Thursday, January 28, 2010

Unforeseen consequences – Princes Strat Change

Many years ago, when I was but a young BC raider, I hooked up in what was quite possibly the most memorable guild I’ve ever been in – No Dice. I won’t bore you with the history or drama surrounding the formation of No Dice, how I got there, or what the guild scene was like (as jokes regarding Emophane and Sora not being spec’d for kick would be funny only to those who were there) – and because I know that you’re really just scanning this page looking for my refined Princes strategy.

What I will say about No Dice is that this is where the “JP tanks everything” strategy really came into light. Back in Forgotten Fury we’d started this tactic, and it has been a tried and true method of handling content ever since. From solo tanking Attunemen to Hydross – we were always pushing this envelope of tanking and healing. I just wish I could have figured out how to tank all 4 Horsemen at once.

The New Princes Strat – Unforeseen Consequences

Remember a few days ago where I mentioned using a ranged tank for the Shadow Bold lobbing Prince, and how I mentioned you want to make sure you don’t path near him?

Yeah, you can disregard that.

In 10man (I’m going to try this in 25s on Friday) you can completely disregard the ranged tank for this fight. Here’s how we pulled it off – and why. Disclaimer: This probably won’t work in Hard Mode – so you still need to know the mechanics. This definitely trivializes the encounter though.

The Setup

Tank 1 (T1) – Pull Keleseth and start gathering up the shadow orbs. We used a druid tank, and I’m pretty sure he just put FF on them. They might have been catching an occasional swipe/maul as well. Take Keleseth to the left side of the room, and be prepared to taunt if Keleseth isn’t the 2nd to be empowered.

Tank 2 (T2) – Grab Taldaram and Valanar and head towards the right side of the platform. Your raid will have to pay close attention to Valanar’s fireballs, as they won’t be traveling as far. Don’t get carried away with the kiting though, as T1 needs to be able to taunt off you.

T1 & T2 – It’s time to play Ping-Pong taunting. You don’t want T1 to ever have an empowered Keleseth and Taldaram at the same time, so T2 will spend more time holding two bosses. T1 will have Keleseth and Taldaram only when Taldaram is empowered. T1 will need to be on the ball with their CDs in case Taldaram tosses an empowered fireball their way. If the raid lines up between the two tanks however, this becomes a trivial hit.

Continue trading holding two bosses throughout the fight. T2 can really benefit from using Indestructible potions (one on the pull, one as needed when holding 2 bosses) as the majority of the damage you will be taking is physical. The shock vortexes seem to have gotten a light buff, so you’ll want to start moving away from those now.

But why would you do this?

For those that find this fight trivial and one shot it, this tactic probably doesn’t make much sense. The issue we were running into was if one orb fell off the ranged tank (and Keleseth was empowered) it was an instant wipe. While it may be due to not DoTting them enough, or simply dying due to a time delay – we were running into instances where the Doomkin would take an 18k shot, usually mixed in with other damage (fire, etc).

This also speeds up the encounter, further reducing RNG hits, since we now have a full DPS added. I still don’t know if it will be possible to go back to 2 healing.


This strategy might not be for everyone, but we’ll definitely be using it again next week. I’ll admit that this may fall into the same category as my previous post – about not understanding the mechanics – since we’re probably missing something with the shadow orbs. I’ve heard that a hunter putting serpent sting on them helps. My guess is that our Boomkin is so afraid of losing threat, that she’s not spending enough time getting agro on the orbs.

She’s certainly pissed she’s not tanking anymore though. She kept trying to tank UP last night.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Static vs RNG or EH vs Avoidance

This is not going to be an EJ type post filled with numbers and theory-crafting (well, not entirely). Theck over at does a much better job of that than I ever could, so instead I’m going to talk about that ‘gut feeling’ that I use to help make my gear choices.


I cut my tanking teeth in MC back when UBRS was still a major raid, and the Draconian Deflector was the drop you hoped an prayed for. While I was in a sense, a tanking noob, I knew one thing for certain. More was better. While the gear options that we have today didn’t exist back then, I knew I wanted as much Stam, Armor, and avoidance as I could get. Once I reached that magical defense cap, the rest would sort itself out over time. I depended on my healers to keep me up, and the other tanks to handle their roles.

Somewhere along the way the amount of information on tanking began to blossom, and folks like Ciderhelm emerged as theorycrafting masters. Data was flowing in faster than ever, and tanks were looking at different sets of gear for new tanking situations. Players that had access to gear beyond MC and the 20 man raids had lots of options at hand, and suddenly there were a whole new set of stats to consider.

Enter the Burning Crusade

When BC launched, an entirely new set of options became available to every budding tank. Heroic dungeons dropped epic level gear that was on par with early raid gear. Off set pieces were suddenly available, and matching up different stats (and different sets of gear) became the norm instead of the oddity. Block sets, avoidance sets, EH sets – nothing was out of the realm of possibility. Towards the end of the BC era it got to such a point that warriors like Uncleslam were able to tank Illidan without having to use shiled block at all.

When ZA and the Sunwell came out, the badge gear offered an even greater variance in gear choices and upgrades. It was suddenly possible to create resistance sets for solo tanking Hydross, or to create a block set for the AoE heavy Paladin. Bear tanks laughed at us with their armor cap and high HP, while warriors shrugged off crushing blows with the push of a button.

This gear variance has grown again in Wrath, to the point where many tanks pride themselves on having sets that make them unhittable in ToGC, and nigh on untouchable in simple Heroics. Much like the Sunwell Radiance, Chill of the Throne was introduced to bring tank avoidance back down to the level of mortals. Coupled with the previously implemented DRs on block and parry – it became clear that Blizzard actually intended for us to get hit.

Unfortunately for Blizzard, tank health pools have grown to astronomic proportions. Anything short of a 20k unmitigated hit hardly registers, unless they are coming fast and furious. In order to add some semblance of failure, bosses have to hit so hard that tanks can die in the span of 2 or 3 GCDs. Not a fun position to be in for most healers, and it’s absolutely disastrous if the boss somehow targets someone else. One unforeseen consequence of this has been the LFD system, where healers are generally bored to tears because nobody is taking any damage (maybe this is why the DPS act dumb, to give the healers something to do).

Back to the point in hand – how do you gear?

This topic came up with a Paladin we run our 25s with. He tanks for his 10 mans, but goes Ret when raiding with us. He originally came to us for some assistance with getting his DPS up, and over the course we also talked about tanking gear and setup (Note: anyone who has the stones to come up and ask for help and actually listens because they want to get better gets a huge bump in my book). Now while I’m no developer, and W-Crusher doesn’t REALLY do 18kDPS (yet), we’re still about as authoritative as you can get on our server.

The PIQ (Paladin in Question) voiced issue over stacking stamina gems, as he’d heard from other tanks that it’s better to stack avoidance. I think I almost swallowed my mic.

This is my opinion

I’m a fan of hard numbers – always have been. Be it enchants, trinkets, or defense numbers – I generally prefer a static bonus to an on use/proc bonus every time. The reason is, I know it’s there. Short of some type of debuff that reduces armor, or one that reduces your total Stamina/HP – those numbers will always be there for me. Frozen by Anub? No problem, HP and Armor will hold you up. Have to eat a fireball on the Prince fight? High Stam will keep you standing.

Now don’t get me wrong – avoidance is awesome. Being able to block and dodge attacks means you’re not taking damage, and the boss is fairly ineffective. There’s nothing like seeing a string of Dodge, Dodge, Miss, Dodge, Parry, Absorb, Block, etc fly by on the SCT. Unfortunately, unless you’ve stacked these values at the expense of all others, it’s extremely difficult to create a set of gear ‘for current raid content’ that will make you completely un-hittable. With the cap placed on Block Value, it’s virtually guaranteed that you will get hit for some level of damage.

So what is a budding tank to do? Obviously there is a certain level of avoidance that you’re going to pick up over the course of gearing, simply from hitting the defense cap. Most gear will have some kind of mitigation built in, but you’ll eventually run into a situation where you can begin to swap gear/gems/trinkets for avoidance, Stam, or mitigation.

How I weigh stats

Unless I’m tanking heroics – 541 Defense is a cap I don’t dip below (you can get away with 536 in heroics). After that I try and stay within 40 points of the 262 hit cap. Because our DPS can really dish it out when they have to, I can’t afford to miss very often (I also don’t like missing taunts). Expertise sits after hit, though I don’t actively stack it for my boss sets (just for trash or heroics).

After that, I have to look at the individual fights.

Generic boss fights

For anything short of a gimmick fight, I pick my stats in the following order (after defense/hit). Stamina, armor, block rating, parry/dodge, block value. Since BV caps out around 3k, and you get diminishing returns on parry/dodge – I elect to go with what I KNOW will reduce incoming damage. Parry/dodge won’t do anything against magic based attacks (to be fair neither will armor or block), and can’t help you if you’re getting hit from behind or while stunned.

Those special fights

Some fights, like Heroic Anub’arak, lend themselves to different setups, depending on your tanking role. Each of these has to be evaluated in turn, however I tend to fall back on my EH set when I’m in doubt. This decision has essentially been made for most 10 man raiders, as the frost badge gear is significantly better than the base T10, and includes a significantly higher armor value. Even now the T10 is having its armor value increased at the cost of other stats, to bring it more in line.


Gearing for the sure thing over the RNG will probably always be higher on my list. Blizzard seems to be moving more towards the Cataclysm vision of tanks taking smaller hits with all the bonus armor they’re slapping on everything in ICC, which means faster hits – raising Block and Expertise even higher on the scale.

You obviously have to choose the gear that’s best for you and your given tank situation, and I’d give the Maintankadin site a good viewing for hard and fast numbers. Just remember that mitigated damage is always reduced, and dodge/parry is all or nothing. Pick your poison wisely.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Raid Mechanics

This is the level it’s gotten to – and I’m not talking about the gear.

I tried getting into my first raid recently on the DK. A last minute run into Naxx for the weekly raid, and they’re looking for tanks. Even though I’m still sporting some dungeon blues, I’m sitting at a pretty 27k un-buffed, I’m crit immune – and more importantly – I’m pro. I’ve got flasks, armor pots, BIS enchants, and every little ounce I can squeeze out of my gear.


“We need someone with more HP. The melee DPS have more HP than you do, and they’re going to eat the strikes.”

Fair enough. I mentioned previously that I don’t really care to boost others who aren’t working hard, and I can see where someone putting a quick 10 man run together may not want to bring in what he perceives to be an inexperienced tank. Far be it for me to hold them back or expect to be carried. I of course found it ironic when the whole group broke up because they couldn’t find another suitable tank.

Focus on the reason

What really threw me though was the reason for my denial. They wanted someone with more HPs so they could cruise through the encounter half-asleep, instead of worrying about the mechanics of the fight.

Most of us are intimately familiar with Patchwerk as a boss. What I’ve come to believe however (especially given all the PUGs I’ve run in the past) is that most players really don’t understand the mechanics of the fights they’re doing.

Unless you were some of the top guilds, chances are that even the simplified fights in Naxx (and certainly EoE and Sarth w/drakes) caused problems within your raid. Wipes due to not moving out of the Giant BigTM, getting hit by the Giant BigTM, or maybe not standing in the Giant BigTM long enough (Malygos). These fights required execution, coordinated movement, and an overall understanding of what was actually going on.

With the current gear reset however, and the expectation that you have a T10/264 geared tank for UK, tactics (and mechanics) have been tossed right out the window. Not only do players not want to bother with them, but I believe that there is a deeper rooted problem


I am firmly convinced that many players never understood the mechanics of a fight in the first place.

Because it was the original issue with me getting into a raid, I’m going to use Patchwerk as an example. Also because he is quite possibly the easiest fight (mechanics wise) in the game.

Patchwerk’s abilities are very simple, and very straight forward.

He will hit the MT with a standard strike, and then will strike the person with the highest HP out of the top two people on his agro table (1 of 3 in 25s – hence needing 3 tanks) with a Hateful strike that is more powerful than his normal attack. This strike will not hit the person who is #1 on agro, but instead hit’s the 2nd or 3rd (in 25s) – with the highest health.

Patchwerk also Frenzy’s at 5%, and has a hard enrage of 6minutes. The easiest of tank and spank gear checks.

That’s it – that’s Patchwerk. Nothing else to him besides tank and spank – so why are there issues?

They don’t get it

Back when Naxx was first launched in Vanilla, and even at the start of Wrath, there were a few key steps that melee DPS took to stay alive.

1) Click off Fortitude and Kings if you have to (though Kings was a significant DPS loss in what was a DPS race).

2) Don’t use Judgement of Light

3) Dip your toe in the slime pool.

Woah – what? Intentionally lower my health? THIS IS MADNESS!

Yes ladies and gentlemen, you would intentionally lower your HP so that when Patchwerk does his Hateful Strike, you would have less HP than the tanks – meaning you no longer were at risk of eating the strike. Of course you have to repeat this every once in a while, as there is now (not so much in Vanilla) a veritable ton of raid healing that goes on – even unintentional.

Shamans will use Chain Heal (especially in 25s) as it hits all the tanks. Paladins will use Holy Light, which will splash onto the melee. Binding Heal, Prayer of Mending, Feral Druid aura. All these will slowly raise your health, which means you have to occasionally re-dip.

Such is the mechanic. It’s not overly difficult, and relatively easy to master – yet I constantly see melee getting gibbed either because they don’t toe dip, or they move into the #2/3 spot on threat (for melee). This results in the DPS dying, the fight taking longer, and cries of L2P or L2Tank NOOB being tossed out.

Minus 50 DKP!

So the question comes up – if you don’t understand the mechanics of Patchwerk, how are you going to handle something like Saurfang or Putricide? I’m pretty sure these are the same people that made Netherspite a thousand times more difficult that it was. Or even worse think that using the ledge in HoR is necessary (Dear GC, please make Arthas instagib anyone who does this, and then locks their account for a week).

Where did the mechanic skill go to though? Is this the original raiding ‘skill’ that many Vanilla raiders think has died off in the Wrath generation? Have the constant nerfs, and “everyone gets to see the content” removed the ability to critically think through an encounter? Or did those skills never exist in the first place?

Damn those kids and their fast cars anyway.

Maybe it really is the Hard Modes

With Naxxaramas and two single dragon encounters available so early, plus the complete shift from CC heavy heroics found in BC, it may be fair to place some of the raider issues on Blizzard’s shoulders. Blizzard tried to make the content available to more players, and has largely succeeded in doing so. Gevlon has certainly shown that Ulduar can be completed in nothing but iLvl 200 blues, so taking it down with 245 badge gear shouldn’t pose much of an issue. Much of the content can be brute forced with little to no regard for strategy or tactics – just keep bashing on it until it falls over.

So maybe this is what happened. Certainly there are far fewer guilds with Yogg+0 kills, or even 10m Insanity kills from ToGC, than there are with Yogg+4 kills. Sarth 3D kills are way up with the high DPS output of 245 gear – but even being able to dish out 18k DPS won’t save you from standing in a wall of fire. EoE is still unpopular, though this probably has more to do with a dislike of vehicle fights (and people not knowing how to use them). It’s amazing how difficult it was to teach someone to hit 3,3,3,4 until the encounter ended.

Conversely, hard modes require you to be on your game. Fights like Hodir require quick DPS, high movement, target switching, and buff watching. Getting all the NPC buffs and standing in a light beam can make or break that fight – though the same can be said for moving out of/onto the ice in a timely fashion. While the three minute kill is commonplace today, it’s still startling how many players can’t master the Deep Freeze mechanic.

You need to adapt quickly

In progression (world, realm, or just personal/guild) raids, you need to be able to quickly analyze what effects the boss is using, and how you should be reacting to them. On our first Festergut 25 attempt we tried to use the same spore distribution that we use in our 10s – everyone bunch on the boss. When this wiped the raid, we quickly adjusted our strategy. While we still don’t have him down in our 25 alliance raid (I suppose it’s not really a PUG) – we constantly get closer. Of course we still have players who fail to grasp what the boss’s abilities are and how to counter them.

My guess is we will have a fight similar to the Council fight from BT – which was dubbed the “Super Bowl of not standing in the Giant BigTM”. Ok, maybe that quote isn’t exactly right, but you get the picture. While the Princes is a council type fight, I’m really looking for a fight that continues to challenge a player’s ability to stand in one place for very long. I love insta-gib mechanics that quickly remind you that standing in one spot is a bad idea.

So what can we do?

Really, there’s nothing that can be done at this point. Smart players will quickly stand out, while the idiots will still be standing in fire and not using an offhand with their caster dagger. As long as guilds and other players are willing to help brute force others through content, these players will continue to show up in your heroics and raids – and continue to think they are doing a good job.

Mongrr just put up a good post over at Save the Lightwell (see sidebar) about player fundamentals being the things that get you through a raid when things go sideways – and that’s exactly what I’m talking about here. Knowing what you ‘should’ be doing, predicting boss moves and damage (much easier thanks to things like DBM), and trusting your fellow raiders to do their job.

In the end the best thing we can do with bad players is try to educate them. In the end though, many won’t respond well (don’t tell me how to play) and will just need to be cut. This goes back to knowing what your goals are – and bringing someone who is constantly out-healed by the tank just doesn’t do anyone any good at all.


Know your abilities, your raid abilities, and the mechanics of the fight. As a footnote, while I wasn’t able to tank Patchwerk, I tanked Sarth+0 and Onyxia the next day. I did receive quite a bit of flak from the folks in the Ony encounter due to my gearscore – but I was rewarded at the end when my healer publicly announced that I was easier to keep up than many other tanks. This comes from knowing the fights, using cool-downs proactively, and trusting your skills and other players.

If you’re not the kind of player who can learn mechanics on your own, use the resources available. Blogs, wiki’s, TankSpot, and more. There’s no excuse for un-educated raiding.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Armory RSS Feeds are a good idea

The changes to the Armory, and the included RSS feeds that track almost everything you do in game, aren’t exactly ‘new’. They’ve been covered to death around the blogsphere, and the overwhelming majority of posts I’ve seen on the subject seem to think it’s an invasion of privacy. Or at the very least a very bad idea.

One topic that I haven’t seen mentioned yet is the number one reason WHY this could be a good idea.

Account Security – or more precisely – Account Recovery

Now the RSS feed, in and of itself, will do nothing to help protect your account. I’m of the opinion that playing without an authenticator these days is like playing Russian roulette. Sure, you may come up empty for a long time, but eventually you’re going to hit the triple cherry and cash in for the big prize.

What the RSS feed could do however, is alert you to any activity on your account. Anyone with a smart phone (should have an authenticator already) can setup a reader to get this feed. As long as nothing’s going on with your account, you won’t be bothered. As soon as things start happening though, you’ll at least be warned.

Now I don’t know if the RSS feed provides this level of detail yet. I honestly haven’t looked that closely at it. If it only tracks achievements, boss’s killed, etc – then it’s not worth having. If it tracked every time you logged in though (and that’s really all you’d need), you could easily tell when someone had accessed your account.

Obviously this knowledge isn’t going to prevent them from stripping your account and leaving you naked in the Barrens (why do they do that I wonder), but at the very least you can start the process of changing your password, notifying account administration, and possibly letting your guild know. It’s certainly better than logging on before a raid, only to find out that you’re down to 3 copper and 4 golden fish sticks (really – get rid of the BC food).

So make it available already

Well it looks like something as simple as “logged in” or “Logged out” isn’t available right now. Maybe it could become an opt-in feature some time in the future.

Or maybe everyone will just get an authenticator.

One more reason

One last reason I like the RSS feed – it gives all those addons and sites we love to mine and collect data from that much more information they can use. Information is power my friends – even if it is used for evil.