The Ashen Verdict Gains a Foothold

Well, I thought about doing early posts based on my initial reactions to tanking in ICC but so many other people were doing it that I decided to just keep putting it off. Today the Ashen Verdict gains its foothold after a month of letting us stomp Deathbringer Saurfang at the gates atop the ramparts, and now we are poised to move in on the Plagueworks. I’ve cleared the first wing on 10 and 25man, I’ve cleared it on 2 alts, and my main is halfway through revered, so exalted won’t be that far away. Aside from the irritant of requiring Primordial Saronite to purchase crafting patterns (or I’d have them all) and that they hang out inside the instance so I need to be in a raid group to even window-shop (annoying…)) Icecrown has thus far been a pleasant raiding experience. I’m far happier than I anticipated being upon having to clear trash again, and not just for the ease of rep-grinding, but I find I generally missed it. The trash is all very well designed in such a way that it won’t all pull on you the second you dare to poke your head within eyesight; they all patiently wait for you to be ready to invite them to the aoe-stomp-your-face party as the guests of honor.
First and foremost, Chill of the Throne is not nearly as bad as I expected it to be. Having never raided Sunwell, I was expecting to be hit 75% of the time by everyone and everything; trash, bosses, polymorphed trash, the rats that somehow got in, etc etc. But it is really not the case. Having spent 8 hours of one day farming Marrowgar trash for Ashen Verdict rep, I became acutely aware that I could not only solotank all the trash (and in large AoE-friendly packs), but that I was being missed more often than I seemed to be being hit. Maybe it’s just a visual lie of my scrolling combat text because I didn’t view logs, but I seemed to dodge, duck, dip, dive, and… dodge most of what “The Damned” threw at me, especially when they were bone-flurrying. On average I was taking about 2-3k hits from the melee trash and 7-8k from the Giant’s swings.
At first we started, like good little raiders who learned their lesson in undergeared pre-nerf antechamber trash, using Shackle Undead, Repentance, and other forms of CC on the trash packs as we priority-target picked off the Sevants of the Throne then the ago-irrelevant, cc-happy spider guys. Well, let me back up for a moment. We were going to raid ICC10 the night it came out, but our main healer had to work and couldn’t make the raid night, so, disappointed, and frustrated, we did the nice thing and called the raid on account of him. So, bored out of our minds, and impatient, a guildie and I poked our head into ICC10 to see what was up.
We walked in and, of course, the first thing we did was pull something. He quickly found out that healer ago will pull the lore-spawn monsters off their death-knight-duel-programmed course and raped his face. So he reses and I go in and we pull the first pair. Still a little tentative with the spectre of hype-of-doom surrounding the final raid of wrath and the chill of the throne, we try to tag onto a DK kill of some trash in hopes of 2-man ninja’ing some rep. No dice. So we try to pull the first pack and kite them into the death knights for support. No dice, the DKs stand there and watch us get eaten so we quickly run out of the instance as fast as we can. Then something peculiar happened. The two gate-watching mobs didn’t reset, they had either despawned or agro’d on the DKs after we ran out of the instance, but the point was, they were gone.
So, still a little afraid of the trash before us, I went to check out the Ashen Verdict setup and cringe at Tiron wearing full tier gear knowing that soon, I too, would look that uninspiring. My druid guildie decided to see what he could get away with. The brave soul, on his resto druid, actually managed to go kitty and prowl his ass all the way into Marrowgar’s room without pulling anything. I have no idea how he managed it. He wasn’t even spec’d into improved stealth. So there he was, in Marrowgar’s room being all like “dude, I’m totally in Marrowgar’s room” and I was all like “dude, fuck you” and he was all like “lol dude lol” and I was like “oh yeah? watch this!” So I disrobed (durability loss while fooling around FTL) and charged with my pursuit-of-justice-enabled boots into the first wave of trash. As I pulled it I popped Divine Protection and ran as far as I could go. Eventually bubble wore off as I was in the final room before Marrowgar and I was promptly introduced to the floor.
Fortunately, I had made it far enough in where the druid could res me. And now we were both in Marrowgar’s room. After a little bit of joking about how awesome we were and how much trash can go kiss our ass, we mustered our courage and decided to see if we were badass enough to 2man marrowgar. It was going alright for about 30 seconds, then he spawned some fire that I wasn’t expecting (cause I was going in blind, hadn’t read a strat or anything) and foolishly ate a 9k tick during a well timed melee swing that I didn’t avoid and down I went. Knowing then what I know now, saber-lash would have been the end of us, but we probably could have lived up until the first bone spike (cause it would go on him and I’d stop being healed), just the 2 of us. So, having had our ambitions returned to earth, we released and ran back in, daring now to 2man what the trash could throw at us.
So we buff and I pull the wandering pack of 3 Damned and proceed to solotank and dps them down with little difficulty. So now we both realize that Chill of the Throne isn’t as bad as we thought and we get a little braver. I can apparently solo-tank them without taking much damage, and he can apparently solo-heal me through it. So far so good we thought. We pull one of the giants who had spawned during my bubble-run through the corridors. While he hit me for quite a bit more, we were able to get it down. Fortunately we had death knight NPC assistance because his silencing shout apparently hits everything in the instance. By the end of the fight, the tree was OOM having used 2 innervates and my LoH to restore some of his mana, but we had 2manned a large giant and gotten 75 rep and a nice ego boost for our trouble. We decided to stop our adventures there, feeling quite pleased with our accomplishments.
This is the first time I’ve ever outgeared a tier of progression content the day it debuted. I don’t far outgear it, but outgear it I do, so it is a little more difficult for me to think in terms of gear choices and upgrades for the freshly-minted 232 heroics crowd. Lots of websites and blogs have covered gear breakdowns and comparisons and suggestions and I’m not interested in doing that. What I can say, though, is that currently my 4p t9.245 gear bonus, the cooldown on my forbearance, is not nearly as useful as I expected it would be in the first 4 fights. Because forbearance is such a “fuck you” debuff to Paladin tanks, I tend to never use any abilities that proc it unless it’s about 3 seconds past the point of “time to use your OH SHIT button” just to make sure it really is an oh-shit situation and not just a “well it made your healers die a little inside but they kept you up” situation. Rather than use Divine Protection twice in the Marrowgar fight to mitigate some saber-lash and melee damage MTing it, I save it for those times when the OT goes down, my main healer gets bone-spiked, or something else goes wrong. Verdict: bonus wasted.
On Deathwhisper, it could find its uses if I’m stuck in a position where I can’t kite a deformed fanatic (40k 360degree cleave ftl) or if I’m tanking 4-7 adds because our DPS isn’t getting the job done. That’s generally an oh-shit scenario and not something I can plan around though. On phase 2 it can be useful if you know in advance a frostbolt isn’t going to be interrupted or if the OT is dead, but that’s another scenario you can’t budget for. Best times to use it would be when you, as the MT, take it back from the OT once your first set of stacks of Insignificance fade, this will give the healers a little breathing room on you to deal with the, by now likely, overwhelming of ghosts. Or you could instead choose to hold it for the 2nd time the OT takes it from you and do a raid-wide bubble-sac hoping to catch a frostbit volley. Verdict: bonus wasted.
Gunship… do I really need to talk about this fight? I suppose if you wanted to zerg Muradin you can pop it right at the point where he is about to 1shot you or save it for trading bubble-taunts of Muradin with another bubbled paladin. But realistically, if you need to use any cooldowns as a tank this fight, just bleh. Verdict: bonus wasted.
Saurfang. Here, there is definite potential. A patchwerk-like fight from a tank’s point of view, early-and-often works fine for a cooldown like this, though it does get progressively more useful the more bloodpower he gets so you might not want to use it until he gets to about 50+ blood power (70+ if your raid is controlling the adds really well and he’s going to be there for awhile). The fight should last long enough for you to get 2-3 off at opportune moments. It should be off cooldown by the time his frenzy comes up, as it shouldn’t be difficult to time it. Conversely you could save your final one as a bubble-sac if several marks are out (while you have rune of blood on you and the other tank is on the boss) to make life a little bit easier on healers. Overall, however, as powerful as the set bonus sounds, so far it has been underwhelming for me in Icecrown. Verdict: bonus nice, but not exceptional.
I hope that when the plagueworks opens up that the bonus will be a little more useful, but with fights only lasting around 6 minutes, hitting a CD 3 times doesn’t sound ideally suited when encounters are tailored around tank-switching mechanics because there is no reliable way to ensure it will be off CD when it’s your turn. It might as well still be on CD if it comes up when you’ve got 4 stacks of Insignificance on you. This is especially depressing for me because of the underwhelming set bonus for Paladins in T10. While it should be powerful for Marrowgar, Deathwhispers add’s and her, Gunship, and Saurfang where lots of heavy melee goes out, it seems like it is going to lose its usefulness the further into Icecrown we go where nature damage permeates the Plagueworks, Shadow damage covers the Blood Halls, and frost damage awaits us at Sindragosa’s landing and the Frozen Throne. It’s not like melee damage on tanks will be absent from these encounters, but because dodge is unreliable at best, you could potentially end up with 0 benefit on a fight where even at 100% effectiveness (i.e. you dodged ALL physical attacks for the duration), it wouldn’t be especially powerful, just a slight breather for the healers.

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