Tank Interview

I was approached this morning by a friend of mine that runs the druid healing blog, Rolling Hots.  Sylly had this brilliant idea, to interview a bunch of different tanks from different classes and report on her findings.  The goal of the project is to help healers better understand the issues that the different tanks have to deal with and as a result better adjust their healing to fit each class.  So today I am posting her questions and my answers here on my blog.  It is a bit unusual but I was impressed with project.

The Prompt

Dear Tanks,

Thank you so much for your willingness to take the time to answer some
questions for me about tanking.  I intend to use answers from each of you
for a series of posts on my blog intended to educate myself and my readers
about how it is that you do what you do, and how we might best be able to
help you to get it done.

Some quick instructions.  If you are a blogger, there is a question where
you can put your blog information and I will be most happy to link back to
your site with your answers.  If you play more than one tanking class,
please answer the questions twice, once for each tanking class.  Answer
only the questions you are interested in responding to, although the more
answers the better!  You will find the full list of questions below.
Please respond to this email with your numbered answers.  Your generosity
with this project is very much appreciated!

Best,
Sylly

The Questionnaire

1.  Your name?

Belghast (Mark Temple)

 

2.  Your blog information if you have one?

Tales of the Aggronaut (http://www.aggronaut.com)

 

3.  What tanking class do you play?

Protection Warrior – I leveled from 1-80 as prot spec.  Yes I am mental…

 

4.  Can you give an overview of the tanking style and abilities of your
class?  How do you get the job done?  You can be as specific or general as
you’d like, but remember your audience is a bunch of healers, so basic is
good here.

Warriors are to tanking like priests are to healing.  They tend to be the jack of all trades tank.  In the past AOE tanking was a true challenge for the class, with our only real option spamming tab and sunder/devastate to hold aggro on multiple targets.  The tail end of burning crusade and the 3.0 patch both redefined the class greatly giving us a good number of ways to hold aggro on multiple targets. 

The true strength of a warrior is the large number of "oh shit" buttons we have.  A good warrior keeps these in reserve and uses them to pad spikes in damage, and periods where healing drops out.  A properly geared warrior tends to have a very predictable pattern of damage intake.  There are several abilities we have to help the healers keep us vertical.

Last Stand
In our bag of tricks we have Last Stand which acts as a temporary increase in our hit point pool, giving us that extra bit of life to survive a barrage of attacks.  The cool down is 3 minutes, but if glyphed you can shave it down to 2.

Enraged Regeneration
This acts as a heal over time giving us back 30% of our total health over the course of 10 seconds. This cool down is 3 minutes.

Shield Block
Shield Block used to be our bread and butter ability to lower our damage intake, but 3.0 saw this ability severely nerfed.  This ability increases out block chance by 100% for 10 seconds.  The dynamic used to be considerably different and it allowed us to keep it up at all times, but now it sits on a 1 minute cool down.  Most warriors hold this in reserve as a minor "panic" button.

Shield Wall
This is the king of the panic buttons.  When used it reduces all damage taken by 60% for 12 seconds.  This ability is by far our best way to curb incoming damage, but it also comes with the longest cool down of 5 minutes.  If talented and glyphed however you can get a version of the ability that only reduces 40% of the incoming damage but is usable every 2 minutes.

Thunderclap
While not an panic button, this is an ability warriors can use to lower incoming damage.  It reduced the attack speed of mobs by 10%, and if talented by 20%.  This greatly reduces the amount of incoming damage and if possible should be kept up at all times.

Demoralizing Shout
This ability reduces the attack power of mobs by 410.  Along with thunderclap it is a good way to reduce the incoming damage the tank receives.

5.  What are your class’s strengths in comparison to other tanking classes
in your opinion?  Your weaknesses?

The lines between the tanking classes have been greatly marginalized, but there are a number of strengths the warrior has.  Firstly we have the most panic buttons of any tanking class.  If properly used this can give us a greater freedom to recover from situations where the damage is either sporadic or unpredictable.  On top of this thunderclap and demoralizing shout give us a solid way to reduce the amount of incoming damage from mobs.  Commanding Shout gives us a strong buff to increase the total hit points of the raid.  Charge gives us a way to move from target to target in battle quickly.  Intervene gives us a strong method of reducing the damage taken by a single target, and Vigilance causes one player in the raid to have their total aggro generation reduced. 

The warrior is the jack of all trades.  They have very solid single target aggro generation, and the ability if talented and glyphed correctly to have some formidable AOE tanking ability.  I personally run dual protection talent specs in order to maximize this potential.  One of my specializations is built to take advantage of all of the AOE tanking tricks we have.  The other set of talents is designed to give me a 2 minute shield wall and last stand and all of the possible survival tricks I can get.

Our greatest weakness is that we often times have trouble with rage starvation.  In order to use our abilities we need to get hit, and as we get better gear we are getting hit less often.  This causes our total rage incoming to drop massively.  While progression content will always give us the ability to keep a nearly full rage bar, as we move back into a tier below our gear or lower we start having issues holding aggro because we are quite literally starved for rage.  My secondary spec has a few tricks to offset this problem, but for a warrior with a single protection spec geared towards progression content they will have trouble handling the lowered rage that older content gives us. 

If your group is patient and gives the warrior plenty of time to acquire aggro then there is rarely an issue.  However it is important to note as healers that on trash and older content it is important not to front load your heals too much.  You can quickly overtake the warrior in aggro generation with your healing, especially if as a druid you drop all of your HoTs on the target at the same time.  We ride a thin line between too much rage and none at all.

6.  How would you characterize your own relationship with your healers
during game play?

I feel the warrior more than the other tanking classes has a symbiotic relationship with the healer.  Our healers are our lifeline, and when our constant string of healing is broken we can only do so much to stay vertical.  As a warrior, our panic button give us the ability to stay up through bad situations, and as a result we need to communicate regularly with our healing staff.  When we use last stand it is important to let the healers know, because visually it will appear that the heals are no longer landing for as much health since we temporarily have our health increased.  If we use shield wall, it lets the healers know they 12 seconds to catch up on healing and throw out any critical group heals.

Since we have so many gearing options available to us, we can tweak our gear to make ourselves fit the healing styles of the raid as a whole.  Balancing mitigation and avoidance often times makes you easier to predicatively heal, and as a result more conducive for healing styles like that of the druid.  However you can also stack avoidance for those fights where you know your health bar is going to ping pong anyways, making you the ideal candidate for a spam healer like a paladin or a disc priest.  It is very important for the warrior to know what kind of healing he will be receiving so that he can adjust accordingly.

7.  Under what circumstances should healers be paying special attention to
your class?  When are you most vulnerable? (i.e. if a certain tanking
ability fails, during melee/spell damage spikes, etc.)

Warriors are weaker than most classes to incoming spell damage.  There is only one talent that can really offer any sense of protection against spell damage, and the majority of boss attacks are immune to spell reflection.  So this gives us a chink in our armor, and in scenarios where a large frontal breath is going to be a regular occurrence the healers are going to need to time heals at the beginning of the breath so they land and top back off the tank in preparation for the next big hit.

Movement is another weak phase for the warrior.  If the warrior is not skilled in strafing and mob placement, he can easily expose his backside to the boss.  Warrior avoidance and mitigation is a purely frontal ability, so when we need to turn our back to the boss we are losing the majority of our damage reduction.  Stuns will also leave us vulnerable in much the same way.  As a healer if the tank is running away from a mob, or stunned you should expect his damage to increase by as much as 60%.

8.  What is your experience with being healed by Restoration Druids?  Is
it a healing class that you enjoy working with?  Why or why not?

The predictability of the way a warrior takes damage often makes it an opportune scenario for druid healing.  The warrior needs a steady stream of healing, and druid hots are an ideal way to receive this.  In the case where the warrior is the main tank, it is ideal to mix druid healing to cover a baseless of heals per second, with that of a disc priest of holy paladin to cover the spike damage intake.  Druids are the perfect additive healer, in that they help to pad the incoming damage with a predictable stream of health.

9.  Can you give one strong piece of advice for a healer in your group or
raid?

The key to warrior healing seems to be a steady stream of healing.  On bosses like kologarn where we are taking hits for upwards of 20k health, it is very easy to get behind the curve when trying to reactively heal fights.  However through the steady application of predictive heals, the warrior damage in take can be smoothed out so that you only occasionally have to throw a big heal to top off.  Get to know your warriors, each one has a different play style and as a result a different pattern of damage.  Each one however should be predictable.  Encourage your warriors to tell you when they are using panic buttons, so that you can adjust accordingly.

10.  How deep is your understanding of how different healing classes work?
Do you think it would help your game play if you knew more?
 

I’ve played a healadin and a resto druid, but in truth my greatest understanding of healing comes from being healed by various classes.  When you are the main tank you can tell a difference in the way your health bar moves depending on who is healing you.  I’ve always big a big fan of priest healing, so I tend to be biased in that direction.  However with the 3.0 patch the resto ability to keep up with large hits was greatly increased, and as a result I enjoy being healed by a tree equally well.  Paladin healing is still great for its pure spammy nature, but in general I prefer the more surgical healing style of a druid or a priest.  Shaman seem generally ineffective as a single target main tank healer, so as a result we try and push them more into a role of group healing.

11.  Is there anything you’d like to add?

I’m hoping some of the things I have said prove helpful to your readers.  I think this is a great topic, and look forward to seeing the results.

Blog Azeroth: Deconstructing Westfall

For those of you who have read the blog for awhile, you will recognize the “blog azeroth” prepend too today’s topic.  For everyone else, Blog Azeroth is an amazing resource for the “WoW Blogosphere”, where various bloggers can meet and share ideas.  One of the constructs of the website is the “shared topic”.  The general idea is that multiple bloggers write on the same topic.  I’ve done a few in the past, but always horribly past the “due date”.

The topic chosen for today is from Spinks over at Spinksville.  Inspired by a post on massively, the basic idea is to take your favorite quest, questline or zone and deconstruct it telling everyone why you love it so much.  I can’t say I will be near as successful as she was, but I am going to try anyway.

Westfall needs Heroes

The Farms of Westfall  I remember back in 2004, I got my first taste of the wow crack with the File Planet sponsored “Stress Test” weekend.  I had been playing City of Heroes at the time, and managed to get into the test with a good number of my cadre of friends.  Initially I had rolled a Tauren Warrior by myself, and while enjoyable, the Mulgore area was thoroughly uninspiring to me.  When I joined with my other gamer friends, we decided to roll humans, since most everyone could find a class they wanted to play there.

Elwynn Forest was a good deal more interesting and we quickly progressed through the starter quests.  Before long we were fighting a curious band of thugs known as the Defias.  The storyline surrounding them was pretty scant but I definitely thought they were a cool villain.  Everyone needs a brotherhood of evil to foil their plans, and as we moved through the newbie quests we started to see some glimmers of an emerging plotline.

A Kingdom in Need

Farmer and Mrs Fulrbrow and BlanchyAs soon as you cross the bridge from Elwynn into Westfall you are presented with the start of the zones central conflict.  Ahead of you, curiously at the side of the road are Farmer Furlbrow, his wife, and his their horse Blanchy.  Some thugs have overrun their farm, and in the rush to escape with their lives they forgot their most prized heirloom.  Being the consummate hero that you are, you offer to help them out in their struggle.

Low and behold, the “thugs” ransacking their farm house are none other than the Defias brotherhood you had seen so many of in Elwynn.  After making short work of the thieves and recovering the valuables, the good farmer suggests that you look up the militia at Sentinel hill.  On your way across the land, you encounter more farmers that tell similar tales.  It seems that Westfall is not only blighted with a horrible drought but also besieged by the mysterious Defias.

The People’s Militia

Sentinel Hill When you reach sentinel hill you are told the tale of the people’s militia by their leader Gryan Stoutmantle.  It seems that Westfall is not receiving much help from Stormwind, and quickly enlists you to help him investigate the activities at several nearby mines.  It seems that not only are the Defias pushing back the farmers, but they are also tunneling deep into the earth with the help of the local tribes of kobolds.

You had encountered Hogger the leader of the river paw Gnolls back in Elwynn and as a result knew the fury brutes were nothing to be trifled with.  If the Defias and Gnolls were in fact working in coordination it meant great trouble for the struggling farmers.  After a few skirmishes, Gryan realizes that the Defias are not a band of cutthroats but instead a serious organization.  He determines that you must get to the bottom of this threat.

In Search of the Leader

Leader of the Defias Brotherhood Gryan sends through Elwynn to Redridge and the town of Lakeshire, where he knows a man called Wiley the Black can help you infiltrate the Defias.  Wiley lets slip that the Stonemasons guild might have something to do with the organization. Upon returning to Westfall, Gryan sends you off again to verify this information with Mathias Shaw, the head of SI:7.

While talking with Shaw you find out that the Stonemasons’ Guild was run by a man named Edwin VanCleef. VanCleef was responsible for rebuilding Stormwind after the orcs razed it in the First War. Apparently, VanCleef and his men were unhappy with their treatment by the King after the reconstruction was complete.  This information fills in a few pieces of the puzzle.

Kill The Messenger

The Mysterious Messenger Once you arrive at Sentinel Hill, it is quickly determined that you must find the location of the Defias hideout.  Gryan has scout reports that a Messenger has been seen on the roads between Moonbrook, the Gold Coast Quarry and the Jangolode mine; all of which were locations of heavy defias activity.  The militia asks you to obtain the message he is carrying at all costs.

The message is firm proof that VanCleef is in charge of the brotherhood, and this escalates the need to find their base of operation.  With a stroke of luck Militia operatives caught a Defias thief trying to steal Farmer Saldean’s wagon.  The brigand has offered to lead you to the Defias hideout, in exchange for sparing his life.

You protect the traitor as he leads you along the roadways of Westfall, heading to Moonbrook.  You are ambushed many times by his former allies trying to keep him from revealing the truth.  After fighting your way into the Defias enclave of Moonbrook, he shows you to the entrance to a series of interlinking caverns known only as The Deadmines.

Assassinate VanCleef

Caverns of The Deadmines You gather with you some stalwart allies and make your way inside the Deadmines.  As you climb through an intricate series of mine shafts, you find the secret entrance to the hideout.  Inside you face greater resistance in form of defias, miners, goblins, and gnolls.  You fight your way through mine shafts, a goblin foundry, and into a great underground dock complete with a warship.

Throughout the battle you have to fight your way past a number of members of the Defias brotherhood.  Rhahk’Zor the Ogre and his two lieutenants guard the first passage.  Next you are confronted by Sneed and his Goblin Shredder, that tries to make mulch of you.  In the foundry, the master engineer Gilnid turns the fire of his forge against you.  After using gunpowder to blow your way into the docks, you are confronted by Mr. Smite, who attempts to overpower you with his mastery of weapons.

Once on board the ship, you must fight your way past tiers of pirates.  Even Cookie the ships cook, tries to flatten you with his rolling pin.  As you mount the top of the ship, you are confronted by Captain Greenskin and his retinue, who attempt to skewer you with the harpoons.  All of this leading to the top deck, where the mysterious Edwin VanCleef stands awaiting your challenge.

Edwin VanCleef is a very formidable fighter in his own right, as his attacks quickly put your party on the defensive.  Just as you regain your footing and begin to cut through his offensive, you are ambushed by more Defias rogues.  You can’t really expect the leader of a crime syndicate to fight fair after all.  Though the battle is tough, and it taxes your skills, you and your allies persevere and laying before you is the corpse of leader of the brotherhood.

The Beauty of Westfall

The Lighthouse This was the questline, that plain and simple, hooked me on the game.  Prior to wow, you had never really seen this level of intricacy and storytelling.  The game pioneered making quest lines both easy to find, and engaging at the same time.  In Everquest, you had to dig with obsessive fervor to be able to find a series of quests and complete it.  But here for the first time, quests evolved themselves in a very organic way.

The Westfall storyline is basically every good pen and paper adventure, distilled to its purest essence, and recast in MMO form.  Your character is drawn into the conflict slowly, and through the series of the quests you are given foreshadowing of the events that are to come.  Each quest giving you a piece of the puzzle leading up to the final reward.  The first alliance dungeon, The Deadmines.

Deadmines in itself was groundbreaking as well.  This was the first time in an MMO I had seen such amazing scripted events.  Each boss unlocked a piece of the dungeon, with its own flavor, giving you access to something new.  My jaw literally hit the floor the first time I aggro’d the ogre boss, and he announced “VanCleef pay big for your head!”.

Later when you collect gunpowder and use it to blow open the door to the docks.  This was a level of interactivity that simply did not exist prior to wow.  Players who were new to the MMO genre really missed the sense of amazement that all of us felt, seeing this content for the first time.  This was truly ground breaking stuff, giving the player a level of immersion into the storyline that we had never really had before.

Improved by Never Replaced

The Battle of Wrathgate Next to some of the newer content, the Westfall series seems dated.  But in my heart it will always have a special place.  It was the first time I was given a glimpse of what this game could truly deliver, and was the dealer giving me my first real hit of crack.  After playing that first stress test weekend, City of Heroes no longer felt as shiny as it once had.  The bar had been raised, and nothing short of World of Warcraft was going to scratch the itch I now had.

I’ve recently started a new warlock, and while Goldshire is a wretched hive of scum and villainy on a role-playing server, I am dealing with it in order to experience Westfall again for the first time in 3 years.  There is almost a certain amount of giddiness I have at the thought of playing my way progressively through the Westfall quest lines once more.  I might even go so far as to pug my way through the Deadmines, trying to experience all the content as it was intended.

Westfall was to my Warcraft career, as the Dungeons and Dragons boxed set was to my role-playing experience, or Pong was to my video gaming history.  As the game ages and matures, I hope they can keep recapturing the magic of the Defias brotherhood.  With Wrath of the Lich King they seem to have taken the art of MMO storytelling to a new level, and they gave us some equally epic quest lines like the Wrathgate storyline.  This gives me great hope for what the future will bring.  But for me…

…It All Started With Westfall

One Wild and Crazy Month

over10thousand It’s been a pretty crazy week here, so many of my routines have gone by the wayside including regularly checking Google analytics.  I find that website completely fascinating, and I enjoy seeing exactly where my readers are coming from.  I think its amazing that I have multiple users reading my page in Thailand, Qatar, Malta, some hits from Iraq, and 3 users from the Isle of Guernsey, that until today I didn’t even know existed.  So in the daze of this ending week I completely missed the fact that at some point on Tuesday evening I passed the 10,000 unique visitors mark.

I am completely amazed that in just a few days over a month I have been able to bring that many people to read my content.  I am feeling validated on one hand, but on the other hand extremely expose considering I have had that many people digging around in my head.  For the most part, my blog entries are my stream of consciousness, and expound upon thoughts and ideas I have built over the last five years playing the World of Warcraft.  Regardless of the website showing some signs of success, I still feel very amateur and am still “finding my voice”.

I realize that a good deal of the readership came during the wowinsider bump, but each day I keep getting linked from more high quality blogs, and more regular readers.  I want to throw out a blanket thank you to every one of my readers for the support they have shown.  Also I want to thank the wow blogging community for quickly accepting me into their numbers.  Blog Azeroth has been a great community with tons of good ideas, helpful tips and constructive criticism.

Thanks for the Continued Support

The Clover is the Key

Yesterday I honestly did not have it in me to make a post.  I won’t lie, the raid Tuesday night was pretty horrific.  Combined with the feeling of general uselessness that I had been feeling, the general “badness” of our attempts the night before pushed me in to a stupor.  This combined with not having a good deal of time to even formulate my ideas (still pushing up against a tough deadline at work), caused me to fail once more to make my daily post.

I spent a good deal of the day bickering back and forth with one of the other raid leaders, trying to figure out what went wrong and how to keep it from ever happening again.  The source of my frustration is that, we as a raid backslid.  The previous week we fought hard to down XT, and when we finally did I thought we had reached that magical click moment, or at the very least it felt like a click.  However this week, in our push to get some solid attempts in on Kologarn, we skipped Razorscale and Ignis and instead spent the night wiping over and over on the big dumb bot.

The failure of a few players to be able to react in a timely fashion to bombs caused us to wipe over and over.  There is nothing more disheartening than having a perfect attempt go south when a single player detonates the entire raid.  We fought valiantly, and our players kept trying to recover from the same few people failing to react.  I tried my best to keep calm, but officer chat quickly became a long string of obscenities abbreviated by the bit of sentence structure. 

We finally adjusted our strategy to be a bit more forgiving, and managed to pull out a win, but the whole process left me angry beyond reason.  The last thing I needed to post were back to back “emo rants” about how players need to “pull their heads out”.  So instead I refrained from posting anything at all.  Today I am feeling more confident and looking forward to playing cleanup on the bosses we left behind and then pushing on to get those illusive tries on Kologarn.

Springtime for Ignis

Last night I logged in not really sure what I would be doing.  Wednesday is usually the night I end up tagging along with some non-guild/raid friends on 10 and 25 man instances, getting a much needed break from tanking on one of my other raiding alts.  After the “failure to launch” of a 25 man Naxxramas, and the horrible fail that was a PUG 10 man Malygos, I settled down to dps as my retribution paladin in a 10 man Ulduar run by a friends guild.

I am one of those players that learn most by doing, and whenever given a chance I like to tag along with a different raid group and see how they approach fights differently.  Last nights run yielded an amazing gem.  Up until now we had been doing what I like to refer to as the “Box Method” for Ignis as illustrated by the Tankspot video.  The basics of the strategy are to move ignis in a 4 point path around the room as to minimize the scorch damage. 

The negatives of this method are that it causes the raid to spread out, and you have to have players capable of doing 5k single hits watching both pools.  This makes the healing assignments fairly spread thin, and AOE healing becomes fairly inefficient.  The other major issue you have is that during the fight Ignis will run to a random player and dunk them in the fire pot at his crotch.  Because of the travel time for players on the outskirts of the room guarding the pools, it can cause Ignis to lay patches of scorched earth in unpredictable locations.

I’ve drawn this diagram to help out my raid adjust to the new strategy.  Because of the way it looks on the diagram I have decided to start calling this method the “Clover Method”.  The melee becomes the stem of the clover and the scorch path I will make with the boss becomes the pedals.  The pull starts with me standing on the horizontal line that divides the room directly between the pulls.  One of our hunters will misdirect Ignis onto me, and as he moves into place, I will spin him so that my body is standing on the A in the diagram.

The first scorch always comes quickly so I will need to move to where I am standing on the B within a few minutes of the initial pull.  I will be standing just out of the range of the first patch of scorch.  The melee should not have to move to stay in range with the backside of Ignis.  The diagram places the Ignis dot for scorch B a little higher than it would actually be, but the diagram is easier to read this way. 

I will continue to move him to point C at the next scorch, still trying to make sure the melee can have constant contact with the boss.  When the third scorch lands I will circle strafe until I am back on point A, which should now be clear thanks to the timer of the first patch.  This process is repeated for tanking the boss until he dies.  The next issue in the fight is managing the adds.

Always in the past we have had 2 casters that are capable of shattering the constructs guarding each pool.  In this scenario the only pool where a construct will be shattered is the left side.  This allows us to have fewer casters tied up tending to the pool, and gives us a greater ease of recovery if one of them happens to go down.  We will continue to alternate our two deathknight offtanks, but the scorched earth will be in closer proximity and should allow for the adds to become molten faster.

This strategy worked beautifully on 10 man last night, and I am thinking it will translate extremely well to the 25 man version as well.  It takes care of many of the issues we seemed to have with the fight, and should make it more recoverable as a whole.  The biggest piece I believe is that the add maintenance should be far more reliable, since we are only really working in one smaller quadrant of the room.  Healing assignments should be much easier to maintain as well, and with everyone being clumped up we should be able to finally utilize our chain healers.

Raiding 101

BOY_SCHOOL_SWEDEN Apparently players are starting to think I actually know what I am talking about.  How I managed to fool them is a complete mystery, but Nibuca of Mystical Chicanery has asked for my assistance on her newly adopted project:  Raider 101.  The goal of the site is to be a Wiki document to help players who want to improve their raid game by offering tips, tricks and tutorials.  I’ve only just learned about the site’s existence today, but in the small amount of time I have looked around it seems like a rather valiant effort.  I will be looking through some of the warrior related information specifically and helping to tweak it a bit, so I will try my best not to screw things up.

It definitely looks like a great resource to send your guild, raid and friends to who are looking for help answering various class related issues.  Unlike wowwiki or elitist jerks, the information is distilled down into easy to read basic howto guides.  If you are looking for some assitance, especially with alts, I would highly suggest you spend a bit of time browsing through the wiki.

A Pirate’s Life For Me

ed3cheeks2 The last little bit today is a shameless commercial plug.  One of the founding members of House Stalwart,  Ed/Saggart/Sgian/Shadoes, has been working on a side project for the last several months.  At great personal expense to sanity he has become a member of the pirate band, The Musical Blades, and over the course of the summer has been touring the renfaire circuit with his unique brand of showmanship and musical prowess.  Many bands that frequent that scene are what I would call a Gimmick band, but in the case of the blades they are all truly amazing musicians capable of standing up against any act out there.

This past weekend they released their latest CD, “Live at Pubs and Pirate-Core”, which is a compilation of live recordings, piratecore and a few unreleased bonus tracks.  From what I have heard of the various tracks of the course of several lunch outings I would say its a good release.  I know over the past weekend at the St Louis renfaire they sold a good deal of copies.  While it still lacks my favorite track, “Run out the guns”, which is waiting in the wings for their next studio album, I was glad to see Derelict make its debut.

I would check out their myspace music page for some good examples of their repertoire, or if you are in the greater St. Louis area, they will be playing the next two weekends at the St. Louis Renaissance Festival.  I’ve gotten to hear a good deal of their unreleased material, and I have to say the next Studio album will be pretty amazing.  This is coming from me, who doesn’t normally go in for this style of music.  The festival atmosphere combined with perfect five part harmony is pretty near impossible to beat.

Main Tank’s Burden

weight of the raid on my shoulders Forgive me readers for I have sinned…  it has been 4 days since my last confession.  Friday was an extremely busy day for me, and then we had our long memorial day weekend here in the united states.  During which time I had zero desire to sit down and think of something worth reading.  I have all these “rainy day” topics in my head, but have been unable to bring myself to sit down and actually formulate them.

To further my sinning, I have begun to play a deathknight.  This is only a sin for those who know me well, and have heard me lament the fact that so many players abandoned “useful” classes to level a deathknight.  I lost my tanking partner in crime, an amazing feral druid named Sanctifi, to the dark class.  In addition to that we lost our best healing shaman to a deathknight.  However both were very open and up front about this, and both have become the two deathknights I look up to the most.  I patterned my DK after Roisen, at least in that I am leveling blood spec for maximum survivability.

I have to say that right now, leveling as a deathknight is much like I typed IDDQD in my chat window and turned entered “Degreelessness Mode”.  I started the weekend at 56 and as of last night was halfway through 64.  Right now he has taken the spot that the boomkin had, of my favorite non-raid activity.  If I keep this obsession up I will end up with a fourth 80 before I know it.  Yesterday I was happily playing along and “accidentally dinged”.  You can tell I am enjoying myself, when I am not watching the xp bar at all.  I need to slow down a bit, I have blown past my “leveling buddy”.

Dealing with the Guilt

does the empty chair go unnoticed? As the main tank of our guild and raid, I carry with me a large package of responsibility, and with that comes a large degree of guilt and pressure.  Last night we had planned a second night of 10 man ulduar, in an attempt to push on and get Assembly of Iron and maybe Auriaya.  However yesterday I woke up with immense back pain, which I attribute to the extremely uncomfortable chair I was forced to sit in at the lake on Sunday.  As the day drug on the pain got worse, and when we arrived home from the movies yesterday afternoon, I took one Flexeril that I had from a previous back injury.

It completely knocked me on my ass.  I tried laying down for a bit before raid time, which caused me to get online a few minutes late, but this really had zero effect.  As I stand there, in the rooms just prior to the Assembly of Iron trash, I was quite literally unable to keep my eyes open.  I knew that without a doubt I would wipe the raid multiple times that night.  A few players noted that they too were not really feeling up to raiding, so I thought that if I stepped up to the plate and announced that I just couldn’t handle it, the raid would eventually dissolve. 

I am finding out this morning that this was not the case.  So this morning I am dealing with a severe case of guilt as I abandoned the raid, and the other players who were also not feeling up to raiding, apparently swallowed it down and pushed onwards.  So for other players who bring to the table a key role in a raid…  how do you handle the guilt when you can’t make it?  I still feel like me stepping out was the best option both for me and the raid, but I can’t seem to get past the sense that I failed as a whole.  Had I known the drug was going to have such a serious effect I would have just dealt with the pain.

Dealing with the Obsolescence

feeling like I am ready for the junk heap The other thing I am struggling with this morning is the general feeling of being obsolete.  It is really hard not to feel like the fate of the raid rests on your shoulders.  When you are reminded of the fact that your presence really doesn’t matter that much, it is kind of hard to swallow.  Last night, not only did the raid move on without a hitch in my absence, but they apparently downed a brand new boss.  Which of course, dropped a new piece of tanking gear, giving our off tank one more piece of gear ahead of me.  So this morning I am also struggling with that feeling that maybe my raid doesn’t need me at all. 

There are times I feel pretty bulletproof, but there are also times that I feel like I am wearing paper armor.  I am one of those players that strives to make sure I have the best possible gear for every situation.  It feels like, especially in Ulduar, that our class is even more gear dependant than it has been in the past.  With the crappy luck that I have had recently in getting the upgrades that I really need to remain viable, I am feeling very outmoded and ready for the recycle bin.

I should be excited and happy, that I have somehow managed to build a raid that is self healing and can keep moving along happily in my absence.  On so many levels I am, because I am proud of the fact that we have so many leaders in Stalwart, that any one of them can pick up the slack when something goes wrong.  But at the same time, it is very much a blow to my ego.  How dare the world not grind to a halt when I can’t be there!  I say that in joking, but at the same time, it is a bit disheartening that things went so smoothly without me.

Leading by Example

Giving of myself, the good and the bad I felt it was important to make a post like this.  I have posted a good deal of raid and guild advice in the last few weeks.  All of it has been nurtured and compiled over years of leading a guild and raid.  But by the same token, I think its important for you the public, to see that even though the final product comes together smoothly, I have the same fears and doubts that every player has.  I am by no means special in any way other than the fact that I have a good bunch of loyal friends who will seemingly follow me to the gates of hell itself.

I am very much the type of person who will admit when I don’t know an answer.  Often times I don’t know, or don’t even know where to look.  However I am always willing to work through things as they come along.  Right now I feel guilty for abandoning my raid for the good of my own health, but I know that it was the right decision as I hit the pillow at 8 pm and didn’t wake for a second until the alarm went off this morning at 5 am.  Right now I feel obsolete because of the shitty luck I have had with gear, and the success that the raid has had without me.  However I know that many players simply feel more comfortable on the nights they are there, and that while things go successfully, they don’t necessarily go smoothly.  Me making this post, is in a way working through the issues I don’t know the solutions to publically. 

Just one of those days

blue-screen-of-death1 Every now and then you have a day when your normal pattern goes out the window.  This is one of those days.  I’ve juggled meetings, fires, phone calls, and all the while trying to wrap up one of my projects for a meeting at 4 pm.  Normally I spend my lunch hour devising my daily post and then writing it up when I get back into the office. 

Some days I set out in the morning knowing roughly what I am going to write about, other days the spark of inspiration comes to me throughout the course of the morning or during my lunch excursion.  Today… the spark has failed to find me.  I considered licking my Jeep’s battery at lunch for a “jolt” of inspiration, but I didn’t figure the raid wanted to take the chance of me going into cardiac arrest when we have so much to clear.  So here I sit, trying to steal a few minutes of time to sit down and compose anything worth while for my readers.  I have already typed two whole paragraphs so I seem to be actually doing this.

Forgotten-ramas

naxxramas-1280x Last night was pretty frantic.  I had a slew of errands to run, involving the dreaded act of shopping.  I carefully juggling a list of items to buy at the grocery store, hurriedly put them away and made a plate to eat, all the while trying not to pass out from the heat.  When I finally sat down, frustrated and surly, I was looking forward to a quiet evening doing nothing much.  Alas this was not apparently the plan.

Last Sunday I had tried to help a friend get his other guilds 25 man Naxxramas run off the ground.  Unfortunately 11 am on a Sunday is a piss poor time to try and plan a raid on Argent Dawn.  After standing around for an hour trying to make people appear magically out of the ether, something I do quite often if you have read many of my posts.  They finally called the raid, and now here comes the tricky part, agreed that they would shoot for Wednesday, a part that I had apparently completely blocked out of my memory.

So imagine how utterly confused I was when I logged in last night to a barrage of tells from Lenwen, informing me of how many they were able to get so far for “the raid”.  So in my attempt to be a good friend, I resolved to spending my evening in a raid group.  The positive however is that I would be taking my relatively newly minted boomkin, Loamis.  After about 45 minutes of haranguing players to join the effort we entered the zone.

For Honor

Project_Stormwind___VoH002_WIP_by_Kjasi It was for honor’s sake that I kept my word and attended the raid last night, and it was apt that the guild leading the raid was in fact named “For Honor”.  I have had minimal exposure to them, but so far I have to say they are a pretty like minded guild.  Shalomz was the raid lead, and did a great job keeping us moving along quickly, and at the same time still doing a great job healing while trying to juggle loot master responsibilities. 

They currently really only raid 10 man instances, other than trying to pug together a 25 man Naxxramas.  While we had a few players that I would label as terribad last night, all of the “For Honor players seemed to really know their classes and be able to perform the roles assigned.  We had a few weak links in the healing and tanking teams, but overall the night went pretty smoothly given the very late start.  Really hoping that a few of the players take up my offer and apply to Duranub.  We could use the infusion of fresh players and fresh ideas…  especially some fresh caster dps.

R.I.P. WoW Insider

Rest In Peace.... Clean UI Design Late Tuesday, the beloved WoW news sight transitioned from WoWInsider.com to more flashy WoW.com.  With it went the clean and easy to read layout, that was replaced by a cluttered and confused one.  No longer is the site a pure news venture, but instead a bizarre WoW Social Networking/Twitter clone.  It would be hard for me to put into words how much I dislike the fact that they took this direction. 

However, now that they have, we the formerly loyal readers will have to adjust.  With the horrible layout comes a bunch of fairly slick features.  If you notice on the sidebar, there is a new wow.com profile link.  This links to my new Belghast profile page, which is much like your standard facebook-era social networking page.  The core functionality that will be the make or break feature of the design is the incorporation of an addon that promises to give you the ability to post twitter like “micro blog” entries from inside the wow interface. 

In additional to user written entries it also keeps a running log of various status changes in game, in the vein of keeping your friends updated on what you are doing.  Because of the raid last night, I did not really get time to set up the UI portion, but the blogger WoWGrrl has a good example of the type of feed you get with normal play. I hope to get my addon set up and feeding data by raid time.  The service offering reminds me of a much more verbose version of Raptr.com, which by all notions should have become a much bigger player in the “social gaming” community than it ever did.

The Fish Feast Effect

mmmmm tastes like chic... err fish In closing, I present to you the fish feast effect.  When I presented the quandary, that I was busy and uninspired… Bellwether at 4Haelz suggested that I write about the Fish Feast effect.  Basically the general Fish Feast Effect happens only to the players who are responsible enough to bring their own class based stat food to a raid.  As soon as one or more of these players choose to each their own food, in an obsessive act of preparation for the coming fight, a fish feast will be “donated” to the raid. 

It is a truism that no fish feast may be laid down until at least one playing, preferably one of the more anal retentive players, has begun to eat their own food.  Bonus points are given if you can time the Fish Feast so that they have begun to eat, but not yet received the well fed buff.  It is also necessary that no less than one druid in bear or moonkin form must eat so that it places their butt firmly on top of the recently grounded platter, thereby making it difficult for additional players to benefit from the “feast”. 

 

Keep an open eye, and always observe the fish feast effect

When the Levee Breaks

2007543-lg Sometimes you just have those nights when the stars are aligned against you.  Last night was one of these nights, that for a whole series of events that could not be avoided lead to a very painful experience.  All of the members in attendance performed to the best of their abilities, paid attention on all encounters, worked amazingly well as a team…  the problem is there simply were not enough of them available.  We had to PUG in 6 players who were massively under geared for the encounters we were doing, and as a result performed much like extremely under geared players.

With the onset of summer this seems to be coming to be more and more of an issue.  Duranub is made up of mostly “30 something’s” with honest to god lives outside of the game.  As a result things come up that make them unavailable at times.  Lately these have been happening in clusters, where we either have a feast of great players available, or we are having to scrape hard to be able to pull together any raid at all.  Nothing is more frustrating than desperately working your friends list and social channels trying to make those last few players magically appear.

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

20080628002112_bridge over troubled water small So here we stand at a very difficult decision point.  We need to somehow bridge this gap in our membership, so that we can continue to keep moving forward.  We have never really recruited members openly.  Our raid has been one that has grown organically through our network of friends and family, growing as players came available and fit well with our mixture of personalities.  However there has been a rash of players needing to hang up their hat temporarily, encountering everything from spousal aggro to complete and total system meltdowns.  With each absence from the group our pool of alternate players has been stretched thinner forcing us to take players who are either underperforming or not quite on the gear level of the encounters we face.

The biggest question standing before us is, where do you find good players?  It’s often hard to find dedicated and skilled players who are at the same time not mercenaries or elitist jerks.  We have carefully fit players for our overall group dynamic as a whole, often times taking players who mean well and are hard workers over players who are genius players but know it.  I’ve always been a cautious warden of the mixture of personalities our raid has, and the thought of moving to open cattle call recruiting really concerns me.

A Few Good Men… Women… Peoples?

uncle_sam No matter how distasteful recruitment is to me, we have to do something, and do it quickly.  We have all worked and fought too hard to make this raid work, to let it start to flicker out through lapses in attendance.  We have a lot of positives on our side.  Our loot system is very open to new players allowing them to often times win gear on their first outing.  The fact that we raid separate from guilds, and later in the evening appeals to many older social gamers, who are like me unwilling to leave their guild just to raid.  All this paired, with the fact that we are fairly successful considering we only raid 5 hours per week should put us in the positive column for many of the players that would fit our group dynamic.

Right now we are trying to furiously work all our contacts and reel in any players who have been waiting in the wings for something to open up.  On top of this, we posted on WoW Headhunter, a nifty tool for fielding incoming applications.  It allows players to apply directly through there and offers some cool tools for promoting your recruitment drive, which I am embedding below.

In addition to WoW headhunter, I re-upped my recruitment post on WoWRaid.  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on who you are looking at it, their UI appears to be broken and even though I only clicked the four bosses we had downed in Ulduar, it is giving us credit for clearing the zone.  We had actually already received one player through this tool, but unfortunately he was quite a bit under geared for Ulduar.  This is one of the weaknesses we have.  Since we only have 5 hours of official raiding time, there is no time to farm old content for the purpose of gearing up new members.  I fear we are going to have to do some kind of official “un-official” 25 man Naxxramas weekly as we try and gear up a new crop of players.

 

If you are on the Argent Dawn server and looking for a good place to hang your hat, please consider applying.

Failure for Winners

There is not a single player who can honestly state that they enjoy a night filled with wipes.  However a good failure can often times do more for your raid than an easy win.  When you steamroll content, much like players did in Naxxramas, there were little to no lessons learned.  However in the face of a hard fought battle, it presents the opportunity for players to truly evaluate their own role in the raid, and how best they can modify their actions to provide that elusive win.  Most raid groups see failure as a bad thing, but in the light of new content, I see how we fail as being far more important than how we succeed.

Fail Often, and Fail Well!

I present to you the concept of how to “fail” successfully.  My goal in this post is to outline some of the basic processes that a good raid should go through as they present content that is obviously kicking their butts.  Like anything in this game, or life in general, failure gives you the opportunity to fully understand why things are going wrong and as a result give you insight in how to fix the issues at hand. 

There is a concept called “deep practice”, quickly gaining popularity in the sporting world.  It revolves around the concept of understanding your mistakes, diagnosing them, and then adjusting them in small batches until the whole activity becomes easier.  This same basic approach can quickly turn a fight that your raid cannot seem to grasp into a farmed encounter.

Diagnose the Problem

Give the problem a careful eye The first step in fixing and issue is understanding what caused it in the first place.  You need to quickly deconstruct the issue at hand.  View the situation quickly from all angles.  Did the tank take an unexpected burst of damage?  Did adds not get handled correctly?  Did players die to environmental damage or were not in the right place at the right time?  You need to take a critical eye at the previous attempt, outline what mistakes were made, and address them openly.

So many times this can break down a read into a flurry of accusations, where each player is certain they did nothing wrong.  It is important for everyone to be willing to evaluate their own performance as it pertains to that of the whole.  If for some reason, a player is getting overwhelmed in their role there is no shame in asking for some assistance.  Last week on XT, our mages were being overwhelmed by adds and unable to pour out enough damage to keep them cleared.  As soon as this key fault was identified we adjusted and came back the next attempt and pulled out a victory.

A willingness to view your own actions with an introspective eye is crucial.  You must be willing to accept faults as you make them, and at the same time be willing to adjust accordingly.  There have been many fights where the issue sat on my shoulders.  I don’t believe anyone thinks I am a lesser player for having screwed up.  But instead respected me, for admitting it freely and in turn trying to decide how to effect a change.

Brainstorm the Solution

Throw out ideas Once the problem is understood, comes the hard phase of deciding how best to fix it.  One of the mistakes we made early in the process of Duranub, is to try and take all strategy discussion offline.  We have traditionally done this in channel separate from the raid, letting the strategists brainstorm a solution.  We are slowly trying to change this.  I believe now that it is key to involve as much of the raid as possible in the process.

The druid that rarely speaks up, might just have noticed something that the rest of the group has not.  Sometimes these little revelations provide the evidence that adds up to the answer.  Critical thinking is key in the process of crafting an alternate change.  Discuss the tanking, the dps, the add management, the healing, and the placement.  You can quickly determine which components were working well, and which need adjustments.

Be Flexible and Willing to Change

FlexibleWire It’s hard to think for yourself sometimes.  In a game like WoW we get to draw on the experience of the players who have come before us, but at the same time these experiences can often times pollute our own thought processes.  If a strategy is not working for you, then its important that you are willing to adjust to take into account the strengths and weaknesses of your group.  One of the biggest lessons I have learned is there is no one right way. Reading Tankspot, WoWWiki, and StratFu can give you a basic understanding of the working parts, but ultimate you need tailor your strategy to fit your own group.

In a previous raid group, we struggled with a certain fight for over a month, in part because of the inflexibility of our strategy.  With bullheaded certainty we kept attacking the encounter with fervent certainty that we were “doing it right”.  Benjamin Franklin said that "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”.  The week our leadership finally accepted the concept that there might be an easier way, and adjusted to handling the adds in a different manner we got our first kill.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking there is only one means to an end.

Never Give Up

Stay Stalwart.... no Pun Intended It’s easy to, as my father says, “Get your dobber in the dirt”, and stop trying as hard as you should be when things seem hopeless.  This is the natural response when presented with a task, that seems insurmountable.  Much like working a rubic’s cube, if you diagnose the problems, make adjustments and try again, sooner or later the pieces will slide together.  Many times when you fix one issue, it will lead to uncovering a problem that was somehow hidden.  The important part is your resolve to keep at the task at hand until all the issues are resolved.

As a programmer, I have never written a single piece of software that ran flawlessly the first time.  There are always little tweaks, changes, fixes, that come out through the process of debugging.  As a leader and member of your raid, you have to be willing to “debug” everything around you.  Start with yourself, and move outward, fixing each problem you see as you go. 

Often times you can spot an issue that you have already solved in the players around you.  As you give advice to your fellow players, its important that you do so in a gracious and non-judgmental fashion.  Many times players are “screwing up”, in the first place because they either do not understand the situation or their role in it.  Aggressively going after another player only causes them to close down to suggestions, and in the end leads to a disgruntled member who won’t be giving their all to the group.  As I have said before, raiding is a team sport, and its important that we all arrive together at the same place.

Always Remember

Elephants Never Forget! This is probably the most important part of the equation.  While things get a new coat of paint from time to time, there are very few truly new things.  Each encounter you see from this point on will have some connection to activates you have done in your past.  How many times have you heard a seasoned raider describe a current fight to working like an old world encounter with only a minor twist.  If you can reach a point where you can easily identify this connective tissue ahead of time, you will be able to adjust and more accurately build solutions.  Your experience counts, so its important for you to remember the problem as well as the solution.

Taking one for the Team

Iron Balls McGinty!! When the 3.1 patch landed, most warrior tanks like myself were excited about the prospect of finally being able to pick up a solid dps spec without having to sacrifice our tanking ability.  This was a fun notion for awhile, and through the course of running a good deal of 10 and 25 man content, I had amassed a decent fury and arms gear set.  I have been able to shift to my present fury offspec and deal a good amount of damage when needed.

However the grand idea about having two specs was that in some way it would make grinding quests and farming materials more enjoyable.  Alas this really wasn’t the case, as all the sudden I started having to carry non-stat food and more bandages for the purpose of…  healing.  Gone was the ability to roll from pack to pack with no downtime and no need for any healing.  No longer could I easily solo over world elites that seem to pop up from time to time in Icecrown when you least expect them.

So what do I end up doing?  I end up carrying around a set of dps gear that never gets used as I continue to grind happily in full protection gear and tanking spec.  Of late the fact that I have this unused second slot has begun to bother me.  I have a level 80 Boomkin that is getting to be pretty well geared, and a 80 Retribution paladin who is more than ready for Ulduar dps.  Trying to maintain the notion of Belghast as any form of DPSer already seems pretty defeatist compared to my other options.

Cookie Specs are fail

Evil Cookie Cutter of Puzzling Doom! I’ve never been a huge proponent of the cookie cutter spec.  While I generally suggest a newer player “pick” one of the general spec designs I view these like riding a bicycle with training wheels on.  You use the tried and tested design until you get a feel for your own particular play style, and then after that you choose a spec that is tailored towards your own style.  If you look at most of the higher end players, they make little deviations here and there from the “accepted best spec”.

In a raid I have been expected to fill two very distinct roles.  I am our main tank, meaning that I need really solid single target threat generation.  This role also requires that I have as many tricks up my sleeve for being able to survive those big boss hits.  There are many talents available on the fringes of the trees that offer some added survival.  In addition the deep wounds ability allows you to general really great single target threat.

The second role I play in a raid is tanking trash, and even though blizzard denoted that Ulduar was the crowd control instance… we still end up pulling everything and AOE tanking it down. In this role you need to general a lot of threat on as many targets as possible.  The bread and butter of this process has been the glyph of cleaving.  This allows me to hit 3 targets with the equivalent of a Heroic Strike, which is really great for pissing off many of targets at the same time.  Combining this with Thunder Clap and Shockwave allows the warrior to have much of the same AOE tanking utility of a paladin, even if we have to work much harder to get it.

As a result of these two very different roles I have been forced to shoot down the middle and build a hybrid design that attempts to be the best of both worlds.  Going with a hybrid design means that I am losing some of my survival ability, but also not maximizing my potential for AOE threat generation.  I have been kicking around the idea for awhile of scrapping my unused DPS spec, for the purpose of designating two very distinct and unique builds for the purpose of being the best I can be at both roles.

Making Lots of People Angry… at once

Whirlwind!!! RUN AWAY!!! Okay so the first design I have been kicking around is a build to attempt to maximize the warrior talents for the purpose of generating AOE threat.  Several weeks back I experimented with a build that used Unbridled Wrath, and Improved Cleave in order to give me massive AOE spamming damage.  This turned out to be a great build for tanking heroics and trash, but a fairly horrible build for boss tanking, as I had more rage than I could ever actually spend, and as a result had to give up some of my defensive ability.  However for the purpose of building my new AOE tanking spec, this served as a great building block.

5 / 15 / 51

The build is much the same as my previous design with one small tweak.  Since the entire purpose of my spec is to the best job at holding multiple targets I added Piercing Howl, which should do well at both adding cheap threat to a large number of targets, and dazing targets for the purpose of kiting them.  I only go 5 pts into the arms tree since talents like Improved Heroic Strike are defeatist for this design.  I will be using Cleave as my aggro dump, and for the most part will only ever touch Heroic Strike if I find myself taking enough damage to peg my rage.

Primary Abilities

    

Glyph of ShockwaveGlyph of CleavingGlyph of Vigilance

Other major usage abilities will apply like Revenge if its available, but the above are the primary attacks.  If sword and board procs we will be hitting the primary target with a free Shield Slam, but much like the revenge procs since single target aggro is not our focus I did not directly list them in the mix.  The goal of the build is to be able to charge into a pack and hit as many targets hard and fast so that your AOE does not have to hold back for long.  We are using the Glyph of Vigilance for the purpose of placing this on your primary AOE damage dealer.  This spec design is untested at this point, but I plan on giving it a thorough  workout tonight in 10 Man Ulduar.

How not to get hurt… srsly

Cute but DeadlyThe second spec is built around the concept of dropping some of the AOE friendly warrior talents in order to buff up some of the survivability.  Since we wont be needing to AOE tank things, it allows us to drop some of the talents like Improved Thunder Clap and Shockwave, and pick up some talents like Improved Disciplines that give you more survivability.  In addition to these we move down far enough into the arms tree to pick up Deep Wounds, which will give me a great threat return on rage spent.

16 / 3 / 52

Primary Abilities

 

Glyph of BlockingGlyph of Last StandGlyph of Shield Wall

Like most single target builds this is designed to use Shield Slam and Revenge if they are up, then I throw in the usage of Concussion Blow because it is a high threat ability with a long recycle.  Last priority is to stack Devastate and use Heroic Strike as your rage dump.  We are relying on Glyph of Blocking to be proccing often from the shield slams and giving us a constant flow of Revenge ability procs.  Glyph of Last Stand and Glyph of Shield Wall are in the mix to give us faster recycle on our primary oh shit buttons for maximum survivability.  This will play a more critical role on longer fights, where I will be able to use these more frequently to give healing a break.  Again this build has not been tested fully, but I plan on giving it a work out in 10 man Ulduar tonight as well.

Bulletproof

I'm the Juggernaut Biatch! Well… not really, but my idea is to be able to be the best of both worlds.  Sure I lose my ability to “lolfury dps” in instances, but I also add more utility to the raid as a whole.  Hopefully allowing me to shift from being the best single target tank, to being one of the best AOE tanks at the push of a button.  I created Belghast solely for the purpose of tanking, so its fitting that as we gain more flexibility with our classes, I turn around and use it to become a better tank.  Besides, when you have 3 fairly well geared 80s, you can afford to specialize each of them for a unique purpose.

My goal as always, is to be the best tank I can be and I think this new path is going to lead me to that goal.  I want to be able to generate as much threat as I can, but at the same time be easy for my healers to heal.  It is all about the team effort, and I think being able to switch hit between two distinct tanking roles will give me a lot of options as we move through the content.  The single target build will give me the survivability I need for progression content, and the AOE build will allow me to still tank content below my gear level easily without rage starvation.

 

Belghast – Soon to be Prot/Prot Warrior

Herding Cats

Roll'em Roll'em Roll'em “Herding Cats” is the term I have used many times when trying to describe the process of leading a 25 man raid.  Trying to take 24 other unique personalities, skillsets, and agendas and somehow get them to meld into one purpose is mindboggling at times.  It is quite literally like trying to get a room full of cats to all march into the bedroom at the same time.  Most of the time I can’t even get my cats stop trying to lay between me and the keyboard.

This week was a pretty solid one.  As mentioned earlier we downed Leviathan and Razorscale on Tuesday and after a few attempts managed to get our first Ignis kill.  This left us our entire Thursday raid to work on pulling together the XT-002 Deconstructor fight.  Last week the impromptu 10 man Ulduar I was part of managed to nail this fight without much issues, so the officers at least knew the basics of the fight first hand.  It came down to a matter of testing our ability to convey the basic concepts and get 24 other people to function as needed.

Nine Lives Lost

xt002_down Over the course of nine attempts, we tweaked, prodded, and changed strategies trying to tighten up the fight and improve our performance.  We tried several things in the mix; having everyone clump up, having everyone spread out, mages take care of the corners.  The final magical mix for us at least turned out to be, a deathknight picking up the pummelers, and mages and hunters handling the bombs.  After each heart phase ALL dps would fan out and clear the scrapbots, then return to the boss to burn him to the phase.

While it took us many of attempts, each time we got a little bit closer to the goal.  We had players who had never really spoken up before, calling out status updates and giving suggestions.  The communication of the raid was better than it really ever has been to this point.  We had a few problem children causing several of the wipes but with time we adjusted strategies to take this into account.  One of the pieces we realized late in the game is that the scrap-bots were literally too much for our mages to handle alone.  Once we had all of our DPS fan out and clean up the adds, we were able to burn him the entire way.  We moved more quickly and efficiently.  We managed to get our first XT-002 kill and at the same time get two different achievements.

xt002deconstructor

Signet of the EarthshakerThunderfall TotemTwisted Visage

Heroic: Nerf Gravity BombsHeroic: Nerf Engineering

We got our second click moment for the week.  There were so many great performances this week, but I have to give some extra special kudos to our heal team.  This is a very heavy damage fight, and required a constant stream of heals flowing into me to keep me upright.  For most of the fight each hit I was receiving was between 20,000-25,000 damage per swing.  So if I did not have complete faith in my healers there is no way I could have tanked this fight.  After awhile you just have to keep your head down and stop watching your bar so closely.  Careful use of my oh shit buttons, and communicating it with my healers I think helped the fight overall.

No Gain Without Pain

The day after I am starting to get some rumbling about various members of our raid complaining about the large number of wipes last night.  Unfortunately…  we are now doing REAL raid content, and wiping while learning is the stark reality of progress.  I blame Karazhan and Naxxramas for bringing about a feeling that raid bosses should be pretty easily learned.  In truth I don’t feel like anything we did in Naxx was terribly hard, it was a simple matter of stopping people from doing stupid things.

In Ulduar the fights so far all have one or two aspects that are raid wiping events.  One player not doing what they should be doing can start a cascade effect leading to the ultimate death of the raid.  Sure we wiped nine times before we got the mix down, but the fight attempt, as evidenced by the fact we got two achievements, was a near flawless execution.  I personally would far rather spend one entire night working on getting a fight stable, so that when it finally clicks into place we know we have it solid, than spending dragging the learning process out over a few weeks.  Each rapid succession try allowed us to adjust quickly to see what was going to work for us and what was ultimate not.

Ulduar is quickly sifting the players into two groups;  those who are progression focused and willing to do whatever it takes to make our raid better, and those who probably would have preferred to stay farming Naxxramas.  Progression hurts, but until another raid member can beat my repair bills I will probably continue to have little sympathy.  Were we not making progress last night, we would have not kept pushing forward.  However each individual attempt got us a little bit closer to the goal, allowing us to tune the effort and push out a win.

We proved we were better than we have been