Friday, February 26, 2010

Hello Sindragosa

Our intrepid band returned to Ice Crown Citadel Monday night determined to face down the mother of all Frost Wyrms, Sindragosa.

We started by taking the elevator down to her room. I had bad flashbacks of the Serpent Shrine Cavern 'Elevator Boss' as the elevator flew down, but fortunately no one died. Our resident explorer and Warlock extraordinaire, Neo, warned us to not go into the room. We found out why quickly. Spiders descended down on webs and engaged us. As we were fighting them, smaller spiders would come down and join them. Once we got the big spiders down, a group of Vrykul came and attacked us, followed by more spiders. You know, after tanking the Adds in Heroic ToC, I've really had my fill of spiders. I'd like to take a tactical nuke to the entire Nerubian Kingdom. We eventually just ran out of the room and out onto Sindragosa's ledge. We cleared the first trash pack and Rimefang landed. We cleared the second trash pack and Spinebraker landed. We opted for Rimefang first. He had a Frost Damage Aura and did the same kind of things he does in the Pit of Saron with throwing ice on a spot on the ground. Then we pulled Spinebreaker. He has a nasty cleave and a fear. So you get feared, and because you didn't roll a Warrior, your DPS gets cleaved. Warriors can Bezerker Rage out of the Fear, and keep Spinebreaker positioned. The Cleave isn't deadly to melee DPS or at least it wasn't to our group.

As soon as Spinebraker hit the dirt, Sindragosa came flying in and immediately aggroed. "Will you look at the size of that thing!" This had to be the biggest dragon I've ever seen in the World (of Warcraft).

Sindragosa is unfortunately a fight that is very hard on people with higher latency. At certain points she pulls everyone to her and then does a big Frost damage explosion. If you are slow getting away or your latency shows you somewhere where you aren't, you can get killed. Several of our team struggled with that during the attempts.

We decided to wear some Frost Resist for the fight, so I had my 'Hodir' set with the Icebane Chest, Belt and Boots. It did mean that my threat generation was a little lower than normal and we lost one attempt to our DPS warrior pulling and getting the raid cleaved. Unlike Spinebreaker, Sindragosa cleave will one shot your non Tanks.

But the most difficult part of Phase 1 was managing the Ice Blocks. Like Sapphiron, two people get picked to be turned into Ice Blocks, only this time you have to break them out. But you need the Ice Blocks to shield you from the Frost Bombs she's dropping. You have to position yourself with the Ice Block between where you are and where and the Frost Bomb will drop while doing 'Goldilocks' DPS. Not too much, or you'll break the block early and leave everyone scrambling for the other Ice Block. Not too little, or you'll lose precious DPS time on Sindragosa while she's on the ground. Goldilocks means 'just right'.

Sindragosa is an execution fight and it took us a while to learn the execution. It took several attempts for us to finally see a Phase 3, and on that attempt we hit her Enrage timer. We need to get better at Phase 1 and 2 so we can get more time at practicing Phase 3.

I feel like it's a fight we can get once we learn it. Now that she is our target we'll really focus on her until she's down.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

10 Man Reality

We again experienced one of the realities of a 10 man guild last night. Team II's Resto Shaman announced he was leaving our guild because he had been offered a spot in a 25 man guild. 25man Raiders talk about how players MIGHT choose 10 mans over 25 mans if they didn't have the huge advantages they do. 10man Raiders experience the reality that players DO choose 25 mans over 10s because of those advantages.

This is simply a reality of being in 10 man raid guild. It is difficult to find people who are willing to stick with a 10 man guild when the deck is so heavily slanted towards the 25 mans. The Devs are really in a tough position on this issue because when it comes to the recruitment and retention of good players, one format or the other will be advantaged. It's simply a question of which one.

The Developers and 25 man raiders have taken the position that in the absence of subsidies for doing 25 mans, 10 man raids would be advantaged. Advantaged meaning that more people would choose do 10 man than 25 man. In fact, the Developers have communicated that 10 man raids would be overwhelmingly advantaged by using the hyperbole that no one would do 25 mans without the subsidies they currently have. Ironically, this argument is actually supported by the fact that guilds like mine exist. We do 10 man content in spite of the advantages of 25 mans. We actually choose to forgo the greater rewards to raid in the environment of our choosing and part of that means we will have to accept some turnover like this Shaman going to a 25 man guild.

The issue is with the difference in difficulty between 10s and 25s. The problem is it's all based on perceptions. 25 man raiders perceive 10 man as easier, 10 man raiders perceive 10 man as a challenge. You have a hard time convincing someone their point of view is wrong when they have so much experiential evidence telling them their point of view right. I find 10 man content to be a challenge. I know 25 man raiders don't. Maybe it's just that my guild mates and I are poor players, but based on our performance I find that unlikely. We are currently a top 10 guild on our server and have killed 10 of the 12 bosses in Ice Crown. That’s Top 10 among all 10 man guilds which include 10 man teams from 25 man guild because we don’t have a 10 Strict rating. We let people PuG 25 mans and enough of us have killed Lord Marrowgar on 25s (including me) that we don't qualify as a 10 Strict guild anymore.

Now I have no doubt that leading a 25 man raid is more difficult than leading a 10 man raid, but that only affects one person, the raid leader. Personally, I would like to see the playing field leveled a little bit more for Cataclysm. With the Guild Talent system, the Developers will have ways to reward 25 mans raiders that are more in line with the actual logicistical challenges of running a 25 man raid guild. I'm not after better loot. The loot dropping is sufficient to beat the content we're doing, that's all I ask for. What I'm after is a way to recruit, and more importantly, retain quality players for our guild.

So this is our reality, what do we do about it. No formal announcements have been made but what it looks like is that we added one person from Raid Team II to Raid Team I, and we folded Raid Team III into Raid Team II. Some of us, like me, are in both teams. I'm a Paladin Tank for Team I and a Hunter for Team II.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Playing with Professor P

With Blood Queen Lanathel soundly defeated, Professor P was the next Wing Boss we set our sites on. Our last time fighting him I felt like our team was really starting to get a hang on the strategy, but we stopped the raid short to go finish off Heroic Anub in ToC.

Now we were back and ready to devote our full attention to the good Professor. Boston (Blood DK Tank) took over driving the Abomination and I took Professor Putricide. We had made a slight alteration to our game plan. Instead of kiting Professor P all over the room, we stayed on the side where the first Add would spawn. Our Priest, Blackhaus, decided to go Holy for these attempts. We used his Lightwell to mark where the first add would spawn. No one was to stand there so we wouldn't get any slime pools there.

We pretty much own Phase 1. We could do that in our sleep. Phase 2 is where it gets interesting. Somewhere in Phase 2 we get behind on the Abom eating the Slime Pools and our DPS gets hit from a nasty hit debuff that makes all our melee DPS specials miss, and Maleable Goo making our casters DPS take a hit.

We finally broke through and got to Phase 3, but the transition was sloppy. We still had an Add up when we transitioned, and by the time we got in our rythym on Phase 3 we were behind. He was at about 18% before we lost a Tank and he healed up.

For some reason right after a really good attempt, our group tends to throw up a brick and we wiped early in Phase 2. Nevertheless, we regrouped and went after him again. This time we pushed in Phase 3 in much better shape, but we started losing DPS and were turned away once more. Boston and I talked about changing our strategy for sharing the debuff. This debuff does damage to your raid. The more stacks you have the more damage you are doing, and it's got a long timer so it's not falling off. Originally we were letting me get to 5 stacks, then having Boston go to 5 stacks, and then we were toast. This time we started switching off at 3 stacks. It was really tight at the end, but we managed to get Professor P down before the damage overwhelmed our overworked healers.
That's two Wing bosses down, and 10 total bosses defeated in Ice Crown Citadel. Only Sindragosa remains before we face down Arthas himself. I've done a fairly good job of avoiding finding out what happens in the Arthas fight (and more importantly AFTER the Arthas fight). I'm hoping the stategy guides won't give away too much of the RP and story.

Now our focus switches to Sindragosa.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Work , Work

I have 4 Level 80 toons. I have 3 Hordeside and 1 Alliance. My Hordeside toons are my Paladin, Druid, and Hunter. My Allance toon is my Warrior.

Currently their professions look something like this.

Prot Paladin: Mining/JC
MM/Surv Hunter: Skining/Mining
Resto/Boomkin Druid: Skinning/Leatherworking
Arms/Prot Warrior: Mining/Enchanting

Now I have a good friend who lets me use his mage for my Disenchanting needs so I haven't seen a big need to bring the Warrior over, plus I like having a toon on Allianceside to drop by and say hello.

I’m wondering if it would make sense to change my Professions with an eye to making more gold. I'm just basically treading water moneywise. I make enough to cover my repair bills, enchants, gems, etc but not a whole lot more. This week in particular with the upgrades I’ve gotten and bought, on 3 toons no less, I’m down about 5k. I'm not looking to become some WoW Mogul. I'd just like to be able to do stuff like buying up Primordial Saronites, getting Epic Flying for my Druid and Hunter and maybe buy a Motorcycle.

I'm happy with JC/Mining on my Paladin. Although he doesn't mine much anymore, he still likes being able to cut my his own gems and Dragonseyes are sexy. I make a little money with his JC buying uncut gems and cutting them and reselling. The problem I have is that many times on Altar of Storms cut gems are selling for LESS than uncut gems, which makes that particular way of making money rather difficult.

My Hunter's professions were basically for him to make money while he leveled up. The intention was that he would be a farmer for me, especially back when Honors was JC/Engineering. Now that he's become part of Raid Team III, he’s actively raiding. Basically all I do to make money with him is send stuff he mines or skins over to my bank mule to sell.

My Druid was Leatherworking with the idea he would make Leg Armors for Honorshammer and also to sell. Here again, like Honors JC, I'm finding that the Armors are selling for LESS than mats and I'm still at the point of having to burn Heavey Boreans to level up his Leatherworking to where he can make more stuff.

What I don't have my arsenal is an Herbalist.

So here's what I've been planning. Change the Druid to Herb/Alchemy. This fills the Herb hole so I can serve that market with raw materials. I'll go transmute spec so he can do Epic Gem transmutes for Honors, reducing the material cost for my raw gems and allowing me to sell at a lower price with a higher margin.

I could keep the Hunter as my Skinner, but switch his other profession over to Engineering. I tell myself it is to get him into the Arrow/Bullet market but the truth is I've always enjoyed Engineering. It was just a horrible profession for a tank when Honors had it, especially compared to mining. I wonder if engineering (in and of itself) provides a DPS increase like Blacksmithing, Leatherworking, Jewelcrafting, Enchanting, etc do. I've had and dropped Engineering twice on Honorshammer, but each time I enjoyed it.

But I've been holding off executing my plan. It might be prudent to wait to see what the Devs are going to do with Professions in Cataclysm. Apparently, it's supposed to be much easier to level up a profession, so it might be better to wait and see. You can reference this article from ShackNews. In the article, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime, states that Blizzard expects Cataclysm to arrive in the "back half of 2010." Now we can add that to the other clues we have. There was the comment the Devs made at Blizzcon 2009 that they thought "Alliance players will be complaining about Goblin Rogues at next year's Blizzcon". The community now knows that Blizzcon 2010 is scheduled for October. I'm thinking they don't want to release the Expansion immediately before they leave the offices for Blizzcon. The 'back half of 2010' is technically anytime from June to December. That makes me think Blizzard execs are targeting an August/September release. If that's right we should start hearing about Beta really soon.

But that is still over 6 months away. As we get closer to Cataclysm, demand for current end games items like Flasks, Gems, Enchants, Bullets/Arrows, and Leg Armors is going to go way down. At the beginning of Cataclysm new raw materials will be crazy expensive. Having a Miner, Skinner, and Herbalist would be a nice advantage. But going by my experience in Wrath I’ll only have time to play my main early on. I’ll need to watch Beta to see if there’s another Overcharged Capacitor type of opportunity in the early zones.

So I'm trying to make a decision on if I should 'pull the trigger' and change up these guys professions, or wait it out.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

PS: Seeing Red (Red Gem Slots)

We started a discussion in the comments to a previous article about Agility gemming versus Dodge gemming. I decided it would make a good topic for a post on Paladin Schmaladin.

I know some of my readers aren't enamored of Paladin Schaladin, so I'll give you the low down. Agility/Stam in Red Slots if the Socket bonus is 9 or 12 Stamina.

It's all based on the math of Theck and others on Maintankadin, but the bottom line result is "Each point of Agility is around 4% more effective at reducing average incoming damage as a point of dodge rating."
This holds true until your raid buffed armor reaches 42k, at which time Dodge takes back over. If you want to check the math behind how this was figured out, you can read the thread.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Finally!!

We spent the better part of last night getting taught lessons by Professor Putricide. Boston and I switched off driving the Abomination and tanking Professor P. It had been some time since we had last worked on Professor since our efforts have been directed at the Crimson Halls and the Frostwing Halls. But with only Professor and Sindragosa left before Arthas, he became our next target.



Our biggest issue, at least from my point of view, is slime management. Phase 1 is cake. We are through that Phase before we get the first Orange Add. Sorry for the lack of proper names, but I think of them as the Orange Add and the Green Add.

Then somewhere in Phase 2 the Abom, regardless if it was either myself or Boston driving the Abom, we would start to get overwhelmed by slime. I was spamming my 'Eat Goo' key as fast as I could but I couldn't seem to keep up. We kept wiping right around the 60% mark. We the attempt limiter removed we were free to try several different approaches. We tried 2 healers, and 3 healers, but it didn't seem to make much difference. We've got to be missing something important.

When the trash respawned on us we had a choice to make. Stay and work on Professor P, or go to Heroic ToC and try to finally kill Anub. Boston put it to a vote and Anub was the choice.

So we hopped over to Crusader's Coliseum for another round with the Bug. We still had 35 attempts up. I was hoping we'd go in and just one shot him, but that wasn't going to happen. I didn't get the second Add picked up quickly enough as we went into Phase 3 and he ate a healer. Sorry Stark.

Then we had a frustrating attempt where I got killed by Anub's Spike, even though I was clearly standing on the ice as we were finishing off the Adds. I am please to report that then entire evening I didn't miss a single Shadow Strike. Once, one of the Adds got slowed by walking over some ice so we wasn't in melee range when he started his cast. I ran out towards him and used Arcane Torrent to interrupt the cast.

We had a couple of really close wipes. There is so much that has to go right in this fight, and so many failure points from tanking to healing to kiting.

Then we had an attempt where things seemed to be going well. I parked myself right next to Stark (Resto Shaman) when Phase 3 started. It must be something about Shamans that make them look tasty to spiders because the Adds always seemed to want to make a beeline for him before I questioned their heritage (taunt). What do you say to taunt a spider? "Your mother's webs were asymmetrical!!" It seemed to work.

Army of the Dead helped pick up the first two spiders, and I got their Shadow Strike interrupted. Then I parked myself under Anub's rather large derriere. We had had some sub 10k wipes. I wanted my Consecrate to hit Anub because as close as we were every little bit of DPS helped. The two spiders finished off the Army and turned back to me, then submerged. I kept Consecrate down to pick them up when they surfaced, and got ready to pick up the next set. I picked them up and got ready for their Shadow Strike when I heard Boston over vent say "Good job guys." Achievements flashed up.




There was no exultant cheer, but more of an exhale, a release. We had finally overcome the Bug.

You ask each person in our raid and he'll tell you something extraordinary he did during that attempt. I only wish I had seen it all so I could tell you about it. But everyone played to their highest potential. Boston was a monster tanking Anub, Black and Stark healed like a mofo. Neo, Donk, Ofn, Lakini, Blue, and Pink DPSed like their was no tomorrow. They all used different utilities throughout the fight that went above and beyond the call of duty. The team did a great job.

ToC Hard Mode is in the books.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Apparently I'm a Bad Healer and a Ninja

Friday was a weird night. First of all I got online a little late because it was snowing in Charleston for the first time in over 10 years. I took Mrs. Hammer and Little Hammer out in the snow. We made a snowman, had a snowball fight, and made snow angels. It was one of those nights I'll never forget, and I hope they won't either.
After we got in and warmed up, we put Little Hammer to bed and then I got online.
While I was running the Daily Random Heroic on one of my 3 Level 80s, one of my guild mates, we'll call him Mr. D, started to put together a PuG 25 man for ICC. I think everyone in my 5 man volunteered to go. Mr.D said they just needed Heals and DPS. I was a little disappointed because I had hoped to go tank it. I was a little more disappointed when I found out one of other guild tanks was going to tank it. But it made sense. Mr.D knew him from their 10 man group, so Mr.D was probably comfortable with him tanking. I'm sure if one of the guys from my 10 man group had started it, they would have asked me to tank. But I got really disappointed when I realized Mr.D had PuGed a Tank. I didn't say anything out loud to him and mostly kept my disappointment to myself outside of what filtered through my tone of voice. I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve and I’m not good at masking. The whole competition to Tank spots was part of what drove me away from doing 25 mans in the first place.
So I offered to go on my Hunter. They were reluctant to take him because the raid already had at least 4 or 5 Hunters. Yeah, cool. I can understand that. So my Hunter and Paladin were out and my Druid wasn't near geared enough. Okay, cool, I'm not going to be going on this 25 man half guild / half-PuG run. I was disappointed because pretty much everyone online in my guild would be doing it. No worries. I was actually kind of pleased (and pleasantly surprised) with the way I was handling myself.
Then Mr. D whispers me and asks if I can be a healer on the run. I hem and haw and think it over. I need Emblems, and to a lesser degree, Rep. Then I have an idea. I whisper Mr.D and ask him if I can still roll mainspec Tank on drops even if I go heals for the raid. He gives me the green light.
Good thing that I do next: tell the Tank from our guild what is going on.
Bad thing that I neglect to do next: tell the rest of the tanks.
The irony of the situation was not lost on me. Back when I was in Mal Katai and Naxx was the only show in town, I had had a Warrior, who had gone DPS for the raid, grab the shield off Kel'Thuzad over me. I was less than completely pleased. In my defense, I didn't know at the time he was a tank. I had only ever seen him DPS in our raids. Once the situation was explained to me I calmed down and apologized to him and the Raid Leader. Now here I was, doing essentially the very same thing that had gotten me upset way back then.
We filled up the raid with PuGs and got started. I had a bad feeling about it.
My Twitter:"Pugging 25 man ICC, this is probably a bad idea"
@honorshammer It's a great idea! You'll probably make it through Saurfang at least, and with a little luck, pick up some nice loot!
The PuG tank essentially took over the raid declaring loudly that he can lead this thing, and started pulling. It was a little rough at first. The first pulls were disjointed and we lost our Guild Tank. He spent the next couple of pulls mostly dead. The Mr.PuG Tank went freaked out when one of the rogues disarmed a trap because he wanted the Rep. He was everything I can't stand in a tank: pushy, bossy, and a rock star type. It stung a little that on top of everything else, I also out geared him. I will give him this though, the guy made some sick high Threat.
After the first couple of pulls everyone settled down and before you know it we're ready to pull Marrowgar. I cast Beacon on the PuG Tank and started bombing Holy Lights on our our Guild Tank. Right after the first Bone Storm, we lost a healer, and then lost a tank, and it went down hill from there. Everyone stayed with the raid, no first wipe jumpers that I recall. We pulled again and the same thing happens.
As we run back in to regroup, one of the PuG Holy Paladins pipes up that he thinks Healing might be an issue and specifically my healing. He called me Honor Shammer so it took a moment for me to realize he was talking about me. His issue was that my HPS was low, and much lower than his. He claimed I was sub 2k, while he was at 4k. I began to wonder for a moment if I had gotten into a PuG with Gevlon. Basically he said I wasn't pulling my weight, causing us to wipe. He then claimed it wasn't the first time he had seen me not pull my weight. He must have gotten me confused with someone else. I generally don't do 25 mans or heal. The only other time I remember healing in a 25 man was a VoA a couple of weeks ago, but I bailed after the first wipe because it was time for our 10 man raid. Now I was causing someone’s Rank Watch to go bananas because I hadn’t trained Holy Shock since Level 70. Oops! I got a port to Silvermoon and took care of that issue.
It strikes me as I writes this that perhaps he hadn't reset his meters and was including the Trash. I didn't heal a whole bunch on trash so that may have made my numbers look worse than they were. He never linked a meter. I know I'm not the greatest Healer in the World (of Warcraft), but I'm fairly sure that Healing Meters aren't the best measure of a healer.
My guild mates weren't going to hear it. Before I could say a word, they rushed to defend me. One linked a Healing meter showing me as 3rd in Healing Done. This led to a heated exchange in vent. Names were called and the PuG Healer left in a huff. Keep in mind that the raid was about 15 to 16 of my guildmates and 7 or 8 PuGs using our Vent Server. Since he was PuGing with a Guild, it might not have been the best idea to call out one of their own. Especially a relatively tight guilds like Devolve.
After that little bit of drama reminded me once again why I quit doing 25 mans, one of my guild mates identified the real problem. We hadn't assigned Healers and the third Tank wasn't getting enough heals. After we assigned healers to the Tanks and to the raid, Marrowgar was a one shot.
Drops were Bryntroll, Legguads of Lost Hope and a Bulwark of Smouldering Steel. Bryntroll was the biggest reason Mr.D had organized the PuG raid. To his credit, when he lost the roll he looted it to the winner who was none other than Boston (my DK co-Tank). As if I didn't already have trouble holding threat off him, lol. Mr.D probably offered some insane amount of gold to Boston to trade it, but Boston wouldn't hear of it.
Then it came time for the Pants. I never roll high, ever, but wouldn't you know it I outrolled the other Tanks. Mr.D loots the pants to me and of course someone asks about a Healer getting Tank gear. I explained I was Main Spec Tank but I was healing for the Raid because we were fine for Tanks and short on Healers.
I thought Grim had told me he had the mats for the Pillars of Might so I offered the pants to him in exchange for the Pillars (because I like the Pillars better). I had misunderstood him. He was starting to gather the Saronites for the Pillars but didn't have them. So I kept the Pants. Our Shaman was really excited about a shot at the Shield, but one of the PuG Shamans won it.
We headed over to Lady DeathWhisper and cleared her trash. At this point Grim took over the raid and assigned Tanks, DPS and Heals to various locations to handle Adds. We made several attempts, pushing to Phase 2 on about half of them, but we seemed to have trouble controlling the Adds and interrupting Frost Bolts. After multiple wipes the raid fell apart. Mr. D decided his Raid Leading days were over. He would just PuG and hit stuff from now on. As the raid fell apart I got an amusing tell from one of the PuGs. "You're not only a bad healer but a ninja too. kthxbai."
What a lovely way to end the evening. Man I should have gotten a screenshot of that, but I didn't think about at the time. I logged off as quickly as I could and jumped on my Hunter to go shoot some stuff before calling it a night.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Anniversary Honorshammer

Feburary 15th, 2006 I opened my WoW account which means I've now been playing this game for 4 years.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ooh Ooh Dream...Walker

I believe you can get me through the night....

Last night was an expensive night for me. I bought the final Saronite I needed to get my Boots of Kingly Upheaval crafted by our resident Guild Blacksmith. He's been unselfishly using his Emblems to buy Saronites to make sure he's got all the patterns we need, and stockpiling Titansteel. A couple of guys pitched in and provided the Eternal Earths I needed so I wouldn't have to buy them off the AH. I've always heard the Tank's gear is not his own, but the guilds. With the Boots it really felt that way.

Then I caved and bought the Lightsworm Shoulderguards. Now the last piece of sub 251 gear on Honors is his Gloves. By the time I had gemmed and enchanted the boots and shoulders I was down about 3k total on the night. But it was gold I was happy to spend. Why else am I saving it up? It's kind of like Hunters who question if they should use Epic Ammo in ICC. Why else did you buy/craft it?

Raidwise, the night started out looking pretty bleak as we had only 6 guys on at raid time. But within a few minutes we had our full 11 online. We had cleared the first four bosses on Tuesday, so we started with the Crimson Halls in the Upper Spire.

We were greeted by a Quest Giver near the entrance to the Crimson Halls for a second week in a row. This quest requires you to kill Blood Queen Lanathel within 30 minutes of stepping into the Crimson Halls. About the only way you can pull that off is one shotting both Blood Princes and Blood Queen Lanathel. We got our first Blood Queen kill last week; a one shot of both bosses was a bit much to ask.

Undaunted we pulled as quickly as we could and prepared to face off with the Three Amigos. We had Jagdelf (SV Hunter) as our Ranged Tank, with Neo (Destro Lock) and Donk (Arcane Mage) playing with the Beach Balls. Jags target got empowered second which made healing him a little sketchy. Boston (Blood DK Raid Leader) called for cooldowns on Jag. I hit Divine Guardian. Start (Resto Shaman) hit him with Nature's Swiftness/Healing Wave, Blackhaus (Disc Priest) put up Guardian Spirit. Amazingly, Jag lived. Everyone did a fantastic job and Blood Princes were a one shot. We moved quickly on up to Blood Queen. The only way we were going to complete the quest was if we one shot her, too.

The attempt went really well until right towards the end. Somewhere in somebody ran the wrong way and we lost Donk (Arcane Mage). I didn't see what happened. Then right towards the end it turned into a gong show. Neo (Destro Lock) did some spell that made it look like he was getting hit by something from Blood Queen which caused Blackhaus (Disc Priest) to get concerned, then one of the DPS bit me which caused me to freak out because I wasn’t generating any threat. Of course, no one else was either at that point. We wiped, but we weren't going to have beaten the enrage timer anyway.

I was using Divine Guardian each Air Phase and I think it was really helping out the healers. I've made a macro that yells "RAID WALL UP" when I use it to help the healers know it's up.

We regrouped and pulled again. The attempt went much better but we were really close on the Enrage Timer. Both Blood Queen and the Enrage Timer were in single digits. I waited until her "THIS ENDS NOW!" emote and hit my Divine Shield. Boston (Blood DK co-tank) hit Anti-Magic Shell. We only needed a few seconds for the DoTs to finish her off. She died within a second or two of enraging.

She dropped another pair of Veincrusher Gauntlets. I had passed the first set to Boston, but I kept this set for myself. I'm not sure if I'll put Armsman (2% threat and 10 parry) on them or go with a 240 Armor Leatherworking Kit. Threat hasn't been a big issue, but the first 10 to 12 seconds of a fight can be a little tight, especially with our very skilled melee DPS like Blueshield (Fury Warrior) and Ofn (Combat Rogue).

After the fight I took a screenshot of my TankadinTPS report. I was really surprised to see Seal of Corruption being the #1 threat ability.

Our next target was Dreamwalker. We felt like we understood the encounter so much better than we had last week. Our healers knew how to handle the portals. Our first attempt we used a 4 healer/1 tank/5 DPS set up. Blackhaus and I stayed out as Holy while Lakini (Resto Druid) and Start (Resto Shamans) went into the portals. I still did a good bit of healing on Dreamwalker thanks to Beacon of Light. We had her up to 90% when Stark died to a combination of Frostbolts and the void zone that shows up on the ground. We got him back up, but he lost his 30 stack of the healing buff and we got overwhelmed.

Stark was being hampered by the snare from the Frostbolts. So we made two changes. First, we went back to 2 tanks, 3 healers, and 5 DPS. Blackhaus stayed outside while Lakini and Stark got the portals. The other change we made was to have Stark hang out on my side so I could dispel him if he got the Frostbolt snare.

I only worried about tanking the Zombies and the Aboms. The Zombies have a stacking nature debuff they put on you that reduces your armor. You want to try to kite Tank them. Start with Avenger's Shield, Exorcism and Hand of Reckoning. They are immune to stuns, but they don't move too quickly, and they blow up when they die leaving a nasty DoT on you. Try to be away from them when they die.

Aboms will spray you with something that you can easily cleanse off. The real key with these guys is don't leave the body once your DPS kill it. Put a Consecrate down immediately when they die. It'll help you pick up the worms that are going to spawn. They don't have much health but they hit harder than any worm you've seen before. Keep them on your plated behind and away from your DPS.

This is a perfect fight to run Seal of Command. The Adds die fairly quickly and you want to establish some quick aggro. It's also helpful for picking up an Archmage or Zombie while you tank an Abom.

But this fight isn't about Tanking. It's about your healers.

Our second attempt went better. The raid was beginning to get overwhelmed, but DreamWalker was nearly healed up. Stark and Lakini got their stacks. I hit Divine Guardian to try to keep people alive long enough for us to finish it, and prepared to hit Lay on Hands on Dreamwalker. With a 10 minute cooldown, I was trying to save it for when it would make the difference between victory and defeat. But just before I hit it, Dreamwalker stood up, and lolwtfpwned all the Undead in the room.

Stark and Lakini healed their butts off. But this fight had an MVP and it was Blackhaus. This guy single healed the 7 of us allowing Stark and Lakini to concentrate fully on Dreamwalker. The guy did an absolutely amazing job. So Blackhaus, have a cold one on me.

We finished the evening by going over and one shotting Rotface and Festergut. Can we please get that as our quest next week?

We are off for the weekend, but Monday only Putricide (who we've never killed) and Sindragosa (who we've never even pulled) stand between us and Arthas. I don't think we'll see him this week, but we are so very close I can almost taste it. Can you tell this prospect somewhat excites me?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Visual Guide to the Crimson Halls

Sometimes pictures really ARE worth more than words. Courtesy of our Raids Boomkin, I give you the definitive Visual Guide to the Crimson Halls.

Two Must Reads

WoW In An Hour has written an absolutely fantastic guide on Paladin Tanking. It is written specifically for the Warrior Tank who wants to try out Paladin tanking, and it's very well done. It would also be a great read for any new Protection Paladin as it explains nearly everything you need to know about being a solid Paladin tank in a beginner friendly way. The article is extremely well done and researched and I highly recommend you check it out.
The other article that you need to see this morning comes from our Death Knight friend, Gravity. He has been following the threads on Maintankadin researching the question of how many Bosses in ICC and ToC have Parry-Haste enable. This question is of great import to the Death Knight community because one of the downsides of Dual Wield tanking is the concern of causing more Parry-Haste.
At first, the community was beginning think that Parry Haste doesn’t exist in ICC. Then as more data came in and some well done analysis by Theck, and Tbdsamman, it is now mostly confirmed to be by and large off in Ice Crown Citadel.
This has a rather large effect on the value of Expertise. Let me quote Gravity directly.
The significance of the change for Icecrown raiders is that expertise should be seen as a threat stat (again), so it is not as valuable over the 6.5% cap as I thought last week, which in turn might have implications to your gear choices and gemming in the hard-modes.
Paladins don’t gem for Expertise, or at least they shouldn’t. If you are, stop it. Red slots are for Agility/Stam gems if the socket bonus is +9 stamina or more. Otherwise, get all misty eyed for another Solid Majestic Zircon.
Where it will come into play for Paladins is comparing the Emblem bought Expertise heavy Cataclysmic Chestguard aka the “Cat” against the Defense challenged T10 Chest. At the 251 level, the Cat is better because of the huge upgrade it represents in EH. At the 264 level it’s more a question of avoidance from T10 against the threat of Cat. Expertise is still our best threat stat until we reach the Soft cap of 26 (16 if you use Glyph of Seal of Vengeance/Corruption and the corresponding Seal – which you should be!). The Cat alone will get you there. However, if you choose to go with T10, you can get other Expertise pieces (stuff like the Facelifter, gloves from Blood Queen 10 and the boots from Dreamwalker 25 ) It also opens up the option of going with Pillars of Might with 4 piece Tier 10. You could still reach the soft cap with the Facelifter and eating Rhinolicious Wormsteak.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thinking Out Loud On Next Emblem Purchase

Last night was pretty quick. We just took out the four bosses in the Lower Spire. We only had a minor hiccup on Deathwhisper when our DPS wasn’t watching threat and pulled her. We lost about half our DPS right there. Boston and I got it back under control and we rezzed one of the dead DPS. We still one shot her despite that. I didn’t feel any of the fatigue I had felt during Anub’arak, so maybe it was just a one night thing. More than ever I want to get back in there and finally kill that bug.

Next we went over to Naxxrammus for the weekly quest. This week on Altar of Storms, it's Patchwerk. It was kind of funny being back in Naxx again. We all remembered cutting our raiding teeth in there back when iLevel 213 was the hot stuff. Gear inflation has just been crazy this expansion. I have nearly one and half times more health than I did in those early days. Patch went down ridiculously fast.

With the Frost Emblems from last night I'm getting close to my next Emblem purchase. My wish list for Emblems is the Kraken gloves, Cat chest, T10 shoulders and T10 Helm.

As I look over my gear my Boots, Gloves and Shoulders are my last 232 pieces. We are a 10 man guild still a little ways from Arthas and Hard Modes. That puts an effective cap of 251 on any gear we get from drops. My alts are going a great job of slaving away for Primoridal Saronites and by Thursday I should have the last Saronite I need to get our friendly neighborhood guild Blacksmith to craft some Boots of Kingly Upheaval. Once I have the Boots made, I'll get my alts cracking again on the Saronites for the Pillars of Might. I could replace the Shoulders but I'd lose my 2pc T9 bonus. 2 piece Tier 9 is nice but I'm not sure it's needed. The 5% damage increase is probably negated by the strength upgrade I'll get from the rise in ilevel. The shorter CD on taunt is nice but since we have 2 taunts it should be fine. Plus, I will have to live without it as some point anyway.

One thought would be to go for the Chest since it's the most expensive thing I'm after at the moment, but the other line of thought would be the replace my weakest pieces first. I would get Shoulders over Gloves since I can hope to get lucky and get the Gloves from VoA. But I won’t get my hopes up. For some reason VoA only seems to drop Mail for our group.

While I know this shouldn't be a factor, I'd love to get some T10 gear, just so I can start looking like a T10 Paladin. I think I'm on the only Paladin on AoS without his T10 Shoulders.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Night of Ups and Downs

Last night I was a little late getting online as I was furiously working on my resume. You may remember about six months ago, we lost our big account at work. At the time, the management group said 'we don't want anyone going out and looking for a job, but we understand if you do.' Monday that changed to 'January numbers are in. January numbers are bad. You should really be looking if you aren't.’ So looking I am.

It was a great relief to escape into WoW for a couple of hours. Our intrepid little band was headed up to the Crimson Halls. We had killed the Princes earlier in the week so we were ready to fight the Queen once more. Our Lock had not seen her before and at the end of the Thursday's raid he sent his little Eye thing up to her room. He let it get too close and pulled her. We weren't sure it that had burned an attempt since we were all heading out, but sure enough it had. We gave him a good natured ribbing; at least I hope he took it that way. I really like the culture that Boston has cultivated in our raid team. We don’t jump all over people about mistakes. We’ll rib you about it, sure. But it’s done in a good natured, ‘lets all just have a laugh about this’ kind of way.

Our first pull on the Queen was a gong show. I got passed in threat and got bitten. Getting bitten means you are generating zero threat. That did not end well. I checked all the usual suspects, Righteous Fury up, Seal of Vengeance (yes I know it’s technically Corruption, but I still think of it as Vengeance, there’s still a lot of Dwarf in this Blood Elf).

Everything looked to be in order. Boston, Raid Leader extraordinaire, asked melee to give me a little more time to establish threat. They are all fighting for that 'get bitten first' position.

The next attempt went well until the second air phase. People needed to bite someone while she was in the air doing her AoE. Getting people close together in this phase is a Bad Thing™ because the damage they take is intense. The vampires were in a no win situation. Either they have to get close to bite someone and cause massive raid damage, or they don’t bite, get mind controlled, and go around one shotting healers. To try to throw off the timing a bit, we had the first person bitten by the Queen delay when they bit the first time. That seemed to help.

Every air phase I would put up Divine Sacrifice aka Raid Wall to help with the damage, and then start spamming heals on myself. We were running three healers, Black (Disc Priest), Lakini (Resto Druid) and Stark (Resto Shaman). By healing myself, I took some pressure off of them and allowed them to concentrate on other members of our team.

Delaying the bite seemed to help and our next two attempts went well, but we lost Lakini. We had Pink (our Feral Druid) battlerez him. We got the Queen into the single digits when she enraged and one shot the raid.

We felt like we were really close. Someone asked if we could DPS her in the air, and we determined we could. Plus we instructed the healers to DPS once the healing got managable towards the end. Boston (Blood co-Tank) switched some gear to be more DPS oriented. Healing him would be a little harder but Black felt it was managable.

We pulled again and had two really solid air phases. We hit Bloodlust and went to town. The race was on to see if we could DPS her down before she enrage. We threw everything we had at her: Moonfires, Holy Novas, Lightning Bolts. I think Blueshield tossed a kitchen sink in there somewhere. With seconds to go on the enrage timer, Blood Queen Lanathel fell. Double Moonfires for the win! The first kill of a Wing End Boss was ours!

She dropped a gun that became a stat stick for either Ofn (Combat/Mutilate Rogue) or Blueshield (Arms/Fury Warrior). She also dropped some tanking gloves which I passed to Boston. I'm planning on buying the Gauntlets of the Kraken and he's had terrible luck with drops in ICC. Plus, my gloves and shoulders are keeping my two piece T9 bonus up and I don’t want to break that until I can replace it with two piece Tier 10 which will likely be Helm/Shoulders.

Our next target was Valithria Dreamwalker. We ran the unorthodox matrix of 1 Tank, 5 DPS and 4 healers. So I switched from Prot to Holy and got ready.The healers alternated going into the portals, two stayed out, and two went in. That worked out okay, but we ended up getting over run by Adds. So we switched it up. Stark (Resto Shaman) and I took the portals while Black and Lakini stayed out. That worked better, but we were still only getting her up to 80% or so before the raid just got overwhelmed. There had to be some mechanic we were missing. Stark actually figured it out. The buff the healers get stacks way past 6 which is what most of our healers were getting, but you have to be quick to get back into the portal and up to a cloud before your stack wears off.

It was interesting switching to healing for that fight. I put a Beacon of Light on Dreamwalker and healed Boston or whoever was taking damage. Everything I healed the raid for also healed Dreamwalker through Beacon, even my Overheal. It was very cool.

I think once our Healers get used to stacking up the buff we'll get that fight.

We called it a little early to go take care of some unfinished in ToGC. We had a saved raid that was cleared up to Twins in 45 attempts. We went in and one shot Twins though the fight was something of a gong show. Our mage died twice and we missed an interrupt. But we still got them.

Next we faced up with Anub'arak. Boston reminded us of the mechanics and we pulled. Boston was on Anub'arak and I was tanking Adds in my Block Value set. Phase 1 was cake. Phase 2 we had problems with people kiting, and problems with Adds putting up too many debuffs on people. We got those mostly ironed out. We had some really strong attempts including a heart breaking wipe with Anub at 5k health when he despawned. Our healers were having trouble juggling Boston, Penetrating Cold, and the Raid damage.

Then my problems started.

The Adds would spawn from opposite sides of the room. I'd run over to Avenger's Shield and by the time I got back over to the other one, he'd be chewing on a healer, normally our Resto Shaman. Wipe.

It seemed like just as we went to Phase 3, I'd get low and have to burn a cooldown like my Trinkets or Divine Protection. Then I would be stuck in a Global Cooldown when I needed to interrupt Shadow Strike. Wipe.

The whole Phase 3 was dependant on my hitting my Holy Wrath button at the exact right moment and hoping it didn't get resisted or miss. Otherwise, we wipe.

I was getting really frustrated and I'm sure it showed to the team. What bothered me the most was that I was letting these guys down. Each attempt I was determined to not mess up, and each attempt I did anyway. There is so much going on Phase 3 between picking up Adds, watching for Shadow Strike, managing cooldowns. Somewhere along the way I screwed something up.

We ended up having to call the Raid because it was getting late. We still have 32 attempts left, so we agreed to extend the raid ID once more. I know I wasn't the cause of every wipe, but I was the cause of more than my fair share.

I've started to feel something during nights like last night, something I've never felt tanking before, fatigue. I started my Tanking career in the weeks before Burning Crusade came out, and I've strived as hard as I could to be the best Paladin Tank I can be. Mistakes are generally of a different magnitude for Tanks. If I don't hit my buttons at the exact right moment, its a wipe. I don't move with my co-Tank on Lord Marrowgar, we wipe. I don't taunt Saurfang when my co-Tank gets Blood Run, we wipe. I don't hit Divine Protection for Plasma Blast or move out of Shockblast doing Firefighter, we wipe. The responsibility and pressure of being the Tank is starting to wear on me a bit. I don't know if you want to call it burnout, or just a bad night, or maybe my real life issues, but for the first time, I'm questioning if I really want to continue to have the whole raid put on my shoulders.

I know this much. I want to finish what I started. I'm want to tank Arthas.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Congratulations Saints

You might have heard a football game was played last night. Congratulations to the Saints and their fans. I hope one day my Panthers allow me to feel how all Saints fans must feel this morning.

The leader of the Saints is Drew Bress, a quarterback has been told his whole life he's too short to play the position. He was dumped by his old team and signed with the Saints four years ago. This interview with Drew Brees may give some insight into the character of the man who led his team to winning the Super Bowl.

Friday, February 5, 2010

PS: Paladin Tanks Nerfed In Hot Fix

I put my thoughts in an article on Paladin Schmaladin. Here's the net-net.

In the end, I don't think this will have much effect on us. Some of us won't have 40k unbuffed HP anymore, but that's more an 'epeen' thing than anything else. Paladins have tanked successfully with the deck stacked far more against us than it is now, even with this small nerf. Generally, Tanks have not been the bottleneck to any of the fights so far. Maybe that will change in hard modes, but raids are wiping more to execution and learning errors, than class mechanics.

For me personally, Boston (my co-Tank) seems to prefer Blood so the buff will be very nice for him. It's not like we told him to lol go DPS when DKs got nerfed hard in whichever patch it was, maybe 3.1. I have every confidence I'll be tanking on Monday night. Well except for Dreamwalker who I've been lobbying to be Holy for because dropping huge Holy Light bombs on her sounds like fun.

Once the emotion wears off, we'll adapt. All Paladins really ask for from the Devs is to give us the tools to do our job, a short cooldown interrupt would be nice.

What all tanks want is the game to be balanced so that our raids don't have a worse chance of downing the boss just because we are Class: Foo instead instead of Class: Woo.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

10 Man World Firsts

I'm a bit baffled by the thread on the Official Forums where 10 man Raiders are complaining that the first Arthas 10 man kill was done by 25 man raiders.
When you decide to be a 10 man raider, what you are basically saying is that you don't care about World or Server firsts. That's just part of joining the 10 man scene. Although I'm sure a 10 man strict guild has gotten a server first here or there, 25 man raiders have a built in advantage with their higher iLevel gear. It is far more likely a 25 man guild will get a server first on 10 man than a 10 man guild.
We should also remember that before Wrath came out, there was an idea that Arthas would only be available as a 25 man raid boss. 10 mans could fight him, but he'd escape and leave a chest. He would only actually die in a 25 man raid. Instead, the Devs decided to give 10 and 25 man raiders the full encounter, and both groups get to kill the Lich King. 10 man raiders should be very pleased at that decision.
But it got me thinking about the 10/25 man split experiment for Wrath, and ways it could improved for both 10 and 25 man raiders in Cataclysm. Let's look at the disparity of rewards, disparity of challenge, and the disparity of expectation.
Let me get my bias out of the way right at the front so you know where I'm coming from. I consider myself a 10 man raider, but not a 10 man Strict Raider, meaning that I will occasionally PuG a 25 man. Our guild used to combine the raid teams to do a once a month 25 man, but we haven't done that recently. Despite my bias, I will do my best to look at each area objectively. In the event that my bias affects my view, at least you know what that bias is.
Disparity of Rewards
It's well known that 25 mans give the best rewards. This isn't only in the fact that 25 mans give the highest iLevel loot. The 25 mans also drop the crafting reagents, and they are the only places to acquire legendaries.
We'll talk about the difficulty difference, or what i call the disparity of challenge in a moment, but let's look at another reason why 25 mans give the best rewards.
The disparity of rewards is partially motivated by a recruitment concern. The premise is that if 25s and 10s dropped the same rewards, then fewer people would do 25s, and most would flock to 10 mans. Since by definition, 25s need more people than 10s, reducing the available pool of players would have a greater impact on the 25 man guilds than the 10 man guilds.
But this does put a strain on 10 man guilds efforts to recruit. 10 mans are looking for recruits who have decided to forgo the greatest rewards in order to raid with a smaller group of people. Some 10 man Guilds have become little more than a farm system for 25 man Guilds. People come into the 'minor league' 10 man guild, get geared, and then leave for an opening in the 25 man 'big leagues'.
25 man guilds also had the power of incumbency working for them at Wrath's launch. While there were some 10 man guilds farming Kara and progressing in Zul'Aman, the notion of a 10 man Guild wasn't widely known or accepted until Wrath.
Now there are many 10 man Guilds on every server and during Wrath we saw the rise of the 10 man Strict Guild that requires its members to forgo doing any 25 man content. Players continue to choose 10 mans despite the disparity of rewards.
Disparity of Challenge
There have been pages upon pages written discussing the difficulty difference between 10s and 25s, and wherever you fall on that argument, another page probably won't sway you. I think everyone can agree it's a hotly debated topic.
One of the reasons that 25 man raiders perceive 10 man content as being easier is the superior gear rewards they received from 25 man raids overgear them for the content from the moment it's released. ICC10 feels much different with a group in a mix of 219 and 232 gear than it does for a group with 245 to 258 gear. The Devs could limit what gear you could wear in a 10 man, and have for some achievements, but so far their implementation has been a bit obtuse and the exact rules are not well known or understood.
There are other factors that make 25 mans harder, like DPS requirements and how much damage the various Boss abilities do. Most of that can simply be attributed to scaling. WoW.com's Scattered Shots column had a great analysis of just how much DPS players get out of buffs. 25 man raiders have access to more buffs than 10 man raiders, so they get superior scaling from both the additional number of players and the additional number of buffs and debuffs.
25 man raiders deal with a much greater opportunity to make mistakes. There is simply a much greater chance of 1 person in 25 making a mistake than 1 in 10, but 10 man raiders lose much more from a single death in the raid than 25 man raiders do. 25s are much more likely to have soul stones and battle rezzes increasing their buffer for mistakes over 10 mans.
I admit to begin baffled at some of the encounter changes between 10 and 25 man. Specifically, I'm thinking of Lady Deathwhisper. 10 man raiders could handle a mind control element in the KT fight, why did it have to be removed from the 10 man?
I think that ultimately it's a decision by the Developers and Encounter Design Team. They could choose to make 10 man encounters as difficult as their 25 man counterparts but choose not to. This is done partly to justify the disparity the rewards, and partly a way to allow more people to see the content through the more forgiving 10 man raid.
Disparity of Expectation
I believe there is an expectation put on 25 man raiders that they will raid 10 man content as well as their 25 mans. Whether this expectation comes from the player herself or the guild, it is there nonetheless. With all the Tier gear being Emblem bought, running both version is the best way to increase the number of Emblems you get each week.
10 mans also represent an opportunity for the 25 man raider to fill in gear slots where they haven't been lucky with drops or have gotten outbid.
It provide the 25 man guild an opportunity to experience the dynamics of the Boss fights. This can really help the guild when it sees those fights on 25 man and with the limited attempt mechanism every pull counts.
You can see this expectation in the price of the Emblem of Frost gear. It's more expensive than the Emblem of Triumph gear partially because the Devs expect the 25 man raiders to run ICC twice every week, once one 10 man and once on 25.
Cataclysmic Improvements
I believe the 10/25 raid split was one of the best features of Wrath of the Lich King. It gave players much more freedom, and allowed more players than ever to experience the wonderful raid content the Devs work so hard to produce.
I wonder if the system couldn't be improved by going one step further and making the choice to be a 10 man or 25 man raider a bit more defining.
Art
I would propose having different Tier Art for each raider. The Devs did a little of this early on with different skins, but I would go further and actually have different models. People should be proud of their choice of content. PVPers look different from PVEers. 10 man Raiders should look different from 25 man Raiders.
Lockout
The Devs could address the disparity of rewards, challenge, and expectation by enforcing a shared Raid Lockout on 10 and 25 mans, but only for the current Tier. So, for example, only ICC would lock you into 10 or 25. You could run the older raids on both.
Immediately, there is no expectation of 25 man raiders running a 10 man. They will save their lockout for their main activity.
This also has an advantage for the Developers. They have been looking to slow down progression with gated content. By only allowing a player to run the instance once during the week, they will slow down Emblem income and limit the drops players get.
They could address both the disparity of challenge and rewards. The 10 and 25 could drop the exact same gear. The Itemization Team wouldn't need to create nearly as many items, and you'd avoid the issue of the best Trinket dropping in a 10 man. The Encounter Design Team could design the Encounters to be challenging to both raid sizes. The Team would have a much better handle on the average iLevel of the players raiding each instance. This would let them better tune the encounters to be approximately equally challenging regardless of raid size.
The one issue that seems like it would not address is the recruitment issue. The concern is that you would see a vast reduction in 25 man guilds as well as gut the pool of potential recruits for 25 man guilds.
We apparently need to give players an incentive to go to 25 man raids. We must conclude that since people would flock to 10 mans were there no incentive, that 25s are actually less popular.
Perhaps something could be done with the new Guild Leveling System, but I’m not sure that would be enough. 25 mans feel more epic to some players, but I'm not sure that would be enough either. Players seem motivated by only one thing in this game, and that’s the gear. Players will go for the best gear they can get.
Since the main challenge to 25 mans seems to be logistical in nature, and there is very little the Devs can do to change that, perhaps the rewards should be as well. It takes far more effort to put together and run a 25 man raid than a 10 man. You have 2.5 times more players to manage. So if the Boss drops 3 Epics on 10 man, he should drop 6 Epics on 25 man. Tier Tokens should scale up as well. 10 mans would see 2 Tier Tokens from a Boss while 25 man raiders would see 5. That would better correlate the reward to the challenge.
It would be interesting to see what players would choose to do if the 10/25 man split was more of a choice between two playstyles rather than a choice about loot.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Prot using Seal of Command

Ghostcrawler has posted on the Official Forums again about Paladin AE threat.

I don't think it's Consecrate, actually. It was definitely Consecrate in Burning Crusade. I think it's HoR and possibly SoC.

Again the masses have locked into Consecreate as the issue. I think that's because its the most visible spell in our arsenal. It's what non-Paladins see. Ghostcrawler is right that Consecrate isn't the issue.

I disagree that Hammer of the Righteous (HotR) is part of the problem. HotR is basically Paladin's version of the Warrior's cleave. Warriors have the option to use Talent points to increase Cleaves damage, while Paladin's can Glyph Hammer of the Righteous to hit a fourth target.

No, I think the real culprit is Seal of Command. Seal of Command was intended as Retribution's DPS Seal for trash and quick fights, but when the change was made to turn Seal of Command into Seal of Cleave, Prot Paladins started to evaluate if it had a place in tanking. The change made Seal of Command proc a cleave on every white swing, and on every cast of Judgement (once every 8 to 10 seconds). The Paladin Tank community determined SoC wasn't going to touch Seal of Vengeance (Corruption if you are Horde like me) for single target (Boss) encounters. But once you were tanking more than 3 targets, or if you were tanking multiple targets that died quickly, Seal of Command would win out.

Multiple Targets that die quickly. Where do we see that? Heroics, and some Raid Trash.

Some Protection Paladins came up with a Heroics/Trash spec that included talents like Reckoning. Reck is a windfury like extra swing, and that extra swing was an extra proc of Seal of Command. We also discovered that the first application of our Judgements of the Just debuff also proced a cleave from Seal of Command.

Then the Devs moved Shield of Righteousness to the melee table. It would now be dodged, parried and blocked. But it also meant it too would proc a cleave from Seal of Command.

I wonder sometimes if the Devs themselves realize how many opportunities Protection Paladins have to proc Seal of Command. Every white swing, plus half of our 969 rotation procs the Cleave from Seal of Command.

Then you add Seal of Command to our other AE abilities like Consecrate, Retribution Aura, Holy Wrath (if Undead), Holy Shield and Hammer of the Righteous and you have a formidable arsenal of AE damage and threat.

A Seal of Command nerf wouldn't be unreasonable or unjustified at this point.

The solution seems fairly straight forward. The Devs could simply change Seal of Command to require a Two Handed Weapon just as Hammer of the Righteous requires a one hander. That alone would tone down Protection Paladin AE threat and damage quite a bit. We'd be left with Seal of Vengeance which doesn't do nearly the AE threat or damage of Seal of Command. At best, Seal of Vengeance is going to handle 4 mobs when synergistic with Hammer of the Righteous, and all but the main target will only have a small DoT on them to hold them off AE DPSers.

This issue again highlights the balancing problem from the Paladins lack of a Stance/Form/Presence system. If we had that, Seal of Command would only be usuable in our 'DPS' stance. While we could tank Heroics in a 'DPS' stance, it wouldn't be as much of a balance point, just as I don't think a Warrior tanking Heroics in Battle Stance should really be a balance point.

My concern is that rather than take the small measured step of taking SoC away from Prot, the Devs will also nerf Hammer of the Righteous' damage. Perhaps it would only do weapon damage x3 instead of weapon damagex4. That would be unnecessary and hurt Paladins ability to generate threat on single targets (Bosses) where it really matters.

Mini Post for Mini Patch

Patch 3.2.2 is finally here. This will open up the next area of Ice Crown Citadel, which is the 'Frost' wing. Here we will face off with one of the most unique raid encounters yet seen Valithria Dreamwalker.

If you aren't familiar, this is a Boss where you have to heal her to full before your raid is overwhelmed with Adds. I'm going to see if I can talk Blueshield (our 3rd tank) into tanking so I can break out the Holy set for this fight. Bombing away with Holy Lights should be a big help to my raid. I can hit 18k Holy Light crit in Prot Spec/Holy Gear. I can't imagine what that'll be when I'm actually Holy. Of course, in that Prot Spec/Holy Gear, I can only cast about 4 of those bad boys before I'm OOM.

We'll also have a new Boss to play with in VoA, Toravon the Ice Watcher. It's the best shot at T10 without spending your Emblems of Frost.

There are more nerfs to Heroic 5 man dungeons. I particular like the line about Brann working out to run faster in Halls of Stone. Paladins who prefer to do the smashing rather than taking it will find a new rep ring from the Ashen Verdict loaded with the Strength you love so much.

Remember that today the armor changes to the offset and tier pieces go into effect. We should see the final stats of the 264 items that we've only been able to guess at, and we can make an analysis of the pieces of wear. I'm saving up for the Gauntlets of the Kraken. I'd also like to buy my Tier 10 Shoulders, as I think I'm about the only Paladin on my server without them. I'm close to getting enough Emblems off the alt crew to get the Saronites for the Boots of Kingly Upheaval. That will take care of the last of my 232 pieces I have on me and then I can start the long haul for the 'Cat' (Cataclysmic Chestguard).

I'm sure the Druids and Shamans are thrilled with their buffs. I think it's all good news for Locks, too, but I don't know much about that class. Look high and low, but you will see nary a word about Paladins. That's just fine by me. We're in a pretty good spot right now and we should enjoy it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Stamina, Armor, and Trinkets

There's been an absolutely epic thread on Maintankadin arguing armor, stamina, and the 'new EH' formula that Theck of Blackrock came up with. Apparently, the thread caught the notice of some of the ElistJerks theorycrafters who came in to offer their contribution, but along with their arguments brought a whole lot of vitriol and drama. When MainTankadin posters didn't accept their arguments, and had the audacity to point out holes and the lack of supporting data, they got even more aggressive.

While I would very much like to believe I have the intelligence to keep up and understand those discussions, maybe even contribute. However, I have neither the time nor the desire to delve into theorycrafting at the level of Theck and the other posters in that thread.

One thing I've always admired about Theck is that he is not afraid to admit mistakes or oversights in his theorycraft and correct them. Since he has not changed his views, he must not have seen enough evidence/data from those who disagree with him to convince him.

I think some of the attacks on the Maintankadin posters are more motivated by 'politics' for lack of a better word. What I mean by that is that I think some people are a little jealous this ‘new EH’ theorycraft, that models bleeds and magic damage as well as regular melee hits, was coming from the Paladin community. Surely this group of ‘EZ mode tanks’ couldn’t understand tanking nearly as well as they could.

We are arguing about an abstraction of an abstraction. It reminds me of the time me and my friends were arguing over what’s at the top of Elminster’s Tower, and then one of us saying “but what do you think it is in reality?” And all of us just sort of stopped and looked at each other for a minute and started laughing.

Now what I strive to do on Honor's Code is put information 'on the bottom shelf'. I do my best to point back to my sources, so you can read deeper into the discussion if you wish, but I aim to give people a bottom line ‘real game world’ application to their tanking experience.

Context and Assumptions

I am indebted to Maintankadin poster Lieris for pointing this out to me.

Especially as 10 man Raiders, we have to carefully evaluate what theorycraft applies to our situation. Most all the theorycraft you see on the net has the unstated assumption that the context is Hard Mode Progression 25 man raiding. It's a very different environment from even Hard Mode 10 man raiding in a 10 man strict guild. The biggest difference as it relates to the EH, stamina, and armor debate is the healer ratio in a 10 man versus 25 man.

I haven't raided 25 mans in Wrath so if I'm out in left field on this one, please leave me a comment. One of the really cool things about the blog is getting to learn stuff.

10 man raiders generally run with 2-3 healers for 2 tanks. This is between a 1:1 to 1:1.5 ratio. The 25 man mans run 5-7 healers for 2 to 3 tanks. This is between a 1:2.5 to 1:3 ratio. In both cases guilds try to run the lower number (2 in 10s and 5 in 25) to open up a spot for additional DPS.

In a 25 man, you'll have at least 1 healer dedicated to each tank, and dedicated healers for your raid. In 10 mans, you are generally going to have 1 healer covering both tanks and 1 for your raid. Because your Tank healer in a 10 man is charged with covering both Tanks in a 10 man, the Tanks will experience longer delays between heals.

If you really want to this example stretched to the extreme, look at the Blood Princes fight. A 10 man group will have 2 healers covering 3 tanks, plus the raid. Hug your healers after that fight!

Additionally, in a 25 man, except for very rare cases, you can safely assume you have at least one of every class of healer in the raid. That means your Tanks will likely have every kind of HoT ticking on them, plus Earthshield, Beacon, etc. 10 man raiders are all but guaranteed to be lacking at least one healing class in their setups.

The heavy amount of movement required in ICC also plays a role here. For 10 man raiders, when your healer has to move, it is going to mean a reduction in heals, whereas 25 man raiders have someone else who can pick up the slack. I realize most all healers have abilities to heal on the run, but I believe every single healer has better throughput if they can stand still.

What all of this reasoning boils down to is that 10 man raiders are more likely to experience multiple attacks from a Boss without receiving heals than 25 man raiders.

Everything the Tank can do to mitigate damage will reduce strain on healers. That will free them up to help on the raid or be able to survive when they have to move is really valuable.

The Great Trinket Debate

Where this gets down to brass tacks is usually in regards to the Trinkets: Corroded Skeleton Key (CSK), Glyph of Indomitability (GoI), and the Unidentifiable Organ (UO). The decision is colliery to deciding how to spend your Emblems of Frost. Corroded Skeleton Key is a stamina trinket with an absorb on use. Glyph of Indomitability is an armor trinket with a Dodge on use, and Unidentifiable Organ is an armor trinket that also gives you a stacking stamina boost that falls off on many fights in ICC.

CSK is purchased with 60 Emblems of Frost. GoI is 50 Emblems of Triumph and Unidentifiable Organ is a drop from Professor Putricide10.

Let's look at the two Armor trinkets first. Glyph has 1792 armor while Unidentifiable Organ has about 100 more with 1890. (I'm using the Normal version of Unidentifiable Organ since the Heroic version is not available on the Live servers yet.) Choosing between just those two will come down to a) if Unidentifiable Organ drops for you and b)which proc you like better. Neither proc is particularly impressive for me.

The Skeleton Key has 228 stamina with a small absorb on use.

Going back to the "New EH" theorycraft we find "Glyph of Indomitability ...gives 1792 armor, which is equivalent to 153 stamina. However, for a fight with [20% magical damage], we get only ...80% of that, or 123 stamina."

So working the numbers you get 49% more stamina from the Key on a pure physical fight and 85% more stamina from the Key on a fight with at least 20% magic damage.

But Trinkets are, by their very nature, situational items. Are there going to be times when the Glyph is superior to the Key? I would submit there are, and that Blood Queen Lanathel is a prime example. While the stamina to soak her hits is important, in this fight, your damage, assuming you are the Main Tank, is transferred to your co-Tank. So the Armor essentially gets counted twice while the stamina only works once.

Our healers don't think that Tank healing the bottleneck on BQL for our raid group but your mileage my vary.

Let’s Be Honest

Finally, let's just be honest with ourselves about a couple of things.

§ In all but the rarest of circumstances, choosing the 'wrong' trinket is not going to make the difference between a wipe and a kill. Even in those circumstances where it might, e.g. you were wearing the Glyph and you died and the log shows overkill was less than the 2000 odd hit points the Key gives you, there were likely other factors in the way your entire team handled the encounter that led to the wipe.

§ Somewhere around Brewfest, some vocal Tanks decided that Stamina Trinkets were bad, or the mark of a 'noob' tank. This is likely had something to do with the fact that Tanking trinkets for new tanks were hard to come by at that time, so a lot of new tanks were running around with double stamina trinkets. Somehow that got extended to stamina trinkets are bad. Groupthink took over and suddenly Skeleton Key is bad and only bad tanks wear it.

§ Some Tanks having already spent precious Emblems on the Key, want it to come out better in all circumstances to justify their purchase choice. Cognitive Dissonance kicks in and people convince themselves that Stamina, and by the extension, their precious Key, is better than it is.

Personally, I'm thinking I'm going to start wearing the Glyph and the Key at the same time for mega EH overload. We've had terrible luck with drops, and haven't downed Putricide. My other options are the Monach Crab (stam/dodge on use), Furnace Stone (dodge/armor on use), and Purified Onyxia Blood Tailsman (def/parry).