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Posts Tagged ‘Tips’

So I’ve joined close to a half dozen GDKP raids now, both ToC and ICC. I’ve gotten really lucky with upgrades for both my mage and my resto druid and think I can speak with a bit of authority on the subject. Since “GDKP” seems to be a search term leading people to this blog, I thought I’d post some tips.

First and most importantly: DO NOT BUY GOLD

If you honestly don’t know why, the short version is that gold sellers are thieves, liars, scammers and hackers. They primarily make their gold by hacking accounts, stealing whatever virtual goods are on them, turning it into gold and sending it to mules. Or they’ll turn hacked characters into botted farmers. Everyone knows someone who has been hacked. My own brother was hacked (he has since admitted that maybe making his WoW login name and his main character’s name the same thing was a bad idea). Friends and guildmates have been hacked. It’s not funny.

Gold selling is not a victimless crime.

If you need gold, go read blogs like Greedy Goblin or JustMy2Copper or Phase3Profit. Spend some time grinding gold. Back in TBC I ran the Sunwell dailies religiously for three weeks to afford epic flight. Since then I’ve learned to use the auction house and my own skills better and can usually show up at a GDKP with about 30k gold for Reversion and me to spend.

Digression over, on with the show.

1. Know How It Works

In general, a GDKP will be a 25 man raid of as much of the top raid as can be reasonably cleared. Whoever organizes it is responsible for raid makeup and must balanced geared players with rich ungeared players. The geared players may be coming for one trinket or just the gold; the ungeared players, for gear and to see content they might not get access to otherwise.

When a boss is downed, the loot master will link the drops in raid chat and then take bids on them using an addon that does the auctioning work for him. The minimum bid may be whatever was agreed upon; 1000 gold is pretty common, with recipes and components perhaps lower. There is also an agreed bid increment, usually 100 gold. You place your bid in raid chat. Whoever has the highest bid, gets the item.

At the end of the raid, the pot is divided equally among the raiders.

There may be variations in these rules, such as penalties for being an idiot, or disobeying orders. There may be rules for what happens if you leave early or are kicked from the raid. Get this in writing; ask the raid leader to type the rules in raid chat before the start, for everyone’s protection. If you have to file a complaint later, having the details in raid chat gives Blizzard a place to start their investigations. If all details are conducted over Vent, it’s just your word against theirs.

2. Know The Organizers

First, you’ll want to be sure the raid is going to get somewhere. It’s no fun being locked to a raid ID that only downs Marrowgar. Look for GDKPs run by the top guilds on your servers. Sure, it’s probably their alts that are going but the alts of top raiders are usually well geared and competent.

Second, make sure you can trust them. If XXArthaaasXX is spamming trade for “TOGC25 GDKP run” and he belongs to “Dæthz Knightz”, be careful. The pots can get really big and you don’t want someone walking away with all the gold. Again, big name guilds usually care about their reputation on server and won’t scam someone without a good reason.

3. Be Prepared

If the guy organizing the raid has been spamming trade all week advertising it and asking you to sign up on the guild’s site or the official realm discussion board, don’t expect to get a slot at the last minute by whispering him. You might get lucky, you might not. Follow the rules, sign up or send an in game message ahead of time. They may ask for armory page, specs, gold you have available to spend – don’t be tempted to lie here. Be upfront. A good GDKP is an ongoing phenomenon and you would probably like to be invited back.

Gather your gold together on the character you want to take to the raid before you go. You don’t want to have to zone out halfway through for more gold.

Act like this is a real raid, because it is. Get your flasks, potions, buff food, gemming, and enchants ready beforehand. Bring gems and enchants for anything you might want to equip right away.

Know the fights. Again this goes with knowing the raid. If you have done the first four ICC fights and that’s as far as the GDKP is going, great. If you’ve done the first four but the GDKP advertises that it regularly downs Putricide, then learn the fights you haven’t seen. Watch a general strategy video and read advice on whatever roles you might be asked to perform. Note: not “what role you normally are”. Sometimes they will ask you to play as your off spec, even if your main is better geared. GDKP runs are about filling holes with bodies, not about letting YOU do what you really want. If you want to run ICC as a resto druid and nothing else, join a guild or pay a guild to take you in that role. If you want to pay money for gear, do what the raid leader asks.

Get Vent, if you don’t have it. Any successful GDKP is going to use a voice server; there’s just no other way to manage 25 people. If you are not at least listening in Vent, you may (and probably should) be kicked. You need to know when the raid leader wants you to move, not just do what you think is best.

Get Deadly Boss Mods, or your equivalent mod of choice. Make sure it’s up to date.

4. Know What You Want

Before the fight, go look at the loot tables for every boss you are expecting to down. Write down a post-it note list of what pieces that boss drops that you want, and how much you want it.

Why not just wait and see what drops? Several reasons. First, you want to make a mental budget. If you know the one item you really really want drops from Marrowgar, then if it drops you can spend as much as you want on it, and if it doesn’t drop, go ahead later and spend money on things you didn’t care as much about. On the other hand, if you really want a Gunship drop, then don’t blow all your money on Marrowgar.

If you have an offset that you are thinking about gearing: again, prioritize. Don’t spend 10k on a drop from Marrowgar if your main set might get three or four drops later. But if a piece is going for a song, bid on it! I picked up Niebulung, a caster staff for my offset the last time I ran ICC for the minimum bid because no one wanted it.

A word about BOEs: some bosses drop loot that is Bind on Equip, not Bind on Pickup. Check these while you’re researching. If they happen to be best in slot for you, be prepared to spend a lot of money because chances are, some capitalist on the run will try to buy it to re-sell on the Auction House. Is that person you? Make sure you know what it’s really worth. Don’t spend 2k on primordial saronite if they usually sell for 1800 gold; don’t spend 12k on Marrowgar’s Frigid Eye if it sells for 6k. And remember that the heroic version of the BOEs are NOT BoE; don’t bid on one if you can’t use it! The raid leader will probably hold you to your bid…

5. Bidding strategy

If you’re like me, the moment you see that one of ‘your’ items dropped, your adrenaline kicks in. Forget about the boss fight, this is the real action! Your heart races, your hands shake, you start messing up as you type – and all of a sudden you just bid 18000 gold instead of 1800. Ooops. Or you mistyped and whispered your bid to your friend. Even more oops.

By having your priority list mentioned above, you should have an idea of how high you are willing to go. Start low, see what competition you have. Prices will pretty quickly get to the range where people who don’t want the item that much drop out. Then you either win, or get into a one on one bidding war.

Don’t go over your budget. Make your highest bid amount mentally and stick to it. Conversely, don’t take yourself out of the game prematurely; if you were willing to spend 5k gold on that hat, bid 5k!

If you see a bidding war forming up, you can try the “money dump” method; bid something like 2/3rds of your ‘high bid’, if that will take the amount a good bit higher than where it currently is. This shows your competitors that you are serious, that you have at least that much gold, and that they’d better be serious if they want to compete with you. Psychology is a weird thing. If you sloooowwwly creep up to, say, 5k, in 100 gold increments, you are much more likely to bid 5100 gold than if the price goes from 2k to 5k instantly.

Don’t be afraid to go for broke. Unless you screw up royally, you are going to come out with 1/25th the pot – that’ll at least be repair costs for you until you can earn a little money back. Again, don’t take more gold than you’re willing to spend. Don’t borrow gold from a friend; that’s a good way to ruin the friendship. Borrow gold from your spouse or partner, yes, if you can’t give that money back then you have more problems than I’m going to talk about ;-D

Final Notes

GDKPs are a lot of fun if they’re well run. I highly recommend them. Remember that the other people on the raid are coming for gear or cash, not just the pleasure of your company, and treat them that way. Be respectful and honest. Don’t waste their time; time = gold on these runs and if you waste time, you may find yourself out in the cold.

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Tanking 101: The Pull

So you can hold aggro now eh? You have a rotation that works and the dpsers hardly pull off you anymore? That is good. But there is more.

Let us get into the dynamics of a pull. A ‘pull’ is the act of starting a fight with a particular monster or group of monsters. The pull usually is considered to encompass the initial contact as well as the tank getting agro on each creature. What I mean is the pull includes getting in there, getting things started and getting the fight stable. A tank has to get minimum threat on ever target and not have them pull off him the instant the melee, casters, or the healer start doing their thing. If any of the critters pull off you in the first few seconds then you did something wrong (unless that was part of your plan).

Setting up a pull

Scope them out:

The first thing to do is take stock of your target pack. Most mobs are in a pack. How big that pack is and what kinds of critters are in it have a large effect on what sort of pull you want to do. It is critical to take these things into account. The tank has to make the decisions on how to deal with these things. Tanks that don’t do that wipe their group. In many or most cases there is no other person in the party that can deal with the effects of a bad pull. If you can’t pull well you cant tank.

Some of the things to take note of are:

Are there casters in the group?

What kind of range to the casters have?

Does the group patrol?

Do any of them have a fear ability?

Do any of them do a ‘knock back’ effect? (Rinos that charge)

Are there any beasties in the pack need to be turned away from the party? (dragons that breath fire in front of them, snakes that do a multi target poison, etc)

This is the short list but there are others. What you, as a tank, do to set up this fight and shape it is called ‘controlling the battle space’. The job of doing this solely belongs to the tank. Some other classes can help but only working with the tank.

The surroundings:

The second thing to look at is where you are and what is around you and what is around the pack you are going to attack. The most critical thing is what other packs might join the fight. This threat is variable. If packs are far away it is low. If packs are far away but patrol then it might be higher. If the creatures in the target pack do a fear or ‘knock back’ then the risk is very high. As the tank it is your job to know the area and be aware of what could happen. It is your job to take steps to lower those risks. It is also your job to be ready for the worse case situations. If a patrol comes at you from behind, it was your job to know they were coming, see them coming and to round them up as soon as they join the fight. A good tank has eyes in the back of their head. This is called ‘situational awareness’. It is the same skill that soldiers on a battle field, fighter pilots and cops need. The skill is the inability to be taken by surprise. You can’t be taken by surprise because you already expected the surprise and have a plan to take care of it. And when that plan goes wrong you have a back up plan. But lets get back to the pull…

The shape of your pull:

There are many kinds of pulls. Every tanking class has several options available to them starting a pull. Not all tanks have the same options. Since there are tank classes I have not played I might miss some but here is the list. Keep in mind there are more tricks to a pull than this and there are variations.

Straight pull:

The tank runs in to the pack and starts hitting them. Every tank can do this pull. What attacks and abilities they use once they get to the group depend on what class they are. I will not get into those. We are just talking the pull itself. Sufficient to say that the tank needs to get agro on every target in the pack as they do the pull.

Pros: Simple. Easy. Able to be done with no rage, RP, or mana.

Cons: This pull is slow. The dps or healers might pull off you between the time you start running forward and the first attacks you make. There is a gap between the time you get close enough to the mobs for them to notice you, and the time you get within melee range. When you are in this ‘gap’ an healing or buff effects cast on you will cause the critters to gain agro on the healer.

Some variations on this pull are able to compensate for this.

Charge pull:

This pull is the bread and butter of warrior and bear tanks. It involves using a charge ability to dash in there and attack right freaking now! This pull compensates for the slowness drawback of the straight pull. The tank closes that gap between initial agro (they spot you) and the first melee or aoe abilities you do. By blowing past that gap you get the fight started fast and have a much better chance of a clean pull.

Ranged attack pull:

This involves the tank standing in one spot and casting a range attack at the pack. It might be a shot from a warrior’s gun. It might be a bear’s growl or farie fire. It could be that icy touch thing DKs do. There are a lot of ranged attacks that a tank can use to start the fight.

Pro: this pull is great for moving a group to you and getting them away from other packs that are dangerously close.

Con: This pull, by itself, is very risky. It combines the ‘gap’ issue of the straight pull with the fact that most dps, faced with a bunch of critters running at them, will start attacking. Also, this pull does not pull in creatures that have ranged attacks. Those ones will only move to you partway (or not at all) and then sit there shooting arrows or fireballs at your head. Only it will not be your head because as soon as the healer heals you that creature will shoot fireballs at their head.

There are ways to get rid of those cons which I will get to in a minute.

Deathgrip pull:

This is the same as a ranged attack pull except it is done by a Death Knight. The ranged attack they start the fight with is ‘death grip’. It has all the pros and cons of the ranged pull except that you also get to pick on target and have it come right to you instantly. This is a very good pull for groups with just one ranged caster.

This could also be done as a ‘straight pull’. In that case a DK will death grip one of the critters while he is moving into the pack. Or he might do it just after he moves in, but still as a part of the initial pull. This is an outstanding method for gathering up groups that are spread out and contain casters. Knowing which mob to grip and where to grip them is a critical skill for a DK tank. It is what separates a so-so dk tank and a really good one. Often a good choice is the critter in the pack that is farthest away. This clumps them up around you fast.

Shield throw pull:

You will see this one a lot with a paladin tank. Like the grip pulls there is a skill to knowing which targets are the best ones to throw your shield at. This pull can also be done as a standing pull or while moving in during a straight pull.

That covers most of the basic pulls. Other abilities can be done during those pulls as variations. For example a bear who is good can get off a fairy fire on one target while she charges a different one. In effect this is combining a ranged pull and a charge pull. DK and Pallies get some of their best results by using combinations of abilities as they move in with a straight pull. Bears and Warriors tend to use a charge pull and then throw an AOE as a follow up.

Advanced pulling

LOS pulls

What is LOS? LOS means line of sight. Basically this means hiding where the pack can’t see you. This is used to force the ranged attacker creatures to run to where they can see you. When properly done an LOS pull will take a spread out group of caster mobs and bring them in to the party in a nice tight pack. This pulls, more than any other, needs the cooperation of the party. A DPS or the healer don’t hide with you, or start doing their thing early, the critters will stop coming to you and start casting fireballs at your parties heads. There are ways to vary the LOS pull and mix things up. But the basic LOS pull is this: the tank will use a ranged attack on one of the creatures and then will turn and hide. So technically the LOS pull is a ranged pull. And it is specifically designed to compensate for the ranged pull weakness; casters not coming to the tank. There are many pulls were LOS is not only an excellent choice. Many tanks don’t use them. Really good tanks know when and where to use them and do them as needed.

Cooperation pulls:

Healer LOS

One interesting thing to note is that a healer can do a LOS pull by himself. For this the tank stands out in the open and does a ranged pull. As the creatures start beating up the tank the healer will hide near the tank and start casting heals on the tank. This will agro the caster mobs on the healer and they will run in.

There are a lot of other pulling tricks that can be used if you are tight cooperation between the party and the tank.

Hunter Misdirect

Sheep pull

Counterspell and taunt

Tricks of the trade

Trap pulls

Remote control pet pulls

Mind control pulls

Death grip and taunt (with DPS DK)

Multi tank pulls

Multi GROUP pulls

And many more.

Maybe in a later blog I will talk about more advance pulls. I originally was going to talk about that in this one but I got carried away explaining the basics.

Before I go let me say don’t get complacent. Don’t just find one pull that works and stick with it. There are many ways to pull, even with a given pull type or single class. Try stuff. If it does not work, try something else. Having the ability to start different fights in different ways will make you a better tank. A lot of group wipes could have been prevented if the pull had been executed differently. Don’t just assume it was someone else’s fault (that stupid hunter stood back there and the pat came). Instead think about what YOU can do different to make things succeed. The mark of a good tank is being able to make just about any group work no matter how bad the heals and dps is. If something fears and you bring adds, next time pull that group farther back. If the caster over there keeps shooting the healer, find a place to LOS that pull. Try different things and find what works. Then try other things. The more tricks you have up your metal (or fur) sleeve the better you will do.

A short note on using a ‘taunt’ ability as a ranged attck for a pull. Avoid doing this. It is better to have your taunt off cooldown if (when) the dps messes up your pull. Because a taunt on a target not in combat does no ‘threat’ using it makes it more likely that someone will pull off you. This advice does not fully apply to taunts that damage the target.

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Situational awareness, or  “looking at more than just health bars so you see the puddles of goo on the floor”, is insanely key to being a good healer. So key in fact that I would further break down the topic into personal situational awareness and global situational awareness, the later being “seeing the goo that everyone ELSE is standing in”. So I’m breaking this up into two posts and starting with personal.

Imagine you’re looking at your WOW UI. There at the center of the screen, what do you see? You. It might be a dwarf priest, a Tauren shaman, a Draeni paladin, or a Tree (by the way, save the trees!), but it’s you. Too often in healing we are so busy looking at everyone else (at least, everyone else’s health bars) that we forget to look at ourselves.

To learn to escape tunnel vision we must be more aware of ourselves and our surroundings.  It makes a great story when we can say “… and then I realized I was wearing my fishing pole!” or “Then I remembered I hadn’t switched out of my PVP healing spec!” but in truth, when you say that, you have failed. Personal awareness is your first goal when entering an instance or a raid.

Your pre-flight checklist:

Am I in healing mode?

Healing gear?

Healing spec?

Tree form?

Am I ready to go?

Buffs ok? (what do your party members bring?)

Mana bar up?

Phone off the hook, dog outside, baby changed?

Is my party ready?

Identify the tank

Classify each dps player

Mentally categorize their resource type (more on the last few when I do the global situational awareness topic)

Communicate

Tell the tank “I’m ready to go”. Let him know after pulls if there were too many mobs or if you need a second. Remind the mage not to stand in fire.

This is in ideal world. In the real world, the tank has pulled three patrols before you’re actually in the instance, the mage is already dead, and the paladin doesn’t speak English and has given you Blessing of Might. So while you’re running to catch up, do as many of these things as you can, while firing off whatever “Oh Crap” spells you have and wondering if those Frost badges are really worth it.

During the Run:

Your location may vary fight to fight. In general, you want to be close to but not in melee range. If you’re too far away, then when the mage pulls aggro, frost novas the mobs next to you, and blinks away, then you’re in trouble. If you’re closer in the tank will have an easier time. On the other hand, sometimes you’ll want to stay back. Do you know that a mob throws chain lightning or fears? You might stay farther off. For a rule of thumb, never get so far behind that if the tank charges he goes out of range.

If you know an encounter cold, you might think about where you should stand to best help the tank. For instance in Utgarde Keep on the Prince fight, stand so that the tank is between you and the door where the skeletons spawn. When they aggro on you, they will run over the tank who has an easier job of picking them up than if he had to run over to you.  If you have a good tank friend, ask him about fights and where particularly you can stand to help him out.

Stay out of the fire, obviously. If you’re having tunnel vision, make your own health bar nice and visible so when you start taking damage you notice – and then move! Most fights you probably know cold by now anyway. You’ll know when a boss is going to do a move that means you need to move. Watch where you stand when you’re fighting dragons (head and tail are bad, stand on one side). Just run down an encounter before it happens so that when you need to react, it takes you less time

Remember your own defensive cooldowns: chances are when the party takes an AOE, you’ll take damage too. Throw a defensive cooldown ahead of time if you can, like Barkskin, to give yourself breathing room. Or have a shield or a hot on yourself already.

Watch your aggro: Try not to heal the tank until he’s got aggro. If you do pull, bring the mobs to him. Don’t count on him seeing that one that’s hitting you, take proactive steps. Again, if you have problems with tunnel vision, make your own health bar really big and obvious and when it starts going down, figure out why.

Afterwards:

Assess the run. If you were going with a friend, talk about it with them. Were there avoidable deaths? Places things could have been smoother? Figure it out and file it away under “next time”. Mistakes are for learning, not recrimination.

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Maybe you’re like me; totally psyched for Cataclysm, starting to be a bit bored with current content, wanting one last run through Old Azeroth before it becomes New And Improved Azeroth (Now with 500% more Lava!). And you’ve rolled, or are thinking of rolling, a class that can heal. Let’s say you’ve never healed before. Does the prospect seem daunting?

It definitely can, especially at low levels when you don’t have as many healing abilities. Team that up with low level tanks not having all their mitigation abilities and low level dps being no better than top level ones at not getting face stomped and a pug of RFC or Stockades suddenly approaches the difficulty and pain of a Blood Princes encounter.

The first thing you have to do is start thinking like a healer, and I think the most important skill there is triage. It’s a term referring to what battlefield medics or ER staff do; assess the injury status of patients in such a way as to save as many lives as possible.

For triage in WoW to work, you need to know what your abilities are and what they do. Even at low levels most healing classes will have at least a long slow big heal and a short fast small heal. Some classes already have hots or shields or other ways of preventing or healing damage. Make a mental inventory of all these.

Next, assess your party makeup. I’ll assume a classic five man group; fewer than five man and the problem gets easier. Our imaginary party will be a young Warrior tank, a hunter and his pet turtle Bessy, a frost mage, a rogue, and you, a priest (translate this to whatever healing class is appropriate; the priest is a good one for this scenario).

Notice that I set up this party so that other than the hunter’s Mend Pet ability, nobody else has healing spells. We’ll assume the rogue can bandage and likes to do so. Everything else is up to you.

Now set up a priority queue in your mind. It goes like this:

You
Tank
Whatever DPS has done the least to make your life miserable or you are romantically involved with
The other dps
The pet
The DPSer you are romantically involved with if he forgot that your birthday was last week

This is the “keep them alive” priority and not the “heal them” priority. What’s the difference? The “keep them alive” priority stays static the whole time; it doesn’t change unless someone annoys you enough to move down the ladder, or brings you chocolate and wine and moves up the queue. The “Heal them” priority queue changes every second of the fight. Here’s how it work.

You engage a small patrol. The tank picks up aggro and starts taking damage. You throw him a Power Word: Shield and a Renew and he stops taking damage while the shield is up. When it wears off, he starts taking some damage again. The Renew is a Heal Over Time spell and mends some of that damage, but he’s down about a quarter of his hit points and the mobs are still hitting him, so you start casting a Heal. (Assume you don’t yet have Greater Heal). Now he’s got his health back. You refresh the Renew, the mobs die, and everyone’s happy.

That one was easy! Only the tank needed healing. You adjusted your heals based on what he needed to keep his health bar full, didn’t waste mana, and nothing got scary.

Now on to the next pull. This one has more mobs and some of them are ranged. As you throw a Renew and Shield on the tank, it causes you to get aggro from one of the casters, who starts throwing ice bolts at you. You immediately put a shield on yourself and since you don’t have much damage, a Renew. Then the mage gets attention from one of the mobs, who wanders over and starts hitting him. The mage panics and runs over to you and then frost novas and runs away, leaving the mob right next to you. The mob decides that you look tasty and starts biting you. Meanwhile the tank just got critted and is at 50% health and falling.

Summary: You and the tank are both being actively hit
The mage is not being actively hit
You are at 70% life. The tank is at 50% life. The mage is at 30% life.
What do you do?

Well, whatever you do, you’ve got to get the mob off you. Take a few steps toward the tank. While the frost nova holds the mob can’t bite you. When it wears off, it will have to come toward the tank to get you. At the same time, refresh the Renew that’s on yourself. Now pay attention to the tank! If you can shield him again, do that. If the Renew is gone, refresh it. Then cast your fast quick heal, Flash Heal. It doesn’t do as much, but your tank is hurting bad and you need to get some breathing room. Often a couple of quick fast heals will get you enough breathing room to have time to cast your long slow top-them-up heal.

Now the tank is at 70%, you’re at 85%, and the mage is still hurting. If you can spare time, drop a Renew on him and let him stew. If you eventually have the time and mana, Flash Heal him to about 80%. More than that is a waste of your global cool downs and mana. He should have learned his lesson and not pull the mobs again this fight. A few missing health points is a good lesson.

Oops, mobs still not dead. The tank has them all now, but the hunter, who has been afk, finally wakes up and sends in his pet, who growls at one mob and gets it to turn and fight him. Bossy the Turtle takes some damage. You can choose to heal it, or not; the hunter ought to Mend Pet on it and he was stupid to have its Growl on, but the pet is doing good dps and if you can spare the mana, give it some love.

And the rogue is taking a little aoe damage. He bandaged himself earlier when things were messy, so now you drop a shield and a Renew on him, and then turn your attention back to the tank who is in need of more Flash Heals.

Oh, dear – you guys just aggroed the boss who was wandering around, and he runs in and throws a big AOE that damages you all pretty badly. What do you do now?

Throw a shield on yourself and the tank (if you were a druid you’d be dropping more HOTs on you both here) and then cast your AOE heal. Sorry paladins, you don’t have an AOE heal, but the other three classes do and this is where to use them; you’ve got at least three people hurt and the tank is not taking so much damage that your heal can’t keep up.

Now you’re all at manageable health. Go back to the tank, keep him alive, and – oh dear. You’re out of mana. This will be fun.

Warn everyone “OOM!” and hope they get the message. No matter how much damage is flying around, do not spend mana on heals for anyone except you and the tank, and mostly the tank. If he drops you’re all dead, whereas if you keep him alive you might survive this.

Every time you have enough mana, cast your Flash Heal. It’s the fastest cast you have and so will get you back into mana regen mode as fast as possible (takes five seconds after the end of your last cast for your mana regen to start actually doing much).

Now let’s talk about what happens when things really go haywire; multiple groups of mobs, aggro everywhere, tank getting low, mage getting squishy, and your own special set of ravenous admirers.

First off, don’t panic. Easier said than done, but don’t panic. If you do, things will get worse. The worst outcome here is a wipe. Nothing can be worse than that. Your goal, once things start going turnip-shaped, is to keep yourself alive at the end. Everyone else is a means to that end. Remember, you have the magic res fingers!

If you are to stay alive, that means someone has to kill the mobs that want to eat you. Probably that means keep the tank and some dps alive. Sometimes it means all the dps die really fast and you and the tank slug it out slowly with the last few mobs.

start with keeping yourself alive. That might mean moving instead of healing; go over to the tank and hope he pulls the mobs off rather than trying to heal through the bites. You are not the tank. Don’t act like one. If you have damage mitigation cooldowns, use them. A druid should throw a hot on herself, throw Barkskin, and go to the tank. A priest should shield herself. A Paladin can use Hand of Salvation or Divine Protection (use HoS on yourself, Divine Protection on the tank, and gain some breathing room).

Next, if the tank is getting low, throw heals at him while you scan everyone else. Is there someone who is very low but not actively taking damage? Throw a hot or shield or Flash of Flight/Flash Heal at him to give him more breathing room. Someone who is low and actively taking damage, and not the tank, is probably going to die no matter what in a “ah crap” situation. Don’t waste mana and GCDs on a mage who has three mobs on him. He will die and his friends will come eat you next. It is his job to ice block at this point and avoid death, not your job to save him.

Heal the most likely to survive; this is why it’s triage. You decide who lives, who dies. Who is stable or could be stable with minimal intervention? Did the hunter just have his pet growl mobs off of you? Heal that pet, unless the hunter is about to die, in which cast that’s wasted mana.

Keep an eye out for environmental issues that affect you; fire on the ground, curses. Moving cuts down on your heals but so does being dead. Some curses can be ignored or healed through. If you have a curse that makes your casts take 50% longer and it can be removed, remove it! The one GCD and minimal mana you spend there pays for itself almost instantly. On the other hand, if it’s a curse that makes you have 100 less skill at Bows, like in SFK sometimes, ignore it.

Avoid tunnel vision at all costs. I think this is the number one cause of healer death; you’re too busy staring at the health bars to notice the gnolls eating your spleen. One of the best tools for preventing tunnel vision (and sometimes for causing it) is a good raid healing frame mod. Healbot and Grid + clique are both popular setups; my personal favorite is Vuhdo which I think combines the flexibility of Grid with the ease of setup of Healbot. Other sites have done far better rundowns of how to install and tweak these; if you’re stuck for ideas, I recommend visiting the http://www.PlusHeal.com forums and their UI and Mods subforum to see screenshots and suggestions of Healer UIs. Sometimes though healing frames can make tunnel vision worse, when all you focus on is the part of your screen with little boxes and icons. I suggest moving the frames somewhere near the middle of your screen and forcing yourself to see other areas.

Other than that it’s about practice, practice, practice. Going into battlegrounds can be good practice at getting a UI with raid frames set up to where you can concentrate on the frames but still watch your environment. Pug some dungeons – and please don’t wait til you’re 80 to start. It is harder to jump in at top level because your gear will be lagging compared to what people expect. But if you did just dual spec to Holy and you’re 80, go ahead and start! Don’t take stupid comments personally, just have fun.

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The tank is the leader of the party. The big cheese, the head honcho, el presidente…

Some of you are disagreeing already, assuming more than one person is reading this. To fully explain that statement we should take a glance at the nature of leadership and then put it in the context of WOW. Webster.com defines leadership as something a leader does…  yeah that helps. It defines a leader as someone who leads… hah. But further down it says that it means someone who ‘has commanding authority or influence’. Right, so tanks have authority. Hah! No really, they do. It is just a limited kind. It is limited in EXACTLY the same way all authority everywhere is. You get authority as people give it to you. In politics they sometimes call it a ‘mandate’. Like if the big issue in an election was ‘fix XYZ’ then the person that wins is said to have a broad mandate to do things about that issue.

Now think about a club. Let’s say you are the president of a card playing club. What authority do you have? Well you can decide what day you are going to play cards on. And people will go with that decision unless you pick a bad one. So you get to pick any day that works for the majority…. Ok.

And you can spend the membership dues on new cards. You have total authority there. You can buy ones with the checkered pattern on the back or ones with pictures from a gift shop some place. But you can’t buy a new car with the money. You can also decide who brings the snacks each week. But you can’t order one person to buy pizza every week. Your authority has a narrow river bed it flows down. You can do what you want inside those narrow banks, but if you try to splash your authority out of those narrow banks the other people just laugh and ignore you, or leave the club, or kick you out for embezzling the dues money. It is a voluntary organization and the leadership you wield has only the power to motivate people along lines they have implicitly agreed to in advance. And you have the responsibility to, within those confined channels of authority, make decisions and lead in ways that further what the people signed up for. In the case of a card playing club those things are playing cards on regular schedule and having fun.

Pugs are like this. Tanks have the authority that the other people give them. It comes with the responsibility to help make the run go well. You can give orders and make demands based on things they will think are reasonable. But within those bounds of reasonableness you have full command. If you say ‘I am going to pull this group LOS to this corner here’. That is a 100% reasonable statement. It is also an implied command for everyone to support that action. If some moron messes the pull up you have a mandate to complain to that person. The other members, assuming they are reasonable, and assuming you don’t take it so far you are ‘spoiling their fun’, will support you complaining to that player and telling him to not mess up your LOS pulls. It is this pact of peer pressure that gives the tank the mandate to give instructions that will further the group’s aims (finishing the run, getting loot).

For the good of the group the Tank MUST speak up and communicate if something is going wrong. It is the responsibility that goes with that authority. If a hunter left his pet on growl it is well within the mandate of the tank’s authority to say something about that. To a point. He/she can’t throw a hissyfit over it any more than the members of a card game club would be ok with the president flipping out over bad shuffling. They might be ok with some gentle remedial shuffling instructions or advice, but not with a full blown tantrum.

It is not ok for the leader to let something important slide. If some moron is pulling without you and you don’t say something about it you are failing as a leader. The other guy is making the mistake but it is YOUR duty to speak up and try to fix the problem. That is leadership. If the problem is fixed, everyone wins. But there is a fine line here. If the DPS is all impatient, and you stop the whole run to give them a lecture about impatience you are more likely to get a vote-kick than you are to get a smoother run. One of the things a leader has to do is make the most of the resources at hand. A manager can’t fire everyone who works for them for bad performance. Instead they must assign people to tasks that fit their ability, get them training where they need it, and fire people only as a last resort.

For example if the hunter can’t figure out how to turn off his pet and absolutely insists on picking a target you are not primarying you can point them toward a caster mob, even mark it for them. This is taking a bad situation, an uncooperative DPSer with bad skills, and assigning them to a task they ARE capable of doing. This also saves your sanity as a tank. Plus it helps the other person learn a skill and play style that is useful for groups. If the DK insists on gripping and pulling stuff, you might just let him tank that target. It gives you one less mob to tank and hopefully he takes enough damage to die in shrieking agony. But don’t be passive aggressive about it. If you just drop a mob and don’t say anything everyone assumes you are a bad tank. If you tell the dps ‘you yank it you tank it’ then they know you are making a stand on bad behavior and they can either correct it or tank their own mob. Again, stopping everything and throwing a hissyfit over either of these examples would only piss off the whole group. But even short of that there are active steps that can be taken to either fix or harness the behavior.

The interesting thing about tank leadership is that you don’t have to do anything more than what you do… most of the time. Moving ahead from group to group, picking your targets, marking where needed, checking on the healer’s mana before a boss, throwing your cooldowns when needed, taunting mobs where they need to be, moving the melee tangle out of the fire, all these are what a tank should be doing anyway. But they are also all leading a group.

My dad once told me being a leader was keeping management off the back of his people so that they could get their jobs done. Things like helping them get their payroll problem straightened out with headquarters, or handling the annoying customer so they can get back to the register. Those are things a manager does to enable his or her people to get the real job done. In the case of a tank you are doing exactly the same thing. You are there to do anything you can to let the dpsers kill things. That is it. You goal is to line up packs of creatures for them to kill. Your goal is also to do it at a rate where the healer can keep up. In this way you are warding off the obstacles in that person’s way also. That is your job. But if one of the DPS is doing something that threatens the whole it is also your job to try, within the bounds of your authority mandate, to fix the problem.

If the rogue over behind the boss is standing in the fire then you can tell him to move, or you can shift the boss and force him to move. But you can’t do nothing and then sneer when he dies. That is not leadership and that is not your job. You forced him to have to decide between being in good back stab position and being safe and he chose wrong. Or he just did not notice, but YOU did. If a leader notices his people making a design mistake, or even flipping their burgers wrong, but does nothing about it, then they are all at fault and the group as a whole fails. But the leader is at fault most of all. It is only after the leader has done what he can to help the others fix the problem that the responsibility for the failure moves to solely rest on the ‘underlings’.

There are a lot of bad leaders out there. Most people just want to get along. So they say nothing and the group muddles along, or fails and re-forms. And often no learning happens. There are a lot of variables in a failed group and many people can’t see/admit what they did wrong to cause, or help cause the problem.

Anyway I think I have wondered off tanking and into advice giving in general so I will wrap this post up.

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Pairs Leveling: The Druid

After doing the warrior post I decided it would be better to focus on the characters I know best. My top level Warrior is languishing at 59, whereas I have two max level druids.

Druids are outstanding pairs leveling characters.  I highly recommend them. They are survivable, have good dps, and have multiple ways they can be leveled. They stand with paladins as the only classes that can be all three roles: dps, healing and tank. They stand alone as the only class that can play all FOUR roles: healing, tank, melee dps and ranged dps.

They make a good choice for if your partner has their heart set on leveling a particular class. Because they are so adaptable you can tailor your play style and spec to match the person you are leveling with.

Overview

Druids are in touch with nature and use its power to obliterate their foes, or smash them in the face, or sneak up and rip their guts out, or, for the nicer druids, to nurture and restore their allies. At level 10 they get Bear form and turn into a baby tank. At 20 we get cat and can do mad crazy dps. Around 50 we can become a tree or boomkin, and either have uber heals or good ranged casting. Because we don’t get to pick those paths right from the start, we adapt our play style over time. This might require respeccing at key points. It also might mean saving a few pieces of gear for an upcoming spec change. How you handle all that will depend on who you are leveling with.

I am going to further break things down into level ranges.

1-10. In this range there is not much variety. Just Wrath things to death with some staff ‘thumping’ thrown in until you hit 10. You will basically be a ranged caster with some melee ability (easier if you have the BOA weapon).

Levels 10-20

At 10 things start to diverge. Not a lot, but they do. You get bear form once you do the level 10 quest. It is about now you have to ask yourself ‘am I going to tank?’The answer to that lies partly in who you are partnered with. You have the choice in this level range of spending most of your time as a bear or as a humanoid caster doing ranged damage and/or healing. You have to decide what you want to do if you are going to run an instance. If you want a fast queue you can chose to tank or heal. You can make that decision in advance and practice the play style by questing mostly as a bear or a caster.

A Bear plays like a warrior. It uses rage is its fuel and the major abilities are all analogous to warrior skills. If you are familiar with warrior tanking a bear will either be comfortably similar or boringly the same. Of course since a druid has an extended bag of tricks you might still love it.

Caster druid, 10-20

One strategy in this level range is to stay humanoid and throw spells around. This is versatile since you can cast or heal as needed. You will not have a large pool of spells but you will have a nice variety.

If you are planning to run instances later as a healer you should probably be getting familiar with your healing spells at this time.

In the future playing as a caster could mutate into Tree or Boomkin (or you can respec completely). If you want to be pure dps and want to be a cat but don’t like bear form, you can stay in a caster spec until you get cat form and then respec. If you plan to do this don’t forget to hang on to a few pieces of agility gear as you level up.

Staying in caster mode is very good if you are paired with a pure melee class. This is even truer if your partner is a tanking class. Casting alongside a warrior or Paladin (or a bear druid) is a very good combo. The pair will be durable as heck and able to take on many foes at once.

Druids are durable enough that you can even distract things while a rogue backstabs them.

With a warlock or hunter partners you can let their pet tank while both burn things down.

Mages are soft and have little ability to keep things off them. They focus mostly on killing things fast, before they kill them. You can both burn things down pretty fast and not have to worry about taking a lot of damage. If you pair with one as a caster you will want to get familiar with your ‘root’ skill and the mage will want to be using frost abilities to slow things up. This will be a pretty soft pair however, so if you get in trouble you might be doomed.

Comboing with a warlock that does not like tanking with their voidwalker will be much like pairing with a mage.

Comboing a caster druid with a priest gives you redundant healing but not a lot more durability. This pair will require more finesse to play.

Comboing with another caster Druid will be similar to the mage and priest.

Comboing with a Shaman will be a little of everything.

Bear druid, 10-20

The main reasons to go bear at this level are to practice tanking or to keep things off a softer partner.

Bear is going to have a little lower dps, so if you are not trying to do one of the above things you might not want to level 10-20 as a bear. One other reason might be so you will be ready when you get cat form. It is not really necessary though, because you can always respec when you get to 20.

One of the nice things about being bear (or later cat) is that you almost always have full mana at the end of a fight. This lets you heal yourself and your partner up for the next round.

One final reason to go bear would be to have both partners have the same range. If you are paired with a melee class it can be frustrating to have everything be half dead by the time your partner gets over to it. Keep this in mind if you are playing a bear and paired up with a ranged dpser. This consideration (and the heals after fights one) makes a rogue+bear pair a good choice.

Basically bear is a good choice to match an melee class played as dps or a soft caster. It is a bad choice for any melee class played as another tank

Recommended pairings: 10-20

Pally + caster druid

Hunter + caster druid

Mage + either

Warlock + either

Warrior + caster druid

Shaman +caster druid

Priest + Bear

Rogue + Bear

Pairs druid, Levels 20-40

Feral druids, 20-40

At level 20 the druid learns how to be catty. Or at least how to turn into a cat. A cat is a baby rogue. It uses energy and is all about combo points and finishing moves. It has a lot fewer abilities than a real rogue so if you are a hard core rogue addict those missing bits might drive you nuts (no vanish, no sap, no fan of knives, etc.). But, if you love all the versatility a druid offers then you are going to love having ‘cat’ in your bag of tricks.

If you leveled up as a bear so far you might want to opt for a cat/bear hybrid. Such a hybrid is viable for either tanking or DPS up until high end lvl 80 instances and raids. I leveled my first druid this way. For most fights you are going to want to be cat. Cats do a large amount of single target damage. But, unlike rogues, they can pop into bear form at any time. If you are leveling with a caster or other soft DPSer you will want to get good at dropping into bear on demand. Even if you don’t get good with bear form it will do you good to know have to work the basics. At a minimum you will need to know how to work your taunt (growl) and some swipe for aoe threat and damage. With just those abilities (and maybe a couple more) you will be able to not die on demand.  Going Bear is not like a pally bubble, but it is fast and effective for either pulling a mob off your softer friend, or being able to take more hits while your friend heals you or dpses the pack down. You CAN live without learning your bear as a feral druid… but it is well worth it to set up its hot bar and learn your way around a few of its moves.

Caster druids 20-40

As you start getting up to 20 and 30 talent points you will, as a caster druid, get pretty far down one of your trees, balance or resto. So you will need to decide how you are mostly playing the druid and take as much healing or dps as your pair needs. Play it by ear and don’t be afraid to respec. You probably will respec at 40 anyway so don’t sweat it. In the past, leveling resto, even in a pair, was annoyingly slow and not really worth it. Today, with LFG, you can level mostly in dungeons where a dedicated healing spec will speed things up, not slow them down.

Recommended pairings: 10-20

Pally + either

Hunter + caster druid

Mage + either

Warlock + either

Warrior + either

Shaman +either

Priest + Feral druid

Rogue + Feral druid

Notice most say either? Here is why… as a hybrid class any druid can heal, and with instant cast hots you can throw at least some healing around very fast. Additionally, unless you put all your points into resto you will still do decent DPS. What this all means is that you don’t want to over specialize while leveling in certain pairs. For example if you are leveling as a caster with a priest you can get away with almost no healing ability. But if you are leveling feral with a warrior you would be well served to get good at dropping out of cat and throwing some heals at your friend. Again, play it by ear. If your pairs keeps dying, practice dropping out and throwing heals.

We’ll talk about post-level-40 in another post.

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Build a Better Alt

Getting Started

Part 1 of an occasional series

Step 1:  Choose your Class. Try something really different from your main, and watch your main’s playstyle improve. Every tank should play a healer. Every dps should have to tank a few instances. Every healer should get a chance to lob fireballs at gnolls. Ranged dps? Try a melee class. But make sure it’s something that appeals to you!

Step 2: Choose your Race. Unless you’re limited by your class, you should have a few races to choose from. Consider the racial bonuses – Gift of the Naruu is a nice racial for a class that has no heal, for instance. Consider the starting zone – if your last character was a Night Elf, maybe try a Gnome for a change (or even roll on the opposite faction for a real change)

Now choose your name, configure your apprearance, log in – and then log out, noting your new name, and log onto your main.

Step 3: Shopping Spree! Buy Heirlooms from the Heirloom vendor in Dalaran (next to the Badge Vendors), Wintergrasp (in the courtyard) or if you’re a Crusader, at the Argent Crusade in the tent. Your priority list is chest, shoulders, then weapon and trinkets. The chest and shoulders grant 10% extra XP each, for everything – exploring, kills, turn ins. Get these.

Pro tip: if you know you want lots of alts and you think you’ll be short on emblems/marks/whatever for the gear, buy the cloth shoulders and equip them even on your baby pally. At low levels, the silly stats and lack of armor mean a lot less than the 10% XP gain.

Now send your alt the gear, some cash (20 gold will keep your newbie happy for a long time) and a set of bags. While you can deck Mini-You out in Frostweave Bags, did you know that  mageweave bags don’t bind on equip? So your alt can use them, gradually replace them on her own, and send them on to another alt?

Step 4: Profit! Get your noob to a mailbox, pull out the goodies, then backtrack and start leveling! You’ll find it a lot easier to level the second time around. LFG starts at 15,  your mount will come at level 20, buy a portal to Dalaran and set your stone there and travel will be much simpler.

Don’t Forget Your Professions: it’s easier to level them up with you than to learn them at max level. Try to pick some your main doesn’t have.

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