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Archive for April, 2011

The Tiny Tank – Intro

Once upon a time there was a Death Knight named Interest. She was a gnome who had escaped the Lich King’s thrall and made her way to Ironforge, where she set herself up as a businesswoman. Her contacts used her as a go between, to sell off the spoils of their adventures.

Day after day she’d handle Infinite Dust, Pyrite Ore, and Netherweave bags by the dozen. Every now and then she’d send a big pile of gold off to one of her contacts. Day after day she made the circuit between the Auction House, the bank, and the mailbox, her noble Deathcharger reduced to running the fifteen steps she was too lazy to walk. It wasn’t the most thrilling life, but it was a life, so there you go.

One day, one of her best customers came to talk. Invariant was a gnome like her, but a mage, and level 85 while Interest was a mere 58. But there’d always been a kind of kinship between them. They even looked similar. Interest wondered whether they had been distantly related, back when she was alive.

“So I just dug up this thing,” Invariant said.  “I’m a mage, I don’t use two handed strength swords.”

Interest examined it. “If I could sell this, we could make a lot of money.”

“But we can’t,” Invariant pointed out. “And nobody else wants it…”

Interest thought about her other clients. Analogue couldn’t use a sword. Elucidate, another gnome friend, was a priest and this was useless to her. “What about Divergent?” She’d always admired that  big Paladin. Paladins were shiny and clean and got respect. Not like Death Knights. Nobody actually likes Death Knights.

“She hit 85 and went Holy/Prot.” Invariant shrugged. “Said no way in hell is she going Ret. She’ll dual spec Holy first.”

So what, you want me to stash this away? I’m running out of space.”

“Silly!” Invariant grinned at her. “I want you to use it.”

“I can’t even equip it, I’m not high enough.”

“Right. So you’re going to have to level up.” With that, Invariant teleported away, off to whatever adventures she had these days. (Based on what she sent Interest to sell, Interest was pretty sure she spent most of her time in the city making Netherweave Bags, and the rest digging up old Night Elf underwear. Interest wasn’t entirely sure that Invariant was… normal.)

Just then Analogue stopped by. “Hey, I got these back from Divergent now that she’s done with them, and a couple more.” She tossed Interest a bag. “I heard you’re thinking of leveling. Ditch the bank guild and we’ll hook you up with some real guild perks, too. Gotta run. Raid in five. I’m still short one healer. Too bad you’re not one.”

Interest opened the bag. Inside… well, she didn’t know how Analogue had managed to get a sword that long into the bag. It looked far too big for her, but when she pulled it out, it felt just right. The breastplate fit beautifully – odd, that, considering it still had Divergent’s name written on the tag at the collar. How exactly does a gnome fit into a Draenei’s hand me downs? The helmet and back were entirely new. Analogue must have just bought them – for me! Interest thought excitedly. Ok! I can do this!

It had been so long since anyone noticed her. So long since she was anything but another banker. She summoned her Deathcharger, Pinky, who whinnied at her in excitement. “Let’s go,” she whispered. “I’ve got to get my talents redone.” They leapt through a Deathgate.

“You must choose your path,” her trainer announced when she reached him. “You must choose….”

“I’m going to be a tank,” Interest said confidently. “I want to be the center of attention. A whirling gnome of death, bringing vengeance on my enemies while protecting my friends. Also, I hear leveling in dungeons is fast and fun and the queue’s a lot shorter for a tank.”

The trainer eyed her. “Even shorter than you,” he confirmed. “Very well then. Now, we’ve made some changes to the tank trees since you came through here…”

“I know,” Interest said, and pulled out a note. “I want…. this spec. I found it on the internet. I’ll figure out what it does later.”

“Very well. Don’t forget to read Elitist Jerks.”

Thanks for indulging me. I don’t do fanfiction (anymore) (never did any for WoW anyway) but that was a fun little bit to write. But stripped of the fiction flourishes, last weekend I did have basically this happen. Dug up the troll sword BOA epic, had nothing to do with it, decided this required me to level my bank alt. I handed the bank guild over to one of Reversion’s alts and joined Crits. Fixed her up as a tank and queued for Hellfire.

Since I blog I can’t ever do a project without thinking of the blog. I remember Pugging Pally – those were always a great read – so I decided I’ll level Interest in pugs, as a tank, and tell what stories may come.

I’m not leveling her on a set schedule, or anything, but stay tuned for her adventures!

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Edit – According to MMOChampion we aren’t getting 4.1 this week. maybe next week. But I still think the server flakiness is related. I think we’re close and anything you need to do pre-patch, do now. Don’t know what that would be. Read up on the changes, don’t invest heavily in ore, try to figure out a clever way to tell ZA and ZG apart.

Tonight, we’ve had Server restarts. Lag spikes. And just now I checked my iPad apps and the Blizzard armory app wanted to be updated. I did – and it starts talking about the guild chat feature that’s just been added. Rumored for a while, now it exists. It doesn’t work yet, at least not for my server ( the message said not enabled for my server) but it’s there.

I’d say there’s a greater than 90% chance that patch 4.1 drops tomorrow. If so…. Get ready for the usual patch day annoyances and then meet me in ZG. I’ve got trolls to kill.

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So yesterday I spent most of the afternoon running around on my shaman in the Badlands, leveling her, while waiting for the refrigerator to get delivered. Reversion was raiding that evening – the Sunday/Monday night people have the worst luck with tanks and he keeps getting pulled in there – and while I was tempted to play with my DK (more on her later this week), after dinner I looked at guild XP and realized we were at 75%. Of Level 24. The raid would get 5-6 bosses down, no question…. but that wouldn’t get us to 25 that night.

Well, ok, my holy pally needed some gearing runs. So I whispered Repgrind and asked if she was interested. She was. I started asking in guild…. then reached for my phone and called my brother to tank.

We got a full guild group, and drew Vortex Pinnacle. Usually I like how fast that place goes; this time all I could see was the number of bosses we needed to kill to reach max level. Reversion and I compared notes; the ten man raid seemed to be contributing about 2% guild xp per kill, while our 5 man was contributing 1%. That seemed about right.

I wiped us on the final boss in VP when I didn’t cleanse Log’s debuff and left him stuck out in the middle of the electrical attack. Oops. I swear I didn’t see him marked by a debuff…

We came back, killed the boss. I asked for a couple minutes and then another go. We swapped out one dps for another, but Chan stuck around for more on his paladin even though I was rolling against him on offspec gear (both of us are building tank offsets).

Karius swapped for her spriest, and this time we got Blackrock Caverns. We ventured off… cleared the first set of trash, pulled the first boss, and died after too many adds came out and didn’t get dpsed down. Our group was a lot lighter on dps this time, having essentially three undergeared dpsers and an undergeared healer. Log was really carrying most of that group. We went back, discussed, and killed the boss. We proceeded through the instance, carefully pulling trash and paying attention to boss mechanics. No problems on Corla or the forgemaster guy. I suggested very strongly that we skip Beauty, so it was straight on to the end.

Then we paused to discuss who would kite the adds. Initially we decided to let the ret pally try. We set up, pulled, and gave it a good try, but the boss didn’t die and I went OOM. Came back, Repgrind offered to try kiting in her holy spec and throw down Lightwell to help with the healing. I liked that plan, so we gave it a try, but she couldn’t hold aggro against the DK tossing around Blood Boil. We came back again, no luck. Came back the fourth time, asked everyone to be really careful not to AOE, and this time, the boss died.

And…. the guild was at 94% XP.

Time to queue one more time, even though we were tired and Log was supposed to be studying for a test. This time we got Deadmines. Rep had switched back to her mage and Chan swapped for his boomkin so we could blow through this place. Meanwhile the raid was making great time on bosses and there was another full guild group running. Yes!

Our guildmaster signed on, first time I’d seen him all weekend, and someone told him to look at guild XP. He cheered for us.

We downed the first two bosses in Deadmines and were working on the third as the raid group went to Four Winds for a quick Council kill. Then this happened.

So when we wiped, we called it, and I logged onto Analogue to join the lion buying fest.

There were half a dozen or so of us outside the guild vendor store, so we decided on a parade!

We had lots of curious bystanders looking at us, dive bombing us, trying to join the parade on their lesser mounts, etc.

We’re not the first guild to 25 on our server but there’s maybe three others. Might only be one Alliance side, we’re not sure. So these lions aren’t common yet.

After parading slowly all through SW, we went outside for pictures

(We had people trying to interfere with our screen shots, hence the bad angle)

Quite a few folk in guild were on but couldn’t join because none of their toons have the rep with the guild. Including out GM!  Ooops. And yes, 1300 for these mounts is a bit silly but they are pretty darn cool looking and for guild pride, you can’t beat lions.

We’ve been in Crits and Giggles for about 8 months now and I’m so glad we came over. It’s a blast, whether we’re raiding or just parading around SW.

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Last night Reversion joined another guild’s raid on his hunter to help them out. He’s done that a few times now with this group and they’re all nice people. Less progressed than the Crits and Giggles raids are, but working hard. Last night they were having trouble getting people, or getting the right balance, and I listened in on vent.

 

They decided to have one of their two shaman healers (they were running two shammies and a disc priest) switch to her druid, which she did good naturedly although expressing that she likes her shammie a lot more. After they downed Magmaw with that setup she stuck with the druid and they went to  work on Omnitron.

I guess they had a little trouble with him; they spent a while analyzing what was going wrong and the druid said something about how “she was sure she’d done way too much overhealing”. I got Reversion to check his meters. She was at 27% overheals.

Druids of the world, that is not too much overhealing!  I went back to a kill we did on Omnitron last month (I haven’t been raiding much so I don’t have anything more recent than that) and looked at our numbers.

 

31.8% overhealing and as a raid, we do darn good at stay out of bad stuff, our tanks aren’t squishy, they use their cooldowns. In a group struggling to get this boss on farm I’d expect to see more overhealing, honestly.

Broken down further, the actual numbers for our healers looked like

 

 

(I cheated. This fight is always really good for my numbers. It’s the same fight this other raid was talking about, after all!)

Might be hard to read, but I’ve got 28% overheals, the paladin has 27%, and the Holy priest as 24%. As a rule of thumb I’ve noticed druids and paladins top the overhealing meters this expansion. If you’re one of those two classes, don’t panic. When I was starting I was getting closer to 37% overhealing. As the raid gets better and you learn the fights, the overhealing drops.

(Note for numbers people: the reason our cumulative overhealing is a lot higher than our individual percentages is that we have a bear tank. Reversion’s mastery procs healing, and it usually inflates overhealing numbers a lot)

So why was the druid healer I eavesdropped on worried? Because she wasn’t really a druid healer; she was a shaman healer in a druid body. Shaman right now look at meters and see overhealing as bad. I won’t go into all the details there because I’m not a shaman expert at all. It’s important to remember when switching classes but not roles that more than just spell names change.

I’m guilty of that. When I paladin heal, I notice I’m better at triage healing than a lot of pure paladin healers; I can get a party up from low without losing people, and I’ve heard other paladins complain about that. But I’m terrible at using cooldowns. Druids have…. er….. Tranquility. And Natures’ Swiftness which I think I ditched the last time I redid my spec, it’s really useless. Paladins have Hands of Various Things, Divine Favor, Divine Other Thing, Shiny Big Angel Thing, Avenging Wrath….If I want to be half as good on my paladin as I am on my druid, I need to get better at using those. They’ve got a great toolset and I’m not working it right.

But anyway; if you switch to a druid and see overhealing, don’t panic.  This is Working As Intended.

 

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Time 4 upgrade

20110413-050658.jpg

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I’m back! I realize I didn’t actually mention that I was going on a two week business trip and our blogging would be a bit scarce, but it’s true. I logged onto WoW a few times while I was gone but my setup was terrible, the internet was weak, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I missed three full weekends of raiding!

Got back late Saturday night, Sunday I logged in and decided to finish leveling my paladin, Divergent. I couldn’t remember how far I had to go – so I was pleasantly surprised to see she had two bars to fill. Six quests later, she was 85.

I flew back to Stormwind, dropped my ret spec, and respecced both my Holy and my Prot specs since I probably screwed up some of my Holy talents on the way up. Then I went through my gear… Divergent’s tank gear  is nonexistent, she doesn’t even have a shield and weapon. Well, she does; for her Holy set. Not exactly optimal. But her Holy set isn’t bad. Most of it was 333, a few weak slots here and there but not too bad. I only had to wear two pvp pieces to meet the minimum level requirement for heroics. And I thought briefly about running normals but – I was pretty sure with Reversion tanking for me I could manage. He decided to pull out his gnome warrior. Now the warrior is not as well geared as his two bear tanks but she’s respectably outfitted for heroics. And she’s a blacksmith who can make me gear with Chaos orbs. I thought about all the lovely plate in SFK and decided we’d queue for that. I asked in guild if anyone wanted to come and one guildie did, if we didn’t mind him rolling on plate. I warned him I would be rolling against him on tank gear and he was fine with that. So I was happy with how we’d stacked the deck.

Our random people were a mage and a hunter. Great, I love mage cookies. We started and had some roughness as I remembered how to heal on a paladin. Got to the first boss and I honestly wasn’t prepared for how fast the dps were killing him and didn’t have people really healed at the point where he goes Dark Archangel. Which resulted in, I think 2 of the 3 dps dying. But we downed him, I rezzed, and we went on.

Next boss, we get there, we’re killing trash, and we aggro him and wipe. Oops. Run back, do it right, he dies. Up the stairs to Commander Springvale who we haven’t killed since they changed it so you can’t kite him away from his adds. We decide to give it a try, and he dies. Again I lose some of the dps. I really am a little weak as far as gear goes. If I weren’t really good at healing this would be impossible.  And my mana pool is terribly small. If I’m not in melee range smacking the boss for regen, I run out fasst. Fortunately the awesome dps levels are making all the fights quite short.

I was still occasionally letting a dps, or myself, die, which was annoying but seemed reasonable. The hunter kept pulling aggro; he was doing about 12k and Reversion’s warrior was doing 5.5k and the hunter wasn’t using Misdirect or Feign Death. So my heart wept, really it did, when he died occasionally.

We get to the end boss and wipe. I just wasn’t able to get Reversion healed up fast enough. We go again, and our dk died really fast and we don’t have the dps to kill him before I’m out of mana. One more time, and this time I pop my cool downs one after another. A druid healer who plays another class of healer usually has great reflexes, good triage skills, and weak cooldown usage. Druids just don’t have cooldowns like priests and pallies do. I don’t even know which ones to use together, which to use separately… I’ll have to do some real research.

But at last, the boss dies, the instance is done, and I’m ready to check out. We’re saying the usual “thanks for the run” politeness, and then this:

 

 

This guy has said…. nothing, the whole run. Now when we’re safely done and can’t kick him, he feels like he should open up and tell us what for.

Two months back an SFK run with only three wipes would have been a great run. Now apparently it’s a “you suck”. No allowance for poor gear – I had mentioned my mana pool being small and why, earlier in the run, so yes, he knew I was under geared.

He made me laugh! I thought it was great. He clearly knows nothing at all about tanking and healing if he could say that. And he couldn’t even play his own class right; his dps might have been good but he didn’t, as I said before, use Misdirect; when we were doing the boss with the adds, he trapped the first one and then ignored traps like they were a plague; and at least once he had to rez his pet mid fight because he’d forgotten until then.

Ah yes. Welcome back to WoW, Analogue. Hope you missed it!

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How To CC DESPITE the tank

So you have a tank that is trying the ‘gogogo’ thing or just plain has not asked for CC. There are more than a few ways you can use CC despite him, or try to. Here are a few. There are probably plenty of others. These tips are also useful of you have a tank that wants to CC but the DPS keeps breaking it.

Distracting Shot + Frost Trap

Distracting shot is a 6 second forced attack that hunters can use. If you tag a CC’able melee target with it and then drop a trap at your feet, you can pull that target off the tank and trap it.

Banish

Banish is a ‘lock ability that puts an elemental or demon target in a state where they can’t do anything and they can’t be hit. This is great because you can Banish targets that are in the melee and it will not break accidentally.

Deathgrip plus a friend

Deathgrip pulls a target right out of the melee pack. Then you can have a friend trap, repent, sheep, etc. Be careful though, if the target has a DOT on it then it will not stay CC’ed. And Deathgrip is also a taunt – so if the cc doesn’t go off, you will have a very angry mob up close and personal.

Mind Control

With Mind Control a priest can take over a target and use its abilities. The controlled target becomes an ‘ally’ for a short time so the CC will not be broken since the target can’t be hit.

Knockback plus something else

You can use Typhoon or Thunderstorm to knock targets way from the tank and then CC them. This is risky and disruptive but it can work.

Hex

Hex is very durable. It resists a lot of damage. It can take a few aoe hits and not break. So you could keep something, even in the melee, CCed for at least a short time.

Almost anything during ranged pulls

Many forms of CC work when the tank is pulling the group back with a ranged move. Traps, Hex, Sheep, Repent… just about everything except sap. And even sap works if you get in there fast before the pull starts and hit a target the tank is unlikely to hit with the ranged move. This is effective against DKs tanks that tend to use deathgrip for pulling (some do, but not all).

Hit one in the back while the tank is moving in

As the tank moves in for the pull, the targets aggro and move to meet him. The fight usually takes place about 2 steps in FRONT of where the first target of the pack is standing at the start of the pull. If you preselect a target that is far from where the tank will meet the first opponent, there is a very high chance you can CC it out of range of melee aoe. You can do this even as the pull is happening if you are fast. This can work with a ‘charge’ tank like a bear or warrior, and is very effective with a Pally tank. You may have to do it after a shield throw if you’re worried about the shield breaking your CC.

Hit the caster

If you have run the instance a few times you should know which targets are casters and will not move toward the tank. Many tanks that are not experienced enough to ask for CC also tend to leave a hanging caster out shooting at the party. If you know which those targets are likely to be you can CC them before they get a cast off. This is very effective with a bear tank because they lack a real ranged silence. You tank will be very thankful even if they did not mark targets properly.

Party Chat

Just offer to do it. Some tanks don’t ask for CC, not because they dislike it but just because they are being lazy or forgetful or they don’t like being demanding. Or they may be so new they don’t know what classes can do what kind of CC against which types of targets. If you offer to use CC they will often be glad to let you do it. You might have to pick and announce which targets you are CCing if the tank doesn’t. Many tanks, if you announce what you are going to CC, are happy to let you do it and try to avoid breaking it.

Keep trying

It takes time for tanks to get really good at dealing with CC pulls and just CC in general. It takes time for them to learn not to break it. It takes many tries for them to get the hang of the proper sequence of a CC pull. Keep trying. Help your tank learn. If they break it, don’t cuss them out. Remind them what target you are CCing and tell them how they can avoid breaking it. Tanks did not have to learn this stuff in the last expansion. Don’t be shocked if your tank has no idea how to work with your kind of CC. Offer to use it and help them learn how to work with it.

Or they might just be so gung-ho that they or lazy they don’t want to CC. If you keep trying they may give in and let you do it. It helps the healer and often keeps you all alive so don’t be afraid to push the issue with a reluctant tank.

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