Monday, December 8, 2014

Leveling Using a Tank Spec

After much deliberation on which toons to level to 100 and focus on for WoD I finally narrowed my options down to the four I was most interested in: two druids to cover all four specs (obviously I love druids), a rogue, and a monk.  My main druid is feral/guardian and an engineer, my favorite class, specs and profession.  My second druid is a leather worker which is handy since all my favorite toons wear leather.  My rogue is an enchanter/tailor so I can enchant, make bags, and unlock lock boxes.  Finally, my monk (previously also an engineer) has taken up alchemy to keep me stocked up with flasks for raiding, and just happens to not have a DPS spec.

At the end of the last expansion I was itching for another heirloom off of Garrosh, so I dropped my monk's DPS spec for a tanking spec so I could be guaranteed a drop by bringing a different toon, and be able to fill my normal role.  As it turns out everyone had similar ideas that last raid before the expansion and we never made it to Garrosh, but I got some gear and had fun playing a monk tank for the first time at what was then the max level.  Before that I've only tanked on a monk alt which has only made it to level 55.

So long story short when I wandered over to the dark portal to start leveling up, it slipped my mind that I had dropped my DPS spec.  I was going to hearth back and address that when it was brought to my attention that tanking damage has been changed and I probably didn't need to have a DPS spec.  A combination of curiosity and laziness compelled me to give it a shot, and I am glad I did.

Leveling using a tank spec is actually more efficient than using a DPS spec, at least in case of a monk vs a rogue, but I suspect this is also true for other classes.  I think a large contributing factor is that this is an alt swimming in rested experience, and a large advantage of being a tank is steamrolling large groups of mobs.  On my rogue I have to be much more careful about which mobs I pull and how many I can juggle at a time, but as a tank I just grab everything I can see, pummel it into the ground, and then see which quest objectives I missed.  More times than not for a gather X items or kill X mobs quest I finish it on the first try and then some.  It doesn't really tank any more time to AOE down a few more mobs, and they just add up to more experience.

So there is a caveat, leveling using a tank spec requires a change in tactics to play to your strengths.  AOEing large groups is possible which allows some multitasking completing multiple quests in the same area, but when single target DPS is required, for rare mobs for example, your DPS will be noticeably lower than a DPS spec and killing that rare will cancel out some of those time savings elsewhere.  Despite being a little slower, I've also noticed that I can take out rares and elites of a higher level as a tank; there isn't an enrage timer on them so slow and steady does indeed finish first.

I am enjoying my tank/healer dual spec and how that balances with the rest of my four toons.  I've got two tanks, two healers, two melee DPS and one ranged DPS.  There just isn't time to play every class/spec, but I'm already eying my hunter and death knight.  I'm toying with the idea of putting a little time in on the Horde side this expansion and coincidentally created a Horde hunter and death knight right at the end of Mists.  First things first, have to get geared for raid content.

Friday, November 7, 2014

This Default UI Add-On Is Pretty Cool

One side effect of cutting back my playtime is that the little administrative things that aren't as fun, like updating and maintaining add-ons, fall by the wayside.  The other boring task that I avoid best I can is keeping my inventory organized, but this is easily solved by vendoring stuff.  So when the version 6 patch dropped an ally my add-ons were hopelessly broken, instead of just eeking along through minor patches, I took the opportunity to delete my add-ons folder and take a look at the default UI which I had not looked at in literally years; it's come a long way.

My first revelation came shortly after starting a new hunter, since the best way to start anew is to start with a new character without any preconceptions or bias as to where things should be.  I started questing with the default map and quest log and it was a better, more immersive, experience than with Carbonite, that bloated add-on that had replaced half of my UI for the better part of four years.  I do miss the Googlesque map that I could zoom in and out and click and drag, but the default map is easy to navigate and my character actually pulls out a map when I am looking at it.  I have also been playing SWtoR a bit in the lull before the expansion and was pleased to notice that the map window fades while walking so it is possible to see where you are going while referencing the map.

Next I did a little experimentation with moving the unit frames around, trying to get all the information I needed in combat more centrally located.  At this point I was back on my main, a feral/guardian druid.  I tried moving my unit frames to the bottom center, eventually gave up and it was time to bring in the add-ons.  In combat I like to be aware of my health, whatever resources I need to use my abilities and a few static buff/debuff icons so that I don't have to search through rows of icons all over.  I installed IceHUD, which I had used in the past for a death knight since the rune display was very helpful; that got me my health and resource bars, as well as combo points for my druid which previously required another add-on.  Then I installed TellMeWhen since my add-on of choice, Auracle, hadn't been updated.  After watching a YouTube video on how to set it up I muddle through the UI and had everything I needed to start raiding, except raid frames.

Raid frames were my second revelation; I have been using Pitbull since I learned what an add-on was.  I had not seen the default unit frames, no less the default raid frames, for more than a few seconds updating add-ons after a patch.  I went through the raid frame configuration tab and was impressed by all sorts of things when I started raiding with them.  They show a nice glow for shields/absorbs, they show you who is getting rezzed, when someone sets up main tanks they show up in their own little group.  Best of all, I didn't have to spend hours fretting over lining everything up perfectly and not overlapping anything.

It is still a work in progress, but I have updated the Add-Ons I Use page to where I am currently at, and will continue to update that as I finalize my add-on collection once again.  Right now I am running with a mere 9 add-ons, which hasn't been true for at least 5 years; it is nice to see more of the UI as Blizzard intended.

The biggest shortcoming of the default UI is the lack of a customizable centralized informational display catered to a specific class/role/spec.  I don't want to look at half a dozen places on the edges of the screen to figure out which ability to use next, I want to keep focused on whatever I am chewing on in the center of the screen and leave spatial awareness up to my peripheral vision.  They already sort of started on this path by adding some basic power aura type graphics for procs, now they just need something like IceHUD and NeedToKnow.