Special Delivery: Roundup Of This Week’s Best WoW Posts

Time for a look at the week that’s passed, before Wrath passes and we’re all sat waiting for the servers to come up or freezing our branches off in queues on Monday night. Ayup, this is the last roundup I’ll be doing before Cataclysm hits and while this week’s posts are all really interesting reads and useful for the coming Cataclysm, I’ve got a twinge of sadness. Everything will be a bit different come this time next week when the long wait’s over and I’m posting a roundup of blog posts talking about a new world.

Mind you, that’s what I’ll be doing over at MMO Melting Pot from the moment Cataclysm hits and people can tear themselves away from playing long enough to write. So come next weekend I’ll be used to the new, excitable blog posts about people doing rather than planning. Y’know, actually going out there and slaying them thar fish people/dragons/unfortunate critters caught in AoE. And then I can send you on to the ones more healery, more leaderish, more guild related.

This week’s bound to be an exciting time. But before we get there, have a read of last week’s healing and guild related blog posts. And talking of healing – don’t forget: if you want to join the new World of Matticus podcast, today is the last day for applications. C’mon, join us… we don’t bite.

  • Cataclysm Faction Rewards For Priests – this one kind of does what it says on the tin, but let me clarify a bit. Oestrus is guest posting at Ecclesiastical Discipline and has narrowed down the Cataclysm factions to the top three most useful to grind for your holy priesties out there. In each of her top three she goes into detail about the items you can pick up and why they’d be worth it. Great post, I wish there were more like it popping up for other classes/roles.
  • Be Prepared / Looking At Pre Raid Gear – two different posts from two excellent bloggers catering for the resto druids among us. Both Angelya and Rank4HealingTouch. The first post is Angelya’s: her guide is an extensive list of options to up for every slot including weapon slots. She’s given the items stat weightings for how useful they are and included the stat formula she’s based the list on. Looks like a great resource. Same can be said of the one from Rank4HealingTouch, though he says his post is a direct repasting of Elitist Jerks’ recommendations. This list has less options on it, which might suit indecisive folk (like me!)
  • Comparison of Healing Spells – this is a really interesting read given that we’re just going in to new content. Jasyla’s been looking in to how many spells each healing class has and has presented her findings in a combination of easily referenced tables followed by written analysis of each section. She’s gone through single target spells, AoE heals, cooldowns and extras. I’ve played all the healing classes and always wondered at the sheer amount of baggage my priest had to carry around with him in comparison to my druid, so Jasyla’s curiosity here is something I can really relate to.
  • Paladin Raid Healing – Porkchop (great name, right?) has an argument for paladins being just as capable in the raid healing department in any other class – especially come Cataclysm. He covers the holy paladin toolkit from hands to the shiny new AoE holy paladin spells and gives examples of how they can be used. Being completely honest here, holy paladin is my least played healer class so I’d be really interested to know if you agree with Porkchop or are inspired by his enthusiasm to the role. I’m not saying he’s wrong, I just don’t know as I lack the expertise for this class – what do you think?
  • The Hybrid’s Dilemma – Vidyala’s guild is preparing for Cataclysm and some of their members are changing characters for raiding. That includes Vidyala, who’s changing from a hybrid-capable druid to a single focus mage. She’s thought long and hard about it and recounts tales from her Wrath raiding experience of how being a hybrid has affected both her group and her own playing fun. She discusses with us why she’s made the choice to move away from the flexibility of being a hybrid character and is comfortable with that – great read.
  • Reunited With My Holy Half – Shintar over at Priest With A Cause disliked what happened to holy in the Big Spec Changes in patch 4.0 a few weeks ago. But since 4.0.3a hit and along with it some extra tweaks to the holy spec, she’s been looking at holy priesting again. And she’s found she quite likes how things are balanced now. She takes us through the major holy priest abilities as they are post-4.0.3a, talking about why she likes them and how they sync together. She also gives a sample spec right at the end which might be good reference for any priests out there.
  • Int regen mechanics – Velidra over at Emberstorm has been drawn towards healers recently and has some musings on how intellect will play out for healer classes. He’s mostly looking ahead at Cataclysm based on what we know already but for anyone who’s not sure on what intellect does or how mana regeneration will work, this is a great introduction to the new concepts. His look at intellect as a healer stat is particularly clear – he also lists each of the ways that healing classes will be able to regen mana and has a brief analysis of how strong each class is in this respect.

There we go. Pre-Cataclysm roundups… that’s the last one. ONWARD, to our first ever Cataclysm-live roundup – I’m expecting the blogosphere to be full of juicy posts next week, so check back. I’ll be letting you know where and what those posts are so you’ve got somethiing to do in your offline time, or even in your in-flight times. I’ll even have a new header picture by then!

Meanwhile, what do you think – what sort of posts are you hoping to see ASAP in the blogosphere? Theory on a particular class, gearing lists for a particular spec? Folks recounting their adventures of a class you’ve not yet got round to playing?

Mixing it up a bit, musings of a mad shaman

Mixing it up a bit, musings of a mad shaman

The question was thrown out there a long time ago about how to re-invent the healing wheel so to speak. Right now the way healers work is the way they have always worked in pretty much every game I can think of (There are exceptions but they are far and few between). Healing has mostly been centered around the consumption, preservation and regeneration of mana or a similar in concept consumable resource. Since DnD (magic points), Magic the Gathering (mana from lands) etc, when you wanted to heal something you used your resources to cast the spell to heal the target. The concept of mana at this point is quite pedestrian.

The idea though is something that you can’t really change. Its is a rock solid equation. Spend x to get y, changing some form of consumable resource into healing or health. So my thought is this, why try to reinvent the wheel when you can just paint it a different color?

So how do you change things up? Well to be honest it would not be that hard to implement different ways to heal.

Change resources

One of the simplest ways to change the healing game is to change the resource with which a healer spends to heal. Like we said, mana has been done to death in about every way possible. Altering the source of ones power makes perfect sense.

Lets take for example a Paladin. Paladins in tradition mythology are bastions of willpower and determination. Characters in stories that lead in martial prowess in the protection of others while channeling divine gifts to heal the weak or cow the masses of the enemy horde before them. These cavaliers could very easily be represented by that very concept, willpower. A diminishing resource that regenerates on it’s own. It can easily be done similar to how a rogue’s focus works now in WoW. It would make things a bit more interesting I think, and it would eliminate the need for mana pots, replenishment and MP/5. More importantly it changes the flavor of the class making it more interesting to some. This change could also facilitate further role playing opportunities.

You can see why this would be desirable for many people and the mechanics would be easy to work out.

Please also understand paladin was just a random choice here it could work for many other classes.

Change the way you earn those resources

Another way you can mix things up for healers is change the way they earn their consumable resource. Think of it this way, right now you just have mana right? You replenish it over time (and it is never really explained how which honestly I think it should be, but that is a post for another time.) you can regen it through MP/5, through the replenishment ability or various other class abilities. But you don’t really earn them right? What if you change the model to include having to perform certain actions to generate the power to heal. This concept is not anything new and can be found in various other games such as Warhammer Online and Lord of the Rings Online. In both games you perform various tasks that supply you with the power to heal.

Joe’s solution and example

The fundamental problem with any class that uses mana or any consumable resource in any game is that eventually that resource runs out. When the resource runs out two things happen.

  1. The class functionality essentially ceases to exist. Without that resource there is nothing left for you to do.  You have to either use an external source to replenish that resource or wait for natural regeneration to give you enough of the resource to continue on. In WoW think of going OOM and having to drink, use mana gaining abilities such as mana tide totem or evocation, potions or innervates.  MP/5 also counts as an external factor.
  2. When a support classes functionality ceases, it factors towards the termination of the groups momentum. In WoW terms this is akin to waiting for the healer to have mana before being able to continue on with whatever group task is.

What some people don’t know is that I am an amateur game designer by desire. It is what I want to do with my life, I want to make games. Currently I am in the middle of making one game, with another planned after. If you’re interested in details on it. I will be updating about it more frequently on For The Lore’s website . What this means is I think about these things a lot. I am a gamer after all and I want other gamers to like my games when I make them right? So balance and renovation are always at the forefront when I’m making decisions.

In one of the games there are a couple healing classes. And I thought back on all the games I have played and participated in and thought about how I could mix it up and I came up with a couple answers.

To me the overarching answer is hybrids. I’m not saying you should get rid of pure healing classes but hybrid classes are an easy way to eliminate class functionality black holes. They are a pain to balance, but the reward is always worth it. Now I know when you think hybrid probably the first thing that comes to mind is the various classes considered hybrids in WoW (Paladin, shaman, priest, druid and DK). Truth is while those are hybrids, they are not true hybrids. To maintain full functionality for hybridization you need to completely respec. While this is more true in some cases than others it is what keeps them from being “true hybrids”.

To me a hybrid class is one that can flow between multiple roles seamlessly and without respeccing. Perfect examples of this can be found in Warhammer Online (Battle Priest) and Lord of the Rings Online (Rune Keeper). Both games have hybrids that fill both roles period. No respeccing, no hassle. The mechanics of these vary, but you get the idea.  So I’m going to share with you a little bit about two of the healer hybrid classes I have come up with for one of  my games.

These will be short descriptions of each just to give you an idea, more in depth write-ups will be available on for the lore in class descriptions as I complete them.

Monks of zhi bde

The monks of zhi bde are peaceful in nature, tending to the weak and sick with care and gentleness. Their monasteries can be found throughout the land and all who seek shelter or enlightenment are welcome. The monks of zhi bde are however not blind to the world and know that daemons and men can often be found lurking in the shadow wishing to cause harm to those weaker than themselves. The monks have honed their fighting skills to defend innocents from both arcane and mundane threats.

Monks of zhi bde are tireless defenders of the weak. Through use of their sigils and martial arts  they are able to take the fight to those that threaten the innocent while still supporting those they fight along side and those they protect. As they focus, they generate Ki that can then be released to heal the wounded.

In game:

This is a Healer/ DPS hybrid. The class revolves around a basic mechanic. As the monk buffs party members or attacks enemies through use of sigils and chants (a definable resource) they generate Ki(a second definable resource). That Ki can then be used to cast various support spells.

The sigils and chants are renewable and regenerate over time as they are used, Ki that is generated from the use of sigils and chants does decay over time if not used.

The idea is to keep the class mobile, always able to do something, whether it is buffing the party, attacking an enemy or healing the idea is to reduce downtime and keep the game moving allowing players to experience more of the game without having to stop and recuperate.  There are non combat uses for the sigils for those that wish to purely heal in group environments.

This is similar to the model WoW has put in place with DK’s  runes and runic power. Honestly it’s a great idea that I feel would benefit well the hybrid healer.

Field Medic

Where there is conflict and war there is suffering and death. For every army there are those that seek to mend the broken and save lives. Trained in both the arts of healing and the ways of war they stalk the battle field attempting to make their way towards the wounded, often fighting through enemies to get to their target. When confronted by an enemy they will fight with a martial prowess of a seasoned soldier in both melee and at range.

Each action is a measure of control that feeds into the field medics movements as they build momentum.  Every army boasts a slew of field medics, but some serve no nation preferring to sell their services to the highest paying adventuring party or seeking glory.

In game:

This is a DPS / Healer hybrid and it is a true hybrid. They earn momentum which can shift from offense to defense. For example the more healing they do, the better that healing becomes but their damage dealing abilities are reduced. The more damage they do the better that damage becomes but the weaker their support and healing becomes. When the player shifts gears their momentum swings to the other extreme. When they stop casting all together their momentum is reduced to a state of equilibrium.

Instead of traditional consumable resource, the effectiveness of the class abilities is the commodity payed along with the cool-down of abilities. This is also used as a balancing point for the class as peak performance for either role is back loaded.  This gives players free choice in the middle of an encounter to switch gears as needed and creates a more dynamic game play. While a field medic fully engaged in combat may be keeping up on DPS they are not removed from their ability to heal. It simply doesn’t heal for as much as it would if momentum was in full heal mode.

This is similar to how rune keepers function in LotRO

Again these are rough ideas that will change as I work on the game, but you can see that my intention is to spice things up a bit for healers, and give some options to hybrid players. Again I’m not advocating the removal of pure healers, just offering up ideas on how to shake things up a bit and maybe make things a bit more interesting. It ultimately is still spend x to get y, but x is sometimes time and cool-downs, sometimes another resource entirely.

How would you mix it up if you were tasked with changing the way healing was done?

That’s it for today, hope you enjoyed my musings. Until next time Happy Healing!

The Hybrid Pedigree

This is a guest post by Mimetir, an oversized owl of a raid leader on The Venture Co (EU). You can find her twitter feed at http://twitter.com/juddr.

I understood little about the game back when I was a young whippersnapper of a hammer-wielding paladin but I did know that those rather unfriendly zombies were hitting my party real hard now and I’d better cast that flashy light spell because no-one else did anything similar. Nowadays my boomkin suspects her claws are actually roots given the amount of times she’s dropped out of form to heal at a critical point. On the rare occasions my guild’s feral gets to DPS, he often finds himself bearing up and growling things off of the clothies. Even so, I regularly hear players bemoan that the hybrid classes are forgetting their utility and simply focusing on their single, chosen role. These comments usually come after an unsuccessful event or fight; a little help in healing from the paladin might have given the edge, or if the cat had just engaged bear’s-behind mode to help the overwhelmed tank out for a few seconds… A hybrid forgetting their flexibility just like a warlock forgetting to soulstone a healer. It’s something so integral to their class that they should do it automatically.

Hybrid classes allow a player to perform any and all of the three roles a group may require. Need a tank, DPS or healer? I can do all of those, says your paladin, druid or shaman. Admittedly the shaman can only tank under certain circumstances such as pre-60 instances, but this flexibility is something which makes these classes very popular choices for groups and also for players. Data shows that many players choose the paladin class, second only to the death knight – no surprise given the surge of DK mains when WotLK hit.

ConfusedKin

Still, some players are not able or willing to play a class to its full hybrid potential. I think there are three types of hybrid players:

  • Those who are able to play different roles or specs for a sustained length of time – these are more common since the availability of dual spec
  • Those who are able to respond to a situation by switching into another playstyle and back out at the drop of a hat
  • Those who cannot or refuse to do either of these things and focus on one task.

I’ve said that a hybrid should know their class’ utility backwards – but should they? If hybrid players are a minority now this suggests that they are a dying breed. WoW is a lot easier to play than its previous incarnations, quibble as you like over the finer points. Perhaps gameplay no longer requires sharp hybrids with an eye always on utilizing their out-of-spec abilities. Mayhap the game has made facerolling, overpowered roles the hero of the day and has sidelined hybrid utility as a luxury addition to a raid. That would certainly explain why there seem to be less active hybrid players out there: Look, we are indeed all just DPS. Do you, as a raid leader or officer, notice more if your hybrid classes or your top DPS dies early on?

Raid setup is a lot more flexible nowadays and most encounters can be downed by any combination of characters. I have heard that level 60 raid setup required a lot more thought and arguably a different approach from the player to what they could contribute with their class. I often wonder whether a willingness to change roles at the drop of a hat is a long-term satisfying playstyle for hybrid classes. The cons spring to mind immediately. Two healers just went down; you the boomkin needs to heal, while the feral waits for an opportune moment to combat resurrect the tree. There goes your rotation. There goes your proc and DPS concentration. There goes the raid’s moonkin aura; the new order of the day is the stress of switching mental gears and trying to find your healing spells in order to keep the raid up. Your place on the DPS meter – sixth of ten. Yet again. Nevermind.

That shouldn’t matter of course – you have just saved the raid from a potential wipe: congrats, have a pat on the feathery back. Now get back to eclipsing.

Having a pivotal role in averting a wipe can be hugely satisfying. I would bet, though, that many hybrids find it wearisome to keep doing so. Speccing into a particular role means that you enjoy doing that and intend to do your best at it. A player constantly carrying the hybrid "millstone" may find that they don’t meet their own spec specific targets or feel that they are achieving their best. It can also be argued that WoW is a more competitive place than it used to be and many players no longer look deeper at performance than your DPS done during a fight, no mind that you spent half of it healing. That, too, can lead to friction in a group and for some players a disinclination to perform hybrid tasks or play that character at all – these are things which should be watched by both the player themselves and a prudent raid leader.

That said I believe that successful hybrids are still prized raid members. if you can perform whatever is needed without a moment’s notice then you may get a reputation as reliable and a quick thinker – attributes likely to get you a spot in the raid as much as the top DPSer of your guild. And wearisome though the millstone may be, it’s there as a reminder that you’re playing one of the most situationally flexible classes in WoW and that there are always new tricks to learn for a jack of all trades. What do you think? Do hybrid players play their classes as well as they could? Do you as a hybrid enjoy being pulled from pillar to post? Do your hybrid raiders matter more as flexible players or solid DPSers?

Discipline With Penance – How it Works

Discipline With Penance – How it Works

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This is a guest post by Kitts where he posts a response about why Penance IS the spell to use.

I read a number of World of Warcraft oriented blogs: some of them have to do with Hunters, some with Druids, and some with Priests.  I respect all the people who post on these blogs 100%, because their opinions are valuable to me in order to grow as a raid leader and as a healer in general.

As a fan of the priest blog “World of Matticus”, I was surprised to read a Guest Post regarding Discipline priests healing without the 51-point talent “Penance” and reasons why this spell isn’t as effective as any other healing spell in a Discipline priests repertoire.  Furthermore, he uses arguments that generally don’t make sense.  I learned early on, if you cannot substantiate a claim, you should not make one.  By no means am I angered by the words he uses, but I’m always happy to “extol its values” as a spell.

Let’s look at each point Wistoovern makes.  And let’s see what makes sense and what doesn’t.

  • “Stop Assuming you need it - Yeah, it’s a 51-point spell. But do ALL Beast Mastery Hunters use Beast Mastery? It’s not too long ago that Lightwell was at the top of the Holy Priest’s tree, but did anyone actually use it? Taking a talent without making sure that you will use it efficiently is useless.”

I agree.  You shouldn’t take a talent without knowing how to use it.  But in order to learn how to use it within your own special circumstances, it requires experimentation and further study.  And no, not all Beast Mastery Hunters use their 51-point talent but I believe the reasons behind not using Penance are going to be different than using the Beast Mastery talent.

  • “Dual Tasking? – Let’s be honest – priests are not hybrid classes. We’re not meant to do both healing and damage at the same time. We really get to pick one or the other. We do a good job at either one (nice shadow priests, GOOD shadow priests…), but both at the same time is impractical or inefficient. So a spell that can either do heals or DPS depending on who is targeted? This can be a big problem.
  • I Mean Really, Dual Tasking? – There are only two other spells that we have that works like this: Holy Nova and Dispel Magic. However, the priest that considers Holy Nova a crucial part of his healing spells needs a reality check, and Dispel Magic (and Mass Dispel, fine) is not going to be an issue if it’s cast on the wrong target (unless you REALLY had to dispel a DoT or effect off of a player and you miss).”

Ah yes, the dual tasking spell argument.  Wistoovern argues that priests are not hybrid classes and therefore a spell that can either heal or do damage (dependent on target) is a problem.  He also argues that a priest considering Holy Nova to be a crucial healing spell is a nut and that Dispel Magic (or its AoE counterpart) isn’t an issue if it’s cast on the wrong target.

I believe the first point is a fallacy of a definition.  He assigns the idea of a “hybrid class” as one that is able to heal and DPS at the same time.  To be frank, any class that is healing AND damaging at the same time is hurting a raid because you’re not doing either role 100%, not to mention probably doing a mediocre job in comparsion to one specced mainly into that role, and there are no classes at this time who can spec in a way that will perfectly fit both roles.  To me, a hybrid class is a class when specced properly can fulfill two or three different roles in a raid. So that would mean warriors (tank/DPS), death knights (DPS/tank), shaman (DPS/healer), paladins (tank/healer/DPS), priests (healer/DPS), and druids (tank/DPS/healer) are hybrid classes.  Warlocks, mages, hunters, and rogues do nothing but DPS.

To be honest, if you’re in a raid and you’re healing by the target’s target and that target is not a tank, that DPS (and hopefully not healer) is at fault and depending on what you’re fighting, they’re probably very dead.  If you’re targetting something that’s CC’d and you’re going off of that, that’s your fault.  Also as a priest, I haven’t ran into many fights where I have to shackle something.  Actually— I haven’t shackled anything since Burning Crusade! Simply put, if you’re targetting something that you shouldn’t be targetting, you’re not doing your job.  You’re a healer.  Heal!

Holy Nova is a spell that gets used rarely.  I use it specifically when I’m changing polarities (on the Thaddeus fight) so I can hit my group on the run if we get chain lightning’d.  I also use it when I’m AoEing things to death outside of raids.  But I agree, if (and that’s a BIG if) there are any priests that use it as a “main spell”, they’re doing something wrong.  I honestly haven’t ran into any priest who would solely use this spell.

Dispel Magic… okay, how are you casting this on the wrong target.  You can’t dispel buffs off of friendly players, you can’t dispel debuffs off of an enemy.  I think there are moments where you have to dispel and if you miss, okay, recast.  Not a big deal.  Maybe if you dispel an Unstable Affliction (but the last time I saw a mob cast this was in Magtheridon’s Lair)


  • “Did I Do That? YES! - … Imagine that you go to heal someone in your party, without realizing that you have a mob targeted that has not yet been pulled… but your tank probably won’t have time to pull it off of you. Any other heal, and this would not be a problem – in fact, the inability to use healing spells on enemies can help you.
  • The Hell Does That Mean? – … Target a mob that you have to Shackle, and after they’re Shackled, leave them targeted. When you click your keyboard buttons for heals, the system will TRY to heal your target… it will give you the “grayed-out finger” pointer… just click on your healing target… Advantages: no need to use a focus, and you can still pick up the shack quickly if it breaks. Disadvantages: slightly slower than normal, takes a little getting used to, will not work with Dispel Magic…or Penance.
  • What He Giveth With One Hand... – … And when it comes to pure healing spells, cooldowns can be death (literally). Waiting for a heal to be available – or, rather, a heal that so many people think is just “so awesome” is a crapshoot. If a six-second cooldown can kill Circle of Healing, how is Penance so great with a TEN-second cooldown?”

The first point regards to “accidental pulling”.  If your tank can’t pull off of you, or you can’t quickly PW:S yourself, or get yourself out of that kind of situation… well, I wouldn’t personally run with that person (healer or tank).  If it’s a PUG, you’re only hurting your own name and if its in guild, I’d be a little worried if it happened often.

The second point is in regards to shackling.  Once again, can’t remember the last time I did it, and everything has been peachy keen in instances and raids of all flavours.

The third point is about the recent cooldown addition to Circle of Healing.  Personally, this will (just like Penance) reveal which priest healers are truly effective and efficient in a raid.  Every priest should be using a various combination of Flash Heal, Prayer of Mending, Renew, and Greater Heal when the need calls for it!  I agree cooldowns can be a murder for pure healing situations, but if you’re always ambivilent of what is needed and how to react, there shouldn’t never be an issue.  To cite a cooldown that is 10 seconds long (8 seconds with proper talenting) as a “killer” is overblown. It’s all about how you use the spell, not how much it heals or how efficient it is.

With most things in World of Warcraft and in real life, it’s not the knowledge that you have that is important, but how you use it.  If you spec a certain way and you don’t use certain aspects of it, then obviously you have little idea to what you truly are doing.  If you spec into Penance, you should use Penance. It’s a lovely spell that (as stated in a comment on Wistoovern’s post) stacks the Grace buff on your tank (or off-tank) quicker than three Flash Heal.  Penance is a quick fire solution to damage being taken by any individual in your raid.  And when it is on cooldown, you should be working on healing your tanks or your raid.

We shine the most in situations where we are continuously looking to prevent damage taken.  We cannot rely on the 5 second rule that Holy Priests try to take advantage of.  We cannot overheal and get our mana refunded, we get our mana back through Rapture (the talent that when you heal damage, you gain up to 2.5% of your mana back).

Overall, Penance is a spell that you should use when it’s applicable.  If you do tend to use it incorrectly, if you do rely on it too much, of course that’s an issue! That’s the same for any class that tries to use one spell the most all the time, you tend to get into a lot of trouble on meters and in situational areas.  You cannot just spam a Steady Shot as a hunter now, you may actually have to use your Serpent Sting to make your key ability work the best!  You cannot just spam Frostfire Bolt as a mage because you can get free Pyroblasts when you proc the deep fire talent “Hot Streak”.

Can Discipline without Penance work?  I think it’s possible.  I think without Penance, you’re still a tank healer; you should be more attentive to /stopcasting so you don’t spam your expensive heals.  You are able to grab 3 points (if you forgo Aspiration) into Improved Healing (lowering the mana cost of most of your single target direct healing spells) so that combined with your Glyph of Flash Heal is a nice combination. Power Word: Shield is still important for you if you’re specced deep into the Discipline tree, especially Borrowed Time (this gives you a bonus 25% spell haste after casting your PW:S) for any major Greater Heals you wish to drop immediately.

This is all more theoretical and assumptive in nature. I might just try it for myself! But that’s what World of Warcraft is for, right?  We want to try different things, we want to stay out of the boundaries.  I once considered Discipline spec to be out of the box, but perhaps it’s not as “out there” as a no-Penance-build. We’ll see.

Don’t forget to check out Kitt’s Discipline Priest blog and be sure to subscribe!

Will You Be Dual Spec-tacular?

Will You Be Dual Spec-tacular?

Duality by vladstudio

Duality by vladstudio

Less than two weeks out from the Wrath of the Lich King release, I find that one of the upcoming changes I am most excited about will hit not with the expansion itself, but with an upcoming content patch. At some future point, many of us–particularly hybrid classes–will have the flexibility we’ve always dreamed of. The promise is that each character will be able to maintain two stored specs and switch between them easily. You won’t be switching during combat (imagine the exploits) but in a complicated dungeon, for one fight you could be the healer, and the very next you could be the tank or even (gasp!) dps.


There is every chance that this change will revolutionize gameplay, particularly for healers. Most of us would jump at the chance to heal for a 25-person raid and then tear through our daily quests as a long-feathered, wide-hipped, booty-shaking, snuffle-hooting Owlbeast. I know I would. However, I’m even more interested in the long-term effects of dual spec capability on the raid environment.

Of course, even with Matticus’ fascinating insights into raiding Naxx on the Beta, we still don’t have quite enough information to make fully-fledged (get it, a feather joke) healing strategies. However, that doesn’t mean that my evil little tree-brain isn’t working. As the healing lead for my guild, the following is my diabolical plan to take the fullest possible advantage of dual specs.

1. All healers will maintain a raid-viable dps spec and a raid-viable healing spec.
2. All healers will take appropriate dps gear at the off-spec dkp price and appropriate healing gear at the on-spec price.
3. All healers will practice both play styles in a raid environment.

Why is this plan such a winner? Read on to find out how the dual spec system will save your raid–and the world!–from much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

1. I can adjust the number of healers for each fight.

Based on what I’ve read on Matticus and elsewhere, it seems that Wrath of the Lich King raid encounters require, on the whole, less healers than Black Temple or Sunwell. My guild–and probably many others–recruited its healing corps with the latter two instances in mind. At the moment, we have at least 12 healers who raid on a semi-regular basis. Our healer retention has been excellent, and many of these players have switched part or full-time to alts for raiding in order to keep their spots. However, even with this partial solution, we sometimes have 10 great healers sign up to raid. My solution for Wrath? I’m not about to force people to respec dps or to reroll warlocks and enhancement shammies. Instead, we’ll share the dps and healing roles, and everyone will get to play what they want at least some of the time. In addition, I don’t fully trust the developers not to put in some fights that require 5 healers and others that require 8 in the same instance. With dual specs in place, it will just be too tempting.

2. My healers will become better players.

Yes, this belongs to the category of what I like to refer to as “L2P Raiding Solutions.” It’s going to be hard to switch from doing what Ghostcrawler referred to as “playing the UI, not the game,” to actually targeting a boss or, even more incredibly, assisting off a designated player. I look forward to this process. I need to go through the learning as much or more than anybody. An expansion, as I see it, is a great opportunity to get better at the game, and I know there’s going to be a learning curve. By, let’s say, next February, I want to be that player that people trust to do whichever task, dps or healing, is most necessary. Those players already exist, but I’ve had too much tunnel-vision to be one myself.

3. No one will feel stuck.

Sometimes all of us need a little change, a little breath of fresh air. I think that dual specs are going to help ward off healer burnout, and to demonstrate that, I’m going to resort to a very mundane metaphor. Let’s compare two real life humans–Level 30 Scholars, let’s say, and for the sake of argument, we’ll call them Sydera and Briolante. Now, Syd owns about 10 pairs of shoes she can wear to work, and she never wears the same pair twice in a row. Brio wears the same pair of admittedly very nice dress shoes every day. At the end of six months, whose footwear is in better shape? Variety is the spice of many things, my friends. If I know that I can cast gigantic Starfires on one of the bosses on a given evening, all the while hooting to myself in owlish glee, I’m likely to heal for the rest of them with good grace. Many healers feel victimized and put upon–our job is rather stressful, and blame sticks to us like cat hair on cashmere. What a nice relief it will be to sometimes focus on the boss instead of the little boxes on my Grid!

Dual Specs are Wonderful! But Why Do We Have Them?

I’d like to spend a few moments speculating about the underlying reasoning behind the dual spec change. It goes against many of the trends laid in place during Classic WoW and BC. First, WoW has always made players pay for flexibility. As we all know, the Vanilla WoW design for hybrids could be summed up by the hackneyed refrain “jack of all trades and master of none.” Moreover, gold costs for respecs–used more by hybrids than other classes–used to climb to obscene levels in Classic.

In BC, the fate of hybrids improved somewhat. Aside from a few broken specs (notably Moonkin and Retribution Paladin), hybrids became raid viable, but also just as limited to one role as any “pure” class. Respecs were of course possible, and in BC they top out at 50 gold, which still cannot be considered a reasonable price for mid-raid respecs.

Maybe it’s my own selfish featherbrain, but I think that the changes we’re seeing to how respeccing works–which is basically the removal of the penalty for changing your mind–have a lot to do with the perceived fun of playing hybrids–bringing us closer to the jack of all trades model again. I think this change might even have more to do with healers than other classes. We know that, my own freakishly healer-heavy guild aside, healers are often in short supply. For Wrath, Ghostcrawler has laid out the possibility that raid healing might be overhauled entirely, just as was done with tanking. The idea, in general terms, is to make raiding “more fun.”

What is more fun, in the developers’ minds? Based on the druid class changes for 3.0, I can take a guess. Despite what some healers find entertaining, Blizzard doesn’t want us to be tied too closely to timers or set-in-stone rotations. Pre-3.0, I used to cast something–usually an instant, and many times Lifebloom–every time the GCD was up. This means that I can spare about half an eyeball for the raid environment, and I haven’t even seen many raid bosses. I spend too much time looking at Grid with one eye and the ground–for nasty AoE effects–with the other. To a certain extent, this is necessary for proper focus–I’m not sure that Briolante spends much time gazing longingly on, say, Archimonde’s face either, even though he’s up there tanking. Here’s a quote: “Demon crotches get old after a while.” The developers want play to be variable, engaging, movement heavy, and reactive rather than proactive. As a druid healer at the moment, I feel that I’m supposed to entirely change my playstyle, and old habits–like maintaining Lifebloom rotations–die hard.

At least dual specs are actually fun! Many times, the developers seem to design away from fun by putting arbitrary limitations on things–the recently removed movement speed reduction for trees comes to mind, as does the prohibition on flying in Northrend until level 77. It is my hope that, whatever they do to healing, the dual spec possibility keeps me from entirely losing my mind, or, should I say, my feathers.