Wednesday, July 9, 2008

On Priest CC

I'm sure I am not the only person who has a lot of “if I could get others to understand just one thing about my class” moments. In fact, WowWiki has a whole series on it. This week's lesson that I want to shout from the hills is simple:
Mind Control and Shackle Undead work just like every other form of CC.

I know, it sounds like a duh kind of thing, so let me explain.

First, yes, I can pull with either. Just like a Polymorph or Hibernate pull, there are times when you want to take a mob out of the fight from the very first moment, not giving them a chance to do absolutely anything. And, just like both, some mobs are Immune. With Mind Control, I can probably even do a little extra with the abilities that I gain from the mob. It may be nuking or melee or healing, or in very rare cases buffing.

But that's not the problem. Everyone gets that part. The second part is what non-Priests seem to have the hardest time with.

If the Priest is not pulling, then Priest CC is more like Hunter CC than Mage CC.

Wait, what?

Yet again, the Priest shows a bit of flexibility and versatility. Think for a moment about the difference between how a Mage does CC and how a Hunter does CC. For a Mage, gaining the mob's attention before CC is almost always a Very Bad Thing. For a Hunter, almost all of their CC relies on getting the mob's attention. If the Hunter cannot get the mob's attention, then traps become much harder to work, and we're back into Very Bad Thing territory.

Having said that, let me repeat: If the Priest is not pulling, then Priest CC is more like Hunter CC than Mage CC.

Let me break this down by spell. Shackle Undead is the easiest to explain:

Shackle Undead is the Priest's version of a Freeze Trap.

Just like you expect a Hunter to get the mob to rush them, you need to get used to the idea that a good Priest will do the exact same thing. We'll probably tap them on the shoulder with Mind Flay (the blue frickin' laser beam). Yo. What up? Can I talk to you over here for a second?

Wait, wait, I know: “But you're squishy!”. Very, very true. Unlike a Hunter, we don't have a pet for backup. We're definitely putting ourselves at extreme risk. But, that's just how it is done. We've got our bubble and we're smart enough not to bother channelling all 3 seconds of our Mind Flay. The Shackle will come. Just be patient.

We tap the mob for the same reason the Hunter does: when we Shackle, we want the mob to be as far from the action as possible. We want the Mages and Paladins to be able to AoE without fear of breaking the Shackle. We want people to be able to tab-target without accidentally hitting our trapped mob. We also want to be able to keep our eye on it. Unlike a Freeze Trap, we can preemptively re-Shackle our target. In fact, most of us have a beautiful macro that lets us re-Shackle without ever taking out eyes off of our DPS target. (Ever tried to do Moroes without a Shackling Priest? It's a much longer and trickier fight, I assure you.)

So when the mob you've marked for Shackling runs right past you because it's got a blue laser beam hitting it, don't panic. We've got it under control. Pretend it's heading for a Freeze Trap and that the blue laser beam is just a really, really pretty arrow.

Mind Control works almost the exact same: we need to tap the mob first.

In the case of Mind Control, we're tapping the mob for a different reason: range. See, Mind Control is tricksy. Every tick that goes by the mob has a chance to break the Mind Control early. That chance is increased by the range between the Mind Controlled mob and my Priest body. The first thing a good Priest will do after applying a successful Mind Control is run the mob back to stand next to his Priest body.

Yeah, I know. We're back to that whole squishy thing. But again, it's got to be done. It's better that we take that risk than the bigger risk of letting the mob out of Mind Control early.

Wait, there's something you might have missed. Think about the implications of the range problem with Mind Control.

If you want us to melee with a Mind Controlled mob, you need to kite your mob to our mob.

Yeah, sorry, you have to come to us. We can't come to you. If we're standing around at the back of the fight doing nothing, it's probably not because we're /afk. It's probably because our mob doesn't have any ranged abilities and you've got your target too far away for us to feel comfortable running to.

We know that we're supposed to help out by using the mob's abilities. Promise. You don't need to tell us. But help us help you. We'll come a little towards you, maybe 10 yards, but that's it.

Last thing. I'm almost done.

When you ask us to “chain MC”, expect to hear our teeth grinding and a bit of a sigh. Some Priests will do it, but some won't. You've essentially stepped up from asking us to put ourselves at extreme risk to asking us to tank in our squishy cloth. Yes, really. See, did I mention that Mind Control is tricksy?

Chaining Mind Control is more of a theoretical possibility than a proven reality.

Let's go slow-mo here for a moment and recap what needs to be done to chain Mind Control:
  1. Walk the mob as far from us as we can without accidentally breaking the Mind Control as per the rules above.
  2. Cancel existing Mind Control.
    We could wait for it to end on its own, but at the level you are probably asking us to chain, we'd rather be exactly sure when it will happen. If it breaks even a second too early, we could get turned into paste pretty quick.
    No amount of Fade will help us here. Mind Control creates more threat than Fade can deal with on its own, as we're probably the only one on the mob's threat list.
  3. Bubble.
    We have to do this, as we know that we'll never get the next Mind Control off with the mob pounding on us.
  4. Wait for the GCD.
  5. Cast Mind Control.
  6. Wait 3 seconds.

It's that last step that is, sometimes quite literally, the killer part. Mind Control has a 3 second cast time. Sure, in way, way endgame scenarios (Hyjal, Sunwell) we might be stacking enough Spell Haste to reduce that to as little as 2 seconds. But any time before then, probably not.

In most cases, the mob is free to beat on the Priest for a full 4½ seconds.

Yeah, maybe a little less if we've walked the mob far enough away, but not much. For caster mobs, that's 4½ seconds to nuke us, or sheep us, or whatever. For melee mobs, that's 4½ seconds to tear down our bubble and interrupt our casting. If the mob can Kick, Silence, or Counterspell us, it may well be Game Over.

But wait, it gets worse.

Mind Control is subject to diminishing returns with many mobs, just like most other CC. Since we have little way of knowing when the second Mind Control will break, we're really hesitant to do it. So please, please appreciate why we're reluctant to chain Mind Control. It can work out okay, but the vast majority of the time it does not.

And, of course, just like a Freeze Trap, Polymorph, or other CC, the mob is going to come straight for the CCer when either Shackle or Mind Control is done. Please get the mob off of us. kthxbye.

  • Blue Beam → Pretty Arrow
  • Don't Panic. Wait for it.
  • Kite to the Mind Controlled mob.
  • Chain Mind Control is almost always a Very Bad Idea.


Chronic said...

Interesting article, though I'm not sure who exactly your exasperated tone is supposed to address. A few things I found unusual:

"If the Priest is not pulling, then Priest CC is more like Hunter CC than Mage CC"

This doesn't make any sense to me at all. The only justification you gave is that you want the mob to be away from the group to allow for AoE spells - but mages want that, too. Not only that, but that's not the primary reason hunters pull mobs to themselves (although it certainly is a concern) - they do it because traps are "melee range", and they need to maintain aggro on the mob so it will move towards them when it needs to be re-trapped.

Priests can apply at range without a cooldown, like mages. Priests can choose a specific target to CC instead of an area, like mages. Proximity to the mob does not matter, like mages. You can refresh the duration of your CC by recasting, like mages. I can't think of any real differences between shackle and polymorph at all (well okay, the healing aspect and the random wandering), whereas hunter traps have some fairly unique properties.

"Every tick that goes by the mob has a chance to break the Mind Control early. That chance is increased by the range between the Mind Controlled mob and my Priest body."

I'd like to see a citation for this, because it's the first time I've ever come across this idea. A lot of CC abilities have "heartbeat resist" mechanics like Mind Control, and I've never seen any evidence to suggest *any* of them have the tick chance affected by range. Yes, mind control is guaranteed to break if you run too far away from your mob, but apart from this the chance to break early is *entirely random*. That matches my experience, too, but if you have any strong evidence to the contrary I would love to see it.

Also note that if you're a dwarf priest, chastise can be a handy way to keep a mob off you for a few seconds to get that MC recast off.

"Mind Control is subject to diminishing returns with many mobs, just like most other CC"

Actually, in PvE, almost no crowd control is subject to diminishing returns. There are a few exceptions (cyclone), but DR doesn't apply to any of the things you think of as primary CC, such as polymorph, sap, fear, etc.

apanthropesp said...

"I'm not sure who exactly your exasperated tone is supposed to address"

As I move further into the Heroics where multiple forms of CC are more required than ever, I find that while everyone "gets" Polymorph and Freeze Traps, Shackle and MC seem to make them stumble. I plan on Macroing the URL for this so that when I get into PUGs where people keep breaking my Shackle or yell at me for standing at one side of the room with an MCed melee mob while they are tanking on the other side of the room. (Hence the verbiage more aimed at non-Priests.)

"If the Priest is not pulling, then Priest CC is more like Hunter CC than Mage CC" --- "This doesn't make any sense to me at all."

I guess I should revisit the wording there. I should have been more explicit. I was speaking to a tank's POV: a tank is used to Hunters intentionally getting aggro for a second to do their thing. Mages, on the other hand, will generally Poly so that the mob is on the far side of the tank, not the near side. That is, immediately. I may just have weird mages on my server, but I almost never see them tap the mob before applying a Poly.

Thus, when the tank sees the blue-square mob streak by them they tend to not think about it until something very bad happens. However, if the moon mob goes running by the tank takes immediate notice.

In those cases, Priests tend to be more like Hunters than Mages, in that we tap our mobs to bring them to us. Depending on positioning, sure, you might not tap the mob for MC, but if you aren't pulling you'll almost certainly have to tap the mob for Shackle.

"they do it because traps are "melee range""

This was my other point much later (I even used the same word: range). Traps and MC have a range component that Poly does not. Sure, it's not point-specific like a Trap, but nor is it anywhere in the room like Poly. (And the closer you can get the mob to you, the less time you spend running back to your own body.)

In re MC range and breakage: Misery, ThottBot. Also, personal experience, albeit anecdotal. When I run back to my own body I almost never have an early break. When I run around more than 10-15 yards out, certainly less than 30 or 40, I almost always have an early break.

When I first started using MC in dungeons I remember finding a page talking about how the MC heartbeat check was based on Spell Hit and Range. Of course, now I can't find it.

In re diminishing returns, WowWiki agrees with you. But, again anecdotally, I've noticed that when I have to re-MC something, it almost never lasts the full 60s, even if I am standing in front of myself.