Saturday, December 20, 2008

I may be dumb but I can write

OK so I don't stack intel, but I did power level inscription today to 400.

Why would I drop 1800g on herbs and training to do that. Defense Cap, and some extra DPS when not tanking.
Look at that, 52 dodge and 15 defense for my shoulders. Doesn't get much better than that. Actually it does. I have a second set of shoulders I wear for DPS. Those bad boys get the inscription of the axe for an extra 104 AP and 15 crit rating. Of course I gave up a maxed skinning for this so that's a net -10 crit rating in DPS but I'll still take the AP bonus on top of the tanking goodness.

The only thing I don't like about inscription is the product you make isn't really a consumable the way Alchemy is. Needless to say I won't be getting rich off this profession. But then again, if money was the point I would have stayed with two gathering jobs.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pug Survival Guide

Ok Ok, this isn't just directed to Death Knights and it can be applied to anyone.

I pug a lot. Outside of raid nights I generally am not able to play the same time my guild does. Therefore, if I want to run a 5 man I have to pug it. In the last year or so I have really only had one bad pug and after a couple wipes on the way to the first boss I realized it wasn't worth it and moved on.

So how do I survive all the pugs with my sanity in tact?

Simple, I do some due diligence up front and set some parameters on the run.

Before I even hit the lfg channel and trade I determine what run I want to go on and whether I feel capable of tanking it or providing DPS. If I don't think I'm qualified, its not reasonable to go. The last thing I want to be is the weak link that causes wipes and gets me a bad reputation.

Next I check my friends list, and /who former guilds. I can check old guilds I've been in since I have always left on good terms. Generally between those two options I can find at least one person I know and trust to do their job. Once they are in, I hit them up for referrals to try to fill out the group.

So you've done that and you still need spots, well trade and lfg are your source for players. But don't just take anyone who says they'd like to come. This afternoon, I needed HoL regular to complete a couple Sons of Hodir quests that you can't do in heroic mode. So I start checking for players and had two 75's ask to come for an 80 dungeon. Even though they begged I passed and took more time to find players.

There are a couple easy checks to ascertain the quality of the player that wants to run with you. First shift click their name to get class and level. Second, I alt-tab over to and check them out. Not only does it show their gear, gems, and enchants, it also gives and idea of what spec they are and about what level of dungeon/raid they should be capable of assuming they are played decently. Patch 3.02 brought another great resource. You can look at their achievements. If someone is signing up for a heroic, I like to see some heroic achievements. Granted they may have just dinged 80 and then I look for regular dungeons.

Obviously, I would be very suspect of someone who has no heroic or dungeon achievements, little to no enchants or gems, as well as poor gear. If they seem genuine ask if they are on an alt and who their main is and do the same checks. If someone isn't willing to do that, chances are they either aren't capable or an asshat.

Speaking of asshats, well there is nothing you can do upfront other than learn who they are by experience. This is why I have a wipe rule. Generally, its 3 wipes on trash or 5 wipes total. I'm willing to ignore this rule if there is ample reason to believe that the group is capable but just had a run of bad luck.

I'm not saying my play is perfect, in fact I got two dps killed this afternoon with the spinning dwarves. But I didn't make that mistake twice and it was no worse than the rogue who pulled the first boss while he was charged before anyone was ready. Turns out with a good healer I can solo that guy in regular. Took awhile and I had to cycle my cooldowns but it can be done.

Happy pugging.

Unholy Tanking Primer

Back in the day, I learned a lot about tanking by reading Big Bear Butt and Of Teeth and Claws when I was playing my druid. Those sights not only taught me about the importance of defense cap and what early gear would achieve that, they provided basic rotations that in absence of any other knowledge would help you through the run. From my earlier polls I know some of you who want to tank on your DK came from DPS specs or even healers. Now that I have a few weeks of tanking as an Unholy Death Knight, I thought I’d share some do’s and don’ts so you can survive the runs you are on as well.

First, you need to get uncritable and stay there. Pre heroics shoot for around 500 defense and you’ll be golden. Heroics need 535 defense and Raids 540.

Before you make the first pull, lets talk about what needs to be addressed before your first hostile action. Every fight requires some planning and positioning prior to starting. In time with some experience, especially in guild runs, these will become almost automatic.

Planning: Figure out how many mobs and what their capabilities are. Also verify the likelihood you can pick up adds in the fight. It is at this stage you will assign CC and kill orders. Though I have to say, with my UDK, I haven’t really run across any trash that requires these and I’ve gotten lazy and stopped marking mobs. On guild runs, my DPS knows to assist me to stay on my primary target, in PUGs I occasionally have to remind folks of that. Generally speaking you want to focus on casters first, deal with ranged attackers so they don’t aggro your healer, and understand how you will keep all the hatred on you.

Positioning: This is also very important. You want to set up so that your ranged DPS and your healer can stay behind you in areas you already cleared. Trust me, you do not want mobs sneaking up behind you and instagibbing your lifeline. You can also use positioning to help deal with ranged and caster mobs. This is where LOS matters. If you have a corner to hide behind it forces the mobs to come to you even when they prefer to stay at range. Worst case have everyone stand way back, run up and pull then run back yourself so that you are out of range and the mobs must move forward. I know we are AOE tanks, but whenever possible you only want to fight one group at a time, your healer will appreciate it.

Now that we’ve covered planning and positioning at a high level, lets look at the pull and fight in more detail from an unholy perspective. Frosties, I just don’t have the background to help you much beyond concepts.

Pulling is pretty easy as a DK. We have 5 ways of pulling on our own. We can death grip, cast a ranged death and decay, use death coil if we have left over runic power from the last fight, use icy touch at short range, or do a body pull. Generally speaking I prefer to stay away from body pulls unless I plan on fighting where the mob is already located. Therefore I am limited to my ranged options and I usually don’t have enough RP to throw a DC out to get things started. So that leaves a ranged DnD or Death Grip. I make the decision based on the mobs in the fight. If there are a lot of caster mobs or ranged attackers I’ll drop a DnD on them all so they will aggro me and not the healer. The melee mobs will run to me and I can get to work on them. If I have a LOS option with lots of ranged mobs I’ll go ahead and use Death Grip and take advantage of LOS to get everyone to move. I know Allison over at WoWInsider doesn’t like DKs pulling with Death Grip but I think she had a bad PUG. Now when I say I’ll use DG to pull, I lay down a nice pool of death and decay at my feet so all the mobs will have to run through it and aggro on me. Then I pick my first kill target and yank it to me.

A couple last thoughts on the pull. Cast bone shield as early as you can prior to pulling. At the start of the fight with all the mobs up is when you will take the most damage, and the extra early mitigation will give your healer a bit more time before they have to light up the threat meters.

The fight is straight forward once you’ve pulled. I’m assuming almost all your trash pulls will be aoe fights. Since you started with a death and decay on the pull you have used 1 blood, 1 frost, and 1 unholy rune and have one of each left. The target I yanked to me, gets an Icy Touch followed by a Plague Strike. These two attacks use up the remaining frost and unholy runes while putting your diseases on your target. Follow this with pestilence. It will burn your last blood rune, hit all the mobs for a bit more damage and aoe threat, but more importantly, spread all your diseases to all the mobs in combat. At this point you will have enough runic power to cast Unholy Blight.

Let’s review, you have the high threat AOE Death and Decay up on all the mobs, 3 diseases ticking away on everyone, and Unholy Blight doing some serious damage to all the baddies every second. You are now in command of the fight. So long as DPS doesn’t focus on a mob you are not targeting, you will have the attention of every mob until its dead.

Back to the rotations. As soon as you cast UB you will be out of runic power and still waiting on runes to come back up for a second or two. That’s ok, stand there, you may get a weapon swing in. As soon as your runes come up, you want to use scourge strike and blood boil when the first 3 runes you used on death and decay come back. Your next strike will be scourge then blood. Remember, keeping your blood runes on cooldown should net you 10% more parry and you’ll need it with multiple mobs hitting you. From here on out use rune strike every time it procs.

Other things to keep in mind while fighting. Keep horn of winter up, the extra strength increases your threat and the extra agility increases your dodge. Try to keep all the melee in front of you so you don’t get hit from behind. Save your Icebound Fort for when things look real ugly. For single target fights use your DPS rotation. For Boss fights, read the strategies.

Lastly, pay attention to your surroundings. Keep an eye out for your healer first, DPS second. All this will become second nature in no time, even if you’ve been pew pew for years.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The RNG loves me still and other observations

Yesterday was a busy day for me. Its not often I can make the time for four heroics. When I wasn’t running a heroic I was sitting in trade and looking for group trying to find one. I had lots of interesting conversations and had lots of interesting runs.

First of all, alt-tab and are your friend. I showed the recount of my failed heroic pug of Azjol Nerub already. A quick check of gear and enchants/gems would have weeded all three dps out and would have saved me a repair bill. I did get back in there with a better pug and despite a little difficulty with the last boss came away with my first epic drop of the day. That’s right I walked with the Ancient Aligned Girdle. Guess I won’t be using any badges on a tanking belt anytime soon woot.

I saw and spoke to a couple DK’s while looking for a group. The good, a guy named Foereaver. If you’re on Sen’jin horde side and this guy wants to DPS for you, take him. I’m jealous of his skill and gear. The bad, a guy who wanted to DPS Heroic Drak Theron in greens. And the Ugly, I shit you not I saw a DK in mostly tanking gear with a one handed sword. It wasn’t even a tank sword. Pure DPS. Did I mention it was one handed. Guys, if you aren’t going to use a two hander, Duel Wield. Seriously.

So I did make it into Drak Theron Hero with a couple guildies, one pugged dps and a pugged tree to heal. The tree checked out as nicely geared and had enough heroic achievements I wasn’t worried, until he inspected me. I should have screen shot the conversation but it went like this.

“You can tank unholy?” – pugged tree
“You better believe it, better than frost” – Me (I know you frosties might disagree but I have an attitude when people don’t think unholy can tank for no reason)
“Yeah he’s great” – guildy one
“Ok, dazzle me” – pugged tree

35 minutes later when the Prophet dropped without a wipe and not a single mob aggroing on the healer I asked, “Were you dazzeled?”

Pugged Tree – “yeah you’re the best DK tank I’ve ever seen, I never even got agro like I do with my guildy warrior.”

For my efforts the RNG rewarded me with the Keystone Great Ring. I can’t wait to regem and enchant all my gear so I can wear this little piece of tanking goodness.

So the tree wanted us to do heroic violet hold. We dropped the pugged hunter and picked up my guildy boomkin and went in. I’ve never even seen VH before, how bad can it be.

Our first boss was Ichoron and he wiped the floor with us twice. It took us a bit to figure out how to drop the globes and for me to kite him around the room when he comes back to give the DPS more time to drop the globes. After that we one shot the dog and the dragon boss at the end.

Did I mention the Loot Gods love me in a way that is probably not healthy for my marriage. That’s right the Bolstered Legplates dropped for me.

Three heroics and three epics, life is looking pretty good. It was only a week or two ago I was excited about blues from normal 80’s.

Maintaining Defense Cap is Harder than you Thought.

One of my more popular posts was getting uncritable is easier than you think. I believe it and I stand by it. Staying that way can be tough.

While running Heroic Drak’Theron I scored the Key Stone Great Ring. MMMM that’s some yummy tanking goodness. Armor, strength, Stamina, and some sweet dodge. The only problem is I am relying on both my current rings to maintain my defense. So for now it is in my DPS set since the strength on it is so good. Now its time to play the Defense Game. I remember this game on my Bear so I think I should be pretty good at it.

Blizzard loves giving you blue craftable primary slot items with defense galore on them. Then taking the defense off of all the upgrades. So in order to stay capped you start changing around gems, enchants, rings, trinkets, necks, and any other black art to keep your butt from going through the windshield at 90mph.

Once patch 3.08 drops we have a couple options to ensure we are defense capped. I’m not super thrilled with either of them at the moment, but when it comes down to it, capped defense is a must.

The first is the new rune for your 2hander. This puppy is scheduled to give a whopping 25 defense, that’s not rating, that’s the real deal. This is my preferred of the two options but I truly don’t want to lose 4% parry.

The second is the new sigil I spoke about here. 53 defense rating sounds nice, but I’m still concerned it might not be procced when you need it most. I know a lot of proc effects won’t refresh and I haven’t heard whether this one will. I’ll give up 4% parry before I rely on this right now.

Ideally, you will be able to stay capped without resorting to those and gems and enchants will be your primary means of doing so.

For gems you should focus on the following including your belt buckle, you did get a belt buckle didn’t you?:

Thick Autumns Glow – Yellow, 16 defense
Deadly Monarch Topaz – Orange, 8 defense 8 strength
Stalwart Monarch Topaz – Orange, 8 defense 8 dodge
Resolute Monarch Topaz – Orange, 8 defense 8 expertise
Glimmering Monarch Topaz - Orange, 8 defense 8 parry
Thick Dragons Eye – Prismatic, 27 defense Jewlcrafters only
Eternal Earthsiege Diamond – Meta, 21 defense and wasted 5% block

There are a few others with defense but you will be better off with these gems.

Now lets take a look at the enchants that can help us out.

Head – Arcanum of the Stalwart Protector, 20 defense 37 stamina – Argent Crusade Revered

Shoulders – Greater/Lesser Inscription of the Pinnacle – Sons of Hodir Exalted/Honored, 15 defense 20 dodge / 10 defense 15 dodge

Shoulders – Masters Inscription of the Pinnacle – Inscription 400, 15 defense 52 dodge

Back – Enchant Cloak Titanweave , 16 defense

Chest – Enchant Chest Greater Defense, 22 defense

Wrist – Enchant Bracer Major Defense, 12 defense

Hands – Vindicators Armor Kit, 8 defense

Legs – you better not replace your Jormungar or Frosthide leg armor

Feet – Vindicators Armor Kit, 8 defense

Now remember, I’m not saying go out and get every single one of these enchants and slot all your gems with these. Just use the minimum number of these to maintain your uncritable status and keep the rest focused on other useful stats.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Alterac Valley FTW

I suck at PvP. Even when I ran a sl/sl lock with a shadow priest partner back in S1 I sucked. I'm not any good in WSG even with my druid. My hunter always gets meleed in AB since I'm terrible at keeping players at range.

But I can rock the charts in AV.
How did I destroy the damage meters you might ask? Especially since I just explained how much I suck at PvP. My secret, I'm a tank and AV needs tanks. All I need is a couple pocket healers and some DPS and I'll make sure Belinda and Vandar bite the big one and my axe is big.
The PvPers are happy because they get to kill each other keeping them off of me and don't have to waste their time fighting NPCs in a battleground.

What's wrong with this picture

The healer I was whispering was geared and experienced for Heroic AN. I was tanking. We never even cleared the first pull of the event on the first boss. C'mon, WTF?! the best DPS was 1041?! That's mediocre in T4 for a lock. Number 3 was a fury Warrior and #4 was a mage.

I'm an AOE tank, We pulled 3 mobs at a time, use your AOE. We can't afford to run the healer outta mana on Trash.

Without a doubt this was the worst pug I've had in over a year. Shame on me for not checking achievements and gear on DPS before inviting.

Culling of Stratholme got it right, Oculus got it wrong.

The most annoying part of Black Morass in BC was add management. If you didn’t have a pally tank you had to dedicate DPS to taking out the adds so they couldn’t go attack the Mideveh’s shield. Depending on the quality of the group, that could mean you didn’t have enough focused DPS on the main mobs and it was easy to fall behind or worse, run your healer outta mana and not give them a break. This was exacerbated by the separation that inevitably occurred between the add managers and the tank.

The other complaint I had about BM was the clearing before you really got started. It wasted time. Despite all of that BM was my favorite 5 man. The pace once it got started was non stop action.

Stratholme directly addressed those two issues. From the time you zone in, to the time you start can be done in minutes. Mobs worth killing are all in packs and are easily AOE’d down. In my small guild our level 80 DPS is basically all melee, I’d love to see what a good lock could do in there. The pace is non stop just like BM. The faster you burn stuff the more your healer can relax. This allows you to shift pressure off your healer and onto your tank for threat and DPS for speed.

After you’ve cleared the first two bosses and go talk to Arthas the pace doesn’t slack off. You are still constantly on the move heading towards the final two bosses. Every time I’ve been in there I’ve had a blast and the time slips by so quickly. I can easily see this becoming the instance of choice to grab 4 emblems and some rep.

The first time you did the defending Wyrmrest and you climbed aboard a dragon for air to air combat you loved it didn’t you. Tracking mobs in 3 dimensions suddenly added a bit of complexity to the ordinary kill x quests. Other than the easy 250 rep and 13g there is no reason to keep doing it. At the end of the day its cast the dot, hit the direct breath, heal and sprint as required. Got old real fast. Ice crown got it better jumping from dragon to dragon and fighting on their backs, though hunters might have a hard time with that.

The oculus is ruined by the disjointed pacing required by the dragon fights. I have yet to feel that flow from one pull to the next that you get in a dungeon or especially Stratholm. And after the first time you do the fights on the dragons they become more tedious than anything.

By the time you’re working dailies for rep, emblems, and gold I just don’t see the Oculus as a popular run.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Poll Results: DK Plans

Generally I like my job, but the past two weeks it’s forced me to go see the Borean Tundra in person. I know this poll isn’t closed just yet, but I can recall enough of the results to talk about it while I’m on the plane to kill some time. It’s that or prep for a meeting.

The poll basically asks whether you plan on being a DPS DK or tank, and at what level. 64% of you say you plan on tanking either heroics or Naxx. The results reflect the direction of the blog and the limited marketing I’ve done for it so far. Most of my articles are about tanking and the two articles that generate the most traffic for me deal with tanking. Y’all are looking for tanking info and hopefully I help answer some of your questions. I know when I was learning to tank with my druid I relied heavily on Karthis over at Of Teeth and Claws and Big Bear Butt.

My webstats tells me most of you found me by some replies I have left in various forums and blogs where I believe I have written a relevant post. This is pretty much the extent of my marketing with the exception of a post on Blog Azeroth.

What they don’t tell me is what other sources of DK information you use. I hope that if you are serious about playing a DK you use the Elitist Jerks Death Knight Forums and, I know I do. Both of these sources provide some great debate, insights, and mechanics that will help all of us be better Death Knights and ensure we don’t get a bad reputation.

Outside of those two sources of information there is WoWInsider of course as well as other Death Knight blogs. So I’m putting up a new poll with check all that apply. I am only aware of three other DK specific blogs. So if you read one of the other blogs let me know. You can tell me why in the comments if you like. Also, if there is a DK blog you like I haven’t listed put it in the comments and I’ll get it added to the new DK blogroll on the side.

I don’t believe we are in competition since it’s so easy to quickly check a bunch of blogs for a new post. Plus I enjoy seeing what others have to say about our class and how to get the most out of our new toons.

Emblem of Heroism Priorities

So you’ve started heroics, maybe even hit Naxx up already. If so I’m jealous. My favorite healer has been but we only have 6 80’s so I’m still waiting. In the meantime I’ve collected a few emblems of heroism and need to decide how to spend them.

Right now, when you check out the badge vendor you won’t see much. I suspect Blizz will patch some more goodies in sometime in the future. The question becomes, what order to get your upgrades. I’ve said it before, I’m pragmatic. Best in class gear for each slot is nice but if I can get 95% of the benefit with 50% of the effort I’m ahead of the game.

So how should you decide to get your badge gear? Some people will say, get the cheapest upgrades first, others will say, save up for the T7 chest. Me, I’m all about the biggest incremental gain per badge. WTF scourge, you gonna explain that?

Damn straight I will, and let me tell you upfront, you’ll need a calculator. I used a spreadsheet.

First things first. Incremental gain per badge is simply the extra benefit a new item gets me over my current item divided by the badge cost. (New-Old)/Badges. That’s the easy part.

The harder part is weighing all the items. All items can be reduces to their Attack Power equivalency which gives a DPS rating. I used the stat conversions over at the EJ DPS Compendium. Since I’m unholy I used their Unholy conversions. This is actually pretty easy, just multiply the items strength by its factor, the hit by its factor, ect and add them all up. Now you can compare every item from a DPS prospective. Bigger the number the better the item. You can also do the same thing with tank points. You can use the tank points addon to get some quality ratings for each item. I devised my own since I will be adding the tank value to the dps value of each item and I want to put additional weight on the tanking benefit an item gets me.

Now that you’ve created a DPS value and Tank value for all the badge gear you might want, and your current items you can start your comparison. Remember, to compare DPS specific rewards to your DPS set, tanking to tanking, or items you think will work for both to both. Simply take the difference (New(DPS+Tank))-(Old(DPS+Tank)) This is the incremental gain calculation.

So when I ran the numbers my biggest gain per badge is Chained Military Gorget Neck piece. It’s a sweet epic with 33 defense, 41 strength, 75 stamina, 32 dodge, and 21 hit. This is obviously a nice piece, so are the epic belts and T7 tokens. So why does this rate so high for me? One it’s relatively inexpensive at 25 emblems. In fact I can buy it next time I log in. Second, and more important, my current neck piece blows. I’m wearing the quest blue from the Icecrown argent crusade chain. I know I have that on my easy to get gear, but I’m moving past that. Not only is this a nice tanking upgrade, all the plus hit and the 17 additional strength will really help with the DPS as well.

There is still another thing you need to consider in using your list you built. Always save enough badges for the top item on your list. You will not need to review your list until you either purchase the top item on it or you upgrade your target slot through other means.

For example, after I get my neck, I will focus on the T7 gloves. But let’s say I pick up a new set of gloves along the way before I get enough badges. I will need to update my current gear points, which will lower the incremental gain the T7 gloves will give me, which will then reduce their value per badge. This may mean the T7 gloves will not be my top priority anymore and I will have to move on to the next item on my list.

The whole point of this, is to get the most value out of your badges and to keep you from wasting them on gear that doesn’t do anything for you.

Just a couple of last thoughts. If all you plan to do is DPS, ignore the tank points on any gear and just calculate the incremental using the attack power equivalency. PvP’ers may want to replace tank points with some weighting for the stam and resilience that many items have.

Benefits of a DPS set

Earlier I suggested that all Death Knight tanks should have a DPS gear set. I've been taking my own advice and I'm pleased to say it is worth it. 400 more dps just by changing some gear out with the dps rep rewards and drops from the heroics I've been running lately.

This was taken from a CoT regular run, but the last time I was in there a week ago my DPS was upper 1,400's. This kind of increase also makes me welcome in more heroic pugs as DPS when they already have a tank in place. More flexibility = more runs.

Now about heroic DPS, you need to stack hit. Mine is still too low and you can see the results in all the glancing blows I had with my melee.

12.3% glancing is a problem. The difference on this Heroic Utgarde Keep run only total's 9,000 damage, but trust me when I say that will add up over the course of a night in Naxx. The glancing and miss will be much worse as the mobs there are 83 instead of 81 elites.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dual Wield Tanking Take Two

Previously, I've said I'm not sold on DWTs. Our friend GC says don't write them off yet.

Let the debate continue.......

Rep Gains in Wrath

Back in the BC day when I was playing my bear tank I had to grind rep. All Feral Druids did. Why? Earthwarden, plain and simple. This thing was so good many druids wouldn't replace it until well into SSC when they could afford to lose the defense it had on it.

Here we see me running up the stairs in Kara after my first ever Moroes wipe while tanking. Yup that's the big ass epic mace I lived in Steam Vaults for. No guild worth their salt would let a druid tank without have grinded to exalted with Cenarian Expedition to get it. To make matters worse, the guild I was in didn't do a lot of 5 mans so I had to pug all the runs. I'd get home from work and hit trade and lfg for SV or heroic SP.

So far things are a lot easier. In one evening I pugged Heroic Nexus, Heroic AN, and regular Halls of Lightning for the daily and picked up over 6,000 rep. Obviously I had a rep tabbard on. At this rate I can run whatever dungeons I want to get go from friendly to exalted for a given faction in 5 or 6 nights of playing. Even less on nights when I have my guild on and we can clear content even faster. This also allows you to focus the time you put into dailies into factions that you can't wear a tabbard for.

I predict a lot more people getting exalted in 4 or more factions this time around, and not pissing and moaning about it when they have to do it on their 3rd or 4th toon.