A wee bit of Tanking

We ran through MV last night and due to some silly guild happenings we were a few folks short. We were able to grab a darn excellent Shadow Priest via pugging, to fill the roster. As an aside it was well beyond my expectations to find somebody who has experience on 2-3 characters in MV and is also polite and intelligent. From a pug no less. Its like it 2009 all over again.

Missing a few players might be bad news sometimes, but last night I chucked on my Blood set and mashed the DeathStrike button through the Mogu’shun in a manner to make the designers cringe. I’m sure that I didn’t walk-taunt-move-stay-still enough in some parts, and the mechanics are still gibberish to me in the later bosses. Our regular Blood DK gave me all the help I needed by prompting for each taunt, and while I can normally see a debuff or action from which he is reacting to, last night it was tough to spot.

A few hours of killing, only a few wipes, at an even pace we had all but the last boss dead and unfortunately I hit the “in-home” enrage timer just after 11pm, and had to end the run. Frustrating to not down the Emperors after all that, but then we did start a little later than expected and they’ll be standing there till we come back.

I’m also pissed off that Elegon did not drop anything useful for me that I could bid on. There was plenty of Plate gear that dropped, but nothing for upgrades either way. Selfishly, I’d have liked a two-hander to replace the crappy Blue I’m still using. Or it would be nice to see an end to the fun mini-game of waiting for the Plate Wrist dps to drop too. Love randomness, its so fun.

Three fat Mogu staring at a dinner plate?

LFR Tool…shrug

The LFR tool has some more details announced, but really its as expected. You’ll be sorted into a 25 man raid team, and given an easier version of the current content. Game By Night posted about it, and asked why it is not creating more of a stir, after all it should affect the entire MMO Community.

I made a comment to him:

“Why aren’t bloggers talking about it?!”
Because I think it will fail, but my blog is almost a Blizzard bashing blog anyway, so I don’t want to be too negative.

We have a raid finder tool already, and nobody uses it. Maybe making this across a series of realm is good, but as I said in my blog – it is almost pointless for current raids, but fantastic for older ones.

An old raid can be stomped by players who have no clue, but current tier content will be difficult regardless. I hate pugs, this will be like pugs on speed, wielding chainsaws.

Yup, Chainsaws. Speed freaks yelling gogogogo, and pointless wipes. I hope I’m wrong as I really need something like this so to support my progression, and I am planning to use it a lot.

To give it any less than an incredible amount of patience and time will be a poor review, and impact poorly for MMOs in the future. Blizzard is trying a new thing here and that should be applauded. Lets raise a glass to 25 man random Raids, and hope that the people joining them are useful, informed, and tolerant.

If they really wanted the feature to be a 100% seller it would be available for old school raids too. That would meet the transmogrification needs too.

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LFD Quirks

I’ve noticed that the first group I get in LFD is typically a fresh run where everyone starts from the start. If for some reason somebody does not accept, then the next group will almost always be a mid-way through run of some form. Sometimes its early, other times is at a hard boss.

I have no idea if this is by design, and I think its good. But is it just me – does anyone know if this happens for Dps, or just Tanks, or if its just a strange consistency in recent randoms?

If its planned you’re typically going to wait for a group, it is sometimes better to get into a part way group so that the wait time (for the guys that wait) is overall the same from queue to completion.

A counter though is that joining a group that has issues might have you joining a group of terrible players, rather than replacing a terrible player. I guess there would be no pattern to that.

Are the 5 mans fixed?

The original basis for this post on 5 man difficulty was drafted well before 4.2 was released, in fact it was just after launch of Cataclysm. In that first draft I was very angry and frustrated with the encounters, and could not name a single boss fight which I found challenging and entertaining at the same time.

As the content was tweaked in the early days of patch 4.0 it did not get much better, but when 4.1 was released (ZA/ZG 5 mans) there was a substantial change in the staging of the older 5 mans to make a progressive path through the gearing process. I re-edited the draft with less anger, adjusted for some of the changes, and then added back in the frustration and disappointment when I pondered ZA and ZG as experiences themselves.

ZA and ZA felt like mini-raids, which were designed to push players and punish them hard when execution was not perfect. Even if the actual encounter mechanics were partially random, the players were still punished. Poor design in my opinion, and something that I hope more than just a few in the Warcraft community have experienced and would agree with.

Now that 4.2 is live we have a range of small changes to some aspects of the 5 mans, and also easier access to gear, which in turn helps mitigate the poor encounter design. As you might be lucky enough to have a team that partially over gears the encounters, you can somewhat reduce the impact a mistake has, and potentially not outright wipe. This is no replacement for good encounters, it is just a happy side effect of players getting better gear.

Today I’ve decided to post this reflection on 5 man runs, as the feeling has been consistent throughout the Cataclysm expansion in a way I have not experienced before. TBC and Wrath did not feel like this. It is a personal taste on how you view the content, and also how well you feel the”curve” is being handled.

The main angst I feel toward the 5 man content is that to continue my goal of gearing up I must do these, yes they are frustrating at times. My goal of gear is conflicting with my sense of entertaining play. So once again we have two factors: Gear & fun as key parts of the discussion.

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Return of the poor pug

Last night I had another of those experiences which teach you to hate pugs, and I have not written about a bad pug in a while – which is mainly due to not having anyreally bad experiences. So on balance I am kind of pleased to not have suffered much recently. 

It started because I decided that I’ve tanked far too many instances on my druid, and I wanted to do some other bank clean-up and miscellenanous tasks, so waiting for 10 to 15 minutes for a run was fine. I stayed in Boomkin spec and joined the wait list. The group I joined looked typical, we had a mix of highly geared toons and poorly geared toons, and the group was very silent.

We got the Pit of Sauron, so I was pleased, as it is normally an easy run. The gear level did not especially make me pause, as I’m ok with beginning toons, especially as they can sometimes be carried without too much impact.

So we begin the first pull (the necromancer with his skeleton guards) and the healer is clearly struggling to keep the tank’s health above 50%. Then one of the dps (not me, as I don’t often Starfall in pugs) pulls the other pack which is close, and we have a real issue. One of the dps dies, and the tank is near death when the last mob dies.

I was concerned, so as we finished the battle I looked through the groups gear and setup.

We had:

  • a Blood Death Knight Tank in moderate gear (mix of 219s to 232+) with appropriate enchantments and gems, so potentially an excellent setup,
  • a Holy Priest healer in blue 200s with a few 219s and 232s,
  • a Warrior using Fury spec wearing mid 232s – all which looked typical and correct,
  • another Death Knight using Frost 2-weapon and wearing the same level of gear level as the tank, and who also belonged to the same guild as the tank,
  • and my Boomkin sitting around 6k with correct enhants and gems.

What stood out as a serious problem was not the healers gear level, it was that it was primarily dps gear, and poorly encahnted and gemed even for a dps role. Basically it demonstrated a messy and poorly thought out approach. I decided to give the healer a chance, but the team started to grumble.

“WTF healer” was as elequent as we heard, and as the comments flowed, the healer’s performance seemed to drop proportionally. You’d have to expect to get kicked soon after the screw-ups started to become consistent.

So we go on, and I see more evidence that 4 out of 5 characters should be here, but the healer is just gimping the group:

  • Trash is hard, slow, but we survive.
  • We had a full wipe on Garfrost, due to players not resetting stacks, then I died again, due to not getting healed. Yay, fubar.
  • Many of the team didn’t run out for the poinson burst from Ick, and I almost laughed with saddness when the healer stood still during the “avoid the bubbles” mechanic.
  • None of the guys had ever heard of skipping the “burning mobs” by using a mount; and frankly I think they would have stuffed it up anyway.
  • During the Garfrost, Ick fight, and the burning trash I pop’ed out of Boomkin form to heal the tank, myself and a few heals on the other dps.
  • One time on the frost mages with skeleton guards the time the healer paniced and ran backwards into another pack, instead of standing still and healing – we knew he needed to be kicked.

He was kicked straight after our first attempt at the cave run, and a new druid healer joined teh group. From then on, everything was smooth and we had mo more deaths or wipes. 

What the healer did not get was a dialog of what he had done wrong, why his performance was so poor. But then he should bloody know. If the rest of the group have to explain a class to the player then you’re lost at sea. I can understand explaining a fight mechanic, but not a class.

What the healer should have done:

  • is not even dream about trying to heal an instance in dps gear. 
  • to practice healing on on some normals before trying to join a heroic.
  • Not only did this healer clearly have no place being there, he was selfishly wsting everyone’s time.

What the tank should have done:

  • Nothing, he was fine. A little more gear might have covered the healer more, but a fail player in bad gear can’t be compensated for as a tank or healer. That is a dps’s luxury in 5 mans at the moment.

What I should have done:

  • from the beginning is just tank, as at least then I have more control on the flow of the battles, and can help manage the groups to keep the healer’s job simple.
  • I’ll dps with guildies, but tank when doing pugs.

grind, raid, grind, grind, wail,..grind, grind

There is a certain ratio between grinding, raiding and madness – a tipping point if you like – where everything starts to become surreal. I’m in that place now, staring outward from the game wondering where the game ends and what effect it is having on me.

Today’s post is another rant about the week that was, the pugs that were not, and the dreams of raids left uncleared. Another long-ish rant, skip if you’re not keen on random stuff. :)

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PuG Warlock advice on Threat

warlock-creepy-close-up

Would you take advice from this Warlock?

If a tank pulls, starts with an low AoE ability on all mobs (like Blood Boil) then how can a Warlock pull threat without casting a spell? I though it would take at least a damage spell to pull threat, and waiting is a zero threat ability.

Or should all pulls in a standard 5 man be high threat AoE? What about doing multi-pack pulls?

In a 5 man should the dps wait for threat, or just go?

Ardana from Calestraz suggested that I did not “have threat” when I used Blood Boil while running through one pack, then planted a DnD on the second pack.  It seems to me that the Warlock did not wait for threat to be well established.

Even when they had aggro and I taunted, the Warlock and the other dps just kept on killing.

Warlock might have been right that I did not initiate a high threat cycle to allow him to dps straight away… I’d add to that and say that while the pull might have been less than ideal for a small pack, the concept of watching, thinking, and acting accordingly is beyond most 5 man players.

TL;DR = I hate pugs.

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First thoughts on the Ruby Sanctum

The Insidious regulars charged at the Ruby Sanctum last night, and by golly it showed us who is boss. The patrolling trash is to be respected, and the need for cc and stun/interrupts makes this content a true pug wiper, at least for a while.

I loved it!

Wiping on new content is so much better than doing old 5 mans, and a great way to start our raid night. New tactics, really nasty trash, and the fact that it is not technically mandatory for progression mean that I can be keen to do this content, and so will so many others that we have a chance of folks actually learning what to do.

A conversation started around the topic of how hard the instance is meant to be, and we generally agreed that it will be darn hard while we learn and there are no boss warning, but get pugable as time passes. I think this is true to a point, but think it wil still be one of those places where a screen-licker will fail, and potentially make others fail.

A description of the trash: “This is technically the trash’s trash…”

Which makes me think that it is totally unacceptable for somebody to not move the third time they are targeted by something bad. I mean come on, how hard is it? (rhetorical question)

If you need more than a very large Red Arrow pointing at the top of your character that something bad is about to happen, then you are a bloody idiot. Plain and simple. It could not be made more obvious, and we had just spent a few minutes talking about how people need to move away from each other.

So we didn’t win at all. We did kill one of the mini-bosses, but the patrolling trash with the Commander kicked us enough times to make the first five bosses in ICC seem like more fun and better use for time, so the crew will return at a later time. I’m sure some guilds went in and one shot it, and sure others fought hard and got through.

That isn’t us, we wiped, but I still enjoyed.

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Grumbling on the Midsummer Festival of Pugs and Lag

I’m not sure if there is a correlation between the start of the Midsummer Festival and the terrible increase in lag; but it feels like it. Last evening it was bad enough in instances that I jumped offline instead of waiting 2-3 seconds for each button press to be recognised.

Dalaran was a total ghost-town of empty mounts, or so overloaded that it was impossible to move.

Grumble: Much later in the evening I came back online and the lag was better, but still far worse than the game was 2 nights before.

A few guildies agreed that everything was slower, and a few others said that they were not having an issue at all, which means it could easily be related to the ISP or to the routing in use between Australia and the USA; or even something odd in my house. In support of my suspicion I can say that the Dungeon Tool was heavily populated with players, and the Ahune queue was very short.

Draw your own conclusions.

Speaking of Ahune, and his wonderfully random selection of cloaks, the implementation of this boss is good, but has really exposed us to the worst of the player base.

It is wonderful as it gives any character the opportunity to run the boss until you get each of the cloaks for all of your specs, and as these are ilevel 232 items, and very well specialised for their roles, they have real appeal for PvE. Consider it mandatory to get all your roles covered in the days where the festival is on.

The negative side affect is that as these are cloaks anyone can need on these, and the experience from 11:30pm to 1am for me was a rinse-repeat of people rolling need when they have absolutely no need for the item. I’d say most need for sale or DE; which is just terribly bad form. This is the worst kind of behaviour, and exactly the circumstance that the armour type need vs greed modification was made to loot rolls, and such a pity that there is not a way to preselect classes for gear.

Initially it might be argued that needing on these items is no such a big deal, as it can be re-run over and over, so the selfish player will always need. To paraphrase a comment from last night – “you can always run it again buddy”. But what it does not take into consideration is that the actual drop is random, and by needing you are taking an item from the toon that may actually need it.

Then add to the case that some cloaks seem to be rare. Of my 12+ runs last night I saw the tanking cloak once, and was lucky enough to win. On almost all those runs I saw somebody needing on an item that was either totally incompatible for their class, or rolling need when they came using an off-spec.

Larger grumble: Needy bastards should be spiked on the SW gates.

My advice is to run this boss with known people, so they don’t Need/Quit the group after Ahune is killed. Get guild mates to keep you company. The fight is easy enough for most classes.

Largest Grumble: Tanking as Frost DK on Ahune is frankly frustrating.

As a Death Knight Frost tank, my primary range affect to grab single mobs, and 50% of primary source of damage is useless on the boss and on the mobs. Imagine what that does to the fight when mobs spawn in random locations, attack random targets, and the player base has no idea on good tactics.

Its a total mess. So in the spirit of getting folks on the same page, here are some tips for how to make the Ahune fight very easy.

  1. Manage the ads well. If you have fast reaction time and can avoid the circles then stack up on the Tank. But if you’re expecting randomness from the players, then spread out 10-15 yards apart. The mobs will spawn and attack random folks, probably the healer. To avoid the Tank running between all the players, staying close and using AoE is the best way to handle the wave of initial monsters. The mobs will eventually even get sick of standing and firing frostbolts, and run in toward their target, so if everyone is standing close, the odds are that everyone can kill them faster, and the tank can grab them faster.
  2. Remember to hurt the boss during the first phase. It is critical that targets switch, or even dedicate a single range dps to just focus on Ahune. Kill him fast and the fight finishes faster – simple.
  3. Save cooldowns for the stage where the small ads are gone, then go bananas. No threat, no boss, just a big rock to destroy. It is a dps wet dream and you should prep and focus for it.
  4. Expect the healer to get targeted, and try to look after him before the dps. A simple thing, but easily forgotten that many healer types are very squishy, and will need some help.
  5. Consider using different auras, as the amount of Frost damage in the fight is strong (so I suspect), so getting a pally to Frost up will help a lot.

Anyway, that is all for the grumble-post. Happy pug’ing Ahune, and I hope your cloaks drop and your rolls are appropriate and high!

Let them burn

Blog Azeroth shared topic: When should Healer let folks die in the fire?

Ha! All the time. First mistake is free, the next one the dps should burn. Let’em use bandages.

The context I’m imagining is a random PUG five man normal or heroic at any level, but feel free to answer in any way that moves you

I think the content of a 5 man should be so well known, and so over geared by most folks that standing in the fire is not an issue. That is to say, the content can be done even with the idiot standing there, so no real issue; not at all that the person should stand there without feeling like a fool though.

Applying a rule that everyone gets one chance to be a moron; the first mistake is ok and totally forgiven. But the second time they should at the very least apologise for the mistake, and not keep doing it.

Third time I’d be happy for a Hunter or Rogue to MD to them constantly so they quit the group.

An example – In AN “pound” by the last boss is something that used to kill Tanks. Now a tank can pretty much be healed through it, but it still kills dps. This is ok and the way it should be.

If the Tank didn’t move because they were doing something else, then that is ok too, but generally the Tank should know better and should have moved. The Damn dps who do that deserve all they get, and should not be a priority in healing. Period.

Have a great raid, and I’ll leave you with some inspiring words: Give a man fire and he’s warm for a day, set a man on fire and he’s warm for the rest of his life.