Category: Gameplay


WTB Barkskin!

I need to grow a thicker skin.

This is something I’m working on anyway, but I have a feeling the process is going to be accelerated by playing my new little resto druid (Andi, introduced a couple of posts back). Healers, in terms of the social dynamic in PUGs, are doing it tough at the moment – everything, I discovered, was my fault. Of course, to be quite fair, some of it was; not only am I very inexperienced at healing (at least in WoW), but I didn’t discover until after leaving the instance with a sigh of relief that I’d been healing the whole thing in my kittycat outfit. So, yes, I do deserve some of that (I had to laugh…but I bet the tank wouldn’t have, if he’d realised).

The general atmosphere, however – even in low level instances like Deadmines, which is where I was – seems to be one of placing all the responsibility for the group squarely on the healer’s shoulders. Perhaps Deadmines itself exacerbates this at the moment, since it’s a familiarly named instance in a familiar place but with completely different trash and bosses, some of whom hit like the proverbial truck. This particular group (composed of a bear tank and his shaman friend from the same server, a mage and a hunter) certainly seemed to be of the opinion they could cruise through just like before; of course, we wiped. Multiple times. Sometimes more than once on the same trash pack.

As I said, part of this was undoubtedly my fault, and the tank had lots of suggestions for improving my healing (some of them actually grounded in fact). Some of the problems, however, I refuse to take responsibility for…including (but not limited to):

– A shaman with delusions of being a kangaroo, bouncing around in front of the tank and repeatedly pulling multiple mobs

– The hunter’s pet, which wandered through the mine at its own sweet pace, stopping to chat with trash packs along the way

– The tank in general, who I think may have been new to tanking, but who fully embraces the Wrath philosophy of ‘Chaaaaaarge!’ and seems unaware of any other approach. Let me set the scene…picture a group just outside the Mast Room doors, finishing off the two Oafs.

Ubertank and the DPS clear up the last of the trash. Ubertank bounces happily through the door behind Shamanboy.

Me: mana

Ubertank pulls the boss.

Me: (pops mana potion and tries desperately to heal with restraint and yet thoroughness; somehow, through blind luck, no one dies) Mana after this!

Ubertank bounds happily through door behind Shamanboy, runs around the corner and aggros a trash pack out of sight. Dies, closely followed by the shaman, then by the rest of us.

Ubertank: healer is n00b lol.

Shamanboy: yeh l2heal lol

Me (runs back from graveyard): Sorry, but if you pull a pack around the corner from me when I said I was out of mana, these things happen 🙂

Mage (also corpse running; has been quiet until now): no kidding.

Ubertank (newly resurrected): so you all ready then healer? for the difficult corners in this hard dungeon?

Shamanboy: lol n00b

A chorus of ‘r’ ensues.

Ubertank: btw u should use swiftmend

Me (watching prominent swiftmend cooldown like a hawk): yeah…thanks

And so it went. Like I said above, I certainly deserved some of it (and maybe I’ll remember another time to wear the right equipment; it’s amazing how much difference it makes, even at levels too low to actually have a second spec). Some of it, though, I shall just have to try and regard as practice in letting it all roll off me!

Part of the trouble, of course, is that when someone says that I’m not doing something well I tend to be very ready to believe them. Of course, they’re frequently right where WoW is concerned, too. I’m just getting into heroics now with Dhakeilh, and that’s an adventure all its own; as my guild’s only heroic-capable character so far and one of only a couple of 85s, I have the distinctly dubious privilege of running basically all my 80+ instances in PUGs. Some of those experiences have been good; most of them have been, well, interesting. I certainly understand the number of people I see writing in the blogosphere that they wouldn’t want to PUG heroics. Having no choice if I want to gear up, though, I’m taking a stab at it; so far I haven’t been in a group that’s managed to actually finish one, but I’m sure it’ll happen one of these days…if I’m very fortunate indeed!

The same culture of blame is certainly pervasive in the high level instances, though. I would say that tanks seem especially prone to it, except that I know when I’m tanking myself the antics of the rest of the group sometimes drive me completely batty, much more so than when I’m just DPSing. Really, I think it’s more that people are frustrated by the non-faceroll-ability* of the content and are wanting to beat the damn thing already and get their points of whichever type. Personally, I don’t mind multiple wipes on a heroic, even on the same boss; for me (never having raided), it seems like practice for the kind of attitudes I’m told you need to bring to progression raiding. Er, that is, the ‘OK, what went wrong, what should we try’ attitude – not the ‘WTF heals lol n00b’ attitude. I do hear a lot of ‘am I the only one interrupting’ and ‘move out of the damn fire’, not always with justification; it seems it’s even easier to get tunnel vision when the content is newish and everyone is focusing hard on what they have to do themselves and what’s not working.** But as I said, I don’t really mind wipes – as long as everyone stays cheerful. No, 42g repair bills aren’t fun, but thank goodness I’m not a plate wearer!

Now I feel slightly better, having vented some of that. Experiences like that one with Andi tend to make me very nervous of getting back on the horse, as it were, but I really do want to learn how to heal – and in spite of Dhak really sucking quite badly as kitty DPS right now, I’m determined to get her to the point of getting to see some content. So, WTB barkskin (or stoneskin)! Here’s to learning to listen to the good advice and let the random junk bounce off 😉

*It is a word. Really.

**Lest you think I’m all sweetness and light – I frequently think things along those lines. I’m just too shy to say them in party chat!

 

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Cub Tanking

(Or, feral tanking up to level 20).

I’m one of those people who generally likes their characters to begin as they mean to go on. In WoW, this sometimes leads to less-recommended leveling specs, like subtlety rogues or holy paladins, but for me the challenge is a big part of the fun. Also, I find it’s a lot less intimidating to learn your class and spec from the ground up, rather than suddenly deciding at level 85 when all your PUGs are of the  ‘gogogo’ variety that your feral druid is really a frustrated tank. Mind you, I’m not saying I’d never change my mind at later levels (far from it!) – but if I’m planning an alt to be a tank or healer, I usually start that early on.

In the case of bear tanks, this decision is not usually met with universal approval by fellow PUGees. I’ve heard numerous comments along the lines of ‘low lvl bear tank ftl’ and ‘get a real tank’. This is especially true in the very first few levels, before bears have most of the tools in their arsenal; in particular, they’re still missing an interrupt, any AoE or silencing capability at all, and a way to pull at range without having Growl on cooldown for the next 8 seconds.

This post in no way claims to be an authoritative guide – it’s just a collection of the lessons I’ve learned so far (some from my own reading, many painfully taught by Druids of the Fang and Defias Pirates). Also, it doubles as a way to collect my own thoughts so that hopefully my tanking doesn’t degenerate into ‘hit buttons and pray’ mode quite so often. Hopefully, as Taj grows up and adds some more toys to her skill list, it will be followed by others…but we’ll see. At the moment, it stops at level 20, because that’s where she stops!

Firstly, and of course suggested in many places, it’s worth looking into a nameplate addon that shows your threat at a glance. I love and adore ThreatPlates, a plugin for the TidyPlates addon, but there are of course others out there. ThreatPlates has the advantage of changing both colour and size as you lose control of the mob – red spiky nameplates mean ‘save the healer’, whereas a neat circle of green bars surrounding you means you are, as usual, in control. Right?

Obviously (I hope it’s obvious), if you’re planning to tank as a general rule, you’re feral spec. This gives you the lovely high threat skill known as Mangle. Previously not available until you talented into it at around level 60, this now comes as part of the feral package deal. Although the bear version does have a 6 second cooldown, it’s still a fantastic tool for quickly building a lot of threat. I like using it as part of an opener – more on that in a bit.

By level 20, there are 6 talent points available to spend. Predatory Strikes is entirely a kittycat talent, so that makes the first tier fairly straightforward (even for me) – 4% extra dodge and a bit of free rage when shifting into bear form don’t go astray. I usually find myself taking a point in Primal Fury first in the second tier, just because I hate being rage-starved with a passion…particularly when the trash mobs are displaying their great affection for the healer.

Personally, I find single-target tanking as a bear orders of magnitude easier than AoE tanking, especially at this level. No matter what the healer or the DPS are doing, as long as I’m alive, I don’t find it hard to stay ahead of them on threat. This may change in later levels, I’m not sure, but until then most of my worries are caused by packs of trash. Pulling them…ah, yes, that’s a whole different kettle of deviate fish.

My usual strategy when pulling groups is to switch targets quickly right at the beginning. I normally Growl at the first mob while running toward the pack, then switch targets and Mangle one, then switch again and Maul (if I have enough rage by now). This largely depends on whether over-zealous DPS have already peeled them off me and therefore I’m not getting hit, but it also depends on me being quick and accurate with click-targeting. As mentioned above, I use highly visible nameplates, which does help with that (since they can also be clicked to target the mob).

I don’t actually care much for tab-targeting, though I’ve seen it recommended elsewhere, for two reasons. First, you have no control at all over exactly which mob it switches the target to, and trying vainly to Maul an NPC in the next pack 40 yards away wastes precious seconds and throws off your rhythm while you work out what the problem is and fix it. Second, I am somewhat suspicious of the whole thing, because half the time when I do try to use it I hit ‘tab’ and my target stubbornly remains on the same mob. Whether this is my computer or the game (or the user…ahem) I don’t know, but I tend to prefer click-targeting anyway for the ability to pick my prey more accurately.

Because it's pretty. And a good habitat for bears.

 

Once I (hopefully) have three mobs chewing on me, Mangle and/or Growl is usually back off cooldown or nearly so, and I can then use it to pick up any loose ends. If the pull is more than three, or if the DPS are keen to Slay the Foe in record time, it may be necessary to leave stray mobs hitting various group members for a few seconds while you build up rage. With a reasonable group, of course, you can just ask them to hold off for a few seconds while you do just that…but I’m sure we all understand our chances, realistically, of finding a group who’ll do that. I’m not always lily-white myself in that area when I take Dhak for a spin…Ravage crits are such satisfying openers *cough* In any case, good luck with that, but if the DPS open up the second you do, you might need to let them have their toys all to themselves for a moment while you build the rage to gather them again. Being naturally protective, I dislike it when the mobs are hitting anyone but me, but in that situation I would prioritize peeling them off the healer first (if necessary), and then move on to the DPS in approximate order of proximity and/or squishiness.

There isn’t a lot of crowd control available at such low levels, but it’s not greatly needed either. If you have a Sap-happy rogue who manages not to accidentally get caught, that can certainly be helpful on tricky pulls. So far, though, most of my runs have been basically CC-free zones. One thing that is worth doing ourselves, and that I keep forgetting, is to keep Demo Roar up whenever possible – it’s cheap and knocks 10% off the damage you take, which can ease the load on the healer a little bit.

Speaking of healers – if yours is struggling and you have the opportunity, it is certainly possible to throw up a quick heal on yourself. It does help to watch your timing a little bit, though – you lose all but 10 rage when you shift out of form, so try to time it for when you were nearly out anyway. Also, you’re naturally a lot squishier wearing clothes instead of fur, so right before the boss casts Hammer of Ultimate Doom is probably not the moment! If, on the other hand, your healer is healing you with ease (and your DPS are happy), it’s worth not pausing too long between pulls – that way you don’t lose the accumulated rage you worked so hard to maintain, which in turn helps to keep those unruly packs of trash in line from the get-go.

This is officially a wall of text! Well done if you made it this far. As I said above, this is in no way a definitive guide to doing anything (except perhaps frustrating your PUG members), but it’s helped me collect my thoughts…and after all, that is a major function of a blog.

Back to the altoholic nonsense next time, no doubt…