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.


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


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


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.