Friday, 30 October 2009

...lies and videotape

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

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


Here is an interesting post about dealing with angry guildies:

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


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 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 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 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


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 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


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.