Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry CHRISTmas My Friends

"And there were in the same country sheperds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

As Linus finishes he turns, walks back to the wings and calmly asserts,

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Merry CHRISTmas!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

WoW Year in Review

My sympathy if you are stuck at work today. You'll get through it.

1. What did you do in the World of Warcraft in 2009 that you’d never done before?

I had a max level alt. I got the Hunter to 70 shortly before the end of the Burning Crusade but outside of Gruul's Lair I never really got to do much with him. In Wrath, I've raided up to Lady Deathwhisper on the Hunter.

And though it's not some I've NEVER done, in 2009, I voluntarily healed again for the first time since Vanilla. Honors is now Tank/Heal with the Hunter for my DPS needs. I'm literally the swiss army knife I thought my Druid might be. Whatever you need for a group, I'm there. I'm also terribly rusty and I'll regale you with an account of my first time healing soon.

2. What was your favorite new place that you visited?

I think Ice Crown is actually too new, so I'm going with Ulduar. The instance was huge, and it was beautiful. The fights were varied, and there was plenty of different tanking roles and responsibilities. Our Yogg kill was a special night I won't forget. It ranks right up there with Magtheridon, Archimonde and Illidan.

3. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

A Mekineer's Chopper. I know most people who want one have one, but I don't yet. The Auction House bores me to tears, so I basically only sell stuff that I collect flying to and from Raids. I send my greens to my buddies Mage to DE and we split the proceeds.

I'd really like to get enough cash to buy one. My other problem is that I'm fanatical about having the best gems and enchants on my toons so I often spend big money at the AH on enchanting mats, raw gems, and leg patches.

On top of that, I can't decide if I want to give it to my Paladin or my Hunter. I really like the Charger on the Paladin for a land mount so I'm not sure how much I'd use it if I gave it to him. But the Hunter is an alt. Do I really want to spend that kind of cash on an alt?

4. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I'd have to say it was Yogg. At the time of the kill, it put Unusual Suspects at 30th in the US for 10 man strict guilds. We've since lost our 10 man strict status after putting our groups together to knock out TotC25. I kept hearing "Another one spawned Honors!" for days after our kill.

5. What was your biggest failure?

I'd have to say Heroic Anub'arak. We can so so so close, but we just missed getting him. I can still hear Thorim taunting us "FAILURE!" "WEAKLINGS" for not killing Anub.

6. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Most of what I got really, really, really excited about in 2009 didn't have to do with Warcraft, but with other things going on.

But as far as Warcraft goes, I had a blast appearing on the Twisted Nether. Both times I've been invited on were fantastic. I really enjoy talking with those guys and giving them a Protection Paladin point of view.

I was also most excited for the Paladin Tanking buffs we received in Patch 3.2. They finally fixed Ardent Defender. I always said I'd know when Paladins were finally the equal of Warrior tanks, it would be when they started calling us OP. We are finally there.

7. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Dealt with Guild drama.

First it was the breakup of Mal Katai, then the excruciating decision between Heroes and Salvation. All of those moves left hurt feelings. Unlike my moves in Burning Crusade, none of these move was initiated by me. I could handle it better if I was the causing it. I would be paying the consequences of my decisions, but this time I was paying the consequences of others decisions.

There was also the Heroes split, but I'll talk about that in a minute.

8. What was your favorite WoW blog or podcast?

The Twisted Nether is my favorite podcast hands down.

As far as blogs, there are some great blogs out there. Here's my Top 10 in no particular order:

JMTC is why I even have the meager amount of gold I have.

I'd also like to give a shout out to my blogging guild mates (and I consider Bacon kind of an honorable guid mate since he was with us for a couple of weeks before going back to Heroes, and I enjoy his Blog):

9. Tell us a valuable WoW lesson you learned in 2009.

It's good to find a home. 2009 was the year that I really found an ingame home in Unusual Suspects. These guys are more than just avatars to me now, I consider them friends. I look forward to raiding with them or just running some 5 mans.

I know our split with Heroes caused some drama and hurt feelings and I wish in my heart that could have been avoided. I still miss people who I got to know that are still on Alliance. People think I'm crazy but I only do Wintergrasp with an alt that doesn't have the Honors_____ name so that if I see an old friend at least they don't know it was me that killed them. They just see some random Orc.

But I think ultimately the split was good for both guilds. Suspects has been everything I ever wanted in a guild and Boston has been a fantastic guild leader. I'm really lucky to be tanking for this group of guys.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Enjoy LFD Now

The new LFD (Looking For Dungeon) System is great. The developers did an excellent job with the design of the systems. There are plenty of rewards for people at all levels and all Tiers of Level 80 from the guy who just dinged all the way up to the guy who was farming Heroic Anub’arak the night before the Patch.
Right now, you have an abundance of T9 raiders carrying people in random LFG groups. I’ve done this several times myself. I’ll be in a group where I’m first on DPS, Damage Done, and Damage Taken. If I would have used Judgment of Light, I might have been first in Healing Done as well. I’ve had the same thing happen on my Hunter where I’m the only DPS in the group over 3k.
Enjoy it now, and if you are a lowered geared toon, get all the dungeons run as fast as you can, because this isn’t going to last.
The Tier 9 Raiders are in the LFG for one reason, Emblems of Frost. I typically only run the Random Heroic for the two Emblems of Frost it provides. I don’t need Triumphs; I’m swimming in the bloody things. In a few weeks, my Hunter alt won’t need them either.
What you have to realize is that right now, all the T9 Raiders need Emblems of Frost. You can’t buy your 264 T9 with a Token until you have the 251 from Emblems of Frost. The Daily Random provides more Emblems (14) over a week than all of the current Bosses open in Ice Crown (8). In addition, because Tier 9 Raiders are clearing the first wing so quickly, they have down time during the week and they are running Random Heroics.
But in a few weeks, Ice Crown is going to have plenty of Bosses open. A new Wing will open shortly after New Year, then another just a couple of weeks after that. Tier 9 Raiders, and especially those lovely Tier 9 Tanks with 40k plus unbuffed Hit Points are going to be spending more time raiding and less time in LFD. And even when they aren’t raiding, they will be getting to the point where they don’t need Emblems of Frost nearly as much as they do now.
The Developers have already acknowledged the system is reliant on the number of Tanks queuing up. As more Bosses in Ice Crown open up and Raiders buy what they need with Frost Emblems, the number of people and the number of tanks available will dwindle. Those 10 and 15 minute wait times could become 20 to 30 minutes. And when you finally do get a group, it might be sorely lacking in T9 Raiders able to carry an entire heroic on their shoulders.

Christmas Reading

Schools out and various industries are in the midst of Christmas shutdowns. You might find yourself with a little extra time on your hands this time of year. You also might find yourself lacking regular internet access, and be looking for some good reading material.
This year my Christmas present to you is a book recommendation. The book I'm recommending you read over your Holiday break is call The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom.
Schroeder is a physicist and Bible scholar. His previous work was called Genesis and the Big Bang. In The Science of God, he compares the Genesis account of creation with current scientific knowledge about the origin of life. No doubt he is well versed in both the Bible and biology; he's also a skilled pedagogue, explaining abstract or counterintuitive concepts in lay terms.
Some of his arguments (for instance, that the sequence of Genesis creation is congruent with evolution's progression from prokaryotic to human life) are compelling.
He demonstrates how some of the issues between the Church and the scientific community were not actually Biblically based at all. For example, the Church fought against the scientific discovery of elliptical orbits because they believed a perfect God would use perfect circular orbits, but no where in the Bible does it talk about Circular or Explical orbits at all. It wasn’t an issue of Science versus the Bible, but Science versus the Church.
I loved his turn of the phrase "Render undo Einstein, that which is Einstein’s, and render unto God that which is God's"
Schroeder is very lucid in explaining difficult scientific concepts, such as the passage of time according to the theory of relativity, and religious data, such as the original Hebrew words.
I'm finding this book truly fascinating. Whether you are a skeptic, or a believer, I think you will find the book an interesting read.
Highly recommended.
You could also check out some of the books I recommended last year. You can see them here:

Friday, December 18, 2009

Devolve Versus Deathbringer Saurfang

Devolve Versus Northrend Beasts

My guild's Warlock put together this video of my guild defeating Deathbringer Saurfang. Nice work! If you are Alliance, you can see the interaction between Saurfang and Saurfang the Younger.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ah, Deathbringer

The final Boss fight available to us right now in Ice Crown Citadel is Deathbringer Saurfang. We've now fought this guy twice now with similar results.

The first week we went in there with a really good mix. We had a Boomkin, Survival Hunter, Destro Lock, Arcane Mage, Mutilate Rogue and Arms Warrior. The second week we were a bit melee heavy. The only Ranged we had was our Mage and the two Healers.

Deathbringer Saurfang was formerly known as Saurfang the Younger before he was killed by Arthas at the Wrath Gate. When you arrive at this area either via the Orgrims Hammer of the Teleporter, he's actually not there. There is a group of Kor'kron and High Overlord Saurfang. Once you talk to Saurfang the encounter will begin and Deathbringer Saurfang will come running out.

Before you talk to Saurfang have your Raid work out positioning. Have someone 'stand in' for Deathbringer and make sure everyone knows where to stand. Then collapse back on the start and talk to High Overlord Saurfang. I wonder how the Alliance start the encounter as I don't expect that that Saurfang is there for them.

The Father and Son will go through their dialog which is actually pretty cool the first time you see it. For my Alliance friends, Daddy Saurfang lets Deathbringer know that his son died at the Wrath Gate. He goes on to tell him about how he was named and why he was left in Nagrand.

What's not cool is that the entire dialog is repeated if you wipe.

I usually use the time the two Orcs are talking to move into position before Deathbringer at the top of the stairs. As the dialog is ending, I lay down a Consecrate and get ready to Judge. Once Deathbringer is active, I Judge and start my rotation.

The fight isn't too bad from a Tanking standpoint. His melee is not all that threatening. He places a debuff on you that will increase his Blood Points so your co-Tank needs to taunt when that happens.

The fight is all about his Blood Points. It's his resource mechanic and it's sort of like Rage. They stack to 100 and when they do, he puts a debuff on one of your Raid members called Mark of the Fallen Champion. They will take steady damage and heal Saurfang every time he attacks.

The fastest way he gets Blood Points is from his Blood Beasts. Everytime they land a melee attack, Deathbringer gets points. The first night we fought him, we assigned the Ranged DPS in pairs. TWo would kill the right Beast and the other two had the left Beast. One team had the Boomkin for his knockback and the other team had the Hunter for his Frost Trap.

The biggest mistake we made that first night was to call for DPS to ignore the Adds when Deathbringer was at 9% and just burn him. The Blood Beasts ran wild. There was too much healing going into Saurfang and we actually ended up wiping. Regardless of Saurfang's health, kill the Blood Beasts.

The second night, we knew we were going to have to change up our strategy. What we decided to do was have our melee switch to the Adds. The idea was we would kill the Adds so quickly that they wouldn't provide many Blood Points to Deathbringer. That worked out pretty well. He got two Marks off and we ended up losing some DPS, but we managed to get him down without a wipe.

He dropped a pair of Tanking Pants which I outrolled Boston for. Those made the second iLevel 251 item I had gotten that night. After Deathwhisper, our team had hit Friendly and everyone was able to pick up their Rings. There is still no word on my Shield other than that the ticket has been 'escalated.' I'm hoping for the best. They know there were problems with the Gunship event because they just hotfixed it the other day.

I know Hard Mode 25 man raiders have had access to iLevel 258 gear for a while, but that really doesn't matter to me. The stuff that is dropping in an upgrade for me. I couldn't care less what someone in a Hard Mode 25 man guild is wearing.

We knocked the first four Bosses in a little over an hour with narry a wipe. That'll be good for when we have the rest of instance to go, but it leaves the rest of the raid week a little bare right now.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Halls of Reflection Lore

This blog post will discuss events from the Halls of Reflection. There are major spoilers contained herein. This post is also something of a rant.

Read on at your own risk.
Still with me? Good.
When you arrive at the Halls of Reflection there is a dialog between Uther the Lightbringer’s spirit and either Jania or Sylvanas.
One of the first things that Uther tells her is that there must always be a Lich King. What an amazing let down. All this time we’ve been fighting our way to Ice Crown Citadel to end the scourge threat, and then Uther tells us it’s all for naught for there must always be a Lich King.
There was a time, even as late as the Second War, when there wasn’t a Lich King. Since there hasn’t always been a Lich King, why must there always be a Lich King. It’s a very unsatifying ending. In fact, it’s no ending at all. Stories have a conflict and a climax. They reach a resolution. Without being able to destroy the Lich King, the story never reaches a resolution.
But it gets better. Not only does there always have to be a Lich King, but apparently there is still good in Arthas. Can we push the Darth Vader allusions any further? So the good Arthas is inside the Lich King. If Uther is to be believed, it is the good Arthas that has been holding back the Scourge from destroying Azeroth.
First of all, in both the novel about the Lich King and subsequent quests in Ice Crown, Blizzard has pretty much laid out that Arthas is no more. He and Lich King are one. They are inseparable.
Secondly, the Heroes of Azeroth can handle the Scourge.
The Heroes of Azeroth have been defeated the Scourge time and again. We defeated them in the Western Plaguelands and the Eastern Plaugelands. We defeated them at Scholomance and Stratholme. We defeated them in the original Naxxrammus. Some of Azeroth’s heroes defeated the Scourge from within and broke free of the Lich King’s control. They walk among us now as Death Knights. We pushed them back in the Howling Fjord and the Borean Tundra. We halted their gains in Zul’Drak. Now we’ve taken the fight to their very door steps in IceCrown.
Now we’re to believe that every victory was only because a benevolent Arthas was holding the Scourge back? Are you freaking kidding me?!?! It’s like your older brother, after you beat him the first time at One on One says ‘yeah, yeah, whatever, you beat me, but I wasn’t trying my hardest.’
Furthermore, Uther tells us that without a Lich King, the Scourge would swarm over the face of Azeroth. So this unthinking, massive zerg would just overwhelm a battle hardened, thinking, and strategic foe. I find that unlikely. Remember 300 Heroes of Azeroth held Light’s Hope Chapel against 10,000 Scourge! Numbers alone do not win a battle.
With the Dark Portal open, Azeroth has access to aid from the Naaru. With Illidan defeated, Xiri or another Naaru could come to Azeroth to assist the Heroes. How well are the Scourge going to do against a being of pure Light. And we now have the cleansed Ashbringer which can lay waste entire swaths of undead.
Look, we got resolution in Vanilla WoW.
Ragnoros was sent back to the Plane of Fire. We got to the bottom of the Silithid problem and destroyed C’thun. We even got resolution with the Scourge over the Plaguelands and turned Kel’Thuzad’s phylactery into the Argent Dwan.
We got resolution in Burning Crusade.
We put and end to Kael’thas and Vashj. We killed The Betrayer and reclaimed the Temple of Korabor aka The Black Temple.
There will be no resolution with Wrath of the Lich King. He will live on and we will be distracted by Deathwing’s movements and have to leave Northrend.
The entire story now seems contrived, and wholly unsatisfying.
Arthas is the last major villain from pre World of Warcraft. After him, World of Warcraft Lore will have to stand on it own. I’m not sure the it is up to it. We don’t care about another villain the way we cared about Arthas, Illidan, Kel’Thuzad, Kael’Thas and Vashj.
I'm sure there will be a sentiment among some to end their Warcraft careers with Arthas. He seems like a good and logical ‘stopping point.’
Were I more cynical I might believe that this is simply Blizzard’s leaving open a way to bring the Lich King back at some point. He’s been such an iconic villain, surely the allure of fighting him again would keep people playing. Perhaps at the end of Cataclysm we’ll fight him again and he can tells us that Ice Crown Citadel was ‘merely a setback’. That is a distasteful thought.
What do you think? Have I got this all wrong or does the idea of there having to always be a Lich King seemed contrived. Is there something I’m missing here?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Assault on Ice Crown Citadel

I was very excited as we formed up the Raid for Ice Crown Citadel.
Please note, this is a description of my night raiding Ice Crown. There are spoilers in this post. Read on at your own risk.
Our team consisted of Boston (Blood DK Tank), Honorshammer (Protection Paladin extraordinaire), Blackhaus (Disc/Holy Priest), Stark (Resto Shaman), Lakini (Boomkin/Resto), Donkatonk (Arcane Mage), Neovomonica (Destro Lock), Danath (Arms Warrior), Blueshield (Arms Warrior), and Ofn (normally Combat, but has switched to Mutilate for 3.3).
Once inside I checked my toon and saw that my Dodge was at 7.09%. This wasn’t unexpected but it still made me a sad panda to see it.
The atmosphere of Ice Crown is really well done. The art is beautiful and the music really sets the mood well. We started up the event and listened to Arthas and Tirion yelling at each other. We learned the fate of Bolvar Fordragon and set force to save him.
It was actually nice to have trash again. I guess it took an instance without any (ToC) to make us appreciate it. The amount was about right and the mobs were interesting. Some packs we AoE’ed and other packs we used single target and crowd control.
We had Ofn disarm the traps after Stark was so kind as to find one. Before long we were face to skull with Lord Marrowgar.
I was one of the few people in our raid group who had fought Leotharas in Serpent Shrine Cavern, but that experience really wouldn’t help out too much. Marrowgar does a whirlwind like Leo but getting hit by it doesn’t leave a Bleed DoT on you, and the damage is actually pretty small even on Cloth. We still tried to avoid as much as possible, but of all of Marrowgar’s tricks, the Whirlwind was the least threatening.
Our group did a pretty good job of avoiding Cold Flame and seemed to break people out of Spikes pretty quickly.
What we found really challenging was the Saber Lash. It hit me and Boston for about 12k a piece every second or so. The damage was manageable but our healers, and especially our Priest was hurting for mana before Marrowgar was even at 50%. We again lacked Replenishment in our raid.
I’m not the Raid Leader, and I probably talk too much in vent as it is. Boston is very patient with me. But after our issues with Anub’arak “What’s My Main Again” had put in the comments about a Warlock spec that included replenishment. I suggested our Warlock respect to Soul Leech.
He was a little resistant at first. I’m not sure why, but Blueshield pointed out to him that any potential loss of DPS would be worth it. You don’t tend to argue with a large plate wearing Tauren carrying a sword twice your body length.
After doing a couple of fights with Soul Leech, Neo was sold. He loved the spec because he had to Life Tap much less, which also helped out our healer’s mana.
Our Priest felt the difference immediately. It was like he had extended his mana bar 3 times.
Marrowgar went down two pulls after that, but not without some heroics from Blueshield.
It was about three quarters of the way through the attempt, and we were transitioning from a Whirlwind phase back to a normal phase. Boston and I were a little slow getting back together to soak the Saber Lash when Blackhaus got impaled. Our DPS freed him but we lost Boston. I hit Divine Protection (Paladin Shield Wall) and was able to solo Tank him for a few moments. We got a Battle Rez on Boston but DP was running out. Blueshield slapped on a Sword and Board, hit his own Shield Wall and leapt to my side. He got killed but he bought us enough time to get Boston buffed and healed up and back into position.
Marrowgar went down. Ofn got a new Cloak and we blew up the Spellpower plate. I refuse to take any healing gear.
We continued on and got to Lady Deathwhisper’s room. Several of us noticed how similar the room and the mob layout was to Blackheart the Inciter’s room in Shadow Labs. If she had said “Time for Fun”, we all were running for it.
She started her little speech and all of us were like Shut up already! The trash went down pretty quickly using a bit of CC and single target DPS. I love Avenger’s Shield but I am insanely jealous of Death Grip. Boston can get those Casters right where he wants them.
The two spiders ended up being a bit of a challenge, but we got them down without losing the raid.
Deathwhisper herself wasn’t too bad. I had expected Marrowgar to be the easier of the two but it was the other way around. We handled Phase 1 without much of a problem. Lady Deathwhisper puts up a mana shield that you have to burn down while Adds spawn. The Adds periodically become immune to magic or physical. You don’t see immune, you see Absorb. I had no trouble holding threat on either type of mob so I’m thinking Holy is something of an exception.
We went into Phase 2. I never noticed her Mind Control anyone but my back was to the Raid so maybe they just handled it without me realizing it. Lady has a debuff she puts on the current tank that reduces your threat by 20%. Boston and I didn’t manage it well and at one point each of us were working multiple stacks. Our Boomkin actually pulled aggro but Lady is tauntable so we got her right back.
We one shot her. Loot was given out and we headed for the elevator.
The first trash pack to the Gunship battle gave us some problems and actually wiped us. That’s when the bugs began.
We reentered the raid and started to walk back to the elevator which is located in Lady Deathwhisper’s room. As soon as we got into her room we were put into combat and one by one ported up to the trash mobs. After a couple of times of doing this, we all zoned out, dropped the raid and reformed it. But the same thing happened again.
So we buffed up at the entrance and made sure to stay together. We got ported again, but I was able to grab threat on most of the mobs and the healers kept me up long enough for us to get organized and start taking down their healers. Finally, we got that pack down.
We boarded our Gunship and assigned Gunners, Boarding Party, and Repelling party. I was in the repelling party.
My job was to repel boarders that came from the Alliance ship. I was actually glad that Boston hadn’t asked me to be on the Boarding Party. I really didn’t want to tank Muradin Bronzebeard. Muradin was one of my favorite characters in Warcraft and I really didn’t want to fight him. I don’t have as much of a connection to Saurfang as I do to Muradin. My inner dwarf was quite conflicted.
Muradin himself was no slouch and he put a hurting on Boston. After we wiped, Boston figured out Muradin puts a debuff on him if he wasn’t in melee range. So Boston made sure to stay in range and Black was able to keep him up.
As we got near the end of the attempt, we lost Boston. It was a race now. Could we finish off the Skybreaker before they summoned another mage to take out our cannons? We heard Muradin yell for a Sorcerer, and we knew we were in trouble. Then the Skybreaker went down with Boston, Blackhaus and the rest of the boarding team still on it.

They zoned back in, and ported up to Deathbringer, but Ogrim’s Hammer had stopped in midair. We could open the loot chest, but everyone who tried to loot it got an error message that said we weren’t eligible. I could see a Shield inside, Neverending Winter or something like that.
Boston and I both put in tickets but as of Saturday the only thing we had heard was that the ticket was being elevated.
It was past our raid time so we had to call it. We’ll give Deathbringer a try come Monday.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Paladin Schmaladin

So news is out today that I've joined the team at Paladin Schmaladin. Think of it as World of Matticus for Paladins.

My first article is up on the site now. It's an analaysis of the new weapons that came out in 3.3.

I'll still be writing on my blog as well, so think of it as more of me to love.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lost In the Nether

The servers were up when I logged in last night, but I would quickly find that the Instance Servers, Battleground servers and Arena servers were down. What was worse was that if you tried to do an instance through the new LFG tool, you would get stuck at the loading screen. When you got tired of waiting and exited WoW, your character was in some sort of nether in between the servers.

I discovered fairly quickly that most, if not everything I enjoy in WoW requires and instance server. Oh I knocked out some dailies on Honorshammer and my Hunter while I was waiting to see if the instances would come back up.

Wednesday is my night off so I won't see IceCrown until Thursday at the earliest and that is looking sketchy due to the lack of sign ups. Of course, the patch is brand new and Ice Crown will last all the way to Cataclysm so there's no rush. I'm sure we'll get to the new Raid and 5 mans and see it all.

But it was a very frustrating night.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Game of Inches

Last night, our team went after finishing Trial of the Grand Crusader. We only had Anub’arak up and about 25 attempts left on the timer.
Our team consisted of Boston (Blood DK), Honorshammer (Protection Paladin), Blackhaus (Holy Priest), Stark (Resto Shaman), Bluetide (Arms Warrior), Muddled (Arcane Mage), Donkatonk (Arcane Mage), Neovomonica (Destro Warlock), Ofn (Combat Rogue), and Lakini (Boomkin).
There are multiple points in the Anub’arak fight where you can make a wipe inducing mistake.
Our main issue is keeping Boston alive in Phase 3 while simultaneously healing the Leaching Swarm and Penetrating Cold. Our Holy Priest loses two GCDs (Global Cooldowns) taking care of Penetrating Cold and then we lose Boston, usually right after he takes a Freezing Slash.
But it was hardly our only issue. On multiple attempts, we would lose people to the large Adds not getting interrupted. They cast a Shadow Strike which will one shot a raid member if they complete the cast. On a couple of occasions, I got my cast of Holy Wrath off, but it didn’t interrupt. I think they resisted the stun and kept on casting.
There were a couple of attempts where I struggled to wrangle the adds. I never realized Resto Shamans put out so much threat healing, but if the Add had to go a long way, a Hand of Reckoning sometimes wasn’t enough to hold it.
We lost a couple of attempts to poor kiting. Sometimes our kiters tried to kite just a little too long and it cost us. A couple of times, we didn’t have the DPS to push Anub into Phase 3. The two attempts where he submerged a second time, despite being under 30% were very frustrating.
The one aspect of the fight I don’t feel we have down yet is the little Adds in Phase 2. Sometimes a very manageable amount of adds would spawn. Other times, the amount of adds was overwhelming.
But we had several very solid attempts where we pushed Anub to sub 5% before we lost Boston and the raid buckled. One attempt I was the Last Man Standing. I did everything I could to stay alive, but the Bubble was locked out because I used Divine Protection early in Phase 3 to limit the healing I needed so I couldn’t Bubble and hope the DoTs finished him. He despawned with 56k health. You here in football or baseball sometimes called a game of inches; we were inches from a kill. Just a couple more seconds and we would have had him.
We all felt like a couple of those sub 5% attempts would have been a kill if we had had Replenishment. On several of those attempts, our Healers and DPS just ran out of mana as Anub'arak got low. If we had had Replenishment, they might have lasted out long enough.
We used up every last attempt, even pushing a little past our normal time, but we left ToC with Anub still standing. Well that’s not technically true, he despawned after our last attempt was used. But we didn’t get him.
During the whole process, I was continually amazed at our team. Regardless of what happened, everyone kept their cool and kept focusing on improving. There was none of the sniping that you sometimes hear on a wipe night: DPS blaming heals, heals blaming Tanks, Tanks blaming DPS. It didn’t happen. I’m sure things were said under their breath or without the Push-to-Talk key, but nothing was said publically. We hung together as a team. I was very proud of that.
We’ve hit roadblocks before. We hit a roadblock with Firefighter in Ulduar and now it seems like Anub is a roadblock in ToC. With Ice Crown here now, I don’t know if we’ll get back to finish our business with Anub. It would have been great to have gotten him down, but now we can turn our attention to Arthas.

Preparing for Arthas

It's almost time, time to pull the Holy Mightstone out of my Bank. It's been in there since I did the quest back at level 55 in what now is called Vanilla WoW. I've been saving it, saving it for Arthas. Now we storm his citadel.

Arthas: Foolish Paladin. You think with your meagre powers you can defeat me?

Honorshammer: Not with my powers alone. *Breaks stone* But with the power of those that come before. The power of all my fallen comrades. The power of all those whose lives you ruined. You who claim to be King of the Grave WILL taste death today. On the Light I swear it.

My thanks to Maintankadin poster, Erendis for coming up with that.

Today is Patch day. I am really excited to join my team as we dive into the first wing of Ice Crown Citadel. Of course it being Patch Day, be prepared for Extended Maintenance. Also be prepared for servers to be unstable and Addons to break. As I told a guildmate last night, it's a pessimistic view, but you're much less likely to be disappointed.

(Icecrown Citadel drawn by Peter Lee.)

As for the Patch itself, the New LFG tool looks absolutely fantastic. It should make finding groups easier even for my Hunter. I'll be running it as often as I can on both toons to maximize my Emblems of Frost income.

Speaking of Emblems of Frost, it looks like the Weekly Raid quest will be taking us to some old haunts to grab some additional Emblems.

As far as Tankadin changes this patch, we've lost one of our emergency buttons. Lay on Hands will place Forbearance on the paladin if used on his or herself. It will not place Forbearance on others. By giving us the debuff Forbearance, it will lock out Divine Protection (Paladin's Shield Wall) for 2 minutes. If you want to use both Lay on Hands and Divine Protection, put DP up first, then Lay on Hands. I usually saved Lay on Hands for right after my Ardent Defender proced. I won't be able to do that anymore. Lay on Hands will be an absolute last resort now. If I'm completely out of tricks, I'll pop it, otherwise, I won't be able to use it.

This should put the final coffin in the Aura Mastery/Improved Lay on Hands spec. The Crusade (0/53/18) looks to be the spec to go with in Ice Crown.

It annoys me that Paladin's lost a tool for PVE Tanking because the developers couldn't find a way to balance it properly when used in PVP. This isn't the first time Tankadins have been negatively affected by the PVE/PVP Balance. I have a feeling it won't be the last.

Tankadins did receive a minor utility buff with the changes to Divine Sacrifice and Divine Guardian. Divine Guardian is now a 20% damage reduction for the entire raid, and we no long have to use Divine Shield with it. We should be healable when using Divine Guardian.

With the propensity of AoE effects in Ice Crown Citadel, I can Divine Sacrifice/Divine Guardian being a strong utility for Protection Paladins. I would suggest that your three 'flavor' points are best spent in these talents.

I can't wait to start trying out some new bosses, and start working towards some new gear. Tankadin T10 4 piece bonus is rather lackluster so I'm looking at some offset gear this Tier. There is one fight, Deathbringer Saurfang, that looks like the set bonus might be useful for. He has a stacking debuff that can be dodged, and parried. Since he is early in the instance, virtually no one will even have the option of using the 4 piece on him, so we will have to wait and see if the 4 piece will be important on later bosses. With our 4 piece being so unique, I doubt it will be important, and if it is, expect the other tanks to say something about it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Glass Ceiling For Tanks

Gravity over at pwnwear did a series of posts explaining the game design issue of the number tanks required at each level of PVE content, 5 mans, 10 mans and 25 mans. He even tried to apply some supply and demand dynamics to the issue.

The posts were so well done they prompted a response from Veneretio of Tanking Tips. Vene’s post underscored that the ratios were not the issue, but the design of fights was. He went on to give some examples of what he felt like were well designed fights and poorly designed fights. What was interesting to me was that every example he gave of a fight where he felt Blizzard got it right was a Burning Crusade fight.

Both come to the conclusion that Tanks really just want to Tank. Sure, we can put on DPS gear and switch to a DPS spec for fights that only need one tank, and contribute to the raid, but we aren’t playing our toon in the way we really want to.

They both also realize that the core issue is one of encounter design. If Encounters were more consistent in their need for Tanks, they would be more Tanking positions for Tanks to fill. It does not appear their design philosophy has apparently not changed in Ice Crown. Let’s look at 5 of the fights that were tested on the PTR. I’m using the Tankspot write ups to determine the number of Tanks each fight needs.

Lord Marrowgar – 3 Tanks
Gunship – 2 Tanks
Deathbringer Saurfang – 2 to 3 Tanks
Lady Deathwhisper –3, one for each Adherent
Festergut – 1 Tank, strict enrage timer
Rotface – 2 Tanks

These are for the 25 man versions of the fight. I’m assuming the 3 Tank fights will become 2 Tank fights in the 10 man. But what you can see here is the vacillations between 1, 2 and 3 tanks.

What ends up happening is you create a glass ceiling for Tanks.

A new Tank attacks his uphill climb, and survives a couple of PuGs to start gearing up. He continues to work and work but the deeper he gets into the endgame, the less opportunities he finds to Tank. The closer you get to guilds running current content, the less you see openings for Tanks. The few Tank spots in those guilds are held down by established Tanks who may have been in those guilds for months and sometimes years. And even when those guids have one of their tanks stop playing or stop tanking there are usually several tank capable DPS ready to take the spot.

This new Tank is basically all dressed up with no where to go. So our new tank becomes discouraged and goes to either DPS or PVP. Then suddenly the PuGs are decrying the lack of Tanks available for runs.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Hunting We Will Go is reporting that ‘sources’ have told them Patch 3.3 will be released on December 8th. If they are right, this is the last reset before we storm the gates of IceCrown. I can’t wait.
Last night, we were set to do our normal farm run of ToC and Onyxia. Several of our regular crew was not available, but we were able to field a raid from our Guild. I noticed several people were bringing alts, so I asked if I could bring my Hunter alt along after ensuring we had the tanking covered. Boston, who was playing his Holy Paladin, agreed.
I grabbed my Hunter, and my trusty Prairie Alpha, Watch, out of the stable. I made sure I had plenty of Mammoth Cutters. There was no chance I was going ‘pull a Taxi’ and run out of ammo during a Boss fight. I ran by the Auction House and grabbed a couple of ridiculously overpriced Flasks of Endless Rage.
My Hunter has been speced into all 3 trees at one point or another. Seeing as how we didn’t have replenishment in the raid, I opted for my Survival Build.
I’ve been slowly gearing my Hunter through running PuGs and he had a decent set of 200, 219, and 226 level gear. Despite my fears, I had relatively little problem finding groups, and when I did have trouble landing a spot I’d go do some quests or play a different toon.
We started off in Onyxia’s Lair. We got through the trash and I went to go make sure my pet had Growl off and Cower on. I noticed that there weren’t very many spells on his Pet page of the spell book. I brought up his Talent tree and saw it was empty. Apparently when I changed from my Marksman Spec to the Survival Spec it had wiped the Pet’s talents. I quickly filled in the Pet tree trying to remember the Ferocity build I had found on the WoW Hunter’s Union. With that disaster averted we went in and fought the Dragon Lady.
The fight went pretty good but we had some problems during the Phase 2 to Phase 3 transition. At one point it looked like the raid might buckle, but somehow we pulled it out. I came in about 3rd on the DPS Meter. I wasn’t looking to try to impress anyone, but I wanted to ensure my Hunter was pulling his weight.
So we moved on to ToC. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I was nervous heading into to the ToC portal. Now I’ve tanked ToC every reset since it opened. I know these fights backwards and forwards, but this was the first time I’d be seeing them as DPS.
Hunters are sort of unique in the DPS world. I needed to be aware of everything Ranged DPS needed to know, but I also needed to be aware of what melee DPS needed to know so I could direct my pet.
First up was Beasts. We got through Gormok okay. The Worms were a little hectic. I never got hit with either debuff from the Worms. That was a nice relief after getting picked on a little bit by the Snobolds. I was ready each time with Tranq Shot for Icehowl, but my team is pro at dodging large charging Yetis so it wasn’t needed.
About halfway through Icehowl I had to pull my Pet back to me. He was just taking too much damage in there. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t keep him up between ground slams, and freezing breath. What surprised me the most was the pang of regret I felt with Watch hit the dirt. Watch is a rather new pet for my Hunter. He leveled up with a Boar pre Wrath and a Cat during Wrath. I hadn’t realized I had gotten kind of attached to the mutt during our Heroic runs.
What's a raid without a little loot. Some leather boots dropped but I let them go to a Druid. I thought it was our Feral, but it was actually our Boomkin for offset. They were technically better than the boots I was wearing, but I have a preference for Mail especially when a person who can only use Leather wanted a shot at them.
We took down Lord Jarraxxus. I kept Watch on the Boss the whole time and switched over to Maidens and Infernals myself. He didn’t pose much of a problem for us. Boston, regardless of what toon he is on, runs a really good raid.
Faction Champions was going to be interesting. Boston asked me if I had mortal strike. I had to think for a minute. Do Hunters even have Mortal Strike? I don’t PVP much so I wasn’t sure. I looked over my talents and found the debuff on Aimed Shot. The Survival guide I had read when I set up my Survival spec didn’t have Aimed Shot, but I had decided to take it anyway.
We managed to one shot the Faction Champions, though they killed my pet. That made me a little angry.
Twin Valkyrs proved to be a bit of an issue. We didn’t have the DPS to just switch targets and burn the shields. We needed to switch colors and then burn the shields. Even at that it was really close. We wiped a couple of times, but we eventually got them down. And they dropped the Gun. I felt a little sorry for our regular Hunter, who wasn’t there that night. I know he’s been waiting for that gun to drop for a while.
The last challenge was Anub’arak. I was charged with dropping ice patches down. That’s a little tougher than it looks. It took a couple of tries but we eventually got Anub down as well. The achievement for finishing ToC 10 flashed across my screen.
ToC Normal had been getting a bit stale lately. I could almost do it with my eyes closes. But I’m a ‘main’ tank. If the guild wants to run something, my Shield is going to be there for them.
Playing through on the Hunter was a different experience and I really enjoyed it. It was almost like seeing the zone for the first time again. The fights weren't roll overs with our alt group, the danger of failure was very real and wipes happened. But man, it was fun.
My DPS was in the low to mid 3k all night, except for Anub where it was much lower as I tried to shoot down ice patches. I was usually in the top 3 DPS which I felt was pretty good. I didn’t want to be carried, and I feel like I made a good contribution.
Playing as a Hunter in the Raid was a lot of fun. I hope I get to do it again sometime.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ebony and Ivory

No 3.3 today. MMO-Champion seems to think it's next Tuesday. I'm still of the belief, based on the Blue's communication that we won't see it until after the ball drops (New Year's Eve reference).
I love extended raid lockout. I absolutely love them. For a guild like Devolve, it means that we can attempt Hard Modes when the mix is right and leave them up when the mix is wrong. We're not so much a casual guild as an OTA guild (Over Traditional Age). Most, if not all of our members are 25 years of age and older with real life responsibilities like families, jobs, school, etc. The nights you get on, you get on and we love having you. The nights you can't, you can't and we understand.
We've been extending our raid lock out for Trial of the Grand Crusader 10 man for two weeks now. We were fairly confident we could get through Heroic Beasts and Heroic Jarraxus, but none of us wanted to face down Heroic Faction Champions again. So instead we extended the lock out and start learning Twin Valkyrs. We made our first several attempts at Twins two weeks ago when we first downed Faction Champions, but it just didn't click.
One really nice thing about Crusader's Coliseum is you have plenty of opportunity to layout and practice the fights before you actually talk to the NPC to begin them. The game plan for Monday night went something like this. Everybody was White except for our 3 healers, Lakini the Resto Druid, Stark the Bloodlust; I mean the Resto Shaman, and Blackhaus the Discipline or Holy Priest, who were Black.
Team Black's job was to intercept all the Black Balls before they headed into Team White. We tanked both bosses side by side at the Black portal. This strategy helped keep the raid damage at manageable levels and gave DPS easy access to either Twin.
There is a certain RNG element to this fight. Every minute or so, they will do a "Special Move". It's one of 4 different things: Shield on White, Shield on Black, Black Vortex, White Vortex. Either Vortex means everyone has to become that color. Shield means that the Shield has to be brought down and then the Heal interrupted.
"Han will have that shield down. We've got to give him more time!"
Our first problem was the Shield. One Twin shields herself, and that Shield has to be burnt down and the heal stopped. It's not a huge heal on Normal, but it's a freaking humongous heal on Heroic. If we needed to DPS the shield off the White Boss, the DPS had to switch to Black and get it down.
The other problem with the Shield is that the unshielded Twin will go all Prince Malchezzar on you, duel wielding and hitting like a Mack Truck. Sorry for the Burning Crusade reference.
I was on the Black Boss and Boston (Blood DK) was on the White Boss. When Boston's Boss would get Shielded, I would use Divine Protection. With the 4 piece Tier 9 Bonus and the infrequency of the Shields, I was able to Bubble Wall anytime Boston's Twin got the Shield.
Color Me Happy
The fight reminds me a Thaddius in a lot of ways. Everyone has to make sure they are the correct color at all times. Boston and Blackhaus helped out as much as they could but if someone missed an ALL BLACK or ALL WHITE Vortex move from the Boss they were toast. The Enrage timer is tight and losing even 1 person usually meant we weren't going to get the next Shield down.
We got a little lucky on our kill and got more Vortexes than Shields, but it was still nice to get these two down with over 30 attempts left to learn Anub'arak.
Bug Me
We spent the rest of the evening learning Anub'arak. Everyone had a lot to learn from Spike kiting to proper handling of Adds both big and small.
I had a difficult time wrangling down the Adds. I needed to get initial aggro and then pull them to an Ice patch so they wouldn't submerge. I'm very happy to report that the Block Set I made specifically for this fight work amazingly well. I was getting full blocks on most of their attacks.
I was also able to interrupt the Shadow Strikes with Arcane Torrent and Holy Wrath, although some got through.
As we learned about Spike Kiting, I was in a bit of an awkward position. The kiting routine seemed familiar to me. I finally remembered it was very similar to the kiting you had to do in part of the Kael’thas fight at the end of Tempest Keep. Only no one in the raid (expect myself) had really done Kael’thas in Burning Crusade so it wasn’t going to help. It would have also brought back up how I had abandoned this group of guys to go chasing 25-man raiding during the latter part of Burning Crusade. So the Anub’arak, Kael’thas connection was left unsaid.
By the end of the night, we were making progress towards Phase 3. Our main problems in Phase 3 are a sloppy transition from Phase 2 which I'm sure we can get cleaned up, keeping Boston (Blood DK) alive, and getting him down before the healers are out of gas.
We left Crusaders Coliseum that night with Anub'arak alive. Our morale was high. We really felt like we could get him, so we again extended the raid lock out. His time will come very soon.