Rated Battleground Additions that would Never Happen

I am eager for rated battlegrounds to take off and I think it’ll add another PvP dimension to the game from a competitive stand point. Years ago, I used to be an avid Counterstrike player. I was a first string benchwarmer on a CS club in the Cyberathlete Amateur League back in the early 2000s. I think the furthest we got was CAL Main.

Would rated BGs move to become an E-Sport? Could they? I don’t know what Blizzard’s intentions are here. We can’t queue for battlegrounds anymore as a raid. I’m guessing we’ll be able to do that during Cataclysm and when rated BGs are available. I really hope that they allow “unrated” rated BGs like they do for arena (I don’t recall seeing that option available during the beta, but I most likely missed it). If they do decide to pursue it, there’s a couple of things that I wish would happen but for both technical and logistical reasons, would not.

Replays

I don’t even know if the tech for this is possible. Maybe they can work with the Warcraft 3 and Starcraft 2 folks to see if there is a possible solution. Being able to watch replays of teams going at it would be cool to have. For that to even come close though, there’d have to be some kind of client side viewer, I think. The size requirements would obviously be ridiculous too. I can see all the logistical problems already. But if there was just some way to implement it where we can watch other rated BGs going on, it would be an asset to BG teams so they can go over strategies and what worked for them and what didn’t. I used to watch CS replays to get an idea of what other teams did and how they positioned themselves. I liked the first person perspective modes just to see what they saw before those players made such clutch moves. Right now, we have to rely on VODs (or PvP videos from players).

Observer mode

Being able to float around a battleground and just watch what’s going on would be great fun too. You could “fly” from one side of the map to the other. It would allow players to actively “stream” into a match. There’d have to be some “tape delay” added to prevent ghosting (the act of telling people things they shouldn’t know, like telling players where people are when they would not be able to figure it out on their own). Doing so would also slow down or lag the match.

Practice scrimmages

Specifically queuing to play against specific teams. Would be a great way for guilds to practice rated BGs against each other. Otherwise, you don’t know who you’re getting matched up with. The team you’re facing might be weaker or stronger than you. Having intra-guild or consistent partnering teams would be a good way to just keep getting the PvP team better.

If those technologies can be implemented, I can see it elevating the PvP game upwards. I don’t know if it’d be able to become a spectator sport or anything but it would be a good first step. Alas, one can only dream. Maybe one day.

On a side note, you can count me in as one of the players that were a little sad with the removal of 25 rated BGs. I know the arguments that were made for the removal and I understand it. It’s good to take it off the regular weekly rotation. Would it be possible to bring it back just for fun though? Having 25 vs 25 epic Isle of Conquests or Alterac Valleys that are completely unrated? 25 man raiding is still going strong. I think 25 man BGs might have enough of a support base to be a niche thing to do on the side. Look at all the AV or IoC premades in the past. Just imagine the technical, chess-like nature of the match. Raiding in 25s is one thing, but doing organized PvP in massive numbers like that offers a different cohesive feeling altogether. It literally is being a general instructing different groups and players to go in select directions. The Battlefield FPS series offered epic 64 v 64 matches with one overall commander leading and good commanders are really hard to find.

Adding a Guild PvP Division

I suspect that this is an option that guilds have considered at some point. After all, in Cataclysm, one of the methods guilds can gain reputation and experience is through rated battlegrounds and rated arena. It was something I had considered for a while since a good number of players in the guild do love their PvP. But as it is, I do not have the time to organize players and run the necessary strategies for a successful PvP team. Not only that, I’m the last person in the world who should do any sort of PvP. I only have enough time to invest seriously in raiding or PvPing (and I much prefer raiding). What I do have is the resources and the infrastructure to support a group of dedicated players.

Conquest is now expanding

But I found a solution.

A couple of players in the guild were leaders within the QueueQ cross-realm pre-form group. After a bit of discussion, it was decided we would have both PvE and PvP interests in mind. The commander of the PvP team would have complete control of his group. As long as the recruits he selects adhere to the basic standards and ethics of the guild, they would be welcome. Just because one player is accepted into one part of the guild doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be green lit into the other. A raider shouldn’t expect an immediate invite into a dedicated PvP team and vice versa. Obviously on days where either groups are shorthanded, we’ll consider all of our options. Common sense, right?

Naturally there were a few concerns.

What about players who both raid and want to commit to PvP? Would scheduling affect it? – PvP nights would not coincide during raid nights. They would be held on other days to maximize availability. We also minimize incidents of players having to choose between say arena or raiding to get their points in.
What would the voice infrastructure be like? – I had to rearrange and setup a few extra channels. Now we’ve got two battleground channels and a channel called the waiting room. Any player in the waiting room can be dragged up into the battleground channels when players are needed.
Gear acquisition? – There is a concern that PvP players would want to duck into raids, get PvE weapons, and leave. Loot council helps address that. If we reach a point where our progression oriented players don’t need weapons anymore, then we’d be able to work something out. Otherwise, raiders get priority.

Why PvP?

Why not stick to something simple? Why not just stick to one primary focus of the guild instead of splitting it into two? I guess I wanted to diversify a bit more. It doesn’t hurt to be a little ambitious. Even though they’re not players I have any say in handpicking, I trust the PvP commander has the right people skills and instincts. Not only that, I mentioned earlier about the guild perks. Having multiple methods to gain guild experience will be beneficial in the long run.

Additional exposure

Just like how running an alt raid for a guild can help drive additional exposure, running weekend PvP premades is another way to attract attention. With two capable preform leaders, we could fire off two 15 mans and a 25 man raid at the same time.

Now if players ask whether or not we’re a PvE or PvP guild, I tend to reply with both. I’ll continue to oversee the raiding team along with my officers. Anyone inquiring about PvP gets directed to the PvP leaders. This all looks fine on paper. Now it’s just a matter of determining whether or not it’ll work. I’ll never know unless I try. This is a chance to change up guild beliefs and philosophy for a bit. If PvP battlegrounds is something you’re interested, you might want to check us out.

I do remember reading about one other guild that was going to do the same thing. I can’t remember so I at least know that there’s someone out there who will undergo the same types of problems or issues. Has your guild thought about extending into formal, organized PvP?

The Mercenary Healer?

The Mercenary Healer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My experience with the Queue Q preforms

I had a bit of time over the AV weekend and I wanted to spend some of it acquiring some honor. What’s the best way to do it? Queue for AV of course. What’s the better way? Queue for it in a preform.

But how do you queue for AV in such large numbers when its technically not allowed?

Enter QueueQ.

These guys are a no nonsense PvP organization that comes from a variety of servers within the Bloodlust Battlegroup. There’s a large vent that everyone connects to. Whether you are from Proudmoore, Kil’Jaden, Aman’thul or Ner’Zhul, everyone’s allowed to get in on the action. Each group is under the command of a preform leader who controls the play.

There isn’t a special technique to get in. When the leader calls for it, everyone queues at the same time. As soon as a number pops, everyone calls out which AV they get and they hold off until they see if enough in that preform get in. If yes, they take it and roll with it.

The level of precision and control in these raid groups is inspiring. Every group has assigned towers or objectives they need to go for. An auxiliary force is on standby in case Horde forces push past the bridge and start capturing bunkers.

Typically, there are two main ways to win:

The blitz

Full PvE gear is equipped, and its a straight charge to the end zone. Multiple tanks are needed to keep the battlemasters in check as Drek gets taken down fast. This yields something like 2000-3000 honor in under 6 minutes. This play is called when we’re lacking a number of preform players in the BG and we want to get it over with quick to start the next one and get more players involved.

I personally don’t like this method because of the lack of honor gain.

The finesse

This will vary from preform leader to preform leader, but it involves a combination of taking down Galv, capturing towers, and back capturing bunkers to maximize honor gains.

Not only is it more engaging, but I’m almost certain there is more honor gain to be had here. I’ve earned as much as 7000-8000 with every victory, but the wins range from 9-10 minutes after the gates open. With queue times factored in, I think this is the better of the two.

All in all, not a bad way to prepare for the upcoming rated BGs. I’m tempted to establish a Conquest weekend PvP division when Cataclysm opens.

Why Healing is fun in PvP

Why Healing is fun in PvP

This is a guest post by Sylvara, of the Raging Monkeys. That is quite possibly one of the best blog names I’ve seen so far.

While not playing WoW actively at the moment, the thing I really miss most about the game at times is PVP. Even when I was raiding 3-4 times a week, I would hop into some quick BGs with Era, my personal retridin, on off nights or after raids had finished. PVP has always been a great outlet and a change from PVE healing for me. I have learned valuable things there that have benefited me in PVE over the years and that’s why I have been a bit of a spokesperson for it in our raid guild, together with my BG buddy.

img01I started to heal in BGs regularly in early vanilla. This was the time of PVP rankings where battle groups did not yet exist and players would have to compete against everyone else on the server in order to claim ranks (the threshold of players per rank being limited). At the time I was lucky to chance on a group of like-minded players that, not only founded one of the more progressed 40man raid guilds at the time, but were what I would still label “crazy PvPers”. At some point we had 5 Grand Marshals and 3 Field Marshals in the guild. One GM was a woman and all the FMs were female players too, contradicting the general notion that female players like to PVP less than males. Whenever they had an open spot in their premade, they’d get me in as replacement healer. And though I was also raiding 4 times a week and leading the healers, I got pretty obsessed with PVP for a while before giving up just short of rank 9.

In TBC the PVP system got its huge revamp and when I left my first raid guild, I also left premade PVP in such big a fashion. I am not a fan of pugging, neither on the PVE nor PVP side of WoW, so I kept being part of relatively small groups of PVP-interested players in my next guilds. Somewhere in mid-TBC me and Era started to team up as “pali-priest duo infernale” and have kept going at it ever since, PvPing a lot on weekends, collecting each season’s gear and having loads of great laughs – there are those nights when we’re almost unstoppable.

So why am I actually doing this? Why am I enjoying PVP as a healer? I’ve been reading healer blogs and sites for years, but I notice there’s not an awful lot going on on the PVP side of things. I don’t know if my fellow priests don’t enjoy BGs or if they’re too shy to write about their experiences, but here’s my take on the matter. (I might have to add that I am excluding arenas here, for there are fundamental differences between healing in arenas and healing in BGs. While I’ve also given arenas a go myself, that topic would need an extra post of its own).

The joys of PVP

If I had to name the top 5 aspects I appreciate about PVP as a healer, then it’s the
following:

  1. The frenzy of battle
  2. The teamwork mechanics
  3. The strategic aspect
  4. The different healing approach
  5. The power to turn the tide

I enjoy a good confrontation in games. I enjoy the pressure and thrill of challenge and the big difference between PVE and PVP will always be that player characters behave erratically while NPCs will follow script. Even if you can (and should) expect certain classes to do certain things in BGs, there is always the element of surprise and human error which keeps things interesting and chaotic. This influences the way you need to react.

I have never experienced a stronger team-building effect in WoW like the one you get from playing with the same few people in BGs regularly. If you have a serious go at this, you will soon find yourself part of one well-oiled team machine that knows each other’s next moves blindly and keeps each other’s backs free. The satisfaction of surviving onslaughts twice your number because you’re acting as one unit is incredible. Epic win! Only really hard earned raid firstkills ever compare in terms of adrenaline rush for me.

BGs are all about strategy and if you want to play and win, you will need to learn every individual map’s ins and outs. I enjoy tactical moves like pre-emptive strikes and feints and I have often seen the outcome of a BG turn around because there were just a few people
taking charge of overall tactics.

I mentioned before that I find an outlet in PVP healing. It’s a total change of focus for me and, while I also keep my partner’s butt alive, it allows me to play a lot more ego-centric than in raids, which is thoroughly relaxing. I use different sets of spells and abilities,many of which revolve around my own survival and crowd control, as much as adding some DPS when I can.

There is an immense satisfaction in seeing your team turn the tide, in knowing that your healing and timing were crucial to the overall outcome of a BG. Even if you lose, a good battle is still fun. I admit that it’s even better to win and find yourself on place 1 or 2 on honor gained though – which is often the case for a good healer and his partner.

What PVP can teach you

img02What I tell not only other healers but also ranged DPS in the guilds I am in, is that there’s actual benefits for PVErs to play PVP at least occasionally. Ranged players especially, often suffer from ‘feet of stone’-syndrome (don’t stand in the fire, anyone?) and tunnel vision. It is one of the most remarkable differences between PVP mages, warlocks, hunters, hybrid DPS, healers and strict PVErs: PVPers have to move around almost constantly while performing. Okay, you can just play Alterac Valley all the time hiding somewhere in back row, but that’s seriously meh! If you want to improve on things like movement, situational awareness, reaction time and survivability, then enter more BGs. Don’t go in all by yourself but go as a small team, so it’s not so frustrating when you start. I found that a lot of the automatisms I developed in BGs benefited me greatly in PVE encounters.

Besides these elemental benefits, it will also teach you a lot about other class mechanics, strategic maneuver, group organization and timing.

A few tips for healers

I’ve just mentioned it and will mention it again – try and go in with at least one more person who is playing a non-healer. Pugging while you’re playing a support class is a seriously frustrating and ungrateful job, even if you can throw heals around randomly. As healers we function best in cooperation with others and if you want to experience the enjoyable side of PvP and reduce your number of deaths, find yourself someone that watches your back as much as you watch his. Me and my buddy are usually on vent when we PVP, which is an additional help and source of fun.

You should also take at least a basic interest in things like BG tactics, play style, stats, and gearing for PVP. You don’t need to respec in BGs as much as you do for arenas, but a general knowledge of how to play and which abilities come handy will help you along the
way – and resilience, lots of it. I found most of the info I needed in the past via Elitist Jerks, Arena Junkies and the general WoW class forums.

My last advice to you is to give your PVP experiences time. Be patient and don’t give up just because you’re losing battles and get killed often. Hang in there and you will gradually notice the differences as your team becomes a more coordinated force and your gear gets better. If nothing else, you will have some good laughs with friends and learn to mind your six more in raids. Me personally, I am greatly looking forward to rated BGs in Cataclysm!

Sylvara, Stormrage EU
August 30th, 2010

In Defense of the New Tree of Life

In Defense of the New Tree of Life

When Blizzard first announced the changes they were making to Tree of Life in the upcoming expansion, the Druid community experienced its own mini-Cataclysm. The main gripe seems to be more about the loss of another “true” Druid form, than it is about the mechanics of the talent. The reasoning behind the Dev’s decision  is that being one of the maybe two capstone abilities for Resto Druids, Tree of Life was pretty boring. Yes, it gave you a new form, but the benefits of the talent in its Wrath iteration read like a list of lower tier talents. Assuming the math supports the Blue’s statements, the reduced mana and increased healing it offers only bring us in line with other healing classes. Not really the huge benefit you expect from a must have talent.

The new version of Tree of Life as it is in the beta, including the recent announcement that the snare is probably being removed, provides quite a few situational uses for Resto Druids, and makes the talent far more useful and class defining than before. First, lets take a look at what the new talent brings to the table:

Tree of Life:

Shapeshift into the Tree of Life, increasing healing done by 15% and increasing your armor by 120% but reducing your movement speed by 50%. In addition, some of your spells are temporarly enhanced while shapeshifted. Lasts 45 sec. 5 minute cooldown. Enhanced spells: Lifebloom, Wild Growth, Regrowth, Entangling Roots, Thorns, Wrath.

Enhanced Spells:

Wild Growth: affects 2 more targets
Regrowth: instant cast
Lifebloom: 2 applications of Lifebloom
Entangling Roots: instant cast and increase damage by 200%
Wrath: cast time reduced by 50% damage increase by 30%
Thorns: not yet implemented

The first change may not be apparent in the tooltip. The 15% increase to healing should be a larger boost than what you are currently seeing in Wrath, due to the fact that Druid healing power is being brought closer in line with the other classes without Tree of Life figured in. Because it is now a cooldown, the healing bonus can have more impact than if it was a passive bonus like the current live version. But the most obvious, and interesting, change is the enhanced spells. Not only do some our healing spells benefit from this, but some Balance spells as well.

Where I think that the new version really shines is how many different uses I can see for it. It truly went from a set it and forget it toggle, to a spell that can give you different advantages depending on when and how you use it. I really see it adding

Playing Catchup

The most obvious way I see Tree of Life being used, is as a way to catch up when massive damage or some other raid situation causes you to fall behind in healing. The ability  to heal extra Wild Growth Targets, complete a 3 stack of Lifebloom much faster, and cast Regrowth instantly, all combine for a very powerful boost to your healing when damage gets out of control. This also seems to apply to both raid and tank healing, assuming Druids are healing in Cataclysm the way the devs have been describing.

Healing On The Move

Druids are already known for being good healers on the move, but this makes us even better. By using this cooldown in high movement situations, you will add Regrowth to your instant cast arsenal, while also increasing the effectiveness of Lifebloom, and hitting more targets with Wild Growth. While the design of Cataclysm raids will determine how often you will use Tree of Life in this manner, I am sure there will be plenty of times that you are the only healer capable of truly healing on the move. This should be a good way to make up for other classes deficiencies in this area.

Damage Boost When You’re Not Healing

One of the design trends for healers in Cataclysm seems to be dealing damage when your not healing. So the bump to a few of our damaging abilities is in interesting touch. Now I am not saying this is an effective use of your cooldown in most raid situations. However, in times in which you outgear content, or in 5 man dungeons where it is not necessary to have the increased healing every boss, this can give us a nice DPS bump. I see this as more of a fun way to use the cooldown, but who knows what Blizz has in mind for the new raids.

Arenas/Battlegrounds

Arguably there is no area of the game better suited for situational abilities than Arenas and Battlegrounds. Where this talent truly benefits you in PVP is with its flexibility. Especially with the removal of the snare component taking away the one drawback that would keep you from using it in PVP. Lots of team members taking damage in a 5v5? Pop it and go to town with your raid healing spells. Someone being focused fired? Use it for the extra boost that can often be the difference between winning and losing. Got that last opponent on the ropes and want to help finish them off? This is a perfect time to cast Tree of Life and spam your enhanced Wrath.

In the end the beauty of the new Tree of Life is all its nuances and flexibility. Find the right time and way to use it will be a challenge at first, but in the long run you will gain far more benefit form it than the current design. As far as the loss of a true Druid form goes: Is it really worth it to lose a great spell, just because we don’t want to heal in our ugly caster forms? I hope the answer for most players is no.

Epiphanize is the co-host of the Raid Warning Podcast and is currently leveling a Druid in the Cataclysm beta as well as playing one as his main.

Second Verse, Different than the First

Second Verse, Different than the First

**Image is text from one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

In the week since the infamous post, I’ve been able to see the wide spectrum of responses and views on the topic. I’ve been condemned and praised for it. The praise came mostly because of points made in the post; the condemnation referred to the tone I used. I let the post simmer a few days, and it’s become clear to me that the tone definitely deserves the condemnation. Anyone that has read my posts here before has come to expect different of me (I hope). That’s true. I normally don’t write with vehemence, but this time I let my professionalism go and was wrong to do so.

The Apology

It was unprofessional of me to “attack” Dills as I did. Funny enough, those that know me in real life knew my tone was lighter than it’s been made out to be. That doesn’t excuse it, nor does it allow me to assume that anyone else would be able to tell the playfulness from some letters on a screen.  We talk all the time about how it’s impossible to tell tone from a text message or an email. Something that’s meant as a tongue-in-cheek comment could be taken the complete opposite; something meant as an important conversation could be shrugged off as an “April Fool’s”-style joke. That’s the danger of writing/blogging like we do. Especially with the type of person I am outside of this game, I lost the foresight that I usually exemplify in my posts. It was never meant to be a “lol noob” type of phrasing at all (I’ll explain the Billy Madison quote in a minute). Was it meant to be a sharp criticism? Absolutely. However, the extra teeth–which came across even worse than intended–were uncalled for. I’m perfectly capable of writing a post that reflects my viewpoints and expresses my counterpoints in a clear and concise argument. Well, the argument got lost. My “bridge” comment was never meant to imply that anyone (including me) should jump off it. In Chicago, the Chicago River is actually used to move some of our sewage. People are not allowed to swim in it for fear of infection. I didn’t write the comparison to imply suicide but to simply say, “I could do this, but it wouldn’t be smart because it’s a gross river.”

The Billy Madison quote: I admit that this was a huge mistake. In drafting that post, that quote came into my head–not as a means to further slam someone but as a sort of ironic chuckle. It made me think of a movie that I know I get a kick out of. When I transcribed it, I never thought, “Ha! This’ll really show him!! RAWR!”. I thought it was a funny reference, and WoW!! was I wrong. Since I didn’t realize how my words would be interpreted, I also didn’t see the poor taste of that joke. Matt was right to remove it. I didn’t remove it originally because I was defensive and felt compelled to stand up for what I wrote. I was standing up for the wrong reasons.

Minus the tone, I still maintain the points I made about Dills’s post. It was unfair of me to attack him, but no one should be immune from criticism (even me, of course). In “An Instance of Fail”, there were rumblings of true debate in the comment section. This, to me, signified that there is real discussion in the points and counterpoints that were made. In writing the post, and even in the days following, I continued to read Dills’s entry. With all due respect, I stand by the inferences I made. There is nothing in the post that lead me to believe otherwise. I’d like to make my points in a much more civil way.

Lightwell

I really have no problem with Lightwell either coming or going. I think it’s a very interesting mechanic and can be situationally used. If it were fixed, I’m sure it’d be a great spell. It could be dropped right before a Bone Storm in Marrowgar or dropped behind the ice blocks in Sindragosa. It would be very beneficial during the 3rd phase of Professor Putricide for casters moving out of slime. Just a quick click as they’re running to the closest safe spot.  Essentially, it could benefit any fight situation where the ability to dps is hindered by movement or transition phases. It’s a great alternative to spells like Divine Hymn or Tranquility. With both of those spells, the caster (Priest and Druid, respectively) has to remain still to channel it. This allows the Priest or Druid to continue moving during a transition, put distance between himself/herself and “the bad”, or simply cast spells on others that are nearer to visiting the graveyard.

Although the fate of Lightwell doesn’t really matter, I disagree with the following phrases:

“I know when I’m dpsing or tanking the last thing I want to think about is healing.”

“That’s what the healer is for.”

I remember when I was a lowly Warlock back in SSC/TK, I was excited to start a Priest, because I wanted to be a help to the raid in whatever way I could; healing seemed to be a great fit for me. Leveling to 70 wasn’t instantaneous, obviously. I then looked at my own Warlock spellbook to see how I could help the raid beyond just my Shadow Bolt spam. When it was deemed appropriate, I would put Curse of Weakness on the boss. I was always happy to throw up Curse of Tongues on Fathom-Guard Caribdis (in the Fathom-Lord fight in SSC) to give the Shaman and Rogues enough time to interrupt his huge heal. If everyone was taking a lot of damage, I would throw Siphon Life (when it was a spell) and then Drain Life the boss to give healers some more wiggle room. I would do this even if it was a hit to my DPS. Whatever was the best way for the raid to succeed, I did it.

It’s how I continue to play today. Even when I’m DPS’ing on my Enhancement Shaman, I’ll throw out an instant Healing Wave (via Maelstrom Weapon) to help out the healers when they need it.  When I heal, if I have global cooldowns and mana to spare, I readily start DPSing the boss.  It’s the mentality that I try to encourage in the people I play with. Of course it’s our job to fill our roles, but it’s also our job to help out the rest of the raid where we can. I remember when raid members carried bandages, and used health pots (when you could chain-pot, anyways). It was always more about “us” rather than “you” and “me.” It’s the “us” mindset that helps make our in-game community strong.

Dampen/Amplify Magic

“I know, we use Amplify Magic on the Saurfang fight.  I’m aware of that.  However; one fight does not make a spell useful or necessary.”

Although that may or may not be true for the current level of progression, look at other older bosses that stood to benefit from Amplify magic: Gruul, Patchwerk, General Vezax, Icehowl. Gruul hammers on the tank for physical damage. He doesn’t have a dedicated enrage. With Amplify Magic, you were able to squeeze a couple more Growths out of him. When Patchwerk was the gear check, we worked hard to gear up our off-tank to take the Hateful Strikes. Having Amplify Magic on the off-tanks made our heals hit harder, thereby saving our mana so we could make it to the enrage, if need be. As for Vezax, a fight where mana regen is negligible, any additional help for the healer was welcomed with open arms, especially on heroic when you’re not using the Saronite Vapor mechanic. There’s usually always at least one boss in each tier of progression that uses purely (or mostly) physical damage. If it can be used, there’s really no reason it shouldn’t be cast on a tank (or the raid, for that matter) that’s taking mostly physical damage. It’s hugely beneficial on Valithria Dreamwalker. Cast it on her and heal her quickly to 100%. Makes heroic a lot more manageable (more on this later).

“Dampen Magic is especially useless unless you are in pvp and there are no healers which usually means you will be failing no matter what you do.”

As for Dampen Magic, well of course it’s situational. A lot of mages use it for leveling. My friend Andrew plays a mage. Anytime he’s on his 56 mage and I’m on my 56 warrior, we have Dampen Magic on. It helps us out quite a bit. Some use it for farming. In those situations, less incoming damage means less time bandaging/eating. Like Dills says, it’s beneficial in PvP as well, especially world PvP or certain arena matchups. There’s some misinformation that PvP is pointless without a healer, and that’s actually not the case.  When I’m up against a mage, Dampen Magic (or Amplify, too) is just one more thing I have to dispel off of him to get to his Ice Barrier. PvP is not necessarily who has the heals, but who plays his/her character better. ArenaJunkies.com is peppered heavily with purely dps teams. A team combining a mage with any other non-healing class(es) stands to gain a lot from Dampen Magic. Everytime I see a Mage/Rogue pairing that knows how to play, it’s very tough to beat. All of that CC, and then Dampen Magic makes it that much harder. Especially in PvP, people look for whatever edge they can get, no matter how small. It doesn’t serve the PvE benefit that many would like, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless by any means.

“I do think the idea is solid but in practicality it comes up so rarely that these spells are often completely forgotten about by many Mages.”

My argument: Just because a spell is used only on the occasional fight or on a situational basis, it does not mean it’s useless. People choose not to use it, and that’s fine. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a wasted spot in the spellbook. That’s the fun of the game. Each encounter is different and calls for different abilities. I would find the game pretty boring if I had to do the same thing each and every fight. It makes me sad that interesting abilities like these are being shed.

Mind Soothe/Soothe Animal

I have to admit, I never really knew about the value of Mind Soothe and Soothe Animal until I was in SSC back in Burning Crusade. Those were the days when CC was absolutely needed. Humanoids feared us, Beasts bled us, Dragonkin healed their friends. We had to have Saps, Sheeps, Repents, and anything we could think of. My friend Jayme plays a mage. A nice, squishy clothie. I could tell he’d be nervous stepping up to ready his Polymorph. One wrong step, and that pack comes charging at him. Death would be his likely end. I could even feel the anxiety across vent. A Priest and Druid then stepped up to Mind Soothe and Soothe Animal the mobs nearest to my friend. A sense of ease fell over him. Now, it didn’t need to be so precise where his character was placed. He had a little wiggle room. The pull went as planned, and no one died.

That brings us to Instructor Razuvious, the first boss in the Military Quarter of Naxxramas. Obviously, in 25man, you need to have two Priests to Mind Control two of his Understudies. Because of their aggro range and the range of Mind Control, this pull has the potential to be hectic. The first time I tried this fight, we had to have a countdown on when to run in, hoping that my Mind Control was able to take hold before the Understudy decided I’d be better used as a doormat.  Another tactic was for our tank to run in, grab everything (and run his own risk of becoming a doormat) and possibly pull the mobs out of our range. It got frustrating, and it got frustrating fast, even with a team that I felt confident raiding. Once Mind Soothe was brought into the mix, it made everyone’s lives so much easier. I could settle into my spot, and the countdown was now when to cast Mind Control, not frantically to set up.

How about Zul’Aman? I always was so sad when they removed the Amani War Bear. We never were able to get ahead of the timer after a little while. That raid was full of Humanoids, as well as Beasts. The perfect place to use both of those spells to sneak by mobs and get the edge on that timer. Someone commented on Dills’s post that using those two spells was a great way to solidify that awesome bear for someone in his raid. I wish I would’ve thought of it at the time.

It serves a much bigger benefit than what Dills refers to as “…spells that sneaked in there because Blizzard need to give players something new around level 20 and ran out of ideas” or as a “[d]umb spell with almost no uses at all.” Keep in mind that we’re heading into an expansion that Blizzard wants to have more dependent on crowd control. I know I’d much rather be settled and ready for each pull in the new raids than have each one be a mad dash to gain control. Pulls like those lead to sloppy wipes and wasted raid time. As my buddy Dralo says, “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast. Fast is deadly.” I’ve always found that Mind Soothe and Soothe Animal help that.

Thinking Outside the Box

Lodur’s guild, Unpossible, is still hammering proudly through ICC hardmodes. Valithria Dreamwalker is no cakewalk. The Emerald Dream is actually the Nightmare. Each orb applies a DoT to whoever consumes it. Simply being in the Nightmare ticks away at your health. VD’s health decays over time, which means you need more bang for your buck. Your heals need to hit has hard as possible in order to assure victory. Unpossible utilized an unorthodox technique also used by other guilds in order to get the job done. They took a BM Hunter with a bear pet. Tenacity pets have a 2-point talent called Blood of the Rhino. All heals on the pet are increased by 40%. They coupled that with Beacon of Light from their Holy Paladin. Beaconing the dragon and healing the bear resulted in a huge boost in healing. It saved mana and helped counteract the health decay. Needless to say, they won the day. That’s the beauty of this game. It’s not simply point and shoot. Takes some thinking to come up with a strategy like that. Post note: I’m aware that the mechanic was nerfed. Still took some brains to think of using those skills together, which is the point.

There are tons of ways that we can all use different spells in the game to make our playtime more enjoyable and unique. Rather than dismiss certain spells as “useless” and “dumb”, we should look for unique ways to utilize our spellbooks and challenge our minds. If someone new to the game wants advice on how to begin this journey, I try to encourage him/her to think about team before self.  Don’t shrug things off as “my job” and “your job”. Embrace the idea that defeating the raid is “our job”. Look for how your class’s lesser-known abilities could stand to help the group. Read your spellbook; try different things out. I think you might be surprised what you might find. Remember, raiding is a Team Sport. Let’s welcome the newest WoW generation with that in mind.

Email: Elder.Thespius@gmail.com | Twitter: @Thespius

Leap into PvP the Correct Way

Leap into PvP the Correct Way

In perusing WoW.com on my normal Monday morning shift, I tend to always follow Spiritual Guidance, usually when it’s headed up by Dawn Moore. Although I tend to go back and forth on my agreement with her, I’ve noticed that she’s taken an approach to encouraging people to participate more in PvP.  YES!  With the thrill of this expansion coming to a close, there are a variety of ways to continue to enjoy this game, one of which is PvP. 

Why am I so excited for this, you ask? Well, I’m an avid PvP’er. One of my favorite things to do is grab some guildies, and utilize the Random Battleground Queue until I’m blue in the face.  I particularly love Warsong Gulch, which makes me pretty excited for the upcoming “Twin Peaks” battleground.  Here’s the poop on what you stand to gain from becoming more active in PvP:

  • Increased Wintergrasp / Vault of Archavon Time: People consistently complain about how Wintergrasp is broken on their server.  Although I agree to a certain extent, a team of skilled, team-oriented PvP’ers has the potential to overcome any short-comings (**COUGH** Scale vehicle damage with Tenacity **COUGH**).
  • Off-set Gear: Although I don’t miss the days of “Welfare Epics” by any means, I am a fan of utilizing some PvP pieces until you get that PvE piece you want.  Sure, resilience does no good in PvE, but you can use that Wrathful Gladiator’s Cloak of Salvation until you get the frosties for your Drape of the Violet Tower or you get that Greatcloak of the Turned Champion to finally drop off of 25-man Saurfang.
  • Deeper Class Knowledge: By starting to play your class in a different environment, you start to learn things you may not have considered before.  The ability to change your focus and style as a player gains a lot of respect from someone like me.

However…

Although Dawn does a great job of laying out the basics, let me make it clear that I think it’s a bad idea to grind out Emblems of Triumph to get your PvP gear.  Sure, if you have them sitting your bag, by all means, spend them.  I know from experience how frustrating it is to go into battlegrounds wearing nothing but your PvE gear.  Let’s take a look at what you stand to gain by going the “Honor” route:

Gear Progression

First and foremost, I really enjoy the feeling of accomplishment of getting to spend my honor points on a new piece of gear.  I’m currently gearing up my Resto PvP set for my Shaman, and although I’ll toss some Triumphs at it, if I have them, most of my gear is coming from Honor.  I liken it to working out hard in a gym and seeing the results build, instead of sitting plugged into one of those ab-shock deals while I watch the Blackhawks annihilate the Flyers in Game 5 (I had to). You feel the hard work, hence the payoff is more rewarding.

Second, as you add pieces over time, you realize which stats you need and which ones you don’t need.  When I was building my Discipline PvP set, I initially went for mostly +Crit pieces so I could proc Inspiration and Divine Aegis.  I realized halfway through that I was burning mana like an oil spill from an irresponsible foreign oil company. I switched it up and started getting more MP5 and Spirit on my gear.  Especially if you’re a healer, you have the choice of some caster DPS gear (except for the Paladin), which will be laden with more haste and crit.  Once you discover your play style, you’ll figure how to tweak your gear.  If you grind dungeons for all the badges for the Furious set, you may find that you’re too heavy on a stat that doesn’t do you much good, or that you’re lacking in one that you really need.

An option to consider while getting battle-ready is checking out the crafted pieces that are available.  They’re relatively cheap to make, and you’ll probably be helping out someone’s profession in the meantime.  They all involve more than just the standard Head/Chest/Legs/Gloves/Shoulders combination.  You can use these to get your boots, bracers or waist piece squared away. Here’s a couple examples:

Frostsavage Battlegear – Although it lacks any kind of mana regen, it still is better than nothing.

Eviscerator’s Battlegear – Obviously for melee classes like the Druid and Rogue.

Ornate Saronite Battlegear – The Healadin equivalent.

These give you good starting points to bounce off from.  Remember, you’re generally focusing on different stats than a normal PvE set.

A Different Style

Have you ever played one spec for SO long, and then decided to switch it up and play a completely different spec?  Say you went from Resto to Balance, or from Holy to Shadow, or Resto to Elemental. Is it the same playstyle?  Obviously not.  Sure, it may not be much of an adjustment, but think of PvP in the same manner. 

On my Shaman, I know very well that I’ll be dropping different totems depending upon who I’m facing.  I switch up my weapon imbues as Enhancement, and I pay much closer attention to my Earthbind Totem, Grounding Totem, and Stoneclaw Totem.  Those get little to no attention in raids.

On my Discipline Priest, I learned the ability to turn and burst an opponent, when I’m used to healing.  I started to utilize different heals like Binding Heal in order to keep myself and a teammate alive. 

If you’re stuck in randoms just doing what you normally do (I call the “Mental AFK”), then you’re not learning the intracacies of your class and spec, especially with how easy it is to outgear heroics now.  Go through your spec talent by talent and see what will help you and what won’t.  A talent you worship in PvE may not be worth it in PvP.  It’s okay to toss it to the side to get a little more utility.

Become Team-Oriented

Contrary to popular belief, not all PvP is based on killing the other player.  You may be able to put out some good DPS, but do you know how to peel a melee off of a healer?  Do you know how to pinpoint the enemy healer and not just kill him but lock him down so he’s useless?  Do you know what strengths your class has against certain other classes?  Do you have the ability to support the rest of the team, instead of trying to be highest DPS or get the most Killing Blows?

That’s what the benefit of actually being in the battleground gives you.  You end up learning that in order to hold bases in Arathi Basin or Eye of the Storm, you have to stand on or near the flag/node.  Fighting in the roads generally does nothing.  You also learn the value of defending those nodes, instead of just being part of the roaming Zerg group. 

These lessons all come with time, but I think it’s imperative that you learn them while you’re in the thick of it.  Once you learn how much easier it is to take out a group once the healer is down, you’ll encourage others to do the same.  You’ll figure out that there will be players that try to peel you off the flag in Arathi Basin so a Rogue or Druid can ninja the node.

You’ll simply become a stronger player, not only in PvP but in PvE as well.  PvP can help you avoid tunnel vision and enable you to help out other parts of the raid when you feel you can.  There’s only so much you can learn from doing heroics and raids over and over.  Spend the time in some battlegrounds, and I think you’ll be amazed what you can learn.

**Disclaimers: No, I’m not a 2400 Arena player. Yes, I’ve been PvPing since Burning Crusade. Yes, I understand there are exceptions to everything. Yes, I’m a Blackhawks fan of the fair-weather nature. No, I don’t think it’s too soon to insult BP for their pollution of our waters.**

 

Email: Elder.Thespius@gmail.com | Twitter: @Thespius

 

 

 

Hope for the PvP Healer

Hope for the PvP Healer

If you’re like me (and frankly, you might not be, but I hope you’ll keep reading), you enjoy a good amount of some world PvP.  Beyond Wintergrasp and the Storm Peaks dailies phase, I’m talking about moments like these:

“Oh sh**! STUPID [insert class]”

“What happened? You get ganked?”

“Yeah, I’m just farmin’ [insert mat]…”

“Where are you?”

“I’m out in Sholazar Basin.”

“On the way.”

…and after 20 minutes, you’re in a real world 5v5, 7v9, 20v17, whatever! You can Rebirth, you can Lay on Hands, you can rez at your corpse.  It’s a “No Holds Barred” cage match.  At least, I think that’s the reference.  Wrestling, right?  Kidding.  Anyway, my point is that I’m an avid fan of PvP.  It’s not my main focus, but I certainly spend a decent amount of time in it.

I love PvP, and I hate a skilled rogue.

Now, not because I think they’re OP, but because when a rogue is good, it’s near impossible to survive.  Again, let me say that I’m meaning this more as a compliment and not a QQ thread.  With that “rogue ego stroke”, I’m grateful that an announcement was made (I know, it was back in March) with regard to what we’ve come to call the “stunlock”:

Rogue burst is also scary today because they can deliver it while a target is chain stunned. We’ve also said that’s not a particularly fun place to be (for attacker or defender) and we need to shift rogue defenses away from short-duration immunities (which includes the stuns) and more towards being able to stand toe to toe with other classes a little better.

In a one-on-one standpoint, this was nigh-impossible to survive.  With a Cheap Shot, Kidney Shot, Blind chain, I’ve been forced to just sit and watch my health go from 100% to 0% in a matter of seconds.  Before you all “LoL L2Trinket” me, trust me, I’ve done it.  Like I said, a skilled rogue is a nightmare.

So, in the Rogue Preview put out, this lovely morsel is given:

In PvP, we want to reduce the rogue’s dependency on binary cooldowns and “stun-locks,” and give them more passive survivability in return. One major change is that we’ll put Cheap Shot on the same diminishing return as other stuns. The increase to Armor and Stamina on cloth, leather, and mail gear will help with this goal as well.

Obviously, the intent is to make a rogue tougher to kill, but I look at this from a healer’s standpoint: fewer stuns means more chances for us to survive.

Cataclysm is going to bring about a lot of changes, and we all know the constant struggle to balance PvP and PvE.  Since I’m a fan of both, I’m excited and scared of what the future will bring to the table.

How do you feel about the upcoming changes and how they’ll affect you in the arena/battleground?  Rogue feedback is welcome as well!

 

Email: elder.thespius@gmail.com | Twitter: @Thespius

How to Earn Those Seemingly Impossible Alterac Valley Achievements

av-achievements

Before attempting to shoot for several of these achievements, it is strongly advised that you have the following:

  • AV Preform Enabler installed and ready to go
  • A group of 10-15 friends
  • Several hours to kill

I won’t go into much detail about the AV Enabler. Veteran BG players understand why it’s useful and nearly a requirement in most preforms. There is no exception especially when it comes to AV.

Loyal Defender

This Achievement involves you killing 50 players while defending your general. It’s either going to be Drek or Vann depending on your faction. If you happen to join an AV in progress where you are losing, then it’s the perfect time for you and your crew to make their stand. Ideally, your defense will involve a couple of Death Knights. Have them Scorpion any unsuspecting Horde (or Alliance) players in.

As DPS, strafe in and out of sight as much as possible. Sneak out and try to bait players in, but take care not to get yourself caught outside. Death Grip from Death Knights work both ways.

Line of sight everything as much as possible. There are two columns in the back of Vann’s room which I’ve found perfect for the job. I’d be able to partially conceal myself behind it and still heal players around me. There’s probably something similar in Drek’s room as well.

The most important thing here is to don’t ever release. If you’re lucky, opposing faction members won’t loot your corpse allowing the healers behind you to pick you up manually.

I was able to get this achievement in about 3 minutes after dying and doing the run of shame back into Vann’s room.

Now make like Braveheart and hold!

The Alterac Blitz

Ready for the fastest AV ever? Here’s the roles you’ll need:

  • 2 tanks
  • ~4 healers
  • Miscellaneous DPS

You’ve got six minutes to win Alterac Valley. Once those gates open, your team is on the clock.

This is straight forward, PvP brute force tactics at its finest. With your team assembled and buffed at the gate, mount up and make straight for Drek’s room. Evade, sidestep, and ignore as many Horde as possible. Alliance players will be riding through the Fields of Strife along the west side while the Horde are going the opposite direction along the east.

If you’re lucky, you won’t get stalled heading down. Most of the time you won’t. If you do get held up, there’s nothing more you can do.

Assuming everything goes well, you’ll be staring down Drek and his four tower cronies. When Conquest got this achievement, we did it with 2 Paladin tanks. One of them picked up Drek and dragged him to the back of the room while the other picked up the other 4 tower marshals and peeled them away from Drek’s tank. The goal here is to minimize whirlwind damage as much as possible. Pop a Heroism and pray that your DPS is sufficient to take him down with the allotted time. You might have a few stragglers coming in from behind trying to put a dent in your plans. Dropping fear bombs and other forms of CC should delay them long enough for your strike force to take out Drek.

The other faction won’t even realize what happened. I’ll never forget the disbelief in Battleground chat when Drek died. It felt like Conquest went to Drek while the rest of the other players were working on Galv. Lot’s of “WTFs” and “Whoas” ensued.

Stormpike Perfection

Win Alterac Valley without losing a tower or a Captain. You must also control all of the Horde’s towers.

It is imperative that you do not attack Galv at all. I’ll explain why later.

You’ll be playing a tight checking defense at first. When your team comes screaming out of the gate, set up shop inside Belinda’s room and stave off the initial rush. Stonehearth is going to be assaulted at this point. Once Belinda is clear, head straight to Stonehearth and take it back. Use overwhelming force.

At this point, your team will need to split. The bulk of the forces will be advancing south and slowly capping towers.

Strong communication here is key. Definitely keep a player back on Belinda duty. You can watch from far away and see how many Horde players are going in. If it’s a substantial amount, alert the defense. The defense will be alternating between securing Stonehearth and Belinda. If Horde players manage to reach back, send 2 or 3 players to recap. It’s important to maintain possession of bunkers. If one is in the process of being turned by the Horde, and you manage to reduce their tickets to 0, you won’t get this achievement because you lost control of a tower. Even though they haven’t capture it yet, it won’t matter.

The strategy for the offense is to slowly and systematically capture towers. Note that the Horde have to have enough tickets left for this to happen. For example, if they have 40 tickets left and you still have two towers to cap, you won’t get the achievement. One tower will reduce the tickets to 0 while the other is still in progress. This is why you can’t kill Galv as it would drop their ticket count by 100 and reduce the time you have to capture towers.

We came close once to gaining this achievement but we lost a bunker at the last possible minute. This weekend. That’s my goal for this weekend.