A Quick Word on Tanking and Hit/Expertise

•March 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

by Andy/Betancore

Ghostcrawler recently brought up an interesting point about tanks and gearing for hit and expertise.  He mentions that tanks now nearly always gear for survival versus threat, and that hit and expertise are somewhat undesirable because of it.  He then goes on to describe a couple ways that this might be fixed:

One way is by turning them into defensive stats. They are defensive stats for Blood death knights, because the DK self-healing is tied into Death Strike, which can miss. It might be possible to do something similar for the other classes. Imagine if Shield Block had to actually hit the target. Presumably you raise your shield, but not high enough to intercept the incoming blow. Now hit becomes a mitigation stat for warriors as well. We might have to adjust the mitigation amount on Shield Block or give warriors a small Hit bonus so Hit capping wasn’t totally unreasonable, but you get the basic idea. You could do the same with paladins (make Holy Shield more interesting?) and druids as well (Savage Defense could proc on a hit).

Now, this is a great idea, and he’s right about hit being a sort of survival stat for us DK’s, but I see a couple of reasons why relying on hit and expertise for survival might not be so good for the tanking game:

1) Having defensive abilities need to hit introduces more random chance

Earlier in his post, Ghostcrawler mentions that the reason parry-haste was removed from bosses, and a chance to miss was removed from taunts, was that both those elements introduced an element of chance that could potentially wipe a group through no fault of the raiders.  In the Cataclysm world of big health pools and limited healer mana, the cost of each heal needs to be weighed against the healing that needs to be done.  Parry-haste was a problem because a tank could suddenly be spiked for massive amounts of damage.  The same thing can happen when a defensive ability is tied to hit.

Ghostcrawler mentions Death Strike as an example, so let’s go with that.  I can tell you from firsthand experience that missing a Death Strike is annoying, as it accounts for a good part of our mitigation.  Missing two in a row usually lands me in big trouble, and normally forces me to burn a cooldown.  Missing three in a row could be fatal.  This is the kind of random chance that would be introduced to all tanks if GC’s proposed solution was adopted.  The thing is, burning a cooldown is normally no big deal for a DK, as we have a metric assload of them.  For a class like a Warrior, however, having to blow a cooldown could lead to not having one available during an enrage, or another crucial point in the fight.  And that, well, could potentially wipe a group through no fault of the raiders.

2) Make hit too important, and you have another Defense Rating

Defense Rating, the arbitrary rating that tanks had to have enough of to not be crit, was removed.  Blizzard didn’t like the way all tanks needed to gear around having exactly enough DR, but not too much.  The reason tanks would gear to the Defense Cap in the first place was to remove the chance for a random damage spike (being crit by the boss.)  Making more defensive abilities need to hit reintroduces the potential for a similar random damage spike, and eliminating this may become a priority for tanks.  This would create a situation similar to Defense Rating, where tanks would gear to the hit cap before anything else, and this seems to be against Blizzard’s design wishes.

Those are just a few of my thoughts on a few of Ghostcrawler’s thoughts.  As he said, this is not a change that will come soon, if at all.  I just think Blizzard needs to be very careful in how they implement this, or they could be moving back towards a situation they’ve been trying to move out of.  But, then again, I’ve only been tanking since Wrath.  If you’ve got something to add, leave it in the comments.


Hug a Pug

•March 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

by Andy/Betancore

You can haz DPS if I can haz aggro first.

Imagine for a moment that you’re a fresh 85 who only started playing during the last part of Wrath.  You don’t know what “CC” stands for, and the only time you think an interrupt is necessary is in PvP.  You know that you could do better, but you just don’t know how.  Worse, the other members of your group lambaste you whenever you make a mistake, or do something even slightly “wrong.”  What would you do?

If you’re like 90% of all the “bad” players I’ve met in PUGs, you strike first, lashing out at anyone who does anything remotely wrong, just so you won’t be labeled as “fail” yourself.  You dare not ask questions, for you know you’ll be laughed at, and possibly kicked from the group.  You want to learn, but don’t know how to ask without being ridiculed.

Now, I know I’m not talking to the assholes right now, so I’ll skip over that part.  But the rest of you could be a little more understanding, and not just sit there silently while someone is getting chewed out for just being new.  If a pugger is doing something wrong, let them know in an even, helpful tone.  Explain encounters quickly as you get to them, unless you’re greeted with choruses of “We know, we know” on the first boss.  And if other folks are making fun of a newbie, speak up and stop it.  There’s also a few role-specific things you can do to ease a new player’s transition into endgame content:


If you’re playing with a new DPSer, you have the best view of what they’re doing.  Give them suggestions as needed, as long as you can be polite and non-intrusive.  If your tank is new, offer to mark for him so that he knows what the kill order should be.  Use aggro dumps/reducers early and often, and use Tricks of the Trade or Misdierect at the start of a pull when you can.  While playing with a new healer, be extra careful about not taking avoidable damage, and go out of your way interrupt damaging spells whenever you can (though you should be doing this anyway.)  Use defensive cooldowns whenever appropriate, even if it lowers your DPS.


If a new DPSer is taking damage they could avoid, make sure you tell them that the damage can be avoided before yelling at them.  They may honestly not know.  At the same time, don’t try so hard to save a DPSer who swims in fire that you let the tank or other DPS die.  Nothing teaches a cold, hard lesson like a repair bill.  Be sure to explain what the bad looks like as you rez him up.  When dealing with a new tank, choose the most important issue to address.  If he’s squishy, offer to mark for him, and be sure to make use of CC.  Also, ask him to use cooldowns more often, as he may think that cooldowns are only for bosses.  If he has trouble keeping threat, make sure that the DPS know they need slow down a bit, and make sure he has his threat generating ability (Blood Presence, Defensive Stance, Righteous Fury) up.


If one of your DPSers is new, make sure you explain the kill order, and mark every pull.  A newbie may not know that skull means “this needs to die yesterday.”  Also clearly explain which CC mark is for who, and whether or not the newbie should pull with CC.  If your healer is new, CC is even more important.  Be sure to use every CC available, even snares like Entangling Roots, to ensure that you take as little damage as possible.  Use short cooldowns on, well, cooldown.  As DK’s we have a metric asston of 1 minute cooldowns (have I mentioned how much I love DK tanks lately?), so you should use them all as early and often as possible, just to give the healer that much more of a buffer between a successful heal and a wipe.  I consider anything 2 minutes or under a “short cooldown.”  Be sure to have longer cooldowns at the ready as well, even on trash, in case things get hairy.

One of Us is All of Us

When you take the time to help out a struggling pugger, you improve not only his enjoyment of the game, but everyone that will group with him in the future.  Not only that, but by keeping a civil tone and showing your fellow group members that it’s worthwhile to cooperate and communicate, you improve the community as a whole.  Help one of us, and you help all of us.

Remember, only you can stop the cycle of PUG abuse.  And who wouldn’t want to do that? Juslookitthatface!  So hug a PUG today! -Andy/Betancore

RaidTunes: We Are Ready For the Seige

•March 22, 2011 • Leave a Comment

by Andy/Betancore

Nothing says "Death Knight" like Amon Amarth

It all started one fateful night in Eye of Eternity.  It wasn’t my guild’s first Malygos kill, but we were still having problems staying alive.  We were getting pretty frustrated, but decided to give it one more try before calling it a night.

Now, I normally listen to music while raiding, but before this night, I never paid much attention to it.  However, this particular night, I had my music turned up louder than normal to hear a quiet song.  After that song was over, I forgot to turn the volume back down to my normal level.  I have a distinct memory of running to pull the boss, and the second I hit my Icy Touch button, hearing the opening chords to Metallica’s The Judas Kiss blasting through my headphones:

And I said to myself, “If we don’t wipe in the first minute here, this will be epic.”  I dashed back and forth, kiting Malygos as needed, adrenaline pumping through my system.  The music enabled me to shut off the part of me that tends to get distracted, and become a paragon of fast reaction and quick thought.  For me, it made the perfect soundtrack to the fight  Then, to top it all off, Malygos breaking the platform was perfectly timed with the music dropping out for the line “Judas lives recite this vow / I’ve become your new god now,” and the hectic drake riding phase of the fight took place among a shredding solo.  Finally, Malygos died within seconds of the song finishing.  It was the most fun I’d had in game in a long time.  From that day forward, I made it my mission to find the best music to raid to.

And so, in my weekly feature, I’ll highlight a couple of songs that I enjoyed listening to while raiding the previous week.  In the future, I may even post Grooveshark playlists for your listening pleasure!

I would separate my musical tastes into two categories: “Light” and “Heavy.”  For “Light” music, I enjoy a lot of alt-singer/songwriter, folk, indie, reggae, alt-rock, and electronica music.  Metal, industrial, and punk are my favorite “Heavy” genres.  I’ll post recommendations for each, as I’ll listen to one or the other depending on my mood.

Without further ado, here are my song picks for this week:

Light: Silversun Pickups – The Royal We

It was a big progression week for us as a guild, so I pulled out my “seriousface” music.  The determined tone of The Royal We made it the perfect driving force for our first Maloriak kill.  Not to mention how appropriate the lyric “How many times do you want to die?” is.

Heavy: Slayer – Crionics

Ah, classic Slayer.  They shred so hard not even Omnotron could stop them.  The lyrics of this song would probably be more appropriate for a Lich King kill, but I just couldn’t pass up the pure thrashey goodness and melodic solos.  I find that a good solo pulls just the right part of my brain back into the music during a fight, even though I normally don’t like them.

Well, there’s your RaidTunes for the week.  Yeah, it’s only 2 songs right now, but I’ll try to put together a playlist for you next week.  Actually, if you’re looking for a whole night’s worth of raid music this week, most of the songs on both Swoon and Show No Mercy make excellent RaidTunes.  Throw ’em on and kick some ass!  If you have any suggestions for great RaidTunes, drop em in the comments.  -Andy/Betancore

This Was a Triumph

•March 20, 2011 • Leave a Comment

by Wes/Sharvahn

I’m making a note here: huge success.

This was my thought when my boyfriend looked up from my laptop and asked me how he did. Fifteen minutes earlier, I was in Bastion of Twilight with my usual raid group. We were on the trash between Halfus Wyrmbreaker and Valiona and Theralion and methodically killing each group in hopes of BoE epics. I play on my laptop on my bed (yes, I’m going to have a terrible back, but it works for now as I don’t have a desk) usually with my boyfriend nearby watching television or reading. This week, he was watching intently over my shoulder, asking the occasional question. As we neared the second to last trash pack, the quiet question came from behind me.

“Can I try?”

Those were probably the last words I’d ever expect to hear out of Adam. He’s shown mild interest in the game before, mostly asking if he could play alone or if he’d have to suffer in a PuG group and what the classes did, but he’s really never shown any sign of actually wanting to play. This being a raid, I was hesitant; he has never touched the game before, we’ve only gotten Valiona and Theralion down a few times, and I’m not the greatest person to be coaching newbies. I have a short fuse and a low tolerance for stupidity, which generally makes me the bad cop to Andy’s good cop in a raid situation.

After a moment’s thought, I figured “what the hell, it’s only trash.” I handed Adam the laptop and took a moment to explain which keys were bound to which abilities and in what priority he should press them and quickly explained the rage mechanic and the all important Omen. I didn’t think he’d do well enough to pull aggro off of Andy, but it couldn’t hurt.

With a Heroic Leap, he bounced into the next trash pack on Andy’s pull, whirlwinded and cleaved to stack Meat Cleaver as he had seen me do, and correctly weaved in bloodthirsts and raging blows in between AOE attacks. He wasn’t first on the metre, but he wasn’t the last either. I was impressed.

Valiona and Theralion were up next. I quickly explained what he would need to focus on, went over dragon boss mechanics, brought up his /range finder and told him to listen to Andy’s calls over vent. With possibly our raid’s life in my hands, I relinquished complete control, shut my mouth and sat back to watch a man who had been playing for all of 10 minutes fight his first raid boss.

By the end of the fight, Adam was among the living and had come in fourth on the damage charts with a respectable 11.4K DPS. The dragon twins had been one shot. I of course was biting my lip the entire time and trying not to be a backseat gamer, but he really didn’t need much coaching. I simply had pointed him in the right direction and let him figure things out on his own. Taking my laptop back, I switch to OBC’s officer channel and told Andy what I had done. As we headed to Blackwing Descent to kill Omnomtron, Andy barked out in ventrillo that NO ONE has any excuse to do under 10K DPS on a raid boss anymore as someone who had been playing for 15 minutes total had done 11K and lived. Adam was certainly proud of himself, and I was grinning from ear to ear about his performance.

Coaching Adam gave me a whole new perspective on coaching newbies. As the DPS officer, I’m often called upon to assist new raiders and new players who are having gearing troubles or general DPS problems and I find myself losing my patience very quickly. Knowing that I couldn’t, under ANY circumstance, lose my patience with Adam or I’d find myself on the couch very quickly, I was forced to let the player make his own decisions. Normally, I’m having to hand-hold every step of the way, which I believe causes a lot of my frustration. I’ve just become so accustomed to players not being capable of progressive thought, I’ve forgotten that not all players are like that. Next time you’re needed to help out a new player – or hell, volunteer to help out – remember to try and let them make their own decisions, even if it means making their own mistakes. While I certainly don’t recommend throwing a newbie into the raid before even questing, don’t assume that they can’t figure things out just because they’re new. They might just surprise you.  -Wes/Sharvahn

Hax Shield and You: Abusing the Best Spell in the Game

•March 20, 2011 • Leave a Comment

by Andy/Betancore

Srsly if you're a DK and you don't use AMS, you're doing it wrong.

People often ask me what the difference between a bad DK and a mythical “good” DK is.  I tell those people that “good” Death Knights don’t suck, and that our much-maligned class really doesn’t deserve the stigma it has.  It’s the players that suck, not the class.  “But Andy,” you might be saying, “You still haven’t told me the difference between a good and bad DK!  Why do some players suck and others not?”  Well, dear reader, there could be multiple  reasons a particular player sucks, ranging from immaturity to bad reaction times to a crippling addiction to those delicious little mini-eclairs.  There are, however, a few indicators to help you separate the undead wheat from the facerolling chaffe.  Topping that list: great DK’s abuse the hell out of Anti-Magic Shell.

Defensive Cooldowns: Not Just For Tanks

It’s a brand new world out there, if you didn’t notice the big evil dragon flying around rocking Azeroth’s collective shit.  Ammo is gone, leveling through Azeroth no longer sucks, our rune regeneration is actually interesting, and, most importantly, healers no longer have bottomless mana pools.  Every point of mana spent healing you is less time later on in the fight that your healers will be able to heal at all.  This means that it is now the DPS’s job to mitigate as much damage as possible without significantly impacting their DPS.  I’m looking at you, Faceroll Knights.  See that shiny green button lying alone and unloved at the bottom of an unused bar?  Keybind it.  Now.

But Death Knights aren’t the only class that must now worry about mitigating damage, nor is AMS the only cooldown DPS DK’s should be using.  Icebound Fortitude comes in handy, too.  Pallies have their bubbles, Mages have Ice Block,  Durids (yes that is spelled right) have Barkskin, and so on, and so forth.  Everything that lowers damage or removes debuffs must now be used intelligently to help your healers conserve mana.  Your raid depends on it.

However, I believe that AMS is by far the superior defensive cooldown.  One reason for my undying love of AMS is it’s relatively short cooldown.  Another is the fact that:

It Stops Everything!

I’d like to talk specifically to my fellow Death Knights for a moment.  The next time you’re in the middle of a fight, try paying a bit more attention than usual to your debuffs.  Specifically, pay attention to the colored borders that denote whether the effect is physical, a disease, a curse, or magic.  Anything that doesn’t have a red border for a physical debuff, you could have prevented.  I’m not just talking about preventing the damage from it, either.  If you had AMS up while it was being cast on you, the debuff would have never taken effect. If you ever know that you’re about to be affected by a non-physical debuff, you can pop AMS and not even worry about it.  Think about that for a moment.

Need an example? Asphyxiate. Yes, that thing Baron Ashbury in H SFK uses that scares the hell out of your healer.  Pop AMS at the right time, and you could be beating on Ashbury with a full health bar while your comrades are having nearly all the HP drained out of them.  You’re one less person that your healer has to worry about, at least for that phase.  If you spend a moment thinking of other spells that might be completely nullified by using AMS, I’m sure you’ll come up with a few.  Try it!  The worst that can happen is you having to wait 45 seconds for AMS (henceforth known as “Hax Shield” because of it’s near-exploit potency and my fondness for shields) to cool down.  And even if you can’t time it right, if you aren’t stunned, Hax Shield can still help!

75% is a Lot

Valiona’s Blackout.

You can eat it.

All of it.

Don’t believe me?  Next time you get Blackout, run away from everyone else, pop Hax Shield and Icebound Fortitude, and tell your healer to dispel you.  You might actually want to tell him a couple seconds beforehand so that he can stop being dumbfounded and actually dispel you before Hax Shield expires.  If he can pick his jaw up off the floor long enough to take the debuff off, you’ll find yourself around a quarter health, your pretty green bubble will have disappeared, and your healers will have fallen to their knees in worship of you.  Well, that third part might not happen, but it should with the amount of mana you just saved them.

Hax Shield’s description says it blocks “75% of magic damage up to 50% of your maximum health.”  This essentially means that the moment you would have taken more than 50% of your maximum health in magic damage before Hax Shield’s absorption, the effect is removed.  Fortunately, this moment comes after Blackout hits you for around 350k damage.  Thus, you take around 82k damage before Icebound Fortitude.  This may be dangerous to try if you’re below full health, but if you can get away with it, it’ll save your healers quite a bit of mana and worry.

Survivability is About Being Creative

I’d like to wrap up by saying that DK’s and their Hax Shield aren’t the only ones who could benefit from experimenting with survival cooldowns.  Try a couple on the next boss you see, and you might just find that you’ve made your healer’s life a bit easier.  Although the effect may seem trivial, every little bit helps, and it’s the little bits that separate the good players from the great players.  -Andy/Betancore

Aka’magosh, friends!

•March 18, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Hello and welcome to Stack Shields, where we like to stack shields!  Specifically, Blood Shields.  Well, I like to at least.  I’m Andy, a non-fail Death Knight tank.  Yes, we do exist.  Death Knights were the first tanking class I really got into, and I stuck with Betancore through much of Wrath and into Cataclysm, always in love with Blood’s self-healing flavor.  You can expect posts from me on the ins-and-outs of how I play my DK, which usually involves trying to make my healer feel as obsolete as possible.  DK’s, unique among tanks, have so many tricks up their sleeves that they can survive complications that would normally cause a party wipe.  For this reason, I call Blood my “Igotdis” spec.  As in, “the entire party is dead and the boss is at %30?  Igotdis.”  I’ll also post about my trials and tribulations as a raid “leader” (more on the meaning of those quotation marks later,) the reasons I play WoW, why I like PUGs, and trivialities like the music I prefer while tanking.

I may strive to make myself a bastion of healability (if that is not a word it needs to be,)  but my good friend Wes prefers the primal appeal of hitting things over the head with big sticks.  While Fury Warriors may not be topping the DPS charts right now, Wes puts enough research and number-crunching into his beloved troll Sharvahn to make a facerolling Ret-adin blush.  You can expect high-quality Fury theorycrafting out of him, as well as “kids these days” MMO veteran rants,  why he hates PUGs, and general grumpiness.  I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

So pull up your favorite RSS reader and have a drink on us here in Argent Dawn US’s <Orgrimmar Brewing Co>. Whether we burn steady, flame out, or sputter, it’ll be a hell of a show.