standing at the back in my sissy robe

July 8, 2009

there was a boy, a very strange enchanted boy

Filed under: Altaholism,D'oh,Sweets for the Sweet — Tamarind @ 12:56 pm

This is a story about love failure.  Topical, huh?  But I think it’s also a story about success.   Here we go.

M’Pocket Tank and I are still Northrend avoidant, especially since I’m now not sure Arthas himself could truly live up to the joy of saving 20 baby murlocs, so we’ve been concentrating mainly on alts.

As well as M’Pocket Tank, I have another victim friend I have generously introduced to the pleasures of WoW and she’s been doggedly levelling a cowtank.  I have run around the world a little bit with her, usually providing DPS backup with the prettiest elf (burn baby burn!), but apart from an RFC run way back when, we haven’t really had much opportunity to instance.  And, instancing, of course is the crucible in which a tank is truly forged.  Being of a pedagogic bent, I have attempted to communicate a fair bit of tanking theory as we’ve been levelling but it truly is the blind leading the blind.  I have tanked a bit but, as I have said before, it’s not my natural role.  On the other hand, I guess I’m better than nothing.  Maybe.  Hrm.

And let’s not forget tanking, especially warrior tanking in vanilla WoW, is bloody hard.  You can’t just pop consecrate and have the world fall down and you’re still in the process of actually accruing the tools that allow you to do the job (Temi wrote a rather cool post awhile back on the surprising difficulties of low-level WoW). But, despite my inadequacies as a teacher, there was a definite mental click somewhere around level 40 in which the theory slid into place.

The practice, however, well, that was still to come.

Between self, M’Pocket Tank and Cowfriend, we now have 3 characters, at 60 or in the low 60s.  My boomdruid, M’Pocket Tank’s lock and our new-found cowtank.

“Let’s do Ramps!” I cried. “We’ll sail through with 3! Ramps is easy!”

Uh right.  Yeah.

Well it was carnage.

Mainly because the lock and the drood played like absolute noobtards.  I was supposed to be healing off-spec but the DPS Demon kept whispering in my ear that Ramps was easy so I might as well do some DPS while I was standing there.  So I’d be doing that and then the tank would die.  I know, I know, I’m an idiot.  I’ll spare the lock’s blushes by not going into details about dodgy pet handling.   And, of course, Cowfriend was actually desperately putting all that theory into practice, baptism of fire style, so sometimes things would Just Go Wrong.

There was a lot of talking and a lot of wiping.  A lot of post-game analysis.  “So what went wrong there.” Sigh.

At about this point, we decided to accord Ramps the respect it deserves.  M’Pocket Tank (or rather M’Pocket Lock) went off to respec destro just because.  Less minion micro-management more BURN, I think, was the reasoning behind that.  Cowfriend completely overhauled her UI.  And I slunk sheepishly off to Moonglade to subdue the DPS demon once and for all.

Yes.  I did it.  I went tree.

We reassembled to take another crack at Ramps.  Literally hours had gone by at this point and we hadn’t even seen the nose of the first boss. You’d have thought we were tweaking for Ulduar, the way we went on.  Progress was still slow but so much better than before.  The DPS demon rode M’Pocket Tank hard but, even though I could hear her cackling like a manic at her DPS, somehow she controlled it.

And doofus here actually pulled his finger out and did his fecking job.  I’ve gotta say, though, those HoTs are hot!  It’s amazing how being a tree focuses the mind.  It’s slightly disconcerting, though, to be so absolutely vulnerable.  I mean, apart from barkskin, what does a poor tree have to protect itself?  Nothing, that’s what.  A sad expression.  And the vain hope that the enemies will feel damn silly wailing on a helpless tree.  Also, I know a tree is smaller than a cow, but I still had real trouble seeing past my own floofy branches when I was trying mark.

Stealth tree I is not.

It was a huge learning experience for everybody.  It wasn’t just a question of a new UIs and new specs, it was learning to work together effectively as a team, which 3-manning absolutely demands.  Playing mainly with M’Pocket Tank makes it easy to overlook the importance of trust and teamwork.  We take each other, and our tank-healer relationship, for granted.  I was surprised by how difficult it was to learn to trust a new tank.

One of our more ignominious wipes occurred because I was so busy trying to draw the tank’s attention to a caster lurking at the back that I, err, forgot to heal her.  Yes, I am covered in shame.  My branches are drooping, my leaves are blushing.

“Sorry, guys,” I said, as we jogged back to our corpses, “I was worrying about the caster at the back.”

“Don’t apologise,” said Cowfriend, “but I should be the one worrying about the caster at the back.”

And that was the moment when I let go.  I realised I absolutely had to.  There was nothing more, as a teacher, I could do.  Trying to backseat tank AND heal is actually impossible. It was time for Cowfriend to stop listening to me and become her own tank.

That was the moment when it all came together, theory and practice. And we were flying.  Down went the first boss.  Down went the large groups of caster mobs.  Down went the room o’doom, despite a mild case of over-pull.  The weakest link was actually me.  It’s the first time I’ve ever tried to manage HoTs.  It’s so much more flexible than holy priest healing but, uh, you kind of have to know what you’re doing.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

So, we rolled up to Omor the Unscarred, all psyched up to scar him but good.  “This is a straight tank ‘n’ spank,” explains Idiot Of The Week (yes, it’s still me).  “Charge!”

And so we charged.

The thing is, every time I’ve done Ramps previously (and I’ve done it a lot, although from this entry you probably wouldn’t think it) we’ve had so much onboard firepower that he went down so quickly it was like he was made of wet spaghetti.  I actually always used to think he was pointless.  Omor The Pointless I used to call him.

So, I didn’t know he summoned an army of gambolling felpuppies.

I didn’t know he’d take to tossing the tank into the air like a ragdoll.

In fact I was so busy going “omfgwtf” that our DPS spent most of the fight dead on the floor.  I may never hear the end of it.

But, somehow, Cowfriend tanked every single felpuppy and very very very slowly prodded Omor to death while my HoTs rolled and rolled and rolled.  It was a looooong fight.  By rights, we should have given up.  But we didn’t.  And, by God, victory was sweet.

We didn’t, however, take down Nazan.  We had a couple of goes but we were exhausted and it was late.  Perhaps this would be a better story if I could have said we did.  But, actually, although it consists, in many ways, of a long string of failure, what it also includes was recognisable, incremental improvement.  The first time we tried Nazan, he just blatted us because the tank couldn’t convince him to stop munching on the tree (you’re a fucking dragon, try the STEAK!).  The second time it was my fault because I lost my HoT rhythm and, in the split second when none were rolling, Nazran crispy-fried the tank.  I’m pretty damn sure, though, that the next time we try him, he’ll fall.

But I’ll remember this run, and I remember no others.  Ramps has always been little more than routine for me.  It feels genuinely good to have engaged with the content in the way, perhaps, it was intended.  As the first Outland instance, Ramps is forgiving but I can’t imagine the designers sitting around at Blizzard HQ going “hey, y’know Ramps, let’s make it a meaningless cake walk.”

I guess what I’m trying to say was that this run meant something to me.  I think we all learned a lot from it, and from our failures.  I think we fought the good fight, and I think we were honourably beaten.

In short: I’d far rather fail well than succeed badly.



  1. Welcome to the forest.

    I’ve been on runs like that – the one where I had to let go of teaching and watch the student go at it, and the one where I, as a student, had my teacher step back, nod approvingly, and go quiet as I finally did my job without their gentle coaxing.

    So glad you now have a Cowfriend added to your ranks – may your Blood Furnace run be just as much learning and failure and success and, above all, fun.

    Comment by wildgrowth — July 8, 2009 @ 2:28 pm | Reply

    • Thank you. I don’t think I’m a natural tree. My HoTs are lukewarm at best. On the other hand the tree-cheer is kind of cute.

      I definitely found trying to teach the game to someone else, err, an experience. And I guess we’ll find out if I did a good job 🙂 Also it’s weird how much of WoW you take for granted without really thinking how, or why, you do it. The thing is, I remember the days when I had someone mentoring me and I still do, in fact, consider myself to be learning. I wish WoW had a better culture of this – I think it would smooth out a lot of PUGing problems.

      Well, I think it’s back to Ramps for us before we dare BF. We owe that dragon a downing.

      Comment by Tamarind — July 8, 2009 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  2. “I’d far rather fail well than succeed badly”

    Amen. Cue angel chorus.

    Reminds me of BC raiding. We had an issue where people were begging to get run through Karazhan and get basically free gear and I told them that I’d much rather have a group of raiders who understood what it was like to bang their heads against a wall and adjust to a boss fight than a group of people who got run through every instance and were basically useless when it came down to progression fights.

    Same principle applies. I’d rather go into a fight and know that the people in my group…be it 5, 10, or 25 of us…gave everything they had and actually learned something. When that happens, I know that next time we’ll all be a little smarter and better players overall.

    I salute you and your attitude. While I usually laugh uncontrollably at your blog posts, I can always tell that your approach to the game mirrors mine.

    Comment by Misneach — July 8, 2009 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

    • My God, that’s quite a compliment – thank you very much. Although I think we’ve had some kind of sci-fi style personality flip because currently I’m writing thoughtful posts about approaching the game and you’re posting pictures of upside-down mammoths 😉 Seriously, though, I’m really touched by this comment because whenever I read your blog I always think to myself how much I admire your approach to the game. I even sometimes get tank envy (but don’t tell M’Pocket Tank) 🙂

      Comment by Tamarind — July 9, 2009 @ 11:09 am | Reply

      • LOL. Your secret is safe with me.

        At the risk of sounding like we’re engaging in an unhealthy session of blogger stroking, your work is really incredible. I’m fairly certain we’re on different sides of the world, but I think it would be a blast if we could work together in-game.

        Although we’d probably break whatever server we’re on.

        Keep up the great work 🙂

        Comment by Misneach — July 9, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

  3. “It’s amazing how being a tree focuses the mind.” = best quote evah.

    Comment by Keredria — July 8, 2009 @ 4:31 pm | Reply

    • Hehe, you know it’s only when you quote it back at me that I realise how ridiculous sounds out of context.

      And, for that matter, in context.

      Comment by Tamarind — July 8, 2009 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

  4. I don’t know. There’s something about being resto that just so HoT. That’s my beLEAF anyways. And don’t try to BARK at me because of these ridiculous puns, i’ll probably just BRANCH off into other types of silly humor.

    Comment by krizzlybear — July 8, 2009 @ 5:24 pm | Reply

    • Begone. Begone at once. Nothing can reTREEive you in my estimation now. Stoop to such puns on my blog again and I’ll be forced to TRUNKate your comments.

      Comment by Tamarind — July 8, 2009 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

      • *facePALM*

        Comment by krizzlybear — July 14, 2009 @ 4:41 am

    • Hey, you started it =P

      Comment by Tamarind — July 14, 2009 @ 9:14 am | Reply

  5. As someone who once was a priest and gave it up for being a tree, I have to say I really prefer tree healing. It’s completely different in many ways, but I always felt that the differences were things I wasn’t too wild about on priests being traded in for omgawesomesauce things.

    Like Inner Focus? Yay, a free spell that still isn’t guaranteed to crit. Trade that in for Nature’s Swiftness, which can totally save lives. Giving up curing magic and disease for poison and curses (which seem a lot more frequent and annoying than the other two). Giving up uhh, what exactly… for being able to stealth, swim faster, shift instantly to flight and gather herbs without having to dismount…

    I don’t even know why I ever played a priest any more. Oh right, because the game wouldn’t let me roll a draenei druid.

    But anyway, yeah. Running PuGs with my tank partner is always COMPLETELY different from running them with some random other tank. It’s why I can so rarely play DPS characters — I just don’t trust random PuG healers to do their jobs and find myself constantly stopping whatever I’m doing to throw heals on people. It’s distracting. Trying to play non-hybrid DPS is just painful, because I WANT to throw heals on people but I don’t have the tools for it.

    Comment by Kiryn — July 8, 2009 @ 9:17 pm | Reply

    • As excited as I get over my (admittedly inept) tree-ish healing, I don’t think I’m completely ready to abandon Tam just yet. You’re right, I think druids have a lot of the cool about them but I think possibly some of it is balanced (balanced! druid pun! unintentional though) by the vulnerabilty of being a tree. You don’t have as many “oh shit I’m taking damage” buttons as a priest, and that takes a bit of getting used to. Waddling forward, frantically waving my branches is not my idea of a dignified way to shed aggro 🙂

      I find playing non-hybrid DPS strangely liberating actually. Like you, I can’t let go of the Need … To … Heal … so literally not being able to allows me to concentrate on THE ZAP! Also I secretly kind of like when you’re standing there in a PUG and you’re all like “oh, that DPS has pulled aggro, like a fool, oh he’s taking damage … well … not my problem” 🙂

      Comment by Tamarind — July 9, 2009 @ 11:18 am | Reply

      • It was a bit better for me at least, since I was a night elf druid. Shadowmeld is the most amazing thing ever for shedding aggro =)

        Comment by Kiryn — July 9, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

  6. I must admit…I am still stuck at the opening of Moulin Rouge/David Bowie song title! When I read the article all I can hear is the song going off in my head =P

    Have you tried a paladin yet, Tam? Once you get past having only a couple of healing buttons to push, they are kinda fun =)

    Comment by Beruthiel — July 9, 2009 @ 3:53 pm | Reply

    • Oh don’t, I’ve had it stuck in my head since I wrote the damn thing. It all came about because I was typing “this a story about failure” and, as I was typing, I thought to myself “this is just like the opening of Moulin Rouge, except with less rain, and no typewriter and sadly I am not Ewan McGregor” (except in a less long-winded) and before I quite realised what had happened I’d written “this is a story about love.” And it was all downhill from there.

      I have so many alts and not enough love (or time) for them all – so the short answer is no. Don’t tempt me 🙂

      Comment by Tamarind — July 9, 2009 @ 4:15 pm | Reply

  7. You write some really entertaining post which, at the same time, are also worth reading for the attitude and spirit conveyed in them. This is another fine example. 🙂 As with the Magister’s Terrace post, it makes me want to salute your tenacity and makes me wistful for the “old days” as well.

    Also, cheers on finding the “Cowfriend”. I hope you three will have oodles of fun together.

    Comment by Feralan — July 11, 2009 @ 1:16 pm | Reply

  8. […] Quite a while ago, I wrote about our (unsuccessful) attempt to 3-man Ramps. It has now Gone Down, to much cheering and dancing, and the success was all the sweeter for the […]

    Pingback by Friday Roundup « standing at the back in my sissy robe — July 17, 2009 @ 12:59 pm | Reply

  9. I remember going resto at 60 and healing ramps and BF as a tree. It was difficult coming from a priest, because a priest has all the tools to react to incoming damage and fix it, whereas a druid has to have already anticipated the incoming damage or they’re screwed. Like, if someone pulled aggro and was on 20% health and you didnt have hots on them, there was literally nothing you could do to save them.

    But my druid is now 80 with a resto offspec, and whilst i still prefer the style of priest healing by a long shot.. I’m starting to come round. I think the turning point was healing the group in Occulus through a bit where the melee almost always die when im on my priest since there is just so much AoE damage. But on the tree i just loaded up all the melee with hots before hand and kept them up throughout the fight, and not a single one of them died. I think thats the main strength of the tree, that when you do know exactly where the damage will come from and how much there will be, you can heal through some really intense incoming damage. It’s a lot more about predicting than reacting, but when you get it right it does show you just how strong the druid’s HoTs can be.

    So yeah, keep at it and it gets better, and just think of all the double entendres that lie in store for Resto Trees to be exploited to the max 😀

    Comment by uke — July 18, 2009 @ 7:24 pm | Reply

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