Starting a raid can be difficult, if indeed it is possible you will often end up with a very strange class balance or some kind of horrible, unintended flaw in the group make up. Typically this can be solved over time by recruitment and refining your raiding group, however doing so will often force you to move people onto a rotation, or worse lose someone you think of as a friend. For this reason Blizzards aim of homogenizing the classes makes a lot of sense, bringing together the class you NEED to build a raid into a smaller set allows raid leaders more freedom to choose what they want and who they want for their raid.

The idea of restricting the raiding game to a small subset of defined classes never really made sense, that is to say that making an obvious choice in terms of overall dps, tanking ability or healing effectiveness reduces the choices you have in game as the encounters must be balanced against the broadest skillset and highest dps or healing groups to make fights challenging for groups. What is worse is that this distinction is often set based in your choices at the character creation screen long before you ever knew your choice would make you superb or subpar in a part of the game days or weeks away. These choices and differences can be aptly demonstrated in the tanking, dps, and healing trees.

Taking Warriors on the Reliquary of Souls fight, phase 2 requires the tank to reflect the Deaden onto the boss otherwise the damage taken is nearly unmanageable. Two tanking classes cannot do this meaning that to progress they need to overgear the content.

The third phase of this fight us much superior in terms of balance, the rage / mana burn coupled with the scaling damage favours a paladin tank, however in no way rules out a warrior or Druid tank.

The second phase is a clear example of a character screen choice ruling out and making life in the raiding game much harder, by contrast the second shows a limited bias but in no way penalizes your choice. This difference is key, a minor benefit in a niche area or fight is not unbalanced provided the niche is not every fight, however if the tools are not there for every class to at least be ok at something then a problem exists.

Damage per Second:
This can be seen easily between warlocks and mages, mages have lower dps overall and lower survivability, trading it for utility and dispelling. This difference in dps leaves mages struggling for raiding spots because of their dps and instead being brought primarily got their buffs and utility. Again fights need to be balanced around the dps that the DPS classes can bring rather than making a fight trivializable using higher dps classes.

Warlocks simply being the better choice due to synergy and mechanics destroys the balance here, while mages offer something warlocks can't beyond that minimal number of mages to do it warlocks are strictly better choices. This is different from the tank case in that there is a ceiling on your class, this your competition is much higher and the class balance which should be even is instead skewed.

This can likely be best seen with Paladin healers in the end game where restoration shamans and circle of healing priests are simply a better choice due to the large aoe damage and smart heals beating out longer casting efficient heals. Again there is no niche because every other class can fulfil the main tank healer role, however the fundamental tank damage throughput limit means fight mechanics must use raid wide damage, where the smart and aoe heals become a better choice.

This is not a matter where skill can make up but rather a set of game mechanics that penalises a class for becoming a specialist in a role. Rather than becoming the best choice for that role they lose all roles because they cannot fulfil a different specialized role.

So my point is:
Moving away from these situations is a good thing, it moves towards the idea that a raid is composed of 10 or 25 people, broken down into tanks, healers, dps, and niche roles as opposed to a firm requirement for non-niche (such as a Mage tank on high king maulgar) class roles such as a shadow priest purely for their mana and health regeneration. At first glance this reduced the chances of a hybrid class getting raid slots and puts everyones chances down, however that is far from the truth.

By becoming competitive in a generic type role (tank, dps, healer) and providing a group benefit, specialists can shine in their niche roles but never worry that their choice at character creation was one which will penalize them. Spwcialisation has benefits but it should never stop you progressing or limit the slots available to you on an arbitrary basis.

--- a mobile post, forgive the formatting and spelling as the auto correct is painful.

Groups of Words made a very good point, Blizzard (or rather Ghostcrawler) has been talking to the Beta forums a lot, making posts at silly hours of the nights, responding to criticism and worries in each class (well strangely lacking in the Paladin forums). Its a breath of fresh air, but what does it really mean?

Simply that the best way to design something is with feedback.

Blizzard makes a point of releasing games when they are ready rather than based on commercial pressures (though one wonders if this is true right now) which allows them to try and get it right. The problem is that the internal testing staff at blizzard is small, at least compared to the potential number of testers out there in WoW. By opening up the testing early and getting people that don't mind testing buggy games they achieve a lot more testing on content, design, and strange oddities they never expected (Druids using an old tier set to get free instant tranquilites?).

So then opening up the testing seems like a good plan, however it has a flaw in that none of the beta testers have seen a vision statement for each class or talent tree and instead we get limited snippits from dev from time to time. By hiding (or rather not revealing) the overall plan Blizzard minimises the chance that we can give useful and productive feedback to them. Taking the Paladin, Warrior, Druid and Death Knight situation as an example; then we know the following:

1) all tanks should be main tank capable
2) no fight should be impossible with any combination of tanks
3) gimmick fights should be rare
4) tanks should overall be similar in survivability, threat and utility

1 and 2 really fall together, Blizzard admitted in TBC trying to make Paladins into Off tanks and AoE tanks (two roles the tankadin community tried to minimise as a strength but not one that meant your Paladin tanked everything to the boss then went healing), and Druids into off tanks and fluid hybrids. This decision being reversed makes a lot of sense given that both communities attempted to rebel and wanted to main tank as well as being supporting roles.

3 fits in with this as well, gimmick fights by their nature must either be trucusl such that not having access to the gimmick (for example using a non-protection Paladin on Morogrim's ads), or it must rule out 1 and 2 by ruling out another tank class as a progression tank. This you need to offer a gimmick solution to all tanks to allow then to at least survive the encounter reasonably.

4 is again vital, in tanking if one tanking class simply makes it easier to do an encounter, then they will be used, since we are aiming to make everyone viable this is a route that cannot be taken without an ability to offset it (so reduced damage but adding some trick to make the other tanks viable).

Problem is that this is about all the feedback testers have, so Warriors feel that other classes are getting all the main tank functionality added while they don't get enough AoE to offset it. Paladins worry for their AoE role now being better performed by Warriors and lacking mitigation. Druids worry for AoE, losing their massive mitigation and being itemized as rogues. Death Knights just worry, feeling squishie, lacking threat, lacking utility and so on. Some of these are justified, however a lot of the worry is that there is no direction to our worries, if we knew something akin to:

Mitigation: as Warrior, focused on consistent high block and "uncrushable" status

Threat: high, holy damage with very high threat multiplier, main threat through ShoR and Consecration.

Caster capability: weak, immunity through utility cooldowns, high number of overlapping escapes, sacrifices utility to use.

Group role: utility healer or dps, of role lacking due to reactive threat

Then we would have something to go ok, a framework for feedback rather than throwing darts in the dark and hoping our feedback and ideas come closer to the plan than not. Testing raw numbers is east, getting the class right isn't. Letting us in on the design process is great but I would rather have an idea about the path and the goal so that I can focus onto it and give constructive feedback on things other than numbers (which as GC mentioned are easily changed), and this actually help make things work rather than ending up worrying over nothing.

So we finally got a tool to let us interrupt casters, though a 1 minute cooldown, or 40s talented (thought typically considered a pvp talent it will now show up in PvE builds). Alas I forsee some problems with the implementation, specifically that it's been applied to an existing ability in a way which doesn't alter the existing functionality on trash or players but only on stun immune mobs.

It us still something to be happy about, just rather than adding functionality to the class if has instead simply covered a glaring walesknesd while still leaving the class overall as one of the weakest in the area duerto the long cooldown and more specifically the single tool to perform two tasks. Hammer of Judgment was a tool to control a target and reduce its damage by removing it from combat for 6 seconds. Giving it the secondary functionality makes it a viable boss tanking tool (for which I am glad we finally got access to) however involves and still leaves us as a very short ranged (and typically paladin abilities are semi-ranged) ranged and inflexible on pulls, sometimes you want to interrupt and lockout but not stun to assist a pull rather than relying on line of sight mechanics.

This system of buffing existing abities to perform a dual task sets a bad precedent as was found with the Druid fear break, damage enhancer, and shield wall ability. That is that most of the Rome you want only one of the features and in the cases where you are likely to want more than one of the components up it's typically far superior to have the parts separated and only one of them on the global cooldown this giving you the flexibility associated with the individual mechanics but not sacrificing all of you option for a single role.

I will keep this short, I really want to see feedback from more people and how this ability evolves in the next few builds (and if Ghostcrawler keeps posting in our forums even ufvrstely about the differences between live beta and the development beta). I know that the paladin community will be happy that we finally have access to some of the tools to tank that we have been requesting for years however I am sure that the implementation if this one is going to come back and hit us at some time in the future. It is not as though paladins ever hadva large range of base abilities in any of their roles, so merging two makes us very minimal.

On a side note, first ever post from a mobile device, I have sat and types this on my iPhone and it's honestly quite a nice experience, just no direct control over HTML and styles so short to the point posts :P.

The Beta forums are a strange place, every class telling everyone else "we won't get taken" while their neighbours look over at them jealously and say "but why can't we have ability ". In truth many of the classes with the fewest buffs were those with the strongest position in the Burning Crusade, those that least needed the improvement. As I honestly couldn't compare DPS classes easily I will focus on the Tanking classes, or rather on the Warrior
vs Paladins et al.

It can really be summarised by the comment from the US Warrior Forums:Why bring X class when Y, W, & Z class bring all of X class' abilities and so much more

Who needs warriors when Blessing of Might is superior to Battleshout
Who needs warriors when Leader of the Pack is superior to Rampage
Who needs warriors when Blood Poisoning is superior to Blood Frenzy (and rogues can misdirect)

you should see a trend here...
Ghostcrawler, as typical for her, concluded a rather nice response:You would really prefer to be brought to a raid because your dps sucks but everyone likes your buff? Doesn't that make you feel like a mascot or something?

How about: you get to come to a raid because you're a good player and do good dps?
Followed closely in another thread by:
We believe Titan's Grip would be too much of a dps increase without some kind of penalty. I couldn't tell you with any kind of certainty that the current one is the one that we'll ship with. The math works out (for us -- I realize not everyone agrees) but if it's too punitive and nobody can make the spec work, we'll change it.

I realize some people are nursing long grudges for mistakes we've made in the past (and to be fair, sometimes when they *think* we've made a mistake). Absent a convenient CoT Portal, we can't undo any of that, so we'll just try to maintain better relations in the future.

It's a BAD thing if someone logs into Lich King, plays for a few hours, is unimpressed with the changes to their class and decides not to go explore Northrend. That is not something we want to happen. On the other hand, it's also a bad thing if you are totally dominated or shown up by other classes. But when you think about it from our perspective, we really do want everyone to be excited about their class.
Simply, Blizzard is aiming for balance, perhaps not what we see as balance but they aim such that each class has a reason to be brought to a raid beyond simply being a buff bot, of being asked to stand outside and rebuff every 30minutes or an hour to maximise the raid. Every person should be valuable beyond simply their buffs, you should be allowed to play with a minimal spanning set of buffs and still achieve the goal of progression with any reasonable combination of classes.

Warriors vs Et al
So lets get to the real meat of this, what is there really for a Tank to do, what does every Tank need to do and how do we differentiate the Tanking classes such that there is flexibility, variability, but also the simple competence to get the job done.

Firstly lets define what in my mind a Tank needs to be capable of to actually perform their role as a Tank, this assumption changes a lot, so if you view it differently your conclusions will be different.

I define Tanking in a few distinct areas:

  • Physical Mitigation and Avoidance
    • Physical Mitigation: Block
    • Physical Mitigation: Armour
    • Avoidance: Dodge
    • Avoidance: Parry
    • Avoidance: Miss
  • Magical Mitigation and Avoidance
    • Magical Mitigation: Damage Reduction
    • Magical Avoidance: Miss
    • Magical Avoidance: Immunity
  • Threat
    • Constant Threat Generation
    • Spike Aggro Generation
    • Snap Aggro Generation
    • Multi-target Threat
  • Utility
    • Environmental
    • Anti-caster
    • Emergency Buttons
  • Niche
Many of these are as simple as they sound, however addressing them is important, so lets look at each section in turn and see if we can achieve a balance without a Homogenisation of the classes.

Physical Mitigation and Avoidance
This is the bread and butter of Tanking, being capable of taking unmitigated hits of 20,000 to 40,000 damage, and surviving several of them. This can be performed in a few ways, firstly scaling damage reduction in the form of avoidance, typically any of the 3 types (Dodge, Parry, Miss) can be stacked, Parry being the best overall tool for mitigation and threat generation but also the most costly to stack, and Miss only being stackable through Defense. Typically a Tank will aim for 50%-75% avoidance, this means that in general we aim not to take more than 2 hits back to back (12.5% chance of 3 hits in a row with 50% avoidance, ~2% with 75% avoidance), Blizzard typically assumes a Tank will have ~50% avoidance as a base level when doing their damage assignments (So a T6 Tank will be assumed to have more, but you shouldn't regularly be taking 3 hits in arow).

The second type of mitigation is non-scaling, that is block and static damage reduction (the latter is applied before armour so sees a reduced effect, where as Block is applied after armour so at higher levels is effectively more reduction). Non-scaling mitigation is typically far superior against fast light blows, and almost irrelevant against high damage scenarios. Taking an example a Paladin can tank Caverns of Time: The Battle for Mount Hyjal in block gear with ~1000 block, and consider only the Abominations to deal any damage at all (a Retribution Paladin could heal me through the Ghoul waves for example), in contrast the same Paladin would never wear this to tank Teron as the 10-25% avoidance gained is far more effective on the Healers than mitigating 10% or so of each incoming hit and risking more back to back hits.

Typically these two are balanced against each other and with armour, the goal being that the overall Effective Health of the Tank (basically a calculation to determine what your damage reduction in terms of static reductions is since avoidance relies on probability), and the avoidance levels achievable should be balanced across all classes. For Warriors and Paladins this should be similar due to sharing gear, Death Knights seem to have higher armour than Warriors and Paladins (strange but true) and rely on cooldowns to achieve the time to live (very low effective health due to no block), while Druids have high armour and health. Overall these mechanics can be easily balanced using a time to live calculation and working from that, each tank should ideally survive around the same time without heals against a boss.

Magical Mitigation and Avoidance
This area is relatively new, while Paladins and Druids have been asking for help in this region for a long time it has never been addressed. What this means is essentially ways to avoid taking magical damage (which ignores armour, if it didn't we wouldn't need this topic as it would be the same as physical). Warriors essentially have a 16% Magical damage reduction, coupled with the ability to reflect spells at the caster for damage. Death Knights gain personal magical damage reduction and a prismatic resistance aura, and a 75% reduction of magical damage up ~ 1/3rd of the time. Paladin come in with a 6% reduction.

As there are bosses which deal magical damage, and trash which deals extensive magical damage this is important, while in the past Reliquery of Souls was essentially only tankable by a Warrior Tank (well phase 2, it has been tanked by Paladins and Druids but only if they overgear the phase massively) due to being able to reflect the deaden onto the boss. This as a design principle is flawed, its not that Paladins and Druids can Tank the boss, but rather that its nearly impossible to do so in a progression attempt.

In this kind of region I feel that we need to address this, thus looking at Paladins there is already a solution in the Illidari Council fight, Blessing of Spell Warding, making this into the new system and toning it down to a useful yet viable buff:Hand of Spell Warding:
30s cooldown, lasts 5s, single target within 30 yards
The target becomes immune to spell damage and has all harmful debuffs removed from them.
For Druids something playing into their mitigation idea, perhaps something like:Runic Tatoos:
5 minute duration, 20 minute cooldown, self buff
Magical Damage is counted as Physical damage
Both of these are simple solutions, the first for Paladins fits the design and gives them some utility in being able to reduce the damage taken by others, this means that it can be used in other fights from and Off-Tank (or even Main Tank) position to help the raid. Its not as powerful as the Death Knight version due to a 1/6th uptime (1/2 that of the Death Knight Anti-Magic-Shell) however it does fully mitigate the damage rather than 75%.

The Druid version is the weakest in terms of instant mitigation, however provides a well armoured Tank with incredible magical damage reduction for long periods. The Druid version is also hindered by the long cooldown meaning it may not be up for each attempt guaranteed, these could easily be massaged however to something more fitting if its not viable.

These solutions look to fit with the role need, and don't really infringe on each other, its a different solution to the same problem, and gives each tanking class the fundamental method to deal with spells without stepping on each other's toes.

Threat is the second key area of Tanking, a dead Tank makes no threat, however a living Tank that isn't ahead of the DPS isn't a Tank. In general threat can be divided into a few key areas. In reverse order we have:

Multi-target Threat
This is the capability of a Tank to maintain decent aggro on 2-4 targets at once (holding at least from the Healers), with the current design most tanks are fairly equal in this area using either Cleaves or AoE spells to maintain aggro. Typically on this number of targets any Tank can allow for moderate AoE (whether AoE on 2 targets is effective is a different question :P).

Area of Effect Threat
This was the Paladin niche role, the ability to maintain and manage threat on 5+ targets, in the Beta Paladins retain Consecration so can handle this fight area, Warriors gained an 8 target (glyphed) Thunderclap, an unrestricted frontal Cone (Shockwave) and reactive damage making them nearly the equivalent of Paladins. Death Knights have access to AoE diseases, Death and Decay and various other abilities that hit multiple targets, their overall threat generation on AoE pulls should be similar to that of a Paladin, however with less room for error due to the longer cooldown on abilities (higher damage / time, longer cooldown).

The odd Tank out here is Druids, who maintain only 3-4 target abilities. Typically for this I would simply assume something akin to Shockwave would be appropriate, or a buffing of thorns. Perhaps aiming for something slightly more unique:Frenzied Rage:
Instant attack, 15s cooldown, 15 rage
You instantly attack all targets within range dealing {Damage} and causing {Damage} over 8s. This ability generates high threat.
Its a little like shockwave, however is a bleed effect (while Consecration and Death and Decay are static areas of effect this one moves), and hits all targets you could normally hit (Shockwave is ranged, and cone). Its far from a "wow thats totally different to everything before it" but hopefully it addresses some AoE utility, while maintaining some flavour.

Single Target Threat
Single target threat is what defines Tanking classes, we generate a lot of it. In short all Tanks need the ability to generate more threat than a DPS class performing a reasonably optimal rotation with a reasonable set of buffs (holding from a continual Heroism effect on a non-salvation equivalent Warlock is not reasonable, holding from a Warlock spamming shadow bolts with pauses to life tap is). It tends to come in 3 major forms, constant aggro, spike aggro, and snap aggro.

Constant aggro is generated by Warriors and Druids, their abilities on short cooldowns generate a fairly linear ramp in terms of threat, very easy to predict, however doesn't scale at the start of a fight (thus why Warriors typically ask DPS to wait for 5 Sunders). Constant aggro is the best in terms of boss fights typically as its easy to predict when you will get your threat ceiling increasing.

Spike aggro is typical of a Paladin, we front load damage (Mana vs Rage) in a spike, then are forced to wait 8s+ for the next cooldown with only Consecration and Seals on the boss. Spike aggro works very nicely for picking up phase changes and such like and is similar to snap aggro, however it is as its nature suggests spiky so can be harder for a DPS class to maintain an idea of the threat ceiling if they are not familiar with the Tank.

Snap aggro is the ability to generate threat over a very short period of time, typically enough to at least overcome the Healing threat generated over a boss transition. Paladins with spike aggro tend to work very well for this, however all classes can perform some kind of snap-aggro move once they are in a fight (and thus have rage).

The tanking classes need to be fairly similar in single target threat, as with mitigation and avoidance, to ensure that each has a fair shot at Tanking bosses, any obvious threat leader would become the default Tank for threat races, and barring any negatives associated with it would be the default Tank. Trading some mitigation for threat would be viable if fights are still handleable by the reduced mitigation.

Environmental is really a misnomer, what I mean by this is the ability to avoid environment wide debuffs such as stuns, disorientates, fears and silences. These kind of features massively reduce the capability of a Tank to Tank and generate threat. At current most Tanks are fairly equally affected by stuns and disorientates, however Silences, Mana burns and fears have a disproportionate effect on Paladins and Druids.

Addressing the Fear issues is easy, removing forebearance from the hand spells (and the hand of spell warding above) Paladins would gain a fear breaker similar to a Warriors, however consume a utility spell to do so making it slightly less flexible. Druids I can see two good paths to go, firstly would simply being to reduce the cooldown on their fear break (from 3 minutes to 60s / 180s), alternatively to something more like:
Feral Rage:
Passive Self Buff, 60s internal cooldown
When an effect would cause you to lose control of your character you instead are immune to control loss effects for 20s and gain 20% damage. You cannot be affected by this more than once every 60s.
Its a damage boost, making Druids the Tank of choice for moderate fear fights (60s or so between them, similar to Nightbane) due to the damage / threat boost. It is however not enough to cover a fight like Archimonde alone (3/4ths of fears could be caught using the trinket as well assuming a 30s fear rate), meaning its both a massive benefit, and a large but situational benefit in other places.

Hopefully again we have added the utility to fear that is lacking in several classes, but in a way that is both interesting and not overlapping.

Addressing Silences and Mana Burns, the best solution I have seen is simply a deep Protection talent that makes Protection Paladins immune to silence / mana burn resistant. This gives them the ability to Tank any of these fights as well as a rage based tank without losing the flavour. Fights can simply be altered if necessary to handle this without affecting one Tank in an arbitrary manner, you can still Rage / Mana burn in RoS pt 3 if thats appropriate, but in a fight like Kaz'rogal or Azgalor where the silence and burn effect is designed to force the Tank to use avoidance moves (no heals due to silence) and force movement / non-strict enrage timer (Kaz'rogal's mana burn) then having these affect the tank is just a bad design decision if we are aiming for balanced tanks.

Spell Interrupt, moderate cooldown.

Yup thats it, a Tank needs to be capable of dealing with fights like Princess Delrissa, or Hex Lord Malacrass without ensuring that the group is stacked with an interrupter. This doesn't have to be fast, something as slow as the Mage 24s, or as fast as the Shaman 6s versions could all be made to work, however when a Tank cannot guarantee that they can Tank a boss without assistance its a bad decision.

Utility is the added fun in a Tank, its what you do when not Tanking, its what you do when you have a spare cooldown. This is where Blizzard can have a lot of fun with the Tanks because utility does not have to be balanced so heavily. Typically this is things like Paladin bubbles and Hands, Warrior Intervene, Druid Fluid Hybrid.

The key with utility is to make it a) viable, b) appropriate. No Tank should be asked not to Tank due to their utility being more important than Main Tanking the boss, however the same holds true that no Tank should be kicked out the raid for another DPS / Healer when not Main Tanking the boss. Utility is the reason a Tank should be kept in a raid even on single target fights. Whether this is DPS, Healing, or something a Tank actually wants to do it should all be considered. I am not going to suggest anything specific in here, lets hear what others think on Tank utility.

A niche role should be the area a Tank excels in, and should be the preferred Tank for fights in that theme. Typically this is:

Death Knight: Heavy Magic Fights
Druid: Sustained High Damage Fights
Paladin: AoE Fights
Warrior: Utility Fights (no other Tank can match the raw number of abilities and options a Warrior has, intervene, safeguard, mocking blow etc).

A niche should never be a unique role, no Tank should be thrown out, however niche fights can and will exist, but should be balanced across the 4 classes such that there is a reason and benefit to every Tanking class, and the best solution for a Tanking team is actually one of each class rather than four of a single class.

Conclusions and Thoughts
I hope I have made some suggestions, something you can take away and think about, that Homogenisation isn't a bad thing if done correctly. It should be a drawing together of cause and effect rather than of abilities, giving flavour and balance should not be something that you throw in the air and pray for, but something you look at the role of the class and if it has the tools to perform that role.

No one would ever take a Warlock to a Fire / Shadow immune fight, nor a Mage to a Fire / Arcane / Frost immune boss, doing so breaks their class design, yet by having multiple schools these classes can be brought to single school immunity fights and still perform. Good design up front gives the instance and boss designers freedom to use the tools they have access too. Homogenisation isn't about being the same, its about making sure that your sonic screwdriver works as well as my toolkit.

Guys, just a fast update.

I lost the blog-sidebar that I had (no idea why, I didn't touch it). So if you were on it / wanted to be on it / feel bored enough to post or email can you get in touch. Will try and get it back to where it was tonight.

Originally this post was going to be on Raiding and not Main Tanking, or worse sitting out and never getting to Tank, but with recent changes (where we aren't raiding at all, [wtb raiding guild btw]) I thought I would try and shoe horn in two different topics into one post.

Apathy and side-content
Firstly I shall deal with the latter, once again its Summer, an expansion is near, and other games are being released, the coming patch (3.02 likely released in 4-6 weeks, 2-4 weeks ahead of WoTLK) has really gotten people down. There is such a general air of apathy on servers, people no longer interested in raiding and trying to down MH, BT or even Sunwell to an extent due to the coming releases making them pointless from a gear perspective. This is such a major downer for those of us that still want to see Mr Stormrage, to go kill the Eredar Prince (well get him to 10% and watch some wisps claim our kill), and to go challenge an Eredar in a glowing hole.

So what is going on, there are clearly still people that care, but of the guilds I have been in recently all 3 have essentially shattered due to raiding, a lack of focus and a lack of interest. Its no longer enough to simply see the content, to want to have "finished" the game and seen the credits scroll by, there seems to be a thought that our gear is what makes the game fun, not playing with the people. Its strange though, we have 60 accounts in our guild at the moment, we struggle to get 25 online, and struggle more with Healers (I even respecced to go Heal Lurker!), yet everyone says they want to see the inside of BT again.

Its a strong division, the statement "I want to raid, I want to down Illidan", compared to the reality of "I didn't see the spout", these are all people that have seen the inside of BT, who were downing 5/9 easily, and then this apathy wave hit, the focus gone and people walking into spouts (we eventually killed Lurker on the 9th try when my motivational speech convinces 24 of the 25 people to step into the water).

So what is it that drives this apathy, I know its not really about the gear, if we could get Sunwell gear we could use it in Naxx (as is being done on the Beta servers), so its clearly not the obsolescence problem because that doesn't exist. What it seems to me is that people have grown bored of the game a little, while the expansion was far away, working towards the "end" was a challenge, something to do, now the content, the wipes and the hardships are not the "end" but rather a side step, something that will be pugged by people wanting to see "old school" raids. There isn't even a Heroic Mode on these dungeons, there is nothing that will allow us to go back at 80 and feel the same challenge we felt at 70, and that is what I feel is killing the game at the moment, people seeing the "end" moving, and no longer wanting to wipe and farm to get into what will be a side step once they reach Tier 8+.

Its a bit like Karazhan is, if it hadn't been the first step on the road it would likely have been bypassed by so many who wanted to do 25 man instances, the bigger prize and "lesser" content is no longer fun, its not somewhere people want to step. Zul'aman seems to hold interest because of the mystic it still has, the bears, the timed runs and the challenge (despite being cleared in under 30 mins by Nihlium). Black Temple holds less of this, the guilds are seeing people start to see it like Karazhan or Black Rock, its a step on the ladder, but its going sideways rather than up.

You promised us tank talk:
Of course this ties into my original post idea, not Tanking content. I am a Tank, I like to Tank, I want to Tank (and if that is not enough Tanks in one sentence then Tanks a lot but no Tanks). Yet so often Tanks are asked to step aside, a raid needing 3-4 Tanks to clear the trash, yet only a single Tank for the Boss seems like the worst idea ever, it promotes the idea of Tanks being different (in my mind all Tanks should be Main Tank capable, viable and competitive in 80-90% of cases), of replacing members of your raid to fit the content, rather than raiding with friends and the content working with a consistent group.

There is a large furore on the Beta forums at the moment, Retribution Paladins (on critical hit) get an instant Flash of Light, which can apply a HoT (on a critical hit). This is seen as massively overpowering, its a DPS class that can Heal! Yet isn't this the way classes need to be, to even out the 3->1 Tank, the 6->12 Healers, the 29,000 raid DPS to kill Brutallus, making people flexible and their roles flexible would make raiding with a small consistent group much easier, and more fun. Looking at the Tanking classes, at the moment Warriors are the MT, Paladins Tank trash (typically) and Druids get to go Kitty a lot, really there is 1 Tank class amongst 3 classes that can Tank.

Again there is a lot of complaint on the Beta forums, giving all tanks an equal shot and slightly different ways to do it is homogenising them, they will be too similar. Yet no one seems to consider that Warriors already have a tool for every fight, and that without giving those tools to the other classes as well (possibly spread differently, different implementations, different mechanics, but the same fundamental issues covered to ensure that any Tank can fill any role and not need to have another class babysitting it). To make Tanks all have a chance (and at least 2 classes have trees titled Protection) we need the abilities to do it.

These are related how?
That is precisely the point, raiding and raiders are taking a slight step back, some people are stopping and letting apathy win, others want to carry on. By making the classes more interchangeable, by letting us integrate Healing DPS clases into the game we could easily cover the situations where we lack healers by stacking more hybrids (or asking them to respec, since they would have had more practice in their offspec since it would be part of their main rotations).

Taking Paladins since I know them, our ideal should be:

Pure Holy - Main Tank Healer, Light Splash Healer
Holy / Ret - Crit Healer, HoT based, Single Target
Holy / Prot - Prot / Holy - Off Tank
Protection - Main Tank, AoE niche, Raid Utility
Prot / Ret - Off Tank spec (more dps, less raw tanking capability)
Ret / Prot - DPS Off Tank (lots of dps, can tank if really needed)
Ret / Holy - Shockadin
Retribution - Melee DPS, with light healing woven through

The DPS tree in a caster hybrid should not be to the exclusion of their core features, letting Retribution throw small heals when it does good at its main task (DPS) lets the raid gain some utility and reduces the need for additional Healers, giving more classes this ability and making it more flexible would in my mind help a lot.

The key to letting us raid is flexibility, design the content, and let the classes easily form a spanning set of buffs, classes and abilities, then let flavour and play style decide your class, not whether you bring 0.0001% extra DPS, or have a unique ability that means only you can Tank a boss.

(Note: Illidan is going to stop Shearing in 3.0.2, without this only Paladins could Tank him till overgeared, yet nothing similar is happening to Reliquery of Souls, Mother Sharaz or similar, you need balance and to allow multiple classes to perform a role, if you make it too tight you squeeze out players from a role they should be able to perform).

So I finally convinced my registrar to let me move (honestly, going through the process made progression attempts on Kael'thas look easy, least he follows some sort of plan)!

Is now associated with this blog, nothing else changes, the still works, as does the feedburner, so no need to update anything if you don't want to.

Anyway, will post more later, kindof lost for words at the moment, been trying to write a book.

Since I suggested it, I suppose I really do need to get around to writing the article I planned on Casuals, Players and Raiders, the shared topic of the week at Blog Azeroth.

I suppose the first thing to really address is what does any of this mean, and what do I mean, or really the root of the problem. The problem as I see it is that this is meaningless, I have raided 9 times a week, and been a Casual Hardcore player, while we were progressing there was no rush and it was for fun, yet I have raided 3 times a week and considered myself Hardcore, the intent not the time made the difference to me.

I suppose it really needs a graph like Dungeons and Dragons Alignment:

Alignments, sorry Casual vs Hardcore:

So now I have a picture, what does it mean. Being honest the first thing that springs to mind is a) its a mess, b) its blurred c) Blue, Red and Green... ewwh. Ignoring the former and latter we are left with a blur, there is no true definition of Hardcore or Casual, but rather everything in between. Most people probably fall into the middle, with a distinct upper left trend (most people don't log to sit in Ironforge, or do they?).

So why this graph?, really I think I can characterise hardcore in terms of time (hours spent playing) and effort (attempt to utilise those hours productively). The third dimension to this would be focus going from none (sitting in Ironforge again) to high (eg: Raiding, PvP, etc.). Hardcore in my mind is really about the productivity in your time, you may not have a lot of it but if you apply it well you can be Hardcore but still defined as a Casual player by people more in a direction than you.

The generic "Player" in my mind sits in the middle, they are neither a Hardcore Player (being truly productive with their time) nor are they endowed with a spare 40hrs a week to game with, we make the best of what we have in our own fashion.

So Where Am I?:
Speaking for myself, I probably sit in the top half of the graph, and towards the right, I try and make use of my time and stay focused, I play a lot but it tends to be towards a goal (not always mine, sometimes gearing up others, Badge runs, etc.). I would typically class myself though as Casual Hardcore (top left/right hand quadrant) in that I have enough time to be productive and when I do I am progressing, of course some weeks I am bottom left with way too much time, and no focus.

As I said, I have raided 9 times a week (7 nights in BT/MH, 3 hrs a night, and SSC / TK for another 3hrs each on Sat / Sun afternoons), yet I have also dropped back to < 3 nights a week raiding. Being honest it made little difference to me, as long as the time I was playing I got to Raid (being focused).

While others will try and classify you, the best guide to where you are is probably the guild you are in and its ethos, I will never likely be on par in terms of hardcore with Nihlium or SK-Gaming, yet I probably put in more hours than they do trying to progress. Casuality and Hardcore are really attitudes of the mind as well as the raw things we can measure, so even though I would place myself here, I am sure others would place me elsewhere (likely within the top right quadrant).

Moving Classes:
We have 2 groups on the graph that could consider themselves Casual Hardcore players, those with the effort, and those with the time. As our play style and times shift we move groups on this graph, we can become more Hardcore or more Casual, and that is the beauty of classifications, we are not one thing. All of us have probably sat in the bottom left hand corner, at least when we started playing, meandering around and having some fun for a few hours a week, most of us have probably had a sudden urge to go do something (Netherwing mount, ZA Bear, pushing to 70), and most of us have probably spent a few hours running in circles in our favourite place, or simply enjoying the view while we chat.

World of Warcraft has a community, it has support and it a fan base. This is the beauty of the game, and probably what Blizzard achieved that so few other games do, there is a fluid movement between the groups, and there is content for everyone to play with and explore, you never have to become fully one group and stay there to actually enjoy the game or to experience parts of it (Higher end raiding is simply a repetition of lower end fights with twists, while its nice to move up you are a raider no matter where you are on that scale).

So Does It Matter:
Yes and no, the key thing is that you can find a position in the graph for you. There are guilds in Sunwell at 3 nights a week, and there are guilds in Karazhan 7 nights a week. World of Warcraft is a microcosm of the world itself, there might not be an amazing guild that suits you on your server, but there is likely one that suits you within your region, people with the same constraints and goals as you.

These terms should in my mind never be used as an insult or a slander, its nice to classify ourselves, in fact most things in life come down to quickly categorising ourselves into groups to make things easier. The way we do it, what we devote and what we do with the title is up to us though and as long as we have fun doing it it doesn't really matter if I am a Casual player killing Kil'jaden, or sitting in Ironforge showing off my Bear.

Its a game, and we like to find categories for ourselves, but we should never put ourselves or others into a box, there is a whole World to explore in Azeroth and Draenor, we should keep an open mind, and be what we need to be to get where we want to go, no one will look back and say it was a waste of time, because we had fun on the path.

I suppose its a bit of a cop out of a post, but I wanted to do one. I always liked Nagrand, so I thought I would show you a few of the spots I actually like just sitting in, and watching the game go by. Rather an odd thing, paying money to sit and talk, but I suppose the number of hours people spend sitting in Ironforge running in circles, or atop Hellfire's Honor Hold. I suppose that is really part of the draw of the game, playing with people, getting to know them and them you, and feeling like you belong. Some parts of the game are just beautiful in different people's eyes, some prefer the long vistas of Zangermarsh, the beauty of the Hinterlands, or simply the beautiful view over Stormwind Harbor (for those of you that haven't, its a real sight).

Having moved server, being honest its strange that the game isn't slightly different, the areas are the same, they just feel slightly different in your heart. I still like these places, but for some reason they don't feel quite the same, they aren't mine, I didn't spend hours clearing the area and finding peace here, maybe someday I will feel the same way I did.

Anyway, here are my favourite parts of Nagrand.

The Full Moon:

Moving Clouds:

Aurora Borealis, Outland Style:


The final one is just of me, my mismatched armour, and Trophy Tabard of the Illidari, its strange though, even though its silly and mismatched, its nice to know you earned what you are wearing, and that its ramshackle nature belies the strength and skill that earning it took.

What seems like a lifetime ago, we were introduced to an instance in the Ghostlands near Silvermoon known as Zul'aman, the last stronghold of the Amani Trolls, where a genius and diabolical Troll known as Malacrass worked under Zul'jin to bind Trolls and Animal Avatars together to create God like beings. His strange experimentations were somewhat successful creating the four Animal Gods of Zul'aman, the Eagle, Bear, Lynx and Dragonhawk, and infusing Zul'jin with the power of all four. The darkest powers were reserved for Malacrass himself, allowing him to drain abilities from anyone nearby, and to raise his own power level temporarily by reducing that of others. This dark nest of Trolls, while not directly a threat to the Eastern Kingdom at this time, could grow to rival the Old Troll Empire, and wreak revenge on those that did them harm.

Steeped in mystery, hidden north of the Eastern Plague Lands, a final enclave, and an end to the tale of Zul'jin, formerly involved in the 2nd war, and tortured by the Elves. This instance offered a lot lore wise, and presented one of the few last bastions of the Troll race within the Old World. (Though perhaps someday we will see a full Troll city, a 25 man raid instance on either an Alliance or Horde City, with boss fights in each major sector and multiple paths, it could be such an interesting CoT instance, "The sacking of Zul'Aman", or perhaps "The sacking of the Lorderon"). This stronghold holds dark mysteries, but great rewards for those that can challenge the Troll Gods and their Masters.

For those not interested in the lore it offered high iLvl gear in a short fast, and somewhat brutal instance. The challenge level was tunable to your gear and ability using a timer mechanic with additional loot, and the final prize of a special mount, the Amani War Bear. This timer mechanic allowed you to see the fights without worrying, but for those that had the gear level to push further, some of the best rings in the game, interesting gear, and of course the mount to tantalise the T6 Guilds who otherwise would have no real reason to run the instance beyond Badges of Justice. Zul'aman was in short a well designed instance for different levels of progress, and the start of the 10 man raiding as something more than a stepping stone into the 25 man raid instances.

A Brutal Instance:
Zul'aman can best be described as brutal, I honestly cannot think of another instance so unforgiving for mistakes or deaths other than perhaps the personal responsibility fights in T6 where your death can literally wipe the raid. Each boss was essentially tuned to a high level for the appropriate gearing, while of course extra gear will allow you to push further and faster, the fights can still potentially threaten you. The push for the timers makes this more apparent, with 4 timers achievable with a Tier 4 geared group, but realistically achievable in Tier 5, each mistake made contributes time to recover, and each second lost is one second further from getting the loot that you want.

Zul'aman serves as a short cut to many of the fight templates in the game, presenting you with movement, co-operative Tanking, split-Tanking, phased Healing, transition fights and many others within a short space of time, and for those doing the timers, no way to switch out effectively to give optimal raid compositions for each fight. Zul'aman in many ways can be seen as a training instance for Tier 6 content for those that skipped the Tier 5 content using Badge of Justice gear. This is perhaps a cynical, or too accepting view of it, however in many ways I have learned more from this instance and the stress of the timers than I have in other instances, where making a mistake was fine because there was time and capability to recover.

Taking a quick look at the bosses this instance presents to us:

Akil'zon - The Eagle Avatar:
Akil'zon is a fairly easy fight, a tank and spank, with the raid being forced to spread apart to avoid chaining spells (10-15 yards spells that jump between targets) to minimise the raid damage, then being forced to move in to avoid a lightning effect. Through out the whole fight birds will swarm the raid dealing minor, damage, and targets will be selected and thrown in the air taking roughly 50% fall damage.

This fight presents a few hazards, firstly the movement aspect of the fight, if the raid doesn't move it wipes, but you must be fast enough moving back out to stop excessive chained damage spells killing raid members. This part of the fight is a lot like Naj'entus, standing too close to each other is extra damage, yet being too far away makes the spines hard to retrieve.

The minor raid wide damage is an annoyance, but teaches your Warlocks and Hunters to weave AoE damage through their normal damage to stop the damage building, without completely stopping their dps.

Finally the fall damage is reflective of fights like Rage Winterchill with sudden spikes of damage on single targets that are not the tank, while these spikes are a little more predictable and slow, they serve as a training ground for the real thing.

This fight in many ways is the least fun of the instance, it does feel like a tank and spank boss, with the wipes / deaths resulting in the fight being very long, there is little variety or stress in this for the Tank, simply a threat race in a quite low threat environment (rage / mana can be hard to keep up in the longer term due to avoidance).

Nalorakk - The Bear Avatar:
The Bear Avatar is a Tank co-operation test using taunting and positioning to control the debuffs the boss applies. Threat in this fight is realistically not an issue, however without good co-operation and Tank assignment this fight will go horribly wrong.

The damage in this fight is also very high, the Troll phase has a swipe for ~ 6k per target (12K on a single target) so both Tanks must be healed well, as well as being an exceptionally fast attacking boss. In contrast the Bear form is based on bleeds, and with the debuff applied in the Troll phase can eat 16K health within a matter of seconds. While this boss is far from Brutallus, the sheer damage scope he can throw our (and if one of your Tanks dies without a way to resurrect then its often over very quickly until you out gear it).

The Bear fight is a great fight, you can solo Tank parts of it, but doing so is stressful, you must co-operate with the other Tank and reposition yourselves as he charges in and out. Its not a difficult fight, but very short and intense, the raw damage potential he has pushes you to your limits, making this a long fight will tend towards making it one you might not walk out of.

Jan'alai - The Dragonhawk Avatar:
Split tanking, one Tank, Healer and DPS must maintain and control a potentially large group of Dragonhawks and their spawn rate while the rest DPS the boss (reminiscent of the Shade of Akama fight). Making the fight more interesting are bombs that are spread around capable of dealing very high fire damage to anyone silly enough to stand on or near them when they explode.

This fight is about control, about splitting into teams and communicating with each other to achieve a task. If the Hawks are not controlled they will typically aggro a Healer (area wide threat) and quickly end the fight. Making this control harder is a speed aspect, 50% of the way to the enrage, though it can trigger early, Jan'alai berserks increasing his damage and attack speed meaning your Healers must be capable of either healing both groups, or the group assigned to the Dragonhawks must deal with them before the berserk starts.

This fight is perhaps the hardest of the four Amani Gods, the forced movement, add groups, soft enrage and suchlike combine many aspects of later fights and do so in a non-standard way. The vital aspects of the fight are team work, and responsibility for yourself since the non-tank damage can be minimal if you take care. Its also one of the most fun, both Tanks are occupied, Healers must be aware of more than just their target, and DPS must be ready to swap targets to take care of the Hatchers if necessary. This is one of the hardest fights to learn however, as each new person brought in needs to be aware of the full flow of the fight, otherwise their death can push you towards the enrage.

Halazzi - The Lynx Avatar:
The WTFPwned Avatar of the Amani, sorry, Halazzi is a tuned DPS fight with multiple phases, a threat sensitive switch, Tank co-operation (soaking), a fast reactive dps component (the totems), and a very heavy healing requirement. Oh and he frenzies every so often increasing his damage and attack speed...

Ahem, Halazzi is an interesting fight, it requires fast reactions from the DPS to deal with the totems that spam (chained lightning attacks, flame shock debuffs) damage and DoTs onto the raid, it requires two Tanks to understand positioning and gear for soaking 18K lashes (split between 2 targets) potentially every 2-3s, and it requires the Healers to keep up one Tank under very high damage constraints and another above at least 9K to avoid lash deaths. Halazzi is simply a damage machine in his Lynx form, realistically he cannot be solo Tanked at the gear levels most people have (our record was 32% solo, before running out of trinkets and cool downs to survive).

Halazzi presents the last obstacle to the Amani War Bear, his raw damage is on par with Nalorakk's and his magic damage phases can cause you to lose players if you are not careful and have a watchful debuffer. In short, its short, intense, and fun, no fight short of Bloodboil feels this intense with a pressure to survive, its simply a challenge and a joy.

Hex Lord Malacrass - The Dark Power:
The Hex Lord is an easy fight, every 30s or so he drains a raid member for abilities, giving him potentially very high burst damage, AoE damage, DoTs, Healing Reduction, Mind Control, Fears... very hectic. Making it more complex, just before each drain (starting at 80% of his health) he reduces your damage by 1%, and increases his by 10%. His final ability is an AoE (All 10 members of your raid) shadow attack dealing 20 bolts of Shadow Damage (the BT Shadow Resistance gear makes this trivial), causing push back and making healing very intensive and vital.

The Hex Lord is accompanied by 4 adds that must be cc'd or killed (typically killing 2 and ccing 2 gives the best kill times, otherwise you may need to kill a target mid fight dealing with the soul drain if a cc'er dies mid fight). These are typically a minor distraction to your group rather than a real threat, they serve merely to enforce good cc practices onto the controllers, such as reapplying before the shadow bolts, which would otherwise stop the recasting of the control spells.

Hex Lord is another very fun fight, but his random nature, and the very high raid wide damage without Shadow Resistance gear (because its 20 separate attacks you will see a lot more average resists than your would if it was 1 large bolt so probability plays into our favour by averaging out the damage). There isn't a lot you can do to auto-win vs the Hex Lord, Hunters, Shamans and Druids stolen abilities are the least of your worries, a Paladin or Mage your worst, but no classes abilities are impossible to deal with.

Zul'jin - Leader of the Amani Trolls:

Zul'jin is a 5 phase fight, and perhaps the hardest fight you will encounter due to his seemingly random ability to make raid members die (no actual in game ability, people just seem to randomly die a lot :P). The first phase is a Tank and Spank, the second an exercise in standing on a mark and dispelling, the third a movement and minimal mana usage (you are damaged each time you use mana), the 4th a respone test (the target needs quick healing otherwise they die fast), and the fifth a movement fight (if you stand still you get caught in the fiery pillars, cast move, cast move typically results in little to no damage).

As a final fight this is quite impressive and fun, it pulls together all the threads from the previous fights, offering large damage, mobility, and self responsibility. The fight is not realistically a DPS race, we have pushed the final phase (20% of his health) with 1 DPS, 1 Tank and 1 Healer before, but that doesn't make it fun.

Starting Out:
Starting out in Zul'aman is a real shock, each of the bosses is capable of damage similar or exceeding that of Prince phase 2, this in itself is a shock, but then the timer that appears makes you want to rush, while in truth rushing is the last thing you should do at any stage simply becuase doing so will make you make a mistake. The first step is typically to walk through each of the bosses and approach them as though you were on the timer, learn the fight, then learn it under some pressure. Really there isn't a lot I can say that others already haven't, learn each pull, learn the patrols and most importantly know your raid. To truly progress through the timers the most important thing you can have is communication and trust.

The Elusive Timer, and Trusting your Raid:
Timers are hard, my Guilds worked for months at the T4, T4.5 level pushing through the content, slowly moving from "OMG, how do you get 2 timers?" to "Oh wow we have 12 mins left after the third", and finally to "If we can shave off 3 minutes we get a Bear!", at each stage the key things were that everyone knew the fights, making a single mistake that costs you a resurrection costs the raid time, effort and mana, secondly is high DPS and synergy. Without synergy your raid will be sub-par, of course its possible to run all the timers with any group, but stacking your 5-6 DPS to maximise their benefit will do far more for your raid than you can imagine, while a Mage, Warlock, Rogue, Hunter and Priest will work, making that a Rogue, Shaman, Hunter, Hunter and Warlock would do far more damage. Know what you can give to your DPS to help them, as your Healers will eventually go OOM and then you wipe.

Trusting your raid is vital, if someone says its safe to move, move, if they say stop, stop. You need to not only know your raid and Healers / DPS / Tanks, but also to trust them, simply doing your job is not enough, you need to be there for other people and be ready to make it work. Bad things happen, but you can start pulls below full mana, react to Tank deaths and suchlike in a way which will make the Timers trivial, and its trust. Go into the instance with people you can count on to do whats necessary in an emergency and you will do well, I have seen a near bear run with us accidentally pulling 3 trash packs, which had 3 Tank deaths, 4 Healer deaths and 7 DPS, and we didn't wipe. Each time we suffered a setback the others picked up the slack (running in, DPS healing, self resses when appropriate, battle resses). Its never the end, push forward even if you stand no chance, because the experience of keeping on the pressure will pay off.

Mounting my Amani War Bear:
Eventually I got my Amani War Bear, it was with a new group however, not the old group I had worked for months with pushing forward each step, we got a Bear the first night we entered, and every night there after for 15 resets (the full group). However in many ways doing it this way was meaningless to me, our original group failed when summer hit and we no longer managed to pull together the 10 people needed, yes I made the Bear run with friends (or people who would become friends, since our first Bear was the night I joined the Guild), however it was too easy. The challenge of the Bear was not in actually getting the Bear, but the road towards it.

The Bear runs to me were always a challenge, about trying to move forwards and that feeling of working in a group, of struggling against the odds and getting so close. Those of use in those runs spend endless nights working on the best way to approach the fights with what we had, and trying to maximise our efficiency. We became very close through it because we needed that trust and closeness so that we could react to each other and any eventualities. The newer group was better geared by a long way, simply we had the DPS and Healing to pull through the fights without the challenge, of course the closeness and friendship grew over time, but the instance lacked the lustre it once had. The knowledge those first runs brought me made the new runs very easy, our first run finished with 6 minutes to spare, and runs there after hit 9 minutes to spare (sometimes with 4 wipes in the middle). While my first runs and experiences were serious affairs, preparing and making sure everything was likely to go right, we could now mess around, more like a Heroic instance than the ultimate 10 man challenge.

Its probably looking at this through rose tinted glasses, after all many people still want a War Bear, its going away in WoTLK after all, but its a mount I rarely use. It's a nice mount, and its quite rare still even with people selling runs for it, however its also a mount that should have a story for each person that has one, everyone who went through Bear runs can likely tell you a tale of how they got it, how long it took and how many nights they spent getting close.


The Amani War Bear is a mount many people have, many more people want, and yet I tend to use my White Hawk Strider from Magister's Terrace more. Of course this mount requires a lot less effort to acquire, and indeed is likely less prestigious, however it had and has a meaning to me. Magister's Terrace was the first instance we hit the ground running on, never before had we been at the cutting edge trying to work out strategy, and tactics for each fight, discovering what WoWiki didn't tell you. Again it took many nights of running the instance, but eventually we worked out the best tactics for every Boss, for each combination of DPS and Healer, the mount thus represents the friendship and troubles we went through to get it and the hardships we had when learning the bosses. Its a sentimental mount really, its still simply a collection of pixels, but its an avatar for the memories it evokes, its a mount that means something because of the history behind it.

Blizzard have a plan, a plan so cunning it makes Baldrick's plan, a plan that was so cunning that a Fox, who was Professor of Cunning at Cunning University could not have been more cunning, look like a rather unsophisticated plan by a grade A moron. They plan to introduce more titles.

So What is this cunning plan, a plan so cunning...:
At current we have access to the following titles:

Old PvP Titles - Not accessible
Scarab Lord - 1 per server, Not accessible on a server with open AQ40
Champion of the Naaru - T5 attunement
Hand of A'dal - T6 attunement
Of the Shattered Sun - Rep and Gold Title.

Attunement titles:
The two attunement titles I feel are a good addition to the game, and should be maintained into tiers 8 and 9, they mark out people that have gone through the in game process and achieved the opening of the tiers. These ones tie in well to the slackening of tier entrance requirements and graduated badge gear by offering a reason to still complete the older quests, and to become attuned.

These titles should remain and be expanded, let people take pride in their achievements and let them show it off, if you conquered the T4 instances and approach T5 then your fame in game is shown, the title is bestowed by the NPCs for a reason onto you. It just fits with the whole RPG part of the game, you are famous to the NPCs of the game, no longer just an adventurer but a named character, there is no red shirt for you.

Reputation Titles:
The "Of the Shattered Sun" title seems rather misplaced, while the others are all achievement based this is simply part of the natural repping process (and a small wad of gold), I would rather have seen a long chain gathering quest and a slaying quest for this one, but put it at a level below raiding such that it was open to more people, the Shattered Sun Offensive after all is not just about the brave few who will confront Kil'Jaden, but rather everyone that took part in reclaiming the island and making it open to our forces.

I would like to see these implemented properly, give people titles for taking part in the opening of gates, and the stages of tiered content, let people really take part in long quests, achieve great victories and supply the front with endless materials. These titles should show dedication and perseverance, more of a casual title than the tiered raiding ones, but one you can be proud to wear because it means that you are honoured (not in the WoW rep sense) with that faction for your deeds.

PvP Titles:
The old PvP titles I miss, while the route to gaining them is gone, and thankfully because it was silly, I always wanted to be a "Knight Lieutenant", instead I am a mere Corporal (I discovered PvP, then they took my titles away). I would love to see a route to these returned through Honour or something similar, give us PvP based titles that sound interesting.

PvP can, like the rep titles, be classed as part of the on-going war effort, however in a more general sense. While the reputation titles show "Of the Shatterd Hand", "Of the Silver Crescent" (and should likely give a replacement for the rep you would have gained, perhaps more gold or suchlike?) the PvP titles represent Military Ranks, they decay over time (like pets) meaning you need to keep playing in the war to keep your rank. Your access to special items (not game breaking or specifics, but little items, tabards, or effects like the Footsteps of Illidan) should be based off of these.

Arena Titles should be fluid, at the end of each season Gladiator, Challenger and suchlike titles are awarded, and you hold it for a season, they are worth while and serve as a way towards Legendary items (which you get to use while you hold the title) for Arena, again like the PvP ones, nothing game breaking, but something interesting and unique.

One Per Server:
The Scarab Lord is so far the only 1 per server Title, and it is interesting, but very limited, new players have no way to achieve it, and the mount is also similarly unattainable. This was related to the opening event of AQ40, however I would like to see something like the Zul'aman timers implemented for Old World Instances, "Clear in 3:00:00 - (level-60*0.1)hrs" or similar, so that you can go back, and with a good group clear it and achieve the honours. Making it harder on higher levels to achieve the timers so that the title means something.

Fundamentally these are ok, but in reality its a bad plan, they reward self harming behaviours and do not allow new players even a chance to achieve them, much better would be to set strict limits on them, so the levelling ones are based off of levelling time, or the First Human based off of Lifetime kills or something similar.

Blizzard plans to alter this, to include a lot more server first / one per server titles.

Limited titles and race based titles are a bad idea, they are given out once and don't allow players who are slower, not in game at the time, on Military service etc to compete. Titles based on time (Arena), kills and progress (rep and PvP) are all good because they reward your times spent and the quality of that time. giving out arbitrary titles for sheer speed (and not necessarily the fastest, simply the least real time played, a concept which doesn't actually exist in game since your pets loyalty, buffs etc do not decay in game at real time speeds).

Blizzard are right, titles are an interesting addition to the game, and one that should be thought on, given benefits and reward good and long term players, but their current plan rewards boom and bust techniques like the original PvP titles, we moved past them due to the problems it caused, lets not return to the past.

Seems like my Blog is rather bland, nothing really stands out in terms of my word usage to focus this on WoW, I wonder perhaps if this is a good writing style, or a bad one, since 100% of my posts so far (well barring 2 :P) are WoW based...

Wonder if I need a new focus for myself, since it seems that I fail at focusing on a single topic. What do you think, do I need more focus or do like my rambling blog apparently about what people and classes can do.

The 2ndNin - the promised ramblings were true...

Can Mages level?
Can Mages DPS?
Can Mages Tank?

This Wordle seems more appropriate for a Mage's blog than mine, why do I fixate on the provider of cookies... ok, they have cookies, enough said really.

I think its quite interesting really, there is no real focus to my blog the way others have, and perhaps I need to find a focus that is appropriate, not sure I really can though, I like to ramble and post on what feels right to me. So I will see if I can make the blog slightly more focused, would like to see the words Paladin and Tank in there a bit more :P.

World of Warcraft has held my interest for a long time, I started playing some 15 to 18 months ago, and for the first 10 or so months of those I was a casual player, I levelled my Warlock and Paladin together (well separately since they were on the same account), slowly climbing the levels and eventually reaching the grand height of 60 shortly after TBC was released. At this point my Guild then started suggesting Karazhan runs (well actually once TBC was released and a few hit 70). Suffice to say I wasn't terribly interested, at the level cap there would be nothing to do but raid, and that was boring (having heard the joys of hanging around trying to get 40 people to raid). Eventually I bowed to pressure and got my Warlock to 70, then pushed my Paladin to 70 quickly (around 21 days played each, or around 5% of the speed of the World Records).

So I entered Karazhan with 9 other people from my Guild, we took it by storm, clearing the trash to the Animal boss with only minor casualties, but many respawns, then the boss could take a night. Karazhan was rather boring you can guess. We did try Attuman as well a few times, took ages to get to him and many wipes, it wasn't looking good. At this point I respecced myself to a Tank, a Paladin Tank (and Paladin's don't Tank...), I ran a lot of Heroics, a few guys from the guild really helped me, we wiped a lot getting used to Tanking and learning my limits. Being honest this was great fun, I learned a lot and it made me a good Tank, I went from wondering how much punishment myself and a Healer could take, to basically being able to judge it within a single pull, I learned to mark and I learned to Tank properly. Despite this I was not allowed to Tank Karazhan, even as the best geared tank, simply because Paladins didn't Tank.

So I started Pugging Karazhan, I had met a couple of people while pugging, and we did a lot of Heroics together - Badges of Justice I had lots of, I Tanked Karazhan in a moving pug most weeks, being allowed to MT and to actually fill the role I wanted to, getting to raid lead and have fun. Suddenly the game was no longer about levelling, grinding and getting through the game, in truth that was kind of boring now, raiding was fun, you worked with 9 other people to achieve something and it was a lot more complex than pull, drink, omg I pulled a 2nd mob...

At this point one of the girls I had been pugging with told me she was applying to a Raiding Guild, the 20th top Guild on the server, or 12th on the Alliance side. So I thought why not, I followed her and made an application (the other guy did as well, we moved as a group to a Raiding Guild to try and make some progress).

A Raiding Guild:

So it worked, I was in a raiding guild, and being honest it was great, we went to Serpent Shrine Caverns, and I got to tank (yes small t, I got to Tank Sheeped mobs since the Warriors were better geared, and Paladins don't tank). we were making progress a bit though, a zillion (or at least feels like it, by the release of 2.4 I had / spent roughly 1700 Badges of Justice, its probably over 2600 by now) Heroics I geared myself up (Badge gear being basically the only option for a Paladin Tank since T4 was ok, and T5 only really optimised for Hyjal trash waves). Suddenly I was the best geared Tank again, this time though with some effort, in places like Karazhan at first I proved not only that I could Tank, but that I could do it on a Paladin, and I could single Tank everything bar Netherspite in Karazhan (burning 2 fear wards a ground phase on Nightbane, but I did it).

We started to make some progress, going from downing Gruul to downing Gruul, Lurker and Hydross, eventually Void Reaver, we were making some real progress. We had a lot of non-raiders, it wasn't a strict Raiding Guild but rather a community guild, so we couldn't demand 24/7 attendance, or even that people knew the bosses, we needed the people and the spirit to get through the bosses and we needed it a lot. Lots of interesting things happened in this period, we started Zul'aman runs, and I met some people who play important parts in my story, but that's another post.

So we started making faster progress, moving to 4/6 Serpent Shrine Cavern (with a single try on Leotheras the Blind, which I Tanked despite the insistence on needing a Warlock for the Demon), and 3/4 Tempest Keep, we were actually moving forward. 2.4 hit and opened up Hyjal to us, so we went in and downed Rage Winterchill, alas Antheron really stopped us. In what was a terrible series of coincidences with Summer, parts of the Raiding Core leaving, and a general apathy our Raids pretty much ground to a halt, it became a case of more likely a cancelled Raid than a successful one, and if we did get it going we were more likely to wipe than to get loot.

Eventually I left, no storm of protest, no fireworks, just a simple goodbye and became guildless. I took a very short tenure in another Guild, however at the time it wasn't for me, I didn't fit in with them, and their need for a Protection Paladin was minimal, so once again I went guildless. Again honesty is key, I was bored, I was at this point geared to Tank Illidan if needed, Heroics were all AoE Tankable, the latest instance Magister's Terrace really wanted some Crowd Control (for the 3rd boss if nothing else since no Tank is useful, but especially for the Mage Guards, their Glaive could wipe a party so quickly if it knocked me down and the Healer), but was doable without it. There was really challenge in the game with the gear level I had access to and the content I could do without a Guild. I lost the ability to really have fun levelling, it was the lead up to the end game now rather than the game itself.

A Reunion:

A while previously, while in my last Guild, we had met the GM of another Guild, and Tanked / Healed their progression kill on Al'ar (we couldn't make our Guild's Tempest Keep runs that week, so pugged it for fun), he approached me and took me in, as a Tank. Straight off the bat I was a Tank, I skipped 50% of the game and moved directly to Gurtogg Bloodboil, we failed that night, and downed him the next. Suddenly there was progress again, the reset on a Wednesday came up and we cleared 4/5 Hyjal, then 3/5 Black Temple, I got my first taste of the Ghosts, and watched as Teron Gorefiend, the Legendary creator of the Death Knights, died at my corpse's feet (would probably have been better if it died at my feet, but I got ghosted). We were working again, gearing up and moving forward, we cleared Lady Vashj in a single try, and Kael'thas Sunstrider took us 9 attempts, including 3-4 that ended within about 2 minutes with deaths to Thaladred or Capernian running free.

Life was kind of fun again, then the Guild started to have problems, we were stalling, the Hardcore Raiders wanted to move forwards, but we didn't have to people available to do it easily. A lot of back biting started, and eventually the GM took a hard call, and gutted the Guild (some members and Officers were doing things like Ninjaing loot in Gruul's for alts, a practice the Guild whole heartedly disapproved of, and we kicked some 9 members for participating, or failing to raise a complaint about it). This really shouldn't have been a major issue, the people we lost didn't raid that much and indeed were very bad for the Guild, spreading bad blood, rumours and generally being horribly unsupportive. In short though our downward trend went a bit further, and the GM decided the best thing to do was to let people move on freely, so he disbanded us overnight.

We tried to reform, it might have worked, but alas most of the people who would form a Raiding Core were already moving on, and recruiting more at this stage was hard without actual progress. The server had a very low population of high end Guilds, roughly 4 in Sunwell (3 Alliance, 1 Horde, with another Horde very close I believe). No where really to go I found out that Silvermoon had a need for Protection Paladins (for once the Blizzard Recruitment forums actually proved useful, this was a surprise since normally they are kindof useless), it had a lot of Raiding Guilds as well, and with that I decided to move, some short goodbyes, leaving my Warlock there and jumping to a new Server.

I wasn't sure I really wanted to go, but the Raiding situation on my server was such that if I didn't I would be doing not a lot, or heading back to SSC and TK level progression. Simply all the top guilds Tanks are there, and likely to stay there for a duration. For a raider this meant that there was nothing there, the majority of my friends would be busy raiding (the joy of DPS and Healers is that there seems to be a much higher turnover and need, a small tanking corps that is loyal is very unshakeable and important to progress). I had tried not raiding previously, and within a few days I was bored, there is only so much fun you can have pulling another 5 Elites in Shattered Halls.

A New Beginning:

I sometimes wonder what it is about Summer, we still have 30+ people online in my new Guild, we have the people and the expertise, we have people wanting to raid and still raiding Karazhan for fun. Yet sometimes it can be so hard to motivate people to raid, or rather to succeed, its not the difficulty of the game that seems to kill progress, but rather the motivation and competency of the group. The motivation is unfortunately very easy to kill. People tend to keep pushing on after something is gone, or go and run something else afterwards, but without the motivation the attempts are wasted.

I look forward to the future, of seeing how this comes together, but I do wonder what lies down the road for me, I have moved from Casual to Hardcore, from a leveller to a raider, and I have seen most of the end game. Yet it seems that at some point everything stops around me, and the only way to move is to move. I would much rather stay and have a home, a Guild you belong in, enjoy and have memories of than jump Guilds, but it seems the game is in many ways designed to make me jump, to make players move up, creating a gap in their current Guilds, stalling progress further. Its an odd process, one I think many of us would rather avoid, but there doesn't seem to be a counter to it as motivation fades.

What lies ahead, I don't know. I hope for a bright future, a happily ever after where I get to raid, I get to find a home and we get to really push forward and see what we want to see. The question is can reality match my fairy tale...