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Getting to know your mouse

There are a lot of ways to interact with the world of Azeroth. Bliz in their wisdom put in multiple ways of controlling and interacting with your character. Having various ways allows people to have different play styles. I will not spend any time being critical of people that only use the mouse and only use the keys and all that jazz. I will cut to the chase.

In our gaming we sometimes find we are not as good at something as we want to be. Mouse camera control is one of those things that many are not good at. So I want to lay out this post to give you some tips on getting better. Don’t worry. It will be pretty painless.

The final goal of all this is that you will be able to rapidly look in any direction without losing a sense of where you are looking and where you were looking before. This is not an easy thing. Some people are wired very differently on this.

Personally I am one of the ones that is very visual-spatial. This means I tend to think in terms of shapes and three dimensional positions. Not everyone is wired this way. Many people tend to be more auditory thinking and understanding things better that they hear. Others are more symbolic and process oriented, understanding inter-relational concepts independent of a physical framework. Everyone has some capacity to think in every different way of thinking (there are others as well). So even if someone TENDS to think a different way that does not mean they cannot not think in a different way. Even if they might not get AS good as someone more spatially oriented they might still get nearly as good. In fact they might even get better. Human potential is pretty impressive. It could mean they have to work at it more or it could just mean they need to approach the concepts and activities differently.

As I mentioned before WOW as a game is designed with a wide variety of play styles in mind. This means even if you never learn to play a way that you don’t like to play…. So what! But you can get better at ways you are not as good at. Or learn to adapt some elements of other methods into your game play.

As I mentioned I am very ‘visual’ in my thinking style. Consequently I really can’t give any advice on how to think more in terms of physical position and location. I just do it so I can’t really explain it. However I can lay out some ways to approach the concept and also some activities that can be done that will build up the skills for it.

These exercises and activities will help find your own way. As you do them you can come up with your own way of thinking about things and make situational awareness work for you. Remember, the goal is to see more and be AWARE of more. To reach this goal we will learn to be able to move differently. This will give us the ability to move in directions while looking in other directions. With practice you will be able to do this naturally and without confusion or ‘over thinking’.

Your mouse

There are there are 4 things you can do with a mouse in WOW. First of all, as you know you can click on stuff. This is mainly used for targeting things. You can also right click to talk to NPC and to loot things. (you can also turn on the click to move option but I will ignore that here)

The second thing you can do is turn your camera. This is down by clicking and holding your left mouse button. With the button held down you can move the mouse and the camera will move. Try this.

The third thing you can do is aim your character. This is done just like moving the camera except you use the right button instead of the left. Click and hold down the right button and move the mouse around Now while you are also turning the camera you are moving your character with it. There is something else to notice here. Your character IS facing where the mouse is pointing as long as you have that button held down. Even if it does not look like they are. The character on the screen might just turn their head at first but for game mechanic purposes they have already turned to face where your mouse is pointed.

The last main thing you can do with a mouse is click and hold both buttons at the same time. This makes your character start moving forward ad at the same time allows you to steer. This is great if your other hand is busy and you need to move. For example you can have one hand hammering spell buttons while you are still moving some where.

Options

Now a player will usually prefer to move with the mouse and press spells with the keys, or to do the opposite, or to do just one or the other. But if you want to be better at WOW in general you will learn to do either, both or all of the above. No you don’t have to be GOOD at them but it is useful to know how. The more ways you are able to interact with the game the more options you will have to tweak your play style and improve.

STOP! Before you go any farther I want you to go into your mouse settings and slow them down. Slow them down until it is annoyingly slow and then bump it up just a SMALL amount. I will explain why later.

Practice 1: Smell the roses

First off you want to get good with the camera. This is easy. Do it by taking a look at stuff. The point is to look at things that your character is NOT pointed at. When you are flying on the gryphen, (bat, etc) take some time and use the ‘left click and hold’ to look around. Watch people on the ground. Pick something and control your camera to watch that object as it glides past you. Do this a lot. Do this all the time. Trust me this is useful.

Also take a look at stuff as you are riding. Hit your auto run (num-lock) aim your character at something far away and then use the mouse-look (left click and hold) to look around at the stuff you are passing. Look at your character from all angles. Try maneuvering a little with the keys while you have your camera at a funny angle. Yes this will be hard so don’t try it much. But do try it a little.

Practice 2: let your mind wander

Find something to fight. Make sure it is something that is unlikely to kill you. Attack it. While you are autoshotting or wanding, or melee swinging take a moment to pan your camera around. Look behind your character and see if there is something sneaking up on you. Pan the view around and find all the nearby critters. For a mental exercise determine if any of them are threats. Pick something to watch and aim your camera at that. You can let off the left mouse button and leave your camera aimed at that. Do this. Now finish the fight while keeping an eye on what you were pointed at.

Practice 3: How am I looking now?

Look at yourself with the camera from different angles. While fighting do this. Check out how cool you look from all angles while you are shooting/blasting/melting/freezing/stabbing/hacking and generally being mean to the inhabitants of Azeroth. Do this randomly for fun.

Practice 4: Getting jiggy with it

While fighting and moving your camera, move a little. Just a bit. A few steps forward or back.

Moving one way while looking another

To anyone that has not played a lot of first person shooters this might be a tough skill to work on. But fear not we can find ways to get better at it. Trust me! There are some easy ways to practice at get better.

Strafe!

Strafing is where a Messerschmitt swoops down and machine-guns… no wait…

It is the Q and E keys. As you probably know WASD is the standard movement keys. Many many many games use those for maneuvering. This key configuration goes way way way back. Probably ever since mice made AZ obsolete. So it is no surprise that WOW uses it. I know that many people use the arrow keys instead. Some use the arrows because they are left handed mousers. This does not prevent WASD. Move your keyboard 4 inches left and use WASD with your right hand.

There are two reasons the arrow keys are inferior to WASD. First they are far away from the number keys. It is very easy to reach the 1-5 keys and fire a few abilities/spells if your fingers are on WASD. The other reason is that the WASD keys are have Q and E. Q and E are the strafe keys. Strafe means your character moves right and left. No, they don’t TURN right and left. They just step to the side. It is very intuitive. Just a jump to the left or a step to the right (ack! Fishnet!)… where was I? Strafing right. Just like you can step to the side while still facing forward. The nice thing is your character does this at full speed just as if they were walking forward (not slow like walking backward). What does this all mean?

Strafing means you can move one way while facing another way without even touching the mouse. You stay constantly fixed at 90%looking to your left or right from your line of travel.

Like this.

But why do we care? So what? Right?

Not so what! This means you can move off the fire without stopping shooting (or getting closer or farther from the boss) You get to keep doing DPS and stop frying.

Don’t worry. We don’t have to find fire to stand in to practice this one.

Practice 5: slip down the hall

Use strafe indoors. Anywhere you would normally turn, take two steps and then turn back just use the side step. Try to go out of your way to use it. The more you use it the more it will become second nature. So find excuses to use it.

Practice 6: Dodge the fence!

Another great use for strafe is while travelling down a long road. All those small bends and annoying fences, light posts, and trees get in your way. Don’t keep steering by turning your whole body. Just side step by using the strafe key.

No, don’t give me reasons why that is extra work and your way works fine. The point of this is to get BETTER. Fence dodging is a great way to practice a new skill. The goal here is to turn it into a new reflex you probably already have the WASD reflexes (same as the arrow ones). I mean you don’t stop and think when you decide to move forward. Your finger is ‘wired’ in your brain to hit ‘W’ (or up-arrow) when you think about moving forward. The goal of practicing strafing is to wire in some extra reflexes. Don’t make excuses, just try it. And keep trying it. Try running from Stormwind to Redridge or all the way across the Barrens with only minimal ‘turning’. By turning I mean use A and D or the ‘right-click and hold’ mouse steering as little as you possibly can.

Practice 7: Walk this way

Now try other ways of travelling. If you normally use the mouse to steer try spending some time using nothing but WASD+QE to steer. If you normally use just the keys. Try forcing yourself to only drive with the mouse for a while. Doing this while travelling is GREAT practice. Roads are very forgiving so you don’t have to die a lot. Plus with auto-run you will get where you are going in the same amount of time.

Did you do all that? Did you notice anything interesting about using strafe to dodge fences? When you hit the side step key while moving forward, where did you move?

That is right. You moved forward to your left or right at a 45 degree angle. Interesting? No? Try this concept. You can move straight ahead, straight back, straight left, straight right and forward and backward at 45 degree angles all with only 4 keys (not including turning here). Even if you never run backward at a 45 (using S+Q or S+E)… does that even work? Whoever does that? Forget that part. Focus on the combinations of W + Q and W + E.

Who cares right? I mean so what if we can run at all these angles… This is great stuff and I will tell you why. If you learn how to use Q and E and QW and WE then you will run circles around your targets!

Practice 8: Circles

No really. I mean actual literal circles. How? Simple, you use the right mouse button to look at the target. Go find something. Now look at it. Now press W. Keep the target in sight. Keep aiming your camera at it.

This is the path you should run. To do this you will have to use the key combinations shown. You will have to alternate between Q and Q+W. That is for moving ‘clockwise’. If you want to go around counter clockwise then use E and E+W. All the while you are using those keys you will be holding down the right mouse button and aiming your mouse at your target. Just pick any old tree or object in the game and run around it.

Notice how using one key combination makes you move slightly farther away from the target while still keeping it in your sights and the other key combination moves you slightly closer. And both of them keep you aimed at the target.

If this is awkward keep doing it for a while. Try going both directions.

Why does all this matter? What am I getting at? It is about situational awareness. How you ask? I am glad you asked. Situational awareness is the art of being able to see what you want to see when you want to see it despite anything else going on. The goal of all these key moves and mouse controls are to allow you to move your character where it needs to move, aim it at what it needs to aim at, and still be able to see other things. Either around you, or in front of you. Being able to keep your target in sight while moving around it allows you to keep doing DPS on it and also to SEE it. Seeing is the start of awareness. If the boss does something strange while you are faced the wrong way (move out of the fire) then you are disoriented when you look back. If your view is constantly snapping back and forth as you move then you lose valuable moments and you find the boss again or get your character faced back in the right direction.

Here are two ways to try using this concept.

Practice 9: Running while turning, keys only

Run past something using nothing but your arrow keys but keep that object in your view. For example run down the road past a tree while keeping the tree in your view and while ALSO trying to stay on the road. Do this using nothing but the arrow keys. Try not to stop moving while doing this. Hint, this will require pressing 2 and 3 keys a lot.

Yeah, pretty hard isn’t it? Don’t spend much time on that. But doing it once or twice might teach you ways of moving that you did not know where possible… why does that sound wrong?

Practice 10: Facing a target while moving in a straight line. Mouse and keys.

This is it, the holy grail of movement. But let’s take it slow. Here is what I want you to do. Run past something while keeping your character facing it. You do this by holding down the right mouse button and keeping your camera looking at the target. That part is just like ‘practice 1’ above. The difference is you have to use combinations of movement keys to keep moving.

Is this getting really hard? Don’t fear. Even someone ‘really good’ at using the keys and mouse at the same time might have some issues and a lot of clumsiness doing this.

That is all the practice for now. Next time I will talk about actual game playing activities you can do that will help you with this. But before I go let me talk about why I suggested the mouse speed thing.

To be ‘situationally aware’ your brain needs to be able to fit what it sees into a framework. You brain is AMAZINGLY good at this. So good that programmers are nowhere near able to make a robot understand the world around them compared to what a baby can. Or even an animal. The ability of living things to see stuff and piece it all together into a composite picture of the world is astounding. But sometimes it needs help. Your eyes need to see enough clues to know how everything fits. If you give your eyes and brain too few clues you get disorientation. That is your brain telling you it is having trouble merging together and fully understanding what it is seeing.

But what does this have to do with the mouse speed?

Simple. The mouse can pan your camera very fast. I mean really fast. So fast that the image on the screen does not ‘pan’ it simply jumps to a different view. Now your eyes and brain are seeing something that is not connected to what it was seeing the instant before. Look at your computer screen. Now close your eyes, turn half way around and open them again. This is what your WOW screen is showing you when you use a very high mouse speed and pan your camera. You brain is left to piece the first image and the second image together into a ‘picture’ of the world around you. How far around did you turn? Just from the images your brain does not know. It has to figure it out from all the tiny clues around the room. Well in an unfamiliar place this can mean you are instantly and totally lost. Even in a familiar place the small instant it takes your brain to piece those flashing images together into your ‘world picture’ can cause you a feeling of disorientation. If you get lost and confused just walking through up alliance inn and trying to get upstairs then there is a GOOD chance your mouse rate is far too high. I will go into this concept more when I do part two.

Situational Awareness and You Part 2

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How to improve at WOW

WOW is a big game. Lots of people play. Some people can have their gear tweaked out to the fifth decimal place and some have Int on a rogue. It take all kinds… but how do you get to be  better at it? How can you, no matter what your personal skill or experience level, get better at playing your class?

There is a lot of good information out on the internet. The trick is figuring out how to use it. What do you search for, what do you do with what you find. How do you make sense of it all? That is what this post is all about.

You can

First off you can do it. Seriously. Chances are that if you even think you can get more out of your character, you can.

You don’t have to play more

You don’t have to be a ‘no lifer’ or a ‘min-maxer’ or any of that. Those are things people use as excuses for not getting better. You will (probably) not have to radically change how much you play. You will also not have to spend huge amounts of time doing it.

Admitting you have a problem

Admitting a problem is the first step. Let’s face it, we ALL can find a way to get a few more points of damage/threat/healing out of our character. The problem is many people get into a comfort zone and don’t want to break out. Or they imagine improving is some huge hard thing that will consume their life. When they think this they make excuses and stay at their current level. I know because I have been there.

It is an attitude

The thing to realize is that improvement is a never ending goal. It is not about some magical thing you do and then you are uber. It is about recognizing that you COULD be better and trying to get better. That ‘trying to get better’ does NOT have to consume your life or your play time. It can even be done as a onetime exercise in character improvement. But even if it is a onetime thing you need to approach it with the right attitude.

But I LIKE how I play the game

That is fine too… But even within your own personal ‘style’ there are probably small things you can change that would make a large difference. Just because you hear the best spec for your class is one you don’t like does NOT mean you should give up on ever being better. Just about every spec is capable of great things. Also what is ‘best’ changes all the time and even varies based on what level of gear you have. Don’t let the attitudes or suggestions of others affect your goal of getting better. You are doing this for YOU, not them.

Getting started

Identify the problem:

It might be that you suck at PVP. It might be that your DPS is just low all the time and people are starting to complain. Or maybe you stand in the fire too much. Or maybe your tanking is just not working out.

Try to focus in on the specific issue. Don’t be egotistical about it. Don’t be defensive with yourself. This is not the time to make yourself feel better. This is the time to rip off the bandaid of ego, stare at what you are doing wrong and say, ‘ok, I can make this better’.

The areas of improvement:

There are a lot. Here is my list: Gear level, Itemization, gems, enchants, Spec, Glyphs, ability rotation, tactics, strategies, Interface, control usage.

Wow, that is a big list isn’t it. Let’s run down them briefly.

Gear Level:

This one is a TRAP! It is an excuse and a red herring. Yes, getting higher level gear can improve your numbers, but it is the LAST thing to worry about. Gevlon’s Undergeared project proved that you can down the whole first wing of ICC and multiple bosses beyond that in BLUE gear. This is just one of many graphic examples of how your gear does not improve you. Yeah, if you give a high end race car to any driver they will go fast. But so what? That does not mean you can race. Give every NASCAR driver a YUGO and they could hold a pretty impressive race. Give the first few dozen people off the street a NASCAR and you will have a lot of death and destruction but not a race…. Ok maybe that is what people go to races for, but you see my point. People that do poorly point to gear level as an excuse. DON’T LET IT BE YOUR EXCUSE.

Sometimes, just sometimes, you will hit a limit of what you can do with your gear. But the vast majority of the time if you have a performance issue it is not your gear. Using gear as your excuse paralyzes you and blinds you do all the things you can change and improve that are FAR more easy to fix.

(Yes, I know many raids might not let you in without a certain GS. Ignore them, they suck anyway.)

Itemization:

This is a biggy. If you just throw on a bunch of gear you will not have a good set, maybe even if you pick pieces that seem to be right. Heck even if you pick the pieces you read in a gear guide somewhere. Itemization is not as simple as that. I will get back to this later. Just don’t assume your itemization is right. Don’t assume anything when it comes to improvement. DO know your rule of thumbs: if you’re a healer, spellpower is good, if you’re a rogue, don’t stack intellect! But it gets tricky beyond that and you need to know your class. A gifted priest healer who just rolled a holy pally for the first time might not know that spirit is useless to her.  A new bear might not know that the defense on tanky trinkets doesn’t do that much for him. Learn your rules of thumb so you don’t waste time on evaluating a piece of gear that just isn’t right.

Gems and enchants:

Same with Itemization. Don’t assume. Have you ever put an expensive enchant on only to find out later that it was totally wrong for your class and play style? Yeah I have. Most of us probably have, though maybe not all of us have realized it. Some people simply don’t care. If you want to improve don’t be that guy. Make sure the enchants work the way you think they do! Mongoose might look appealing to a hunter – but since it procs off of melee swings, a good hunter won’t get much use out of it.

Spec:

Your spec can probably be improved. Almost certainly there is a point in there somewhere that could be someplace else. It might be of little importance or it could very well be the thing that makes or breaks you. Even if you had your spec right when you respecced last chances are your play style has drifted and there are changes you could make.

Glyphs:

Research your glyphs, major and minor. If they seem confusing, look for a guide to what glyphs are best for your spec. There might just be three that stand out as “must haves”, or five that have situational uses. Don’t be afraid to experiment and get the best set for your playstyle.

Ability Rotation:

This one can be huge. And it can be subtle and tricky. It can be as simple as finding out your are missing some skill you should be using or as tiny as using them in a different order. It can make a very large difference in your damage/threat/healing. Very large. For most players there is improvement they can make here. For many players there is a LOT of improvement they can make here.

Tactics:

Tactics are the small choices you make during combat. This covers all the buttons you press that are not simply doing your ‘rotation’. Target selection is tactics. Pulling tricks? Tactics. Healer Triage? That is tactics too. This area is pretty broad and it can be a lot harder to pin down your mistakes. Unfortunately there is a good chance that your mistakes are here. Most people could use an upgrade in their tactics.

Strategies:

Strategies are the bigger picture things. Stuff that over-arches everything. It is more vague than tactics and touches on a wider variety of ways you approach your character. There is not much I can say about this area because it is so big. Just remember there are larger things that can be areas of improvement too.

A final note before we get started…

Many of these actually work together. If you make a change to your tactics you might start using a new ability in your rotation. That might cause you to want to change a glyph and that decision effects what your spec should be. Don’t focus on one area of improvement and ignore the others. Try to remember what else can be effected.

Disclaimer

I have had many times where I realized mistakes I was making, things I over looked or stuff I totally did not know. If you think I am writing this because I am elitist, you’re wrong. Unless seeking to get better at the game makes me an elitist…But heck, everyone can be that kind of elitist.

Starting

Before you wade out in the internet, keep in mind that much of the advice out there is aimed at a specific sector or area. For example almost all Talent builds are aimed at someone with max level. There is a good chance that you actually want some other build while leveling and want to respec several times on the way up to move points around. The same goes for stats on gear, glyphs, lots of things. How you play the game is not the same as how others play the game.

And, to make things worse, it is not always obvious. For example a guild to tanking might fail to mention it is totally focused on raid main tanking and that if you are tanking heroics only you might want things a lot different. A PVP guide won’t be much good for doing PVE, and vice versa.

I am going to start with gear, go through them categories of improvement. Keep in mind that if you change something later it might affect things in you already looked at. Never assume you are done tweaking things.

Gear

Leveling gear

The gear choices you make while leveling are different then what you look for near max level.

Don’t waste a lot of time on it.

The first thing to say about leveling gear is ‘don’t worry about it much’. While leveling almost anything will do. But, sometimes it is a trouble area so here is how you take a look.

Find your worst items and look for a replacement. This is pretty straightforward. It is just what is says. You go down your list and look for the slot that is lagging the most and find something new for that. Let’s say you are 23 and looking over your gear you see you still have grey or white boots. That is a pretty good candidate for an upgrade.

Avoid the auction house. But if you do hit the AH, don’t buy the bestest thing you can find. That is a waste of money. Like with most things in life you can usually find something 80% as good for 20% the cost. Buy the Toyota, not the Lexus. You are going to replace it in a few levels soon anyway so don’t waste much on it.

Quest drops

You can avoid the AH by looking for a quest drop. Use site like Thottbot or WOWhead to find a quest reward that replaces your item and go run that quest. Another way to upgrade gear is to grind instances for a while. Go check the information on what drops there though. Thottbot, Wowhead, even WOWwikki all have boss drop information. Don’t forget to get the quests for that instance. Those often reward gear.

If you are above level 60 your best bet is quest drops. Bliz did a much better job from 60 to 80 of providing a steady flow of gear upgrades for people leveling. This is extra true for someone who just hit Outlands level of Northrend level. Do your research on what quests rewards you need and go find them.

Craft your own.

Do you have an higher level crafter alt or a friend who can? Heck you can even spam trade for someone and get them to make you a cheap green replacement for any slot you have that is really lagging.

Max level gearing up

There are four stages to max level gearing up.

Gearing up Stage 1: 200-219

Stage one of gearing up a lvl 80 character is to replace your quest greens and instance blues with item level 200 or 219 blues and purples. This involves running NON-heroic versions of all the level 80 instances. All of them except TOC, FOS, POS, and HOR drop item level 200 blues from each boss and Item level 200 purple from the final boss. This is decent stuff. TOC drops 200 purples from each encounter including trinkets but not including any weapons. FOS, POS and HOR drop 219 purples from all bosses and some random packs including trinkets and weapons. I recommend making a list of all the 200 and 219 gear you want from those top 4 places and running them all until you have most of that list.

Gearing up Stage 2: 232-245+

Badge gear and heroic ICC 5 man drops are what you are going for next. Start by grinding random heroics until you have a few pieces of badge gear (232). Once you have a few of those you can add some focused runs of the top 3, FOS, POS, and HOR. As you are working on ‘stage 2’ you can start also working stage 3. As you run out of things that drop on instances or from triumph badges you will have moved fully into stage 3.

Gearing up Stage 3 is ‘Best in Slot’

This is the stage where you start paying attention to gear guides and finding that one piece of gear that will be best in that slot until and unless you get a raid drop or a zillion frost badges.

Find a guide. There are a lot of great gearing up guides out there. But make sure your guide is up to date. If you find one that looks good but is actually from patch 3.1.2 you will waste a lot of effort and not have the best gear. Many blogs and other sites have made gear guides specifically tailored for showing you the best non-raid gear you can get. Find one for your class and keep it handy. Check off each slot as you get it.

Gearing up Stage 4

This is all about raid gear and frost badges. There are actually various levels of gear from raid drops and badges so you have to do your own research as to which you want. Also which you are working on will depend on what sort of raids you are getting into. You might be 12/12 in 25 man hard modes or you might only get the occasional weekly runs. Or it could be anywhere in between. If you are regularly in 10 man pugs that get 5-6 bosses down then you can easily compile a list of gear you are likely to see drop off of those bosses. If you check this list against what you can get with frost badges you will be able to have a master wish list of what you are working toward.

Gems/Enchants

These depend on your spec. First off never leave anything ungemmed or enchanted. If you are not sure what is best min-max slap a cheap enchant or gem in there until you go find out what is best. Don’t waste Epic gems on less than phase 3 gear. Put those high gold cost ones on gear that you expect to wear a while. Also keep in mind what gemming and enchanting you want will vary based on other factors.

Step By Step Powering Up

Step 1: Rotation, Talents, Glyphs

The biggest areas of ‘problem’ you can have in your character revolve around your Ability Rotation, your Talent Build and your Glyphs. These three end up being a LOT to cover. But since they are tied tightly together it is hard to fully separate them. Chances are if you make a change to one you will want to change the others… but since it is impossible to talk about them in a lump lets break them down.

Rotation

What might you be doing wrong with your ability rotation? There are two big ways to screw this up. There are other ones but these to cover most of it.

Using the wrong abilities.

There are a lot of abilities out there. Even in one spec there are a lot to pick from. BUT they are NOT all appropriate for you to use. As you level up you end up with abilities that are intended to replace other abilities in your main rotation. Also as you apply talent points you increase some abilities and decrease others. In a given fight there is a limit to your mana/rage/energy and also to the number of global cooldowns and seconds you have to use abilities. You can’t use them all. You have to pick which to cast and which to not cast. If you pick one over another you might be picking wrong. No, don’t tell me that you prefer to play that way and don’t want to change. That is nonsense. Some abilities are flat wrong. For example if you are a Prot warrior you should not be using Sunder Armor. For Prot warriors the Devastate ability completely replaces Sunder Armor. If you did not notice this you might go on using the wrong one. This is just one example and there are a LOT of others. Another example is that for a Survival hunter Explosive Shot replaces Arcane shot. There is pretty much no reason for a survival hunter to ever use Arcane shot once he gets Explosive Shot. That is just how the game is made.

It is critical that you find out what abilities make sense for your spec and which do not. It is also important you understand which abilities are interchangeable depending on situation. For example a warrior can use Heroic Strike or Cleave. They both (pre Cata) go off on the next strike so you get one or the other in a given swing but not both. So you pick which you want depending on the situation. It is not just spamming buttons. One is good for certain situations and the other is good for others. If you are just randomly hitting whichever you feel like or if you just use one because it is your favorite then there is a VERY good chance you are often using one that is not the best choice.

The scope of this article is not to tell you which is best. There are FAR to many choices to cover all that. The point is to get you to go look.

DO – Find out what abilities people are recommending for your class and spec and find out WHY they are recommending them. Don’t just find one guide and do what it says. It could be wrong or it could be out of date. Read several, check for counter arguments and debate. Check the dates on what you are reading.

Using abilities at the wrong time or in the wrong order.

There are efficient rotations out there. People with a head for numbers and a lot of time on their hands have worked out what rotations of abilities make sense for particular specs. If you trigger abilities in the wrong order, or prioritize one ability over another you can see very large changes in your damage/threat/healing. Even if you are using all the ‘right’ moves but are not using them in the right proportions you may be wasting a lot of your potential. I had the experience of realizing I was not using Maul enough on my bear. I was using it. I thought I was using it a lot. But when I studied up I realized I needed to be using it EVERY SWING. So I went and made macros so it triggered every time I pressed any of my other hot keyed attacks. My DPS/TPS shot way up. I knew Maul was important, and I was using it a fair bit. But I did not realize just how important it was or just how often I needed to be using it. Had someone told me ‘maul more’ I might have scoffed and said “I do that”. It was only when realizing I had a serious PROBLEM with my DPS/TPS and that I needed to make a serious change that I finally did the reading I needed to really see what I needed to change. VERY often small tweaks like this can make a large difference in damage/healing output. Don’t assume you have to make big changes to see big differences.

DO – Read up on proposed rotations. Make sure you check if they are intended for bosses, or trash or what. Rotations vary based on the fight. Read more than one version and look up enough to understand WHY they suggest those rotations. Compare that to what you do. I mean REALLY compare. Find a target dummy and practice. What you think you do for a rotation and what you actually do may be different in subtle and important ways. If the rotations you read about have a ‘priority system’ make certain you understand what they prioritize when and why.

Analogue inserts – this is even more important for certain class/specs. For instance, the paladin tanking rotation is a very tight rotation of abilities we call the “969 rotation”: you use an ability with a 9 second cooldown, then one with a 6 second cooldown, then 9, then 6,  repeat til things are dead. If you do, you have insane amounts of aggro, control the fight, everything’s beautiful. If you don’t, you flail around, don’t have a good pattern, and your healer dies.  Not every class plays like this – for instance my healing druid might cast any spell at any time depending on what needs doing.

Talents

There are a lot of ways to screw your talents up. Some are small and some are large. Sometimes when you vary from the conventional ‘wisdom’ in your talent build it does not matter and sometimes a few misplaced or missing points can completely hamstring your build. Let’s look what what you can do wrong.

Mistaking PVP and PVE talents

Are you a PVE DPSer? Then you don’t want to be wasting many points on things that up your HP or give you more dodge. There are a LOT of talents that are aimed squarely at PVP. If you are a PVPer and you don’t have some of those you will find you are squishy and get owned a lot. If you are a PVEer and put points into many of those talents you will find your dps/heals/threat is seriously lagging.

Points you forgot about

Play styles change. You might find you are never using a certain spell but you put 3 points into making it crit more often. Oops. Don’t let your Talents sit around forgotten. Check up on them and compare what you see to how you currently play the game. If you are 80 and are still using your leveling spec to run heroics and raids then you probably have some really poorly spent points.

Key Missing Points

Many trees have some points that really make or break it. It is not always obvious what those are. For example as a bear there are 3 points you HAVE to take or you can’t be a serious tank. I was ‘bearing’ at max level for a couple weeks before I went back and did my homework and realized what I had missed.

Here is a key point: Sometimes those critical talents are not in your main tree. In fact every decent build I have ever heard of has points in other trees that are important. I have never heard of good build with 71 points in one tree. But you see this mistake a LOT. The only way for that to happen is if people do not read all the available talents and weigh what things will and will not matter for how they play. Don’t be that person! 71 points in one tree is a sure sign of a noob. Fix it before people start to point and laugh.

Listening to ‘conventional wisdom’ in place of thinking

This can really hurt you. Don’t listen and turn off your brain. I lost track of how many level 60ish DKs I ran into that had all their points in frost and were trying to tank. Why? Because you use frost presence to tank. Clearly that means you must need to put all your points there, right? Wrong. If you don’t know why (and you are a DK) you either have not read what your talents say on them or you have not read anything on the internet about DK tank builds. Probably both. There are plenty of examples of this. Like putting all your points in to BM on a hunter because someone said it was good for leveling. Well it is good for leveling but don’t put your points there just because someone said something. Read up for yourself and do your own thinking.

Leveling without respeccing

There are some great builds out there for when you are max level. You can look one up and use to assign each point as you go. But that is almost certainly a bad idea. Because what you need while leveling is not the same. It works better to assign them as you go based on what you are currently using, and everyone so often, respec completely to move some points around that you don’t need anymore.

Always be ready to respec. Any change to your play style can change what points make the best sense for you.

Using a cookie cutter build

This can work… or it can be suboptimal. If you don’t know WHY they chose those talents then you will not know if they are actually best for your play style.

Reading the text for yourself and deciding based on just that

Wait… what? That is right. If you just go off what the text of the talent (or ability) says then you can get really screwed up. Why? Because Blizzard is BAD at percentages and uses the English language ambiguously. I am an engineer who deals a lot in contracts and requirements. Those contain specific language that is intended to be completely unambiguous. If two people read one thing and come up with a different idea of what it means then that text is BAD. Blizzard, in their descriptions of what talents and abilities do, makes this mistake a lot. A WHOLE LOT. Some of the text can be very misleading. A good example of this is taunts. If you read the text of ‘mocking blow’, ‘growl’ (bear), ‘growl’ (hunter pet), and Distracting Shot and tried to explain how each was different, without doing some extra research, you would be almost certainly completely and totally wrong. And the ways you would be wrong could be life or death in a party.

I am not saying you are too dumb to figure it out. I am saying those ability tool tips can be VERY misleading. I had to explain to a warrior one time that Mocking Blow was not a taunt. But it says right there in the text that it taunts. Except it doesn’t. It is a forced attack and not an ‘attack’. This is a subtle but very critical distinction and can lead to all sorts of headaches while tanking if you are depending on that ability. When your own judgement contradicts what is out there on the internet do NOT assume you have it right. Don’t assume the internet has it right either. Keep researching until you are SURE. If you find yourself saying ‘this has to be wrong because the ability says…’ stop right there and go research more. (And if you are totally lost about those taunt descriptions then go read my posts on tanking)

I have run into this first hand. For a long time I read the text of aimed shot as applying a debuff that makes other shots hit harder. Does it say that? Well not really, but it could be argued that it does. When I figured out how wrong I was I felt pretty stupid. This leads me to another point…

Since this post has gotten too long I will make it my last point.

Don’t let ‘feeling stupid’ get in the way of getting powered up

We all hate to feel like a buffoon. There are a lot of things about powering up that can make us feel that way. If someone gives us some criticism we mentally reject it. That sort of thing make us feel bad. Don’t look at it that way. Find a way to see their point. This means EVEN if they were a total asshat about it there might STILL be a point in there. In fact even if they way they worded it was WRONG there still might be a point in there somewhere if you look at things from all angles. If you are serious about getting better you need to start treating all criticism as a chance to improve your game.

Changing your rotation? Makes you feel awkward and clumsy.

Changing spec? Makes you feel totally lost and confused.

Reading that some other ability (that you ignore) is important. Makes you feel defensive, and annoyed with yourself and others.

Finding some advice that counters your thinking on gems or enchants? Makes you want to defend your side of things, or to call ‘sour grapes’ on their thinking.

There are many ways that trying to power up can get us defensive, or feeling stupid. Do NOT let that get in the way. You are in control of your own mind and emotions. Don’t let them control you and do NOT let them send you pack to your old less effective way of playing. It is easy to convince yourself that you are good enough. This is a crutch we lean on when getting better seems to hard. Most of that ‘hardness’ is mental and not real. Don’t let your natural reactions get in the way.

They are natural reactions. I am not saying feeling stupid is stupid. We ALL feel dumb when we realize we have been making a mistake. That is normal and perfectly ok. It does not mean you are dumb. It is only dumb to let that feeling rule you. Harness that annoyance and make it motivate you to get better.

It is VERY easy to let this sort of thing get in the way. Many times I have seen an issue with something and resisted actually doing something about it. I would slog forward for a while until the problem blew up in my face or the slog got so annoying I had to fix what was wrong. Have you ever done that? Ever realized your spec was bad but did not bother to fix it for a while? I think we have all been there at one time or another. Just learn to recognize when you are trying to avoid fixing something. It is usually a good indicator when you find yourself thinking up an excuse for something.

 I had intended this post to give a case study of one character I did some ‘powering up’ to. But it has turned into such a huge wall of text I will save the practical examples for other posts. In the future I will try to document an actual ‘power up’ session and post what resources I use.

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I think of this trick as virtual tanking… it is really virtual crowd control. 
Let’s say you are murderizing some Defias in a small town somewhere. Suddenly a second one spots you. 
  
Oh NOES! You are not ready for a second one. And that fire ball looks like it will hurt. No problem! 
 
 Hah! Safe. But wait he is coming this way. How about we give him a target again? 
  
That is it. I hop back out and you stop right there and waste a couple seconds trying to cast a fireball. 
  
Denied! 
 
No, don’t come over here. Stand there and cast some more. I am not done with your friend. 
 
I love it when the fall for the same trick a second time… 
 
Almost done with your friend. 
 
Come on over. 
 
Your turn! 
 
LOS interupts are so much fun!

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SAN Weekend Raiding Update

We were hoping to raid with SAN Saturday afternoon, but we had issues getting people to fill slots, a narrow time window- basically, it wasn’t going to work so we agreed to try again Sunday. Later that evening, Reversion and I signed back on to try to recruit guildies to go visit UBRS and BWL for some classic WoW fun times. We got a great turnout!

Me – Divergent – as the paladin tank
Rev – on Consolidate with leet druid heals
HairyGiblets - the hunter
Daruma and Rogerstring - our shamans
Missholloway - an almost-level-appropriate paladin
Delwyn the Rogue – level 72 at the time I think
Invariant - my 58 warlock on the RAF account, along to give soulstones and that’s about it.

We wandered into Blackrock Spire and headed for the Upper part, slaying all who stood in our way. First notable accomplishment: the whelp room! We turned off Retribution Aura, made the shamans wait to throw totems, I ran around clicking eggs like crazy then we AOE’d and boom, filled Guild chat with achievement spam. Lots of Jenkins titles that night!

We finished tearing along through UBRS and found the BWL entrance. I zoned in, then back out since I wanted us to get the UBRS achievement and we hadn’t yet. Tip: zoning out of BWL and back in sets you at the entrance to BRS and you have to run all the way back…

Anyway, we killed the end boss for UBRS and proceeded into Blackwing Lair. None of us had been here before and we weren’t sure what to expect. We figured out we needed to mind control and have the big dragon kill eggs, but wiped twice trying to get the hang of it. Finally we realized that you really just need to ignore the adds because if you kill them they keep spawning. So I worked my butt off to aggro all the adds, Consolidate healed me, the boss, the raid, whoever, and the guildies took turns mind controlling the boss. They did great, I avoided killing the boss when he wasn’t mind controlled (I think I did that one of our wipes) and with a great sense of accomplishment, he went down.

You don’t have to take my word for it either! Hairygiblets videoed our fight and linked it on his blog: here

Oh, another tip: Our first wipe, we didn’t have to run back because Daruma Reincarnated. Our second wipe, we all died, and Consolidate volunteered to run back. Unfortunately, ALL the trash in UBRS had respawned and he and Hairygiblets had to fight their way back in. It seems like there’s a really short respawn timer. Actually the bosses and stuff were back too. I’m not sure what was going on there.

Having passed the first test, we were ready to see more. So we poked our heads into the next room and found a corrupted red dragon who needed to be put out of his misery. He has an annoying mechanic though; he puts a dot on someone, and after a couple seconds, they die from it. No ifs, ands, or buts. Every third dot goes to a tank… so we had a really limited window to get him down, and we didn’t. Got him about halfway. Unfortunately it was quite late so we called it. Next time we’ll bring more bodies as dot-soaking-targets.

A very fun little evening, though!

Sunday afternoon as promised, guild members signed on. We ended up with only five of us; Divergent, Consolidate, Hairygiblets, Datq the resto shaman and Daruma, so we picked up puggers and went to ICC, with me healing and Consolidate tanking this time.

Hairy got some video from this too.

To summarize, we made trash die, we one-shotted the first three bosses, we went to Saurfang, has blood beast issues like you’d expect with multiple first time people (some of the puggers were new too I think) and then a top dps’er ragequit, and some of us were running out of time so we called it.

Again, this raiding with SAN is a lot of fun and anyone who has a spare 80 or is looking for somewhere to role an alt could do worse than joining a blogger guild. Guild chat is never dull!

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The other half of dual boxing…

This post is the flip side of Analogue’s post.

As she said we have been doing RAF. We started things off a month or so back with her doing the ‘new’ and disposable account and power-leveling alts for me. The plan had been to pair that way and then when I had a few up near 58 or so we would swap roles and power level a bunch of alts for her with a different disposable RAF account. This worked well for a while but we finally thought hey, why not just multi-box and do it all at once.

Multi boxing

As many of you know people use this term for one player running several characters. Most people seem to do this with one computer and various mods and macros to synchronize their characters. I personally prefer using multiple computers. I have had a multi computer desk setup for a long time… er… probably 12 or 14 years. Some time in an old game called ShadowBane I started regularly running two accounts. In that game aggro was just a ‘whoever hit it first’ thing so it was super easy to have a meat shield and a healer/nuker. I just put the meat shield on a pack of mobs and then played the other computer until the fight was over. It was easy, effective, and fun.

Later I did a lot of multi accounting on EVE online. In that game, if you have things set right you can be pretty effective with a pair. There were no mods to help but there are various ways to have one ship follow another of fly in formation. Also if I was doing asteroid mining running two machines made a boring task into something slightly less boring and twice as profitable.

With my setups I always use dual keyboards and mice. I never tried a KVM and can’t see how it could possibly help. Nothing beats being able to have one hand on each set of hot keys. Having to flip a switch would suck.

The center piece of a multi computer setup is the desk. I have this sweet one I found at a used office furniture place many years back. It has two halves, front and back. Each is about 1 foot deep and each is independently height adjustable. The whole thing is about 5 feet long. So there is room for a row of monitors in the back and a row of key boards in the front. I added an extra keyboard try on the upper deck so I can pull it out when I am using a third keyboard. Right now my main machine is a mac laptop. I have that mounted on a movable sing arm clamped to the desk’s upper deck. It’s monitor is directly in front of me and the laptop on the arm is off to the right. My second machine is one of our older gaming rigs, mostly build out of a machine Analogue had before we were married. Its monitor is on the left. Its keyboard is on that side too and the main keyboard is in front of me.

I have both mice on the right side of the keyboards. The left computer’s mouse is ‘above’ the other (i.e. slightly farther toward the back of the desk) This means if I am switching my attention to the left side machine I simply turn my head left while moving my left hand left and my right hand ‘up’ and left. Now I am on the other mouse and keyboard. For this multi boxing I actually have a USB gaming keypad between the keyboards so it is a short move from WASD on the main keyboard to the pad just to the left of it. And it is a similarly short distance to hop between the mice. This makes switching back and forth far faster and more intuitive than having to flip some KVM would be. I don’t have to check what a switch is set for, I know based on where my hands are.

WOW dual boxing, my style

I have dual boxed wow a fair bit before. Mostly on lowby characters. It was not all that easy or fun. It was not BAD, but it just was not as fun as playing only one. For one thing your efficiency goes down. So you can either be playing one character and only using the other to loot quest stuff, or you are trying to use two and not being 100% effective with either. This can be annoying. Looting on an offside is triple annoying. So this sucked enough fun away to make me not do it often.

RAF provides the opportunity to fix some of that. For one thing old world leveling is so nerfed that you can be effective even if you are not 100% focused on one character. With RAF the triple makes things SO fast that it is worth it to have an efficiency decrease in your play. The blinding leveling speed adds a ‘sweet!’ element that offsets the annoyance of swapping back and forth. Also the leveling bonus means you can skip most gather quests and avoid a lot of the headache of looting on your offside account.

My goal when we started this most recent dual boxing experiment was to do everything I could to make it simple and fun. More simple and more fun than my previous WOW dual boxing. I use two ways to go about this. One was selecting characters I was very familiar with. This gives me the edge of not having to learn my class at the same time. It works because SAN is on a new server to us and I don’t have a max level hunter there. Plus I had not leveled a hunter in a while. Ages ago I did several of them and the leveling got stale. Now it is all fresh but still familiar.

Let me tell you, for dual boxing hunters are a GREAT choice. Between auto shot and a good dps pet they can do 50-70 percent of their max damage potential just by pressing one key. In retrospect this would have been great for an offside character. The next pair we make I will make an offside hunter. With this pair I had my hunter decked out in the full set of heirlooms, chest, shoulders, trinkets, 2h axe and bow, everything except the ring. This gave me insane damage. Through the whole session the hunter was consistently 65+ percent of our damage for the whole party of 4. I wanted an nice AOE debuff pet so the first thing we did when I hit 10 was have Analogue’s max lvl pally run me to Northrend for a nice hawk (vultures are ugly). (There are level 7 hawks hanging out near Utgarde Keep, the lowest level hawks in the game.)

That covers my main account/computer but what about the offside? Druid ended up being an ok but not super choice. With Analogue healing on both of hers the healing aspects of the druid were not used. However, the druid’s durability compared to other caster classes was nice. I tried two different ways of setting it up first I will cover the one I liked best.

Offside Character Control

First off I used a follow macro like Analogue explained in her post. Super handy, fast, one button and the character is on follow. No targeting and right clicking. The auto targeting is what made that macro great and made it better than our older dual boxing experience.

First way

Of course I did not stop there. Next up I made some nice attack macros. This are the ones I use more than anything else and I LOVED how effective they were. Here it is.

/cast [target=focustarget] wrath

That is it. “target=focustarget” means the spell will be fired at whatever my ‘focus’ has selected. So the first thing I do when logging in and partying up is to set my druid’s focus on my hunter. Now, with that macro, my hunter has full control over who my druid targets and I never have to select targets manually on the other computer. That saves a lot of clicking and means I almost never need to touch the ‘offside’ mouse. I made a macro like that for Starfire, Wrath and, Moonfire. I made them the 1, 2, and 3 keys respectively. So now all I had to do, was target something on my hunter and then pick the 1,2, or 3 depending on how long I wanted the cast time to be.

Setting up a pull was easy. I targeted with the hunter, pressed ‘1’ on the offside keypad to start a nice long Starfire cast and then went to the hunter and selected pet attack (macroed to my #1 using “/petattack”). Then I waited a heartbeat or two (Starfire is a looong cast) and then pressed arcane shot or multishot, depending on the situation. WHAM! That target took a ton of damage. If I wanted to hit it hard some more I just pressed any of the 1-3 on the druid while hitting arcane shot or multi shot again (Mostly alternating them. They both hit hard even on single targets). Doing attacks this way meant that by threat was spread out over two characters so often my bird was able to hold agro even though the target had just had most of its HP blown away. Also it meant even if the pet did not hold agro most targets were dead before they even reached me(us).

In heavier combat it was easy to tab target on my hunter and then start a new attack on the druid, just one button press on the offside. With the hunter in full control of the targeting I was able to get a lot out of the offside account with minimal button pressing. Because I was in command of 3/4 of our TOTAL party damage meant that no marks or anything were needed. Whoever the hunter was targeting was automatically the primary target and it died rather fast. This made fights easy and fast. Being short a player (party of 4) did not hurt us in part because of tightly focused damage dealing.

I also made some macros that auto targeted my focus target for some healing. One button press to hit the focus target for some rejuv or healing touch. I found once things got into heavy fighting I did not bother with that. I let Analogue handle healing while I kept up the focused damage. Sometimes I did use my offside druid’s Vudo setup. That was as easy as grabbing that mouse and right clicking a few frames to spread damage around.

The trickiest thing was positioning. The druid was on follow on the hunter. So if we got over run with mobs she was not always facing the target. One way we dealt with that was for Analogue’s pair to move to the front of the pack as the fight started and throw some tanking moves. This kept things in front of the druid. The other problem there was that the hunter could not back up to get into minimum arrow range. That would face the druid away from the fight. Fortunately with the 2 hand heirloom axe Raptor Strike does a pile of damage. Between that and the ability of the druid to keep nuking without the fuss of maneuvering two characters, I did a lot of melee huntering.

For boss fights and a few others I would move the druid off ‘follow’ and pre position it somewhere. I would pick a spot with her back to a wall and a good 180 degree view of the battle. This way the hunter could do all the running, jumping, weaving, and shooting she wanted to do and the druid still had sight of her target. Any time I hit the offside keys the druid would deliver its nature-y destruction on target. :D

Second way

I also made some macros just for targeting various targets, the only three needed were the focus (partner), the target of focus, and self (/cleartarget). I found that I actually did not use them for the druid. What I did use them for was a short session where I was controlling both of another RAF pair we have. Using those three target macros, bound to some handy keys (F10, F11, F12) I was able to use all the ability bars that character had already set up for single account play. Those three macros and the previously mentioned follow macro were all it took to make an offside computer account, previously set up for one player use into a decent ‘offside’ character. This assumes a properly setup hot button bar (1-10) and easy access to the other keyboard (or a USB pad with 1-10 and F10-F12).

So those were the two distinct ways I have been messing with to control my dual setup. When the druid gets more abilities I might change things around. I need to find a fast and effective way to target Hurricane and Volley at the same time. I also need to respec the druid to full balance. I also plan to mess with using the hunter as the ‘offside’. On our next pair I am sure to use a hunter offside but I am still trying to decide what the ‘main’ will be. Since the main is the ‘keeper’ character I have to decide what I want to have leveled as well as what will work well in this sort of pairing.

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We’ve been using Recruit a Friend to level up some alts on Argent Dawn where SAN lives, but the obvious flaw with this scheme was that Reversion was about to get multiple level 60s characters and I wouldn’t have any once the RAF account lapsed. So we did the obvious thing and linked an RAF account to my main account for him to play, making four active accounts for us for a while (Analogue main, Analogue RAF, Reversion main, Reversion RAF)

And obviously once you’ve got four accounts that can level at triple XP speeds, what do you do? Run all four at once, of course! So Reversion created a hunter (main) and a druid (RAF), while I created a shaman (main) and a paladin (RAF). Rev has two computers setup on his desk so he has one account on each; my offside machine is having video card issues so I hooked up a second monitor to my machine and ran two WOW instances in windowed mode.

Reversion is planning to discuss some of his strategies for getting the most out of his setup; he uses a lot of macros and interesting techniques. Mine are a bit less complicated and less effective, since I only have one mouse and keyboard to control things and I have to switch which WOW is the active one in order to do things on that character.

Some general things we’ve learned: We set up with me controlling both my accounts and Rev doing both of his, which works ok except we’re constantly having to check to make sure the other halves of our RAF pairs are close enough for XP. If we do another quartet like this we might have to swap accounts around.

Our mains have heirlooms for an additional 20% XP gain and some really hard hits. We have to work to keep the other characters close to the same level. Usually, we just pick some drop quest to only do on the lower characters and haul them back to level.

The hunter is doing most of the damage. With the heirloom chest, shoulders, bow, and sword, things just drop dead. If we’re out questing I run with the shaman and nuke things with lightning bolts and save the paladin for healing when things get sticky. Going to talk about our adventures in Deadmines in a bit and how that was different.

The key for me being able to do this successfully is Vuhdo, that queen of mods that I’ve rhapsodized in the past. Both the paladin and the shaman start out with one long slow heal; I mapped that in Vuhdo to right click. Later they gain a short heal and a dispel; I’ve set the short heal to the right side button and the dispel to the mouse wheel scroll up action. All I have to do is move my mouse to the correct Vuhdo setup and click. At worst I have to click twice, if I am trying to do something in the copy of WoW that was not active, the first click activates it and the second does what I want.

We quested in Teldrassil, then moved to Westfall where the killing is good and the quests are plentiful. Seems there was a plague of red-bandana’d Defias. And some gnolls. There were a lot less of both after we steamrolled across the zone, a multi-boxing killing machine of death. (Wait, killing machine of death? You’re getting carried away there…)

In ordinary questing, I pretty much ignored the paladin except to keep up buffs, loot quest items, and throw some heals. The one macro I did write on both accounts that was key was a follow macro:

/tar CharacterName
/follow

A neat trick for this macro is you can do as many /tar lines as you want. So if you’re doing multiple sets of RAF pairings, write one account-wide macro that looks like this:

/tar Character1
/tar Character2
/tar Character3
/follow

and you don’t have to keep recreating it. The downside is, if you have more than one of these characters in your party it will end up targeting the last one on the list, even if that character is not there, or offline, so plan things out carefully.

Anyway the ordinary questing went well. Reversion’s hunter did most of our killing, my shaman helped and my paladin threw around heals. Since I was mostly using lightning bolts on my shaman, I could set a lightning bolt casting, switch to the shaman, start a heal, switch back and do lightning, switch back and do heals… it worked really well.

We did all the quest chains leading up to Deadmines and dinged 20 on all our characters. I took my shaman to get her water totem, and then we went and manually found the entrance to Deadmines (how weird is that!) and decided to see how well we could do. We were a higher level than the instance, so we thought we had a pretty good chance.

I started pretty much the same way I’d done the questing, with the paladin basically just on follow. Then we got to the first boss, the ogre dude, and I figured what the heck, it’s easy to grab aggro with a paladin, so I turned on Righteous Fury, taunted, and let the paladin tank while I healed and threw lightning with the shaman. It worked really well. The guy dropped and we didn’t.

After that I worked harder to use the pair. Most fights didn’t last long enough, but when a patrol came by I’d grab aggro with the paladin, start healing with the shaman, and drop some fire novas when I could. Reversion shot things and Moonfired on his druid and we were just steamrolling through the place.

It helped a lot that we were higher level, that we knew the place well, and that we knew our classes and roles well. Reversion’s original main is a hunter and that class is like a well worn pair of shoes for him. I have a paladin tank and I set this paladin’s abilities in the same spot as that tank’s. I’ve never done a shaman past about 25, but I do know how to heal and I’d already set up Vuhdo to let me do what I needed; tanking and healing at the same time was not too hard.

The worst times we had were with patrols coming up behind us – they do that a lot in Deadmines. It would take a while to grab aggro, and peoples’ health would get pretty low. But we got to the boat with no wipes!

We took down Mr. Smite easy – Reversion’s hunter hits like a ton of bricks and he took out the adds fast so we didn’t have any trouble getting through the stuns. Then we carefully cleared onto the boat. Being higher level here really helped. It is tricky at the best of times not aggroing half that boat down from above, and when you’re maneuvering multiple characters at once it gets hard.

We took down Captain Greenskin with only minimal “ack we’re going to die heal heal grab aggro ack DIE!” angst – nobody actually died – and then set up for Van Cleef himself. I set my totems, switched to the paladin, pulled, consecrated, switched to the shaman and healed, switched back to pick up more adds, back again to heal – and then the “Achievement Complete!” box popped up, we finished taking down the adds, and victory!

Of course after this screenshot we jumped down and killed Cookie. I stole his rolling pin, hah!

And we were done! Turned in quests, and logged out for the night. Whew!

It was a lot of fun and we’re looking forward to seeing what else we can pull off with a quartet like this. Might be slower than with actual other players, but on the other hand we don’t have to deal with idiots…

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

The loop

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

Getting inside

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

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

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

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

Tank vs Party

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

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

Confidence

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

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

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

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

Aura of Confidence

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

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

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

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

Communication

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

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

Final note on Pacing versus Decision Making

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

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

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

Cataclysm…

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

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

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

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

But first off…

Why give advice at all?

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

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

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

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

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

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

They have to hear it some day

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

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

But how?

Giving advice for maximum effect

Prove you know something first

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

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

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

Keep it short

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

Be polite

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

Don’t let it hold up the run

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

Be clear

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

Focus the advice on what they should DO

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

Back up your points with tools as needed

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

Don’t argue with idiots

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

Channel the Stupidity

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

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

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

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I already talked about multi-pulls. Chain pulls are different. Multi pulls involve pulling and downing multiple packs at the same time. Chain pulling, in a nutshell, is minimizing the time between pulls. This might be simply charging the next group as soon as one is down or it might mean actually leaving a pack mostly dead for the DPS to finish off while you head for the next group. So in chain pulls you are doing one pull at a time but doing them back to back. The challenges and issues of chain pulling are different from multi pulls.

You are only fighting one pack at a time so each fight involves less incoming damage for you the tank. This means they are in theory, easier to heal. But in fact the hardest thing about chain pulling is how hard it is on the healer, or more specifically, how hard it is on the healer’s mana pool. Because you are allowing no time for anyone to rest of drink the mana pool either has to be improbably huge, or the healer has to be extremely good at conserving it (possibly by being hugely geared), or you have to require almost no healing. The last way that a healer’s mana can survive a chain pulling run is by the DPS killing things very fast. Let’s look at each of those.

Healer mana pool

You, the tank, can’t actually effect how big the healers mana pool is, but you can monitor it and actually stop as needed. If you think you are good enough to run something at super speed then you can prove it by being good enough to pay attention to the healer’s mana. The level of mana at the end of a fight is the healers problem to deal with. The level of mana the healer has when the next fight starts is YOUR problem. Anyone that chain pulls and then complains when an OOM healer lets them die needs to respect from tanking and NEVER tank again. Seriously. Do us all a favor. Are they gone yet? Good. If you are still reading I am going to assume you are not a jerk or a moron and you want to actually be able to do fast chain pulling runs that don’t involve whining while running back from the graveyard. If this is the case you need to take a few steps.

I am talking about steps YOU the TANK have to take. Things the other roles have to do are different.

Own your healer’s mana pool

That is right. His/her mana is your problem. Treat it as such. If you panic the healer and they waste mana that is your mistake. If they forget to drink or are too scared to for fear you might run off, that is your problem.

Make it clear from the start it will be a fast run. Feel free to say it in /party. While you are at it tell the casters and healers that if they need mana to let you know. This will put them at ease about your frantic place and make them more likely to actually stop and drink when you pause and give them the chance. If you notice them getting low during the run, pause and suggest they drink. Monitor how much their mana goes down after each fight. This is useful information. If they have 1/3 of their total does that mean you can take on another group? It might.. after a few pulls you should KNOW because you should be paying attention. Their mana is your healing. Treat it with care.

Adjust your cooldown strategy

On the multi-pull runs I described you are using cooldowns first to survive big hits and only second as a way to save your healers mana. On a chain-pull run your cooldowns are there to save your healer’s mana. It is also good to keep one or two in reserve if you expect to chare out of your healers healing range. But, mostly your cooldowns should be used to make it so you don’t actually need to be healed at all. Even a poorly geared healer can keep you topped off is you are well equipped and using your cool downs effectively.

Also do all you can to reduce the AOE damage your party takes. Sure it is their fault if they stand in the fire, but you are hear for a fast run. A fast run requires they not die and the healer not go OOM keeping their fire standing butt alive. So shift bosses, stun casters, use your aoe debuffs and generally do all you can to reduce AOE damage. Also pop a cooldown of your own when AOE damage is happening. If the healer does not have to worry about you they can be more efficient with what they use to heal the DPSers.

Kill Fast

There is one thing that does the most to make fast runs fast as well as keep the mana of all involved from running out. That thing is mad crazy DPS. You need groups to die fast and hard. As a tank you can help. Round up groups nice and fast into tight packs and then hold them in place through all AOEs. Don’t drag the groups after you to get to the next group faster. This will only slow things down because your DPSers will not be able to AOE effectively.

There are tricks you can use if your group is doing such mad crazy DPS that you can’t actually hold agro. Learn those tricks and use them. One big one is to use your AOE forces attack with optimal timing. AOE stuns and slows are also effective. It does not matter if your DPS pulled agro if everything dies a half second later.

If anyone is doing something that is slowing things down, let them know. For example using typhoon and blowing things out of the AOE area. Let the boomkin know that that is actually slowing the run down. If you think they are too trigger happy to stop using it ask them to use it only at the tail end of a fight.

Multi pulling, chain pulling or a little of both

In many high speed runs these days you are likely to mix the back to back ‘chain pull’ with a true multi pull when you do more than one group at once. This works well but it is still important to understand the differences between them. Otherwise you will be moving at a brisk pace and then be surprised when you suddenly wipe due to an extra pack or two. The trick is to set a brisk pace but to still have it be a deliberate pace that you control. You have to know your limits. Push them but don’t ignore them.

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