Archive for category Tanking

My Thoughts on Tier 13 Tuning and What Led Us Here

In my last post, I explained my lack of motivation, partly due to raiding woes, and a couple of people took issue with a throwaway comment I made about Dragon Soul Normal Mode being undertuned.


It was pointed out to me that while my raid team steamrolled through Dragon Soul Normal Mode and complained about how easy it was, I should bear in mind that not everyone had the benefit of full Firelands Heroic gear to speed them along.


It’s actually a fair point and one that I’d like to respond to and expand upon. Yes, the majority of our raid team being in full 391 gear meant that we overgeared the early bosses and thus managed to outheal and nuke through fights that would otherwise have given us trouble. Doing these fights in 378 gear would have definitely made this harder for us.


The thing is… that’s not my point really. Having done the fights with my alts, with people in a mix of 378 and 397 gear, I know for a fact that past Morchok, it’s well tuned in terms of boss damage output and DPS / Healing requirements. However, what I feel is missing is anything new or complicated. All the bosses have nothing new to show us and are all extremely straightforward. I don’t believe that any of those bosses take much learning or have anything difficult to overcome.


Even if you’re new to raiding and haven’t done much up until Dragon Soul, there simply isn’t much new to learn about the fights, there isn’t much to keep you wiping until you get to Ultraxion, which is just a gear check – can your raid put out 27k per person and outheal the damage in a tank and spank fight? If not, farm the first four bosses until it can.


Can you kill Ultraxion? If so, then proceed to the next bosses. Dragon Soul is undertuned in terms of mechanics. Most of those bosses would benefit from having a few more mechanics thrown in or having existing mechanics made more difficult (I’m looking at you, Hagara Ice Phase).


It very much feels to me that Dragon Soul is an afterthought of a raid instance, something Blizzard put together very fast because they wanted to commit their resources elsewhere, namely Mists of Pandaria.


I guess what it seems like to me is that Blizzard have decided that Cataclysm has been a failure and just want to move on.


At the end of WotLK, Blizzard listened to a very vocal minority – people who contended that content should be challenging, difficult and grindy, like it was in Vanilla and TBC. So, that’s how Cataclysm was built. Heroics were released that were far tougher than WotLK, required CC, smart pulling and people generally knowing how to play their class.


Raids were harder and completely unPuGgable, killing the thriving community of players that had arisen during WotLK who were either unguilded, ‘casual’ or just unable to cut it in raiding guilds.


Blizzard were happy with this model and continued with it, through the troll heroics of Patch 4.1 and Firelands. Additionally, as part of this model, Blizzard nerfed the Tier 11 Normal Modes, opening them up to people who had so far not been able to access them, allowing them to be PuG’d. There was a plan in place and it was a good one – content is released, guilds have a few months to clear the content on Normal Mode before it’s nerfed for everyone to experience, while Hard Modes are left untouched – after all, chances are your guild’s still progressing on them and if you’re doing Hard Modes, it’s for the challenge factor.


Now, sure, Firelands difficulty was tuned to be somewhat less difficult than Tier 11 as Blizzard realised that the difficulty tuning of Tier 11 wasn’t great but nonetheless, it was still challenging enough once you got to the Heroic level.

The vast majority of competent guilds could get to 6/7 in Firelands with time and effort though they’d hit a wall at Heroic Ragnaros, which is, by all accounts, the hardest encounter Blizzard have ever implemented in the game – originally, Phase 4 required pixel perfect movement from all raid members and this can become soul-crushing and guild breaking.


However, But by around the halfway mark of Patch 4.2, something was brutally clear: Blizzard were haemorrhaging subscribers. My guess is that Blizzard decided at that point that listening to the vocal minority, while delivering a tougher game, had not been good for business. The vast majority of players were cancelling their subscriptions because they had nothing to do in the game or that raiding was inaccessible to them.  At that point, I believe that Blizzard decided that Cataclysm was a failure and that it was best to try and return the game to how it was in WotLK – content accessible to everyone with heroics designed to be cleared with 20 – 30 minutes and not 1 – 2 hours.


I believe that originally Blizzard intended to Nerf Firelands Normal Modes but leave Heroic Modes untouched, like they did with Tier 11. However, with the loss of subscribers and the struggle that most guilds were having with fielding lineups for Firelands, Blizzard nerfed Firelands across the board, their opening salvo in having the game become more accessible.


Cataclysm is a failure and Blizzard decided it’s best not to sink too much in the way of resources into creating Dragon Soul, the last raid of a failed expansion.


And while I’m not particularly enthused about the fact that Mists of Pandaria will return to the model of WotLK, in terms of 5 Man Heroics (fast, easier heroics, meant to finished within 20 – 30 minutes and no, I don’t believe that ‘challenge’ modes are the answer – I want difficult 5 man content just because it’s hard, not because you have to stress yourself by nuking through it as fast as possible) and the raiding model (experience all the fights in LFR on day 1 and continue to burn yourself out by raiding the content twice a week, just to stay competitive), I am hoping that Tier 14 will be solid, imaginative and epic. After all, following through on my theory outlined above, if Blizzard are committing so many resources to MoP, surely it’s going to be great? 😉


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Positioning, Part 1: Communication and the KHiS Principle

A Misunderstanding

Happy new year everyone, though that sentimony is a probably a little late. Ah well, on to the point.

One criticism I’ve received about my blog is the lack of actual tanking content. After all, this is a tanking blog, right?

So, I started writing up a post about tanking in Dragon Soul but a huge chunk of it ended up going off on a tangent. The more I tried to excise this tangent for the sake of coherency, the more that missing contented started to gnaw at me, like a teething ostrich. Because, dammit, that missing content was stuff that’s actually important to me. So, here it is, my first post about tanking and it’s not what I expected.

Any experienced tank will tell you about attaining CTC or about ideal attack priorities. I could too but frankly, it’s all information that can be found elsewhere and explained better. Like here. The science of tanking is well documented but what about the art?


When I’m not raiding, I’ll usually sign up for the Dungeon Finder for some heroics to cap my VP, either as Arms DPS or on my mage or my holy paladin. On the days that I don’t get a tank from my own guild, I find myself stuck with whatever the Dungeon Finder sticks me with.

And more often than not, I get grumpety.

It all comes down to positioning. I dislike tanks that just charge off into a pack of mobs, completely disregarding their abilities or how best to position them or whether some CC would actually make it that much easier. The number of times that I’ve entered Halls of Origination only to wipe on the first trash pack. All because the tank makes a beeline to the big mob standing at the back with no regard to the fact that two of the other mobs will not move unless interrupted and the fourth will just stand around AoE’ing the hapless party members who just stand there, blissfully unaware that moving out of fire is a good thing.

The number of times I’ve entered Well of Eternity on my paladin and grumpily healed up the entire party simply because the tank won’t turn the Dreadlord mobs away from the party. Gah, it annoys me so.

Now, I know, I know, all heroics are faceroll now, stop being an old man and fussing about inconsequential stuff. These are details, this is minutiae. Are you really getting all stressed out about positioning in 5 mans? This isn’t Hardmode Ragnaros, buddy, you need to get yourself a girlfriend!

And to an extent, you’d have a point but I think it comes down to something a real life lesson that I learned a long time ago.

The attitudes and habits that you learn in one workplace will carry over to your next.

As such, the habits and attitudes you bring with you to 5 man tanking will carry over to raid tanking. So, let’s talk about the 5 tenets of good tank positioning.


Okay, so just why is positioning important? Sure, some fights it’s obvious – you want to tank the Drone over here because no Spiderlings spawn there, you want to tank Riblimb away from Shannox so that he’s got further to run when Shannox casts Hurl Spear. This is just game mechanics we’re dealing with but beyond that there’s a whole other world of subtlety and it starts with your healers.

The first principle is what I call KHiS – Keep Healer in Sight. Okay, fine, I don’t call it that at all, I made it up for the purposes of this article, I’m really not that pretentious, honest.

KHiS isn’t just about knowing you’re in healing range but it’s very important for those heavy movement fights such as Nefarian (Phase 3 especially if you’re the add tank and doing HM – moving out of LoS of the healer can happen so easily), Beth’tilac and Alysrazor.

If you have a consistent raid team, then odds are it’s going to be the same healer or healers assigned to keep you alive. I keep an eye on them all the time, I get to know their toon’s profile, what gear they’re wearing (so much easier in the age of transmog, ha!), how they move so that I can always see if they’re in sight. This is generally very easy in 5 mans and 10 mans but can be near impossible in 25 mans. Then again, in 25 mans it’s not quite as important to KHiS simply because odds are that more than one healer has their eye on you.

I’ve already gone over Nefarian briefly above and I won’t talk more about it as it’s no longer current content but I’ll be talking about Beth’tilac and Alysrazor as those are two very interesting encounters, in terms of positioning. While Firelands is also redundant content, I’d like to save talking about Dragon Soul encounters for separate and more focused posts in future.

I’m going to assume that you all know how the Beth’tilac fight works, on both Normal and Heroic for the sake of brevity. With Beth’tilac, you got two tanking arenas. While it’s true that the Web Tank can just go up and pretty much stand still, that’s a little lazy. The Web Tank should always drag Beth’tilac away from the central hole – not too much, just enough to encourage your Web DPS and healer to get away from your exit route. There’s nothing worse than having your DPS and healers think they’re being clever by standing next to the hole for fast return below, only to end up creating a bunch of meteor holes near your escape hatch. 😉

On the ground, your tank can keep the Cinderweb Drone positioned either to the south, near where the Drone spawns or in the center area. However, in Heroic, the Drone fixates on people and runs off chasing them. In addition to that, depending on how effective your Spiderling DPS team is, the tank needs to be on the ball and move the Drone away from any approaching Spiderlings. This is where KHiS is really important but also, where the flipside of KHiS is important too – KTiS – Keep Tank in Sight! 😛

It’s very easy for your raid to get spread out and move out of healing range, especially the tank if he has to move the Drone from one end of the encounter area to another. Going back to the point of positioning, this is where strafe tanking is very important (and more on that in the next part). If you’re doing this fight every week, consistency of movement becomes so important. Healers will know how you move, DPS will know how you move and so the fight becomes less random and chaotic. Strafing the Drone around in a consistent, clean arc around the center will help with keeping healers in sight and keeping up high DPS uptime – if the DPS know how you’re going to move, they can focus on nuking and not stressing about you zigging and zagging all over the place. More importantly, you’ll avoid getting people hit by the Drone’s frontal conal attack. High DPS uptime, less overall raid damage going out.

In addition to that, another complication comes from the Spinners that drop down after every Smouldering Devastation. Warrior tanks are hilariously overpowered here – simply slap a Vigilance on the off-tank and bam! Infinitaunt the Spinners down. Again, you’ll have to move the Drone around a lot in order to get within range of Spinners but circling around the center helps tremendously for the above reasons. Once the Spinners are down, they’ll die fast enough to not be anything to worry about.

Finally, the most important thing: Vent.

Don’t be embarassed to shout out and just tell your healer if you’re going to be moving heavily or in a way that they aren’t expecting or accustomed to!

This all leads quite nicely into the next part, where I’ll go more indepth about consistency of positioning.

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