Boost Planning

Yesterday I finished levelling my Druid tank to 60, all through LFD runs. It’s a fun way to level, with not many repeat dungeons until the 50-60 Stratholme/Blackrock Depths/Blackrock Spire zone.

Spire is a great run – it’s long, complicated, some interesting pulls, bonus bosses, pet drops, the works. It’s a marvel of 3D mapping too, with lots of bridges and fissures where you can see the lower levels you’ve already traversed (and fall if you’re not careful). And it’s the first Dungeon where the bosses might actually kill you even in these days of OP Heirlooms – namely Vosh’gajin who likes turning everyone into frogs.

So I now have two level 60 tanks (the other being a Paladin), and two boosts to spend. I’ve still got the level 90 Boost from Warlords, and a level 100 from Legion. Beyond the enjoyment I get from low level dungeon tanking, the logic behind getting the toons to 60 was to take advantage of the ‘free’ profession levelling that comes with the boost.

I have Engineering, Tailoring, Leatherworking, and Skinning already maxed, and I want to add Alchemy, Blacksmithing, Mining and Herbing to the mix. I dropped Mining during Warlords as there was no point in having a dedicated gatherer with the Garrison Mine, but it sounds like we’ll need gatherers again in Legion.

The main decision to make is whether to go dual crafting/dual gathering, or mix and match the appropriate skills. Because crafting is so much slower, I’m tempted to go Alchemy/Blacksmithing on the Paladin and boost him to 100, which will give full 700 profession skills. Then put the gathering skills on the Druid, boost her to 90, and easily grind the professions from 600 while she’s out levelling herself.

Having said that it’s nice to have self sufficient crafter/gatherers, so maybe I’ll just have to knuckle down and level Alchemy the slow way.

There’s also the matter of the BoP Blood of Sargeas crafting mat to consider. Similar to the MoP Spirit of Harmony, the Blood being BoP makes a dual gatherer less attractive.

Decisions, decisions! I might wait for the next Legion Q&A, which will focus on Professions and may make the choice more obvious.

Tanking for Beginners – Protection Paladin

In between playing my Hunter main, I seem to spend a lot of time levelling alt-Tanks. I love levelling up tanking 5 man dungeons, and as a result have far too many mid level tanky types.

Having done it a lot, I noticed there’s a lot of endgame tanking guides, but barely anything for the learner who wants to try this tank thing.

So I wrote another Wowhead guide – Tanking 101: Protection Paladin. Covers all you need to know up to Level 15 and tanking your first dungeon.

Probably not the best time with the Legion class changes just around the corner, but hopefully the low level experience hasn’t changed too much. I have a vague intention to add similar guides for Guardian Druids and Protection Warriors if this one proves worthwhile.

Tank well!

It’s Good to be the King – The Dire Maul Tribute Run

I’ve been levelling a(nother) Tauren Paladin, exclusively via Dungeon Finder. The levels fly by which is nice, and tanking the old dungeons is loads of fun. And sometimes a bit of a surprise when the layout has changed (looking at you Blackfathom Deeps) meaning you lead your party totally the wrong way. Whoops.

Eventually I reached the 40s and Dire Maul became available. Which reminded me of the awesome ‘hidden’ mode in Dire Maul North – The Tribute Run.

The Tribute Run reverses the usual dungeon objective and tasks you with keeping all the bosses alive, instead of steamrolling over them. It’s a lot of fun and involves more than just running past each boss.

I wanted to remind myself how to do it, and was surprised to find there was no Wowhead guide – only a few scattered (and slightly dated) posts out there on the webs.

So I wrote one, It’s Good to be the King – The Dire Maul Tribute Run.

The Ogre’s are right, it is good to be the king, and it also feels good to contribute something back to the community – enjoy!

Frostwolvian

My hunter has made the leap over to the Frostwolves of Saurfang, thanks to the kind invitation of Navimie. They’re a very welcoming bunch and it seems like a great place to be come Legion, and during the tail end of Warlords.

Unfortunately the name Knive was taken, but I’m pretty happy with Orbit as the alternative. This toon started as Space, so there’s a nice symmetry there.

I’m also charging through the levels on Threat1, a Prot Pally. I’ve always found Paladin tanking entertaining and intuitive so it’s a fun project. The only problem with tanking is the expectation that you’ll know the dungeons backwards, but I guess that just comes with the territory. I make sure to have at least a quick skim of the Dungeon Journals for any instances I don’t know. The new layout for Blackfathom Deeps caught me a little off guard, but so far it’s working out pretty well.


  1. Name get win! 

In which Bane develops a…bane

Make it go away!

Things I can’t do:

  • Fly an aeroplane
  • ‘Get’ Jazz
  • Cook tempura
  • Leverage the low hanging fruit
  • Tank HoR

One of these things is easier than the rest. Our guild whistled through it with Pallytank, but endlessly wiped with me. It’s not a gear check for the tank, it’s a “are you a nub” check, and I just can’t get it going. It wouldn’t matter if I was geared out in Tier 27. Gear doesn’t help with taunting, tab targeting, dealing with ranged, and noticing my healer being destroyed.

Stupid Mages fireballing people to death, or even worse Rifleman standing in the middle of the room and  pewpewing people down. Killed by a trash hunter, the ultimate shame.

Ghostcrawler says there’s no way they’d introduce a mechanism where “everything is pretty much taunted to you the whole time”, and of course they shouldn’t, but right now I’d pay cash money for that ability.

It’s now become an official “thing” for me, so that I’m pretty much doomed before we even start – or as wow.com aptly put it when talking about this exact instance, “fear is the mind killer“.

After rage quitting the instance, I had miles of fun facerolling through normal instances levelling our 76 Druid healer in PuGs. We were complimented on our healer/tank-work, which was nice but also silly given I am geared enough for starter 10 mans and Heroic everything else. I used to think OPing instances was lazy, it should be a challenge, make it hard, blah blah. Now I see the error in that thinking. As our healer said after wipe 18, “let’s do something fun”. Exactly!

/LFD normal-mode-anything-but-Icecrown

One percent

A spontaneous guild group formed last night and we cleaned our way through normal ToC, FoS, and PoS nice and easy. And even finally scored some upgrades for our Healer, and some boots for me.

ToC was a bit of a pain when we got some kind of bugged opening joust which meant it went on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. The jousting is bad enough without it never ever ending, sob. We eventually zoned out and reset, which fixed everything.

FoS and PoS were easy enough, other than when we tried to race up the PoS ramp after Krick and managed to catch the tail end of one mob for the accidental wipe. Exploits rarely seem to work, though this one would be worth getting right to avoid those annoying 5 pulls.

So we once again reached our bette noir, HoR, at 1130PM. We thought we’d give it one shot, and call it if we failed. It was much better this time despite the hour. We made our way smoothly to Falric, and we had him, before a 1% wipe.

Has anyone done the math on 1% wipes – they seem way too common to be legit? I remember countless one percenters in Kara and Outland heroics, and maybe even a few with Anub’Rekhan in Naxx. Maybe the last 2-5% is rounded to 1%, just to make it that much more painful 🙂

It’s pretty funny ruing a 1% wipe on normal mode mini bosses, when others are having the same kind of wipes on the Heroic mode LK himself. But who cares, we’re loving it!

Hard Easy Modes

Reading posts about guilds bashing their heads stubbornly against an seemingly insurmountable foe is inspiring and terrifying. Gravity tweeted about an 22 wipe night with his 10 man strict group (followed by a 16 wipe victory!), and Feist’s 25 man hard mode frustration speaks for itself.

On the complete opposite end of the progression spectrum, our guild hit a similar barrier last night in Halls of Reflection. Normal mode. On the trash waves between Falric and Marwyn. So not quite the level of epic our erstwhile twitterers have reached 🙂

But it was nevertheless a fun if insanely expensive and blood curdlingly annoying experience. We’d tried it a few weeks ago and failed to even get to Falric, whereas this time we downed him for the first time thanks to better tactics and clutch healing. Which led to much clenched fist “c’mons” before at all started again.

But we just couldn’t quite get past the next 5 waves. We did get to Marwyn twice, though each time with two DPS toasted so no way of finishing him off. I’d curse Blizz for not allowing our downed compatriots to bampf back in mid encounter, but I guess that would make the fight a doddle.

Zomg it’s a tricky event. I’ve pugged it several times on my Rogue and zerged through thanks to OP groups, but with a slightly-undergeared slightly-undertrained strict 5 man guild like us, it’s a real challenge. It’s enclosed, chaotic, you have to take down the mobs in order (Priest – Rogue – Casters – Melee) so I was trying to mark on the run, and PLEASE STOP HITTING THE HEALER LOOK-AT-ME LOOK-AT-ME!

I struggled mightily with picking up the adds as they came in, always seeming to lose one, who inevitably one-shot our healer. The Shadow Mercenary in particular was trouble. B@stard rogues!

And yet inch by inch we were progressing. We’d get one wave further each time, only for me to lose my agro seeking focus at the critical moment, or the healer getting frozen just as I got clobbered by something. It really felt like if we could just keep our healer up  – i.e. my main job beside getting wailed on – then we’d make it. Aargh!

I started to feel like a failtank even though I really thought we could do it, so we swapped in our fresh 80 Tankadin for my Warrior, hoping the improved AoE threat would help. To no avail – staying alive and doing enough DPS and holding agro and healing through it all seem to be mutually exclusive on this fight.

So it was nuts. We wiped and wiped and repaired and repaired. But we kept coming back, and everyone kept wanting one last try. We nailed Falric (who dropped nothing of any use, naturally). And though we didn’t get past Marwyn (maybe just as well given the LK phase to come!), it did give us a truckload of experience of working together to try and nut a tactic out and progress.

And I got to understand better what the high end raiders are talking about when they say that endless wipes doesn’t always mean epic fail.

Addendum

This is to scold myself into improving – using the Warrior toolkit and paying attention. To wit:

  • Watch my health bars – too often guilty of letting the healer do all the work, without saving myself (and their mana) when the situation gets desperate
  • Watch the healer! Dang blast it, he died a lot of times when I just wasn’t paying attention to the fact he was being fireballed or backstabbed to smithereens. If the healer dies it’s my fault, and he died a lot
  • Get my spell interrupting keys better mapped – I’m always too tardy in using them
  • Use Heroic Strike! It’s bound to my mouse button, but i still forget. Grrr.
  • While we’re at it: keep shouts up! Use Intervene/Intercept! KEEP THE HEALER ALIVE!!

Ahem.

Gear Checks

It’s interesting reading about hitting a hard limit on progress. Righteous Orbs has a lovely public service announcement for people complaining that fights are easy when they require 7k DPS average. 7k! Awesome. Our guild DPS tops out at 3.5k, so we’re a long way off. For we casuals, it’s handy to remember the fact that only the very minority of players are clearing ICC raids, but they are a vocal (blogging!) minority. We need more average mode bloggers 🙂

Even with 3.5k, we still have fun cranking through the 5 mans. We did sequential clears of normal PoS & FoS on the way to HoR the other night, the first time for a few of us. Hall of Reflection is just genius design. It was great hearing the reactions from the others who hadn’t seen it: Whoaaa, there’s Frostmourne! Epic…wait…ZOMG THE LICH KING!!!! It brings all that lore & story that we’ve been exposed to home to roost.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to actually ‘fight’ him, as we hit a healing gear limit. Our resident Shaman, having only recently specced Resto after a career as Enhancement, showed champion skills through the first two ‘wings’ but HoR stopped us . We could get to the first boss after 5 waves, but kept wiping on his Defiling Horror fear (when everyone takes damage whilst being unable to do anything about it). It was a hard mana/healing limit, so we only gave it a couple of tries before calling it a night. Though I’m pretty sure we could get through it with everyone on top of their game – it was late, and it was hard to muster the requisite focus.

I struggled mightily with my tanking too, being squashed in that tight corner in order to LoS the casters is counter to my normal Charge-Thunderstomp-Shockwave launch sequence. I kept forgetting to Bloodrage, leaving me rage starved at the beginning, or I’d leave one of the ranged mobs out in the middle of the room meaning we had to go chase it down out there. Confined fighting is not something I’ve had to do much, so practice-practice-practice is required.

So even normal modes have a gear check, and you’ll struggle to progress if you don’t have the right amount of stuff. Not necessarily purples, as Gevlon keeps proving, but at least the right blue drops.

Normality

Last night a group of Guildies attempted the SFK VD Bosses (with many a double entendre in trade chat trying to find a VD healer…). We failed pretty decisively, not quite having the HP nor healing gear to get through the perfumed chaos. Having both the green & purple debuffs on seemed a killer – I’d pugged it the night before with an offtank which meant you could keep the one Neutralizer up depending on who was targetting you. An OT for a 5 man! Not something our guild has quite yet, so no Love Rocket for us.

Refusing to learn our lesson, we thought we’d make our Forge of Souls debut – on normal mode. I was properly tanking for the first time in a long time on Banehammer, and my muscle memory was all for my Druid tank. So I was pretty rusty on the key mappings and priority rotation (where’s Heroic Throw gone? Where’s taunt!?). Luckily I’d mapped  abilities pretty consistently across toons, so I unrusted relatively quickly.

We wiped on the second trash pull, mainly due to me not grabbing agro on all five quickly enough, and not being able to resist the AoE power of our much better geared ‘lock ‘n’ Mage combo. But there was an inkling of success there – our Rogue suggested we changed strategy to a mark-up/burn-down single target approach, which worked a treat and we proceeded to march all the way to the first boss, James Brown (the trash even dropped a 1% chance waist upgrade for me).

I hadn’t tanked this before, and our off spec Shaman Healer hadn’t healed it. But after quick debrief from the experts, we managed to one shot the Hardest Working Man in Showbiz, and I picked up a stonking big mace (and a New Bag).

The Devourer of Souls awaited, and having experienced this from a Rogue melee DPS vantage point, I didn’t like my chances of moving him around correctly, and living through the various don’t-argues this guy delivers.

We wiped on our first attempt, but weren’t discouraged. I found that the tanking vantage point was actually a bit easier than DPS – at least I knew when the guy was facing me, something I found confusing when slice ‘n’ dicing him due his multi-faceted face.

Our second attempt went much better, and we managed to down him (but barely!). I’d blown every single cooldown, and our Shaman was down to 4% mana when our foe dropped. The hoots could be heard all the way to the Halls of Relection, two instances hence.

It’s fair to say that this was thrilling stuff. It felt great to be working as a Guild team, on the edge of our ability/gear.

What was really interesting to me was that this was all in normal 5-man mode. There’s obviously recognition and challenge for world firsts (both alleged and legit) and 25 man hard modes, but for the  ‘hard core casuals’ (otherwise known as the majority), I’d suggest that taking on the normal mode progression is just as rewarding. You still see all the content, still get epic upgrades, still have a huge challenge and still have to work hard on your tactics and awareness. Plus if you clear all the normal modes, there’s no doubt you’ll be ready for 10 man’s next.

There’s a tendancy to think that if you’re not running at least Heroics, you’re not really playing. Which is just plain wrong – if normal mode is hard for your group, normal mode is the right level to be playing at and more importantly, enjoying. Throw yourself into the deep end of normal mode ICC. It may not be Ensidia depth, but it’s still pretty deep!

Learning to Tank

I ran my second Oculus ever the other day (it’s truly not as bad as everyone says – as long as at least someone in the party knows what they’re doing) with a 79 Prot Paladin rolling tank. After buffs and a few quick hellos (I decided to always open random dungeons with a hello, and it seems to help set a friendly tone) we started on the first trash mobs.

And almost wiped.

The Pally barely managed to maintain agro on a single mob, let alone the group. And this was on normal mode. He quickly /p’d the group to explain he’d forgotten to put on his tanking gear. Next pull – same thing. This time he chimed in with a “rofl I didn’t have RA up” (Retribution Aura causes holy damage when you’re hit). A few others dropped group, someone new joined, rinse, repeat.

It was clearly a hopeless case, I felt bad for the guy as he was clearly trying to learn, and mentioned he thought this was good practice for when he was MTing for his Guild. I shudder to think how that would go!

So after the group had disbanded to just the two of us, I took the opportunity to give a bit of tank coaching. I don’t know thing one about Pally tanking, but the 101 of tanking is the same no matter what class:

  • Your job is to focus the attention of all the bad guys on you;
  • Your job isn’t to do damage, except as a by-product of keeping that attention;
  • Don’t just target a single mob and stay on it until it dies – you need to tab or click through the mobs to make sure you have their focus, and get it back if not;
  • Get the casters first, especially if they heal;
  • If you’re new to tanking, don’t use random LFD. Pick a dungeon you know, and run that. Learn how to tank with something you’re familiar with so you don’t get surprised;
  • And try to do it with friends first, so you can take your time and not get discouraged.

It may be a bit rich to be dishing out tanking advice when I was playing on my DPS toon due to fear of PUG tanking, but he seemed to appreciate it and the problem here wasn’t bad tanking, it was learning the fundamentals. He was clearly discouraged by everyone dropping, and there was no chance he was going to get any better without some constructive criticism. Hopefully he can find a Paladin mentor, or a really good Pally blog.

You need a safe and encouraging environment to learn, and Warcraft doesn’t really provide that unless you’re grouped with some friends. Or you’re very good at metagaming.