The Tank o’ Terror

Spinks is right – tanking is scary. Well, it’s scary in a PuG. So much so that I can count the number of tanking PuGs I’ve done on one…finger.

I love tanking with my guild, they know me, I them, and there’s none of the “gogogogogo” everyone is writing about. But whilst I’ve tanked most of the Northrend 5-mans, and one wing of Naxx, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen many of them due to our Guild reboot. So whilst the idea of jumping into LFD is fun, and I’m geared enough for all but the newest Heroics, I doubt the other players would appreciate a tank using LFD as a tool to remind himself of how it all works.

Posts like Veneretio’s on how to tank fast only reinforce the hesitation. One of the commentators on that post asks exactly the right question: “Has the new LFG tool made it harder for new tanks?”

The answer must be yes – it’s too intimidating when what you want to do is take it slowly, markup, spend the time to learn how to tank better.

The random LFD basically excludes or at the least discourages new tanks. Maybe what it needs is another flag – “learner“. I would check that box in an instant in order to know that the rest of the group was willing to not speed run, and willing to learn. The expectation is to crash and burn through as quickly as possible, but not everyone is a supertank, yet.

Even if you research the encounters, learn the bosses, run them on normal mode or with guildies, there’s still no scope for saying you want to take it easy before you’re in the instance. Some means of flagging that to other players when you’re signing up might make all the difference, and encourage the less geared or new players to get in on the LFD action.

I also thought I’d post a great report from a guildie on his encounter with a true tank o’ terror  in HUK. When I first read it I was amazed, thinking it was a one-off, but it sounds like this is now how people expect PuG Heroics to run. Which is kind of depressing for a new tank, or for those that think speed isn’t everything.

He started the run saying “Hi Guys – Has everyone done this before?” and everyone answered yes. “ If everyone’s ready lets go :-)”

And so off we started… he ran up the stairs and picked up everything in the corridor… I thought he had made a mistake but in moments they were all dead. Then the pace picked up. He pulled everyone in the next room… Few seconds and we got them down too…

Then he pulled the entire Dragon room in one pass around the room – Both sides! I mean he ran back and forth in a zig-zag pattern across the room all the way along it. When he first did it I thought OMG we are all going to die. Next thing I know there is a massive pile of dragon bodies and riders around him. It was incredible to watch. And kind of sad because we were all noobs compared to this guy.

He just kept running forward. He was like a magnet. Once in a while he would stop and we would try to help kill all the trailing mobs (and I do mean multiple mobs) but then he would just start running forward again. It kind of felt like he was picking magnetic lint off himself. There was not even time to loot the bodies. The other three players and I just had to keep up. Each boss got smashed and any hapless mobs with them. The poor resto-druid and I were just running in his slip-stream. Half-way through the healer whispered me saying “I have not had to heal the tank yet :-)” .

He ran into the prince’s room and pulled everything including the Prince and the skeletons and ran out the other door without us.  The only reason we did not get the Ice Block achievement was because the healer got trapped in passing and the rest of us stopped to help him. If we had probably waited a few seconds the boss would have been dead and we would have had it but no one thought about it. I think we were starting to realise this  guy was REALLY good. Then  I noticed the title (which I had to look up) Conqueror of Naxxramas  – Participated in the realm first defeat of Kel’Thuzad in Naxxramas in 25-player mode. 11-24-2008 – Realm First!

The final Boss was dead so fast that the rest of us just had time to realize we had already entered the second phase by the time we had run onto the platform. Thankfully there is a brief speech before the second phase. I didn’t even bother moving away from the smash because there was no time for the boss to do one. Then he said “Thanks for the run guys” and then was gone… The whole run had taken about 10 minutes

So weird… A seriously amazing player…”


Spinks asks how WoW (and others MMOs) could be improved to help new players learn the ropes – especially level 80’s who are expected to know ~48 bosses in 16 dungeons the moment they ding max level.

So what are some of the ways the game could assist?

  • Introduce some kind of instant replay on boss fights, so you can analyse what went wrong (or right) as a group. This would be a great addition, and would reduce the need to meta-research everything before you do it. It would be useful even once you do know the fights, to really polish your technique. I know our guild would love to go in blind if we knew there was some kind of in-game analysis tool.
  • Don’t use Random LFD if you don’t know the instance – research them one at a time, queue for the specific encounter, learn it. Once you start feeling familiar with the majority of instance, then jump on Random and earn your badges. I know as a tank I’m very uncomfortable doing an instance unless I know it, and know the mechanics. As Blessing of Kings comments, there is often a default expectation that tanks will lead.
  • An easy one is to run the available instances as you’re levelling. That way once you hit 80, the majority are familiar for Heroic mode, and it certainly reduces the number you have to learn.
  • Optional ingame Boss-mods should definitely be added. They don’t have to be as sophisticated as the many Boss-mod Add-Ons, but more visual feedback on what is happening, or about to happen, would help.
  • Mentoring (see post below!). At max level, mentoring could work where you reward players for leading others through instances. The LFD tool tried to implement a “leader” option, but Blizzard removed it as they “didn’t want to encourage players who had no business leading groups to do so.” Reintroducing it with some kind of method for the rest of the party to vote or feedback on how the leader went might be worth trying – and if people earn enough pats on the back, they’re rewarded appropriately.
  • An in-game mechanism to point you toward the best next instances to run based on your current gear would be great too. There’s a lot of meta gaming to do to work out where the next upgrade is coming from, which works for some, but would be far more effective & consistent if it were in-game. Going to consult an Oracle in Dalaran for direction would be better than flipping out of game to lookup Wowhead. In fact it’s a little surprising there’s not already “best dungeon to do next” add-on for planning your gear upgrades.

Certainly there is room for improvement, being thrown in the deep end can be very daunting. As comments, “Clicking a role in the random window is not the same thing as filling out a guild application. A lot of these players are learning the game by playing it: it’s not fair to assume they’re reading theorycrafting sites and working their gear always with an eye towards maximum performance.”.


Mentoring is an idea my MMO friends have tossed around for a while now. It’s not something you see much of in Warcraft, but mentoring junior players could add a level of class depth to the game, especially for those willing to RP the process.

There are plenty of excellent ex-game teachers, and most people are willing to help a newbie if for no other reason than to show their skills, so why not try and build it into the in-game mechanic. Introduce semi-enforced in-game mentoring.

Imagine that when a Hunter reaches level 10, instead of using an NPC they needed to be taught the art of taming their pet by another player. Or in STO, a Jedi Master must initiate young Padawan into the mysterious ways of the force.

The main problem would be finding someone willing to help – but that could be resolved if you also made it a condition of reaching level 20 that you go help a lowbie. Part of advancing your character to the next phase is helping to build the Hunter community by training up junior members. Or embarking on an quest chain, similar to Rhok’delar, where the end goal is to present a lower level player with an epic reward – their first purple.

To make it more than a one off task for the higher level toons, class specific rep or achievement status could be a reward for each time you do it. Eventually you would have Legendary Hunter’s running about who have earned the respect of their class through being recognised as great mentors or trainers.

The same principle could apply to any class of course – Warriors teaching the art of Charge, Druids learning how to be a Cat, Paladins training young disciples how to press “1” before going /afk.

Enforced mentoring wouldn’t work, and the game would need to cater for situations when people can’t or won’t assist, but it would certainly add to the immersion and sense of class community if it was at least an optional way of progressing.

Salty #2

No luck this morning. Obviously my Salty strategy needs work. I’ve got the right rod, hat, and know most of the top spots thanks to El’s. And I make sure that either Chuck, Mr Pinchy’s Magical Crawdad, or my Sewer Rat are by my side whenever I drop a line. These things matter.

And yet clearly it’s not enough.

Of course the rare fish are scared off when they see a great lumbering Tauren kitted out in Crusader’s Square Pauldrons and Tempered Titansteel Treads hovering over their pool.

Scaring the fish away

Time for some more appropriate fashion:

There will be no-one to stop us this time

That should do the trick. They’ll take one look and a Blacktip Shark and 15 Pound Mud Snapper will be mine!


Don’t Fear the Mutant posted a dissection of levelling vs endgame, where he came to a surprising conclusion: max level = freedom.

Surprising because that’s almost the reverse of how I felt on reaching 70 & 80. In fact I was temporarily paralysed: now what?

Whilst reaching max level meant that the on rails levelling was over, and despite a myriad of playing options becoming available, it actually felt like there was suddenly less scope to just play around:

  • Need to grind factions to Exalted;
  • Professions must be maxed;
  • Farm mats for crafted epics;
  • Accumulate badges for welfare epics;
  • Stay current with your gear;
  • etc.

Pike recently expressed a similar sentiment, staying gear capped becomes more restrictive than levelling an alt. There can be great pressure to keep up, which in turn limits your choices of what to do when you’re online. My much beloved ex guild leader used to insist on rep grinds (thank goodness the Hodir enchants are BoA now), min-maxing professions, dailies, the works, before his Guildies could have the freedom to… go fishing. It felt like wagging school to go in search of Old Crafty.

Of course the pressure to get to the level cap can mean just as little freedom. But unless you’re power levelling, you can drift around doing different things, exploring the world, doing instances just for the fun of it.

As Janis Joplin put it, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”, and you really do have nothing to lose when levelling, but there’s a lot to lose once you fall behind the end game.


Is it just me, or does Blizzard sound suspiciously like Microsoft in their latest twitter chat? “Trust us, the next release (Win7/Office2010/Cataclysm) will fix everything…”

Mind you, Cataclysm still sounds great – especially Goblins and Archaeology. And here’s hoping the Epic Moose Mount makes it in for the Winter Olympics.

Blackrock Depths

Our guild ran Blackrock Depths last night, the first time for many of us. Wow. They don’t make instances like that any more.

The scale and size of the dungeon is amazing – epic Dwarven architecture, of even greater ambition than Ironforge. You start in rough hewn tunnels before emerging out into majestic amphitheaters, arenas, and lava strewn forgeworks. The Dark Highway in particular is enough to make you stop and take copious screenshots. It feels like a living, breathing, working underground city.

Some of the mechanics are beautiful too – opening a wall cabinet reveals the portrait of a fallen Dwarf Lord, whose obituary message reveals the location to the Shadowforge Key. And there are many moments where you look down on somewhere you’ve been, or somewhere you’re working toward.

It’s also very complicated, and easy to get utterly lost. We did, several times, despite having copious guides, screenshots, maps, handwritten notes, and a old skool veteran in the party. We stumbled into the Grim Guzzler at around midnight, sunk a long cool Thunderbrew, and called it a night.

There are a million bosses, many which you run into before realising, and all of who seem to drop cloth blues, despite this being the only place in Warcraft where you can forge Dark Iron.

BRD is also full of truckloads of mobs, everywhere you turn. We must have killed an entire Dwarvish nation just getting to some of the bosses, so much so that we felt some kind of penance might be due. The sheer numbers are what makes it seem like a real place – spectators cheering the arena, forgesmiths at work, miners, technicians and engineers working on weapons and great siege engines. I can see why Blizzard reduced the trash on modern dungeons, and am glad they did for everyone’s sanity, but less NPC activity does take some of the life out of the newer instances.

It would have been an incredible challenge to play on level back in the day, with 6+ pulls being common. We were all hovering around 55 last night, but despite my Bear tanking being pretty rusty, all the dungeon nerfs & player buffs meant we dominated most everything, even when our healer was annihilated by 800 angry wrench throwers.


Syp’s /played list is constantly surprising. How can one player switch between so many MMOs? There can only be one answer: there’s more than one of him!

More likely he’s just really good at playing mmo’s the way you’re meant to – that is, making in game friends quickly, finding a guild, jumping into pugs, etc. Not relying heavily on playing with people you already know. And certainly not playing just to compete for end game status, which pretty much requires commitment to a single game.

I can only keep up with my WoW guild because they are (mostly) as casual as me. So there’s no progression raiding (other than Blackrock Depths this week!), and hence no pressure.

Even so I can’t imagine dropping WoW for a month or two to try Fallen Earth, then hopping over for some quick STO, back to WoW, then a taste of SW:TOR. Even finding the time for single player games is challenging when you’re hooked into the MMO feed.

Penny-Arcade nailed it, as they often do.

I WoW mostly with people I know IRL, which makes MMO fidelity more compelling. If I wanted to make and play with virtual friends, I guess hopping around would be easier.

I did play Warhammer for about 30 minutes, and dipped into LotRO too, for 90. On both occasions I was pretty quickly overwhelmed with the task of re-establishing ties to friends in game. Or should I say, selling them on the idea of moving to something new, and retiring or abandoning a game we had all invested a lot of time in – and still enjoyed.

It seemed that it was either/or in terms of other MMOs. Either play LotRO, or play WoW, but not both.

Having said that…TOR is going to require some careful consideration. A sci-fi setting is less appealing than high fantasy (despite my reading preference being totally the other way around – other than A Song of Ice & Fire, great Fantasy fiction is pretty rare), but the Bioware polish and depth of Star Wars lore could – should – be a killer combo.