Thursday, 22 January 2009

"Blood Never Dies"

I thought I'd follow up on my earlier post, which complained about the rallying cry of the Frost DK, with another one complaining about the (even more annoying) mantra of my own preferred spec, the egregiously misleading "Blood never dies".

My last post, in part, was a lament about how people don't seem to understand tanking any more, about how people seem to think Frost DKs can tank just by being Frost DKs. This post is going to be about how people don't seem to understand DPSing or even *healing* any more either.

The problem with Blood is that it's kind of a spec for assholes. It's a straightforward spec which does a lot of physical damage, and lets you heal yourself so you feel totally indestructible. It's like having all three Paladin specs rolled into one - you get to do loads of damage and be hard to kill and heal yourself (and "yourself" is probably all you care about, which is sort of the problem).

Blood's big selling point is that it's strong on self-healing. There's Blood Presence (which everybody can use, but Death Knights seem to be allergic to using presences that don't match their spec) and Blood Aura, which together provide 8% of your damage dealt as healing. Then there's Rune Tap, which allows you to heal yourself for 10% - 20% of your maximum health every 30-60s, Vampiric Blood, giving you a small health buff and a bonus to incoming healing, Bloodworms which creates little maggotty things that heal you and Vendetta, which heals you when you kill something.

This is all great in the solo game. A blood DK can laugh at anything that's labelled "recommended players, 2" because their self-healing should keep them in the game if they're remotely able to stay focused. In an instance it all adds up to about thirty seconds of extra survival if you're lucky.

The problem is that most Blood DKs, coming into a dungeon from soloing, think that their self-healing is *the shit*. They don't worry about pulling aggro because, hey! they can heal themselves. If they're not DPSing (either because somebody actually asked them to tank, or because they're running the classic "four DKs and a priest" party where everybody just death grips away) it won't occur to them to switch to Frost Presence so they can live a bit longer(because blood is the DPS Spec! and I need the healing from Blood Presence!).

Unfortunately, the presence of Healers in a dungeon situation only feeds into this problem. It's remarkably easy to look at the way your health bar stays topped up and think "wow! I'm taking hardly any damage". It's even worse with Blood DKs, it's all to easy to look at those Renew ticks and think "wow, my Blood Presence is really pulling its weight here". In one of my early Ramps pickups, the resident Blood DK was roundly mocked for nearly getting knocked down to his last few HP by trash mobs after playing the "Blood Never Dies" card, only to reply "yeah, but I healed myself." Which didn't go down to well with the Shaman who had, in fact, healed him.

Again, the problem seems to come down to a failure to tell the difference between soloing and instancing. A soloing Blood DK can fight masses of mobs, stay in Blood Presence, and keep himself topped up with Rune Tap no problem. An instancing Blood DK can't. It's depressing how few people can tell the difference.

"I'll Tank, I'm Frost"

So as I said in my first post (which was quite a while ago now, I've been levelling through outland), I've been running a lot of Pickups, many of which contain two or three Death Knights.

Because of this, there's some confusion over who should tank any given instance run, and the cry I hear far too often is "I should tank, I'm frost".

Now okay, I'll cop to the fact that Frost does have better mitigation than the other DK trees, and I'll admit that, being blood-specced and liking to do a little tanking now and again myself, I'm a bit biased (and I'll admit that my mitigation isn't quite what it should be right now, because I've not yet invested in Toughness - it's next on my list, I swear, and I'm still basically in a leveling spec).

However, the reason that Frost Spec has such good mitigation is because of talents like Lichborne, Frigid Dreadplate and Frost Aura, when I've inspected people who use the "I should tank, I'm frost" line, they usually have at most one of these talents. They tend to put the rest in things like Runic Power Mastery. A lot of them also seem to *only* have points in Frost, not even bothering to take Antici ... pation from tier 1 unholy.

Now I know that we're pre-endgame here, I know that with a decent healer you don't actually need that brilliant a spec, particularly if you're tanking Hellfire Ramparts at level 66, so it probably shouldn't bug me as much as it does, but I think it underlines a serious problem.

The problem is, everybody knows that you need a "tank" to do a successful instance run, but a depressingly small number seem to know what a tank actually is or does. This is probably partly because the term itself is misleading: a tank is a armour plated weapon of war designed to crush the enemy with overwhelming force. A WoW "tank" is an armour plated guy whose job is to stand there and get beat on while everybody else kills the enemy. I've been in several instance runs (particularly in early outlands) where we've had a frost "tank" who has basically just soloed their way through the dungeon, and expected everybody else to do the same (to be fair to the individuals involved, it actually works reasonably well if you've got a lot of Death Knights and you're a bit high level for the instance). Similarly I have occasionally (once I've convinced people that not being frost really isn't an issue) been asked to tank instances by people who never the less think that a sensible and disciplined pull is one where the three DKs in the party all try to Death Grip different targets. I've even had people suggest that it's better to do it that way because that way the damage gets spread around instead of one person taking all of it which ... well ... I sort of thought that was the point of having a tank, actually.

The thing that bugs me so much about "I'll tank, I'm frost" is that it highlights, for me, the fact that for a lot of people "tank" has become a label with no real meaning. It's almost fascinating to watch, it's like seeing the evolution of a superstition. People seem to believe that bringing along a player with the mystical "tank" label attached to them will somehow keep everybody safe. Years from now, WoW historians will look at the practice and say "strange as it may seem, the apparently arcane tradition of 'tanking' may have had its origins in a very real aspect of gameplay."

Sunday, 18 January 2009

I, Deathtard

So I've started a WoW blog.

I got into WoW in a big way recently, mostly because my girlfriend did, but it has rapidly pushed all other computer games off of my harddrive, and swallowed a large part of my free time.

I originally rolled horde with a bunch of my friends, but see what life was like on the other side, I rolled a Death Knight on the other side of the fence and it turned out to be an absurd amount of fun.

I'm currently furiously leveling my Blood-specced Death Knight through Outland, doing large numbers of instance runs in (frequently) all DK groups. It's an unusual way to play the game, and I've started this blog to keep track of some of my more interesting or infuriating WoW experiences, both as a DK and otherwise.