Guest Post: It’s Okay to be an Ass

Guest Post: It’s Okay to be an Ass

This is a guest post by LabellaNotte who is co-GM of the Guardians of Fellowship (US The Scryers – Alliance) and author of the Heals Or Leaf blog.
When you hear the Doomsday Clock ticking, it’s easy to despair.  It’s easy to give up and take what you think is coming to you.  You can sink into depression thinking that all you and your officers have worked for is going the way of the dodo.  If this makes you feel like you’ve fallen in a well with no way out, let me assure you there is a way.
Be an ass.
No, not like your raid leader, this is a different kind of ass. Let me paraphrase a little fable for you.
There was this donkey. We’ll call the donkey Bob. He worked hard and took pride in his work. One day, in a fit of overzealousness, he fell into a hole being dug for a well.
Standing there alone in the well, Bob stared up and wondered what to do next. One of his buddies peered over the edge and told him that he was stuck in a well with no escape. In the process, he sent a cascade of dirt down on poor Bob’s head. A little annoyed, Bob shook the dirt off his back and stepped on it. It seemed he would never get out.
While he stood there, Bob realized he had two choices. First, he could simply wallow in misery over his certain demise.  Or, he could do something to change his situation.
Time and again, other animals came to look, comment, jeer, heckle, or offer helpful advice.  Over and over, showers of dirt fell on him. Bob made his choice, time and again.  Shake the dirt off, step on it, and realize that each bit that fell on top of him could be shaken off, stepped on, and used to bring him closer to freedom.
It wasn’t a fast process by any means, but Bob built himself a ramp out of that well and again got to see the light of day as a free donkey. One shake and step at a time, Bob repeatedly chose to use that dirt to his advantage to build a ramp instead of letting it bury him.

In other words

The seemingly endless task of running a guild, whether as a GM or an officer, involves running into obstacles.  Some obstacles are small, such as picking dates for events that aren’t convenient for everyone who wants to participate. Others are potential catastrophes. My guild, just like anyone’s, has had more than our fair share of them.  Looking back at the annals of our history, it amazes me that we have lasted as long as we have.
Back in Wrath of the Lich King, one of our officers left and half the raid team followed. In the same era, our OT’s wife got fed up with his gaming and forced him to quit raiding with us.  During Cataclysm we absorbed another Guild that was falling apart to benefit both Guilds, but eventually there was a rift in our own Guild that led to an officer, one of our best DPS raiders, and several awesome social members away. Also in Cataclysm, one of our other top DPS raiders decided he has finished the story and canceled his subscription. Just recently, one of our most consistent raiders (an officer to boot) and a backup healer decided to leave the server for greener grasses.
Each of these events made us in guild leadership look around and wonder if we could handle this blow.  We wondered if we would survive, no less continue with our regularly scheduled raids.  It wasn’t easy, not by any measure of the imagination.  Each time, we made the conscious decision to keep on trucking.
Matticus very aptly observed that each guild has its own Doomsday Clock ticking towards midnight.  There are outside influences that can stop, slow down, or even reverse it. You can look to those exterior forces he discussed to keep you afloat.  One factor he failed to mention is you do have one other option.  You can draw from your own strength and ingenuity to get yourself out of that hole.
Each time we’ve been faced with a challenge that could have ended us, our GM and officers have sat and stared at the hands of the doomsday clock speeding towards midnight. And each time, our GM, myself, and our leadership team have stopped, shaken off the dirt of the latest disaster, and built a ramp to get out of the hole.  We see and hear the clock ticking and watched the progress of those numbers slow, halt and reverse.
So next time that clock is ticking, think of Bob. Go ahead and be an ass, just like Bob, and you too can smile as the hands on that doomsday clock start to move backwards.
Have you watched your own guild’s doomsday clock ticking away and survived to tell the tale?  Share your experience in the comments!Until next time, long days, pleasant nights and happy raiding.

WoW, What If…

This is a guest post from Wistoovern, the voice behind the Automated Healing Line. Have you ever wondered what the World of Warcraft would look like if things had gone a bit… differently? What if Sargeras was never defeated, or Archimonde was just looking for gardening tips from the Night elves? Well today we bring you a set of patch notes from the future of an else-worlds of WoW. Suspend your reality and enjoy some comedic entertainment!

We have it here folks, the latest notes gripped data-mined from the latest PTR!

- The Orc and Troll races have put aside their differences and are recovering from what was known as “The Tusk Wars”.  The cursed, seeping hole in Garrosh Hellscream’s chest is being tended to by the troll’s best healers as way of apology, but Warchief Vol’jin is still chuckling about it.

– Groundwork for the next full expansion is under weigh.  The land of Azeroth has been under monstrous forces in the last handful of years; the destruction and recrowning of the Lich King, the sapping of arcane energies by the Blue Dragonflight, the aftermath of the Cataclysm, the spread of poisonous gasses from the charred wreck of the Exodar, the extensive damage to the Stonecore and World Pillar, the warped fel forces behind the Dark Portal, the faded potency of the elemental plane with the death of Ragnaros.  Looking back on the success of redesigned instances like Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep, the next expansion will be redesigns of several previous expansions and patches: Rise of the Burning Call of the Secret Cataclysm of the Crusading Lich King (or, which our developers are jovially calling, “Just Take The Old Crap And Repackage It; Those Idiots Will Never Know“).  Get ready to see some old favorites making their way to the surface again!

GENERAL:

– Using /flirt on Jaina Proudmoore no longer Sheeps your character and Teleports you to Ironforge.

– Using /flirt on High Tinker Mekkatorque no longer causes him to hump your character’s leg.

– Using /flirt on Alexstraza no longer causes Krasus to shapeshift and aggro.

– Using /flirt on Chromie now contacts your local police department.  Pervert.

– Due to the popularity of Barber shops, the next patch will also release Tattoo Parlors, allowing any character to get a tattoo.  Simple designs start at 75g, but more complicated patterns and styles can raise the price dramatically.  Some tattoos will increase reputation gains with certain factions, but may lower gains with other factions.  Choose wisely!

– Sorry, no dance studio.  Please try again later.

INSTANCE:

– A new 5-man party instance is being implemented with the next patch.  The newly-crowned Lich King, overwhelmed by the necrotic forces battling in his mind, has sent a new floating citadel into Azeroth.  Combining the forces of the Seven Deadly Sins, these seven new bosses have become a force to contend with.

* Pride – Blood Elf warlock casting deadly mirrors that transfix party members…before a laser impales them!

* Sloth – Orc death knight, still suffering from the effects of the Malaise, finds it a valuable tool to cast on your party; slowing you and sapping your will to live!

* Envy – Undead Alchemist resents you for your life – and resolves to steal it away!

* Lust – Night Elf priest using Mind Control enchants your friends to fight for her!

* Anger – Worgen feral druid with nearly endless rage and speed buffs.  Rawr!

* Gluttony – Dwarf shaman with a Beerkeg Totem inebriates his enemies…and sends them falling off the edge of the citadel!

* Greed – Goblin rogue slowly strips you of your weapons, your armor, and your life!

QUESTS:

– Due to overwhelming demand, the Gnome-slaying quest in Uldum is now a daily.

– The quest “Locate The Leprechaun’s Lucky Charms” can no longer be completed with raid markers.

RACES:

– Worgen Rogues have learned Ventriloquism.  This allows them to throw their sniffling thirty yards to confuse and distract nearby NPC targets.

– Inspired by the “Fastball Special” from Marvel Comics, in light of the outcome of The Tusk Wars, Trolls can now be hurled like spears.

– Undead characters that die and are resurrected by Spirit Healers will be able to go back to where they died, find their old corpse, take limbs off, and graft them onto their new bodies.  Doing so will raise their attack or movement speeds and lower casting times, but the grafted sections can wear no armor, and will increase damage taken in combat.

– Dwarves are always drunk.  Always.

CLASSES:

Death Knights:

– Death becomes these undead masters of the blade – but death has its down sides.  When in the lower levels (100 and lower), these fearsome fighters were unparalleled in their skills.  However, as they are corpses and have been around QUITE a long time, high-level Death Knights will no longer be able to go AFK without a new debuff called “Rigor Mortis”.  A fellow party or raid member applying Fish Oil will lubricate them enough to get them going again.  Undead characters  will not have this limitation, as Sylvannas keeps her subjects well-lubed for various reasons.

Druids:

– The Druid transformative abilities are undergoing a radical reevaluation.  The current forms to shapeshift into (Bear, Cat, Moonkin, Tree, Aquatic, Flight, Stag, Snake, Marmot, Jackalope, Monkey, and Weasel) will all have Dire equivalents.  Light help us all.

– Druids in a party with other druids will be able to focus their powers into more powerful forms.  A two-druid party will be able to shapeshift into a two-headed ogre (moonkin-like abilities), a chimaera (cat form-like abilities), or a corehound (bear form-like abilities).  A three-druid party will be able to shapeshift into a Cerebus (bear form-like abilities), a Hydra (cat form-like abilities), or Chimaeron himself (each head a spellcaster, moonkin-like abilities).  A five-druid party – should such a thing come to pass – will all be shifted into cat form and be teleported instantly to the newly created zone, Arus.   There, they will battle King Zarcon, Lotor, and the Robeasts that they generate between them.  Blazing Swords will be provided.

Hunters:

– Deathwing from the old Cataclysm days is no longer tamable as an Exotic Pet.  Those who have him tamed need to release him before the patch or he will raze the city that they currently inhabit upon patching.  Let’s not have that happen again.

– Ranged attack power is being increased by 50%…and then decreased by 50%…and then increased by 50% again…and then decreased by 50% again…and finally increased by 50% again.  Yes, we could have said that ranged attack power would be 93.375% of what it currently is, but you people seem to prefer doing the math.

Mages:

– In honor of the upcoming release of Portal 7, “GLaDOS & GLaDYS Explore Black Mesa”, Mages are undergoing a radical redesign.  While they will still be player-controlled, they will no longer be individual characters anymore.  All mages are being ‘transformed” into Portal guns that will appear in the inventory of party and raid leaders.  The portals that they generate are the end portals of other, pre-set locations.  They will have a specific portal that food and drink will fall out of, along with portals to expose enemies to the open portals in the Elemental planes of Fire, Ice, and Magic (thus representing the mage’s three trees).  As this will lower the worldswide population of Gnomes by 25%, the change is being embraced by all admins, beta testers, and cinematic directors.

Paladins:

– The 41-point Paladin Holy talent, “Holier Than Thou” is being scaled down.  Instead of the Smug buff for 45 seconds, increasing attack speed and power by 50%, the paladin’s single target receives a Shame debuff, which applies attack speed and power penalties of 25% for one minute.

Priests:

– Priest no longer regenerate mana through Spirit.  In order to use any spells that day, all priests must complete at least fifteen daily quests at the chapels in Stormwind or the Undercity.  Daily quests there will charge their mana pool.  In order to regain mana, they will need to complete more quests.  120 quests have been added to the chapels in each area, and they include quests to sit in place and pray for half an hour, change out candles, listen to confessions, and polish pews.

– Discipline Priests, your concerns have been heard.  The days of nerfing your shields are over.  Weakened Soul has been removed from the game and the shield is now an instant cast.  Also, the shields stack to 3.  As of the next release, your shields’ strengths will be doubled to a massive total of 2 damage blocked per shield.  However, in light of the powerful change, the cost of the spell is being increased by 20% to a base cost of roughly 15,000 mana each.

– The shadow priest ability which augmented Shadowform to allow the priest to walk through walls has been removed from the game. This is due to the increasing complaints from Tyrande Whisperwind regarding her private quarters.

Rogues:

– Rogues are now no longer able to bribe nearby guards into overlooking their covert actions – except in Goblin Zones (including those of the Steamwheedle Cartel).  In those areas, the bribe price has doubled.

Shamans:

– Electric Fence, a new Elemental Totem augmentation, sets a Lightning Charge between a shaman’s totems.  Enemies crossing this barrier endure 12,000 Nature Damage each tick.  Destroying any of the totems causes an instant feedback of 50,000 Nature Damage, but the totems are all destroyed and cannot be recalled for 30 seconds.  A glyph involving the electric fence is in development.

Warlocks:

– Demon Multiplication is being removed from the game, as too many players are removing unused demons, replacing them with additional succubi, and equipping the “Pimp” title from the last expansion.

– Draenei are now able to roll Warlocks.  Doing so warps their forms into quasi-Eredar, allowing a stronger Demonic Link to their familiars.

Warriors:

– Who?

ITEMS:

– The various Focusing Lenses available through Jewelcrafting are now effective in PvP.  When used, all cat-form druids will be Mind Controlled into running to the target of the Focusing Lens.

– Glyph of “I’m Taking You With Me” allows falling priests to cast Leap of Faith on nearby non-falling targets.

– Glyph of “Better You Than Me” allows falling priests to use Leap of Faith to exchange their position with a nearby non-falling target.

– Glyph of “Death Blossom” has a chance to lock a rogue into Fan of Knives for 5-10 seconds, allowing AoE damage in addition to their normal attacks.

– The soul of an ancient enemy has been reclaimed and forced into fel servitude.  Glyph of “Summon Hogger” will replace a warlock’s felguard with a familiar fighting face.

– Got old Dalaran Cooking Rewards laying around doing nothing?  A new Cooking Mount is being introduced: an “Ice Cream Truck” for 400 DCRs.  The mount will contain an NPC that sells frozen confections, but the truck will also play music incessantly  – and un-mutable – while summoned.  This mount is in addition to the 200 DCR “Hot Dog Cart” that was announced last patch.  Wearing the Chef’s Hat while using either mount will increase travel speed by 50%.

TRADESKILLS

– Gnomes and Goblins will be allowed to use their fishing skills with seaforium.

– Dwarves and Trolls will be allowed to use their fishing skills with ranged weapons.

– Druids will be allowed to use their fishing skills in aquatic form, by catching fish in their mouths.

– Mining has a rare chance to proc a disease called “Black Lung”.

– To expand on the use of Decahedral Dwarven Dice and Worn Troll Dice, Inscribers can now create “Character Sheets” and “GM Screens”.  Yo Dawg, we heard you like to role play.  So we put some role play in your role play so you can role play while you role play.

Oh the excitement is palpable! FOR THE WARCHIEF, ‘MON!

Accountability Starts at the Top

This is a guest post by Arkom.

If you’re a guild or raid leader, you have certain expectations for your guild or team members. You establish rules and policies, you set up strategies, and you assign people to handle certain jobs. These aren’t hollow gestures and you want people to follow what they’re told to do. I mean, you do all of these things for very specific reasons. And when someone doesn’t follow along in the spirit of things? You hold them accountable for their actions, right? But what does that mean for you? How do you figure into the grand scheme of things, since you are at the top of whichever chain of command? What should you do when you make a mistake? Have you ever really thought about it?

The View from the Top

When you are in a position of leadership, it’s easy to miss things. You end up being responsible for so many things in your guild or your raid team that some of them will naturally slip by. This is unfortunate, but it happens because we are human and we’re dealing with other humans. We are not infallible. But in this sense, we get a broader view of what’s going on. To paint a mental picture, you can imagine you’re on a balcony, looking down at a crowd on the street. You see the group as a whole, moving to and fro, busily doing the things that they do in their day. Things may appear to be normal and perfect on the surface. However, there may be someone in that crowd who just stole someone’s wallet and no one is the wiser because there are too many people and all of them have their own things going on.

The View Looking Up

The people on your raid team or in your guild, however, have precisely the opposite vantage. In their picture, they may all be standing in that crowd on the street, looking up at you on the balcony. That is to say, as a leader, you are under constant scrutiny. Where you may not see the mistakes of an individual in the whole group every single time, you can bet your dear Aunt Mavis that more than one person in that crowd will see the mistakes you make. That’s sometimes an uncomfortable position to be in, but that’s why you get paid the big bucks. It may also be the reason you pop Extra Strength Tylenol like they were candy.

R. E. S. P. E. C. T. Find Out What it Means to Me

Now that I have you feeling like you’re you’re trying to use the bathroom in a house with glass walls, what DO you do when your human side (not the one referenced in the bathroom bit) shows and you make a mistake? Well, that really depends entirely on what you’re comfortable with. What should be obvious, I think, is that the best course to take in this situation is to fess up to falling short. Admit your error, apologize if that’s necessary, and do your best to not have a repeat performance. The tricky part of this scenario is that not everyone is comfortable with these things. To those people I say, “You’re in the wrong position.” One of the greatest tools a leader has at his or her disposal is the ability to honestly account for their failings. If you just glaze over the issue, ignore it completely, or offer up an empty apology to your team or guild, you’ve severely injured your reputation, your credibility, and the respect that those people have for you.

There’s a common notion that leadership is a position of servitude. Perhaps it isn’t correct in its every facet, but it certainly is true that we are, to some degree, beholden to those that we lead. We have a responsibility for them, which we have taken on of our own free (and sometimes I think, insane) will. After all, those who lead but have no followers have often been referred to by such colorful terms as, “crazy,” “eccentric,” and things that Matticus probably wouldn’t like me to put in his blog. So let’s just say that without people to lead, you aren’t a leader at all. When you damage their respect for
you, when you hurt your credibility, when you tarnish your reputation, you give those people a reason to leave. The more reasons you give them – and believe me, these reasons compound faster than you would think – the harder it will be to get others to join and stay in their place. So if you do have problems with saying things like, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake there and I will do my best not to let it happen again,” you should probably work on that or consider a future in playing games like Solitaire.

Over-stating the Obvious

Am I? I wish I was. Oh, by Ghostcrawler’s chitinous shell, I wish that I was. I sometimes find it hard to believe the number of times I’ve found myself in situations where the leadership’s reply never came at all, or if it did it was completely empty (and that’s much, much worse than not saying anything at all) or something about how their mistake wasn’t a mistake at all, because they’re the leadership and what they say goes. It happens. Perhaps you’ve been in a situation like that, from either the side where the leaders were saying it to you, or being part of the leader group that was saying it. If you have ever been subjected to those things, I’m guessing they didn’t endear you to those who were supposed to be leading you. World of Warcraft is a game and it’s something we play to have fun and unwind. That doesn’t seem to add up with the part where you have this whole crazy responsibility thing to worry about, but it’s true regardless. So when you find yourself at one of those points in your life as a leader when you’ve just boned it in front of a group, my advice is to take a moment to consider what you would expect of one of the other people in that situation. Would you want an explanation? Would you want an apology? Would you want to make them cry by bawling them out loudly and publicly and then yell at them more for crying like the More DoTs!!! guy? Well, for all of those but the last option, I suggest you do the same yourself. Apologize. Explain the mistake. But stand up and admit you were wrong. For that last one? Anger management. Seriously.

When you lead a raid or you lead a guild, the people who run with you or who are members of your guild are putting a trust in you to be an example of what you expect in them. You are in a position that allows you to directly influence the experience they have in this game, for better or for worse. That’s a huge responsibility and it should be taken seriously. If you can’t admit when you’re wrong, you aren’t just making things bad for yourself, you’re making things bad for them, too. Remember, it all starts with you and it all ends with you. And let’s face it, when you do have to take the heat, it kinda sucks, but when you know that you’ve played an important part in making other people’s time in World of Warcraft better, more fun, more exciting, and more entertaining? That’s a pretty great feeling. That’s the feeling that makes it all worthwhile.

Interview: Blacksen

I conducted this interview about two weeks ago with Blacksen of Blacksen’s End. He is both a GM and a blogger. I picked up several neat ideas as we discussed the raiding environment and guild management tips.

Hey Blacksen, thanks for taking the time to sit down with me and answer a few questions. I understand you’re a guild leader yourself. Could you tell me more about you, your guild and how that organization came about?

Back in early December 2009, a few of my RL friends (Faux, Rissara, Krisys, and Dez) and I transferred to Zul’jin with the intent of PvP’ing together. After reading more about rated battlegrounds, we decided to start a guild doing battlegrounds on Sunday/Monday and raiding on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday.

We knew from the beginning that our primary guild value would be performance. All of us were excellent gamers who wanted to excel in the content given. Recruitment was kicked into overdrive over the Holidays and our first 25man raid was January 4th.

It’s funny to look back on it all since we specifically told people in our February, March, and April interviews that “we are not a server first guild. We can’t get server firsts raiding 3 nights per week on a very competitive PvE realm.” Now, we’re recruiting and driving for national competition while staying on our limited schedule. We’re the #3 3 night/wk guild in the United States, behind Surprise Mutiny and Arathian Knights. We’re hoping to become #1 with Cataclysm.

Over the past few months, we’ve actually split the guild into two separate “teams” under the same guild tag. I’m the main coordinator of Critical, our PvE progression team. One of my officers, Faux, is the main coordinator of Vital, our Rated Battlegrounds team. We want both teams to be able to compete at a national level while still accruing the same guild achievement, experience, and reputation benefits. This system allows the two teams to achieve that while operating completely independently.

As a guild leader myself, I’m always interested in learning about the management techniques of other guilds. Have any trade secrets?

There are a few things we learned pretty early on that helped us out, the first of which was making value-based recruitment decisions. We told people that we valued performance above everything else, and we accepted anyone who came to us saying “I also value performance.” We accepted several undergeared and underqualified applicants simply because they said “I know I’m a good player” – Toragon, Annaleise, and Anosh, to name a few.

Another thing we learned was how to specialize the trade chat macro. I still have a few examples:

  • A horse walked into a bar and the bartender asked “Why the long face” and the horse said “Because I’m not in Imperative.” Imperative is recruiting! Join now!
  • You can pwn if you wanna. You can leave your guild behind. Cus your guild don’t pwn and if it don’t pwn then it ain’t no guild of mine. Imperative is recruiting!
  • Just a city dwarf, born n’ raised in south IF! He took the midnight train going to Imperative, with a light raid schedule and 8/12 in ICC-25! Spots open, join now!
  • Apolo Ohno? More like Apollo Fail-o! Why? Because he’s not in Imperative.

These macros were essentially designed to grab attention. Most people just completely zone-out when it comes to advertisements in real life, and trade-chat advertisements are no different. These macros were designed purely to get people talking about our guild and what we were about.

Another successful idea that we implemented were guild meetings. We hold an officer meeting at the end of every raid week to discuss recruitment, member concerns, and anything else that we want. In addition, we also hold a guild meeting on the last Monday of each month. Our guild meetings serve as a reminder to individual players that we’re focused on both short-term and long-term goals. It’s easy for a lot of guilds to get so wrapped up in each progression cycle, so we created our guild meetings to reinforce long-term guild goals.

One final policy is officer chat. Anyone in the guild can talk in officer chat at any time, but only officers can read officer chat. At first, this might seem a bit strange – members type something in /o but they can’t even see their own message. Overall, it has provided an excellent flow of information. It allows members to talk to all officers simultaneously without pulling us aside. If a member has a problem with another member, an emergency afk, a strategy suggestion, or anything else that officers should be aware of, they can simply say something in officer chat. This policy ensures that some officer will see it and that all officers are aware of it, rather than just the “favorite officer.”

With regards to Cataclysm, how is your guild preparing for the expansion in the opening weeks?

We’re going to take it easy. We’ve set out first “official” 25man raid for January 4th. Between Cataclysm’s release and that date, we’ve set out some expectations for our members such as 40 heroics minimum completed, all of the good gems/enchants (including reputation ones), tradeskills high enough to incur personal raiding benefits, and strong familiarity with your class mechanics and all introductory fights. However, I’m sure we’ll end up doing some 10man raiding to start getting familiar with the fights. We might end up raiding on December 21st.

Right now, Cataclysm is looking like you cannot “skip over” heroic dungeons. WotLK had players walking into Naxxaramas with essentially quest greens, and the raid instance itself was extremely easy. Blizzard seems to be overcorrecting for that mistake, making most of the introductory encounters complete gear checks.

Our rated Battlegrounds team, Vital, is likely starting December 18th or 19th. We now know that it will be a 15v15 weekend, and we’re all very excited to dive headfirst into the competition. It’ll be interesting to see what teams show up that early and how the season scales with resilience.

How do you utilize your guild bank? How are the resources being used?

Right now, the guild bank pays for all repairs during raiding hours and provides fish feasts for all raiders. We’ve accumulated a static 225k to “sit on” going into Cataclysm. Anything over 225k is split among all active raiders at the end of the month. We sell Light of Dawn for 40k each week to two players, in addition to selling heroic run-throughs and gear.

We’re hoping to be able to provide Flask Cauldrons, but, with the changes to 10 and 25man raiding, that may not be sustainable. With the merger of 10man and 25man lockouts, it’s become difficult to sell both gear and raid spots. However, the guild leveling “perks” that deposit gold into the guild bank in addition to BoE items might transfer things over.

About raiding

Let’s talk about your raid environment for a moment. I’ve heard from a variety of raiders at upper levels that a top 100 guild is different from a top 50 guild which is different from a top 20 guild (and a top 10 guild). Do you know what I mean? Do you think you can explain that a bit? What kind of mindset or mental state is the raid in when on a progression run?

I think the main thing that varies is the collective view of the most brutal progression fights. For the most part, we were nowhere close to competing for US until we seriously pushed heroic Lich King. In fact, we spent the entire month of January competing to get on the front page of WoWProgress on Zul’jin. When we got out first heroic Sindragosa and Putricide kills, we were just under the “top 250” cutoff. We were a guild that was 4/12 heroic until the next zone-wide buff, and we’d jump 4 more bosses.

We raid three nights per week and strictly adhere to our schedule. We’ve never raided past 12:20am and never raided on a non-raid night. Most of us felt that, with 10 hours of raiding each week, things like server firsts were beyond us. We told people in interviews up front that we likely wouldn’t be getting server firsts just due to time constraints.

Our mindset changed drastically at heroic Lich King. When we learned that other guilds on the server were making limited progress, we saw an opportunity to actually seize a server first. Our raid environment went from joking-fun raiding to semi-serious and professional attitudes. Whenever the officers elected not to attempt heroic Lich King, people became extremely agitated.

There are a lot of different “modes” that raids can enter when pushing progression. There’s an “unfocused” mode where people crack up at Shadow Trap wipes. There’s a “bad luck” mode where people start feeling that elements are out of the raid’s control (disconnects, for example). There’s “rapid fire” mode where you’re literally just throwing bodies at the boss and trying to get as many attempts as you can (Quedar hates this mode. I love it). These modes are all fairly detrimental, but all difficult to control. It’s hard to make sure that people are both focused and having a good time. The worst thing that I can ever hear as a raid leader is one of my officers saying “this is miserable” – you’ve gotta keep morale up.
The one thing that all top-level guilds have in common is the high emphasis placed on performance. I’ve been playing WoW for over 4 years, and I know how challenging it can be to be an awesome player surrounded by bad ones in a terrible guild. So, in case there is any doubt, there are guilds out there where everyone is an excellent player and no one is getting carried. You just need to find them.

Can you summarize the recruiting process after the initial application? You probably have a trial portion of some sort. What does that involve? What happens when a raider passes it? What happens when they fail?

Once you submit an application, you’ll get assigned a unique application ID number that gives you and only you access to your application. The application also gets posted on our private forums so that members can post questions and comments for the applicant to see. I firmly believe that all applications should be private for both the applicant and guild, but I also wanted applicants to be able to engage in a dialogue about their application – this system allows them to do that.

After you submit an application, we usually get comments posted about it within 18-24 hours. If we like your application, you’ll get flagged for an “interview” by one of our officers. Interviews, for us, usually consist of no questions. Instead, we just lay out how we operate and what our expectations are. It’s then the burden of the applicant to evaluate themselves and critically analyze if they can meet our expectations. Nearly every applicant who gets to the interview stage is accepted.

We don’t have any “initiate” or “trial” status. Once you’re in, you’re in. You’re held to the same expectations as every other member. We do not allow “I’m new” as an excuse for poor performance. We expect everyone to get things correct on their first try, even if they’ve never seen it before.

What type of players are you looking for when you’re recruiting? Are there any specific or shared traits among the players in your raid group?
Simply put, we recruit “skilled players.” If anything, the past year has proven to us that skill drives progression – not time input. We want players who are world-class record setters and don’t need to make mistakes in order to learn the lessons.

However, there are several other elements that go into our ideal applicant. Applicants for either team are expected to be team players. We frequently call upon individuals to set aside their personal goals for a larger team goal. We had three rogues and three hunters when pushing heroic Lich King, but we only brought one rogue and one hunter due to their weak classes. In the 10-weeks prior to heroic Lich King, we received 40 heroic tier tokens in which every single one went to a DPS. We asked our healers to set aside their personal healing goals so that we could gear for the fight (heroic Lich King being a pure DPS race).

To screen for team players, we usually look at guild history. Players who are essentially “guild hoppers” usually hop whenever asked to set aside some personal goal, while players who’ve been in a single guild for 6 months or more have inevitably been asked to do something they didn’t want to do, but did it anyway for the team.

Another strong element is cultural “fit.” Imperative’s culture largely emanates a feeling of “professional college gamers.” 90% of the guild is between ages 20 and 25, and 96% of the guild either already has or is currently pursuing a 4-year Bachelor’s degree. Culturally, the majority of our members are extremely professional – no one would greet their friends like “gangstaz”. We want players who fit well with our raid environment. To do that, you need to be a generally nice person who doesn’t screw around in raids and enjoys being around other people. In the past, we removed two main tanks for extreme personality clashes (and generally being assholes).

What immediately happens after a wipe? What is the leadership approach to players who aren’t “getting it”?

Immediately after any wipe, every officer writes down what they interpreted as the cause of the wipe in addition to any mistakes that were made in the previous attempt. This data is then compiled later in our officer forums for analysis. We then explain what we interpreted as the cause of the wipe and what we need to do to improve.

If individual players just “aren’t getting it,” their raid spot will immediately be called into question in both the short-term and long-term. If someone is simply having an off-night, they’ll get replaced for the remainder of the evening. However, if someone is sincerely struggling at learning an individual boss mechanic, their long-term raid spot will also be questioned (sometimes publicly).

We are a guild of rising standards, and, to us, WoW is an easy game. At one point in time, we recruited based on the ability to run out of normal-mode Sindragosa’s Icy Grip. We later (much later) recruited off the ability to down heroic Lich King and heroic Halion. For the past two months, we’ve been recruiting off the ability to farm heroic Lich King. When Cataclysm hits, we expect all of our members to rapidly learn and perfect fight execution. With each fight, there’s a new performance standard set. If they fall significantly behind, we’ll open recruitment for someone who can meet the new standards.

Rumor has it you instituted a “bottom 3” policy at some point in time. What was that about?

The “bottom 3” policy was in effect until September earlier this year. Essentially, the policy states that we’re always seeking to replace the “bottom 3” players in the guild. At the end of each week, officers meet to discuss who were the three least skilled players in the guild. We then inform those three that they were in the bottom 3, and, if they do not significantly improve, we recruit over them. Being in the bottom 3 also removes all loot privileges until we see an improvement. When it comes time to critically analyze an individual raid spot, we look at how often that player appears in the bottom 3 and if we believe their performance level can change. Once we receive an application from someone that we are convinced is better than someone in our bottom 3, we replace them. Once that recruit proves to be actually better than the player in the bottom 3, we remove the player.

At first glance, it sounds brutally harsh, but it has proved extremely effective for us in the past. First, it’s worth noting that no one who was meeting raid standards has ever appeared in the bottom 3. Second, it’s generally hard to “convince us that you’re better.” We need to see long-term attendance levels and performance levels that are better than our current players. One single raid-night parse doesn’t cut it here.
Finally, the policy doesn’t really do anything different than most other raiding guilds. Most guilds look to replace their weaker players with stronger players, and the weakest players tend to get more urgency attached onto them. It’s nothing new to say that we “remove our bad players.” The bottom-3 policy forced us to focus on only 3 bad players rather than a potential 10 that were on our roster early on.
What type of loot distribution system do you run and what was the thought process that led you to it?

Ironically, I was a DKP-addict throughout all of Burning Crusade. I spent countless hours trying to create the perfect system that would give the correct incentives for showing up and performing. It wasn’t until I joined Aftermath on Lightning’s Blade that I was enlightened to the brilliance of loot council. Aftermath had a perfect loot council that made decisions purely based on progression and performance. To them, gear was a means to an end. When starting Imperative, I attempted to copy several of their policies.

Early on, loot council made sense for us. We wanted to ensure that our best players got all the gear they wanted, while our weakest players got absolutely no gear at all. Point-based systems tend to over-emphasize attendance and downplay performance, so they weren’t an option.
Loot council is the optimal form of loot distribution at high-end progression raiding. For us, “fairness” is completely irrelevant. Gear is allocated purely for whatever is going to get us the most progression the fastest. As mentioned earlier, the 40 tier tokens that dropped prior to downing heroic Lich King went to DPS’ers. Stronger AoE classes were given preference on the tokens over weaker AoE classes. We were gearing to down heroic Lich King, not to be “fair.”

Now, I consider myself an expert in loot councils. I’m the author of the #1 Loot Council mod, LootCouncil_Lite. The mod gives loot councils a solid voting interface with the ability to quickly compare upgrade sizes. It has become a critical part of our loot council procedures.

*Edit: I personally use Loot Council Lite and I love it.

What you did for the red shirt guy was touching. What made you decide to offer that gesture? How did the rest of your guild take it?

After BlizzCon and reading the horrific comments on the forums and YouTube, I went to track down the red shirt guy. After learning his identity, we extended him the offer to come to a 12/12 heroic clear, getting all gear that he could use including heroic tier tokens and Lich King weapons.
We felt that, out of everyone in the United States, he would get the most enjoyment being a part of the most epic battle that has ever been made within any MMO. He genuinely appreciated the meaning and lore behind Invincible – it wasn’t just a “cool mount” to ride around. A lot of people have tried to make him feel bad or feel like a nerd, so we thought he should get the gear to feel totally badass.

We did not reveal the identity of the red shirt guy until after the raid, so most had no idea what was going on. We didn’t want him being harassed by individuals in the guild or on the server. We instead told the guild that I had a “personal friend” transferring over, and that he would get any and all gear that he wanted during our 12/12 heroic Icecrown clear. He walked out with two heroic Tier Tokens, the heroic Deathwhisperer dagger, the heroic Lich King axe, and a few other pieces.

Most notably, we gave the red shirt guy Invincible. One of my officers (Faux) won the roll and elected to give it to him, sacrificing his vanity item eligibility for a few months. After revealing his identity, a few members outright didn’t believe us and were a little disgruntled that we gave Invincible to “some friend of Blacksen.” After the red shirt guy made the YouTube video, however, everyone was happy and warm inside.

About the blogs

What’s Blacksen.com about? Are there any projects you’re apart of?

Blacksen.com is about a wide range of topics, from guild and raid leadership to zone critiques to game design suggestions. I originally started it as a feeble attempt to improve my chances of getting into the gaming industry. Once I really got going and Imperative started making significant long-term progress, blogging became more of an hobby.

The majority of the blog focuses on guild and raid leadership within World of Warcraft, but there are a few other things I’ve tossed in. A lot of my guildmates have recently become enthralled with League of Legends, so I’ve written a couple of entries on that. A significant number of us also participated in the Cataclysm beta.

I’ve also been a part of the MMOLeader.com launch. The title pretty much explains what it is – a place for leaders within MMO’s to congregate to discuss various strategies and issues that they’ve experienced.

Thanks again to Blacksen for taking the time to participate in this interview!

How to Melee DPS Without Making Healers Cry

This is a guest post by Shazrad of Zul’jin. One of the best players I’ve ever had the pleasure of raiding with. ~Lodur

As DPS it’s our job to do as much DPS as possible.  We can’t do that if we can’t stay alive. We can’t do that if we are irritating our healers to the point that they think it would be more mana efficient to res us rather than heal us. In truth, nothing irritates healers and raid leaders more than DPS who have little or no situational awareness.  With that said lets break things down a bit.

To start with let’s break down what DPS really is. I know what some readers are thinking.  “DPS means DAMAGE PER SECOND dummy!” I’m sorry but you are wrong.

It stands for this:

  1. Don’t stand in things that damage you
  2. Placement, placement and placement
  3. Stay alive

Any raid leader will tell you I am right.

Matt’s notes: He’s right.

Those 3 things are the most common obstacles that melee DPS face. Your rotation can be perfect. Your spells can be up without missing a beat. Yet if you fail in any of those 3 areas you become useless to your raid. In order to help you better understand what each item means I will break them down for you.

  • Don’t stand in things that damage you - This sounds easy. I guarantee you that almost every raid leader will agree that standing in fire/defile/desecrate/ (insert random boss ability here) causes 90 % of raid DPS deaths. Standing in things that damage does not just mean health dropping. Some things cause your attacks to slow, some cause you to miss more often and so on and so forth. There are rare occasions where standing in something will give you a DPS boost. Those instances are so rare, it’s best to just not stand in anything that appears on the floor during a boss fight. If you’re not sure, ask. No good raid leader will be mad at you for asking but you can bet that you will hear it if you don’t ask and die repeatedly to the same thing when all you really need to do is move.
  • Placement, placement and placement – Where you stand is just as important as where you shouldn’t stand. This typically means that unless told otherwise melee stands BEHIND the target, casters stand off to the side or behind the target. DPS who stand in front of the target are dealing with cleaves, parry, and everything else the tank is dealing with. It’s not somewhere you want to be on most fights. Always know where you need to be and be there and you will be loved by all. (Disclaimer: I probably still won’t love you I’m anti love unless you’re a chicken salad sandwich.)
  • Stay Alive – No matter what you must live. Dead DPS is not DPS; it’s a corpse. Corpses (unless you’re a ghoul) sit there and rot. So do whatever you have to do to NOT die.

If you can do these three things you are already a step ahead of the game.

Tips and Tricks:

In this section I will go over some basic things that will help you survive.

  • Keyboard Turning – Its bad! Do not do it. Keyboard turning is using your arrow or A and S keys to turn. This method of turning is to slow. Instead use your mouse to turn. Right click your mouse and move it to the left or right. It’s about 100000 times faster. Keyboard turning is just too slow for raiding. The abilities that bosses throw when you need to turn and burn hit so hard that if you keyboard turn you will most likely die. Dead characters are useless.
  • Jumping out of Damage – Its bad do NOT do it. Jumping in World of Warcraft is not like jumping in the real world. When you jump the game records your position. When you land it updates your position. So when you jump out of damage the game registers you in the damage until you land. In most cases your jump is farther than you actually need to go. This means you are taking damage the entire time you are in the air. It’s bad. Don’t do it.
  • Strafing – Is useful. When fighting most bosses they have a tendency to throw stuff right at your feet. Try to get in the habit of strafing left and right to move out of the damage. Moving this way is easier and faster than turning and moving.
  • Zoom Out – Zoom your camera out as far as you can. This allows you to not only see what you are doing but you can also see what’s going on around you. Knowing what’s going on in a fight is the key to winning.
  • Situational Awareness – Without this you might as well go back to soloing Dead Mines. Get yourself a good boss mod. Set it up so that the information it provides is easy for you to see. I try and keep all my important alerts right around my character. This way my eyes are always on what my character is doing. Try to avoid sticking it way off in a corner somewhere. With it up there you are having to constantly take your eyes off the action.  Also make sure you enable the audio alerts. These sounds will draw your attention to important details even if you’re focused on something else.
  • Stay Behind – Unless your raid leader tells you to specifically stay in front of a boss attack from behind. Attacking from the front causes you to miss more often (except in certain special boss fights).  Bosses also often have cleaves and other nasty effects that will usually kill you in a single hit.
  • Ask Questions – Do not be afraid to ask your raid leader a question. I know this is cliché but “There are no stupid questions unless you don’t ask them.” So ask. Even if you have asked before. Do not go into an encounter with a question. Unasked questions are the same thing as not knowing what to do. You will likely die or even worse you may wipe the entire raid out because you didn’t know what to do and didn’t have the guts to speak up.
  • Get Some Mods – There are plenty of mods out there that will help you with every aspect of a raid. Mods like Power Auras Classic and GTFO can be set up to let you know when you are taking damage. Deadly Boss Mods and Big Wigs are extremely good at letting you know when to move. These are just a few examples of mods that can help you know when to move.

Final Thoughts:

In closing there are three things I would like to stress:

  1. Anything on the floor be it fire, funky red glowing circles or a big fluffy blue line is probably bad. Get out of it unless your raid leader says to stand in it.
  2. Know the fight before you start the fight. Watch a video, read a strategy, ASK YOUR RAID LEADER! Know when to move.  Don’t be that guy…
  3. STAY ALIVE NO MATTER WHAT. If you die you are useless to the raid.
Raid Leading Smoothly Like Barney Ross

Raid Leading Smoothly Like Barney Ross

This is a guest post by Blacksen of Blacksen’s End. Don’t forget to check out his blog!

I just saw The Expendables a couple of nights ago, and while not a particularly fantastic movie, there were a few good moments. The movie basically revolves around a team (called “the Expendables”) who undertake a mission to free an Island from a tyrannical General and the American investment puppeteers ordering him around.

The team consists of 4-5 skilled assassins (if you can call them that), all taking orders from Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone’s character). While watching, I noticed that the movie was kind of like a World of Warcraft raid. The Expendables fought wave after wave of terrible soldiers (Sylvester Stallone ironically calls them “trash”). At points, they were just throwing out grenades and AoE’ing the trash down. Eventually, they would run into one of the Americans (which we could call a “boss”), and there would be a big battle around them. Throughout the movie, I noticed that Barney Ross had a lot of characteristics that matched my own raid leadership style. Even towards the end, Sylvester Stallone made a terrible “your mom” joke.

What other qualities that Barney had that would make him a good WoW raid leader?

Draw the line and stick to it. Without giving anything away, there are numerous instances in which Barney clearly draws a line. At the start of the movie, he draws the line for one of his team members. He essentially says “this is how much I’m going to tolerate,” and when that team member does cross the line, there are some real consequences.

A lot of World of Warcraft raider leaders don’t know how to do this (and I admit, I sometimes fail at enforcement). You must clearly identify the point in which someone isn’t adequate. Is it 8k DPS? 10k? 2 Malleable Goos? 5 Deathwhisperer ghosts? And when one of these does get crossed, you should be prepared to actually enforce the proposed consequences. If you tell everyone “we’ll be swapping you out the second time you get hit by Halion’s cutters,” then you should actually swap people out at the second time they get hit by cutters.

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Keep your cool. Even amidst hundreds of bullets flying his way every second, Barney is still able to stay calm and make good decisions. He doesn’t get too angry, stressed, or upset, despite being in a very difficult situation. Being able to make decisions when things are very challenging and stressful is a critical part to effective raid leadership. Barney could have started to freak out and make rash decisions. Instead, he chose to stay cool, think things through, and make good calls.

Know how and when to change plans. Sometimes, things just aren’t working. For Barney, crap seemed to hit the fan all the time. Whether he’s just riding in a car with his friends and getting ambushed, or he’s trying to set up remote mines in the villa, things just never seem to go right. For both Barney and his second-in-command, it was critical to deviate from the plan and adapt to the situation. For raid leaders, there are several points in which you might also need to do this. If you don’t have a raid composition that’s going to complete a fight, it might be worth not trying (heroic Lich King without a disc priest, for example). There’s really not much of a point in attempting heroic Halion with 5 healers, so you might need to change plans.

If you’re trying a certain strategy and it just isn’t working, try something else. Heroic Halion was a good example for us: I was stubborn for a while and insisted that Halion be tanked at the wall while upstairs. We eventually found that it just wasn’t working, so we tried the “run through” strategy that we use now.

Stallone probably would have been more willing to change plans much earlier, as it was pretty obvious things weren’t going right.

Delegate to key players. For some raid leaders, it can be really tempting to try to micro-manage everything that’s going on. After all, most of us trust ourselves more than anyone else. By trying to control everything, you feel like there’s less room for other people to make an error in judgment. Usually, this mentality leads to poorer decisions and a more stressed raid leader. Barney clearly would have known that if he were a raid leader. Throughout the movie, he knows when there are times to delegate tasks for the rest of his crew. Sometimes, you just can’t do everything alone. More importantly, he knows which members would succeed better in certain areas.

At one point, the “short” team member was given a job in which his small stature would help him. By identifying the advantageous qualities of your key players, you can delegate them tasks in which they will truly shine.

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Recruit a completely badass team. I’ve said it a hundred times, and I’ll say it again: the key to a successful progression guild is effective recruitment.

Barney would have died within the first 5 minutes of the movie without the support of his team. For raid leaders, this is also the case. Recruit badass players – you’ll need their support in order to free an Island from a tyrant… erm, I mean free Azeroth from Deathwing.

Holy Power and More for the Post-Cataclysmic Paladin

Holy Power and More for the Post-Cataclysmic Paladin

Please give a warm World of Matticus welcome to guest-blogger Ophelie, and remember to visit Bossy Pally for more great Paladin posts!

I came home from a weekend in the wilderness to discover my class turned upside down. That’s what happens when you spend two days and a night in the middle of nowhere without internet. You come back and you’re lost.

As I was scrambling to piece together the bits of news, Matt suggested I guest post about it. Guest post about the paladin news, of course, not my scrambling. So I did what I always do when having to talk about Cataclysm news. I grabbed a pen, some paper and called up Google.

And if that wasn’t enough, a new beta build was released between then and now, just for confusion purposes.

So…here’s what I found out, and there’s what I think of it all.

Apparently, last Friday there was a certain Twitter Developer Chat. Apparently, some paladiny stuff was said. Apparently, it was stuff like:

All of the paladin specializations will make use of a new resource called Holy Power. Holy Power accumulates from using Crusader Strike, Holy Shock, and some other talents. Holy Power can be consumed to augment a variety of abilities, including:

An instant mana-free heal: Word of Glory
A buff to increase holy damage done: Inquisition
A massive physical melee attack for Retribution paladins: Templar’s Verdict
Holy Shield’s duration is now extended by Holy Power
Divine Storm’s damage is now increased by Holy Power

We also introduced several new heals for Holy Paladins including Healing Hands (an AoE heal-over-time that is applied to all players standing near the paladin), Light of Dawn (a cone heal with a 30-yard range), as well as a new heal called Divine Light, which is similar to a priest’s Greater Heal, and the new instant heal mentioned above, Word of Glory.

As for the release of new talents builds, for those of us who aren’t lucky enough to witness them first hand, here’s a link to the MMO Champion version.

I’m going to stick with the holy side of the things, because I’m primarily a healer and this, after all, is primarily a healing blog. I’m also going to stick with the big picture and what stood out to me. I figure anyone who really cares about the nitty gritty details has already read (if not tested) them anyway.

Back to the dev chat news, in other words, we get a new bar (like a health or mana bar, and yes it’s currently supposed to be an actual bar and not cute circles on our screen) to record stacked up combo-like points as we cast Holy Shock, as we directly heal our Beacon target (via the Tower of Radiance talent) and possibly as we do other things. We’re then given Word of Glory, a get-out-of-jail free card for when there’s need to fill in one of the gaps caused by Holy Shock cooldowns.

More Bars, More Bars!

When I first heard of a Holy Power bar, I froze for a second, worried that my mana bar was being replaced. But no, they’re actually adding a new bar and not removing old bars. I like that. It gives us something else to keep our eyes on and to make the mental hamster run faster. It’s not too complex, after all, last I heard, Holy Power only stacked up to 3. 3 points is totally something I can keep track of.

Forcing us to use Holy Shock regularly, keeping track of Holy Power stacks and deciding when to use a finishing move is a small but welcome addition to the holy paladin thought process.

EDIT : In the comments, Esh, who’s been playing in the beta, reported that Holy Power is actually a buff icon and not a bar, at least at lower levels. It’s been assumed that Holy Power would be a bar due to a post by Ghostcrawler, but a buff icon certainly makes more sense.

Holy Shock: A Love Story

Personal confession time: I love Holy Shock. I’ve always loved Holy Shock. Holy Shock and I go way back. Holy Shock was the whole reason I specced Holy in the first place (hey I was new to the game and didn’t realize there were more efficient ways to deal damage). Though I eventually discovered it wasn’t the wonderful spell I had imagined, it’s still been there for me through all the hard times. Whenever I needed to quickly save someone without abandoning the tanks, it didn’t hesitate. It was my companion during all those ICC fights that had me casting and running (and cursing!) at the same time.  It listened to all my problems and never laughed at me… Erm. Moving on.

In one sentence, it should come as no surprised that I’m thrilled to see Holy Shock finally getting the game mechanics buff it deserves.

Oh, and if adding importance to Holy Shock wasn’t enough, its mana cost is brought down to 8% from 18% and it helps with all the slow casting via the talents Infusion of Light and Speed of Light, somewhat replacing the current Light’s Grace.

There’s also a new spell, Holy Mending, that gives Holy Shock a small heal over time. 15% of a Holy Shock over 9 seconds seems a little silly, but, um, you know, at least they’re trying.

EDIT: Ryonar left an excellent comment that is unfortunately stuck in pending comment limbo. He pointed out that Holy Mending is already in the game: it’s the tier 8 2p bonus. The MMO Champion Paladin page makes it look like a skill trainable at level 80. It either a bug, or it’s becoming a permanent skill in the expansion.

Addressing the Movement Issue

Remember what I said about casting and running at the same time?

Sorry, I couldn’t heal I was moving.”

How often has an embarrassed paladin said that following a premature tank death? (There’s also the slightly more disturbing “sorry, I couldn’t move I was healing”.)

To me, the new emphasis placed on Holy Shock, and the addition of Word of Glory, another instant heal, looks like an attempt to make movement more manageable. I’m curious to see how much assistance the final mechanics of Healing Hands and Light of Dawn end up providing to the current movement impaired paladin. As of now, both are instant and both seem to allow movement during the spell effect.

Healing Hands even increases movement speed by up to 60% when talented into Speed of Light. Being someone who staged a large protest when she couldn’t fit Pursuit of Justice into all her paladin specs, my stomach did summersaults when I discovers the good news.

Feelin’ Like a Paladin

Like druid healers and their tree forms, like shamans with their skirts, like priests with, um, whatever is meaningful to priests (normally I’d make a joke about priests always being dead, but for some reason, it feels like a bad idea to do that here), us paladins have a sense of identity too.

In our history, we’ve been blasphemized. We’ve been forced to wear certain pieces of mail gear because it was better itemized than plate. (Min/maxers even went as far as equipping the Meteor Chaser’s Raiment, which is made of toilet paper, of all things). Again and again, we’ve been sent to the back of the room with all the casters. Many of us were even deprived of shields, resigning ourselves to carrying orbs or lamps in our off-hands. The horrors just never end.

On top of it all, Cataclysm promises to lessen the differences between the healing classes, in an effort to promote Blizzard’s “blame the player not the class” campaign (or was it, “bring the player, not the class”? I can never get it straight.)

But you know what?

I’m ok with it.

Seriously. Healing Hands and Light of Dawn introduce some multi-target healing beyond the limitations of Beacon of Light and Glyph of Holy Light. Healing Hands and Holy Mending/Holy Shock also flirt with heals over time, another element lacking in paladin healing.

Yet, while the end results are similar from one class to another, our ways to reach those ends are tailored to our unique paladin interests (special little snowflakes that we are). The mechanics of our new spells encourage us to get up close and personal (hopefully, my stubborn plate wearing tendencies will finally be useful) and Holy Power…

Ah! Holy Power!

I can just picture my little paladin puffing up with zealousness as she casts, then unleashing it all in one blow.

Oh, and yes, I do agree with Rohan and a number of others in their preference for the term Zeal. The concept of Holy Power is terrific, the name Holy Power, however, makes me think of energy drinks.

But you know that when we’ve reduced ourselves to complaining about semantics, we’re finally getting some pretty promising Cataclysm news.

Bursting Bubbles

Bursting Bubbles

This is a guest post from Dwynwen, a Discipline Priest with some lessons to share. Be sure to visit her blog!

I’m one of many burned out 25 man raiders who have turned to 10’s to help minimize raiding impact on ‘real life’. I’d been at loose ends for a regular but casual raid for a few weeks after an alt run I’d been tanking fell apart.

When the call went out for a healer to join a better-geared 10 man ICC alt run, I offered my priest without really thinking about it and almost immediately wondered what the heck I’d done. In theory my priest was quite well geared to start ICC, wearing mostly 232 and 245 with a couple of PVP 264. The real problem was that I’d never really learned to heal in a raid as disc, and I wasn’t looking forward to attempting harder content than I’d ever tried on her before.

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I had two major problems with discipline. One was of perception, and the other performance. Disc isn’t widely understood, at least on the servers I’ve played on. While the information is certainly out there if you look hard enough, holy priests are assumed to be the default and it takes a little digging to pull out the disc information from priest threads dominated by Circle of Healing. Worse, those who don’t know much about the differences between two specs judge us against our holy brothers and sisters, against which bar for throughput we haven’t a hope. I’d had quite a few bad experiences at the hands of PUG raid leaders who judged me purely on healing done, which does make my performance look appalling. Lacking the confidence to challenge this assumption, I tried to adopt a throughput-focused playstyle by using Prayer of Healing, Flash Heal, and Greater Heal. I struggled with mana issues and still performed poorly, and had added quite a bit of stress and anxiety for myself into the bargain.

In desperation, I respecced to holy expecting that to be the answer. I lasted half a heroic before teleporting back out to the trainer. I missed the powerful and dynamic playstyle that I’d fallen in love with in the battlegrounds, using every tool at my disposal to survive and claw my allies back from the abyss. I have the greatest respect for holy priests, but I regretfully concluded it was simply not for me.

Defeated, I stopped putting my hand up for raids. My confidence continued to take a beating from the usual abuse meted out to healers in LFG. Intellectually I knew full well the Paladin had killed himself by standing in a void zone, but with my faith in my abilities at such a low ebb I meekly dropped group to save them the trouble of a votekick and vowed to focus on PVP.

It’s probably understandable that after all of this I would be nervous about stepping into ICC. The first run I was healing with a druid who had a disc priest main. The druid took over healing assigns and she was confident in directing me. “We’ll get the Paladin to tank heal” she suggested, “so you can focus on raid healing with me.”

Raid heal? I didn’t think I could.

“Keep an eye on the tanks just in case we run into trouble, but focus on keeping bubble up on the raid.”

I followed her advice as best I could. The first four bosses passed without incident as I focused on learning this new playstyle. Without a healing meter that tracked absorbs I had no idea how well i was doing, but I soon found I felt far less anxiety and my mana problems went away. At first, my saviour complex had me leaping to direct heal DPS who were taking damage but I slowly learned to have faith in the bubble to hold them until the druid HOT’s could roll in.

To start with, I was quite sparing of the bubbles, only casting them over the whole raid when I knew raid-wide damage was about to occur. As started to see heal reports whispered from the druid that showed how powerful my absorbs were, I gradually learned the art of bubble spam. I modified my raid frames to show Weakened Soul, and aimed to keep it up on all members of the raid at all times. I made a mouseover macro for Power Word: Shield, and bound it to 1.

I learned to move almost constantly to keep myself out of damaging effects while still rotating through the raid, keeping up POM and throwing out Penance. I kept casting, throwing out Renew if I had nothing else to do. If I didn’t have mana problems, I pushed harder until I did.  I started to get better at picking the times when direct healing was called for. Bubble-Spammer I am, but as the only healer in our raid able to break both fears on Blood Queen I gloried in throwing caution to the wind, stacking haste procs, and exploding out in Prayer of Healing to get the raid through. If that’s what it feels like to be a holy priest, I think I’m starting to understand.

dwyn

If the mistakes I made were driven by the perception and attitudes of the community, so was the solution. I can credit good mentoring for most of my improvement. My druid friend gave me many tips, hints, and plenty of encouragement. Apparently this is as natural to her as breathing, because when I credited her with teaching me how to disc she scoffed and assured me I already could.

If only she knew.

There’s a certain truth however to what she says. I already possessed enough of the information I needed to raid successfully as disc, little bits here and there I’d gleaned in my wider reading. What I was really missing was the confidence to put into practice what I knew was right, and the numbers to back it up. Penance Priest, World of Matticus and Plus Heal have filled in some of the gaps for me here. The final piece though only dropped into place when I was provided with an environment where constructive criticism abounded in which to develop and learn.

I can wholeheartedly agree with "The ABC of Discipline Priesting" that playstyle makes far more difference than perfect stat itemisation, and I think it’s a message that many new disc can benefit from. I can assure you I could be gemmed with pure agility and still be performing better than I was before – and I’m not a bad player. I’ve raided 25 man content as progression over two expansions, and have always had a reputation in my guild as someone who hits hard above their gear level and follows direction well. It still took more than a few trial-and-error runs and a guide to gemming for me to finally shed my fear of disc’s perception and start learning to play well.

My gear is certainly not fabulously itemised at the moment – I’m high on haste and regen and low on crit according to the conventional wisdom, and the 200 hit rating and 150 resilience I’m carrying probably isn’t doing anyone any good. I had my reward for all my hard work and development though when, finally brave enough to enter a 25 man ICC PUG, I saw myself top the charts fight after fight against very geared healers. Winning the roll on Althor’s Abacus possibly assisted with the general feeling of benevolence to all humanity, but at the root I was thankful I could finally feel proud of my impact. Bubble is, after all, the ultimate heal snipe.

Of course, the meters don’t tell the whole story and that’s not really what I’m celebrating here. My sense of achievement comes not from indulging my saviour complex, or from the numbers on recount, but from a feeling of mastery of my class. Besides, it doesn’t matter how much you push to top the chart – you’ll still be outhealed by the hunter you killed with Mark of the Fallen Champion by meter-chasing instead of following your assigns.

skada

Oops.

The Flash of Light Spec

This is a guest post by @Dtotheug

What spec and glyphs should I should I use as a Holy Paladin for raiding?

That is a good question and really depends on how you want to play and what your role is in the raid. Currently there are two prevailing specs and each have their plus and minuses.

The first spec is the Flash of Light spec (51/5/15) which focuses on a bigger Flash of Light (FoL) heal, more mitigation via Sacred Shield (because Sacred Shield scales with Spell Power), increases the HoT effect of your Infusion of Light talent, and relies more on your healing spells to crit. The problem with this spec is that if you are not mostly using FoL you’re going to have to watch your mana pool closely because Holy Lights and Holy Shocks are going to eat through your mana pool.

This spec also greatly benefits from the four piece bonus of the T9 set which increases the HoT of your FoL by 100%. The major glyphs I would recommend if you are thinking about using this spec are Glyph of Seal of Light, Glyph of Beacon Light, and Glyph of Flash of Light.

Glyph of Seal of Light is a flat 5% increase to your healing spells and since you will be criting more with this spec (which means more mana being returned) you won’t have to worry about your mana as much, which means this glyph is going to benefit you more than the Glyph of Seal of Wisdom.

Glyph of Beacon of Light is chosen because it is going to add 30 seconds to Beacon of Light which means you don’t have to worry about it dropping off your target as quickly. In addition you won’t have to worry about trying to cast Beacon of Light and Sacred Shield (both have a 30 second durations) at the same time, it will also conserve some mana because you won’t be casting it as much, and plus it will let you focus on using your healing spells more.

Glyph of Flash of Light is a must have for this spec. It increases the crit chance of your Flash of Light by 5% which calculates out to a 1.5% mana return and a 2.5% increase on your Flash of Light heals.

If you are going to be the main tank healer in a 10-man or 25-man ICC raid I would suggest against this spec, you’re are going to be clicking FoL so much you may break your mouse. There are two situations when I would use this spec. The first is if this is my off-spec and I was running a 10-man or 25-man and if an extra healer was needed, I would step in. Between your Beacon of Light, Sacred Shield, and FoLs, this should give the other healers in your raid the buffer area they need to keep everyone topped off.

The other situation I would use this spec in is if I was backing up the main tank healer or helping with raid healing in a 25-man raid. Your FoLs will be filling in the gaps of the other healers and help keep everyone topped off.

EDIT: Forgot to mention there’s a part 2 coming

Healing Icecrown from a Druid’s Perspective – Part 2

Healing Icecrown from a Druid’s Perspective – Part 2

This is a guest post by Epiphanize, a Resto Druid, and co-host of Raid Warning.

Now that we got all that out of the way, it is time to get down to business. You didn’t really show up just to listen to me go on about glyphs, did you? No, you came to heal your branches off! One quick thing: Be sure to check out the comments in my previous article; there were some good suggestions for alternative point distribution.

Lord Marrowgar

So here we are, Lord Marrowgar, a very interesting challenge for healers. However, it does give Druids a chance to show off their ability to heal on the run. This can be a relatively hectic fight, so regardless of whether you are tank or raid healing, you will need to be tossing HoTs at some points during the fight.

Tank Healing

This is the easier of two roles against Marrowgar.  During his initial phase and all the ones where he is not spinning all over the place, it is essentially a one tank fight. Since the nerf, Marrowgar does quit a bit less melee damage. So the damage your meat shield will be taking will be fairly minimal. This is pretty manageable for Trees, as we can keep the tank pretty well topped off with our HoTs.

One ability you need to be prepared for though is Saber Lash.  Saber Lash is an ability similar to Koralon’s Meteor Fists, in which two tanks will need to stack in order to distribute the damage. Your healing priority will be the Main Tank followed by the Off-Tank after a Saber Lash. As a tree, you have the added benefit of hitting both with Wild Growth before topping off the Main Tank. Other than dodging the occasional slow-motion blue flames, there is not much to deal with during this phase.

Raid Healing

As stated above, this fight can be quite hectic for a raid healer. During the first phase you will have quite a bit to manage. In 10-player, one random player will be Bone Spiked. DPS will be turning to focus on getting the player down as quickly as possible. This presents two things for you as a raid healer. You obviously will need to be focusing on healing the spiked player. I’ve managed to safely keep them up with Rejuvenation and Swiftmend, though this can also be accomplished with a few Nourishes as well. The other thing is people taking Coldflame damage, as they will often be ignoring the flames to get the person off the spike. Again this is usually handled by tossing some Rejuvenations and Wild Growth, saving Swiftmend for anyone who stands in the fire just a bit too long.

The last thing you will be concerned with during the pre-Bone Storm phases is the aforementioned Coldflame. As the raid healer, you will be responsible for topping off anyone who doesn’t get out of the way of the flames quick enough. The damage it does is not too horrible as long as no one just stands there. Its actually more of a nuisance avoiding it yourself, as you will often need to decide between standing their long enough to finish casting a heal, or cutting it short to avoid taking too much damage yourself.

Bone Storm

This phase is pretty similar for Druids regardless of your role. Marrowgar will become untauntable and spin around the room doing relatively minor AOE damage. It is still good to avoid him if possible, as it makes life a bit easier on all the healers. The big thing you will be dealing with is blue flames (of ice?) again. Only this time he drops 4 at a time. This phase is all about survival. Since you will be on the move during this, Druids will be arguably the best healer for this phase. This is where glyphs like Rapid Rejuvenation and Wild Growth start to shine in ICC. Just keep HoTs on everyone and toss Wild Growth on cooldown and you should be fine. Make sure to keep Swiftmend and your NS-HT macro at the ready in case anyone gets into trouble.

One last thing that the Tank Healer needs to consider is the position of the tanks during all chaos. The tanks will be sticking close to Marrowgar during Bone Storm in order to pick him up at the end of the phase. Not only will the tanks be taking a bit extra damage, but you will want to be nearby to keep the Main Tank healed up while everyone gets back to some semblance of order.

Lady Deathwhisper

The next boss in The Citadel is quite a bit easier on the healers than Marrowgar. If your group is good about staying out of Death and Decay and interrupting Frost Bolts, you won’t have to mash the keyboard nearly as much. For Druids, this fight is all about situational awareness and keeping in range of the players taking damage.

Phase 1

The key to Lady Deathwhisper is getting through her first phase. During this phase she will be behind a mana shield that DPS will need to burn through in between dealing with adds that spawn from either side of the room. After that, the fight is pretty much tank and spank. In my experience, this is the fight where you are most likely to only use 2 healers.

The mechanics of the adds are pretty complicated at times, so it is good to familiarize yourself with them. There will be times the tank and raid will be taking increased damage based on these mechanics. There is a lot of movement involved, so there will often be times you will have to drag your stump across the room to toss a heal or two.

There are a few other considerations during this phase. First,  Adherents will place Curse of Torpor on random raid members that increases the cooldown of their abilities, so you will want to make sure you are decursing as often as possible. There will be a bit of randomness from the Death and Decay and Shadow Bolts, so be on the look out. Again, there is going to be some bouncing back and forth because of adds, so communicate with the other healer(s) to make sure you have all your bases covered.

Phase 2

Congratulations, you have made it through the hard part. After her shield is down she becomes tauntable, only has 3 million hit points, and the adds stop spawning. Since this is often 2-healed, you will more than likely be both on raid duty and tank duty. While this phase is pretty much tank and spank, there are some things going on that affect the healers.

The tanks will be swapping as Deathwhisper places a stacking debuff on the tank that reduces their threat. So you will want to keep an ear out for who is tanking her and focus your healing accordingly. She will still be dropping Death and Decay, as well as random frost bolts that should be interrupted. Finally, she will summon on non-targetable Vengeful Shade that will follow a player around and explode if it catches them. You will need to do your best to avoid them if they follow you, and be prepared to heal someone if they get caught (if they don’t get one-shotted).  It’s a pretty quick phase though, and you will be on your way up the elevator in no time.

Gunship Battle

This is a gimmick fight through and through and is a lot of fun. There aren’t really a lot of important mechanics here for healers. Your gunship has two guns that you use to attack the enemy’s gunship.  Occasionally, the opposing ship will summon a mage/sorcerer that will freeze your guns. You will then need to send some raid members over to kill it in order free up your cannons. Back on your own ship, mobs will appear through a portal that will need to be killed, while avoiding incoming rockets and axe-throwers.

Defenders

This is the easier of the two healing roles. Usually one tank and some ranged DPS will stay behind to deal with the enemy boarding party.  The portal will spawn a Sergeant and some Marines. The Sergeant is the only one that really poses any threat, as he has pretty nasty Bladestorm and Wounding Strike abilities. Most of your healing will be focused on the tank, especially if you only have ranged DPS defending. Just be prepared to work a bit extra to overcome the -25% healing debuff.

Two other items of note: First, stay out of shinnies! Rockets will be coming over to your side and the big shiny circle on the ground is an indicator your in the path of said rocket. Be prepared to heal anyone who has yet to learn this golden rule of Warcraft. Second, keep an eye on your boarding party tank. They will be taking damage as they fly back over to your ship, and not every healer is as equipped to heal in the air as us Trees. I have seen quite a few tanks bite it on their way back over as they still have the aggro from the ranged mobs on the enemy ship. A well timed heal from you can be the thing that saves them.

Boarding Party

As the boarding party healer you got the short end of the branch (no, the bad tree jokes will not stop). You will be heading over to the enemy ship with most of the DPS and a Tank to take down the mage/sorcerer while fending off the general and adds. On your way over it will be a good idea to HoT up the tank, as things will be a bit chaotic when you first get over there.

The tank will be keeping the enemy commander busy why DPS take down the mage/sorcerer. Keep an eye out because the longer you are over there the stronger the enemy gets. This will cause everyone to take quite a bit of damage. As mentioned earlier, you will need to keep some heals on the tank as he will take some damage on his way back over. Probably a good idea to leave a Rejuvenation in case you need to toss an emergency Swiftmend on the return flight. Again, a fairly straightforward fight for healers.

Deathbringer Saurfang

Phew, here we are, the final encounter of the entrance to the Citadel. This is probably the most interesting fight so far. A lot of what you need to do as a healer will be determined by your groups strategy, but Druids have a few things to keep in mind both as a tank or raid healer, regardless of how you handle Mark of the Fallen Champion.

Raid Healing

First, you do not have any way to stop the damage people will be taking like priests do. So your main role will be to heal up the damage that does get through. There are three mechanics that will be causing you trouble: Boiling Blood, Blood Nova and Mark of the Fallen Champion.

The first ability, Boiling Blood, will be case on a random raid target. If you have a Priest, they will mitigate a lot of the damage to avoid Saurfang building Blood Power. Its still a good idea, whether you have a Priest or not, to toss Rejuvenation on the Boiling Blood target to keep them topped off. The damage isn’t too bad, and one HoT should be enough to keep them safe.

Blood Nova can be more troublesome depending on how much melee you have. If this gets cast on one, a good amount of people will be taking damage. The player that get Blood Nova should run out of the raid to minimize damage and blood power gain. However, if they don’t get out in time, be prepared to throw out Wild Growth and a couple single target heals.

Finally, there is Mark of the Fallen Champion. How you handle this (if at all) is going to depend on your raid strategy. A lot of guilds, mine included, will just let that player die. This minimizes the buildup of blood power and puts a lot less stress on the healers. If you do decide to keep that person alive you will want to give them full HoTs. Yes, you may have to dust off Lifebloom for this one. I usually put up Rejuvenation and Regrowth, with a Swiftmend if needed.

Tank Healing

There is not nearly as much to deal with as a tank healer. The tanks will be switching when they gain the Rune of Blood debuff, so as per most two tank fights you will need to be paying attention. You will also need to be concerned if a player gets Blood Nova near the tank, which could cause a nasty damage spike. Your final obstacle is at 30%, where Saurfang will Frenzy. This means you need to get your stump in gear and heal faster! Other than that, he is business as usual for a tank healer.

—–

And that’s it! You’ve Stormed the Citadel. Just in time for the Plague Works to open. Thus is the life of a WoW player. In the next installment we will be covering healing Rotface, Festergut, and Putricide, all while avoiding getting any goo on your leaves.