A defensive update on the patch

English: A line of M109A6 Paladin howitzers as...

Patch 5.0.4 brought us some changes, and its taking some players like me a while to understand and absorb them. I’m damned if I can fit 9 classes worth of changes in my head at once, so I’ve kept to just a few. My Death Knight main and a few of the toons that I tank with: DK, Warrior, and Paladin. I’ll get around to adding the Guardian Druid into that soon, and then also spec’ing the non-tanks like my Warlock and Hunter. I wonder if Hunters and Warlocks can pet tank / solo now.

One thing about the new Tanking model is that multi-mob tanking is much more viable, as long as the tank does not get stunned or overwhelmed. When either occur you are in deep trouble very quickly. DKs, Pally, and War all hurt when faces with 10+ mobs, and the old days of doing an instance in a single pull. Now if the mobs cannot hit your character for enough damage per second to chew through the shield, then your character will never get hurt at all. Generally that will never happen at level, and even (Level -10) needs to be considered. At (level-25) or less I think its the same old run and giggle mode, which is good. At level on normal mode all Tanks should be able to solo bosses like Slabhide with reasonable gear and use of cool-downs.

As a quick summary:

  • Death Knights – feel essentially the same as previous Blood spec did, and play very much like a dps character. Good solid fun.
  • Paladins – slow and steady damage, unkillable due to great cooldowns, highly controllable self heal. The cockroach is back.
  • Warriors – fast paced leaps, charges, and thunderclaps. High damage, lower survival. Best fun to be had by far.

Death Knight – overall nothing greatly changed, and everything did. The Blood style plays the same, and it is the other tanks who now are moved to an absorption/healing based actions (aka Active Mitigation). Essentially our world changed because we have moved from having a somewhat unique ability, to having just one of the best implementations of the soak/damage model. I liked it a a DK and like it on the others too. As dps the talents feel narrow.

I’m not sold on the concept of switching talent choices per fight, except to say that if a player can do that well they are a much greater asset to their raid than a player who specs once and never changes.

Paladin – I was newbie tanking in Outland back in the day, and loved the fact that mana was returned by getting hurt. Likewise now we get all sorts of resources back from being hurt. I’ve run a few old heroic 70 and 80 dungeons in solo mode to test the performance of the Tankadin, and while I think their overall damage is too low, the survivability is very strong.Cooldowns are needed for heavy damage spike fights and too many mobs can rip through the bubble very quickly.

Paladin’s strength is the control of when they can apply their heal, and the advantage of doing either a powerful shield strike or heal as a 3x holy power combo move. I found on bosses or big trash pulls that sometimes all I did was self heal, and the slow attrition of concentration and the AoE effects whittled down the creatures. The Paladin was never in trouble, but also never was near the DPS that the Warrior did.

Warrior – A Protection Warrior at the moment is crazy fun. They do as much damage as some lowbie dps and can head smash their way through mobs darn quickly. Having additional uses of charge via talents means that for now I grind quests as Prot. Never dying has many advantages. They are still a very agile tank, being able to move across the battle exceedingly quickly. Solo’ing was almost as easy as the others, but at times my health was dropping and it took special attention to snap it back up. Thankfully the cooldowns provide for some interesting power-ups, and I was also using Herbalism’s small heal and spare potions.

If I could somehow get a huge gear jump I think the Warrior would benefit strongly from a powerful set of items and correct re-forging. Parry and mitigation re-forging appear to make a large difference in the form discussions out there, and my Warrior feels like she wants to smash heads harder, but cannot just yet. The potential is certainly there.

But why have 3-4x tank characters?

Heroic Utguard Pinnacle (h-UP), Heroic Magister’s Terrace (h-MgT), and Normal Stonecore are all easily solo-able for all three classes, which means grinding for those elusive mounts is now easier as a character can be parked out the front of each to do each one each day with no travel time. Till the new world events this is what I’ll be spending free time on. I’m pondering adding the Druid to be parked in front of Molten Core, purely because the rare mats and drops from there still sell well.

In terms of comparison neither the Paladin or the Warrior can hold a torch to a Death Knight for solo’ing and damage. Some of that might be due to much better gear (ilevel 333 vs 378) and my familiarity with the DK class, but it seems the DK is slightly ahead for now. Warrior is probably a close second, but their healing is still not as exceptional or as controllable as the Death Knight. Things will be interesting at level 90 where we are meant to be playing, as I can see a Warrior becoming once again the powerhouse of Tanking. Having the only AoE taunt will be an exceptional ability, and as gear improves their block/soak mechanics will get stronger and stronger. A Paladin too might also be powerful again for the ancient reason they were awesome in the past, that they have so many cooldowns which increase survival. By comparison the DK cooldowns are just trivial. This is also good as I think there needs to be some separation between the tank styles and perhaps this is enough. Not sure as yet.

I’m looking forward to adding a Monk to the lineup too; 5x Tanks will be excellent.

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Hate: Constantly moving tanks

Today’s post is a little rant to get something off my chest: Tank moving mobs too much. I hate it. A lot.

Recently in a LFD run the tank was constantly moving the creatures. Now I don’t mean slowly moving them in a reverse circle to gather them up (bears do this, it makes sense), or a tank moving so that nothing is flanking them. Or even adjusting because shitty dps don’t know not to stand in front while the baddies cleave or use flame breaths – I mean constant changing where they stand randomly.

This idiot tank walked forwards, backwards, and sideways through the monster’s hit box so that both he and mobs needed to switch facing all the time. The entire fight against multi-mobs, he walked around constantly. Showing his flank to the mobs, switching around, even bloody jumping from time to time. It was like watching a pvp battle. What made it funny (in a sad way) is that he totally ignored the two melee asking him to stay still. That request just seemed to make him spin and dance more, which made the fights longer, and I suspect he took some serious damage from it too. Yup, an idiot.

I don’t get it, and think its a sign of a bad tank and a player who does not understand the mechanics of tanking.

The tank tip: Gather the melee baddies so they are all in your face, none behind you, and preferably all your team are behind them. ie:

(Tank)–> <— (Angry mobs) <— (melee) <— (healers and range)

This way the melee can hit from behind happily, you can see when the mobs move away, your healers are protected by the melee, and nobody has to move anywhere. All cleaves and spells will only affect the Tank.

Thoughts on the Tanking Changes

There were some hotfixed in changes to Tanking yesterday. The big switch is a massive increase to the threat generation for Tanks to the point where the it is very difficult for a dps to pull threat of the tank now.

At least that is what the patch said. In practice it is mostly true too. I really like this change.

To test the change (and because it was one of my wow nights) I ran two instances last night, the first as dps and the second as tank. Both were the new Troll 5 mans, and both had me teamed with players who were in comparable gear (363+ ilevel).

As dps – I was still having threat issues.

On the surface it was much better, I was not pulling threat straight of the tank after three hits, but I still found major issues when I was lucky enough to get a string of crits on a single target pull. My suspicion is that (a) the tank in the group was not concentrating, (b) he still needed time for the threat to build on the target, and (c) I am a threat whore.

I guess this is the way of it for Frost DKs, and I can adjust playstyle accordingly. I will continue to hold off initially and will concentrate on the peripheral needs in the fight, just in case something goes wrong early. We also had an Elemental Shaman and Balance Druid who were keeping up with me on single target damage, and I think we all pulled off the tank at different points over the run. Overall it was a great run with no complete wipes.

To make the point very clearly – I usually die in every 5 man I do due to threat, sometimes 3-4 times, and last night I didn’t die once in that run due to threat. I dies due to no healing in the DragonHawk phase, but meh – the healer was busy keeping himself and the tank alive and its my job to die

As Tank – I still had threat issues, but tanking was so much better.

Previously I felt like Tanking was like herding cats. You had little to no ability to control where the mobs were going, and your own team’s dysfunction was a major driver in the frustration.This change has made the threat issues on packs much better, and the threat issues I saw in single target basically resolved. Only the most powerful and stupid dps would pull threat from my Death Knight now that I maintain a set based upon maintaining threat and staying alive in equal ratio.

However there were still issues – basically due to bloody stupid actions by the dps players, or situations where threat is not so much of an issue and the dps is meant to just burn through the trash mobs – the large waves of non-elite birds for example. You just burn them and for the most part the tank will do what they can to assist somebody in trouble.

This change is not an excuse for dps to go back to being idiots, and just hammering away regardless of the fight. Dps still need to think before they click.

So what is being solved here? Why is this better?

It was a pain to manage a tank’s Threat stats, Survivability stats (in two forms of mitigation and health stacking), and also then have the Tank responsible for a set of encounter based functions like taunts, interrupts and use of special abilities at strategic times. Fundementally Tanking is a hard job and most people do not like it.

A tank is also doubly burdened with the marking and instructions to the group, and I’ve seen many players join a random 5 man as the Dungeon Guide, but prove to be useless leaders with no real clue.

Taking threat out of the list of issues is a huge boon for 5 man dungeons and will probably do more to increase the player pool in the queues that the goodie bag did. Based upon my experience above I will be tanking more, probably all the time now. I am sure that some players will say that it is a hurtful change in some manner, but I like this adjustment.

Make note too that all the other jobs are still needed. Crowd control is still required, strategies must be followed, leadership is needed, and players can still wipe the group with bland stupidity; but the adjustment so that at threat is almost a non-issue is enough to get me to Tank again.

It has been a long break since I tanked in Wrath, but I’m in for another go now.

By way of refs and implications Tobold has written an outstanding blog post about what it means and why the choice may have been made.

How to Tank Heroic runs?

As a rambling short-attention-span reader, sometimes great articles pop out of nowhere. One such from mid Feb is a good article by Tanking notes, on the value of Crit Immunity. Go read if you’re interested in a discussion on getting Critical Hits while Tanking.

However if you’re newer to Tanking, and theory-crafting is a bit aberrant then perhaps a simpler approach is better. As such I asked my self…

How should tanks actually execute a Heroic run?

Here is a series of pointers, which make sense to me, and following afterward a rambling stream of thoughts for how a heroic run should be done. Written for new tanks, by somebody who remembers what it was like to be new.

  1. Be realistic about how ready you are to tank. Really. You can expect some pretty insane comments if you make mistakes, and if you’re not the type that can take it without flipping out; don’t tank. Might sound odd as the first point in a how to tank post, but it needs to be said.
  2. Talk to the team when you enter, and let them know anything special in advance.
    1. Start with a hello.
    2. Warn them, or ask questions, maybe even set loot rules (need Orbs).
    3. ie. I’m pondering a macro that says how I’m a new Bear tank, so please give me a few extra seconds on threat. That might cause a few folks to leave, but you didn’t want that player in the group then anyway, and its better to say up front.
  3. Remember you are a team – don’t just bash orders out on the keyboard.
  4. Check if everyone is ready before the pulls..especially the boss pulls.
    1. if your healer is sitting down, they are not ready.
    2. if the healer has less than 50% mana they might not be ready.
    3. if the Shaman does not have totems down, they might not be ready.
    4. check your own big cool-down abilities before a boss pull.
  5. Always enter the instance in the gear that meets the basic caps for your class, and stacks Health. In a heroic a large health pool is often better than a lot of avoidance, and in the situations where this is not true the make-up and skill of the team is a far greater issue.
  6. Consider threat generation to be your next biggest target. You’ll need to have your taunts ready, and have plenty of threat on everything. My experience is that highly geared and skilled players will try to go “all out”, and end up ignoring threat.
  7. Configure your trinkets, old-tank gear, and other items so that you have a lot of sub-sets for Tanking.
    1. HP set.
    2. Threat set, even if that threat set means you have a much lower hp pool. Better that the healer with aweseom gear is kept busy healing you, than busy trying to heal 3 people.
    3. Avoidance set.
    4. Stun resist set (maybe, I just chucked this in, but it seems like a handy idea).
    5. Try to consider the boss fight for which set to use.
  8. Don’t be afraid to pause, but generally keep the team moving forward.

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Must have Death Knight mods

Here are a few mods that have made playing a Death Knight far better.

Of course some of these have applications for non-DKs, and there are a stack of ones that are generally useful across all characters.

  1. Rune Watch. My favourite display for rune power, disease timer, and all the DK information which in normally handled by the default DK unit frame.
  2. DK Presence Alert. This mod warns when you get threat, but instead of saying “Threat!!” it says “Switch to Frost presence!!!”. This is good as its a threat warning as well as a reminder for when you’re tanking but are in the wrong presence.
  3. DotTimers. I use this for tracking what I have applied to which mob, which is also handled by the Rune Watch, but it is handy to see some of the extra cooldowns with the disease ticks.
  4. Power Auras Classic. A way of showing customised screen affects based upon combat conditions. eg. I have Unholy Blight so that it creates a green circle around the RuneWatch area. This way I look in one easy place for all the single target info I need.
  5. ZOMGBuffs. Reminders for Horn of Winter and Bone Armour. Works across all classes, and handy that it pre-warns so you can fit the spell into the next rotation set.

If you’re serious about a DK get something that each of these mods does.

The Future of Tanking

An interesting Tank post on the Official WoW forums, posted by Ghostcrawler. This mirrors in a very timely manner a post by Sheepbreaker that asked about the role of Tanks in terms of which is the best choice.

Blurb from the official post, skip past if you want my humble opinion. The quick version is that I’m excited by the potential, wary of the way change has been managed before, and taking everything with a grain of salt.

Till a month after launch nothing is really known. Continue reading