The First Week of Firelands

I like my balloon.

My guild downed Shannox, Beth’tilac, and Lord Rhyolith in the last two days. We’ve made some progress on Alysrazor as well, and will hopefully down her tonight. I gotta say, this instance is awesome. I wasn’t particularly burned out on Bastion of Twilight or Blackwing Descent, but Firelands took me by surprise.

I was concerned that the raid would be too dark. Screenshots and videos are pretty dark, but the raid is bright enough with plenty of contrast. I love the huge, outdoor zone, and the endless horizon. There are fireballs flying everywhere, armies of elementals, and tiny little lavaworms. As much as I hate trash, it feels somehow fitting that you zone into a foreign plane of existence and cower at the vast volcanic plain that is simply dripping with hellhounds and fire elementals. I wonder if this is how walking into Mordor would feel. And there’s music!

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Heroic Al’Akir 25 Tanking Guide

Al’Akir doesn’t change much when you go from normal to heroic mode. He has nearly the same abilities, they’re just harder to avoid and require much tighter precision to survive. It is random to some extent, and requires many attempts before you finally understand the big picture. You have to learn how to prepare for the randomness (and at that point, it won’t seem like randomness at all).

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Bears and Other Tanking Changes in 4.2

The Firelands are coming! A little too soon for me, since my guild is still one boss away from fully completing all the content, but I’ll welcome a change in environment. Even though the change is from one fire-covered city and shadowy tower with a fire-covered basement to an entire fire-covered realm

For the full list of changes, go here.

As always, my Bear Guide and Gear List have been updated to reflect 4.2 changes.

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How to Apply to Raiding Guilds: The Feral Flavored Version

I was inspired by WoW Insider’s recent Encrypted Text and Spiritual Guidance articles on how to apply to a guild as a rogue and priest, respectively. Both are excellent articles with advice that applies to everyone, not just those classes. I recommend anyone who’s looking for a new raiding guild to read them.

Here are my own recommendations for guild applications, from general use to bears and cats.

Your guild application is your first and likely your only chance to make a good impression. Do not waste the opportunity. With the right application, you can get a main tanking spot in a guild with heroic raid progression when you’ve done nothing more than five man dungeons (well, at least I did). With the wrong app, you can get ignored or silently ridiculed behind your back.

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Feral Macros

Macros are necessary for simplifying many aspects of the game, so even though they make for very boring blog posts, I’ll suck it up and write one like a good bear. I use macros for condensing multiple similar spells into one button and for removing the less-interesting decisions from my to-do list. I don’t approve of complex cast sequence macros for ferals because they can easily mess up and they can never replace your own brain power. They’re both lazy and inefficient, and never even work well with bears or cats.

Also, never, EVER macro all of your cooldowns together. Each cooldown has a use, and blowing multiple or even all of your cooldowns at once, without thought, is a bad habit to get into.

With that in mind, here are the macros I do use, for both bear and cat.

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Bear Repsonse to Ask the Devs # 9: Tanking

Today’s Ask the Devs answers were exactly as I predicted. Blizzard never announces anything new or super insightful in this series (that’s what their official blogs and Dev Watercolers are for), and they often answer questions that pop up a lot with newbies but make veterans cringe. I don’t really mind the newbie questions; I think too many people forget how difficult it can be for a brand new or returning player to jump into the information ocean that is World of Warcraft, and that they have the same right to answers as us more seasoned players do.

Anyway, on to the things that might interest bears!

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Why Worgen Bears Are Best Bears

Sometimes people wonder why I play a Worgen bear. “Aren’t night elves the best tanks?” they say. True, Quickness is a strong racial for tanking; 2% more avoidance is awesome. But Shadowmeld is useless to the serious tank. I guess you could argue that Shadowmeld shines when you want to piss off your five man pug, but you wouldn’t do that in a raid, would you?

So here are the reasons why everyone should be a Worgen.

1. Darkflight is the best racial of all time. It’s a sprint you can use in bear form! While Quickness will save you from 2% damage over the duration of an encounter, Darkflight can flat out save you (or your teammates) from death. Need to quickly position a boss? Darkflight. Need to dodge a Squall Line? Darkflight. Need to pick up adds that are spread out and attacking your healers? Darkflight. Need to kite? Need to get out of ooze puddles? There are so many uses for it, and most uses will prevent more damage than a measly 2% miss. It’s also a strong racial for both PvE and PvP.

Not enough spare rage to use Stampeding Roar, but you have to get it fast before the damage dealers pull.

2. While Viciousness, that 1% crit bonus, doesn’t compare to the raw damage mitigation value of Quickness, it is useful for every spec you can play. It increases your chance to proc Savage Defense, and increases your damage in both bear and cat form. I often argue that a bear’s strongest utility is its ability to deal damage on the side, and this racial supports the strong hybrid-tendencies of a feral druid.

3. You have a total of 9 possible forms: bear, cat, human, worgen, flight, seal, tree, moonkin, and travel form. That’s just so druid. You can throw off your guildmates by going into human form. “Who is this funny looking human with feathers in her hair OMG IT’S THE BEAR!” You are also fuzzy or feathery at all times (except for human times).

4. You never have to buy a mount. With Running Wild and Flight Form, your travel needs are met as soon as you reach the required level. There’s also the hidden bonus of having a very small profile in both travel forms, so you can sneak up on an enemy without being noticed.

5. You get a cute, fuzzy mane. No other bears get fuzzy manes.

6. You can be a steampunk bear. Taurens are earth-loving hippies, trolls are witch doctors and animal god worshipers, night elves sleep for a long time and talk about Elune. But you, my transformed Gilnean friend, you come from a world of industry and technology! You can put on goggles without wearing them ironically. You can put spiked gloves on your paws just because that’s how Gilnean druids do it.

Not an ironic bear

7. Most importantly, your hair doesn’t disappear when you wear a helm. Taurens lose their precious ears when they equip most helms; night elves and trolls lose their hair. But worgens always get to show off their style! (Well, sometimes we lose our ears, but usually it doesn’t look funny when we do.)

There’s a flat spot where this tauren’s ears should be. Creepy.

So there you have it. It it wasn’t for the pure awesomeness of troll druid forms, I would bid every druid to reroll worgen. They’re just that good.

How to Make Tanking More Interactive

The Problem with Passive Tanks

One of the questions I saw popping up a few times in the Ask a Dev: Tanking thread concerned the lack of active defenses for tanks. That is, tanks rely on passive stats like dodge, parry, block/Savage Defense, and base damage reduction to survive. Death Knights, with Death Strike, Blood Shield, and a handful of minor cooldowns actually have a healthy amount of active control over their defenses, so this question doesn’t apply to them as much as it does Druids, Warriors, and Paladins.

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The Best Part of the Dungeon Journal

My guild is semi-hardcore. We try really hard to stay in the US top 100 (and usually fall just short), we raid every weeknight, and we often have to develop strategies for bosses that haven’t been the highlight of a TankSpot of Learn2Raid video yet.

A semi-hardcore guild like mine doesn’t jump into a fight blind. No, we’ve had a hundred or so guilds do it before us; ours is not the place to reinvent the wheel. Instead, we scour the parses of guilds that have successfully completed a fight. We google the far corners of the internet searching for incoherent hints and pieces of strategy, put them back together, and assemble a plan.

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How to be a Feral Hybrid

Ferals, with two roles smushed into a single specialization, are the strongest hybrid in the game. To make the most of your chosen feral spec, you should learn how to play both cat form and bear form to the best of your ability.

I spend about half my progression raids as cat, half as bear. While I think part of this is due to my guild’s Divine Guardian guilt (“we really like bears, but Divine Guardian is just so overpowered that we’re forced to use two paladin tanks; here, have a dps cookie”), it’s unmistakeable that bears bring the best off tank dps around. Bear and cat specs are nearly identical, and their gear is interchangeable. Holding your own as a bear-cat hybrid will take some extra gold and preparation, but the end result is that you become invaluable to your guild as both a tank and damage dealer.

Apparently a bearcat is actually a thing.

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