Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Acceptable losses

Back in Wrath, and to some extent BC, I considered it a failure on my part if someone in the group died. Did I use all my CDs? Could I have used BoP or LoH to save that person? Was my game not at 100%? With the healing we had at the end of Wrath, everything was treated with a Holy Light - just in case.

Now? I don't mind if a DPS dies.

Fire is finally bad

Here's a big problem with players now, particularly those that thing Heroics are too hard. Back at the start of Wrath I remember going into H-HoL and taking on Loken. This. Fight. Was. Hard. Move too slow - dead. Don't move in fast enough - dead. Nothing on the planet could have prevented it. I managed to get the achievement on my Shaman long before I did on my Pally, and that's only because we blew Heroism and CH was OP.

H-UP, final boss - the one that dies and comes back as a shadow. Ignore that shockwave at the start of Wrath, and you were a smear on the floor. Hunter in H-OK? You're dead in the first Mind Control. Anyone remember what happened in Vanilla MC when you didn't run out of the raid during Baron Gheddon? Yeah - you wiped the raid.

Of course a year+ into Wrath, and fire was a joke. The only thing on the planet that could kill you was Defile - unless it was a heroic Putricide ball. Even Sindragosa's cold snap was eventually laughed into submission.

Unfortunately this mentality of ignoring mechanics and laughing at damage rolled into Cataclsym dungeons and heroics. Asking someone to CC something is a sign of weakness, and if you do manage to get a CC off odds are someone will break it on the pull. Unfortunately, this attitude will kill parties faster than you can say "Have you ever been to the Deadmines?".

Raid Ready

If you've run H-Deadmines successfully, you've probably picked up this achievement - the one that basically laughs at anyone who "doesn't" move out of the fire. What I think is lost on players is that unlike Wrath (or maybe like Wrath - depending on your pov), heroics are finally teaching players how to raid again.

You absolutely cannot afford to overheal - mana just doesn't allow for it.

Standing in the "Giant Big"(TM) will get you killed.

Failing to kill Adds fast enough will get you killed.

One person's failure can wipe the party/raid.

Spending gold on enchants/gems/gear is cool again. Even if it does set you back 3 days worth of grinding.

You cannot walk into an encounter with a random group of people and expect to faceroll your way to victory.

Letting you die

In the end, I still love the Heroic level we have right now. I'm going to feel a little sad if we wind up doing the faceroll dance in another month, but I suppose it could happen.

Oh yeah - if you die because you stood in fire, I'm not going to feel bad about that. I'll just chalk you up as an acceptable loss.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Omnitron Deactivated - Crib Notes

In our second foray into Blackrock we managed to take out the Omnitron Defense system. For those unfamilliar with this fight it is a standard council fight, where you will be confronting four different 'mini' bosses throughout the fight. The bosses all share a single health pool, and each has their own special abillities.

BigWigs was working for this encounter, though I used DBM for Magmaw. YMMV as they say.

If you want a complete walkthrough, go check out tankspot or bosskillers. Here's the Crib Sheet version, with an emphasis for healers. We used a Holy Paladin, Resto-Shaman, and Druid for this fight. It's more about control and staying alive than raw DPS output.

Shared 'lookout' abilities

Each 'Tron' will have an ability that focuses a single party member, an AoE, and a shield that they put up to force a target change. Your tanks will have to hold off a few seconds during a target switch, otherwise they'll kill themselves. This will reduce the amount of self healing they can perform, so keep a weather eye out.


AoE - Standard fire - shoots all across the room, no range. We used Aura Mastery and and Divine Gaurdian to help soften this.

Single Target - At least once per 'active' time, Magmatron will announce that he is "Aquireing Target x". This person will need to get clear of the raid (A big, giant, MASSIVE red beam will be on them before the fire starts) and will need to have dedicated healing or use some CDs to get through this focus fire.

Electron (guess what power he uses?)

AoE - Similar to Freya, one player will get a static field placed on them (Lightning Conductor). Stay away from this player and there's nothing to worry about. They don't take damage, just those that they get near.

Single Target - Technically this could be an AoE, since it's a chain lightning, but as long as you're more than 8yds apart, this will only hit one person.

Arcanatron (you'll never get this one - come on, guess!)

AoE - Power Genorator. This is similar to the Iron Council, a pool will appear on the ground that you need to move the boss out of ASAP. Standing in the pool provides a huge chunk of mana return, as well as significantly increasing the DPS of your ranged. Use at your own risk, depending on which other Tron is up at the moment.

Single Target - The only interruptable ability, this will do a ton of damage (about 60k) to one player, it should be interuupted whenever possible. It is worth the DPS loss to have someone sit on this, even when this Tron is shielded (just don't DPS while waiting to interrupt).


AoE - Chemical Bomb gets shot at a random raid member, and it makes a big cloud on the ground. Drag the Tron into this to get a big damage boost - don't stand in it.

Single Target - Poison Protocol will target 3 members (in 10m, unsure about 25m) with small adds that will explode on contact killing their target, and leaving a nasty pile of goo on the ground. We put all DPS on them, since they can target anyone (including the tank on the other Tron), and they seem to have an affinity for healers.

The fight in a nutshell

Pull the active Tron. After approx 60 sec, the 2nd tank will pick up the new Tron, and DPS switches. Handle any AoE nonsense, and repeat until dead.


  • If you get Toxitron first, have the raid stack up together near him - until the first cloud comes out. This will let you position him in the cloud early, and is a great time for an early Bloodlust. Remember to spread out to avoid the little slimes though.
  • Arcanatron and Electron pose an interesting challenge. You'll want to stay spread out to minimize damage from the Chain Lightning, but still get the mana regen and ranged DPS boost from the Arcane pool. Choose wisely.
  • The fight is long, so pace yourself.
  • Don't hit a shielded add. If someone happens to hit Toxitron's shield, you can dispell the poison.

Good luck and have fun with him. Hopefully I'll have a new Crib Sheet for something other than Magmaw later this week.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Magmaw Kill Video

It's not pretty, but it's effective. We used a two tank, two healer composition (Paladin/DK, Paladin/Druid) with an enhancement shaman (POV for this video) tossing out healing rain as needed, and our Prot and Ret paladins assiting with AoE (aka the Sparkle Pony heal) during the big AoE damage points.

Team Intensity standard raid comp -
Tanks - Prot Pally, DK
Healers - Holy Paladin, Druid
DPS - Elemental Shaman, Boomkin, Ret Paladin, Rogue, Shadow Priest, Hunter

Enjoy, and remember to watch it in all its 1080p hi-def deliciousness.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Need before Greed - Broken as hell or working as intended

Today's post is a little longer than normal - there's a TLDR at the end if you want to skip ahead.  Otherwise pull up your chair, grab some coffee, and put on your thinking caps.
Rewards.  Without a doubt it is the single most driving force in the World of Warcraft.  While not everyone's idea of loot may be the same, at the end of the day it's why most of us play the game.  It doesn't matter if you're a pet collector, achievement junkie, PvPer or PvEer - we're all after that reward that feeds our desire to continue playing.  For the pet collector it may be that rare drop pet from an instance (looking at you Phoenix Hatchling) or the Hyacinth MaCaw you've been farming.  For an achievement junkie it might be leveling to 85 without dying (is that really an achievement?) or getting the Insane title.  Either way, you get the idea.  I personally feel that anyone who says "I'm just here for the story" is probably full of it.  I'm here for the scraps of awesome that I can pick up - be those items, mounts, or a little worm that does a back flip every once in a while. 
How the looting works
Right now the biggest incentive for running heroics is probably either the Justice Points, or the actual drop upgrades you get from the bosses.  At this stage in the game, those drops are pretty key to getting you ready for the first fiers of raid content.  Unfortunately the system isn't perfect, and it relies on people to make it work. 
At the base level, Need Before Greed (NBG) is set up so that (for the most part) once you're past level 55 or so, you can no longer roll Need on an item you cannot actually use.  This means that plate wearers can't roll on cloth or leather, paladins can't roll on daggers, etc.  This loot system isn't perfect though, and it's unfortunate.  Providing there's an enchanter of the appropriate level in your group, you have three options in the typical NBG setting. 
Need - This option is available if you can use an item, period.  Relic has agility on it and you're an elemental shaman?  Doesn't matter, it's open for you to roll on.  Awesome bow for the hunter in the group, but the tank needs some Stam?  It's his as much as it is yours.
Greed - I want to sell the item for money.  This is the default roll if there's no enchanter of the appropriate skill level in the group. 
DE - If there's an enchanter of the appropriate skill level in the group, you can choose to have the item DE'd automatically, and you just win the results of the DE.  This choice earned a lot of hate when it first came out, as enchanters felt that the group was profiting off their profession without their consent.  While I don't necessarily agree, I do think it's a nice option they've put in.
So that's it in a nutshell.  According to Blizzard's rules, after level 85 if the Need option shows up for you, you can choose to roll Need on it if you want.  You're not breaking any rules in the game, and the system is working as intended.
The horror story
Now many of us have been in a position like the one I'm about to describe.  Doesn't matter if you're a DPS, a Tank or a Healer - at some point this has probably happened to you.
You've queued for regular ToC, because quite frankly some of the best trinkets drop from there.  You've endured countless PUGs and wait time to get here, and you're all set to go.  You've queued as a Tank, because dammit that's what you do, and all you need is that Black Heart to drop and you can finally leave this place forever.  Lady Luck smiles on you that day, and when you open the chest at the end of the event there she lies.  YUSSSSS you type in chat, because you know that this is the end of a long and painful group of PUGs here, and you can finally start tanking some of the bigger instances. 
Then it happens.  The moment that you'd feared from the start.  Someone else hits Need for their offspec.  You cross your fingers and promise to eat all your vegitibles forever if only this item will drop itself into your bags.  As time ticks down you're busy sacrificing goats and preparing voodoo dolls to enact your vengence.  Final choices are made, and poof - your beloved trinket lands in the bags of some DK who doesn't know which end of the sword to hold, much less know how to tank. 
Depending on your level of rage, you might have your world go red.  You curse the SOB who decided to take YOUR loot.  Loot that was destined for you by the very Gods themselves.  You put the player on ignore, flame them on the forums, vow to never tank a PUG again, and then go reroll a warlock so you can at least be OP in PvP. 
The two sides of the same coin
Blizzard has stated more than once that this is exactly how the loot system is supposed to work, and that they don't intend to change it anytime soon.  Of course they said that about race changes, faction changes, xfers from PvE to PvP servers, and GC himself said they didn't plan to nerf Paladins before Wrath (suckers).  What this tells me is that everything is fluid, and this policy might change sometime in the future.  Of course Ed McMahon might show up at my door with 10 million dollars too (is that guy even still alive?). 
From what I can tell, the community is split into two main camps, with a few independents running around.  Kind of like Republicans vs Democrats.  On one hand you have the group that supports anyone rolling need, on any item, that is an upgrade for them in some way.  Main spec, off sepc, wanna play that some day so might as well get some loot for it spec.  It's the policy that Blizzard supports, and the Goblins out there do as well.  The justification is that everyone put the same ammount of effort into killing said boss - so why shouldn't they be able to profit from the encounter.
The other side clearly stands behind the Mainspec > Offspec (socially enforced) rule.  If you que as a healer, then you by and well better keep your hands off that DPS piece.  Same goes for tanks rolling on healer gear, DPS rolling on tank gear, etc.  If you want to roll on that kind of gear, then you should queue as that spec. 
I've seen this from all sides, be it the Tank bitching out the DPS for rolling on tank gear - or DPS doing the opposite.  Generally the tank will cite that they took the beating, the abuse, and spent the time gearing/leveling as a tank, so they should get priority.  The DPS claim that their queue is longer, and that the tank can just instaqueue again if they so choose.
This issue bothered me so much on Sunday, that I actually opened a ticket to have a ring xferred to some random tank from a PUG I ran.  I felt honest to goodness bad about having rolled need on a tank item, and had it sent to him.  Now - one could argue that I 'needed' it as much as he did, so that I could build a tank set - both to help me and help out my guild.  I'd spent just as much time wiping and such in the instance, and Blizzard obviously supports me on this one, so why shouldn't I roll on it?  The flip to that of course was that not only was the tank a genuinely decent guy (from what we could tell) he also wasn't a terrible tank. 
Now I'm not asking if I should or shouldn't have rolled on it in the first place, or if I should or shouldn't have kept it.  At this stage in the game, that's a decision that every player has to make for themselves.  Some might rank this worse than ganking a lowbie in PvP, or killing someone who's in the middle of questing.  Is it as bad as nabbing an ore/herb node from under the nose of someone who's clearly trying to clear a mob from on top of it?  What about nabbing a quest item spawn?
A solution
If you think the issue is currently broken, you might appreciate this solution.  My solution is to add a 4th button to the loot options - Need Offspec.  Since the gear is already separated by useability (plate, cloth, swords, etc), I don't think it would be overly difficult to add a flag that checks your current role in a group.  If you're flagged as a healer, you can't roll Need on an item that you can use, but that doesn't have INT on it (as an example), but you could instead roll 'Need Offspec'.  This roll would have priority over Greed/DE, but less so than Need.  It would allow you to have a realistic chance of nabbing the piece you would like, without upsetting the social rule of Mainspec > Offspec.  You could even go so far as to make Hit a trigger stat for DPS vs Healers.  Of course there's all kinds of arguments about why a DPS might not want yet MORE hit, but fortunately reforging helps to remove some of the issues with being excessively over the hit cap.
I certainly don't think that Offspec roles should have to roll Greed with everyone else, and in fact I hesitate calling them Mainspec and Offspec - it's more like Queued role and not-Queued role. 
Then again, this might be exactly how Blizzard wants the system to work.  The game is an MMO after all, and social interaction should play a part in it.  Asking "Mind if I need", or helping someone clear a node might be more polite, and might trigger some of those interactions that they're hoping for.  They may want to keep some of the free will associated with the game, and allow players some freedoms in how they will behave.  Yes you CAN do this, but do you really want to?  Depending on who you are, that might just be enough.  The Gevlon Goblins will probably say "up yours", take what they want and move on.  The more social players might play a little nicer.
Right now I don't know exactly where I stand on this issue.  I'd like to see the "Need Offspec" option implemented, but I'm sure it's more difficult than I imagine.  I'll probably have to go out and commit some heinous form of griefing and harassment tonight just to balance the nice part of me that sent back some gear - kind of like an atonement.  Trying to keep the pendulum in the middle
I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on this, as they regard to the system being either broken or working as intended - and if you think it's broken, how you think it could be improved.  If you want to bash me for what I did, that's fine as well, just don't get too carried away with the profanity.  This isn't Wombcrusher's blog after all. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The LFD Que and You

Sometime during the Wrath era Blizzard introduced a radical new idea to the game - the LFD queue.  I think this came out right when ICC did, but I'm not sure exactly.  Regardless, this tool was intended to help players everywhere find groups to run dungeons and heroics with.  Now instead of being limited to your guild, folks who were actually in /trade, or your immediate circle of friends - you could let the RNG do it for you, while you busied yourself with another task.  Tears of joy were shed by everyone, as the days of standing around in Dalaran looking for a tank, healer, or that last DPS were finally past us. 
Within moments the "LF Tank H UK" disappeared from /trade.  With the ability to queue for any specific dungeon, heroic, or a random dungeon (rewarding additional tokens/gold/etc), players simply didn't bother forming their own groups any more.  It wasn't long before players realized that even with a 3:1 space ratio, tanks and healers were still in short(ish) supply, and that DPS ques were significantly longer.  Tanks were able to charge a premium price for an instant queue - I've seen them go for 100g or more per person (20g was pretty standard fare).  As players began to significantly outgear instances, the AoE fests we all remember become AoE laugh fests.  Heroics were cleared in under 10min, and life was fairly good.  Even for a single DPSer, the wait would generally be no more than 20 minutes or so. 
The number of tanks and healers continued to rise as the expansion wore on, simply because it was the most efficient way to level an alt.  Want a druid alt for the no dismount herbalism perk?  Spec feral and laugh your way to 80.  Just rolled a brand new DK and hit the Outlands?  Spec frost and laugh your way to 80. 
The birth of a new era
With the launch of Cataclsym, and a whole new style of dungeons and heroics, the DPS queues have skyrocketed once again.  It's not uncommon for a single DPS to wait 30, 40, or even an hour for a queue to pop.  I always feel a little bad when I see the LFD pop up and one of the DPS misses hitting the accept button.  You know they probably fell asleep, or had to get up an feed the dog.  Come back, and poof - you're back at the beginning of the cycle.  What's worse for them is when they finally do get to the head of the line, they enter a dungeon 'in progress' and it's falling apart/ending as they get there.  Even if they don't get a LFD cooldown, they are still stuck waiting another half an hour for the next opening.
I imagine that a lot of this is stemming from a variety of factors.  First, the tanks and healers of progression guilds are back on their mains - and all the tank/healer alts are back on their DPS mains.  These groups are rocketing their way to the top, and generally are only grouping together, and not queuing individually.  Tanks and healers in this group generally have plenty of DPSers waiting to fill their groups, and it's players they can usually depend on to have a successful run. 
Second, we're about two weeks into the expansion.  Players who aren't blasting through the content but are instead taking their time are just now hitting the gear/level cap to even queue for heroics.  Since they are fewer in overall number, the queue times go up.  DPS who shot to 85 and reached the gear requirements are now sitting back waiting for them to catch up.
Third, the dungeons simply take longer to complete.  Even if the total number of tanks and healers is exactly the same now as it was one month ago, the dungeons just take more time to finish.  I don't know how long we're spending in the average heroic now, but I know it's long enough to get two or three Bloodlusts and Lay on Hands off.  This alone is enough to push the queue times up to thirty or forty minutes.  Just picking a number from the air, I'd say it takes about ten minutes per boss in any given instance.  This includes all the trash, the boss fight itself, and any pre fight chat.  This number might be a little low, but it's good for doing some quick math.  So an instance like TolVir where you have four bosses, you can probably expect it to take thirty to forty minutes if you don't have any wipes.
Fourth, there may very well be fewer tanks and healers in the general population than there were before.  I find this fairly difficult to believe, simply because every guild still needs the same number of each to fill their raid roles.  While there's no real call for 5 tanks in most 25 man raids, serious guilds will have their OT/DPS players who are helping get the raid ready through heroics.  This of course is a problem that has affected guilds since the beginning.  You need 1:1:3 for a regular dungeon, 2:2:6 for a 10 man, and 3:7:15 for a 25 man.  While these numbers may vary by one or two healers/tanks for specific encounters, the base is the same.  This leads to fewer tanks in that general pool, as those that aren't tanking are probably out doing things to help further their guild.
Finally, the LFD can be downright abusive.  Sometimes it's simply not worth the headaches to sit through a heroic, just to put up with a string of asshattery and idiocy.  There's still too much to do in the game for this to occupy my time.
The sense of entitlement
One key thing that I believe has escaped most players is that the LFD tool is exactly that, a tool.  It was designed to assist you with getting a group together, not provide you with the perfect group instantly.  The tool allows you to do something else while waiting for a heroic dungeon, instead of being the one person stuck in Dalaran while the other two DPS are out farming/grinding/etc.  It saves you the hassle of dealing with the player who asks for a summons to ICC, when they're all the way in Dalaran (it's soooo far away).  All of these things are benefits of the LFD tool, however there is a price to be paid for using the tool - you can't always get what you want right away.
I challenge anyone to be honest with themselves and think about those days before the LFD.  When you'd sit around hitting /trade "LF Tank H UK pst", or "2DPS LFG H DTK".  You kept a little pocket list of tanks and healers, and you'd always check at the very beginning.  You'd ask someone if you could put them on your friends list for future runs.  Or for those of us that tanked/healed, it was the "Tank LFG H DTK" and getting hit with 10 invites instantly (especially when they started the heroic daily dungeons). 
Fortunately, these tools are still available.  You can choose to use the LFD and take your chances, you can look for random members in /trade, or you can generate your own list of players on your realm.  You don't have to join a guild or become BFF with people just to group with them, it simply ups your chances.  While there's also the option of rerolling/speccing to heal or tank, I don't think you should have to play in a way you don't want to.  Unfortunately, this choice comes with a consequence - a longer queue in the LFD. 
Right or wrong - this is the way it is right now.  It's not going to change any time soon, and I don't really see it as a problem.  WoW is a MMO, it's designed to be played with other people.  While you can go through a large portion of the content solo, I don't think you should (nor can you) be able to complete everything in the game by yourself.  You have to find a group or guild to complete raid content, and I don't understand why the expectation is there that you don't have to do this with dungeons.  Cata has already gotten rid of the majority of group based quests to the best of my knowledge, I certainly didn't encounter any as I was leveling to 85. 
So while I'm not saying suck it up buttercup, I am saying that I believe it's working as intended.

First raid healing - Wyrmbreaker

So last Friday we rounded up the band and headed into the Bastion of Twilight.  No real prep or setup, just waltzed in and started working on the trash.  It wasn't too bad, and with a liberal use of CC we managed to get through it with minimal incident.  This is when we stepped into the grinder that was the Wyrmbreaker. 
Wrymbreaker Abilities
I'm still not entirely sure what all of his abilities are, but the fight breaks down like this.  Wyrmbreaker will beat on the tank with two to three buffs on him.  In addition, a proto-drake will breathe firey death on the raid, and can have a single buff on him.  These buffs are determined by the captured drakes that are 'active' when you enter the room.  Our first week had a cage of whelps (may or may not always be active), the Nether Scion, and the Storm Breaker.  One gave the boss an AoE shadow knockback ability, and the other increased his attack speed.  The whelps increase the damage done by the proto-drake's fire, to the point that it became unhealable.
What you have to do is release the drakes to reduce/eliminate the buffs dropped on the boss.  The drawback to this is that they are almost immediately mind controlled by the boss, so you have to tank/heal through their damage.  Fortunately the boss get's a debuff that increases his damage taken by 50% per drake released, so you have a shot at making that six minute enrage timer. 
Now, I don't know if we just happened to get the worst possible combination or not, but let me tell you - this was damn tough.  I 'think' we almost got one drake down, but by the time that happened the mana pools were running dry.  We were using a Holy Priest, Paladin, and Druid to heal - and we just didn't have the gas to get through it.  Part of this I'm sure is due to a lack of gear.  At the time of the encounter we had at least one member who couldn't qualify for a random heroic, and several others who were boosting stats with PvP gear.  We had to use an ele-shaman to focus the interrupts, and we're not an AoE heavy raid comp (Doomkin and..???).
I'm hoping we can get one night in this week, but being Christmas I'm not holding out a lot of hope.  A few gear upgrades might see us through, and we should have some more flasks and such created for this week.  What I know for sure is that we certainly didn't walk in and roflstomp the boss - and that was a good thing.  I'm looking forward to content that is challenging for more than a week. 

That was a dick move

Last Sunday I did something that I wasn't really proud of.  I justified the action in my head, and had given myself every reason why it was perfectly acceptable. At the end though, it was without a doubt, the move of a complete jerk.  Even if I gave myself an additional out of saying I had just spent too long at the computer that weekend, it just wasn't right.
Fortunately, we the GMs who service the game can pull a lot of information out of their databases.  All I had was a time and a location, nothing else, and Blizzard was able to at least take a step towards making the wrong right.  I didn't even have to log into the game to do it, just send in an email, and 12 hours later I got a response letting me know it was taken care of.  Fortunately what I did technically didn't violate any rules, so at least I have that going for me.  And maybe, just maybe, someone felt a little better when the loaded up their mail last night. 
What's the moral of this story?  I don't know that I really have one, other than it's a good idea to take a break once in a while during the day, and that the GMs do a damn fine job of helping out.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Week 2 wrap-up

So a little after one week from the release of Cata, and we're heading in for our first raid.  I don't know which one we're doing, though I'm assuming we'll be going after Wyrmbreaker and perhaps Tol'Barad.  I honestly don't even know what raids are available right now.  This is a little different than my traditional stance, where I try and know everything before I step into the instance.  I've really enjoyed seeing the bosses fresh, without having seen videos and writeups before hand. It is really nice when the tanks know though, so they can prepare me for some big AoE or heavy spike damage. 
Dealing with the Holy Power change
To be honest, I haven't really felt the hit on this.  I guess I wasn't really abusing the Light of Dawn AoE as much as I thought, becuase I didn't really notice a change.  Yes, it's tougher to have the three charges available whenever I want them, and there are certainly times when it would have been nice to have even the reduced LoD available.  What this has forced me to do however is to play a bit more as Blizzard intended, and to use more than just two or three spells for the fight duration.  I find myself thinking three or five heals ahead, trying to line up my AoE's effectively, and making sure I use my procs efficiently. 
Running Heroics
To date I've only done a few of the instances on Heroic mode, but I've really found them enjoyable.  Shadowfang Keep was a reall buster, especially the first boss fight.  Making sure I had three HP stored up to help recover after the Strangulate, timing Judgements, etc.  I even got to do a bit of CC using a glyphed Turn Evil during the Commander fight.  This is a component that I think a lot of healers miss out on.  Just because my primary responsibility is healing, doesn't mean that I can't contribute to the overall encounter.  Even if it's something as simple as using my Arcane Torrent as an interrupt, or changing a glyph so I have an instant cast fear.  These things combine to make the overall healing easier.  By using my own CC, the DPS can focus on killing their target, and the group takes less damage overall. 
I have had a few PUG mishaps with heroics.  Such as zoning into H:Vortex and having no lock, no shaman, no hunter, and no Ret pally.  So our CC vs the elementals was virtually zero, and our tank was folded before we even got out of the gate.  This was an instnace where I just didn't have the horses to pull him through the damage being done, even by shifting into high gear.  I wound up getting blamed for letting the tank die, and I just zoned out to work on my mining for a while.  I don't mind working hard every pull to make sure the tank stays up, but there's a limit to the abuse I'll take for it. 
On mining
Being able to fly in the old world certainly makes leveling this beast better, along with the extra skillups you get from smelting the ore.  The XP is just an added bonus that I'm sure I'll really appreciate once I get back to herbing/mining Cata level nodes, since my Warlock is now my primary gatherer instead of my main.  /sadface  I have to level my Engineering though, because those goggles are just damned sexy.  I will probably have to break down and spend the JPs on a new helmet though, simply because I haven't gotten lucky with any drops.  Oh, and being able to track herbs AND nodes at the same time?  Absoloutely wonderful.
Mastery, Val'anyr, and reforging
I still haven't reforged any of my gear.  At this stage I'm not entirely sure what stats I like and which ones I can drop.  Spirit is delicious, and I'm trying to find the break between Haste and Crit.  Obviously the advantage of Crit is that your overall HpM goes up, providing you get any crits in there.  It's tough to break away from the mentality that I need to be rolling Holy Lights, and if I have enough Spirit and Crit, a single large spell should do the trick.  Of course without enough haste it may not get there in time, but that's why we have 100k+ health pools.  I'm also fairly in love with our Mastery the more I run.  It's the reason I still use my Val'anyr, and knowing that 25% of the heals I land while the buff is up become shields is really nice.
I'm still not 100% certain on the HOW of our Mastery though.  With the Val'anyr, the shields will stack until you reach 200k in shields, and you don't lose any of the shielding ability.  To the best of my knowledge however, our Mastery doesn't stack, instead it refreshes.  What I mean by this is say you cast a 20k heal on your target.  As a base, you wil get a 10% shield (2k) that lasts for 8 sec.  Now assuming that doesn't get instantly wiped out, but say, only 1500 of it goes away, your next heal will refresh that shield back up to 2k.  The exception to this is if your heal is larger than 20k, which would then give you a larger base shield to refresh off of.  Once the shield falls off (through time or damage), you start over again. 
The best analogy I read about this was if you think of the heal as a bucket, you can always refill the bucket, but the bucket can only get bigger, not smaller.  While this isn't as impressive with 12k Holy Light hits now, as our spell power and crit go up, and our overall mastery rating - these shields should get fairly substantial.  Granted it takes about 180 points in mastery to raise it up enough to get another 1.25% in shields, but it's something worth playing with I think.  The issue now is that even if I reforged all my gear with say, haste, I'd only pick up about 3 full points in master - giving me close to 14% in shields instead of 10%.  I'll have to do some more math to determine if the percentage of shield increase is worth the cost, or if it is instead better to have a higher crit/haste percentage and count on your spellpower to make the shields grow.  More math will follow, though I have a gut feeling on this.  Hopefully I can get some logs in our upcoming raids and dungeons to help work this out.  I'd be interesting to see what kind of numbers we see.
While I have managed to pick up a decent BoE caster sword, I'm still sticking with my legendary from two (three?) tiers of content.  I did the same with my Thunderfury back in BC, the proc was just too good to give up.  I imagine that we'll see a similar round of nerfs hit the Val'anyr in the near future.  Of course I might just stumble on something so tasty that I can't pass it up.  The upside of this is I feel comfortable passing on any caster maces that might drop for the druids/shaman/priest in our group.  I did a quick WoWhead search and came up with one epic caster sword, and one blue caster sword (from Heroic dungeons).  There are two 359 (epic) caster maces, one 346 from rep, one from blacksmithing, and two from heroic 5 mans. 
For my fellow casters there are about the same number of daggers as there are maces, with a comprable number of shields (though most of them are PvP related).  Fortunately I can go straight to 359 with a crafted healing shield, even if I am going to pay out the nose for it.  I'd rather that than use some funkified off hand that would be better served in the hands of another caster.
Wrap up
This post has been worked on for most of the day now, so I'll wrap up with a goal of having some raid numbers on absorbs and mana usage - and hopefully a nice screenshot or two of some raid kills.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I apologize for the nerf

As many of you are already painfully aware, Blizzard implemented a stealth hotfix to Paladin healing earlier today.  I say stealth nerf, because it was implemented on the server side, and wasn't included in the hotfix notes.  It was a hotfix, because the tooltips weren't changed (clientside), and tooltips have to be done in all the languages that Blizzard supports.  Neth didn't come forth with all the specifics of the changes, but here's the long and the short of the situation.  It also seems that this hotfix went into play in the middle of some folks runs, as a hotfix is wont to do.  Imagine being in the middle of a raid, and suddenly the mechanic you're depending on doesn't work any more.  Sry:(
Some Paladins (and I'm not naming names), were using the Tower of Radience mechanics to simply spam Holy Light on the beaconed target, and then get a 3 HP Light of Dawn AoE on the raid.  Now, while this wasn't a huge issue in and of itself, the problem was that Beacon of Light was transferring all of the LoD healing to the beaconed target.  Since BoL still counts overhealing, this was resulting in some fairly large healing being done, for little to no mana cost.  Continued use of this mechanic would quickly see Paladins stacking Haste and SP again, with no regard for regeneration or crt.  This simply bypasses the intended mechanic that we use multiple spells and have to make a choice when healing. 
While this mechanic may not be as viable in 5 mans, in a raid situation you can see where this would quickly get out of hand.  During my first (and only so far) heroic 5 man, I regularly found myself charging my HP using this method, instead of worrying about a cool down on Holy Shock, or the more mana intensive spells.  While I haven't had an opportunity to play since the fix was implemented, I am sure it will have an effect on my healing.  I was counting on the free heals generated by my Holy Power, not because they were free, but because they were instant. 
My proposed fix
I think Blizzard knee jerked too hard on this.  Not only did they reduce the healing done by WoG, they reduced the healing done by LoD and (more importantly) removed the generation of Holy Power from ToR.  While this will fix the problem, I think just removing the transfer of healing from our AoE heals would be enough.  Anyone who's ever looked at a log report has seen multiple BoL healing lines, because each heal has its own corresponding spell code for BoL.  By removing this aspect of the spell, you reduce the impact of free HP from ToR.  Then after a week or so, you can dial it down again if you need to.  I'd rather have three small nerfs trying to reach the goal, than one giant one that shoots past it.
In the end though, I don't think it will be a make/break for the class.  Paladins will adjust to the change, and continue onward.  I imagine that only a small percentage of Healadins were actually in heroic/raid content, the area where this really matters.  I do so enjoy reading the QQ and the flames though.  I will confess that while the healing was stressful in the 5man I did, it was really a lot of fun again.  I was having to make decions about who to heal and when, and I actually had to watch my mana bar.  DP is still fairly broken imo, but it's what we have, and judgement's are still a good source of mana return. 
And hey, at least we're not praying for enough HP to up our DPS and keep our mastery fed like our Ret brothers are.  Talk about a hit to DPS if you miss that narrow buff window.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Back to 80

So my foray into the world of the dark arts lasted about 4 days. Today I got word that our 2nd healer wasn't going to be able to dedicate the time we require to be able to raid with us. This left us with a couple of choices.

  1. Me to dump my lock and go back to the Paladin. This costs us the INT buff from the Felhound, but lets us make use of Spell Plate, and gives the priest full shot at cloth drops. This also lets Monger stay on his ele shaman, but be a backup healer.
  2. Monger goes Resto Shaman, I stay Lock. This puts Grievus (our spriest) in the position of being a 3rd healer. Not a role he's really comfortable with or enjoys.
  3. Stay lock and recruit another healer. Since we're now at an 11 man roster, this is our least favored option. None of us want to sit, and we're already one over the cap.

So, this morning I cleared out my bags, learned the new flying, and tonight I'll be churning through Hyjal to push towards 85. Like Kurn, at least now I have rested XP to work off of, plus we have the 5% bonus from the lvl 2 guild rewards. Another plus is no more 35min ques for randoms - hello instant ques!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Just call me Hansel

I'm fully expecting to be captured and caged up by an evil witch the next time I step into Vashj'ir. Somewhere along the way I lost the breadcrumbs (or missed a quest), so I'm now stuck. I'm sitting at only about 60 quests completed so I know there's a ton left to do, but hell if I can figure out where to go.

I ran into a similar problem in Hyjal this morning, and just happened to stumble onto a crazy druid who had me throwing bear cubs out of a tree. He then pointed me down the road to another quest hub, so I'm pretty excited about that. Throwing the cubs out of the tree was pretty funny - my question was why didn't I just cut it down? I mean, I've got this giant demon standing here with an Arcanite Reaper, and he's got nothing better to do. Instead I'm shimmying up the tree like a friggin monkey, grabbing bear cubs and tossing them onto a trampoline.

OK, I 'may' have thrown the first one into Felwood. I also may have thrown one over to Ragnaros's area. It's also entirely possible that I threw one to Org, because I know Garrosh could use a new vanity pet.

The Point

The point of this story is that I've managed to get lost in both of the new zones, and instead I just kind of fumble around until I land on some quests. It's not my preferred method, as I like to grind through each zone doing every quest. I've found that the XP gains are huge this way, and you can make Texa$ sized piles of cash doing it. 25g for a green quest reward? I'll take two if you have them.

Here's hoping I can keep from getting lost in the future. Now I just have to find the entrance to the new dungeons. Stupid LFD....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 0 - initial thoughts and impressions

So the launch went so much smoother than I had expected. There was about 10 minutes where some of us had issues logging in, and of course there was some lag, but the servers were remarkably stable for the launch. There was the usual idiocy surrounding the flight trainer and such, but after about 10 minutes of that nonsense I was able to grab my training and start my Cata experience.

Flying in the old world

This is just too cool for school. Our plan was to run Blackrock Caverns (BRC?) to start, giving the starting quest hubs a chance to thin out. It had also been our experience that even if the world servers were crashing, instance servers 'should' be a bit more stable. After grabbing the portal to the Blasted Lands, it was time to explore the zones from the air while heading over.

Truly awesome to see it that way, and definately worth the gold cost.

The first run

The first run went about like I expected. We timidly put our toes in the water to see if the dungeons were going to be really hard like we were led to believe, or if it was going to be /faceroll 2.0. With each pack we'd grow a little bolder, expecting death to strike at any point. Our tank had read up on the bosses, so we had an idea of what to expect - though it wasn't anywhere close to being difficult. We wiped once on some molten quicksilver boss, but I'm pretty sure that was because the tank had some conflag stacks on him from the elemental, and it was a bad pull.

After the initial run, it was Johnny bar the door, and we were gone. Two runs and the associated quests got me 57% of the way to 81, and I pushed that over this morning with two more speed runs (full tilt boogie, AoE all the way) and the breadcrumb quests to Vashir(sp). I heard things slow down a bit after 81, but I'm not sure. The drops were pretty decent, and I replaced some of my 251 gear with green BoE drops.

The first zone

I went to Vash'ir or whatever it's called, but left after the initial breadcrumbs. There's still a lot of people in the area, and I'm not rushing to 85. I was pretty impressed with the dialoge and such though, and I have decent hopes for the rest of the expansion content.

My hopes

I'm still holding out hope for difficult heroics and raids, but I'm not going to hold my breath. We'll have to see how it goes in the upcoming weeks, and I'm surprised that we haven't seen world first 85s already given the speed we were moving at.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day before Cata

Like everyone else, I'm waiting for the servers to go 'live' with the expansion. I use that phrase loosely, because I fully expect there to be crashes and issues. I really can't imagine running around Azeroth at 12:00, and having new quests and zones suddenly pop up at 12:01. At the very least I'm expecting some rolling restarts, though I'm truly anticipating some massive server failures and downtime.

I haven't really done much to prepare for Cata either. Since I plan on leveling my warlock first, I emptied out his bags, cleared the quest log, and logged out near the flight trainer in Org. I'm still not 100% sure on how to even get to the new starting areas. I expect I'll find some breadcrumb quests to point me on my way, and if not I'll just kind of follow the masses like I did in Wrath. Hopefully I don't spend 20 minutes standing at the wrong dock though.

My tailoring is at 436 or so, and I'm hoping that there will be some bootstrap patterns that won't require me to go back to Norhtrend to farm giant piles of Frostweave. My herbalism is maxed, my bandage skill is close enough, and my cooking finally hit 450 as well. I might spend an hour getting another few fishing points, but oh lawd is that boring.

My Paladin is also fairly set. She's in her tank gear and spec, ready to prot her way through the content if our second healer option falls through. I'll likely grind to 85 with a mix of Prot and Holy setups, but this is really my second option. I'm really looking forward to an expansion where the sum of my responsibility is "don't stand in the fire and don't let the DoTs fall off".

I've accepted that this means I'll have slower dungeon ques, and won't be able to just walk into any PUG run. I'm OK with that. I've healed PUG tanks, and tanked for PUG DPS. Here's a healthstone and a summoning portal - now leave me alone.

Here's hoping that Cataclsym lives up to at least some of the hype.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Traveling to the dark side

The Shattering is upon us, and Cataclysm looms around the corner, and the band is getting back together again. Currently we've named ourselves , because when we hopped servers a bunch of us went with Punchout style names. Pistonhondo was my name, but Piston hasn't seen much love lately.

While I know that things are still changing, and that the game isn't tuned for 80 but for 85, I have to confess that I have found the changes to the Paladin healing game to be fairly disappointing. While I think that they have done some good things for the class, and it's certainly changed from the FoL/HL spam we had, it just doesn't feel right. Our heals are still powerful, and our soloing DPS is better, but it's just not the same class.

I'm not alone in this, as our resident priest and my healing partner has also found his Priest class changes to be a bit too much for him, and he doesn't really like the way the class plays now. While a lot of this may be a "Who moved my cheese" type reaction, this is certainly a more radical change than we've ever seen in the past.

Grabbing a new insturment

So with the band getting back for Cata, it was time to evaluate the members. Our core group is still the same, and we may even be getting a Priest from way back (like, Vanilla days) to help fill it out. With this, our entire healing core is changing, and Monger and I are heading down the road of DPS. Monger is changing to his tried and trusted Ele-Shaman, but I went to something wildly differet.

A Warlock.

Let me know when you've closed your mouth and refocused.


Apparantly I fail at remembering how to Blog, as I lost the second half of this post. So here's the short version.

I'm playing a lock now.

Tanking and Healing aren't falling off the radar, so I'll be keeping up to speed on those.

Skelroon is my retarded Felgaurd, more on him later.

The loss of portals is awesome