Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mimiron Down! (And 3.2 post-patch week recap)

Our second night of attempting Mimiron10, after about two hours of wipes, Mimiron hit the floor, and there was much rejoicing! I got a sexy new t8.0 tank helm, and someone else got the Fusion Blade. The other tank got a fun new toy, and I got a trophy (if you don't get the joke, think what "ground" and "gear" mean on their own, in the context of WoW. It's hilarious.)

Astute readers (really anyone who hasn't been living under a rock) may have noticed that if the aforementioned helm is an upgrade for me, then I really don't have much ground gear. I'll admit, I'm being a lazy bum and my guild probably suffered more wipes than it needed to because of me. Incase you have been living under a rock, patch 3.2 was last week, and everything gives Emblems of Conquest (or better) now. Meaning I could theoretically be running around in some much better tank gear for the low, low price of 191 Emblems. That would be 5 days (about) of Heroic grinding, or less if you raided at all this week or had some leftover from Ulduar hardmodes (which is E Z Moade, by the way).

Also giving better gear is the new Trial of the Crusader 5man, which has both Regular and Heroic modes. Due to my general apathy for trying to play in the post-patch-lag-mayhem, I have only cleared H ToC once, but I've farmed the regular a bit. Both give a whopping five (5!) epics per run of a particularly high item level, and the heroic comes with Emblems on the side.

Aside: The regular can, as you might expect, be run as often as you like, and is an excellent source of enchant mats (which are probably freefalling in price on any server.) Speaking of which, since BoPs are tradeable now, PuGs are treating disenchanting differently. On my server, about half of all PuGs open greed roll, and the enchanter buys the BoPs at the end for about half the shard's price (usually 2-4 times over vendor value, still benefitting the nonenchanters.) Also on the subject of BoP trading, much private selling or manipulating of loot has been going on. Often when in a PuG raid with guildies, we will all roll on a loot one of us wants and pass to them if any of us wins, likewise, good epics often get secretly auctioned off via whisper after loot has ended. It might be frustrating as a raid leader, but again, hilarious. Great way to make money too.

Much like Violet Hold, ToC has a random selection of bosses, and thus a huge variety of loot; expect to farm it until your face turns blue only to have the guy next to you gear out in a single run. Since you're liable to be there a while, time for some how-to on ToC. The dungeon has four bosses, to which I will dedicate a section apeice below.

The first boss is a tag-team of the dreaded Wall of Text coupled with the Interminable Wait. It casts Intense Boredom with rapidly increasing frequency throughout the fight. If hit, a player will often AFK or tab out to write a blog post. Losing one player to Intense Boredom will not wipe this encounter, but it will make the next encounter much more difficult, as no known spell can remove this effect. The best defense is an ingame distraction, such as trolling General chat, or spamming /silly (these do not protect your party members). Addons such as Peggle for WoW can combat the Intense Boredom, however they can also cause many of the same problems. A small fraction of this time should also be spent buffing up and getting a lance and mount (both available around the walls) for the second encounter.

The second boss consists of three trash packs followed by a triple boss randomly chosen from a set of five champions of the opposing faction. The first half of the encounter is fought on the Argent Tournament jousting mounts. Some people may have some experience with them from the dailies, but I did not, and I would imagine there are others like me.

The mounts have four spells: a melee swing (which will not auto-cast - spammable), Shield Breaker (a weak ranged attack that is used to lower your target's defense - shares a cooldown with Charge), Charge (a very strong charge attack which also breaks defense - shares a cooldown with Shield Breaker), and Defend (which repairs your own defenses - cast it on cooldown). To be edited: Links to be added above next time I go to ToC.

To deal maximum damage on these mounts, make sure to focus fire with your group, use Charge to inflict your damage, and cast a melee swing when your charge hits. If you can't get far enough away from the group target to charge it, spam your melee swing on it. Assign a regular target to focus since marking will be difficult given the limited time between trash spawning and the fight beginning (E.G. "all charge the center one"). During Wall of Text, you should mark the bosses with a kill order before they all spawn. A good kill order is Dwarf > Gnome > Dranei > Nelf > Human, but that's just my 2c.

When you joust the bosses, their mounts are vastly stronger than yours, so if your mount is getting banged up, feel free to ride to the walls and grab a fresh one, you can jump directly to a new mount without getting off. Once a boss has been knocked to the floor, assign one party member to stand on it, if you don't trample them repeatedly, they will sneak over to the wall and remount, much like you can. When all three bosses have been knocked off their mounts, phase two of this fight will begin.

When phase two begins, one of three things will happen: either you run out of the instance, or two DPS die and then release spirit and fly back, or you wipe and you all fly back. This is because damage you dealt during the mount phase generates threat... and it carries over. Most likely you will start with threat... on one of them, and the other two (or maybe three) will go roflpwn your party. I really recommend running out. I don't really know all the bosses, but they're not that hard on regular, just keep your eyes open and communicate with your party and it'll be fine... on regular. Practice at least once on regular before attempting Heroic. When downed, a loot chest spawns with one epic.

Boss three is preceded by the Wall of Text returning, but it's much weaker this time around, tank and spank it. Some easy trash also spawns in three groups, target the Lightweilder first, the Monk last, and if a lolwell appears, have your DPS nuke it. The boss you get is random, I have fought two different ones, Eadric (a paladin) and Argent Confessor whats-her-name. They hit fairly hard, and both have some special abilities to watch for. Eadric will occasionally stun a party member and them smite them for massive Holy damage, and he will also explode with light, blinding anyone still facing him when the cast finishes. Argent Confessor will summon a shade partway through the fight, when she does (or a bit before for DoT-users) stop all DPS on her, she reflects all damage until the shade dies. While the shade is alive, she will also mass-fear the party from time to time. Shadow resistance is helpful on this fight. When killed you get another chest with two epics.

Boss four is a Death Knight and has has three phases. Both Shadow and Frost resist buffs are useful on this fight. In the first phase, his ghoul will leap around alternating between the squishiest DPS and the healer, kill it or taunt it, pick one. Meanwhile the boss will use strong magic and melee, as well as some disease DoTs, cure them if possible. When killed, he will come back as a ghoul, apparently he missed all the nerfs we've gotten, lucky sucker... Phase two will begin, he summons an Army of the Dead. Drop D&D, and pop a cooldown if necessary, the damage is actually rather light, as long as you get the mob in front of you. Finally, when killed he will return as a ghost, he will throw magic around at the party, there's not much you can do for them besides burn him or use AMZ if you have it, save it as late in the fight as possible if you do; you'll need it more later on. An interesting note, the spells he uses are shadowfrost, so Shadow resist or Frost resist alone will be largely useless, only mitigating his DoTs. Kill and loot for two more epics.

Some other changes to note: the new BG rocks, Koralon will not be added to VoA until the next Arena season starts, and the first boss(es) of the new raid dungeon is available (the Northrend Beast Encounter is easy enough - if you have the gear for it; it has a very high gear threshold for tanks by last patch's standards, fairly attainable with heroic grinding now.) Also don't miss out on epic gems for your new gear, you can get the raws for 10-20 of your leftover Emblems of Heroism, and get the cut done for free from a gullible guildie. Also for your new gear, enchant prices are at record-breaking lows, slap some on, things that once cost over 600g are now around 100-200. Naxx10 is going out of style, by the way, most guilds on my server are discontinuing it, although I'm sure pugging will be just as possible as before. Maly10/25 has become highly puggable as well, thanks to the recent nerf where the drakes are much stronger.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

On the Origin of Failures

(Disclaimer: I blame the piss-poor quality of this post on my brother.)

So, today on my level 16 Warrior alt, I went to solo Ragefire Chasm (for any alliance scum out there, it's like Stockade, but level 13-16.) On my way in, I saw a post in general: "LF1M RFC!" So I joined the group. Just after I got in the door, the leader kicked me to make room for a level 80 runner. I shrugged, easy come, easy go; I was going to solo anyway.

I went in, it was a little challenging, I went through a few healing potions, died twice, but an hour and two levels later, I finished the instance having completely soloed it. Victorious, I posted in RFC's general chat, "Woot! Soloed RFC!" To which I get a reply from the previous party's group leader: "Congratulations. In the same time, I got ran through here six times and I'm 8 levels higher."

What exactly is the point of levelling up quickly, particularly if you don't learn to play along the way? Unless you're just getting to 80 so you can sell the account on Ebay, being 80 without having the skill to raid is pointless, and if you miss out on the fun, why are you even playing? That guy in every PuG raid? Guess where those people come from. -.-

I think some people need to take a good hard look at why they're even playing in the first place. If it's neither money nor fun, I would say you're doing it wrong. Fun for me is overcoming great challenges, like 5man content with 1 player, or 10man content with only 2 players. I enjoy overcoming challenges, and go out of my way to preform the most outlandish feats I can come up with. I am aware that (although I do not entirely understand why) there is an entire other class of people that want less challenge as they level, but either way, following a random 80 around looting is boring, and causes you to miss out on all the other content you might have seen in that level range.

For the people who, like me, want to see raid bosses fall over in rapid succession, (shame I couldn't find a video to link,) chasing after gear even when it amounts to the level 80 equivalent of running is not what you need to be doing. Hat to break it to everyone, but unless you're doing Ulduar, you can clear whatever it is in mixed blues, greens and 70 gear, and unless it's hard mode, ilvl 200s will suffice in there too. What you really need to do is learn your spec inside-and-out, and practice basic raiding skills if you want to be successful. There's a reason that I saw "LFM VoA, no retards, people with downs or death knights" in trade today, skill is vastly more important than gear, even on a gear check fight. A skilled player in greens can do 2.3k dps and survive the fight, a moron in full Ulduar25 epics can do 400 dps and then die in a fire half a minute into the fight.

If you want to strengthen your tanking skills, there's nothing better than running a ton of Heroics with a random PuG group every time; people will do things dumber than you can imagine, and you are bound to run with a seriously undergeared group every once in a while. There's no better way to prepare for all hell breaking loose in your raids than getting used to all hell breaking loose in your Heroics. Also, if you're up to the challenge, (and specced at least partially Blood,) soloing level 80 Heroics will do wonders for your ability to mitigate incoming damage with extremely limited healing while having to keep up with a dynamic fight. Players looking to begin soloing Heroics are advised to begin with Loken in Halls of Lightning, or Grand Magus in Nexus.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Don't Run Out of Fuel

Today, I had the pleasure of finding out halfway to my History lecture that my car was on the verge of running out of gas. It was too late to refill, as I had no money at the time, and I couldn't wait to get more. So I hoped everything would be okay, and in the end it was, but I could have had serious problems. I will have to be more vigilant so I don't have this problem again.

What does this have to do with raiding?

Let me translate.

"Today, I had the pleasure of finding out halfway though my Ulduar raid that my bar was on the verge of running out of Runic Power. It was too late to refill, as I had no runes at the time, and I couldn't wait to get more. So I hoped everything would be okay, and in the end it wasn't, but I got my face ripped off by Kologarn. I will have to be more vigilant so I don't have this problem again."

That actually happened once, back when Kologarn was a progression raid. I got two stacks of Crunch Armor while the other tank was being fisted. I went to hit good ol' Icebound and...

Not enough runic power

We wiped. I learned from it, and made sure to keep a bigger reserve of Runic Power. This usually isn't a problem unless things are already going horribly wrong anyway, but it's a lesson to keep in mind. Much more important is to avoid running out of runes. There are only a handfull of things worse than seeing the Right Arm turn to rubble, or a new mole machine release its contents only to realize you don't have enough blood runes to cast D&D. It can be slightly irritating, and the worst thing is knowing you could have prevented it by paying more attention and restraining yourself from hitting every button you have available.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Some Days It's Really Good to be a Death Knight

Some days it's good to be a Death Knight.

Other days it's really good to be a Death Knight..

Last night my guild did progression raiding in Ulduar again. We knocked down the farm bosses (the joke bosses were already down) and went straight for Assembly of Iron. I got to tank Steelbreaker. It was a joy.

Let me say right now that if I didn't have cooldowns to roll through every cast of this, we would have never downed Steelbreaker. For the record, the cooldowns I used to mitigate the hit were: AMS, AMZ, Icebound, Rune Tap+Death Pact, Repelling Charge, Rune of Repulsion+Spell Deflection, and Army.

Astute readers might note that with Fusion Punch on about a 15 second interval, I can't actually have one up every single time. Thus, the healy-Paladin used Divine Sacrifice+Bubble to help me out, and Steelbreaker fell before the next hole in my cooldown rotation.

This point is where "shit shit shit shit shit" happened. Once Steelbreaker fell, phase 2 destroyed us, but I think it's quite impressive that we dropped Steelbreaker on our third attempt. We would have continued, but, lacking anyone to dispel/steal Runemaster's bubble, I didn't have the ability to weather his melee swings, and so we called it for the night. We also could have used a Rogue to stunlock the shrimpy one, but I guess you can't have everything.

Downranking is for Noobs and Masochists. (I appear to be a masochist.)

As I've mentioned, I've also been playing a healy-Priest alt on the side. Even though this lesson was learned on a non-DK, it applies to us all.

If you're levelling and you learned Dual Talent Specialization before level 80, when you train your new spells from levelling up, it will not update your non-active spec's actionbars. I just realized that after healing heroics, Naxx10, Naxx25, OS10, OS25 and Ulduar25 that I've been running around with my healing spells two ranks below what I could have had them at, effectively halving my healing.

So remember, check your spelling, particularly right after you ding 80! No reason to be running around with a half-power Unholy Blight.

As to why you wouldn't want to use downranked spells, it has been rather a while since downranking was beneficial; all spells cost the same regardless of rank. The only difference is diminished effect.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

On Tanking Weapons (And Why DPS Shouldn't be Allowed to Roll on Them)

As I mentioned last time, it's time for a rant about DK tank weapons. When DK's were created, we shook things up just a bit. Long story short, we tank with two-handed maces, swords and axes mostly, and the trouble was, they don't make tanking two-handers. So, instead of retrofitting a ton of old content to accomodate Death Knights, they decided to simply keep rolling out DPS two-handers and give us Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle. This works out well enough, but you still need something to put the rune on, and some things are better than others.

So what should be the vessel for your runeforge? Let's look at the stats 2h weapons can have.

Strength - Helps your DPS, and thus your threat. Grants parry rating via Forceful Deflection, scales well with certain DK talents.

Stamina - Every weapon has this. However, the more, the merrier. Also scales to DK talents and Frost Presence.

Agility - Although not specifically boosted by our class, this gants a sizeable chunk of Dodge and some Armor, as well as Crit for threat. Better than Strength for mitigation/avoidance, usually worse for threat.

Intellect/Spirit/MP5 - No. Go unarmed before you use one of these, it'll be funnier and about as effective.

Expertise - A nice boost to threat and a small drop in incoming damage due to less parryhaste. Try to get around 6.5% total, but it's ok to go past that. About twice as effective in the hands of a tank than it would be used by an intelligent DPS.

Hit - It sucks when your aggro moves miss. Get to 9% total (remember to include talents) ASAP, but there's not much reason to go past that. A dead stat if you're already capped.

Crit - A percent mod to threat... if your moves can crit. Not as useful in my Unholy spec.

Armor Penetration - Solid for a Blood tank, rather worthless for other specs, which deal primarily magic damage.

Haste - Useful, but go for something else. It only reduces the GCD on your non-weapon attacks, and speeds up your melee swing. It does not, however, increase the rate your runes come back, so even if you use mostly spell attacks, it will just increase your downtime. Generally worse than crit.

Attack Power - Ups all your threat. No mitigation bonus.

Resilience - No. Not unless you're just gearing up and not yet Defense capped, and even then, this will be worthless post-3.2.

Now, there's a slight problem. You may understand, and I may understand that a Strength/Stamina/Agility/Expertise item is exceptional for tanking, but there are legions of DPS out there that can also use your loot. And it will be a valid upgrade for them too. They want it. They'll get it, toss aside their old blue junk, and then replace it a week later. If you are leading a raid, or have any say at all, make it perfectly clear that Joe Roflstomp getting the Inevitable Defeat over the local tank DK is like Mr. Rogue Lolstab getting the Skyforge Crossbow over your Hunter. Yes, they can use it, but is everyone really stupid enough to put it to such a waste? Unfortunately.

Here are some recommended tanking items found between just dinging 80 and just breaking into Ulduar.

Crafted(Blacksmithing) - Titansteel Destroyer, because it is really easy to get.
Heroic DTK - Mojo Masked Crusher
Heroic HoL - Colossal Skull-Clad Cleaver
Heroic Naxxramas - The Jawbone
Heroic Naxxramas - Inevitable Defeat
Heroic Ulduar - Worldcarver

Obviously there are others you can use, but these are some of the ones that I feel really should be used by a DK tank.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Observations

I've always known that I come from a failserver, but ever more evidence that I'm riding the failboat: http://www.warcraftrealms.com/census.php?serverid=70&factionid=-1&minlevel=80&maxlevel=80&servertypeid=1

Some highlights: There are as many humans as horde.

My guild (Dynasty) is ranked number 4 on the server, and we haven't killed anything past Cat Lady on 10man nor anything at all in 25, and we have about 1/3 of a 10man Ignis kill total. Ironically, several of our memebers have killed things in a full PuG that the guild hasn't.

As always, I roll against 18% of the server for my tanking weapons (cue rant next post), 42% of the server for my tanking tier and no one if we try to kill Freya.

It's the End of the World... of Warcraft

Let's hypothetically assume Blizzard goes out of business and decides to shut down their servers and WoW for good. You have 5 hours before the server shutdown is permanent. What would you do in 5 hours?

I read this quote over here and it really got me thinking.

I spend a lot of time in WoW. I would go so far as to claim that over half of my time is spent thinking about or actively playing WoW. The last six months of my life have been primarily focused on WoW. It's what I do for fun, and what I work on when I have no real work. I'm doing it even as I write.

So what would I do if it was the end of the World... of Warcraft? In my reamining time online, I suppose I would wate precious time trying first to verify the announcement and then to figure out what to do. First off I'd make sure the friends I have online know how to contact me outside the game, and I'd make damn sure to be on Vent for the remaining time. I would have come to the conclusion that I have to make it last, I would go do one of two things:

1. I might go revisit content that I really enjoyed. Ask around the guild if people have appropriately-levelled alts for Deadmines, maybe do an AB and an AV, go solo Heroic Nexus again, have a naked dance party in the north Dalaran bank with screenshots all around. Oh yes, no matter what it would be screenshots everywhere.

2. I would make one last-ditch attempt at Yogg-Saron. I know the guild isn't anywhere close to the encounter, but I'd be damned if I would miss out on content I could have seen. Out of Ulduar's 17 (?) bosses, I've seen only 7, and killed only 6. We would make at least one fail attempt at Thorim, Hodir and Mimiron, and then actually down Freya. No way I could live with knowing our hours of wiping was actually truly a lost cause.

Once the servers were down... I don't know. Immediately, I would probably call a game of Smash Bros., although most of the rest of my house also plays WoW, and may not be in the mood.

Longer term... I don't really know. I may rededicate myself to my studies, or I might dive back into the MMO that I've been producing alone. Maybe a bit of both.

It's a really deep question. I've quit WoW before, but there was always the nice feeling that when my schedule or other things got better, I could go back and my guild would still be there (apparently no more progressed than when I had left /grumble).

So what would you do? Say something in the comments, it's an interesting question meriting a response. (Side note: No tank posts lately due to new 80 healy priest. Will get back to work when guild raids Ulduar again and I'm forced to go on something I'm competent at.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tanking Specs Revisited

As I mentioned previously, I've been playing with a new tanking spec. Here is the latest version of my frost tanking spec.

I went for more damage talents than you normally would grab for frost. Why? (Tubes!!) My guild has been having some difficulty with Ignis, and by swapping around a couple points I can now offtank and shatter brittle constructs in the same spec.

After playing more with forst, I really like the high single target DPS, and Unbreakable Armor is excellent for tanking the adds on Sarth+2.

Actually heading into Ulduar to put it to the test in a little bit, an edit to this post to come once it has passed the trial by fire, pun not intended.

Edit: Okay, I'm back from wiping on Ignis about 10 times. My new spec is much better for that fight than my old one. I'm starting to see that Frost is generally better for boss tanking, while my Unholy / Blood build works more effectively on trash or crowds of adds.

Being able to shatter the Iron Constructs and take the hit from them exploding did wonders for our ability to consistently get them down, particularly since the DPS that should have been shattering spent most of their time dead and/or in the slag pot.

We went from wiping with Ignis over 80% to wiping with him under 20%. A marked improvement if you ask me.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Freya Woes

So, two days ago I had the opprotunity to tank while my guild tried Freya for the first time.

It didn't end well.

Freya is what I would call 'slightly hectic'. She begins the fight with a pair of buffs that heal her for 6k HP/sec and increase her healing by 600%, for a total of 42k HP/sec, making her impossible to kill without removing some buffs. Even though she can't be killed like this, she still needs to be tanked, that was the warrior's job.

She also summons a set of adds about every 30 seconds. One of three groups can spawn: a crowd of small lashers, or a trio of two lashers and a water revenant, or one giant ancient. Every time you kill an add, she loses some stacks of the heal-increasing buff. So, the goal is obvious, keep her tanked until enough adds have died, then burn her down.

Simple in theory, very difficult in execution. Many times we'd get a long pause between waves where the DPS were basically idle, only to have two waves spawn within a few seconds of eachother and wipe us.

The mob of lashers wasn't so bad, even before we figured out the trick to killing them quickly they still posed little threat. They have the annoying ability to drop threat, a lot, but they don't hit hard enough to splatter our healers or DPS like an overripe tomato, so that wasn't so bad. They also explode with fire damage when killed, this can be bad if the entire pack dies within a few yards and seconds of eachother. The strategy we eventually adopted was to have everyone stack on Freya when these were out, and drop AoEs, then have everyone scatter when they got to about 30% health, and finish them off like that. It works very well, most of the time we had 10+ seconds left before the next wave of adds.

The trio of two lashers and a water revenant was trickier for my raid. If one dies, it will resurrect at half health 12 seconds later, unless both others die first. So all three basically have to die at the same time. This would be easy, except their health and defenses vary wildly, and the water elemental refuses to stay where I can hit it. In our first 4-5 attempts, one would commonly die way too early, and they would all resurrect, we'd get a second wave and wipe. Since the DPS have to restrain themselves a bit, this phase very commonly ran long even without an early kill and we would get more just when they were about dead. Fortunately, this was easily corrected by shouting "pop EVERY AoE" over vent.

The ancient alone was the simplest of the lot, but when combined with anything else, it would usually get us all killed. You see, he silences the raid. To fix this, everyone has to run under one of the mushrooms growing randomly all over the area. By the time this was done, however, either of the other two phases would have been running amok, and healing would be so badly interrupted that we typically lost someone around now about 50% of the time. This mob is exactly why you don't want another phase running late. It can also stop you killing...

...the trees. They grow all over, one at a time, during the fight. If they aren't killed before too long, they blow up and heal everything for about 40% health. Not a problem if it hits Freya, since she'll be at full anyway, but it can really muck up one of the add packs. We had two hunters tasked to blowing them up whenever they appeared. If we didn't have the hunters, a destro 'lock, or perhaps some kind of mage might have worked as well, as long as whoever it is is ranged and can do about 10k in a matter of seconds with no warning. If for some reason there's no ranged with burst capabilities, I imagine the melee could get creative.

This fight was really, really crazy. I strongly recommend speccing for AoE threat if you're the offtank, and heavy mitigation if you're the maintank. Our guild hasn't yet downed Freya, and with our level of activity, it probably won't even be attempted again for a few weeks.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

On Tanking Specs

So, up until today, I have tanked almost exclusively in an Unholy/Blood hybrid I made myself.

I decided that such a narrow focus isn't the best thing for my blog, so this morning I respecced my offsec from frost DPS to frost tank.

My first impression in the new spec was wow this spec doesn't have many cooldowns. Looking at the usual spot on my actionbar I use for cooldowns, I had only three. Later I would find out that Unbreakable Armor is rediculous. It's even better than Icebound Fortitude, if that's even possible. However, it is on a longer, although still short, cooldown, and I was tanking a 5man Heroic, it may prove to be less useful in raids. That said, when I popped it on the slag in the second room of H HoL, it made me literally invincible. After that I used it on a lot of trash packs, it was still fully absorbing everything. Since it scales to your armor, Devotion Aura, Inspiration (useless in 3.2) and other effects will amplify the effect, and it will also preform better if your plate gear is of a higher item level.

So, after looking over the rest my spells, it came time to actually tank something. Wanting to use my new toys, I pulled with Howling Blast, and began to Obliterate and Frost Strike my primary target, blasting again whenever I got it. It didn't work. The Rogue in full tier 8 came and attacked the 'wrong' target, some others started AoEing even though it was only two mobs, and when I switched targets to grab the other, I lost the first one.

What I learned was that my prior advice is important even in a frost spec; "cast Death and Decay early and often" is as true in frost as it was in unholy, however it's not really necessary to spec into Morbidity. The normal 30 second CD was short enough to use it on every trash pack, and a fight only really needed a single D&D for me to retain threat on the off-mobs.

Another difference was that my single-target DPS was way up, but my threat was about the same. All in all, frost has lower overall threat, but higher single-target DPS. This is because Unholy's primary threat move, Death and Decay, has a good chunk of bonus threat on the side, but none of the frost spam attacks do.

My spec also had more Runic Power than I knew what to do with. I really like this, those three points in Scent of Blood and Chill of the Grave were totally worth it. Unlike in unholy, where Scent of Blood was just nice, in frost the proc effect would restore my Runic Power off nearly all my attacks, including my Runic Power dump. I almost couldn't empty my runic power bar if I wanted to. As a DPS, this would be wasteful, as a tank it's an excellent security net. Your cooldown needs Runic Power? Not a problem, bind Rune Strike to every key, and it'll still always be available.

A few pitfalls of the spec: you really can't do AoE threat anywhere near as well as an unholy tank can. You can't self-heal for beans. Death Strike almost isn't worth it in this spec, and you can't get Rune Tap properly. Also, since I just traded Herbalism for Jewelcrafting, I'm missing my Lifeblood button too, not that it was ever that useful (may be next patch). You can feel like you're spending a lot of time idle. If you D&D at the start of a fight, it may feel like you spend the next 4-5 global cooldowns not doing much, since your runes will be down. Don't worry about it though, D&D is pulling 3-4k threat per second on every target.

And some good things: Frigid Dreadplate and Improved Frost Presence puts the spec's passive mitigation higher than any other DK tank spec. As mentioned before, you'll do more damage than Unholy if you're on just the boss, making it die sooner. (Will compare to Blood eventually, gonna play with that spec next week maybe.) You can actually PvP. Acclimation is godly on Loken and Sapphirion. Of marginal utility on other fights, sadly.

Anyway, I'm going to continue tanking in Frost for a while, and see what I learn. If you're looking for a spec, don't copy the frost one I linked at the top of this article, it was a first draft, and after playing it, I can see that it needs some work.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Reaching Defense Cap

What is the Defense Cap? It's actually a misnomer (a poorly-named phenomenon.) As previously stated in the blog, all raid bosses have a 5.6% chance to crit on level 80 tanks, and since defense skill reduces chance to be crit by .04% per point beyond 400, only 540 defense skill is required to make yourself 'uncrittable' by a raid boss (and all weaker NPCs, but not other players.) The bosses of Heroic dungeons have only a 5.4% chance to crit, and only require 535 defense skill.

So, why do you need to be uncrittable? Three reasons.

First, it's a really efficient way to reduce your incoming damage, when added to the parry, dodge and miss chance that Defense grants, reducing the opponents crit chance drastically cuts the total damage you take.

Second, it reduces the spikiness of your incoming damage. Healers like nice, steady amount of incoming damage, sudden unpredictable changes can catch them offguard and get everyone killed. Not to mention that, at the beginning of your tanking career when your health is comparatively low, and at the end when bosses hit 36k with their melee swing, a single crit from a boss can and will kill you from full health, and if there's even a chance of that, you gamble with the outcome of your raid.

Third, almost no one will let a PuG tank into their raid without checking for 540+ defense, and only some guilds will take applicants with less than that.

So, how to go about reaching this?

One way: Stack defense rating. Stack it like crazy. Don't even worry about your other tanking stats for now, just pile as much defense as you can, you can trade defense for other stats after you're defense capped. If you get something that's a great tanking item, but had less defense than your gear, put it in the bank until you can afford to wear it.

Here are some ways to kick your Defense up quickly, without farming (a lot of) nonheroics.

Crafted Gear - The Tempered Saronite set of items made by Blacksmiths is not only cheap, but packs a good amount of Defense on each piece. Unfortunately (at least, on my server) the other crafted defense items are not worth the money to buy them. I do not recommend trying to get jewelcrafted gear.

Questing - Many quest chains in Northrend give decent rares at the end, and although many don't include an item with DK tank stats on it, a few do. This is a link to the World of Warcraft Armory search page, I searched for DK tank items with 30 or more Defense Rating on them from quest rewards. Look up any of those items on Thottbot, Wowhead or another database site to find the quest chain it's from, do the chain, get the item. You'll probably score some nice XP and/or gold along the way and some rep with whichever faction.

I also hear that there is decent gear to be had from the Argent Tournament quests, but I have not checked it out myself.

Dungeon Quests - If you run a dungeon, be sure to do the quests associated with it. The Caverns of Time: the Culling of Stratholme, Ulduar: Halls of Stone, Utgarde Pinnacle and The Oculus all have their questgivers inside the dungeon itself, while Ulduar: Halls of Lightning's quests come from the surrounding zone, starting with They Took Our Men in K3. That one's a long chain, but will also unlock the Sons of Hodir rep and allow you to get those shoulder enchants. Gun'Drak's quests come from the village to the northwest of it, no chain required, and Violet Hold's quest comes from the Violet Citadel in Dalaran, starting with Discretion is Key. Don't worry about doing that chain in advance; the pre-quest is to walk over to Violet Hold itself. The other northrend dungeons are a bit low levelled to worry about for getting gear to tank Heroics or better, so don't bother with the rest.

Reputation - Questing and running level 80 dungeons (CoS, HoL, UP, Oculus, or any Heroic 5man) with the proper rep tabard will net you reputation gains, visit as many of the quartermasters as you can early on and plan out which ones you'll want gear from so you can coordinate which quest chains you do and rep tabard you wear while getting your other gear. Items available at Revered or lower can be considered as options prior to starting Heroics, and items at Exalted can be considered for before you begin raiding.

Runeforging - Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle is crazy good, giving 25 Defense skill. I didn't have access to this when I was gearing up, and we had to walk 20 miles in the snow to our dungeons, but it is possible to reach defense cap without it, it's just not a fun experience. Put this on every weapon you tank with until defense cap, after which you might consider other runes, but it's still a great option, even at 540 Defense, just for the 1% each of parry, dodge and miss chance.

PvP - Okay, so this won't get you to 540 defense, but it will get you to uncrittable. If you're really close, have a stockpile of Honor, and/or just like to PvP, some resilience can substitute for defense. 33 resilience = 10 defense skill for the purposes of reaching uncrittability, and can easily be gotten in the trinket slot, unlike defense. It will also protect you against DoTs, (but not in the next patch) although this is not that useful, it is another benefit. Normally, I would have said having resilience gear handy for a DoT-heavy fight might be a good idea, but since resilience is getting nerfed for PvE next patch, there's no longer any point.

Just don't stack a ton of resilience to get to uncrittable, resilience gear generally has primarily DPS stats on it, and is not as good as defense gear for tanking. If you're using more than 120 resilience to get your uncrittability, you're definitely overdoing it, and you should replace it all with PvE tank gear before leaving Naxx.

Once you have 535 Defense skill, you're good to go for Heroic 5mans. Once you pass 540 defense skill, you're ready to tank the first quarters of Naxxramas (VoA can be tanked as a rogue in DPS gear, so feel free to do that whenever.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

CC 201: Intermediate Crowd Control for Tanks

Now we're getting into slightly more advanced tactics for tanking. In many 5man dungeons, it seems like the mobs are positioned just perfectly so that controling them is about as difficult as it can get. In today's post, I'm going to give some of the examples of places in Northrend that can be the most difficult in that regard, and how to overcome these challenges with the abilities you have.

The Nexus
In the left-hand hallway with all the frozen mobs, the combination of ranged attackers as well as the melee fighters with an AoE knockback can make it a royal pain to keep all the mobs in range of your attacks so you can keep threat. Genrally, your goal when positioning mobs is to keep them in front of you where your Parry and Dodge mitigate against their melee attacks, and keep them all tightly packed so your AoE spells can generate threat while your group's AoE can kill them all.

Approaching the pulls in this hallway can be handled in a couple ways, but my favorite is to Death Grip the archer to the group, while marking the berserker with the skull so it will die before it can scatter the group. Generally, killing a problem mob before the others is a great way to ensure that it doesn't harm you as much as it otherwise might. Use marking to your advantage, and get rid of the headache. Just remember, any DPS will make the skull dead in short order, but after that, it's a crapshoot, don't try to rely on more than one mark, as there isn't a real standard for kill order after skull.

The other technique to be learned from this, is that if you have an annoying mob that just won't stand where you want it to, Death Grip lets you choose where it will stand for yourself. It is a fairly long cooldown, however, so next example will cover an situation where a single Death Grip isn't enough.

Anh'kahet: the Old Kingdom
In the second and third rooms, there are mob packs which consist of four mobs of varying types. Alone, these packs can be quite dangerous, as the mage mobs hit upwards of 12k on heroic, and !6k on regular. Additionally, of the three melee mobs, one roots your party in place, and there are pats making it fairly likely that you will get two groups at some point.

Whenever you are aware of a patrol, (and aren't in combat,) it is best to aggro it as soon as possible so it can't come in at a less opprotune time later. Always grab patrols first unless you have a good reason not to.

Once you get one of the groups, it is advisable to find some way to control the Darkcaster in the pull, because it will easily hit over half your health in a single attack. Contrary to my previous advice, I do not recommend using Death Grip to bring it into position, save that for the Darkcaster in a pack of adds if you get one, instead, utillize the various walls and stairs nearby to get out of its line of sight, forcing it to run to you. This 'LoS pull' is a great technique, because it's free, has no cooldown and can be used by any class. Once it is in range, use Mind Freeze to prevent its spell from casting. Mind Freeze's cooldown is short enough that you can interrupt all its attacks alone.

If you should get a group of adds, you can use Death Grip to interrupt the first cast, and Strangulate for the second. By that point, hopefully the first Darkcaster will be dead and you can go back to Mind Freeze. If not, your options are Anti-Magic Shell/Zone, Arcane Torrent, (for Blood Elves) War Stomp, (for Tauren) or burn a precious cooldown, which, in the case of adds, is probably already in short supply. Failing those, you can hope one of your DPS, or, god forbid, your healer, is smart enough to interrupt the spells.

Just member, prevention is better than compensation, try not to get adds, pull groups absurdly far back until you're more confident, and make sure to grab patrols early.

Ulduar: Halls of Lightning
In the first room, the five large platforms include archer mobs known as Skybreakers. Not only will they run out of melee range, but their ranged attack has a large knockback, and one of the other mobs will debuff you with a spell that deals nature damage if you move (including due to knockback.)

The technique I recommend for this mob is the same as I recommended for the berserkers in the Nexus, kill it first. Now, you still have the problem of not being able to keep it in melee range... but is that really a problem? It's a little known fact that, unlike other tanking classes, Death Knights can hold threat at a range without a real problem. Mark it up with a skull, throw a D&D under it and let the DPS get to work. In the mean time, you can focus on the mobs that are in melee range, spreading diseases around them and interrupting the Welding Beams (they do that effect that hurts you when knocked back. You can also block the knockback effect by bracing your back against the railing.

Ulduar: Halls of Lightning
Hey, same place. In the large room immediately after Ionar, the pulls can wipe an unprepared group and are positively brutal on Heroic mode. Crowd Control isn't just about positioning your mobs, it can also be what it was back in BC: Sap, Sheep, Hex, Cyclone, Freezing Trap, etc. Ask your group to control one or two of the mobs, it will make the fight much easier. (Incidentally, this technique works in the Ulduar raid as well.)

The Runeshapers in this room don't pose much threat to you, but if their whirlwind isn't interrupted (and it's considered to be a nature spell, so silence and spell interrupts work too) it will almost definitely kill the rest of your group. If you have a Rogue, they can easily stunlock a Runeshaper, but you can take it into your own hands, Mind Freeze is sufficient to control a single one.

The other seriously dangerous mob in this room are the really tall ones. (They see stealth, by the way, don't send a rogue to Sap near them.) They will charge random members of your party knocking them back, and have a powerful poison, also randomly targetted. There's not a lot you can personally do to help your party, (unless you have Anti-Magic Zone,) but, particularly when there's two of them, just try to make sure the healer doesn't need to spend GCDs to heal you also, throw a cooldown and start Death Striking.

So, in recap, recall that you have the following abilities at your disposal:
Raid Target Icons - The skull will die, quickly.
Death Grip - Not just a taunt, but also forced movement, and potentially a spell interrupt.
Fight Selection - Pulling a patrol now means those mobs will not be adds later.
Mind Freeze - A defensive ability that can easily prevent 15k+ damage when used properly.
True CC - It may not be used much, but it's just as powerful as it was in BC.
Death Strike - Healing incoming damage can be as good as preventing it, and this can convert Empower Rune Weapon into health when you need it.

Next time I'll discuss DK tank gear in detail, and particularly how to gear up for breaking into tanking Heroics.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Stacking Mechanics, Attack Tables and Item Levels

Last time, I explained which stats protect you and how, in this post, I'll be explaining how they interact with eachother, and what stats you should stack in your tanking gear.

The three basic evasion abilities, parry, dodge, and miss chance, stack additively. That is to say, 5% miss chance, 20% parry, and 25% dodge means only 50% of enemy attacks will hit you, not 57% if it were multiplicative like most people think.

The conventional wisdom that most people assume is that the game first rolls to see if an attack would miss, (5% miss, 95% continue on in the above example) then of those that do not miss, the game might check to see if those get dodged, (5% miss, 23.75% dodge, 71.25% continue) then of those neither missed nor dodged, it would roll parry (5% miss, 23.75% dodge, 14.25% parry, 57% hit).

But this is not how it actually works. Instead, they stack additively, making your chance to parry, dodge or be missed exactly the listed number on your character sheet. So this leads to the question of what happens if the numbers add up to more than 100%. If the total chance exceeds 100%, things start falling off the bottom of the attack table.

The attack table for melee attacks looks like this:

Glancing Blow (Usually irrelevant, only when a player attacks a higher levelled mob)
Block (Irrelevant for Death Knights)
Critical Hit (Irrelevant when defense capped)
Crushing Blow (Usually irrelevant, only when a mob 4+ levels above the player attacks)
Regular Hit

Without the irrelevant lines, your incoming hits should look like this:

Regular Hit

So, what implications does this have? If for some reason your Miss + Dodge + Parry is greater than 100%, nothing will ever hit you with a melee attack. If Miss + Dodge + Parry + Chance to be Crit is greater than 100%, the mob will never land a regular hit on you, only crits. This applies to your outgoing attacks also, by the way, so it is possible to have so much crit that you are crit capped, because there isn't any more room at the bottom of your table to fit crit into, in which case you would need more hit and expertise rating.

For spells attacks, the table is a lot smaller:

Miss (Which is displayed by the game as Resist)
Critical Hit
Regular Hit

And ranged attacks:

Critical Hit
Crushing Blow (Irrelevant: Only when attacked by a mob 4+ levels over the player)
Regular Hit

So what this means is parry and dodge are useless for mitigating ranged and magic attacks (excepting Spell Deflection).

So how does Spell Deflection work? After the spell hits (or crits) it rolls to see if your spell deflection procs, and then ruduces the damage as appropriate. This is typically how all damage reduction effects work, and they stack multiplicatively, so order does not matter. As an example, if spell deflection reduces a hit by 45%, and Frost Presence reduces it by another 5%, then the actual hit does 52.25% damage. Armor and resistances are also applied in the same way.

After rolling to hit and applying damage reduction, then shields (such as Power Word: Shield or Anti-Magic Shell) take damage, and any leftover damage beyond the shields' capacity hits the player's health.

I do not know when non-percentage damage reduction effects (like Unbreakable Armor or Lesser Absorption) take place, but I may run an experiment to test it at some point. Currently, my guess is that they apply before shields, but after percentage reduction.

Now, for a word on a different kind of stacking. You are probably familliar with the concept of item levels, and that higher level items are usually, but not always, better than lower levelled items.

When the designers creat an item, the level assigns the item a certain budget of item points, which are used to 'buy' stats for the item. The price of a stat varies by which stat it is, and by how big the stack of that stat on the item is. As an example, an item with 100 stamina would have the same item level as an item with two separate stacks of 66 stamina and 67 stamina (although usually you don't see multiple stacks of the same stat on an item, it does happen.)

As a rule of thumb, you can get more stats per item level if the stats come mostly in smaller numbers and if there are more separate stacks of stats on the item. This is because the price of a stack is multiplied by the size of the stack raised to the 1.7025 power. So 100^1.7025 is approximately equal to 66^1.7025 + 67^1.7025. So if you were to find an item that would otherwise be useful, but has maybe 30 points of Haste Rating, (which Death Knights do not care about,) worry not, those points are nearly free by virtue of being in a small stack, and should not prevent you from wanting and rolling for the item.

Note, that since you have complete control over which gems and enchants go on your gear, you should not care about what item level an enchant or gem would be worth, and only care about the effect you get out of them.

And one more type of stacking:

You may have noticed that Blessing of Wisdom and Mana Spring Totem will not work at the same time. That is because of one last type of stacking to confuse with the others. For each stat that you could concievably boost in some way, it can only be boosted once by each type of boost. For any buff you have, it falls into one of several categories.

Spell buff is the category the above example would have fallen into. Blessing of Wisdom will stack with an Elixir of Mighty Mageblood, because it is a Guardian Elixir, but not with Mana Spring Totem because it is also a spell buff.

The categories that I know of are:
Spell Buff
Battle Elixir (limit 1 battle elixir)
Guardian Elixir (limit 1 guardian elixir)
Flask (will not stack with any elixirs) (limit 1 flask)
"Well Fed" Food Buff (limit 1 food buff)
Holiday Item
Talents (stacks freely with eachother)
Equipment (stacks freely with eachother)
Movement Speed Buff (irregardless of the source, all movement speed buffs fall into a single category except mounted speed buffs, one at a time of which will stack with a mount. Movement buffs on items that are overwritten will not be removed from the item, but will stop working until the new buff goes away.)
Mounted Movement Speed Buff
Movement Speed Debuff (stacks additively with a movement speed buff. Ex: 15% slow + 10% haste = 95% speed overall.)
...and there may be others.

When multiple buffs of the same type come into conflict, one of a few things will happen, but the most powerful buff for that particular stat will always be the one that remains.

If a new buff is more powerful than the other, it will overwrite it. Casted buffs will not dispel an aura/totem, but will stop it from working on the affected player.

If a new buff is weaker than the other, it cannot be cast. For DK tanks, this can be problematic when a shaman has (improved) Strength of Earth active, you may find yourself unable to even cast Horn of Winter, preventing you from using it to generate runic power.

And finally, if the buffs are of equal strength:
If both are the casted, the spell with the longer duration remaining will be considered more powerful.
If both are auras/totems, both will be active, but only one will affect each player in range.

So, hopefully now you know way more about stat stacking than you ever wanted to, and can properly understand why 1% parry is way more effective when you have 30% dodge than if you had 5% dodge.

Passive Mitigation: How and Why

Last time, I covered the various defensive cooldowns DK tanks have at their disposal. This time, I'll be explaining how to make it so you don't need them in all but the hardest fights. I will also explain what is meant by 'uncrittable', 'uncrushable' and 'defense capped'.

Cooldowns are 'active mitigation'; they mitigate damage after you activate them, and can only be up part of the time. 'Passive mitigation', by contrast, is the defenses you have all the time, and do not need to be activated.

Death knights have 7 basic types of passive mitigation, they are: parry, dodge, miss chance, armor, resistance, damage reduction, and magic damage reduction.

Parry is increased by collecting gear with parry rating or defense rating on it, and thanks to our class' passive ability, Forceful Deflection, every 4 points of Strength on our gear grants us 1 parry rating. Parry causes melee attacks made from in front of the death knight to do no damage, and when it does, it makes our next melee attack come 40% sooner. This 'parry haste' effect can allow more casts of Rune Strike, but also applies to enemies; if they parry your or the DPS' attacks, it can increase their attack speed on you. When combined with Spell Deflection, a tier 4 blood talent, you can also parry spells (even from behind) to take only partial damage from them.

Dodge can be raised via dodge rating, defense rating, agility, and the tier 1 unholy talent Anticipation (which I recommend for all DK tanks.) Dodge, like parry, causes melee attacks made from the front to do no damage, but has no side effects. For two-handed weapon users, there are no good weapons with tanking stats on them, so agility, for the large amount of dodge it grants, is a great second choice for a tank weapon, (followed by Strength, Stamina and Expertise, not necessarily in that order.)

Miss chance comes from the frost talent Frigid Dreadplate, (for melee attacks only,) and defense skill, which comes from defense rating. Each point of defense skill beyond 400 grants .04% parry, dodge, and miss, (and reduced chance to be crit) for a total of .12% mitigation per point. Miss chance functions mostly the same as dodge, except it applies to spells, ranged attacks and attacks from behind. The Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle grants 25 defense skill, not rating, by the way.

The reduced chance to be crit component of defense converts hits that would have been crits back into regular hits (which can then be mitigated against normally by parry, dodge and miss chance.) Raid bosses have a 5.6% chance to crit, and thus 140 defense skill over the base 400 for a level 80 will prevent a raid boss from ever landing a crit (which is why tanks are called 'uncrittable'. This does not apply in PvP unless the opponent also only has a 5.6% chance to crit.) This is what is known as the 'defense cap', because additional defense beyond 540 skill will not reduce your chance to be crit any further, however, it will still increase your parry, dodge, miss chance, and the effect of your Icebound Fortitude. As a side note, the reduced chance to be crit from resilience stacks normally with that from defense, and can be used to make becoming uncrittable easier for beginning tanks. Note that for 5man heroics, only 535 defense is needed to be uncrittable.

Armor reduces the amount of incoming physical damage by a percentage, which can be found in your character sheet. The math of how armor converts to physical damage reduction is a bit complicated, and I do not fully understand it, however I can say that armor suffers strongly from diminishing returns, making it less and less effective per point, and caps at 75% reduction. Armor typically comes from the plate items you wear, but can occasionally be found on other items (note that the armor on non-plate items and armor from enchants does not get boosted by talents or buffs.) The tier 1 frost talent Toughness and Frost Presence both increase armor by a very large amount, and I strongly recommend both for all DK tanks.

Resistance, like armor is complicated, and unlike armor effects only magical damage of the correct school of magic (holy magic cannot be resisted.) Resistance reduces magic damage of the correct school by .18% per point, and caps at 75%, or 415 resistance. Unlike armor, resistance to a specific school is nearly worthless for a DK tank, and should not be collected on gear. The resistance granted by the frost talent Acclimation, however, applies to all schools (and, indeed, can apply to multiple schools at the same time) and grants 150 resistance, or 27% damage reduction, when fully stacked. The one caveat is that Acclimation will only function if you are constantly taking hits from that type of magic, and will not work if you are just taking a hit here and there.

The complicated part of resistance, is when a spell would apply a debuff, the resistance can convert itself into a resist chance, which works like miss chance. Assume that, on average, the resist chance will lead you to taking the advertised amount less damage (ignoring the debuff's damage, if any).

Death knights can also gain general damage reduction that applies to all incoming damage from Frost Presence, Improved Frost Presence, and Blade Barrier. This reduction is self-explanatory.

Likewise, Magic Suppression grants magic damage reduction. Also self-explanatory.

As promised, I am also going to explain what is meant by 'uncrushable'. When a player is attacked by a mob (including hunter pets, but not other class' minions) that is at least 4 levels higher than them, that mob has a chance to land a crushing blow on the player for 50% extra damage. Back in BC, 'uncrushable' meant that a tank had so much miss chance and parry and dodge that every crushing blow would simply miss, (or be parried/dodged,) and thus, they could not be hit by a crushing blow. In WotLK, this does not matter, because our raid bosses are treated as level 83, and are not high enough level relative to our tanks to land a crushing blow at all. Uncrushable is meaningless in WotLK. Now don't forget it.

Next post I will cover attack tables and stacking mechanics. Until then, may your gear scores go farther in keeping you alive.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Defensive Cooldowns and You

In the previous Mechanics post, I explained how to hold threat for beginning DK tanks. In this post I will explain how to stay alive through the tight spots you will undoubtedly get yourself into.

The basic and most important cooldown that DKs get is this blog's namesake, Icebound Fortitude. This spell is available at a trainer at level 62 and is the one-spell-fits-all answer to bad things happening. Unimproved, it reduces all damage you take by 20% for 15 seconds and is on a 1 minute cooldown (soon to be 2 minutes in 3.2). Deep frost DKs can improve it by up to 6 seconds of duration with the Guile of the Gorefiend talent, and for the rest of us, the Tank-T7 four piece bonus increses its duration by 3 seconds. Additionally, it scales to your Defense skill, gaining about 0.107% damage reduction per defense skill beyond 400, making it 34.98% if you are defense capped at 540 defense.

Using icebound fortitude couldn't be simpler, it is an instant cast, and requires no runes, only runic power. As long as you haven't been spamming Death Coil or similar, you should almost always have the resources to cast it whenever you need. Since the cooldown is so short, usually you do not need to worry about saving it for the perfect time to cast, since it will probably be back up by the time you need it again. It is best used to give your healers a few moments to react to big shifts in your incoming damage, and many appreciate you announcing about 5 seconds before your Icebound will end, so they can be ready for the damage to spike to where it would have otherwise been.

The other cooldowns that will be important to you will depend on your build. Frost DKs have the excellent Unbreakable Armor which, unlike Icebound, reduces damage taken by a fixed amount, making it incredible for tanking large crowds of adds, or enemies that hit very quickly for small amounts of damage per hit. Additionally, Unbreak increases Strength by 25%, increasing your threat output and your parry rating.

Lichborne, also in frost, is rather useless. It has recently been nerfed to no longer add a miss chance to incoming attacks, and only makes you immune to Sleep, Fear and Charm, none of which are common in current raids.

Hungering Cold can also be considered a defensive cooldown, but is typically only useful for dealing with trash or a boss's adds. It freezes all targets within 10 yards, preventing them from killing you or your raid members for that long.

In blood, Rune Tap is often overlooked, but can be very useful when fully talented and glyphed. Unimproved, it is a 1 minute cooldown that heals 10% of your Heath for 1 blood rune. It is an instant cast, and is not on the global cooldown. But, with Improved Rune Tap, this becomes 20% of your health on a 30 second cooldown, and when glyphed it heals 22% of your health, and heals everyone in your group for 10% of their health. When used properly, it can save you long enough for a heal to get off, or save your party so you don't end up trying to solo.

Mark of Blood is pretty meh, but well worth the one talent point. When cast on an enemy, the next 20 times it deals damage, it will also heal its target for 4% of their maximum health. In a 5man, this can be a lifesaver if cast right before the boss does an AoE or a DoT. In raids, it is usually not quite as useful.

Vampiric Blood in deep blood is a powerful cooldown, which increases your max health by 15% and increases your healing recieved by 35% for 20 seconds. Unlike Icebound, it doesn't allow your healers much longer to react, but can be great to chain off the end of another cooldown, allowing your healers to heal through damage much more effectively.

Anti-Magic Shell is pretty meh even when talented in deep unholy. Normally it reduces incoming magic damage by 75%, protecting a maximum of 50% of your max HP. When talented with Magic Suppression, it is still capped at 50% of your health, but does block all incoming magic damage. The other half of Magic Suppression reduces all incoming magic damage by 6%, all the time. For tanking fights with a lot of magic damage, the talent is worthwhile, but the cooldown doesn't have nearly the impact of the others you have available. What it is good for is not mitigating damage, but protecting you from debuffs. The other half of the spell makes you immune to harmful magic debuffs while the spell holds. This can be great for causing a stacking debuff to fall of of you, or prevent a particularly annoying debuff from applying in the first place.

If you do go deep enough in unholy to talent AMS, you can gain access to Anti-Magic zone, basically giving you a second AMS. It too absorbs 75% of magic damage, and is capped at about the same amount of health (but it scales to attack power, not HP). The other benefit of the zone is that it can be used to shield raid memebers from AoE.

Also in unholy, Bone Shield reduces all damage taken by 20% for the next 4 hits. With the glyph, this becomes 6 hits. Bone shield is also pretty meh, as it tends to end very quickly, but can be great in conjunction with parry or dodge boosting cooldowns, as they extend its duration. The other nice thing about bone shield, is that it lasts for up to 5 minutes, but the cooldown is only 2 minutes, allowing you to enter battle with it already active, and also ready to cast.

And finally, Army of the Dead, which is possibly the most powerful defensive cooldown you posess after Icebound. For the 6 seconds while you channel it, it will reduce all damage you take by an amount equal to your parry plus your dodge chance. For me, this is around 55%, which is greatly more powerful than Icebound Fortitude. Additionally, the ghouls you raise can taunt and tank any trash in the area, preventing it from killing you or your raid until the ghouls die. This spell can even be used to build threat, if you taunt a mob that the ghouls have been taunting back and forth, it will skyrocket your threat to several hundred thousand above anyone else. The trick is that it requires one of each rune, and is on a 20 minute (10 when talented) cooldown, and can definitely only be used once per fight. Use it wisely, and be sure you have your runes ready for when you plan to cast it.

The Basics of Threat

This is my first Mechanics post. These posts will explain how to tank as a DK for beginners, because I'm tired of people assuming I'm a bad tank because of the rest of you.

Threat, for those who don't know what it is, (and trust me, I've seen plenty of tanks that don't know what it is) is a hidden number that each mob you face keeps track of for all players fighting it. Whenever anyone attacks the mob, or heals one of its enemies, this number goes up. Spells like a rogue's feint, pets' cower, or a priest's fade reduce this number. When a player dies or uses a spell like vanish, their number on the list is removed, and will restart at zero if they reenter combat. Whichever player that mob has the highest threat number for is the player they will attack.

Frost Presence increases all threat you generate by 45%, always tank in frost presence.

As a beginning death knight, you cannot tank successfully until you reach level 60, at which you learn your most important threat spell ever: Death and Decay. The short story is, cast Death and Decay early and often, and preferrably under where the enemies are going to be standing. Mastering D&D alone will catapult your threat gain to newfound levels of competence. It has a very sizeable threat bonus attached to it, covers a decent area, and can be targetted at a range. Furthermore, it can be improved with the tier 2 Unholy talent, Morbidity, which can increase its uptime to 66%, up from 30% for a mere 3 points (assuming that all sane DK tanks already have 5 points in Anticipation.) I can strongly recommend Morbidity to all DK tanks. In addition, the glyph of Death and Decay increases its damage (and thus, its threat) by another 20%. Also, D&D (like most DK spells) scales its damage to your attack power, so all that Strength on your gear is put to even more use.

D&D does have some problems, which you must compensate for with your other abilities. One of the most obvious problems is that, even talented, once cast, you cannot use it on something elsewhere for the next 15 seconds. Should a single mob break free of your Death and Decay, Death Grip is the perfect answer, not only gaining maximum threat on the mob, but also relocating it into the D&D cloud, ensuring that you will remain on top of its threat. In the event of a small group of adds, pestilence off your main target, or Howling Blast for frost tanks can serve as a great way to fill the space of time when you can't get D&D to cast.

The other obvious problem with D&D is that it requires 1 Unholy, 1 Frost and 1 Blood rune. In onrder to cast it, you must make sure not to ever use two of the same rune in the final 8 seconds before the spell refreshes. During long boss fights, you will have enough of a threat lead that missing a D&D (or indeed, even not bothing with it at all) is not a problem, but when tanking trash with the possibility of adds, you must carefully ration your runes to make sure your D&D will be on the ground as frequently as possible, because if you do get adds, you can only really be sure your threat is secure when they've stood in your Death and Decay.

If D&D is the meat and potatoes of your threat arsenal, then diseases are the fires that do the cooking; without them, including the meat in your meal will soon be a painful experience. D&D kicks your threat into high gear at the start of a fight, or when adds first aggro, but diseases keep you at the top of the Omen display so you can pay attention to incoming adds, burst damage and other hazards. Diseases currently do a very decent hunk of damage, and are getting another 15% buff in 3.2. When combined with the threat bonus from Frost Presence, they can free you to devote attention to other mobs for 10 global cooldowns at a time, giving you plenty of breathing room. To gain the maximum benefit from your diseases, be sure to cast Pesilence about as often as D&D, and be sure Blood Plague and Frost Fever are on your primary target before you do so. The glyph of pestilence increases the range of pestilence and only costs a minor glyph slot and a few gold. The glyph of disease is a bit more expensive, but refreshes your diseases on your primary target when you Pestilence, freeing up a frost and unholy rune, perfect for a Death Strike to help heal yourself with, or take the edge off burst. It also frees up two global cooldowns, which would otherwise be used to reapply your diseases.

So, if you are beginning down the road of DK tanking, here is some homework until next time. Try to master the use of D&D in securing threat on new mobs. Make sure all 10 seconds worth tick out on the mobs at the start of a pull, and keep it ready to control new adds.

In the next Mechanics post, I will go over the basics of defensive cooldowns.

Of Warriors and Death Knights

I recently read an excellent post on the state of warrior tanking in WotLK, and it led me to realize that, while the other tanking classes have a wealth of history and knowledge about how to play them, Death Knights, being newer, don't have that benefit.

So, I set out to create this blog. When the will strikes me, I will post on whatever DK tanking topic suits my fancy, and I hope this blog can eventually become an excellent source of information on all things reanimated and suicidal.

Before we begin, some background. I play Horde. I play a blood elf. I play a death knight. I'm in a failguild, but I'm pushing it forward. I play a seriously strange build, I'm a Blood/Unholy hybrid tank. I have cleared 10 and 25 Naxx, OS+2, VoA (with Emalon) and Maly. I have gotten to Auriaya (hereto after refered to as 'crazy cat lady') in Ulduar10. I have never gone chasing acheivements. And last, but not least, Blizzard, in their infinite wisdom, have put my perma-ghoul on a 60 day cooldown for no apparent reason (of which, 19 days remain).

So, in the aforementioned article, the poster wrote about his resurgent love of tanking, and how blizzard seems convinced that warriors need some help to remain viable tanks. Likewise, he points out that warriors threat mechanics are broken at best, and that shield block sucks.

I agree with his assesment that warriors are a bit underpowered in tanking. For current content, warriors need a few changes. Warriors need a more reliable AoE threat generator, and need a threat boost in general. They have little-to-no multi-hit magic mitigation (but what pre-WotLK tank does?) and could use some help in that field. Conversely, their physical mitigation seems to be solid, despite the meh of shield block.

Last night in my Ulduar10, a warrior tank and I teamed up to tank the iron dwarves in the first half of the razorscale encounter. My threat was so solid, that no one could pull anything off of me... including the other tank. Omen read my threat at about double the warrior's single-target threat, and around 10x her AoE threat. This was not a problem for that particular fight, as I am built to handle dozens (if not hundreds in OS+2) of mobs and still be healable. What I do see as a problem, is that I can't think of a fight in current endgame content for which I would say, "Let the warrior tank, they're great for this fight."

I am here to say that the problem is not the warrior tank, but the Ulduar raid. The devs need to create encounters that allow each class' specific talents to shine, and in the mean time, all tanks need to be at least capable of contributing meaningfully to the fights that they are not the best for. (We had wiped around 6 times before the raid finally got fed up and swapped the 2nd warrior tank for my DK, after which it was a oneshot.) To blizzard, I propose that warriors be given a sizeable buff to their single- and multi-target threat generation in the short term, and in the long term, design at least one fight per raid that is much easier with a warrior tanking than with any other tank class.