Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mogu'shan Vaults Clear

This is the fastest I've ever cleared a tier of content.


It's not like the content was trivial either - Elegon and Will of the Emperor in particular are pretty demanding fights. But clear it we did (thanks to some extra nights). The Elegon and Will of the Emperor kills were on 10s, but still. I'm glad we got through everything. It means we can start heroic modes tonight and I hope we can get through at least one boss this week to climb up the ranking ladder.


So far, this is the most fun to tank content I've seen in Warcraft.

There have been other tiers with fun to tank fights - Ulduar had Firefighter and Yog-Saron; Ice-Crown Citadel had Blood Princes, Valethria and Lich King; Bastion had Sinestra and Cho'gal; Blackwing Descent had Nefarian. I honestly don't have very good tanking memories of Firelands and Dragon Soul but they still had Baleroc, Rhyolith, Ragnaros, Zon'ozz, and Spine.

But man, look at Mogu'shan Vaults - Stone Dogs and Soulbinder might be simple but tanks play a vital role there; Feng depends on your tanks to make or break the fight; solo-tanking Spirit Kings is awesome; Elegon is a hectic fight and demands a lot from every role, and is downright gorgeous to boot - and Will of the Emperor is the best tanking (and melee DPS) fight in a long, long time.

This is the kind of tier I've been waiting for. And I'm very happy to be raiding it with a dedicated, hardcore guild driven to succeed and progress in hard-modes.

Not much more to say about it now, except that I'm exhausted after the last two weeks of more or less continuous raiding. Here's hoping for more!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gear Priority For Tanks In Mogu'shan Vaults

Yep, another tanking gear post.

As we trudge through Mogu'shan Vaults, one of the things we need to keep in mind is that we're going to be short some gear that doesn't drop in the vaults at all. For example, there is only one tanking trinket and ring that drops from the raid, and there are in fact, no tanking cloaks, helms, or legs that drop from the raid at all.

With the addition of the Charms of Good Fortune, I don't imagine that getting all the drops will be difficult by the time we get access to Heart of Fear and Terrace of Endless Spring; but we won't be able to replace the dungeon blues from Mogu'shan Vaults alone. However, we will have 3,000 valor at the end of this week and about 5,000 valor by the time the new raids launch, and I think we can be smart about where those points go to maximize our gearing strategy. Let's take a look then, at what we do get from the raid.

Item Source Slot Type
Chestguard of Eternal Vigilance Boss Drop Chest Armor
Sollerets of Spirit Splitting Gara'jal the Spiritbinder Feet Armor
Shoulderguards of the Unflanked Boss Drop Shoulder Armor
Star-Stealer Waistguard Boss Drop Waist Armor
Bracers of Six Oxen Feng the Accursed Wrist Armor
Beads of the Mogu'shi Boss Drop Neck Amulet
Band of Bursting Novas Elegon Finger Ring
Vial of Dragon's Blood Egeon Trinket Trinket
Elegion, the Fanged Crescent Elegon One-Hand Weapon
Steelskin, Qiang's impervious Shield Boss Drop Shield Shield

That leaves us with a few gaps and here is where we can fill them out.

Item Source Slot Valor
Gloves of the Overwhelming Swarm August Celestials Hands 1750
Yi's Least Favorite Helm Shado-PanHead 2250
Kovok's Riven Legguards Klaxxi Legs 2250
Yi's Cloak of Courage Shado-Pan Back 1250
Alani's Inflexible Ring Golden Lotus Finger 1250
Lao-Chin's Liquid Courage Shado-Pan Trinket 1750

That's a net sum of 10,500 valor points which is 10.5 weeks of capping valor, which is six weeks into the opening of the next two raids. Assuming you don't get lucky with drops from Sha or, like me; are willing to swap in some DPS pieces as long as they don't have Crit on them. Hit, Expertise and Haste are all great for Paladins right now.

I'll go into the why of it a little bit more in another post, but Theck has covered it plenty over at Sacred Duty. But briefly - with the way Active Mitigation works, keeping Bastion of Glory stacks up through Shield of the Righteous is our highest priority and the best way to do it is to hard-cap Hit and at least soft-cap Expertise for Holy Power generation, and any Haste you can get will reduce the cooldown of Crusader Strike and Judgment letting you get HP that much faster.

Anyway, if you are willing to use Haste items and reforge the crit away, your options broaden a bit, but please be fair to the plate DPS in your raid, and let them get their main-specs geared out before you roll on that gear. Yes, Haste is very good for us but any good raid will prioritize DPS over Tanks on actual DPS gear.

Item Source Slot Type
Starcrusher Gauntlets Elegon Hands Armor
Nullification Greathelm Feng the AccursedHead Armor
Jang-xi's Devastating Legplates Boss Drop Legs Armor
Cloak of Peacock Featehrs Feng the Accursed Back Cloak


So, there you go. Hopefully it helps you plan out your Valor purchases and be in the best gear you can get before Heart of Fear comes out in November. If I've missed anything, please let me know! I deliberately didn't go into the crafted gear and such as it's ridiculously expensive right now.

Personally, I've been very lucky and got the tier tanking legs and the PvP gloves from Sha so that's two less items I have to purchase. I picked up the ring first as I was still using 450 item in that slot, and I'll probably grab the helm second (next week) and the trinket third leaving me with the hands and cloak to upgrade when Heart of Fear launches. I think I'll be okay to wait on those items till then.

Good luck on those Good Fortune rolls! :-)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

First Week of MoP Raiding

The rush of facing down a brand-new boss for the first time with shield in hand is an absolute joy and I'm so glad I'm back in the tanking seat. I can say I pulled the first boss in the first raid of MoP as a tank, and the raid killed him. Well. That alone would be enough, but thanks to the overzealous Seal of Truth damage and stacking Censure 100% of the time with a healthy bit of cleave thrown into the mix, and an uncapped Vengeance stack I... topped the damage meters by a fair 2%. And, well, while that would also usually be enough to make me more than happy, I even managed to rank fairly high for Protection Paladin damage on World of Logs.


The DPS QQ was particularly delicious. Here's a video of the kill.


I also used my Charm of Good Fortune and received the tanking belt, along with the Amulet the boss was kind enough to cough up, and along we went, happily clearing trash.

The second boss, Feng, is more dangerous, and challenging, but we made very good progress regardless, getting the first phase and then the second cleared up only to get repeatedly demolished in Phase 3 for two nights, but we came back on Friday, split into 2 groups of 10s because we were missing some people, and thanks to some tanking tier pants from the Sha of Anger, there was another dead boss and the tanking bracers. Ignore my aborted-pull there, I was spectacularly tired by that point.


With the dim possibility of a fourth night this week, I ground out the Valor for the tanking ring from Golden Lotus and we killed him after only about an hour of work, collected my boots, and then, we had some words with the Spirit Kings and left after a brief night, promising to come back tonight to extract vengeance.

Did I mention my exceptional good luck with gear this week? Well, perhaps it'll be a consolation to know that I'm still using 450 iLevel quest-reward mace as I've had no luck with weapon drops, as I predicted.

Regardless.

And may I just shake the hands of whoever designed these bosses? Thank you, designers, for making fights where tanks do more than just eat damage as meat-shields. While Stone Guard might not be brain surgery, it is engaging to have 3 tanks coordinate positioning, proximity, and add-shuffling pretty much continuously through the fight. Feng actually gives both tanks unique abilities that have to used at crucial moments to mitigate the damage and redirect his abilities back onto him. Spiritbinder isn't nearly as thrilling, but our ability to push big, big numbers in the Spirit Zone can be a big help. Spirit Kings is like every Council fight on crack; just so much juggling and fun, but it might be a single-tank fight, I don't know. I'm finding it hard to understand why you'd bring two tanks to this, even in 25 mode, except for the security. The movement and awareness heavy fight makes me realize why I love council fights that build up in complexity as the fight goes on and the abilities pile up.

One of the things that I keep having to remind myself is that we're doing this in dungeon blues and in some cases, a few quest greens. A few of us barely scraped past the 440 iLevel requirement for Heroic dungeons before stepping in to kill these bosses - and we're having some success with it.

What can I say? The week was fantastic, with everyone contributing, pooling resources, and having a really patient and professional attitude about progression (we probably wiped at least 30 times, if not more, on Feng alone) more or less for 2 nights straight.

I'm super excited to go back tonight - this is the most fun I've had in terms of really engaged, heads-down, nose to the grindstone, raiding in a long time.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My First Week In Pandaria

It has been more than seven days since Pandaria opened up her shores and we landed our ships and wars on those sylvan lands.

My journey began at 2am when I awoke, showered, fed, and sat down with coffee and waited for the quests to begin. The landing was rough, even as we gunned down the drowning Horde, Innana pulled the trigger and swallowed the doubt welling up. This was war. This was necessary. When the horrors popped up, when the warning came, it was brushed aside - it was not understood, and she turned her back to the blood and fire.

Initially, my intention was to group with others and burn through as fast as possible, but very rapidly I realized just how lovely and immersive Pandaria was, and I wanted to get lost in it.

--

I wanted to be a stranger in a strange land, a warrior stranded on lost shores with no recourse but to explore - and in exploring, find a journey that removes the war from her thoughts. Innana wandered the Jade Forest, stopping often simply to gawk and breathe in the green and blue place, sink into the music, and I didn't even notice the sun coming up. Jade Forest devoured my attention - the storytelling and questing is light, repetitive, yet effective. There was a sense of space and time, these people were friendly, open and curious; they allowed me into their lives and I enjoyed the measure of anonymity Innana had.

When the conflict came, I didn't see it on the horizon. I was too taken by the beauty and the brutality of the ending surprised me, I was moved a bit to see the ruins that our war had brought. Yet - as I am wont to do - I didn't blame my side, and so the war goes on.

Perhaps in a fit of denial, a desire to not stare into the mirror, Innana dove into the Valley of Four Winds, lost among those pastoral fields, in the hedges and pools, the plowed fields and gardens, rooting our vermin, shepherding animals, lost in the haze of honest, sweaty work and walking with a companion across the field, arriving at Half Hill, at the Brewery, it would be so easy to forget, to let go of her past and simply become another farmer, here in a land secluded from horror.

But if one goes far enough, one encounters new horrors. The Mantid were breaking through the walls. Soon, it was time for the sword and shield, up the Veiled Stair hiding its mysteries, into Kun-Lai to see mountains like she had never seen before, into local skirmishes and bigger wars, even as the people called her to humble, escort service, old business caught up. After a glimpse of the bloodless Valley, it was so tempting to just turn her blind eye, to escape into the land and be forgotten, but that was not her nature.

Through the war in the Steppes, across the wall, and by the time she landed in the Dread Waste, the memory of the Valley was a small and dim, green mirage. War was all that remained.

--

I had the week off and played pretty much continuously from launch until I hit 90 with only a couple of short naps along the way and then jumping into the heroics right away. Tomorrow on, I'll probably start talking more about tanking, but the initial reaction is extremely positive. Paladin Tanking is fun, really engaging, the rotation is complex enough to keep me from auto-piloting, and we have a ton of tools.

The dungeons are dungeons. Nothing particularly special about them. I think I'm over being excited about dungeons at this point - they really just are means to an end after the first couple of times through. I mean, yes, Shado-Pan Monastery was really awesome my first time through, crazy good with how the dungeon incorporates movie-tropes into a dramatic experience, but the fifth time through I just wanted to get through the mobs. Even the difficulty level was firmly placed at mild, and once I replaced the greens with at least blue 440s, it was just a blur of rushing through in 20 minute long bursts to gear as fast as possible.

Every day of last week was consumed with dailies, profession grinding, and dungeon running. It is fantastic to be in a guild where there  were 3 server-first 90s, and we got the server-first guild achievement for maxing out all professions. I've been trying to grind as many heroics by tanking as I can, but there are always more to run. I'm glad I took the week off, it felt productive to get that many runs done, but others did way more.

Everyone was constantly helping each other, cutting gems, disenchanting greens, crafting stuff, chasing down elites in packs, grouping up for dailies. Last night, a guildy got the random-drop BoE shield in Scholo and generously allowed me to use it for the raid tonight. Just, fantastic group of people.

This expansion launch has been the best one so far, in many ways:

- Smooth launch, no hitches, no problems whatsoever at least on my server
- The content is just downright great, I'm all over the lore and immersion of the Pandaria thing, despite my initial skepticism
- Content. I'm constantly conflicted about what to do next. Dailies? Dungeons? Rare spawns? Exploring? Achievements? Scenarios?
- I love my farm. I really thought it was something not for me, but the minute I started work on it, I just loved it.
- And I haven't even touched the new battlegrounds, the pet battles, and neither the Loremasters nor the Dragon reputations yet.

Already Mists shows just how bad Cataclysm was by comparison. The only zone in Cataclysm that left any impact on me was Vashj'ir but otherwise, it was all just bland questing. Even Uldum was spoiled by the terrible storytelling. If the raiding holds up, we could be looking at something of a Wrath caliber if not something even better.



--

In raiding news, my guild killed Galleon on Friday night, and the Sha of Anger last night despite his random despawns, but I didn't get any gear out of it. Galleon is very, very simple but the Sha requires a bit of doing, though even he is pretty easy to overpower with numbers. It's weird to be in a guild actively chasing server firsts like this, but weird in a really great way.

Tonight, we begin Mogu'shan Vaults. I've got some food, I've got my gear enchanted and gemmed, I'll try to sneak in a run of Brewery one more to try to get my hands on a weapon, but otherwise, I think I'm about as set as I'm going to get. I'm double-stacking Stamina trinkets and gemming and enchanting as much Stamina as I can. I think, raid-buffed, I should probably be about ~500k or so. Which is crazy.

Wish us luck!