Daily Thoughts: Mists of Pandaria First Impressions

I wanted to give a few days of being max level before attempting to post my commentary on the expansion. My opinion, however, has not changed since I reached level 86 to level 90 and to now. Mists of Pandaria is a solid upgrade and addition to World of Warcraft. If you read my last post, or feel like going to read it now, you’d have seen that I was indecisive regarding what character to make my ‘main’ for MoP. In the end, my Death Knight won out over the rest. I leveled from 85-86 as Unholy, but quickly switched to Frost. Howling Blast, hitting all targets for decent damage and applying dots, is simply one of the most superior AoE options available right now – particularly for questing, given the heavy movement that comes from running to and from mobs/nodes/etc. Questing was easily the most enjoyable that it has ever been to me, possibly with the exception of when I started playing back in The Burning Crusade. I wouldn’t think this is because TBC quests were better (they weren’t), but just for the new factor at the time. The zones were amazing. It’s been quite sometime since some visage in WoW made me think, “Damn, that’s pretty awesome looking.”

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What to Play in Mists of Pandaria?

With World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Mists of Pandaria, only 3 days and 10 hours away (as of the time of this writing), I’m finding myself in a bit of a pickle – I’ve yet to choose a class and spec that I intend to play. For some, this choice may be simple. Perhaps you only have one character at the Cataclysm max level of 85, making it the most sensible choice to level. I’ve managed to get every class leveled to max which completely exacerbates my indecision. Should I stay on my Death Knight to keep dishing out the diseases and protecting my face with blood shields? Should I revert to my previous main and lay down some holy wrath or healing on my Paladin? Any other class is also an option, except my poor abandoned rogue. I don’t much care to pay for a server transfer to get him on the same server as my guild. Maybe I should make a list:

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Daily Thoughts: A Primer of Death Knight Tanking

Recently I posted a three part series about tanking Cataclysm heroics. I decided that only natural follow-up was to share a little of what I learned from my experience and how that applies to my previous experience tanking in back in WotLK. Tanking regular dungeons is pretty much the equivalent of tank Wrath heroics. If your healer is even somewhat coherent you’ll probably be fine. So regular dungeons don’t really need much strategy. If you do, however, have aspirations of taking your tanking to the next level then they are both a good place to gear up in preparation for heroics and also the perfect testing ground. This however isn’t a guide on how to get ready for heroics, it is instead a primer on what to do when you get there.

Step 1: Observation

This is an important step for any tank (it’s also not a bad idea for dps or heals either). Take note of your group. What is their gear like? Does the healer seem to barely have heroic blues at all or is he/she rocking raiding epics and 100k mana?  To take it a step further you could do an inspect and verify the gems/enchants on the healers gear. If they have gems and enchants, and they seem to be correct, then there’s a better chance your healer doesn’t suck. Next make a mental list of the crowd control abilities in your group. If you arrive at VP with another DK, a warrior, and a Paladin, you might have some trouble. With a good healer that is properly geared many dungeons can be done without CC at all, on the other hand, if your healer looks new you better make good use of any available CC. 

Step 2: Communication

This is really another important step for any tank. It’s a good time to state your intention to use (or in some cases omit the use of) CC. If everyone looks pretty well geared you might offer, “hey heals, your gear looks pretty sweet, think we could just power through this stuff”? If you are feeling more cautious or the healer prefers not to chain pull the instance, this is the point where you declare the CC ability/player with the symbol you’ll be using. Include the kill order symbols (skull>x>whatever). Try to be consistent throughout. If moon is sheep and square is trap, don’t switch it up later on. It can result in confusion and wipes. No matter what you declare skull is, people will always shoot at it. Try putting a skull on the healer and watch your dps go insane from confusion.

Step 3: The Pulls

So you’ve figured out what you have to work with and how you’re going to proceed. Now it’s time to actually pull some mobs. I’ll go over a single target or at least non-AOE-fest plan first. When using CC, it’s often a good idea to have one of your ranged CC options pull via their CC and pick the mobs up as they run towards the group. This way the free mobs are a little ways away from the controlled ones and you have a lesser chance of accidentally pulling them as you smash things on your keyboard carefully target and tank the mobs. Death and Decay is always a great opening move if there is more than 1 mob that you’re tanking AND you won’t pull controlled mobs. If you have marked a “skull” target make sure to grab that one first. I’ll typically start laying down my diseases on this one first, usually saving my Outbreak for an emergency disease refresh. If you have a caster mob that isn’t controlled, use Death Grip to grab threat and bring the mob away from the others.

Assuming you’re out of range of CC’d mobs use your pestilence to spread diseases (if there is more than 1 mob) to help threat on those targets. The main rotation you’ll be using as a DK tank is diseases > Death Strike (for mitigation/heath) OR heart strike for threat > rune strike (to use your runic power). Trash mobs won’t live long enough to need refreshing diseases most of the time. If you aren’t dealing with a large group or have controlled the excess mobs you shouldn’t find yourself needing to use any cooldowns.

For AOE pulls it is a little more complicated (sort of) and chaotic. Without any CC targets, DnD is ALWAYS the best opening move in a large group of mobs. It hits everything and does great threat. Keep in mind, this will NOT stop a DPS from pulling aggro on a single target but should make sure they’re all hitting you at the start. When pulling a tough AOE I’ll usually use my outbreak to save time getting diseases spread. My rotation ends up something like DnD>Outbreak>Pestilence>Some cooldown for survivability>Possibly a DPS cooldown for threat>Death Strikes for life>Blood Boil for AOE Threat. It is usually still a good idea to mark the initial kill target even on an AOE pull. If you can DnD then focus on one mob, you won’t have as much worry about DPS pulling off random targets and requiring you to taunt. Be prepared to use more cooldowns as needed depending on the skill and gear of your healer. AoE chain pulling is often the fastest and funnest method for a tank, but it can be very stressful on the healer. Make sure he/she is okay with that method or expect wipes or healers quitting.

Lions, tigers, Bosses – Oh My!

Death Knights seem to have it pretty easy on heroic bosses for holding threat and staying alive. For a boss you have a rotation something like Diseases>RS (if excess runic power)>DS or HS. I won’t open with outbreak on a boss since Icy Tough is pretty decent threat. The only real though in our basic rotation is threat vs survivability in heart strike or death strike. If you have a good threat lead use death strike as much as possible for the healing and the bubble and then death strike as a filler. Make sure to keep diseases up and use cooldowns in high damage phases or any time you seem to be at high risk of death. Use rune strike enough to not waste runic power and you’re golden. I’ll often use Dancing Rune Weapon with Runic Empowerment  and a DPS cooldown if I ever need extra threat or just for a nice burst damage. We DK’s have a great selection of cooldowns for pretty much every situation. Following these general ideas outlined in this primer and you shouldn’t have any problems tanking heroics…..except for bad healers, douche dps, and random acts of god. Good luck and happy tanking!

 

Daily Thoughts: Fears of Tanking – The Conclusion!

This is the third part of a series I’m doing on my fears of tanking Cataclysm heroics. If you haven’t been following along you can read the FIRST PART and SECOND PART now. Go ahead, I’ll wait. To quickly summarize for those too lazy to go back and read the past posts, I had expressed a general hesitation in jumping into tanking the relatively serious Cataclysm heroics, particularly with unsatisfactory gear. I finally decided on an acceptable gear level for tanking a heroic: An item level of 333 and at least 130k health. This coupled with at least the cheap versions of the spec appropriate gems and enchants should put me in a place for success – as long as I don’t suck!

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Daily Thoughts: I’m a Little Scared of Tanking

I have a confession to make: Tanking heroics or raids freaks me out a little. First, a little background on me. I’m a WotLK baby mostly. Although I started in TBC, I didn’t hit max level until it was 80 and didn’t do any tanking past level 45 or so. After that point my only max level toon was my Holy/Ret paladin. I’d say it took me halfway through the expansion to get my DK to level 80. The DK was blood-spec DPS (remember back when blood was DPS?). It didn’t take me too long to make the second spec – frost tanking. This spec was aimed at running heroics with its impressive AOE capabilities. Even still, it probably took me until I was geared enough to be ready to raid before I actually queued as tank for a heroic. And I got… Halls of Reflection. Actually, every new tank I got to level 80 hit halls of reflection first…and my shaman when I switched to resto. That place just loved me. I hated it though. I’m a little surprised I don’t somehow get it in cataclysm at 85.

Tanking on a frost DK in Wrath was… very easy. Surprisingly the instance went relatively smoothly that time. Frost-specs massive threat and EZ-mode area of effect damage (I’m looking at you Howling Blast) made picking up adds and holding aggro on bosses a piece of cake. When my druid hit level 80 I’d already done some regs as tank but he was mostly geared for boomkin. Again I waited until I had over 5k gearscore and 30k HP before queuing as tank. Basically identical to my experience as a frost DK. Halls of Reflection > Awesome AOE(swipe spam) > decent single target threat. I did miss having death grip to reel in those stray caster adds but it was easy enough to keep the rest of the mobs under control that the occasional ranged didn’t kill us. Finally, my warrior reached 85 and became over geared for heroics and I queued… it was sloppy. Bringing in packs of mobs (yes in Halls of Reflection, yet again) was a bit more difficult than as a frost DK or bear druid. Most of the time I was scrambling to hold aggro and keep everyone alive. I think I’m a bad warrior tank, but who knows.

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Daily Thoughts: WoW Blogs Pt. 2

For those classes I left out of my blogging resource post the other day, I’m going to my best to provide you a link to a good read, just for you. Yes, you personally. Here is Pt. 2, Pt. 3 should be out in a couple of days.

Death Knight: http://runeforgegossip.wordpress.com/ – “A Death Knight’s perspective on raiding, guild-membering, and other World of Warcraft activities”. I believe a writer from this blog also took the time to correct my baddie frost rotation in a comment on another of my posts.

Druid: http://wow.danomatic.com/thedailydruid/ – This seems to be a pretty awesome collection of druid posts for all druid specs and is set up in an organized and very attractive layout.

Hunter: http://www.warcrafthuntersunion.com/ – Pretty much THE definitive hunter blog. If you’re a serious hunter, you should be reading this.

Rogue: http://pverogues.blogspot.com/ – A blog with rogue PVE as the main focus, as if the name didn’t make it obvious. Looks like it’s a pretty active and current blog.

Pt.3 will have Warriors, Mages, Warlocks, and Priests (in no particular order).  To that end, feel free to comment any good blogs you know for these classes, even if it’s a self plug or shout out for a friend. If you feel there’s a particular blog for a class I’ve already covered that absolutely should get some face time with the readers here, also don’t hesitate to leave that blog link in a comment.

I’m probably taking my fury warrior to RS and ICC10 HM tonight, so I should have a post up with some feedback on that over the weekend. See ya!

Daily Thoughts: Random Comparison – Fury vs Frost

Fury v. Frost – Sounds like an epic boxing match about to begin. As it isn’t a boxing match, it is probably unclear why I’d go out of my way to compare to unrelated specs on two different classes. Well, those specs are all I really had time to play yesterday so that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

Fury:

I’m two-handed fury. None of these little rogue / insta-dead enh shaman one hander things for me. I’m a fury warrior; a raging beast dual wielding two small trucks, excited to bash just about anything. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. My fury warrior is my freshest 80. He’s decently geared at this point through mainly heroics and one lucky ICC-10. He’s wielding Ramaladni’s Blade of Culling from ICC 10 and the Edge of Ruin from the ToC 5 man heroic. The rest of his gear is pretty representative of those. A mix between ilevel200 and ilevel264 pieces. He’s only partially enchanted and gemmed with mostly rare quality gems. In heroics, I do an easy 7-8k dps on trash pulls and single target bosses with cooldowns. With the right string of crits, i’ve neared 9.5k dps single target in a heroic. The rotation is mostly button mashing, then button mash whatever is flashing. Raging Blow during enrage > Slam when it procs > Bloodthirst > HS when at high rage. I’m not amazing at prioritizing my rotation so mines mostly faceroll. AoE packs are even easier, cleave > whatever > cleave. It’s fun, its easy. I do want to learn a little more about what I should be doing for a tighter rotation and stat preferences for gems so, read along with me:

Wow Insider – Warrior Search   ,   From the Wow Forums

Looks like people aren’t completely sure about stat weights and such. Ej doesn’t have anything definitive currently. Hit/Exp caps are a must though.

Frost:

My death knight is a burly risen dead orc soldier. He brandishes a two-handed weapon and controls deaths icy powers. The new rune system adds a bit more downtime during a DK’s rotation than the global cooldown mashing fest that was in place before 4.0.1, at least for non dual-wielders. To compensate for this, blizzard made everything hit really hard. My main attacks in heroics – frost strike, obliterate, and howling blast – all crit for 13k+ regularly. The DK is using Tyrannical Beheader out of heroic Pit of Saron, he has 4 piece tier 10, and almost completely ilvl 251/264 gear in total. He has all the best enchants and gems. Frosts big hits of howling blast lead me to an easy 8k+ dps on trash pulls but I’m only sitting around 5-6k dps on single target boss fights. I can only assume that my rotation is sloppy, though Frosts rotation and needs are a bit more intensive than a Fury warrior. Frost must lay down both diseases on the target, use Obliterate as often as possible and during the 100% crit procs, Festering Strike to refresh diseases (they really need 100% uptime), frost strike to bleed off all that runic power, and blood strikes to use the blood runes that you’ll otherwise be wasting. Doing festering strike too often is a dps loss as it doesn’t hit as hard as your other strikes. Using FS not often enough causes diseases to fall off, wasting runes and cooldowns to reapply them. It’s a pretty fun spec with some procs to watch for and an interesting rotation, now I just need to get my stuff in order. Lets check out some resources for this and maybe I can find out why my lesser geared warrior does more single target than frost dk.

Elitist Jerks – Frost DK

Wow Insider – DK Search

Both EJ and WoW Insider seem to agree that I could use more haste on my two-handed frost DK. I’ll try reforging that in the next couple days. The EJ link is a GREAT resource for rotation, gemming, glyphs, etc. Hopefully I can tone that DK up a bit and get his damage on par with his gear.

Fury Warriors and Frost Death Knights are both very fun and dynamic specs leaning on procs for best dps. Fury is a bit easier to do well, but if you want a more challenging spec to play and have (or might level) one of these two-handed weapon monsters, Frost might be your best bet.