautiful.  It’s huge.  It’s so big it goes over my back instead of on my belt.  It’s not standard-issue Wrath of the Lich King Tier 9 Brown, unlike everything else Lin wears.  It has frigging spikes on the blade. How can I not have my Panzercow walking around with something that utterly badass in his humongous three-fingered hand?


3.3.2 prot warrior changes announced

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

Warrior

Protection

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

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

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

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

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


The nerfing will not be televised

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DANGER.  DANGER, WILL ROBINSON.  DAMAGE NERF INCOMING.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry

Ho. Ho. Ho. Happy Winterveil.

Yes, that’s right.  The cheery, festive, and heavily armed Panzercow you see above you, resplendent in his Red Winter Hat (thank you, Grand Magus Telestra), has switched his DPS offspec from Arms to Fury.  (And no, this does not make me a fury furry.)

Why?  Well, frankly, because I wanted to, and because my raid was OK with it even though we already bring a Fury warrior who’s much better-geared and much better at it.  As I’ve written before, I never really wanted Linedan to be a tank.  I’d just gotten done playing a warrior tank in Everquest for the better part of four years, and, quite frankly, I wanted to own some face.  It wasn’t until Karazhan that I ended up having to spec him Protection full-time.  For a while in vanilla, he was an odd build, a two-hand Fury/Prot hybrid (5/31/15) that was supposed to be a good DPS/offtank build.  But, he never had the gear to make it really work.

When I was fortunate enough to pick up the two nice weapons in the picture above–the Dual-Blade Butcher from ToC-25 and the Keen Obsidian Edged Blade from Onyxia-10–I figured it was time to give Fury another try after years away.  And so far, I’m having quite a lot of fun at it.  (The Keen OEB is particularly special to me…when Lin was first running Molten Core with the Anvil back in the day, all I wanted to get him was an Obsidian Edged Blade, because it looked cool and would’ve been a significant upgrade.  Between DKP and poor luck on drops, it took him four freaking months to finally get one…and it’s still in my bank to this day.)

I’ve been running more heroics as DPS than tank on Lin, to get practice (and because I don’t always want to deal with tanking for a PUG).  Fury has a reasonably simple rotation, and doesn’t have all of the waiting-for-Godot that Arms does.  The downside is, well, it’ll get you killed.  A lot.  Considering that your primary attack is Whirlwind, which hits five targets for the damage of both your weapons?  And that your burst damage with a lot of rage can be ridiculously high, with you in melee range and thus not having that extra 20% threat buffer?  Hellooooo, agro.  Like a lot of DPS specs, you can go balls-out and e-peen some pretty impressive numbers on the meters without a lot of skill, you just need the gear.  The skill comes in knowing when not to mash the pedal to the floor…when to hold off a second on a Whirlwind or when to use something else.  You know, when to not be That Guy who’s pulling agro and pissing off the tank, stressing the healer, and getting yourself deaded.  Because Fury warriors have no agro dump except the Sprawl of Shame.

How impressive are the numbers?  Well, not very–remember, I’m still learning it.  But with a mish-mash of Ulduar- and ToC-level gear, mostly ilevels between 219 and 245, I can push well over 3000 in heroics and get near 4000 in raids (much more on trash, where Whirlwind + glyphed Cleave really pads numbers).  I know I can do better, I’m still working on it.  But it’s better than Arms, and it’s enough that on nights where I am not in the Anvil’s tank rotation, I can contribute without being totally humiliated.

I love tanking.  I never want to give up being Prot at this point (Ghostcrawler notwithstanding…but that’s a rant for another time).  But occasionally, it just feels good to pick up two gigantic weapons and just destroy everything in your path.  Cow smash!


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!


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