The random ramblings of a casual tankadin

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Diminishing returns explained

So, you've been told that DR, or diminishing returns, means that you get less when you get more, and that didn't make a whole lot of sense to you.

For those of you who don't run the number crunshing naturally, but still want to really understand what DR is all about.

Picture an airgun. One where we can pump in different amount of air to decide exactly with what speed the bullet leaves the barrel.

Pump in some air. Fire the gun straight up in the air. After a specific number of meters the bullet will turn and start falling back to the earth.

Pump in more air. Enough air to make the bullet leave the barrel at exactly double the speed as your last attempt. Fire it up into the air again.

How far up did it go? Double? No.

Gravity pulls at the bullet. You'll need to fire it at far higher speed than double to reach double height.

Now look at your gear. 1500 dodge rating. Will 3000 dodge rating give you double the dodge percentage? No.

DR pulls at your dodge. You'll need a lot more than double dodge rating to reach double dodge percentage.

A short piece of advice, gems

To begin with, gem it. If there's a gem slot in that piece of gear you plan to upgrade in less than a week, gem it. If there's a gem slot in that piece of gear you plan to upgrade later today, gem it.

Got that? Gem it.

You're a casual pugadin, as am I. We're not tanking hardmodes, and we're not on the PTR tanking Firelands neither. So gemming becomes easy.

Yellow slot: mastery gem. The best is 40 mastery rating.
Blue slot: mastery and stamina. The best is 20 mastery rating and 30 stamina.
Red slot: mastery and parry. The best is 20 mastery rating and 20 parry rating.

The above is your goto strategy for gemming. However, sometimes you get a piece of gear that's really meant to be used by a plate dps. Hence the socket bonus is aimed at increasing damage done. Very often strength. In those cases, no matter the colour of the gem slot, gem straight mastery.

Why those gems? Well, until 4.2 is released mastery is superior to everything else because it provides an increased chance to block without suffering from diminishing returns. And you want that block because it shaves off 40% of all incoming melee damage.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Can I tank it in my PvP gear?

No, you can't.

Ok, you might be able to, but you shouldn't.

The thing is that while a big enough advantage in ilevel might place a piece of PvP gear ahead of the lower level PvE counterpart, it simply doesn't hold true for a tank.

A PvP piece simply comes with one useful stat only. That's stamina, and stamina isn't good enough to warrant the absence of mastery and avoidance.

Resilience, in difference from before, is an entirely dead stat for us tanks. Where it used to decrease the risk of us taking a critical hit it does absolutely nothing today. Apart from resilience that piece will come with dps-stats, and those won't keep you alive better.

So, to prove myself wrong, there are two pieces that come to mind. One would be the weapon slot and the other the helmet slot. If your currently use a piece of green ilevel 316 item in that slot, yes, then the PvP piece will be an upgrade. Reaon being weapons tending to hold rather poor tanking stats to begin with, and the helmet at least being preconfigured with mastery.

But, really, avoid PvP gear like the plague unless you plan smacking some players over the head. If that is the case, yes, you can tank other players in your PvP gear.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The strength of a pug

"We haven't done it this way before."

That's at least something you're unlikely to see the entire party fall back on when things don't work as you want.

The true pug, by definition, hasn't done things in any way before. You're recently gathered, and when you run into an obstacle you're left with either following well known tactics or trying something new. While there is, admittedly, usually a preferable way to solve a problem, the pug offers you the option to try a diferent way to handle it.

A new way is more often than not a worse way, but it is also the strength of a pug. It is a new way, and as such it offers a possible insight into how to handle the given problem. It also offers insights into how to handle similar problems, and while the new way is likely to be discarded as the wrong way, from time to time you'll learn something.

Sometimes you even learn the road to a new established way of solving this type of problems.

That is the strength of the pug. It's not set in its ways.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A short piece of advice, agility 2

With Blizzards planned removal of dodge-rating gained from agility for all plate tanks, some planning is in order.

If you, like I, sport an agility ring and ditto necklace, it's about time to search for a strength based replacement before 4.2 goes live. Else we end up with two dead slots before tanking our first piece of content after the patch.

If you end up dry on luck, there are still two decent options left. An ilevel 346 ring for Revered reputation with Therazane (assuming you already have the Valor Point version) and one ilevel 346 necklace for 1230 Justice Points.

While it is likely that questing in the Firelands area will eventually yield upgrades to some slots, we don't know yet exactly what the ewards will be.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Controlled ninja pulling

So, you're standing ready to pull those mobs. They're marked for CC and it's time to throw that shield, or is it?

What does your party look like? Some specs can only CC efficiently pre-pull, others can peel a target after the pull is initiated.

A rogue or hunter can pull for you. While this might seem counter intuitive, if you have a multi-mob pull that could go astray, decide which of them you want to handle yourself. Most likely we're talking casters now. That melee mob could preferably be misdirected by that hunter.

One of the more problematic archetype of mobs is the archer. It just won't move unless you run around a corner, and that isn't always an option. If you have a DK with you that's not a problem at all. Have the DK Deathgrip the archer and stun it as soon as it lands.

The long corner pull. For some reason you realise you simply won't make it around that corner before the pull goes pearshaped. But for reasons of gear you still want to make it a corner pull. Again no problem. Is there anyone in hte party with a sprint or jump ability? Stand closer to the corner, let the player body aggro the entire group. Lay down a consecrate and bubble the player. Now run like mad. Or a priest could leap you the distance needed to make it around the corner in time.

The insanity race. You're trucking down everything in sight. Give that sweet group the go ahead for starting to CC and peel the next group before the current one is down. A boring dungeon is turned into an endless combat that doesn't stop until the last boss is down.

Before you're standing there ready to pull those mobs, be prepared by knowing beforehand the assets presented by your party. Don't be afraid to ask. Next time you'll know when a controlled ninja pull is the best way to start the fight.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A short piece of advice, PvP

A surprisingly efficient way to hone your tanking skills is PvP.

While you're unlikley to learn how to position mobs you will learn how to use the abilities that tend to just occupy a slot on your interface but never get used.

In PvP people are actually out there to get you. That's what PvP is all about. But it also happens more slowly. No boss slamming you for 100k damage or funny crap on the floor instagibbing you. You'll be stunned, slowed, rooted in place and watch that friendly healer go down costing you an avoidable death.

So you'll learn when to bubble, when to LoH, when to use Hand of Freedom and when to bubble your healer. You'll see that healer leap you out of a lost position, when you should run into the fray and what types of opponents are best gripped to your position by that DK.

Most important, you'll always play in an environment where you don't know beforehand what's going to happen, and that hones your most important tanking ability -- that of environmental awareness.

A short piece of advice, pug

Do it, preferably through the LFD.

If you're casually tanking your weekly wipes together with your equally casual guild mates, you need to see how other people are doing things. Other people include the horribly bad as well.

Not only will you gain insight in how things should be done, but you'll also learn the route to disaster. As an added bonus you'll end up a better tank, because having to react to random shenanigans from your fellow randoms teaches you how fight mechanics interact with a number of players (in this case five) just happening to be located in the direct vincinity of mobs doing bad stuff to you.

You'll also see how different combinations of specs work together, or in some cases fail to work together. By failing I'm not referring to bad resources behind the keyboard, but rather to how some combinations simply carry lackluster synergies.

So, get out there and pug.

A short piece of advice, agility

Get that agility if you don't have anything significantly better.

Currently there's a necklace and a ring available. Especially the latter is easy to get as you ought to be exalted with just about anything given the tabards in the game.

Equip that ring. Watch your dodge jumping through the roof.
Learn to love jewelery with mastery and agility.

Edit: MMO Champion released the latest patch notes earlier today. Seems agility will no longer convert into dodge rating for us plate tanks come patch 4.2.

Gevlon, playing to win and scrubs

I'm an avid follower of The Greedy Goblin blog, and today I found a rehash of an old gamer topic. How to play to win.

Gevlon has compiled the results from another writer, applied it to the Tol Barad fights, and arrived at an interesting, albeit fundamentally incorrect, insight.

There's a catch in almost all the play to win discussions, and one that most fail to understand. The play to win scenarios are all applied games with two opposing sides, and almost always applied to games with two opposing players. That is, a duel.

While you can, to a great degree, use the result for two opposing teams, in reality you have to add a a lot of unknowns to the calculations, almost all of them social in nature. In a duel, there is an 'I' and a 'you' and one only needs to fill in the aspects of what makes a highly competitive player. Hard core if you will.

Two opposing teams are just that, teams. If you mix the individually best of the best together in a team you have a recipie for disaster. You need the grunts as well as the divas, and you need to bend every member of your team just that little bit that makes the team work optimally. This will invariably mean nerfing the individual qualities to a certain degree.

Then there is another aspect, one which is only recognized by those of us gamers who came from the cooperative type of games that once monopolized the term RPG. In today's WoW it would be PvE, and it would be PvE in every aspect of the abbreviation.

In the typical old-style RPG you can't win. You can only become better, at which time you're rewarded by obstacles matching your new an enchanced abilties. The continuous matching between increased abilities and harder opponents creates an illusion of iterative increase in character strength. One that is easily identified by the gamer at that. So even the old table top RPGs added fluff. Build a castle, employ retainers, join fictious competitions where the goal is not to kill but merely to win glory.

It's there in WoW. Get a rare mount, or an equally rare tabard. Gain a stupid title.

This is where Gevlon lacks understanding. While he correctly identifies fluff for what it is, and equally correctly notes that no player who doesn't collect mounts will even notice that rare mount, he fails tounderstand where it all began. The hard core table top gamer spent entire gaming sessions to gain fictive titles which would have no impact on a game only played by a group of four or five players. There wasn't even a theoretical opportunity to impress another player with that 'rare mount'.

So why would anyone spend time to get virtually nothing in a game played within the confines of a closely knit group?

The magic word here is simulation. You have the Sims, Sim City and their ilk for the computer, and there is a huge number of similar games out there, based on communities where social interaction lie at the core.

Now, WoW comes with both competitive gaming and simulation as well as old-style RPG elements. And it mixes them all together horisontally rather than vertically, which is exactly what you aim for when you design any kind of multiplayer on-line RPG.

There is an element of vertical stratification going on now. You can see it in the implementation of instant PvP and instant dungeons. Raids are the only events where someone has to physically transport characters to a location. This, in turn, leads to full cities and empty landscapes, and the cities serve the function of chat channels.

Chat channels for idle and bored players. Most of them aren't competitors at all, but they're still players. They'll never become competitive at anything, raiding, PvP or even collecting rare fluff, but they're still participating. A few of them can become surprisingly good at an aspect of the game very well known to us old RPG gamers -- sabotage.

The best known WoW saboteur, planned by the entire group or not, would be Leeroy Jenkins. And most would believe that only the unable resort to those stunts, but as there is great fun involved even for a decently progressed tank I think we can safely move Gevlon's assesment to the corner of incorrect preconceptions, where it belongs.

The concept of play to win simply cannot be applied to a gaming environment which to a large degree is built as a simulation. While you certainly can, and there definitely are people, playing to win specific aspects of that simulation, what constitutes winning varies from player to player. It is indeed subjective.

The final proof of this subjectivity comes from the real world. The obsessed collector. There is no respect to be gained from collecting well known stolen pieces of art. The moment you're known to collect stolen art your most likely reward is a few years in prison, not to speak of losing all the illegaly gained pieces of art you have. Still these people exist.

They win by having something they can never show. They also tend to have amassed quite an impressive amount of money in order to enable them to buy the stolen art to begin with. Lawless, possibly, but scrubs, most definitely not.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We're too weak

The argument that the paladin tank is too weak in comparision with the other three tanking specs is something often voiced on the official cesspool. When you check the posters you'll notice how they compare themselves with other tanks in similar gear.

They're lying.

They compare themselves with other tanks in similar gear gemmed and enchanted to do the job. And they compare themselves with tanks in gear that was designed for tanking.

There's nothing casual about going to work in a third PvP gear, gear unenchanted and half of it ungemmed.

Let's have a look at the difference between similar gear and a half-arsed lie, slot by slot:

Helmet enchant is 90 stamina and 35 dodge rating
Shoulders 75 stamina and 25 dodge rating
Cloak 250 armour
Chest 75 stamina
Wrists 50 dodge rating
Weapon, anything ranging from some selfhealing to proccing avoidance (so preferably Windwalk)
Shield 50 mastery rating
Feet 50 mastery rating
Legs 145 stamina and 55 agility
Belt a belt socket (which normally translates into 40 mastery rating)
Hands 65 mastery rating

There are also 13 gemslots of varying colours, one of which is a meta gem slot. Let's say you're skipping on six of these, two of each kind. That's 2 40 master gems, 2 20 mastery 20 parry gems and 2 20 mastery and 30 stamina gems.

Let's sum it all up.

445 stamina
110 dodge rating
40 parry rating
365 mastery rating
55 agility
One perfectly useful weapon enchant.

Next let's place the result of two tanks with distinctly different quality of gear side by side.

One would be myself in an average 358 item-level and the other a paladin tank with 350 average item-level who I found on-line. I have padded out the 350 tank with the missing enchants (why did this not surprise me).

7353 vs 7318 stamina
1387 vs 1716 dodge rating
12.43 vs 12.80 percent dodge (this shows why agility is a surprisingly strong tanking stat)
1647 vs 1661 parry rating
13.49 vs 13.55 percent parry
3048 vs 1824 mastery rating
61.25 vs 46.4 percent block

The strategic difference between us is mainly one trinket. I'm running double mastery trinkets, and the other tank is carrying a stamina one. There is a smaller difference in gemming philosophy. I'm getting mastery but the other tank is scrambling to pick up as much dodge rating as is humanly possible.

We're pretty even apart from the not so minor detail of 15% block chance in my favour and 0.50% avoidance chance in his. In a raid he'd take close to 25% straight hits, and I would take 8%. Healers will tell the difference. To close some of that gap he has to drop 427 stamina to gain 4% block. Now he'd be way below the safety health limit for a raid, and he'd still be 11% block behind me. This is perfectly normal. I am, after all, geared eight ilevels better than he is. A rather distinct difference is to be expected.

Now, if I was to remove my enchants, what happens? I'd lose all of the the stamina advantage he has made from that one trinket. I'm dropping 0.50% in avoidance. I'm losing 4.5% block. And, of course, I'll lose my weapon enchant.

Incidentally it would be easy for me to regain that stamina. I slap on a trinket of my own and end up with almost exactly the same amount of stamina as he has. That would, however, cost me another 4% block.

I'm now matching his stamina, lagging 1% avoidance behind him, and my block is a mere 6.5% ahead of his. If I for some reason wanted to, I could convert some of that block to make up for that 1% avoidance. So dropping about 2.7% block would gain me that 1% avoidance.

I'm now ahead by 3.8% block but missing a weapon enchant. As I've chosen to gear in two agility based pieces we're also pretty much even on strength. The missing weapon enchant is Windwalk. The proccing 600 dodge rating has an uptime of close to 30%, so say 160 dodge rating over time. That matches about 2% block, so I'm still ahead by 1.8% block.

So, I might have failed to prove that missing enchants and missing half of the gems available fully makes up for an average of eight item-levels. It is damn close though. Cheat on another three yellow gem-slots and me and that tank are virtually identical.

If we start to throw PvP gear into the equation it isn't even funny.

We're not too weak -- they're too damn lazy to make up for two thirds of a tier-level's worth of difference in gear, and that's not anywhere close to comparable gear.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Once upon a time

Some of us decided to take on the world with a sword and a board. Sure, the sword could be a club or an axe, but we went out there with something to hit our adversaries in one hand, and something to, well, avoid getting hit with, in the other.

We're casuals. We didn't always know how the game worked, but we knew that something encased in steel, a one-hander and a shield was what we wanted to play. And we wanted a little bit of magic.

So paladin it was.

I don't know how old you are, or how much you have played, but if you're anything like me you rolled that paladin because the knight in shining armour was the archetype you wanted to impersonate.

I'm not talking role-playing here. Most of us doesn't really care about the role-playing, but still that idea of a warrior with a mission appeals to us. And the warrior class simply feels too mercenary, too self contained. It might have been a close call, but in the end the idea of Conan the Barbarian simply didn't fit.

So paladin it was.

In the beginning we were handed a maul. Something a blacksmith might use on a fair to show his strength, and it simply didn't feel right. We grabbed that one-hander, a shield and started exploring. It was slow work, often frustrating, but in the end the reward for a long fight was to stand victorious.

Around us other paladins walked by looking like Conan if he had the money to buy proper armour, and a few, the holy hermits still clad in armour, chose the path of healing. Retribution or holy. Vigilante or warrior priest. Still, protection was the defender of the weak.

So paladin it was.

There was this thing called dungeon. Fighting in a group. And we found out that we fought less well than others, and the ability to heal ourselves wasn't an ability the others wanted to see us use. 'Tank it you idiot!' And some found being yelled at wasn't what they wanted from the game, but some of us looked further, and we learned that tanking was indeed being defenders of the weak. And we learned.

So paladin it was.

We became stronger. Harder to defeat. Less of a knight, and our armour shone dimmer, but we tanked. For a long time we had to sneak like thieves in the night and steal the belongings of our holy brethren to protect and defend, but eventually we learned to use the armour and weapon so much sought by the warriors who chose a path similar to our own.
And there were those who ran into combat like that economically independent Conan with an oversized two-hander trying to protect and defend. A new addition to our family. Three out of four, because there were always those who shapeshifted into animal form and clawed themselves into a position where the weak would be protected.

Still, it wasn't the same, and we kept to our ways of a determined walking into the midst where help was most needed. Neither a berserker charge nor a dark magic ripping the ground out of under our foes to force them to come to us. Just that unstoppable fast walk, because we weren't in a hurry.

We are paladin tanks. We walk, and we never forget that day when we first decided:

So paladin it is.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What am I

I'm one of those who have reached the venerable age when you only grow sideways. I am also a gamer.

I think it started 1980 or so. With an RPG, which I believe people not vested in antiquity would call a 'table top' these days. I'm rather certain it was D&D, but what version it was I fail to remember -- it's that venerable age of mine playing tricks with me I guess.

I know for a certain that I spent close to ten years playing the ICE flagship, Rolemaster, in a way that has to be called hard core. During that time I encountered a dozen other RPGs and an innumerable amount of board games.

Then came MUD. That would be an early precursor to the WoW you're familiar with. The flavour I played for half a year and developed for another four is labelled LP-MUD. The specific one I started up with a friend, Kingdoms, came on-line 1991, and as far as I know it's still running. 20 years. That's a pretty good score for any computer game in my book.

After that I spent less time gaming and hence a lot less time making adjustments to games. One would say that I had grown up I guess, but, as every true gamer knows, that was not to last.

My fiance introduced me to a dead game. I had seen it in shops five years earlier, but after realising how awfully bugged and broken Magic: The Gathering was, I chose not to spend my cash on yet another Garfield TGC.

Now, however, it was 1999, and my fiance was dead set on me trying V:TES, and I did, and I was hooked. Eight glorious years down the drain. When I didn't work, get kids, raise kids or travel, I played V:TES.

I wrote articles, I followed and joined rules-forums. I found out what rules to legally exploit in order to force a change of the rules. I travelled around Europe to take part in championships, I eventually helped run one; and I learned the 2500 different cards by heart, how they interact with each other, what type of player prefers what type of decks.

Eventually I tired, and I ran into WoW.

Now, I know all about being hard core, and my experience from the MUD had me a bit wary. For three of those four and a half years I spent an average of sixteen hours a day, seven days a week redefining, developing, testing and changing that game.

So I am a pugadin. I'm a casual, who spends a lot of time with WoW, but I am never scheduled ahead of time, and I'll take a month or two away from the game whenever I'm bored.

Oh, and I tank. From playing fighters and paladins with sword and board, rolling dice on a table, to defining a tanking profession (that would be class for you) in the MUD, I preferred the holy warrior. During my years with V:TES i always preferred playing a defensive, blocking style of decks able to take a brutal beating.

My first character in WoW was a protection warrior, my second, after I learned about coherent talent trees, the existence of an Auction House and the possibility to trade with other characters, was a paladin. Sword and board.

That's 30 years of gaming and a total lack of evolution for you. But then I always say that tanking is a specific kind of mental deficiency. At least it's consistent.

And I guess I'm a lot of other things as well, but none that are directly related to this blog.

The Pugadin blog

This is not for you, dear hard core raider, and not for those of you who defy the shortcomings of the paladin class and prove the rest of us wrong in mortal combat with other players.

It is not even for those of you who are my brethren but chose to heal or inflict damage.

This blog is for the casual tank who thinks like a tank despite being casual.

This blog, most of all, is my creation, and hence thoroughly subjective. My opinions and my point of view will seep through every line of text here, and thus you should never take what I write as any kind of universal truth.

If you chose to do so anyway, well then I have this prime offer concerning some real estate on the Moon that I think you will find interesting.