Monday, May 5, 2008

The Jump To Heroics

Ah, heroic dungeons. Every time I level up a new character nowadays, one of the things I look forward to is getting them into heroic runs, both because the loot is better, and the challenge is. . . well, existant. Honestly, whenever I run a nonheroic instance, even on a character who isn't decked out in blues and purples yet, I look forward to one of two equally unappealing outcomes: The group is good, and the instance is a snorefest, or the group is BAD, and the instance run makes me want to tear my hair out.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago (yeah, I miss posting 5 times a day too), Jasminne hit the big 7-0. And much to my surprise, it was only a couple of days until she found herself decked out in blues from doing a few select quests, grinding some rep, and buying some BoEs from the Auction House. I found myself going through the nonheroic instance loot lists, and thinking to myself "Wow, these are extremely minor upgrades, at best". And yet, I look at my stats and cringe: 12k health, 12.5k armor, 45% avoidance. . . the only decent stat I have is my spelldamage! Great, I'm a tank who can hold aggro just fine, until I die to a trio of lucky 4k hits. Hence my current dilemma: I'm stuck in-between normal instances and heroics!

So what is a tank to do, faced with such abysmal stats? Well, fortunately this isn't the first time I've faced this dilemma, but since Surania was in this situation well over a year ago, I had forgotten about it. Not to mention that at the time Surania was first hitting heroics, it was the norm to struggle running them. Heck, I can remember the excitement I felt the first time I got asked to tank a run for what was THE raiding guild on the server at the time, and how amazed I was at how few wipes we experienced by the time we finally killed. . . Quagmirran!

Alas, these days most people are used to Kara/PvP geared epic tanks with 16k+ health and tons of avoidance and mitigation. Nobody wants the scrub who just got his first set of blues to tank. Heck, if I were a healer/DPS, *I* wouldn't want me to tank particularly! But like I said, to get the gear I really need to run heroics the way people are accustomed to running them, I have to get the gear FROM those heroics. But how?

Well, your first option is to just keep chugging away at those nonheroic runs, using them to grind reputation with various factions for their rewards. But if your server is like mine, you'll never get enough Shadow Lab runs to buy that sweet spelldamage mace, or Tempest Keep runs for that lovely shield, or Steam Vault runs for the ever-so-sexy hammer. Grinding rep with the Aldor/Scryers for your shoulder enchant, or the Shattered Sun for an epic necklace and shield, is a reasonable pursuit, but many factions are likely to be out of reach (and anyhow those faction grinds are obnoxiously long). So, back to the drawing board. . .

New approach. First of all (and this applies at all points in your WoW career), know what the hell you're doing. I've always said that Skill > Spec > Gear, and even in a situation like this, where your gear is a major limiting factor, I hold that to be true. Skill can make up for a lot of blue gear, especially when it comes to knowing those fun little tricks to things like Dash Pulling or rezzing people while tanking. For example, last night Jasminne tanked heroic Slave Pens. An easy instance for most of us, but let me tell you that she was just BARELY staying vertical. And one of the biggest saving graces for me was being able to use my bubble, even while tanking (Note: if you are a tank, you should have a macro set up for divine shield that both casts DS and /cancelaura's it. Hit it once to put up the bubble, hit again to drop it). My bubble saved my butt many times, including a couple times I bubbled to give the healer time to bring my health back up, then broke bubble just before the mobs got to said healer and tossed my shield at them to regain their attention, and the time I dumped Rokmar on the poor enhancement shaman long enough to get a heal and drop the debuff (poor guy got hit for 95% of his health, bet he's glad for every point of stam his gear had!)

Secondly (and this applies doubly to Paladins), you have to remember your crowd control. Yes, this coming from the guy who does 30 minute Heroic Shattered Halls runs with no CC for fun. The fact is, if you dont have the gear to survive getting beaten on by half a dozen heroic mobs at a time, you need to not be GETTING hit by half a dozen mobs at a time. I think that as Jasminne I surprise people when I start putting up marks for sap, trap, and sheep on pulls, but I know that if I try to, for example, tank all 4 Bogstroks at once, I'm going to faceplant real quick. Don't be afraid to ask for unusual forms of crowd control, either. I'm sure that rogue will be glad to toss stuns on one of the mobs, and I know of at least one frost mage who revels in frost kiting mobs around SH just because.

Third, don't be afraid to go to Karazhan. No, you wont have the gear to maintank Malchezaar and Nightbane, but if you're in a decent set of blues, even if you're like me and have yet to reach crush immunity, you should do just fine as an offtank. Most of the trash in there is actually MORE survivable than your average heroic pull, and you probably have 2-3 healers there instead of just one (albeit one will be working on keeping the MT up as well). Of course, if your guild doesn't have Karazhan on farm yet, it may be a bit more challenging, but I assure you, it isn't going to be as bad as you think. And with 22 badges and at least 23 epics dropping on every full clear, you'll have TONS of opportunities to upgrade as you go!

As I mentioned, I'm still crushable. But thats not as big of a deal as you might think. Most of the fights in Karazhan aren't so bad that getting crushed occasionally will spell your doom. Crushing blows on Nightbane will mess you up, granted. Getting crushed by Netherspite can really hurt (though one of the effects of the red beam on that fight is actually a stacking defense boost, so you're not likely to stay crushable for long). And Prince Malchezaar in phase 2 will really mess up a crushable paladin. . . but at the same time, Prince Malchezaar has a huge Dual wield penalty during that phase, so even if you are for some reason trying to tank him in the crappy gear I have, you probably ARE crush immune during that phase. But I digress. . .

On a similar note, you could always try to get in to some heroic runs as an offtank, or respec to DPS or healing for them. You don't have to be the tank to pick up tanking gear, necessarily (though I would advise making sure the tank for said groups doesn't need what you're looking for). The fact of the matter is, its a lot easier to make a group run with undergeared DPS than it is to do the same run with undergeared tanks and (to a slightly lesser degree) healers. There's no shame in taking a slightly easier road to purple bliss. Just realize that running heroics as an undergeared tank can teach you a LOT about your class and capabilities!

And finally, some of us are lucky enough to be able to obtain crafted epics to tank in. There's a cloak thats great for starting bear tanks, some really nice plate bracers, a handful of beautiful belts (And if you happen to be a blacksmith or leatherworker, a set of matching boots), a couple of great stamina trinkets, etcetera. Sure, crafted epics will cost you a pretty penny, but these days its easy to do a week of dailies and buy a purple with the proceeds. And as an added bonus, some of those dailies have a chance of giving you a shiny Badge of Justice as a reward (Just don't count on getting them, so sayeth the paladin who has been at 34 badges for the last ten Supply Pouches, just one shy of a new cloak)

I leave you with one small piece of advice that I had to (re)learn the hard way. Remember that not all heroics are created equal. Slave Pens, Underbog, and the Mechanaar are good places to start earning epics. Shadow Labyrinth, Magisters' Terrace, and Black Morass are not.


Anonymous said...

Long time reader, first comment:
A very well timed post, thanks! As a feral druid that had to pretty much solo to 70, I've just got my gear together and found a group to run heroics with. This is one of the few places I found that actually recommends which heroics are doable. Any further possible runs you could suggest would be much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

This is a great place for a gear checklist, though it sounds like you may have already been there:

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you, great comments, helpful and timely. I have spent some time gearing up my bear tank and learning how to tank, and just bought my first badge reward (Idol of Terror, love it), which along with earthwarden, has rendered most non-heroics way too easy (unless the group is bad). So i'm starting heroics in earnest... And yes, I had felt intimidated by karazhan, but will try it now, based on what you say....

Now that I'm tanking heroics, I LOVE being a bear tank even more :). It's a whole new lease of life and development.

Alex said...

I am in the same place with my bear tank. It's a bit nervewracking but it shows me why having a good group of guildies is important -- they're willing to help out and realize that they will survive the heroic even through some hiccups.

I agree that at that point, Kara is way easier (at least the first half) than heroics, especially if you know the fights. In Kara, groups tend to have more healing and cc to fall back on wheras in a heroic, if either the healer or tank go down, things get ugly fast.

Heroic mech definitely used to be an easy four badge run(five if folks had the patience for fire lady) . But, with recent changes to the gauntlet, fewer badges and fire lady being a pain, it's just not as worthwhile as it used to be. It's still not terrible, just not as smooth. I actually think SV isn't too bad, provided you have the dps for the tanks on the last boss.

Kalon said...

SP and UB are still the easiest, even for a pally tank. SP especially given how much of the trash can be skipped, though at your gear you're going to need something to deal with the multiple defender pulls - either fear or stun or kiting.

Mostly, I think you've got to bite the bullet and do PvP. The shield and the weapon that you can get in PvP beat basically anything you can expect to get through T4 (you can hope for nightbane's shield, but by the time you can do it you're likely not in T4 any more). Then you've got to get some crafted items. The plate belt for nethers is the best in the game for pallies; get that.

Anonymous said...

You know, I've been looking at gear lists, and yes, the PvP rewards are way up there stat-wise, and yes, they are "guaranteed drops"... But I play mostly PvE because I love it so much more - the role playing/storyline, learning how to play as a unit, and of course the gear drops... So the idea of gearing up in PvP just so I can play PvE seems to miss the point - coz I end up spending my playtime doing something I dont enjoy. There are many viable ways to gear up through PvE play - and although drops are random, they're not so random you'll never see them. And even if you never get the "perfect" drop for such-and-such a slot....? Its a myth that it'll make a huge difference. I play with a lot of people in heroics with full pvp epics, and maybe we'll keep wiping on trash pulls. Or, I may be in the same instance with a group geared in PvE blue/epics, and we take the place apart in a couple of hours. I wholeheartedly agree with the Bear when he says that skill >> spec >> gear, and I worry more about developing my skill, than I do about attaining the best gear on the list.

Felkan said...

@RB and several above posts:

Don't forget about the nearly free PvP gear you can purchase from several PvE rep vendors. They can provide a nice piece for a slot or two (like for Feral shoulders or hands). Plus you can obtain all of the rep solo from turn-ins (only need to be honored).

Here's the link to the sets I'm talking about.

SuraBear said...

Kalon: The PvP weapon and shield are nice, but you can also do what I did and grind out SSO rep. There's a spelldamage . . . mace, I believe, and at exalted you can get a pair of shields that are more or less on par with the one nightbane drops.

Sure, the weapon only has a hundred twenty-something spelldamage on it, but that, plus a 40 spelldamage enchant and wizard oil puts you at over 200 +damage, which is plenty for tanking early content. Or you can do what I did and dump money on a Crystalforged Sword the minute you ding 70 *chuckles*

Hopefully, I'll be able to get the Cudgel of Consecration from Kael in the near future. I ran heroic MrT last night, and I must say it was far EASIER than I expected. I guess the fact that groups lean toward heavy crowd control in there still helped. And while the Cudgel didn't drop, guess who now owns the Commendation of Kael'thas on TWO characters *grin*

Kalon said...

The crystalforged sword is very good. The pvp shield is still better though; it has a ton of armor and block value, and that's really helpful when running heroics.

Mostly, bite the bullet and get Belt of the Guardian made; you won't replace it forever and ever. Bracers of the Ancient Phalanx are also great. And of course, the tankatronics are huge. :)

SuraBear said...

I've rewritten this reply three times now. . . each time it just turns into a rant about how many ways I abhor PvP. So, lets just say that I hate PvP with a passion, and will instead continue to pursue my PvE gear in PvE. Different strokes for different folks, etc.

Anonymous said...

Hee hee very funny, I dont much care for PvP either, so I would have enjoyed your rant :P

I do some now and again though (I think the season 1 shoulders for bears are worth the time at this point - they're very cheap and very good)

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