Posts Tagged Firelands

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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Farewell to Firelands

Farewell Firelands

ZELCANDOR: “Engulfing Flames inc – oh lol, Raggy’s already dead. Wait, how did our Shadow Priest die?”

MAGE: “She got hit by that bugged meteor.”

PALADIN: “Ah well, she was gonna life grip us into its path anyway, good thing we got her before she got us!”

And with that, Tier 12 progression raiding came to an end for us.

We’d spent the night wiping on Heroic Ragnaros yet again but the mood was good. As much as we’d read all the horror stories about Heroic Ragnaros being a guildkiller, we’ve always thoroughly enjoyed learning the fight and making progress on it. A huge part of this is because we’ve never had the lineup available to really go for the fight – on our first night, both our Shadow Priest and Hunter had to drop out a the last minute due to real life. We decided to give it a go anyway, to see if our tactics were viable. It was pretty fun to 8 man Heroic Ragnaros and learn as much of the fight as we could. It was even more fun when our 8 manning actually yielded some results, with our best attempt bringing Ragnaros to 50% HP.

Since then, the story’s been the same – we clear all content and then have 2 nights on Heroic Ragnaros but always without our ‘perfect’ raid comp. Lots of wiping ensues but hell, we all have fun, we all learn and last night was so sweet. On our last attempt, we executed the fight perfectly, we got Ragnaros to 42% and wiped on the 3rd wave of Molten Seeds. Our aim was to bring Ragnaros to the second transition before that third wave of seeds. Unfortunately, our Warlock wasn’t available and our 10th DPS had just joined the guild, never having set foot in Heroic Firelands and thus was a little undergeared compared to the rest of us.

But fun was had by all and we ended the night with a rather messy but funny Normal Mode kill. And so, that’s that. No more Firelands for a while. Patch 4.3 is here and it may be that we can’t raid as often as we’d like to due to our members going off on vacations or visiting friends and family. I think most people will have become thoroughly sick of Firelands by now but personally, I feel a bit of regret at not having more time with Heroic Ragnaros. I know, I know, we haven’t even seen Phase 3 or 4 yet and it could have given us a lot of grief but we’ll never know. What we do know is we’ve wiped on Heroic Ragnaros a lot and thoroughly enjoyed it!

I guess it’s strange to start with a review of Firelands raiding at the end but there you have it.

Our first couple of months of Firelands raiding were pretty rocky. We’d just come off the back of an unsuccessful guild merger and were hemorrhaging players. We’d decided that we could no longer do 25 mans, it was just too much work and we didn’t have the playerbase for it anymore, especially with the lofty standards of play we wanted to reach. We tried running 2 groups of 10 mans but that was causing a lot of unhappiness. I had to take an extended break due to real life, a break that resulted in my stepping down as GM and as one of the guild RLs.

And then, a bigger blow, the only other experienced RL had to step down due to real life. Serendipitously, this co-incided with my return to the game and I was back in the RL hot seat. A role I’d traditionally run away from due to the simple fact that I just never thought I was all that good at it.

Returning to Raid Leading was rocky. My real life was kind of a mess at the time and I wasn’t sleeping properly or even emotionally up to the task of resuming raid leading. But I sucked it up and did it, anyway.

And you know what? I hated Firelands.

It was shit.

I wasn’t familiar with any of the trash and patrol routes. I thought it was retarded as hell to have to clear half the trash just to summon the first boss. Half the time I mispulled and wiped the raid because I was so impatient.

I grudgingly had to admit that tanking Riplimb was pretty fun in the Shannox fight. But still, I hated it.

Beth’tilac was okay, simple tank and spank fight from my perspective. But still, I hated it.

Rhyolith gave me a headache. I couldn’t see shit, I was constantly running into magma lines, adds were a pain to tank and no-one seemed to understand how to steer the sonnofabitch. I hated it.

Alysrazor was an exercise in frustration. On the surface it had looked to be fun, with tanks doing 1000% more damage. In practice, it was another fight where I couldn’t see shit and was constantly dying due to running out of range of the healers. And let’s not even start with those goddamn tornadoes. I hat – actually, you probably get the idea by now. 😛

Baleroc and Staghelm were fun in their own way but then came Ragnaros. I hated it most of all. It was a long fight and I just didn’t ever engage with the tactics the raid had come up with in my absence. They just didn’t make sense to me and for those first few weeks, I just handed over raid leading to our mage and stumbled through the fight, hoping for the best.

But why the hate? It’s not really that bad, is it? I mean, some of the fights suck but it’s no Icecrown Citadel (don’t get me started on that shithole. Or well, maybe that’ll be an interesting future post).

Well, in retrospect, I realise that what I hated was that I wasn’t really in charge.

I’d come back from a break and in my absence my fellow raiders had cleared all of Firelands on Normal Mode. I was the Raid Leader and while I’d read up on every fight 10 ways to Sunday, I had no idea about our specific tactics for Firelands. And because of that, I hated it and just couldn’t engage with the fights as well as I should have. I hated posting tactics and assignments only to find out that they weren’t how we’d been doing the fight so far, that our tactics were different. I hated explaining some things only for my raiders to correct my assumptions about the fight. I hated having to figure out if I should stick with what everyone knew or change things to tactics I was happy with.

In the end, it was half and half. Some fights I changed things here and there to make them work for me. Others I left alone.

But as time passed, things changed. Real life began to settle down and I stopped being quite so moody and unstable. We started Heroic Modes and suddenly I felt that fire and excitement at having to come up with tactics and progress with my guildies again.

Now don’t get me wrong, our Heroic Mode tactics are in no way all down to my strategic genius or anything like that. The moment we dropped down to 1 x 10 man team, our raiding changed. It became a lot more collaborative and all my tactics are is a blueprint, a starting point. We go in, see how we do with what I planned and then we fine tune and adjust to make the fight work.

I also enjoyed that we started to work on our Glory of the Firelands Raider achievements, whittling away at it until we got it done (goddamn Alysrazor and her bloody tornadoes).

In the end, I’ll miss Heroic Shannox and the intricacies of the dance that myself and my fellow tank do to lose our stacks.

I’ll miss the tense vent chat of Heroic Beth’tilac as we communicate and do our best to keep things controlled in Phase 1. I’ll really miss our Hunter calling out in annoyance and frustration that Spiderlings are coming from the same side yet again, while he valiantly tries to make sure he gets every Broodling. 😀

I’ll miss the fun of picking up all the adds on Heroic Rhyolith and dancing between Magma Lines and AoE slowing the slimes.  Actually, no, scratch that, I’ll always hate this goddamn fight.

I’ll miss topping the meters on Heroic Alysrazor while in full DPS gear and my healers shouting at me to stop being a nub and put on my proper tanking gear! 😀

It’s such a pity I only started to appreciate and enjoy Firelands at the end.

Ah well, we’ll be back soon enough – we still have 2 Dragonwraths to complete!

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