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Archive for June, 2010

Toastmaster Spec

Corporate Raider

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A New Project!

So last night we saw a group was forming to run Nax on Single Abstract Noun(Argent Dawn US). So my wife and I decided to take our spare tank and healer and server transfer them. So now we have a heal/tank and tank/heal pair on Argent Dawn –US in SAN with ICC viable gear for all those roles.

So we had the idea of a new project. We have been thinking about what we might want to do in Cata and even between now and Cata. We are getting fair results with PUGing ICC groups and getting into occasional guild alt runs but it feels like we need a smidge more… SOMETHING to get a push to downing Arthas. All we really need is a better pool of raiders to draw from then what we have been getting semi randomly.

 Basically our idea is to form a 10 man group inside SAN and to court enough 80s, either from internal leveling up or from getting MEMBERS (not strangers) to server transfer, and then to make those into a viable raid group.

We are not trying to ‘run’, ‘take over’ or in any way control the guild. This is a voluntary end game raid team pulling primarily from SAN members and open to any SAN. We will pug the rest of the slots as needed. We are going to be a subset of the guild, not setting any directions or agenda on the guild as a whole. If this project interferes at all in the atmosphere of ‘fun’ of the guild as a whole we will nix it and move on to some other project.

 We plan for it to be a viable group so while we are laid back and not picky we will be doing what we can to build the team up and advise people as needed to have viable dps/tanking/healing and to do their part.

We will not tolerate dead weight (in the long term) but will do everything in our power in a friendly constructive way to make anyone that wants to come into ‘non-deadweight’ including (within reason) gear runs and pointing people at class and fight resources. I think anyone can be built up into a viable raider. But raiding is not for everyone. This means no GS requirement and no experience requirement but come ready to learn and willing to work to gear up if you are short on gear or knowledge.

So come as you are and be ready to learn the fights, gear up, and do well.

 This is SAN so we are not going to bother with complicated rules unless a need for a stated policy pops up.

 We are targeting to raid 1-2 nights a week. That would get us into LK with only minimal raid lockout extensions. We might start by doing one ICC run and one ‘old raid’ run.

 Chances are 100% that there are SAN with far more raiding experience than myself of my wife. So we will be drawing on the knowledge and leadership of anyone willing to come and help. I am personally 10/12 in ICC 10 mans (I forget where on 25). We also have a lot of practice putting together PUGS of ICC and dragging them as far as we can.

 Because SAN is still short on geared 80s we will probably start with some more runs like the NAX run last night. Plus since our alts are also under geared we will have a strong early focus on gearing up.

 We are planning to start with 10 man but might run some 25 if there is interest. Also SAN seems to be heavy on tanking and healing so keep in mind you might be need a DPS off spec or alt (Analogue and I plan to have some DPS alts for the project).

 We are not concerned about perfect class balance or any other srsbzn. All we want is a desire to see new content. All we need is the willingness to work a little to get there.

 Currently we are targeting Friday night to get started by 8 server (EST). If there is interest in another time or day we will be open to it.

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LFM

Corporate Raider

LFM 2

LFM 3

LFM 4

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One of the most critical things, for a tank is confidence. Many people giving advice on tanking will mention it and all agree it is important. By why? Here is why…

The loop

An acronym somewhat common in military circles is OODA. It is an acronym for the process by which people decide things. It stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. These are the steps use to make a decision. You see some situation; you orient yourself in relationship to it, decide on a course of actions, and then execute that action. In combat situations they describe this as a loop. You start at Observe, run through it, and as soon as you get to act you are back at observer. You see what changes have taken place in the situation, you orient yourself to those changes, decide what to do next and then do that. In combat this all takes place at blazing speed with no actual pausing or deliberating. But those steps still exist and you still go through them as a cycle.

Getting inside

Years ago fighter pilots discovered that when two people go head to head it was not the person that made the BEST decisions that won the fight. It was the one that made the FASTEST decisions. If both combatants are using the loop you can visualize how as soon as the first person decides and acts she has changed the situation. The other person might be making a technically better choice. But they made it a split second too late. When the first person acted the situation changed. As the fight goes on the ‘better’ decider is falling farther and farther behind in each ‘loop’ around the OODA circle. They call this getting ‘inside’ the other person’s decisions making loop.

It is like a boxer keeping the other person off balance. The other boxer might have a really great left hook that is sure to cause a knockout, but if he is always off balance he can’t throw the punch.

These concepts apply to tanking, though not in precisely the same way. You, as the tank, are making decisions in this OODA loop. The Observing step applies to situational awareness, something I have talked about in the past. The Orient step has to do with both awareness and positioning. Deciding and acting must be quick smooth and confident. We don’t have time to be second guessing or rehashing mistakes. We have to start the loop again and react to the changing battle.

We are not going up against another human in single combat so we are not pitting our loop against another loop. We are, however, pitting it against the programmed actions and reactions of the packs we are tanking. These actions are fast paced but not all instant so there is a time factor. We still have to pit our decision making against the pace of the instance. Or, against ourselves if we are setting a ‘gogogo’ pace. The harder we push the faster we have to be reacting and deciding.

Tank vs Party

But wait! There is more! We ARE pitting our decision loop in head to head combat with others… those others are our own party. How much this is a ‘versus’ depends on how good they are at following your lead and how good they are at being good party players in general.

The other day I was in a pug and a boomkin, well geared and a solid player, was mentioning how great they are at cycloning things before they get to the healer. I pointed out that doing that prevents the tank from taunting them back into the AOE threat zone. The response I got was something like ‘oh that is ok. I saved the healer.’ They missed my point that if the tank taunts an instant after you cyclone it is wasted. Or maybe they tried to death grip, judge fearie fire, or otherwise toss some threat at the wayward critter. The boomkin thinks they are being helpful and saving the day but in reality they quite well could be messing up the tank. Something similar happens if a mage frostnovas a pack off adds. Now you can’t’ get those into the threat zone quickly. These are not party wipers (usually) but they can throw a tank off stride, they force you to react to a changed situation. You reaction is yet another quick loop around the OODA cycle as you see what they did, and react to it. The slower your loops around the circle are the farther behind you get and the more you are at the mercy of your oh so helpful party. We have all been in one of those. Maybe it was a hunter that was on speed and tagging everything in sight. Or perhaps some DK gripping orcs around the Ramparts like crazy. And we have probably all seen the groups where our tank was just so slow to react they could not deal with anything.

Confidence

This is where ‘confidence’ comes in. What we mean when we say ‘confidence’ (with respect to tanking) is the ability to make a fast decision and act on it with no hesitation or pausing to rethink. Do we go left or right? Left! Go! Do we jump down? Weeeee. Do we pull the left ones or the right ones. *kapow*! Before the dps has time to ponder, second guess, get bored, or pull themselves the tank has already decided on a path and a plan and put that plan into effect.

Yes, in WOW it is possible for a tank to be extremely slow and deliberate. You can set up every pull with carful precision and deliberateness and try to make it so you never have to react quickly to anything. You can also mercilessly kick anyone that upsets the balance even a little. But that does not make you a better tank.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying carful pulls are a sign of a bad tank. I am also not saying that all good tanks set a high speed pace. NOT AT ALL.

A good tank decides quickly and acts confidently no matter what the paces is. There are always adds, or fears, or unexpected events to react to. A good tank should endeavor to learn fast and confident decision making to enhance their abilities. This does not always mean charging ahead. But if you are stopping for mana, you can say “mana!” or “30 second break” in chat and you can do it fast an confident without standing around for 20 seconds agonizing over if the healer has enough for another pull while the DPS wonders if you are DCed. Same thing with pulls. You don’t have to charge in fast, but you can’t just stand there for 1 minute while considering all the angles with the DPS thinking you are walking the dog. If you need a second, quickly and confidently say “give me a second”.

Aura of Confidence

Along with just deciding the fast you are projecting to your party the aura that you are confident and know what you are doing. Even when you don’t know, project it anyway. Even if you are asking for advice on a pull or asking to be reminded of what a boss does. Even asking for help can be done in a confident and timely manner. People can usually respect a brain fart and a quick ‘what does this guy do again?’ Those same people are unlikely to respect 2 minutes of ‘er, um’ and ‘let me check my notes’ before finally asking the same thing. The key is to make people think you know what you are doing. Not through lying but thorough an aura of confidence and competence. Even when you are admitting you have no clue you can do it in a way that shows them you are CONFIDENT you have no clue. Don’t lie about not knowing and blow their trust. Be honest but project confidence. As I said, even asking for advice can be done in a leadership fashion. Observe the following two methods.

A: “Ah, I have never tanked this one… does anyone know it? Anyone?” (someone else comments) “Er does that work? Are you sure? Anyone else have an idea?”

B: “Alright guys this boss is a new one to me. Does anyone have a good strat?” (insert comments) “Ok sounds good. We will do that. Lets go! Pulling in 10 seconds”

See the difference? How did each make you feel about the group and the likelihood of success?

Communication

Communicate clearly and unambiguously. Don’t make them go ‘what?’ If you handout advice, instructions, or strategies don’t make them have to figure out what you meant. They should not have to guess what bush you are beating around by the sound of the branches. Tell them what you mean. Tell them what you want them to do. Tell them clearly what YOU are going to do. You don’t have to be a jerk about things to be firm and clearly state what you mean.

 Tanking is a leadership role. Almost everything written about leadership applies to tanking in some way or another.

Final note on Pacing versus Decision Making

The pace you set and the speed you decide are not the same. Not the same but they are closely related. One of the reasons we are seeing so many overly fast tanks is that they can go fast. Not because they are any good, but because the over gearing and dumbing down of content has made it so that most tanks can just charge in, hammer their aoes and expect the fight to go well. They can set a fast pace because they have almost nothing to decide. The same goes for impatient DPS. They can act fast because they have nothing to think about of figure out beyond who to put an arrow in first or which one to beat on next. That takes no time or actual thinking so they can plow ahead at an unsustainable pace.

Each tank will have to find their own ways of slowing people down. I usually do it by setting pace that is either flat out insane, or simply setting one that is just fast enough to prevent boredom and the stupidity that follows. You may be finding people pushing you or making your tanking life miserable by doing dumb things. Keep in mind that if you push yourself a little harder things might actually get easier. Once you get your decision making loop ‘inside’ your dpsers, or set a pace just fast enough to not let them get bored, you will find the random stupidity starts to decrease and things get smoother and easier.

Finally, setting a slower more careful pace can be a crutch for slow deciding but that is not at all 1 to 1 correlation. Also that is not to be confused with running content with a sub optimal group just to add challenge. This slows things down by forcing more complicated and difficult decisions. It can be fun and rewarding.

Cataclysm…

It might be a nightmare at first. Forcing people to use CC (as they have said will happen more) means fights are going to be harder and more complicated. Tanks will have to do more than just AOE spam. Also healers are going to have to get better at triage instead of just ‘topping people off’. All this means instances runs may well be a rude awakening for many. Personally I am hoping for it. I am hoping it will blow away the current level of stagnation in randoms and get people think more and do more. I only hope that overgeared morons will not be able to steamroll their way to 85. I want to see them slam hard into the wall and learn to play again.

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And it is really such a shame

Big Bear Butt had such a great vision that I had to rip it off.

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A recent post over at Ecclesiastical Discipline got me thinking again about how people react to ‘advice’. I had noticed a few things about it and thought I would share.

How to give ‘helpful advice’ in a way that gets optimum results

Everyone has probably heard the words ‘don’t tell me how to play my class’. If not that then you are sure to have heard some of the many of the other ‘witty’ things people say in response to being told of their failings. Even if you don’t regularly dispense advice you probably saw someone else do it and get rebuffed (not in the good way).

But first off…

Why give advice at all?

Because people really really need it. No you are not being helpful or polite by not saying anything. There MANY aspects to the game that are not instantly obvious. It was originally designed by gamers and fore gamers. Yeah it was easy to get into but certain concepts it was just assumed that you knew or would figure out. You might not believe how many times I have run into hunters with growling pets who did not KNOW how to turn it off. They thought pulling it off the pet bar was turning it off. I have had to explain the little glowing border and how to right click the icon to more than one level 80 hunter. This was something that was obvious to me and I figured out by messing with things somewhere around level 10 or 11 on my first hunter many years ago. It was obvious…. To me. But to huge numbers of people WOW is their first serious computer game. They just don’t know this stuff. Maybe they are 12, maybe they are dumb as a post or maybe they simply have found a play style that works and have not messed around with ever possible button.

It is only going to get worse. The increased need for CC in Cata is going to be ‘interesting’. I have a feeling huge numbers of players out there don’t know what CC skills their character even has to say nothing of being able to use them right.

But if they will not listen anyway? Why do it?

Because so of them WILL listen. And some of those that don’t will remember. I still remember the firs warrior tank that told me to stop tanking with my hunter pet. Did I listen? Hell no! What does a warrior know about huntering? Nothing! But I remembered it. And much later when I rolled a tank the depths of my transgressions were laid out before me by the unfolding of my memory. I wept. Well not really but I did regret being a jerk. Slightly.

I also still remember when a guild officer told me if I could not hold agro 100% of the time no matter what I should just delete. I had a snarky comeback and went away grumbling about his elitist attitude and abrasive personality. And then a bit later I got over it and started challenging myself to do just what he said. Now I try to make zero excuses and push myself harder than ever to hold agro at all times and in all places.

My point is even when you get a hostile reaction you never know what the long term effect might be. Don’t be afraid of adversity. The other person can use your help. Those hundreds of other poor puggers that are going to run with the moron later need your help too.

They have to hear it some day

It is important that people hear a complaint even if they don’t respond well. More than a few times I have gotten the response of ‘NO other tank ever told me to stop doing that BEFORE’. They say it as if that is ironclad disproof of my complaint. It isn’t of course, but if any other tank had bothered to ask them to stop death gripping, or frostnova-ing, or cyclone, or using typhoon, etc, then I might have had an easier time getting them to stop. Since everyone else was being ‘polite’ the player assumed that it was ok behavior.

That is how we find our limits. By pushing them until we get in trouble. If every healer just shut up and chugged potions then how was the tank to know he was setting a pace that was too fast? This is why we have to actually SAY something.

But how?

Giving advice for maximum effect

Prove you know something first

If I am tanking and see someone messing up on the first pull it is hard not to say something. Buuut, If I say something right away I am pretty likely to get a bad response. I know I know way more than them but THEY don’t… yet. If I wait until half way though the run, after I have done some crazy hard stuff and saved the day a time or two then they are much more likely to take a suggestion politely. They know for certain that I can do my job so they are more likely to believe I might also know theirs. They also know that I am not just whining to excuse bad tanking.

If I complain about people pulling off me at the start of a run there is a good chance (in their minds) that I can’t hold agro in a bucket. It is better if I wait and show by my actions that I CAN hold agro and I can even taunt stuff off of them repeatedly. Now they KNOW I am not just whining to cover my failings and they are more likely to tone things down. Even if I worded the ‘advice’ the same way both times, the timing of it and the situation can really change how people take it.

I have had this happen. Where I gave some advice early, got a very hostile reaction, including swearing. Then later in the run, after demonstrating a little of some ‘uber’ to the newish 80 they got aaaallll polite and friendly and even thanked me for advice.

Keep it short

If you halt in the middle of a run to give a dissertation on the meaning of frostnova in dynamic tactical environment chances are you are going to be dismissed as a crank. Keep advice compact.

Be polite

No personal attacks. Telling someone their rotation is suboptimal is not the same as calling them a noob. Yeah, people might blow up at even the most polite advice, but almost no one will responds to insults. Sometimes they do but most people will retaliate instead. It is a reflex action and it inhibits the listening.

Don’t let it hold up the run

Don’t stop the whole thing to give a dissertation. Unless the offense is really grievous then you should keep things going.

Be clear

Don’t get clever, obtuse or overly sarcastic. If the player was subtle and witty they might already have figured the problem out already. If you make your comment to obscure or tangential then you are likely to get a blank stare response.

Focus the advice on what they should DO

Include some of the ‘why’ if you have to, or if they ask. It important to get straight to the point. If you throw out a comment on the nature of ‘threat’ that is not the same is simply telling them ‘only use taunts after something pulls off you’. If you have to back something up to make it clear then do it but don’t start off when a lot of obscure ‘why’ before you get to the point of the ‘what’.

Back up your points with tools as needed

Recount is good when used right. One thing I sometimes do is toss out the recount, point out that someone should be able to get 1000 more dps and then mention checking google for some good blogs or going to ‘elististjerks’. Short, right to the point, backed up by data, and including a path to fix things. No big debate on rotations or a lot of QQ. Something like that is more likely to get a favorable response than just telling them how much they are a noob and should drop.

Don’t argue with idiots

They say don’t argue with idiots or they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience (at being an idiot). Don’t get drawn in. Try to avoid the burning need to have the last word. Get right back to the game and let your actions show you know your stuff.

Channel the Stupidity

You could spend half the run arguing with the DK about his compulsive grip habit… or you could just ask him to use it on the casters in the back. Some people are going to insist on being dumb. Think like Judo. You use the weight of your opponent against them by redirecting it. You don’t try to absorb a punch or a kick, you harness it and redirect its energy. Is the hunter someone who apparently has nothing in the spell book except ‘volley?’ Pull slightly larger groups and make use of that aoe. Mage can’t figure out how sheep is suppose to work? Don’t set your pulls up to need it. Side step the stupidity and either let it harmlessly pass by, or grab it and direct it at something useful.

 This is the difference between banging your head on a wall and looking for the door. Sometimes you can’t knock down the wall so find another way. If you KNOW that moron hunter is not going to stop pulling then use it as taunt timing practice. If the Boomkin has a typhoon fetish, ask if he can use it only when things are at 20% or less. Some people are far more likely to accept advice like that than they are to listen to a rant on while their favorite toy is stupid and evil.

There are probably many other tips out there for dealing with pugs while trying to be constructive. These are just the few I could think of.

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Years ago I stumbled across the Evil Overlord List – the 100 things to do if ever becoming an evil overlord. High on the list is “Shooting is not too good for my enemies”, but my personal favorite has always been #34, “I will not turn into a snake. It never helps”.

Anyway it’s been percolating in my mind a bit, the WoW equivalent – while many of the items on the Evil Overlord List are applicable, there’s all those things that cross my mind as I’m battling my way through a heroic. So without further ado, here they are.

1. My hundreds of minions will not be spread out in easily-defeated, maximally spaced groups. They will be in two large packs: one near the front door, one right in front of my own chambers.

2. My citadel will have a butler who answers the door whenever someone comes to visit. If he does not report back in two minutes, the front hall room will seal itself and fill with lava.

3. My minions will be carefully trained to ignore growling bears, taunting paladins, and mocking warriors; instead they will focus on priests, mages, and other squishy people.

4. No matter how awesome it sounds, I will never shout out my attack name as I use it

5. Any “friends” and “allies” in my stronghold will be monitored closely. Should a party of adventures begin to attack them, the room will seal. And fill with lava.

6. Any graveyard within 100 miles of my stronghold will be dug up, the bodies burned, and turned into quaint condominiums at affordable prices. This should discourage adventures; those lazy jerks hate long corpse runs.

7. I will not carry any item that I am not actively using. Defense plate when I’m clearly an arcane mage? Caster offhands when I carry a two handed sword and smite people with it? No point in encouraging attackers with the promise of phat lootz.

8. My strongest protection will be my castle environs, not my minions. Walls of killer fog, dangerous globs of moving goo, and cunningly arrayed vertical layouts will feature heavily into the details. To say nothing of the lava.

9. I will not exchange my life, body, soul or free will for power. In the long run, it’s a bad investment.

10. I will not agree to become a minion for another boss. Although it’s nice not to have to do everything yourself, they tend to regard you as disposable.

11. My epic speech to adventurers who dare to challenge me will not include any of the following phrases: “It was only a setback!”, “You dare challenge me?”, “Puny mortals!”, “You are not worthy!”, or “Fools!”

12. Likewise, my epic speech will actually be along the lines of, “Welcome to my castle! As I begin pontificating, let me point out that you are on a very narrow bridge over lava!” and then push the button that drops them into the lava.

13. Finally, I will invest in a hat with a glowing yellow exclamation point over it, a box of cast-off clothes from Goodwill, and a list of dull tasks that the adventurers can perform for me. If I offer an old shoe and 97 copper, I can probably get them to attack my enemies instead of me.

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