Saturday, 30 August 2008

Of Flinging Swords and Hugging Shields: WotLK Prot Changes

New ability: Weapon Throw (level 80): Throws your weapon at the enemy causing damage equal to 100% of AP. This ability causes high threat. 30 yd range, 0.5 sec cast, 20 sec cooldown

Amongst the latest news from the beta of WotLK the above ability, learned at level 80, seems the most exciting. But it's certainly not all to put a smile on us change-starved protection warriors: the latest build brings a whole host of updates to the prot tree - see full notes here.

Whilst this isn't exactly the big overhaul to prot talents we've been waiting for (Vigilance is still there in all its baffling glory), it certainly is a big step in the right direction.

We've had big buffs for our threat generation: see Shockwave (increased damage); Sword and Board (higher chance of a free shield slam); Critical Block (increased shield slam crit chance); Improved Defensive Stance (increased damage following a block, parry or dodge - somewhat assuaging us following the recent loss of Stalwart Protector); Improved Revenge (more damage). And well worth a mention is the increased duration of shield block from 5 to 10 seconds.

All of which speaks of a healthy amount of damage output on the horizon, and even more reason to cherish our shields (as the warrior manual says: "knoweth your shield, be at one with your shield, be your shield... then smasheth unholy face with your shield").

And while we're now hugging our bloodied-shield with one hand, we can go ahead and fling our sword at the fleeing enemy with the other. Life is good. Continue reading 'Of Flinging Swords and Hugging Shields: WotLK Prot Changes'

Saturday, 9 August 2008

WoTLK: Beta Warrior Changes

There's a few undocumented changes to warriors on the latest WoTLK beta build that deserve some attention. The big one is in the picture (from World of Raids): Shield Wall reduced to a 5 minute cooldown, with 50% damage reduction (with similar cooldowns for Recklessness and Retaliation). The Improved Shield Wall talent has changed accordingly: it now reduces the cooldown by 30/60 seconds. This is something we've seen coming after the news of the Paladin shield wall-alike (Divine Protection), but nevertheless deserving of a good solid woohoo!

Another change worth mentioning is for the talent Bloodletting, which now has only 2 ranks, and increases the bleed damage by Rend and Bloodbath by 25/50% - an appealing aoe tanking talent and no doubt.

For now, the rest of the changes are primarily for further up the Arms tree, but this does at least suggest the overhaul of Protection talents isn't far behind. So while we wait patiently and well-behaved for news (alright, impatiently and banging on the Blizzard offices), let me take the opportunity to give my wish-list of talent changes:

- An increase in the rage produced by Stalwart Protector. The idea is great, and something all rage-starved warriors have been crying out for, but the current gain of 1/2 dodge per parry or dodge is a pittance.

- Shockwave moved to the 31-point talent. Although it's a decent enough ability, for the top tier talent it's simply underwhelming and inappropriate. Yes please for more aoe-tanking viability, no thanks for a tree defining talent that says "you're now a bit like a paladin". We want a talent that screams Warrior - basically, we want a talent that's good against single targets.

- Vigilance scrapped or severely reworked. In it's current form, it's just... well, weird. And very limited in its usefulness.

- Current beta tests have shown Sword and Board to be not as great as it first appears; for a 5 point talent the rage savings have turned out to be underwhelming, and there's concerns of rotations being interrupted and the free shield slam being a pain to manage (I'm not sold on this latter one just yet, but time will tell). This talent just needs a little tweaking to become a solid one - possibilities could be the free shield slam not affecting the global cooldown, or it having double the block value.

- A new prot talent that allows 2-handers to be wielded with a shield. They could call it Big Bloody Sword and Board.

...What? A tank can dream can't he?
Continue reading 'WoTLK: Beta Warrior Changes'

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Warrior Tank Essentials #2: Threat Abilities

The second in the Essentials series, aimed primarily at the younger tanks out there.

Threat: Bruce Willis has it, Robert De Niro has it. That heavy-breathing guy who just sat next to you on the train has it, though maybe not in the right way. And as a tank, you need a tonne of the stuff. But how to get threat? And, more importantly, how to get enough to convince the monster in front that you’re the one to worry about, and not the mage consistently burning away his limbs?

Well, luckily, us warrior tanky types have a few tools at our disposal to royally piss off most mobs.

Primary threat moves

These are your mecca, your Shangri-la, your first coffee in the morning. Get to know them, love them, hold them close to your heart; blissful threat abundance will follow.

Shield Slam: Your highest threat generation tool. In general you can go by the rule: if this ability is lit up, hit it. Rage allowing, ideally Shield Slam should always be on its 6 second cooldown. If you have to choose between this and any other threat generation move (on a single target at least), choose this. It’s a great opening threat move: pop Bloodrage before engaging the mob, and it should give you enough rage to open with shield slam – causing enough threat to cover any over-eager dpsers who immediately blow off one of the mob’s arms.

Shield Slam improves directly with shield block value, which not only adds to the amount of damage absorbed by your shield, but also to the damage your shield slams hit for. So more block value, more threat. This is not to be confused with shield rating, which only increases your chance to block an attack (and as such, is a pretty awful stat).

Revenge: Number two in your threat vanguard. Like a one-legged hooker, Revenge’s best asset is its cheapness. With talents, it can cost as little as 2 rage, and is your most efficient threat-per-rage ability.

Devastate: If Sunder Armor is still on your action bar, get rid of it. Devastate does everything sunder does, and more. It’ll apply a sunder debuff to the target, as well as additional threat and damage. Although it doesn't add as much threat after 5 sunders are applied, it still adds a decent amount, so don't stop using it (it will also refresh the 5 sunder debuffs for another 30 seconds). Use devastate if Shield Slam or Revenge aren't available.

Secondary threat moves

Whereas good knowledge and use of the above moves will get you through most instances as a much-loved and admired Champion of Threat, there’s plenty more you can do to go that extra step, and become a much-loved and admired Super Champion of Threat.

Heroic Strike: This could be thought of as the fourth primary threat move, if it wasn’t for the other three primary moves being so exclusive about their primary club. Heroic strike has some advantages and disadvantages. It causes some nice damage, and has a decent threat component. But it also takes 15 rage, and eats up your normal white damage swing (meaning you don't generate rage from that swing). Put simply, when you have limited rage, it is better spent on your primary threat moves.

The time to use heroic strike is when you have rage to spare. And here comes the advantage to this ability: it doesn’t rely on a global cooldown like the primary moves. This means you can spam it as often as you like during a fight and it won't delay your other threat abilities - the important part is recognising when you can use it without leaving you too rage-starved to use your higher threat abilities (eg. most boss fights allow for a liberal use of HS).

Thunder Clap: This ability’s main threat-use is in multiple mob tanking, which I’ll be discussing in another Essentials post. But it still adds threat to a single target, in addition to the debuff, so is sometimes worth squeezing into your rotation when against hard-hitting mobs (and essential on hard-hitting bosses).

Demoralizing Shout: The threat addition from this shout is very small, and is also divided between all the targets it hits. But a little is still more than none, so this can be a useful tool in attracting the initial attention of multiple mobs – especially as it’s not limited to 4 mobs like Thunder Clap is. The debuff itself is another essential mitigation tool against bosses wanting to eat you head.

Spell Reflect: This takes a hefty 25 rage, but used at the right time, can cause a very high amount of damage – and therefore threat. For example, in heroic Botanica, you can reflect the Greenkeeper’s “Greenkeeper’s Fury” spell for around 3k of damage. Mennu, the first boss in Slave Pens, can be reflected for about the same on heroic. This is not only a nice threat addition, but is also pretty useful in actually killing the mob - which, after all, is only behind “looking handsome and heroic” on the Hero’s Priority List.

Shield Bash: Although this ability does have a decent threat component, it's not worth using without the express aim of interrupting something - you simply have better threat options available. But when there’s a nasty fireball brewing in front of you, it’s another reason to make sure you bash some face.

Damage: Simply put, damage causes threat. This means the higher your white damage (the standard attack damage), or any extra damage you can push out from your abilities, the more threat you will generate. This is why strength, attack power and critical rating are not wasted on a tank (but note: expertise, hit rating, and block value are much better threat stats, for much the same reasons).

A Little Gnomish Knowhow: The ability of the Gnomeregan Auto-Blocker 600 is so darn good it deserves a mention here. The trinket is available for 41 badges, and has the passive stat of +59 block value - a very nice threat boost in itself. But the trinket's use boosts that value another 200 for 20 seconds - you'll be practically chopping heads off with your shield. That block value also translates into mitigation, as your shield will be absorbing a lot more damage. As such, make sure you make a space for this on your action bar, and use it as often as you can. A must-have for any threat set.

Emergency moves: Your momma's a...

Taunt: There’s good reason I’ve left Taunt to the end. It shouldn’t be a part of a tank’s regular threat-building considerations. Instead, learn to use it as a safety net, or an extra tool, rather than a necessity – and remember it can be resisted, and a lot of bosses will be immune.

Just to be clear on what Taunt actually does: when you taunt a mob, you will be given the threat value of the player at the top of the mob’s threat list (this is why taunt has no effect on your threat total when you already have aggro). Taunt also forces the mob to attack you for 3 seconds. This makes it only a temporary solution: if, after those 3 seconds, the player that you taunted the mob off has caused more threat than you (to be exact, 10% more for melee, 30% for ranged), the mob is going to remember he wanted to rip his head off. This means that during the 3 seconds you want to cause some decent threat to make sure the mob sticks with you. So follow up a taunt as soon as possible with any high threat move: Shield Slam, Revenge, Devastate, etc.

Although you shouldn't be relying on it for yor bread and butter tanking, there's no doubt you'll be needing a taunt sooner or later - there’s always going to be a time when your Shield Slam crashes into your own face rather than the enemy’s, while at that same moment the rogue next to you successfully hacks off 3 monster-limbs at once. The enemy will no doubt turn to the limb-remover at that point. So keep Taunt close, and in a convenient place.

Challenging Shout and Mocking Blow: Taunt isn’t your only emergency action. Challenging Shout does the same, if for multiple targets, but can also be used on a single target. It may have a 10 minute cooldown, but it also has a longer, 6 second period of forcing mobs onto you. Mocking Blow does the same for a single target, but will take a quick switch to battle stance. But importantly - neither of these abilities affects your threat total like Taunt does, so after those 6 seconds you'll still be below any over-aggroers if you haven't generated enough threat in the meantime.

Concussion Blow: Similar to the two above, the stun of Concussion Blow can give you time to get back on top of the threat list.

To sum up in some way...

Generating threat, like dps, has a lot to do with developing a rhythm. Practice with your timing, see what the most efficient use of your primary moves is on mobs and on bosses, then try throwing in some extras. If you haven't got Omen already, get it - it's a necessity for keeping an eye on your threat, as well as everyone else's.

Oh and pull faces and insult mothers. That always seems to piss people off, too.

Continue reading 'Warrior Tank Essentials #2: Threat Abilities'

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Cloaks, cloaks, and more cloaks

(Image from, ©Anna Thomas)

So on a visit to ol' Hyjal mountain last night, the very lovely Pepe's Shroud of Pacification dropped, and was soon in my eager greasy paws. After lots of internal Woohoo-ing (and some external), it got me to thinking about tanking cloaks, and how it may be worth taking a look at the options we have in this often overlooked gear slot. We'll start with the most readily available, and go from there:

Devilshark Cape: Don't be fooled by the colour - consider this cloak epic in quality, the stat distribution is that good. Not a point goes to waste here, and it provides mitigation, avoidance and threat. Very much worth running Steamvault over and over for (the good news is it drops in normal as well as heroic).

Resolute Cape: Made by tailors, and available on the AH. This is primarily a druid tank cloak however; the points in resilience are pretty much wasted on a 490+ defense warrior. Useful as a stop-gap measure, but there's much better options out there.

Cloak of Blade Turning: Drops of Kael in Magisters' normal (and note, only the normal version). Again, mainly a druid tank cloak - only use it if you're desperate, or not at 490 defense.

Farstrider Defender's Cloak
: The first badge cloak, this will set you back a measly 25 badges from the vendor. A decent cloak, but rendered somewhat obsolete by the more recent badge cloak (see below). Still, this is very much worth getting for a block value set - just make sure you get yourself a primary cloak first.

Slikk's Cloak of Placation
: A fantastic cloak, arguably the third best warrior tank cloak available - and at 35 badges, it's a steal. This will last you well into T6 content. No threat stat on here, but a tonne of avoidance and good mitigation.

Gilded Thorium Cloak: A decent cloak, but nowhere near as good as Slikk's. This drops from Illhoof in Karazhan, and is worth picking up if you're yet to save up the 35 badges for Slikk's - although if you're running Karazhan, that's unlikely to take long.

Icebound Cloak
: Pretty much identical to the Gilded Thorium Cloak. This one dropped off the Midsummer Festival boss in Slave Pens, so if you didn't get it then, you won't be getting it now. This and the Gilded are worth keeping when playing around with gear for resistance sets.

Phoenix-Wing Cloak
: Drops from Al'ar in Tempest Keep. It's pretty much a coin toss between this and Slikk's - Phoenix gives 2.44% avoidance, 108 armor, 37 stamina; Slikk's gives 2.13% avoidance, 346 armor and the same stamina. The choice is then between +0.31% avoidance or +238 armor - there's no great advantage either way. If this drops and you already have Slikk's, I'd just pass it on to another tank.

Pepe's Shroud of Pacification
: I don't know who Pepe is, but I sure am glad he's dead or missing, so that I can have his cloak. It drops off the trash mobs in Hyjal, so make sure you're combing every undead body around for it. This has a little less avoidance than Slikk's, but makes up for it with a big chunk of hit rating, not to mention 8 more stamina. It may look like a kaleidoscope has thrown up on your back, but boy is it worth it (especially with the blessed option that is Hide Cloak).

Crimson Paragon's Cover
: The best warrior tanking cloak in the game. 61 stamina is insane, and then we get a hell of a lot of dodge and expertise to round it off. Of course it's not so easily available... you'll have to take care of the eredar twin bosses in Sunwell Plateau for this beauty.
Continue reading 'Cloaks, cloaks, and more cloaks'

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

10 Things All Warrior Tanks Should Know

1 Shield slam is your highest threat move, Revenge is your most rage efficient (most threat per rage).

2 Crit immunity is 490 defense.

3 Defense is still useful after 490: each point continues to improve dodge, parry, block, and chance to be missed (to give a comparison, 18.9 dodge rating = 1% avoidance, 19.7 defense rating = 1% avoidance).

4 Keeping shield block up will make you immune to crushing blows.

5 The hit cap is 142.

6 Expertise is all kinds of awesome: it's an exceptional tanking stat in terms of both threat and mitigation. It decreases the chance for your attacks to be parried or dodged, giving much more threat, and, as a parry increases the mob's next attack swing speed, giving you more mitigation.

7 The cap for expertise for mobs to no longer dodge your attacks is 23 (91 rating), and for mobs to no longer parry is (estimated at) 64 (253 rating); thus expertise is most effective upto 23, but is still useful afterwards.

8 Heroic strike does not share the global cooldown, making it a great threat ability to use for high-rage situations.

9 Block value is a cherished member of the tank stat family; block rating is its useless cousin.

10 Boasting about how big your shoulders are is the encouraged - nay, required - behaviour of being a tank. Continue reading '10 Things All Warrior Tanks Should Know'

Sunday, 20 July 2008

A Shamanic Interlude: Talkin' Dirt

Jeez, enough of the tank talk already, Aru. Block rating? Lick of the what king? I'm beginning to think you've lost touch with reality, yessir.

And that, point of fact, is what I'm gonna be talking about today. 'Cause if anyone is in touch with the world, it's us shamans. And y'know there's no finer example of all the goodness in life than in the stuff beneath our hooves. I'm talking dirt, ladies and gents. Earth, soil, mire, grime, gumbo, good ol' wet honest muck. As my gram always said, Ain't none happier than a pig rolling in mud.

What got me to thinking about this was a trip I made a couple weeks back. I was out on Azuremyst Isle, and I'd just delivered some old bits of rock to a camp near the south. While I was at the camp, two folk there caught my eye. The first was a fine chunk of a dwarf by the name of Adamant, who it turns out the rocks were for (relics he called 'em, but they just looked scribbled-on stones to me). Skin like broken bark, beard reaching his knees, eyebrows reaching his hairline, voice like a bad cough... my type alright, no question about it. I don't know what it is, but there's just something about these dwarves that gets my totems a-wobblin'.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the second one that caught my eye. This was an elf priestess that Adamant couldn't stop staring at. Hell knows why - just by looking at her I could tell she was the real prissy type, robes purer than snow, thoughts probably the same... she just screamed dull. I bet she didn't even have a lick of body hair on her. Never trust a gal without a tangle under her armpit, that's what gram always said.

And though Adamant sure wasn't subtle about eyeing her up, she of course was stuck too far up in that holy sky of hers to see the good solid stuff on offer right in front of her. Blinded by the Light and no mistake. This sir is my point today: you gotta get your hands dirty to enjoy life. You gotta feel the dirt in order to feel anything. The best things come from being a part of the world, not looking at it from a distance - and you ain't part of the world 'til you been knee deep in its shit.

Anyway, so I told all this to Adamant while I was eating my soup and picking the bigger flies out (they don't dissolve as good as the little ones). The priestess would never lower herself from her drab holy plane, I told him, and even if she did, she'd be about as fun as a lasher thorn in the butt (been there, don't recommend it). The girl probably couldn't spit without coming over all faint. No, I explained to him, real fun lies with a real girl like me, who ain't afraid to get her clothes creased (an' ripped an' smudged an' burnt).

I had him convinced, too. I was going to take him for a proper dig, the kind where you ain't looking for anything but more moist mud. But as I was sucking the dirt and squashed bugs from my hooves (y'know it's amazing what your tongue can find in those hard-to-reach places sometimes - but another story, another time), it turns out he suddenly remembered a prior engagement he had that night. Some work to do with relics. In fact it would keep him away for the indefinite future, and was so important he had to rush off right there and then. Weird.

But that ain't the end. It was only a couple days later when I found myself back that way south again. I was delivering some leaves (don't ask, these camp folk are downright odd), and lo and behold, Adamant was already back from his mysterious work, and was busy getting all goose-eyed over miss high and holy again. I tell you, the guy must've had a relic fall on his head or something. Well it ain't like I'm desperate, so I leave him to it. There's just no saving some folk.

Anyway, my advice to you all: next time you can, go find the nearest dirt and dig your hands right in. Get it right under the fingernails, all over your arms, until you realise how frickin' great it is to be part of this world... and then go fling it at the first prissy holy elf you see.

Continue reading 'A Shamanic Interlude: Talkin' Dirt'

Saturday, 19 July 2008

A Taunting Future

Out of all the WotLK beta news surfacing right now there's one trend in the warrior changes that may be not so positive. I'm talking about the following:

From the beta patch notes:
  • Challenging Shout cooldown reduced to 3 minutes.
  • Mocking Blow now only has one rank and causes weapon damage, cooldown reduced to 1 min and can now be used in Defensive Stance.
From the new talent tree:
  • Vigilance: Focus your protective gaze on a friendly target, increasing their chance to dodge by 5%. In addition, any time they are hit by an attack your Taunt cooldown is refreshed. Lasts until cancelled. This effect can only be on one target at a time.
So what's the problem? Aren't these buffs? Won't they make tanking easier? Well, in the last question lies the problem: it may make it easy in the wrong way.

That be crazy talk, Aru

Bear with me here - this is a valid whine-session, honest.

The changes above mean that we'll have much more ability to taunt enemies in the future. With Challenging Shout, Mocking Blow and Taunt (with Vigilance), there's not many times we're going to be lacking a taunt to get aggro from a mob. The important point here is: we shouldn't need to taunt to get a mob's attention.

We're tanks, and we tank by generating threat. Our gear, our abilities, our cantankerous attitudes, almost everything we do as a tank is for this: get a mob's attention, keep it, survive it. Herein lies the challenge and the enjoyment of the role.

We tanks tank, and we like it that way.

But making taunts such an obviously powerful and prevailant ability suggests a worrying future: the shallow world of taunt-tanking. This means tanking by continually taunting mobs to hold aggro, rather than the usual (and fun) threat methods. After all, ability suggests opportunity - or worse, necessity. If Vigilance's "friendly target" includes ourselves, or it's cast on a tank buddy, then taunt will be almost always be available. With all these taunts available, it may be entirely possible to taunt-tank your way through instances. Hell, we might be able to tank a group without even swinging our sword.

Point is, we don't want to tank this way. It's boring, and it's not what tanking should be. Contrary to what our bashed-in, mishapen heads may visually suggest, we want tanking to be complicated. We don't want an easy way out, we don't want to use a hundred taunts in a run. We don't want tanking dumbed down.

Done whining yet?

As a matter of fact, no. There's another consequence to this, affecting one of the most important aspects of the game: dps control of aggro. The most talented dpsers are those that deal their buckets of carnage without ever pulling the mob off the tank. But in a future where taunts are so common? The teeth-clenchingly, hair-pullingoutedly words of "Why should I control aggro? Just taunt him" may become more prevalent. And the real worry is that the dpser here has a point - you can just taunt off, continually, and without much need for generating the most threat. Tanking suddenly becomes hellishly frustrating, or hellishly boring.

Aren't you exaggerating a little?

Yeah, no doubt I am. It's silly getting worked up about stuff like this just yet, when the expansion is still months away. These changes may just turn out as improved "oh crap" buttons, without much necessity to use them in 90% of tanking. Or they may just be a small help towards aoe tanking - sure, more a band-aid than the curing abilities we'd prefer, but better than nothing.

The worry of the trend remains, but let's spend our energies getting excited about all the good stuff heading our way instead. Shockwave? Hell yeah. Sword and Board? Oh my. Tattoos? *passes out*
Continue reading 'A Taunting Future'