Thought of the Day: Don’t leave me hanging!

Of all the issues with Icecrown Citadel, the most irritating by far is that Mal’Ganis doesn’t make an appearance. How annoying is that? Especially after you did a whole quest chain in Icecrown which ended with him running off and warning you that, “You’ll never defeat the Lich King without my help!”

I guess he was just being a tosser.  Or was he helping by … cheering from the sidelines, or washing his socks, or yelling “grats!” from the safety of his demonic sofa.

Hanging plot threads are very annoying.

Icecrown Citadel: Is tanking getting dull?

So, yesterday I was pondering what makes the tanking side of a raid encounter fun for me. And the reason was that I spotted this thread on the official forums, where an old school raiding tank is finding that the ICC encounters fail to thrill.

…on most of these fights I would much rather just be <…> a DPS spec in DPS gear than having to spend the vast majority of the fight in tank spec in tank gear, doing <poor> DPS, <…> just waiting for that very brief moment or two where I actually may have to do something that requires me to be at my keyboard.

Now that’s fighting talk, but does it speak to a design change in the encounter design. Is Blizzard deliberately trying to make room for at least one less demanding tanking role in the raid?

I thought I’d go through some of the fights and pick apart his thoughts.

1. Marrowgar. The saberlash mechanic (which requires all the tanks to stand on top of each other and move together as a group) is familiar to TBC tanks, but I think this is the first time it has been used in Wrath, at least in a way that required the tanks to move around. I disagree with the poster on this one, I think it’s fine. It isn’t hard per se but it’s an interesting challenge in teamwork to stick together.

I also think he’s rather hung up on MT (main tank) vs (OT) designation. On this particular fight, all three tanks are main tanking. It’s mostly irrelevant who actually has aggro.

2. Lady Deathwhisper. Phase one involves lots of add pickup, plenty of work for all the tanks and again not a clear MT/ OT designation. Phase two involves some tank switches and taunt rotations, plus trying to avoid ghosts. Again, same job for all tanks.

Again, quite a fun fight for tanks. Plenty of running around at the start followed by a more focussed rotation in phase 2.

3. Gunship. Jobs for at least two tanks here, one to defend the home ship by picking up adds, and one to jump across and stop Muradin from trashing the rest of the away team. Not a lot for a third tank to do, true.

Again the MT/ OT designation is irrelevant. It isn’t clear to me that one job is harder than the other, depending on how good you are at managing your rocket pack. I find this fight quite fun, so not really seeing the hate.

4. Saurfang. Again two tanks with identical jobs which involves another taunt rotation whenever a named debuff lands on the other tank.

This is a genuinely dull tanking fight, I can feel myself falling asleep sometimes. But coming after some fun fights, it’s OK to have a change of pace and let the ranged dps have some fun. Again, I’m not seeing which is the MT or which is the OT.

5. Festergut. Another fight which involves two tanks with identical jobs. Tank for a bit, then go dps for a bit.

This is probably more fun for tanks who can actually put out some decent dps when they aren’t tanking. I’m sure it’s a blast for druids. The taunt rotation mechanic is starting to seem repetitive.

6. Rotface. The offtank here has by far the more fun and demanding role, because they get to kite oozes around. The main tank sits on the boss, and tries to stop it puking on too many people.

7. Putricide. There’s some fun abomination driving for tanks in this fight, but phase three is yet another tank switching taunt rotation.

8. Blood Princes. I’ll tank skull, you tank star. The ranged tank looks to have the more fun job here. DPS are required to switch targets and avoid ranged attacks, moving out of fireballs and such like. The non-ranged tanks mostly stand still.

9. Blood Queen. Not quite a saberlash effect but something similar. 100% of the damage done to the main tank also goes to the person closest to the main tank (who will have the blood mirror debuff.)

This is the fight that drove the original poster nuts because his job was just to stand there and take damage. While he could interact with the boss (ie. hit her), he didn’t really feel it mattered. He also couldn’t take part in the fight’s  key mechanic, getting infected by vampirism and having to bite people, because the off tank is immune.

Even if the damage was worth mentioning, my role can still be easily accomplished if a rock was playing my character.

So what’s the verdict?

I haven’t tried all these fights myself yet, but the one I am really looking forwards to trying is Putricide if I get to drive an abomination. The others – maybe he has a point. There is a lot of repetitive tank switching, it’s true. I could see myself volunteering for DPS duties (which would be easier to justify if I could get my Arms dps up a bit) because many fights do sound more interactive for them.

But – we asked for more fights that required several tanks. We said that we didn’t want any more fights like Malygos where the off tank has very little to do. We said we didn’t want more fights like XT where one tank could comfortably manage both boss and adds. And the devs listened.

So what changed? Is it just that we wanted more interesting jobs for those off tanks, or that now we’ve been able to gear up our dps offspecs so feel more able to volunteer for whichever role looks to get a more interesting encounter? Or is this part of Blizzard’s plan to make tanking more accessible and to spread the encounter difficulty between roles more evenly.

Either way, until we’ve seen the last wing of the Citadel, we can’t come to any final answers. But that tank switching mechanic is definitely getting dull.

So that was the Icecrown Citadel Lower Spire

Finally after all those months of waiting, jousting, questing, clearing out necropoli, Old Gods and Dragon Aspects, our characters have had the chance they’ve all been waiting for to charge in against the Lich King head on.

And lo, it was good. In all the flurry of the dungeon finder excitement and people discussing minor strategic details and fretting over the difficulty and the bear butt rockets, it would be easy for a reader to miss the fact that the Icecrown Citadel is a fantastically cool and very fun raid instance.

None of the boss fights are clunkers, they’re certainly all good fun to tank, and the atmosphere, music and graphics are superb. Imagine that you’ve fought through Icecrown, using every trick in the book to set back the Lich King’s plans and finally arrived with the elite of the Horde army at the fortress itself. A siege engine (bringing fond memories of Warhammer) has done its work and the entrance is now open.

Inside, an eerie chill pervades the stone and metal halls. The crafters of the ebon blade and argent dawn have joined forces to set up a base camp for the assault. The leaders of both factions are present, and Tirion even gives one of his trademark dreadful pep talks as final checks are completed and we get ready for our first push. One of my goals this week is to get more screenshots to provide for a better travelogue.

Note: I’ve had bosses who gave pep talks like that. You know the sort where you feel worse after hearing it than you did before?

For now, here Spinks is sandwiched between two bears as we’re about to go pull the first boss. Feel free to criticise my UI (and I can’t remember why I had recount up either).

marrowgar

We’ve been raiding Icecrown every week apart from Christmas, and although Saurfang still hasn’t fallen to us, we’re had some good attempts and it’s just a matter of time. (Hopefully tonight, even.)

Even my death knight, still struggling with that new shiny badge armour smell, has been able to sneak into a pick up group to go farm some reputation in there. But bosses will die eventually, the main thing is … she’s in Icecrown too!

Fun Times for Tanks

I’m finding that all of the Icecrown boss fights so far have been really fun to tank. When you play through this type of content, you remember that yes, Blizzard actually is that good at creating fun raid fights.

The key is that all the fights can use more than one tank (I hear that people do Lady Deathwhisper with a single tank in 10 man, as long as someone else can step up in phase 2 – maybe a feral switching to bear or death knight in frost presence.)

There are some standard techniques used for this. The saberlash requires more than one tank (although this may change once we all outgear the fight), fights where tanks get debuffed and have to taunt off each other are another way to ensure more than one tank has a use, and fights where there are several spawns of mobs to tank in different areas need more than one tank running around.

But truth be told, the raid fights are significantly more fun for us when several tanks are required. We enjoy working as a tanking team, and it feels like a reward for the fact we’ve played together all expansion and all trust each other.

Marrowgar – The main tank issue here is his saberlash mechanic. Saberlash, introduced back in Zul Aman, means that the boss has a large cleave attack where the damage is divided evenly between characters standing in front of him.  So the answer is to have several tanks standing on top of each other, fighting for aggro on the boss.

I always found this good fun because it needs the tank corps to be quite coordinated. We run in together. We run out together. We dodge the fires and whirlwinds together. It’s very important that you learn to keep an eye on the other tanks and spot where they are moving.

In the picture above, you can see us standing together at one side of the room. This is (thanks to Moo) where we usually pull from. We’d run in together from here and the rest of the raid would be near the entrance to the room.

Lady Deathwhisper – I enjoy fights where I get to zoom around and pick up loads of adds, and Lady Deathwhisper certainly fits that mould. Not only do we have our own mobs to pick up, but when one of the fanatics becomes deformed (ie. grows huge, hits like a truck, should be kited rather than tanked) we can pingpong them across the room by taunting from other tanks and back again.

Communication is key here. Because the room is large, it helps the raid if we call out when one of our mobs just became empowered or deformed.

Phase two has one of the basic ™ tactics for using multiple tanks. The boss puts a debuff on whoever is top of the threat list. After the debuff has stacked to a certain amount, someone else has to taunt her away until the debuff has fallen off. So you have two tanks who have to pay attention to each other’s debuffs.

Gunship – Rise up, sons of the Horde! (I giggle every time Saurfang says this.)

This one needs two tanks because there are two different locations with tankable mobs. One stays behind to pick up the adds who jump across (picking up the captain as priority because he whirlwinds, I believe) and the other jumps across to the far boat to tank the boss.

So there’s lots of running around to do, lots of target switching, and rocket packs to play with also. This was always going to be a winner.

Note that if you are tanking the boss on the far boat, if you pull him close to the edge then your healers can help heal without having to jump across themselves.

Deathbringer – This is the dullest of the Icecrown fights for melee, since their main goal is to hit the boss and not get hit by the adds. It isn’t a lot more exciting for tanks. Again the debuff mechanic is used which means the main thing to focus on is taunting off the other tank when she gets marked.

I’m looking forwards to seeing the next wing too. How about you? Had a chance to see Icecrown yet?

Screenshot of the Day: Bears with Rockets on their Butts

gunship Quick everyone, on to the gunship!

What could be better than a zeppelin flight? How about … a zeppelin with guns? And jet powered rocket packs?

rocketform

Obviously you have to sign for the rockets first. Darn these goblins and their military bureaucracy, I guess we’re just lucky that there’s no charge. (I think the future of the Horde may be mired in paperwork.)

But this does leave one question in everyone’s mind. Us bipedal types can carry a rocket pack strapped to our backs. But what happens to the bears?

bearrocket1

bearrocket2

Icecrown: The self-nerfing raid

Blizzard have really outdone themselves with this one. The plan for opening up the Icecrown Citadel (the raid instance which is coming with the next patch) has been released. They’ve thrown the kitchen sink at it. It’ll have bosses gradually being unlocked as time goes on, bosses only being unlocked if you kill previous bosses within a limited amount of tries, and the whole instance actually coded to get a bit easier over time by dint of a raid buff that increases as time goes on.

So imagine a self-basting chicken if it was a castle full of undead. Instead of Blizzard having to take it out of the oven every so often to pour fat over it/ nerf it, they can just leave it in until it is done.

Larisa echoes my thoughts on forcing limited attempts. It punishes people who wanted to go into the instance blind, or who have raid members with poor connections, and puts undue stress on the learning side of the encounter. Limited attempts is something you do to spice up farm raids.

Self-nerfing raids forces people to raid to Blizzard’s schedule. This has happened to some extent anyway but if like us you raid on a relaxed schedule, it’s hard to know what that will really mean for the difficulty side of things.

I think what they’re aiming at is that the limited attempts (and the number of attempts allowed also increases over time) should  let the hardccore stay ahead of the rest for a short while at least. The autobuff should make it easier for PUGs to form towards the end of the raid’s lifecycle.

But none of this is really ideal for players who would prefer it if their own raid group could select the difficulty. A group like mine doesn’t need limited attempts, we already have a relaxed schedule and aren’t going to sweep through the instance in a week. All that does is add extra stress for us. But since we’ll also be gearing up and getting more practice in, I’m not sure we need the increasing raid buff either.

I don’t think any of these ideas are bad on their own, but I’m not sure how well they all will work together. Can you really throw in some stuff for the hardcore and some for the casuals and bake it all in the same oven? It will be interesting to find out, and to see what players do with it.