Monday, March 29, 2010

A Confession to Make

I have a confession to make gentle readers. This weekend I cheated on WoW. I didn't plan it this way, it just sort of happened.

It was Friday night. It wasn't a raid night so I didn't need to be online at any particular time. Of course, my weekend nights are not my own so my first order of business was seeing if my wife had made any plans for us to go out with friends. She hadn't so I was free to do whatever. I did what I usually do. I checked my Facebook and Twitter and my 3 email accounts. Yes, I have 3. One email caught my eye "Champions Online Free Trial Weekend".

I had seen Champions Online back when it first came out, but I wasn't willing to shell out $60 and another $15 a month to check it out. But free? Maybe I would just download and make a Hero. Just to see what it looked like. I have never played another MMO besides WoW. What could it hurt to just see what it looked like.

While it was installing I looked over the Templates. I figured they were like classes. Only instead of 10, they had like 20 or so. My first thought was to make a Gadgeteer. They seemed pretty cool, but the more I read about it, it made it out to be a pet class. That wasn't the way I wanted to start a new game. Then I saw Power Armor and decided to try that because the description said it was a good soloer. I named him SAMAS (Strategic Aerial Military Assault Suit - 5 Hammer points if you get the reference without looking it up).

I played through the tutorial mission, and it was all very familiar. I picked up the game really quick. They used the same exclamation points, and question marks to mark quest givers. Powers were linked to hot keys. Everyone worked on an energy type system. You had a light attack that gave you energy an a heavy attack that took energy. It was a very fun combat system and I only had two powers. I played through the whole tutorial and got to the first trainer. I was able to train my Travel power and saw one was swinging. Immediately I thought about making a Spiderman type character. It was really difficult and needed a custom power setup. That was a little over my head. But one of the templates I looked at as a possibility for my Spidy was Martial Artist. So I made a character based on Street Fighter II's Ryu. I wasted a whole summer back in the early 90s playing SF2 at an arcade.


All of sudden the night was gone. Then I got the crazy idea to the user the Telekenetics template to try to make a Jedi. But it was too late. The idea stuck in my head and the next night I fired up Champions again and made my Jedi. He was cool, but not as much fun as the Martial Artist. Then I decided to try the Might template. It was to make a hero like Juggernaut, Hulk, or Thing. (It's Clobbering TIME!) I used it to make a Hero that looked like Collosus. I even wrote him a back story. I played him all the way up to Level 8.

Before I knew it the weekend was gone and I hadn't log into WoW. I had a really good time playing Champions, but now my trial is over. I'm still not sure I can swing $15/month but at least the initial layout of $60 is taken care of. It was really cool to be in a different world, but I still have unfinished business in Azeroth, namely Arthas.

This week I'm on a business trip and away from my gaming rig. I can't wait to get back and see if my team has made any headway in IceCrown.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Night of Achievement

So how was your night last night?

Thursday night we decided to try to knock out some achievements. We had been banging our heads against Arthas for two weeks and we needed a break.

Flu Shot Shortage took a couple of tries to get it right. Luckily for me, my job really didn't change much. I just had to tank him same as I always do. We had a tougher time with Dances with Oozes. We made it just a straight DPS burn, nobody moved and Boston (Blood DK) would taunt a big one if it formed. We had a couple of close attempts and were on the verge of just killing him normally, when we finally got it. I tanked him as I always do and a late Ardent Defender proc kept me going for those last few precious percent. On both of these achievements I felt like our healers really did an amazing job.

Nausea, Heartburn, and Indigestion was probably the toughest of them all. But it's remarkable (ergo, I am remarking on it) how much our DPS has improved. We pushed Professor P into Phase II with only one experiment getting out. Our guys did a great job kiting, but I'm going to single out Jagdorc (SV/MM Hunter), who got picked to kick the Orange Slime twice. I don't know what it is, but Hunters seem to know how to kite. Ardent Defender gets another nod on this fight as it worked beautifully keeping me alive. There are times I would still love to have Last Stand, but I really like the flavor of Ardent Defender. It feels very Paladin.

I remember the first night we ever fought Rotface, Festergut and Professor P and thinking about how impossible these achievements sounded. It's amazing to me that we've gotten them. I'm proud of our team for getting these done.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Half Way Home

We took another crack at the Lich King Monday night. We had made some good progress on Thursday and we hoped to continue that on Monday. I was still tanking the Lich King in Phase 1. Boston was gathering up all the Adds, so that meant dropping Consecrate from my threat rotation. I also had to be careful when I used Hammer of the Righteous. If I cast it while Arthas was summoning the little ghouls, I'd pick one or two up. It wasn't a huge deal if I did, but the more Boston had on him the better. The disease can jump form ghoul to ghoul and gets stronger so it really hits the Shambler hard when it gets to him. I started working Exorcism in whenever Arthas would summon the ghouls. He channels the cast so I was safe to wind up and cast Exorcism on him.
It took a couple of attempts to get ourselves back into the flow of the fight. The RP dialog at the start is really cool, but it's already old. We've los probably one or two attempts worth of time to waiting while Arthas and Tirion chitchat. After the first pull of the night, we should be able skip the opening RP. We have Phase 1 down. We don't always execute it well, but we have it down.
We did start running into a strange bug in Phase 1. 3 times last night, during Phase 1, Arthas turned around and ran over to Jag (Survivalist Hunter) and one shot him. He wasn’t anywhere near me on Omen, but the log clearly shows a melee swing. My first thought was he hit Distracting Shot, but he says it’s off his bars. He wasn’t getting an Omen warning and says he does when he used to misclick Distracting Shot. We had him on Tranq duty, taking care of the Enrage on the Shambling Horrors. The 3rd time it happened, Jag feigned and the Lich King returned to me, so it does seem to have a threat component. It was the fastest Feign Death I’ve ever seen him pull off. Our best guess is that Tranquing the Adds is ticking Arthas off, but it’s not showing up on Omen as threat. I thought Omen read directly from the Blizzard API, so I don’t see how it couldn’t register it if it was causing threat. Very odd.
Now the transition phase had been giving us trouble Thursday. We'd go into Phase 2 with 2 Raging Spirits up. Monday, we were doing much better in this Phase. I don't know exactly what changed, but we generally get the Spirits down in time for the next one. Boston (Blood DK) taunts the last Spirit and I run in and grab Arthas and we get ready for Phase 2.
Phase 2 is about Val'kyrs and Defile. Thursday night, we might have killed 3 Val'kyrs all night. We knew we had to get better at handling them. I actually changed my spec up from Thursday night, dropping Divine Guardian aka Raid Wall, and picking up Improved Hammer of Justice. I then edited the target macro that has served me well going all the way back to Tier 5 raids. When the Val'kyr timer is about up, I start spamming my target macro. It’s just a simple “/target Val” (without the quotes). Once I have her targeted, I slam her with Hammer of Justice. That gives our DPS 6 seconds of 'quality time' with the Val'kyr. Then Ofn (Rogue, maybe Combat?) is ready with a Kidney Shot. With Improved Hammer of Justice, I have it ready to use for every Val’kyr spawn.
We tank Arthas just off center and I use cooldowns to survive the first Soul Harvester. The first Val'kyr goes down pretty well now. Once she's dead, DPS switches and finishes off the last Raging Spirit. Boston and I start trading the Lich King back and forth so who ever has Soul Harvester doesn't have Arthas also meleeing him. The second Val'kyr is where things start to get sketchy. The Val'kyr shows up, and I get my stun off and DPS lays into her. Then Arthas starts to cast Defile. If it hits one of our melee, we're in deep trouble. All the melee have to run out. If they don't run out fast enough, Defile grows so fast that half the platform is covered. Even if they do move fast enough, the Val’kyr is now inside the Defile and our Melee can’t touch her. Once she finally emerges, we don’t have enough time to get enough DPS on the Val'kyr to kill her before she drops our team mate to his death. Once we lose one DPS, it's nearly impossible to get the next Val'kyr down.
We spent the whole night working on Arthas. We had some bad attempts, and we had some good attempts. Towards the end of the night, we were starting to fell the rhythm of Phase II. Val'kyr, Defile, 2, 3, 4. Our best attempt, we killed 5 Val'kyrs and got him to 46%, just 6% away from Phase III. I know we'll get this guy.
The raid was split 50/50 on working on Arthas for a 3rd straight week or going back to doing a full clear. I can understand the guys who want to do something different. It's got to be getting frustrating spending two weeks doing nothing but wiping to the same fight over and over. They probably need a change of pace. As I logged off last night, the consensus seemed to be if half the raid wanted to reset, we probably should do just that.
Further complicating matters is that I'm unavailable for large parts of the next two resets. I've got to travel out of town for job training. I can use the hotel’s Business center to get online. I can blog, and read forum posts, but I can’t play WoW. (I don't own a laptop, so if you here of one, on the cheap, drop me an email.) It's exciting stuff that I’m going to be learning, but I'm going to miss my team. I can raid tonight (Tuesday) and Thursday, but then I'm unavailable for Monday. And I'm unavailable for Tuesday and Thursday of the next reset. While nothing would be as special as being with this team on the night we kill Arthas for the first time, I can’t help it that my work requires me to go away for a week. I truly hope when I returned after Easter, I come back to a bunch of Kingslayers!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

One Night with the King

Thanks for all the comments on the Twinking post. I've decided to level my Hunter, and I've started working on a gear list for him. It’s almost like end game gear planning, which I enjoy, only with much less guidance. I've identified about 100 possible items. Now it's just a matter of ranking them.
Monday night was dedicated to learning the Lich King encounter. Rather than overwhelm us with everything from what is a very complicated fight, Boston just briefed us on Phase 1 and the transition to Phase 2. But even just Phase 1 is complicated enough. The Lich King is a two tank fight. This was a great relief to me. I know Boston and I both enjoy tanking and we would both get our time tanking the Lich King. Nothing against Warriors or Druids, but I find something very poetic in that fact that the Lich King is being tanked by one of his former servants (Boston's DK) and a Champion of the Light (my Paladin).
We started with Boston on the Lich King and me on the army of adds he spawns. The fight starts with about a minute of RP. Much like Deathbringer Saurfang, this gets really old, really fast. I'd much prefer you only get the opening RP between Tirion and Arthas on the first pull of the night. The Lich King periodically summons Adds. There are two types. There's a little Add that comes in a 3 pack and a big Add called the Shambling Horror. The Horror needs to be faced away from the raid at all times because he does a Shockwave. It's just like the Warrior skill, only it one shots people who aren't tanks.
Once I had the Horror, I was pretty much rooted in place, which made picking up the little ghouls much harder. I would Avenger's Shield, Righteous Defense and Hand of Reckoning but they generally stuck to Blue (Fury Warrior) or Stark (Resto Shaman). One time I used Righteous Defense and got a ghoul who was attacking Boston meaning I taunted the Lich King, too. Oops! I did my best to keep them on me, but Blue and Stark did a little tanking there, too.
The gimmick to Phase 1 is to get a disease that Arthas casts on a random raid member to jump to the Horror by cleansing it when that person is close to the Horror. The Horror's have massive hit points and the disease is the only thing that will get them down.
After a couple of wipes, Boston had us switch jobs. He can drop his AoE Death and Decay on the spot where I'm tanking Arthas without having to move. If I want to consecrate where he's tanking I have to physically move over there and that would turn the Horror towards the raid. This is when I discovered that Arthas really wanted to try out for Dancing with the Stars. Despite that fact that I was not moving, Arthas was moving all over the place. He'd move left, then right, then back center. At one point, he got so far to my left that I couldn't hit him with Hammer of the Righteous anymore. I had to turn my toon, which of course, started him moving all over creation again.
We finally were starting to push into the transition phase. Arthas runs to the middle and starts a big AoE cast. We cleared out so we wouldn't be killed. In the transition phase, we have Jag (Hunter) killing the little orbs that Arthas sends out at you. Meanwhile the rest of us are dealing with Raging Spirits. You get three in this phase, and here's the kicker, they silence. Boston was still cleaning up the last couple of Adds so I would pick up the Raging Spirit. We wiped a couple of times because we weren't getting killing the Spirits quickly enough, so our DPS team really needed to open up quickly. When I got silenced, the only attack I could use was Hammer of the Righteous. Everything else was locked out. It was incredibly frustrating to be crippled like. No other tank class looses even a single attack to a silence. Paladins lose everything but one attack. DPS were threat capped quickly, or pulled aggro.
I didn't realize it as we were fighting him, but the silence can be cleansed by a Priest or Paladin, just not you because, well, you're silenced. Instead we put Boston back on the Lich King and I went back to Adds. That helped some but we still had an Add up as we transitioned to Phase 2. When you transition to Phase 2, you have to run back in because Arthas will destroy the ledge you had to use to avoid his big AoE at the start of the transition phase. It's really important that you don't hit any left over orbs as you are running in because they will knock you off the platform, and it's a long, long way down.
With the Add still up, our transition to Phase 2 was a mess. We were out of position and that made us easy pickings for the Valk'yr that show up and Defile would soon cover the entire platform. Boston briefed us on Phase 2 so we knew what was happening, but our trouble with the Raging Spirits continued. I'm not sure how we can get more DPS onto the Raging Spirits to improve our transition to Phase 2.
We decided, much to my delight, to clear next week for nothing but working on Arthas. We'll extend the raid ID and devote our raid nights to learning this fight. There's nothing I want to do more, in game, than kill Arthas.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Twink Experiment

As a guild we like to do stuff together. Heroics are beyond boring at this point, and while raid nights are a blast, we still like to do stuff when we aren't raiding. A couple of guys had this idea of making Twinks. The 39 Bracket is apparently thriving on the Nightfall battle group, and they've invited anyone who wants to join them to level a toon and 'twink' it.

I was never really interested in twinking before. I didn't think it would be much fun to fight people who had little chance of putting up a fight. But now that Blizzard has set up a system to separate Twinks from non Twinks, I think it could be interesting. Apparently, in the 39 Bracket on Nightfall you get to know your cross server allies and enemies. Reputations and rivalries are formed, and the PVP is unlike what we see at the level cap. It's almost like the 39s Bracket is the Developers goal for Cataclysm PVP. Players have large health pools and the game is a little slower than at 80 where the pressure of Season 8 DoT classes is ridiculous and teams put out unhealable damage. Twinks also can last across expansions and are a great activity during that downtime right between expansions.

So the challenge now is to pick a toon and twink it out. I might start to ramble a bit here, but stay with me.

There are 10 classes in WoW. Death Knights are already out because they start at 55 and this is for a 39 Twink. So we have nine contenders. Warlocks are also out because I flat out refuse to play one. I don't like the whole demon pet thing, sorry. I’m sure they are a blast to play. Okay, down to 8. Despite my best efforts, I have never had fun leveling a Priest, so that's out. I really have no desire to level a Druid, or Paladin again. Those classes are amazing at high levels but they are rough to level. Now we're making headway, down to 5. Rogue is another class that I've tried to level, but haven’t enjoyed.

Our four finalists are Hunter, Warrior, Mage, and Shaman. I hated spamming Heroic Strike on my Warrior, and the stance dancing required for PVP is a major turn off.

That leaves Mage, Hunter, and Shaman.

I already have a Level 80 Hunter, so I know I enjoy leveling and playing the class. I've been playing a Hunter long enough to know how to chain trap and jump shot. That should serve me well in Battelgrounds. There is one other person already leveling a Hunter in our group. Apparently, as a Twink you need to go Engineering and that seems like a natural fit for the Hunter class. I’ve heard Hunters do well in 39s and that you’re pet can put some real pressure on people. Of the 3 toons, the Hunter has the longest way to go.

Mages are fun and have a ton of CC, but from what I've heard they have trouble with mana management and survivability. There is also the small issue that two people in our group already are working on mages. It would mean more competition for those rare twink drops you need to farm, but those guys level faster than I do so I'll be behind anyway. They can hate me when whatever they farmed for drops for me the first time. I’d be concerned about our groups balance with 3 mages espeically when we want to do Warsong Gulch. I know these guys level faster than I do so I’ll be the least geared/ready of the 3 mages when I get there.

I've heard Shamans aren't great in the 39 Bracket. They don't have any instant heals, and Enchance is too dependant on procs. I could make him Elemental but I think the only damage spell you have at that level is Lightning Bolt. Again not instant, and I fear it could be boring playing a turret. No one else is working on a Shaman in the group and I like being somewhat unique. He's also got the shortest trip from where he is now to level 39.

The group wants me to 'play what I enjoy' which is great but doesn't really help me much right now. I'm enjoying all 3, but then again I'm one of those weird people with the 'likes to quest' gene. It's hard to say what class I'll enjoy in PVP as the PVP experience is very different from the PVE one, and the twink 39 is a unique experience unto itself. Most of the articles I've found online for Twinking are at least a year old and I'm not sure what, if anything, has changed since those posts and guides have bee written.

I know 39 isn’t quite the commitment that 60, or 80 is, but it’s still a good chunk of time. I need to decide on one toon and stick with it.

So Fireballs, Guns, or Totems?

If any of you guys has advice, suggestions, or comments, I'd love to hear them.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Your Magic Betrays You!

Thursday night we headed back into Ice Crown Citadel. Tuesday I had had ridiculous lag to the point I could barely function. And it was ONLY on Altar of Storms. I tried one of my alts on Mannoroth and had no lag whatsoever. So we had our new DPS DK, CombatCow, switch to tank spec and basically 9 manned the first three bosses. I offered to drop out and have someone replace me but Boston wouldn’t hear of it. There will be some other night when one of our other team members is struggling and we’ll carry them too. I know ‘carry’ gets a bad wrap but when it comes my guild mates, I don’t mind carrying them. They aren’t heavy, they are my brothers. The Blizzard Techs did a great job, and by the time we hit Saurfang my lag was gone. I was so happy I jumped around the platform the whole time. Tuesdays are a short night for us right now so we only had time to get the lower spire and then clear Dreamwalker. We were going to ignore the rest of the instance until Sindi (Sindragosa) was dead.

We had had a heartbreaking wipe on Monday where Sindi was literally at 0%. She enraged and we all died. She despawned with like 400k health. That's just a couple of good Starfires from Lakini. (Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration.) The coolest thing I’ve noticed is that this whole time we've been struggling with Sindi, our morale has stayed high among our raid group. Boston asks what happened, and we figure out where we can do better, and that's about the end of it. You don't see any of the Tanks sniping at the DPS, or the DPS sniping at the Healers, or the Range sniping at the Melee. Yeah, we get frustrated wiping like anybody else, but we don't tend to take that out on each other. It's really cool.

The first hurdle for us is getting through Phase 1 & 2 without anyone dying. Our first pull, we had someone die on the first Blistering Cold. That is what we raid tanks call an inauspicious beginning to the evening. Assuming we can make it through the first two phases with everyone alive, then we worked on Phase 3. Our obstacle in Phase 3 is getting enough DPS on the boss to kill her before she enrages while getting people out of Ice Blocks. That's what has been killing us. We also struggle to keep everyone alive. There are 3 important debuffs for everyone to track: Unchained Magic/Penetrating Cold, Frost Beacon and Mystic Buffet. In Phase 1, you only worry about Unchained Magic/Penetrating Cold. In the Air Phase, you only worry about Frost Beacon. Mystic Buffet is added in Phase 3. In addition, you have the other two debuffs to worry about as well in Phase 3.

We had several solid attempts but we kept making early mistakes or hitting the enrage timer. Then on our 5th pull of the night, we again lose someone to the first Blistering Cold. We don't usually blow Battle Rez, Ankh, Soulstone that early but Boston (Raid Leader, Blood DK Tank) decided to this time.

We get through Phase 1 and 2 without any more problems and launch into Phase 3 almost as soon as she lands from the 3rd Air Phase. Tanks switch off so the other tank can go loose their stack of Mystic Buffet. The debuff makes you take increased magic damage and since Sindi is 99% magic damage it makes all her attacks hit harder. Once Boston taunts, I have to locate the current Ice Blocked person and get behind it to line of sight Sindi. The mechanic is similar to the Frost Giant guy in Heroic Pit of Saron where you have to get behind the Saronite block to loose your debuff. Only DPS can't wait for the Tank to get there and lose his debuff. They need to get the Ice Blocked person out as fast as they can so they can get back to the boss. So I usually have to wait for the new person to get blocked and hide there for a few seconds to drop my stacks and go relieve Boston.

It was looking like another down to the wire attempt.

Sindi was at 11% and we had 1 minute to go. Boston started calling for people to be sacrificed. Basically, we leave them in the Ice Blocks and have all DPS just go 100% to the Sindi. We kept whittling away at her, and it looked like we might just get there. Then all of sudden we have an Ice Block hit our Mage, who is standing right next to our Priest. The Priest dies. Our Mage got Unchained Magic and Frost Beacon at the same time and missed that he had Frost Beacon. We battle rezzed our Priest after he did his angel thing. The enrage timer was ticking down fast. Our DPS Warrior, Tree Druid, and Rogue were already dead and we had two more guys in an IceBlock. Ardent Defender proced and I was running out of tricks. My Key was already on cooldown and the 6k absorb shield was used up. Health Potion was down. Our last DPS capable of hitting the boss was our Kitty and he got a Frost Beacon and ran out. My Mystic Buffet stack was up to 6 and she was about to cast it again. Another tick or two of her Frost Aura and it would be lights out on this attempt. I held off using Bubble Wall because I was saving my full immunity bubble. If I was the last man standing, I would give the DoTs and Bleeds 12 seconds to finish her off. The Enrage timer ticked down to zero and I hit Divine Shield.

Just as I did, Sindragosa cried out "FREE..AT LAST..!" Suddenly achievements filled Guild Chat and popped up on our screens. It took a moment to realize what had happened. We had done it. Ding, dong, the witch was dead! We passed out the loot, a cloth chest and some DPS plate and took a well deserved break.

Of course, both Blood and Plague were still up. We quickly went and cleared the plague wing. Then we got ready to do Blood and had a problem. Neither our Hunter, nor Warlock was available. So we went with our Boomkin. We had trouble keeping him up, especially if Keleseth got empowered second. After two wipes, we decided to switch things up. I would tank Taldaram and Valanar, and Boston (Blood Death Knight) would have Keleseth. That worked fine and we downed them. I passed on the tanking shoulders because I already had my Tier 10. We cleared up to the Queen and made quick work of her. I even got an achievement.

11 Bosses in Ice Crown Citadel lay dead at our feet. Only one remained. It was late, but it was time. The moment my gaming experience had been building to for 4 years was upon us. It was time to go see Arthas.

We ported up to the Throne room.

There he sat. I saw poor Bolvar. The guy looks rough. Tirion was there as well. Frostmourne and Ashbringer together again. The Champion of the Light, and the Champion of the Shadow. Like Illidan before him, Arthas doesn't aggro until you talk to the NPC. I walked all the up to the Throne and back down again.

There wasn't time to explain the fight, so we just decided to pull. Our Shaman, brave soul that he is, ported out right.

It was, without question, the most glorious wipe in my history with the World of Warcraft.

I had done it, I tanked Arthas. Frostmourne clanged against my Neverending Winter and was turned back. Frostmourne turned aside by my Bonebreaker Scepter. Arthas and his legion of Undead got the better of us, but we got him down to 85%. Not too bad. Now Monday night, the battle of the ages commences in earnest. Devolve versus the Lich King. The Holy Mightstone that I’ve been saving for this fight since Level 50 is ready.

HEY ARTHAS!!!

IT'S HAMMER TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

PS : 10 Tips to Stop Going OOM As a Paladin Tank in Heroics

I've got an article up today on Paladin Schmaladin on how to run Heroics as a Paladin Tank and not go OOM constantly. You can read the full article here: http://ferarro.blogspot.com/2010/03/how-to-stop-going-oom-as-paladin-tank.html

The cliff notes version goes something like this:

Blessing of Sanctuary will be responsible regenerating over half the mana you'll get back during a Heroic.

10 tips:

1. Use Blessing of Sanctuary
2. Use Seal of Command
3. Use Retribution Aura if your healer can keep up
4. Use a set of gear that reaches the Block Cap (Dodge+Parry+Block+Miss = 101.6%) The Block Cap is actually 102.4% for raids, but you only need 101.6% for Heroics. Here's a handy dandy little macro you can use to check the block cap

/script dr=function(x)return 1/(1/16+0.9560/x)end;DEFAULT_CHAT_FRAME:AddMessage("Need 102.4 combat table coverage. Currently at: "..string.format("%.2f", GetDodgeChance()+GetBlockChance()+GetParryChance()+5+dr(GetCombatRating(CR_DEFENSE_SKILL)/122.962)))

5. Don't use Consecrate unless you are at 75% or more mana.
6. Taunt often. If it ain't attacking your sorry plated behind, taunt it.
7. Keep Divine Plea on cooldown
8. Move on to the next pack once the last mob in your current pack is at about 30% health. But make sure you check that your healer still is in range and has mana before you pull. Divine Plea is falling off is not going to hurt nearly as much as you think.
9. Judge everything with wisdom.

For Paladin Tanks with plenty of gold - 10. Stop looting. The only stuff you loot is greys anyway and you don't need the money.
For Paladin Tanks still needing gold - 10. Use good old Mana Pots!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mailbag: Where Do We Go Now?

Today, you'll find an interview I did with WoW In an Hour. We talked about playing and raiding on a short schedule. I hope you enjoy it.

Now from the HammerMail:

Hi Honors, My guild and I are currently progressing through ICC-10, and we can now consistently with few wipes down the first four bosses. We got Festergut down on our 3rd attempt, but Rotface gave us fits for many weeks. We finally downed him this week and we feel confident we could do so again. From what I've read here and other places, Putricide might not be the best boss to progress to next. In your experiences as a raid tank and healer, should we try Blood Princes or Dreamwalker instead? Thanks in advance for your input, and keep up the good work with your blog.

First of all, I'm so happy I don't have to make these decisions for my guild. Boston does a fantastic job of evaluating our strengths and weaknesses on any given night and determining the right targets for our raid.

Both fights will take some time to learn. Both require your DPS to be good at target switching. Blood Princes tends to be a bit more compartmentalized with each person having a couple of tasks. Dreamwalker has your healers doing some things they don't usually do. Blood Princes seems to be a very repeatable fight. Dreamwalker is a little more RNG on when and where you'll get Blazing Skeletons. For what it's worth, our guild learned Blood Princes first, but that was partially (largely?) influenced by the fact that the Frostwing Halls weren't open yet.

The first issue you want to consider is if your Keleseth tank is ready. Keleseth is generally tanked by a Ranged Damage Dealing class. He gathers up the Shadow Orbs which makes him heal-able. Our guild has used a Boomkin, Hunter and Warlock with success but we prefer Jagdorc (our Hunter) to be in this role. This isn't so much because he is a Hunter but because he is an avid PVPer. The PVP gear gives him a truck load of Resilience and Stamina and makes him a great Keleseth tank. If he misses and Orb the Resilience and Stamina keep him heal-able by our fantastic healing team. If your Keleseth tank isn't ready, Dreamwalker is your best best. You need to also evaluate your team. Where are your strongest players. If your healers are strong players, then Dreamwalker would be the better option.

But in general, most people think Blood Princes is easier to learn than Dreamwalker.

But even if you choose to learn Blood Princes first, you should be clearing Dreamwalker's trash every week. There is a mini boss who gives one Frost Emblem at the end of her trash so it's worth it, plus it's some of my favorite trash in the place. Blood Princes trash and especially Technicians are some of the most annoying trash I've seen in a Raid since Sunwell.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What In the World Is Going On?

As most of you know I am a Christian. For those of you who do not know, I never said I was a very good one. I am a human being with faults and failures just like you. I have big issues and I have small ones. I am not a “holy roller” nor am I a “bible thumper” I just try to live my life by the example of Jesus Christ’s life.

You must be saying, OK Honors what are you getting at? The point is today I feel like I need to make share some of my thoughts with you on what is going on in the world. Many people I’ve played WoW with I consider to be friends. Some are still Alliance side on AoS, some have moved on to different servers, and some fill my raid frames each night. I think of them all as friends, and I believe some of them still read my blog. Even though I’ve never met any of you face to face, I care about each and every one of you. It's why I wrote my Leveling Guide that sort of put Honor's Code on the map. It's why I continue to write guides and helpful articles. I don't get paid at all for doing this. I do it because I care enough about my readers to want to share some information with them that might make their time in game a little more fun, and help them be better at what they love doing, Paladin tanking. Now I want to share some information of a different kind, because I don't feel like I could honestly say I care about my readers if I didn't say what's on my mind today.

Whether you believe it or not, I know there is a God. I believe that every word He said was true. I have been reading my Bible. Some days I apply it to my life, and like I said earlier, I am not a very good Christian, so some days I do not apply it to my life. If I've ever been a jerk to you, that was one of those days I didn't apply it, and I apologize. Lately, I have been watching the news and listening to the broadcasters talk. Then it hit me, they’re not saying anything different than what I have been reading.

Let me explain. The Bible says that Jesus came to give his life on a cross for our sins so that we could be with him in heaven when our life is over. It also states that he is coming again. I know all of this is hard to believe, that’s why the Bible says you just have to have faith like a child. Well, before he returns to get those who love him, he said there would be signs so you know when he is near. There are over 50 signs that God said we could look for but one that I keep seeing over and over again is what he said about earthquakes in Matthew 24:7: For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places.

Unless you live in a cave you should know that earthquakes are everywhere right now, in the last month we have seen three major quakes in Haiti, Chile and in Taiwan. Just yesterday, there was a strong 6.0 magnitude earthquake in Turkey that killed 51 people. Not only were there earthquakes but these four earthquakes in diverse places brought hundreds of aftershocks with each one.

Maybe you think I’m just over exaggerating.

You might remember the story of Harry R. Truman. He became a minor celebrity during the two months of volcanic activity preceding the eruption of Mount St. Helens, giving interviews to reporters and expressing his opinion that the mountain wasn’t going to erupt. It wasn’t coming. He saw the signs, heard the rumbles, but he discarded all of his concerns about the volcano.

Truman is presumed to have died in the eruption. A pyroclastic flow engulfed the Spirit Lake area, destroying the lake, and burying the site of his lodge under 150 feet of volcanic landslide debris. But he thought that the danger from the volcano was "over exaggerated".

This post is not to scare you, I just wanted to be a friend and let you know what I believe to be true. The internet is a strange place. You come to my little corner of the Internet day after day to see what’s going on in my virtual life. That’s really cool. Some of you reading this have raided with me before, and some of you are still raiding with me. We've come to know each other. You are much more than pixels and avatars to me. The reason for this post is I completely believe with all my heart that Jesus is coming back soon. Do not worry if you do not believe me, one of the 50 signs talk about you too. The Bible tells us one of the key signs will be people doubting the return of Christ will ever happen. This is found in 2nd Peter 3:3-4.

In closing I just felt I need to let you know before it was too late. The first time Jesus came was to save us from our sins; the next time he comes he is coming to take us home with him. People everywhere are going to disappear. There will be all kinds of theories given to explain what happened. Everything from aliens to radiation will be offered by press to explain it away. But this blog will have gone suddenly silent, and hopefully, you will remember this blog post, and you will know the truth. Again, I am not better than you; I am not crazy nor am I a holy roller, bible thumping mad man. I am just a frail human who can read and can see the signs of what I was reading, and I cared enough about you to put what reputation I have on the line to make you aware.

In the days of Noah they laughed at him saying it’s not going to rain. But it did rain.

The Bible is real, what it says is real. I just hope that you take my post, and try hard not to think I am crazy Christian or some weirdo. I am just doing what I feel God told me to do. I was very scared in writing this, but I knew if you were keeping something from me I would want to know. I know for some people this will be the last thing they ever read on my site, and that’s okay, too.

Jesus is coming back please be ready; it might be in five minutes, five days, or five decades from now.

I'm going to turn off comments for this post. You can find my email address on the right.

Just give it some thought.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Formspring Trinket Question

I recently received a couple of trinket questions via my Formspring account. You can send me a question via formspring.me/honorshammer. Answers go to my Twitter account, @honorshammer, and on formspring.me/honorshammer. Sometimes the questions will inspire a Blog post, like today.

The question was : Is corroded skeleton key a good trinket or is it just stamina?
The Corroded Skeleton Key has been a controversial trinket since its introduction with the Emblems of Frost Vendor.
First of all, the question presupposes that a 'good trinket' is not 'just stamina'. I would argue there are 3 types of Trinkets for Tanks: Threat Trinkets, Avoidance Trinkets and Effective Health Trinkets. Under the umbrella of Effective Health Trinkets, are Armor Trinkets and Stamina Trinkets.
I think what has happened is back when ICC first came out, some high profile tanks suggested the Key was a bad choice for spending emblems compared to the other options, and people just took that to mean the Key was bad in general. And if the Key was bad in general and it's the greatest Stamina trinket known to Dwarvenkind, then all stamina trinkets must be bad.
Wrong.
So let's separate out the issues.
Is the Corroded Skeleton key a good trinket?
The Corroded Skeleton Key is a good trinket, and it has a place in your gearsets depending on the dynamics of the Boss and the other options available to you.
How do you know when to use it?
A good tank is not afraid to tailor his gear set to the encounter. So it requires the tank to analyze the encounter and choose his gear appropriately. In my bags I have the Corroded Skeleton Key, the Glyph of Indomitability, the Purified Blood Talisman, the Furance Stone, the Bubbling Brightbrew Charm, Darkmoon Card : Greatness, Lavanthor's Talisman, and the Monarch Crab.
All other trinkets in the game simply do not exist. They aren't in my bags so I can't choose to equip them. For most fights, I'm going to have the Key and the Glyph of Indomitability. It's a solid amount of Stamina and Armor with two very nice 'On Use' effects. The Glyph 'On Use' increases my avoidance, and the Key 'On Use" gives more 6k more Effective Health.
But when we start on Sindragosa's trash, the Glyph goes back into the bags and the Bubbling Brightbrew Charm comes out. Sindragosa is all magic damage all the time. All that yummy Armor on the Glyph will do exactly bubkis on Sindragosa. I want stamina, stamina, and some more stamina. Back when we were doing Hodir Hard Mode, I'd have Darkmoon Card: Greatness to help with the Threat generation. When we go to pull Anub'arak in ToGC, I've got Darkmoon Card : Greatness and the Glphy of Indomitability to give me some additional Block Value and further reduce the hits from the Adds via the armor on the Glyph.
Should I buy the Key first with Emblems like you suggested when ICC first came out?
It depends. I'm not immune from cognitive dissonance. Our group had had lousy luck with Trinket drops, so I wanted the Key something awful. I convinced myself it was the best thing going. It was the right choice for me, but it might not be for you. Examine your gear and determine where you'll get the most bang for your Emblem buck. Will it be from the Trinket or from the Back, Belt, or non Tier Chest? Just don’t buy the Libram. It’s still bad.
The next question was about the Black Heart.
Question: If I already have Glyph of Indomitability, is it worth trying to farm the Black Heart? Is the armor beneficial?

I'll answer the second question first. The armor proc is beneficial. Now is it worth trying to farm the Black Heart once you have the Glyph of Indomitability? I know people are going to get tired of this answer but 'it depends.'

The factors you have to look at are a) what are your other trinkets, and b) how long will you use the Black Heart.

Trinkets are a difficult spot for most starter tanks to fill. You have to look at your second trinket and determine if the Black Heart would be an upgrade. In many cases it will be. Then you have to evaluate, based on if you are raiding and what you are raiding, what Trinkets you could get from drops. If you are in a guild killing Putricide10, you could see an Unidentifiable Organ , and you'd also be getting Frost Emblems fast enough that you'll eventually be able to buy a Corroded Skeleton Key. If you are raiding ToC, you've got a shot at Etrigg's Oath.

Then it will simply be a matter of deciding if it's worth it based on your playtime and other stuff you'd like to do in game.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hunter Cataclysm Stat Changes

I had so much fun looking at the stat changes for Honorshammer, I thought I'd see what Cataclysm has in store for my Hunter.

No Intellect on melee gear. Hunters won't need Intellect since they will no longer use mana. Shaman and Retribution paladins will get mana and spell damage in other ways.

This is probably the biggest change being made to the Hunter class in Cataclysm. Hunter's will be fourth manaless DPS class (along with Warriors, Rogues, and Death Knights). Personally, I'm really excited about this change. Mana is something I've dealt with on every toon I've had and being able to DPS without having to worry about mana or going to Viper sounds like a great change.

I'm frankly surprised by the amount of negative reaction this change has gotten from full time 'main' Hunters. The chief concern, as I read it, is that the regeneration rate of Hunter Energy (called Focus) will not be high enough. That may very well be the case in Beta, but it's also a 'knob' that the Devs can change pretty easily. If it's not enough, they just boost it.

In addition, consider the change they are making to Haste.

Haste - Haste will become more attractive for melee classes by allowing them to recover resources such as energy and runes more quickly. Our intention is for Haste to let you "do stuff" more often.

So that would seem to indicate that Haste would allow the Hunter to regerate Focus more quickly. Haste isn't a great stat for Hunter in Wrath, but if this change also applies to Focus, I could Haste being a very beneficial stat for Hunters in Cataclysm.

Armor Penetration - This stat will no longer be present on items. Armor Penetration will still exist in talents and abilities. Existing Armor Penetration becomes Haste or Crit.

Do you here that sound? It's the sound of a million Armor Pen Caped Marksmen crying out in terror and then suddenly silenced. Without the ability to stack armor penetration, will Marksman again fall behind Survival as the DPS of choice for Raiding Hunters?

Combat ratings - All ratings will be much harder to "cap out" at maximum gear levels. Ratings will be steeper in Cataclysm, and creatures in later tiers of content will be harder to hit or crit, similar to how level-83 mobs are harder to hit or crit than level-80 mobs.

Like I talked about in the Paladin edition, this basically means we'll need more Hit Rating in Tier 12 to be Hit capped than we did in Tier 11. It also sounds like later Bosses will have something of a built in Resilience. What I'm curious about is how the Developers can make the system more transparent. Will DPS classes still need to go to outside sources, or will the Hit tooltip indicate how much Hit is needed for a particular Tier of content?

Attack Power - This stat will no longer be present on most items as a flat value, though it will still show up on some process. Strength and Agility, which will be present on items, will grant the appropriate amount of Attack Power (generally 2 Attack Power per point of Strength or Agility) depending upon which stat a particular class favors. Agility may provide less Crit than it currently does. Existing Attack Power becomes Agility and Stamina.

My first question when I read this is, are Hunters going back to getting 2 Attack Power per point of Agility. That how they were originally. Then they were changed to only get 1 Attack Power per point of Agility. Crit is out of control. My Hunter is over 55% crit unbuffed. It's crazy (and good). So I can understand reducing the amount of Crit Hunters, Shamans, Rogues and Ferals get from Agility.

Strength if you wear plate. Agility if you wear mail or leather.

Hunter Loot!! Since Agility will be on Leather and Mail, and Hunters won't need intellect that won't be on mail, I wonder if you'll see Hunters going for some Leather items especially early on in the 'gear up' phase of the Expansion. Yes, common courtesy says that you let the guy who can only wear Leather have first crack at it, but beyond that what will differentiate Rogue/Feral Leather from Hunter Mail other than the armor class?

A lot more Stamina. Because of the way we will be assigning Strength, Agility, and Intellect, non-plate wearers will end up with more Stamina than before. Health pools will be much closer between plate-wearers and other classes.

I'm strangely attracted to doing things with a class it shouldn't be able to do. Tanking endgame as a Paladin used to fall under this heading, but not so much any more. Now we know one of the goals of Cataclysm is to have every stat from the Hunter be shared with the Pet, and we know that DPS classes will be closer to Tanks in terms of raw HP. There should be Leather with Stamina, Dodge, and Hit for the Bears out there. I wonder if I couldn't get a good Tenacity pet like a Croc, Bear, or Turtle and turn my Hunter into a semi legitimate tank. Maybe not Raid worthy, but more for 5 mans and Heroics. I'd love to get to end of a run and have someone go "wow, I can't believe we pulled that off."

The big questions I have about my Hunter in Cataclysm won't be answered for a while.

What are they doing with Ammo? The Developers mentioned a while back getting rid of consumable ammo. Hunters have a reagent cost for every spell they cast. Granted its a cheap reagent at 5g per 1000, but it's still a cost. I'd love to see consumable Ammo go the way of Defense and Rep Grinds, bye bye.

What's the next pet? In Burning Crusade the raiding pet was either a Ravager or Cat. Early on in Wrath, the battle was between Cats and Raptors, and maybe Devilsaurs/Spirit Beasts. Then somewhere around Ulduar I think, it became the day of the Wolf. And Wolves have pretty much dominated ever since. But as we get closer to the end of Wrath, the static nature of the Wolf buff is starting to lose ground to Cats. Spreadsheet DPS using my gear, I use femaledwarf.com, still shows the Wolf ahead but only by about 100dps.

When we get to Cataclysm will Cats once more be the pet of the month. Will Wolves somehow hold their ground? Will some new pet become the Raid companion of Hunters? That's the question I'm curious to find the answer to.

Tanking Stat Changes in Cataclysm

The Devs have unveiled some of the important stat changes coming in Cataclysm. More so than any other Expansion of World of Warcraft, I've come to think of Cataclysm as a WoW Reloaded, or WoW 2.0. Maybe it's because we are going back to the old world or maybe it's because of the depth of mechanics changes the Developers are making.

So let's look at what the Developer's have announced for changes to Tanks.

Bye Bye Block

We've known since Ulduar that something needed to be done with Block. As Bosses hit harder and harder, Block became more and more useless. Then we got to Crusader's Coliseum, and we discovered the gimmick in the Anub'arak encounter that encouraged us to build a block centric set. Now in ICC Block is back to being something we get through other stats. We get our Block chance through Defense and our Block Value through Strength. We don’t seek it out, it just sort of comes along for the ride.

The long awaited answer to Block has finally been revealed by the Devs.

Block Rating - Block is being redesigned to scale better. Blocked attacks will simply hit for 30% less damage. Block rating will improve your chance to block, though overall block chances will be lower than they are today.

Shield Block Value - This stat will no longer be present on items, since the amount blocked is always proportional to the amount of damage done. Talents and other effects might still modify the damage-reduction percentage from 30%, however.

'other effects' probably refers to Trinkets or Procs. I'd expect we will see some changes to Redoubt and Holy Shield. Block becomes a percentage reduction instead of a flat amount. There won't be a need or ability to build a 'Block Value Set' in Cataclysm. We'll have to wait for the theorycraft to decide how we rank this new Block in with the new Parry and good old Dodge.

Ditto Defense

Defense - Defense is being removed from the game entirely. Tanking classes should expect to become uncrittable versus creatures just by shifting into Defensive Stance, Frost Presence, Bear Form, or by using Righteous Fury.

See that 'versus creatures'? I take that to mean that our Crit defense will be useless in PVP.

This will remove one of the major headaches tanks face when they first reach the level cap. It should also mean high end PVE gear will last much longer for Tanks in Cataclysm than it did in Wrath. I kept my Burning Crusade end game gear (Tier 6) all the way to level 80. The biggest reason I had to replace it with Saronite stuff was I needed massive amounts of Defense rating to get uncrittable. That won't be a problem in Cataclysm, so I would suspect that iLevel 277 gear should be useful in early Heroics, and perhaps even early raids at 85.

Final Nail for Avoidance

Parry- Parry no longer provides 100% avoidance and no longer speeds up attacks. Instead, when you parry an attack, it and the next attack will each hit for 50% damage (assuming they hit at all). In other words, Dodge is a chance to avoid 100% of the damage from one attack, Parry is a chance to avoid 50% of the damage from two attacks, and Block is a chance to avoid 30% of the damage from one attack.

Parry is no longer Avoidance, but more like Block. With Defense gone and Parry reworked, the Block Cap, or what a classic tank called Uncrushable, is effectively put out of reach. Dodge is left as the only true Avoidance stat in the game. It will become much more valuable than Parry, yet right now Parry has the harsher Diminishing Return. I would expect to see that reversed and Dodge will get the harsher Diminishing Return in Cataclysm, meaning lower Dodge rates overall.

Gearing in Cataclysm is going to be a lot like gearing in Ice Crown Citadel. Armor and Stamina, which is traditional Effective Health, gearing will be what every tank does. Tanks will be damage soakers, not damage avoiders.

What Makes a Tank, a Tank?

Armor - The way Armor mitigates damage is not changing, but the Armor stat has been rebalanced to mirror changes to the armor curve in Cataclysm. As a result, bonus Armor will go down slightly overall. We are also changing the mitigation difference among armor types so that plate doesn't offer so much more protection than mail, leather, and cloth.

Stamina - Because of the way we will be assigning Strength, Agility, and Intellect, non-plate wearers will end up with more Stamina than before. Health pools will be much closer between plate-wearers and other classes.

What is going to separate the Tanks from the non Tanks? Our armor will not mitigate much more than Cloth and our health pools will be closer. We will have are our stamina scaling talents. Few attacks will do no damage (the ones we dodge), some attacks do less damage to us, (those that we parry, or block), and some attacks do a lot less damage (those that would crit non Tanks). But overall, Tanks and non Tanks are going to be a lot closer in Cataclysm than they are now. We may even be returning to the days in Vanillia when specs like Arms and Ret being able to throw on a Sword and Board and becoming capable offtanks.

As we get later and later into the Cataclysm cycle, and as the differences in damage between Tanks and non Tanks becomes trivial and healable, you’ll start seeing every class under the sun start tanking trivial and farm content, especially near tanks like Hunter Pets (assuming Pet scaling) and Enhancement Shamans. But you could even see Mage Tanks and Rogue Tanks as we get further and further in.

Hit On Diminishing Returns?

Combat ratings - All ratings will be much harder to "cap out" at maximum gear levels. Ratings will be steeper in Cataclysm, and creatures in later tiers of content will be harder to hit or crit, similar to how level-83 mobs are harder to hit or crit than level-80 mobs.

It's not really diminishing returns on Hit, but it works similar in that you will continue to need more Hit as you progress in raids to stay Hit capped. It just allows you to cap each tier until the next one is released. It's a moving Hit cap that varies on what you are fighting. This is critically important for DPS because getting Hit Capped is one of the first goals of a Raiding DPS class. In Cataclysm, you will have to reacquire the Hit Cap each tier because it will be higher in Tier 12 than it was in Tier 11.

This was put in for our DPS friends, but it's really going to nail tanks when it comes to Threat Generation. Hit is the number one Threat stat for Paladins, and it's important for the Threat Generation of the other Tank classes as well. In Wrath it wasn't until late Tier 9 and into Tier 10 that the item budgets on our gear were large enough to afford enough hit rating to cap it in any reasonable set of gear. With Hit effectively on diminishing returns I wonder if Tanks will have enough Hit on their gear to cap each Tier. We may go back to what we told Tanks early on in Wrath: Gear to survive and take whatever amount of Hit you get on that gear and make the best of it.

Today's Gear

How will today's gear change in the Cataclysm pre-Patch?

* No more Defense on gear. Existing Defense becomes Dodge, Parry, or Block Rating.

* No more Block Value on gear. Existing Block Value becomes Block Rating.

* You'll have as much Stamina as you're used to, though you may notice your tanking plate has a bit less Stamina than a comparable piece of DPS plate, since we tend to take the gem budget out of your most attractive stat.

* Bonus Armor on gear will go down slightly.

So those Bonus Armor Emblem pieces will get hit and depending on how the distribution from Defense to Dodge/Parry/Block goes something that is worse today could be better tomorrow.

Conclusion

These are some very interesting changes all around. When we switched from Burning Crusade to Wrath, Paladin Tanks were redesigned on nearly every level. We changed from Spell Power to Strength, and got some additional attacks that made us more Warrior-like. Tanks in general were changed as baked in threat was reduced or eliminated and the native threat of our Tank stances was increased (or everyone not in those stances is reduced depending on how you look at it). It was like learning a new class. Now as we look at Cataclysm, all tanks are getting a fairly substantial redesign once again.

We, as the Tanking community of Paladins, Warriors, Death Knights and Druids, will do what we always do. We'll investigate, and learn and master our new class. We will cry over the nerfs, we will whine for buffs (well maybe just the Warriors, j/k!)

At the end of the day, we'll continue to be fantastic tanks in Cataclysm.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Roadblock

On Monday, Team I took care of our unfinished business in Ice Crown Citadel from earlier in the week and cleared Blood Queen, and then the Plague Wing. We had a fantastic go at Professor Putricide and even with a new person we still two-shot him.

Let me give a shout out here to CombatCow our new Unholy DPS Death Knight. Welcome to the team!

I managed to pickup some new gloves for the Holy set from one of the Abominations (Festergut or Rotface I can't keep them straight). One improvement the Developers have made to the Raid scene in Ice Crown Citadel is the consistency in the number of tanks needed. Both Boston and I are Tank spec throughout the instance. There hasn't been a single tank fight in the entire place and I'm very happy to see that. Of course that means the old Holy set isn't seeing much use, but I wouldn’t call that a bad thing. Healing not as bad as it was in Burning Crusade, but I still much prefer tanking over healing any day of the week.

Then team had decided to forgo working on achievements in the Plague Wing in lieu of clearing it quickly to get some quality time with one cold lady, the Queen of Frost herself, Sindragosa. This would initiate night 3 of working on Sindragosa. Each time our raid leader Boston (Blood DK Tank) has tweaked our strategy slightly, and each of his adjustments to the game plan has gotten closer to defeating her.

One of the interesting challenges in 10-man Raiding is adjusting your strategy to the group make up you have. You won't have every buff and utility under the sun so you have to adjust. Some nights you are ranged heavy, some nights you are melee heavy. Some nights you have two battle rezzes. Some nights you don't have any battle rezzes, but you have a Soulstone. Monday night we were melee heavy with two Druids so we made ample use of Innervates and Battle Rezzes.

The first adjustment we had made was moving our tankspot from the middle to the stairs. Then when Sindragosa flies up in the air, the two people who are going to be put in deep freeze run to the bottom of the stairs. That changed seemed to simplify Phase 1 and the Air Phase.

Another interesting challenge to 10 man raiding is deciding how many healers you can go with. We try to do as many fights as we can with 2 healers. It puts tremendous strain on our healers to manage their mana and the raid's health pools, but it opens us up for an additional DPSer.

The problem we ran into was that with 2 healers, we couldn't keep people up in Phase 2, but with 3 healers we didn't get enough DPS on the Boss to get her to Phase 2 with enough time to beat the Enrage. Since our Healers weren't taxed in Phase 1, or the Air Phase, we told our melee heavy team to take more stacks. This changed allowed us to go from 4 Air Phases to just 3. We were getting into Phase 3 with plenty of time to spare.

The issue in Phase 3 now seems to be managing the damage as the stacks of Mystic Buffet get high. Mystic Buffet is not some trendy new place to grab lunch downtown. No, it's a debuff that Sindrogosa puts on everyone in the raid. It increases the amount of Magic damage you take and pretty much everything she does is magic damage.

The tanks trade her off in Phase 2. When Boston taunts her I boogie over to an Ice Block. Oh yeah, the whole, turn people into Ice Blocks thing goes on for all of Phase 3. We start out DPS on the back leg in Phase 2. Then when someone gets targeted for the Ice Block they move to the front leg. Once they become an Ice Block, DPS shifts to get them out and then they DPS at the front leg. The next person who gets targeted moves to the back leg. Rinse, lather and repeat.

We got two issues in Phase 2. First, people are dying to Magic Pull when they have stacks of Mystic Buffet. A frost explosion that was survivable in Phase 1 is deadly in Phase 2 when you have the debuff. We lose a DPS to Magic Pull and then we have less DPS breaking out the Ice Blocks, which is our other problem. We aren't getting time between Ice Blocks to get DPS on the Boss to kill her. DPS just need more time in Phase 2 to get practice at dropping their stacks and fast target switching.

I'm confident the next time we face Sindragosa Boston will have tweak to the game plan that will help us get the kill. I know we are close, and once we get her down, it will be on to Arthas.