Protection for Beginners

As with the Fury Guide, this is not a guide to levelling as a protection specced warrior. It is also not a beginner’s guide to tanking.

Instead it assumes that you have a level 80 warrior and want to either try Protection as one of your dual specs, or are coming back to tanking after a break and want to know what has changed and how things work these days.

Here’s how to set up dual specs.

If you want a more detailed and theorycraft oriented guide, check Ciderhelm’s Wrath of the Lich King Reference Guide.

The Role of a Protection Warrior

As a Protection Warrior you have two jobs:

  1. Control mobs by keeping threat/ aggro on them
  2. Take as much damage as possible without dying

You have to do both of these at the same time. That means all your choices of talents, gear, glyphs, etc have to balance both survivability/ mitigation and threat.

The most common mistake new protection warriors make is to focus too much on the mitigation side. It doesn’t make you a better or more hardcore tank to put 61 points into the protection tree and gear purely for stamina.

Threat output in Wrath/3.1 is more closely tied to your damage output than used to be the case. So threat stats, abilities, and gear will also mean that you do more damage. Although people don’t typically take tanks for their damage, if you have more threat you’ll find it easier and more fun to control mobs.

Talent Spec

This is the 15/5/51 spec that I use at the moment. It’s THE most popular tanking spec, it works fine, and it’s a good place to start.

It’s a good balanced PvE spec which takes all the important mitigation talents from Protection, and adds in Deep Wounds from the Arms tree for extra threat. A lot of the new Protection talents in Wrath give extra crit chances to key abilities such as Shield Slam and Heroic Strike, which is why Deep Wounds/ Impale offers more threat/damage than maxing out Cruelty (which doesn’t apply to Shield Slam).

Sword and Board: This is the key to Protection Warriors in Wrath. Shield Slam has become baseline and keeping an eye on the Shield Slam procs is the most important part of your tanking ‘rotation’.

Gag Order: This is how you pull casters. The extra damage to Shield Slam makes it a must have.

Vigilance: Quirky and not well understood ability. Put it on whichever dps in your group is likely to generate most threat.

Warbringer: Once you’ve gotten used to having Charge available in combat, you’ll never want to go back. Since the last patch, Intercept can be used in defensive stance also if you have this talent. If you are ever tempted to think that Blizzard hates protection warriors (they don’t), look at this talent and smile.

Shockwave: Shockwave and Thunderclap make AE tanking more fun and less of a chore than it used to be. Note that mobs need to be in front of you for the Shockwave to affect them. Veneretio has a great article on tankingtips.com about how to cluster mobs and move them around.

Talents I didn’t take

Improved Spell Reflect: It looks like a good talent but in PvE is very situational. A lot of bosses are coded to be immune to Spell Reflect.

Improved Disciplines: Combined with the new Shield Wall Glyph (see below) you can take this talent to lower the cooldown on Shield Wall from 5 mins to 3 mins. Again, in practice this is very situational. Because usually once  every 5 mins is plenty.

Puncture: Used to be key in TBC when Devastate was our main tanking ability. This is no longer the case, and now Devastate is only used to apply and renew Sunder Armour.

Improved Disarm/ Intercept: These are more PvP oriented talents. In PvE both of them are very situational.

Glyphs

  • Major Glyphs: Blocking, Revenge, Heroic Strike
  • Minor Glyphs: Thunderclap, Charge, (*coff* I realise I haven’t filled the third minor glyph, but Bloodrage is as good as any)

This is what I use for both 5 man and raid tanking so again, a good place to start, but by no means the only options.

Blocking: The only glyph that provides extra mitigation. Also more damage to Shield Slam if you can use it within those 10s, which is likely. Ideally this glyph will have 100% uptime.

Cleaving: Can be useful if lots of AE tanking. Heroic Strike is a  better choice than Cleave otherwise.

Devastate: Lets you stack Sunder more quickly.

Enraged Regen: More healing is always good. But again, bit situational. Think about how often you use this ability before deciding whether to glyph for it.

Heroic Strike/ Revenge: Good for threat in low rage situations. Also will be used a lot because Revenge and Heroic Strike will feature strongly in your usual ‘rotation’.

Last Stand/ Shield Wall: Both of these reduce cooldowns on emergency recovery abilities. You’ll have to decide whether you would use them enough to need the reduced cooldown.

Sunder Armour: Useful for AE tanking.

Taunt: Unmissable taunts. The glyph is a bit situational (ie. for a situation where taunt absolutely must not miss), because we already have an AE taunt and mocking blow available as backup if a taunt is missed.

Vigilance: A pure threat talent, but unlike Heroic Strike/ Revenge, it doesn’t add any extra damage. Might be useful later on in raids as dps gear up more highly but not necessary right now.

How to play as protection/ ability rotation

Protection warriors don’t use a fixed rotation, instead it’s a priority system. So you will always be checking which abilities are available and picking one. Usually this will mean picking the one which does most threat, but you may need to weave in debuffs, interrupts/ spell reflects, and AE.

Shield Slam will do significantly more damage if Shield Block is also up. So if you don’t need SB for extra mitigation, aim to weave it in just before a Shield Slam when it is up.

Single Target Priorities

  1. Shield Slam
  2. Revenge
  3. Shockwave/ Concussive Blow
  4. Devastate

If you have a lot of rage (ie. 40+), use Heroic Strike on any spare cooldowns.

Technically, Devastate has priority over Shockwave/ Concussive blow if Shield Slam is not about to come up on the next cooldown (because Devastate can proc a Shield Slam via Sword and Board, and Shockwave can’t), but Shockwave does more threat.

AE Target Priorities

  1. Shockwave
  2. Thunder Clap
  3. Shield Slam
  4. Revenge

If you have a lot of rage (ie. 40+) use Cleave on any spare cooldowns, or Heroic Strike after a Revenge if you have the Revenge glyph

Initial Priorities

At the beginning of a pull, you want to get the mobs safely under control as quickly as possible, and to stack up 5 sunders (via Devastate) on whichever dps are going to kill first.

So usually, aim to pull with heroic throw. Hit bloodrage while the mob/s is heading towards you. If it is an AE pull, get in a Thunderclap as soon as possible, then Shield Slam the first mob and switch to your usual priorities, weaving in Devastate where possible.

Useful Macros

Charge/ Intercept (this will use charge if it is off cooldown, if not it will use intercept):

/castsequence reset=15 Charge, Intercept

Revenge/ Heroic Strike (if glyphed). You can actually single target tank effectively by spamming this macro whenever Shield Slam isn’t up:

/cast revenge
/cast !heroic strike

(note: Thanks to Jacob for the amendment to this macro)

Stats for Protection Warriors

Remember I was saying earlier that prot warriors need to balance mitigation with threat? This is where a lot of the balancing happens because they both use different stats.

In addition, there are two different ways to take less damage. One is to be better at soaking damage (mitigation) and the other is not to be hit in the first place (avoidance).

Although hardcore tanks often have several specialist sets of gear, in practice you’ll usually be using a mixed set. You will need a minimal amount of health in any case, and after that it’s more down to personal choice (plus what is available).

Tanking gear will usually come with plenty of stamina, strength and armour, regardless of what other stats it has to offer. And you can use the same criteria when deciding on gems and enchants (don’t forget to pick up a belt buckle for an extra belt gem).

Mitigation/ Avoidance Stats

Defence: You need 540 defence to be uncrittable by raid bosses, 535 defence to be uncrittable by bosses in heroic instances. Your first goal as a level 80 protection warrior is to achieve these levels of defence. Defence is still useful after this (it adds extra avoidance) but not as big a bang for the buck as dodge or parry would be.

Stamina: As much as possible. Stamina is one of the few mitigation stats that helps you survive magical damage as well as physical.

Armour: Helps soak physical damage.

Dodge/ Parry: Dodge provides more avoidance per point than parry. However your next attack immediately following a Parry will be faster so effectively you get more threat from a parry (yes this is weird, yes it does also apply to monsters). Both apply only to physical attacks.

Spell Resist: Only used for specialist raid encounters where all the damage is going to be of one spelltype. It is a great way to mitigate spell damage but you need to know exactly what type of damage to expect and you need to stack a lot of resist to really see much of a difference. In practice, when you stack that much spell resist there just isn’t room on your gear for many other tanking stats.

Threat Stats

Expertise: This ability makes it less likely for mobs to parry or dodge your attacks. Since almost all your tanking abilities need you to hit the target (unlike a paladin, for example, who has a lot of attacks which do spelldamage), this is your most important threat ability. Veneretio has a great explanation of expertise here. Assuming you have Vitality, with 20 expertise skill, you will not be dodged and with 58 expertise you won’t be parried.

Unlike defence, it’s not necessary to cap expertise before doing anything else. But it is your primary threat stat.

Hit: Assuming your attack is neither dodged or parried, it also has to hit the target.

Block Value: Affects the damage/ threat done by Shield Slam.

Strength: Will affect the damage/ threat done by Heroic Strike and also affects your Block Value.

Block Value/ Rating

There are two stats which apply to shield block.

  1. Shield Block Rating, which affects your percentage chance to block.
  2. Shield Block Value, which affects how much you will block for. Your Shield Slam will also hit harder if you have more SBV.

You won’t prioritise these stats in a standard tanking setup.

To understand why, you need to know how shield block works. When you block a physical attack, you take less damage by the amount of your shield block value. e.g.. if an attack would normally hit for 10k but you block it and have 2k SBV, it will actually hit for 8k. So the damage is reduced by a fixed and non-scaling amount.

This means that it is comparatively more useful when you aren’t being hit very hard, and less useful (blocks a lower percentage of damage) when you are. As a mitigation stat, dodge and parry both DO offer scaling stats (ie. a percentage change to block or parry physical attacks, regardless of how much damage is incoming) and are better bang for your buck.

It may be worth collecting shield block gear for a specialist set, in case you need to tank lots of mobs which each do little damage (e.g.. adds on Sartharion) but Shield Block Value has become more of a threat stat these days, because of the effect on Shield Slam.

Gear

There are about a zillion and one gear lists for tanks on the internet, or addons to help with working out if a new bit of gear is an upgrade or not. There are also lots of different ways to ‘rank’ available gear in terms of desirability. Some lists separate threat gear, mitigation gear, and block value gear.

These are the gear lists from tankspot.

Rawr is a popular standalone program which helps with gear comparisons and figuring out good upgrades.

Ratingbuster is an addon to help you compare gear easily in game.

Gearing up as a new 80 is easier than it has ever been. There’s plenty of good crafted, rep, and quest rewards out there. In particular:

Tempered titansteel helm and titansteel shieldwall. Tempered saronite belt, bracers, and legs. These all have plenty of defence on them, which is important when you are gearing for heroics.

Reputation wise, the head enchant comes from being Revered with the Argent Crusade. Wyrmrest Accord rep provides a good cloak and chestpiece.

There is also a tanking axe available as a reward from the argent tournament. It’s Axe of the Sen’Jin Protector for Horde, Teldrassil Protector for Alliance.

(note: thanks to KiwiRed for looking up the argent tournament rewards).

Addons

You will need a threatmeter. When dps come too near to your threat, activate your special tank ability ‘Shout at DPS’ (or just TYPE IN CAPS if you aren’t on voice chat).

I don’t use many addons for tanking. You will need to see the Shield Slam procs, so either powerauras or whichever scrolling combat text addon of your choice.

You do need to be able to see what’s going on, so however you arrange your UI, try not to let it get too cluttered.

More References

There are plenty of good blogs and websites about tanking in general, and protection warriors in particular. (If you are wondering which of these to read, read all of them cos they’re all good :P)

tankspot.com. They have awesome instructional videos for tanking pretty much every raid boss.

Ciderhelm has also put out some amazing video tutorials for tanks. I love how he always sounds so laid back on the soundtrack (yeah, here’s another 17 unexpected mobs, we’ll just pick them up after I’ve finished my beer,  etc etc)

tankingtips.com. Veneretio writes well thought out and authoritative guides and tips for protwarriors here. He’s recently been discussing mitigation vs avoidance gear.

mirrorshield – Yakra’s reflections on tanking.

Tank like a Girl

Tanking for Dummies – Tarsus blogs about his experiences as a prot warrior but also throws in some useful guides and tips on what works for him.

Darraxus the Warrior

The Wordy Warrior

I haven’t specifically linked to Elitist Jerks, because although it’s a great place to go to stay up with the latest discussions, I don’t find it such a good reference as tankspot.

Remember, this is just the beginning. The only way to learn to tank well is to go out and do it. Take some friends, hit some heroics. For all of us, there is a point where you have to just pull the boss and see what happens.

And good luck!

Ulduar Update

How’s patch 3.1 going for you?

I logged in after the patch and was immediately grabbed to go tank Emalon (new Wintergrasp Boss) in a PUG. We didn’t kill him, but we were improving on each attempt. And then Wintergrasp came up so we did that instead.

After that, I ran off to grab my dual specs. Dual spec joy!

In the evening, we took our first steps into Ulduar. The mood in the raid was electric as we zoned in. People were singing, chattering excitedly, discussing their dual specs, bringing out all the old jokes that probably should be retired by now. It was so very very different from the week before when we were dragging our tired carcasses around Naxxramas again.

We saw lots of other raiders on their way into Ulduar and everyone was waving to each other. Our server was being surprisingly obliging, for once. Things got a little ropier later but Blizzard EU ™ did a fantastic job with it, considering the load.

So we zoned in. Nope, no achievement for just zoning into Ulduar. There were some steps! We ran down them. No achievement for running down the steps?!! Man, we’ve been here 10s and no achievements yet, Blizzard is slacking.

This was forgotten as soon as people caught site of the cool vehicles parked in the courtyard ahead of us. Cue: “get to the chopper” jokes. We didn’t have much of a clue what we were doing so we piled into vehicles:

  • tanks got to drive tanks (YES!!)
  • ranged dps got to be tank gunners
  • healers got to ride choppers (Note: In the UK a Chopper is a kind of kid’s bicycle, which we all thought would have been funnier)
  • and I can’t remember what the other vehicle was but everyone else got those

So I jumped into my tank with a warlock as my rear gunner and together with everyone else, we set off.

The first obstacle is a long gauntlet of (destructible towers), other vehicles, helicopters which need to be shot down, and various bits and pieces for the Demolishers (hah! I did remember the name) to pick up to use as fuel or ammo. It was pure crazy fun. Not knowing what we were doing wasn’t a major hindrance and it didn’t take long to get the idea. I was really enjoying smacking down towers, and steering the tank so that my gunner could get a good angle on the flying enemies.

Then we came to some vehicle healing patches, from which we figured that the boss was close.

Flame Leviathan is an easy fight. Tanks kite him around (wtf is my armoured tank attempting to run away from things? That was weird), choppers weave in and out dropping patches of oil which demolishers can set on fire, non-kiting tanks interrupt his flame jets and … best of all … demolishers can catapault spare moonkins onto Leviathan’s back which is as good a place as any for them, I guess :)

In any case, we one shotted him/her/it although it was quite a close-run thing. Finally, an achievement!

I looked round at the end and there was only my tank and one of the choppers left standing. Everyone excitedly discussed whose vehicle was most fun as we ressed and sorted the loot (another achievement for the first badge of conquest, now we’re rolling), and planned to try next week with some towers up (ie. one of the hard modes).

Now the thing about Flame Leviathan as an encounter is that it’s easy, yes, but also very enjoyable. I defy even the most hardcore of hardcore guilds not to have had fun with their vehicles. This is what a vehicle based fight should be like. It was also a nice boost to more casual raiders coming in for the first time, even if they struggle with the other bosses, they get to see the fun vehicle fight and retrieve some loot.

The NPCs chattered to each other about setting up teleporters and we moved on. There isn’t any trash before you get to the next few bosses, just wide corridors and pretty scenery. And then we got to see what the teleporter was all about, it’s possible to port from the entrance to past Flame Leviathan without having to run all the way back. Nice work, NPCs! You can stay.

We took a brief look at Ignis and started to clear some of his trash mobs. But from discussion with other raid groups, we heard that he was bugged and raid leaders decided to take a crack at Razorscale instead. Incidentally, we kept getting updates which we were in Ulduar about how other raid groups were doing. Raiding on Argent Dawn is fairly tight knit, so many of our raiders have friends who raid with other guilds or groups. And it’s really handy when it comes to passing on information like this, about which encounters to avoid.

Razorscale is hard. There’s a first phase with lots of adds that need to be collected and killed, some which need to be tanked separately because of the badass whirlwind attack and others with a crazy chain lightning. In brief interludes, the captured drake descends and you pile on as much dps as you can before she takes off again. There is also fire. Because all Blizzard encounters have fire that you need to move out from. In a spark of originality, this fire is white.

We spent the rest of the night figuring out how best to handle phase 1. I think we had the tanking mostly sorted, it’s just a case of how best to get the dps onto Razorscale quickly when she lands.

Note: Razorscale and Ignis were both hotfixed on EU servers after the first night’s raiding.

Second Night

I wasn’t there for this one. More attempts at Razorscale, they had her to phase 2 a few times. Then they moved on for some learning wipes on XT-200 which apparently has awesome voice acting. I’ll look forwards to seeing it.

10 Mans

I’m not sure how much 10 man raiding I will be able to fit in now. The weather is brighter and my weekends are becoming more booked up so the regular Saturday run is off the cards, for me at least.

I’m sad, because I did really enjoy running them, but not sad enough to … you know … cancel my social life over it.

Another guildie took over the organising and they took down Leviathan and XT-200 this week. On Sunday I was in an impromptu 10 man which knocked off Emalon and then wandered off to kill Malygos too.

Looking Forwards

I am really looking forwards to getting back into Ulduar for another crack at the drake. But, I know that dps has always been the weak side for our raid group — yes we have some awesome players but we don’t have 16 consistently awesome dps. If Ulduar continues to be heavy dps checks, then I can see us struggling and it won’t matter how much effort I personally put in. We may need more runs through Naxx to gear up newer people also.

But, we’ll see how it goes.

More on Dual Specs

I had always said that I wouldn’t level my druid until I could dual spec her. Last week was that day. She’s now level 72, has healed three instances as a tree and topped the dps meters as moonkin in a fourth.

It’s been fun. Thumbs up for dual specs and for the new looking for group interface.

Fury for Beginners

This is not a levelling guide. This guide assumes that you have a level 80 warrior, want to try out a Fury build as your dual spec, and are looking for some pointers.

So firstly, this is how to set up your dual specs.

So you want to be a Fury warrior?

Congratulations, you have decided to get in touch with your wild side!

Fury is the dual wielding  warrior dps spec. You will become a whirlwinding, plate clad, steel flashing, dual 2 hander wielding, cuisinart of doom. You will also die in PvE more than you ever died before. And like any new spec, it takes time and gear to get to the point where you can own the damage meters. It’s a very fun spec to play but Fury, due to scaling issues, only really takes off after you get a minimal level of gear.

How to Spec

This is the standard raiding Fury spec. It has changed a bit with 3.1 in that the talent that gives expertise has swapped with Improved Intercept. Imp Intercept is more of a PvP talent so I’ve taken Imp Execute here instead. You will note that you have no talent that lets you drop threat.

You have a bit of leeway with some of the points (and one of the fury warriors I raid with swears by Heroic Fury) but these are the key talents:

  • Precision — you NEED a minimal amount of hit to make this build work. Precision will help a lot.
  • Bloodthirst  and Improved Whirlwind — Your two main attacks as a Fury warrior. Note that Bloodthirst is one of the few dps talents that isn’t dependent on your weapon damage. Instead it depends on your total attack power.
  • Flurry — You will be aiming to keep Flurry up at all times. This is why Fury guides point you to aiming for a minimum amount of crit on your gear.
  • Bloodsurge — The only interesting thing to happen to Fury in Wrath, this lets you weave in some instant Slams with the rest of your rotation.
  • Rampage — If you know you will always have a Feral druid with you, this isn’t critical. However, it is one of the few raid utility buffs that Fury warriors get.
  • Titan’s Grip — The damage has been reduced a notch in 3.1 but this is still what Fury warriors are all about in Wrath.
  • Impale/ Deep Wounds/ 2-Handed Weapon Spec — These are why you sink some points into Arms. Every single one of them is a dps multiplier that plays to your strengths.

How to Glyph

Major Glyphs: Heroic Strike, Whirlwind, Execution.

Minor Glyphs: They’re all a bit unimpressive. I suggest Charge, Bloodrage, Enduring Victory

The cleave glyph is very good and will give some impressive dps when there is more than one mob involved. Painful experience shows that Fury warriors who glyph for cleave tend to get aggro and die a lot. It’s good, but use with caution.

How to dps

The regular Fury rotation goes:

Bloodthirst -> Whirlwind -> spare cooldown -> spare cooldown

Try to never miss a Bloodthirst or Whirlwind. You can use the spare cooldowns to refresh shouts, apply instant Slams if Bloodsurge procs, apply Sunder if there isn’t a Protection Warrior around,  Heroic Strike if you have a lot of spare rage (or Cleave if there is more than one mob), or pick your nose.

Once the mob is below 20% health, you can start to Execute. Ideally you would retain the standard rotation and execute during spare cooldowns but since execute drains your rage, this is only possible in pretty high rage situations. If low on rage and glyphed for it, just spam execute instead.

Don’t forget to use Victory Rush when shifting from one mob to the next in a multi-mob pull.

Gear Priorities

These are the magic numbers for warriors.

Priorities for Fury warriors are:

  1. 164 hit. You need this to never miss with ‘yellow’ attacks on raid bosses, assuming that you have maxed out Precision. Until you have 164 hit, this is your first priority. After 164 hit, it becomes pretty much your last priority.
  2. Strength/ Attack Power — In 3.1, Strength becomes your best scaling stat. You will want to stack it as high as it can go. Aim for 2500 Attack Power as a starting point, there is no end point.
  3. Crit — Crit is another stat that you can stack as high as you want, coupled with Deep Wounds and Impale it will always increase your damage. But also, because of Flurry, when you crit your attack speed increases by 30%. This means more ‘white’ damage and, just as important, more rage (from the damage that you do). At higher gear levels rage won’t be such as issue but when starting out, aim for crit of 24/25% because you’ll need a minimum amount of rage to be able to stick with your best rotation. In practice, a lot of Strength dps gear also has Crit on it.
  4. Expertise — Ideally you’d like to have 26 expertise (214 rating) so that bosses can no longer dodge your attacks.
  5. Armour Penetration — Improving in 3.1. Like Strength, this stat always improves with stacking. There is no upper limit. After you get to about 120-130 it becomes better than crit (I have this on authority from our fury warriors but no link to prove that).
  6. Haste — Doesn’t hurt to have some haste on your gear but it’s never a priority.

Gear Lists

I don’t know many good gear lists for Fury Warriors, and the ones that do exist will be updated shortly for 3.1/ Ulduar. This link is to Corbusier’s guide on tankspot, which doesn’t value Strength as highly as it will be in 3.1 but otherwise is a good place to start.

Do note that the Cloak of Bloodied Waters (a random BoE drop in heroic Gundrak) is very very solid for Fury. You may be able to find one on the Auction House.

Good starting weapons are the 2 handed sword you can get with Ebon Blade rep, and the crafted 2 handed mace. Other crafted gear to check out are the Spiked Titansteel Helm, and Vengeance Bracers.

This is a link to the EJ dps spreadsheet. Wait till he’s updated it properly for 3.1 but it will help compare the effect of gear on Fury dps.

Addons

Where addons can really help is in spotting the instant slam procs from Bloodsurge.  I tweaked Parrot (my scrolling combat text) to flash up some text when it goes off. Guys in my guild swear by Power Auras.

Either of these takes a little setting up but will help immensely. This is a link to a thread on tankspot where people discuss other addons they use to do the same thing.

You will also learn to love the threat meter.

More resources for Fury

Compared to the plethora of tanking resources, Fury is a bit thin on the ground.

BigHitBox is a blog about all things melee.

Furiously is Kihara’s Fury Warrior blog

Weekend Update: Getting ready for Ulduar

If I have been lax with WoW updates lately it is because I have dialled back my time in game. At the moment, I am mostly just logging in for raids and to do auction-housing at weekends. I’ve stopped running weekly 10 man Naxx sessions, because even with alts, the interest dried up.

This is not especially a bad thing. It’s important not to feel forced to play any game when you’d rather not  — that’s a cornerstone of my casual ethos! And since my 10 man runs were always meant to be optional fun-runs, I’ll take the lack of interest as a sign to slow down. So, playing much less but not burned out and I still enjoy our raid nights.

The raids have been more unfocussed lately. The general feel is that this is because dps are now pretty darn geared. Tank threat was dialled so high at the beginning of the expansion that no one really had to think about it. Now, they do, and some people aren’t as quick to adjust as others. Tanks also are adjusting to the world in which threat is important.

I noticed this early enough to pick up a good threat set and really try to work on it. For which I owe many thanks to the other more experienced protwarrior bloggers, theorycrafters, and forum posters who generously described the hows and whys of threat and how they went about maximising it. And also all the guys who manage to put out insane dps while tanking Patchwerk and were happy to talk about how they did it. I’m not up with the stars but I was happy to hit 2k dps when tanking him last week.

Short form: The keys are lots of expertise, using dps trinkets when you are defence capped and have ‘enough’ heath, and hammering Heroic Strike.

I expect this to be an issue through Ulduar also. In a way, it would be sad if it wasn’t and it’ll make the fights more interesting. Also it’s a way to separate out the great dps players from the merely good :)

Getting ready for Ulduar

The next patch brings a new focus on raiding. A new, harder raid instance, and lots of progression raids to accompany it. Also, there will be a new arena season, and more solo content so a big upturn in activity in game.

The main two ways to prepare for this are:

  1. Lay in stocks of what you might need for your own use
  2. What can you stock up now that might sell for more gold after the patch?

So as a raider, I want to be able to lay my hands on a few week’s worth of consumables. Mostly flasks, since we’ll (probably) be dying a lot and the Stoneblood Flask is also getting a boost. Gems, enchants, and other enhancements like leg armour and belt buckles may be worth stocking up if you really want to make a virtue of being prepared.

In my case, I can farm saronite and swap it with our jewelcrafters for gems  and I can make my own belt buckles so I’m not really sweating it. It isn’t as if I’m really short of gold. With the help of guildies, we donated a stack of buckles to the guild bank which should keep people in buckles for awhile.

Dual speccing also means needing more glyphs. I don’t know whether I’d advise buying pre-patch. Prices might go up, but then again every inscriptor  on the server might suddenly get really active in competing with each other on the AH, so who knows?

The other intriguing loot area is the new recipes that will be dropping in Ulduar for blacksmithing/ leatherworking/ tailoring gear. If they are like the SSC patterns, then they may be rare drops. On the other hand, everyone and his dog will be in Ulduar as soon as it goes live. I figure titansteel bars/ arctic fur, and whichever cloth the tailors will need are probably safe to stock. Also elemental earth for the blacksmithing pieces.

Ideally, the pattern will be really rare but I’ll get one in our first Ulduar excursion ;P I think this is unlikely.

The main thing with making money from patch 3.1 is that there has been a lot of time for anyone who is interested to stock up items to sell and plenty of publicity about what the patch will contain. So there could be many many people with titansteel, glyphs, etc. stocked up. It’s hard to really know before the patch hits.

Safest bets are probably raid consumables. Frost Lotuses get used in large amounts. People will always want gems and enchants. There’s a new arena season coming also so that means a lot of people will be getting new gear.

But don’t go overboard on stacking blue quality gems. Bear in mind that people can turn in their heroic badges for blue gems and a lot of people have a lot of spare badges.

Anyone who can be bothered to collect stacks of raid food (or meat that can be turned into raid food) is probably also onto a good thing. Many people have plenty of gold and will happily spend it in order to avoid the duller side of raid preparation. Put it up on the auction house on maintenance day because that’s when most guilds start their raid week. (That’s my big money making tip, by the way.)

The other thing I’ve done is play my warlock some more. He’s just my fun dps alt, but he’s now exalted with the Kirin Tor which means that he can make Sapphire Spellthread. I’m stocking this to sell, partly for the cash and partly because he gets skill points from making it anyway.

Practicing that off-spec

I’ve also been dusting off my Fury gear and spending some of my excess badges on dps upgrades.

Tanks seem to be becoming rarer — I think people saw the glut and aren’t levelling their alts as tanks any more. Certainly I’ve been in more demand to tank heroics for people, so not as much chance to practice dps as I would have liked. I think I’m pretty much done with heroics now, even with friends I’m struggling to stay focussed these days.

Are you getting ready for Ulduar, or just take things as they come?

Step away from the leather

The latest batch of 3.1 updates includes a few doozies:

Improved Berserker Stance now increases strength by 3/6/9/12/15% instead of increasing attack power by 2/4/6/8/10%

OK, so finally the boot has dropped and Fury is to scale with Strength rather than Attack Power, in much the same way that Retribution Paladins and Death Knights do.

I’m guessing this was done to bring all the plate dps classes in line and using a similar stat spread. It should make it easier in future to design dps plate that is desirable for all of them. Since Strength converts to Attack Power for warriors at a rate of 1:2, given enough Strength bonuses on gear, it should work out even. In fact, given enough Strength bonuses on gear, the dps plate wearers may even come out ahead.

But right now, it’s a nerf to Fury because:

  • The previous version of the talent scaled a lot better with buffs and enchants (there are lots of enchants and buffs that improve attack power, but very few that improve strength)
  • Many Fury warriors picked up a some leather or mail when the stats were better. Naturally they optimised for the stats which scaled best for them. And some of Fury’s best attacks (like Bloodthirst) scale off attack power.

I think this is the harshest type of nerf in a  gear based game. One that means you need to regear, or that some of the gear you spent that hard-earned DKP on over the last few months is now no longer worth it.

It is so very easy in an MMO to make a gameplay choice which made perfectly good sense at the time, and later is totally invalidated. It’s always annoying. It’s always likely that for some people, it will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and they will go off to do something less frustrating.

And who would really blame them?

It’s not that this is really that huge a deal in the great scheme of things, although it does come at the tail end of a few other Fury nerfs.  If Blizzard want Arms warriors to be doing more dps than Fury, then people will just switch. But switching specs has a cost too — a cost in time and hassle to learn to play a different spec, a cost in status from being expert to being a noob, and maybe a cost in fun too if you just liked dual wielding. Not everyone wants to go through that every time one spec gets a nerf, in fact probably most people don’t.

Nerfs are always a sign that the design team made a mistake. There’s no real way to guarantee you’ll never be on the receiving end of one. All you can really do is hoard as much spare gear as possible, and hope that if the stat weighting changes you’ll be able to adjust.

And why is there so little Strength gear?

I’m sure all the plate dps classes have been saying this for ages. But very few of the trinkets, necklaces, cloaks, or rings that are designed for melee have Strength bonuses.

There could be three reasons for this:

  1. It’s a deliberate way to control the scaling of the plate dps classes. If they had access to high Strength gear, they would scale through the roof. The design goal is for rogues to be top melee, and that includes having better gear choices.
  2. It’s the easiest way to make one item vaguely useful to all melee, including rogues. Although in practice it means that the item has perfect rogue stats and is sub par for anyone else.
  3. Laziness. Not wanting to make extra items just for the plate wearers. After all, they already have full suits of plate to roll on.

None of this really explains the lack of Strength enchants or flasks though. Making those available would have been as simple as a couple of extra recipes.

It’s not so fun in a gear based game to realise that so much of the gear isn’t really optimised for you. But until Blizzard see the light, there’s always the Cloak of Bloodied Water to fall back on…

Is the T8 warrior set bonus too good?

OK, latest news out of patch 3.1 is that the Tier 8 set bonuses have been added to the latest test patch. Everything on the test realm is still subject to change, but I did double-take when I saw the warrior tanking bonuses.

  • Protection 2Piece Bonus — Increases the critical strike chance of your Devastate ability by 10%.
  • Protection 4Piece Bonus — Shield Block also grants you 20% reduction to magical damage taken.

The 2 piece bonus here is OK but not stunning. We do use Devastate as part of a regular tanking rotation, but only enough to keep up the associated debuff. It simply doesn’t do enough damage or threat compared to other tanking abilities to make it worthwhile otherwise.

Or in other words, the warrior tanking skill use is based on priority. The basics of it are: On every GCD you check which of your abilities is ‘up’ and use the one that generates the most threat. That ability will never be Devastate. But you’ll weave it in to keep the debuff active.

Adding 10% extra crit to Devastate is unlikely to boost it past Heroic Strike in terms of threat. Therefore it’s a minor boost to non-core threat ability. Nice enough to have, but not a patch on the T7 2 piece bonus which is 10% extra damage on one of our most used tanking abilities (shield slam).

But the 4 piece bonus here is a doozy. Shield Block is an ability that is on a 1 minute cooldown. So what warriors are being offered here is an extra anti-magic cooldown on a shortish timer, and reducing spell damage by 20% could be awesome in a fight featuring heavy magic damage, especially if it happens on regular intervals that are … ooh … spaced out by about a minute.

Much as I’d love the extra anti-magic cooldown, I hope fervently that this set bonus does not go live.  And I want to talk some more about why I feel that way.

What’s the point of a set bonus?

Lots of MMOs have different sets of armour that your character can collect. Part of the appeal is that the armour sets match and (can) look good. They can be easily identified by sight and can be good for bragging rights. Part is that they often have good stats. Part is because they appeal to people’s natural collecting instincts. And part of the appeal is the set bonus.

Set bonuses (bonii?) are used in different ways. In games like LOTRO or WAR, high level raids are set up in such a way that you explicitly need the set bonus from previous raids/PvP to fight the next boss, there is no point even stepping inside the instance if you don’t have it.

Blizzard is actually less hardcore that this. They take the same approach that they did with Diablo. Set bonuses can include extra stats or tweaks to abilities, and they often give a perk to the wearer that they could not get in any other way. So the tiered armour sets in WoW are nice to have but not actually compulsary. There are non tier pieces available from the same raids and players will usually mix and match them.

Part of the gearing game is to weigh up the different alternatives, decide how much you want the set bonus, and come to some kind of compromise based on what you ideally want and what actually drops. To make this more interesting, tier armour often is not the best in slot — it used to be back in Vanilla WoW but that changed in TBC. Some pieces are usually better than others, but if you choose to wear the whole set you are probably giving up some useful stats that you could have had from nontier gear.

Making the tier bonuses attractive is a way to give players interesting gearing choices. Do I want the badass looking matching set, or do I want to take a more utilitarian approach? Is the set bonus good enough to outweigh the loss of stats from non-tier items?

Can a set bonus be too good?

You know that a set bonus is too good when people feel that they have to keep using it in future tiers.

A tier set is only intended to last people for the duration of that tier of raid content. There may be some occasional pieces that remain best in slot for an entire expansion (legendary items are likely candidates)  but in a gear-based game, a large part of the motivation to raid is to get upgrades.

You can usually spot these kind of bonuses because they either add some particularly useful new ability to the spec or because they are percentage based and thus will scale well. It’ll be tough, for example, to give up the 10% extra damage to Shield Slam UNLESS warriors get enough extra threat in patch 3.1 that it’s no longer an issue. As it happens, we’re currently in line to get 5% extra damage across the board which will help out.

The Tier 8 4-piece bonus is something very different.

No mere tweaks are going to give warriors a new anti-magic ability like that to replace the set bonus. Collecting the tier set will be the only way to get it. And if Blizzard intend to keep putting up new encounters which have heavy magic damage, having that set bonus available will make a big difference to protection warriors and the raids for which they tank.

If it stays this way, I’ll be tempted to press my raid leaders to give protection warrior priority on tier gear (admittedly, this actually means Spinks-priority but you get the general point). I don’t want to have to be in that position.

If Blizzard wants protection warriors to have better cooldowns to use on heavy magic fights, they should darn well get in there and tweak our talents or glyphs to do it. If it’s there at all, it should be available to all warrior tanks at the start of Ulduar; an instance which, from PTR reports is — yes — full of fights which are based around magic damage.

I’m all for making tier gear appealing (note to designers: looking like a goat doesn’t really do it for me) and it’s fun to have something cool to collect from raids. But don’t force us on this one. If we should have a new ability then give it to us by all means, but that’s not what set bonuses should be for.

WoW War 3.1 (cross language battlegroups)

This one surprised me. Coming to the EU servers with patch 3.1, cross-language battegroups.

So apparently in 3.1 we’ll be able to zone into battlegrounds where the opposition all speak a different language iRL as well as in game. I can see this doing great things for european unity.

The actual reason is presumably to improve battleground availability all around but I’m wincing just imagining what the bg chat will be like when the English face off against the French or Germans.