Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Paladin Raid Tanking: A Cata Primer

I'm a couple of weeks into raiding in cataclysm and I'm starting to get a groove going with certain bosses about what to use where. Below are my thoughts on tanking raids in 4.0.3 as well as a few things that any tank should keep in mind when they start raiding.

The Basics
So you want to raid tank on your paladin? The best place to start is with the basics.

Gearing Up
Is your average item level close to 350? If it is, you are in good position to start raid tanking. I think you could get away with as low as 333, but I don't recommend anything under 339. I was 347 when I started raiding.

Enchants and Gems
Make sure you have all your gear gemmed and enchanted. I know it's kind of a 'duh!', but you won't believe how many tanks I see in PuGs without all their gear enchanted or gemmed. Many of the enchants you will need can be purchased on scrolls via the auction house. Enchanters are leveling up and these scrolls often go for pennies on the dollar.

Boss Mods
Make sure your favorite boss mod addons are up to date the day you start raiding. There are many boss mods to use but here are a few common ones.
  • Deadly Boss Mods (DBM)
  • BigWigs

Other Addons
Make sure all your add-ons are up to date and include your new abilities. Curse.com offers its own client that can help keep track of what is available to be updated and what is not. There is a free version and a premium version depending on the features you are looking for.

Threat Plates - Helps me see what I have aggro on and I can see health bars and click on them if I enlarge them for easier handling of adds. Also you can add a target of creature name right above the healthbar so I know exactly who a creature is after if I click on it without looking for my player frames.

Omen - Knowing your threat levels is one of the most important pieces of information a tank can have. With omen I know if I'm way out on the lead for threat or if some DPS is creeping up fast.

Power Auras Classic - Powa can be used to create graphic and audible alerts for just about anything you can dream of. My set up puts alerts right in the middle of my screen for many things, including holy power, and to when I have 30% life remaining.

Healbot (or VuhDo) - Any type of click to cast raid frame is great for a Protection Paladin. I went over the uses of this in an old how to tank post, but just for a recap; I have my Righteous Defense, Hand of Protection, Hand of Salvation, Cleanse, and Word of Glory as click to cast so I don't have to target anything to taunt off of my healer (or raid member) or throw a spell their way.

OmniCC w/ OmniCCPulse (needs an update still I think) - OmniCC puts a countdown counter on your abilities so you can see when abilities are coming off of cooldown. OmniCC Pulse makes the icon of the ability "pulse" out to double the size and back very quickly once just to let you know it is off cooldown and ready to be used again.

Dominos | Bartender - Any type of bar mod will work in order to re-arrange and re-size your action bars close to each other. Having them easier reach is very nice. Keep in mind that these addons can create issues when the game mechanics change your action abilities (think Blood Queen in ICC or any type of vehicle fight). However most times if properly updated they are fully compatible.

Rotation and Cooldowns
Make sure you know your rotation by heart so you can worry about positioning and what is going on in the raid instead of staring at your action bars. Make sure you know the time and percentage reduction of all of your cooldowns as well as how they operate mechanically. This can help you make the most of your cooldowns.

Patience is Key
There are a lot of mechanics that will wipe the raid group so far in Cataclysm. For example if people don't jump on Magmaw's back right away and chain him down - wipe. Miss the jump in the Throne of Four Winds between the west and north platform - wipe. Don't pick up the newly released dragon on Halfus - wipe. Got caught by the deep breath on the dragon twins fight - wipe.

You will need lots of patience, so bring it all. As one of the tanks in the raid, patience is a requirement. You will die, people (yourself included) will cause wipes but you need to brush the dust off and go back to doing your job as perfectly as possible.

KNOW YOUR FIGHTS!
Watch kill and how-to videos. Learn the names of the abilities so you can call them out if that is your job. Know where everything is supposed to go so reacting to changes becomes second nature. Read forums on what other ways people do the fights - there could be a handy hint in there that would work better for your guild. Ask your fellow raid mates, sometimes a raid member that is usually quiet could provide a suggestion that could be the profound difference between another wipe and epics.

During Encounters
Here is where all the practice pays off. I use a system called the three C's;

1. Common Sense:
When pulling a boss make sure you know where to stand, which way the boss faces, where your healer is going to be, etc. If you can't master the basics of positioning, your run as a tank may be short.

2. Cooldowns:
When the boss hits you the first couple of times watch the damage. 20k damage a hit? Use your one minute cooldown to lessen the damage, that cooldown will be up before you know it. You should know if there is a large damage ability coming up (such as Magmaw's Mangle) and save your large cooldown for that one. Other examples include;
  • Is there a large AoE damage section? Use Divine Sacrifice to help the raid healers out.
  • Want to keep aggro off of your healer from adds? Use Hand of Salvation.
  • Want to help that one DPS that is getting their butt kicked? Use Hand of Sacrifice ( Remember: you have a pocket healer, they don't.)
3. Communication:
This is KEY to any successful raid. Communication between the tanks for swapping fights(basically most of the fights right now), communication with your raid and healers for spells and abilities coming up or in progress. Letting people know when you use a cooldown so the healers know what to expect. It is also very important to let the group know if you have ZERO cooldowns available, and when the next one is available, they may switch in a raid healer to help watch you until you get a new cooldown.

Final Thoughts
I'd like to point out a couple of the things I consider common sense that seem to help in raids a lot.

Heal your Healer
This is pretty easy if you look at it from a common sense point of view. Is your threat fine? Are you
taking damage? Then heal the healers with your Word of Glory. Pretty simple thought process behind this one - if you heal your healer, they don't have to heal themselves. That means you get the healer with their spells targeting you more of the time! That is always a good thing.

Give your Healer a Break
I know my healers really well, I know what they like to do to regen mana. A nice 10 second potion works wonders but how do I find a spot for them to regenerate that mana? It's simple - if there is not much damage part in the fight simply say to your healer "I am popping my 50% cooldown and I'll lay on hands if I hit 40k HP, go ahead and use your potion". Usually my healers acknowledge this right away. So I pop a 50% cooldown and just make sure I keep myself alive while my healer gets a ton of his mana back. This helps on long boss fights that seem to take anywhere for 6 to 12 minutes.

Making People Sparkle is Fun
Don't forget you have the ability to put a small HoT on a group of people using Holy Radiance. If you happen to be near them while moving a boss around or running to a new target use it! Not only does this help keeping people topped off, but combined with Righteous Fury it generates some nice threat as well.

Hold the Line on a Wipe
Not something as fun as making people sparkle, but when a wipe is called and people are going to reset the boss or run out of the raid instance you need to hold the line. Tank the boss as long as possible and be the last one out if you even want to try to get away. Death is common to a tank, get used to repairing, but it's always interesting to see how long you can hold a boss solo without a healer while everyone else gets away.

It's a Group Thing
The last thing I'd like to say is make sure you share congratulations with your whole raid. If the tanks and healers do their jobs there may not be much praise, but that is what makes me happy. If you survive some crazy damage, make sure you say thanks to your healers. If the DPS pushed it and just made the enrage timer, congratulate them on kicking the boss's butt. No tank can do a raid without DPS and healers, make sure they know that you appreciate them kicking ass for the guild.

Resources
Sites I use when figuring out strats for bosses:

Tankspot - Great videos, but the real gems are in the discussions in the forums of how different guilds tackle the same bosses.

Wowhead - I like to look at each boss for all of their normal and heroic abilities, and discussions on them.

WowWiki - Another good place to read about abilities and strategies.

Bosskillers - I know some people use this site as well.

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