Circle of Tanking: Guest Post

July 25, 2011

When my co-tank read mine, he was compelled to put up his own answers. He doesn’t have a blog of his own, thus it goes up here. Take it away, Em.

1. What is the name, class, and spec of your primary tank?

Emming, druid, 0/32/9

2. What is your primary group tanking environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)

Mostly 10-man raids and, when I feel the insane urge to grind out VP or just the insane in general, DF 5-man heroics. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a 25-man raid.

3. What is your favorite cooldown for your class and why?

I … really don’t have a lot of choices here. All specs being equal, Tranquility is my favourite because it’s just so powerful, but as tank I don’t get to use that. I’d have to go with Survival Instincts because there’s just something quite badass about being able to say, “Yeah, you. You’re hitting me for half of what you think you are now. Kay?”

4. What tanking CD do you use least for your class and why?

Most probably Frenzied Regeneration. Barkskin and Survival Instincts both provide a significant, “Stop the hurty now,” bonus instantly, whereas Frenzied Regeneration is best used when <30% health and in serious need of a healing boost. Of course, with lag, I usually end up hitting it and finding out the server refused to accept it. Bastard thing.

5. What do you feel is the biggest strength of your tanking class and why?

Oof… gonna have to go with two answers, entirely situational. I would say that it’s the sheer number of abilities available to druids as the most hybrid of the hybrid classes, but with most of those abilities being unavailable in bear form, that utility is seriously limited.

First answer: When the opportunity comes up, and I can safely shift out of bear form while my tank partner is handling the boss, or while an ability makes them stop dealing damage for a while, I can put out the best tank DPS out there by shifting to kitty form. When you’re fighting berserk timers or all your healers are down and you just need that last few percent, your tank suddenly doubling their DPS or more can make a huge difference.

Second answer: Physical damage. I love physical damage. As always I expect a nerf next patch, but right now if you want to mitigate physical damage bears are *it*. Huge amounts of armor, huge amounts of baked-in mitigation from talents, and huge amounts of dodge means I mitigate *at least* 80% of any incoming physical based damage. There’s only some fights where physical is the major share of the damage types going out, but where it is, a bear is what you want.

6. What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your class and why?

Again, gonna have to go with a multi-part answer because the weaknesses are entirely situational.

First answer: no ranged silence. None. At all. To a lesser degree, a severe lack of ranged abilities in general (discounting charges, Faerie Fire and Taunt are *it*). If I want a caster to move I either have to get over there and smack him up a bit first, LoS, or pray for someone else to Death Grip or silence him.

Second answer: Theoretically as a hybrid, bears have a lot of utility to offer. In actuality, you have the smallest toolbox of any of the tanking classes, due to your absolute need to always stay in bear form. No Tranq, no Rebirth unless you’re really good at finding a window, only three tanking CDs (only one of which has a short CD time), and very little ability to customise your spec/ability use/whatever to different situations; with few exceptions, a bear is a bear is a bear, and one will act pretty much exactly like the next.

7. In a raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best tanking assignment for you?

On single-tank fights with my current tank partner, my best assignment is to go to my DPS spec; I turn out the better DPS, and have less “ohcrap” buttons to hit. When it comes to two-tank fights, my weakness is add management; holding on to them I can do, but grabbing them in the first place is something I have severe difficulty with. On any fight with adds, I’m better off eating bossface.

8. What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with most and why?

No comment, as I’ve had very little experience with other classes in a raid environment.

9. What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with least and why?

See above.

10. What is your worst habit as a tank?

Impatience. Definitely. Or perhaps more accurately, arrogance. I tend to transition very quickly from, “Okay, no idea what’s going on here, so go carefully and pay attention to everything,” to, “Ah, this is in the bag. Let’s go! *Pull*”. I can get away with this a lot of the time because I know my group well and know what they can handle, but that doesn’t mean it’s a *good* habit, and sees me doing some seriously derpy things when with people I don’t know.

11. What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while tanking?

What’s any tank’s pet peeve? People who won’t SIT down and SHUT up and DO AS YOU’RE TOLD, BECAUSE I’M PULLING NOW, DAMNIT

13. What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a tank?

Mostly, peer review and personal analysis. During a fight some part of my brain is filing things away and taking notes for me to go over later, and if I have any concerns about my performance, I ask the people around me; they have more experience and a different perspective to offer, and can quite often spot things I miss. As far as logs and such go, they’re not all that useful to me; I check my Damage Taken logs if things are going wrong or if it seems like the healers are stressed, but otehrwise bear priorities are just too simple and direct to analyse much.

14. What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your tanking class?

That bears are weak/ineffectual because of our limited toolbox. We can do the job, and we can do the job *well*, but we have to remain aware of our limitations and work around them, while using our other abilities to compensate for the things we can’t do. A good bear does this automatically. A bad one doesn’t even know how.

15. What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new tanks of your class to learn?

Multi-target handling. We have precious few abilities to handle more than one target, and especially at lower levels you have to constantly be watching and get on top of developing threat situations with your single-target abilities and a lot of target switching.

16. So, how about that whole vengeance mechanic, eh?

I honestly don’t notice it much. I guess it contributes something in that it makes my mastery shields stronger, and increase my threat, but by the time it builds up to significant levels the pull has already either gone well or gone bad.

17. Stamina, Combat Table Coverage, or total Damage Reduction?

Total damage reduction. Stacking stamina, no-one seriously does that anymore, and bears are incapable of combat table coverage due to how the class works, so that leaves us with mitigating damage any way we can; most of that comes through talents and baked-in bonuses like the bear form armor buff.

18. What tanking class do you feel you understand least?

I’d have to go with Death Knights simply because I haven’t actually had any experience with them at all; at least I’ve played with my pally and warrior in low levels.

19. What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in tanking?

If I had to pick one addon that I absolutely, positively couldn’t do without, it would have to be Tidy Plates/Threat Plates. A threat meter is good, but largely academic if I’m doing my job right. Bartender is a UI godsend, but if I had to, I could function without it. VuhDo is very useful informationally, but essentially only useful to tell me who’s got aggro or if my healer’s dead. But TP/TP tells me exactly which mob has started to ignore me, and where they’re going, and lets me get them back fast.

As macros go, the only one I really use significantly ties together my feral Berserk with my racial Berserking.

20. Do you strive primarily for balance between your tanking stats (stam, mastery, avoidance), or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?

Bear stats are very simple. For gemming, stack agi (and grab a socket bonus if it’s more than 20 stamina or agi). For reforging, you want dodge; it’s the only tank stat that’s actually useful to us. The only real question is what stat you reforge, and in order of what you want to get rid of most, that’s Haste, Crit and then Mastery. No math, no balancing, just get your dodge and go home to have a pizza.


Circle of Tanking

July 13, 2011

Because I actually have some free time I feel like writing about WoW in, and because I wasn’t active when the first one went around. Nabbing from lonomonkey, because that’s where I saw it first and bloggers that update every two months don’t tend to get tagged in these things.

1. What is the name, class, and spec of your primary tank?

Jujutan, paladin, 0/31/10.

2. What is your primary group tanking environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)

10-man raids. I’ve never played at all in a 25-man as a tank, I do as few 5 mans as I can get away with unless it’s “drunken fun with guildies” ballpit time, and the less said about me and PvP, the better.

3. What is your favorite cooldown for your class and why?

RRRRRAAAAAAIIIIIDWAAAAALL. Divine Guardian fits very nicely into my desire to feel like a physical barrier between the raid and the pain. Hand of Protection also falls into this niche; these two cooldowns are the reason I will probably never follow through on my musings to switch my main to my warrior or DK. No matter how much more fun I find the tanking mechanics on those two, I can never give up being able to save my healer with a bubble.

4. What tanking CD do you use least for your class and why?

As a broad rule I’m *always* looking for an unlit cooldown, but I’d say Lay On Hands. The only time it generally occurs to me to use it is as part of a planned rotation in a painful burn phase; my muscle memory “ohgod don’t die” button is Ardent Defender. I really should use Guardian of Ancient Kings more for the same basic reasons, too. My favorites are the short-term cooldowns I can rotate to create an overall mitigation effect.

5. What do you feel is the biggest strength of your tanking class and why?

The fact that we have many of the tools a healer does, since many paladin healing tools are baseline and we don’t have to tank shapeshifted like bears do. Word of Glory (that can be used on anyone, not just me!), holy radiance, hand of protection… it shames me that it didn’t occur to me until just now that I can bind Hand of Sacrifice into my VuhDo settings and help out my co-tank with that and divine protection when he has Beth’tilac… seriously though, our toolbox is awesomesauce with kittens on top.

6. What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your class and why?

We are notso hotso on snap threat without hitting a couple of cooldowns, and for the first time since I started playing a protection paladin I feel kinda weak on AoE threat compared to some of the other tanking classes. Granted this could just be me; my build and gearing and glyphing grabs all the survivability I can get and only makes concessions to threat with what’s left over. Vengeance means only the first 15 seconds of a boss pull really matter, but those 15 seconds can get too interesting for my taste at times. Seriously though, protection paladins are in a very strong place right now and have been for awhile.

Now, if you asked me what I thought the worst aspects of the class were rather than our weaknesses… our rotation is still boring as hell even if it is better than it was in Wrath. Our mastery is the most boring thing ever to bore compared to the other three tank masteries, and it appears it gives Ghostcrawler heartburn in the bargain. There isn’t a ton of variation in valid talent builds; for the most part we have good talents and bad ones. We do get some wiggle room in whether to tune for threat or survivability, but we don’t have as much functional and stylistic choice as warriors and death knights get.

7. In a raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best tanking assignment for you?

I are main tank, put me on the boss, please. I’m not rigid about this, though; my co-tank and I trade MT and offtanking duties depending on our class strengths and weaknesses relative to the encounter. He’s a bear, so his strengths are not mine and vice versa.

8. What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with most and why?

I agree with lonomonkey from the other side- death knights complement my class amazingly well. Sorry to my bear bros that I’ve tanked with most often, especially given my DK partner was a bit of an ass, but mechanically speaking it’s true.

9. What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with least and why?

Is there any tank or healer answering this survey that’s not saying “another of my own class, diversity brings the best advantage?” I know I’m not going to disagree. Aside from the sheer mechanical reality that it’s best to have two toolboxes rather than an overlapping duplicate, it also keeps me from getting pointlessly competitive.

10. What is your worst habit as a tank?

I need to mind my own damn business. For pretty much all of Wrath and about the first half of tier 11, plus heroics, I got used to watching the whole party or raid as though I were a healer. The back half and all of Firelands I’ve experienced so far have forced me to dial my focus in more because I had none to spare, and it’s just freaking needless for the ground tank to be having anxiety attacks about the health pools of people on the web during Beth’tilac.

11. What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while tanking?

I’m a tank. Doesn’t that make me definitionally a control freak? Probably the easiest way is people failing to be psychic and realizing exactly where I mean to tank a pull and opening up/charging in before I have them where I want them. I HAVE ARRANGED THE MONSTERS JUST SO, DO NOT DISTURB MY FENG SHUI!

13. What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a tank?

I analyze the healing taken logs in World of Logs a lot to evaluate what talents/strategies are working and what’s not, which is how I wound up as the only consistent Seal of Insight paladin tank I know of and came to love glyphed word of glory/filled-out-rule of law/guarded by the light. (I meant it when I said I put survivability way over threat.)

I’m lucky enough to have been healed by the same druid for about two years now, so I rely heavily on his input for how easy I am to heal or whether a change was meaningful or not. We both spend a lot of time tinkering and comparing results. Having the guy on my back be almost always the same guy also helps a lot when it comes to evaluating how spiky and bit the damage I’m taking is.

14. What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your tanking class?

That we’re EZmode. After taking 3/4 of the tanking classes to 85 and one to around 50 I do think paladin tanking is the easiest to learn if you’re just learning how to tank period, but it takes just as much intelligence and work to play a protection paladin well as it does any of the other classes. If you don’t use the toolbox to its fullest extent, we can be squishy.

15. What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new tanks of your class to learn?

To realize that we’re not just pink warriors. There’s a ton we can do to help the healers and pallies that don’t do it are depressingly common. It’s a big toolbox and it takes time and experience to realize its full potential.

16. So, how about that whole vengeance mechanic, eh?

W/e. I guess it made hit and expertise meaningless to me but beyond that I don’t really care. I’d rather be spending my focus on living than fighting the DPS for threat over the bulk of the fight anyway.

17. Stamina, Combat Table Coverage, or total Damage Reduction?

CTC. I exist first to make healing me at all as unnecessary as I can, and second to make the damage I take very smooth. For a paladin, CTC is the most direct route to this goal. ARE there still any raiding tanks that stack stamina? “HI! I’M A MANA SPONGE!”

18. What tanking class do you feel you understand least?

Bears. Despite tanking WITH them more than any other class, I’ve actually PLAYED them the least. I mean haste on gear and crit as a survival stat lol wtf? It turns what I know about plate tanks on its ear.

19. What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in tanking?

I’m an addon addict. The ones I use specifically for tanking, specifically for this class: Hear Kitty to remove my need for a holy power display. Tidy Plates/Threat plates, because following a nameplate to a healer is a lot easier than following a cat-sized red mob on a red background when your camera is zoomed out to outer space. VuhDo, for my big library of helpful spells and to help me track debuffs and raid cooldowns. (Used to be Grid, but I lost my temper and patience after the last time a patch broke it and its many plugins.) These are the three I couldn’t live without, but I’ve also got Quartz, OmniCC, Power Auras, BigWigs AND DBM, Shadowed Unit Frames, and and and…

As for macros, I’ve got one to cast and cancel my bubble, and one to Captain America worshipping players during Cho’gall. That’s actually about it.

20. Do you strive primarily for balance between your tanking stats (stam, mastery, avoidance), or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?

I try to stack mastery, but not as much as I theoretically could if I started reforging ALL my avoidance stats to it. I’m not close enough to being able to block-cap to make that valuable. Also it offends my sense of order.


Tank Ego Dissected

April 6, 2011

Over at Further Adventures In LFD, there is discussion amongst healers of a particular breed of tank, to wit this comment from Lara:

I’m not sure why, but there is a certain subspecies of tank that seems to believe using crowd-control is a sign of a weak character. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these tend also to be the tanks with some combination of poor situational awareness, weak threat, and low health.

My planned response to the “why” was starting to get lengthy, so it goes here instead.

Tanking, as I’ve said before, is an extremely visible job and one that will bring out your inner control freak whether you thought you had one or not. No matter how meek and unassuming you may be before you start (if you do at all, it’s not a job that typically appeals to the meek *because* of this), tanking is experienced as being the person who’s always leading from the front even if you’re not actually calling the shots; the pull doesn’t begin without you, you have first say over how the fight proceeds, and if someone tries to yank that control away from you, they’re socially in the wrong and will usually die if you choose to let them. You can be a decent person and include everyone else as much as possible for input and mindfulness, or you can be an asshole and run as though the other four party members weren’t there, but the show still runs on your schedule and over time that sense of your role will sink in.

All three roles have a certain degree of ego bound up in their role and how well they do at it. DPSers have one immediate, direct thing to point to in the form of the amount of sheer damage per second they produce, and more sources in the form of never pulling threat or never taking unnecessary damge; a good DPS will mark himself on all three, while a bad one will attach to the numbers alone. Healers will take pride variously in their own HPS (an even worse idea than it is for DPS), or more commonly, simply never letting anybody die- or never overhealing, never going OOM, or just in being able to heal big damage on the tank.

Tank ego, likewise, can bind up in several different things, depending on what the tank in question thinks their job actually is. For me, it goes like this:

1. Survive and make sure the rest of the party that isn’t doing anything actively suicidal survives. This makes being able to do threat adequate at least to hold on groups that the DPS is focus-firing and making sure I can survive the experience easily the same job and occupying the same priority one slot.

2. Don’t threat-cap the DPS. It’s one thing to expect of myself that I can keep threat on a pack that our strongest DPS are each targeting a different one of (i.e. a ludicrous thing), another to expect I can control a large pack the best of our AoE are going to town on. (Here I am thinking of the Phase Twisters in BoT, and our very competitive DK DPSers with the insane AoE. I mostly keep threat. Enough that righteous defense keeps everyone comfortably alive anyway.)

3. Support the healers. Anything I can do to make their lives easier, I should do. I have to admit this isn’t as selfless as it seems; like I said, this is an ego thing as much as it is a good-gameplay thing. I wasn’t satisfied with myself in Cataclysm until my healers went back to watching Hulu and Pornhub during trash and heroics.

I am not all tanks. Another one I ran with (that I was not very happy doing so because our priorities were so different) considered the most fun/ego-satisfying thing to be invincible on threat, and second to dish out damage competitively. He would ask our healers how much they could handle, and wear DPS gear accordingly and pull everything in the room. At the time he could (mostly) get away with it because it was the end of Wrath and everyone was insanely overgeared- though he was so focused on pulling and damaging he did let people die from time to time, including the healer at least once- but his runs were still a very, very different experience from mine. I refused to take off tank gear or wear DPS gear to keep the healers more amused because I saw that as anathema to doing my job right; he refused to slow down because he saw that as not doing his as best he could. Probably different healers would have preferred either of our styles depending on if they were more in for utterly safe or excitement. Either way, the overgeared state highlighted what each of us marked ourselves on and actually thought was doing our jobs to our best, since it allowed us to play however we wanted.

Getting back to the original comment, about the subspecies of tank that sees CC as a threat to their tank ego, and that usually going along with weak threat and survivability: these are either inexperienced or immature/shallow tanks who are essentially cousins to DPS that consider their recount string their only measure of job performance. If a dumb DPS thinks the numbers are a hard reflection of performance and considers anything that lowers them asking too much of them or asking them not to do their jobs in a way that lets them shine, a dumb tank thinks the only measure of HIS performance is being able to survive a lot of incoming damage. In this light, a healer asking for CC means not letting him show off his own best performance while refusing to give theirs.

Why is it usually the tanks with poor threat, poor awareness, and poor survivability? Because they’re the ones most likely to be inexperienced enough to think this simplistically about their own role.


The Tanking Classes And You: What’s Your Sign?

March 31, 2011

I planned to do this post after I’d had all four tanking classes at 85 and a goodly few more dungeons on each under my belt, but the way things are going that’s not going to happen for a long long time, so I’ll just put my biases up front: I raid and dungeon as a protection paladin, I have raided and still dungeon as a protection warrior (I’d love to get her into raids but probably not until 4.1 will that be possible), I’ve done some dungeoning as a blood death knight but not nearly as much as the other two, and my bear experiences have been strictly vanilla dungeoneering plus talking to the various people I’ve actively tanked with in raids, which have been a DK and three different bears. (Yes, we have had a lot of druid tanks. Their supposed scarcity is amusing to me.) So if you think I’m hideously wrong about bears or DKs… you’re probably right.

There are a ton of arguments, QQ, and epeening on the tank forums about which tank class is strongest or easiest or OP or obviously gimped, and it gets pretty tiresome to read, pretty fast. There are also a lot of “my first tank, which should I roll?” threads. This isn’t meant to evaluate which tanks are strongest in raids; honestly I think that depends a lot on the fight and much more on the player behind the keys. It is my observation, though, that the four tanks are structurally quite different and which tank you should roll depends a great deal more on your temperament rather than how things spreadsheet out. This post is about those differences- what the play and flavor feel like and who they’ll most appeal to based on that.

Paladins

Protection paladins have now and have always had the most static tank rotation in the game. It used to be that we had six-second buttons and nine-second buttons and it barely mattered what order we pushed them in so long as they all stayed on cooldown; now we have a choice of two three-second buttons to push, depending on whether the situation is AoE or single-target, and then an assortment of other buttons that also, at the end of the day, are mostly about keeping everything on cooldown. We also have a resource system to blow that gives us a choice between single-target threat, multi-target threat, or healing of self or others, which after 4.1 is mostly going to be a choice between single-target and multi-target threat with much more occasional healing. Either way, once you get the holy power system down, the business of controlling mobs is not terribly exciting. We get a stun on a long cooldown (talentable/glyphable to improve), and we finally have an off-the-gcd interrupt, although until 4.1 again with our lack of use for hit it’s a very unreliable one.

The real strength of paladins as a tanking class other than baseline survivability and threat is its big raid utility toolbox. You get most of the same tools that holy paladins do to back up the healers and support the raid, and a good protadin will use them. My pally is the only tank I have that I not only run Grid, but use the same setup as I do when I’m healing. Given that many boss fights for the main tank are mostly a matter of using your survivability cooldowns intelligently and moving the boss or yourself out of the bad stuff, that doesn’t leave much else for the protection paladin to do other than their as-stated simple threat rotation, and threat doesn’t even matter that much beyond the initial ten seconds anymore thanks to Vengeance, as long as you don’t actually go AFK. On the Valiona and Theralion fight, for example, I spend about 2% of my focus keeping threat, 30% watching for things not to stand in and boss ability timers, 10% on my own survivability cooldowns and when the optimum time to use them is, and the rest on throwing Word of Glory, hand of protection, holy radiance, lay on hands, and the raidwall as-needed or as-most-helpful.

All tanks have a much wider and further-out focus than healers or DPS, but with a resource system that’s either almost completely ignorable (mana) or simple with a few basic reminder addons (holy power), passively applied in-combat buffs and debuffs, and a (relative) dearth of specific control abilities that apply to the mobs rather than to the group, paladins are arguably the most eye-in-the-sky of them all. This can make them a touch boring to play in five-mans once things get routine, and give them a stronger sense of control in raids.

Despite the relative simplicity of paladin threat rotation, pallies have one of the most active and intensely mathy theorycrafting communities of any of the tanks, with death knights coming in a close second. I don’t think this is a coincidence, but rather reflective of the kind of temperament the tanking end of the class attracts.

You want to play this tank if: You’re really into the idea of being the group’s protector rather than just the guy getting all the monster’s attention and abuse. You’re a healer looking to take a walk on the pointy end of things and can’t bear the idea of not being able to do anything when you see group members’ health bars dangerously low for any reason other than “mob I don’t have locked down beating on them”. Your response to the notion of knowing the precise combat table coverage value or added threat per second of any given change to your stats, tweak on the PTR, or moved talent point is “oh boy!” rather than “what’s a combat table coverage?”. The idea of being the channel for holy righteousness is a flavor you like.

You want to run away from this spec if: You need a lot of fast active decision-making about which buttons to press for a class to be fun for you. You want an in-your-face feel to your tanking. You think healing is for healers and you want to worry solely about the boss/mobs rather than the party/raid. People that use MATLAB to improve their game performance make you want to punch them in the face. You can’t stomach the idea of being holy crusader-flavored.

Warriors

In direct contrast to paladins, warriors have a very fluid and reactive priority-based system that will require you to make a lot of fast decisions about which buttons to hit when in order to maintain good threat and survivability. They also have to worry somewhat more about their resource system; they don’t have a combolike system like holy power, but smart rage management is important for warriors far more so than smart mana management is for paladins. (In contrast to Wrath, when warriors either had too much or too little, and which it was depended on gear.) Warrior buffs and debuffs are much more actively maintained than the paladin versions, and even a five-man run is going to be at least a little tied up keeping these up and smoothly juggled in between your threat maintenance.

Warriors arguably have as large a toolbox as paladins and death knights, it’s just completely differently focused. You get a lot of tools for handling specific kinds of mobs and situations, it’s just that almost none of them apply to your party/raid as opposed to yourself or the mobs. The place where an individual tank’s skill stands out is still in his or her use of the full potential of this toolbox, but rather than supporting the healers beyond smart survivability cooldown use, a warrior shines with superior control of mobs, maintenance of multiple important raid buffs and debuffs, and an unmatched ability to be anywhere on the battlefield they need to be within seconds. Happily, they’ll be getting their own raidwall in 4.1, adding yet more utility to the class.

Warrior mobility is always mentioned in any discussion of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the tanking class, and it deserves to be; a warrior making proper use of charge, intercept, intervene, and heroic leap rarely has an excuse for not being where they needed to be, and they make up for their relative lack of ranged tools with it. Combine this with their more reactive threat priority system, and this gives them a very immediate, in-your-face feel to tank on. Paladin tanking feels measured and waltzlike; warrior tanking feels more like DDR.

Despite being nearly identical to paladins in terms of how much of their survivability can be mathed out, there seems to be far less theorycrafting in the warrior community than there is in the paladin, death knight, or even bear communities. The warrior talent tree also offers a lot of room for personal stylistic choices in terms of where to put talent points, and you’ll likely see more variation between perfectly workable warrior builds than you will among any of the other three tanking classes.

You want to play this tank if: You like the idea of having a lot of snap decisions to make. You want your play to feel frantic and in-your-face even as you maintain perfect control. You’re thematically attracted to the idea of being the one class that doesn’t use any kind of magic, just brute force and will. You want a lot of different ways to control and lock down mobs. You don’t want to be forced into a cookie-cutter build and want your talent choices to make a lot of meaningful difference.

You want to run away from this spec if: The idea of having a lot of balls to juggle while being the tank gives you heart palpitations. You like to make everything come to you easily rather than moving to where you’re needed. Having a lot of tools in your toolbox, and needing to use them all in order to do your job well, sounds like too much to remember and put on your bars.

Death Knights

Paladins have a simple and relatively static rotation, warriors have a fairly simple-to-grasp but extremely reactive priority system, and death knights have a complex priority system that requires mindful resource management to execute correctly. The rune and runic power system is also more damaged by poor play than mana or rage; if you overstress your mana or bleed off too much rage, your problems resolve in seconds and can be potentially resolved by pressing a button on a relatively short cooldown, but bad decision-making on rune usage will reverberate through your rotation for longer, and the rescue-everything cooldown is quite a bit longer.

Likewise, their survivability must be equally well managed. Outside of specific survivability cooldowns, warrior, paladin, and bear mastery and mitigation are passive; they’re either chance-to-activate things like avoidance, block, and savage defense, or simply baked into the spec passively in some other fashion. Death knights have some passive survivability, but their mastery and the balance point they hang on as a tanking class are completely in the player’s hands: self-healing and absorption shields from death strike. Good death knight tanking play is maximizing the potential of this mechanic, and there is much beard-stroking in the theorycrafting community about the best way to do this. Suffice to say you’ll want addons for this class more than any other, just to more clearly see what’s going on with your rune management and your blood shields than the default UI will give you.

Death knights are arguably the kings of cooldowns. Depending on which abilities you count as cooldowns and what talents are taken (some, like rune tap, are in a greyish area, and you have to specifically spec into frost for Lichborne), they have at least five and up to eight survivability cooldowns, small and large and some very situational. A good death knight that remembers all the buttons he potentially has and remembers to use them in the right situations is very, very difficult to kill. If you’re grasping that power in exchange for mastering complexity is the death knight tradeoff, the pattern continues here; none of them are quite as strong as the strongest warrior, paladin, and bear cooldowns unless they’re used intelligently, often in concert with other abilities.

Along with their cooldowns, they also get plenty of mob-control abilities; they get a combined ranged interrupt and silence in Strangulate, and another interrupt on a shorter cooldown in Mind Freeze. Add a ranged gap closer with Death Grip and death knights become the polar opposite of warriors- designed around choosing a place to tank the pull and forcing everything to come to them, even moreso than paladins. Picking up and keeping mobs, and keeping them debuffed, is relatively straightforward- it’s managing yourself that’s the bigger challenge of the class.

Death knight tanks in general can be summed up in a permutation of the poem about the little girl with the little curl, right in the middle of her forehead: when the player is good they’re very, very good, and when they’re bad they’re horrid. In terms of the sheer feel of play, they’re a good bit more intense than paladins but not quite as frantic as warrior. More of a rave feel than waltzing or DDR.

You want to play this tank if: “Complexity” is a word that attracts you to a spec rather than repelling. You’re an even bigger control freak than most tanks already are. You like having lots and lots of tools for very specific purposes in your toolbox. You dislike the idea of running around after mobs rather than setting things up exactly as you please. You dig the idea of being themed around being a blood-crazed zombie.

You want to run away from this spec if: You absolutely hate micromanaging. You want smoother, more constant and guaranteed damage reduction from a shield rather than having to manage self-heals and absorbs to get the same result. You don’t want your action bars cluttered with a lot of buttons. The RPer in you is uncomfortable with the idea of that touch of evil that being a vaguely vampiric undead former Scourge minion comes with.

Druids

Paladins command the power of the Light to protect their allies. Warriors use soldierly techniques to tie up the enemy. Death knights plague their enemies and feed off their life. Bears? Bear SMASH.

If paladins and warriors occupy polar opposite positions in terms of play style and design philosophy, bears and death knights are on their own poles away from one another. Bears have probably the simplest priority system, and also the smallest toolbox; where a DK has a finely milled tool for every occasion, bears get the same job done with a hammer, a screwdriver, and a bit of brute force. This is not to say that they’re easier to play; any bear will sometimes feel the lack of equivalent tools to their tanking brethren, especially the lack of any sort of ranged silence or even attention-keeping tools like a warrior’s spell reflect. (Warriors, of course, now have both.) If death knight tanking is the art of mastering complexity, bear tanking is the art of becoming very skilled at doing a lot with a little.

Like warriors, bears rely on their mobility, using feral charge and stampeding roar to move quickly around the battleground to where they’re needed. They can’t silence casters except briefly with skull bash or bash, so a good bear player learns to line-of-sight and exactly how far away they can get from a caster before it’s forced to move- and then charges back in. If any class has to take the most advanced classes in the art of the pull, this one is it.

Bears have middling to good raid utility, suffering a bit because a lot of their class’s native utility can’t be used while in bear form, and shifting out of bear while tanking is an immediate death sentence unless you’re at a point in a raid where you’re off-tanking and not taking hits at that moment. Their biggest high mark is that when they *don’t* need to be in bear form- as an off-tank in a fight where the design includes a phase where they’ll spend a relatively long period of time DPSing rather than tanking, like off-tanking Halfus or the Twilight Ascendant Council- they can shift to cat, and the fact that bear gear and spec is automatically at least decent if not optimal kitty gear and spec means they can pour on a lot more DPS than other tanks during these burn phases, which can mean all the difference to a guild trying to beat an enrage timer or get the boss down before the last few raiders fall. Given their gear is usually more designed originally for DPS than tanking in the first place, with the survivability conversion taking place in talents and baked-in effects of bear form, they usually do pretty high DPS for a tank even when not in kitty as well.

The fact that druid tanks and melee DPS share a talent tree is both a blessing and a curse. It’s the easiest for bears of any tanks to build and maintain a good off-set for DPS, or even swap their main spec to DPS on short notice, since much of the gear is shared and the biggest differences are in the gemming and reforging. On the other hand, this also means they compete with the leather-wearing melee DPS for gear rather than plate-wearing co-tanks- which can be fantastic if your raid doesn’t lean heavy to such classes, and miserable when they do, as there will always be more of the DPS than other tanks. The marriage of the two feral specs also means that when a nerf is aimed at one side, the other is likely to feel the effects as well. (Same goes for buffs, of course.)

Bears have fewer survival cooldowns than their tanking brethren, but they make up for it by just being very natively hard to kill, with very high avoidance and the fact that they get both a lot of threat and a lot of survivability off the same stats. (Agility, which affects both dodge and crit- and savage defense, their mastery-based absorption shield, procs off crit and scales off attack power.) They also get some nice plus effects from the fact that they tank shapeshifted- they are immune to polymorph, and disarm doesn’t do a whole lot to them either. They do become vulnerable to scare beast and hibernate, but nothing in the PvE half of the game ever does that that I’ve found, whereas Blizzard does like to work in some polymorphing and disarming trash mobs for lulz. The fact that most of their attacks aren’t affected by silence is nice, too- a bear will have a much less frustrating time tanking mobs that silence than, say, a paladin.

As for the feel of the playstyle… welcome to the mosh pit.

You want to play this tank if: You believe in the Keep It Simple Stupid principle. You’d rather juggle targeting mobs than buffs and debuffs. You want to have the most different options possible for your off-spec. You like having your bars uncluttered by a lot of rarely-used situational abilities. You’re not really sure whether you’d rather be a tank or a DPS and you don’t want changing your mind to be difficult. You get a bit of a stiffie from your DPS even as a tank. Because being a bear rather than a plate-wearing mook is just fundamentally cool.

You want to run away from this spec if: You want to have a tool for every occasion. You’d rather stand still than have to move around. You don’t want to look like you spent the weekend hitting garage sales held by rogues, hunters, and resto druids when you’re not shapeshifted. You don’t want to wrap your head around stat and gearing priorities that seem counterintuitive for a tank.

Bonus tank selection cheat sheet for Top Gear fans: If you like what Clarkson likes, growl “POWAAAAAH” as you roll your warrior. If you like what May likes, enjoy your paladin. If you like what Hammond likes, a bear’s life for you. If you can’t help but drool at the things that go like a bat out of hell but have more complicated computing systems than a space shuttle, death knight it is.


Aloha, LOL

May 7, 2010

Warcraft, like any other large-scale hobby with a devoted following, has a great deal of its own language. “Tank”, “DPS”, “PST”, “LoS”, “pull”, “boomkin”, they all mean exactly doodly squat to someone who doesn’t play and they’ll all get you called noob if you don’t know what they mean. But in the entire game, is there any so versatile a term as “lol”? In the greater internet it tends to mean “I am laughing out loud right now”, but over my career in the World of Warcraft, especially its pickup groups and battlegrounds, I have come to find that it can mean so many more things.

“Sorry”

“I am furious with you right now”

“I love you”

“I’m going AFK to do my taxes and send in some suggestions on balancing the national budget, someone else heal”

“I’m sorry, was that fourteen mobs? I thought it was the win button.”

“Check it out, this stuff on the ground tickles.”

“I am a complex tapestry of shaded emotions.”

“I am the vampiric bastard child of Kael’thas and Sylvanas.”

“I am extremely impaired right now.”

“I hate you all.”

“Group one go north and take stables, group two hold lumber mill, the rest of you defend farm”

“Please tip 10% of mats cost”

“I’m sorry, I have no gear, gold, or brain cells, could you let me skate on this and just get what I want anyway please?”

“Goodness that wipe was spectacular, who was healing while I was on my smoke break, they must have sucked.”

“I find the existential nature of our situation to be truly side-splitting. Also I am so baked right now.”

“LOOK, A DEATH KNIGHT”

“Real tanks don’t need defense”

“I am sorry, I am deeply embarrassed right now and have nothing else to say.”

“I find the expectations you have burdensome.”

“Check it out, my toes are made of pizza.”

“GTG, raid”

“I exist to infuriate you.”


Things I Have Learned In LFD

April 20, 2010

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time with the loved/feared/loathed/ Dungeon Finder. On Juujube, I’ve been working off an obsession with getting all three Paladin roles geared out enough to shore up the raid as needed- we’re working on training new tanks so that Ossifer Bear and I can take nights off or play with other roles/characters, and the flexibility is suddenly appealing. Being almost always the only plate-wearer, and only strength-based melee DPS in the raid, I’ve gotten a number of ICC drops for those offspecs- but the rest of the stuff, especially the healer set, requires badges, so away for triumphs I went. If that weren’t enough mixing with the primordial soup of the playerbase, I’ve been having a mad dungeon-running flirtation with my warrior alt, to the point that I’m actually toying with the idea of pushing her to 80 in order to have the option of changing mains in Cataclysm if I really don’t like where protection paladins have gone. (Or just really like where prot warriors have- tell me heroic leap doesn’t look like more fun than a bucket of kittens.)

1. Not only do people treat me differently depending on whether I’m tanking or healing, I act differently. I don’t just mean the generic ways in which one treats tanks or healers- I mean people are much more likely to assume I’m a man or a woman, and I act more or less feminine depending on which role I’m in. Not dramatically- my basic personality doesn’t change- but I emote more, use more smilies, and am less likely to give someone being stupid a verbal crack across the chops if I’m wearing my healing kit than my sword and shield. Everybody assumes the female blood elf holy paladin is a woman; no one assumes the female tauren prot warrior is, and this both significantly changes the way I am treated and the way I behave. I don’t know whether I find this fascinating or unsettling.

2. It is possible for someone not the tank to pull for the tank and have this actually be helpful to the tank. I don’t mean a DPS tagging a mob heading for a healer and bringing it to the tank, I mean, in this specific case, a healer running out, facepulling mobs that were nowhere near the pull, and bringing them to me to tank. This has always driven me COMPLETELY FROTHING when running heroics on Juuju, largely because healers assume that the limiting factor on the size of my pulls is my health bar rather than my ability to generate threat*.

This healer, however, would wait until I had the mobs I pulled firmly on me, then run out and grab another when I could easily taunt and apply some quick attention-getting. It kept my rage bar about half full, so that getting firm threat over the next pack I pulled for myself was easy and I was able to pull faster and more smoothly with fewer breakoffs. I have no idea if the guy played a rage-based class himself or what, but it was a Bizarro world of helpful pulling. Is your mind blown? I know mine was.

3. There actually seem to be fewer douchebags around lately. It seemed like there was a peak a few weeks after LFD was introduced during which every asshole tactic in the book came out of the woodwork, but all my “terrible horrible rude pugger” stories date back to pretty much that period. I haven’t had someone gogogogo at me in weeks if not months. Other than the aforementioned example, I’ve only had one person pull for me that wasn’t a guildie using tricks or misdirect. Things are still as silent as ever, but nobody’s been getting up my nose. It’s weird. I think other people are getting all the asshats for me.

4. There must still be asshats, because on Holly the warrior tank, there’s a very marked difference in attitude in groups I zone in to start an instance fresh with, and groups where I zone in midway. The former take it for granted that things are going to run fast and safe; the latter are downright cuddly with me just for doing my job in the exact same fashion. There must be at least one other tank in the 28-32 level range that’s a real prize of a jackass…

5. Despite the fact that I now run as a tank or a healer depending on my mood and the character, I still do some of the things as a tank that make me a bit crazy as a healer. The other night our healer in Gnomeregan disconnected, and I didn’t notice until three pulls later because the shadow priest had taken over for him. I preach about making sure you know where your healer is and that he has mana before pull, but I’m as guilty as falling into that rhythm as anyone… at least I wait at the beginning to make sure everyone is buffed and fed before I’m off to the races.

6. I take both deaths and any intimation of poor performance *far* more personally as a healer than I do as a tank. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m not that experienced yet and I’m more worried that something actually WAS my fault, but when someone manages to rip aggro despite my best efforts or facepull and die when I’m tanking, I usually have the “well don’t do stupid shit, I’m the tank, not your personal savior” reaction. When it happens when I’m healing, I feel like I’ve failed. I also wonder if this ties into point 1 at all.

*Yes, paladins have good AoE threat. However, as I have ranted before, we have good AoE threat over packs of up to about four mobs- beyond that, unless we’re frantically tabbing around, the only thing holding them is consecrate, and at 80 consecrate is the weakest multi-target threat generator we have, not a golden patch of aggro velcro.


Offensensitive

April 14, 2010

Cross-posted between here and Atomic Nerds since it’s a pretty general post rather than being at all WoW-specific. Original kerffufle found at Ophelie’s and commented further upon by Tam. Since this post was written more with the other site in mind, rest assured that absolutely nobody involved with the original inspiration is being referred to in code. This wandered far from my original thoughts more specific to the situation.

It is not uncommonly observed that people shrieking “I’m OFFENDED by that!” are a general boil upon the ass of society, as they use the tactic to shut down any speech, expression, institution, or even person that they dislike. Any and all conflict with their worldview is treated as personal assault and satisfaction is demanded, always in the form of the removal of the “offensive” sentiment or person- preferably after a meek apology has been extracted. It’s a bully’s tactic for muzzling people and opinions the bully doesn’t like, and it is indeed quite commonly abused.

As a consequence, there are a great number of people out there, trying NOT to be bullies, that question themselves extensively when they ARE offended by something someone does or says. Most people do not want to be the jerk in any given social situation, and even if someone said or did something flagrantly assholish, people are frequently reluctant to make waves by saying they were offended at all, let alone calling the other person out on their behavior.

Further along the line are people who are sick of the scolds and make no bones about their willingness to say exactly as they think no matter whom it might offend. Some even go so far as to make being offensive a point of pride in and of itself- and to react to anyone who complains that they were offended by telling them to grow a thicker skin, not be a wuss, not be a bleeding heart, and generally not react.

Where it gets interesting is that it’s also not uncommon for this opposite-end-of-the-spectrum attitude to be used to bully in the exact same fashion as the sensitivity screecher: as a tool to define the conversation exclusively on their own terms. Most people don’t particularly want to put on a suit of metaphorical armor as a precondition of social interaction- and would prefer to be treated well with people they interact with- and will choose not interacting over attempting to become more competitively combative. The person willing to be most boorish controls all terms of interaction, every bit as effectively and selfishly.

This has its place; when a space is yours, you get to set the rules. I can and do say whatever the hell I like on this blog, and I’m not terribly concerned about who might find the language or my opinions offensive. I don’t generally go out of my way to stomp on toes because I get no particular joy out of toe-stomping, but I’m also not afraid to fight with my commentariat over one of those opinions- or tell them to get the hell off my porch, as this is indeed my space, owned and paid for. You don’t get to come and dictate to me how to act with that space. If I want to convert this space to a gallery of baboon asses it’s no one’s business but mine.

If I adopted the attitude that I should be able to set the terms of interaction so completely in someone else’s space that they owned, I would be the asshole, not anyone who was offended. I will not go to my grandmother’s house and use the same language I do here, or discuss some of the same topics, because that would be fucking rude and she would be completely justified in telling me to get my little ass sorted out or to get out of her home. Grandma’s house, grandma’s rules. If grandma and I were to, say, join the same book club, that’s not anyone’s owned space in particular- but the rules of interaction are tacitly sorted out by the people who make up the social system of the club. This is a pretty normal social-species thing; the rules aren’t written down and constitutions aren’t established because making cultures and setting social norms is something we’ve been doing since before fire.

In the book club, things might trend more toward grandma’s tastes and we might be skipping Titus Andronicus and doing Jane Austen instead, or it might trend more my way and grandma will just have to live with the rape and cannibalism being included in the discussion, but neither grandma nor I has any more right than the other- or the other members- in deciding what’s appropriate. Attempting to exert control anyway, either by my turning up in a “FUCK PIG” t-shirt and telling anyone who’s bothered to grow a thicker skin or grandma telling the rest of us we’re going to hell for torturing little old ladies and making baby Jesus cry, would be bullying.

Anyone who wants to start a FUCK PIG, or G-rated book club is of course free to do so- and also free to set their own terms with the like-minded. But trying to bend the terms of acceptable interaction in order to get out of having to see anything you don’t like OR having to exert any self-control is being an asshole, not upholding any kind of principle- and hiding behind that principle is just plain cowardly. If you take satisfaction from being an asshole and just don’t want to censor yourself for anyone for any reason, just own up to it. If you really don’t care what other people think, you shouldn’t have any need at all to waste your time telling them to think differently- unless, of course, you care enough to want to be validated for your behavior anyway.