It came about due to a scheduling mix-up resulting from some confusion about what 00:00 (in military time) really represents relative to the day of the week. Suffice to say that I meant to sign up for a Friday night raid on Icecrown Citadel to get my Warrior the Kingslayer title, but that was actually meant to happen Saturday night (which was not going to be possible as we were out of town). So instead I joined a guild dungeon queue and somehow let myself get talked into running it as the tank. I think it bears breaking down my experience, for my own edification, because there was a lot to note and plenty of things I learned I need to work on.
- We queued into Grim Batol, which was probably the best possible scenario because I love that instance, I’ve run it quite a lot and it only has four bosses, unlike the other dungeon I enjoy and am familiar with (Halls of Origination) which has nearly twice as many boss fights. Plus Grim Batol has a mechanic where you do a strafing run over the two main mob corridors and can soften them up quite significantly so it made most of the progression fights a lot easier to handle since they could practically be burned down without much tanking.
- The Hunter in our group left his pet’s Growl activated (I presume because we were doing a guild run; I tend to agree with the “turn it off during PUGs” camp in the comments section on Wowhead because unfamiliar groups without Ventrilo need to have as few potential run derailment factors present as possible) and said that in spite of that I was still maintaining aggro pretty well so I was glad to hear that.
- We had a Mage, and he didn’t completely overwhelm me in every single pull.
- It wasn’t until after the first two bosses were down that we had our first wipe.
- Not every wipe was my fault.
- It took me until about halfway through the run to realize exactly what the value of Vigilance is, and why it should always be up (probably on the Healer). Basically it refreshes Taunt every time the target party member takes damage (and gives you some Vengeance, but for a newbie tank the Taunt thing is the most critical) which allows you more of an opportunity to save that targeted party member.
- I really need to work on cleaner pulls. I hit just about every bad tanking form pull imaginable: Unintended pulls, pull without checking caster (and healer!) mana, pull before group is ready, pull without checking for patrol mobs, etc. I also discovered only recently that the Charge and Intercept abilities can be talent spec’d to work in Defensive stance which made my pulls better in that regard than those from my previous tanking attempt on my main Warrior (the aborted HoO run) but I watched some other tanks pulling later in the week as I was queuing with the Mage and they did some nice pulls that involved target-switching a taunt on one mob and then a ranged attack on another which draws the whole group. If there’s room between the mob starting position and the party, I saw a couple of those pulls where the tank also Intercepted the oncoming mobs in the middle which allowed the stun effect/damage effect to work while still leaving enough room for the crowd controlled units back at the original mob location to not get caught in anything’s blast and unhappily break CC but mostly it was good for rooms where you don’t necessarily want to charge yourself all the way in but instead need the mobs to come to you. In Grim Batol that’s less of an issue since it’s almost all long corridors but it was good to note.
- I’m still struggling with the rotation a bit. I think looking back on it a big part of my problem was my insistence on using Blood and Thunder which meant Intercepting to pull, hitting the primary target with Rend and then waiting for the global cooldown to drop Thunderclap. But since the party wasn’t exactly giving me to the count of three before they dove into their rotations, that was a long couple of ticks before TC could go off. In retrospect, the better choice would have been to pull, pop Thunderclapthen Rend/TC again to spread the DoT to all targets. The main rotation includingShield Slam, Revenge and a combination of Devastate and Sunder Armor needs a lot of work as well. My problem is that so many of Protection’s talents and abilities are inter-related in sometimes surprising ways I forget how to best use them all. For example, not only does Thunderclap affect Rend, but it also can stack a damage-boosting debuff that is usable by Shockwave. I think overall I did better than I had on my first effort, but I still have a ways to go.
- My interrupting was basically non-existent for the first three-fourths of the run, and even after that it was pretty miserable in its success rate.
- I relied way, way too much on the fact that my party members were outputting Heroic-level numbers and could pretty much melt most of the trash mobs without truly needing a tank. There were too many times when I saw a mob slip away and I just couldn’t get it together to Taunt it back. By the time I was out of the fire and looking for the stray mob, it was already dead.
- Mitigating damage is another area I need to work on. My defensive cooldowns went very unused, especially at first while I kind of hit whatever wasn’t on cooldown at random and ignored any ability that didn’t directly generate threat.
- I relied too much on Heroic Strike, which is bad because it’s a rage sink (intentionally) and over-using it means having too little rage for situational abilities.
- I didn’t pay enough attention to Challenging Shout throughout the run. It has a long cooldown but it’s basically an AoE Taunt and that can be extremely useful in big pull situations.
- My overall leadership skills: I kept looking for someone to tell me what I ought to do but that wasn’t their job. Our guild leader was healing the instance and he offered me occasional pointers but it’s so true that everyone automatically assumes the tank is the dungeon guide and they follow behind. This isn’t a role I’m used to in the game or in real life, but it’s something I need to force myself to become more comfortable with (in both cases).
- Cleave was never used.
Overall, tanking is still very, very stressful to me, and I get into a sort of frantic mode during difficult fights. I’m hoping at some point a phenomenon similar to what they describe happens with players who move from amateur leagues into professional sports will set in: At first it’s so fast and hectic but as your experience grows eventually they say the game starts to slow down and you can anticipate things better, react to changes faster. So maybe that will happen with tanking. I certainly hope so.
I think the main thing I can do to improve my effectiveness as a tank would be to re-organize my hotbars a bit and make the binds more appropriate. I have Shield Slam and Revenge on un-modified 1 and 2, which I think is right, but the rest of the main bar I think needs to be rotation pieces like Thunderclap, Devastate and Shockwave (plus possibly Cleave) and then the Shift-mod bar ought to be threat generation abilities with Shift-1 being Taunt (right now it’s Shift-5 which is too far out of the way). I think Challenging Shout is something silly like Control-6, that may explain why I kept forgetting about it. Anyway, the point is, it needs some work although I feel the problem is that Protection Warrior is the first class/spec that has legitimate uses for so many diverse abilities that it doesn’t reliably fit into 24 slots (even excluding interrupts which I bind to Q and E with mods).
But, no matter how rough it may have been, the key takeaway is that I did it: From start to finish I tanked a whole instance. With my level 85 tank, not even with my training tank Worgen. To me, that was a huge accomplishment.
By the end of the week I was at level 83 with my Mage, had completed the Mount Hyjal questing and run through Abyssal Maw: Throne of the Tides and Blackrock Caverns, neither of which I had actually done as the Warrior. Throne of the Tides is an okay dungeon, although it has a boss that casts an Absorb Magic spell which pretty much makes my Mage useless for half the fight and the final boss is a weird non-boss kind of thing which you don’t even really defeat (expect additional Abyssal Maw dungeons in forthcoming content patches). It is kinda cool when you do the Alice’s “Eat Me” cake/Mario’s power-up thing and grow super-huge to fight the massive squid monster thing, I’m just not sure the fight itself is all that fun.
I also finally saved up the 4,000 gold necessary to pay for the Artisan Flying mount speed boost and maxed out my Herbalism skill although my main project for the week was to improve my gear from high-level Wrath into at least mid-grade Cataclysm stuff. I think the only holdout as of now is my Mercurial Alchemist Stone, a trinket that is technically the lowest item level in my set although at +50 Intellect and acting as a Philosopher’s Stone (permitting Transmutation), plus a potion-boosting effect, it’s certainly not a waste of a slot.
I’m not sure if I’ll make 85 by the end of the coming week. Three levels in one week, especially with no weekend playing, was mostly due to the fact that I ran through with a lot of rested XP and did a hard grind through Hyjal and the early part of Deepholm with plenty of Herbing. But if I recall correctly, the path from 84 to 85 takes a very long time and I’ve since abandoned all my heirloom items so my XP gains are not quite as dramatic as they (theoretically) could be. Another minor factor in slowing me down could be that I just now realized I missed a piece of the Alchemy progression in Burning Crusade which was the Mastery quests, which in my case would be Master of Transmutation. Unfortunately the prices for Primal elements haven’t really gone down as much as I kind of expected (~65 gold per Primal Fire for example). I have a couple of the Primals that I need but we’re talking something like 40 Motes of Fire, 35 Motes of Air and maybe 25 Motes of Water to finish it up.
I know I’ve had great success in not getting sidetracked by unnecessary projects but I’m actually using transmutation a lot as I level Alchemy in these last stages and it kind of sucks to think that I’m missing out on bonus output from my transmutes. At some point I will need to make the time to do this quest sequence though because I definitely want to have the Mastery available when I start doing Truegold transmutes.
Rollin’ With The Homies
In a rare non-WoW gaming moment, I had the chance to play Catan Dice over the weekend with the extremely Occasional Gamer, Doctor Mac. He won two of the three rounds we played which I sort of expected since I’m typically pretty bad at those kinds of dice-capture games. Plus in my experience beginner’s luck is pretty big in Catan Dice, something that is remarkably antithetic to the full board game, Settlers of Catan in which I don’t think I’ve ever seen the less experienced of any of the players win. In any case the game was just a diversion while Doctor Mac and I caught up since we hadn’t seen each other in person for probably several years. Say what you will about our information-saturation in modern society, but one thing I adore about living in this current era is that in spite of rarely seeing each other in the flesh, people like Doctor Mac and I can remain in touch, interact regularly and even play some games together now and then.