10 Man Drama

Attempting to organize 10 mans in a 25 man guild is problematic at the best of times.  At its worst, it explodes into a misunderstood complexity of anger and resentment as several eager, would be participants sit on the sidelines watching the epics drop and the frost emblems stockpile.

Most unfortunately, the latter applied to our endeavours into ICC 10 last night.  Despite my attempt to represent the best interests of the guild and include as many people in successful ICC runs, tempers boiled over.

The Problem:

 I had interest from 23 players for ICC 10 mans.  Even with a perfect distribution of all 3 parts of the Holy Trinity, at least 3 players are going to get “screwed over” and end up riding the proverbial bench.

The Bigger Problem:

Group composition was a major issue.  Although running multiple 10 mans simultaneously was a potential option, it would have required a minimum of 7 respecs (2 dps to tank specs, 3 dps to healer specs, and at least 1 dps switching to a replenishment spec).

The Options:

There were two paths we could follow.  The first was to establish two groups simultaneously.  Invite everyone to a raid, divide into two groups, ask players to respec/gem/enchant and fly over to ICC to get started.

The second option was to run two groups back to back to allow raid viable tank and healer alts the ability to assist the second raid.

The Dilemma:

Running two groups simultaneously had the distinct advantage of including the greatest number of people from the start.   Unfortunately it also came with the great disadvantage of having a minimum of 7 players raiding new content in secondary, lesser geared, inexperienced specs.

Running two groups back to back had the advantage of ensuring all players were experienced in their raid role with raid ready gear and specs.  The significant draw back was that it required one group to sit idle until the first group completed its run.  Additionally, any raid critical roles filled by an alt is one less person of the 23 that will get to attend.

The Objective:

What should be the objective of our 10 man raids?  Are they meant to include as many players as possible?  Or are they an oppertunity to further gear up the raid for progression 25 man raids?   Should the focus be on completing raids in the shortest time frame possible?  Or ensure that all bosses are cleared to maximize utility? 

My Issue:

Regardless of which route is chosen, people will be disappointed.  Either it is the players sitting on the sidelines waiting for their chance to raid as a streamlined 10 man steamrolls bosses, or the  raiders who won’t get a chance to win that highly coveted upgrade they desperately need to pull up their numbers in 25 man raids, or even just the unlucky 3 people who get left out altogether…it is impossible and naïve to think you can please everyone.

The question then is how do you decide who gets the short straw?  How do you decide if you are going to tell a group of players they get to wait until one group finishes before they’ll have enough healers and tank to start their run?  How do you decide if you are going to tell a group of players that they can’t run with the group they have already commited to and have been raiding with for months?  And most of all, how do you tell someone that there is no reason why you don’t have a spot for them other than that 25 doesn’t divide equally into 10?

Nerf English?

Shortly after my last post one of my answer was brought to my attention. It seems that there is some debate as to the wording of one of the questions. Rather than tackle the issue, I’ll make it a non issue by adding a response to the other interpretation of the question.

What tanking class do you enjoy tanking along side the most?

I strongly support the bring the player, not the class mentality. I’d rather bring someone I work well with who has a strong understanding of both game and fight mechanics over the player that has the right button for the encounter.

Assuming all things equal, I’d probably say a warrior tank. This is almost exclusively due to the fact that they have everything I lack. They have access to stuns, shield block mechanics (including spell reflect!), fear immunity and a spell interrupt on short cooldown. Together, it is likely we will have all necessary tools required to make any encounter easier on the raid.

Secondly, a quick addition to a previous answer.

Stamina or Avoidance, and why?

My previous answer to this question was armor. I feel that overall mitigation adds longevity to your tanks lifespan as well as reduces the stress on your healers. However, this isn’t something that can be directly geared for anymore and as such, my response is effectively a non answer.

Given the choice between the two, I’d say stamina. Partially because it scales so amazingly well with my class…but also because I hate putting my faith in a random number generator. Having avoidance is important and in the long-term will reduce the damage I take by a very significant margin. Despite this however, the raid will likely find my insanely high chance to dodge to be of little comfort when an unlucky series of hits downs me before a healer can respond.

Circle of Tanks

It has been a very long time since I made my last post.  A day turned into a week, which turned into months in succession.  Much has happened since my last post. Both in regards to druids, my guild, and life outside of the game

Rather than talk aboot starting to blog again or waiting for some epic druid change to force me back into the blogosphere realm, I’m just going to dive in.  And what better way than to respond to the tag I’ve received from my Fiance.

* What is the name, class, and spec of your primary tank?

Keaton is my level 80 “tank it first, ask questions second” feral druid.

* What is your usual tanking environment?

Keaton has played the meatshield for most every fight available in the game, from the Deadmines of Westfall to Trial of the Grand Crusader deep within the heart of Icecrown.  I spend the majority of my time on Keaton tanking our guilds 10 and 25 man raids.  I’ll run the odd heroic every now and then when a guild run can’t find a tank in /trade or my Fiance is 3 badges short of getting those cute new shoes she has been waiting to get her hooves on.
* What is your favorite encounter to tank, and why?

My favourite encounter of all time would have to be Solarian in Tempest Keep, eh Michelle?😉

Honestly though, I would probably have to say A’lar in Tempest Keep or Fathom Lord or Serpent Shine Cavern.  Both fights go well beyond typical meatshield mechanics.  Movement, and mob placement is crucial to raid success.  Both fights really engage a tank and force them to use their environment to their advantage, instead of focusing on your maximum hate rotation.

* What is your least favorite encounter to tank, and why?

I have two separate answers for this question.  Currently, I despise Twin Val’kyr/Grobbulus.  Not that I dislike either encounters mechanics or find them overly difficult…but they have the most ridiculous hit boxes.  If I so much as lean on my hind paws, they run clear across the room it seems >.<  Making them hold still long enough for dps to hit them is a feat in and of itself.

Historically, I’d have to say The Prophet Tharon’ja from (Heroic) Drak’Tharon Keep.  For several months after the release of the expansion, the fight was glitched in a manner that made it un-tankable by a feral druid.  He alternates between fighting the party in their normal forms and transforming everyone into skeletons with unique abilities.  In the few seconds that followed after the switch back to normal and removing the temporary undead forms, druids were considered to be in caster form and unable to shapeshift.  No armor, stamina or crit reduction bonus’.  Parties began to refuse to bring druid tanks to this instance as a result.  And did I mention the encounter dropped Keystone Great-Ring  >.<

* What do you think is the biggest strength of your class, and why?

Without a doubt, versatility.  Regardless of the group composition or the class of my partner tank(s), I’m bound to excel in an area they generally lack performance in.  Druids have massive hate output, excellent damage capabilities (I usually put out 3.8K while tanking/offtanking Gormok the Impaler.  /flex) enormous hit point pools, effective AoE threat capabilities, unrivalled combat mobility, as well as unique abilities like Rebirth (Battle Rez) and Innervate.

Feral Druids can make efficient main tanks, and very effective off tank/dps hybrids.

* What do you think is the biggest weakness of your class, and why?

 AoE tanking mitigation and a spell interupt. 

Also, feral forms have the most obscure punishments.  For example, I can’t use any cosmetic effect to modify my characters appearance.  If I que into a battleground or arena while in flight form, at the completion of the encounter, I will reappear in the sky, plumetting towards the earth.

Weird druid only issues are weird and druid only >.<

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel is the best tanking assignment for you?

As I said above, the real strength of any druid is their versatility.  Thus, I usually plan my assignment based on who I am tanking alongside.  Generally, I’m better served tanking the boss instead of adds.  My mitigation while AoE tanking is significantly less than a block tank would be.  However, my swipe/maul combo is great for snap aggro on a couple of targets.

The “best” fight for a druid to tank however is anything that hits very hard as supposed to very fast.  The massive hit point pool gives your healers alot of room to work with and don’t need to be afraid of you getting two shot.

* What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with the most?

Druid.  Bear is 4 tank!

What is your worst habit as a tank?

Pulling aggro off my fellow tanks on trash or taunt rotations.  When I’m going through my max dps rotation, my threat output is exceptionally high, especially on multiple targets (Please don’t nerf my glyph of Maul!).  While I usually don’t have an issue with this, whenever I hit my Bearzerk (C wut I did thar?) cooldown, I lose all ability to use rational thought.  The world fades away…there is only me, the mobs and the insane amount of damage I’m aboot to do in the next 15 seconds. =D

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while tanking?

I have one MAJOR pet peeve and it is a problem exclusive to druids.

Rebirth:  Whenever I see a player drop in the raid, I quickly begin to evaluate the situation.  Will this death result in a wipe?  If so, would resurrecting this person in time prevent it?  Is there a reasonable chance for winning the encounter from this point on?  Should I save my rez for someone fundamental to this fight that we couldn’t succeed without?  Should I decide the situation warrants the use of my battle rez, I now need to prepare for the cast.  

Damn, Anicella just died.  We could really use his dps for this.  Where is Annah and Liluye?  Oh good, they’re close enough for me to move a few yards without getting out of healing range.  Now, lets turn this boss every so slightly to the side…careful not to cleave the melee…good, now slide away from the wall…just a little further….Okay, I’m in range of Anicella’s corpse.  Okay, get a feel for the timing.  BAM, One steamboat, two stea– BAM, theres the hit.  Okay I’ve got the rhythm.  Wait for it…I need to get topped off…NOW!  **Keaton begins casting rebirth**  And back to bear…YES!  Pulls it off, healers have me under control.  Okay, pull the boss back into position.  Give Anicella room to jump up….back to the wall…keep coming….stupid mob, get over here….there we go.  Okay, turn back.  There we go.  Wheeew, what a rush.  Hmmmm, whats Anicella waiting for?  I’ve moved the boss away, theres no fire on the ground….there aren’t any adds to worry aboot.  Still not jumping up.  What the hell.  “Anicella, you get that rez?”  My question echo’s over ventrillo and is met with total silence.  Great, all that effort and he’s AFK.  /sigh

Theres nothing more frustrating than wasting a 20 minute cooldown just to have someone not use it.  Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you should walk away from your keyboard. 

* Do you feel your class/spec is balanced with respect to the other tanking classes?

More or less.  The game has changed alot since TBC.  Theres no such thing as the warrior fight, or the paladin fight or the druid fight anymore.  In theory any tank should be able to tank any encounter without complications.  I’ve never heard our healers say “You’re taking too much damage.  Let the death knight tank instead, we know we can keep him up.”

At least not since Obsidian Sanctum 3 Drake attempts >.<

* What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a tank?


I’m a firm believer that damage meters don’t tell the full story.  Did I live?  Did I hold aggro?  Did I keep the boss under control?  Awesome.

If I’m underperforming, my healers will let me know they can’t keep me up, or my dps will start crying that they are threat cap’d.

* What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have with your tanking class?

“Dr00dz can tank and dps in the same spec, they are OP!”

I assure you, I cannot.  If I attempt to dps in a raid while in my tanking spec I’ll place 15th.  Ahead of the other two tanks and our raids 7 healers.  The only way I’ll climb higher on the meter is if someone is afk, dies early in the fight, or is not yet level 80. 

Additionally, when I switch to dps, I cannot tank.  I lose several thousand armor, 6% dodge as well as 12% damage reduction.  To put this into perspective, this is the equivalent of asking a prot warrior to remove his chest piece, and start tanking in Berserker stance. 

“Dr00dz are immune to snares, they are OP!”

Sorry, no.  Being immune would suggest that snares would have no effect.  That any class is incapable of slowing a druid or locking them in place.  I don’t have a passive blessing of freedom.  If you frost nova me, I can’t move.  If you hamstring me, I can’t run.  I’m just as vulnerable to snares as any other class in the game.  Except shaman in ghost wolf form….apparently.  /boggle

Yes, I can break out of a snare, but it comes at the cost of several hundred mana and a global cooldown.  A global cooldown spent on breaking a snare is a global cooldown I can’t use to hit you.  So yes, I’m not doomed to sit in that frost nova for the full duration, but any warrior, DK, hunter, rogue, druid, arcane mage, or affliction warlock can keep me from using a global cooldown for any offensive purpose, indefinitely.
* What do you think is the toughest thing for new players of your class to learn about tanking?
Definitely how to gear.  Druids.  Are. Soooooo. Weird.  Most tanks have it easy when it comes to learning how to gear a tank.  Sure every class favours certain stats over others, but every plate tanking piece in the game will have some combination of dodge, parry, block (rating or value) or defence.  You really would have to be blind to not recognize a tank piece when you see it.

Ferals on the other hand have to sift through the leather they want.  There is no tell tail sign. 

Hmm, which of these bracers is better for tanking?  These ones have Armor Penetration, but these ones have haste.  /ponder

* If someone were to evaluate your tanking ability via tools like fraps, recount, and World of Logs, what tendencies would they notice?

Um, how much time I spend answering whispers aboot how to do the next fight in between attempts? =P

There is probably two things that would stand out when I play.  I always try to maximize my incidental damage (have I mentioned how much I love glyph of maul?). 

The second is how infrequently I use barkskin.  I’ve essentially written it off as an ability.  While I understand the mathematics behind the ability and acknowledge that over the course of an encounter the damage it mitigates would be quite sizeable…I find it completely useless.

The point of a tanking cooldown, is to drastically reduce the amount of incoming damage.  20% reduction from barkskin is hardly enough to save me from a would be wipe.  I’d be shocked if my healers actually noticed the decrease of damage and attributed it to anything other than, a lucky dodge streak.

I’ll take a longer cooldown on barkskin with a bigger reduction to damage anyday.

Stamina or Avoidance, and why?

Armor.  Overall mitigation > mana sponge or RNG.

* Which tanking class do you understand the least?

Death Knights.  Mainly because I’ve tanked 25 man raid content on the other 3 tanking classes.  Time for another alt? =P

* What addons or macros do you currently use to aid you in tanking?

/cast Dire Bear Form(Shapeshift)

This simple but amazing macro will take you from any form to bear form in a single global cooldown.  Great for those “Oh shit, I need to get back into bear before he hits me again” moments.  Or “damn, I really need to get out of this snare, but that mob is going to destroy me if I do.”

* Do you strive for a balance in tanking stats, or do you stack some higher than others, and why?

Unlike other tanks, druids cannot block or parry.  This means we benefit from a smaller list of stats than most.  As such, I pretty much exclusively stack agility and stamina.  If I pick up some stats that benefit my aggro generation along the way, all the better =D

Hopefully people find this helpful or at the very least a touch intriguing.  As for the tag….I call upon that crazy shaman that isn’t actually on Ramen.  You’re up Elam!

Feral-Spec vs Feral-spec?

Druids are one of the most unique classes in all of the World of Warcraft.  Not only do they have the ability to mimic the ‘pure’ classes, but they also have access to an exclusive set of spells that other classes are unable to replicate (most noteworthy, shape-shifting, innervate and rebirth).  This alone has always been a hot issue with the pure classes and has been used in countless debates that theorize the need for pure classes to outperform their hybrid counterparts to offset this lack of unique-ness.  If this isn’t enough, druids are the only class in the game capable of filling all 4 potential roles.  Druids have a heal spec, a tank spec and a dps spec of both the caster and melee variety.  This versatility has long been the druids claim to fame;  The jack of all trades and the master of none.

This versatilityis what I both love and hate the most aboot my class.  It’s a double-edged sword.  While it allows me to be effective at my role and (more) able to switch to perform a different function at a moments notice, it also inhibits me from belonging to any group in particular.  I’m not a “real” tank.  I don’t wear plate.  I don’t use a shield.  I can’t block or parry.  I don’t benefit from the same tanking stats my counterparts do.  I don’t bid when any of the ‘tank’ loot drops.  To the tanking community, I’m an outsider…more akin to a rogue than a tank and much more capable of dps-ing when not required to tank than they ever could.  Yet at the same time, I’m not a dps.  I don’t spec for damage.  I don’t gear for output.  I focus on creating hate, not minimizing it.  Even if I equip, gem and enchant for full dps and hit my rotation perfectly, I’ll place 13th on the damage meter…just ahead of that absent minded hunter that stood in the bad and behind that recently returned to the guild mage that is still wearing quest reward blues.  This lack of identity has me wondering where the line is between the two feral specs.  Where is the line between tank and dps? 

An interesting situation came up this week in which I couldn’t decide the answer.  While a handful of us have completed our Glory of the Raiderachievements, several of our raiders are one or two check marks shy of their proto-drakes.  After an hour or so of attempts at A Poke in the Eye, we conquered the fight and went to claim our loot.  To our surprise a Surge Needle Ring dropped.  Though this ring may not be best in slot in terms of enhanced health or mitigation, it is something I have been waiting for, for a long time.  My current gear set is starved of hit and I am relying on several poorly socketed +16 hit pieces to meet my hit quota.  Eagerly, I hit need and watched the resulting roll off between me and the two hunters present.  The RNG showed mercy on me and I won the roll.

Both hunters we upset at losing the roll.  One of them actually tried to enter into negotiations with me for how much it would cost me to give him the ring.  As I started to generate my response telling him that attempting to persuade a fellow guild member to pass a desired upgrade was not only selfish but would be attempting to undermine our entire loot system, a thought crept into my mind.  Is this a main spec bid for me?

On the surface, yes.  My main spec is feral.  This item has nothing but good stats for me.  Stamina and agility are my most important survivability stats.  Hit, crit, agility and AP are crucial to me generating sufficient hate.  There is no wasted stats on this ring that I am unable to benifit from.  It is an upgrade in every way from the ring it will be replacing.  The problem?  This isn’t a mitigation ring.  I know there will be times I will swap it out for a ring with more stamina or dodge.  The hunters on the other hand will certainly use this ring for every PvE fight they participate in from now until they replace it.  Does this trump my bid?  Is this more of a main spec for them than it would be for me?

I have no doubts that I will use this ring for my main spec.  Not all fights favour the same stats or gear sets.  The set I use to tank Sartharion is very different from the one that I use for tanking Patchwork.  But where is the line?

Though it has been several days, the ring is still sitting in my bag unequipped, until I can assure myself that needing that ring was the right, and fair thing to do.

The Aftermath

This is a follow-up to my With Great Loot, Comes Great Responsibility post.  As players started to become bored with WotLK content, our raid numbers began to dwindle.  Week after week, our dedicated raiders would log on for our Sartharion 3D attempts, farm their necessary food and flask buffs, fully repair, stock up on reagents and patiently wait for my instructions to journey to the Obsidian Sanctum … only to discover 19 raiders online at invite time.  Despite having several discussions about the issue both in game and via our guild forums, we were unable to break this trend.  Thus we were left with only one viable option.  In order to continue progression we had to re-open recruitment.

Recruitment is never a bad thing.  We are always on the look out for more friends.  Our guild’s doors will never be closed to quality players who share our sense of community and maturity.  The reason I dreaded the process was because of the problem we knew it would one day cause.

After we began to interview applicants our roster began to swell with new initiates, we were finally able to fill our raids again.  No longer were we forced to bypass 3-drake progression for another 19 man attempt on Kel’Thuzad. While I’ll omit the details of our experience, they are well documented in Reflections of a Twilight Vanquisher over at my girlfriend’s blog.

Naturally, the kill was a huge victory for the guild.  Not only were players excited aboot their new titles and filled with the newfound desire to complete their Heroic: Glory of the Raider achievement, but the highly-coveted Twilight Drake transformed overnight from a distant dream to an inevitability.  There was an atmosphere of excitement in the guild and a renewed sense of purpose.  Within days, our once skeleton raid roster exploded.  Instead of scrambling to find enough healers or DPS to make our raids viable, 35 raiders were online half an hour before invites.  Everyone was enchanted, gemmed and prepared to accept an invite.

We had expected this all along.  We knew that the day we killed Sarth 3D everyone would return.  We made it well known that when the day came and there was wide-spread raid interest once more, we would prioritize raid invites to those who participated in the learning process and made the first kill possible.

Needless to say players who decided to take a break from the game are horrified to discover that we aren’t willing to bump the players that committed to wiping and learning the fight with us.

I can only shake my head.

I’ve spent the past few weeks fighting the urge to publish my post on the take of the upcoming 3.1 changes.  There is little to no point on commenting on things that Blizzard is experimenting with, trying to find a balance.  Personally, I feel that having a fit at the mere sight of the patch notes is at best unproductive and at worst, throwing a childish temper tantrum.  The unfortunate side effect is that I have been unable to allow myself to focus on the writing I’d usually be doing.  I am working on breaking this habit given that nobody has any idea when 3.1 will be and I think I’d be punishing myself by keeping quiet altogether while I wait.

For today, I just want to float a thought.  Whoever decided that allowing 25 man raid trash to be vulnerable to knockback effects  was a good idea, needs to give their head a good shake…or perhaps 20 minutes in the military wing with my guild’s core elemental shaman.  I’ll never forget the screams on Vent after that first thunderstorm blasted multiple whirlwinding warriors into our carefree, AoE-ing clothies (I guess grouping for Circle of Healing has its disadvantages :S). 

Don’t get me wrong.  I am a druid after all.  I pride myself on thinking that it was my duty back in TBC raiding to prolong the existence of the last mob on each trash pull by casting cyclone and waiting for the groans on Vent.  The best part was that all our druids did it so even we didn’t know who was to blame!  But never once did I kill a raider by doing this.  Never once did I cause a raid wipe or force us to spend the next 5 minutes summoning back players who needed to go repair as a result.

There’s a big difference between using your abilities to have fun and being a jerk.  If you want to knock mobs away from the tanks, that’s fine.  If you want to punt the carefully positioned pack out of the AoE, that’s fair.  The 3 seconds lost recasting isn’t the end of the world.  But if you are going to do it, at least wait until the tanks have enough aggro that you aren’t ganking your own raid.

Nerf Omen of Clarity

I don’t know if it is the boredom of a lack of new raid content to progress in, or the upcoming removal of the drake rewards for the Naxx based achievements…but recently my guild has been bitten by the achievement bug.  Instead of planning runs to farm gear or earn badges, players are more concerned with ticking off those achievements one by one.  This week something revolutionary happened! 

For the first time ever, I spec’d my druid into a pure cat build.  Ever since the first talent point that I earned at level ten, my druid has been meant to tank.  It is his purpose; It is what I love to do.  But given that we usually raid with 4 or 5 tanks for our progression, it’s hard to draw straws and tell someone that they get to sit out of the 10 man adventure.  Since I’m kicking around the idea of making my 3.1 duel spec a trash dps build, I figured it an ideal opportunity to test my output in a manner that didn’t require the raid to suffer my experimentation.

So as we begin preparations for the raid, I collect the necessary mats for my needed kitty glyphs.  I swap out my bear gems for ones better suited for a dps.  Once I’m properly geared, with proper gems and enchants, I begin casting my most beloved spell, Teleport: Moonglade (you’re not a real druid until you’ve fled from an arena match by breaking combat, restealthing, finding a safe corner and teleporting to freedom!).  I hop into the water, bear paddle my way to the trainer and ask my trainer to clear my mind of what I have learned so that I can start anew.  As I begin to spec, I hear this very familiar sound and my hand twitches instinctively towards my swipe key.  As I ponder the situation I say to myself “thats funny…I usually only hear that sound when omen of clarity procs a…clearcast?!”

I’ve randomly seen it occur when crafting bandages or while skilling up my leatherworking, but this was something I never expected.  Had I not seen it myself, I never would have believed it.  I managed to proc two clearcasts by doing nothing more than spending talent points. 

Omen of Clarity is clearly in need of a nerf =P