05 September 2008

Tanking Heroic Slave Pens

We ran heroic Underbog last night. With our normal group setup it would have been easy, but we did it with group roles that we're not as familiar with or as geared for. The group was:

Firegrin and Wyrmm are experienced and well-geared but the rest of us are a bit new to our roles. Matt has a well-geared Shaman, but his druid Mattoo just dinged 70 last week and isn't geared up yet. Eric is just started in gearing up Dralkios as a healer. And I'm still new to the tanking business with Alamein.

The good news about Druid tanking is that it's pretty easy to get geared up, especially as a skinner/leatherworker. The Heavy Clefthoof set (boots, leggings, and vest) is really good gear. It's the nucleus of a set that gets you ready for heroics or Kara. Add to that some PvP pieces and I'm pretty much ready to go.

There are great resources out there to learn about tanking. My go-to article is Bear with me, I want to tank on TankSpot.

The hardest part has been learning the mechanics, starting with the pull. I'm still working out details like when Enrage is a good or a bad idea. With Firegrin and Wyrmm in particular, I'm working pretty hard to establish aggro. I'm also still working out the attack rotation. The base rotation of Mangle, 3xLacerate is pretty easy. But I still have to work out when to throw Demoralizing Roar or Feral Faerie Fire -- sometimes I forget, while other times I'm probably refreshing them too soon. And I struggle with using Bash or Maul appropriately.

Multi-mob stuff is still my weakest point, in two ways. I have a hard time getting enough aggro lead on all mobs to stay ahead of my healer -- especially if we have casters involved. And I'm not very good at taunting when it's needed either. My DPS last night was really good at knowing when to slow down, but the healer doesn't have that luxury. I need to be better at pulling mobs off him.

With those kinds of weaknesses, it wasn't going to be an easy run. We had quite a few wipes, usually due to losing Dralkios to loose mobs. But we got a lot better at it along the way. We one-shotted both Mennu and Rokmar, which was fun. Eventually we got stuck at a bad four-lobster pull on the way to Quagmirran, where the long climbing hallway opens into a larger room. We wiped there four or five times before getting it figured out, but at that point it was too late for us all and we called the run.

Even though it was a challenging run I really enjoyed it. It's a big help that I had four extremely skilled players along for the run.

Eric on Dralkios is still learning healing and he's maybe still a bit lightly geared for heroics. But he got amazingly good at it along the way. Eric is great at balancing the tactical choices involved in each fight - knowing which totems to drop, for example. I never saw him get his healing priorities wrong either -- something that I know took me a long time to learn on Alamein.

Danny on Firegrin is the exact example of what WowInsider just called The Hunter Who Doesn't Suck. To start with he was chain-trapping a mob in every pull. He's so rock-solid at it that I'd put a blue rectangle on a mob and know that I wouldn't need to touch it until everything else was dead. At the same time he'd usually be Misdirecting onto me to help me with threat issues. And with all that he was still doing more than his share of the overall damage for the group.

DK on Wyrmm is just as skilled as a rogue. He's exactly the melee partner you want in a group. He can scout ahead and use Distract and Sap to set up the pull. In a fight his stuns and kicks are perfectly timed, and he will Evasion-tank a mob to prevent disaster. He's also really heads-up in every fight, calling out problems or warnings and reminding us of the next kill. And his damage was insane; he really rocked the meter last night, without becoming an aggro menace.

Finally Matt on Mattoo is great to play with as well. His druid is still undergeared and he wasn't able to DPS to the same level. But it's a testimony to his skill that we still got as far as we did. His knowledge is encyclopedic and he knew exactly what to expect with each pull. And he did the great druid multitasking role really well -- switching to bear to pick up a loose mob or to healer to help out Dralkios any time it was needed.

And the whole group was great to work with overall. People were relaxed and laid-back even when chain-wiping. Each frustration was met with good suggestions for what to try next. But even with a laid-back joking atmosphere the whole group stayed focused and was always ready for the next pull.

That's the kind of stuff that really gets me hooked into the game: the people I get to play with. I love that stuff!

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