ESO – Complete One-Eighty On Subbing

So, yeah, I changed my mind and subbed for one month of ESO. I did it after I played the Arbiter in Rift for a night, and realized to my horror that there was no way that I would be able to fill all of my gaming time between now and the WildStar launch with Rift tanking.

I sort of forgot to factor in my terror of tanking high-level dungeons in PUGs. There are only a handful of low-level dungeons that I’m comfortable with, so it won’t be very long before tanking becomes a hellish, stressful nightmare, regardless of what I think of the soul.

I suppose I could try the other new souls in 2.7, but they aren’t as interesting to me.

So I think I’m going to need ESO for a little while longer. And like I said before, I only need to play it for a handful of hours for it to be worth $15.

I'm back baby! Actually I never left.
I’m back baby! Actually I never left.

As of this writing I have reached Templar level 40. I have a love/hate relationship with my┬áTemplar Two-Hander build. Sometimes I find myself ridiculously out-matched, and other times I mow down enemies like a hot knife through butter. It’s a bit frustrating at times.

Rift – Trying Out The Arbiter in 2.7

I tried out the mage tanking soul Arbiter in Rift 2.7 on Thursday night. Overall I was pleased with its performance in Realm of the Fae, but I’m a bit worried that it will be “complicated” to play at higher levels. Take that with a big grain of salt though as I am far from an expert tank, and I have only seen low-level abilities.

The "Arcanist" preset with the Arbiter, Stormcaller, and Warlock soul trees.
The “Arcanist” preset with the Arbiter, Stormcaller, and Warlock soul trees.

If you don’t know, it costs 5000 points/gems/whatever to buy the new souls. I already had 2000 of them, so I could get away with only spending $20 for the 3000 gem package. I suppose it’s possible to get them without spending any real money using those REX or whatever, but that system is too complicated for my economics-challenged brain to understand.

My philosophy on playing new souls is to start with low-level characters and explore the abilities in the order they are given to you as you’re leveling. It’s pretty overwhelming to look over dozens of abilities all at once. So I started at level 14 with a minimal set of Arbiter abilities and some questing around Meridian to get the basic mechanics of it.

The new “preset” build containing Arbiter is called “Arcanist.” I just went with that to start out, even though the presets generally aren’t optimal. It has Arbiter as the main soul, Stormcaller as the secondary, and Warlock as the third. I found that to be a puzzling combination because my cursory glance at the Arbiter skills made me think that Harbinger would have had better synergy than Warlock, perhaps even Elementalist. The Arbiter skills looked to be based mainly on Air and Water. Perhaps they are thinking that you would use the Warlock Drain Health DoT while tanking?

Anyway after some questing, I hit 15 and jumped straight into Realm of the Fae, the first dungeon. Unlike the other tanking souls that I’ve seen, Arbiter gets an AoE attack before level 16 (albeit with a 4-second cooldown), so I didn’t feel like I needed to wait. Combined with the permanent buff that increases threat generation, it made for a formidable AoE-pull in RotF. I rarely lost threat once I’d established it. I only had to use the taunt a handful of times.

I was a little surprised to see that the tanking works just like a sword-and-board tank. That is, you just stand there and let the mobs beat on you while you swing your staff at them. I’m not sure what I expected but I vaguely remember hearing that there might be a summoned pet involved. I thought it would have been cool if they could have turned the pets in the other souls into “true” dungeon tanking pets instead of just emergency tanks in a pinch.

I’m not sure what to think of the Arbiter so far. Previously, my favorite tanking class in Rift was Cleric with the Justiciar soul, mainly because the mechanics are really easy and I can concentrate on positioning. It was certainly easy to tank with a mage in RotF, but will it remain that easy? I guess I’ll find out in the next dungeon.

WoW Tanks Are Top DPS??

I realize nobody wants to read about WoW, but historically I haven’t played it much, and about 90% of it is still new to me. Well "new" isn’t the right word exactly–it’s more that WoW’s implementation of familiar MMO tropes is new to me. For example, I’ve made a shocking observation in my low to mid-range dungeon runs: The tank almost always does the most damage in the group. Sometimes by a very large margin.

That's the tank up there at the top.
That’s the tank up there at the top.

It’s a bit of a mind-blower when I’m going in with what I think is a pure damage spec, only to get out-damaged by the tank! In every other game I’ve played, the tank has almost no damage output, and is usually second-to-last before the healer.

At first I thought that low to mid-range dungeon runs in WoW are so easy that people simply use a damage spec instead of a tank spec to get through the dungeon faster, relying on their damage to keep aggro. Because it can’t possibly be that the WoW tank specs deal massive damage and withstand massive damage, can it?

Yep, that looks like a Protection Tank to me.
Yep, that looks like a Protection Tank to me.

It seems so. As further evidence, when I play an Arms Warrior, my damage is usually pretty high among the group without any special effort. But when I play a Warlock or a Mage, my damage is usually last place among the damage dealers. I haven’t had the nerve yet to try playing a Protection Warrior to confirm the super high damage. (Not that I think it would be hard; I just don’t want to get yelled at for going the wrong way.)

Perhaps this is just an artifact of the leveling process, and everything will balance out at the level cap. That is, perhaps Warriors do better damage while leveling, but at the cap the Mages and Warlocks catch up. I hope so, because right now it doesn’t look like there’s any reason to roll anything but a warrior for damage.

Is Chain-Pulling Harder?

I was in a dungeon recently with a chain-pulling tank, and it got me thinking. I’ve always associated the chain-pulling tank behavior with a more advanced tanking technique, but is it really harder to chain-pull?

Chain-pulling, if you don’t know, is where the tank runs at full speed pulling mob after mob after mob without stopping, until he gathers a big group of them together, and then he takes off again before the group is even dead. So he gets a big train of mobs following him around, and the rest of the party has to run full speed to keep up with him.

It’s definitely faster to go through a dungeon with a chain-pulling tank, there’s no question about that. I guess that’s why I’ve always considered it an advanced tanking maneuver. But when you think about, the tank isn’t really doing anything except running a lot. I feel like there’s a lot more of a burden on the healer to keep him alive while on-the-run. And the DPS has to use a lot of on-the-run spell-casting.

I’m undecided. I would never tank like that myself, and I get a vague sense of exasperation when I get one of those tanks in a PUG. It’s like, "Jeez, can’t we stop for just one second so I can take a sip of my drink?"

When WoW Tanks Go Rogue

I had an odd, somewhat amusing experience in WoW recently. I’ve been playing a lot of dungeon instances lately, partly because I’ve never actually done any WoW dungeons before, and partly because I wanted to level a mage without going through the hassle of soloing. Almost every instance has been an enjoyable, workmanlike experience … until this tank decided to be an ass.

So the random dungeon selector came up with the Scarlet Monastary. Or maybe it was the Scarlet Halls. I can’t remember. They all run together. It was the one that starts out with those piles of corpses and zombies which most people just run around, but the second we stepped into this instance we were beset by flaming zombies and fighting for our lives. That usually happens when somebody doesn’t circumvent that first area, so I figured somebody was trying to do a quest I didn’t know about, or somebody was panicking, or somebody just didn’t know what was going on.

It went on and on … and I’m getting hit over and over, and I start thinking that this tank is not holding aggro very well, which is annoying but it happens. Then I notice someone running all around pulling mobs all over the place, while the other four of us are standing literally in the exact spot where you zone in fighting a swarm of mobs. I thought it was a panicking DPS trying to get away from people hitting him, because DPS tend to freak out whenever someone lands a hit on them.

We got through that, probably thanks to the fantastic work of the healer. (I just know it wasn’t any fantastic work from me; my mage seems largely useless to me.) Then we move forward … and it happens again. We got swarmed with mobs and the tank wasn’t holding aggro.

That’s when I saw it: The tank was running all over pulling mobs … and not fighting them. The rest of us engaged the mobs when we saw the tank pulling, as anyone would, and then the mobs immediately turned and attacked us. It was especially bad with the first boss. Now normally I give tanks a lot of slack, because it’s a crap job that nobody wants to do. But this went far beyond bad tanking.

This tank was trolling us.

Now I suppose it’s possible that somebody’s 5-year-old kid hijacked their account and jumped into a dungeon as a tank and wandered around aimlessly sight-seeing, not even realizing that he or she was playing a game with other people. But that seems like a stretch.

Now here’s why this is a particularly heinous troll: If you’re not a tank, you’ve probably been waiting in the LFG queue for a while, so it’s quite a letdown to find out that time’s been wasted. And if you kick the tank, you run the risk of not getting another one anytime soon, because, as we all know, tanks are the least desirable position to play in a PUG. So you end up having to run the rest of the instance without a tank anyway.

The other problem is that apparently you can’t vote-kick someone if they are in combat or recently in combat. So this dude could just keep engaging mobs indefinitely to avoid getting kicked.

Eventually we all collectively realized that if we stopped attacking any mobs ourselves, the mobs would keep hitting the tank and eventually he would die, and then we could vote-kick him. Which is what ended up happening, because this tank apparently had no ability to heal himself. We then soldiered on through the rest of the instance by ourselves, because sure enough, no new tank arrived. We used someone’s VoidWalker as a sort-of substitute tank. It was messy and slow, but we got through it. Amazingly, none of the other four of us died during the entire time, which I guess goes to show just how easy WoW instances are below level 30.