It has been nearly a month since the release of cataclysm, and one thing is certain… we aren’t in Kansas anymore. Long gone is the wrath era of brute forcing instances with easy AOE tanking. Long gone is the era of healers being able to spam the tank through anything. What is left in its wake is a series of instances that require actual forethought and planning to complete them successfully.
Over the last few weeks I have noticed a real reluctance in my guild at least, to run heroics. There is a certain amount of fear surrounding them, so this has created a divide between the haves and have-nots. There is a group of stubborn individuals that have waded waist deep in the heroic madness and as a result have come out extremely well geared replacing every slot with heroic level items or at best epics.
The other group of players, has timidly stuck their feet in the water only to get them chopped off. During the wrath era we as a player base were used to steamrolling content without really trying. Instead we have returned to the burning crusade style of dungeon running, where even in great gear you can wipe quickly if you don’t keep focused. I come to tell you all there is hope, so long as you approach these instances with patience and understanding that you will be wiping, you can walk away with upgrades and more importantly experience.
Forming the Party
Back in June of 2009, I created a series of blog posts that I titled Groupcraft 101. It covered the key skills needed to successfully form groups, and for the most part everything I said then applies today. However during the wrath era, crowd control was an unneeded hindrance to generating threat on multiple targets. So as a result we pushed hard through the instances, tanking them by the seat of our pants. Today, party balance is more important than it ever was.
Get the Tank and Healer First
The key to forming a group fast is to lock down your tank and healer roles first. Generally speaking as a tank, I have a good working relationship with all the guild healers and many of the server community ones. As a result it becomes trivial for me to find a healer willing to run an instance. As a DPS however you need to keep lists of both tanks and healers.
What I find works best is to message the healers and tanks directly. In general, your tanks and healers stay busy the majority of the time. I know personally I am unlikely to notice a request in open guild chat or chat channels. When I am not tanking an instance, I am furiously working on dailies. As a result it tends to work best to message the tanks and healers directly.
Get Balanced DPS
Now that you have your tank and healer, its time to move onto picking out some dps. In general once you have the core of your group locked down, picking up a few dps goes quickly. There are definitely some things you need to think about while forming your party. Firstly try and make as balanced a group as possible.
Pointers for a Balanced Group
- Choose a good mixture of both ranged and melee
- Make sure you have at least 2 forms of crowd control
- Try and choose 3 different classes for your dps
- Try and choose a mix of plate, mail, leather and cloth classes to limit loot contention
- Make sure you state what you are expecting out of the players up front
Know your Crowd Control
Now that you have a well balanced group formed it is important that you understand what each of the classes brings to the table. In wrath, our dps were essentially big dumb cannons and all that we really cared about was how much raw damage they could push. In cataclysm, a player needs to be able to master all of the abilities of their class. Interrupts need to be applied often, enrage effects need to be tranquilized and most importantly all of the crowd control methods need to be mastered. Here is a quick rundown of various classes and what kinds of crowd control they can bring to the table.
- Chains of Ice – While not a solid form of crowd control, can be used to help kite mobs for the party. Kiting a hard hitting mob has become a very viable way to help break up the damage being dealt to the tank.
- Entangling Roots – Rooting melee mobs is a very effective way of locking something down. Breaks unpredictably, so druid will need to watch it and be prepared to reapply.
- Hibernate – Very effective way of keeping a beast or dragonkin locked down for 40 seconds.
- Cyclone – Locks target down for 6 seconds, mana intensive and needs to be reapplied often. Very susceptible to diminishing returns.
- Freezing Trap – One of the most versatile means of locking down a target, with the right talents a hunter can even keep two targets trapped at once.
- Wyvern Sting – Puts target to sleep for 30 seconds, however the cool down is 1 minute. Good to use as a CC for when something breaks unexpectedly.
- Polymorph – The traditional pinnacle of crowd control. Stable, can be reapplied quickly, and works on both beasts and humanoids.
- Frost Nova – Freezes all targets near caster for 8 seconds. Not stable CC, but great for stopping incoming damage in a pinch.
- Ring of Frost – Improved version of frost nova, places target on ground and freezes everything in it for 10 seconds. Again handy for stopping damage from unexpected adds and giving time for more stable cc to be applied.
- Repentance – Retribution paladins can lock down demons, dragonkin, giants, humanoids and undead for 1 minute. Negative is that the cool down is also 1 minute, so it cannot be reapplied early to keep a target locked down.
- Hammer of Justice – Stuns target for 6 seconds. Great for stopping incoming damage and buying time to lock the target down with another form of crowd control.
- Turn Evil – Fears a demon or undead for up to 20 seconds. Not the most stable crowd control but great in a pinch, and in areas without large number of adds. Remember using this one alot on the Moroes fight in Karazhan.
- Shackle Undead – definitive undead crowd control. Shackles a target for 50 seconds, can be repplied early to keep a mob locked down for longer.
- Mind Control – For dps priest, this is a great way to keep the most annoying mob in the pack locked down. Lasts up to 30 seconds, cannot be reapplied early so a stun or similar short term CC might be needed to allow priest to reacquire.
- Psychic Scream – Causes 5 targets nearest to caster to flee for 8 seconds. Great way to get targets off of the priest temporarily, or scatter unexpected adds long enough to allow dps to finish off a current target.
- Psychic Horror – Causes target to tremble in fear for 3 seconds, and disarms them for 10 seconds. Another short term crowd control.
- Sap – Incapacitates a beast, demon, dragonkin or humanoid for 1 minute. Negative is that it cannot be reapplied.
- Blind – Incapacitates a target for 10 seconds. Great short term crowd control.
- Gouge – Incapacitates a target for 4 seconds. Another good short term stun.
- Kidney Shot – Stuns a target for up to 6 seconds (dependant on combo points).
- Cheap Shot – Stuns a target for 4 seconds. Not extremely useful as it is an opener from stealth, but if desperate to buy the party a few seconds of time this paired with a vanish can help separate a pack.
- Bind Elemental – New to Cataclysm, works like Shackle Undead but for Elementals. Binds target elemental for 50 seconds, can be reapplied early.
- Hex – The Sturdy "sheep". Transforms target Humanoid or Beast into a frog for 1 minute. 45 second cool down so if you are careful you can reapply early. Fairly resistant to occasional AOE damage.
- Earthbind Totem – Falls into the same category as chains of frost, useful for slowing mobs while kiting.
- Fear – When glyphed this because a great crowd control. Causes target to be feared in place for 20 seconds.
- Enslave Demon – Controls a demon for up to 5 minutes. Great way to remove a mob from the pack and turn it into a pet.
- Banish – Banishes a Demon or Elemental for up to 30 seconds.
- Death Coil – Fears target for 3 seconds, great way to temporarily reduce damage to the party.
- Seduction – Succubus is able to seduce a target humanoid for 30 seconds.
- Intimidating Shout – Causes 5 targets nearest to caster to flee for 8 seconds. Short term crowd control.
- Intercept – Charges to target and stuns them for 3 seconds. Short term crowd control/interrupt.
- Hamstring – Slows target movement by 50%, useful for letting a warrior kite a mob away.
Sheep the Moon
Now that you are comfortable with all the possible crowd control options at your disposal, it is time to think about how you plan on marking the targets. Its important to set up a scheme, and assign certain players certain symbols. I’ve been in groups that randomly mark targets with no real semblance of order. The problem with this is that each pull you end up having to explain what the targets mean, which slows down the run.
If you choose a stable symbology, it allows you to mark the targets quickly, and the crowd control to know immediately which target they should focus on. For example, I always mark sheep or hex with the moon and I always use square for the trap. This allows players in the guild to have an understanding of how I will always mark the targets.
Equally as important as is to agree on some method of pulling. When on ventrilo I usually give my CC a countdown of “pulling in 3, 2, 1”. When running with a hunter, since trapping takes some setup time, we often agree CC on hunter trap. Regardless of what you choose, it is important to explain to your party what methodology you plan on using, and stick to it from pull to pull.
Pass the Prozac
With all of the above taken care of we move on to the final and most important thing to a successful heroic. Stay calm, be patient, and understand that more than likely you will be wiping more than once during the course of your heroic. My first time in Stonecore, we wiped 3-4 times per boss while we were getting used to it, and I still considered it a very successful run. So long as everyone stays calm and focused on the fights you will recover quickly from any mishaps and keep progressing forward.
Cataclysm has been a return to the core fundamentals of instancing, and with it there have been alot of growing pains especially for those who never spent time wiping in burning crusade heroics. Truth be told, wrath was an extremely easy expansion, and as a whole it made even us veteran players soft. There is alot of things we all will have to unlearn and or relearn. I know personally I have to stay in contact with my healer and watch my cool downs anytime unexpected bursts of damage come in, or the healer runs into mana shortages. Likewise the DPS needs to do everything they can to reduce the damage they are potentially taking, and stay in communication with the group as a whole to make sure crowd control targets are covered and kept locked down.
So long as your group is able to keep a level head, and is willing to constantly keep adapting and learning you will quickly get used to the ramped up difficulty. Last night I gathered a group of guild members and managed to run 3 heroics in a row with only one wipe due to a bad pull. Each of us have been running heroics on a daily basis, and as a result we are used to the ebb and flow of the instances, and now know which mobs to crowd control, which to kill first, and which to try and avoid. Before long your own groups will move as smoothly, and your gear score will improve with the influx of new heroic items.