April 24, 2010

Warriors: The changing face of AoE

I can't even believe I'm typing this, but frankly, enough is enough. Yet another long thread about warrior AoE tanking in Cataclysm and frankly, I'm sick to death of the debate. Let's break this down into its simplest component parts.

AoE tanking is going to be cut back in Cataclysm, as will AoE DPS.
There will be more use of CC and more danger that trying to tank a lot of adds can kill the tank.
With 1 and 2 being the case, warriors most likely have enough tools for multi-mob tanking situations.

Ghostcrawler - Re: Twitter chat on Warrior AoE tankingOur goals are that you won't be spending as much of your tanking time AE tanking in Cataclysm as you did in Lich King. A second goal is that when you are AE tanking, you should use different abilities than when you are single-target tanking. A third goal is that when you are AE tanking, you should use more than one (or maybe two) abilities. None of those seem contradictory. ...

Maybe I'm misremembering something, but the goal going into LK was that warriors should be able to AE tank rather than every group using paladins for trash, and that casters should be able to use their AE spells, otherwise what are they there for? We succeeded in both of those, but a little too well on the latter to the extent that anything with more than 1 mob became a job for Blizzard / Hurricane / Mind Sear, etc.

In Cataclysm, there will be more threat to the tank of dying if you try to just AE tank every pull. Likewise, AE damage won't be quite as awesome so that single targeting things will probably be a better strategy when there are say 3-5 adds. If it's a dozen twilight whelps, then sure, AE away.


Asking for another AoE tanking tool when the stated goal is that there will be less AoE tanking and that AoE tanking will be inherently more dangerous is like asking for a meat suit to go diving with sharks. Not only is it not necessary and possibly even dangerous to encourage it, but just as you're already made of more than enough meat to attract sharks without actually wearing more, you've already got enough AoE for the new instances. If anything, expect other tanks to be brought more in line with the warrior AoE tanking model.

To my mind, the issues with the new tanking paradigm in Cataclysm, from a warrior perspective, aren't any need for more AoE at all. Rather, we need the following.

Tanking warriors need a smooth and reliable way to control their own threat generation rather than having it band-aid controlled for them by abilities like Tricks of the Trade or Misdirection.
Tanks need to have sufficient short-term cooldowns to be able to endure increased risk of death from trash tanking when it is necessary to do so. (I would argue that warriors are almost there in this regard and would only need the glyphs of Last Stand and Shield Wall to be baked into the abilities to be fine in this regard. Other tanking classes might need work here.)
DPS warriors will need a viable form of CC in this new world.
The first of these three might well be given to warriors via the Vengeance mechanic worked into all tanks' mastery abilities. We also know warriors will be given new ways to ensure rage generation when it is needed, which is often a great component of the difficulty in locking down early threat. The second, we more or less have addressed, but it would be nice to see it without a two-glyph requirement.

But it's DPS warriors I'm the most concerned about as we shift back to CC as a requirement for a successful instance run. While it's fair to say that Wrath swung the pendulum too far to the point where AoE tanking was the expected norm and CC abilities were used sparingly at best, no one who remembers trying to get a DPS slot on a class without a reliable form of CC in Burning Crusade can entirely welcome its return with open arms.

It's possible that new abilities like Disarming Nature will serve as warrior CC. It's hard to imagine a 10-second duration cower effect being as valuable as a sap or sheep, of course. And with the LFD tool doubtlessly changing the way we group, it's possible we'll simply just have to grin and bear it when we get queued in a group with no viable form of CC and struggle our way through an instance.

The issue with giving DPS warriors a form of CC is of course that it will be used in PvP. People who played in MC remember Mace Specialization and Stormherald, which was colloquially called "Stunherald." Nobody wanted to face an arms warrior with mace spec and that thing in his or her hands, not even other arms warriors. (I once saw two arms warriors stun each other for a solid 25 seconds or so.) There are ways around this ... Make the CC something that would impede NPCs but not PCs, like a root or snare or pacify effect or cower, something that could easily be countered by a player but which would keep an NPC from using its abilities ... and it may not even be necessary. But if you want to keep some DPS specs from being wildly more popular than others in a game environment where CC comes even close to the level of prominence it had in BC dungeons and heroics, then you have to consider some form of CC.

Frankly, demanding more AoE threat for warrior tanks is wanting new abilities to tank old content. We're not going to see dungeons and raids designed around those kinds of pulls anymore. What warriors need are tools that give them viability when tanking and DPSing the new content that awaits us.

WoW Rookie: Tips and tricks for rookies

Oh come on, everyone knows that -- well, evidently everyone but you, poor rookie. Ever felt like a chump for not being aware of some game feature or function that would've made life so much easier, if only you'd known? Aww, it's OK. You're not alone. As accessible as designers strive to make games like WoW, it's easy for even a few basics to slip by, especially when you're brand new, thrashing about trying to find your quest objective and attack the monster and talk to that other player all at the same time.

Blizzard's tutorial tips help make sense of a lot of that under-the-radar knowledge. Still, players write in to WoW Rookie every week asking questions or offering various nuggets of acquired wisdom. Time then for another info dump -- the latest in our collection of frequently requested, handy things to know.

Unlearn your profession Finding the place to drop an unwanted profession has got to be one of the more annoyingly obscure functions in the game. Go to your character info, then the skills tab, and then click on the bar that lists the profession you want to get rid of. Now look at the bottom third of the skills panel; you'll see another bar listing the profession, and to the right of it, a small, red icon of a circle with a slash through it. (Check out the screenshot at the top of the post.) If you click that tiny red button, you'll get a pop-up confirmation box that asks you whether or not you'd like to drop that profession. (Whew!)

Some disenchanted evening Been automatically smacking the disenchant button every time an unwanted blue or green drops in your instances? You may be doing yourself a disservice ... The item's vendor value may in fact be higher than the value of the enchanting material you just won. Enchanting mat prices vary widely from realm to realm, but many economies are seeing vendor prices overtaking mat prices in certain level ranges. Pro tip: Visit the auction house and take note of the prices for mats at the level of whatever instances you'll be running. Then before you choose to roll DE or greed, check the tooltip for the item's vendor value to ensure you're selecting the best deal every time.

(On a related note, if you only seem to receive the disenchant option for some items that drop in your instance, it may be your group enchanter's skill level that's the issue. If your enchanter is light on skill points, he -- and therefore, your group -- might be able to disenchant green drops but not blues or epics.)

Lost and found Can't remember which way to head around the darned loop in Undercity to find your trainer? Ask a guard. Guards that show a map symbol when moused over will offer a menu of destinations if you right-click to speak with them. Once you've selected your destination, a red flag icon will appear in your map and minimap to mark the location.

Where's the flight master in this town, anyway? Speaking of finding important figures, the tracking button on your minimap allows you to find flight masters and other useful resources such as mailboxes, armor repairers and innkeepers. Right-click the tracking button on your minimap. (If you don't see one, you probably have an addon that's blocking it. Try disabling your addons to see.)

Pop that trinket If you've poked around with macros at all, you may be stumped at how to use a trinket in a macro. Here's the trick that will direct the action to your trinket slots:

/use 13
/use 14

You can find a list of the corresponding numbers for every gear slot at the official site (or, you know, just look over yonder to the side), along with a slew of other tips on making macros.

Is my character still there? If it's been weeks, months or even (/gasp) years since you last played World of Warcraft, will your old character still be there when you log in? Yes! Unless you physically delete your character (which requires typing "DELETE" into a big confirmation field -- not something easily accomplished by accident), your character and all their goodies will still be there. The only thing that expires is mail left in your inbox for more than 30 days.

Speaking in tongues Click on the chat bubble icon on your chat box and scroll to the language option in order to change the language your character speaks. Language changes will show up in say, shout, guild and party chat, but not in general chat, trade chat or whispers. (Pro tip: Speaking obscure languages in guild chat is a good way to annoy guildmates and get yourself put on ignore.)

Your name not in lights Yes, it is possible to take screenshots without character names in them. You can remove your UI entirely by pressing Alt+Z (pressing Alt+Z again restores it). To remove those stubborn names: Go to your game menu (escape), select Interface, and scroll down and select Names. You can uncheck as many names as necessary for the effect you want. (Just remember to turn them on again afterwards!)

Make sense of it all Do you find yourself sucked in by the lore of Azeroth and hungry to learn more? Read up: Lore 101 will set you straight.

Wondering if there's an easier way to do something? Maybe you've gone and figured out the method to the madness all on your own. Send us your questions, tips and discoveries (lisa at wow dot com), and we'll collect them for a future tips and tricks edition of WoW Rookie. Meanwhile, check WoW.com's WoW Rookie Guide for everything you need to get off to a good start as a newbie, whether you're a new level 1 or a fresh level 80.

Raid Rx: Tank and healer disagreements

One way I like to destress from raiding is by doing more raiding. Am I crazy? Yeah, probably. The only difference is that I like to raid on my alt as a DPS class of some sort. If I'm not busy Divine Storming, I'm taking a page from Shatner and unloading bolts of lightning in Icecrown.

The funny thing about joining pickup groups is that everyone seems to know more about everyone else's class than the players themselves do. For one thing, the tanks appear to know more than the healers and the healers know more than the tanks. What gives? Let me outline what happened.There had been a little friction going on in the raid as we were heading up to Festergut. I didn't think it was anything substantial. It sounded like generic pug chatter. Anyway, once we get to the orange gas boss, things started out routinely enough. The healers stood in the center of the room and we had enough ranged DPS on the outside. Spores were synchronized. We hit the third inhale and Festergut started absolutely destroying the tank. I didn't think he was going to make it. Sure enough, several seconds later, the tank died and we all wiped.

The healing priest we had with us became upset. He wanted to know why the bear didn't pop his cooldowns. The priest had a spore up at the time and had to run out to the ranged and wasn't able to heal through the incoming damage. Naturally, the bear tank became livid and roared back asking where his Pain Suppression was.

The priest responded and said, "First of all, I'm holy." But the point was moot as the tank already took off. Another raid ended in a shouting match because of the players involved, no one wanted to take responsibility or bury the hatchet and move on. The raid was effectively shot at that point. No one wants to come in when the first four bosses of Icecrown have been taken down. Most players still want the badges or the gear.

Forget about establishing fault for a moment. Shouldn't the immediate priority be on hammering out solutions instead of identifying fault? Going back to Festergut here, the raid knew that the boss would swing that much harder. There are significantly geared tanks out there who can easily absorb that kind of punishment without having to rely on any cooldowns at all whatsoever. As this is a pug, I'd assume that bad things would happen and prepare for them.

Think about your outs

Imagine for a moment that World of Warcraft was like poker. Look at the cards you're dealt and think about how many outs you have in order to survive or to advance. Going back to the Festergut example, we had access to two paladins: One was protection specced and the other was retribution specced. We had a holy priest and a shaman but there wasn't much he could contribute from a life saving perspective. Lastly, there was our bear tank who had his own cooldowns. We had four outs in the raid. There were four ways that tank could have survived.

Something I've noticed is that unless these are coordinated in advance, players rarely use them! Perhaps they just assume that someone else with a cooldown will use theirs first so that they don't have to. When I play on my retribution paladin, I always keep my fingers on Divine Sacrifice just in case. You never know, right?

I don't know about you or your raids, but I personally prefer having tanks light up their defensive cooldowns first. They can give an advance notice on when their cooldowns will expire. Healing cooldowns can then be overlapped on top to further stretch out survivability.

Check that ego at the door!

It's unfortunate that the raid ended the way it did. I had high hopes that Festergut and Rotface would be taken down. I honestly thought that we had a good shot at them as well.

All I want to say is the next time you sense you're about to become involved in a confrontation or a conflict similar to the one above, be willing to back down. My guess is you want your badges and loot. When it comes to tactics, not everyone runs the same playbook. For the sake of group cohesion, I've even backed down once or twice even though I fully knew I did nothing wrong (and others in the group confirmed that as well). It's nice to be right all the time, but I get annoyed when things fall apart.

Sometimes, the best course of action is to simply take a deep breath and calm down. Instead of looking for faults, find out different options that can be done in the future to prevent this wipe from happening again. And above all, don't aggravate another person for the sake of aggravating them. I don't know why people do this but it's simply unnecessary. Work on de-escalating a situation as it tends to lead to a better outcome for everyone. Maybe we won't have as many players abandoning raids.

The correct play

In any event, I think the best play that could've happened here on Festergut was getting the priest to priest acknowledge that they had to run out of the middle to get the spore on the rest of the group. The tank should have ignited their cooldown and then the priest could have used his after it expired. If only things could have been done differently.

WoW Heroic speed runs

Most of us have been running heroics since the daily random quest was first introduced with TotC, and since then we've been running them every day, on every one of our 80s, for what seems an eternity. Even over-gearing them and short dungeon finder queues can no longer keep the heroic grind from being mind-numbingly dull.

Enter speed runs.

By speed runs, I'm not talking about just going fast. Even PUGs these days move pretty quickly through heroics. I'm talking about going as fast as you possibly can. Racing through the heroics, pulling crazy numbers of mobs, skipping everything skippable. Not only will your heroic run be much shorter, but it will suddenly be much more dangerous too. When you're pushing line of how much you can do, even slight positioning errors or DPS pulling aggro can result in wipes.

Speed runs have the potential to put the challenge back in heroics, and today we're going to talk about how to pull of the best time that you can.

Not for PUGs

Right off the bat, I want to stress this is not something for PUGs. Sure, you can go fast and pull a few packs at a time, but if you try a speed run in a PUG, you're probably destined for a wipe. PUG members are forever wandering off, getting lost, DPSing too soon, begging to hit all those optional bosses, etc. And fair enough, they didn't sign on to blitzkrieg the place.

Definitely get a group of friends together to do this. Just like I don't recommend trying to force PUGs to do your heroic achievements, I don't don't recommend trying to force them to do speed runs. Besides, you'd probably waste any time gained trying to explain to them how you go faster if they don't DPS for a while.

Rule #1: Skip everything

Your first goal in a speed run is to skip as much of the content as possible. Wrath heroics are absolutely filled with optional bosses, many of which people don't realize are optional. Sure, it may only take you 30 seconds to down the boss that you're passing anyway, but 30 seconds is a lot of time to waste on a speed run.

This also means skipping trash whenever possible, which sometimes takes very specific positioning. If just one person wanders too far to the side, you can suddenly pull far more than you bargained for. This is particularly true at the end of Halls of Lightning.

I'll be included a list of all the bosses that I know can be skipped in the tips section at the end of this article.

Rule #2: Punches in bunches

The concept here is that it takes exactly the same amount of time to AoE down four mobs as it does to AoE down 10 mobs. So make big pulls. Gather that first group, then the next, then the next. Check out the first two pulls in the video above -- they're massive. The actual amount that you can pull will depend on you tank and healer, but in general you want to be pulling so much that the tank needs to use tanking cooldowns. Anything less and you're likely wasting time.

Rule #3: Don't DPS ... yet

This seems to be the hardest rules for people to follow -- but do not DPS until your tank has finished pulling everything that he's going to pull. If you start attacking that first group, you will pull aggro. Your tank is busy running toward the next group down the line -- he's just generating enough aggro to keep those mobs of the healer and on his tail. If he stops to compete with you on threat, you won't be moving. DPS are the greatest cause of failure of rule #2. The tank cannot gather up huge packs unless you let him.

Here's what often happens: tank hits first group and moves on. DPSer starts attacking while moving. Either the tank stops pulling and goes back (at which point you're pulling one group at a time), or the DPSer pulls aggro and starts taking damage. The healer heals him and pulls aggro and dies. Now it's a wipe -- or at best, a sloppy, brute-force recovery from a potential wipe. Either way, it's slower. One of the joys of speed runs is that execution matters again, but that means holding off on your DPS.

Once the tank pulls his last pack of mobs, then open up; give it everything you've got. Hunters should absolutely use Misdirection and rogues should use Tricks of the Trade. You'll notice in the video above the tank was a warrior -- arguably the worst at AoE threat -- and he had no problem holding aggro at all even on groups of up to 20 mobs, because the DPS waited until he was done pulling. Sure, if your tank is gearing solely for mitigation and not threat you could have problems -- but then you should be smacking your tank upside the head anyway.

You'll also note that on the video above at the stairway just past King Dred one of the DPSers started attacking on the run, causing the tank to have to run all the way back down the stairs to pick up the stray mob, wasting valuable time.

Heroic speed run tips and tricks

Here's a list of some of the tips and tricks that I've learned while speed running heroics. Most of the time you just follow the three rules of speed runs and you're good. But it also helps to know what is and is not skippable.

  • Ahn'kahet (Old Kingdom) Prince Taldaram and Herald Volazj are the only two bosses you have to fight, out of the five bosses in the instance. After fighting Taldaram, go down the hallway to the platform at the top of the stairs. Turn right and jump off the ledge there to minimize the trash you have to fight. Be sure that pet classes dismiss their pets before this jump. You should be able to kill Volazj before the second Insanity is cast.
  • Azjol'nerub The second boss, Hadronox, can be skipped. This is easily accomplished by resetting the mobs in the spiderweb area. Just have a hunter, rogue or night elf as the only one in line of sight of the mobs. They engage the mobs, then Feign Death, Vanish or Shadow Meld. The mobs will all despawn and you have a short window of time to run down to the hold that leads below. Also note that Anub'arak shrugs off DoTs before he submerges; however, you have a tiny window to reapply the DoTs so that he keeps taking damage while submerged. You should be able to kill him after only two submerges, though the final pack of mobs will still come after he's dead.
  • Culling of Stratholme This place is where speed runs go to die. Almost all of it's on a timer, and you can just hope for good luck in random mob spawns. We like to pull the Infinite Corruptor in with Mal'ganis (though of course you can skip him).
  • Drak'tharon Keep You can literally skip every boss up until the final boss. To skip Trollgore, just engage him and then run into the next room, and he'll leash. Novos you can just walk through -- he'll engage, but you'll be long gone before the first add appears. Alternatively, you can skirt around the left edge, as you see in the video above.
  • Forge of Souls Chain pulling can be very dangerous in here, since the mobs actually do significant damage, so be cautious. Bronjahm can be skipped -- just engage him and run past. By the time you get about halfway up the walkway, he'll leash back to his room.
  • Gundrak Eck is the only skippable boss here that I'm aware of. Big pulls and jumping off ledge shortcuts are your main ways to save time.
  • Halls of Lightning General Bjarngrim can be skipped -- just choose a path opposite the direction he's patrolling and move on. In the big room past Ionar, the vast majority of the mobs can be skipped if you choose your path very carefully and pull only very specific packs.
  • Halls of Reflection There's nothing skippable here, and much like CoS, you're pretty much stuck on a timer.
  • Halls of Stone Maiden of Grief and Krystallus can be skipped. The Tribunal is still slow and painful.
  • Nexus Nothing is skippable in the Nexus, but you can do some truly massive pulls. My tank is a big fan of pulling Anomalus all the way over to Ormorok's area.
  • Oculus Nothing skippable here either; however, this instance can be run in about 11 minutes just with good, solid execution. You just need teammates who know where they're going.
  • Pit of Saron You cannot skip any bosses, but there is a shortcut. Tank Ick as close to the pathway leading up to the tunnel as you can without his leashing (about 20 yards away or so). As soon as he dies, have the entire party mount up. You can then ride up the pathway before the first two packs of mobs get there. You'll still have to fight the second two packs. Also as you're completing the tunnel, be sure to have someone run out ASAP to engage Tyrannus to start his long RP sequence while you're killing the last swarm of tunnel adds.
  • Trial of the Champion About the only thing you can do here is teach your party to joust.
  • Utgarde Keep Prince Keleseth can be skipped, but the four mobs in front of him cannot. So clear them and move on. A great deal of the trash can by bypassed, especially the trash immediately in front of and to the side of the base of the staircases. Just hug right and keep moving.
  • Utgarde Pinnacle Svala and Gortok (the statues encounter) can be skipped. When you engage Skadi, don't hesitate but move as quickly as possible to the harpoon launchers and AoE the adds down. If you're lucky, you'll get all three harpoons you need on the first pass. When you're fighting King Ymiron, remember that you can use your PvP trinket and various class and racial abilities to break out of his stuns, giving you more DPS time.
As you start to think about heroic from a speed run perspective, you'll start to notice more and more trash that you can skip with careful positioning. You'll start to think of 20 seconds as an insanely long time to waste on anything and you'll find that heroics may actually start to get your blood pumping again.

What pro tips do you guys have for speed runs of heroics? What secret do you know that can shave a good chunk of time off a run? Did I miss any other bosses that you can bypass?