Monday, 27 September 2010

Stance dancing

Stance dancing means switching between stances to use abilities which are not normally used in your stance. For example a fury warrior (who would normally fight in zerker stance) might wish to use rend (only useable in battle and defensive stances). It is not an easy skill - you need to be able to switch stances, select the new ability, then shift back to your normal stance very quickly. Spending too long switching means a dps loss, and you need to factor in that when you change stances you lose most of your rage.

Stance dancing, while being something the developers say they like as a flavour of the warrior class, is slowly being phased out of the game. Prot warriors no longer need to stance dance to use charge or intercept, and the latest beta build makes pummel useable in battle stance so assuming this makes it to live arms warriors will not need to dance to access their interrupt. Dancing is critical for PvP, but is a neglected skill for PvE. Here are some abilities which a prot warrior needs to stance dance to use:

1) Retaliation

This is a fantastic AoE tanking tool which is criminally underused. For the next 12 seconds any attacker hitting you is treated to a mainhand attack in return, with 20 attacks maximum. On a 4 minute cooldown (with the improved disciplines talent) and useable in battle stance only.

I normally (umm honesty attack incoming, let's say - "normally when I remember") hit retaliation before I charge into a large AoE pull, so the button sequence is

battle stance -> retaliation -> defensive stance -> charge -> thunderclap

You can put out a large amount of AoE damage and threat in such situations. Similarly, if you use it just before hitting Challenging Shout you are very unlikely to lose aggro on any mobs within range.

2) Recklessness

This ability is more useful in single target situations. It makes your next three special attacks crit (not including heroic throw I believe), but at the cost of increasing damage taken by 20% until your three crits have taken place. Again, a 4 minute cooldown (with the improved disciplines talent) and useable in zerker stance only.

The +20% damage taken is scary at first glance, and puts people off, but bear in mind that the debuff only lasts until you have crit three times (about 5 seconds), and you might only expect to take 2 or 3 boss hits in that time. Add to the fact that if you use it on the pull you will probably be pre-hotted and pre-shielded, or with a prayer of mending on you. You will also have shield block available so you can use that to mitigate the extra damage you'll take from using this ability. I believe that shield wall has a shared 12 second cooldown with recklessness and retaliation, so you cannot use shield wall at the same time as recklessness to mitigate the extra damage, but I could be wrong on this. I still think the extra damage shouldn't be a problem though.

Three crits in a row means that your first shield slam will be huge, and you should also be able to get shockwave and revenge crits too. This will give you a very large initial threat lead on a boss.

It's not that well known (it certainly isn't on the tooltip), but this ability also makes you immune to fear. An interesting point that is almost completely useless for prot warriors since when feared you won't be able to shift to zerker stance to use it but nevertheless may come in handy if you are fury spec sometime.

3) Shattering throw

The armour reduction from shattering throw is in addition to the armour reduction from sunder armour. This makes shattering throw a valuable dps cooldown for your raid. Use it during heroism to make yourself very popular with dps warriors, rogues and hunters.

Since it has a cast time, your avoidance will be zero during the cast so you'll take more damage than normal for a couple of seconds but this should only be for one hit given the short casting time and so I don't think that this is a particularly important feature.

4) When not tanking

If you are in a tank swap fight then one of the deadly sins of tanking (ooooh - idea for a blog post!) is to overaggro your fellow tank when it's his or her turn to tank. Generally, Something Bad happens when you do this, at the very least your tanking partner and your healers will know you're a muppet.

Simply shift to battle stance or zerker stance when you aren't tanking to increase the damage you are doing, but reduce the threat of your attacks and reduce the chances of you accidentally overaggroing. This is particularly important for Festergut, since otherwise the massive dps boost you get when offtanking will lead to huge aggro problems for you. Helpfully, it will be easier to get to shattering throw or recklessness during this time, but remember to plan ahead and be ready to shift back to defensive stance well before you need to taunt the boss back.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


This is Dyumedes.

He's been inactive for a while, but back in Vanilla he was pretty much the most famous tank on our server. I knew him slightly - we have some people in our guild who were pretty well known in the vanilla warcraft community such as Mileena and Griffinheart, and these guys knew Dyu and raided with him from time to time.

He's a hard man to get on with - I know another tank on our server who asked him politely for gearing advice and Dyu simply put him on /ignore without responding. Dyu was raidleader and GM of the top raiding guild on our server back in Vanilla, before his job (he was in the army) meant he had to take a long break from the game.

For all his faults (and he was perfectly polite and pleasant to me), Dyu was and presumably still is a top notch player. I remember Mileena telling me about a time when Dyu came and tanked a ZG run for us. She was seriously impressed I remember - Dyu chain-pulled every group of mobs (this was at a time when crowd control was vital in raiding) until they got to the tiger boss. The tiger boss in ZG had two adds which had to be killed within a few seconds of each other and you tended to split dps and use two tanks plus a dps tank on one of the casters. Rather than assign tanks Dyu just pulled them all and - Mileena's voice dropped here to an awed whisper - Dyu tanked everything himself.

This was a time when thunderclap was only useable in battle stance, so you had to stance dance to use it. You had to press shield block every 6 seconds to prevent yourself being hit by crushing blows. Shield wall was on a 30 minute cooldown. Mages and warlocks in raids regularly had to wand for the first few minutes of an encounter to let the tanks get sufficient aggro on a single target. The phrase "wait for five sunders before dpsing" was a dungeon and raid mantra. There was no revenge cleave, no damage shield no threat No Threat NO THREAT!

The reason I've been thinking of Dyu recently is that I've been reading the beta forums and looking at the changes to tanking we can expect. Apparently AoE threat has been hit very hard, and crowd control is supposed to be becoming more important. We'll also have threat decay, which will mean that we can never slack off in our rotations later in the fight once we have a good threat lead. All of these things are going to make tanking, particularly AoE tanking, much more difficult which is something that's being hailed as positive in the game - an end to the AoE dps zergs of the LK dungeons and a return to the more strategic encounters of the past.

While that's all very well, I wonder how far back we really want to go. Do we want to return to the Vanilla days, when even tanking three mobs could be seen as a major demonstration of skill from one of the server's best?

Sunday, 19 September 2010

PP heroic down!

Stupid failtank forgot to FRAPS or screenshot it. Dammit.

Amazing fight, cheers on teamspeak at the end. We rule! etc. I'm now 9/12 on heroic, with the guild as a whole being 10/12 (I haven't killed Blood Princes heroic).

We are just 3 boss kills away from getting the guild's first Frostwyrm. We tried the Sindragosa normal achievement tonight using the zerg method and got close. We were unlucky on the tombs and I was too cocky as regards the timing of blistering cold. I think it's doable.

EDIT - Oh, and I am now swaggering around with an improved organ...!

Friday, 17 September 2010


I am conflicted.

Cataclysm is coming out soon (probably too soon for me to get the Frostwyrm mount, grumble grumble) and worgen, frankly, look cool. I want one. The question is what to do.

Should I simply race-change my human warrior into a worgen? This has the advantage that I'd get to keep the history of the character, which is something I wanted to do with my current main - having played a different class in each previous expansion I admire people who've kept the same main character for four or five years and intended to keep this warrior toon as my main permanently. I could RP it a little, and get my doughty human warrior bitten by a werewolf.

(Interlude - I am a secret roleplayer. I don't tell anyone or roleplay in game, I just roll it round the inside of my head. I have a back story all worked out for all of my characters which I am too shy to share with the world.)

On the other hand, that would mean I won't get to play through the starting area which would be a shame. It might also be fun to level a new character to experience the reworked Azeroth. The problem with that is that there's no point in levelling a caster worgen. None at all. Worgen are savage beasts with massive pointy teeth. There's no way that a worgen is going to hang around at the back casting spells. Worgen should be rogues or warriors, that's all. I've levelled a rogue before and have no desire to do so again. So an alt warrior (probably fury, since it fits with the feel of the worgen race) is in the post in Cataclysm. Everblue will go arms/prot.

Raiding update - our best try on PP heroic is 12%. We're getting pretty close to a kill here...

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Looking back at Northrend raiding

Some thoughts on the last couple of years.

Favourite instance

Ulduar without question. The instance is stunning to look at and gets off to an atmospheric and impressive start with the vehicle fight. There is nothing else in the game to match the look of Kologarn, XT002 or Mimiron. I also like the genuinely new types of encounter - particularly Mimiron and Yogg Saron. These are really interesting and well put together.

Most difficult encounter

The encounter I've wiped most on without clearing was Anub'arak hard mode in ToC10. We stopped trying it when ICC came out, so while we could have gone back and stomped all over it with our new gear, we haven't. It's not really the same without the challenge I think.

We tried the fight for about four raids without success, and came close a few times. We would regularly come unstuck in the kiting phase with stupid deaths - people would use aggro-dropping abilities without warning the raid, so the boss chooses a new target without resetting speed, or people would try absurdly over-ambitious kiting strategies, or people would die to the adds. It was so frustrating.

In phase three I don't think we ever really nailed the healing - we had too many people being healed too high so that boss healing was massive.

In context though, Anub was nowhere near as difficult as Arthas. Arthas was a worthy end boss for the expansion and probably the toughest fight I've ever seen in any expansion.

Least fun encounter

Ugh, Malygos. Having to move the boss constantly away from the sparks, while allowing the melee to stand in the power circles, and keeping aggro ahead of massively buffed dpsers. An absolute nightmare. Once you'd done all that, you were at the mercy of people not dying on the drake phase, which they invariably did.

With hindsight, part of the problem could have been that prot warrior threat generation was dreadful in 3.0 warcraft. If we'd had the dps buffs we have now, keeping aggro could have been much easier.

Most fun encounter

Faction champions I think. My job was always to bully the healers with stuns, interrupts and fears. It was an excellent fight and you really felt that you were contributing if you could tie up one of the healers more or less constantly (mwahaha I own you Mr Priest).

I like fights where spell reflect is important too.

Most rewarding boss to tank

XT002 hard mode / Anub'rekan. We got this achievement around the same time as ToC came out, so we were all still in ilevel 219 and 226 gear. We solo tanked it, meaning that I needed to keep aggro on the boss, and also grab the sparks when they spawned. We also (and this is perhaps my favourite part about the fight) had a *clever strategy* for the fight, which involved special positioning for people who got lightbombed. It was my first hardmode fight, and was the time when my tanking stepped up a bit to take on the MT role in progression content.

Anub'rekan is in there because it represents one of my fondest memories of the expansion. It was my first WotLK raid boss, and with my 21k unbuffed health, I just could not survive leeching swarm. However fast I ran I would always get a few ticks and the poison would kill me before the kite was over. So I made a plan - I got one of my healers to stand 25 yards away, and I macroed intervene onto her to a key. I then immediately intervened onto her to escape the swarm and avoid getting any leeching swarm ticks. I love things like that - and that is what ties XT002 hard mode and Anub'rekan together - both fights we succeeded by coming up with a special strategy to beat a particular mechanic. This is perhaps one of my favourite aspects of raiding. It must make it frustrating to be in one of my raids, since I'm always wanting to try some new tactic or strategy, or trying a new positioning idea.

Maybe raidleading in 10s is like playing an RTS game on a grander scale. We have units (raid members) and between us we come up with a plan of attack for them. My RTS units rarely go afk for a smoke though...

Proudest moment

The LK kill. After about 85 wipes and 3 months it was a little emotional.