Ulduar Update: Beam up the rare pattern, captain!

I was struck this week by Veneretio’s post on tankingtips.com praising warriors as off-tanks in Ulduar.

I enjoy playing my character in the new raid instance. There are plenty of fights that showcase her strengths – I get to zip around picking up adds,  put on interrupt duty, kite stuff around in interesting patterns, run a tanking gauntlet, share a taunt rotation with the other tanks, and that’s just the fights I have seen so far.

If I were to write down a list of activities that make for fun raid tanking encounters, Ulduar would hit a lot of them stone cold. And not only that, I also don’t spend my time in raids fretting that another class would do the job better, it’s honestly something I haven’t even thought about since the last patch.

One of the reasons I am still loving Warcraft is because my character is such a blast to play. Love the game or hate it, their class design is generally excellent.

Although I do often off-tank, it amuses me that I always end up main tank on Ignis. I think the other tanks have a blindspot for him, they settled awfully quickly into ‘let Spinks tank the boss’ on that one. Come to think of it, they were never very fond of tanking Grobbulus either. Maybe I’m the only one who likes the boss kiting fights.

This week saw us consolidate a lot of past work. We knocked out five bosses on the Wednesday night, which involved no more than one wipe on any of them. While farm raids are less exciting than progression, it is a good sign of solid progression to get the early parts of the raid under control. We’re also running on a lighter rota than normal because the students are into exam time for another week or so and are sensibly skipping raids to revise. On Thursday they got Auriaya down and put in some solid attempts on Freya. General feeling was that she’d get killed next week.

Rare Patterns

We also now have a couple of blacksmithing patterns including the Indestructible Plate Girdle. In fact, I now have that recipe which is probably the first time ever I’ve been in possession of a rare crafting recipe. Our raid decided to prioritise tanks on crafted gear so I’m also second in line to get more runed orbs to make one!

Meanwhile I’m pondering how to profit from this knowledge. We have a crafting exchange arranged with other raid guilds so that we’ll make items free for each other to widen the range of available items, so no luck there.

I think the main options are either:

  • Buy the materials and sell the completed pieces at a profit. Runed orbs are not plentiful enough yet to make this viable. I wonder how much people really would spend for a best in slot tanking belt. I suspect the ones who would be more likely to pay high are the ones I’ll be making it free for from the other raid guilds. But later on when runed orbs get cheaper this will probably work.
  • Charge a high crafting cost.
  • Charge a modest crafting cost and sell the mats myself on the AH (i.e.. make the profit from selling the materials and use the recipe to create the demand). So that involve lots of titansteel, which is a time-limited resource.

The latter seems most appealing. But in the meanwhile, how on earth to decide how much to charge to people who are just looking to have the item crafted? I may have a temporary monopoly.

Incidentally, I take all this as a sign that the rare recipes are starting to get more widely distributed. Expect the price of titansteel and other materials to go through the roof shortly, as we find out who failed to stock up in advance.

10 Man

In the ten man team, we had a long raid last weekend. I came along to the evening portion. They’d already knocked out Freya for a first kill and we had some good learning time on Thorim. We all felt that it was a useful opportunity to learn the fights for 25 man.

Fighting Thorim requires you to set up a bridge team (to stay in the arena) and an away team (to fight their way up the gauntlet). If you had to use a teleporter to get to the gauntlet, the metaphor would be perfect. But in the absence of that, we just made lots of jokes about Thorim setting his phasers to kill whenever he nuked us due to wipes in the arena.

The gauntlet in 10 man is a bit of a joke. It’s easier than Utgarde Pinnacle. There really aren’t any special tricks to share other than kill the healer first (duh) and keep an eye on the minibosses. They had more trouble in the arena and although we tried swapping people around between the two teams, it wasn’t really working.

So, need more work on that. Maybe we’ll get another raid in before reset if people are keen.

5 Steps to Raid Tanking Assignments

Congratulations, you’re in a raid. Someone has asked you to organise the tanking assignments. Don’t panic if you’ve never done this before, it’s pretty simple compared to sorting out the heals :)

This is assuming a PvE raid. You can assign tasks in PvP too but it’s more likely to change on the fly. Assignments are based on managing a large complex task by splitting it into smaller, more manageable tasks, and assigning them to appropriate people.

In RL we call this (an aspect of) project management, but tank management sounds dull … I’m going to sleep even typing it. So we assign roles rather than managing tanks, and that sounds more interesting already!

Hopefully you will have a separate tanking channel in which to instruct the other tanks without spamming everyone. If not, just go ahead with the spam, because assignments are important.

1. For each boss fight, work out how many tanking tasks there are. How many mobs need to be tanked? Does the fight have phases that have different tanking requirements?

2. Analyse what each task involves. Does any task require specific gear or class skills to perform? (eg. does a tank need more than X health to tank boss Y?) Does any task need any specific player skills (eg. boss Z needs to be kited, or has adds coming from random directions that need to be picked up fast?) Are some more difficult than others?

3. Check tank capabilities. Which tanks do you have available? What is their gear like? Is anyone particularly good or bad at any game mechanic? Are you trying to train a player in some particular fight?

4. Assign each tank a task on each boss, based on the task requirements and tank capabilities. What I usually do is give out assignments at the beginning of each Naxx wing (ie. every 3-4 bosses). I’ve seen raids where assignments were done via bboards also. I think the main thing is to remind people before every boss fight, because they will forget.

5. Ask if everyone is OK with the assignments. Listen if people tell you that they’d prefer a different assignment, they may know the encounter better than you or have more information (eg. maybe someone has bad lag, or really wants to try tanking a boss they haven’t tried yet). Listening doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them but in either case, it’s best to discuss it before you start.

After the tanks are sorted out and everyone knows what they are doing, the healers will make their assignments. This is because they need to know who is taking which damage to know how many healers to assign. Whilst healers are smart and can adjust mid-fight, it makes their lives easier if they can at least start from the same assumptions.

Note: You may need to make assignments for trash (ie. non boss pulls) as well as bosses. Just treat each type of trash pack as a separate encounter, again it is important to remind people of their assignments just before the first pull. In Naxx when starting out, we assigned each tank to a raid mark and marked the trash up quickly before pulls. Now everyone knows it so well that we mostly don’t bother.

Learning new fights

When trying a new fight, keep an eye out for how many tanking tasks are involved. How many people are needed to tank the boss? Is the fight in phases which need different numbers of tanks? Are there adds? Are there different ways to beat the fight, which might vary the tank assignments or favour different classes?

Example Assignments in Naxxramas

Anub’Rekhan:

  1. Tank main boss. If he is being kited then needs a tank who can kite. If he is being tanked in the doorway, needs a well geared tank.
  2. Add tank 1: Pick up initial add. Be ready to pick up subsequent adds which appear one per locust swarm.
  3. Add tank 2: Pick up initial add (there are 2). After that is dead, switch to dps for rest of fight.

Faerlina:

  1. Tank main boss. If going for brute force method, needs a well geared tank.
  2. Add tank 1 (followers): Tank these away from casters (AE silence), aim to kill them fast. Then switch to dps for rest of fight.
  3. Add tank 2 (worshippers): These are casters.

Maexxna:

  1. Tank main boss. She puts out a brutal amount of damage when she is enraged and the tank is webwrapped which will happen at least once. Needs well geared tank (pref. high health)
  2. Add tank: Needs to pick up spider adds quickly. You can do this fight without an add tank if you have good AE.

Noth:

  1. Tank main boss. Easy assignment, remember to grab him when he teleports away.
  2. 1-2 Add Tanks: Need to grab adds which come from various points around the walls and hold them.

Heigan:

  1. Tank main boss. Does not hit hard, but pref someone who knows the fight.

Loatheb:

  1. Tank main boss. Does not hit hard, and because of restrictions on healing, this is best done by whoever takes least damage. Usually a shield tank.

Patchwerk:

  1. Tank main boss.
  2. Hateful Strike Tank.
  3. Hateful Strike Tank.

OK, this needs a few more words. Patchwerk is a stress test. He always hits one of the top three people on his aggro list. He will always hit whichever of them has the most health at the time. He hits hard. Whenever he hits any one of the tanks, all three spots on the top of the aggro list will gain more threat.

So usually, whoever has least health is the main tank and tanks with more health/better gear are hateful strike tanks. If all tanks have similar health, then whoever does the best threat is the main tank.

Grobbulous

  1. Main tank. Tank boss, kite him around the room backwards. (As an aside, this is the least popular tanking assignment in Naxx in our raids, no one ever volunteers to tank Grob :) )
  2. Add tank/s. Pick up slimes when they appear, and move them safely away so that they can be killed.
  3. Emergency Add tank. We sometimes have a spare feral on hand to help if a lot of slimes turn up. Sometimes bad positioning or lag can cause this.

Gluth

  1. Main Tank 1. Tank boss, taunt from other main tank when debuffs build too high.
  2. Main Tank 2. As above.
  3. Zombie kiting! Kite adds around, pick up zombies, keep them away from the boss until the decimate. May not be an actual tank since this can be done by other classes.

Thaddius:

  1. Main Tank. Tank miniboss, then jump to main platform and tank boss in phase 2.
  2. Off Tank. Tank second miniboss, then jump to platform and switch to dps for phase 2. If the main tank fails the jump, then off tank tanks the boss. This is a dps race so the role is better for a tank who can do good dps when off tanking.

Razuvious:

  1. Add tank. Main tanking here is done by priests. Add tank holds any spare adds and picks up any who resist mind control so that the priest can pick them up again (and not get splatted, funny as it may be).

Gothik:

  1. Live side tank. Pull boss. Tank lots of adds at the live side. When door opens, tank boss when he appears.
  2. Dead side tank. Tank lots of adds at dead side. When door opens, tank boss when he appears.
  3. Dead side off tank. Help tank lots of adds at dead side. Then switch to dps when boss appears.
  4. Live side off tank. (Where available). Assist the live side tank, as above.

4 Horsemen

  1. Thane tank. Tank thane. If using a tank swapping technique, needs to be able to watch meteors and strafe forwards after every 3 marks to swap bosses with the Baron tank. If using brute force technique, put best geared tank here.
  2. Baron tank. As above, except Baron is a wimp so if using brute force method, this is an easy assignment.
  3. Blammo tank. Can be done by a ranged class. The 2 rear bosses are tanked by proximity.
  4. Zeliek tank. As above. Remind melee to spread out.

Sapphiron:

  1. Main tank. Pick someone well geared, he hits hard. Does not require frost resist gear.

Kel’Thuzad:

  1. Main tank. Help pick up abominations in phase 1. Tank boss in phase 2. Prefer tank with interrupts to help interrup frost bolts.
  2. Add tank 1. Help pick up abominations in phase 1. Either dps or keep out of the fight in phase 2 (depending how good they are on keeping distance from other melee). Pick up add/s in phase 3.
  3. Add tank 2. As above.

Easy!

Miss Manners Guide to Tanking Etiquette

The main difference as a tank between running instances and tanking in raids is that in raids you get to work with more people. In a raid, you are part of a tanking team. You will very likely have a private tanking chat channel, which will be used for assignments as well as small talk.

You will probably be given an assignment on every trash pull as well as every boss fight. But there are some general rules of etiquette when working with other tanks — people won’t necessarily tell you these in advance, but you’ll quickly find out when you have crossed the line.

1. Never taunt a mob off another tank (unless by prior arrangement), it’s rude. It is the tanking equivalent of telling someone they’re doing a bad job and you could do better. If you taunt something off another tank by mistake, apologise after the pull. We all do it, but it’s polite to say sorry.

Note: this is a little different in Warhammer because taunting makes you do more damage. In that game it’s more common to have taunting rotations (or just assume everyone will taunt when their taunt comes up).

2. In a trash pull, tank the mobs close together unless you know in advance that one has to be taken to a safer distance. This makes it easier for the dps to use AE, easier for them to move from one mob to the next,  and also easier for other tanks to use AE parts of their rotations (why would you want this? It’s extra damage/ debuffs as much as anything else). If you insist on taking your mobs off to their own special corner without prior arrangement, expect to get some snark.

3. If you’re in a raid and you know another tank hasn’t tanked a particular mob before, make sure they know any special tanking tricks that they need to know. The raid leader may not be a tank and may not think to remind them.

4. Tanks are a TEAM. You have to work together. You stand as a team, you fall as a team. It’s not a competitive sport like dps (or healing, although that really shouldn’t be competitive either). You will tend to find that most tanks are pretty supportive of other tanks — there are a LOT of helpful blogs, websites, bbposts, gear guides, and so on. Yes there’s a lot of player support for most sides of the game, and raids are teams too, but tanks stand together. Don’t refuse a request for advice from a less experienced or lower level tank.

5. If you see another tank in trouble or low on health, be ready to step in if needed. This can go against rule 1, but it’s OK if you saved a wipe.

Tanking is like sex, it’s more fun with partners :) Happy tanking!

Off-Tanks or Co-Tanks?

It has become traditional (ie. online  slang that has been in use for at least a year) that when you’re running a raid and have several tanks in the group, one is referred to as the Main Tank (MT) and the others are Off Tanks (OT).

It’s role related. The MT picks up the biggest baddest monster and the OTs have other jobs which might involve grabbing adds, building threat on the main target (but staying below the MT), taking over if anything happens to the MT, and so on.

But there is a cachet involved with being the main tank which is kind of weird. I mean, all of those roles are equally important and it’s not as if being MT takes any special skill.

Last week, we were chatting on our sekrit tanking channel during the raids and a lot of it was deciding before each fight who was going to tank what. There really wasn’t one main tank, we changed it around for each fight.

So I think I’m going to start referring to the rest of the tank corps as Co-Tanks. I think Off Tank/ Off Healer/ Off Spec etc is a bit derogatory.