Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The four stages of fail

This is what broadly happens when you come up against a boss that challenges your execution, rather than being a gear check. I am thinking of Rotface or Professor P here, where the raid is required to learn new tactics.

Stage one - Utter fail

At this stage you don't really understand the mechanics of the fight. There are uncontrolled adds everywhere, people are standing in the slime, no-one really knows what to do. This stage is scary because the fight seems incomprehensible to you. You may have read up on the strategy or watched tankspot videos, but nothing can really prepare you for the first couple of tries.

Stage two - Regular failure

You now understand most of the boss mechanics and are trying different strategies to help minimise their effect. You still have regular failures of execution, tank swaps being missed for example. You are wiping because you haven't hit on the optimum strategy and/or because your raid team can't reliably execute the fight mechanics.

Stage three - 40% wipes

At this stage you have a settled strategy but it still isn't working. This stage can be quite depressing, because people are still messing up - not that often, but often enough to mean that you are wiping. The raid leader is starting to get annoyed with people for screwing up.

The key to turning this stage into a kill is usually improving dps. Where dps classes have to run around, kite mobs, switch targets etc then they lose dps time. Low dps means that the fight goes on longer, which means more opportunities for people to mess up.

What dpsers have to learn is to execute the fight mechanics properly, while at the same time maintaining high dps. Once they do this you will progess to the last stage (or even bypass it).

It is possible to get past this stage with flawless execution and poor dps, but that strategy is very sensitive to people messing up. Long fights mean more chances for things to go wrong and generally once things go wrong they tend to get out of control very fast indeed. Improving dps is usually better than improving execution at this stage.

Stage four - 10% wipes

Failures at this stage are often due to "tunnel vision" - people focussing on the kill and their execution of fight mechanics. Tell your team to stay calm, concentrate on the mechanics, and keep doing what they are supposed to be doing. The kill will come.

Monday, 25 January 2010


I was flying with some friends in EvE on Friday night through low security space when we got ganked by some more experienced players. They were flying large, powerful ships while we were in very basic gear. We didn't have any chance at all really, other than to escape (which I did, although my mates weren't so lucky).

In local chat afterwards the gankers were gloating about having killed the "noobs".

It's been a long time since I have been called a "noob" with any justification - the only time it ever happened to me in Warcraft was when I got my ass handed to me on my first foray into arena pvp. Perhaps this kind of aggressive smack talk is more prevalent in pvp games, I don't know.

It was a strange feeling, anyway. It took me straight back to the schoolyard to be honest. I wanted to shout at them "I'm not a noob! Honestly! I'm really good at video games! I completed Street Fighter 2 on difficulty 8 with no continues! I made my godson cry by beating him repeatedly at Mariocart! Whenever men gather together to play Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64 my name is spoken in hushed whispers!"

Ah, never mind. They'll keep. I've added them to my "friends" list (populated by actual friends, and evil gankers) so when I can fly something which is not held together with prayers and sellotape I'll repay the favour.

Monday, 18 January 2010


I'm bored of heroics. I don't want to play alts because I've done all the content before. I can earn my flask/enchant money quickly. I raid once or twice a week only. So I've (whisper it) been playing other games, for the first time in nearly five years.

I downloaded EVE online. First impressions - beautiful, massive, scary, complex. Here is a picture of my current ship - do you see where I am coming from with beautiful?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Anyone had any experience of using Steam? I just tried to download EVE online from their website, and have paid my £15, but the game simply will not load. I get an EVE picture which persists for about 10 seconds, then nothing. Perhaps I've not linked my account properly?


Any help would be gratefully appreciated.



This is interesting. I find it kind of frustrating when Bornakk posts on tanking issues, because I just don't get the impression that he understands what he's talking about. This may be an incorrect impression and in fact he could be the world's foremost tanking expert, I just don't know.

Let's run with Bornakk's comment about wipes with the boss on 500,000 health. The current feeling seems to be that there's at least 500 dps difference between a warrior tank and a similarly geared tank of another class in a raid boss situation. That in any event is the sort of number I see regularly (I raid with a very skilled but slightly grumpy paladin).

On the assumption therefore that a fight lasts say 7 minutes, that translates to me doing 210,000 damage less than my fellow tank in that time. By Bornakk's logic therefore, every 7 minute wipe which occurs with the boss's health at less than 210,000 (I have been involved in two such wipes in my last four raids) is a direct result of my dps being underpowered compared to other tanking classes, and would have been avoided if I'd been switched out for a paladin, druid or death knight. Low dps definitely does increase raid wipes - to say otherwise is at best disingenuous.

I find it really bizarre that this has not been addressed. Blizzard must surely have their own tools to monitor dps, and there is a massive disparity between prot warrior dps and the dps of other tanks (being offtank in VoA25 where the DK main tank was doing 4k on Koralon while I pulled 1.7k was pretty upsetting). I really don't think that the answer is for me to L2P - my rotations are pretty good (although the prot warrior rotation is very challenging) - it's just that warriors are underpowered. Saying "you are underpowered but it doesn't matter" is pretty pathetic really. You might as well say it's ok that warlocks are underpowered but that's ok because rogues and mages are overpowered so on average raid damage will balance out.

I also can't believe it's that hard to increase PvE prot warrior dps without breaking PvP. Here are some ideas which took me 5 minutes to put together:

1) Make rend useable in defensive stance

2) Make thunderclap apply a dot (referred to amusingly as "the clap" on the forums)

3) Reduce the base damage of shield slam/revenge, but make it so that shield slam/revenge damage increases with the number of sunders on the target, so that damage when there are 5 sunders up is higher than now.

4) Reduce the damage of concussion blow to something sufficiently low that it's no longer in our single target dps rotation (this will simplify our rotation and balance the rend thing).

5) Make one of the deep prot talents increase the rage cost of heroic strike and the bonus damage. Alternatively you could do this via a glyph.

See? Easy...

EDIT - Looks like someone at tankspot had the same idea as me, and damn well made a graph about it. The difference in dps is apparently 1k on average, so that would be nearly half a million damage in a 7 minute fight /boggle

Still don't reckon the disparity is a big deal? I'll start polishing my fury gear...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Just an ordinary gas cloud...

...but that's no ordinary gas cloud!

Some stream-of-consciousness stuff about Festergut

Oddly I will start this tactics note by discussing healing. Initially raid damage is very high but tank damage is low. This slowly reverses during the fight so that raid damage reduces and tank damage increases to the point where the tanks will need to use cooldowns to survive the boss' normal melee attacks. The fight is also a very hard dps burn with a tight enrage timer. You can see our DPS count in the screenshot in the post below - 5k is the absolute minimum here. You will note the comparatively high tank dps - this is due to a buff which increases the tank's damage considerably and is one of the interesting and fun aspects of this well thought out fight.

Festergut applies a debuff to his melee target every 10 or 15 seconds called "Gastric Bloat". This ability increases the tank's damage by 10% and stacks to 10. If it reaches 10 stacks the tank explodes and kills the raid, so the tanks need to swap at nine stacks. Once you've swapped tanks, the tank who is not tanking (if you follow me) will have +90% damage, so needs to switch stances/forms or turn off righteous fury if they are a paladin. They can then go all out dps for a while (I was pulling about 4.5k dps at this stage) while they wait for their debuff to expire. It's important to note that you must only swap at nine stacks and not before - if you swap earlier than that then by the time you are ready to swap tanks again the first tank's debuff will not have expired, and so you will have one of your tanks with a stack of 10 bloats and therefore a wipe.

The second ability to worry about is called vile gas. It is an AoE and targets outside melee range as priority. In 10 man it is cast on one target at a time, splashing to targets in about 8 yards. You must leave at least one person at range to soak this, and ranged should spread out to avoid it hitting more than one person. It hits pretty hard and applies a disorient effect. If this hits your melee/tanking team it's probably a wipe. Due to the potentially disastrous effect of having a healer disoriented, we ran with three healers, and had two of those healers grouped up with the melee. This meant they were never affected by the gas.

The third point of concern is the gas cloud that permeates the room. This does shadow damage to the raid every couple of seconds. Every so often Fester will suck up a proportion of the gas, reducing the amount of regular shadow damage done to the raid, but gaining a +30% damage buff. He will do this three times. By the time he's sucked up three lots of gas, he will have +90% damage, and will melee the tank for about 25K per hit. It is vital for the tank to chain defensive cooldowns during the time the boss has three inhale stacks.

After he has three inhale stacks, the boss will eventually vomit up all of the gas back into the room, doing about 50k shadow damage to each person in the raid. That is bad, but it can be avoided, as follows. Around the time of each inhale, the boss will cast an infected spore debuff on two people, and the infected person will get a Loetheb-style spore symbol on their head. The spore does AoE damage to the infected person and everyone near them, but when the debuff timer runs out everyone within a certain radius will get an "inoculated" debuff, reducing shadow damage taken by 25%. This stacks three times. The inoculated debuff is removed after the boss vomits.

We used the strategy of all the ranged running to the centre at each spore phase. This lead to high AoE damage for the raid from the spores, but with three healers we healed through it. It ensured that everyone got a chance at being inoculated. Bear in mind that inoculation is a binary magic debuff, so it can be resisted (which is a pain). It's worth having some kind of plan if you are unlucky enough to resist two inoculations in a row (dispersion for shadow priests, mage armour for mages, hand of protection etc).

So, for melee dps this is very easy - stand at the boss and nuke. For healers who are standing next to the melee team, they stand there and heal. For healers standing at a distance and ranged dps, they should run in to the melee hug at the spore phases, and run out afterwards.

For tanks - the worst geared tank should pull the boss and begin tanking. The first tank will get to 9 stacks of the debuff after 2 inhales and once the other tank taunts they should go dps. The better geared tank will then tank the boss through the first 3-inhale phase, and will need to blow cooldowns in this phase. External cooldowns such as guardian spirit may be needed. Due to the very short berserk timer, you should be killing the boss around the time of the second vomit.

I would suggest saving heroism for just after the first tank swap, so that the super-powered tank with +90% damage will get full benefit of the additional dps. I used shattering throw in this phase too.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Fester's dead

My first time tanking in ICC tonight. First four bosses down, plus Festergut. I actually enjoyed it a lot more this time. Saurfang is a much better fight to tank than I'd thought at first - there is more to do. Festergut is an excellent encounter - really well designed. I will write some tactics down tomorrow when I have chance.

Mighty Organ

I posted some time ago during the 3.3 PTR about the proc on the ICC10 tanking trinket. I concluded that the proc was rubbish, and to avoid using the trinket. As it happens the trinket was changed significantly before launch (perhaps GC is a reader! /wave!).

The latest version is the Unidentifiable Organ, which drops from Professor Putricide, and it's really quite interesting. Leaving the armour aside for a moment, let's look at the equip effect.

"Each time you are struck by a melee attack, you have a 60% chance to gain 24 stamina for the next 10 sec, stacking up to 10 times."

This means that the probability of this proccing in any 10 second period is calculated as follows:

Let S = Boss swing speed, A = Tank combined dodge/miss/parry, E = Expected number of tank hits in a 10 second period, P = Proc chance in a 10 second period.

E = (1 - A) x 10/S

P = 1 - 0.4^E

Plugging in some figures, let's have combined avoidance of 35% including Icewell Chilliance, and a boss swing speed of 2.5 seconds. This gives the expected proc chance of 90.76% every 10 seconds.

So, iterating this, the chance of it stacking to 2 is 90.76% x 90.76% = 82.39%. The chance of a 3-stack is 74.78% etc. Based on some very rough and ready stats, I would say that with those figures your average stamina bonus would be aound 7 stacks - so 168 stamina (the probability of a 7-stack is around 50% - it's been a while since I've done any stats and so it might not follow that the probability of 50% translates to the expected value so that figure of 7 could be wrong). You will get a different result with different bosses and different levels of gear however.

The combination of armour and stamina makes this one of the most powerful EH trinkets around - it is arguably better than either of the 25 man trinkets (this one is an avoidance trinket, and the regular armour proc is great but armour is less powerful at low health than at high health so it's more of an overall mitigation thing than something which is likely to save your life; and this one is great but very situational). The usual caveats apply however:

- the stack will probably fall off at some point during the fight, so you might be unlucky with the timing and it could happen during a period of high boss damage

- for tank swap fights such as, well, most of them, the stack will fall off when not tanking

- if the boss stops attacking to cast a spell, the stack is more likely to fall off

- caster bosses in general are less likely to trigger it since spells don't give the trinket a chance to proc

It's worth noting that this trinket will be especially useful for tanking Saurfang during his Frenzy, when his attack speed increases sub-25%.

Swing and a miss

So we have the suggested change is that charge and intercept will no longer break roots, and we have a nerf to shield slam at high levels of strength or BV which we are told will not impact at normal levels of PvE gearing.

What does this mean then?

Well the Warbringer nerf is really disappointing and will affect PvE. I regularly use charge to escape snares in dungeon tanking - lots of mobs have frost nova or similar abilities and especially on multi-caster pulls this will make the job much harder. It won't affect raiding much, which is something I guess, but dungeons such as Halls of Reflection just got a fair amount more difficult.

This leaves paladins and druids able to break snares at will (via Hand of Freedom and shapeshifting), and DKs able to grab casters via death grip. Warriors will need to wait for the cooldown on heroic throw to expire I suppose, or use a racial ability. I don't want to be all falling skies about this, because it's not that much of a big deal, but it's a shame.

As for the shield slam nerf - assuming Blizzard get their numbers right then fine, no bother. The threat bonus is actually a buff if Blizzard are correct. Separation of damage from threat output is a backward step for a spec which still lags way behind other tanking classes, in damage terms. This is in the context of an expansion which has seen regular small buffs to prot dps as Blizzard realise each patch that prot warrior damage is still too low. I pull about 1.8k in a single target situation these days, and my rotations are now pretty strong - it's less if I have to move about, or interrupt regularly (ie leaving 10 rage as a minimum). I get rage starved in any content prior to ToC10 now too. Bah.

We will have to see whether Blizzard leave our only hard-hitting attack alone. There is still QQ on the forums about shield slam, and I see that heroic throw and spell reflect are now deemed to be unbalanced by arena players. It was telling that Bornakk in the thread I linked makes reference to a prot warrior locking down a mage and for the prot warrior's "partner" to be uncontrolled. Still balancing around the 2v2 arena bracket then are you then Ghostcrawler? Even though it is now defunct? I remain of the view that the introduction of small scale PvP via the arena system was a bad mistake by Blizzard.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Nerfbat incoming...

Ghostcrawler has said that Prot Warriors are going to be nerfed for PvP reasons. This is depressing - the most fun thing about Prot Warriors is the varied toolkit and mobility. It would be a shame if that went away because Blizzard are obsessed with their declining arena "e-sport". From what I've read on the forums it seems like its our ability to break roots repeatedly that's the problem, and I guess this is due to the Warbringer talent.

Let's hope they can find a solution which mitigates the perceived PvP "problem" without stopping us from zipping around to pick up adds in PvE - perhaps by making Warbringer only work in defensive stance, although presumably the better warrior PvPers would simply stance dance to charge or intercept out of the root (intercept only requires 10 rage, so it should be possible to dance and intercept despite the loss of rage, although since intercept does not generate rage it's harder to follow this up with a massive combo of attacks so perhaps less of an issue).

The damage thing is a bit more worrying - my dps is still pitiful even though my rotations have improved drastically over the last few months. Maybe (and again I am just making stuff up here) the damage of shield slam and revenge could be reduced when not in defensive stance, but this is just another layer of complexity for new warriors to deal with.

It's odd that despite the fact that DKs were supposed to be the "caster tanks", warriors are arguably better for tanking caster elites than any other class. DKs have death grip and a magic shield, but both of those are on a decent size cooldown. Warriors have the ability to spell reflect (which is still simply great against such mobs) and the ability to move quickly between the adds putting out threat on each via Warbringer. The four stuns (intercept, charge, shockwave, conc blow) help dramatically too. It's always the warrior who has to go prot spec and bully the healers in Faction Champions.

DKs are still great for tanking magic using bosses, since magic shield in effect becomes another mitigation cooldown whereas the warrior's toolkit is generally useless against bosses. Frost DKs also have Acclimation, one of the strangest and most mysterious talents in the game, discussed by Gravity here.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

HoR low dps strategy

I meant to post about this earlier but forgot. If you are in a Halls of Reflection group where the DPS is a little low to beat the final gauntlet, you can cheat.

Before you start the final event by talking to Jaina, get the whole party to hug up as far away from Arthas as possible but keeping him in LOS. There is a little ledge protruding over the cliff. You should have the cliff dropping away behind you, a rock wall to your right, a crack in the ground to your left, and you should be looking at Jaina and Arthas. Have your tank run over and start the event before rejoining your hug.

Arthas will walk straight past you and you will be out of range of his Curse of Doom aura. If your positioning is a little out you might get a couple of ticks, but these should be healable. Arthas will chase Jaina up the pathway, while you follow behind him. It's important to note that the mobs will still aggro on you, and if your dps is low then you won't have much (or any!) downtime between waves. Nevertheless you will not have to worry about Arthas catching you up since he will concentrate on Jaina.

Once the gauntlet ends and Arthas gets (spoiler incoming) blasted by the cannons, you can just run through the rockfall to escape.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Finally, after much effort, managed to put together a credible ICC10 raid of main characters from my guild. My previous attempts had been before the Marrowgar 10 bug fix and so I'd just cleared trash before.

We cleared the place in 70 minutes, with no deaths (as in, not one raid member died at any time during the instance). The closest we came to losing someone was due to framerate issues at the top of the elevator before the gunship fight, when our cat druid nearly fell off. It only took 70 minutes because I had to have the fights and trash explained to me each time.

Now granted, everyone else had cleared the place a couple of times before on 25 man, but still. Still...

It now will feel like farming every time we go back there. Can't wait for the heroic mode to be released since the raid damage is really undertuned on almost all the fights. Incoming tank damage is probably ok, especially on Saurfang where you actually feel like you are being hit hard, but since the raid damage is so low all the three normal fights become tank and spank in essence. Ho hum. Perhaps I have got used to doing Ulduar and ToC hard modes, so expect a couple of weeks' work to get each kill, rather than each boss to roll over for me every time.

There is also not enough trash. Trash really gives an instance an atmosphere and a sense of scale - the Marrowgar trash is brilliant - the mobs hit hard, there are difficult casters to deal with who cast an interesting spell, and there is the constant fear of triggering one of the big buggers that lurk at the side. All the time you have Marrowgar grinning at you from the end of the corridor - it's really nicely done. The Deathwhisper trash is disappointing since there isn't much of it and it's all in the same room as the boss. I always feel that clearing trash about 10 yards from the boss (while said boss just sits there like a lemon) lacks a certain something. The high priest mobs are fun though - if they were tied to come both together that would be better, and it would be even better if they were in a smaller space so the bomb debuff they cast was more of an issue.

There is very little trash before the gunships, and none at all before Saurfang. A lack of trash makes an instance feel a bit like a series of loot boxes, one after another.

This comes back to one of the things I've been thinking about more and more recently - Blizzard is trying to make Warcraft less annoying. Trash is probably up there with the levelling process and having to travel for ages to get to the instance. If you remove it, people yell "Great", but then soon get bored of the arcade style content which is on offer. I miss levelling being difficult and time-consuming. I really really miss having to go on a long journey to a far-off part of the world to do an instance (remember doing BFD the first time when you had to travel from Stormwind? This ancient temple on the beach near a forest you'd never been to before. Having to get the tram to Ironforge and then walk to Menethil because you didn't have the flight points?). I also miss raid trash. More trash please.