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Excuses, Excuses

With regards to the looooonnnngggg stretches between posts, suffice it to say that between the vagaries of real life, the fact that I am no longer reduced to a puddle of incoherent rage on raid nights (due to there no longer being raid nights for a while), and the general, all-encompassing state of Waiting-For-Cataclysm, I haven’t had a lot to say on the topic of WoW. I figured silence was better than boring everyone – a policy I will likely maintain in the future.

Trying New Things (TM)

In the gap between now and Cataclysm I have tentatively been Trying New Things (TM). Things like a Warlock. Which has been going surprising well, pet pathing issues not withstanding. Also, a rogue. That one’s not going so well. See, I have a 40ish rogue, and you might think, gee Protflashes, that’s really good given that your previous record was level 17 with that class. But then I’d be obliged to point out that between level 17 and level 40ish a guildie basically chain-dragged my heirloom wearing ass through instances, and…now I’m level 40 and my toolbar is a vast and desolate wasteland of buttons I don’t know how to use.

Combo points are scary, leave me alone.

I also started a new warrior, which has, of course, been going delightfully because that class, I can do. You might think that this doesn’t really constitute under the Trying New Things (TM) thing I’ve been doing, and you would have been right up to a point.

But at level 40 I decided I wanted a title. In fact, I set my heart on a title. It is no longer a case of want. I absolutely have to get this title for this character. It is perfect for him. He must have it. He will have it.

I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently I picked the hardest fucking title in the whole god damned game. Nor was I fully cognizant, when I first chose it, that it doesn’t exactly happen in my neck of the woods, so to speak.

The title I am so dead set on earning for myself – cue drum roll – is Justicar.

Cue three-year-old temper tantrum – IwantitIwantitIwantit!

For those who don’t know, earning the Justicar title involves grinding to Exalted with three old-world Factions, each associated with one of the three old world battlegrounds (Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, Alterac Valley).

Battlegrounds…you know…PvP.

That thing I don’t do. The Land of No Tanks.

Okay, says I, no problem. I just have to get rep with the three vanilla PvP factions. Easy peasy. I did Warsong Gulch for a little while years ago. Even Arathi Basin once or twice when I was feeling brave. They give these little tokens, whether you win or lose, and you just hand those in for rep.

All I need to do, I told myself, oversimplifying in the interests of curbing the ever-present combination of fear and derision PvP invokes in my chest, is grit my teeth, suck it up, die a froopopapilliion times, and boom! Justicar.

I did some “research” into the title, which consisted of looking at a single forum thread and confirming that Warsong Gulch is the hardest one to get. So I decided to start with that one (having only two options at level 40ish). If it’s the hardest to get rep from, let’s get it out of the way before the novelty wears off. Plus it’s the only one I can really say I have any degree of understanding of since I have actually done it before (however poorly).

So I hit H, pop into the queue and three seconds later I’m in a game already in progress. Approximately three seconds after that – I’m not even out of the flagroom yet – I am assaulted with a summary screen that I vaguely remember means the game is over.

Did I mention I’m Alliance? Apparently we don’t win much.

Anyway, I shrug and think smugly to myself: fastest token ever. I open my bags and begin to look for my little thing I can hand in for rep. There’s nothing in my bags even remotely resembling a PvP token.

Vague memories of a set of patch notes saying blah blah blah tokens blah blah blah rep blah blah blah sucks to be you.

Queue panic.

I head for Google again, this time intending to look a little closer at just why this title is supposed to be so hard to get. Apparently the tokens I was banking on no longer exist.

The only way to get rep with the Silverwing Sentinels is by capturing the flag. 35 rep per capture, 45 on a Call to Arms weekend.

To put this into perspective for you, I have been stubbornly PvPing since I decided I want this title (all of a week or two now), and of somewhere between 50 and 100 games I’ve played, the vast majority of them end with a score of 0-3 for the Horde.

I can play a game for 30 minutes and the Alliance will not cap a single flag. If we don’t cap, I get no rep. I’m not just talking about a possibility, here, I’m talking about something that happens on a regular basis.

I added up the total of what I will need to get the title – basically 126,000 rep, split across the three factions. I’m currently at 1700ish. I’m not even Friendly with Silverwing.

I’m going to be at this a while.

Fish out of Water

So far I’ve only tried my hand at Warsong Gulch. I recognize I’m going to suck for a while (maybe even forever), but I’d rather not suck because I’m an idiot and couldn’t be bothered to at least look up what I’m doing. Long years of raiding have taught me that a bit of research goes a long way, especially in a PuG where one out of a hundred might actually be willing to take the time to explain something to you.

I already knew the basics of WSG, I read the article in the last WoW Magazine, I hit up WoWWiki and took a look at what they had written down in terms of tips, hints, and general strategies for winning.

It’s a shame that the strategies employed by the groups I’ve played with resemble absolutely nothing I’ve read….

I’m nowhere near experienced enough to start actively speaking up with regards to strategies or making statements about what we should or should not be doing in the chat itself, but the lack of communication, coordination, and common sense is already causing my raid-lead-instincts to twitch. I have, on several occasions, begged for someone to give me instructions. I have also gotten into at least three or four fights with people over the severe lack of utility inherent in waiting until you are dead and the flag has been returned to scream for some kind of support. Also over throwing in comments about teamwork, when you’re the twit who sauntered off down into the Horde base alone, without a word to the rest of us, as we desperately beat back a wave of five rogues, three shamans, and a fucking priest in our own flag room.

PvP is a chaotic, dirty game, and it’s so incredibly not the one I’m used to playing. There’s no real leadership in the PuGs. Even in a PvE dungeon PuG, the pace still needs to be set by the tank pulling and going in first. Even if there’s no official leader, there’s a recognized order to events that should be observed if one does not wish to die in a fire.

In PvE the strats are static, inflexible things. You find one that works with your group make-up and skill level and you fucking stick to that thing like glue. If anyone deviates from it you bark and snarl and nip at them like you’re herding sheep back into place. Everyone has a fairly rigid role in any given fight, responsibility is compartmentalized, assigned out to individuals, and is down in the weeds in terms of details. The field of play may change, but it does so at predictable, regular intervals.

In PvP – and take this with a grain of salt, for they are the words of a noob – there are strats (that nobody follows, but hey), but they are in no way inflexible. They can’t be. The field of play in PvP is a big roiling mass of players, doing whatever suits their fancy right now, in this moment, because honestly? I’m dead in two seconds anyway. So, assuming you have some kind of coordination, your strategy becomes a very high level, agile thing. Instead of a list of chronological events and the required reactions (PvE), it’s more like a priority list – a series of “if, then, else” statements. All the pieces are moving, all the time.

Biggest adjustment for me? Well, actually, there are two. The first is that there are no tanks. There is no threat. “Aggro” is gained through an arcane mechanic involving some combination of how easy you are to kill, whether you have the flag or not, and whether some jack ass on the other side has decided he’s going to pull your damn pigtails for the next thirty minutes, by which I mean detour unfailingly to beat the shit out of you behind a bush somewhere, not ten feet from the flag carrier he’s supposed to be caring about.

In fact, it almost works the exact opposite of the way it does in PvE. In PvE, aggro is gained by being the most threatening thing in the field of play. In PvP, we’re all a bunch of damn cowards. If I have a choice between chasing down a level 49 paladin, bristling in platemail, with a big-ass two-handed sword, and his bubble off CD, or a level 42 priest wearing Kleenex and standing all by her onsies off to the side in the hopes of avoiding notice….

I know who I’m going for. Sure the pally will kill me in the end anyway, but I’m taking that priest with me. An eye for an eye, an HK for an HK.

The second, and perhaps hard difference to wrap my mind around, is that life – any life; yours, theirs, whatever – has no value whatsoever. In PvE, success can actually be very generally described as living. The more people alive at the end of a fight, the better you did. If you die, you lose. You eat massive repair bills. You gimp your raid group as they try to finish the fight without you. There are heavy consequences for death.

In PvP you are put on this earth for one thing and one thing only, and that is to cause as much bloody inconvenience to anyone with a red name over their head as you possibly can before you go down in a blazing ball of poison, fire, and fucking DoTs. This whole process will take a grand total of – at maximum – two minutes. Within a maximum of 30 seconds you will be rezzed, automatically, at no personal cost to yourself or anyone else (whether monetary or manatary), and are free to rain destruction down upon your enemies for another two minutes.

Assuming you can get past the rogue camping the graveyard, but you get the idea.

There are no consequences for dying. Not only is it not the end of the world that you die, it’s part of the game. If you never died, it’s sort an eyebrow raising, where-were-you-when-shit-was-going-down-in-the-tunnel kind of thing. It happens, of course, but it is fairly rare to my inexperienced eye.

Nobody notices. Nobody mourns. Nobody screams and rants and rails. You don’t even care. Sometimes I actually find myself muttering “hurry the fuck up and kill me already so I can get back to my own base and fuck up the EFC before he gets off the ramp”. Or, in the case of a caster, so they can get their mana back.

The whole thing – the flexible nature of PvP strategies, the lack of sole responsibility for controlling where damage is coming and going (i.e., tanking), the complete and total renouncing of my overactive sense of self-preservation – is at once frightening and exhilarating; it’s strange and incredibly chaotic and it all feels so, so wrong…

But I think I like it.

And that scares me more than anything else.

So in the spirit of the Cycle of Burnout, I’ve moved from the “Sight of the Log-In Screen Makes me Burn Like the Sun with Resentment” Phase to the “Life is So Much Better Without WoW” Phase, and am currently entering the “Hmmm, I Wonder what my Warlock’s Doing Now” Phase.

I’m not quite ready to jump back into the fray entirely, but I’m getting there. More importantly, I miss my blog. Yes I do. Who’s a cute little bloggie? Who’s my cute little blog? You are! Yes you are!

/pet Blog

Anyway…

I half-took the very good advice of those of you who posted on my last Burn-Out Post (and though I’ve epic failed at responding to comments like I said I would, I read them all and they all helped me sort out my brain quite a bit). Probably should have taken it in full, but taking good advice is like eating healthy. I know I should do it, I know I will feel better for it in the long run, but God damn I want that burger.

In the end I wound up pretty much cutting out all WoW with the exception of the pre-committed raid/group nights (roughly three a week), and put certain plans in motion that will free me of the majority of those commitments at some point in the next few weeks. Knowing there’s a light at the end of the tunnel has done wonders for relieving the stress it was causing me.

Specifically, I took the advice of the lovely Tamarind, acknowledged that I am not the only tank in the village, and shacked up with Garrus for a while. It has been a much needed break from the grind.

Aside: if you haven’t played the Mass Effect games yet, you probably should. Like, for real. Even if you don’t like sci-fi/games where you shoot people instead of stab them. It has been a very long time indeed since a game absorbed me quite so completely as that one did. Also, it’s got Garrus. Garrus is win.

Though now that I’m starting to consider playing WoW as my main game again, I’m facing an intriguing conundrum – when I finally get back up to my computer room, load up the log-in screen, and hit “Enter World”…what do I do with myself? If I actually manage to extricate myself from the world of raiding and pre-determined commitments, and having to grind various resources in order to even play, what is there to do?

What did I do before I raided? What did I do before I heavily engaged in large-group play? Has it honestly been so long that I have trouble remembering?

I played alts, I know that much. But I was to the point where I’d look at my alts and see nothing but potential subs for our raids, possible buffs, useful professions – not a class, not a character.

What were my goals for them before they became little more than tools? When I first rolled them?

Did I ever really just play this game for shits and giggles?

Looking at my character screen kinda feels like I’ve just woken up. I blink and stare blearily at the list and go: Oh! Oh my God! That’s a Shaman! Not a melee-DPS slot, healer in a pinch. And holy shit! I’ve actually GOT a hunter there! Not just a ranged-DPS/kiter when required. And even the multitude of various tank-specced characters inhabiting that list have gone from being “alt-tanks for other raid groups if required” to being “my pally, my warrior, my druid, my DK”.

I’ve got my babies back.

The timing couldn’t be better, either. Last speculated date I heard for Cataclysm was September/October. That means I’ve got the summer to make whatever preparations I need to in order to be ready to jump right into Cataclysm at the points I want to – and I can enjoy the ride while I’m at it. I want to make sure I’ve got a few options at 80, on the Alliance and the Horde (one more 80 should do it. Maybe I could get my priest up…), a few options around level 40ish, and a few slots open for alts because while 90% of the rest of the game is running from 80 to 85 I fully intend to be picking Peacebloom in Elwynn or mining copper in Durotar and seeing what changes Blizzard’s made to the 1-60 game (which has long been my favourite part, no matter how stale it got after making the run 2 347 439 times).

Oh yeah, and I want a Worgen and a Goblin, because I have some kind of Pokemon complex.

I think I’d like to get either my rogue or my warlock into the 60 bracket a minimum, because I’ve never actually gotten either one past 20 under my own power. My rogue currently sits in the 40 bracket, but levels 20-35 were basically one big boost which means I don’t understand how to play him and that’s bad. They remain the two classes I’ve never gelled to in terms of playability.

I’d also like to get my mage into the 70 bracket. I don’t know if I have enough time for that, though. She’s in the 60 bracket, so not far off, but as I believe I’ve mentioned before, I spend a lot of time dead as a mage.

And the best part is, whatever I manage to achieve from that list, I won’t be doing it for the group. I won’t be doing it for the raid. I won’t be doing it for the guild. I’ll be doing it for me. And as selfish as that may be, I think it’s a lot of what I’ve been missing lately.

Oh Shits and Giggles, how I’ve missed you!

After a long, long run of tear-out-your-eyes boring old content farming, we (as a guild) finally stepped into ICC-10.  It’s still very new for me right now, so I’m in this kind of weird state where I haven’t actually formed a real opinion of the experience overall, but, nevertheless, I’ll share with you my first impressions.

I apologize in advance for the randomness, but…this is the internet, so *shrug*.

The good

a. The gunship battle is incredible fun.  Savethefails mistakenly triggered it early the first time and we all died horribly thereafter as we ran around like chickens with our heads cut off (hilarious!), but once we got the hang of it it was a blast.  Seeing the Horde ship fly in with Muradin yelling (Ulduar and HoS spoiled me for dwarves narrating instance and raid events — they are just too awesome to hear over the comm) at us to get our butts in gear…  Really epic.

b. Trash.  Trash means greens for DE and possible BoE epics, so I love trash.  It’s refreshing to see it again after months of boss loneliness in TotC! Plus, all the mobs in ICC grant you rep with some faction you can get neat stuff from; as much as heroics got boring fast, I did appreciate using them for rep grinds, so I’m pleased to be working towards something again (besides downing the next boss). 

c. Getting useful badges again.  So many of my little-played alts have full-on heirloom gear, and that’s a bad sign — it means I’ve been doing less-than-optimal content for a really long time.  But not any more!  ICC bosses drop Emblems of Frost, which must otherwise be acquired through the weekly (only 5, and only once per week), VoA (assuming you ever nail WG down at a time when you can get into VoA), or by running a heroic every day (difficult when you have time constraints IRL or no real drive to heroic dive).  Suddenly that fourth piece of T10 is not so much the stuff of dreams…

d. The raid group seems to have a bit more energy now that we’re into something new.  People talk on Vent — not a lot, sure, but it’s better than silence — and actually express joy when a boss goes down.

e. No incredibly annoying boss mechanics (yet).  That is…with the exception of phase 2 on the Lady, where occasionally one of the adds turns into some mutated fellow that the tank has to kite around but keep threat on.  That’s upsetting.  That aside, though, I rather enjoyed the fights (especially Saurfang, where we had a somewhat less-than-ideal class makeup to work with where the Bloodbeasts were concerned and yet still managed to do well) and am looking forward to seeing some new, original boss mechanics in future wings.

The bad

a. Because everything is new, the raid leader talks over the bosses in-game all the time and I (as a result) haven’t yet had the pleasure of actually hearing any of them speak.  I like boss speech, I dunno; it’s just one of those things I always look forward to when we do new content.  This becomes incredibly important in cases like, say, downing Saurfang — I’m sure something Ultra Mega Important was going on between the NPCs after the battle went down, but I could not hear a peep over the loot raid warnings and the people asking about whether or not what dropped was an upgrade.

b. Really short distances between bosses.  This is more a matter of personal preference than any kind of legitimate concern, but, there’s something about walking into a raid and being able to SEE the first boss RIGHT OVER THERE that just makes me raise an eyebrow.  What happened to suspense?  Anticipation?  The presence of trash at the start got me hopeful for a bit, but afterwards it felt like a string of bosses.  There was a bit of a jog at the top of the elevator after the Lady, but still…  Maybe I miss Naxx.  Or Kara.  I’d like the building to feel more like a building, but, at the same time, without boring the crap out of people with endless trash.  Tricky…

c. The traps in the room before Marrowgar (if I remember correctly — which I may not).  That’s just…ass.

d. I wish I didn’t have to go to my specific tier vendor in order to repair.  I mean, there’s a guy using an avil & hammer RIGHT THERE.  Does he just not like the way I look?

The ugly

a. Everything that drops in ICC is an upgrade for at least half the raid.  This is awesome, to be sure, but it also means we’re likely to have to wait a while before we can move to another wing.  That’s a shame, as I’m afraid this first wing will get boring quickly once we’ve covered it for a few weeks, and there may or may not be time to try our hand at the next before the summer rolls around.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed — I’d like to check out those plague bosses!

b. Rogue T10.  Hahahahahahaha, suckers!

This is a bone. I am picking it. Perhaps unwisely.

Can somebody please define “progression” for me? In the context of guilds and raiding, I mean.

Google shows me “a series with a definite pattern of advance.”

So is a “progression guild” a guild that regularly advances, or is it enough that regular advancement is simply one of your goals? Does actual advancement matter? If your primary concern is dropping bosses and moving onto the next in line, but you kind of suck and the bosses don’t drop, can you still call yourself a Progression Guild?

Who gets to decide what is and isn’t a Progression Guild? Who gets to make that call?

I see the two phrases (“progression” and “progression guild”) thrown around a lot, but I’ve never gotten a really solid sense of what they actually mean, short of progression seems to refer to moving through content, and I assume a progression guild is one for whom moving through content is their main goal.

Are there any other kinds of progression that could be considered valid?

We have a very casual guild, and a very casual 10-man raid group outside of the requirement that all members show up on the designated nights. We don’t even make them read strats (to be perfectly honest, it’s almost easier that way. Less argument over the best way to do X). I get snarly any time anyone brings up the word “progression” in relation to our raid group – not because I don’t think we can “progress”, but because I don’t fully understand the meaning and because the word does strange things to people’s brains.

Half our raid group started out as newbies – they joined the game itself just before Wrath dropped (or after). Half of them had never really even grouped or instanced. Ninety five percent of us had never raided before. We started with and eventually cleared Naxx. We’ve done the first half of ULD. We’ve killed all the dragons currently available. We’ve cleared TotC. We haven’t tried ICC as a group yet, but will soon enough once we’ve drained TotC of its goodies.

Is this progression? Does it count? Does speed matter? It took us a long time to do it, in large part because there’s only so much time we can commit to this shit in a week and Blizz only recently gave us the option to extend lockouts, but it’s still a series with a definite pattern of advance. We’ll get into ICC before Cataclysm drops, and if we never drop the Lich King, oh well. It’s still advancement, right? Do you have to be able to drop the Lich King for it to be considered “progression”?

Raiding has taught me a lot about tanking I simply couldn’t learn from questing and heroics. I’m a better player for it – quicker on my CDs, greater understanding of my class, easier time with positioning and movement. I’ve learned, I’ve improved. And I’m not the only one. Our DPS have clawed their way up from 1.5K way, way back in Naxx, to 3-5K now in TotC – and it’s not just gear. I can’t count how many times a given DPS has had a sudden jump, or even a slight incline, after they’ve gone out, done their research, and learned a better way to play their class. One of our DPS switched to healing and seems to have found their niche. They’re improving well, learning the rhythm and getting better every raid. As a group we’ve learned how to move, how to predict each other. We’ve learned strats, learned where we need to mod them to suit us, and how to execute them. We have an easier time learning new encounters, and people have improved in their understanding of raid mechanics.

Again…a series with a definite pattern of advancement. Does this count as progression? We’re learning, improving, growing as players and as a group. Even if a boss doesn’t drop and we spend a whole night wiping, we’ve still progressed, haven’t we? A few more “don’t”s to add to the strat. A few more people looking up their class to figure out where they’re going wrong. A few others finding alternate ways to do a common activity to make it work in a new context.

I’m okay with progression as I suspect it’s currently defined – the act of dropping bosses and advancing through content as quickly and efficiently as possible, irrespective of gear or skill advancement (though obviously these are a big part of being able to move through content). Under these circumstances, no we’re not a Progression Guild, nor would I want to be. The fact that we’re a casual group with limited time means our priorities lie elsewhere. If we advance we are ecstatic, but the primary goal is not that kind of progression. It’s assumed official progression will happen as a consequence of a gentler type of progression.

What I’m not okay with is when individuals inside or outside of our casual guild/raid group hold up the idea of “official progression” as the only valid indicator of win or fail. Their goal is official progression, irrespective of the guild/raid’s goal. The group’s goal is supposed to be a more informal type of progression – a gradual increasing of skill, ability, and gear, while simultaneously having a good time, free of the pressure of trying to be the first guild evar to drop the Lich King.

But these things mean little to those members for whom advancement through content trumps skill advancement and personal improvement. If we wipe a couple times, even if we improve each time, they are quick to get frustrated and start throwing around words like “never” and “fail” and “on my other server.” Even though they know – and have been told multiple times – the effect this has on the rest of us who are content to play our game at our own pace and whatever happens happens. And because they carry themselves as though they are somehow above the rest of us, a few of our members have an unfortunate respect for them and their words carry weight, regardless of their validity in the current context. If they say we’ll never be able to do it and we’re just not good enough, they’re believed. And it’s very hard to combat this.

We do advance. We do progress. We get through content. We drop bosses. We move on to other bosses. We one-shot some stuff (half of TotC, for Christ’s sake, including the faction champs and the Val’kyr). We ten-shot other stuff. But eventually it all goes down, we get our gear, and we move on.

It’s not fast enough for some people, and they hold this golden cow of “progression” up and compare us against it and find us wanting. As though we’re not progressing. As though we’re not moving forward.

To me, the word “progression” implies a line between two points, moving in a generally upward direction.

To them, the word “progression” simply refers to the highest point on the graph and to be considered successful and capable and worthy, you have to start at that point on the graph. The idea of starting at point A and working your way up to point B is anathema to these people.

If you’re a progression guild, it means you’re cool now. For whatever reason it doesn’t seem to occur to them that even the best raiding guild on the server had to work at clearing Naxx at one point or another. They had to grind heroics for gear. They had to wipe a million times at ULD.

They didn’t quit after two and a half wipes. They didn’t rob the group of joy in whatever they’ve managed to achieve to date. They didn’t belittle the efforts and improvements of their members.

“Progression” means a lot more than just advancing through content – progression through content requires progression in terms of skill, gear, and experience. It requires wiping. We’re going to have to suck before we can learn to rock.

Comparing a beginner against a professional, or a child against an adult, or a casual raid group against a hardcore progression guild, and naming them fail is a good way to halt progression entirely.

Just because it’s a gradual upwards line with a few peaks and valleys doesn’t make it any less progression than a steep upward slope with no ticks downward. It’s still a series with a definite pattern of advancement.

Nothing quite so defeating as watching your group improve and advance in their own time, in their own way, and knowing it’s never going to be good enough for some of them, and they will forever try to devalue it for the rest of us.

…and my boss said: “play around with it and figure out how it works.”

So…I did!

I am livid right now. We had what was, to all extents and purposes, an excellent raid last night (well…a couple nights ago by the time this post is live). We got a fuck tonne of achievements. I got my Champion of the Frozen Wastes title finally (I’d “had” it, just scattered across three characters, so even though I’ve done all the content, I never had the title). We had a grand total of four wipes, each of them instantly corrected. Things dropped quickly, cleanly, and efficiently. Then it all went to fucking Hell in the last 30 minutes. Fucking. Hell. And not because of performance – because of personality. Because of drama. Because of afudkalfjweiahfjvzxnm,huewfajkxcz!.

But I’m not going to talk about it. And I’m not going to think about it. I’m going to go to my Happy Place.

My Happy Place is a spot, hopefully not too far in the future, when the entire world of Azeroth is torn to shreds by a great, burning dragon – and along with it, the hordes of drooling, over-geared, under-skilled, ignorant, arrogant, elitist pricks who think they’re better at this game than the rest of us because they’ve been handed their Tier on the backs of other people’s work and wouldn’t know a CC from a decurse if it bit them in the ass.

In this Happy Place of mine, Kill Orders are not just pretty icons designed to make the game more visually entertaining as the mobs dance in your AoFuckingE. They’re actual Orders, like a military commander might give you. They’re placed strategically to ensure priority targets are taken down quickly and efficiently, with minimum casualties. And if you don’t follow it you die and you wipe the group. Do that often enough and you won’t have a group.

In my Happy Place, AoE is a strategic decision, made after careful consideration of a given encounter. It is not a part of anyone’s rotation. Indiscriminate use will carry heavy consequences. Tanks will no longer be blamed for a poor AoE decision – rather, the AoEer will be expected to bear the weight of his own mistakes. I will never see the following, in relation to AoE, again: “wtf y i die/”. Instead, it will be: “wtf y u aoe rtard/”

In my Happy Place, there are consequences for idiocy, because tanks and healers can no longer indulge in, or compensate for it. DPS will be just as important as the other two roles because their job will encompass more than damage. They will not be selected based solely on two numbers – gearscore and Recount – they will be selected based on their ability to maximize their DPS to the extent possible while also CCing, decursing, and kiting. Their role will require skill, which no gearscore can passively compensate for.

In my Happy Place, all the cockweasels (to use my new favourite word, courtesy of Tamarind) who have been facerolling this content without any skill or attempt at improving themselves as players and members of the community will quit the game, because raiding and maybe even instancing will actually require you to wipe once or twice in order to learn the mechanics, and they just can’t deal with that. These people will wander, guildless, through a desolate wasteland of failpugs, trying to find a group willing to carry their unskilled, impatient, ungrateful ass through content that will forever make them its bitch.

In my Happy Place, regular raiding will require a fairly stable group – either through a guild, or perhaps a friendlist. This means it will require positive attitudes, a sense of community, and good behavior. You will have to be skilled at what you do, able to carry your own weight, and a nice enough person that people like you. Because you can’t just faceroll this shit anymore. You can’t just PuG it out to the drooling masses. You have to pick and choose who you take with you. And as I’ve already said, raiding in my Happy Place requires wiping, and nobody wants to make the run back from the graveyard with an asshole howling the whole way.

My Happy Place will also have weather. Because I agree with everything in this post.

In my Happy Place, the game has finally found that elusive balance between the hardcore and the casuals. Between accessibility and facerolling. Between PvP and PvE. Between major plots and an individual’s story. Between soul-sucking frustration, and free-soaring triumph.

I’m there right now, in my head. I can already see it. Every douchebag who’s ever made the in-game lives of me and my friends Hell is dying in the fires of the Cataclysm as we speak, writhing and screaming and too stupid to even know they’re standing in bad. The rest of us are gathered together on a hill somewhere in the Barrens, basking in the warmth, reveling in our sudden freedom from asshats. The General chat is curiously free of Chuck Norris jokes; someone requests the location of Mankrik’s wife. Someone else answers. A bird chirps, a zevhra is born, and the Circle of WoW moves on, unfettered from the chains of sloth and idiocy that repressed it for so long.

“Hey,” says someone in the group on the hill, “let’s go run heroic Deadmines.”

“Yes,” I respond, nodding slowly. Smoke rises from the ashes at the centre of the crater below us, and in that slender, ephemeral trail I find peace between myself and this game at last. “Let’s.”

So, since my brain-switch is most of the way to off, and my internal monologue sounds a lot like this right now – IwanttosleepIwanttosleepIwanttosleepIwanttosleep – I have resorted to looking back at a list I wrote a month or so ago when we first started the blog of possible topics. I apologize in advance if this lacks coherency in any way – in case you missed it the first time, all I really want right now is sleep, so my brain is not necessarily being cooperative.

The topic, as written on that list, is “what do tanks expect from their party?” An interesting question, with a bit of a layered answer.

On the surface:

I want the DPS to…


  1. Understand your class and your abilities, and recognize that just because a button doesn’t do massive damage doesn’t mean it’s never to be pushed. CC, dispelling, shielding, silencing, interrupting, and even high-threat abilities all have a place – if not in your rotation, at least in your larger scale gameplay.
  2. Follow the kill order. If there is no kill order, follow my target.
  3. Let me pull unless I specifically ask you otherwise. Misdirect doesn’t make up for me not being able to position the mobs appropriately.
  4. The kill order. Follow it.
  5. Stand behind the mobs/boss unless specifically told to do otherwise. I don’t love you enough to eat parries because you can’t tell the front-end of Anub’arak from his ass.
  6. Kill orders are for following.
  7. Understand that you’re responsible for your own AoE unless I’ve specifically told you to do it. If I’ve taken the time to establish a kill order and haven’t said “AoE them down”, and you want to Blizzard…go nuts. But understand that if you pull, it’s your own damn fault. The next words out of your mouth had better be “sorry! Didn’t mean to pull!” and not “wtf lrn 2 tnk”.
  8. And last, but certainly not least, follow the fucking kill order.

I want the Healer to…


  1. Keep me alive, please and thank you – though one likes to assume this goes without saying.
  2. This is not necessarily fair to expect of the heals, but on some level our shared responsibility for group survival leads me to look to healers for support and back-up in the case of a party/raid member not behaving appropriately (say…not following a kill order, pulling aggro, and taking a shit-tonne of damage before the situation can be corrected). I like to think this causes as many problems for the healer as for me, so I tend to look to the healer for back-up here.
  3. If, for some reason, you’re having a hard time – content’s too hard, your gear’s too low, you’re new to the spec/class, you’re too used to healing for over-geared, under-smart tanks, you’re stoned out of your mind and completely unable to differentiate between the warlock and the warrior (I know, we’ve both got “war” in our class names, but come on) – please don’t blame your ilevel 232-245, DEF capped, 40K HP tank for your fail, by intimating they don’t have enough HP/DEF/gearscore. If you’re going to assign blame away from yourself, at least have a realistic excuse. No point insulting my intelligence along with my gear.

All of this, of course, begs the obvious question – what do the DPS/Healers expect from a tank? I’m neither DPS nor heals (on any kind of committed basis, anyway), but I can hazard a guess (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong):

The (intelligent, good) DPS want me to…


  1. Be able to maintain enough threat that they can DPS to the utmost of their abilities, without having to destroy their Recount numbers to keep from pulling off of me.
  2. Try to stand as still as possible, without sacrificing threat, so the melee DPS don’t have to keep chasing the mobs down, and the ranged don’t have to keep repositioning any AoE.
  3. Establish a kill order, or at least a bare bones one. They understand the relation between my threat and their DPS, and they understand a kill order helps me as much as them.
  4. No, seriously, make sure I enough threat.
  5. Pull only what I’m (and the healer’s) capable of surviving – if I die, so do they, and no one appreciates a repair bill.
  6. Wait between pulls if required so mana-based DPS can get back that which is required for DPS to happen.
  7. Threat, threat, threat, threat, threat, threat, THREAT!

The (retarded, drooling) DPS want me to…


  1. Hahahahahaha! You’re funny! The retarded DPS don’t know what a tank is or what it’s for. They just think I’m the fourth, super-shitty DPS.

The healer wants me to…


  1. Be appropriately geared for the content I’m tanking. This doesn’t mean I need to have T9 to tank heroics, but I need to make sure I’m wearing what’s necessary to keep a given instance from tearing me to tiny little pieces while the healer sobs over the tragic waste of a life – because that’s all they’re going to have time for.
  2. Be able to generate sufficient threat for my character/gear level. It’s not that I’m going to lose aggro to the healer (you’d almost have to be doing negative threat), it’s that I’m going to lose it to the DPS. And then the DPS are going to start dying. And then the Healer’s job is going to be exponentially harder than it has to be.
  3. Understand that healers are like whales – I need to save them. There should be a t-shirt. If the healer’s picked up aggro from somewhere and a monster is happily munching away on them, get thee to the back line and taunt that shit. I fail as a tank if I let monsters munch on my healer. Fail. May as well hang up my shield and my +DEF sword and ride on into the sunset. My welcome in Tank Town has finally worn out.
  4. If I’m dying like a bitch, perhaps it would be wise to turn the Lens of Shame on myself before immediately assuming it’s my healer’s fault. Is my gear good enough? Was I standing in fire? Did I let monsters stab me repeatedly in the backside? These things are my fault, not my healer’s. Until I correct my own problems, I have no business blaming someone else for them or even their own.

What everyone wants from everyone else…

So, there’s a common thread here, running through the wants and needs of every group itemized above – kill orders.

No! Wait!

Well, yes. Kill orders help everyone. But that’s not the thread I’m referring to.

Tanks play the game to tank. They want to generate threat, have the monsters focus exclusively on them, and have the defences to survive the attention. If they’re not doing it (if the DPS are pulling aggro, if the healers aren’t paying enough attention, if anyone is pushing them faster and harder than they’re comfortable going) then they’re not having fun.

DPS play the game to do damage. They want to light into a monster’s backside and watch Recount tick upward. They don’t want to have to focus on Omen. They don’t want to have to spam vanish or soul shatter. They don’t want to die and not be able to do anything for the remainder of the fight because either the tank or the healer wasn’t doing their job. If they’re not doing damage, they’re not having fun.

Healers play the game to heal people. They like playing Healbot whack-a-mole. They like strategizing and planning out which heals for which people in order to ensure the most efficient, effective last-minute-save. If the rest of the party is sucking – tanks that aren’t geared right, DPS that don’t care where they’re standing, or what they’re standing in, a chaotic melee where even the mobs can’t seem to figure out who’s the tank – there can be nothing effective or efficient about their heals, and they’re fighting a battle against time. Sooner or later the heals will be too late, through no fault of the healer, and the group will wipe. This isn’t fun for them. Not in the least.

When you act “badly” in a group, you’re not just showing disrespect to your companions, or making things difficult – you’re detracting from their happiness. You’re killing their joy. You are being no fun.

Players of all three stripes are required for the game to function. The game is specifically built around this mechanic – not only is it, in fact, possible for all three types of people to play together and still have fun in their own ways; assuming everyone’s playing the game well and respecting each others’ role, it’s almost impossible for everyone to not have fun. But that’s a pretty big assumption.

It’s relatively easy to tread on people’s toes without even meaning to. We have a couple guildies who legitimately enjoy big pulls and opening fire with their biggest AoE spells before I’m even in range – they think it’s funny, as a matter of fact. They’re not necessarily being malicious. But they’re not being particularly considerate either. They’re not recognizing that in doing so, they’re actually, physically denying me the right to play – and I’m unlikely to be impressed at how “epic” they are; nor am I going to laugh and agree when they point out how they don’t even need a tank. Maybe that’s tonnes of fun for them, but it’s really fucking boring for me to sit there and watch my DPS do a bunch of shit I know there’s no way I can compensate for – specifically removing my ability to play the game. I get sidelined. It’s as frustrating and enraging as being a DPS who dies on the pull and gets to watch everyone else have fun for the next two minutes of fighting while you try to mentally calculate your repair bill.

Of course, these DPS might argue that who am I to get in the way of them playing the way they want? I have many, many answers to that, but all of them are biased, so I’ll just keep my mouth shut.

In the end, no matter what class, spec, or role you play, what you want from your party/raid/guild is simple:

Let me play the game I want to play.

Warning: High levels of cynicism and near-raid-burn-out follow. A long week so far, plus not enough sleep and a few bad raid experiences lately have combined to make this post a bit more negative than I originally intended. Also, I believe it’s slightly more scattered and rambly than usual.

This is a weird topic for me – not that the topic is weird, but that it makes me feel weird to talk about it. Tamarind at Righteous Orbs has a post about his brief run-in with leading a raid, and I identify with everything he went through, except the part where he vows never to do it again.

In particular, the way he wound up inadvertently (or almost) raid-leading an Ony-10 run was eerily similar to the way I wound up raid leading our current regular group – in a nutshell, because no one else was/would.

When we first started raiding regularly, our then-raid lead asked me to look up all the strats and relay them to the group. And then call out instructions as the encounter progressed. Given that layteknight was administrating the run (scheduling, invitations, roles, etc.) one wonders what was left for him to do that would allow him to claim he was leading the raid, but hey. That’s a post for another time.

So, initially, because I was excited about raiding (oh if I knew then what I know now) and had no idea how these things work and had fully intended to watch every video I could find anyway, I agreed.

And promptly ate shit for it. Everything from my instructions were too long (God forbid I let everyone know what they’re supposed to do, or say something more in depth than “Tanks tank, DPS DPS, heals heal”), to my instructions were incorrect or overly complicated (it may have been true, but as I primly reminded our illustrious raid leader, he had asked me to give the strat for a fight I’d never done. I had nothing to go off of but Wowwiki, so if he knew the fights so well, perhaps he should be the one giving instructions. Since communication was anathema to him, and he really didn’t want to do it himself, he let it go). I remember getting my dander up over the fact that apparently half the raid had better ideas, but somehow I had still been asked to go look this shit up and relay the instructions.

If half the freaking raid has been here before, why am I doing redundant extra-curricular homework so they can complain that I don’t know what I’m talking about?

Oh, right, no one else wants to.

So eventually I get tired of it, and I neglect to do it one night. I don’t even look up the fight in advance so I know what I’m doing. I may or may not have had valid reasons for not doing it, I don’t recall. It doesn’t really matter, though. I figured someone else could take a turn for once. Half the group’s been there before, but won’t talk about it. Half the group’s never been and can’t be arsed to look it up. I decided that I’d done my duty and it wasn’t my turn anymore.

I learned something about the bulk of my raid group that night.

They cannot put information into any kind of coherent, useable format. I mean…not even chronological. Nobody understood anything, and it took us three times as long to sort through the freaking stack dump of largely useless information to distill actual instructions from it. In the end, I wound up asking a million questions to clarify, and restating everything at the end anyway. I may as well have looked the damned thing up. And I still wound up calling instructions during the encounter because even though everyone has Vent installed, no one remembers where their push-to-talk key is.

I should probably clarify something here. In real life I am a shrinking violet. I am shy as all get out and the thought of talking to these people I’d never actually met, let alone telling them what to do, terrified me on more levels than I care to name. When we first started I would end practically every night by asking layteknight if I was being overbearing, or annoying, or if people were mad or irritated with me. I would wonder out loud whether I had given too much detail, or was I moving too slow, or was I asking too many questions, or waiting too long for other people to ask theirs. Did I really need to call all that stuff out over Vent? Was I being patronizing? Was so-and-so offended when I called him out by name for standing in the fire half-way through the fight?

I’m telling you, I was not cut out for raid-leading, and I’m not convinced I am now. I remain shy, and only speak over Vent because I have to. If I could hand the Raid Lead mantle off to someone else I trusted – who actually wanted the position and was capable of actually leading the raid (there was a brief period where another guildie lead the raid before I picked it up officially and it was, um…incredifail. He made layteknight loot master, never talked about strats, and only pressed Push-To-Talk in order to ream someone for not doing some thing or other he’d never bothered to tell them they had to do) – I probably would. I’m better suited to support than lead, I think, but at this point it’s not an option.

But I’ve learned a few things in the time that’s passed between way back then and now that makes it a bit easier. I’ve gotten the hang of some things I didn’t have before. Key among them is this:

Maybe the raid group doesn’t like the way I’m doing things, but I don’t give a flying fuck (in fact, if I am to preserve my sanity, I must not give a flying fuck). If I’m doing something someone doesn’t like, they’re welcome to bring it up with me, and once or twice they have and I’ve either corrected the behaviour or a compromise was reached. But by and large, especially if they never bring it up and/or can’t be bothered to work with me on a solution, they can STFU, DIAF, and various other cantankerous acronyms.

I do the raid-lead thing because no one else wants to, and it absolutely must be done or we won’t be able to raid at all. I recognize that some of my skills/personality traits complement the position (organization/presentation/distillation of information (believe it or not, I AM capable of brevity if I really have to be), ability to understand all three roles and what’s required of them, willingness to analyze a wipe in an unbiased way (I don’t automatically spare myself/those I like, or blame those I don’t like)). I also recognize that some don’t (shy, confrontation-averse, intense desire to make and keep everyone happy despite the inherent impossibility of it). As an added bonus, my position as MT means I’m generally in control of the field of play (as much as possible) and can warn the raid if I’m about to do something that’s going to impact them (move, get incapacitated, die, etc.).

I didn’t set out to be a raid lead, but I fell into the position for a variety of reasons, not least of which no one else wanted to. And I certainly don’t do it alone. My voice is the one the raid hears more than anyone else, but layteknight’s running the admin and the back-door politics (keeping ten people happy is fucking work, man), and SaveTheFails is always working with me to adapt our strats and analyze wipes. He’s one of the few in the raid who also looks this shit up in advance.

What irritates me the most about raid-leading, though, isn’t that I have to do it. The position has its ups as much as its downs, and there are aspects of it I do, in fact, enjoy – there are some I used to hate, but am slowly, grudgingly coming to appreciate. Nor do I necessarily hold not wanting to raid lead against anyone, because, hey, I understand that. Half of our raid doesn’t want the position for various reasons, but they understand in not taking it up that they are, on some level, submitting to the whims of the one who does. I’m not exactly iron-fisted, here, but there’s a reason raid-leads are required. If we’re in the middle of a boss-fight and I tell you to jump, I actually need you to jump, and I don’t really care if you feel like doing it. If you don’t like the instruction we can discuss it after we wipe, but not during the encounter. Most of our raid gets this.

They keep off Vent during encounters unless they need to notify us of something per the strat currently in play (they’ve been incapacitated, frost tombed, whatever). If they have something useful to add to a discussion or strat, they do so at the appropriate times, in a helpful manner. Otherwise they keep quiet. They wait for and accept the ultimate analysis of a wipe.

No, what irritates me the most about raid-leading is that the rest of the people in our raid may not want or be able to raid-lead, but damn, have they got opinions. About everything. At the worst possible times.

Half of them spend the entire strat discussion restating redundant information in a strange or confusing way (prompting whispers to me asking for clarification from the other members of the raid). They correct me half-way through a strat discussion, as opposed to waiting for me to finish, at which point we have an actual, sanctioned, ‘does anyone have any questions/clarifications/corrections’ period. They call instructions over Vent during the encounter, often counter to the strat or to something I’ve just said (more than once this has caused a wipe – we’re still trying to beat this out of them. Mostly, though, the raid knows their voices now and knows enough to ignore them).

These are the folks who, after a wipe, do one of two things. They either:


  1. Immediately point fingers anywhere but themselves, or pick their favourite scapegoats and start correcting them publicly and bluntly (often on things they did just fine, which means I need to step into the raid chat to defend members who weren’t the cause of the wipe from idiots who just want to correct someone. The last line of the Blame Canada song from the South Park movie comes to mind – “We must blame them and cause a fuss / before somebody thinks of blaming us!”); or
  2. Sullenly demand to know why we wiped and how come we suck so much and oh my God we’re never going to be able to do this and there’s too much dead weight in the group.

None of which is helpful. They know everything that’s going wrong, were you to ask them (interestingly, they seem to miss the actual problems, or at the very least take a narrow view of what’s going on, preferring to blame a single, isolated event, rather than look at the raid-wide issues). They complain incessantly about everything. Nothing is run right, nothing is done well, there are too many problems in the group, the raid lead doesn’t know what she’s doing, our healers are crap, the OT’s too shitty, the MT’s wearing Kleenex, half our DPS aren’t carrying their own weight, we’re made of fail and we’re never going to progress.

Were you to ask them, they could probably enumerate every single iota of fail in our group; every weakness, every flaw, every problem (except themselves). They talk incessantly of issues and failures…

…but never solutions. If they could identify those, it would be almost like they were leading the raid, and that’s treading dangerously close to actual responsibility, which is far too much to ask of these delicate flowers.

The end result is that I (and layteknight and SaveTheFails) spend half the night fiercely defending the bulk of our raiders from the negativity and arrogance of these few individuals (which includes everything from publicly correcting/reprimanding negative raiders who are attacking others needlessly, to taking a raider with an obvious bone to pick into whispers to keep their bile out of the public eye and protect our raid group’s fragile morale), and the other half soothing the egos of these members, because like it or not, they’re part of the group too and their happiness is as important to our success as the others’.

As near as I can figure, raid leading (at least for a casual group – especially one with very few redundant members and subs) breaks down into the following (and no few of these responsibilities can be delegated):


  1. Administrating the group:
    • Choosing the raid and progression path, taking into account the group’s success to date and current capabilities (skills/gear), as well as general group opinion. Basically, answering the question of “Where are we going tonight?”
    • Scheduling and invitations (who comes, who doesn’t, who can’t make it, who subs in, do we need to PuG anyone?);
    • Handling loot rules, rolls, and disputes;
    • Assigning roles (MT, OT, MH, OH, RH, etc.);
    • Ensuring adequate group balance (enough ranged vs. melee, etc.).

  2. Knowing the fight, preparing a strategy, and facilitating its execution (including calling instructions over Vent during the encounter if necessary).
  3. Analyzing group performance and isolating the variables leading to a wipe in order to ensure improvement.
  4. Knowing the strengths, weakness, desires, and irritances of a group of ten to twenty-five people and actually, somehow, taking that all into account when making decisions, then dealing with the fall-out.

And now…I rant.

Some thoughts on what seems to be required to achieve #4 above, most of which are the reasons why I remain a reluctant raid-lead:

Happy people keep raiding, rebound well after wipes, and are willing to make corrections or sacrifices in order to succeed. So keep everyone happy. Somehow. Good luck.

Balance the desires of the “hardcore” crowd against the desires of the “casual” crowd. The hardcore people will always think the casuals suck. The casuals will always think the hardcore people are either Gods or total douchebags or both. Both sides fail to understand that neither the “hardcore” nor “casual” labels actually indicate anything about a player’s skill – just how much free time they have, and how much crap they’re willing to take for the sake of numerically superior loot. There’s nothing inherent in either to worship or deride, but hey. What’s life without a bit of artificial, misplaced tension.

When requests are made (“Can we go to TotC?”, “I’d like to switch my main spec,” “can I bring an alt tonight?”), give them reasonable consideration, and if it’s possible to allow them without severely inconveniencing the group, do so. Being flexible outside the raid instance gives you more leeway to be a Nazi inside.

Mediate disputes between players, or, if possible, prevent them altogether by recognizing a brewing storm and taking steps to deal with it. Learn to get really good at stroking egos while simultaneously deescalating conflict situations. If you can’t prevent a blow up, tell them to take it to whispers, or e-mail, but leave it out of the raid chat. It won’t work, but you need to tell them anyway.

Get good at shutting up and listening, even if you disagree to the point of physical pain. Sometimes people just want to say stupid shit, express an ignorant opinion, and feel like they’ve left their mark on everything in sight. It makes them feel good about themselves.

Get good at telling people to shut up. Bonus points if you can do it without them realizing they’ve been told to shut up. It helps if they’re stupid.

Don’t let “superior” players (in terms of skill or just attitude) steam-roll or abuse “inferior” players. Especially in a casual group. I don’t care if the “inferior” player is getting us wiped constantly, he’s still a human fucking being and there’s a bare minimum of respect required on that basis. To say nothing of the fact that letting a “superior” player get away with this is inviting repeat behaviour, and someday you’ll be the target.

“Inferior” players are still negatively impacting your raiding experience and may be preventing consistent success. Find a way to deal with this without being offensive, kicking anyone out, or hurting anyone’s feelings. I have no advice to offer here. I’m still trying to figure it out for myself. It’s different for everyone, depending on personality, relationship, etc.. I’ve got it down (I think) for a couple of our members, and I’m pleased to say they’ve been improving. But there’s a couple more who I don’t know how to deal with. So far they’ve been largely immune to subtle hints, and direct, evidence-based examples are met with excuses/redirecting of blame. More direct intervention may be required, but I remain the confrontation-averse shrinking violet I’ve always been, so I am loathe to escalate it for fear of causing pain. On the other hand, I recognize this is poor raid-leading and is, in fact, causing indirect pain to eight or nine other people instead of just one or two. But on the other hand, it’s rude to tell someone they suck, and who am I to judge, etc. etc.. But on the other, other hand, it’s not fair that one person refuses to acknowledge their part in our wiping and inability to progress and holds the rest of us back. But on the other, other, other hand this is an incredibly casual group so how fair is it to expect awesomeness from our players. But on the other, other, other, other hand…it goes on like this for hours. I am my own worst enemy.

Don’t let players who think they know better steam roll you as the raid lead – authority undercut is not authority at all, and you need the authority in order to keep things clear and coherent. Split or unclear authority and accountability creates more problems than you can possibly believe. This doesn’t mean you can steam roll your raid either. Their input is valid and they’re contributing to your success as much as you to theirs. You have to take it all into account, even if you reject it in the end. What I mean is don’t bow down to arrogant fucks who can’t be bothered to actually take any responsibility or do any work, but are quick enough to cut you down or criticize you for doing a duty they refused to take on, though their wisdom is great and their experience infinite. In their last guild, they did this stuff all the time and they never wiped.

Treat every problem and complaint like you care. Talk to every raid member like they’re important. Believe it, somewhere deep down, and remind yourself every day that they all matter, they’re all valuable, they’re all contributing. But on the surface, and in secret, don’t give a flying fuck, or you will never be able to get through this, balance it all, and not go crazy.

And the weird part is, I read the above and I disagree with half of it in principle. You shouldn’t have to stroke the egos of arrogant fucks. You shouldn’t have to mediate disputes between two adults. You shouldn’t have to defend people who should be capable of defending themselves, from people who should be mature enough not to require the bringing down of others to feel good about themselves.

You’re playing a game like everyone else, you’re paying the same amount every month, so why should you have to sacrifice your own happiness – because in a lot of cases, that’s what the above comes down to – for the sake of everyone else’s good time? Why should you have to work your ass off so everyone else can just coast into the instance, have their instructions spoon-fed to them, their hand held through the fight, and their fragile self-esteem patted and coddled if they wipe us?

You shouldn’t. In an ideal world. Which this isn’t.

Someone has to do it. Someone has to do the prep work, someone has to canvass raiders for what they actually want, and someone has do the work to make it happen. If I want to raid, I need at least nine other people to do it. If I want to raid, someone has to do all of the above. If no one else is willing or able to do it…who does that leave?

And this is how you get reluctant raid leads. A raid lead (or leads) is as necessary for raiding as having the right number of tanks, healers and DPS.

Someone. Has. To do it.

Tam, in his post, refers to a game of raid-lead chicken, and in many cases, mine included, that’s what it is. Everyone knows this function has to be fulfilled. So everyone sits around and stares at each other, waiting for someone to crack.

I know there are people who thrive on this kind of shit. These are those uber-important leadership skills my boss is always talking about. I suppose I should be grateful for the experience and the chance to learn this shit outside of a professional setting (though it’s a shame I can’t put it on my resume), and on some level, I am. This isn’t a position I’m used to being in, and it has and continues to force me to develop skills that have long lain dormant and atrophied. In the end I’ll be a more well-rounded individual for it, if also more likely to have a heart attack and die. But it does make my game feel more like a second job.

Raid Leading is a strange business. The best and worst parts of it are both the people. Some of them are worth the work, and I’m happy to serve them in this capacity. Some of them are more work than they’re worth, and I’d be happy to serve them a golf club to the face. But we need them all if we’re going to raid, so I guess I’ll just have to suck it up and do what I have to keep everyone together, raiding, and happy.

After all, someone has to.

Positioning is very important in wow – and not just to tanks. It’s not necessarily something you think about a lot, mostly it’s just something you learn to do automatically.

I think tanks are more conscious of their own positioning than any other role, because it’s so unspeakably crucial to what you do.

DPS are perhaps the most oblivious (speaking generally) because their role is much more forgiving in this respect, and in those cases where it’s not, they’re dead pretty quick and either learn to correct it, or blame the healer/tank. In one case, they’re lovely and wonderful and welcome to party with me any time. In the other they’re horrible, hideous cankers on the face of my favourite game, and I invite them to continue to die in fires, as their pain amuses me and their deaths are a mercy to the rest of us trying to, you know, win.

Healers, interestingly, I assume are the most aware of everyone else’s positions – as so many of their heals rely on proximity, chaining, or other positioning based effects. This is why healers yell at you to tighten up and stand closer. This is why you being way the fuck over there is not helpful. This is why you don’t get healed. Whenever I see my healers running back and forth like unlucky chickens, I don’t blame them. I tend to blame the rest of us. They’re trying to catch everyone in one radius or another and odds are good we’re not making it easy for them. Shame on us. Shame.

The reason I continue to beat this dead horse (often known as being-where-ever-the-fuck-you-are-supposed-to-be) is because I recently realized just how mechanical positioning tends to be, and that I’m not the only person for whom this is the case. And nowhere is this more evident, than when I, or anyone, swaps roles.

Wanna know one of my dirty secrets (another one…this blog is becoming a confessional booth, I swear)? When I DPS, I stand in front of the mob.

I know! I’m the biggest hypocrite in the world!

But wait! Hear me out!

I don’t do it maliciously, or even consciously. I do it because I spend 90% of my in-game time tanking. So I mechanically, methodically, consistently, move to stand in front of the mob, facing toward the group – without even thinking about it! It usually takes me a good two seconds to realize what I’m doing, blanch with horror at the incredible faux pas, recall every single time I bitched out a DPS for doing exactly that, and hustle my ass back over to stand beside the rest of the melee DPS.

It’s one of the reasons I fail at ranged DPS (you know…moreso than melee DPS…which is also pretty fail for me). I can’t get it into my head that I’m supposed to stand at the back. I run up. I stand mid-range instead of max range. I don’t run away from mobs. Protflashes no likey the back. Protflashes want be at front.

Protflashes die a lot.

I’ve always known I do this, but I figured it was just me. I’m a habitual creature to begin with. I like me some routine, and nothing makes me crankier faster than messing with it. But a while back one of our raid DPS indicated they wanted to try healing. Glee abounded – someone actually wanted to try a pole position (there are approximately two of us in our raid that play a pole because we want to. The others have been coerced, cajoled, or took up the mantle from a sense of duty (the unfortunate fact of the matter is we need two tanks and two healers or we don’t raid, so someone has to suck it up…though it’s often like pulling teeth)).

The guy even had a pre-made healing set! He’d been plotting for this for a while, apparently, quietly rolling on off-spec in the background and PuGging when he could to pull it together. One day our MH (as in, the guy healing the MT; not to be confused with the guy calling the healing shots) called in sick (literally) and while we were debating what we wanted to do, I got a whisper from our new healer asking if he could try.

We run a casual raid group, and the hardest fucking part of the whole thing is making everyone happy. I could not imagine trying to do so in a twenty-five man. I think I would actually commit suicide. So when I get a whisper from someone, asking to take on a thankless role because they think they’d enjoy it more…I say yes (after checking with our defacto healing-lead (*coughSaveTheFailscough*) to make sure the fit will be okay and he’s willing to help coach the new guy).

Anyway, it was his first time raid-healing and we were in ULD, so it wasn’t, precisely speaking, a cake-walk, but he did really well under the circumstances. I whispered him every now and then during the raid to ask how it was going, and was he enjoying it, and was it okay. At one point we wiped and the blame pretty squarely belonged to him. He’d been standing far too close to a boss, got caught in an AoE that never should have hit him, and died. Shortly thereafter our OT followed. Then our MT (me). And that was pretty much that. I whispered him to ask what happened (as, in the moment, I couldn’t quite tell) and he explained that he was still thinking like a melee DPS and had been standing right beside the OT.

We laughed it off and continued on our way, but it got me thinking about positioning and how automatic it is. I was actually kind of relieved to know I’m not the only person who mechanically moves to the same spots, all the time – let alone who can’t figure out where I’m supposed to stand when I’m not in my usual role.

It makes me wonder how many other aspects of this game are automatic and mechanical. I think about Naxx and how often we ran it between getting good at it and Ulduar being released. I’d say it was pretty mechanical by the end of it. Simple things, like me calling instructions over Vent. I do it automatically. I knew those fights off by heart, and it never occurred to me that I didn’t have to call overloads, and novas, and stacks, and adds, and anything else DBM warns us about, but nobody pays attention to. I just did it unthinkingly.

And when, inevitably, someone pointed out I didn’t have to run down that stuff anymore, and I consciously chose to stop doing it…we wiped. Not because me calling things out was required, or my amazing wisdom and leadership skills are the key to our victory – Hell, we’d run the fights so many times we all knew it off by heart and probably could have run it with our eyes closed – but because everyone was at the point where they weren’t actively thinking about what they were doing, they were just mechanically reacting to various cues – in this case, my voice over Vent, saying “Three stacks, swap.” When that cue was taken away, active thought didn’t backfill the void, and so nobody reacted as required. They were still waiting for the cue that would trigger whatever subconscious part of your brain that handles actions performed automatically, as opposed to as the result of a conscious decision.

I don’t think this is a bad thing, and I’ve noticed it in other areas. Playing an instrument I haven’t touched in ages, for example. If I stop thinking about what I’m doing, my fingers actually remember where they’re supposed to go and the music sounds okay. The same applies in Warcraft. Were I to go back into Naxx now, after so long away, as long as I didn’t think about it or actively try to remember the strats, I would probably have no problems – assuming all my usual cues are in place.

Hell, it’s probably saved us from a wipe or two from time to time. Sometimes thinking gets in the way of reacting. But sometimes not-thinking does the same thing. So the automated nature of these things is alternately a boon, and a curse. It might help, it might fuck you up.

It might get you yelled at because you’re standing in front of the mob again.

Who knows?

N.B.: I am not nearly clever enough to come up with that title on my own – I saw it on a shirt and it seemed appropriate.

So, I’m being told that the blogosphere is afire with discussions about tanks/healers vs. DPS, the importance of these roles, and whether or not the former deserve extra rewards. Apparently I’m still not reading enough of the blogosphere because this was news to me, though it does explain the few posts I’ve seen along these lines. I looked around a bit and managed to find what I think is the original post that sparked the discussion, as well as a few other interesting takes on it.

The conversation seems to break down (at least to/for me, from my limited reading of it) to three questions:


  1. Should Blizzard implement additional rewards for tanks/healers? Either as incentive to get more people to play them, or a reward because the answer to Question 2 is yes?
  2. Are tanks/healers more valuable than DPS? Is their job harder/more frustrating? (I’m not sure if this was actually stated, but it is implied by the suggestion that tanks/healers should get more gear).
  3. Why are there so few tanks/healers compared to DPS?

Let’s explore (with advance apologies for the length of the post. I should confess that I have never, in my personal history, been accused of being short-winded…).

Should Blizzard implement additional rewards for tanks/healers (as incentive or reward)?

My take on the first question (rewards and whether tanks/healers should get extra) is actually pretty succinct: no.

Why? Because as far as incentive goes, a couple extra badges or a shot at gear isn’t going to convince someone to roll a tank or a healer who had no inclination to do so in the first place. Giving me extra gear to use in a role I hate playing is worth exactly nothing to me. I agree with Larísa, over at the Pink Pigtail Inn – Blizzard has already done everything they can to encourage this by implementing dual-specs.

And as far as tanks/healers deserving a reward for their job being hard, the fact of the matter is that if everyone plays like they should – i.e., not like complete, drooling idiots (tanks and healers included) – then, in fact, nobody’s job is actually harder than anybody else’s. Easiest thing I’ve ever done in this game is tank for a well behaved group that stays on target and pays attention. I’ve heard the same from healers.

This is also a partial answer to Question 2, but we’ll come back to the inevitable caveat in a moment.

Are tanks/healers more valuable than DPS? Is their job harder/more frustrating?

Short answer to Question 2.a: Yes and no.

Short answer to Question 2.b: Yes and no.

Value

With regards to value, on a purely economic level (ha ha! Like I understand economics), yes they are. Why? Because they’re in short supply, and you absolutely need to have one of each in order to do group content. All the DPS in the world couldn’t burn through the boss fast enough to keep anyone from dying, and there won’t be much gogogoing unless it’s from the graveyard back to your corpse. But that’s where any additional value ends. If the LFG was suddenly flooded with tanks and healers this whole point would fall off the board and it wouldn’t matter any more.

Tanks tank, healers heal, and DPS do damage in varied and colourful forms. None of these roles is actually worth more than the others, it just appears to be so because tanks and healers are rare, and their roles are more obviously required. You could lose a DPS (Hell, you could lose two DPS) and provided the remaining is/are sufficiently competent, you can still actually clear content. But that’s not a result of DPS being worth less, it’s a function of the damage role and the fact that you can always add or lose DPS without significantly affecting your gameplay. You could add a healer or a tank, and they might be a little bored, but you could play like that. You couldn’t afford to lose a healer or a tank, though. You need to keep the minimum one.

So, it’s not that tanks and healers are worth more, it’s just that they appear to be so because you can usually afford to lose a DPS or two because you have extras.

The fact of the matter is, you absolutely need DPS. Sure, in theory, you could two-man the world as a tank/healer combo. I know, I’ve done it once or twice. But I hope you’ve got patience, time, and a Godly mana bar of unending blue.

The mechanics of this game work around the assumption that all three roles are filled. You have somebody distracting the monster so somebody else can kill it. You have somebody healing the first somebody to keep them alive and buy time. And you have somebody else who is killing the monster before the healer runs out of mana, and the tank runs out of life.

If you don’t have DPS, the healer runs out of mana and the tank runs out of life. If you don’t have a tank, the DPS run out of life before the healer can cast so much as a HoT and then so does the healer. If you don’t have a healer, the tank runs out of life and the DPS die screaming. Each role is required. Each role is equal. If you don’t have them all, everybody dies.

It’s the synergy between the roles that makes the game work and means the difference between win and fail (and, incidentally, it’s this synergy that is the most rewarding thing in the game for me). Why would you reward one of the roles over the other? You need them all. We’ll be in no better a position if all the DPS in the world rolled tanks and healers and there was no one left to actually kill things. We can’t ALL be protectors of the weak and squishy.

Frustration/difficulty

In my answer to Question 1, I intimated that the tank/healer role was no more frustrating than the DPS role when everyone played intelligently, but (told you there was a caveat) in the event that someone(s) isn’t playing intelligently…

The source of the added frustration in the two pole positions is people who play like idiots. If you’ve never tanked or healed, you have no idea how hard you have to work, or how stressful it can be, to try to save people from their own stupidity – to say nothing of saving everyone else from their stupidity.

It’s not that the roles are inherently more frustrating, it’s that they come with more responsibility for the lives of others – and therefore more stress if you feel the situation slipping out of your control. There is almost always something you could have done. You will always wonder “what if I’d popped my CD sooner”, “what if I’d saved my taunt”, “did I miss a step in the rotation?”.

As DPS as long as you’re playing well you’re doing everything you can to preserve the HP of your group and you can’t actually compensate for other, less helpful players. As tank or heals…you are designed to preserve the HP of your group, and a drooling idiot is no excuse for failing, no matter how hard they make your job. And you have to watch everything.

Example scenario:

Kill target is skull. I’m tanking skull and throwing down enough AoE threat to keep Cross, Square, and Star off the healer and the DPS that can’t help but AoE as part of their rotation (ret pallies, warriors, etc… I’m not talking Blizzard or Volley here, but Divine Storm and whirlwind). But Retarded DPS #1 is wailing on the square. Why is anyone’s guess.

So I notice I’m losing square. I throw a shield slam on it and return to skull, tersely reminding RD#1 that the kill target is skull and nobody will be impressed with his DPS if they’re all running back from the graveyard. RD#1, you may have guessed by now, is retarded. So he stays on Square.

I start doing more AoE threat, trying to single-target-tank Skull, since the rest of the DPS are sill single-target-DPSing it, and AoE tank Square, even though I know it won’t work since RD#1 is single-target-DPSing it. Inevitably, he pulls aggro.

Depending on the situation and how long we’ve been fighting, this may not be the end of the world. Let’s assume worst case scenario, though.

RD#1 starts taking more damage than his squishy little frame can bear. Healer panics and starts pouring heals into him. I’m snarling and swearing and have to switch targets to get Square back. I slap Vigilance onto RD#1 to kill his threat (since he’s not smart enough to do it himself) and taunt Square off of him. Naturally, RD#1 thinks this means he can keep wailing on Square. Because he’s still wailing on Square, there’s going to be a period where, even with Vigilance, he’s riding my threat, because taunt does not give me anything more than 100% of whatever threat you had, which means I don’t have any wriggle room on Omen. So I fight with RD#1 for a bit to establish adequate threat on what is basically the third target in the kill order.

Meanwhile, the rest of the DPS are still wailing on Skull because that’s what they’re supposed to do. Only problem? I’m no longer tanking Skull, and I’ve swapped Vigilance from the highest threat DPS in the group, to RD#1 in an attempt to compensate for his idiocy. The healer has topped off RD#1, during which time I am still taking damage from three targets and not getting healed, and as he turns to start sinking mana into me – where it’s supposed to go – inevitably the good DPS still following the kill order pull the Skull I haven’t been tanking. Healer has another heart attack. I’m a tank, I’ve got defences, I’m not down that much, so his priority becomes keeping the DPS alive as the monster wails on them.

One of the DPS maybe stops attacking the Skull when they see it’s not on me. The other one closes their eyes and maintains the faith that I will taunt it back and save their ass. Depending on how quickly this has happened (and believe me, it can be fucking quick), my taunt may actually be on cooldown. Let’s pretend it is (worst case scenario, remember?).

So I mocking blow, which forces the monster to attack me for a bit, but doesn’t change my threat level. Now I have to manually hike my threat back up to where it would be if I’d been tanking the target the whole time before Mocking Blow wears off. I’m not sure I want to move Vigi again because RD#1 is still on the square and now I’m not. The DPS, seeing that Skull is on me again and unaware it was Mocking blow, not taunt, open fire. Maybe they pop a CD to try to get their DPS up again to make up for having to slow down when I switched targets.

Just as I manage to get control of skull, I lose Square again. I blow my newly refreshed taunt pulling it back and drop a thunder clap out desperation as I attempt to reposition the scattered group for a shockwave. But then the Star peels off from the group and bears down on the healer because I’ve been so busy trying to single-target-tank two different targets, I haven’t been paying enough attention to dropping AoE (and as a warrior, AoE is not, exactly, my strong suit – it’s not something that happens passively, it’s something I have to do).

Healer’s still busy trying to bring the DPS back up to full so he can get back to healing me when he sees the mob and shifts focus to keeping himself alive. Lo and behold, my taunt is on CD and Vigi’s on RD#1. So I Intervene back to the healer and start wailing on Star until it’s looking at me again. By the time I’m charging back into melee, Skull has died and the good DPS have moved onto Cross even though I’m not there and haven’t had much of a change to put threat on it, since I was forced to split my attention between the first kill order target and the third. RD#1 has already re-pulled aggro on Square. Healer’s dropping into a coma from all the stupid and starts ignoring the DPS because I’m getting pretty low on health and he can’t keep us all alive.

So what do I do? Do I pick up cross before the DPS do, or do I try to get square back? Technically, I’m expected to do both, even though I’m fighting with CDs, the GCD, my rage level (repeat after me: if it’s not wailing on me, I’m not getting any rage back), and the ever narrowing gap between my threat and the DPS’.

There are a couple of ways this scenario ends. Ironically, it’ll depend on how good our not-retarded DPS are. If they’re good enough at their class and they’re packing the requisite heat, they’ll be able to kill the adds before the tank-bouncing and heal-bouncing that is a direct result of RD#1’s inability to follow a kill order falls apart at the seams and either me or healer just aren’t fast enough to compensate.

If the DPS aren’t good enough, we all die.

So, suffice it to say, in an ideal world, tanks, healers and DPS have equal degrees of difficulty and frustration in their roles; however the world is not ideal, and when shit goes wrong it’s harder on the tanks and healers than the DPS specifically because they’re the ones who need to compensate for it. Good DPS are already doing what they can to mitigate the damage and there’s not much they can do to make a situation right again if someone else is fucking up.

As a throw back to the value question, in the scenario above you’ll note that assuming your tank and healer are good ones, success or failure ultimately comes down to the DPS.

Funny how that works, eh? It’s unlikely to be acknowledged, because unfortunately the tank and healer are frothing at the mouth with rage because that fight was exponentially harder than it had to be, and our relaxing heroic run just turned into the nightmare from Hell (to say nothing of the fact that odds are good RD#1 is already gleefully running into the next group without waiting for us).

What this translates into is anger at the DPS – not because they all suck, but because it’s human nature to use a broad brush. Statistically speaking (okay…anecdotally speaking) there’s a LOT of retarded DPS out there, and they give tanks and healers Once Bitten Twice Shy Syndrome, and give DPS as a role a bad name.

Not because DPS as a role is easy or has no value, but because they’re doing it wrong. If DPS as a role didn’t matter or had no value, a DPS being an idiot would not be able to wreak such havoc just by not being on the wrong target. But they do.

Because they matter.

Why are there so few tanks/healers compared to DPS?

So many answers to this. It can’t be answered in a general sense, because people choose to play or not play a tank/healer for very personal reasons. In some cases, they choose not to because they simply don’t want the responsibility. In some cases they’re just not attracted to the roll. In some cases they tried it, but ran into one too many RD#1s and quit because it’s just not worth the frustration. In some cases they tried it, and douche bag PuGs swore at them and vote-kicked them and never gave them a chance to learn how to do it so they quit.

Tanking or healing is very often at best a thankless job, at worst an abusive one. You take a lot of shit and very little of it is deserved. On top of it, it’s hard to defend yourself. At the end of an encounter, DPS can link Recount and say – see? There’s my number. It’s HUGE. Where’s your incontrovertible proof that you performed well?

The fact that everyone’s alive is not always a good indicator. If you’re all still standing at the end, but the DPS had to spam threat-reduction abilities constantly, and your healer is OOM, and the mobs were all over the place…well, you didn’t do a very good job, did you?

There’s nothing you can link to say “I’m a good tank.” If you’re a healer, Recount does track things, but it’s not accurate or necessarily worth linking. If you’re a Disc priest you’re barely going to register since 90% of your shit is absorption, not healing. If you’re RH you’re going to be much higher on Recount than the MH. If your tank is overgeared for the content, your numbers will be low. There are too many variables.

Being a good tank or a good healer means having softer skills. Do you notice incoming pats and pick them up before your DPS do? Do you know when you can afford to heal a DPS without exposing your tank to risk? Can you compensate for RD#1 and the rest of his Guild? Are you good enough to make up for other people’s epic foolishness?

These aren’t things that Recount tracks. And if they’re done right, they’re not things that anyone but you notices. And they’re hard to do, and they’re frustrating to do, and the require a degree of skill and experience that most other players simply aren’t aware of. A while ago I went into an instance on my bear and warned them in advance it had been a while since I’d played a bear. The response I got was “just swipe” as though that was really all tanking came down to. But tanks who “just swipe” are not good tanks.

I’m not saying the DPS get all kinds of glory and appreciation (because they don’t usually even get a thank you, and that’s as bad as not thanking your tank or healer), but at least as a DPS you have a number you can spam if it’s high enough. You have a mechanical means of evaluating your own performance and defending yourself from or preventing criticism.

As a tank and a healer, all you’ve got is your own private evaluation of whether you did everything you could to prevent a wipe. And there’s nothing much you can do to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt it wasn’t your fault if it happened.

This is why it’s easy to blame the healer and/or the tank for a wipe – not just because their job is actually to prevent it, but because they can’t reliably defend themselves. You get he said, she said.

[RDno1]: wtf y i die/
[Angrytank]: Because you were on the wrong target. Follow the kill order and you won’t pull.
[RDno1]: I asist u
[Angrytank]: No, you didn’t. I have three different mods that show me what target you’re on. You weren’t assisting anybody.
[RDno1]: lrn 2 tnk! u shuld devestete mor usck
[Angrytank]: You. Weren’t. On. The. Skull. Even if I DID devastate more, I’d be devastating SKULL. You would still have pulled.
[Angrytank] has been vote-kicked.

It’s almost futile to try to defend yourself. And I’m not even going to get into DPS that pull for you and start fights before you’re ready (because they think you can “just swipe” and that will fix everything).

So, in the end, you really have to love healing/tanking to play those roles outside a friendly, supportive guild/raid group – because the amount of abuse, grief, and frustration you’ll take isn’t worth it otherwise.

And for the record, neither is an extra badge.

Conclusion

It’s not Blizzard’s fault there aren’t more tanks and healers. It’s the shape of the community. Too many asshats, not enough patience or respect for other human beings. Tanking and healing requires you to perform a service for a group of people, and your success is measured not just by how much life they had left at the end of the fight, but by their quality of life during the fight.

But there’s only so much you can compensate for, and sooner or later it’s hard to care whether they live or die, especially when they did it to themselves, but give the blame to you.

Every time a DPS says “wty y i die/” a tank quits the game.

Every time a non-heals says: “just heel thru it1” a healer quits the game.

But everyone time anyone tells someone else (DPS, tank, or heals): “Hey man, good job. Tough fight, but we made it.” then someone jumps into the queue again for just one more run.

The solution to this problem is a simple one.*

*And if it fails, there’s always Plan B – which involves a bat, a road trip, and some skulls. Who’s with me?