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.


Anonymous said...

Eather the best April fools ever, or pretty damn impressive.

Gweryc Halfhand said...

About 20 minutes after I posted this blog entry, that I realized I'd done it on April Fools Day. Tomorrow I may roll the date on this post forward to April 2nd, just to avoid any potential claims of a hoax. Until then, check my weapon on my armory page for proof.

Grumbles of Burning Blade said...

F'ing grats, man! Always knew you could do it.. ;)

David said...


This gives hope to all strangely specced players who refuse to adopt "cookie-cutter" builds.

Udi of Farstriders said...

Few random questions. I just started reading this blog so you may have answered some of the theorycrafting stuff a little while back.

Do you use Stoneform regularly in Kara, besides taking Moroes' garrote off? What melee hunter abilities generate the most aggro? Is Cafall an OT for you when things get hairy (similar to popping a trinket), or just an extra source of DPS? How closely did the DPS have to watch the threat meter? I'd also love it if you could post a basic tanking rotation.

Also, I was looking at your armory and noticed the SSC cloak. Grats on 25 man stuff! Did you AoE tank the murlocs with traps?

Gweryc Halfhand said...

Sorry to put you off Udi, but if you don't mind waiting just a bit to have your questions answered, I've got two or three more posts planned that should address your questions more fully than I can here in the comments.

The short answers are: yes, Raptor Strike, not yet, not as closely as I expected, and there is no static rotation because the majority of my attacks are based on triggers - crits, dodges, parries - which I can't predict.

Thanks for noticing the cloak :) It was pretty cool to be in there. Yes, I did briefly grab aggro from murlocs with explosive traps and fel iron bombs, but I didn't hold their attention long enough to call it proper tanking.

Anonymous said...

Great read, looking forward to your future blogs. Still not as off-the-wall as a Shadowtank ... but pretty close :-)

Just a reminder... update your profile/links. You have a new armory page now. Congrats on finding a new guild willing to work with you.


Rajakx said...

I am a MM hunter through and through... but as I ended my Kara days I collected useless gear for a "tanking night". I never got the chance to live the dream, but you have done it for us all. Closet melee hunter or true hero... you have done us proud.

Gratz my friend.