Picking A Tank: Druid

November 21, 2011 1 comment

Can You Bear It

I will be writing a series of articles geared towards helping a new player pick the tanking class that is right for him or her.  With that idea in mind, I will be attempting to keep them simple, accessible and as balanced as I possibly can while covering the two critical areas of the ‘feel’ of the tank and the play style.  After covering the iconic Warrior Tank last time, we will this time look to his closest brother-in-arms.  The Druid (Bear) Tank.

The Bear tank has often been called the ‘Little Brother’ to the Warrior tank because of all the similarities and common development legacy they both share.  While it is true that in Vanilla WoW, the Druid in Bear Form was little more then a watered down version of the Protection Warrior.  That was the design at the time and does not hold true today.  I have played a Warrior tank as my main in Cataclysm (due to a contest I ran off of my forums) for over half of the expansion and just switch back to my beloved Eldoric for some bear tanking goodness.  There are simularities between the two.  The fact that both use Rage as a resource system is the largest.  But the Druid is not and hasn’t been a watered down version of the Protection Warrior for a long time.  Instead of thinking of the Bear as the little brother to the Warrior, think of them as cousins.  I really wanted to get this out of the way to start because it can skew a person’s perceptions of Druid tanks a little too much before they even get a chance to begin to get an understanding of how the class is as a tank.

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF):Druids great strength is that can fill any roll in the game they wish to play.  This gives the Druid the ability to reach into toolkits that other tanks do not have access too.  To do this effectively takes a lot of timing and skill but is very satisfying.  The Druid rotation has also greatly improved from a very stale one in The Burning Crusade to an engaging build and consume priority model with all required tools necessary to effectively tank.  The trick of the Druid is that its Bear Form alone can feel a little dry and restrictive if the player does not learn to effectively incorporate abilities from throughout the Druids total class tool bag.

The Bear Model Has Improved Since Vanilla

The ‘FEEL’ of the Druid Tank. I am going to freely admit upfront that my Night Elf Druid, Eldoric, has been my main since the release of World of Warcraft.  This creates the, not only probably but extremely likely, chance that my sense of the ‘feel’ of a bear is heavily influenced by my attachment and personal affinity for my primary tank and handle’s name sake.  I will attempt to my fullest to keep my own views from skewing this article’s appraisal of the Druid as a tank.

The largest factor you should keep in mind when playing a Druid tank is that you will be looking at the same Bear model anytime you step up to the front to tank.  This is important.  It may not seem so at the character selection screen or early on, but there will come a day that you roll your eyes because you have to shift out of caster form with all its fancy raid gear to the same static model you have been dealing with forever.  I really want to make that clear because for some the aesthetics of a character is a critical part of their enjoyment of the game.  Take a look at the bear form model.  If you dont think you can stand looking at it anytime you go into a dungeon or raid, then look somewhere else.

Roar, yo.

If you have decided you can handle no visional growth of your character while performing your primary roll, then you are going to find the Druid tank has little in the way of animations. You will then have to face the lack of visual ‘Pop” the form has.  The Bear’s animations are…..fine.  They are all basically modifications on  red swipes, explosions and streaks.  None are really bad.  They are just now going to give you a sense of  “WOW, THAT WAS AWESOME!”.

So far it may seem like all I am doing is QQ about the Guardian Druids.  I am really not.  I am trying to say, ‘feel-wise’ you are not getting the same depth as you get from a Warrior or Paladin.  Where you get most of the positives in the realm of feel comes from being a druid overall.  Those are great.  Quick shifting, casting, mobility from cat and other aspects of the Druid class feel awesome.  I hope and believe that Blizzard is taking a look at many animations that have been in the game for awhile and giving them an update.  Almsot all of the druid moves fall in that category.

Oh and Druid tanks are awesome.  I love my main, Eldoric.  That is all.

The Play Style: A Druid who tanks goes into Bear Form to preform that role.  When he or she shifts to Bear Form they do not stop being a druid.  This is important to remember because alot of people who play the Druid class tend to stick only to the form designated for their chosen role most if not all of the time.  I myself have been guilty of this in the past.  When a player does this they cut out one of the most important facets of the Druid class as a whole: abilities that cover every roll in the game.  Granted, if you choose to spec, gear, enchant and gem for a roll then the other rolls suffer greatly.  Try healing as a feral Druid and you will see what I mean.  But the overall point is that the Druid still has a large tool box they need to know and understand.   I will give you my favorite example: When pulling a group that have several casters in it, place a wild mushroom under each, explode them and shift to bear form.  It is a tricky line for a person playing a Bear tank to know when, how or even if they should play one ability or another that could put them at risk.  The ability to do so often shows the difference between a good Druid tank and an outstanding Druid tank.

Hair color dictates the look of your Bear model.

Focusing on just the Bear necessities (GET IT!?!), you get everything you need as a Bear tank.  They can feel like they are highly restrictive, and in some ways they are, but that comes from them not being able to access abilities used by other forms.  As I stated above, you can get to them.  You just need to know what you are doing.  The rotation of the Druid used to be one of the most static in the game.  You could macro the AoE and single target rotations into a single macro.  Blizzard has done a good job with the coming of Cataclysm to give the Bear a build/consume priority based tanking rotation that is involving (like a Warrior), feeds into survivability (like a Paladin), and forgiving of mistakes (unlike the Death Knights).  The threat rotation is built around Lacerate.  Two mechanics are built off of that one move.  The first is Pulverize, which consumes Lacerate stacks to give a healthy crit buff.  This crit buff feeds back into the Bear Tank’s Savage Defense shield.  The second is Berserk.  The passive portion of this talent allows for free mangles based off of your lacerate damage ticks.  The whole effect is simular to what you get with a Warrior’s Sword and Board ability.  Overall, the feel of this rotation is very nice and is, in fact, my favorite rotations of all the tanks.

Wrapping Up: Eldoric is my main.  He has been my main since I picked up the game long ago in vanilla about a week after release.  I have tried to be honest and fair when talking about the Bear tank.  They are fun.  Being a Druid is fun.  Bear form can be boring to look at all the time.  You have great tools as a Druid tank.  Go and try it yourself.  I think you will like it.  Oh, and one more thing: Generally, people trust a Bear tank because they are so rare.  If your tank is a Bear, they probably know what they are doing.
Go Druid TANKS!

Eldoric

Picking A Tank: Warrior

November 15, 2011 3 comments

When All Magic Fails, Rely Upon Three Feet Of Steel And A Strong Arm

I will be writing a series of articles geared towards helping a new player pick the tanking class that is right for him or her.  With that idea in mind, I will be attempting to keep them simple, accessible and as balanced as I possibly can while covering the two critical areas of the ‘feel’ of the tank and the play style. With this, we will begin with the first tank in the World of Warcraft, the granddaddy of them all: The Protection Warrior.

Ask yourself on simple question: Do you want to be Batman? If the answer is ‘Yes’ then the way of the warrior might be for you.

I will now explain.

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF):

I AM BATMAN

Batman is the one classic superhero that has no powers but is somehow relevant. He matches wits with far more powerful enemies while only relying on his honed skills, intelligence and personal metal to carry him through to victory. Strangely enough, a warrior tank is exactly the same way. They are not guarded by the holy light like a paladin. They can not call upon the forces of death to protect them, nor transform into a magical beast of destruction. They have a weapon, a shield, and that is about it. And it is enough.

The ‘FEEL’ of the Protection Warrior.

The Positive: Protection warriors have a very unique feel among the tanking classes.  It is a very heavy visceral feel.  When you hit shield slam you do get the sense that your character is taking a 30 pound piece of metal and hitting his opponent across the face with devastating effect.  When you hit charge you rush along to see your target get pounded by the full weight of your armor.  When you hit revenge or heroic strike the idea that your chosen class is actually hunting for an opening in their counterparts defenses in order to land a crippling blow is satisfying. The general point I am trying to get to here is that a Warrior tank is simply a man (or orc, dwarf, worgen, ect) executing battle tested well trained and practiced moves.  Only thunderclap really moves away from the idea of not having any ‘magic’ abilities but that ability still falls into the realm of a pure blunt force like almost all of the Warrior’s toolkit.  The Warrior really has the feeling that what they are doing could actually be done in the real world (more or less).

And Boom Goes The Dynamite

The Negative: The only real issue you have with the feel of the warrior tank is that you get very little ‘eye candy’ when playing as one when compared to most other tanks.  When a warrior tank hits shield wall as their big save-me-cool-down you get four little shields circling you for about three seconds and that is it.  Unlike a Paladin, which summons a glowing king that bathes you in protective light.  When you hit shield block your shield will put out one little pulse of light in comparison to a Death Knight getting in circled by whirling bones.  Your primary threat move (revenge) is the same animation as heroic strike.  Devastate, another primary threat move, does have a sword pop over your opponent’s head and makes the most annoying sound in the game.  All-in-all, if you like visional flare, you will not be getting it from the Warrior.

The Play Style:

The play style of the warrior tank is best described as: GO GO GO GO GO!!!!!  There is always a button to push.  You are in a constant state of leveling out threat, damage, survivability, and mobility.  This creates a very satisfying feeling when you are tanking.  You are the man (or woman) on the move.  This also makes for some great timing choices for the warrior.  A global cooldown is a global cooldown.  Do you hit this button here or that button there.  Do you wait to do x or go ahead and forget about y.  This functionally makes the protection Warrior very fun to play.  You will not have to wait for something to do.

I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the most iconic aspects of being a protection Warrior: Mobility.  You can move more as a warrior than any other tank.  Need to get to a mob over there, no problem.  Now you need to get back here, too easy.  Got to kit a boss, simple.  Charge, intervene, intercept, heroic leap make the Warrior tank feel like he or she can be in all places at once and control every facet of the encounter.  When I play any other of my tanks I always miss the utility the warrior has with movement.  Only the druid comes close, and it is not even half as mobile as the Warrior.  If you want to move then a warrior is the way you want to go.

The Negative:  The downside is that you have to do a lot to add up to what other tanks are doing using a few less buttons.  Also, you sometimes feel like you are hitting a whole lot for not much reason at all.  Does hitting devastate 3 minutes into a fight really matter?  I mean, the sunder debuff has been up since about 20 seconds into the fight and you are extremely far ahead on threat.  You could just forget about that sword and board proc because it is just damage (not saying damage from a tank is not important but that is the stomping grounds of other roles).  You can get this feeling of running in circles at times as a Warrior tank.  This can become very noticeable during longer boss fights.  It is the price the Warrior has to pay in order to have so many buttons at his or her disposal.

Yes. Warriors Look And Feel Awesome

Continuing, the warrior tank has very little feedback into their own survivability.  I am not talking cooldowns.  All tanks have those.  What I am talking about is that the warrior has the least amount of active/reactive mitigation in the game when it comes to tanking.  I will explain this a bit more so it is clear.  A Paladin can build holy power and use it on a timely Word of Glory to heal him/herself for a good amount.  A druid builds lacerate stacks then consumes them to get a strong crit buff, which feeds back into their absorbing shield called Savage Defense.  A Death Knight uses Death Strike (alot) to heal and create an absorbing shield.  The Warrior does not really have anything like this.  So the vast majority of the time you are just hitting buttons because you have buttons to hit.  To be fair, the Warrior does have things like disarm and spell reflect, which can be used to increase survivability, but you will find they are lacking when compared to the other tanks.  This is going to changing in the next expansion since Blizzard has announce that they want all tanks to move up in the active mitigation department.

Wrapping Up:

Protection Warriors are a fun, mobile and classic class to play if you want to dive into the world of tanking.  If the idea of relying on yourself without the aid of magic or other forms of abnormal power combined with a fast paced play style appeals to you.  Well, grabbing some armor and a one-hander may be in your future.  Go get them, Batman!

Eldoric

Stable Talk: WarCraft L’amour

October 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Photobucket
Looks like Raph! Yeah, a little too Raph.

What is an unstoppable force’s weakness? Is turning the tables overrated!? Is WoW actually a dating service in disguise!?! Cats dual wield brass knuckles!!? Who loves orange soda?! Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do yah?? All this and more in this blogisode of Stable Talk! Read more…

RPGenius: Tanking Skuul’s Lair

September 28, 2011 1 comment

School

Back to school to prove to dad I

Time to cue in some old skuul Tupac, most specifically his song “Changes.”   World of Warcraft fans are getting inundated with a plethora of game modifications to come on the way to, and possibly before and after, patch 4.3 is dropped.  Darkmoon Island, three new story heroics, a final expansion raid against Deathwing himself, new tier loot art releases, a major overhaul to the role of tanking, and, most importantly, PANDAS!  Seriously, pretty sure Blizzard is just trolling us with panda teasers, but it is fun nonetheless.

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Growing Pains: Low-level Tanking

September 22, 2011 2 comments

I just wanted to take a short opportunity to further elaborate on a topic that came up on The Guardian Tank two weeks ago. Eldoric was describing how low level tanks could expect their heals to come (i.e. A lot of HOTs from droods, shields from priests, shamans being good at AOE heals). I would like to further that idea when it comes to low-level dungeon tanking. Having been taking all the healing classes through dungeons and taking all but a bear through tanking as well, I have noticed similar trends no matter what I choose to play that day. Join me as we look at how you will be healed and what you can expect so that you can punch bad guys harder.

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Oslo Aftermath: A Personal Perspective

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

By now most everyone has heard stories about the Norwegian man who slaughtered nearly 70 people, including a large number of kids.  Since you’re reading this, you are probably also aware that he played World of Warcraft.   Read more…

Sparkly Hands: Healing in PvP

September 10, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been doing arena moderately for many years, always before on a hunter. In Cata, I switched mains to a Resto Shaman, fell in love with it, and when I inevitably went to PvP with him (in Tol Barad and such) I decided to stay Resto. The thing I love about PvP is that each class gets to experience a much more specific role than in PvE. In PvE you really just have the holy trinity of dungeoneering: Tank, Healer, DPS. When you hop over to the non AI side, you get to become something so much more. My job in PvP as a Resto Shammy can go one of two ways all depending on whether or not I make it obvious that I’m healing. Given that I’m a Tauren, it’s pretty obvious.

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