Archive for the “Strategy” Category

If you’re thinking of being the tank for a group, either for a team of your friends, a raid, or in a pug, I’ve got a few small suggestions that may help you out.

1) Be consistent.

When you get together with any group of people, you have to keep in mind that even if someone else is directing the overall strategy for the run, everyone else takes their cue from the tank. Everyone will be watching how you do things, NOT to judge whether you know what you’re doing, but to see HOW you will be doing things, so they can adapt themselves to your style.

There are so many ways, so many styles you can have as a tank. Each has it’s good points. But whatever you do, be consistent in how you perform each type of pull, so that your DPS and heals can adjust themselves to your flow.

I do not mean always pull every group the same way… but you should have one common way you do things, and then some variations depending on the opposing group’s makeup.

An example. If you prefer to charge into a group of mobs, and then drag them around so you are facing the rest of the party, providing melee DPS with a straight up-the-kilt shot as they run up… do that every time, not just some of the time. If the melee get used to running in after you and NOT having to maneuver around behind the mobs… if you suddenly change styles in mid stream, and stop dragging them around to put their back’s to the party, it will throw the flow off. And if you swap your style every other pull, it’s gonna annoy the shit out of them.

Being consistent in how you pull and how you position yourself allows the rest of the group to get an intuitive feel for how you do things, and they will respond by moving confidently to the attack without wasted motion, and your healers will be better tuned in to what your final range from them will end up being so they can position themselves well.

2) Encourage focus fire on targets with Raid Icons.

Most of the time, whether in Heroics or on raid trash, nobody uses CC anymore. Ulduar, of course, is a different story, but for the most part the normal sequence is pull, generate aggro, kill ‘em all, next pull.

Marking targets for Crowd Control or a detailed kill order really isn’t necessary, but there are advantages to marking a primary kill target to encourage everyone else to focus their attacks on that one target.

If you have a good group who know how to play they’re classes, then those with fast cast time attacks or insane burst damage will target your primary kill target while those with slow cast time attacks or powerful DoTs will know to take the initiative and work on some of the other unmarked mobs.

The fast cast burst damage will blow away the focus fire mob so quickly that the slow cast or DoT player wouldn’t have contributed much to that kill… but he will have done great damage against one of the other targets during that time. Everyone wins.

To encourage this, rather than stopping and marking everything up prior to engaging normal trash, instead use either an Addon such as Quickmark that lets you fast click a mark on your current target, or create a macro to let you mark a target with one keypress.

I don’t have a preference. If you like keybindings for macros and are comfortable with them, it can be a nice time savings in the middle of a pull to mark with one key press. If you are used to clicking the screen, then Quickmark is a great addon.

For a macro to mark a Skull over your currently selected target, I recommend the following line of code;

/script SetRaidTarget (“target”, 8)

Make the macro and then move it to your bottom left  button or whatever your “1” is, and as long as you are the party leader or raid leader or assistant, then by tapping the “1” once you’ll put a Skull up on your current target automatically.

Alternatively, you can make a mouseover macro that will let you put a Skull over any mob, just mouseover it and tap your “1”. I don’t use it myself, simply because I want the majority of damage to be hitting my current main threat target, but your mileage may vary.

The code for a mouseover version is as follows;

/script SetRaidTarget (“mouseover”, 8)

As with any text you copy/paste from the internet into the game, copy it into Notepad or some other text editor that strips the hidden HTML code out, and then copy THAT and paste it into WoW.

And yes, of course you can keybind that to other things, I’m just using the “1” as an example.

Quickmarks gives you greater flexibility with what marks to use and when, but it takes some screen clicking distracting time to get ‘em up. Still a lot better than right-clicking an enemy portrait and using the drop down menu to assign marks.

Whatever way you choose, marking a kill target on the fly, and selecting another as soon as the first one is dead leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind WHO exactly you intend to focus your main attention on.

Many players will, without a kill target, assume that your current target is your main threat target.

The problem with that is, you might not stay on one target all the time. Most tanks will, at least occasionally, tab-target off the main threat mob to apply some good housekeeping Mauls of approval on some of the others, just for that extra wiggle room, and then go back to the main target.

Maybe on your initial pull, you decide to use a ranged DoT like Moonfire to start some threat on a target that you intend to take second. You Moonfire, the group comes, and then you switch to another target to be the one you blow the shit out of.

If the DPS is going off of your current target, they might not have noticed you moved off your initial target… and will be going all out on the wrong target and pull threat away.

No big worries, just a helpful tip that using a Raid Icon to mark your primary threat target on the fly, every time your main target changes, helps keep everyone on track.

3)  Be mindful of lines of sight.

Some instances have terrain that rises or lowers, such as hills or stairs, and there are the ever-present doorways.

Keep in mind that, when fighting, if you are positioned at the peak of such a terrain feature, the healer and ranged DPS  are likely below and behind you… and the melee DPS and pets are in front of you, over the rise, getting behind your opponent.

This can leave your melee DPS and the pet out of line of sight of the healer. Violet Hold is infamous for these types of fights, with portal spawn points being at the top of rubble piles or being at a platform above a long flight of stairs.

Be mindful at all times of your position relative to the party, and ensure that you are not only keeping yourself within healing line of sight, but also the ones doing the fighting at the mob’s rear.

Never be afraid to grab your mob at the top of the terrain feature, and then drag him/them back far enough so the pet is within line of sight, too.

4) Knowledge is power.

One of the simplest things that will make any tank’s life easier is knowing what to expect.

For boss fights, this is obvious. Knowing what the boss does helps you devise your tactics against him.

When trying to tank a run as smoothly as possible, it’s just as important to know the characteristics of the trash you will face.

At the most basic level, is knowing who is a caster, and who is melee. Knowing who will heal, and who will net you in place and then run away to shoot at range.

If you know a group is melee, then you can just do a standard pull and everybody comes running. If one of them is a caster, however, knowing it in advance can let you target him for a sheep to get him out of the way, or inspire you to do a line of sight pull around a corner to make him run to you and get clumped in with the melee.

It should be your goal, when dealing with trash, to find a way to either clump them all up so your threat generating abilities will easily tag them all, or to get those that won’t come into your range out of the fight temporarily.

Sometimes you don’t want to run up to the group to make sure you engage the ranged attackers in melee range. The group might be close to a boss, or another pack of elites, or some other issue may come up.

So keep in mind that if you run out of line of sight of a group after you aggro them, even the ranged will come running after. Also keep in mind that your taunt abilities can be used at range, and so long as nobody is dealing damage to the ranged attacker, your taunt will keep them from attacking anyone except the healer’s global aggro.

A tip? If you have a GOOD working relationship with some ranged DPS, you can have your DPS friend damage the ranged mob a bit while you build initial aggro on the melee group… and then when he gets aggro and takes a few shots, he can switch over to your normal target… and you can Taunt the ranged mob, bumping your threat on that target up to match your DPS friend… WAY over the healer’s global threat. You won’t have to worry so much about reapplying Taunt after that.

The point is, knowing what to expect from the mobs you encounter will help you pull in such a way as to get them all clumped up in your threat range without pulling additional mobs, and without letting any run free to harm the rest of your group.

5) The first rule of martial arts; The board does not hit back.

When you are preparing to be a tank, what you should focus on, first and foremost, is being able to take being hit, not your DPS output.

Everyone tries to stack their armor, avoidance and health that is always active.

But you’ve got a host of other abilities to help keep you alive, and knowing when to use them is key to going from an okay tank to a good tank.

Tip? PvP duels can be great ways to practise your ‘oh shit’ techniques.

Are you a Druid Bear Tank? Then arranging your sequences so it’s easy to trigger Survival Instincts/Frenzied Regeneration (and an optional Lifeblood) when necesary is great, but being practised in USING them when the shit hits the fan, at exactly the right moment, is much better. Especially when you can tell your healer that you’re good at the moment; go heal someone else for 10 seconds.

Knowing how much you can expect to recover from this manuever, by actually having a friend beat the heck out of you in PvP down to bare bones, and then triggering your ‘oh shit’ technique and getting a feel for how much Health you will recover, how much damage you will avoid using Barkskin or Evasion, how much of a hit your bear bubble will eat on a Crit, all these things help you better prepare for when you’re in deep trouble..and will help prevent you from looking at your ghost form, and think “Oh yeah, I should have used my Healthstone/Healing Pot/Lifeblood/Shield Wall/Survival Instincts/Evasion/Bubble.”

Come on. How many of you, with a straight face, can tell me you never died with a Healthstone still active in your inventory.

It won’t be second nature to use your ‘oh shit’ buttons, if you normally aren’t in ‘oh shit’ situations.

So practise it!

And what the hey, while you’re at it, practise your bubble/self heal, or your quick-shift/self heals, and get a feel for how long your cast time leaves you vulnerable, versus how much health you get back.

Practising as a Bear Tank to see how fast you can pop out of Bear, throw down two insta-cast HoTs and pop back into Bear can give you some good skills.

I know that when fighting Moroes in less than full groups, being able to self-heal during a Vanish is a wonderful thing… but leaving yourself in caster too long while trying to get greedy with the heals on long casts is embarrasing.

Your goal is to absorb damage and stay alive first, aggro everything second. If one mob gets loose, you might only lose one person. If you die, you will probably wipe the run.

Priorities, cheena. Priorities. You first, healer second, the DPS gets a rock.

6) Never assume.

For better or worse, the main tank is often looked to as the raid or party leader for group events.

If you have run something a thousand times, that’s great. When you are tanking a run though, you have to remember, just because YOU know what to do, doesn’t mean everyone else does. Remember that knowledge thing up above? Yeah, if you know what to expect, and there is a trick to keep things going smoothly… share the trick with your group.

Communicate clearly to the group your expectations for a fight… and be open to suggestions on different things to try. Please, for all that is holy, don’t tell other people how to play their class or character. But DO suggest a tactic that has worked in the past, things you’ve seen or asked other classes to do before, and ask if the other players can try the same thing.

Again, don’t tell other players how to play, and do be open to constructive suggestions after you’ve said your piece.

You know the portal to the upper left in Violet Hold that is going to spawn a group that splits up in two? Well, when it spawns, don’t just run around in silence, tell the Hunter that you’d like a Misdirect if possible onto you for the left pair, or that you want everyone to move back to the stairs to give yuo more time to round ‘em all up, or explain that you feel suicidal and you’re gonna bear dance and let the team wipe.

Don’t act in silence.

Likewise, don’t assume that the current boss is ‘ezmode’, so you don’t need to explain your intentions on a boss fight or your expectations of the team.

I get a LOT of crap in my guild, because every time we do a raid, I ask if there is anyone on a boss fight that doesn’t know what to do… and if I get an affirmative, then I take the time to explain what is going to happen, and make sure that person and anyone else is clear on what we will do.

I get a load of crap… but our runs are always pretty smooth, even when we are learning a fight for the first time.

I’ve been on raids before where the raid leader apparently thought that being master looter meant he was a leader. That’s great, but when you have folks just blindly shooting at whatever comes along, and hoping they don’t screw up, afraid to speak up and ask questions because they’ll ‘slow down the run’, then I call that a massive failure on the raid leader’s part.

If you invited them on the run, then you are responsible for making sure they know what to do, and aren’t treated with derision for having the temerity to ask questions.

If you want everyone to have studied their role in an upcoming raid in detail before you ever set foot inside… make sure that expectation is communicated ahead of time. And then feel free to rearrange your raid if that was your rule, and someone showed up unprepared.

You can have a speed run where no words are exchanged the whole fight and everything died anyway, awesome loot, kick ass, no deaths… and if one person on that run felt that if they spoke up, they’d be mocked for not knowing what is going on, and spent the whole run tense and confused and unhappy and fearful of screwing up, I consider that a crappy fail of a run.

But then, that’s just me.

The fish wrap-up.

I hope some of this can prove helpful if you’re just starting out as a tank, and wondering what kind of things to think about to help make your runs go smoothly.

Until next time, have fun!

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I had an email come in from Sean, who has been trying to take down Azjol-Nerub to get the Essence of Gossamer off the second boss.

He had a question for me on any tips on getting past the first boss on Heroic mode, since so far his team hasn’t had a lot of consistent success.

I felt that was an excellent question, because we didn’t have consistent success either, until we figured out a few things, and before that it had been wipe city.

Very, very frustrating. Like, “AN? No, I ain’t up for that crap tonight” kind of frustrating.

So, this isn’t a guide, but it is absolutely a few observations I’ve made on the first boss encounter in Azjol-Nerub, and what we’ve done to put it on farm.

Krik’thir the Gatewatcher (hereafter referred to as AN’s first boss) is a pushover. The problem of course is with all the bloody mobs you have to deal with before he finally comes.

The layout.

When you enter the first chamber, the first boss is protected by three packs of mobs in front of him, each pack consisting of three mobs apiece.

These three packs are tied together. When you pull any one of them, it begins a single large encounter with timed waves. Each pack activates, one after another, followed ultimately by the boss.

If you get too close to another pack before it is set to pull, it will activate early and attack you. They are a little forgiving on the aggro range of face pulling them, but make no mistake; you get close enough, they’ll come.

If you carefully pull one pack, then after a measured interval a second pack will activate and attack your party… and then after another interval pack three comes. And then, finally, the boss comes along.

The packs and boss come based on timing, not on death. If you kill a pack very fast, you will have more time to prepare before the next pack comes.

After a pack is killed, you DO drop out of combat so long as the next pack has not activated, allowing everyone to drink and eat QUICKLY.

The packs do NOT come in any certain, predictable order.

The packs are formed of a few different units, a core unit of a Watcher that has a unique name but common abilities among all three Watchers, accompanied by either a squishy Shadowcaster ranged spellcaster, a tough Warrior melee fighter, or an insane piece of crap Skirmisher melee rogueish slaughterhouse.

  • The pack on the left has the Watcher Silthik, a Skirmisher and a Shadowcaster.
  • The middle pack has the Watcher Gashra, a Skirmisher and a Warrior.
  • The pack on the right has the Watcher Narjil, a Shadowcaster and a Warrior.

You can choose to pull whoever you want first. Which pack comes next of the other two is random. I generally always pull the left pack first.

Enemy abilities.

The first priority for a kill order in a pack is always the Skirmisher.

The Skirmisher is a melee rogue style opponent, it hits for a ton, it’s very brutal. He can EASILY two shot casters in cloth, or even in mail… and it can enter an Enrage state, where it picks the FURTHEST target from it at that time, charges them, and for the next ten seconds it is ON them, UNTAUNTABLE, and will destroy it’s target 9 times out of ten.

Amusingly enough, in our groups we almost always had the Healer hanging the farthest back from the melee scrum because we didn’t know the mechanic. So the Skirmisher, of course, would always seem to be prejudiced against our Healer. Go figure.

Now, I’m not kidding. The Skirmisher will Enrage, and go charging off behind you to pound on someone, and Growling or Taunting does nothing. The Skirmisher can be Stunned, but no other form of CC will work. Killing him is the only absolutely sure fire approach to removing him as a threat to your group.

The Skirmisher has one other special power other than Enrage. He can also Backstab any target that it is behind for about quadruple normal damage. It’s a one shot kill of a Rogue in melee range, so it can destroy your run if things get messy on positioning. On Cassieann wearing leather, it has done 17,500 damage in one blow. Yeah, no shit.

The Enrage affect can be removed by a Hunter’s Tranquilizing Shot, or by a Rogues using Anesthetic Poison II. As far as I know, those are the only two ways of removing it.

As Hunters rarely have an opportunity to use, or remember to use Tranq Shot, it may be a good time to mention that it only fires off if there is a Enrage or Magic effect on the target. If the target is NOT affected by an Enrage or Magic effect, it does not activate.

I have not personally depended on a Hunter removing Enrage so I have not tried this, but I would think that a Macro could be written attached to a frequently cast attack, such as Steady Shot or Arcane Shot, that would try and fire a Tranq Shot FIRST, and, if the target is not under the affect of Enrage, much like a trinket macro not doing anything if a trinket is still on cooldown, it would go on and fire the Arcane Shot instead.

A possible macro, totally not tested, that might work is something like this;

#showtooltip Arcane Shot
/script UIErrorsFrame:Hide()
/console Sound_EnableSFX 0
/cast Tranquilizing Shot
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear(); UIErrorsFrame:Show()
/console Sound_EnableSFX 1
/cast Arcane Shot

Oh, and those sound effects modifications? Those ain’t mine, those are courtesy of Jennifer, AKA Djyn. Thanks, Jennifer!

Anyway, the point is that while Hunters CAN remove it, they need to be fast on their toes to nail it after it Enrages, but BEFORE it reaches someone squishy.

What I personally do is count on having Cassieann or Melpo the Rogue with me, with Anesthetic Poison II on their weapons, and cleansing the Enrage that way. I also count on them using their Stun abilities as much as possible on the Skirmisher, especially if it starts running to lock it down and give the Anesthetic Poison a chance to take effect.

The other thing to watch for is the Watcher ability to Web Wrap. It’s a 3 second cast time spell that picks a target at random and wraps them in a web coccoon, taking them out of the fight. If it happens to a tank, the tank still has aggro. The coccoon itself must be targeted and destroyed to remove it. The casting of the Web Wrap CAN be interrupted with a Bash or other stun.

And of course, there are the poisons someone should be ready to remove. Yay.

Preparation for the fight itself.

First, the goal is going to be to pull and kill one entire pack as fast as possible, leaving enough time to recover and eat/drink before the next pack comes. If you do not have enough DPS, it is not going to happen.

Don’t let pride get in the way. If you do not have enough DPS for the fight, it will just not happen as the packs start to overlap each other.

The mobs are considered Undead, so a Priest could Shackle one of the Shadowcasters or Warriors in a pack for each pull… but that is stretching the fight out, which is NOT what you want to be doing. You can also have a Hunter use a Freezing Arrow for a ranged trap, I’ve had it done before, and I understand thanks to Graimerin that Paladins have this Repentance CC thingie that they can use on Undead… but again, you don’t WANT to drag the fight out longer. You want FAST.

So you need to be bringing the DPS.

The second thing is, you want to fight towards the start of the chamber where you come in. Kind of close to where the last group of mobs were standing before you faced these three packs and the boss.

You want a few seconds warning as a pack runs at you so everyone can target the Skirmisher, but if you start TOO far back, the Skirmisher can Enrage right away, not giving you enough time to burn it down. It takes about 10 seconds from the activation of a pack for the Skirmisher to trigger Enrage.

So you don’t want to wait way back around the corner to try and line of sight the Shadowcasters, because by the time the Skirmisher finally reaches you, he’s already Enraged or damn close to it. 

And you don’t want to go to melee range if you can avoid it, because you can either body pull a nearby pack, or you will have SHORT time to react when one of those packs activates.

You COULD try and run in on a pack, kill it, and run back out to the starting point to prepare for the next pack to start. I think that’s what most folks do. We tried it for a while ourselves with mixed results.

What we do is, we try to have at least one ranged DPS at the extreme max range, normally either Sinnas the Hunter or Elystia the Mage. Then, a  little closer, is our Healer, usually Nighthawque the Druid or Paracelsis the Paladin. That way if the Skirmisher Enrages, it’s not the Healer that buys the farm.

Next, you have melee DPS and me. We assume the position, with me ready to pull with Feral Faerie Fire on the Skirmisher in the left most pack, the pack I always pull first. I’ll have the Skirmisher of the middle pack marked as well, so when that pack comes he stands out easy.

And now our secret cheating strategy.

We try to have, if at all possible, a Death Knight as one of the melee. Usually Razedbarre. He’s our secret weapon.

I get full of Rage, I’m ready to pull the Skirmisher, I have the targets marked for a kill order of Skirmisher, Shadowcaster, Watcher… and I let Razedbarre inch close enough to be able to get range on the Shadowcaster, with me standing beside him.

I pull the Skirmisher, the Skirmisher and the Watcher run towards me….

…and the Shadowcaster stays put way back there to try and throw down that spellcasting shit, and Razedbarre Death Grips his ass RIGHT into my face.

Where I happily Swipe and Mangle and Lacerate and Maul all over the Skirmisher, all DPS is burning down the Skirmisher, but I am getting aggro and holding the Watcher and Shadowcaster right on top of me.

Usually, the Skirmisher dies fast, without getting Enraged, or if he does Enrage he gets Stunned and then has it cleansed off fast by Anesthetic Poison II. Then we burn down the squishy Shadowcaster who is sitting right there, and finish up the Watcher.

In these pulls, the only random factor becomes dealing with Web Wrap… it can be interrupted, it has a long cast time, but for the most part the Watcher is not getting the focused attention to interrupt them while we deal with the Skirmisher and Shadowcaster, so it goes off. But someone is always near someone else, and so it gets cut off the target off pretty fast.

Keeping the Shadowcaster in melee range really lets us focus ALL our attention on killing, and not waste time running around.

We can rest for a few seconds and get back mana or even do a battle rez, and be prepared when the next pack comes.

Again, it is the Death Knights’ job to pull the Shadowcaster into my Swipe range, while it is my job to pick up the Watchers, Skirmishers and Warriors.

By the time all three packs are down, we generally have plenty of time to swagger on up to the boss and prepare for his tank and spank, with an awareness that he summons swarms of adds that we can apply AoE to. They are pretty weak adds, it’s an easy beatdown as long as you are preaapred to Swipe, and have some AoE in the group.

For myself, the first pull on the left pack is a coordinated pull at our pace, so we control it’s outcome. It always goes easy.

The second pull may either have the middle pack with a Skirmisher and a Warrior, or the right pack with a Warrior and a Shadowcaster.

I save my Challenging Roar taunt for the all-melee pack, the Skirmisher and Warrior, to make damn sure none of them run by.

With the Warrior and Shadowcaster pack, I know the caster will be pulled by the Death Knight, so I only have to grab two melee targets inbound… and I will have a Feral Faerie Fire AND a Growl to use at range as they come in to make sure none of them run by. I’ll FFF the Watcher first, and then Growl the Warrior and stay on the Warrior as they come in to get a Mangle on him.

By that time, Razedbarre has the Shadowcaster in my face, so I can Swipe the whole posse once for general principles, and then switch targets to the Shadowcaster as we burn him down fast. 

When no Skirmisher is in the group, squishy dies first, of course. :)

The only worry during the time the pack is incoming is Healer aggro if the healer tops people off before I apply threat, and grabs the attention of one off me. That can hurt, it can cause mobs to run by that Ii wasn’t expecting to ignore me, and has in the past caused chaos and confusion.

But communication, preparation, and everyone knowing their part and doing it is what makes the fight a very, very satisying kill. You know you did more than just stand there looking cute when the boss goes down.

If you don’t have a Death Knight, it is still doable, of course… we’ve done it before.

But in those cases, you either need to use CC to keep the Shadowcaster out of your hair, or you’ll have to preiodically taunt him with Growl at range to keep his attention on YOU while the melee range stuff is handled. And someone is going to have to go chase him to kill him at some point, bringing everyone in range of the other packs, and risk a face pull.

And even if you don’t aggro one of the other packs, chasing the Shadowcaster will slow you down, leaving you less time to prepare for the next pack pull.

So yes, this is one of those situations where I recommend ignoring the ‘bring the player, not the class’ BS that we all bought into for a little while, and see if a Death Knight can come along.

If you have a DK tank, what the hell… go Kitty and DPS and let him tank and do his own Death Grip to bring his mob into range. Whatever works for you.


I hope that this breakdown helps someone even a little when planning on how to get their own Essence of Gossamer.

And remember, this little collection of tips is aimed at the folks, very much like myself, that are still at the pre-Naxx, ‘gearing up for Naxx’ level.

If your group has been running Naxx already and getting plenty of drops there, then you should have plenty of DPS to take care of things quickly.

So please, for your own sake, let’s not have any morons chiming in saying e-peen things like “I don’t understand why anyone would have any trouble with this boss, it’s easy mode if you are a REAL player. In fact, I soloed it on my xx. You must just suck.”

Because my first reply is, “If you’re just that skilled, and it’s not your gear at all that is helping you get through it, or that of your friends that carried you, then have your team run it naked and FRAPS it. I’d love to see it. Otherwise, shut the fu([ up.”

Hmm, did I say that out loud? Oops, my bad. Must’ve been reading WoW Forum replies to people asking reasonable questions, and getting tired of the same tired old bullshit e-peen responses. 

Anyway, have fun! And may the loot fu be with you!

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