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


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


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!