Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sum Bare R 4 MOONFARE?!?!

For most tanking classes, pulling is a rather straightforward affair. Warriors can fire their sidearm of choice at a group to get their attention. Paladins can channel the essence of Captain America/Xena, Warrior Princess. Both also have the option to run up to the mobs to initiate combat (albeit warriors get to do so a little bit faster). Druids, on the other hand, have options. Lots, and lots, and lots of options. Starfire, moonfire, wrath, hurricaine, faerie fire, feral charge, body pulling, tossing a sacrificial gnome, all are options in our arsenal (well, except for the gnome).

All of our options have distinct advantages and disadvantages, but alas, spellcasting is not the strong suit of most of our feral brethren. And while, generally speaking, pulling is only a small part of our job, its still part of what we do, so those of us obsessed enough with our class to, say, read blogs on a daily basis (let alone write them *cough*) should really know what we're doing when we decide to call down orbital lazer fire from space.

First of all, lets meet our arsenal. Lets just go ahead and assume we have 0 bonus damage and 0% chance to crit, because thats basically what we should have in tanking gear:

Starfire: That would be the big laser with the long cast. Averages 588 damage for 370 mana. 3.5 second cast. 168 DPS, 1.59 DPM

Wrath: The big ball of nature's . . . well, wrath. Averages 405 damage for 255 mana. 2 second cast. 202.5 DPS, 1.59 DPM

Moonfire: The little lazer that burns for hours. . . or at least 12 seconds. With DoT, averages 931 damage for 495 mana. 1.5 second global cooldown, instant cast. 620.7 Damage Per Second of effective cast time, 1.88 DPM.

Hurricane: Why hit one when you can hit 'em all? 206 DPS for 10 seconds on all mobs under it. 1905 mana.

Faerie Fire (Feral): Proof that druids now how to cast fire spells. Or not. Free cast in forms, generates just enough threat to get the attention of your enemies.

One of the first things you might notice is that, without any spelldamage gear, Wrath is just as efficient as, and has higher DPS than, Starfire. Starfire has the advantage of being a bigger single hit, though, something that will come into play later, and make Starfire a favorite choice of this bear.

Second, Moonfire is actually more efficient, and has much higher DPS, than either of our straight nukes. Note, however, that this is only true if you use moonfire only once per target. Multiple casts on the same target wont stack the DoT portion, which is 2/3 of the actual damage.

Third, hurricane kicks the crap out of everything else on pulls of 3 or more, though its damage is more spread out. It does, however, eat a signifigant chunk of your mana, especially if coupled with barkskin.

Now that we've met the players, lets look at one of the game rules that you may know about, but might not have considered when it comes to pulling groups to your furry behind: The Global Cooldown *cue ominous sound effects*. For those who don't know, the GCD is a game mechanic which makes it impossible to start casting a spell if you have started another spell within the last 1.5 seconds (or 1 second for energy users). This is why spamming your moonfire key wont bring down an endless rain of lasers, and why resto druids don't maintain triple-stack lifeblooms on 25 people at a time.

Now, you may have noticed one tricky fact about the GCD. Unlike the five-second rule for mana regeneration (whose namesake 5 second timer starts counting whenever a spellcast is completed), the global cooldown timer starts ticking the moment you START casting. Thats why it tends to really only be noticable when casting instant spells, such as moonfire or lifebloom, and not on casted spells like Starfire or Wrath (save for balance-specced druids and their occasional 1-second Wrath cast).

Why is the GCD stuff important? Well, at first glance, it may look like Starfire and Wrath are pretty pointless to use if you only want to get a little threat on as many mobs as possible. Starfire looks especially worthless here, until you consider the cooldown. Lets say we open our pull sequence with a moonfire, since its the highest DPS/DPM spell in our arsenal. Great, you've effectively applied about 931 damage/threat to a target with your pull. However, you have also just engaged the global cooldown, and must wait 1.5 seconds before performing another action, such as firing another moonfire or shifting to bear form. If you instead open with a Starfire, the global cooldown expires 2 seconds BEFORE that initial burst of aggro, meaning the moment Starfire's 588 damage/threat goes off, alerting the mobs to your presence, you're able to follow it up with another spell immediately (possibly even that same moonfire you would have pulled with before this paragraph). This is, as far as I'm concerned, the best (and only) way to use Starfire as a bear tank, the initial, free (since really, mana doesn't matter as long as we have enough to shift) shot.

Small Group Pulls:

So, lets say you come to the pull just after the first boss in Sethekk Halls: 2 melee mobs. Not really worth busting out hurricane here, best to stick with the single-target damage. How do we want to pull them? Well, lets assume that once our mobs are pulled, we have 3.5 seconds before they're in our face smacking us on the head. Lets also assume we want the bulk of the threat on our primary kill target, because our DPSers have a tendency to jump the gun a bit, especially after seeing a bunch of lasers rain down on the mobs' heads. Standing at max range, we target the primary mob and begin to cast Starfire. Then, with starfire still casting, we switch targets to the secondary mob, and hover our mouse over the primary mob. The moment starfire casts (0 seconds after the pull starts), we fire off a moonfire (which immediately fires, since the GCD expired two seconds ago) on our secondary target, as that was the mob we had targeted, and then immediately click on the primary target again to regain focus. As soon as the global cooldown from that cast expires (1.5 seconds after the pull starts), we moonfire again, this time hitting our primary target. And when THAT cooldown expires (3.0 seconds after the pull starts), we shift to bear form to prepare for taking our first hit 0.5 seconds later. By pulling in this way, we have built up over 1500 initial threat on our primary target (though it will be another 10 seconds before the full effect of the moonfire has been felt) and nearly 1000 threat on our secondary target (again, once moonfire takes full effect).

Two things to note here: While waiting for global cooldowns, you can extend the time it takes for your foes to reach you by either backing up, or turning and strafing/running away from them. I usually just back up to maintain visual on the mobs. Second, even though you're building up some nice initial threat, DPS can NOT immediately lay into the mobs. It would not be hard at all for someone to out-aggro you by the time the mobs got there, especially in your caster-stat-free gear. This is merely an extra buffer for your DPSers to make them safer to go all out once you get a mangle and some swipes into the mobs, and some leeway for the healer to keep you up should your initial attacks all miss.

Now, lets say you had a little more time than that to build threat. This is a rare occasion where wrath might be a good pulling option. Lets say you now have 4 seconds, and can extend that time to 5.5 by backing up during global cooldowns on 2 moonfires (obviously we're assuming a good bit of foreknowledge regarding the particular mobs here). If you're feeling daring, and really want to build some threat on your primary target (or just want to put up some better numbers on the damage meter), try this on for size: Starfire on the primary target to open. When the starfire goes off (0s), start casting a wrath on it, and switch to the secondary target. When the wrath goes off (2s), starfire, switch targets back to the primary target, and start backing away. When the global cooldown is up (3.5s), moonfire again, this time hitting the primary target with it, and keep backing up. Once you're out of that GCD (5s), its time to shift to bear and lay into them both when they reach you half a second later. Same amount of threat on your secondary target, but another 400 threat and damage on your primary.

Large Group Pulls:

Now that we've absolutely obliterated that pull, lets move a bit deeper into the instance. Eventually, you go upstairs, kill off a wind serpent and 2 guards, and are then faced with the biggest pull of the instance: 10 hawks. Now, I know as well as the next guy that these guys are a joke, but lets pretend this is serious business, and we absolutely need to maintain aggro on all ten while not getting hit by any of them outside of bear form. Now, your first reaction to this pull is probably to pull out hurricane, center it over the birds, and fire. However, we want to build maximum threat here, so we're going to do this a little differently. First of all, we're going to target the closest bird and get to maximum starfire range. Then, we're going to start casting starfire, since we already noted that starfire is essentially a freebie when looking at a max-threat pull. Then, while starfire is casting, we are going to click hurricane and get it targeted (yes, you can be targeting it while another spell is casting, aren't you glad starfire takes so long now?). But we're not going to try to center the hurricane over the mobs. Instead, we want to drop it closer to us, hitting the area in between ourself and our targets.

Why target hurricane like this? Well, the answer is simple. If you center it over your targets, those targets only have to pass through part of the hurricane to get to you. If you drop it in between you and them, however, they have to travel the full width of the spell to approach you, and thus spend much more time getting bolts dropped on their heads. More bolts = more threat. Just make sure there is a little distance between you and the near edge of the hurricane so you have a chance to switch to bear form before the mobs start hitting you.

Ok, now, lets get real here. Those birds are a joke, and as long as they get heals, a mage could "tank" them with little problem. So, instead of worrying about getting hit, lets just do as much damage as we can to them. This time, we'll still start with a starfire, but instead of targeting hurricane while its casting, we get ready to run toward them. Once starfire goes off, cast barkskin, and run toward the group. Then, once you reach the mobs, drop that hurricane right at your feet and enjoy the rain of numbers. Just be sure to watch your health, in case the healer cant keep up with the damage you're taking. Bear tank DPS at its finest, my friends.

At this point, I've shared with you what I consider the major tricks a druid can use to build maximum threat on a pull: Always start with a Starfire (unless you cant due to aggro range or arcane immunity). When building threat on multiple enemies, either hit as many of them as possible with moonfire, or drop a hurricane where they have to walk through the whole thing before getting to you. If you need to build as much threat as possible on a single mob before it gets to you, spam wrath, and use moonfire as your last spell before going to bear (takes less time than the wrath, and allows you to back away while waiting for GCD). Additionally, you can do things such as precasting HoTs on yourself, though this will really only give your healer a little more time before they have to start healing you, especially since HoTs cast outside of combat apparently generate no threat (at least thats what I hear, I have never actually tested this, maybe I'll do that tonight).

But, there's one more spell you can pull with. . . Faerie Fire. Specifically Feral Faerie Fire. Practically no threat, but it will bring the mobs to you. And frankly, its what I use for 90% or more of the pulls I make. While FFF isn't going to build you any sort of threat cushion, it has some great advantages. First of all, theres no risk of a sudden lagspike leaving you stuck in caster form with mobs beating on you. Second, once the mob you hit with it gets to you, you can open up with a slightly stronger Maul/Mangle combo because of the mob's reduced armor. Third, if you have a lot of rage built up from the previous pull, you dont have to lose it by shifting out of form. And fourth . . .

You really shouldn't need the extra threat from all those silly balance spells in the first place. Yes, thats right, while optimizing your pull sequence is a fun little exercize in theorycraft, it is also by and large unnecessary, despite what I said about knowing how to call down the lazers at the start of this post.

There are only two reasons to seriously use your non-FFF spells for pulling in general: Polymorph/Seduce, and huge pulls like those 10 birds, or the big pulls in Shattered Halls. The former case, the cast time on Starfire gives your mage/warlock the chance to coordinate with you on the pull. I shed a tear of joy when a mage polymorphs his target a split second after my starfire goes off, because I know I wont have to worry about that sheep straying anywhere near my swipe killzone. And my healers shed a tear of joy when I hit a 7-mob pull with 3 ticks of Hurricane, because they know that 600x7=4,200 damage I just did to the mobs means their first heal on me isn't going to send 4-6 mobs barreling down on them.

Oh, and there is one other reason to put effort into your pulls. If you're like me, and have run pretty much every heroic a dozen times, and at least that many karazhan clears, unloading a bunch of flashy spells into mobs on a pull can be a way to keep from getting bored. Heck, I once moonfired all 6 mobs of a pull while bringing them all back to the second boss' room in heroic Shattered halls for fun (and because I thought the hunter that was with me might be amused by the fact a druid tank was jump-shotting with moonfire in a heroic. Jumpshots: they're not just for hunters any more!)


Karellen said...

You forgot 2 important abilities: Cyclone and, if you're a Goblin Engineer, the Goblin Rocket Launcher. This magnificent trinket has a 45-yard range, a distance that Hunters have to spec to achieve on their shots. It deals more damage than any other tanking class can with a pull ability, and stuns your target for 3 seconds. Not only that, but it generates an assload of threat. The 1-second stun it causes is irrelevant when pulling from max range.

My typical pull sequence goes like this:
1) Goblin Rocket Launcher the first kill target from 45 yards
2) Cyclone the 2nd DPS target (if it's immune, Moonfire instead)
3) Moonfire the 3rd DPS target if there is one

Combining these abilities offers not only excellent threat generation, but substantial damage mitigation due to the damage removal- that mob that you've got stunned for 3 sec is going to take that much longer to get to you, and it won't be doing any damage for that 3 sec + travel time- same with the Cyclone target, it's in the air for 6 seconds and thus isn't generating any need for heals. I've found that Cyclone generates enough threat that when the Cyclone breaks, it won't go straight for the healer, but will run right up to your bear ass (you can FF it from a distance for insurance).

My guild hasn't done Kara in a while (we're working on ZA), but when we were in there and cleaning up Attumen, I could very easily prevent one of the horses from doing a single point of damage to me before the DPS was ready to get to it: Hit it with the rocket launcher for 3-sec stun, Cyclone it for 6 seconds, then Feral Charge it and hit Bash for another 4 seconds (I'm spec'd for the extra stun time). That's 13 seconds of complete mob interruption, during which time that horsey isn't doing a single point of damage to me or anybody. Talk about damage mitigation.

Karthis said...

I'm an impatient puller.... I simply cannot be bothered to wait out the starfire cast timer, so I almost always use either Moonfire or Hurricane. :P

SuraBear said...

Bah, Feral Faerie Fire is even quicker, dont have to waste time shifting out of bear :-)

And while the Rocket Launcher is outside of the scope of this (Being an engineering trinket, not a Druid spell), I did indeed forget about Cyclone. Mostly because it is VERY rare that I bother using it. . . just about as rare as wrath pulling, though in fairness, I only use wrath because the arcane anomalys in the Menagerie are immune to starfire and moonfire. The one instance I can think of where I do is in that 5-demon pull by Mechanolord Capacitus in Mechanaar, to take one of the bomb throwers out for a few seconds.

I have, in fact, had a mob break out and immediately run for my healer before (badly timed break, I suspect), but as long as you're watching for it, that shouldn't be too big of a problem.

Lypi said...

I'm the bear with latency. When I started playing, 1000+ was common. Recently I swapped providers, and have been playing with a lightning fast 500 or so.

Thus, I love wrath. The spell with travel time. On a straight pull, I can wrath, and land a moonfire before they start to move, and get into bearform and enrage just before they touch me. A starfire pull leaves me a little nervous on time.

Wrath is also handy for pulls like the first two-pull of performers in Opera. Let the two pats go away, cast wrath on one performer, and I can run down the ramp and into the room where the rest of the raid is waiting before anything lays a finger on me.

Pulls that can't wait for cast time, are moonfired or FFF'd of course.

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