Friday, January 29, 2010

Doh! Moment

I was reading Larisa on the PPI about her Saronite Slave when I went, WOW! That is a good idea!

I mean I have 3 80s, Guthammer, the instant queuing, i245 or so tanking warrior, Freydina the paladin (ret/holy--not that I have any clue how to pally heal) and Eirena the priest (holy/shadow atm, but I keep on hearing how fun Disc is from She Who Speaks Horde). Frey probably has enough Emblems of Frost to get a Primal Saronite right now. Eire--I am not entirely sure, but this weeks raid weekly (or maybe weakly, considering the target) is Noth which will certainly help.

Now I am quite dedicated to running one a day as a tank on Guthammer--but that is rarely more than 15 minutes. Then I usually run around doing the tournament dailies while queuing as DPS--that nets me a good 400G a day. But considering that I was just saying I have fallen really behind on with my knowledge as a raid lead, grinding a heroic or 2 on my 2 healers, while upgrading them from the finest of Naxx gear, while getting more Frost Emblem gear for my main is a solution made of win.

Now if only I had thought of it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I am a raid leader in what is likely the largest raid alliance in WoW--Silver Hand's (NA) Leftovers. Though really, we aren't a raid alliance because we don't require any guild membership--if you are 80 and on SH you can raid with us, Horde or Alliance. If we could get you into raid instances before 80, that would be our minimum.

Now, as a raid lead I lead a teaching charter--something to get people geared up and used to raiding. Yes, I do have a bit of a conumdrum with the new LFD tool and what role the Naxx raids play. Additionally we have a slow progress 25 man raid, which just got ToC 25 on farm.

Lastly, I have just spun up an ICC10 raid--where I have flying solo as a lead. This as been a rude awakening. Between She Who Speaks Horde's knowledge of class mechanics as she was observing, and our inability to down Marrowgar with most of a group that got its first Sourfang kill last week I realize I have been slacking.

I still haven't done a good analysis on what was going wrong (DK OT, 44k HP, 3 healers, he would still fall down go boom)--but I am sorely lacking on current class mechanics knowledge and way rusty on log analysis. (Further, it seems that WWS hasn't been updated for ICC--and any recomendations for a log parcer would be appriciated.)

That said I don't think I need to know /everything/ about all the classes--but more about my leadership style in my next post.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

She Speaks Horde

There I am, busily tanking Marrowgar, trying to figure out why the OT keeps on falling over in the dramatic Draenei way, dancing around the ice-ground-thingie, making sure the DPS are staying bunched up when, at the start of one of the whirlwind phases my friend, watching over my shoulder, asks "Have you used Bloodlust?"

Whirl-wind is about over, I and my OT are getting into position, I am racking my brain to remember this Bloodlust buff she's asking about. I dance around more ground-ice-stuffs, calling left or right to make sure the Draenai and I break the same way, and wrack my brain for this "Bloodlust" thing--and am drawing a complete blank...

Back to the whirlwind, finding enough time to ask "Bloodlust? I don't know it..."

"You know, shaman buff."

"Oh! You mean Heroism!"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Catastrophically Overgeared

The simple fact is WoW breaks with the gearing level many players can bring into a 5 man. While everyone posts that these new 5 mans are a great way to teach how to group I am not so sure I believe that. Brute force and ignorance is the tactic for the day. (AE damage and utter ignorance about what the mobs being AEed down actually are.)

If you're a DPSer or healer who's learning the ropes in i200 dungeons with i245 tanks, there really isn't a lot to learn. And if you're a healer there might not even be a lot to keep you awake. With Guthammer's ok tanking gear (mostly i245) you're probably getting a tank you can't out agro on your DPS rotations, a pool of hit pints that is nearly double what the original intended tanks had, and a combination of instance knowledge and chain pulling that isn't a "normal" part of the game. And as I understand it, while not quite equally over geared, running the leveling instances you get groups who out level the place in blue gear that was unimaginable at the time the game came out.

I have also been doing instances as DPS, in 232ish gear and I have found I can still catastrophically over gear an instance. Even in DPS gear I have oodles of HP--close to 30k*--more than enough to tank some hits even in berserker stance. If the tank that overgears the instance, I implement the ignorance part of the DPS rotation, not really caring about agro because its not really a problem. Or I get a tank who's undergeared and unable to hold against the AE--at which point my tanking instincts kick in and I find myself soloing the mob that was just beating on the healer.

Lastly there is very little way to continue communicating with a player you might want to take the time to show tanking tricks, DPS rotations or healing strategies. Without cross server communications in the game while having cross server groups Blizzard is promoting the mind set of 5 people soloing together rather than a real 5 person team. If someone drops group at the end of an instance before I get a chance to finish typing...they are gone.

Looking at the typical 5 man PUG, at leas this late in the game of Wrath, the dungoen finder is of limited use in teaching the right stuff for challenging 5 mans. And I wonder just what the RDF will be like with 85s running instances in a combination of questing/leveling gear, old T10 and some T11. It can't be this comfortable, face rolling, brute force steamrolling of instances that we have now--and Blizzard is now teaching its customers is the normal way to do things.

*Consider that tanking the first tier of dungeons probably requires around 23-24k HP, 1 or even 2 mobs aren't going to be a huge problem with a healer who's paying attention.

PS: WTF with Old Kindom? As a speed run its 2 bosses. As a full clear its about 25 minutes. And I have had party members chain drop it. There is nothing wrong with this instance and Blizzard shouldn't nerf the place. I would be happy to see the deserter debuff go up to 30 minutes though.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Great Tanking Shortage: A Solution

The basic problem with tanking isn't that its hard to do, but that it is hard to learn. Not only go you get to fall flat on your face but you get to do it with an audience participation too--including them falling flat on their faces too.

Learning to tank in front of 4 people is hard. Doing it in front of 24 other people takes real determination. I had that kind of moment on the Iron Council. I knew I had to be looking out for blue-stuff and drag the boss out of it, but there were a series of 3 quick wipes that were 100% my fault. The first one was "Oh that is what it looks like!" the second was "Oh! That is how fast I have to react!" and the third was "Oh! That is how far I have to move him!" Even on a ten man you are burning man hours for each trick the tank has to learn by wiping.

The easiest thing Blizzard, or any MMO maker, can do is give tanks an agro generating NPC healer, in a solo instance and mandatory quest. Making it scalable and repeatable would be very good too.

Learning to keep one NPC healer alive is a wonderful, low pressure way to learn to tank--how to get agro, how to collect ranged mobs, maybe even LOS pulling and the like. But the biggest, biggest must is that you do it with an NPC. I bet you it is that simple.

Breaking Gelvon

Gelvon over the Greedy Goblin has a despicable post on how break the social contract of WoW and act like a parasite, leaching time from other players.

He thinks the move is unbeatable by "government regulation" too--but even simple logic gives you a way to eliminate most false positives: the common traits for all queue jumpers is tank leaves before the first boss while having party members from the same server. Odds are low that any random group will have that happening.

Then there are the actions the players themselves can do. If you see someone in your group and has their same server tank leave instantly, vote kick them in 15 minutes (this particularly appeals to me as you get to work them for a while before banishing them before the last boss, and locking them out to that instance out of the RDF) and ignore them.

If you as the tank walking into the group notice that you are replacing a tank before the first boss, see if you can figure out who you bad actor is. Adding them to your ignore list is probably 3 or 4 times more powerful than having any single DPSer do that.

And the last thing you can do against the solo-parasite queuer--which unfortunately also effects the rest of the group--is never queue alone. Grab one other player and go. You will never fall into the hole being left for you by the solo queue jumper.

And never, as the tank, do you have to pull and enable them to get their badges--you can stop until they vote kick you or the drop.

In Praise of Specilization

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Holy Trinity

Often people will decry the MMO paradigm of the Holy Trinity of Tank, Healer, DPS--but to me they seem to be the most evolved and flexible set of assignments that allow people to succeed in MMOGs and play more interesting classes. Tactics--like genes--evolve.

There are two primary factors that tactics are evaluated on--the first is success, the second is time. Time, of course, only kicks in after you group has passed the pass/fail check of looting the boss. As a raid group gets better at an encounter you will see the number of healers used go down (and maybe even tanks) and the number of DPS go up.

Everything in the group (or raid) is focused on beating the encounter. Encounters are beaten with DPS. If a boss was a brick wall that you had to knock over by doing X million points of damage, you wouldn't bring any tanks or healers. Tanking only exists when mobs do damage to the group in some sort of controllable way--the party can get the mobs damage onto some sort of specialist who sacrifices DPS for survivability. Healing only exists if the damage encounter's damage is large enough to kill DPS during the encounter.

As an example, we know, that caster mobs don't need to be tanked in instances if one of the over geared DPS decides go one on one with them (I am looking at you Facestab of Kargath--back in LBRS). This is an expression of the evolutionary pressures of encounter length--as soon as part of or all an encounter does away with the need for a specialist role, it will be done away with--shortening or simplifying the encounter. You see this all the time with raid groups--the number of healers and maybe even tanks will go down, the number of DPS will go up. If you can swap out a non-DPS specialist for a DPS specialist you do.

WoW, with its 10 classes and 30 specs, is more than rich enough to support player groups different than the holy trinity. I will also bet you, as a player, you were twitchy at first, doing whatever odd configuration you were, and then decided that the encounter was too easy because it didn't force you into your specialist roles. Ever been in a run healed by a shadow priest, in shadow form? That isn't a holy trinity group--no healing specialist. I know it made the players I was grouped with twitchy the first couple of pulls doing it myself. And in walking into SM (Library IIRC) I knew I was over geared and under challenged.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rise of the Leet King

Jumping on Tobold's band wagon.

There are some, limited, ways I would make WoW harder--but only because the game needs to teach far better than it does. Its also a "difficulty" that exists in the game for rogues--though only briefly and it may be entirely optional now.

If you have leveled a rogue, in the low twenties you go on a quest to unlock the poison ability. The tower quests are more an unexpected mini-game for rogues that, as a long time MMO player, I found challenging and interesting. Of course, at the same time, I think as a general tool, the poison quest line is a bit too challenging, forcing the rogue to master many abilities in a very short succession. It was hard to do at 20 or 22 (I don't quite recall when I did it (twice, once Horde, back 06? and once on Alliance, maybe in '08)--but it is the right idea for targeted difficulty.

I have sung, repeatedly, praises for LotRO skirmish system for teaching me how to tank with an NPC dependent. While I don't think WoW needs the skirmish system itself, it does need to pull the teaching opportunity and lesson out for their players.

So the more difficult content--in limited amounts--would be to have the players learn their scarier class rolls in a less threatening and hostile environment--gently with a group of NPCs. The reason this should be difficult is the lessons should not be defeated with overwhelming DPS--but by protecting the DPSers, or healing the tank, or controlling DPS so that marked targets are killed in order, meeting some threshold of DPS, without ripping agro off the NPC tank. Forcing the player into their other specs and playing nicely with groups would be the challenge.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Prot Warrior DPS

I have a more substantial post (or maybe even 2) talking about specialization--but it just isn't coming together well at the moment. The ideas are there, the words aren't.

So something about tanking and raiding. Monday was the first time I raid tanked since I became aware of the of the great tank DPS disparity. ICC10. And boy was it there. I haven't run the WWS yet and the DK was better geared (about a tier ahead), but I suspect by the end of the night he had 1000 more DPS than I did. Considering that we had 3.4% wipe on Lady Deathwisper and a 560 HP (yes 560 HP) wipe on Marrowgar, I really, really want comparable DPS--particularly when I am not being beat on.

In some ways, tanking is a role of sacrifice, giving away the big DPS numbers for survivability and allowing the raid to succeed. There is little more demoralizing, as a raid lead, than to realize perhaps the best thing you can do for your raid is not slot yourself or maybe your class and role combo. The DK above, had about 5000 more HP buffed (45k vs 50k) and while I am normally the lead tank, I stepped aside for him. I am glad I didn't have another tank like him that I could have slotted in my place.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tank Questionaire

From Falling Leaves and Wings a really good post about tanking for the first time.

Need to find where I got this meme from and link...when I get home.

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

I usually do 2-3 5 mans a day, a 10 man ICC and a 25 man Naxx and ToC.

What is your favorite tanking spell for your class and why?

I have to say I loved charge since the level I got it (as a warrior) at level 4 or 6. With Warbringer letting us charge in combat its even better. My favorite way of getting agro on a pack is a charge (for body agro, a stun and rage), a thunder clap and then, a second or 2 later, a shockwave. Charge, though is the most fun and the ability that lets that happen.

What tanking spell do you use least for your class and why?

Challenging Shout--something has gone horribly wrong if I pop that.

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

Mostly that the longest playing tanks in the game are warriors and have a huge amount of knowledge about the game.

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

Not to sound like a whiner, but from what I have read lately there isn't anything. DKs and Pallies have AE advantages, bears have huge HP pools and all 3 put out lots more DPS than prot warriors. Considering we had a wipe at 560 HP on Marrowgar yesterday, along with a 3.6% wipe on another boss, I want that extra 700-2000 HPs.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best tanking assignment for you?

MT/OT--we have lots of threat generation and--like paladins--we really need to be hit to add to the raid.

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

I am going to cop out and say its really the player. I think warriors work best with DKs as I think DKs can bring a lot of tools that make warriors stronger.

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

Other warriors--not that I dislike it--but you can't really cover each others weakness if you're both the same class. But I am far more about bringing the player first, the class second.

What is your worst habit as a tank?

Out pulling my healer. I have gotten so used to overgearing the 5 mans that I forget to see how the healer is doing.

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

Can I get 2? Not hitting the marked mobs has to be number one--particularly in PUGs. Number 2 has to be non-tanks walking in front of Marrowgar.

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other tanks?

No. Weak AE, supposedly weak EH (haven't read enough tank theorycrafting lately to confirm that), weak DPS. That said, I think I can tank anything (what tank doesn't)--but I don't want to be the obvious worse choice. I am supposed to be helping my raid, not hindering it.

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

First and foremost, Vent and raid chat. I will ask did I do something to make me go *sploot*--or miss something that caused them to. After that it would be Omen, Recount and WWS.

Effective Health or Avoidance and why?

EH. Regular steady damage is easier to heal than huge spiky damage. That is why worse tanking bears were the tanks of choice in places like Gruuls on first kills. Yes they too more damage than the other tanking classes, but they had the huge health pools to get healed back from those hits.

What tanking class do you feel you understand least?

DKs. Though I haven't tanked on any class besides warrior. Maybe I should.

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

None ready. I have an intervene one, but I don't use it often. A health stone one, so I don't have 3 different buttons. I keep on hearing good things about tiny plates.

Do you strive primarily for balance between your tanking stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?

Given a choice I will slot stam gems, assuming I have reasonable amounts of hit and expertise--but I am the sort of person who find it hard to say no to item bonuses too.

Tanking: Barriers To Entry

Continuing my economic analysis of tanking in WoW (and it probably applies just as fully to healing).

A barrier to entry in economics are factors that keep you from entering a market where otherwise you could make a profit. They are the one time costs you a player has to pay (or overcome) to start tanking but that someone already tanking doesn't even notice.

Considering that MMOs have always had a shortage of tanks (and healers) its surprising that WoW's design has such high barriers to entry for tanks--higher than even EQ. The barriers are: class, spec, gear,
knowledge, skill and psychology.

Lets say you're 80, on your first WoW character, and finally decide you want to tank. Chances are that you stuck right there. In WoW 6 classes can't tank (mage, rogue, warlock, hunter, shaman, priest) and 4 who can (warrior, paladin, death knight and druid). If you want to tank you have to give up your main character and start a new one. To add insult to injury, very little of what you have earned on your main will be useful to starting a new character (though more gets carried over now than before).

So lets say that our random 80 is one of the 4 right classes to tank--the next question is do they have a tanking spec? Do they have a talent spec that they can get to, to tank? Has this character gone back to the old world to train/retrain? Or have they spend the 1,000 gold to get their dual spec? In the log run, dual speccing is the better choice--so this barrier would be 1,000 gold and a trip back to the old world.

Ok now we have our random 80 with the right class and spec--but they still aren't able to tank: you need the right gear to tank: instead of damage gear, our player needs to have spent time and money to have a set of tanking gear. Even with defense out of the picture in Cataclysm, tanking gear will look significantly different than DPS gear: more stam, more armor, dodge and parry and it will be gemmed and enchanted completely differently. Mind you the optimal behavior--until you decide you want to tank--is to sell off or disenchant all that tank gear.

Ok now that our tank wannabe has passed the class, spec and gear we're ready to roll, right? Wrong--the player behind this tank needs knowledge. Everything from what his class skills are, where those buttons are on his UI, and what the cool downs are like to knowledge that leaks over into other barriers: do you know what a good tanking spec is? Do you know where to find one? Do you have enough HP? Armor? expertise? Hit rating? Resistances? (And more I am sure I have missed.)

Having passes all those checks--our tank still isn't ready: we need to know if this tank has the skills: does he know where his taunt button(s) is? (G9 on my keyboard). Does he know how to use his class skills in tanking situations? Does he know about pulling? Patrols? Looking out for healer agro on agroed ranged mobs? What about the pulling possibilities his group brings with it? LOS pulling? Staying top agro on 5 or more mobs? That he even has to stay top agro on most of the mobs? Does he have the situational awareness to respond quickly to changing situations?

And the, having satisfied all those prior checks--you have to ask is the player willing to take on the awesome responsibility for taking the fun and time of 4 other players in his hands? Rarely, I am reminded of what it is like to tank for the first time and get a set of nerves when taking on a new instance or boss. I doubt that is comparable to what people think of tanking for the first time if they know the game already--and how fast you can get feedback.

Friday, January 15, 2010

How Tanks Are Like The Interest Rate

Gelvon has an interesting but flawed post while doing an economic analysis of tanks in WoW.

He maintains that tanks are getting "paid" enough in game to be tanks. What he misses are the roles of the lower zero bound and policy interference distorting the market for tanks (disregarding my arguments from What does WoW teach? for the moment--we'll play in Gelvon's ideal, rational, economic garden.)

The Random Dungeon Finder and the Interest Rate have the same lower bound: zero. Queuing up for a dungoen can't get any faster than instant. The "market" signal breaks at zero. It can't reward me any more than an instant group--it can't give me a minus 5 minute queue time that might be the real (though absurd) number to plotting out supply and demand curves. Just like the current interest rate can't go lower than 0, even though the Taylor rule implies something like a -5.6% interest rate.

Then there is the severe policy distortion depressing the demand for tanks. There are basically four group-play styles in WoW: solo, group, 10-man and 25-man. Each of them employs an ideal percentage of tanks: solo: zero, groups: 20%, 10-man raids 20%, and 25 man raids--8-12% (2-3 tanks in 25s). The value of tanking is strongly devalued in both solo play and 25 man play. Assuming that all tanks are "acting rationally" and want to tank 25 man raids so they can get the best gear a rational analysis leads them to choose another role. If we have a "full employment" tanking rate in groups and 10 man content, there will be 50% unemployment at the highest levels of the game for tanks. (In fact, the reason I am learning to DPS on Guthammer is so that I can, eventually, break into a progression group--trying to get a tanking slot for an established group is neigh impossible--even with 4/5 T9.33 tanking gear.)

In the current design of WoW--ignoring barriers to entry (like the psychological issues of the previous post, or even having a tanking set)--
tanks are getting a much weaker demand single than the ideal market of groups and 10 man raids are setting due to limitations of the instant queue times in the RDF, and severe demand dislocations in both the solo and 25 man raid portions of the game.

Now,to think of a solution, preferably a "fiscal" one--that doesn't give rewards to tanks so that long term they end up queuing less.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What Does WoW Teach?

Priest With A Cause brings up an interesting point about what WoW, or any game teaches you. Combine that with some of the better Oculus criticism we have seen lately and WoW--and most other MMOs--fail to teach 90% of the important stuff to players. And 95%+ of the information to maximize performance isn't available in game--if not more.

Let's look at 2 specifics:Weapon damage and grouping. Weapon damage is 3 numbers, damage range, speed and DPS. Which one of those numbers is the most important? A casual playing friend always equips for the biggest damage range. In fact, with significant exceptions, DPS is the most important number, delay is next and damage range, as far as I know, least. But that doesn't tell you anything about the hidden mechanics. For example, back in the KZ days, I was tanking with the dagger off the Prince.

Why? Because it was a significant upgrade to my then tanking weapon and I had forgotten the completely hidden nerf in dagger mechanics causing them to have a completely different scaling than all other 1h weapons. (I even remember reading the patch notes, after the fact--but ignored them--my low level rogues had the proper mechanics to use daggers, even with the scaling nerf, and my warrior didn't use daggeres...)

Now do a normal mode analysis, if you will, of all of WoW. Normal mode, for all characters is solo DPS. This teaches one set of skills--and as easy as soloing in WoW is, not to a very deep level. The basic test becomes a pass/fail test of can you kill the mob faster than it can kill you. WoW (or any other MMO) gives you no warning that the game changes completely at max level. There is no gentle introduction to group mechanics. Just like Oculus drakes, if you are taking or healing for the first time, there is no "light" version--you are responsible for everyone else in your party using a set of skills that are no where near as developed as your DPS skills. You may be using stances or full talent builds that you haven't looked at before, using skills that you don't normally use, may have spells in bad positions on your hot bar--or not even on the hot bar at all.

WoW Dungeon Finder doesn't really help--you are still completely responsible for the party and, as likely as not, you're going to end up in a group that face rolls through the place--either because your tank overgears the place stupidly, not really stressing you as a healer, or your healer and DPS will work around you as a newbie tank. Or you will just wipe because the DPSers are just used to overgeared tanks and will open up with hard hitting AEs.

The one game that I have seen so far to offer role training (but nothing about proper gear and enhancement selection) is the new skirmish system in Lord of the Rings Online. There too I play a tanker--a guardian. I couldn't have told you where my tanking buttons were or what a competent agro rotation was before the Skirmishes. After two or three skirmishes with a pocket, agro generating, but not going to bitch at me NPC healer, I had a much better sense of how to tank in a group in LOTRO. I quickly fell into the habits of a grouping tank--making sure I had agro on everything, paying attention to ranged mobs, making sure I had an AErs away from the healer.

I am a confident tank--I have tanked since EQ, and I raid tank in WoW, from MC to ICC. Sometimes in progression content, often not. I consider myself a good tank--not great--but good. Just from those couple of skirmishes, protecting my NPC healer, I feel much closer to that level of confidence in LOTRO that I have in WoW. I now know where my agro abilities are, I now know their cool downs and now I have a good idea of their effects. And I am much relieved not to have to do all that learning and confidence building with 4 or more other people waiting for me to make a mistake.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Quick Thought On WoW Healing And Tanking

People are talking, a lot, that tanking and healing in WOW (or probably any MMOG) is harder than DPSing.

Doing any of the 3 jobs well requires a high level of knowledge of the game, game mechanics, probably the instance, and good situational awareness. Good play is good play is good play.

The fundamental difference is tanks and healers have to take on responsibility--in full measure--that the DPS does not. DPS can choose to take on that responsibility--should they want to--but its not mandatory. And some facerolling PUGs won't allow it--everything just gets AEd down without regard to anything like strategy, execution or responsibility.