tirsdag 24. februar 2009

New user interface.

Though I've been aware of it for some time now, Sunday's Obsidian Sanctum raid made it abundantly clear to me that I REALLY needed to re-do my user interface. A combination of SCT taking way too much space as well as having certain filter issues, combined with my buff bars growing too large when a full 25-man raid popped their cooldowns at once led to an overflow of information that took so much space on my screen that it blocked out the twilight drakes' Void Zones and made the flame adds a bitch to even find beneath the flow of text and graphics.

(Click image to see full-size version)

Starting from the center, I use AGUF for my new player, target/target of target and party unit frames, replacing Xperl (which really is overrated). I've also replaced Xperl's raid frame with a dedicated raid frame called VuhDo, situated top right in the picture. My actionbars remain Bartender4, though I've spent some time rearranging my setup and keybindings for faster and more comfortable flow. Quartz delivers my swing timer underneath the actionbars, and a mob castbar the length of my own frame, target frame and target of target frame situated immediately above said frames (not shown in picture).

I've collected my Recount and Omen in the bottom left corner, using a fairly standard setup. Prat3.0 delivers my chat and combat log. The minimap is Chinchilla, and to keep it small I've gathered all the necessary buttons with MiniMap ButtonFrame beneath it.

Finally, solving the problem areas. The first thing I did was to move my target buff/debuff rack to the bottom right corner of the screen, placing my own buff/debuff rack next to it. I then redesigned it from scratch, changing size, font and colours to make them as small as possible, yet at the same time fast accessible for information. I grew my IceHUD a bit bigger, to allow a larger area around my character clear of information. The biggest and by far most important change, though, was replacing SCT with MikScrollingBattleText. It takes some time to set up properly, but it completely annihilates SCT with regards to configurability. I actively set up to place all sources of information to outside and around my HUD, leaving the area inside clear of any disruptions, hopefully making those Void Zones more visible next time around.

Apart from what the picture shows, I also use BigWigs, Ratingbuster and Cartographer - all essentials. I'm quite pleased with where I've gotten my setup, and can't wait to test its functionality in a raid environment.

mandag 23. februar 2009

Warriors as add tanks.

While Tyds and Jayde are busy discussing all the current flaws of the warrior tank, a silent post emerged on TankingTips.com about what appears to be an entirely new aspect of utilizing the warrior tank - the dedicated add tank. Traditionally left to Consecration and Swipe, it now appears that we the juggernauts are now the new delivery boys of any given raid, and that certainly provides some food for thought.

I'll be assuming you've taken five minutes to read the original TankingTips post. Otherwise, go back and do that if you want any the rest of this post to make any sense.

To begin, I'd like to state that I fully approve and enjoy everything the post have to say. It's a great way to illustrate the diversity of the warrior tank, and underlines my post about tanking DPS a few days back. It also enlightened me on a few ideas I'd completely overlooked, namely the unlimited taunts and the Piercing Howl.

I'd originally thought Piercing Howl a dead prot talent - a fair bit of the trash, and absolutely every boss in both heroic dungeons and raid instances are immune to it. It does not cause threat, and it's deep enough into the fury tree to demand severe sacrifices to your (generally) superior arms tree choices. For nine out of ten fights in WotLK, Piercing Howl is a wasted talent. The upside to this is, of course, that you're going to be able to spec for improved Cleave, an awesome offtank-talent alongside the glyph, but you'll still take a severe pummeling for overall TPS dropping your arms choices.

I'm also critical to the lack of options presented for emercency buttons. Thunder Clap is on a six second cooldown, Shockwave on twenty. They are also offensive spells requiring rage, which is hard to maintain at the beginning of a fight where you're not actually being beaten on yet, or even beating on anything. Bloodrage is the obvious answer, but it still has a massive cooldown making it unreliable, so we are likely to be dependent on keeping Charge off cooldown and tabbing like a crazed maniac to ensure we not only build rage, but allocated it properly. This, to me, appears to be both the biggest drawback, yet at the same time greatest challenge to this tanking concept.

It's also worth noting that you, while nowhere near a bad tank, will be lacking main tank capacity with this build. Warriors are already lowering the average endgame raid threat roof by simply not being able to keep TPS high enough to compete with the DPS output by classes like arcane mages or enhancement shamans with the current metagame - losing improved Heroic Strikes and Deep Wounds, not to mention the added Charge rage in an already rage-starved environement will ensure our threat output in a main tank situation is signifigantly lower than desired.

Despite of these points, I still feel this spec is viable, and as such, I've tweaked my spec to a strange and absolutely unfamiliar 5/14/52 build. I will hopefully be testing it in heroic Naxxramas, Eye Of Eternity and Obsidian Sanctum within the week or so, and I'll be sure to post my findings. Until then, as always, watch this space.

Tag - I'm it!

I regently got tagged by Dann, and since I'm finally back on my laptop (where I keep my archives), I'm ready to answer the challenge.

This is the trophy shot from my old guild's first Maiden Of Virtue kill. It took us three attempts - the first attempt failed when our pallie healer and main dispeller got D/C'ed from his mother pulling the plug on his internet, the second due to our elemental shammie walking up to the boss and aggroing her, for no apparent reason - but we got there in the end. Tanking gauntlets and healing totem dropped, if my memory serves me right. We then moved on to opera, where we one-shotted the wolf before calling it a night.

Posting this brings back a lot of fond memories, and I'm happy to report that my old guild is still alive and well, having cleared all 10-man content except Malygos so far. Anna and Pete, if you're reading this: Timmeh!

lørdag 21. februar 2009

Promises fulfilled.

This week, I was unable to attend our guild's heroic Naxxramas run, and as (inevitably) such, my highly coveted Broken Promise dropped for our other warrior tank. Congratulations to him, but seeing him equip it without changing any of his current gear or spec got me thinking: apart from the obvious item level upgrade, what good is this sword actually going to be for him?

Said sword is, as most people can see, obviously intended as a Death Knight main hand for dual-wielding. The slow speed makes it a difficult warrior item to use properly - it is by all means a very good weapon, but to use it properly, it's one of those items you "don't just equip", you build around it. It has offensive stats and an INSANE top end, but rage generation will be flaky due to the slow speed. As such, you're dependent on white attacks hitting fairly often, making Expertise and Hit Rating even more important than they already are. To fully allow this sword to shine, you need to build your set around the idea that you will hit slow, hit hard, and make it count - every single time.

Items such as Signet of the Impregnable Fortress and Grim Toll are obvious pieces to consider for such a set, but you still want to build even towards an even higher extreme - the idea should be to squeeze every last little DPS out of your overall gear while at the same time balancing a fine line around the mandatory 540 defence. As such, items such as Undiminished Battleplate with a +22 defence enchant is suddenly viable, as is using an armour enchant over a defence enchant on your cloak to pump up your Armoured To The Teeth base total. Gemming agility over dodge in red sockets wil boost your crit (allowing a higher Deep Wounds uptime total) at the cost of some dodge, but let's be honest - this set really is about hitting back almost as hard as you're being hit already.

So what's the point of all this? To illustrate the full diversity of warrior tanking in the current World of Warcraft meta, of course. Looking at the top tanks in the top guilds both sides of the Atlantic might give you the impression that high end raiding is set in stone (both gear choices, enchants and specs have taken a disgusting and uniform monotony of late), but I aim to disagree. The current content isn't so hard its demanding role-stacking or pure stamina builds. There is no Brutallus-like DPS races demanding leatherworking mages with an arsenal of drums in Wrath of the Lich King. Playing the tank is, in my opinion, more open to diversity and experimentation now than it ever was. There is always the option of being the "best" - gaining the highest possible avoidance while at the same time keeping your maximum unbuffed HP aove 30K - but really, guys: wouldn't you rather beat the shit out of monsters with a dildo-shaped sword and a huge fucking shield instead if you had the chance?

I know I would.

tirsdag 3. februar 2009

Naxxramas: a travelogue.

Since dinging 80, I've done my fair share of Naxxramas runs, both good and bad. And though we eventually failed (if ever so close) at Kel'Thuzad, tonight's trip to ten man Naxxramas reminded me why I love raiding, and why I love tanking, so much. The conditions could have been better - our raid leader didn't show up so we had to appoint an ad-hoc placeholder, our offtank, though a hell of a threatbuilding monster, appeared to have less situational awareness than a mole, two of the raid members dinged 80 the day before and another three were healers going offspec. The group was, theoretically, sub-par in every respect, and when we proved to make it work, at times even like Swiss clockwork, it was truly a wonder to behold.

As stepping up from the offtank role to being the maintank proved a first maintanking run for me, I've sat down and reviewed ten man Naxxramas from this fresh perspective. Tanking things first hand and not just zerker stance shield slamming most of the time really makes you see the instance with new eyes, and to be honest, it's beautiful on many levels.

THE ARACHNID QUARTER is, in many ways, both easy-mode as well as a solid presentation of what's to come. Voices from the past whisper that even top guilds wiped on Anub'Rehkan back in classic, and it's easy to imagine locust swarm having something to do with it. From a tanking point of view, he's basically a more interesting Attumen - demanding very little apart from parking him in his spot. And when he occasionally beats you sky high, just use one of your clever macros to burn Recklessness or Retaliation before you come down. Piece of cake. Faerlina down the hall proves almost easier from a maintank perspective - taunt her off the OT, park her and wait for it. When even third boss Maexxna is the same thing, and even the trash proves very little challenge, this quarter really is somewhat walkthrough. Demands are, quite honestly, a lot higher on the OT than the MT, at least making it interesting for the (on many fights) least useful member of the raid.

THE CONSTRUCT QUARTER immediately proves more challenging. The mini-Patchwerk trash hits hard enough that you feel it, the sludges just annoy everything and everyone, and the amount of trash before Patchwerk is somewhat annoying. The boss himself, however, is great fun. Though essentially a tank and spank encounter, the sheer intensity and nerve of the fight, the knowledge that two Hateful Strikes in a row WILL break you unless your healer have godly reflexes, makes it extremely thrilling. Unlike PW, however, Grobbulus really is just an annoying fight. It's not that he's hard - even with all the elements of the fight (adds, clouds, injections), he really is an easy fight once you understand him. That's also his main weakness - learn him, and he's just five minutes of avoiding the boring stuff while walking backwards in a large circle - not at all my cup of tea. I don't mind a challenge, but I do mind a proposed challenged drowned out by easily breakable mechanics. The next boss, Gluth, falls into the same category of encounters that just don't get me hot in that special place. From a tanking point of view, it's not even a challenge as soon as your VT is up. What annoys me about him is that he's near undoable with the wrong group. Our retadin, feral kitty, arcane mage, boomkin and elemental shammie DPS setup simple couldn't kite the adds well enough, making it a downward hit points spiral taking him out. Being dependent on decent kiting for a single encounter makes raid composition an issue, which it should never be - composition should be secondary to skill. Thankfully, though, the wing completely redeem itself with final boss Thaddius, a masterpiece of an encounter. Unlike his borther Grob, Thaddius has all the elements of a great fight - phase 1 with the throws (which are about the funnest thing ever for a tank), the polarity shift, the actually having an enrage timer (even if it's nowhere near being triggered, ever), the yelling of "DON'T LOOT YET" when he goes down - Thaddius makes a challenge, which is beatable with focus and skill, yet at the same time great fun.

THE PLAGUE WING is home to two of the most annoying trash rooms in the entire instance, and three bosses that really isn't much of a challenge to any group that already did Thaddius. Noth is another offtank race, the occasional curse is probably intended to cause trouble but for some reason, good casters kind of make it not appear challenging. Heigan, scourge of noobs and slackers is more of the same, though with the adds replaced by an amazingly hilarius safety dance in a sea of some... plagued watery magmaish stuff. He does take some work positioning, especially being a caster mob and thus not necessarily agreeing to being kited all the time. As soon as you get him in his place, though, he's mince. The wing's final boss, Loatheb, is maybe the single most boring tanking encounter in the entire instance. He's 100% tank and spank, letting the rest of the raid doing the job. Overall, this is by far the least exciting wing of the instance, and just about the easiest as well.

THE MILITARY QUARTER, however, fast ups the ante for a decent challenge. Already on the first trash pull, you want to be careful as the trash hits hard and fast and a lot - and there are many of them. The trash up to Instructour Razuvious is a bitch of a job for a warrior tank, which is where we're forced to excel the way we're meant to. The instructor himself places little demand on your tanking skill - again, the offtank does all the footwork while you're off playing with jewelery and toying with NPC minds. The MC'ing is, however, a demanding strain on a trained tanking mind - 15 second taunt cooldown? 10 yards range? WTF? These death knights apprentices are obviously noobs and have no home in my raid group. Gothik the Harvester is another case of "mindless minion management" - tossing heroic level mobs on you in slow succession for nearly five minutes before entering the room with less than one million hit points? Please. Calling for a challenge, The Four Horsemen answers by delivering a fight equal to or even better than Thaddius in intensity, difficulty, discipline and sheer fun. The forced mobility and changing of targets makes for a wonderful change to the overabundance of tank and spank encounters so far, resulting in the wing being by far the most interesting and challenging to tank.

SAPPHIRON'S LAIR hoses the two final bosses of the instance, and make no mistake - these are, compared to what you've seen earlier in the instance, the HARD bosses. Sapphiron himself isn't much to learn, and as soon as you understand him, he's not much of a challenge. What makes him hard is simply the discipline and endurance needed to down him - it takes a lot of damage to down him, and he dishes out a more than fair share in return. Tanking him as a warrior is rewarding in the sense that you get to blow off all your finesse in both building threat as well as positioning, while at the same same making sure you're in range of the ice blocks when they pop up. That he's a fairly standard dragon fight, however, isn't up for much debate, and there's a small miracle there aren't actually any form of adds to the fight. Next to him stands the big, bad mastermind himself - Kel'Thuzad, final boss of Naxxramas and harbinger of tier 7 headgear. Divided into three phases, one of which is boring beyond imagination, another one which is all about postitioning and a final one that's clearly designed to drive healers insane, he's by far the most challenging encounter in the raid, but not, necessary the most fun challenge. Having to do phase 1 over and over again on wipes is possibly more discouraging than clearing the trash before Shade Of Aran before you got the elevator, a truly ghastly endeavour. The bossfight itself, however, will have you sweat out your ears looking out for red circles of deathy death while at the same time praying silently that your healers are still both alive and not iceblocked. A good solid challenge to finish of an overall not as challenging as one would want instance, containing a good portion of decent, challenging fights, but mostly... "You! Minion of evil! Stand here while I bash your crotch in!"

They never learn, do they?