I probably could’ve posted this a few days ago, but I wanted to wait until the Beta Class Balance Analysis thread had run its course before doing so. It’s probably not over (or at least not close to being over), but since its the weekend I felt I should summarize all of the Guardian related information that came out of it. Don’t worry Bears, Fasc, Hinalover, and I are working hard to make sure we aren’t broken or useless at launch ^.^

So what have we learned thus far?

“I did make a bug report out of this though I am re-posting this here just for future reference. there is currently a bug with Faerie Swarms’ damage.”

This is fixed in a future build.

Hinalover had found a bug where if a Guardian cast FFF while having the Faerie Swarm talent, it would do the amount of damage that it currently does on live (10.8% AP) instead of the amount of damage it’s supposed to do. GC sez it will be fixed in a future build.

“Also what is the status of crit suppression? Is it totally gone? Just gone for spells? Or still there? It’s something that is extremely painful to test in-game.”

Crit chances of players against mobs that are higher level than you are reduced by 1% per level difference, in Mists.

This won’t mean anything to you unless you’re in the business of modeling things (like us). Basically when you attack a higher level thing than you the chance you have to critically hit that target is reduced by 1% per 1 level difference. So for a level 90 attacking a boss level mob, your critical strike chance is actually 3% less than what your character sheet says.

“I’m still in the early stages for Guardian but as of this point bears will only need to gear for dodge > crit > hit/exp > haste > Mastery up to 6 rage per second. This allows for at least 1 stack of Savage Defense will be available at all time. Beyond 6 Rage Per Second you will get to 0 stacks at some point during the fight. Beyond 6 RPS, uptime on SD only grows minisculely beyond 60% (6.66 RPS – 61.16% uptime; 7.5 RPS – 61.33% uptime; 10 RPS – 61.6% uptime) For example, with 6.666 RPS, we can use Savage Defense every 9 seconds up to 3 minutes into the fight. Afterwards we can use it every 10 seconds.”

While there is effectively a ‘cap’ on converting rage to Savage Defenses uptime (as you describe, that’s effectively 6.666 RPS to use it on charge cooldown), that should translate to a very ‘soft’ cap on hit/exp/crit, as streaks of rage gain and rage drought may occur. And, more importantly, Frenzied Regeneration should provide a very attractive value in bleeding off excess rage, which is effectively uncapped. Our current design is that against difficult content, Savage Defense provides more average damage mitigation than Frenzied Regeneration heals, but given that it is avoidance (and thus not necessarily reliable), you will sometimes resort to using Frenzied Regeneration to smooth over spikes when you feel you need to. The goal in terms of feeling is that you should ‘want’ to use Savage Defense as much as possible, but sometimes you ‘need’ to Frenzied Regeneration to respond to unexpected spikes in damage.

Here GC talks about the intended usage of our “active mitigation” buttons (I know that Frenzied Regeneration isn’t actually mitigation, but it still “handles” damage). I assume that most Guardians in beta already knew all of this, but for everyone out there that has basically tuned out until launch it will be good to know. Even though you may reach the “very soft” cap of 6.66~ RPS, you’re still going to want as much Rage as you can get because any excess can be bled off into Frenzied Regeneration.

“2) Overlapping Mangle procs.
3) Thrash 6 second CD.
4) Dead GCDs.”

The proc to reset the cooldown on Mangle from Thrash, Lacerate, and Faerie Fire now all occur on initial hit, instead of on bleed ticks. It should no longer be possible to get multiple procs within the same GCD, or to have any benefit from purposely leaving GCDs empty. Can you offer any further details about how the rotation can be gamed in these sort of ways?

This was a direct reply to my complaint that having Mangle reset off of bleed ticks basically meant you performed upkeep on bleeds while mashing Mangle. Thankfully they’ve changed the model to where Mangle resets off of your attacks that hit a target instead. I hope they take it a bit farther and add some more spice to Thrash and Lacerate, but this is a MASSIVE step forwards in terms of fun for the Guardian “rotation”. I use “rotation” in quotes because again it’s actually a priority system, but hey.

“Currently Cenarion Ward will not consume the healing bonus from Dream of Cenarius. This makes Dream of Cenarius completely and totally undesirable for Guardians. That may be intentional, but some clarification would be appreciated.”

This is a bug; all three level 30 talents will benefit from the increased healing buff from Dream of Cenarius. For example, a Guardian druid in Bear Form, with Dream of Cenarius and Renewal, who has recently Mangled a target so they have the Dream of Cenarius buff up, can hit Renewal to instantly restore 51% of their max health. We just fixed it to apply to Renewal and Cenarion Ward a few minutes ago, though, so you won’t see that for a build or two.

This is something I noticed right when I hit 90, and first reported in the Guardian feedback thread. Apparently it’s a bug and Dream of Cenarius is supposed to interact with Cenarion Ward – which is kinda what I suspected from the beginning. So if the Stamina buff is removed from Heart of the Wild, Dream of Cenarius could actually see some interesting use. Or even Renewal.

“Glyph of Fae Silence, I keep asking this and never get a response I hope I can get one here. Is it intentional that Fae Silence does not work on targets already affected by Faerie Fire or is it a bug?”

Bug.

If FFF was already on a target and you have the glyph of Fae Silence, you couldn’t cast it again on that target. This was potentially very detrimental to Guardians and I’m glad it’s getting fixed.

Additionally, Shield Slam and Revenge will only generate rage in Defensive Stance in a future build. We want to leave some room for Prot warriors to go into Battle Stance when OT’ing or perhaps when solo, and we want to leave some room for Arms and Fury to use Defensive Stance when emergency tanking.

I realize that this is not directly related to Guardians, but let me explain why its here. I posted in the past asking similar questions about Guardian Bear and Guardian Cat, but never received a response (other than a lot of trolling from Saulsilver). If this is expected – and even encouraged – of Warriors, I’d imagine there is a similar desire for Guardians. I asked as much, but have not yet received a response. As it stands now Guardian Cat is ~20% under 0 Vengeance Guardian Bear, so stay tuned for more developments in this area.

“Lastly, I think there needs to be some change to the guardian cooldowns so that we can actually use them on most attempts in raid PvE without having to worry if it will be wasted on a wipe. I won’t rehash all of the proposed solutions because that’s been done enough, but with DS tier being replaced by new gear I am worried about going back to the way things used to be.”

We have new tech to reset certain long cooldowns that you’re sometimes tempted to wait around for before each pull (such as Summon Doomguard), when you wipe on an encounter. This tech hasn’t been hooked up to every encounter yet, but you should be able to see this work on some encounters (such as Stone Guard on this Friday). This won’t apply to every long cooldown. Our current rule of thumb is that it applies to cooldowns longer than 5min, but no longer than 10min, but there will be some exceptions to that. It is going to be very subjective which cooldowns are included, but again our rule of thumb is: would reasonable groups kill time waiting for this cooldown to finish before starting an encounter? Please don’t lobby for every cooldown you have to be included. :)

In case you didn’t read that whole response, it basically boils down to: “We’re looking at implementing automatic CD resets for long cooldowns.” You should read that as: “Rebirth.” FUCK YEAH!

Unfortunately there hasn’t yet been anything about the multitude of problems with Heart of the Wild, but given the amount of information we’ve received over the past couple of days I’m confident they are looking at it.

Nomnomnom.

This build had a few changes, but all they server to accomplish is further confuse us as to what the goal is.

I levelled to 90 today, and in my ~405 gear I already have 55.92% damage reduction vs. a level 90. That’s a lot, and light years ahead of where it was at the same time in Cataclysm. I’ve long suspected that Bears were just plain overpowered compared to other tanks, but I wanted to wait until I was level 90 to be sure. Do any other tanks even approach that level of armor?

I was also extremely surprised to see no Mangle (Bear) nerf yet. I still expect this will be coming.

Bear Form Crit/Haste Buff: I don’t for the life of me know why this was done. The obvious answer is to increase our Rage generation, but I don’t know why. Both FR and SD are incredibly powerful compared to analogous abilities on other tanks. That on top of our already massive Physical and Magical EH makes me think that there are some impending nerfs we don’t know about yet. It feels like Guardians are the only tank class Blizzard has yet to have any dialogue on. I would hope that we would want to avoid repeating what happened with the last expansion where we were nerfed to the ground at the very end, only to have outstanding problems ignored because they ran out of time. I would really appreciate some sort of idea what the vision and/or goal is for Guardians.

Heart of the Wild: Unfortunately this talent does in fact continue to have similar problems to what we have theorized before. I like the idea don’t get me wrong, but there are still problems with it that should be addressed.

  • Weapon Swapping: Weapon swapping is required to make Melee -> Caster and Caster -> Melee transitions worthwhile. A talent (especially a Level 90 one) should not require you to switch your weapon to actually use it. As it stands now Guardian -> Moonkin actually does less damage than 0 Vengeance Bear without a weapon swap. Throughput on Guardian -> Resto without a weapon swap is also pretty pitiful. I can only imagine what it would be like for a caster to swap to melee.
  • Bear -> Cat: We are also stuck with one of the only transitions that actually doesn’t give us a useful secondary stat boost. Increasing our Hit and Expertise is not effective for a Guardian since we will be capping Hit and Expertise if possible anyway. The only way to fix this is to give per-spec bonus, instead of “if you’re not X you get Y”. The Agility bonus works though. Unfortunately as you can see in the logs below, HotW Cat is worse than 0 Vengeance Bear. That’s obviously not intended.
  • Lack of + Arcane Damage: This really only hurts Guardian -> Moonkin. We have Moonfire, but since we lack bonus Arcane spell damage (NI only affects Nature) it deals basically no damage. Even when HotW is up.

For argument’s sake I took logs of the DPS transitions to see how they stacked up against 0 Vengeance Bear:

0 Vengeance Bear: http://www.worldoflogs.com/reports/9f6xwtdgozlxz8w5/details/9/
Guardian -> Moonkin: http://www.worldoflogs.com/reports/20jdfc3atf8oo3h2/details/12/
Guardian -> Cat: http://www.worldoflogs.com/reports/m5rhdsir6w5endje/details/9/

Dream of Cenarius: The buff value on DoC is pretty darn good actually. The problem with it is Guardians don’t actually have an opportunity to use it. We only have 2 spells that can be used off of it right now – Rejuv and HT. Neither of those can be cast in form natively though. Since powershifting for tanks is effectively dead thanks to the 1.5s boss swing timer, you can’t really take advantage of it unless you’re really not getting hit with anything.

All they have to do to fix this is make DoC synergize with CW. That’s it. Problem solved. Suddenly Bears have a compelling reason to take DoC. Otherwise it’ll be completely ignored. For the record it does work off of an NS+HT, and the bonuses stack.

Nature’s Vigil: NV is incredibly powerful. It’s light years ahead of both HotW and DoC in its current state. The heal is a “smart heal”, so it’ll target the person who needs it most. Not only that, but it can target yourself as well. At high Vengeance stacks this could get really insane for Guardians. It also works with Berserk so if you’re hitting more than one target with Berserk you will trigger more than one heal. I gotta say, I really like NV.

The disparity with the L90 talents isn’t so much that NV is too good, it’s that HotW and DoC are too bad. One basically can’t be used at all, and the other is just terribly broken. These really need another look.

For reference, here’s the short video I made of the level 90 talents:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHhbfDDoQsY&list=HL1338778403&feature=mh_lolz

This was cross-posted to the US Official Beta Classes Forum. Click Here to go to the original post.

Guardian Feedback – Build 15668

1. Introduction

Initially I thought I could afford to wait until objective empirical evidence was available to “prove” my observations (as GC wants – http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4427538376#14) since we lack a practical “test” environment for tanking at this point. None of the 5man dungeons is even remotely threatening enough to be used as a qualitative measuring stick of how any tank actually functions. The best anyone can really do at this point is answer these two questions:

  1. Do you feel like you’re ever in danger of dying?
  2. Do you feel like you ever have problems holding threat?

If your answer to either of the above is “Yes” then there is probably a problem with your particlar class somewhere. Otherwise the only real feedback that can be offered at this point is subjective feedback. The problem is subjective feedback differs from person to person. However based on my anecdotal experience – given that I communicate with more other Guardians than your average Bear – it seems to be shared with a large portion of the Guardian population. This leads me to ask about the reasoning behind some of the decisions made with regard to Guardians.

In this post I will be talking about several topics. First I will be talking about some of the Guardian abilities that could use some enhancing, specifically Thrash, Maul, and Cat Form. Second I will offer my opinion on the Guardian version of “active mitigation” and possible ways to make more granular. Third I will touch on some of the talents, including possible ways they could be improved to allow for more player choice. Fourth I will look at the horrid default UI and how despite being one of the most important items in the “active mitigation” system it fails its role miserably. Finally I’ll take a brief glance and Symbiosis and the possible abilities we can get.

2. Guardian Abilities

Before we go any further, I want to emphasize that I am overjoyed Fury Swipes is gone. Thank you.

Initially I had planned to discuss the overwhelming dislike of how Guardian ability usage has panned out thus far in Beta. A poll I conducted (http://theincbear.com/poll-how-do-you-feel-about-the-new-guardian-rotation) resulted in 68% of those surveyed responding that they disliked the method of ability usage in MoP. After spending a lot of time playing in Beta, and looking at our abilities compared to other tanks – such as Protection Warriors – I realized that the problems are mostly related to Thrash and Maul.

Thrash

Before I begin with Thrash, I wanted to briefly touch on Pulverize. Our Cataclysm rotation was defined by a 18 second floating window of Pulverize. Within a given 18 second window (12 GCDs) you would sacrifice between 4 and 6 of those to maintaining Pulverize depending on how lucky or unlucky you were with Misses/Dodges/Parries. I imagine that this mechanic was tossed because a lot of newer Bears didn’t understand it or felt it was clunky. I can’t say I disagree with that sentiment, and I’m making an assumption based on the “Class Feedback” thred posted in the Druid forums back in the day.

It seems that Thrash has replaced the entire Pulverize mechanic as that “floating window”. Consolidating the 4-6 button presses down to just 1 makes sense to accomplish a similar goal. However the 6 second cooldown has remained. As a result the amount of potential downtime compared to the benefit it provides in terms of Rage generation doesn’t make sense, especially in pre-raid levels of gear. The question to be asked is “Are we as a tanking specialization going to be balanced around an assumed 100% Thrash uptime?”

If so the cooldown should be reduced or peferably removed. Otherwise there’s no real reason for it to last longer than 6 seconds. We will be pressing it off CD anyway to give ourselves as many chances as possible to refresh it before the duration runs out.

Maul

Maul suffers from a fairly simple problem. It will never be used in any situation that is even remotely threatening. GC acknowledged this recenty when referring to Protection Warriors here: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4856945747?page=24#466 – and the same applies to Guardians (with the exception of “not tanking” – which I’ll talk about later). The only thing necessary to make the tanking rotation more interesting is add a proc like Ultimatum, except for Maul. This would kick in just enough randomness to the rotation to make it interesting again. Having an ability purely exist for the purpose of soloing when it does less than a quarter the damage of Mangle makes no sense.

Cat Form

Before we go anywhere, everyone knows that “Bearcatting” was incredibly overpowered and needed to be removed. That’s fine. However as a Guardian, I don’t see a use for Cat Form in its current state. I ran a quick parse last night and found that without using any DPS increasing cooldowns, Guardian Cat Form does between 15-25% less damage than Guardian Bear Form with 0 Vengeance. That doesn’t really make any sense to me. Obviously I’m not saying that it should be 90-95% of a full time Feral Cat like it is now, however it should at least be more effective than simply sitting in Bear form the entire time.

There are further implications to this with Heart of the Wild. With this sort of damage variance currently Heart of the Wild will have to grant Guardians an absolutely absurd damage bonus to make it as effective as Feral Cat Form for the duration.

This could be the result of Feral being undertuned in general as compared to other Melee DPS, or it could be the result of Guardian Bear DPS being drastically overtuned. I have a feeling it’s a combination of both. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a nerf to both Bear Mangle and Lacerate sometime soon.

3. Active Mitigation

Our “active mitigation” model is shaping up to be very interesting. The percentage damage reduction has been replaced with Dodge, which is pretty intriguing. Frenzied Regeneration now has a variable consumption component based on the amount of Rage it consumes up to a maximum of 60. I like that as well. The most recent changes to Savage Defense have introduced a system of charges with cooldowns to artificially prevent 100% uptime. At first I wasn’t a big fan of artificial reduction like that, but it has kind of grown on me.

I’d like to take it a bit further though. Savage Defense still feels too binary – either you have enough Rage for it or you don’t. It doesn’t have the same variance that Frenzied Regeneration currently does. So why can’t we change it a little bit?

Lets look at the following potential changes:

  • Decrease the Rage cost to 20.
  • Decrease the Dodge percentage gained to 15% per use.
  • Allow the Dodge gained per use to stack to 3.
  • Track the duration of each charge individually.
  • Remove the cooldown from the activation of Savage Defense.

It may be necesarry to increase the number of available charges, but the goal here is to add more choice to how Savage Defense is used. If we can choose to expend a large number of charges and/or Rage in a short time to gain a large mitigation boost, or spend a little Rage/charges to gain a small mitigation boost for a long period of time. Unfortunately I don’t know if Blizzard has the tech to actually accomplish this, but it would certainly make our existing “active mitigation” model more interesting.

4. Talents

Tier 1

I’m a little concerned about the binary nature of T1 talents. Movement speed is incredibly powerful in a PvE environment. So much so that unless you need Charge to help with some mechanic (Al’Akir tornadoes for example) you will always pick Feline Swiftness. This ends up being a passive stat boost in the end since a potential movement speed enchant is converted to pure stats instead. What can we do to make it less binary?

Why not turn the passive movement speed gain down to 8%, but let it stack with a movement speed enchant? At least this way you have sacrifice something for the same movement speed bonus. This could potentially adversely affect Feral and I can’t really comment in that regard.

Displacer Beast needs help, or to be replaced entirely. It’s purely a PvP talent at this point, but something should be done to make it less lackluster in comparison to the other options.

Tier 2

Tier 2 is pretty much fine at this point. All of the options are pretty compelling in their own right.

Tier 3

Typhoon is pretty amazing as a Guardian since it functions as a secondary AoE interrupt. I’m not particularly impressed with Mass Entanglement, and haven’t had a reason to use Faerie Swarm. Both have potential uses though, I just hope there will be situations where they are desired.

Tier 4

I’m worried that the current interation of Guardian Treants will be exploitable on some mechanics. Something like Impale is the most immediate example I can think of, simply pop Treants and watch them eat a free Impale. Other than that the choice between SotF and Incarnation is a pretty good one depending on if you prefer burst RPS or sustained RPS. Depending on a given fight it’s quite possible that one will be better than the other.

Overall a good tier despite the AI concerns on Treants.

Tier 5

Vortex is the easy winner here. Disorients break on damage making Demoralizing Roar a little problematic to use in a group or raid situation. Bash is “meh” and use will depend entirely on whether the target(s) is/are immune to Typhoon / Vortex or not.

Tier 6

There’s some interesting stuff here. It’s hard to really comment on any of them more than briefly without actual practical testing. But I do have some thoughts:

Heart of the Wild has two remaining problems. First is the need for some way to reduce the CD/Duration of the ability, probably via Glyph. Some phases where you would have the opportunity to use HotW as a Guardian don’t last the whole 45 seconds, which can mean that you use the talent for only half (or less) of its duration. I suppose to recognize this the ability to self-cast Rejuv in Bear Form and the 6% passive Agility were added, but that kinda feels like a gimmick that doesn’t fit the talent’s intended function.

Second is some way to accommodate caster vs melee weapons. The easiest way to do this I suppose is some sort of dramatic AP/SP buff beyond what is given to compensate for the lack of toolkit. It’s not crucial since you can weapon swap as a work around, but that feels clunky.

Dream of Cenarius just feels totally irrelevant. At best you could get it so synergize with an NS+HT (would that work?). At worst you never use it at all. But I’m okay with 2/3 being useful.

Nature’s Vigil This seems incredibly overpowered when combined with a high Vengeance stack, multiple targets, and Berserk. It could be interesting once the percentages and Guardian DPS is tuned correctly.

5. Default UI

At first glance it may be tempting to dismiss a topic like this by saying “Nobody uses the default UI.” But how many people really download UI addons? The truth is if I didn’t know that I would be replacing the default UI with X-Perl, Power Auras, DoTTimer, and Badkitty (if it’s still around) trying to tank with the default UI would make me furiously frustrated. There have been some recent steps taken to improve it (moveable portraits FINALLY), but there’s still a long way to go.

To illustrate what I’m talking about, I took a screenshot of the default UI as it appears now in the Beta, and highlighted the areas a Guardian (and likely any tank) would need to keep track of in order to make sure they are doing their job optimally.

If you move your character portrait and target to the middle of the screen, you have 3 distinct areas you need to keep track of. First are the debuffs on your target. Is Lacerate Up? Thrash? Sunder Armor? Weakened Blows? While there is an option to present only the debuffs that are relevant to you, it’s not stringent enough. The ones you truly care about can easily get lost in a sea of things you really don’t care about. Not only that but they are incredibly tiny and almost impossible to track the actual duration.

Solution: Add a UI option to make your debuffs bigger and add a numeric timer to them.

Second your character’s buffs are in the top right corner of the screen. This is a pretty inconvenient place for critical ability / cooldown duration information to be located. This is probably the biggest problem, since it drastically increases the distance your eye has to travel in order to gather all information necessary to evaluate the situation and select the appropriate action.

Solution: Add the ability to move temporary buffs under your character’s portrait, and make them big enough for you to actually see them.

The third problem is proper cooldown tracking. At least adding the ability for cooldowns to be displayed in numeric format would help significantly.

6. Symbiosis

Symbiosis sounds cool, and really looks like a cool idea as well. If correctly balanced as a utility spell it can be used to fill in whatever utility box gaps we have for a given encounter. There are a couple problems with it though.

  1. All tanking specs are granted buttons that increase the effectiveness of “being a tank” – except Warriors. You can’t do that for a utility button without opening the Dark Intent box.
  2. Some of the buttons gained by a Guardian are pretty useless. Fear Ward and Spell Reflection are the key offenders here. Why isn’t the Priest Fear Warding you anyway? What can you actually use Spell Reflection on?

Personally I would much, much rather have Intervene over Spell Reflection and Psychic Scream (Roar) over Fear Ward. I’m sure there are other Guardians out there with differing opinions on what they would find more useful, and I hope those opinions are expressed.

Conclusion

I really like how Guardians are coming along. There have been a great many strides made since the original communications back at Blizzcon. We’re not there yet though. If we could have some sort of idea what the thought process was behind some of the (lack of) changes – in particular Thrash and Maul – that would greatly help.

Thanks for reading.

Hello Bears!

I’m in the process of writing a feedback post I will be putting up here as well as on the official forums. As part of that, I wanted to get an idea of how people felt about the new ability rotation as compared to the one in Cataclysm.

Current MoP “rotation”:

Mangle > Thrash > Lacerate > Swipe.

Vote, and please feel free to comment as well if you want to add more details!

How do you feel about the MoP Guardian rotation?

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The Roads I’ve Travelled

April 13, 2012

I was chatting with a guild DPS the other day… What we thought about Mists, the talent system, DPS balances, tank balances and heaven’s knows what else in that time frame… when she said something rather interesting.  She told me she liked it when I tanked Warmaster.

“What? I never tanked that fight.  ‘Cept that one time–”

“You had to one night during our progression.”

“Yeah, that was one, very short, night where I had to… so how can you say you liked it? I barely knew what I was doing.”  All I could think about was how I was really bad at positioning the cleaving mob to be within cleave range of drakes while still not getting melee hit by it.  I’m probably still bad at it.

“After just a couple attempts I knew exactly what you were going to do – how you were going to move – and I was easily able to prepare my DPS for it.  I can’t always do that.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

At first I was all “D’aww, she likes my tanking!”, but I started to consider the implications of it.  First, it pretty much pushed me over the edge and cemented my decision to start tanking again in Mists.  (DPS is only amusing for so long)  Second, it got me thinking about just where in the world (of warcraft) I learned how to tank with such consistency (and I’m definitely habitual and consistent), and really, just how I became as good as I am now.

I guess it starts in the beginning.

I learned the basics of the basics of tanking in Vanilla as a Priest first.  I quickly became very appreciative of any tank that could hold threat on (mostly) everything so I didn’t have a heart attack while trying to keep the group up, and more importantly myself, while mobs ran rampant.  The difference between the two were night and day, however the subtleties didn’t quite grab me at that level.

After my Priest was my Warrior. I wanted to tank.  Problem was, I only had a very, very vague idea on how to do so.  The group of friends I played with at the time taught me the basics.  Stance dancing to Thunder Clap, using Demo Shout and Cleave, pushing Shield Block in order to use Revenge, and most importantly: Sunder Armor.  I won’t say I was good, in fact I’m sure I was bad, but I was learning.  From playing my priest, I knew it was important to stop the mobs from hitting my other party members, especially my healer, so I did the best I could do with what I knew.

It wasn’t until the very tail end of BC that I picked up tanking again.  Reesi was Resto at the time, but I came across a Bear that was really good; as good as the better warriors I was healing in heroics.  I eventually befriended this Bear and he taught me how to be a bear and just about everything he knew.  How to gear for tanking, how to AoE tank (3-target swipe and lacerates!), how to AoE pull with Wrath, Starfire, Moonfire, and Hurricane, and most importantly, to use “V” to show health bars above mobs in order to better target them.  I tried my first heroic – Mechanar because it was easiest at the time, and took it slow-ish.  I knew the pulls from healing them (and resto tanking them!), so I knew what to avoid and what to wait for by observation.  The only really rough patch was the gauntlet just before the final boss, but I did fine.  I remember joining a Karazhan pug and being nervous as all hell.  Tanking a few heroics was one thing.  Tanking a raid, with a pug, was another.  They actually let me tank Prince.  Luckily we didn’t get horrible Inferno spawns and killed him the first go around.  Success!  Tanking wasn’t so bad after all, and I found I did pretty well with it, with practice, though I still wasn’t terribly comfortable with it.

I didn’t tank a whole lot then, as it was nearing the release of Wrath and I had found a new love for Enhance Shaman.  Playing melee completely altered my view of what made a good tank and what made a bad tank.  Getting threat on everything I understood easily enough.  The one thing that rubbed me the wrong way with tanks was always positioning.  It wasn’t something I entirely considered when I tanked for that little bit on Reesi.  Sure, I knew the basic “don’t stand in bad stuff” thing, but that was it.  I guess positioning a boss or trash isn’t really something you learn to appreciate until you’ve played a melee class that has to chase after a constantly moving target – and have to constantly replace totems in the process because of it(I hated you Grobbulus…).  Chasing after mobs is a giant pain in the ass… especially when there’s no necessary reason for the mob to move.  The other was turning mobs with a cleave or breath attack. Whenever tanks didn’t turn a boss that had either of those, or both, and forced the rest of the party to move in order to avoid it, I got pretty mad.

Naxxramas came and went.  My itch to work on tanking surfaced again.  At the time we had two tanks and I was sure I could do better.  In my some-what brief play as an Enhance, I learned a lot more about raiding, min maxing, and all the connotations that progression (albeit not hardcore) raiding brought along.  I had been keeping up on the official forums for Enhance (Thanks, Elam!), so that carried over to Reesi when I swapped to her the second week of Ulduar.

I was the third tank, so I learned how to Feral DPS in Ulduar and I really learned how to Bear tank in there as well.  With the help of Thatgrimguy’s sticky on the official forums, I learned Bears very well.  I started to fine-tune my tanking.  I started to use macros.  I started to change my keybinds and UI to better facilitate what I needed to do. I became an expert in the rotation – without the stupid cast sequence macro – and my guild’s dps began to notice how good my threat actually was and rely on me for it.  Man, give me more of that praise.  I loved it!  It was extremely satisfying to know my tanking was appreciated.

Feral DPS, however, I think is what fine-tuned my need for consistency.  Having a positional attack really forced me to pay attention to mob positions.  If I couldn’t shred, I wasn’t doing well.  I knew how much it sucked to have a boss be moved in such a way that it caused me to be in the parry zone, if even for a few seconds.  I knew how annoying it was when tanks turned a boss around slowly.  I again knew the pain of twitchy mobs.  Having to deal with that as a melee DPS really just sucks.  You may think we’re just being whiny bitches, and to a degree we are, but when you want to be competitive DPS and are being held back, if only a little, by a tank that doesn’t care or realize the importance of stationary and well-positioned mobs, it’s really, really frustrating.

My competitive spirit, my drive to be a good player, and the satisfaction of doing my job well all drove me to become the complete-package tank, though I didn’t really know it at the time.  I just wanted to do my job well.  I wanted to tank, but do it in such a way that didn’t inconvenience the rest of the raid or party (and if I was going to do something odd, I’d always find myself saying so over vent so they could at least prepare).  I moved on from my Ulduar guild to a higher up guild (US 69th) and mostly DPS’d for them, though somewhere during ToC I ended up being one of their main tanks.  I got a bit better, though the strain wasn’t that much.  There were a few DPS that would challenge my threat if I wasn’t careful, but that made it fun when I could hold my own against them.

Essentially, all the little things I picked up on in my years of playing WoW all culminated into my ability to tank.

I knew how to manipulate mob hit boxes in order to move in such a way that wasn’t frustrating for melee, I knew how to hold threat and hold threat well, I knew when to use cooldowns… I was in a good guild and getting praise for my tanking.  I thought I was done learning.

I joined Drow.

I was seriously wrong.

Going from a guild that was barely making progress in Heroic ICC to a guild that had every boss but Lich King on farm caught me so off guard the first week that it shook my confidence to the core.  I didn’t know a damn thing about progression raiding at a top US level and I felt extremely lost.  It was a trial by fire, and I felt like a complete ass after the first week.  I lost AoE threat on gunship (hearing “Why are people dead on gunship?” on vent really sent me over the emo edge), I had the melee DPS yelling at me on Rotface for not keeping the boss turned in the direction he spewed, I’m pretty sure I messed something up on Princes, I again lost threat on Valithria, and I screwed up the healer’s positioning strategy for Sindragosa.  I was simply not prepared for Drow’s level of DPS and their overall raid synergy.  Even though I had been asking questions, I still felt lost.

The only thing that DID go well was my single target threat.

I’m super competitive in games, and not to derail my own blog post, but being told you couldn’t play with the boys because you’re a girl throughout your childhood (I grew up around boys!) really kind of drives the competitive spirit into almost everything you do.  (“Anything you can do, I can do better”) I had something to prove, and though I enjoy playing games just to play them, there were underlying motives.  So, I forced myself to get even better.  I wanted to be in Drow and to prove that I, a female, could tank at that level.  To play with the boys, so to speak.  I knew I was on a worse chopping block because of that (and because Drow had not recruited a female since Sunwell).  I wanted the satisfaction of tanking for players that were not just good, but amazing, and to also be at their level.

The next week arguably went better.  I added Tidy Plates: Threat Plates to my UI arsenal (<3), I cleaned up my boss mods and I made sure my unit frames would display the other tank’s debuffs.  I was determined to do better.  Gunship came around and I figured I could get away with some of my DPS gear, since the adds didn’t seem to hit very hard.  Armor Pen combined with a Bear = Mostly better threat than the locks and mages = no dead people on Gunship.  Success!  The rest of my mistakes were pretty much fixed for the rest of the fights.  All of it was looking good, though I still was very hard on myself whenever I screwed up.

Probably my worst screw up with Drow was when they brought me in for H. LK attempts.  I was doing well (again learning the subtleties of his twitchy hitbox with lots of ghouls around, and moving him into place for Defile without moving him too much, and learning how to run across the platform from ghosts without screwing melee over, etc), until I went to hit a cooldown for Soul Reaper and immediately started spamming Druid chat with “Innervating Lich King!!”

Psst.  That wasn’t Frenzied Regen you just hit, Reesi.  That was Innervate.  And now you’re in caster form with Lich King about to hit you with Soul Reaper and you have no cooldown and you’re not a bear and you’re about to di—SPLAT

Deadbear.  :(

Needless to say I felt like a complete moron.  And I learned the importance of never, ever, ever having any of your caster form ability keybinds anywhere near your cooldowns.

After all that (it was probably the most stressful month I have ever had in WoW) I was promoted to Raid Team, but I really wasn’t completely done learning.  Drow challenged me in new ways all the time.  Being on the edge of that kind of progression really forces you to play to the best of your abilities in more ways than one.  I’ve learned how to tweak gear when a situation calls for it – and not be afraid to do so.  The worst you can do is die horribly, and that can be fixed the next attempt!  I learned how to utilize my UI to make playing easier in order to pay attention to my surroundings.  I learned how to grab threat without tricks (before the threat changes, clearly) and keep it from the fury warriors, even if that meant using Growl, then Challenging Roar, then Growl again.  Adaptability is a huge quality to have; if something I’m doing isn’t working one way, then I go ahead and try it a different way.

I suppose what I’m trying to get at is, in order for someone to be a great tank, they can’t ever really be done learning.  There’s always a new challenge that surfaces that must be overcome, even if it’s something small like learning how a boss’s hitbox interacts with your own and manipulating it to your advantage.

With my return to tanking and a new tanking model surfacing for Mists, I’m sure I’ll have plenty to learn yet again in order to maintain my level of play.  I welcome the challenge.