Lodur is the right hand shaman to Matticus on World of Matticus, and a founding member of TotemSpot and Co-Host of RaidWarning podcast. Read more of his works at WoW Insider.

About Lodur

Lodur is the right hand shaman to Matticus on World of Matticus, and a recruiting officer of Conquest and Co-Host of For the Lore podcast. Read more of his works at WoW Insider.

First impression on raiding with fixed mana in MoP

First impression on raiding with fixed mana in MoP

So we’ve just had our first raid in MoP, Mogu’shan Vaults. It was pretty interesting from a healer perspective. Fixed mana has been one of those ultimately strange concepts from the time it was announced, and to be fair we weren’t quite sure how it would play out in a regular raid. I’m here to give you my first impressions on it, and a few opinions.

Again these are just my opinions, and my observations.

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How about a training dummy/event for healers?

OK, so there is this awesome new set of training dummies in the Mists beta that gives someone facing, raid buffs, food buffs and flask buffs, can be killed and has about 50 million health. It’s a pretty damn cool new tool for players to try to more accurately judge their DPS in a raid environment without having to actually go in to a raid. It’s a wonderful idea, a great idea and a necessary idea.

But how about one for healers?

So, lets lay it out there, healing is a stressful job, accompanied by a certain sense of anxiety and dread that accompanies healing a group for the first time. I hear horror stories of people getting booted out of instance all the time when they first start healing because they are new and not perfect. It’s a huge fear. One of the things I always suggest to new healers is to pop into a battle ground. As folks on twitter have pointed out, and I’ve agreed with for years, it helps you sort your UI, and it helps you learn some of the aspects of healing like triage. But it doesn’t teach you everything. Healing a PvP group isn’t quite the same as an instance, especially when you have to manage cooldowns and mana usage for boss mechanics, tanks, DPS and yourself.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t heal in PvP, by all means you should as it’s a great way to test out your UI, spells and what they do as well as key binds, but I still find fighting against another group of people is much different than fighting against a raid or boss design. I just want to make it clear I’m not discrediting PvP healing as a learning tool, but there’s no elegant solution to it. I mean, even Rift has healing dummies to help you gauge yourself.

Now here’s a thought that’s been on my mind for a couple months now. In The Secret World there’s a test you have to take for your preferred role to access nightmare content, and it’s called the gatekeeper. What the gatekeeper does is it forces you to respond to mechanics and use your toolkit. When I stumbled upon this I was immediately reminded of a very old class quest in Vanilla World of Warcraft , and I’m sure some of you will already know where I’m going with this.

Remember when you went for your Benediction priests? Do you remember the difficulty of that class quest and how it made you use everything you had to smartly complete the quest? It was an awesome class quest that worked within the confines of the character class at the time.

So here’s my proposal, lets have something, an event,  that you can go into that gives you NPC party members to heal and a faux boss fight. Through this, players could individually test their mettle, get logs and see if they were having issues without having to risk embarrassment or ridicule. Yes I know it’s an MMO and yes I know there are social requirements to be had, but DPS can go to a dummy and test out their numbers, why shouldn’t other classes get something similar? Why not a faux encounter like the Gatekeeper in TSW that lets you test out our abilities in relative safety. Think of how something like this could benefit healers.

Lets take that a step further, how much would something like this benefit tanks as well, or DPS. It would be an amazing boon. It would relieve so much pressure by eliminating at least partially the notion that you have to be perfect on your first time out. You could test to some extent and get an idea before ever having to walk into an instance. I would wager that if something like this was implemented there would be a lot more willing healers, and a lot more willing tanks. I can’t count how many times people in my own guild have said that they would want to try healing or tanking, but don’t want to do so in a manner that would waste someone’s time while they were learning. It’s nice to have friends to call on to learn this stuff, but sometimes they just aren’t around to help at the times you need them.

Yes you could make the argument that you can learn this while you level up and learn your abilities, but at the end of the day I’d be willing to be the amount of people that level through instances isn’t nearly as great as those that level through questing. Even though questing as a healer or tank has gotten better, it’s more often than not more effective to level as a DPS spec anyways. I’ve had healers message me for advice, and then when they get ridiculed in a 5-man or an LFR, or a new raid they just stop because while they were learning, not everyone understood that and made it twice as difficult.

The Gatekeeper system is one of the best things I’ve seen implemented into an MMO in years, it is something I would love to see re-purposed in other MMOs, if only tooled a bit differently. In our case a repeatable event or quest that lets you test yourself, your new gem setup, your new talent choices, your new reforging or just learning how spells work without the opportunity cost of failing publicly before you’re ready. Lets just make it more of an event and less of a test, make it something healers and tanks could use to get a feel for their respective roles.

Is it  a perfect solution, I can’t really say, but healers and tanks need some love too. Having a new tool for DPS to check their numbers with full raid buffs is really nice, but don’t leave out the healers and tanks, the two most stressful jobs you can choose to undertake in just about any game. I just think adding something like this would be amazing, useful, and combined with everything else at our finger tips would just further strengthen our healers and tanks, and their confidence in their roles.

I’ll write more on this later I’m sure, something more in-depth and detailed, but for now I’m curious to see what you think. Would this be something you’d like to see implemented for healers and tanks?

Lodur on Twisted Nether

Well folks, looks like this Saturday I’ll be joining the folks over at Twisted Nether for fun and shenanigans. You should make sure you free up some time and come join us, I know I would appreciate it. Taken right from their website

 

  • When is it?: This live show is scheduled for Saturday, April 14th at 8pm PT (11pm ET). Not sure what time that is for you? Use this handy-dandy time converter!
  • Where do I go? To participate on the live show, you will need to go to the TNB Live Show page to connect with the stream. See, totally easy. If you are having issues then go to the Ustream page. Don’t forget to register/login to UStream so you can chat with us!
  • Some general ground rules:
    1. Be nice. If you say very inappropriate things be aware you will be kicked from the room. We are doing this to have a great time, come with a beer, come during a raid, come how you wish, just don’t come to cause trouble.
    2. You may ask questions to the participants during the show, but we reserve the right to use them if and when we can. We will be monitoring the chat room and if we can we will use the comments during the show. We love that you are with us, but we will have to weave them in. Even if it isn’t asked, we all appreciate your questions!

So be sure to stop by and spend some time with us!

HST takes a hit

So, if you’ve looked at the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator anytime recently, you may have noticed that restoration shaman finally got an update. While I definitely like most of the changes, there’s a big change looming that I’m not quite sure what to make of it quite yet. Healing Stream Totem, our tried and true companion, is getting re-worked. It’s hard to tell whether it’s a nerf or not, but my gut instinct is that it’s going to be a nerf. So what’s changed?

Well for starters the totem is now raid wide, it is no longer restricted to group only. That’s a bonus, don’t get me wrong, and one that I think we were missing for quite sometime. So, that part I like. Currently the cost remains the same, clocking in at 3% of your base mana. The base healing number has gone up from 28 to 81, plus your spell power modifiers and talents of course. But here’s the kicker, it now only targets one person, and it will always be the lowest health person in range. That’s right folks, it’s a single target totem now. If that wasn’t enough of a kick in the teeth, the duration has also been adjusted. It is no longer 5 minutes, instead it is a 1 minute duration totem. While it still doesn’t have a cooldown, and you can cast it as often as you want, the 3% base mana cost combined with a 1 minute duration means that if you want to use it you’re going to be burning a whole lot more mana in order to keep it down.

It’s a significant change, and one that I’ve been feeling pretty keenly in the beta. Healing dungeons is a lot more active, as you can’t really rely on the passive healing anymore. It is still affected by mastery so you can now use it as a single target spike healing tool. It’s an adjustment. I’m not going to call it a nerf, but it is a noticeable change in healing behavior for us. It’s just no longer the “always keep it down totem”. My personal belief is that it is a result of us having some new tools in the water tree. Besides healing stream totem and Mana Tide Totem we have our brand new Healing Tide Totem, or rather our Tranquility. That’s an interesting tool, and I can see us using quite well. The hardest thing right now is just breaking the mentality that you HAVE to have your totems down. It just simply isn’t the case anymore.

There are a lot of other changes like the glyph’s we’ll have to work with. Some are awesome, some are meh, others are incredibly situational. I’m going to be evaluating them over the next few days, possibly in video form, so be sure to check often. If you have a specific shaman question, please feel free to ask and I’ll see if I can find out how it shakes down in Mists.

The Burden of Leadership, Lodur bares his thoughts

There are a lot of folks out there that think being in charge, or in a leadership role, of a guild is a big fun thing. You get to set permissions, invite, kick and all that other cool stuff! Truth is, at least for me, it’s another job. Being in charge means that, like at every other job, you are responsible for those beneath you and how they perform. On top of that you become involved in the day to day running of something larger than yourself. This is especially true if you are among the leadership of a raiding guild.

After leaving Unpossible after 5 long years, I had put the officer mantle in the laundry bin to be cleaned pressed and put under glass. Circumstances did not allow me to leave the mantle alone for long, and I find myself in a leadership role again. Over the last two tiers I’ve had a lot on my plate between being in game, my podcast For The Lore, still consistently writing for WoW Insider, and also writing a novel that I’m submitting for publication consideration in the following weeks. On top of various other personal things, it’s been a hell of a long year and I find myself with an over abundance of ideas on the topic of leadership in a raiding guild. So, bear with me here, because I’m about to dump my thoughts a little.

The burden
The wear and tear
The hard choices

Truthfully it wears on you over time. You have to make a lot of hard decisions that are not always easy, and certainly aren’t popular with everyone. Lets take on the topic of friendship in real life, and raiding in game. I’ve talked about it before, but it’s something that keeps rearing it’s ugly head over and over again. Being someone’s friend does not make you immune from being included in those hard choices a competitive raiding guild faces. This includes officers and the rank-and-file of the raid team. Sometimes,  you have to look at someone’s performance, and if found wanting must bench them or otherwise remove them from a fight or raid, until performance can be fixed. It’s for the good of the entire team, and the progression of the raid, and ultimately if that’s your goal that’s what matters most. Don’t take it personally, it’s not a slight against you as a person, it’s just that the numbers aren’t where they need to be. I’ll use myself as an example here.

Firelands was not very kind to restoration shaman. The fights were ones that didn’t let us take advantage of our strengths and as a result other healers tended to do better than us. In our raid team, there were many fights where I would sit myself for the other healers because they were that good and the numbers worked out better. I did the same thing with the second restoration shaman in our group. Do I think I’m a crappy healer? Do I think the other restoration shaman just sucks? No, I don’t, it was just better numbers to configure our raid healers a different way to optimize success.

When you have to bench someone who is a friend of yours, especially in real life, sometimes it’s hard for that person not to be upset by it. I understand that, I get that, but it’s not personal. It’s not that they aren’t your friend, or that you suck at the game, it’s just that things needed to be done a different way. It’s not an easy decision to make, but sometime’s it’s the necessary one You have to separate the leader from the friend when those decisions are handed down the same way you would if your friend was your boss at your 9-5 job. It’s not easy, but it is what it is.

A sellers market
Make your own choices
Evaluate your position

There’s a saying that “it’s my game time and I’ll play how I want to play.” That’s all good and true, I mean you are paying to play the game. Consider, however, that you might not be in the best place to play the game the way you want to. A progression raiding group is going to be looking for a pretty solid set of criteria.  These include, but are not limited to the following

  • Are you willing to change your spec, gearing, chants and reforging to a more optimal setup?
  • Are you willing to play a spec you don’t normally play?
  • Are you willing to be benched if it’s for the good of the team?
  • Are you open to criticism about your performance and information to help attempt to improve your output?

If you answer no to any of these, then you should probably not try to get into a progression raiding guild. If you don’t want to budge on how you play your game it’s just not the right environment for you. Blizzard has made a big deal out of “bring the player, not the class, or spec or cooldown” etc. For the most part that’s true, but when you’re edging into hard mode encounters, or sometimes just a normal encounter in itself, and you want to get through it quickly and efficiently, then it simply isn’t always the case. See above where I benched myself for the good of the raid on a fight. No matter what, there’s always going to be an optimal setup. Whether it’s a raid full of paladins, or nothing but druid healers in a group, there will always be a tweak. Can you do the fights without the optimal group? Sure, but it becomes harder and harder as you progress through content. Sounds counter intuitive, but I assure you it’s true.

Another truth here is that right now it’s a sellers market. What do I mean by that? Cataclysm has royally screwed recruitment over pretty badly. Finding new members to add to your guild  can be a pain and prove rather difficult, especially when you’ve something specific in mind. It’s not that “beggars can’t be choosers” or anything of that nature, but a progression raiding guild might not be keen on accepting that applicant in normal Cataclysm blues and can’t spell their own name when the group is trying to kill heroic Deathwing. There’s a guild for everyone out there, and you need just look if you want to play a particular way that you aren’t allowed to where you are.

LFR
Doing what it takes
Better for the guild as a whole

This is something of a recent development, and something that irked me a little bit. A lot of guilds out there do LFR weekly as a group in order to obtain set bonuses for raiders, gear up new recruits and sometimes just to get a feel for the fight. It makes sense really, it’s an easy way to gear up and see the fights, and still have a bit of a safety net. Hell, my guild even did it for a few weeks to get some set bonuses in action. As a group we were going to go in, and just pound out the 8 bosses on LFR and then go back and do normal raiding. With the raid as geared as it was, LFR should have been easy and would do nothing but help everyone.

What got me about it was that some folks just simply said no and refused to participate in the LFR runs, even if it would help them and the raid as a group. I understand having a preference, I myself am not a huge fan of LFR any longer, but even I showed up for those runs because it allowed people to gear up, see fights and did nothing but raise the entire guild higher and help with normal raiding. What got me was that those same people wanted priority on invites to the normal raid, and expected to get the normal equivalent gear. When neither happened, they complained.

Not going to say someone should be forced into doing something they don’t want to do, but the way it was handled was bad. Immaturely logging out, refusal to listen to reason, and claiming that there wasn’t anything in it for them so they wouldn’t do it. Even when it was needed most, refusing to help the guild by tagging along. Like above, you have to be willing to give a little, especially in a group who wants to accomplish progression raiding. Sometimes you’ll be asked to do something you don’t want to do to help the group. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet, and if you can’t, then maybe you’re in the wrong place.

In the end

This is what’s been on my mind for two tiers now. Working out ways to do what needs to be done, and convey that the decisions aren’t personal, that the raid group as a whole is a larger organism thriving on everyone in the group working to the same means. It’s hard sometimes. It’s frustrating, and borderline infuriating some nights. But, it is what it is. At the end of the day, it’s the officers who bear an incredible amount of burden. Now, I’m not quitting or burning out mind you, just needed to gather my thoughts and get them out “on paper” so to speak. I appreciate my raiders and the ones that not only give me their all but also do more than that. The ones that send me funny tells in raid to keep me laughing or just making sure we’re progressing, I appreciate their actions and what they do for us the officer corp, and for the raid group as a whole.  Sorry for the brain-dump folks, but hope you enjoyed a glimpse into the skull of ol’ Lodur here.

Did Cataclysm fail?

So, you’ve probably seen a number of these posts around lately, and to be honest you shouldn’t be too terribly surprised. We’re at the end of a cycle, with the last raid tier coming out soon and people already looking forward to the next expansion and the promise of bouncing pandas. The topic lately is whether or not that Cataclysm has failed as an expansion.

I figured the time is right for me to chime in on the topic, and I promise you it will be relevant to the site.

Healing Design

At the onset of the expansion, there were some very bold statements made about healing as a whole. They basically amounted to the following;

  • Shaman are the healing model that all healers will follow
  • Triage healing is vastly more important and mana is a concern
  • healing will be a lot harder and require smart decision making

So, in this regard did Cataclysm succeed or fail? Well to me the answer here is two fold. They both succeeded and failed at the same time. At the start of the expansion healing was definitely harder, mana consumption was much more of a concern and shaman healing really was the model when it came to triage healing. Note how I said at the start of the expansion. There was a bit of a problem though, once you started getting a pretty good head of steam going and gathered your gear the “model” started to fall apart. Spirit levels and regen abilities after heroic dungeon gearing were enough that some healing classes could just completely ignore the healing model. I’m casually whistling in innocence as I look at Mana Tide Totem from a year ago, I assure you. The problem exacerbated itself when some healing classes’ masteries got tweaked, and raid gear started circulating.

At this point, triage healing isn’t really used unless you’re just starting out, and some healing classes are just blowing others out of the water causing a lot of internal debate among raiding groups as to what the best healing setup really is now. Things are shaping up to be better in tier 13, but the healing model through tier 12 I would venture to say hangs at the edge of failure. We’ve been assured that the healing model will remain in tact for the next expansion, but only time will tell if that is true especially when adding a new healing class into the mix next expansion.

Guild advancement and recruiting

The new expansion brought with it the guild advancement system. Guilds earned experience points based on questing and the activity of the guild members involved. The guild was able to level up from level 1 to level 25 carrying various rewards such as XP boosts, mount speed increases and even alchemy patterns for flasks for the entire raid. It also came with some other perks like Heirloom gear helmet and cape slot items, mounts and pets as well as a Mass Teleport and Mass Resurrection. Honestly guild advancement was a huge success as far as adding perks to guilds that get rolling and stick to it and work together. Guild achievements also added nicely to this and added a further sense of accomplishment to a guild in certain respects.

The problem is that the success of the guild advancement system, however, in my eyes became a contributing factor in a problem that this expansion has had that I haven’t seen in either of the previous ones. Stagnant recruiting. Recruiting flat-out sucks right now to be honest. Any losses from people leaving the guild or leaving the game become increasingly difficult to replace. Let us face a simple truth, the game has been around for over 6 years at this point. People are taking a break. Maybe not out-right quitting, but they’re definitely going to start taking some vacation from Azeroth around this time. Before Cataclysm, replacing losses wasn’t nearly as difficult. I attribute this partly to the guild perk system. When a player leaves a guild, they lose all reputation they’ve gained with that guild. They then start from scratch just like with any other reputation when they join a new guild.

So the problem is that a lot of the guild perks don’t kick in unless you’re Honored with your guild. This can be a very unattractive prospect, especially when you consider there is a weekly cap to the reputation you can gain. Not only can swapping guilds be a daunting task on its own, but when you combine in extra things like rep to earn it adds to the heap. So, people are staying put in whatever guild they are in for the most part. Guild mergers seems much more frequent now, where whole groups of people make the commitment one way or another, but recruitment is certainly at an all time low.

Raid design, gear options, and accomplishing goals

This is another measuring stick by which to judge the success or failure of the current expansion. Raid design was a bit different this go around. In Wrath, all of the raid tiers were contained to one single zone. You didn’t have to go from place to place in order to see all of a raid tier.  In Cataclysm, the starting raid tier was divided between not one, not two but three different locations to contain all of the bosses and events. Honestly though, I think that served to make things a little better. Having different locations broke up the monotony of raiding in one single zone for however many hours a week. Some of the mechanics were fun, and the boss fights had the potential to give you at least some challenge. Overall I’d say it was a good tier. It reminded me of Burning Crusade where tier 4 and tier 5 were divided between different zones in different locations, breaking the long dredges through BWL that we were used to at this point.

The use of valor points to purchase tier gear, as well as off set items, was a smart move at first. It allowed a certain gear gating of the content as players had to earn their valor points to purchase the raid gear. Keeping a few pieces as raid drops only also made perfect sense. It eliminated the fighting over tokens at least a little bit, and while it could be annoying have to wait to restock your valor, it served it’s purpose well enough I think. Listening to the developers at BlizzCon it would appear that they too really liked how tier 11 worked out and will be continuing that style of breaking up the raids going into Mists.

One of the goals for Cataclysm was to reignite the fire the propelled the game to 12 million subscribers and get people excited about the game. New graphics throughout the world, Azeroth split and changed. Entire zones looking completely different and completely different starting zones and quests for the races of Azeroth. Well, this was both successful and a failure at the same time. The new starting zones did reignite the flame somewhat, but mostly in people with alt creation.  Some old players did come back to check out the new zones and explore some of the new content, but it didn’t quite have the kick that it originally intended. Subscriber rates pretty much stayed the same, and the number of active toons remained about the same as well. It just didn’t quite have the shakeup that was expected.

So what is it? Success or Failure?

Well, that’s the whole point of this post right? The big question. Is Cataclysm a success or a failure? The answer is honestly both. There are things that Cata did exceptionally well, and things that it fell behind on. To be honest a lot of the goals were pretty damn lofty from the get go. It was ambitious and new things were tried, combined with old things that we knew worked. Not everything was ever going to be achieved just based on the pure scope of the original intent. There were things it did well, and things it didn’t do quite so well. That said it was hardly the failure that some folks seem to think. The content is still there, there is still plenty of value in the game, and for a game that is going to be rapidly approaching the age  of 7 they can boast a lot of good things. The game hasn’t really lost too many subscribers and is going strong. Oh and they still get my money every month, and I signed up for my hear subscription with free Diablo 3 “phone”.

So what do you think?

MoP Shakes up healing, Lodur’s thoughts

Well folks, it’s been a while, since I posted. Life has been quite busy for this little shaman. Things are calming down so you’ll see me posting more often (hopefully!). The past week was BlizzCon 2011, a fine time for everyone who got to go. For those of your readers I got to meet, it was an absolute pleasure! Shaking hands with readers is always fun, and sharing a drink with them is even better. Possibly one of the most exciting bits of news was the announcement of the new Mists of Pandaria! Not only will we finally get to play as our kung-fu pandas that we’ve been waiting for since the days of WC3, but it will bring with it a new class, the Monk.

The Monk class is an important addition to the World of Warcraft game for many reasons. Chief among them it is a hybrid class capable of filling all roles in the holy trinity of MMORPG; Tanking, DPS and Healing. This marks the third class capable of all three roles, with the other two being Druids (OP!) and Paladins.  The monk class promotes active playing. It’s a twitch class, and will be in all of it’s roles. While in DPS there is no auto attack, so you will constantly be hitting buttons. In tanking that will still be the same, and in healing well that’s where things get interesting.

Healing for a monk is not just about playing green bar whack-a-mole. The healing monk will be an incredibly active monk. Weaving into close combat to keep their orbs charged and then running around the raid/group to place healing statues or cast effects. It makes use of the monks base abilities of tumbling  and generally being a high mobility class while making you do things like deal damage or do other non-specific healing things to generate healing power. Well, that sounds pretty familiar to me, I mean this is exactly the type of healing I was talking about in March of 2010 here on the site!

It will not be your grandfather’s healing, or at least that’s the idea behind it. Since we’re still in an alpha phase, things will likely change. I personally hope they won’t. I revel in the idea of an active healer. I love the idea of being a hybrid and having to do different things in my role as a healer. I really think that it’s about time that something like this was brought into the world of warcraft as well, if for no other reason than the fact that other games are doing this as well.

T.E.R.A Online will promote active healing. Healing classes there will not just have to do multiple things besides healing in combat, they will actually have to actively target their spells for them to heal. No more just clicking an interface and a key, you will have to duck dive dip and dodge while healing, and target the right person too!  Healers in SWTOR will be healers with teeth, capable of not only healing those around them but fulfilling other roles as well. The Smuggler combat medic smacks of a billy bad-ass that runs around with wookies and will make sure you don’t die… for a price.

The point is, that the future of healing classes in games is moving away from the tried and true method of select unit frame, select spell, and to see the adoption of this in WoW in the next expansion speaks volumes to me of the IP’s survive-ability. The willingness to adapt to the market is important, and to me is exciting.

I play a healer in every game I play that allow it. I love healing, it is my passion in gaming outside of story. I’ve been healing a long time though, so anything that mixes up the normal click and click method of healing to me is exciting. Making me throw punches to charge up my healing? I’m OK with that. Making me have to run around and place my healing wards to actually heal things? I’m OK with that too. Don’t get me wrong, I love healing on my shaman, it’s always a lot of fun for me, but something like this has me seriously considering the possibility of switching to a monk to heal. It depends greatly on execution and how it feels being a healer in the expansion with the class, but I can honestly say I haven’t been this excited in a long time. I can certainly tell you that the vast majority of my play time when I get my beta access to MoP will be playing with the monk healing style to see how I like it.

So, what do you think? Does the idea of monk healing excite you? Do you think it’s silly and hate it? Do you bring PANDAMONIUM!?

Firelands Nerf, a day later: Lodur’s thoughts

When we first received news of the incoming nerf, I was already on edge. I hate nerfs. I made it a point to help push my raid teams through boss fights before nerfs. Kael’thas died the night before he was nerfed into the ground. Sadly though, I didn’t get to accomplish this goal with firelands. This isn’t for lack of trying mind you. For the last several weeks I’ve been working with the guild trying to sure up lines and push through the content. I’ve been a busy shaman, to say the least.

So, the day of the great nerf has come and gone, and in the aftermath we’re left looking at what was done. Conquest mounted up and dove into firelands yesterday, and toppled every single boss, save Raggy, in just about an hour and a half. Seriously. Raid started at 9pm est, by 10:30pm we were already looking at Rag. This includes a few breaks to make roster adjustments to get in some new recruits. That’s just insane. We had the numbers, but you have to actually do the content to appreciate exactly how much the nerf bat hit firelands. I’ll be honest at the end of the night, I was quite a bit saddened by it.

Nothing is quite as demoralizing as walking into a raid and just breathing on bosses and having them fall over. While this seems like a bit of an exaggeration, I assure you that’s how it felt. Sure you can still die to mechanics if you don’t know what you’re doing, but it just felt weak compared to a day before. I sat at my computer afterwards and I was just kindda looking at the computer screen and my character. Things have changed, certainly in Cataclysm, but sometimes you just have to sit back and look at it. I mean really look at it.

In ICC, when things were getting “nerfed” we had the option of actually turning the buff off and going about the content as originally intended. It was something that I know my group utilized. We allowed the buff for farm content but turned it off if we had a progression boss or a new recruit we were trying to break in. The point is that we had the option to utilize it or not. I thought it was a fantastic way to go about it. Giving your players the choice as to whether or not they want to get a sweeping buff that helped topple content. After all, as a player I value nothing higher than choice. Choice of what bosses to do, in what order, choice of spec and gear, and honestly choice on whether or not to deal with buffed / nerfed content.

So after the raid and again this morning I’m sitting here wondering why Firelands didn’t get a similar style of handling the nerf. The flat reduction in boss health, boss damage and add health was fairly substantial. Substantial enough that each boss kill felt a bit hollow to me. I would have loved to have had the option to turn the nerf on or off, but as it stood looking at the last boss at an hour and a half into the raid was just a bit much. Mana was not an issue, not even close, I don’t think I used my Mana Tide Totem more than twice the entire night. Healing was such a non issue that for a good chunk of the night we were running 5 healers on a 25 man raid, and even then I spent more time throwing lightning bolts than having to heal. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to stop raiding or anything like that. I’m eagerly waiting for patch 4.3 and the next raid tier. I just felt very contemplative over this nerf.

So a day later what do you think about it?  How did it affect your raid? 

Circle of Healing: Lodur version 4.2

Matt beat me too it, but I too felt it was about time to do one of these again.  A while ago, the circle of healing was started as a way of members of the community to share information about themselves will everyone else in the blog-o-sphere. It has been so long, in fact, that many updates and an expansion have come along since I last filled this out! So, I guess it’s time for an update, as many things have in fact changed for me. For example, I’m no longer on Zul’jin, instead now I’m on Ner’Zhul.

Name, class and spec: [A] Lodur, Restoration Shaman (Ner’zhul)

What is your primary group healing environment? 25 man progression raiding

What is your favorite healing spell for your class and why?

If I had to pick one it would have to be Spirit Link Totem. If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you’ll know that I’ve had a love affair with this spell since it was first conceptualized in the beta for Wrath of the Lich King. I’ve fawned over it, lamented it’s removal from the game, and celebrated (actually through a party IRL) the re-integration of this amazing spell back into our arsenal in Cataclsym. I’ve been finding new ways to use it and ways to combine it with other spells like Rallying Cry and Power Word: Barrier in various encounters for new and awesome results. I think though, that it really is my favorite not because of it’s versatility, but because I have been crusading for the spell to be brought back since it was removed. Funnily enough, putting it from a spell we cast into a totem to add a limitation to it was one of the very first things I ever fired off towards Blizzard years ago. I love me some totems.

What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?

If you asked me in the last tier of content I would have said Greater Healing Wave. Now though, I honestly don’t know. Every spell we have has a place in each encounter. It’s not like we have a huge toolkit (though it has been expanded over the years). If I had to just pick a spell that is classified under healing but I never use, it would probably be Totem of Tranquil Mind. It’s a water totem, water is the shaman element of healing, therefore I classify it as a healing spell. I just never use the damn thing. Compared to Mana Spring Totem or Healing Stream Totem, it’s just always outclassed. Honestly, give me back my damn Sentry Totem! At least I used that.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why?

Versatility. Shaman are capable of going from single target healing to group healing without really having to worry about switching gear or stats. While some stats are preferable for each role, we are capable of swapping on the fly and that lends us a certain strength. Combine that with a new defensive cooldown that cuts through healing reducing effects and well, we’re just one awesome healing class.

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why?

Unlike other classes our mastery is good/bad in a cycle. Beginning of a tier, or at the start of hardmodes, shaman mastery is a champ. After that however, it sort of becomes the redheaded stepchild in lieu of throughput stats like haste and crit. Other classes benefit from their masteries pretty much all the time, where ours only really gets the lime light if someone messes up and takes a ton of damage, or the raid as a whole is failing. It actually gets worse as players skill and gear improve. What’s up with that?

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you?

Raid healing. I’m a roll healer by desire, I love placing Healing Rains, rolling Riptide and Chain Heal and keeping up as many people as I can through some ridiculous damage. I do well at it and I enjoy it. I also think I excel at special assignment healing, such as healing the kiting team for heroic Magmaw, that was just a blast.

Which healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why?

Toss up between Druid and Priest. There’s a lot of synergy there between the way druids and shaman heal together, as well as both flavors of priest. Hymns, barrier, Tranquility and crazy HoTs, they all seem to compliment shaman healing quite well.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why?

Paladins, for the pure petty reason that they stole my Healing Stream mechanic! no honestly its just because of the difference in healing styles. I have a hard time working around paladins most of the time because they just feel like a brute force healing class where as the others feel more delicate or graceful.  No offense to any paladins out there, I know they are exciting to play, I just can’t get the image of a paladin busting his holy book over someone’s head while screaming “BE HEALED BY THE LIGHT” out of my mind.

What is your worst habit as a healer?

My worst habit? That’s a tough one. If I had to pick one it would be stopping healing on a wipe. I just can’t do it. I reflexively continue to heal until it finally clicks in my brain “oh, wait, wipe. Stop healing now!”. Partially this stems from a raid I was in years ago where the Raid Leader called a wipe and I told healers to keep going. We healed through a metric ton of damage and actually beat the boss. It was something that kind of defines me. Till the very last, I’m on the front lines healing your dudes. Whether it’s called for or not >.>

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing?

Matt said it, and I’m going to echo it. Getting blamed for healing problems when it’s not a healing problem. There seems to be this mindset, recently even more so than before, that any problem can be solved by obtaining better healers. Sure, sometimes the healers are messing up or need to tighten up, but rarely is it actually a bad healer.  Too often are healers judged purely on meters and raw numbers. Sure World of Logs analysis plays a part in evaluating a healers performance, but unlike DPS being the top of the charts in healing isn’t always a good thing. There are always different factors to consider such as the fight, healing assignment , class of the healer as well as the healing team in the raid. Everyone is quick to blame healers, when DPS standing in the wrong spot can cause a wipe just as much as low healing.

I’ve been healing a long time. I’ve been writing here, my own blog and at WoW Insider now for quite sometime. I got to these places as a healer trying to explain healing to other healers. That’s tough enough some days, but try explaining it to non healers sometime. That’s a brick wall that’s hard to crack most of the time.

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing?

Yes. Shaman were used as the “model for healing” this expansion, so we’ve always been a viable class / spec. Even when our numbers weren’t perfect we were still doing well. Now with recent adjustments we’re right about where we need to be and I think we are pretty well balanced.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer

To evaluate my own performance I’ll go through World of Logs and check to make sure my spell usage is consistent with the encounter and my assignment in the encounter. If it is not, then that’s usually my cue to change what I’m doing.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class?

Honestly, I’m kind of tired of hearing the phrase “shaman can’t heal this”. I have yet to fail in any healing assignment. Just because I don’t top the meter doesn’t mean I can’t heal something. All the classes are capable of all the healing roles. True some may be better than others, but nothing quite gets under my skin like the statement that I CAN’T heal something because I’m a shaman.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new healers of your class to learn?

Getting rid of healer tunnel vision. New healers are rarely aware of their own health totals, and you can usually tell how long a healer has been healing by how quickly they react to incoming damage. Whether it’s healing themselves or blowing a cooldown to survive it tends to be a tell-tale sign. That habit is hard to kick, and it’s because of that I love any addon that lets you put your own health in an easily visible place, or ones like GTFO which audibly alerts you to incoming damage or spell effects.

If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a healer via recount, what sort of patterns would they see?

That I tend to pace my healing for long fights. I’m a long sight healer. I try to make sure I’m using the most cost effective heal for the job. So my throughput might not be as high as some of the other healers in the group, but I make sure I have mana to continuously heal through a fight, unlike a certain dwarf priest. Also that I cast Lightning Bolt quite a bit!

Haste or Crit and why?

The new 4.2 crit giving 200% healing is nice, but I’ll still pick haste first every time. Haste is just so good when it comes to pumping out the healing, and getting to each haste plateau does nothing but improve my healing and help increase the effectiveness I bring to a raid. That’s right folks, I’m a haste junkie!

What addons or macros do you use to aid you in healing?

Aside from a focus macro for Earth Shield and ones to keep me from casting Heroism or Mana Tide when not in combat, the only really healer centric thing I use for myself is Grid. I have it completely configured to show me exactly what I need to know for every member of the raid.

Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats or do you stack some much higher than others and why?

I try to hit the haste caps (916 and now 2005) and then after that I maintain balance between my primary healing stats. Haste just gives me so much more throughput on pretty much everything that I can’t ignore it.  I then adjust the rest of my stats according to the tier of content or fight, but generally try to maintain a balance.

That’s it for me on this circle of healing patch 4.2 edition. Normally I would tag individuals, but instead I’m going to tag the entire restoration shaman community as well as anyone who follows me on twitter, or on google +. This also goes for any of the readers out there with blogs of their own! Consider yourselves tapped for this Circle of healing, and I completely expect posts from you guys!

Battle.net Authenticator Changes, Don’t Panic!

So in-case you missed it, there was a recent change to how our accounts are authenticated, here it is again for you again if you didn’t see it.

If you use an authenticator – and we hope you do – you may soon notice that an authenticator prompt may not appear with every login. We’ve recently updated our authentication system to intelligently track your login locations, and if you’re logging in consistently from the same place, you may not be asked for an authenticator code. This change is being made to make the authenticator process less intrusive when we’re sure the person logging in to your account is you.

We hope to continue improving the authenticator system to ensure the same or greater security, while improving and adding features to make having one a more user friendly experience. If you don’t already have a Battle.net Authenticator attached to your account, don’t wait until it’s too late – http://us.battle.net/en/security/checklist

Well, this statement has raised quite a few questions. Many of us in the gaming community work in Information Technology / Information Security, and we are quite honestly interested in having more information on this.

Now before I get started I want to have a note here that the information after this point will represent a more general view of internet protocol. This is not intended to be a tech manual, just the musings of an internet worker who is also a gamer.

There are a couple ways that you might authenticate a computer at a physical location. One is by authenticating the public IP address that is reaching out to the login server. If you see multiple requests from the same IP in a short period of time, you can assume this is the same person to a certain degree. This works in part because IPs are purchased by ISP’s and assigned to a specific region. After that, you as the user rent the IP with a lease sort of like renting an apartment. If you have a static IP, you have a “permanent” lease on that particular IP. If you use a DHCP service, like cable internet, it may change based on what’s available. Every time you get a new IP, it’s from your local region and the local pool. It could also authenticate by not only your public IP address, but also your computers MAC address. A MAC address is a unique identifier that all networking devices have. Think of it like a social security number for your computer. Each one is unique per device. There is however a couple potential problems; IP’s / MAC addresses can be spoofed. Not that it’s something you should be worried about all the time, but it is a fact that it can happen. Also if you have a Dynamic IP and it solely authenticates by the address, every time your IP changes it could cause issues.

Another manner is the creation of software tokens that are placed on client end at the point of logging in. Essentially you log in to your account and a software token, or marker of a successful login, is created on your machine to further authenticate you. By doing this it can validate the token on your machine instead of requiring you to to punch in your authenticator code every time.  The potential problem with software tokens is that if your system is compromised due to trojans or other methods, it could result in a compromising of the security token. Again, while this isn’t something to worry about all the time, but it does happen.

There are several other methods you could use, but those are probably the easiest.

So what method is Blizzard using? Well I decided to perform a little experiment last night to see what I could gleam as far as information goes. Since I work for an ISP in my daily Clark Kent style life I have access to a few things that I can do easily (and legally) to perform a simple test.

Step one was to pick a new IP. I changed my IP to one available from a local pool in the lovely state of Wisconsin. I logged into my Bnet account, it asked for my authenticator normally. I logged out for a period of time, roughly 15 minutes, logged back in and it did not ask me for my Authenticator.

Step two was to change back to a local IP address from back in good old NY state. I logged into my bnet account, and it asks me for my authenticator code. I logged out for another 15 minutes and then logged back in and it did not ask me for my authenticator.

Step three was to repeat step one, but this time after it did not ask me for my authenticator I logged out and completely shut down and restarted the computer. Logging back in required me to use my authenticator. I repeated the steps with a local IP with the same results. Continuing this process multiple times confirmed the same results, each time with different IPs.

From this incredibly simple experiment it would seem that the new authentication process is using a combination of validating your IP either for location, consistency, or potentially both as well as potentially a software token on your machine validating it after a successful login. Every time you cold boot your computer it will remove temporary data, including any software tokens created. Whether or not this is actually how Blizzard is doing it, we won’t know unless they say something.

There are a couple things that confuse me slightly. First is that there was no prior announcement to the change going live rather than it just appearing. I’m wondering if this is a knee-jerk reaction to the recent string of hacker invasions going on across the blog-o-sphere. Second the lack of explanation of the process is concerning, not the exact process per say, but knowledge that this was carefully thought out and not hastily implemented would be comforting, as well as hearing the reasons for the change. Lastly is that there is no option to opt out of it, it just happens. If nothing else I am a creature of habit, and I like typing in my authenticator code every single time. It’s a preference, but it’s something that I would like to have the option to continue doing.

So in the end, while my first reaction to the change was not a positive one, I feel much better about it after my simple experiment. At the very least we know that they are checking for multiple factors before just allowing you to log in. While on a professional level I would love to know more about the process they are using, I don’t think it’s anything we should be too overly worried about. Now if only we could get that pesky opt in/out toggle…