Dragon Slaying from a Healer’s Perspective: Onyxia

Dragonslayf2j

Every week I watch different players doing things in Onyxia encounters that could make healers spit flame. Not only that, I find myself reacting to and making the same mistakes every week. So what are these recurring things, and how can everyone make sure that healers don’t turn into fire breathing dragons?

Traditionally us healers don’t do much slaying of anything, especially dragons. We do something much more important. We’re the brave souls who sally forth calmly into the face of death to keep others in one piece, or at least standing vaguely upright. You know those others – the heroes who charge in bandying about a cacophony of curses. The ones who would get flamed into foil-packed toasted sandwiches or seared to a fowl-shaped frieze on the wall, or reduced to roasted bear.

But other heroes like to keep us healers on our toes. Hell, we like to keep ourselves on our toes. A dragon slaying party can make a lot of mistakes, and you’d be surprised how few heroes seem to know the Basics of Dragon Slaying. Many bands of adventurers charge into the dragon’s den without checking that everyone knows those basics, which I think is mistake #1.

So what are the most common and basic mistakes a do-gooder can commit while trying to saw Onyxia’s head off? And what can us healers, whatever class, do so we don’t feel like taking a deep breath and belching fire at people? Well, a long career of healing dragon slayers has taught me a lot.

Here are my top ten observations for both us healers and your actual slayer of dragons to remember while venturing into Onyxia’s den, especially if braving the fight with a motley crew of unknown quantities.

I always see tanks or DPS…

1. Getting cleaved. Obviously this is a hazard of the job for tanks. But every time I go to Onyxia there are some foolhardy melee DPSers who like to stand face to face with their foe. I always find myself politely telling them that if they stand behind the trash they will do more DPS and won’t die from cleave, which is something most monsters in the den do. This is always after at least two DPSers die once or one of them dies twice

2. Going out of Line of Sight. There is a hill on the path to Onyxia’s den. And just over that hill is – well, is your tank. And he’s found himself facing an angry dragonkin whom he can’t move for fear of cleaving the party apart. Positioned just right so that if you stay safely at range you’re over the hill and far away for healing purposes, but if you go in close you’re in danger of getting cleaved (see above)

3. Killing people by big-add AoE proxy. I’ve seen tanks pick up big adds on phase 2 and move to tank them next to healers and ranged folk. I sometimes don’t see this until the add’s AoE has fried me because I am looking at healing addons and frantically trying to keep everyone standing upright rather than watching the pretty pictures on the screen. Likewise, melee folks should run away from this AoE, but don’t always do so.

4. Panic-position Onyxia. This happens when she lands in phase 3. Things are hectic and every tank has a different idea where’s best to position a large angry dragon.

  • The tank might place her at the back of the cave: if he does then players are likely to get feared into a tail swipe and bring out many whelps. Handle it.
  • The tank might instead place her at the side of the cave: if he does that then players will get feared and tail swiped but probably not into the whelp eggs.

5. NOT dealing with whelps. Whelps are hungry when they wake up and there are a lot of them. If they’re not controlled and killed then they will quickly attach to a healer and start munching, or gobble up the mage they noticed AoEing at them. Hell, I’ve often seen tanks bashing away at a clutch of whelps all on their lonesome on phase 1, with no DPS bothering to go to them – unless you count those flying past into the whelp eggs and skulking back out again, leaving the tank to deal with more.

Tips for healers …

1. Watch where you stand. Particularly during phase 2. Make sure you’re not too close to the southern area where the big adds spawn, especially if the tank on big adds is a bit sleepy. Said big add may appear, set eyes on you and think you’re the tastiest target. It’s also easy to get out of range of people, especially ranged folk who are doggedly following Onyxia up and down the cave. Avoid all this by trying to strafe across the middle of the cave in p2.

2. Be on your toes during deep breath. Get out of the way of it, of course. Start heading back into the middle of the room as soon as it’s passed in order to beat fires out on anyone who didn’t manage to get out the way in time.

3. Never assume the tank is in safe hands. Healers get themselves tail swiped and cleaved too – I’ve seen it. Heck, even phase 2 is dangerous – deep breaths may mean that the tank and healers are separated. Last week I was in a run in which all the healers dove to one side of the room during deep breath and the tank went the other way – we all assumed one of the other healers would stay near him. Panic mode ensued. Try to stay in range of the tanks at all times but not too close. That way fried healers lie.

4. Run diagonally. Sounds weird, but look at the shape of the cave – very long, and the monsters tend to spawn or be tanked at diamond points. The tank’s making the pull? If you run in a strange line – and next to the tank – you’ll get cleaved or tail swiped right away. I saw a priest do just that last week. Run diagonally in and you’ll always be in range to top off the tank as he’s moving Onyxia and you’ll end up standing in a safe place. Likewise throughout the fight, diagonal lines will often get you near other players and away from fire and adds the quickest.

5. Be aware of your space. You will be moving around a lot – move your class specific tricks with you. As a shaman I move my totems to where the rest of the group moves for each phase, so people retain the buffs. As a druid I’ve run around like a rootless sapling trying to keep the tank alive in the north end of the cave and combat resurrect the top DPSer from the south of the cave. Assume in a reactionary fight like this that people will make mistakes: use your class to the full to make it easier on the whole group.

So those are the basics as I see them. They might sound simple – they are. But how many times have you seen some of the above happen? They’re intended to give dragon slayers and healers food for thought rather than offer strategies on how to heal; this isn’t a fight with challenging tactics, just one that needs everyone to stay aware of the situation. One last tip for free: if you want to get the bounty without repair bills, don’t assume everyone knows the tactics. They might not. Everyone has to start being a dragon slayer – maybe in a foreign tongue – sometime in their life.

I’ll be following up by talking about my observations and practical tips on healing Sarth3d in part 2 in the near future. Meanwhile – is there anything I’ve missed for Onyxia – any warnings about the dangers of dragon slaying? Or have you often committed one of these mistakes and just can’t help it? Are there any tips you can give to other healers in danger of frying out there? Any thoughts on how critical group make-up is in this situation?

2 PuG Raid Loot Systems: Performance Based vs Tichon System

I’ve had my heart broken again. You see, I was chasing after this cloak on my Elemental Shaman (yes I DPS too). It only drops from Sartharion with his 2 lackeys up. We were supposed to be together. After the buffs were set out and the strategy explained, we entered the fray. Sarth was pulled and positioned in the corner. Moments later, Tenebron landed. One of the tanks picked him up and corralled him in the back. It was like a synchronized swimming performance. Everyone moved in unison. Every fire wall was dodged. Every void zone, avoided.

Except for one player.

He fell to a void zone early on and swore he wasn’t standing in it. Obviously the results spoke for themselves.

It was a Paladin.

I thought nothing of it. Slowly but surely, the synchronized swimming team started to lose focus. One by one, players drowned in the sea of mobs, walls or voids. The remaining few pressed on. The first drake died. Vesperon landed. He, too, fell at the cost of a healer and 2 hunters.

When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, there were 10 players remaining. The island was littered with corpses. Slowly but surely they were brought back into the land of the living.

The loot was linked. Sure enough, my beloved cloak had dropped.

As it was being rolled off, I rolled an 86. I held my breath. Would it hold?

A 73,
A 81,
A 26,
A 35

Until I saw a 95.

My heart stopped and I stared. The same Paladin who was our first casualty won the cloak.

I was crushed. I bowed my head, accepted my fate and hearthed.

Performance System

If I were to devise my own loot rules for an encounter with multiple difficulty levels, I’d impose a set of conditions.

Just because a player has the achievement doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good player. While they are a useful tool in filtering out really standout players (who wouldn’t want to invite an Immortal?), achievements only say so much.

So let’s go back to our OS 2 drake example here.

When you link to me your 2 drake achievement, what does that tell me? It tells me that you’ve successfully done the fight. You’re aware of the fire walls. You know about the void zones. You know about the elementals and the mini-drakes. In theory, you should be to avoid those hazards.

What about a tiered reward system?

Let’s say we start out with a free roll system with main specs. If Pennant cloak drops, the casters can go after it. If Obsidian Greathelm drops, all the plate wearing DPS ground pounders can square off for it.

Here’s where we make it interesting and this is where its put up or shut up time.

If you die to a void zone, a firewall, or something else that’s easily avoidable, you forfeit the right to roll the bonus item. You can still take a crack at the tier tokens or whatever the base level items are.

In theory, this should be an incentive for experienced players to become even more extra careful. It emphasizes a lot more on player survivability then DPS since there are no DPS conditions attached.

It would be more challenging to model it into a Naxx pug. But you know, I do get tired of seeing “undeserving” players getting items they should have no business wearing. Is that elitist of me?

Yeah, it is. I’ve got no problems with players getting the best items in the game if they’ve proven that they deserve it. Dying in a fight, and AFKing only to come back and win a roll after every other player alive finished off the encounter does not prove to me that they deserve it. I find that insulting.

But that’s just my take on it. Obviously the downside to this system is that you might not get any players at all in your pickup raid when they find out the conditions attached to it.

Tichon System

This is a slight departure from above. It’s designed to be much quicker in the handling of loot and addresses the main spec/off spec delays. It’s got nothing to do with the performance aspect. In most raids I’ve been a part of, the loot master typically handles an item in a way similar to this:

MAIN SPEC ROLLS

5
4
3
2
1

OFF SPEC ROLLS

5
4
3
2
1

BEG ROLL (anyone)

5
4
*insert 25 different rolls here*
2
1

That usually lasts around 20 to 30 seconds.

So what’s the Tichon system?

I was introduced to this a while ago when I was messing around on the Tichondrius server. Basically the loot rules are even easier then above. It goes something like this:

LOOT RULES

Main spec rolls 1-1000
Off spec rolls 1-100

That’s it.

No questions. What’s done is done. Everything is settled quickly and efficiently. Loot drama only flares up if players allow it. Everyone gets a shot at loot. Off spec players have a 10% chance of winning (I think). The players who need it more (the main spec players) have a higher chance of getting it but for players who the items are off spec still have a shot at also getting it.

But here’s the thing about pug loot drama

I’m of the opinion that the raid leader explains what the loot rules are before players zone in. The moment a player zones in and gets saved to a raid (after a boss kill), then players forfeit their right to complain about the system. By joining the raid and getting saved, there’s an implied agreement somewhere that they will respect the rules and accept whatever the loot gods say without question. But once the loot rules have been explained, its up to the player to decide whether they should stay or to leave.

Obviously if the loot master loots an item to a different player then the winner, then all bets are off.

Anyway, this is just something to mull over the next time you lead a pickup raid. It’s simple, clean and easy to administer.

My Definition of a Good Priest Redux

My Definition of a Good Priest Redux

Focus

Almost two years ago, I wrote a post about the definition of a good Priest. It was one of the questions posed by Ego back then (to which I’ve lost the original link to).

The Priest class has evolved over the past two years. We’ve gained some and we’ve lost some. Has my stance on the subject changed?

Overall Awareness: This has not changed much. If anything, the amount of information needed to make the right choice at the right time has gone down slightly. With the removal of downranking, gauging the health of a player and then responding with the appropriate rank is no longer necessary. We’re still watching out for fires and health bars. I daresay the number one killer of Priests everywhere is getting out of dangerous stuff too slowly or not at all. We’ve moved from Nightbane’s fires to Sartharion’s Flame Walls to Kel’Thuzad’s Void Zones to Mimiron’s Rocket Strikes.

Perseverance: The bosses are different. The spells and tools have become increasingly diverse. I don’t like giving up. No one likes to lose. I may not express it, but I do chase after that “high” I get after taking down a boss. It’s a great feeling knowing that you played a key role. Good Priests know when to take risks to keep tanks alive. Most fights have one or two tanks that are involved with doing something. When the tanks are down, the game is over.

Clairvoyance: Can you predict incoming damage before it lands? Can you react to the little DBM mark that gets placed on a player which signifies the ensuing Shadow Crash? When Flash Freeze hits, do you know who is going to make it and who isn’t going to make it? These are the little things that separate great healers from okay healers. Your reaction time isn’t going to increase. But spotting these small details sooner will help you make your decisions quicker. One DoT tick is enough to kill a player. How many last second saves have you made on players? Ever received slaps on the back after a kill when a raid member thought they were done for only to be saved from the jaws of death with a last second shield, or instant heal to pull them out from the red health bar?

Preparation: One thing I am glad that has changed is the amount of preparation. I used to bring 20-40 potions every raid night. Brilliant Mana Oil was in my inventory. Flasks were supplied with Illidari Marks or were farmed for on my Elemental Shaman. The reduction of chain potting has dropped potion consumption drastically. I go through about one to two injectors a month instead of per raid. I lock myself in Howling Fjord and shoot enough fish to keep myself stockpiled (MP5 fish).

Openness: Always keep an open mind. Don’t shut down everything you hear. Feedback is feedback. It’s up to you to discern between valuable and useless. But outright rejection should come after you examine it. What are other people saying about you? Does it have merit? What information is missing from their perspective? What do they see when they watch you? I can’t emphasize critical thinking enough.

All in all, it seems my stance hasn’t changed much over the past two years. It’s been refined a little by the different class changes and from my forays into the different raids. When I wrote the original post, I had just finished wrapping up Gruul’s and Mag’s. Opening into SSC started a month after that post. Man how that time flies by, eh?

How about your class? Has your definition of a good <class> changed?

Video: Conquest’s OS3D Kill


Conquest- Three DrakeFunny bloopers R us

A big round of applause to cameraman Dannamoth for capturing our first OS3D kill two weeks ago and getting it on tape. This is the first time I’ve watched this fight from a different perspective. As the Disc Priest, I usually keep my eye toward Sartharion and healing the tank on him.

(You can sort of see the various Penance bolts that fly out on the bottom right corner of the screen from time to time. That’s me.)

Dannamoth is proof that Mages have more to bring to raids then food, drinks, and intellect.

Any comments, improvements, ideas and suggestions will be forwarded to him.

Sartharion 3D Healing Assignments

Sartharion 3D Healing Assignments

sarth-dead

I realize that Matticus has done a nice job of keeping readers posted on Conquest’s progress through this fight, but I thought it might be nice for the community if I posted our specific, final draft healing assignments along with a narrative of how we got there. I know that when I was a new healing coordinator for Collateral Damage back in Tier 5 that I used to scour WoW blogs for their specific healing assignments on Vashj, Kael, and beyond. With that experience behind me, I don’t expect that readers will be able to use my precise assignments, but perhaps once I explain the process a bit, healing leaders will be able to identify techniques that will help their particular groups.

Before the First Attempt

The Sunday night before our first attempt at Sarth 3D, Mallet and I, along with Kimboslicé, our raid leader, and Archdrood and Brio, our main tanks, Crazymexican, our puller, and a few various and sundry raid members, went into our cleared Obsidian Sanctum instance to block out positioning. More than anything else, this step may have led to our early success. In the calm of a cleared instance, we were able to identify marks for each person to stand on. Mallet, who would be solo-healing Archdrood, was able to learn exactly where the head and feet of the dragon would be ahead of time, in a calm environment. I paced out where our drake tank healers, whelp tank healers, and add tank healers would stand. We imagined where the firewalls would come and planned what direction different players would run to avoid them. We strategized how to position the drakes to best protect both tank and raid.

The positioning I’m sharing with you now is our “final draft,” but if you block out your own positioning in a cleared OS, our work might give you something to start with.
sarth-diagram

In my diagram, bubbles represent eeeevil nasssty dragonses, and squares represent players. You’ll notice that I’ve used class colors to show which specific players we used for different tasks. If you need a recap, orange is for druid, brown for warrior, fuchsia for death knight, pink for paladin, white for priest, dark blue for shaman. This class distribution is by no means obligatory and will vary based on the players available in your guild.

The diagram might just tell you everything to know, but in my typically verbose fashion, I’m going to give you some notes anyway.

Main Tank Healing

This is the most difficult job available in this fight, so make sure you assign someone who excels both at throughput and at situational awareness. One of the biggest parts of the learning curve in this fight has to do with this healer’s positioning. He or she has to learn how to avoid the firewalls without going out of range of the main tank. Every bit of this player’s healing goes on the main tank, and he or she has to be able to keep him up entirely alone. Based on the changes to Twilight Torment (the main tank can no longer remove it himself), your main tank healer is going to be the first in a line of “saves” on the MT. In order to survive one of Shadron’s breaths, a non-DK tank must have outside help. These breaths can occur in rapid succession, and you must set up a rotation of “saves” so that your tank can survive multiple rounds. On our druid tank, we used a rotation of 1)Pain Suppression 2)Guardian Spirit 3)Barkskin + Survival Instincts and 4) Hand of Sacrifice + Priest Bubble. On our successful attempt, four abilities were enough. I suggest assigning a player who can perform save #1, which can be any of these techniques, to main tank heal. In practice, this player will probably end up being either a discipline or holy priest.

Drake Tank Healing

We used a team of two healers to take care of the two tanks assigned to Tenebron, Shadron, and Vesperon. We staggered our tanking such that each tank only had one drake at a time. I am H2, and I healed Briolante for Tenebron and Vesperon, helping out on Shadron’s tank in the few moments where Briolante’s first target was down and second had not yet landed. Both H2 and H4, the drake tank healers, will have to move around quite a bit to stay with their targets. H4 in my scheme is a pally healer, and his target, the Shadron tank, will be helping out with whelps and elemental adds for much of the fight. It is important for H4 to keep a watch on this person, as he absolutely has to live to tank his drake. It’s also worth noting that H2 and H4 will be completely out of range of the main tank for most of the fight–any extra healing they can spare goes on the raid.

Whelp Tank Healing

I assigned my strongest paladin to heal the death knight whelp tank. Krinan, the paladin, turns on righteous fury and draws some of the whelps to her through healing aggro. Note: she is specced in a particular way to let her survive this. Perhaps she’ll tell you all about it in a guest post. Krinan and Lloth, our death knight tank, work together to gather up the whelps and the elemental adds while others AoE them down. Usually H3, the whelps/adds healer, will need some help. The whelps and elementals are the most annoying part of the fight, and they can just eat dps and healers for breakfast. Whenever I can, I HoT up Lloth or the AoE’ers. Raid healers, and even drake tank healers when possible, should try to stay close to the adds tank so that any strays can be peeled off.

Raid Healing

This fight can get a little crazy, so I assign three very strong players to raid healing. The challenge increases when raid healers, like our holy priest for example, have to position themselves such that they can take a spot in the save rotation on the main tank during Twilight Torment. I’ve put Kaldora (H5) on the side closest to the main tank to show how a raid healer in the save rotation has to edge toward Sarth at the appropriate moment. Note that raid healing gets completely, entirely insane when Twilight Torment is up on the raid. In order to dampen the effects, we call out for paladins to bubble and help soak some of the damage that way. In order for the raid healing to work in this fight, the dps/healers/add team need to stay close together.

Into the Portal

When Shadron goes down, we send players into the portal to take care of the Guardian. Epiks, our resto shaman, follows dps into the portal and works his healing magic. If you have players taking portals, DON’T forget to assign a healer to go with them. Believe me, the result is not good.

Last Words

This fight recalls Vashj, Kael, and Illidan in the amount of teamwork that it demands. As a healer, you simply cannot ignore assignments and snipe heals. You cannot save other people’s targets. Yes, a drake tank healer might assist the raid healers with a Wild Growth or two, but everyone will always keep a watch on his or her primary target. You are not a hero. You are a small piece of the puzzle. As a healer, you perform the tiny set of tasks assigned to you and nothing more. There may be moments where you feel less effective, but you need to stay in your spot and watch your assignments. You must watch around you–there is no excuse for a healer to be trapped by firewall or void zone. Even though healing is very difficult in this fight, if you set it up like I did, it is also very regimented. Each of the individual tasks is manageable. Just pace your tiny portion of the stage and do not worry about what others are doing. Let them make their own mistakes as you learn. And then, when all is said and done, the healing meter will not tell the whole story on this fight–in this case, the encounter is hard enough at the current available gear level so that if you win, every healer in the team deserves the gold medal.

Blank Sartharion Map: This is a few screenshots of the cleared island that Sartharion is on which Matt stitched together. Feel free to use this for planning. You can overlay Syd’s diagram on top of this and you can get a better idea.

Heroic Sartharion 3D Conquered

Heroic Sartharion 3D Conquered

matts-drake

It is done. Approximately 24 hours since the experience and epiphany I had last night, it all paid off.

Sarth and his 3 drakes are down.

Twilight Drake

A big thank you goes to everyone in the guild. Without their efforts of them, the assistance of the Plus Heal Community, and the various bloggers who’ve written about their experiences, this post would not be here right now.

The handling of the Drake was flattering. The officers and an overwhelming majority of the guild felt that I should have gotten the first one.

Needless to say, I double checked to make sure.

The last thing I want on my hands is a riot because the GM gets awarded the first Drake. I’m not one for mounts. Even though I made a Flying Carpet, I still ride on my purple Gryphon. But I guess the Gryphon will get rested for a while.

Subsequent mount drops will be handled with interested members rolling instead of the loot master doing a raid roll. This gives players a measure of control and it allows players who don’t care about the mount to opt out of rolling for the ones that do.

My hands were shaking once we got that Shadron down. It was the first time we hit that plateau and after that, it just felt like smooth sailing from there.

Total time spent: ~8 hours on just 3 Drakes alone
Time of death: 7:04 PM PST, January 28

  • Worked on the pull
  • Worked on the Drake positioning
  • Worked on Whelp and Elemental tanking (We used a Death Knight)
  • Worked on healing the ad tanks and the Drake tanks
  • Worked on surviving Fissures and Firewalls
  • Worked on timing Main Tank “saves” (Pain Suppression, Barksin + Survival Instincts combo, and Guardian Spirit)

Extra things

These points may be minor, but they might help you. We increased the healing from 6 to 7. This gave us 2 Paladins. The fight took slightly longer, but it paid off.

Now what these Paladins did was they spent 17 points into Protection to pick up Divine Guardian.

The moment I used my Pain Suppression on the first breath, I’d pick one Paladin and tell them to bubble. Since a majority of the raid members are standing together, this helps mitigate raid damage during that period. On the second save, the Druid tank on Sarth popped his Barksin and Survival Instincts to outlive that breath hit. At this point, if it goes off, I alert the Holy Priest to get into position because his Guardian Spirit is up next.

Reader Rivendael brought up a great comment that I wanted to reiterate:

Hi Matt, I’m surprised that you have to watch the animations at all :)

It’s very responsible of you, considering that most healers need to/are very used to watching mainly health bars, but in the end, I’d say that the job of watching for breath cooldowns should in fact fall on the tank.

As my guild’s druid tank on Sarth (we’ve downed 3D), even before the fight, I establish player orders for the cooldowns we’re using. When Vesp lands, I call for the first cd-user to “prep” (usually all my healing pallies and priests). When I see the breath animation, I call for the prepped player to use his cd. Then I call for the next player to prepare. And so forth.

My healers just need to macro their cd to me and be in range, that’s all, and I take the burden off them so they can -visually- focus on their heals, while dodging lava walls and void zones. As the one player facing Sarth’s bigass head all the time, it’s the least I can do. Since your Sarth tank obviously has a mic, why not suggest that he do the same?

The answer to that is we both do it. The Sarth tank and I are able to watch for his head. As a healer, I like to use IceHUD so that I can see the health bar of my target, the health bar of myself, and the action that’s going around. This goes hand in hand with my heads up technique of healing.

The “double affirmative” from the Sarth tank and myself strengthens our judgment. It’s better to have two pairs of eyes on it if possible. It helps confirm that it is the right time to use a save when two players are saying the same thing. While there’s nothing wrong with allowing Sarth’s tank to call out when to use the save, I prefer keeping my head up instead of relying on reflexes to hit the tank.

Either we’re both right or we’re both wrong.

I do have a video from a DPS perspective. Just need to find a suitable host. Any ideas of a Youtube or Filefront alternatives?

Also: Ner’Zhul is ridiculously PvE competitive. We’re in the top 20 of guilds that have successfully killed Sarth 3D.

10 Seconds with Sartharion 3 Drakes

I’m the type of player that likes to relentlessly playback previous events (or wipes) in my head. I try to see if there’s anything I can do better from my perspective or anything I should have done differently. Here’s a 10 second mentally recalled highlight reel moment of a time that happened all too often.

We run a 6 healer setup and I’m the only one on the Sarth tank.

0:00

Vent call: Firewall, move!

*Casts Shield, Renew, and dives narrowly avoiding a wall*

0:02

Vent call: Vesperon landing!

*Casts Penance*

0:04

Sarth tank: I have the debuff!

*Casts Flash Heal*

0:06

*Casts another Flash Heal*

0:08

His attack animation stopped and he’s raising his head.

WAIT! HIS HEAD IS RAIS-!

0:10

Sarth tank: I’m down!

Reflections

Thankfully, that was just earlier on in the night. After I settled in more and got into the groove, I was able to get my timing down perfectly. The problem with me was that I ended up being off in my timing.

The timing was off enough to get our tank 1 shot.

But I managed to fix it. I figured that I was zoomed in too close on my character that I had to adjust my camera more to keep my sights on Sarth. That took up precious time and added increased risk.

I managed to solve it by maxing out my camera distance so that no matter where I ran, I’d still be able to keep an eye on his head.

FYI

I use his head as an indicator for when he’s about to breathe. When he tilts back, that’s the time to use the Pain Suppression.

What’s killing us

We lose 1 or 2 people to void zones in the beginning or to a Firewall. There is a bit of inconsistency. Some attempts, the raid group is able to blast through the first drake with no problem. In other cases, people are just getting sloppy or we have bad lag luck (like a player dying to a void even though they’re 15 yards away from it).

The second problem occurs when the third drake lands. Players are killing themselves. Going to see if that can be fixed by having Paladins “tactically bubble” at certain times to lessen the overall raid damage with that Shield talent thingy.

As for me, the 10 attempts where the raid lived long enough for Vesperon to touch down, I was able to squeeze off Pain Suppression fast enough for 7 of them.

That’s a 70% save percentage.

Not good enough Matt. Not good enough.

Healing Assignments for Resto Druids

Healing Assignments for Resto Druids

broccoli-banner

Perhaps more than any other healing class, Wrath of the Lich King has revolutionized the way druids heal. I’m going to take a bit of a look back to where we came from as a way to help understand any troubles druid healers might face at present when we try to figure out what our role in raids should be.

Back in the “Good” Old Days

I came of age as a healer during the BC raid content, and I think part of me will always missing rolling Lifebloom stacks on four different tanks during the Hyjal trash waves. Lifebloom spam may have been widely criticized, but at the time it was effective and felt very dynamic for the player. The timing was tight enough to require tank-specific macros, which I miss, because I could always change their icons to a pig whenever I got mad at them (sorry, Brio). However, when healers argue now that they don’t want to be locked into a rotation, they’re probably thinking of something like old-school LB rolling with horror. That was a rotation, all right–but it left me dizzy. I had to keybind Lifebloom twice–both to my mouse clickwheel and to F. The “F” was for when I needed to refresh while turning with the mouse. At the time, there was no way to increase the 7 sec Lifebloom rotation, and the penalty for letting the stack fall off was fairly severe. I never ran into mana problems, but sometimes the tank would take more damage than I liked if their stack slipped off, and I had few ways to play catch-up. If one tank’s stack went, then most likely all four would.

Even some boss fights made Lifebloom spam worthwhile. On Illidari Council, I used to assign Bonkers to roll LB on three tanks, giving him 1 GCD per cycle free to do “whatever he wanted.” Let me add that the healing buffer Bonkers provided to three of the tanks won the fight for us on more than one occasion. Why did I give the assignment to Bonkers and not myself? Because Bonkers is quicker than me. My assignment, keeping up the group on Malande, was a lot easier. The odd thing is, these kinds of assignments seemed great to Resto Druids at the time–1 GCD free? That’s amazing.

Now that I think about it, the Good Old Days don’t seem so great after all.

Broccoli, v. 3.0

Patch 3.0 brought new tools for the druid healer, offering flexibility where before we had none. However, it strikes me that many Broccoli Stalks might be a little bewildered by all our new toys. And if we’re confused, imagine what it’s like to do healing assignments for a resto druid these days. A few days ago I came across this topic on PlusHeal forums, posted by Siha of Banana Shoulders:

So, I’m the healing lead for my guild, and it usually falls to me to do healing assignments.

I’m having some trouble deciding how best to make use of resto druids. I know in TBC I always used to use them for a multi-tank assignment, keeping a bunch of people hotted up with Lifebloom, but I’m not really on top of all the resto druid changes in WotLK yet.

The talented Siha, as always, gets right to the point with her post. I replied in the topic, but I think that the question has enough merit to warrant a full-length post.

So, what do we do with the newly-versatile druid? After looking at my own performance and those of my Cruciferous Vegetable buddies in Conquest, I am convinced that Resto Druids can be assigned in two different ways for Wrath content. I’m going to showcase a couple of meters-topping druid performances to show just how versatile trees are these days

Raid Healing

This assignment is the most obvious for a resto druid. Wild Growth, due to its higher total healing and it’s status as a heal over time spell, suffered less from the recent nerf than Circle of Healing did. With Rejuvenation, Wild Growth, and perhaps a glyphed Healing Touch in the mix, druids have a powerful toolkit to deal with raid damage.

Let’s take a look at the meter breakdown from an expert druid healer on Gluth, which features heavy raid damage:
s13-meter

Now, the meter % alone might not mean much, but let’s factor in healing assignment. Both S13 and I were assigned to heal the kiters on Gluth, and we have similar gear. Why did he outperform me? Let’s take a look at the abilities breakdown.
s13-breakdown

Take a look at S13’s Healing Touch percentage and the amount it hits for on average. That tells me–even if I didn’t already know–that he’s using the Healing Touch glyph. The fact that he’s able to get so much healing out of a direct healing spell also tells me that S13 is fast. He’s really great at reacting to situations. Notice here that he’s also made a lot of use of Lifebloom–nerfed it maybe, but useless it is not. This WWS report is post-WG nerf, by the way. S13’s performance shows how little a healer has to rely on Wild Growth to be effective (and to post good numbers while doing so). If I were to take a look at S13’s targets, I would see a lot of healing on the 5 kiters, but also a decent amount on other members of the raid. S13 is a great raid healer because he’s able to pay attention to a lot of things at once and to accurately judge when he can go a bit beyond the boundaries of his assignment.

Tank Healing

Yes, I know druids have an AoE heal now. That doesn’t mean that we’re not still good at our old role, healing the main tank. I’ve just shown you the WWS from a druid who excels at raid healing. Now, I’m going to show you my own meter performance. I am a tank healer. That’s what I like, and that’s what I’m good at. I’ve been healing a warrior MT so long that I know how the damage hits and what I can do to fix it. I don’t pretend to be the best at anything, but if I’m in charge of healing assignments, I’m going to stick myself to a tank. It’s not usually very showy on the meters, but I’m going to give you a peep at the one fight in Naxx that does let tank healers show off–Patchwerk.
syd-meter

To understand this image properly, you should probably know that Silvia and I were assigned to heal the offtank, a druid, while S13 and Arktos were assigned to the main tank, a warrior. For the life of me, I can’t remember what Kaldora, our holy priest, was assigned to that day. The nature of the fight dictates that there is simply more healing to do on the off tank(s) than on the main tank, so an off-tank healer is going to post higher numbers. Be that as it may, this is nonetheless a good performance from me personally. Let’s look at the breakdown of what I did.
syd-breakdown

First of all, notice the presence of Regrowth. I use the Regrowth glyph, and a fight with heavy tank damage also shows it off. Meanwhile, I keep Lifebloom rolling on the primary off-tank. As for Rejuvenation, I keep it on both the primary off-tank and the backup. At higher gear levels, your raid is less likely to need two offtanks for Patchwerk. I used to post even more impressive numbers when two off-tanks took heavy hits. I would keep up my full hot rotation on the druid and use Rejuvenation, Swiftmend, and a Nature’s Swiftness/Healing Touch on the secondary off-tank. I always say that Resto Druids can heal two tanks as well as one, and it’s very nearly true. This is a lesson I learned in Zul’Aman, and it still serves me well on a multi-tank fight like Patchwerk. One thing an MT healer can never forget is the power of Swiftmend–it’s easy to ignore, but make yourself use it whenever you can. You’ll notice that Nourish is missing from my rotation, even though I have the 4pc T7 bonus. Regrowth is simply better if the damage is high. I will use Nourish on fights where Regrowth might be overheal, or on long fights that might stress my mana.

My message to healing leads is this: resto druids can tank heal. You might think that only a paladin or discipline priest will work, but don’t discount the resto druid, particularly one who’s used to this job. We may have a discipline priest solo-healing the MT on Sarth 3D, but that doesn’t mean a resto druid cannot be assigned to the task. In fact, some days I want to arm-wrestle Mallet for the job.

Glyphs and Talents

As you can see from our performances, S13 and I, despite having almost the same gear, are very different healers. There are slight differences in talents and glyphs that support each of our preferred roles. Here are my thoughts on how to set up a resto druid to excel at either raid healing or tank healing.

Raid Healing

In terms of talents, I suggest Tranquil Spirit to make Healing Touch and Nourish more efficient, a fully talented Gift of the Earth Mother, and perhaps Naturalist for the shortest Healing Touch cast time. As an alternative, you might put either 1 or 2 points into Improved Tranquility. I find this spell very useful when I can remember to use it. It shines on any fight where the raid is fairly close together and AoE damage as high–I’ve used Tranquility to good effect on Loatheb, Sapphiron, and OS3.

To heal S13-style, you will absolutely need to glyph Healing Touch. I am extremely impressed with the HPS of this spell, and it only gets better as your gear scales. In addition, we can all afford the mana at this point. S13 doesn’t run OOM any more than I do. The raid healer has some amount of choice in the other glyph slots. I suggest Swiftmend and Innervate, but if you find that you never use Swiftmend, Lifebloom will also work. The Regrowth glyph, while good in and of itself, won’t do much for you if you’re never assigned to tanks.

Tank Healing

In terms of tank healing talents, the most important one to have is Nature’s Splendor from the Balance tree to extend HoT duration. However, all raiding restos should have this talent. I also use Tranquil Spirit to support my Nourish (in case I ever use it), a fully maxed Improved Regrowth, and Gift of the Earthmother for easier HoT refreshes. I do not have Living Seed at the current moment. It accounted for less that 1% of my total healing when I had it. If I get enough haste to remove points from Gift of the Earthmother, I may try it again. I have a feeling that either 1) Living Seed will do more healing in Ulduar or 2) it will get some sort of buff in the future. As for Replenish, either build should skip it because it’s endlessly terrible, but the tank healer especially does not need it.

In terms of glyphs, I use Swiftmend, Regrowth, and Innervate for main tank healing. The only debateble choice here is Innervate. I prefer it over Lifebloom, but Keeva of Tree Bark Jacket, who also main tank heals often, writes very convincingly in favor of the LB glyph in this recent post. A main tank healer should not glyph Healing Touch. It’s more useful in the large version paired with Nature’s Swiftness.

Conclusions

We’ve come a long way from Lifebloom spam. Whether we’re set to healing tanks or the raid, druids have a variety of techniques now to support their chosen role. We can do it all–just not all at once. If you’re a healing lead, it’s important to get to know your healers. With the new diversity of the druid class, skill and preference start to weigh heavily on how you should assign your druids. So, why not ask them what they like, and what they are good at?

10 v. 25-Person Content Revisited

10 v. 25-Person Content Revisited

green-vortex

Well, darn. I figured out something last night that should have me eating my hat, or humble pie, or maybe a boiled crow, or else four-and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie. One of my biggest predictions about Wrath of the Lich King turns out to have been dead wrong.
some-very-humble-pie

When I first heard about the 10 v. 25 raid size split in Wrath, I made a logical assumption. To be entirely fair, the conclusion I drew was well-supported by blue comments. I believed that since the rewards would be demonstrably better in 25-person content, as a consequence the difficulty level would also be higher. Either that, or the difficulty level would be exactly the same, the only reason for a reward difference being the Organization Boss that all larger guilds have to face every week.

However, last night I ran two “normal difficulty” raids that took my breath away: Sartharion with two drakes and Malygos. Without a stacked raid, our group–which took out Sartharion 25 with 2 drakes earlier this week after only an hour and a half of tries–just could not make any headway in the 10-man version. We had to settle for just one drake, and since we picked the baby dragon-spawner by accident, that was no cake walk either. And as for the rewards at the end? Nothing anyone wanted, since we had been doing so much Sartharion 25 and Naxx 25. We were pretty psyched to get the achievement, though.

As for Malygos, we took him down with two healers, and boy, was I sweating. Tank healing was tight, and raid healing was even dodgier. Meanwhile, my mana pool dipped to absolutely scary levels–which became an emergency when I made a mistake on one attempt and blew my innervate in the gap between phase 1 and phase 2. In my panic I hadn’t even been checking Mal’s health bar. Malygos is a fight I love on 25s, but I have to say that the 10-man was breathtaking. It’s exactly the kind of challenge I want–one that I know I can meet, or that gives me a chance to make improvements between attempts. It has me tempted to go back again. However, once again the rewards aren’t in proportion to the difficulty. I’d say the loot is about on par with Kel’Thuzad’s from Naxx 25–pretty darn good, but not nearly as nice as the stuff that comes out of the easier 25-person version of the same instance.

Has Blizzard Made A Big Mistake?

Clearly, I think they have, or I wouldn’t have written this post. Knowing what I know now, there’s no reason to separate Emblem loot by normal/heroic raid tier. I think I definitely earned an Emblem of Valor or two for that Malygos kill. I had heard before that Sartharion with 3 drakes was absolutely monstrous on 10s, and I thought that was just a freak thing. But based on my personal experience, I’ve come to think that the phenomenon is more widespread. Nothing in Naxx–either version–is all that difficult for my guild, but I do remember that Kel’Thuzad is harder on both healers and melee-heavy groups in the smaller size. Like it or not, I’ve come to the conclusion that raids who run 10-person content only deserve the same compensation as 25-person raiders.

What Can the Developers Do About It?

A lot of people in this game min/max, and it looks like right now, the biggest rewards for a person’s time and effort come out of 25-person content. This is a disappointment to me, because I want the game design to lead me–and my fellow raiders–to the hardest possible content. The game needs to lure us there with rewards and encourage us not to be lazy. I also want everyone to get fair compensation for what they do. I just feel bad about getting better gear for less work than a smaller guild might do. A 10-man guild who clears Sarth with 3 drakes has absolutely played better than I’m capable of right now–and they get a Heroes’ glove token, while I’m wearing a Valorous one? Ludicrous. Moreover, assuming that Ulduar-10 is harder than Ulduar-25, could that mean that a raid really needs i-level 213 gear to do it? The gear gap between 10-person raiders and 25-person raiders is pretty noticeable. As promised, it is very nearly a whole tier of difference. I think I had smaller upgrades, say, between T4 and T5 than I did between Heroes and Valorous.

For Ulduar and all future raids, I urge Blizzard to do one of two things.

1. Eliminate the i-level gap for 10 v. 25 person gear along with the Emblem difference. Put either equivalent or exactly the same items in each tier. The dichotomy was a nice idea, but the dungeon difficulty doesn’t actually support it. Clearly, I never favor lazy solutions, so I’d rather have totally unique sets in each dungeon size tailored towards the attributes that tend to be more important in that particular raid size. For small raids, survivability and mana regeneration/total mana might be key, whereas you might want higher damage output for the larger raids.

2. For the love of Pete, make the 25-person content different from the 10-person content. It’s not enough to adjust the health and damage values. Make the encounter feel different. Add lots of chaos for the 25s so it feels more on the difficulty level of the 10s. Give every one of those 25 raiders something to do, as in the Lady Vashj fight. I would even go so far as to give the bosses different mechanics–think about, say, the difference between Mechano-Lord Capacitator from Mechanar on Normal v. Heroic. Make the 25-person raiders earn their higher i-level sets.

Don’t Be Lazy

The solution to most of the problems I’ve seen in Wrath so far can be summarized with this adage. Wherever the developers have cut corners, things didn’t come out so well. No one’s complaining about the design of the leveling content or 5-person dungeons. That’s because they clearly show that Blizzard lavished time and attention on them. The same is, unfortunately, not true of the dual-tier raid system. I think it’s time to bring it in line.

Obsidian Sanctum with Drakes Up

Tonight Conquest is going to take a shot at Heroic Sartharion with one drake up. For those that have done it, I have a few questions to ask:

  • Which drake did you leave up and why?
  • Did Death Knights D&D (due to the visual similarity between that and void zones)?
  • How did you set up portal groups?
  • How many healers were sent down low into the portal?
  • Did Firewalls affect those in the portal?
  • Any other last minute tips or insight that you can offer?