Archive for the “Paladin sillyness” Category

Warning: Prot Paladin talk straight ahead.

There is a Star Wars: The Old Republic beta. I was in it this last weekend.

I’ve read the agreement carefully, and it turns out that’s about all I can say about that subject.

Except maybe for this; I could have spent a LOT of time in the SW:TOR beta this weekend, but I ended up spending most of my game time in WoW.

What was I doing, if I wasn’t lost in a galaxy of laser swords and 2 trillion candlepower pistolgrip flashlights?

I was playing my Protection Paladin in PvP, and doing a LOT of PvE tanking.

My Paladin, affectionately named BigCrankButt, started the weekend Friday night at level 57.

Cassie suggested that I leave XP on and level through BGs until I got the Honor Points I needed to get all that tasty level 60 PvP epic gear. She would level by questing solo through Blasted Lands.

By the time I dinged 60, she was actually a little ahead, and I had won every random BG, so you can see that from our super-small sampling, pure questing is equal to PvP in leveling speed, or much better if you’re losing in BGs a lot. Anecdotal and subjective evidence of no real value in a study, but still interesting.

From the moment we dinged 60 and trained flying, we’ve quested a bit and run instances a whole lot more.

I have just one thing to say about the playing experience on our Prot Paladin and Disc Priest combo.

OMIGOD epic!

The biggest reason for my pleasure has been the Paladin class being godlike in AoE tanking from 15 to, now, 62. There has been some added spice to the yummy feast brought by the sheer power of level 60 PvP epics, but that has just been the last two levels.

The real prize is being a Protection Paladin.

Playing Prot and tanking through the levels has left me, as a Druid tank at max level, kinda feeling like Charlie Brown during Halloween; “I got a rock.”

As a Prot Paladin, I have had all the tools and all of the talents I could ever wish to get and hold aggro during everything that PUGs could throw at me.

We’ve leveled in PUGs almost the whole way, and we’ve seen every kind of pull for the tank, gogogo, shoot the wrong mob, charge the target and stun it type of thing you could imagine, and the Paladin has taken it all with a smile.

A word on that. Of everything I’ve seen, far and away the most annoying has been to throw Avenger’s Shield to pull a group of mobs, only to have a prick of a Warrior charge one as they JUST started running to me, and stun it in place at it’s starting point, WAY THE FUCK OVER THERE, when it’s a casting mob, and now my Avenger’s Shield is on cooldown and I can’t easily pull it back to where I’m taking care of business with all these other casting mobs over HERE.

Congratulations, you prick. Grrr. It’s not a big deal, I either keep taunting it while burning down the caster in my face, then run over there, or just let the idiot that charged it deal with it, but still. I like my pretty little clumps of groups in range of my melee AoE, damnit.

Oh, and if you’re going to roll Need on tanking gear for level 50s, hows about you actually QUEUE as a TANK, you worthless little douchebag. Thank you very much, signed, the actual tank.

Anyway, Protection Paladins are not overpowered. Not from 15 – 62, at least. I don’t want you to get the impression that is what I’m saying.

What they are is tuned JUST RIGHT. They are not ‘snooze and cruise’, you have to use your abilities and there are a LOT of them. But you have all the abilities you need. You are never left feeling just screwed. And you can get and hold AoE aggro. If you play one, you can succeed and have a ton of fun.

If the other tanking classes can’t feel the same level of control on the battlefield in PUGs, and can’t experience the same fun, then it’s not Paladins that are OP, it’s the other tanks that need a buff.

The object of the game is to have fun. If your reaction to hearing I am having lots of fun tanking is to assume the class needs to be nerfed, you need to re-evaluate your baseline assumptions. Tanking shouldn’t have to feel like a pain in the ass sucky job.

I’ll say it again. What has been most awesome about them is that they actually have all the tools they need to get aggro, keep the group moving fast, and HOLD aggro in the face of all that the DPS can do to try to screw you. You’re kept hopping, looking around for distant mobs to nail with Avenger’s Shield, grabbing swarming patrols incoming with Hammer of the Righteous, and so much more.

That is my definition of fun tanking. Being able to respond immediately when shit happens, instead of sitting on your hands helpless.

If Blizzard wants me to have fun as a tank, give the DPS wild shit to do to cause massive threat, and give ME all the tools I need to regain and hold threat. Pop this, pop that, fire that off, and wahoo! Fast paced, pulse pounding action.

I don’t know what they’re like at max level, but so far from 15 to 62 it’s been a perfect game.

Maybe a lot of that has been having a skilled healer along for every run that, y’know, actually heals instead of doing DPS because “they’re bored”. Amazing concept, but if you want to DPS, queue as DPS. If you queue as heals, keep our ass alive. Cassie has done that, and because of that every run is funtime fancypants mode.

Believe it or not, there is a point to my talking about all this, and it’s not to say “Oh look at me, I’m having fun.”

One response I get from people a lot when discussing tanking, is how daunting, even intimidating PUGs are to try and learn how to tank.

Not “how to tank as X class”, but simply trying to get used to what a tank has to look at and prioritize. How to play AS a tank.

If you haven’t played a tank before, it takes a little bit to get used to the differences from the other playstyles, especially if you’ve mostly been playing a healer looking at health bars and moving your own butt out of fire.

If you want to learn to play as a tank these days, I think the max level PUGs are really the wrong place to try and do it (based purely on the patience level of your fellow players), and once 4.3 rolls around and the Trolls are added into the standard PvE Heroic random mix, it’ll just get worse.

But if you do want to learn to play a tank, I’m thinking a possible idea is to do it in two stages.

First, create a new tank alt and start running random PUGs at level 15. Obviously from my gushing, I’m telling you that I know for a fact a Prot Paladin would be a good choice.

Level up through the PUGs, preferrably with a friend that might want to try a healer for a change, and take on all comers. With the changes to tank threat generation, you’ve got an advantage in getting and holding aggro.

The skills you would want to develop in this way, skills that apply to all tank classes, are;

  • Getting the pull clumped up on casters. (Silencing/pulling casters to you, Line of Sight pulls, charging groups, etc).
  • Watching a 360° radius for patrols and runners and bringing them in to you before they hit anyone else.
  • Watching your own health to time survival/mitigation cooldowns.
  • Watching your party health as a clue to pulled aggro.
  • Controlling enemy groups and maneuvering them out of fire/acid/green/bad.
  • Positioning yourself consistently to make it easier on melee.

All of these skills need to be developed with the following ‘test to destruction’ real world criteria; how well does your chosen method work in a group of strangers?

An example of what I mean; If you want to do a line of sight pull of a caster, and the rest of the group ignores you to run around the corner shooting, then you need to take that into account and come up with a new plan. Maybe telling them what you’re gonna do before pulling, or macroing a “LOS pull, don’t attack yet!” yell, or just trying something else like charging in.

The point being, whatever you do, see how it works in random groups. Tweak it until you can handle what the players will do.

The second step would be to take the generic skills you developed in tanking through the levels, and then apply that to your max level character of choice now that you’ve built up confidence.

I think it might work pretty good.

I am interested in how the other classes feel to tank through the levels. I know from experience that the Paladin feels far more in control of PUG aggro than my Warrior did while leveling. Is it just the Paladin? I could easily have been Warrior tanking wrong. Do all of them really handle the same way until you get to the 80-85 range?

I don’t know. I’m interested enough to try a Death Knight and tank through the levels, though. Just to see.

It’s been a new sensation for me, playing a Prot Paladin.

I feel… epic.

It’s been a long, long time since I felt that.

I’ve gotten used to setting my goal as “I feel competent in my class.”

If I go into a raid, in Firelands or anywhere else, that has been my goal for a year now. “Do I feel competent at my class? Did I do enough DPS to feel that I didn’t suck? Did I tank well enough to meet expectations?”

I never expect to feel badass anymore.

About the best I feel is when someone like Matheo tells me “I don’t know how you get those numbers on a Beastmaster Hunter”.

That feels good. I know I don’t have actual great DPS, just a surprising amount for a BM Hunter with my gear level, that’s all. It’s an “exceeds expectations” evaluation, and oh boy doesn’t that just thrill you.

But playing the Prot Paladin as a tank through the levels… taht brings back the old “epic” feel.

The “I am in command of this battlefield, weep you poor NPC bastards, weep!”

It’s a good feeling.

I’ll admit, since dinging 60 and equipping that incredibly powerful PvP epic gear, it’s gotten even nicer.

Or, as one player said to another in the Hellfire Ramparts run we did Monday;

Player 1 – “How the hell is the tank doing more than twice our DPS?”
Player 2 – “Have you SEEN his gear?”
Player 1 – “Where the hell did you get all those epics?”

It’s true. Thanks to the AoE heavy fights in Ramps and Blood Furnace, my damage output at level 60 was about twice that of most DPS players in heirlooms. DKs included.

In other words, I already felt epic before, but now while wearingthe  epics, I actually feel EPIC.

It’s a good feeling. Turns out I missed it. I wish I could figure out a way we could get it back at high level.

Comments 27 Comments »

Open Discussion!

Now that we’ve mostly gone over Druids and Paladins, in a very basic way, I wanted to throw the floor open to everyone to share their own experiences in tanking with either, or with both.

Before we do that, let’s address the single biggest point, one I saved for this post.

One of the biggest concerns people have for either of these classes, that they have shared with me at least, is “Yes, but how are they at getting aggro right off the bat?”

I did not previously nail this down, but the Paladin is fantastic at generating initial threat. With the Avenger’s Shield, Ret Aura, Consecration and Hammer of the Righteous popped in the first three seconds, it’s very hard for anyone to overcome that without serious effort or a blatant gear disparity. 

For the Druid, most tools have excellent single target threat generation, but the AoE starts slow and builds up over time. With two tools for group threat, Swipe and Maul, and Maul being more of a luck of the draw on which extra target gets hit, it’s certainly slower out of the gate.

The thing to remember, however, is that Druids have spammable threat generators, and can choose which ability to use at any given time, while Paladins have to manage their cooldowns.

It’s similar to how healing works, actually. One class has to work predictive, beginning to cast in advance of when the spell will actually be needed, while the other can pre-emptively spam HoTs and then wait to use an instant cast reactively.

What does that mean? It means that you shouldn’t think that the only difference between how you play a Paladin and how you play a Bear is the names and pictures on the buttons you click while you stand in one place.

While a Paladin can run forward, Avenger’s Shield and then drop Consecration and use that as his “King of the Mountain” spot from which to tank all comers, Druids have huge single target threat generation and no Silence.

This leads to the Bear style being more mobile, taking it to the enemy, and if the Bear wants to climb the threat charts, then choosing who to whack, and in many cases traveling to meet them on their own ground is the order of business.

One commenter, Bear Pelt, mentioned that for Forge of Souls where there is not all that much room for LOSing, they would find themselves running from mob to mob like their tail was on fire, and said that probably was not the best thing, but it had worked out allright so far as long as skull was taken down first and foremost.

In my opinion, that’s just how you SHOULD do it! Use your mobility, the rapid coldown on Feral Charge, the ranged short cooldown on Feral Faerie Fire, the ability to spam Swipe while running as fast as the GCD allows, Bash to interrupt, Maul, etc.

It does mean that you use marked targets. It does mean that you don’t group everyone up as tightly as a Paladin or a Death Knight does. And it does mean that, if the tanking standard people WANT to get used to are stationary tanks, you’re not going to be perceived of as “as good of a tank”.

The classes play out differently. They’re not the same class with different buttons. If you are having problems playing a Bear the stationary “everyone come to me” style, then why not try changing your gameplan up by running around?

In my experience, going off the numbers I’ve generated, on single targets the Bear takes over except when the Paladin is actively using taunt as part of their rotation. On groups, the Paladin is stronger. Much stronger.

Druids shouldn’t take that as a reason to complain or call for a nerf, in my opinion. Instead, I think that Bears should try to develop more opportunities to use that high single target threat output.

For example, as I said in Part 1, there is absolutely no reason for you to ride one mob down to zero hit points before you look elsewhere. If you have a marked target, then unload everything on that one target, watch your Omen threat levels, see where the DPS compares, and as soon as you judge you’ve got a big enough lead… switch to someone else to build massive threat on next.

If you use a nameplate addon such as Tidy Plates (with Threat Plates), then you can still keep your eye on the first target in case the Mage wakes up halfway in and suddenly does 9k DPS with crit bombs, but hey, that’s what Growl is for, ya know?

Swipe will still be great in overcoming most AoE and certanly healer aggro. It’s the people that unload on X instead of Skull that I have seen issues with… and your changing targets once you’ve built up enough threat will help tremendously.

If I’d played my Paladin for a lot longer, I’m sure that similar tips would have been learned by me to help overcome some of the tricky patches on that side of the pond. I’m still working on it and learning.

I have learned that Righteous Defense works easily for me by keybinding it with Vuhdo, and leaving Vuhdo up, so if Vuhdo shows me someone in the group has aggro (which does flash arrows on the Vuhdo nameplates) I can simply mouseover the nameplate and trigger it. Righteous Defense is a great tool… and I love it now that I have figured out a way for me to easily activate it when needed. (It’s the one that pulls aggro from up to three mobs off one targeted party member… and darn it, now I confused myself with the names. I think I got it right.)

Anyway, please, take the opportunity to continue to share your own experiences tanking with each class, what you’ve found that is or is not a problem in different situations, and how you learned to adapt… or what has frustrated you that you haven’t overcome yet.

Oftentimes, the problem you once had and found a solution for is the exact thing someone else is stuggling with, and would dearly love some help.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these three posts… and now, I shall return to leveling my Death Knight, who is 62 and having fun.

Take care, folks, and have a fun weekend!

Comments 29 Comments »

Okay, so in Part I, I talked about a subject I know very well.. Druid tanking.

Now, let’s take a look at my experiences with the Paladin.

Introduction

The Paladin, and let me be clear on this, is NOT easier to play as a tank.

In fact, I want to go on record as saying that Paladin tanking is NOT ‘ez mode’, a claim I have seen people frequently claim, and in very disparaging tones.

What Paladins ARE, are tanks that have a huge number of abilities that deal Holy damage, and Holy damage, thanks to Righteous Fury, is a Paladin’s bread and butter threat generator.

Paladins have a lot of tools in their toolbox, and most of them have cooldowns that need to be juggled, high mana costs, or both. Many abilities are also situational.

I think this is a key component to understanding the philosophical differences between the two classes, but we can discuss that later.

The tools available, if used properly, can generate massive immediate group threat, sustained AoE threat, and thus reduce the likelihood a Paladin tank may lose aggro on mobs to pre-emptive DPS. They can also effectively cause casters to pick up and move, getting them to cluster closer together, rendering player AoE DPS to be more effective.

Again, however, just because the abilities that are available are highly effective does NOT mean that they are easy to use properly!

That’s the catch on the ‘ez mode’ remarks. Somehow, the idea that Paladin tanks can generate a lot of AoE threat is supposed to equate to being easier tanks to play. The threat generated is great, yes, but it is HOW that threat is generated that requires skill. Skill at time management and multi-tasking.

I did a brief recap of the majority of Druid tanking related abilities in the first section, and remarked on how concise, how streamlined they are. 

Time now to do the same for the Paladin. See if you note any differences.

  • Ranged Holy attack that dazes and silences up to 3 targets, based on proximity to each other.
  • Ranged taunt that does decent Holy damage (conditionally).
  • Ranged aggro redirect that tells up to three mobs to leave a poor, scared party member alone.

Key rotation of core abilities based on effective cooldown management, called the “969″ rotation.
In no particular order, but always long short long or short long short, are;

  • Holy AoE DOT (9 sec)
  • Holy attack on up to 5 melee range targets (6 sec)
  • Various self buffs/enemy debuffs available for a wide range of situations (9 sec)
  • Single target melee range Holy attack (6 sec)
  • Self defense that increases block, and deals Holy damage to attackers (9 sec)

Various situational benefits;

  • Medium cooldown AoE damage/stun that is only effective against undead and demons.
  • Instant cast self shield with short duration.
  • Medium cooldown ranged Stun.

Various long coolown abilities that are each very powerful, but if one is used it locks the others out for 30 seconds;

  • Self bubble that reduces incoming damage by half.
  • Big damage boost (20%, “on the wings”)
  • Instant cast full self heal

Various situationally dependant Seals, tanks mainly choosing between single target or multiple target damage boosts. 

Oh, and did I forget to mention one of the more confusing, super-powerful party buff systems in the game?

And much, much more!

Yes, so… do you happen to notice any differences there?

To spell it out, Paladins have far more buttons to arrange on their bars, all of which do something that may just turn out to be very, very important at some point in the game.

On the lighter side

I touched briefly on the Druid naming conventions, and how they seem, at least to me, to be evocative of function. To me, a Bash means something quite different, evokes an entirely different feel than a Mangle or a Swipe.

Perhaps others feel differently… but I challenge anyone to tell me that you can easily picture what the difference would be between Shield of Righteousness, Holy Shield, Sacred Shield, Divine Shield and Avenger’s Shield, or between Hammer of Wrath, Hammer of the Righteous or Hammer of Justice, or what about Divine Shield, Divine Intervention, Divine Protection or Divine Plea, or how about Righteous Defense, Hammer of the Righteous, Righteous Fury and Shield of Righteousness, or…

Well, I think you get my point.  It’s damn silly, is what it is.

I think the new level 85 ultimate ability for Paladin tanks in Cataclysm should be called “Divine Holy Shield of Righteous Hammering“. A single Paladin protective self-bubble that casts a Judgement dealing Holy Damage on each individual target that tries to hit him. Just go with it. Give in. Do eet!

The lesson to be learned from seeing that list of powers is that Paladins have a lot of choices to make. A lot of options to work from. Many of them are situational. Almost all, if not all, cost mana. Almost all have cooldowns of varying length.

In short… before you can effectively tank as a Paladin, you have to give careful thought and devote time and effort into researching your abilities, understanding what they do, how they are meant to be used together, what situations each is effective with, and why. If you don’t, it gets ugly.

Let’s talk about the simplest of Paladin pulls.

Three mobs standing close together, one a caster.

The Paladin starts by selecting an Aura. These are weak mobs, so instead of increased armor, he chooses Retribution Aura to deal out constant Holy threat every time he is struck.

The Paladin makes sure he’s got the right buff for the encounter… let’s say Blessing of Sanctuary. It’s the most obviously “tanky” one. He makes sure he has Righteous Fury up, so that his Holy abilities deal a LOT of boosted threat. He makes sure he’s got an appropriate Seal active… we’ll say Seal of Command because it’s 3 enemies and none of them are bosses, so the multiple mob attack is more beneficial in this situation.

He triggers Divine Plea, so that his attacks will return a portion of mana, and does it now so that he doesn’t waste a precious GCD during his rotation later.

Now, he steps forward and tosses his Avenger’s Shield, applying a light daze that slows all three, and silences the caster so all of them step forward, closer together and facing the Paladin.

He drops a Consecrate, his persistant Holy AoE DOT. This triggers a 9 second cooldown.

Next he lets loose with Hammer of the Righteous, which hits all three mobs for a nice big chunk of threat and triggers a 6 second cooldown.

This is followed up with, in this case, Judgement of Wisdom. There are many Judgements he could choose from, ones that slow the enemy or get healing back, but with worthless trash like this in the way, the more mana back the better to prevent having to stop and drink. This triggers the 9 second Judgement cooldown, shared amongst all Judgement effects.

Now comes the other 6 second cooldown ability, Shield of Righteousness, that deals solid single target Holy damage and threat.

Finally, we have our third 9 second cooldown ability, Holy Shield, that increases your chance to block attacks, and deals out Holy damage to anyone that tries to attack and gets blocked. In effect, another short lived Holy AoE.

Now we have come full circle. Hammer of Righteousness has come off cooldown, and once that is popped Consecration is in the chute and ready to rock. The 969 rotation is in full play.

During the entire sequence, the Paladin has to remain aware of the situation. Is his mana level dropping too fast? Is he not taking enough damage for heals to replenish his mana? Should he drop one or two abilities from his rotation to conserve mana for later? Are the targets undead or demons, and would Holy Wrath be more useful here? Is he taking enough damage that using a Divine Protection mini-bubble is called for? Should he use Avenging Wrath instead for increased damage and faster mob kills?

Are the rest of the party suffering from excessive AoE damage of their own? Can the healer keep up, or should Divine Sacrifice followed by Divine Protection be used to slow their rate of death and give the healer a chance to keep up (such as can happen with Forgemaster Garfrost in Pit of Saron).

You get the idea. I intentionally didn’t mention many of the variables that really go into normal Paladin tanking, because I think the point is made. The act may appear simple, but Paladin tanking is a dance among the activations… and there is rarely down time to be looking around and bouncing wildly. It’s all careful planning, preparation, knowing what you CAN do, and being prepared when the moment comes.

Serious choreography.

What I found, personally, while playing my Paladin was that it felt very smooth, very tightly controlled. Having the ability to Silence your opponent is, frankly, overpowered, but then again Feral Charge is on a damn short cooldown. 

Everything else is fairly comparable, and once the proper groundwork is laid, the Bear and the Paladin are on very even terms. Drastically different styles, but equally effective.

Without a Silence or Death Grip, Bears tend to be more mobile, running all over the place. Paladins and Death Knights are more about bringing the mobs to them.

This plays out in the AoE, as well. Bears have traveling AoE, Paladins mostly stationary. Mostly.

Since we’re on the subject, let’s talk about some of the few areas Paladins have a bit of a challenge. 

First, moving threat generation.

Consecration is awesome, but it is stationary. Hammer of the Righteous is amazing, but is only effective against targets in front of you. Holy Wrath kicks butt, but it’s on a moderately long cooldown. Everything has a cooldown.

Paladins do not have a comparable, spammable, moving AoE threat generator.

Take a Bear up the tunnel in Pit of Saron, and it’s a bouncefest. Mobs get Swiped and dragged behind, no worries, no issues. It’s relaxing, in a way.

Take a Paladin up the tunnel, and it becomes a bit slower, a bit more careful, as you back up part of the way, or stand still to turn around and get threat off your party members, or use Righteous Defense on your healer. It’s manageable, but certainly a noticeable change. It’s not as easy.

At this point, someone will ignore every single other thing said in this post to object to that characterization, stating that they certainly don’t have a problem with moving threat. In anticipation, I invite you to think on this and wait unti the end; I didn’t say they can’t, I said they had more difficulty. If you haven’t yourself played a Bear tank, and have a direct means of comparison, I invite you to pretend I actually have compared this, multiple times, and also asked other Paladin tanks about their experiences for comparison. Okay? Of course they can do it, the point I’m making is, which can do it smoother.

Likewise, the mana efficiency and management issue can come into play if you are overgeared and overpowered for the content you are running, and the fight drags on a very long time. Even in a level 80 heroic like Halls of Stone, the Brann fight can go on long enough, with just enough time between waves, that your Divine Plea keeps fading and your mana starts struggling. Much lower level content and it’ can be worse. 

With a Druid, the lower the content with big waves of mobs, the better, because every time you Dodge or you Crit, you get fed lovely, lovely Rage. Rage. It’s whats for dinner.

These are, again, not insurmountable problems. Just differences in feel.

In the end, my conclusion for the Paladin tanking style is that it has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, but it is truly equally effective. Not more, not less… because each situation faced is different, and what is awesome for one may not be the best choice for another.

The biggest conclusion is the no brainer of the evening - the playstyles of each are radically different.

My conclusion on playstyles.

The thing that really stood out to me, once I began delving into Paladin tanking, was that there are certain similarities amongst those who prefer it.

Players who love Paladin tanks seem to share an interest in careful planning, dedicated research, and careful micro-management of a lot of different abilties to keep them busy all the time.

You could say that they like to have a LOT of things to keep them busy all the time. A constant stream of activity.

I’ve seen some folks make statements in fora that seem to indicate that, to them at least, having more abilities to manage means that their class requires ‘better’ players. More skillful players.

It’s an interesting point of view, but having played both, I choose to disagree. I think that, once you have seen a Bear tank bounce around annoying all the mobs and never losing aggro because moving is part of his style, just as your standing there and getting everyone to come to you is part of your style, you’ll agree that there is skill used on both sides… it’s just used in different ways.

Another interesting thing of note.

If you look at the Paladin tank bloggers out there, and the Paladin tanking community websites, look at the tone of the conversations.

These are people who like to discuss the best situational use for Divine Sacrifice. The timing involved when using Divine Plea, and whch Seal is most advantageous for different scenarios.

They get into, and are passionate about, the minutia of Paladin tanking. Adjusting and debating placement of the cogs, sprockets, wheels and gears, always seeking to fine tune the accuracy to that of the finest Swiss watch mechanism.

To be blunt, players who seek out and love Paladin tanks seem to posses certain common traits; orderliness, stubbornness,a compulsion for carefully precise planning, and a control of potential variables.

Paladin tanks are the stamp collectors and bird watchers of WoW.

Bear tanks are about movement and flow, improvisation and adaptation, and getting stuck into the face of the mobs out on the deep end.

Bear tanks are, basically, the surfers and base jumpers of WoW.

Someone, somewhere, is going to take serious offense to that. My work here is done. :)

Wrap up

I am struck, in hindsight, by all the questions I’ve had over the years from Paladin tanks branching out into Druid tanking for the first time.

The most common question from these people has tended to be, “Is this really all there is? I feel like there should be more. That I’m missing something. It feels… boring. Static. Easy. Oh, and by the way, how come I can’t seem to hold aggro while I stand there waiting for all the mobs to come to me?”

This is where I bring it all back to how I kicked things off in Part 1.

I find it wonderful that the programmers of Blizzard have developed two tanking classes that are each, in their own way, equally effective in the game, right up to the top… but in the way they are played, how they handle on the racecourse of WoW, they appeal to drastically different attitudes and temperaments.

Whether by careful planning or fortuitous luck, the end result is nothing short of amazing.

Comments 46 Comments »

Introduction

Over the last few weeks I have had a simple premise. Tank as a Druid, tank as a Paladin, and see how the face to face differences stand now that I’ve had lots of experience and are comparably geared with both.

The test. Run a bunch of random heroics as a Druid tank, and then do the same as a Paladin tank, and be honest with myself about the playstyle differences between them.

The goal I started with was to try and pick out differences in feel. Make some oranges to oranges comparisons.  Dig into the playstyles, see how well each performed when challenged by the realities of modern PUG groups. 

My test conditions for each class was to perform the initial pull, build group threat, control aggro caused by DPS playing without marks or direction, judge single target threat compared to DPS capabilities, and to hustle as fast as possible chain pulling. Crowd Control, which I normally welcome and adjust small unit tactics for, was not requested, although player initiative is always welcome. :)

I say that’s how this started.

Along the way, my thoughts turned to a more deeper consideration of the personalities and traits of those that may feel attracted to each different playstyle, and how wonderful it is just to HAVE these diverse choices of character types in the same video game.

Part 1: The Druid

While playing the Druid, with all these conditions firmly in mind, a few things became apparent to me.

The tools available as a Bear seemed clear in their function, and simple in their execution. They also had very little overlap in function.

  • A single target taunt with a fast cooldown.
  • A group taunt with a long cooldown.
  • A single target attack with a short cooldown, with a long cooldown kitchen sink ability available (3 target conditional modifier with immunity to fear, removes cooldown allowing it to be chain cast on the GCD).
  • A single target instant cast DoT with a slow component.
  • A dual target big whammy.
  • An instant cast AoE.
  • A ranged pull that applies an armor debuff and prevents stealth.
  • A group debuff that reduces enemy attack power.
  • A single target stun/interrupt.
  • An interrupting charge.

It sounds like a lot, but they each have a clear purpose for specific applications. 

Interestingly to me, each Bear ability also has a name that feels intuitively linked to what it does. Growl. Swipe. Mangle. Bash. Lacerate. Frenzied Regeneration. Berserk. Each ability seems pretty easy to describe when you recall the name. 

Swiping the enemy? Why, of course, that’s hitting a bunch of bad guys with one wild swinging blow.

Growling? Sure, letting loose a blood-curdling roar, striking fear into the heart of my foe, driving him to face me in a life or death panic for survival.

With so few abilities and a clear idea of when to use them, and most of them instant cast restricted by the GCD, actual implementation was very simple, and left a lot of room for looking around, ready to improvise, adapt and overcome if things went wahoonie shaped.

As long as I kept my Growl on cooldown, if someone ran around free for a moment I could Growl them back into line. If someone in the group was hitting a mob outside my AoE range, I could either Feral Charge them and whack them on the snout (the mob, not the player, sadly), or use the ranged aggro (Feral Faerie Fire) to remind them who’s the boss.

Plenty of tools in the toolbox for what needed to be done, but lots of… in-between time. Idle time. If things DIDN’T go crazy, then it left me with lots of time to jump around. And jump, and jump, and jump around. Jump, jump, jump, jump… 

When playing with a very good group, not highly geared but highly skilled, there was a clear feeling that everything was smooth as glass, and there was a lot of free time for chatting, looking around, and bouncing for the fun of it.  Tanking as a Bear with such a group was relaxing. It was light hearted tanking.

Aggro control was very solid. The times when aggro WAS uncontrolled were when mobs got targeted by DPS outside my range of AoE/Maul, and so long as my attention was on the area around me and I wasn’t just on cruise control, I could pick them back up even at range. If soeone jumped the gun on area AoE before I’d locked things up with Swipe, then Challenging Roar gathered them back up. Single target threat generation was out of sight. No problems.

All in all, results on my Druid initially left me with the feeling that playing as a Bear tank, with so many instant casts at my beck and call, left the playstyle more about art and feel and improvisation than an ordered, regimented process using a specific pre-determined plan.

There are specific areas of challenge for a Druid.

On ranged pulls, there are a few options; Growl or Feral Faerie Fire.

Feral Faerie Fire applies a 5% armor debuff at the same time as it pulls, and also applies threat. Growl acts as a taunt, but doesn’t actually apply any active threat. Neither option has a Silence component such as Avenger’s Shield, or a method to yank them in range such as Death Grip.

This means that the Bear tank has to adapt, and find other means to handle those situations. The solution can involve a slower method, such as line of sight pulls using instance architecture to force mobs to come to you… but about half the time hasty DPS run forward and start damage before the mobs reach the tank, stopping them where they happen to be, or healers begin healing before it’s necessary, and healing aggro overcomes tank aggro as well.

More often than not, the solution I used was to use Feral Charge even more aggressively to come to grips with the casters first, dragging melee mobs in behind me, or in the case of multiple casters, use a kill mark (Skull) on the most distant caster, and run in, swiping as I went, to inflict damage/develop aggro on closer caster targets and then Feral Charge to the most distant target to pin him down until dead, then charge back to the other caster to get him dead, bouncing back and forth in a state of constant movement.

In these situations, Bear tanking becomes dance and movement, and an awareness that the purpose of a Tank is to hold aggro on all mobs, and to keep them steady for melee DPS to kill without chasing them. You do not have to stay on one mob until he’s dead before changing… all you have to do is develop enough aggro that no one will be able to overtake you, and then you can safely change attention to someone else.

Since caster’s don’t move, you can charge one, build massive threat on him, then move on, and melee DPS can continue to stay in place and finish him off. By the time they run to catch up with you on your new target, you’ve built up more threat again, and can pick someone else for your attention.

Using this, plus Swipe, really keeps things under control.

I’ll detail one example most people are familiar with.

For the Forge of Souls groups, I would typically target the furthest spellcaster as Skull, the nearest spellcaster as X.

To start the run I would FFF the distant Skull as I ran in towards the nearby X.

I’d keep Skull as my target, and observe target in case of healer or DPS aggro while I ran in towards the X.

Once on top of the X, I’d Swipe a few times, coincidentally gathering in the melee opponents and developing threat with them as well.

Once I felt my threat on X was enough to stay above healer aggro or DPS AoE, I would Feral Charge into the distant Skull to lock him down.

I would physically turn around to watch the X while staying on top of the Skull and getting the melee mobs in front of me, back to the player group. 

As soon as I saw I had an unbreakable threat lead on Skull for the health he had remaining, I would Feral Charge straight into X and start building threat on him, still trailing my little group of melee mobs.

The melee DPS would stay on Skull and finish him off while I began building serious threat on X and the rest of the melee mobs, and kept an eye on things in general.

At all times, Growl would be poised to grab Skull or X (whichever was most distant) if I saw I was losing threat on that mob, and I kept FFF ready as well to add threat.

If I was losing threat on a distant mob using this technique, generally it was to solid AoE DPS landing where it shouldn’t, and not healing aggro. I never, ever had a problem staying on top of healer aggro using this method.

That about wraps up the breakdown for the Druid, so I hope to see you soon for the next part of the series, as I delve into my impressions of the Paladin!

Comments 18 Comments »

So, Love is in the Air, I hear…

But best hold your noses, because it’s more Pepe LePeau action

First, the good news.

If you’re trying to farm up enough Lovely Charms to make your 4 Lovely Charm Bracelets for the daily quests, it’s not hard at all.

The best, quickest way I’ve found is to get one of the “Battle before the Citadel” style quests from Argent Tournament that send you to joust and kill Lieutenants or Commanders. 

Why?

If you’ve got one of those quests, then the area has the right critters spawned for you… and the Skeletons that you run down on your mount, the ones that veritably explode underfoot, and respawn faster than a sheep running at the sound of a zipper, drop the Lovely Charms… a LOT.

I was able to get about 20 Lovely Charm Bracelets after 15 minutes. That’s 200 Lovely Charms. Your mileage may vary.

Oh, and my technique? As a Night Elf Druid, I have the racial Shadowmeld… so I run around, grinding the Skeletons up and spamming my Shield… as soon as they finally dismount me, I instantly pop Shadowmeld, drop out of combat, and then pop Flight Form and go straight up. A quick trip to wait out the 2 minute cooldown and a new mount, and I’m back in the saddle again.

So, now the bad…

Once again, one of the achievements is to get a drop off a boss kill, which CAN be done on normal mode.

There are three bosses currently that can drop Red or Ebon Roses, and only one player in a group can loot them each time.

The three bosses are Maiden of Grief in Halls of Stone, Prince Keleseth in Utgardt Keep, and Prince Taldaram in Old Kingdoms.

I went into normal Halls of Stone with two guildies, we three manned the trash to Maiden, killed, ran out and reset three times, no sweat. All done, all got the Roses.

I then queued up for a random heroic, and got Utgardt Keep.

First warning sign, of course, is that myself and a Hunter are the only new players queueing in. A healer and another DPS clearly bailed on the group.

I catch up, they’re only at the dragons before the first boss. Whatever happened was so bad, two players bailed before they even reached the first boss. And one DPS is soothing the tanks’ ruffled feathers… “No, no, you’re not that bad, they he was just a bad healer, you were fine, he was to blame.”

We clear to the first boss, and yes, he is that bad a tank. He sucks. A Paladin that just cannot hold aggro to save his ass, even WITH Righteous Fury.

That’s okay, everyone has to learn somehow, right?

We get to the first boss, good old Prince, and of course, the Roses drop. Everyone Greeds (I pass, got my Ebon ones), and then… after everyone else has chosen, the tank, good old cocksucker Mindaltering – Alexstrasza (US) hits Need and immediately drops group.

Thanks, asshole!

BTW… please don’t defend the prick to me. I don’t want to hear it. Need the Roses, Greed the Roses, I could care less. If someone really wants them, they can do it on Normal a few times for a guaranteed drop. But you drop group without a word immediately after taking them (or losing on the roll) when you never warned anyone that’s the only reason you came?

Then you are in my opinion a complete prick.

Mindaltering – Alexstrasza (US) you are not only a prick, but I want to make this clear… I saw your tanking, and you SUCK.

Let this be a reminder… the Roses aren’t the only drops people will want, what with new pets and rare mounts coming from the Holiday boss event in Shadowfang Keep. So be careful, don’t be rude but watch how it goes, and don’t be a victim of a prick like him.  

Hey Mindaltering, grats on your Roses. Maybe if you were competent, someone would give you Roses, and your hand wouldn’t have to buy them for you again this year.

What a tool.

Comments 41 Comments »

World of Warcraft™ and Blizzard Entertainment® are all trademarks or registered trademarks of Blizzard Entertainment in the United States and/or other countries. These terms and all related materials, logos, and images are copyright © Blizzard Entertainment. This site is in no way associated with Blizzard Entertainment®