Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Focusing on the Game, Not on the Game Design

Ghostcrawler pulled back the Emerald Curtain a bit today in order to swat down calls for a "consistent philosophy" with respect to tanking. Here's what he had to say:

Ghostcrawler: Effective Health is a very powerful concept for purposes of choosing how to gear your character and even tank encounters. It has limitations when you use it as the one true measurement for "tankiness." The community is also quick to try and give the same abilities and mechanics to every class filling the same role. If you want to be on a similar page as us, I would steer away from those two things.

In general, my advice would be to worry more about the game and less about the design process. We're confident in our process. It's not without mistakes, but it has served us well for a long time.

As usual, when the man is right, he's right. Effective Health is a useful tool, but is a mighty bloodless substitute for playing well. In that vein, I'm focusing heavily on a "form flow" style of play right now that involves constant form shifting, pulling bits and pieces from the various forms to use in the circumstances that call for them. This style of play is heavily influenced by solo leveling, but I can see how it would have uses in PvP later on in the game. I'm having fun doing it, and last summer's class design Q&A seem to indicate that Blizzard intends to support this style of play by removing or significantly reducing the cost of shifting forms in future expansions.

The fourth tier feral talents were too juicy, and I just hit level 29, so remapped my talents (bye bye blue rage, we will meet again!). I will be turning off XP, building some gear lists, and spending some quality time running instances for the next week or so.

I hope that everyone has a fun tanking weekend!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wowhead Improvement Wishlist

I love, I use it all the time. I've got this blog integrated to show pop-up tooltip panels for items and skills.
But there are two things I wish it did better.

  1. The Druid Talent Calculator on correctly shows Feral Charge as a 5th tier talent in the Feral Tree.  However, the page which enumerates all of the Druid Skills incorrectly lists Feral Charge as being available at level 20.
  2. I wish that on the talent calculator pages for each class, there were tooltips for the various skills affected by any given talent.  Perhaps a sidebar on the left with an alphabetical list of skill tooltips so that we can quickly look up the skill a talent refers to without leaving the page.  Another potential solution would be to build a list on the left or right column of the page that indexes every skill affected by the talents currently chosen.  For example, if I put 3 ranks into Feral Instinct, it could add Swipe and Prowl to the list of affected skills.  For added clarity, it might default to the highest rank of any given skill that the user can train for, as indicated by the "character level" required to have the current number of skill points.
That's it, these are really the only two things that I constantly wish for when I visit Wowhead.  I have nothing but admiration for that site, though--it really is the best information portal for the game that I know of, and I've spent time on just about all of them.  Kudos to them on the continuing tradition of excellence.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

In Favor of Furor: Seeing Red over Blue Rage

To those of you who are trying to spare me from the fate above, I thank you.  The argument against Furor, which I've gotten twice now in the last two weeks, is this:

"Furor is not needed now that Enrage gives instant Rage."

This is the orthodox, safe, standard, popular opinion. If you want to go with the flow and save the TL/DR below, awesome. /salute

This snap rage is nothing new. Enrage alongside Improved Enrage which later became Intensity used to give snap rage, though not as much, and the above argument against Furor was just as popular back then as it is now that they consolidated the two talents. For more on this, see BBB's July 04 2009 post on endgame raid tank bears vs "facepulling" 5-man bears.

Ultimately, Furor lets you use you mana as rage. It's that simple. It gives you a guaranteed infusion of rage whenever you need it, as long as you have enough mana to make it back to Bear form. If you can take advantage of this during a powershift to break out of a root (Deadmines Frost Novas come to mind), more's the better. And you don't have to choose between them--you can use both Enrage and Furor if you want (I do often).

So, with respect to Bear tanks talented into Furor, Mana is not Mana. It's blue rage.

The most rage efficient mechanism for generating threat at level 20-30 for four or fewer mobs, is to keep Maul and FFF on cooldown. Swipe's "threat per rage" vs fewer than 5 mobs at low levels is abysmal, and without Savage Defense there's really no reason not to save the extra 5 rage for your next Maul and to target cycle.

The only mobs that you're going to be able to actually make stick to you when spamming Swipe are melee combat mobs (casters stay put and cast), so blowing Enrage in order to Swipe spam a pack of melee mobs is probably a very poor idea for low level encounters.   Swipe's threat generation isn't worth the rage cost.  I don't think it can stand up to a Mage's Blizzard at early levels.  Even if you can keep the melee mobs on you, Enrage comes at the expense of 27% of our base armor, which is exactly what you don't need when you're Swipe spamming melee.

Not that I'm arguing for the value of the extra armor, really.  The early value of Thick Hide is possibly worth debating, but probably not worth it.  Armor's contribution to survivability is pretty limited for low level Bears.  I never ever stack armor in the 20s, but the time when armor would conceivably be most useful at my tender level is when I'm surrounded by melee mobs, making that a very poor time to blow Enrage.  So, Enrage for Swipe spamming, I'll conclude, is not useful at this point in my tanking career.

Conversely, armor doesn't contribute at all to survivability vs. magic damage, so saving Enrage cooldowns for caster encounters is probably its optimal use.  The armor penalty means nothing at that point, so it's just free rage and makes a great burst if you need to drop a Bash, for example, in WC when the druids are about to cast sleep on your Healer.

Once you get Savage Defense, then combined probability on crit strikes vs. melee mobs becomes a major contributing factor to survivability, and Swipe is totally redeemed. Also, by this time you can talent into Feral Swiftness / Natural Reaction to fuel extra rage generation from dodges. At this point, temporarily speccing out of Furor is probably very smart.

But, between target cycling glyphed Maul, watching my autoattack swing timer and rage meters for good opportunities to powershift, and my Dealers following the kill order, I have zero problems right now with threat generation or keeping aggro. I'm pretty darned good at it, actually. So, dropping furor on the premise that my talents can do my tanking for me is not in the cards.

Survivability is really not impacted by Thick Hide at my level. At all. In fact, I dropped 20 gold to respec and ran a TankPoints comparison on it, and three ranks in Thick Hide left my overall damage mitigation completely unchanged. At these low levels, tanking is all about Stamina, and paying attention.

The 4% added dodge from Feral Swiftness is really tempting, though, and I'm looking forward to having it, but it doesn't become a no-brainer until it can be combined with Natural Reaction. Savage Defense with Swipe Spamming makes Feral Swiftness / Natural Reaction (FS/NR) a murderous combo.

There are two feral talents that are absolutely worth speccing out of Furor for, in my opinion. The first is Feral Charge at L30. The second is Mangle at L50. The FS/NR is also a worthwhile combo to spec into. But Swipe and FS alone are just not worth it.

I'll probably spec into and out of Furor a number of times as I climb the tree. It's sort of a "training wheels" talent, scaffolding to prop us up as we level. Furor / powershifting enables a certain style of play that I find challenging and rewarding, so I will keep it for the time being. If I could use mana (which I don't need) for rage (which I constantly need) without burning 5 talent points, I'd love that. The bonus ability to keep my energy in cat form should take some of the pain out of leveling.

What can I say?  I think there's value in blue rage.

Anyone who decides to play differently, devoting themselves to deep feral from the beginning, and forsaking the impurity of the Resto tree, as long as they are having fun with the results of their decision, is doing what they ought to, and I won't recriminate.

Form Flow for Feral Tanks

I want to have a way to preserve the "spirit of the bear" for a brief time while assuming other forms.

I envision this as a cooldown deep in the feral tree that would give me 3/6/9 seconds in which the tanking bonuses that accrue from my being in bear form will remain even though I switch briefly to caster, cat, travel, aquatic, flight form. I would not be able to cast any new spells that required Bear or Dire Bear form, but I would be able to keep the tanking bonuses conferred from talents such as Survival of the Fittest, Heart of the Wild, and Natural Reaction

I also want more advanced talents to further smooth the mana cost of shifting between cat and bear form. The 30% bonus conferred from Natural Shapeshifter is nice, but why are shapeshifting talents in the Resto Tree?

This could usher in a new style of "form flow" play that would let Bears use more of the skills from their other forms for brief periods of time without risking a full-on wipe. A good example of this would be Innervating a healer, or casting Rebirth on a dealer that "took too much", or

Target next target
Cat Form
Feral Charge - Cat [10 energy]
Mangle (Cat) [45 energy]
Rake [40 energy]
Savage Roar [Instant Finish]
Bear Form [10 Rage from Furor]
Maul [Bonuses from Mangle (Cat), Savage Roar carry over]

We could also have similar talents that let us briefly build mana from damage dealt instead of rage. This would allow us to refuel our mana pool while dealing/tanking.

The essence of the "form flow" style of play would be for the player to blur the lines between rage, mana and energy, and to flow between the various forms as the needs of these resources dictates. It would lead to a highly dynamic play style and let us bring more of the full spectrum of our abilities to bear (no pun intended) during combat.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

GC On Picking Gear in Cataclysm

This is a heartening post by GhostCrawler:

"Actually, we aren't trying to make gear choices easier. We like when it's a hard call on whether to upgrade vs. stick with what you have, etc. In designer parlance terms, that is an "interesting decision." Non-interesting decisions are typically no-brainers.

We want to remove some of the confusion over a complicated stat system, which we think we can do without reducing the system's depth. In fact, the other motivation for the stats overhaul was to solve some of the problems where a certain stat trumps all or a certain stat is always junk. If we nail that, then gear choices will actually be harder in Cataclysm, not easier."

There's been a little hyperbole on the forums this week that Blizzard's essentially reducing the game to two stats--one that makes good stuff happen and one that prevents bad stuff from happening (sometimes).

Needless to say, we prize our gear choices, sweating bullets over whether to use a pair of gloves that gives me more stamina and survivability, or using the Gloves of the Fang for the 2-piece bonus has been a challenging decision, and I'm really just getting started. Hopefully the future of Druid gear choices is as rewarding as it has been in the past.

Not that we need to necessarily have tanking leather again, but they do need to preserve the challenge and unique flavor of our class in itemization.

Future of Tank Balance in Cataclysm

It seems that the game design team intend to keep the four tanking classes individually unique, rather than only superficially different:

"Rather than have all the tanks have the same health, armor, avoidance and cooldowns, we’d rather have four unique tanking classes rather than just superficial or artistic differences. Yes, that design is harder to balance, but we think class distinction is ultimately more interesting, which is better for the long term health of the game. The goal remains to have all four tanks be viable for any encounter, assuming sufficient gear and skill, and any differences in performance on individual encounters to be minor."

Any encounter? I wonder if that includes 25-man hard modes.

Bear Tanking Items at Level 20

While the 20s have very little to offer Bears in terms of new skills, they certainly do bring a wealth of new items. I'm going to start compiling a list of items that are available at given levels, and will commit to keeping these lists up to date and adding items as I learn more about them.

The items listed below are superior to the best that was available at the previous level, as measured in TankPoints.



If you know of items I have missed please let me know in the comments and I'll add them to the list. Thanks for your help!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I ... Have Pink Fur?

Last night I crushed Deadmines for the Miners Cape and the Smelting Pants, completing my collection of top-shelf L19 tanking gear. I landed a fantastic dungeon party that included a Ret Paladin pulling about 75 DPS. The party was very skillful, it was as good an ending as I could have asked for in my first bracket of instances, so I ponied up my 10g and then went back to Ashenvale and leveled to 20.

It was a bittersweet thing, to bid farewell to my first real gear crawl on Brick. Going from auction house greens to top of the line in just a bit over a week, got me over being nervous about getting back into tanking.

It turns out I have pink fur in Cat Form. Pink. I feel like a quadripedal, pixelated, Night Elf analog of Conan O'Brien. Not that that's a bad thing, at all. But I'm not sure about pink fur. It's just not me.

Now begins the 20s bracket. The next ten levels will not see much in the way of skills for Bear form. Instead, I'll be looking for ways to amplify my Bear form with my Cat abilities. I've already been practicing a caster-form combo that involves Bash, dropping into Caster form, casting an instant Moonfire, then back into Bear Form for Furor and 10 rage. By the time the mob falls out of the stun from Bash, they've got a HoT on them and a reinvigorated bear. Working this trick against two mobs requires a little Nature's Grasp and some dancing, but it's fun. Having done a lot of cat-bear form-flow work in the past including my now infamous Flying Bear Maneuver, I'll be looking for more combos that cross the lines of form.

Looking into a change of hair color. Pink being pink and all.

On PVE Twinking, Thick Skin and Kid Gloves

The new Dungeon Finder has literally revolutionized the game. Why race to the endgame and wait in line to raid tank? Tanking is fun, that's the bottom line. It used to be that you raced to the endgame in order to increase your chances of finding other players who were on your server and looking for a group. For example, getting a group together to take on Sunken Temple was notoriously difficult when I was leveling my first five or six characters to 80 on The Venture Co. Getting parties together for Lower Blackrock Spire was just impossible, and entirely out of the question. I never even saw the inside of these dungeons until much later on, when I was leading tours for my alts with my main, and at the time I was overwhelmed with a sadness that these dungeons would never get played honestly again, at least not on my server.

All that is over. With the ability to find dungeon groups, and especially the ability to slow down one's experience and level progression, the option to savor these old instances is absolutely back on the table. Players like me, who are "new" to the game, having come in in the latter half of the Burning Crusade expansion, can get a taste of how the game used to be, and it has really broadened my ability to have fun with and appreciate the old instance content.

Blizzard has hit a silent grand slam on this matter. I don't see people talking about PvE Twinking, but I'm here to say it's a renaissance for the game.

Gushing aside, in the first bracket of instances (I don't count RFC--there's not really enough gear in there for it to be considered anything but a trailer to the dungeon game) you're very likely to run into players who have never run an instance before. It's especially sad, given the funny and well written article today at about how Death Nuggets are the new Huntards, that for truly new players, the Hunter class is still a strong and popular choice, and despite the potential of the class, its subtler aspects do not lend themselves well to novice play in dungeon instances.

By the time they hit level 19, a rogue is either learning how to play their class, or they're getting killed with every pull, and this while leveling. Same goes of a warrior, shaman, all of the classes really. The pet-as-protector does so much to insulate the hunter from harm, that the class stands out in instance play when that dynamic changes.

And, yes, I am specifically talking about novice hunters who leave their pets on aggressive mode, leave growl turned on, can't manage their mana, and generally make a tank's job unreasonably challenging. Not because they're bad or not worthy of playing in dungeons with the rest of us, not at all. Maybe they just spend too much time in the woods and need to learn a bit of teamwork is all. I'm just sayin'.

I've had a couple of great experiences in the last two days in dungeons with solid hunters who knew exactly what they were doing and rained holy havoc on the damage meters. And they make up for the others, but they are rare. I cannot lie. When I see a hunter in the ranks I tend to expect the worst. But, as this is not a productive attitude, I've been trying to be proactive and helpful instead.

A few bad encounters have gotten me into the habit of starting out the event with a standard spiel. First I'll ask if this is anyone's first instance encounter, and if there is a hunter whether they have Growl turned off and passive mode turned on. I'll also look on the party roster to see who is the healer, and then ask who the healer is. Not to be insulting, but I've had Druid Healers who immediately took to Bear form and then ran out and started pulling, then barked at me over and over and OVER again for a res when their laughable 700 hit points were splattered all over the walls and floor.

You can get a general feel in the first couple minutes whether the party is going to be a wash or if it's something you can stick with. If the DPS characters just run out and start going wild, the healer is in there swinging their staff in the melee, or leaving to go back to town for "milk", your hit points are slooooowly creeping downward and never coming back up, and you're scratching your head wondering what cradle these kids just crawled out of, there's nothing wrong with wishing them all the best and move on to another instance for a while. This is the "thick skinned" part of the life. If your party wants to do the dungeon without a tank, it's their call.

You're a tank, after all. You're not going to have to wait for a new group.

On the other hand, if you've got an alert, good natured healer and the players seem to take well to your starting spiel, you might have the makings of a very fun evening. In general, if you're tanking well and you have a good healer, the two of you should be able to offer a lot in the way of coaching and guidance to the dealers. The damage meters will tell you who needs coaching and who doesn't. The hard part about this is not being a sarcastic, arrogant jerk about it, and also not being a patronizing, smug know-it-all. It's worse with the stress of the dungeon and the limitations of text. In these cases, whispering might help--you're not chewing them out in front of the others.

In all cases, chewing them out never helps. Assume positive intent, go in with the goal of being a resource for them, praise them for their successes, and protect them from their mistakes if you can.

Besides, walking a hunter through the process of setting their pet to passive and turning off Growl for the first time might just transform the game for them, and mark the beginning of a new awareness of the potentials of their class.

I don't know if I'll see as much of the new player mentality in higher level instances, but I'm growing to see putting on the kid gloves as just another element of tanking.

No matter how bad it seems, remember this--at least we don't have to deal with Death Nuggets in the early dungeons.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mob Handling Notes from Wailing Caverns

When I was running Wailing Caverns last night I was forced to do a lot of fancy mob handling.  WC is chock full of casters, and they know not to come running when you slap them with a Faerie Fire.

One common method used to force the casters to actually come to you is to use a Line of Sight (LoS) tactic.  Since they can't cast at you if you're not in line of sight, you hit them with a Faerie Fire, then back around a corner and they'll come running over.

But using an LoS is not always in the cards.  Sometimes, as is frequently the case in Wailing Caverns, you have dangerous multi-caster pulls, where you have to keep multiple mobs on you that don't want to move.  If you're fortunate enough to have a patient and cunning party that will back up and let you use an LoS ambush, that's great.  But sometimes you just need to throw caution to the wind and get into the thick of things.

It's during these situations that effective aggression management is so important.  One of the things I always try to do is to use Faerie Fire (Feral) on as many targets as I can, and preferably early in the fight.  FFF actually generates threat, unlike Growl.  Having the Glyph of Maul is useful for building threat against a large number of opponents, if you take the time to frequently change targets to spread the love around a bit, but casters are very problematic because they don't line up in front of you the way you'd like them to, and you can't kite them around by walking backwards.

In 3.1, Swipe was changed to affect all mobs in a 360ยบ area around you, a major improvement from Burning Crusade, in which its area of effect was a frontal cone.  This helps in the beginning of a fight, especially if you have spare rage from an earlier encounter.  However, it costs 15 rage with 5 ranks of Ferocity.  Unless you are literally surrounded by mobs, this is not a very good skill to use in terms of threat-to-rage ratios.  Compared to Maul, which costs 5 less rage and generates far more threat, Swipe becomes, at least at the early levels that we're talking about, an emergency button to be used only in special circumstances.  Not until much later on will it become a mainstay, front line workhorse of an ability.

So, barring the frequent use of Swipe to maintain aggression on multi-caster mobs with meat shields tossed in, and potentially adds or patrols, what I do is keep tabs on my threat meter.  If I have at least 3x as much threat as the next guy, even if I'm dealing with a caster, I just leave them and go to the next caster.  Try to get two mobs in front of you if you can, but focus on the casters because the melee mobs will follow along with you.  If you see a caster going after one of your party members, use FFF to suck them back into your threat well.  And if you really start to lose control in a heavy melee situation, because we're in the level 10-19 bracket here and don't have a cooldown to force every nearby mob to attack us, just punch Demoralizing Roar to at least hamstring the attack power of the nearby mobs.

Two more tips for Wailing Caverns.  First, armor doesn't mitigate magic, so building a massive effective health pool is the best defense against these sorts of encounters.  Eat your buff food.  Second, save your Bash for when the druids try to use their sleep spell--losing your healer or one of your dealers in a big fight could get you squished.

Tanked to the Teeth

Just a few more pieces now, and I can move on to new content.  I saw two of the remaining four pieces tonight in WC, but the party was heavy on leather wearers.  I decided not to "need" the Deep Fathom Ring, because the healer (who did a rock star job) needed it, and I can't wear it until level 20 anyway.

I can still upgrade to the Smelting Pants and Serpent's Shoulders without proceeding to level 20.  At that point, there'll be nothing I can improve on, in terms of tanking gear, for this batch of dungeons.  The biggest improvement, in terms of raw effective health, that I can get at level 20, will be the Black Wolf Bracers from Shadowfang Keep.  At that point, there'll be nothing from WC, SFK, or DM that I need for tanking, and I can change focus to leveling for a while.

I had a fantastic group for WC tonight, which made up for two false starts earlier in the evening.  Looking forward to cross-realm friend lists so I can keep in touch with some of these good healers.

Shout out to Reilynn on the Mannoroth realm.  Fast, clear headed, well geared healer, I never saw her mana bar go down all night.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The "Bear Prayer"

Whence flows our health pool
Hallowed be thy mane
The rage will come
When dodge be done
In Azeroth and too in Draenor
Give us this Swipe our Savage Defense
As we defend those who Swipe before us
And lead us not to chain wiping
But deliver us from combat
For thine are the crit strikes
And the dodges
And the purples
Forever and ever

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Addon Review: WhoPulled

I installed an addon called WhoPulled a couple of days ago and had a chance to use it last night.  For the most part, it seemed to work like a charm.

It basically whispers to you in white text whenever anyone pulls anything.  Yourself included.  Then, you can type:


And you'll yell "SomeDude pulled SomeMob!"

I discovered and remembered some things as a result of this process.  First, as suspected, a couple of my crew members were pulling naughtily when they ought not to have been.  Second, and not entirely surprisingly, it was my fault.

The reason it was my fault is that I was tanking with an "Inside Formation", which looks something like this:

     [add]     [add]

    [mdps]    [mdps]



A much more ideal Melee Formation for tanking, especially now that Bears have 360° swipe is the Outside Formation:

       [add]     [add]

   [mdps]   [mdps]



If this formation is used, then Swipes bring incoming adds into the "Threat Well" of the tank, not of the Melee DPS characters. So, while I used the /ywho features of WhoPulled very sparingly, it did help me keep tabs on whether any of my crew members had made nice with the locals during midfight, so I could drop a growl and keep things flowing in a good direction.

I'd like to see a much more comprehensive tool (not Omen, which only shows me aggro for the mob I am targeting) to give me details whenever someone pulls aggro off of me, for any of the mobs that I hold aggro with. Ideally, there'd be an icon I could roll over in a "stack" then I could use a rollover /assist macro to yoink the agg back from them. It would be similar to WhoPulled, or potentially a useful extension to the existing functionality.

Get To The Wheel!

Get to the choppa! wheel!

This was the cry of salvation last night when I was tanking the Deadmines and pulled an epic fail Brick Blunder, accidentally using Faerie Fire (Feral) on a mob at the top of the scaffolding / ramp on the gangway leading up to the final boss encounter.  I had meant to pull the mob directly in front of me but missed by two entire stories on the scaffolding.

The mob heap snowballed on the way down the ramp.  It was a Bad Thing™.

I think, by the time the entire group of mobs got down to me there were 10-15 of them, and my healer had the presence of mind to let me twist in the wind and bust their Disciplined chops up the ramp and onto the water wheel.  At the very least, I think I bought them some time to escape.

Once on that wheel, the mobs cannot attack you, as they lack ranged abilities.  If you wait long enough, they de-aggress and return to their leashed starting points.

After that, wipe recovery and we were back up and running.

I will likely go back to the Deadmines after a level or two and try those pulls again with my patented Flying Bear Maneuver.  I'll try to get some screenshots of those pulls as well.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Endangered Species?

I wasn't dead.  I was just hibernating.

Seriously.  Tanking the snot out of my mission-fit Dominix in EVE Online.  They call us "care bears" in that game.

But I come back, and everyone is . . . just . . . gone.  Karthis, Tarskin, Marino, Kalon, all of the bear bloggers of old.

I'm adding Darksend to my list--as far as I can tell, she's the only one right now.  And she is a darksend if for no other reason than that there are no other beacons in the fog.

Blizzard might have messed up worse than I thought.

It's become clear that I need to do something extra special to get the old excitement flowing again.  I think that I'm going to keep writing about this fun PvE twinking, but also something extra special for old time's sake.


I'm going to start a new category called "Experience" which is a euphamism for "my personal screw-ups". Articles tagged "Experience" probably will have stories of how I made a big bear blunder.

Two nights ago I entered a Shadowfang Keep instance through the dungeon finder interface.  As soon as I got into the instance I was disappointed to see that they were already pulling trash and I needed to buff up, figure out who the healer was, etc.  Someone was poisoned and asked me to Cure Poison for them.

I had not been in the instance long enough to change form, I signed on as the tank, not the healer.  Pulls were coming in, and then, to make matters worse, I accidentally backed out of the instance portal.

It brought me back to Astranaar, where I'd just been.  There was no portal to get back, and I could see the members of the party talking, not quite realizing that I'd accidentally exited the instance.  I frantically cast my eyes around the user interface, trying to find the button that would bring me back in to help.  But I couldn't find it.

And I didn't even have cure poison trained yet.  Didn't do the quest line for it.  (since corrected)

I dropped out of the group, and hid under the lake so nobody could see my deserter flag.  Lesson learned.

Effective Health versus Technique

In article after article, and in page after page, guide after guide, and gear list after gear list, the importance of itemization is hawked to us as the ultimate consideration and metric for determination of how "good" a tank is.

But we know it's just not so.

Whether one item or talent or profession gives you 20% more effective health than another item or talent or profession assumes that your character is a complete system independent of additional input.  I get the distinct impression that consideration of the effect of end-game professions for bear tanks assumes that all the other variables are perfect, which we know is far from the case.  What use, for example, is another 1030 health if your healer is running out of mana because you can't keep aggro off of that Fury warrior?  What benefit does additional crit confer if your hit rating is laughably poor?

But I would like to believe that how a person plays their character distinguishes them as "good" as much as, if not more than the cumulative item level of their gear, or the purely numeric effect their gear has on their effective health calculations.  Experience (being the cumulative mistakes I've made) tells me that this is the case.

For example, what is the effective health contribution to a well-timed use of Nature's Grasp or Bash to slow down a fight?

Or, more to the point, what effect does rage augmentation through powershifting confer on us at early levels?  Is it worth the tradeoff between Mangle at level 50 and level 55?  Is the choice to take one over the other purely personal and entirely dependent on play style, or does it actually have an impact on our effective health, and can this impact be measured?

I've made the decision for now to keep five points in Furor, because it gives me an additional weapon to use in a fight, at a time when I am having difficulty keeping my rage bar full.  On paper, it does not confer as much effective health to me as the second tier feral talents, but if I have the rage to keep mobs off of my DPS for a much higher percentage of each encounter, then hopefully it keeps my healer from going OOM as often and in a roundabout way that improves my effective health.

Not through the numbers, but through technique.  And, in my mind, technique is what the game is really about.

PvE Twinking

Since the addition of the "XP Freeze" feature in WoW, players are able to do something we never could before--we can twink our characters for dungeon instance play.

Yesteryear you had to content yourself with whatever you were lucky enough to pull from a dungeon, or go through the excruciating process of grinding an instance with a high level "main" character while your "twink" stayed back far enough to not get any experience, then bring them in for the boss encounter so they could grab the loot at the end.  I did my share of both methods, and they were nowhere near as fun as this is.

With the ability to turn off my experience, I can now run dungeons with my PvE-twinked bear tank and get the blue items that I always wanted from dungeons that are my level.  Moreover, with the dungeon finder I can nearly always get a group together, and really can savor the experience.  At that level, you need to actually learn some of the pulls, and genuinely play the instance to the best of your extremely limited ability.

The experience is like riding a very well built and maintained fixed gear.  There are fewer moving parts, so you really need to learn to make the most of each of them.

I might really enjoy the option to preferentially join groups with gear scores similar to my own so that I don't get the odd healer with 500 mana on a trial account who insists on drinking ice cold milk at level 19.  Being in a group of other PvE-twinked characters who really knew their class and role might be a lot of fun.

Or, the ego-bleed might drive me insane.  But I'd give it a whirl.  In fact, this might mark a renaissance in WoW for me.  With this type of gameplay we could put together a guild for running some of the classic raiding instances.

I only have a couple more slots before I've gotten everything I could from this bracket of dungeons, and will likely move on after that.  But it's been a really fun way to get back into the swing of things, and I'm proud to say Brickflank is looking mighty tanky these days.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Terrible 20s

From the standpoint of an ursine enthusiast, the 20s bring very little to the table in the terms of feral tanking improvements.  They are, in order of appearance:

  1. Demoralizing Roar, Rank 2 - Level 20
  2. Feral Charge - Level 20
  3. Swipe (Bear), Rank 2 - Level 24
  4. Maul, Rank 3 - Level 26
  5. Challenging Roar - Level 28
This is a fairly sparse list, and the 20s seem to be more dedicated to the introduction of the various Cat abilities, as well as some respectable improvements to the Restoration skills.  I am on the brink of leveling to 20, and will likely do so if only to achieve the remaining skills needed for The Flying Bear Maneuver.

My thoughts on the 20s, however, are rather grim with respect to feral tanking.  My next entry will focus on the love-hate relationship we have with the Maul skill, how it is best used, what its relationship is to swipe, and other Maul-related things.