Why the Flex Raid is a Boon

I recently purchased a Flex plan from my cell company where I’d be charged monthly based on the amount of data I actually used. I don’t know if I’ll always be near a wireless access point or not but at least the charges will scale accordingly.

Speaking of Flex plans, Blizzard’s taking a page out of that book and introduced a new type of raiding: The Flex Raid difficulty.

  • We can bring anywhere from 10 – 25 people and the bosses will scale.
  • We can invite friends from other realms via battle tag
  • Item level is between raid finder and normal but loot will be handled via raid finder loot system
  • Separate lockout from raid finder, normal/heroic

I’m still digesting the news. Usually my raid will run through raid finder once a week. We’ve started bringing in and carrying our alts. People are still running raid finder to grab their Titan Runestones at the start. Raid finder is great if I just want to mind numbingly get my way through an instance, gear up an alt, and just generally not have to think but mash buttons. I can eat every void zone, stand in every fire, miss every interrupt, and can live (most of the time).

What kind of example am I setting, right?

Why it’s good

This is great for guilds and cross realm raid groups. Players don’t have to transfer their characters from server to server to raid. I know there’s players out there who have a whole train of alts with assorted professions designed to support their main. If that player is satisfied with raiding on the flex plan, then they can still see the content in the game without committing money to move their supply train.

Second, from a recruiting standpoint, this is a huge tool for a prospect to raid with a potential guild and see if they’d fit in. Right now, we run livestreams and invite possible recruits on to our Mumble in order to give them a look at our raids. I can see a day set aside where recruits can jump in and raid with the team – And the beauty is a whole 25 man team isn’t going to be needed either.

Third, what about guilds that are looking to scale up from 10 to 25 man? This is another excellent way for them to gradually expand. It’s often a nightmare to make an immediate jump from a 10 man to a 25 man raiding guild. Sometimes the pool of player availability isn’t always there. The flex raid allows them to slowly (but surely) change their raid size until a consistent 25 raiders is found for the inevitable shift to normal modes.

But at the end of the day, Flex Raid isn’t a normal raid. It will never carry the prestige or reputation that normal and heroic kills grant. I doubt it’ll be taken seriously but maybe that’s what the main point of the flex raid is. It’s not designed to be cutting edge or challenging. It’s supposed to bring you, your family, and your friends together to raid where you don’t have to deal with potential morons in raid finder. You get to raid on your terms with whoever you want with relaxed restrictions.

Will you flex?

I’m still weighing the costs and benefits of working in Flex raiding for Conquest. I’d remove guild sanctioned Raid Finder from the list of activities and swap to this instead. At minimum, I would have to have at least two tanks available for this. With Raid Finder, I’d be able to go in with whatever composition I had available. The potential drops are better than raid finder anyway. I imagine my current raiding gear from Throne of Thunder will be better than the Raid Finder and flex drops in 5.4. If anything, Flex will be used to help ease our way into progression raids or on nights where half the raid is unable to attend.

Where does the flex raid factor into your guild’s raiding plans? What about your raiding plans? I’ll end up changing my Wednesday night raid finder to the flex raid instead.

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New absorb UI!

patch52-absorb

The default UI’s been updated in the latest patch 5.2 PTR build. We’ve clamored for the ability to view absorb information. That stuff was added into the combat log sometime ago. Now we can actually see how much our shields will absorb for in the various frames.

patch52-monkaoe

Monks get a new Level-60 talent called  Ring of Peace:

Ring of Peace forms a 8 yard sanctuary around the target for 8 seconds, causing all enemies in the area of effect to be silenced and disarmed.

What you don’t see in the above picture is that the ring gradually diminishes and grows smaller in size. You bet it’s a PvP talent! It’s great for any defensive or offensive work that needs to be done. If I manage to root a bunch of players, I hope a Monk drops this right on top.

patch52-insanity

Finally, here we see the reworked Shadow Word: Insanity.

For Shadow, this ability causes Mind Flay to gain the Insanity effect when it’s cast on a target with 3 Shadow damage-over-time spells on them. Insanity causes Mind Flay to deal double damage for the duration.

In essence, when your target has 3 DoTs active, Mind Flay does double damage. Now my question for the theorycrafters is this:

Since Mind Flay will always do double damage with 3 DoTs up, does this mean we should activate Devouring Plague with only 1 Shadow orb or continue to save and use Devouring Plague at 3? The only way to negate this question is if the Insanity effect were to somehow scale based upon the potency of Devouring Plague.

5.2: Returning to Wrath level Shield spam?

Okay, that’s not actually going to happen. As much as I miss the days of 1 button Circle of Healing during Burning Crusade and non-stop shielding in Wrath, it was largely so I could keep watching my NHL games without having to compromise my performance too much.

In a recent thread about PTR class and set bonus issues, Ghostcrawler mentioned the following:

We are going to nerf Divine Aegis for Prayer of Healing, but also lower the cost of Power Word: Shield (for Disc only) and increase the healing and damage of Penance. In 25 raids, Disc is using Prayer of Healing almost exclusively and we don’t think the Spirit Shell change will be sufficient to change that. We actually want Disc to get back to using PW:Shield a little more, along with Penance. Disc’s throughput is overall too strong in PvE, not even counting the fact that absorbs are often more beneficial than heals.

The Divine Aegis aspect on Prayer of Healing gets tuned down but we get cheaper Power Word: Shields instead.

I don’t know what it’s like at the 10 man level, but at the 25 man level, Disc Priests are predominantly using Prayer of Healing. It’s just that effective! More tactical usage of Penance and PW: Shield needs to be done clearly. Right now, we have the ability to run two Priests in our composition. You’d think that 2 Disc priests would limit the amount of shields being thrown up because of the whole Weakened Soul debuff and the fact that shields cause a dent in mana.

But realistically at the 25 man level, two Disc priests sharing the burden isn’t going to shoot the raid in the foot. There’s lots of targets to go around. There’s damage coming from all over the place (in most cases). Those shields provide an extra buffer and can buy players an extra second or two. Bonus points for cheaper shields.

Remember when Discipline sucked back in the day?

I just hope it doesn’t go too far in the other direction and we find out massive quantities of shield spam are back in season. I don’t think it is because we learned how that was in Wrath and while it was strong, it wasn’t fun.

What other clarifications?

The Golden Apparition from the Healing 4pc heals the lowest % health friendly target within 40yd. Note that it has no visual yet, but will not work like Shadowy Apparitions. It is a simple missile, not a summoned unit.

Good to hear. I’m getting annoyed at my Shadow Apparitions sometime just sitting there. Glad to know my healing priests won’t have to suffer from that. Cant’ wait to see this bonus in action though. I hope the missile isn’t as slow as the Shadow Apparition. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if, you know, by the time your holy guardian activated and healed your ally they were already at full health because your healers were already doing their job?

Angelic Bulwark and Spirit Shell can no longer be dispelled.

On the one hand, this sucks because I can’t offensively get rid of these buffs on people in PvP. On the other hand, this is awesome because now I won’t lose them during PvP.

We are going to redesign Shadow Word: Insanity.

Can’t wait to see this. There’s something about this ability that strikes me as off whenever I try using it. I’ve mainly stuck with From Darkness, Comes Light. Honestly, 4 seconds isn’t that small of a window to get Insanity off on a boss.

So then why do I feel so awkward using it?

Our current though on Solace is that it will provide damage and healing for both Disc and Holy. So Holy could use it for some Atonement-like healing, as could Disc, but Disc won’t double dip and shouldn’t feel like it’s mandatory. That could change (all of this could change) as we try it out and iterate more.

Took a look at this on the PTR. Holy Fire gets changed to Power Word: Solace so it’s one less button that takes up your spell book.

Neat! I think we’re approaching that point where we’re starting to have too much crap in our spellbook so I do like the fact that we’re condensing something. Unlike Holy Fire, Solace is instant, offers you 1% mana back, but has a 10 second cooldown.

The current version of Solace is a 1.5 second cast time which restores 0.7% maximum mana but has no cooldown.

Doesn’t the new version of Solace seem a little too low in the mana return area?

Khendra, we have no objection to using Prayer of Healing when you need to heal a bunch of people. That’s what it’s for. But when you’re using Prayer of Healing in preparation for future damage because DA and SS make your AE heal better at shielding than actual Power Word: Shield, then that even further reduces your options. (In 10s, Disc tends to use Atonement more, so they’re doing something more than just PoH spam. In 25s, we see some Atonement use, but it’s fit in when possible and healers in 25s are just always going to be able to specialize more.)

We might in the future add another AE heal for Disc (I think you can make a compelling argument that in this day and age, healers need a variety of interesting AE heals and maybe only a couple of ST heals, while healer design for years went in the opposite direction) but that’s not the sort of thing we want to drop on you in the middle of an expansion. In the meantime, if Disc uses Penance and PW:Shield some more (and Flash Heal in PvP) and doesn’t trounce all the other healers, we will be satisfied and hopefully so will priests.

Won’t be seeing that until 6.0 is my guess. We’ve got a ton of single target healing. Having Divine Star, Cascade, and Halo access were all great because we could customize our AoE healing based on the task at hand.

Another baseline AoE would be interesting though. You’d be hard pressed to find a method for AoE absorbs that isn’t already covered by what Spirit Shell can do.

Okay, I’m guessing it’s an AoE absorb. They think it’s a little excessive to chain cast Prayer of Healing in advance of a Bonestorm even though that’s the best method in countering incoming damage (even if every player’s at full health).

Can’t wait to see what they’re thinking about doing though though!

As for me, I’m still rolling around in Shadow. We’ll be challenging Blade Lord tonight. We’re getting picked apart by Wind Step and Unseen Strike combinations. Not quite sure how to counter that. It’s not like we’re losing half the raid. But each time an Unseen Strike hits, we always lose a player. I’m sure we can battle through it and add another heroic notch to our belt but if anyone has any pointers or suggestions, I’d be grateful.

Are these changes going to cause you Disc Priests to consider reverting back to Holy? Or no change at all? What do you think about the proposed Solace change?

A Must-Read for the Cataclysm Player

Needless to say, I’ve been enjoying a nice little break from WoW before Cataclysm. Spent time with family for Turkey Day, beat Mass Effect (never played it before), and I’ve been looking forward to the new expansion for the WoW TCG–not for the loot card but to actually enjoy the game.

I came across a great post on the MMO-Champion forums which let me reminisce about my original post here when I was still a guest. I’ve tried to focus a majority of my blogging on how everyone can help each other. The name of the guild I’m in is Team Sport, and that’s what I believe this game is. Hence, when I read the forum post by Daetur, I felt like a proud father. Not because I had any direct impact on him/her but because it goes along with everything that I believe this game should and could be. Instead of making a small link to it in the midst of this text… I’m going to make sure you don’t miss this:

DAETUR’S CATACLYSM FORUM POST

Daetur discusses what each player (Tank, Healer, DPS) can do to ensure the success of any dungeon or raid. He takes the stance that many of us have gotten “complacent” in WotLK with regard to raiding and dungeons. Through my experience, I have to say I agree. We’ve come to expect AoE’ing down 3 packs of mobs, healing through debuffs, and risking death to get a few more casts in. According to Daetur, we’re in for a rude awakening. I’m excited! A few things he mentions:

  • CC is key. We are going to need to CC mobs, and avoid breaking them at all costs.
  • Defensive cooldowns are key all around. Tanks, Healers, and DPS are going to need their cooldowns to help stay alive.
  • Healers need to manage their mana, since it’s now at a premium and no longer infinite.

I can’t help but feel like the whole thing meant to make the job of the healer’s more manageable. Well, it’s true. The goal of any fight is to kill them before they kill you. We may be able to burst to high hell, but if we can’t stay alive doing it, then what’s the point? I’m already bracing myself for the backlash of the “uninformed”: “L2Heal noob.” We no longer live in a world of invincibility. Everyone is reponsible for helping everyone else stay alive and do their job easier.

Remember, I only lightly summarized the forum post by Daetur. I implore you to please read the entire post. You may not disagree, and all of it may not be pertinent to you, but you’ll know what everyone is up against in Cataclysm. Help each other out.

Chakra: Renew is Gone

Note: the tooltips in the quoted text boxes do not reflect the current changes to the abilities they describe.

Since 4.0.1 changes were even announced, I was overwhelmed with anticipation to try a Holy spec. Now, I’ve been Discipline since before Wrath of the Lich King dropped, and I’ve loved the entire playstyle (minus that “bubble spam” thing). When I saw the Chakra ability, as well as the corresponding Holy Word: Chastise states, I started to digitally salivate. I’ve always enjoyed classes that had a wealth of abilities to use (which is why I never rolled a Paladin — KIDDING!!). In the “lame duck session” before Cataclysm, I’ve been experimenting with the new playstyles and adapting to the new juicy mechanics that have been laid out for us. Chakra Heal has potential to be real potent. Chakra Prayer of Healing offers a beautiful and useful “stand in the good” zone, as well as an AoE Healing buff. Chakra Smite has been amazing for farming meat, mats, or anything else for which I need to “nuk da mobz”.

Chakra Renew has been a bit ambiguous to me. I understand that Renew is a very powerful tool in a certain-specced Holy toolbox, but its implementation into Chakra kind of baffled me. Now, I *like* to think I’m a pretty creative guy, but I just couldn’t really see the use or fun in it. Maybe it’s because I come from a Discipline playstyle, but I didn’t see a need to constantly spam renew beyond just blanketing my 10man raid. Well, we were given this nugget of info (thanks MMO-Champion):

  • Chakra no longer works with Renew. No longer costs mana. Sanctuary (Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending) now increases healing done by your AoE spells and Renew by 15%. (Old – Only increased AoE spells by 10%)
  • Effectively, they’ve killed Renew’s exclusivity with Chakra and teamed it up with Prayer of Healing, adding in Prayer of Mending, too. You’ll get more healing out of Renew, but remember that you have to activate it with Prayer of Healing or Mending. You cannot activate your steroid-juiced HoT by hitting that Renew key. Patience, grasshopper.

    Because of this change, our State of Mind talent has been altered:

  • State of Mind no longer affects Renew, affects Prayer of Mending instead.
  • Now, I use Prayer of Mending almost always on cooldown out of habit. Adding this into extending that Chakra state will benefit a lot of Priests out there. If the best play for a certain encounter is to keep that Chakra going, I’m not too big a fan of spamming one button to extend it. I think a change like this could also be implemented in our Heal Chakra or Smite Chakra. Only add one additional spell to extend it. Chakra Heal could also be extended by Greater Heal, a spell that we don’t really spam anyways. Chakra Smite could be lengthened by Holy Fire as well, since it’s impossible to spam it while it’s on cooldown. Here’s an image of the new tooltips (thanks, Matticus!):

    All in all, I’m pleased with the change. As it stands right now, I don’t use Renew Chakra as it is and didn’t see much use in the future. However, as would be my luck, I’ll step into that first Cataclysm raid encounter and think, “Man! I wish I had Chakra Renew back for this fight!” C’est la vie.

    Do you feel the alteration of Chakra and State of Mind are changes for the better or worse? Are you going to miss the Renew Chakra?