Tips for tankadins in the Walled City

I realize that I haven’t put anything up here for a good long while, and for that, I apologize.

While I’ve been slacking with the blogging side of things, over in the World of Warcraft, we’ve had a new expansion, and with it, new raids!  (Thank goodness for that; while Siege of Orgrimmar was a decent raid, we went way too long between the raid releasing and us heading off to Draenor.)  In the spirit of the old “The Light and How To Swing It” column on WoW Insider (may it rest in peace), I’ve put together some tips for tankadins that they might find useful when taking on Highmaul.

I’ll be grouping these posts as per Raid Finder Wings, so for now, I’ll be covering Kargath, The Butcher and Brackenspore (before people write in to tell me that you can go straight from Kar’gath to Twin Ogron and skip the bits in between if you really want to).  Don’t worry, these fights will be coming soon.

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The last three months

I must apologise for the lack of updates over the past while — real life suddenly got very, very busy.  I’ll sum up what I’ve been up to:

Work stuffs

I left Web Africa at the end of November 2013: several internal changes made in 2013 transformed the company from an awesome place to work to a totally hideous place to work.  (And, from general sentiment on MyBroadband, a totally hideous place to do business with as well now.)  I’m now over at Khanyisa Real Systems, which is another awesome place to work: small, everyone has fun while working hard at the same time, new technologies to play with, I’m no longer bored out of my skull… it’s how the development department at Web Africa was before upper management wrecked it.

Of course, this means that I have to update the About Me page again.  I’ll do this Soon™.

Family stuffs

Some of you reading this already know, but for those who don’t: Little Annoying Sister is expecting her first child in late June.  Tim, Kelle and Amy have already taken to calling me “Uncle Won-Won”… yeah, that title isn’t going away any time soon.

Relationship stuffs

Amy and I have been up to all kinds of awesome/crazy things lately — an awesome weekend going back in time to the Victorian era at Matjiesfontein, acting like tourists in our own city — it’s been fun.  I’ve obviously been slacking with putting write ups on here, but Amy has been posting our adventures on her own blog, so I’m just going to redirect you all there.

Location stuffs

Due to (1) new work location, (2) proximity to Little Annoying Sister and her Future Spawnling and (3) proximity to Amy, I’m relocating back to the Southern Suburbs (specifically: Rosebank) at the end of this month — though, I’m going to really miss living with Tim and Kelle.  Blog updates will probably stop dead again until Telkom wires my new place up.  Probably in a few years or so.

World of Warcraft stuffs

We had a lull since my post detailing our Kor’kron Dark Shaman kill due to people not being around due to end of year work pressures, then people not being around for December/January holidays, then people deciding not to raid any more and me having to recruit new people and gear them up.  We’ve slowly ramped back up since mid-January though, and are currently working on Siegecrafter Blackfuse.  After that’s killed, it’s just the Klaxxi Paragons (which, from my experience on the “tourist” difficulty levels, should be dispatched without too much trouble) and Garrosh (which, being the last raid boss, will be a nightmare) left until we’ve cleared Siege of Orgrimmar (on normal anyway, we’re not going to get very far on heroic, I’m afraid).

I’ve been considering setting up a separate blog for the World of Warcraft stuffs, but if I’m slacking on maintaining this one…

Miscellaneous stuffs

  • One of the PCF admins got in touch with me requesting a patch for a user-requested feature, so I wrote and submitted it.  I took a quick look around the place while I was there, and Panorama Publishing has totally ignored the place since my departure, which I had predicted.  They seem totally uninterested in having someone around to keep it going, and since my patch met with a frosty reception (evidently, some users still have the mindset of me being responsible for Panorama’s mismanagement), my feeling towards the place is now: let it burn.  Good riddance.
  • I managed to turn my mother into a planespotter when British Airways sent an A380 to Durban for crew training for around two weeks.  (There’s a video of it landing here, which is well worth watching for any aviation enthusiasts lurking here.)
  • If you ever visit the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, don’t pull a Jeremy Clarkson and run out of petrol in Pripyat.
  • A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood.

Kor’kron Dark Shaman: tanking all the things!

So yeah, my raid group took our first look at the Kor’kron Dark Shaman last night. What’s more, we killed it last night. That was something I wasn’t at all expecting, as the fight is extremely chaotic, and can easily get out of hand (at which point Raiders Will Die). Our trick is: we brought a third tank. Yes, on our 10-man group.

A lot of 10-man groups are reluctant to try this (though 25-man groups are more open to the idea), so just hear me out. The problem on this fight is controlling the abilities of both shamans, while attempting to move out of bad stuff. Moreover, the fight is absolutely bloody hideous if you play a melee DPS (specifically, those damn slimes spawned from Toxic Geyser). Rhidach’s write-up on WoW Insider only gives one a glimpse just how bloody hideous it is. Bringing a third tank allows you to separate the two shamans, which makes the fight considerably more controllable and melee-friendly, and the extra control that you’ll gain will more than make up for the DPS player that you’ve just swapped out. The enrage timer on this encounter is generous and, in our case, inconsequential.

I’ll explain how my raid team managed with three tanks.

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Preparation

Firstly, you need to make sure that ALL trash has been cleared. And by all, I mean all. Even the trash on the ramp up to Nazgrim. You’re going to need that space.

Once that’s done, you next need to split your raid into two groups. One group will be assigned to Earthbreaker Haromm, the other group to Windbreaker Kardris. Generally, in a 10-man setup, you want two tanks, two healers and your melee DPS on Haromm, and one tank, one healer and your ranged DPS on Kardris. This will obviously scale up in a 25-man group or if you’re doing this in Flexible mode, so the general rule of thumb is: Haromm requires two tanks, two-thirds of the healing force and the melee, while Kardris requires one tank, one-third of the healing force and the ranged.

I’ll explain by means of example. My raid group has the following roster:

Tanks Healers Ranged DPS Melee DPS
Protection Paladin (me!) Restoration Druid Survival Hunter Assassination Rogue
Blood Death Knight Discipline Priest Fire Mage Retribution Paladin
Mistweaver Monk Destruction Warlock

For this fight, our monk switches to tanking, and our retribution paladin switches to healing.  This gives us:

Tanks Healers Ranged DPS Melee DPS
Protection Paladin (still me!) Restoration Druid Survival Hunter Assassination Rogue
Blood Death Knight Discipline Priest Fire Mage
Brewmaster Monk Holy Paladin Destruction Warlock

And this then means that I split up the groups as follows:

Earthbreaker Haromm Group Wavebinder Kardris Group
Protection Paladin [tank] Brewmaster Monk [tank]
Blood Death Knight [tank] Restoration Druid [healer]
Discipline Priest [healer] Survival Hunter [ranged DPS]
Retribution Paladin [healer] Fire Mage [ranged DPS]
Assassination rogue [melee DPS] Destruction Warlock [ranged DPS]

We had a different raid composition last night as our monk and mage couldn’t make it (we had a shaman healer and second hunter filling in), but the assignment of roles to groups was identical to my original plan.  (Our usual hunter logged her DK tank and our ret pally logged his warlock, making it possible.)

Also, make sure that each group has Bloodlust. This is really only a problem for 10-man groups, 25-man groups should be sorted.  Bring along some Drums of Rage just in case though.  You may as well stock up now, because you’ll be using these again when you get to the Spoils of Pandaria encounter, for the same reasons.

Pulling

On the pull, our Kardris tank picked up Kardris, my co-tank on Haromm picked him up, and I picked up their two hellhounds.  We did what all groups do: clumped them all up (outside the auction house, in our case), and let all the DPS take down the doggies via AoE.  Whenever my co-tank on Haromm got 5 stacks of Froststorm Strike, I’d take over tanking him, and he’d take over the two hellhounds.  This continued until the bosses combined health pool hit 87% (at this points, both hellhounds should be either dead or on their last legs).

At this point, we split up.  The Haromm group headed up the ramp towards The Drag, until the gate blocking access to Nazgrim.  Meanwhile, the Kardris group moved to the large open area in front of Grommash Hold.  (I have heard of some groups attempting this strategy that have success taking Haromm inside Grommash Hold, though we didn’t do this.  It’s a worthwhile second option though.)

At this point, each group starts performing actions independently of the other group:

Haromm Group

Once the combined health of the bosses hits 85%, Haromm will gain Toxic Mist.  This puts considerable strain on the Haromm group healers, and is the one and only reason why one should put two thirds of the healing force up there.

At 65%, Haromm gains Foul Stream.  This is easy to handle; just have the raid member targeted by this ability point it in a direction away from the rest of his group before the ability goes off (and for everyone else to get away from that direction!).  We did have a few deaths with this due to someone accidentally pointing it at one of the healers, so we placed a raid marker down to act as a preferred location for pointing Foul Stream, and this worked out nicely once we got that down.

Then, at 50%, Haromm gains Ashen Wall.  This is for whichever tank is tanking Haromm to worry about.  We found it easiest for that tank to back into a corner right before Ashen Wall would go off, and then the Ashen Wall itself would generally be out of the way of everyone else.  The two doorposts of the door leading to Nazgrim work quite well for this.

Speaking of tanking, the two tanks on Haromm will need to swap him between themselves whenever the current tank on Haromm reaches 5 stacks of Froststorm Strike.  Often, the off-tank’s stacks would drop off when the current tank would be on 4 stacks instead of 5 (mainly towards the end, where Haromm would cast Foul Stream or Ashen Wall before casting his next Froststorm Strike); if this happens, just taunt early and give the healers a little bit more breathing room.

Kardris Group

If you’re in the Kardris group, you have things relatively easier.  Kardris gains Toxic Storm at 85%, and all you need to do with this is avoid the bad stuff shambling around the place.

Foul Geyser at 65% is the main difficulty here, but it’s perfectly manageable provided that people don’t panic.  The Kardris tank needs to start running away so that the Foul Slimes that spawn do so in a predicable manner (and, in our raid group, it is traditional for said tank to scream like a little girl while doing so), then the ranged DPS needs to blast them down as a top priority.  No-one should ever get within melee range of the slimes, not even the Kardris tank.  If you can put a brewmaster monk or protection paladin down there, you have an advantage, as these tanks have abilities in their toolkit to deal with the slimes (brewmasters can use Rushing Jade Wind and Roll, tankadins can use glyphed Holy Wrath and even glyphed Blinding Light at a pinch).  Any other AoE stuns/slows are also really useful here.

Falling Ash at 50% is just another “don’t stand in the fire!” ability.  That’s all I have to say about that one.

The final push

At 25%, not only will both shamans be using their entire arsenal of abilities at each group, but they’ll gain Bloodlust, increasing their damage by 30% and haste by 25% for the remainder of the encounter.  We just respond by using our own Bloodlust right back at them.  The two groups will be out of range of each other, so this is why you want to pack some Drums of Rage along if one group is missing a shaman, mage or hunter.

Aside from that, keep calm, don’t panic, don’t break from the strategy, and with a bit of practice and luck, the two shamans will eventually keel over and cough up their purples.

And I promise you, once you’ve killed it this way, you’ll wonder why you didn’t three-tank it in the first place.  If you’re still not convinced, give it a try in Flexible mode (which was how I managed to persuade the guild to do this).  You’ll see what I mean.

What I like most about my raid team…

… is that the extremely strong bond between all 10 of us is based solely on inappropriate activities that no sane person should have.  Ever.

Take for example, last night’s raid (in which we finally killed Blizzard’s latest incarnation of a headache of a boss fight for those of us who are colour co-ordination challenged).  I’ll let the post that popped up this morning in guild forums (no link, it’s restricted access) from our hunter titled “Epic Raid Fails” say it all:

We’re on our usual milo break, standing in front of the eyeball, when Mr Smartypants (That’s Cataplexy) decides he wants to kill a rogue. He lifegrips Gatstamper to in front of the boss, runs off giggling and mind sears him from a distance.

Of course mechanics don’t work the way him thinks they do. Firstly mind sear doesn’t draw aggro to the target and secondly the damn rogue was stealthed. Durumu wakes up and because there’s no one in melee range he proceeds to wipe out the rest of the raid. Whoever wasn’t zapped got dunked in the water by the dropping platform and the only survivors were one lucky hunter who saw it coming and squeaked through on a feign death (yes that’s me)

and a totally oblivious rogue.

I look forward to the retaliation.

Stay tuned for the next installment.  Which will probably be after Thursday night’s raid.

In search of paradigm shifts

The ironic thing about me putting up a “fighting against the tide” post yesterday is that the same thing is happening in the protection paladin community at the moment.  However, there’s a lot more of us available for said fighting.

I’ll simply let my post on the official World of Warcraft forums explain it all.  Note that it is very protection paladin specific: if you don’t play World of Warcraft, much less play a protection paladin within the game, you’ll likely be either uninterested or confused — so, I’ve hidden it behind the break.

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What is worth fighting for?

A few weeks ago, I completed the Isle of Thunder storyline in World of Warcraft.  It picks up after events already documented, with Lor’themar Theron’s Sunreaver Onslaught and Jaina Proudmoore’s Kirin Tor Offensive working with the neutral Shado-Pan Assault to (1) bring down the Thunder King (which is what my raid team is trying to do, if only we weren’t stuck on Horridon) and (2) procure ancient artefacts that they could use against Garrosh when the time to depose him finally comes.

The climax of the storyline involved Taran Zhu (leader of the Shado-Pan) defusing the conflict between Theron and Proudmoore:

I see now why your Alliance and Horde cannot stop fighting. Every reprisal is itself an act of aggression, and every act of aggression triggers immediate reprisal.

The cycle ends when you, Regent Lord, and you, Lady Proudmoore, turn from one another. And walk. Away.

I didn’t think much of that at the time, certainly not from outside the game universe.  But then we had the Boston Marathon bombings, and while I only maintain a passing interest in current affairs, something about that attack and the Isle of Thunder questline seemed connected, somehow.

If we take a look at the global war on terror, there’s a clear pattern of aggression and reprisal.  We can look at the 9/11 attacks, and events on either side of it for a clear example.  al-Qaeda felt aggrieved by the U.S. millitary presence in Saudi Arabia, their backing of Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and probably countless other things, so they took out the World Trade Center in an act of reprisal, which triggered the United States to strike at al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, which led to a massive conflict in Iraq, continued U.S. drone strikes, continued terrorist attacks… basically, it’s one whole vicious cycle of reprisal and aggression.  Just as what’s happening in the World of Warcraft universe at the moment — in a way, it’s almost eerie of how it mirrors global, real-life events.  (As of me writing this, the perpetrators of the Boston attack are believed to have close ties with Chechnya — I’m unaware of any hostile connection between Chechnya and the U.S., so if someone would fill me in, it would be much appreciated.)

As someone not involved, and hence as a neutral observer, I don’t believe that it’s my place to take any side here but, like Taran Zhu, I have to ask the question: can all of those in this global conflict turn from each other and walk away?  Right now, I feel that that’s improbable, to say the least.  As things stand at the moment, there’s too much fanaticism, hatred, indoctrination and the like on both sides that suggest that either side, much less both, are capable of doing this at this point in time.  Perhaps future generations will be able to break out of this cycle.  One can always hope for that.

Granted, it’s difficult to do, and I speak from personal experience here.  I’ve been in more conflicts than I’d like to admit where relations have deteriorated into such a cycle, and every time, I’ve struggled to even realise that such a cycle exists, and then struggled even harder to break it.  (Some such cycles, I’ve yet to break.)  That’s not to say it’s impossible.  It’s definitely possible.  But if I have so much difficulty with this on a personal level, I wonder just how long it would take on a global level.  Maybe for those involved, as it is for me, some form of virtual escapism is the answer.

Maybe we should ask the question from back in the Mists of Pandaria trailer: what is worth fighting for?

What if: every class in World of Warcraft had an additional spec?

Back in the earliest days of World of Warcraft, every class in the game had three specializations, and had to choose one of them.  Some specializations had the same role but different flavours to it (e.g. hunters are pure damage dealers, but with very different playstyles based on whether they choose the beast mastery, marksmanship or survival specs), and others had different roles entirely (e.g. paladins have protection for tanking, holy for healing, and retribution for dishing out damage).  Of course, some had been badly broken (shamans before the Burning Crusade expansion being a really good example), but over time, things have been balanced quite well (and even more so when we were able to choose a secondary spec as well in Wrath of the Lich King).  However, with the newest Mists of Pandaria expansion, Blizzard realised that with druids, combining melee damage dealing and tanking into one specialization was far too difficult to balance properly, so they split it out, making druids the only class in the game with a fourth spec.

So, we’re currently having a hypothetical discussion on Maintankadin: if all classes currently in the game had a fourth spec, what would that spec be?  (The key word is “hypothetical”, because druids were a bit of a fringe case, and it’s unlikely that Blizzard would do this — in fact, I vaguely recall that they explicitly mentioned that this would probably never happen — but hey, it’s great to let minds wander from time to time!)

(Disclaimer: although some of these ideas are my own, not all of them are.  Credit to the various posters over at Maintankadin where credit is due.)

Death Knights

What they have:  Blood is the tanking spec.  Frost and Unholy are damage dealing (in game, we call them “DPS” specs, for “damage per second”) with different attributes:  Frost players can either equip two one-handed weapons and dual-wield them for fast melee strikes or a two-handed weapon for slower, harder-hitting strikes, whereas unholy resolves around putting diseases on the target and letting the damage-over-time effects do the dirty work.

What they could get:  Pretty much the unanimous suggestion so far is to split Unholy.  Unholy also has a “pet” component, where the Death Knight can summon an undead minion to do his master’s bidding, so split this out, flesh it out, and then have a “necromatic spellcaster” spec that would stay at range and decay their enemies with unholy power.  (This fits into death knight lore, as the death knight units back in WarCraft 2 would do this.)  And hey, it would also mean that there would be another use for intellect plate gear besides holy paladins.

Druids

Well, as already mentioned, druids already have four specs: Restoration for healing, Balance for ranged DPS, Feral for melee DPS and Guardian for tanking.  And that’s all that I’m going to say about druids.

Hunters

What they have: the Hunter is a pure ranged damage-dealing class.  Beast Mastery puts the emphasis on the hunter’s pet, Marksmanship puts the emphasis on the hunter’s weapons, and Survival puts the emphasis on the hunter’s survival skills (well, doh).

What they could get:  There’s two main schools of thought here.  The one that I belong to advocates giving the hunter a melee spec.  In fact, back in ye olde days, Survival was intended to be a melee spec — this didn’t turn out very well, but if Blizzard put some thought and effort into it, hey, it could work.  The other school of thought would be to give them a healing spec, the inspiration coming from Aragon’s healing powers in The Lord Of The Rings — though, personally, I struggle to match this up with existing in-game hunter lore.

Mages

What they have: Arcane, Fire and Frost.  According to one of my friends who plays a mage, pretty much all mage abilities revolve around (1) blasting your target before it can get to within melee range of you, and (2) getting the hell out of dodge if you failed at doing that.  The three specs just do this in different ways.

What they could get: We came up with a very unique healing specialisation (since mages are effectively wizards, it would make sense that they could have some healing capability).  They wouldn’t be able to call on nature like a druid, on holy powers like a priest and that sort of thing, but since they’re magical in nature, we came up with the idea of a mage healer that would heal by magically altering time itself.  Anyone who’s experienced the hourglass mechanic on Muruzond in the End Time dungeon has an idea of what I’m getting at.

We even fleshed this out further and came up with some example abilities for this:

  • Freeze Time: Places an area-of-effect bubble within 20 yards of the caster.  All buffs on friendly units will have their time to expire frozen, but will still continue to operate (heals over time would keep on ticking).  Very useful raid cooldown.
  • Time Capture: Saves the current status of a player that allows the mage to “reset” a player’s buffs/health/mana later in the fight (sort of like a combination of the aforementioned hourglass mechanic and the paladin’s Lay On Hands ability).
  • Reverse Time: A channelled heal that “reverses” all damage received in the last X seconds (say a tank takes hits for 50K, 100K, 80K over 5 seconds, Reverse Time would heal for 80K, 100K, 50K over 5 seconds, which could be sped up with haste).

Of course, this is so unique and radical that it’s impossibly likely that we’ll see this in the game — the effort to design and balance this would be immense.  But it’s still fun to think about.

Monk

What they have: Brewmaster for avoidance-based tanking, Mistweaver for healing (with a bit of melee thrown in), Windwalker for melee DPS.

What they could get: a caster DPS spec.  Quite possibly with a healing component, but more focus around doing damage (damage done would heal you, but it would be supplementary healing and wouldn’t replace someone else dedicated to healing).  Pretty much the inverse of Mistweaver.

Paladin

What they have: Protection for tanking (this is what I play as!), Holy for healing, Retribution for melee DPS (this is what I try — and fail — at playing as when I’m not tanking!).

What they could have: A caster based DPS spec.  Back in the pre-Cataclysm era where players could mix and match from different specializations, some adventurous players actually tried this (bringing about the “shockadin” concept) — of course, it was a “jack of both trades, master of none” character build and never officially supported, but apparently was loads of fun.  And of course, it adds another use for intellect plate to the game.  This is another idea that’s pretty much unanimous.

Priest

What they have: two healing specs, Holy and Discipline.  Both have totally different styles: Holy is more “traditional” healing, while Discipline focuses on damage absorbtion.  The third spec, Shadow, is a damage-over-time spec.

What they could have: a second DPS spec, but more around “smite DPS” than damage over time.  It’s kind of already in the game with Atonement, but making it into a full-blown spec on its own would give the damage-dealing priest a choice in how to deal damage.

Rogue

What they have: Assassination, Combat and Subtlety.  All themed around being extremely sneaky with regards to killing their target before their target knows that they’re dead.

What they could have: since rogues are sneaky, slippery and sly little buggers, give them a ranged “Sniper” spec (they could “borrow” weapons from hunters in sneaky, slippery and sly ways — and by that, I mean they’d give the hunters some loot competition).  I pity the poor Blizzard employee who has to balance this for player vs. player though.

Shaman

What they have: Elemental for caster DPS, Enhancement for melee DPS, Restoration for healing.

What they could have: since shamans can equip shields (along with paladins and warriors), they could conceivably have a tank spec.  As in the case of the “shockadin” I mentioned earlier, this was something that adventurous players tried back in the day, and it would be great to see this officially supported.  Once again, we have almost unanimous agreement on this.

Warlocks

What they have do: destroy their opponents with use of the Dark Arts.  That’s pretty much all I know about warlocks.

What they could have: since warlocks can summon demons and have a connection with the demonic side of things, here’s an idea — have a tank spec where the warlock can transform into a demon himself.

However, there’s one problem with this, and it comes from a lore perspective.  There are characters that can temporarily metamorphosize into a demon, but those are Demon Hunters, not warlocks (Illidan being the most famous example).  And quite honestly, I think that we’ll be having a massive showdown with the Burning Legion in a future expansion (after all, Sargeras is still out there somewhere, and Wrathion seems to know that some massive event along these lines is on its way), and when that expansion hits, Demon Hunters would become a separate playable class.

It’s still nice to think about though, particularly that I haven’t seen any better ideas and can’t think up any myself.  Mind you, what I know about warlocks is dangerous, so maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t think too hard about this one.

Warriors

What they have: Protection for tanking, Arms and Fury for the “RAWR, I HULK SMASH PUNY GOD OPPONENT WITH WEAPONS!” brigade.

What they could have: There’s two ideas there.  One would be to give them a second tank spec (much like priests have two healing specs) — only, while Protection focuses on damage avoidance, this second tank spec would be based on mitigating damage by regeneration effects and sheer bloody-mindedness.  We’ve seen these concepts in Dungeons and Dragons over the years: the barbarian dumping armour and relying on sheer hit points, the frenzied berserker that just won’t die as long as he’s raging… something like that.

Alternatively, Fury has two distinct playstyles within the specialisation: Titan’s Grip for dual-wielding two handers, and “single-minded fury”, for, you know, being that frenzied berserker in a damage-dealing role.  It can (and has) been argued that warriors already do have four specs, but they’ve been too pre-occupied with aforementioned hulk smashing to have realised it just yet…