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


First hard mode kill...


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


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


I was reading this post from Naissa

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.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Some Thorim tanking tips

Kadomi asked for some Thorim tips, so here goes.

Split your raid into two groups - six and four. The group of four is your tunnel team, and a warrior is probably better for this group. My Phase 1 experience is limited to the tunnel, so I will stick to that here. Take 2 dpsers and a healer with you. Before the first boss you get two groups of three mobs - each has two annoying melee and an annoying holy priest. The priest is always top priority for a kill because they heal, but conversely it's not really important to keep aggro on them because their damaging casts can (or at least could pre patch) be spell reflected, and they stop attacking and start healing once you get them to a certain level of health.

Charge/heroic throw the first priest and put some threat on him, then switch to pick up the adds. The priest will start off by trying to smite you, and will charge up a meaty heal once you get him to low health (it doesn't matter if someone overaggroes you here because he's healing - you can switch to the melee mobs). Someone (probably your dps) needs to interrupt his heals or to stun him. You will be busy targeting and picking up the other mobs. Watch out for the boss charging up his UP-like AOE, but frankly it is more problematic for your teammates than you since you should have the health to survive it (it is about 15k I think). The melee are annoying because they have a trip ability that is a short stun - they use this just before the AoE comes.

Once the priest is down in the second group of three, charge the boss, dragging the melee mobs with you. Face the boss away from the group, and nuke down the melee adds one after another before killing the boss.

The second tunnel then opens, with two groups of two mobs (priest/melee). More mobs will continually spawn from the top of the stairs. Again - put some threat down on the caster then let your dps finish him off while you make sure you pick up the melee mobs and any newly spawned adds. As before, when the second priest is dead you should aggro the boss to stop the spawning adds. Kill any surviving priests (there should be one perhaps, depending on your dps), then the melee adds, then the boss. I don't recall any particular ability of the boss that causes any trouble other than a lightbomb-style debuff that he places on one of you which means you need to avoid the rest of your group for a while.

Run into the final room (avoiding the circles on the floor as these are traps) and whack Thorim to make him jump down into the arena. The tunnel tank should pick him up, partly because you already have him targeted, and partly because there will be some arena mobs left to kill which will (hopefully!) be aggroed on the arena tank. Tank the boss with your back to the rear wall of the arena (just under the platform which you've jumped down from when exiting the tunnel. Both tanks should stand side by side - the tank who does not have aggro should watch carefully for the unbalancing strike debuff being applied to their partner, then taunt. I have a target-of-target frame in my UI, and it's easy to watch for the debuff icon on that.

The boss is just tank and spank from there. The key to surviving the tunnel is to not lose your dpsers. It can be done with just three of you, but it is not straightforward to do so because the mobs will not die fast enough.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Got the bastard!

The big lizard is down, and we are nearing the end. With a priest healer we rotated cooldowns instead of kiting - SW - Pain Suppression - SW - Hand of Sac/Last Stand/Potion rinse repeat.
Interestingly though, he hits like an absolute girl - 10k or so. I will bring block gear next time. I guess he is the new Loetheb.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Mimiron down!

We used the new raid ID extension to start with Mimiron in Ulduar this week. We then got the bastard after 5 or 6 tries, including one heartbreaker P4 wipe where at 1% on the last of the three body parts the other two regenerated.

I was "dpsing" in P1 and P2, and then chain taunting the head and tanking adds in P3. In P4 I tanked the head and dpsed the middle section.

It seems that (at least in P4) the head does not drop aggro. I made the head my focus target, expecting to have to chain taunt it, but it stayed on me pretty much the whole time. This I think made a bid difference, as straight away we stopped losing ranged to the plasma gun that the head uses.

It's a brilliant fight, so well conceived, and the thought that's been put into it is excellent. The boss then proceeded to drop my T8 token mean that (at last) I have the 2 piece bonus. I've killed Thorim and Hodir several times and never seen the "Protector" token, so here's hoping for some luck there too.

Vezax seems doable, and once you've got into the rhythm of the interrupts it comes quite naturally. I shield walled through the first damage burst phase and tried to kite him on the second but he just ran after me and caught me up. I'm not sure what I did wrong tbh - I positioned him beforehand so that I could move very quickly, but it didn't help at all. More research needed therefore. I thought about trying Last Stand, Engraged Regen and my trinkets, but didn't think it would work. Some homework to do now therefore.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Spell reflect

I love spell reflect. There, I've said it.

I know its rubbish most of the time as a PvE tank, but I don't care. I think it's a really fun ability which is occasionally quite useful. Unfortunately, it's generally only useful on trash as most boss abilities cannot be reflected.

Here is a list of some stuff that I can remember that it's possible to reflect, in no particular order:

- The centaur trash mobs near Freya that do a cone AoE. You can reflect the AoE including the DoT, doing about 15k damage to the mob.
- One of the diseases that Ymiron does in UP heroic. Sadly it is instant cast however so you have to be lucky.
- The Emalon adds' static charge. Instant again however.
- The explosion when the detonating lashers die in the Freya encounter.
- I'm pretty sure that the tunnel Acolytes on the Thorim encounter do a smite that can be reflected.
- The lightning bolts from the caster trolls in the second half of DTK heroic.
- The void sentries with the voidwalker boss in VH heroic.
- Most crucially - the chaps on the discs in P2 of Malygos. This can save a wipe if you have Improved Spell Reflect.

I'm looking forward to the Champions of the Horde encounter in the Coliseum. I fully expect all of the horde challengers' direct spells to be reflectable, and I'll be very disappointed if they aren't.

The very worst thing about spell reflect is that it's virtually impossible to build a decent tanking spec that has both improved spell reflect and deep wounds. Spell reflect really comes alive when you can save your party's bacon too (especially on Malygos) and it becomes a genuinely useful ability for preventing healer and dps deaths on trash where even the puny trash can one-shot a clothie.

It makes my spec choice even harder sadly.

(Been away on hols - hence the lack of posting. 3.2 impressions so far - grumpy about the emblem changes but it's probably for the best, the Coliseum is too small and unexciting, good changes to warrior tanking, brilliant change to raid lockout)