In previous weeks I’ve tried to focus this series of articles on 10m raiding, since that’s what I do. However this week on Twitter ElBne asked if anyone had done a guide to evaluating tank logs. This got me thinking that at least for Guardians there are very few people qualified to do a guide like this. And since I happen to be one of them, and I happen to have this blog, it made sense for me to do such a guide.
 

Introduction

Tanks are different from both DPS and healers in the sense that “properly” executing the fight depends dramatically on the encounter and the tank class involved. Not only that, but there are different aspects of tanking that can be investigated. Are you concerned about DPS? Are you dying constantly? Are cooldowns not being used? Are you using the proper AM abiltities?

These are all questions that I want to help raid leaders that have Guardian tanks answer.

Before we get started though there are a few basic things about WoL that you should know. For example I’ve labeled 3 important items in the below screenshot:

  1. Encounter Duration: Since Guardians are a spec that always has a button to press for every GCD, your primary way of determining if someone is using their abilities correctly is knowing the number of GCDs available. To get the number of GCDs available simply divide the encounter duration (in seconds) by 1.5. In this example we have 192 GCDs.
  2. Abilities Used: Since we rarely end up hitting more than one target except on exclusively AoE fights it’s pretty simple to determine the total number of GCDs spent. Simply add up all the Hits, Crits, and Blocks for Mangle, Lacerate, Thrash, and FFF. In this example I used 154 GCDs on those 4 buttons. Add 2 for Swipe (Mind Control) and 5 for Consecration and our total for now is 161.
  3. Uptime: While uptime has no real bearing on our survivability, it is incredibly important for DPS. And since tank DPS is extremely relevant this expansion it is worth considering.

 

Part 1: Offensive Abilities

The primary part of a log that should be evaluated is offesnive ability usage. Guardians have a well defined priority system for their abilities:

  1. Use Mangle on cooldown.
  2. Keep Thrash as close to 100% uptime as possible without clipping it.
  3. Keep Lacerate on cooldown.
  4. FFF
  5. Use Maul when you have extra Rage

Lets use this and take a look at the log shown above.

  1. Since most Guardians will have around 0.2 Mangles-per-second, simply take the encounter duration and multiply it by 0.2 to get the number of Mangles you should have at minimum. For this log, it’s just 289 * 0.2 = 57.8 or 58. Since I have way more than that, we’re good.
  2. Checking Thrash uptime is as simple as looking at the Uptime column for Thrash. On this log you can see I had an uptime of 85.6%. Not terrible, but definitely could be better.
  3. For Lacerate it should just be your 2nd highest damage done. There’s no “goal” for the number of Lacerates other than keeping a 3-stack up as much as possible.
  4. If you’re responsible for maintaining Weakened Armor you should have at minimum one FFF every 30 seconds. So for this log there should be at least 10. And here we have 10.
  5. While Maul is an offensive ability it also consumes Rage. We’ll come back to it when we tackle AM abilities.
  6. Swipe should never make it to this combat log as part of any single target encounter. Exceptions are when you need to do AoE damage for some mechanic. It shows up on this log because I threw in some extra damage to break Mind Controls.

So that’s what you should look for with damaging abilities. If these are used properly you’ll have the resources necessary to use your AM abilities properly. That said on to the next section!
 

Part 2: Active Mitigation

Before you can really evaluate how a Guardian is using their active mitigation tools, you need to understand how each of the tools works. I’ll describe very briefly how each ability works:

  1. Savage Defense: Only reduces damage from attacks that can be dodged. Only really ever used to prevent damage from melee swings since since tanks don’t gain Vengeance from dodged special attacks (like Massive Attacks or Furious Swipe).
  2. Frenzied Regeneration: Doesn’t actually prevent any damage. Instead heals the Guardian for a fixed amount based on Vengeance. Thus it is used to recover from any kind of damage that can’t be prevented with Savage Defense (or when you don’t want to prevent the damage).
  3. Tooth and Claw: Reduces damage of the next melee attack that would normally connect with its target. Since it requires a decent amount of RPS to use consistently, it’s typically only used with regularity when not actively tanking a mob.
  4. Maul: Other than applying Tooth and Claw Maul should only ever be used when you have – or are about to have – an excess of Rage. That is when you’re close to 100 Rage and any additional Rage generated will be purely overflow. Instead of letting it go to waste, dump it into Maul for extra DPS.

So now let’s take a peek at the other half of the previous example log:

This shows you exactly how much damage was taken and from what sources. Conveniently they’re even colour coded so you know if it’s magical (and if so, what kind) or physical damage. However you need to remember that in order to determine how a Guardian should be using their AM abilities you need to know how the damage should be handled. Is it melee? Is it magical? Can it be dodged? Should a cooldown be used? These are all questions you should be able to answer with the assistance of any of a number of encounter guides.

In this particular case the only damage that can be dodged are the melee swings. Since melee swings make up the overwhelming majority of the damage taken (42.6% in this log) you should have Savage Defense up whenever the boss is attacking you.

Also remember that all abilities that use Rage are off the global cooldown. So there should never be a problem using them during a normal rotation.

The last thing to keep track of when looking at AM abilities is how much Rage is being wasted. Thankfully it’s really easy to figure this out. The first step is to look at the “Buffs Gained” tab and check the power gains:

In this same long you can see that I gained 1260 + 365 + 67 = 1692 Rage. But that’s not all. From the screenshot up above you can see there were 89 melee attacks that landed. That means 965 Rage as generated from regular melee attacks. That gives us a total of 965 + 1692 = 2657.

Unfortunately counting how much Rage was spent is a little more tricky. WoL doesn’t actually count every time you cast Savage Defense, only every time you gain the buff when you didn’t have it previously. However the duration reported is still accurate. Therefore you can simply divide the uptiime (in seconds) by 6 to get the number of times it was used. You can also use the Expression Editor to get the same number. I’ll cover some useful queries at the end of this post, but for now suffice it to say that I used Savage Defense 19 times in this encounter.

From the first tab I looked at you can also see that I used Maul 37 times. So the total amount of Rage spent is:

(19 * 60) + (30 * 37) = 2250.

That means I wasted a total of 2657 – 2250 = 407 Rage on this encounter. That’s actually pretty low, especially considering how little tank damage there actually is on normal Vizier 10m. Obviously lower would be better – ideally you would waste 0 Rage – but it’s inevitable that you will waste some due to latency, cooldowns, etc.
 

Part 3: Cooldown Management

Managing cooldowns is all about using them when they will be of maximum effectiveness, especially for a tank. Berserk and Incarnation are both best used as DPS cooldowns since they allow you to spam Mangle. Incarnation combined with Nature’s Vigil (which is the default T6 talent for Guardians) is especially effective.

Typically Survival Instincts is saved for periods of really high damage. Barkskin and Enrage should be used as often as possible – or at least as often as makes sense. Might of Ursoc is our other major cooldown. Major cooldowns may not see any use on a given encounter though, so keep that in mind.

In order to know when a Guardian should be using their cooldowns, take a quick look at the DTPS graph for any given encounter.

In the graph above the Damage Taken Per Second (DTPS) is illustrated by the red line. You can see several spikes above 100k. Those are the kinds of situations where a cooldown would be used. In this particular encounter the spikes are 2-3 stack Exhales. So those are the times you would expect a tank to use a cooldown of some kind.
 

Part 4: Expression Editor

By far the most powerful part of WoL is the Expression Editor. This tool allows you to query the combat log to find all events matching your parameters. However it is easily the most difficult and underused part of WoL as a whole. They actually have a whole forum post dedicated to teaching people how to use it. While that’s definitely a great resource, I wanted to provide you with a few queries that can be reused / modified to find crucial information.

  1. Counting Savage Defense: sourcename=”Arielle” and spell=”Savage Defense”
  2. All Tank Events: targetname=”Arielle” and (sourcename=”Arielle” or sourcename=”Imperial Vizier Zor’lok”)
  3. Cooldowns vs DTPS: targetname=”Arielle” and ((sourcename=”Arielle” and (spell=”Survival Instincts” or spell=”Barkskin” or spell=”Incarnation: Son of Ursoc” or spell=”Berserk” or spell=”Enrage” or spell=”Might of Ursoc” or spell=”Nature’s Vigil” or spell=”Heart of the Wild” or spell=”Renewal”)) or sourcename=”Imperial Vizier Zor’lok”)

In all of these queries simply replace my name with the Guardian in question, and the boss’ name with the desired mob(s).
 

Part 5: Graphing

Both Buraan and Simplecat pointed out in the comments something I missed initially. WoL has a function to “graph” buffs and debuff uptimes in a linear fashion. This provides an alternate – and easier – method of understanding exactly was being pressed and when. If you find something amiss when looking at the graph and need more details, the actual expression editor is always there if you need it. I haven’t yet found a way to plot buffs/debuffs on multiple items (say for example a boss and yourself) on the same graph yet. However using MSPaint and simple cut&paste you can stitch one together if you are diligent enough, Buraan has an example in the comments.

Plotting buffs/debuffs is really easy. When looking on the “Buffs Gained” or “Buffs Cast” tabs you will see little pound signs next to the buffs/debuffs:

Clicking on one of these will plot the uptime against the time graph on the main “Buff Details” tab at the top. Note I have not been able to make this work properly on Internet Explorer 9. I’ve only tried and seen it work on Chrome, although I would hazard a guess it works fine on Firefox too. It’s not really possible to plot more than one buff/debuff at a time in IE and still be able to understand what the heck is going on easily. I’ve included a sample graph of the log I’ve been using for this entire post below:

Plotting these items against DPS for a tank doesn’t really make sense, since our primary objective is to prevent ourselves from taking damage. To that end once you have selected all of your buffs/debuffs you should switch the bottom panel back to “Graph”. This will allow you to see DTPS versus our normal AM abilities and hopefully easily determine where/what the problems are.
 

Conclusions

Evaluating tank WoL is actually much more complicated than looking at a DPS or even a healer. Not only that, but each spec is completely different. Thankfully if you’re armed with the right knowledge and queries it becomes much, much easier to identify and correct potential problems during progression. For Guardians it’s a pretty simple process:

  1. Make sure the correct buttons are being used to generate maximum resources.
  2. Ensure those resources are being spent correctly.
  3. Check cooldown management. Are the right cooldowns being used at the right time?
  4. Get detailed. Use buff/debuff graphing or the expression editor to identify the specific problem(s).

16 Comments

  • Helistar says:

    The more I dig into combat logs, the more I find WoL to be an insufficient source of information. The major problem is that it’s very often hard to see something which is not a global average, and for tanking it’s never the “average” which kills you, but the burst which hits you while you’re unprepared. And this kind of stuff is a lot harder to see without writing some code which is boss-specific. Another major difficulty is that you don’t have the HP value in the combat log, and rebuilding it from the log is very hard since WoW does not preserve exactly the time sequence (you can have heals which appear before the damage they healed).
    And what you say about different tanks is very very true: the “way of the tank” is completely different across tank specs, much more so than across DPS specs.
    In any case thanks for this article, I’ll be off to WoL to see if I meet the minimum criteria :)

    • Arielle says:

      I think this is more the fault of the combat log itself, rather than how WoL handles it. Since the combat log may not necessarily be written to your HDD (or SSD, whatever) in the right order of events, it’s near impossible to know exactly what your HP is at any given moment fo example.

      However you can still use the expression editor to identify what killed you, and why. It’s how I tracked down that I was getting murdered by Windlord when he had 3xQuickening on him and it wasn’t getting dispelled.

      Blizzard has said in the past that if they were to do the combat log again, they’d do it correctly this time. We’ll have to see if that actually means anything.

  • Buraan says:

    For that query at the end, you could use (spell in (“spellname1″, “spellname2″, “spellname3″)) instead of chaining all the spell=”x” or spell=”y” I normally use that when there are a large quantity of values I want to use (for example you could do sourcename in (“”) also)

    • Buraan says:

      Oh and additionally when looking at buff and debuff uptimes (both for damage and AM) I would always suggest going to the buffs cast tab and pressing the “#” beside the buffs, it allows you to see the uptime in a lot more detail, and also in combination with other things. For example, there’s no point using SD if you aren’t currently tanking, so you should see periods of nice solid green when you are and nothing when you aren’t. Cooldowns should appear at nice regular intervals, and you can see which are used in combination with each other.

    • Buraan says:

      (targetname=”Buraan” and ((sourcename=”Buraan” and spell in (“Survival Instincts”, “Barkskin”, “Incarnation: Son of Ursoc”, “Berserk”, “Enrage”, “Might of Ursoc”, “Nature’s Vigil”, “Heart of the Wild”, “Renewal”, “Healing Touch”)) or (sourceReaction=64 and (type in (1,2) or fulltype in (401, 403))) or (fulltype in (401, 403) and spell in (“Hand of Protection”, “Hand of Sacrifice”, “Pain Suppression”, “Guardian Spirit”, “Rallying Cry”, “Safeguard”, “Vigilance”, “Power Word: Barrier”, “Spirit Link”, “Ironbark”, “Devotion Aura”, “Life Cocoon”)))) or (spell in (“Tooth and Claw”, “Weakened Blows”, “Weakened Armor”) and fulltype in (401, 403) and targetReaction=64)

      Just need to edit in the names at the start otherwise the rest should take care of itself

    • Buraan says:

      I also like this sort of query for looking at your rotation:

      sourcename=”Buraan” and ((type=6 and spell not in (“Savage Defense”, “Frenzied Regeneration”, “Primal Fury”)) or (spell in (“Incarnation: Son of Ursoc”, “Berserk”, “Nature’s Vigil”, “Heart of the Wild”, “Thrash”, “Lacerate”, “Rip”, “Rake”) and fulltype=403))

  • Grinal says:

    You said to not clip Thrash. Since Thrash resets Mangle, shouldn’t it be used on CD? If we aren’t using it on CD, what do we fill that GCD with?

    • Helistar says:

      My “cycle” is:
      - Mangle / Lacerate / FF / Lacerate, restart
      This you can always do as the abilities’ CD always allow it (there’s one exception: when FFF resets your mangle CD, in this case it can happen that you have FFF on CD the next time you need it, when it happens I just press something random, like swipe or an extra thrash).
      Since FF is a long-lived debuff, you replace it with Thrash to keep it up as much as possible.
      Any time you get a proc which resets Mangle, you cut short and restart early. The exceptions are keeping FFF up and keeping the weakened blows debuff up.

  • thesimplecat says:

    I find this a terrible article.

    You talk about wol but point out the most important tab for tanks. Also counting your spells with expression editor, what is that even about.

    Your own P1 log from Bladelord 10HC: http://i.imgur.com/IbVi0bf.png

    Uptimes & cds outlined, that is what anyone looking at tank logs should do. You can instantly see all the mistakes going on by just looking at when the debuff landed.

    • Arielle says:

      To be honest I hadn’t used that tab before. Thanks for pointing it out.

      Although since you can’t get that graph compared to DTPS, using it check anything beyond simple buff/debuff uptime is a pretty bad idea. As far as I can see, you still have to use the expression editor to determine if buttons are proprerly being pushed at the right time.

    • Buraan says:

      But you can combine it with graphs from other mobs (with a bit of paint skillz) for example I made this for amber shaper: http://i.imgur.com/YOK4QYF.png

      I would also say that, if you understand the fight, there should be patterns of ability usage that should appear from using this feature that would make sense. You then quickly identify a part of that pattern that isn’t correct, check what time it was at, then use the zoom with graphs feature and then run your expression editor. It will give a much more concise and effective way of analyzing the log. Trawling through combat lines is really only useful if you know exactly what you’re looking for. The Death’s overview is also quite useful for this, and provides some built in filtering.

    • thesimplecat says:

      If you zoom the graphs stand out more so it’s really easy to spot whats happening without always tabbing to the red line. A tank that can’t push his cooldown button when a timer counts down in his face isn’t the type of player that will look at WoL in the first place.

      There is no need to plow through the expression editor lines when you understand the encounter and it’s damage sources and assume the subject you look at isn’t clueless.

      Here is another example: http://i.imgur.com/zJVWi1T.png

      That said 95% of the ppl who read logs don’t understand half of it and are quick to draw wrong conclusions.

  • thesimplecat says:

    *You talk about wol but never point out*

  • Zambal says:

    Realy nice guide, you got me inspired to weite my own guide for Brewmasters! :)

  • Tsumecho says:

    Really nice post, extremely informative and helpful, thanks for that. Except for the screenshots that are no longer showing hehe, though it is a year old article…

    • Arielle says:

      Yeah, Maelfus nuked all of the uploaded media during our security issues last year. I’ll be doing a new guide when Warcraft Logs gets out of Alpha and the UI firms up a bit more.

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