March 21st, 2015 by admin

I stopped playing World Of Warcraft not long after the Mists of Pandaria expansion pack came out.  It wasn’t because I was tired of the game, or because I didn’t like the expansion.  Quite the opposite, actually. I rather liked what I’d seen of MoP so far.  No, it was simply because my living arrangements changed and I no longer had a place to keep my desktop computer setup all the time, nor a regular internet connection.  Playing on my laptop was something I’d done from time to time, and it works fairly well, actually, but that was with a regular wired connection or good WiFi.  All I was going to have now was a mobile connection from my phone.

Last October, a month or so before the new Warlord of Draenor expansion came out, I happened to discover a pre-paid game card for WoW in the bottom of a rarely-used pocket of my laptop bag.  I’d bought it before my situation changed, and it had sat unused in the year and a half since I’d stopped playing.  As it turned out, I was just about to be housesitting for a week, so I brought over my desktop computer and activated my game card and started playing WoW again.

Mobile Broadband

After my housesitting gig was over, I really didn’t want to quit again. I had occasional access to WiFi, a couple of days each week, but what about the rest of the time? I decided to try an experiment and see if a tethered connection from my iPhone would work. I was worried it wouldn’t be fast enough, and I was also worried that playing WoW would use up too much of my not-unlimited data plan.

Well, it turned out my worries on both counts were needless;  The connection was more than fast enough.  In fact, it was actually on par with the cable-based internet I’d had before.  Latency was down around 50-60ms most of the time.  As for how much data it used, I played 4 or 5 hours, and the phone told me I had used 300mb of data.  That’s non-trivial, but also a lot less than I’d been expecting.  

My data plan gives me 15gb a month at full 4G/LTE speed, so I do still have to pay attention to what I am doing, but playing WoW off the tethered connection 3 or 4 days a week has worked just fine.

The New Expansion

When I’d quit playing after the MoP expansion came out, my paladin Alfred was like a sliver of a bubble away from level 87.  In fact, when I started playing again I leveled him up to 87 pretty much immediately after logging in.  The new expansion pack with its new level 100 cap was about 2-1/2 weeks away, so I was in catch-up mode.  Fortunately, Blizzard had lowered the amount of XP required for each level, so it didn’t take me long to get both Alfred up to level 90. The downside, of course, is that I effectively skipped most of the Mists of Pandaria expansion pack.  Some people may like to jump right to max-level and start doing end-game stuff like raiding, but I’ve always enjoyed questing and leveling up as well.

After Alfred was at 90, I switched over to my level 85 mage Romy and started leveling her.  After she hit 90, there was still some time left before the expansion went live, so I spent it exploring Pandaria to see what I missed.  I liked what I saw, so I decided that when I leveled up my other toons, I’d make an effort to do more exploring and try to hit each of the zones as my character hit the right level, rather than simply doing the whole “this quest leads to that one which leads to that one” thing which had me hitting 90 not long after I’d gotten my toon into the second zone.

Guild Drama

While I was on hiatus, my guild Overcome sort of went sideways.  It didn’t go away, but when I came back there were only a handful of people getting online.

I don’t know exactly when this happened, but I think the seeds were in place before I stopped playing.  As often happens, once most of the guild had gotten fairly well geared, some of them lost interest.  Some of us were still working on heroic Dragon Soul raids, but a lot of people stopped playing so much.  The new expansion was on the horizon, and we all thought that things would pick up again after that.  However, it didn’t happen that way.  When MoP came out, a lot of people came back, but not everybody. And a lot of people who did come back didn’t return to their previous level of attendance.  And in the meantime, some people had left the guild for greener pastures.  A few had switched servers and even factions, ending up on the Horde side.

I’ve seen guilds implode and explode before, but this didn’t really seem to follow the familiar pattern.  So far as I was aware, there wasn’t any drama over loot, or raid slots, or any of the other usual sort of thing.  There were a few issues between certain individuals, but it never seemed too divisive overall.

Right now, I’m often the only person in the guild online when I play.  In the late afternoons or early evenings, there might be up to 3 or 4 others playing, but rarely more than that.  My play schedule has been somewhat erratic, so I’ve not been too worried about raiding so far, but with so few people in the guild online it hasn’t really been an issue anyway.  But if things don’t change, sooner or later I may have to decide if another guild would be a better option.

Leveling Up The Toons

As of now, I’ve got Alfred and Romy both at level 100, and both are fairly decently geared in a combination of crafted gear, gear purchased with PvP Conquest Points, and gear purchased via Apexis Crystals. Alfred is at iLevel 650 and Romy is at 648 or so.

I have yet to do any heroic dungeons or raiding.  Part of the reason for that is because I really don’t like PUGs.  What I don’t like varies depending on which toon I’m playing.  On Alfred or another tank, I like the instant queue pop, but I hate dealing with players on DPS toons who just want to zerg everything and then blame the tank and/or healer when it goes sideways.

On my healer toon, like Chimessina, it annoys me when the DPS starts taking tons of damage because they don’t know that they shouldn’t stand in fire, or because they’re attacking mobs the tank hasn’t even touched yet.  It annoys me when the tank chain pulls when I’m out of mana, or when they run up around corners and I lose line of sight.

On my DPS toons, the main problem is simply the long queue times.  If the tank’s not that good, for example if they cannot hold multiple mobs at once, I can adapt.  I’m more concerned with the run being successful than I am maxing out the DPS meter.  If the healer’s not that good, that’s more annoying, but as long as they seem to be making a reasonable effort I’m OK with it.

Anyway, at some point I know I’ll have to either switch guilds or submit myself to doing PUGs or LFR.

I’ve got two other toons that have gotten into the MoP content.  My priest, Chimessina, is at level 92, and warrior Sunny just got to 91 today.  I’ve decided I’m going to bring up the hunter, Starchaser, and druid, Jenifaire, up to at least 90-91 before I worry about getting any of these secondary toons to 100.  I don’t think I’ll worry about the sub-85 toons for now, but I want a full pantheon of toons with garrisons going ASAP.

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July 22nd, 2011 by admin
Posted in Uncategorized

This past week or so has been pretty exciting for Alfred, my paladin. It’s essentially been his coming of age as a tank.

First was a Firelands run to kill trash mobs for Avengers of Hyjal reputation.  I was doing daily quests on Alfred when the guild leader starts organizing the night’s raid.  He’s asking if there are any tanks available, because they only had 1 tank for the raid so far.  I whispered him and said that I wasn’t sure if Alfred was geared up enough for that yet, but if he couldn’t find anybody else I was willing to give it a try.

I think Alfred’s item level at the time, in his tank set, was maybe about 340 or so.  Not quite so epic as one would like for a raid like this, but a moment later the guild leader whispered me back and said “OK let’s try it”.

The run went quite well, and in fact Alfred got some gear upgrades from drops and also from hitting “friendly” status and being able to buy stuff from the faction vendors.  A few days later we did it again, and once more things went pretty well.

Alfred Goes A’ Raidin’

About a week ago, a night or two after the previous Firelands run, Alfred was invited to another raid.  At first I thought it was going to be another Firelands trash mob run, but then it turned out we were going to Blackwing Descent.  Also in the raid was one of the guild’s über paladin tanks, so I figured I was there just as backup.  So imagine my surprise when I’m told that I’m gonna be the main tank for the Magmaw fight!

It took us two tries to get Magmaw down, which is better than most of the times I’d done that fight with Romy.  We did the next four bosses in one fight each, with Alfred as main tank each time.  We saved Nefarion for another night because it was getting late and some of the East Coast people had to go.

We went back the next evening for Nefarion and although we didn’t get him down, we came awfully close.  We’re pretty confident that the next trip into BWD will do it.

Last night was Bastion of Twilight, and Alfred was once again asked to tank.  I’d done this instance once before on Alfred, as a healer, but this raid was farther into the run than I’d been before, even on Romy.  First up was the Twilight Ascendant Council.  We one-shot them.  Next stop, the final boss in the run, Cho’Gall.

We had a good long explanation of the fight before we started, and at first I was a little concerned about remembering all the details.  However, it turned out that tanking it was somewhat easier than it sounded at first.  Cho’Gall took us a few tries, but about 90 minutes after the raid started, he was dead.  They were dead… er… whatever.

I didn’t know this in advance, but apparently this was the guild’s first Cho’Gall kill.  It’s probably just as well I didn’t know that until afterwards… no need for extra pressure.

The Transition To Tank

When I changed one of Alfred’s talent specs from retribution to protection awhile back, the main reason was that I figured he would have a better chance at getting into runs. I still considered his main specification to be healing, but this way I’d be able to go on runs when another healer was already in the group.

The results were not what I expected. I knew the game was currently somewhat understaffed with regards to tanks, despite the fact that it’s a viable option for more classes than ever before. But I didn’t fully understand how bad the problem really was until I realized that over the course of the first few weeks after changing talents, I’d taken Alfred into a group as tank at least a dozen times, but only healed once.

After awhile I decided maybe I should just go with the flow and cultivate Alfred’s tanking side and concentrate more on building up his set of tanking gear.  I’m enjoying it so far, but I’m wondering if this move might not ultimately leave Sunny, my L85 warrior who is also a tank, out in the cold.  Yah, yah, yah, I could play Sunny as a DPS toon, but melee DPS has simply never appealed to me that much.

Tanking Is A Hard Knock Life

Why is there such a shortage of tanks? I have some ideas about that.

First of all, tanking is not easy.  The tank is generally expected to also be the leader of the run, in most respects.  They’re expected to know all of the fight mechanics and the proper tactics.  They’re expected to know which mobs to mark, which mobs need to be (and CAN be) crowd-controlled, and so forth.

Healers have an important job that isn’t always easy to execute, but in principle it’s pretty straightforward.  Heal and/or cleanse the tank and other players as needed.  Maybe fear or shackle something.  Don’t stand in the swirly, fiery, gooey crap on the floor.

DPS toons are also generally pretty straightforward.  Damage the mobs.  Don’t stand in the swirly, fiery, gooey crap on the floor.  Maybe once in awhile you polymorph, trap, or banish something.  Try not to pull aggro from the tank.  And frankly, we all know that most DPS toons don’t pay much attention to that last one.

Tanks are the most complicated job all.  They have to pull the mobs, making sure they don’t accidentally get other mobs patrolling nearby.  They have to aggro the mobs, maybe as many as 5 or 6 at a time, sometimes even more, depending on the fight and the options you have for crowd control.  They have to keep an eye out for the silly DPS players who are shooting at the wrong target at the wrong time, so they can pull back the mobs that go after them.  They have to avoid the same crap on the floor everybody else does.  Sometimes they have to position the mob in a certain place, even when it doesn’t always want to move.

Another issue is that tanking is very gear dependant, and with Paladins, Warriors, and Death Knights all competing for plate armor, it can take awhile to get yourself properly equipped. Until then, your lower health and defensive stats make you into a bigger drain on your healer’s mana, which in turn impacts their ability to keep up the rest of the group as well.

Another problem with tanks and gear is the fact that many players are either unaware of what gear they should be looking for, or they simply don’t care if an item makes more sense for a different player. Often a DPS toon will roll on a tank item just because it’s a higher item level than whatever they already have. And there’s plenty of gear which works equally well for a tank or for a DPS toon where it’s reasonable for either to roll.

Tanks also frequently have to worry about player aggro as well as mobs.  In Alfred’s first runs as an L85 tank, when grouped with people I didn’t know, I found that they tended to be incredibly unforgiving about any mistakes or shortcomings.  This can be very discouraging to a newbie tank just starting out.

Even worse, many of these players will essentially blame the tank for failing to compenstate for THEIR mistakes. I can’t tell you how many times I have marked targets with a Skull or an “X” to indicate the kill order, and then have the DPS ignore the marks and attack whatever mob they want.   When I’d remind them they should be attacking the skull first, I’d hear some variation of “STFU and tank the mobs” more often than I’d hear, “Oh yeah, sorry about that.”

Case In Point: General Umbriss in Grim Batol

Tanks almost always get the blame when things go bad because people don’t know the fight, or when they fail to execute their part correctly. My favorite variation on that idea is the General Umbriss fight in Grim Batol, on heroic mode. This is not an extremely complicated fight, really. The main thing the tank really has to do is move Umbriss to the front of the area, off to one side, in order to give the group room to deal with his Blitz attack and with the adds.

When Umbriss targets someone for his Blitz attack, that person and anybody standing next to them have to move about 10-15 yards out of the way or they’ll take some major damage.  The other thing is that Umbriss will periodically summon a group of non-elite Troggs from the back of the room.  These need to be burned down by ranged DPS as soon as they appear, especially the purple-tinged one(s), or they’ll kill everybody in the group fairly quickly, starting with the healer.

Simple fight, really, but I’ve seen group after group where people didn’t move for the Blitz attack and where the DPS ignored the Troggs until the healer was dead and they were under attack themselves.  And at the end of it, after the group wipes… who gets the blame?  That’s right, it’s the tank’s fault.

Crowd Control?  We don’t need no stinkin’ crowd control!

And then there’s those people who think they know better than the tank about when crowd control is needed. I could never understand this, because if a newbie tank suggests it might be a good idea to have only three mobs pounding on him at once instead of five, it seems like people ought to listen. Yet, on several occasions I’ve had people insist that crowd control was unnecessary even AFTER the group has wiped on trash mobs.  Or even worse, your hunter does throw down an ice trap, or your mage polymorphs, or whatever, and there’s some other DPS toon that simply doesn’t care, or notice, and breaks the crowd control three seconds into the fight.

Job Training

Another thing to consider is that the tank really has no option other than on the job training.   Soloing mobs on a tank is much easier than tanking in a group because you’re generally not worried about what other players might be doing, and if you lose aggro on a mob it’s usually a GOOD thing in that context.

DPS toons don’t do things much differently in a group situation than when they’re soloing.  In fact in most respects they have it easier than when soloing, because they generally don’t have to worry about being attacked.

Healers can practice their spell rotations on any friendly toons.  The main thing being in a group does is add some randomness and pressure to succeed.

In Conclusion

I haven’t given up on Alfred as a healer.  One advantage of the various tanking activities is the opportunity to pick up pieces of healing gear that isn’t needed by anybody else in the run.  Alfred’s healing set is coming along nicely, even if not as fast as his tanking set or DPS set.  And it helps that the various Firelands vendors usually have items for all three of Alfred’s gear sets.

Well, that’s all for now… gotta go do my daily quests before it’s time for tonight’s raid!  Nefarion WILL die!

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