A Druid’s Reaction to the Wild Growth / Circle of Healing Nerf

A Druid’s Reaction to the Wild Growth / Circle of Healing Nerf

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Those of you who keep up with upcoming patch notes and blue posts on the official WoW forums have probably known for quite some time–ever since before Wrath’s release in fact–that both Wild Growth and Circle of Healing were living in the shadow of the nerf bat. A 6-second cooldown has been threatened for both spells since beta testing proved their strength.

Now that the nerf has gone to PTRs, a new wave of complaints has swept over most healing websites. If the comments on Matticus’s recent WoWInsider article are any indication, the nerf to AoE insta-heals draws a passionate response from almost all players, whether they belong to one of the affected classes or not. In fact, what surprises me about the whole discussion is the sheer number of vehement, “L2P nub, don’t spam AoE heals” type retorts. A lot of discipline priests, in particular, seem to feel vindicated by the nerf. On the other side are those that passionately argue against nerfs to any class. I sympathize with this point–such an adjustment to two classes makes us all weaker. When there are less available tools in the toolkit, the game becomes both more difficult and less fun to play.

That said, I find myself having very little personal reaction at this point. Perhaps that’s because I’ve known that Wild Growth spam isn’t a long-term tactic for months now? This is not to say that I’m in support of putting in a 6 second cooldown on Wild Growth and Circle of Healing, just that by now I’ve become accustomed to the idea.

From a certain perspective, this nerf seems necessary. The following series of musings is my attempt to take what I’ve observed through Naxx 10 and 25, Sartharion 10 and 25, and Malygos 25 and try to explain why, from the developers’ perspective, it’s druids’ and priests’ turn to cry.

The State of Healing in Wrath

1. Right now, the risk of dps death during raids is minimal. Healing is relatively strong overall, and three out of the four healing classes have capable raid-healing tools.

2. Right now, the risk of tank death during raids is minimal. Healers can keep up with incoming damage, and tank healers often have time to cast spells on other targets.

3. Most encounters are designed with at least some AoE damage. This kind of damage will always be at least a little challenging for healers because they have to deal with the Interface Boss in order to get heals on multiple targets. However, there is no new Gurtogg Bloodboil yet–AoE damage has not been taken to the kind of extremes we saw in BC.

4. Wrath encounters typically require less healers than BC bosses did. For most guilds, I would take the number that they ran with in BC and subtract one to get their perfect number of healers for a 25-person raid.

5. Smart heals like Chain Heal, Circle of Healing, and Wild Growth are really, really effective. It turns out that (surprise, surprise) a computer is better than a human being at calculating who needs a heal.

6. Mana management is less challenging than most bloggers–including me–thought it would be. It turns out that the level 80 epic gear does a pretty good job of getting people the regen they need, even though some of the old familiar tools (mana oil and chain-potting) are history.

The Behavior of Healers in the Wrath environment

Intelligent players respond to the conditions given them, and the top WoW players will always use a play style that the numbers support. Now, there may be individual differences and preferences, but given free choice, almost all players of the same class and spec will, at the top end of the ability spectrum, make the same decisions. Here’s how raiders are reacting to our current capabilities and to the demands of the current content.

1. Healers are using Wild Growth and Circle of Healing to the utmost. And why not? These two heals do, in fact, make the content much easier. If AoE damage is the challenge (and Blizzard seems determined that it should be), these two spells are the antidote of the moment.

2. Healing has become a competition between healers instead of a mad race to keep people alive. No one is going to die anyway–the content is too easy for that. The best healers are trying to sneak in effective heals against their fellows. Spells like Wild Growth, Circle of Healing, and even the high-HPS glyphed Healing Touch shine in an atmosphere of heavy competition.

3. Healers are not focusing on mana efficiency. When the content is easy and the team can kill a boss quickly, mana efficiency is less relevant. There are no prizes awarded for ending an encounter with 40% mana. The only prize available is for healing output. As such, many players end up healing too much too early and needing someone else’s innervate. This has happened to me a few times, and I’ve been trying to watch it.

4. Druids and priests are, in fact, leaving paladins and shamans behind on the meters. This has only one good effect–that shamans aren’t as necessary any more. I’ve recruited for two different guilds, and the hardest position to hire is that of alliance resto shaman. There just aren’t many out there.

What the Developers Hope the Nerf Will Accomplish

Here is where I really get speculative. The following is my best guess about exactly what kind of “fix” the new 6-second cooldown will be.

1. The nerf will retroactively add difficulty to encounters that guilds have already cleared. Some guilds may even find themselves unable to beat a “farm status” boss. As a result, guilds may stay in the current tier of content longer than they otherwise would. This is good for developers, because it stresses them less to release the next tier in a timely manner.

2. The healing meters will shake out a little differently. The conspiracy-loving part of my brain thinks that it’s “best” for Blizzard if people go back to complaining about resto shamans. After all, they’re far less numerous than priests and druids, at least on alliance side. While most guilds could fill their entire healing roster with priests and druids, I doubt anyone could fill theirs entirely with shamans. It’s a safer class to have at the top of the chart.

3. The management of another cooldown will add back some of the difficulty of playing a druid or priest. The developers want playing a healer to be difficult. If healing is difficult, a guild takes longer to go through a tier of content. For example, let’s take the healing druid. In the good old days of managing 7 second Lifebloom stacks on multiple targets, timing used to be everything. With stacking de-incentivized, I often have only one 9 second triple stack to manage, giving me a lot of freedom. I have a feeling though that now I will be casting Wild Growth every time it’s up. There will be a bit of a return to a fixed spell rotation. I hear many healers threatening to give up their AoE spells entirely, maybe even going as far to spec out of them. I tend to agree with Matticus in thinking that, paradoxically, Circle of Healing and Wild Growth will become more important. We’ll need to actively manage those cooldowns, and the effect of that adjustment period will be to slow progress down.

4. There might be room for an extra healer in a healing team. Circle of Healing and Wild Growth have been such workhorses that the old numbers for a healthy healing squad didn’t make sense any more. This might give a few out of work raid healers something to do. It’s not good for Blizzard if lots of players lose their raid spots.

Am I in Favor of the Nerf?

Personally, no I’m not. And yet, I’m not up in arms about it either. I realize that it hits druids less hard than priests, but I’m not worried about either class’s raid spots. Wild Growth and Circle of Healing are still good spells. Comparatively, I’d say that the Lifebloom nerf of a few months ago was much more devastating than this one.

The addition of a 6 sec cooldown to my best-designed spell is not a happy prospect, and it’s not the kind of thing that makes healing “more fun.” In fact, managing an extra cooldown, especially for druids, who are already managing Lifebloom and Swiftmend, is pretty much anti-fun. I’ve never believed developers’ claims that they want to make healing “more fun.” I don’t think that’s really in their advantage–to really make healing more fun would probably “trivialize” the content as well, forcing them to come out with more content patches on an accelerated timeline. What they might actually do is change our interface to be more “interactive”–and also a ton more difficult to use. I dread this prospect a lot more than any nerf to Wild Growth! Think about the new vehicle interfaces and imagine if you had to heal and target with that! What if all healing were like Malygos Phase 3 or the final boss of the Oculus? As it is, I think the developers recognize that healing, more so than tanking or dps, requires players to modify their interface. I hope they just leave us alone with that and let Grid do what their standard frames can or will not.

Obsidian Sanctum with Drakes Up

Tonight Conquest is going to take a shot at Heroic Sartharion with one drake up. For those that have done it, I have a few questions to ask:

  • Which drake did you leave up and why?
  • Did Death Knights D&D (due to the visual similarity between that and void zones)?
  • How did you set up portal groups?
  • How many healers were sent down low into the portal?
  • Did Firewalls affect those in the portal?
  • Any other last minute tips or insight that you can offer?
Matt’s Monday Morning Muses: What a Blogger Wants for Christmas and More

Matt’s Monday Morning Muses: What a Blogger Wants for Christmas and More

Good morning! It’s the sweet taste of school freedom for me (and the beginning of Winter’s Veil for all of us). Stealing a page from Anna and Wynthea’s deep thoughts (who has also been far too busy for deep thoughts).

* I finished out Sunday’s weekly Spiritual Guidance post. This week I wrote about the Circle of Healing nerf, some initial thoughts on it and how to counteract or compensate for it when the changes were live. Woke up to almost 60 comments and some of them are depressing. I’ve come far too close to calling it a career on WoW Insider too many times. But then I realize that the number of times the post is viewed versus the actual number of comments is like 0.5% (literally). There another Priest out there that wants to try their luck at it?

* On another note, to the guys that are speccing out of Wild Growth and Circle of Healing, are you sure about that? Like, there’s still going to be AoE raid encounters. If anything, they become even more important now than they were before. Every AoE healing spell from Chain Heal to the Holy Light Glyph to Holy Nova and such will have to be used. I can understand not using it if you’re not in a raid situation. But like, seriously? Everyone needs to pitch in now more than ever and if you’re going to drop them out of your healing lineup, I think you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

* Stick to your guns. If there’s anything school’s taught me is to always stand firm in what you believe in and take a stance. I’m inclined to respect someone more if they take one stance and stay with it. I wrote about it briefly on my Twitter this morning. It started off with a tweet from @ryannaka (WoW Twitterati, there’s another one for you to add):

@mattycus It seems you hit a nerve with that post [The Spiritual Guidance one]. The complaints in the comments section always make me lol.

And he’s got a point. I did hit a nerve. But I’m not going to argue one side and then double back and argue for the other. I’d rather pick a stance and stick with it and let someone else come up with the counterarguments. Fellow WoW Twitterati @roflwolf said it best:

@mattycus it’s the whole "non-biased opinion" thing. no one wants to pick a side because it’ll push away an audience.

So to all the aspiring bloggers out there, you have an opinion to write and a brain to help you critically think. Don’t be all wishy-washy and try to cater to everyone. Sure you might lose guys that don’t agree with you because they might unsubscribe and stop reading. But the ones that do are your real fans and they’re the ones that care about you the most.

Notable heated exchanges include the following topics:

“Greedo shot first!”
“No Han did!

“Dude, Picard saw FIVE lights!”
“Did not! He saw FOUR!”

“Vader would totally kick Arthas’ ass”
“Hello? Army of Stormtroopers versus Army of Undead? I think not!”

(I might’ve made up the last one but the others are true)

* I don’t care what anyone else says. 33/40 on a final exam worth 45% is NOT good enough for me. SIGH!

* I stopped putting up a Christmas tree when I was 12. I still have a pang of enviousness whenever I go to a friend’s house. Yeah, you know who I’m talking about. That friend. You know, that friend who’s decorated his entire house and has candy canes on the front lawn with enough lights to drain the power grid of Los Angeles? And they have a Christmas tree inside with loads of gifts and stockings over the fireplace.

But nah. I’m not bitter. Not at all.

* Speaking of Christmas, wow what is up with the mega commercialization of Winter’s Veil this year? Small Eggs are used in the creation of Gingerbread Cookies. And they’re on the Auction House for 15g this morning. FIFTEEN GOLD FOR AN EGG! What is up with that? Why are you sucking away the spirit of Winter’s Veil by marking up the prices of all this stuff? You’ve got players that just want to make some simple gingerbread cookies for Father Winter. And that can’t afford things like simple eggs! They just want to give it to him as a gift, that’s all!

Interesting how the virtual world can sometimes reflect the real, eh?

* Lots of emails for more Naxx guides. Seriously? WoWWiki and Boss killers have them way more detailed. I’m just giving you what I think is really relevant for healer material. Need some for Malygos or OS as well?

* Speaking of Christmas, some of you might be scrambling last minute to get gifts for that favourite geek in your life. If you need some help, feel free to take a look at my personal Amazon.com wish list. Some of it is Matt specific, but the rest should work for anyone else. There are some things not on the list that I forgot to add. It’s not all non-fiction books. Apparently there’s this series called A Game of Thrones that’s a really solid fantasy series that people keep bugging me to read.

On the other hand, if you’d like to donate to your favourite WoW blog:

By the way, scratch Dark Knight off the list (Thanks Joyce!)

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* Need to comb my hair before I take these shots especially on the sides. It’s all leaning towards my right.

* Shopping for women is hard no matter who they are.

* Need a suggestion for a good electric powered razor with a cradle and recharageability. I’m seriously getting one this year. excellen

* What the heck is this craze about this whole Twilight business?

Reader Question: How Do I Find a Quality Raiding Guild?

Reader Question: How Do I Find a Quality Raiding Guild?

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Recently, reader Solarius wrote in with a question that I found so insightful and thought-provoking that I felt it deserved a whole post in response. In his own words:

I was wondering if you had any advice for players who are looking for a decent raiding guild – I’ve read your post on “How do I break into raiding?”, but there are also considerations, like how to recognize a good guild or know when its recruiting and so on. I remember back during BC when Karazhan just had i’s entrance requirements relaxed, and I had the hardest time finding even a Karazhan guild that didn’t either try to run with greens, or have an established cliquish environment.

While I admit I didn’t improve my equipment to the upmost (enchantments and non-green gems being the cardinal sins), I tried my best to be a better raider: I ran PuG Heroics for equipment upgrades, made and offered potions and elixirs, learned how to maximize my DPS rotations, and read up on instance encounters. I still never really made it past PuGing Karazhan.

Since you were writing about guild management and recruitment, I hoped you could cover the other end of the spectrum. As you’ve mentioned before, not everyone advertises on Trade (and I’ve regretted the three times I took those blind offers), the Realm forums can be sketchy, and sites like WoWJutsu are impersonal and lack contact information.

Solarius is absolutely right in that the question of finding a guild has two sides. Yes, players need to do everything that they can to “sell” themselves to the organization they would like to join. There is plenty of information available in the blogosphere, both on this site and elsewhere, about how to apply to a guild. However, how does a player find a guild worth applying to?

I’ve recently changed guilds myself, and you might say that I had an insider’s tip as to where to go, as I’m now raiding with Matticus (who, as I’ve said, is every bit as great a GM as he is a boss). However, I am confident that, if I had to find a guild with no personal connection whatsoever to me, I think I could sort the good from the bad. What would be my plan of attack, and even more importantly, what decisions would I have to make?

If you’re looking for a new guild, consider following these ten steps to virtual health, happiness, and phat loots.

1. Decide whether you want to stay on your current server.

Personal circumstances will probably decide this one for you. If there will be a lot of drama involved when you leave your current guild, a server jump can be a good way to get a fresh start. However, if you have friends and relatives on your server, and they’re not willing to move with you, you may want to stay. In many cases, this decision will be impacted by the overall health of raiding guilds on your server. If there are many active guilds that you wouldn’t mind joining, it could be a good idea to stick around the neighborhood. If your server’s too quiet, or if your faction is outnumbered or always loses battlegrounds, you may be happier with a change of scene.

2. Place advertisements.

What you’re doing is fishing for responses from guilds who are actively looking. If you’re staying on your own realm, make a post about yourself on your realm forum. Be aware that these posts can draw the trolls, but they will get your name out there. However, for a fairly troll-free place to fish, go to the Alliance or Horde Guild Recruitment Forums and place a thoughtful ad about yourself. Quality guilds will search these almost daily when they’re looking for new blood. I found Trinia, an awesome warlock and one of my favorite people in Conquest, that way. Watch to see who responds to your ad, and then research their organization before you take the next step.

3. Observe how your prospective guild behaves.

If you’re staying on your own server, do watch that Trade Chat. Sometimes really good organizations will advertise that way. Write their names down, and whisper the recruiter for more information. If you’re thinking of a guild on another server, make an alt and stand in a major city for a while. Are they an active presence on the server? If so, do they contribute in a positive or negative way? This is far easier to do on your own server, where you are in effect listening all the time to how other guilds behave. If the guild recruits in trade, ask to talk to someone. That will be your best measure of what the guild is really like. I must admit, I judge guilds by their members, particularly their public interactions with others. Just one person spamming trade with obscenities will color my opinion of the whole group.

4. When a guild interviews you, interview them right back.

If you’re invited to chat or get on vent with a guild recruiter, ask questions. It’s not just about “auditioning” for this new person and proving how great you are. This is your chance to quiz them on the issues that are important to you. How do they distribute loot? How do longtime members treat new people? Is there any longstanding guild drama? What do they do when problems arise? These are tough questions, and you’ll be listening carefully to your recruiter’s responses. If she’s being evasive, take it as a warning sign. This interview is your opportunity to find out whatever you want to know–use it wisely.

5. E-stalk your new guild.

Before you accept a g-invite, take advantage of any and all public information about them. Go to their website, and, if you can, make an account there. Read the whole thing if they will let you. If they are well-organized, the site will have at least some content. Raiding guilds tend to have fairly active websites. Watch for too much activity however. All guilds have drama, but beware all-out insult fests.

It probably already occurred to you to check a guild’s progress on Wowjutsu. However, I want you to go with a critical eye. Go through all the listings and find out what their gear distribution is like. How many players are getting geared up? Is there a lot of competition for your class and role? Do the officers seem to be getting everything? Wowjutsu doesn’t track everything, but you can pretty much count on guilds queueing up their loot from first boss kills. If the loot distribution is fair, you will see a lot of different names. In addition, Wowjutsu lets you see the grayed out names of players who have recently left the organization. A high proportion of these can indicate that your prospective guild has lost many members and is trying to rebuild.

In addition to the guild’s own website and Wowjutsu, I urge you to go to the guild’s realm forum and see how other guilds respond to them there. They probably have a recruitment thread up, and there are probably responses from players with other guild tags. If they have a good rep on the server, most of this commentary will be positive. If your prospective guild is comprised of a bunch of ninja asshats, the server forums might just clue you in.

6. Go on a trial run if you can.

A really good organization will let you try out–and even take loot. They will be proud of what they have to offer. Particularly if you’re on the same server, pug a 10-man with some of their members. If you like the personalities of the people you run with, talk to them more in-depth about the guild. Most people will be honest with you, and you’ll get to see their perspective on the good and bad features of the guild.

Remember, accepting a g-invite is not a lifetime commitment. If you’re unhappy, you owe it to yourself to seek your bliss elsewhere. Even if you server hop, you can change guilds again in a month. I am all for loyalty to an organization, but be sure it is a guild that deserves your allegiance. Be fair to your guild, and don’t expect perfection, but don’t be a martyr either. Happy hunting!

Malygos Down and the Gearing Phase is Over

Malygos Down and the Gearing Phase is Over

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We took out Malygos. A job well done to everyone that showed up tonight.

With this kill, we now set our sights on Sartharion with 1 (maybe even 2) Drakes up.

Upping the bar

It’s been decided that we’ll be looking hard at shoulder enchants and head enchants of all players who wish to raid. It should go without saying that players should already be working on the necessary rep on their own time. I’m extremely impressed with the quality of players and raiders. There is still room for improvement for a number of them.

Thankfully, my exams are over now which means I can turn back full time to the blog for the next few weeks.

Being the generous boss I am, I could give them the entire winter vacation off. I’ve got some ideas stewing around on assorted Post It notes. If there’s anything you’d want to read about or any questions you may have, make a comment here.

Yes, my thoughts on the CoH nerf are on the way.

The Off Armour Problem

The Off Armour Problem

guest-post This is a guest post from friend and bodyguard Cassio

I’m Cassio, I’ve been playing a rogue on Ner’zhul for the better part of three years so my area of expertise is something different then the writers here.

I’m a damage guy. I run numbers to figure out how to squeeze another one or two points of damage per second out of my rotation or how much I should weigh hit stat verses attack power or agility. So please understand that I will not be talking about the best way to heal a boss encounter. Most of the time I have no idea what a healer is doing in them since they are behind me somewhere. Instead, I’ll be trying to stay remotely within the sphere of this blog by talking about loot distribution.

The problem

With the changes that have been made since the release of Wrath, almost every spec to become viable for raiding. This means that some classes may be dipping down into gear that’s exclusive for other classes to use due to armor class restrictions. Boomkins, tree druids and holy paladins may start to want to take gear that all cloth wearers can use. The same goes for titans grip (TG) warriors and to some extent enhancement shamans and hunters with rogue/feral druid gear.

It is my opinion that this should be avoided whenever possible.

Taking gear from a class when it is all they can use and giving it to a class that is moving down armor types to pick up an upgrade might seem fine in the short term. However, it will hurt raids in the long term due to the limited upgrade pool available to classes who have no other option other than leather or cloth.

In my guild, I am currently the raid leader for ten man raids and it falls onto me to sort out loot distribution and how to do so without causing problems that could destabilize the raid group and force us back due to people leaving and having to replace with new people. The system I have worked out is part science and part art but the basics of it is to keep gear separated to classes that are restricted to their armor type before opening it to others. There are some exceptions, such as if the gear is only a miniscule upgrade for a rogue and a large one for someone else.

Weapons

Weapons are handled by letting those that get the biggest upgrade from them roll, any two-hander classes have to roll against each other just as any one-hander users and casters have to roll against each other. So that means that ret paladins, TG (Titan’s Grip) warriors and death knights all have to roll against each other. This method relies heavily on the loot master knowing the different needs of the classes and where his raid members are in gear progression.

Suggested process

While I find that I can do this (with some help from officers and others outside my guild that know the other classes better) I would not suggest that anyone try such a method in a twenty-five man environment. Instead make your officers/class leaders do gear upgrade charts for your members and give the upgrades from the different raid instances a set value, making sure to include heroics gear where it applies, and then use that as a way to check which gear is a better upgrade for who. The higher the number the larger the upgrade, also there should be a method worked out to reward those that go out and craft or farm the gear for outside raids that will help you progress through the instances you wish to run.

While all this sound complicated it really comes down to the simple idea that each classes chances for upgrades is different. If someone needs an item that is all they can use, then this may be one of a limited amount of chances to get it. Someone that can use other armor has a larger pool of gear to pull from and so has better chances at upgrades.

Reader Request: Wyn’s Guide to Northrend Reputation

Reader Request: Wyn’s Guide to Northrend Reputation

Rep

Thanks for voting in the Poll. I still can’t believe this won, but since it did, I’ll do my best to give you the best information available.

Once you hit 80, and the xp grind is over, a new grind starts – this time for reputation and gear. There are really only 3 reasons to grind rep: Gear upgrades, Profession needs, and vanity items. The best way to start churning out rep for ANY faction is to start doing quests in the zone where you find the majority of their NPC’s. After that, some factions will allow you to wear their tabbard into heroic dungeons and gain rep for them, regardless of the zone-location of the instance, while for others you’ll have to diligently knock out daily quests. Either way, it takes some planning to know which factions are worth it. I’m not listing EVERYTHING that’s available for each rep-level with each faction. I doubt you, as a healer, care much about non-spellpower shields and 2H axes.

Wyn’s Guide to Northrend Reputation

Horde Expedition

  • The Hand of Vengeance
  • The Sunreavers
  • The Taunka
  • Warsong Offensive

Alliance Vanguard

  • Explorer’s League
  • The Frostborn
  • The Silver Covenant
  • Valiance Expedition

This is a group of factions, and your rep with the umbrella faction will depend directly on your rep within each of the sub-factions. As you do quests for the sub-factions, 1/2 of the rep is also counted toward the main faction – WoWwiki explains it well: “For example, doing a quest for the Valiance Expedition, earning you 250 reputation with the Valiance Expedition, also gives 125 reputation with the Alliance Vanguard. Therefore, you must have two of the four sub-factions at Exalted in order to be exalted with the Alliance Vanguard, or the equivalent amount of reputation spread across all four.” Got it? Additionally, most dungeons will give you Rep for this faction as default when you’re not wearing the tabard of another faction.

For Horde, you can purchase these items from either Gara Skullcrush in Warsong Hold or Sebastian Crane in Vengeance Landing.
Allies, do your shopping with Logistics Officer Silverstone at Valiance Keep or Logistics Officer Brighton at Valgarde.

Revered:

Exalted

Wyn’s Verdict: The truth is, by the time you’re revered with these factions, you’ll probably have had access to better equipment in both slots, either from non-heroics, heroics, or quest-rewards. However, if you PvP, that head glyph* is going to be a MUST. If you are an engineer, you will almost certainly want to be able to make the motorcycles. If you are an engineer that PvP’s, you got lucky – since you don’t have to farm an otherwise useless faction for only one item. *Note: These slot-enchants USED to be called “glyphs” in Classic and BC. To avoid confusion with stuff made via Inscription, they’re now called Arcanums. I’m still calling them Glyphs, because it was going to be confusing either way.

Argent Crusade

The new and improved version of the Argent Dawn, the Crusade has a few bases around Northrend:

  • Argent Vanguard, on the borders of Icecrown and Storm Peaks
  • Dawn’s Reach, in Dragonblight
  • Light’s Breach, in Zul’Drak
  • The Argent Stand, in Zul’Drak

I found quite a few quests for AC rep in Zul’Drak – so that’s probably where you’ll want to start. There are also two daily quests: Slaves to Saronite and Pa’Troll.

There’s a small bug with Pa’Troll that is worth noting: Pa’Troll is a quest that requires you to go to 4 individuals around the zone, and do a quest for each of them, so it’s kind of 5-quests-in-one. The first time you get the quest (when it’s NOT a daily), go to Alchemist Finklestein and complete The Alchemist’s Apprentice. This involves you picking up 4 random things off the shelves in his lab – very easy. Turn in The Alchemist’s Apprentice for an easy 250 rep, and abandon Pa’Troll. Go back to the Argent Stand, re-accept Pa’Troll, and go back to the Alchemist. Lather, rinse, repeat until you’re exalted. I had a few people in my guild grind to exalted in a few hours, just repeating the Alchemist’s Apprentice.

When you’re ready to make your purchases, you’ll find Quartermaster Aliocha Segard at the Argent Vanguard in Icecrown. (Be aware, she’s stuck under a tent, in the back. It’s kind of a pain to find at first.)

Friendly

Honored

Revered

Exalted

Wyn’s Verdict: You’ll probably want to farm Exalted with this one, since that ring is pretty nifty. The gear in the Honored range is really just gravy – I’m sure you can get better from running the dungeons it’ll take you to finish out to Exalted. The JC pattern is a tanking pattern, but the Spellthread is one tailors wil be able to sell for cash. (You won’t use it yourself, since it’s on-par with the trainable tailor-only thread.)

Kirin Tor

The ruling mages of Dalaran. This faction is related to BC’s Violet Eye – but all those Kara runs won’t help you get any of their rewards in this xpac. Most of the rep gains will be from doing quests in Borean Tundra, around Amber Ledge and in Coldarra, and wearing the Tabard. The Daily cooking and dungeon quests also give Kirin Tor rep.

Friendly

Honored

Revered

Exalted

Wyn’s Verdict: You can’t get around needing a helm-enchant. It’s a gotta-do. And if you want the one with Crit, here’s your faction. JC’ers will definitely want the Exalted gem pattern – it’ll be a big money-maker on the AH, and all the casters in your guild will want it. Tailors will have guildies asking them for the spellthread, mostly for PvP gear, but maybe for some Shammies.

Knights of the Ebon Blade

These are your Death-Knights-turned-good-guys. They do have a base in good ol’ EPL, but for Northrend purposes, you’ll first meet them at Ebon Watch in Zul’Drak. Their main quest hub and Quartermaster, Duchess Mynx, are in Icecrown at the Shadow Vault. You cannot access the Quartermaster until you take back the Vault – a phased quest line which starts with It’s All Fun and Games and is available at lvl 77.
Friendly

Honored

Revered

Exalted

Wyn’s Verdict: Again, Jewel Crafters are going to want to farm this, for completion’s sake, and to fill special orders. The gloves at Revered are really quite nice, especially if you prefer questing to instancing. Tailors will want to make the Warlocks in their lives happy, and most casters will be very impressed with that belt (even without any regen.)

The Kalu’ak
These rather loveable Walrus-people have quest hubs on the southern coasts of Borean Tundra, Dragonblight, and Howling Fjord. Each zone has one daily quest for the faction. The quartermaster, Sairuk, is southeast of the inn at Moa’ki Harbor.
Friendly

Honored

Revered

Exalted

Wyn’s Verdict: Ask all of your JC’s VERY NICELY to pick up that gem pattern at Friendly. Buy them cookies, if necessary. Those of us that fish will want the fishing pole – it’s now the best in the game. Those that collect pets will definitely want the penguin- he’s adorable. For raiders, I would say this is a faction that can wait, since you’ll replace the gear from Honored rather quickly, and none of it is essential for boss-killing.
The Sons of Hodir

Based at Dun Niffelem in the Storm Peaks, this is a cool, lore-based faction, tying into a war with Loken and the titans. These ice giants start out aggressive to you, and you have to do a quest chain starting with They Took Our Men! in K3 to be able to talk to them. Once you’ve completed the quest chain, there are only two ways to earn rep: dailys, and turning in rather hard-to-find items called Everfrost Chips. If you don’t find any chips, it’ll take you 8 days from Friendly to Honored, 8 more for Honored to Revered, and 11 from Revered to Exalted. The Quartermaster, Lillehoff, is inside Dun Niffelem. He’s the big ice giant. Heh.
Honored

Revered

Exalted

Wyn’s Verdict: If you’re not a Scribe (Inscriber? Inscriptionist?) farming this to exalted is essential. JCs and Tailors will will want the patterns anyway, and the mounts are a nice money-sink if you swing that way. Also, this faction has some pretty cool dalies – you don’t have to run all over the place like you did with Ogri’la, and killing the Wild Wyrm is really pretty exciting.

The Wyrmrest Accord

Another example of Blizzard using the lore much earlier in the levelling experience, you’ll find the Wyrmrest Temple in Dragonblight. Joined together against Malygos’ perversion of the Blue Dragonflight, the other Dragon-factions have decided to enlist your help. Quests throughout Dragonblight will give you Wyrmrest rep (say that 3x fast), but there are also 3 daily quests and a tabard to wear in heroic dungeons. Rep rewards can be purchased from Cielstrasza, who is on the very top level of the temple, along with the queen.

Friendly

Honored

Revered

Exalted

Wyn’s Verdict: Your other helm-enchant option comes from this faction. Depending on the rest of your gear, you’ll probably want the Mp5 option over the Crit from the Kirin Tor, but that’s pretty much personal preference. Tailors who are enchanters will certainly want the bag, and this is going to be another long slog for JCers. The gear is relatively meh compared to what you’ll pick up in heroics as you grind the rep, but I know a lot of people will want the Mount. And it DOES look pretty cool.

These last two factions are a little different, in that their rep gains are inversely linked. Once you choose one, you’ll be hated by the other. I’ll go over how you choose between them at the bottom – it can be a little confusing.

The Frenzyheart Tribe

These little badger people are not as cuddly as they look, since they tend to ask you to do mean things to The Oracles – who lived in Sholazar basin first. Once you’re affiliated with the Frenzyhearts (see below), you’ll have to do daily quests to farm the rest. The dailies It takes about 8 days to hit Revered from Honored, and 12 or so more for Exalted. Buy your loot from Tanak.

Friendly

Revered

Exalted

Wyn’s Verdict: I’m never really as impressed with the gear from rep factions as I am with the gear from instance-grinding. But, again, if you’re a solo player, there are some solid choices here. Of course, if you’re a solo player, I’ll need to ask you why you’re healy-spec’d. The haste trinket seems pretty useless for casters. A word on the Pet-jar: The one you buy has to ferment for 7 days before it becomes a pet… it’s kind of like letting your fridge marinate long enough to spawn intelligent life. It also has a small chance to give you a reusable Wolvar costume, so once you hit Revered, you can buy one of those suckers every week for your chance.

The Oracles

The Oracles are a sort of super-murloc. I find them rather endearing, what with their naive devotion to the relics of the Titans, quickness to forgive you for fraternizing with the Frenzyheart, and love for “shinies.” Friendly

Revered

Exalted

Wyn’s Verdict: I think this exalted trinket is better for casters than the Frenzyheart one, but that’s not to say it’s a particularly good trinket. If you’re grinding this rep, it’s more than likely for the Egg, which is even MORE special than the jar of ooze. Like the jar, you have to hold onto the egg for 7 days before it will give you a pet. The egg can give you one of FOUR pets, and has a VERY RARE chance to give a Green Proto-Drake mount.

Okay, both the Frenzyheart and the Oracles are located in Sholazar Basin. As you quest through the Nessingwary lines, you’ll eventually meet up with the Frenzyhearts – who will have you do some rather disrespectful things to the Oracles. Eventually, you’ll be given a quest to kill an Oracle caught in a trap… but the only option presented to your character is to talk to the Oracle, and let him go free. This doesn’t sit well with the Frenzyheart, who are watching your every move for signs of disloyalty. You are then forgiven by the Oracles, and start doing quests for them. Eventually, clearing out the zone will lead you to another, seemingly unrelated, chain: A Hero’s Burden. The final quest here has you fighting Artruis the Heartless in a cave – and this nasy piece of work has enslaved both an Oracle and a Frenzyheart. In order to kill him, you must choose which one of them to save, and which to kill. The one you save is the faction you choose, starting you at honored rep – so don’t let it catch you off guard. If you make a mistake, it’s okay – the quest to kill Artruis is a repeatable daily, so you can always go back tomorrow and kill the other one. Now, if you’re a title or achievement collector, you should know that farming to exalted with the Frenzyheart will give you the title Frenzyheart Tribe, while exalted with the Oracles gives you THe Oracles. If you do first one, then the other (the order doesn’t matter), you can also call yourself a Mercenary of Sholazar.

The Bottom Line

The majority of raiding healers will need to farm their Sons of Hodir dailies every day for their shoulder enchants, and will need to pick either the Kirin Tor or Wyrmrest tabards to wear in heroics untill they get their helm-glyph. You’ll also probaby want to toss in Argent Crusade for the ring.

Scribes don’t have to farm Sons of Hodir, since their profession-only shoulder enchants are better. Jewel crafters, tailors, and leatherworkers will have a pleasant boredom-free time in the xpac, since they need revered or exalted with nearly every faction (and sometimes conflicting factions) to complete their pattern-lists.

People who like mounts and pets will want to farm Kalu’ak, Wyrmrest, Sons of Hodir, and both Sholazar Basin factions.

Update as I went to publish: Check out the lovely Seri’s perspective at Snarkcraft.

Luv,
Wyn

Does Your Raiding Guild Need Premium WWS?

Does Your Raiding Guild Need Premium WWS?

wws

Many raiding guilds are aware of what WWS (WoW Web Stats) is and what a tool it can be to troubleshoot and improve member performance. In a nut shell, it takes your combat log and translates it into meaningful data (if you know how to use it). The WWS client runs locally off your computer (it’s a small download) which parses the log that you’ve recorded. It’s accuracy increases with the more source combat logs you have. I try to get my officers to run a long in addition to my own so that we can have an accurate and reliable report.

What you might (or might not) be aware of is that WWS offers a premium service and Conquest picked up a subscription not too long ago.

What is WWS premium?

Simply put, it’s a subscription based service for certain WWS based features such as:

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Your eyes will no longer be assaulted with irrelevant ads.

Faster loading times

During peak hours, your reports are given priority in the queue and will be taken care of first. It seems the guys on the free side of things will have to take a number and stand in line (literally).

Longer hosting

The WWS website keeps an archive and history of all of your reports. A guild account will keep your information for 30 days and having an unlimited account keeps the log information for as long as your account is active.

Cool Matt! Did you get one?

Let me see if I can sound out my reasoning for acquiring one.

Most readers are aware of my devotion to maintaining a high level of performance. The advertising aspect is irrelevant to me. As a frequent web surfer, my eyes will automatically tune out ads. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in this service and I gladly support the guys behind it. But if I go to any site with ads, I typically zero in on the content. I suspect many of you are like that as well. Like it or not, ads are here to stay because they help support the people behind the site.

What about getting moved up in the queue? How important is that? Fellow Twitterati and blogger Santyn grumbled earlier that he was “moving backwards in the queue”. On some nights, you could be standing in the e-lineup with 100 people in front of you. Sometimes you’ll end up in the 400 range. After every raid, the players that are still around bug me into uploading the combat log so they can evaluate themselves and other players around them to see how they’re doing. Even though the raid ends at 9 PM sharp, the discussion can list for an hour after the raid about specific problems or player issues that WWS can shed some light on. I’ll often listen to the ground pounders compare themselves to other players from other guild reports or look at their own individual rotations and damage output.

I may not understand a word of it, but it sounds pretty important. For myself, I make it a habit to check out the healers and their rotations and see if there’s anything out of the ordinary. I have to say that I’m blessed to be surrounded by a group of people who aren’t only hell bent on trying to improve their play but trying to improve the play of others around them.

Having a historical archive of guild WWS may not be useful at first. I suspect it will become much more important later on. If a player wants to change certain parts of their gear or their spec to test for improvements, they can do so and then look back at a recent history of their performance to see if there’s a noticeable difference.

Patchwerk, because of the nature of the encounter, is our main DPS measuring instrument of choice. It’s a simple and straightforward encounter that involves little movement. All DPS players are capable of opening up to their hearts content with little worry of pulling aggro. Having a premium account allows you to store these records so that you can re-examine them later.

Does your guild need WWS premium?

This is going to depend on a number of factors. You’re essentially paying for the 3 services above. Depending on your guild and your needs, this will either be an asset or a waste.

Guilds that would benefit:

  • Are more into cutting edge content
  • Are performance oriented
  • Care about the information
  • Are committed to improvement
  • Have players who love analysis

If your guild that likes to take it easy and go through content at a casual pace (be it normal or heroic), then you might not be willing to fork over the 3 month subscription for a $15 guild account. If no one in the guild really cares about theorycrafting and analyzing their own DPS, then having a WWS paid account isn’t going to benefit you much since it won’t be used.

But if your guild wants to compete and be a top tier organization, having a WWS paid account would be an asset. You could start off with the $27 Unlimited account for 3 months to give it a try and see if it is of any use.

You can find out more information about WWS paid accounts here.

Don’t forget

You can not game the system. You can’t split costs with another guild and share it. It’s strictly for the personal use of your guild.

As a side note, I’m grateful to the people that have helped chipped in financially to help make the infrastructure of the guild a success. Want an idea of how much running a guild can cost?

50 slot Ventrilo: $210
Webhost: $119.40
WWS Premium: $81
VBulletin Software: An arm and a leg
Dropping toy trains before every boss encounter while the GM’s trying to explain something: Priceless

Okay, that was a bad Mastercard commercial. But those costs are on a yearly basis. Already these figures should tell you I’m a fairly devoted GM.

It’s an interesting cycle. I play WoW so that I can earn some money on the side from writing about my experiences and knowledge that’s WoW related. Some of the money I earn gets invested back into the blog and back into the guild so that I can continue playing for more experiences and knowledge within the game. Which I can then write about.

Not exactly the average college kid’s part time job.

Raid Frustrations: Malygos

Raid Frustrations: Malygos

So there he is, a giant dragon. He’s pretty, isn’t he? But guess what–this dragon isn’t your cute and cuddly friend. He’s insane, and he wants to eat you, and probably the whole universe too.

Welcome to heroic Malygos–the best (and worst) boss so far in Wrath of the Lich King.

On Monday night, Conquest spent three hours tackling this internet dragon, and what follows is my post-raid analysis.

Why Malygos is a great fight

1. The boss and his instance are absolutely beautiful. It reminds me of Archimonde in that way. I find myself wanting to take screen caps of the action, particularly in phase one.

2. This is a dragon boss that broke out of the ground phase / air phase model that we’re familiar with from Nightbane, Felmyst, and Sapphiron. There’s only so many times dragons can do that before they become utterly predictable.

3. This is a fight that challenges healers on every skill they have–throughput, mana management, movement, and, in particular, targeting.

4. The fight is genuinely difficult, unlike the current incarnation of Naxxramas or Obsidian Sanctum (cleared the standard method, with the three drakes killed ahead of the boss). I would place it’s difficulty level around that of Magtheridon before the last nerfs to that boss, which makes it exactly right as the keystone of the initial tier of Wrath raiding.

5. Phase 1 and 2. These phases are examples of great boss design. The Beserk timer puts emphasis on dps, and the amount of movement and chaos is enough to be difficult without being totally frustrating. For relative difficulty, think movement in Gruul, not movement in Archimonde. Also, the melee dps gets to ride flying skateboards in Phase 2. Now, tell me that’s not the coolest thing ever.

Why Malygos is a terrible fight

1. Phase 3. Combat on dragonback is a wonderful idea, but both here and in the Oculus, execution by Blizzard is poor. In the Oculus, at least, there are ledges to serve as reference points. However, in Malygos’ uniform 3D space, there are no markers for distance or even relative height except the dragon himself. Even guidelines like “be head height with the dragon” are not error proof. Healing range in this 3D space is more challenging than it ought to be. In addition, I believe that a count of combo points needs to display right there on the vehicle bar. Healers are not used to thinking in combos–I think counting them for us would be the least Blizzard could do.

2. Phase 3 interface. Just like the rest of Wow’s standard interface, it’s all right for dps but practically unusable for healing. If this is what they mean by making healing “more dynamic,” no thank you. It’s well known that healers see our interface, not the encounters. If that interface is difficult to use or does not show enough information, our job is frustrating at best.

3. Phase 3 interface v. Grid. This is mostly a personal complaint. Because the dragons are vehicles, don’t expect to target them through normal means. I was having to physically click on teammates in the air. I’m told that I should use X-perl raid frames for this fight, or just the standard ones, because they will allow me to click target on people’s health bars. That won’t solve the range issue–I will still have to be moving around to find my groupmates in space. However, the issue of having to actually see them will disappear.

Tips for Healers

We did this fight with 6 healers, which is probably the right number for us until phase 3, where we will want more people to convert over to healing once we’re all on dragons. In phase 1 and 2, we scrambled to output enough healing and to manage mana. Here are my suggestions for healers trying this fight.

1. Privilege throughput over mana efficiency. For druids, make sure the tank has all of your hots at all times. Use Wild Growth in between tank refreshes. I alternated between targeting the MT, a select dps, and myself to hit the largest number of people.

2. Heal like mad during vortexes. If you happen to be a tree, just spam that Wild Growth or Rejuvenation and Swiftmend. When I looked at wws last night, it seemed that Rejuv actually did a lot in vortex phase even though it only targeted one person at a time. For priests, CoH seems the way to go, or else Renew. Paladins and Shamans are unfortunately out of luck here.

3. Be ready to move. Use your minimap–which looks just like a compass–to orient yourself. Anticipate your movements before you have to go. Particularly in Phase 1, you’ve got to avoid that nasty Dragon Breath. I died to this on the first attempt but then figured it out. Dragon Butt good, Dragon Head bad.

4. If you have two mana restore abilities, like potion and shadowfiend or potion and innervate, use one in mid-Phase 1 and one in mid-Phase 2. You will have a few seconds to regen at the end of Phase 1, so as Malygos approaches 50%, don’t pot.

5. It’s all right to blow through your mana in phase 2. In fact, keep everyone up at all costs. Don’t be conservative here. AoE heal, pop your cooldowns, innervate yourself–use it all. It won’t matter that you’re dry by the end–phase 3 is on dragonback.

6. Stay alive. Phase 2 is going to challenge priests and druids. When the Scions target you with Arcane Barrage, your health bar will disappear fast. Do what you can–shield, healthstone, etc–to keep yourself alive. No guarantees that your teammates will save you, or even notice that you’re being targeted. Grid doesn’t seem to be able to pick up the ability, so it’s not a situation like Rage Winterchill or Kel’Thuzad where you will receive big heals from your fellows to counter the effect.

And beyond that, good luck. I expect Conquest to beat this encounter in 1-2 weeks–just as soon as we can overcome the Interface Boss of Phase 3.

Guild Bureaucracy: 7 Ways to Cut the Crap

Guild Bureaucracy: 7 Ways to Cut the Crap

bureaucracy

Does anyone here read Zen Habits? If not, you should add it to your reader. One of Leo’s (the blogger) posts focused on Steps to Take Action and Eliminate Bureaucracy. I was so taken aback by it that I set out to try to apply a few of his concepts to my guild. There are guilds that I know of that spend so much time on organizational aspects and discussion instead of the one thing that matters the most: Action. Let me share with you a few of the steps that I’ve taken to help streamline Conquest and make it lean.

Clear goals

I lay out the objectives in advance. My guys know that on Tuesday nights, Obsidian Sanctum is the first stop followed by both Spider Wing and Plague Wing. There is no discussion before hand about what we’re going to do. It is all premeditated and there is no confusion. We are going to down this boss starting at this time, end of story.

No meetings

A lot of guilds like to have guildwide meetings or officer meetings to discuss things. That’s what forums are for. I won’t hold guildwide meetings because I know some players get bored by them or just aren’t interested. The ones that want to weigh in on an issue know to do it on the forums where it can be discussed there.

No class forums or channels

Is it really necessary to have individual class forums or channels when you only have one Resto Shaman or one Feral Druid? I decided to consolidate the different forums and communications by role instead of by class. I set up tanking forums, healing forums, and DPS forums. It shortens the overall length of the forums and players don’t feel “isolated” From one another. Tanking Paladins can chat with their Warrior and Death Knight counterparts. Holy Paladins and Priests can discuss suggestions for fights like Patchwerk.

Shared bank tab

One of the bank tabs is known as the public tab. People can deposit and withdraw stuff they need from here. Stuff in the tab are generally items of little consequence like Frostweave Cloth or Chilled Meat. People can toss crap in here for other players to withdraw if they can benefit from it. Things like Enchanting mats or more expensive items get sealed in another tab and only an officer can get to them.

Prepared boss briefings

It’s one thing to read up on a strategy. It’s another thing entirely to apply the strategy with your guild. During my spare time, I’ll modify or implement a plan A ahead of time on the forums. I’ll frequently use Photoshop to draw X’s and arrows like football players. I’ll link to strategies on WoWWiki or Bosskillers. Below that, I’ll follow it up by inserting the names of players who have specific roles. I’ll note that Sydera will be healing Brio on phase 2 of this encounter. I’ll state that Kimbo will be taking care of certain ads. It doesn’t hurt to be specific.

Empowered raiders

Using popular raiding addon oRA2, I can set it to auto invite players of a certain rank within the guild and then auto promote officers so that they have an A next to them. All of my officers automatically get one as well as the tanks for target marking. When raids start requiring CC, I’ll auto promote Mages and Shamans so they can mark their own CC targets as it becomes necessary.

Tanking discretion

My tanks have been given full authority to set the pace of the raid. The speed, rate, and amount of trash pulls are at their discretions. That doesn’t mean I can’t halt them. If the raid has a lingering curse or debuff, I’ll ask them to hold the pull. This is especially true if healers are low on mana. But for the most part, they’re on autopilot.

What other methods can you think of to make your guild or raid more lean and efficient?

Image courtesy of: ngould