Friday, January 29, 2010

Best. Comment. Ever.

One of my non-WoW playing friends is a pretty good web designer. I asked him some questions before I started this blog about design tips and such (almost none of which I ended up using--because I'm lazy, not because they weren't good).

Earlier today he asked me whether or not I ever did end up starting a blog. I sent him here. This is what he had to say:
reading this is like reading lorem ipsum text
all the words are correct.....
but i get the feeling that if i rearrange them, then they might make sense

Bear Tanking Rotation

Update: This post was made for Wrath content. To see an updated post for Cataclysm Bear rotations, click here.

As I alluded to a couple weeks ago, Bears have the easiest tanking rotation of all the tank classes. I don't know this for a fact...I've never gotten a Warrior or a Paladin past 20 and I've never even considered attempting to tank on my DK (he's mostly a change-of-pace character). But from reading around the WoWsphere and talking to people who play those classes at high levels, I feel fairly certain that I have an easier time of it than they do.

That said, there's another side to the coin. Bears don't have a lot of room for error. If we're not performing our fairly simple rotation correctly, we just can't keep up.

Bear tanking mainly revolves around four abilities:

To a lesser extent, Faerie Fire.

This is speaking strictly from a threat generation perspective. In this post I'm not going to worry about things like Demoralizing Roar, Frenzied Regeneration, etc. Just threat.

To start off, I'm going to post two Recount screen shots. These were from the exact same fight (the Patchwerk weekly raid a couple weeks ago). The two tanks were me and another Druid in our guild, who we'll call Eve for sake of argument. It's a good fight to get a tanking comparison because we're both on the same target, stationary, whacking away at it the whole fight.

Before I go further I want to make something very clear. I am not picking on Eve. She's an alt who's used to healing (Priest) which, in my experience, couldn't be more different from tanking. I also made sure she was okay with me using these screenshots in my blog before I made this post.

Eve's recount:

My recount:

Now, what's important here is the percentages, not the actual damage numbers. Threat is in the numbers and it will come with gear, but a good tanking rotation is all in the percentages. In fact, if you look closely at the raw numbers, most of her abilities out-damaged mine on a hit-for-hit comparison. But I out damaged her 325K to 195K on the overall fight, which means I put up a ton more threat.

The biggest difference that you can see right away is the huge chunk of my damage (almost 60%) that came from Maul. The vast majority of a Bear's threat and damage come from this ability!

Maul replaces your normal melee attack with a much more powerful one. Notice the difference in Maul-to-Melee ratio between me (66-1) and Eve (3-62). What's more, it's off the global cooldown (because it's not an ability that's executed the moment you cast it) so you can just spam this while you're working through your normal rotation.

I think I said it in a previous post, but with the exception of Growl and Maul, I'm a clicker. I use my mouse to go through my rotation. However, I have Maul in the 4 spot so that I can easily reach it from the WASD movement keys.

(Growl is a quick reach with my middle finger, by comparison.)

During any fight no matter what else I'm doing (except strafing to the right) I'm just pounding my 4-key into dust. I never have to worry about watching when it's ready or not. I just know that as long as I have the Rage available, my next melee swing will always be replaced by a Maul.

The rest of the tanking rotation after that is cake. Your priorities are Mangle, Lacerate (up to 5 stacks), and Swipe. Any time Mangle is off of cooldown you should be hitting it, as it's our second-highest threat ability. So assuming you pulled with a Faerie Fire (which you should be on bosses in order to immediately put up the debuff and some initial threat) you'll want to Mangle as soon as you're in melee range.

Next, start stacking Lacerate. You'll end up with 2 or 3 stacks (depending on how many points you've spent in Improved Mangle) before Mangle is off cooldown and you can hit again. Keep alternating between Mangle stacking Lacerate until you're up to a full 5 stacks.

At this point I start throwing Swipes because they do more damage than Lacerate. My general rotation is 2 Swipes, Mangle, Lacerate (to refresh stacks). In my spec Mangle is available after 3 global cooldowns, so this works perfectly for timing.

Note that Lacerate still does more threat than Swipe, even though it's lower damage. So if you really need the threat help (on a single target), drop the Swipes out of your rotation and fill them with Lacerates and Faerie Fires. It's also good to throw a Faerie Fire if you find yourself rage-starved. It'll fill a GCD and give you some extra threat. Plus it'll make sure the debuff stays applied through the duration of longer fights.

And that's pretty much it. Our standard rotation.

Pretty simple, eh?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

ICC Time Woes

So the Crimson Halls have been open for a little over a week now. And the Frostwing Halls is set to open on Tuesday. That'll be the full deal. All of ICC.

So where do I stand in completion? Deathbringer Saurfang.

I've seen the inside of the Plagueworks once, and Rotface stomped us all night long. We had one reasonably good attempt (~30%), one fair attempt (~50%), and mostly miserable attempts the rest of the time. It was to the point where I didn't even know where to begin suggesting improvements because it felt like nothing was going right for us (which, as a raid leader, is the most frustrating thing in the world). Plus I was the Rotface tank, which means my job consisted of "stand there and tank." So I didn't even feel there was anything specific I could to do help out in my role.

So what's the primary reason for this? Time, really. Right now our guild has 4 scheduled raid nights. Tuesday and Sunday are the weekly raid for however many people we get signed up and want to go. More often than not we end up running a 25 and a 10 there. Friday and Saturday are our scheduled guild 25-man runs. That leaves 3 (4, tops, if you count Tue and Sun as half-nights) nights where we can make attempts at ICC. Most Mondays are out for me because I play hockey that night. Every other Tuesday is out because those are guys'-night-outs.

Because of the geographic spread of our core raiding members (Nova Scotia to Cali) and their own personal obligations, an average raid night for us lasts from 8-11 server time, if we get grouped and started right away. We often lose anywhere from 30-60 minutes in that area.

We've still cleared the Lower Spire almost every week. We've got that down to about a 90-minute run. Hell, we can even do it on alts, as we found out. But then because of schedules or raid member availability, we haven't even been able to get a second night in after that since the first week of the Plagueworks. Not even attempts.

I don't mind being in a spot where I have to continually work to down a specific boss. I don't expect to get every boss I try down in the first night. But I do mind that I'm not even getting the chance to try.

Could we extend the raid ID? Sure. But we're still not sharding things from the Lower Spire. Plus that's a guaranteed 8 Emblems of Frost that I hate to pass up. So it seems inappropriate to just save our progress past that content. But at the same time, it's starting to look like the only way we're going to continue to get real chances.

Oh, the trials of a casual raiding guild...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Feral Cat Raiding Spec

EDIT: This post is now updated to reflect changes in patch 3.3.3!

The following is my raid talent build for Cat. "Raid" being the key word here. In this build I pass over abilities that are nice during solo or PvP play and focus strictly on what's useful for raiding. This is also not meant to be a hybrid build of any kind. It's optimized strictly for raiding as a Cat. (I'll post up a hypothetical hybrid build at some point.)

I'll try and explain why I picked the talents I did. In the Feral tree I'll also explain why I passed on the talents that got no points.

Balance - 0 points
There's just nothing in there that's useful for cats. Maybe if Genesis affected our bleeds...but, alas, no.

Restoration - 16 points
Furor - 3/5
As of 3.0, Cat Energy regenerates at the normal rate regardless of what form the Druid is in. For each point in Furor, we will have up to 20 of that Energy ready to use the moment we shift into Cat form. All 5 points would equal 100 (full) energy. But in PvE there's not a whole lot of shifting going on, especially in a build optimized for one role/form. It helps when resuming DPS after having tossed out an Innervate or a Battle Res, but if there was somewhere else to (reasonably) put points to get down to the next tier, I'd spend even less here.

Improved Mark of the Wild - 2/2
The other 2 points to get past the first tier of the Resto tree. Easy buff to our buff and a stat increase to boot.

Naturalist - 5/5
Since all Cat damage is physical, this is a straight up 10% DPS increase. No brainer.

Natural Shapeshifter - 3/3
Really a useless PvE talent, but it's required for getting Master Shapeshifter (below).

Omen of Clarity - 1/1
Basically amounts to a free attack every time it procs. From the information I can find, this has about a 6% proc chance off your auto-attacks, or 3.5 procs per minute (on average). That's a significant DPS boost.

Master Shapeshifter - 2/2
With the bleed damage from Rip (and Rake, if you have have your 4-piece T10 bonus) now being able to crit, this is a pretty amazing talent.

Feral - 55 points
Ferocity - 5/5
Any talent that reduces the energy cost of any of your abilities should be picked up. For cats this affects Rake and Mangle, which will free up 10 Energy per attack rotation (on average). That's a full second of Energy regen!

Feral Aggression - 2/5 4/5
This is one of the iffy talents. It's a direct DPS increase, even if the increase is on an ability (Ferocious Bite) that doesn't make it into most rotations very frequently. If you're looking to max out your single-target DPS (i.e. bosses) you should put 5/5 here, though. I have 2 to get the needed points to hit the 4th tier. I've noticed (especially in 25 mans) that I end up using FB quite a bit anymore. I chose to move two of the points formerly in Improved Mangle up to here.

Feral Instinct - 3/3
Until cats got their own Swipe ability, this was a solo/PvP talent. Now it's much nicer. On most trash pulls you can open with two Swipes right from the start then hit Tiger's Fury and get two more plus (maybe) an OoC proc, dishing out a significant amount of damage. The Berserk + Swipe spam is also insanely fun, but will usually kill you. :-)

This is great for Heroics and large, weak trash packs like we used to see in Naxx (which is when I made this build). If I ended up going Cat more often in higher tier raids (ToC, ICC), then I'd probably move these points up to fill out Feral Aggression.

Savage Fury - 2/2
Again, a straight up DPS increase. Rake and Mangle will be seeing heavy use in your rotations.

Thick Hide - 0/3
You should never be taking sustained physical damage in a raid. 'Nuff said.

Feral Swiftness - 0/2
Again, nothing in a raid should be trying to hit you, so there should be no reason to need to dodge things.

Survival Instincts - 0/1
This is more of an emergency (tank) button than a raiding Cat necessity. If you ever need to hit this as a cat, it's probably too late anyway.

Sharpened Claws - 3/3
6% increased crit? Yes, please. Even if this talent wasn't necessary for two more very good ones, I'd be filling this out. Good Cat DPS is heavily reliant on crits.

Shredding Attacks - 2/2
Shred will (likely) be used more than any other single combat ability you have. Reducing its Energy cost by 18 is very important to keeping your DPS high.

Predatory Strikes - 3/3
Straight up DPS increase.

Primal Fury - 2/2
Free combo points on crits. Which you should have a lot of.

Primal Precision - 2/2
Once you start loading up on the iLvl 226+ gear you'd have to actively try to get below the finisher hit cap, but the energy return on misses is still very nice for the starting raider. Above and beyond that, though, the 10 Expertise this talent gives lowers the Expertise Rating you need to collect on gear/gems from 214 to 132 to make raid bosses unable to dodge your attacks. If your gear takes you far enough over that cap, you can shift one or both of these points elsewhere.

Brutal Impact - 0/2
You should never be Pouncing in a raid.

Feral Charge - 1/1
Not a key ability, but useful for getting into combat faster and for quicker switching between targets in multi-target fights. This roughly equates to more DPS.

Nurturing Instinct - 0/2
This is mostly a PvP talent, but if you find you're dying a lot to AoE or random-target damage, you can move some points here until you gear up a little better. It may hurt your DPS some, but a dead cat does no damage.

Natural Reaction - 0/3
This talent has no affect on cats.

Heart of the Wild - 5/5
10% AP increase.

Survival of the Fittest - 3/3
The only useful part of this for cats is the 6% increase to all stats. But that's still very, very useful.

Leader of the Pack - 1/1
Gives everyone near you a 5% bonus to crit. Including you.

Improved Leader of the Pack - 2/2
This is a utility talent that will not have any effect on your DPS, but if (like me) you're the only Feral in most of your raids, you should invest points here. If another Feral in your raids has this covered, feel free to move these points elsewhere.

Primal Tenacity - 0/3
This is primarily a PvP talent. Not really worth spending points in a raiding build.

Protector of the Pack - 0/3
The tooltip on this is somewhat ambiguous due to bad use of grammar, but PotP has no affect on cats. Both the AP bump and damage reduction apply only to bears.

Predatory Instincts - 3/3
+10% damage on all crits is the big deal here, but the reduced AoE damage helps the healers focus a lot less attention on you.

Infected Wounds - 2/3 3/3
Again, this is a utility talent that won't matter to your DPS numbers, but I have a really hard time not putting points here. At full 3/3, your target's attack speed is reduced by 20%, which means your tank is taking (roughly) 20% less damage while this debuff is active. That's So helpful. At least one Feral in your raids should have points here. If another one has this covered, feel free to move these around. I used one point from Improved Mangle to top this talent off.

King of the Jungle - 3/3
This is Blizz's attempt to make Tiger's Fury not be a useless (actually, wasteful) ability like it was in TBC. They succeeded. 60 free energy every 30 seconds.

Mangle - 1/1
Absolutely required. No questions asked.

Improved Mangle - 3/3 0/3
As already stated, any talent that reduces the Energy cost of your attacks is a must have. When 3.3.3 came along and buffed the duration of the Mangle debuff to a full minute, this became a virtually useless talent. We just don't mangle very often anymore. It's still good if you PvP a lot, as you'll be Mangling far more often than you Shred. But of PvE, it's gone the way of the dodo.

Rend and Tear - 5/5
The 20% bonus to Shred attacks (the single most common attack you'll use) was nice before. The crit chance increase on Ferocious Bite was not too bad either. But now 5 points are required in this talent to unlock the MacDaddy of cat talens...

Primal Gore - 1/1
Rip already does a huge percentage of Cat damage in good rotations. With this...oh my. Watch your spot on the meters, rogues. (And if you can get the 4-piece T10 bonus, well...the thought makes me tingle.)

Berserk - 1/1
Your once-every-three-minutes omgdps ability. When your raid leader says "Blow your cooldowns," this is what you should be doing.

Optional Moves:
There are 12 points in this build that I consider "optional." Removing some will lower your DPS, though mostly situationally, others will have you lose a little bit of utility, but nothing that can't be overcome.
The 15 points are those spent in the following talents:
Feral Aggression (4/5) (if you rarely use FB)
Feral Instinct (3) (if you need less AoE abilities)
Primal Precision (2) (if you pass the Expertise caps with gear)
Feral Charge (1) (if you never use it)
Improved Leader of the Pack (2) (if another Feral in your raids has this)
Infected Wounds (3/3) (if another Feral in your raids has this)

The points then could be shifted around to some other areas:
Feral Aggression (1/5) (if you want higher single-target DPS)
Feral Swiftness (2) (mostly for running around during solo play, but good on high-movement boss fights, too)
Survival Instincts (1) (if you're having survivability issues and want an emergency button)
Nurturing Instinct (2) (if you're having survivability issues)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pugging Sanity ProTip

With the advent of the LFD tool, a lot of tanks are tanking PuGs at an unprecedented rate (as opposed to safe guild-runs). The problem with these groups is that they're often filled with exceptionally well-geared DPS that you don't know and that are only interested in getting through the dungeons as quickly as possible.

What this often leads to is serious aggro issues that have you alternately questioning your skill/value as a tank and cursing the stupidity of dps who insist on opening up full throttle on the entire pack the moment you've pulled with Faerie Fire on one. (I would like to note here that I am one of those stupid DPS, both in Cat and when playing Enhancement on my Shaman. I blame the fact that I spend most of my time actively trying to be top threat.)

If your group is full of AoE classes, there's not much you can do about this. I would suggest throwing your Faerie Fire while in mid-Charge and then start Swiping and Mauling for all you're worth.

However, if you have some targeted DPS classes in your group, there's more you can do to help. As you're getting ready to pull the group of mobs, throw a mark (usually Skull) on the primary kill target. You don't have to mark the whole pack. Just that first target. Just mark, FF, Charge, and tank. Usually by the time it goes down you have enough threat on the rest of the group that DPS can do whatever they want. With the 3.3 change that allows anybody in a dungeon group (as opposed to just the leader) throw marks on targets, it's even easier. Even though most groups will throw lead to the tank, even if you don't get it you can still mark.

DPS should have a /assist <tank> macro, true. But most don't, and not all that do use it. Plus sometimes the tank will switch targets for whatever reason and they may not want you attacking their target right at that moment, so it's slightly unreliable. But most DPS--from the fresh first-time 80s right up to the prima donnas--will kill a single marked target before going on to do their own thing.

In the image in this post you can see one of the Addons I use called LuckyCharms2. (Yes, I know it's been updated...I pulled that out of a Naxx-era screenshot.) It allows you to put raid marks on your target without trying to navigate menus or filling your action bars with macros. If you don't have it, or something like it, I suggest you check it out. Even when chain pulling through Heroics, this addon gives me ample opportunity to mark a primary target while running from group to group.

Hell, even if you're in a group and you're not the tank, you can help out this way. If you see that the tank isn't tossing out marks, use your /assist macro (you have one, right?) as they're moving to the next group of mobs, mark that target, and then do whatever it is that you do best. Some tanks may ask you to stop, true. If they do, let them tank their way and deal with aggro however they want to. A lot of times, though, you'll find that they'll start respecting your marks, too. :-)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What I've learned while keeping up on blogs during vacation:

Blogger may have let me include the Wowhead JavaScript, but Wordpress's mobile site compatibility is amazing. I wonder if I can dual host... :-)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

You know you play WoW too much when...

So I'm walking through the airport on the way to my flight's gate and I see a lady with a pug. My first thought was, "Hey, she's grouped with 100 random people."

My second thought was, "That sounds really bad out of context."

Posting from my iPhone on the tarmac. Hooray technology!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What goes in vs. what comes out

I had a post I was planning on making today about tanking rotations and such for Bears. I even had some nice, pretty screenshots (and a real life picture!) to illustrate my points. Alas, all these images are on a flash drive that is still sticking out of the USB port of my home computer while I am sitting here in the office. Oops. Hopefully I'll get that one out tomorrow morning before I go on vacation.

Instead I want to talk about a post that showed up on yesterday regarding the topic of character models in WoW. It's certainly not a new topic of discussion, but with a new expansion on the horizon it's one worth revisiting.

One of the biggest reasons given for not updating the character models in the game is that WoW has always been a game that you don't need an amazing machine or a blazing fast internet connection to run. And when you want to keep your 11M subscriber base, that's probably a reasonable design decision. It kinda punishes us that do have better systems, but that's life sometimes. QQ, right?

Here's the problem with that argument (based on my vast understanding of the underlying code that makes this game work </sarcasm>): all the models and animations are stored on your machine. It's all local. That's why this game takes up 6+ GB of space. Every character, every mob, every landscape, every weapon, and all the ways they can move or have all that sitting right on your HD. The only information you're getting from the servers is where a character/mob/creature is, what direction it's facing, what it's doing (animation), and what model data makes up its display.

So (other than the obvious issue of having to have two art/design/animation teams) why couldn't Blizz support a higher resolution game for those of us that can run it and still leave the lower res game in place for those who can't? Their servers can tell me that I have Origin of Nightmares equipped and that my guildie next to me is performing the /laugh animation, but it's my game files that tell my machine what the staff looks like, or how that other toon should be animated. It's just data interpretation. So let me interpret that data at a resolution that's much more appealing to me because I can.

On a similar note, I would really like a recording tool that just took all that incoming information and stored it in a data file that could be loaded and played back in a mock-client with standard camera and playback controls. Wouldn't it be cool to be able to record a raid in that way and then be able to play it back with a free-roaming camera? Rewinds, pauses, fastforwards. No more Fraps limitations. No more being constrained to the viewpoints of whoever happens to be recording. No more trying to balance getting compelling shots of the action and being able to your job in the raid. This would be an amazing tool for raid leaders and machinimaists alike. I realize this would take some development resources for a feature that a relatively small portion of the playing population would actually use. But that didn't stop them with the gear manager...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Bear's guide to ICC: Deathbringer Saurfang

I've been struggling with this post for a few days now. Not because it's long or complex or I really need to impart a whole crapton of data. Quite the opposite, actually. A Bear-centric guide to Saurfang Jr. can easily go like this:

Stay in melee range.
Stick with your normal tanking rotation.
Taunt when the other tank gets Rune of Blood.
Call for a taunt when you get Rune of Blood.

That's it. There's a crap-ton of stuff going on in this fight. But the vast majority of it is for your DPS to worry about. More specifically, the vast majority of it is for your ranged DPS to worry about. And to a smaller extent, your healers. You? You're not special. Not in this fight.

But that doesn't make for a very interesting guide, so let me see what I can do here without just rehashing something you might find on StratFu or BossKillers.

The reason you want to stay in melee range is because Saurfang will be randomly casting Blood Nova on people in your raid outside of melee range. It doesn't hit the person he casts it on, but it does hit everyone within 12 yards of them. If you're near the melee but not in melee range, you're going to smack them all with this, and that's no good.

At regular intervals, Saurfang will summon 2 Bloodbeasts, one to his right and one to his left. These will need to be aggroed and burned down by the ranged. One thing that is useful here is Bash. Every other summon (or every summon if you happen to be fully specced into Brutal Impact) you'll be able to take a moment to stun one of the adds. This will give your ranged a few extra seconds to deal with one before the other starts chasing them. You can also Growl at one of the adds that's far getting too close to the ranged to help with kiting. It's important no one starts actually getting hit by these things. (Just be careful with don't want to have to wait for 8 seconds for your Growl to come off cooldown if the other tank gets Rune of Blood applied to him.)

There's also Boiling Blood getting tossed around, but there's nothing you can do about that whatsoever.

Now the reason it's important to not take damage in this fight from anything Saurfang does or anything his Bloodbeasts do is that every time damage occurs he gets a stack of Blood Power. You can see it in his unit frame where the enemy's Mana/Energy/Rage appears. Every stack he gets increases his size and damage by 1%. When he gets to 100 stacks, he dumps it all and casts Mark of the Fallen Champion on someone. That person will then be taking significant extra damage and it will exponentially increase the rate at which Saurfang gains Blood Power through the next 100 stacks.

At 30% health, he frenzies, so hooray for that.

A few notes here:

If you are a Bear that carries around more than one set of tanking gear, put on your Dodge set for this fight. Even when he's high on stacks of Blood Power, he doesn't hit exceptionally hard. And the more you can dodge, the fewer stacks he'll get.

I like to start this fight off in Cat form, letting the other tank hold him until the first Rune of Blood cast. I wait for the tank to get a little aggro and then pop Tiger's Fury and Berserk and go to town. It's a little extra damage right up front and it can help a lot later. As soon as Berserk wears off I shift into Bear, move in front of him, and get ready to taunt.

During this fight I replace Growl with this macro:
/tar Deathbringer
/cast Growl
This way, if I'm helping burn down an add or throwing a battle res or anything, I can still taunt Saurfang immediately (sans shifting) when the other tank gets Rune of Blood.

A few more notes not specifically related to tanking:
Two reasonably geared/skilled healers can handle this fight if everyone else is doing their job right. Having a 6th dps really helps.

In our guild, we let the first person to get the Mark of the Fallen Champion die (unless it's one of the tanks). Yes, it sucks for that person and it does heal Saurfang a few percentage points, but we've found the the DPS loss is easier to cope with than the extra damage that the Marked person will take (especially with only 2 healers) or the increased rate at which Saurfang will gain Blood Power. Most of the time we can kill him before a second one gets cast, if not soon after.

Conventional wisdom says blow Heroism/Bloodlust when he frenzies, but we like to do it right at the beginning of the fight. Specifically because we know we won't be short a person and we have 7 dps (since I'm in cat) for that first 20 seconds or so. We can usually knock him down about 12% super-fast that way.

After Saurfang is dead, there's a pretty cool lore moment that happens, so watch it if you're into that kind of thing.

There's a chest off to the right of his platform that holds the loot.

On 10-man the only useful Bear drop is the Scourge Stranglers. On 25-man you can look forward to Toskk's Maximized Wristguards, the Vanquisher's Mark of Sanctification (which you can use to upgrade an iLvl 251 Tier 10 piece to an iLvl 264 Tier 10 piece once you've purchased one with Emblems of Frost), and Deathbringer's Will, which may or may not be amazing. I'll be discussing the virtues of that trinket in a post sometime within the next week.

As with all my boss strats, I'm writing from the overall perspective of a Bear tank (in 10-man) and what they will need to do. For you Cats reading this blog, I suggest you check out Dinaer's guides on Forever a Noob. They're written for Rogues but are a pretty good guide for melee in general and his gear drop suggestions (with the exception of weapons) will be spot on for Cats. If I have additional insight, I will try to add it in my blog. Here is his Deathbringer Saurfang strat.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Seeing things from the other side

So far all my guild's attempts at ICC have been with pretty selective groups of mains. We have a core of about 15 toons that really have the gear and are backed by players with the skill and attention to detail to work on progression content. (Although both Festergut and Rotface continue to stomp us.)

A few of the players that weren't in our group that started ICC earlier this week wanted to get in for some rep and badges (and loot) last night. So a bunch of us jumped over to alts and we put together an ad-hoc group with a let's-see-how-this-goes attitude.

Our best Rogue and Resto Druid hit up their Paladin tanks. One of our better Hunters got on her Priest. We had a Mage healing on his Druid. I ended up healing on my Shaman. We had two Hunters with us who had never seen the place. 7 out of 10 toons had never stepped foot (or hoof) inside of ICC, 2 of them fronting players who had never seen it. A lot of us weren't expecting to even get Marrowgar down.

Before we had to call the raid because it was getting late we'd one-shot the first 3 bosses and had gotten Saurfang down to about 1M. And the one thing everyone kept saying (about the time we killed the frost wyrm leading up to the gunship battle) was how much fun they were having seeing current content from a new perspective.

Our two tanks were amazed at how different the fights looked from the front and (in the case of the Tree) up close. I believe "cooler" was the exact description used. (Which, in hindsight, should have earned a /facepalm after having fought a frost wyrm.) For me, seeing them from a distance was also a lot more interesting (even though I spent most of it staring at HealBot). I brought up my Shaman intending to make him a back-up raid healer, but until the new LFG tool, he hadn't really healed anything since Kara. And ICC was the first raid I'd been flinging Chain Heals in since then.

Now we may not be bringing many of these alts on our next attempts through the Plagueworks (or other inner-chambers of the citadel). But it's nice to know that if they can collectively hold their own through the lower portions of the raid, any one or two of them might be viable fill-ins for the rest.

Even beyond that, we all got to learn that we're better than we thought at our off-roles. And we had a lot of fun doing it. Which is what a game really should be about, amirite?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Design Get!

Well, after about 8 solid hours of work, I finally have a design for this blog. It's not perfect and I'm sure bugs will crop up here and there (CSS isn't my strong point). But at least I'm not on the default Blogger template anymore.

Now I won't feel self-conscious about trying to drive some traffic here. I might even get a comment or two. Shazam!

Friday, January 15, 2010

So easy a Bear could do it

The latest buzz around the WoWsphere today is the proliferation of fake Armory sites. The gist of it is that scammers pay Google to get their sites listed as featured links when someone searches for the Armory. You assume it's legit because it's at the top, browse there, enter your account info and...poof. Account hacked.

It's also worth noting that the latest trick in the books is to link your account to an authenticator the moment it gets hacked, which exponentially increases the wait time to get it back. In the week or more you wait to have your account handed back to you, your toons are merrily running around under the control of someone with no good intentions causing havoc.

One of the single easiest ways to help prevent this (and almost any) kind of account theft is to get your own authenticator and link your account to it. Seriously. Do it now.

If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, it's absolutely free, takes about 2 minutes of your time, and you have zero excuse for not doing it. Just go to the App Store and search for "Battle.Net Mobile Authenticator".

There are also Mobile Authenticator versions for a wide range of phone/Blackberry/Palm products that you can download from the Blizzard store for $0.99. To see if your device is supported and to purchase it, go here:

Finally, if none of those options are available to you, you can buy an Authenticator Token for the cost of an average fast-food lunch ($6.50). Check it: (FREE SHIPPING ON THESE!!!)

Seriously, folks. I know most of us like to think we're very tech-savvy people and we're smart enough that this won't happen to us. But all it takes is two seconds of not paying attention and your account is gone. With so many people playing this game, account scammers are always looking for new and innovative ways to steal our stuff. There's no reason you shouldn't have one of these near your computer or in your pocket.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Bear's guide to ICC: Gunship Battle

The Gunship battle is, perhaps, the most fun I've ever had in a single WoW encounter. It's gimmicky, sure. But damn. Fun.

There is some trash leading up to the battle that will need to be tanked. A couple packs of Horde or Alliance battling against each other. They're not too much of a threat. Just hold aggro and you should be good. Focus down the healers first. After the first pack is down, stick around for a second before rushing to the second. You'll get a very nice buff from the friendly NPCs for your trouble.

Once you get to your respective Gunship, there will be an NPC you can talk to in order to get a jetpack. Yes, you heard that right. A jetpack. Drag it onto your action bar and then equip it. (It goes in your shirt slot.)

I should note here that only people intending to jump over to the opposing gunship during the battle need a jetpack. However, they're insanely fun to play around with for a couple minutes before starting the fight and so everyone will probably end up getting one anyway.

Also, a druid in Bear form using the jetpack is, I think, the funniest thing I've seen in this game since Dalliah and Soccothrates in Arcatraz. You will have your raid laughing for a solid 5 minutes as you play around with this.

Finally, I know this is a Druid blog, but I feel this is worth mentioning. If you have any Mages in your raid, make sure they don't use Slow Fall in conjunction with the jetpack. Very bad. Very funny (for the rest of the raid), but very bad.

Ok, back to business. There's a lot going on in this fight. But as a tank, there's only two possible things you're going to have to worry about.

If you are the tank that stays aboard your own ship, you're going to have to deal with a pack of opposite-faction mobs that will drop out of a portal one at a time (3 total on 10-man) and start running amok on your ship. Swipe liberally to pick them up and get them under control and then drag them over near your respective faction captain (Muradin for Alliance, Saurfang for Horde) to make sure they get engaged in the battle. Have your dps burn them down. Watch for runes on the ground that indicate where enemy rockets are going to be landing and make sure you're not tanking in them. Easy.

If you are the tank for the away team, you need to watch for when the opposite faction captain calls for a battle-mage to freeze your ship's cannons. When that happens, jetpack across and grab aggro on said captain then drag him to the edge of the ship closest to yours. This allows you to get heals from healers on both ships. All you have to do is hold him while the DPS that came over with you do their thing. He does Cleave, so be aware of where you face him.

Each time you get hit, the captain is going to gain a stack of a buff that increases the damage he deals by 10%. Eventually it'll become unhealable. I usually pop Barkskin around the 8th stack to get through the last 10 seconds or so.

Once your DPS have killed the battle mage and any other mobs on that ship they've been assigned to kill, you all need to jetpack back to your own. Make sure you're the last to leave or the captain you were tanking will aggro on one of your other away team members and insta-kill them. When you land back on your ship, run as far away from the opposing ship as you can to make sure aggro is completely lost. Rinse, repeat.

Once your raid gets the hang of this battle, it's insanely easy. But it hasn't ceased to be fun yet.

Once the battle has been won, a chest on your respective ship will hold the victory loot. The only 10-man item of interest to Bears will be the Abomination's Bloody Ring. On 25-man we have Ikfirus's Sack of Wonder and they very lovely Corpse Tongue Coin. There's also the Shadowvault Slayer's Cloak which is okay if you don't already have better (though you should).

As with all my boss strats, I'm writing from the overall perspective of a Bear tank and what they will need to do. For you Cats reading this blog, I suggest you check out Dinaer's guides on Forever a Noob. They're written for Rogues but are a pretty good guide for melee in general and his gear drop suggestions (with the exception of weapons) will be spot on for Cats. If I have additional insight, I will try to add it in my blog. Here is his Gunship Battle strat.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Be Prepared

"Yeah, we'll be prepared. Prepared for what?"
"For the death of the King."
"Why, is he sick?"
"No, fool, we're going to kill him. And Simba too."
"Great idea! Who needs a king? No king, no king, la lala lala la."
"Idiots! There will be a king!"
"But you just said--"
"I will be king. Stick with me and you'll never go hungry again!"


Sorry. I couldn't help it. As soon as I typed the title of this post, the next 15 minutes of that movie played through my head. Oh, childhood.

Anyway, complete and utter randomness aside. Being an officer of a guild is a crazy thing. In one respect WoW is just a game. But when people spend as much of their time playing WoW as a lot of people do, it becomes that extension of our external lives that people who don't play WoW enjoy mocking us about. And so personal aspects of peoples lives make their way into the game. When you're the officer of a guild--especially a guild that's built more around the social aspects of the game (rather than, say, bleeding edge progression)--you automatically don that social leader status. People will look to you, among other things, in order to resolve personal disputes.

Most of the time this is no big deal. You might have to break up an argument in gchat or deal with the news that one of your guild members has been called out as a loot ninja. But that's simple.

This weekend I experienced a whole new scenario. One I never expected to see while playing a game. And while I won't say I was shocked that I'd be dealing with something like this, I was definitely caught off guard.

Long story short, Sunday afternoon one of my guildies (Wilma, for sake of argument) logged on and whispered me, asking me to remove another player (Rose) from the guild. Rose was a personal friend of Wilma that Wilma had recently introduced to the game and brought into the guild. My initial thought was that Rose just didn't really get into the game much and had decided not to play anymore, but didn't actually delete her account or unguild her character. So it was more of a housekeeping thing. But just to be sure before arbitrarily gkicking someone, I asked why. I'm not going to go into full details, but let's just say that Wilma and Rose had a falling out of soap-opera proportions. Very personal and very un-WoW related.

So now I'm in this position where someone who has been with our guild for years is asking me to step into a personal situation. I'm in a hard spot because Rose hasn't done anything against guild rules, so kicking her from the guild when she's not even online seems inappropriate. At the same time, I can very easily see a situation occurring where both Rose and Wilma are online and start a shitstorm in gchat, which I do want to try to take preemptive measures to prevent.

The exact course of action I took isn't entirely relevant to this post. And in some respects we're still trying to find a reasonable end-solution to the whole mess. So far it hasn't impacted our guild in any way, and we're fortunate in that. Hopefully this can all be completely resolved before it does.

As an officer of a guild, these are the types of things that can come your way. It shouldn't happen in a game, but due to the nature of this game it can. And will. Hopefully not often. prepared.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Note to Self

When planning on spending your weekend
1) designing a layout/presentation for your blog and
2) wiping your HD and rebuilding your system with a clean install,
make sure that you
a) do them in that order or
b) have the install discs for your graphics editing program of choice on hand.

I have failed in this task and thus still have an exceptionally ugly blog.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Bear's Guide to ICC: Lady Deathwhisper

Lady Deathwhisper is the second encounter of ICC and probably the easiest of the first four bosses once you understand what's going on.

There's 4 trash pulls leading up to LD--2 packs and 2 solo-pull Nerubians. It's best to tank the packs up in the hallway leading to her room to avoid any accidental pulls. Using line of sight also helps corral the casters and keep the whole group in a nice, tight bunch. Hunter misdirects really help with this, although it shouldn't be an issue to pull with a Fearie Fire and then run back up the stairs and around the corner.

Also, start with the pack on the right as you enter the room and then follow up with the pack on the left. As of writing this, the pack on the left has an interesting pathing bug where even if you pull them up around the left side of the stairs, they'll run all the way over to the right to get out into the hallway. Obviously, because of this, you'll want to use the wall on the right side of the stairs for your LoS until/unless Blizz fixes this.

Once the packs are down move onto the Nerubians, pulling them one at a time. They can be solo tanked. If you end up being the tank selected, great. Otherwise go Cat for a couple of fights and have fun. The Nerubians will cast a spell on random raid members that will damage them and everyone around them. If you get this and you're not tanking, run away. If you are tanking, make sure you and your melee DPS are on opposite ends of the hitbox. It should be far enough to prevent most of the damage.

Lady Deathwhisper herself has two phases. When the battle starts she has a Mana Barrier up. All damage done to her will be applied to her mana pool instead of her health. During this phase she will summon 3 adds at a time from opposite sides of the room, starting with the left. You'll notice that each side has 3 small sets of stairs leading up to 3 separate alcoves. If you position one tank each in the 2 spaces between the alcoves you should have no trouble picking up all 3 adds. Make good use of Faerie Fire and Swipe to pick them up.

There are two types of adds, Fanatics (melee) and Adherents (casters). Now pay attention, because this gets confusing (and I'm not 100% sure I'm going to get this right--I may have to edit this post after the next time I do the fight). Adherents will occasionally get a bubble that will absorb the physical damage done to them. Keep hitting them anyway. It will eventually break. LD will occasionally empower one of the adds. If she picks an Adherent it will put out a short range AoE burst spell on a regular interval. You can eat it, but melee should get away to keep strain off your healers. If she picks a Fanatic it will become a big, ugly, green, lumbering...thing. And it will start to hit very hard. One of the tanks will need to kite it or (as we do in our runs) the tanks will have to play taunt-pong. We choose this method because, frankly, it's fun. Sometimes one of the adds will cast Dark Martyrdom and blow itself up, damaging everyone close to it. Then LD will resurrect it. Resurrected Fanatics take next to no physical damage. Resurrected Aherents take next to no magical damage. For this reason it's very good to have a good Physical damage tank (Druid, Warrior, Blood DK) and a good Magical damage tank (Pally, Frost/Unholy DK) for this fight. Otherwise controlling the adds can get tricky.

While all of this is going on, LD will be throwing around Shadow Bolts that must be healed through and dropping big green patches of Death and Decay which must be avoided. As an added bonus, she loves to drop the DnD on the adds. Have fun with that.

Once each group of adds is down, all attention should be focused on getting rid of LD's Mana Shield until the next group of adds comes along. I typically go Cat and do as much damage as I can during the lull. When there's about 8 seconds left until the next add group I move to get in position to pick them up.

Once the mana shield comes down, you enter phase 2. One of the tanks should immediately taunt LD because it's very likely neither one will have initial aggro. From here on out it's a pretty standard tank and spank. There's only two things that tanks have to watch out for. First, she'll still be dropping DnD and will, at times, drop it right where you're tanking her. Move her so that neither you or your melee dps are in the green stuff but not in a position where your healers can't reach you. Second, she will stack Touch of Insignificance on the tank. Each stack gimps your threat output by 20%. The second tank should watch his threat and not pull off the first tank until about 4 stacks of this. Then each tank needs to carefully watch the debuff and taunt as soon as it expires. This will usually be around the 4 stack mark.

There's more going on during this phase, but that's all you tanks need to worry about.

On 10-man LD will drop the Chestguard of the Frigid Noose which is a little lacking in the stam department, but has 3 gem slots you can fill to help that deficiency. There's also Soulthief's Braided Belt which is a very nice tanking belt. (I'm still stuck with the Emblem of Conquest Belt of the Twilight Assassin so, hey.)

On 25-man you can look forward to the Cultist's Bloodsoaked Spaulders and the (poorly itemized for Bears, but still reasonable) Juggernaut Band.

As with all my boss strats, I'm writing from the overall perspective of a Bear tank and what they will need to do. For you Cats reading this blog, I suggest you check out Dinaer's guides on Forever a Noob. They're written for Rogues but are a pretty good guide for melee in general and his gear drop suggestions (with the exception of weapons) will be spot on for Cats. If I have additional insight, I will try to add it in my blog. Here is his Lady Deathwhisper strat.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bears make the best Raid Leads

At least I think so. But I could be biased.

Bear tanking isn't hard. In fact, if there's one criticism I hear most often about tanking as a Bear it's that it's boring. "You just spam Swipe and Maul." And while it is more complicated than that, if we're being honest here, it's not by much.

I can honestly sleep through my tanking rotation most of the time. Especially on bosses. Maybe all tanks eventually become as familiar with their own rotations as I have with mine. I don't know. But I do know that the timing is so ingrained in my muscle memory that I never have to look at my action bars to see when my cooldowns are up or where to click next (yes, except for Maul and Growl, I'm a clicker). My hand just moves and things just work.

This frees me up to watch every other little thing going on in the Raid. And I do my best to keep a steady stream of communication open with my raid.

Take Jaraxxus, for instance. If you listen to our Vent during that fight, I'm almost constantly talking.

"Incinerate on S, heal S. Portal opening. Incinerate gone. Mistress up, DPS switch. Fel Flames on D, run away. Nether Power. Incinerate on R, heal R. Nether Power gone. Mistress down, back to the boss. Incinerate gone. Mages, watch your threat. Volcano incoming. First infernal up. Fel Flames on M, run away. Second Infernal up. Infernal aggroed on M, get it back."

Even though the majority of our raiders have DBM running, and I keep mine announcing to the raid, things just seem to run tighter and more efficiently with that open line of voice communication. People respond to it better. DBM is just information and warnings. But a voice of knowledge and authority is an order. People respond much more readily to orders, especially when they're willing to be lead. This isn't just true in WoW, but in any team activity. (I play hockey and have seen this to be just as effective on the ice.)

Yes, there's more to being a Raid Lead than just calling out what's going on in a fight. But I'd say it's one of the most singularly important things a raid lead can do. And given the overall simplicity of a Bear tanking rotation, I still believe there's no class better suited to doing just that than we are.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Bear's guide to ICC: Lord Marrowgar

First, a few words on the trash leading up to Marrowgar. Most of it is pretty weak and a well-geared tank can often handle entire packs solo. That said, if things get out of hand, they'll get out of hand quickly. So don't get complacent.

There are also 4 bone giants (2 in each room, standing in the alcoves) that are triggered by Spirit Traps placed randomly in the two trash rooms leading up to the boss. As far as we've been able to tell in my guild, some of the traps don't appear until others have already been tripped. So it's entirely possible that an area that used to be safe will become hot. Be aware of this when running around to pull trash or heading back to the vendors in the front. If you have a Rogue in your group, they will be able to detect these and help you avoid them until you're ready. I do advise bringing down the giants (as opposed to having the Rogue disarm the traps) as they give 75 rep each. If you don't have a rogue to detect the traps, tread carefully and be ready to pick these guys up on a moment's notice. You'll get an emote when a trap is triggered and anyone in a small radius around the triggered trap will be slowed for a short time. When picking up the giant skeletons, it's important to immediately face them away from your raid. They Saber Lash and will instantly take out anyone who's not a tank or otherwise has high armor and a large health pool.

The biggest threat to tanks in this fight is Marrowgar's Saber Lash. Until you insanely outgear this fight, it's important that you and your fellow tank are on the same page. You'll want to be stacked on top of each other at all times to make sure the damage soak works properly.

Because of the size of Marrogar's hit box and the added bonus of his Saber Lash, you want to avoid letting him move towards the door as your raid is running in. This is a face-pull fight. You shouldn't toss any debuffs or damage his way until he's already aggroed. Once that happens, you're going to need to turn him to face the back of the room. Whether you do this by running straight through him and turning around or circle-strafing, make sure you and your partner tank are doing the same thing.

Update: The above pulling strategy still works, however my guild has started employing a different strategy that works better for us and may work better for you, too. Instead of running out to meet Marrowgar, you'll tank him near the entrance to the room with your back to the gate. Before the pull your raid should spread out along the walls in the room. This can be safely done without pulling Marrowgar as long as people hug the walls. Once Marrowgar is pulled to the tanks, the rest of the raid should circle around behind him.

As soon as Marrowgar aggros on either tank, you should hit Barkskin to help your healers during the initial positioning phase. Then get Faerie Fire (Feral) and Demoralizing Roar up as quickly as possible while, of course, Mauling to build up good initial threat. During the rest of Phase 1 you're going to be in your tried and true tanking rotation. Nothing special for you here.

On a timed interval, Marrowgar will cast Bone Spike Graveyard which will impale a random raid member on a spike. While he won't cast this on you while you're tanking him, it is good to keep note who it is cast on. The person impaled will take a decent chunk of damage up front and then continue to bleed 10% of their health per second until freed by the DPS, which means that they're going to suddenly be getting more attention from the healers. If one of your healers gets impaled, healing is going to become tight for a few seconds. You should be ready to hit Survival Instincts, chug a pot, or chomp a 'Lock-rock if your health drops below comfort levels. You can also use Barkskin or Frenzied Regeneration as a preemptive move to avoid getting to that point.

Coldflame is cast frequently during the fight. Typically this is cast at players standing out at range. However, if your raid does this encounter like mine, where everyone (except the Hunters) are bunched up in a tight group in melee range, most of the Coldflames are going to be cast right at the tanks. One right after the other pretty much. To avoid these you just need to dance left-to-right and back again out of them. Again, make sure you coordinate this with your fellow tank to make sure you stay stacked.

Finally, comes Bone Storm (Phase 2) which, despite what the tooltip says, only lasts for about 20 seconds. Marrowgar will go whirlwinding around the raid, targeting random members and dropping an 'X' shaped patch of Coldflame when he reaches them. As a tank, there's not much you have to watch for here. The damage from Bone Storm isn't anything you can't handle, so if he targets you, move out of the Coldflame and then start attacking him until he moves on. You should remain stacked with your other tank during this time and be standing near the center of the design in the room, only moving enough to keep Marrowgar in taunt range.

The part you really need to watch for is when Bone Storm ends. Marrowgar will aggro reset as soon as he stops spinning. (This is no longer true.) Your healers are likely going to be throwing around some heals to help recover, so you need to act fast. Immediately Growl and follow with Faerie Fire (Feral). I try to save my Barkskins for this transition back to Phase 1, as you'll start taking immediate damage, the healers will be spread out from running from Bone Storm, and they'll be topping off the rest of the raid during this time as well.

The rest of the fight is just alternating between the 2 phases. Easy as 3.14159.

On 10-man Marrowgar drops the Shawl of Neubian Silk which isn't horrid for Bears, although you're likely to have better if you're at this point in the game. There's also Marrowgar's Scratching Choker which, despite the wasted Parry, is still a nice Neck piece with the Stam and blue gem socket. On 25-man there's the Band of the Bone Colossus (which you'll most likely be passing on) and the very nice Frostbitten Fur Boots.

As with all my boss strats, I'm writing from the overall perspective of a Bear tank and what they will need to do. For you Cats reading this blog, I suggest you check out Dinaer's guides on Forever a Noob. They're written for Rogues but are a pretty good guide for melee in general and his gear drop suggestions (with the exception of weapons) will be spot on for Cats. If I have additional insight, I will try to add it in my blog. Here is his Lord Marrowgar strat.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Kitty DPS

Hey, a post about Feral Druids. In a blog about Feral Druids. How about that? It had to happen eventually, right.

So while it's true that I spend most of my time running around as a giant, angry badger bear, I really enjoy changing pace whenever I can (especially in raids) and turning into the ultimate ankle-shredder. Achilles' tendons, beware.

The cat DPS rotation can be a little tricky to get the hang of. You have to watch a lot of buffs/debuffs and make decisions based on how much time (if any) is left on them.

Cats are like furry Rogues that run around on all fours. Our abilities depend on Energy and Combo Points. We use stealth to sneak up behind our enemies and tear them apart before they can even react to our presence. We rely on causing our target to bleed to death as much as, if not more than, outright dicing them into little pieces.

But whereas Rogues have 3 different talent trees through which they can hone their killing prowess, we get one. We can do a little bit of everything a Rogue can, but can't specialize in any one area like them. That said, we relate closer to Assassination Rogues than Combat or Subtlety. Lots of burst damage and combo points that multiply like jackrabbits. Sustained DPS is a little tougher for Cats. We can't depend on a steady stream of high white damage, but we do have a bleed (Rip) that can crit for 200% of it's normal damage on any given tick (via Primal Gore).

For any of that to mean anything, however, we have to have an effective attack rotation to keep our DPS as high as possible. Except attack rotation is a little bit of a misnomer. If it were a true rotation, we could just make a cast sequence macro, toss it on our action bar and mindlessly click our way to the top of the DPS charts. Fortunately, for the sake of keeping the game fun and interesting, it doesn't work that way. Instead we have to deal with an attack matrix, or attack decision tree.

What I describe below is the basic decision tree for Cats. It represents what we would do in a perfect world where the only thing we ever fought was Patchwerk. A fight where we just stand motionless behind our target and tear him to pieces without any other care in the world. But not every fight is Patchwerk, and we do have cares in the world. We have fights against multiple trash mobs. We have fights where we have to bounce back and forth between the boss and adds. We have fights where we have to try to keep up as the tank drags the boss around the room. We have to move so we don't drop a big poison cloud on our fellow dps. We get plinked into crotch pots. We have to move so that we don't cross the streams charges. We have to move out of the fire/void zones/poison clouds. We have to switch targets to frozen/impaled/webbed allies. We have to stay where we are because we're in a stupid flame ring even though Shade decided to run his emo ass to the opposite end of the room and nuke us from over there as he's begging us to end his misery! *cough*

But that's later. Right now we just need to focus on the basics. And when we have those down, we can worry about more...complicated situations.

The Cat attack decision tree focuses on 8 of our abilities:
Ferocious Bite
Savage Roar
Tiger's Fury
Faerie Fire (Feral)

The Opener:
You may think that it's best to open a fight with one of our stealthed abilities, Pounce or Ravage. This is wrong. First, Pounce is a solo and PvP ability. You should never be using it in raid situations, especially if you're running with a rage tank. Why? Because a stunned enemy is not hitting your tank. If your Warrior or Bear tank isn't getting hit, he's not generating Rage. If he's not generating Rage (especially during the crucial opening moments of a fight) he can't use his abilities and suddenly mobs are running everywhere and wiping the raid. You don't want that on your head, do you? No.

As for Ravage, while it does a hell of a lot of damage, it costs 60 Energy. 60. That's a huge chunk of what we have. And you're only going to get one combo point out of it. Two if you crit, but that's still not worth it.

Instead it's best to start a fight in stealth and following a little bit behind your tank as he moves into position. As soon as he has a little bit of aggro on your primary kill target, toss a Faerie Fire on it. This will pop you out of stealth, but it doesn't matter as your tank should have initial aggro by this point and you won't be using your stealthed abilities. As you continue moving into position behind your target your tank should be generating enough threat that your initial volley of attacks won't vault you ahead of him. Once you're in position you should fire off a Rake, a Mangle, and a Shred, in that order. Those three attacks cost 111 energy (if you're specced properly). With the global cooldowns and the Energy regen rate (10 energy per second) you should have no trouble getting those off in quick succession.

Now you have a minimum of 3 combo points. More than likely, one of those attacks crit and you have 4. Maybe even 5. And you've been in combat for 3 seconds. Awesome. Now you're ready to drop into the decision tree.

The Attack Decision Tree:
Different people absorb information in different ways. I'm going to present this decision tree in three different forms and hope that everyone will be able to make good sense of at least one of them.

Annotated version (start over at the top of the list every time you perform something):
1. If Energy < 40 and Tiger's Fury on cooldown, perform Faerie Fire (Feral)
2. If Energy < 40, perform Tiger's Fury
3. If Savage Roar is down and CP > 0, perform Savage Roar
4. If CP = 5 and Rip time > ~7 seconds, perform Ferocious Bite
5. If CP = 5, perform Rip
6. If Rake is down, perform Rake
7. If Mangle is down, perform Mangle
8. Shred

Flowchart version:
Click for Flowchart

Wordy, descriptive version:
The first question you have to ask is whether or not you have less than 40 energy. If not, use Tiger's Fury for a 60 Energy boost (this assumes you've specced 3/3 into King of the Jungle) to get you going again. If Tiger's Fury is on cooldown, you're stuck waiting for energy to build up, so it's a good time to refresh Faerie Fire on the target.

If you have more than 40 Energy, the next thing you need to check is whether or not your Savage Roar buff is active. If it's not, you need to use any combo points you currently have to activate it. If you don't have any combo points, you need to get some and then activate Savage Roar as quickly as possible.

To build combo points you'll be using Rake, Mangle, and Shred. Which one of those you use is based on the debuffs currently on your target. If Rake is not on the target, use Rake. If Rake is on the target and Mangle is not, use Mangle. If both Rake and Mangle are on the target, then Shred.

Finally, when you have 5 combo points available and you have your Savage Roar buff active, you can use one of your combo finishers. The vast majority of the time, this is going to be Rip. But if you're not moving around a lot and you're getting a lot of crits, it's very possible that you'll still have a fair amount of Rip time left since your last one. Check your target's Rip debuff. If there's at least 6 seconds left on it then perform Ferocious Bite instead.

Rinse, repeat.

Assuming you got no Omen of Clarity procs (either because you didn't spec into it or the RNG just wasn't on your side), your first 7 actions will almost always be Faerie Fire, Rake, Mangle, Shred, Tiger's Fury, Savage Roar, Shred.

Omen of Clarity:
If you have specced into Omen of Clarity, then the decisions become a little trickier. You basically have two options:

1. Don't worry about watching for the OoC procs. Let them come as they come and just enjoy the fact that the next attack in your decision tree isn't going to cost you any energy.

2. Pay close attention to the OoC procs. Any time you get one, immediately Shred, as it's your highest energy attack (which you'll now get for free) and has extremely high burst damage. Then fall back into the decision tree as normal.

I tend to choose these based on the fight. For fights like Heigan, Mimiron, or Faction Champs where I'm paying attention to a lot of things other than just DPSing the boss, I'll usually go with option #1. For most other fights I'll do my best to stick with option #2.

When at all possible, I really like to use my OoC procs on Ferocious Bite. Most of the time FB leaves you completely Energy drained and straining to keep up until your Tiger's Fury comes off cooldown. Using an OoC proc on it really helps keep your DPS up afterwards.

No Shred:
There are people who like to take Shred out of the mix completely and just end the decision tree with Mangle. The logic used is that Mangle costs 8 Energy less than Shred (almost a second less of Energy regen time), doesn't require you to be behind the target, and doesn't do whole hell of a lot less damage.

There are valid points to this. It's definitely easier to manage as you can be sure the Mangle debuff is constantly on the target without having to check for it. In fights with a lot of movement, you don't have to worry about losing time to position yourself behind the mob.

It can also free up 2 talent points that you would have otherwise spent in Shredding Attacks. (Up until 3.1, there was also a case for it saving points used for Rend and Tear, but with those points being required for Primal Gore, that's no longer applicable.)

I've seen Cats doing comparable damage either way. So this choice basically comes down to your comfort level. If you can juggle the extra complexity, you'll crank out more DPS by using Shred. But if it's proving tough to keep a good rotation with it in there, you'll actually hurt your DPS overall and may consider going to a Mangle-only method.

At some point in time, there's a possibility that you're going to have to start paying attention to a 9th ability: Cower. If you massively outgear your tank or your tank is switching targets between a large group of mobs while you're primarily focusing on one, Threat can start to become an issue. Rogues can just dump their threat out on the target of their choice: "He stabbed you repeatedly in the back, not me. I swear! I'm just back here knitting a sweater." We don't get that luxury. We just have to spend some of our time and Energy pretending we're afraid of our target: "Please don't hurt me! I'm just a delicate, pretty little kitty. I'm the least of your concern here. Umm...purr?"

You do not want to wait until you're about to pull threat from the tank to use Cower. Why? It really only drops about 1K threat, which in today's raiding world is almost nothing. With all your bleeds ticking away on the mob, it's not going to last long. Especially if do something crazy like crit Shred and Ferocious Bite back-to-back. No amount of cowering is going to convince the big bad guy you're not a threat then. You'll want to use Cower early and use it regularly to make sure you're staying well below the tank in threat once you find that you're good enough to keep up with/pass him.

There's two general types of trash you're going to come up against. Packs and high-health single mobs. You can typically treat the larger single enemies like bosses. You'll have enough time to get through a couple of your rotations before they die. Most trash packs, however, aren't going to last long enough for you to really get going or for your bleeds to truly be effective. Often on trash packs it's best to make keeping Savage Roar up your first priority, and then either use your burst damage abilities (Mangle, Shred, Ferocious Bite) to bring them down or start throwing out some Swipes for AoE damage. Getting SR up before Swiping will help ensure that your tanks have enough of a threat lead that you won't suddenly pull 3 mobs and get insta-killed.

Berserk is where things really get fun for Cats. This is our once-every-three-minutes omgdps ability. Pop this and you have 15 seconds of seemingly endless Energy. In ideal situations, you'll want to wait until you're pretty much out of energy, hit Tiger's Fury (to get you back near full and give you the damage boost to boot), then hit Berserk. Since TF is off the global cooldown, you can even macro this for maximum effect:
/cast Tiger's Fury
/cast Berserk

In most cases I can get through 3 full rotations with this, using FB for the finisher on the last since my SR and Rip abilities will still have at least 10 seconds left on them, if not more. Just remember to watch your threat as you do this, because it's going to go through the roof.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New ICC Wing opens today!

So unless I misunderstood something (I've been at work all day today and haven't been able to verify), the next wing of Icecrown Citadel--the Plagueworks--is supposed to open today. This will give us 3 new bosses to test our mettle against: Rotface, Festergut, and Professor Putricide.

An interesting mechanic is in play here in that you will have 10 total attempts at downing the Prof until he will despawn for the week. My understanding is that this ONLY applies to the Prof and not any wipes that occur anywhere else in the instance.

So far my guild has cleared the lower spire three times on 10-man. (Most of our progression is on 10-man. 25-man content for us is usually a tier behind.) The first week we cleared it, it took us two raid nights (usually 3 or 4 hours long), plus an hour on a third night. The second and third clears took us about 3 hours. So we've got that content pretty well under control. Hopefully we'll be able to get a team together tonight and at least hit up Rotface a few times before everyone has to call it a night. I'm excited.

In the next week or two, I'll try and start posting some Bear guides for the bosses of ICC, starting with Marrowgar and working up. For those of you who may be catting it up for these bosses, I suggest checking out Dinaer's guides over at Forever a Noob. With the exception of specific abilities, his posts will be very relevant. I'll try to supplement with specific cat abilities in this blogspace where I can.

Happy Raiding.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Well, I've had this blog space sitting here for about a week now. I've been playing around with PhotoPaint desperately trying to come up with a design and color scheme that I like, but to no avail. While I keep trying to work on that, I figured it would be good to at least start getting some content here.

This is my first attempt at a blog about something other than just my daily life. I plan to use this space primarily to talk about the game of WoW from the perspective of a Feral Druid, both bear and cat.

I've been playing a Feral since March of '06 (a few months before the vanilla-era scourge invasion), although I didn't really get serious about the game until almost a year into BC. I began Bear tanking in Kara and was able to complete T4 content before the 3.0 uber-buff.

With the advent of dual-specs I've gone down a slightly unconventional path, choosing to forsake some of the natural versatility of the druid class and dual-spec Feral/Feral, with one optimized for bear tanking and the other for cat DPS. Since then I've had the opportunity to see almost every boss in Wrath from both perspectives.

In this blog I'm going to try to keep up on changes in class mechanics and give my impressions. I'm going to try to keep up with gear lists and what drops that's good for us. I'm going to try and give my impressions of facing off against various raid bosses as I experience them.

As one of my guild's Officers and Raid Leaders I'll also be trying to give some perspective on what game life is like in those areas. My experiences, thoughts, and opinions on handling both guilds and raids.

Of course, like many WoW players, I have a couple alts. And I'll likely spend some time here and there blabbering about them as well.

Hopefully I can provide some good info and entertainment over time. We'll see. Thank you for joining me on this journey!