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Grokking

September 16, 2011

Dear Reader,

I finally bit the bullet and did it. I had respecced and regeared him, but I had yet to actually play my DK tank. Having had some many bad experiences with them (from a healer’s point of view, seeing their health dip so much is nightmarish, even though I intellectually know they can heal themselves almost as well as I can), I was naturally very hesitant to tank on mine. I even decided over last weekend to just screw it, go back to a dps spec, and level my way through without doing dungeons, but my “do what you’re most afraid of” (in safe video game enviroments, at any rate) nature got the better of me.

It went very well, actually.  After double checking some of my abilities, like silences, defensive cooldowns, and so forth, I’ve found I have no problems whatsoever keeping threat.  In fact, a death and decay and a Blood Strike is usually all it takes.  Survivablility’s been good, too, so I’ve been very happy with it.

However that, dear reader, is not what this post is about.  It’s about Grokking, a term that means to learn a skill so intuitively that you can transfer it unconsciously over to similar but slightly different activities.  Playing guitar, for example, and then moving over to a mandolin without too much trouble is an example of grokking; you’ve so intuitively learned fretting and so forth that a new instrument offers little challenge.

I feel WoW’s pretty good about that from role to role, with a few exceptions.  I’ve tanked at max level on two other toons; paladins and druids (though most of my druid time was healing, I did experiment with tanking.  It was during a patch in LK where druids kind of stunk, though, so I went back to healing pretty quickly).  Moving to the DK felt a lot like paladin tanking; death grip is like avenger’s shield, blood strike is like shield of the righteous, death and decay is like consecration… you get the point.

The main difference, of course, has to do with the DK tank’s unique ability, death strike.  I can’t really come up with much of a comparison to any other class for this ability, which is actually excellent.  I don’t want my DK tank to be the exact same as my paladin, but I like that I have grokked so much about tanking in general that the transition was pretty smooth.  I still butt-clench at times because I see my health so low, but frequently a DS and a healer’s cast going off means I can go from nigh-dead to full within a split second.

Healing, I think too, is pretty well designed for grokking.  I’ve healed end game on 3 of the 4 classes now, with my shammy at 80 now.  You’ll have a small, fast heal, a bigger, slower heal, a medium heal, a group heal, and a hot.  Of course, there’s small exceptions within each class, which adds to the variety and decision in play style of what class to play.  I liked the druid the most, allowing me to hot-a-lot, but the changes in 4.0 made turned me off a bit, making my druid feel more like a priest (at the time).  I think things have diversified a bit since then with each patch, but I haven’t had a serious opportunity to find out.

Grokking has a lot to do with “chunking,” another educational / psychological term regarding learning.  As we learn, we put information together with other pieces of information, for easier storage and recall.  All your driving skills, for example, are chunked, as are the directions you take to work.  That’s why you can, some mornings, get to work almost without a conscious thought about the act of getting there.  Game playing is no different, as we can see; tanking skills – threat, defensive maneuvers, taunting, moving out of bad stuff – get chunked together.  The better you are at doing those things, the more you grok them.

Recently, Windsoar of Jaded Alt talked about feeling “new” at things.  One question I asked her was about dreaming.  When you begin to dream about things, it’s a sign you’re really starting to grok them, to understand them so unconsciously that it turns up, well, in your unconscious dreams.  I’ve dreamed about tanking and healing myself.  Frequently, the dreams are stressful, slightly panicked affairs with a focus on managing the crisis.  If you think about when your healing really matters – when you make the most difference between success and failure – those are the times.  When things are going too wrong, it doesn’t matter what you do; you’re wiping.  When things are going smoothly, then your decisions matter, sure, but not as much as during a crisis.  These dreams cut straight to the learning portion of the game and function as extra practice during your sleep.

Hilariously, as I reach the last quarter-ish part of my 10×85 challenge (4 toons left, but 1’s at 80 and 1’s mid 70s), I feel that I’m getting the hang of new mechanics better and better.  Because I don’t have to focus on threat and so forth, I can think more about runes, runic power, and Death Strike (incidentally, any suggestions on add-ons for rune management – the tiny panel in the top left of the screen’s not doing it for me).  Because I’ve healed on pallies, priests, and druids, the shaman healing almost makes me sleepy.

I’ve never dreamed about dpsing.  Never.  I don’t know why, of course, but it really suggests that I’m nowhere near grokking various dpsing maneuvers.  I wonder when – or if – it’ll come to me.  I didn’t dream of the others until I raided in them; I’ve only raided VERY rarely as dps.  Maybe it goes with my bartle type; I scored 7% for killer, though I doubt it because what you’re really grokking is the underlying patterns, not the fact that you’re attacking something.

What about you, dear reader?  Have you dreamed of WoW?  Have you grokked anything?

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and grokked)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lowtec permalink
    September 19, 2011 4:00 am

    I have all 4 tanking classes at level 85 and I did a lot of tanking with them. As you said it was getting easier and easier with each character. In my mind a lot of what _is_ tanking is the control of the area in that the fight happens. Like e.g. where is the spot to collect all enemies, melee and ranged alike, so you can apply good AE threat. Where does the boss spawn the adds and so on. So an additional part of what makes it easier is also the increasing knowledge of the dungeons.

    Regarding DK specifics, DocsDebugRunes serve me quite well (http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/docsdebugrunes.aspx). It can also display cooldowns, rune power and approximated blood shield information.

    You mentioned Blood Strike. I have replaced it with Heart Strike in every rotation, the tooltip indicates it does significantly more damage. I didn’t actually test the difference, is Blood Strike any good still?

    • September 19, 2011 3:59 pm

      Thanks for the tips, and I totally agree, battlefield control is a major part of tanking. Being able to view the location where you’ll have the fight, whether it’s at the mob with a charge, at your feet with a Death Grip, or somewhere in between with avenger’s shield, being able to make sure a pull of more than 3 all get aggro’ed to you before a heal gets cast, being able to snuggle them all up into one spot without turning your back are all elements of being a good tank.

      Thanks for the heads up on that addon, too; It looks like just what I need, but as I’m at work I’ll have to give it a test run later tonight.

      Yeah, I misspoke regarding blood strike. Heart strike is the cleave, blood strike is the whammy ability that’s not even on my bar; as they’re both one blood rune, I get both confused and just refer to it as my blood strike. Thanks for pointing that out (:

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