It Came from the P.U.G.: The Teacher

It Came from the P.U.G.: The Teacher

We’ve all been in this situation at least once. You get the queue for the LFD to pop, hit the button and are invited to a group that is already in progress. You see them corpse running back to the instance without even the first boss down. What do you do? Do you bail, leaving them at the mercy of the LFD tool to find another healer while you just eat the 15 minute timer on the queue? Do you ask what happened and then if you don’t like the answer bounce? Maybe you roll your sleeves up and try to get them through the dungeon?

I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for ever.” or a similar saying. I find the statement to be true in just about anything, granted that the “man” actually wants to learn to “fish”. For our purposes “man” is players and “fish” are instances. For me, I’m a teacher by nature. Honestly I am. I like giving knowledge and helping people out. That’s one of the main reasons I got into blogging in the first place 4 years ago, every person I help I count as a victory.

Almost a week  ago I was running a random heroic with my friend Hod (fun fact: In norse mythology, Hod is the son of Odin. A blind god who accidentally killed his brother Balder after being tricked by Loki), and we zoned into Throne of Tides already in progress. three out of the four bosses had been defeated with only the last event left to handle. The group we joined had a mage, a hunter and a boomkin all from the same guild. Now, on vent me and Hod both say at the about the same time “this is either going to be bad, or good”. We buck up, and the mage asks if we know the fight. I tell him yes, and that I’ve done it many times. The mage says something along the lines of “thank god, because we don’t” and then asks if I can explain the fight to him and the others. They listen and we attempted the encounter.

First try went well, but we did wipe when DPS got split. We made it back in and I asked if it would help if I marked the adds to kill for them. They said yes, so I broke out the old marking addon and went to town. The event went without a hitch and all three of our puggers got their heroic Throne of Tides achievement. We cheered for them and congratulated them and they thanks us in return. We parted ways, and off I went to do dailies until the reset. It was a good example of a group of players actually wanting to learn the encounter and be better. A few nights later roughly around the same time I do my random LFD queue and I wind up grouped with the mage from that Throne of Tides random. He’s happy to see me and thanks me again for taking the time to explain the fight. He tells me his group never wiped on it again, and since then he’s helped a few people understand how to do the encounter. I’m really quite happy about this and I hope that we start to see more and more of this happen. People asking questions, learning and then passing that knowledge on.

Now this doesn’t always work, the person after all has to be open to the idea of help or suggestion. That same night I re-queued at the daily switch over with two guildies. We get the Lost city of Tol’vir. In the group is a shadow priest and a ret paladin who have never been to the instance before. Before the tank can even set marks and hand out cc assignments, they dive headfirst into the first pack of mobs they see and die. We zone out, wait for the reset and zone back in. I ask them if they’ve been here before and both admit that it is their first heroic. I explain the importance of CC in a heroic now, and that they can’t just pull like it’s Wrath anymore.

I’m honestly quite nice about it. Their response is to ignore that and dive right back in. This time the tank joins us zoning out, we wait for the reset and I try to explain again.This time they flat out say that they aren’t going to listen to me and “only bads need CC, a real pro healer and tank can handle this.” At that point I feel I have no other option but to kick them, because otherwise they’re just going to waste everyone’s time with their refusal to listen, and learn.

It never hurts to take a few seconds and talk to your group. In Wrath, Matt and I both had experiences where a “good group” went in, did their jobs, and left after saying something like “good run” but pretty much nothing else. There was little to no communication during those runs, and I think that is something that still carried over now in Cataclysm with the LFD tool. I think players like to come across as confident and knowing what they are doing, for fear of being removed from the group if they don’t.  So the morale of the story is, be the one that breaks the ice, you may be able to help a new player out and make your runs a lot smoother, and you may just help improve the overall quality of the LFD groups you get as more players are educated quicker on what is going on.

So what do you think? Have you had any experiences similar to this?

How To Tank Heal As A Holy Priest

“I am only one, but still I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I still can do something and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

- Helen Keller

Holy priests have always had a reputation for being extremely versatile healers.  Somewhere down the line we lost that and I don’t know if that was driven more so by the developers or by the player base, but we did.  We soon found ourselves being trapped in the mindset of being nothing more than Circle of Healing and Renew bots, which meant that we were often competing for raid spots with resto druids, who were practicing a similar style of healing, albeit with Wild Growth and Rejuvenation.  The only thing that really set us apart was Guardian Spirit and even that wasn’t enough to guarantee us a raid spot over a druid or any other class that could do our job better than we could.

With the release of Cataclysm, we found ourselves reclaiming that identity of being extremely flexible healers with the help of an incredible new ability known as Chakra.  For those not in the know, Chakra is a new talent in the holy tree that allows a priest to place themselves into a state that enhances certain abilities and opens up new ones for them to use, depending on the kind of role that they will be filling in a group or raid.  Currently, there are three Chakra states that can be described as the tank healing or single target healing Chakra (Serenity), the AOE or raid healing Chakra (Sanctuary) and the last one being a Chakra that enhance your damage dealing spells (Smite).

Sadly, old habits die hard and there are a still a number of misconceptions out there that holy priests either cannot tank heal or should not tank heal, due our having such strong AOE healing capabilities that many feel are not worth giving up to have us tank heal or heal a single target.  I consider myself extremely fortunate to have an amazing healing lead who is not afraid to try new things and knows her healer’s strengths and to be part of a healing core where my fellow healers are not afraid of change and can excel at things that most people would feel are not possible or not worth it to try and do.

Here is a run down of the abilities you will most likely use and the talents that will help you best in tank healing as a holy priest, in my experience.

Chakra.  The Chakra of choice for tank healing is Chakra: Serenity, which you enter by casting Chakra and then immediately casting Heal right after it.  Recent patch notes from the PTR have indicated that Binding Heal, Flash Heal and Greater Heal are being added to the list of spells that will activate this particular Chakra.  Being in this Chakra takes Holy Word: Chastise and changes it to Holy Word: Serenity.

By simply being in Chakra: Serenity, your chance to crit with direct healing spells is increased by 10% and they will refresh a Renew that is present on the target.  Currently, only Heal, Flash Heal and Greater Heal are capable of refreshing the Renew.  Binding Heal and Holy Word: Serenity are slated to be added to the mix, based on information found in the patch notes that were released last week.  You will want to remain in this Chakra for the entire time that you are responsible for healing the tank.  Being in this Chakra does not lock you out or prevent you from casting other spells, not related to the tank healing state.  You can still use a Prayer of Healing, if the group that the tank is in gets low on health or use a Circle of Healing if those around them are taking damage.

Holy Word Serenity.  This spell can be used a number of ways and has drawn comparisons to being our version of Holy Shock.  One way you can use it is to use it off cooldown.  The buff that Holy Word: Serenity leaves will increase the crit chance of your direct heals on the target by 25% for 6 seconds, in addition to the 10% increased crit chance that you have from being in Chakra: Serenity.  Having this buff on the tank regularly means that any incoming heals that would need to be used have a chance of healing for more and being more effective.  You can also choose to use this more selectively and wait until the tank is taking large amounts of damage, use it first and then take advantage of the crit buff by following it by spamming direct heals.  Either way is fine, but this spell is a core part of tank healing and should not be left out when you’re doing that.

Prayer of Mending.  As always, Prayer of Mending should be used every time it is off cooldown.  Be sure to toss it out either before you cast Chakra or after you have safely entered the correct Chakra state, which is Serenity.  If you don’t cast it at the right time, you may accidentally find yourself entering the wrong state and being in Chakra: Sanctuary, which is the AOE or raid healing state.  This will prevent you from using Holy Word: Serenity, which is only available by being in Chakra: Serenity and your direct heals will not be nearly as effective.

Renew.  Slap a Renew on the tank and if you are using your designated Chakra state to its fullest, it should never fall off of them.  Talents like Improved Renew and Divine Touch can help make Renew more effective by increasing the healing that it does and by eliminating the usual delay in healing output that comes with using a heal over time ability.

Empowered Healing. Placing three points in this talent increases the healing done by Binding Heal, Flash Heal, Heal and Greater Heal by 15%.  These spells are going to be your bread and butter for tank healing, so you are going to want to have that added boost of healing.  You are also going to want three points in Divine Fury, so that your Heal and Greater Heal have their cast time reduced by 0.5 seconds.  That may not sound like a lot, but compare to it the cast time when you don’t have points in this talent.  Believe me, you will feel and notice the difference.

Surge of Light.  Surge of Light allows you the chance to get a free, instant cast Flash Heal that is incapable of critting each time you use Heal.  Unless you’re facing a fight with unpredictable spike damage, Heal is going to be your core spell for tank healing.  It’s been determined that roughly 1 out of every 17 Heals cast will result in a Surge of Light proc.  That may not sound like a lot, but every little bit helps and Flash Heal is extremely expensive to cast on its own, without an immediate reason to do so.  If you’re still not convinced that this talent is useful to you, Surge of Light was mentioned in the recent patch notes, stating that Flash Heal and Greater Heal will be added as one of the spells that can trigger Surge of Light and the heal generated by the proc will be able to crit.

Inspiration.  This talent is considered a must have, since you probably won’t be throwing shields on the tank that often, if at all and you want some kind of damage reducing ability to fall back on.  More on that later.  It’s also the only ability that warrants you having any kind of critical strike rating to speak of.

Serendipity.  There are times where your tank is going to take a lot of damage really quickly and you’re going to need to act fast.  You want to have options available that will maximize the heals you will need to throw out, while also being mindful of your mana bar.  Serendipity can help you with that and you can customize it to meet your needs.  If your tank is in trouble and you need a heal, use Binding Heal.  If it’s just your tank that has taken a lot of damage, use Flash Heal.  You now have one stack of Serendipity, which will reduce the cast time of your next Greater Heal by 10% and its mana cost by 5%.

If that single heal wasn’t enough, you can follow it up with another Binding Heal or Flash Heal and gain a second stack of Serendipity, which will now reduce the cast time of your next Greater Heal by 20% and lower the cost by 10%.  Two stacks is the most you can have on yourself at any given time.  You are now prepared to do what I call a “Serendipity bomb,” which is what I call using Flash Heal –> Flash Heal –> Greater Heal.  It is extremely mana intensive to do this, even with the reduction in cost from the talent.  This method should only be used for emergencies, not as a regular style of healing.

Other talents that can help for emergency situations are Test of Faith, which increases all healing done to targets below 50% health and of course, Guardian Spirit.  There are two ways you can use Guardian Spirit.  You can use it when the tank is getting dangerously low and allow it to activate, healing the tank by a large amount and allowing you a few seconds to focus on others who may need healing.  Or you can cast it on the tank and follow it up with some heals, which will be enhanced by having the effect on them and get them back up to snuff.  To make the most out of Guardian Spirit, make sure that you glyph for it and it also helps to create a macro that will announce in the raid or your healing chat channel (if your raid has one of those) that you have cast Guardian Spirit and on whom you have cast it.  That will alert other healers that your target needs heals and will prompt them to toss some heals on them, if they are able to do so.

Power Word: Shield.  Throwing a shield consistently on the tank while healing them may not always be the best idea, because discipline priests rely heavily on Rapture as a way to get mana back.  The best people to place a shield on, where it will get absorbed the most are the tanks.  If you have shielded the tank, that means they can’t and that could affect the amount of mana they get back in the long run.  I would coordinate this with your discipline priests if possible, by finding out if they are going to be anywhere near where you and your tank will be located and how diligent they are about shielding tanks other than their own.  Some are more consistent about this than others.  If you do have the all clear to shield at will, save it for when you see them taking a large amount of damage.  I wouldn’t throw a shield every time it’s off cooldown or if the tank is nearly topped off.  Use it as a way to buy yourself some time to heal them back up, either by using a “Serendipity bomb” or other combination of heals to get the job done.

A lot of holy priests may get flak from the community at large for attempting to tank heal, but we’re really not bad at it and in fact, we have tools that can really be useful when we’re called into action as tank healers.  The strength of a discipline priest has always been mitigation and preventing damage whereas ours has always been raw healing and reacting to damage.  Just because we lack the mitigation strengths does not mean we do not have the healing capacity to successfully heal a tank and should not be considered for such a task.  Some have argued that our strength is in our AOE heals, but we only have two extra AOE spells (Circle of Healing and Holy Word: Sanctuary) that discipline priests don’t have access to and one of them is on a 10 second cooldown and you need to be in the appropriate Chakra state to even activate it.  We have obviously been given the tools mentioned above for a reason.  What other reason would there be to have shields or to have Chakra: Serenity, if we’re meant to go back to the Wrath style of healing?

Hopefully, this post will give people the encouragement or the motivation to try out tank healing, if you are a holy priest or to consider a holy priest as viable candidate to do such a thing, if you’re a raid leader or a GM.  What are your thoughts on this topic?  Can it be done?  Should it be done?

10 Things I’d Rather do Than Heal PuGs

10 Things I’d Rather do Than Heal PuGs

A great part of WoW’s healing base has foresworn the dungeon finder tool ever since Cataclysm, avoiding PuGs like the plague, running away and screaming in terror. And we all know why of course: a lot has changed in the mana business and also, heroic dungeons require a lot more cooperation, tactical approach and CC than they used to in Wrath of the Lich King. Blizzard’s promises in that department have come true.

Now I’m probably not your best candidate because I’ve been a PuG-misanthrope ever since… ever. Sometime through my late level 50ies of vanilla WoW, I did one sucky corpse run too many or heard a stupid comment too often from a random lol-DPS in Stratholme, Diremaul or Scholomance, to put me off anything public or pickup in WoW permanently. Which is probably good to highlight in this context: Yes, there was stupid back in the “good old days” too.

I’ve stuck to my own raid guilds for dungeons ever since then and I’ve been so fortunate to always have more competent groups of players at hand. Yes I’m a spoiled holy priest – but then, I’ve also done a great load in order to keep the guilds running I’ve been in. Nothing comes for free in the World of Warcraft.

I’ve still pugged a handful of 5man runs, especially in the later stages of WotLK as Blizzard was so cunning to make pugging an achievement that comes with a pet (ugly as it might be). You got me there! And it wasn’t even the worst experience; in fact it’s showed me that not all PuGs are completely horrid, even if I still considered them a waste of my time.

But that was in WotLK. You know, “I can get free badges while walking my dog puppy”-WotLK, the expansion of free rides and blissful matters-not-just-AoE-olol. The era of pretty dead party chats too, so dead in fact that exceptions of the rule almost felt outrageous.

That doesn’t work so well in Cataclysm: The new heroics make the best team of guild mates facepalm after 2 hours have passed. And you only really stick around for that long because you actually know these people and enjoy their company. Alternatively, you can be openly grumpy and abuse them in party chat for being blind as a bat, without them going into an emo-fit which makes up for a little at least. I still luv my tank mate despite the fact that he made me run heroic Deadmines for 3 hours on launch week.


Those saints among saints

Healing Cataclysm heroics is a challenge and having to do so in a group of complete strangers who are likely not nearly as vocal, cooperative or forgiving as guild mates , doesn’t make things easier. It has a good chance of making things hellishly frustrating, in fact.

Some healers however, are still bothering. They are still healing PuGs and going in fully prepared to supervise the party and make it succeed. They have the sort of patience that I’m not sure whether to call noble or slightly nutty, but in any case I have big respect for them to put up with the risk. It’s not just the whole coordination part after all: PuGs are time-consuming. The chance for these runs to take longer than usual is high, already due to limiting factors such as party chat. It is a lot of extra playtime to put into something that has a high risk to go wrong. And while in times of precious mana, DPS and CC have probably become more important than ever, the high pressure on healers and tanks is unchanged and so is the blame-factor. Not everyone has switched boat from WotLK yet.

In her most recent blog post, Ophelie tells us why healing PuGs can work out and how healers can contribute to that success. I’d never have the willingness or dedication (and I secretly suspect her to create her own WoW hard modes that way, things are not yet hard enough for Holydins it seems!) but it’s definitely a great guide if you’re a healer and looking to PuG heroics without wanting to throw yourself off a bridge after the first 30 minutes.

I raise my hat to all who try and risk their sanity and self-confidence in the progress. What many people do not know: a bad PuG can make any healer feel shitty. You can know that there was nothing you could have done differently – still: SHITTY!

Before you call me out for speaking without experience, I’ve in fact blundered into 2 PuGs in Cataclysm myself. Number one ended at the first boss, after approximately 10 wipes of the exact same fashion and loads of “GOGOGOGO!!!”. A chronic case of Speedius Nubicus. The second PuG lasted exactly 3 minutes before I pulled the plug – and you’d have done the same. Let’s just say it doesn’t bode well to enter a heroic Stonecore where the rest of the group is already in the process of corpse running, because their last healer fled in terror. Not the finest act to leave them mid-combat, but then…who among us to cast the first stonecore?

PuGs like these aren’t only plain painful, but I simply don’t have time for this. My gametime is more limited than ever these days and what I need in order to be ready for my guild’s raids asap, are efficient runs. I love the new dungeon difficulty, just so there are no misunderstandings here: challenging doesn’t have to equal mind-numbingly long though. I’m more than willing to admit that I don’t take the lead in PuGs usually and that’s probably a wrong perception of my role. It is certainly not by default the MT’s. Furthermore, I don’t actually make use of vote-kicking. Why not? I just CAN’T BE ARSED! If I need to kick and replace five people first before I can start a run, I rather go do something else. By the time we’ve finally found “teh perfect tank” the first person who got replaced is probably already so bored that he decides to bugger off by the time we look halfway ready.

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My contribution to a serious topic

I’d still like to contribute in a more productive or rather creative way to the whole PuG-healing thing and since I’m not a saint who can tell you how to make it happen, I’ll tell you what I’d rather do instead of making it happen!

When starting to think about this, the first spontaneous things come to mind, were:

· Running a screwdriver through my left eye. Real slow.

· Jumping off an airplane with no parachute on. Working as intended.

· Entering a den of rabid wolves in a meat skirt.

But….that’s not realistic, I know! So, I’ll be good and limit myself to things that are actually there in the game, painful and annoying and… still so much more preferable to healing PuGs right now!


10 things I’d rather do than heal PuGs

I would rather…

  • Get exalted with Silithus. Again.
  • Repeat the entire Argent Tournament daily jousting-grind to buy all available pets and mounts.
  • Travel from Bloodmyst Isle to Booty Bay. Via Northrend. By foot.
  • Give gold to every lvl 5 beggar in Elwynn Forest.
  • Run guild alts through Gnomeregan 5 times a day. Make that 10 times.
  • Re-skill both my professions up from zero.
  • Follow the public channels. Yes, that’s general and trade chat.
  • Change my holy priest to worgen female…./gasp. Okay, for one week.
  • Read the quest texts of all new Cataclysm quests. No word skipping.
  • Hang out with THIS GUY!

This list was originally a lot longer, but I forced myself to keep it short, just like the rest of this post. And with that, I’ll wish the saints among you who are still out there facing their PuGs good luck and hold on to that halo! You’ll need it.

Sylvara

Adrenaline, Stormrage EU

P.S. No random pugee was vote-kicked or otherwise harmed in the process of writing this article.

11 Ways to Become Better at Healing

  1. Heal.
  2. Heal normal dungeons.
  3. Heal heroic dungeons.
  4. Heal players in the world as they’re questing.
  5. Heal in battlegrounds.
  6. Heal in world PvP.
  7. Heal in arenas.
  8. Heal raids.
  9. Heal until a wipe has been called.
  10. Heal on a daily basis.
  11. Just keep healing.

Griping about how terrible healing is will not make you a better healer.

Healing will.

When I was young, I never wanted to leave the court until I got things exactly correct. My dream was to become a pro.
-Larry Bird

Are run speed enchants still necessary?

Are run speed enchants still necessary?

**Image of RoadRunner and Wile E. Cyote courtesy of Warner Brothers**

Do runspeed enhancements matter in raids?

  • Yes (61%, 207 Votes)
  • Murloc (26%, 87 Votes)
  • No (13%, 47 Votes)

Total Voters: 341

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Interesting topic that has come up over the course of the last few days. In Wrath it was mandatory for every raider I know to have some form of run speed enhancement either in the form of a boot enchant, talent that increased speed, or a meta gem that increased your run speed. In many cases if you didn’t have one, you didn’t raid.

A couple days ago, while auditing the profiles of our soon to be raiders, the question came up as to whether or not we really need the running enhancement anymore. The thought that sparked this was basically that with the unforgiving mechanics of Cataclysm in full effect, will that little extra run speed actually matter? Take Magmaw for example, he has two abilities that the raid needs to get away from. His little volcanic eruption that summoned parasites, and will throw you into the air high enough to cause falling damage on top of the initial fire damage. The other ability boils half the room alive, causing massive damage.

In the recent 10 mans I’ve run, I noticed that the vast majority of people did not have any form of increased run speed. Shockingly enough, the only deaths we had were some tank deaths resulting from learning the healing of a new encounter, and well, that’s pretty much it. No one died to parasites, explosions or being boiled alive. Now before you say anything, while I love my guildies and raiders, some of those in attendance have what I like to call “shiny object syndrome” and even they were able to avoid “standing in the bad”. Now I have also seen many people even with the run speed boost die to something that was telegraphed because they didn’t move early enough, leaving the run speed boost doing nothing.

There’s no question about it, the game is much more punishing than it was before. Part of this is due to the new raid and boss designs, the other part is that healers can’t compensate like we used to. Before, if you got caught in the bad, the faster you got out of it, the more likely we could power heal through it. Now though, if you get caught in the bad, even for a few short seconds, you’re pretty much likely to be much raid-kill.

So that leads us to today’s question. Is the run speed enhancement really necessary anymore? Do you think it outweighs the other bonuses you can use in place of it whether it is +Haste or +Mastery to boots? How about talents? Not only do we have the lovely poll at the top, but I’m looking forward to your comments on this one.

How to Smite Heal Your Way through Heroics and Raids

I’ve written about the Archangelism spec and style before, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t make it work at all on live. I thought it might’ve been a personal “learn to play” issue on my end and it turned out that’s what it was. Conversing with Priests who prefer the style of Archangel and Evangelism, I ultimately learned that I was doing it wrong.

A Fresh Slate

First thing’s first. Wipe out everything you know about Discipline healing. Approach it with the eye of a new healer because I would refer to this as the 6th healing spec in the game.

Setting up

The spec

33/8/0 is a spec I’m currently experimenting with with heroics and raids.

Essential glyphs

Select whichever Prime glyphs you like as it’s more personal style than anything else. I personally shoot for:

The Major glyph you must have:

The style of play

Atonement is the key talent here. Damage dealt with Smite heals the closest, weakest target which is usually the tank. Think of Smite as the spell used in place of Heal. Use it to help soften the blows your tank will take. When they get to a certain health level, switch back to Penance or healing spells and get the tank back up to the green.

So when do I trigger Archangel?

Do not look at Archangel as a mana return talent. Look at it as a healing buff talent. When you use Archangel, your healing spells get buffed. The tradeoff is that Smite does not get that extra damage boost therefore you must rely on actual healing spells during the period the period that Archangel is used. You must keep an eye on the buff timer though.

For me, everything clicked when I looked at it as a form of stance dancing: Smite healing during slow and steady periods and then activating Archangel to begin casting standard healing spells (Prayer of Healing, Shields and Penance) during intense moments.

When Evangelism is able to be stacked up again, resume the Smite fest.

Numbers wise, Smite will heal anywhere from 9.5k to me to top end critical heals of 15k+ with a mix of dungeon blues and heroic dungeon blues.

Problems

In a raid environment, you don’t have precise control over who gets the heal. I’ve had the Heal off of Smite hit a Bloodworm or a hunter pet instead of the tank (or worse, Ret Paladins). Quick reactions were needed to level off the tank with a Power Word: Shield or something. It’s because of this variability that I wouldn’t use this for raid healing unless there was a gimmick about the encounter.

An example of this is the Halfus encounter. The more drakes and whelps you take down, the more damage your Smite does which leads to stronger heals.

Another issue I ran into is that I’d let my Evangelism stacks fall off. Either I was moving around or the group started to take damage. At the first sign of not being able to refresh Evangelism, activate Archangel so you don’t incur the mana loss.

It’s certainly a fun spec to play and offers a fresh change to the normal healing grind that Priests have had. It takes a bit of getting used to.

Just don’t forget that you have other healing spells in the event things start going sour, so please use them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healing so far, Lodur’s thoughts

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

Tank healing

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

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

Healing the rest of the group

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

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

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

Spirit is the new MP5, and my new overlord?

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

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

Working as a team

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

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

I AM HEROIC DAMN IT!

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

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

What about your adventure?

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

Case Study: When to Use Fast Heals

This case study comes from yours truly. During the first week of the expansion, the heroic group I healed consisting of my own guildies random’d into Halls of Origination (which offers the best Justice Points:time ratio with 7 encounters, I personally think). After clearing out the first 6 bosses, we ran into Setesh (or Set or Seth or god of chaos, if I recall my SG:1 mythology correctly).

Now Seth likes to do a series of annoying abilities reminiscent of bosses we encountered in Wrath:

  • Shadow Crash – Care of General Vezax
  • Portal summoning – Jaraxxus
  • Green bubble things – That one gnome boss in Pit of Saron

There is a moment in the Setesh demo where I lose the tank. I had about 20% mana left in my pool. The tank’s health was dangerously low. I screwed up here because I thought Heal was enough to catch him, but it wasn’t. You’ll notice I already blew my Guardian Spirit earlier on in the video. I wasn’t thinking properly because I a few outs left.

Flash Heal spam – Even though my mana was low, I still had enough to unload Flash Heal and get our druid tank up to a safe level. I could have followed up 2 Flash Heals with a faster Greater Heal.

Leap of Faith – I was far enough away that I think Leap of Faith would have bought a few extra seconds of kiting (where the mobs weren’t beating on him).

Psychic Scream – Dropping a Fear Bomb would have shut out enough of the mobs to buy time for the tank to get clear or for me to use any of my healing spells to get his health up to a safer level.

So what’s the lesson?

If you need to ask yourself whether or no it’s a good time to use your fast heal, it’s a good time to use your fast heal. Since this encounter, I’ve instilled in myself that the moment the tank goes below 40% health, I would use Flash Heal to push him back above 50 before switching back to a normal Heal.

Luckily, we still killed him because of overpowered Warlocks.

Were the Priest Buffs Needed?

Yeah, probably. I didn’t realize that Priests were a little underpowered in the regen department. That’s one of the benefits of doing stuff in guild groups. I was getting the encounters down, but they weren’t exactly the prettiest kills. Over the previous weekend when we were grinding out the heroics, I would almost get to the of end fights with zero mana. Actually, it wasn’t uncommon for me to hit 0 mana at 10% of encounters and just tell the rest of the DPS they’re on their own because I had to dump all my spells on the tank.

I haven’t had a go with Discipline yet, but I understand there’s a few challenges with it on the heroic side of things. I want to try it out sometime on the weekend. 

  • Blessed Resilience now increases healing received by 15/30%, up from 5/10%.
  • Focused Will now reduces damage taken by 5/10% and 10/20%, up from 4/8% and 6/12%.
  • Healing done by Glyph of Dispel Magic no longer improperly caps out at a certain health pool range.
  • Holy Concentration’s mana regeneration component has been increased from 10/20% to 20/40%.
  • Player-controlled vehicles return an Invalid Target error when attempting to use Leap of Faith on them.
  • Rapture’s mana regeneration component has been increased from 1.5/2/2.5 to 2/4/6%.

On the raiding side of things, we’ve started entering 25s and put in several legitimate shots on Halfus. Him and his drake buddies are kicking our butt. The current progression focus is going to be on him but I’ve authorized guild groups to take charge and set up their own 10 mans if they wanted to try to push for Throne of the Four Winds or Blackwing Depths. With the logs data from Argaloth and the observations on the Halfus attempts, the leadership team’s going to try to split the top 20 performing players so they can  head back in on monday. I want that sucker down before Christmas. I had no illusions that were going to be able to get him down on 25 largely due to gear, inexperience and other factors. That fight changed since beta and it’s incredibly front end loaded. I think we if can just time our cooldowns a little better (we’re able to get the first drake down) and really shut down the interrupts, we should be able to get him. Nether Scion and Storm Drake are tough cookies though. Our current approach is unlocking both Nether Scion and the Emerald whelps simultaneously. The whelps are split between both tanks but they’re still getting almost insta-gibbed.

By the way, if you’re having trouble healing heroics (as in you’re not sure what to do from the healer side of things), check the YouTube channel. I’ve been trying to upload a video a day of a boss on heroic from my viewpoint and narrating what I do. Wasn’t able to get to one yesterday night since it was a raid night.

If there’s any specific ones you want to see, give me a shout here. I’ve done just about all of them except for that Lord Commander guy in Shadowfang Keep (third boss). He just keeps stoning my group.