Levelling as Protection

So I’m back into my levelling comfort zone, bringing a baby tank into the world but with all the experience I’ve built on a raiding tankadin and what I’ve picked up from tanking with both my DK and furball of doom.  It’s certainly less painful than it used to be, partly thanks to knowing that the AH exists (something I missed for the first 20 or 30 levels on my Paladin) and having a more relaxed attitude to gold, gear, buff food, health pots etc etc.

As I levelled Korenwolf there was always in the back of my mind “I’ll keep _thing_ for when I really need it”, of course this meant my bags filled with scrolls, pots and food which never got used and dropped below the threshold of usefulness as he moved through the zones.  This time around on the warrior I’m merrily mashing away, popping the buffs even if I’m only going to be on for another 20 minutes, who cares that I’m not getting the full duration from them.

I’ve proved in a number of instances (Ragefire, DM, Stockages & SFK) that she’s more than capable of picking up mobs and holding them off the DPS, or at least where the dps are working with me and not against me and I’m quite enjoying it.

Levelling is of course easier in that she’s being levelled as part of a team with SWMBO’s priest who’s bringing the dps big guns with a side order of healing to allow the Gnomelette to pull silly amounts of trash into a single killing zone, or indeed to survive picking up the extra patrol where as a solo warrior she’s be studying the floor at close range (again).  Of course I have to be careful to remember I don’t have the insta-aggro of Korenwolf or his survivability tricks (thank you ardent defender).

More on this as she levels up to 40 and into the big time.

Tanking Halion

Ruby Sanctum, it’s a filler raid, it exists to give a tiny piece of lore for the upcoming expansion and to stop players unsubscribing by giving us a whole new internet dragon to kill.  However in some respects it’s better than the content which has gone before.

The trash requires some thought, particularly from the tanks in how they position and manage the knockbacks, there’s nothing like picking up an extra pack or two due to a badly handled knockback to ruin your day, and repair bill.  Of the three minibosses, two are in the “loot pinata” category.  However one again requires thought, co-ordination and a bit of planning.

However, they’re all there as a starter course for the main event, Halion himself.  Big, ugly and let’s be honest, pink.

Normal dragon rules apply, tail does a swipe, the head has some serious bad breath and he cleaves.  Healers and DPS, you do know where you’re meant to stand and it’s not at either end.

Much like a baby bad things come from the head and tail.

Phase 1

Nuke, nuke, run away when the debuff lands on your head (hope your cleansers are up to speed) and drop the puddle of bad away from the raid, ideally towards the edge.  The tank needs to move the boss when the meteor strikes leave fire in the wrong place.  Easy.  (Note: Tank here is ‘Fire Tank’ or FT)

Phase 2

There’s a couple of things to watch, the Twilight tank (TT) has to go through the portal first and pick up the boss and turn him a bit so the rest of the raid isn’t nuked as they come through.  Popping a cooldown helps the healers a lot here.  FT and possibly a healer will remain in the Fire realm as this makes the P2 -> P3 transition easier.

Some description of the twilight realm is in order, as with the fire realm we have the circular arena bounded by the walls of fire, the portal spawn points for P3 are at 11 & 5 o’clock as seen from the instance portal.  The boss will remain in the center and around the edge of the arena some shadow orbs circle the raid and boss.  (Heroic mode there are four equally spaced).

The cutter is the key to this phase and realm, evey 30 seconds for 10 seconds a beam of shadow energy fires between the two orbs, don’t be in it (14-16k damage on 25-man normal every second you’re in it).

TT will initially get his position stablised and watch for the orbs around the circle, we’ve been going for a positioning where the cutter spawns to the right of the tank with the raid to his left (the dragon’s right).  This keeps the raid clear of his tail which can ruin everyone’s day.  The TT will start moving the boss, spinning him in position clockwise, keeping the far orb and the tail as the reference point.  It’s worth using the targeting circle as a guide, but do not be on top of it as this means there is very little room for error on the cutter, so back off a bit.

Keep the boss turning, announce clearly over vent when you’re going to start moving him and keep going, focusing on positioning and as much threat as is possible while being constantly on the move.  DPS will have to watch their threat and back off, with the movement there is a limit to how much threat the tank can throw out.

Phase 3

The raid splits and dps has to be balanced between the two realms, for both tanks this is pretty much a repeat of what they’ve been doing before, slightly easier for the TT as there are less in the raid in the twilight realm giving everyone more space to move.

That’s it.  Oh and if you’re anything like me have the cold pack for your shoulders ready.

Levelling a Warrior

We’re firmly in the “meh” period of WoW at the moment, a mix of summer hitting availability for raiding, we’ve been staring at the same bosses in ICC since December and the Cataclysm beta is well under way and general… what’s next?

After yet another called progression raid thanks to lack of numbers, I decided to nuke the Cow druid and re-roll as a warrior gnome.  The last attempt at a warrior failed dismally, I simply couldn’t get my head around the class mechanics, the lack of in-built healing, having my arse handed to me on a more than regular basis, it just made levelling her a pain, zero fun.  I even tried boosting her to 60 via granted levels on RAF, nothing worked and a six months or so ago she was consigned to the data archive in the sky after handing over bank alt duties to the rogue (like I trust him with my pile of gold).

Anyway, a new gnomelette was rolled and she’s nuking through the levels, tanking instances, getting pretty blue gear and generally being more fun to play by far than my previous attempt.  After the first few days of levelling alone she’s been joined by SWMBO’s priest alt and they’re now rolling through Duskwood like a spiked wrecking ball.  The only death since partying up was when my tanklette took on Stitches at level 28, to help out some other players who were about to be mashed into the ground (thanks for running away guys, much appreciated, I’ll let him munch on your bones next time).

So, why is it so much better this time?  Well the nerfs and BoE heirloom gear can’t be discounted, she’s got a definite boost to her output, this helps in getting mobs down which means less munching on the floor.  However the other part of it is down to me simply being a better player than I was before, I’m a better tank than when Wrath dropped, I’m a better tank than I was before I started raiding seriously.  Moving mobs, pulling them round to avoid aggroing the extra pack, or indeed moving them to deliberately taunt in the next pack.  I’ve a better idea on how I like my keybindings setup, on all the tanking alts I have the taunts in the same place, same for the major rotation attacks, the defensive cooldowns etc.  So while the details of what they do are different the broad effect of me mashing alt-Q remains the same for example.

Assuming all goes as I expect tonight I think she’ll hit 30.  Northrend watch out, there’s a new tank on the block and she wants shinies!

Shortages…

The concensus within WoW is that there is a tank shortage, the designers built wrath around a tank shortage (enter the DK), there is also a shortage of healers, not as huge but it’s there.

I disagree, there is no shortage of players who play healing and tanking toons, who spend a lot of time on them.

Let us look at two guilds, firstly Team Pirate.  This is a small guild of 10 active players, we manage to get into some 10-man content.  Currently the guild has access to three tanks who are geared enough for ICC10 (a total of 6 players with tanking alts capable of at least all the Wrath 5-man heroic content) and five ICC10 geared healers (I think seven players with healing alts capable of Wrath 5-man heroic content).  We are at the point where there’s rotation going on to bring in the alts on ICC10 runs just for fun and frolics.

Secondly there’s the 25-man raiding guild.  I’m not sure about alts but we’re running with a 6-man tanking team and a 8-man healing team.  Team tank has an almost 100% attendance record.  We’re there, we’re tanking boss and we’re sitting standby / filling in as dps where needed.

What is the problem?

PUGs, it’s as simple as that.

Pugging is brutal on tanks, there are some runs which are a breeze, but then there are the others, the horrible runs.  The runs where the DPS are yelling “gogogogooo” the instant the tank zones in, the runs where the dps are already pulling or ripping aggro with suicide storm (or other aoe of choice) on trash packs, “helping” the tank by pulling the next trash ready for the tank to speed things up.

All the while complaining, about the speed, about why the tank isn’t keeping aggro.

These aren’t the bottom of the pile but personally I’ve not encountered “puggus insultinus” in any of my runs yet but the likes of dear_gnome are full of stories of complete fail where the only responses are insulting at best and worryingly abusive at worst.

So, everyone in dpsland, we understand your queue times are horrible (I’ve sat there as well on my caster alts) but if you want more tanks to queue make it less of a pain for them to do so.

A bit of balance

To all elitist “you need me more than I need you” tanks, please go die in a fire, a big one.  You are entitlement morons of the first order.  Just because we’re a role which is in demand doesn’t make us “better” than the other players.  Stop giving us a bad name.

Should the tank let the dps die?

Or, “you pulled it, you tank the damm thing!”

Following on from the discussion from Blog Azeroth on healers letting people die to their own stupid it struck me that the same question applies equally to the tank.

So, should I as a tank in a 5-man heroic (or indeed any other 5-man content) let the dps eat some floor because they keep pulling aggro of me.  It’s tempting I have to admit, particularly when it’s happening throughout the entire run, there are things all DPS can do to control their aggro (or not), I’m aware of just how much some classes are aggro magnets.

Just as I spend the first couple of pulls in a run working out how much damage the DPS are throwing, how the healer is doing on their mana / keeping everyone topped up so the dps should also be looking at how the tank is pulling, how much threat they’re able to dump onto the mobs before ripping into them with as much AoE as they can for the pretty pretty numbers.  So any DPS which keep ripping aggro know what they’re doing and knows the risks.  When tanking I will be doing my best to keep control of the mobs but I’m sorry to say there are things known as cooldowns and the GCD.  I may not have a taunt / AoE taunt spare to use, particularly if aggro is being ripped a lot.

Will I leave a mob on a player, no, it goes against everything I’ve been doing for the last two years as a tank.  If something isn’t hitting me I consider that to be a fault which must be corrected, I will be trying to recollect that mob as soon as I can, but if you’re a cloth wearer who keeps taking my toys then at some point I will not be able to get it back before it starts nomming on your face, you had better hope the healer is wanting to heal…

Manage your aggro for a happy tank

Taking a lead from Wrath of Nature who’s been reading Big Bear Butt I shall respond to the challenge to explain how to survive as dps without annoying the tank by ripping aggro and how to deal with it when I do.

By nature I’m a tank, I’m sure everyone who’s been past this place before has worked that out but I’ve got six 80’s, two of which are ICC25 geared and and another pair who are well geared, certainly enough for the first few ICC bosses on 10-man.  So I’ve seen it all, tanking, off-tanking, tank healing, raid healing, running like a loon healing and nuking the hell out of the ugly in melee and ranged camps.

I like to understand what the other parts of the team are up to when I’m trying to keep the big and ugly from nomming on their squishy faces.

So, for the purposes of this post I shall be considering Wubbles, a decently geared destro warlock, a “DestroGnome” if you will, also known as “Oh my god he’s gone and ripped aggro again”.

Single Targeting

The single biggest thing I can do to help the tank is nothing.  Do absolutely nothing, give him a GCD or two as necessary to get a lead.  There’s nothing like a threat lead to keep a tank happy.  If I really must do something then a quick curse just after the pull is fine, this also helps Omen work out what’s happening by generating threat to track.

With the rotation I’m using I spike threat at about the 4.5 second mark, so watching omen like a hawk is critical, make sure that before I pop the final move in the rotation assess whether I’m going to pull or not.  If I am, choose something else, keep the tank happy, tanks like to be the center of attention and hate it going to someone else.

This might mean I’m not the top of the dps charts.

So what, are the mobs dead, did I pull my weight, is everyone else alive, is the healer cursing or drinking on every pull because of the heavy healing?

It’s all good, an extra 5 seconds to kill the mob isn’t going to kill anyone except a certain class of “gogogogo” dps, and I’ll have words to say about them in a bit.

Multiple Targets

This is more of a problem, depending on the tank it’s highly likely that in a large trash pull there will be several mobs who only have proximity aggro on the tank, opening up instantly with rain of fire will mean collecting lots of new friends who wish to chat and show off their big weapons.

Again, give the tank a chance to spread his love around a bit before opening up with the big guns, spend a few cycles whacking the tank’s initial target before AoEing the universe to death.

Tools

Soulshatter: Horribly long cooldown for current heroic running but don’t be afraid to use it.

Caveat: Don’t soulshatter next to the healer, if you don’t play with a healer in the same room let me tell you that they swear like troopers when that happens.

Close to death: Can it be nuked before reaching me?  What about the dots, if I run around like a girl will it give them a chance to take it down?

The biggie, rule #1

Run to the tank

I cannot stress this enough, there’s nothing which annoys a tank more than having to chase a mob all over the instance because the dps is running away.  All the time the tank is chasing your mob they’re not building aggro on the others, which increases the chance of other mobs breaking making his life even harder.

Big furry and annoying

Unferth had his first heroic last night leading from the front kicking mobs and generally trying to keep ahead of the ICC10 geared dps from the guild.  On the whole it wasn’t too bad, doubly so when it’s considered he’s not gemmed, enchanted and is still running with chicken glyphs.

I need to do more work on where the keymappings are and get the threat moves settled into my brain a little more solidly than they are at the moment.  Including getting the AoE taunt into the space place as RD is on my tankadin (keep the tanking keys mapped to “similar” abilities, that’s the trick).

In general for single target threat I had no problem keeping it off the dps, ok the warlock in the guild got close more than a few times but he can do that to ‘wolf if I’m not paying attention.

Spreading the threat love around is going to be the trick to work on, I spent a fair amount of the time picking mobs back up off the DKs because they were walloping on my off-targets which I hadn’t built huge amounts of threat on.

However all said, a good start to his tanking career.

So.. isn’t one tank enough for you?

Actually no.  Ok to a certain level I enjoy DK dps but melee dps has to be my least enjoyable form of the game because of the sheer amount of faff in keeping within the hit box when the tank is moving the mob all over the damm place (guys, trust me on this, where you can keep the mobs parked).

So we currently have Korenwolf, the raid geared wrecking ball who has always been and remains the “main”, he’s the class I understand the best and where the muscle memory is setup the best.  I know what to do when things go to hell on trash packs (like last night where we ended up with two large packs of adds, a couple of casters and a big skeleton in PoS at the start thanks to a face pull by the dps).  Everything got picked up and brought under control, including the casters sat at range (thank you shield for your caster stun effect).

There is the dead gnomish girl, I’ve got the hang of how to pick up and hold aggro on her (nothing like seeing a gnome tanking a toenail) it’s not as instinctive as ‘wolf but she’s getting there.

Now, as part of team pirate we have a bear tank, he’s solid he knows his stuff but we’re seeing threat generation issues which I need to understand properly so we can either fix or work around.  So to that end the boomkin spec is parked and tree boy goes bear for a while.  Now to get my head around rage and all that sort of thing.

Random links for reference

“gogogoooo!!”

Also known as the mating call of the “lesser spotted dps”, unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) this sub-species of DPS hasn’t learnt yet that while potentially attracting other DPS mates it is the equivalent of nails on the blackboard to all tanks so far catalogued by science.

Trust your tank, when he’s ready he’ll pull and if he’s suitably geared he’ll merrily chain pull the instance to the limits of the healer, trust that the tank is going to be pulling the packs in a controlled manner.  Yes we love the way you spam your AoE attacks, but they don’t actually cut down the damage the packs are doing right until they all drop at once, so it’s not quicker to pull the entire room at once and will probably annoy the healer (also not a good thing).

Pulling the final boss with pets and Army of Aggro is a bad thing, dear dead things your army is the awesome but there are times when it should be sat reading a book and that for you is “most of the time”, particularly on dragons and bosses which do a directional aoe attack (Invgar, Anub etc etc).

So, please follow the tank, nuke the things he’s hitting and ignore everything else, trust us they’ll be served up for your dps meters soon.

Pirate Raiding – cw11 – TotC/VoA/ICC

Once again due to real life we were nine-manning content, and one of those has a broken collar bone (thus proving that retadins can faceroll :))

TotC10 (Beasts and Jaraxxus) – Beasts gave us a little trouble, it was Ari’s first time tanking the worms and they do need a bit of special handling, they’re the hardest part of the fight on normal mode.  Dusted ourselves down a few times, dead beasts, happy skinners.  Jaraxxus got better when ‘wolf went on the adds, Paladin AoE threat is a win on that fight pulling the adds under some form of control.

VoA – By the gods (all worship Yogg!) we have Wintergrasp, so as the bulk of the raid had never seen the bosses we dive into it before we get kicked out.  All three early bosses nuked, no problems and pretty much no gear thanks to the way the RNG was playing with us.  Oh thank you very much Blizz.  We need to go back in to wallop the new guy, I’ve only looked at him once and to be honest I don’t remember much of the encounter.  Emalon I think was the hardest for the team to work out, particularly when I failed to call the charged add (oops), but he died, we didn’t and we’ve learnt another execution fight.

ICC – The trash up to the final pack died without any problems, we then managed to pull pretty much all of the big adds one after the other causing one wipe and a few iffy moments (but the rep is nice).  Marrowgar, two attempts at nine-manning him.  We really did miss the additional ranged dps our resident dps nutter brings to the raid, which made getting the spikes down harder than it should have been.  More in a followup post