Keeping Up With The Paragons

One of my major character flaws is that I am a relentless overachiever. I don’t know how to be bad at something. When I find myself in situations that involve concepts that I’m not grasping or that I don’t understand, I get very frustrated and I start to lash out. At the same time, I also don’t know how to stop and enjoy any achievements that I have earned for myself, because I’m always chasing the next big thing.

It’s really tempting to buy into this behavior, in a game like WoW. All around you are examples of people who are possibly doing better than you. Realm forums have progression threads, Twitter is abuzz with bloggers and other players boasting about their achievements and discussing strategies, the Dungeon Finder has a minimum iLevel to participate in certain activities. All of those things can conspire to bring out a nasty voice in your head that screams “You’re not good enough!”

I remember during the heyday of Icecrown Citadel , I took a three month break from the game. I was severely burnt out. I wasn’t sure I wanted to heal anymore. Hell, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to play the game, period. I went into hiding with a friend’s guild and decided to try the more casual side of things for once. It didn’t take long for people from previous guilds to find me and for them to try and engage me in conversation to find out what I had been up to all this time.

Ex-guildie: “Well, well. Oestrus. What marvelous things have you been up to lately?”
Me: “Oh you know… I’ve been leveling a shaman alt that I really enjoy and my guild is raiding. They raid three days a week and it’s fun.”
EG: “Fascinating! How far into Icecrown Citadel are you?”
Me: “We’re on Sindragosa, actually. It’s going really well!”
EG: “Well, well. Heroic Sindragosa! It’s good to see you’re keeping up with the rest of us!”
Me: “Erm, no. Regular Sindragosa. Just… regular.”
EG: “Oh dear. You haven’t even gotten a Lich King kill yet?”
Me: “I did on 10 man! See?!”
EG: “Heh, nobody counts 10 mans as progression and I’ll bet you haven’t even completed your Val’anyr yet.
Me: “But we’re doing hard modes on 10 man and I have 23 fragments and I’m pugging Ulduar for the rest and…”
EG: “Pugging Ulduar? Tsk tsk. How the mighty have fallen!”

I didn’t know what to say to that. I went from being a top tier raider in some serious minded guilds to wiping week after week on Sindragosa, followed by the Lich King, when other guilds were six months ahead of that (at least) in terms of becoming Kingslayers and pugging Ulduar in my spare time. Nothing I could say in my defense seemed to hold a candle to not only the criticism I was facing from others, but the criticism I was directing at myself. Needless to say, that nasty little voice in my head was having a field day.

“They’re really great people!” “That’s nice, they can’t even kill the Lich King.”
“I have a lot of fun here!” “Failing is never fun.”
“I have responsibilities and I manage stuff.” “It’s not your job to do that.”
“They’ll get it eventually.” “They will never get it.”

I didn’t know how to deal with the fact that there were people in guilds I used to be in, that I may or may not have ended on good terms with, that I knew I was as good as or better than that were seeing more content than I was. That infuriated me. I should be there. That should be me. I deserve those things! Why don’t I have that?!

So, I left that guild and joined a guild on another server that I ended up seeing a lot of progression with, very quickly and then I found myself in the opposite situation. My inner monologue now went a little something like this:

“Look at this great gear I have!” “You were fine without that gear.”
“I finally have my Val’anyr!” “Yeah, but now the other healers hate you for it.”
“We’re #5 on the server!” “For how long?”
“They really like me!” “These people are not your friends.”

In my never ending quest to be the best and show up my rivals and frenemies that I had made through the years, I blinded myself to what I really wanted in this game. I wasn’t even sure I knew what I wanted. I gave up the opportunity to run with really great people, who liked me for me (and I can be a handful), where I had some small amount of power, responsibility and clout and I threw it all away for a few more epics, a handful of extra boss kills, some credibility and a bump to my image. Was it really worth it?

I have learned a lot in my travels and before joining my current guild, I had a revelation of sorts. I want it all. I want to be in a guild where I can be myself and be around like-minded people, who want to raid and see content, but not at the cost of being something we’re not or being less than human beings. I don’t want to be at the pinnacle of progression, but I don’t want to be scraping the barrel in terms of that, either. I want to be relied upon and trusted and given some amount of responsibility, to share my opinions and thoughts on how I think things should be run or could be improved upon. I want to be part of a guild with strong leadership that I can rely on and that I can put my faith into and that I know has the best interests of myself and the guild in mind. I don’t feel that’s asking for too much.

I really feel like after all this time that I may have found the right guild for me. Of course, I’m probably jinxing it by saying that and I will have a seriously hearty laugh if things fall apart four months from now and I’m guildless and using this blog as a way to find a new home. But it feels right for now. It’s mighty tempting to go on to the websites of other guilds and see what they’re doing. I still seethe a little bit when I see what others have that I don’t. I still have to resist the urge to feel bad about myself and to secretly see if they’re looking for holy priests anytime soon. The temptations and frustrations are still there, but I’m working on quelling those and appreciating what I have. We start officially raiding in 25 mans next week and to say I’m hungry for it is an understatement.

I want it. I want it so bad that it hurts. I want to kick ass and have a slew of stories to tell. I want to share advice about my experiences and what I have learned. It will happen in time. I know it will. For the first time in a long time I am happy with what I have.

You should be, too.  And if you’re not maybe it’s time for you to also re-examine what it is you want out of your guild and try to find out if it’s there.  If that doesn’t work, it may be time to move on.

It Came From the PUG: Could you turn that macro off?

Recently, Mike Sacco wrote about how kindness in a PUG pays off. In truth it does, quite a bit. Taking a little time to explain fights, and explain CC and such to new players is always a good idea. After all, we were all noobs once right? Let me give you an example from my recent travels.

I’ve been leveling my hunter now that I’ve started raiding on the Shaman. Lodur is Justice Point capped, and there’s nothing more for him to buy or really do except the daily heroic for Valor Points. I queue for a random dungeon on the hunter with a guildie while I’m questing, and after about 30 minutes, we get Vortex Pinnacle. The tank, the healer and the other DPS are all from different servers. As we start the instance, the tank asks us if we’ve been here before, because he has not. Before we even make the first pull he asks what we can CC in the group, and what marks everyone wants as their own personal CC marker. The healer admits he’s never been here before and asks that we keep him apprised of any surprises before we encounter them.

I’m floored at this point. Weeks of PUGs have left me slightly jaded with tanks careening in ignoring or breaking CC, and just leaving me awful messes to clean up. The communication in this group was absolutely flawless. We walked the paladin healer through the encounters, and the tank’s main was actually a holy pally so he spent some time explaining spells and stats for the healer. It was honestly the most informative, and best communicating group I’d been in to date. Because there were clear lines of communication and education, the run was smooth, having zero wipes, and was truly just enjoyable. My other guildie commented to me at the end of the run that it was the “Best damn group” he had had since Cataclysm’s release.

Now, while being patient and communicating is always a good thing, there comes times you have to draw a line in the ground so to speak. Take for an example a daily heroic I did with Lodur just recently. I was set to heal, and was able to pull three DPS from the guild, but no tank. We queue up in the LDG tool and get Heroic SFK as our instance, and a tank that had very, very low health. To put this into perspective, fully buffed Lodur sports around 115-116k health. This tank, a warrior, had 119k health fully buffed. Now, I honestly gave this guy a chance. I already know he juked the system to be able to queue for heroics, but hey, maybe he’s actually good right?

We set our CC marker out, and shackles go out, stuns hit home, and the tank charges right in and breaks all CC. He promptly dies. We run out, reset, come back in. He hasn’t even released. I res him up, and we politely explain that he needs to not break CC or he will die. He says he understands, but low and behold on the very same pull he charges in and breaks CC. I try one last time to explain to him about CC and he just leaves group. We re-queue and get another tank, this time we get a DK tank with 160k HP. Already looking better, he’s got the requisite tank gear and looks like he should have a handle on what’s going on.

We go in, and make it to the first boss. First boss goes down, and we start making our way to the second boss through the courtyard. The pulls go very well until right before entering the kitchen. The tank decides he’s going to pull the adds on him into the kitchen, aggroing the pack of servant, the cooks and everything in between. Needless to say it’s a wipe. We explain to him he’s got to slow down a little and watch what he pulls giving CC time to go off and healing time to situate. His only reply is to go careening back into the packs. At this point either the person is just very dense, or being an ass on purpose. We kick him from the group and the last one makes it all the way through.

Another good example of how patience pays off also takes place in heroic SFK. Me and a guildie queue up for a random, get SFK and the tank is a warrior, who looks right about where they should be on health and gear. Before we start the pulls the warrior says “Hey I’m a little rusty at tanking so any help will be appreciated.” We start our pulls and everything goes really well. We explain the first and second boss and make our way to the third boss of the instance. Most people hate that boss, it is arguably one of the hardest to manage in all of the heroics right now. There’s just a lot going on. We explain the fight and the mechanics and mark the adds. We explain what to avoid and how to move around it etc. Full run down. First pull winds up in a wipe, tank gets smeared and we release and run back in. Tank asks what went wrong and how he can improve it. We go over what happened and find out he can’t see the desecration. We walk him through enabling projected textures, and pull again. This pull goes way way better, and we get the boss to about half before the adds start running wild. After we recover from the wipe, the tank asks again what he can do to fix the problem. We develop a strategy that has the tank running from door to door picking up adds. After the boss dies on the third attempt, I’m ecstatic, and the tank is ridiculously happy.

Right there, simple communication and patience beat the hardest boss in the zone. So there’s a moral to this story, next time someone is doing something wrong, or maybe doing it in a way that isn’t the ideal way, take a minute or two and try explaining to them calmly and clearly how to do it or offer suggestions to improve the outcomes. Be constructive in your criticism and pay attention to how you say it to them. A little patience and kindness can lead to a smoother run. Now if they wont listen or are just jerks well… there is a kick button for a reason.

As an added bonus, I’ve begun livestreaming my exploits in the LFG system late night, and early on Sundays and Mondays. Check my Twitter for when the streams start, or periodically swing by my Livestream Channel.

Dual Unto Others

In a perfect world, we would all be fortunate enough to run with only our guildmates in Heroics and find that perfect unison of one tank, three DPS and one healer that could create that magic and that would ensure those hours of farming gear and Justice Points are nothing short of a blissful experience.

In reality, some have an easier go of it than others. Depending on who is online and who is already spoken for, you may find yourself being one of those stragglers who is forced to throw your lot in with the Dungeon Finder to get what you need. As DPS, the queue times can be unbearable. Not to mention the fact that PuG Heroics already have such a small chance of success that just downing the first boss can be seen as a huge victory.

Some enterprising DPS have decided to use their dual specs to become something that would allow them a much easier time of finding random groups to farm Heroics with – those of tanks and healers. Unfortunately, if not done correctly, this can create an even more painful experience for all involved. So, without further ado, here are my tips on how to use your dual spec to the fullest while trying to do Heroics.

Lesson #1:  Do Your Homework

If you’re planning on playing the part of a tank, healer or even DPS, when that’s not your natural role, you need to at least make sure that you can at least perform said role at an adequate level for the content that you are about to do. You won’t get very far if you can’t generate or hold aggro, if you can’t keep 4 other people and yourself alive or if you are not putting out the DPS to kill things fast enough.

Take a look at what others of your desired class/spec are doing, in terms of talents and rotations. Understand the mechanics and what the abilities associated with that spec are used for. I would put in just as much time learning your dual spec as you would put into your main spec, for something like this. If you’re not going to do it well enough to help your group succeed, then you’re basically doing all of this for nothing and that’s not good!

Lesson #2:  Look The Part

Once you have gotten into the right mindset to really understand the role that you’re trying to become, you then need to make sure that you are just as convincing on the outside as you are on the inside.

If you’re planning on becoming a temporary tank, make sure you have pieces that are fitting for a tank and that you have a generous amount of health and other attributes (like dodge and parry) to be able to take some hits.

If you’re aiming to become a healer, make sure you have pieces that a healer would wear. Anything with Spirit on it is going to be assumed as something that a healer would want, so make sure you have plenty of that on you. Make sure you’re not wearing any trinkets or using any meta gems that would be terribly obvious as DPS caster only.

If you’re in the rare bind of being a tank or healer attempting to DPS, possibly due to too many others like yourself in the guild needing upgrades and not enough runs to support them, make sure you are hit capped or as close to it as possible. If you play a class with CC capabilities, get comfortable using those abilities and become familiar with the symbol assigned to you for marking purposes. Watch your aggro and focus fire the correct mobs down, when it’s time to do that.

Lastly, make sure your gems and enchants go with the role that you are trying to perform, too.

Lesson #3:  Stick to the Script

It can be mighty tempting to want to fall back into your normal mindset in a group. You see that death knight made some strange talent choices or that the feral druid is letting his bleeds fall off too soon. You have experience. You know these things!

Except you’re there to tank. A little advice or a friendly suggestion is fine. Getting into blow by blow explanations and possibly even arguing with them over how things are done is purely bad form.

This rule seems exceptionally true for healers that place themselves into a DPS role. It can be tempting when you see life bars going down to stop what you’re doing and throw heals in rapid succession to save the day. That’s not why you’re there, though. Granted, if the run is on the unmistakable path to a wipe and you feel that you can possibly help save the day, by all means. I would expect any DPS to do the same thing. That should be a rare occurance and not a habit.  However, if you can cleanse something (such as a curse, poison or disease) that your healer cannot cleanse, then by all means, cleanse away!

Things not dying fast enough means the fights go on longer than they need to, which taxes the healing and can cause other problems. In short, do what you came to do, unless the situation absolutely calls for it.

Lesson #4:  Come Clean

There are some professions where you’re not immediately panicked by seeing someone wearing a trainee tag. The cashier at the grocery store. The busboy at a restaurant. That kind of thing.

Then there are those where you really don’t want to know that this is somebody’s first time doing a particular task. The person drawing your blood at the doctor’s office. The pilot flying the airplane you are on. The minute you discover they may not have that much experience is exactly when you start to doubt you’re in good hands.

With that in mind, feel free to state that this may not be your primary spec, but that you do feel confident enough to play it and don’t be afraid to ask for pointers.  This will go over a lot better than people assuming that you are a main spec tank, healer or DPS when you clearly are not.

Lesson #5:  Don’t Quit Your Day Job

At the end of the day, you’re doing this because you have to. You may enjoy what you’re doing, out of necessity or because it started to grow on you. But, remember why you’re really there. You’re there to get a shot at some gear that nobody else can use or to farm the Justice Points you need to buy better gear, so you can be ready to raid that much faster.

Do not get so attached to your dual spec that you start insisting on doing it in your actual raids. Do not think that because you made the most of your dual spec to get through a difficult time that you automatically know more about that class/spec than those that have been doing it since a previous expansion.

In closing, the journey towards becoming the best you can be so that you’re ready to raid should be an enjoyable one. You should be looking forward to watching your stats grow and your abilities hit harder or heal for more and it shouldn’t be something that you dread doing.

Slipping into a role that you don’t normally perform is not for everyone. Some people would rather deal with longer queue times than put themselves in a situation they’re not entirely comfortable with. Listen to your gut. If you know deep down that you don’t feel confident in the idea of tanking or healing (or even DPSing) or you know you don’t have the desire to put in the work to really give it your best shot, don’t do it.

Stick to what you know and what you enjoy. If you can still do that, while ensuring you are on the right path to being the best you can be, then you’re doing the right thing and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Thanks for reading and happy hunting!

It came from the PUG: Tanks but no tanks.

The life of a healer in Cataclysm is new, exciting, and often times terrifying. The new expansion does something quite well, it makes healing really really hard. Since hitting level 85, I quickly geared up for healing and DPS just in case a guild group had a DPS slot available. Guild groups have been an absolute delight. Coordinating CC, figuring out new mechanics, and having a blast in new content and trying for achievements. Random groups however have been, to be honest here, full of suck.

This is mostly due not to the new healing mechanics, but to the new requirements in CC management and smart tanking. Over the course of the last week, I have queued for random heroics as a healer at least three times a day. This endeavor has met with slightly less mixed results than I would have anticipated. In the vast majority of cases the tank has been the problem. Not waiting for CC assignments or for the CC to go off. Breaking CC early, or to be perfectly honest here, pulling like a jack-ass. Now what I mean by this is that the tank is either pulling multiple groups, not waiting for the healer to have mana, not conserving mitigation cooldowns for when they are needed and generally ignoring any sort of logic or strategic approach. This is what I like to call the “Wrath Tanking Mentality”, which will be referred to from this point on in the post as WTM.

What is WTM you may be asking. Well, it’s the idea that heroics are stupidly easy, and require no forward thinking. That as soon as you reach maximum level, you are ENTITLED to the loot contained therein, and the actual running of the dungeon is merely a formality. This honestly wasn’t a problem the first few days as Blizzard instituted a gear requirement before even allowing people to queue randomly for the dungeons, but as players figured out how to raise their GS early the queues began to get worse and worse. In Wrath it wasn’t uncommon for a healer to just say “go ahead and pull 1/2 of the zone, I’ll be just fine.” or some variation therein. Honestly as a fresh 80 running heroics, very few reports of having difficulty healing existed. In Cataclysm though, it’s all about conserving mana, using the right heal for the job, and having a group that avoids all unnecessary damage while following CC assignments. As a healer you may have experienced this, but WTM is very very strong right now. I fear that the learning curve may actually be too steep for some people. I fear this, because inevitably what these people do is cry the loudest for dungeons to be nerfed, and they are very very quick to blame healers. Let me share with you some lovely examples from this week.

Day 1 of heroic ready healer

Throne of Tides: First boss

The tank was a warrior with LESS hit-points than my healer. My healer clocks in at 106k health right now, the tank only had 105k This was red flag number 1. I would have vote kicked him on the spot for that, but he had a voting block with two other guildies with him. We make it to the first boss through all the trash and it feels like a miracle. The tank seems to be made of paper, until I inspect them and see they are still wearing some ilvl 251 gear mixed in with sub-par greens. How this person got into the instance is a mystery to me at the time, but I go along with it. After all I’m a shaman and made of infinite win right? The first boss has a couple abilities that will tax a healer, and outright kill a stupid DPS. One of these abilities is a geyser that she casts beneath a player. You have ample time to move out of it, but if you don’t it will deal enough damage that it will one shot you. Funny thing here is, the first time she casts it even after being warned what it was, the tank does NOT move out of it and dies. That’s right folks, the tank. His comment “You suck healer you should have healed me through that.” I calmly explain that it is an instant kill and he needs to move off of it, and luckily one of his guildies backs me up on this. He drops the matter. The boss also has a phase where she summons three adds, two casters and a melee. The mage polymorphs one caster and I hex the other, which is pretty much standard operating procedure at this point. The tank, tags ALL three adds breaking the polymorph and the hex. The tank proceeds to die, and I am promptly vote-kicked from the group. Clearly both wipes were my fault. I write it off, tack myself to a guild group and a call it a night.

Day 2 of heroic ready healer

Halls of Origination: First Pull

The tank was much better off than the first one. Also a warrior he had a considerably larger health total, and his gear looked to be on par for heroic content. I was feeling optimistic about this run right until the first pull. This pull consists of five mobs that all do many different things. Usually the group marks 2-3 for CC and burns down the two biggest threats fast while pulling out of line of sight. The tank for this run however, rushed blindly in. No CC went out, and we had none besides my hex that could withstand damage so it was a wipe. Second attempt, someone in the group explains what we need to do, and this time we get our CC’s off . The tank however goes rushing in and dies a fiery death as he runs out of my healing range. Third attempt, the tank rushes in, and drops group as soon as everything is angry with us. Right gear, wrong mentality. I do some random heroics with guildies, call it a night.

Day 3 of heroic ready healer

Grim Batol: First boss

Interestingly enough, I got in this one as DPS. I forgot to uncheck DPS from the previous night’s heroic runs with the guild. We get to the first boss easy enough, I explain the fight on heroic and we engage. The healer, a holy priest, is doing a kick ass job and things are going great. Umbriss kicks into high gear and smears the tank pretty good. We wipe, go back in, tank drops group. We get a second tank and the same thing happens. I ask if he’s saving mitigation cooldowns (which I already know the answer to thanks to oRA3) and the only response I get is that the tank drops group. We get a third tank and the same thing happens. oRA3 in all cases shows me that the tank is just blowing tanking cooldowns at odd times. Times when healing isn’t tight and damage is manageable. This bothers me quite a bit and after three more failed tanks all doing the same exact thing I just call it a night and go to bed.

This continues on for what seems like many, many days. Now, not every experience was bad and there was some shinning hope here.

Day 5 of heroic ready healer

Heroic Deadmines

This was the first time that the group was all from random servers and guilds. No repeats of anything. The composition was a druid tank, me healing, a hunter a mage and a warlock for DPS. A lot of viable CC in this group, and best of all, they all listened. We worked together through the whole instance. For every one of us it was the first time setting foot in it since the change. We looked up encounters, made up our own strategies and fought all the way to the end. The druid was an amazing tank watching my mana closely and knowing when it was safe to pull and when it was time to sit back and take a break. Honestly I was impressed with the way the group was communicating without voice chat and getting along. Through normal conversation I find out that the group is made up entirely of players from the vanilla days who used to raid 40 man content. This is new and exciting to me as recently I’ve been running with “wrath babies” so it was good to reminisce about the good old days. We get to the end, figure out the cookie fight without looking it up, earn a few achievements and then begin the VanCleef event. I call it an event because, well, it is very much so an event and not a boss fight (coincidently, Kudos to you on this one Blizzard, A plus all the way on this fight). We get through a few wipes and then we realize it’s already 5 am and we just can’t keep going anymore. We drop group, but it was seriously the best healing experience I’ve had so far in a heroic, and one that hasn’t been replicated yet.

Long journey, but here’s the short of it. Healing is much harder than it was before. Most healers in my experience are making the transition pretty well thanks to the strong healing community feeding information into the media. Tanking and smart DPS is an entirely different story now. I don’t say this a lot, but right now the fail boat has a lot of passengers. I know there will always be a string of bad runs, or players that haven’t been keeping up on every change, but it feels as though we really do have a lot of players behind the curve.

Is the tanking learning curve too steep? Is WTM too strong after having used it for two years? What experiences have you had as a healer in the LFG system? Have you encountered the WTM a

That’s it for now, I’m going to head back in to the LFD tool with my head up and my mana potions stacked high. I’ll be sure to bring you back some awesome, and awful stories. Until next time, happy healing and may your mana be plentiful.

Leveling a Resto Druid in Cataclysm – Part I

Leveling a Resto Druid in Cataclysm – Part I

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.

With two new races to choose from as well as a new, improved leveling experience, there are going to be a lot of new Druids come Cataclysm. From revised abilities, to the new specialization system, starting a new Resto Druid is going to be far different than it is currently in Wrath. In this series, I am going to cover how things have changed leveling a Resto Druid, starting with level 10.

Specialization

The biggest change for low level players is the specialization system. At level 10, you will be asked to choose one of your 3 talent  trees. This is where you will place at least 31 of your talent points, as you can not unlock any other trees until you’ve spent 31 points in your specialization tree. Upon choosing this specialization, you will be granted an ability geared towards your spec, as well as two passive bonuses. As a Resto Druid your granted ability will be Swiftmend. Previously available at level 40,  Swiftmend will drastically change how you heal at lower levels. At level 10, it heals for 204 hit points, costs 14 mana, and has a 15 second cooldown.

Along with Swiftmend, you are also granted 2 passive abilities as a Resto Druid. The first is Meditation, which similar to its  predecessor Intensity, allows you to regen mana at 50% of your normal rate while casting. Your second passive ability is simply called Restoration Druid, and reduces the pushback suffered while casting Healing Touch, Regrowth, Tranquility, Rebirth, and  Nourish. This is similar to the old Tier 1 talent Nature’s Focus, but adds Rebirth to the mix. Even at level 10, I believe Blizzard  has succeeded in making you feel more like a Resto Druid than before Cataclysm. These two passive abilities cost 3 talent points each, with Meditation unable to be maxed out until level 22.

The Rest Of Your Toolbox

Along with these bonuses is your normal toolbox that includes Rejuvenation, Healing Touch, and Swiftmend. This gives you a well-rounded toolbox for a low level healer. 1 HoT, 1 big heal, and 1 emergency heal. I am pretty excited that Blizzard decided to teach low level druids the Swiftmend mechanic, as it is not available to the other healing classes. Overall, it looks like Blizzard is succeeding in simultaneously improving the leveling experience, while teaching Resto Druids how to use some of the more advanced abilities they will need when raiding. Even at this low level, you should start being able to get a good feel for tank healing in 5 mans, as well as have the added benefit of not running out of mana every pull while leveling thanks to Meditation.

In the next part of this series I will be taking a look at the next major leveling milestone, The Looking For Dungeon Tool, and how these changes affect Resto Druids healing low level dungeons.

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

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?


Kingslayers? That’s Unpossible!

Kingslayers? That’s Unpossible!

I was originally going to regal you with the wild tales of my misadventures through the LFD tool, but instead I am consumed by a  need to share my overwhelming pride.

Tuesday June 8th at near 10:20pm est, Unpossible downed The Lich King in 25 player mode. Normally I wouldn’t bother posting something like this as I don’t want to be seen as a braggart, but I am proud of my guild for sticking to it and getting this done. Over the last few months we’ve been combating burnout, illness, freak weather and buggy encounters. It seems to always be the way, we make incredible progress and then Murphy rears his ugly head and we get stymied by random occurrences.

I will say this was one of the more exhilarating kills we’ve had. Wed the week prior we broke early to attempt to buy Blizzcon tickets as a guild, we decided it would be nice to let everyone enjoy the weekend and focus on getting to the convention. On Monday we dove back into ICC and went hell for broke for The Lich King. As we were handling defiles and valks something just clicked. Vent got quiet and everyone was moving in unison. These are what I like to call moments of raiding clarity. This is where everyone is doing everything perfect and the boss abilities are right on time. It is almost like participating in a choreographed dance. It was just as if suddenly everyone got the fight. We made great progress and were consistently pushing into phase 3. Midnight bells tolled and we called it a night, but before we did officers agreed with spirits so high and considering the progress we made that we needed to extend the lockout, get the same raid group in ICC and take the bastard down. Who needed more shards? Badges? Pfft! A dead Lich King is all we wanted. And when the announcement went out over ventrillo you could hear people becoming excited.

So when Tuesday came, we headed in and on our first pull that same magic was there. pushed into phase 3, and we wiped because we weren’t expecting to get there on the first pull. So we head back in our confidences high, and pull again. This time his health gets even lower, we wipe to something stupid, but spirits are still high. We go again and again, each time chipping away at that total health. After a 10 minute break around 10 we come back in, buff up and pull. We get to phase 3, everyone alive and we’re going strong. We’re kiting the spirits, and moving from defiles with expert reflexes, I get picked as the second person to go into Frostmourne and I heal the shit out of Terenas Menethil, I get dumped back to reality and we keep going. His health is dropping lower and lower. The other resto shaman gets picked for Harvest Soul, something unknown happens and he dies. LK enrages and everyone gets tense. Our main tank Woe pops his cooldowns as healers bridged the gap to him and the big heals started raining in. Suddenly he gets smacked hard and goes down. LK is at 14% with a few key people down (healers and high dps) everyone sighs, a wipe is almost called but instead Woe calls out for our OT Theonius to grab the LK fast. He charges over, grabs him, healers switch targets immediately and everyone unloads. Remaining healers go all out balls-to-the-wall with every cooldown and bit of mana they have to throw behind healing. LK at 12%, vent gets quiet again except for the calls from the raid leaders giving terse directions “heal x, move right” LK at 10.5%. Everyone is holding their breath and then you hear the call “Take this bitch down!” LK 10%, he wipes the raid and everyone cheers on vent, a reminder is sent out not to release and we all are whooping and hollering at the top of our lungs. Our mass res comes and we pop yet another heroism for good measure and unload, our achievements pop up and at that moment I could actually hear all remaining tension and burnout leave. A burden lifted from everyone’s shoulders and fresh energy flowing into the raiders.

An early end to a raiding night, and week, but one well deserved. So as of Tuesday we finally start our hard modes. There is palpable excitement as everyone is getting ready and anticipation is high. After all the random things that have gone wrong along the way, I can honestly say this was one well deserved kill for Unpossible. I’d like to thank each and everyone of my guild-mates, officers and everyone in between for continuing to work so hard and to persevere though so much. We’ve been around for a long time, and we have no intention on stopping! We have our eye on you Deathwing, and we must break you!

We all have our obstacles in game. Raid attendance, pushing the DPS envelope, getting that computer to stop dropping you from raid, getting the last shot in to topple that boss at 1% or even overcoming personal and health related issues to play a game you enjoy with people you call friends. Everyone’s journey is different, but when you get to your goal there is no sweeter victory.

With that in mind I’d also like to make a shout-out to Spellbrood. We heard that you have a lot on your plate and we here at World of Matticus want to wish you well in your journeys. Remember, no obstacle is too great when you have good friends to help share the burdens and the good times!

So that’s it for this today, hope you guys enjoyed my little story there, I know my heart started pounding again as I began to recall the events.

Also, Unpossible is hiring! We’re looking for geared and intelligent DPS looking for a fun but dedicated raiding home. Sorry folks we are full up on Death Knights and Priests, but everyone else is welcome to apply. If you’re interested stop by here and take a look at our application process!

Will Ruby Sanctum Compare To Wrath’s Best Bosses?

Will Ruby Sanctum Compare To Wrath’s Best Bosses?

shrine

I’m one of these weird people who doesn’t read up on content before it’s released. I like a surprise. So the Ruby Sanctum’s got me thinking: is it going to be a patch on my favourite bosses from Wrath? What are my favourite bosses?

After all, I am looking forward to the Sanctum. In about the same way one might look forward to a shopping centre opening up nearby.

I’m vaguely aware it’ll open sometime in the near future and when it does I’ll probably make plans to go trundle round it immediately. But I’m expecting it to be just like any other local Sanctum/raid shopping centre. There’ll be modern lighting trying to hide the fact that the decor is all too familiar. The staff will breath smoke at you as soon as look at you, and their uniforms will look like they’ve been stolen from another shopping centre and dyed a different colour. Oh, and the wares will be updates of last month’s fashion, alluring only inasmuch as being on buy-one-get-one-free and so must be good offers.

The Sanctum’s got a lot to live up to compared to my favourite bosses in Wrath – let me show you.

5. Thaddius. For those who met him when TBC wasn’t yet a distant memory, Thaddius was a well-timed and comforting reassurance that it wasn’t all Big Change. That some fight mechanics had been passed down through the expansion; Mechano Lord Capacitus’ polarity charges could be a fun challenge back in TBC days and here they were again. Better yet, with a twist that put an emphasis on teamwork and introduced raiders to the idea that no, bosses now really do have that much health – and by the way: if you get it wrong you kill your group. Besides, it’s a good sign for a fight mechanic when PUGers regularly spend half a raid session arguing that their nigh-identical method of doing it is better. I was grateful that this wasn’t one of the many tactics dragged out time and again through Wrath – it gave me memories of a unique fight in Naxx.

4. Sapphiron. Bones rising from the floor to amass into a huge nitwibble-off dragon in your way. What better start to showing players the shape of future mechanics? Sapphiron was a really well constructed fight, and well placed within Naxx’s structure. He effectively compiled individual basics which raiders had encountered in earlier bosses in Naxx. Tactics such as moving to the correct place when targeted, a’la Grobbulus, or moving out of the nasty AoE, like Anub’s Insect Swarm. Back when it was a new encounter, moving around – for a long, endurance fight – was quite refreshing to me. I also have fond memories attached to Sapphiron: the first time my guild raided was at our first HerdMoot when we headed into Naxx. It was Sapphiron we found ourselves wiping on at 5 AM.

3. Mimiron. When we hit Mimiron he had a reputation which preceded him, and he didn’t let us down. He was the first four-phase fight in Wrath in which everyone had multiple roles, or at least different tasks to do. He also shared the responsibilities out a bit more evenly. Suddenly tanks had different things to tank at different times. Melee had responsibility past stabbing and kicking things. For many raid groups, he gave a ranged DPS the chance to prove that they’re not all paper (so long as they have a good healer behind them). And for us healers, he gave us the chance to prove we can be flexible. For better or worse, Mimiron was one of the first fights in which healing on the run with twitch-reflexes was showcased. Its originality made it fun.

2. Valithria. I’d not considered as a healer that I rarely had a direct combat role with a boss, nor how this affected my fulfilment as a raider. I’m a healer – therefore my fulfilment should come from making sure other people stay alive so they can do the dirty work, right? So I thought. Until my healers and I were lumped with the responsibility of dealing with Valithria’s health – even if that was to make it go up rather than down. It’s a long deserved fight mechanic and is balanced perfectly: no-one feels left out, as the tanks and DPS have an increasingly manic (and as I understand it, fun) time of keeping the adds in control, and the healer roles are not only varied but accessible for any healing class.

1. Yogg Saron. Tentacles. Many-eyed blob in the floor. Sanity loss. Need I say more? This is the most unique fight in WoW. Yes, in terms of fight mechanics, it’s a “this is your final test, what have you learnt up to now?” There were fires clouds to not stand in, there were adds to control in a certain way, there were target priorities for DPS. But it didn’t feel like a final test: every wipe felt like a few minutes of unbridled, chaotic fun. Even going into the brain room and coming out before going mad, while a ‘do this before X time’ mechanic, wasn’t as annoying if someone failed; it was almost funny for people to miss the chance to come out of the brain room and so go mad. No other fight has had my Herd raiding to the sound of “Tentacles!” and “If I were a Deep One“. A pure stroke of genius to incorporate Cthulhu mythos into WoW without it feeling forced or misplaced.

 

My main metric here was how much fun I had in a fight, regardless of how long it took to best. But most of these also did something unique or at least were the first of their type. The Ruby Sanctum has a tall order. We’ll see! Perhaps I’ll have a pleasant surprise when I’m panicking that the fire’s getting away and I should be standing in it or be lost in time and space.

I am amused that those bosses aren’t a fair representation of all of Wrath – I’ve left the bosses from Trial of the Crusader out in the cold, and there they can stay. While I was whittling this list down I was also compiling a list of the worst bosses. I have a feeling those will be harder to choose between … though I certainly know which luridly-lit fight tops that list. Perhaps I’ll share that list at a future date!

What do you think? What fights in Wrath have you particularly enjoyed – and why? They don’t have to be raid bosses, any encounter you remember having fun whilst redecorating the walls with your character’s innards – let us know. Do you agree with my choices – or are you sitting there asking why on earth anyone enjoyed Mimiron? Which encounters would you like to see a variant of in Catacylsm?

This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my twitter feed here.

Article image originally by hawk684 @ Flickr
Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook, Mimetir Perspective

Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook, Mimetir Perspective

“Because it takes a village to slay a dragon.”

You might look askance at me for getting excited about that sentence. I wouldn’t blame you. It’s the blurb on the back of the Scott F. Andrew’s Guild Leader’s Handbook.

I admit I got quite excited when the opportunity to get a copy crossed my inbox. I’ve been involved in leading online communities in games for near on 10 years now, but I know I’m still learning about leadership and communities all the time; the nature of the games and roles within them is one of constant change. I figured that I might well learn  from Andrews’ book and at the least it’d be an interesting read.

I know Lodur’s already shared his thoughts on it here but I’m going to, too. Not because I know Scott Andrews (I’m not affiliated with him or WoW.com in any way, convoluted or otherwise) but because if you visit this site you and I may well have something in common: an interest in guild leadership. And if that’s the case, you could do with getting yourself a copy of this book. And, to be on the safe side, a pinch of salt.

First and foremost I must salute Andrews. Guild or online leadership is a topic which many people would consider frivolous; Andrews approaches it with the solemnity and respect it deserves. His writing style manages to convey that all the way through the book.

At every turn we’re reminded – no really, guild leading is Serious Business, no joke. Players are real people: so are you. That’s something I respect and it’s something I’m continually harping on about as a misunderstood fact of online communities. Another tune I regularly pluck is that these games are meant to be fun – again, Andrews keeps ‘fun’ as one of the integral principles throughout the book, constantly reminding his readers that having fun is one of the main aims for both themselves and their charges in the communities they’re building.

Saying that, his writing style isn’t *too* serious. The Handbook’s very readable thanks to a style which flows well, explains concepts immediately and simply, and gets to the point in short and understandable sentences. In this way the Handbook is very accessible to anyone from new or prospective guild leader to old hand, or even a player with no intention of leading. Andrews also cross-references his material between sections, enabling you to flick back and forth as your interest takes you.

The Handbook’s carefully thought out sub-sections also aids its accessibility – they help split up the text, as do the regular diagrams and tables dotted throughout the book neatly reinforce his points. All of this helps Andrews to mint his topic as one not to be snorted at.

As to the material itself – there’s no doubt that Andrews is a veteran of leading online communities. I was impressed right from the introduction as Andrews goes straight for the jugular, calmly asserting the dichotomic challenge that guilds pose for their leaders. After all, guilds may be part of a virtual or ‘unreal’ realm but they are populated by real people, whom, as Andrews points out, guild leaders can’t physically see. I’d not often considered this or its ramifications before, but he’s right – not being able to see your members face to face, and able to gauge whether their body language is trying to tell you something, or if they’re only smiling with their mouth – these are things which make online leadership at once both more personal and more impersonal. As Andrews rightly recognises – a unique challenge, but not one impossible to get right.

There’s a lot of his wisdom I both like and wholeheartedly agree with. As a bit of a ruffled-feathers veteran myself I recognise that I – and others – can become entrenched in views on the game, playstyles and player expectations. So I was pleasantly relieved to see that Andrews expertly manages to keep an objective and unbiased voice throughout. His comparison of the machinations of guilds of different sizes is well explained – but then he moves on to a potentially volatile definition – that of ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’. I’d disagree to some extent with his definitions – by his definition my own Kingslayer raiding group would be casuals – but the topic’s a good example of where he manages to tread a minefield without putting a foot wrong.

Andrews successfully illustrates most of his points with examples. He talks about player types and gives examples of how different types might interact. Crucially he also underlines the fact that players – again, as real people – aren’t as simple as to be a single player type, but rather composites. It might have been easy to forego this point in the name of generalisation: happily Andrews notes it. It’s a good example of little details that guild leaders have to watch out for and which might not cross our minds until it’s pointed out, possibly quite sharply. The Handbook rescues us from being thrown in at the deep end in numerous murky ponds.

Saying that, there are a few points where Andrews’ advice appears clunky. When talking about how to prepare for raids as a raid leader he basically recommends that one tell the group everything about the fight. Personally I’ve found that breaking down a fight into what each role (tanks, healers, DPSers) need to know is popular both in my active raid group and PUGs. In my opinion dumping all the information on people just drowns them in it, but giving them the bit that pertains to them makes it bite-size. He then goes on to talk about the importance of morale and constructive communication in post-combat raid leading, which I thoroughly agree with.

My biggest qualm with the Handbook is that it generalises a tad much. Sure, Andrews is presenting a guide applicable to all types of communities in all types of MMOs – he has to generalise a bit. But if you’re using the book in relation to a specific game you may well need a pinch of salt. For example, Andrews’ recommendation to be recruit by going out among strangers and recruiting is all very well and good, and worked brilliantly for me in WoW a year ago. Nowadays if you showcase your leadership abilities in a LFD PUG in WoW many people will think you’re being weird or pushy – and tell you that. Regardless of peoples’ reactions to a stranger from another server being social at them, the game simply doesn’t facilitate re-grouping with prospective recruits cross-server at present.

He also goes into some depth about the differences between raid and guild leading. This is the only time that I wholly disagreed with his expertise. He suggests raid leading and guild leading are a completely different kettle of fish (who puts fish in a kettle anyway?); in the former role you need to be prepared to shout at your raiders. Whether it’s due to different experiences or just his need to generalise, in my opinion Andrews’ wisdom fails him here, as my Kingslayer group stands as at least one example of a raiding style which succeeds at endgame content without screaming at or chewing over my raiders, which he seems to suggest all raid leaders will have to be prepared to do. If this is what he meant I believe him wrong – if not, I believe the text misleading. I’d quite like to hear Andrews’ take on that!

All in all, sodium chloride taken into consideration, I think Andrews’ book is a timely addition to the MMO world – and to my own bookshelf. His closing thoughts are as grounded as his opening ones and underline the fact that MMOs are a reality; whether or not individual MMOs can keep up or fall by the wayside, MMOs as a genre will be around for a long while. They provide something for us as players – the chance to partake in, create and resolve conflict situations – which ties them, as a platform, to us as real individuals.

Lodur gave publication details for the Handbook in his post but just in case you missed them;

The Handbook retails for $24.95 US ($31.95 CDN). It can be purchased directly through the publisher’s website.