Cataclysm: It Wasn’t All Waffles and Honey

It's been a long, somewhat bearable road.

So it won’t be too long now before we are bouncing our fat and sassy behinds all over Pandaria, discovering the long-shrouded continent in the new expansion and gearing up for a new tier of raiding. As a bear, I will say goodbye to the grand tradition of “bearcatting” and settling in as a Guardian druid. I will be waving hello to abilities with imposing names like Incarnation, Might of Ursoc and Ursol’s Vortex. My old friend, Savage Defense, will be an active button I hit, not something that procs Bear Block. At the same time, I will bid adieu to kitty-specific moves like Shred.

Overall, however, Mists of Pandaria will provide me another set of tanking challenges — and more opportunities to become a better bear. Cataclysm taught me a lot as well through three tiers, from the dark hallways of Bastion of Twilight and Blackwing Descent, to the twisted maws of Dragon Soul. I’ve been through a few guilds too, and even faction changed (more than once). [Some of the things that happen in the sewers are horrible. Oh, what, you thought your characters sat in an ethereal bus station while their server/faction changes were pending? No. Not at all.]

Anyway, I figured I’d separate this post into a bit of what scared the crap out of me and shoved lessons in my face as a bear in each tier of Cataclysm.

Tier 11

Going back to Bastion of Twilight. Again.

After marching through heroics that were, at release, fairly challenging, I wasn’t too sure what to expect inside the first tier of raids. I really didn’t have much of a guild at the time. I had pugged my way through a couple bosses in Blackwing Descent and Bastion of Twilight. Getting farther inside these places was another matter. It wasn’t until I joined Lowered Expectations on Alleria that I realized what was in store.

However at this time I was a moonkin, not a bear (at least most of the time). I found myself struggling to solar cleave the whelps on Halfus Wyrmbreaker properly and exploit multi-dotting for higher DPS. We trudged on, however, and finally got our normal mode clears of BWD and BoT. Throne of the Four Winds, however, proved to be a different challenge altogether, and this is where I finally switched to tanking. Al’Akir’s knockback-and-tornadoes combination was giving our other tanks fits. After learning what a bear was supposed to do on the fight — including wrangling Stormlings and dodging ALL THE THINGS — I finally felt comfortable enough to help us win. We even started one-shotting the elemental dudebro.

I won’t lie to you, though, starting heroics in these raids was scary. I didn’t have my four-piece bonus at the time (which made Survival Instincts last longer) so my warrior co-tank took on Magmaw while I handled his bony adds. You can see at the end of this video that, uh, I didn’t do things perfectly. Thank goodness for cooldowns! 😦

We had some similar challenges on heroic Halfus, not the least of which was having to two-tank the encounter because people didn’t show. Interrupts also mattered here, as well as knowing when to let go of the giant boss because the Malevolent Strikes debuff was a freaking nightmare. I really was happy when I had a good string of dodges, though I can still hear my co-tank yelling at me. Still, I learned a ton from that warrior about how to help your group succeed.

The rest of the heroics we killed were in BWD, and honestly I was ecstatic once I got that four-piece bonus because it made Chimaeron’s Feud phases much easier. Atramedes wasn’t too difficult, but again I was moonkin here. Maloriak heroic was probably one of the most fun fights for me in this tier, except when I messed up interrupts on Arcane Storm after the green phase. Yikes. Even though I had the Prime Subjects in phase two, it still felt like I had a lot to do. It turned out I wasn’t the best at avoiding Magma Jets. We ended this tier with one heroic down in BoT and (I think) five down [Magmaw, Maloriak, Chimaeron, Atramedes and ODS] in BWD. We did go back later to attempt some heroic Cho’gall, Nefarian and Sinestra, but we never killed them as a guild.

Tier 12

So obviously, as the videos above show you, this tier was all about fire. Lots of fire. And burning. And hot things. And death. I was 95 percent tank by this time, with a bit of feral cat thrown in for good measure. [Oh by the way, you will have more laughs at my expense toward the end of the Raggy video. Enjoy.] We had no PTR raiding under our belts, so we didn’t really know what to expect beyond what we might have seen on YouTube or read somewhere. Sure, we killed Beth’tilac the first night in three pulls, and cleared the instance fairly quickly on normal, but later this tier turned out to be a lesson in humility.

OK, well, Shannox heroic just took some coordination in when to run the boss away from his canines. A lot of it was ensuring the healers stayed with their targets and my co-tank could benefit from timely life grips and Heroic Leap. I also learned how to keep moving so I could make sure I didn’t hide any Immolation Traps with my giant bear ass. As a side note, I eventually ended up with a total of six Vanquisher tokens from this boss.

I’d make a return as chicken on Rhyolith, the RNG Master, blowing up adds and trying to help steer the giant rock in the right direction. We spent so many frustrating nights on this boss that I can now do a fairly good impression of his annoying voice. [Soft, little fleshy things, here? Nuisances, nuisances!] Tranquility was a big help for our raid in phase two, with his crushing stomps and people running into the laser beams.

Our final pre-nerf boss, Majordomo Staghelm, gave us a realm-first kill and allowed me to experiment as kitty (albeit in a bear spec because I needed the moonkin spec still). I’d tank this boss as well, later in the tier. I was always amazed at our ranged and healers having the awareness to avoid his leaps and still take minimal fire damage.

Alysrazor showed me how much I had to learn, especially about positioning. At the same time, I had to make sure I did enough damage to the Voracious Hatchlings to kill them before Firestorm. I was making mistakes all over the place: turning around when I shouldn’t have, dying to the birds’ enrage or various environmental damage, et cetera. I blame myself, more than anyone else, for us not getting this boss lower than 8 percent pre-nerf. We finally killed her the first night post-nerf, but it felt kind of shallow. We also took down Beth’tilac and Baleroc soon after, though honestly my co-tank on Beth’tilac had the harder job downstairs.

We did make some progress on heroic Ragnaros (getting to the Phase 2.5 [?] transition) but by this time we had focused on switching servers/factions and converting to a 25-man raid format in advance of Dragon Soul. I’d still love to get Firelord one day.

Tier 13

I tell you, he dead.

Zonnie bites the dust.

So our 10-man team that was a tightly knit group exploded into a 25-man behemoth, for better or worse. We all had to get used to working together for a common goal: dead bosses. In that vein, we walked right up to the trash mob that was Morchok and slapped his butt down. It took us a bit longer to punish Warlord Zon’ozz and Yor’sahj the Unsleeping — I only tanked the latter — but the addition of Looking for Raid had at least given us a preview of these bosses.

Warmaster Blackhorn meant I had to be quick to pick up the threatening adds while making sure I helped people soak all the purple fire. Once we all got our healing assignments and DPS machines working, the boss fell over. However, once we got to Spine and Madness, it became rather clear we needed to kill them on 10-man first. We did get close to a Madness kill on 25-man, but I flubbed a pick-up on one of the Elementium Terrors at the end of the night. I hated myself. Eventually we did roast Deathwing in our normal format.

With that, it was on to heroic Morchok the next week. Even though he became this tier’s Halfus, the boss even pugs could down, at the time I was intimidated. All I had was a pair of subpar stamina trinkets to help me survive Stomp and the immense melee hits that come when you’re debuffed. Add to that the stress of positioning the boss correctly so the DPS and healers can soak crystals, and you had a very nervous bear. People were complaining and yelling and blaming, and we all wanted the same thing (read: dead Morchok). But somehow in this larger environment, I felt the guild was kind of disjointed. Communication was not getting through.

When we finally got him down, I was reassured by my parses. They showed that I took less damage from Stomp than my paladin co-tank did, though he was able to block part of the melee swings. Still, the whole experience left me feeling icky, and this led me to get sucked into the vortex of anger and frustration that followed on later bosses. I said some things I should not have. I did end up paying for those words, but through it all came a blessing: the return to 10-man raiding and an old friend of mine.

After the guild and I parted ways, I felt lost. A friendly shaman reached out and invited me to join a guild I had been in before, so it was back to Alliance. I was a Worgen again, and I had my beloved Darkflight again. I loved having that tool on Ragnaros. In a bit of a comfort zone, I allowed myself to breathe. My shaman friend, who was also now my raid leader, helped me get back on my bear saddle and tank things again. We killed bosses. We grabbed loot.

I did have to re-learn heroic Morchok on 10-man, because I now had to move the boss closer to the crystal instead of the raid running behind me. Yor’sahj proved tougher, and we spent tons of attempts trying to get the healing and DPS just right. (Three healers or two? What to use during purple phases? Do I glyph or unglyph my FR with my four-piece bonus?). We settled on two healers — and my DK tank, even though my bear had the Mirror of Broken Images trinket and my DK did not. And what do you know, the boss died and my heroic staff dropped. Wrong toon, RNG Monster!

Hagara probably took us the longest out of the five bosses we have downed on heroic so far. It wasn’t just about my use of Stay of Execution to survive Focused Assault, but also using Sunnier’s suggestion of Drums of Speed on the ice phase. And we also figured out that we had to save my FR bonus for the lightning phase. Said phase is a lot different on 10-man, with conductors in different places and raid members adjusted accordingly. Rumor has it that there are just as many ice lances on 10-man as there are on 25-man, but I can’t confirm this. It was really sweet when we finally euthanized the worgen, though. This fight, to me, was also about knowing when to use my survival cooldowns — and when to ask the healers for help (Guardian Spirit, Lay on Hands).

People gave me grief for not taking down Ultraxion before Hagara — “Dude, it’s free loot!” —  but we had to do things our way. Again, I have to thank Sunnier for her Power Auras setup for Fading Light. Nothing says “Click the button now!” like a giant timer in your face. The toughest part of this fight was getting our soaking rotation for Hour of Twilight rotation for the rest of the raid down. Our DPS was a bit on the low side, though this was after the stacking nerf came into the equation. I probably could have done better with a bit of bearcatting. I am still working on that concept to this day, though it will be a thing of the past soon.

Our last heroic kill before changing to the Horde and looking for a better talent pool was Zon’ozz. We flailed endlessly, it seemed, with the boss’s health at nothing less than 66 percent. People couldn’t kill adds. People couldn’t heal correctly. I even died after Zonnie stacked his Focused Anger too high. And then … we killed him. It literally came out of nowhere. I was basically the last one left alive after our holy priest threw a clutch GS on me. It felt great to whittle down the last of Zonnie’s health. Guess what? Hunter loot. Next week? Hunter loot. Yeah. We don’t need any more Horrifying Horns, dudebro. OK?

We still have our struggles, but we are hopeful that we can fill in the missing pieces, maybe wrestle heroic Blackhorn to the ground and then push hard when Pandaland: My Little Pony goes live. I’m going to farm so many darn carrots you will not know what hit you. Seriously. And my Vampiric Batling is going to totally destroy your Lil’ XT in a pet battle. And yeah, some bosses will probably die, too, dropping even more hunter loot. Yay.

Some of the druid talents on beta have me worried, but thankfully there is an active theorycrafting community that is looking out for ferals (I mean, Guardians). I’d love to tell you everything about my bear’s exploits in said beta, but I can’t do so much as attack something without a critical error crashing my client.

Until then, I leave you with:

Sunnier’s Art of War

The Inconspicuous Bear

The amazing people behind these sites I just linked — along with my Cataclysm experience — have helped me become a better bear. What does Mists have in store? I don’t know. I just hope I can learn enough in time.

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