Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Night Watch

We've been in a bit of a rut in Ulduar recently. I haven't been able to raid that much, but we (I mean my raid team, whether or not I am there) have been able to clear up to the watchers, but we haven't had enough time for a decent run of attempts at one boss to learn them. So the odd watcher kill has happened, but it hasn't been regular and occasionally there has been a bit of frustration.

The bad feeling has kind of been building up, and recently a couple of people have said they want to take a back seat from raiding for a bit, so on Friday we cleared the easy bosses to Hodir, had a few goes on him but didn't down him. A really nice raid, but some teeth grinding moments at the end. Masses of pressure on tonight, and due to withdrawals we have a couple of alts along. I've been really nervous all day...

...but in the end it was one of those raids you dream of - a really great bunch of people, a fun atmosphere, the obligatory comedy wipe (caused by me tanking my mob on a trash pull in Freya in the path of a patrol), and success - Hodir and Freya down, the occasionally-troublesome Council despatched, and a relaxed Razor kill where the vrykul adds were on some kind of works outing and declined to appear. I think we can really push on with this and get to the next level. I would like solid watcher kills every night, so that when 2 week lockouts hit in 3.2 we can really start think about full clears.

Friday, 19 June 2009

3.2 - Some quick thoughts


They've made a minimal improvement to block by doubling bonus block. This is a band aid (and a pretty insignificant band aid at that since it does not affect block value on the shield or base block from strength). I need to have a look at my block gear to see if it's worth me wearing more of it. The most interesting change could be to block trinkets. I have Lavanthor's Talisman, and the change is to double the active time rather than the block value bonus. I wonder if it would be worth equipping this more often - 40 seconds of 440(ish) extra BV every 2 minutes sounds pretty fine.

Major changes are needed still here though.


Major changes which I don't fully understand, but the most eyecatching change from a tanking perspective seems to be that Ardent Defender (which gives them damage reduction when taken below 35% health) can no longer be leapfrogged by a hit that does more than 35% damage. This effectively saves them from 1 massively damaging attack every 2 minutes.


Emblems of Valor and Heroism are to be removed, effectively allowing all level 80s the chance to grab some T8.5 by doing heroics.

I don't like this change at all, but I guess I'll be right there with them since I only raid Ulduar 10 at the moment. The tiered emblem system worked very well, and led you naturally through the content - Heroics/Naxx/Ulduar. Hey ho - perhaps I'm just jealous that other people will get gear essentially for free which is better than the gear I have worked so hard to get. I suppose that when 3.2 hits I will go to the new instance, and get emblems of triumph instead. Which leads me to:

The new raid instance

What? An arena instance? You have to be kidding me. We've had two beautiful, lore-rich, atmospheric instances and now we are reduced to an arena instance. Sure maybe the fights will be fun, but please please don't try to pretend that there'll be anything epic at all about this. It's so depressingly mundane.

Ulduar has been such a success on every level - could they not have copied that? There was so much scope for an Azjol- Nerub instance, or even something in Zul'Drak. Either of those could have been filled with dramatic set pieces and could have been a really interesting location, but instead we end up with an arena. Were their artwork guys on holiday or something?

Other stuff

There is lots of other stuff in the patch and most of that is good - another DK nerf, PvP changes (no more 2v2 woo hoo!), the new BG, another prot warrior dps buff, mount improvements. It's all overshadowed by the bad stuff unfortunately.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Stuff I've learned

So I've been tanking now for about six months. What have I learned? Some random thoughts:

1) Game on

Tanking requires you to be on your game at all times. Tanking errors are generally obvious to everyone, often lead to a wipe, and are embarrassing.

2) Conflict between dps and survival

I used to think that tanking was mainly about not dying, and the threat thing would kinda sort itself out. This is not the case - there is little worse than seeing a dpser stop attacking because they are simply threat capped amd it does happen where the tank is not trying hard enough, or is so busy with other stuff (eg boss positioning) that their rotation goes by the board. It's pretty embarrassing and makes me want to run away and roll a DK.

3) Monsters from the Id!

Tanking is great for the ego. You feel like you are really at the centre of the raid and as if you are controlling the encounter. Perhaps that is why so many raid leaders tend to also be main tanks, despite the fact that it's hard to do both. "Don't worry guys - just keep me alive and we'll be fine. If you die it's not a big deal"

4) Save me

A good tank can save a bad group.

5) A man's best friend

I read on other blogs that tanks seem to "learn to love their healers". I haven't. I've learned to be remorselessly critical of healers - getting interested in healer strategy and play style (all 4 classes) plus gearing theory. I look at my health bar - if it isn't going up I want to know why. I have great personal affection for my healing team, and I think they are good people who are also good players. Perhaps it is the underside of the massive ego boost at #3 above - deep down despite my plate and big shield, I know I can't last 10 seconds without a heal landing, and that vulnerability (nearly wrote vulvability there - Freudian or what?) makes me want my healers to be at the top of their game.

6) And finally

Swords are either too big or too small.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Sword envy

I was so very fortunate to pick up the Stoneguard sword from Kologarn last week. Here is a picture of it enchanted with the new blood draining enchant. There's just one problem - it's a little small. Check out the Red Sword of Loveliness which it replaced. That is a large manly weapon.

I feel slightly underequipped. Must be a guy thing.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

A pat on the head

A good friend of mine was putting together an Emalon PUG last night, and on a whim I decided to go along. It was my second ever PUG raid, the first being Archavon some time ago. To my surprise, the random people he brought in were mainly ok, it was a successful raid and so I may do this sort of thing more often.

I was very fortunate to acquire the T8 tanking hands (one of the better 10 man warrior tanking items), but as it happened this was not the high point of the evening. The thing that made me feel best of all was the whispered "nice tanking" comment from the raid leader after we killed Emalon. Now doubtless one could probably say all sorts of interesting things about not needing validation from others to feel good, but it is the simple truth that a small compliment after a good performance will go a long way with many people, me included.

It helps that last night I know I did a good job. The pull went well - I popped retaliation and shield wall, then charged. I hit challenging shout, and then the MT taunted the boss off me. By this stage I had a good amount of threat on each of the adds and thanks to shield wall I was not dead. I maneuvered the adds correctly, and picked up new adds when they spawned. I made sure that there were sunders on each of the adds so that when the boss supercharged one of them the melee dps and hunter could get cracking right away.

Nevertheless however, it was really good to know that someone was watching and appreciated it.

When I am raid leader, I always try to find something to praise. I especially try to praise something if I have previously criticised it - for example I have recently been saying here and in raids that dps should be higher, and we've subsequently had an improvement. Now this could be gear, but the increase is too great for that. I think it is simply that people are really paying attention to it and trying hard, so I single out when people are doing well and tell them. Similarly, our healing has been exceptionally good in raids recently. Since good healing is something you only really notice when you don't have it, I try to compliment the healers when I can because they are doing a good job that quite often is not particularly visible.

When involved in learning a new boss with the associated wipes, it also helps to try to focus on mini-objectives - healing through tantrum, or getting the boss down 10% in a ground phase, and so on. When people achieve these then definitely say so, and let them know they are getting there. It helps keep morale up and makes people feel appreciated.

Monday, 1 June 2009

On block

It's pretty well accepted at present that block as a hybrid avoidance/mitigation stat is pretty underwhelming on bosses. When Wrath came out many people, including me, were seduced with the vision of becoming invulnerable block tanks, secure behind our shields. This has not materialised, and instead warriors and paladins are to an extent sidelined behind the health, armour and cooldowns of DKs and Druids (even after all the nerfs). Ghostcrawler has stated that he would like to change the way that blocking works. Here are some ideas for how he might do it:

1) Upping block values to something that would be meaningful on bosses

This has the effect of making shield tanks overpowered on trash and would trivialise earlier content. It might also mean that depending on how they balanced it, stacking block could be de rigeur for most shield tanks (since block gear contains lots of stamina it would be ok for magical fights too).

2) Changing block to mitigate a percentage of a hit

This would make block a dreadful stat for levelling tanks or freshly dinged level 80s (bear in mind the % in question should never really go above 25% since otherwise what would be the point of critical block or shield block?). It would also make block rubbish on trash, would make AoE tanking much more unpleasant, and would potentially be overpowered on bosses.

3) Tinkering with critical block

This is what I think they will do and is perhaps the most interesting option - make critical block baseline. The baseline stats for critical block would be 200% blocks (as now) at zero percentage chance, and then increase the chance to critically block by up to 30% chance with talents (as now). You can then itemise gear to increase the chance to critically block to above 30%, and increase the amount of damage blocked by each critical to more than 200%. This could perhaps be done via the block rating and value stats.

4) Something a little crazy

How about a system where a lower block value tank will block most hits for a small amount, but a high block value tank will block occasionally for a large amount? This might scale more smoothly than the other systems with block value REDUCING block chance, but increasing the amount blocked. Conceptually, this would be the difference between using a small shield like a buckler, or a large infantry shield like one of those Roman things.

5) Min/max

I am really off-roading now. Each block mitigates a % of incoming damage, or the block value, whichever is higher. The percentage is based on block value. This should work as hoped - with a large percentage mitigation on smaller hits, and significant amounts blocked on larger single hits.