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Archive for the ‘Playstyle’ Category

Big Bear Butt just posted an outstandingly good post on what the real meaning of being in a party is. It is important for all of us to have the attitude of ‘what can I do to make this party succeed’. The points BBB laid out are very solid and cover each of the three rolls in general. I will look at hunters specifically.

Why? Because I like hunters. I do a lot of druiding these days but I still feel like my hunter is my main. Plus hunters have a lot of tools for helping the party succeed.

Do Good DPS

Of course everyone knows that roll of a good DPSer is to DPS well. Right. But how? Hunters have three very different specs each of them use different abilities as part of their regular rotation. Just because on spec uses a skill a lot does not mean you have any business using it in another. The thing is that hunters are very easy to suck at. By that I mean you can get by and even do somewhat ok while not being any good at all as a hunter. Part of this is because they can do some ‘ok’ damage with just autoshot and a pet. And because their pet keeps them alive a hunter might not be challenged to kill things with any speed. Some classes find it harder to get to 80 while being completely bad at their class. Hunters can do that.

So don’t do that. Take the time to find out what rotation works well and use it. Being ‘good enough’ is not good enough. Doing just find a few shots and say ‘oh but I like how I play’. Just because your damage is high enough to not get your kicked does not mean you are really doing your part to help the group. Yes you can still play Beast Mastery even if that is not the bleeding edge highest DPS. Play any spec you like. But at least take the time to play that spec WELL. Find out how you can tweak your build to get more out of it. If you are mostly doing PVE content, know what talents and glyphs are not very useful for PVE and avoid them. There are a lot of skills that are intended to be mostly useful in PVP. For example talent points that make you and your pet more durable. Those are ok solo. But know that those are almost completely a waste if you are running a lot of instances.

Turn off your pet growl

Seriously, just do it. No, removing the icon from the pet bar is not how you do that. Right click until that glowing boarder goes away.

Get a DPS pet

In instances your bear or turtle are not as effective as a cat or raptor. Look up what pets do better damage and tame one. Don’t chose your pet based on the look of it. Chose based on its damage output. You can swap back to your favorite looking one when you get back to town.

Manage your threat

Hunters played well do gobs of threat. That is why Bliz gave us such great agro management tools. You should get a threat meter and use it.

Keep Feign Death on a handy hot button and be ready to hit it.

Macro your Misdirect

No, just using it sometimes at the start of fights is not enough. Make a macro for it. It is really easy.

First type /macro in the chat window to bring up the interface.

Next click the new button.

Name the macro.

Don’t bother picking an icon, leave it as the default question mark and it will select the right one for you when you are done.

Now, in the big area on the left type this:

/cast [target=focus] misdirect

You are done. Put that on your bar somewhere handy. Now at the start of each run, select the tank, right click them and ‘set focus’. Now any time you press your MD macro it will do it on the tank. There are other ways to set up a macro for it. If you know another one, use that. You can even set one up so it will hit your pet instead if there is no tank focused. Either way, do it.

Why? Simple. Because for a long fights, where you are doing good damage, one MD is not enough. And for rapid pull runs your MD might not be off cooldown at the start of a fight. With a macro you can quickly and easily use MD during a fight without almost zero impact on your DPS.

Just Fake it

Use Feign Death. Use it a lot. Watch your threat meter and use it BEFORE you pull threat. Make sure you stay dead long enough for your threat to drop. If you just hit the button and then start shooting right off it might not have taken effect yet.

Trap Stuff

Learn how to use your traps and be ready to use them. Keep in mind that a particular tank might not like having a target trapped. If they complain, don’t argue, just change what you are doing. No the tank is not to be worshiped or anything, but you are doing this to make their life easier. Anything that helps the tank stay focused and not get thrown off stride is good. If the tank says trapping stuff is messing up his pull then don’t trap stuff. Simple.

Watch that Tab!

Tab target is a handy feature. However, when combined with autoshot it is very dangerous for hunters. Be careful! And be ready with the FD.

Control your pet

The pet is an extension of the hunter. If it goes running off after something it is your fault. No, it is not blizzard’s fault for giving you a crazy pet. There are fast and simple ways to control your pet. Use them. In addition to the button bar three are easy macros and there are also key binds. By default pressing ctrl-2 will cause your pet to return to you. If it starts to run somewhere you don’t want it to, press ctrl-2. Yes, pets can be buggy. But if you had time to reign your pet in and failed to do so then it is not blizzards poor programming that is at fault. It is your fault.

Know how defensive, passive and aggressive settings work and use them as appropriate. Don’t just leave your pet on passive. The pet is a VERY large chunk of your damage output. Leaving it on passive to make things easier for you is lazy and a huge disservice to your fellow party members. Don’t do it. If you can’t control a pet, go roll a mage. You will find if you try that controlling your pet can become second nature. But you can’t get better if you don’t try.

For most situations, putting your pat on ‘defensive’, being fast with ctrl-2, and carful with tab targeting things will solve most pet control problems.

LET THE TANK PULL

Misdirect is great. Super great. But it lets us hunters get away with doing some amazingly rude and annoying things. It lets us start fights and not instantly die. Try to avoid the temptation to do that. You can push it a little by starting shooting just as the tank engages but try not to start shooting just BEFORE the tank engages. Doing that may throw the tank’s pull off. Most of the time it is no big deal but it can be annoying to the tank and that is simply not helpful. You are making harder the hardest job in the party. Don’t do that for a few extra points of on the meter. It is just not worth it.

Cut it close? Sure! Learn the tanks rhythm and pull style and adapt your play to it. You can be right on their tail with some nice hefty damage but reign it in just enough that you ARE following their lead and not setting your own pace.

Being an Asshat or being an Asset

With MD and FD plus wearing mail (to say nothing of traps) hunters can get away a very large amount of being an asshat without actually dying. Don’t do it. Just because you lived does not mean you are not on the rest of the parties ignore list now.

Those same tools can be very effective and helping a party succeed. You can save a healer with traps. You can really boost a poorly geared tank’s threat output and keep agro on them. You can MD whole packs of adds that the tank failed to notice and get them over to the tank. You can be a tanks best friend or their worst enemy. Instead of taking pride in only your recount score and in the tears of QQ why not take pride in saving the day?

There are a lot of hunters out there but only a few really good ones. And ‘really good’ huntering is not defined by recount.

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This post is about the art of pulling and tanking more than one pack at a time. This topic is not basic tanking. Infact it should not be in a ‘Tanking 101′ topic. In fact I would rather new tanks did not even think about doing this… But… It is useful information. It is useful to know even if you don’t regularly do this. It is useful for when you start feeling your oats and wanting to pull faster and it is useful for dealing with unintended adds.

The art of the multi pull is not simple. A very good tank can make it appear easy but it is not. The things you must consider are new, different and you must consider them on TOP of the things you are concerned with in a single pull.

But first, why? Why do it? Many people will complain long and hard about ‘go go go’ tanks that are over eager and don’t know their limitations. What they are complaining about is a tank that does multi-pulls WRONG. There are a lot of ways to do it wrong. However despite the complaints it can be done right. When it is done right there are rarely complaints. And you will know the difference. When you do things right you will have DPSers in awe and healers asking you to join their guild. Seriously, I get it a lot after a pull in which I never pulled any group by itself and did bosses with adds deliberately.

When you do it wrong people will drop group without a word or after a short rant. They will drop half out part way through very unhappy. But most of all you will know you did it wrong because you will be obliterated so fast the Spirit healer will offer you a pity discount. You will wipe so many times the floors of all of Northrend will be squeaky clean, washed with your innards and polished with your mangled body as a rag. Get the picture? You groups will implode so fast you will rarely see the first boss.

Now that you know what is at stake I urge you to try this stuff with caution. Practice with healers you know and love. And buy them flowers in advance. (Analogue inserts: Hey! Where are MY flowers??) Proceed with caution.

Multi pulls versus chain pulling

The first thing to note is that there are two kinds of multi pulls. One is the chain pull. Chain pulling means going for the next group before the first group is down. The term can also mean simply pulling groups one after another very fast, but here I am using it to mean something else. Chain pulling I refer to is the art of waiting until you have plenty of aggro on one group, to the point where the DPS could basically kill them even if you DCed. At that point you go for the next group, dragging a mostly dead pack behind you.

The other version of a multi pull is a pure multiple. This is where you aggro two groups at once, or charge through one and attack the other. The difference is that both (or all) groups are at full health when they all come together in an impressive orgy of destruction. If all goes right you will be in the middle of it.

This post is about true multi pulls and not chain pulls. I might cover chain some other time. What I will say that in chain pull the limiting factor for a healer is mana conservation. In multi pull it is upfront burst healing or sustained max healing rate, depending on how fast your DPS burn things down. More on that later.

Before we get into the ‘how to’ there are some very important concepts I want to go over. These become critical to multi pulling. Understanding them is how multi pulling will make you a better tank, even if you don’t regularly DO it. – I started to put these concepts in this post but instead I decided to introduce them in a separate post. If you have not read it, go back and read that one now. I will wait… It will be more important for the second half of this on how to actually survive multi pulls.

While you are at it read all the Tanking 101 posts as well. If reading those does not make you go ‘yeah I knew that’ then you are not ready for multi pull tanking.

Disclaimer

This stuff is nasty. It can get you very very wiped and it can cause your group to drop or kick or both. If you want to get started doing it I recommend a guild group. Or starting small with just one add. Or both. No I don’t mean it is hard to tank a pat that aggros. While not easy that is not the difficulty level I am talking about. Pulling in an extra pack from nearby is not all that likely to get you booted. Mounting and riding through the next 3 packs before taking 4 on at once is likely to make your healer go ’WTF-bye’.

If you wipe after pushing it too hard I highly recommend you immediately apologize to your group and promise to throttle it back. This will go a long way to smoothing things over and give you more valuable practice. Whatever you do don’t blame anyone but yourself. If you wipe while pulling more than one group it is ALWAYS the tank’s fault. One of the tank’s jobs is to gauge how well the run is going and how good everyone is and set a workable pace. If you set a pace that is too fast it is ALWAYS your fault.

But… It IS possible to do this. It IS possible to do it well. And it IS possible to do it in such a way that your heals and DPS are elated or even in awe at the end of the run and not putting you on ignore.

Now on with the show.

How to

In this section I will talk about the mechanics of the pull but not how to survive it. Don’t read only this section and go try anything. I will cover surviving it next.

First let’s ignore your actual HP and talk about the hazards in just getting all the packs to come to you and stay on you. However hard it is for you to round up and keep aggro on normal packs, multi pulls make this vastly harder.

Effectively the ‘pull phase’ of the fight is extended to be several times longer than usual. The ‘pull’ part of the fight is from the first time any creature spots you and when you have them all rounded up and attacking you. This is the phase were it is most risky for things to pull of you. This is because you have very little threat on the targets and because some or all of the targets are outside your melee range, limiting your options for getting more threat. Once past the ‘pull’ phase all the targets are on you and you have ample opportunity to generate threat. In a standard pull it is possible to complete the ‘pull phase’ and have them all around you nice and close before the DPS really opens fire or before the healer has hit you with anything big. In a multi pull the chance of being able to do that go way way down. It is almost certain you will have to use a taunt as damage control during your pull. This means you want to save that and not use it in the opening stage, unless very early on, when you are sure to get it off cooldown by the time someone aggroes off you.

Line of sight pulls can also be very effective for multi pulls. You might line of sight one or more of the packs. It can be done by running through all packs and finding a place to hide or running through one pack, shooting a ranged attack at the next pack and then hiding between then. It can even be pulling them all back to the start by hiding around a corner there.

Risks

There are two big risks of multi pulls, one is the increased damage of having lots of things hitting you and the other is the extra chance of dropping aggro from having to manage more targets.

The main way to manage the second risk is to increase the first risk. The way is to move fast! Moving to round up extra groups group before the DPS engages is a great way to ensure they don’t have time to pull off you. Unfortunately this gets you farther from your healer and also take the healer off guard. I will talk more about that soon but keep in mind that it is a fine line to be JUST far enough ahead that the DPS does not pull off and not so far ahead that you are a fine smear on the floor before the healer knows you are gone. For this reason this sort of pull requires good cooldown use. I will go into this more in the second half, surviving the multi pull.

Because of these risks the pace of your pulls becomes absolutely critical. The same pull done with different timing, or rhythm can succeed or fail badly.

Planning

The first step in any pull is setting up and planning the pull. There are many places in the game where you simply can’t do a multi pull. It is too hard. The groups are too far apart. There is some sort of barrier or portal. There are lots of reasons some pulls just don’t work. Or they are just very hard to do. These are the ones you are likely to wipe on so be ready to “/p sry, my bad” on the way back to the instance.

So which are do-able? First of all not everything do-able is possible. I will get back to that later. Packs near each other are easy to round up. Packs with a nearby patrol you can get at the same time are also easy for multi pulls. With timing you can grab both with no additional effort. Tightly packed groups often require ranged pulls or LOS pulls to separate when you are doing normal tanking. These places can be turned into a multi pull simply by charging in.

There are three questions to ask.

1: Can I round all these guys up?

- The question is can you move between the groups and aggro them reasonably fast

2: Can I keep all these guys on me?

- This is asking if you can finish the pull without any DPS pulling off you and also if you can maintain agro with the multiple groups.

3: Does this pull actually speed things up?

- Just hitting two packs at once is not always speeding things up. If the other one was an optional pack then it isn’t. If the fight with all the packs is long and nasty it was may have been faster to do them separately. Also if it took longer to round them all up and get the fight started than it takes to just kill the first group you are wasting time.

Starting

If you have two packs near each other the start can be simple. You simply move in on one while throwing a ranged move at the other. Very straight forward usually. Try to use the ranged move on the group that is farther away. Also try to set up the pull so your camera can see all packs at once. This can mean going around one group until you can see the other group past them and then moving in. Alternately as you move in on the first group you can be rotating your camera to follow a group off to one side. It helps to be facing the second group as they come at you.

Here the tank is flanking one and then attacking though it.

Here the tank moves right into one and then rotates and ranged aggros the other.

Running between the two groups and aggroing both from there also works well, but requires more camera movement after the pull starts. It is still a good way to do it because both groups have a short distance to go to get inside your melee and AOE ranges.

A good example of this type of pull is the second pack of UK. You have 7-9 guys all around two anvils on either side of the hall. Careful pulls can make this into 3 or more pulls, some with only one dude getting pulled. A multi pull can pull all of them at once from between the anvils or just in front of that point. Stopping slightly short of directly between them puts the packs closer to your camera view area and you don’t have to pan as far to see them all.

There are two ways to do it. You can move to one and ranged aggro the other…

or you can ranged aggro both.

Of course if they are close enough you can do the whole pull with just your mere presence and save the ranged attack for any stragglers.

Run Through

The pull is all about getting all targets into your melee. The longer it takes to do that the more risk there is of DPS or heals pulling them off you. This is why the second method of multi pulls is harder. This method is to run THOUGH or past a pack and continue on to the next pack.

The risk here is that you are leaving your DPS and heals close to the pack while you run farther on. Hopefully the DPS knows to keep following you until you stop before engaging. If they don’t you might tell them to do it at that the start of the run. If they are smart or experienced with ‘gogogo’ tankers then they might clue in on this on their own.

An example of the ‘run through’ pull would be all the ‘guy with a wolf’ packs that patrol up and down the stairs in UK and UP. You can run through one of those and then up to the top of a flight and pull the pack of 4 up there. The group you are running through is fairly weak so adding it to the group at the top of the stairs is a fairly straight forward multi pull if the patrol is near the top of the steps. If the patrol is on the landing or farther down then it is a long way to drag them up to the next group. If the patrol is near but bottom they can be done multi-style with the group at the bottom of the steps. This is using the technique of moving to first group (bottom of steps pack) and use a ranged attack on the second group (patrolling guy with wolf).

Another example of a run through pull would be doing the first two groups of DTK together. You run through the first two guys and then attack the next group (This is risky because the first two guys in the first group don’t spawn at the same time).

There are a lot of reasons why run through pulls can be nasty and painful. First of all you can get hit by the first pack. Also your DPS and heals will see a normal pull and have no clue what you are doing until you are well past the group. This makes it VERY easy for them to pull off you simply by starting the fight before you want them to. You could take the time to explain what you are doing to them… but by the time you are sure they understand you have blown all speed advantage from the multi pull. It can easily take longer to get the concepts across to everyone than it would take to kill both groups the old fashion way. So what to do?

There are actually several ways to do a run though and some of them help with the problem of getting too far ahead. One is to move just far enough past the group to aggro the next one and then turn back and round up any aggro you have dropped. This is a good way but only works on groups that are fairly close together. That is basically the choice you have with a run through pull. Do you run to the next group and fight where they are or do you bring them to meet the first group and fight there.

Here is a tank stopping short, using a ranged move and then turning back to the first group.

They say no plan survives contact with the enemy. It is almost certain the DPS and heals aggroing something will force you to shift and move. But, you have to start with a plan! Even a vague one is better than nothing. Just charging in is a great way to get killed. It can be as simple as “I am going to run into this pack, fire one thunderclap as I go by and then charge that group over there.” That is enough of a plan. At least provided you are wise enough to remember that the next step will be to AOE the second group and then look back to see if the first group is coming to you. That is the opening of a Multi pull, but the ‘pull phase’ is not really over until that second group gets to you and you have them all in melee.

Tank Differences

Different tank classes and different play styles will have a big effect on how you do a multi pull. Pallys and DK are likely to want to pull the second group to them. Bears and warriors may want to charge back and forth between groups. I will not go into all the stuff each class can do because if you are even considering tanking this way you had better already be an expert in all your class can do.

I will noted that each tanking class can handle different levels of AOE threat and has different taunt options. For example number of critters a bear can round up and multi tank will not be equal to a warrior. And of course gear makes a huge difference.

Dealing with the fallout

People WILL pull off you when multi pulling. But if you are not already fast and clean with your taunts you should not be trying this anyway. So you should be able to round things back up. When you have run through a group to get to a second group and then you lose aggro on some of the first group it works just like adds. From a tactical standpoint you are in almost the same situation as if a patrol had hit your ranged/healer squad while you were pulling something. The big difference is that you KNOW it is going to happen and can be ready for it. As with an adds situation it is un forgiving so you have to be fast and taunt cleanly on the target you mean to taunt. Also you have to practice good Tanking Triage.

Tanking Triage

Tanking Triage is the art of taunting what you can and being ready to give up on what you can’t get threat on so you can focus on what you can. Lets say you run through a pack and pick up another. You get aggro on the second group and then see two of the first group are headed to your DPS/heals. Just now your mage opens with a blizzard on your head. You don’t want to leave the pack you are fighting because if you do the mage is SURE to aggro them all. So now you have to make a split second decision. Assuming you are not a pally with a three target taunt you can only taunt one of the dropped ones. So you hit the one you think is going for the healer and stay where you are, spamming AOEs and spreading threat around you. Maybe someone else will pick up the other one and maybe the healer will have to heal though one hitting him. Either way 8 seconds of the healer getting hit is usually better than you dropping aggro on the other 4-7 critters. Waiting that 8 seconds for your taunt MIGHT wipe you, but dropping aggro on 7 critters while you run after that one is much more likely to kill you. When you can’t get aggro on everything your goal is to get the most aggro on the most things for the longest possible time. With multi pull tanking every global cooldown is precious so don’t waste any.

Extra Disclaimer/Warning

Everything is your fault. No really. If you are pulling more than one pack deliberately there is NOTHING anyone can do that will make a wipe that is not YOUR fault. Why? Because you had the choice to do things the easy and safe way and chose not to. You can’t jump into the street and blame the blind old lady in the Cadillac for not swerving around you. And you can’t throw an knife at someone and blame them if they are not a good enough ninja to catch it.

But the good news is that if your skills and gear are good enough you can multiple almost any pull in any dungeon regardless of your group.

But don’t try this yet! Stay tuned for the ‘How to Survive Multi Pulls’ post. Coming Soon. In the mean time I will take no responsibility for any wipes you may experience.

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Instances are a dance. They are a dance of destruction and death and hopefully a dance of life and success.

The tank leads. Leading is not about going at your own pace, it is about setting a pace your partners can keep up with. You don’t set the pace too slow or your partners get bored and either leaves or tries to lead. If your partners are more accomplished dancers you may have to push yourself hard to keep up with them while still leading. The tank may even have to lean on them a bit or ask one of them to lead for short periods of time.

Leading in a dance does not mean you are in control. It means you make the first move and you signal as much as you can to your partner so she can keep up. Ignoring your partner almost totally only works when you know they for certain can keep up. When you do know they know the tune and the steps then you can cut loose. But if not, you will quickly find yourself dancing alone. A good tank is a good dance partner no matter who his partner is. Fast, slow, waltzing or break dancing a good tank knows them all. Leading also means finding out how NOT to step on the toes of your partner. It also means being polite when your partner steps on yours… but not too polite unless you like sore toes.

The DPS and heals all follow. Following means reading your partner’s moves and matching, echoing or merely complimenting them. It also means pusing yourself when they are challenging you to keep up. If the lead partner is good they will set a pace you can handle even if it is a whirlwind. You might surprise yourself as you stretch to keep up. You might get burned if they prove to be a poor lead, but you will never know unless you step out and allow them to toss you in the air every now and then. It might be a frightening at first but better to embrace the challenge than to refuse to be led.

This analogy shows how BOTH sides have to adapt. You might have to read their intentions and follow. The lead has to communicate those intentions and be sure all partners can keep up.

The dance is never more smooth than when you partner with someone that really knows you and your style. My best partner is my wife. I have run with some great healers that were able to keep up, but when it comes to knowing my rhythm she is best. It certainly helps that she has crazy uber healing gear. However, even uber gear will not keep me alive when I pop cat form and dash two groups ahead and start AOEing the crud out of 4 packs at once.

In some ways though, a very good and very familiar partner will make us complacent. We stop trying to read every move and just fall on familiar patterns. An unfamiliar partner forces us to read and learn as we go.

Most of all we cannot refuse to dance. If our partner for a swing-dance drops and starts spinning around on their head we must be at lead willing to shrug and follow along as best we can. If you refuse to dance to all except one sort of music you will find yourself unhappy and short of partners. But when it comes to pugs don’t assume you will know the tune, the song, or even get a flat dance floor.

I wanted to toss this post out there as background before I get to my upcoming post about multi pulls and go-go-go tanking. It is important for a tank to keep in mind that even as he/she is setting a whirlwind pace their partners are still there and still being considered. How you consider them might be different but even the best geared tank can-not do things alone. (well maybe technically they can but that is a different topic)

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I feel a little epic these days now that I have enough current raid experience to actually have informed opinions on them. I’m not elite or hardcore but I’m making personal progress in ICC whenever we can get in there and I fully intend to take down Arthas. Never been in this position in a raid cycle before. I’ve even got a couple pieces that are BiS!

Anyway I’ve been thinking about this post for a while now but the Cataclysm raid change announcements made it timely.  Personally? I think I like it a lot. I’m going to have to strategize going into Cataclysm to make sure I’m positioned to actually see content as it comes out, but I think between the 10 and 25 man raids dropping the same gear, and the tweak to the gear buying system with points instead of badges, I’ll be able to stay geared enough without having to commit to a hardcore raid.

I hear some doom and gloom from 25 man raider and joy from 10 man raiders, and while I’m not 100% sure things will work out the way the consensus seems to be, put me on the happy 10 man side. I love 10 mans. When it comes to raids, I’m a healer. DPSing raids just doesn’t seem that fun to me. Give me Vuhdo and a bunch of health bars and I’m happy. But as a resto druid, I find 10 mans way more fun than 25 at least right now. In 25 mans it’s – “Analogue, you Rejuv groups 4 and 5, Othertree do 2 and 3″. And that’s it. That’s my job. If I cast anything else except maybe a Swiftmend or WG, I get yelled at. Don’t brez without orders, don’t innervate anyone else without orders, don’t look too closely at the tanks’ health bars because you can’t do anything about it…

But in  10 mans, the other healer(s) and I work together as a real team. I have to know what the heals on the tanks are going to look like so I know when to intervene. I need to watch my partner’s mana just in case he needs my Innervate more than I do. We cover each other’s back – in a lot of ways it’s like the synthesis between healer and tank in a 5 man.  In 10 mans I have to actually think beyond just “don’t stand in the fire, run to that side, avoid the deep breaths”. No I need to know things like “The second mark will be going out any second, I’m going to have to cover that one so the pally can keep up the tank and the first mark, so save the Swiftmend cd for him, oh, and that guy has Boiling Blood so make sure there’s no one around him who needs heals.” And that’s one of the more straightforward healing fights as far as I’m concerned.

So yeah, I’m excited, providing I can get into a fairly regular ten man in Catacylsm. Reversion and I are thinking about that sort of thing now – we’re hoping to establish a regular pseudo-pug for ICC right now. Our pug this weekend was really awesome and several of the members expressed interest in running again. We’d like to build up a raid from outside our guild, since we’re in the position of non-raiding members of a raiding guild that we don’t want to leave.

The 25 mans feel really epic and fun. But the 10 mans feel like I can do a lot more to actually affect the outcome of the raid. And I like that. The idea of having access to the best gear in the raid style I prefer? Pure win.

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As a healer, your game ui can be your greatest assistant or your worse enemy. Yes, even worse than that dk who seems to think fire gives him an attack bonus. Probably it ups his spellpower. As I’ve mentioned before it’s important not to get tunnel vision when you’re healing, and your ui can help  – or hurt – with that.

Analogue's UI at 65

Here’s a screenshot from when I was 65. A lot has changed since then (my name used to be Metaphor. When we server changed I was forced to change to Analogue). You can see that a lot of  what I’ve got here is straight out of the box WoW. I’ve got the extra bars turn on and a couple addons in place.

I actually did not use raid frames until after I was 80 – here’s the story. I was having fun at 80 healing 5 mans, even went into Naxx 10s sometimes. Did this for months. Then 3.2 dropped – Argent Tournament patch – and a member of my then-guild was complaining that he couldn’t heal any more because the patch had broken his raid frames.

My first reaction was “Hah, see, I knew there was a reason I didn’t use those. He can’t heal any more without crutches”. My second reaction was – “Wait a minute, if they do that much, what am I missing?” So I took a whole day and played with raid frames. I’m the sort to research things thoroughly, so I learned that everyone seemed to use Grid or Healbot, both of which I’d heard of. I tried Grid first. My main reaction was “how many addons do I have to download here?” It was about a dozen, I think. I tweaked for two hours and couldn’t get something I liked, so I tried Healbot. I pretty much hated Healbot right off – if Grid had too many options, Healbot didn’t have enough – so then I tried the addon with a weird name some people on plusheal.com were swearing by, Vuhdo, and like Goldilock’s taste of the little bear’s porridge, I thought it was ‘just right’.

This was the result. Vuhdo wasn’t the only ui tweak; I’d made a lot of changes, specifically and most importantly to use Vuhdo to show my healing targets. I had a really bad tendency to shove things to the edge of the screen – I knew I wanted lots of room to see stuff around me but this layout makes almost no sense to me any more. I had to remember where all my things were, there was no real logical layout. I have no idea why I had buffs and debuffs halfway down the screen like that

Now here’s my current UI, first in combat and then out. I personally think it’s a lot better than the previous ones. I’ve got my action bars grouped at the bottom, except one tiny sliver along the side. (The side bar has buffs and a downranked version of Rejuv that I use on stupid people occasionally, idiot hunters and such who pull aggro, won’t drop it, and whine about not getting heals). The bar with my profession skills disappears in combat, leaving me a solid view of the SexyCooldown bar (the big blue bar at the bottom). I’ve got my Vuhdo frames anchored just right of my character and my own and target frame just below me. This helps me keep an eye on what’s happening to me and around me as well as just the bars.

I’ve set Recount and Omen to use the same spot on my screen. Recount shows out of combat, Omen shows in combat. It’s a nice trick to save space. Along the bottom I have ChocolateBar with various plugins that I don’t really need much – gold totals, clock, mail icon. Bartender manages my button bars – I have one bar in the middle and on either side, another bar that I’ve arranged in 3×4 format. Personal preference there, nothing fascinating.

If you look at the in combat shot you’ll see I have buffs and debuffs on my target’s unit frame but not my own. They’re redundant since I have Elkano’s Buff Bars in the corner (I like the nice verbose version of my buffs; I play enough characters that it gets annoying to remember what symbol means what for who.)

As a druid, if I’m in a raid I’m supposed to be raid healing and that means being able to tell at a glance who has what HOTs and for how much longer. I’ve tweaked Vuhdo to show me exactly that. Each HOT has its assigned place on a health bar, and displays how many seconds it has left. Here’s a bigger version of a Vuhdo square so you can see it. Vuhdo has options to show other people’s hots too and I have it set to show me if another druid has something on a target that I can Swiftmend – the red dot icon in the corner of the unit frame says “Regrowth or Rejuv active on this target and Swiftmend is off cooldown”. The Lifebloom stack is really cool – when I have one stack up, it shows a red number of seconds remaining, when I have two stacks it’s yellow and when I have three stacks, it’s green.

You may have noticed in my “in combat” shot that some of the Vuhdo bars showed little red >> << marks. That means someone has aggro from somewhere (sometimes it’s laggy but it’s pretty solid) and also a third small bar along the top of each player’s health bar showing a visual representation of how much aggro they’ve got. This, Omen, and TidyPlates are all tools I use to try to keep track of who is likely to take damage soon.If I can see that the mage has threat and is getting more all the time, I can maybe save him.

Finally here’s a screen shot of what Vuhdo looks like in this setup in a 25 man raid. This is the “test” mode – those aren’t real people in a raid, I’m sitting in Ironforge by my lonesome.

I recommend you see what raid frames work best for you; Grid and Healbot are both popular for reasons. Here are a few links for setting up Vuhdo from people who do it better than I would:

Setting up Vuhdo

Lath’s setup

And Rolling Hots

Vuhdo manual – And this forum has the creator of Vuhdo, Iza, as a very active participant! He’ll answer your questions if you can’t find them elsewhere. Look for the Vuhdo subforum off of the Mods & UI forum there.

My takeaway for you would be, don’t settle for “ok” in your interface. Find what works for you. Keep tweaking until it shines. Try new things, get rid of what doesn’t work. Some people put their raid frames below their character, or to the left, or along the top. Figure out what helps you keep yourself and everyone else alive the most. Some people hide most of their abilities, others need everything on screen at once. Look at other peoples’ ui screenshots – that PlusHeal forum I mentioned before has a long, long thread for just that – and copy the elements you like, ignore the ones you hate. There’s no one perfect setup for healing in WoW.

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Hitting the wall

Hitting the wall is when you run into something that you just can’t get past. It can be suddenly and in your face or it can be a dawning realization. With all the demands of tanking it might hit you several different ways. The cause of it be different. Heck you might never hit one. With the arrival of ICC the gear levels are so high any new tank between now and Cata might not even hit one. Or they might hit one while leveling.

Let me tell you about my wall. I started tanking somewhere during the leveling of my first druid (Reversion).

Actually that is not true, I tanked as a warrior a couple years ago.

Actually that is not true either. I started tanking with my pet starting at level 10 on my first hunter not long after WOW’s launch. A hunter pet is not a real tank of course but you get a lot of the ideas from it. You have abilities as a hunter+pet to generate threat, dump threat, and move threat around. You get many of the concepts of tanking as you play one. Having leveled several alts a little, and two a lot, I found my first warrior tank both familiar and eye opening. There were many things different about being a main party tank instead of just the pet tank controller for a leveling pair or trio. I mentally apologized to every tank I had ever had prior to that point for all the sins I had committed against them.

But that is another story. The point is that the concept of tanking was familiar to me and I picked it up fairly fast. I did a few dozen levels of tanking on my warrior. Then the warrior spent time in storage and eventually I leveled a bear tank. Going from warrior to bear was very intuitive and I was soon feeling very comfortable with the role of tank. I did my homework and got the talents and gear I needed. I was doing pretty good as a max level heroic tank. Then TOC came out. Remember back when most pug players only were wearing 200 purples? Times were very different. I was pulling around 860 dps as a bear tank which I thought (at the time) was not bad. Most dps were only doing 1200-2k back then and for most fights it got the job done.

On one Friday night I ran a TOC heroic pug and was completely unable to keep aggro on the three heroes fight. I am pretty sure it was the hunter mage and druid but I am not 100% sure. After a few wipes the group lost a few and then some Uldar geared tank came and finished the run. I was annoyed but did not think too much of it. I probably blamed the DPS for not following kill order. Anyway, the next morning I got up and while Analogue and the baby were sleeping in I tried another run of it. BAM! I was at the wall. The same thing happened again and I realized suddenly that this WAS a wall.

I knew at that moment that my gear, spec, rotation and skills just simply were not up to generating the threat I needed. It was a WOW epiphany I will never forget. What made it so critical was how I dealt with it. I went out and read stuff. And then read more stuff and then studied some more. From all these I made three very small, very subtle and extremely critical changes.

1: Maul. I had been using Maul. I used it a fair bit…. But I did NOT use it on EVERY melee swing. You see Maul is one of those things you trigger and then it goes off on the next regularly scheduled melee swing (like Heroic Strike). It does not blow the global cooldown. So unless you are hurting for rage you should be using it on EVERY swing. So the subtle change I did here was to move it from the 7 or 9 button (I forget which) on my hot bar and put it on 4. What this did was to put it right under my usual hand position and with my other spam able buttons.

2: I discovered the ‘glyph of maul’ that had somehow previously escaped my notice. This maul made my maul hit two targets instead of one!

Now these two changes ALONE boosted my DPS by around 50% and those I was putting out much more threat. What is more I was spreading that threat around better. My biggest damage dealing attack was hitting two. This meant that in a fight at least two of the enemies were glued to me pretty solidly.

3: The third change I made was even more subtle. I read some more about what ‘growl’ did. I had read the tip text before so I KNEW that it did nothing to targets that were already attacking you. I knew it, I mean it is right there in the tip so how could I miss it? But somehow it did not really sink in deep. You see, the hunter pet ability ‘growl’ does not work that way. It is something that just applies a set amount of threat to the target. So it makes sense for the pet to keep spamming growl on whatever it is fighting. What I read after I hit the wall was the math behind druid growl. The math is this. Whatever target is at the top of the threat list, you get that much aggro +1. For some reason reading the actual numbers like that had far more impact on me. The tool tip more or less says the same thing but not as clearly.

So what did this realization do? Not much. I was already using growl properly to taunt things back when someone else pulled them off. What I was not doing was saving growl for ONLY that. After I read that I made extra certain to never use growl except when it was actually needed. Well, really I do bump it a lot… and sometimes I fire it off before I get the right target selected. But basically I save it for what it is really meant for, for those times when someone pulls off you. What this meant for me was that the cooldown on growl was almost always ready when I needed it. It was a very subtle change to how I used it. And I had already been using it mostly right. But that extra assurance of having growl every time I needed it was huge!

So that was it; one hard and solid wall that I hit head on and three fairly small and subtle tweaks. The result was that I obliterated TOC the next time I ran it. That wall was totally blown away.

My conclusion is this: there are a lot of things to do with tanking. Doing any of them weakly might someday run you hard against a wall you just can’t beat. The trick is to recognize it for what it is and go seek out the information you need to overcome it.

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My last post on personal situational awareness promised a follow on. Last time I was talking about you being aware of things that affected you in your role as healer; your spec and gear, your buffs and debuffs, the big purple ooze at your feet. This time we’ll broaden the outlook and pay attention to the things around you.

First off, as a healer, you care about damage that you and the party may take. Anything that will not cause damage or prevent damage from being repaired is inconsequential. In dungeons and raids that means you can ignore… um… the vanity pets that people have out. Usually. Pretty much everything else out there is a potential damage cause or complication. Let me define what I mean by those really quickly:

A damage cause is something that results in a player losing hit points. This includes mobs, cliffs you can fall from, exploding mushrooms, and puddles of goo on the floor.

A damage complication is anything that makes the task of repair or preventing damage more difficult. This would include pillars that block line of sight, curses that reduce healing effectiveness, and things that your party members do to themselves and their pets (for instance when a warlock’s imp is phase shifted and you can’t drop a heal on it).

These two factors work together to make your life interesting. Proper situational awareness will help you know what combination of these factors is in play at any time.

Most of the time in instances, the causes of damage are fairly predictable. Certainly by the time you’ve run Drak’Tharon Keep a hundred times you’ll know which groups you can be afk for and which you actually have to heal, when there’s going to be aoe damage and when you can just let your hots tick. Being aware of the causes of damage lets you heal proactively rather than just reactively, by throwing out hots or shields or timing a big heal to land just when the damage has hit.

Damage complications usually need to be handled as they appear. Again after a few dozen times through an encounter you’ll know that the orb stands on the platforms in OK can block LOS if the tank runs around behind them, or that such-and-such mobs cast silence, and plan for that, but in general it’s the complications that make our job hard because let’s face it, the biggest source of damage complications come from our fellow party members and not the encounter. When the hunter disengages right back into a patrol, or the shaman’s totem shoots a passing sentry, or the tank doesn’t do anything about the mobs that the mage has kindly frozen next to you, that’s when your life gets interesting. Proper situational awareness can help you before this sort of thing happens.

Try to note where your party members are at all times. That way when someone aggros another group, you can be prepared to heal, or be over next to the tank, or even run away and shadowmeld and let them all die, depending on what you feel like doing. This is really hard when you’re focused on health bars and nothing else. You’ve got to ditch healer tunnel vision and broaden your scope to see everything.

Pay attention to debuffs on the others in your party. I’m bad at this; Vuhdo tells me about poisons and curses, since I can do something about it, and special boss debuffs, but diseases? If I’m lucky I’ll notice they’re dying too fast and heal them up. I ought to have a special icon for “something you can’t dispel but might wanna check out” that I apply to their health bars; it would help me with awareness.

Omen or another threat meter – I have Omen and also set Vuhdo to give me an overview of people’s threat. When a dps is pulling a lot of threat, I’m preemptively ready to heal. A paladin or priest healer might be able to use a threat-reducing cooldown on this errant player. Either way it could help prevent a death. On the other hand, if this person is regularly and deliberately pulling aggro, you may choose to let him take some damage and try to send him a message. That can work too. Either way, Omen is a handy healer tool.

Most of my wipes that shouldn’t have happened resulted from me getting too far behind in damage, getting aggro from mobs, or healing the wrong person at the wrong moment. Yes, other people usually did something wrong but I care about what I can do better, not anyone else. It usually comes down to where the immediate cause of wipe was a triage failure – I misdiagnosed what tools to use on what people – but the more general cause was me failing at situational awareness.

Healer tunnel vision kills! I can’t stress enough how important it is to get out of tunnel vision. Do whatever you have to do. Tweak your ui; get mods; disable mods; run a few instances as dps. Try something new and learn to get out of the tunnel.

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