The Mana Efficient Priest

The Mana Efficient Priest

mana-efficient 
Image courtesy of Xanderalex What do you think mana-pots taste like, anyway? I vote for blue-raspberry kool-aid.

Note: I wrote this piece BEFORE the news announcement about down-ranking spells in WotLK. I anticipate that this will make a tremendous impact on mana-regen, along with the possibility of debuffs like Potion Sickness, and I look forward to finding out how new talents like Serendipity help mitigate this situation. (I’m not specc’d into Serendipity right now on the Beta, mostly because Matt says it doesn’t work yet.)

In the 2.4 game mechanics, mana-regen for any class whose relevant stats include spirit is nothing short of phenomenal. Still, some of my colleagues occasionally have trouble making it through particularly intense fights with only self-sufficient regen tools. I’m of the philosophy that in most situations, Holy Priests can and should keep their own mana up just fine. If you are having trouble doing that, here are some troubleshooting tips for improving your own self-sufficiency:

When You’re The Problem
  • Forgetting your CD (cooldown) rotation. Do you wait to take a Mana Pot until you’re nearly out of mana? Do you keep an eye on your Trinket, Shadow Fiend, and Inner Focus cooldowns and use them all to their fullest potential? Be honest with yourself, and if you know you could be getting more out of your built-in tools, either find a mod to monitor them for you, or move them to a more visible portion of your UI.
  • Over-extending yourself. If your assignment is to heal parties 3 & 4, but you find yourself topping off the tanks and sneaking heals onto the melee, you’re probably just trying to give your best effort to your raid – and that impulse is good. What’s NOT good is that you’re under-serving the players you’re supposed to be protecting – and if they take sudden damage while you’re in the middle of casting a heal, even as a best-case scenario they’ll have to wait at least a 1.5 second cast or a GCD to get the heal that they’re supposed to be getting from you. This means some other healer is probably going to have to pick up YOUR slack. Even if you’re carefully monitoring your assignment, healing where you’re not supposed to gives an unrealistic experience to the healers that you’re “helping.” Sure, you know that FoL-spamming isn’t enough to keep up the MT, but that loladin that’s supposed to keep him alive will never figure it out if you keep sprinkling in ProM, G.heals, and Renews. You’re robbing him, and your guild, of that Pally’s chance to become a better healer.
  • Improper gear optimization. Let’s face it, no one cares that your Greater Heal will hit for an average of 6k if you’re oom and can’t cast it. You don’t need 2,000 unbuffed +healing to heal Karazhan. (Or Kael, for that matter, and I have screenshots to prove it.) No matter what level of content you’ve reached, continuing to stack +heal after being fully capable of healing the incoming damage for your current raid content comes at the expense of other stats. This means objectively evaluating the stats YOU need for gems, enchants, or on relatively equivalent pieces of gear. (For example, T6 offers two healing staves – the Apostle of Argus (Archimonde) or the Staff of Immaculate Recovery (Bloodboil). The Apostle has more +heal, but the IR has balanced Spirit and Mp5. You need to be able to decide which stats will make the greatest impact on your gameplay.)
  • Poor consumables. Raiding isn’t cheap. If you don’t want to spend the money on the best enchants, gems, and consumables you shouldn’t be running end-game content. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be playing WoW, just that you need to find some other less resource-intensive passion within the game. Know what your options are, and don’t try to cheap out. The repair bills and nights of frustration end up being more expensive, anyway. So if the flasks you should be using are pre-BC, and the food you need to eat is rare, and the pots you ought to use don’t come from a freebie quest reward…. Suck it up, use the premium consumables, and see what a difference a few little things will make in your mana-return.
  • Overhealing. If you don’t downrank your spells, you’re burning extra mana. There is absolutely no reason to cast a 6k heal on someone taking 1k hits who is only missing 2k health. Overshoot it by the incoming 1k damage, throw a 3k heal on them, and spend the 2-300 mana you just saved on someone else.
When Something Else Is The Problem
  • Poor class make up for the fight. Because Priests CAN do any healing job, frequently the burdens of under- or incorrect staffing fall on our shoulders. We’re the only class who can always pick up the slack. There’s not much you can do about this during a raid, but afterwards, approach your healing leader, raid leader, or GM with solutions – Maybe a healer-friend who would be an excellent addition to the roster, or a positioning strategy that would help lessen the strain.
  • Poor group composition. Some fights, until you gear-soak a bit, you really just need a mana battery. If you don’t have a Shadow Priest, or a Shaman with a Mana-totem, ask for one. Check around with friends who have done the same fight, and see if they’re getting some kind of support that you’re not.
  • Re-speccing. I’m assuming you’re a Priest as you read this. If your guild can’t decide whether you should be Improved Spirit or CoH, know that both healing-styles are different enough to affect your mana regen. Auz over at ChickGM is a dyed-in-the-wool IDS priest, and averages 65% of her time in the 5SR. As CoH Spec, I spend upwards of 85% of my time “casting.” That is a HUGE difference in non-casting mana regen, and makes Mp5 more valuable to me as a stat than it is to Auz, EVEN THOUGH WE’RE BOTH HOLY PRIESTS. You can’t control wishy-washy raid leadership, but keep a couple extra trinkets and consumables to swap around to make sure you’re good to go no matter which way they tell you to Spec.
How To Fix It
  • Train yourself. Don’t do this on a progression run, but learn how to wean yourself off the crutches: Instruct your Druids that they should use their innervates for themselves. Ask for a Mage to be given your spot in the S.priest group. (Added bonus! Your Mage-buddy will love you!) Bring smaller mana pots, and use them as you would the Supers – you stay in the habit of burning your cooldown, but get used to operating with less mana. Swap your trinkets out for less-helpful ones. (Keep them similar, so you keep in the habit of popping them.) Or just swap your trinkets in general – maybe the proc from the Bangle is worth more than the extra 170 Spirit use from the Earring.
  • Use mods that keep track of how much time you spend “casting” and learn how to maximize your inherent regen. (My favorite is RegenFu, but it requires FuBar to work.)
  • Chain your abilities. When you get a Clearcast proc, use it, and follow up with an Inner Focus – If both are used with 3-second casts, and followed up with a stop-casting macro, you can buy a lot of oo5sr time without abandoning your job.
  • Fix your broken gear. I don’t mean repairs (but check that, too!) Do the research and spend the money to make sure that your gear is fully optimized. No common gems, no cheap enchants. Make the most of what you have.
  • Know your capabilities. Test on your own to know what your current gear can do when pushed to its max. Swap an item or trinket and test again. Research and find out what other Priests are capable of doing.

It’s not that you’ll never need any outside support to maintain your mana pool. If a lot of healers have died, or you started out short-handed, or you’re truly under-geared for your content, you could need some help. Obviously, Vampiric Touch, Mana Tide, and Innervate are in the game for a reason. The idea isn’t that you should never need them, just that if you always rely on them, you’re cheating yourself and your raid out of the exceptional contributions that you can make, not to mention hogging resources that could go to other players.

Luv,
Wyn

Primal Mooncloth – Do You Need to Upgrade?

Primal Mooncloth – Do You Need to Upgrade?

lecture 
Have we been teaching wrong? Image courtesy of gozdeo

There’s a gearing question I get asked more frequently than any other. I also see it all over the Priest-related interweb. It goes something like this:

My Priest just started running Kara/Heroics, and I have the Primal Mooncloth Set. I’m dying a lot. When can I/ should I break PMC bonus so I can get more stamina?

The answer is invariably along these lines:

PMC has no Stam and makes it hard to stay alive. As soon as you have 2 of the 3 slots replaced, go ahead and break it. Shopping List: Robes of Heavenly Purpose or Gown of Spiritual Wonder, Light-Mantle of the Incarnate or Mantle of the Avatar, and Belt of the Long Road or Cord of Braided Troll Hair.

This always kind of bothers me a little bit, probably because I’m a crotchety oldster who was working my way through T5 content before the 2.3 badge rewards and ZA were introduced. Back in MY day, the only pieces that would add stamina to your stats without gimping your +healing and regen abominably were your Tier tokens. Which, with the infamous Warrior-Priest-Druid combo, in most raiding guilds, went to tanks first. And especially since Druid tank itemization meant they needed the T4 set bonus, preferably from their chest, Priests were pretty much out of luck. (I’ll spare you a very compelling QQ-anecdote about the injustices visited on my Priests specifically when it came to Tier-gear. Just know that it was very tragic, compelling, and you should pity me. Thank you.)

Basically, Primal Mooncloth meant you could keep your raid alive, and whether or not YOU stayed alive was your own business – weren’t you the healer??

As a result, many, many healy-Priests (myself and Matt included), worked their way into T6-level content with dramatically less stamina than recommended. For me, especially given the pressure-cooker of being the first and only female in my hardcore raiding guild, it meant I had to learn to stay alive. This is the origin of the “Oh s***!” macro, and why my UI is painstakingly designed to keep my field of vision clear.

My point is, I’ve done the content that the Priests asking about Primal Mooncloth have done – and I stayed alive. So I know it’s possible. So it bothers me to blame the prolific Priest-mortality rate on the gear and nothing else. If I wasn’t positive that people would feel attacked, accused, and offended, here’s what my response would be:

“Primal Mooncloth is perfectly adequate for the content you’re running. Rather than worrying about what gear to exchange to boost your stamina, let’s treat what I think is the real problem. Tell me about your raids: What’s killing you? Loose mobs, or AoE damage?”

And working from there, I’d like to go through a trouble-shooting dialogue. If loose mobs are running around and slaying healers, either your Tanks need to work on tanking, your CC needs to work on CC’ing, your DPS needs to work on not breaking CC, or YOU need to work on heal-timing. These are all very important skills, and, often, healer-deaths are simply symptomatic of underperforming raiders.

If AoE damage is killing you, then you simply need to learn how to keep yourself healed.

  • Do you have PW:S and Inner Fire up at all times?
  • Are you using profession-related bonuses appropriately? (Fel Blossom, Nightmare seed, Bandages – yes really)
  • What kind of consumables do you bring? (Stam + Spirit food, Super/Major Rejuv potions)
  • Are you using the right cooldowns? (Healthstones, trinkets)

And the biggest one:

  • Are you fully playing your Priest? Priests are unique in the sheer variety of tools in our healbox. Binding Heal, Renew, CoH, ProH, Fade, and ProM (and Desperate Prayer, if you have it), will ALL keep you alive. In fact, they are designed to keep you alive. Priests can and should be able to heal themselves without ever neglecting their duty to the rest of the raid.

It’s not that good Priests never die – Spirit of Redemption points out that Blizz KNOWS we’re going to die. It’s that the best Priests know that gear is not the major limiting factor in your performance. And as much as I advocate using the best gear available to you, it should be to augment your skill as a player, not to replace it.

Notice: I hesitated to post this entry, for the same reason that I hesitate to reveal my real answer to the pertinent gear-question. I realize that my opinion will hurt some feelings, and it is not my intention to imply that people looking to break PMC with any of the numerous options in the post 2.4 game are bad players.  It is my intention to imply that perhaps, as a community committed to improving our gameplay, our first instinct shouldn’t be to swap gear, but rather to ascertain how we can out-perform our pixilated limitations. If, after determining the REAL cause of death, we find a certain stat to be lacking, then we can recommend gear to augment that stat.

Luv,
Wyn

Wyn’s UI – Part One

In the beginning… there was stock. And it was okay, but very limited. Thankfully, Blizzard designed the game to be almost infinitely customizable by players. I started out just wanting to show you the view from my chair, but then I realized that I’ve never found “standing around a major city” screenshots useful. Instead, I’ll be posting some “action shots” of my UI, the mods I use, how, and why. You’ll get a better idea of how I heal, and how I’ve gotten my UI to help me do that. There’s a lot of explanation involved, so I’ll do this in a couple of parts.

Personally, I don’t like a lot of crap that I don’t use sucking up power or my attention. I also like mods that pack a LOT of information into tiny packages. That said, I use a lot of add-ons, and I’m constantly auditioning more and deleting the old ones. Your eyes would bleed if I marked each one and told you what it was, so if you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Intro to my UI:

I had this idea in the middle of Black Temple, so I waited to get a nice, basic shot. Things will get a little more complicated when it’s in action. Personally, I want the middle of my screen as clear as possible. Priests have a bad reputation for dying, and I’ve found that keeping my field of vision very clear helps me move out of the way and stay alive. The mods I look at the most are right below my ‘toon, with those less relevant during combat further from that point.

Basic UI Shot. Englarged version coming!

1. The bar across the top is FuBar. Lightweight, with lots of modular plug-ins, FuBar makes it really easy to access and customize your mods. Keeps buttons off my mini-map, too. My personal favorite is RegenFu. This little gem tells me my int/mp5/spirit ratio on the fly, and how much time I’m spending in the 5SR; (85% on last fight). It also has a timer bar (which is faint, over my raid frame) that shows when I’m in the 5SR. Over time, I know if spirit or mp5 food or elixirs are more appropriate for a given fight, and I can better control my mana-consumption rate.

2. AG_UnitFrames. Before I used grid, I used AG for my basic Raid Frames. I still use it for 5-mans and a couple of other things because it’s lightweight, and very customizable. I’ve tried Pitbull, but found that it couldn’t do anything AG couldn’t do, and I already had AG the way I wanted it.
(2a) My frame and my target are at the top of the screen, and just above my chat box
(2b) you can see my focus frame and their target (in this case, I’m focused on myself for
some reason, so it’s just a miniature of what’s going on upstairs. Sorry about that.)

3. Grid took some getting used to, but it’s now my favorite mod. It shows a LOT of information in a very elegant and minimalistic manner. My groups are arranged horizontally, and the player names are cut off at a max of 4 letters. They are also colored according to class. That “W…” is me, and my group includes Wizendone (resto-shammy), Nl (s.priest), Haidi, and Alden (both healadins). Those that are greyed out are simply out of range.

A word on targeting: Obviously, you can see my target up at the top of the screen. One of the best rules of being an efficient healer is to maximize your reaction time. Minimizing the distance your eyes need to travel to get the information you need helps. Part of my solution has been to set Grid to have a white border around my target’s square. (Since I have myself targeted, and priests are denoted in white, it’s not showing properly.) Also, I use Quartz for my casting bar, and have it set to show the name of my target in the cast bar. Like this:

This makes it easy to avoid healing the wrong target, since my quartz goes right above grid.

4. Your spells have to go somewhere, and I use Bartender3 to keep mine organized. There are a LOT of mods that do this; find one that you like. You’ll notice that nearly all of them are hotkeyed – I navigate and target with my mouse, and cast with my keyboard. (That blank spot is for my Spirit buffs when I spec disc on the weekends.) You’ll probably notice a lot of icons you don’t recognize – I use macros very heavily. You’ll also notice how many ranks of Greater Heal and Flash heal I use. 4 of each. The fifth (5 and T, respectively) are stopcasting macros with the max-rank of the heal. (T is a little special, but I’ll get to that in the upcoming post on macros.) You may also notice that the only offensive spell I have hotkeyed is Pain. This is because I’m a healer, not a DPSer. Don’t worry, my offensive spells are easy to access (hold shift and scroll the mousewheel up once), it’s just that in the average raid, I don’t need them taking up space. I tend to click pots and such, so I don’t hit them accidentally while typing. The average amount per heal (or offensive spell) on each icon is from Dr. Damage. It helps me down-rank without having to read tool tips and do math in my head.

5. Recount. Use it. Love it. I have some great shots of how to use it for self-coaching later on. I have it running, set to “current fight” AT ALL TIMES. (Which is why it cleared once the boss was dead. Sorry about that, too.) See my previous post for why.

6. Simple Mini Map. I like it because it interfaces well with cartographer, it’s light, and it is very customizable.

7. Prat. A chat mod that lets remove you those damn arrows, and scroll with your mousewheel. Has a bunch of other nifty features I find useful. You’ll notice I don’t keep a combat log open. Recount substitutes for that.

8. ElkBuffBars. Matt made me get this one, and I’m glad he did. Montiors buffs, debufs, and everything else you need to know in a (say it with me!) Lightweight, customizable format.

Essential mods that you can’t see:

Deadly Boss Mods. Don’t leave home without it.

Omen Threat Meter. KTM was great. Omen is better. If you haven’t upgraded, do it now. Omen interfaces with KTM, too, so just because your Tank lives in the stone age isn’t an excuse for you to do the same.

Instant Health. This is a combat log parser that updates the health of your party or raid, with any raid frames, without waiting for the information to be sent to the server and back. It saves insane amounts of time (up to 3 seconds!!), and buys you time to react. As people keep stacking more and more Spell Haste, this kind of thing is going to become more popular.
(Edit: As I’ve been using this, I’ve noticed it messes with Recount and other combat-log parsers. Please be aware that it may interfere with any other mod you have reading this information; it is a known issue with the beta.)

More on Quartz. This has been around for a while, but I wanted to point out that it does more than allow you to change the look of your casting bar. The tail end of a given cast comes up in red (or any color you pick), and alerts you to your latency. What’s more, it allows you to begin a new cast before your computer has finished communicating with the server. This means you’re less at the mercy of Blizzard and your ISP to get those heals off in time. Pre-2.3, Quartz and a stop-casting macro were indispensible for quick heals. I still use stop-casting, although now more for mana regen purposes than global cooldown.

PoM Tracker – I found this after I took these screenies. I used to use Mending Minder, which stopped working at 2.4. This tells you who has your ProM, how many bounces it has left, and how much it’s healing. Nice.


To Be Continued. . .

Why I Always Care About The Meters

You’ll frequently hear raiders knowingly make comments about “the meters.” DPSers who have to crowd-control or dispel have a bit of a case; it’s harder to be #1 if you have more to worry about than standing still, popping pots, and hitting your spells in the right order. Healers occasionally have a point, too: Purge, Dispel, Cure, BoP, PW: Shield, and buffs all take not only mana, but global cooldowns out of our resources to be the “best” healer on the charts.

Here’s the thing though: you will rarely, if ever, find someone complaining about the unfairness of the meters when their name is consistently at the top. Here are a few reasons why I never forget to check the meters:

Supervisory

Whether you think a player is afk’ing trash, throwing out the wrong heals, or making a serious contribution, it will show up on the meters. Add-ons like Recount or WWS allow you to access your players’ habits with an unbelievable level of detail. If you don’t know what’s wrong, you can’t make it better. If you don’t know what’s right, you can’t give meaningful encouragement. Especially when making quantum leaps in content, (10-mans to 25-mans, or jumping tiers) being able to coach your players effectively through the transition is important.

Consistency

This works a couple of ways. On a micro-level, some classes are better suited for certain fights than others. If your Druids typically own highly-mobile fights like Leotheras or Supremus, and a new Druid isn’t keeping up with their peers, it’s a good indication that they need some help. On a macro-level, if, week after week, no matter what the fight, a certain player is always dead-last or near to it, there’s either a gear, hardware, or player issue. The raid leaders need to be able to address underperformance quickly. Why give a raid spot to a 9th healer when you’re effectively only fielding 8? Bring in another DPS, and make the fight shorter instead.

Personal Benchmarks

The first time I consistently broke 1,000 HPS was on Illidan. At first I was proud, but then I realized that I should be pushing my limits that much on EVERY fight. The first screen shot of me breaking 2,000 HPS serves as a constant reminder of my capability, and pushes me to work, heal, and fight harder; every boss, every time. It’s also fun to have some small competition to wake you up when farm content gets boring. Personally, if my favorite resto Shaman gets within 1% of my heals, I start working harder to keep my #1 spot – and he’s not afraid to point it out when he’s gaining on me.

Comparative Benchmarks

I’ve heard the arguments that the meters are skewed: AoE healers always win, healers assigned to players taking the most damage always win, healers that can hold still always win, healers that don’t have to Dispel, Cure, etc. always win. It’s not about winning. It’s about proving to yourself and your raid that you’re doing the best you can. I’ve fought for the top spot with Shamans, Pallys, and Druids. Every guild and healing corps. is different, and the sooner people stop making excuses and start pushing themselves to be their absolute best, the faster the bosses all die.

Accuracy

No meter is perfect. Some of them don’t ascribe things like the last tick of Lifebloom, or the ping of a ProM to the caster. I haven’t seen one yet that records the absorption of PW:S as the life-saver it is. You can tweak some of them so that overhealing or out-of-combat heals show up as effective healing. They all have their quirks, but any data collected over time irons out a lot of the inaccuracies and shows you real trends. I would never chew a player out over one bad night. But if that same player has nothing but bad nights, it’s important to have specific concerns to address with either them, or their class leader.

Timing

Even if the quantity of healing going out is enough, if the timing is off, it doesn’t matter . A tank taking hits for 10k needs an 8k heal. Unless they’re already topped off. Or they’re already dead. Overhealing is sloppy and wasteful, sure, but it’s also unavoidable to an extent. And to be completely honest, if no one’s dying it doesn’t matter much. But if they ARE dying, you need to be able to identify the problem. Grim-meters let you know if poor timing (and inattentive healers) were the culprit, or if the tank needs to put Shieldwall on their bars and learn to move out of fires.

Fairness

Let’s face it. No one wants to be stuck working on the same boss for weeks on end. If the definition of insanity is performing the same action but expecting a different result, it can’t be far from madness to randomly change set-ups without any data behind the decision. If you need to replace a player, you have to know whom to replace. The last thing good leaders want to do is pull a player that’s really doing their best, and keep someone who’s not working hard. And if you’re the one on the cut list, having some data to back up your desire to stay is always a good idea.

No metric is perfect. You can nitpick any measurement of success as biased in any number of ways, and healing meters are no different. The meters are absolutely not the end-all, be-all identifier for the “best” healer – but they are an invaluable tool for improving overall raid performance. My bet is that if you watch them for yourself, and for your raid, and make some key decisions based on the information you learn, you and your guild will progress further, faster, and with better players.

5 Barriers of a Raid Healer – Part 5: Healing Against Your Will

5 Barriers of a Raid Healer – Part 5: Healing Against Your Will

 
Image courtesy of andrewatla

Each Saturday for the next five weeks, I will be writing about one barrier of the raid healer. Healers are often overshadowed and looked over since we are expected to simply know what to do. With luck, this five part series will help you to become a better raid healer whether you are a varsity or a freshman.

So far, I have covered:

Barrier 5: Healing Under Duress

"It’s choice – not chance – that determines your destiny."
Jean Nidetch

I firmly believe that different people are catered for different skills. Some players are meant to DPS. Some are meant to heal. Some are destined to stand toe to toe with a boss and his attention for as long as possible. Then there are the rare few who excel at any task demanded of them. These players are special. Why? Because not everyone can fulfill dual roles. Need an extra tank? Drop 50 gold for a Paladin’s respec and they can do it in a pinch

Unfortunately, not all of us can fulfill dual positions like that. My friends and guildmates can tell you I’m a worldclass healer but I can’t DPS worth crap.

Now imagine the reverse.

Let me introduce to you the Raid Leaders dilemma:

  • Short a healer
  • Excess DPS
  • Does not want a pickup player

The thought process going through his head is to take a DPS hybrid and ask that player to switch to a healing spec. If the player has no qualms or issues about doing so, then by all means go for it. But you should realize that this is only a temporary solution to a temporary problem. Sooner or later, the grind of switching back and forth between holy and DPS is going to take it’s toll on that player. The fact is, that Shadow Priest you asked to go holy does not want to raid holy.

So why is he doing it? Two reasons:

  1. Wants to raid
  2. Wants to progress

Loyal guild members will obviously take the hit to go forward because they want to see some real progress made. But it’s not the best thing to do. Players that have DPS’d their entire WoW career undergo a period of adjustment. They need to get familiar with spell cast sequence, positioning, healing strategy and so forth.

I’ve seen extreme cases where GM’s have asked players to either respec or risk not raiding. I understand where they are coming from since some encounters require a certain number of healers. Depending on your server, you might have a limited pool of talented players to choose from. But don’t force a respec in the name of Guild progression. The player you get after the respec could be turn out to be a disgruntled player who will not enjoy his new role in the game. Given enough time, the bitterness could result in that player leaving the Guild. You are now back in square one without a healer. Instead, you have suffered a net loss of a player.

Solutions for the GM

Recruiting is the first viable option. If you can somehow find yourself a full time healer, then you will never need to ask a DPS player to respec again.

This one might be not-so-smart option, but consider grabbing a pickup healer from a different Guild. It might be possible to find a healer who isn’t raiding that week or anything with their Guild to fill in a spot for you. Do your research in armory and do some background checks of that player.

Solutions for the player

Assuming you don’t want to heal, make it known right away how long this arrangement can go on for. Give a set number of raids or pick a date. Having a deadline will apply a bit of pressure to your GM to get the ball rolling instead of not actively looking and being lazy. But have a talk with him or her and let them know that if it continues to go on, you’ll have to consider leaving and looking for another Guild that’s more receptive of your abilities.

Going Priestly in Patch 2.4: Things Adam Holisky of WoW Insider Forgot to Mention

Going Priestly in Patch 2.4: Things Adam Holisky of WoW Insider Forgot to Mention

priest-forgot 
Photo courtesy of Carey Tilden

A couple of days ago, WoW Insider had a quick summary article on Priests and what they can look to expect in 2.4. Although Adam Holisky was able to nail some of updates that were made to the Priests, there were a few things that he might have glazed over. But don’t worry! Matticu^ will save the day!

The Technical

  • The amount of players that can be Mass Dispelled has dOubled. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the radius has improved in size any. At least during phase 2 of the Zul’Jin fight, you’ll only need one Priest to Mass Dispel now.
  • Power Infusion: Perhaps this is the one change that could very well fly under the radar. Discipline Priests are still considered a rarity in raids. Unfortunately, it can’t be stacked with other haste-like effects (IE, Heroism) but with the proper coordination, I do think it can be chained one after the other for longer periods of heavy fire power. Is it possible to PI a mage, then pop Heroism, then blow Icy Veins or some such? To my Knowledge, there are no drawbacks or debuffs. Lucky mage that would be, I think.
  • Silent Resolve: Nice. It now affects more spells. Too bad most Priests I know don’t spec into Silent Resolve. Why? Because real PvE Priests know how to manage their aggro. If you’re PvPing, I totally understand.
  • Kirk broke this news first courtesy of an email he received. Now I may be Asian but my math skills are T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E. He’s calculated that with the rigt talent points in the Disc tree (namely, Enlightenment) there is a potential for 33% mana regen to continue in combat.
  • I notice I don’t have to drink as often during raids. Before, I topped out at around 296 MP5 while casting with consumables. Now I hit about 340ish with full ‘onsumables.

The Gearical

  • When (and I do mean when, because I know everyone’s going to want to hit exalted) you manage to grind your way up, there’s a nice neck piece just waiting for you. It’s the Shattered Sun Pendant of Restoration. It goes for a c0ol 23g. The only stats it has is Stamina. So you don’t get Int or Spirit. It’s also got some healing on it. For some reason, I smell Holy PaladiN trinket, but I could be wrong. Anyway, it has a chance on heal to proc a different effect depending on whether you are Ald0r or Scryer. The Aldor proc is known as Light’s Salvation which increases healing done by 220 over 10 seconds. The Scryer proc is known as Arcane Surge which instantly heals a target for 618 – 682 (Source comments: WoWDB, WoWHead, WoWWiki). This item is listed as level 115 which is supposed to be on par with Shining Chain of the Afterworld. I’m going to assume that there is a hidden coldown of some sort, but I have yet to find out what it is. I won’t be replacing Lord Sanguinar’s Claim, that’s for sure.
  • Finally there is now a purchasable blue 1H for freshman 70 Priests to use. You won’t have to rely on the auction house to pick up the Essence Focuser. For a nominal fee of four daily quest rewards (43g), you can have K’iru’s Presage.
  • Vial of the Sunwell. Obtainable in Heroic Magisters Terrace. It’s got nice MP5 on it, and it’s a guaranteed 2000 heal every 2 minutes. I’m not too sure about this one, to be quite honest.
  • Start saving up or pumping out Primal Mooncloth. You’ll need it for both the Robe of Eternal Light and Hands of Eternal Light. They require 20 Primal Mooncloh and 18 Primal Mooncloth respectively in order to craft. The items are bind on pickup. Sweet deal for the lucky Sunwell Raiders.

The Face Melters

  • With the changes made to haste, I think Shadow Priests are going to take a good hard look at that as a stat to invest in since it alters global cooldowns. Hey! Shadow Priests! Is haste changes good or bad? Educate me so I can educate everyone else! I don’t have an idea!

No doubt I’ll have forgotten a few important other important things. Suffice it to say, this latest patch does have a few things all of us varsity Priests or otherwise can look forward to. Any other substantial, earth shattering changes that raiding Holy Priests might stand to be aware of?

SRETCARAHCNEETHGIETSOPEHTNITIDIHI?ELZZUPEHTEVLOSUNAC

5 Things Jack Bauer Taught Me About Raiding

5 Things Jack Bauer Taught Me About Raiding

Jack Bauer 
Photo courtesy of Kiefer-Rocks

I’m into the whole action hero counter-terrorism deal. I read a lot of Tom Clancy  (Rainbow Six) when I was younger. I like to play special forces oriented shooters when I’m not playing Warcraft. I check out 24 every so often when it’s showing on TV. Jack Bauer is one of my favourite fictional characters. Hell, if I could have the guy as my Guild leader, I’d be all over it. I mean sure he’s a little intimidating, but if you can look beyond his torturing and his willingness to kill, he seems like a nice guy that gets things done.

He’d roll a Warrior, I bet.

There’s a lot of important lessons you can find from his quotes throughout the years and I feel that raiders would benefit from it. Potential new raiders would also benefit from the wisdom of Jack Bauer. So what is he trying to tell you? What is he trying to say? I will do my utmost to translate his words into something you can understand and interpret.

[to Audrey, who was held by the Chinese for a few months]
Jack Bauer: I know what it’s like to feel like it’s never going to end.

Welcome to raiding. It’s a huge time investment. You almost never know when it’s going to end. After a while, you’re going to wish that it will end especially on marathon nights when Guild leaders are in their "just one more attempt" mood. There will be nights where you will wipe repeatedly for a long time and it really is going to feel like it’s never going to end.

But hey, Jack Bauer was in a Chinese prison for 20 months. You’ve only had to wipe on Kael for 6 hours. Suck it up and move on, soldier.

[from Season 5 preview]
Jack Bauer: If you don’t tell me what I want to know, then it’ll just be a question of how much you want it to hurt.

At the top of my blog, there is a banner with five glowing words that encompass the overall principle that I hold dear not just in Warcraft but in life: Power Through Knowledge and Reason. Only with knowledge can one understand power. But only with reason can that power be used wisely. There are some things that players must know when raiding. There are gimmicks, traps, toys, and other random garbage being thrown our way. We have to know what they are. If we don’t know it, then we can’t prepare ourselves for it. If we don’t have a clear understanding of what we need to know, then it will hurt us big time.

Jack Bauer knows just about everything. If there’s something Jack Bauer doesn’t know, he’ll torture someone until he finds out. You just have to get off the couch and do a bit of reading and watch some videos.

Nina Myers: You’re lying.
Jack Bauer: Yes I am. But you’re still going to have to trust me.

Trust is a hard thing to do in a raid. No one likes to trust their fate on the ability of other players. If you’re like me, you’re a control freak and you want to be the only factor that affects your own fate. We don’t have that luxury in raids. I don’t deliver my promises all the time, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust my ability as a healer. Could you imagine what raiding would be like if no one trusted each other? Tanks would constantly break CC targets because they didn’t trust hunters to control them. Priests would bust fears on nearby mobs. Mages would blow ice block and blink cooldowns because they wouldn’t trust healers to keep them up. Nothing would get done! Sometimes you have to place your e-life in the hands of others to get what you want: phat lewt.

Of course, Jack Bauer doesn’t trust anybody. He doesn’t trust his friends, coworkers or his own government. Unfortunately, none of us are skilled as Jack Bauer when it comes to getting things done.

Jack Bauer: That’s the problem with people like you, George. You want results, but you never want to get your hands dirty. I’d start rolling up your sleeves.

Raiding has some seriously enticing rewards especially to those that want to be the best. But you can’t just waltz in there and expect to get things handed to you. You have get down there and do the work on your own. Skill and talent or hard work and effort? I’d rather take the latter, personally. You can’t expect to stand there and spam one button to do the job, unless you’re a Resto Shaman. Going AFK isn’t going to cut it either. Raiding means that you have to seriously raid and work hard. Often times, it isn’t the most glorious of roles but someone has to do it.

From this, we learn that Jack Bauer is like most people. He rolls his sleeves up. Except when he rolls his sleeves up, it’s because he doesn’t want to get blood on his shirt.

Jack Bauer: I like working with you, Chase; you’re a nice kid. But don’t you ever come into my office and talk to me like that again, do you understand me?

There’s a certain kind of unspoken rule that needs to be followed when raiding. You should never openly question your raid leader. If he asks for help or suggestions, that’s okay. But never, ever override or tell others to do something else that the raid leader has already committed the raiders to do. That is a big giant no-no. You don’t talk to him in a condescending or disrespectful manner either. Because at the end of the day, he’s still your superior. If you want to continue raiding with the Guild you’re in, you better be able to follow those rules or else you won’t be in that Guild much longer.

Jack Bauer doesn’t take crap from anybody.

5 Barriers of a Raid Healer – Part 3: Tunnel Vision

5 Barriers of a Raid Healer – Part 3: Tunnel Vision

Image courtesy of liquid008

Each Saturday for the next five weeks, I will be writing about one barrier of the raid healer. Healers are often overshadowed and looked over since we are expected to simply know what to do. With luck, this five part series will help you to become a better raid healer whether you are a varsity or a freshman.

So far, I have covered:

Barrier 3: Tunnel Vision

“Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.”
John Carmack

Even the best healers suffer from tunnel vision. Their eyes are deeply glued to the raid windows and often miss a Doomfire heading towards them (or a Spout). As healers, we are often frozen in place due to our responsibility as combat medics. Unlike our leafy limbed brethren, Shamans, Paladins, and Priests need to stay still in order to get their spells off. As a result, us healers spend precious seconds having to heal in a stationary position knowing we could go at any moment if we concentrate too much on the raid.

Responsibility

Every raider has a responsibility to stay alive. Just because we healers have methods to bring our health back up, doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Moving 3 steps right and 2 steps up can save precious mana and our own e-lives.

Just last night, I participated in a Zul’Aman run which went relatively smooth. We suffered 2 under 10% wipes on Zul’Jin. In fact, we went into Phase 5 with all 10 players alive. But alas, we wiped due to those flame geyser things. I died to them twice and I make no excuse for my own failings. I guess the blogging God saw it ironic that I would be writing about tunnel vision and decided to collaborate with the raid God to screw me over. On my part, there is absolutely no excuse. If I’m going to die, then I will die for reasons beyond my control. Total and utter shame on me. A lot of players will play the blame game because no one wants to take responsibility for it.

Not me. I screwed up, I know why, and I’m going to not make that mistake again.

Except I did *faceplant*. I wonder if there’s something in the DSM about that.

Tips

When (and I do mean when and not if) you get past the Karazhans and the Gruuls and start your trek into the SSC’s and the TK’s, the encounters get much more interesting. All the practices from “cave ins” and “shatters” should be a good start for build your situational awareness. Here’s a few extra tips and exercises that I do:

  • Maximize white space. White space is a term I use to refer to blank space or open areas. Unlike some tanks and DPS classes, we need to have our raid frames open at all times. This contributes to the clutter on our screen. One way to maximize white space is to reduce your UI scale. This can be done in your options -> video settings. If you’ve got the dough, opt for a bigger monitor. I raid on a 22″ monitor with the frames neatly tucked into the side. You can see various shots of my UI here.
  • Minimize down time. I don’t mean downtime in a in between trash pull setting. I mean downtime as in lapse of actions. Always be doing something whether it’s moving, trinketing, or something. Don’t simply stand there. Action is almost always better than inaction and it will help train you to become faster. I like to randomly move back and forth and side to side during raids where I’m allowed. Sometimes you have to in order to keep up with your tanks and it’s a good skill to pick up. When you’re moving, you need to concentrate on what’s immediately around you, therefore you need to switch from your frames to your windows. Eventually, you’ll develop a practice where you just “know” where you are in relation to the things and players around you. Your movements will no longer be random, they’ll be focus and fluid. Every keystroke, every step, every screen swivel will have a purpose. Playing RTS games help. Not only do you need to command your units in the field, you have to manage your economy and unit production simultaneously. I used to be decent at Command and Conquer (NOD) but then they nerfed tanks which completely wrecked my Crane -> Double Refinery (sell 1) -> Plant/Factory -> Factory/Refinery -> 8 tank rush -> WIN strat. While my units were moving towards the opposition base, I made sure every credit was being spent on upgrades, more factories, or more tanks (no such thing as too few tanks). Call it time management, if you will. Same thing in WoW. Boss fights are typically ten minutes. WoW isn’t just about resource (mana) management, it’s also about time management.
  • Work on your peripheral vision. When I was younger, I had a fascination with espionage practice and spying. One of the little exercises they had helped increase your ability to use your peripheral vision. The next time you’re walking home, try looking straight ahead and see if you can read house numbers without turning towards it. If you think you have it, check to see if you’re correct. I believe the reasoning was so that intelligence agents could observe their subjects without their subjects knowing they were being observed (He can’t be looking at me, so I must be safe). In WoW, having excellent peripheral vision can help increase your chance of survivability because out of the corner of your eye you can see that jet of water heading your way or some curled up flaming turkey from the sky.

Other Resources

Ego wrote an excellent piece a little over a month ago on a concept she referred to as tiered healing. It’s a great read and it offers a bit more of a detailed process in regards to prioritizing healing targets. As a Priest, I’m not as good as a Paladin for MT healing or a Shaman for raid healing. But I can switch between the 2 as needed at any time in case we get a man down.

Extreme Makeover – Matt’s UI: Part 2 (Addons that I use)

Extreme Makeover – Matt’s UI: Part 2 (Addons that I use)

Here’s the before post of my UI when I was in the process of tearing it down entirely. This is the after post of my UI in various stages throughout one of Sunday’s raids.

matt-ui2-tb
Clicking on the image takes you full screen. While you’re there, proceed to laugh at the 2 melee that died.

I’m extremely happy and satisfied with the way it looks now. Before I had to drag my eyes all over the screen to get information I needed. I sat down last week and spent a good, solid 3 hours asking for some advice from the lads in the BA Chatroom. Some of the modifications will be the same. But there are some brand new elements. I designed my interface with the goal of having important information towards the center of the screen because that’s where my eyes will be concentrated a majority of the time. All files are linked to either Curse Gaming or WoW Ace.

The Meat and Potatoes

matt-ui5 Here’s a cropped action shot of the force in Black Temple taking out the trash.

Metahud: I was inspired by Top Gun for this one. Instead of using the normal boxy frames to display my health and targets, I opted to use something called a HuD (Heads up Display). It has a nice graphical representation of my target’s health, my health, my target’s power bar (mana, energy, rage), and my mana. My information’s on the inner circle and my target’s are on the outer circle. Not only that, but it shows me the hard numbers of a person’s health and their percentage. On the top right, you can see the cast time remaining on a spell (Greater Heal which I just finished casting). Notice that I have an Ashtongue Primalist targetted (bad guy).

Metahud displays me the approximate range to that target (9 – 28 yards). It also tells me who it has targetted (Lang, our MT). I moved Pitbull’s Target of Target bars to the bottom right for the sake of contrast and easy selection (until I figure out how to change those colors).

DoTimer: Knowing when your cooldowns are up is integral to any healer as it allows us to time our trinket use and other "long CD" spells. I moved my cooldown window to the center of the screen below my HuD. In this case, by being aware of when Prayer of Mending is up, I can get ready to activate that on Lang instead of dropping a Greater Heal. Knowing your Cooldowns allows you to mentally adjust your spell process on the fly without having to constantly guess to see if you can cast a spell or not.

ScrollingCombatText: At the top, you can see the amount of mana I’m getting back. I believe it’s mana spring totem. I moved SCT above the HuD and set the transparency to 50%. Not only mana, but it displays other important information like health gain or damage done to and so forth.

NaturEnemyCastBar: I still like NECB. It tracks the cooldowns of other people around me. Never again will you have to ask when banish is up. I repositioned it slightly from where it was in the shot above. It’s now located towards the middle of the screen and is flush against the power bars on the right.

Elkano’s Buff Bars: Far right side. I like it better then the default Blizzard one. It shows me both buffs and debuffs and the time remaining.

Pitbull Unit Frames: Yes, I know a lot of people pressured me suggested to use Grid. It’s a lightweight raid frame, I got it. But I’m already married to Pitbull! I have this set up on the left side along with my own frame and my target’s frame right below. It’s slightly larger then the raid frames above (Refer to the first shot). The reason why I wanted two of them is so that there’s less eye movement for me to do. If I’m focusing on raid healing, I still have my target up on the left side. If I’m focused on tank healing, I can keep my eyes glued to the center. Each portion of the screen is set up for a different purpose. Also interfaces with Prat =).

Deadly Boss Mods: Raid requirement. Either use that or Bigwigs. But either way, it’s a must for raiding. I placed mine at the top with full opacity above SCT.

Quartz: It’s a graphical bar that shows cast times and stuff which adjusts for latency.

Visualheal: Displays in a bar the approximate amount of health they will gain when factoring in your heal so you can visually see it (hence the name?).

Bottom of the Barrel


Poison elementals are serious business. We made our Druid tank shift out and cleanse. 

My chat windows and other secondary information is located at the bottom of the screen. From left to right, it’s combat text/general chat, Omen, Bars, Recount, chat windows 1, and Guild/raid/healer chat.

Prat: It came highly recommended as thee chat frame of choice. Shows timestamp, colors the player name according to class, level, group number of person, and more importantly no annoying overlapping scroll arrows!

Big Brother: Raid Leaders – This is a must for you guys. Found out who broke that sheep! Also displays nifty stuff like flasked players, buffs that may or may not be missing, etc, etc.

Omen: The standard in threat meters now. Don’t enter a raid without it. You can have it minimized as long as it’s transmitting. Although 9 times out of 10 it won’t matter for healers, it’s still nice to have around.

Bongos2: I use Bongos2 for my bars. I shrank it as small as I could since I’ve mapped every option to a key at this point. Anything I need to click on is at the top anyway.

Recount: See previous post on this excellent measurement and raid diagnostic tool. Has meters for everything and you can output the information into raid. Warning: Can inflate ego.

Stuff you don’t see

All that stuff above was meant primarily for raiding and healing. Here’s all the addons that make other aspects of WoW a little easier to manage.

ATSW: It stands for Advance Trade Skills Window. I use it to keep track of and sort my various enchanting and tailoring recipes easily. Might be abandoning it soon due to lack of support. Exploring for some alternatives.

Cartographer: This handles my mapping functions. Shows my coordinates, and tracks herbs/mining nodes and the like.

 TipTac: This is a particularly useful addon. It’s a simple tooltip information window. In this case, all I did was mouse over Maeve and it displays information like his title, Guild, buffs, health, spec, and who else has him targetted. It sure as hell beats the default tooltip in the game.

Swatter: Do you have annoying UI error messages that seem to show up? I use Swatter mostly to debug the information and then close it afterwards. Doesn’t seem to be in active development as I can’t find a link.

XLoot: It’s a looting interface. It’s a simple remake of the default loot window.

XRS: It stands for X Raid Status. This raid leading addon echoes what buffs are missing from the raid. Make sure you have an A. Like Kilmster says, rain of fire is serious business. Full buffs should be granted before attempting to go into one.

Stinky Queue: Lets me group queue into Alterac Valley. Will be obsolete once 2.4 comes.

oRA2: I had to install this addon to please the brass. This is the Patriot Act for raid leaders. I give up my privacy so that I can raid. With it, they can see the durability of my armor, reagents, potions, underwear size and so on.

Itemrack: Lets me switch outfits with a click of a mouse button. I can go from suave and sophisticated to smooth and sexy in under a second. No more having to search through bags and equipping every piece of gear manually.

Caster Weapon Swapper: Automates the switching of weapons. I use it to manage my Spellsurge, mana regen, and healing staves. It switches them based on my mana pool and what I’m doing. I wrote a post about it a while ago.

Aloft: Replaces the default Blizzard name plates.

Atlasloot Enhanced: It’s a database of items obtainable from vendors and drops from bosses.

Proximo: If you plan on doing any kind of Arena PvP, you will want this addon. Helps you identify and coordinate your efforts on taking down players in PvP.

Class Specific

Serenity: It’s a priest specific addon, I believe. It just announces who I’m ressing and Shackling in chat.

Totemus: Similar to Serenity, Totemus is for my Resto. Shaman and shows me the time remaining on my totems.

Pally Power: This is a must have for any Paladin. Handles Blessings without you losing your mind.

5 Barriers of a Raid Healer – Part 1: Indecision

5 Barriers of a Raid Healer – Part 1: Indecision

Photo courtesy of dnabil

Each Saturday for the next five weeks, I will be writing about one barrier of the raid healer. Healers are often overshadowed and looked over since we are expected to simply know what to do. With luck, this five part series will help you to become a better raid healer whether you are a varsity or a freshman.

Barrier 1: No definable targets

I want to share with you a real life example. The connection will become apparent soon enough. Whenever I go out to the mall with my friends, we would idly go through every single clothing store in every part of the mall (especially true when travelling with companions of the female persuasion)

The guys would mill about at the front of a store like American Eagle and the girls would actually go into the store to do their shopping (and gossiping). Us men would talk business such as the latest sports news (“did you see that last fight at the game?”), discuss recent stuff in tech (“do you think that video card makes my PC look fat?”) or chat about gaming (“she thinks I pay more attention to that level 70 warrior from Tichon then I do to her!”).

And then 12 PM would strike.

Someone (usually me) would clasp their hands together and say it’s time for lunch! This is inevitable followed by a chorus of “where to’s?”. All that walking around (and shopping bag holding by the guys) does work up a healthy appetite. And no one would have any idea where to go for lunch.

Lack of targets

Everyone had all sorts of ideas. Here’s a typical example:

“Let’s go for dim sum!”
“Fast food sounds good!”
“Food court will be packed. How about the pub?”
“I’m okay with anything. You guys pick!”
“Sushi!”
“I don’t care as long as I eat something in the next 15 minutes!”

(For bonus points, can you guess which one was my catch phrase?)

Does this sound similar to your healing channel? I often find myself unsure of who to heal when I’m the odd Dwarf out in another Guild’s raid. There are no assignments being issued. It’s quite apparent that there seems to be a lack of an infrastructure. No one was taking charge. No one knows who to heal. All the healers are free healing which leads to an occasional tank death or 2.

During the 40 man raid chaos era, I found out quickly that it was impossible to do it all. I restricted myself to a set number of targets. Learn which players are most likely to take damage and stay on target. Don’t wander around with your mouse. Every spell, every action, every movement should be done with a purpose. Heal with a player and a purpose in mind.

This does not mean that it’s against the rules to heal outside your targets. If I notice another player in the raid who isn’t a part of my assignments take a big hit, I will switch to that player to shield and PoM them. That’s generally enough time to absorb another hit and it keeps that person alive long enough for someone else to pick them back up again.

Playing the transition game from 5 to 25 players is a big leap. It can be very difficult to adjust to. The problem isn’t your healing. It’s who you’re healing. And until you get those targets straightened out with your colleagues, you’re going to continue to suck without the proper direction.

Signs of an indecisive healer:

  • You constantly switch back and forth among players which results in raid deaths because you don’t actually heal them.
  • You have a full mana bar almost all the time because of inaction.
  • You feel helpless, dazed, and confused.
  • Your healing is fair, but the difference between you and other healers on meters is a pretty significant difference.

If you begin displaying any of these symptoms, take a step back and analyze your technique. Ask for help. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are times I’ve wanted to scream at players in my own raid because we wiped when they didn’t know what to do and they never spoke up about it. So the next time you’re in a raid and no one appears to be taking charge, announce your intentions about who your healing target is. It’s one step in the right direction.