Friday, May 29, 2009

Paladin Vocabulary (Introduction)

One area that has always impressed me about World of Warcraft is the way the Developers created a true sense of character to each class. One of the tools they used to accomplish this was in creating what I like to refer to as the vocabulary of the class. In the skill, talent and spell names, you’ll see certain words and phrases repeating themselves over and over again reinforcing in the reader’s mind what that class are all about.

Let me give you one example.

Cheap Shot, Ambush, Cold Blood, Dirty Deeds, Dirty Tricks, Honor Among Thieves, Kidney Shot, Malice, Master of Deception, Murder, Mutilate, Prey On The Weak, Ruthlessness, Surprise Attacks, Unfair Advantage.

Even if you never played a Rogue or even World of Warcraft, the meanings and connotations of those words and phrases would give you a really strong impression of what the Rogue class was all about. You would expect a sneaky thug who didn't want to 'fight fair'. That's the essence of a Rogue.

In talking and writing about Paladins, you’ve used this vocabulary of words hundreds, maybe thousands of times, but have you ever thought about what these words mean.

This will be the beginning of a multi-part post where I’m going to examine the vocabulary that Developers have used to describe the Paladin and look at the meaning and connotations of those words. We will be taking an in depth look at some of those ‘Paladin words’ that aren’t really a part of our vernacular anymore.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I'm All The Rage

Wednesday is usually my night off WoW, but my wife wasn’t feeling well, so after I tucked her in, I went downstairs and started futzing around on my Warrior Alt.

He was originally an insurance policy against the Developers taking Protection Paladins in a direction I didn’t like. After that didn’t appear to be the case, he became my disenchanter. I’d send him greens that I got, he would blow them up and I wouldn’t have to hassle a very kind mage friend of mine.

He’s 74, but still knocking out quests in Howling Fjord after getting the Achievement for Borean Tundra. Heirloom Shoulders, plus plenty of rested experience means you level past the zone much faster than the developers first planned.

Even though this is my third time to the level cap, I’m still finding bits of the story that I missed or glossed over the first two times. It’s like reading a good book again or seeing a good movie again. Each time up is enjoyable. It's also fun knowing their is an upgrade for my toon at the end of virtually every quest.

I was merrily slaughtering Vyrkyl in Gjaleborn when I got a whisper from a 69 Shaman. He was looking for a Tank for an Utgarde Keep run and had a full group ready to go, and if I ordered right then, he’d even throw in a summon at no extra charge.

My little Warrior started out leveling as Fury, and since 3.1 has been Arms. He’s never been Protection.

I’ve always been curious about Warrior Tanking. I even had a full set of Cobalt Tank gear in the bank.

I’m a Tank at heart. I could tank Utgarde Keep in my sleep. No problemo. So after explaining to this nice Shaman that I had never actually, you know, tanked on my Warrior before, I got an invite.

I would later learn that this group had been searching, in vain, for a Tank for over 45 minutes, despite the fact that they already had a Death Knight in the group. It reminded me of the Heroic Botanica run I did with myself (Paladin), a Priest, Shaman , and Druid. What did we need to finish out the group? A Healer. Yep.

I went to Stormwind, grabbed my gear out of the bank, and respeced to a Protection.

I set up my bars just like my Paladin. Shield of Righteousness became Shield Slam. Hammer of the Righteous became Revenge. Holy Shield became Shield Block. Consecrate became Thunderclap. Judgement of Wisdom became Devastate. But as I looked over my bars with all the tools and cooldowns, I suddenly felt like a guy who had been flying props all his life being plopped down in the cockpit of an F-16 fighter. Excited, but a just a bit overwhelmed.

I was feeling confident. I know how to tank, I just need to learn the Warrior ‘syntax’. I’m a programmer in ‘real life’. I know how to do Case Logic (Select …Case…End Select in VB), but each language has its own syntax for how to do it. Knowing you need Case Logic is more important than knowing the exact syntax.

I was feeling great, right up until the first pull. That’s when it hit me that one of the keybindings didn’t translate so well. Avenger’s Shield had become Shockwave. Those two are fairly dissimilar in their usage. Hey no worries, it’s a two pull. I can handle this.

I charged (which I have to say is one of my favorite Warrior skills), hit Shield Slam, and a saw a message “Your skill in One Handed Swords has increased to 298.” I got that “I think we’re in trouble” feeling. While I was busy learning how to use the oversized letter open in my right hand, the other mob in the pull, who I hadn’t properly introduced myself to just yet, decided to go get acquainted with my new Shaman friend. With my Sword skill slowly working up, I was missing most of my attacks. The Vrykyl whose face I had smashed in with my shield got bored of me whiffing constantly and decided to go see our Mage and make a Gnome Shish-kabob. So yeah, we wiped on the first pull of Utgarde Keep.

This being a PUG, I was waiting for the insults, the ridicule, and being summarily kicked from the group. But that never happened. We went in, rebuffed, and I pulled again. Only this time, I pulled with my Gun, and just about when they were to me, I hit Shockwave, and Thunder, Thunder, Thunderclap.

The next pull was 4 pull. With liberal use of Taunt, Thunderclap, Shockwave, and some more Taunt, I was able to hold the group. I don’t know how it looked to the others in the PuG, but it felt like I was on the razor edge of losing control of the group of mobs every time we pulled. My eyes got pretty big when we pulled one of the non elite packs of ghouls and I still had Shockwave on cooldown.

We wouldn’t wipe again until Ingvar. The Death Knight apparently hadn’t seen him before and got killed by the first Smash. We didn’t have enough DPS to kill him before the Shaman went OOM, and we all died not long after that. I calmly explained the mechanic to the Death Knight and we went back and killed him. We finished the instance and with only two wipes. Not bad for my first time tanking on a Warrior.

The mark of a true master is to take something difficult and make it look easy. After last night, I realized that I’ve enjoyed company of some very skilled Warrior tanks. I've walked a mile or two in their moccasins, and I have a new appreciation of what those guys do.

Unbreak My Heart: XT-002 Hard Mode

Tuesday night we got started late waiting for our Raid Team to assemble.

We had to 9 man Flame Levithan, then our Mage logged in and we had our full 10 man team. We decided to go for XT Hard Mode. We ran a matrix of one tank, 2 healers, and 7 DPS. Our Tank was a Protection Paladin. Our Healers were a Resto Druid and Disc Priest. With as much movement as fights in Ulduar require, I've found that to be a pretty solid healing combo. Plus, Penance looks cool, it just does.

In order to activate XT's Hard Mode, you have to kill the Heart when it drops down. DPS XT to 75% to initiate the first Heart Phase.

We actually didn't kill the Heart our first attempt. We stopped had our Healers stop Healing and decided to try again. It's amazing how effective that strategy is for wiping a raid.

Next attempt, we got him to 75%. I popped my Wings (that's Paladin talk for cast Avenging Wrath) and we all went to town. The Heart 'broke' just milliseconds before XT would take it back up.

XT then healed to full, and Hard Mode was engaged. and you basically start the fight over. Once he's in Hard Mode you can forget about the Heart, and the Adds. Well not entirely the Adds. I had been so focused on doing 'mad dps' on the Heart that I missed the Pummelers. Things got fairly messy at the point, and by the time we finally got everything back under control we had lost too much DPS time.

We tried yet again. This time I DPSed the Heart but kept a 'steady eye' out for the Adds. We got lucky this time and no Pummelers spawned. We didnt' worry about the Scrap Bots getting to XT, because he was going to heal to full anyway and our Healers handled the Bomb Bots blowing up quite nicely.

Now all we really had to worry about was the Tantrum, the Gravity Bombs, and the Light Bombs and the small issue of whether or not we had the DPS to beat the Enrage timer.
As the Tank, my job was to not threat cap any of our DPS and make sure I used my cooldowns effectively to lighten the load on the healers, especially during a Tantrum which hits harder on Hard Mode than it does on regular. Death Knights can work well Tanking this as well since they can Icebound Fortitude every Tantrum. Both IBF and Tanturm are on 1 minute timers.XT also hits for more damage in Hard Mode, but our Healers didn't seem to have any trouble.

When Gravity Bomb has finished ticking on one of your lucky raiders, it leaves a small void zone. We handled this by just having people run a little further away from raid than they normally do. When Light Bomb finishes, it spawns a Spark that Ranged DPS have to switch to and burn down. It really doesn't have much health, but it is a threat to your casters.

Range had little trouble dealing with the Sparks, and our team was smart in the placement of their void zones. Healing was tight only during Tantrums. DPS was not an issue.
One member of our team did some checking on GuildOx, which is a Guild Ranking site.

Heroes Inc is the 5th guild on Altar of Storms to get Heartbreaker, but the very first Alliance guild (according to this site). We never set out to get an Alliance or Server First, but that's pretty cool.
We continued our run and downed Auriya, Thorim, and Hodir. We'll need to get Freya, Mimiron, and General Thursday to give us another shot at Yoggy on Monday.

Burn Baby Burn

I moved my Feed from Atom to Feedburner. Please update your readers. Danke!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Shaking the Foundations

The Lead Developer for World of Warcraft, Ghostcrawler, has been posting quite a bit recently concerning the Block Mechanic. Block is a core part of how Paladins and Warriors tank.

A lot of the tank balance problems we are having exist because we thought block would be a better mitigation stat than it has turned out to be. I say "we" because the druids and DKs were also convinced at the time that they would be mana-sponges and everyone was quoting "The unblocked hit is the new crushing blow."

For a variety of reasons, reality didn't work out that way. For one, we underestimated how much removing crushing blows would change the landscape. In fact, you can argue that the big magic hits (the dragon breaths and plasma blasts) are really the new crushing blows, and block does nothing to them (modulo 4 piece bonuses and the like). DKs were given amazing cooldowns, high armor and high avoidance to make up for them not being able to block. Druids were given even higher armor and high health. We backed druids off from that a little in part because they were going to end up with dps stats almost no matter what gear they chose so we wanted to incorporate those a little more into tanking. We kept buffing DKs based on early (mostly heroic dungeon) reports that healers hated healing DKs because they were so squishy when their cooldowns were blown. That seems to be less of an issue now with current levels of gear and some of the other changes to the game since then.

We will almost certainly change block. I can't tell you when we'll change it, because it's a big change. We probably don't want shield-users to be at 100% up time of block if they block more per hit. We have to be careful what happens to threat since that's a big part of block, especially for warriors. Heck, maybe we fall in love with the 4 piece warrior bonus and decide to make that a core part of the ability.

We are less likely to just buff the shield-using tanks because we like the current difficulty of the hardmode fights for them and we are reluctant to have to buff those encounters to correspond for a tank buff. Though as we've said elsewhere, we might give paladins another cooldown. Just remember that one player's "slight advantage" is another's "faceroll tanking and trivializing encounters." The balance goal has always been "close enough" not "identical." (source)

Think about it this way.

Avoidance is good because it removes a lot of damage. Avoidance is bad because it is unpredictable. If you stack too much avoidance, you are likely to give your healers coronaries.

Mitigation (armor and straight damage reduction) is good because it's consistent. As you all point out, you can start to learn how much a blow will actually do to you. Mitigation is bad, from a player's perspective, because it can't save you. If you have 10 health and dodge, you might live. If you have 10 health and hope your armor will save you... well, it won't. You become the dreaded mana sponge because you are never avoiding damage completely.

Mitigation also has a risk from a design-perspective that when fights get too predictable they become too easy and unexciting. Imagine a tank with 75% damage reduction and no avoidance. You could calculate from the moment of the first attack whether you will survive the encounter. Heck, you might be able to not even heal the tank and know you'll survive depending on the specific abilities used by the boss.

Block as a mechanic is somewhere between avoidance and mitigation. Ideally it removes a fair amount of damage (vs. all damage) reasonably often (vs. rarely). If block is up 100% of the time it just becomes armor that you improve through a different stat. We have let block chances creep up frankly because the amount blocked is pretty trivial when bosses are hitting for 40% of your health pool every swing. If this still strikes you as too RNG, imagine abilities like Shield Block and Holy Shield that could guarantee 100% chance to block for a short period of time.

We don't think block is cutting it as a mechanic, but the direction we are likely to take it is probably more of a change than you are considering.We also don't think it's necessary that every tank rely on avoidance, block and mitigation in equal amounts. They can't get too far apart or someone will come to dominate for certain encounters, but we don't think the tanks need to be completely homogenized to get what we want either.If (to make up numbers) the DK and druid get hit for 20K every swing that hits, but the warrior and paladin get hit for 24K half the time and 16K half the time, then that seems like it would work. When the boss emoted that his big hit was coming, you could make sure you had your cooldown ready to guarantee a block. (source)

We were starting to see many guilds ask their warrior or paladin to step aside so the DK could tank the hard mode encounters. This was not an isolated incident for a few guilds -- this was the kind of widespread phenomenon that really makes us take notice. If it was a boss or two that the DK was the best at, we would have just kept an eye on it. Increasingly though it was every hard mode. I will be the first to admit that the community is wrong sometimes. We don't think that is the case this time. The numbers backed up their conclusions pretty well.

If we can get block to be a powerful mitigation stat again we realize that will change the landscape and we'll have to evaluate the staying power of all 4 classes again. For now, we hope this change will put the tanks in a much closer place. (Though if you are keeping note, we would still like to give paladins another reliable cooldown.)


Lead Systems Designer

Block is a core part of how Paladins and Warriors tank. The way Block works is that Block removes a fixed amount of physical damage equal to the tank’s block value when the tank Blocks.

It’s fairly obvious a change is coming to Block.

The issues with Block are that it’s a static amount of damage reduction, it only works against Physical Damage and it’s split between two stats, Block Rating (chance to block) and Block Value (how much you block). One of the main misconceptions people have about block is that you take no damage from a Blocked hit, and that isn’t true. Trash in Ulduar can hit for 15k, but if you block the hit, that hit will only land for about 13k. Healers barely notice. This is why you’ll see very little Block Value gear on my Paladin. I have the Tier 8 Shoulders in my Armory, but I use the Tier 7.5 for Bosses. My Bracers have Block Value, because those are the only epic Tanking bracers I’ve seen drop and won.

I tend to gear for Armor, Stamina, Dodge, and Parry because Block just doesn’t provide much benefit in the current Tier.

Block’s true strength is against fast, small attacks like you see when AoEing trash or some Dual Wield Bosses. Of course we haven’t seen a Dual Wield Boss in Tier 7 or 8.

The real killer in today’s tanking world is the huge magical hits against which Block does nothing.
So what will happen?

I think we can expect the ‘Block Cap’ to be unreachable, and we’ll see Holy Shield changed to be a 100% block chance like the Warriors Shield Block skill, with similar uptime (20 second duration with a 1 minute cooldown). It becomes a ‘sort of’ cooldown. This makes Paladins and Warriors even more similar than they are today. It will be especially interesting what the new Paladin cooldown is, and how it will differentiate from the Warrior cooldowns.

It’s also interesting that he mentions the Warriors 4 piece set bonus. This bonus is 20% damage reduction from magic damage while Shield Block is up. Perhaps what they are considering is having Block Value work against magic or having some set magic reduction anytime you block, I’m not sure. We may or may not see some sort of magic damage reduction added to Block.

What concerns me most is the comment he made that a Druid/DK would get hit for 20k every time while a Paladin/Warrior would get hit for 16k half the time and 24k half the time. I don’t play a healer, but I have a pretty good idea which type of tank they’d rather heal. As the only tank that could reliably Block Cap, Paladins have been touting their steady damage intake all of Wrath.

My concern is that for the scenario GC outlined doesn’t really work. Sure, it averages out to the same damage over time, but it’s when those big hits land that’s key. If the Shield Tanks are designed in such a way that you could get two back to back 24k hits (to use GC’s numbers), then they must have the Hit Point pool to survive that, or they aren’t really tanks. Talk about giving Healers coronaries? That will do it. You’ve got to give the healers enough time to get you healed up.

To really work, Paladins/Warriors must have the Hit Point pool to survive two back to back 24k hits (to use GC’s numbers),or we’ll be paper tanks. But if we have the Hit Point to take two back to back hits we might be OP compared to DKs/Druids.

Tanking balance is a finer line to walk for the developers than DPS or Healing. Tanks have to be chosen and assigned. DPS does not. A DPS class that wants to prove itself simply goes out and dominates the meters. You also have less Tank spots open in a raid than any other role. Some bosses only require a single Tank. Who that is going to be is a call Raid Leaders have to make. They are going to put the best tank on the job. The rest of the Tanks, don’t get to play their primary role on that encounter. That’s just how it is.

I’m no fan of homogenized classes, but when it comes to Tank balance, it certainly is better than the alternative.

I’ve got a ton of Block gear in the bank, maybe I’ll actually need it soon. Who knows.

We’ll wait and see what they come up with, but for the first time in Wrath, I’m just a little apprehensive about my future.

Thinktank did a fantastic post on this issue as well. Now that you've read my thoughts, go check it out.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Truth Hurts

Our stance hasn't changed since Lich King. Originally (pre-LK) we tried to keep hybrid specs at 40% or more behind the pure damage-dealers, but then we also treated warriors as pure damage-dealers. If you really know your class, and I mean really know it, and if you have good gear, the right buffs, and a group that backs you up, then you are fully capable of topping the damage meters on certain fights. Overall we do want to make sure the pure dps classes are slightly higher when all things are equal, otherwise there is no point to those entire classes existing. Do warriors beat mages on some fights? Absolutely. What's the issue?I'm not sure what you're getting at with that last part. Ret paladins were not a serious raiding option for many players pre-LK. Now they certainly are. - Developer Ghostcrawler (Source)

I'd like to concentrate on his first sentence. This bothers me on a couple of levels.

First off, I'm pretty upset that this design wasn't communicated. Ret Paladins, Shadow Priests and other hybrids were doing their level best to compete for DPS spots all the while being designed to be 40% or more behind pure damage dealers. Of course, they didn't know they were playing against a stacked deck.

But the part that really irks me is that the Developers decided to treat the Warrior class as a Pure Damage Dealer despite the fact that at the time we are discussing (2.0 through 2.4), Warriors were generally considered to be the best Tank class around. In Beta, the Developers admitted to designing encounters to 'prop up' the Warrior class. I wish I still had that post but the Beta boards are long gone. However, the truth of their statement can be seen in things like Illidan's Shear and the requirement of Spell Reflect on Reliquary of Souls.

What was so special about the Warrior class? Why did they get this treatment? The only explanation that makes sense to my brain is that the developers had the idea that hybrids were healers and that Pure Classes were those that couldn't spec to heal. I think it's an odd definition of a hybrid, but it was never communicated to the player base to discuss/debate/give feedback on.

This also ignores the various utility even pure DPS classes can bring. I remember well that we prefered Mages over other classes at fights like Archimonde because they could Decurse. Rogues were pretty much a requirement for Reliquary of Souls and were very helpful on other fights due to Kick. So even though they weren't a 'hybrid' they brought more to the raid than just their UBER DPS.

Now Ghostcrawler has said before that bringing up past mistakes by the developers doesn't help us today and that's largely true. If we say we don't trust what Ghost and the other Developers are saying to us today because they 'lied' to us in the past, it doesn't lend itself to further communication today.

But it does make me feel pretty angry about the way the Warrior class was treated, and about the way hybrids were treated. Of course, that anger doesn't do anything to help my class today.

Today, all specs of Paladins are competitive in their own arenas of DPSing, Healing and Tanking.

But part of the reason my blog exists is for me to express, and work through my feelings, to vent a little bit and share my thoughts and theories about the game.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Epic Mimiron Fight

Last night, I logged on just moments before the raid was supposed to start. I had been at a planning meeting for our Vacation Bible School where I’ll be leading the 1st and 2nd graders class. Even if you aren’t a Christian, I recommend you let your kids go to Vacation Bible School. The kids have a blast and you get a couple of hours to yourself. Look for a Church using the Boomerang Express Theme. That’s what we’re using and the curriculum is pretty good.

Anyway, we had had a really good run on Tuesday, and we were starting on Mimiron Thursday night.

Our group was a little more melee heavy than normal. Our DPS team is mostly ranged consisting of a Mage, a Shadow Priest, two Hunters, a Boomkin and an Elemental Shaman. Some nights, it’s just Ellevis (Death Knight/Raid Leader) and me in melee range of the boss.

Last night our DPS team was Ofn (a Rogue), Absoloot (an Arms Warrior), Origami (a Feral Druid), Bluetide (said Elemental Shaman) and Bandaidez (said Shadow Priest). We also had our Holy Paladin go Ret from time to time, and our Tanking Death Knight would go DPS. Our Healers were our Disc Priest and Resto Druid.

Mimiron was going to be interesting with so many melees, especially when two those (the Arms Warrior and Rogue) hadn’t seen the fight before. We wipe a couple of times as people got familiar with the fight.

We finally made it into Phase 4, but people were dpsing the wrong targets. Our Elemental Shaman noticed that there weren’t any DoTs on the Head. We only had two people who could even hit the head. It was called out on vent and corrected. Then we lost our Elemental Shaman. The Head was getting seriously behind. With Mimiron, you have to kill all 3 sections within 12 seconds of each other or they ‘repair’ and come back to life.

Our Feral Druid shape shifted into Caster form and started to Moonfire and Wrath the Head. I stayed on the bottom, but it was slowly dying just from Holy Shield hits. The middle and bottom were at 5%, but the head was at 12%. Our Shadow Priest kept pouring DPS into the head. Then we lost both the Arms Warrior and the Rogue. Not long after that our Death Knight went down.

Finally we got the head to 5% or so when I saw the glyph under my feet marking an impact zone of one of Mimiron’s rocket. My raid leader saw it too and called it out on vent. I went to move but somehow hit my spacebar. So naturally Honorshammer jumped. The rocket hit and I died. As hard as it is to tank Phase 4, I make the silly mistake of hitting a space bar when I’m supposed to move. Ugh.

The bottom section, freed of it’s pesky tank, decided to go slam it’s ram into our Shadow Priest, then it moseyed over and smacked down our Feral turn Caster Druid.

We were down to our Disc Priest and Resto Druid with Mimiron bearing down on them which would mercifully put an end to this attempt.

Or would it?

Just as he was heading over, the Bottom section stopped moving and ‘broke’. Then the Middle ‘broke’ and finally the Head ‘broke’. Mimiron began his ‘you beat me’ speech. Achievements flashed up and the chest spawned. We had won!

Cheers filled vent like it was a first kill.

Apparently, just before our Shadow Priest died he had managed to get a full spread of DoTs on each section. Then when our Holy Priest and Resto Druid saw it was down to them they started DoTing, Moonfiring, Wanding and Wrathing.

The phrase ‘by the hair of our chinny chin chin’ came to mind.

Our Elemental Shaman snagged the Tier helm and our Arms Warrior got a nice DPS cloak with Strength.

That was a truly exciting and epic kill.

We celebrated by one shotting General Vezax. Then we made some attempts at Yogg and Iron Council Hard Mode.

We nearly got Iron Council but we didn’t quite have the DPS to pull it off. Once you get to Steelbreaker you basically have 2 minutes to get him down or he’ll wipe the raid in something of a soft enrage.

What’s very exciting to me is that we’ll have our entire raid night Monday dedicated to Yogg Saron. I can't wait!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!

XT-002 Positioning

In preparation for defeating XT-002 on ‘Hard Mode’ we’ve made a change to the positioning of the Boss. Most strategies and groups tend to tank XT-002 at the base of the stairs in the back center of the room.

We’ve moved our tank spot to between the two junk piles on the left hand side of the room as you walk in. When you position XT here, you get the benefit of not having to deal with adds from the two closest junk piles. Adds only spawn from the two junk piles on the left hand side of the room. This creates a very long path for the mobs to travel to reach XT-002 and gives our AoE DPS plenty of time to take out the Repair bots.

It also gives our tanks plenty of time to pick up the Assault Bots. This last attempt we decided to try making it a single tank fight.

With our Raid DPS, XT tends to spend very little time out of the‘Heart’ mode. He doesn’t melee while the Heart is exposed so the damage intake to the Main Tank is minimal. We had our Main Tank (who was your humble author this week) pick up all the Assault Bots and tank them in addition to tanking XT.

Once we are ready to try hard mode, we will be able to run a matrix of just 1 one tank and 3 healers, freeing up our Death Knight to go full DPS spec and gear.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Future of Engineering

The latest blow to Engineers has come from the Developers. Rocket Boots will no longer work in Arenas.

I think this is a precursor to a big announcement, possibly at Blizzcon about Engineering. Remember that here at Honor’s Code, “All Predictions Are Wrong or Your Money Back”. *Honor’s Code is technically free, so if I actually ever got one right, I’d owe you….well... nothing, so you get the point.
Honors Engineering History
Let me give you a brief synopsis of my history with Engineering and then let me tell you where I think the Developers are going with this.

I dropped Engineering about a week after 3.1 hit and I’ve been working on leveling up Mining on Honorshammer. This was the second time I’d dropped the profession.

When I leveled Honorshammer during Vanilla WoW, Engineering was fantastic. It provided my Paladin with the one thing he truly lacked, a ranged pull. As a Paladin in those days, you got very familiar with how to body pull.

Once I hit the level cap at 60, I found less and less uses for Engineering. When Burning Crusade announced the new profession of Jewelcrafting, my GM put out a call for people who would be willing to switch. Frustrated with how little I was actually using the profession, I agreed to switch to Jewelcrafting.

Then during Burning Crusade, the Developers massively buffed Engineering to provide Helms that were on par with the Tier 5 helms. At the time, I was still in late to mid Tier 4 content, with little prospect of being able to do Tier 5 anytime soon. They also brought out a way cool Flying Mount. So I dropped Mining and picked Engineering back up.

Then Wrath came. The motorcycle mount which was very cool, was also very expensive, and Honors can still have/use one even though he’s dropped the profession. The goggles were not nearly as good as they had been in Burning Crusade. Mote Farming was much less lucrative as well. Then an instance that should have been a treasure trove of new schematics (Ulduar) rendered zero, zip, nada.

So frustrated once again with Engineering, I dropped it. But I believe my history with Engineering gives me a good idea of what the issues are and where I believe the Developers may be going with it.

The Future of Engineering

A wise man once told me, “Future events cast their shadows before them.”

You can see this in game. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Hunters have been wondering why the best vendor bought ammo in Wrath did the exact same DPS as the best reputation bought ammo from Burning Crusade. Well as we recently found out that the reason was the planned change to ammo had caused the Developers to stop itemizing bullets and arrows, but that when the ammo changes didn’t go through, they needed another way to boost Hunter DPS.

The reason for the ‘missing’ ammo was a change we only recently found out about.

The main problem the Developers have had with Engineering has been with balancing it.

This was true even at Level 60. Rogues and Kitties have a Sprint, it’s not game breaking, but give Sprint to a Ret Paladin through Rocket Boots and it becomes a problem. Priests can Mind Control, it’s not game breaking, but give Mind Control to a Mage through the Mind Control Cap and it becomes a problem. Priests and Mages have Slowfall, it’s not game breaking, but give Slowfall to a Warrior through a Parachute Cloak and it becomes a problem. Warriors can spell reflect, it’s not game breaking, but give spell reflect to a Hunter through the Fire Reflector and it becomes an issue.

These skills are fine in and of themselves, but when paired up with certain classes, they become an issue. They fill in gaps and cover weaknesses that balance those classes by design.

We’ve seen virtually nothing on Enginering since Wrath released. Some of the schematics make parts that currently have no use. It’s almost like they stopped working on Engineering halfway through Development of Wrath. This is a shadow of a future event.

Blizzcon is coming up, and I believe there is a good chance Blizzard announces the next Expansion at Blizzcon. Wrath was announced two years ago at Blizzcon 2007. I blogged about it.

When the next expansion is released, I believe they will also announce a new class, the Engineer. This will be a summoned pet class and pilot class and use many of the gadgets currently in Engineering to do their DPS. They will be able to summon turrets, robots, maybe even the Robot Factory that was in Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne. They will also get bonuses when driving Vehicles (more speed or more damage) and possibly even get to repair them. This works both in PVP (Strands and Wintergrasp) as well as PVE (Flame Levithan).

Of course making Engineering a class will require major changes to the profession. It could either be scrapped entirely, or made a secondary profession. But if they scrapped it entirely, wouldn’t that piss off the people who currently have Enginering? Yes, it would. So you want to minimize the number of people who have the skill and thus would be affected. Well just make Engineering a worse and worse choice for most classes, all the while giving lip service to having it be on par. By the time you actually announce it’s being removed as a profession, there won’t be many left with the skill. Natural attrition will have reduced the number of Engineers for you.

I remember well that back in 2007, the Develoeprs communicated they wanted Tank equality, but then during Wrath’s Beta, revealed that the encounters had been stacked to prop up Warriors. So it would hardly be the first time Blizzard communicates something publicly through the Community Managers (“we’re working on Engineering”), while doing something very different behind the scenes.

So that’s two bold predictions in one blog. Now we get to sit back and watch what happens.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hello Yoggy

Monday night we headed back in Ulduar. We had actually gotten a group together Saturday night, but something came up in ‘real life’ and I had to bail on it. Luckily, our Feral was on and they were able to continue the run without me.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get any bosses down on Saturday, so we were faced with Mimiron, and General for Monday.

As we head down to the Spark of Imagination, my Raid Leader announces some changes to the strategy. He wants me tanking Phase 1 and Phase 4. I’ll also be tanking all the Junk Bots and Assault Bots in Phase 3.

I was a little concerned about Phase 1 because as a group we were a little short in the cooldown area. I’m very thankful that the Developers have realized the cooldown issue Paladins have and recently communicated via everyone’s favorite crab that Paladin’s will be getting another one.

All we had for Phase 1 was my BubbleWall and Pain Suppression. I also had the Glyph of Salvation which I saved for the third Plasma Blast if it came. Most of the time, Mimiron would start casting it just as the Phase ended.

I gave a pretty good accounting of myself in Phase 3 picking up all the Assault Bots. Some of the Junk Bots got a little bit of quality time with my healers before I taunted them off, but they only kind of tickled my Resto Druid’s bark.

Phase 4 has got to the toughest tanking gig I’ve had since Flame Tanking on Illidan. First problem is that the bottom section of Mimiron’s V0L-7R0N completely encompasses my little dwarf (maybe some Noggenfogger is called for?)

What I did was strafe around like I do in Phase 2 trying to ensure I was always looking at the middle section’s back. As I’m positioning him, he casts Shock Blast. I ran out. After he casts Shock Blast, he laid out a bunch of mines. The range weren’t used to seeing them out that far and we lost some DPS.

Next attempt, I did a better job of keeping him centered, but when Laser Barrage hit, the game thought I was in front of him and not behind him, though it clearly looked like I was behind him on my screen.

We make heavy use of Anks and Battle Rezzes for Mimiron.

After two more wipes, I decided to tank him like it was Phase 1. I ran in and held him in place. When he started to cast Laser Barrage, I used a tap, tap, tap on my strafe key to move around him without moving too much. We managed to survive two Plasma Blasts. Our Mage blinked just in time to save himself.

We got another Vanquisher token, and I managed to pickup a new Retribution cape.

I would put that to use immediately after we cleared the trash to General Vezax. We managed to two shot him. My DPS was lower than last week mainly because I spent much more time running around breaking Saroite Vapors for our healers.

If you are a Paladin or Hunter, the next time you find yourself in Vezax’s room, turn on Sense/Track Undead. It’s pretty funny.

We had about an hour to work on Yogg. We were mainly concentrating on Phase 1. For this Phase, you have to kill 8 Guardians, right on top of the Boss. The problem is that there are 6 green clouds floating around and if one of them touches a member of your team, another Guardian spawns. It’s very easy to get overrun.

We tried a couple of different strategies. I'll discuss two of them here "Ferry" and "Fezzik".

With Ferry, you have everyone at the door. The Tanks bring the Guardian's to the group where they get dpsed down, and then another tank taunts it off and ferries it to the boss where it is killed.

Fezzik is named after a charcter in the Princess Bride. He's basically a giant (and was portrayed by Andre The Giant). The strategy takes it's name from one scene where Fezzik and Inigo Montoya are trying to get through a crowd of people. After a couple of minutes of 'excuse me', 'pardon me', etc, Inigo turns to Fezzik and says "Fezzik?" Fezzik cups his hands over his mouth and shouts "Everybody....MOVE!!" The crowd parts and they go on their way.

In the Fezzik strategy, everybodies got to move and keep moving to avoid the clouds.
We tried both strategies. Initially "Ferry" felt more controlled, but it was taking too long. The longer Phase 1 goes, the faster the Guardians spawn. We also had the problem of the Guardian's dying from DoTs when the Tank had to avoid a cloud to get to the Boss. Each Guardian can cast a nasty AoE, and can mind control. When you have a tank holding a mob get mind controlled, it's usually a Bad Thing. Our best attempt with Ferry was about 30%.

So, somewhat reluctantly, we adopted Fezzik's "Everybody MOVE!!"
Initially it felt much more chaotic, and the sinking feeling of 'we are never going to get this' started to pervade our thoughts. One of our raiders asked "Did we accidentally put it on Hard Mode?"

We marked one of our range dps to act as a beacon of sorts for people to follow. We also noticed that the beginning of the phase was pretty controlled. We were actually waiting around for Guardians to spawn.

So we decided to have one of the tanks run into a cloud and spawn one right away. That seemed to help and it was either that attempt or the next where we actually got to Phase 2, but we were still overrun by Guardians. They don't magically disappear when Phase 2 starts.

The Keepers who you freed from Yogg's control now assist you. Here's a shot of Mimiron giving us a hand. One of our Raiders remarked that if the Keepers had tried kill Yogg half as hard they tried to kill us, the fight would already be over.

The next attempt we got into Phase 2 in pretty good shape, and before the night ended we had begun to make some progress in Phase 2. We can really see the progress we've made from one week to the next. It's a really fun fight. I never got a chance to fight C'thun, so this is my first go at an Old God. I'm looking forward to playing with him some more next week.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Good and Evil, a Potent Combination

With the advent of Dual Specs, I’ve decided to jump into PVP in Season 6.

I avoided Season 5 entirely. Part of this was because of the punitive nature of the system. You lose points until you came down to your rating. Plus all the PVP gear had Arena rating requirements on it, so you had to Arena to get Arena gear to do Arena.

But the major reason I avoided PVP in Season 5 was the hassle of specing back and forth between Tank and PVP, plus the necessary glyph changes. It became cost prohibitive and just wasn’t fun.

Now with Dual Spec, it’s simple to switch from Tank to PVP spec and I can do it multiple times a night.

I saw on the Guild Forums that one of the Warlocks in my guild was looking for an Arena partner. He’s Haunt spec. I volunteered my services as a Retribution Paladin.

I had a ton of Honor saved up. Since I wasn’t PVPing I didn’t see any need to spend it, and I had gotten plenty doing Wintergrasp from time to time. In addition, I was beginning to accumulate Emblems of Valor from our Ulduar runs and I didn’t have any PVE gear I needed to buy with them.

In short order I had my Hateful gloves and Shoulders, Wintergrasp Boots, Wintergrasp Trinket (AP and remove CC), Hateful Ring, Deadly Ring and Deadly cloak. That added up to about 300 Resilience.

My Warlock partner and I headed off into the wild and wooly world of PVP.

Now I readily admit I’m much better at PVE than PVP. My twitch First Person Shooter skills have noticeably declined since my heady day of mowing down people in Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight and Unreal Tournament 2003.

Our first week, we were 5-5. We were going through those new team growing pains, learning each others styles and strengths. Even when I’m Ret I still think like a tank and tend to play defensively.

Other teams seem to want to burst me to make me bubble and then try to get on him. Alternatively, they leave me alone and try to burst him down.

One of our first matches was against Mage/Lock. I managed to kill the Lock, but the Mage got me right after, so it came down to my Lock versus their Mage. He didn’t have much trouble at all and we bagged our first win.

Hunters may be considered a weak arena class, but I have nothing but trouble with them.

We played a Priest/Druid team that just destroyed us

This past week we went like 14-7, or something like that.

I hate Boomkins (but not you, Lakini). We fought a Boomkin/Mage team that was over before it started. I was literally dead in 3 seconds.

The most frustating match was against a Priest/Mage. Basically what happened was their Mage killed my Warlock, while I killed their Priest. It was down to me at about 70% life against a Mage at 25% life.

The Mage Iceblocked, and then sheeped me. He proceeded to use Evocation which not only filled his mana bar, but his life bar as well. And here I thought Mages couldn’t heal. I’m sure I made some totally noob mistakes that let all that happen, but it was frustrating to steal defeat from very jaws for victory.

We ended this week just shy of 1300. The higher we go the more it feels like my 300 resilience just isn’t going to cut it.

I’m using my Tier 7 chest and legs to get the two piece PVE bonus which is 10% damage on Divine Storm. I’m thinking my Helm is the next piece to replace. I havent’ compared the Wintergrasp Helm to the Hateful one yet to figure out which one I want. This is pretty close to what my gear looks like right now.

Then a Paladin in our guild that recently hit 80 showed me a Holy PVP spec that actually looks pretty fun. The only problem is I can’t try it out. I need my Ret spec to serve as both the PVP as well as the DPS when I don’t need to tank spec. I would love a Tri-spec option to test out that Holy build he showed me. Otherwise, I'm back to the whole problem of having to respec and reglyph, though I may start grabbing some ‘soon to be sharded’ spell power gear just in case I ever get the urge to try it out.

I actually did 10 games with him on my Hunter. My Hunter is still in quest greens with a couple of Auction House bought blues. My Paladin friend was basically in full Ornate Saronite. We actually won two games believe it or not.

I hate the new map where you start on the platform that slowly ascends to the Arena floor. On the flip side, I’m liking the
NagrandBlade's Edge ‘Bridge’ map a bit more.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Boy Blunder

Tuesday meant a new reset and our team threw itself a new at Ulduar.

Our raid leader announced that we weren’t actually the first guild to down General Vezax. Apparently, the guild DCL had beaten us by a couple of hours, so gratz to them. It would have been cool to have gotten a server first, but no one in the raid was really all that worried about it.

We knocked over Flame Leviathan and XT-002 in short order. XT dropped a Plate DPS chest. When our Arms Warrior said he didn’t need it, our Raid Leader asked me if I wanted it.

I had done a fairly detailed comparison of all the tanking gear in Ulduar and knew what I needed and what I didn’t. I hadn’t done an analysis of the DPS gear. I wasn’t sure it was an upgrade or not, but he gave it to me anyway.

We marched our way down to Kologarn. Not long into the fight, I could sense something was wrong. My health was jumping around like crazy. I did a quick check and saw that yes, I did have Righteous Fury up.

Then I saw a Crit for over 20k on me. That wasn’t right. I got healed up, and got crit again. That hit basically one shot me.

I got battle rezzed by one of our Druids. I love having Druids in the raid. After I got healed and buffed up, I taunted Kologarn and got back to tanking. I took a couple more crtis.

I pulled up my character sheet trying to figure out what was going on. My eyes got big in my heal when I saw I only had 520 defense. I did quick mouseover to see if any of my gear had broken. It hadn’t. Why was I sitting at 520 defense?

Then I saw it. I had equipped my Teir 7 Retribution chest so I could compare it’s stats to the DPS chest that XT had dropped and forgotten to switch back to my tanking chest.

Well, he can’t crit a Block so I made it a priority to keep Holy Shield up. That would have worked, but I needed the block rating from my Tanking chest to be Block Capped.

Okay, I thought to myself, we’ll get this guy down and I’ll switch back to my real chest and no one will be the wiser.

Then I died, again. With no one in melee, Kologarn started to do his AoE and wiping out the raid. Our DoTs got him with only a Hunter left alive.

I had to fess up and admit my mistake. Everyone got a good chuckle out of it.

I put the right chest piece on and we proceeded to one shot Auryia. We finally managed to kill the Defender away from the raid. Then we went and got Hodir, Thorim, and Freya.

We are pretty close on getting Thorim into Hard mode. We are not close on Hodir hard mode.

I finally got an upgrade to my helm, and picked up a new ring. The plan is to try to get Mimiron and Vezax and Thursday which would give us a whole night on Yogg.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Blood Draining For a Paladin

When Ulduar was released, two new ‘tank’ enchants were released with it. These were Blade Warding and Blood Draining. Both are drops from various 25 man bosses in Ulduar.

While both enchants are still very new, the intial feedback from the community has been that these enchants are rather lackluster. The Developers wanted to avoid having an enchant every tank felt they must have like 50 stamina, so we get two very expensive enchants that don’t give you the bang for your buck.

Blood Draining - Permanently enchants your weapon to sometimes grant Blood Reserve when striking an enemy or inflicting damage with bleed attacks. When you fall below 35% health, Blood Reserve restores 360 to 440 health. Lasts 20 sec and stacks up to 5 times.

Blood Draining will work out to about a 2k heal when you health drops below 35%.

This has long been thought to be a poor enchant for Tankadins because of the negative synergy with Ardent Defender. The fear was that the enchant would proc and take you just out of Ardent Defender range. This would cause Ardent Defender to not mitigate the next hit, so the Enchant ends up killing you in a way. But no one had the hard numbers.

Enter Theck of Blackrock. In addition to being a Tankadin, Theck is a level 80 Mathematician (Elite). He did some very nice simulations of the effect of the enchant and how it interacts with Ardent Defender. The entire discussion, along with the graphs is in this thread on Maintankadin.

Let me give you the highlights.

  • “While Blood Draining can push us out of AD range, and thus cause "leapfrogging" that kills us, reducing our Time To Live in some situations, it also adds Time To Live to other situations where we were in AD range but had slightly less HP than the size of the incoming hits after AD mitigation is factored in.
  • As a result, at least in this simple analysis, Blood Draining will never reduce your average TTL, assuming that your "starting health" obeys a flat probability density function. So at least in that respect, the naysayers were wrong.
  • Yes, the above is an unreliable (and probably incorrect) assumption, but without a more involved model of how healing effects change the probability density function, it will be hard to come up with anything rigorous. Empirical data might help here.

Then he proceeds to added healing to the simuation.

  • Adding healing to the equation extends the range in which Blood Draining is useful.
  • A good rule of thumb is (AD_Threshold + Incoming_Heals - Boss_Hit_size) > 0. The bigger the value, the better the enchant is.
  • Blood Draining never reduces your TTL. The extra AD Leapfrogs it causes will always be at least offset by the extra AD saves it causes.

It means BD is better than most people assumed. It's very easy to imagine one bad scenario and draw a conclusion from it that's incorrect because you failed to notice a compensating good scenario

Guest Post on Matticus

Today's Honor's Code will appear as a Guest Post on World of Matticus.

"Hybrid it up on General Vezax"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

No Mana For You! One Fight!

Monday night we were going for progression on General Vezax.

We decided to change our matrix to 1 tank, 3 healers and 6 DPS. We had our Death Knight tanking General Vezax which meant I was laying wood as Retribution.

Why have the Death Knight tank? Well one of General’s big moves is called Surge of Darkness. It basically doubles the damage the General does with all attacks. It’s on a 1 minute cooldown. IceBound Fortitude is also on a one minute cooldown. If you are like me and fairly clueless about Death Knight mechanics let me tell you what that does.

Icebound Fortitude reduces all damage taken by 20% plus additional damage reduction based on Defense for 12 sec. With 540 Defense, it’s about 35% reduction. (Source)

That meant that every time Vezax got all high on Black Blood (gained Surge of Darkness), our Death Knight could pop Icebound Fortitude.

Plus we had the added advantage of his threat resource not being mana. After researching on the Maintankadin boards, it seemed that even with 2/2 Spiritual Attunement, an avoidance streak could run you dry in a real hurry.

I heard it said once that many DKs are pretty bad, but if you find a skilled one, they can be downright scary good. My guild has a very skilled Death Knight.

Neither my Death Knight, nor myself really care which one of us tanks. Neither one of us is looking for glory, and neither one needs to prove anything. We are both respected by the raid team. But when the mechanics of a fight lend themselves better to one of us than the other, it would be kind of silly to not use that tank.

So after the trash, I popped into my Ret spec/Ret gear and got ready. This was going to be anything but a stand there and DPS it fight.

My Death Knight had taken the talent to remove the Runic Power cost of his interrupt (Mind Freeze) and we had added a Feral Druid who could also interrupt. General V casts a spell called Searing Flames. It has to be interrupted. You might be able to survive one getting off, but it’s going to make your healers (already strained for mana) have to work that much harder.

My Hammer of Justice was a 40 second cooldown, but I tried to interrupt whenever it was off cooldown anyway. Mind Freeze could and did miss on occasion, and the Feral needed a combo point up in order to be able to cast his.

We were also having a small problem with some of the Saronite Vapors bugging out. These Vapors have to be killed and when killed they leave a small green pool on the ground. Standing in the vapors trades health for mana. You basically life tap. This is basically the only way for casters to get mana back during the fight. There are only a couple of things that work: Shamanistic Rage, Lifebloom bloom, Spiritual Attunmenet and Judgment of the Wise, and these only work partially. Normal mana regeneration and MP5 doesn’t work. Judgment of the Wise was working perfectly. I could run my entire rotation including an occasional Consecrate and not be starved for mana. In fact, I was nearly always over 75% mana.

A couple of times, we would kill the cloud and our healers would happily jump in for some delicious mana, only to find the cloud not giving them mana back, but still taking life. It was like paying for lunch and not getting a sandwich. Nothing like making a tough fight just a little bit tougher.

Since my DPS was the lowest, it was on me to blow up the Saronite vapors.

In addition to throwing my interrupt, and killing Vapors, I was watching for someone to Salv.

Caster threat can be a big issue in this fight. General V casts Shadow Crash which does a small AoE where it hits. It leaves behind a black patch on the ground. Standing there increases damage dealt by 100% (so basically double damage) and makes all your spells cost 75% of their normal cost, however it also reduces healing done by 75% so healers stay away!

It was either the Mage or Elemental Shaman who were sneaking above the Tank on threat. The Mage could cast invisibility but the Shaman didn’t have a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card. Enter my Hand of Salvation.

Each attempt we were getting better. We had an 80% attempt, then into the 60% range, and then a sub 50%. It was coming along. As our Disc Priest said, we were getting the rhythm of the fight.

Our next attempt was going well until our Resto Druid got nailed by a Shadow Crash just after leaving a Saronite Cloud. Dead Tree.

Our Feral rebirthed him, but as soon as he was up he got Shadow Crashed again. Double death on one attempt, gotta love it.

So now we are down a healer with Vezzy at about 60%. The next time Vezax gained Surge of Darkness (double damage to the tank) I stopped DPSing and started cancel casting. This was something I learned back at level 60 when Honors was Holy. Cancelcasting means you queue up your big Heal (Holy Light) and watch the tanks health. If it doesn’t drop (he dodged, or parried) you hit escape or jump and your spell doesn’t cast. If his health does drop you let the spell finish. Thanks to Sheath of Light, if I crit, it would leave a HoT on our Death Knight. A couple of Holy Lights would really tax my mana pool but after Surge of Darkness I’d go back to DPS and a couple of Judgements later my mana bar was filling up.

We pushed him under 30%. That meant that no more Saronite Vapors would form. We were on our own from that point on. We pushed him under 20% and all those lovely specials like Kill Shot opened up.

At 15% our Disc Priest announced he was dry. Our Raid Leader said, and I quote “throw the kitchen sink at him!”

To most people, that would mean DPS like you never have before. But to the Feral Druid and myself, it meant throw every heal we had at the Death Knight.

Our Death Knight still had all his cooldowns available, and had figured he’d be killed with Vezzy at 5% after he blew them all. I still had Lay On Hands and Divine Sacrifice for him, too.

He was thinking, hoping really, that we might be spread out enough to ‘DoT and run’ and get the kill. But with myself and the Feral (who had a full mana bar from being in Cat Form) helping out our Holy Priest, we kept him up. As the last few percentage points started to come off, we all started to realize we were going to do it.

As Vezax fell, cheers filled vent. We had done it! According to WoWProgress, Heroes Inc is the first Alliance guild to kill General Vezax on 10 man, and the 4th guild overall. No one Alliance side has killed him on 25 mans. We had done it, a server first!

The drops were some cloth shoulders and some BoE leather spell power bracers.

According to the WWS, I only did 1900 DPS, but I also did almost 12% of the total healing on the fight. I even outhealed the Resto Druid, who was, in his defense, rather dead.

I may not have been the ‘main tank’ on the fight, but without a doubt, I helped us get the kill by playing my Paladin to the utmost of my pixilated limitations.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dear Mimiron, I Loot You

Our next raid we went in with a single purpose kick Mimiron’s can instead of him kicking ours.

Our warm up was Thorim. I remember this guy being a problem for our group, I really do. Ever since the Arena team figured out the Arena part, he’s been pretty easy to knock over.

Our raid seems to get a propensity of loves Rogue, Death Knight, Mage, Druid tokens. I understand that the token has a slightly higher drop rate due to serving 4 classes as opposed to just 3. I’m sure other raids are tired of their Priest, Paladin, Warlock tokens, but I’m betting you’d have to read a Warrior or Death Knight Blog to see it.

With our ‘2’ keys properly broken in, we headed off to face Mimiron. The trash wasn’t quite so bad this time around. I’m not sure if it was because of the nerfs to Sappers or that we were just more familiar with the pulls. I found that the Spider Robot that you can jump in once it’s defeated is great for taking out the Ice Turrets that the drivers build when they jump out. Those turrets are just lethal.

We finally got down to Mimiron. My Raid Leader announced a change in the Tanking assignments. He would tank Mimiron in Phase 1 and Phase 4. I was still on Assault Bot duty in Phase 3. At that point, I didn’t care if he said the Hunter Pet was going to tank, I just wanted to see Mimiron die.

My job is Phase 1 was to use Divine Sacrifice to help our DK survive Plasma Blast. He would use his own cooldown for the first, then our Holy Paladin would use Divine Sacrifice for the second and I would Divine Sacrifice the third. I’ve heard some people say they only get two Blasts but we get three without fail.

Phase 2 seems fairly simple, even though it’s the mechanics from Phase 2 (rockets and Barrage) that seem to be the killers for our group in Phase 4.

I had no trouble locking down the Assault Bots in Phase 3. I don’t think they so much as looked at our DPS or Healers.

Phase 4, ah Phase 4. After our first wipe our Raid Leader figured out the issue. The hit box of the bottom section gives the tank a misleading idea of whether or not he’s going to be hit by Barrage. You think you’re behind him, but the game thinks you are in front of him. On the next attempt, we tried to Baby Spice the lower section but it seemed to be immune.

So we got ready for our next attempt. Unbeknownst to the raid, my Death Knight had figured out something with toggling his walk/run that would allow him to very slowly strafe around the boss. That attempt we survived 2 Laser Barrages for the first time. Suddenly vent was filled with people calling out percentages on the various parts of the body. My Raid Leader was directing DPS to different sections. Then the arms attached to the middle section went limb. Our DPS poured into the head and finished it off. Then they tore into the bottom and DPSed like they had never DPSed before. Mere seconds from a ‘repair’ that would have spelled the end of our attempt, Mimiron’s V0L-7-R0N shut down. We had done it. Mimiron down! And wouldn’t you know it, Rogue, Death Knight, Mage, Druid token. Who cares, Mimiron down!

With Mimiron defeated, we headed into the Descent into Madness. This was really fun. We’d pull a group of trash with very little idea of what they did. We used the mob names and gear to try to guess at their abilities. If a mob was dressed in Warrior Tier 7, we anticipated it had Warrior type abilities. As I was tanking my mob, I would watch his buff bar for clues to what he was about to do to us. Sheep and Hex saw heavy use. If we had had a Warlock, Banish would have come into play as well.

We cleared the trash and started attempts on General Vezax. The Death Knight would tank him. The fight is very unfriendly to a Mana based tank. As we looked through our roster we realized that every single one of us was a mana user, and we were very short on interrupts. Basically we had the Death Knights and mine. His was limited by Runic Power and mine by a very long cooldown and the fact it was on the Global cooldown, which meant that if I wanted to make sure to interrupt, I had to stop doing anything but autoattack to make sure I wouldn’t be stuck in a Global Cooldown when I needed to interrupt.

We made a couple of good attempts, and our best shot was about 65%. We definitely felt like we could get him.

We would later learn that Heroes was the third guild (Alliance side) on Altar of Storms to defeat all 4 Keepers. Additionally, no guild on our server has defeated General Vezax. We’ve never cared about server ‘firsts’ and we weren’t going to schedule a raid for the weekend just to chase one. I don’t know if anyone on our server had gotten him yet. It would be exciting to be the first guild to kill him.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dear Mimiron, I Hate You

We smashed our way through Flame Leviathan, XT-002, and Kologarn Tuesday night.

After 3 weeks of Tank duty, I asked for a shot to ride the Motorcycles. They were cool, but I think the Tanks suit me better. Maybe I’ll try a Demo next week.

My Raid Leader had discovered a better positioning to use on XT-002. Previously, we had been tanking him at the base the stairs. This time we positioned him in between the two junk piles on the right hand side of the room. With him there, we didn’t have any Adds spawn from those points. We wanted to practice him in this new position for when we do Hard Modes. The plan is to get a clear (kill all the bosses) and then start working on Hard Modes.

We are getting better and cleaner on all our kills. Auryia was a two shot. We had a couple of new people on Freya so it took one attempt for our DPS to learn how to manage the Add pack with the Elemental and the two Flowers that all have to die at the same time.

I had a ‘Real Life’ issue come up and wasn’t in for the Hodir kill. I don’t know how close we are to the 3 minute kill needed for his Hard Mode.

But let’s talk about Mimiron. He’s currently our major roadblock.

We spent a solid night wiping on Mimiron. Not a single mob was looted the whole night. The first night we faced him, we barely got into Phase 1 before we wiped.

For Phase 1, Mimiron’s in a tank, and I have a ton going on. We want to maximize DPS to get through the Phase before we have to endure too many Plasma Blasts, so I need to be really tight in my rotation. I have to be watching for where Mimiron drops the mines to find a good place to run if he winds up a Shock Blast. Reminiscent of Murmur in Shadow Labyrinth, you don’t want to be close to the Mimiron when he fires that off. Then I have to be ready to hit Divine Protection once he starts Plasma Blast. He doesn’t channel the spell; it’s more of an instant DoT. He channels Shock Blast. If I don’t hit DP, we wipe. The second Plasma Blast, I use Hand of Salvation with the Glyph of Salvation. Then I announce on vent that I’m “Out of Tricks”. That’s the cue for our Priest to get ready with Guardian Spirit for the third and final Plasma Blast.

There’s no aggro table in Phase 2 when he’s in a Tie Fighter looking thing. I make sure I’m always facing his back so I don’t have to worry about getting by the Laser Barrage.

In Phase 3, he’s in a helicopter and I’m picking up the Assault Bots. In the early attempts in this phase I would try to throw a Sacred Shield on the Hunter who is Ranged Tanking the Phase, but Once or twice when I did that, I would miss an Asssault Bot spawn and he’d kill a Mage or Healer. I was berating myself during the runback (WITHOUT my Push To Talk Key down). “Let the Healers do their job, you do yours!”

The Asssault Bots are really easy to pick up once you figure out they spawn from a Red Column of Light. The column is there a good 4 or 5 seconds before they spawn. I had to be really careful not to misclick and loot the Magnetic Core. We had a Feral Druid on the duty of looting the core (does that sound familiar?) and bringing the helicopter down.

The second night of attempts, we were pretty consistently getting to Phase 4, although we used so many Battle Rezes we had to change the name of our group.

If I could sum up Phase 4, it would be ‘So many ways to die, so little time’. You fight all 3 vehicles at once. They form together to make V0L-7-R0N (7 is ‘t’ in leet speak, so yeah, it’s VOLTRON!) Each part, bottom, middle and head move independently and have separate aggro tables. The main attack of the bottom section is Shock Blast. You have to get out of melee or you’ll be one shot. That’s pretty easy to avoid, although you still have to find a safe path among the minefield. The middle section still does Laser Barrage. This is a little bit like Lurker’s Spout and will one shot you should you let it hit you. The trick here is that he may have just cast Shock Blast, so I would run out, and then try to run back in. In the process, Voltron tries to reorient himself to the tank, which makes him change where Laser Barrage was going to start and people who had moved out of the path might now be in it.

He can also target the Main Tank with Laser Barrage. I never got this part right, but apparently you have to slowly strafe in a circle away from him, without causing him to reorient. Not an easy task to accomplish by my reckoning.

The other little problem in Phase 4 is the Rocket Attack. It will one shot you. There is a little circle that shows up on the ground to tell you where it’s going to land. There’s only one, little, itsy bitsy problem. The ‘tank’ portion can cover up the circle so you don’t see it coming. I died at least two or three times to ‘surprise’ rockets.

As an added bonus, all 3 pieces have to die within seconds of each other.

After all the mistakes I made and the subsequent wipes I caused, I was really beginning to see the appeal of playing a DPS class, especially a Ranged one.

He feels every bit as frustrating and ‘impossible’ as Gruul or Hydross or Archimonde did when we were learning them. You think ‘Are we ever going to kill this guy?” All that frustration just builds the euphoric high you get when you do finally kill him.

I felt like we were getting close and I have every confidence we’ll kill this bucket of bolts soon enough.

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Day With Mr. Hammer

Mr. Hammer is a nice dwarf, with a funny name.

My day with Mr. Hammer started by going to see the spooky Lighthouse the Matron had told us about. I saw a real live ghost pirate. That was too cool.

Then I asked Mr. Hammer if he would take me to see the big dam the Dwarves built. Mr. Hammer is a nice Dwarf. He took me to see the dam. It’s bigger than anything and huge!

I wanted to go see the Bear tree thing in the Night Elf city but it was very far away. Mr. Hammer just smiled and took out a special stone from his bag. The next thing I know we are in this big city in the clouds. He made me a chocolate cake, a cupcake and bought me candy. Mr. Hammer is really nice.

Then he took me to a room with all these pretty pictures. We touched the pretty picture of the Night Elf city and we were really there!

The Bear tree looked very cool. I had never seen anything like that before ever.

Then I was hungry. Mr. Hammer took me on a boat to Stormwind and bought me some Ice Cream. I liked Mr. Hammer’s ice cream.

I asked Mr. Hammer if he would get me the autograph of Jaina Proudmoore. She is a great Alliance Hero! Mr. Hammer said he knew Jaina and he would take me to her.

Mr. Hammer called one of his friends, Mr. Tonk. Even Mr. Hammer’s friends have strange names.

Mr. Tonk made a pretty picture of the place Jaina lives. We touched the pretty picture and next thing you know we were standing by Mrs. Jaina and I got her autograph.

I had had the most fun with Mr. Hammer, but Mr. Hammer just smiled and said he had much more to show me.

Mr. Hammer and some of his friends took me to a big ole castle. There were lots of scary looking things in there, but Mr. Hammer kept me safe. He took me to see a bad King. Mr. Hammer fought the bad King and beat up the bad King really good.

Then we went a played a game. There were lots of floating rocks. Mr. Hammer wanted me to help him carry a flag to base before any of the bad people tagged him. The first time we tried, a couple of bad people tagged Mr. Hammer. But then Mr. Hammer went back and got another flag and we carried it to base with a big robot that Mr. Hammer called a Fel Reaver.

Mr. Hammer showed me another game. This time the bad people took our flag and we had to get it back. Mr. Hammer tried and tried, but someone always took the flag before Mr. Hammer could. Mr. Hammer had been nice to me. I told him it was okay.

Then Mr. Hammer played another game and I saw some horses at a stable and some men working at a mine. That was a fun game. We didn’t see many bad people trying to tag Mr. Hammer.

Next Mr. Hammer took me to a big fortress and showed me how to drive a tank! That was more amazing than anything I could have asked. Then he took me on a long flight and showed me how he trained with a lance and a shield. I want to do that one day.

Mr. Hammer had been so nice to me and shown me so many things. I was sad when he dropped me back off at the Orphanage, but Mr. Hammer said he would come to visit whenever he was in Stormwind. I like Mr. Hammer. I gave Mr. Hammer my pet turtle, Speedy, to remember me by.
Mr. Hammer is a nice dwarf, with a funny name.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Watchers


For about a week or so, we’ve been banging our head against Thorim. We went in Tuesday night and plowed right through Flame Leviathan, XT-002, Razorscale, and Kologarn. It took a couple of attempts, be we managed to put down Auriya again as well. We two shot Hodir, but I spent the last half of the fight doing a detailed examination of Hodir’s cold hard floor.

I was DPS for that fight and made one of the classic blunders. No, it wasn’t starting a land war in Asia, or did I go up against a Sicilian when death was on the line. We were fighting Hodir and it was time for Flash Freeze. I noticed that the glyph for where the big snowball would fall was basically right underneath him. I kept whacking away at his backside. The snowballs fell and my brain uttered those fateful words “Probably got time for one more swing…” FLASH FREEZE! I’m now DUG (Dwarf Under Glass). Our DPS Warrior valiantly tried to bust me out, but I died before he could. We downed Hodir anyway.

He dropped a Conqueror token, which I was fortunate enough to win over the two Priests we had that night. My first piece of Tier 8 is my Pants, err skirt…. I mean kilt!

Instead of banging our head against Thorim, we decided to go Thursday and learn Freya.

First thing you’ll notice is Freya has a metric ton of trash. It’s about 3 different packs that repeat, along with some that have some large patrol paths. Most of the trash involves pulling a single mob out and killing it away from the rest of the mobs. You can expect some accidental pulls and raid wipes. We decided to kill all 3 of the Elders and do the fight in ‘Normal’ mode.

When we got Freya herself, she buffed herself with a healing aura that could only be removed by dealing with three different sets of adds that come at one minute intervals.The large Ent wasn’t a problem. I was tanking Freya herself and all I needed to do was make sure I got under a mushroom. Healing can get a little tight at that point because your healer has to move under a mushroom as well. You should be ready with a Divine Protection or Trinket, especially if you are being healed by a Holy Paladin who lacks both HoTs and doesn’t heal on the run all that well.

The small flowers that blow up weren’t much of a problem. My Death Knight partner dropped a Death and Decay and we single targeted each one down. They blow up when die so you don’t want too many dying at once. That tends to do bad things to your Tank as my Death Knight friend discovered.

The really challenging set of Adds is a three pack that includes two plants and a Water Elemental. The trick is they all 3 have to die within a couple seconds of each other. If one dies before the others, he’ll rez and you won’t be able to get them all down before the next set of adds come and your raid will wipe horribly.

It took us a couple of attempts to figure it out. What we did was split our DPS into teams and assigned each team to an add. That worked well unless one team got ahead. So we had our DPS stop once the mob reached 10%, then our Raid Leader would call for a burn.

Once we got through the add stage, Freya herself was pretty easy. I had been banging away at her for 3 or 4 minutes while the rest of the raid dealt with the Add waves. I could have literally auto-attacked the rest of the fight and held threat on her.I was really happy I had done the research on gear because she did drop an Ironbark Faceguard which I passed to my Death Knight. I’ll get the next one.


With Freya defeated, it was time to turn our attention back to Thorim. We sent our Tankadin, a Hunter, and a Resto Druid into the tunnel leaving the balance of our raid in the Arena. Now I was in the tunnel so I can’t comment on what happened in the Arena but something clicked. For the first time ever, the Arena team was keeping up and even getting ahead of the spawns.

In the tunnel, we were slow to move and got nailed by the mini-bosses flame attack that travels down one side of the tunnel. It’s sort of like the Skadi gauntlet in Utgarde Pinnacle.

We could feel the progress being made and on our next pull, the tunnel team got all the way to Thorim. My raid leader reminded me to not run down the middle, and just as he did, I discovered the Paralytic Fields which stick you in place and remembered WHY I wasn’t supposed to run down the middle.

At that point I was frantic to get down to the Arena Floor and be ready to taunt Thorim off my Death Knight when he got the Unbalancing Strike. In my haste, I hit the second Paralytic Field. Way to go, Honors! I finally jump down and promptly missed the first Unbalancing Strike. My Death Knight managed to survive it with cooldowns, and I got the next one. After a couple of transitions, Thorim was freed of Yogg Saron’s grasp.

Only one watcher remained, Mimiron.

Mimiron’s trash is interesting and probably the most difficult in the instance. Several of the mobs can and will one shot even your tanks. All of the mobs are mechanical so your typical Crowd Control of Sheep won’t help much.

We would root the Bomb Bots and kill them from range. A couple of times, as I was trying to pick up the small packs of Robots, appropriately enough named Trash, I would wonder over to a Bomb Bot and it would blow me up.

The real buggers are the sappers. They look like little robot gnomes, and they do this little Hellfire AoE that nailed me for over 66,000 damage. “General Calrissian, our cruisers can’t repel fire power of that magnitude!”

Our solution was to have our Death Knight and Hunter kite the Sappers while we got the Trash packs and Tank down. Yeah, in addition to the Bombs, and the Sappers, you have to fight a tank. Once the Tank is down, you can jump in it and use it against the other mobs, but you don’t have very long before it dies.

After you get through the trash, you come to this huge train looking thing that reminds you of the Tram from Ironforge to Stormwind.We hopped in and sped down the track and soon found ourselves in Mimiron’s room.
It was late so we didn’t have much time to work on him. When you aggro Mimiron he does a little monologue. Apparently, he wasn’t too keen on us turning XT-002 into scrap metal. Sorry, really. Then he jumps in a gnome sized version of Flame Leviathan. Only this time, I didn’t have a Siege Engine.

There were two special attacks I was on the look out for, Plasma Blast and Shock Blast. Since Plasma Blast was a 3 second channel, I was watching for it to popup in his Cast Bar, but I never saw it. Neither did I see Shock Blast. We never made it much past the 80% mark.

I’m going to buy a Glyph of Salvation and have it in my bags for the next time we face him. I’ll Divine Protection the first Plasma Blast and Hand of Salvation the next one. Hopefully we will have pushed him into Phase 2 by that point.

Once we get Mimiron down, it’ll be time to head into the Descent Into Madness.