Friday, April 18, 2008

Two Tanks. . . This is Madness!

So, a couple days I posted about the tank shortage that seems to exist in my guild (and on the server, as well, though that may just be the "Tanks don't generally PuG" phenomenon). Well, far be it from me to just be part of the problem. I'm now also one of those level 70 tank ALTS that I spoke so much about. Yep, thats right, last night Jasminne dinged her last ding (until WotLK anyhow), and is my newest level 70 character. And additionally, despite my levelling her with the intent of her becoming my healing alt, recent developments are making it very likely that she will remain prot for a long time to come.

Why the change of heart, you might ask? Well, it wasn't actually that I fell in love with paladin tanking (though I have to admit its fun, if a bit too easy at times). Nor was it that I decided I dislike healing (though I would still kinda prefer to have a resto druid over a holy paladin, I just didn't feel like levelling a second druid). The change of plans stems entirely from guild events. Prophecy once had four raid-ready paladins (maybe not four at once, but at least three). One, a high ranking member of the guild, got burned out on the game and left. Might be back someday, but I kind of doubt it at this point. Another, a personal friend of mine, had her computer blow up on her a couple months back, and she probably wont be able to afford another until Wrath comes out. A third we hired as a raiding paladin, but ultimately had to demote them because they couldn't come to raids often enough, and a couple weeks ago they quit entirely. And number four, who for a while now had been our primary prot paladin, had to leave because our raid times and his availability just didn't match up, and raiding with us was causing a huge strain on his life.

No big deal, right? We still have prot warriors and feral druids, and both of those classes can tank just fine. . . well, not exactly. You see, while Tier 4 content can legitimately be tanked fully by any of the three tanking classes, higher end content doesn't share that distinction (or would that be a lack of distinction? Meh.) The most commonly cited examples are Illidan and Reliquary of Souls, both of which put bears at a severe disadvantage due to our lacking shield block and spell reflect to deal with those bosses' special abilities. Kael'thas often makes that list too (Any bear who has been oneshotted by Magisters' Terrace's version of Kael on heroic knows about his deadly pyroblasts. . . he does it three times in a row in the "real" fight IIRC.)

But in addition to bear-unfriendly fights, there are a number of fights that practically REQUIRE a prot paladin to tank. Morogrim Tidewalker and High Astromancer Solarian. On top of that, Mount Hyjal is pretty much build around the assumption that every raid has at least one prot paladin in it, and while not required, Zul'Aman is also much, much easier with a paladin tank. So whats a guild to do when they're in this content (Yes, we're peeking into Mt. Hyjal these days, and have downed Rage Winterchill a couple of times now), but suddenly have no prot paladins to tank these fights?

Well, actually, the first thing we did was to have our guildmistress' Enhancement Shaman boyfriend switch mains from the shaman to his paladin, and then had the entire guild come together to gear the hell out of him. It's truly amazing what a group of people can do in short order when they set their mind to it, one week into the switch we had him tanking Hyjal waves. He's really doing a great job. . . but I have this thing about not hinging a guild's success on a single person. I, and a few others, really wanted to see us have at least two capable prot paladins, the second being more of a backup plan should the one we have not be able to come for whatever reason.

And what can I say, I'm a sucker for a challenge. While I'm not going to get geared up NEARLY as quickly as the other paladin was, I fully plan to make Jasminne that backup paladin. In fact, I have two distinct advantages over our current paladin tank: I have a lot of raid tanking experience under my belt already, and I have no need to gear Jasminne up to be a raid MAIN tank, as I already have a character fully able to fill that role. Crushing blows? Don't care. Paladin T4? Hell yeah, I'll tank in that!

. . . Oh God, what have I gotten myself into . . .
Continue reading 'Two Tanks. . . This is Madness!'

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tank Shortage: Do You Believe?

Today's post isn't really a blog post at all. I just got done with a forum post in the Prophecy boards discussing what seems to be a growing problem: the dreaded tanking shortage. I used to not believe there was a shortage, but since I started playing level 70 alts, I've gotten to see things from a different perspective. In fact, I think the existance of alts, itself, is perhaps the biggest contributor to the problem. . . but I'll explain that later. So, here in its entirety, the seven reasons I see for the apparent tank shortage in Prophecy, on Steamwheedle Cartel, and I suspect in general.

1: Legitimate tank unavailability. I don't get on until very late. [Prot Warrior 1] has been largely unavailable. I haven't seen [Prot Warrior 2] online in weeks. This is, I think, what people have been noticing most. We have tanks show up for raids, but outside of those raiding timeslots, many of our tanks just aren't available. However, I do not think this is the primary problem, just a part of the puzzle.

2: Lack of motivation to play. As I see it, there are four basic modes in which most people play the game: Grinding, Instancing, Raiding, and PvPing. Lets drop raiding from that list, since we're talking about activities outside of raid times. DPS classes/specs are good at all three of the remaining playstyles. Healers are good at two (not so good at grinding). Tanks are only good at instancing (Barring feral druids, of course, due to our dual nature). If a tank player wants to do anything other than run instances, they're better off logging on to a DPS or healing alt to do it, or respeccing to DPS (and thus still being unavailable as a tank), especially considering how dead our server is when it comes to instance running. Who wants to sit hopelessly on LFG while grinding on mobs as a prot spec?

3: Lack of alt tanks. This is where I see a large part of the problem being. We have a decent contingent of main characters who are tanks. But look at the active alts in our guild, at least at 70, and . . . well, I cant remember the last time I did anything with somebody's tank alt (It was probably a run with [Paladin Tank], who is now a main due to our losing our only other Prot paladin, and needing one for much of the upper level raid content). There are some healing alts, and plenty of DPS alts, but no tank alts, thus shifting the balance of available characters away from tanks.

4: Emphasis on alts. This one combines with #3 and further complicates matters. By and large, this guild's main characters are pretty geared up at this point. Most people, at most raiders, don't really have any upgrades they need from normal instances or heroics. At most they want the badges from heroic runs so they can buy pity-raid-epics from the badge vendor on Sunwell Island once the anvil is built. So, if our main characters have little to no reason to run instances, and our tanks are all main characters, we apply the transitive property (LOLmath) and come to the conclusion that our guild's tanks have no reason to run instances. THIS, I believe, is probably the biggest reason there are never any tanks available.

5: Stricter requirements. This is something that I think might contribute to the lack of tanking alts. Tanks need to be better at their job, and better geared, than other classes just to function at a basic level. Not trying to knock anyone's skill here, but I really, truly believe it. We're at the point now as a guild where we could probably bring a freshly minted DPS character geared in WHITES, have them sit in a safe corner in a heroic run, and 4-man the place to get gear for that person. Healers cant afford to be as undergeared, but ultimately with a T5-geared tank taking the hits, we've already proven that an offspec healer with so-so gear can heal through some rough heroics. An undergeared tank in a heroic, on the other hand, it a recipe for disaster. No matter how good a healer is, they cant keep a tank alive if they're being eaten by chain crits and have only 9k health. No matter how good the DPS is, they cant kill a mob fast enough to keep that from happening, because said tank doesn't have the gear to generate enough threat to keep the mob's attention, and the DPSers end up biting the dust first. So, while we can pretty easily gear up DPSers right as they hit 70 just by babysitting them through some heroics, tanks are a whole other ballgame, and having to gear up an alt slowly isn't that appealing, especially when, as I mentioned before, instance runs are few and far between on our server.

6: Tank demand burnout. A self-fulfilling dilemma, stemming initially from #1, but ultimately perpetuated by all of the points here. Because we have fewer tanks available, when a tank DOES come online they become an extremely hot commodity, like when a mage joins LFG -- Heroic Magisters' Terrace. And while its great to be wanted, its easy to get to the point where tanking runs turns from something fun to an obligation to be fulfilled to your guild. And unfortunately, we tanks are often the sort of person who finds it hard to say no to people. I personally have learned to say no somewhat, but for the record I still feel like an ass whenever someone asks for a tank in guild, I'm on Kirari, and I just stay silent, selfishly spamming the LFG channel for a heroic run for badges to buy his new dagger, wishing the damned tanks would come online.

7: Repair bills. I don't know if this is an actual reason or not. I personally am not fazed in the slightest by my repair bills any more (Even a deathless H-SH run will cost me the better part of ten gold for repairs), but maybe the plate wearers are more sensitive to it, since they dont have a catform to earn the money back with. The fact is, your tank is paying more in repair bills than you. I'll almost gurantee it. Unless you're in T5 epics, your tank is in dungeon greens, and you're wiping like its going out of style, your tank is taking the brunt of the repair costs on himself, simply because every time they get hit, there is a set chance for one of their items to incur a durability hit (and every time they block, their shield has an additional chance to take a point of damage, hence why Jasminne carries two shields with her at all times). And while that 40 gold repair the prot warrior just racked up is just a couple primals to a DPSer, for him to get those primals takes him at least twice as long as you take due to his spec and gear.

Just some points to ponder the next time there are 20 DPSers, 3 healers, and (maybe) 1 tank online in your guild.
Continue reading 'Tank Shortage: Do You Believe?'

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Art of Seduction

Yes, I know, I'm a Druid blogger, and this is a druid blog. But I said at the outset that one of the topics I would write about is my alts, and so today, I bring you an article about playing a warlock. I encourage you all to read it, though, since one of the marks of a great WoW player is not just knowing your own class, but having a working understanding of the other eight classes, as well!

So anyhow, I have a confession to make. For the last couple of weeks, the Rambling Bear has fallen to the corruped influence that is Kirari Jacol, the Affliction Warlock. Sure, when it comes to raiding with the guild, I've been hopping on Surania and tanking it up like a pro, but in my off time, I've been working on gearing up the gnome. Well, at least in the time I haven't been spending grinding out daily quests with the Shattered Sun Offensive. Been trying to save up money for an epic flyer for the missus once she hits 70, and while I could technically make gold faster by farming primals and such, I get bored of that REAL fast.

Anyhow, one of the big things I've been doing on Kirari (or at least trying to do, when groups are available) is running Heroic Magisters' Terrace (Or MrT, if only because that abbreviation amuses me greatly). The first boss has a dagger I desparately need (as I'm using the Continuum Blade, and have yet to see the Netherzim Mind-Blade), the third has a trinket that is absolute sex for warlocks (and shadow priests, I hear), and Kael himself sports some nice gloves (which, admittedly, also drop in normal mode), and I'd love to get a shot (rather, a second shot) at the rare mount or phoenix pet.

Now, for those of you who may have warlocks, or have done Terrace runs with them, you know that one of the most important jobs of a 'lock in there is providing crowd control. And since 90% of the mobs in there are humanoids, we're not talking about banish here (though banish definitely has its place, making the succubi into a non-issue). Indeed, this is one place a warlock will be called upon to summon their succubus and utilize seduce, unless your group is willing to trust in your ability to fear-kite mobs without pulling extra groups (Just be careful, they might then want you to do BOTH!)

The problem with using Selrah (or whatever your succubus' name might be) for CC is. . . well, there are multiple problems, really. Seduce has a lot of limitations that the more mainstream methods, such as polymorph or ice trap, do not, at least not all at once:

1:) Short Duration. Admittedly, this isn't a direct limitation, as you can always re-cast, but with only 15 seconds of duration per cast, your seduce target does require plenty of attention in even the easiest circumstances.

2:) Channeled Spell. Fortunately, since it is your pet, not yourself, channeling the spell, it does not necessarily limit your ability to contribute damage to the group. In fact, it technically opens you up to DPS even more, as you don't need to spend time re-casting your CC every once in a while. It does, however, mean that you need to be extremely careful where your pet stands while seducing, as any damage (from AoE especially) will break the seduce and send your succubus running back to you . . . or worse. . .

3:) Can't Be Refreshed. Yes, your succubus can recast seduction whenever it breaks. But since she has to channel the spell, she can't RECAST it before the first one has expired. This means that not only is it harder to prevent early breaks by recasting long before the spell should expire, but also that at the very LEAST the mob you're controlling spends 10% of the time free from your spell's influence, during which time it is likely to go after either the succubus or your healer, both of which are less-than-ideal situations.

4:) Succubi are Frail. The succubus isn't exactly the most hearty of travelling companions. Last time I looked, Selrah was sporting about 4k health, and I think that was with a fortitude buff. So not only will her taking damage break the seduction, it may very well break HER, too.

5:) . . . And have Limited Mana. Unless you're deep into demonology, there is no way to lifetap and regenerate your minion's mana like you do for your own. And while seducing every 16.5 seconds isn't a huge mana drain, you still have to be mindful of her mana (and that goes DOUBLE for affliction 'locks like me who are used to stealing mana from a phased imp all the time).

Because of these limitations, using seduction as crowd control is a skill that takes lots of practice to master. And while I by no means claim to be God's gift to warlocks, I felt the need to post a guide because of all of the comments I've gotten from people I've grouped with regarding how amazed they were at my ability to keep a mob locked down in seduce. Such comments say two things to me: I do pretty damn well for myself, and there are a large number of warlocks (I'd dare guess the majority of PuGgers) who do NOT.

U Can Has Macros

The very first thing you need on your quest to become a master pimp (Hey, your succubus is the one seducing people, not you big guy) is a focus macro. Actually, I would recommend using a similar macro for ANY classes with crowd control duties; Mages, Priests, Hunters (for distracting shot), and even, dare I say it, Druids. The point of macroing your seduce is simple: without macros you have to change your target to that of the CC'd mob in order to apply/reapply control, a process that is both time consuming (as you have to pick your mob out of the crowd) and dangerous (sometimes you CANT find the right mob fast enough). By writing a focus macro, you never have to take your eyes off of the next mob in the kill order to reapply your control of choice. So what IS a focus macro? Well, try this simple two-liner on for size:

/cast [target=focus, exists] seduction; seduction

Yeah. Thats it. All she wrote. End of story. . . well, almost. I haven't told you how to USE it yet. But that part is simple, too. Just type "/focus" while you have your intended victim targeted to set your focus target before a pull (or you can make a macro for that, too, not a bad idea if you're a shaky typist). Got that? Good. Now whenever you press your seduce macro, it will look for your focus target and, if it exists, your succubus will be told to cast seduce on it. And as a bonus, if you DONT have a focus target, the macro is smart enough to say "Hmm, well, he hasn't specified a target, so he probably just wants to seduce whatever HE is targeting." Heck, if you want to get REALLY fancy, you can go with a more complex macro such as:

/clearfocus [target=focus,dead]
/focus [target=focus,noexists]
/cast [target=focus] Seduction

Which works exactly like the previous macro, except it will also, if you dont have a living focus target, set your current target as your focus.

Preventing Lovers' Quarrels

Ok, now you have a nice, simple macro that lets you seduce your intended target at a moment's notice without having to target them first. All set, right? Well, not exactly. You see, those first four disadvantages I mentioned make it so the successful pimp has to take special care of his subject. You have a short duration crowd control that cant be refreshed, breaks if your succubus takes damage, and cant be recast at all if your succubus' limited health pool depletes. This means three things: You need to make sure your succubus stays at full health, you need to ensure your succubus is out of the way of any AoE, and you need to make sure that your succubus doesn't get eaten by her "man".

The first two conditions are relatively straightforward. Make sure you have health funnel on your bar somewhere convenient and that you keep an eye on your pet's health bar, and you have the first pretty well covered.

As for the second, make like a good trapping hunter and stand to the side of your group, at the very least away from the tank, so that any AoE hitting the main group doesn't strike your succubus. If you're in a situation where you cant be apart from the group, things get a little trickier. Either stand way back behind the group, or if you're feeling daring, have your succubus go invisible, and tell her to attack something behind the group you're planning to fight. Don't let her get to her target, though, we just want her to move to where the group to be fought currently is (or at least further out there, depending on how far she can go without being in a position to aggro the NEXT group when she drops invisibility. When she gets to the desired position, either type/macro the /petstay command, or click stay on your pet bar. That way, even though you have to stay with the group, your succubus will stay positioned where the mobs were, which generally isn't where they are fought, and thus wont be where any enemy AoEs are going off.

The third, however, requires a trick. When I first started playing Kirari in groups, I HATED being asked to use my succubus for one reason: The minute the first seduction expired, the mob would almost ALWAYS beeline it for my succubus and gank her, as her casting seduction was the only threat on the mob. Sometimes I'd manage to get a second seduce off before Selrah bit the dust, but at the end of the second cast she was pretty much guranteed to be a goner. So basically, I got a sap with 1/3 the duration that cost me a soulshard and prep time after every pull.

Eventually, though, I realized there was a simple solution to this problem. Since the tank wasn't going to hold aggro off of my succubus, it was up to ME to hold the aggro by slapping it in the face with a nice dose of shadow or fire. I personally prefer slapping the mob to be controlled with a shadowbolt, if only because it takes a bigger chunk out of the mob's health, especially since I have a number of shadow-only DPS pieces. Searing Pain may be preferable to use if you absolutely need to seduce your target the instant the pull starts, as you can start casting it, hit your seduce macro a split second later, and the two spells will go off near-simultaneously. Talk about a hunka hunka burnin' love!

Anyhow, the advantages of you having aggro instead of your succubus are threefold. First, you probably have a LOT more health than your succubus, and thus are more able to take a hit if it comes down to that. Second, healers are a lot more likely to keep a warlock alive than his pet, so you wont have to spend precious time channeling heals like you would if the succubus were getting hit. And third (and most importantly), unlike your succubus you are MOBILE. Every time you recast seduce, your next action should be to get as much range as possible on the seduce target, preferably in a position where the succubus is between the two of you. This gives you plenty of time to recast the seduce without getting beat on in the meantime. If you're seducing a caster, try to get out of their line of sight, as well, though if they cast spells with >1.5 second cast times, its likely they wont be able to get anything off anyhow.

The Advanced Class

I've already covered what you need to be a decent crowd controller in instances. But there are some extra techniques you can use to get that extra edge in every fight so you never have to blame a wipe on your own failed CC.

First of all, always put a Curse of Shadows on your CC target. CoS reduces a target's shadow resistance signifigantly, and seduction is a shadow spell. If you're absolutely sure the mobs you're fighting dont have shadow resistance, this isn't strictly necessary, but its a good precaution to take, since it will reduce the risk of seduce being resisted or breaking early.

Second, know how to fear kite. This means having control of a feared mob via use of curse of recklessness to suspend the fear effect when needed. Mistakes happen, and succubi bite the dust sometimes, even for experienced warlocks. If your succubus dies, or for whatever reason *coughswipespambreakingCC* runs out of mana, you're going to have a pissed off mob barreling down on you. Instill fear in that mob, and keep an eye on it! If it runs for a nice safe, clear area, you can try resummoning the succubus mid-fight, but most of the time you're likely to have to simply maintain the fear until the group can get to it. Always watch to make sure the mob doesn't run to another group of mobs, and be ready to hit it with curse of recklessness if it tries. Which means moving with the mob, keeping it at a nice moderate distance from you. Too close, and it might break fear and kill you before you can get another fear off. Too far away, and you might not be in range to cast CoR when you really need it. Oh, and dont DoT up the mob you're fearing, unless you're very confident that you can keep a safe distance while doing it, since DoTs greatly decrease the average duration of fear. For that reason, dont use Curse of Agony to overwrite CoR when kiting.

One more thing. If you're like me, and still wearing all three pieces of your Frozen Shadoweave, be very careful using shadowbolt on your seduce target at the pull. Either use searing pain to get aggro on your target, or wait until the first seduce timer is almost up to toss a shadowbolt. Using a shadowbolt right off the bat is likely to get you aggro on ALL of the mobs in the pull, due to the 2% heal you get from shadow spells, which is not a pretty situation , I assure you.
Continue reading 'The Art of Seduction'

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