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Creating alts has been like an epidemic these last few weeks. I’ve got a couple, a dwarf shaman that I fully intend to get to level cap one day and some throwaways. Based on my sales of Netherweave Bags, I’m not the only re-roller (if you see one person buy four bags at once, it’s always a new alt. Always).

 

I want to suggest the one alt that everyone should have, for your consideration: the bank alt.

What is the bank alt?

A bank alt is a character that is either primarily created for the purpose of serving as storage/auction mule/broker, or at least serves as such. You basically park him at the Auction House/bank, and he answers your mail all day long.

 

Why should I have one?

Convenience. That’s all. You don’t truly need one for most reasons, but it makes things easier. Picture this: you’re leveling in Hyjal, and your bags fill up with random stuff. You sell the gray stuff, but what about the cloth? Or the random crafting bits? Or this BOE blue that dropped off a mob? If you have a bank alt, you mail it all to them and walk away with lighter bags. If you don’t, you sell it to a vendor. Or try to hang onto it til you can get back to a capital and sell it yourself.

 

Yeah, but, auctions? That’s a lot of work

True!  It takes at least, oh, ten minutes every two days. What you do: download an addon like Auctioneer. Set it to load only for the bank alt – you don’t need the memory hogging on other characters.  Put stuff you want to sell into your bags. Go to AH. Scan the AH with the addon, let it suggest prices for you. Hit “post”. Come back in 48 hours, collect what didn’t sell and your gold. There’s plenty of guides out there to tell you more, or help you refine a strategy, but honestly, it’s too easy not to do.

 

I have all the gold I’ll ever need and a moral issue with auction houses

Er, ok. Well, how about more storage? If your bank vault is like mine, it gets cluttered. You can keep the stacks of raw materials you’re saving for later on the bank alt. Or anything else that’s not soulbound. Get an addon like ArkInventory that will let you see what’s in any character’s banks and bags no matter who you’re logged onto and never loose an item again.

 

Ok, I’m sold! Now what?

The details: a bank alt can be any race/class you want (obviously it needs to be the same faction as the characters it’s working for). Death Knights make really good bank alts for a couple reasons. First, they start off with a set of bags, 12 slotters that you can replace as you need more. Second, they can wear plate, which means they can wear any armor in the game, which means you can make them a really snazzy outfit. Third, they come with an epic mount for fast travel between the mailbox and the bank. Third, they have lots of flight points by default so if you need to move them, or send them to a neutral AH, it’s easy.

On the other hand, you can only have one per server, so if your main is a dk that won’t work. I’m predicting an upswing in Worgen bank alts; between the racial swift-running thing and the super snazzy top hats, they seem like perfect bankers.

 

Upgrade your bank alt: make a bank guild!

Once you’ve bought all the bank slots, put in bags, and are still low on space, it’s time to create a bank guild. Go to the guild vendor person (ask a capital city guard) and buy a charter.  You can assign a name, and can change the name before the guild is finalized. Now get 4 distinct player signatures. If you stand in the busiest city and spam “LF guild signatures, paying 20 gold”, you’ll get three people who’ll do it and one who will sign for free. Now take the charter back to the guy who sold it to you and poof, you’ve got a guild. Hop over to the bank and buy the first tab for 100 gold. 98 slots of storage, ready for you.

 

Is it really worth it?

Do you have one or more characters with professions at 450 that you plan to level to 85 and level their professions too? Then you have money-making potential. Sell all the raw mats you collect and don’t need. Sell things players need (glyphs, enchants, gem cuts) that you create as you level your profession. Use an addon, spend a few minutes a day, and you will see gold. I promise. That’s what I do to keep our alts in house and home. We’re going into Cataclysm with about a 35,000 gold purse; 2 characters each with 310 speed flying, one pair with epic flight, and one that still needs epic but has the other levels. Our characters all have dual spec, mostly from when it cost 1k gold. We don’t think anything of dumping 500 gold on a new alt’s  gear. It’s a comfortable place to be in and while it takes time using my strategy, it is a very sure method, very low risk.

Yes, once you start doing this you’ll probably read goldmaking blogs and try some of those strats. I’ve done that and it works great if you use your head and the right addons. But believe me. Having a bank alt is the first step to a comfortable WoW existence.

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Like my hunter post this will be short and to the point. This is a ‘get you up and running’ post and not a serious attempt at theory crafting. I have only tanked 2 or 3 runs so far with my bear so I don’t know everything there is to know about it. This intended to be a quick start guide to show the basics of how to play a bear in 4.0.1 (and in 4.0.3)

First off your aoe threat will be crap. No really. It will be rather bad. Swipe on a cooldown is fairly painful. Don’t give up the bear yet though. We have other things going on now. For one thing single target threat is insane. Seriously. I was pulling stuff off other tanks without using taunts, without trying to, and when they had a head start on the threat.

So let’s get to it…

Glyph your maul. Yeah you probably already had that but make sure. You will need it.

Spec

For a spec check out Uncrittable or Big Bear Butt. They both have some that are good. Mine is pretty close to those. Don’t bother checking mine. I just slapped some stuff in there.

Rotation

Well it is more of a priority/rotation. Whatever.

You still want to swipe all you can. If you are going to be doing AOE threat you will need to tab target and maul a lot too. If you are doing single target threat it is the same as before, lots of lacerate.

But wait! There is more!

Whereas before we did heavy single target damage with lots of lacerate… and after the first 5 we were wasting it and filling in with FF and maul instead, now we have a new tool. Pulverize! This thing eats your lacerates so you will not waste their dots. And lacerate only goes to 3 stacks. My rotation so far has been this.

Lacerate-lacerate-lacerate-pulverize *repeat*

Filling in with swipes and mauls as needed for multi target threat. This does a metric ton of single target threat and pretty solid tank dps too. There are probably many ways to improve on it so don’t take this as the final word. It is merely a workable first word.

Keep in mind we still have feral fearie fire and growl for grabbing things at range… BUT WAIT!! There is MORE!

At long last, all your caster mobs are belong to me. We finally have a ranged silence… sort of. In the past bears have had no ability to move ranged casters around. It was line-of-sight or nothing. Now we can. It is not much, but we CAN! It is called

What it does is a short range charge (about 8 yards) with no minimum range. So you can use it on things right in your face. It also is an interrupt and short silence. So you can use it to reposition casters. Bears Rejoice!

AOE threat…

AOE threat in 4.0.1 is not as stupid simple as it was. Between the swipe cooldown and the massive ‘thorns’ nerf your easy-peezy aoe threat tools are gone. Now you have to work at it.

You have charge in fast and get your first swipe off as soon as targets are in range. You might need to follow up with a quick ‘demoralizing roar’ if there are targets your swipe did not hit. Expect someone to pull off you right away. Everyone is still AOE happy and you can be almost certain some mage is opening up with blizzard. If a hunter pulls off let them die. Any hunter that can’t figure out how to use misdirect needs to spend some time in the Bee Pit.

To build up AOE threat you are probably going to need to be target swapping and spreading around your maul and some lacerate. With maul hitting two targets and your lacerating a little on everything in a pack you CAN hold aoe agro. It is just not as easy as it was. You might have to get a lot better with your taunts. If you are rage starved you can spread around some FFF too. That still costs no rage so use it as needed. AOE threat is NOT broke. Bears are not broken. Their AOE threat was just over powered before and now it takes actual skill. You have to be reactive and adaptive. If you have to, beg your dps to follow kill order and start marking things. Your single target threat should be sky-high so if you can just get people to shoot your target your agro issues will vanish.

Personally I am happy about the changes. Bear tanking had become for me nothing but spamming one button (swipe macroed to maul) and charging from pack to pack. It was pretty boring really. Now it is challenging and interesting again. Good luck!

Like I said, this is just a quick start guide. If it is not enough keep ‘googling’ and you will find more detailed and in-depth information.

*** edited***

News FLASH!
 Bear tanking got a lot more nerf than the patch notes claimed.

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 In this whole ‘situational awareness’ series I have focused on maneuvering your character. That is because the art of being situational aware starts with being about to see and interact with your environment. If you are constantly distracted with turning and moving then you will not have the mental bandwidth to also observe and assess your surroundings. The smoother and faster you can move and look the easier it will be to assess things. If you become disoriented or confused situational awareness goes right out the window. So let’s get to something a lot of people seem to have trouble with.

Maneuvering and navigating in three dimensions

This really messes up a lot of people. To be perfectly honest I have to use my imagination to figure out why. This is something I do instinctively. I think a lot of that comes from my IRL experience with flying and also a lot of gaming experience with flight simulators. So why does all that help? And why do other people have problems? Because there are concepts in 3D navigation and maneuvering that are not in a land based game. More accurately they ARE in the land based game but they are so simplified that you don’t notice them. The big one is…

Point of aim

Now some of you are thinking “that is not it. I have no problem with that concept.” Maybe that is true but this is the big difference in WOW with flying versus walking. On the ground you are only concerned with direction of your travel. You have several ways of seeing your direction of travel on the ground.

You can look at your character and compare it to the land around you on the screen.

You can mentally draw a line straight up the screen from your character and see where that points.

You can just vaguely estimate what is way in front of you.

You can look at the arrow on your mini map

You can also look at the arrow on your big map.

Those are all ways you can see where you are pointed…. But the BIG crutch comes from having the environment around you. What I mean is that you CONSTANTLY get little feedback from everything around you and that lets you continuously update your characters heading as you travel. Do you ever point your character in a direction, press the auto run, and then walk away from the keyboard? When you come back are you exactly where you expected to be? Do you take short cuts across country or do you always follow the road?

If you are mostly using your immediate surroundings to navigate and orient your character then you probably tend to follow the road exactly and you most likely rarely just aim across country and then go hit the head or grab a drink.

What I am trying to get you to think about is that list of methods above. Which of those do you use? It is something we do so instinctively that we might not know. Once we start flying some of those thing are taken away from us. If we were heavily using one of those the flying will cause a sense of disorientation. If we were relying heavily on one of the ones that did NOT go away then flying will be no different than anything else. That statement is a simplification but I hope it gets the point across.

So what is the list of nav aids for flying? How do we orient ourselves up there?

Well the map and mini map still work…. Except they are only in one axis. They help us navigate in a plane (geometric plane, not aeroplane) but they are no help for getting us oriented in the other axis.

What else? We can’t draw a line from our character to the top of the screen. It does not work right. We can’t compare constantly to the objects around us because they are far away and don’t give high fidelity feedback. What I mean is they don’t move fast enough and far enough to give us an instant awareness of where we are pointed. You have to look at them more closely and then check again and even then you are off track.

So what does work? Aim point. In flying your point of aim is king (just be glad we don’t have wind to deal with). BUT! Once you leave the ground your point of aim changes! I expect this really messes a lot of folks up that are new to flying.

Normally in this 3rd person view point game you have a camera that is behind and above you. It is NOT on your line of travel. It is above your line of travel and looking down at it. By line of travel I mean what it says. I mean the line you travel along on the ground.

In this picture the eye is your camera and the figure is your character. We are looking at it from the side. The person is running straight to the right and the camera is behind them and looking down at an angle. If you pan your camera all the way down to the ground you would be looking straight along that ‘line of travel’. The character would actually block you from seeing where you are going. Where you will eventually end up is straight ahead, through your character and off to the horizon.

This is how the camera works when flying! It goes from following you from above and behind to following you just straight behind. Except that it does not automatically move. Your character does the moving. The instant you take off on your dragon mount your character pitches forward ‘nose down’ and is aiming, not at the horizon, but into the ground a few yards in front of you. The first thing you do when taking off on your flying mount is to drop your camera down to your line of travel.

That is step one. The next step to travelling in the air is to stop key turning! Seriously! You can’t key turn while flying and expect to have any sort of awareness of where you are headed. When it comes to flying your right mouse button is everything. The only keys you need while flying are W and your right mouse button…. Well the space bar and X come in handy but I will get to that.

So here you are, flying. You hold down the right mouse button and hold down W and you are off. It is incredibly simple. You simply put your character on top of where you want to go. What I mean is that your direction of travel is though the mounted figure on your screen. If you are aimed at where you want to go that location will be in the dead center of your screen and covered up by your figure. Fortunately your figure is small enough that you can still tell where you are going. If your figure is NOT small enough then zoom out more. If you can’t zoom out enough go into the interface settings and crank up your max camera follow distance.

Navigating Oculus.

If you are one of those that is constantly getting lost in Oculus I recommend trying to ‘break it down’. Think of the place as a building with 4 floors. Each floor is made up of all the floaty platforms that are roughly on the same level as each other. Each floor has things you need to clear and a boss at the end.

The first floor is the ring you start off on It includes the ‘C’ shaped ring and the platform where you get your dragon.

 Once you get your mount you immediately go to the ‘second floor’. This ‘floor’ is made up of a ‘C’ shaped ring in the center and 3 platforms equally spaced around it. Two of those platforms have packs to kill and one has the boss. As soon as you spot which the boss is on your know exactly where to find the two with packs. You clear all the stuff on that floor and then do the boss.

As soon as you are done with him it is time to go straight up to floor three. Make it easier on yourself; just hold down spare bar until you get there. This floor has three ‘arc shaped’ platforms and a central ring. The ring is slightly lower than the platforms. The ring also has a second ring that is right below it but we don’t care about that one so don’t let it confuse you; just ignore it. If you go STRAIGHT up from the last boss you will be right next to the platform you need to start one. From there you just go clockwise around to the other two and then from the last one you go straight into the center ring to find the boss.

Now you are on to the fourth and final floor. To get there just fly out a decent ways from the boss you just killed and then hold down spacebar until you reach the top. This ‘floor’ is made of three tiny platforms and one BIG wide ring. The dragon flies in circles over the big ring. Most groups meet up at one of the small platforms so find the, meet up, and finish the place off.

This is a classic example of breaking something big and confusing into bites-size bits that are all understandable and all together form a simple pattern. You can avoid the confusion of the ‘3D-ness’ of the place by breaking it down into mental bite sizes that are all in 2D.

Navigating exercises.

Practicing navigation is easy but should be done anytime you have the chance. It is very simple. Start traveling somewhere. Aim where you are trying to go by comparing the horizon, mini map, and main map to your direction of travel. Do all that aiming stuff right up front. Then don’t touch the controls. Just watch and see how well your aiming worked. Allow yourself just one ‘mid course correction’ when you are about half way to your destination. How far off are you when you get there? Try doing it with no correction and challenge yourself to get it right every time.

If you don’t have an excuse to fly around, go to Icecrown and grind various daily quests. There are tons of them there and at max level they are good money. Just pick a few that you know you can do fast and easily and then run them. As you move between thempractice this exercise.

Maneuvering exercises.

Exercise 1: Buzz the tower.

This is for if you are not use to the concept of ‘flying’ your character by continuously holding down the right mouse button. Fly low. Buzz things. Try to get close to them without landing or hitting them. Once you fly past it make a wide turn and sing back for another pass.

Exercise 2: Aerial Slaloms.

Go find a forest. Western Dragonblight works. Fly low between the trees. Weave in and out between them. Now do it while trying to fly generally in the same direction. I mean try to keep going east while still weaving in and out. Even go around trees you don’t really NEED to dodge. Go out of your way to go around trees. But still try to work your way in a general direction. If the ‘weaving’ is too tough don’t worry about the ‘general direction’ thing. Just weave until you run out of trees and then turn around and go again. Feel free to use AQE and D to maneuver sideways a little. In fact be sure to mess with those some.

Exercise 3: Static Bombing Runs.

There are a number of quests and repeatable missions in the game involving dropping bombs on people, demons, fish, pirates, siege weapons, etc. These are great flying and situational awareness practice.  Why? Because they require you to maneuver your camera independent of your direction for travel and track targets with it as you perform a basic attack. That is great. For an advanced version that is still a static run (by static I mean you don’t control the path; it just follows a fixed path) you can do the dailies in Icecrown. The one where you drop off paratroopers is pretty unforgiving; so that is a good challenge. The bomber base up on the spire is also a good one for advanced practice. Those have bombing and air-to-air action so they require more situational awareness.

Exercise 4: dynamic bombing runs.

These are ones where you are maneuvering your mount, avoiding counter attack, AND bombing something. The two I can think of off the top of my head are both Skyguard daily quests. One is in Terokar to bomb eggs and the other is in Blade’s Edge and is bombing piles of ammo at the demon base. Both of those are far simpler than Northrend mounted combat but still require the situational awareness skills. You have to maneuver your mount, dodge in various directions and keep an eye on your health while still finding the targets and hitting them.

Exercise 5: All-Out Flying Combat.

In dragonblight there is a nice dragon flying daily. Also high above Coldarra there is a daily quest involving flying dragons that is pretty challenging. Both of them do not require a group so it is a low pressure way to practice your skills.

Cataclysm will have even more flying than ever so get your practice in when and where you can.

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Feral druids have few options for ranged pulling. Assuming you are pulling in bear form you only have 2.

One is to use ‘Growl’ on the target. This is a poor idea. It does no real threat and it puts your only taunt on cooldown. It does have a 30 yard range though so if your other option is not ready and you really need to pull it works.

Your other option is Feral Faerie Fire.

When you get this:

Growl you get at lvl 10 along with bear form. You get Faerie Fire (feral) at level 18.

Range:

Growl: 30 yards

Faerie Fire (feral): 30 yard

Additional effects:

Faerie Fire does damage that is 1+0.15 times your attack power. At high level this is a nice little hit. In bear form it also does extra threat. These two effects make it a good ranged pull. Faerie Fire applies a 5 minute duration 5% armor debuff. It also prevents stealth for that time.

Growl causes a very very short forced attack effect (3 seconds) that is not exclusive.

Application:

Using either of these is very simply. You move to within 30 yards, target something, and fire. Then you wait for them to come at you.

Follow up:

The usual follow up is to wait for the targets to get close and then Swipe. If you don’t need to move the pack completely to where you start you might Charge when they get closer. If you used Faerie Fire you will have Growl in reserve if any of your party pulls one of the pack off you as the pull goes down.

Once the pack gets to you and contact is made then you need to do the usual follow ups of pointing the pack in the right direction and positioning yourself where you want to be.

Variations:

Variations include using Line of Sight by hiding around a corner. There is also the ‘hit and run’ which is done by pulling from range, running the other way, and then charging back. Many other variations are possible. The goal here is to move the pack away from a specific area or to position the pack exactly where you want it.

Other use of this ability:

Faerie Fire is a highly effective tool for keeping aggro at range. Firing it repeatedly at something that is not in melee range can be used to keep agro on something you can’t move toward.

Macros and combos:

You might macro a raid mark to it… I prefer mine to be on their own key binding. Since those are your only two ranged abilities there is not much comboing you can do other than variations with charge or growl.

Risks and drawbacks:

All risks of ranged pulls apply. Mainly these risks are that your DPS or heals will do something to ‘pull aggro’ before the pack gets into your melee range.

Other tricks:

Here is a great combo for keeping ranged casters on you if you can’t get them moved into the melee. You wait for the target to ‘pull off’ and then use Growl on it. Immediately after that you use Faerie Fire. The combination of the two means you are now the ‘top threat’ for that target and have a nice little bonus of threat above the next target on the list. This will usually keep the target on you until your cooldowns for Growl and Faerie Fire are complete. You can keep threat this way even if one of your DPS is attacking that target. This is not part of a ranged pull but it is a way you can deal with casters when one is left behind from a ranged pull

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Let them die!

You yank it you tank it!

Ever thought those? If you have done any decent amount of tanking then yeah, you have. Even if you did not give in to the temptation you probably wanted to. Every time you got some jerkwad not watching his threat and pulling you probably wanted to let them die. I have let more than a couple such people die. But that is not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the OTHER times you let people pull aggro and die.

Look, you can’t hold all the aggro all the time. I know, I know a good tank tries. Yes. I said as much in other posts. And a really good tank has a shot at pulling that noble goal off. But sometimes you just can’t. Most non-tanks might not agree, most non-tanks probably have never tried to hold aggro when you get an accidental extra pack, a patrol from the rear and some trigger happy DPSers critting their butts off.

Triage

The art of putting your efforts where it is most needed even if it means letting something else slip. This concept applies a lot to healers. Often they have to decide where that critical heal is going and who needs it most. However, when it comes to tanking we get in the same boat. It is very often we have to decide which of two or more targets to taunt and which to throw AOES at. Which to target for some extra hits and which to let run away from us.

Some of you are saying ‘I don’t do that! I just round them all up!’ Ah, but you do. You decide which to round up first and which to wait a GCD for. Or which to wait on your taunt cooldown. You might round them all up EVENTUALLY.  But there are always going to be a few moments where something is not on you. Often that something is going to have a chance to take a swing at one of your party.

With healing triage you heal the people that need it the most AND are most critical to the over all team. Keep the tank up, keep yourself up, keep that really solid caster over there alive. Let the noob DK get smacked around for a while. It does not mean you are letting them die, though sometimes that happens.

Tanking triage works the same, even if we don’t usually think of it that way. Moment to moment, we the tanks, decide what threat moves to use and where. When things go to heck we are deciding on the fly what to taunt and what targets to use what moves on.

Like healing triage this is not something a new tank is likely to do. Like a new healer a new tank will simply throw around what aggro they can and play whack a mole with targets that pull off of them. As you get more experience you develop a system and a sense for what taunts and threats to use where.

Why we triage

The point of triage is that we don’t want to waste our efforts in places where they do no good. Taunting the add on that ret pally is less useful than taunting that add that is hitting the healer. Things like that. If we take the time to taunt off both, something else might pull off of us. Also if we taunt off the pally first the healer could die. A tank that is not actively deciding what triage to do might just simply taunt the first one he notices. In a really bad situation that could lead to a wipe.

Your Priorities

Healer

The top priority is always the healer. That person absolutely needs to not be getting hammered. You have to taunt off them as fast as you can… mostly. If more than one target is going after your healer it might be best use of your precious time to move the fight toward them and use some more AOE. Some of your more exotic ‘oh crap’ moves may need to be saved for the healer alone.

Soft DPS… sometimes

Many soft DPS are either fast with their ‘oh crap’ moves or they are dead. Mages are the big example here. They actually have a lot of moves for saving their own lives. Based on my experience they don’t remember they have half of them and they are usually to slow with the ones they DO remember.

Soft DPS are important to save… except they are probably dead by the time you need to save them. So if you can’t get them in time, cut your losses and let them go. No reason to waste a taunt cooldown taunting a critter that has already finished off your friend in the pointy hat.

Bosses

You have to keep the boss on you. Really.

Adds… sometimes

Most of the time adds have no real threat built up yet so you don’t need a whole taunt to get them to come to you. Still it is better to get some of them on you any way you can.

Adds are usually in a pack. And adds are usually going after someone that is not you (at first). Which means someone is about to bet blasted. So you need to soften that blow as fast as you can. Taunting one of the adds as they come at you is a good way to do it. So is getting closer and throwing AOE. Whatever you can do. This is more important than taunting off of people that just are doing too much threat.  Why? Threat pullers are usually pulling one target. And they usually do it often enough that the healer and the person doing it are ready for it. The healer may NOT be ready for the mage in the back to get omnomnomed by a whole pack of tiny velociraptors.

Adds happen. Dealing with them fast and effectively is the mark of a good tank. When adds happen is when a weak tank/group wipes. So the faster and more effetely you can deal with the changing situation the better. You want to round up those things so fast and tie up their threat so tight that most of the party does not even realize you got any adds.

When NOT to taunt off.

A big challenge in tanking is to not get tunnel vision. If you panic when you see a target pull off you then you stand a very good chance of losing threat on another target. Focusing on that first one caused you to miss a threat move or two and not keep building up your aggro on everyone else. So it is important to know when NOT to worry too much about a target ignoring you.

Taunt off of other dps…. Rarely.

I mean really, why bother? Melee DPS are mostly plate wearers and rogues. Plate can take a few hits and if a rogue can’t dump their own aggro they aren’t worth your taunt cooldown anyway.

And hey, the more threat that DPSer builds up before you taunt the more threat you will have after you taunt.

Hunters, just about never taunt off them. Seriously, feign death and misdirect? What the heck else can anyone need?

Don’t throw threat moves to save someone if there is a higher priority issue. Don’t taunt off that melee DPS if you have not sewed up that pack of adds with enough AOE yet. Early in a fight AOE is more important than taunting. Let me say that again…

EARLY IN A FIGHT AOE THREAT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN TAUNTING

If someone pulls off you early and you stop some AOE to get that target back you are highly likely to lose someone else. Don’t do that.

I will get back to that in a second…

What moves to use when

Moves like Intervene, deathgrip and that one that taunts three targets that pallies get. Maybe you save those for the healer and maybe you don’t. It depends on how often you need them and what the chances of getting adds is.

It depends on your play style as well and what your personal strengths are. You don’t want to save a move for saving the healer if you never can remember where you put that obscure hotkey. If you can’t hit it fast and easy then it is not the right move to pick when saving a high criticality target. A lesser move fast is better than an uber move too late. You need to get to know your more obscure options and try them out BEFORE you need them. If you are not use to using something then it will let you down when you need it.

Some ‘oh crap’ type moves need macros to use them most effectively. Even if you don’t use macros for much consider using them for a few critical things as needed. In another post someday I will cover ‘oh crap’ moves and when to use them. Your main categories are these.

-AOE threat

-Focused threat (might be more than one target still)

-Taunts

-‘Other’ oh crap moves.

Here are your top priorities as the fight changes…

1) Opening instant of the fight:

->Get some small amount of threat on EVERY target.

2) First few seconds of the fight

->Build up a lot of threat on the target or targets your party is focusing on.

->Build up some AOE threat on every target

3) Middle and late stages of the fight

->stabilize any situation that developed early on.

->round up targets that pull off you

->watch for adds

4) End of battle

->stop runners

->check on your healer

->plan your next move

Notice how your focus and priority changes. Also that phase three one ‘->stabilize any situation that developed early on’ is a big area. It might be that your health is going down to fast, or that someone is off in a corner soloing something. It could be a lot of things. But you can’t get distracted by those until you have done the ground work early in the fight. By the time targets are half dead you could almost stop tanking entirely and the fight will end favorably. It is those critical first few seconds your agro generation has to be a high priority. It still matters later. But later, if you drop threat on a target or two, it is unlikely to cause a wipe. If you do that early on it is quite likely to cause a wipe.

Order of business in the triage world.

Stabilize the patient

The party is your patient. If you have to amputate (let someone die) to keep the whole body alive, do it. The first thing to do is to stabilize the situation. What I said about getting to a pack of adds fast? That was stabilizing the situation. Taunting off someone is the same. It is that initial minimum thing you need to do for things to stop being ‘bad’. Even if for just a moment. This can take many forms. Lots of ‘oh crap’ moves are good for stabilizing different situations. AOE force attack moves are great for buying you a few seconds of stability. Antimagic shell is a bit of a stabilizing move, if the issue you have is magic related. Shockwave’s area effect stun is a nice little stabilizing move if timed right.

Assess the situation

This happens in a nano second. If you are having trouble with assessing the problem might be that you are having situational awareness issues. I can’t cover those here so go read other posts :P

Part of assessing is measuring the situation against what you are personally capable of. Can you handle a pack of adds that big? What would have to happen in order for you to survive? Can you keep agro on those casters over there and still keep the big melee all under control? If you can’t handle the situation as it is, what would have to change about it for you to be able to handle it?

Prioritize

See above. You have to decide what area needs your attention the most and focus on that. If there is something you have to do to get things under control, do it. If there are things that are getting in the way of you getting control, stop doing those. Now is the time to do what you KNOW will win the fight. Don’t play threat tug-a-war with an over geared DPSer if you think something else about the fight is at risk.

Cut your losses

Let people die that are going to do. The most important thing in the world is that at the end of the fight one of your party with a rez spell is still standing. Everything else is optional. Sometimes this means you the tank have to die to buy time for the rest of the party. So be it. Your survival is optional. Failure is not optional so be certain that whatever you do, SOMEONE that can rez is alive at the end.

Usually this means you need to preserve yourself, the healer, and one decent DPS. As long as those live you can usually finish things. Sometimes you might be the last one standing or you might only be able to save the healer. Triage is about making the tough choices fast so that the whole survives.

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ME109’s shot down -8
Hurricane’s – 0

 We win! Wait… no… Wrong RAF.

Refer a Friend is over. Well it is almost over for the account I had linked up. Analogue still has a month or so on hers. Actually I am not sure exactly how long. We had better check that. We don’t want a repeat of last night.

You see, earlier this week we realized my RAF was about to run out. I was SURE it was not going to be gone until a week from this coming Sunday. I was all set to have a weekend marathon of leveling up the last couple alts. Because it ended early I am left with a couple alts short of the finish line and some a long way away. Still, the results of this RAF stint are nothing to sneeze at.

–Note: I use the term ‘offside’ to mean a character you are playing in addition to your ‘main’. That character usually gets less attention and is used less efficiently compared to the ‘main’.

Despite not playing much in the last few weeks and my miscalculation of the end date I still have a lot to show for it. I now have the following alts.

Mage – 60

This was the first RAF we did. It was leveled as a pair with Analogue on a warlock. That went ok. You can kill things fairy fast. The mage can provide food for both and then lock can do a little pet tanking. But this pair does lack the ability to survive serious ‘oh crap’ situations. It does have a lot of AOE later on though. You just have to employ in carefully and not bite off too much.

Shaman – 61

This one was also leveled mostly as a pair. It was mostly with a paladin. That makes a very solid combo. We have used that pairing now about 3 times and it works well. It was leveled as a combination of Resto and Elemental. Despite the bad press it gets Elemental is actually fairly good for leveling. It is quite good if you are leveling in a pair or with a lot of LFD.

Rogue – 58

This one was level mostly using the ‘grant level’. Hence I have not played it much and don’t really know how it works. Oh well. I have done some Hellfire with it. It is geared for the outlands and ready to level.

Hunter – 55 (just a bit short of the goal)

At some point Analogue and I suddenly decided that leveling as a pair was silly and we should be doing quads. We talked a bit more about this in the posts we did earlier. This hunter was part of the first ‘quad’ set we did. My offside partner was a druid. My wife Analogue was running a Shaman and an ‘offside’ pally. This set worked well with the hunter doing as much damage (with heirlooms) as everyone else put together. This set showed us some things. For one we did not need that many healers in one party. Also hunters make very good choices for the ‘offside’. With a hunter you can get a large fraction of their damage output with just one button press. Just autoshot and petattack put out a lot of damage for almost no effort.

Priest – 50

This was my ‘main’ in our second ‘quad’ set. My offside was a hunter. Analogue was running a mage main and hunter offside. This quad was very solid. I spec-ed the priest disc and was able to toss out some instant cast heals and shields as needed. Stuff died fast. I mean stuff just sort of exploded when we looked at it. And with dual tanking pets (bears) we had all sorts of off tanking. That first ‘quad’ was durable but this was durable and also cranked out the damage. As you all know killing stuff fast is its own sort of ‘durable’. So the survivability was actually better with this pair. If things got bad we did not lose as much dps or healing. Actually things almost never got bad because stuff died so fast. This quad got to just over 30 before we realized we were out of time. I got the priest to 50 using level grants.

Warrior – 44

This one was mostly level grants. It was paired with an alt of Analogue before we turned RAF on.

Pally – 17

Warlock – 4

Both of these were where I tossed the last few grantable levels. I wanted to get them higher but the time miscalculation got in the way.

Conclusions

If you have two people that want the RAF rocket and lots of alts, do them both together as quads.

Quads work much easier If you can do one or more of the following:

-Have a second computer. Set up some macros to control a few key abilities and pick a class like a hunter that does not need a lot of attention to be helpful in a party.

-Get a program that does synchronization between game instances on one PC. Pick two of the same class and level them as a set.

-Or, use an offside character that you can mostly ignore. /follow and forget.

Other realizations include the following:

-Heirlooms are fine. Use them on if you want. Just be ready to skip a few quests on that one to keep it synced with the other account.

-You ‘main’ and your ‘offside’ do NOT have to match which one is the disposable RAF account and which is your real account. You can control the disposable character and have your heirloom geared alt on /follow. This actually helps when you want to just do the collect type quests on the non-heirloomed one.

-If you want to you can easily get 1 of every class leveled up with a single use of RAF. We did a lot of slacking and still leveled a ton of alts.

Next up we will be doing some experimenting with trios and pairs as we finish out Analogue’s RAF period. I think there is a few weeks left on it… pardon me while I go check.

Last night we cleaned out all the little alts in the disposable account and got it ready to sleep. Battle.net says I have until 8pm tonight… whenever that is. So I plan to try and get a few more levels on the priest. Since all the alts are gearless I will do it by running instances and then afterward standing next to a nekid RAF alt while I turn the quests in. That way my wonderful wife can keep killing Zerg while I put this thing to rest. I will let you know how it goes.

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Thinking about your Worgen or Goblin and trying to pick a class? Want to run up an opposite faction alt to see Old WoW before New WoW hits? Or planning to use an offside RAF account and need a really low maintenance second character? Can’t pick a class? Here’s something to think about: what specific quests do you need to complete to unlock basic abilities of your class?

Druid: Bear form is a quest chain. Fairly straightforward, a little running back and forth and you have to kill a big bear spirit, and then you can become a bear. Easy but essential; even dedicated trees can find bear useful in a pinch.

Previously there were chains for swim form, cure poisons, and epic flight; the swim form quest is entirely gone, while the cure poisons quests are merely obsoleted because you can train the abilities without doing the chain. Same with epic flight, but it’s still worth doing; completing the chain means you can summon Anzu the Ravenlord boss in Heroic Sethykk Halls. He drops a nice raven mount that would make you the talk of town.

Hunter: You have to do a chain at 10 to learn how to tame and feed pets. Obviously if you don’t do this, you’re not going to be a very good hunter. You won’t learn to Mend your pet until 12, so don’t freak out. Tip: make sure you have a stack of food on hand to feed your angry, hungry bear cub when you tame him.

The quest chain itself is fairly simple: your trainer, in the second newbie village (IE Kharanos for dwarves) will tell you to go train a bear (for instance) and then a cat and then an owl. When you’ve completed all three quests, you learn the “Tame Pet” skill, the “Feed Pet” skill, and can go tame a pet of your own.

Mage: None. Every mage quest gives you gear. Some of them are cool, but none of them are essential, which made it doubly annoying leveling a mage years back when you ran out to Dustwallow Marsh (on foot) ten levels low, drowned in the swamp, got et by spiders, only to have Tabetha tell you she’d give you a nice belt.

Rogue: Lockpicking is still a quest chain, apparently. Poisons used to be, but no longer are. At level 16, your trainer will give you a quest. It’s pretty straightforward and leaves you near a field full of locked boxes you can practice your skill on to get a few points up. There are fields like this scattered around the world – like in the Wetlands, for instance – as a great way to train up your lockpicking skill.

Priest: Nope. Like mages, you don’t need to do any of them.

Paladin: At 12 you’ll get a quest chain to learn your resurrection spell. DO THIS CHAIN: I can’t believe how many paladins I’ve encountered, leveling, who don’t have a rez spell because they never bothered to do the chain. Basically, your trainer will tell you where to go; the chain involves, amazingly enough, resurrecting someone. Awesomely, Blood Elves get to resurrect someone who they actually killed in the previous step in the chain. Yeah.

Warrior: Defensive and Berserker stance are both quest chains. Make sure you do them, or you’ll be unable to tank! The Defensive Stance quest is at level 10 and is a simple “Bring me [NPC]‘s head” quest. The Berserker Stance/Intercept quest chain starts at 30 and will send you to the Barrens.

Warlock: Most demons  require a quest, basically all along the lines of “This dude X has something that belongs to me. Kill him and bring it back. Oh, you’re back? Ok, go summon a demon in the basement and kill it. Yay! Now you can summon that demon as a pet!”. Do the quests. They aren’t hard and you need your pets.

Shaman: Saved these for last for a reason. Every one of your four totems requires a quest; Earth at 5, Fire at 10, Water at 20, and Wind at 30. They go something like this:

Earth: Talk to something, kill something, maybe drink something. Done.

Fire: Run around a bit, kill something, run around more, kill a Fire elemental, run around, get totem. Done.

Water: If you are Alliance, basically the same as fire, except underwater. If you are Horde:

1. Go talk to some annoying hermit on the edge of the Barrens, as far from a flight point as possible

2. Go retrieve a  bag of water from halfway around the world

3. Return to the hermit

4. Go somewhere else, also halfway around the world. Get a bag of water.

5. Return

6. Guess what! You get to go get MORE water, as far as possible from ANYWHERE else you’ve ever been

7. Return

8. Ok, that’s enough water! Now, go halfway across the world and KILL some water

9.Realize you’ve just spent three hours traveling, log off, and cry. Congrats, you now have a water totem!

Wind totem: Show up, talk to an air spirit, get a totem. Anticlimax anyone?

Anyway, shaman require totems, so you have to do these quests.

Each quest also has assorted quests that give weapons as rewards. They are a fun way to feel more ‘into’ your class but honestly, leveling has been so nerfed these days it’s hardly worth it. All the level 50 quests land you in Sunken Temple so if you hate that place, skip them; if you love the place, grab the quests.

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If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If, Rudyard Kipling

First stanza of Kipling’s famous poem should probably be on a sticky note on every healer’s monitor. I’m not saying that the other roles in the game don’t require laser like focus and attention to detail, but I know I personally have to be totally in the groove every GCD to heal at the top of my game. On my mage? Hit Arcane Blast a billion times, pop cooldowns when they’re available, don’t stand in fire. On my druid? Watch for who needs a heal, who needs an emergency cooldown, who is about to take damage and should be Rejuv’d … and still stay out of the fire.

More than that, I don’t know if it’s a me thing or a healer thing but if I’m healing the raid and we wipe, I feel guilty. Really guilty. Like “that was all my fault if only I’d been a better healer that wouldn’t have happened.” I don’t feel nearly as bad tanking, and dps? Psssh, not my fault. I did my job. But when I’m healing, I feel like I ought to be doing everyone else’s, too.

And what about when people are saying it’s your fault? Do you just let them, or get defensive, or even say “yeah, it was me”? Like the poem says – you have to trust yourself, but if everyone is saying it’s your fault, you have to look at yourself and make sure that’s not true. Not trusting yourself will lead to wipes. So will not trusting your partners – the other healers, the tanks, the dps. A druid throwing Nourish on a tank when she should be trusting her Disco priest buddy can wipe the raid easily – or save the day if the priest got distracted. What do you do?

So: some specific strategies that I use. What do you use? I’m always looking for new tips.

Keep a Cool Head – learn to accept and react to a situation rather than panic. Important when you’re out of mana and the tank just aggroed two more pats. If you panic, you die. If you can quickly prioritize your problems and do things in the right order, you live. Slap a shield or an instant HOT on the tank, blow your “get mana back” cooldown, drop a big cooldown on the tank to get him back up, and play triage.

Zen and the Art of Raid Maintenance – watch the raid like a mama bird watches her stupid, half-blind, flightless chicks. They’re going to try to fall out of the nest, choke themselves on half-eaten worms, and go play with that friendly hawk perched at the top of the tree. Don’t let ‘em, but don’t get mad at them when they do. Heal through the stupid because you can.

Screw it, I don’t care if the mage dies – the opposite of the above. After the nth time that warlock life taps right before combat or the mage runs away from the tank in order to frost nova mobs right by you – they’re too stupid to live. Think of it as evolution in action. Let them die that others may live. Mentally pretend their health bar is already gone, stop wasting mana on them, and concentrate on the tank and the ones who aren’t being stupid.

Honestly, if you’d just read “Hogwarts, A History” – know the fights better than anyone else. This is important if you’re pugging but comes in handy if your raid leader is one of those odd ones who doesn’t know doesn’t care about healing stuff (like the first time I fought Saurfang, the Disc priest asked if there was a strategy for her and was told to ‘just shield the tanks'; we didn’t down him that night but if the raid leader had known to have her drop shields on the Marked victims too, we might have.) The theory here is that by knowing the fight, you can drop hints to others on your healing team and then, assuming they do as you say, you don’t have to worry about them. I’m guilty of not doing this as thoroughly as I should; to date I still haven’t actually, you know, watched an LK fight video. /embarassed

It’s easy enough to discuss strategies like this but implementing them is something else entirely. For that, I practice in 5 mans. Deliberately keep your mana low so you can learn to assess priorities and how to regain mana fast when you need to. Let a warlock die (it’s good for their souls anyway). Think two steps ahead of your party members and have them shielded or hotted before they take damage.

The most challenging situation I think a healer can be in, as far as state of mind goes, is the pug raid healing job, where you don’t know what you’re going to get. Often you won’t know anyone, or many, in the raid. The leader may or may not know anything about healing. Your healing team may not be optimal and probably hasn’t worked together. You can make one of two fatal mindset errors here: you can decide it’s all up to you, or you can decide it’s all up to them. In fact it’s neither. You are not responsible for the success of the raid as a whole, but you are responsible for doing your part.

One thing I’ve often found in pug raids is that the leader will give some vague directions like “druid heal ranged shammy heal melee pally on tanks”. Ok… but how do you easily tell ranged from melee? Nobody sorts groups these days… Well, I have Vuhdo set to show “class colors” as the health bar for each person in the raid. So mages are light blue, paladins are pink, etc. I can instantly tell class by looking at my Vuhdo setup. Makes following that sort of vague instruction easier.

I’ll whisper other people on the healing team and ask relevant questions. If I’m on my paladin and there’s another holy pally, I’ll ask “Who are you Beaconing?” and then Beacon the other tank. If there’s another druid, I’ll set up Rejuv priorities (“You do groups 2 and 3, I’ll do 4 and 5, both of us do tanks”).

Anyway, those are my strategies. Anyone have any they can share?

And if all else fails, and your concentration goes to hell and you lose it entirely – well, the run back from the graveyard is a perfect time to practice your deep breathing and work on your patience.

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Jumping to their death

This morning Larisa over at the Pink Pigtail Inn posted about The Importance of Jumping Revealed. Since it relates to my series on situational awareness I wanted to talk about the tactical utility of jumping. First let me say I love jumping too. I played a few MMOs before WOW and none of them had jumping in them. It is amazing how much that little thing makes a world feel more real. Jumping and swimming were the things a lot of games before WOW did not have. Those two things make the world feel more like a world and less like a cage.

But on to tactical jumping.

This is Bob. He insulted the mother of these raptors. Now He is running like heck.

Some of you might think he has two choices, keep running or stop, turn and attack.

Oh now Bob is stopping to attack…

Can he get the shot off?

Oh! Too late!

This is Fred. He accidently stepped on a raptor egg.

Fred knows there is a third choice.

Ah jumping. We love jumping.

Oh wait what is this? Fred is spinning in the air! See the wonderful thing about WOW jumping is that physics is respected and your linear momentum is retained despite changes in angular velocity. HUh? I mean you keep moving in the same direction even if you turn while jumping. Oh!

Hey, Fred can shoot while jumping. Nice.

Now look, Fred did another 180 degree spin before he landed!

This means that Fred lost NO speed while running from the raptors but was still able to fight back!

Oh hey, see how I worked in the ability to spin EXACTLY 180 degrees in one try at any time? Yeah, just like I talked about in the situational awareness practice. Clean fast mouse control has more uses than just looking around.

This trick does not just work for hunters. Warriors can spin and ‘hamstring’ if they targets are close.. Rogues can do it and used one of their many stuns. Mages can even jump, spin, and ‘cone of cold’ things. Almost anything that is an instant cast can be used while moving. Anything that can be used while moving can be used with a jump-spin to attack behind you while moving forward at full speed. And it does not have to be something chasing you. Anytime you want to attack one way while moving at full speed another way you can use this trick.

Naturally it is hugely useful in PVP.

I mostly use it to shoot cows in Elwyn.

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If you missed it before go check: Situational Awareness and You Part 1

I said at the end of part 1 that I would talk more about the issue of high mouse speed. It is not the speed itself that is the issue.

Your brain

You brain uses a vast number of clues to piece together the world around you. If you turn your head your brain has many things to work with in order to fit the view your eyes see before and after the head turn into one picture of the world around you. Your brain has inputs from your neck: muscles tension, skin stretch, twisting of the vertebra. Your brain also gets the inputs from your inner ear sensing motion and acceleration. Your ears also hear the ambient sounds change as the sources of those sounds ‘move’ around you. Even the air movement on your cheeks and in your hair is fed into your brain. All these things and others help your mind understand what it sees and fit the images it sees together with the images it saw a moment before or minutes before.

In a game world you have FAR fewer inputs to work with. Everything I described above and more is gone. You have very few things to work with to help your brain process where you are looking and what you are seeing. If you look rapidly around at action happening all around you your brain needs to blend all that into an ever changing picture of what is going on.

Your brain on WOW

The things that don’t change between in game and real word processing in your head are the image recognition side of things. Well some of it. You lose the depth perception clues. But you do have the normal image processing your brain is capable of.

You DO add a new input. In place of the sensor input from your neck turning you have the input of your mouse hand moving. But is that enough? Can you close your eyes, and move the mouse with a right or left click and know instantly how far your character turned? Without opening your eyes? Can you spin exactly 180 degrees around and in one try without over shooting? Many players can. A very many players can’t. With your eyes closed you only have the input of your hand moving on the table. That is not a lot to go on.

What else do you have? Well the screen of course. But two things are working against you. Frame rate and mouse speed. Anywhere from 10 times per second to upwards of 60 times per second the image on your screen is updating. Imagine your character is turning. Each moment as you turn the screen updates. Each update looks different than the last. If you are turning very slow most of the screen is showing the same thing as before. If you are turning left on the left side of your screen new material keeps appearing each moment and everything moves right. If you are turning fast much more of the screen is updated with new material. If you turn extremely fast nothing or almost nothing is the same as before. If you turn your character completely around between on screen update and the next (easy to do with a mouse twitch) then there is NOTHING on your screen that looks the same as before (not counting your character itself).

When you are turning slower your brain has all the stuff that did not change to give you instant input as to which way you turned and how far. If that tree on the screen moved half way across it then you know something useful about how far you turned. If you turn so fast that the tree simply vanishes then you lose that input. In that case your brain has to start from stretch and figure out where you are looking. Fortunately the human brain is an amazing creation and can figure it out very fast. But why force it to do extra work? If a lot is going on around you then your brain needs all the clues you can get.

Slow that mouse down!

A good rule of thumb is that you want to be able to turn 180 degrees with one mouse move. So do this. Set your hand on the mouse. Using the right click turn move your mouse as far as you can to the left or right. Only move it as far as you can without shifting your grip. How far did you turn? If you turned completely around twice then things are probably set way to fast. Tweak your speed and try again. Keep doing it. Only you can decide how fast is fast enough or too fast. Here are some suggested guidelines.

You should be able to turn 180 and face the opposite direction in one smooth move without shifting your grip or lifting up your grip.

If you have to grip very tight and try several times when you are navigating a tight room (like a human inn) then your speed is too high.

If you have to lift up your mouse to steer a tight corner then it is far too slow.

Try slowing things down until they are way too slow and then slowly creep it up until things seem smooth and steady but still reasonably fast.

Do NOT just leave mouse speed alone. It matters to situational awareness so you should mess with it and give thought to it. Find what speed is right for you.

The goal is that you can move the screen rapidly and have a reasonably good idea of how far you moved, even if you can’t see the screen. The goal is to be able to see the screen pan as you turn

Get your frame rate up

For all the reasons I was just talking about for mouse speed you need a good frame rate. Get in to your video settings and turn things down. When it comes to getting your disoriented frame rate does as much as mouse speed or more. Turn some video settings down until your frame rate is high. You can set almost everything to minimum and still play with no problems. Just don’t set the particles to the bottom or you will not be able to see the fire you are standing in.

More mouse tricks:

Strafing with the arrow keys: You can use right click and used A or D or to do the exact same thing as the Q and E keys. Try it! Maybe it will fit your play style better than Q and E. Or maybe you will want to do like me and use it situationally.

More practice activities

Go play in the Argent Tournament. It might be hard and annoying at first but the rewards are good, cash is solid and the skill up if your movement is great.

Buzz things on your flying mount. Don’t fly over the trees. Use keys and mouse steering to weave between them. This is great practice and does not slow your travel time much. No trees? Just flow low and try to skim the ground without actually landing on it.

Drive vehicles in battle grounds. Those things work differently for movement so try them out.

Ride around like those bored people in Dalaran. Only don’t do it there you are laggy. But ridding around town and like a drunk moron is actually really good hand mouse coordination practice and steering practice. Zig-zag, jump, dodge around people.

Looking is not seeing and seeing is not knowing

The everything I wrote in part 1 and above is focused on helping you look all around you at any time and to be able to fit what you see into a coherent picture. That helps you see what is around but next you have to know and understand what you are seeing. Being actually AWARE takes more.

Stay one step ahead

Knowing what is going to happen next is a critical part of awareness. Mainly it helps you sift through what you are seeing and spot the things that are important. You can see 8 packs around you but what is important to look at? You can’t know everything about everything but you can be picking out what are the next two groups you are going to fight and already thinking about what comes next.

Whether you are playing solo, healing, tanking, or DPSing in 5 mans or raids, anytime, anywhere, you can be thinking about what comes next and getting ready for it. Is the tanking going to go left or right? Maybe you can’t be sure, but if you know he is going to do ONE of those you can position yourself so that you react to either. And you can be ready for either. Almost nothing a tank does should take you by surprise. No really. There aren’t that many things a tank CAN do so it is not that hard to be ready for almost anything. If you assume the tank is NOT going to do something then you are already setting yourself up for a chance of failure. Rather you should position yourself and be ready for all the likely options and have a backup plan for the unlikely ones.

How?

Predict what will happen with your best guess but don’t fixate on your theories. You should at any time have a vague idea of what comes next. But you should not have an iron clad prediction of it. If you get too invested in your expectations you are put off balance when they don’t come true. If you are absolutely sure the tank is going to pull that group on the left and you get set up for that and only that then you can caught unaware when he goes the other way. Don’t do that. Set yourself up to be able to react to several likely options. This is particularly key advice for a healer. Did you stop to far back and then get surprised when the tank ran around a corner? That was your mistake. There was not real reason to stop back there except that you assumed something about what the tank was going to do. Then you lost line of sight when he ran in the room. Oops. Should have been farther forward from the get-go.

React quickly

That statement ‘react quickly’ is a ‘what’ but not a ‘how’. The how is this: When things change throw out the old and change with them. Don’t stop and go ‘ohcropohcrapohcrap’. Instead simply forget everything you had planned and assumed and start over. Don’t try to resist that changing situation. Don’t try to force it to be what you wanted. Just toss the plan out the window and go. This applies to more than healers. This applies to everyone at all times. All the time I see DPS fail to react when the situation changes. Maybe some adds come and the tank shifts to engage those and there is that lone warrior over in the corner fighting that one guy. He tunnel-visioned right into that one target and will be aware of nothing until that one is dead. Or a tank that ignores the adds on the healer. Or the tank reacts to the adds but tries to fit them into the pull he had already made.

When the situation changes it is changed permanently. Don’t cling to the plan if what happened was not in the plan.

Expect the worst case

Or at the very least expect the most likely things. If you are fighting a group that fears EXPECT to get feared into one of the nearest packs. It is going to happen so you should already have an idea what you are going to do about it. After the fear goes off is not the time to hunt around for your Feign Death button or your Barkskin.

If you know there are other packs around EXPECT one to pat into you from behind. It is going to happen so have a plan for that. All the time when I am tanking I have my camera already turned around and I am looking right at that group behind us. So when the hunter back there fails to notice them and gets agro I am already ready for that. This goes for everything that is annoyingly inconvenient.

All those things that people do all the time that piss you off? EXPECT them, plan for them and react to them fluidly. Don’t spend time going ‘argue they did it again’. Just deal with it. This is a key part of being aware. And it is one of the easiest things to do. If you have a peeve about something then you know about it. And you also know that it is likely to happen. It would not be a peeve if it did not happen to you fairly often. So don’t act surprised when it happens again.

Tanks, see that 6.2k geared guy over there? Yeah, he is GOING to pull off you at some point. Probably all the freaking time. Don’t act shocked, roll with it. Expect it. Factor it into your plan. Use some taunt triage. You don’t have to fight the guy for agro if he can take a few hits. So work him pulling off you into your plan instead of fighting against it.

This goes for everyone. DPS, do you have a plan for when the adds jump you? For when the tank suddenly dies from a big hit? For if the healer DCs? You should and you should expect to need those plans at any time.

More to come

This is getting big so I will carve off some for part 3 and maybe even more. Next time I plan to talk about being more aware of what your party is doing and then maybe I will get into user interface issues and considerations.

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