Monday, March 30, 2009

Just Because You're Wearing a Shield...

... That doesn't mean you're a tank.

There. I said it. Somebody had to. We were _all_ thinking it but why is it always me who has to be the one who actually says it. No wonder everyone hates me.

I ran heroic Nexus on my secret death knight alt last night and I should have seen the warning signs right away. The warrior tank couldn't hold aggro to save his life. Lost aggro twice on the first pull... Which consists of one mob. The second pull was... Peculiar. I took a lot of damage from "somewhere". I'm guessing the two dogs that were flanking the humanoid.

The first three pull, however, was the really telling on. He locked onto a mob and never looked at the others. So when they healer did his job, they went straight for him. I was trying to lock down a healing mob when I saw that there was a mob on the healer. When I taunted him, I had _two_ mobs on me. In DPS gear and in blood presence, I dropped pretty quickly. It was enough for us to get through that fight but we wiped on the first boss because of the same issues.

It was shortly after that when I said "screw it" and put on my tanking gear and frost presence. I'm not a tanking spec on that toon but my gear is good enough that I can fake it on trash. I can at least make sure that the healer is OK... But here's the thing:

I ended up tanking everything... ALL of the trash. Even the mob the warrior "tank" was on. I mean... Maybe, you lose a mob here or there. But to not notice that your target isn't attacking _you_? That's too much.

I died on the mage boss during the second split because I was in my DPS gear and had two of the three copies on me... At least two. We wiped on Anomalus because the warrior lost aggro (and I was in my DPS gear/blood presence) and mashed the squishies... Tanking gear back on for attempt two. I ended up tanking him about 40% of the time. But I couldn't do the damage to the rifts so... It was dicey. The rock boss was about the same as the second attempt on Anomalus: Dicey, I tanked about 40% of the fight, but we got through it... Come to think of it... That's how the last fight went... But with a twist. The shaman (who was geared and a good player) had started putting earth shield on me instead of the warrior. He knew what was what.

I was so frustrated that I actually remembered the warrior's name and looked him up this morning. He's fully Fury and Arms. Not a single point in prot. While it is irresponsible to tank a heroic in his gear without a tanking spec... There's more to tanking than just a spec and a shield.

Tanking is an indelicate balance between keeping aggro on all of the mobs while maintaining a lot more threat on the target mob. While a proper spec helps with this, so does reading your tooltips and looking for abilities that "generate additional threat" as opposed to your normal DPS rotation. Yes, damage does generate threat, but Sunder generates more. You should know where your defensive cooldowns are and which to use when. You should know which talents are good for mitigation and which are good for threat generation and you should choose those over talents that generate more damage. Which is to say, you should be familiar with your class.

Tanking means knowing the fights... And I'm not saying "all the fights"... But you should have played enough to know what mobs look like healers and which are ranged because most tanks are made the de facto party leaders for marking purposes. And you should pay attention because most trash mobs are repeated through an instance. Which is to say, you should know the game.

Tanking also requires situational awareness. This is a trap I've seen too many tanks fall into. They lock down one mob while 3 others are allowed to do whatever they want. Not only does this cause wipes, it fosters frustration within the group. You need to be aware of when CC breaks and doesn't get applied. You need to keep an eye out for mobs moving in odd ways. And you should also tab through the targets to make sure that every one of the mobs is looking at you. Which is to say, you should be familiar with your role.

No matter how good your gear is... No matter how cookie cutter your tanking spec is... If you fail in any of those areas, you're going to be a bad tank. And that may be fine if the people you're running with _know_ you're a bad tank because you told them. But if you sign up to tank a heroic with people you don't know, the expectation is that you'll have at least a passing familarity with the instance, with your abilities, with the role of a tank and that you've got at least _some_ points in tanking talents.

This guy from last night... Had none. But he did, however, have a shield.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Stop and smell the roses

I was doing the Argent Crusade quest lines on my new Alliance death knight the other day. Now that I'm on my fourth trip through these quest lines and know where everything is and basically what the story line is, I have more time to look around at the stuff that's going on around me... Well that and my last go round is on a PvE server so I don't have to worry about that social misfit... I mean rogue that's lurking around because they can't find a party for anything... Last night, I got to the one where you get ported to moonglade from Icecrown to collect three acorns and then get ported back. With time to smell the roses, I had time to appreciate the portal...

That's exactly the kind of portal a druid would make. All green with ivy creeping up the sides. Then I started thinking (and yes... I know... This is where most of my trouble starts)... Druids have Teleport: Moonglade spell. And I've always been OK with it - until I really examined the portals that were part of that quest line. Now I want Teleport: Moonglade to leave one of those. It's like the first time I learned that you could deep fry a grilled cheese sammich. I'd never thought of it before... But now that I know it can be done... I want it. I want it like a rogue wants a girlfriend and to move out of his parents' basement.

Death Knights get the totally awful Death Gate spell that _they_ can use to port to their base of operations and they leave them EVERYWHERE. I'll be walking around Dalaran, turn a corner and... Blech. Death Gate. But imagine if you were out strolling around the wastes of Icecrown and you came across a portal to Moonglade... Maybe with some flowers around the base for flair. It would brighten your day...

Unless you were on a PvP server. That could just be a precautionary measure put in place by the druid who is about to thrash you. If it goes poorly... He's Moonglade-bound. Yesssss.... We wantss it. Gives it to us. Nasty little Hobbitses.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Naxxramas... At last!!! (Sort of)

I've been watching a lot of college basketball lately and haven't felt motivated (read: I've been at my

computer but I've been playing and watching TV) to post. But today is Laundry Day so I'm... Bored.

The guild has finally crept up to 13 people at level 80 or higher. While this increases the likelyhood

that we'll have 10 people playing on raid night, it also means that they're not as geared as some of

the people who have been 80 for 4 months. But we've also been running the daily heroic almost every day

so people have been getting badges and gear and can reasonably expect that if they log on, we'll do

something. This has lead to a significant increase in the total number of people who are playing on any

given night which has lead to an increase in the amount of stuff we can do... It's a good cycle.

I've been tanking on my death knight frequently so she's gotten pretty well geared. With her gear and

my increasing familiarity with the class, she's become an effective tank. I still miss a few cooldowns,

get caught without runes up (and forget about the 5 minute reset) or caught without an AoE ability

available when there are adds but I'm getting better and I feel like I could tank every heroic and most

of Naxx on her.

Two weeks ago, we had 8 people on so we PuGged two people for Vault. A PuG rogue quit after 3 pulls. So

we 9 manned it. And given that there were two people who disconnected during the fight, we essentially

8 manned it. We thanked the PuG for joining us and he moved on. But that left us with 8. Too few to do

a raid and too many to do a heroic...

So we decided to "take a look" at one of the bosses in Naxxramas. We chose Anub'Rekhan because, well...

It's the first boss Crucify downed in Naxx40 back in the day. We wiped on it for about 12 hours before

we downed it... So I know the fight pretty well. Plus, since we weren't expecting to down anything, it

was a good one to look at the mechanics for next time.

Frankly, I didn't think we'd get past the trash. But with a poison cleansing totem, those trash pulls

are a lot easier than I remember - particularly because it's raid wide now. We tried the boss 4 or 5

times and we never made it past the first transition. We even tried bringing in a couple of different

alts for raid composition but we just didn't have the timing down... And by we, I mean me.

So we called it and talked about it during the week. People watched videos and had a better idea what

was going on in them because they'd seen it for themselves... So it wasn't a complete waste of time.

However, during that week... One of the guys who just pushes my buttons started popping off in the

forums. Normally it just pisses me off, but he's recently switched from his completely geared out prot

warrior to a rogue. He's offered to tank "anything" for us but hasn't tanked squat. And this rogue

doesn't have anywhere near the gear, doesn't bring any buffs, etc... So when he plays it, I can't bring

my paladin who does way more damage and has way more buffs to bring to the table.

The short version is, he started stroking his epeen in the forums about how he's the top DPSer in the

guild. Now... This guy wears on me and I hate... Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate damage meters

because they promote exactly that kind of e-preening. So I laid into him. I allowed that he has topped

a few heroics in total damage done because 1) I've been chain pulling instances and the mana users have

to stop and drink periodically so they have less total DPSing time 2) he has been ignoring all markings

so that he can get all his combo points in 3) he's been getting a huge buff from the death knight tank

that doesn't benefit the mage in the least and 5) he's started attacking almost before the tank does -

which leads to aggro problems down the road. I also pointed out that he just lead in total damage done.

The mage was about 300 dps higher than he was. In short, I accused him of being a self-involved epeen

stroking... Well... rogue. Probably not the most mature thing I've done but... He crossed about 6 lines

that day (that wasn't his only inflamatory post). I mean... He cut down one of the more helpful members

of the guild for missing a raid when he was sick when he missed the previous two weeks including the

previous week where he logged off 15 minutes before raid time, didn't log back on until 2 hours after

raid time (thereby insuring he wouldn't have to participate) and started trying to get people to run

him through heroic Gundrak. Really, really pisses me off.

I went on to say that while he tops the heroics in damage done by a small amount, my paladin (who I

can't play when he's on his rogue because we need _someone_ to tank) tops that same mage by about 25%

in total damage done and by about 100 in DPS - while providing buffs that help (*gasp*) others, spot

heals, in combat CC when necessary (like Heroic VH... That one 3 pull where two mobs go one way and one

goes the other), off tanking, AoE, cleansing and all of those other things that a paladin does. Also

not the most mature thing I've done but.. Of the 13 80's we have now, 3 a rogues and our next 80 will

probably also be a rogue. Fan-freakin' tastic. Plus... That guy pissed me off. I mean... So much that I rolled a new Alliance Death Knight on a PvE server (which I've found very relaxing... Not just the fact that there aren't rogues lurking around every corner to gank you but also because I'm playing Alliance and they're so much nicer than the horde generally are) to hide out from him and the guild.

Since then I've ignored him in the forums and have instructed people to tell me if he makes a post that

is in any way constructive... Or can even be considered non-negative if you took words out (but left

them in the same order). For the record, I had to go back 7 posts before I could find one and that one

pretty much blasted the whole guild for not being prepared. But I digress...

I guess what I'm saying is that we had a tumultuous week in the guild. But on Tuesday night, we had exactly 10 level 80's on-line at raid time... And the rogue wasn't one of them. We abandoned the Heroic Violet Hold run we were on and formed a raid. We decided to do Vault first even though with travel time, etc. it takes about 30 minutes. After vault, we decided to do a boss in Naxx. We had seen Anub'Rehkhan but now that we had 10, I thought Razuvious would be easier for us because we really only need one tank for it and I could bring in my druid to heal. Fortunately, one of our members had been fishing in the Dalaran fountains so he had a coin to flip. The coin chose Razuvious.

Which turned out to be a good choice. It took us 3 attempts but we did down him pretty easily. Now that we've seen that, I'm certain that we can do that in one shot, every time. Plus, people had fun and were feeling pretty optimistic and looking forward to next week.

I know it's not much and that PuGs routinely steamroll that place but... They're an extremely casual guild and this is a huge step for us.