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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