Monday, June 15, 2009

The Fundamentals of Tanking: Perception in Ulduar

In an earlier post, I listed some of the fundamentals of tanking. The first thing I listed was perception, your awareness of what's going on. This is especially vital in Ulduar. In this regard Deadly Boss Mods is a godsend. So much so that I have made it required for all raiders in my guild.

Ulduar is a true test of a tank's skill, in every position. There are fights that require a lot of movement, like Ignis. There are fights that test your ability to recover from disruption, such as Auriaya. There are fights that test your coordination with your healers, such as Mimiron and Vezax. There are fights that test your ability to quickly pick up and establish threat on multiple adds, such as Thorim and Razorscale. Nearly all of the fights have something that you shouldn't be standing in.

Your UI setup is one of the keys to aiding your perception in these encounters. Having a clean UI that allows full view of your surroundings is of paramount importance. Keep the chat log open, so that you can catch any DBM prompts that you might have missed. A conveniently placed threat meter, such as Omen, is also a necessity. Keep things that you deem important near your character, so you don't have to look away as much to get information you want. I personally use IceHUD to bring up my health, mana, and debuffs, and those of my target. I would recommend it to any aspiring tanks. The necessity of raid frames depends on the organizational skills of your raid leader. I always make sure that the healers are all in group one, and that tanks and any other needed personnel are in group five. I'm in group five, and pull group one out using the default raid frames. In every fight, you will want to know the disposition of the healers and the tanks at a minimum. There will be other people who you'll want to track in specific encounters, such as the harpoon chucker on razorscale, but the healers and tanks are non negotiable.

This brings me to what you actually do with this setup. In any fight there are two states. There is a dynamic state where you do not have control of the situation. This is usually during the pull, when adds spawn, and when a boss must be moved. Then there is a stable state, which is when you have established aggro, gotten in position, and all is good.

During a dynamic stage of a fight, you will need to focus away from your character. Locate the mob that you need to pickup or find the next spot you're moving to, those are your priorities. If a void zone, rune of death, AOE of general badness spawns under your character, it's no big deal because you're going to have moved out of it before it ticks. However, if one of those spawns where you're heading, if you don't see that, you'll run into it right as it ticks. Your goal in dynamic stages are to gain control of the situation as quickly as possible and return it to a stable state.

During a stable state you should be focusing on your character's feet. If you're starting at the amazingly detailed boss model that's about to stave your skull in, you are wrong. Keep your eyes on the floor, always on the floor. Besides, odds are you can only see their crotch anyways. Don't be the tank that eats a void zone because you were too busy trying to look up Kel'Thuzad's skirt. Ensure that your character is not standing in something you should not be. Keep an eye on the DBM prompts so that you can anticipate and plan for changes in the fight as they come up. Your goal in the stable state is to be ready to survive the transition into the next dynamic phase of the fight.

Tanking in Ulduar can be a lot easier than it seems, if only you know the right places to look.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Sword of Damocles Looms.

Oh boy. Well, Hiatus, the GM of Lëgacy had to take a hiatus from wow. The task of leading the guild has now fallen to me. I didn't really want this, but I guess I'll roll with it. There are several changes in the guild that I wanted to make, beginning with the website. You can now find us at We are recruiting, especially ranged DPS and AOE healers, but we'll take a serious look at all qualified applicants.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dämmerung the Dragon Slayer.

Lëgacy began ostensibly as a casual raiding guild. But we've begun to walk a fine line between the casual and the hardcore as many would put it. We send two, sometimes three, 10 mans into Ulduar on Tuesdays, Maly25 and OS253D on Wednesday, Naxx 25 on Thursday, and Ulduar 25 on Friday and Saturday. But at the same time, we don't have a set attendance standard as long as you're active on the character, and we still send out loot via free rolls. It's kind of a weird dichotomy, and some of the guild members who are used to a more laid back atmosphere, well, a quote from a certain half night elf mongrel comes to mind.

Tensions sometimes run high in the raids as the guild leadership is pushing for crisper performance than some people are used to. And the increased difficulty in Ulduar isn't helping. We wiped over 60 times on Mimiron ten man before getting lucky with the pathing in phase four and not having the tank get run over during a laser barrage. Ignis 25 exposed the weaknesses of our healers, Auriaya 25 exposed the weaknesses of our tanks, and OS253D has shown the weakness of our DPSers. There's room for improvement all around, and people know this. However, I am quite proud of what the guild has accomplished thus far. We're pushing into the keepers on 25 man, and challenging Yogg-Saron himself in 10 man.

A few weeks ago, some of my friends in the guild and I decided to go roflstomping through Zul'Gurrub in an attempt to get a mage her polymorph: turtle. It was probably the most innocent fun we'd had in the game in a while. Just chilling out in vent, having fun, and accomplishing trivial personal goals. That stuck with me for a while, and I thought it was a great idea to implement for the guild. So, monday became Retro Raid night. We began in Molten Core, and blew through that in about a half hour with about 15 people. Great fun was had by all. The loot rules for the retro raid are simple, pass if it's class specific and not your class, greed otherwise. If there was a piece ou really wanted, it went to auction, and the proceeds went to the guild bank to fund progression raids. After the raid is over, a vote is taken, and the guild decides which instances will be run the next week. All pre-wrath instances are eligible.

After MC, the guild decided upon the raids for the next week, Onyxia and the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj. This time we had 18 people attend. Onyxia died in under a minute, so fast in fact, that she was actually dead before she landed from phase 2, and we had to wait for her to come down for our loot. AQ40 was just as much fun. Something ridiculous like 30 mounts dropped, and aside from one wipe due to an early, clustered pull on C'thun, it was a complete success. The guild made about 3k gold on bids on some of the crazy items that dropped. The Vanquished Tentacle of C'thun alone fetched 1k, and I threw down 600g for the Eye of C'thun. Next week it was decided that we'd run Gruul's Lair and Blackwing Lair.

The first fight in Gruul's is an interesting one, especially when you've only got one mage and two other tanks. But as always, enough brute force will always prevail, and 20 level 80s is enough, no matter how much time your tanks spend running around as terrified bunny rabbits. We got to Gruul, and some of the guildies who were actually in Progression raiding guilds during TBC were giving us a basic rundown. The shatter was coming, and just as we were advised, we scattered. The shatter came, and our mage noted "Aw, hell, we could stack for that!". Immediately vent rang out with, "Stack on the tank!". Somewhere, burning crusade raiders are waking up in a cold sweat. After downing the big lummox, we hopped a port to Ironforge, and flew to Blackrock Mountain. After bumrushing 14 people through the BWL attunement, we ran through BWL. It was a bit of a drunken stagger. Vaelastrasz died just slowly enough to hit our ret paladin with burning adrenaline. Broodlord Lashlayer got leeroyed while all the adds were still alive and all the suppression's up, but he was zerged down quickly. All three drakes got pulled while a tank was afk, and we didn't even realize Chromaggus was a boss until someone noticed that that trash mob dropped an unusual amount of purples.

Then came Nefarian. As with all bosses that use mind control, Nef actually posed a threat to the raid group. His shadowflame is also still a potent weapon. So I quickly explained that the first shadowflame needed to be LoSed behind the throne, and to CC the mind controlled players. They kinda chuckled at the thought that a mere level 60 boss could actually harm us. We hit phase one, and I got mind controlled right off the bat, and I don't think anyone cared, until I brained our top DPS mage with the Wall of Terror. We downed the 42 drakonids, and Nefarian came down. I picked him up and noticed something odd. All but one of the healers in group 1 were dead, and all three of the DPS in the group with me and the OT were dead. *Sigh* I never pull out full raid frames, just the tanks and healers, so I wasn't quite sure how many people were down. So I asked how many people were still up. Five. The OT, a priest, and a shaman, who remembered what I said about the throne, and our Death Knight's former main, a level 71 rogue who had equipped his Onyxia Hide Cloak, and was looking awfully stylish in his full set of Bloodfang armor, and the third Thunderfury built on our server. But 5 level 80s stand little chance against the Lord of Blackrock, we wiped, the shaman rezzed, and we waited out the ridiculously long respawn timer. On the next pull, suddenly people remembered to hide behind the throne, and Nefarian went down for the count. The guild didn't make as much cash as we did in AQ40, but a ret paladin dropped 1k for three pieces of Judgement Armor, the finest looking teir set in the history of WoW, and I bid 500g for Nefarian's head, being the quest whore that I am.

I jaunted down to Stormwind, and showed off the cranium to King Wrynn, who promptly send me to hang it up at the gates, next to the head of Onyxia some other adventurer brought in.

Afterwords, we had the vote to decide what instance we're gonna hit next week. The result? Sunwell. Oh boy, see you on the other side...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Patch day: 3.1.3 edition.

Patch 3.1.3 comes mostly as one of those dreaded patches where we get or marginally useful abilities nerfed into oblivion because of those pesky arena players. Paladin pvp nerf, warlock nerf, business as usual. But there are two changes in particular that affect me.

First off, MIMIRON NERF! WOOHOO! There are now several changes to the Mimiron encounter that will make me hate it less. First, rockets will now prefer ranged. Not a big deal, as I've gotten very adept at dodging them now that the rune adds a giant pillar of light. Second, mine damage has be reduced, and they've been given an arming timer. Sweet, no more listening to my DPSers yell about having a mine get launched from the evil gnome and whack them in the head. Lastly, the Flame Leviathan Mk. II will become stunned when the middle section is channelling the P3Wx2 Laser Barrage. Thank you Blizzard, no more jousting with that evil things tiny, tiny hit box while trying to get away from the beams of death. I don't know which drunken developer came up with the idea of having the turret have a bigger hit box than the tank, but when combined with the wonky pathing AI introduced for Wrath, you've gained the ire of many a tank. Now Mimiron will be less of a random luck fest.

The second is a heavy nerf to Death Knight tanks. The armor bonus for frost presence has been reduced from 80% to 60%, bringing DK tanks back to their original baseline mitigation levels of 3.0.2. This is significant because it represents a step by Blizzard away from the homogenising of the tanking classes. Frost Presence was buffed up to 80% because in the initial days of Wrath, few Death Knight tanks actually understood how to play their class, they saw all these awesome cooldowns and used them like old school tanks used their trinkets, stacked. They'd pop all their cooldowns at once, and be invincible for a short while, then when they wore off, they were only slightly more resilient than your average Retribution Paladin. Having frost presence at 80% allowed DKs to have more armor and health than a Warrior or Paladin, and much better avoidance than a Druid. Then came the amazing cooldowns. The idea behind the DK tank is one of active mitigation. It's akin to the protection paladin having to spam Holy Shield on cooldown to remain uncrushable. A death knight must stagger his cooldowns, and pick and choose carefully where the most damage will be coming from, and when. This is why they get so many cooldowns, and on such a short turnover. DK tanking will now require more skill to maintain it's level of effectiveness, and should provide a decent challenge for players.