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Thread: Meta Skills: The less obvious way to win!

  1. #1
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    Meta Skills: The less obvious way to win!

    Here is the original work: http://satorri.net/sociology/metaskills1/

    You'll have to forgive me, in forum form, ok, in general, it is a bit dense. The first stage was to get it all down. I may spend some time in the coming months condensing it into more palatable nuggets.

    In order to start this off properly, I want to explain my personal lingo to make sure we are all on the same page. I will generally refer to 3 sorts of skills:
    Primary Skills/Spells = these are the buttons you press to do whatever your character's primary role or function is. This is determined by your class and specialization.
    Secondary/Utility Skills/Spells = these are the other spells you have, the other buttons you press to support your team in a less obvious way like crowd control, heals (if you are not a healer/tank), interrupts, etc.
    "Meta-Skills" = these are the skills that fill in the cracks, the less obvious and often player-based skills. This would include timing your button presses, figuring out or adjusting *when* you hit your primary and secondary spells, adjusting your camera, movement in the game world, etc. This will be the focus of this article, though obviously it cannot be fully isolated from the primaries and secondaries as it will help inform how you use them.
    With the advent of Cataclysm and the increased depth and team play required to successfully complete instances, it has become a powerful force for highlighting skill at playing the game. Even groups with people who appear to play their character's/class' abilities well suddenly struggle with an instance because they are not playing the *game* well.

    For my first pass I want to break these meta skills down by role, in the 4 major roles: Tank, Healer, Melee Damage, and Ranged Damage (Hunters and Casters). I'll include some references to cross-over issues as well like Leadership (it often defers to tanks, but it can be done by anyone), Social Interaction, and Pet Management (most Pet classes are ranged, but Unholy Death Knights will still find this interesting).

    Glossary

    Also, to help with common game lingo in case you aren't familiar, here are some common terms that I use, or that you will hear in the game:

    Spec = Specialization, the talent tree you selected for your primary talent points.

    Mob = developer short-hand for "movable obstruction" but more commonly used as a short-hand for monsters and computer controlled enemies (non-monstrous types may also be referred to as "NPCs").

    Tank = a special role within the group dynamic that focuses on capturing the enemies attention and taking their attacks while the group kills them. Usually, the tank will focus on survival and "threat" over damage. The tanking specs currently are Protection Warriors and Paladins, Blood Death Knights, and Feral Druids who have taken the survivability and Bear Form-buffing talents. Other specs may be capable of tanking in a limited fashion, but this will be rare at higher levels.

    Heals/Healer = a special role that focuses on keeping the party alive. They will sacrifice the ability to do as much damage in favor of being able to more efficiently heal their party, and principally keep the tank alive. The current healing specs are Holy and Discipline Priests, Restoration Druids and Shamans, and Holy Paladins. These classes and others will retain abilities to allow them to heal themselves and others without a healing spec, but these will be less effective without talents, and so at higher levels these healing abilities will often be considered secondary skills.

    Damage Dealers/DPS = a special role focused on doing damage. DPS is short-hand for damage per second, but is used to denote both the rate of your damage *and* the special role or people filling it. This will make up the largest proportion of most of your group activities, with roughly 1 tank and healer per 3 dps, up to 1 tank per 2-3 healers and per 6-7 damage dealers at the largest group size.

    Proc = short for "Programmable Random OCcurance," this is usually used to name a passive ability that can trigger from other actions you take. For example, if you had a chance when you used the Arcane Shot ability for the enemy to take increased damage, you would say that Arcane Shot "proc'd" the debuff on the target. Or, if you have a trinket that has a chance to give you a buff when you cast a spell, you would say the trinket proc'd when it triggered.

    Threat = this is a system built into the game. Enemies will receive threat from each player's character when the character does damage to that opponent or heals one of their friends who are in combat with the enemy. Enemy creatures will use this threat to determine who they should be attacking.

    Aggro = short for aggression or aggressive attention. This is usually used to refer to having or attaining the attention of an enemy. It may also be said as "pulling threat" on the target.

    Pull = often used as either a verb or noun. As a verb it is used to describe the action of picking up a new target. As a noun, it is used to describe a group of opponents who will all engage together if you attack any one of them.

    CC or Crowd Control = these are abilities that affect your enemies. They may include incapacitation, movement impairing effects, or other sorts of status effects, but the key concept is that the enemy is removed or reduced in effectiveness so your group does not have to worry about them for a time.

    Adds = short for "additional enemies." This is used to refer to any opponents who join the fight later on, either from an accidental or additional group, or as spawned by one of your enemies.

    Pat = short for "patrol." Used to describe enemies who walk around a pre-determined route.

    Cooldown = some spells and abilities have a blackout period after use where they cannot be used again. This is called a "cooldown" period. Some abilities are actually referred to as "cooldowns" if they have a short active window and a long blackout period afterwards.

    Trash = a common short-hand for the non-boss enemies you find between boss encounters in instances. These fights are usually less strenuous than boss fights, and are considered by some to just be filler.

    Table of Contents:
    1.) Leadership Meta Skills
    2.) Universal Meta Skills
    3.) Tanking Meta Skills
    4.) Healer Meta Skills
    5.) Damage Dealer Meta Skills
    6.) Group and Social Meta Skills
    7.) TL;DR Digest
    Last edited by Satorri; 01-14-2011 at 09:57 AM.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

  2. #2
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    Leadership Meta Skills

    This section will always be pertinent to your group, though it will be a variable as to who serves as the leader. Typically, if there isn't someone assertive (and sometimes even if there is), this job will be expected of the tank. That said, it does not *have* to be the tank, but the tank is often the easy choice for the nature of their job. The tank is the first person into a fight and will care most in what order things are attacked. There is no reason this job cannot be done by anyone else, but it is ideal that someone does take the leadership reins to make sure that the group is coordinated and acting as a whole, instead of a collection of individuals doing what they please.

    Target Assessment - Kill/Manage Priority - Marking

    Every time you face a new pull, encounter, or group of opponents, you will need to size them up and handle them carefully. If you simply race into the pull blindly, often enough, when things explode and fall apart you may not have a clear idea of how you can improve or what you can do differently. Worse are the pulls where you don't fail outright, but pull it out by the skin of your teeth. If you do not learn from your encounters you will simply always struggle through and instances will be a far more stressful ordeal than they need to be.

    Fights have sufficient risk in the current climate, and take long enough, that it is well worth your while to take a moment or two to plan/prepare and coordinate. This is exceptionally the case if you or any member of the group has not fought this enemy before. Do not assume that just because you *have* done it that your group will know what to do without asking.

    "That's all well and good," you say, "but how do *I* know what to do when I'm leading the group; Especially if I have not done the pull before?!" I'm glad you asked!

    1.) Identify your tools!

    Every class and spec comes with its own set of tools that they can offer to the group, in 3 major forms: Active Class skills (the buttons you press to fill your role), Passive Buffs (Applied, Auras, and Short-term maintained buffs and debuffs to improve your group and weaken your enemies), and Secondary/Control abilities (spells that incapacitate, immobilize, slow, confuse, stun, and interrupt your enemies to reduce or limit their effectiveness).

    Primary class skills will be the province of each member. You do not *need* to know them beyond any secondary significance such as Control/Debuffs that may be offered through the course of them just doing their normal routine.

    Buffs and Debuffs will usually be applied ahead of time. There is a fairly short list of group buffs, and many listings of who can provide those abilities. Debuffs are frequently applied through abilities, but sometimes involve using non-central abilities. If you take a minute at the beginning of an instance you can potentially improve your group's effectiveness, which can actually save appreciable amounts of time later on. At very least, you can more than gain back the few moments spent making sure everyone knows what buffs they are responsible for providing. There are convenient addons that can track what buffs and debuffs your group can offer, personally I use "Raid Comp."

    Every class and spec has Secondary and Control abilities of varying use and value. I won't list them all completely as there are a great many, but I will highlight the categories for reference later:
    Full Control Abilities = these abilities will completely take the target out of the action for a longer duration (20-50 sec), these include a Mage's Sheep (Polymorph), Shaman's Hex (Froggy), Shaman's Bind Elemental, Priest's Shackle Undead, etc. These abilities vary in sensitivity; Some will break to any damage, others can take a little hurt without breaking free completely.

    Quick Control Abilities = these abilities will take the target(s) out of action for a short duration, but can be more robust for their short duration. These abilities include a Druid's Cyclone, Warlock's Fear, Paladin's Hammer of Justice, Frost Death Knight's Hungering Cold, Warrior's Intimidating Shout, and Priest's Psychic Scream. Some of these abilities can be chained, but their shorter durations can make that less ideal for long-term control.

    Movement Impairing Abilities = these abilities will root (stop movement) or snare (slow movement) opponents without otherwise incapacitating them. These abilities are important for settling chaotic situations so people can set up longer-term solutions, or for handling more complex scenarios like "kiting" opponents (luring the opponent around while staying out of reach). Roots tend to be very sensitive to damage and/or very short in duration, while snares are usually very robust. These abilities include Mage's Frost Nova (root) and Chill effect (snare), Hunter's Frost Trap (snare zone) and Concussive Shot (targeted snare), and Shaman's Earthbind Totem (snare, Elemental can talent for a short root as well).

    Interrupts = these abilities will stop the cast of an opponent's harmful spell/ability. Typically only spell-type abilities can be interrupted, while physical abilities that have a "cast" preparation time cannot, though there are exceptions. If a spell can be interrupted it is often well worth your while to do so. Many class-specs will be able to interrupt without interrupting their own actions to do so, particularly melee classes. Almost every class-spec has a form of traditional interrupt with a cooldown period between 6 and 40 seconds. The exceptions are: Discipline Priests, Restoration Druids, Beast Mastery and Survival Hunters (though certain pets are capable of interrupting), Holy Paladins, and Warlocks not using the Felhunter pet. These class-specs may have an ability that can effectively interrupt, provided the target is not immune to the true nature of the ability (for example, Holy Paladins can use Hammer of Justice to stun the target, but if the target is immune to stun it will not stop the ability from casting).
    Identify the abilities your group has, and keep them in memory when it comes time to deciding how you want to manage each pull. It can be better to err on the side of coverage and have multiple people trying to do the job, than put all your eggs in one basket.

    2.) Identify your opponents!

    Even if you have never done a fight before, you can often tell by the names, appearances, and presentation of your opponents what sort of part they will play. For ease of comprehension, until you start become familiar, let's create some archetypes to identify. Blizzard uses classic concepts as well as class-based concepts. Most mobs in the game will follow fairly predictable roles, though they will sometimes mix and match.

    Type 1 = The Grunt

    Grunts are the rank-and-file, simple, no-frills fighters. They are largely filler, something to give you multiple targets to pay attention to without having too much concern about what they do. They will not be a major concern, and often enough may be low priority for controlling or killing.

    Type 2 = The Bruiser

    The Bruiser will stand out because you will not encounter more than one or two at a time or in a group, and they will usually be noticeably bigger, meaner looking, or possibly be shackled/controlled/"buffed" by the staging of the group. Bruisers are often resistant to control abilities, which means they are usually higher priority targets for killing for their increased threat to the tank. In other circumstances, when you have higher priority targets, the healer will simply have to be ready to heal the tank more heavily.

    Type 3 = The Healer

    There are a variety of healer types, and often they will carry obvious names, sometimes as obvious as "<blank> Healer." These mobs will have the direct ability to restore health to your enemies. Usually, if there is such an enemy present, their heal will be significant enough that you will want to be sure to avoid that healing; where that healing will be far greater than the damage you would cause in the time it takes to stop and interrupt or otherwise avert their healing. Usually, "avoiding" the healing will simply be a matter of interrupting a cast, but sometimes it will involve dispelling a buff (HoT or self-regen buff) and possibly mitigating a heal with healing reduction abilities like Mortal Strike. If there is a single healer and no other particularly dangerous opponents, it can be easy to simply focus and kill the healer first. If there are any other dangerous opponents (particularly ones that are immune to control), it may be equally worthwhile to control the healer and focus on the other risks first.

    Type 4 = The Mage

    I use the term "mage" in the general sense, more than the class-specific sense. They may shoot fire, frost, shadow, holy, or nature bolts (or something else altogether), but they are offensive spell casters, and they will often hurt. Tanks have heavy tools to handle physical attacks, but limited abilities to counter spells. This means these targets will usually be focused for control and/or interruption to reduce the threat to the group. Note: there are a distinct sub-set of the mage type that will ignore traditional threat and will pick enemy targets at random, these are usually the heaviest wear on the healers and will be high priority for control. Mage-types will also present a positioning challenge for tanks (see below) so interrupts will be key even if they are only to make sure the enemy moves to where you want them to be. Learning Line-of-sight (LoS, see tank section) tactics will also be valuable against these opponents.

    Type 5 = The Controller

    Controllers are mobs who specialize in trying to control and restrict the players. The mob itself is rarely as big a concern as their spells. Some will attempt to control your group members (Hex/Sheep/Fear/Mind Control) and some will apply damaging or performance reducing debuffs. These will be easy targets to prioritize for long control while you kill the rest of their groups, and are rarely high priority for killing unless they are immune to control.

    Type 6 = The Swarm

    Swarmers are always present in high numbers. Any individual in the pack will not be very dangerous, but when there is a large number of them, the damage adds up and can become a threat for survival and a challenge for the tank to gather their attention. These are rarely controlled because taking one or two out of the swarm will have little effect, but some abilities can be very useful for handling them should you choose to try. Mage's Ring of Frost, Frost Death Knight's Hungering Cold, and Warrior/Priest AoE Fears can be important for occupying those targets while you focus on another part of the pull (like a pack master who directs the swarm). Be wary of the "pack master" scenario, staged as a single humanoid who has a collection of pets, as they have a tendency to direct the swarm with no traditional threat behavior.

    Type 7 = The Boss

    This may literally be a dungeon or raid boss, or it may be a mini-boss of sorts. The boss-type is a larger version of one of the first 5 types, is always immune to control abilities, and is very dangerous. These targets, when not encountered solo (most boss fights are solo, and/or with "adds," additional mobs who will join the fight and are usually taken from the above categories) will be a decision whether they are managed/tanked while you kill off the supporting mobs, or if you control all the supporting mobs and focus on the boss first.

    There are many interesting variations and many twists that the developers will place on this, but these should create a baseline for identifying potential elements in the composition of a group before you pull them. Once you do engage you and the group can coordinate and observe what each mob does so you can refine your strategy in the future.

    3.) Identify Priorities and Assign Marks!

    Now you need to decide on how you will try to kill them. The two major factors for this will be their risk to the group, and the ease with which they can be killed or controlled. If a target can be controlled or sufficiently stifled (by kiting or interrupting) that can reduce the priority with which they need to be killed. No matter how large a risk, if something can be killed markedly easier than the others, it may be best to take that enemy out of the equation to simplify the field. The biggest priorities will always be the best combination you can make of risk and ease of killing. If one mob can wipe out your group, but can be kept completely covered with your group's control, you may want to leave it controlled, or you may want to kill it first and try to keep it locked down until it is dead. There is no universal right answer.

    Marking is a key skill, and one usually left to tanks, but it should fall to the group's leader to use it to direct the group. Set marks, and explain to your group what significance the marks will play for your group. Note: everyone has their own short-hands, and while there are common elements like Skull being the first target to kill, Square being a Hunter trap, and Moon being a Mage Sheep, it is still well important to spell it out for the group so that everyone is on the same page, especially if you have a group of strangers.

    Marks and/or priorities can and should change mid-fight as needed. If you have a high risk enemy, like a healer, who is unsuccessfully controlled, or the control is made impossible (or you discover it to be impossible) you need to be ready to set aside your pre-planned order and kill the new risk immediately, or find another way to keep it shut down temporarily. Communication is always key. The tank needs to be ready to pick up the new target and the interrupters need to be ready to stop the heals.

    If you are on live communication (VoIP or in-person) it is easy to leave marks the same and simply inform people to "kill the star" instead. If you have no voice communication, it may be easier to simply change the skull to direct people's attention. If necessary in a raid, the Raid Warning (/rw) chat ability can make a loud announcement to shift this priority.

    I highly recommend keybinding marks. I set them to the same numbers on my keypad for every character. Keybinding the marks will let you assign them as quickly as if you were typing or using your other abilities, and speed may be imperative if you are setting or changing marks mid-fight.

    3a.) Kill order crossed with control type!

    When you set your priorities and start deciding which control ability to use on which enemy there are a few key things to pay attention to:
    • How important is it for the control to stick?
      The highest risk enemies that you choose to control should get the most robust control effects. So, durable control like Hex, Banish, and Cyclone should be your first choice for these. Less durable but infinitely re-castable controls like Polymorph (Sheep), Bind Elemental, and Shackle Undead should take second status to those. Sensitive control abilities with cooldowns should be your last choice for the highest priority targets; spells like Repentance (Ret Paladin) and Sap (Rogue) will break easily and cannot be replaced quickly (Repent) or at all in combat (Sap).
    • What order are you going to kill them in?
      Plan your control abilities so that you can break the most sensitive and/or shortest duration abilities first as you follow your kill order. Repent and Sap are easy and obvious candidates for the first controlled target to pick up and kill, while the more durable ones, as listed above, can be left for longer. Note: Hex does not break easily, but it *does* have a cooldown; it may be smart to break Hex before you break the re-castable controls.
    • Does the enemy have any range considerations?
      Roots work very well at keeping an enemy who is not being touched out of the melee and off the tank, but that is meaningless if they attack happily at range. Most enemies will fall into one of three categories in this respect: 1.) Full Caster/Hunter = will just stand at range by preference and not care about roots, 2.) Throwers = some enemies will have a single infrequent use (short/long cooldown) ability that they can use at range but they will not use it constantly, 3.) melee-only = these mobs will stand helplessly at range with nothing to do. #1 is a poor candidate for any rooting abilities; #2 can be rooted, but the tank will need to make sure to keep threat unless the damage is truly negligible as the mob will shortly start throwing stuff at the healer; #3 is perfect for roots and they can be used to great effect, especially when they can be recast indefinitely like a Druid's Entangling Roots.

    4.) Adapt!

    Always be ready to change and reassess based on what you learn as you progress with the fight. If you see something you did not expect, it may change your priority and risk assessment. Perhaps what you thought was a Mage turns out to be a Healer, or what you thought was a Bruiser was really no more threatening than a Grunt. Perhaps that one mob actually summons a swarm if left untouched, so you want to control or kill them first.

    If you are inflexible you will find you have to start more pulls from scratch, while those who can adapt mid-stream can salvage a pull the first time and remember the lessons to start it better the next time.

    Example!

    Let's construct an example pull, and break it down to see how these can be applied to strategy. Let's say your group consists of a Protection Warrior, Elemental Shaman, Marksmanship Hunter, Subtlety Rogue, and Discipline Priest. You face a group of 5 opponents, all humanoid-type, named the following: Ironwall Reaver (x1), Ironwall Pledge (x2), Ironwall Acolyte (x1), and Ironwall Commander. They are staged surrounding the Commander who appears more heavily armored. The Acolyte is wearing robes. We can guess that the Pledges are grunt-types. They will likely be less concerning. The Acolyte is most likely a caster of some sort, so it may be a healer, mage, controller, or all of the above. The Commander and the Reaver are question marks, but we can expect something more than grunt behavior, and the Commander may be a likely candidate for Boss or Bruiser behavior. The group wants to be careful so they decide to take the Acolyte out of the situation with the Shaman's Hex. They also decide to limit their exposure by trying to sap the Reaver, who is immune (fortunately they tried to sap which they could do without entering combat, Hex/Hunter's trap would've required them to readjust mid-pull). This means the Reaver may be a bruiser-type and they'll have to handle him carefully. The Commander is sap-able, so they Sap the Commander, and the Hunter drops a trap for one of the grunts to catch. The tank gives the Reaver a Skull to be the first target killed. The tank initiates combat and pulls back giving the time to Hex and Trap, and so only the Reaver and one of the Pledges come to the tank. The Shaman notes that the Acolyte was casting Holy Smite before he was Hexed. Mobs rarely use cross-element abilities, and they tend to be fairly class-oriented, so Holy Smite suggests a healer-type with some offensive spells. That likely means the Acolyte *can* heal, but will also resemble a light Mage between heals.

    As fighting starts, sure enough, the Reaver comes out with two weapons and starts hammering the tank (Bruiser). The tank marks the Pledge that doesn't get caught with an X to kill second. The group kills the Skull-Reaver as quickly as they can, and starts working on the X-Pledge. An accidental mis-fire by the Shaman breaks his own Hex and the Acolyte comes loose and starts healing the X-Pledge. On the fly, the tank puts the Skull on the Acolyte and the Rogue helpfully Shadow Steps and Kicks (interrupt) the Acolyte. The Warrior tank charges the Acolyte and proceeds to keep the Acolyte interrupted and stunned while the group kills it. The X-Pledge is mostly ignored until the Acolyte is dead (possibly with the occasional Multi-Shot from the Hunter or Chain Lightning from the Shaman (which are carefully applied since the tank pulled the enemies away from the Hunter trap and Sap). The Sap runs out and the Commander charges the nearest party member (the Shaman who had been closer to Hex). The tank immediately taunts him and begins tanking him. The Hunter trap breaks and though the Hunter was ready to kite the Pledge into another trap, the tank picks it up and lets the group kill it along with and after the Commander. The tank also notes positioning concerns (see Tank meta-skills!) from the Commander in the form of a Shockwave (forward cone stun and damage) along with a Demoralizing Shout that reduces the groups damage. The latter is deemed ignorable, but the tank makes a note to the group about the Shockwave.

    So, in retrospect you have learned:

    1.) The Commander is a Controller type that needs to be faced away from the group, but can be controlled and taken out of the action.

    2.) The Acolyte is a Healer and represents a high risk.

    3.) The Reaver is a Bruiser and cannot be controlled, but appears to only single-target. This means the smart response will usually be to control the Acolyte and kill the Reaver first, but if there is no control available, or your healer is confident, you can simply let the tank get beaten on, and kill the Acolyte first.

    4.) Pledges really are nuisances, and their only real threat is stacking their damage on top of the Reaver should they all be active at the same time. They may be controlled if you are trying to protect the tank, but probably won't need to be.

    In the future, you know all this before the fight and can plan and direct the group accordingly. Learning all the groups you come across can allow you to move through instances at a good pace while being safe and tactical in how you manage your enemies.
    Last edited by Satorri; 01-06-2011 at 05:35 AM.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

  3. #3
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    Universal Meta Skills

    There are a couple key meta skills that are universal to everyone playing the game. These skills will influence and inform all of your other skills and training, supporting, and honing them can improve every other aspect of your game, including your primary role.

    Awareness

    I cannot stress this enough. If you don't know what is going on around you, you will invariably suffer inefficiency, reduce your helpfulness, stress your teammates, and be an anchor to their performance. Don't misconstrue success for you doing well, or as well as you could. Just because you killed your enemy, does *not* mean you did it well, or as effectively as you could have. The goal is simple: know what is going on! That is easy to say, but in the eternal truth: "you don't know what you do not know." You need to be looking for things, not waiting for them to bite you or be fed to you. So what areas can we focus on in-game and out-of-game awareness?

    1.) Game World Vision

    We have an advantage when we play WoW. While we take on a humanoid avatar in the game world we do not share our real world limited range of vision. We take a third-person view point looking down on our avatar. This allows for many advantages, but those can be severely mitigated by our user interface (UI). Here are a few things you can do to improve the potential in-game visibility:

    Use addons and/or adjust your UI scale to reduce the screen space consumed by your UI, and be careful that in using addons you find smart ways to place them so that they don't block key locations. Note: the space at the bottom of your screen shows you the least as it is where the camera looks most directly at the ground. This space can be filled with the essential buttons and windows and minimize the game-world space that is blocked from view. Always leave space around your character to be able to see your avatar's body, otherwise you will not be able to see when you are standing in or near something dangerous.

    Move your camera! Be comfortable and familiar with both right and left clicking to change your camera angle. This offers two values. First you can actually look around to see different locations, but this also helps with supporting your brain in creating the illusion of 3 dimensions. With a fixed camera angle and no movement, you can minimize your depth perception. Moving your camera, essentially, allows your brain to calculate as if it were receiving two vantage points (like your eyes do all the time without your attention) and create a sense of location in 3 dimensions. Note: while right clicking will change your character's facing direction, left click can be used to swing your camera without changing your character's direction which can be key for tanks and dps in particular who want to get a good look around without interrupting what they're doing or opening their back to the enemy.

    Find a convenient zoom distance that lets you see all of what you need to see, but ensures that you can see your own feet/location in sufficient detail. For most fights the max-camera distance slider in the options menu will let you zoom far enough out to see everything important. If you find yourself needing more perspective you can type the following in the chat bar: /console CameraDistanceMaxFactor 100 . This will allow you to zoom to a longer distance. You can go longer by increasing the value in place of "100" but I've found that going much farther makes it hard to see your avatar well for fine distinctions of location.

    2.) Enemy Locations

    This is most central to tanks, but it is a key piece of information for every member of the group. It is in your best interest to know where each enemy is, and what that means for you. As a general rule of thumb, only a tank should be standing in front of *any* enemy for safety. Sometimes it can be okay for ranged damage dealers and healers to stand in front of certain mobs as demanded by the encounter, but it is your job to know when this is acceptable (i.e. there are no breath or cleave attacks). When in doubt, assume that you should not be standing in front of any enemy. In the event you find yourself in a random group with a tank who does not position smartly (see below), or in a situation where the tank has to position in a specific fashion, you should know where the enemy is, which direction they are pointing, and position yourself in what seems like a safe spot. For the sake of clarity, assume that "in front of" means in a forward 90 degree arc (if you were standing in the middle of a square room, and the enemy was facing a wall, the 90 degree arc would go from corner to corner of the wall they are facing). For extended safety, you could extend that to the front half (180 degrees) of the enemy. Melee damage dealers should never be in front of their enemy unless the specific situation absolutely demands it.

    3.) Skill State

    No matter what role you play, the first step to using your skills well is knowing when they are available and/or when is the appropriate time to use them. This varies greatly by class and spec, but there are a couple simple guidelines and methods you can use to improve this awareness:

    There are generally four conditions that will decide when you use a primary ability (secondary abilities such as debuffs, interrupts, control, etc are determined externally by your enemies and the environment):
    • "Foundation" meaning the ability may not be the biggest deal on its own, but you want to make sure it is up to improve your other abilities (such as Flame Shock for Elemental Shamans, Serpent Sting for most Hunters, or Rend for Arms Warriors)
    • "On cooldown" meaning the ability is so powerful that you want to use it the second it is free
    • "On priority" meaning you want to use it when that slightly more powerful or foundation ability is already managed and/or on cooldown
    • "Dump" meaning when the powerful abilities are on cooldown (not available) and you have extra resources, the dump ability lets you burn those surplus resources into more of what is important to your role
    I will never say that you *must* use addons, but I think the single largest value an addon can offer is to give you feedback that makes sense to *you* about the state of your abilities and your character. The second largest is to provide the standard information, in a more convenient and more space efficient fashion. The third is to give you an easily accessible presentation of information that may be otherwise hard to read from what the default UI shows you.

    Using addons such as Power Auras or cooldown timeline bars can allow you to watch for when abilities will be available *without* grossly distracting you from the physical reality for your avatar. If you are too focused on your action bars it can be at the expense of the rest of this section.

    A simple action bar mod and unit frame mod (unit frames are the health and power bars of you, your target, your focus, etc) can present the same information as the default UI in a customizable and/or smaller more convenient location. This can give you the same information while obscuring less of your view and/or drawing your attention away from the game world. This can also give you a more obvious indication of the state of your resources and the state of your cooldowns.

    Learning the particulars for your class and specialization is highly varied and I will not discuss it here. It is well worth your while to find resources on how to use your abilities, should you not choose to figure it out for yourself, not know how, or not be clear on everything you need to know to do so.

    Movement

    Moving through the game world is a seemingly simple action, but it is central to everything you do. Take some time to consider how you do that, and the best way to do so for your own computer equipment and comfort. One of the main elements here is the turn/strafe divide. There are two general categories of methods for this sort of movement:

    Strafing = this means to run sideways while continually facing forwards. You can bind keys so that you can do this at the press of a single button, and rely on your mouse to look around and change the direction you face.

    Look Strafing = the slightly less popular (though equally effective in the hands of an experienced player) method is to keep your movement keys as turn keys. This means that they will turn your direction when pressed, but if you hold down the right mouse button (to fix your look direction) they will become strafe buttons. This is much more difficult if you rely on your mouse to click any abilities while moving.

    Strafing has a couple key values:

    1.) While strafing away from a target you can move at full speed (moving backwards is always done at walk speed), but still face and hit your target, and likewise not open your back to your target (more on this for tanks).

    2.) Strafing can allow you to move at full speed while still keeping your view on something important you need to see, such as the big enemy boss, dangerous zones, or other visual cues that will affect your behavior.

    Figure out what method works best for you, and practice using it. Always try to be light on your toes in the game world. You never know when a patch of fire might light up at your feet, or that big dragon will turn and start spraying fire in your direction.

    Keybinding

    You can assign hotkeys on your keyboard (and mouse if you have a fancy multi-button mouse) to use abilities on your action bars. This is called keybinding. This is invariably one of the best things you can do to increase your effectiveness at playing your character. Here are a couple key points of why:

    1.) Mouse-clicking abilities will always add cognitive steps to working your character. In order to click a spell you have to A.) realize you need to press the button, B.) recognize the location of the mouse pointer on the screen, C.) move the mouse to the proper location (may be more or less efficient depending on how well you use your mouse), and D.) click the ability. This simultaneously consumes your attention as you watch the mouse move and makes your mouse unavailable for movement and changing your view point (see above). Keybindings cut out the middle steps and allow you to create virtual muscle memory. What that means is, rather than having to pay attention to the movement of your mouse, you instead A.) realize you need to use the spell and then B.) press the key on your keyboard. This lack of cognitive distance (objectifying the mouse) allows it to become an unconscious action. Rather than thinking that you need to use a spell => move the mouse => press the button, you simply think you need to use the spell and that can be done with the flick of a finger. Eventually you don't even think about moving the finger. Using the mouse to accomplish this has substantial barriers to that sort of muscular learning, and will, in the best of cases, simply slow down your reaction speed.

    2.) If you are able to place most or all of your abilities/actions on keybindings, that will free your mouse exclusively to use for changing your view and picking your targets. This encourages attention to the action your avatar is in, and draws your attention away from the action bars and the user interface. Combining this with the Skill State section above, the intelligent use of addon indicators for ability cooldowns can allow you to play almost exclusively in the action, in the game world, and maneuvering becomes as nimble as your body in the real world. Mouse clicking inhibits that.

    Pet Management

    You have a direct-able friend (to distinguish from "guardian" types who pop out and do their own thing)! It is up to you to make the most of that pet, and take good care of them. How can you really make the most of that?

    1.) Keybinding, Pet Edition = I highly recommend keybinding the movement commands, if nothing else. Being able to send your pet on attack and pull them back can make a world of difference, even if you do nothing else in directing them. If they have a spell that cannot be put on auto-cast (with flashing sparks around the border) or perhaps should not be (like a dispel or interrupt that you want to cast selectively), this would also be good to keybind. As with your character's skills, if you have to go hunting for the button, you sacrifice a lot of time to go press it. Identify what you need on your bar, that is, what you will want to activate and/or see the status of. Abilities on the pet bar can be assigned keybinds, other abilities cannot without special macros or addons.

    2.) Use Stances Smartly =
    • Aggressive stance means that your pet will behave like mobs you find in the world, as soon as something aggressive is in range of its attention, it will go on the attack. This is a good stance for pets only called to attack, like Treants and Shadowfiends, as it may increase the pets' effective attacking time (instead of running back to your feet when its target dies), but for most anything else this won't be very handy as your pet will initiate combat frequently. Some players may prefer this while leveling as well.
    • Defensive stance is the balanced stance. The pet will wait until you tell it to attack, until you attack something, or until you or the pet are attacked, at which point it will engage only the things that attack or are attacked by you or your pet. This can be useful for not having to micro-manage your pet, but it will not always be the quickest response to things.
    • Passive stance means your pet will do absolutely nothing but what you tell it. If it is attacked it will stay or follow you as you direct it, but it won't engage. If you tell it to attack, it will do so. This has very specific uses (like when you don't want your pet to auto-attack every time you attack something), but be careful when you use it, or you may find your pet is just hanging out by your foot instead of attacking.
    Figure out what the appropriate time to use each stance will be, but the value of the stance will be inversely proportionate to the amount that you micro-manage you pet. That is, if you frequently direct your pet in every action, stance will become unimportant. Make sure that you set your pet to the baseline behavior you want, so that your commands are only to direct the finer points of behavior, and not at odds with what the pet will be trying to do without your input.

    3.) Know when to attack, and when to follow! If you are soloing and relying on your pet to take attention for you (common for Hunters who want to stay at range), it is handy to be able to send your pet in ahead of your attack. Alternatively, if you are attacking something that will do a close range attack that will hurt your pet if they stay in, you can call your pet to follow and remove them from harm's way. Note: If your pet is on Aggressive or Defensive, you can order it to follow but as soon as you shoot something it will run to attack that target. If you need your pet to come to your feet while you continue to attack, you will need to set your pet on Passive. Look for the appropriate times to send your pet, or call it back, and look for times when you can reassign its target to make sure it is attacking what you want.

    4.) Learn your pets special skills, and make sure they are being used. Some of the short duration pets have little or no abilities, they are simply attackers, possible with some passive bonuses. For any permanent or semi-permanent pets, they will have abilities beyond the basic attacks. Read the tooltips, learn how they work, and determine if they are to be used always (on auto-cast), if you want to trigger them manually, or if they are not appropriate for your pet's current actions. For example, each pet will have a basic attack spell, this you will usually want to have on auto-cast; your pet may have a special knockback, stun, snare, interrupt, or dispel, and this you may want to trigger manually; Hunter pets will always have Growl which does high threat but no damage (though it may have secondary effects), and this will *not* be appropriate when you have a group of players with someone serving as a tank.

    5.) Right Pet, Right Situation = Hunters and Warlocks have a variety of pets that they can employ. Some will pick one based on what they like best, or what goes with their own specialization best, but remember to keep a mind for your group. What buffs can you provide with your pets? What does your group have and what could it use? Direct buffing and debuffing abilities may be useful or cover gaps in your group's composition, but sometimes the non-buffing secondary abilities can be a big help, like having a snare to lock down things that try to run away or charge the group. Be creative, try to avoid just leaving your pet as an auto-attacking source of damage, *look* for the utility.
    Last edited by Satorri; 01-04-2011 at 06:54 AM.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

  4. #4
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    Tank Meta Skills

    The tank in a pivotal position in any group. In any 5-man, and often enough in 10 and 25-player instances, this pivotal role falls to one person (though in raids it may be one person at a time, or 2 people). Tanking, perhaps more than any other role, has the most essential and influential meta skills that will influence everyone else in the party. A skilled tank can make anything feel easier, while a sloppy tank can make everyone else's job more difficult.

    Positioning!

    One of the most important meta skills in the game is the positioning of mobs, and your position relative to them. It is the tank's job to do this, quickly and intelligently, but there are no tooltips and no obvious markers for this beyond common sense. Let's look at the conditions and appropriate responses:

    1.) When in doubt, always point your tanking assignment away from the group. Often enough the enemies will have forward cone attacks, cleaves, or other directional hazards. If they do you are saving the group from death or pain, and if they do not you've lost nothing. It is always better for this to be your default mode of action unless you have reason to direct them otherwise. Do *not* expect the group to move to accommodate you unless there is a reason you must position them in a specific way. It is always easier for you to make a small movement and completely change the target's angle than for the entire group to run around the room trying to get to the safe side of the enemy.

    2.) Pull away from sensitive/controlled targets. Regardless of how or when your control actually gets applied (even if the Mage is a late sheeper), always pull your active opponents away to a safe distance. Some abilities have cleaves that cannot easily be helped, some key abilities for debuffs have AoE ranges, and accidents happen. It is always safer to make sure the active targets are at least 10-15 yards away. Situations where this is not possible are EXTREMELY rare.

    3.) Respect the line-of-sight (LoS) of your healer, above all, and your ranged damage dealers as well. If you are pulling on stairs, a ramp, around corners, or around obstructions in the hallway or room, recognize what will interrupt the ability of your healer to heal you and your damage dealers to attack your target. If you are pulling in such a situation, give your group the heads-up about where you want to settle in to tank the targets ahead of time so they can be ready to move where they need to ahead of time. The worst thing that can happen is that you surprise your healer on when you start the pull, then go out of range and around a corner forcing the healer to have to run for crucial seconds just to be able to *start* casting a heal on you. As a healer (see below) this will be an important thing to take responsibility for, but it is a 2-way street. If you like being alive, do what you can to favor/help your healer. Ramps and stairs are frequent offenders for this issue. Standing half-way up the stairs will frequently block the entire platform at the top from line-of-sight (LoS).

    4.) Collect your enemies in front of you. You cannot avoid or block an attack that comes from behind you. What constitutes your "front" can be a little iffy, but you want to avoid having enemies behind you as best you can. This will call on the awareness comments above, heavily. There is a tricky element of the game's scripting. Mobs will attempt to path (think the "path" connecting you and them) on the prediction of where you *will* be, rather than where you appear to be on your screen. That means that the mobs may sometimes over-steer and go farther than you want. If you are not ready for this it can be an obstacle. If you are ready for it, you can *use* it to position things where you want. The easiest way to think about it, is like a whip lash. When pulling enemies to a point where you want them to face towards the place you were coming from, run a little past where you want to stop, then dart back quickly at the end. Doing this will have them chase you that extra half step, then stop and turn in place as you snap back. If you want to pull them to a location and have them pointing in the direction you were headed, stop slightly before where you want to end up, then step forward a half-step, or back into position. They *do* predict based on speed, so moving slowly (i.e. backwards) will not result in them over-stepping usually.

    4a.) Kiting/movement! While kiting a target, or moving them, using strafe is a key value. If you simply turn and run to the location you want to move them to go to, the whole way there they will be at your back and you will suffer significantly more damage (currently about 15-30% more damage is reasonably predictable). However, if you strafe there you can move to reposition at high speed while still being able to generate threat (when they bounce in range) and not take hits as if you were being attacked from behind. Strafing is a very important tool for tank movement.

    5.) The Nudge and Twist! When facing your target, if you tap forward onto their toes bit by bit, you can get your enemy to readjust and inch backwards. I call this the "nudge." Note: the enemy will appear to turn away from you and walk backwards, but they will not functionally change direction for the sake of cleaves and breaths. Take note of the enemy's preferred hit range (if you stand still they will position themselves there). If you run in a circle around your target, keeping that range constant, you can rotate your enemy in place. This can be very handy for directional concerns like breaths and cleaves. If you try to run through their minimum hit distance, or run too far away while circling, they may try to reposition and undo your attempt to turn them, or worse completely change positioning *and* orientation. I call this the "Twist."

    Add Awareness!

    As the tank it is your job to know where every enemy is, what their status is, and what risks/considerations they carry. You need to know which mob will be controlled, and be ready if it should break prematurely (and if it does, be ready to pick it up or let it run for a moment while the control is re-placed). You need to know where you are positioned relative to other enemies that are not yet engaged. These come in two forms: patrols ("pats" for short) and other groups.

    As a tank, if anything pulls, it should be you who pulled it. Sometimes that means you need to be more aware and more prepared than your damage dealers, though ideally they should be keeping a lookout as well. If you find yourself in a fight and see a patrol coming, you can pull the group back and drag the damage dealers with it to avoid pulling the next group. If the next pull is unavoidable, or someone is lazy/sloppy, you should not be caught by surprise, you should be ready with the necessary tools to grab the new coming enemies.

    To help with this, you can apply tactful variations on the previous sections' guidance:

    1.) Camera Angles can be your friends. If you are working your way through tunnels or through a zone that is reasonably "linear" (meaning there should be nothing coming from behind), it should be very easy to set your camera angles so you can see to the next pulls or down the hallway you are about to travel. This way you can see patrols coming, or see the next groups that you will pull.

    2.) When in doubt, create more safety margins between you and the next pulls. Note: a creature in a control spell will not draw the attention (aggro) of a new enemy who walks by them, however, if the control breaks or the enemy becomes active and/or attacks you, they will take anyone nearby into the fight as well. It will be important to keep control spells active (overwriting the control spell will not create that aggro scenario), but should they come free, you'll know you need to pick up the new targets.

    3.) Respect the "body pull." Once targets are engaged they will determine their targets based on threat. If you do not hit them, the healer's healing will create threat. However, until they do start noticing threat, enemies will follow a simple rule: the first thing they see is the first thing they'll want to attack. Remember this when there is a chance of something getting added to your fight. If you wait until the damage dealer, or whoever is closest to the patrol, to get their attention, you will have to pick each of the new targets up individually, or with multi-target attacks. If you are the first thing to get their attention (say, if you throw something at one of them) they will first try to run to you, buying you time to hit them all.

    Because you are doing all this as the tank, it is an easy task for you to be responsible for marking, and in 5-player groups you can always take the initiative on the fly. Being able to pick out targets smartly, throwing out fast marks, and directing the group to control or kill the new targets can make the group's actions much smoother, and can make your primary job of keeping enemies' attention easier on you.

    Use the priorities, apply threat intelligently!

    Whether or not you are deciding the priorities for the group and setting marks, respect the marks and encourage the group to do the same (should they need encouragement). Having everyone following the same playbook is a very high value to making things predictable and simpler for everyone involved.

    When managing threat, you simply need to understand the *nature* of threat. Threat is a matter of minimum needed. There is no reward other than self-assurance for generating twice as much threat as the highest damage dealer, and if that happens at the expense of threat on another and that other comes loose, you are not doing your job well. As such, managing threat on multiple targets can be like plate spinning. You don't *need* to hit everything, all at once, all the time. You only need to make sure that each target is sufficiently ahead of the need (the damage dealers' or healer's threat). Marks and a kill order are essential in making this job far easier and less daunting.

    When placing threat, there are two central assumptions you can use to get threat where it is needed before it is needed:

    1.) The first kill target will need the most proactive, pre-emptive threat. It takes relatively little threat on secondary targets to keep them from healer attention, and only slightly more to secure them through damage dealing class-specs that have splash damage.

    2.) You can tell who needs the most threat by whose health goes down fastest. The lower the health the target has the more damage they've taken (and probably *are* taking if they are getting hurt faster than the others). The more damage the target takes, the more threat it is getting from damage dealers, and the more threat you need to put on it to stay ahead. Overhead health bars are tremendously useful for this purpose, they allow you to be focused on your physical environment as well as see a sort of indirect representation of your threat requirement. Some addons will even let you attach a threat indicator to those overhead health bars.

    If you feel confident with your lead on your first target, you can switch to the additional targets and focus on them preemptively. For example, if you are at double the threat on the first-kill target, and it only has 20% health left, you probably don't need to even touch it any more to keep it locked to you. That is an ideal time to get a heavy head start on the second-kill and/or secondary targets. Managing this economy can tip the threat game in your favor.

    Damage dealers should be responsible for their own attention to what they're attacking and their threat. Random groups will not always benefit from this set of ideals however. To manage this uncertainty (and probably get compliments on your tanking) use the above rules to watch for who is *actually* being attacked/focused. You have two choices that will vary depending on your healer and the atmosphere you want to maintain in the group. If a damage dealer is willfully neglecting to follow the planned kill order, *and* your healer agrees, you can let them pull the target that they are attacking out of order, let it kill them (being careful to taunt it should the healer pull threat), and teach them a lesson while saving your healer and your own threat management some grief. Alternately, if you just want everything to go smoothly, you can make sure that you prioritize that target in your attention (again, you can tell which they are targeting because its health will drop faster than the others). After pulls where people were irresponsible, it is the appropriate time to request/re-emphasize the kill order and its importance. Remember, it is better to assume that people were confused or not paying closest attention, and be polite your requests. You get more flies with honey, as the saying goes. More on this in the section below on Communication.

    It is *not* unreasonable to place marks and ask that people follow the order you set. It *is* unreasonable to not place marks and then yell at the group when they take aggro on something.

    Your survival starts with you!

    Learn the fights, learn your enemies. In any instance, in any raid, take notes (mental are fine, but physical if that is better for you) on every enemy you cross blades with. Know what they do, know what moves you can ignore, and know what moves really hurt you or the group.

    It is *good* to identify the opponents abilities and decide which ones can be ignored.

    It is *bad* to assume that any ability can be ignored if you don't feel highly confident you know how it works.

    Just because a group you are a part of appears to manage a particular opponent or group of opponents well once does *not* mean they will the next time. Knowing what they do allows you to adjust without having to go back and re-figure out how to handle them.

    There will be two key phases that should influence your behavior on how to use your survival abilities and meta skills:

    1.) Learning the pull

    While learning a particular group or combination of enemies, use your survival abilities aggressively and preemptively. It is better to possibly lose some overall values to not be caught by surprise by a new move. During this period you will not be penalized for taking too little damage by using survival abilities when they aren't needed.

    2.) Mastering the pull

    Once you've seen their tricks, combine that with your expected pace of movement from group to group and figure out ways to smooth over the fights for your healer. You may not *need* to use your damage reduction cooldowns on random trash groups, but there is no reason *not* to if you know it will be off cooldown by the time you get to a place where you know it will be needed.

    Pace Control

    As the tank, it falls to you to determine the pace at which your group moves through the dungeon. As the tank, you should be the first person into each pull, so it falls to you to do so in a responsible manner. Many people can be impatient, but no one wants to hang around in a dungeon, waiting unnecessarily. Remember, you will have to wait longer if you pull to fast and people die than if you wait a moment for people to catch up, catch their breath, or get a drink. There are two elements to find the appropriate balance in:

    1.) How fast *can* you go

    Are you stopping, chatting with friends, or being distracted from the game causing everyone to wait for you on something that doesn't need to be happening at that time? How much can the healer take before they need a break to refill their mana (note: this is a decision that the healer is far more qualified to describe than you are, respect their wishes)? Does the damage section need any sort of break to re-collect themselves (rebuff, resurrect pets, etc)? There are more limitations to pace than simply how fast you can pinball from group to group. Recognize your group's needs even when they are not obvious. Remember: there are people behind those avatars who may need a moment for something.

    2.) How fast *should* you go

    It is all well and good to try to keep the pace up so that your group can clear at a reasonable pace and not take more time than is necessary. Just because you want to go fast is *not* license to pull indiscriminately, and it is not you who will decide the pace that the instance *can* be cleared by your group. The damage dealers will determine how fast things die, and your healer's efficiency will determine how long and how much they can keep you alive through. Know when to encourage your group, and know when to hold off and let them catch their breath.

    Faster is not always better.

    Non-Obvious Survival Tricks

    We always think about things in terms of our stats, tools, and game mechanics. That said there are some tools that can allow you to take less damage that don't directly involve these things. They usually involve movement and awareness.

    If they can't reach you, they can't hurt you

    Dodge stats let you have a chance to avoid an attacker's attempted hurt. If you are standing outside of melee range, they can't even try to hit you. Sometimes, if a target can be snared or slows themselves, you can simply run out of reach and stop taking damage (threat willing). Be warned, mobs will behave differently when rooted. If the enemy cannot move, they will take the highest threat target they can *reach*. So if you are not in melee range they will hit anyone else who is, regardless of how high your threat is. At the start of a fight, or when the target's attention is redirected in the middle of a fight, you can buy time without damage by letting them run around a bit. Whether or not you *need* to take less damage, it is your job as a tank to try to do so. Look for these windows where you can escape swings.

    A similar technique can be used against casters. This is a common tool used in PvP, but it is infrequently employed in PvE. Pillars can be used to interrupt casters' spells, but computer scripted enemies (NPC/mobs) will not realize this until they cannot finish their cast if you are exposed long enough for them to start. There are two ways you can use this with individual implications. If you stand in the open, at range, and let the enemy mage start casting their spell, you can duck out of line-of-sight and they will wait until the end of their cast to try to reposition so they can start again. If you use sharp timing, you can step back out into range just as they cancel their cast and they will not move at all, or very little allowing you to repeat this as long as you have their attention. Alternately, you can simply and continually use new obstructions. In PvP this is called "pillaring" for running a circle around a pillar to continually force the target to move to keep line-of-sight. Employing a simpler form of this, you can use the obstruction to force the caster to run to you and stand next to you to gain line of sight. This is an efficient way to get casters to stack on you and the melee-type opponents.
    Last edited by Satorri; 01-04-2011 at 06:54 AM.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

  5. #5
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    Oct 2008
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    Healing Meta Skills

    While the tank will play a heavy role in the leading edge of your group, the healer is the lifeblood and the support structure. Your choices will determine who lives and who dies. To that end, you can encourage a healthy party in more ways than simply refilling their health bar.

    Triage

    Triage is the act of assessing the health state of the group and acting in the place that is most crucial first. Triage *should* be the fraction of a second that precedes every action you take, which is to say, triage does not happen once, it happens before every action as the situation is always changing. There are many tools you will have as a healer, and they will vary by class and spec, but there are a few common elements that all healers share in the form of the following tools:

    1.) Dispel!

    This is the first tool I am listing for an important reason. There will very frequently be debuffs applied to your group. As a healer it is important to know what they do as they will affect your healing in very specific ways. Once you know what they do, you can decide on the fly whether to remove them or not. For example, if the debuff is a simple damage-over-time (DoT) effect, and does 10,000 damage every 2 sec for 20 sec, dispelling it immediately can make it so you do not have to heal through all that damage, whereas you could spend the entire duration of the debuff trying to keep that one target alive through the damage. Alternately, if the debuff only does damage when the target moves, you know when that target will take damage if they do at all (it is probably safe to leave this up on the Mage who is just standing still casting, *not* okay to leave on the tank who has to move around constantly). Some debuffs will also not require dispelling as they are applied to a target who they will not affect. For example, a cast speed slowing debuff will have no effect one a Rogue whatsoever so it does not need to be dispelled; That same buff would wreak havoc on a Balance Druid, but reducing that Balance Druid's damage may not be more important to remedy than say, healing another target who is close to death. Learn to discern when dispelling will be more important than healing through or ignoring the debuff. Remember, enabling your group to kill the enemies faster also reduces the amount of healing you have to do by reducing the duration of the fight.

    2.) Dead is Dead!

    Normally, there is no difference in performance for a character who is at 90% health or one who is at 10% health, in terms of game mechanics. No one's damage is proportional to their health (though some players may be distracted if their health drops too low, this can be mitigated by their trust in their healer). The first goal of healing is to not let your group die. Sometimes death is unavoidable, and when that happens it is important that you keep the group structure afloat as best you can. The tank is the number one priority in most situations, provided the tank is alive and holding the enemies' attention the group can continue on stably for a while, even if you die yourself. That said, the healer (you!) is also a high priority. Some fights can be completed with heavy healing on damage dealers while they finish off your opponents. Damage dealers are almost always the last priority, as there are multiple damage dealers and losing one out of three is less crippling. Even if the group is whittled down to just the tank and healer it may be possible to kill your enemies eventually; Though obviously this is not an ideal scenario, it may be stable and sustainable in some situations. In deciding who is most crucial among the damage dealers, pay attention to their relative damage output, what they are responsible for controlling (the Mage may do less damage but he may be protecting your group by keeping still more enemies at bay), and to their other key secondary values like interrupts.

    Ideally, you should never *let* someone die. The decision, the focus should always been on keeping people alive, but sometimes triage may dictate that you heal someone when it is possible or probable that someone else will die. Accept that it may happen and work your hardest to see that it doesn't have to.

    3.) Scalpel or Sledgehammer? Every tool has its use!

    Every healing class and spec has its own unique design and set of tools that will offer different strategic values. Every class, however, has some staple/baseline abilities that translate pretty well from spec to spec. In *general* this is how they can and should be used. Note: this may change with the particular abilities and talents of your class and spec, read and learn how these guidelines can change for you, or read your tooltips and talents carefully to make best use of your spells.
    • Workhorse Heal (Heal, Holy Light, Nourish, Healing Wave) = this heal is small and hyper efficient. It will not heal for nearly as much as your other central spells, but it will get a very high amount of healing for the mana spent. Unless there is a specific reason to use another heal, this should be your go-to ability.
    • Big Bomb Heal (Greater Heal, Divine Light, Healing Touch, Greater Healing Wave) = this is your high throughput heal. It will offer substantially higher healing value for the time invested (usually taking the same time to cast as the Workhorse Heal), but will cost you substantially more to use. This is the ability you use when your Workhorse heal is not keeping up with the damage being taken, or when you want to pick up the healing pace when it isn't deathly urgent.
    • Fast Flash Heal (Flash Heal, Flash of Light, Regrowth, Healing Surge) = this ability will actually hit for slightly less than your Big Bomb heal, but will have a much quicker cast time. The end result is that this will be similar in healing *rate* to the Big Bomb, but it will be faster on delivery and less efficient still than the Big Bomb. This has one key use: your target could die before your normal Big Bomb heal cast time would take. This should be the most sparingly and strategically used of your healing abilities.
    • In-The-Zone Heal (Power Word: Barrier, Holy Word: Sanctuary, Holy Radiance, Wild Growth, Healing Rain) = this heal is specifically designed to provide healing when it is needed on multiple targets. On one target it is slightly weak and/or rather inefficient. Every additional target who receives healing, however, will increase the total effectiveness and efficiency tremendously. A safe rule of thumb is to use this ability when you can get full usage on at least 3 targets.
    Being a smart healer means using your tools smartly. Look at the abilities you have that are not listed above and consider how they compare to those abilities on cost and scale to determine the best places to use them. The only way to truly waste a tool is to never use it.

    4.) Awareness dictates priority

    The previously discussed meta skill of in-game awareness is a very important element for healers. While you will still need to avoid hazards like the rest of the group, the extent of your awareness can also show you a few key elements that can inform how and who you heal. Pay attention to the following elements to determine which of your healing tools is the appropriate one for the job, and remember: Situational Awareness can be applied to more than just your own avatar.

    Pay attention to where people in your group stand, how they move, when they move, and what blindspots they have. If you can learn to read their virtual body language, you can learn to predict a lot of the damage they take. For example, on this encounter you know that the boss places pools of lava at people's feet; You have also watched and determined that the Mage frequently prefers to finish their casts before they move out of the damage. Because of this you can predict that when a pool appears under the Mage they will need an extra bit of healing (or perhaps a quick chat request to not finish casts and move out of the damage more quickly to ensure they live through the fight).

    In addition to reading situational damage, you can pay attention not just to the amount of health that has been lost, but the *pace* of that health loss. Is the ally continually losing health? Is it coming in large jumps or a small bleed? Is it draining rapidly or slowly? How does the rate of health loss compare to the rate of restoration from your Workhorse Heal or your Big Bomb Heal? Was the damage an isolated incidence, or a recurring theme? These will help you decide when and where to heal. For example, if one party member takes damage, but it is one hard hit and they take no more damage, nor do you have reason to expect more damage, their heal can wait if you have a more urgent need like the tank who is taking constant damage. Recognizing pace in addition to scale can help you inform your triage more tactfully.

    For your own sake, always remember that you can take the initiative on avoiding line-of-sight conflicts with your group. The tank should be responsible for staying in your eye line, but you can still be proactive in making sure it doesn't happen by accident. If you are caught by surprise when it does, it is because *you* are not paying attention to your surroundings.

    5.) Sometimes the best way to do your job is to prevent the healing from being required

    Being a healer can allow for a lot of perspective. If you employ the awareness outlined above you can get a strong handle on the key elements and hazards of a fight. Communicate this to your group. If you know how to avoid taking damage, and you can explain that coherently to your group, you can potentially make your own job more reasonable or very easy, without spending a drop of mana. Warning people about hazards, creating strategies to avoid them, and encouraging your group to be health conscious are all indirect ways of being an effective healer.

    In many situations you can also employ secondary class skills to help simplify the healing required. For example, if you have an interrupt (Resto Shamans and Holy Priests), a stun or incapacitate (Holy Paladins, Holy Priests), a fear (Holy and Discipline Priests, Holy Paladins for select situations), or other control abilities (Resto Druids and Shamans) you can use these abilities to interrupt or pause damage. If used well you can actually prevent more damage than you would've restored with your healing in the space of the same cast/global cooldown.

    Sometimes it is even worth your while to attack! Every healing spec now has tools to make it not inefficient to use their damage abilities. This is *not* the same as being supportive of good damage dealing, but it may allow for you to contribute damage when healing is not required without compromising your ability to heal later. This is highly class-specific in value, but Resto Shamans can actually receive gains to their healing and mana regen by using these offensive abilities when there is reduced need for healing. This is not always true for everyone, and when push comes to shove it will always be more important to deliver the healing. Keep an eye open, however, for when you have time and mana to spare, and you can make your job and your group's jobs easier and shorter by helping your enemies die faster.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

  6. #6
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    Oct 2008
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    Damage Dealing Meta Skills

    While the Tank and Healer are very specialized and central roles to the group dynamic it is the bulk of the group, the damage dealers (DPS in colloquial usage) that will set the pace and requirements of the Tank and Healing dynamic. Damage dealers do the work. While damage dealers may not carry as obvious a make-or-break value as the Tank or Healer, there can be a very big difference between just doing damage and being a high-functioning member of the group.

    Just because you were brought to kill things, does not mean that is all you can or should do!

    Yes, you are here to blow stuff away. You will get your chance to do so, but in the mean time you need to remember that you are a part of a group. As a group you have to work together to succeed in the instance. Victory does not care if you did the most damage but left the Healer to struggle and carry your sloppy performance, but the Healer will definitely care. As a member of a team you are offering the best value by making the activities as easy on the group as you can. Here are some key secondary skills that you can and should offer to ease the performance of the group:

    1.) Tanks are taking your beating, love them in equal measure!

    The tanks job is to make herself more juicy a target than you (threat) while simultaneously taking a righteous beating on your behalf. You would wilt and die under the damage they take, that is why they are in the group. Respect that job and help them do it. This can be divided into two parts, matching the two chief goals of being a tank: Threat and Survival.

    Threat: It is a 2-way street!

    Threat is a simple, linear scale. Each person adds threat to their total proportional to the damage or healing they do, and tanks get an advantage by making their damage more threatening (by way of a multiplier). Every group member starts at zero threat and builds from there, the tank included. This has a simple, practical implication: the hardest moment for a tank to hold threat is *always* the first few moments of the fight. How can you help? Wait. Take a moment positioning, take a breath, count to 3, wait to see the tank's diseases, 2-stack of Sunder Armor/Faerie Fire, 2-stack of Seal of Truth, etc. before you start attacking. There is no award for trying to jump the gun and getting yourself killed other than a resentful tank and healer, and group if you cause a wipe (everyone dead). If you have an ability that transfers threat (Rogue or Hunter), the best time you can use it is at the beginning of the fight, but it won't hurt anything to use it more down the road.

    Tanks get threat from damage. Whatever you can do to increase your tank's damage will increase her threat as well, and that will make it easier for you to dole out your hurt without risking the attention of your enemies.

    No matter how great your tank may be, never lose sight of your threat state. Fully pulling attention off the tank is a doubled pain. Tanks will be less effective at generating threat when they aren't being attacked, and will be significantly handicapped if they are not in swinging range of their target. If you are running the risk of pulling threat on a target, change targets or stop attacking altogether. Losing a little damage is far better in most situations than causing chaos, stressing your tank, stressing your healer, and/or getting yourself killed.

    Remember, it is the tank's job to protect you, but it is your job to help them do it.

    Survival: A dead tank cannot protect you!

    Survival is the bread and butter of a tank, but there are many obvious tools that can help, and non-obvious tricks that can play as profound an effect. First and foremost use your debuffs! If you can apply a damage reduction or attack/cast speed reduction debuff, you can familiarize yourself with the equivalent abilities applied by the tank and make sure that they are always covered. Even the best tanks can forget or get distracted and let the debuff fall off. If you cover them you increase the group's survivability and your chances at success.

    One tricky but powerful thing you can do to help is know what you can actually purposefully pull the attention of. Hunters, Plate-wearing damage dealers, and Druids have tools that can allow them to actually taunt enemies. In general, this is not a tool to be used often as you are still not a tank and will take noticeably more damage, *but* if used at the right time you can buy the tank time to pick the target up, keep damage off of your healer or other squishy members, or possibly keep them from attacking for a while by kiting the enemy away from the squishies and towards the tank. If you do this, it is best to communicate to your tank what you are doing, and whenever possible do your best to not be taking damage from the target. Taunts all have a long enough range that you never should need to do this while in melee range. This can be used by most anyone to pull casters into the tank as well. If you take threat on a stubborn caster who is standing apart from the group, then run out of line-of-sight, you can pull the caster over to the tank without the tank having to reposition. Always be ready to use what tools you can to drop threat back off onto the tank, however.

    2.) One of the greatest gifts you can give your healer is being responsible for your own damage!

    The healer's job is to keep the group alive, but that does not mean that you should add to their workload or make it harder than it has to be. The game is designed to offer plenty of hurt for them to heal from unavoidable sources, if you can avoid taking damage, you are helping your group succeed.

    Unless there is a good reason to do otherwise, prioritize *not* taking damage

    The most common elements for a damage dealer to take damage from are as follows, including easy ways to avoid that damage:
    • Falling, exploding, and locational hazards = if the ground is glowing, or you see a shadow, or the boss turns around suddenly and looks at you, MOVE! Getting out of the way is the best way to ensure you take as little damage as possible. The faster you respond the better, as you may not get long warning most of the time; This means stop casting, channeling, or doing whatever you're doing, and hightail it.
    • Damage Zones aka "The Fire" = don't stand in the fire! The fire may be green, purple, frost, or sharp rocks, but do not stand in it. If you see a patch on the ground, it is always safest to not stand on it unless you specifically establish that it is safe or beneficial (learn to tell the difference between good green glowy patches and the burny sorts). This is an exceedingly common element of fights you will face, the better you get at this the better a team member you will become.
    • Breath/Cleave/Lash = many big Bruiser and Boss type enemies will have attacks that hit any target standing in front of them. When in doubt, always stand behind your target unless you have a very specific reason not to. Key things to look for: Is your enemy using a single large weapon (still possible with dual wielders, less common with sword & shield types)? Is your enemy a dragon? Does your enemy look like it would breathe fire/frost/acid/etc? Did the tank immediately turn the enemy so its back was towards the group? If any of these are true, and even if they aren't, assume that you do not want to face your enemy's pointy end.
    • Random-targeted Chaining, Breath, or Column Attacks = the boss/enemy will face a random player and either fire a column in a straight (or squiggly) line, or will fire a spell that can chain to your friends. To minimize this hurt as best you can, spread out from your friends. 15 yards is usually a safe measure. Chaining attacks will only require that you stagger, but column attacks will also require that you stagger around the perimeter (if you can draw a straight line through two players and the boss, two players can be hit by the line attack or breath).
    • Debuffs, DoTs, and Auras = Some enemies will radiate damage, others will place debuffs on your entire group or one person at a time. Whatever you can do to help mitigate this can help your group succeed. Many classes have their own ability to dispel debuffs, and this should not only always fall to the healer (sometimes the healer cannot remove diseases, poisons, and/or curses). Figure out what you can dispel and whether or not it is worth your time to do so. When in doubt, assume it is better to remove the debuff quickly. Auras cannot usually be avoided, but that constant source of damage can wear on your group. Use what abilities you can to ease the damage taken, particularly using short-duration damage reduction self-buffs when it looks like the healer may need support to catch up.
    These things are always your responsibility. Do not assume that the tank can or will turn the enemy away from you (ideally they should, but "should" will not save your life). Do not assume that the healer can or will just heal you through anything, even if they can that does not mean that they should have to.

    Special Case: Dragons!

    We fight internet dragons! Dragons have certain special and predictable rules to follow and respect. First, stay away from the pointy front end, there will invariably be breaths and cleaves that will be mean. With dragons, though, the tail is also a hazard. If you need to be close to it, stand between the front and rear leg on its side (favor the rear leg if you favor either). Use the "hit box," meaning stand as far as you can from it while still being able to hit it. Why? Most dragons will also have a "Bellowing Roar" that will fear you in a random direction. Giving as much space as you can ensures that you do not get feared into the cleave/breath or the tail swipe.

    Just because healing is the Healer's primary job does not mean you should avoid healing yourself

    There is plenty of damage to go around. Every bit that you prevent and every bit that you *heal* is that much less that the healer has to do. There are an assortment of tools that you can use to help with this, learning when to use these tools is very case-specific, but always remember that you have them and encourage yourself to *choose* to use them. Being ready to use them can be the biggest value whether or not you actually need to.
    • Lightwell = If you do not have full health, click the Lightwell. Lightwell looks like a small fountain of light placed by Holy Priests. You can click it without facing it or changing targets and without interrupting anything else you do, and it will place a short duration HoT on you that is extremely efficient and very effective. The Lightwell will not take the initiative and heal you on its own, click it, love it.
    • Healthstone = Warlocks can summon a Soulwell that looks like a stone cauldron with something green and glowy inside. Click it and receive a Healthstone. This stone can be used once and will restore a chunk of health, not unlike a Health Potion. Should your health drop low, you can use this stone to help extend your life long enough to be saved by the healer in a more sustainable way.
    • Health Potion = these can be made by Alchemists, but also drop off of random creatures you kill. Keep some in your bags when you find them and use them the same way as Healthstones. Sometimes you just need another moment of life for the healer to pick you back up. Minutes more of life can allow you to do more damage than firing off that one shot and dying while the healer is busy.
    • Bandages = the First Aid secondary skill (can be taken by anyone without losing any other professions) allows you to craft bandages that can be used to heal yourself and your friends. You can only be bandaged once every minute, and using the bandage channels healing at one tick per second for 8 seconds, which will be interrupted by any damage you take. Bandages are not the most ideal way to regain health in the middle of a fight, but again, taking 8 seconds to save your own life can allow minutes of damage, where otherwise you could just die to fire off that last shot.
    • Class Healing Spells = Several classes have abilities that can heal themselves or others, and sometimes can even heal their entire party. While generally you will not want to stand around just casting heals (though there may be situations where that would help), this could make the difference between someone living and dying. Healers frequently have to prioritize who receives their healing, you however can throw a quick heal or two to save someone's life long enough for the healer to catch up. Remember, it may not be remotely the same scale as the healer is capable of, but it is no worse than the single-use items like Health Potions and Healthstones, and can be done more than once. Certain abilities, particularly Word of Glory for Paladins, Holy Radiance for Paladins, Tranquility for Druids, Divine Hymn for Priests, and Healing Rain for Shamans can all be *very* powerful abilities when used in times of need, even when used by a damage dealer.
    Dead is dead. If you have the ability to save your life, or prolong it an extra couple of moments, that could make the difference between living and dying. A dead character deals no damage. Take responsibility for giving the healers the best chance you can, and prioritize the longevity of your damage dealing, rather than trying to squeeze off shots even if it means you die shortly afterward.

    At the end of the day, applying your central job *does* help the group directly and indirectly

    They brought you along to kill things, and kill things you shall! While you're doing it, there are little tricks to increase your effectiveness. Some of them will improve your damage dealt, while others will increase you helpfulness to the group in a less obvious way.

    8 tricks to increasing your damage done

    1.) Use over-head health bars

    In the keybind menu you can set a key to display health bars for each enemy over their head. Turn this on and get used to reading and recognizing these bars (I recommend turning *off* bar stacking that will cause them to overlap). This has a two-fold effect: You can always see the health state of everything you are fighting, and it encourages you to be looking at the physical setting of your fight and your character, rather than staring at your action bars or unit frames (health bars in the UI).

    Tidy Plates has become a very popular addon, and the Threat Plates plugin for it offers spectacular value. This will not just present health bars with customizable dimensions (the default UI has a bit more frills than are necessary which can interfere with your vision more than necessary), but also can color, fade, and highlight bars to indicate what the enemy is marked with and your personal threat state (safe, close, and aggro with both tank and dps modes).

    Overhead health bars, default or modified, can also be configured to show when an enemy is casting to enable quick interrupts.

    2.) Time target switching strategically

    If you find yourself surprised when your target dies, you will lose potential damage while you try to flip to your next target. This is most pronounced for casters who can complete an entire cast on a dead target. There are 2 principle styles here based on your class and damage dealing type:

    Melee/Hunters = You can attack an opponent to the last moment without losing anything, but with two particular concerns. First, always be ready to switch targets the moment your target dies, auto-attacks will account for a pretty heavy fraction of your damage and if you do not have a target (and face them) you cannot auto-attack. Second, If you have a super-heavy hitting ability with a longer cooldown (more than 3-4 sec) you should pay attention to how much health the target has left and how much of that hit would be wasted. You can potentially get a better margin if you finish the enemy off with your softer abilities and get the full hit on the new target who has more health. Note: Execute-style moves are the opposite of this rationale, you can only use them on targets with low health and they can be used to do substantially more damage on nearly dead targets.

    Casters = Learn to read the pace at which a thing is dying, particularly get used to fellow damage dealers who have Execute-style moves that will lead to things dying faster when they are low on health. Do not start a cast on a target unless you feel confident that it will live long enough *and* with enough health for your spell to hit at full strength. Instant cast spells are a key value here. They may not do better damage overall compared to your longer cast spells, but being instant cast you can deliver the damage at the front end of your global cooldown rather than at the end of a cast time. This can be used to squeeze damage in, stacking incidences. For example, if during your 2.0 second Lightning Bolt cast you see the target is getting very close to death, you can hit a quick Earth or Frost Shock and have the damage happen almost simultaneously with the Lightning Bolt hit and ideally stack in before the target dies. This can be a very handy way to bookend the fight. Alternately and additionally, if there are more enemies to kill after your current target you can swap targets when the current target is almost dead and immediately start in on the next target with your normal long cast times, and ensure that you do not waste time. Do not worry about reapplying damage-over-time effects on targets that are going to die in the next couple seconds as they will be substantially wasted.

    You will always lose time if you wait until your target dies and is de-targeted to pick the next target.

    3.) Pre-Seed your next target

    Every class and spec has certain tools that improve their damage dealt to targets based on short-term personal buffs and applied debuffs that do damage or increase the damage of your abilities. If you wait until your current target is dead to start thinking about the next target, you may have to ramp up your buffs and debuffs again. Use the dying moments of your current target to refresh your self-buffs and when convenient you can pre-seed your damage increasing debuffs on the next target. For example, if you are a Hunter it can be very easy to drop a Serpent Sting on your next target without losing pace on your current target. Likewise an Elemental Shaman can apply Flame Shock to the next target to not waste any time with Lava Burst availability.

    4.) Learn what abilities can scale well by being spread around

    It is easy and obvious for Death Knights to spread diseases beyond their primary target, but it can be less obvious for a Rogue to maintain Deadly Poison on a second target, for a Retribution Paladin to stack Seal of Truth on additional targets, or for a Elemental Shaman to have Flame Shock ticking on multiple targets at once. All of these things (and many more) can be done without too much of a damage loss on your main target, and they can increase your overall damage/impact when focused damage isn't the highest priority. These DoTs may increase your threat slightly on secondary targets, but provided you do not need heavy duty focus on your main target, which *is* sometimes the case, you can accelerate your contributions. This is not universally true, as some abilities cannot be readily maintained on more than one enemy, so read your tooltips and consider the ramifications and requirements of trying to do so.

    5.) Use your cooldowns more than you think you *need* to

    Most damage dealing specs will have a self-buff (cooldown, colloquially) or several that will increase your damage dealt directly or indirectly. These abilities will have a cooldown ranging from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. A typical Boss fight will take between 5 and 8 minutes. That means that any ability with a cooldown longer than 6 minutes will only reasonably used once per boss fight, but an ability with a cooldown of 4-5 minutes could be used twice if you use it early and then again when it comes off cooldown. An ability with a 2-3 minute cooldown can follow a similar thought process and can be used several times if you use it early and at the earliest convenience. The only exception to this "on-cooldown" pacing is if a fight has periods where you want to push quickly through with higher damage dealt; Fights like this will dictate when you will want to save your cooldowns for, but make sure to look for places where you can use the ability early and have it off-cooldown and ready when you need it.

    It is easy to forget that you have these abilities when you are facing trash and the in-between fights. Your cooldowns can be wasted by never being used during these periods, whereas if you use them you can improve the group's pace in earlier portions and improve your contribution to the group's damage. A typical trash fight will take between 45 seconds and 2-3 minutes, and you could spend as much as 30-60 seconds between pulls even at an aggressive pace. That means that you could use abilities with a 2-3 minute cooldown on most every trash fight, whereas you could use abilities with 5+ min cooldowns every other fight. Note: just because you cannot use it on every fight does *not* mean that you shouldn't use it, just be sure that you give it time to come off cooldown before the fights (such as boss fights) where you want to have the buff. If you have a 1.5 minute cooldown or shorter, you should be using the ability aggressively and often.

    Always make sure to read your tooltips on these abilities and pre-plan micro-strategies and tactics to maximize the value of the ability when you move it. As a starting template for that consideration, look at the duration. Most abilities will last either for a specified number of abilities or casts *or* for a duration of 10-20 seconds. If the ability lasts for a limited number of abilities, make sure that you use it on the specific abilities that will benefit from it most, *and* that you can use these abilities in the window provided by the buff if it has a window; If it does not have a window, it will usually not start its cooldown until you consume the charges it gives, in which case you'll want to find the quickest way to use the charges to maximum effect. If the ability has a time-based window only, identify how many abilities you can use in the window given. If you are using instant abilities (melee/shots or instant cast spells) they will take 1.5 seconds from the global cooldown, whereas if you are a caster you can divide the duration by the cast time of your spells. Always include a factor for latency. Depending on your internet connection and skill at using abilities you may add 0.05 to 0.3 seconds to each ability's time footprint. The game has a built-in system that allows you to preemptively queue abilities to minimize the drag of latency, but that requires you to press the button before you need it. Use this ability count to inform what spells you use and when. Note that most cooldown-type abilities will apply to a spell so long as you start the cast before the effect ends even if the spell actually fires and does damage after the effect ends; If the cooldown is presented as a debuff on your opponent it will only improve your effectiveness while the debuff is active. As described in #2, you can treat this window the same way as if the target is about to die, use instant casts to stack damage into the window, and save heavier hitting abilities with longer cooldowns up before you use your self-buff so that you can amplify them and get the most bang for your buck.

    Creating small self-scripted routines can be useful for maximizing these buffs, and often times you can stack buffs to increase their effectiveness by multiplying them together. Figure out routines that will make the most of your particular set of tools.

    6.) Always Always Always buff your group!

    You may want to go quickly, and maybe you got it into your head that it wasn't worth taking the time to put buffs on your group when you can just GO GO GO, right? Wrong! The second it takes to give out buffs (and the seconds to recast them later) are pocket change next to the speed increases offered by the survival, damage increasing, and mana regen buffing values of the various class buffs you offer the group. Make it a part of your routine, and buff the whole group smartly. The time you gain will well outweigh the pause to setup.

    7.) Learn how to Minimize your downtime

    Almost every fight will require movement, whether it is smart positioning at the beginning of the fight, moving enemies that will require you to move to stay in range, or the typical locational hazards that you will have to avoid. Most non-melee classes have to stay still to carry out their standard moves, and melee classes need to be close to their target to keep hitting. That said, there are obvious moves that have been built in, as well as less obvious tools that will enable you to still do a good amount of damage while moving.

    Once you are comfortable with moving to avoid the hazards of a given encounter, or moving to keep up with your targets, start figuring out ways to use your skills to do damage while you are moving so as to minimize the downtime. There are a few handy things to look for:

    Remember: even though Spell B may not be as strong as Spell A (which you then use preferentially, normally), if you cannot use Spell A while moving, Spell B may be the best thing that you *can* do.

    Instant Casts are king for casters = when you are moving you can always use your instant casts. Perhaps this just means you will refresh a DoT or debuff earlier than you would normally, but if it is one less thing you have to do while standing still that is one more thing you can do while standing still that can *only* be done then.

    If nothing else, this may be a good time to refresh group buffs like Shouts, Totems, or other short-duration abilities, *or* to refresh long-duration abilities that may run out during combat. *Look* for things you can do to make the most out of what could otherwise just be you out of the action to move.

    8.) Learn the Art of Self-Sacrifice

    You are a killer, a ruthless monster at your keyboard and you will tear anything apart when the time comes. But this is a team sport, and you are part of a group. Sometimes the opportunity will present itself to give *other* people the ability to do more damage. Look for those moments and use them to their fullest. It will not be recorded in an obvious way on a damage meter like Recount or Skada, but it will increase the group's damage performance and it will be because of you. Exactly how to do this is tricky and highly case-specific, but I will illustrate some examples here:

    Executions = Fury Warriors (Arms as well to a slightly lesser degree), Hunters, Shadow Priests, Retribution Paladins, and Affliction Warlocks have severely hard-hitting abilities with positive reinforcements for using them that can only be used when a target is below 20-25% health. Giving these classes the opportunity to use these abilities can have very positive feedback for the group. For example, Fury Warriors receive a stacking haste buff for using multiple Executes. If there are more targets to kill, leaving the last dregs of the opponents health to the Fury Warrior (situation permitting) can allow the Fury Warrior to start in on the next target with a significant benefit.

    Extra Debuffs = you may not have abilities to spread around as described in #4, but perhaps you have a debuff that could enhance those damages. Recognize where you can plant debuffs ahead of time to augment other player's spreadable damage sources. It might not gain you anything, but it could increase the group's effectiveness.

    Debuff Coverage = it is easy now to account for where debuffs *could* come from, and simply act with self-righteous indignation when the person does not apply their buffs and debuffs. Indignation does not help the group though. Sometimes providing spot coverage of buffs and debuffs can help maximize your group's performance even though it may not be ideal for your own methods. For example, you have a Bear Druid tank who is maintaining Faerie Fire (for armor reduction like Sunder Armor), but the tank is focusing heavily on survival and lets Faerie Fire fall off. As a Rogue you don't usually drop Expose Armor as it is hard to fit into your combo point cycles, but if you can apply it quickly on the fly, even with a partial stack, you can support the group until the tank picks it up again.

    The Power of Movement Speed = some fights require opponents to bounce around or be kited around, and sometimes they still need to be attacked. Melee damage dealers need to be within 8 yards of their target to use their attacks, even to auto-attack; Similarly casters and Hunters may need to adjust to make sure they are in range. Situation permitting, if you can slow the movement speed of the target or increase the movement speed of your teammates, you can increase their activity time by allowing them to stay on point. In addition, *any* fight where players need to reposition to avoid damage, if you can increase their run speed that lets them move to the new location faster and minimize time spent where they couldn't ply their full abilities. A small act from you like using a single global cooldown to use that ability can represent far more in gains from your teammates, and may still benefit you for similar reasons.

    Do Not Run Away from your Tank and Healer!

    Sometimes things go wrong, sometimes you pull threat or the tank is incapacitated, slowed, or is just not so spry at picking up your opponents. Should this happen and you have angry beasts bearing down on you, do *not* run away from your tank or your healer. If you out-range your healer they have no chance at keeping you alive for damage you take. If you run away from your tank you limit their ability to retrieve the errant enemies. When at all possible, run *towards* your tank. This will do one step better than just staying still as it will cut the distance between the tank and the mobs in half and shorten the dangerous window in which you could need healing. The healer will always be positioned in range of the tank so this path should never take you out of healing range.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

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    Group, Social, Team Meta Skills

    When it comes down to it, the highest levels of WoW are a social game. You cannot succeed without relying on the strengths and weaknesses of other players. No one solos an at-level raid, and even the MVP from a raid did not actually do it alone, they were enabled to their successes by all the other members in the group, even the ones that may not have appeared to contribute as much. Consider employing the following skills in every social setting whether it is in a common space such as General or Trade chat in a city, a random dungeon group, or a well-established guild raid.

    It is Just a Game, but...

    You may hear this a lot. You may think this a lot, but there are some important things to remember:

    1.) It is a game. If you win or lose at the game, there will not be any real or lasting consequences. You may not get that piece of loot you wanted *today*, but there is always tomorrow, there is always another opportunity.

    2.) You are playing with real people. You may just be playing a game, but that does not make the people on the other side of those avatars any less real. They are people like you with feelings, desires, plans, and passions. You wouldn't (I hope) reach over the table and slap your mother when you don't like the card she plays in Uno, don't do the same in digital equivalent to the people you run with in a random dungeon group.

    3.) It is not a single-player game. In a single player game the whole world literally or figuratively revolves around you. WoW is a multiplayer game. WoW does not revolve around you any more than the real world does. Be respectful of other players, do not steal or take advantage of them. Respect the same etiquette you would in the real world. If you wouldn't cut in line at Starbucks, don't do the digital equivalent in WoW (like, say, taking an ore node when there is someone fighting something right next to it. Ask or wait to see if they will take it, swooping in is rude).

    4.) Real people have real feelings. Mocking someone's avatar, as much as it may seem silly, is almost the exact same thing as mocking someone's clothing. Some players may have a healthier remove from their character the way some people wouldn't take an insult to their clothing personally, but that doesn't mean you should mock them for either.

    5.) Be polite and respectful. Ask, don't command, and say please and thank you. If you are in a random group and want a buff, ask for it, don't instruct the appropriate party to give it to you, that is rude. They may be avatars, but they are the in-game representation of a real person. Do not address people by class or role, those are labeled, address people by their character name. You wouldn't go up to a person on the street and call them by their appearance, would you? In fact, in many situations that could get you in serious trouble.

    6.) Be considerate. If there is something like a piece of loot or a resource node, or what have you, consider before you take it if it might suit someone else better. If you're in a random dungeon and you want to pick up a piece of gear for your occasional or even frequent off-set (that you aren't using), *ask* before you need the item against someone who needs it for their primary gear set and role. Even if an item may be of value to you in a slight way, consider passing it to someone who will get a much larger value out of it.

    7.) Say "Hello." You don't have to carry on conversations, you don't have to get to know them, you don't have to see them ever again, but acknowledge that there are other human beings present and that you are about to cooperate to mutual benefit.

    Communication is King

    In any activity with more than one person, the only way to truly coordinate your actions is through communication. In the real world we have the benefit of body language and other less tangible forms of communication. In the game world this is rather more difficult. The nature of avatars and their natural limitations for conveying non-verbal language make it so you can only deliver the most simple of messages, and they're rarely conducive to the complexity demanded by an instance or raid. Suffice to say, you have to interact with your group members!

    If you do not *tell* your group what you are doing, they have no way to anticipate or react immediately in a sympathetic fashion. Ideally, the group will form a leadership of sorts. This often defaults to the tank but does not have to, as discussed in the leadership section above. Ideally, the acting leader will set the group's action and the group will help inform that decision, and follow the plan the group settled on. That all sounds great, but we can be more specific, let's create a flexible guideline of what *should* happen in any group action that requires coordination:

    1.) As above, identify your opponents, decide on the appropriate control measures and assign them, set a kill order, and make sure everyone has seen and can handle their assignment.

    2.) When the group has finished the planning phase, the tank should ensure the group is ready prior to making the pull. This *might* be clear if the group is all standing by the tank, moving into position to start the pull, and has all the obvious preset conditions like buffs, active pets, etc. If there is any doubt that they are ready, ask. It is better safe than sorry.

    3.) Once the pull is initiated, the only information that *needs* to be shared with the group is whether or not anything is going off the plan and needs to be handled. This could include a controlled target being unable to be controlled (meaning either someone else will have to take control, or the tank will have to pick it up), if the healer or tank dies (though it may be obvious in a 5-man, it may be less so in a raid) the group needs to know. If a damage dealer dies it is *not* necessary to inform the group unless that player was responsible for controlling something. It is *not* necessary to announce your health status to the healers (including if you are dead after the pull). It is their job, they know what your health state is. If you are not receiving healing it is because you are lower on the priority list for their heals than someone else, or they are unable to heal at the moment. If you are not getting resurrected yet, it is because the healer doesn't have mana, or is handling something else before doing so. Ideally, mid-combat, communication should be kept as minimalistic as possible to ensure that messages are clear and unambiguous. Mid-combat is *not* the time to start discussions, point out less pivotal details, or announce every minor event that happens.

    4.) After combat has ended is the appropriate time to discuss anything you may have learned, highlight how well certain strategies worked, and to discuss how you would handle that fight differently in the future, even if you actually successfully completed it, there is always room for improvement. Discussing how things went and how you will handle them in the future helps reinforce the memory in your mind and helps your brain digest the information it took on so that you are more likely to recall it accurately in the future.

    5.) Between fights the group should pay attention to the needs of the group, particularly the tank (who will usually set the pace) should pay attention to the needs of the group. The healer will most likely be the person to pay attention to and wait on to ensure they are prepared for the next fight, but damage dealers may need to rebuff, refill mana, or resurrect pets and the like. There is no sense in trying to rush ahead without your group unless you can actually solo the instance, and even then it is poor teamwork.

    Common mistakes that can be made in this process usually involve the tank racing ahead while the group is recovering, or a damage dealer or healer being impatient and trying to pull the next group for the tank. If you want to go at a faster pace *talk* to your group about it, guerrilla tactics will only compromise the atmosphere of the group and make people hostile or stressed out, but will encourage mistrust and make people reluctant to trust in the group as well.

    When in doubt, ask. There is no shame in not knowing what to do, everyone starts somewhere and every group will handle things differently as every group is different and has different tools. If you have read the rest of the above you can also recognize that just because two people play the same class does *not* mean they bring the same skills or tools to the table, let alone the same aptitudes.

    Patience is a virtue

    Patience is the trait of recognizing that not everything has to happen immediately. Timing is more important than speed. Patience is *not* waiting and tapping your fingers. Patience is being willing to wait without agenda or frustration. Nothing is improved by being hasty. If you want to increase your pace through an instance it needs to be a cooperative effort, not a forced march.

    If you find yourself getting frustrated by waiting on someone, ask them why they have to pause as long as they are. If they are too slow for your group, or are terminally absent you can ask them to find another group. If you try to treat people with humanity, you can find people are far more willing to be considerate of *your* feelings. If you only plant seeds of distrust, impersonality, and impatience, you have no reason to expect any different from anyone else. Be the sort of person that you want to play with.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

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    TL;DR Digest

    All those sections are so thick with words and stuff. Let's short-hand it:

    1.) Be nice to people, the game is full of them. Even though they just look like orcs and dwarves, they're actually real people behind them.

    2.) Communicate with your group! Don't assume they know what you know, or think the way you think. It is better to ask than to tell. Being polite is a good way to encourage other people to treat you nicely.

    3.) WoW is a team sport. If you cooperate you can accomplish more than if you try to just do your own thing and ignore the group. The other players are not anchors weighing you down unless you fail to invest in *them*.

    Leading the Group
    1.) Mark! Decide on marks with the group, use them, follow them.

    2.) Plan! Having a strategy, at worst, will just mean you were over-prepared. Failing to plan can result in slow, awkward, and costly group activities.

    3.) Learn! Pay attention to what happens and endeavor to improve each time you go again. This can be applied from pull to pull, from instance to instance, and from group to group.

    Tanking
    1.) Pay attention! Know where everything is. If you are surprised by anything that happens, you were not paying attention as well as you could have.

    2.) Point your enemies away from your friends! At worst you did a small extra movement for no reason, at best you save lives even if the rest of the group is not paying attention.

    3.) Be patient! If you try to race faster than your group you will stress out your healer at very least, and you may die frequently through no one's fault but your own. You can keep the tempo, but your group will determine the pace they are capable of.

    4.) Threat is a matter of need. There is no reward for destroying everyone's threat, and if that comes at the expense of not doing something else like surviving, or losing threat on another target, you are failing at your job.

    5.) Take first responsibility for your survival. Be proactive with cooldowns and avoid taking damage when you can help it. Learn your tools and use them.

    Healing
    1.) Triage! Know who needs your heals before you press the button to heal them, this can happen before your previous heal is even done.

    2.) Dead is dead! Your goal is not to keep people filled to the top, it is to keep people from dying. Pay attention not just to who needs heals, but how urgently they need heals.

    3.) Use all of your tools! Dispels and all the various flavors of heal all have their value and their best uses. Learn to use all of your tools in the right time and place.

    4.) Pay attention! If you pay as close attention to your group as you do to your own character, you can learn to predict damage and your healing needs. You will less often be surprised when someone takes damage.

    5.) You can make your job easier by communicating with the group. Tell them how and when to avoid damage, ask for help dispelling, and encourage the group to play smartly.

    Damage Dealing
    1.) You are the merchant of death! But you have many redeeming qualities that allow you to help your friends and group members. Help the tank do less damage and hold threat. Help the healer by avoiding damage when you can help it, and by applying self-healing when the healer is stressed.

    2.) Be quick on target switches! Be ready to switch, know when to pre-apply your DoTs and debuffs, don't be caught off-guard firing Frostbolts into a corpse.

    3.) Employ Micro-tactics! Prepare smart sequences in which you trigger and/or stack cooldowns and then fire off abilities in such a way as to maximize the temporary buff's effect.

    4.) Look for ways to increase the *group's* damage! It might not show up on Recount for you, but increasing the rest of the group's damage can be as good or better than just increasing your own. Offer all the buffs and debuffs you can.
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

  9. #9
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    [reserved]
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

  10. #10
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    You sir, know how to absolutely make a post completely and utterly irrelevant with your massive posting of information.

    I hate you lol. Great source of information which completely negates whatever I got posted in the damage dealing section!

    Tankspot Moderator
    Twitter: Follow me on Twitter! @Krenian

    "Damnit!" - Jack Bauer, 24


  11. #11
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    What I've read of this so far is great. Looks like something I'll definitely point people to in the future, thanks!

    Brb reading more.

  12. #12
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    Epic! Thanks Satorri

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    Dear Sir, this essay blows the glorious Cataclysm Warrior Tanking which "won" a guide contest on MMOC out of the water and up into the stratosphere and out of Earth orbit. Myriads of solid pointers, no generalization whatsoever, all bases and aspects covered, basics and advanced knowledge... I'll spend days digesting this. Hats off to you.
    "Yes." - Captain Obvious

  14. #14
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    What an excellent read Satorii. I read this over 2 days and it covers nearly every aspect of grouping. Thanks for the post! Cheers

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    Quote Originally Posted by Satorri View Post
    Here is the original work: http://satorri.net/sociology/metaskills1/
    With the advent of Cataclysm and the increased depth and team play required to successfully complete instances, it has become a powerful force for highlighting skill at playing the game. Even groups with people who appear to play their character's/class' abilities well suddenly struggle with an instance because they are not playing the *game* well.
    Still.... reading...... massive.... dissertation......

    But I have to agree with this. Particularly that last line. I've seen quite a few "good" players who know their class well suddenly run into a bit of a wall because they were never good "team players". Almost every dungeon, heroic and non-heroic really shows a push from Blizzard to utilize a team approach. Increased coordination and cooperation are critical. Flexibility is a key attribute to any group. Being able to look at an encounter, not from a strict tank/dps/healer standpoint, but from each group's unique composition and adapting the approach to the scenario to suit the group is rewarded.

    Those who are left out in the rain? They're the people who were "good" but were always a little bit of a marginal liability because they were always focused only on themselves. You know.... this guy.....



    Finally finished reading it. This just became a must-read for my guild. Especially the TL;DR.
    Thank you Satorri.
    Last edited by Leucifer; 01-05-2011 at 04:09 PM.
    No one tanks in a void.........

  16. #16
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    Well I was working on a similar guide..... deleted no where close to the detail you covered.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ghostcrawler View Post
    I'm on a shark

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    Added to the Leadership Meta Skills
    3a.) Kill order crossed with control type!

    When you set your priorities and start deciding which control ability to use on which enemy there are a few key things to pay attention to:
    • How important is it for the control to stick?
      The highest risk enemies that you choose to control should get the most robust control effects. So, durable control like Hex, Banish, and Cyclone should be your first choice for these. Less durable but infinitely re-castable controls like Polymorph (Sheep), Bind Elemental, and Shackle Undead should take second status to those. Sensitive control abilities with cooldowns should be your last choice for the highest priority targets; spells like Repentance (Ret Paladin) and Sap (Rogue) will break easily and cannot be replaced quickly (Repent) or at all in combat (Sap).
    • What order are you going to kill them in?
      Plan your control abilities so that you can break the most sensitive and/or shortest duration abilities first as you follow your kill order. Repent and Sap are easy and obvious candidates for the first controlled target to pick up and kill, while the more durable ones, as listed above, can be left for longer. Note: Hex does not break easily, but it *does* have a cooldown; it may be smart to break Hex before you break the re-castable controls.
    • Does the enemy have any range considerations?
      Roots work very well at keeping an enemy who is not being touched out of the melee and off the tank, but that is meaningless if they attack happily at range. Most enemies will fall into one of three categories in this respect: 1.) Full Caster/Hunter = will just stand at range by preference and not care about roots, 2.) Throwers = some enemies will have a single infrequent use (short/long cooldown) ability that they can use at range but they will not use it constantly, 3.) melee-only = these mobs will stand helplessly at range with nothing to do. #1 is a poor candidate for any rooting abilities; #2 can be rooted, but the tank will need to make sure to keep threat unless the damage is truly negligible as the mob will shortly start throwing stuff at the healer; #3 is perfect for roots and they can be used to great effect, especially when they can be recast indefinitely like a Druid's Entangling Roots.
    Quote Originally Posted by Krenian View Post
    You sir, know how to absolutely make a post completely and utterly irrelevant with your massive posting of information.

    I hate you lol. Great source of information which completely negates whatever I got posted in the damage dealing section!
    Soorrrry (*Canadian accent*), I didn't see your post. =)

    Quote Originally Posted by Swam View Post
    Well I was working on a similar guide..... deleted no where close to the detail you covered.
    I always seem to step on toes... =(
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Satorri View Post
    I always seem to step on toes... =(
    Wha? I thought that's why those were there?......

    Huh. The things ya learn.
    No one tanks in a void.........

  19. #19
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    Just a heads up, in an effort to clear up the theory forum a bit, I'll be moving this into the Critical Guides forum in the near future with a short term redirect, please reset your bookmarks when this happens.

    READ THIS: Posting & Chat Rules
    Quote Originally Posted by Turelliax View Post
    I will never be a kaz.. no one can reach the utter awesomeness of you.
    http://i.imgur.com/3vbQi.gif

  20. #20
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    Thank you heir Kaze, lord of the banhammer, wielder of lightning fingers, distributor of infractions to the wicked, and merciful lord of the justice on Tankspot.

    In the future, should I post guides in that section, or should that only be reserved for certain sorts/topics of guides? (Or should things be posted here and elevated to that section if they are sufficiently epic? =D)
    The (Old) Book on Death Knight Tanking
    The New Testament on Death Knight Tanking
    -----------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by Horacio View Post
    Who f-ing divided by zero?!?

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