Friday, May 15, 2009

Tanks Side by Side

I will break down each tank individually in time but I need to understand them first. I have a pretty good idea on Paladin and Warrior tanking and their pro's and con's. DKs and Druids I have very little knowledge about how a 3.1 tank works let alone the in's and outs.

I made a little chart weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the four classes in several catagories:

  • Damage Mitigation: The more damage you can avoid taking, the better it is for your healers, and you will stay alive longer. This is typically melee damage. Paladin's typically take the least damage overall with blocks and high armor. Druids and Warriors take similar amounts of incoming damage depending on the uptime of a druid's Savage Defense; Druids have higher armor, so I would assume their damage intake will be lower. DK's are made to be avoidance tanks, so they will get hit harder when attacks land as they typically have less armor than the other classes.

  • Total Health: The more health you have, the bigger hits you can take before you die. This stat is most useful for bosses who deal large blows very slowly. After 3.1 DK's and Druids got big HP nerfs but they still have the largest health pools of all the tanks. Paladins are next since their stam coefficient is higher than Warriors.

  • Avoidance: How often the boss Misses/Dodges/Parrys when he tries to attack you. Avoidance is typically a secondary category to gear for as it is based on random chance. If you fail to avoid several attacks in a row, this could end up killing you if you cannot mitigate the damage or if the incoming damage is more than your total HP. DK's win this round, followed by Druids with their crazy high dodge rate. Paladin's typically have more avoidance than warriors ceteris paribus as agility gives us more dodge than warriors, although I don't see much plate with agility on it. I need to get some data for the warrior/pally avoidance.

  • Cooldowns: If you can use cooldowns to prevent/mitigate a large incoming attack, the less likely you are going to die. The more cooldowns you can use, the better your chances of surviving. Warriors have some of everything including their buffed shield block. DK's have short cooldown but potent abilities, which edges them out against warriors. Druids have a couple tricks. Paladins have one talent, with one glyphed not as good cooldown (Hand of Salvation).

  • AOE Tanking: Sometime or another you will need to tank more than one angry at a time. This may be 2, or may be 20. The less GCD's you need to use to keep them under control, and not get eaten by them, the better. Paladins shine in this category as we take less damage from many angrys beating on us while maintaining threat. DKs have very good/best AoE threat, but take more damage due to being avoidance tanks with not as much armor. Druids have swipe spam, and can take less damage with higher armor. Warriors have a lot more going for them in terms of AoE tanking than they used to including Damage Shield, Shockwave(Long CD), TClap, as well as Deep Wounds on crits (Thanks Warriors for the info)

  • Threat: The tank needs to be the most threatening person in the raid to an angry. If you cannot keep more threat than the DPS, they will be taking hits instead of you. Paladins have the highest threat due to our threat abilities being magical in nature and not mitigated with boss armor. DKs have some magic damage, Druid/Warriors bleed which is reduced by armor.

  • Moblility: A tank needs to be able to intercept incoming new angrys as well as get away from bosses when they become too dangerous to tank. The ranking is very tough as each class excells in a various movement type. Warriors take this one as they can charge angrys and friendly players. Druids have have the ability to charge. Paladins and DKs have passive run speed talents; DKs can also bring angrys to them instead of intercepting them.

  • Raid Assistance/Buffs: Some tanks bring raid buffs and can cast spells to assist your raid in completing your tasks better. Paladins edge out warriors as we have Hands of XYZ, Divine Sacrifice, and BoSanc. Warriors can Intervene, Sunder Armor, Vigilance, and have a few more tricks to help out the raid (Shouts etc). Druids have a buff (MotW, Leader of the Pack), and DKs do very little to provide additional raid support.
Hopefully those categories are sufficient to rate how well your tank performs. I will be updating this table as I research more about the abilities of other classes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What's in a Tank?

So, Blizzard has given us four flavors of tanking other than gimicky encounters that have mages/locks/hunters soak damage. We have Death Knights, Druids, Paladins (yay), and Warriors. The next few posts will be commentary on the styles of each tank and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. I will also be posting on how these tanks interact with boss encounters in Ulduar. Each will be prefaced with a brief overview. For a more compresensive look at each tank, there are lots of resources found online which get into fine detail about the nuances. Elitist Jerks forums are some of my favorite places to go when I need maths.

Since I know Paladins the best, let's start there.

Paladins are tanks that rely on plate armor, and a huge damn shield to mitigate damage. We utilize Righteous Fury in concert with holy damage in order to generate threat. We have several ablities to use to generate threat: Judgement, Hammer of the Righteous, Shield of the Righteous, Holy Shield, Consecration, Avenger's Shield, and Exorcism. The first five are used in the basic 969 rotation, and the last two are great for ranged pulling of mobs. Paladins have two taunts in their arsenals as well, single targets with Hand of Reckoning and up to three targets (shotgun taunt) Righteous Defense.

The general philosophy behind paladin tanking is rely on your shield for damage mitigation whether it be single target or AoE tanking. Paladins excel at taking a steady intake of damage with each attack blocking a good chunk of the incoming damage using Holy Shield; more steady and predictable damage means that there is less pressure on the healers as healing you is generally easier.

Generally paladins do not have as many "Oh Sh*t" buttons as the other tanking classes, but that is the trade off for our ability to soak steady damage. Paladins in general have one damage reduction cooldown: Divine Protection. Basically a carbon copy of the Warrior's Shield Wall (50% damage reduction for 10 sec). We can glyph for a 20% reduction effect to Hand of Salvation, but this has a dangerous downside for threat sensitive fights. We don't get a Last Stand, or a Frenzied Regeneration type cooldown. A paladin tank can compensate with healer cooldowns, like Pain Suppression, Guardian Spirit, or Divine Sacrifice but these can't be always relied upon.

I would argue that paladin tanks take less damage than any other tank, but handle spike damage very poorly. Fight's like Loetheb, General Vezax, and any other boss that deals steady damage are ideal for a paladin tank.

Another strength of paladin tanks is AoE tanking. We have some of the best multi-target threat abilities in the game and when you couple that with the ability to block a good chunk of every incoming attack, AoE tanking becomes the hallmark of tankadins. Often it is better to put a tankadin on boss adds than bosses due to their ease in dealing with multiple enemies.

That's it for now, next up Warriors.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I want three specs =P

Quick Post:

1) Main Tank Spec for guild progression - 80% of the time I am tanking Ulduar progression

2) PVP Spec. Prot is actually really fun in arenas. - 15% of the time

3) PVE Ret offspec. 5% There are some bosses in Ulduar that really truly only need one tank.

Respec's arent expensive. I used to blow 250g a night in sunwell in respeccing, when that was a lot of money (back in my day....) I have just fallen in love with hotswapping specs and having my bars good to go. It makes life so much easier. Glyphs however are pretty expensive and usually cost more than the respec.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ulduar Dificulty Adjustments

Looking at how Blizzard is "nerfing" Ulduar makes me giggle a little bit. There are open flame wars on our realm forums and everywhere with everyone claiming bigger E-Peens than everyone else because they downed the content before Blizzard nerfed it. I don't think it matters but when a new raid is released, I have belief that the difficulty is released on a sliding scale. Blizzard may claim the contrary and say that the polish was missing on some of the encounters, which is also very valid. Some fixes are bugs and some are much needed tuning. The raid difficulty is put in place as a barrier from guilds demolishing the place in a single night. A raid has a lifespan of about 6 months before your raiders have everything they could really want from the place and are chomping at the bit for some new content.

In my mind there are three types of raiding guilds: Top 100, Top 1000 and everyone else (EE).

Top 100 guilds are not necessarily the best raiders in the world, but they have the time and the dedication to beat their faces against any kind of content. They are competent and motivated and in some cases, just badass. Broken, badly tuned, insanely difficult (First 2 weeks of M'uru hard) these things will not deter them. I look at Ensidia's first Hodir hard mode kill as basically a F*ck you blizzard; you can over tune encounters and we will still find a way to beat them. These guilds also have seemingly infinite resources with active rosters probably nearing 100 geared raiders. My hat goes off to the guild leaders of these kinds of guilds as they are probably managing a logistical nightmare keeping everyone rotated in raids (multiple raid teams?), recruiting quality people, and making counter raid comps for every encounter during a progression race. /salute

Top 1000 guilds are usually the server 2-4 ranked guilds that most likely have the same skill and understanding of the game as the T100 guilds, but simply don't have the time or the resources to dedicate to raiding as these more organized guilds. These people most likely have careers or other obligations in their lives that take precedent over raiding. They still get the rush, they still have fun, and they can clear content arguably with less time invested on the encounters themselves. They can rely on a steady roster of people and go at raiding with less time input that the T100. These people understand their class and possibly even more about other classes. This is the kind of guild I raid with today.

Everyone else has a few quality raiders but they do not have a steady roster and are generally more social and touchy feely and not as skilled as the top 1000. These players generally do not optimize their gear with gems and enchants nor do they understand the finer subtleties of how to raid with the class they play. Raid optimization also falls by the wayside, a symptom of not having a steady core. These guilds are doomed to raid Naxx until the end of time, and I think they are fine with that. The good players with a desire to raid other stuff will eventually leave and join more organized guilds.

At one time I raided with a guild very similar to a top100 in the first days of Sunwell and it was one of the most fun times I ever had raiding, but I spent 6 hours a day, 5 days a week raiding (not to mention time to farm consumables) while having a girlfriend, a job, and night school to do at the same time. It burns you and everyone else out.

Eventually M'uru downed us simply because we did not have the right classes online when we were doing progression and it didn't matter that everyone else was ready. Most nights we were one feral druid short. We got to M'uru phase 2 in a few nights after the cockblock gate was opened, but the guild stopped raiding before the pushback and add HP nerf. If we could have stayed together for another week we could have nailed the encounter with the nerfs.

This right here gets back to my point. To this day, guilds hold this prize over their heads: stomping pre-"nerfed" content. When new content is released Blizzard’s demographic is the T100 guilds. They can pretty much do whatever they want in terms of tweaking the difficulty of the encounters to stymie these juggernauts.

This claim to skill is a false one. It is a matter of ultra guilds with limitless time and resource constraints throwing everything in their arsenal at content to see it fall. Time is the most important factor here, and to a greater extent in this game as well; if you give a player enough time, eventually all content is meaningless (raids, achievements, gear) and everything can be accomplished even if you are terrible at the game.

Blizzard does not try to get the tuning right the first time; not because they are lazy, but because they know that no matter how it is tuned, there will be ways to cheese the encounters, and monster guilds that will chew through all the crap. They are taking an iterative approach to having these monster guilds help them tune the instance for the people with time and resource constraints. The test realms only help so much as some guilds do not even log onto them as they do not want the instances spoiled for them in order to make that first night of new content that much more fun; there is also very little incentive to test raid content on the PTR as it all your effort goes away come the real release save some experience with the encounters.

Sorry for the long post but this has been on my mind from all the lvl1 trolls throwing insults at each other for defeating pre-nerfed content and stroking their own E-Peen.