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Archive for May, 2010

I have a good feeling about this

Corporate Raider

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I already talked about multi-pulls. Chain pulls are different. Multi pulls involve pulling and downing multiple packs at the same time. Chain pulling, in a nutshell, is minimizing the time between pulls. This might be simply charging the next group as soon as one is down or it might mean actually leaving a pack mostly dead for the DPS to finish off while you head for the next group. So in chain pulls you are doing one pull at a time but doing them back to back. The challenges and issues of chain pulling are different from multi pulls.

You are only fighting one pack at a time so each fight involves less incoming damage for you the tank. This means they are in theory, easier to heal. But in fact the hardest thing about chain pulling is how hard it is on the healer, or more specifically, how hard it is on the healer’s mana pool. Because you are allowing no time for anyone to rest of drink the mana pool either has to be improbably huge, or the healer has to be extremely good at conserving it (possibly by being hugely geared), or you have to require almost no healing. The last way that a healer’s mana can survive a chain pulling run is by the DPS killing things very fast. Let’s look at each of those.

Healer mana pool

You, the tank, can’t actually effect how big the healers mana pool is, but you can monitor it and actually stop as needed. If you think you are good enough to run something at super speed then you can prove it by being good enough to pay attention to the healer’s mana. The level of mana at the end of a fight is the healers problem to deal with. The level of mana the healer has when the next fight starts is YOUR problem. Anyone that chain pulls and then complains when an OOM healer lets them die needs to respect from tanking and NEVER tank again. Seriously. Do us all a favor. Are they gone yet? Good. If you are still reading I am going to assume you are not a jerk or a moron and you want to actually be able to do fast chain pulling runs that don’t involve whining while running back from the graveyard. If this is the case you need to take a few steps.

I am talking about steps YOU the TANK have to take. Things the other roles have to do are different.

Own your healer’s mana pool

That is right. His/her mana is your problem. Treat it as such. If you panic the healer and they waste mana that is your mistake. If they forget to drink or are too scared to for fear you might run off, that is your problem.

Make it clear from the start it will be a fast run. Feel free to say it in /party. While you are at it tell the casters and healers that if they need mana to let you know. This will put them at ease about your frantic place and make them more likely to actually stop and drink when you pause and give them the chance. If you notice them getting low during the run, pause and suggest they drink. Monitor how much their mana goes down after each fight. This is useful information. If they have 1/3 of their total does that mean you can take on another group? It might.. after a few pulls you should KNOW because you should be paying attention. Their mana is your healing. Treat it with care.

Adjust your cooldown strategy

On the multi-pull runs I described you are using cooldowns first to survive big hits and only second as a way to save your healers mana. On a chain-pull run your cooldowns are there to save your healer’s mana. It is also good to keep one or two in reserve if you expect to chare out of your healers healing range. But, mostly your cooldowns should be used to make it so you don’t actually need to be healed at all. Even a poorly geared healer can keep you topped off is you are well equipped and using your cool downs effectively.

Also do all you can to reduce the AOE damage your party takes. Sure it is their fault if they stand in the fire, but you are hear for a fast run. A fast run requires they not die and the healer not go OOM keeping their fire standing butt alive. So shift bosses, stun casters, use your aoe debuffs and generally do all you can to reduce AOE damage. Also pop a cooldown of your own when AOE damage is happening. If the healer does not have to worry about you they can be more efficient with what they use to heal the DPSers.

Kill Fast

There is one thing that does the most to make fast runs fast as well as keep the mana of all involved from running out. That thing is mad crazy DPS. You need groups to die fast and hard. As a tank you can help. Round up groups nice and fast into tight packs and then hold them in place through all AOEs. Don’t drag the groups after you to get to the next group faster. This will only slow things down because your DPSers will not be able to AOE effectively.

There are tricks you can use if your group is doing such mad crazy DPS that you can’t actually hold agro. Learn those tricks and use them. One big one is to use your AOE forces attack with optimal timing. AOE stuns and slows are also effective. It does not matter if your DPS pulled agro if everything dies a half second later.

If anyone is doing something that is slowing things down, let them know. For example using typhoon and blowing things out of the AOE area. Let the boomkin know that that is actually slowing the run down. If you think they are too trigger happy to stop using it ask them to use it only at the tail end of a fight.

Multi pulling, chain pulling or a little of both

In many high speed runs these days you are likely to mix the back to back ‘chain pull’ with a true multi pull when you do more than one group at once. This works well but it is still important to understand the differences between them. Otherwise you will be moving at a brisk pace and then be surprised when you suddenly wipe due to an extra pack or two. The trick is to set a brisk pace but to still have it be a deliberate pace that you control. You have to know your limits. Push them but don’t ignore them.

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One of the tanks jobs is to control the battlespace. This means several things. It means you pick when and where the battle takes place. It also means you control or attempt to control where and how the battle moves and progresses.

The concept of controlling the battlespace comes from military parlance. The methods and reasons are completely different but the general concept is the same. By picking where and how the battle is fought you increase or decrease your chances of winning. Picking well can cause a battle to be ‘easy’ and picking poorly or not exerting control at all can cause the battle to be sloppy at best and a wipe at worst.

Picking and Positioning the Battlespace

The first part of controlling the battle space is deciding where the battle happens. If the battle will involve movement this is picking where it starts. The shape of the ‘pull’ is the major determiner of where the battle starts.

First I want to comment on aggro range. The aggro range of a pack is actually the area of all of the members.

Here is a pack.

Here are the members of the pack.

And here are all their agro ranges.

But that is too much so we just combined them and approximate it as a circle.

From now on I will just use it like this.

Picking the battle ground

Now we bring in the tank.

Let’s take the most basic sort of pull. Move toward the enemy until they see you and attack. You can easily predict where this fight will start. Take agro range of the pack and divide it in half. Follow your line of movement from the edge of their agro range. Half roughly half the distance to them is where you will first get hit.

This is obvious but important. Here the tank moves in to the group. The group spots him and comes to meet him. Whether the tank meant to or not he has moved the fight.

The distance the group moved to meet the tank relocated where the fight was going to happen. It is only a small distance but it is a change.

As tank you should be aware of such small changes and what effect they might have on the fight. Now what if instead the tank had used a charge (bear or warrior).

Notice that the targets only moved from where they were over to the one the tank charged. Everyone KNOWS this stuff, right? Yes but it is critically important that the tank realize they, by choosing how to start the fight have chose to hold the fight at a specific place. A tank that just charges because it is ‘the way warriors start a fight’ is completely failing to see that there are other options. Fighting the fight where your charge target is standing might not be the best plan. Then again it might work just fine but you need to know you are making a decision about the fights location.

Here is another one.

This tank used a ranged move, a taunt, an attack, even death grip. It does not matter which in this case. We are just looking at the fight location. An this time the location is moved much farther. By simply using his favorite pull move the tank has decided to move the fight a long way.

Even if they did not intend to make such a decision, they did. One of the main uses for doing different kinds of pulls is to actively decide to hold the fight in different places.

There are a lot of reasons to chose to fight the fight some place different than where the pack is standing. Perhaps they fear and are close to something else. Maybe your rogue is planning to get behind them and the next group is awfully close. Moving the fight, even slightly, can give the rogue room to do optimal damage.

It is very important to understand that the way you chose to pull sets up the location and the shape of the space you will be fighting in.

Moving a fight

The act of pulling can do a certain amount to relocate the fight. To do more drastic ‘relocating’ you need to move the fight after that initial moment contact. Moving the fight after it starts is harder but still something you can do. Mainly you just do it by moving yourself and having the pack follow. The reasons for doing this are much like the other ones. Maybe you realized you should have pulled them back more. Or maybe you just spotted a patrol.

There are risks involved with this. One is that you might break LOS with the healer. Another is you might move out from under some nice AOEs and waste the DPSers time and energy to retarget. However, biggest risk is that while you are moving you will stop doing part or all of your threat rotation. This can cause you to drop agro on something. There are other risk too like getting a whirlwinding mob too close to a clothie.

Moving a fight is to be avoided for those reasons but is often necessary. As the tank you need to be ready and willing to move the fight when needed.

But there is something else you also need to be aware. That is the times you move the fight as a reaction. Those are the times you did NOT mean to move it. When someone pulls agro off you and you go chasing to get that agro back you are moving the fight. All the risks of moving the fight listed above and the others I didn’t all apply when the fight moves. It does not matter if you meant to move it or not.

So be aware of your actions and choices. As you start paying attention to choices you did not know you were making you may start to see that there are other options.

Orienting a fight

Orienting a fight is one of the things you do after a fight starts to position the targets or your party (or both) in the way you want them or need them to be positioned. This is usually done as a reaction to something the target pack or party are doing or in anticipation of something they will be doing.

Turn the boss around

The most common reorient move is to face the target away from the party. Many critters do some sort of aoe attack in front of them. This can be anything from chain lightening to poison sprays. If you even suspect a target is going to do something like that you should face them away from the group.

The simple way to do this is to move past the target and spin around.

I move and then they move and then I move and they move again! Stop them already!

This is a well known bug. Every time you adjust your position the target moves somewhere you don’t want them and you have to adjust again. This is because they are reacting as if, when you move, you are going to KEEP moving. They, for an instant think you are taking off running. So before the your game client can tell the server you have stopped moving, the critter moves to follow you. Because of internet lag this makes it look as if they are moving after you have already stopped. They really aren’t but an instant of lag makes it look that way.

Yes there IS a way to break this vicious cycle. Move sideways! Use your strafe keys and right click mouse drag to sidle around the target like a crab.

The target might step sideways to match you but you have still turned them away from the party. Because you are rotating the target as you go they don’t just jump past you and turn back around.

Turning things in the direction you want is the most comment way you reorient things. Other times you turn things is when you are simply repositioning them but don’t want to move too far in a certain direction. For example if you are moving a fight off the patch of poison or bad mojo but don’t want to drag the fight into the next pack. At times like that you might move them in a circular pattern or run past to drag them in some other direction.

Remember, while it is the DPS’s job to stay out of the fire it is your job to move the target to where they can attack it without being in the fire. You have to give them space to do their job.

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Grrr

Corporate Raider

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This will be a very basic introduction to raid tanking. Although a tank is often the raid leader this will not be about leading raids. The assumption here is that someone else is leading things and you are either main tanking or off tank.

Before you do anything else go get a raid boss addon, like Deadly Boss Mods. You can’t tank a real raid without one so don’t even consider it. You can probably tank most of the weekly raids without it… but go get it anyway.

First off…

Know the Fight!

This is totally critical. You must know what to expect. If you have done it as a DPS or healer don’t assume you know what you need to do. There are mechanics bosses do that no one but the tanks cares about so don’t think you know the fight if you have not tanked it. Go watch a video, read a guide or just plain ask lots of questions. Better yet, do all three. If you are not 110% clear on what you need to do, ask again. This is not a pug where asking questions is cause for mocking and kicking. Let me say that again…

RAIDS ARE NOT PUGS

Don’t assume you can just be mute and stumble though it and things will go well. That will not happen. There are things you need to know and there is communication that needs to take place. The standard social conventions of a 5man to NOT apply to a raid. If you don’t know something you are expected to ask. If you don’t ask and your ignorance causes a wipe you can expect the group will kick you out the door with their epic boots.

Basic Raid tank concepts.

There are a lot of different encounters with a variety of mechanics. You will learn those over time. But there are a few concepts you 100% must understand or you will fail and fail hard. These are widely used in boss fights and therefore must be well understood.

Cleave

When someone says a boss cleaves this means there is some move or moves that hit more than one target. It usually hits two targets. The way to deal with this is to have all tanks stand in front of the target and everyone else stand behind. THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL! This must be done. Many bosses can one-shot tanks if another tank is not standing next to him. This is because if only one target is in front of the boss the whole cleave damage hits that target. If there are two the cleave is split between them and both live. These fights are DESIGNED to require two tanks. The main thing people will tell you to do when cleave is in the picture is…

Stack on X

Or skull or star or whatever. When you are instructed to stack on a particular raid mark that does not mean be within shouting distance or to be sort of kind of near them. It means gets so close to their butt that it is illegal in 23 states. It means super glue your hip to theirs. Sometimes stacking is temporary until a phase is past or an effect goes off. When this is the case you need to stack FAST when it is time to stack and unstack when the time for it is over. Anytime someone talks about stacking in a raid it is IMPORTANT and you need to do it when they say to do it and not do it when they say to move away. It is not a suggestion, hint or gentle recommendation. It is an ORDER. You are expected to follow it or leave the raid. If you can’t handle that concept go back to pugs and give bloggers more fail-pug stories to write about.

Taunt swapping.

This is a very critical tanking concept. The way you will hear it will be something like ‘taunt on 3 stacks’ or ‘taunt when you get the mark’. Here is why. In many fights there are mechanics where the boss absolutely has to switch his aggro between the tanks at critical moments. There are a lot of reasons for it. Sometimes it is a debuff that reduces that tank’s healing received or sometimes it is a mark that gives the boss power. The why does not matter. What matters are these following steps…

Know when you are suppose to taunt.

Be clear on just what mark or debuff it is and how many stacks you taunt on. Don’t rely on the other tank to tell you in vent. KNOW YOUR JOB. If you wait for the vent command it might be too late. If someone has to tell you ‘taunt now’ in vent there is an unspoken ‘you slacker moron’ on the end of ‘taunt now’. Know when to taunt and do it before they tell you to.

Do NOT taunt ANY other time.

Don’t taunt when you already have aggro. That causes taunt immunity and is a waste of a GCD. Don’t taunt when it is not your turn. That can literally wipe the raid. That is right. Your taunt button can be a one button ‘kill everyone’ key in some fights. Be careful with it!

That is the short short version of starting in on raid tanking. There is a lot more to it. But, if you can’t handle the concepts of taunt swapping, stacking on the other tank, and following orders you should just save 9 or 24 other people the repair costs and stay away. There are lots of other things to learn so be willing to look things up and learn fights. Be ready to try different tactics and not just do something because you saw it done that way one time. There are a lot of other good raid tanking resources out there so go find them. This was intended to simply be basic transition information for someone who has never done any sort of multi tank fight.

If you don’t know, ask.

People are far less having to give an explanation than they are by wiping. And trust me, you NEED the explanation. These are not fights you can just get through on luck and instinct. They are tricks and traps that you need to respond to. So ask as many questions as you need to. Don’t worry about looking dumb. Worry about getting kicked if you don’t speak up and everyone figures out you don’t know the fight when they are dead on the floor. People are more forgiving of learning tanks if you TELL them you are learning in advance.

Other raid tips…

Expect to wipe.

Wipes happen. Wipes can happen many times. This is not a 5 man where if you die to a boss 2 or 4 times you drop group and don’t look back. Raiding is a whole different dynamic. You might die to a boss many times before downing him. But as a raider you should be ready to go the distance. You should be ready to buff back up, learn from your mistakes and try again.

Speaking of mistakes…

Take criticism.

If you can’t handle having someone tell you just how dumb you are then you should not raid. Think of such people as drill instructors. They are getting in your face and cutting you down to size so that you straighten up, follow the leader’s orders, and get the job done. They don’t do it for you to cry, shout, argue, or drop group and spend all evening bad mouthing them in /trade. If you messed up face up to it, take your licks and your verbal abuse and learn from it. Sometimes it is not pretty. There is very little room for error in a raid fight so raiders can’t afford to let repeated mistakes go unanswered. They might say mean and unfair things. Downing the boss is worth it! Learning from your mistakes and becoming a better player is worth it. Thank them for their help, ask what you can do different and be willing to learn. Do that and you will find you get a lot more invites and a generally better attitude from your leaders. If you try to argue with them or just storm out of the group in a huff, don’t expect them to have sympathy. They worked hard and learned from their mistakes to get as good as they are. So they don’t have a lot of patience for people that are not also willing to work hard and learn from mistakes.

Willingness to try hard and learn something WILL earn their respect. Remember, when you wipe they are mad about failing and they are taking that out on your. The way to get out of the line of fire is to not be the weak link. Let them vent and then try to learn something. Arguing or being stubborn is a waste of time. Raids are srs bizns to many people. In the event that they are jerks AND morons you can still be quite, learn what you can, and take that learning to a new raid group next time.

Raids are challenging and rewarding. Good luck and have fun.

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Maybe next time

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This weekend I set out to do something new: heal as a paladin. I ended up doing two new things, one of which was my intended goal and the other…

Well, so there I was, logged in on Divergent the paladin. I changed her off spec to Holy a week or so back and I’d been collecting random drops for that set for a while now, so I went to the auction house and started looking to fill in holes. Found a bunch of random blues that would be “good enough” for me to get my feet wet. Couldn’t find a weapon or trinkets, so I started researching easily attained versions of both.

At the same time I’m keeping my eye on trade with the vague idea of tanking a weekly raid group – it was Obsidian Sanctum on our server this week, Analogue had single healed it with Reversion as the sole tank earlier in the week and it had stuck in my mind as a set of fights I knew well enough to feel comfortable tanking. Then I saw in chat a name I recognized as someone who had pugged ICC with Analogue a couple weeks back, an Australian shaman with an awesome accent and great skills. Looking for more for ICC10. Well Ana and Reversion had gone the night before, gotten past Saurfang and had people drop out for RL issues, so she couldn’t go. My mage wasn’t saved, and I’d been thinking of getting her into one, but he was saying that the dps so far all had 5.5k GS and Invariant’s is lower than that. I might convince him that was fine but…

So I whispered him and said “4.8k GS prot pally here. Interested?”

A few seconds later I get the invite. I mention to him that my main had pugged with him a few weeks back (after I got in vent he remembered me) and as the raid was forming, I got Reversion’s secondary druid Consolidate in as healer. Con’s GS is about the same as Divergent’s, and the other (also pally) tank was the same; the shaman agreed to go heals, we had a priest to heal the tanks, and all the dps were higher.

So we set off. The other tank hadn’t tank any of the fights either. Both healers were a bit less accustomed to their role (the shaman usually dpsed and Rev, of course, tanks)

We get the trash down fairly easily. The usual random people die, get rezzed, spring traps… but the other paladin and I knew to stack on each other for the giants, kept the casters turned away from the raid mostly, and it went well. This was Divergent’s first time in ICC and I was keeping a keen eye on her rep, just waiting to get friendly so I could get the ring.

We came up to Marrowgar, discussed strategy, and started. It went pretty well. The other tank and I had a little trouble moving together out of the flames, but the first two bonestorms came and went without a hitch. And then, over vent – “Guys, I dc’d!”

That was the other tank.

Bonestorm started again as he worked to log in. I followed the boss around, picked him up when he came out of bonestorm and dragged him over to where the other tank stood motionless. He had dc’d, but not disappeared from the instance and worked just fine to soak up the cleaves! We had to stay and get hit by flames, but the healers worked overtime and kept us up until he logged back in.

Marrowgar dropped and the whole raid congratulated each other.

Deathwhisper was really fun to tank. We each would grab one of the adds that appeared at the side and drag him to the middle add, then kill them all. The raid pounded away on the boss. I was impressed how fast they got her shield down, or was it just the change in perspective? Healing raid fights leaves me breathless, spamming keys, desperately fighting to stay alive. Tanking was… suprisingly easier. The boss’s shield came down, and we had to watch each other; my taunts didn’t always seem to hit and I had to be told to move her back up out of the raid. But we got the hang of it, swapped taunts, stayed alive – and another boss went down. Whew.

Upstairs, charge in and kill trash. As the first group dies, someone lets out a whop – “Quest!” The raid quest to kill the rotting giant appeared. Divergent needs all the frosts she can get!

We cleared toward the giant and then another whoop – a trash mob had dropped a BOE necklace. I hadn’t realized 10 man ICC trash would drop the BoEs, I had thought they only appeared in 25, but there they were. The hunter begged, and we agreed to give it to him; it was a serious upgrade and he equipped it right away. Then it was frost giant time. The other tank and I started tanking in the middle of the hallway, but after the healers complained about us getting knocked back out of range (I thought it was fun!) we stood with our backs to the wall. Not as fun, but effective; the giant died and we got badges. Wheee.

I got the easy job on gunship, just stood in the middle and picked up adds. One of these days I’ll actually jump over to the other ship. I’ll probably fall off. Or get stuck over there at the end. I’ve been to ICC dozens of times now and never once jumped.

Saurfang, the fight I’d been dreading. I pulled all my AOE abilities off my bar, triple-checked that I was using Seal of Vengeance and not Seal of Command, and got ready. I tanked first, then the other tank taunted; I stopped my dps for a minute and breathed a sigh of relief as Saurfang changed his attention. Blood beasts appeared, and went away, and died; I didn’t have to worry about it. My turn to tank again; I taunted, the other tank let me have aggro, and we were in the swing of things. I didn’t have to care about blood power or healing Marked victims or kiting blood beasts.

Why hadn’t anyone ever mentioned how, well, easy raid tanking is?

Saurfang died. He died. Destroyer of pugs, we one shotted him. Bane of newbie tanks, I took him on with a gear score most pug builders would laugh at. It felt incredible. And – just a little boring. Don’t tell anyone I said that.

Halfway through the trash to Festergut I got Friendly with the Ashen Verdict. I went downstairs for my ring and while I was gone, someone got too close to a dog and they wiped. I laughed, we went upstairs, rebuffed, and tried again. And another wipe. Ooops.

More carefully this time, we killed both dogs. Then went to Festergut, planned our strategy, agreed I would tank first. We ready checked, I pulled – and instantly lost aggro to a hunter, who died. We fought him down to 30% before Reversion’s tree got Vile Gas and puked in the melee, wiping us.

Second try. Exact same thing happened. But a lot of people were new to the fight, or to their role, so we went back, tried again – and I held aggro. Swapped with the other tank at the right times, dps burned him down and we made it with over 30 seconds to go on the enrage timer.

Wish I could say we steamrolled the rest of the place that easily, but we didn’t. We made two attempts on Rotface, but then people had to go just as I was getting the hang of slime tanking (hard!)

Later that afternoon I played (utterly useless) third tank in a TOC 25 man raid. And Sunday afternoon, tanked Obsidian Sanctum. In between I set up my healing set and did my first few dungeons as a holy pally! Which I intend to talk about in a seperate post, but I see this one is already too long.

But for all that, I like resto druid healing ICC a lot more than tanking it. It’s just more fun for me. But I’d tank it on my paladin anytime!

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