Archive for April, 2010

Cata news

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More cowbell

That last post did not have funny enough pictures so here is a reposted one.

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I started writing a post about multi pulls, the fine art of doing ‘gogogo’ tanking the right way. As I started the post I realized I should do a whole separate introductory one just covering this concept. I realized this concept was so critical to both tanking and healing that I decided to tag it to both our series.

Damage Profiles

What I am about to talk about any good healer knows by gut feel or by detailed mental charts and graphs. I figure adding more charts and graphs will help us all understand it better. Here is the concept: The rate of incoming damage is key to surviving a fight.

Let’s take a look at a couple fight ‘profiles’:

This first one is a standard fight. We round up 4 monsters and kill them one after another. The red line represents how much damage the tank is taking at each moment in time higher means more damage. Time is the bottom scale of the chart so the start of the fight is where the two black lines come together. Time processes to the right. Notice the damage ramps up fast as the fight starts. Notice that after each critter dies the level of incoming damage drops until the fight is over.

Next and AOE heavy fight:

Now to compare here is a fight were everyone using AOEs hard. The incoming damage stays high longer but then drops to nothing as all the critters die at the same moment. Because all the creatures are taking damage at the same time they all die at the same time. But until they all die the damage level the tank is receiving does not change.

Now I am going to add heals per second to the graph. As a healer knows the ‘heals per second’ are not constant and actually spike up and down depending on what you are casting. But, on average there is a maximum rate. All of us healers know that at some point there is simply more damage coming in than we can keep up with. Tanks know when this happens if they look at the health bar. If the bar is going down and does not go back up then they are not getting as much HpS and the incoming DpS.

Here are some heals. The green is the healer’s healing per second. Notice it ramps up and levels off at a maximum level. Up until the second creature dies we are actually not healing all the incoming damage.

Any healer has seen this happen. It is usually when we are under geared but it can also happen when adds show up. We are frantically spamming our stuff but the party is still going down, then suddenly one or two of the enemies die and the damage stabilizes. A moment or two later the damage levels drop more and our heals start bringing everyone back up to full health.

So what does this all mean. Well first off it means that a healer does NOT have to be able to heal the full incoming damage of a particular fight to healer it. As the DPS increases it actually means a healer can heal runs that he/she does not actually have the gear or healing ability to handle. The DPS and tank are carrying the healer. Usually no one but the healer knows. And not one actually cares because unlike a DPS or tank getting ‘carried’ the run is not actually slowed down. At least not from heal rate.

What comes into play after this is mana pool. At some point the healer runs out of mana. There are two ways for the fight to go badly due to not enough DPS. One is when the creatures to not die before tank health drops to zero. You can’t have the incoming damage be higher than the heals for very long. Every moment incoming damage is higher than the heals health bars are dropping. The second way is when the healer goes OOM. This is also a way to get a wipe due to a fight that is too long. But that first threshold is the critical one. An under-geared healer either needs a good tank and hard hitting DPS or the party goes down. This is the point where a smart party starts using extra tricks like CC to lessen the rate of incoming damage.

There are other ways to lessen the damage and extend what you can do with a given party. For example targeting one hard hitting mob first. This is why smart groups primary casters. The casters are usually softer targets that hit extra hard. So killing a caster is a great way to drop that incoming damage fast.

For kicks let’s put that on some graphs.

First off we see the party killing 3 melee enemies and one caster. They start with the melee. Each melee takes 8 seconds to kill and when they die they remove a small chunk of incoming DPS. Finally the caster only takes 4 seconds to kill and removes all a lot of dps, ending the fight.

Now look again when the kill the caster first.

Notice the green healing line? See how we get under that line much sooner? Also notice that the entire fight took the SAME length of time! Why does this matter? It matters because this is why many DPS will not understand WHY they need to go after soft high dps targets first. All they see is the fight taking the same time either way. If the healer can’t keep up that is the healers fault, right?

Now for a fun trick. Calculus! No no no come back! It is really easy. No I mean REALLY easy. You might be shocked how easy. It works like this. If you draw ‘rates’ on a graph the ‘area under the curve’ is the total. What does that mean? That means if you look at the total white space between the red line and then green line you will get how much damage the tank took. That is, you will get how much damage the tank took that did not get healed. See everything UNDER the green line got healed. And everything over adds up to be how far down his health bar went. Let’s do it…

See all that blue area? That is how many hit points the tanks’s HP bar went down. Everything below the green lie got healed back up again. Everything above it caused his bar to go down and stay down.

Now try the other way of doing the fight.

See how much less damage the tank takes? What if the tank’s total health is only 80% as big as that first chart. Everyone say ‘hi’ to the spirit healer when you see her. You have a party where your healer heals that much less than the maximum output of a pack and the tank’s health is smaller than that big area then you HAVE to do other tactics to survive. At this point jerk dps will say “yeah but it is totally the tank and heals fault we died.” Wrong, it is everyone’s fault. The tank for not having better gear, or popping cooldowns, the DPS for not stunning targets, trapping targets or otherwise lessening the incoming damage, the DPS for not following a smart kill order and finally the healer for just being inadequate at healing. Some while it is everyone at fault in various ways there are a lot of things that can be done to make this party work.

Sadly most of the time one or more of the party is too busy blaming someone else for the issue.

Of course there are lots of other factors that can make a group into a fail group. Kill order is just one of them. Hopefull this helped show how what order the DPS kill things in can cause the tank to live or die.

Before I go let’s look at one more.


Here a chart of two parties doing the same fight two different ways. One is the red line and one is the blue. The red group was the FAIL team and they decided to each target a different critter in pack of 4. Each critter was doing 2K dps to the tank. Because all the dps (and the tanks DPS) was evenly balanced everyone in the group dropped their target at the same time. It took them each 8 seconds.

Now observe the blue line. This group had the same damage output but instead the concentrated all on the same target. Because 4 people did 4 times as much damage as 1 person it only took them ¼ the time to kill each target. So each target dies in 2 seconds. Notice that this means the damage start dropping very early. If both groups had a healer that could only heal 5k per second which tank is in trouble? The blue tank took 3k unhealed damage for 2 seconds and 1 K unhealed damage for 2 seconds for a total of 8K unhealed damage. No problem! The red tank took 3K unhealed damage for 8 seconds. This is a total of 24k damage that did not get healed. Ouch! Let’s say we have a poorly geared tank that only had 20K HP. Who is at fault? The tank for being weak, the heals for being weak or the DPS for completely failing to pick targets that anyone else was on.

Now lets say that instead of soloing targets they all threw AOEs.

The dashed red line is the end of the fight using AOEs. This time the fight ended faster than the ‘good kill order’ blue group but the tank STILL took more damage.

I am not using real numbers because I am not a min-maxer or any sort of real theory crafter. The point of all this is to give a ‘feel’ for why various tactics work better. Hopefully the illustrations were useful. Before I go here are a couple more.

In this one the tank popped damage mitigation cooldowns at the start of the fight. See how they added a buffer of ‘virtual heals’ which helped the healer through the critical phase?

Here is that same fight with one critter getting sheeped. Notice how much it helps?

I hope to do more with these concepts in the future. They will be useful for understanding tactical use of cooldowns and also the best way to do ‘multi-pulls’. The point of this post was to get people thinking about and using the concepts of ‘rate of incoming damage’ and ‘heals per second’. You don’t have to be a min-maxer or math wiz to have a working knowledge of these concepts. They are useful for having a ‘gut feel’ about what went wrong in a fight or what needs to be different. They are pretty simple concepts but they have effects all over.

Finally I will throw a couple out there and not explain them. Here are two different healers using different mana conservation strategies. But that is a topic for some other day.

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The above statement is wrong. But it is a lot more right than we care to admit. The truth elements in that statement are darn uncomfortable to think about or admit. We humans are really freaking good at coming up with ways that it is someone else’s fault. The more we know the better at it we get. The better we know every class in the game the better we are at seeing what that idiot in the fire is doing wrong. Doing that gives is some nice distractions to keep us from looking at ourselves.

Before attempting to remove the spec from someone’s eye it helps to remove the plank from our own. But dag-nab-it that guy was clearly an idiot!

-He could not hold agro and kept letting me die! Did you iceblock? No, but…
-He could not keep me healed. Did you blow every cooldown and use every damage mitigation trick you know? No, but…
-They ran past me and picked up adds! Did you tell them you were stopping to kill the ones you were on? No, but…

A wipe is like a car accident. Sure that guy who ran the stop sign was dumb, but if you had not been on the cell-phone texting you might have avoided him.

My point is not that you are more at fault than him. My point is that we get so caught up in blaming others we fail to grow and advance as a character. In WOW it is SO easy because we can just armory them, or check up in recount. PRESTO! We instantly can measure that that person is 76.2% dumber than we are. Now we can be satisfied that they were at fault and go away smugly self righteous.

The first trick to improving something is identifying the problems. Since we can only reliably change ourselves we have to start there. At some point we are obligated to point out that spec in the other person’s eye. However even when we hit that point we should still be checking the mirror for planks.

My example of failing at this is Analogue’s L2P post. There were two wipes in that run and they were both MY fault. The first time she blatantly rode into some ambushers. My fault. I did not mention to her I was skirting the edge of the quarry so as to only presence pull one target. The second time those idiots ran past me to the end of the tunnel. It should have been obvious that I was stopping… but EVERYONE knows you never stop. Did I say I was stopping to kill some? No. It is not my fault they were texting instead of driving but it is my fault that I deviated from the ‘rules’ of that road.

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Worth a shot

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I had the idea of doing a post just covering one instance’s tanking. And not even the details of the whole fights. I just want to go end to end and do every pull in the instance. The goal of this post is to explain the thinking and planning that goes into pulling. I am going to just cover how I do these pulls and why. There are way too many ways to cover doing it wrong. I might cover a couple examples of less optimal pulls but if I do I will note them as such. Also this is entirely 100% from memory. So chances are I will get some details wrong. But since I don’t look at guides while I tank so I guess it is appropriate to not give explanations based on more information than what I would have while running the place.

DISCLAIMER: This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to old kingdom. It is intended to be a illustration to prospective tanks to show them the thinking and planning that goes into doing pulls.

Old Kingdom
This place has always been one of my favorites. The pulls are varied and interesting and the place has a nice epic feel to it.


Pull 1: Two watchers
At the bottom of the entry ramp are the two watchers. They hit decently hard and I think are pure melee. They might not be linked but they are close enough that it does not matter. I just move right in on these two and face pull. Sometimes it is nice to mark one but the main reason to do that is to test your pug and see if they actually down the marked one first.

Pull 2+: Solo pats
Now already this place gets interesting. Past the watchers is a courtyard and them some stairs on either side of the stairs are two groups. These groups can be left alone. With the groups are two solo patrollers. They are on opposite sides and alternately patrol across in front of the steps. They take long enough to do it that you can pull just one and move your entire party past before the next one patrols. But, depending on how you plan to pull the next group the second patroller might hit you from behind. If you really get things twisted up you can get the second patroller hitting you from behind just when your healer gets blasted for half their health. So unless you know the next pack cold I recommend taking the second patroller out. Naturally you must time the pulls to not agro the packs on the sides.

Pull 3: First shadow-caster pack
Personally I never do that second patroller because I tend to hit the next pack in a very optimal position while moving quickly forward. This next pack is 4 and patrols. It goes down a hall from the top of the steps and back to near another group in the room beyond. The safest place to hit it is right at the top of the steps. The best place to hit it if you are skipping the second patroller is down the short hall, just before you are out in the next room. What makes this group nasty is the shadowcaster. They hit HARD. And they cast so they stay well back. A good healer can heal through caster, even if the caster is shooting them. However, a good tank will never ever force a good healer to do that. The good tank, will mark that caster as primary and take it out fast. My skull raidmark is macroed to my Num-0 over on the number pad. This is a nice big button for fast for hitting while tanking. I tank as a bear so I am going to move straight through the group while hitting swipe and go right for the caster. I might charge to get through the group or I might run to the group and then charge through it to get to the caster. As I said I hit this group right at the end of the hall. Hitting it farther in means you probably pull one or more additional groups. Hitting it way in there will pull two groups at once. If two shadowcasters both shoot you at the same time you might die. If you shadowcasters shoot your healer at the same time they will be so dead the spirit healer will take damage.

Pull 4: Shadow-caster pack 2
This group is in the room the right and back. As you enter the room there are a lot of small things bugs off to your right. They are pathetic so ignore them. To your left is another pack. In this place you can either go right OR left but you don’t need to clear both, I go right so I only care about the group in front of me and to my right. I charge in. As before the caster gets primary and I hit it hard and fast. Lets say this time I am so focued on the caster that one of the others pulls off me. No problem I just go taunt and pick it up after the caster is dead. While I am at it I go toss an AOE at the small bugs in the corner. You can bypass them but they look better dead.

Pull 5: Shadow-caster Pack 3
Past the last group there are some steep stairs. To the right of the bottom of the stairs are some more small trash bugs. I jump over the stair rail and aoe them to death. Those are not a real pull. Next I spin around and wait for the party to catch up. In front of me across the room is a pack and then another pack patrolling around it. The patrol goes from way back in the far right corner all the way to near the bottom of the steps. Hopefully no DPS has already agroed them. This pack is perfect for an LOS pull…

The key here is the healer standing off to your left, by the wall next to the steps. If the healer is out in the open they are likly to get shot by the caster. The steps themselves will block LOS for the pull. I pick the shadow caster and mark it will skull. Then I pick the closest nerubian and feral faerie fire it. Next I move quickly to my left and hide by the steps. The group charges in. With even a little luck the caster will move a few steps forward. The rest of the pack gets here fast and starts attacking. The DPSers all start shooting and hacking at things. Only you care that the caster is your primary target. You throw some AOE to get agro on the three melee mobs and then you move from under cover. I can’t take the risk that the caster will get agro on someone else so I only give it a few steps toward the group, far enough to be away from the other group, and then I charge in. Swipe swipe swipe (with macroed and glyphed Maul) and that group is down. When you know this pull and do it smoothly it is easy. If you botch it you get two groups and dual shadow-casters will likely send someone to visit the land of black&white graphics.

Pull 6: last shadow caster pack
This group is stationary and has a shadow caster. I hit it hard and fast so they stay bunched up when I get to the caster. Once again the caster is primary. They really do hit rather hard.

Pull 7: trash and then the boss
In the next room there is a cluster of patrolling tiny bugs (one fast AOE hit) and then a boss. The boss is an easy pull. Just go hit it. I was not planning to cover boss fights, but for anyone that found this post from google and needs to know: When the purple shield pops up, find the guardian and kill it. Also AOE a lot and tell your healer to stand near you.

Pull 8: Patrol
There is a patrol just outside the other side of the boss room. Ignore it and go to the right down the steps. If anyone agros it kick/ignore them.

Pull 8.5: bug trash
Some tiny bugs patrol up and down the steps on the second flight and landing. AOE = dead.

Pull 9: More LOS
Now you are on a big landing, looking left from where you came down. In front of you is a pack. Of to your left are some giants and other stuff. Some of that pack in front our casters. You don’t want to fight them where the pack stands because that puts your DPS, heals and some patrolling giants and things all behind you and out of your vision. Instead run forward to where there is a little out-jut in the wall to your left. Hit the closest one of that pack with something ranged and then dodge behind the wall to your left. Do it fast, before your party is ready. Most people don’t seem to LOS this group. Most DPS screw it up by shooting them or hitting them before they get to you. You plan for them to do that by first moving fast enough that they aren’t ready to mess you up and second by expecting them to engage in the middle of the LOS pull. So now you are hiding behind the wall, the mobs are half way back to you and someone has just stepped past you and engaged. Since you expected that you jump out of your hiding spot early and engage with them. The group may or may not have gotten spread out by this sequence of events. If they did, watch for the farthest one to pull off you (If you don’t have the built in feature for announcing target changes in combat text turned on then go turn it on now. Seriously, this is majorly handy for tanking.) When it pulls off you taunt it. If you are a bear. Pallies and warriors can just ranged silence and DK can just grip it.

Pull 10: Giests Patrol
Next up there are several groups that patrol around. Two packs of Giests and two giants. The giants do fear. Wait for the first giest pack to get close and hit it with a ranged move. Don’t move toward it, let it come to you and aoe it down.

Pull 11: Giant
Now move forward just enough to engage the first giant. While you are doing it you are watching two things. One is the second giest pack which is patrolling nearby and the second is for any of your party to get feared either into the group on the far left, the other giant or the giest pack). Expect one of those things to happen and be ready for it. Stay well to the right and just plan on agroing the giest pack soon after. This should put you far enough from the group on the left to be safe from the fear.

Pull 12: giest pack
Depending on the patrol timing you might do this pack before the giant. Not likely though. Same as before, engage and aoe them down.

Pull 13: platform pack
Now you are going up the ramp to the right. That other giant should be far away but don’t forget it is there. The group you are after is at the top of the platform. It is mixed with casters and melee. There are two tricky bits, one is that the pylon in the center of the platform blocks line of sight. The other is that the ramp platform lip also blocks those on the ramp. Be sure your healer has caught up before going on to the platform (Or pop cooldowns) and don’t get on the other side of the pylon from your heals. You can use the pylon LOS to move the casters closer to you if you are good. Throw around plenty of agro as this spread out group is likely to get pulled off you.

Pull 14 and 15: Giant and platform
You might do the other platform next or the other giant. They both work like the first platform and giant. When doing the giant watch out for fearing into that group that is still down there.

Pull 16: Prince vampire
He is annoying but super easy. As you go up the ramp to him watch that your dps does not agro that other pack. Then move in and engage. Every now and then he vampires someone. If it is the healer, and there is a fire orb up, pop a cooldown.

Pull 17: Now it gets interesting
If anyone in your group is extra dumb, over eager and does not listen, now is the time to votekick. You go past the boss, down the ramp and come out on a raised area overlooking a lot of packs. This place use to be very tricky but now that they dumb it down… it is just as bad because now people do it even worse.
Here is what not to do… don’t’ leave the platform.
Directly in front of the platform there is a group patrolling left and right. Past that group to the right side is another group. Off the far right and left ends of the platform are two more groups. Time the patrolling group until it is just to the left of the center of its patrol path. This means it is not near any other group. Shoot at it or throw something ranged. Now STEP BACK! The top of the steps will LOS the casters. If you don’t do that some helpful DPS will run down the steps to engage the caster. It they do, taunt what they are fighting and back up even more. The big risk in this area is agroing extra groups.

Pull 18: Front right camp
Don’t leave the platform! Do something to shoot the group the front and right and then back up again. Can you skip this group? Kinda. Can you wipe if you skip it and mess up? Yeah. Don’t bother skipping it. Don’t forget to back up after you agro them and double check that no patrol was near them.
If you run down there and fight where they stand you run a good chance of getting the group behind them too.

Pull 19: far left camp
We are going for the tree boss so we now go down the far left end of the steps and engage the group there. Alternately, do be safer, you can pull them up to your spot on the platform and kill them the same as the last two.

Pull 20: Shambler 1
It is a single patrolling target, kill it. Do it fast-ish because there is another one patrolling back there.

Pull 21-22: more shamblers
There is another one down around the ramp. Kill it. There is one straight ahead after that. You theoretically can skip it but if you have some run to melee a ‘shroom while you are on the boss they might agro it. Pull and kill it before the boss.

Pull 23: Boss
These days you can kill it without doing the mushrooms. If you want to though you can go kill a healthy mushroom to get the debuff off you. Kill the boss.

Pull 24: Pack by the fire
Leave the dead boss and go back up the to the courtyard area. There are two ways to the second to last boss, one is right in front of you. Move in and engage the group by the bonfire. They might have someone ranged but if you move if fast and fight where they stand you are fine.

Pull 25: Elementals
Dead ahead and just before the stairs are some elementals. Some are ranged and they hit fairly hard. I just charge I and kill them where they stand.

Pull 26: Groupies
At the top of the steps is a platform area with lots of worshipers. Soon as they are all dead the boss will come down. If you want a tiny breather you can do just half of them, rest a second, and then do the other half so there is less to deal with as a part of the boss pull.

Pull 27: Bossette
She pulls herself the instant the last worshiper dies. Just pick her up as she comes down.
Be ready to drop the add fast when it starts going toward the circle. If you don’t get it down before it gets there blow any and all tanking cooldowns as boss returns. She will be hitting very hard and might take the healer by surprise.
After the boss be sure to go back around via the side you cleared. If you have a particularly oblivious DPSer they might start going back via the side that was NOT cleared. It happens more often than you might think so expect it. But don’t wait around on the platform. As soon as the boss drops start moving toward the cleared side and hope the others take the hint.

Pull 28: pack under the tent
There is still the pack to the right end of the steps (left if you are on the way back from the boss) (I mean the steps we fought several groups at the top of). To avoid the groups to the far left (the other approach to the bossette) I will go back up the steps, across to the far end of the platform and then jump down behind them. Then I will start engaging the group from behind so they move slightly toward me and away from the other packs. I COULD have done this group before we went down to the tree boss. In fact I should have but was being lazy. (there use to be a patrol that made tanking this group on top of the stairs a vastly better idea)

Pull 29: first faceless one
So now we go up the big ramp to the final area. Dead ahead is a narrow area and then the first faceless one. I engage him close to where he is standing. Just a little back from there to avoid the patrolling ones but not so far back as to get him in the really narrow spot. These faceless throw a slow moving purple missile. It hits hard but is easy to dodge. Tanking him close to where he stood gives the DPS more room to dodge the missile. Most DPS don’t even know you can dodge it so they just stand there and get hit.

Pull 30: Second faceless
Here you have two patrols. If you wait for one and then fight him roughly where he is you are likely to get the second one agroed from your side. Instead I run past their patrol line off to the left and pull the left one over away from where he was patting. This has the double bonus of leaving me looking straight at the second one just in case an extra intelligent ranged dps decides to stand over near where he patrols.

Pull 31: last faceless
Nothing special for this one. Move in and take him when he is to the right (closer to the entrance) so you are not near the boss.

Pull 32: Boss
Kill him… By the way. If you are a rage using tank remember to kill your healer first. If you don’t you will get rage starved when the healer is the only one left. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you will wahahahaa.

That is it. All of Old Kingdom pull by pull. I went a bit fast but I hope it helped illustrate some of the decision making that goes into doing various types of pulls. If you are confused by anything please please ask in the comments. Keep in mind I might have forgotten something. I did this purely from memory to illustrate that a decent tank needs to be able to remember every pull in an instance and how they are unique. Happy tanking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Didn’t see that coming…

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Good Situational awareness means never saying “what the hell just happened?” Really good situational awareness means never saying “Woah! I did not see that coming.”

It is being aware of what is going on around you. Not just being there. Not just seeing it. Not just doing some stuff while seeing things. Being AWARE.

The first step of being more aware is realizing that you need to be. If you think you already are, but you aren’t, then you will not get any better. At first trying to pay attention to more things will seem hard. Overwhelming and stressful are two words new tanks use a lot. It gets better as you get better at being aware (among other things).

Camera control is a key aspect of situational awareness. If you are not looking AT a potential trouble spot you can’t keep tabs on it.

Take this situation:

The giant is dead, the boss is way down there and we are all clear to finish this HoL run off. But wait! Pan that camera round and let’s become aware of the real situation.


Last I checked I am not omnipotent. Neither is anyone else currently walking the earth in human flesh. Well except that one DK in your last run. I think he knows everything. But for the rest of us we don’t. The trick to knowing more and being more aware is focusing on things you need to know. As you get better at it you will be reflexively updating yourself.

There is a thing that pilots call the scan. As you are flying a plane you can’t see all your gauges at once. For a pilot it is deadly if you forget to check one of your gauges for a long time. So you scan them in a regular pattern, like a rotation. What is my airspeed? Ok, now how is my attitude? Now look out the windscreen. Ok, now check my engine status indicators. Good, now back to airspeed.

We do this when driving a car but cars are much more simple. Look at the lines look at the lines look at the lines ah $#@% where did that cop come from? @$#*! How did I get going that fast?

FAIL. A decent driver is watching the road, taking glances at his speedometer, and checking the cars around him all the time. A good driver is also keeping an eye on that car over there that looks like it might be about to change lanes without signaling while still keeping another eye on that intersection coming up, the one that people tend to roll through the stop sign. He might not be paying attention to what the passenger is saying because that is not important. This is what I mean by paying more attention to the things that matter. If you can’t drive and talk to the passenger at the same time you tell your friend to shut up. Likewise if you can’t tank and follow guild chat you might turn that off. Learning to be more aware of the things that matter and be less distracted by the things that don’t.

Let’s say you are a hawkeyed bodyguard for a VIP. You watchful gaze sees all, knows all. Well not really. You might be scanning the rooftops for a sniper and checking the shadows for a sneaky ninja, but you are not going to be getting distracted by the way that guy over there is wearing shoes that totally clash with his tie. You see that sort of thing and dismiss it instantly as not important. But, being a good bodyguard you do zero in on the important things. You don’t care what color the guy’s socks are but you are very aware of how the suit coat he is wearing hangs unevenly on his shoulders. Which means there is something heavy in his pocket. Something about the weight of a handgun. See what I am getting at? Some details matter and some don’t. The ones that matter really really matter and the ones that don’t are a distraction.

Trick is to pay attention to the things you need to when you need to.

At the start of a run you are checking:  your buffs party composition  and you might be checking a few things about the group, GS, server, whatever.

Then you are looking to the first pull. Part of setting your pull up is being aware of your target group. What is the make-up? Are there casters? Do some of them do some special tricks? How far apart are they? Which ones will be in my aoe range when I start the pull? Which are likely to pull off me? Now is not the time to notice that the hunter has a BM pet, it does not matter. But, if you notice him starting the ‘shoot something’ animation then that IS worth noticing.

What you are paying attention to can change depending on your group and how they play. Do they AOE a lot? Which ones get into fights quickly and which lag behind. Where does the hunter usually send his pet? Which one does the rogue prefer to go after when he ignores my kill order? Does the healer throw a big heal early in the fight? Is he far behind me?

Do I need to pop cooldowns to survive the first few seconds of the fight?

You are also need to be aware of things around the pack you are targeting. Not just other groups and pats but what the terrain is. Are there Line of Sight hazards? Is the group going to path somewhere strange when I pull them? Am I likely to fear out of range of the healer. Which nearby groups or pats are the most likely to get aggro on us.

This is all in the instant before a pull and in the first few seconds of a fight. It may seem like a lot but as you get experienced as a tank you can take in all that information and much more in the instant before a pull. Some of it is off of memory, knowing the dungeon, and some is just gut feel.

As the fight goes on some of the questions change and some of them stay the same but the answers might be different. Between fights you are checking some of this but also checking on the status and mana of your party members.

I phrases all those as questions, but being aware is not about questioning. It is about coming up with the answers quickly and then acting on them. You should be doing this proactively instead of just reacting as things happen.

Basically nothing should ever surprise you. If people in your party gets too close to a pack you were bypassing, you should have expected that. If a that mage over there is too close to where the patrol is, you should see the aggro coming from a mile away.

If you pull the pack an instant before they spot him, or even as they spot him, you will be a second or two ahead of the tank that just reacts to things as the happen. That second or two will save the life of the mage.

How can you keep up with all of this and not to nuts? Learning the instances helps, getting reflexively fast at your tanking skills keeps them from getting in the way of your ‘awareness’. but in the end it comes down to focus and lack of distracting emotional reactions.

Someone WILL pull off of you. The time to be bother by it is AFTER the fight (or never). The healer will let someone die. Don’t worry about it. It is critical to not get distracted and forget about something you need to pay attention to. One of the biggest things to cause this is people pulling things off you. It is easy to instantly focus on getting it back and to lose track of everything else. When you do that you are highly likely to drop aggro on something else. And then things completely brake down. So what do you do? Well there are a couple things. One is TANK TRIAGE. This is also known as ‘you yank it you tank it’.

At some point very early in your tanking career you will find yourself with several DPSers that are blowing your threat away. These jerks are going to be pulling off of you right and left. Part of situational awareness is knowing both who is most likely to pull off you and who can take a few hits. This is where knowing other classes comes into play. If a hunter and a mage pull off you at the same time who do you burn your taunt cooldown on? This is a trick question. The hunter has FD so she is on her own. And the mage is dead a half second after he pulls off you anyway. Heh. Mages have several ways to dump aggro but most mages are BAD at using them. So if they use one you can round aggro back up and if they don’t you have a nanosecond to taunt off them and then they drop.

Tank Triage is the art of knowing who to pull a mob off of and who to let die. Ideally this will never happen. In reality it happens all the time. The number one of course is the healer. You absolutely have to keep them off the healer no matter what. Pop quiz, when is the most risky time for the healer?

Adds. Adds always go for the healer first because the healer is usually throwing a heal when they show up. The second riskiest time for healers is when the pull first starts. A very good healer will time his or her first couple heals until a split second after you get aggro on the whole group. There are a lot of not very good healers so you can expect a nice big heal to pull something off you right at the start. It will usually be that caster mob over there in the corner. You know, the one that can two-shot your healer. This is where awareness and a form of triage comes into play. I often ignore that caster. At least everyone thinks I am because I rounded up everyone else except that one. But in reality I have my camera aimed right at that guy and I am waiting for the ‘changed target’ notification. When that happens I am going to taunt him. Then I will have the 30% margin before he pulls off me again. Alternately I might opt for charging and interrupting. I do this because I am a bear and bears have no tools for moving caster mobs around. Basically, no ranged silence. That is what a ranged silence is, a way to move a caster mob somewhere. The only other way to do it is with Line of Sight. Doing THAT during combat, while the healer already has aggro is a challenge. It requires a fast taunt and a quick movement while still maintaining aggro on everything else. But that is not the focus of this post.

Tunnel vision versus ‘in the groove’.

Those two things are similar but not the same. Tunnel vision is when you are forgetting something you should be paying attention too. ‘In the groove’ you are aware of all the things you need to be aware of. You are ready for the things you need to be ready for because even if they have not happened yet (adds, pets, people pulling off you, etc) they could happen at any time. The thing to learn is getting all the things you need to be aware of in your ‘groove’ and not forgetting any of them. Or, if you are sort of forgetting them, you are ready at anytime to start paying attention to them. But not with tunnel vision. You are ready, when something ‘unexpected’ happens, to add those new things you need to pay attention to into your awareness while not dropping any of the things you were staying aware of before.

Oh no adds! Target, turn, charge, aoe, turn back, back into threat rotation. All with no hesitation or loss of focus. Did I miss one? A quick taunt and then back to what I was doing. Once you develop the skills and tricks to rapidly pick up a group of adds it is not very difficult to simply be ready at any time to do those tricks. Being a tank is about having a bag of pre-set tricks, skills, and tactics. I have this bag ready at any time to grab up the one I need an apply it. The key to making it all work is not hesitating. Don’t get distracted by something happening, just rapidly apply a strategy to the changed situation. If that does not work do another. ANY strategy is better than no strategy. The perfect actions a few seconds late is not the perfect action. Some half-ass sloppy moves done quickly with no hesitation can save the situation.

In theory being able to react very quickly can take the place of being so ‘situationally aware’ that you see everything coming. But that is a poor tradeoff. Being more and more aware of what is going on, and what could happen, or is about to happen allows you to decide in advance. I don’t have to react to that hunter backing up too far and aggroing the giant because I saw it coming. I had the giant targeted and was pressing the charge button before it took its first swing because I knew that would happen. This lets me be one step ahead of the tank that only reacted when he saw the hunter run past him with a giant on his butt.

Note for DPS and Heals on tank awareness: Dealing with an unaware tank. I will do a post on this someday but the best and easiest thing to do is get near the tank but not too near. Be far enough away that it is obvious when something pulls off on you but close enough that you are not out of his camera view. If you are well behind him an unaware tank will not see that thing eating your face. Yes, that is totally his fault for being fail, but if you want to live move close to him. Don’t get too close though. If you are lost in the melee he will be just as oblivious that you are getting om-nom-nom-ed.

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L2P Nub

So there we were in POS, Analogue in tree form and Reversion’s second bear tank, the undergeared one. Soon as we saw the loading screen we knew we were in for fun. His second bear is lightly geared, has some holes, and was running with an experimental high-agility build. That’s why I bring Analogue along when we want to run instances with that tank; she’s usually able to keep things up just fine, but I know some of the POS pulls are fun..

We get a warlock, a dk, and a paladin. The warlock hasn’t been here before on this character; he asks people to “share quests” and we remind him to talk to Jaina at the portal in. This is halfway through the first pull. He says “Ok, can I brb?” and we give him permission, starting in on the next pull. Then I notice his health bar is going down… and down… he’s managed to aggro the caster mobs that everyone always skips these days. So Reversion and I go back and res him. Well now he’s got the quest, so we keep going.

First boss is fine. Then we wipe after that because I’m careless and not looking where the tank is and run into the ambushers. Oops. That was dumb. We get back, clear to Ick and Krick, kill them, and start up the hill. It takes all my button spamming but the first two groups go down and everyone is alive. The paladin seems to have a broken cleanse button so we have to wait around after the fight for the diseases to wear off, but it’s going ok.

The next set of mobs, Reversion tells the DK to run to one caster and death grip the other caster on top. Wonder of wonders he listens, we take out that group. We go to do the second group – and wipe; I have no idea why. Everyone runs back, except for the dk. He didn’t run back last time either and this time he’s under the mobs and I couldn’t rez him if I wanted to. We tell him to release, wait for him to do it or reply or… nothing. So he gets kicked and a mage joins the party. A mage with a gear score higher than mine and an ego to match.

The first pull wasn’t bad; Reversion kept aggro, we’d already killed one caster and the mage’s blizzard didn’t pull off. Now it was time for the tunnel. Reversion gave the standard rundown; get to the middle, don’t dps till then, don’t get ahead of the tank. We run to the plate, kill everything. One of the dps goes down; I have just enough time to rez before we’re in combat again. We start off up the tunnel but it’s taken long enough there are a lot on the bear. Since this alt only has 29k hit points in bear form, Reversion stops to kill a few adds. The mage and paladin, however, don’t stop. I sigh as their health bars go down, and then ours go down, and it’s a wipe.

“???” says the mage. “You don’t stop in the tunnel nub”.

“You do if the tank needs to kill the adds,” Reversion points out.

“You fail as a tank. L2P nub.” And he quits party, just like that.

Needless to say we finished the tunnel and the boss fight without any trouble at all.

I think the problem is that for a lot of people, unless you’ve played a role it’s hard to tell the difference between “bad” and “undergeared”. You can tell good geared players easily. You can tell bad ungeared players really easily. You can even tell bad geared players – they’re the ones with a 6k gearscore and 2k dps. But it’s hard sometimes to tell if a player is bad, or just lightly geared. If you wipe on hard fights, sometimes it’s just because you’re short on health. I’ll point out that Reversion’s second bear is better geared than his primary bear was the first few times we ran H POS; gear inflation is insane these days.  But the mage wasn’t willing to stick around to see which was the case. We’d deviated from his knowledge of “how you do the tunnel”; he couldn’t see that the reason why was a good one, so he left.

Still, who’s the bigger idiot, the tank who stops or the mage who keeps going?

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