[Guest Post] Raid Leading in Wrath, One Tree’s story

(Thron is known in other parts of the Internet as Natural20.  You can
find him on Livejournal here –
http://natural20.livejournal.com/ or on
Twitter here –
http://twitter.com/natural20 He tends to talk a lot
about Irish politics as well as gaming and conventions, you have been
warned.)

thron poses in front of the frozen throne

It's a long way from Zul Gurub ...

A short introduction, I’m Thron, a Resto-Druid and raidleader of Cobra, the raiding community that Spinks mentions here.

I’ve been raiding with Cobra since the community started up in Zul’Gurub and I’ve been a leader since Karazhan.  As Spinks mentioned we’ve recently killed the Lich King and I wanted to share some thoughts on leading the Cobra community through eighteen months of raiding in Wrath, from the first boss in Naxx to our final victory atop the Frozen Throne.

Cobra was set up with the express intention of getting members of three guilds (Ashen Rose Conspiracy, Oathforged and The Red Branch) into content they would never see if they didn’t band together.  In Wrath we wanted to progress more than we had in TBC, but also try, as hard as possible, to bring as many people with us on our journey.  The goal was, of course, to have Arthas lying at our feet, but we knew it was going to be a very long road.

Thron and Cobra killing the lich king

Spot the tree

We benefited hugely from the company of some raiders from outside the three guilds who were looking for a more casual group than they’d been with in TBC, or those whose groups disbanded at some point during Wrath.  Integration has been hard on occasion, making sure that we held true to our guiding aims, while trying to make sure people didn’t get bored.  As all raidleaders will know, this is far from an easy task.  It’s also something I’ll come back to later.

The raid pool has always hovered around fifty toons, but the composition and balance has varied greatly.  There were times we thought we’d never want for healers and other times we’ve wondered if the hunters had a secret breeding programme going which would eventually overwhelm the group!  To be fair, druids have always made up the biggest single class, but that has always seemed right and proper to me.

This has meant we’ve struggled at times and mostly we’ve been saved by folk who were willing to play more than one spec, but we’ve held fast to our rule of only allowing one toon per player, it’s kept things much more straightforward.

So, we started out in Naxx in January 2009, speeding our way through the bosses as most groups did, running up against our first roadblocks with the Four Horsemen and feeling very accomplished when Kel’Thuzad gave up his first Journey’s End, although that’s all we ever seemed to get from him.  But clearly Naxx, easy as it was, showed us we could do it, at the appropriate gear level.  According to the realm forums we were in or around the seventh Horde-side raid to clear the instance, a position we were to occupy most of the way through the expansion, with a few notable exceptions.  This gave the raid group a lot of confidence, knowing that we wouldn’t be at the forefront of progression, but we’d be keeping up, managing to get through the content on an average of six hours raiding a week.

death of malygos, with the raid all mounted on red drakes

The Cobra synchronised red drake flying team never won any marks for style ...

And onwards we went.  While we never managed Sartharion + 3,  we killed Flame Leviathan the day Ulduar went live and pushed on until Yogg-Saron was defeated.  Trial of the Champions had already opened at that point, so we did outgear the god of death in the end, but we were happy to take the kill.  TotC was almost the death of Cobra.  Like many raid groups the instance bored us very quickly, but the heroic versions were just too difficult for us and wiping repeatedly without any sense of progress gets very boring, very quickly.  This lack of progress (and mindless repetition), combined with a number of situations where one mistake could wipe the raid didn’t please anyone.

Cobra has improved in leaps and bounds since we started, but that kind of situation has never suited us and the awful instance design and bad tuning didn’t help.

cobra eyes up rotface

We were incredibly lucky that Ice Crown opened when it did.  The raid is almost as much fun as Ulduar and the increasing buff seemed to be designed for a group like Cobra.  It was far from all plain sailing, but up we climbed, sticking with our six hours a week schedule and even getting a Horde-side first kill along the way (Princes).  And then finally, with patience and the 30% buff, we managed to kill Arthas.  What an amazing night that was.  I cracked open the very expensive whiskey and got to sit back and bask.

And reflect, with articles like this, on the journey.  We started off in Wrath with four raidleaders and we’ve ended with three.  Between us we have encouraged, explained, dragged and occasionally bullied Cobra through the expansion.  We have been amazed by just how good the group is and how individual brilliance has saved a wipe, while at the same time wondering if sometimes players just ignore everything we say before a pull.

death of halion

We’ve dealt with emo, both explicable and inexplicable, and despite Spinks’ request I’m not going to reveal which group generated the most!  We’ve managed to compromise between the hardcore raiders who want to push on to hardmodes and the more casual players who sometimes forget just why standing in fire is a bad thing.  I’m not entirely sure how we’ve managed this, mind, probably because the people in question trust us, at least that’s the assumption I’ve got to make.  We’ve nearly kicked people from raids and we’ve nearly had people quit mid fight.  Toons have come and gone, some will be missed, others less so.

Over eighteen months there have been nights when I just didn’t want to log in.  I didn’t want to have to guide the twenty-five brave souls on the list for that raid through the content and there have been times when the ten minute break couldn’t come fast enough.  But these times have been far outweighed by the moments of brilliance and fun.  And this is what sets Cobra aside.  This is why I think we’re one of only four Horde-side (25 man) raiding groups on Argent Dawn (EU) to kill Arthas.

We’ve been through things that would kill other groups dead and there have been moments when I’ve thought I was going to get zero sign-ups for the next raid, but the actual sense of community and friendship has carried us through.

map of the world

We come from all over the world

Our raiders come from as far north as Finland and as far south as South Africa.  We have raiders from Donegal (in the extreme northwest of Ireland) and others from far more easterly climes in Europe, it’s a varied bunch.  But it’s a bunch that have grown to know each other, to take humour from the strangest things, to laugh when the only other option is to cry and, ultimately, to support Phoenixaras, Elelereth and I while we, in turn, try to support them. I don’t know of any other raid group who would react to repeated wipes by riding mammoths around Deathbringer Rise and then jumping off, one by one, while voice chat is filled with gales of laughter. Cobra is a true community and it has, when we look back, managed to fulfill the mission and it’s made me proud.  It’s probably also shaved about ten years off my life, but thems the breaks.

We’re looking at Cataclysm now, staring down the barrel of a complete change in how raiding works in WoW, and I don’t know what Cobra will look like once everything changes.  My hope is that we’ll keep on raiding, but we really won’t know until decisions have to be made.

Either way Wrath raiding will always be a special, wonderful, frustrating, maddening and ultimately rewarding experience and I’d probably do it all again, even knowing what I know now.  That said, I do a few things differently, increase the number of raidleaders from day one and refuse a few applicants who turned out to be more hassle than they were worth, but these are the things you learn and nobody ever said learning was painless.

For now we’ll get the rest of the raidgroup Kingslayer, then relax for a little while and see if there’s a bunch of raiders who still want to be given orders by a loud Irishman (me) and a soft spoken Englishman (Elelereth), while a rogue picks their pockets (Phoenixaras).  I hope there will be, there are still stories left to create.

*** (Blame Spinks for the lack of good kill shots and general lack of any screenshots of Ulduar (!) )

Death of an Old God #1

killedyogg

We killed Yogg-Saron in a 25 man raid this week. It was the second kill for the raid, but the first one in which I was there. So now I have helped to kill an Old God, and it’s time to move on. I missed all the 10 man kills so I’m very glad to have been in for this one. There is a sense of closure from clearing the instance, even on normal mode.

I enjoyed Ulduar very much, and the Yogg fight was fun to learn. It was busy, and exciting, and there was plenty for everyone to do and to remember. Phase 1 was probably one of my favourite tanking fights in Wrath so far (I just like kiting mobs around, picking up adds, and dodging environmental damage.)

If it feels bittersweet, it’s because this was my last remaining goal from patch 3.2. I’m sure we’ll enjoy the remaining hard modes, but somehow they just don’t ping me as goals in the same way.

Losing Gear Progression in WoW

Players  expect that content will get harder over time in an expansion.  Our characters do braver and more heroic things (modelled by content getting more challenging) and pick up better loot. Raid instances get harder. Rewards get better. And you may need the loot from older raids to tackle the newer ones.

The Coliseum may be a momentary blip in that progression. It is easier than Ulduar but gives better rewards. Perhaps this is a special case, just to make sure that everyone is geared up for Icecrown and the apogee of the Wrath storylines. A special catch-up instance to make sure no one falls behind.

But right now, we effectively have no gear progression. There is no special reason to go to Ulduar, which is the most recent raid instance prior to the Coliseum. There’s no benefit to going there either, you’d be better served for rewards in the newer easier instance. It’s a cool instance, and I sympathise a lot with Copra, who laments that he can’t find groups there. But I understand why people are reluctant to go. And the crazy thing is: If they’d upgraded the Ulduar badges to be badges of triumph when the Coliseum came out, I think it would have been fine. Coliseum would still have been more rewarding but Ulduar would have at least dropped current tier badges.

My Naxx geared alt hopped into a Coliseum raid and came out with upgrades and the all-important achievement that is my passport into PUGs (unless I lie which is what I normally do). If she hadn’t been to Naxxramas, I could have geared her up in crafted pieces, heroic badge loot,  and drops from the Coliseum 5 man instance. In the next patch, when heroics shift to giving out Triumph badges, everyone will eventually get full sets of Tier 9 gear by running heroics.

It doesn’t bother me that my alt (and other people’s alts, or non-raiders who want to get into the game) can raid alongside everyone else. But it bothers me that my alt is almost as well geared as my main, and that all the extra work I did on Spinks now seems to mean nothing. I don’t say it’s logical.

Surely the whole point of persistent games was that we could keep working on our characters to progress them over time? What does it really mean if all that time spent means nothing any more. I don’t know the answer to this question, but I think that finding out is going to affect whether I want to raid in Cataclysm or not. Or even how much I want to play WoW at all after finishing Icecrown. Because if there’s no real point putting extra time and work into a character, if there’s no payoff … then perhaps it would be better to focus less on one character in one game.

What I am seeing is simply the way that the genre is evolving now. The movement in many of the big MMOs is very much towards minimising the effect of previous grinds or raids because those things make the game more inaccessible to newbies. It isn’t just WoW.

What we lose when we lose progression

Despite the fact that progression makes games more inaccessible, it encourages drama, it can frustrate people, and all the other inevitable reasons that it will die, it has served a very very important purpose in achievement driven MMOs.

Gear progression meant that different players were motivated to tackle different content. There was a constant stream of raid guilds focussed on different levels of PvE. It would have been much more likely that Copra could have found his Ulduar raid.

If everyone and everything is focussed only on the newest and most recent raid, then the game narrows down. There is no longer the broad base of accessible content for players. Sure, they can all be in the same instance, but it’s the only instance they can possibly tackle due to lack of social support for the raids needed for the rest.

If we want broad-based MMOs with a wide variety of possible things to do, then maybe losing the gear progression isn’t such a great step. It is certainly one way to funnel everyone into raiding together. But players will get bored more quickly and if there isn’t any different content for them to work on when they aren’t raiding, they’ll wonder where the actual game went.

I think that Blizzard have proved that their vision for the raid game does work. More people are raiding now in WoW than ever before. But they have also proved that raiding alone isn’t enough if they break the gear progression. One little raid instance can’t keep the entire player population happy until the next one.

As for progression itself, I wonder if ultimately the only progression that will count is social progress. Are you in a good guild? Do you have friends in the game? Those are things that genuinely take time and effort to build up, and unlike a raid instance, those things will not be reset in the next patch or the next expansion.

Welcome to Hotel Hard Mode

… you can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave …

I haven’t written much about raid progression recently. It’s because the good ship 25-man raiding has been drifting in the summertime signup doldrums. I think everyone is proud that we’ve been able to muster at least one raid a week and even based on that we now have three keepers down and can start to work on Mimiron. I know I am.

wow-heroes also reckons I’m the 7th best (geared) protection warrior on my server. I think it’s more likely that the others didn’t log out in their tanking gear but hey, a free compliment. I’ll take two. It’s actually more of a compliment to our raid group because I certainly didn’t do that on my own. And as far as loot goes, I’m still dancing the victory dance (don’t tell me you don’t do that too) from acquiring the Heart of Iron.

In some ways it is easier to arrange 10 man runs in the Summer, less people to worry about. In some ways it’s also harder. People just don’t take them as seriously as the 25 man runs and seem more likely to drop out at the last minute. So it’s been stressy for the organisers, I think. To know that however solid the signup list appears, you will probably have to be frantically whispering your friends list 5 minutes before raid start anyway.

We’re still working on Yogg, but to liven up the earlier parts of the instance,  we made a start on some of the easier hard modes last week.

uldach

So if you don’t know those ones, the first is a speed trash clear, the second is more of a dps burst followed by some positioning and the third is like regular Flame Leviathan but … harder?

Con-speed-atory

This is the Ulduar equivalent to the 20 minute Spider Wing clear. You have 20 minutes to clear  the three minibosses, as much trash as is in the way, and the Avatar of Freya herself. We found that the key to this was really good coordination and communication between tanks. You will be chain pulling properly (not like Naxxramas where you tend to just pull entire rooms anyway) which means that whoever is not tanking the last trash pack will be running up to mark and pull the next.

Kill order is still important here – big flower before little flowers, tree before dragon. (This is now sounding like a very zen strategy, or like an old codewar spying password. Q: the tree must die before the dragon? A: Yes, and do not forget the big flower.) With the miniboss nearest to the door (the one who casts the iron fists) we like to bounce him between tanks using ranged taunts when he has fists of iron up.

wowhead assures me that you don’t have to clear all the trash to get this achievement. We didn’t know that so we cleared everything and got it anyway. I suspect it may be more of an issue in the 25 man version. This one is especially fun for tanks, speed runs always are in my experience.

Heartbreaker

This was actually a more interesting fight than you’d think to see the videos or to read the strategy. The first big test is whether you can muster enough burst dps to get the heart down within one heart phase. You will want to single tank this one. If there are any pummelers in the first phase, someone has to move them down to where the tank can grab them.

After the heart is down, kill any remaining adds first. The boss will have aquired a bunch more health and healed back to full. His tantrums also hit a lot harder. You have to be disciplined with the gravity and light bombs (which spawn void zones and adds respectively). We had all ranged dps switch to the light sparks when they spawned.

And that’s really all there is to it. This one is quite fun for everyone except the tank – who just does the same stuff as usual. The rest of the raid get to run around, heal like crazies during the tantrums, and do some target switching when the adds spawn. Sorry tanks.

Orbital Devastation

The difficulty will depend on which towers you leave up. We’ve been going with storms and fire which puts more emphasis on people avoiding the beams of lightning and the (moving) beam of fire. It helps a lot if demolisher drivers have figured out the art of stacking pyrite, but otherwise is very straightforwards.

I still find this fight fun even on normal mode. I’m not sure if leaving towers up makes it any more fun – but it certainly doesn’t make it any less.

Hard Modes So Far?

We enjoyed tackling the hard modes this week, and I think they will become our default modes for those fights now. I’m not sure about some of the future ones – reading ahead, I’m seeing a lot of dps races in our future if we go that route. Freya with adds sounds to add some more interest to the fight though, and of course we still haven’t killed Yogg-Saron so don’t really want to spend too much time on the earlier encounters.

But it is fun to have a choice of progression fights.

I am amused to compare this with my experience in heroics this week. I don’t run many on Spinks but I did haul her out for a couple of speed runs through Old Stratholme. It was the double daily (ie. both normal and heroic versions) for two days running and we had a couple of new level 80s in guild who were very keen on the bronze drake.

So this became our private hard mode. Can we include two not-very-well-geared 80s in our 5 man and still make the timer? Oh yes we can. I think running that final gauntlet from the Town Hall to the timed boss in 4 minutes was a personal best (it may have been faster than that, I noticed 7 minutes on the clock when Epoch dropped in the Town Hall and we got to the extra boss with 3 minutes to go).

That’s two bronze drakes to go, and two very happy guildies. And I suspect I was pushing it way harder in the heroic than I did in the Freya timed run…

Population balance in MMOs: Thinning the Warrior Numbers

This is bound to be a hot topic in warrior circles at the moment, Ghostcrawler (WoW Lead Systems Designer) dipped his toe into the murky waters of social engineering on Tuesday with this post; it’s about halfway down the page, in blue.

– Warriors are very popular main tanks.
– This is probably because they used to be the best tank (by design) and because many MTs have stuck with the class for many levels.
– We think they are slightly under-powered in Ulduar relative to other tanks.
– If we are not careful and buff warriors too much then there are going to be more of them, which only feeds into the perception that warriors are designed to be (or should be designed to be) the best tank.
– We’ve worked very hard to make sure there are 4 viable tanks, just as we’ve worked very hard to make sure there are 5 viable healers. We want to have paladins, druids and DKs tanking Coliseum, and not giving up (or being replaced by the raid leader) because they aren’t warriors.
– We don’t balance around popularity. However we do take it into consideration. WoW is a social game and despite the excellent work by the theorycrafting community, player perception and psychology play a big role and often change very slowly.
– We don’t balance around past history. However we do take it into consideration. WoW is a game and players can form an emotional attachment to their characters. Emotion enters into it. While my team deals with cold hard numbers a lot, that is not the only part of game design.

This is very interesting, and not just because it made me feel down all day (I’ll come back to that.) Some classes in MMOs are always more popular than others, support classes are less popular than dps for example. Melee is usually more popular than ranged.

When one class shows a population spike over and above this, it’s usually because they are either overpowered or perceived to be overpowered. That’s the flavour of the month (fotm) trend, people roll or reroll classes that they think are most effective. Usually, devs will spot this and correct any actual overpowered elements and the rerollers will move on to the next fotm.

In any case, warriors are still popular. It isn’t because they are overpowered, quite the opposite in fact. From comments he’s made previously I’m also sure GC understands the various issues which the class has. Blizzard would prefer it if warriors were less popular – they take popularity into consideration. Even though they understand that people have an emotional attachment to their character (this is part of the reason that people keep playing their warriors despite being a bit behind the other tanks, the other reason is just the general barrier to change) they’d like less people to play them as tanks in order to balance out the numbers.

I’m actually not convinced that raids pick warrior tanks nowadays because they are still perceived to be the best. I  haven’t seen any guilds on my server specifically recruit for protection warriors. I’ve seen them recruit for Death Knights and Druids, but not warriors. If warriors are raid tanking these days, it’s either because the player has a history with the guild or because someone was recruited because they were a good player and they happened to pick a warrior.

And if people are going to switch out their warriors for other tanks, it means that guilds will be ignoring their guild and player history to do so. The only reason to do that is because the player either burns out or switches mains, or because one of the other tanks makes the raids much easier. Why else would you boot your main tank who has been your main tank for months?

I don’t feel that Blizzard has any case for this level of social engineering. All we ask is that they make all the classes as viable in their roles as possible. Yes, people get emotionally attached to their characters after they have played them for a few months, sunk hours into gearing them up, earning reps and achievements, and learning all the ins and outs. That’s how they designed the game. If they wanted players to be jumping class whenever they said ‘jump’ then maybe they needed to make it easier to have account based achievements, trade skills, etc.

Can you imagine the outcry if they’d said that mages were weaker than other dps in Ulduar but that they were cool with this because the class was overpopulated? Or that priests were weaker than other healers in Ulduar but that was OK because lots of people still played them in raids?

We want to have paladins, druids and DKs tanking Coliseum, and not giving up (or being replaced by the raid leader) because they aren’t warriors.

But is it OK to have warriors replaced because they aren’t paladins, druids or DKs?

So, what’s the future looking like?

I have really appreciated in Wrath that GC has been so forthcoming in sharing his views on the different classes and where Blizzard plans to take them. I think that as a player in an MMO, I need to take in-game decisions with the long term in mind so the more information I have with which to do that, the better.

But there is a downside to this. What if the longterm vision that devs have for your class is that they want to discourage people from playing it and keep it weak?

Personally I feel gypped because I wasn’t playing my warrior through any period of the game where they were overpowered. I tanked at the beginning of TBC when druids were the tank of choice. I tanked heroics in TBC when everyone wanted paladins for easy mode. And I’ve tanked in Wrath where warriors have been fine, but a bit behind the rest. I think I’m personally overdue for my overpowered few months. Sure, that’s the history of the class, but it isn’t MY history with the class. And it won’t be the history of anyone else who started their warrior more recently and wasn’t tanking the Black Temple (which is most of us, I’m sure).

I’m not planning to switch mains. I still like playing my warrior and she’s been fine for the content we’re doing. Also, I’m cool with my dps offspec so if I have to spend more time as Fury and less as Protection, I can do that. I do feel down about the game though, I never needed to be the bestest tank ever but there are only 3 spots for tanks in a 25 man raid. How far behind will they let us get? Is it always going to be the hard mode class, where we work harder than the others and still end up behind?

I’m also not looking forwards to having to listen to all the druids and paladins and DKs boast about how cool they are in the tanking channel for the foreseeable future. And I’m like … well, I have Intervene! Beat that! And it gets this really cool bonus in T9, bet you’re all jealous now!

*pat*

But what I really wonder is what Blizzard are going to do next if explicitly stating that warriors are intended to stay weaker than the other tanks doesn’t do the trick. All I’m saying to my fellow prot warriors is … if you get a knock on the door at 6am, hide.

So how is Ulduar working out for you?

I have an admission to make. I love the heck out of Ulduar. I’ve had a fantastic time raiding there, I think it’s an amazingly designed raid instance and even when it drives me nuts, I think Blizzard did a bang-up job in showing off why the raiders stick with them.

It isn’t just that the encounters are interesting and varied, or even that the instance itself is stunningly beautiful – there’s a lot of extra details that are simply there for pure entertainment value. This is what we in the trade call polish.

For example: had you noticed how much of the Ulduar trash bounces out at you? Last week I counted:

  • One of the trash robots at XT
  • Titan/giant trash before Kologarn
  • Kologarn himself, kind of
  • Auriaya’s cats
  • Snakes in a snowdrift (these won our vote for most amusing trash in the instance)
  • Mimiron’s spider tank trash

I know it’s silly but it’s the kind of silly that makes me giggle. The pounce animation is just funny.  Jumping robots! Argh, snake jumped out of a snowdrift! Hee hee! See what I mean?

I also had a chance to drive a chopper on the Flame Leviathan fight last week and that was extremely fun. I no longer know which vehicle I like best! But again, I’m way impressed with the designers – it’s a very fun and very different type of fight.

After a couple of slow weeks where we struggled with signups, or when we got the signups we struggled with raid balance, we’re moving again. I know there have also been nerfs but we also were able to recruit a couple of extra dps and it has helped a lot.

So last week in 25 man, we one-shotted Freya and got a long awaited first kill on Thorim too. Raid balance has now tilted to having a shortage of melee (never thought that would happen) so I’m getting slotted in as Fury more often these days.

In 10-man, we cleared the keepers for the first time a week ago. This week we did it again and one-shotted Mimiron so I guess he’s on farm now. This meant we had the dubious pleasure of working on General Vezax which is a fascinating encounter, and I suspect is next up on the nerf list. It doesn’t need much of a nerf, just something to make kiting less painful – I think it’d be enough if he didn’t cast shadow crash on the tank and didn’t do the searing flames while being kited in 10 man (because your only interrupter may also be tanking it and hence trying to kite at the same time, and that really isn’t good.)

All of our tanks have embraced the dual spec ethos and have either a dps or healing offspec. This gives us a vast amount of extra flexibility which is part of the reason that the 10-man team has been getting its act together. I would discourage any raid tank from going with two tanking specs unless you are absolutely bang up sure that your class will always be the best choice to tank every fight (or unless you know that you’ll be doing it anyway).

We frequently have 3 tanks in a 10 man raid and swap roles from fight to fight. This is also partly because the tanks tend to be super-keen and sign up a lot ;)

Tanking Ulduar

I have thoroughly enjoyed tanking in Ulduar. I feel as though it’s made me raise my game on my warrior, and that’s been very fun for me. It’s been a great challenge so far and I can see myself improving with practice.

I know I’m much better at strafing to move mobs around than I used to be. I’ve also had a lot more practice at weaving interrupts and stuns into my tanking rotation and at really working the trademark warrior mobility with intervenes, charges, intercepts, and the old traditional standby ‘RUN AWAY’.

It is a strong contrast with playing as melee dps which I find relaxing, but massively less engaging. Admittedly Fury is not a complex spec to play (which is one of the reasons I like it, since it’s just a part time spec for me) and does excel at letting you move around during a fight (this is the other reason I like it … and the whole dual wielding deal) so I suspect others would see more of a challenge.

Stepping aside from the whole issue of nerfs and the philosophy of hard modes, are you enjoying Ulduar?

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.

Lots of Ulduar bosses already killed

We’re still patching over here so I thought I’d go check how things had been going in Ulduar over the other side of the pond. I saw a lot of chat on twitter last night about buggy bosses (Ignis, which apparently got hotfixed) and people having difficulty logging in.

So it’s no big surprise that guilds on the smaller servers running late night raids have been having  more luck.

This link is to World of Raids guild progress forums, where guilds are required to submit kill shots to prove their claims.

Downed already:

Flame Leviathan, Ignis, Razorscale, XT-002 Deconstructor, Kologarn, Auriya, Hodir, Freya, Iron Council

I’ve also seen reports of people beating hard modes on Flame Leviathan and Razorscale.

edited to add: Mimiron also downed. This is the mm0-champion.com list.

These are all bosses that were available on the public test realm so it isn’t all that surprising that focussed raid guilds didn’t find anything to surprise them. Still, congrats to Crimson of Graymane with 9 bosses down.

The jury is still out until we see what the hard modes are like, and how the hardcore find the bosses which hadn’t been available on test (buggy, is what I’d guess, but you never know).

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