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Archive for February, 2009

Sleepy Saturday morning random thoughts

A few random thoughts tossed out while trying to wake up on a cloudy, rainy Saturday morning after plopping my daughter down in front of a Backyardigans DVD…

– You may have noticed a distinct lack of 3.1 and PTR information.  Honestly, there are a squillion places to find information from the PTR that’s a lot faster and more complete than anything I could put together, and chances are you already know where they are.  (If you don’t, try some of my blogroll.)  Plus, I try (often unsuccessfully) to avoid getting caught up in the back-and-forth hysteria from PTR build to PTR build.  Particularly this early in the cycle, things change so fast that it’s not much use freaking out over, say, the 10% “pwn tax” on Titan’s Grip damage.  Once things get closer to release, I start paying more attention and use the information to plan what I’m going to do after the patch drops.  Besides, I test software 40+ hours a week for a living.  I kind of like to leave it at work when I get home.

– Itanya Blade (one of the Anvil’s raid officers) makes a good point over here.  It applies in WoW as much as it does in the real world, because when you’re dealing with a raid, you are dealing with the real world–25+ people with real lives and real problems.  Communication is key.

– I’ve finally closed most of the gear gap between Linedan and the other tanks in our raid.  Not all, but most.  The final link was biting the bullet and dropping the 1050g on an Armor-Plated Combat Shotgun.  Expensive?  Yeah.  But since I’m working on Ebon Blade dailies now (40% of the way to Exalted), money isn’t that big an issue–at least I can break even over my repair bills, and a bit extra.  And while four digits is aspensive for sure, from what I’ve seen price-wise, it’s not all that much more expensive than gathering the needed eternals.  In the old money-vs.-time tradeoff, this time I chose money.

– I did something similar with Beltar.  He went from over 3000 gold down to 45 gold in two days after buying five pieces of armor, a Nesingwary 4000, and a scope on the AH.  It’s the curse of an alt who doesn’t get all that many cracks at instance runs.  But, now he’s doing about 1500 dps combined with his cat in heroics…maybe ready for Naxx 10?  Not sure.  I may get the chance to find out this weekend.

– In other Beltar-related news, he has a new pet for instancing, a Cursed Offspring of Har’koa that he’s named Longpaw, also called “Bigballs.”  (Don’t ask.)  I thought I was being a unique and special snowflake by grabbing the silver, spotty, glowy-eyed cat.  Uh, no.  I’ve seen nine of them in two days.  He can’t do a spirit beast since he’s marks, so at least I’m not tempted to do that endless search. 

– Now Illithanis is 51 in BM, and can tame Loque’nahak, and she’s level 76, and my wife already has one on her hunter.  Get her to 77, get her slow-flying back again, and maayyyyybe…

– Moktor’s 70.  Still wearing a purple steel bustier that she’s falling out of, and still overpowered as all hell.

Madness? This…is…DARGONS!

We got it on the fourth try.

That is easily the most insane fight I have ever seen in WoW.  It makes all the stuff I thought was crazy–Majordomo Executus, Vashj, even Kael’thas–look like it’s moving in slow motion.  Trying to gather little fire elementals and drag them out of the way before they get hit by lava walls and become big pissy fire elementals while also grabbing drakes and trying to stay alive while doing all of it…daaaaaaaamn.  And there’s still one more drake left to go.

I have got to get better at add-gathering.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but I sucked out loud doing it tonight, even on our successful attempt.  Fortunately we had a kick-ass paladin and a hunter who was fast on the icerink traps.  Gotta work on it for next week.

After seeing heroic Sarth +2, heroic Sarth +3 has got to be…ugh.  I’m simultaneously amped about it and dreading it.

Not a bad night’s work

Despite a late start into Naxxramas tonight, everybody but the Horsemen are dead downstairs (thus continuing our odd pattern of dropping exactly one boss more each week on Thursdays, no more, no less).  So Friday gives the Anvil plenty of time to work on Sarth +2 after saying hi to Korthazz, Rivendare, Ziggy, and Blammo, and then going upstairs to give Sapphy and Kel’Thuzad some noogies.  And, we pulled off two things we’ve been after for a while, as seen above–Arachnophobia, and The Safety Dance.

The “Superior” achievement seems a bit odd, though.  It says “equip a superior item in every slot with a minimum item level of 187.”  Well, apparently that doesn’t mean that all my items have to have a minimum of 187.  I’m still carrying around a craptacular ilevel 174 blue in my ranged slot (Weighted Throwing Axe) because I’ve been slack about getting an Armor-Plated Combat Shotgun made.  And one of my trinkets is the most overinflated and still-useful ilevel 115 purple ever–the Commendation of Kael’thas from Magister’s Terrace.  (I actually have two BC purple trinkets…as part of my shield block set, I swap in Coren’s Lucky Coin from last year’s Brewfest.)

What put me over the top on the achievement was replacing the last of my crafted gear–Tempered Saronite Bracers–with the 60-Valor-badge tanking bracers, the Bracers of Dalaran’s Parapets.  I’ve had terrible luck even seeing tank bracers, much less getting them, so the badge bracers are perfect.  I also picked up two more pieces of DPS plate that nobody else wanted.  Slowly, I’m building at least part of an epic-level deeps set, with 3.1 dual specs in mind.  I don’t really know what I’m doing in terms of itemization, and I’m not bothering to get it enchanted right now, but I figure, hey, if the name’s purple and it’s got +strength, +stamina, and +pwn, and I’m at the bottom of the Suicide Kings list anyway, and nobody else wants it…why not?

I experimented with Grid as a raidframe tonight and it worked out well.  It’s small enough that I could block it out and ignore it when I needed to, and still glance over and keep track of peoples’ statuses on the few occasions I had to know them.  My new UI configuration still needs some tweaking, but it’s already showing improvements, and should show more when I break some old habits (like looking up for my target frames instead of looking down!).  Once I get it more presentable, there will no doubt be a long and involved post on the UI and the components thereof…maybe next weekend.

Warning, overload

Last week I wrote a post about one of the player-driven factors that I think makes for a great in-game tank–situational awareness.  In it, I wrote that good situational awareness is something that can’t be caught, but it can be learned.  You go, you tank, you die, you wipe, you hork things up, and you learn by sheer experience.  It can be painful, and expensive, and time-consuming, but speaking as somebody who learned by that method, it just works.

But I did come up with at least one way that you might be able to help improve your situational awareness…well, maybe not one “way,” but at least one concept to think about.  That concept is filtering the information that you have to process in order to build your SA.  (By the way, this concept holds true for anybody, regardless of your role.  Healers, DPS, doesn’t matter.  I’m just going to look at it from the view of a tank because that’s the role I play in-game most often.)

Here’s what I mean by that.  We know that if you’re a tank, you have a lot of things to worry about.  Health, agro, positioning, adds, timing, your own cooldowns, and so on.  But there are some things that you don’t need to know about.  For example, if I’m tanking Kel’Thuzad, I don’t really need to know that one of our druids just dropped a big heal on our hunter who just ate a frost volley.  That is not a piece of information I need to do my job.  So why should I include it in the stream of information I have to take in and process?

So for me, that means that when I’m on a raid, since I don’t have a healer, I don’t run raidframes.  Ever.  Quite frankly, there’s two health bars I care about 99.9% of the time…mine, and whatever’s eating my face.  Period.  (If I’m on my hunter, add a third–my pet.)  I have my normal five-man party healthbars up on the left, just because I’ve been too lazy to modify that frame.  But especially in 25-mans, I need the screen real estate that 25 health bars would take up.

Another example.  I’m addicted to Scrolling Combat Text.  It’s a kick-ass addon, still better than the built-in Blizzard combat text.  But SCT can absolutely bombard you with information.  Ever left heals turned on and run with a shadow priest and a paladin?  HOLY GREEN SPAM, BATMAN.  Now as a tank, I like knowing that I’m getting healed.  But generally, I don’t need to know the details.  Especially when I’m getting a heal or replenishment constantly–say, Blood Aura, or Judgement of Whatever Heals Me Every Time I Smack The Mob, or similar stuff.  So I’m going to turn those off.  I’ll keep track of my heals by looking at my health bar and watching for SCT “low health” visual and audio warnings.  It’s that much less stuff that I’ve got to look at and interpret.  Other folks use a HUD-style interface to do the same thing, giving them mob health and their health/mana/energy/RP at a glance without having to even look to the upper-left of the screen.

Basically, my advice would be this:  Take a little time about what you need to know to do your job.  Then group that information into categories–like, say, “got to have,” “nice to have,” “don’t need.”  Once you’ve done that, you can start looking at your interface, your window into WoW.  Think about configuring your UI to maximize the important information, and drop the things you don’t need.

Get rid of as much clutter as possible.  I personally like running with as much screen real estate wide-open as I can so I can see things.  (This, BTW, was why I always hated back-into-the-corner fights like Prince Malchezzar.  I really don’t want to spend four minutes trying to tank blind, relying on other people to tell me where to move, and seeing nothing but flashing lights, yellow numbers, and Eredar package.)  

Strip your UI down to the essentials, use what’s needed, drop what’s unneeded.  You probably don’t actually need to have Recount open during a fight unless you’re wanking off to your l33t d33ps…but you might want to have Omen open instead to make sure where you are on the Threat Parade.  Are all those flashing lights and patterns causing problems?  Turn your spell effects down.  Can’t hear Vent?  Ratchet your in-game sound down so you can.

Basically, use your UI as your first line of defense against information overload.  Filter out the extraneous garbage, and give your brain a little more bandwidth to handle the important stuff.  You’ll thank yourself when you walk out of a raid with a lot smaller headache than normal.

Good and evil

Some really interesting thoughts about Alliance vs. Horde and “good” vs. evil over at Going Bearfoot.  It’ll make you stop and think about just who the “good guys” and “bad guys” are in WoW.

(Hat Tip:  Varenna over at Binary Colors.  Enjoy that new T8 paladin belly-shirt armor!)

The Ten Commandments of Raiding (King James Version)

Readest them.  Learnest them.  Livest them.  And it will go well with ye and your children, even unto the fourth generation of alts.  Fail to do what is given to ye today by the Holy Llanion, and ye will, verily, be banished from the Holy Land of One-Night Naxx Clears and be cursed now and forever as That Guy…eth.

(Hat tip:  Where else but Anna?)

Somebody call DEHTA…

…I think this qualifies as sheep abuse.  And not the kind of sheep abuse Loch Modan dwarves supposedly do on cold nights, either.

Dramatis Personae: Illithanis

It’s time for another installment of “Dramatis Personae,” where I introduce my various characters that I occasionally mention here on Panzercow.  Today, meet my blood elf hunter Illithanis.

  • Full name:  Illithanis Jadehawk
  • Created:  November 2007
  • Level/race/class:  Level 76 blood elf hunter
  • Spec:  Beastmastery (currently 53/14/0)
  • Age:  119 (human equivalent 20)

“Illy,” as I call her (and she does not call herself), grew up in Quel’thalas, where her family, the Jadehawks, had considerable land and holdings south of Silvermoon in what is currently the central portion of Eversong Woods, on the western edge of the Dead Scar.  Many generations of Jadehawks before Illithanis served proudly as Farstriders, the ranger corps of the quel’dorei, dating back three thousand years to the Troll Wars.  Skill with bow and sword, and a great affinity with taming and training winged animals such as dragonhawks, ran in the family.

All that changed when Arthas showed up seven years ago and led his assault on the Sunwell.  Illithanis and her fraternal-twin brother Althoris were sent to Sunstrider Isle in a last-ditch effort to preserve the family line–both were very indignant at this fact, as they wished to fight the Scourge.  In the end, they were two of the few survivors of the quel’dorei, renamed the sin’dorei–blood elves.  (Miraculously, both Illithanis’ parents also survived, though their landholdings were all but destroyed and the elder Jadehawks were forced to abandon the rest, and now live inside the rebuilt city of Silvermoon in moderate circumstances.)

Illithanis attempted to follow in her family tradition and join the Farstriders.  But with the ascension of the Blood Knights and the Magisters, the Farstriders found themselves greatly diminished in power, prestige, and size.  In addition, Illithanis’ rather negative opinions of Lor’themar Theron and the post-Kael’thas administration of Quel’thalas rendered her politically “unfit” for service.  She became the first Jadehawk in three thousand years not to serve Silvermoon as a Farstrider, and made her own way out into the world as a free agent.  Her brother Althoris, on the other hand, became an eager young Blood Knight.

Physically, Illy is fairly unexceptional; attractive, but not memorably beautiful, with regular features, something of a long face, pointy chin, and thinner lips than she’d like.  She’s of a normal blood elven build and height, perhaps a bit more athletic than a caster-type but by no means muscular (“wiry” would be a good word).  She has jet-black hair of just over shoulder-length, held back of her ears with a jade-encrusted clasp.  She’s got the complexion of someone who spends a lot of time outdoors.  She hardly ever wears makeup, and her only jewelry besides her hairband, rings, and trinkets is a small jade hawk earring in her right ear.  That doesn’t mean she’s slovenly; far from it, she bathes as regularly as she can, and her clothing and equipment are always repaired and as neat as she can possibly keep them.

I’m still working on Illy’s personality.  Some things I know about her, and some things she’s steadfastly refused to reveal.  I know she’s a generally decent sort, especially for a blood elf (which fits in with what lore says about Farstriders in general).  She can be arrogant and doesn’t suffer fools well.  She despises what she sees as the lazy, indolent, corrupt culture of the “elite” in Silvermoon and fumes at what’s been done to her beloved Farstriders, especially by the Blood Knights–and yet, up until patch 2.4, she was an unrepentant Kael’thas fangirl.  We’re talking poster-on-the-ceiling levels of squee here.  She saw him as the savior of Quel’thalas in the Third War (such as was saved), and constantly wished he would return from Outland, sweep aside Theron and the Blood Knights, and reset the sin’dorei on the path toward greatness yet again.

Then came patch 2.4.  Whoopsie.  Come to find out that Kael really is a bastard who stole his own people’s naaru and left them starving for magic.  Illy’s still getting over the betrayal.  It’s left her with a huge distrust of kings and magisters in general, and deepened her hatred for her native Silvermoon even more.  She only comes there now to occasionally visit her parents and sometimes to train with the Farstriders.

I do know that Illy has taken to the Horde more than a lot of blood elves.  She respects the warrior tradition of orcs even as she’s repulsed by some of their bloodier aspects.  Tauren culture fascinates her, but it’s in sort of a patronizing Jane-Goodall-and-her-chimps kind of way.  She stays well away from trolls–hey, 3000 years of conditioning is hard to break–and Forsaken squick her, even though her #2 idol, Ranger-General Sylvanas Windrunner, is one.  She’s neutral on dwarves, gnomes, and Draenei.  Humans infuriate her for what she sees as Garithos’ betrayal, and she really looks down her nose at night elves, thinking them stupid redneck country-bumpkin tree-humping idiots.  If she calls you a night elf, she just insulted the hell out of you.

The other hook I’m trying to hang onto with her (but may not be able to) is that she only tames and works with flying animals.  She started with a dragonhawk, then switched to a Thousand Needles venomous cloud serpent at level 28.  At level 44, I found her a beautiful red Feralas rogue vale screecher, named it Bloodwing, and she’s used it until now.  (And yes, I admit it, I tamed it because at the time, her armor was all red, and they matched.)  Bloodwing may get honorable retirement, though.  Yesterday I tamed an Emerald Skytalon from the Emerald Dragonshrine and named it…Emerald.  C’mon, her last name’s Jadehawk, how could I not tame a bright green bird of prey?

And for slogging through this wall of text, you get a bonus…my tribute to one of the greatest scenes in movie history, Ursula Andress’ famous entrance as Honey Rider in the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, done WoW style:

Double your pleasure, double your loots

I think it may have been that great orcish bard, Muktuk Snakespearer, who once said, “The best-laid plans of meese and moocows, sooner or later, are gonna get an arrow through the eye.  Guaranteed.”

Friday night, when the Anvil prepared to hit Naxxramas, we only had 22 people in the raid at go time, and Gothik, Four Horsemen, Sapphiron, and Kel’Thuzad left to clear, with a first attempt at Sartharion +1 afterward if we had time.  Real Life did what Real Life does and threw a wrench into the works.  Well, even though we are very strict about putting Real Life before Raid Life, we weren’t going to let Real Life dork up our Friday night fun.  So the twenty-two of us bravely headed through the Green Skulls of Three Times The Mob Health, and buffed up…

…and blew the place apart with 22 people.  Gothik, dead.  Four Horsemen, dead.  Sartharion, dead.  Neidermeyer…

For KT, we knew we would need a little more firepower, so we managed to get two of our Thursday night regulars who don’t generally come with us on Fridays to join up.  That brought us up to 24, and 24 is what we went with as we charged into Kel’Thuzad’s lair.

After two wipes, we were sailing along pretty good on our third attempt until the MT died with Big Nasty at around 56%.  My spinal tanky reflexes kicked in–I was technically #3 on the tank list behind the MT and a prot paladin, but I mashed Taunt and grabbed agro on Kel’Thuzad, then moved to where our MT had died.  I figured I’d hold him until they battle-rezzed and rebuffed Gorebash (our MT) and he could take back over, and I’d move back to my melee spot and get ready to grab Guardians of Icecrown when they came out (my designated job).

Instead, over Vent I heard:  “OK, leave Lin on KT, Gore and I will pick up the Guardians.”

Two thoughts flashed through my head, in this order:  Holy shit, I’m tanking Kel’thuzad!, followed by, oh God, PLEASE DO NOT LET ME FUCK THIS UP.

We got him.  I didn’t die.  I didn’t get hit by a single frostbolt because our melee and Wind Shocking shaman were on top of their game.  The healing was perfect.  All I had to do was stand there and mash my normal buttons, nothing different.  We were hanging on by our thumbnails at the end with a few deaths, but dammit, we got him, and that’s what counted.

What did we do after that for an encore?  Headed a little south to the Obsidian Sanctum and one-shot our first 25-man attempt at Sarth +1, that’s what.  With me tanking Sartharion.  Sartharion is a ridiculously easy fight to maintank (at least with zero or one drake up) as long as you position him right on the pull.  Put him in the right spot on the east end of his island, and it’s no more than six steps to either side for safety when the lava walls roll through.

So I accidentally got to maintank Kel’thuzad, and intentionally got to maintank Sartharion.  And, oh yeah, I got my Tier 7.5 breastplate.  And all I really wanted to do last night, besides downing the bosses, was test out if a slight tweak to my actionbars would improve my threat and my deeps.  (It did.  I’ll post more on that later.)

Anna’s RP Friday Five – The Three R’s

It’s Friday morning, so it must be time for another wonderful Friday Five from Too Many Annas.  This week it’s about…edumacashun.

  • Can your character read and write?

Actually, all of my various characters can to one degree or another.  Maybe it’s laziness on my part, but I just can’t seem to work up the energy to play a good illiterate.  Moktor is probably the closest I’ll ever get to a functional illiterate, and hers is more just a fifth-grade education than anything else.  But it’s not like you really need to read and write so much when you can command the powers of frost, disease, and blood.

  • Is he/she good with numbers and business-like things?

Linedan and Moktor, no.  They can do normal math if you give them a minute, Lin more so than Moktor.  Illithanis is a little better just because she’s brighter and has a formal education from Silvermoon (albeit nothing more than your average elven high school diploma with a 2.8 GPA).  Beltar, oddly enough, would be my best numbers guy.  He’s smarter than he looks and acts, and has hung around enough merchants and criminals for a century that he’s picked up a nose for numbers and how to manipulate them.

  • Does your character have a formal (schooled) education or an informal (apprenticed/learned by experience) education? Or both?

Hard to say with Linedan…I imagine Tauren education is largely informal.  Beltar’s basically a ninth-grade dropout with a century of classes in the School of Hard Knocks on top of it.  Illithanis, as stated above, has a formal secondary-level education but her “practical” skills with bow, animal, and skinning knife are family-taught.  Moktor’s an elementary-school dropout street urchin.

  • Has he/she learned another language than the one they grew up speaking (in full or in part)?

Linedan, yes because he knows Orcish in addition to Taurahe; his spoken Orcish is very precise and somewhat formal.  Beltar, yes because he knows Common in addition to Dwarven, and has also picked up a very small smattering of expressive cursewords in Darnassian, Thalassian, Orcish, and Tarquinese/Jolstraerian.  (His latest project is a Lordaeron-to-Common dictionary, entitled “The Apostrophe, Why It Is Half The Northmen’s Alphabette.”)  Illithanis, again, yes because she can speak/read/write in Orcish and Thalassian quite fluently, and in fact rather oddly likes the harsh Orcish language.  Moktor, nope, just Orcish for her.

  • What does your character’s handwriting look like?

Linedan:  Block printing, very slow and precise, because that’s how he learns–not by gift of intelligence, but by sheer bloody-minded hellbent rote persistence.  Beltar:  Doctor-level semi-intelligible high-speed scribble, but the spelling is usually close to right at least.  Illithanis:  Small yet flowing, somewhat sloppy because she writes quickly (a Farstrider talent of quickly making scouting notes).  Moktor:  Ten-year-old all-over-the-page badly misspelled scrawl.

The Sixth Screenshot

So Anna tagged me with a variation on a WoWblog meme that’s been going around the WoW blogosphere the past few days, starting here:  Post the sixth screenshot in your sixth folder under screenshots.

Well, I don’t have but one screenshot folder for WoW.  And sorting alphabetically, which I do in that folder, I get this as my sixth screenie:

This is another shot of the Anvil Raid last Friday night after our first kill on Kel’Thuzad.  And no, I don’t know why Balmora decided to strip to her underwear.

Ruminations on the Wrathgate

This morning, after wiping on the Insomnia boss, I got my blood elf hunter Illithanis through the last part of the Wrathgate questline, saw the Cutscene of Cool (SPOILER ALERT!!), and completed the Battle for the Undercity (gaining level 75 in the process).  Illy is the third character I’ve run through the Wrathgate (now two Horde, one Alliance) and it’s still pretty much made of awesome.  But as I helped Thrall clean up the mess in Undercity, my sleep-deprived mind started wandering, as it is wont to do, and got me to thinking…

(CAUTION: Spoilers lie under the cut.  If you are one of the, eh, fourteen or so people out of 11+ million who don’t know how the whole Wrathgate/Undercity event goes and want to wait until you see it for yourself, then you may want to skip this and read some of the other fine content on this here blog thang or check out the blogroll.)

Spoilers lie within. And random thoughts. You’ve been warned.

The best Sartharion +0 strategy ever

Just watch out for the burnt marshmallow seals.

EDIT:  OK, it’s a month old.  I’m that far behind the times.  Don’t hate, yo.

What makes a “great” tank? Here’s one possibility

Y’know, it still amazes me that people sometimes come and ask me for advice about tanking.  Seriously.  I tell them, every time, look, I’m not a great tank.  I’m a good tank.  I’ve put a lot of time and effort into learning my craft, learning encounters, what buttons to push, what gear I need, what my capabilities allow me to do–and what they don’t allow me to do.  I’m good at what I do, but by no means legendary in any sense of the word.  There’s a lot of tanks on Feathermoon with equivalent gear, spec, and experience to me, and I don’t consider myself any higher than the 50th or 55th percentile among them.

So this leads, logically, to a question.  If you’ve got two tanks with the same gear, the same spec, and the same “time in type,” as they say in aviation…what makes one just good, and the other “great?”  Obviously, it’s got something to do with the carbon-based interface behind the keyboard.  But what?

Well, over the weekend, some tiny part of my brain was background-processing on this, and came up with a possible answer.  It’s an answer that doesn’t normally come up in terms of an easy recreational activity like MMORPGs.  It is, in fact, an answer that is associated more with life-and-death combat in the real world than the virtual.  It is…

…situational awareness.

Wikipedia has a surprisingly long and detailed entry on this subject, but the thumbnail of what they call “situation awareness” gets the job done for this discussion.  Situational awareness, or SA, is:

[t]he perception of elements in the environment within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, big guy,” you’re probably thinking.  “This is World of Warcraft, dude, not some graduate-level human factors course.  Kill pixels, get phat pixellated loots, maybe look at some pixellated boobies.  Why all the big words?”  Stay with me here, and I’ll explain.

The term situational awareness first entered my consciousness in the mid-1990s, during my combat flight sim addiction phase.  SA was coined by Air Force fighter pilots coming back from Korea and Vietnam.  They applied the term to mean the ability for a fighter pilot to constantly know what was going on around them, process the information, and use that information to act correctly, faster than the opponent(s) could (part of John Boyd’s famous “OODA loop“).  It was, basically, the ability to form a “moving picture” in your head of where threats and allies were, and what they were doing, so you had a base of information to make quick, accurate decisions.

Now, translate this forward into World of Warcraft.  As a main tank, you are going to be the leader of your instance group–in a raid, you’re generally going to be the man who pushes the button to start the carnage.  You control the flow of the whole encounter, at least, that’s the theory.  You have a metric asston of information you have to process, every second.  Mob health.  Mob positioning.  Your own health.  Your threat in relation to your party.  Are all the mobs still on me?  Is anybody else being hit?  Is there a patrol coming?  Is that mob’s big whammy on cooldown or do I need to get ready to use an ability to survive the next five seconds?  Am I getting enough heals?  Is my main agro generator off cooldown?  Do I need to switch targets to spread threat around?

Start to see the parallels with real life?  No, you’re not strapped into an F-16 25,000 feet above the desert with two MiGs on your six and SAM batteries locked onto you.  But you are in a situation–albeit virtually–where some of the same things apply.  This is where situational awareness comes into play.  From what I’ve seen, the guys with truly superlative SA can take this torrent of information that’s flooding through their eyes and ears and process it with lightning speed.  They take the raw information and turn it into something that can then be used to make decisions.

They’re the tanks who seem to have an uncanny ability to never lose agro because they’re always switching targets to stay ahead of the DPS or healer agro.  They’re the ones that if they do lose agro, nobody may ever know, because they’ve got the mob back on them in a heartbeat.  They’re the ones that never pull extra groups because they always seem to know exactly when to fire an arrow or a spell to pull only what the party wants.  They’re always in control, even on those rare occasions when things go wrong.  They’re constantly one step ahead of their surroundings.  That’s good situational awareness.

SA is something that can’t be taught…but it can be learned.  (No, that’s not me channeling Mr. Miyagi.)  The only way I’ve ever found to build up my ability to process information like that is to just do it.  When I was heavy into combat sims, it meant flying a lot and getting my ass handed to me, a lot.  When tanking, it means just get out there, grab some peeps, and do it.  You’ll probably wipe.  You’ll certainly make mistakes.  But what I think you’ll find as you keep tanking, and tanking, and tanking, is that gradually, you will start to see things more clearly.  Stuff will almost look like it’s happening more slowly.  You’ll be able to drink from that firehose of sights and sounds, of BigWigs warnings and funny little noises, and figure out what to do as a result.  Pretty soon, if you keep at it, you’ll be a “good” tank.

Who knows?  Maybe even a “great” one.

Admit it, fellas…

…wouldn’t you want to wake up after a night of partying and see this hotness in the bed next to you?

Just, y’know.  Never mind the blue glowy eyes.  Or the lank purple hair.  Or the bits falling off because she’s a dead orc death knight.  Or the really snecking big rune-covered sword.

(The armor, if you’re curious, is the Murkblood Avenger’s Chestplate and Murkblood Avenger’s Legplates from quests in Nagrand.)

How my kid saved me

Quick story…I was on my death knight alt hunting in Nagrand.  My wife (aka Wife Unit, also player of Rashona the druid on Feathermoon) and three-year-old daughter, aka Nublet, came in before they headed out to take some food to a friend who’s sick.

As I got up, picked my darling little girl up and gave her a big, big hug, she flung her arms around my neck, hugged me tight, looked over my shoulder at my monitor, and said, “Daddy, Daddy!  There’s a bad man on your puter!”

I turned around in time to see an air elemental wailing on Moktor.

The air elemental was dispatched, my DK was saved, and Nublet got another hug for saving me a repair bill.

Told ya so

Clean one-shot for The Anvil Raid’s first 25-man Kel’Thuzad kill.  Then we celebrated by going out and doing our first Sartharion 25-man (no drakes), also on a clean one-shot.  The dargon gave me a nice pair of pants, too.

Next week, we’ll hopefully get KT again with enough spare time to start on Sarth +1.

Dual specs, or the loneliness of the long-distance offtank

So Blizzard has put out a Q&A with Ghostcrawler about how the Dual Spec feature planned for the 3.1 release is going to work.  You’ve probably already seen the information, if you’re hooked into the WoW blogosphere at all.

I am really looking forward to this feature because of where I sit with my current 25-man raid.  I am in a raid that’s, basically, a side of pwnage stuffed with spectacular, drizzled in awesomesauce, and wrapped in bacon.  I’ve been part of it off and on for three years now, from the days when I was a badly-undergeared level 60 31/5/15 hybrid and got dragged to Molten Core, all the way up to being a regular offtank on Tier 5 and Tier 6 content in Burning Crusade.  Now, we’re in 25-man Naxx, with everything but Kel’Thuzad dead.

We do things a little differently–instead of a “standard” 3 tank/6 healer/16 DPS setup, we usually run with 4 tanks and either 5 healers/16 DPS or 6 healers/15 DPS.  And by “tank” I mean dedicated tanks–a prot warrior MT, a prot paladin, a frost DK, and me, the other prot warrior.  We also have one or two feral druids that are quite capable of stepping up if needed–trust me, we’re not hurting for an offensive line on this team.  All four of us dedicated tanks buff out over 35,000 health–I’m the squishiest at about 35.5k, with the warrior and paladin closer to 37k and the DK at an astonishing 40k fully pimped.

But as the #4 tank, generally, I don’t really tank all that much.  I MT every so often, but mostly, I tank trash where I can, grab and hold adds (slimes on Grobbulus, worshippers on Faerlina, etc.), work the back of the room on Four Horsemen sometimes, stuff like that–the kind of lunchpail down-in-the-trenches work that offtanks do while the MT gets to dance with Big Nasty.  With a great MT and two very strong AOE tanks, though, and with the design of Naxx encounters not really needing four dedicated high-health, high-avoidance tanks all that often, a lot of the time, I’m left DPSing, while still keeping my tank suit on in the event that things go to hell in a bucket and I have to step in and take some hits.  And while it isn’t the total effort in futility that it was pre-3.0, DPSing as a prot warrior who’s not getting beaned in the head is never going to produce a lot of deeps.  Rage generation of a 1H + shield is, and will always be, very low, even with a good weapon like Lin’s Split Greathammer.  Low rage = low damage output.

Dual specs offers a ray of hope.  It may give me the chance to make Linedan what I have wanted him to be for a very long time…a true hybrid combination of tank capability and painbringing, a DPS/offtank hybrid.  Hybrid specs for warriors right now simply do not work.  You’ve got to be 51+ in some tree or other, and 51+ in either of the DPS trees is generally not going to leave you capable of main tanking even a 10-man raid, possibly even a harder heroic (depending on gear of course).  I’ve chosen to take him Prot, 15/5/51 currently, because that’s what I have the gear for, and that’s the spec I generally like playing.  He’s a good tank, geared and ready for anything up through 25-man content.  I’ve worked hard to make him a good tank and make myself a good tank player.  But there are situations where another tank isn’t what’s needed…and maybe I can help.

So my long-term plan, at this point, is to start using heroics and 10-mans to build him an offspec DPS set with an eye toward a raid Arms build–54/17/0, or whatever a similar raid-support Arms build looks like after Blizzard tweaks Arms for 3.1.  (Build courtesy of the folks over at Big Hit Box.)  Why Arms?  Because while I don’t like being dead last on the Deeps Parade, I’m not in it to blow the top off the meters.  I’m in it to help the raid succeed.  And Arms brings a lot of toys to help a raid that’s heavy on physical damage, as ours sometimes is, kill stuff faster.  Trauma giving +30% to bleed damage for 15 seconds after a crit?  Hell, my wife the feral druid will love me for that alone.  Then throw in the extra +2% (maybe +4% in 3.1) physical damage from Blood Frenzy whenever Rend or Deep Wounds is up.  I won’t do the insane DPS that a TG Fury warrior can do.  But I can do more than I can as Prot, and jack up everybody else’s too.

I’m not going to go Arms full-time, no way.  I like Prot.  I like tanking.  I’m not going to change from primarily being a Prot warrior.  Arms would be my secondary build, to be dragged out in situations where I know I won’t have to MT anything and I’ll only be occasionally offtanking.  If the materials for the “portable Lexicon” Ghostcrawler mentions aren’t too expensive, maybe I can even switch mid-raid if it proves necessary.

I sure hope Blizzard doesn’t bork this feature up, because it’s one of the cooler concepts that’s come along in WoW for a while.

Random thoughts about 25-man Naxxramas

1.  Sir Zeliek’s chain holy bolts really hurt…especially a 45k one right to the nuts when you’re charging him after finishing off Baron Rivendare.

2.  Patchwerk is in cahoots with occupational therapists.  I can’t otherwise explain why Blizzard designed a fight that’s guaranteed to give the tanks carpal tunnel syndrome from all the frantic button-mashing.

3.  25-man geared death knight tanks with 40,000 buffed health are freaking scary.

3a.  They’re freaking scarier when you’re trying to stay ahead of them on threat.  Good Lord.

4.  There is no problem that cannot be solved by a suitable application of 4000 dps fury warrior directly to Noth’s forehead.


6.  Taunt and Charge do not do the same thing.  Charge is that button that puts you in facepull range of an entire alcove in Kel’Thuzad’s room.  Do not ask me how I know this.

7.  No, I didn’t die, that was a Death Knight Captain.  I can’t help it if all my 25-man tank gear makes me LOOK like a Death Knight Captain, can I?

8.  When you’re the #4 tank on a four-tank raid?  You don’t tank all that much.  LEET PROT WARRIOR DPS MODE ACTIVA…uh, never mind.  *hides DPS meter*

9.  I am not a “slack-jawed daffodill.”  I’m a special snowflake.

10.  Make out your will, Kel’Thuzad.  You’re going down tonight, buddy.

Oh noes!

The Ice Stone has melted.

Damn global warming.

Care and feeding of your prot warrior, part III: When it goes wrong

(Part I of the series is here; Part II is here.)

In a perfect virtual world, you’d never overpull.  Your tank would never lose agro because something shiny distracted him, your healers would never lag out or space out, your DPS would never open every single pull with the biggest shiniest heaviest nuke in their arsenal and land it a second before the tank arrived.

This is not a perfect virtual world we play in.  Stuff goes wrong.  A lot.  And when it does, the protection warrior has a lot of different ways to hopefully make it right again and save the day.  In the interest of keeping it reasonably family-friendly around here, I’m going to call these “‘uh-oh’ buttons,” as opposed to what I usually call them–substitute a somewhat earthier term for “uh-oh.”

I’m going to broadly group our “uh-oh” buttons into two types:  agro control (what we hit when a mob decides it wants priest tartar) and death prevention (what we hit when said priest tartar doesn’t hit us with the green glowy goodness fast enough).  First, the agro control abilities and talents:

(Please note that I’m assuming that you’re familiar with the basics of how threat and agro work.)

Taunt. Baseline ability.  Obtained at level 10, requires Defensive Stance, costs zero rage, 8-second cooldown, 30-yard range.  This ability taunts the target to attack the warrior.  It does this by placing the warrior at the top of the mob’s current agro list.  If the warrior is already being attacked (i.e., has highest threat), then Taunt does nothing, but it will eat the cooldown.  Now, please note:  Unlike, say, a DK’s Death Grip, Taunt does not command the target to attack the warrior through any other mechanic than being #1 on the mob’s agro list.  If somebody else in the party continues to pump out more threat per second than the warrior, the Taunt won’t hold for very long, and “somebody else” will become chow.  Therefore, a Taunt is typically followed up, if possible, by as much burst threat as possible in order to hold the mob.  This is our primary emergency “oh crap it’s heading for the healer grab it now” maneuver.  And it doesn’t always work–it can miss, just like any other spell, and is helped by +hit.

Mocking Blow. Baseline ability.  Obtained at level 16, requires Battle or Defensive Stance, costs 10 rage, 60-second cooldown, melee range.  This is a melee attack that causes normal weapon damage, a “moderate” amount of additional bonus threat, and most importantly, causes the mob to focus attacks on the warrior for 6 seconds.  Prior to 3.0, this was basically a useless ability because it could not be used in Defensive Stance (where tanks spend 99% of their tanking time).  In order to use it, the warrior had to shift to Battle Stance, rebuild 10 rage, use the ability, and shift back to Defensive Stance.  Post-3.0, it’s now usable in Defensive Stance.  It’s still a weak-sister backup ability to Taunt due to the 1-minute cooldown and the fact that it doesn’t actually move the warrior back up to the top of the threat list, it just forces the mob to attack him for 6 seconds; at the end of that time, it’ll go back to whoever’s at the top of the list.  It’s designed to buy time for Taunt to come back around and grab the mob for real.

Challenging Shout.  Baseline ability.  Obtained at level 26, no stance restriction, costs 5 rage, 3-minute cooldown, 10-yard range.  Hitting this will cause all mobs within 10 yards of the warrior to focus attacks on him for 6 seconds.  This is a serious “uh-oh” button, generally used when things are totally falling apart and the tank’s lost control of multiple mobs at once.  Like Taunt, it has to be followed up with high threat generation by the tank (or the DPS backing off), or the mobs will switch back to someone else.

Vigilance. Tier 7 Protection talent.  1 point.  This replaced Shield Slam as the Protection 31-point talent in 3.0.  It’s a buff, cast by the warrior on someone else in their group or raid, with a 30-minute duration.  During that time, 10% of the threat generated by that person is taken from them and transferred to the warrior.  In addition, their damage taken is reduced by 3%, and if they are hit by an attack, the warrior’s Taunt cooldown is immediately refreshed.  It’s a handy, but not essential, talent.  Warriors can either place it on a healer for the ability to instantly snap-taunt off them, or they can place it on a high-DPS, high-threat character like a fury warrior or rogue or mage in order to get themselves a nice threat boost (and hopefully keep the DPS from yoinking agro).  Because the recipient’s threat is actually reduced, tanks do not put this on other tanks.

There’s a second set of abilities that we have designed to improve our survivability.  These are:

Shield Block. Baseline talent.  Obtained at level 16, requires Defensive Stance, costs zero rage, 60-second cooldown (talentable down to 40 seconds), melee range.  We covered this already in Part II of this series; when activated, it increases the warrior’s shield block rating and shield block value by 100% for 10 seconds.  I try to time it for situations where I know mobs will be hitting harder, like enrages or frenzies.

Shield Wall. Baseline talent.  Obtained at level 28, requires Defensive Stance and a shield (duh), costs zero rage, 5-minute cooldown (talentable down to 4 minutes).  This is the ultimate butt-saving “uh-oh” button we have.  It reduces all incoming damage–melee, spell, ranged, whatever–by 60% for 12 seconds.  The situations in which this is used are pretty obvious, and varied.  It can be applied pre-emptively for situations where you know you are about to take a metric crapton of damage (Kael’thas’ pyroblast, Patchwerk’s enrage), or if you’re quick, you can hit it when you’re low on health and buy your healers time to bring you back from the near-dead.

Last Stand. Tier 3 Protection talent, 1 point.  5-minute cooldown.  When activated, this talent increases the warrior’s health by 30% of his current maximum health, for 20 seconds.  After that, the extra health goes away.  Here’s another serious emergency button.  For a raid-buffed, well-geared prot warrior, this can bring their health way over 45,000 for that 20 seconds–and unlike a Power Word:  Fortitude, Last Stand actually grants the extra health.  If, at the end of the 20 seconds, the warrior would be killed by losing the extra health, he’ll be at 1 health point.  Hit this, then hit Shield Wall on the next cooldown, and for 12 seconds, you’re indestructible even if a healer can’t get to you.  After that, you’re toast.

I think there’s a misconception among some people who’ve never played a warrior that we have some sort of magic at-will taunt that can save them if they pull agro.  We do, sort of.  Taunt is effective, but it’s not guaranteed–it can miss.  And most importantly, we can only do it every eight seconds.  In a situation where two mobs break loose, or things start to fall apart, we may have to pick and choose who we taunt from, and who gets to play tank.  (Hint:  We’ll save the healer first.)  Also, remember talking about kill orders?  Because our AOE threat generation is weaker than paladins or DKs, and our reliable taunt is single-target (except for Challenging Shout, which is for emergencies), a lot of potential problems can be headed off by remembering to stick to the kill order.

I hope these three articles help a little bit in explaining about how prot warriors work, how we’re different from other tank classes, and why we do what we do.  I don’t pretend to be the be-all end-all expert on the class, but I’ve been prot now for about a year and a half, more-or-less continuously, and have really grown to love it.  So if you’ve got any questions or want to see anything else on this topic, just ping me, and I’ll see if I can come up with an answer.

Who knows, it might even be right.

Care and feeding of your prot warrior, part II: The Shield

(Part I of “Care and Feeding of Your Prot Warrior” is here.)

If you don’t believe a shield can be a weapon…insult a protection warrior’s mother.

It’s just a piece of wood or steel or titanium or saronite strapped onto the left arm of a prot warrior.  It looks cool.  But it’s just a shield, right?  You block stuff with it.  You hide behind it.  Wouldn’t it be better to have something sharp and pointy, or big and bashy, in that left hand, to do l33t d33ps with?

Not if you’re a prot warrior.  If you’re ready to do a little more hardcore theorycrafting than in Part I, then come along and see why prot warriors dual wield even when they’re sword-and-boarding…

(Caveat:  Yes, it is possible for a warrior to tank without a shield in lower-level instances.  Practical?  Smart?  Nope, unless they seriously overgear the instance.  IMO, especially if you’re a prot warrior, you’re gimping yourself badly if you don’t walk the traditional 1H + shield path when tanking anything, no matter what level.)

There are two important shield-related numbers for a warrior.  They’re Shield Block Rating (SBR, or “rating”) and Shield Block Value (SBV, or “value”).  Rating is the percent chance you have to block an attack passively.  Value is how much you block when you do block, passively or actively.  Value is a function of the “block” number on the shield, any items or enchants you have that explicitly increase your SBV, and your Strength.  Post-3.0, 2 Strength points = 1 SBV.  (Prior to 3.0, it was 20 Strength for 1 SBV.)  This change to SBV is one of the biggest reasons that post-3.0, Strength has become a vitally important stat for prot warriors–so important that existing Outland Tier 4 through 6 tanking gear was retconned to include it at the expense of avoidance stats.

There are three shield-related talents that every warrior has, regardless of spec.  They are:

Shield Block:  Gained at level 16, and requires Defensive Stance.  Increases the warrior’s chance to block and block value by 100% for 10 seconds, 60-second cooldown (talentable down to 40).  Basically, when a tank hits this, they’ll block every blockable physical melee attack that hits from the front for 10 seconds, and have double their normal SBV.  Prior to 3.0, this ability was on a short cooldown and blocked one (talentable to two) attacks.  It was part of our spammable rotation.  Now things have changed, and Shield Block is our shortest-duration “uh-oh” button.  I use it on initial pulls, when I know hard hits are coming, and when bosses are getting ready to enrage.

Shield Bash:  Gained at level 12, requires Battle or Defensive Stance.  Bash the target with the shield, dazing them and interrupting spellcasting, which prevents any spell in that school from being cast for 6 seconds, 12-second cooldown.  This one’s pretty self explanatory.  It does no damage, and has two main uses–interrupting spellcasting, and slowing down runners.  A Prot tree ability called Gag Order makes this even more useful; it adds a 3-second silence to Shield Bash.  (See below.)

Shield Slam: Gained at level 40,  no stance restriction, 6-second cooldown.  Slam the target with the shield, causing (variable by rank) damage, modified by shield block value, and removing 1 magic effect from the target.  Also causes a high amount of threat.  This is the prot warrior’s big nuke.  It used to be the 31-point Prot talent, corresponding to Mortal Strike for Arms and Bloodthirst for Fury, but Blizzard took it baseline in 3.0 to give non-prot warriors better tanking ability.  Because Shield Slam damage is modified by SBV–which is now in turn heavily influenced by Strength–here’s where that “2 str = 1 SBV” equation shines through.

But, that’s just baseline stuff.  Now let’s look at abilities and talents that let prot warriors take that moderately-useful shield and truly turn it into a fearsome weapon:

Shield Specialization: Tier 1 talent, 5 points.  For each point, the warrior increases their block rating by 1% and has a 20% chance to generate 2 rage on a successful block.  Useful, but not always 100% necessary–Lin does OK with just having 2/5 in this talent.  A more purely mitigation-oriented build would probably take 5/5 here.

Shield Mastery: Tier 3 talent, 2 points.  Increases shield block value by 15% per point and reduces the cooldown of the Shield Block ability by 10 seconds per point.  This is a must-have.  Two points here boosts SBV by 30%–nice scaling there for an 11-point talent–and cuts the cooldown on Shield Block to 40 seconds.  Remember, Shield Slam scales off SBV, so the bigger the SBV, the harder that guy gets smashed in the face.

Gag Order:  Tier 5 talent, 2 points.  Gives the Shield Bash and Heroic Throw abilities a 50% per point chance to silence the target for 3 seconds, and increases the damage of the Shield Slam ability by 5% per point.  Hey, look, more scaling for Shield Slam damage.  You’d almost think Blizzard wanted us to rely on it or something.

Critical Block: Tier 9 talent, 3 points.  Successful blocks have a 10% per point chance to block double the normal amount, and increases the chance to critically hit with Shield Slam by an additional 5% per point.  Well, well, well. Put 3 points in this pup, and suddenly all blocks have a 30% chance to double the damage mitigated.  And yes, it stacks with Shield Block, so while under the effect of Shield Block, this can also fire, and the tank blocks roughly quadruple his normal SBV.  And look at the second part.  3 points, +15% crit to Shield Slam.  Between the occasional significant boost to block value and the +15% crit to Shield Slam, this is pretty much a Prot-tree must-have.

Sword and Board: Tier 10 talent, 3 points.  Increases the critical strike chance of the Devastate ability by 5% per point, and when the Devastate or Revenge ability deals damage, it has a 10% per point chance of refreshing the cooldown on Shield Slam and reducing its rage cost by 100% for 5 seconds.  This one doesn’t boost Shield Slam damage…but it gives a chance to get a free one.  And considering how hard Shield Slam hits, free is very good.

So let’s put it all together.  At level 80, Rank 8 Shield Slam has a base damage of 990-1040.  That’s modified by SBV, of which your average well-geared prot warrior will probably have around 1000 or so nicely buffed, maybe more if they gear to stack it (high +strength and +SBV pieces).  Shield Mastery boosts that SBV by 30%.  Gag Order increases the total damage of Shield Slam by 10%.  And Critical Block increases the crit chance of Shield Slam by 15%.  That’s not even factoring in the indirect effect of talents like Vitality (+2% Strength per point) or Improved Defensive Stance (50% per point chance to be Enraged on a block/dodge/parry, increasing all damage by 10%) or in Lin’s case, Impale (+20% to all critical damage on “yellow” attacks).

The bottom line of all this theorycrafting?  To use some numbers from Linedan, who is a moderately-geared warrior for 25-man content…raid-buffed, he runs a crit chance of around 11-13%, +5% if he’s lucky enough to get a druid in his group.  He has 1100-1200 SBV with those same buffs.  That translates to Shield Slams around 2000, crits for well over 4000 normally, and as high as 6000 when Shield Block is up (remember, my SBV is doubled, and that factors in to Shield Slam as well, so Shield Block has a useful defensive and offensive component), with a crit chance bumping 26-28%.  Every 6 seconds.  For 17 rage.  Whether or not he’s even tanking, because Shield Slam is not stance-restricted.  Consistently, on instance after instance, raid after raid, whether I’m tanking full-time or not, Shield Slam is my number one damage dealer, usually running 20-23% of my total.

3.0 threw the old prot-warrior DPS paradigm out the window.  Back in Burning Crusade, prot warriors who had to DPS would throw on some DPS gear, dual-wield two one-handed weapons, jump into Berserker Stance, and spam Devastate (and Heroic Strike if they had the rage).  The theory was because Shield Slam really didn’t hit very hard (remember, 20 Strength = 1 SBV), it was better to dual-wield and spam instants.  Post-3.0, even with the craptacular rage generation that 1H + shield causes, our DPS is higher if we keep the shield on, get in the DPS gear if we can, go Berserker Stance, and just try to be as efficient as we can with our rage management and Shield Slam every time it’s available–plus, Devastate if we can, to try and get a free Shield Slam.  If we can’t get in DPS gear and have to stay in tank gear because the fight requires it?  Our tank gear still has massive +strength on it, allowing us to bring Shield Slam pain even in our 540+-defense prot suits.

We will never do seriously awesome DPS when not tanking.  I run about 800-1000 when not tanking during a 25-man raid (where I’m still in my low-crit high-defense tank gear), and more like 1200-1300 while tanking.  We’re generally the weakest tank class in terms of DPS while tanking.  But that 1200-1300 is still four times what I did tanking 25-mans at level 70, wearing 4/5 Tier 5.

And now you know why a shield is a prot warrior’s best friend.  It’s not just for hiding behind anymore.

Coming in Part III…when things go to hell in a bucket, we’ve got a wide variety of ways to get the bucket back.  Warrior “uh-oh” buttons, and how you can keep us from having to use them, next, on Achtung Panzercow.

(Part III, “When It Goes Wrong,” is now up!  You can read it here.)

Care and feeding of your prot warrior, part I: Basics

Congratulations on your purchase of a new Protection Warrior!  We have engineered your Protection Warrior to the highest quality standards, and with proper care and maintenance, it will give you years of enjoyment.  Please take time to read these instructions, as improper use of your Protection Warrior can cause injury and void your warranty!

Before the “easymode” prot paladin…before the 40k-health feral druid…and way before the “how many spell effects CAN we put on the screen at one time” death knight…there was the prot warrior.  In the Triassic period of WoW, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth because nobody was high enough level to get into Un’goro, prot warriors were “the” tank.  And now, years later, though Blizzard has changed tanking to make any of the four main tank-capable classes pretty much equally viable–a good thing, IMO–we prot warriors are still here, relics from a prior time, yet re-invented by 3.0 and Wrath of the Lich King.

Hopefully I can write an educational series about prot warriors for people who aren’t prot warriors and have no plans to ever roll one.  I’d like to try an impart some info about the class–what we do, why we do it, how we gear, what to look for, how you can work with us in parties–so that (a) you can appreciate what we do, and (b) we can pwn stuff in the face faster, harder, and better, and get more loot.  Loot is good.

So.  This post will cover some general information about the class compared to the other tanking classes, just a few high points that will probably get covered in detail later on.  It’s not a treatise on making a prot warriors–there’s people out there far smarter than your humble Panzercow about how to build your tank.  This is about working with a prot warrior, not being one.  So I hope y’all are ready, because I’m pulling…

Let’s cover the very basics of how a prot warrior tanks, so you can make some sense out of all the banging and crashing and booming that’s going on in front of you.  Warriors and beartanks, of course, use rage instead of mana.  Rage is how we do what we do.  A warrior with zero rage isn’t exactly impotent–we have an ability called Bloodrage that gets us 10 immediate rage + 1 per second for 10 seconds, at the cost of some of our health (and a 60-second cooldown).  But our best snap-agro move, Shield Slam, costs us 20 rage, talentable down to 17.  Heroic Strike is 15, talentable down to 12 or even 9.  Our most efficient attack, Revenge, costs only 2 rage fully talented…but it requires that we’ve parried or dodged an attack in order to light up.

So it stands to reason that a warrior with zero rage might actually be pretty pissed off when somebody else runs up and pulls a pack of mobs.  It leaves us standing there scrambling to establish agro while the pack that you pulled heads toward your tasty face, pulling out the knives and forks.  Omnomnomnom face.  Moral of the story:  Let the warrior control when the pulling happens, probably by doing it himself.  In fact, generally, your tank should either be doing your pulling and marking himself, or keeping ironclad control over when pulls happen.  That way, we can use Charge (generates up to 25 rage) or Bloodrage so we have enough rage built up to start actually doing something useful.

Now, threat.  Warriors are, as near as I can tell, still the kings of single-target “snap agro.”  We can quickly burst out a ton of threat on a single mob.  Give me two seconds and a bunch of rage, and I can generally lock a single mob down by using Shield Slam (which on Lin can crit for well over 5k in a raid situation), Heroic Strike (1800+ crits and extra threat), and if I’m lucky, Revenge (4k+ crit and high threat).  Single-target tanking, such as raid bosses, is still what we’re best at.

That’s not to say that we can’t AOE tank, of course.  But we’re weaker at it than paladins and DKs.  (Druids are, unfortunately, still weaker at it than we are, at least for now.)  The reason is how we generate AOE threat.  Our primary AOE threat generator is Thunder Clap.  On Lin, it hits for about 600 raid-buffed, can crit for up to 1600, and hits all targets in 10 yards…but it’s on a six-second cooldown.  It doesn’t “pulse” nearly as frequently as Death and Decay or Consecrate, and doesn’t really hit all that hard, but does provide an attack speed slow of 20%, so it’s nice for mitigation as well as damage and threat.

We have two other area-effect threat-builders, one active and one passive.  Shockwave (the 51-point Prot talent) is a frontal cone attack that reaches out about 7 yards (don’t believe the tooltip, it says 10, but it lies).  It hits hard, 2k regular/4k crit, and stuns for 4 seconds.  But it’s frontal, and on a 20-second cooldown.  The passive threat-builder is Damage Shield, a high-end talent; any mob hitting the prot warrior takes 20% of the warrior’s Shield Block Value as Physical damage, which is of course mitigated by armor.  But obviously, that means the mobs have to be hitting us, which means we’ve already got to have agro on them.

And this means?  Well, if you’re running an instance with a prot warrior tank, and you don’t have strong AOE capability or think your tank is somewhat undergeared, this is where setting and sticking to a kill order is very important.  Should you dare to enter tanking forums everywhere, you’ll see tales of woe of tanking for groups that simply could not understand the simple concept of “skull, X, square.”  If you focus-fire your DPS on the wrong target, chances are very good that you will pull it off the warrior.  Using a kill order means that the warrior knows who to focus the majority of his attacks upon, occasionally changing targets to hit the others with some love taps to keep them interested over and above healing or incidental AOE threat that’s being generated.  And, of course, using Thunder Clap every time it’s up.

This is all very elementary stuff, right?  Well, in Part II, I’ll talk about a prot warrior’s most useful accessory…the shield, and how we use it to Bash, Slam, and Block our way to tanky goodness.  Then in Part III, we’ll get to some things that really set the warrior apart…our plethora of “uh-oh” buttons.  We have a lot of “uh-oh” buttons.  And we get a lot of practice in using them.

(EDIT:  Part II of “Care and Feeding of Your Prot Warrior,” “The Shield,” is here.  Part III, “When It Goes Wrong,” is here.)

Ooooh, it’s so shiny…and epic…

I think you can get this if you stand in enough puddles of slime/fire/voidpoo/shadow fissures.  Or, if you’re like me, keep wiping on the “ledge boss” in Thaddius’ room.

(Photoshop by the amazingly talented Anna over at Too Many Annas.  Idea conceived from some epic RP last night, work boredom, and Google Chat.)