Thursday, 24 December 2009

Everblue the Not-So-Patient

The introduction of cross server LFG, combined with the emblem shift to triumph gear in 3.3 means that people are taking part in more PUGs than ever before. A corollary of this is that bad players are being grouped with good players much more than before. Many people have blogged about particularly bad experiences, some of who are so bad it's almost funny.

Vordan has my favourite though - a melee boomkin with a tanking weapon doing 430 dps...

My worst experience to date was last night in Halls of Reflection heroic. This was my first encounter with a new breed of gamer - people decked out head to foot in high end epics (ilevel 219 and 232), who think they are good players because they are in epics and are nevertheless rubbish. We had

- Mr Hunter - 2.8k dps - some attempt to use pet properly, some trapping, no misdirects, no FDs that I could spot, not good at picking the right target, no AoEing when asked, 6/10

- Mr Rogue - 2.1k dps - not much to say really - seemed to be in stealth a lot , no misdirects, not good at picking the right target, no AoEing when asked, 5/10

- Mr Disc Priest - Unusual spec for a non-raider, but did ok I think, no shackles on casters though, which was annoying for the multi caster pulls 7/10

- Mr Mage - 1.8 dps overall, including AoE sections - Frostfire spec, gemmed for int, meta gem not activated, seemed to pick different spells rather than having a fixed rotation 3/10

We completed the first two bosses after wiping twice. DPS was awful, but we just about ground our way through. We wiped three times on the final run however because the three dps simply could not put out enough dps to clear the adds before Arthas caught us up. The most frustrating part of the evening was that the mage DC'd and did not look like reappearing, so we kicked him and I invited a hunter from my guild (awesome player - 6k dps easy). The priest then said that the mage was his mate, and left as well, and the group broke up. I have met my fair share of 800dps fury warriors in levelling greens - that's one thing - but a guy decked head to toe in ilevel 219 and 232 epics that can only put out 1.8k dps. I simply don't know. I whispered the mage later to apologise for the kick, and offered to help him with his dps. I got some abuse, some lies and ignored...

Bah. My experience was different to Vordanger though - he found someone who is just utterly clueless at warcraft. I found someone who has welfared his way to decent gear (the mage's gear score is not much worse than either of my specs), and who thinks he's the bomb, but is in his own way just as bad as the Meleekin.

Update - I checked his armory this morning and it appears he has respecced arcane, so maybe something I said went in. Or maybe he was casting frostfire bolt in arcane spec. Hmmm...

Fried eggs

This is good. Thanks to Kadomi for the link.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Cooldowns

All tanking classes have a cooldown which reduces incoming damage by a percentage, and most of us have an ability which restores a chunk of health. Since this is a warrior blog, I am going to talk about shield wall (incoming damage reduced by 40% when glyphed) and last stand (health increased by 30%).

The important thing to notice about shield wall is that you should use it BEFORE you take damage. Suppose you have 30k health. If you use shield wall when you are on 30k health then you can take 30k / 0.6 = 50k damage before dying. If you wait until you have taken heavy damage and are on 10k health then you can only survive another 16.7k before dying. Thus rather than preventing 20k of damage, your shield wall will only protect you for 6.7k.

Following this through, if you don't get a heal, then if you cast shield wall after the first 20k hit, then you will die if you take 36.7k damage before getting a heal. If you had used shield wall pre-emptively then it would have taken 50k to kill you.

Of course if you get a heal then you may be fine, but the point remains that this ability is not something to be used AFTER you take a big hit, but should be used whenever possible BEFORE the damage lands. This means shield wall is most useful if the boss has predictable large increases in damage - frozen blows, fusion punch etc.

The opposite is true of last stand - it is a reliable heal - 9k for our tank with 30k health - and it creates more "room" in your health bar so heals that would have been wasted as overheals now have some effect. It is reasonably powerful for sustained boss damage (because of the overheal effect referred to), but also the key point is that depending on how much damage you have already taken it may be more effective than shield wall - the precise tipping point will depend on your maximum health, but in our example of a tank with 10k health left and 30k max health, last stand will be more powerful at helping him survive until the next heal lands than shield wall.

Monday, 14 December 2009

End game

One of Blizzard's stated aims for this expansion was to make raiding more accessible. At first glance this appears to be a reasonable desire - raid content must be the most expensive form of level-cap content that Blizzard produce and it is at times breathtakingly well executed. Allied to this, Blizzard have tried to remove elements of the game that felt "grindy" or required a considerable investment in time, especially repetitive tasks.

You would think therefore that this would make the game better - more great experiences for more players, and less annoying aspects.

Blizzard have failed utterly however, and pursuing this strategy is destroying the game.

MMORPGs are successful where they create a persistent online society. Where you log on every week and see your friends, where you have long term goals, and where you see your character slowly improve in meaningful ways.

But there are no long term goals in the game any more, other than perhaps the levelling experience (which we've all been through now more times than we can count). There are very few rep grinds left- rep for most of the main factions comes for free at 80 via the tabard system, and the important enchants are now Bind on Account so you only need to do them once. There is no "gear path" since the emblem goalposts get shifted with each patch - it is almost always correct to grind "heroic" instances to get epic gear one tier below the current raid tier. Blizzard are trying to turn Warcraft into an arcade game - something that you just pick up and play for an hour or so and then put down. It is ironic that just as Warcraft becomes the most fun it has ever been, the game is dying because Blizzard simply cannot put out new raid content fast enough. When content is hard then you enjoy it for a long time. When content is easy you enjoy it until you've killed it two or three times, and after that it becomes boring.

Icecrown Citadel perfectly illustrates how utterly defunct Blizzard's policy is - it looks and sounds like a wonderfully put together instance, but Blizzard are so terrified of it being cleared in the first week that they are intending to drip-feed the content to us over the next four months. Even with the "self nerfing" Ashen Verdict system, whereby the instance naturally gets weaker over time, Blizzard have been unable to give us normal mode content that can't be beaten in a matter of hours.

I am trying to put together a guild run for the instance tonight and all my guildies appear to have cleared all four bosses on several alts.

Blizzard are worried that people will kill Arthas, let their subscriptions expire, and only renew in 4.0. The fact is however that this is exactly what many people will do because when Arthas is dead there is nothing meaningful to do in the game any more. Unless you are hardcore enough for the hard modes, you may as well say goodbye until Cataclysm hits, because the game is so easy now that there's nothing left.

Think about this - in January when the next set of bosses open up in Icecrown, you will already have the first four on farm and be starting to get bored of them. You will only have three interesting new bosses to do. At no time in the next few months will there be a significant amount of fun, challenging PvE content in the game. And Blizzard have nothing in store for us until Autumn 2010...

Friday, 11 December 2009

LFG

Everyone seems to be posting their experiences of the new LFG tool, so here are mine.

- As a tank I get instances in an average time of 5 seconds. This is good.

- There is slightly more lag than normal. Enough so it feels a bit weird. Perhaps I have been spoiled by my relatively lag-free gaming since I got my powerline networking.

- Can retri paladins turn righteous fury off please?

- What the hell is it with that 5% damage/health/healz buff? Were heroics not easy enough anyway?

- Topping the dps meters as a tank in VH heroic was disappointing, but 2k dps was a record for me. Possibly due to that silly buff referred to above.

- Can people dps the mob I have marked please? If you dps another mob and it hits you I will have limited patience for taunting it off you repeatedly. If you really really don't want to dps the marked mob, then AoE. AoEing is fine.

- Free emblems of triumph are nice. I feel like my gear is now ready for my first crack at Icecrown next Monday.

- I like the new disenchant option. God knows what it will do to the server economy though. A guess - these BoP blues/epics would have been sold for cash to vendors, thus increasing the money supply in the world. Now they are turned into enchanting materials, increasing supply of goods. More goods + less money = lower prices. On the other hand we have loads of new gear to enchant, so perhaps the two will balance out somewhat.

- That bug (reported here) that makes the mobs run behind you is incredibly annoying. I have been tanking mobs by walking backwards in a circle.

- I am quite excited by the prospect of old world dungeons seeing more activity, as I plan to roll a werewolf in 4.0.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

3.2 nostalgia

So Patch 3.3 will hit this week.

I'm excited but kinda sad too. We were so close to getting Anub'arak hard mode down, but didn't quite make it. We had our second night of attempts last night - only four wipes on the first four bosses which included a first Twin Val'kyr hard mode kill for me. I was really proud of that achievement - after so much strife in that instance and learning of the fights, it really feels like the first four bosses are now farmable. The last boss however...

A fair few of the wipes were adds related, which is always pretty embarrassing since it was my job to grab them and tank them. We had kiting problems which was new and unwelcome, but we were getting into P3 fairly regularly - we had I think 5 or 6 attempts where everyone was alive at the start of P3. I think a lot of our problems stemmed from getting the healing mix right - it is such a hard fight to heal, and requires a completely different mindset to normal healing - one healer has to spam heal two tanks who are taking massive damage, while the other needs to do small heals to keep the group alive while reacting fast to penetrating cold damage. I think we would have got him down in the next evening of attempts, but with everyone wanting ICC now (including me), I wonder if we will ever get back to him with sufficient intensity to get a kill.

Upside - at least I can grind some emblems of triumph now to get my ilevel 245 helm. My T8 helm, while being pretty cool in that the token drops from a hard boss and can't be bought for emblems, is looking fairly scruffy now.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Anub'arak 10 hard mode - offtank tips

I had my first tries on Anub'arak hard mode last night (10 man as usual). 18 wipes in total, and we started to get solidly into phase three towards the end with our best try being 7%.

I was pretty rusty - I had not tanked for nearly a month - but by the end I was getting a lot better. I was the offtank, which is a pretty demanding role, and so some tips here. It is not a strategy guide, since you can get those on tankspot. It's just some tips for a warrior offtank.

- Gearing for stamina is not important here - avoidance and block are king. You also need nature resistance enchants on your helm and cloak, plus a nature resistance flask. Shaman/hunters in your raid should put up some nature resistance in phases two and three. I had 31k health unbuffed for this fight and was generally ok, although I need to add some more block if I can.

- The first two adds will spawn after about 10 seconds of the encounter. If you charge and bloodrage you should have enough time to put five sunders on the boss to help your physical dps before you need to go and pick up the adds. Don't muck about here though - any phase one deaths mean a wipe, and the adds are pretty fast initially so if you have time to put down only two or three sunders it is not that big a deal.

- Heroic throw the first add, then charge/shield slam the second. The boss should be positioned next to (or on) an ice patch and the raid should be hugged up behind him. Bring your two adds onto the ice patch and then call for dps.

- Three of your six dps (this is a two healer fight) should nuke the adds. They should prioritise abilities that do splash damage such as cleave.

- The adds sometimes try to submerge. Ignore this as they are standing on the ice. Occasionally they will try to "shadow strike". You have four seconds to interrupt this with a shockwave - both adds will try to cast it together and you will interrupt both with shockwave so no bother. A ret pally with avenging wrath can also help you out if you need it. I have only ever seen the adds try to cast this once in the fight - there appears to be a long cooldown on it which is longer that the cooldown on your shockwave.

- I should say that I didn't get any DBM warnings for the shadow strike. if you don't watch the add's cast bars carefully (and have enemy cast bars in your UI of course) then you might miss one, which means one or two dead dpsers and therefore a wipe.

- Once the adds are dead, put some more sunders on the boss, then go and look for the second adds spawn. You will offtank these adds for the rest of phase one. Bear in mind that the adds get slowed by the ice patches and so the speed that these adds will reach the raid varies. Your heroic throw will probably be on cooldown, so charge one add, hit it, then intercept the second and hit that. Drag the adds to an ice patch and tank them - dps will ignore them for now. I don't generally drag the adds next to the boss - although doing so is better for dps purposes, since they will be hit by splash damage from your dpsers, it causes problems in the transition between phases one and two. I prefer to tank them on an ice patch away to one side somewhere but with perfect execution (ie more skill than me) you may want to drag them back to the boss.

- After a while, the boss will submerge. You will get a DBM warning for this. About three or four seconds before this your MT should pull the boss off the ice patch and your raid should run away from where the boss is. If you are tanking the adds next to the boss then you need to move the adds to another ice patch, but you have an 80% slow effect from the ice patch which is a big problem. Intervening on a raid member can help, but generally this is fiddly which is why I try to avoid it.

- You need the boss to be well below 60% at this stage, otherwise you are going to need two submerge phases to get the kill. Two submerge phases is not necessarily fatal, but it means you are going to have to be amazing at kiting the boss in phase two, and you are going to have problems with the enrage timer.

- There is lots of talk about kiting strategies for the boss, but most of it is not necessary. You have six ice patches, and will need one for your next phase one. This means that if you are planning one submerge phase then you can use five of them. In none of our 18 tries last night did we run out of ice patches. The key here is to stay alive - try to kite the boss if you can, but bear in mind that the boss speeds up substantially the longer a kite progresses, and it is very easy to die to long ambitious kites. Also remember that if you use an ability to drop aggro (eg fade, feign death) then the BOSS SPEED DOES NOT RESET. This is critical - the next person to be targeted will have to move really fast to avoid getting nailed by the boss. If you are going to use one of these abilities then call it out on vent to warn others to be aware of the need to duck behind an ice patch fast.

- The reason that most people die in phase two is the small adds. They die quite quickly but when enraged they do considerable damage. They are untauntable, and can only be stunned if not enraged. They enrage if alive too long. We tried all kinds of clever strategies for dealing with the small adds, but in the end we simply told our dpsers to hunt down the small adds whenever they see one alive. Go after them rather than waiting for them to come to you. Dpsers should be aware of where the healers and clothies are and be prepared to help them out if they see them in trouble.

- After about a minute the boss will emerge. This is not a threat wipe, and dps can go all out straight away. The first pair of adds will spawn straight away. This is the hardest part of the fight for the offtank - the boss will not be positioned properly and it may not be easy to see the adds from where you are. The raid might be right next to the adds' spawn point. You must grab these two adds very very fast and pull them to an ice patch next to the boss - again, heroic throw is good here. As before your three dps will kill the adds and then go back to the boss.

- The next pair of adds will probably not spawn before you hit phase three. Don't panic when you hit phase three - wait for the adds to spawn, grab them (this might be tough because heroic throw will be on cooldown so charge/hit/intercept/hit is probably the way to go). Bring them to the ice patch next to the boss and call for all dps to focus on them and burn them down. I would not advise trying to get any sunders on the boss at this stage - make certain you get the adds under control.

- Once these adds are dead hit heroism and all dps nuke the boss. When new adds spawn pick them up but don't tank them on the ice - you want them to submerge.

- The key thing in phase three is for your healers to understand how much they need to heal people for to keep them alive and yet minimise boss healing. The boss' health drops fast in phase three after the first pair of adds are dead - if you can hold on then it is definitely doable.

Good luck!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Warm Turkey

Tobold writes interesting and sensible things about gaming. He makes you think a lot of the time. Here is one of his recent posts. In it he talks about how it is now ridiculously easy to level cooking in Warcraft. It seems like a frivolous topic, and there is the usual "catering to casuals" versus "streamlining annoying bits of the game" arguement in the comments.

I levelled my cooking skill at the time I levelled this character because I thought it would make it easier for me to get access to ability buffs and might give me the chance to make money. I didn't enjoy doing it particularly, although there was a mild feeling of achievement from time to time. I put in the effort because I thought it would be worthwhile to do so in order to gain an advantage over people who did not take the time to do so.

So for me, this is a nerf - any real or perceived advantage I gained has now gone. My achievement and effort was good for about a year, but is now worth less than it was before because most people will be able to do as well or better.

Still, it's only cooking.

This comment is fascinating however

I'm amazed at the direction complaints towards MMOs have taken over the last year or so. It seems all the things that made MMOs what they were are suddenly anathema to players.It seems like so many people hate most of the many small things that have always been part of an MMO.Questing, grinding, grouping, craft skills, everyone seems to be trying to find a way to make them go past more quickly... It's like saying: "I love playing football... except the part where you go outside, work as a team or have to kick a ball. That part sucks and I try to get it over with as soon as I can because it's annoying."

This is true - the levelling and exploring experience in warcraft is increasingly portrayed as a chore. Why is that? I am as bad as anyone - getting from 75 from 80 on my paladin alt was a real grind, and yet it was only the second time I'd seen the content. Some ideas:

- It is no longer a group game

Sometimes I am literally the only person in a levelling zone - particularly some of the more out of the way ones like Badlands or UmBungo Crater. Most levelling is now done alone and the most memorable and fun way to level is with a guildie or friend.

- There is no real reward

Because the levels flash past so fast none of the gear you receive has any lasting quality. I remember getting the paladin two handed weapon Verigan's Fist at level 25 many years ago, including soloing the first boss of Deadmines, and using it for 10 levels. It was a brilliant, epic experience and I was really excited to get it. I've had nothing like that in any of the expansions and when I level alts I can get through ten levels in two nights.

- It is very easy

You are hardly ever in any danger of dying in PvE these days. There are no elite mobs or quests. Something easy to obtain is not usually inherently valuable.

So what is left that we like in the game? Raiding is better than it ever was, and was brilliantly conceived and executed in Ulduar. Coliseum is disappointing as an instance, but some of the fights are well designed. Arena PvP is again supposedly very enjoyable for a certain sado-masochistic mindset. What's the link between these activities? They are essentially social activities, they require co-operation and co-ordination. They offer tangible rewards. They are difficult.

The more that Blizzard dumbs down the early part of the game, the less that people will enjoy it I think.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Logic

I have been cold turkey from Warcraft for over a week now - not logging in at all. The main reason for this has been work - we have a big international client who are restructuring and so I'm in the middle of a pretty unpleasant series of overseas meeting. Another reason has been family - I'm taking the wife away for a couple of nights in a spa hotel this weekend and leaving my daughter with her granny. A final reason is that there isn't much in the game to draw me back at the moment - it so happens that I haven't been able to make any of the raids, and raiding is what kindles my excitement at the moment. Oddly, I have been missing raiding as dps, rather than tanking. I really enjoy fury, and I think would like to make this my main spec if I can do so without taking the raid spot of one of my dps friends.

I haven't given up the game at all - Icecrown looks fantastic and I can't wait for that - but 3.2 was such a let down as a patch.

So, in lieu of anything interesting about tanking, an anecdote from this book, which I devoured from start to finish yesterday while waiting for flights and connections.

I used to play a bit of poker (mainly live tournaments and the occasional cash game), and am just good enough to regularly beat bad players, without actually being good enough to hold my own against anyone competent. My weakness is that I love to play, and I love to gamble. I will chase my inside straight draw, or my flush draw, and usually crash on the final card. Victoria Coren's book is a fascinating human story about learning the game and finally getting a chance to win a big tournament.

Anyway - to the anecdote. A good few years ago now Mike Tyson is dating Naomi Campbell (the supermodel). They are at a celebrity cocktail party in London. They are arguing, when an elderly Oxford professor approaches them and tells Tyson to "Leave that girl alone."

Tyson, miffed, replies "Who the fuck do you think I am? I'm the heavyweight champion of the world!" The professor immediately replies "And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our fields, and I suggest we talk about this like rational men."

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Faction champions heroic - redux

Firstly, and if you read nothing else in this post, here is an analysis of AI target selection in Faction Champs in ToC.

Secondly, we had our second kill last night on heroic mode. We got pretty much the toughest bunch of horde champions we could have - warrior / retribution paladin / shadow priest / resto shaman / resto druid / warlock, and we had to have our MT swap to his PvP hunter to get the kill, which took about 10 tries.

One big plus for us was the strategy of setting someone to keep hitting the warlock's felhound. We eventually used our hunter pet for it, and I saw a large number of the AI heals heading for the pet instead of the champion that we were attacking. As before our successful strategy (we tried several before this one worked) was to take out 2 of the 4 damage dealers before we went for the healers.

I was really pleased to get the kill, because it proves that last week was not a fluke due to an easy setup, but crikey that's a frustrating fight when you are wiping.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Tank survey

There is a survey of tanking bloggers doing the rounds. Since Gravity was kind enough to tag me in his response, herewith my answers:

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary Tank?

Everblue, Warrior, and I'm specced 15/3/53 at the moment.

What is your usual tanking environment?

Ten man, normal mode and hard mode stuff.

What is your favourite encounter to tank, and why?

The key ingredient of a favourite encounter is that it must be hard, but not sufficiently hard that I die all the time. I quite like Lord Jaraxxus in ToC10 heroic - you have important stuff to mix into your rotation (the interrupt), you have to be mobile enough to avoid infernal AoE without running into Legion Flame or gimping your dps switches to the portals etc.

In the past I enjoyed Anub'rekan (when it was hard and you had to get out of the insect swarm by intervening).

What is your least favorite encounter to tank, and why?

Malygos when you don't have a DK in the group. You have to do huge dps to keep ahead of the people who have the damage buff, you have to position the boss so that the breath doesn't hit the raid, and you have to keep moving the boss around the circle so the sparks pass over the raid before hitting the boss. It's an absolute nightmare combination and I hate it.

I don't mind mobility fights, but mobility + dps buffs to your raid = tank nightmare. There are similar issues on Hodir, but the problems aren't as extreme.

What do you think is the biggest strength of your class, and why?

Warriors have an ability for every situation. There is never a boss where a buff, debuff or tank ability is needed and warriors don't have it. Whether it is picking up adds, short cooldown interrupts, kiting, tactical use of cooldowns, the sunder debuff to increase dps etc. We are "good all round".

...and weakness?

We are "balanced" around critical block. Critical block + shield block is very very powerful indeed in current content, but it is unreliable. I therefore think that although we mitigate melee damage better than any other class, we are also potentially the squishiest tank class.

What is your favorite thing about the class you chose for your primary Tank and why?

I like the complexity of our baseline abilities that we use. I think that there is always some ability that I could use better to be better at tanking (for example at the moment I am trying to work cleave and disarm into my playstyle more). I think that some of the other classes lack the depth of the warrior.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel is the best tanking assignment for you?

My 25 man experience is limited, but I would suggest that we are the best adds tank. We are very mobile, so can move to pick up adds as they spawn, reasonably tank caster mobs who stand apart from each other or do some limited kiting. We can AoE stun (bosses are usually immune to stun but adds are usually not). We can spell reflect (ditto). Shield block makes us basically immune to physical damage for 1/4 of the time. We have two interrupts.

In a 10 man raid of course you just have to do everything.

What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with the most?

Paladins. If it's a paladin it means I may not have to keep up demo shout, and I have an array of helpful spells I can call on if the encounter requires it (eg hand of protection on the transition between Gormok and the Jormungar's in Northrend Beasts to clear my impale stack). The extra health from BoSanc is good too, as is the armour from devo aura. Consecration will always be up so incoming adds will get snagged by the pally.

...and the least?

Ummm. Hard to say. I have very little experience tanking with druids, but I suffer from a bad case of health-bar-envy, so I would have to say them.

What is your worst habit as a tank?

Mashing devastate in a panic when I am trying to move the boss around. My rotation just falls away in particularly stressful situations. Recent buffs to devastate mean that this is less of a liability.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while tanking?

My tank partner taunting mobs off me without agreeing beforehand. I don't mind if it's part of the plan, for example in our normal ToC heroic raids my tank partner is much better geared than me, and we agree that in certain circumstances where there are two bosses and his boss is dead he will take over my boss. Otherwise though it's just rude.

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other tanks for PvE tanking?

I don't know. The forums say not, tankspot says not, and Veneretio says not. I agree that with block as it is warrior damage is very spiky, but other than that I don't feel underpowered and I am tanking bosses that hit hard. I'm happy with my game experiences, so why complain? (Another 5k health would be nice though...)

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a tank?

Recount, fraps, "did-the-healer-die?"

What do you think is the toughest thing for new players of your class to learn about tanking?

Managing heroic strikes while trying to run a normal rotation. It's a horrible playstyle. Please fix it Blizzard.

If someone were to evaluate your tanking ability via tools like fraps, recount, and World of Logs, what tendencies would they notice?

Hmmm. If they watched a video of me tanking on fraps they would see that I have a very large number of keybinds (I have 28 keys bound to abilities that I use regularly, not including modifiers such as shift- and alt-, and not including mouse combinations), that I mash devastate in panic from time to time (see above), and probably that I am a keyboard turner and don't strafe enough. On recount they would see that my dps is not brilliant (but improving I think), and that I am pretty good at stuff like interrupting and reflecting spells. They might also see that I use pretty much all of the warrior toolkit including stuff like retaliation and shattering throw.

They might see that I don't normally use cleave or disarm, although I am now starting to switch these in for fights where they're helpful.

They would see that I use a lot of macros.

Avoidance, Mitigation or Stamina and why?

Mitigation. I know it is better to stack stamina for large unavoidable damage, and I do socket stamina gems and currently run with two stamina trinkets. Nevertheless what I want to do is stack armour, and I look for armour whenever I can get it.

I like my character to feel "tough", which means armour, not a meatbag with tonnes of health. Is "meatbag" a word? It should be.

Do you strive primarily for balance between your tanking stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?

I stack stamina and armour ahead of of avoidance. I never enchant or gem for avoidance unless I need the defence rating or I need a decent socket bonus.

What Tanking class do you feel you understand least?

Druids. Never played a druid.

Addons for tanking?

Some form of boss ability timer is utterly crucial. Get it and keep it updated. I use DeadlyBossMods. Also vital is something in your UI which shows the targetoftarget unit frame, together with that frame's debuffs. It is necessary for tank-swapping fights such as Thorim. I use Xperl unit frames for this.

Recount and Omen, obviously.

You also need to be able to see your target's cast bar, otherwise you won't be able to interrupt properly. The default UI now has this functionality, but I use Xperl.

I used to use wardrobe addons (for my blocking set, my EH set, my dps gear etc), but the wardrobe feature in the game's standard UI is very good and I now don't use any external addons for this. I have weapon swapping macros for when I am dpsing.

Other than that? I use Scrolling Combat Text so that my incoming damage and heals don't fill up the screen. I move them to one side and make them smaller.

Machinima

For those of you who have not yet discovered the delights of Cranius, he's a really talented US singer who also makes warcraft movies. The movie that made his name was the iconic "Big Blue Dress", which I think is perhaps my favourite warcraft movie of all time. Among his many other videos he made a music video to the excellect "Highwayman", and a version of a Timbaland song called "Ulduar" which has been running through my head for hours now...

I strongly recommend you look his work up.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

We are the champions

We had our weekly ToC 10 heroic raid last night. My co-raid leader (a retadin) was away and we replaced him with a tank, meaning that not only was I leading the raid alone, but also I had to dps for the first time ever in a guild raid. I had only a little PUG raid experience previous to that (I'm not counting my mage raids in vanilla or shadowpriest raids in TBC - this was melee dps, and new to me).

My gear is all over the place - a mix of ilevels 200 to 232, with a blue cloak in there too - and I'm not properly gemmed or enchanted. I also run a spec with some PvP talents in for the faction champion fight. I bought an emblem of triumph ring before the raid in the hope that this would increase my dps a bit, but other than that I was very nervous.

As it turned out however, the raid was really successful.

We one-shot the Beasts, which was a brilliant start - no one got hit by the charge, and it was a really smooth kill. I was, of course, fifth (and therefore essentially last) on recount, but 3.5k dps was not too shabby. It took about ten tries to kill Jarraxus, and sad to say several of the wipes were my fault. I found it very difficult to switch targets fast enough, to manage my rage effectively, and to not stand in the fire like an idiot. One dps death usually means a wipe on Jarraxus, because you have to be so quick at taking down the portals otherwise you get overrun by adds. When we finally got him down I was so busy cheering that I didn't notice I had the legion flame debuff, and so died several seconds after the fight ended.

I was then prepared to give the champions about half an hour, just to practice but we had a really good setup and so I knew that a kill was possible. We had rogue/enh shaman/lock/mage/tree/disc priest - so no plate at all. Sure enough, five or six wipes later, we had our first kill! Some thoughts on the tactic:

- We had a prot warrior locking down the priest

- We ignored the tree to start with (excepting the odd fear and some random cc)

- We nuked down the rogue, purging the hots and using healing debuffs (I have a 50% healing debuff)

- We then killed the tree healer, then the other melee dps, then the second healer

This strategy was used because although we'd killed the tree a couple of times before, we were having real problems with the melee ganging up on people and losing people around the time of the first mob death. So even though we reduced the number of attacking mobs by 1 (by killing the tree) incoming damage was still too high to safely deal with. Once the rogue was down the amount of burst damage being put out by the mobs as a whole was a lot less, and there was less danger of losing someone before a heal could land. With good dispelling from our shaman and the two priests we could get rid of the hots cast by the tree, so aside from interrupts the amount of healing we were having to burn through getting the rogue down was not that much more than we had had to burn through on the tree.

We did not assign any CC to the mage or the lock, other than having a designated interrupter for hellfire.

We assigned some CC to the enhancement shammy, but not much. CC was a self help device - it allowed people to use it defensively if threatened.

Our strategy worked I think because the rogue is the squishiest melee mob we could have got - I think if we had had DK and warrior then we would have had more problems but nevertheless this is maybe the way to go if you get the tree healer (whose heals can be purged). Similarly, if we'd had the either the resto shammy or the holy paladin instead of the tree I wonder if we would have been able to burn down the rogue at all.

Friday, 30 October 2009

...lies and videotape

The Northrend Beasts heroic video I made can be viewed here:

http://www.fallen-from-grace.net/

Thanks must go to my good friend Alviarin for dealing with divx hard mode after my ham-fisted editing and kindly hosting the video for me.

My UI is a little screwed up in the video - I was experimenting with having some of my character and target frames at the bottom of the screen, which worked out badly and I have since reverted.

The most useful thing to take from the video I guess if you were looking for tips is the positioning of Dreadscale in P2. You want to be near enough the Acidmaw tank that he can get to you if he gets the debuff, but far enough away that the cone attack and AoE don't hit the raid. After each cone attack you will have a few seconds to move the boss around so that you can burn off the debuff from your raid members, before you need to be on your guard for the cone attack again.

The chill of the throne

I note that dodge is getting a nerf in Icecrown - a flat 20% reduction in avoidance. What will this mean for warrior tanks? It means another buff to block.

Ghostcrawler has said that he wants bosses to hit for sustained dps but in a series of smaller hits rather than a few large hits. Block (as is known) is much better against small hits than big hits, and as warriors we are the best blockers thanks to critical block - our blocks are less often than paladins, but with 10k blocks becoming a reality in ICC (I now routinely block for 8.5k in my normal tanking gear when raid buffed) warrior survivability is going to increase.

Just how marked this increase will be remains to be seen and is a function of the boss encounters. Nevertheless, this is a big buff for us.

Oh - and I frapsed our recent second kill of hard mode Northrend Beasts. I've been playing with the video over the last few days and it's now ready. I'll post it here when it's uploaded to my friend's server.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Rage

Here is an interesting post about dealing with angry guildies:

http://blog.cold-comfort.org/nerdrage-deal/

I just got back from one of the dullest management courses ever known, but there were some gems amongst the dross, so here are two other tips:

1) Try to find common ground.

The example used in the course was about a pro-life group and a pro-choice group operating in the same town in the US. Despite the fact that you'd think that these people had nothing at all in common, when forced to get together and find common ground they both discovered they could agree on the desire to reduce teen pregnancy in that area. By stepping back they found a basis for a positive relationship and something that they could work together on, despite their differences.

If you are arguing about raid strategies (for example) try to see the big picture. You both want to down the boss, you just disagree about the best way to do it. If you focus on the fact that you both want the best for the group, it becomes clear to see that there is no essential conflict between you. Often by stepping back and finding common goals you can resolve an argument quickly.

2) Confront difficult issues

If you constantly duck the difficult issues then people's reactions to the problem which isn't being dealt with generally fall into two catagories - introverted reactions and extroverted reactions.

Introverted reactions involve essentially "hiding". In a guild context you might have people avoiding the guild forum, being unwilling to speak on vent, ignoring requests for people to volunteer for difficult tasks.

Extroverted reactions are the opposite - being aggressive towards fellow guildies. Criticism of minor flaws out of all proportion to their seriousness is a good example.

If you are seeing either of these in your guild, they could be a symptom of a deeper underlying problem, a conflict which exists within your guild and which you are not addressing. Merely dealing with the symptoms of the problem may be counterproductive - people may consider that they are being victimised. Try to look closely if their are other conflicts - often these are personality clashes - which are causing other people to react.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

New tanking trinket

According to datamining carried out by MMO-champion, the tanking trinket available in Icecrown 10 man (normal mode) will have the following effect:

Each time you dodge an attack, you gain 24 stamina for the next 10 sec, stacking up to 10 times.

There is no indication as to whether this is an on use effect, whether there is an internal cooldown, or whether it is simply "always on". I doubt it is an on use or internal cooldown effect, since there is no length of time listed for the buff. I presume therefore it is always on.

The trinket would therefore be 240 stamina, but it would take quite a long time to warm up.

Dodgy maths incoming...

Suppose your dodge chance is d.

Then the expected number of melee swings before you dodge an attack is 1/d. This means that if you ignore the possibility of the buff dropping off due to going 10 seconds without a dodge, the expected number of melee swings before you dodge 10 attacks and you have a full stack of the buff is 10/d. For example, if your dodge chance is 24% you would expect to receive 41.67 swings before the buff stacked to full.

Bear in mind that a 5 minute fight is 300 seconds, so with a boss swing timer of 2.4 seconds you will receive 125 swings in the whole fight, meaning that the full buff will only be up for (125-41.67)/125 = 67% of the fight.

Now, we also need to consider the possibility of the buff dropping off, perhaps due to encounter mechanics (eg the boss ceases attacking, for whatever reason, or there's a tank swap). For Northrend Beasts / Gormok, for instance, this trinket would be useless because the buff will just drop off when the other tank is taking impales. In normal combat the probability of the buff dropping off just from a series of melee swings failing to be dodged is actually pretty high - in ten seconds you will probably be attacked 4 or 5 times, meaning the probability of the buff falling off is (1-d)^4 or (1-d)^5, ie 25% or 33% where d=24%.

Running with this example - given that it will take you 41.67 melee swings on average to get the buff to full, with 2.4 seconds between boss melee swings you are looking at around 100 seconds and in each 10 second period there is a 25%-33% chance that the buff falls off. The chance of the buff falling off in that 100 second period is very very high - I put it at above 95%. This means that the chance of the buff ever topping out at +240 stamina is pretty small, and means that unless there is a large stat buff as well as this effect on the trinket, the trinket will go the way of the ToC10 trinket in being a useless piece of junk.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Grand

Stepped warily into the arena for the third night of hardmode attempts, and immediately it felt like our hard yards the last two weeks had paid off. First attempt was a good P3 which failed because of a dps death leading to failing the enrage timer. After the fifth attempt I ranted at people a bit for being hit by the charge, which of course meant that I was hit by the charge next time, but we got a kill anyway. It felt really really good.

The more observant of you will have seen that I picked up the heroic bracers from the boss. That felt good too!

We then tried Jarraxus and, on our second attempt...

The big red bastard went down! That fight felt much easier - the key appears to be the dps switching fast to kill the adds, and dispelling the boss's buffs fast.

(mumbles something about getting owned by faction champions for an hour)

Brilliant raid - excellent fun.

Heroics OK?

I was looking for a group to do the daily heroic quest (Old Kingdon) to get the last two badges to buy my tier 9 gloves, and found a group who were farming heroic dungeon achievements. We got the achievements from the first, third and last bosses in Old Kingdom, and it was a really fun evening - much more fun than I've had in a heroic dungeon for ages.

The achievement for Elder Nadox (the first boss) in particular was very satisfying http://www.wowhead.com/?achievement=2038. The boss spawns an add every 30 seconds or so, and if the add is within 100 yards of the boss, then the boss is immune to damage. The achievement requires you to leave all the adds alive however. We eventually dealt with it by using a dps-specced DK to tank the boss, and kite him into another room. I stayed in the boss's room in blocking gear, and picked up the adds when they spawned. With my array of stuns and self-heals I didn't need the healer to heal me at all, and was on about 85% health when the boss died.

The achievement for Jedoga Shadowseeker was more trivial http://www.wowhead.com/?achievement=2056. Every so often she becomes unattackable and one of her worshippers tries to sacrifice himself to give her a massive damage buff. Normally one would kill these before they complete the ritual, but the achievement requires you to leave them alive. When buffed her melee swings hit me for 12k, while the whirlwind hit me for 20k (and amusingly one-shotted our dps DK twice - we battle rezzed him halfway through the event). There are three enraged phases - shield wall the first time, disarm the second time, last stand the third. Easy.

The final boss achievement was a zerg http://www.wowhead.com/?achievement=1862. The boss periodically casts insanity - I believe at 66% and 33% - requiring you to fight evil versions of your group members. We attempted to get him to 33% before he'd finished casting insanity, and did so first time. This meant we only had one insane phase to deal with, and we downed the boss in 90 seconds. We used our DK's army of the dead to tank him, and I went fury for the occasion.

It was a real feeling of, well, achievement and it was interesting to do the same old fights in a new way. I wonder whether it's worth going for the proto-drake mount you get for doing every heroic achievement - I have about three-quarters of them already and it would add a certain amount of interest to heroic dungeon runs.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Theorycraft

Gravity over at pwnwear mused some time ago about why so many tanks are into theory. I've been thinking about that on and off and there are two reasons which occur to me.

Firstly, if you are a tank then a big part of your job is to not take damage (that's not all of your job, but it's a big part of it). How can you get better at this? You can make sure that you keep up one or two debuffs on the boss, and one or two buffs on yourself, but that is so basic as to be assumed (ie you are a bad tank if you don't do this, but not necssarily a good tank if you do). You can use one or two reactive abilities such as interrupts, or cooldowns to coincide with periods of increased boss damage, but that has only situational effect. Otherwise, you just can't get better at this part of your job by improving your rotations, experience or skill.

You ensure that you take less damage by gearing appropriately, and the fact you need to gear properly means that good tanks take a healthy interest in the effect that gear has on their ability to do their job.

The second reason is that, refreshingly, there is no right answer. When I spec fury there is a "right" spec to use, and there are "right" answers for what gear I should equip (strength vs armour pen vs crit, for example has a right answer). For tanks there are no right answers - it is unarguable for example that a tank who stacks avoidance will take less damage than a tank who stacks stamina. But is this the right thing to do? Everyone has their own opinion, and the considerations change depending on class, role, and encounter.

Theorycrafting for dps specs is very broadly a case of - insert your gear into the spreadsheet, read the optimum rotation on EJ, rinse repeat. The work has been done by clever people already and you just need to research the best approach. Any theorycrafting you do is simply an inferior version of the work done by someone else. Theorycrafting for tanks is an organic community, and everyone's work can make a difference without ever being the final word on the subject.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Boiler room

A quiet weekend spent getting nailed by hard mode instances. Cleared ToC10 again - 42 minutes, a new record - and picked up the chest from Anub. I still have ilevel 219 gloves, cloak and helm. The T9 gloves are next on my list.

More fun stuff last weekend though - changed my offspec to Fury, which looks like a huge amount of fun. Less manic than Arms because you have "free GCDs" where all your attacks are on cooldown and you can do other stuff like sunder, demo shout, etc etc. With those two massive weapons you look really good as well... It feels strange not to be doing something every GCD though, and will take getting used to I guess.

I also decided to try to make the best use of my tradeskills to earn money at the AH. I've pretty much picked the worst time to do this, since MMO-champion.com has been running a series of "how to" guides, but nevertheless I am up about 500g over the four days I've been doing it, with an inventory "worth" (in inverted commas because no stock has any intrinsic value unless it is sold) another 500g. If I could turn a profit of 750g a week I'd be very happy indeed, since that would easily cover my flask and repair bills and allow me cash to spend on enchants and gems without me having to farm to do so.

I am an inscriber/herbalist, and I haven't followed the MMO-champion guide, but I did read a guide on the Greedy Goblin website which was most useful because it teaches you to think critically about what to make and sell, how to go about it, and (crucially) what addons to use. I cannot rate Auctioneer highly enough - it has moved on a lot since I last installed it in vanilla warcraft. Glyphs are a strange business - the cost of making a glyph is almost literally zero (while the herbs have an opportunity cost, this is defrayed by selling the rare pigments that you sometimes get as a side effect of the milling process), so any positive selling price is pure profit. It's possible to sell glyphs for up to 100g, but since MMO-champion got in on the act I sell most of mine for about 10g. Given the relatively low turnover of glyphs, and the large number of competitors, you have to have large numbers of glyphs on the AH at any one time to turn a profit and I don't really maximise the possibilities here. I have 30 or 40 glyphs on the market each day, and usually log on to find a few dozen gold waiting for me in the mailbox.

It's mildly annoying that the inscription gold-rush has now moved onto phase two, and herb prices are going through the roof (with herbs themselves being harder to come by), but these things come in cycles and the wheel will turn.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The current state of block

It's been a quiet couple of weeks online. Offline, work has intervened on me and unloaded a concussive blow, although I should be back in Ulduar for a third night of Freya+3 on Friday.

Had another night of getting my nose ground into the floor by Gormok the Heroic Impaler, and that fight really brought home to me in a way I had not seen before exactly how spiky warrior damage can be in cutting edge fights. I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I was quite excited by the change to critical block, but this combined with the doubling of block value on gear has had several impacts:

1) Shield block is now a really powerful third cooldown. My critical blocks when shield block is up block for 7.5k, and I do not specifically gear for block. It is almost as powerful as shield wall, giving more than 50% mitigation at times.

2) Since we are now balanced around critical block warriors are the most spiky tanks in terms of healing damage. Sometimes you'll be hit by a boss for 20k and sometimes for 12.5k. Your healers don't know and will have to assume that you'll take full damage.

3) To balance our awesome blocking abilities (we now block for more than paladins, just not as often) we have to have lower mitigation elsewhere. This means a combination of lower EH and lower avoidance. This puts a great deal of pressure on us for EH fights.

4) Warriors are now like DKs were in LK beta - too squishy when our cooldowns are unavailable, too good otherwise.

5) The 4-piece tier 9 bonus looks all kinds of awesome.

6) Warriors are the best adds tanks bar none. No-one else can tank hard hitting elite adds as well as we can. We have the ability to fully block quite powerful blows, many add abilities can be reflected, many adds can be stunned. It's possible to kite with intervene as well.

7) If one assumes that the expected value of boss damage is broadly equal between all four tanks, warriors have the potential to take the least damage of any tanks if you get a run of crit blocks, but have the potential to take the most damage if you get a string of unblocked hits.

8a) I wonder if Lavanthor's Talisman should get a second look as a trinket. It provides around 4.5% block chance (not subject to diminishing returns) and 400 block value for 40 seconds every 2 minutes - ie 1600 critical block with shield block up. This would push me to 9.2k critical blocks if needed.

8b) Alternatively Lavanthor's Talisman could be used consecutively with shield block (which gives 30 seconds of coverage every 2 minutes) to provide a total cooldown coverage of 70 seconds every 2 minutes. Add last stand and shield wall to this, and you get 94 seconds of cooldown coverage every 2 minutes - or just 24 seconds where one or the other wouldn't be on. Use of Furnace Stone or a similar trinket could get you to just 4 seconds of no coverage... (sorry - went off on one there, but you get the picture - we play like DKs now).

So yes, we have the joint-lowest EH of any tanking class, but shield block as a third cooldown is getting much much better.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Grump

One of the things I find most annoying about ten man raiding, is that there never seems to be a full set of tanking plate that drops in any given instance tier. We had it in Ulduar, with the lack of tanking boots, and we have it again in the Coliseum, with the lack of tanking legs.

Of course there is Tier 9, and every monkey will have the T9 leggings in due course. These are ilevel 232 however, and it seems wrong to me to have to spend my emblems of triumph on ilevel 232 gear when I could spend it on ilevel 245 gear. Bah.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Drink! (continued)

Not much warcraft for me this week - I flew out to the real life Brewfest in Munich to meet some guildies who live in Germany. Much fun was had, beer drunk and cheese eaten by all. Dark Iron dwarves not sighted, but pink elekks put in a brief appearance.

Other than that, tried ToC10 heroic for the first time last night, and got whipped by Gormok repeatedly. Some thoughts -

1) Maybe I'm not geared enough. Still using ilevel219 head and legs (the "big four" tanking items are apparently head, chest, legs and shield).

Perhaps I need to upgrade to T9 legs asap.

2) Armour and health are vital against impale. Avoidance helps against melee swings but is less important than normal since I don't think you can dodge impale.

I still don't have the damn Black Heart. The emblem of triumph trinket would help, although this as an objective conflicts with (1) above.

3) We have an impale strategy that seems to work...

The strategy was for me to start tanking and take four impales, using shield wall just before the third impale. The other tank would then taunt and I would then get BoP to clear my impale stack. I would go battle stance for a bit, and use shattering throw to improve raid dps.

I would then taunt at three stacks of impale, with the pally using bubble wall just before the third stack hit. Pally would taunt back at three stacks, with me hitting last stand before the third impale. We should hopefully get the boss down before the paladin hit 13 impales...

4) ...but maybe we can do even better.

I'm not sure I need to shield wall before the third impale on the first tank switch. The boss has only one stack of rising anger at that stage. I wonder if I should swap last stand and shield wall in the above.

Also - it would be useful for the pally to be able to clear my impale stack at the start of P2 by using BoP. If we could save this ability it would be helpful. That would mean going with three stacks of impale every time.

5) Perhaps we need to use external cooldowns.

In our raid we have a holy priest, so have access to guardian spirit. We have a resto druid, a resto shammy and our only pally is a tank, so no other external cooldowns afaik.

6) Indestructible potions seem a good idea.

Will have to get some more of those. As usual, chugging one before the fight allows you to take a second 2 minutes in, but since Gormok is a 90 second fight, probably not a good idea here.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Some rambling nonsense about gearing

Why do tanks die?

I've made posts like this before, so apologies if it's a bit repetitive. I've also been playing around with it for a while. Apologies also therefore if it doesn't make much sense.

Bear in mind that most tank healers run at 30%+ overhealing. Generally, if your 10 man raid has three healers then someone will be spam healing you the whole time. If you have two healers they have to work a little harder, but very broadly the chances of a big heal (or a series of hots) hitting you every two seconds is very very high.

Once you hit a certain stamina hurdle (eg, the ability to survive one hit from a boss, plus some random magic damage that is flying around), and your healers reach a reasonable gear level for the instance, then extra stats are there just to stop you dying to something that goes wrong with your healing.

Let's be clear - when everything is going well and you clear the stamina hurdle, improvements to your gear do not matter. You could have zero avoidance - it would not matter to the healers who will be healing you whether or not you are taking damage since they are spam healing you. Adding 1,000 health will not affect anything at all (you will simply be healed up to a slightly higher benchmark each time), whereas adding armour or block will simply increase overhealing.

When one of your healers is doing other stuff however (running from a light bomb, healing the raid, being dead), they can't heal you and so you may get little or no healing for a period of time while your healing team resolve their problem and resume healing you again. You need therefore to be able to survive that "healing drought". The issue here is that boss damage is spiky - you might take zero damage for two or three seconds, then 20k from a bit meaty hit. Because boss damage is not a continuous function, increasing health or armour can make a huge difference or no difference at all. Similarly, a defensive cooldown can save your life, or make no difference at all.

Example - You have 20,000 health fully buffed. The boss hits you for 15,000 every three seconds. Suddenly your healer gets silenced. Boss hits you for 15,000 leaving you with 5,000 health left. Your remaining healers have 3 seconds to heal you for 10,001 or you will die to the next boss hit. If you get no healing then neither Last Stand or Shield Wall will save you on their own, although both together will save you even if you get zero healing in the next three seconds. Your healers would then have another three seconds to heal you up to 15k (or a bit less with shield wall up). So if you do nothing and don't get healing you will die in 3 seconds (subject to avoidance). Use of both defensive cooldowns will keep you alive for another three seconds. After that you are toast. You might get lucky with avoidance, and we can all remember occasions where that has saved us (I remember a parry on 500 health tanking Thorim once). Avoidance means you have a chance, but not the certainty, of living longer.

Suppose you have 29,000 buffed health instead - note that here you will STILL die in 3 seconds from the boss's next swing unless you are healed. Your extra 9k of health does nothing to prolong your life unless you get healed. It means that the healers only need to heal you for 1,001 to save you, but if you are not getting healed for any reason then the extra stamina is not helpful in this situation. In the latter case however last stand or shield wall will save you (you don't need to use both) for a further 3 seconds.

Suppose now that you have 30,001 health. All of a sudden you will survive for 6 seconds even if you get no healing. The extra 101 stamina make a big difference to in this particular situation.

So what does stamina offer then? It means that you might survive an extra hit from the boss, either because you have the raw health to do so, or because you are getting SOME healing during your healing drought.

The damage reduction offered by armour is a less effective version of stamina in terms of increasing your expected life time during a healing drought.

Avoidance gives you a random chance of surviving the healing drought. Sometimes you will live and sometimes you will not.

The answer that most people give to stam/armour/avoidance is that they prefer stamina. It's obvious that a stamina stacking tank is geared. You can admire their massive green bar (steady there...). If you stack avoidance or armour however, it's not obvious to someone who is not a tank ("He's got 30% dodge, 30k armour and 30k health" "He's undergeared, kick him!"). Ultimately however all three attributes have their place.

Avoidance - Provides the best damage reduction over the course of a fight so ideal if your healers are in the position where they either can't keep up with the boss's damage output, or there is a lot of raid damage.

Stamina - Great for reliably taking big hits. Provides zero mitigation so you will take a lot of damage, but you shouldn't get one or two shot. Gives the best chance of surviving a healing drought.

Armour - A compromise between stamina and avoidance. Better during a healing drought than avoidance, but worse than stamina. Provides good mitigation throughout the fight, unlike stamina, and so has some of the benefits of avoidance listed above.

Drink!

World events are kind of a drag. They add interest certainly, and give the illusion of a constantly changing world, but to make the achievements and rewards accessable to everyone there is quite a "grindy" feel to most of them and so I don't bother. The titles are sometimes nice though - "Hallowed" and "Pilgrim" particularly.

Brewfest however is a little different this year. Partly because I am going to Oktoberfest in Germany next weekend, and so it kind of gets me in the mood. Mainly however because the Dark Iron boss in BRD drops two stamina trinkets.

The walk to BRD is brilliant nostalgia, remembering UBRS, BWL, MC and other acronyms from long ago. I remember doing BRD endlessly at 60 for one of the libram enchants (I forget which) and for fire resistance gear for the Ragnaros fight in MC. I saw someone fall off the chain into the lava on my way to the instance, which made me Very Happy. There is a little teleporter near the entrance to the instance that takes you straight to the bar, meaning you don't have to get lost for two hours because you can't remember the way. You can fight the boss five times and he drops one ilevel 200 epic each time which cannot be disenchanted and is unique.

The trinkets each have a massive +170 stamina, and an "on use" effect which is useless. Either of them is still miles better than the Essence of Gossamer though, and probably better than the Black Heart. My trinket strategy is to have one stamina trinket and one "on use" trinket" which I can macro into a mini cooldown with Lifeblood, a health pot and Shield Block. I use the Furnace Stone as the second trinket at the moment, since the armour effect is excellent.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

"They come to me with progress reports..."

We've been banging our head against a brick wall with Freya+3 for a couple of weeks now. The fight is really tough to handle with the random elements and the amount of control needed.

We started with the idea of one tank, which is fine but the amount of incoming damage is very high, particularly on the Ancient Conservator phases. There is also a problem on the three-add phases in that the tank has to put sufficient threat on each of the three targets to hold aggro against single target (rather than AoE) dps. The Snaplasher also hits for about 12k when fully buffed and I've been gibbed for 28k in 0.1 seconds before when he and Freya attack together.

So we've gone with two tanks (which was a bit of a battering for my ego, but there it is) and refined our plan to the following:
- OT (paladin) picks up all three adds
- OT concentrates his attacks on the Snaplasher
- Split dps between Stormlasher and Water Spirit, except for a Frost mage who stays on the Snappy.
- I (tanking Freya) stand about 25 yards from the OT, and taunt the Snappy off him after about 6 seconds, then follow up with heroic throw to get a threat lead.
- The OT moves the remaining mobs slightly away from the Snappy, in case he roots next to the OT
- Hopefully the Snappy will be rooted before it reaches me.
- We then bring the other two mobs to about 15%, then switch to the Snappy and burst it down hard
- We then go back the other two and finish them off.

This is what we'll try next time. Will see how it goes.

The detonating lashers we are also struggling with, and have never yet succeeded in doing them without losing someone. We've been trying a complex strategy involving clever frost novas and traps, but never quite worked out. I think the answer must be taking another healer and using the old tactic of AoEing them down to 10-20% then bursting them one at a time. Will see how it goes.

(by the way, the title of the post is a reference to the excellent "Altered Carbon" by Richard Morgan. The line is part of a poem, with the next being: "...but all I see is change and bodies burnt")

Monday, 14 September 2009

PTR latest

New from the PTR

"Critical Block: This talent now grants a 20/40/60% chance to block double the normal amount instead of 10/20/30%."

I've only been tanking for 10 months, so getting buffs is still relatively new and exciting for me. This is new and exciting.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Noise

I've been reading with dismay the official warcraft tanking forums recently, and the posts concerning tank balance. Reading the posts, the general mediocrity is such that it's difficult to know what to take seriously as the good posters tend to get lost in the noise.

What to take from it?

There seems to be a general consensus that warriors are the weakest tank at the moment. I don't know about that. I've tanked all of Coliseum 10 man, and am currently tanking Ulduar hard modes in 10s. I have 1 emblem of triumph item. The rest of my gear is 10 man gear or from emblems of conquest. I am probably therefore at the "right" level of gear for the content I am doing. Do I feel squishy? I very rarely just get nuked down - I occasionally die because I stuff up by making myself susceptible to more damage (offtanking Anub adds recently, missing an interrupt on jarraxus etc), but pretty rarely due to boss hits. Perhaps this will change on Beasts hard mode, or perhaps the differences are only apparent in 25 player mode.

Perhaps if I was a paladin I would die more rarely. I don't know really - we have a pally who shares the tanking role with me. He has worse gear (and consequently lower health) but doesn't seem to be the tank that "literally cannot die" you hear so much about on the wow forums. Incidentally, I think that many people do not understand what the word "literally" means. I also don't see the massive differences in health that I am supposed to see according to the official forums.

I personally prefer the utility of last stand to ardent defender (although vampiric blood is better than both!), since last stand lasts for 10 seconds, whereas AD is for 1 hit only. With intensive healing therefore you can survive several large hits in a row where a paladin would die on the second hit. I am in a minority here it seems however.

One comment I really did agree with on the official forums concerned the warrior's "toolkit" - the wide variety of our abilities and the way that it's possible to tell an average warrior tank from a great warrior tank by the way that all the abilities are used. This is spot on, in my view. We have mobility (charge/intervene/intercept), four stuns, all the relevant boss debuffs (attack speed and AP), spell reflect, a ranged silence, a reliable interrupt, a strong self heal over time, the ability to block (if you think block is rubbish go talk to a DK), a fear break, two good cooldowns, one weak cooldown (shield block), an AoE taunt, retaliation (criminally underused), vigilance (underrated), plus buffs for our melee dpsers that other tanks do not have (sunder and shattering throw).

Warriors are the most versatile of all the tanks and have interesting, fun and powerful abilities. It's a shame if we take more damage than the other tanks - I don't see it but then my game experience has not been affected by it so far. There are no doubt many people who would swap all of the warrior's abilities for another 5k health. I would not.

Still, I wouldn't say *no* to some more EH in 3.2 mind...

Thursday, 10 September 2009

How good is armour?

I've been thinking about this question quite a lot recently. You now see items with bonus armour relatively regularly - neck items and rings in particular, but also my lovely new sword - the Crusader's Glory - and the trinket which can be acquired from the Emblem of Triumph vendor.

The short answer is, as usual, "it depends". Armour is subject to diminishing returns, because if it were not so subject then it would provide exponential increases in expected time to live (ETTL) in return for linear increases in gear. My understanding of the armour DR calculation is that it smoothes out the ETTL curve into a straight line, and therefore it should be possible to say that 1 point of armour value increases ETTL by a fixed quantity. Rather than get heavily into the maths in this post, however, I thought that I would put a few examples down to try to illustrate how we should all be thinking about armour.

So what follows is an illustration of the type of benefits that armour can bring. It's not a "choose armour over stamina in this ratio" post.

Suppose your current armour levels are sufficient to provide 63% mitigation against physical damage. You then add a ring which has bonus armour and increases your mitigation to 63.5% (at my gear level this might be 600 armour or so). You have gone from taking 37% damage to 36.5% damage from each hit. Your physical mitigation has therefore increased by 0.5/37 = 1.35%.

Suppose that before you added this ring a particular boss used to hit you for 15k per swing. It will now hit you for 203 damage less per swing.

Suppose that before you added this ring a particular boss used to hit you for 12k per swing. It will now hit you for 162 damage less per swing.

Suppose that before you added this ring a particular boss used to hit you for 18k per swing. It will now hit you for 246 damage less per swing.

So what do these numbers tell us?

The most important point to note is that the absolute benefits of armour when compared to stamina/blocking increase the harder a boss hits. The same is true for avoidance. If you are mainly tanking heroics and Naxx, armour may not be your best stat to stack. You may prefer stam/block. If you are tanking hard modes, then armour becomes more important.

The usual caveats apply too - armour does not help you to survive magic attacks or bleeds. In the game at present magic attacks (plasma blast, frozen blows) and bleeds (Gormok's impale) are some of the most deadly single attacks. It's also worth noting though that Ferocious Butt and Surge of Darkness are large physical hits.

It is a long-established argument that in the current content it is a single hits and spike damage that wipe a raid, rather than sustained tank dps. With the level of tank damage incoming in some of the more recent encounters I'm not sure that's true any more. Certainly it is worth running some numbers like this when deciding on a new piece of gear.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Anub'arak (10) Strategy

Anub'arak is a reasonably well put together boss encounter. It is a bit like Anub'rekan in Naxx.

The fight has three phases - in P1 the MT pulls the boss and everyone starts hitting him. He does the same front cone AoE that he did in Azjol Nerub when you fought him, so face him away from the raid. You don't need to tank him in any special place or on top of the permafrost (see below for an explanation of permafrost). Throughout the fight he casts Penetrating Cold, a DoT. That is only applied to the tank in 10 man, so should not bother you much - just heal through it.

After a while he will spawn an add. The second tank should pick this up and ranged dps should nuke it down. Melee stay on the boss. The adds can be stunned. Every so often the add will try to submerge - if they succeed in doing so then they will come back a while later (usually when you have one or more other adds up) and there's a danger of being overwhelmed. You can stop the adds submerging by stunning them, or tanking them on top of the permafrost. I recommend the latter, but if you are unsure of your positioning then it's no bad thing to stun them just in case.

There are blue globes on the ceiling - someone needs to shoot these down (probably a hunter). When they hit the ground they spawn a patch of ice called permafrost. Assign someone to do this throughout the fight.

After a while a second add will spawn. Offtank this for a while, and leave your dps on the boss.

After a little while longer the boss will submerge and you will enter P2. You cannot stop the boss from doing this by positioning him over permafrost.

At the start of P2 your dps should kill the remaining add. The little bugs around the room now turn hostile and start attacking players. They need to be killed. If you are the tank resist the temptation to help! The adds place a stacking DoT effect on their target, and each new application refreshes its duration. If you try to tank the little mobs you will be left with a large unpleasant DoT effect. On our first try when I attempted to AoE tank the bugs I had so many applications of the DoT effect that I was taking 3000 dps from it.

In P2 Anub (who you will remember is currently underground) will periodically chase members of the raid, like one of those worms in the film Tremors. He will fire spikes into the air while he does so. The chased raid member must run away from Anub as he does this onto a patch of permafrost. Anub will try to emerge from the ground and impale his target, but will be unable to do so and will be stunned. Dpsers not being chased should nuke down the little bugs in this phase. Healers should regen a bit if they can.

After a while Anub will resurface and you are back into P1 again. It's a good idea to try and limit Anub to just one burrow phase, so if you are below 65% at the beginning of the second P1 it's a good idea to ignore both of the crawler adds in the second P1 and just offtank them for the rest of the fight. It's worth noting that the adds increase each others' damage as well as applying an unpleasant DoT to the tank, so prepare for more than doubling of the incoming damage on the offtank here. If The boss' health is above 65% at the start of your second P1 then you are unlikely to be able to push him into P3 in that phase and will have to resign yourself to another burrow phase.

Once he hits 30% Anub stops bringing in adds, and will no longer burrow. Result! Sadly he now casts Leeching Something. This drains 10% of the raid's health per second, or 250 health per person, whichever is more. Damage done heals the boss. The strategy here is that the only people taking other damage should be the two tanks. These need lots of heals in this phase, and both tanks may wish to start chaining cooldowns, pots and trinkets to increase survivability. Other raid members should not be taking damage, and healers should keep them at about 30% to 50% to minimise healing done to the boss - the raid heals are just necessary to stop you dying in about 5 or 6 ticks of the Leeching Thingy.

Save heroism and other dps cooldowns for P3 and he goes down pretty fast.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Achievement

Our first raid of the full Coliseum instance saw all five bosses cleared in under an hour. Not much to say really. It's all such a let down after Ulduar.

The beasts encounter has some crazy tank damage, but is essentially tank and spank x3. Jaraxxus is better - a little more to do. Faction champs is really fun and different. Twins is a pretty fight let down by extreme easiness. Anub'arak has some well thought out elements, and is the only proper raid boss in the instance.

Ho hum. Got the big bug anyway and a shiny new sword:



Then we headed for Ulduar and blasted Thorim and his missus in the hard mode. The other tank and I got our taunting wrong a couple of times, for some reason it seemed to behave very strangely and switch back occasionally after the fixate debuff wore off. Nevertheless, we got a kill. Freya and Mmmmmimiron left...








Random musings on the Northrend Beasts encounter

Some thoughts on tanking the Northrend Beasts encounter below. Since everyone has done it now I won't post a strategy or anything, just some random points.

- Gormok actually hits quite hard. He can be disarmed. The first tank needs to call for a taunt at three stacks of impale, then each tank taunts back after that when their impale debuff wears off.

- The worms aggro wipe each time they swap over. Make sure you /focus on your worm to help you pick it up after each phase otherwise both tanks will end up on one mob.

- Icehowl hits reasonably hard. Particularly worrying is his wonderfully-named Ferocious Butt ability, which hits you for 22k or so and stuns you. Because you are stunned you will not avoid (or are very unlikely to avoid, since he can still miss you I think) the next melee swing, so you have 35k of damage coming your way within no more than 3 seconds. This means that you need to be above 80% health at all times. If you are a human you can use your built-in PvP trinket to escape the stun, which will give you a chance of avoiding or blocking the following melee swing.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Second night of hardmode training

We started with a run through the first four bosses in ToC. It took an hour to complete all four enounters, with only one wipe - the Twins, which were new to about half of us. One of our group commented that never before have Blizzard got the whole ethos of loot so wrong - such good loot for such little effort.

More to come on ToC in a separate post.

We then went back to Ulduar and...



The dreadful screenshot is because I am in a corner, waiting to explode. There was some suggestion of hearthing back to Dalaran prior to the explosion. Next time.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Heartbreaker strategy

The first thing to notice from the picture in the post below is the dps figures (forgive our pally who was healing at the end!). This fight gets more and more chaotic as time goes on, and the quicker you can get him down the less likely you are to stuff up.

We tanked him near the bottom of the stairs (the old strategy of tanking him at one side no longer works since the most recent patch). The thing to make sure is that you have a bit of space behind you (I'll come onto why later).

In phase 1 dps him down as normal and pop heroism as you enter the heart phase. You only need 1 tank - taunt or heroic throw any Pummellers who appear and tank them with the boss. Once the heart is dead your ranged dps should kill the bomb bots and melee dps should kill the pummellers. You can pretty much ignore the scrap bots as the boss will heal to full anyway.

Once all the adds are dead you can get cracking on the boss. The tantrums are a little more than a minute apart, so I used shield wall and last stand alternately to give the healers a break. The boss hits like a truck in this phase but with good healers this will only be an issue if your healers get bombed or after a tantrum.

When anyone gets light bombed they should run around the group in an arc until they are standing behind you. When the light spark spawns you taunt it and put a little threat on it so that it sticks to you while the dpsers kill it. You need to pick one or two of the dpsers to nuke down the sparks - a hunter or someone else with instant attacks is good for this. It helps to have nameplates enabled so that you can see the sparks when they appear.

When anyone gets gravity bombed they just need to run away from the group and drop their void zone.

The main things that can go wrong here are someone getting a light bomb and not running behind you - this can mean the spark spawns out of your taunt range and can run amok nuking healers. You can also be unlucky and have your healers bombed just before a tantrum which can cause problems.

It's very hectic as a tank since you are constantly switching targets and checking for light sparks spawning while trying to maintain a strong threat lead and keep the boss debuffed.

(Got saved by my blood draining enchant on the kill again. Love that enchant.)

Friday, 28 August 2009

Brokenhearted


First hard mode kill...


Morality

I've been reading an excellent book called "The Philosopher at the End of the Universe" in which Mark Rowlands (a philosophy professor) tries to explain certain philosophical concepts by reference to action movies. The chapter I'm reading currently is based on "Hollow Man" (starring Kevin Bacon) and asks why we should ever choose to act in a moral way. In the film KB is turned invisible, and because there are no apparent consequences to his actions he acts outside of normal morality and only tries to follow his own desires (he tries to shag one co-worker, then tries to kill the rest to protect his secret).

I've also started reading the Greedy Goblin blog by Gevlon, which is one of the best warcraft blogs in my view, though I disagree with much of what he says. His blog made me think more carefully about morality in the Warcraft context.

If you have a choice of act morally, or prudentially (meaning in your own best interests) why would you ever choose to act in such a way that was not in your own interests? It is normal for people in society not to steal or kill, but if we are caught we are punished so it is usually not in our own interests to do so. If however there was no possible downside to stealing then why would anyone make the moral choice not to?

Does the concept of morality come from the concept of God? I don't think it does - if you act in a certain way because God wants you to, you are acting in such a way because you fear divine retribution (ie your choice is prudential, not moral) or because you unthinkingly obey all of God's laws. In the second case if God commanded you to steal or kill then you would unthinkingly do that - you are not making a moral choice (or indeed any kind of choice) at all.

A second explanation comes from the concept of the social contract. This relies on two assumptions - one is that others are a threat to you. The second is that it is possible to use others to further your goals and desires. Thus society is born - it protects us from those who are a threat to us, and allows us to use others to attain our own desires.

In warcraft other players are not really a threat to you except on a PvP server. My experience of such servers is pretty much nil, but I imagine being in a guild or having a long friends list is a great help, especially when levelling. I'm not really interested in that here though.

Fundamental to Warcraft is co-operation with the aim of killing raid bosses. Want to kill KT? You need to find 9 (or 24) people to help you. You can try the PUG system, but you will find that it takes a great deal of time, effort and the failure rate of PUGs is very high. Much better to join a guild. So in one sense, a guild is a society brought together by the need to co-operate. Morality in guild dealings is therefore underpinned by the social contract - your guildies are there to help you with your desires - kill bosses, craft epics, make your fish feasts, etc.

This is I think where Gevlon comes from with this version of morality. One should act in a certain way only so far as it has a benefit for you, and that certain way is to behave well in raids - don't steal from the guild bank, don't ninja, don't insult your guildies because these things will get you /gkicked and hence you will have to find other people to help you to satisfy your desires.

It is I think a hollow form of morality though - to take a real world example, you are shipwrecked on a desert island with a small child. The child can't help you survive on the island (your desire) or protect you from wild animals (the threats), and so is useless to you. Ignoring the child and leaving it to die would therefore be perfectly moral.

To take a warcraft example, if you are GM of a guild which has lost its MT and healer and can no longer satisfy your raiding desires without a tiresome period of gearing up inexperienced alternatives, it would be moral to close down your guild, clear out the guild bank, and search for a raiding guild which is currently able to do so. You could even use the funds taken from the guild bank to buy your way in.

I think that this philosophy doesn't not explain morality, but merely provides an extension of self interest. It proceeds from the assumption that one would always act in their own interest unless contradicted by morality, which I think is an invalid assumption.

There are some other theories of morality - principally put forward by Kant and Mills, and I will maybe blog about those when I have time.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Trust

I've been thinking a bit more about last night at YS.

I wonder perhaps if one of my failings as a leader is my unwillingness to trust my raid members to do the difficult things right. Last night I tried to make a strategy for P1 which meant that 6 out of the 10 members did not have to dodge the green clouds in the encounter. We grouped up at the entrance, and I tanked the mobs as they spawned, marking each one for a kill. The 3 melee fighters burned the mob down to about 40-50%, then my fellow tank taunted it and dragged it to the centre where the ranged dpsers finished it off.

This sounds simple, but was complex to execute and gave us two problems. Firstly, and critically, it was time consuming. DPS had to stop on the mob for several seconds while it was dragged to the centre - sometimes it started too early (often combined with the mob stopping chasing the tank in order to cast a shadow volley), and sometimes the clouds made it very difficult for the tank to run back to the centre and so the DPS gap stretched to several seconds. Secondly, because the time pressure was so high (we could *only just* keep up with mob numbers assuming perfect execution) any touching of clouds by the tank, 2 ranged dpsers or their healer was fatal. Those times we did make it to P2 we generally had about 4 mobs still alive, which is just too many.

One of my other failings as a leader is that when things are not going well I have a tendency to stick with the plan and try to execute it better than to make drastic changes on the fly. For this reason we've historically had good second raids after a bad first raid (XT002 comes immediately to mind).

Watching videos and reflecting on last night, I think a better strategy for next time will be to position the melee and the two tanks as near to Sara as can be managed, and ask ranged and healers to stay close to the inner ring of the arena, dodging clouds and moving always clockwise if they need to. We can then have uninterrupted dps on the mobs at all times and should be able to bring them down very fast. If we touch a cloud it should be recoverable because the mob will die quickly. It placces great reliance on the ability of my team, but perhaps I need to stop being such a control freak and trust the people I am gaming with for once.

Monday, 24 August 2009

This is how I spent Monday evening



Well, the reason for our three hours of wiping was that I turned on FRAPS ready to record the first kill for posterity. This jinxed the entire raid from the start.

We made P2 I think three times. It took a while for us to work out who should stand where, where we needed to run and how the tanks should ferry the mobs to the boss to be killed.

It is such an unforgiving fight - any mistake is immediately pounced on and causes a wipe. The guardians seem to spawn faster and faster throughout the phase and you will eventually be overwhelmed even if you execute the strategy reasonably well. It is a tightrope walk between trying to be fast and kill the adds quickly, and killing them too fast so Sara is unaffected, while all the time you have things that can go wrong - missed interrupts, standing in the clouds, range issues for the healers, etc.

I need to change my UI round so my interrupt key (which is bound to the same button on all my characters and alts) is nearer the keys I use to dps. That is going to be annoying to relearn. Sigh.

Positives - we definitely got better over the course of the night, to the extent that errors are now met by me swearing loudly over vent at the offender, rather than giving a rueful chuckle. Achieving P2 regularly is not too far away. We certainly had the tanking down by the end.

I made sure I locked my healadin alt to the raid at the end of the night, since I will raid a new raid on Friday to do hard modes. I can keep the old raid ID on my alt to ensure that I can have more tries on Yogg in a week or two...

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Some warrior-relevant stuff from Blizzcon

Defense: The Defense statistic is also being removed from items so that players no longer have to worry about juggling around "the cap." Tanks will receive the necessary anti-crit from talents, like Survival of the Fittest.
Armor Penetration: This ability is too confusing and "mathy." It is being replaced with Mastery, a stat that makes you better at what you do. More on that later!
Haste: Will also increase the rate at which you gain energy, runes, and focus. Retribution paladins and Enhancement shaman will have a talent that allows them to take advantage of this benefit.
Block: Block Value is being removed. Blocking will now always mitigate a percentage of damage.
Stamina: Players will notice more Stamina on gear as Defense, Spell Power, Attack Power and Armor Penetration are removed.


I will be sad to see the back of block. I can't help but think that whining by kids and people who take spreadsheets too seriously did for a fun mechanic. The defence change is a good one.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Superiority

I was reading this post from Naissa

http://www.naissasrage.com/735/youre-not-geared-enough/

and it made me think about why this phenomenon might have come about. I started tanking heroics with 19k health unbuffed and have not had health above 30k unbuffed for any length of time (I sacrificed some EH for avoidance and dps when I upgraded the Tempered Titansteel helm for the T8 helm). By the rationale reported in the comments to the post I shouldn't be tanking Ulduar at all now. This is clearly nonsense.

I came up against this sort of half-witted elitism when I ran heroic VH recently on my healadin alt. He's decked out in blues and the odd purple, but the group leader told me that I was lucky to be allowed to join the group since I was undergeared for heroics. I wonder by that logic how one is ever to get geared for heroics since heroics drop rewards at a lower level than the gear requirement for entry. Should I be running Naxx to gear up for heroics, I wondered?

This sort of rubbish is perhaps due to the fact that raiding is now "for the masses" for the first time, in a way it never was in previous incarnations of Warcraft. In vanilla Warcraft you thanked your lucky stars if you ever got to raid, let alone see AQ40 or BWL. The majority of players never got the chance to kill Ragnaros, or Onyxia.

In TBC, with smaller raids, the disparity was maintained. It was possible to PUG Karazhan (as Nymeria documented in that hilarious music video), but that was about it. SSC and TK had some very challenging encounters and you just did not PUG A'lar or Hydross.

In those days, a raider was someone to be respected, or perhaps envied. It was clear from looking at someone's gear whether they were a great player (or at least in a great guild) or not.

Now everyone who is interested in PvE gets to raid, and yet sadly many players seem to have retained the old attitude of raider superiority. It's slightly ridiculous seeing some guy from a guild you've never heard of, using the "Jenkins" title, and wearing a suit of Naxx10 epics getting snippy with you because you are playing an alt and not your main. Get over yourself. You are not "leet" because you've cleared a heavily nerfed kindergarten raid that millions of people around the world clear faster and better than you do every night of your life.

Ooh - I managed to summon some genuine anger there. Yay me.