28 November 2007

How not to play nicely with others

Grouping should be like driving. You should get lessons first and be made to pass a test before it's allowed. And everyone should be made to tank and heal at least once to get their licence.

I came to this conclusion yesterday after a brief and disastrous assault on the Scarlet Monastery with my warrior alt, Hoffman. I am really enjoying levelling him and thought, at 35, it was about time I started learning to tank. I picked a low level instance that would allow me some breathing room to make mistakes and had a well-balanced group with dps, healing and crowd control. How hard could it be?

I learnt just how hard on practically the first pull. We had a group of four mobs — 3 melee types and one caster. I put a big skull over the first caster but before I could mark the other three and explain the strategy a druid got too close and pulled agro. It was at this point that I realised I didn't know what to do. My instinct was to start hitting things so I ran to the caster and got his attention. But then I noticed the three melee mobs were hitting on the rest of the group. So I left the caster to find them. We were all bunched in one corner and I couldn't make out who was a mob and who was a player, so I thunderclapped, figuring I would get them all at once. I broke sheep. Meanwhile, the caster was happily nuking me without a care in the world. At some point, the priest dropped a fear bomb which resulted in adds. I broke some more sheep. I died. The rest of the group survived.

Time for some introspection. I was an awful tank. But it was my first time tanking, and nothing you do as a levelling warrior prepares you for the role. I was in defensive stance for pretty much the first time and unfamiliar with my action bar, not to mention the tactics of holding agro. But the rest of the group were pretty shoddy too, making mistakes and behaving in ways that made my job that much harder. I suddenly realised that the role of warrior is so much more than playing meat shield to a bunch of squishies. You have responsibility for the group, and they don't always make it easy for you.

Next time I group up with Merlot, I will have a new-found level of respect for my tank, however well they play their class. And I think it will be a long while before I venture back into the fray with Hoffman.

22 November 2007

The secret of my success

I finally completed my frozen shadoweave set this week, gemming up with cheap spell hit and damage gems and passing the +500 shadow damage mark. I feel so much more confident about running dps in instances now. It's not without its drawbacks though. With vampiric touch up, I often take agro off the tank. If I fade, I risk dumping agro on the healer, so it's better for the group if I take the hits. This means I tend to die a lot more than the others. As long as we accomplish the task I don't mind, but it's tough on repair bills and it slows down progress. As my gear improves it will only get worse, so I think now is the time to investigate threat metres. More on them at a later date.

In the meantime, I took my shiny new armour for a test drive in Shadow Labyrinth with some guild mates. We've been trying to crack it for ages for the Karazhan key fragment. Until this run, I hadn't even been past the second boss. It was as tough as I remembered it, and we struggled a few times on some of the bigger pulls. In the end, we resorted to a suicide strategy I spotted on wowwiki. I take off my gear and mind control one of the mobs -- preferably a healer or caster. The other mobs quickly burn it down and turn on me. I am squashed instantly, but if the rest of the group is far enough away the angry mobs will reset, leaving us with one less target to deal with. If I take off my gear first, I suffer no durability loss. We employed this strategy to great effect in the canteen, before Blackheart the Inciter. It's very tedious having to switch costumes, eat and rebuff every five minutes, but on the other hand, it's preferable to wiping. If you lack the crowd control to deal effectively with large pulls, it's a steady and reliable strategy. And it gives your team makes a laugh to see you in your undies.

We made some mistakes as we progressed through the instance, but always learnt from them and moved forward. Even the third boss only took two attempts. The result was that, slowly, steadily, we cleared the instance and walked away one step closer to Kara. Hooraah for suicide and a great bunch of guildies.