Even though the new patch has been out only a week, I thought it might be interesting to share what I’ve observed while raiding the first few bosses of Ulduar. So far, Conquest has brought down Flame Leviathan, Razorscale, and XT. The first night we spent a couple hours on a bugged Ignis. I’ve also tagged along on a short 10-man raid whose purpose was to reach Ignis and see if he’s still bugged. All I can say is that he seems a little easier than he did, but I’m not sure if the two pulls we were able to do on him before we ran out of time can be taken as evidence. At least he didn’t melee any of us in the Slag Pot–those of us who were chosen got to be happy little Hot Pockets.
I also spent some time going over two combat log parses, WoW Meter Online and WWS, to check on my performance in these raids. There is a long-standing debate about meter reading among raiding healers, and I stand in the middle. I use reports mostly to see my ability rotation and how effective each thing I cast turned out to be. I do look at overall numbers, though, when I can compare myself to another druid who had the same assignment.
I’ll confess that in two nights of Ulduar this week, I had one bad performance and one very good one. Our first night in, I managed to patch just moments before we pulled, and I only had one spec. I also used that spec very, very badly. I’ll explain below, but first, here are some of my first impressions of the new instance.
1. Flame Leviathan is really cool. The encounter doesn’t feel like the rest of WoW, but it’s quite fun. On the 10-man version, I begged to be one of the people launched onto the boss. I absolutely loved that part.
2. I’m not really running out of mana. I pretty much did what I usually do, except that I let my Lifebloom bloom almost all the time. They really did reduce OOFSR regen, so all I can think is that druids must not have spent as much time out of the five second rule as we had previously thought. My observations match up to Lissanna’s, so I bet it’s a common experience.
3. Dual spec is really convenient. At current, I have both a tank healing and a raid healing spec on my druid. On our XT attempts, I switched specs when I traded places with Mallet to heal the main tank through spiky damage. Being able to do that so seamlessly with just the talents I wanted was brilliant.
4. The difficulty level of Ulduar is quite high. I was expecting Serpentshrine Cavern, and it seems that I got Black Temple. Think about the look and everything–it’s actually very similar to BT. Now, I didn’t raid on the PTR, and I’m at my worst when I’m surprised, but I swear that Ignis fellow is overtuned for his position in the instance. Even his trash is challenging! It seems at least as difficult as the Tempest Keep trash pulls leading up to Kael’s room, which is pretty much wrong for its position in the instance. Ignis’ trash should, at most, be at the level of Morogrim’s trash (remember all those pretty murlocs?). In our attempts on Ignis on 10 and 25, healers were able to learn the abilities and adjust to them, but the adds are still out of hand. I think that the melting, freezing, and cracking mechanism is a little much to handle at that speed. In contrast, I thought that both Razorscale and XT were pretty manageable.
5. The gear in Ulduar seems odd. Granted, I’ve only seen a few pieces, but they don’t seem to be much better than the stuff from Kel’thuzad or Malygos. In contrast, the gear requirements for the dungeon feel very high. Briolante, our warrior tank, is full best-in-slot from Naxx, but Ignis was still ripping him up. He got a new weapon from Flame Leviathan, but it’s a marginal upgrade at best over his previous weapon–and the new weapon is an i-level 232. Weapons, in my opinion, should be significantly different between tiers. I can imagine that the ordinary 226 items might not be an upgrade at all over the scattered 226 items that a player is likely to have from the opening tier of raid content. I’m not sure why they decided to have Ulduar gear not be a progression from our current best-in-slots. I think the claim is that it’s better-itemized, but that’s certainly not true for druids. It’s the same old crit/haste itemization that we dealt with in Naxx.
6. I seem to always want my fast heals. I was skeptical about glyphing Healing Touch for raid healing, but in the middle of our attempts on XT, our other resto druid went to respec and glyph for it as well. Healing in Ulduar is quite spammy. There are some breaks, like the exposed heart phase on XT, but when damage occurs it seems to be both deep and wide. Ulduar uses a combination of heavy hits on the MT with directed raid damage and also AoE splash damage. This is a change from previous content, which seemed to test only one skill at a time. The only thing I can think of to compare some of these fights to to is Gurtogg Bloodboil, who ripped up raids with a combination of hard hits, regular AoE damage, and targeted damage to a raid member.
Trees on the Meters
I won’t go over the exact details of my meter performance, but I’ve been lucky enough to be able to compare my numbers up to two other resto druids who were more or less doing the same tasks as I was. On our second night of raiding, I put in a competitive performance and I thought I did my job well. Here are my tips for putting in decent numbers.
1. Remember that you are a HoT healer. The buffs to Nourish may have distracted you, but HoTs are stronger in Ulduar than they are in Naxx. Both HoTs and shields are at their strongest when damage and difficulty are high.
2. Let your Lifebloom bloom. You could probably roll it on some bosses, and the bloom will be mostly overheal, but if you never let it bloom, you are wasting buckets of mana. On some fights, I got as much mana “back” from blooms as I got from Replenishment.
3. The druid talent Revitalize is still bad. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to other sources of mana return, and I’m going to take it out of my build for a while and see if I feel the effects. If not, it’s staying out.
4. Do not use Nourish without HoTs as a raid heal. It’s slow compared to other Flash Heals and it has low throughput. This mistake is what led to my being at the bottom of meters the first night in Ulduar.
5. Glyphed Healing Touch (with talents) is very strong. This is the Flash Heal you want, not Nourish. I was skeptical about putting this in my raid build but both my own comfort level and my effectiveness on meters improved. I was actually fast enough to save Slag Pot victims, and I was well able to heal Light Bomb and Gravity Bomb with a glyphed HT.
6. Lifebloom is an okay raid heal. It still ticks fast, which gives it an advantage over Rejuvenation. I’m actually using Rejuv less than I did in Naxx or Sarth 3D, because the chance of imminent death for my targets seems higher. I really, really want my 4pc T8 set bonus, however, which will effectively fix Rejuvenation.
7. Innervate is still useful. I have mine glyphed, and I get not quite a full bar out of it.
That’s about all I have. I’m still working out the kinks, so to speak, in Ulduar, and I’ll report back again if I have any startling new observations as we progress. The jury’s still out on whether I like this instance. It’s much better than Naxx, but I’m still comparing it in my head to my favorite BC instances, Serpentshrine Cavern and Black Temple. Ulduar has a lot to live up to. I really enjoyed the bosses we took down, but Ignis disappoints me. In addition to being overtuned and buggy, this guy reuses a model from a 5-man instance. That’s pretty disappointing to me–the art is one of the aspects that most affects my enjoyment of the game. In addition, I like Thorim’s new golden-boy model much less than his old, crusty, blue-skinned look. The old Thorim was much more melancholy, which really fit his quest line. Hopefully once I get into Ulduar proper I’ll be able to ooh and aah at the new art.