Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Lost Arts of Dungeoning

... a Doofus Award
It's the third week of the Cataclysm.

Heroics are cropping up for most of us, the need to run dungeons becoming more and more important as it's the only source for upgrade drops and reputation for the factions that have upgrades.

But, as you might be experiencing, this is not often very smooth.  I'm trying pretty hard not to get rage-y about it sometimes in game, and I'm still mostly running with friends or guild members. But it's still bothering me when some folks don't quite know what's going on.

So, instead of raging (I reserve the right to do that later, if I feel like it), allow me instead to provide an educational opportunity to present and explain some of the more subtle things going on in a dungeon.  I'm sure that there are players who only grew up playing in weak excuses for Northrend dungeons and have never been confronted with having to do some of this stuff.  I'm sure there are some others who forgot. I'm sure that there are no crappy players who just don't care and still think dungeoning is a chance to show off their dps meters.

Dungeon Marks - Those funny colored marks that sometimes appear over mobs heads... those are "dungeon marks."  At this time, anybody can place marks on mobs' heads in a dungeon using the UI, but generally the tank is doing it.  They are there to indicate an order in which the mobs should be killed, or else to indicate which mobs need to be CC'd (more on that below).  Mostly, tanks will clarify at the beginning of a dungeon run which marks mean which, but there are a few standards. The "skull" mark almost always means "Kill this mob now."  The "X" mark almost always means "Kill this mob after you kill Skull."  The others marks usually indicate which target to use for which CC. "Moon" is often for mage sheeping, Nipple (some people say it's a circle, but we know better) for hunter trap, etc. Again, the tank will generally clarify which is which and that mark will not change for the rest of the dungeon run.

CC - Shorthand for "Crowd Control,"  or the art of removing a mob from the battle by means of special abilities. There is a wide range of CC: Mages can Polymorph a target, Shamans can Hex, a Warlock with a succubus can Seduce, A number of classes can use Fear, Shadow Priests can Mind Control. Just about every class has some kind of CC they can bring to a fight, and many of these are relatively new to WoW.  Merinna got the Hex ability when she turned lvl 80 and pretty well never used it the entire time she was in Northrend so tanks these days are going, "Wow! Hex! Cool!" because they are pretty much seeing it for the first time.

Off-Tanking - When a melee dps character is required to specifically tank one certain mob so that it does no harm to other people in the party.  Mostly, this will be plate-wearers, and they will be asked to keep a caster mob busy.  Even plate dps will die to the big beefy killing mobs, so that's not usually a good plan, but having a fury warrior or a death knight go beat on a magic using mob with weak melee attacks is a viable form of crowd control.  The last boss of Stonecore with her 10 trillion adds is a case when off-tanking has been effective. The main tank can control the boss while an off-tank picks up any stray adds who have wandered off to go bother other members of the party.

Mage-Tanking - Not just limited to mages, but to any range dps specialist, a warlock, shadow priest, or even a hunter.  Also called "Range-tanking."  This is a very specific strategy not often seen outside of raids. Mage tanking is preferred to ordinary tanking, mostly with caster mobs, or with mobs with significant localized AoE damage that makes it dangerous for even a fully equipped tank to remain close for too long.  The key to this strategy is that the usually-squishy dps has some ability that neutralizes a significant portion of the mob's damage. The last, best example of this was in the Council of Blood fight in ICC: a warlock was always the best tank for Prince Keleseth. Keleseth would stand in one place and not move for the most part, and his biggest damage abilities were shadow attacks that were largely neutralized by the 'lock's Shadow Ward ability. Another example was in Gruul's Lair with the mage boss Krosh Firehand. A mage could spell steal this boss' shield, making him vulnerable to attacks and preventing most incoming damage. Krosh also radiated a powerful fire AoE, which would kill any normal tank or dps who got too close to him.

LOS Pull - The "Line of Sight Pull" - A frequent tank strategy for managing mobs who don't like to move, but one which requires cooperation from the rest of the dungeon party.  In this strategy,  the tank grabs the attention of the mobs and then runs away to go hide behind a wall or some other object that breaks the mobs ability to "see" the tank.  The mobs will then run after the tank. If done correctly, they will then fall into positions more advantageous for the tank to control.  However, the LOS pull requires all other party members to also run out of the line of sight, and to not make any attacks or magical attacks that would attract the attention of the mobs. Even putting on a bandage or drinking a mana beverage while a LOS pull is running can be enough to spoil the pull.  When the tank calls "LOS Pull" the best thing for the party to do is stack on the tank's location and nothing else until the mobs have arrived and the tank is having his or her way with them.

Hex Pull, Sheep Pull, Repentance Pull, etc. - The tank is asking a dps player to start the fight by applying a CC effect to a designated ("marked") target. The mobs will then chase after that dps player, but the tank intends to intercept them after they have walked away from that first CC'd mob.  This tactic is dependent on tanking skill to a large extent. However, tanks with the confidence to ask for this kind of pull are usually capable of executing it.  Dps players making the pull should remain still after doing so, or, if they feel absolutely compelled to run somewhere, then they should run towards, not away, from the tank.

Adapt and Improvise - Not really a strategy but more a way that skillful players can learn new content. Very common on many boss fights right now, when approaching one of the new bosses and not being sure how it will try to kill the players. Basically, it just means playing with your head, stay out of the fire, don't pull aggro. In my opinion, staying spread out is more promising than staying stacked for most fights, but that can easily be reversed.  Many bosses require more particular strategies, of course, but still, many others just need some level-headed observation.

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