It Came From the PUG: Could you turn that macro off?

Recently, Mike Sacco wrote about how kindness in a PUG pays off. In truth it does, quite a bit. Taking a little time to explain fights, and explain CC and such to new players is always a good idea. After all, we were all noobs once right? Let me give you an example from my recent travels.

I’ve been leveling my hunter now that I’ve started raiding on the Shaman. Lodur is Justice Point capped, and there’s nothing more for him to buy or really do except the daily heroic for Valor Points. I queue for a random dungeon on the hunter with a guildie while I’m questing, and after about 30 minutes, we get Vortex Pinnacle. The tank, the healer and the other DPS are all from different servers. As we start the instance, the tank asks us if we’ve been here before, because he has not. Before we even make the first pull he asks what we can CC in the group, and what marks everyone wants as their own personal CC marker. The healer admits he’s never been here before and asks that we keep him apprised of any surprises before we encounter them.

I’m floored at this point. Weeks of PUGs have left me slightly jaded with tanks careening in ignoring or breaking CC, and just leaving me awful messes to clean up. The communication in this group was absolutely flawless. We walked the paladin healer through the encounters, and the tank’s main was actually a holy pally so he spent some time explaining spells and stats for the healer. It was honestly the most informative, and best communicating group I’d been in to date. Because there were clear lines of communication and education, the run was smooth, having zero wipes, and was truly just enjoyable. My other guildie commented to me at the end of the run that it was the “Best damn group” he had had since Cataclysm’s release.

Now, while being patient and communicating is always a good thing, there comes times you have to draw a line in the ground so to speak. Take for an example a daily heroic I did with Lodur just recently. I was set to heal, and was able to pull three DPS from the guild, but no tank. We queue up in the LDG tool and get Heroic SFK as our instance, and a tank that had very, very low health. To put this into perspective, fully buffed Lodur sports around 115-116k health. This tank, a warrior, had 119k health fully buffed. Now, I honestly gave this guy a chance. I already know he juked the system to be able to queue for heroics, but hey, maybe he’s actually good right?

We set our CC marker out, and shackles go out, stuns hit home, and the tank charges right in and breaks all CC. He promptly dies. We run out, reset, come back in. He hasn’t even released. I res him up, and we politely explain that he needs to not break CC or he will die. He says he understands, but low and behold on the very same pull he charges in and breaks CC. I try one last time to explain to him about CC and he just leaves group. We re-queue and get another tank, this time we get a DK tank with 160k HP. Already looking better, he’s got the requisite tank gear and looks like he should have a handle on what’s going on.

We go in, and make it to the first boss. First boss goes down, and we start making our way to the second boss through the courtyard. The pulls go very well until right before entering the kitchen. The tank decides he’s going to pull the adds on him into the kitchen, aggroing the pack of servant, the cooks and everything in between. Needless to say it’s a wipe. We explain to him he’s got to slow down a little and watch what he pulls giving CC time to go off and healing time to situate. His only reply is to go careening back into the packs. At this point either the person is just very dense, or being an ass on purpose. We kick him from the group and the last one makes it all the way through.

Another good example of how patience pays off also takes place in heroic SFK. Me and a guildie queue up for a random, get SFK and the tank is a warrior, who looks right about where they should be on health and gear. Before we start the pulls the warrior says “Hey I’m a little rusty at tanking so any help will be appreciated.” We start our pulls and everything goes really well. We explain the first and second boss and make our way to the third boss of the instance. Most people hate that boss, it is arguably one of the hardest to manage in all of the heroics right now. There’s just a lot going on. We explain the fight and the mechanics and mark the adds. We explain what to avoid and how to move around it etc. Full run down. First pull winds up in a wipe, tank gets smeared and we release and run back in. Tank asks what went wrong and how he can improve it. We go over what happened and find out he can’t see the desecration. We walk him through enabling projected textures, and pull again. This pull goes way way better, and we get the boss to about half before the adds start running wild. After we recover from the wipe, the tank asks again what he can do to fix the problem. We develop a strategy that has the tank running from door to door picking up adds. After the boss dies on the third attempt, I’m ecstatic, and the tank is ridiculously happy.

Right there, simple communication and patience beat the hardest boss in the zone. So there’s a moral to this story, next time someone is doing something wrong, or maybe doing it in a way that isn’t the ideal way, take a minute or two and try explaining to them calmly and clearly how to do it or offer suggestions to improve the outcomes. Be constructive in your criticism and pay attention to how you say it to them. A little patience and kindness can lead to a smoother run. Now if they wont listen or are just jerks well… there is a kick button for a reason.

As an added bonus, I’ve begun livestreaming my exploits in the LFG system late night, and early on Sundays and Mondays. Check my Twitter for when the streams start, or periodically swing by my Livestream Channel.

The Life of a Confused Priest: From Healing to DPS and back!

This is a guest post from my friend Synysta about breaking stereotypes and enjoying the game. -Lodur

My main Synysta is a Priest. She’s been many races and factions, but currently she is a Blood Elf. I think I can see the rotten tomatoes flying in my direction from the Alliance- I must duck! /cast Power Word: Shield

I’ve been playing a Priest for several years now as I rolled her at the beginning of BC and back then I did it just for kicks. The guild I was part of at the time was in desperate need of a healer and as we all know, the Priest is the archetypical healer in World of Warcraft. Was I aware of what I was letting myself in for, or was I aware of how much fun I was going to have? Absolutely not. I was a total newbie in the beginning, I hadn’t got a clue how the game worked and my experience with the universe of Azeroth was limited to Warcraft II and Warcraft III. So in I jumped, feet first and grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns. How hard could playing a Priest be?

I can hear all the Priests laughing as I typed that. As I have found out in my few years of playing the class, there’s a lot more to a Priest than you would imagine on face value. So I rolled the toon, picking Draenei as my initial class and starting as a Level 1 on the island of Azuremist. I did a few quests till level 10, smiting my way through the mobs and casting Renew and Gift of the Naaru on myself. Of course, I never realized how useful the shield could be until around level 65. Dumb? You betcha. I soon discovered dungeon healing and found I actually had a talent for healing the unclean, unwashed masses. The levels flew by and I was soon standing in Borean Tundra, dinging Level 70. Then I discovered ‘The Dark Side’.

Shadow DPS was an absolute riot and a half for me. I found that not only was I a capable Holy Priest but also a capable Shadow Priest. Now, I am aware that this is World of Matticus and I know that this is a Healing blog…but as someone who has played both sides of the coin as a Priest, I just want to say that no one should ever feel pigeonholed to heal- just because you are a Priest. It’s like saying a Warrior should only tank or a Paladin should DPS. It’s the stereotypical choice to go that path, sure…but it isn’t your only choice.

As a Shadow Priest, I was constantly bombarded from all angles about how I should heal and constant pressure was ladled onto me as I fought hard and strong on staying Shadow. Sadly, I was constantly forced to be a healer when Dual Specialization was introduced. From my early days of raiding Naxxramas through to Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel, most of my raid leaders or Guild Leaders were okay with me being a Shadow Priest but the more I held onto my new identity, the more people would try to shove me in the opposite direction. From here I decided to bite the bullet and learn to be a healer again. I leveled as a Holy Priest and had so many years of that I decided it was time for a change. So Discipline was the chosen way of the Light for me.

Having fun with Discipline has been a challenge for me. It took me a very long time for me to master it and then when Cataclysm came along and turned Healing on its head, I found myself struggling and gasping for mana like a fish out of water- flipping and sputtering around on its back. I soon learned that it was because of my gear. In Wrath of the Lich King, Discipline Priests would get mana returns through crit based heals and the use of Power Word: Shield. I never once had to sit to drink or use Shadowfiend, or even Hymn of Hope. I would watch Holy Priests seem to have a lot more issues with it than I ever did. I suppose that I really took it for granted as when Deathwing blew a giant hole in the side of the world…he seemed to blow a giant hole in the side of my mana pool too. Starting off with a 42k mana pool in my 25 man ICC gear, I thought that I was pro. I thought that I could stroll into Blackrock Caverns like the cat that had gotten the big bowl of cream. I soon found out how very wrong I was. Lets just say that panic was definitely the order of the day when 42k mana would vanish in a matter of seconds before my very eyes. It was like Pacman attacking my blue bar, OM NOM NOM NOM. I screamed. I panicked. I thought it was me. So I asked Matticus what to do. He told me to use the Heal spell more. And actually that seemed to work.

As my gear got better, I found that my mana pool doubled in size and with the added intellect and spirit, my mana gains seemed to return to normal and my anxiety levels seemed to drop. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no superstar healer but honestly- practice really does make perfect. I’ve seen Priests get so many changes since the early days of BC and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. Sure, I’ve pulled out my hair in clumps and given myself heart palpitations but I really do love the challenge of relearning my character and class.

I recently leveled a Holy Paladin up to 80 too. 85 and healing though? That could well be for another time. Same place, same heart attacks. But as for the Priest? I still love DPS. It’s a nice change for when I can’t be bothered with the PUG’s ;)

Healing so far, Lodur’s thoughts

It’s been a while since Cataclysm has been released, and I’ve been hitting heroics, dungeons and now raids as often as I can. So I figured it would be a good time to report on the trends I’m seeing, and how restoration shaman are fitting into the scheme of things.

Tank healing

Tank healing is a new and interesting animal. With everyone’s health totals rising exponentially due to ridiculous stam values on gear, tanks are getting absolutely insane health totals. In Wrath, our main tank could push himself above 100k health. Healers gasped at this and commented on “EZ mode” healing with a health pool that size. Being heroic level geared in Cata, as a healer I’m sporting 106k – 116k depending on the buffs available. Tanks are pushing closer to 200k health. So what does this mean? Well, tanks can take a beating that’s for sure, but the design of the higher health totals means that tank damage is meant to be a lot less spiky, and a lot more predictable. I’m finding my medium, cheap heal is sufficient in most cases to continually cast on the tank, and still be able to keep my mana reserves quite high. When the tank takes his big damage, I can pop a quick expensive heal, or a slow expensive big heal to give me the buffer to switch back to my medium heal.

In most cases I’m finding tank healing has a steep curve to learn, but is a lot easier than it was before once you get used to it thanks to the normalization in damage. This counts normals, heroics and raids. The trick really is just knowing when the damage is coming. Boss mods of course help with that, but I find it much more important to know the fights now than it was in Wrath. I like it honestly, it’s a lot less boring than it was in the previous expansions and I find myself not falling asleep at the keyboard while healing tanks.

Healing the rest of the group

Healing the rest of the group is an interesting shift as well. Not only does everyone have higher health totals, but everyone has a way to stay a live a lot longer without the direct intervention of the healer. True it is important to “not stand in bad”, but on those times someone gets caught they can keep themselves a live a little bit longer. Whether it is a cooldown to avoid damage, a self heal or an ability to GTFO before damage gets too bad, every class has something.

The beautiful thing about this, is that for the most part I can put them on the back burner and actually pay attention to the fights. It provides just enough buffer for me to not have to solely play green bar whack-a-mole. I can safely navigate away from fire and other bad things, and not have to worry about snapping off that last heal that very second on that DPS. Now I’m not saying that you ignore them completely, obviously that would be rather silly. Instead I’m just saying you have breathing room to save your own bacon, or that of the tank, before absolutely turning your attention to the DPS.

In the last few weeks, I’ve learned to rely pretty heavily on passive healing quite a bit where DPS is concerned. For a resto shaman this really means loving that Healing Stream Totem and Healing Rain. Trusting in those two spells to do their job I can usually stay above board on mana longer. I’m hearing this report back from many of the healers from all walks of life.

Spirit is the new MP5, and my new overlord?

Spirit is really catching me as something, at least for shaman, that is proving more important than maximum mana. This may be a design glitch, but in this past weeks raid on Halfus I was the only healer with mana left at the end of the fight and I never stopped healing. I packed about 3k-3.2k spirit with buffs / flasks and made liberal use of Mana Spring Totem, but the results were definitely there. I’m not saying you should move entirely towards spirit, but I saw a lot of healers forsaking spirit entirely, or keeping their levels very low, in order to stack more int to increase mana pools.

It’s true that int gives you more spellpower as well, but it’s all about balance. Conserving mana is important, but making sure you’re getting positive mana returns is also very important. I won’t give you hard numbers here because I think each healing class will wind up with very different sweet spots, but I urge you to play around with your numbers a little.

Working as a team

It has become more important than ever to work with your healing team to achieve healing balance and total victory. In the Halfus Wyrmbreaker fight (10 man version) we were running with a resto druid, holy pally and myself. We put the holy pally on the main tank as his primary focus, I took the off tank, and the druid roll healed. The goal was to cross heal when applicable, but to have a specific section to babysit, so to speak. Very early into the first attempt, the druid went OoM. We talked about it after the attempt before the second try and found he was pretty low on spirit, and pumping everything into int while attempting to HoT the entire raid. We swapped his int stacking for more spirit (flask, food, gem) and then strategized a “healing zone” for the raid. We decided we would create a safe zone to layer healing rains and efflorescence. It went so much better that it was just silly. The healing load balanced (so to speak) the rest of the fight was easy mode.

The rest of the night was the same. We strategized our healing spell choices for each fight and assigned areas of responsibilities for each that overlapped. The three healers really worked to support each other throughout the raid, and it worked out very well. It just illustrated to me how much more important working together is now compared to Wrath. In Wrath it was so easy to just sit by and do your own thing, not really worrying about what the healers are doing, but coordinating now at least in the 10 man raiding environment works out so much better.

I AM HEROIC DAMN IT!

Healer gear seems to be falling from the trees right now. Crated items are fairly easy to obtain, every heroic seems to drop at least a single piece of healer usable loot, and I don’t feel like I’m starved for items to fill slots anymore. All the healers in my guild are saying the same thing, and I find that refreshing. It helps us to be better prepared (and properly geared) for raids than we were in Wrath. The level of difficulty of healing heroics right now I feel is tuned properly, and helps us develop the healing skills with our new changes that we need to have. It’s less about rolling face and mashing one button, and more about really learning what to do. At least for now that is.

I walk into heroics and raids confident that I can accomplish any goal set before me now as well. I seriously do not fear healing anything. It’s not from a position of being overpowered, it’s honestly from knowing that I have all the tools I need at my disposal. It’s a really great feeling to not go into an instance and say “shit, I just don’t have the right tools to heal this.” Color me giddy at that one.

What about your adventure?

So I’m curious as to everyone’s experience in Cataclysm so far. How have things been going for you now? What type of situations have you run into? What lessons have you learned that you can share with others?

It came from the PUG: Tanks but no tanks.

The life of a healer in Cataclysm is new, exciting, and often times terrifying. The new expansion does something quite well, it makes healing really really hard. Since hitting level 85, I quickly geared up for healing and DPS just in case a guild group had a DPS slot available. Guild groups have been an absolute delight. Coordinating CC, figuring out new mechanics, and having a blast in new content and trying for achievements. Random groups however have been, to be honest here, full of suck.

This is mostly due not to the new healing mechanics, but to the new requirements in CC management and smart tanking. Over the course of the last week, I have queued for random heroics as a healer at least three times a day. This endeavor has met with slightly less mixed results than I would have anticipated. In the vast majority of cases the tank has been the problem. Not waiting for CC assignments or for the CC to go off. Breaking CC early, or to be perfectly honest here, pulling like a jack-ass. Now what I mean by this is that the tank is either pulling multiple groups, not waiting for the healer to have mana, not conserving mitigation cooldowns for when they are needed and generally ignoring any sort of logic or strategic approach. This is what I like to call the “Wrath Tanking Mentality”, which will be referred to from this point on in the post as WTM.

What is WTM you may be asking. Well, it’s the idea that heroics are stupidly easy, and require no forward thinking. That as soon as you reach maximum level, you are ENTITLED to the loot contained therein, and the actual running of the dungeon is merely a formality. This honestly wasn’t a problem the first few days as Blizzard instituted a gear requirement before even allowing people to queue randomly for the dungeons, but as players figured out how to raise their GS early the queues began to get worse and worse. In Wrath it wasn’t uncommon for a healer to just say “go ahead and pull 1/2 of the zone, I’ll be just fine.” or some variation therein. Honestly as a fresh 80 running heroics, very few reports of having difficulty healing existed. In Cataclysm though, it’s all about conserving mana, using the right heal for the job, and having a group that avoids all unnecessary damage while following CC assignments. As a healer you may have experienced this, but WTM is very very strong right now. I fear that the learning curve may actually be too steep for some people. I fear this, because inevitably what these people do is cry the loudest for dungeons to be nerfed, and they are very very quick to blame healers. Let me share with you some lovely examples from this week.

Day 1 of heroic ready healer

Throne of Tides: First boss

The tank was a warrior with LESS hit-points than my healer. My healer clocks in at 106k health right now, the tank only had 105k This was red flag number 1. I would have vote kicked him on the spot for that, but he had a voting block with two other guildies with him. We make it to the first boss through all the trash and it feels like a miracle. The tank seems to be made of paper, until I inspect them and see they are still wearing some ilvl 251 gear mixed in with sub-par greens. How this person got into the instance is a mystery to me at the time, but I go along with it. After all I’m a shaman and made of infinite win right? The first boss has a couple abilities that will tax a healer, and outright kill a stupid DPS. One of these abilities is a geyser that she casts beneath a player. You have ample time to move out of it, but if you don’t it will deal enough damage that it will one shot you. Funny thing here is, the first time she casts it even after being warned what it was, the tank does NOT move out of it and dies. That’s right folks, the tank. His comment “You suck healer you should have healed me through that.” I calmly explain that it is an instant kill and he needs to move off of it, and luckily one of his guildies backs me up on this. He drops the matter. The boss also has a phase where she summons three adds, two casters and a melee. The mage polymorphs one caster and I hex the other, which is pretty much standard operating procedure at this point. The tank, tags ALL three adds breaking the polymorph and the hex. The tank proceeds to die, and I am promptly vote-kicked from the group. Clearly both wipes were my fault. I write it off, tack myself to a guild group and a call it a night.

Day 2 of heroic ready healer

Halls of Origination: First Pull

The tank was much better off than the first one. Also a warrior he had a considerably larger health total, and his gear looked to be on par for heroic content. I was feeling optimistic about this run right until the first pull. This pull consists of five mobs that all do many different things. Usually the group marks 2-3 for CC and burns down the two biggest threats fast while pulling out of line of sight. The tank for this run however, rushed blindly in. No CC went out, and we had none besides my hex that could withstand damage so it was a wipe. Second attempt, someone in the group explains what we need to do, and this time we get our CC’s off . The tank however goes rushing in and dies a fiery death as he runs out of my healing range. Third attempt, the tank rushes in, and drops group as soon as everything is angry with us. Right gear, wrong mentality. I do some random heroics with guildies, call it a night.

Day 3 of heroic ready healer

Grim Batol: First boss

Interestingly enough, I got in this one as DPS. I forgot to uncheck DPS from the previous night’s heroic runs with the guild. We get to the first boss easy enough, I explain the fight on heroic and we engage. The healer, a holy priest, is doing a kick ass job and things are going great. Umbriss kicks into high gear and smears the tank pretty good. We wipe, go back in, tank drops group. We get a second tank and the same thing happens. I ask if he’s saving mitigation cooldowns (which I already know the answer to thanks to oRA3) and the only response I get is that the tank drops group. We get a third tank and the same thing happens. oRA3 in all cases shows me that the tank is just blowing tanking cooldowns at odd times. Times when healing isn’t tight and damage is manageable. This bothers me quite a bit and after three more failed tanks all doing the same exact thing I just call it a night and go to bed.

This continues on for what seems like many, many days. Now, not every experience was bad and there was some shinning hope here.

Day 5 of heroic ready healer

Heroic Deadmines

This was the first time that the group was all from random servers and guilds. No repeats of anything. The composition was a druid tank, me healing, a hunter a mage and a warlock for DPS. A lot of viable CC in this group, and best of all, they all listened. We worked together through the whole instance. For every one of us it was the first time setting foot in it since the change. We looked up encounters, made up our own strategies and fought all the way to the end. The druid was an amazing tank watching my mana closely and knowing when it was safe to pull and when it was time to sit back and take a break. Honestly I was impressed with the way the group was communicating without voice chat and getting along. Through normal conversation I find out that the group is made up entirely of players from the vanilla days who used to raid 40 man content. This is new and exciting to me as recently I’ve been running with “wrath babies” so it was good to reminisce about the good old days. We get to the end, figure out the cookie fight without looking it up, earn a few achievements and then begin the VanCleef event. I call it an event because, well, it is very much so an event and not a boss fight (coincidently, Kudos to you on this one Blizzard, A plus all the way on this fight). We get through a few wipes and then we realize it’s already 5 am and we just can’t keep going anymore. We drop group, but it was seriously the best healing experience I’ve had so far in a heroic, and one that hasn’t been replicated yet.

Long journey, but here’s the short of it. Healing is much harder than it was before. Most healers in my experience are making the transition pretty well thanks to the strong healing community feeding information into the media. Tanking and smart DPS is an entirely different story now. I don’t say this a lot, but right now the fail boat has a lot of passengers. I know there will always be a string of bad runs, or players that haven’t been keeping up on every change, but it feels as though we really do have a lot of players behind the curve.

Is the tanking learning curve too steep? Is WTM too strong after having used it for two years? What experiences have you had as a healer in the LFG system? Have you encountered the WTM a

That’s it for now, I’m going to head back in to the LFD tool with my head up and my mana potions stacked high. I’ll be sure to bring you back some awesome, and awful stories. Until next time, happy healing and may your mana be plentiful.

Friends and Raiders: Saying goodbye to guildies

How to properly leave a guild has been a topic often talked about, and even more so as of late with the imminent expansion. It’s that time of year when some folks try to find a better fit than the guild there in, others are taking the opportunity to step away from the game and focus on real life more and some are just out-right quitting the game. No matter the reason, it’s never an easy choice to make. You’re effectively stepping back from one thing you love to focus on something else that you likely care about equally.

Let’s be honest here for a minute. It is incredibly rare for someone to play a game contractually, and in the case of an MMO until the servers go dark. I said incredibly rare because even though you hear of players (or you may very well be one) that still play EQ, for the most part that is a small cross-section of the modern gamer totals. Entering into an MMO you have to have an expectation that people have the potential to leave. Yes, making friends in an MMO can be an extremely rewarding experience, but if you aren’t prepared for the possibility that the person may walk away from the game, you can be left quite devastated.

Minimizing impact

People leaving the game  can be tough on a guild as well, especially if it is a person in a leadership position or someone who has become a person that others depend on in a raid. It’s even harder when it’s someone you consider a close friend.

Let us say that an officer is leaving the game in any serious capacity for what may very well be forever to pursue activities in the real world. Let us also say that said officer is an integral part in the running of the guild, like recruitment, raid leadership or any of the various other administration tasks. That leaves a gap in leadership that has to be filled, and in most cases, pretty quickly. The same holds true for a raider, let’s say the top DPS in the raid decides it’s time to leave. Depending on the rest of the guild and group composition it can leave you with a hell of a damage gap to fill. That affects the rest of the guild’s progression through content later on. This becomes compounded when the departures are unannounced or rather sudden. If people think others are leaving out of the blue, it can sometimes cause a panic attack and cause enough of a stir to leave lasting ripples with other members.

If you are considering leaving a guild or quitting the game, the most important thing to keep in mind is communication. This is especially true if you are in any position of power, or importance, within the structure of a guild. You should never feel you have no choice but to play the game. While some of us have chosen to make a profession out of gaming, for most people it is a source of relaxation and venting. A safe haven if you will. That said, if a game becomes no longer fun, or if you need to find a better place in order to have that fun you should be allowed to do so. The same goes for real life. Anything that happens out of the game should take precedence over any obligations in game. One of the key things when even considering breaking off from a guild or the game in general is communication. Letting key people know ahead of time can help lessen the impact of your departure, and it can afford you some much needed piece of mind in making your decision. Talk to your GM about it, if there is a morale officer in the guild talk to them about it as well, maybe even your class lead if your guild has implemented those ranks.

The point is talking about it, even if you’re just considering it, will not only give people a heads up, but give you an outlet to talk things out. It may help to make you feel a lot better about your choice if you decide to move on. If your guild has forums set up, it is advisable to make a going away or stepping down/back post just to let people know where you’re going. You may be surprised how your leaving affects people around you in game on a personal level, and how much just knowing ahead of time that you’re leaving can help them cope.

Story time

I’ve made a lot of friends in game over the years. On several of those occasions it has turned into a real life friendship. In my previous installments of Friends and Raiders I’ve discussed making lasting friendships, walking the balance between friends and leadership and I’ve even introduced you to my healing team. One of my best friends, Eromon, I met through the game, and found out we lived in the same city. He has since left the game mostly but we still remain in touch. Before he left, we talked about his departure in great detail before anything was said to the guild. It helped him know he was making the right decision, and helped with being able to answer guildie question.

So about a month ago, Unpossible decided it was time to take a break from raiding. We’ve been hitting ICC pretty hard since it was released with little to now time off. Officers gathered and decided that a break before Cataclysm was a good idea and would give people a chance to unwind, relax and have fun doing random things like achievements or *gasp* play other games and maybe leave the house! ( I kid, I kid.) Before this break, one of our top DPS and an officer expressed that he felt it was time to leave the game behind, or at least step back from it. He felt that it was time to focus on other things in his life. We showed him how much we loved him at BlizzCon this year by playing one hell of a prank on him. For the last two weeks, he has been true to his word and hasn’t logged in. Not only is he a big chunk of our DPS and an officer, he is a really good friend of mine. He was one of the first people I met in Unpossible 6 years ago, and was always someone I had great respect for and someone I’ve grown to call a friend. Him leaving marks a hole in our DPS, our leadership structure, and our guild. We’ll still keep in touch over media like facebook and email, so at least on a personal level I’ll still have contact with him.

A few days ago, another two members of our guild announced that they too would be stepping back. One, a rogue who was consistently in our top 3 slots for DPS for as long as I can remember. The second is his wife, and a core member of my healing team. She is also an officer in our guild. Losing him is another big hit on our DPS, and honestly he’s one heck of a guildie and a great guy. His wife, for me, puts a very large hole in my healing team that I will need to fill as well as marking the falling of another tree from my “Forest of Win™”. On a personal level, I will miss them both in game dearly but will try to keep in touch with them via other media.

When I heard that these three were leaving, to be honest I was a bit devastated. It took a little bit for me to work it all out. With Zabos I at least had time to let it sink in and get used to the idea. Because we talked about it before hand. With our rogue and his wife, I had zero warning. These are people that I had come to rely on in raids, in guild structure and honestly were people that I had grown so accustomed to talking to during raids I couldn’t imagine not having them around. When I saw their post declaring that they were essentially stepping back that day,  it hit me all at once and in between personal feelings about their departure, I had to start planning to replace at least my lost healer to make my raiding heal team whole again. It’s something I’m still a little at odds with, just because it blindsided me. Thankfully their posts were very comprehensive, so there are no questions as to why they are stepping down. I know a lot of people in the guild are sad at their leaving, and many have already started asking how we are going to fill those gaps in our raid team.

The difference between the two really is simply that Zabos talked to me about it well before coming to a decision. It didn’t hit nearly as hard, and I was better prepared to deal with it. The other two really hit hard especially on a personal level. I had no idea they were even considering stepping back from the game. Both however communicated why they were leaving so that when guildies found out, there was not mass panic, and no jumping off the proverbial cliff.

Endings are just new beginnings

The world still turns and the server hamsters are still, hopefully, running. Cataclysm is less than a week away, and everyone is getting excited to have new quests, new dungeons and to have that fresh new game smell. Unpossible will still be there. We’ve survived since the game was brand-spanking-new, and we’ll likely be around until the server go dark. Sure, we’ll lose members along the way, but we’ll gain more friends as well. We’ll promote new people to officer as it’s needed and continue to thrive. People are already beginning to step up to try to take the place of those that left, and we’ll be able to fill the raid rolls and keep the ball rolling. That’s the nature of the game after all. We’re going to go ahead and punch Deathwing in the face, and chew through whatever the game throws at us. We’ll miss those that have left, and we’ll tell new guildies all the awesome stories about those that came before them. It’s like keeping an oral tradition alive, their stories will live on. For me though,  I know this newly minted Dwarf Shaman is a lifer. I’m in until the world goes dark.

So how about you? Have you lost any important members to your guild? Did they let you know they were leaving before hand? Have you left a guild and let them know?

Well that’s it for this week. Until next time, Happy Healing!

How I learned to live without Spirit Link, or a fond farwell.

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I’ve been a huge fan of the spell Spirit Link since it first made an appearance back in the Wrath of the Lich King beta. The spell allowed restoration shaman to link players together, distributing damage among them. The spell was eventually removed due to balancing issues, and I only got to play with it for a few, fleeting moments.

When Cataclysm was announced, the developers made a note that they were going to try to work Spirit Link back into the game. It was a spell a lot of players were excited about and wanted to have in their arsenal. It was a promise to give us something we didn’t have, a defensive cooldown. Shaman throughout the community came up with various ideas on how to balance it and let it come back to the game. I was included among that number. Alas, it was not meant to be, and Spirit Link has drifted off without much of a word about it from the developers.

After lamenting the loss of the spell, I came to a realization. I’ve been healing through the beta both in dungeons and raids and not once did I ever say to myself  “I wish I had Spirit Link right now!”. That exact phrase I muttered to myself at least a dozen times in Wrath. But looking at the way Cataclysm is designed, it is now impossible for Spirit Link to be incorporated into the game. Looking at the damage model for the new expansion it is quite easy to see this. Let me explain a bit here for clarification sake. When I say damage model, I quite literally mean damage model. Everyone is taking damage in Cata. There is rarely instances in a raid where someone is not taking some damage. This is very unlike Wrath, where there were a few fights that had massive amounts of raid damage. Let’s use the new Nefarian encounter as an example. The new fight has you engaging the reanimated corpse of both Onyxia and Nefarian. Onyxia has some fun new abilities including shadow flame (doing her dad proud) and a new electrical charge. Needless to say, she does a ton of raid wide damage. Combine this with Nefarian flying around and summoning adds, throwing his own shadow bolts and you have yourself a recipe for pain.

At no point in this fight would it have been safe to link multiple players together. Simply put, any additional damage on the non tanks would have killed them. Now, almost every fight in Cata is like this. Heroic dungeons feel like raid bosses (at least until we outgear them but still), and raids feel much more difficult. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just an evolution of the game. Players are more accountable for their own health totals than every before, and healers have a whole new set of concerns. With this new model, Spirit Link just doesn’t fit anymore. Players simply would die if linked together. Now you could argue that a defensive cooldown could be extremely useful here, but Blizzard has done us one better.

Instead of a defensive cooldown, we get an offensive healing cooldown. I’m not talking about Nature’s Swiftness here, but our new level 85 spell, Spiritwalker’s Grace. Traditionally the role of a healer is to indemnify. That’s my nickle word for the day. It means to secure against hurt, loss or damage. By this I mean we wait for people to get hurt, or hurt enough and react by healing them in an attempt to bring their health back to 100%. Most of the new healing abilities for the other healers are more preventative. They stop damage from happening. Shaman without the ability to keep damage from happening are forced to be more aggressive healers. This fits really well with the tools we are given.

So let’s take a look at our new cooldown. Spiritwalker’s grace lets us cast any heal while moving. Let me state that again for dramatic effect here, it lets us cast any heal while moving. This means in those fights (read: all of them) that require us to move, we can pop this cooldown and run-and-gun casting our big heals, like Chain Heal, without having to stop. Mull that over for a second. Pretty awesome right? This gives us not only some added versatility, but the ability to manage that versatility. We choose when to use it, which adds that level of healing skill everyone has been talking about wanting for a while now. Sure, we can’t power word: shield someone, but you bet your ass we can drop a nuke heal while on the move! While other healers can throw shields and HoTs while running, we can cast full blown spells. The cooldown lasts 10 seconds, and only has a 2 minute cooldown. It fits really well with our healing style as well. Shaman are not the healers that sit in the back and chant. We are the healers that charge into the thick of battle to drop our totems and throw fire at the enemy while making our own troops whole again.

Honestly I think this new ability hasn’t gotten nearly enough media attention, as players remain too focused on what could have been. It really is quite awesome, and with it I’m no longer pining for Spirint Link. While I  will always remember it with fondness in my heart, I’ve come to accept that its departure was for the best and to move on. So goodbye Spirit link, it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind, never knowing who to cling to when wrath set in. And I would have liked to have known you
but I was just level 70, your candle burned out long before, but your legend never will.

I think other restoration shaman will start to feel the same as time spent with the new spells comes.

So what do you think? Still miss Spirit Link? Do you like Spiritwalker’s Grace?

Until next time, Happy Healing!

What I did at BlizzCon 2010

Well, I’ve been sufficiently jet lagged for a little bit, but I am happy to say that I’ve fully recovered. BlizzCon 2010 was an amazing time, and I am quite happy I got to meet many of you at the various meetups. For those of you who bought me beer, thank you! For those of you who bought Matt beer, thank you for the free entertainment!

Seriously though it was a great time, and I hope that next year I’ll get to meet even more of you. I got to hang out with Matt’s guild a little bit, and those guys know how to have fun. Never let it be said that Conquest doesn’t know how to party, I will fight you to the death on that one! I got to meet other bloggers as well, and really just had a good time chewing the fat with everyone.

My guildies were also in attendance, and we had something like 22 show up. That in and of itself may have been the most fun. You see, this year, one of our officers announced that he will be leaving us come Cataclysm. Well, at least as far as raiding is concerned. For those of you who have followed me over the years, you may recognize the name. Zabos, our hunter class lead, one of our DKP officers, and guild scapegoat has intentions of leaving us. He’s been around since this game started, and was a founding member of Unpossible. He was the reason for our very first lady Vashj low percentage wipe.  This announcement, of course, made us all very, very sad. So with all the guildies heading to BlizzCon, we decided that we simply had to show Zabos how much we loved him. And a plot was formed. Let me share with you a message sent to all guildies attending BlizzCon 2010 from the guild leader himself.

If you look carefully through the list of people I’ve sent this message to, you may notice the absence of one name in particular. This is no coincidence, and this brings us to the contest itself. This year, I’m going to be holding a competition among those Unpossible members who will be in Anaheim, all of them but Zabos. IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE KEEPING A SECRET, DO NOT READ FURTHER!

Objective: To successfully concoct and carry out a unique and hilarious practical joke on Zabos, in person, in Anaheim.

Group Size: This is a team competition. Group sizes can be anywhere from 2 to 4 people. Prior to the 21st, you must let me know who will be in your team.

Restrictions:
In the interest of keeping everything legal, and prevent any kind of nastiness after the fact, here are the restrictions and general guidelines of the competition:

  • The jokes can not result in bodily harm
  • The jokes can not result in permanent damage to property
  • The jokes can not be malicious in natures: example – no racial slurs, no emergencies in the family, etc.
  • The general tone of the jokes needs to be mischievous. At the end of the day, we don’t want to piss him off too much.
  • Sabotaging another team’s efforts is NOT allowed. The more successful jokes, the better.

Any breaking of the above rules will cause your team to be disqualified.

How Jokes Will Be Judged: In order to receive credit for the entries, jokes must be documented. Judges will need to have visual or audio proof of the jokes themselves. Acceptable forms of documentation are:

  • Audio – recorded conversation from the joke itself
  • Video – live-action video of the joke
  • Photograph – self explanatory. If the joke is staged, a before and after picture for example

This was met with great cheers from the guildies, and the game was on. Teams were chosen and shenanigans were afoot. At least, we started as teams. Shortly after arriving in Anaheim, it turned into a guild wide effort. It eventually ended with a marriage license, a lot of gunk on his car in various NSFW images, and some very, very interesting pictures. I’ll spare you the details for the sake of tact. Moral of the story though, if you intend to leave us, expect to be shown how much we love you… in force.

In the end we had a great time and it was really good to see my guildies face to face. It’s something I know a lot of people take for granted, but putting a face to that voice on vent can be pretty cool. I had met most of the guildies before hand but there were some new faces, and I finally got to hang out with my entire Forest of Win which made me very happy.

So what about you? Any BlizzCon 2010 stories to share?

4.0.1 shaman glyphs and an Ode to Sentry Totem

4.0.1 shaman glyphs and an Ode to Sentry Totem

Sentry totem is gone. Too often those who love us and hold us dear go before their time =(. Seriously though I already miss sentry totem. I did use it for a few things, like disarming bombs in SoTA. My recent grief over the loss of my beloved companion sparked the idea of composing an epic poem to commemorate its passing. Special thanks to @ianbroadfo for the inspiration on this one, and William Blake for composing the original.

Totem! Totem! sitting tight;
in the flag-room, on the right.
What designer’s hand or eye;
dare remove you from my UI?

In what distant Aerie Peaks,
What found on weathered wing and beak?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize desire?

And what purpose misunderstood.
Could twist the grains of thy wood?
And when thy eye began to seek,
What dread loss, this feeling bleak?

What the stone work? what the gain?
In what forge was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread light?
Do steal this purposeful insight?

When the Titans threw down their blaze,
And blinded heaven with their gaze,
Did they smile, this lost to naught?
Did they who made the totem wrought?

Totem! Totem! sitting tight;
in the flag-room, on the right.
What designer’s hand or eye;
dare remove you from my UI?

So yes, I will miss sentry totem. That little bugger was actually pretty useful. With the new patch, not only did Sentry Totem go away, but we got a bunch of new glyphs and a new glyph system. Check out Matt’s post on the the new system and priest glyphs for the run down. So what do shaman glyphs look like after the patch? Let’s take a look!

Prime Glyphs

Prime glyphs are the ones that give you the most improvement to your specialization.

Those are the prime glyphs you’re likely to be interested in. The restoration ones are pretty self explanatory, but you’re likely asking; “But Joe, why is Shocking and Lightning bolt on the list” ? Easy answer, because of Focused Insight and Telluric Currents. Let’s face it, if you get to a point where you out-gear a fight, you’re likely  throwing around some DPS to help out. At this late in the current expansion, unless you are a fresh 80, you’re likely to have content that you out-gear. Whether it is a heroic or a raid, these may be choices for you depending on what you’re doing. The most common setup I’m seeing among resto shaman is Earth Shield, Riptide (which just makes the spell ridiculously efficient) and Earthliving Weapon. Plan to move one of them to Water Mastery when Cataclysm drops, but until then mana isn’t an issue.

Major Glyphs

They augment your abilities, but not a large degree as prime glyphs.

Some interesting options here. Grounding Totem is in the list simply because there are a surprising number of boss abilities in heroics and raid that can absorbed by grounding totem. The fun of the glyph is that it makes it into a spell reflect. Nothing says I love you like throwing a fireball back from where-which-it-came-from. Hex is on the list because, well, we have a CC and its awesome. If you find yourself using Hex a lot *cough*heroicladydeathwhisper*cough*, this may be a good choice for you. Frost Shock is on the list again because of FI. Most common setup I’m seeing throughout the resto community is Chain Heal, Healing Stream Totem and Healing Wave. When Cataclysm goes live, you may want to swap one out for Totemic Recall just for mana conservation purposes.

I have to be honest, out of all the glyphs we got, I like the Healing Stream Totem one the best. I mean, I’ve always been a fan of HST, even before it was the cool-kids thing to do. The fact that it can add a series of resists is just beastly. It heals, it provides resist auras, it’s like a pocket paladin but with less QQ (I kid, I kid!).  With about every fight now having some form of elemental damage, there’s no reason not to have this glyph.

Minor Glyphs

These have little impact on your chosen role.

Basic stuff really, removal of reagent needs, and a shortening of our character class hearth cooldown. The new kid on the block though is Arctic Wolf. This turns your Ghost Wolf into a ghostly version of the winter wolves found throughout Azeroth. This glyph was originally slated to be released in Wrath alongside another glyph that allowed you to transform into a black wolf. They were scrapped before release, but at least one has found its way back. This is important for two reasons. One, it marks the inclusion of fun flavor items to help personalize your character. Two, it just looks cool!

Glyphs are becoming more about personal choice rather than what is best, which quite honestly is how it should be.

How has your patch 4.0.1 experience been so far? What do you love? What do you hate? Do you miss Sentry Totem too?

The Mercenary Healer?

The Mercenary Healer?

With Cataclysm dropping on December 7th, and BlizzCon this month on October 22nd and 23rd, a lot of people are planning to have some downtime before the new content is released. Guilds are taking breaks to unwind or just have fun outside of a full-blown raid. My guild will likely be taking a break from raiding to work on fun things like achievements and mount runs before Cataclysm very soon. That does however leave me with some free time in game for probably a month. So I’d like to share with you my plans for the downtime before the expansion.

First on my list are the ICC drakes. I want them both, and very badly. I haven’t stepped foot in ICC-10 but a handful of times and haven’t really tried to get the meta achievement before, but now I’m making it a priority to complete these tasks. Likely it wont take me too long to get all the achievements in the meta and get my lovely — and super fast– pile of dragon bones. After that however I have a plan for my time. Not every guild is stopping raids before Cataclysm. In fact many will go right up to the expansions release. I know of a few that having a hard time with certain boss fights, particularly with healing.

A couple weeks ago I got a tell asking if I would heal an ICC -10 man heroic. I politely declined, only to receive a tell from the person again, and this time with an offer of gold. 5k gold in fact. I declined again because I was scheduled to be in a 10 man heroic run with guild mates later that week. But it sort of got me thinking. I’ve always been terrible about earning money in WoW. I hate farming, I level tradeskills to help my raiding and the guild, but don’t generally farm mats to saturate the market or what have you. I generally have enough gold to be comfortable, but not rich by the game’s standards. So would it be wrong of me to accept a cash reward for healing through content like that? I mean, I know the fights, I’m already geared and would require NO loot from any of the bosses, and by the time I do this I’ll already have all my achievements. I bring my own consumables with me wherever I go. So is it wrong to accept a cash reward for my healing and knowledge of the encounters?

I don’t think it is. I won’t demand it per say, but I will accept it and will always accept the highest bidder. For the weeks leading up to Cataclysm I will become a mercenary healer. I will heal for the highest bidder and the highest profit. I view it as simply welcoming the mentality of our soon to be goblin shaman brothers early, as it is a business model they would approve of I think. It would also present me with a unique opportunity to see how other groups run their raids. It may sound like I’m being a bit of a jerk here but I find it a much more enjoyable use of my time. I could level an army of alts or various professions, but I already have 5 level 80’s and have plans for another alt on another server for a special project.

So that’s my plan leading up to the Cataclysm release. To become a mercenary healer, and hopefully live up to standard set before me by the original A-Team.

What about you? Is your guild taking a break before diving into Cataclysm? If so, what are you going to do? Will you level alts? Level professions? Will you just take the time off and relax? Maybe play other games?

Well that’s it for today. Until next time, happy healing!

POLL: Will you raid 10 man or 25 man in Cataclysm?

POLL: Will you raid 10 man or 25 man in Cataclysm?

One of the best — or worst things depending on your view — to happen to raiding in a long time was the inclusion of smaller group sized content. I talked a little bit about this over on BDTU with my pieces on the Evolution of WoW part 1 and part 2.

The trend started with the addition of Zul’Gurub, a troll instance of now infamous reputation, when it broke from the 40-man raid standard and offered 20-man content. It hailed back to the days of Blackrock Spire being a multiple group raid, and people loved it.

Karazhan further stoked the fires of the smaller group raid desire, and did so while offering epic and story filled content. Players loved it so much that the forums were filled countless replies asking for more smaller group . With Wrath came the revelation that all raid content would be be available in 25-man flavor as set forth by Burning Crusade, but also  in new raid 10-man flavor (all of the raid, less than half the calories). Different levels of gear purchasable by badges came out (as well as loot tables that varied between 10 and 25 man), and both 10 and 25 man raids dropped the same badges. The trick, and the problem, was that people felt compelled to run both 10 and 25 man versions to maximize badges. Some people felt that you absolutely had to run both to “beat the game”.

This is also a result of how loot was distributed. Badges gave you the entry level gear for the items at the end of this expansion cycle. Badges gave you the “entry level” piece for the tier set, this was considered the 10 man version of the tier. Tokens in 25 man raids would drop that allowed you to upgrade the 10 man piece to the next level up. Heroic 25 man dropped yet another token that allowed you to upgrade it to it’s maximum potential. You can see how it would be assumed the more badges you had the better gear you had and the quicker you could climb the gear ladder right?

Well, the devs didn’t like that, nor did less hardcore players (or those of us who don’t have the time to devote to constantly running raids all week long) and a new system was proposed for Cataclysm. The system says that the same content will be provided for 10 and 25 man versions, and the reward levels will be the same. That is to say that the Ilvl of gear will be on par between versions, and they will share the same loot tables. The major difference will be that 25 man will have more damage and more health to worry about in boss fights and such, and you will get MORE loot drops than the 10 man content does. Also, a raid regardless of being 10 or 25 man, all share the same raid ID and lockout. Do a  25 man version and kill a boss? Cool. Split into two 10 mans of the same thing and that boss is still dead for both groups. You can’t up-convert from 10 to 25, but you can down-size if attendance becomes an issue or some such.

So this brings up an interesting question for a lot of guilds and raid groups right now. Is it worth it to run 25 man content if the rewards for 10 are the same? Is the extra loot enough of a benefit to keep you raiding in 25 man content or do you give up and just say screw it? I know a lot of guilds are going through this debate right now. I know some of them personally. This happened in a smaller capacity when Wrath was announced to have 10 man content. Some guilds decided the smaller size was for them and paired down into tight-knit, more tactical 10 man groups. So now that the gear is equal level between 10 and 25, aside from quantity, I know many guilds that have weighed the pros and cons of both formats and decided to go for the smaller size.

My guild Unpossible recently had this discussion. We pulled all of the officers into a private vent chat and hashed it out. it was about even split on the case of 10 vs 25, and there were a lot of good points made. After a good half hour discussion, we decided that we would stay a 25 man raiding guild. Our structure was already in place and had been since the release of Burning Crusade, and it has been stable and working since. We have a dedicated group of raiders who love the group we are in and the dynamic we have going. We also decided that we just felt more comfortable in the 25 man environment.

For me personally, I voted in favor of keeping the 25 man raid group. I love the logistical challenge of tracking so many players — and yes I know it’s not the 40 man content or raids from vanilla but I served my time in those — and the dynamic we have set up between all the various parts of the raiding group works well together, and I’d hate to break that up. I also didn’t like the idea of balancing multiple 10 man groups. Something I’ve seen over the last few years, people have an easier time being benched for a raid than they do taking part in a raid that is behind another group. I didn’t want to breed an environment of Group A vs Group B and cause any unnecessary drama.

So with Cataclysm on the horizon, has your guild discussed this at all? Has your raid group decided whether it will raid 10 man or 25 man content? Were you already raiding as a 10 or 25 man group? What do you think the benefits of both are? What about the drawbacks? I’d love to hear your opinions on this and see how the community as a whole has decided.

Will your guild raid 10 man or 25 man content in Cataclysm?

  • 10 Man / 10 Man Hard Mode (69%, 346 Votes)
  • 25 Man / 25 Man Hard Mode (21%, 103 Votes)
  • Banana (12%, 61 Votes)

Total Voters: 498

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Until next time, happy healing!