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!

Shaman healing so far in Cataclysm

I’ve been spending as much time as I can in the Cataclysm beta, and trying to maximize as much of my time as possible healing. I mean, after all that’s what I get paid for right?

You may be asking yourself what this song has to do with this post? Honestly a lot of folks think that shaman healing has gone down hill and have thrown their hands up and walked away. Some of these folks just think healing in general come Cataclysm will be so broken it wont even be worth it. I’m here to assuage at least the shaman portion of that fear.

Mana and triage

For as long as shaman have been healing we’ve been a bit of a mana battery. Between our passive regen and our spells and abilities that are geared towards doing nothing but giving us mana back. The problem is that with Wrath most healers were mana batteries. Rarely running out of mana means you can heal almost perpetually through the vast majority of non hard-mode encounters.

This makes for very boring healing, and that is something that the developers have been trying to tackle for a long time now. With the reduction of mana, and the increase in the cost of several of our healing spells, it forces us to triage our heals and essentially move away from mothering a group. Most people have seen this as a fault of the new healing model. I, however, find it incredibly liberating. Granted shaman have fared better than most other classes in this regard because  we are technically the healing model for cataclysm (or so the blues tell us). We’ve been given the tools to heal effectively, and balanced to a point where we don’t over power every encounter and actively have to pay attention and manage healing spell choices. I don’t run OOM unless people are doing very, very stupid things and I’m forced to compensate (a la a mage hugging a dragon cause he though it was cute and needed a hug).

Right now if you yell at someone to not “stand in the bad” a lot of the time they will simply ignore you since healers can just dump heals on them and get through the vast majority of effects out there. If you’ve done any PUGing before you’ll have found it at least once. That hunter that doesn’t want to get out of the fire so he can squeeze off a couple more shots to up their DPS while you dump heals on them. They expect it, and if they don’t get it you are instantly a “bad healer”.

I’ve talked about this on several of my wow.com articles lately, but there is an emphasis on personal accountability. Even if you have the mana to heal someone, they may still die. Pardon my french for a minute here, but bad shit really is bad and players should avoid it at all costs. This includes Tanks and Healers. Doing the dungeon finder in the beta has gotten to a point where players know now they have to manage their own health a little bit, and the curve has gone from nightmare healing to perfectly manageable. If the changes stand and force healers to triage the heals, it will force a shift in the perception of healers. Not saying there wont be players who yell at the healer when they die (those jerks will always exist, sadly) but I think most people will come to stop expecting you to be the only one responsible for their health.

The impression that I get

Overall, healing on the shaman in the beta has been some of the most fun I’ve had to date. I absolutely love having to pick which heal is best for the situation and love the fact that not EVERYTHING is about Chain Heal or stacking pure haste. Honestly I think shaman have the perfect number of healing tools to work with in any given fight. Every new ability compliments each other, old abilities have been given just enough of a tweak to make them interesting. Overall it feels fresh, new and exciting.

I don’t feel over powered, but I do feel capable. I don’t feel like there is anything I can’t do without a little hard work. I still get a twinge at certain bosses in the 5 mans, knowing what they can do and looking at a group composition planning my heals for which ability. It’s exciting and I feel like a tactician rather than a small child playing whack-a-mole at the local carnival being swindled out of my $2. I mean I’ll always be a healer, but it feels like I’m falling in love with it all over again. There’s excitement and consequence and every death isn’t all just on me. I know that priests and shaman have fared better than paladin and druid healers so far, but I think in the end it will balance out and everyone will have as much fun as I do right now.

In conclusion, at least for shaman, the world is not ending. The sky is not falling, and ultimately we’ll be better off in the end it seems. GO TEAM SPIRIT FINGERS!

So I’m going to spend my weekend healing 5-mans and recording videos, anything specific you guys want to see from the beta? I’ll do what I can to provide!

Until next time, Happy Healing!

Why Resto Shaman Need a Defensive Cooldown, or Another Spirit Link Post

Why Resto Shaman Need a Defensive Cooldown, or Another Spirit Link Post

In case you’ve missed it, I’ve grown quite partial to the idea behind Spirit Link. I’ve talked about it recently wondering where it is. Before that I lamented its absence as the one that got away. Today I’d like to take a different approach to this enigma.

Tuesday I reported about the Cataclysm beta and how things looked so far. In that post I quoted the devs with their answers to many questions, including the state of Spirit Link. Their answer was not one I was all to keen on. Back on the 13th of July I appeared on the podcast Raid Warning with their Shaman Roundtable. I had the opportunity to talk with some amazing members of the shaman community and share ideas. While we were talking a fantastic point was made. Shaman are in need of an external cooldown.

Sure it seems like we have it all. Fame, power, sweet shoveltusk-ghost-shoulders, but the truth is we still have some holes in our healing arsenal that need to be addressed. Let me specify that a defensive cooldown is not an “OH SHIT!” ability like Nature’s Swiftness. I’m talking about cooldowns that are used in anticipation of something bad happening instead of reactionary (with a couple exceptions).

Let us compare to other healers.

Priests

Pain Suppression – Lets face it, this spell has come in handy on more boss fights than you would normally consider. Every 3 minutes Discipline priests can reduce the incoming damage on a target by 40% for 8 seconds. That is a large number, and while 8 seconds might not seem like a lot of time, 8 seconds can wind up being just enough to mitigate a boss mob’s large nasty spell or ability. If you Glyph it, you can even cast it while your stunned!  This is a great raid leading ( or heal leading) shot gun, and honestly has saved our rears quite a few times.

Guardian Spirit – Holy priests are not left without a big cooldown. Like pain suppression, this spell is on a 3 minute cooldown and increases healing received on the target by 40%. If the person dies while guardian spirit is active, the spirit will instead be consumed and the person will be healed immediately for 50% of their maximum health. It lasts for 10 seconds on the target and with the Glyph, if it lasts the entire 10 seconds without being consumed your cooldown gets reset to 1 minute. As a healing lead I love abusing this talent. It is a net, a nice cushion-esque net. You can set it on a tank and if you got OOM or have to move and cant push healing, it buys you time. Minimizing risk and compensation for “oops” is part of every raid leaders job, and cooldowns like this can help a ton.

Druids

Tranquility – 8 minute cooldown for a massive area of effect heal. There have been plenty of fights where this has come in handy, and rotations have been set up between multiple druids. Tranquility is another “buys you time” spell. It heals everyone around the druid for a sizeable chunk of health every 2 seconds for 8 seconds, but those 4 pulses of healing can spell defeat or victory as it allows you to help mitigate massive AoE damage and buys healers time to shift gears and compensate. It is often used when you expect massive amounts of raid wide damage.

Rebirth – This spell carries a 10 minute cooldown and a material component in order to cast it, but in this case the effect is greater than the cost by leaps and bounds. Rebirth brings a player who has died back to life with about 6k health and almost 5k mana. Doesn’t sound like a whole lot right? Well if you didn’t know, it is the only resurrection spell that can be cast while in combat. This is huge! Sometimes, things go bad and there is nothing you can do to stop it. A DPS ganks aggro and splats before you can heal them, but you need them alive in order to make the enrage timer. If you have a druid handy this is not an issue, they can bring that person back up and help complete the task at hand. If the druid is using the Glyph, it returns the target of the res with FULL health. This is an amazing cooldown to be able to call on in those particularly awful fights. While this one is a reactionary ability, I think it still fits in with the “defensive” cooldown abilities so I’ve made an exception and included it in the list.

Paladins

Hand of Sacrifice – 2 minute cooldown and it transfers 30% of the damage taken on the target to the paladin for 12 seconds or until the paladin takes damage equal to their total health. The paladin can still use their bubble while using hand of sac in order to mitigate the damage they are receiving and it can be very strategically used to bleed off normally lethal damage on the tank. Divine Sacrifice is an area affect version of this spell that redirects 30% of all damage within 30 yards to the paladin for a maximum of 40% of the paladin’s health times the number of party members.

Hand of Protection – 5 minute cooldown but it makes the target completely from physical attacks for 10 seconds. This can be a great way to drop physical debuffs or just to protect someone from getting 1-shot. This was very useful in Trial of the Crusader.

Shaman

I’m having a hard time thinking of anything I can consider a preemptive defensive cooldown. Hero-Lust is an offensive ability as is both of our elementals. Everything else we have that has a cooldown is reactionary (Nature’s Swiftness). I can’t count Reincarnation in this either as while it is nice to be able to resurrect yourself, finding the timing to do so with all the environmental effects and boss abilities are going off, as well as not being able to rez yourself at, you still only rez with a maximum of 40% of your health. With no buffs it is very easy just to splat again. In a large raid where there is a group of healers to pull abilities from this isn’t such a big thing. But when you start talking about smaller raids it is at that point it starts to become an issue.

Now with Cataclysm on the horizon a few things are happening that make this an issue that needs to be addressed. First of all, raid sizes will be smaller. Now I don’t mean blizzard is taking away 25 man raiding, but they are evening out gear distribution and content to be consistent from 10 man to 25 man. The only difference will be how much of the loot drops from 10 man compared to 25 man. My prediction is that this will cause a lot more 10 man raiding groups to pop up. While the game has come a long way from 40 man raids, organizing 25 man raids can be just as stressful.  The ability to gain the same gear from 10 mans that you do from 25 mans removes some of the incentive to actually run 25 man raids. The facts is, organizing 10 people is easier than 25.

Healing is being tuned to be quite a bit harder both on the healer themselves in terms of mana management but also for groups in terms of damage output. Having had first hand experience in the new 5 mans in cataclysm I can tell you healing has become much more difficult. There were several times where I wish I had something I could toss up on a group member so I could keep healing the tank without having to choose which of the two would die (and there were several instances in which someone WILL die), or a few occasions where a tank was getting pummeled hard and could have used something to either help mitigate the damage or use as a life line.

It is in these smaller groups (5 and 10 man content) that our distinct lack of an external cool down to help those around us mitigate damage or act as prevention really is highlighted. This means in smaller group compositions another healer type may wind up being preferable. Keep in mind that in current content external cooldowns have been used to help tanks and raids quite a bit. Examples include but are not limited to; Vezaxx with pain Suppression and Guradrian Spirit were big deals and on hard mode you almost had to have them available. Ormokk the Impailer was cake with a paladin with Hand of Prot and bubbles, and Tranquility owns the air phase on Blood Queen. These are just a few examples

The Fix

The first thing that comes to mind is that we honestly need an external cooldown. The concept of Spirit Link could very easily fill that gap. Now there is a concern that players would use it to kill other players and exactly how the mechanic would work, but there are a couple ways this could be balanced.

You can certainly make it analogous to Divine Sacrifice. Traditionally and lore wise, shaman have always been the protectors of their people both in health and physical defense. Calling upon the powerful spirits and ancestors to guide them, making offerings to produce better hunts or harvests. The idea of a AoE Spirit Link on a long cooldown could be quite nice.

Spirit Link: Instant cast 3 minute cooldown

The shaman calls upon the spirits of their ancestors to watch over their companions and help ease their burdens and suffering

30% of all damage taken by party members within 40 yards is redirected to the Shaman (up to a maximum of 50% of the Shaman’s health times the number of party members).  Damage which reduces the Shaman below 20% health will break the effect.  Lasts 15 sec.

I could see something like that couldn’t you? Could also be handy if say it could also be affected by Ancestral Resolve, we could get that much more out of it. It also stays true to the original thought and feeling behind the spell.

Maybe make it like a healing Misdiretion, where it will still be on a long cool down but maybe transfers a portion of the damage off of x number of swings or impose a time limit. maybe something like:

Spirit Link: Instant cast 3-5 minute cooldown

The current party or raid member targeted will receive 30% of the damage dealt to a secondary target for the next 10 seconds. Any effect that reduces the targets health below 50% will cancel the effect.

These aren’t perfect but it is an idea at least. It really is the only tool we are missing. A long defensive cooldown. The other classes all have their cookies and flavors for this, and with groups potentially thinning down, and with healing being changed as it is, it is personally something I think the class needs. Just… call it Spirit Link to humor me is all I ask! Once we have that I think our healing tool-set will be complete, and then we will truly be princes of the universe! (bet you were wondering why I linked a Queen song up at the top ;])

So what do you think? Do you think shaman need that defensive cooldown? What would you make it? would you change any of our spells to fill the gap?

That is it for this week folks. Happy Healing!

Less is More?

Less is More?

As some of you may or may not know, I am actually trained in the skills of an architect. It’s a fun fact about me on the off chance you care about that sort of thing. The reason I bring this up is because all throughout my college career, my teachers attempted to drive home the point that “Less is More”. This is not a new design concept by any means, in fact it is a rather old idea, a 19th century proverbial phrase. It is first found in print in Andrea del Sarto, 1855, a poem by Robert Browning:

Who strive – you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,-
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter) – so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia.

Architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe is often associated with this phrase as a founder  of modern architecture and proponent of simplicity of style.

So I’m sure you’re asking why I’m dragging architecture into your dragon game right now yes? Well, quite simply the idea of less is more is a design concept that many game companies have embraced. To do more with less decreases production time, allows for a better shake down of bugs and glitches, and can free up a developer to create some very innovative game play.  One need not look much further than Braid or The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom to see what I mean here.

Blizzard it would seem has just begun to adapt to this way of thinking, at least it appears that way. You can see this in the latest build of the Cataclysm Beta. The new 31-point talent system has streamlined the talent trees by removing  bloat and overused space. What we are left with is a cleaner, albeit smaller, talent tree. A lot of the talents cut away were instead folded into the players choice in specialization, for example Earth Shield was removed as a talent and given as a core spell when a player chooses to specialize in Restoration. This design model is an attempt to do more with less. Less wasted talent space will lead to more interesting talents in the tree, as well more interesting game play for players… in theory anyways. I wrote up a more detailed breakdown of these changes on WoW.com so feel free to check it out. This is my more personal thoughts on these changes, and well… I just felt the need to keep talking about them some.

While it is still in an early beta phase, I can’t help but feel… disrupted a little bit. While I agree that some of the talents should have been moved, I’m not entirely feeling good about what was pulled out and what was put in. I agree that for restoration, Earth Shield should have been removed as a talent and made into a base spell. You will never hear me complain about that. Every resto shaman I know takes that talent, and in truth it is a very core, very iconic spell that is part of the identity of a resto shaman. If you are a restoration shaman without Earth Shield… well I just don’t even know. I am curious though as to why Mana Tide Totem was left in place though. Like ES it is a very core shaman talent and again something most if not all resto shaman take. Why not remove it as a talent and give it as a bonus for choosing the restoration specialization? That could further open up the tree and allow more space for more fun talents. From a design perspective it would make more sense to make it a base ability or a specialization bonus and open the slot for something else… maybe something like Spirit Link!

Another thing that confused me was some of the additions, Spark of Life to be exact. One of the things that Blizzard stated was that they wanted to move away from/remove talents that added passive % bonuses. Don’t get me wrong, I like the talent. Buffing the healing done to yourself has been near godly in the beta (*ahem* restoiz4tanking!) and it makes the passive heal from Healing Stream Totem nice for longevity, but I am still surprised to see it included. It does go well with Ancestral Resolve as far as that whole staying alive thing goes as well. I fully plan on using these for tanking as a healer!

Telluric Currents would be nice for leveling… if it was lower in the tree. I can’t see taking it as a dedicated healer in end game, as it is rare that I have to DPS at all and even then it is usually a flame shock followed by more healing and then a lava burst. It could be useful for soloing… maybe.

We lost a lot however. A lot of our supercharged healing is gone, and we are dreadfully low on passive crit. Some additions to the tree give us back some of the bonus healing, but no where near where it was. I understand that they want to make healing harder and more thoughtful and I am pro difficulty on that, but a shaman’s best procs all come from crit. Passively we can push 40% in a raid without trying, this helps with heals from Ancestral Awakening and helps trigger Blessing of the Eternals sure. It also is necessary for shaman mana regeneration. Improved Water Shield procs off of critical heals. The more crits you have the more likely you are to regen mana and be able to keep casting. I don’t know if you remember but there was a time not so long ago that shaman were having longevity issues. IWS was implemented to compensate for that, but by removing the passive crit, it hurts our regeneration rates. Meditation is supposed to allow for further regeneration, but the question remains if it will wind up being enough.

Along those same lines, Tidal Force is out. I really really miss this spell. It has become second nature in to pop this spell and its absence is keenly felt. When I’m healing on live I usually have a rhythm going. Like say for Valithria;

Riptide > Healing Wave > Healing Wave > Chain Heal > Tidal Force > Healing Wave > Healing Wave etc. Refreshing Riptide when off cooldown.

Now it has become

Riptide > Healing Wave > Healing Wave > Chain Heal > Look for Tidal Force *DAMNIT* Unleashed Weapon > Healing Wave > Healing Wave etc.

Throws me off quite a bit. Still getting used to it. I can see what they are doing by trimming the trees and I approve. While I may not be a staunch minimalist, I know when things have gotten bloated. The restoration tree on live definitely is bloated, and the one on the current beta could use some more pruning .

So Blizzard, keep in mind that less is more. Players have been doing creative things with very little for a while now. Just make what we have better defined and maybe move a few more things around. We don’t necessarily need a rolls-royce (although it would not be turned down!) we just need things that function well. We’ve been trotting along pretty much unchanged for a good bit, just make sure you don’t break us ok?

So what do you guys think of the changes so far? Anything you noticed you love? Hate? Anything you think they should add in?


Where in the World is Spirit Link?

Where in the World is Spirit Link?


So, it has certainly been a busy week around the office so to speak. The announcement of the Cataclysm beta has everyone chomping at the bit, eagerly awaiting their invitation to what is sure to be one hell of a party.

Since the announcement of the beta there has been a flood of information. Among that information was many tidbits about Restoration shaman. I did an analysis of those updates over on wow.com feel free to check it out. The one thing that has been missing from all of this information has been Spirit Link.

Spirit Link was the original 51 talent in the restoration tree in the first Wrath of the Lich King beta build. I fell in love with this spell very early on, and was looking forward to using it in a raid. It was, however, not to be. Shortly after the second beta build of Wrath the talent was taken away like a jealous father stealing his daughter away in a tower prison, replaced by our now glorious Riptide. I still pine for Spirit Link however. I often wonder if, when I look up at the lonely stars at night, if  Spirit Link is somewhere looking up at the same stars missing me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Riptide, but my heart still belongs to Spirit Link.

When we got the very first set of class previews, Blizzard developers stated that they were going to try and bring Spirit Link back. The restoration shaman community was incredibly receptive to this, and there was much rejoicing. I know I danced a little bit at the news. So we eagerly awaited the announcement of its presence. When the beta information was released, I am sad to say that Spirit Link is MIA. There have been no official statements as of this post as to why it was not included this round, but I have a few suspicions.

The reason the spell was removed from the Wrath beta is that it was hard to balance. here was the original wording of the spell.

Spirit Link (Rank 1): You link the friendly target with two nearby targets, causing 50% of the damage taken to be distributed to the linked targets. After 2200 damage, the link will sever.

That is pretty interesting right? The problem was two fold here. First, the spell had no duration limit aside from the damage cap. So you could set it on two targets and just let it be. Second, the damage cap was either too low (2200 damage would be one swing from most bosses) or too high. Finding a sweet spot was always a problem as it was either way too weak, or way too powerful.

My guess is that either it is NYI (not yet included) or they are still having problems balancing it.  In the Wrath beta  it could be stacked and made damage mitigation moot. “Non def capped tank? We have three shaman NO PROBLEM!” type deal. I will be highly interested to see if it makes it to live, because I love it so much. If it doesn’t make it to live, it will surely still be the one that got away.  It was interesting and a brand new mechanic to play with. I love it like a fat kid loves cake, and I’m a fat kid that LOVES his cake. As a bonus here’s a video of the spell in use in the Wrath beta.

So what do you guys think? Want to see this spell make it live to Cataclysm? How would you balance it? How would you change it?

Also this week, my buddy shane has written a new Google Chrome extension called Armory Links. It allows you to look anyone up quickly and easily in any of the various armory and gear checking sites. You should check it out, I know I love it and use it frequently.

And if you’re heading to BlizzCon and are interested in custom badge art, be sure to swing by Ginny’s site and check out her stuff. She does great work, and I know she’s working on a custom Lodur piece for me as we speak.

Lodur on “Totem Recall”

Lodur on “Totem Recall”

In case you haven’t heard yet, there is a Shaman Round Table on the horizon. On July 13th the folks over at Raid Warning will be hosting the latest in their series of round table discussions. You may also remember that back in February Thespius and Matticus were featured on Power Word: Fail the priest round table. I am very happy to inform you all that I have been asked to join in on this installment of their series Totem Recall.

The previous class discussions have been great successes and if you want to listen follow the link above.

I’m really looking forward to this. There is a great lineup and there is sure to be a fantastic series of topics for discussion. I can’t wait!

Want to be involved? Submit your questions for Totem Recall on Raid Warning’s Epic Advice thread and vote for your favorites to be answered on the show!

Here’s the line up for this round table

Joe “Lodur” Perez of  WoW.com and World of Matticus
Rich “Stoneybaby” Maloy of WoW.com and Big Crits
Borsk of Borsked
Jhaman of Castaclysm
Pewter of MentalShaman
Binkenstein of Elitist Jerks
Masanbol of Elitist Jerks

Make sure to swing on by and give it a listen. Should be a great time!

Image courtesy of Raid Warning

Death of the Niche Healer

Death of the Niche Healer

Recently a topic has sprung up among many healers. There are lots of blog posts popping up about it so I figured since I’ve been going on about it for a while now, I’ll add my two copper to the public domain here, but first a story.

In the days of vanilla World of Warcraft, each faction had access to 3 healing classes. Priests and druids on both sides and paladins for alliance balanced by shaman for the horde. The lines between the roles of the healing classes was not as defined as it could be, but raids stacked healers and slogged through 40 man content with two simple commandments;

“Heal thy group! Keep thine tanks alive!

Then along came Burning Crusade. The developers evened out the sides and gave everyone access to paladins and shamans despite faction. The developers then looked at the classes and said,

“LET THERE BE HEALER SPECIALTY NICHES!”

Thus healer niches were born. In Burning Crusade each healing class had something it excelled at. Shaman healers fought with priests for the title of group healer supreme, Paladins ruled the tank healer slot and druids were perfect healers to roll between targets. The roles however got a bit too specific. Restoration shaman spent the vast majority of BC casting nothing but Chain Heal, priests spammed Circle of Healing,  paladins Flash of Light and Holy Light spammed and druids just put a hot on everything they could. As healers our jobs could be boiled down to one button push in many cases. Players geared for it and played accordingly. Needless to say this got boring. As a person who cast nothing but Chain Heal through all of Black Temple I can vouch for this.

With Wrath of the Lich King on the horizon, the devs looked upon their world and saw that groups were picking healers based on class and not skill. So from on high they spoke out their voices echoing from the heavens

“LET THERE BE EQUALITY AMONGST HEALERS!”

Thus each healing class was gifted with new tools to help them fill various healing roles in the group. Shaman gained the ability to heal on the move and gained even stronger single target healing, druids joined the ranks of an accomplished swing healer. Priests rejoiced as discipline became an accepted way of life and paladins embraced their bacon. Raid leaders reveled in the choice of skill versus class and the land was truly flowing with milk and honey.

I hope you liked my little story there, I know I enjoyed it. It is however a true story. In the early days of the game no one really cared what the healers were doing as long as everything stayed alive long enough for the boss to drop. In BC everyone had a specific role or at least a lot more so than the one we had in vanilla. As a shaman I personally cast down-ranked chain heal more times in one night raiding than most people blink. Point was people began to take very specific healing classes for encounters as the healing strengths were specifically needed for that encounter. This is largely how BC ended with each healer falling into the category  of raid healing, tank healing and then the specifics of which flavor of each. To be honest it got a little out of hand. There were several points where shaman for example would claim they couldn’t heal Magisters Terrace, and unless they woefully out-geared the place, they were right. Some healers could walk into a 5 man heroic and not break a sweat while others had to work and work hard in even some of the simplest dungeons. It simply wasn’t balanced.

When Wrath came along all of that changed. The game devs actually went out of their way to make sure tools were put in place to allow each healer to fill each role. Whether it was a glyph, a new spell or tweaking talents and abilities, they went all out in trying to sure up healer equality. It has been a balancing act since that’s for sure, and if anyone remembers back in may when I got on my soap box about the State of Chain Heal, in some cases healers were tweaked too much to the point they were way too far homogenized. However even with the hard mode debacle, for the most part there was healer equality. Each of the classes could heal a tank, or heal a group and each could walk into a 5 man heroic and as long as the player was on their feet and paying attention they were capable of doing it. After the last set of tweaks from the devs this became even more the case. As it stands now each of the classes and in the case of priests, each healing spec, is capable of healing a tank or raid healing effectively. While some excel slightly better than others in those varying situations, the truth is they can still perform in the role and that is what evening out the healing lines is all about.

With all the options we have, I for one am very happy. Recently however there has been a new, for lack of a better term here, healer subculture emerging within the community. Players of each of the healing classes / specs are starting to demand their niches again. Whether it’s a shaman demanding to be the king of chain heal once more or a paladin begging to be only useful on tank heals, the proof is out there. People are actively trying to secure a niche in raid groups. This honestly strikes me as odd. Why would you want to go back to a way of doing things that honestly people complained bout incessantly. Why try to cling to a system that forces you to cast only one spell when you have an entire arsenal of heals available to you for any task you could be handed?

That’s the part I don’t get. I’m ok with wanted to be the best at something or even better than someone else but to actively shoe-horn yourself into a single role seems counter productive. As a healer I love being versatile, being able to sling chain heals until I’m blue in the face or swap out and lay some nukes on a tank, I like having the option. As a raid officer and healing lead I enjoy this versatility even more. I love being able to take a disc priest and tear them off of tank healing to make them raid heal. Same goes for shuffling priests and healers. I like being able to give my healers a little variety so they aren’t doing the same thing every day. I like to think they appreciate it as well. What I love most about it though is not having to rely on specific classes to be present to proceed through content like it was back in BC. So after many players struggling for so long to have this amount of versatility, why try to limit yourself. This subgroup centers around the idea that a healer should perform one function incredibly well, but not much else. A perfect example would be shaman who feel that they should only focus on casting and buffing chain heal, while ignoring all other spells.

So after clawing your way out of the niche market to be viable in all circumstances, why try to go back?

That’s it for today folks, until next time Happy Healing!~

What do you think? Do you think healers should focus on their specialty and nothing more? Do you think healer versatility is key?

Your Alt In Our Guild, My Shaman In Your Hands

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There are now two Mimetirs.

She’s now also a male Tauren warrior on Argent Dawn (EU). This might sound like a bit of a break with the beaky tradition but it’s not too much of a stretch for a character who’s named for her ability to mimic other creatures. Being a warrior still makes her a birdbrain, after all,.

Why am I telling you this? I thought I’d share a happy occurrence with you. On Tuesday I heard (thanks Jaedia!) about Single Abstract Noun (SAN). It’s a community guild on Argent Dawn (horde side for EU, alliance side for US) open to anyone in the WoW blogging community, be ye a reader or blogger.

So, I’d like to thank Tamarind, Miss Medicina and crew for having the idea and setting it up – great thought, guys. I think the full story of how it came about – and the guild policies – are here (EU) and here (US).

The guild roster is already astonishingly long and guild chat on Tuesday was moving so fast it was almost impossible to keep up with, which was good to see. Not only that, it was lovely to see a whole load of warm welcomes when new folks signed up. So, if you’re in any way related to the blogging community – and if you’re reading this, you are – I think I’m right in saying that you’re welcome to roll an alt and join up, See moo there!

In other news …

meet my shaman, Ape. He quakes in his boots when he visits the badge vendors at the moment. At this rate he’s going to give all his frosties to the bartender at the Legerdemain in return for calming, calming wine. In the name of fun – and of my shaman’s sobriety – I’ve decided to put his dilemma to a vote with you guys.

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You know how it is when you’re browsing the vendors in real life. You’ve tried various shinies on by this point. The blue top is only worth it if you get the new jeans as well. The stripey top only really works with some outfits. And the wristlet – well, it’s small and will put an inappropriately sized crater in your purse but then it is really shiny.

It’s easy to get in a tizwaz about upgrades to your wardrobe. Particularly if those upgrades have stats on them and it’s not just the colours that you’re trying to match to the rest of your outfit.

That’s how my shaman feels when he’s trying to decide which upgrade to buy next. I’m trying to decide whether to go for minor utility upgrades or to do what I think most of us should do more and say “dash and poppycock! I’m going to do the fun thing.”

I’ve seen and heard a lot of discussion about the various tier 10 set bonuses, and the sets themselves. I’m not going to ramble on about them here except to say the 2 piece tier 10 resto shaman bonus is nigh essential.

I will give a brief synopsis. Ape was in a mixture of 232s and 245s when he hit ICC. Several things were sorely in need of being upgraded and stats in need of being rejigged. To that end:

  • I needed to upgrade chest and hands badly. My research dug up some info on the cloth 264 gloves and chest being somewhat marvellous, so Ape dilligently saved up for those first
  • I examined and cross-examined the resto tier set and decided that I generally wasn’t very impressed with its individual pieces given my gear setup at the time
  • Obviously I needed to get the two-piece tier bonus so i decided that head and shoulder pieces were my best bets
  • I could also do with a new trinket (and belt). I’ve been running ToC25 and ICC25 as often as possible but haven’t once seen the relevant shines from them
  • My guild does more 10 man content than 25 at present due to time constraints

At the moment I’m torn between three new additions to my outfit for different reasons.

I have 78 frosties saved up.

I’d like your opinion on which of them I should go for. I promise that whatever way the vote goes, that will be what I buy next – feel free to keep an eye on WoW-Heroes for confirmation. The options are:

  1. I bite the bullet and buy the Purified Lunar Dust. Happily, it’ll solve the trinket issue. On the other hand Murphy’s Law says I’ll then get Althor’s Abacus and/or Solace of the Fallen quicksmart thereafter.
  2. I save up for both the tier helm and tier shoulders and then buy them together: basically buy the set bonus, as neither item on its own is that much of an upgrade over what I’m currently wearing
  3. I buy the shoulders now even though they’re a next-to-nothing practical upgrade. Why? Because I’ve heard about the shoulder-shoveltusk animation and I think it sounds really quite fun. I know, I know, small things. The catch here is then deciding which of the other options to pursue after the shoulders have made my day.

As a fourth, ugly-duckling type option I could say dash it all, and go for the somewhat-shiny but not-critical-upgrade Waistband of Despair.

So what do you think – what should I go for? Cast your votes now! Feel free to either just post a vote or go as in depth as you like. Either vote here in the comments page or tweet @Juddr, voting closes on Monday or so.

This is a post by Mimetir, a druid of a raidleader on The Venture Co. (EU). You can find my twitter feed here.

Article images originally by Daniel Coomber and littleREDelf @ Flickr

Healer 101: How To Storm Citadels More Smoothly

Healer 101: How To Storm Citadels More Smoothly

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Say you’re storming the Citadel on a fairly regular basis, massacring the Lich King’s advance nasties from Lord Marrowgar right up – literally – to Deathbringer Saurfang. You might be progressing through it at your own pace, or you might have it on farm and are running through weekly as a warm-up to pick up gear. Well, either way. Here are some general and some shaman-specific tips from my own experience on how to healing can help your group steamroller the nasties.

Lord Marrowgar:

1. Bone Spike Graveyard: Pain. In. The. There are two things you can do to mitigate its effect on your healing. Firstly, make sure you remind your healing  Marrowgar diagram 3teammates to watch out for bonespike on each other. For example, if your tank healer is spiked then you need to pick up the slack for him and heal the tanks. Just til he gets back on his feet. Secondly, standing behind Marrowgar as shown in the diagram will help your DPS get you un-spiked as quickly and safely as  possible.

2. Coldflame is not cool. Really. Move out of the fire before it gets to you. Yep, I know it’s a pain and it seems to as soon as a healer has moved there’s more coldflame racing towards you. Standing at range will give you time to see it and move.

3. One shaman to another: people stand in fire. Us healers know it like we know the sky is (sometimes) blue. Bone Storm and Bone Spike Graveyard do damage. There’s a lot of it going round. So consider dropping mana tide early to have it ready again later if needed and using bloodlust after the first Bone Storm so that DPS get time to use it when Marrowgar’s not doing the tango.

 

Lady Deathwhisper:

1. Spread out. At least a bit. Deathwhisper’s room is just big enough that if you stand too far to either side you won’t be able to reach the people on the other side. Spread your healer team out so that tank healer A is covering the tank on the left, tank healer B on the right and raid healer in the middle. If you’re running two healers then they’ll need to be a bit closer to the middle for raid coverage. There’s also less chance you’ll all get caught in death and decay if you spread out.

2. Healer, cleanse… everything. This fight has some status changes which give Deathwhisper and her crew an edge. If Curse of Torpor is running amok on your raid then cleanse it, first on you then on other targets. If a Cult Fanatic casts Vampiric Might (magic effect) on itself then cleanse it in order to down it quicker. Or tell your mages to spellsteal it: they’ll love you.

3. Shamanic wisdoms: think about your totem placement; you might want to manually place them rather than drop all four in one place. Personally I drop stoneskin and healing stream well to the left with the tank I watch over. I then separately drop Flametongue and Wrath of Air nearer the middle/mid-back, depending on whether it’s 10 or 25 man. I re-place totems at Deathwhisper when phase 2 hits.

 

Gunship battle:

1. Welcome returning soldiers back. With a lot of healing. When the boarding party returns Muradin might well still be trying to kill at least one of them, probably with rending throw. In my opinion it’s best to play it safe: overheal them all as they come back over rather than waiting for them to take an unexpected damage spike they might not survive. If at all possible have one member of the boarding party announce when they’re returning.

2. You’re a field medic, not a pirate. I think healers should stay on their ship rather than boarding. Healing on the Edge ™ of the ship works just fine. Yes, you have to move out of the cannon fire patches but at least there is ample time to do that. Things can and do go wrong for the boarding party and the chance of that goes up exponentially according to how many people jet over. You don’t need to.

3. Shaman talk: Consider earthshielding a different target, particularly a DPS on the boarding party. My 10 man run usually has an enhancement shammy swinging over to swash some buckles, and full of health they’re not. If Muradin/Saurfang decides he doesn’t like her she’s the most likely to go splat quickly and she is aware of it. I put earthshield on her for this fight: not only might it help in a pinch but it also makes her feel a tad bit safer when jetting off to hostile territory. She hasn’t died here since I made that change.

 

Deathbringer Saurfang:

1. Healers need time to breathe. Mark of the Fallen Champion can make things hectic if everyone’s trying to deal with everything on this fight. Arrange for one person to deal solely with victims of the mark when it starts hitting. Personally I have our disc priest doing that while our shamans chain heal around the rest of the group. It just gives everyone enough slack to not turn into headless chickens.

2. Be prepared. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a healing-easy fight based on the first couple of minutes of it. Remember that the longer it goes on the more healing-intensive it gets, and its length is dependent on your group’s general level of kit and knowledge of the fight. Don’t let boredom tempt you into overhealing early on. Manage mana well and be ready for it to be challenged.

3. If you’re a shaman: Earth bind is your friend. Place it near-ish the platform to catch blood beasts as they spawn. It’ll just give the ranged DPS some breathing time, which should give you breathing time with less potential for blood beasts tearing up your warlock. Keep it refreshed. If you have more than one shaman co-ordinate to have your earthbinds cover a greater area.

 

World of Matticus: helping healers storm their local citadels since 2010. As with many fights at present the thing to remember above all else is to be mobile and flexible if the situation requires. I’ll also briefly be extolling the virtues and citing an example of shamans retreating to advance, later in the week.

How about you – are you a healer with any tips to add for the first wing? Any widely held tactics you’d particularly like to discredit? Any questions been troubling you about the healing on wing the first, whether or not you’re a healer? Comments are very welcome!

Can It Be!? A Dwarf Shaman!?

Can It Be!? A Dwarf Shaman!?

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So as I’m sure many of you know, I’m waiting not so patiently to turn my blueberry into a Dwarf Shaman. To this effect I’ve recently commissioned a wonderful artist by the name of Ginny to draw me one! Who’s Ginny you ask? Well let me tell you. I met Ginny through my podcast (For The Lore), she’s a wonderful artist who has done a lot of the work for our podcast’s episodic icons. She has a great eye for composition and pays a lot of attention to detail. I went  to Ginny for a commission work, I wanted to pay her to draw me up a Dwarf Shaman! I just couldn’t wait anymore and I had to have something to hold me over until Lodur can be reborn with a beard and a penchant for ale! When I approached Ginny I didn’t have anything specific in mind and honestly in retrospect didn’t give her much to work with. My conditions were a Dwarf Shaman, from the Wildhammer clan, Wearing Tier 10 armor (because honestly I’m a fan boy of the T10 art). Originally I had asked only for a Black and White drawing with shading, but instead I was surprised to watch as Ginny proceeded to color him in and did so very very well. I was so pleased with how it came out that I had to share it with all of you here. So without further ado, here’s Ginny’s rendition of a Lodur as a Dwarf Shaman!

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See how the armor is frosted over (and just a little bit on the beard too) and Lodur seems a bit angry at the fact his Tankards are empty! Notice the Facial Tattoos that are common to the Wildhammer Dwarf clans and the lightning coming from Lodur’s eyes! To be perfectly honest I am in LOVE with this picture. I’ve already set it as my computer’s background and the background of my phone! This picture will indeed be how I envision my Shaman from now on and it makes me want even more so to be logging into the game to see the diminutive figure throwing chain heals and getting surly when the ale runs dry! I figured also I’d take an opportunity to share with you the images of some of Ginny’s other commission work. Heres a few more examples of this amazing artist’s work.

Taldraion

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Kraint

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Shizu

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This talented artist is also a wow player and plays a toon named Tsunomi on the Earthen Ring server. So I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, “Lodur! How can I get Ginny to Draw me something so fantastic like that!?”

Well Ginny does accept all commission work and works for very reasonable rates for the quality of art she does. I mean just look at the ones above! Well if you’re interested in seeing the above pictures at full size or are interested in commissioning Ginny into drawing art for you, you can head over to her Gallery over at Deviant art or Newground and soon enough you can visit http://magicalmelonball.com and you can even find her on her Twitter immamoonkin. She accepts all commission work and she takes care with each piece. She pays great attention to detail and as you can see does a fantastic job. I know personally I’ll be going to Ginny for all of my commission artwork as I know from first hand experience the talent she has and the care she gives each of her projects. Now obviously commission work is paid work as she is an independent artist, but I think that she is worth every penny! She’s having a sale now until the end of January and the prices are as follows:

Black and white (screentoned/one character) – $15

*Additional characters – $8 each

Color (less detail/one character) – $25
*Additional characters – $5 each

Color (more detail/one character) – $40
*Additional characters – $10 each

Sketches (one character) – $5
*Additional character – $3 each

BACKGROUNDS ONLY $10 EXTRA!

So if you’re looking to give your character a little extra love this year, stop on by and give Ginny a message. Oh, and expect to see that Dwarf Shaman picture randomly =D

Until next time,

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