Thought of the Day: Fighting for Control of a Group

While the vast majority of groups I have found using the dungeon tool have been great, the annoying minority stress me out far more when tanking than in any other role. This is because in annoying groups, lots of players are fighting for control. In relaxed groups, people offer leadership or guidance if needed but they aren’t actually trying to fight about it.

Everyone who pulls randomly? They’re trying to control the group. And they are doing it passive-aggressively rather than just saying, ‘Can we go faster?’

Now this becomes more of an issue when you are tanking, because the traditional tanking role in instances DOES involve having more control. The person doing the pulling in the instance controls the pace of the run. And by convention, that is the tank because s/he will get initial threat on the mobs that are pulled. In the workplace, if you are assigned a job to do, you will wonder what’s going on when you find that other people are doing that job instead of you. It’s demoralising. You will also wonder why you are there in the first place.

Or in other words, there is a social contract in groups where the roles are understood. For example, as a tank:

- I will try to control the monsters so that I take all the hits.

- I will have good enough tanking gear/ talents to be able to do this without folding instantly like a paper doily.

- I will try to keep an eye on the rest of the group so that I can pull monsters off them.

- I won’t do anything to make my healer’s job harder.

- I won’t pull a boss before everyone is present and ready.

- I will know any tank-specific tactics for the fights, if I don’t know then I will ask before we pull.

So what do you do when some group members seem hell bent on forcing you to break that social contract? For example, I had a pair of jokers who kept stealthing ahead and pulling the bosses in Drak’theron before I got there. I can hardly stop my group getting hurt when they sneak off deliberately into danger, knowing I can’t see them.

Short form: I don’t want to have to fight with my own group. It isn’t fun. I don’t know why some people feel they must lead via doing silly things but if it keeps happening, the shortage of tanks will continue. Because a lot of players don’t want to fight with their own group.

Thought of the Day: Why random dungeons won’t kill guilds

I’ve decided that I don’t really enjoy tanking in random dungeons. Between the gogogo raid geared nutters who will die of an aneurysm if the run takes even a minute longer than necessary and the sub-900 dps death knights (sorry, death knights, I know you aren’t all like that), it’s just a little too …. random. Yes, the vast majority of groups are perfectly fine but it hits me harder when I’m tanking if they aren’t.

But if I take at least one guildie along, the chances of my group being fine increase astronomically (or at least I’ll have moral support if I do decide I want to boot someone). So my standard procedure now on Spinks is to log in and immediately ask on guild chat if anyone is interested in coming along to a heroic as moral support.

It improves my enjoyment of the new tool hugely, it’s great for them because they get a fast instance also, and probably good for the rest of the group too. Guilds aren’t going to die.

(I have also decided that I don’t really mind if the group gets bouncy and people pull extra adds as long as they’re putting out enough damage to deal with it. Once I adjusted, it’s actually quite fun. I just won’t encourage it deliberately.)

Overcoming the Fear of Tanking

henryvHenry V tanked the entire french army, but even he was nervous

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

Shakespeare, “Henry V”

Tanking is scary.

Many things in this world are scary. Leading is scary. Giving birth is scary. Spiders are scary. Cycling in London is scary. Doing something new is scary. Just because something is scary doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. Overcoming the fear of tanking is the one single factor that all tanks have in common. If you can crash through the fear barrier, then you have what it takes to become an awesome tank.

For all of us, there was a moment when we stood there with an instance in front of us and an expectant group behind us and knew that there was no going back. This is the source of a lot of tank solidarity, and it’s the reason why tanks will usually help out and support fellow tanks. We were all there once. Happily, after you have gotten your tanking sea-legs and learned to be more confident in yourself and your class, tanking is extremely fun. Soon enough, going into a new instance or tanking a new boss will become a thrill rather than a thing of nightmare.

With the new dungeon tool in WoW, a lot of players are seeing the advantages to them personally of picking up the tanking mantle. How would you like to see queue times measured in seconds instead of minutes? Queue as a tank, and that’s the norm.

I was chatting to a warrior in my DK’s guild about the new instances and how we planned to spend our badges. I said I was spending mine on dps gear and was happy that I was now pushing 3k in heroics, because that’s a good improvement over when I started, but that I’d also been able to pick up enough tanking gear to get myself critproof and thought I would be OK to tank easier heroics too. He said that he was spending his badges on tanking gear. So I noted that I’d be happy to ride shotgun as moral support if he wanted to run some heroics. (By the way, if you know a tank, queuing with them is a great alternate way to get fast instances.) And what he said then surprised me. “Oh, I haven’t really had much tanking practice yet.”

There’s nothing wrong in running instances as dps or healer in order to get your tanking gear. In fact, it’s the easiest way to get into heroics and start grinding those badges out. But the longer you put off ‘that first tanking run’, the harder it will get.

I am guessing that a lot of people are in this situation where they like the idea of tanking now, and are gathering badge gear to help out. But the thought of actually tanking an instance is a tremendous barrier to them, which is unfortunate because the only way to really learn to tank is to go out and do it.

10 suggestions on how to get over the fear. These are all things that have helped me in the past.

  1. Research a good tanking spec and read up on what type of gear is required. There are a lot of sources of information online; I’d start with tankspot since they have guides for different classes.
  2. Practice on your own. Go find some mobs and practice your tanking rotation. Throw on your tanking gear and find a pack to AE tank while you kill them. Figure out which of your abilities are most useful while tanking and bind them somewhere convenient. Interrupts, silences, and stuns can be surprisingly handy. (Pro tip: also keep taunt bound somewhere VERY convenient.) How would you pick up an unexpected extra mob? Where are your emergency cooldown buttons? Practice while doing dailies.
  3. Bring a friend. If you have a friend or guildie who is willing to come along as moral support, invite them to your group first. Even better if they have a tank alt and can whisper advice if you need it.
  4. Talk to other tanks. If you know people who play tanks, you can always ask their opinion on gearing or any aspect of play. No one minds being asked politely ‘How do you tank encounter X, I’ve been having trouble with Y’
  5. Start with easier instances. You don’t need to leap straight into heroics. Start with normal instances and work your way up as you feel more confident. If you get a chance to do some tanking while you are levelling, so much the better.
  6. Don’t be afraid to tell your group that you are new to tanking and will be taking things at your own pace. Tell them (politely, if you like) that if they don’t like it, they can leave. If they boot you, shrug and queue for another group – you didn’t need those people anyway.
  7. Go along on some instance runs as a dps or healer and watch carefully what the tank does. Get familiar with the pulls and positioning, watch the patrols, see if you can figure out what the adds actually do.
  8. Organise your UI and addons to make sure that all the information you will need is easy to see. Can you see when your cooldowns are up? Can you check the health of the rest of the group to see if anyone is being beaten up? Can you actually see the mob through the density of information on your screen? Can you see when a mob is casting a spell that you might need to interrupt? Can you see your own health?
  9. Try some PvP, it’s a good way to practice situational awareness.
  10. Think about what you believe a good tank should do … and then try to do it when you are tanking.

Crowd Control — the marmite of MMOs?

Playing a class with crowd control in an MMO has always involved tension with other players. No one likes having CC used on them in PvP — players really do dislike losing control of their character, however briefly. But there is also a resistance among the playerbase to CC in PvE, a hostility that I don’t really see towards any other role in the game.

This is partly because using crowd control to kill a group of monsters is probably slower than just about any other way you could think up. Players look at the ‘kill them one at a time’ option and then eye up the ‘could we just kill them all at once instead’ side of things. If a game has effective area effect attacks and tanks who can hold threat on multiple mobs, it’s clear which the faster kill method must be.

Even where designers nudge players towards the ‘one at a time with crowd control’ plan, players gripe at feeling forced to have that CC in the group. It’s bad enough to be forced to need a tank and a healer but limiting one of the other spots to a crowd controller seems to really ramp up the difficulty of sorting out groups. Even in a game like WoW where most of the dps classes have some kind of crowd control, players (aside from the CC classes) really didn’t like the added complexity in group forming.

What it boils down to is that tanking tends to become the preferred method of crowd control in PvE except when people are soloing. WoW exacerbates this with the small group sizes. In a group of 5, it’s a struggle to form groups when three of those five roles are fixed. Also some versions of CC are trickier to apply than others,  so players prefer the more reliable types and Blizzard never seemed to feel the need to equalise CC spells in the same way that they did with tanking.

I know this is one of the reasons that I enjoy tanking in game. I always loved playing crowd control classes, especially when they had multiple different types available. One must move with the times.

Do you like playing crowd control classes? Do you hate crowd control in games? Is crowd control really only fun for the person who has that ability?

When to use shield wall?

There’s a great sketch in “Yes Prime Minister,” where Sir Humphrey (a high level civil servant) is trying to persuade the Prime Minister out of wanting nuclear weapons.

I can’t find the script, but Sir Humphrey gives the PM a series of slowly escalating situations and after each one he asks, “Do you press the button?” and the PM shakes his head. Eventually the hypothetical Russian Armies (this was an old series) are destroying London and knocking on the door of Number 10 and it’s pretty clear that the Prime Minister would never press that button.

You can play this game with Shield Wall too (for non-WoWers, it’s an ability which severely reduces all incoming damage for 12s, and it’s on a 5 min cooldown):

  • You can see the boss in the room. Do you press the button?
  • One of your healers just got a high score on Bejewelled. Do you press the button?
  • You just pulled an extra mob. Do you press the button?
  • You haven’t used Shield Wall in the last 30 minutes. Do you press the button?
  • The boss enrages. Do you press the button?
  • The off tank just stood in a void zone and died. Do you press the button?
  • You’re down to 1k health and zomg you’re going to die. Do you press the button?

Lots of MMOs have similar types of ability. They’re powerful, but balanced by making you really think about when to use them to best effect. And although a bunch of dps who blow all their cooldowns at the same time can produce incredible spikes of damage, it’s the tanking and healing cooldowns that are most likely to prevent a wipe.

Tanking is a Joint Effort

There are two sides to tanking: holding threat, and not dying. Good luck on the not dying part without a healer at your back. Tanking is a team effort between the tank and whoever else is helping them to not die. As a tank, your main responsibility is to pick up the mobs, hold threat, and move them as required, whilst not doing anything that would make you more likely to die. The healers will do the rest.

So a tanking or healing cooldown is to help keep you alive. In other words, Shield Wall is there to make life easier for your healers. When you’re thinking about when to use it, you should be looking out for situations that would normally cause a lot of extra healing stress, or when the healers (for whatever reason) need you to buy them just a few more seconds of time to get the heals out.

Shield Wall can help smooth these moments out. It absolutely can help turn a wipe into a kill. And sometimes it will make no difference, you would have died anyway. If you have 2k health and a boss normally hits for 20k on plate, Shield Wall alone will not save you. That doesn’t mean it can’t help – you can always hit other cooldowns too to get some additional emergency health, and the rest of the group might have other ways to assist. But sometimes it’s just not going to make the difference.

Cooldowns and Communication

Matticus has a great post on WoWInsider discussing the different types of healing and tanking cooldowns in WoW, and the importance of communicating with the other players when you use one (i.e. so that they know to save theirs for later.)

Sometimes in the heat of the situation, that’s quite difficult to do. If things are going pear shaped, usually you react first and then announce to everyone what you’ve done.

If you really want the raid to know every time you use Shield Wall, you can macro in some comment like /ra Shield Wall used!! to your hotkey. Or use an addon like castyeller that can be set up with custom announcements on different abilities. It won’t be as effective as shouting over voice chat but has the advantage of happening automatically.

Anyway, there’s three different types of situation where you may want to use Shield Wall. (Four if you include when you press it by mistake). With some of them you’ll have more time to communicate than others.

Usually though, in an emergency we prefer to have the tank use their cooldowns first since they’ll probably be the first to notice when a boss does anything unexpected (due to staring at it). Healers may need a few extra seconds for their UI to update before they can react. That’s not universal, some healers are really good at watching the fight, but as a tank you have no excuse for not being the first to know.

1. Predictable in advance

You know in advance that there will be brief but heavy healing stress and Shield Wall can help (in extreme cases like Sarth+3, the fight requires timed uses of cooldowns or you won’t make it).

This could be some badass boss ability. It could be that there’s a period of extremely heavy but predictable damage (e.g. an enrage). It might even be that the pull is particularly tricky. Or there’s a period which is very threat sensitive (i.e. so if you take less damage then your healers are less likely to pull healing aggro).

In any case you can discuss it in advance and work out some kind of cooldown use order. If you do this,  watch out for people being unexpectedly taken out of action and report this pretty smartly. A healer who’s died in a flame wave can’t use a cooldown … unless someone else uses an emergency battle res to get them back up.

Don’t forget that you can use Shield Wall when you pull if the pull is the most stressful part of the fight.

Try to think through fights where you have died before due to spike damage. Was any of that damage predictable? Ask your healers for their suggestions also. If there are, Shield Wall will soften the blow.

2/ Unpredictable, but you saw it coming and had time to think

The fight is not going as planned. You have to change tactics on the fly. You can see that you are imminently about to take a lot of extra damage and you know the healers probably weren’t expecting it. Use Shield Wall.

Examples:

  • Unexpected change in tanking orders – maybe one of the other tanks died and you’re picking up their assignment on the fly.
  • One of the healers died or is out of action. You can buy some time to help the healers adjust.
  • The boss is almost dead! But there are no healers up. Can you survive for just a few seconds longer to get the kill?
  • It’s a progression fight. What’s that void zone doing? Wait, is that add meant to be there? (i.e. you don’t know the fight well, but you can see some heavy damage coming.)

This is where Shield Wall truly shines and a lot of tanks are so busy fire fighting that they don’t think to use it.

If you have more time to discuss the situation (maybe you have some time in hand before the next bout of heavy damage) then it may be that someone else will offer to use their cooldown first.

I was thinking of this the other night when we had a main tank disconnect while fighting XT-002. I was only tanking one add at the time  and I saw the boss turn to the raid, so I charged in, hit Shield Wall, taunted it back and yelled on teamspeak that I was taking him. The other off tank spotted what I was doing, grabbed my add, and took it off somewhere (I may have mentioned before how awesome she is).  We killed him. It may well be that the healers noticed immediately – they’re pretty good – but the initial healing assignments wouldn’t have had me on the boss, so why not make their lives a bit easier when you can? Tanking is a joint effort, after all.

Point is, it can all happen very quickly. By the time most people had noticed the boss was loose, it was already under control again.

3/ Emergency

Usually signified by your rapidly dipping health bar catching your eye, accompanied by thought process along the lines of, “Argh, I am dying!!!”.

You don’t have a lot of time to think. You may not even know exactly what happened. All you know is that if things look to be going south and your cooldowns are still up, and there’s a chance of saving the fight, you might as well blow them. This is reasonable with a 5 min cooldown. Back when it was on a 30 min timer, you might have been keener to save it.

Maybe the Shield Wall will help. Maybe all the other cooldowns that people are probably dropping on you will help too. The key with emergencies is that since you don’t really know what happened, you’re just pressing buttons blindly and hoping for the best. Maybe it’ll be that day.

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!

10 cool things to check out

Today is a Bank Holiday over here, so I’m taking a day off. Here’s some other fun things to read or play in the meantime.

  1. Try the Braid Demo on PC. It’s an award winning time shifting storytelling platform game. I can’t really explain, other than to say try it and see what you think.
  2. Nerf the Cat briefly reviews some of her favourite gaming and geek-friendly podcasts.
  3. Zork, blogging at Elitist Jerks, is starting a tutorial for people who want to know how to create their own WoW mods.
  4. Blame the Healer has some suggestions for Spring Cleaning your bags in MMOs.
  5. RPS are playing through Knights of the Old Republic (a game that lets you choose whether you want to be good or evil) on total bastard mode and telling us their story.
  6. Sign up for the Dungeon Party open beta. Seems to be some kind of team based comedy dungeon delving. You can read about it here.
  7. If you have a CoH account, go play with the mission creator. I’ll be writing about my experiences with it later (short form: love it!!). A Ding World reviews the types of missions that players have been creating.
  8. I often write about tanking in WoW, but have you tried tanking in other games? Omelettz@Breakfast at War talks about some of the issues she’s had tanking with her Blackguard in Warhammer. Her problems include line of sight, parity with other tanks,  how to tank in PvP …
  9. OK, this is an indulgent one. For me, the best game ever made was Elite which I played to death and loved to death as a teenager. And now  Gamasutra have an article all about the game and what made it so great.
  10. Try Grow Tower. It’s a cute flash puzzle game that kept me amused for awhile.

Fun with Vigilance

Vigilance is a quirky warrior talent.

It’s a 30min buff that you can put on someone else in your raid and while it is active, you will nick 10% of their threat, the damage that they take will be reduced by 3%, and every time they get hit your taunt is refreshed.

When I first read the text, I thought that perhaps the idea was that you slapped it on someone mid-fight if they’d accidentally got aggro — that would not only reduce their threat and how much damage they take but also let you taunt off them quickly.

You can do this if you want. But we have other abilities that are just as good for grabbing a mob that has transferred its undesired attentions  to someone else (Intervene, or if the mob is tauntable then just taunt it with the new 30′ ranged taunt).

Ninjaing other people’s threat

The 30min duration hints at another use though. If you put Vigilance on whichever dps is likely to be top of the threat meter,  they get some extra breathing space on threat and you get a nice scaling threat talent. Bargain.

If you’re quick with your targetting, you can also swap it around during a fight if the previous holder died or someone else is coming close to you on threat.

If you read forums, you’ll find that a lot of warriors don’t like Vigilance on principle. The basic reason for this is because they’d rather have their threat increased via more damage. Warrior damage is already weak compared to other tanks (while tanking or off-tanking) and while the threat boost is very useful, why not hit two birds with one stone  instead of providing a strange pure threat talent that scales with other people’s damage?

The concern is that Blizzard may be balancing tank threat assuming that all warriors have Vigilance. In which case, we’ll always be way behind on damage because they’ll assume we don’t need it. Which is hard to swallow when you see other tanks pulling significantly more dps than you do, while tanking. Tanks aren’t picked for their damage but it’s not a good thing for the gap between top and bottom to be too high.

[edited to add: Actually, the more I think about this, the more I think it's a daft thing to worry about. The extra dps added to a raid by letting one of your top dps have a 10% higher threat cap is probably way more than you would have done as a tank.]

I think this is mostly ‘sky is falling’ fretting. But we’ll have to wait and see what 3.1 has in store, tank changes are in the works and the proof of what Blizzard actually think/ expect will be in the pudding.

Taunt to victory

Passive threat increases are fine and good but what about the other side-effects of Vigilance? In most fights, taunt is only used in emergencies but sometimes having it available on every global cooldown is precisely what you want. And in those cases, you can Vigilate (it SO should be a word) one of the other tanks … as long as you are sure the fight isn’t threat sensitive for them.

I was messing with this in Naxxramas this week, on Gothik. For those not familiar, this is a fight where there are a lot of adds to pick up in Phase 1 which need to be tanked and killed on a priority basis. I was tanking the live side with a Death Knight helping out. I stuck Vigi on him, knowing that he was bound to be constantly aggroing something. It made it very very easy for me to keep taunting the riders and knights in a fight which is normally quite hectic.

You can use the same trick on Sartharion if you’re picking up adds or elementals. Vigi the main tank and enjoy being able to taunt everything all of the time.

Damage reduction

The other side to Vigilance is that it does reduce damage taken by the target by 3%. Which is another good reason to stick it on a tank in a non threat-sensitive fight. But I haven’t really found a place where I’d use the buff just for that yet. It’s more of a side effect than anything else.

What does Blizzard intend for the talent?

I do love abilities that can be used in several different ways, adapting to the needs of an encounter (I always thought that lifebloom was genius design, for example). But you always end up wondering ‘is this really the use that was intended?’

Is the intention for warriors to be able to taunt constantly or is that an unwanted side effect? If it is the intention then … that’s cool. It does give us something neat that other tanks don’t have, the ability to pick up streams of tauntable mobs quickly and neatly (and from 30′ away).

But that’s also the reason that I have my doubts. I expect that when 3.1 comes live, it will answer my questions about Vigilance and what Blizzard expects us to use it for.

Until then, I’ll be sitting here on the Live side of Gothik, enjoying my uber taunt.

5 things about Protection Warriors that still rock the house

1. We have awesome AE snap threat. For this reason, we are the best tanks for the adds on Sartharion, bar none. Shockwave and Thunderclap pile a shedloads of quick threat onto a lot of mobs.

People will also be impressed at how neatly you line mobs up for Shockwave, once you have got the hang of it. The neat mob patterns and the stun give them 5s to oo and ahh at your amazing add control. Milk it.

Even if you don’t take Veneretio‘s word for it (and you should, he’s one of the most authoritative protwarrior posters out there, and he’s particularly good at explaining the reasoning behind his thinking), my corroborating evidence is that my protadin friend was whining to me about this last week.

If a protection paladin whines that you are better than him at anything, it’s:

  1. probably true
  2. probably going to be given to paladins next patch so enjoy it while it lasts

2. We are very mobile. Between Charge and Intervene, we can move much more quickly around an encounter than any other tank.

3. Spell Reflect. An unusual and very fun ability, I don’t think it will ever be necessary on a raid boss  but the reason it is now so situational is purely down to current content. This wasn’t the case in TBC and who knows what the future holds? Improved Spell Reflect is still good fun on Malygos and the voidie boss in the Violet Hold. Certainly if more bosses in future allow for spell reflect, it will be a way for Blizzard to increase the damage that warriors do while tanking.

It also hasn’t come up much in Wrath but spell reflect is a great way to build threat on groups of casters, assuming that they all are nuking you (ie. you just pulled one). We used this to good effect in Magister’s Terrace, which did have groups of casters as trash mobs, and it could easily come up later in this expansion.

4. Easier to heal? I put a question mark on this because I’m not convinced, but I was asking some of our healers for their opinions and they felt I took less damage. Or at least they had the perception that they didn’t have to work as hard to heal me. And particularly in heroics, they had a lot of confidence in warriors’  ability to pick up unexpected adds/ patrols quickly. This comes down to the great snap AE threat and mobility, but don’t think it isn’t appreciated.

Now to put this in context, a warrior does take less damage than a druid (they have huge health pools to soak but we have plate and a shield), death knights can stack up their amazing cooldowns but they don’t always have something in reserve for unexpected situations, and paladins take less spikey damage but tend to prioritise shield block over avoidance. This is all highly dependent on how you gear — a druid could drop some stamina to pick up high avoidance but most of them don’t, preferring to play to their strengths.

Like I say, I’m not entirely convinced but when someone hands you a compliment, accept it graciously and puzzle it out later. Perception is a powerful thing.

5. Tier 7 looks badass. Who doesn’t like fiery skulls? Warriors do usually get decent looking tier sets, with a few notable exceptions. Clearly this is down to personal preference, but at least we don’t have to wear paladin power ranger suits or have random spikes sticking out of our elbows like Death Knights.

And who would even notice what their druid was wearing? Or not, in the case of some of ours.

The road to raiding

My guild alliance ran its first 25 man raid in Wrath last night. This is a milestone for any raid group, like when your startup gets its first real customer or your band gets its first gig and someone who isn’t actually a relative or partner turns up to see it (bonus points if you didn’t bribe them with free beer).

The reason it is such a big deal is that it’s  a delicate process to get raids running in a new expansion. Players are deciding which raid group they want to associate with, and everything is up in the air until the point where you can strongarm or cajole enough people along and bosses start dying. I know a few people in our group had already been to pick up raids (ie. someone on one of the public channels asks for more random people to join them) or been triallists in other raid groups before deciding that they wanted to stick with us instead.

The startup is a pretty good comparison. Imagine that you are starting up a new business and it’s in an employees market so most of your potential staff have their choice of places to work. Even if people agree verbally to contracts with you, you’ve no guarantee they won’t suddenly change their mind when they get a better offer. Once you actually have real customers and can show your candidates some track record, your chances of attracting them are higher.

Of course raiding isn’t the same. You’re only paying people in terms of providing entertainment (that’s what running raids is about really), although there are social benefits too. But when people commit to a raid schedule, they want to know that they will be getting something worthwhile in return — to whit, a working and viable raid to be part of.

So the first successful raid is like a callout to all the guys who hung in there even before the raid had proven itself. It shows they made a good call. This is also why it’s great that the initial Wrath raids are fairly easy; if you can get 25 people together you WILL be able to go kill something.

Anyway, my guild alliance is a fairly casual setup. They’re being a bit more organised in Wrath than they had been in the last expansion and trying to keep a quota on class/roles so that we don’t end up with a gazillion tanks (again). This is a bit of a culture shock but going reasonably well so far, mostly because people from the old raid got grandfathered in and they only recruited for roles they were lacking.

The raid yesterday was notable for some other reasons:

  1. I was main tank (my main is a protection warrior). I spent a lot of the afternoon chewing my nails nervously and reading raiding websites; it helps that a) I was at home with a cold and b) I don’t work wednesdays anyway. Oh, I was nervous alright. 24 other people relying on me to not mess up their evening.  In practice, it’s nowhere near that bad. If one tank dies, someone else can often pick up. But you do feel a sense of responsibility. I also feel lucky to have the chance to raid as a protection warrior because it’s traditionally been an oversubscribed role.
  2. We were late starting raiding. Although other raid groups have cleared all the content, and actually quite a few of the people there had seen much of it in pick up groups, we knew that as a more casual group we wanted to wait until January when more people would be ready. One of the odd side effects of that is that some of the guys we recruited were knocked back from more hardcore groups due to lack of room — so we were not their first choice but they wanted to play in 25 man raids and … well, there you have it. But it’s nice for everyone involved to see that even if you start late, you can still get things rolling.

We did clear a couple of wings in Naxxramas for anyone who wants the gory details, and we were happy with that for our first 3-hour 25 man raid.