I wanted to start this post off with the preface that you are more than welcome to skip it if you only want to read about tanking theorycraft. This post was inspired by the return of one of my oldest tanking buddies. Yesterday I was sitting online when one of the warriors I tanked MC with back in vanilla logged on and asked if he could get an invite to our guild if he server transfered back. Of course I told him he could have an invite as a friend, and we started talking about those “good ole days” where we had to walk up hill in the snow both ways, the days where sunder armor had its own button, the days where all you could get was your Tier gear, and defense minimum was something that was unknown.
In response to my deep feelings of nostolgia, I wanted to take some time away from the theorycrafting and write about my history with in world of warcraft. This will be a LONG post, and it will more than likely take at least three or four entries, but fear not, the theorycrafting will return post haste.
I am not sure how many people started out like I did. I was a high school and college athlete, and an All American in college (for those of you that do not reside in the United States, that means that I placed in the top 8 spots at NCAA championships, the collegiate national championships). Video games were something I did in between work outs to calm my mind since I didn’t want to do anything else. I played nintendo, sega, and play station. I had only sparingly played one PC game before WoW and it was Diablo II. When I graduated from college and moved into my carreer, I was told that I would have to work a graveyard shift, from 10pm to 8:30am. I wanted to stay on that schedule on my weekend but did not really have anything that would keep me awake when the rest of the world was sleeping. That is when one of my co-workers suggested WoW.
I was skeptical that a video game would keep me entertained in the dead of the night, and that it would provide enough new “content” to allow me to play every night when people went to bed (was I wrong or what). On a whim, I picked up the game, and on the weekend before I went to graveyards, I loaded it on my computer at about 2 in the morning. At the time, I had just moved into a new home, so I was covering the windows to preapre for sleeping during the day, setting up my room, moving furnature, and unpacking boxes. By the time the game had loaded that fateful June night, I was mostly unpacked and had little to do. My first challenge in this game proved to be one of the harder ones, what should I call myself.
Since my only other experience with a game of this nature was Diablo II, I leaned on that experience. I had a Barbarian in DII which I aptly named Roid Rage. I liked that theme and I wanted to carry it over to my character in WoW. Since I liked the barbarian play style I selected a warrior, and then selected the meanest looking race, the orc. As the cursor blinked on the screen, I wracked my brain for a name. At the time that this was taking place, the major league baseball steroids scandal was in full swing. At some point, there was a sports center anchor talking about one of the ball players and their alledged offenses, then it hit me. I was going to be named the Wrath of Stanizol, or Wrathizol for short.
I logged in for the first time and loved the graphics, but hated how the starting zone for orcs and trolls looked. It was barren, brown, and depressing. I slowly started killing things and learning about questing. I had never played a game like this before, which was so dynamic, and offered so many options. As most of my co-workers who played were already 60, I wanted to catch up to see what all the fuss was about surrounding this game. As I leveled, I realized that I knew nothing about this game and how to play it. I also did not know where to go when I had questions, so leveling was a painful and laborious task. Around level 20, I was invited to my very first guild, <The Iron Cross>. It was one of those things where I was in a dungeon, and apparently did something right because the person with me was an officer in their guild and offered to invite me. Since I didn’t know what guilds were but said sure, and the green wall of text which has occupied me every day since appeared.
Around the same time, I had my first experience on a PvP server, and it was one that I would soon not forget. I was running from the barrens to Ashenvale when someone popped out and started killing me. PvP! My heart was racing and I was mashing any button I could to try and kill this other player. In the end I was dead, and they were mocking me. Let the games begin! I had a new found bloodlust for PvP, which would re-appear later in my wow carreer.
I was in the iron cross for a few weeks, until I asked one of my co-workers to help me with my Whirlwind axe quest, at which point I was invited to my first real home, <Lambda Lambda Lambda>. At this point, I was in my 40s, poor, and the leveling got slow. I was getting bored with the game, and considered quitting it as it did not seem as fun as everyone I knew said it was. My friends kept telling me that it gets much better once you hit 60, so I struggled through it. I am not sure if this is normal but I remember the mob that I dingged 60 and 70 on, although my rise to 80 illudes me. After a lot of painful play, I found myself in southern Winterspring battling a white polar bear and then it happened, my last DING EVER! (or so I thought).
Gearing up to raid
While I enjoyed my time PvPing during my leveling process, including a few weeks of level 30-39 WSG which set my progression back quite a bit, I knew that I wanted to raid too. I wanted some purple shinies that some of the more veteran players in my guild had. And so it began, I realized that as a warrior my one shot at getting into raids like UBRS was to learn to tank. I threw myself at the task of learning how to tank head on, with one singluar purpse: to be a great tank who people wanted to group with. I started gearing up, and researching thottbot for items that I wanted. As soon as I figured out what I needed to be geared enough to tank for our guild, I started grinding instances. I became extreemly good at tanking 15 man UBRS, with my goal of holding every mob that was aggroed on me like white on rice.
As I got better, I learned of Onyxia and Molten Core. At the time they were new and broken instances, but a few of the end game guilds on our server were going in there and slaying dragons. I had gotten a compendium of the dragonslayer and was excited to know that a co-worker in an end game guild was willing to take my to onyxia to get my Quel’serar! I did the very long quest chain and got attuned to Onyxia, and soon enough I had my very first tanking epic, and one that would stay with me till the bitter end. My guild was starting to clear instances, and we even went as far as setting raid times for the harder ones, although we were not really killing anything.
One night, I was sitting online and I was offered a spot in a full clear of Molten Core by one of the best guilds on the server. A co-worker of mine was an officer in the guild and he knew that I was interested in seeing the content, and as it just happened on that night, they were short a tank. I jumped at the chance to see what all the fuss was about. As soon as I stepped in the instance and saw the vast array of trash and bosses, I was hooked. It was the beginning of the end of my tenure in Lambda Lambda Lambda. It was a difficult decision for me, because I was an officer and one of the Main Tanks of the guild (however, just an off tank). It is very important for those of you who did not play in Vanilla that there was 1 main tank, and a bunch of off tanks. It was the nature of the content.
Leaving Home for the first time
One of my friends had left Lambdas for another guild who was running Molten Core every week and said that he may be able to get me into the guild. It was an exciting time, because I wanted to raid, and after a few days of discussion I recieved a whisper from the guild leader. I was told that they would consider inviting me to the guild, however I was not guarenteed a raid spot. In fact they straight up told me their raids were full but after a few months if I had proven myself, I could get into their raids and work my way up. I accepted those terms and said my goodbyes to my lambda guild mades and joined my new guild, Souls of FxC.
Souls was known for their PvP and were, in retrospect, a mediocre PvE guild. However, this was now my home, and would be for quite some time. In my first week in the guild, there was an opening in the MC raid, and I walked right into the raid. At the time the guild had four warrior tanks who were part of the core raid, and they had been there for a while. They asked me to dps since they had tanks and I gladly oblidged. By the second boss, I had my first MC epic, an Obsidian Edged Blade. Weeks passed and an absence in the tanking corps prompted me to step up and tank a MC raid. I put on my tank gear and set out to show these guys I meant business. At the end of the raid I got a whisper from the MT of the guild, complementing me on my skill and asking me if I wanted to tank full time.
Less than a month into my tenure, I had displaced a long standing tank and started moving up the totem pole in FxC. As we started to farm Molten Core, I started getting more and more Tier 1. I saw the shredder shoulders and I wanted some. The instance was like clock work for us, and the tanking core worked very well together. Since I was months behind the rest of the guild, I geared up quite fast as we transitioned from molten core to black wing lair. BWL was a whole different beast with respect to tanking. While Molten Core offered many instances of tank this add, tank that add, do it here, do it there, BWL incorporated all new mechanics, including kiting, threat staggering, taunt rotations, line of sight, and steeper learning curves.
A skilled and geared tank
We progressed and progressed quickly through BWL. After learning how to kite the adds on razorgore, and how to stagger my threat with the other four tanks on Vael, we plowed through Broodlord and the drakes and were at chromaggus. We had killed five new bosses in one week and had cattapulted ourselves from mediocre guild to one of the better guilds on the server, however still far behind the top three. As we started clearing BWL, and getting geared up for the next patch, the opening of the AQ40 gates, the guild decided that we should run an alt MC. At the time, I was the go to raider for strategy and teaching new tanks, and was a newly appointed officer, so I volunteered to take the alts into MC, and forgo the main run. There really wasnt anything I needed from MC, and I felt that taking a tank in Full Wrath (T2) into MC would help speed up the learning process.
I had written detailed guides on tanking in BWL, including every boss, all the trash pulls, and pictures highlighting pulls, LoS, and positioning. I was the recruitment officer and the person who cleaned up the mess when our colorful and vocal main tank pissed someone off. And, I was in full Tier 2 in MC with green machines, one main, 39 alts and non raiders. Months went by, we were farming BWL, and some of our officers had started the High Warlord (rank 14) Grind. Things were going well, and I was enjoying myself as one of the better tanks on the server. Then, about five weeks into out guilds high warlord grind, there was a flame thread one the wow forum boards calling one of our officers a bad mother.
At this point, I was still on graves, I had all the time in the world on my weekends late at night, and I was pissed off at some pre-pubescent scumbag calling someone they didnt know a bad mother. As you can see, I was naieve in the ways of the interwebs at this point in my wow career. I offered to help the HWL grind group with AB weekend, and seeing as I was in full Tier 2 with almost 8000 hp raid buffed and defense and resist stats, I was a solid brick wall at farm. I was patient, not greedy for honor, and wanted to help, so I sat at farm for hours on end, guarding the flag and calling out enemy movement. After the first weekend of helping them, chatting on vent, and having a pretty good time, I had moved up in the PvP rankings two places, from First Sergeant (rank 5) to Blood Guard (rank 7), just by helping them out, and I was hooked!
To be continued….