Raid Flexibility: Preparing for the Inevitable.

Raid Flexibility: Preparing for the Inevitable.

 

“A pint of sweat, saves a gallon of blood. ”
George S. Patton

Matt had a great post about Raid Flexibility: A Healthy Obsession . If you haven’t had a chance to read it, please do so you’ll enjoy it. Matt broke down the pieces of a raid that need to be kept in working order.

I’d like to talk today about what goes into making that work when the unexpected comes up.

There are several events that may come up that can throw a monkey wrench into your raiding schedule. It is the job of guild leadership to make sure this does not happen. Lets look at some of the things that can become a speed bump.

1. Vacations and Real Life Events

Lets face it, real life happens. People need time to go and do things like visit family, and just get away from it all. My guild has a saying, “Real Life always comes before game”. No player should feel like they can’t take time off and enjoy having a life outside the game. If you find yourself in a position of wondering if you can skip the raid to go see johnny graduate, there may be a problem.

2. Burnout

Every guild I know has felt the burn of this one at one point or another. We play this game like a part time job sometimes. Spending hours grinding, running raids and heroics and prepping for the raids. It is fun and social but sometimes you hit a point where it just weighs on you. You see this when content becomes stale too, players get tired of seeing the same thing over and over again with little variety. I’ve been hearing tales about this from friends of mine along multiple servers with current content. When players hit the point of burnout they begin to resent the raid and the game and sometimes decide to take a step back and wait for themselves to become revitalized.

3. Acts of god

Things happen sometimes that are out of your control. Hurricanes, Fires, power outages, storms and what we affectionately refer to in guild as “shiv to the forehead” moments. Sometimes you lose people when natural disasters hit, people lose power in the middle of a raid. These things are out of a persons normal control and can never fully be prepared for, but you will have to be dealt with when they happen. My guild has many members who live in areas where they suffer from hurricanes, earthquakes and flooding, we know this and we have to be ready for it. Funny story for you guys on this one too. Shiv to the forehead is what my guild refers to people who go on extended AFK’s  “where’s johnny” “dunno I think he answered his door and got shived in the forehead”. We were in The Eye getting ready to bash up Loot Reaver when I got a knock on the door. I called out in vent “hey guys be right back, someone’s at my door”. I go to answer and  find one of my batty neighbors. I step outside to see what they want and I hear the door shut and click behind me. I immediately hang my head as I realize I’ve locked myself out of my apartment. After a good twenty minutes or so I manage to get back in the apartment and call the raid officer at the time to let him know what happened. Yeah, teasing ensued for a long time as everyone thought I went to the door and got “shived in the forehead”.

4. Drama

This is a big one. You’re spending a lot of time with a lot of different people. You cultivate different relationships with people over the course of your time together. Warcraft is very much a melting pot, you will have people from all walks of life around you. While you have a common goal, conflicting ideologies and life events can grate on people causing stress to a point of breaking. You’ve all hear the stories, maybe you’ve experienced it. Friends stop being friends in game over something and one stops coming to raids, two players who were in a relationship break up and try to put the guild at odds over it by choosing sides (this also covers two people pursuing the same love interest in game and coming to odds over that). Sometimes people “Ragequit”, often times over loot. This is where they abruptly /gquit and then log off. That seems silly but it does happen. Back in the days of Black Wing Lair my guild had a warrior who ragequit. A set of tank gloves dropped, and he put in for them. Problem was he was fury so tanking was considered offspec for him. A primary prot warrior put in for them, and even though he had less dkp then the fury warrior was given the items as it was prot priority. The fury warrior immediately flipped out and /gquit on the spot, taking his girlfriend (one of our healers) with him. The twist was that we continued to raid by pulling in a couple more raiders and the same set of gloves dropped off the next boss (gotta love shared loot tables). Go ahead laugh, it’s a funny story.

These things happen. It’s the leadership of the guilds job to be prepared for these things. So what can they do to make sure these things don’t keep the guild from moving forward and raids from happening? Well there are several things they can do.

Being Prepared!

1. Recruitment

This is pretty big solution to a lot of the problems. With raid size having been changed from 40 man to 25 man its a lot easier to keep a flexible roster of active raiders available. The leadership of the guild has to sit down and decide how many actives they need to keep around. Too many and you have too many people sitting out, too few and you run the risk of a large vacation or disaster of some nature taking too many out of the game to compensate for. For my guild the sweet spot is around 30 members at the rank of raider. In addition to raiders, we have a non raider rank of veteran. This consists of people that cannot meet the raid requirement but are still around and active, and friends and family. Friends and family are literally that, people who wanted to be in guild to play with close friends and family members, but never apped to be raiders. With veterans we tend to have alt runs to keep their gear level up, and this way we have a further pool of people to pull from if the number of raiders goes too far south.

2. Redundancy

Matt touched on this one a bit in his post. Redundancy saves the raid. My guild has two people ready to lead the raid at the drop of a hat. We’ve gone to lengths to make sure the raid can prevail under some odd circumstances. Let me give you an example. My guild leader normally runs the raids, and I take care of healers, we converse in officer to talk about strategies as needed and it works well. This also gives us two people to yell at folks to get out of the fire / void zones, and a check and balance in case we miss something. The other night we were running Heroic Naxx, and the guild leader DC’d due to some random Internet screw up. I made a phone call to find out what was going on, and then when he said he would probably be a while, got everyone moving to keep going till he could get back. I also sent out a couple tells to make sure we had a replacement ready in case he couldn’t get back on. Redundancy helps deal with burnout and real life events quite a bit. It allows players the safety of being able to go and take a vacation or enjoy real life without worrying about having to be there or else let the raid down. It also means people who are burning out can take their hiatus and get back to their normal frame of mind. I’m currently working on bringing up to speed a healer to take over healing assignments on the off chance I take a vacation or need to miss a raid.

3. Communication / Structure

This is another big fix. Making sure your guild can communicate with one another openly is a great (and important) thing. I have a very open door policy as an officer, something I have done throughout all my years of management as well. If someone has a problem, questions or concerns they can contact me. I’ve posted my email / aim / phone number on the guild forums multiple times, as have many of the other officers. This helps keep drama low as when someone has a gripe or complaint, they feel they can bring it to us openly and it doesn’t have to sit and fester. We also have a solid structure in the guild so there’s always someone they can go talk to:

Guild leader > Officers > Class leaders > Raiders > Veterans

We post any changes or pertinent information on the guild forums as well. Making sure information is flowing keeps a lot of things in check. It’s also important to have a set of rules in place to deal with complications. This helps cut down on drama and personal issues.

The officers do a lot on the back-end to make sure things go smoothly. Unpossible has been around for a very long time and is one of the longest lived guilds on Zul’jin, we’ve adapted to survive pretty much everything that can be thrown at us. We are able to do this because we have systems in place to deal with the obstacles you can’t control. Like Matt, my guild operates under the assumption that everyone is expendable. To quote Matt

The expendability thought is that no one person should be so important or required that the entire raid has to stop its operations in case a certain player is absent.

Thats it for todays post,

Until next time, Happy Healing!

As always feel free to follow me (@LodurZJ) on twitter And don’t be afraid to ask questions using direct message there or the contact form here on the site!

Raid Flexibility: A Healthy Obsession

Raid Flexibility: A Healthy Obsession

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“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Antoine De Saint-Exupery

The show must go on. It’s a common rallying cry among drama and theatre productions. It means that no matter what, the audience expects a show and the performers have to deliver. I have the same mentality when it comes to my blog. I do my best to ensure that there is something daily here for you readers to consume!

Keep that drama catchphrase in the back of your mind for a moment. We’ll revisit it.

A story

First, a story. Team Conquest finished off Naxx, Malygos, and Obsidian Sanctum. We had a reduced raiding roster. As were slowly working our way throughout OS, I received an urgent message. It’s not very often that I miss raids. It becomes even rarer when an unexpected event comes up where I have to sit myself out during the middle of a pull.

The usual trash clearing chatter was going on. I explained to the raid that something came up which required my immediate attention. One of our Resto Druids were on standby. I quickly explained to him my situation and he agreed to come in. I immediately passed off raid lead and master looter to one of my officers and said “He’s in charge.”

I returned home 40 minutes later. A quick glance on vent showed players were slowly disconnecting and breaking off into their own channels.

This meant either the mission was accomplished or that the raid had been called prematurely due to lack of resources.

I popped in.

“Is it done?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

I was relieved. I think I felt a slight twinge of pride in there somewhere. On second thought, it might have been that sore throat of mine acting up.

The Parts

Raid leader. No, not Red Leader. We’re not talking about Star Wars here. How many players are capable (and willing) to lead your raid? I have four players who are able to sit in the captain’s chair and direct everything. If your answer is one, then you may wish to re-examine your options. Not everyone is able to fulfill this role. Make sure your candidate has the will to do so and the undying respect of the guild or else it won’t work. You can’t make people respect leaders. They have to do so on their own.

Tanks. Brio does an excellent job flipping and rotating tanks around. It helps to keep the tanks fresh and interested in what they’re doing. I have about six players who have the ability and the gear to switch into tanking roles if it is necessary. We haven’t had that happen yet. But it’s comforting to know that the option is available.

Healing leads. Currently Syd directs the healers. I do step in if she needs a day off every so often or if she’s not as familiar with an encounter. That makes two who are capable of handling assignments. Handy in case one of them manages to inadvertently stab themselves in the eye. That hasn’t happened yet, thankfully.

Healers. This should go without saying. Either recruit extra healers or have players willing to switch from their main role to a healing role if the fight requires it. There are 7 of us on the starting lineup with another 3 on reserve.

Replenishments. Ret Paladins, Survival Hunters, and Shadow Priests. I believe this is getting further expanded in 3.1. Have alternative sources for Replenishment. The mana regen is going to be a must going into the next raiding tier. I’ve got a Shadow Priest, a Ret Paladin, and several Hunters who can supply it if necessary.

Heroism/Bloodlust. I refer to this as the raid leader’s personal shotgun. While not always a requirement in an encounter, it helps to have the extra damage available to push through a certain phase as quickly as possible.

Why?

We are all expendable. This stems from a core philosophy of this guild. We are all united in our desire to raid and clear content. I have a duty to minimize whatever obstacles or obstructions that could get in the way of that mandate. Not having players or not having the experienced is not an acceptable reason for me. The expendability thought is that no one person should be so important or required that the entire raid has to stop its operations in case a certain player is absent.

When Conquest was first conceived, I knew I wanted the flexibility there. I knew that I could not be there all the time. I knew Brio would not be there all the time. I knew certain key players would not be available. I recruited players into the guild who I felt had the potential to take over certain functions should the need arise.

Whatever happens, the raid must go on.

10 mans

This is where it gets tricky. I don’t know if that same philosophy above would apply here as the individual efforts of players becomes even more amplified. Several of roles above wouldn’t even apply here. You don’t necessarily need a healing lead among 3 healers. It wouldn’t be that difficult to divvy up the responsibilities.

I’m not as experienced when it comes to pure 10 man guilds.

Quick Thoughts About Val’Anyr

There’s been a few updates about Val’nyr since the last time I wrote about it. Now we have some more information regarding the retrieval and construction of the legendary mace. Here are the Coles’ notes version:

  • 30 fragments
  • Step 1: Bring shattered fragments to the Archivum Console
  • Step 2: Throw the shattered fragments into Yogg-Saron’s maw while he is casting Deafening Roar
  • Kill Yogg-Saron and loot
  • Condition 1: Can only be completed in Ulduar Heroic mode
  • Condition 2: If at least one Ulduar Watcher is not assisting you

This leads me to conclude a few things.

First is that it appears the person who is collecting all the fragments does not have to be the same person who ends up with the constructed mace. After all, the fragments must be thrown into Yogg-Saron who must then be killed. The loot master should then find the completed mace on the loot table of the old god.

This means the fragments can be looted to any one person as a keeper until the guild collects the necessary amount of fragments.

Second is that the construction of this weapon is going to be out of the reach of many of the casual oriented raiding guilds due to the conditions needed.

Some more questions remain

What happens if the raid group fails at killing Yogg-Saron during that attempt? Or even during that week? Are the fragments lost?

Lastly, it seems that PTR build 9767 (the most recent) was pushed through mostly for bug fixes. Since the latest build was meant to fix stuff, we can assume then the patch is very close to completion. I do believe 3.1 will be here sometime this April. Two weeks.

A good indicator that the patch will be coming out soon is when PTR servers shut down.

Lodur’s Final Thoughts Before 3.1

Lodur’s Final Thoughts Before 3.1

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I’d like to condense my final thoughts on the Restoration Shaman Changes so far, since the patch is imminent at this point and shouldn’t be too far off.

The hottest topic for Shamans as of late has been the Blessing of Wisdom and Mana Spring Totem stacking change.  Understandably we were all a bit shocked by this change. This is pretty much taking the stars out of alignment for us. I know I reacted harshly to it first in my post Shaman and Paladins Mana Buff Get Hit! . This was before I got a chance to actually test it out as well as sit down and think about it.

Lets talk about mana regeneration from an encounter design standpoint. In a raid how often do you run out of mana now? For me I know it’s never unless a lot of other healers bite the dust and I have to pick up the slack. How often do you have to use mana potions? I think I’ve used 5 total in about 8 weeks, and those were on heroics. That’s with moderate gearing, not even a heavy MP5 set. That’s honestly not good for designers. In order to compensate for ungodly amounts of healer mana developers tend to make encounters with more widespread raid damage instead of other much more fun mechanics. Personally I’d rather have fun mechanics, I like variety! (read as less Whack-a-Mole plx!)

Raid wide we lose 109.2 MP5 from this change and I can tell you from testing it, it’s not that bad. I’ve spent a lot of time on various iterations of Lodur on the PTR testing the changes out, doing raids, seeing how regen was affected… and to be honest it really wasn’t affected as majorly as many people think. Right now on live I can end a fight like Kel’thuzad or even Sartharion with drakes with around 50% mana, and that’s with chain casting. On the PTR I was ending with about 35%. Honestly it’s the difference of a mana potion.  We’re not really going to see a shift too dramatically. Rejoice! We are the mana base line!

There is also another great part of this for Shaman in general that I’d like to take a moment to point out. There was a discussion about totems and macros and such on PlusHeal and a very interesting point came up. A lot of shaman over there refer to our water totem as our swing totem, and I agree with this. The water totem slot is our most versatile of the lot and tends to get the most use. By changing the way mana regen stacks it allows us to take a Blessing of Wisdom, and then use our water slot for something other then just Mana Spring. Healing Stream totem is getting a buff through talents that makes it a very attractive choice (AoE hot? yes plz!) and lets not forget our brand new Cleansing Totem that will take care of both poisons and diseases. With the new change we wont have to sit and worry about taking away mana regen by dropping a poison cleansing totem or what have you. I found the ability to not have to worry about having Mana Spring down all the time was like a weight lifting from my shoulders. I have a feeling once you guys see it in action you’ll feel the same =D

Here’s a recap of the Patch Notes relevant to restoration Shamans.

Restoration

  • Ancestral Awakening: This talent now accounts for your ineffective healing, rather than effective.
  • Ancestral Healing and Healing Grace have swapped places in the Restoration talent tree.
  • Cleanse Spirit now has a new icon.
  • Mana Tide Totem: This spell no longer costs mana.
  • Restorative Totems: Reduced to 3 points, down from 5. Increases the effect of your Mana Spring Totem by 7/12/20%, and increases the amount healed by your Healing Stream Totem by 15/30/45%.
  • Riptide: This spell has a new icon.
  • Tidal Force: Now has a new spell effect.

General Shaman Changes

  • Bloodlust/Heroism: Cooldown reduced to 5 minutes, but Sated and Exhausted now last 10 minutes.
  • New! Earth Elemental Totem: The summoned Earth Elemental should now have significantly more health and slightly more armor.
  • New! Fire Elemental Totem: The summoned Fire Elemental should now have moderately more health and mana, and its damage scaling has been increased. In addition, the Fire Elemental’s spells now cost less mana.
  • Flametongue Weapon: Bonus damage from spell power now based on weapon speed. Slower weapons will benefit more from spell power.
  • Frostbrand Weapon: Damage increased by approximately 20%.
  • Mana Spring Totem: This totem has been redesigned. It now provides the same mana benefit as Blessing of Wisdom to the entire party or raid, but is exclusive with that effect.
  • Poison Cleansing Totem and Disease Cleansing Totem have been merged into “Cleansing Totem.” Cleansing Totem pulses every 3 sec, down from 5.

Another item was the change to Heroism / Bloodlust. The change is that the debuff and the cooldown are being flipped around. Cooldown has been changed to 5 minutes and debuff has been changed to 10 minutes. At first this seems like a big hit from the nerf bat, and at first I thought so too, until Matt and I had a great conversation about it. Heroism / Bloodlust is an optional raid buff, unlike replenishment which Blizz feels is a mandatory buff. Encounters are not tuned with you having one every try in mind. It’s a raid leaders shot gun buff, on Sarth 3D we use it to burst down the second drake for an example. It’s something you use when you really need to have something dead and fast. The change allows for you to use it more inline with progression fights. Lets say you pop it, and you die. Dying clears the debuff but if the ability is down and you don’t have another Shaman, fat lot of good it’s going to do you. This will allow groups that only have 1 Shaman to always have this buff available when learning fights. I think this is actually a good thing.

Elementals are getting buffed, which is long overdue. This will bring them back up to something a little more useful then were they currently are. I know my Fire Elemental when I break him out on Sarth adds doesn’t really do a whole lot and tends to run out of mana fast. Which his damage scaling more and cheaper spells he’ll just be that much more useful. Earth Elemental getting a health increase is also really good. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dropped him to make a get away only to have him die so fast it doesn’t matter that I dropped him at all.

Bottom line here is we really made out this patch. We didn’t get godly buffs, but we avoided the nerf bat and remained largely unchanged. The changes we did get will actually help our utility to a raid, and can be looked at as buffs in a way. The Mana Spring totem change really benefits us more then it hurts us. It gives us a bit more freedom to roll around totems. I am looking forward to this patch for many reasons, not least among them Ulduar.

What about you? How do you feel about the imminent patch?

Till next time, Happy Healing.
~Lodur

As always feel free to follow on twitter http://twitter.com/LodurZJ And don’t be afraid to ask questions using direct message there or the contact form here on the site!

Filling the Void Until Ulduar

Filling the Void Until Ulduar

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Sorry for the long silence there, but Real Life has a way of rearing it’s head when you least expect it.

We’ve been hearing a lot about the content that’s coming. Class changes, Raid bosses, Loot and set bonuses, but there is still a current game we are paying to play going on.

Some guilds have stopped going, feeling they’ve already beaten the content and have their main core of raiders geared, they are taking a break. Some people are leveling alts up getting ready to have another viable toon ready to go. Other people are farming rare mounts, like the Zul’Gurub Tiger Mount, or Baron Rivendare’s Charger. Another group of people are preparing for the new content by stockpiling consumables, farming gold, or even working on achievements. My guild has been casually working on achievements, trying to see how many we can get done without pushing the entire raid to the brink of insanity to get them.  (The picture above is an old one now, but I love it, it’s my favorite achievement, you’ll have to forgive me) Something that I think my guild might pick up after last night’s shenanigans is trying boss encounters in different ways.

Last night we had 7 raiders M.I.A. for various reasons. We knew about them in advance so it wasn’t horrible since we have a lot of veterans and friends and family in the guild we can bug every now and then to come along with us, get them gear and to have some fun. Last night was interesting for us in the way of composition. First of all we only had 5 healers, which is less then we normally run with.  While not horrible it just meant more mana was going to be spent and more time was going to be spent inside the 5 second rule. These 5 consisted of two Restoration Shamans, Two Restoration Druids and a Holy Pally. Yeah it was a pretty sweet 5 healers to have.

Secondly and probably the most  fun part was, we only had 1 priest. This was going to make Razuvious fun, since we only had one Mind Control to use. Rather then be daunted we decided to utilize the 3 hunters we had just sitting around shooting things. We had the hunters stand in a triangle around the center ring for Raz, our priest MC’d one student and tanked until it was time to let go of the MC. At this point one hunter distracting shot Razuvious. That hunter then cast Feign Death right before Razuvious got to him and another hunter distracting shot repeating the process. Essentially making Raz run around in a triangle until our priest could pick up the MC again and start tanking. Now, hunters died and tanks had to taunt and kite Razuvious as well, but I have to say that was some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time in Naxxramas. There is something gratifying seeing a boss that can one shot you running around like a fool while you hear the Benny Hill Theme playing in your head. This seemed to have gone over really well with the guild and a lot of people thought it was great fun and had a good laugh.

I think next we’re going to do one sided Gothik the Harvester =D

How are you guys spending the time before Ulduar?

Shaman Tier 8 Bonuses

Lodur here to chime in on the Tier 8 set bonuses for Restoration Shamans. Matt posted them earlier, but I‘ll paste them here again for easy reference

Shaman

  • Shaman T8 Restoration 2P Bonus — Reduces the cooldown on Riptide by 1 sec.
  • Shaman T8 Restoration 4P Bonus — Reduces the cast time of Chain Heal by 0.2 sec.

 

So, lets take a gander here. Like many of the other sets, the two piece bonus has left me feeling a bit strange. This is different then what they’ve done with our 2 pieces in the past.  Lets take a look at the Tier 7 2 piece. 

Water Shield Boost

  •  Your Water Shield is 10% stronger 

That is a very very nice 2 piece. It’s a percentage, so if the amount of mana Water Shield returns goes up, this has that much more punch. Lets take this a step further and go back to the Tier 6 2 piece. 

Chain Heal Discount

  • Your Chain Heal ability costs 10% less mana. 

Again, same deal. A percentage that scales well with the abilities on hand. I know I used this set bonus well into Naxxramas healing and I was very sad to see it go.

This new 2 piece set bonus is interesting to me because its a flat amount, it doesn’t scale since a second is a second anyway you slice it. 1 second reduction brings the ability to a 5 second cooldown, which makes it like any of the shock spells with 5/5 reverberation. Having it available 1 second sooner is nice, I know I’ve wished I had it up that one second sooner many times (Malygos Vortex comes to mind). There is something that can take this a step up from decent however. Another recent Shaman change that has to do with a particular glyph available in the patch fits this set bonus quite handily. 

Glyph of Riptide — Increases the duration of Riptide by 6 sec. (Up from 3 sec)

This, with the 2 piece bonus gives us a 20 second hot, on a 5 second cooldown. I can definitely see that being useful, and if it stays at a 6 second increase, I’ll most assuredly pick one up. 

Next on the billet is the 4 piece set bonus.

It doesn’t seem like a lot up front, but I like this. I really really like this. Right now through moderate gearing (and taking on more crit to reach a balance of stats) Lodur is at 438 haste before Wrath of Air totem. 438 haste equates to roughly 13% which means Chain Heal right now is 2.2 seconds to cast for me without the totem, and 2.1 seconds with. This will let me bring it down to 1.9 second cast with only self buffs. Add Heroism / Bloodlust and a Retadin or Critchicken and thats about a second and a half cast time for chain heal, with only the global cooldown to worry about. With Glyphing and a decent amount of spell power you’re going to be hitting 4 people with sizeable heals that much faster.  This set bonus pushes us a bit further up the raid healing totem pole so to speak. 

While I’m here I’d also like to mention our new relic

Shaman T8 Restoration Relic — Increases the base amount healed by your chain heal by 243

Keep that relic in mind as you’re looking at the 4 piece set bonus and it’s just one more notch in the belt for swinging Chain Heals. 

Overall I’m pretty pleased with the itemization coming in 3.1. 
What do you think?

Till next time, Happy Healing

Lodur

T8 Set Bonuses Revealed

Post updated 1:42 AM
MMO Champion’s got the goods on the next level of tier 8 bonuses. Let’s check it out and do some quick analysis shall we?

Priest

  • Priest T8 Healer 2P Bonus — Increases the critical heal chance of your Prayer of Healing by 10%.
  • Priest T8 Healer 4P Bonus — Casting Power Word: Shield also grants you 15 spell power for until cancelled. Increases spell power by 250 for 5 sec. (Source: Thottbot)

I’m not the most thrilled with the 2 piece. It’s not bad but it’s not that great, I don’t think. Although let’s not forget that Prayer of Healing is no longer restricted to the Priest’s current party. You definitely want to consider coupling this with the Prayer of Healing glyph. Having the extra crit chance means there’s a higher chance the glyph portion should tick for more.

Now the 4 piece is a real eyebrow raiser. I’m almost certain that’s a typo. More than likely, it’ll grant 150 spell power instead of 15. The second typo is towards the end. It sounds to me that either a) There’s going to be a duration on it. Probably 9 or 15 seconds. b) Until the Shield wears off of a target. This is a bonus that seems targeted towards Disc Priests. With talents like Soul Warding (Reduced cooldown of PW: Shield by 4 seconds and reduces the mana cost by 30%), I can see myself throwing shields around. It’d be mana inefficient, to be sure. But I’m chain casting it to maintain a spellpower boost. Of course, with the mana regeneration changes this might not be the most smartest idea. Anyway, I don’t think they’re quite finished with this set bonus yet guys.

Paladin

  • Paladin T8 Holy 2P Bonus — Your Holy Shock critical heals now also place a periodic healing effect on the target, healing for 15% of the Holy Shock’s heal amount over 9 sec.
  • Paladin T8 Holy 4P Bonus — Increases the damage absorbed by your Sacred Shield by 10%.

Any Paladins want to weigh in on these bonuses? How do these look to you guys?

Shaman

  • Shaman T8 Restoration 2P Bonus — Reduces the cooldown on Riptide by 1 sec.
  • Shaman T8 Restoration 4P Bonus — Reduces the cast time of Chain Heal by 0.2 sec.

That Shaman 4 piece makes me go wa wa wee wa. Assuming haste, could we possible see 2 second Chain Heals?

And for the Druids, don’t forget that Syd’s got a nice writeup for the Druid bonuses that were released earlier in the week.

5 Reasons Why the PTR Sucks

5 Reasons Why the PTR Sucks

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What is the PTR? There’s all sorts of curiosity and questions about this PTR thing. One of my guildies affectionately refer to it as the patience test realm. The PTR as we know it is actually known as the public test realm. It’s several servers that contain upcoming content for players to test such as new class changes, new in game events (like the Argent tournament) and a new raid instance like Ulduar.

But my experience with it has been incredibly frustrating. Of course, there are periods where things aren’t so bad and I can try out stuff. Today’s post is going to feature a list of annoyances and possible suggestions for Blizzard in upcoming content patches.

Instance instability

During the worst of times, the instances are unplayable. I’d have half my raid group inside Ulduar and another half would be waiting outside trying to get in. They’d receive errors like “Transfer Aborted: Instance not found” or “Too many instances. Please try again later.” It was incredibly frustrating. A typical PTR test day would involve 30 minutes of actual boss time and 90 minutes of waiting for people to resolve their technical issues.

I can’t even report any bugs and such or effectively test out stuff since it’s nigh impossible.

Solution: In BC, we’ve got this major traffic artery called the Port Mann bridge. It carries hundreds of thousands of cars daily and it’s still not enough. Right now, the city engineers in are in the process of twinning the Port Mann bridge by doubling the lanes to increase the load that the bridge can carry. I wonder if that same logic is possible to apply by launching more instance servers.

No Mcweaksauce

I know. Blizzard mentioned that players should be prepared to bring their own stash of buffs. I don’t know how realistic it is to have that kind of expectation that players have bags full of flasks, enchanting mats, glyphs and what not for the entire duration of the testing phase. It would just be incredibly convenient.

Solution: Have the entire McWeaksauce family at the staging area just before the instance portal that anyone can go to. Make them slightly larger than normal to prevent mammoths from sitting on top of them.

Overcrowding

Guildies and other players I’ve spoken to explained that previous PTRs were much easier to get in to. Why? Because there wasn’t a whole lot of interest in them. Why? Because people weren’t bored and they still had stuff to do.

Think about it.

A large number of guilds have completed all that the game presently has to offer. More than usual, even. So when word comes out that there’s new stuff to play around with, a lot of players will jump at the chance. I know if I was still working on OS drakes or Malygos, I wouldn’t be as dedicated with the PTR. Most of the traffic seems to occur right around the beginning of a boss being toggled on.

Solution: Not quite sure here. Would more servers do the trick?

Lack of servers

Again, this is similar to the population control. I have players disconnect from world servers. I have players who get network connection errors. I have players who continuously error out. There’s a lot more demand from players who want to get in on the action then there are boxes that can supply that desire. Europe’s got four servers, right? North America has two. But I guess all the European ones come in various languages. It’s at the point now where I routinely pray for other players to get frustrated enough to give up their attempts to get back in so that my group has a higher chance of getting in.

Solution: See above.

Inflated prices

This is just a product of every PTR phase. This is what some players are thinking:

“Gold doesn’t mean a thing so I can charge a crapload for it! I can make a fortune of gold that will be completely and utterly useless! It’s all going to disappear within a few weeks so I can charge obscenely high prices and not give a damn!”

And this ends up being a vicious cycle. One person charges overpriced stuff for enchanting mats or glyphs. This causes everyone else to match the price to come up with the funds to pay for other overpriced stuff. And on and on it continues. Who loses? Just about everybody since they can’t get access to the tools they need to test stuff effectively. And don’t even try to raise the garbage argument that “oh they should’ve gotten their stuff enchanted before coming”. Because we all know there’s new items coming and that stuff should get polished up, too.

Solution: A really savage beating.

So why do I keep going back? Why do I continue to subject myself to hours of teeth grinding annoyances?

Because I still firmly believe that knowledge is power. Sure you can read about strategy and watch live videos of guilds attempting to do it. But the experience and feeling of accomplishment after figuring a boss out on our own? That type of feeling can’t be reduplicated. There’s already strategies and videos out. But for the brief hours I was in there with friends and guildies, the experience of undergoing trial and error to figure out what works and what doesn’t is unmatched. And I have a new whole level of respect for the top tier guilds and raid leaders around the world who engage in this every time new content is available.

Props to those guys. And Stratfu.

Apparently word on the street is that linking to Stratfu brings good luck and many beautiful women. I’ll have to test this theory.

Flame Leviathan Thoughts

Flame Leviathan Thoughts

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Yeah there’s going to be a buttload of spoilers here. You probably don’t want to read any further than this.

Tuesday afternoon, Blizzard announced the new PTR boss testing schedules for the week. Flame Leviathan (Normal) would be open from 4 PM onwards. But it looks like someone was trigger happy and they decided to pop it open an hour earlier. I happened to be on right as it opened up and sounded the alarm on Twitter, my guild, and in the WoW Insider war room. Alex Ziebert, shadow Priest extraordinaire, was able to join me. Once we filled up, we got the ball rolling.

So what kind of vehicle does a big, badass Dwarf drive around when he’s feeling bloodthirsty?

siege

That’s right. It’s the only vehicle fit for a dwarf. It’s big. It’s got rams. And it’s got guns. I let someone else drive while I manned the guns on top. After talking to Bronzebeard, we started the event and the Alliance 1st Armored division rolled out of the garage. The division consisted of two tanks, two demolishers and two choppers (bikes). The two siege engines lead the way absorbing the brunt of the Iron army. Demo’s formed up on the rear and attacked at range while choppers were cleaning up anything else that got behind the siege engines.

1st Armored decided to start off with gunnery training. Most of us had no idea what to do so it made sense to start firing on anything that moved and any structures that were destructible. We literally rolled over the opposition with little difficulty.

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Click on pictures to enlarge

I found the gun controls were quite stiff to move. It’s like the engineers forgot to add WD-40 to the damn turrets or something. If you’ve ever done Wintergrasp, the controls for aiming are quite easy. You hold down your right mouse button to aim the direction of the camera and the targeting reticle changes direction accordingly. But it’s different in Ulduar. I found that it wasn’t as fluid nor as smooth.

After clearing out the towers, one of the recon choppers noted what looked like a repair pad on the side. We gathered up and repaired our vehicles to full health. Up ahead there was a gate flanked by two Ulduar Colossi.

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Up: Repair pad
Down: Ulduar Colossus

The Colossus is pretty damn large. But the larger they are, the harder they fall. They more really slow, too. I told my driver to switch with me because I had a hunch the vehicle would have a larger vehicle pool. Blizzard did say vehicles would scale with gear. Sure enough, my tank jumped from ~750k health to ~810k.

Matticus was in the hot seat now.

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Left: Matt tries to take on the Flame Leviathan to no avail
Right: Matt flooring it after realizing the above the strategy is not working

“Matt! Run! Hit the gas!”
”WTF do you think I’m doing?! Twiddling my thumbs?!”

We didn’t last much longer after that. But I found it a lot of fun. And it is absolutely nothing like Malygos phase 3. Players who have an aversion to vehicle encounters should definitely give this a try at least. And if they hate it, they’ll hate it. But at least try it with a clean slate. Worse comes to worse, if you don’t like driving or shooting, you can be one of the brave souls willing to be thrown on to the top of the Flame Leviathan.

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Pretty neat bug where a demo has grappled another demo. There’s still some quirks to be resolved. Towards the end, Alex grappled me onto his demo. I was unfortunately stuck and had no idea how to eject myself. I don’t think I was loaded into the launching arm.

Our best attempt was around 35% before our live raids forced us to cancel out.

Ignis is going to be available for testing today. Try to be on about an hour earlier to avoid the queues that is going to be prevalent. I’ll be in there at around 3 to see if I can scramble some players.

For Flame Leviathan strategy, try checking out Stratfu.

Matt’s Hodir Impressions

Matt’s Hodir Impressions

hodir

First, check out this awesome video by Siha. Some great teaser footage regarding the Hodir encounter. You can see me around the 22 second mark. I’m running away to the bottom right corner of the screen. Great choice of music, to boot!

To all the players who said Blizzard didn’t know how to create challenging content.

You guys are in for a treat.

At around 3 PM Pacific, it was announced that Hodir would soon be available for testing. In fact, he would be open at 4 PM. That left me an hour to scramble the players necessary to give it a shot. I knew there was no way I’d be able to field a full 25 man raid group. Conquest managed to bring in 6 players to jump in. I posted on Twitter looking for volunteers. No avail. I checked my GMail for online contacts. Apathy was free. Quick glance on AIM? Siha was free. After 90 minutes of struggling with UIs, server crashes and the like, we were one of the first groups that were able to zone in. The entire zone is quite breath taking. Check out some of the shots I sent into WoW Insider.

WoWScrnShot_022609_171253 After my making my way through most of the instance where we pass through the exterior lightning charged towers (where the Flame Leviathan is, no doubt) we enter a door that takes us into another part of the area. It looks like we hit the inner sanctum. The main chamber branches off into a multitude of rooms which takes your party to different bosses. Naxxramas has four wings. Ulduar has many different wings. I was’t able to get a count. But I think there were at least 5 or so hallways that led out. We managed to find Hodir with little difficulty in a circular cavern.

And we were joined by Daelo! Poor guy! He’s the lead encounter designer for Blizzard. General chat exploded the moment he announced his presence. People were asking him to unstuck them from various areas inside the instance. It got to the point where he had to bring in his alter ego (Daelotwo) to help with the unsticking process.

omgdaelo

What you’ll find is a large, oversized blue Dwarf-like individual. He’s got four NPCs encased in ice in front of him. Looks like they are integral to the encounter somehow. Our Death Knight tank starts the dancing process of kiting him around. We kind of deduced there was a Keristraza like ability where players had to keep moving. Siha and I were the only healers. We danced around. She covered the main tank (our Death Knight) while I tried to handle the rest of the raid.

 

 

For the past several years, we have all been conditions to aim the camera toward the floor. Illidari Council especially taught us to get out of fires. Blizzard has thrown us a curveball. This time, the raid need only look up. If you see snow, look out below as a chunk of ice is going to fall from the sky!

We barely lasted 2 minutes. But oh my was it such a blast!

WoWScrnShot_022609_171939I have to say something on a side note. It’s an exhilarating feeling to come to a new boss for the first time with zero idea of the boss does. It’s interesting in the fact that as players one of the first things we have to do is figure out what abilities and attacks the boss uses. Once we iron that out, we isolate what we can do or what the environment around us can do to help counteract boss abilities. I’ve never really been at the forefront of progression before. Literally. Bosses in the past have been done with explanations from other players or strategy guides or videos. For the first time, everyone is more or less on an even keel because no one knows what the heck is going on. There’s a huge rush after the fact where everyone chimes in trying to deduce what just killed them. Then theres a myriad of suggestions on how to go about preventing or adjusting for it. We don’t actually know what works. I mean testing raid content is like a big giant algeba problem: It’s literally guess and check.

As far as healing goes, we didn’t last long enough to get a good handle on healing. This instance feels like Zul’Aman: Reloaded (in terms of relative difficulty from Karazhan up).

Notes and observations

4 frozen NPCs in the middle of the room. Of the 4, you can break up to 2 on Normal and all 4 on Heroic. They assist the raid and hand out buffs.

Breaking out the Moonkin offers a haste buff to the raid (Unsure if its spell haste, haste, or both types of haste). You currently have to stand on the circle of light in order to use it.

On Normal, Hodir has 10 million health. On Heroic, around 30 million.

His attacks are melee and frost based.

Frost novas are dispelable. I believe they are cleansable as well. Hooray for magic effects.

This encounter is inspired by Keristraza in the sense that players have to move around to reset the damaging frost aura. It starts off at 200 initially and then continues to double to 400, then 800, then 1600 and so forth.

After the initial 45 seconds, Hodir does an ability called Flash Freeze. It’s a 9 second cast capable of nuking everyone in the room regardless of line of sight. It is possible to fully resist it. If it connects, you get encased in a chunk of ice for 5 minutes. The only other way out is to get busted out by DPS. Don’t forget that when you’re frozen, the aura is still on you.

Frozen Blows: Physical damage reduced by 70% but attacks deal 17750 additional Frost damage.

Special thanks

I’d like to extend a hearty thanks to the brave players who were willing to wipe with me.

Eridan – WTB more soulshards *grin*
Siha – Being online at the right time. Probably would not have gone in without her healing presence.
Wukki – Helping me with the notes and boss observations (and doing some research on her own)
Apathy Inc – I forgot your blog address again
Superkathoid – For offering her services as DPS even though I was already full on DPS :(

I plan on leading another team back in there tomorrow (Friday) at around 3 PM PST. We’re setup on Broxigar. Iron Council is scheduled for 4 PM PST. If you’re interested, I’ll on the PTR around then to get my present guild organized. I’ll most likely need an extra set of hands. You’ll recognize me on my character (Matticus).

If you’re interested, follow me on Twitter. Or else bookmark my Posterous (or subscribe). I’ll be updating my Posterous more often with screenshots and a live braindump of everything going on.

In hindsight, I shouldn’tve formed the group the PvE server. Way too many people.