5 Killer Priest Changes Coming in Warlords

5 Killer Priest Changes Coming in Warlords

Good gravy, so many new changes coming with the alpha notes! Instead of going through all of them, I’m just going to summarize my favourites. You can turn to BlizzPro later in the week for a more in-depth analysis.

Atonement nerfs

Don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming. For almost the entire expansion, Discipline Priests were considered top tier and a virtual must have in progression focused guilds. It wasn’t so much the temporarily healing buff from Evangelism, but the Archangel ratios which made us a force to be reckoned.

Let’s deal damage with any of our main DPS nukes. On top of that, a portion of the damage done is going to also heal. Oh and it’s a smart heal!

In a way, I’m disappointed that it’s lowered but I can’t help but think it’ll help equalize the state of healing classes a little more. At the very least, maybe it’ll lower Discipline representation some and allow us Holy Priest guys back into the fray as a better alternative. There was nothing really wrong with Holy (well, there was but we’ll cover that in a moment), but Holy just wasn’t quite as well sought after.

That’ll be different in the future largely because of…

Chakra changes

Remember when Chakra came into play? It was almost two expansions ago during the start of Cataclysm. It essentially functioned as a stance for Holy Priests. Certain spells would become stronger depending on which Chakra you had active and you’d gain access to a Holy Word spell that corresponded with that stance. It was intended to provide flexibility and allow Priests to select the role they were going to perform in a raid: Single target healing or multi-target healing.

If you were in a Chakra stance and wanted to do something outside of the benefit, your spells wouldn’t make quite as an impact. The alpha notes said it quite clearly: The buff from being in a certain Chakra ”felt like a penalty for being in the wrong Chakra, rather than a bonus for being in the right Chakra”.

Chakra: Sanctuary provided a strong buff to Prayer of Healing which was great when I was covering groups but it was lousy if I needed to spot heal the tank for a few moments. Lowering the bonuses attained in Serenity and Sanctuary are a start. Saying “I’m only losing 10% of a healing boost instead of a 25% bonus” is much more reassuring. Instead, Holy Word: Serenity and Sanctuary are receiving more of a healing bonus. I suspect our normal baseline spells will be adjusted and balanced accordingly.

Removal of Mana Hymn

Gone.

Just like that.

How else am I supposed to get my mana back? One of our healing utilities is out the window as a victim of Blizzard’s crackdown on ability bloat. Now they’ve promised that mana regeneration rates and spirit will be monitored to offset the loss of Hymn of Hope. Now I’m really at the mercy of my own healing spells. I can’t heal full throttle and rely on Mana Hymn to provide me with a cushion anymore. I’m going to miss it.

New glyphs

To be more specific, I’m giddy with Glyph of Restored Faith. It can be used as an escape or a closer or if I just want to get next to someone. Maybe it isn’t that killer, but I really do like the fun I can get with this. I can pull myself out of harms way if I’m caught standing in a fire! It’s like a pseudo defensive cooldown!

Level 100 talents

You can find the new talents at the recently updated WoW Head calculator. I liked that old talent with Void Shift where you could use it as many times as you wanted but I guess that one was tossed.

Now there’s healing talents when you reach level 100 like Words of Mending. Every healing or absorb spell generates a stack of Word of Mending. Hit 5 stacks, cast a free Prayer of Mending! Worried about Prayer of Mending overriding itself? A minor change was introduced where Prayer of Mending from multiple Priests are able to be applied on the same target. Not only that, one Priest can have multiple applications of Prayer of Mending on more than one target!

I mean, yo dawg! I heard you like Prayer of Mending! So I put a Words of Mending on your Prayer of Mending so you can Prayer of Mending while you Prayer of Mending!

Holy Priests gain access to another talent called Clarity of Purpose. It replaces Prayer of Healing with a new spell called Clarity of Purpose. We know that smart healing spells are getting dumber. But if healing spells were given an IQ, I’m certain Clarity of Purpose would take home the smartest heal ever award. It’ll heal players within 10 yards of your target. Not only that, it splits the heal so that weaker players receive more of the healing pie.

Now that’s legit!

This is going to be a fun beta testing period. Warlords needs to come soon! I’ll do my best to keep track of any pertinent Priest changes and updates as we progress through the development stages of the expansion.

The Edge: April Fool’s, Mythic Rosters, and Shaking up Dungeons

Several weeks ago, I joined BlizzPro’s The Edge videocast team as a third co-host on their show. I still receive questions from readers asking about the Matticast. This was one way for me to return to the casting circuit. We’ll be talking about news (at least, only the pertinent ones). Along the way, we’ll offer what we can about classes, skills, and raids.

In the last episode, we discussed cross-realm raiding and preparing your guild for Warlords. This week’s episode 14, the crew takes a closer look at the different factors that go into planning your roster for Mythic. Meanwhile, faux patch notes kept us entertained for the day with nods and inside jokes along with pop culture references. Sadly, I think I only got half the references.

  • 3:35: April Fool’s recap
  • 10:42: Mythic roster considerations
  • 21:00: Heroic dungeons

I’ll add some additional thoughts about building a Mythic roster in a future post. This is the first expansion where I’ve had to really whip out my whiteboard and really think ahead about the roles each player will have going into an expansion. I wasn’t in such a position when we transitioned from Vanilla Warcraft to Burning Crusade (and going from the 40 man to the 25 man). I can only imagine what it was like for GMs in those positions who had to make the tough call of picking 15 out of 40 players to release.

Sean wanted to take a page inspired from Diablo. Why not have loot drops completely randomized in a limited pool? But I don’t think anything can be done that can really entice me to jump back into heroic dungeons when I’m well already into raiding. Let’s face it, the first week or two of a new expansion, I’ll be dungeon diving repeatedly to get my priest at a level where he can adequately compete for raiding and then never going back again.

If there’s a system mechanic that increases character progression in addition to raiding, I’m going to be annoyed. Raids should be the ultimate way to progress a character’s power (excluding PvP). Dungeons just aren’t my thing and I hope we don’t have to run them to get some kind of currency or items that augment our gear. Just isn’t necessary. In my mind, you should be running heroic dungeons because:

  1. You want to get started for entry level raiding.
  2. Certain vanity rewards like pets or mounts (or challenge mode gear).
  3. An activity you enjoy with a smaller group of people.
  4. You need the 3000 valor points for the legendary cloak on your 4th alt.

Look, if you like dungeons and stuff, power to you. I’m just not a fan. I can’t think of anything they can do to really encourage me to go back in after I’ve had a taste of raids. There’s a finite amount of time I spend playing WoW per week and I don’t want to split up my time being forced to do something I don’t want to do for the sake of maximizing my character’s power.

They can’t exactly utilize the mechanics from Diablo’s adventure and bounty modes. You’re controlling a character with 6 abilities in that game. All areas of a map are randomly generated. All the loot stats and features are also randomly generated. In Warcraft, you’re playing your toon which has all these attacks and cooldowns. All the heroics are on a set layout. Lastly, each dungeon has it’s own set of loot rewards from each boss. Does WoW need anymore RNG? Right now, I know that if I wanted a weapon, I could run a certain boss in a specific heroic over and over again until I attained it. Chance says that if I do it enough times, eventually the dice roll will go in my favor*. At least I’d know what I can do increase the odds. With completely random loot tables, it wouldn’t matter what I did. I’d have a roughly equal chance no matter which boss I came to.

*In practice, I have the worst luck.

What about you? Are you a dungeon runner? What drives you to propel your characters through 5 mans? What would you like to see to improve your experience within them?

How Guilds Make 800k Gold Selling Boss Kills

How Guilds Make 800k Gold Selling Boss Kills

The news that cross-realms are allowing players to raid on other servers on both normal and heroic mode is a god-send! Players are no longer restricted to paying server transfer fees in order to raid. Cross-faction raiding isn’t going to be a thing anytime soon (and I doubt it ever will), but at least players can now raid across servers. This is a great way for a prospective player to “try” a new raiding guild before they commit to transferring. It’s great for guilds like mine to help fill out a raid in case we’re short players by using a service like Open Raid.

Another benefit? You can start selling guild runs and kills. It’s also known as “guild boosting”.

There’s a market out there for players who want the normal mode achievement. There’s players who want the gear that your guild has been routinely sharding week after week. People might scoff and laugh, but there’s always going to be a buyer. People want the loot, the achievements, and the mounts but aren’t necessarily able to commit the time required to a proper raiding guild. Just keep in mind that gold and loot still can’t be traded on non-connected realms so they’d have to transfer a character with gold plus the items that are the rough equivalent to the price negotiated upon. I’ve seen some players willing to transfer an alt and then boosting their main.

Want to make it even easier? Make sure the alt is the GM of their own guild. Last I checked, guild bank transfer limits were at 1 million gold. The character needs to meet the requirements though.

How does one go about it?

I’d strongly suggest doing this with a 25 man raiding team. I imagine it’s significantly harder to carry a person on 10.

Step 1: Discuss it with your guild

I’m using the word “discuss” in a loose term. It should be pretty easy to sell your guild on the idea. Remind them that that funds coming in are going to guild repairs and to the next expansion (recipes, crafting materials, enchants, etc). Will your participating raid members obtain a small cut? If you’ve already made that decision to sell runs, let the guild know. Any dissenters can be silenced with sound reasoning. If they still disagree, well that’s ultimately up to you to decide. No one has to participate if they don’t want to.

We’ll get to the actual agreements in a moment.

Step 2: Advertise it

You can sell something but if no one knows about it, you’re not going to be able to make any gold. No one’s going to come to a run they don’t know about! Hit up trade chat and see if anyone local is interested in the kills. Failing that, see if anyone on Open Raid is willing to go. Advertise on your server’s forums! They’ll ask you for a price and that’s going to fluctuate greatly based on things like your server progression, what they’re entitled to, what bosses are going down, and so forth.

If you have a guild website, consider creating a page dedicated to this information. Make sure you include the important stuff like the price and what they get. Include who they should message about it. Throw in the dates and times if you know it for a fact. If loot prices are different, specify that too.

In fact, some guilds have websites with full pages dedicated to just selling runs.

That’s where the next step comes into play…

Step 3: Settle on the terms and price

Are clients paying for just a Garrosh kill? Do they want a specific item? Do they want all items? Are they expecting a full clear? Heroic boss kills? All of those factor into. Speak to your client and figure out what they want. It seems the going rate for a straight up Garrosh kill with whatever loot they want is 15k.

A full heroic 14/14 run with loot, achievements, and the mount went for upwards of 800k gold.
A full heroic clear with just the achievements and no loot went for 300k.
Heroic gear: 20k Heroic Warforged: 30k
Heroic weapons: 35k
Heroic Warforged weapons: 80k.

Naturally the going rate of this stuff is going to be influenced by demand and the progression capabilities of your server.

Figure out and set your guild prices for:

  • Loot (Both normal and warforged)
  • Achievements
  • Mounts
  • Titles

Talk to your client and figure out exactly what they want and what they’re paying for. Once you have that step figured out…

Step 4: Arrange payment

Take a deposit.

Some guilds ask for non-refundable 15% up front. Other guilds ask for 50%. Consider cutting a deal on the price if the run is scheduled to occur on the day of. Again, this obviously isn’t going to work if the player is on a cross realm since they can’t trade gold but if they’re willing to transfer servers on an alt, take that into consideration. I find that the more well-known a guild is, the higher the deposit they can command. Reputation seems to play a big part. Guilds that routinely top the kills race ask for a higher deposit because they don’t want to be ripped off. Buyers can rest easily knowing that these are guilds who are also quite serious and skilled at what they do.

Step 5: The logistics

This up to the raid leader to decide. Which player is going to sit? Is the client going to attempt to participate and contribute? It might just be easier for them to die immediately and AFK lest they accidentally mess up the kill. This is where the client can pay up the rest of the fee associated with the run.

Does all this sound ridiculous? Unrealistic? Who’d pay that much gold for this stuff? Y’know, there’s over 7 million subscribers. There’s going to be a select few who are willing to buy their way to the top.

Last minute reminder: There is an absolute ton of risk involved in these kinds of transactions. There’s no guarantee the guild can carry a person from start to finish. There’s no guarantee a person is able and willing to pony up the rest of the mentioned fee. Either party can get ripped off at any time. If something doesn’t sound right, walk away. I doubt Blizzard GMs will be able to assist with this type of stuff if someone gets scammed or ripped off.

6+3 Lessons on Guild Leadership: Don’t Make These Mistakes!

6+3 Lessons on Guild Leadership: Don’t Make These Mistakes!

Tick tock.
That’s the sound of an expansion getting closer and closer to release. It hasn’t quite started yet, but players are starting to gradually trickle in and return to the game. Abandoned guilds are coming back online.  Some players are looking to try their  hand at starting their own guilds.
Does that sound like something you and your friends want to do? Like the Pandaren say in game, slow down! Take some advice from a few of my friends and the mistakes they’ve made when they started out.
One of the first mistakes I made in the formation of my guild was one that a lot of people make: we mostly relied on “common sense” to dictate what was and was not acceptable. For whatever reason, “common sense” was fine for the first couple of months, but after more recruits joined us, it became apparent that we actually needed to sit down and write out rules to let people know what behaviour was expected of them. The worst part of it all is that my officers and I were just dumbfounded at how poorly some people could behave! We honestly could not understand how anyone thought X or Y behaviours were appropriate. As such, most of the rules we wrote had a “private name” used to refer to them by the officers, as they were named for the guild member who caused us to write the rule in the first place, along the lines of “the Kurn rule” or “the Majik rule”. It definitely made for some memorable moments, but what I took away from it was that you have to be clear about your expectations from the start!
Conquest hasn’t really had a hard and fast set of rules. Going into Warlords, I knew I wanted to have a stronger foundation in place and really figure out what I wanted the guild to turn into. There were times where I felt it was too lax. I wanted to tighten that belt. It took us over a month and several revisions before we settled on the language that I felt reflected what I wanted my guild to become. It helps to have two or three goals in mind then ask yourself if the rules you are setting down will ultimately lead to those goals. If they don’t, reconsider them.
Rhidach (@Rhidach) | Rhida.ch
We had a raider early on who had a really difficult personality and didn’t get a long with a lot of our long-time raiders. Problem was that he was really good DPS, and I found myself with a dilemma after he caused a kerfuffle with some of my players. I had to choose between showing him the exit and hurting overall raid DPS, or attempting to smooth over the row and investing some of my credibility into him. I chose to do what I (mistakenly) perceived as being for the greater good and worked things out, but there was an even bigger incident not much longer after that and he really had to go that time. Trying to find a compromise (and compromising my own integrity) only kicked the ball down the road a little ways. I should have ripped the band-aid off quickly, and I paid for that dithering in the end.
Sometimes it isn’t always easy to control player behaviour. You want to do the right thing and let them go, but you might not be in the position to do that because removing a player means your guild doesn’t get to raid for a few days. It’s harder to pull that off in a 25 man raid because there’s almost always going to be conflicting personalities. It isn’t always easy to find 30 players who are able to raid effectively at a high level and be friendly with each other. But ultimately, the boss has to reconcile the differences.
Actually, there’s three ways that you can address it:
  • Find a way to deal with it: Involves muting, not socializing, or other methods.
  • Find a way to change it: Involves talking to the player and asking them that their behaviour needs to change.
  • Remove the problem: The ol’ gkick strategy.
Adam Ferrel (@FerrelES) | Epic Slant
One of the hardest lessons I learned the first time around is that people aren’t actually expendable. When you’re in a highly competitive environment with a ton of applicants it is easy to forget that. Everyone wants to be “uber” and kill the top monsters. As a motivation tool my officers and I leveraged this. We’d remind folks that there were people in the minor league waiting for the slot on the roster. It really demoralized more than it motivated. Later on I focused more on developing talent and retention. Keeping even average players for an extremely long time yielded far better results.
This one’s always a tough one. Some players end up being late bloomers. A player that might’ve not been the greatest in one tier could become an all star in the next largely due to class buffs or raid mechanics. Go with the sabremetrics methodology. How many fires do they stand in? What’s their survivability rate? Can they react to incoming missile attacks? Can they be counted on to nail every interrupt? Have they allowed any Malkorok puddles that were in there area to go off? Clearly Brad Pitt knew what he was doing when he built the Oakland A’s (I liked that movie).
Amy Emmence (@amyemmence)
While not an original or very early on officer, I feel when I became an officer, I felt a bit less than worthy and did not try and actively do more for my guild than I had done before.  I realize now that I was asked to be an officer because I was “worthy” of the role and respected in the guild and let that guide me now.
When the GM taps you on the shoulder and asks for your help, there’s usually a reason for it. It’s because they see something in you that can help uphold what the guild is doing. The great thing about being an officer is that the buck doesn’t stop with you. The GM is always going to be the fail safe and can ultimately veto anything that might not work.
Of course, you can always say no. In fact, maybe you should just say no. Much easier that way.
Liore (@Liores) | Herding Cats
Sometimes you have to be a jerk. Don’t farm it out to officers, don’t put it off, don’t hope that things will magically get better — part of your job is making people feel like you are securely in charge and protecting the guild community.
The world needs jerks. But it needs the right kind of jerk. The kind of jerk who’s willing to put their boot down and stop other jerks in their tracks. It’s a dirty job, but it has to be done. Officership comes with both prestige and responsibility. Liore recommends not farming it out and you shouldn’t the first time it needs to be done. I’m of the opinion that if a GM can’t directly tell a player that they’re no longer a member of the guild, then they’re not fit to be a GM at all. Now if you’re a veteran GM who’s looking for a successor, this is a great way to evaluate an officer’s fitness to eventually take over. Just be present for it and supervise.
When I took over as GM, I set expectations for officer activity too high. As an example, in the first month of MoP the role officers were expected to give raiders written reviews every week so we could nip any performance issues in the bud. After the first month, these were expected to be done monthly. This was great while it lasted but after a couple months sitting down and writing 8 healer reviews (or worse, 14 ranged reviews) really wore on people and the activity dropped off, causing some disappointment. A couple officers even stepped down from their roles – this wasn’t the only reason, but I’m sure the workload was part of it. The lesson? Set realistic expectations. It’s better to do things well, even if that means those things happen less frequently. People can only dedicate a certain amount of time and energy to the guild before they start burning out.
Burnout management is huge. If you need to tell a player to take a week off, you do it. They might go kicking and screaming, but they’ll be the better for it. But the flip side is also important. You have to manage your own burnout levels. I’m not impervious to it. My guild doesn’t realize it, but I try hard to not show any signs of burnout. In reality, I’m struggling hard to keep my game face on and the last thing I want to do is just flip out on someone for pushing my buttons too hard or something else that’s trivial. Pick and choose the days you need off and make sure there’s someone to cover for you. I need a vacation.

Shawn

My biggest mistake was a significant lack of game/life balance. I poured an unfortunate amount of trial-and-error into the guild in the early years, lacking any formal knowledge of what it took to build and maintain a successful guild, to the detriment of those around me. Guilds are demanding (especially raiding ones), but all can be managed if you have the necessary tools and know where to set boundaries.

Yup. See above! Shawn isn’t kidding!
(@Zaierpally)I think the biggest mistake I’ve made is not having enough communication.  I’ve had a couple of different instances where I thought everything was going great and then it all blew up in my face because there hadn’t been good enough communication.  I’ve had situations go from good to terrible because of a lack of communication both between myself and other officers/the GM and between myself (as an officer) and the rest of the members of the guild.

We’re not psychic. Even I need to remind myself that we may be on the same page on a philosophical standpoint, it doesn’t hurt to keep pestering people about stuff. Keep talking to the officers and make sure everyone understands what’s going on week to week. What’re the goals? Which bosses are we going to kill? Do we plan to reset or extend? Who’s the new person that just applied and did they get the introduction?
Outside of me as the guild leader, the leadership had no structure. Officers had no specific tasks and I simply promoted every “founding member” regardless of ability or desire to lead. Committed and organized leadership is a key part of a successful guild, and the lack of it made everything way more difficult for me in the early going than it should have been. Fortunately, many of my officers stepped up in a big way when I needed them, or the guild would have died in its infancy.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! If an officer is charge of overseeing melee players, outline that out. Tell them they’re there to assign interrupts, offer opinion on new melee apps, and that they have to tell you if a rogue is starting to fall off the wagon. Guild treasurer? Good. They need to make sure the bank is liquidated of crap, and that there’s money coming in somehow. You might think it’s obvious, but get each role defined.
Still want to do this? Make sure you examine the articles I have on Guild Management. It ain’t easy, but being the GM usually never is.

Cast Times on Instant Spells Highlights Warlords Healing Changes

A new week means a new Dev Watercooler! Today, Blizzard looked at healing gameplay. Cataclysm was the last expansion where there was a true healing “reset”. Mists of Pandaria largely preserved that same model. Now we’re entering Warlords where the healing model is getting changed again. The Watercooler can be summarized in three points:

  • Health and resilience
  • Smart heals getting “dumber”
  • Instant casts getting slower

Raiding realities going into Warlords

The Mythic size raid group is dropping from 25 to 20. Less players overall which means slightly less healers to bring in so I can understand the dumbing down of some of the spells. More difficulties and the ability to scale the number of players you bring in also allows raid groups to control for that. Keep this in mind as we go down the list of changes. Lots of the freakout is taking future expansion plans and applying it to the current game.

What’s happening to the mana regeneration? That’s going to go up. At the start of Cataclysm and Mists, I’ve had to chug pots and burn cooldowns just to keep up with running the heroics. To be fair, this was a time when there wasn’t that much information on how to do the bosses. Much of our time was spent working on staying alive not so much killing the boss fast. Everything leveled off weeks later as we acquired more gear and crafted more stuff.

If I’m interpreting it right, it means our healing style shouldn’t change that much between doing heroic dungeons and heroic raids.

The downside is that now we’re losing out on our low-throughput healing spells (Nourish, Holy Light, Heal, and Healing Wave). I’m not afraid to see them go. Let’s be real, we’ve only ever used these spells twice ever in an expansion: Once at the start of it because we couldn’t afford to cast Greater Heal and at the end of the expansion when we run out of mana on a long and dragged out boss fight.

… Oh, you guys never ran out of mana? Must be nice!

Our smart healing spells are getting dumber. Instead of striking the most wounded player, the spells will now hit any wounded player. Healers can also jump on the blame RNG bandwagon! A reduced raid size does mean higher odds that our spells will hit intended targets at least. No more using Circle of Healing without abandon anymore.

Absorbs are being looked at. They’ve always been incredibly strong dating back to Wrath. Discipline has been so dominant compared to Holy. Not much information was offered as far as what specifically they plan to do with it other than tuning the strength of absorbs. Can’t see that problem going away though. Doesn’t matter if Power Word: Shield absorbs for 50000 or 10000. That’s still an additional layer of health going on top of players.

There’s a nice summary at the bottom of that part on what the devs plan on hitting.

That’s a lot of big changes for healers: reduced throughput, more triage, less powerful “smart” heals, weaker absorbs, fewer spells, and a new focus on efficiency decisions.

Okay, let’s look at instant spells. Not so instant anymore are they? Cascade, Divine Star, Halo, and Prayer of Mending are being given a 1.5 second cast time! To be fair, other classes are seeing reductions in their instant spell arsenals. Wild Growth and Uplift have cast times tacked onto theirs.

Hey remember when Prayer of Mending didn’t have a 10 second cooldown?

Pepperidge Farm remembers.

I can understand Divine Star and Halo getting cast times. But Cascade? It’s not exactly appealing in the current version of talents. Maybe that’s just how the encounters are setup. Cascade actually takes time to travel around from player to play so I’m not sure why that cast time is needed.

Hang on, these are PvP nerfs? Hrm, okay. Not what I wanted to hear. What I’m more concerned about is what those spells mean for Shadow. Divine Star and Halo are one of the few spells we can cast on the move and that’s being slowed down slightly.

Speaking of more questions, what’s going to happen to Atonement or the Monk version of it?

Decision Making

Maybe I’m just hitting a point of mental fatigue. I liked having smarter heals around. I liked having one less thing reduced to chance. When I’m not busy dodging a meteor, dispelling a silence, and deliberately taking damage for my Prayer of Mending to fly off, I was reassured that my smart heal would always hit the most injured player without any thought. Now I have to take extra time and carefully consider a choice between using a single target heal or a multi target heal. Granted, I’ve already been doing that since vanilla. But over the years, the small incremental changes to healing and rendering them smarter helped cut down on burnout rates. Healing the dark shaman top side and taking care of the Iron Tombs and the like was pretty darn engaging.

Healers think and decide way more than any other role in the game. Tanks, granted, have it fairly difficult. They have to consider boss positioning, direction, and their own cooldowns. One wrong choice and it’s an automatic wipe and that’s a ton of pressure. But at least those mistakes can be corrected quickly on the next-go round and aren’t as dynamic (as in, the boss shouldn’t face this direction or this defensive cooldown has to be used at this time).

Healing is a little more dynamic. You’re not always going to see the same situation. A different person might receive a debuff. Instead of a rogue standing in fire, it’s going to be a mage and are they shrewd enough to Ice Block it? Who needs the dispel in the next 5 seconds when that debuff goes out? Now I have to gamble with my spells. I have to hope that my Prayer of Healing will splash onto that really wounded guy and not the one who is at 90% health. Because if that RNG dice goes against me, I better follow up fast with a Penance or else that really wounded guy is going to wind up a dead guy.

Current: A small group that just took more raid damage than others? No problem, I can respond fast with a Circle of Healing and they’ll be safe.

Future: A small group that just took more raid damage than others? I can use Circle of Healing that might hit all of them, but I better be prepared to follow up with a few Flash Heals just in case it doesn’t.

I love choice in games. I like the ability to pick and decide my fate and that of others. I just wish that those dynamic choices be from the encounters more so than from my tools. Now there’s one more thing we have to actively think about all the time instead of simply relying on reaction.

Bring on the beta!

Which Warlords of Draenor Racial Would You Want Now?

A few days ago, Warcraft Technical Game Designer Celestalon dispensed two hours worth of information on Twitter. One specific topic caught my eye. It’s no secret that racial bonuses in the game are a little skewed and slightly imbalanced. Many of the top tier raiding guilds are Horde and I’m fairly certain much of it is due to the min-maxing bonuses that the racials provide. So come Warlords, they’re mostly getting overhauled. While nothing has been finalized just yet, here’s where the racials stand right now.

WoW Head’s Perculia did a phenomenal job hunting down and assembling the information in an easily digestible package right here. You can check out the official blue post about racials here.

Alliance

  • Draenei Heroic Presence is now +X to your primary stat. Gift of the Naaru heals for the same amount but over 5 sec. 
  • Dwarf: Lost  Crack Shot and  Mace Specialization. Gained Might of the Mountain, a passive which adds 2% Crit Damage. Also… A change to Stoneform: Also removes Magic/Curse. HOWEVER, it still cannot be used while CC’d. (It is still NOT a CC-break) 
  • Gnome Escape Artist dropped to a 1min CD (from 1.5min), and  Shortblade Specialization became Nimble Fingers, 1% Haste. Also- A tweak to  Expansive Mind. Was +5% max Mana. Now +5% Max Mana, Energy, Rage, or Runic Power. 
  • Humans lose the Mace/Sword racials.  The Human Spirit becomes +X to two secondary stats of your choice.  Every Man for Himself, we’re still evaluating. Itemization changes may mean no nerf needed. 
  • Night Elves Quickness also increases movement speed by 2% passively. They also got a new passive which is quite unique… (Remember, no more haste breakpoints!) Touch of Elune, a new passive which grants 1% Haste at night, 1% Crit during the day.Shadowmeld is unchanged. 
  • Worgen: Darkflight is staying unchanged. 

Horde

Pandaren, of course, will most likely not see a change and retain their Epicurean bonus.

The Draenei racial bonus is much more appealing. Too bad we don’t know what the +X value is for the primary stat. It’s going to go right to Intellect for priests of all kinds. Gift of the Naaru will heal 20% of a target’s health over 5 seconds (instead of 15). It’s another healing spell you can add to your bar and you can save it for emergencies (every 3 minutes).

My first Priest was a Dwarf. I miss Stoneform and the ability to shrug off poisons. Now it functions as a secondary self dispel since it can remove magic debuffs and curses. The extra crit damage is handy for the Shadow and the Discipline Smiters though. May not be as helpful for Holy.

What about the Gnomes? There’s still the bonus to mana but it’s been expanded to include the energy of other class types. The natural 1% haste is new and useful for all priest types.

Humans gain a rather unique spin to their buff. They get to select which two secondary stats get a bonus. I imagine one of those will be Spirit and the other will be Haste, Crit, or Mastery — Whatever your priest is short on. An interface is being worked up right now allowing you to pick. The ability to pick and choose offers some neat flexibility.

Night Elves. Sigh. Really? Server time makes a difference now? Blah. I hate randomness. But it looks like there’s not much that can be done about that.

Horde side, Blood Elves continue to be the winner. The crit bonus passive is second only to Arcane Torrent’s innate mana restoring capability.

Goblins? The ability to Rocket Jump is huge in heavy movement fights. Now you get a flat 1% haste instead of a bonus to attack and bast speed.

Orcs can’t play priests so that point is rather moot.

Tauren Priests are already benefitting from a slight stamina boost allowing them to withstand a little more damage than usual. But the new Brawn bonus is a solid boon for priests of all types.

The first iteration of the Troll’s Berserking was pretty overpowered. It was like a mini-Heroism on demand. Now it’s been nerfed to a flat 15% Haste bonus instead of the 20%. Not quite as good but still reliable for burst healing your way through stuff.

Huge nerf to the Undead’s Will of the Forsaken with the cooldown going up. No other changes.

So let’s assume that you’re rolling a new Priest. You have all these excellent racials available to you. No more of the junk bonus to hit or expertise or any of that stuff.

Which one should you go for?

If you plan on playing Alliance, I would favour the Draenei bonuses. Hard to say for sure without knowing what the X value is. If you’re PvPing, Dwarves or Gnomes are a good bet. I like Gnomes though since Escape Artist is handy (and the fast cooldown).

If you plan on playing Horde, I’m leaning towards Blood Elves. That mana restore is so nice to have especially on progression fights when you’re tapped out. Berserking is another trait you’ll find attractive and is great if you’re playing either shadow or healing.

Personally, I’m staying a Pandaren. Can’t get enough of that food buff.

Raid Leader Questions: Reset or Extend?

Raid Leader Questions: Reset or Extend?

Back in Wrath, right around the era of the Trial of the Crusader patch, Blizzard pushed out a new feature. It was a tool designed for raids who didn’t raid as often or who had trouble investing significant and meaningful hours in progression before the week reset and all their progression and work had been lost.

Yes, the lockout extension feature.

To my knowledge, it was one of those things that not many players really raved about but no one slammed it down either. It was completely optional and not many had the desire to extend it. Two expansions later, raids are getting larger, there’s more trash in the way, and time just seems to be a factor. This isn’t 5 years ago where I was in a raid that insisted on everyone going way past their bed time to get that much needed kill in. I was in guilds that asked much of their players to sacrifice sleep and hours for the sake of progression.

When Conquest was first formed, one of the key decisions was laying down our hours. In order to maximize the potential pool of players, I ensured that our times were west and east coast friendly. But this had the cost where we would not be able to go past our end times even if we had gotten a boss down to 1%. With Siege of Orgrimmar being the deep instance that it is, many of the players lobbied for more time on end bosses and extensions on the week to put in more work. It’s paid off because we secured kills on Nazgrim and Malkorok on the days where we normally would’ve reset.

At the same time, like other raiding guilds, we’ve seen our share of players come and go. This is the part of the expansion where many players are slowly returning back to the game. They’re smart and skilled players, but sometimes there’s nothing they can do to survive through a large explosion even with all their defensive cooldowns used simply because their health is too low. Or we’re not able to meet a DPS check on an earlier boss like Norushen and Sha of Pride.

It’s a tough balancing act between providing our newer players with the gear and experience they need now so they can be in a position to help us later versus ensuring that the raid has adequate time to work on progression bosses in the second half of Siege. Blizzard has announced the end of the Challenge Mode season coming soon to coincide with a new patch deployment. While there’s been no mention of a friends and family alpha, the patch signals that we’re one milestone closer to the next expansion and our time in Siege is growing shorter.

How long does it take to gear a freshly geared 90 and put them in a position where they are no longer a detriment to a heroic raid boss?

My estimate is 3-4 weeks. This includes running the raid finder, flex raids, using crafted pieces, and completely carrying them through any available farm content. On 25 man, that time could be cut to 2-3 weeks largely due to the larger pool of gear that drops from killing bosses (6 items on 25 vs 2 items on 10) and this assumes they’re diligent in farming their Lesser Charms on the island or via pet battles.

Reset please!

My original stance was to continue weekly raid resets. Until we’ve got a core group of 25-30 players who’ve been around long enough where they don’t need gear anymore, we’re going to need to keep that farming going. Every once in a while, we can pull in a player who is already at our level and ready to go to the point where we don’t need to gear them out. If we don’t funnel gear, eventually we’ll reach a point where we run out of players to bring in (because turnover, people leaving/quitting/new jobs/no time, etc). Our depth is amazing. It’s how we can even field raids sometimes. There’s always going to be a bottom end and we have to narrow that gap between top and bottom to help make it easier for us when we reach the harder progression bosses. It makes sense to do this at the beginning of the tier as well to really maximize all that gear coming in.

Now here’s the flip side of the equation.

Extend please!

When we get to a new boss, we need time to learn the nuances. We have to learn the new phases and mechanics that come with it. We have to wipe to it. We have to see it so that we can understand and then execute. This usually happens towards the end of the week because the first part of the week is spent clearing UP to that boss. Our ultimate end objective is to KILL everything in this instance. The fact that it’s the final tier in the expansion means that we have a silent countdown clock hanging except we don’t know what the end time is going to be. I’d rather err on the side of clearing everything early then clearing everything too late. I want to get these guys a heroic Garrosh kill. That’s what we’re all here to do. Just when it seems like we’re all prepared and ready to take down a new boss, we run out of time, and it’s Tuesday. We have to kill all that stuff again. And guess what? There’s days where our consistency and our mindset isn’t there and we don’t even GET to the new boss that we want which cuts in to our progression time, and then boom, reset again.

This is where we are at today. This is why I proposed the compromise of 3 pulls to get it done on farm or else we move on. It helps ensure chances on getting the players that need gear their gear while simultaneously ensuring that we have enough allocated time to work on a new progression boss. Problem is, that isn’t good enough anymore.

We’re still lacking on time. In the end, we’ve opted to switch to an extended week schedule. Week 1 is spent getting as far as we can, week 2 is spent extending to work on whichever boss we just cleared to. Any new recruits are typically brought in during week 1 to learn and get suitably equipped.  Our veterans and heavy hitters are brought in for the progression stuff.

I really miss winged instances.

Giving You Crit for Dying: When is a Good Time?

Giving You Crit for Dying: When is a Good Time?

Like any guild leader would, I posted Hamlet’s latest post on Raid Awareness on my guild forums. They’re all good lessons and solid pointers. It’s all anyone can really ask for from their guild. Most of the team already knows it but it doesn’t hurt to have a little reminder from time to time. Many things shouldn’t be said but we’re nearing the end of the expansion where newer players are returning who haven’t quite raided at a heroic level before and could benefit from the points that were listed.

One of our newer players brought up a solid point about failure and dying.

I’ve discussed it a little with people but it definitely feels as a newer raider that there’s a much greater emphasis on failure as an “app” or “new” person than some of the older ones.

And this is absolutely true. Leaders tend to put recruits under the microscope much more.

The other night, we were working on Heroic Sha of Pride. One of my veteran players was standing on their projection which is the correct play. However, they spotted a rift on the ground nearby and immediately went over to that before the projection detonated. Even though she didn’t cause a wipe, the raid healers immediately crapped their pants (or in this case, blew all the survival cooldowns at the same time to stabilize).

Here we have a player who has done the encounter many times and wiped with us when we were learning it on both normal and heroic. What happened was a simple brain fart.

I could have reprimanded that player easily. But what effect would it have had? They already knew the mistake and owned up to it right away after the encounter. It was a simple mechanics error that anyone could’ve made (y’know, except me). Would me berating them incessantly and in public absolutely prevent that from happening again from anyone? Probably not. I might mention it as a PSA reminder to everyone (“PROJECTIONS FIRST, EVERYTHING ELSE LATER”), but that’s all.

Now what happens when a new recruit screws up?

Here they are trying to make a good first impression. That they know their mechanics. They want to show that they belong and that they can roll with the team. Before we engage the boss, I say one thing to every new recruit.

I don’t give two crits about your DPS or your healing right now. For one, most of you don’t have your cloak or your meta. Or alternatively, you’re not as heroic geared as the rest of the team I have. Don’t even try to match them pound for pound. You really want to impress me? Don’t die. The single most important thing you can do on this fight is to survive. Do that job well and everything else will follow.

The players that we’re pulling in? Their experience usually ends up being exposed to flex raiding or some normal fights. Often times these are players who’ve wanted to make the jump to heroic raiding but were never in an organization that was capable or they’re returning players who’ve demonstrated what they could do in older expansions with those heroic encounters. Even Flex and Raid Finder mechanics are easily shruggable. What’s the point of dodging the crap that gets thrown your way or the fire on the ground if it just tickles?

That veteran player up there who made a mistake? She knows what she did wrong. The new recruit who came in who has never learned the normal mode or heroic mode mechanics with us? He may not know what he did. Maybe he’s never stacked enough pride to even reach the projections portion of the fight. That’s when I’ll step in and tell them what happened, what he did wrong, and how he can prevent that from happening again in the future. Players like to associate educating a player with giving player crap for screwing up. Eh, it’s more like attempting to correct their errors.

Why the public mumble reprimand in front of the 30 players listening and raiding versus the private tell?

  1. It’s a reminder: Maybe some other new recruit hadn’t seen it before and hadn’t died to it yet. With luck, I’ll have prevented another future wipe when the second recruit is aware of why and how the first recruit died.
  2. People can stop sending me tells: Seriously team, I don’t need ten whispers telling me that the recruit died because they goofed on something. By gently informing the player publically, it’s an indirect and subtle message to the rest of the raid that a) Yes, I know they screwed up and b) You can all stop messaging me now.

It loses effectiveness. I rarely lose my temper. Alumni and current raiders know this. I’ve been told that I should lose my cool a little more often. At the same time, I know that if I do that, it’ll lose the message I’m trying to convey and not be as effective. So I’ll try to save it for those times when I know it’ll be most beneficial to jump start the raid a little.

The same thing goes with player reprimands. Imagine if I gave crit to a player for every minor mistake they made. I don’t know about you, but I figure they’d get tired and exasperated pretty quickly and start tuning me out (Note that they already do because I’m blasting variations of Katy Perry or Beyonce when I’m talking). It would be the equivalent of the hockey coach losing the locker room. I think it’d also accelerate my own burnout with the game and raiding in general. But I also understand it when it seems like if nothing is said about a player error that it’s overlooked and swept under the rug. It does look like leniency.

This is where the old Ensidia Fails addon comes into play (and for some reason has stopped working from me). It spits out who stood in what or who screwed up for that attempt right after a wipe. Name on that list? You know what you did wrong. Name on that list because you stood in it to intentionally wipe faster? You know that too.

Let me ask you this. Do you play better when your raid leader gives you crap on a farm fight that you should already know? How about a progression fight? Under what circumstances would you prefer your raid leader directly hold you accountable? All the time? Some of the time? Never?

We’re Connected!

Another set of realm connections went out this week and Ner’zhul was attached to two other servers! Are they higher pop? Would they bring in more activity? Ner’zhul is one of the oldest WoW servers out there. At our peak, we used to be 3rd (or 4th) in terms of server progression back at the end of Sunwell and early Wrath. We’ve slowly been slipping away and are just shy of the top 15.

So who did we end up getting matched with?

Some server called Frostmourne apparently. A quick look up shows them being 6th with over 9000 progressed Alliance players compared to Ner’zhuls 1000+. That’s awesome! Our auction house is going to start kicking again! Alliance players won’t get rolled as much on Timeless Isle! There’s going to be PEOPLE aga-!

No Matt, it’s actually FrostMANE, not Frostmourne.

What? Oh.

It’s got 700 Alliance players and one decent 25 man progression guild Alliance side. I mean, it’s no Frostmourne but at least there’s another server that comes with it. Not one but two server merges!

Tortheldrin! It has an Alliance progression population of… 6! Zero 25 man raiding guilds!

Not that I’m complaining. Surely we can help these servers out a bit right? Have to admit, when I logged in, trade chat was more hilarious than usual. There’s Ner’zhulians and Frostmanes trying to welcome each other to their server.

Oh you Frostmane people are so cute. Welcome to the Ner’zhul show.

A side effect of the server merge seems to be that our time zone has changed. We’re no longer a pacific time zone server as we’ve shifted two hours in the future. We’re now a central time zone server. In addition, the server raid lockout reset! Another day of more bosses and loot from Immerseus to Shamans. There was a heroic Warforged healing trinket from Sha of Pride but I didn’t get it.

High command called a meeting after Tuesday night. We were going over the latest personnel reports. They called me in. My time as a mediocre shadow DPS player was done. The healing contingent needed reinforcing and it was getting harder to ask our dual specced DPS players to constantly switch to their healing spec when they were much more effective slinging Stormstrikes and Starfires. The reason I had gone Shadow in the first place was because I couldn’t run the raid and heal at the same time. Months ago, we elevated a new supreme commander to spearhead our raid so that’s no longer a problem. It’s time to shelve the Shadow gear and instill a sense of… Discipline back into the raid.

No drop of mana will be spared.

Cooldowns will be used.

Raiders will live but 15 seconds longer than they would otherwise.

Just long enough for us to kill the boss at least.

Happy Belated New Year!

Happy Belated New Year!

I remember 2013 like it was just a few weeks ago. I trust the holidays and the subsequent post holidays have been kind to everyone? My apologies for being radio silent. It’s been quite the busy few weeks for the guild and I. Prior to the holidays, we had only mustered 3 heroic kills in Siege. Entering next week, we’ll be at 7/14 heroic (while expecting an 8th on Monday). The holiday season is the second biggest offender when it comes to roster turnover (with school and early Fall being my first pick as the top time for players leaving).

Every so often, I still get emails and messages from people asking about the Matticast and what’s going on with it. Every time, I have to respond saying that there’s no chance it’s coming back. We had a good run but everyone involved has moved on. I myself miss the podcasting circuit but to be frank, I lack the technical skillsets to really pull it off. That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to participate though (but more on this later).

This last week I made an appearance on the Starting Zone in their Hearthstone episode.

On a personal front, I’ve just recently made the move out on my own! Scored a condo within the same city. I call it… the Matt-chelor pad (or the Mattcave for short).

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The view from my balcony. Vancouver’s being slowly enveloped in fog. Kinda Sleepy Hollow-esque (and I stopped watching that show after the 2nd episode because I was too scared).

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One of the first meals I made was a pizza in the oven. I uh, didn’t realize I could rearrange the toppings when they were still frozen. Ah well, I consider it a half pepperoni, half cheese pizza!

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My battlestation above.

I’m learning a ton of things now that I’m on my own. My own guild’s facepalmed at some of the questions they’ve heard from me so no way am I going to share that here!

Hearthstone

The first test season ended not too long ago. I managed to hit the fifth rank (no, not legendary). On top of that, they changed and nerfed several cards. That more or less neutered my mage and warlock decks. Right now I’m sitting at a paltry rank 15 and slowly working my way back up. There’s way more people playing now especially since Blizzard has opened the floodgates for everyone that has opted in.

World of Warcraft

Conquest has eliminated every boss in order from Immerseus to Dark Shamans on heroic mode. Looks like the holiday break didn’t take too much wind out of our sails. We lost a number of players but also gained a few. Oddly enough, my old raid leader back from Burning Crusade had returned to the game and wanted to raid again (several expansions later). Another friend from an old guild (which used to be the top guild on the server) also came back.

With those pickups and others, we’ve had to revise our recruiting standards a bit. Now we’re looking for players who have at least acquired their meta and soon we’ll be changing that to having legendary cloaks. We’re pushing into the second half of Siege which means less time farming and backtracking for all that stuff. If a recruit isn’t able to contribute right now, then they’re not going to see much action in raids since we need those cloak effects in there.

We’ll be working on General Nazgrim come Monday. Hoping to add another notch on the Conquest belt. Speaking of recruiting, we’re looking for DPS players for now and for Warlords (especially Warlocks, ret Paladins, and Death Knights).

The Raid Mechanics

Okay, let’s circle back to the podcasting bit for a moment. I mentioned that I wasn’t interested in the technical production side of things but I still love talking about the game. A while ago, I applied as a co-host for the Twizzcast.

Alas, I didn’t make the cut. He mentioned something about being overqualified, but I bet it’s most likely because I was Canadian (or Alliance). That’s okay though because it turns out he was working on a side project and felt that I was best suited for that.

It’s called the Raid Mechanics (on Twitch). You’ll find it soon on BlizzPro.TV.

In a nutshell, it’s a show devoted primarily for raiders who are just starting or who are already experienced. We’re not even going to try to target anyone at the server first level or higher because those guilds don’t need us. What we want to do here is provide a resource for players who tank, heal, or DPS and offer our insight along with tips to help them get through encounters easier. We do plan to touch upon the overarching strategy of each boss on both normal and heroic for 10s and 25s players.

One aspect of the Matticast I really missed was when all the hosts were just sitting around and talking about general guild and raid problems. I’m not referring to problems with the strategy, but more around philosophy and personnel management. This is something I’m hoping to get back into again on the Raid Mechanics show. For example, issues that come up related to recruiting, systems, or day-to-day guild stuff. I couldn’t get enough of it so expect to see some of that.