More Surge of Light Cues

More Surge of Light Cues

After speaking with Joe about the supposed DPS spells we need to use to help sustain our mana, I couldn’t help but notice the Surge of Light UI additions. If your Smite casts happen to activate a Surge of Light, this is what appears on your screen:

sol

In the middle of my screen, you can see the two wings appear on either side of my Priest. This indicates Surge of Light is up. Not only that, if you look on the bottom left, my Flash Heal is now glowing. Its these little UI enhancements and improvements which should help make it a little easier on everyone especially for players who are just getting started as Priests. You get a visual cue that you have the option of a free heal and where it is on your bars. Traditionally, most Priests relied on addons such as Power Auras or some other addon which gave them visual cues when Surge of Light was up. Other stubborn Priests (like me) simply kept a close eye on buff bars to see when it was up.

Personally, I think this is a nice touch for the Priests.

Holy Power and More for the Post-Cataclysmic Paladin

Holy Power and More for the Post-Cataclysmic Paladin

Please give a warm World of Matticus welcome to guest-blogger Ophelie, and remember to visit Bossy Pally for more great Paladin posts!

I came home from a weekend in the wilderness to discover my class turned upside down. That’s what happens when you spend two days and a night in the middle of nowhere without internet. You come back and you’re lost.

As I was scrambling to piece together the bits of news, Matt suggested I guest post about it. Guest post about the paladin news, of course, not my scrambling. So I did what I always do when having to talk about Cataclysm news. I grabbed a pen, some paper and called up Google.

And if that wasn’t enough, a new beta build was released between then and now, just for confusion purposes.

So…here’s what I found out, and there’s what I think of it all.

Apparently, last Friday there was a certain Twitter Developer Chat. Apparently, some paladiny stuff was said. Apparently, it was stuff like:

All of the paladin specializations will make use of a new resource called Holy Power. Holy Power accumulates from using Crusader Strike, Holy Shock, and some other talents. Holy Power can be consumed to augment a variety of abilities, including:

An instant mana-free heal: Word of Glory
A buff to increase holy damage done: Inquisition
A massive physical melee attack for Retribution paladins: Templar’s Verdict
Holy Shield’s duration is now extended by Holy Power
Divine Storm’s damage is now increased by Holy Power

We also introduced several new heals for Holy Paladins including Healing Hands (an AoE heal-over-time that is applied to all players standing near the paladin), Light of Dawn (a cone heal with a 30-yard range), as well as a new heal called Divine Light, which is similar to a priest’s Greater Heal, and the new instant heal mentioned above, Word of Glory.

As for the release of new talents builds, for those of us who aren’t lucky enough to witness them first hand, here’s a link to the MMO Champion version.

I’m going to stick with the holy side of the things, because I’m primarily a healer and this, after all, is primarily a healing blog. I’m also going to stick with the big picture and what stood out to me. I figure anyone who really cares about the nitty gritty details has already read (if not tested) them anyway.

Back to the dev chat news, in other words, we get a new bar (like a health or mana bar, and yes it’s currently supposed to be an actual bar and not cute circles on our screen) to record stacked up combo-like points as we cast Holy Shock, as we directly heal our Beacon target (via the Tower of Radiance talent) and possibly as we do other things. We’re then given Word of Glory, a get-out-of-jail free card for when there’s need to fill in one of the gaps caused by Holy Shock cooldowns.

More Bars, More Bars!

When I first heard of a Holy Power bar, I froze for a second, worried that my mana bar was being replaced. But no, they’re actually adding a new bar and not removing old bars. I like that. It gives us something else to keep our eyes on and to make the mental hamster run faster. It’s not too complex, after all, last I heard, Holy Power only stacked up to 3. 3 points is totally something I can keep track of.

Forcing us to use Holy Shock regularly, keeping track of Holy Power stacks and deciding when to use a finishing move is a small but welcome addition to the holy paladin thought process.

EDIT : In the comments, Esh, who’s been playing in the beta, reported that Holy Power is actually a buff icon and not a bar, at least at lower levels. It’s been assumed that Holy Power would be a bar due to a post by Ghostcrawler, but a buff icon certainly makes more sense.

Holy Shock: A Love Story

Personal confession time: I love Holy Shock. I’ve always loved Holy Shock. Holy Shock and I go way back. Holy Shock was the whole reason I specced Holy in the first place (hey I was new to the game and didn’t realize there were more efficient ways to deal damage). Though I eventually discovered it wasn’t the wonderful spell I had imagined, it’s still been there for me through all the hard times. Whenever I needed to quickly save someone without abandoning the tanks, it didn’t hesitate. It was my companion during all those ICC fights that had me casting and running (and cursing!) at the same time.  It listened to all my problems and never laughed at me… Erm. Moving on.

In one sentence, it should come as no surprised that I’m thrilled to see Holy Shock finally getting the game mechanics buff it deserves.

Oh, and if adding importance to Holy Shock wasn’t enough, its mana cost is brought down to 8% from 18% and it helps with all the slow casting via the talents Infusion of Light and Speed of Light, somewhat replacing the current Light’s Grace.

There’s also a new spell, Holy Mending, that gives Holy Shock a small heal over time. 15% of a Holy Shock over 9 seconds seems a little silly, but, um, you know, at least they’re trying.

EDIT: Ryonar left an excellent comment that is unfortunately stuck in pending comment limbo. He pointed out that Holy Mending is already in the game: it’s the tier 8 2p bonus. The MMO Champion Paladin page makes it look like a skill trainable at level 80. It either a bug, or it’s becoming a permanent skill in the expansion.

Addressing the Movement Issue

Remember what I said about casting and running at the same time?

Sorry, I couldn’t heal I was moving.”

How often has an embarrassed paladin said that following a premature tank death? (There’s also the slightly more disturbing “sorry, I couldn’t move I was healing”.)

To me, the new emphasis placed on Holy Shock, and the addition of Word of Glory, another instant heal, looks like an attempt to make movement more manageable. I’m curious to see how much assistance the final mechanics of Healing Hands and Light of Dawn end up providing to the current movement impaired paladin. As of now, both are instant and both seem to allow movement during the spell effect.

Healing Hands even increases movement speed by up to 60% when talented into Speed of Light. Being someone who staged a large protest when she couldn’t fit Pursuit of Justice into all her paladin specs, my stomach did summersaults when I discovers the good news.

Feelin’ Like a Paladin

Like druid healers and their tree forms, like shamans with their skirts, like priests with, um, whatever is meaningful to priests (normally I’d make a joke about priests always being dead, but for some reason, it feels like a bad idea to do that here), us paladins have a sense of identity too.

In our history, we’ve been blasphemized. We’ve been forced to wear certain pieces of mail gear because it was better itemized than plate. (Min/maxers even went as far as equipping the Meteor Chaser’s Raiment, which is made of toilet paper, of all things). Again and again, we’ve been sent to the back of the room with all the casters. Many of us were even deprived of shields, resigning ourselves to carrying orbs or lamps in our off-hands. The horrors just never end.

On top of it all, Cataclysm promises to lessen the differences between the healing classes, in an effort to promote Blizzard’s “blame the player not the class” campaign (or was it, “bring the player, not the class”? I can never get it straight.)

But you know what?

I’m ok with it.

Seriously. Healing Hands and Light of Dawn introduce some multi-target healing beyond the limitations of Beacon of Light and Glyph of Holy Light. Healing Hands and Holy Mending/Holy Shock also flirt with heals over time, another element lacking in paladin healing.

Yet, while the end results are similar from one class to another, our ways to reach those ends are tailored to our unique paladin interests (special little snowflakes that we are). The mechanics of our new spells encourage us to get up close and personal (hopefully, my stubborn plate wearing tendencies will finally be useful) and Holy Power…

Ah! Holy Power!

I can just picture my little paladin puffing up with zealousness as she casts, then unleashing it all in one blow.

Oh, and yes, I do agree with Rohan and a number of others in their preference for the term Zeal. The concept of Holy Power is terrific, the name Holy Power, however, makes me think of energy drinks.

But you know that when we’ve reduced ourselves to complaining about semantics, we’re finally getting some pretty promising Cataclysm news.

Understanding New Talents and Thoughts on Priests

Last week, it was announced that talent trees would get sliced. Reason being that there was too much unnecessary crap and not enough fun talents. Most of us sort of got the idea of what they wanted to do. Include more talents that do something tangible, that we can feel or use.

Potentially free Lightning Bolt after casting a Lightning Bolt? Cool.

Gradually increasing healing by some random percentage of which you can’t really see? Not quite as exciting.

Preview the new trees and see what they’ll look like

How specialization works

Okay, so the way I understand it, the moment you ding level 10, you get to start specializing your character. The moment you invest your first talent, you get access to a myriad of spells and abilities which define that particular tree.

Let’s use a Priest for example.

As Holy

I get access to:

  • Desperate Prayer
  • Holy Priest (Pushback reduction on discipline and holy spells)
  • Meditation

As Discipline

I get access to:

  • Penance
  • Pushback resistance
  • Meditation

From what I can see, no special training is required. You are well on your way to becoming that specialized priest of your choice. There won’t be any 20/21 type builds either. You need to fully invest your points down one tree before you can fork over to a different one. The rate at which you receive talents points have been roughly halved as well. Figure you get a new point every 2 or maybe 3 levels.

What do I think?

My opinion though, I’m not sure what can be done to entice players to select holy at the lower levels. I notice a few sad face Priests when they notice that Desperate Prayer is the innate spell we get. Desperate Prayer makes the most sense for balance and logistical reasons (like what’s the point of getting Circle of Healing at level 10?) At that stage of the game, you’re hardly doing much in a party anyway. At least with the prayer, you can fire off a desperate heal if you pulled one too many murlocs.

I can’t count the number of times where I could’ve easily leveled the murlocs and their huts if I had access to Desperate Prayer.

Anyway, I can certainly see the foundation of Holy taking place. I’m trying to remember what the original 41 point talent was back in vanilla (Spirit of Redemption? Lightwell?). Now if they can just somehow throw in something new in place of Renew or Empowered Healing at the first level under Holy. What would be a decent ability at that level?

Holy seems quite top heavy in the sense that any of the deeper talents could easily fulfill the role as the 31 point talent. Guardian Spirit is the current one. Circle of Healing used to be the end talent back during Burning Crusade, if memory serves. I wouldn’t mind seeing Chakra and Guardian Spirit switched. From a symbolic perspective, I think a talent like that which gives your spells nifty bonuses whenever you string them together should be an ultimate skill.

But that’s inspired from assorted limit breaks from Final Fantasy.

From a logistical and practical standpoint? It might be better off if priests get a feel for Chakra earlier in their leveling life.

The Discipline side of things looks great! Power Word: Barrier as the 31 pointer? Awesome. It appears that Discipline is destined to be the leveling spec (due to Evangelism and Archangel).

One thing I noticed is the placement of Inner Focus. At 11 points in, it will not be accessible to Holy priests. I don’t know if that’s intentional or not. Inner Focus has been one of those taken-for-granted type talents that all healing priests usually get. For it to be cut off like for those that choose the path of Holy is going to be quite the impact. Here’s hoping it gets switched with Archangel.

Anyway, I like the direction the talent condensation is going. Obviously they’re not all complete or finalized yet. Some classes still have a few placeholders or leftover talents from live that aren’t supposed to be there.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m going to have a heck of a time figuring out which healing priest type I want to switch to. I’ll probably end up dual speccing both anyway. I might just go back to my roots and be straight up holy again in the expansion.

How are you liking the talents so far? (And it doesn’t have to be restricted to just priests either)!

The Body and Soul Spec

I’ll admit, I’ve always dismissed Body and Soul as an odd talent that had little to no use in raids. Players should be able to run out of anything dangerous on their own or with the aid of a boot speed enchant if they’re slow. As such, I’ve never really considered it at all.

But ever since that Power Word: Fail round table event held by the Raid Warning guys where Aliena, Derevka and myself chatted, I had to reconsider. Have I mentioned that they’re my personal favourite podcast crew to work with?

The spec

Here it is (14/57/0)

This is the one I’d use as it has many of the traditional elements of a Holy spec. You can shift your points around from Empowered Healing, Blessed Resilience, and Test of Faith accordingly based on your own preferences. Personally, I favor Blessed Resilience but that’s because I’m aware of what kind of an effect it has. You may prefer Test of Faith for the extra throughput (even though it is conditional). If you’re not a Flash Heal or Greater Heal type of player, you might opt for full points in Blessed Resilience and Test of Faith. Anyway, that discussion is for a separate post entirely (hopefully soon assuming Derevka has spare time at some point).

Why would you ever use Body and Soul?

For me, I’ve discovered that it has extra utility in progression fights. The talent a minor run speed increase for 4 seconds which is enough to give players a quick boost when running away. When learning fights for the first time, I often use this at specific times.

In an extremely high level raiding guild, I would argue that this talent is unnecessary. Players can easily handle movement fights and do not require the aid of extra sprint abilities to escape hostile spells. It’s just not necessary. Connections and computers are at peak efficiency resulting in near-zero lag. Situational awareness is so high that players will move without realizing that they had to move.

But not every guild is like that. Not every raid can perform like that. For me, I need to look at every possible edge I can utilize in an encounter. Nothing frustrates me more than a player who is unable to outrun a Sindragosa explosion, or a Necrotic Plague on Lich King or any number of other abilities because of technical problems. Doesn’t matter how good the player is as bad connectivity connections will almost always negate that. I can’t make everyone’s connection super awesome. I can’t magically snap my fingers and create 102 FPS conditions. The next best thing I can do is cast a spell that’ll make people run quicker and get them out of dangerous situations faster. I may not be able to account for lag, but I can at least function as a safety net and buy an extra second or two for that player and help them live when they otherwise would have been lost.

Just keep in mind that it might annoy your Discipline Priest. 

Anyway, it’s largely used on progression fights to help “smooth” things over until a fight “clicks”. You’re giving up potential throughput for increased (but selective) movement speed which comes in handy for heavy movement bosses. Plus it also makes the run back from wipes slightly quicker and I know I won’t be last back! Go ahead and give it a shot. Let me know what you think.

Thespius and Matticus featured on “Power Word: Fail”

Thespius and Matticus featured on “Power Word: Fail”

Image is courtesy of Brian Hough.

Kind of a fun title, no?  I’m ready to let the “fail” jokes ensue!  Mwa-ha-ha-ha!

In all seriousness, the folks over at Raid Warning (xSeven and Epiphanize) have assembled this special podcast (scheduled to be released March 1st) – a roundtable of some of the community’s most prominent priests.

Raid Warning’s last roundtable, Wild Shots, was a huge hit.  It was a roundtable of some very well-known hunters in the community.  You can follow links on their site to listen.

As for Power Word: Fail, I cannot be more excited for this event.  I’ve been recording with these guys for a while, and it’s always a blast.  If Wild Shots is any indication of the level of discussion we’ll have, then you’re sure to get some detailed insight into “The State of the Priest”.

Here’s who you’ll have the pleasure of hearing:

This podcast is going to center around questions you provide by emailing Raid Warning here.  We take your questions and discuss them throughout the podcast, as well as current news and speculation. 

I hope you’ll all submit questions, and check it out on March 1st!

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

The Flash of Light Spec

This is a guest post by @Dtotheug

What spec and glyphs should I should I use as a Holy Paladin for raiding?

That is a good question and really depends on how you want to play and what your role is in the raid. Currently there are two prevailing specs and each have their plus and minuses.

The first spec is the Flash of Light spec (51/5/15) which focuses on a bigger Flash of Light (FoL) heal, more mitigation via Sacred Shield (because Sacred Shield scales with Spell Power), increases the HoT effect of your Infusion of Light talent, and relies more on your healing spells to crit. The problem with this spec is that if you are not mostly using FoL you’re going to have to watch your mana pool closely because Holy Lights and Holy Shocks are going to eat through your mana pool.

This spec also greatly benefits from the four piece bonus of the T9 set which increases the HoT of your FoL by 100%. The major glyphs I would recommend if you are thinking about using this spec are Glyph of Seal of Light, Glyph of Beacon Light, and Glyph of Flash of Light.

Glyph of Seal of Light is a flat 5% increase to your healing spells and since you will be criting more with this spec (which means more mana being returned) you won’t have to worry about your mana as much, which means this glyph is going to benefit you more than the Glyph of Seal of Wisdom.

Glyph of Beacon of Light is chosen because it is going to add 30 seconds to Beacon of Light which means you don’t have to worry about it dropping off your target as quickly. In addition you won’t have to worry about trying to cast Beacon of Light and Sacred Shield (both have a 30 second durations) at the same time, it will also conserve some mana because you won’t be casting it as much, and plus it will let you focus on using your healing spells more.

Glyph of Flash of Light is a must have for this spec. It increases the crit chance of your Flash of Light by 5% which calculates out to a 1.5% mana return and a 2.5% increase on your Flash of Light heals.

If you are going to be the main tank healer in a 10-man or 25-man ICC raid I would suggest against this spec, you’re are going to be clicking FoL so much you may break your mouse. There are two situations when I would use this spec. The first is if this is my off-spec and I was running a 10-man or 25-man and if an extra healer was needed, I would step in. Between your Beacon of Light, Sacred Shield, and FoLs, this should give the other healers in your raid the buffer area they need to keep everyone topped off.

The other situation I would use this spec in is if I was backing up the main tank healer or helping with raid healing in a 25-man raid. Your FoLs will be filling in the gaps of the other healers and help keep everyone topped off.

EDIT: Forgot to mention there’s a part 2 coming

Looking at the Holy Priest Renew Spec

Looking at the Holy Priest Renew Spec

There is a discussion that has spawned on Plus Heal about the high use of Renew in T9 and T10 raids. Some players were asking about it and I felt it was enough to touch on and elaborate further about here.

What is it?

The Renew heavy spec: Take a look.

holy-renew-spec

It’s essentially a 14/57/0 Holy priest build but there are a few key talents that are missing. Almost all direct healing spells do not get talented. Talent staples such as Empowered Healing, Divine Fury, and Improved Healing are skipped over entirely. Instead, Blessed Resilience, Empowered Renew and Test of Faith are all taken and maxed out for amplified Renew… age.

Single target healing spells aren’t used much.

Flash Heal would mostly be used during Surge of Light procs (when they’re free). When looking at spell usages, it’ll be a mixture of Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending and lots of Renews until the cooldowns are available. Prayer of Healing is another option when strong AoE heals are needed.

For glyphs, it would consist largely of:

A case could be made to include glyph of Renew in lieu of Guardian Spirit but that’s assuming that cooldowns might not be needed. I don’t know, the ability to boost healing received every minute is like a reverse 2 minute DPS cooldown, you know?

You can expect a really high amount of overhealing to come from this style of play especially when you are paired with multiple Druids. The line of thinking here though is to sustain your raiders and "slow down" whatever damage ticks they are taking long enough for a Chain Heal, or a Holy Light to bring them back up to the green zone.

What are the benefits?

Master of Priestcrafting, Zusterke, points out that:

  • A glyphed Flash Heal costs roughly the same as Renew
  • Both spells can trigger Holy Concentration
  • An Empowered Renew can hit with an instant heal in the 2-3k range (Flash Heal takes 1.5s to produce a 5k-6k heal)
  • Renew is a HoT and still produces healing after it is applied
  • It doesn’t require a glyph (although the glyph is handy)

Where could I apply it?

In Icecrown, I can think of several instances where a heavy Renew style would be very beneficial. Against Lord Marrowgar, Bone Spike Graveyards can be cushioned quite easily. Lady Deathwhisper, jus about every player would benefit and those caught in death and decay have an extra second or two to bail out. On Saurfang, players suffering from Mark of the Champion would have some increased insurance.

In the Plagueworks when fighting Festergut, the gases that damage the entire raid can be mitigated with a whole bunch of Renews. Against Rotface, even though the healing is halved, those affected by the slime debuff when they have to run out could move a bit further before a dispel is necessary. It’s also great for stabilizing the raid after one of those Oozes explode. When engaging Professor Putricide, preemptively Renewing the raid just before a green ooze makes contact or on any number of other aspects of the fight can grant a slight edge.

To finalize

I’m going to give this a shot this week and see how it works out. It’s not quite the same as dropping shields all over the place, but you can see the similarity when it comes to "blanketing the raid".

Anyway, it’s a style and spec to consider so keep an open mind.

The Gearing Process to ToC 10 for a Priest

This is a guest post by Aleph, who chronicled his early end game gearing process.

Upon levelling my priest to level 80 and looking at joining my guild’s raid team as a healer, I found that I hit a barrier where I simply had no means of gaining any new gear that would get me up to Naxx10 level and therefore enter the raiding circuit as it were.

Before I continue I should make a few things clear.

I play in seasons. I play from June/July to September, then break until December and play until early January, taking a break until Easter time where I play for most of April. This makes it take amazingly long for me to achieve almost anything in WoW.

So, brand new level 80! How to begin?

Develop a routine

Well, the first thing you’ll want to do is start developing a daily circuit. The length of your circuit (and therefore the amount of dailies involved) depends on your playtime per day. I had a very limited playtime and so I found it was easier to focus on one zone at a time. I started with Icecrown and the Knights of the Ebon Blade faction. I began at the Shadow Vault and gathered up the daily quests available there. I completed these and flew down to the quest hub at the Overlook which is on the cliff just east of the Scarlet Onslaught Harbor. I Completed all three of the dailies there, then flew to the Skybreaker and collected the daily quests there (I omitted the pvp quest because it took me too long to complete it). What people miss sometimes are the two quests on the ground. Upon completion of these quests you can either head over to the Argent Tournament or return to the Shadow Vault depending on the amount of play time you have left. You should repeat this until you have enough reputation to purchase some of the items from the Ebon Blade Quatermaster then move on to another faction.

Build up reputation

Make sure to go around and buy a tabard from the four factions you can get a rep tabard from, Kirin Tor, The Wyrmrest Accord, Knights of the Ebon Blade and The Argent Crusade. While doing your Daily rounds, go to the LFG interface and chose from the level 80 dungeons. These are: “Caverns of Time: Culling of Stratholme”; “Trial of the Champion” (this gives excellent loot); “The Nexus: Oculus”; “Ulduar: Halls of Lightning”; “Utgarde Keep: Utgarde Pinnacle”. Run at least one of these a day with your tabard for the faction you’re working on reputation for until you no longer need reputation with that faction. Then switch to another tabard and start the process again.

Do homework

While doing this, ask around for the generally accepted stats for your class/role for heroics are for your realm. On my realm it was around 1.5k spell power for a holy priest. It is possible that disc priests (or other classes) may have an easier time healing the easier heroics thanks to the damage mitigation. Luckily I had the dual spec and had shadow as my secondary spec. Some of my guild mates offered to take me to Violet Hold Heroic mode as a DPS. I accepted and got a lot of reputation and even a few healing items. If you get a chance to join onto a heroic as your off-spec, go for it; don’t worry about being a fifth wheel.

Buy gear

Once you’ve done a few days worth of daily quests and have built up a decent buffer of gold, visit the auction house and look for any BoE Epics or Rares that you can buy. If you are unsure about what items to buy, ask your friends or guild mates. I bought two items, one epic and one rare item, these allowed me to begin running heroics.

Farm for badges

By now you should be almost ready to start doing heroics. This is where our tactic changes. You’ll want to set your hearthstone to one of the inns in Dalaran as this will be your new base of operations. If you haven’t been doing so already, you should start picking up the normal daily dungeon quest. Each day, log in at Dalaran and go to the Violet Hold where you will find two daily quest givers. On your left as you enter is where the normal dungeon daily quest can be found and on your right are the heroic versions. We’ll be turning right and collecting the normal daily quest for now. Once you have the daily quest put yourself in the LFG for the level 80 dungeons, making sure you’re queuing for the one the quest is located in! Then go out of Dalaran and continue with your daily quest circuit until you get into a group for a dungeon. Go to the dungeon then at the end, hearthstone (or take a mage portal) back to Dalaran and hand in the quest. It is important that you hand in the daily dungeon quest before the daily quests reset. The idea here is to gain as many badges of heroism and triumph as possible in the shortest time. As you may know, Badges of Heroism drop from bosses in heroic dungeons and Badges of Triumph are gained (at this point) from handing in the daily dungeon heroic. With this in mind, it is advisable to (If possible) try to set up a day where you and four other people clear all of the heroics at once. This will greatly increase the amount of badges you can get. Otherwise continue with your other dailies.

Once you have collected enough gear from these activities and think you will perform well enough in heroic mode dungeons, join the LFG queue for Utgarde Keep (Heroic mode).The heroic dungeons are in a separate list to the normal dungeons. Go on the Utgarde Keep run and see how well you perform. If you think it is necessary, ask the other group members how they think you performed. If you did well, start joining some more difficult heroics. Look up which are the easiest and do those first. Then, as you get more gear, advance up the heroics. By the time you can do heroics like Halls of Lightning, Halls of Stone and Oculus, you should be looking at entry level Naxxramas, depending on the gear you have accumulated. If you haven’t, don’t worry. By now, you should have collected quite a few Emblems of Conquest and perhaps some Emblems of triumph from the heroic daily quest. These can be spent in Dalaran in the Horde and Alliance sections of the city. Each badge type has its own vendor. Look at the vendors and look for items which would benefit you the most. Work out what you should buy first (always go for the item that will give the biggest increase) and buy it. After a couple of days, perhaps weeks, depending on how many heroics a day you run. If it is possible, try to set up a day where you and four other people clear all of the heroics at once. This will greatly increase the amount of badges you can get. Also, don’t forget to get the heroic and normal daily quests each day because you can complete the normal quests while in heroic mode as well.

A good measure for when you are Naxx ready is when you have over half of the superior achievement completed. That means getting at least eight i187 items or better before setting foot in Naxx. Some PUG Naxxramas groups might require you to have the entire superior (and even sometimes the epic version as well) but for guild runs, get a guildy to /inspect you to check out your gear. They will generally say whether you are undergeared or not in comparison with the rest of the guild. Just make sure you let the raid leader know that you are now available for raiding and they should factor you into the next run or two. At this stage, you will probably be under a trial period, in which make sure to put 110% effort into the raids so that the raid management see you as a player who benefits the entire raid and not someone who is a liability.

Get your feet wet

This part is one where it is almost required to be in a guild. If you want to get up to ToC 10 level, you will want to be making regular forays into Naxxramas 10. So, once you’re in your guild run, clearing the quarters, gathering up loot left and right, how do you improve and get to the next level of content (Ulduar10)? Well, the best way to get to the next level is for your guild to get to the next level of content. At this point it is inadvisable to join any PUG raids as you will want to be fully focused on guild progression. If you think your guild is not moving fast enough, offer to take more responsibility in raids, work on tactics that work specifically for your guild, offer to set up the healing assignments or, even offer to set up another night of raiding for the guild (make sure you have the green light from above before doing this). This post is not about progression however. Once your guild has cleared the four quarters and has made decent attempts on the last two bosses, you should be able to begin Ulduar 10 raids, depending on your raid team’s gear/ability. Also look for any Obsidian Sanctum 10 or Eye of Eternity 10 raids as the two instances offer some nice items which can help a lot in Ulduar10.

I would recommend that, once your guild is in Ulduar 10 and has cleared a few bosses that you join a Naxxramas 25 pickup group in order to gain a few items that will help you to advance in Ulduar. Guilds seem to advance fairly steadily through Ulduar, provided that their gear is adequate for the level of content and also that they have the drive to progress. Progression will be faster with a group of dedicated, intelligent people who generally know what they’re doing. If you are hoping to find guides to the bosses here, you can find Ulduar healing ones and Trial of the Crusader ones.

If your guild has really got stuck into Ulduar10 and have arrived at Yogg-Saron, I would recommend attempting to take him down before moving on to the next raid. You don’t have to, but it’s a great fight in the way that all of the players must be on top form and concentrating 100% for the entire fight. So! Once you have successfully cleared Ulduar, chances are you have already attempted the newly refurbished Onyxia’s lair. You will get some nice gear upgrades from here, mainly the helm, but once this has been done, you are pretty much out of content before ToC10. This is where you have two options.

  1. Go on to ToC10 and give it a try.
  2. Return to Ulduar and gear up some more.

I would recommend you give ToC a try unless you’re woefully unconfident with your gear level. This is where we utilize one of the great tools of the internet.

What’s the next step?

You don’t have to follow this next step if you disagree or disapprove of this practice. I am talking about LootRank. There are a few sites out there that offer this service but I use Guildox for it. Mainly because if you are not familiar with the parameters you want, you can pick one of their sample templates which fills out the information based on the class/spec combo you use. You can also link your characters gear to it which helps by highlighting any items you already have. Once you press view loot ranking, a list will appear which has a section for each slot (and enchantments) which are ranked from 1 -7 in the order they appear. A good idea is going over to WoW Head and using the item comparison page to double check if the items are for you. This way you can make sure you’ll get what you need. You can check where the gear drops so for example I see that the top staff for me would be the Icecore Staff. I can see that it drops from Hodir in Ulduar10 H. It is important that you see the H as the staff only drops if you defeat Hodir before he shatters his rare cache. It is advisable to use this tool as you look to enter ToC10.

After several raids at this content level, you should be more than ready to have a valid attempt at ToC10. However, perhaps your guild has not been gearing up as zealously as you have and do not want to go into ToC 10. While they will most likely leap at it, if they do not, you may want to look around your server to see if any other guilds are running it and see if they have a space for you on their next raid. If that fails, you could always attempt to PUG it, although this may not be very successful. The best plan, I think is to help your guildies to gear up quickly by giving any hints or tips you might have learned on your journey to ToC10. Patience is a key requirement for this stage. Please keep in mind that most guilds will charge into ToC10 before even defeating Yogg-Saron and so the last paragraphs or two are completely useless.

Now you should be ready for ToC 10 man! Good luck and happy raiding!

Bubbles and Crits, part 2: What the Hell Took you so Long?

This is a guest post by jeffo, a Paladin blogger from Looking For More.

Way back on September 15 I posted ‘Bubble and Crits: 3.0 to 3.2’.  In that post, I examined the development of Holy Paladins from the release of Wrath up to the much-feared Great Illumination Nerf of 2009 (i.e. Patch 3.2), and looked at how the changes to mana regeneration across the board in that patch ‘encouraged’ Holy Paladins to go from a Holy/Ret Crit-based spec into a Holy/Prot spec that focused on mitigation through Divine Sacrifice and Divine Guardian.  I concluded that the Illumination nerf didn’t hurt these so-called ‘Bubble Spec’ Paladins that badly after all, and vowed to follow up with a look at how ‘Critadins’ were holding up in the mana department.

Obviously, it never happened.

While you shouldn’t accept flimsy excuses (and I try not to offer them), allow me a moment to explain. Just after the article posted my guild headed back into Ulduar, with me planning on firing up the old reliable 51/0/20 spec and seeing for myself how my mana pool held up.  Would I be soaking up Innervates, sucking down Mana pots and leaving my partner stuck on a limb? Would we need a third healer just for me to get by?  I was a little worried, but thought it would be a good experiment. Off we went.

After clearing Flame Leviathan we rode down the hall straight to Deconstructor – ‘Crybaby’, as we call him. The trash was dispatched with no trouble, my mana was fine so far, and we began setting up. As I watched Crybaby doing his calisthenics, two words popped into my head:  Tympanic Tantrum.  I looked at the raid. I looked at Crybaby. I thought about the potential time wasted and gold spent on repairs if we wiped, and thought about how much damage Divine Sacrifice can absorb.

And I swapped into the Bubble Spec.

When we got to Kologarn I thought about how I was likely to get Eyebeamed at the same time my partner would get gripped (it’s happened before). ‘Hmm, that’s a great situation for bubble-sac’ thought I, and I stayed in the Bubble Spec. Hodir?  Frozen Blows, nuff said.  Mimiron – well, Divine Sacrifice seems like it was made with Mimiron in mind. In short, for every situation we were heading into, I found a reason to stay in my Bubble Spec.

My inner Critadin never got off the bench.

A promise is a promise, however, and I aimed to deliver something to Matticus. My next step was to post a new thread at Plus Heal asking for feedback from holdout Critadins. Unfortunately, most of the responses came from Bubble Boys talking about how much they loved the spec, so that turned into a dead end as well. This was getting tougher by the minute, but I pushed on.

I tried to pore over World of Log reports for other guilds to see how Critadins were doing, but that proved a bit too tedious – I have my limits, after all. I finally succumbed to a variation of the latest scourge to hit the world of the World of Warcraft – gear score.

I’m not a big fan of gear score, to be honest, but I thought it might work for me to some degree. I believed that checking the proportion of Critadins to Bubble Boys at the highest levels would give me an idea of how the spec was faring – after all, if the Crit spec fails, nobody would be using it, right?  So I checked the Holy Paladin list for my realm at WoW-Heroes and ran down the top 50 and checked their specs (I could have kept going, but my eyes started to bleed). 

The results were pretty interesting. 

Of the top 50 on my realm (based on gear score as supplied by WoW Heroes), we had 25 Critadins, 23 Bubble Boys, and 2 You Really Heal With That Spec? types (69 points in Holy? Really? But they must be doing something right, they’ve got better gear than me). 

Further food for thought

In the top 25, Bubbles led the way, 14-10.

Positions 26-50 saw Critadins outpace Bubbles 15-9.

The top 4 spots were split evenly between Bubbles and Crits.

What does it mean? Well, it means that Holy Paladins really are in a good place right now.  We’ve got not one, but two viable healing specs that can be used. Bubble Boys may bring a bit more utility to the raid, but there’s still a place for the Critadin, even in Hard Modes.  The giant-sized crits can keep up with the hardest-hitting bosses, and we have enough mana management tools available to keep from running dry.  It’s enough to make me think about hitting that ‘Activate These Talents’ button again…..

Next up from me – an evaluation of the changes Cataclysm brought to Paladins. Due six months after WoW 5.0 is released…

Shadow Priests Are Allowed to Divine Hymn

Yesterday’s post on hybrids spawned a great discussion on when it becomes useful for DPS players to switch out to different roles. Today, I wanted to expand it further and delve into the topic of Priests.

Now according to the Rules of Raiding #77:

DPS and tanking players should not have to heal.

It’s a good rule that states that if you’re in a DPS position or in a tanking position, there is no reason for you to have to change your role to heal. For one thing, you don’t have the spec or the bonuses or the gear to pull it off long term in an encounter.

If you’re a Shadow Priest, all you need to do is simply wail on the boss.

Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Rule #10 for instance states:

Every possible course of action should be considered by every player no matter what they do in order to beat the encounter.

In a case where rules may clash, rules that are lower on the scale will supercede the ones above it.

Let’s apply it.

Shadow Priests will almost never be called upon to drop their Shadow form to heal. It’s inefficient and often times unnecessary. But a Shadow Priest is still a Priest and they have access to some valuable cooldowns.

There is one in particular called Divine Hymn.

Don’t shy away from using it if you have to. As one of the healing leads, I look and see what cooldowns are available. I won’t hesitate to ask for Shadow Priests to Divine Hymn. I won’t hesitate to ask a Ret Paladin to use their bubble-sacrificing abilitiy. Feral Druids know that my Priest is the Hummer of healers in the guild and that I am one heck of a mana guzzling machine when I hit the accelerator. Yet I’m playing a hybrid class, right? (That’s a joke).

Anub’arak is a stressing fight for healers. This oversized frost beetle ramps it up a notch when he hits the 30% mark and everyone in the raid starts taking damage. A quick glance at the cooldowns available is followed by me barking out names and abilities. They respond with either an affirmative or a negative. This isn’t the time to debate why their cooldown isn’t up. Maybe a Paladin had to bubble earlier in the fight to survive. Stuff like that gets discussed after the fact, not during.

I run a total of four Priests during raids. Two are Shadow and the other two heal. Shadow Priests know they’re not going to be asked to drop form and heal (usually). But four Priests means access to four Divine Hymns which is extremely powerful during a a phase with high incoming damage.

The final point I want to stress is that a Shadow Priest isn’t required to keep the raid alive for long periods of time. That’s not their job. But they can help keep the raid stable enough for everyone else to stay alive and pile on their damage.

If you’re in a top 100 worldwide raiding guild, your Shadow Priests might not have to do it. For the rest of us, every option needs to be considered.