Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Greatness is more than potential. ... You need the appropriate training.

It hasn't escaped my attention that I've repeatedly griped about my inexperience as a tank. Being as there's no substitute for practice, I made the decision to level a proper tank. My goals in that are to fully absorb the mindset of what it means to be an unabashed main tank, and to look for tools and techniques that I can analogize and emulate on Gweryc.

Enter Gwera, Dwarf paladin.

Tanking gives you wiiiiiings! 2008-03-30

Gwera is not a replacement for Gweryc, nor a successor. She is instead an experiment-within-an-experiment, a spin-off of my beloved m'unter. (If I intend to keep playing her long-term, she'll very likely end up ret, not prot.)

Why a paladin, instead of a druid or warrior? In my mind, paladins really are the class that most closely parallels the way I've learned to fight as Gweryc, and they pursue the same kind of stats. In fact, most of Gwera's attacks have been macroed to either function or simply look like Gweryc's abilities. To look at her attack buttons, you'd think she was a hunter. But there are a few abilites she has, useful for tanking, that have no direct analog on Gweryc, and those are the things I want to emulate.

Sadly, Righteous Fury is right out. There's nothing I can come up with, save the 2% Threat enchant, that increases my innate threat. But I've already taken something away from her: Righteous Defense.

I can make most arguments into semantic ones. Gwera's Righteous Defense has reminded me that my job is not to be a tank. My job is to stop other people from taking damage. Subtle, but very important, because my pet Cafall, now trained into Growl instead of Cower, is my Righteous Defense.

If I see a non-tank taking damage, I may not be able to peel off a boss and pick up a second target. I may not have time to reach the poor squishy before they die. But Cafall can. He has things I don't: Dash, a kind of pet-based Charge (especially if I can use Intimidation on the mob), and a taunt, Growl. I can use Cafall to quickly intercept and taunt a mob gone wrong, and then pull Cafall back to me, mob in tow. If you'll forgive the pun, that's Righteous. (Macro and add-on wizards, if you can figure out how to make this intercept work as a click-cast on a friendly target instead of the mob, I'll send you something nice next Valentine's Day.)

Something else I've learned was to be more aware of Paladin blessings. Sometimes a raid or party member gets a little click-happy with their buffing tools and forgets that I'm not your average hunter. So this has been added to the top of my main attack macro:

/cancelaura Greater Blessing of Salvation
/cancelaura Blessing of Salvation

Edit: looks like I could use the Damnation addon to achieve the same result, without adding to my macro.

Continuing on with the hallucination that I'm a paladin with a dog, I found the Retribution DPS gear ranking tool on MaxDPS.com to be very useful. I'm trying to collect a "ret set" in addition to my "prot set" of gear, for fights where I'm not tanking. To search on MaxDPS, I enter my numerical stats, check off Divine Strength (Lightning Reflexes), Improved Judgement (my attack cooldowns are naturally shorter than Judgement), Conviction (Humanoid Slaying/Savage Strikes), and Precision (Surefooted), allow the "Include Leather/Mail" option, and then I just ignore the plate mail that comes up.

The ret rotation MaxDPS suggests -- white damage, Seal of Command, Judgement of Command, Crusader Strike -- isn't too far off from what I do as dps: white damage, Immolation Trap, Wing Clip + attack procs (e.g., Romulo's Poison Vial), Raptor Strike. And the dps forecasts it gives are actually pretty accurate for Gweryc's numbers, so I have some trust that the items it's suggesting are worth looking at, so long as I'm careful about the value it places on strength over agility, which is why in-game I also lean on RatingBuster's assessment.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Karazhan, continued.

I thought it might be fun to post a few more screenshots from my continued Karazhan runs.

I've done Midnight a few more times, but forget that... it's Moroes I wanted revenge on.

/spit, 2008-04-05

Take that, you well-mannered, undead bitch.

Disabling the Curator, 2008-03-30

I adore the Curator fight. His voice is so compellingly soothing that the fight is almost like guided meditation.

Dancing with Netherspite, 2008-03-30

Ugh, Netherspite. In the beam! Out of the beam! One beam, two beam, red beam, blue beam! I'd have killed us all if it weren't for the exceptional on-the-fly coaching from my veteran friends. As it was, I did the job perfectly. My guild was impressed with me on this one, which amounts to being impressed with my ability to follow directions. I, in turn, was impressed with their ability to tend to their own duties while telling me what to do at the same time. That takes talent.

I did not move when Flame Wreath was cast, 2008-04-06

The Shade of Aran! I was terribly excited to do this fight. Usually I feel like such a noob, but finally, I was going to do one where I already knew how it goes! As soon as I saw him on screen, I heard the Shade of Aran Chant in my head:

I will not move
when Flame Wreath is cast
or the raid blows up

In my laughable eagerness, I may have sung a little over Vent. But I did not move when Flame Wreath was cast. We did not blow up.

Tanking Illhoof, 2008-04-06

This one, I'll admit to being proud of. I not only tanked Illhoof successfully, I was the only tank left to do it. Our druid MT had to leave after Prince, and with him gone, we circled back for Aran and Illhoof with me as the only tank left in the raid. I appreciated the raid's confidence in me to do this, without the safety net of a "real" tank. I did just fine on Illhoof, who decided to reward my fortitude by dropping a Gilded Thorium Cloak for me.

I had not, however, done as well on Prince.

The usual view, 2008-03-30

Yeah, this screen shot is older than the ones of Illhoof and Aran, but what's the difference? I'm still getting myself killed on Prince, where I go as DPS, not a tank (yet). Apparently I have a real problem running away from things that blow me up. I ought to work on that, eh?

Oh, well. It's good to have something to keep me humble.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

You have trying times ahead of you, Gweryc. Let us hope your strength does not fail you.

Among dwinding opportunities on Steamwheedle Cartel, I was made an offer I couldn't refuse. Real-life friend Lochrann on The Scryers had talked with his tier-five raiding guild, Nerglish, about the possibility of bringing in a certain melee hunter as an off-tank. A majority were either amused, intrigued, or indulgent enough to make the offer a reality. And so I came to contradict myself; against my assertions that it would never happen, Gweryc would become a raider.

I carefully packed my bags, emptied my mailbox, transferred the bulk of my gold, and with great trepidation initiated the transfer from SwC to The Scryers, hoping fervently that Blizzard's caveat that characters may not come through a server transfer completely intact didn't include an accidental increase in my prized non-existent ranged weapon skills.

Of course I had nothing to fear. As with every other character transfer I've done, the digital wizards at Blizzard carried out the transfer quickly and flawlessly. And so I landed disoriented in an Azeroth much like my own, but filled with names and faces alien to me -- a medieval-styled twilight zone, a parallel universe of new opportunities.

What does it mean to say I'm a raider? Well, I'm not tanking Lady Vashj or Gruul with the guild core. I'm not working on progression content. Instead I was to become a full-on Karazhan off-tank. But first I had to prove myself, submitting to good-natured but purposeful fraternal hazing by accepting the challenge of main tanking my own Karazhan key frag run. And so, off to Shadow Labs I went, with four broad-minded folk supporting me in the most ambitious phase to date of Project Gweryc.

Disbelief, 2008-03-14

Let's give credit where it's due. I had tier 5 raiders supporting me, meaning I had powerful heals and strong dps, all of them drilled through long practice in understanding threat mechanics, so that none of them would surpass what I was able to put out as a tank. Surprisingly, I -- no, we -- pulled it off. Hellmaw, Blackheart, Vorpil, and Murmur, all notches on my belt.

My inexperience as a tank showed through. For example, I was caught a number of times by Murmur's Sonic Boom. I thought I was supposed to stand in the center of his body to attack, not on the edges, so I frequently didn't have time to run out of range. This highlights the different mindset between healing and tanking. As a resto druid, the Murmur fight looked like every other fight ever: a bunch of whack-a-mole healing squares to click. As a tank, I actually got to -- needed to -- watch the fight. Amazing! Nescience aside, the run was a success. I had capably filled the role of main tank. With the theory proven, we continued with the rest of the necessary dungeon crawls, opting for speed over theory-crafting, as I took back seat to a proper tank and we simply zerged the rest of the key fragments.

Finally, it was showtime. Buffed to the hilt with everything I could imagine -- raid buffs, scrolls, potions, food... prayers -- Gweryc entered Medivh's Ivory Tower.

Quite honestly, I was nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Really, wasn't this the logical next-step I'd been building up to? In a literal sort of way, this was do-or-die time. Well, do-or-kill-ten-people time, really, and that was a major factor in my anxiety. I had a platoon of good and trusting people looking to me to make the unthinkable a reality, to be their shield against harm. Of course such thinking was over-dramatic, but hey, that's pretty characteristic of me. If we wiped, it's a few gold each from people that knew what I was up to and wanted to lend their support. But to me, this was a decisive moment. Either Gweryc was ready for this, or he would never be, and I would resign myself to frustrating the hell out of rogues in PvP until the next expansion altered the landscape.

After a few trash pulls, I was feeling marginally more confident about my chances. That's when Lochrann announced, "Okay, Gweryc, you wanna tank Midnight?"

As they say in the common tongue of the realm, "WTF?!" I'd expected to grab a few trash mobs while our main tank did the heavy lifting. Sure, a Stable Hand or Spectral Charger, but I hadn't planned on actually tanking a boss! But there it was. Maimed hand unsteady with the responsibility, Gweryc lifted his Goblin Rocket Launcher and loosed the first strike. I charged in, Cafall howling and axe swinging, trying as hard as I could to push threat. The heals came rolling in, followed by bombardment from our dps'ers. And with great credit to the team supporting me, I held the line.

Gweryc tanking Midnight, 2008-03-15

Of course it was our main tank that stepped in when Attumen spawned and rider and horse were joined in unholy union. Yet the fact remains, I had successfully tanked a raid boss.

So, what next? Moroes, of course.

Gweryc about to get schooled by Moroes, 2008-03-15

Moroes put the hurt on ol' Gweryc. Not because I couldn't tank him, but because I had grabbed aggro from a second boss, and the incoming damage was simply more than I could handle. We did wipe here, but it was collectively attributed to a normal foul-up rather than my lack of aptitude. A second attempt laid him low, and we continued on to the Opera event.

Gweryc tanking Tinhead, 2008-03-15

It didn't seem especially glamorous to be tanking Tinhead. Although it was an essential task, it seemed like something anybody could do. He just didn't seem to hit that hard, and as the rust debuff stacked, it got even easier. I didn't even realize until days later that Tinhead actually calls for a Tank, versus being tanked, or kited. I spanked Tinhead like a red-headed stepchild, despite my initial misunderstanding of the fight. When I was told "kite him back and forth along the back of the stage," I thought I was supposed to walk backward, continually striking and building threat, not to run up to and past him in a path opposite his. Again, a misstep borne of inexperience rather than inadequacy.

We took on the Maiden of Virtue that night, too, but I declined to tank that one. So far as I was concerned, I was really there in an off-tank role, not a main tank, and I didn't see the need to strain the group unnecessarily for a single-tank fight. At my request, our pro tempore tankadin and nominal healer Lochrann was the one to lead that charge.

We called it a night after four bosses. My lack of experience got me killed more than once: aggroing things at the top of a staircase, pulling aggro when I shouldn't, doing the wrong -- or right -- thing at the wrong time. You can clearly see it as the durability of my armor decreases in each successive screen shot. But this would definitely not the last time Gweryc would set foot in Karazhan. Even when I called openly for criticism at the end of our run, the group expressed enthusiasm for what we'd just done. My new friends in Nerglish were looking forward, as I was, to continuing to press the limits of my bizarre play. And besides, when did it ever hurt to pick up another guild tank, right? :-D

Afterward, as I returned to the familiar battlegrounds grind to collect more armor upgrades matching my unique tanking needs of mitigation combined with attack power, one curious player caught sight of my gloves:

r u serious? 2008-03-20

I are serious tank. This is serious thread.