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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Learning how to wipe

Matthew Rossi

The Care and Feeding of Warriors would like to pretend to be an exhaustive and comprehensive overview of warrior issues. Unfortunately, they're letting Matthew Rossi write the thing, and he's equal parts obsessed maniac, egotistical loon and occasionally informed poster. Proud pappy of three level 70 warriors, we think he may have been dropped on his head a lot as a child. That would explain why he enjoys playing the class that gets hit all the time.

Playing World of Warcraft is supposed to be fun. I know I play for enjoyment. In the past I've done so through PvP, although I was never as much of an enthusiast as some warriors. Lately, I've gotten back into raiding, mostly because I have a lot of experience tanking and I found guilds looking for a dedicated prot warrior. In the short time that I've been with my new guild, I've gone from tanking A'lar in blues and greens to gearing up in Karazhan and the lairs of Gruul and Magtheridon respectively. These 'loot runs' aren't progression, and so they feel less 'real' as a tank than Zul'Aman, Serpentshrine and Tempest Keep do (Kael and Vashj are all that stands in our way now) because they lack that one crucial element that sets aside 'real' progression tanking.

Wipes. They lack the endless wipes. We wipe in ZA, SSC and TK because we're still learning them. For some reason, I've come to associate real progression in raiding with wiping over and over again, watching incremental progress as people come to understand the fight. From the first time I killed Nefarian, a fight that took us several days and quite a few wipes to master, I seem to have been hard wired to accept wiping as part of the process. If you want to kill the bosses you have to die first. As a tank, one of the harder lessons you'll ever learn is in dealing with this expensive and often personally aggravating necessity of raiding. You have to grow a thick inner skin, not allowing the setbacks and odd quirks of a particular fight (A'lar won't move platforms, Tainted Cores aren't being handled fast enough, people are grouping up too much on Shatters) to frustrate you or cause you to start pointing fingers at people.

Whether you're a tank or DPS, it can be very tempting to vent your frustrations over a wipe and start pointing fingers at what's going wrong. My advice in this situation is to do so with your microphone off and into the empty air around you. Don't type anything, don't accuse anyone in your guild forums or in raid chat or through whispers. Feel free to curse up a blue streak when there's no one around to hear you. Even when the group is not actually wiping on bosses, it's possible for a tank to die holding trash if a heal is mistimes, shield block charges get eaten up too fast, or the tank does something stupid like thunderclap in an area with CC that then piles onto him. There are literally thousands of ways for a tanking or DPSing warrior to die in the course of a run, and to some degree there's simply no point to pointing fingers. Consider it this way: if you lost aggro and a healer died before you could get it back, you wouldn't appreciate having your nose rubbed in it either.

This is not the same situation as a run where, no matter how well you do you're simply not getting proper support from someone. It's more often the case in a five man that everyone is doing their best save for one person and that person's shortcomings become quickly apparent. Tank can't hold aggro, one of the DPS is constantly off on his or her own target or breaking CC indiscriminately, healer can't seem to keep anyone alive. These runs happen to us all. But in a 10 or 25 man raid it can be difficult to identify what's going wrong. This isn't to say that effort on behalf of the raid or guild leadership shouldn't work to make sure everyone's pulling their weight, but it's counterproductive for angry raid members, especially tanks (who are often, rightly or wrongly, seen as de factor 'war leaders' of their respective raids, even with members of other classes are the ones actually running the raid) to start blaming people publicly.

Why am I writing about this in a warrior column? Because, men and women, you're going to be asked to take it for the team a lot. Some classes can escape death via various means... ice block and run for the door if it's close, vanish, feign, and our paladin sisters and brothers (who wear plate too) can use DI to escape the cost of a wipe if they're lucky. But a DPSing warrior is often one of the first to die even on successful kills, and many the time a tanking warrior dies just before success, which is going to drive you insane. You're going to burn Shield Wall, Last Stand, a potion, a health stone, and maybe even use a trinket only to die anyway when Bloodboil is at 1% and it's going to eat your guts out. (Paladin and druid tanks, I know you feel the same pain when it happens to you, so please don't assume I'm excluding you, but y'know, it is the warrior column and all.) There are things we can and should do to minimize these experiences... for starters, please please please use consumables. Use health pots, use health stones, runes of warding, flasks if you can. Also, if you're down a lot of health and you can get a few seconds to do it, bandage! (This is more for a DPSing warrior.) Sure, you may get a heal anyway, but if you don't, the bandage will help, and if you do you'll have made it so you don't need another as fast. Anything you can do to lower the load on healers is a good thing to do.

For you new tanks, please, remember your on-use trinkets. Remember your abilities like Last Stand and Shield Wall. Anything you can do to give your healers time to heal you, to stretch out the encounter and make progess on it. But in the end, unless you're very lucky, a new fight will undoubtedly mean a wipe. Don't let this discourage you, or make you lash out at your group. Furthermore, sometimes an encounter you have on farm will surprise you. You may be used to running up to Kael for a night's work except for whatever reason this week you can't even get past Void Reaver. This can be absolutely maddening if you know you're doing everything in your power and yet you can't get past the encounter. This is when, no matter if you're whacking away at the knees or, well, whacking away at the front of the knees and calling him names, you have to settle back and stop trying to physically carry the group past the encounter. I don't know why, but for some reason every warrior I know (myself included) takes wiping very, very seriously and personally.

Stop it.

It doesn't do the group any good. It doesn't do you any good. If it's your fault for whatever reason, then fix what you're doing. If it's not your fault, then look at what happened, make reasonable suggestions if you can think of any (yelling Why didn't I get any heals on vent is not reasonable here, in case you were confused) and then move on. Getting angry at your fellow players won't kill any monsters. Also, know when to call it quits and don't keep agitating to slam the group's collective heads against a wall when they're not ready for it.

Wipes suck. There's nothing fun about becoming a bunch of stains on the floor...or lagoon... or wherever you're fighting. But they're part and parcel of learning the game. Treat them as the learning tools they are, don't let them chew your guys out with rage or incriminations. As warriors, you're going to eat a lot of very expensive repair bills. They're only going to get more expensive. This sucks, but it's one of the foibles of the class: at least we're spared reagent costs, thousands of rounds of ammunition, pet food, shard bags and the other ridiculous minutia other classes must go through. All our expenses come up front in those big repair bills, we don't have to dance the agonizing death of a thousand cuts other classese experience. I personally prefer the one big punch in the gut, especially since it gives me bragging rights when the nightly repair costs are tallied up in chat.

You know you love winning that contest.

In the end, all the wipes pay off when that sucker is finally dead before you. Bask in your victory.

Next week, I have no idea what we'll talk about. Some of you have emailed in asking for tanking tips in the 60 - 70 instances, while others want more in-depth DPS coverage, and I know PvP is always a popular topic.

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