Archive for the ‘Cataclysm’ Category

There’s an interesting argument going on over at Tobolds’ in his latest post: Assymetric Challenge.  What the commenters are arguing over boils down to which is easiest, tanking, DPSing or healing.  Tobolds’ position, along with several of the commenters, is that tanking is by far the hardest job in dungeons and raids.  If a DPS screws up the worst that can happen is that they die.  Big deal, plenty more where they came from.  A tank bears the responsibility for the whole group, they screw up and there’s a very good chance that the entire raid or group is going to die.

All seems so obvious when you put it like that, doesn’t it.  Case closed.  DPS and healing is for facerollers, Tanks got it the hardest.

Or not.

Leaving aside the responsibility of the healers for a moment, the thing is, there’s a world of difference between difficulty and responsibility.  Just because something carries the burden of responsibility doesn’t mean it’s hard to do.  You may not like doing it, but that doesn’t make it technically difficult.  Tanking is not intrinsically hard to do.  Tanking for a group of idiots is hard.  Doing anything in a group of idiots is hard, tanks aren’t special.  You just tend to notice more when the tank’s an idiot because you all end up dead.  But again I must stress, you end up dead not because the tanks’ job was hard, but because he was an idiot and he was an idiot with a very responsible role.

But” you all cry, “marking targets for crowd control and setting kill orders and doing interrupts and controlling the pace is hard work!”  Well maybe.  It’s tedious, sure. Responsible, definitely.  Tanking?  No.  That’s not tanking, that’s leading.  Tanks complain that if they don’t do it, nobody will.  This argument can go any way you like.  I’ve seen plenty of tanks not leading too.  Unless you call charging into packs of unmarked mobs with a healer on 50% mana after rezzing a dead dps fifty yards away as leading.  I don’t.  I call it Natural Selection.  As for interrupts, any clown can do that, and when you’re doing Nefarian, Halfus Wyrmbreaker, Omnitron Defence System or Maloriak I can guarantee you it won’t be the tanks ahead on the Interrupt count.  Or if it is, you’re all going to be dead pretty soon, and not just because none of the tanks are hit capped.

But yes, tanks certainly have a responsible role.  But do tanks have the most responsible role?  Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce our special guest, the healers.

Healing is like playing whack-a-mole, except instead of one hammer, you have a choice of eight.  And you have to use exactly the right hammer for whichever mole pops up at any split second because if you use too many of the wrong hammers, your hammers start to get taken away from you.  And then you have no hammers, but the moles are still popping up.  And then you’re all dead. And sometimes, the moles like to dodge, or pop up out of the wrong hole, or run out of range of your hammers.  Sometimes, these dumbass moles even stay in the hole after you hit them with the right hammer, so you have to keep hitting them despite the fact that other moles are popping up all the time and you can only use one hammer at once and will that stupid bastard mole get the fuck out of that hole or do you have to hit him with this hammer all friggin’ day? But you still have to deal with it, even though you’re playing with a group of idiot moles it’s still your problem.  And if you can’t deal with it, moles are going to die.  Now that’s difficult and responsible, all in one package.  Is tanking harder than this?  Not sure I’m ever going to have the confidence to say “Yes”.  I’d be comfortable settling for a “perhaps”.

Now let’s look at the dps.  Is tanking harder than dpsing?  It certainly can be.  If your dps won’t follow the marked target, constantly breaks crowd control, pulls aggro, won’t silence the healers or casters or won’t even apply crowd control in the first place, then yes, unquestionably, tanking is bloody hard, thankless work.  But once again, that cuts both ways.  If your tank won’t follow the marked target, constantly breaks crowd control, loses aggro and won’t silence the healers or casters or won’t wait for crowd control to be applied in the first place, then doing dps is a job with a high mortality rate.  And whichever of the two holds true, it’s the healer, not the tank, who has to pick up the slack.  Careful placement of traps, intelligent use of Polymorph, Hex and Glyphed Fear, kiting loose adds, interrupting tank-killing or mob-healing abilities…  these are not tanking jobs.  But the thing about all of these activities is that they operate on a sliding scale.  If they’re being done correctly and intelligently, and if the tank’s sufficiently intelligent to not interfere with and take advantage of them, then the tanks’ job is a cakewalk.  In a park.  With flowers and shit.  The healer can even remember to breathe, too.  But the less these jobs are done the more difficult the tank and healers’ job becomes.  See how that works?  Tanks and healers jobs get easier the harder the dps works and the smarter the tank is.

So no.  The tank categorically does NOT have the hardest job in a group.  Not by default.  He may end up with a hard job if his dps are mouth-breathing window-lickers, but I wouldn’t call it the hardest unless he was prepared to strip to the waist and fight the healer for the title.

But you’re not convinced.  I’m sure there are many of you who are quite capable of pointing to a given boss and saying “But look at this fight, it’s an utter nightmare for a tank.”  And you’d be right.  But for every Ozruk and Foe Reaper 5000 there’s a Baron Ashbury.  Or Ascendant Lord Obsidius.  Or Drahga Shadowburner.  Come to think of it, Foe Reaper 5000′s no laughing matter for the DPS either.

I guess where I’m going with this is that saying tanking is the hardest job in a dungeon is nonsense.  Any part of the holy trinity can be a nightmare if one of the three corners is being an asshat, whether that be tank, dps or healer.  Tanking, in and of itself, is not hard.  DPS and Crowd Control are not hard.  Healing is not hard.  They’re harder than in Wrath, certainly, and all three are utter nightmares if your group isn’t being led effectively.  Leading IS hard.  Especially in PuGs, and herein lies the crux of the argument.  The role of leader has traditionally always fallen to the tank, because let’s face facts here, if the tank’s not ready for the pull, the pull ain’t happening (or at least it shouldn’t happen).  So since the tank’s in the lead, the tank may as well Lead, right?  This is nonsense.  Any clown can lead, it doesn’t have to be the tank, but the thing is, people are lazy.  People like to follow the path of least resistance, and that usually means following the tank since they’re the one in front anyway.  And if you’re being followed, you must be the Leader.  THIS is why tanking is hard, not because there’s anything hard about tanking, but because Tanks either accept the burden of leadership or all too often, no-one bothers to lead.  And then you have a fail pug, and everything becomes hard.

I’ll tell you what else is hard.  Very damn hard.  Trying to Lead when the tank’s not interested.  “Just mark whatever you want sheeped with an X and I’ll take care of…  oh you just charged in and we’re in combat.  Never mind”

“Okay, I marked X, I’ll sheep it then you grab the mobs when they aggro on me.  Casting…..  now.  Oh, your Death and Decay appears to have broken the sheep, and now it seems to be diseased.  Great.”

“Anyone not know this boss?  Three of you including the tank?  Okay, he’s actually pretty simple.  He has two abilities you watch for.  The first is Static Cling, when he’s casting this, you all need to be off the ground when it finishes casting or you get rooted, and this is bad news when he does his second ability, which is…  why are we in combat?”

All three genuine examples from a Heroic Vortex Pinnacle two days ago.  The tanks’ job was not hard.  It was piss easy.  All he had to do was listen.  My job was an utter nightmare, and not because I had to dps.  It was because I had to lead the unleadable.

That’s hard.

Asshole Chicken

Posted: 18 March, 2011 in Cataclysm, Dungeons

I noticed an interesting response to a forum post by a blue reported on MMO Champion this week and it’s in regards to a subject that’s been causing me no small amount of bother lately.  Dungeons with optional bosses, and Halls of Origination is the major culprit here, tend to get skipped through straight to Rahj, the last boss, avoiding the optional bosses completely in order to just get the place done and collect your daily Valour points.

This is a curious problem.  Skipping the question of the social dynamics behind the whole thing for the moment, there are some drops from those bosses that are for particularly hard to fill slots for certain classes.  The thrown weapon from Ammunae being a good example.  Rogues, unless you kill Ammunae in Halls of Origination and get lucky with the drops, the next best thrown weapon you can get is a lvl 318 green from a quest in Twilight Highlands.  There are no other options outside of raids or epic pvp gear.  Sorry, you’re shafted.  Enhancement Shamans and Hunters are up Shit Creek too, since there are NO other Mail shoulders available from drops other than the Bloodpetal Mantle, also from Ammunae.  Shamans and Hunters may be up Shit Creek, but they at least have a paddle in the shape of the justice point Wrap of the Valley Glades, although the stats are going to sub-optimal for certain specs.

I’m also finding it hard to find expertise gear on Fingers, my Rogue, so that means no Mouth of the Earth from Earthrager Ptah.  Healers are missing out on the lovely Scepter of Power from Setesh, Ammunae’s Band of Life Energy and Isisets’ Blood.

So.  Lots of useful loot, not to mention bonus justice points and reputation from bosses that are being skipped entirely, against the wishes of up to 80% of the groups doing them, just to get the dungeon over as quickly as possible.  Why?

Blame the tanks.

Yeah, I know it’s bad luck to speak ill of our lords and masters, but it’s true.  If the tank doesn’t want to kill the optional bosses, they don’t get killed, and if the group revolts and demands those bosses get done, the worst thing that’s going to happen to the tank is that they have to take a deserter debuff and do a cooking and fishing daily while they wait until they can get their instant dungeon queue again.  Everyone else is stuck in the instance for another twenty minutes waiting for another tank, and the next tank who zones in is going to take one look at which bosses are left and think Christmas and all their birthdays have come at once, pull Rahj before the group can say “Hi and welcome, the last tank was a selfish prick” and leave faster than it takes for the game to report “You have earned 70 of currency: Valor Points.”

In a nutshell, it’s a big game of asshole chicken.  The tanks don’t need any of the loot from the optional bosses with the possible exception of the bracers from Isiset, since bracers are one of those slots where relatively few other options exist.  They have no incentive to not be assholes.  They want to kill Rahj and be done.  The dps and healers may want to kill the optionals, they have no incentive to rush straight to Rahj, so they try to impose their wishes on the reluctant tanks.  Everyone’s being an asshole, you just sit back and wait to see who blinks first.

You can blame it on poor design and to some extent it’s true.  The setup of Halls of Origination lends itself to people being selfish assholes, no argument there, but people still have to make a choice about whether or not they’re going to be pricks to the rest of the group.  To be fair, this kind of rampant dickheadery isn’t actually the norm.  What I tend to see is the tank asking if anyone minds if they just kill Rahj and be done, and one of a few things will happen.  Either no-one cares and everyone’s happy, or a minority want to kill other bosses and get outvoted (usually the rogue), or the majority want to kill more bosses and the tank says “Tough shit” and pulls Rahj anyway.  Or he doesn’t even bother to ask.

The problem here, and in other situations like this, isn’t down to dungeon design.  It’s that there are no penalties to being an asshole.  This is a social game whether we like it or not, and regardless of how special the tanks of the world think they are, they don’t solo current heroic content, it’s a team effort.  When you submit to that dungeon queue what you are actually doing is accepting a contract to work together with four other people to achieve a common goal.  That common goal may be to blitz through the content as quickly as possible and get out, but if the majority of the group want to farm everything in there you need to either submit to the majority decision and go along with it or say up front that you don’t want to do that and find another group.  The time to do this is when you zone in, not when you’re looking Rahj in the face.  There’s nothing wrong with being selfish, just be up front about it.  Otherwise you’re just being an asshole.

And in Other News
I’ve not been idle the last month, although the lack of blog updates could have easily led you to believe otherwise.  I’ve been levelling alts like a thing possessed, working on heroic 25 man raid content, filling gaps in one of the ten man raid teams and generally keeping busy.  Our work in 25 man heroic Blackwing Descent was rewarded last weekend with this:


So that’s two down, ten to go!  In more amusing news, I noticed this particularly inventive guild recruitment ad in the trade channel:

Yeah, good luck with that.

Cya next time!

Wheeee!

Posted: 22 February, 2011 in Cataclysm, Raiding

I mentioned in my previous post how certain raid encounters and I aren’t on speaking terms.  Well we went back to Throne of the Four Winds last week and told Al’akir just exactly where he could stick his Wind Burst.  I’d like to say we spanked him good and proper, but the truth of the matter is we were as much the spankee as the spanker.  It really is an absolute twat of a fight but I’m definitely getting better at it, even if I’m nowhere near good enough yet.  However, despite my substandard performance overall I at least nuked what needed nuking, stood (mostly) where I needed to be stood and a result…

And since Calli is Exalted with her guild, that meant she was able to purchase…

Behold... THE SPARKLE PIGEON!

Which is nice.

 

It’s funny (funny peculiar not funny ha ha) how Blizz prioritise their raid bosses.  Perhaps “prioritise” isn’t the right word.  What I mean is, we killed Cho’gal on our second attempt the first night we saw him.  He’s actually pretty much a pushover.  Furthermore, I know why we’re killing Cho’gal.  He appears in numerous cutscenes as you level up to 85 while questing, and there was the whole pre-Cataclyms event thing that he caused.  He’s the bad guy, we have to kill him.  A bit like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, but yeah, Cho’gal must die.  I get that.  Al’akir on the other hand…

Al’akir?  Who is he exactly?
An elemental lord like Ragnaros.
Oh ok.  Why do we care?
Uh, because he drops phat lewtz?
No he doesn’t, they’re rubbish that hardly anyone wants.  And he’s hard.
He’s the only boss you’ve not killed.  If you kill him I’ll give you a pony.
Ok, that’s an incentive I can get behind!

So yeah, Al’akir eventually deaded, at the cost of many tears and nights of frustration.  Why?  Because he’s there.  I’m sure there’s some lore reason buried away somewhere that explains why he’s the massive threat he is and we….  Zzzzzz.  Sorry, nodded off.  Blizzard are usually pretty good at this, that’s the surprising thing.  I don’t get why we need to bother Al’akir, he never harmed me that I’m aware of, but I mostly don’t get why Blizzard failed to give me at least the semblance of a reason why I should care.  As I said, they’re usually pretty good at this sort of thing.

Just as an example, take a look at this quest text, something we usually skip over while reading the summary at the end, guilty of it myself.  On this, and I’m sure many other occasions, they’re usually worth reading.  This one in particular is hilarious.

See?  Hilarious.  Blizzard can come up with the goods, and they usually do.  But contrast that with the npc you need to escort out of Felson Keep for one of the Lol Barad dailies, you know… the one that’s really, really, really bugged.  He speaks like a robot on prozac.  When you contrast it with the love and imagination that’s gone into quests like the example above, or the amount of setup we got for going into the Bastion of Twilight and laying the smack down on Cho’gal, it just jars when you compare it to quests like Walk a Mile In Their Shoes or bosses like Al’akir.

Which is wierd, because as I’ve shown, Blizz can and usually do a spectacular job on this sort of thing.

Oh, what do I care?  I’ve got a Sparkle Pigeon!

Wheeee!

A Confession

Posted: 16 February, 2011 in Cataclysm, Mage, Raiding, Warrior

We spent the entirety of Monday night wiping on Al’akir in Throne of the Four Winds this week.  He’s the only boss we’ve not killed yet and the 25 man team should really be moving onto Heroic raid content, yet leaving one boss unkilled feels like failure, so off to the Throne we went.  Twice we got him down to less than 9%, and phase three of the fight is really the easiest part of the whole encounter, so by rights the guy should be dead.  However, Al’akir is the kind of boss who highlights my biggest problem in raiding – information overload.

It’s not just Cataclysm raiding, hard mode Hodir in Ulduar was another brick wall I ran into, and there have been others, but Al’akir’s the most recent example of the kind of problem I have on bosses where there’s just too much going on for me to remain effective.  The problem is, I’m 41 next month.  My reflexes aren’t what they used to be, there are youngsters in our raid who act like they have the reaction times of rattlesnakes on crack and they handle fights like this with ease.  Me, I need time to process things, time to let muscle memory take the slack that my reflexes can’t handle and my brain can’t process.  In this fight, you need to lay the smack down on the boss while ensuring you avoid three potentially lethal abilities.  The first is a pretty standard chain lightning effect, so…  spread out.  The second is a wall of cyclones that rotate around the boss.  There’s one gap in the wall and if you’re not in it, you get picked up and carried with the cyclones, throwing lightning bolts around your raid as you go.  It’ll probably kill you, but the major danger is the damage you do to the rest of your raid.  The final ability is a wind blast that the boss does to knock everyone back a certain distance.  Unless you’re hugging the boss it will probably knock you off the edge of his platform.  This won’t kill you, you get caught and eventually blown back up, but taken into consideration with the wall of cyclones it can be very nasty.  The thing is, they both happen at the same time throughout phase one.  So you get the warning that he’s about to do a Wind Blast and you naturally want to be close to the boss, except there’s a wall of cyclones approaching and the gap in the wall is away from the boss.  Decision time, folks.  Try to make the gap in time and get close to the boss so the wind blast doesn’t knock you off?  Or try to outrun the cyclone, but you then run the risk of getting caught in the chain lightning aimed at the group next to you and overloading your healers.  Or you can just jump off the edge and do zero dps for the next ten seconds, prolonging the length of time it takes to get into phase two where the wind blasts stop, and there’s no guarantee you won’t end up thrown into a cyclone anyway when you land back on the platform.

During all this, you’re contantly rotating your camera around, looking both ways for cyclones, keeping an eye on the timer bar for wind blasts, moving in, moving out, moving back to the group you’re supposed to stay with to avoid extra chain lightning damage, spinning the camera to ensure you are actually in the gap in the cyclone wall, watching the ground near you in both directions for the tell-tale graphic effect that warns you a cyclone is about to spawn and deciding where to move in advance if it does and somehow doing damage to the boss as well throughout all of it.  There are people who can handle this amount of information processing with ease the first night they see it.  I am not one of those people.  I can stay alive or I can do competitive dps, until I’ve done the fight enough for muscle memory to take over, I simply cannot do both.

My crappy dps probably cost us a kill on Monday.  We’d all be riding around on Dark Phoenixes right now if I’d sat the raid out.

Of course, sitting the raid out means I never get the experience to be any good at it.  So there’s the Catch 22.  On the bright side, I am good at the one thing that certain others amongst the raid are manifestly not – firing my frikkin’ lazerz at the correct target at the correct time.  Usually the targets that don’t have the damage debuffs on them from everyone else that makes you look good on damage meters but do in fact need to be killed quick or everyone dies.  Oh hi Snobolds on Northrend Beasts, yes I’m looking at you.  In phase two of the Al’akir fight, the boss summons some little friends, and every time you kill one the boss gets a damage debuff.  They need to be killed roughly one every 20 seconds in order to maximise the damage to the boss without running out of the little buggers.  Perhaps it’s my 21 years of military service, but when the raid leader says “You, you, you and you, kill these adds every 20 seconds”, that’s exactly what I do.  I don’t get overexcited because a shaman just popped heroism and forget that there are still adds up that need to be killed or we lose the damage debuff on the boss, I kill adds.

Similarly, whenever there’s an unglamorous job that needs to be done which is going to cost you dps, I’m usually the one who does it.  In Naxxramas at level 60, I was the guy who corpse camped adds watching for scarab spawns on Anub’rekhan.  I was damn good at it too, none of those little bastards ever got away from me.  I was also the guy who switched to Frost spec on Deathbringer Saurfang in Icecrown Citadel in order to get a ranged snare on the Bloodbeasts when they spawned, and this probably led to our first successful heroic 25 man kill of him.  But I wonder, now do I volunteer for this stuff because I know that my dps on new bosses isn’t going to be what it should, but hey, I can always point to the vital low dps job I was doing as an excuse?  Or do I get picked for these jobs because the raid leader knows a) I can be trusted to do it well or b) because the loss of my mediocre dps won’t be a raid wiper.  Or in fact is it a) and b)?  I think it used to be a), but as the years went by and my reflexes and ability to quickly process information deteriorated, I suspect there’s a large element of b) coming into play too.

And the thing is, I don’t want to be carried, but I suspect I am.  Don’t get me wrong here, on those occasions when I can power up the lasers and nuke away like I never nuked before, I’m still perfectly capable of keeping up with the big boys, and once I’ve learned a fight and committed it to muscle memory I produce pretty decent results.  The problem is that you rarely get to stand in one safe spot and blaze away like an 80′s action hero anymore, and progression fights on 25 man heroic content are not the place to be for people who can’t process 15 different things at once and still produce rockstar dps.

I’m not saying I’m the only person in our raid who underperforms.  Everyone has bad days, but their consciences are their own problem, not mine.  I don’t want to be raiding if I feel like I’m the reason we’re not getting bosses killed, but I do want to be raiding.  So…  a quandary.  It doesn’t help that there’s one mage in our raid who is an absolute god.  I’m never going to be, and never have been as good as he is.  There’s no bad feeling here, he’s an immensely likeable and knowledgable player, but holding myself up against him as a comparsion wouldn’t be fair on anybody, let alone just me.

Curiously, I seem to be doing consistently good dps on Gorn, my Fury warrior.  This is wierd, because Mister Melee DPS and I have rarely been on speaking terms with each other.  I suspect the reason is that as a Warrior I find myself waiting just that fraction of a second longer for abilities to come off cooldown, that it allows me a reaction time budget that you just don’t get on a Mage.  I’m beginning to wonder if the best course of action might not be to retire Calli and try to earn a raid spot on Gorn.  But…  well I’ve got a hell of a lot invested in the old girl.  It’s going to hurt, but it may be the honest thing to do.

I guess we’ll just see how it goes.  I need to do better, it’s just a question of working out what, and how.  Ideally I’d be doing better on Calli, but “doing better” may mean not raiding at all.  I just hope I’m honest enough with myself to recognise which is the correct option and act on it.

Mah Hat is on FIRE!

Posted: 23 January, 2011 in Cataclysm, Mage, misc

A mostly trivial post today, I just had to submit a screenie because the Mage tier 11 look is so freaking awesome.  Remember kids, anyone not a Mage sporting this look is clearly just a wannabe.  Yeah you heard me Warlocks and Shadow Priests!  Shoo!

Halp! Mah hat is on FIRE!

 

With apologies to Tam