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First Week in Heroic Firelands

July 12, 2011

Dead Lord Rhyolith

Well, we’ve now spent one week in Heroic Firelands, and I can sum it up with one word: odd. Our guild doesn’t raid on Tuesday, so when we started on Wednesday, we could see what all of the other guilds did on the first night of raiding. What we saw was that a zillion guilds killed Shannox. So we figured he was going to be pretty easy.

Even knowing how easy it was, I was not prepared for how ridiculous this fight turned out to be. It was easier than normal mode. We killed him in under 30 minutes. The trash took more time to kill. I can’t help but think that the fight is broken in some way. It just doesn’t feel like the mechanics are supposed to be that simple. It’s literally set up to be easier than normal mode, and that makes no sense.

Anyway, fresh off the first kill, we moved on to Heroic Rhyolith. Now we saw that a lot of guilds were still 1/7, so we were expecting some real progression with this boss. Mostly what we got was a bit of a DPS check, but again, the mechanics were very easy with disciplined high DPS. Rhyolith went down in a bit over an hour after only 11 wipes. 12 attempts total. Compare that with T11 bosses, none of which went down that fast. Disappointing.

At this point I was getting a bit worried, since it seemed like Firelands was going to be too easy, but then we got to Heroic Beth’tilac. This fight is fantastic and is easily my favorite fight of the tier. We wiped on it for the rest of our 10.5 hour raid week, but we did have some heartbreakingly close calls. Overall we had a few good chances to kill her on our last raid night (got to 38 Frenzy stacks even), and we just didn’t quite get there. I’m confident she will fall quickly to us on Wednesday, but it was frustrating to be so close.

From a high DPS tanking perspective, Shannox is a bit simplistic. I went a bit conservative since it was progression, even though I knew the boss was supposedly easy. I Hit capped and soft Expertise capped, but I didn’t put on DPS trinkets and kept a Stamina flask. I scored the #1 parse on it by a mile (probably because other tanks were being sensible and going for full-on survivability, but I’ve never been particularly sensible).

Lord Rhyolith is a bit more interesting from a high DPS tanking perspective. I do think the highest DPS tank will be the one on the Spark rather than the one on the Fragments. I happened to be the Fragment tank, and I just wasn’t getting enough Vengeance. I think going for the top parse will probably involve treating the fight more like single target and glyphing that way (and then tanking the Sparks).

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How to Reforge for Hit and Expertise

July 7, 2011

In my original post on high DPS tanking, I talked about tools for reforging your gear like Mr. Robot and WoW Reforge, but I didn’t really get into the details of how to do it. In this post I’ll cover using WoW Reforge and show you what I do on my own gear.

Load up your character at WoW Reforge and take a look at the weights section. You should see something like this:

My goal when reforging is to take points away from Dodge and Parry while leaving Mastery alone. I really don’t care whether the points come from Dodge or Parry, so for my purposes I just want to set them to a weak value that ensures they will never be considered over Hit and Expertise. For Mastery, we consider it to be more valuable than Hit but less valuable than Expertise below the soft cap.

The weights I use are as follows:

With these values, we’re willing to take away from Dodge or Parry all the time in order to gain Hit and Expertise. We’ll only reforge out of Mastery, however, if it’s absolutely necessary to do so in order to get to the Expertise soft cap.

WoW Reforge allows you to set caps for Hit and Expertise and also to specify weights for those abilities above the caps. These values will vary somewhat depending on what race you are. For example, I am a Draenei, so my Hit cap is 841. I don’t get any Expertise from racials, so with Glyph of Seal of Truth, my Expertise soft cap is hit when I have 481 Expertise Rating. Here is how I fill out the cap fields:

As you can see, what this will do is cause WoW Reforge to shed Dodge and Parry in order to get Hit to 841, and it will shed Dodge, Parry and Mastery to get Expertise to at least 481.

If you decide you’d like a higher Expertise target, I’ve found the best way to model that is to simply pretend like that extra Expertise is below the soft cap. In other words, just increase the value in the Cap #2 field above. This will cause WoW Reforge to try to push you higher, but be aware it will do so at the expense of Mastery. It’s good to test this though to see how high you can push it before you’re forced to shed Mastery.

Also note that the adds in T12 aren’t as harsh in terms of level as in T11. I don’t think there are any level 88 adds in Firelands (although I haven’t checked this rigorously). This means that soft capping Expertise at 26 will go a long way, since you’ll hard cap against level 87 adds (like the Alysrazor hatchlings).

Onward to Firelands!

July 6, 2011

I’m back from vacation, so time to get the blog going again.

I was pleased with the end of tier 11. I finished with the #1 parse on 7 out of 13 fights, and was in the top 5 on three more. I had hoped for a top Halfus parse, but it was just too difficult to get people to leave the whelps alone.

Now it’s time for Firelands. I missed our raid’s 25-man Normal clear, but I did get into an alt run and got to see Shannox, Rhyolith and Alysrazor. My guildmates had told me I was going to “love” Alysrazor, and when I saw +1000% DPS I admit it. I squealed a little bit.

We’re plunging into Heroic Modes tonight, so I’ll have more to post soon.

High DPS Tanking – Sinestra

June 16, 2011

"It's the whelps you want... not me!"

Sinestra is a fun fight to go for parses on, since (for once) doing good DPS on this fight means you and your raid are playing well. For this fight you will predominantly be tanking the Twilight Whelps, and so you should glyph Hammer of the Righteous and unglyph Focused Shield. Shoot for 5.5% Hit and 21 Expertise. I don’t recommend wearing a full threat set, since survivability is a concern, but you should be able to at least hit those caps and wear a DPS trinket.

Phase One

During the first phase you should be on the whelps. Ideally your raid is saving Heroism until P3. This is not only better for the raid if you can meet the DPS check in P1 without Heroism, but it’s also better for your personal DPS. Since you aren’t tanking anything while waiting for the first set of whelps to come in, the Heroism is largely wasted on you in P1, but if it’s saved for after Essence of the Red fades, it will help you a lot more.

The trick with the whelps in P1 is to do excellent DPS without killing the whelps too quickly. You need to pay attention to the health of the whelp you’re currently meleeing, and tab target to a different one before it gets too low. Keep the DPS controlled and even. Use Shield of the Righteous over Inquisition if you need to in order to keep the entire pack from dipping too low.

It’s very important that you beat the third whelp pack in P1. Even though a third whelp pack carried into P2 inflates your DPS for the second phase, you would still have the debuff when the whelps come out in P3. Make sure to beat the third whelp pack spawn so that you’ll be able to tank the whelps for the entirety of P3.

Phase Two

You should tank the Spitecallers in the back, since one will likely be coming out shortly after the whelps die. Although it’s lower DPS, you could also help DPS one of the eggs. You lose DPS from the travel time over to the egg though.

Whatever your choice of target, remember that your DPS is lowest during this phase, so it’s important to end the phase quickly. The eggs need to die in one pass, so do whatever you can to help your raid achieve that goal, even if it costs you personal DPS in this phase. The alternative is that the phase drags out, and your overall DPS suffers.

Phase Three

You should position yourself to tank whelps for the entirety of P3. While there are many different possible whelp killing strategies, the one that will net you the most DPS is somewhat unusual. Your goal should be to maintain a more or less constant 10 whelps from the time the second whelp pack spawns until the end of the fight.

Pick up the first five whelps and hold them. It’s ok to go all out on them. They won’t be in danger of dying by the time the next five whelps spawn. At this point you’ll have ten whelps, and you should get DPS to help kill some. Ideally the first five die for good as the next pack is coming. You then want the second set of whelps to be dying by the time the fourth set come out. By following this pattern you end up tanking 10 whelps all the way to the end of the fight, and this inflates your DPS significantly.

That said, this is not the preferred strategy for most guilds, since it involves the whelp tank taking more damage than is strictly necessary. Your raid leader is probably not going to be interested in different whelp killing strategies once this fight is on farm, so make do with what you’re given. Other strategies that work well are to kill the first two packs of whelps and then offtank the rest. If you kill them five at a time, you’ll take far less damage, but then your tanking pattern as each whelp wave spawns will be 5, 5, 5, 10.  You’ll do slightly better killing the first 10 whelps together, since your tanking pattern then will be 5, 10, 5, 10. However if you can do 5, 10, 10, 10, then you’ll have a much higher rate of DPS.

After killing either two or three waves of whelps you’ll end up offtanking the rest. Try to hold them in a place where it’s ok if they die and drop pools, since you want to be able to do your maximum DPS on them without worrying about some dying.

When to use Divine Shield to clear your stacks will depend on which strategy you are pursuing, but it’s pretty safe to let the stacks get very high during Essence of the Red. I typically use my bubble when the fourth whelp wave is coming out.

High DPS Tanking – Cho’gall

June 15, 2011

I should state up front that I’ve never gone for a parse on Heroic Cho’gall. Paladins are great as the Cho’gall tank, since they have such good cooldowns that you can completely ignore Fire Elementals that come out while the adds are still up. Since I’m never on the adds, I don’t have much of an opportunity to do multi-target DPS. In addition unglyphed Avenger’s Shield is such a potent tool against Worships that it’s often good to hold it in reserve.

That said, let’s construct the hypothetical scenario where you do maximum DPS and play like a selfish idiot. 🙂

From 100% to 85%

Lots of people assume that Cho’gall’s Fury debuffs and Summon Corrupting Adherents go out on a timer from the start of the fight, but that’s not actually the case. He actually won’t cast either spell until he hits 85%. Regardless of your eventual role, you need to be tanking Cho’gall from 100% to 85% for maximum Vengeance.

The Adherents

Once the boss hits 85%, you’ll get debuffed with Fury and you should then go pick up the Adherents. In theory you could hold them with the boss or even move the boss along with the adds to have a third Hammer target, but your raid leader might not like this idea. Regardless, hitting the Adherents is a bit better than hitting Cho’gall. Try to DPS the Adherents down evenly so that you’re hitting two targets for the maximum amount of time.

The Blood

Once the blood comes out it’s an obvious DPS win to Hammer it, but the problem is your co-tank will get Fury during this time and be ready for you to come back. My best advice here is to make absolutely sure you have nameplates that show aggro so that you can see if the Blood is safe to attack, i.e., if none have aggro on you. If it’s all clear, you should get in a few swipes on the Blood and then take back over on the boss.

In later waves there will almost always be some Blood that has aggro on you, so trying to DPS the Blood will become very dangerous.

Darkened Creations

In the final phase you want to position Cho’gall somewhere where you can hit a lot of Darkened Creations while tanking Cho’gall. The throne is the best place for getting the tentacles bunched up nicely. Make sure to use Hammer and unglyphed Avenger’s Shield during this time.

High DPS Tanking – V&T and Ascendant Council

June 15, 2011

Valiona and Theralion and Ascendant Council are both good fights to wear a full threat set, since the tank damage on both is very low. For both fights you’ll be tanking only one target at a time, so glyph Crusader Strike and Focused Shield.

Valiona and Theralion

For Valiona and Theralion, it’s pretty much just tank and spank, so there’s really nothing much to talk about. Bubble off the Twilight Rupture stacks before they get to five so that you can tank longer before getting sent to the Twilight Realm. If the fight lasts long enough, you’ll even get a chance to use your bubble a second time. Just get out of the Twilight Realm as fast as you can, and then taunt the dragon off your co-tank the minute you get back to the normal realm. You want to maximize Vengeance, so you only want your co-tank to pick up the dragons during the brief time that you’re in the Twilight Realm. Druids are a good choice as co-tanks on this fight, since they can spend the bulk of the fight doing lots of DPS in cat form and can just tank the boss in cat gear with a hybrid spec while you’re in the other realm.

Ascendant Council

Introducing the Vengeance Dispenser 9000!

Ascendant Council is a very fun fight to try to do great DPS on. In P1 you have a choice between tanking Ignacious or Feludius. I prefer Ignacious, since the Flame Torrent gives you excellent Vengeance, and you don’t have to run out for Glaciates. Wait to pop your first Avenging Wrath until you’ve eaten a Flame Torrent and Ignacious has done his first leap. Try to get Heart of Ice. Even holding it for a few seconds will give you a nice DPS boost in P1. You don’t have to tank with it for very long to reap the benefits of it.

In P1, be very aware of the danger points in the fight. In particular, you need to save your cooldowns for the Flame Torrents that follow the Aegis. Also be aware of the timing of the Rising Flames stacks. Every so often, his buff will last through two Flame Torrents, so be watching for that and make sure you have cooldowns. Your health pool is going to be much smaller, so it’s very important that you use cooldowns wisely here.

In P2 it’s safer to tank Arion. If a Harden Skin gets off, Terrestra is more dangerous to you in your threat set than Arion is. If you do not have a very high comfort level with P2, then focus on survival first and DPS second. It’s most important that you simply survive this phase. Get the correct debuffs for Quake and Thundershock. There’s no reason to risk taking that damage, and you can keep DPSing Arion while moving over to the tornado or to the well.

Keep Arion close to Terrestra so that when he teleports away to start casting his Lightning Blast, you can switch to Terrestra and keep DPSing. I would not recommend using Hammer of the Righteous when the two bosses are together in P2. Your co-tank will be moving Terrestra very unpredictably, and Arion will also be teleporting away regularly. I found I did more DPS just using Crusader Strike.

If Arion’s Lightning Blast is going to get off, make sure to use a defensive cooldown for it. Watch for Flamestrikes on the ground and don’t stand in them. In your threat set the initial hit will be very dangerous. Also make sure to avoid getting the wrong debuff for Quake and Thundershock. If you ever have no buff at all or do have the wrong buff, pop a defensive cooldown.

In P3 you should be tanking the Elementium Monstrosity. Be aware of when he’s casting Gravity Crush so that you don’t lose DPS continuing to kite. When Lava Seeds go out, it’s best to just pop a defensive cooldown pre-emptively in case you hit some. If your raid is struggling with the Monstrosity DPS you should probably save your second potion for this phase. If not, your potion will be better used in the previous two phases when you have more Vengeance.

I cannot emphasize enough that cooldowns are amazing here. If you are not super comfortable with this fight, don’t attempt it in threat gear.

High DPS Tanking – Halfus Wyrmbreaker

June 13, 2011

"Don't kill the Orphans!"

Halfus is a strange fight for pushing DPS numbers. It’s fairly easy as Heroic modes go, but doing great DPS on it actually requires some serious analysis. Doing well on this fight is all about understanding not only how to release the adds, but also how to position yourself in a role that will allow you to excel at DPS. You will find that people often use the wrong abilities on this fight because they don’t properly understand what the crossover point is as far as AOE vs. single target, nor do they necessarily understand the right strategy to maximize DPS for a kill.

Perversely, as a tank you can also do more DPS if your raid’s DPS is low. As an example, my baby bear tank Kihrawr, despite having not a single 372 item, managed to get a 12th place ranking on our alt run’s first Heroic Halfus kill. I did shamelessly position myself in a role that would not only maximize raid DPS, but I also benefited from the low AOE done by this alt run raid. (More on that later.)

Getting to Know You

The adds can be divided up into three categories:

(1) The drakes. These include the Time Warden, Nether Scion, Storm Rider and Slate Dragon.
(2) Orphaned Emerald Whelps.
(3) Halfus Wyrmbreaker

For maximizing Vengeance, the drakes and whelps make the best initial tanking targets. Ideally you should be tanking the whelps and a drake or two while being positioned such that you can hit everything that you’ve released. The whelps and drakes are level 87, so you only need 6% Hit and 22 Expertise on this fight for your attacks to always land. However I recommend having at least 8% Hit and 26 Expertise so that you won’t miss Halfus when you attack him from behind.

The bulk of your damage will come from AOE, so you should glyph Hammer of the Righteous and unglyph Focused Shield.

The Pull

So what should be released on the pull? It’s very important that you are tanking enough targets for good Vengeance, and you also want to get the whelps out so that your Hammer is hitting tons of targets. Ideally you are releasing the whelps yourself while having a drake misdirected to you. That way you get in good hits on the whelps from the start, and then you can bring the whelps and your drake on top of Halfus. It makes little difference whether or not you hold one drake back at the start. The difference in DPS on your Hammer is negligible while you’re still hitting the whelps, drakes and Halfus, but you should release the last drake by the time anything else dies.

Not the Puppy Orphanage!

"Hi there. We'll be your DPS boost for the evening."

How well you do on this fight will be primarily determined by how long you leave whelps alive. For example if you let the whelps out and then tank them the entire fight without DPS touching them much at all, then you’re going to do very good DPS. The problem is your DPS want to set records as well.

The best way to handle this situation is to pick a couple of people that the raid is going to “boost” to a good parse. Have everyone else leave the whelps alone but allow those people to DPS the whelps. This way the whelps will die very slowly, and you get to reap the benefits of your Hammer of the Righteous hitting lots of targets for a higher percentage of the fight. Have the rest of your raid focus single-mindedly on burning down the drakes one by one.

He Had It Coming

Every time a drake dies, the damage Halfus takes increases by 100%. This damage increase is additive for each drake that dies, so he’s taking between 2x and 6x damage, depending on how many drakes and whelps have been killed. As with previous posts, I like to think in terms of a theoretical number of targets that I’m hitting with my Hammer of the Righteous when comparing its value relative to our other abilities. For damage debuffs, I just pretend like the Hammer is hitting more targets. Thinking in these terms makes the math relatively straightforward and can enable you to understand the right decision to make regarding Hammer vs. Crusader Strike (or for Shield of the Righteous weaving).

At the beginning of the fight Halfus is on equal footing with the whelps and the drakes. At some point, a drake is going to die, and Halfus’ relative value as a target is going to increase. The minute a drake dies, Halfus should become your primary target. You want to make absolutely sure that you have Censure going at double damage on him, and you also want to make sure he is always one of the three targets hit by your Avenger’s Shield.

Remember that the relative value of Halfus goes up each time a drake dies.

Dropping the Hammer

As drakes and whelps die off, you’ll hit a crossover point where a Crusader Strike on Halfus is better than Hammer of the Righteous on everything else. Ideally this point is delayed until nearly the end of the fight because the whelps are kept alive for a long time, but assuming your raid decides to annihilate the whelps, it’s important to understand where your crossover point is for DPS.

For the purposes of comparing Crusader Strike to Hammer, the relative damage of both on a single target at high Vengeance is about 18k and 3k+9k respectively. We can assume that the primary hit of Hammer will be on Halfus along with one nova splash, and so that portion will fully benefit from any damage debuffs applied to him. The question then becomes how much the additional nova splashes are worth. Since each one will be worth about 9k, we can quickly see that a Crusader Strike is roughly equivalent to a Hammer of 1.66 targets. (For the purposes of this comparison, I’m treating the PvP gloves and the fact that the CS is unglyphed as a wash.)

So let’s imagine that the whelps are dead, and so now we have a tough choice to make. There are four drakes up along with Halfus. A Hammer is now going to hit the equivalent of 4 + 1 * 2 = 6 targets. A Crusader Strike is equivalent to hitting 1.66 * 2 = 3.32 targets. Therefore it’s still the correct decision to use Hammer.

Let’s kill our first drake along with the whelps. Now a Hammer is going to hit the equivalent of 3 + 1 * 3 = 6 targets. A Crusader Strike is equivalent to hitting 1.66 * 3 = 4.98 targets. Hammer is still the better choice.

As you can see, the value of Hammer remains unchanged as drakes die, since that damage is just shifted to Halfus, but the relative value of Crusader Strike continues to increase.

Once two drakes plus the whelps have died, it’s no contest. A Hammer still hits the equivalent of 2 + 1*4 = 6 targets, but a Crusader Strike hits 1.66 * 4 = 6.64 targets. As you can see, once the whelps and two drakes have died, you should not continue to Hammer the remaining two drakes. Just hit Halfus. You’re only losing DPS if you continue to Hammer those other drakes.

If you Love Something, Set it Free

Another question worth asking is whether or not you need to free everything for maximum DPS. Obviously when the whelps are out, the value in having one extra drake target is minimal. Therefore whether or not you free everything on the pull doesn’t matter that much as long as the whelps are released.

If we release only three drakes instead of four, then when the whelps die, a Hammer is going to be worth 5 targets to a Crusader Strike’s 3.32. We’ll be operating at a 1-target deficiency until the first drake dies. This should obviously happen very quickly though, so it doesn’t matter too much. Once that first drake dies, then you’re down to two drakes plus Halfus, and he’s taking triple damage. The Hammer will be worth 5 targets to the Crusader Strike’s 4.98. Very close! The crossover point won’t happen until only one drake is left though.

What happens if we only release two drakes plus the whelps? Then when the whelps die, we’ll have only two drakes remaining, and Hammer will be worth 4 targets, but Crusader Strike will be worth 3.32. As you can see in this case, the crossover point in this case will be when one drake is left also. However the damage on Halfus will be so low in this case that your sustained DPS on him won’t match what you could do if you let out more drakes.

We’ve established therefore that the highest possible DPS will be done if we let out everything on the pull, although as long as whelps are up, whether or not you free one extra drake will make only a marginal difference in DPS.

Let’s suppose that you do manage to talk your raid leader into boosting certain individuals (including yourself), and the whelps do end up staying alive as drakes start dying. Is there a point where dropping Hammer is worth it, even with all the whelps up? There are eight whelps, and so doing the math you can see that 8 + 1*5 = 13 and 1.66*5 = 8.3. Therefore as long as all the whelps are kicking, it’s always worth it to Hammer.

So should we ever kill the whelps? 8 + 1*5 = 13 targets, but 1.66*6 = 9.96. The answer is “No!” Even factoring in the gains to Shield of the Righteous, Censure and Melee, they’re more than made up for by the huge increase you get from Hammer instead of CS and from Avenger’s Shield continuing to hit three targets.

Burn It Down

Now that we have a proper understanding of whelps and drakes, we need to analyze what the raid itself should do. We already know what our right personal move is as far as when to switch to Halfus, but if everyone in the raid did that, you would lose the opportunity to do even more DPS to Halfus.

For example, let’s imagine that the whelps do die first, and then you kill two drakes. Now Halfus is taking 4x damage, and for almost any spec, switching to him will be more DPS than doing AOE on two drakes plus Halfus. If all your DPS switch though, then what you get is a final burn phase of 4x DPS.

If you follow the “boosting” strategy, though, what you can do is allow a certain number of DPS to switch to Halfus early, but keep most of the raid focused on burning down the remaining drakes. Then you have a certain set of people enjoying 4x DPS on Halfus, followed by 5x DPS on Halfus, and then finally the entire raid gets to enjoy 6x DPS on Halfus.

As you can see, the individual that switches early doesn’t suffer at all for their choice. They either do a minimum of 4x DPS all the way to the kill if everyone is bad and switches, or they get to enjoy some periods of 5x or even 6x damage. The maximum DPS choice is obvious.

Stay Angry

If you are tanking the whelps and another drake, eventually your drake will die. Ideally the whelps are still hitting you for decent Vengeance, but you’ll want to monitor your Vengeance and get more if needed. Taunt another drake from a co-tank if you see your Vengeance slipping. Try to always have at least one drake on you all the way to the point where the Halfus burn starts.

You can also stand in fire. 🙂

Once all the drakes are dead, take over on Halfus and tank him until the end of the fight. That way you’ll keep Vengeance for the brief final burn at 6x.

Conclusions

As you can see, this fight has a lot of interesting depth to it as far as personal DPS, but you have to play pretty selfishly in order to really reap the benefits. It may be that people are amenable to rotating between different DPS and tanks and boosting them for parses, but more likely your trigger-happy DPS will just wreck everything too quickly. Still, for anyone who wants to have fun trying it, here you go. 🙂