Monday, January 31, 2011

Tanking PuGing

So.

I'm primarily a tank. I like to tank instances a lot. It's probably my favorite thing to do in the game. Running 5-mans is fun, the daily Heroic can be an enjoyable instance, and any time I'm with a few guildies, even 2 or 3 others, the run typically goes by in a breeze and no wipes happen.

Other time, I log in and there is no one else online, and I find myself hovering my mouse over the LFG button and I hesitate. What if my group is a bucket of fail? What if my healer is a ball of stress and can't keep up with the damage? What if I'm top DPS on boss fights again? What if no one remembers how to interrupt?

But, being a masochist, I click the button anyway, and a second or two later, the dungeon-entry screen flashes at me with a shield in the center, and I press the "Enter Dungeon" button, waiting for all the tick-marks to line up, wondering what fresh hell I'll encounter on the other side of that instance loading screen.

I usually open a greeting and throw in emoticons liberally, trying to earn some favor with these people. I'll take a glance at the healer's gear and estimate how much CC I'm going to need to use (full disclosure: when running with guild groups, I've more or less given up using CC even on 3 or 4 add pulls. It's almost back to Wrath dungeoneering - gather 'em up and nuke 'em down with a couple of stuns thrown in for good measure.)

Sometimes, things are sublime - everything goes well, and with nary a hiccup, the Valor Points are tallied to my currency total and everything is fine. Other times, things aren't so simple, and it takes a bit of effort to wrench victory from the jaws of defeat.

Take, for example, this group I had for Heroic Blackrock Caverns. I cast out my usual greeting and smilie, received dispassionate "hi"'s in return, buffed, waited for others to buff, and then, seeing the healer full of mana, everyone's health at full, and the two-add patrol walking up the ramp, I warning everyone - "pulling!" - and like Captain America facing down a bunch of Nazi's, throw my shield into their faces.

A few seconds later the adds were dead, my health had barely dipped and I felt confident. The trash went quickly, Rom'ogg Bonecrusher came thundering up, screaming and yelling, and went down just as fast. While the healer drank, I watched Raz do his thing, tearing up adds and once we were ready, we ran down, clearing trash.

So far, I was feeling pretty good - DPS was high, the healer was easily able to keep up with the damage, and I was happy to be on my way towards a quick clear. Then I realized our warrior was still standing back by the first boss.

"You coming, Steve?" I asked.

"1 sec," he said.

I shrugged - our DPS was good, there was a DK in the group, so I pulled the Zealot waiting at the bottom of the ramp. "Please interrupt Strikes" I reminded him in chat (the third DPS being a hunter), and watched the cast bar filling up slowly before using my own (1-minute CD) interrupt at the last second.

"Dave," I said, naming the DK, "Please interrupt the casts."

With only 2 DPS the Zealot wasn't dying so quickly that the Strikes were not an issue - in fact, the second and third both hit me and I started chaining CDs as my health dropped below 20% and the healer strained to keep me up.

The zealot goes down, I try to stay polite. "Please use your interrupts when you see the Zealot casting," I said. "It does a lot of damage and drains healer mana to bring me back up to full."

We cleared the next trash group before I realized the warrior was still sitting back at the beginning. "Steve," I said, "We're waiting."

"lol 1 min"

A vein began to throb in my forehead. I pulled the next Zealot. He begins to cast Shadow Strike. The cast-bar fills up. My finger inches towards the Hammer key-bind. I restrain it - maybe Dave will come through. I hit my 20% damage reduction CD instead.

I get hit, and the healer begins churning out Nourishes to get me back up.

"Dave," I type out hurried while popping wings to get this add down quickly - where the hell is Steve? - "I really need you to interrupt those, man."

Silence. Another Strike lines up. The hunter keeps on shooting blissfully, and Dave keeps on swinging happily unaware that I'm about to die. I hit Ardent Defender. Whack. A bloom of golden light envelops me saving me from death and then the add goes down.

The healer chimes in - "What the hell is going on?"

"Dave, why aren't you interrupting?" I asked.

"I don't have interrupts," he says.

The vein is red and pulsating at this point. I take a breath - maybe he's a fresh 85, maybe he's never had to interrupt in his life, I don't know what his deal is.

"You do," I say. "Look up your spell book - you should have Mind Freeze under Frost and Srangulate as well, but it's on a longer cool-down. Just put it somewhere you can hit easily and please use it every time you see the Zealot's casting. Hit 'V' so you can see their nameplates and it becomes pretty easy to see the cast-bar. Just hit that Mind Freeze button before they fill in."

"ok."

I rub my eyes while we sit in front of Corla, Herald of Twilight.

"I'll take left," says the hunter.

"I've got right," says the healer.

"Block center, would you Dave? And also interrupt her fear, please, it makes life very easy."

"Block what?"

"The beam in the.... never mind, I'll do it."

"Ok."

"You coming Steve?"

Silence. I initiate a vote-kick and it passes. Another DK takes his place.

"1st time here lol"

I shudder for a second. "Ok, just stay behind the boss and burn her down, and please interrupt the fears."

"Easy."

Yes, easy.

The fight goes just fine, except for the fact that every Fear I can't interrupt gets through and the fight just drags forever. Thankfully, no Zealots evolve. Finally she keels over and spits up her loot, and we continue down to Karsh Steelbender.

I whisper the healer, "Do you think I could just keep stacks up? I don't think these guys will be able to kite and kill adds away from me."

He whispers me back and tells me to do it however I want. I thank him, ask everyone to hold off on CDs until I say and then to burn him fast. I quickly work him up to 8 stacks and give the signal. I don't know if it works but he croaks as I reach 14 stacks and am about exhausted with all my CDs and the healer had turned into a tree spamming heals to keep everyone up.

The next set of trash dies, and I just walk by Beauty. I'm not going to pull her with this group.

"You don't want the JPs?", the new DK asks.

"We lack the CC necessary to clear this."

"Good group. We got it," he says, "Let's try."

The healer whispers me, "Please, no."

I ignore the DK and pull the trash. He doesn't ask again. We get down to Ascendant Lord Obsidius, Raz dies, and I look at the hunter and quickly setup a macro to cast Hand of Freedom on her.

"Think you can kite the adds throughout the fight? He'll occasionally swap places with one of the adds so you'll have to pick up agro on it."

"ok."

"Great, go ahead and pull, I'll taunt the boss away."

She pulls, I drag the boss to one side, and everything is dandy. Everytime a thunderclap happens, I hit a HoF on her and she seems to be doing well.

The first swap and I start running to pull the boss off of her. The add starts channeling on me.

"Add on me," I type in chat.

She's happily kiting, half a room away.

"Take this add off of me, please."

I try kiting but I've already used my HoF on her and my waddling run isn't doing much.

"Please?"

The healer is spamming me and pulls agro on the add as I've avoided touching it for fear of making it harder for the hunter. Now the healer is kiting while the hunter gets cornered and eats some damage.

I taunt the add off of the healer, giving him some time to top everyone off. Boss swaps and now I'm running to keep the new add of me, and drag him into the one add she's still kiting - a multi-shot snags the add and I go back to the boss.

That vein in my forehead has burst and is leaking blood down my face.

The DK's happily sit on the boss, swinging away. The boss doesn't hit that hard anyway, once topped off, I stop kiting and CD through the healing Debuff, just burning through the last 30% of the boss' health.

I whisper the healer and thank him for helping me get through the dungeon while the DPS are all happily cheering about a "GG."

Yeah, GG.

Excuse me while I go curl up with a glass of whiskey.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Rebuke!

Really brief, but in the patch-notes today:
  • Rebuke can now be trained by all paladins at level 54. Existing characters will need to visit their trainer, even if they had talented Rebuke before.
Happy, happy, happy day for Prot-paladins all over the world! :-)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Current Progression Ladder

A lot of folks are getting really upset with the level of difficulty that Heroics represent, and casual players in particular are frustrated with their inability to get groups to successfully run heroics.

I totally understand the issue, as I find myself wondering how someone who's not used to reading will handle movement mechanics while juggling add management on fights like Heroic: Corborus, or the constant running, dodging cluster-fuck that is Heroic: General Husam. How do they manage the interrupts and burn phase of Heroic: Baron Ashbury? What do they do when they run into Heroic: Ripsnarl?

But I think another way to look at this, is that in the first tier of content, Heroics are now officially a level of gear and difficulty above normal dungeons. This is the reason, a month into the expansion, we still have world-first top-end guilds working on heroic modes in Raids after all the time they spent on them on the Beta.

For the last year, this was the lay of the land:

Top-End: Retired
Hardcore: Heroic: Lich King.
Serious: Heroic: ICC and Helion
Everyone else: Any content in the game. Even normal LK was ridiculously easy by August/September.

At the end of the expansion, that made sense. Right now, there isn't all that much end-game content in the game and I think, the lay of the land is this:

Top-End: Heroic Raids
Harcore: Raids
Serious: Heroics/early raiding
Casual: Everything else

I think if we approach the current difficulty level with this lens, it makes sense. Yes, casual players who're not raiding and are not used to the level of difficulty that raid-bosses and non tank-and-spank bosses present are going to have a hell of time in heroics. They can either train up to them or they can wait till 4.1 drops when all the Valor gear will become Justice gear.

The 3 normal dungeons at 84-85 are also great for training and you can outfit yourself in a full 333/346 set from normal dungeons, Justice Points gear (sl0wly), reputation items (some 359 items there too), and crafting. I don't think it's a slight if you have problems running Heroics right now.

Think back to December or January when you queued up and got Heroic: Halls of Reflections. You knew it was work. You knew it was effort. Now, scale that up to every heroic. That's what this is. And I for one am enjoying the ever-loving hell out of it.

As for me - so far I've killed every boss except for Heroic: Commander Springvale and Heroic: Erudax. I'm chomping at the bit to kill Erudax because it'll complete my meta but Heroic: Grim Batol has been kicking my ass for a while so I'm giong to give it a break for a bit.

I'll start writing up my impressions of the dungeons so maybe it can be helpful to folks having trouble in heroics.

Time to complete all the other dungeons with guild-groups and then prep for Throne of Four Winds. Raids start on the 11th. Eeeeek!