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Archive for March, 2011

So this morning I read that Blizzard won’t be giving us any new raid content in 4.1, and I breathe a sigh of relief.  Not that I don’t want to have new raid content! It’s just that we’re hardly  ready to be done with this content. Our raid group is at 6/12 bosses killed right now, having put in attempts on one other boss. That’s five encounters we haven’t even seen yet – we need to focus on what we have, not what’s coming.

More advanced raiders may complain that they’re already bored. Less advanced raiders, the sort who never got past Saurfang in ICC, may want new content to drop so they have a new set of three bosses to farm. But middle of the road groups like ours? This is perfect. The 5 mans in 4.1 will give us a chance to gear alts or new raiders more easily, fill in those annoying missing slots (wands, please, Blizzard. Maybe some trinkets too).

Now, if 4.2 doesn’t drop til, say, November, we may have to bring this up again. But right now I’m looking at a good chance to not just kill everything in this content tier, but also to start working on heroic modes, and that sounds like good news to me.

Also: Efflorescence as a smart, three-lowest-person, heal? Yes please!

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Not a viable spec

Corporate Raider

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The Last Healer

The Forgotten Member of Team-Heals

In every raid there is a healer. This healer is not marked with a green plus. This healer is lost and forgotten. This poor healer only has a few spells. Very few. What is worse this healer’s spells can only be used one every few minutes. They are weak small spells. What makes it even more difficult is that this healers spells only work on themselves.

That is right, this healer is called ‘the tank’. I am talking about cooldowns and I am talking about attitude. I am talking about what it means to be a tank and what it means to be a team player. I have long thought there was something missing from many tanks. Something subtle I could not put my finger on. It was tied to poor use of cooldowns. Not non-use, but just not the best use. You see, many tanks are using their tanky cooldowns to keep themselves alive. It makes perfect sense right? I mean here you have this spell that only mitigates your own damage. What else can you use it for to stay alive? And what is the job of a tank but to not die? Right? I mean tanks have two jobs; hold agro, and not die…

Well not really… tanks have FOUR jobs. Hold agro, stay alive, control the fight in a way that helps all the DPS do their job, and assure the success of the group. The third one good tanks do anyway. They know it and they try to do it. Good tanks also do number 4. Bad tanks have lost sight of 3 and 4. They might throw up great numbers, they might be very hard to kill. They might even hold agro all the time no matter what, but they are not good tanks.

But they don’t know it. And other people don’t either. I had an argument just the other night with someone in run, he was DPSing and claimed they had pugged this wunderkind pally that was amazingly good at tanking… Except he refused to CC, pulled things too fast and did not wait for the healer to drink. I said those things made it impossible that he could be a ‘good tank’ but this DPS friend of mine insisted otherwise. However, the healer in the group was also a guildy and she told a very different story about this tanks ‘skills’.

The difference can be very subtle. All gogogo tanks are not created equal. I did a lot of gogogo in the last expansion and I got good at it. Sometimes it was bad but often it was very good. And I learned a lot from it. I learned something that a lot of people have not yet. The bad thing is not ‘go go go-ing’ That, by itself does not make things hard on the healer. And that IS the bad thing; being hard on the healer. If your run was fast, smooth and no one died, but the healer is a shaking, sweating pile of jelly that wants nothing more than to log off and drink heavily, then you are NOT as good a tank as you think you are. But WHY? I have had a hard time of articulating why I think that makes someone a bad tank. I am not some uber tank, there is a lot that separates me from the real uber tanks. My dps is bad, my gear is not optimized… How can I consider myself better than most tanks. What is that subtle different I complain about but can’t always explain?

And then it hit me. I have healed raids… I have also healed go-go-go tanks. Not only that but I spend all my wow time in the same room as my healer so I learn little tidbits that other tanks don’t. If I do something as a tank that is particularly abusive to my healer I catch an earful. But that is not all there is to it. It does not take all that to have the right attitude. I finally figured out what the attitude is.

I am a member of team heals. We, all tanks, are the junior forgotten members of team heals. The better we dovetail our actions to their needs the better the raid does.

One of the tricks I have picked up is timing cooldowns to not save MYSELF, but to save other people. I do this by popping them when I am low enough that the healer would be tempted to triage me while sacrificing a lower DPS. If I pop something then the healer gains more ‘healing bandwidth’ to hit other people. It is a very handy trick and one of the best uses of tanking cooldowns. It is a far better way to use them than staying alive when the healer dies and downing the last mob yourself. That is all impressive and stuff… Isn’t it better to pop it earlier and give the healer the cycles needed to get his/her health back up?

A good tank can do both as needed. In fact a really uber tank already operates for the good of everyone as if they were a part of ‘team heals’. The top raiders already know all this stuff because they absorbed it through thousands of hours of raiding. I picked it up a different way. I am not a uber top tier raider. Not even close. But fortunately I picked up some of the concepts by doing things a different way.

Actually a lot of it was from ‘gogogo’ tanking with my wife healing. This gave me an insight into when the healer was completely maxed out. If you read my posts on ‘visualizing tanking and healing’ you will get some of what was learned out of those experiences.

So what does being a member of ‘team heals’ mean for a tank?

First off, think about your cooldowns, stuns, interrupts, tool you have that lowers damage, think about them all as heals. Small, situational heals that you apply to yourself and sometimes others. Because that is what they are. Every bit of damage you don’t take is one less heal a healer has to cast.

Second, don’t fall into ruts with your cooldown use. They are not a part of your rotation. Rather they are something you use based on the situation. Don’t get into a habit of ‘when I hit X% health I pop Y cooldown’. That might work sometimes but not always. Many fights have specific times it is best to use them. With other fights it depends on your group, your healer, and your tactics. Never get habitual or complacent about it. Always look for a way to use them better.

Interrupt, stun, and move out of the stuff. You should always be asking yourself, how can I take less damage in this fight. After that you should ask yourself, what can I do to make the party take less damage.

Finally, every time you do something ask yourself, “Is this going to increase my damage taken?” If you turn to pick up adds does that turn your back on the boss? Are you running through something bad to do something else? Maybe you can’t avoid it and it is best that you take that damage… but you have to KNOW how your actions are affecting your incoming damage rates. The more aware and in control of that the better you will be as a tank.

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Switching Gears

How do you handle switching things up?

I’m not talking about major switches in your gaming, not the “now my main is a hunter” or “I just moved servers” thing. No, just the evenings where you look at the loading screen and say “I want to play this guy”. I know there’s some folks who only have a couple characters, or even a single main, but I’ve got 8 characters on Winterhoof. One bank alt, she doesn’t count. One main. One actively being levelled lowbie shaman, one “I logged into her a few weeks back” lowbie hunter. A paladin at 84 and two not-my-main 85s, my mage and my priest. Oh, and a worgen that hasn’t left the starting area.

In the last two weeks, I’ve spent several hours on my paladin, my shaman, my priest, and my mage. Invariant, the mage, had been getting plenty of fresh air anyway since she is my archeologist and I’m still looking for that flaming doll. The others, not so much. Every time I log in I have to reacquaint myself  with the way each operates.

One thing that helps is keep my UI fairly standard across characters. The action bars in the same places, Recount and Omen in one corner, Vuhdo frames in their proper spot, even on my non healer characters – Invariant has Remove Curse mapped in Vuhdo, no need for Decursive. For my healer characters, I assign similar spells to the same mouse click combos – right mouse click for a good HOT, shield, or fast cast, other combos for longer cast spells. That way I can let the muscle memory work for me.

Same with my action bars; I try to keep spells that do similar things in the same place across characters. Of course, this is subjective. Frost  Nova and Disengage do not do the same thing, at all, but they have the same spot on my action bars for their respective characters.  I tend to keep opener moves on 1 and 2, aoes toward 6  and 7, and emergency spells at the end.

ArcInventory is my bag addon of choice. I have it set up to use the “Rules” to sort things for me. So what I get when I hit my B key is a giant bag with everything I own, but visually seperated into containers by the rules I set. I can have all my crafting mats assigned to the two left hand columns, my spare armor set in the bottom right, and junk items at the very top, all by themselves. If I keep it the same across characters, any time I open my bags I know where things will be.

I have a quick routine when I get onto a  character that I’ve been resting up. Check my bags and gear to see if I need to sell and repair. Check my map and quest log, to see where I need to go. Check over my abilities and remind myself just what this character actually does. Takes about three minutes and then I’m ready to go. The first few pulls are uncomfortable as I search for the right abilities, remember critical things (“Oh, right, pet.” “Oh, right, totems”. “Oh, right, mage armor”).  After that I settle in.

That said right now my paladin is the hardest to get into. I’m leveling in ret by questing. I just am not comfortable with the spec at all. It doesn’t feel like me. I’m not really a melee player; I like standing at range and killing stuff. And things are always lighting up and I don’t know what to push. This goldenish swirly icon? That goldenish swirly icon? The one that looks like a shiny hand? Ack! I may just wait til she gets a whole level of rested and then heal dungeons the last bit of the way; I’m much better at that.

But I do think there’s value in switching characters. I’ve been working hard on learning all the raid fights as heals; when I switched and did a few fights on my mage, I was amazed at how much easier it was to pay attention to stuff on the ground I needed to move out of, target switching time, etc. Of course, I was focused on that somewhat at the expense of my dps but…. that wasn’t too shabby either.

I also find that switching around and not spending lots of time on any alt favors “simple” specs and rotation. Switching to Invariant and going arcane is easy. The fights where I’ve gone fire? Let’s not talk about that… fire is much much more complicated and while fun, would take time to master that I’m not spending.

Remember, the most important thing to do when you’re switching characters is always put your toys away – mom’s advice growing up works well now too. Even if you think you’re only logging into your main for a few minutes, stick your leveling alt in an inn, sell her junk, mail things you want to auction to your bank alt. There are far too many times I’ve gotten on a main to send something to an alt and found myself three hours later in a Stonecore run that just won’t die. Save yourself the headache and always leave in a way that makes it easy to come back.

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