Archive for November 2008

WotLK: Gun’Drak

November 29, 2008

This is one in a series of posts covering a WotLK 5-mans – from a Tank’s Point of View

Gun’Drak is perhaps my favorite leveling instance. The zone design, the bosses, variety and the pacing all come together to make me very happy.

There are two quests nearby (just to the north, on a ledge) that anyone can pick up before going in, and another two that come from Zul’Drak quest lines. All have very nice rewards, so be sure to pick them up!

This instance sits in the northeastern part of Zul’Drak, but the map can be a bit confusing. The instance is not in the large temple – even though that map labels that as Zul’Drak. Out front of the temple, on either side the large ‘road’ are small buildings that house the instance portals. Yes – portals. You can choose to start with either Slad’ran or Moorabi, depending on which portal you take. The summoning stone in on the northern side, so thats the portal I’ll presume you will use. For bonus points, after having cleared the zone a few times, do it backwards – the vague feeling of wrongness adds a nice twist to the run.

From the instance portal, head down the ramp – or jump carefully into the pool – and you’ll have the first boss in sight. Behind that boss is an altar. Not just any altar through – this one shoots lasers! See, I told you this place was cool.

After each boss, you need to remember to fire off the laser beam, or else you won’t be able to access the final boss.

Sladran

Visible from the entrance, just knock out a few simple trash pulls and you are ready.

The Slad’ran fight can get pretty hectic, so everyone needs to be on their toes. From the start he fires off the occasional Poison Nova, and can hit someone with a Snake Wrap. The Nova needs to be healed though, and the Wrap needs to be burst down by dps. As the fight progresses, he will call in an increasing number of snake adds, to the point that some groups may be overwhelmed near the end. The adds don’t have much health, and don’t hit too hard, so you can choose to tank them or AoE them down – whichever works best for your setup.

Witch Doctor’s Wildstaff may drop, and is a nice staff for any Ferals.

Drakkari Colossus

From Slad’ran there the clear to the Colossus is pretty simple. The first room does have some patrolls, so take care if you aren’t up to tanking several groups at once – however, if you can mass tank, this room can be cleared very quickly.

Once in his room, and when initially engaged, the water elementals surrounding the Colossus will group up and join with it. At that point, you can pull the Colussus and start the fight. While in Colossus form, this is a simple tank and spank. However, twice throughout this fight the Elemental will ‘Emerge’ from the Colossus, and need to be picked up. The Elemental will randomly charge, and starts with an aggro wipe – so the tank needs to be paying attention. After taking a bit of a beating, the elemental will hop back into the Colossus, and you repeat the cycle.

You may see the Shoulderguards of the Ice Troll, continuing the good drops for Bears.

Moorabi

The trip to Moorabi is potentially a bit more interesting. There are several more patrols to watch out for, and quite a few mobs that have a knockback. This is worthy of note, because you are fighting along side a small lake – a lake with hostile fish. Get knocked into the lake and not only are you out of the fight for quite some time, but you may not make it out at all.

Once in Moorabi’s room you don’t need to clear the group on the far side – unless you intentionally approach them, they shouldn’t get involved in this fight.

Moorabi is a Troll that will change into a Mammoth part way through the fight. He has a knockdown stomp, and is capable of laying down quite a bit of pain onto the tank, but this fight generally goes very quickly – the simplest of the bosses in Gun’Drak.

Gal’darah

After the first three bosses are down, and you hit the final laser, the bridge in the middle of the zone will swivel around and give you access to Gal’Darah. You can jump down from Moorabi’s area and swim to the shore, or run back around to the Colossus’ area and just walk across.

Before fighting Gal’darah you will have four pulls, all involving Rhinos. These can all start with a charge/knockback, so consider pulling with your back to a wall or pillar.

Gal’Darah himself is a fun fight. He starts off in Troll form, and as a troll the main ability to watch for is his Whirlwind – it can put out a lot of damage quick, so melee needs to move out. He can also call a spectral Rhino to do off target charge/knockbacks, but these aren’t a major issue.

Eventually Gal’Darah will transform into a Rhino form. At this point he can Impale players – never the tank though. To do this he charges them, and then treats them to a burst of damage and several seconds flying around with his horn through their chest. Good times.

Drops Gal’darah’s Signet which should make any tank very happy.

And that is it. For such a varied instance, most groups can be out in 30 minutes or so. As this zone fills the level 76 instance gap, you are at the point where even geared TBC Raiders are going to start taking a good hard look at the drops, so it is not unreasonable to see most people walking away with upgrades.

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WotLK: The Violet Hold

November 28, 2008

This is one in a series of posts covering a WotLK 5-mans – from a Tank’s Point of View

Violet Hold sits in Dalaran, and is intended for characters around level 75.  Since it is in the city, most people won’t have trouble getting there – however, you do need to pay attention to that.  There is no summoning stone, and you may find some players who can’t access Dalaran yet.  If you don’t want to work out how to get them there, check first that they can access Dalaran.

This zone is very much like Black Morass, without the opening trash clear.  There will be 18 portals, with mini-bosses at portals 6 at 12, and the final boss on 18.  Instead of Mehdiv’s shield, you are protecting the Prison door.  Portals spawn throughout the room, and either have a single portal guardian with a trickle of adds (very reminicent of BM) – or a single groups of 2 to 4 mobs all at once.  None of these are all that bad, and I don’t expect that most groups should have any trouble keeping up with the portal spawns.

There are crystal spread throughout the room which, when clicked, trigger a large burst of damage to all mobs in the room.  These are the emergency buttons that you can use if you get behind.

If you die you may have trouble getting back in – at least we did on heroic – so wait for a resurrection if possible.  Also, if you do have a wipe, expect to re-clear the portals from the start, and to fight any already downed mini-bosses again – sans loot.  Unlike most instances, here you are punished severely for wipes.

The mini-bosses that you see (at portals 6 and 12) are random, coming for a pool of 6 possible:

Mini-boss: Erekem

An Arakkoa with two adds. He has an interruptible heal, and a few other Shaman like abilities. Just tank the adds along with Erekem, and focus DPS on the boss. You can easily mop up the adds once he is down. This is one of the easier mini-bosses.

For tanks, he can drop the Screeching Cape – a very nice cloak.

Mini-boss: Ichoron

Water elemental that come with a shield that reduces all hits to almost nothing. Once his shield is depleted, he explodes into a shower of adds, and becomes untargetable. These adds slowly move back to his body, and once one reaches him (or all are killed) he pops back up. At this point, start kiting Ichoron around, as the adds that reach him restore health. Once the adds are down, you start working on the new shield. Repeat this a few times, and he will be dead. Due to the shield mechanic, focus on quick hitting abilities rather than hard hitting ones.

He has a 50% chance of dropping gloves that may interest Ferals: Handguards of Rapid Pursuit.

Mini-boss: Lavanthor

Lavanthor is a large core hound. Turn him away from the group and don’t stand in fire. This biggest threat he poses is after death. He body won’t despawn for several minutes, so if you kill him in place his corpse will make seeing future mobs at the portal difficult.

There is no tank loot here.

Mini-boss: Moragg

The large Beholder mini-boss.  Most of his damage is focused on the tank, on normal mode this is one of the easier fights.

Shoulderplates of the Beholder drops, which many tanks may be able to working into their gear.

Mini-boss: Xevozz

Xevozz is an oddity in Northrend – an Ethereal.  He summons an orb that should be avoided.  Most groups should be able to heal through most of the damage, and just power through.  However, if you are taking too much damage, you can kite him around the ramp in the back of the room.  Just start fighting him on one side, and slowly work him around to the other.

The prize here is the possibility of seeing the Riot Shield.

Mini-boss: Zuramat the Obliterator

Zurumat is a Void Walker style mob.  His primary trick is summoning Void Sentries – most of the time, these appear to be untargetable void zones, which shoot out Shadow Bolts.  Throughout the fight he will place a 15 second debuff on random party members which allow them to see the Void Sentries – at this point that person is able to kill them.  To be honest, we’ve always just powered through this and ignored the Sentries, but depending on gear level that may not be an option.  If you are taking too much damage, ensure that whomever gets the debuff takes out as many sentries as possible.

He can also cast Shroud of Darkness, which places a healing debuff on anyone attacking him.  Either have a Mage spellsteal this, or stop attacking while it is up.

Good news for tanks looking for a quick defense buff, he drops the Void Sentry Legplates.

Final Boss: Cyanigosa

After the 17th wave is down, you will get to face Cyanigosa.  She is a Dragon, so standard dragon rules apply.  Most of her damage is focused on the tank, excepting the occasional Blizzard.  A few times through the fiight she will teleport everyone to her, and wipe threat.  Tanks need to grab threat quickly, and get her back in position.  Honestly, she is fairly simple.  I you’ve made it to her, you shouldn’t have too much trouble taking her down.

Feeling Heroic

November 27, 2008

Tuesday evening we started with trips into CoT:Strat and Halls of Lightning (wherein Lokin was a jerk and didn’t drop me anything), both runs were quite successful – so we decided to push our luck by venturing into our first heroic. We chose Violet Hold – the plan being that we could see which mini-boss we started with, and get a feel for just how bad things were going to be.

Of the six possible mini-bosses, I’d classified three as ‘preferred’, and three as ‘not so much’. The opening trash waves were not as bad as I’d expected, so we were quickly to the first mini-boss – and we got one of the bad ones. Of course.

It was the Water Elemental – which I’d actually listed as #1 on my ‘do-not-want’ list. /sigh

The problem with him is the knockback. Healer knockback + tank knockback = bad times. The first attempt I pulled him up the stairs to the starting platform – logic being that most of the adds would need to funnel up the stairs to us, and that the enclosed space would help manage the knockbacks. We get him nearly to his enrage that time, before I he dropped me.

Try 2. Re-clear the first 5 waves. The idea came up to tank him down on the floor, so there might be better healer-to-dps LoS. We ended up wiping quickly though, with knockback and positioning problems.

Try 3. I told the group I wanted another shot at him, and everyone was fine with that. Trash waves down, I brought him back up to the door. The healing, I’m told, was very hectic – but we made it to he enrage with just one DPS down and finished the fight off pretty smoothly. Woot! A quick celebration, a resurrection, and just as we started sorting out loot the next portal was open.

The second group of waves came a bit faster, but were manageable. Then out comes the second mini-boss, the Beholder, which I’d had on my ‘good’ list. He puts out a lot of simultaneous damage on the tank, and one other party member. We got him down first try, but lost our healer before the end. This is where to bad news came in. Unlike Black Morass, you can’t run back into Violet Hold if you die. Think about that. With no way to rez our healer, we just waited for the next wave to slaughter us and ran back in.

At this point, we were told that the bosses aren’t replaced with a trash wave when you re-clear – that you have to take them again. With no loot. This seemed so stupid, that I had a hard time believing it. Enough so that I talked to group into letting me see it happen. And it did.

Reclearing all the trash, and the bosses again is certainly annoying. However, the earlier practice seemed to have helped, and we got both both mini-bosses down with only minor problems. The final set of portal waves were quick, but we kept up. The final boss was no a push-over – healer mana was gone by the end, leaving me dead to a DoT just after the boss dropped – but was probably the easiest of the boss fights.

Imagine our surprise as we got two Achievements for the run. The expected Heroic: The Violet Hold, but also Defenseless. Seems that we never thought to use the emergency crystals. Huh. Odd that.

All told, it took about 90 minutes, gave us out first Emblem of Heroism, and let us see our first level 80 epic drop – though that went to a non-guildie (well, she’s not *yet* in the guild. We’ll see..)

For a test run, where we got non-optimal mini-bosses, I’m pretty pleased. Heroics are certainly not trivial, in fact this was the first real challenge I’ve seen in Wrath, but I’m looking forward to going back.

Level 80

November 24, 2008

Ding!

So, my warrior has seen his final ding – at least for WotLK. I hit 80 during a Halls of Lightning run Saturday evening. As this is a level 80 zone, our group was a bit underpowered, ranging from 77 to 79. All the same, we didn’t have too many problems – and the problems we did have were due to unfamiliarity with the instance. For example, the final boss has abilities that he certainly did not have in beta – it is an interesting fight, it was just a bit of a surprise the first time through.

Part of the weekend was a tour of the final 5-mans, a few of which we hit early. For some reason, I had imagined CoT:Strathholme to be a level 77 zone. It is not. Our group certainly low for a level 80 instance, but we made it through without any wipes. The number of ‘misses’ and amount of damage made things interesting, and a well played Battle Rez saved us after I took too long getting the final boss engaged and he 1-shot our healer (sorry dear!).

We have now cleared all the level Wrath 5-mans, on normal at least. I think the plan is to hit the level 80 instances at least one more time, and to then pick a heroic and allow it to kick our collective asses. Actually, I’m hoping for decent results, but I’m pretty sure it will be pretty rough all the same. Trying to decide now which will heroic be the first target.

Just after hitting level 80 I managed to get my defense high enough to achieve crit-immunity – 540. At first, I was wearing whatever had the most +defense, irregardless of the overall quality of the gear. As we ran a few more instances I’ve gotten enough drops that I can now start swapping out some of my pure +defense pieces, for gear that is all around better. I’ve got a few sets options to choose from now, all leaving me right around 540. I still feel pretty squishy – unbuffed I don’t even have 21k health – but I’m seeing rapid improvement.

I’ve also started playing around with the new PVP zones.  I’ve been around for two battles in Wintergrasp, and both times the attacking force won.  I’m not sure if this is the norm on not, but it certainly felt that given enough time the attackers would always get through – it is just a question beating the timer.  This may all change once more people hit 80, and you start seeing more than two dozen people on each side – right not there just aren’t enough defenders to cover all of the walls, and there are vehicles for almost every attacker.  Still, it is certainly interesting, and worth trying out.

I’ve also popped into a few Strand of the Ancients Battlegrounds, and enjoyed it as well.  I’m still working out all of the mechanics, and the strategies are still totally up in the air, but it is a good time.  Very nice to have a battleground where one side can’t choose to stretch the match out too long.

If I keep heading into the PVP zones, I will likely track down a set of the crafted PVP set – Savage Saronite for Warriors -since it seems like a very good starting set.  The new battleground gear, which should be for sale in Wintergrasp, isn’t in place yet; though I’m fine with just saving up some honor for now, I’m enjoying the matches even without the gear rewards.

WotLK: Drak’Tharon Keep

November 24, 2008

This is one in a series of posts covering a WotLK 5-mans – from a Tank’s Point of View

Drak’Tharon sits on the border of Zul’Drak and the Grizzly Hills, this instance tuned for levels 74 to 76 is one of the longer leveling instances – however, that is not saying much.

The trash comes mostly in groups of 3 or 4, and does not hit noticeably harder than in the Old Kingdom.

Trollgore

The first boss, you will find him atop a flight of stairs. Once you pull him additional trolls will start running in and attacking him. From time to time he will use a Consume ability, which will damage the group, kill the trolls, and provide Trollgore with a stacking buff. However, on normal mode this fight is reasonably trivial, and you can certainly kill him without actually noticing the abilities he uses.

Death Knights may be interested in the Troll Butcherer that he drops.

Novos the Summoner

On the way to Novos, you will need to clear through a room of spiders. These need some care, as when low on health they will run back into their room and begin hatching additional spiders, which will then join the fight. You can manage this by pulling them back, and being ready to burst them down once low on health. Alternatively, stun them just after they start running. Once the room is cleared, there are cocoons that contain the target of the quest Search and Rescue.

Novos sits in the middle of large room that has a flight of stairs on the far side. When you engage Novos, he immediately shields himself and begins calling help. Most of the fight is spent dealing with this ‘help’ while Novos hides behind his shield. A lot of non-elite mobs will come running down the stairs to the party, while a total of four elite Crystal Handlers will run in from the room. The tank should pick up the elites as they run in, but most of the mobs on the stairs can be solo’d by any dps. Once the fourth Crystal Handler is down, then the shield drops and you can fight the boss himself.

He is a caster, and most of his abilities (a mix of single target and AoE spells) are cast on random party members. This is as much a healing test as anything else.

King Dred

A few pulls beyond Novos, you emerge outside and will find King Dred’s area on your right side. Dred, a huge a Devilsaur, also has a number of smaller adds around him. I suggest you pull several of those out first, and then pull him to the base of the stairs outside of his area – so that when he uses his AoE fear, you are less likely to pull adds.

His damage is purely physical, and totally focused at the tank. Should he manage to get all of his debuffs stacked, there is also a lot of damage – however, this is purely random. Lesser geared tanks should consider using cooldowns to combat damage spikes.

The Grievous Bite debuff should be watched for in particular.  This will keep ticking damage untill you are healed up to full health, so help out your healer as much as possible when this is up. (thanks Hawksong for  catching this)

Scabrous-Hide Helm may drop for Bear tanks.

The Prophet Tharon’ja

One last clear starts at the top of the stairs. There are a several packs, mixed with patrolling pairs. Mobs in this area are likely to fear, so I’d suggest being a pit more cautious than normal, and pulling them back.

Once through the trash, you will find Tharon’ja waiting on this platform. This is largely a gimmick fight, where is occasionally changes everyone into skeletons. In skeleton form you only have four abilities. The strategy we’ve found is to have everyone spam Taunt, Bone Armor, and Touch of Life, trying to see that he bounces from target to target and no one takes too many hits in a row. Once that phase is over, I simply pick him back up and we continue to tank and spank.

Plate tanks looking for some threat stats may like Muradin’s Lost Greaves, should it drop.

With the Prophet down, you may get a show. If anyone needs to turn in the Grizzly Hills quest Cleansing Drak’Tharon, they can start it up on the far side of the platform – this starts a little event that is very much worth the price of admission.

WotLK: Ahn’kahet – The Old Kingdom

November 21, 2008

This is one in a series of posts covering a WotLK 5-mans – from a Tank’s Point of View

Sitting very close to the Azjol-Nerub 5-man is Ahn’kahet: The Old Kingdom. Where Azjol-Nerub is concentrated awesomeness, Ahn’kahet is amazing in it’s size. No tiny passages and small rooms here, this is pace is huge. Really, the zone feels more epic than most raid zones.

I wold suggest level 73-74 as a fair level range for this instance, a bit higher that Azjol-Nerub, but fairly close.

Early in the zone, you can choose a path to the first boss. The first room of trash mobs allows you to go either left or right – both will eventually lead you close to Elder Nakox’s room (if you go left, you will pass the door to his room on your right). There doesn’t appear to be a benefit to going one direction or the other.

Elder Nakox

Elder Najox is reasonably simple, so long as you pay attention to the adds. Throughout the fight he will summon Guardians – you will get an on screen alert – while these Guardians are up, all other mobs are immune to damage, so they must be killed immediately. There will be other adds in the fight, but most groups will have no problem burning them down as they spawn.

Prince Taldaram

Moving on from Elder Nakox (out the door, right, and then down the stairs) you will come to an open room with two elevated platforms. The platforms have an item that you must click to release the Prince. The mobs in this area are reasonably simple – perhaps a bit caster heavy, and the Bonegrinders have an AOE fear.

Once you clear the platforms the Prince should be waiting for you at the top of his ramp. Throughout the fight he will create Flame Spheres, these float around and do some splash damage – but don’t really impact the fight. He will also Vanish, and then start Draining Life from a party member – this hits reasonably hard, and continues until you’ve done 20k damage to him.

Slasher’s Amulet drops here, which may be a nice DPS piece for any tank.

Jedoga Shadowseeker

Continuing on, you will come to a large room with a pool down the middle. I prefer to clear up the right side, since that is the direction on the next boss.

When you get to Jedoga’s platform, you will see three groups of non-elite humanoids. Once you burn these down, Jedoga will descend and many Twilight Volunteers will rush onto the platform and become non-targetable, don’t worry about them yet. Start working on Jedoga, watching for areas of lightning on the ground. Several times through the fight, she will hover up into the air and call on one of the Volunteers as a sacrafice. That mobs will un-shield, become attackable, and start walking towards Jedoga. You need to kill it before it arrives, or else the boss enrages.

That is pretty much it, repeat the cycle three or four times and she’ll be down.

She does drop a very nice piece of tanking plate, the Battlechest of the Twilight Cult

Herald Volazj

Head back up the side of the pool that you cleared, and then up a web, and you will approach the final boss’s room. Once the three trash mobs are dispatched you can engage Herald Volazj. He has weak melee, and an interuptable Mind Flay – but those aren’t what this fight is about – no, that is the Insanity ability. A couple of times during the fight Volazj will cast Insanity, placing everyone into their own ‘phase’ where they have to face off against a hostile copy of the party, with each ‘copy’ having about 4,000 health. Once you finish off your phase, you drop into another and can help there. This really isn’t that hard, but it is very entertaining.

Pyramid Embossed Belt – A nice piece for the Feral tanks

Northrend, so far

November 20, 2008

Like many others, I’ve spent many hours diving into the Northrend content. I’m level 77, and just picked up Cold Weather Flying last night.  At this point, I really feel like I’ll have another 5 or 6 levels of questing content left once I hit 80 – even more than in TBC.

So far, I’ve run Utguarde Keep (I lost count how many times), The Nexus, Azjol-Narub three times, the Old Kingdom twice, Drak’Tharon once, and Violet Hold twice. I’m very much looking forward to Gun’Drak very soon – just a matter of getting the group out there, much easier to justify since we can now fly out.

I’ve leveled through the Fjord, Dragonblight, and most of Grizzly Hills. I just completed the Questing Achievement for The Hills, but will probably finish up the last few quests this evening, and I’ll probably go back and pick up a few Tundra quests before everyone gets on.

I expect that we will completly skip Zul’Drak while leveling, and then pick it up at 80. I’d do it once the Hills are done, but we’re already at the upper end of the level range, and I really need access to the the better mining nodes. Once I hit 77, my first step will be to start working on my Sons of Hodir rep, but then I’ll likely head over to The Basin for a while.

I have outleveled much of my friends list, so I will probably also try to go back and hit a few of the earlier instances again – more to connect with people, than for the runs themselves. I have, as expected, replaced a fair amount of my gear. Most of the new pieces were very small upgrades, but just enough to make it worth throwing enchants on them.

Jewelcrafting is still great. I got to Dalaran Saturday afternoon, and started on the Daily JC Quests. These award tokens are in turn used to buy patterns and gems. I am still trying to decide what my first purchase will be, but I’m leaning towards one of the epic tanking ring or necklace patterns. Those require Frozen Orbs (the new Primal Nether), but I will need one of each, and I presume that other tanks will as well. I’m hoping to start working on Heroics by the start of next week and should have access to the Orbs then. I am holding off on picking up the “rare” patterns from the vendor. At the moment, I can’t see most people dropping the gold for those far more expensive gems, and most of the leveling gear doesn’t even have sockets.

In all, I’m really enjoying Wrath so far. I loved my time in the beta, but this is different: a bit more focused, a lot less buggy. I am very much looking forward to hitting 80, and spending time diving into the Heroics. The leveling instances have been a lot of fun, but I’m starting to crave something that is more of a challenge – and I’m hopeful that Heroics will provide that.