Tuesday, December 23, 2008

RE:Bears are OP - An introduction to an opinion

This post, and in fact this blog, is a response to Kalon's recent post's (original and follow-up) about the current state of bear tanking. Well, not quite. As I've been reading Kalon's posts and as I've been experiencing the new content in WotLK as a newly rolled bear tank in a top-end guild, I've felt a growing urge to voice my opinions on what I see, read and perceive. The forum that I've chosen for this particular discourse is to be this blog. And now, the introduction that I've promised.

My origins as a gamer are far back, I got a C-64 when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old, followed by a Sega Master System and my first PC. I began playing MMO's at the start of the decade with the browser based kind, most notably Planetarion, Unitywars and Planetia. I was rather known both as a player, forum goer, moderator(planetia) and ultimately staffer(planetarion and planetia) under the nickname of Sun_Tzu. I'm also a long time fan of Blizzard games having played Warcraft 1-3 as well as Starcraft. I was hugely looking forward to WoW until it became clear it would be a fully online game(I was hoping for a game in the style of Heroes of Might and Magic series). I felt it silly to play online PvE when I had my massive PvP browser based games to play. However, a fair few of my friends did begin playing, eventually ending up being the backbone of the highly successful guild Massive. Right about now you'd expect me to say I later joined them in that guild. I did get the offer, but by the time I started playing wow(out of boredom one christmas holiday right before TBC launch), most of my friends had quit and Massive was in the process of being reformed into what is know known as Legacy.

TBC for me was a learning period. I thought I knew what I wanted, but as I leveled up characters I tended to top out at lvl40, after which I got bored and started a new. I finally settled on a priest, and joined my cousin in a alt-guild for a larger guild on Tarren Mill, EU Horde. I was a holy raiding priest, I'd quickly decided that WoW PvP was not for me, and that what I liked was the teamwork involved in raiding. After some time as a priest, my friend and former member of Massive(Damocran, Warrior DPS/Tank back then) told me he'd rerolled to Eonar, EU, Alliance and was playing as a Holy Paladin(Nalien) for then EU top100 guild The Logical Cube. I myself rolled a Resto Shaman on the server with the intention of eventually in WotLK applying to join him in TLC. In the mean time, I joined a casual raiding guild which showed some promise, and got to see most of the content bar SWP as a resto shammy. By the end of TBC, Nalien had migrated to join a Finnish guild on another server, I was applying for TLC and pondering my future in WotLK. At this point another old friend told me he was assembling a guild of mostly Finnish players on Twisting Nether, EU, Horde. It was to be known as Chapter 3.

Now I'd never tanked before, and I knew I distinctly disliked DPS, but what Chapter 3 needed at the time was feral druids, with the expectation of them becoming tanks, so that was what I rolled. I hit 70 the day before WotLK, and was 80 a week later. About two weeks later we'd cleared all 10 and 25man raids. At the time of writing we've downed Sartharion with 3 adds up being third on server to accomplish this on 25man, and are working on the same for 10man(the absence of many of our best players over the holidays means we've not gotten around to complete this yet).

So much for my background, I realize that was no short read, and I hope you are still with me. Don't worry, now begins the actual response to Kalon's post(s).

Kalon writes that at his gear level, he feels quite OP for raid tanking. I'll agree with him, druids get a lot of things from talents, crit immunity being the most notable. Add a few good armour drops and you have an insanely effective early tank. My view however is that of those who are getting very close to the best possible current gear. I'm missing a armor cloak and staff, but otherwise I dare say few bears have the level of gear both I and my furry friend Elumarom have. We both peak at around 36k armor, 40k health and around 45% dodge raidbuffed(from memory). We both get to about 50k HP in our sarth MT gear. We're massive. Survivability is not a problem. But how do we compare to the other tanks at a similar level of gearing? I'd say we're slightly better at taking big hits, a good bit worse at taking small hits. This makes sense, it's to be expected because of how armour and block work. We're heavy on armour, and our higher percentage mitigation scales better on bigger hits. Block is static, which mean's it's better fit for negating small hits. In terms of aggro on a single target, we're about the same as the rest. Many people mistake patchwerk to be a decent gauge of this, but due to the extra threat from taking hatefuls we're easily surpassing other tanks on this because of how well we deal with large hits.

On multiple targets swipe, assuming it hits, is a quite decent aggro tool, especially post +50% threat fix. The problem is the nature of swipe, it's a relatively hard tool to use, and this becomes ever more pronounced as the situation becomes more and more hectic. In the current raid content, this doesn't really show, but heroics do definitively show up the relative weakness of druids. We all know the kind of AoE-fest heroics are atm, and for my guild that's been the case basically since we dinged 80. Most of our players came into WotLK with T6 gear and some had already cleared most of the 10man content by the time I dinged(I had an unfortunate absence of a few days right after release). Blizzards saying that threat would be a non-issue sure did not apply to me as I was franticly trying to learn the ropes of Druid tanking with dps who were expecting me to be able to perform equivalent to our Warrior and Paladin tanks. Even now, I still struggle to hold aggro against the top geared dps in my guild. That's just how it is, sometimes awkward pathing of a mob lands him behind me, sometimes a ranged mob runs off to cast or shoot, but at any rate it's not uncommon for swipe to loose contact on one or more mobs in the larger pulls. With highly geared DPS, that's not something I can afford to have happen. This situation is slightly better after the fix, but I still don't feel I'm on a level where I can compete with the other tanks in this respect.

The other major situation where this matters, is Sartharion. More specifically, if your guild chooses not to kill the eggs from Tenebron while doing Sartharion with multiple adds, you need a tank snapping them up as they spawn. This requires fast multi-target aggro. First times tried it with 2 adds(Tenebron and Vespiron), I was asked to do this job. I failed. Horribly. I've heard some druids have been able to do it, and my hats off to them, at this point it's not a feat I am willing to attempt nor feel confident I could manage. It might sound odd when I say our Paladin tank also doesn't like the job. Sure he could do it, but because consecration isn't snap aggro, he feels the whelps often get away before consecrate has a chance to glue them to him. We've resorted to using our Warrior tank for this, as his Thunder Clap is just so powerful for picking up the whelps fast and easy. From what I understand, DK's are also good for snapping these adds to them. The Paladin handles the fire adds and after Tenebron is down they both move to the fire adds and one(I'm not quite sure who actually) tanks the portal add(s). We've decided on using furry druids for MT'ing Sartharion, but this job has mostly gone to Elumarom as at the time we started working on the 3 adds(prior to that our Warrior had been tanking Sarth) he had slightly more HP than I did. I've effectively been tanking Tenebron/Shadron/Vespiron every time we've done Sarth with multiple(2 or 3) adds in 25man and I've been the MT for the 10man attempts on multiple adds.

I'm confident that any tank can do each of the jobs I've described in the encounter, although whelp tanking for druids is extremely difficult. On the other hand, Druids are well adapted to taking the bigger hits in the encounter, so I really don't think it's a wise decision to use the druid on the small adds. And personally, I find that the job I do(tanking the 3 dragon adds), is perhaps the innately hardest and therefore entertaining of the tanking jobs in the current content, although much of this is to do with the erratic behavior of these adds(they tend to fly about a bit as they want, so it takes a while to figure out where and how to tank them so you have the room you need to move about when they do decide they want to go chill behind your back for a bit). But it does bug me that there's something I feel I can't do in a reliable way. It's also clear that Druids and DK's have the easiest time tanking Sartharion with 3 adds up, Druids by simply stacking insane healthpools and relying on soaking the flamebreaths, DK's by using their multiple cooldowns and their anti-magic shield. Other tanks require more outside help, relying strongly on rotations of various damage reduction abilities from priests or hunter tenacity pets.

Our current tanking team is as follows:
Linus (Orc Warrior, Guild Leader, Maintank)
Yrtsí (Orc Warrior, secondary warrior tank)
Leipäkone (Belf Paladin)
Pienirinkula (Belf Paladin, second GL's alt and mainly a 10man tank)
Shamad (Tauren Druid, mostly off-tank)
Elumarom (Tauren Druid, mostly off-tank)
Sèvras (Troll DK, latest addition to the tank team)

The reason the druids mainly off-tank is because we're the best DPS in our tank-specs so it's easy to make us go DPS when only one tank is needed. I don't mind tanking adds, I mostly find it quite enjoyable as it's more engaging than MT'ing much of the current content. I'm not a big fan of DPS though, so I'm highly awaiting dual specs(I'm going to off-spec healing, already have a full iLvl200 gear for it).

Sorry this post became a bit awkwardly structured, as in effect it's two posts in one. I'll try to clean it up next time, hopefully I'll manage to rant about one thing at a time then.



Copey said...

Howdy sir. Grats to you on you being such a well geared druid. While I would state, as I have on Think Tank, that I think you are in the minority, and I, Copey on the Dunemaul server (go ahead and look it up, you can tell by my trinkets if I’m in bear gear or cat gear), is more in the majority, I respect you coming out and stating opinions and such.

One thing that caught my eye, and snapped up my attention is the dual spec thing. I tend to tag along on any heroic I can as cat dps (while secretly hoping the MT dies and I can step up and save the day), but what would be awesome is to be able to quickly switch to healing. I am absolutely salivating at the dual spec thing that will let me announce “Healer looking for Heroic DK” and get 10 whispers back immediately. Not sure how it is for you, but on my server, tanks are now a dime a dozen while you constantly sit with 4 people searching high and low for a healer. When I was resto, this was not the case, hence the reason I leveled up as feral in Wrath.

So, answer me this: Is it really bad form to use your power as a healer to inform the group that you will indeed come with them, and yes, you will be rolling need on specific tanking items?

Shamad said...

Hey copey,

Yeah I do recognize that whilst my situation is quite rare at this time, it does reflect where most of you will be in a month or two(nearly all essential bear-gear comes from naxx25). Even so I don't expect our situations to be similar because our gear eventually might be, my guild is likely to set me apart either way. But I still believe I might be able to give people some prespective on the issues, and I hope that will help you come to terms with how you feel in certain situations as you progress in the content.

Now as to the healer shortage, our server is also experiencing this, and whilst I mainly run heroics with my guild and thus have the peculiar problem of a dps-shortage(go figure...), I think that people dualspeccing healing will eventually alleviate this problem.

However, how people will react to the healer rolling on tanking items may be hard to predict, but then as has been discussed on the topic it seems the common view is that dualspecs won't be seen so much as "main spec" and "off spec" as "current spec" and "other spec". As long as you are clear about your intent and civil towards others I'm sure you'll be able to work it out with your groups. It's mainly only others with a tanking spec who might object, and then only the current tank who really has a right to. He tanks the instance, so he should have first dibs on tanking loot.

Other than that, good luck tanking and healing, I sure look forward to it :)

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