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.