Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tanks for the Memories

Everytime I play WoW, I learn something new. Sometimes my enlightenment is simple, like finding a new location where Titanium Ore could spawn. Other times, it's an admonishment that you're not quite there yet, like the spanking I got when I tried to solo the Rider of Frost in Northrend. I personally prefer the last variety, where I surprised myself by being able to do something -like the time I buzzed Teldrassil collecting the coins of Ancestry with four 80's on my tail and roughly 1k of health left. (Have I mentioned lately that I love Crusader Aura?)

Today's last early morning run through the Halls of Stone produced one of that third variety.

The run didn't start out that interesting; three of us had just finished a Culling of Stratholme run, and I had about 45-50 minutes available. That CoT run was unremarkable, which is always a good thing. (Well, the Druid healer had an annoying tendency to run ahead of everyone else, but I guess he figured I'd rez him if he wiped.) After CoT finished the tank suggested a last run, and both the Mage and I were fine with that.

Our group for the HoS run consisted of: Warrior (Tank), Priest (Healer), Mage (DPS), Warlock (DPS), and Quintalan (DPS).

The first trash mob went okay, but during the second and third a few problems became apparent:

  • The tank had issues keeping threat. The Dark Iron dwarves stuck with him, but the Stormforged had an annoying tendency to overshoot him and go after either me or one of the others, which meant I had to lay off of some of my attacks, drawing out the fight a bit further.
  • The lock was a Boomkin. The tank had enough problems, but everytime that Boomkin laid an attack in, about a third of the trash would peel off after him.
  • The Priest was struggling under the strain. I didn't get the time to inspect him, but I think he had some other issues in addition to constantly running out of mana. The tank told him to let him know if he needed to drink, and then he would only drink just enough to get to 40% before the tank would take off again.

On the fourth trash mob everything hit the fan. The Boomkin had the Stormforged aggro on him, the Warrior tank peeled away from the trash to go chase the Stormforged. The trash didn't follow the tank and aggroed on me instead. The Priest ran out of mana, my bubble expired, and both the Boomkin and I wiped. Everyone else followed suit.

When we all ran back inside, a big fight broke out. The Priest accused the Warrior of being a terrible tank, and the Warrior shot back about the Priest's poor healing. The Boomkin kind of kept quiet, which was smart for him given that he was pulling aggro so much. And me? I filled up my coffee mug, settled in, and watched the show. I had a little over a half an hour left, so I knew that if I dropped I might not squeeze in another run. Besides, it was nice to not be in the middle of a Tank/Healer spat.

Eventually the Warrior had it, and floated a resolution to kick the Priest out. The Priest split before everyone could vote, so we queued up for a replacement. Thankfully, this one was seriously overgeared (I checked), so at least one of three problems was solved.

We survived the rest of the dungeon until we got to Sjonnir. If I had a dollar every time the Boomkin pulled aggro on that boss, I'd have enough for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. Even the overgeared Priest couldn't keep up, and the tank and Boomkin both wiped.

That's when I became the tank.

Sjonnir started chasing the Mage and Priest back down the entrance, and I overtook him from behind, pulling aggro back on me. All we had to do was last about 10% of the boss' health, and I turned on Righteous Fury and just started wailing away, using Lay on Hands to bring myself back to full health. The Mage turned back and zapped Sjonnir a few times and I just kept going with as many Holy spells as possible until he fell over.

Considering that I was the only melee person left, it made sense that I'd pretend to be a tank for a few desperate minutes. If Sjonnir had more health we'd all probably have wiped, but he didn't. If I had to hunt for Righteous Fury instead of having it on one of my bars, it could have gone bad as well. (Don't ask why I stuck it at the bottom of one of the bars, I had it in the "just in case" corner I usually stick the "summon drake" from The Oculus.)

I once mentioned in a previous post that if you're the only melee in the group left, you become the tank by default. I'd written that when I was doing PvP in Warsong Gulch, but I didn't really internalize that with 5-man instances. I've been in enough groups where the tank wipes and the rest of us follow suit, so having a group survive a tank death in a boss fight is kind of a surprise. By comparison, Quint has less than half of the Health that Souldat has, and even if Quint had similar gear levels but for Ret Spec he'd still be well under Soul's health level. Such a disparity is not good for the fill-in tank, but it doesn't need to be for emergencies. All you have to do is survive.

That is about as much exposure to being a tank as I want. The amount of trust a tank must have in the healer makes me nervous in a PuG. You're much better off being overgeared than relying heavily on an unknown element. However, the point of the group is trust; you trust everyone to do their job so that the team can survive. And you have to trust that if someone fails, they learn and get better for the next run.


  1. Interesting post. It's cool to see that you're picking up on the some of the save moves you can do to help support the group.

    Tanking is an interesting thing to tackle. For instance in last night's 25 man raid,we were fighting Lord Marrowgar. This fight requires 3 tanks. He does an aoe frontal cleave that splits damage between everybody in front of him, hence the three tanks. He hits HARD. Myself and our other guild tank took the hits pretty well, but the third tank dropped like a wet sack of potatoes.

    In the raiding environment, everybody has to be on the top of their game. In this case, a healer can spam heals all they want, if your gear level is not up to snuff, you'll just drop. Not much you can do about it, except get better gear.

    As a side note, I made it up to 52k HP fully raid buffed last night. /flex

  2. Well, part of me kind of wanted to keep the Warrior and Lock dead, but at least the Warrior apologized for not holding aggro. If I don't see that Boomkin again for a while, that'll be very pleasant; I don't think it ever occurred to him that he was causing all sorts of problems. It was a three way massive fail with plenty of blame to go around, and the Mage and I were caught in the middle.

    Sure beat the Drak'Tharon run at the beginning of the morning where the Healer's keyboard stopped working in the middle of Trollgore.

    Tanking is an interesting thing to tackle. For instance in last night's 25 man raid,we were fighting Lord Marrowgar. This fight requires 3 tanks. He does an aoe frontal cleave that splits damage between everybody in front of him, hence the three tanks.

    Only three tanks? Sounds a couple short. Unless there isn't a stricly linear progression on the raid sizes.