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Firebrand and Stormcaller Strategy Guide

April 11, 2012

Kill Video:

 

Firebrand Abilities:

Missile Blast – The standard attack on a tank. Hits every 3 seconds. Will also hit people in front of the Firebrand turret.

Missile Barrage – A larger attack that always occurs while the tank has Incinerate Armor. It has a high chance of 1-shotting any tank that has the Incinerate Armor debuff. Will also hit people in front of the Firebrand turret.

Mortar Volley – A rain of damage that hits everyone who is outside of a shield every three seconds. There are eight total hits.

Targeted – A yellow circle appears under someone’s feet. Keep moving and get cleansed (or self-cleanse) and run out before the damage hits. On Story Mode no cleanse is needed.

Mortar Barrage – Red circles appear all over the playing field. Mortar Barrage will hit after a second or two where those red circles appeared.

Incinerate Armor – A debuff placed on the tank that removes all of his armor for 15 seconds.

Stormcaller Abilities:

Zap Attack – The standard attack on a tank. Hits every 3 seconds. Will also hit people in front of the Stormcaller turret.

Electric Discharge – A larger attack that is used only a couple of times per phase. It has a high chance of 1-shotting any tank that has the Double Destruction debuff. Will also hit people in front of the Stormcaller turret.

Electrical Disturbance – A lightning spire placed on the ground that pulses as long as a person stands inside its area of effect.

Single Destruction – Debuff when someone stands in front of a Double Destruction cast. Turns into Double Destruction after a few seconds.

Double Destruction – Name of both a cast and a debuff that is applied. The DoT also doubles all damage taken from Stormcaller attacks.

Shared Abilities:

Defensive Systems – The hovertanks become virtually immune to damage and knock back anyone near them. This is a buff on the hovertanks, so you can watch to see when it expires.

Enrage – The hovertanks eventually Enrage. In addition to doing increased damage, anyone standing on the hovertanks will start taking damage. Therefore healers especially should get off the hovertanks when they Enrage. Tanks should get off also unless they have a major CD running.

Strategy:

The fight consists of two phases. During the normal phase the hovertanks are damaged and during the shield phase, players must hide under shields and DPS adds instead.

Phase One:

P1 Positioning

During P1, healers and tanks should stand up on Firebrand and Stormcaller. Tanks should rotate the turrets about 45 degrees outwards so that nobody will get hit by Firebrand and Stormcaller’s frontal cone abilities. Anyone standing on the tanks is Magnetically Stabilized and is less likely to get selected by Targeted and Electrical Disturbance.

Note that the easiest way up onto the tanks is via the sides. If you have trouble jumping straight up via the front, then use the inner sides (i.e., the side of Firebrand that faces Stormcaller and vice versa) as your path up. The outer sides are dangerous to use since you risk getting hit by Firebrand and Stormcaller’s frontal attacks.

At the beginning of P1, Firebrand will use Mortar Barrage and red circles will appear all over the playing field. People standing up on the hovertanks will be safe, but ranged DPS will have to avoid the circles.

Throughout P1, Stormcaller will target random ranged DPS with Electrical Disturbance. This is a lightning spire that persists on the ground for a while. Get out of the crackling blue sphere to avoid taking damage.

Firebrand will randomly place a yellow circle under a ranged DPS. Although it is very unlikely that someone on the hovertanks will be chosen, it can happen. Make sure to pay attention even if you’re not a ranged DPS. The person with the yellow circle should run away from everyone else and self-cleanse while still moving or call for a cleanse while still moving. The key to avoiding damage from this attack is to never stop moving. On Story Mode no cleanse is required.

Twice during this phase Stormcaller will cast Double Destruction. Double Destruction must be split among two players, since any player who eats it by himself gets stunned and thrown up in the air (and will die). The two players closest to the front of the Stormcaller turret will get a Single Destruction debuff that turns into a Double Destruction debuff after a few seconds. This debuff is a ticking DoT that also doubles damage taken from Stormcaller.

Two melee should handle the Double Destruction debuff. If you don’t have two melee, use a healer instead. The Stormcaller tank can rotate the turret so that it is facing the ranged DPS (at 0 degrees instead of 45) to make it easier for the melee to get in front of the tank, although this really shouldn’t be necessary if the melee are paying attention.

Shortly after the Double Destruciton DoT goes up on both melee, the Stormcaller tank will get hit with Electric Discharge. As long as he doesn’t have the Double Destruction debuff, this can easily be healed.

Following the Double Destruction, the Firebrand tank will get Incinerate Armor. The two tanks should swap when this debuff goes out, and quickly rotate the turrets back into position so no raiders get hit by the hovertank frontal cone abilities.

After the tanks swap, a second Double Destruction goes out and has to be handled by the melee. After the second Double Destruction, P1 will end and P2 will begin as both Firebrand and Stormcaller cast Defensive Systems.

Phase Two:

P2 Positioning

During Phase Two, the hovertanks have a buff on them called Defensive Systems that makes them virtually immune to damage. Adds will come jetting in, and it’s much easier to see them if you have enemy nameplates on. One of the adds will deploy a Shield Generator.

On Story Mode, the shields always appear towards the front of the tanks and off to the sides. On Hard Mode, the location of the shields is variable, and in the worst case scenario, the shields can actually be behind the hovertanks.

Defensive Systems actually applies a knockback when the cast finishes, so people standing on the tank can use this knockback to be propelled towards the shield.

It is important to be under the shield after Defensive Systems finishes casting, since it protects players from the attack that Firebrand unleashes for the rest of the phase. This attack is called Mortar Volley and it hits 8 times every 3 seconds for a few thousand damage each tick. Save defensive cooldowns for if you get caught outside the shield and have to eat a tick or two of this attack.

On the Firebrand side, everyone can get under the shield and DPS the adds. It is important to use only single target attacks, as any AOE attacks will also hit the Shield Generator itself. If the shield dies early, then everyone will take Mortar Volley damage and possibly die. The tank on the Firebrand side can hold aggro on the adds and keep others from taking damage.

On the Stormcaller side, things are a bit different. During this phase Stormcaller now targets his tank with Electrical Disturbance over and over again. The tank must be constantly moving and has to stay outside the shield in order to avoid dropping Electrical Disturbances on other players on the Stormcaller side. It is important that the tank not outrange healers who will be inside the shield. In addition the tank should be constantly moving to avoid getting hit by pulses of Electrical Disturbance. The Stormcaller tank is also eating Mortar Volley the entire time. Tank CDs should be saved for this phase.

After the Mortar Volley ends and the Defensive Systems buff expires from Firebrand and Stormcaller, P1 starts again. It is important for all players to get away from the outside, since the hovertank turrets will get turned in that direction by the tanks. Return to your P1 positions as quickly as possible.

Bugs/Issues:

Some people have trouble seeing Electrical Disturbances. Call out if you see someone standing in one, since it might be invisible to that person.

Right before Defensive Systems starts casting, the Stormcaller tank can get hit by a single Electrical Disturbance. This can be very annoying if it is dropped on top of the hovertank as it makes it hard for melee and healers on Stormcaller to use Defensive Systems to get punted. People on this side need to be really on the ball as far as watching for where the shield is going to be and getting there quickly.

Toth and Zorn Strategy Guide

April 11, 2012

Toth Abilities:

Smash – An AOE attack that hits everyone within 25m of Toth. If positioned correctly, only the Toth tank and the melee should take any damage.

Backhand Smash – A 2 second knockdown. Seems to hit anyone in front of Toth.

Cleave – Toth has a small Cleave that will hit anyone in front of him.

Ground Shatter – A sustained AOE that hits everyone within 50m. Also causes red circles to appear and then the ground erupts. Will kill you if you’re not topped off and just hurt you a lot if you’re not.

Berserk – Toth does 200% damage with all his abilites. Can only be removed by a successful Baradium Heave from Zorn.

Zorn Abilities:

Flurry – Zoth’s standard hit on the tank is a flurry of blows.

Emboldened – When Toth leaps to Zorn, anyone within 30m of the center of Zorn’s hitbox will be affected with the Fearful debuff, which causes them to take double damage from Zorn’s abilities and to also take ~6k reflected damage whenever they damage Zorn. Only the Zorn tank should be hit by this.

Shriek – An AOE that hits for small damage to everyone within 25m. Leaves two DoTS on anyone hit.

Mental Anguish – A damaging DoT applied by Shriek. Can be cleansed.

Weakened – A stacking debuff that causes the player to do less and less damage over time. Applied by Shriek. Can be cleansed.

Baradium Toss – Throws a piece of baradium ore at a random player within 25m.

Baradium Heave – Targets someone with a yellow circle. That player runs over to Toth and stands under him. The yellow circle turns purple when the debuff wears off, and then Zorn throws a huge baradium boulder at Toth that clears his Berserk buff. Anyone standing inside the circle takes huge damage.

Sonic Paralysis – Stuns the tank and does damage. Will not necessarily be breakable every time by the tank, so healers should be prepared for it the second time it happens.

Shared Abilities:

Surge – Both Toth and Zorn get a stacking buff that increases their damage done if they are too close to one another. They have to be kept separated to avoid this extra damage.

Strategy:

The raid splits in two with 1 tank, 2 healers and 5 DPS on each side. Any melee DPS should be on Toth full time and should never DPS Zorn. Ranged can be put on either boss.

Toth is positioned in the area just in front of the cave entrance. Zorn is positioned just in front of the tree to the left of the cave entrance, roughly 35-40m away from Zorn. Ranged on Zorn and Toth are 30m back in the open meadow, on their respective sides.

At every 20% threshold starting at 90%, e.g., 90%, then 70%, then 50%, etc., Toth will leap to Zorn. The Zorn tank will now have the Fearful debuff, which makes it impossible to tank Zorn without taking huge damage. Therefore the tanks have to switch bosses. This is also when a phase change will occur, and something new will start happening.

The fight consists of three phases:

Phase One:

Zorn will use Shriek on anyone within 25m. Toth will Smash anyone within 25m.

Tanks:
– Be conscious of your positioning and try to have your side to the raid, so that you no further from the raid than the boss. This keeps your healers from having to back out to avoid damaging attacks.
– Save your taunts for transitions. If someone rips right before a transition, don’t taunt and then have nothing when the leap happens.

Zorn Tank:
– Watch for the Mental Anguish and Weakened debuffs and make sure to call for a cleanse.

Zorn Ranged DPS:
– Be at max range to avoid getting hit by Shriek. Pay very close attention to where you are standing when the Toth leap is about to happen. Be at max range to avoid getting Fearful. If you do get the Fearful debuff, then go over to the Toth side until it expires and just DPS Toth.

Zorn Healers:
– Watch for debuffs that hit anyone on your side and make sure to cleanse them. If the tank positions poorly both you and the tank may get the debuff.

Toth Tank:
– Move Toth quickly back to his original position to avoid a Smash hitting the Zorn side of the raid.
– Keep Toth faced away from melee and yell at them if they’re standing with you during this phase.
– Don’t waste your 2min stun break on Backhand Smash. You need to save it for Zorn.

Toth Melee DPS:
– Watch your positioning and don’t stand in front of the boss. You want to avoid the Cleaves.

Toth Ranged DPS and Healers:
– Be at max range to avoid getting hit by Toth’s Smash. This may be impossible for the healers to avoid if the tank positions poorly.

When one of the bosses falls below 90%, Toth leaps to Zorn. At this point the two tanks swap positions. We also have the healers swap positions, since (at least right now) the tanks have not been able to position themselves well enough to allow healers to reliably avoid Fearful. DPS stay on the same side unless they get Fearful as well, in which case they also go to the other side.

When one of the bosses falls below 80% health, phase two begins.

Phase Two:

Phase two begins with an emote “Toth is Berserk! Stay away!” At this point Toth now has a damage buff called Berserk that doubles his damage done. The healers on that side should be aware that Smashes and tank damage are going to double so more intense healing will be required on that side.

Meanwhile Zorn will begin tossing baradium at anyone within 25m of his position. He will remain stationary as long as someone is within 25m to soak rocks.

Everyone:
A yellow circle will appear under someone’s feet during this phase. That person must run over to Toth’s backside such that the yellow circle is underneath Toth’s feet. After 15 seconds, the yellow circle turns purple, and you have 2-3 seconds to get out of the circle. Zorn will then heave a giant baradium boulder at Toth and it will hit him, removing Toth’s Berserk and returning his damage to normal.

Toth Tank:
You will be taking double damage while Toth has the Berserk, so be prepared to use cooldowns during this phase if needed. Be very aware of your position relative to Zorn. If Zorn is out of position for some reason, make sure to be far enough away that people on your side are not getting hit by Zorn’s rocks.

All DPS:
Be sure to stop DPS at 73%! You need to wait for the Baradium Heave before continuing DPS. Otherwise the phase will end, and Toth will stay Berserk.

Toth Melee DPS:
Smash will hit for double damage, and this is the most damage you will be taking during the entire fight. This is the time to use your damage reducing cooldowns and medpacks.

Toth Ranged DPS:
Try to position yourself so that you outrange Smash. Since it is hitting for double damage, you really don’t want to be caught by it.

Toth Healers:
The tanks and melee will take a lot of damage during this phase.

Zorn Tank:
Watch for Shriek right after the Baradium Heave and make sure to call for a cleanse. Stay on top of Zorn to maintain threat and to be the target for his smaller rocks. Position yourself so that your healer can reach you without also taking rock damage.

Zorn Ranged DPS:
Be careful about cheating too far in. Don’t eat rocks when you don’t have to. If you get the yellow circle and have to run to Toth, make sure you return to your original position quickly. The transition to the next phase may happen while you are out of position, causing you to get Fearful. Be aware that this can happen and just stay on the Toth side if it does.

Zorn Healers:
If the Zorn tank has to leave because he gets the yellow circle, make sure to walk within range of Zorn and soak rocks to keep Zorn from moving. Since our strat involves healers switching sides, it’s better to help keep Zorn stationary than to avoid Fearful here. Still, you can try to be aware of when the phase is about to end and back away right before the leap to avoid it.

Try to help out on the Toth side with that damage if you can. It’s ok to cheat over there a bit.

Watch out for a Shriek after the Baradium Heave and make sure to cleanse the Zorn tank (and yourself if you get hit by it).

When one of the bosses falls below 70%, Toth leaps to Zorn and the fight returns to P1.

Phase One (repeated):
This phase lasts from 70%-60%. When one boss falls below 60%, Phase Three begins.

Phase Three:

Zorn will stun his tank with Sonic Paralysis. The tank should break the stun the first time it happens and keep DPSing.

Toth will begin pounding the ground. This ground shatter will do a raidwide AOE tick to everyone. In addition red circles will appear on the ground that will erupt with spikes after a few seconds. These hit for massive damage, so make sure to move out of them or risk dying.

At 50%, the fight will return to P1 for a third time.

Phase One (repeated):
This phase lasts from 50-40%. At 40%, Phase Two happens again. In general, the fight alternates P1 with P2/P3.

Phase Two (repeated):
This phase goes from 40%-30%.

Phase One (repeated):
30-20%.

Phase Three (repeated):
The Zorn tank will get stunned during the repeat of Phase Three and won’t be able to break it. The tank should try to have a cooldown in effect before the stun happens and healers should be aware that the tank is stunned.

This phase ends at 10%.

Phase One (repeated):
At 10%, Toth will leap to Zorn one last time. STOP DPS. Wait for the tanks to get the bosses separated, and wait for healers to get the raid completely topped off. At 5%, we transition to the final phase of the fight.

Phase Four (repeated):
At 5%, Toth begins doing a double damage Ground Shatter. He must be killed as quickly as possible. All DPS should switch to Toth at this point and finish him off.

Zorn will be throwing rocks during this final phase as well. Once Toth is dead, burn Zorn. Watch out for one last Shriek. Melee may just want to let ranged take care of finishing Zorn off.

 

Raid Mechanics in Star Wars

April 11, 2012

What follows is a re-post of feedback I gave to the SWTOR developers on the Public Test Server forum.

This is going to be a a bit of a wall of text so bear with me. I wanted to talk about the raid mechanics employed in general throughout the Explosive Conflict instance. Overall this instance is a step up from EV and KP, as it introduces some good tank coordination fights like Toth and Zorn, and it has some different mechanics like Double Destruction on the tanks fight.

What I really wanted to get into, however, is an overall feeling that the mechanics that are being employed are still just a bit too limited. What raid members have to do in these fights is in many ways very similar to what they had to do in EV/KP, and in general the ways that DPS/heals can fail in particular don’t feel very different.

So what mechanics am I talking about? Well, let’s look at each fight in turn.

Toth and Zorn

I have no complaints about this fight. You introduce the concept of keeping your distance from an enemy. You also have a fun mechanic with the Baradium Toss where someone has to move to Toth.

Other damage avoidance mechanics on the fight include staying out of red circles (which are used on many of the fights in EV/KP as well as here).

Firebrand and Stormcaller

This fight introduces two new mechanics that haven’t been seen in previous Operations fights. One is the idea of using two people to split damage. The second is the “Take Cover!” mechanic of getting underneath shields to avoid damage.

Besides that though, the damage avoidance mechanics are similar to what we’ve seen before, i.e. stay out of red circles, stay out of lightning spire circles, move with your yellow target away from folks if you’re “the bomb”, etc.

Vorgath

The one new mechanic here (which is similar to Toth and Zorn’s Baradium Toss) is the idea of getting the defusal kit and being the one who has to disarm the square.

Other than that, we have the “soak” mechanic of blowing up Assassin droids, and the “you are the bomb” mechanic with the red circles at the end.

Warlord Kephess

Again, the theme of “you got the item” comes up. Whoever gets the bomb goes over to the walker and blows it up. The concept of DPS targeting comes into play with hitting the guy who establishes the shield over the other mobs, but then everything else boils down to “Don’t stand in circles or fire.”

So overall, I do think this Operation is a step up, since it introduces some fights with actual tank coordination, it introduces DPS to the concept that they can be picked to do something “special” (Baradium Toss, Defusal, Bomb) on 3 of the 4 fights, and it teaches some basic new mechanics like “Take Cover!” (Firebrand/Stormcaller Shields) and “Keep your Distance!” (Toth and Zorn).

I think right now, though, you rely too heavily on two mechanics for making DPS move, and they are:

(1) Circles of Death – Get out of the circle or take huge damage.

(2) You are the Bomb! – Get away from other players and either eat unavoidable damage or move at the last minute to avoid taking it also.

I wanted to provide examples from other games that you will hopefully consider employing in future raids to create more varied challenges for DPS positioning/movement.

Chain Lightning

Make DPS spread out by having bosses hit with an attack that can chain between players. This forces players to stay spread out and to be thinking about their positioning relative to other players.

Plague

If an enemy inflicts a disease on a player, this could be something that spreads by proximity to other players, or perhaps deliberately leaps to another player when cleansed. You can have lots of fun with “plague” mechanics, e.g., making the plague into a game of Hot Potato by having it deal increasing damage until you shift it to another player via cleansing or proximity.

You can also simply use them in their most basic form as a way to ensure players are careful about where they are standing.

Run To Each Other

You can have two members of the raid forced to run to each other in order to prevent themselves from dying.

Run Away From Each Other

You can have members of the raid have to get away from each other in order to prevent themselves from dying.

Soak the Damage!

You guys have used the Soak mechanic in its most basic form, e.g., with the Soa lightning balls and now with the Vorgath Assassin Droids. However, there are other interesting soak mechanics you can employ.

Have an attack that will deal a certain amount of fixed damage that would kill any one player, but if a bunch of players all stand together, the damage will be split between them. This forces a dynamic clumping to occur in a fight. This can work both in the small scale (e.g., two tanks or two DPS) all the way up to large scale (e.g., most of the raid has to get into the area to spread the dmg around).

You could also have escalating soak damage based off proximity where players could trade off handling the soaking.

Giving players debuffs so they can’t soak twice in a row creates a coordination check that is good for Hard/Nightmare modes.

The Trail of Fire

DPS get a debuff that causes them to lay down fire underneath them. The only way to not die is to stop what you’re doing and run. This leaves a trail of fire behind the player. This is an interesting mechanic since it challenges the raider to notice the debuff, get out of the raid and then drop the trail in a place that won’t negatively impact the rest of the raid.

Another way you see this employed is with a big circle dropped when you have the debuff cleansed rather than a continuous trail. This challenges the player to get to a safe place and then call for a cleanse.

The Walls of Death

Movement to get away from bad things doesn’t have to be limited to circles. Make raiders avoid rotating walls of fire, lasers, ice, cutter beams, etc. WoW has employed this mechanic with great success, on the Lurker Below, Mimiron, Hagara, Sartharion, Halion, etc.

Slowing Effects

Having situations where DPS get slowed but still have to handle mechanics like getting out of fire or walls of death can be very interesting and create a good coordination check. You could have such debuffs be cleansable and/or simply based on moving out of an area that causes the slow.

Take Cover!

You have introduced the take cover mechanic with the shields on Firebrand and Stormcaller, but this is the mechanic in it simplest form. If you introduce a directional component, you can really create the need for some raid coordination.

For example imagine an enemy that sprays fire but getting behind an object on the playing field protects you.

Break me Out!

Another common mechanic is to trap a player and force other players to DPS something to free the player. This is a great pacing mechanic that you can use. If players fall behind, enough of the raid will be compromised that you won’t be able to win. You used this to great effect on Soa.

Ways to make it even more challenging can be to combine it with the plague mechanic, i.e., anyone standing near you at the time the trap hits also get trapped.

Dodge This!

Create obstacles that can be dodged. Waves of fire, spheres of death, spinning blades, etc. Rather than making the player move away from a stationary object, force the player to dodge a moving object.

Move the Boss!

Make circles that buff/help the boss go down underneath him, forcing the tank to pay attention and move the enemy out of those circles. You’ve employed this mechanic outside of Operations, e.g., with green circles, so consider using it in Operations as well.

Circles of Life

To follow up on the previous point, if the circles that buff the boss also buff the players, this creates an interesting positional mechanic for the tank where the boss needs to be kept out of it but positioned such that the players can stand in it.

In general, good circles that buff damage, etc., can be interesting, since they challenge the players to use them correctly to meet enrages, etc.

Split Up!

Consider splitting the raid up and forcing people to handle totally different tasks. You’ve made a good start with the first two boss fights in that DPS at least have to split between different targets, but consider fights that involve two completely separate arenas.

Examples from WoW include Thorim, Kalecgos, Bethtilac.

Basically it can be very fun to have fights that break the Operation up into two pieces, with each team having a totally different objective. Typically in such fights you come back together at the end for a final showdown with the boss, but doing something like this can make a boss fight feel really fun.

Kiting

Introduce the concept of kiting. For example you can have adds or enemies that can’t be killed and that chase someone but move kind of slowly. If they get to you, they’ll hit you for huge damage.

This can be interesting both for DPS and for tanks.

Run Out!

Have explosion attacks that involve everyone having to drop everything to get away from the radius of the explosion. This is a good mechanic for making sure everyone moves away in time.

You employed this on Soa. This exists to a minor degree on Kephess too I suppose.

Learning To Dance

Consider making areas of the floor dangerous. WoW has employed this on Heroic Ragnaros and Heigan for example. This teaches the whole raid to move in a coordinated pattern. This kind of mechanic is probably best reserved for Hard Modes.

Final Thoughts

These are just a few ideas for what you can do in future raids to challenge DPS further. I think it’s great that you are slowly introducing new mechanics to casual players with each Operation, since after all, not everybody has played WoW for seven years.

I think, though, with regards to challenging the DPS to move in more unique ways, you could be a bit less conservative and start mixing it up a little bit more. There is nothing wrong with circles of death, but it gets a little stale seeing them on every single fight.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

April 11, 2012

I know I haven’t blogged in a long time, but lately my interest has turned more towards Star Wars: The Old Republic, so I’ll be blogging about it a bit in the coming weeks. WoW is in a lull right now while we all wait for Mists of Pandaria, so I’ve been filling my time raiding in SWTOR. In particular, our guild Methodical was lucky enough to get copied over to the PTS, so we were able to test the new Denova Operation (and cleared most of it on Story and Hard Mode). Here are some kill videos:

Kihra’s Channel on YouTube

Block Capping – Mastery vs. Stamina

August 5, 2011

If you haven’t read Meloree’s excellent post over on Sacred Duty, go do so now. I’ll wait.

The importance of being block capped cannot be underestimated, especially in this tier. If your goal is to make yourself as easy as possible to heal, then you should be block capping on pretty much every fight.  This post is about the Mastery vs. Stamina tradeoff you make when block capping, and how to minimize the Stamina loss you incur while pushing to the block cap.

Gemming

Let’s start by looking at gemming tradeoffs. If you’re going for maximum Stamina while still matching socket bonuses, then your preferred gems will be +20 Mastery / +30 Stamina in yellow slots, +60 Stamina in blue slots and +20 Parry / +30 Stamina in red slots. To bias instead towards Mastery, your preferred gems will be +40 Mastery in yellow slots, +20 Mastery / +30 Stamina in blue slots and +20 Parry / +20 Mastery in red slots.

In all three cases, the tradeoff is the same. Each point of Mastery costs you 1.5 Stamina.

Flask vs. Elixirs

Your two options here are +450 Stamina vs. +225 Mastery / +900 Armor. In Theck’s simple model, 900 armor is worth about 128 Mastery. Therefore the two Elixirs together are worth the equivalent of 353 Mastery, and so it’s actually a really excellent tradeoff. The problem, though, is that the armor doesn’t help you block cap, so looking at this tradeoff purely from a block capping perspective, you give up 2 Stamina for each point of Mastery gained.

Trinkets

Assuming equivalent item levels, the Mastery trinkets and Stamina trinkets have the same tradeoff as gemming. For example at the 378 item level, you can get 383 Mastery vs. 575 Stamina. Each point of Mastery costs you 1.5 Stamina.

Block Capping for Heroics:

I am assuming you start off with full Stamina gemming. Don’t swap any gems to Mastery yet.

Step One: Equip Two Mastery Trinkets

What’s fantastic about the trinket slot is you have flexibility. If you ever do need more Stamina, you can just swap out trinkets without having to regem all your gear. Therefore this is the first place you should start when going for the block cap: equip two Mastery trinkets. I recommend the Essence of Eternal Flame and the Spidersilk Spindle. For some fights, e.g., Heroic Baleroc, you may find yourself equipping the Mirror of Broken Images, so this is a viable alternative also.

Step Two: Swap out Gear

Swapping in lower ilvl gear is a better alternative to regemming all your stuff if the conversion is actually more favorable than 1 Mastery vs. 1.5 Stamina. I’ll go over some examples so you can see which slots are ripe for gear swapping (and which aren’t). Again the flexibility of gear swapping allows you to retain higher ilvl pieces gemmed for Stamina instead of Mastery, so that you have them available on any fights where it is necessary (or just for threat e-peen flexing if you’re into that sort of thing, ahem).

I highly recommend using Digren’s gear list over on Maintankadin, since his rankings are absolutely correct from a block capping perspective. I’m going to specifically point out the places in his list where a lower ilvl item jumps over a higher one.

Necks

The neck slot is a case where you can make a good tradeoff in terms of Stamina vs. Mastery by swapping your Sinestra neck for the Firebound Gorget. Even if you didn’t gem maximum Mastery in the Sinestra neck, you’re losing 48 Stamina to gain the equivalent of ~45 Mastery. This is an excellent tradeoff and one you should make before doing any other regemming.

Cloaks

Your best (realistic) option for a cloak is actually the 384 PvP cloak. It has the most Stamina and Mastery. If you can’t PvP though, then your choice of cloaks is likely going to come down to the 378 Rep cloak vs. the 372 Al’Akir Cloak or the 365 Thrall quest cloak. This is a case where the tradeoff is very clear: equip the 372 or 365 cloak instead of the rep cloak. If you compare the 378 cloak vs. the 365 you lose only 40 Stamina to gain ~50 Mastery.

Belt

The Shannox belt is wonderful, but if you don’t have it yet, your choices are probably between the 378 reputation belt, Girdle of Indomitable Flame, and the 372 Jumbotron Power belt. This is another slot where the conversion is favorable for the Jumbotron, and so you should downgrade your belt to the Jumbotron if you’ve got it.

Chest

If you have the Carapace of Imbibed Flame off Beth’tilac, it’s the clear winner, but if you don’t and bought the T12 chest, then this is another slot where it’s favorable to downgrade to the 372 T11 Heroic chest instead.

Feet

The feet are an interesting spot. The Rhyolith heroic boots, although they sport slightly less combat table coverage, have such a huge Stamina advantage over the Mirrored Boots. At 89 Stamina difference, you need to gain > 60 Mastery in order for the offset to be better than just regemming your gear. You can see that even with reforging on the 391 heroic boots, the Mirrored Boots maintain a more favorable tradeoff when compared with just regemming, although it’s *extremely* close. The Mirrored Boots have 70 more Mastery once you reforge the Rhyolith boots, but the Rhyolith boots have ~100 more armor, which is worth another 14 Mastery or so.

In terms of combat table coverage, the Mirrored Boots have the slight edge, but once you factor in Mastery + Armor, you’re better off with the Heroic Rhyolith boots assuming you can block cap without changing this slot.

A more interesting comparison is with the War-Torn Crushers. Here it’s not much of a contest. The Mirrored Boots cost you 79 Stamina, but you make that up in spades. Again, this is somewhat disappointing, but the easily obtainable 378 piece is better than the Sinestra loot. This is one of the first slots you should swap out, as it is one of the most favorable conversions you can make.

Final Swap Order Notes:

My suggestion for gear swapping if you were a maxed out 13/13 HM tank with Stamina gemming is to do it in this order as long as you’re still below the block cap:

(1) Craft the Mirrored Boots and swap them in for your War-Torn Crushers.

(2) Pick up the Firebound Gorget and replace your Caelestrasz’s Will.

(3) Downgrade your 378 items to 372 (or even 365 in the case of the cloak) in the cloak and belt slots.

(4) Downgrade your T12 chest if you picked it up to the T11 Heroic chest instead.

Step Three: Regem

Once you have the ideal piece of gear in every slot, you want to gem for Mastery. You should start with the items that you swapped in. Again, that way you retain the maximum flexibility as far as building a max Stamina set as well as a block cap set. So go to the Mirrored Boots, the T12H chest, and the Jumbotron Belt first and regem all of them for maximum Mastery.

After that if you’re still not at the block cap, it’s time to regem other pieces of gear. It really doesn’t matter how you do this, since the tradeoff as far as Stamina vs. Mastery is identical no matter what slot you modify. Just keep swapping out gems until you get to around 100.5% using the following macro:

/run dr=function(x)return 1/(1/16+0.9560/x)end;DEFAULT_CHAT_FRAME:AddMessage("Need 102.4 - Currently at: "..string.format("%.2f", GetDodgeChance()+GetBlockChance()+GetParryChance()+5))

Final Thoughts

I try to stay above 175k health or so unbuffed. Especially if you’ve picked up a few 378 drops and a couple of tier pieces, you should be able to block cap while retaining a decent health pool. The trick is knowing which gear swaps are the most favorable, and to avoid aggressive regemming until you’ve exhausted all other options.

As Mel says, we’re overpowered. Now go out there and show your fellow raid members just how insane block capping and the new Holy Shield are!

High DPS Tanking – Heroic Alysrazor

July 29, 2011

"You're a baby killer."

Heroic Alysrazor is hands down my favorite fight of the tier. Not only does it test all sorts of tank skills like good positioning, awareness and cooldown use, but the tank also has to put out a high amount of DPS at the same time. For any tankadins struggling with this fight, hopefully this blog article will help you out a bit!

What to Wear

The Voracious Hatchlings are level 87, and so you need 6% Hit and 24 Expertise to be completely capped against them. It is very important that you reach these caps so that you have a reliable steady DPS output.

I strongly recommend wearing 2pc T12 if you have it, as that set bonus provides an enormous boost to your DPS. Other pieces of gear that are worthwhile are 2pc T11 and the PvP gloves. I wear the T11 helm and chest, the T12 shoulders and legs, and the PvP gloves. Whether or not to drop T11 depends on the item level gap with the pieces you are replacing. If the delta is just 372->378 then keep using T11. If you have two 391 pieces though, then it’s more of a wash.  Similarly if you would be using 359 and have 378 pieces available, you could probably just ditch T11 at that point and go up to 378. This will only be a gain though if you can get a big ilvl jump for both pieces. Just one and T11 will definitely still win.

This is a ways off for most tankadins obviously, but eventually you will want to replace 2pc T11 with 2pc T12 Ret. Again I would recommend the Ret helm and the chest, since they provide both Hit and Expertise, and they will easily outperform any 391 pieces you could get in those slots even at the 378 ilvl.

For trinkets, the Heart of Rage is huge because it will get you the Expertise you need to cap. I do not recommend using License to Slay. The stats on License to Slay are likely going to be wasted (you’ll already have the Hit and Expertise you need), and in addition having to try to keep the Slayer stacks from falling off will actually cause you to proc Rageheart at bad times. These two trinkets don’t have good synergy on this fight.

You should be shooting for about 180k health unbuffed and somewhere in the vicinity of 4000 Strength unbuffed. These stats combined with 2pc T12 should be more than enough to take down your bird in time.

The Spawn

You have to deal with three birds per phase on Heroic. It’s very important not to waste your DPS on Alysrazor at the start or on the first set of Initiates that land. If you hit Alysrazor with any melee attacks, you will proc Rageheart off your trinket and completely waste it. If you want to use Judgement or Avenger’s Shield that’s fine, but don’t use any melee attacks. This applies to Initiates as well that spawn in between birds one/two and birds two/three.

Divine Plea can be up for the first bird and the third bird, so use it right before those birds hatch to get three Holy Power. I usually just pop Inquisition right before the bird hatches, although sometimes I’ll use Judgement or Avenger’s Shield on the Initiate while waiting to fish for a Sacred Duty proc that will let me use a Shield of the Righteous right up front. I don’t think it matters all that much as long as you take advantage of the three Holy Power at the start.

Avenging Wrath

Like Divine Plea, Avenging Wrath can be used on the first bird and the third bird of each phase. Do not use Avenging Wrath right as the hatchlings spawn. With zero Vengeance you’ll just be wasting it. Wait until your Vengeance has spiked somewhat (or until you estimate that the bird has only 20 seconds to live). I highly recommend installing a Vengeance monitoring add-on so that you can see when your Vengeance gets to decent enough levels to make popping Avenging Wrath worthwhile. An exception where you may want to pop Avenging Wrath earlier is the fourth bird, since the timeline is truncated on that bird. More on that in a bit.

Debuffs

Make sure that debuffs are up on your hatchling. The most important debuffs to have up are Faerie Fire/Sunder Armor and Curse of Elements. Have that coordinated in advance to make sure both hatchlings are receiving those debuffs. Remember that there are three birds per phase, so make sure these debuffs are being applied for each bird that spawns.

The Fourth Bird

The fourth bird poses an interesting challenge. The Firestorm on the fourth bird comes about 10 seconds faster, so try not to get caught off guard here. It’s possible your bird will still be alive at the time the Firestorm comes for the fourth bird. Try to save major CDs for if you have run to a meteor while the bird is throwing a Tantrum. I typically use a potion on this bird, since it’s the one that needs to die the fastest. You should have Avenging Wrath and Divine Plea for this bird as well.

E-peen and World of Logs

One thing you may be confused by (I know I was at first) is that you keep gearing up, you get your two piece, you come back week after week, and your DPS numbers according to World of Logs actually go down! At first I was scratching my head trying to figure out why, although my birds were dying faster, I could never beat the parse I got on my initial kill.

The reason for this is pretty obvious, but only once you stop and think about it. World of Logs measures parses according to your effective DPS. This is basically your DPS over the course of the entire fight, including all the dead time. Although there are times where you do 200-300k DPS on the birds, there are also times where you’re doing no DPS at all.

As long as you’re killing your bird before the next one spawns, your effective DPS is unchanged. A tank that kills his bird in 30 seconds and then stands around for 20 seconds does the same effective DPS as a tank that kills his bird in 50 seconds. The former is obviously much better for the tank in terms of survivability (less opportunity for Tantrums), but from an effective DPS perspective nothing has changed.

So then what produces the variance on World of Logs if any tanks that kill their birds before the next one spawns have the same effective DPS? The answer is pretty simple. Your performance level on Alysazor is measured entirely by how much damage other members of your raid do to the birds. In other words if you do 80% of the damage to your birds, you can expect to get about 85k DPS(e) on the fight. If you do 87% of the damage to your birds, that number will shoot up to about 95k DPS(e). The more your raid helps you kill those birds (which is obviously a good thing), the lower your DPS(e) will actually be.

It’s a bit of a contradiction that the one fight in the tier that should have been about DPS e-peen is set up in such a way that better performance isn’t reflected in rankings. The best way to measure your performance on this fight, therefore, is simply to look at how long your birds are taking to die rather than at DPS numbers.

I imagine we will eventually see goofy parses where tanks solo the hatchlings with no help from the rest of the raid, but for now that’s a pretty stupid thing to do. :)

Tier 12 Two Piece Thoughts

July 15, 2011

I’ve been going back and forth regarding which two pieces of T12 to get first.

From a survivability perspective, the tier gear has two clear best in slot pieces (legs and gloves), a good mastery piece (the shoulders), a decent avoidance piece (the chest), and then a mediocre helm. The Beth’tilac chest and Baleroc helm are both excellent pieces and are better than the corresponding tier gear. For shoulders, Alysrazor drops an offset piece that is notable for having significantly higher Strength than any other options in that slot as well as some juicy large avoidance values that can be reforged for more threat.

So just thinking about survivability, it really comes down to legs/gloves vs. legs/shoulders with the edge IMO going to the legs/gloves. This is especially true since normal mode Rag drops 384 shoulders and H Alysrazor has the 391s, both of which are going to be obtainable before Majordomo Heroic.

Things get tricky when I start considering my endgame e-peen set though. The first impulse would be to wear the PvP gloves, 2pc T12 Prot and 2pc T12 Ret. However the PvP gloves are extremely difficult to evaluate. We know that in a T11 Heroic set, the gloves are essentially worth about 82 Strength, but that assumes Strength is worth ~1.2 DPS per point. I’m pretty sure in a capped Expertise set the value of Strength rises a bit.

A second tricky issue is that the bonus is a scaling one, so it of course becomes worth more and more Strength as you do more DPS. In other words, the more AP you have, the more damage you do with Crusader Strike.

A third question is whether or not the T12 Ret set bonus will double dip the PvP gloves bonus. Will the DoT do 15% of your actual Crusader Strike damage, or will it use base damage before talent buffs (like T11 2pc Prot and PvP gloves do). If it’s the former, then the value of the PvP gloves increases further from the double dipping. I think it’s likely they coded this set bonus the same way as the T11 2pc Prot and PvP gloves, but until it’s tested we won’t know for sure.

Even in a modest threat set now, I did about 18.6k DPS on Shannox. In full 391 gear I expect that number to be more like 22-23k. I think it’s safe to say that the PvP gloves will be worth at least 100 Strength, maybe a bit more if the double dipping I described above happens.

At a worth of about 100 Strength, though, things actually get a bit tricky. Strength is the one stat you can’t reforge into, so pieces that have high Strength coupled with avoidance (like the Alysrazor shoulders) are good candidates for reforging, since your overall threat stats are higher than a tank piece that has Hit or Expertise on it but at the cost of reduced itemization in Strength.

The Prot shoulders suffer from this problem, having only 224 Strength at the 391 ilvl. The Alysrazor shoulders by comparison have 322 Strength and a blue socket. So that’s nearly 100 Strength made up right there, and then the added Stamina from a blue socket bonus confers a further small advantage. Reforge some of the Avoidance into Hit/Expertise, and this piece is looking like a pretty competitive replacement for the PvP gloves.

The chest and helm are the clear best choices for 2pc Ret, since the chest has a tremendous amount of expertise on it, and you always want a different helm from your normal tanking helm so that you can put in a DPS meta. So basically it all boils down to prot shoulders or prot gloves. With prot shoulders you give up ~100 Strength but make that Strength back using the PvP gloves. With prot gloves, you end up not using the PvP gloves, but you gain a bit of Str/Stamina from the gloves being a slightly higher ilvl.

It’s really tough to decide!

 

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