Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Traveller's Guide to A Love Story

Some people have a story, which holds little or no interest to people around them, but it's usually the most important story of their life. It's the Love Story. It can be a love story to many things, ones child, ones partner, ones favorite teddy bear. Common theme is that you think about it with a big smile on your face and it lies in your tummy as a happy force on bad days. Cheesy, sure. But it's still there.

As some of you might know, I met Love (which actually is his real name) through WoW pretty exactly 6 years ago. Looking back at it, it kind of freaks me out that we got together through such chance circumstances (alas, I don't believe in fate), and I wouldn't dare to think about what my life would be like right now if we hadn't met. I know, I know. I would probably be happy off with someone else, or happy alone. Or completely miserable. We just happened to play on the same server, on the same faction and ended up in the same guild. We just casually started a conversation as we often do with tens of players each day - but we both noticed something was special. This other person wasn't really like every other person we had talked to in WoW, this person was a little bit more interesting. Throw in the fact that we were both in relationships when we first met and you've got ingredients for some real drama, a love story worthy of its own Chick-flick!

This post is more for me than it is for you. I realized I hadn't kept any pictures of where we met, it's all in my head and we all know how unreliable that can be. When Blizzard announced that they would completely change the face of Azeroth, I at first didn't think much of it besides "oh, interesting!". And fortunately the important places in my Love Story have remained intact. I decided to make sure they stay that way by screenshotting them. So here it is.

I remember I was in Duskwood doing quests when me and Love first struck a conversation. We were in the same guild - Knights of Sweden (lame, I know), or something like it - and discussed how we'd best go about world domination. At that moment I knew that this was an interesting fella.

We both eventually left that guild and didn't think more about it. He was just another person I had talked to in WoW (albeit more interesting) and we probably forgot all about eachother. Then one day I was running to Desolace via Theramore to do some questing, and on the docks running passed me I saw a character name that I recognized. Normally I wouldn't have bothered to say anything, but for some reason I decided to whisper "Hello" to him. Maybe I remembered our fun conversation in guild chat some week earlier, and wanted someone fun to talk to while questing. He answered! And we started talking. And talking...

We talked for hours. About everything and anything. This is where he told me his name was Love, which I adored. Such an awesome name! I pictured him as this ugly, nerdy kid, pretty much like I picture any guy I randomly talk to in WoW. But he was witty and intelligent, something I didn't find often in other players.

We continued talking the next day, while I was randomly killing apes in STV, and we talked more about eachother. He seemed perfect. I remember how much I loved to see the notification that he had come online. I longed for it more with each day. I finally caved in and asked for his MSN. I had never asked anyone (except irl friends of course) for their MSN before. Ever. I think I was already in love with his personality, but when I got to see him on a picture for the first time I knew I was doomed - he was (is) a sexy beast!

We started hanging out more and more in game. He was level 60 (omg so cool!) and I had never gotten that far yet. He knew so much more about the druid class than I did, and explained how I would best gear up. He helped me out with difficult quests, like a real knight in shining armor. What better way to win a girls heart than helping her kill elites in WoW is there? (Take notes here guys).

This is where he gave me a Bouquet of Black Roses. They cost 50g and I knew that was nearly all he owned. Puppy love.

Since we both were druids we knew that we could always teleport and meet eachother in Moonglade no matter where we happened to be in Azeroth. We often met up here at the end of the day, saying goodnight to eachother. (And then we phoned eachother and talked all night instead. I seriously don't understand how I could work on 1-2 hours sleep).

And the rest is history :)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Speccing Protection Warrior - So many choices!

Me and Love are currently enjoying the warrior tanking fun together. Well not ingame together, since any heroic group only really needs one tank. But being able to discuss the fine intricasies of the class and the way we play it does add something extra to it. I've always wanted to have a buddy priest with whom I could go all nerdy in raids, discussing what talent would be more efficient in what situation and why... but alas, fate did not reward me with such a raiding best friend forever. Instead I turn to you priest bloggers, and that has worked well so far. But now I have finally found a soulmate in one of my other favorite classes, the prot warrior! This is good, because there are way less prot warrior blogs out there than there are healing priest ones, or maybe I just suck at finding them (tips appreciated!).

This newfound companionship in my protiness has allowed me to look at my own warrior with new eyes. Things I didn't think much about earlier have suddenly become really interesting, this time I've especially delved deeper into the matter of talent choice. Turns out, there are loads of interesting choices for the prot warrior to make, and they all have their pros and cons. Blizzard did state in early Cata that they had remodeled the talent trees with precisely this in mind - players were supposed to be able to tailor their role somewhat with their last talent points. In a few cases they've really succeeded, and eventhough there's usually a best-best spec (and there probably always will be), the prot choices really show that you can pick your last talents based on how you want to play your tank and what areas you want to buff. Here is a rundown of the talents I find interesting at the moment, and some thoughts on why you should pick it and why not.

Even when discussing the basic warrior spec we'll run into a couple of cross roads, depending on whether you want to focus on raiding or instancing. I won't go into much detail regarding these choices this time around but for example, I'd choose Incite for raiding and Blood & Thunder for instancing. For raiding I might grab Impending Victory, but skip Thunderstruck and vice versa if I prefer to do instances. For raiding I might go with Safeguard, and how many points I want in Shield Specialization really depends on what I think about my rage generation. I probably wouldn't take Vigilance for instancing. Although I've already discussed them somewhat in my Protection Warrior Guide, I'd like to take a closer look at some of these talents specifically here.

War Academy
[Threat] - The only thing this would boost for a prot warrior is our Devastate, which I personally don't use very often. To me Devastate has always been more of a filler, especially once the Sunder Armor stack is up, and I spend a lot more time using my other skills and turning to Devastate only when I have nothing else to do, or am rage starved. Boosting one of my least used skills by a moderate amount of damage doesn't seem very alluring to me. If we add 15% damage to my Devastate usage across some dungeons, it'll look like this;
  • Lost City: 1,5% dmg increase.
  • Blackrock Caverns: 1,7% dmg increase.
  • Lost City2: 1,8% dmg increase.
  • Blackrock Caverns2: 1,5% dmg increase.
  • Stonecore: 1,2% dmg increase.

Depending on Devastate usage, I don't see this to increase our damage by much more than 2% at best. Is that worth 3 tp? Perhaps if you happen to use Devastate more than the common prot warrior, but considering Shield Slam and Revenge have higher threat, you'll always go for those first. I wouldn't recommend this talent unless you really want some extra damage.

Field Dressing
[Survivability] - To me this is a no brainer. In nearly any situation you will want to improve your survivability as a tank, and getting 6% extra healing from any source is dang useful. Best thing about it is that it is a reliable source of survivability (unlike Blood Craze) because it simply increases the size of the heals you get, which as long as you get heals, is very useful.

[Utility] - I initially wrote this off as a pvp talent, but taking a second look at it I am not so sure. This is definitely a utility talent, but it holds some useful possibilites. Getting some extra rage when charging is very handy of course, because it is during the first 10 ish seconds that we establish our most important threat base. Once we've got the first seconds covered, it's usually pretty easy to keep the aggro. If you don't get initial threat you will have hell since no threat means no rage which means no threat. Blitz will also stun 1/2 extra of the closest mobs which I've noticed is both good and bad. It's good in that it allows you to make sure that at least three mobs will be exactly where you want them to be when you charge in, no matter what your dpsers or healer might do. On the other hand it also means that two mobs won't be rushing into your arms when you charge in, but will stand a little bit away being stunned, possibly out of melee range. By being stunned, they will also not give you rage and procs, which the extra rage gained from Blitz is supposed to cover somewhat I'm guessing. Fortunately, in nearly all cases you'll reach them with cleave, thunder clap, shockwave and demo shout anyway, and the extra rage gives you enough for a good start - so I think the gains definitely outweigh the downs on this talent. If you think that the initial first seconds of the pull is what you're having issues with, this is a very handy talent. But of course, only as long as you think you'll do a lot of charging on mob packs, which means this isn't very useful for raiding.

Second Wind
[Survivability] - I remember having this in my prot spec back in Wrath (or was it possibly even back in BC). Nowadays I don't feel like we get stunned or immobilized often enough (although sometimes it feels like it's all the time, like some of the trash packs in Vortex Pinnacle) for this talent to be worth it, even less in raids. What I need when I get stunned isn't extra rage, it's some sort of way to keep aggro and increase my survivability. Second Wind does give you some health when stunned, but I think these talent points can be better spent elsewhere.

Deep Wounds
[Threat] - I remember many tanks specced into this back in Wrath for the extra threat it provided, so I was ready to give it another go. The results weren't as good as they used to be. For both me and Love, Deep Wounds made up no more than 3% of our total damage, at best. This isn't odd at all when you think about it, because Deep Wounds is heavily reliant on crit, and neither me nor Love has above 2% at the moment. Where would we get it? We don't have any agility or crit gear at all. Some talents increase the crit chance of our skills, but that's about all we have. Through talents and in a raid group, a tanking warrior could still hope to get up to 15-20% crit, but that doesn't solve the second issue of Deep Wounds. It's based on weapon damage, and tank weapons aren't known for their high damage. Deep Wounds is designed to work the best with a chunky, slow 2hander. But Deep Wounds is still among the better threat stats to choose from, so if you really want more threat/dps, this is what you should take.

Blood Craze
[Survivability] - More survivability = good right? Overall yes, but we have to make sure it is worth it too. Because of how Blood Craze works, it is the most useful when you're being hit by as many attacks as possible. Since it is a proc, you won't really know when you'll get the heal and can't count on it to save you when needed. Blood Craze should mainly be seen as a cushion on which you can lean while the healers do their job. Question is of course, how small is this cushion? Too small to be worth the talent points? I gathered some numbers and compared them to healing received total from the healer, and also how much of BC that was overheal to get a feel for the overall effectiviness. Let's take a look;

  • Halls of Origination: 481k hp healed - 12% of healers total heal - 10% overheal.
  • Lost City1: 296k hp healed - 3,4% of healer - 4% overheal
  • Blackrock Caverns: 343k hp healed - 5% of healer - 14% overheal
  • Lost City2: 449k hp healed - 5% of healer - 11% overheal
  • Vortex Pinnacle: 597k hp healed - 11% of healer - 6% overheal
Rough numbers, so what can they tell us? First of all, that the overheal of Blood Craze is fairly low. After all, BC procs when you're getting hit, so it makes sense that you need some healing when it starts ticking in. Secondly, it seems to make out roughly 6-7% of the healing needed in an instance, but with a lot of variation. Remember that these numbers are taken from heroics where I usually tank several targets, and they are probably not correct for a raid tanking warrior. But for instance tanking I think this talent is worth the points to get some extra survivability.

Battle Trance (which I couldn't find an icon for)
[Threat] - Just as with Deep Wounds and Incite, this talents usefulness relies completely on our crit, which is very, very low. I don't think the extra rage gain from this talent is significant enough to warrant using 3 tp into it. If you're that desperate for rage there's definitely better choices (Booming Voice, Shield Spec for example). If we assume I'd use the proc on my most expensive skill (Heroic Strike or Cleave), every time (which is ideal, but very difficult to succeed with), the rage gain from Battle Trance would result in;

  • Lost City: 19 crits = 0,5 extra rps.
  • Blackrock Caverns: 18 crits = 0,6 extra rps.
  • Lost City2: 20 crits = 0,5 extra rps.
  • Blackrock Caverns2: 26 crits = 0,5 extra rps.
  • Stonecore: 23 crits = 0,5 extra rps.

This was calculated by converting all my Shield Slam crits into corresponding rage (10 SS crits = 300 rage) and dividing it by my active combat time. I think it is pretty safe to say that the extra rage gain from Battle Trance is extremely low, at best, and my results come close to the EJ estimate; "Under ideal conditions, will only conserve 1 rage per second (or 1.5 during Inner Rage). Only useful if your rage income is extremely low." Not a recommended talent.

Booming Voice
[Threat] - It's unfortunate that prot tanks don't have access to this talent more early on in the levels, because that is mostly when we could need the ability to cast our Shouts more often. In endgame tanking I'd probably always forget to recast it unless I had an addon that reminded me, simply because I very rarely need that extra rage.

Rude Interruption
[Threat] - Possibly quite useful, but also very reliant on how often you get to interrupt. Some raid bosses require a lot of interrupts, like Maloriak and Nefarian in p2, but otherwise you probably won't be interrupting very often in a raid environment. So what about instancing then? Looking at most heroics nowadays, it seems like just about every pack has some sort of mob that requires some sort of interrupting. The possibilities to get this buff are rather promising. From testing I can tell of another added benefit - you will get less annoyed at your fellow dpsers when they fail to help you interrupt, you might possibly even get annoyed if they do so! Kidding of course, but seriously - this talent will turn you into a ninja interrupter in no time. I don't waste any opportunity to interrupt a cast if I can help it. Let's look at some numbers;

  • Vortex Pinnacle: 10 Pummel = 150 sec buff or 16% uptime over total combat time.
  • Deadmines: 14 Pummel = 210 sec buff or 11,5% uptime over total combat time.
  • Halls of Origination = 12 Pummels = 180 buff or 10% uptime over total combat time.
  • Shadowfang Keep = 36 Pummels = 540 sec uptime or 27% over total combat time.
  • Lost City = 8 Pummels = 120 sec buff or 11% over total combat time.

These are idealized numbers of course. First of all I'm assuming you'll get to spend the entire buff in combat doing damage with it, which on the other hand nearly always is true. Secondly I'm assuming the buffs won't overlap, which probably also nearly always is true since Pummel has 10 second cooldown and Rude Interruption a 15 second uptime (with only 1 tp, and I wouldn't take more anyway)), it is difficult to cut. As a final verdict I would say that the average uptime of Rude Interruption, if you use Pummel when you get the opportunity and don't have a trigger happy interrupter already in your group, is about 10% at least. Where does it leave us? With a rough 0,5% dps increase. Not very fancy unfortunately.

Piercing Howl
[Utility] - As with Blitz, this could be used as a helpful tool when trying to gain control over unruly mobs. You really have to take a look at your own tanking situation and see if you feel like this could help you out, personally I don't feel like I need it, but being able to slow an unlimited amount of enemies close to you could be perfect for when that fire mage decides to steal all aggro with some burst aoe. On the other hand, maybe that is was Challenging Shout is for. I'd consider this mainly a pvp talent.
[Threat] - Just as with Deep Wounds, Incite relies heavily on your crit. It also relies on how often you use Heroic Strike. Heroic Strike and Cleave are basically two versions of the same skill, where one will hit one target a little harder and the other will hit two (or three if you've glyphed it) targets for a little less. Therefore, you'll mostly use Heroic Strike against single target mobs, which usually only is bosses unless you have some special reason to avoid using Cleave like cc and such. In heroics I use Heroic Strike very rarely, actually nearly only against bosses. Most of the fights are made out of mob groups that consist of more than one mob, so I use Cleave a lot more. In raids the relationship is the opposite however - here you will mostly use Heroic Strike. If we also consider that eventhough most tank warriors run around with very low crit, the one surrounding where their crit might actually get half decent would be in a raid. My numbers from heroics show that Incite is a dps increase of less than 1%. Simplified we could therefore say that the threat increase also is less than 1%. I don't think the numbers are significantly higher for raiding warriors, a rough estimation based on our MT shows numbers around 1-2%. On the other hand one might still consider it more useful than for example Blood & Thunder in a raiding environment.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How to Pull - HoO 1st Trash Pack

Love has recently found the joy in warrior tanking again and turbo leveled it to 85. Now that we both regularly do heroics we often end up in discussions on how to best tank certain situations, both in terms of skill usage but mostly regarding how to do some smooth pulling. I've discussed the matters of pulling before, and said back then that good pulling is a whole art in itself. Mastering it as a tank will make any pug you do a lot more enjoyable. When a pull goes wrong, which can be due to any number of reasons, I often try to analyze it and think about how I can do it better the next time. How you want to do a pull depends on a number of factors, so check out my post on that subject if you want to know more. But me and Love also agreed that there is really nothing better to explain a procedure than a good old practical example. Which pulls did we think were difficult, and how would we handle them (although Love, being all manly and all, doesn't think any pull is difficult)? I hate to have to put this disclaimer in so many of my posts, but people leave me no choice. There is a difference between difficult and more difficult than something else, just so you know. So when I say "pull X is more difficult than pull Y" I am not saying "I can't handle pull x, help l2p".

In what hopefully becomes a little series, I intend to explain how I would go through with some of the more difficult pulls currently in WoW. This is assuming you don't have any cc or other help from the rest of the group and would have to take the entire pull in one go by your own means, something we're seeing more and more of in instances. If you do have cc in your group just remove one mob factor from the pull calculation. Because I currently do heroics on both paladin, dk and warrior and I will have Love help me with the druid PoV, this will explain the pull from all the tank classes view.

First out is the first mob pack in Halls of Origination. Personally, I feel like all the mob packs of this constellation in HoO are a pain in the ass. Not only do they have one of the most annoying sort of mob - the ranged melee - they also deal a butt load of damage. If I'd ever recommend you to use cc in a heroic, this would be it. But assuming you don't have that luxury this is how I would do the pull;

Mob Pack: Consists of - Temple Fireshaper (ranged caster), Temple Runecaster (melee healer), Temple Shadowlancer (melee) and Temple Swiftstalker (ranged melee). The packs usually consist of one of each (but not always!), where two are melee (which will move to you) and two are not (which means you have to silence them or move to  them). The rest of these mob packs in HoO don't all have a Fireshaper, which only makes the pull easier.
Surroundings: In most regards you have to fight this pack in an open area, without possibilities to line of sight. This does add some difficulties to classes with few ranged silences or other abilities that allow them to move ranged mobs, like warrior and druids. You could possibly corner the entire pack if you move back far enough, assuming the rest of the group will allow you. Remember, the further the mobs have to run to get to you, the more likely it is that someone else in the group will get aggro.
Goal: Since you have two ranged, out of which only one is reliably moveable, you have to gather the group of mobs around the one that is more difficult to move, in this case the Temple Swiftstalker. The killing order isn't extremely important since all mobs do a lot of damage and has some sort of annoying skill. You should therefor aim to mark the mobs so that it fits your pull the best way. My general recommendation is to mark the Temple Swiftstalker for first kill, since it won't move away if people get aggro from it and you can therefor regain aggro from it relatively easy.

This pull is fairly easy as a warrior. You could charge in at either of the first three mobs and do your general threating rotation but since you can't get the Temple Swiftstalker to move to you, you will have to move to him. Silence the Temple Fireshaper with a heroic throw to the face (talented of course) and voila. This is my recommendation for the pull;

  1. Mark the Swiftstalker
  2. Use Commanding/Battle Shout for rage
  3. Charge Swiftstalker
  4. Rend Swiftstalker
  5. Heroic Throw Fireshaper
  6. Thunder Clap and keep tanking them on the Swiftstalker

They should now be neatly gathered. This type of pulling should be usable on any of the four-mob
packs in HoO.


Believe it or not, this pull could actually turn out to be slightly tricky as a paladin. As a paladin, your way to get first to the mobs comes from Avenger's Shield, where warrior and druids have Charge and dks have Death & Decay. This time around, you will have to save your Avenger's Shield to be able to silence the Temple Fireshaper however, which means you won't be able to use it on the other mobs for first threat! If your dpsers follow your marks this should turn out to be a small problem hopefully.

  1. Because this pull deals a lot of damage, it could be wise to start out with Divine Plea.
  2. Run in, judge one of the melee targets (Runecaster or Shadowlancer)
  3. Hammer of the Righteous on them when they're close enough to be hit
  4. Consecration once you're by the Swiftstalker
  5. Avenger's Shield on the Fireshaper
See picture above for details.

Death Knight
This pull is probably the simplest for a DK who has the tools to get fast aggro on and reposition any of the mobs. Eventhough you could move the Swiftstalker to you, it is better to move the Fireshaper because he is in the back. Less running is good!

  1. Drop Death & Decay on the Swiftstalker while running towards him.
  2. Use Anti Magic Shell
  3. Use Icy Touch on Swiftstalker
  4. Use Plague Strike
  5. Death Grip Fireshaper to you
  6. Pestilence on Swiftstalker
See picture above for details.

Lacking a proper ranged silence, you will have the most trouble with this pull as a druid by far.  There are two ways to deal with this group of mobs which depends mainly on the dps in your group. You will probably have to accept that you won't be able to gather the group in a satisfactory manner.

Procedure A - The Gathering
  1. Run to the Swiftstalker don't charge!
  2. Faerie Fire Feral on Fireshaper
  3. Get some initial aggro on the three mobs through Swipe and Thrash (throw in Maul if you have the rage).
  4. Charge the Fireshaper and interrupt its cast
  5. Start moving it back to the Swiftstalker, unless it seems like it is almost dead anyway.

Procedure B - The Ranged
  1. Charge onto the Swiftstalker
  2. Faerie Fire Feral on Fireshaper
  3. Tank the mobs on Swiftstalker, use Swipe, Thrash, Maul and Mangle.
  4. Use Faerie Fire Feral on cooldown on the Fireshaper
  5. When Swiftstalker is dead, move to Fireshaper.
See picture above for details.

But Zinn, what if I do have some cc?
Knowing how to deal with the pull without any help from your group is good. I might sound negative, but you should never really count on getting any help, so being able to deal with a pull as much  as possible on your own is the first step towards avoiding unecessary frustration. Fortunately, there usually are at least some competent puggers in every group. If you do have some cc I would go with ccing the Swiftstalker, mainly since the Fireshaper is un-ccable. If you even have a second cc, you can go with either of the other two, they're both about equally annoying.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Top 5 Things I Am Glad They Changed In WoW

There hasn't been a top 5 for ages, and I intend to remedy that right now!

I always cringe when I hear someone go "things used to be so much better". Although matters usually go up and down, in games they generally tend to go in a direction that is aimed to please us gamers, well at least the majority of us, which can be both good and bad (this is something I intend to write a post about in the future). Overall I think it's just nostalgia talking though, looking back on how WoW worked back in Vanilla, there aren't very many things that I honestly miss and wish we still had. You just have to read through old patch notes to get a reminder of how things we take for granted today weren't part of the game a couple of years ago. Remember when all hybrids had to heal? Remember when warriors only ever got to tank? Blizzard have definitely developed the game into a more accessible game, and overall I think that is a good thing. Eventhough you might enjoy the hardcoreness of a game, it almost certainly won't have you stick around for 6 years. We're all lazy inside. So here is a top 5 of things I am glad they've changed, as a reminder to us all that everything wasn't that awesome back in the day. Although it's easy to become vague and say stuff like "I am glad they made feral druids raid viable" I am going to try to be a little more specific in my choices.

5. Making lowbies more accessible
Ok, I know I just told you I wouldn't be vague, but just hang on a sec and I'll get to the specifics. Eventhough I could say that there are a couple of things they changed about lowbie leveling that I am especially happy about, there are so many things that are good that I just have to mention at least a few. How about giving lowbie casters their regen tools early on in the levels instead of way late? Remember how you had to drink after every mob when leveling that mage? Yeah that was back in BC and Vanilla, but come Wrath, Blizzard had realized that leveling a caster shouldn't be torture. Overall, casters have benefitted the most from the changes made to lowbies. Blizzard have done a good job with identifying the troubles of each class and how they could make it easier for them, like when they recently swapped the levels at which you got Nourish vs Healing Touch as druid. Casters still fall behind in damage and questing efficiency compared to melee at low levels, but the difference to how sucky they used to be is huge. Adding BoA gear for the people who have already leveled a character to max and just want to get another char through the process quickly is another good idea. Giving all classes a really useful skill at level 10 (well at least most classes) to get you kick started into your newly chosen spec is also a good idea. So there are many things Blizzard have done to make the lowbie leveling more enjoyable, and I am very glad they have.

4. Being able to respec more freely
As far as I've heard, Blizzard hadn't initially planned for respeccing to be a big thing in WoW. In their other games, respeccing isn't even a possibility, like in Diablo (unless you hacked the game!). One point at the wrong place and you had to live with that mistake for the rest of your gaming hours. Finding out half way that you rather wanted to be a Novamancer rather than a Daggermancer was tough luck. Reroll or be happy with it. Looking back at it I'm not really sure why game developers ever thought that making specs the one time choice that they were was a good idea. Blizzard however did implement the possibility to respec, just in case you had actually misplaced a point or did realize after 35 levels that you rather be arms than fury. But it came at a high price, that also didn't have a cap. Blizzard quickly noticed however that the respeccing possibility was very popular, and decided to put a cap on the respec price. Eventually they even allowed us to keep double specs! Respeccing is a huge part of what WoW is all about as it allows us to really experience everything about our class. I don't even want to think about where WoW would be today if Blizzard had never allowed us to respec our characters (like in Diablo) or only allowed us to do it a limited time or to a very high cost (as in early WoW). I don't know how many times I've just switched one point here and there to tweak my spec, and it has also allowed hybrid classes to really feel like hybrids. I definitely wouldn't say no to being able to get a third spec, which would allow me to fully play my class at any time without having to go and respec at all. But maybe that is too much to ask.

3. Making the cities less sucky
Imagine this - Auction House is only available in one major city (Orgrimmar and Ironforge), there is only one postbox, one bank and one of just about everything in every city. ONE. Sounds ridiculous you say? I agree, yet this is exactly how Blizzard had initially designed the cities. Being in any other city than the ones that had an AH was basically useless, and so everyone gathered in the major major cities (oh the lag I used to have in IF was majestic). Since then Blizzard have given every city their own Auction House, now even several Auction Houses. They've put out loads of more postboxes and in some cities even several banks and other stuff that people need all the time. And I can only do /bow and say thank you, because having to travel all the way between the Smithy and the postbox in Orgrimmar when skilling BS SUCKED SO MUCH!

2. Making raids from 40 to 25 and 10.
I actually don't have a problem with 40 man raiding per se. I just don't like it the way it was implemented. Although I wasn't part of a 40 man raiding guild back in Vanilla, I did occasionally get to jump in when they were in desperate need of healers and allowed my then shadow specced priest to come heal (!). If that doesn't say a lot about how 40 man raiding worked, I don't know what will. Although I can see the fun in being this huge group of people battling the evil forces of WoW, in the end the practical business outshadowed the fun, at least for me. Being one of 6-7 priests in the raid group wasn't particularly fun, because it meant I had to raid for months to even get to smell some nice gear. If I were lucky enough to actually have the boss drop the priest stuff. And how much gear did the 40 man bosses drop anyway? 3? 4? On 40 people? Compare that with the 6 pieces we get today in 25 man. You might say we're spoiled now, I'll say - how the heck did we stand it? Officers feel burned out now, and it's understandable if they've been at it for a couple of years. Managing a guild is probably a lot more work than being a kindergarten teacher. But imagine the work in trying to administrate 40 people? Getting them to sign, picking who does what, explaining tactics and get everyone to do their job. Back then you actually needed class leaders. I find it kind of funny too that so many guilds have trouble getting enough people for their 10 mans, just imagine getting 40 people for a raid.

And the fights weren't really designed to be equally challenging to everyone. I bet the tank busted his ass off, probably the healers as well (I remember they had to take turns in healing to be able to make the most of the 5 second rule), and occasionally some specific class had a specific job, like a hunter kiting and such. But otherwise, half the raid were meant to be dps spam bots, basically mindlessly just spamming their one or two skills, sometimes perhaps react to some mechanic of the fight. Losing one or five was hardly noticed. I can only imagine that some people actually thought it was fun in being able to log on, raid by pressing the Shadow Bolt, Blessing of Kings or Conjure Water key 1500 times and profit. I don't know about you, but I actually enjoy being an important part of the fight and group. I'm not saying that Vanilla bosses were easy, I know guilds struggled for months with some of them. But that was more often due to the boss hitting god damn hard or just having so much hp, rather than the fight being about reactive stuff. And in any case, most of the work was put on the shoulders of the few (tanks and healers mostly), rather than the whole of the raid. I don't think raiding is perfect now, but I definitely think it is better.

1. Removing wep skill
Believe it or not, there are few things in the game that have annoyed me as much as the way gaining wep skill used to work. For any weapon you could use you had to not only go buy the skill in some cases, you had to also manually learn it by swinging at a mob with said weapon until you reached the proper skill level. Going from 1 to max skill could take hours. I can see why Blizzard initially implemented this system. It does make sense that you actually have to use a weapon to know how to properly use it (although it did raise the question as to what those classes did with the weapons that they couldn't use. How difficult is it to hold a staff ey rogue?). But as every game developer knows, there is a fine line between designing something to be realistic and designing something to be fun. Many, many things in WoW aren't realistic, because if we wanted to go poo with our characters we'd play Sims. Realism has always to be implemented into a game so that it doesn't disturb general game play, and skilling weapon was just so dang badly designed it made me cry each time I had to go swing my wepaon at those poor Servants in Badlands all over again. It was perhaps ok on one char, but when I had to do it on my 20th char it was just damn irritating (overall I think more things in the game should be account bound, like certain quest chains and such). Swinging at a mob meant eventually killing it, which meant you had to grind for hours to get your skill to max, and that with every weapon you wanted to use. For melee classes this was less of a problem, but for a caster this was hell. You could argue that a caster doesn't need weapon skill anyway, since they don't use their weapons. True, and I didn't have max skill on my main for several years because of this. And eventhough skilling weapons was less troublesome for melee, they were the ones who really needed it, so with every new melee character you leveled you had to reskill all your weapons. People tried to find a solution to making this as un-horrible as possible. The general solution was to find a mob that couldn't die and go afk while swinging at it. Watch a movie, tab back and profit. So many people did this in fact that Blizzard had to make these mobs (first the servants in Badlands) work in a different way so that you couldn't go afk while swinging at them. Then people found some ghosts in Dire Maul (I think) and went afk while swinging at them. So Blizzard removed those as well, instead of you know, just realizing that skilling weps really sucked and fixing that! Well, finally they did. They threw in the towel and just made everyone have the proper wep skill of their level without having to actually skill anything (same thing with Lockpicking). And I am very grateful to that.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The 5x2 Project for Healing Priests (and Paladins, Shamans and Druids)

Some week ago I read a really interesting post about something called the 5x2 project. When I read that post (and I have of course forgotten who had written it /derp), I didn't realize that it was part of a bigger project, but just thought it was an interesting post by that particular blogger. Then, some day later I stumbled across the name again however, when I was randomly browsing WoWInsider. I decided to dig a little deeper and have since read some other good posts on the subject. I am sure many of you have heard of this already, but here's a run down just in case. Possibly spurred by a post made by ghostcrawler which discusses the nature of spells and when the amount of spells used by a class can become overwhelming, Mathew MacCurley from WoWInsider decided to challenge fellow Twitterers by asking them to map down their class on as few keys as possible. The aim was 5 keys, plus one modifier key, plus middle mouse button, which makes a total of 11 keys (I am also assuming that RMB/LMB and WASD are included) (thanks to Cynwise for helping me out with this). The original idea was mainly aimed at trying to make the game more accessible to disabled players, people who might not be able to reach all across the keyboard or for other reasons are rather limited in their choice of keys. But you don't have to be disabled to see the greatness in exploring this concept, any person basically can benefit from trying to figure out just which keys are the most important and how you can simplify your keying process. Me being one with relatively small hands have always tried to avoid any key beyond the 5th since I started playing. Getting there would actually mean I have to lift my hand and press that key, something that isn't always the best thing to do. A couple of months ago I discussed the problem that I had mapped Prayer of Healing, one of my most important spells, to the 6th key, which really turned into a problem when raiding. Lifting my hand to reach that key meant I couldn't simultaenously move my character, which was bad.

As a healer I happen to have one great advantage over other classes - I target friendly targets rather than hostile ones and that makes a load of difference. Because of game mechanics, Blizzard has allowed us to interact with friendly players without actually having to target them. For some reason (probably counter-bot ones) this isn't possible for most skills used on hostile targets. And even if it was possible, there is no UI (that I know off) that collects all hostile targets into a nice little grid like you can do with your party and raid frames. Come to think of it, that would really be handy for some multi dotting action, but alas. Being able to interact with friendly targets through your party interface means you can use your mouse to do most of the healing by binding a mouse click (left or right) with a modifier key. As a healer, you rarely keep a target up and the press a key, rather you want to execute the skill and press the target at the same time. Because healers have to interact with 5-25 different targets, rather than just a few like a dpser has, it would be extremely time ineffecient to first select your target, and then cast your skill. Doing both at the same time will save you loads of time and work. The only drawback of this system is that you either need an addon or know how to write mouse-over macros to do this. Since I am daft when it comes to writing macros, this post will be around how to bind your keys like this when using an addon. I have used Clique+Grid combo, and currently use Vuhdo which basically is Clique and Grid combined. Clique and Vuhdo work exactly like mouse-over macros, but without you actually having to do anything but tell the addon how you want to map your keys.

Being able to map skills to a modifier + RMB/LMB gives you a lot of "free" space on the keyboard. If you count Shift, Alt and Ctrl as three keys, adding RMB and LMB to those gives 6 possible skills, plus one for unmodified LMB and/or RMB. 7 skills on three keys! The question is really if the mouse should count as a key or not? For this post I have tried not to use more keys than the suggested (aka 5  keys plus modifier plus MMB), assuming that WASD and LMB/RMB are already accounted. But there is of course a huge difference between having a problem say reaching for keys, and therefor wanting to keep it to a minimal, or having a problem with remembering different key setups and therefor wanting to keep it to a minimum. If reach is the only issue (something with which I struggle myself), you could still probably be able to use forward and backward key on your mouse, for example. You could also use keys that are really close to the WASD, like R, F, G, Q and E to mention a few.

The original idea aimed at only using one modifier key, and I definitely see the point. Reaching from Ctrl or Alt to another key on the keyboard isn't easy, and I don't do that myself either. But when using LMB and RMB with a modifier you're actually just pressing one key, which is a lot easier. Because of this I have argued that you could use three modifier keys with RMB and LMB, eventhough you'd maybe only want to use one modifier key for combination pressings, such as Shift + 1. Because of this many could probably use Ctrl, Alt and Shift with the mouse, and then use an added 5 and 5 + mod key skills. But for this particular project that would be bending the rules. That would in fact mean using more keys than allowed! I have therefore decided to use MMB instead, to add an additional 3 skills to the mouse, and I won't add Alt + key/ Ctrl + key because I don't personally think they're good keybinds. To stay within the limit of 6 keys however (5 keys + one modifier = 6 keys), that means I can only use 1, 2 and 3, since the other three is used by Alt, Shift and Ctrl.

As a priest I have two specs to choose from, and personally I love both. Fortunately, most unique heals in one spec has a counter-part in the other which means you can use the same key to use both spells, saving you brain power from having to remember different bindings between the specs. All you have to do is tell your Clique/Vuhdo/other similar addon to do one thing when in Holy and the other when in Disc. For mouse-over macros I think you can just put both spells into the macro, as the macro will only use the one that is available in any case. Here is my suggestion for how to map your keys as a healing priest (and this is actually how I have currently mapped most of my keys).

  • My suggestion does not include an Archangel/Atonement spec unfortunately!
  • You can actually heal by using MMB to scroll up and down on your target. I don't do this, but it does open up the access to two extra skills for those who like.
  • I personally think it's a lot easier to reach keys like F, G and R than say 5 or even Shift+3, but there are other reasons you might want to keep the bindings simple and easy to remember. For this I have preferred consistency over efficiency, which isn't the same to say that you'll be a bad healer for using this setup, but that there in some cases could be slightly better mappings. But again, it all depends on what the goal should be, this time I have tried mainly to stay within the limits of the project.

RMB (unmodified) = Renew (Holy) or Power Word: Shield (Disc)
Alt + LMB = Heal
Alt + RMB = Power Word: Shield (Holy) or Renew (Disc)
Alt + MMB = Flash Heal
Ctrl + LMB = Circle of Healing (Holy) or Penance (Disc)
Ctrl + RMB = Greater Heal
Ctrl + MMB = Prayer of Healing
Shift + LMB = Dispel
Shift + RMB = Prayer of Mending
Shift + MMB = Guardian Spirit (Holy) or Pain Supression (Disc)
1 = Holy Word (Holy) or Power Word: Barrier (Disc)
2 = Binding Heal
3 = Leap of Faith
Shift + 1 = Macro to switch between Inner Fire and Inner Will
Shift + 2 = Race Specific skill if you have a useful one (Rocket Jump, Berserker, Stoneform, Arcane Torrent to mention a few) otherwise Mass Dispel
Shift + 3 = Pot/Healthstone

Various dps skills: Unless your Raid leader shouts "EVERYBODY DPS THEIR PANTS OFF!" because you're dang close to the bosses berserking timer, or you're in p2 of Chimaeron, there is very rarely a reason to dps as a healing priest. My suggestion does unfortunately not include Archangel/atonement (as I already mentioned) or how to proceed if you want to be a questing healing priest (but that's torture, so don't try it).
Out of combat skills like Fortitude, Shadow Protection and Resurrection: Are very rarely used in combat and don't need to be keyd. Resurrection can't even be used in combat, and although you might have to rebuff mid-fight, it doesn't happen often.
Fear Ward: Is actually barely being used in current content, and can also usually be placed well ahead of when it is actually needed, which means it's one of those keys that's safe to keep as a "clicker".
Cure Disease: As Fear Ward, this is barely used in current content (I can't think of a single mob in current raids and heroics that puts up a disease, but I am sure there are some).
Hymn of Hope and Divine Hymn: Because of their long cooldowns they're usually only used once per fight, and don't really deserve their own key unless you have loads to spare.
Trinkets: There aren't that many trinkets with uses, but they do exist and they should be used. Fortunately, you can macro a trinket to be used with a certain skill, and that is by far the best way to make sure it is properly used and never forgotten. The same can go for something like Lifeblood.
Mass Dispel: Most races have a good race specific skill to which they can bind Shift + 2, which means you'll have to click Mass Dispel. The only fight where you'll need to use Mass Dispel regularly currently is Argaloth in Baradin Hold, otherwise it is nearly always to use regular Dispel since you need 4+ targets for Mass Dispel to be mana effective.

Just because I am such a generous person, I will throw in a suggestion on how to map your resto shaman, holy paladin and resto druid (all of which I currently also play). I will basically use the same setup as above, and just change the skills.

Holy Paladin
RMB (unmodified) = Word of Glory
Alt + LMB = Holy Light
Alt + RMB = Divine Light
Alt + MMB = Flash of Light
Ctrl + LMB = Hand of Sacrifice
Ctrl + RMB = Hand of Salvation
Ctrl + MMB = Hand of Protecion
Shift + LMB = Cleanse
Shift + RMB = Holy Shock
Shift + MMB = Lay on Hands
1 = Holy Radiance
2 = Light of Dawn
3 = Judgement
Shift + 1 = Divine Shield
Shift + 2 = Potion
Shift + 3 = Divine Protection

The above setup does leave out some really important skills. I could use my Alt and Ctrl for some of these bindings, but as I mentioned I don't like those combinations myself. Is it better than clicking? Depends on how comfortable you are with the combination bind, to me it's like doing Twister with my fingers. The "problem" about holydins are that they have a lot of self targetted skills, which isn't something you'd want to map to your mouse. I've tried to map the ones I think are the most important to have quick access to during a fight. This is why I've mapped Divine Protection over a skill like Guardian of Ancient Kings, because I feel like eventhough GoAK is a really great spell, I'd rather click that over Divine Protection in a pinch. The same goes with the skills I have left out compared to the skills I've decided to map. Another drawback of this setup is that it doesn't allow you to bind your Rebuke to be able to be a back up interrupter. The same goes with Hammer of the Righteous. On the bright side, most people don't want a healer to focus on much else than healing.
Beacon of Light: Since it has a 5 minute duration, it's hardly necessary to keep on a key bind.
Seal of Insight: Definitely not necessary to keybind.
Divine Plea: Is something I'd ideally bind, but definitely less necessary than the ones I chose instead.
Trinkets and Raid buffs: See priest section above.

Resto Shaman
RMB (unmodified) = Healing Wave
Alt + LMB = Chain Heal
Alt + RMB = Greater Healing Wave
Alt + MMB = Healing Surge
Shift + LMB = Cleanse Spirit
Shift + RMB = Riptide
Shift + MMB = Earth Shield
1 = Healing Rain
2 = Unleash Elements
3 = Spirit Link Totem
4 = Nature's Swiftness
Shift + 1 = Spiritwalker's Grace
Shift + 2 = Potion
Shift + 3 = Ghost Wolf
Shift + 4 = Water Shield

As you might have noticed, I switched out the ctrl modifier to a fourth key instead, because shamans don't have as many friendly targetted skills as the other healers. Because of this, it's not as needed to use many mouse keys. Again, interrupt has been left out, simply because eventhough it is a good skill, if you aim at being a good healer, the mapped keys are probably more important. Same goes with Hex, Tremor Totem and Earthbinding Totem. Shamans are arguably the healing class that has the most benefit from occasionally dpsing, but I personally do this very seldom and have therefor decided to leave them out of the mapping.
Totems: Can usually be placed before a fight, and for longer boss fights they only need to be re-cast occasionally.
Longer cooldowns like Earth and Fire elemental, Bloodlust and even Mana Tide won't be used that often in a fight and I have therefor prioritized other skills.

Resto Druid
RMB (unmodified) = Lifebloom
Alt + LMB = Rejuvenation
Alt + RMB = Nourish
Alt + MMB = Regrowth
Ctrl + LMB = Wild Growth
Ctrl + RMB = Healing Touch
Ctrl + MMB = Innervate
Shift + LMB = Remove Corruption
Shift + RMB = Swiftmend
Shift + MMB = Rebirth
1 = Nature's Swiftness
2 = Tree of Life
3 = Racial
Shift + 1 = Tranquility
Shift + 2 = Potion
Shift + 3 = Barkskin

Druids is possibly the best class to play if you want to have to map as few keys as possible (paladins probably the least good). Even when mapping all the necessary skills I've got room for things like Racials and Potions. What you might want to map that I haven't included is cat form + dash, because it is a good way to get out of trouble fast, but for most fights and most situations that won't be necessary (unless you're into progress raiding).

Monday, June 13, 2011

10 vs 25 man raiding in Cataclysm

One of the best things about following loads of WoW-blogs is that you sometimes come across something that really gives you a kick in the ass to finish that post you've been brooding on the last couple of weeks. This is what happened when I stumbled upon a post by Graylo over at Gray Matter. In it he discusses how 10 man and 25 man raiding has changed, both compared to Wrath and to what he had anticipated. This is something I have been thinking a lot about myself lately, especially when seeing the dwindling amount of 25 man guilds around. I was pulling my hair on this one really, thinking "what is it that make everyone go from 25 man to 10 man? What are the major differences?". I had a general idea, but no good way to put it down in words. Now, Graylos post has given me the final kick I needed. Be warned, this post could be ranty.

I had written what I thought would happen already before Cataclysm went out. Let's just say I won't be famous for my prophetic skills. Back then I concluded that 25 man raiding wouldn't be gone with Cataclysm because there ultimately were people who enjoyed the different types of raids, regardless of gear and difficulty. I argued that the differences between 25 man and 10 man were already not very big, so what would change for Cataclysm anyway?

"(...) all the troubles we have in our 25man guild, we had back in my 10man guild. People who stop raiding, people who don't share the views of seriousness, raids having trouble getting filled and having to replace with non-regular raiders. People who come and go."

I basically wrapped it up with;

"Do all the people playing in 25man raid guilds do it just for the better loot? I just won't think that is the case."

Poor, naïve little me. I had of course completely forgotten about one of the biggest differences between 25 man and 10 man raids - that of having to administer 15 more people in the bigger setup. As Graylo puts it;

"Organizing 10 to 15 people is easier then organizing 25 to 35. There are a lot of tasks involved in running a guild/raid that just get harder with the addition of more people. It's more people you have to evaluate, it's more people you have manage, it's more whispers and PMs you have to respond to. The question was, why would a GM stick with the 25man format when they can get the same rewards from the 10man format with less work and few problems."

A very good question indeed, and probably a big reason to the general decline of 25 man raids. Love himself left my current guild (25 man) to form his own 10 man guild for this very reason. I can only give my current GM a standing ovation for the fact that he's willing to bust his ass off to keep my guild together (although I know he has help from some crafty officers). Since I've never been a real part of the administrative business behind a guild, I had completely forgotten about it. Silly me.

So personally I think this is a big reason to why 25 man raids have become less and less common. But it seems that the tables have turned on 10 man and 25 man raiding, for matters I will get to in a little while. But there is still the other question - what are the differences between 25 man and 10 man raiding setting aside the adminitrative business?

Interestingly enough, right now it seems like most 10 man fights are actually a lot more difficult than their 25 man counter part. Overall only Al'akir heroic is seen as significantly more difficult in 25 man than 10 man, in most other cases it's the other way around. So why is this?

There is one big difference between 10 man and 25 man - the one has less and the other has more people. Before you go "well duh", this is actually really important, because it affects the raiding part as much as the administrative part. It means that 10 man fights are easier whenever spreading out is favored, and 25 man fights are easier whenever you need to fulfill a certain role to complete a game mechanic. What does current raid content seem to mostly be about? Well this is what I think anyway;

Although Blizzard have long stated that they want us to bring the "player, not the class", I would argue that they've never failed as much with this as they have in Cataclysm (not counting Vanilla, since that was the idea back then). Never before have raid bosses required so specific setups to be completed in a satisfactory manner. Before you tell me that "yes, you might prefer class X there, but you can do it with Y and Z too" that's really beside the point. What you can do and what you want to do because it makes the fight 100 times easier are two different things. Let me give you some examples;

  • On Halfus Heroic you want someone to be able to break the stun - this must either be a mage or several paladins (or an orc with a stun reduction meta gem, but yeah....).
  • On Valiona & Theralion heroic you want someone to be able to go into the realm, who can also remove his debuffs - this has to be either a rogue, mage or paladin (mage and paladin have long cd though)
  • On Conclave Heroic you need someone who can stay on Rohash who can remove their own debuffs - this is nearly always a rogue.
  • On Nefarian Heroic you need someone to slow portal users, and an offtank to deal with adds in first phase - this means a hunter or a shaman, and a hero bear.
  • On Magmaw Heroic you need someone to kite the adds - A hunter can do it, but it's dead easy for a frost DK.
  • On Al'Akir heroic is is a lot easier to have a warrior tank than any other tank (perhaps a dk because they can soak a lot of magic damage).

6 out of 13 fights (I don't know about any special requirements on Sinestra actually) that are a lot easier when you have the proper class to handle it (and I've probably forgotten some). Please again, don't give me any comments about how this and that isn't needed to complete the fight. I am aware that with enough skill you can pull off pretty much anything. That still doesn't change the fact that the fight is significantly easier when you bring some certain classes.

To a 25 man group this nearly never becomes an issue, because most 25 man groups has at least one of any class. I remember how Love gave me an evil stare when I told him that we had four tanks on Nefarian heroic, one for Nef, one for Ony and one for adds in first phase. And then one just in case. I mean why not? We can afford it so let's be on the safe side. His 10 man group on the other hand have to bust their healing asses off with a dps warrior who smacks on a shield for the adds in the first phase. Because they don't have room for a third leisure tank unless they can find a hero bear somewhere.

Back in Wrath, the fights were more about nuking down some certain mob or not stand in shit. This could make 25 man more difficult because even if the mobs had more hp designed around more people dpsing them, it is always trickier to distribute your raid properly around more targets (again with the administrative thing), and having 25 people run around avoiding shit is a lot trickier than just having 10. No fight illustrated this better than LK. In 10 man you had 1 Valkyr picking up people, which meant everyone could focus on that. On 25 man you had 3, which is percentually more than in 10 man, but it also meant a lot more tactic regarding who was going to slow and dps which add and so on. Standing in Defile more than three seconds usually resulted in a wipe. In 25 man it was a lot easier to accidentally have someone stand in it for too long than in 10 man.

Looking at current fights, there are no real differences regarding the amount of targets between 10 man and 25 mans. In almost all heroic fights you have to deal with basically the same amount of targets, which has removed that extra piece of difficulty from 25 mans. Fights like Magmaw, Omnotron, Chimaeron, Maloriak, Atramedes, Halfus, Ascendant Council, Conclave and Al'akir are basically designed exactly the same in 10 man and 25 man. On Nefarian, Cho'gall and V&T you have significantly more adds on 25 man, but only on V&T do those adds require some sort of coordination from the dpsers. One fight!

The other matter then - move or you wipe the raid kind of mechanics. Oh let's see... Al'akir? Maybe Omnotron. The only fights considered more difficult on 25 man than 10 man are basically the only fights with that kind of mechanic (not taking into account that a tank or healer that doesn't move from crap can wipe the raid, that is the case in any fight). I do see a connection here.

Graylo notes that eventhough 25 man raid groups have basically disappeared compared to Wrath (I think we have two 25 man guilds on my server, compared to 10 ish in Wrath), 25 man raiding still seems to be where the progression is at.

"Progression raiding still seems to favor the 25man format, while 10man seems to be favored by casual raiding. Looking at numbers from WoWProgress this division is clear. Of the top 100 guilds in the world only five are 10man guilds and of those only one is in the top fifty. The 25man format also has a much higher participation rate in the heroic modes then the 10man format. This is probably an indication that many of the historically successful progression guilds have stuck with the 25man format."

I haven't checked Graylos facts on this, I'll just assume he's right (so correct me if I'm wrong). He says that one reason 25 man guilds are ahead in raiding could be that old 25 man progression guilds stuck it through, the good are still good so to speak. I can see two other plausible explanations. First of all, 10 man raids are where all the casuals have gone to. That was probably always the case, so that hasn't changed much since Wrath. But given the above reasons to why most people would prefer a 10 man over a 25 man, many more casual 25 man raids have broken up into 10 mans instead. In a sense that is what Graylo is already saying - progression was in 25 man back in Wrath, and that is where it has stayed. But the other explanation could be what I've described above - in their attempt to even out 25 man and 10 man difficulties, Blizzard actually made 10 man fights a lot more difficult, which is another big contributor to why so many 10 man guilds have fallen behind their 25 man counter parts. I know people don't agree on this issue, but as one who currently raid in both 10 man and 25 man content (both heroic and normal) I can tell you - it is generally a lot easier on 25 man than 10 man, because this isn't a perfect world and most heroic fights require you to have the perfect 10 man team. A 25 man group is a lot more flexible, and you can bring some bad people to the group and still get the job done (just don't put them in important positions). Trust me! I've seen it happen. We can sacrifice 1-5 people in my 25 man group without it being a catastrophe where even one dying in a 10 man group is a pretty sure wipe (in heroic modes).

When Cataclysm was launched, most 25 man guilds didn't stand the strain and broke up. This didn't necessarily happen over night, in fact this progress went on for several months after Cataclysm launch. I can only imagine the disappointment from all those 10 man guilds looking forward to having some relaxed and fun raiding, not having to deal with the hassle of all the 25 man administrative business, when they hit a brick wall with heroic modes. Most normals are fairly easy to go through with any setup, but as soon as the 10 man group wanted to step it up to heroic raiding, they found they probably had to shuffle around their regular 10 man group, needing people they probably didn't even have. Suddenly all the hassle came back, ten fold.

Having to cancel raids because the right class didn't show up really puts a strain on the guild and raid group, which in turn only makes it even more troublesome to get raids together and going when people start getting bored and don't sign anymore. Even worse if your raid group happens to not even have the particular class you're after and have to go through the rather fierce fight for recruits that is on at the moment. To have some good progress in a 10 man guild, you'll probably have to bust your ass off to find and keep good people around you. While a 25 man guild seems to generate new recruits just by existing. Since 25 man guilds are harder to come by, they automatically draw the interest from anyone who wants to get into 25 man raiding, while a 10 man guild has to fight all the other trillion billion 10 man guilds out there. It's ironic really, but it seems like it's the 10 man raid that has become all the hassle over the 25 man raids. The new question now is of course - how long will the 10 man guilds stand it? Will Firelands be their savior? We can only hope.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Comparing the Tank Classes - Cataclysm Edition

Just before the coming of Cataclysm (well actually a couple of months before) I did a post on the differences between the tank classes. I remember that that post was based on a request made by a friend of mine, actually the first post request I ever got! A lot has changed since then however, and I feel like it's time to update that old post to Cataclysm standards. So here it is – Tank Comparison: Cataclysm Edition. Like I said in my old post, the intention of it is to tell you a little about;
”Which one is the most difficult, interesting, easy or boring? What differs between the classes? Hopefully you'll be a little wiser on which class you'd like to try for tanking and what to expect when doing so!”

It's worth noting that unlike back then,
I don't actually have one tank of each class at max level this time around. Right now I've got a warrior, paladin and death knight at 85 with which I tank quite often, but my druid hasn't made it past 80 yet. When I wrote my old post I did state that ”Druid tanking is what I have the least experience of, and especially at endgame. The reason for this is simple - it is the most boring tank spec at level 80.” I still think so, and that is the reason my druid hasn't made it very far. I deleted my old druid and rerolled a troll one when Cataclysm came, that explains why I had an 80 druid for the old post, but not now. But don't worry! Eventhough I don't know much about druid tanking, Love actually mains a feral druid and tanks quite often, both in instances and raids, I have therefor asked him to give me the details on druid tanking. I've only raid tanked with my paladin so far, but honestly it's almost always tougher to tank heroics than it is to tank raids.

Remember, this is from my point of view. When I write that a tank style is boring, it's obviously because I think so, not necessarily because of some innate property of the class. Some things haven't changed much since Wrath, and you will find similarities to my old post when those matters are concerned.

I started out with druid in my last post, so I might as well let them go first again. As I wrote back in my old post, the best reason to choose a druid as a tank is really;

”As a druid you will (...) have every other role as an option at any time, more so than for any other class. If you level as a tank and find out half way that you didn't like it, you can still use the same char to be a melee, healer or caster! Although it doesn't make the tanking more fun per se, it can still be nice to be able to take a break from tanking and do something else if wanted.”

This is in fact a balance druid, but no one can tell!
Druids still have a fairly simple and repetitive tanking style, and with the lack of gimmicky skills like paladins I personally feel like druid tanking is without a doubt the most boring one (but, each to his own). Druids are unmatched in their ability to quickly switch between doing great dps and tanking however, and a hero bear is a great asset in most 10 man raids. Being without gimmicks doesn't mean being without useful tools, unfortunately these have become less needed in Cataclysm than they used to be in Wrath. Warlocks and Death Knights now also have a combat res (and don't have to drop shapeshift to use it). Having to drop shapeshift is also a big reason for why a tank druids Innervate and Tranquillity won't always come to great use. Druids are pretty much on par with the other tanks when it comes to single target and aoe target threat and general survivability. Because of how their Savage Defense works however, they are arguably the least suited to do aoe-tanking.

Druids were among the best aoe tanks in Wrath, then Blizzard streamlined the aoe tanking skills and actually made druids among the worst aoe tanks in early Cataclysm, especially before you got Thrash. Some buffing to Swipe have remedied most of this however. Since Wrath, druids have also become a proper interrupt in Skull Bash, but is currently the only tank that lacks a ranged silence ability, something that is mostly noticeable in current heroic content.

Gearing as a druid is probably among the easiest as you can pretty much grab any dps gear, and don't have to worry about stats like block, dodge or parry. This is also one of the main reasons that hero bears deal great amounts of damage even when in ”tank gear”. One of the things about druids is being in shapeshift 95% of the time. This means you'll look pretty much like every other bear in the game, and if you like being able to look at your cool epics, druid tanking isn't for you.

Druids don't have a cool raid wide cooldown, like Paladins and now Warriors do. The druid is unique however, as already mentioned, in their ability to smoothly switch between tanking and dpsing – something that many raid groups will see as a big advantage. The monotonous, or simple if you like, skill rotation will either make you happy or sad depending on what is your cup of tea. As a druid you also have the best possibilites to bring another role to the group, being able to switch to melee, healing or caster dpsing if needed.

In my old post I wrote;

”At lower levels I notice that druid tanks have less threat regen and also less rage regen than for example warriors. ”

I still think this is true. Out of all the lowbie tanks, you'll probably struggle the most as a druid. I'm not sure if it's due to not getting good skills early enough, bad rage generation or bad threat values. One example is that druids lack a good way to get initial threat compared to other classes - warriors have charge that allow them to get fast rage for some initial threat skills, paladins and dks are always at max resources at the beginning of a fight. As a druid you've only got Enrage with 1 minute cooldown, which means you'll have to learn how to manage your rage. This can either be tedious or challenging, depending on what you like. The biggest problem of lowbie druid tanking has fortunately been somewhat addressed, that of really sucky aoe threat. You only have swipe at low levels, and it is on cooldown. It also used to be really bad threat. Every other tank has at least a couple of aoe skills, but as a druid you will only have one in an environment where nearly all tanking is aoe-tanking. Fortunately, swipe doesn't suck as much, but it's still the only aoe threat you have (until level 81 when you get Thrash) unless you glyph Maul.

  • Easy class to tank with, few skills to keep track off.
  • Has the ability to do good dps even in tank gear.
  • Easy gearing, basically just use any melee gear that drops.

  • Not very versatile, using very few skills in the standard rotation makes the tank druid repetative.
  • Rage and threat issues at lower levels.
  • Have utility skills but can't always use them when needed.
  • Looks like everyone else.

Back in my old post I wrote;

”Paladins are known to be faceroll, this doesn't just mean retridins but definitely includes tankadins as well (holydins a little less because of the nature of healing). Because of paladins being a mana using class, Blizzard has given them a bunch of cooldown skills, which usually are used in a special order to maximize efficiency. Although a real tanking situation doesn't always allow for one to use a rotation, this is still basically what paladin tanking is all about, rotating skills.”

To a large extent, this is still true about paladin tanking. Because they use a virtually limitless resource pool for their skills (mana and they basically can't go oom), Blizzard have had to limit their skill output through cooldowns instead. It is still true that all the paladin skills are on cooldown, and it does turn them into the most rotation-based tank class. But things have changed since Wrath, and a couple of redesigns have left paladins better (ie more interesting) off than they used to be. For instance there is the new Holy Power resource system, which although I don't think it is used to its full potential, does add some minimal strategical thinking to paladin tanking. Holy Power can both be used on Word of Glory (an instant heal) or on Shield of Righteousness, which means you can choose between survivability and threat – an interesting choice as a tank. In my old post I called paladins the most immobile of the four tank classes, since the only real aoe skill was Consecration. Paladins have since gotten a lot of other useful aoe skills, like Hammer of the Righteous hitting unlimited amount of targets (albeit in a cone effect) and Holy Wrath to complement Consecration, and definitely allowing for paladins to do good aoe-tanking while on the move. Avenger's Shield also got an overhaul and has become a standard tanking tool instead of the pulling tool it mostly was back in Wrath. All of these skills combined has probably left paladins with the most tools to handle any possible tanking situation, being good at multi-target, ranged and single target threat.

Paladins also sport one of the best raid/group cooldowns of all tanks in Divine Guardian and has other great utility tools in Lay on Hands and bubbles allowing them to help the group out with a lot more than just holding aggro on the bad guy. Tankadins, along with druids, used to be without a proper interrupt, which could be somewhat troublesome (actually it annoyed me to bits). You had to wait for your Avenger's Shield to come off cooldown or hope to be a belf if you wanted to silence someone. This has been fixed since the implementation of Rebuke. What is the drawback of Paladin tanking you ask? In terms of goodness, there is none – if you want simple tanking with a tool for just about every situation, paladin tanking is definitely for you. If you like versatile and dynamic tanking however, paladins still have the most rigid skill system, although this is somewhat buffed by the fact that you can tinker with other areas of the fight as well. If you'd really want to find some sort of issue with paladin tanking it could be that their single target threat isn't as good as the other tank classes, also paladin tanks probably deal the least damage of all the tank classes.

In my old post I wrote;

”What make paladins so appealing as a general class is probably their ability to be all the roles in one class. This means that if you ever roll a tankadin, you could eventually respecc to dps or healer as with a druid. Although this doesn't actually affect the way a tankadin tanks, I still think it could be an important thing or factor when choosing what tank class to play. ”

This is definitely still true – being a paladin and a hybrid you've got all paths open for you and can offer your raid group not just a tank, but a potential dpser or healer as well if needed. The usefulness in this should not be shrugged at. As mentioned, paladins also bring a lot of useful buffs to a raid, not only Divine Guardian, but also blessings and various utility tools that the other tanks overall lack.

Because lowbie paladins start out with the skill Avenger's Shield, which basically is an ”autowin-threat” skill on low levels, lowbie paladin tanking is usually very easy. However, lowbie paladins could have a lot more trouble in chaining through instances than dks, druids and warriors have because of their mana pool. Although the mana is almost limitless at higher levels, it can turn into  something of a problem at lower levels even with the skill Judgements of the Wise. Where all the other classes can tank without stopping (as long as the healer can keep up!), as a paladin tank you might actually have to take mana breaks. This is a very minor drawback however. One of the biggest benefits of being a paladin tank at low levels is the ability to self heal more than any of the other tank classes. Word of Glory is an extremely useful tool when tanking unreliable pugs, and will also allow you to solo a lot of content. The problem of paladin tanking being rather dull at lower levels due to lack of skills has also since been remedied, and you will now get new and interesting tanking skills in a more balanced pace (instead of everything coming around level 60 as it did back in Wrath).

  • Wide variety of skills which cover most situations a tank can get into - aoe-skills, ranged threat skills, ranged silence skill and a stun to name a few.
  • Rotation based tanking makes for easy tanking.
  • Many useful buffs and otherwise useful utility skills.

  • Rotation based tanking makes for predictable aka boring tanking (especially in endgame).
  • Deals the least damage and probably has the weakest single target threat.

Death Knight
Back in my old post I wrote;

”Death Knights were first introduced as becoming the "caster-tanks" of WoW, using spells and magic absorbtion to tank. I was really intriguied by this and saw something of a plate wearing warlock for my inner eye. It didn't really turn out that way. Although Blizzard had really interesting visions for Death Knights they're mostly a sort of paladin counterpart. There is something unique about Death Knights however. They are the only class that has to keep track of two different energy systems - runes and runic power. This makes, in my opinion, Death Knights the trickiest tanks of them all.”

In a way, this is still true. No other tank requires as much planning and know-how about the class to get the most out of it. Using the runes the right and the wrong way makes a lot of difference, especially in end game. Don't get me wrong, for heroic tanking you can pretty much pull out any skill and still do a good tanking job, unlike with warrior tanking. Blizzard have also lowered the cost of some crucial skills like Death & Decay, which further has made dk-facerolling easier. But  maximizing your efficiency as a death knight tank probably requires more skill than for any of the other tanks.

If you just read about paladins above they might come out as the perfect tank, and in many aspects they are. But no tank is quite the one-man army as a Death Knight. Although a DK has fewer utility tools to help out the group, they are extremely strong at keeping themselves alive with some of the best self-buff skills of any tank. Death Knights have good ranged threat skills and are among the best tanks for kiting mobs.

Other tanks used to envy the DK's Runeforging Weapon enchant, since it used to be the best tanking weapon enchant in the game, by far. Fortunately, all the other tanks have gotten a good weapon enchant in Windwalk, but DK's still has a great tank enchant completely free of cost!

The only real drawback of dk tanking isn't a drawback at all as long as you're good enough. Because of how the runic power system, dks tanks are currently the only tanks that stand a fair chance at ever being without the resource to use a cooldown. Several important cooldowns require runic power to be used, which isn't true for any of the other tank classes (I don't count paladins endless mana as a limited resource). This is a small problem, but it exists. Death knights are similar to druids in that they use a ”dps style” to tank. Although they, unlike druids, require a specific tanking gear to do the job, they too can switch between dpsing and tanking a lot easier than warriors and paladins can. The already mentioned wide variety of cooldowns leave a lot of the survivability in the hands of the death knight, and DK's are probably still among the best tanks to handle magic damage. For raiding purposes, DK tanks are considered among the weaker aoe tanks, but I personally feel like their aoe is strong and simple for heroics.

Because of the nature of dk tanking, it appeals to people who enjoy dpsing. Unfortunately it has also lead many players to believe that you can be a good dk tank just by switching to Blood Presence. As mentioned, dk tanking does require a proper tank spec (especially nowadays when there is only one instead of three) and tanking gear. As long as you have those however, getting into dk tanking is pretty easy – you can basically do whatever you did while dpsing and do a fairly good job. Just remember that for later on you will have to learn how to use cooldowns and using a proper tanking rotation to maxmimize survivability, but for lower instances dk tanking is extremely accessible and straight forward.

  • Good variety of skills to counter many situations.
  • Unique skills like Absorb Magic and Death Grip that are very useful for tanking.
  • Easy switching between Dpsing and Tanking, which is especially useful when lowbie.
  • A skill system that is pretty easy to learn, but difficult to master.
  • Tricky resource system makes it difficult to get the most out of the class (but can also be seen as an interesting challenge).
  • The only tank class without any kind of aoe taunt.
  • Among the least good aoe tanks.

I definitely have a hate-love relationship with warriors. Although there is no class I've rerolled and leveled more times, there are also few classes I've whined more about (maybe druids). In a sense warriors have everything – a well thought through skill system and loads of fun and interesting tools for tanking, and in another sense they just lack so much – no real ranged threat, less good aoes and cooldowns than paladins and dks. When tanking as a warrior I can both think ”this is so much fun!” and ”I freaking hate this” in the same instance. Warriors really do have the best designed tanking system if you ask me, a healthy mix of cooldowns, procs and regular skills to keep you interested and busy without being overwhelming. And a lot of the earlier issues about warrior tanking have been remedied – rage being less of an issue, gear scaling properly, block being less worthless (actually it's awesome now) among other things. I won't say warrior tanking means busting your ass, but it's definitely more work than with a paladin or dk. It's not faceroll, but on the other hand it's probably the most dynamic of all classes. You can throw an axe at a mob over there, charge into another, intervene right back to some caster who's gotten aggro – if you want to, the warrior is a whirlwind of awesome and can be hell of a lot of fun. But if you're not up to pulling all stops, warrior tanking becomes troublesome and tedious.

Like mentioned, most of the warriors tanking issues have been addressed. They've even got a proper raid cooldown now in Rallying Cry. Nonetheless, the warrior weakness would probably be the lack of added utility it can bring to a raid. It has no special buff or cooldown except for Rallying Cry, and the tricky playstyle usually requires a dedicated player to become a decent tank. Warrior tanking is rewarding however, and definitely worth the trouble if you give it some time.

Warriors do lack in the raid buff and utility department. No bubbles, innervates or combat resses here. The small tricks lie rather in the tanking department than the group utility department, in a way that make them resemble dks more than paladins and druids. Warriors are the most mobile among all tanks which is a great asset on some fights where moving a lot is important, Al'akir comes to mind. Warriors are also considered among the best threaters among tanks both at single and aoe tanking (although warrior aoe isn't as easily accessible as the other tanks aoes).

More so than with the other tanking classes, playing a lowbie warrior can easily feel overwhelming and difficult. Already early on are there plenty of skills to keep track off, and knowing which ones are the best to use at what point isn't always easy. Once you get the hang of it, warriors are juggernauts, and probably have the easiest time to burn through groups of mobs (as long as the rest of the group can handle it). If you know what skills to use, warriors don't really have any downtime, unlike paladins who have to worry about mana (at least at lower levels) and cooldowns, dks who have to worry about their runes, and druids whos aoe threat just isn't good enough.

  • Well balanced tanking style makes for fun tanking, just the right amount of complicated to never get boring or tedious.
  • Best aoe threat (once they get everything up)

  • Lack of some good group utility skills
  • Lack of good buffs


Easiest tank class (according to me)
1. Paladin
2. Druid
3. Death Knight
4. Warrior

Most fun tank class (according to me)
1. Warrior
2. Death Knight
3. Paladin
4. Druid