Sunday, August 31, 2008

Paladin vs. Illidan, Now On YouTube!

Ridiculously sped-up footage? Check.

Pretentious guitar-centric metal song? Check.

Snarky subtitles? Check.

I've made my first WoW video!

The footage I got was tiny, jerky, and blurred to heck, so I wasn't able to do anything fancy with it. I'm considering doing more of a "how-to" video when I can get better footage on my own computer...but then again, with Wrath coming so soon, how-to videos aren't really going to be useful for much longer. Guess we'll see how motivated I feel when I manage to get better footage.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Huh. I guess we were prepared.

I've been semi-absent from the blog lately. With the end of summer upon us, lots of people have been going on vacation, and we haven't been able to get a full raid group together for a couple of weeks. I've been taking the opportunity to take a much-needed break from WoW and get some real-life stuff in order.

Because of the attendance issues, tonight was our first attempt on Illidan since I last wrote about it 3 weeks ago. We had a few new recruits in attendance, including a couple of people who'd never seen the fight before, so I expected progress, but nothing spectacular. Imagine my surprise when we actually killed him!

I'm so amazingly proud of my guild, and especially of the healers, who were even able to keep me alive when I ate a shear on the third attempt. The enrages in phase 5 weren't as bad as I was expecting--Maev only dropped traps where I could use them twice, so I just popped nightmare seeds and ironshield potions for the rest of them.

I managed to get video of all our attempts tonight, though the quality is pretty poor because my motherboard fried itself last week. I was stuck on my husband's Linux machine, getting 5 frames per second. But he's converting the video files for me now, so I'm hoping I should have something usable soon. I haven't seen any videos out there of paladins main tanking Illypants, and I'd like to change that.

Loots included my T6 chest (yay 5pc!), and the Bulwark of Azzinoth, which went to one of our other tanks (/cry). There were cheers and high fives all around. I believe on Sunday we're going to go play in Sunwell for a while, which should also be awesome.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tanks Make Lousy Boyfriends

I only date tanks. It's just a personal preference of mine--some people like blondes, some people like great legs or butts, I just like tanks.

My first boyfriend was a warrior. He was a great guy, and he knew all the tricks. No matter what I was in the mood for, he could deliver. But after a while I called it off, because he just...well, didn't have the brains. I like a guy with a little intelligence, you know?

After a while I met this druid. Wow, was he ever something! He had strength, agility, and endurance to make other tanks weep. My friends were all so jealous when we started dating. He had a sensitive side, too--he wasn't always such an animal. He had a serious body hair problem, though, and refused to do a thing about it. Yuck! "This is how I am, baby. Take me or leave me," he said. So I left.

My next boyfriend was a paladin. He was a real sweetheart, and I never had to pester him about using protection. He could do amazing things with his hands. Talk about seeing the light! I thought I'd finally found a keeper...until the day he told me he was into that group stuff. He asked me to invite all my friends over, so we could all pile on top of him. He promised me he could handle all of us; I told him he'd better be able to handle the door slamming in his face, because that's what he was getting.

So then I met this mage. He swore up and down that he was a tank, even though he really didn't look like one. I took him at his word, and we went on a few dates. Well, it turns out he's only a tank one night a week, and he has to wear a ton of "special gear" to do it. I told him sorry, but that's just not my scene. I need a full-time tank in my life, and I don't want to have to strap him into anything first. Even if he does have "magic fingers."

And the warlock...oh, that handsome devil. And talk about stamina! But he was just like the mage, except he wanted his creepy little friend to watch, too! I was out that door so fast I nearly swung it off the hinges.

After that, I pretty much swore off men for a while. But now a new guy has asked me out, and I think I'm ready to jump in the dating game again. He's called a "death knight," and he tells me he's a tank, or at least he will be in a couple of months. I'm a little wary after my experiences with the others, but we'll see how it goes. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Who Tanks It?

Prot paladins and feral druids often face a lot of adversity when they're raiding. The vast majority of guilds run with a warrior main tank, and that warrior main tank is always tanking the boss fights. Even the guilds that don't have a single main tank usually have a couple of prot warriors around, and the warriors are always the default choices when it's boss time.

Personally, I think this is a really bad idea, and not just because I play a prot paladin. It's true that warriors have the best all-around "grab bag" of tanking skills, but there are a number of fights where the high front-loaded threat of a paladin or the superior physical mitigation of a druid can make the fight easier on the whole raid. Making use of all your guild's tanking classes can make for smoother raids all around.

There's also player happiness to consider. Very few players are satisfied with benchwarmer status. I've known a few players with very solid off-tank roles in well-progressed guilds who got bored and left for a main tank position in a less-progressed guild. Sure, they're taking a step back progression-wise, but in the end they're having more fun, and isn't that why we play the game? Relegating some players to forever be "trash tanks" (and what a terrible name that is!) only leads to higher turnover.

Plus, it's important to remember: real life happens. If your warrior main tank is sick or on vacation, you need your other tanks to be able to step forward and fill his shoes, or you won't be raiding that night. Paladins and druids require subtly different strategies on some fights, in terms of healing assignments and dps performance. If your tanks and your raid don't have any experience working together on boss fights, you're dooming your raids to nights of frustrating wiping if real life takes your warriors away.

My guild handles boss fights, as it does most things, pretty informally. Just before boss time, all the tanks do a /roll, and the winner tanks the boss. This is one of the reasons I love my guild. All the tanks get the chance to tank, and the raid knows how to handle each fight with each different class.

There are exceptions, of course. I never bother to /roll right before Kaz'rogal, for instance. While it's true that a paladin can tank this fight, it's one of the few fights where having a paladin tanking will make things significantly more difficult, and increase your chances of wiping (dodge a few too many attacks, and--oops!--I blow up the melee.). Same for Archimonde (Why make the priests burn their fear wards on me instead of themselves?), or Kael'thas (I don't want to buy all the extra consumables I'd need to tank that!). But on any fight a paladin can reasonably tank, I have as much of a chance of doing it as any of the other tanks. And that, in my opinion, is the way it should be.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Consecration "First Tick" Resists

It's always interesting when something you've always accepted as true turns out to be wrong. Common paladin wisdom has always said that only the first tick of Consecration can be resisted, and the remaining 7 ticks can't. But it turns out the first tick can't be resisted either.

The prevailing theory here is that the resist messages you sometimes see when Consecration is first cast are related to a DoT effect that used to be applied to people in the spell's radius. When Blizzard changed the way Consecration works, they never removed the debuff, they just made it invisible. So you're seeing resists for a debuff that no longer causes any damage.

I ran across this completely by accident when I was researching something else. I never did find the answer to my original question, either.

In other news, I have a WotLK beta key! I've gone through a bit of the Death Knight starting area, because I've heard that it's a lot of fun, and I plan to fiddle with my paladin a bit once I finish that up. The DK starting area and quests are quite interesting. I hope the rest of Wrath is this fun.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Progressing on Illidan

We've been working on Illidan for about 3 weeks, and the fight still feels shiny and new to me. Part of this is because our raid schedule only gives us 1 full night a week to work on him. This week, we only got an hour at the end of tonight's raid, but we still made some satisfying progress. We only got 3 attempts on him, but we got out of phase 2 for the first time, and managed to hit phase 4 twice.

I'm absolutely loving this fight, because I'm main-tanking Illypants himself. As a paladin tank, I so rarely get to main-tank "epic" battles like this one, so every time we go up to his rooftop, I feel a little giddy. I stand at his feet and look up at him in awe.

I've started recording video of our Illidan attempts, too, but when I watched what I got tonight, I realized that my UI really clutters things up when everything is shrunk down to a manageable size. I hope I can work out something nicer-looking before we actually kill him.

On our last attempt of the night, I got killed shortly after the transition from phase 4 back to phase 3 because I panicked, flubbed up my Holy Shield rotation, and got Sheared. That's probably my biggest fault as a raider: when something unexpected happens (in this case, the flame patches from the first phase 3 hadn't gone away yet, and I couldn't figure out where I was supposed to move him), I freeze up more often than not. I definitely need to work on keeping calm under pressure.

Illidan presents a special challenge for a paladin tank, because getting hit by a Shear is an almost certain wipe. As long as Holy Shield is up, you can't be Sheared, but because the spell has a 10 second duration and a 10 second cooldown, it will always drop for a fraction of a second due to server lag. It's literally impossible to have 100% uptime on Holy Shield. Murphy's Law dictates that if your Holy Shield drops for 0.13 seconds, Shear will always magically land during those 0.13 seconds, and not during the 10 full seconds when you're safe.

This can be dealt with by watching cooldowns very carefully. Shear has a 10 second cooldown as well, and Illidan will always use it within a couple seconds of the cooldown finishing--so approximately every 11 to 14 seconds. This means that if Shear lands when you have 2 seconds left on your Holy Shield cooldown, and you reapply Holy Shield immediately, you're now in danger of being Sheared on the next cast. Staying safe is pretty simple: if you have 4 seconds or more left on your Holy Shield cooldown when Shear lands, reapply Holy Shield immediately. If you have less than 4 seconds left, wait 3 to 5 seconds before you reapply it.

Now if I can just remember to do that while giddily trying to pick the boss back up after a transition and move him away from the flame patches (but not too far away), I'll be golden.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Life Without Salv

I usually avoid reading early beta/patch notes, simply because too much changes between initial rumors and final release, but I heard a couple of days ago that Blessing of Salvation was being removed from the game in Wrath of the Lich King.

Raiding paladins, does any of this sound familiar?
"Can hunters get salv, please?"
"We need a rebuff on salv before we start this fight."

I found myself completely unable to picture life without salv, so I went and read the beta patch notes. Interestingly enough, I don't think the loss of salv will be that big of a deal. Paladins and warriors are both getting a boost to their threat ouput; paladins in the form of attack power now affecting their threat-generating abilities along with spell damage, and warriors in the form of increased threat from Defensive Stance. With the tanks putting out more threat, salv is not as necessary as it once was.

Granted, the threat increase for warriors is only 15%, while Blessing of Salvation's threat reduction is 30%, so DPS will definitely have to be more careful. But overall, I have to say I like the change. Fewer buffs to manage can only be a good thing for smooth-running raids.

I was somewhat surprised to note that while warriors and paladins are getting increased threat generation, druids are actually getting nerfed slightly in that area--Feral Instinct will no longer increase threat while in bear form. I'm curious as to how this will change the class. Will druids no longer be viable raid-boss tanks? I'll be a little sad if this is so. I've always enjoyed the different strengths of the three tanking classes.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Gearing Up Your Tankadin

A while back, a couple of paladins in my old guild were interested in trying out prot, and I wrote this guide to pre-raid and pre-heroic gear for them. I had seen this guide at WoW Vault, and I liked the list, but in my opinion, a lot of the gear suggestions weren't ideal. A prot paladin can get by in warrior gear, but if you want to tank heroics and Kara, you'll be much better off with more focused gear.

The goal of this guide is to get a newly-70 paladin tank geared up enough to tank heroics and Karazhan. Therefore, none of the gear listed drops in heroics or raids. It's all attainable by questing or running non-heroic instances. (Or in some cases, by dropping a ton of money at the auction house.)

- Crystalforged Sword. Pick this bad boy up in the auction house for about 200 gold, or grind like mad in Ogri'la until it drops for you. The AH is your best bet, though.
- Seeker's Gavel is available when you hit Revered with the Shattered Sun Offensive, and edges out the Crystalforged Sword in threat.
- You could also get a Continuum Blade when you're Revered with Keepers of Time.
Weapon Enchant:
- Major Spellpower - Your weapon alone will now give you the majority of the spell damage you need to hold rock-solid aggro.

- Libram of the Eternal Rest - Ugh. This is the only pre-heroic tanking libram that's worth anything, and it's still pretty awful. Do yourself a favor, and as soon as you start running heroics, save up your badges for a Libram of Repentance.

- Sunward Crest requires Exalted with the Shattered Sun. Amazing for paladin tanks, and the rep grind is remarkably fast.
- Crest of the Sha'tar requires Exalted with the Sha'tar, and is your best bet if you're after raw stamina.
- Aegis of the Sunbird - drops in Botanica
- Platinum Shield of the Valorous - drops in Shadow Labyrinth
Shield Enchant:
- Major Stamina - probably the best choice, and so easy to get
- Shield Block - if you're still having trouble reaching uncrushable

- Tankatronic Goggles - if you're an engineer, it doesn't get better than this. These babies will last you until well into T6 content.
- Helm of the Righteous - drops in Mechanar
- Greathelm of the Unbreakable - drops in Shattered Halls
- Felsteel Helm - crafted by Blacksmithing, a fairly common recipe
Head Enchant:
- Glyph of the Defender - requires revered with Keepers of Time

- Strength of the Untamed - requires Revered with Cenarion Expedition. Great if you want avoidance.
- Shattered Sun Pendant of Resolve - requires Exalted with the Shattered Sun. Gives a huge boost to stam, but if you're Scryers, the proc isn't so hot. Highly recommended if you're Aldor.
- Mark of the Ravenguard - reward from a simple quest in Sethekk Halls. Another good stam piece.

- Nexus-Guard's Pauldrons - reward from a quest line in Netherstorm, starting with this quest. Don't let the green fool you! These are great shoulders to get while you try for a gemmable piece, and still good to hang onto for AoE tanking.
- Spaulders of the Righteous - drops in Botanica
- Shoulderguards of the Bold - drops in Shadow Labyrinth
Shoulder Enchant:
- Obviously, pick the best one you qualify for from your respective faction (Aldor/Scryers).

- Devilshark Cape - drops from the last boss of Steam Vaults. I'm not even going to bother listing any other options, because this is what you want, no questions asked. Every warrior or paladin tank should be wearing this cloak until they get badge/raid gear, and sometimes even after that.
Cloak Enchant:
- Steelweave - vastly superior to +12 dodge rating, the pre-patch 2.4 favorite

- Jade Skull Breastplate - drops in Mechanar. A rock-solid choice that will give you the stamina you so badly need without expensive gems.
- Breastplate of the Righteous - drops in Steam Vault, which you're going to be running anyway to get the Devilshark Cape.
- Vindicator's Hauberk - requires Revered with Aldor. Even if you don't need the defense, it's good to have around to make up the defecit, for instance, if you have to wear resist gear.
Chest Enchant:
- Defense - usually the best choice
- Exceptional Stats - very popular with paladins, though in my opinion, inferior to Defense

- Sha'tari Wrought Armguards - reward from a simple quest in Shadow Labs.
- Bracers of the Green Fortress - crafted by blacksmithing, but the pattern is rare and the mats are expensive. You can't beat these for pre-raid tanking bracers, though.
Bracer Enchant:
- Fortitude
- Major Defense - if you still need to reach 490

- Gauntlets of the Righteous - drops in Shattered Halls.
- Felsteel Gloves - crafted by Blacksmithing, and a very solid choice.
- Gauntlets of the Chosen - only available if you're Revered with the Scryers.
- Dauntless Handguards - reward from a quest in Shattered Halls. Unfortunately not available to Horde paladins.
Glove Enchant:
- Major Spellpower - a good beginner enchant, will help you build threat when you're starting out.
- Threat - superior to Major Spellpower once you're able to put out about 500 threat per second. Watch your threat meter while you're tanking to see if it's right for you.

- Sha'tari Vindicator Waistguard - reward at the end of the (very long) quest chain to get the Arcatraz key. If you're Aldor, start here. If you're Scryers, start here. The quest chain eventually sends you into Mechanar and Botanica, but the rest is soloable.
- Belt of the Guardian - if you've got about a thousand gold burning a hole in your pocket. Crafted by blacksmithing; mats are very expensive, but this is another piece that will last you into T6 content.

- Legguards of the Resolute Defender - reward from a quest chain in Netherstorm, starting with this quest. Complete the chain up to at least this step, then go start this chain. These are great pants for avoidance.
- Timewarden's Leggings - requires revered with Keepers of Time. With the right gems, you can't beat these pants for stamina. Try to get these.
- Felsteel Leggings - crafted by blacksmithing. They have high armor, and make a good choice if you're still trying to reach 490 defense.
Leg Enchant:
- Clefthide Leg Armor - pretty affordable on the auction house
- Nethercleft Leg Armor - if you want to spend the extra cash.

- Flesh Beast's Metal Greaves - absolutely wonderful boots that you can get for completing the escort quest at the end of Mana Tombs. It's pretty tough, though--run it with a guild group if you can. There's really nothing comparable outside of heroics.
- Boots of the Protector - if you're a blacksmith with a couple thousand gold to burn, these are another piece that will last you until T5/T6 content. The boots are bind on pickup, but you can buy the pattern on the auction house.
Boot Enchant:
- Fortitude - you can't go wrong with stamina
- Dexterity - good for a little extra avoidance. Good luck finding someone who can do it, though.

- Wind Trader's Band - quest reward in Netherstorm, starting with this quest. Again, don't let the green fool you! This ring is wonderful. Get it. Love it.
- Iron Band of the Unbreakable - drops in Old Hillsbrad
- Elementium Band of the Sentry - drops in Arcatraz

- Figurine of the Colossus - drops in Shattered Halls, and is utterly amazing for paladin tanks. It makes things like this video possible. You can see about halfway through, he pops the trinket, and a few seconds later his health is back to full again. I get chills.
- Adamantite Figurine - drops in Shadow Labyrinth
- Goblin Rocket Launcher or Gnomish Poultryizer - if you're an engineer, it doesn't get better than this. Huge stamina boost, plus somewhat useful abilities.
- Darkmoon Card: Vengeance - something every pally tank should shoot for, but requires you to buy a couple thousand gold worth of cards on the AH. Just watch the auction house for cards that are below market price, and pick them up whenever you can.

Obligatory Introductory Post

Welcome to Sheepbreaker. I tend to be overly verbose, so I'll try to keep this intro as short as possible. (Ha!)

This blog is all about paladins, but with a special focus on getting hit in the face. Or tanking, if you prefer.

I've played a paladin since I first bought WoW. After an initial period of cluelessness about the class and game mechanics (What are talent points? What's spirit for? Argh, I lost my body again!), I discovered the holy tree and leveled to 60 by healing my husband's prot warrior. I hit 60 a couple months before Burning Crusade hit, and raided Molten Core as a healbot during that time.

After BC, I raided for a short while as holy, then my world changed forever. I joined a random pickup group and found myself with a pally tank named Unhealable. "Oh, no," I thought. "Another paladin who thinks he can tank. This is going to hurt."

But as we went through the dungeon, an amazing thing happened: he was actually good. He blazed through the instance using minimal crowd control, tanking wave after wave of mobs that I'd seen singlehandedly squashing warriors and druids. Nobody pulled aggro, nobody died, and healing was a breeze. I was in love.

It took a few weeks to get up the courage to try tanking myself, and predictably, my first attempts were disastrous. I knew nothing about tank gear or theory, and I got quite a few nasty words from my healers. But I'm nothing if not persistent, and after a lot of research and a little practice, I shaped up into a pretty decent pally tank. I started going prot on weekends, and eventually won over my guild with the utility of a paladin tank. They let me go prot full-time, and I've never looked back.

Well, there were those couple of months I raided as ret, but I try not to think about that.

I'm currently raiding BT with a relatively new guild, and I'm confident we'll see Sunwell before the expansion hits. My posts here will be mainly based on my own experiences as a post-BC raid tank, but I'll be discussing non-raid tanking as well, because as much as it feel like it sometimes, raiding isn't the only thing I do in this game.

Sheepbreaker isn't my name in-game, but I thought it was an appropriate name for a paladin tanking blog. Sometimes mages try to sheep stuff around me. I swear, that spell must make them magnetic or something, because my mace is uncontrollably drawn to those soft, fluffy critters.