Monday, 31 January 2011

Every Little Counts

When you know you're going to be tight on mana for a boss fight either because you're still improving your gear or the guys you're healing aren't capable of not standing in the crap, there are a few things you can do to help yourself out.

Making sure you have mana potions handy is the first thing to look at, there are a number of different favours useable depending on the situation allowing you to instantly recoup 10k mana with a Mythical Mana Potion, or 22k with a Potion of concentration providing you can spare 10 seconds to use it.

Look at the makeup of your group, a warlock has health stones which are a must, someone healing themselves is a mana saving for you. A shadow priest can help out with shielding and is far better equipped to regen the mana than you, arcane mages can buff your crit rating with Focus Magic etc. Aim to know the details of all of the other classes in the game and work out how you complement each other.

One thing which may not be so obvious for a healer is first aid, if you need a heal, but you're not desperate, then a bandage is a far more efficient way of doing it. Common sense needs to be employed, but there's definitely a time and place for bandages.

Now we come to pre-casting spells, I regularly do this and it can save around 10% of your mana bar. Lightwell is the obvious one, get this down before the fight and make sure it's well positioned. I generally follow this with a Renew on the tank, Chakra, Heal, Prayer of Mending and a power word shield for good measure. You can then sit down and drink as the tank pulls and be full mana before he takes any damage, it also gives you a little grace to get into position before the tank gets squashed. A word of warning, if it's a PUG, whisper your tank and explain what you're doing, there's no point doing all of this if the tank instantly charges in or sits there waiting for the spell effects to wear off.

None of this replaces players ability, and those players who don't take damage by doing silly things will always be easier to heal. As my year has got better I've found I need to do this less and less, but it's good to have it in your locker.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Cool(downs) and the gang

I've been putting together a compendium of all things shadoo over the last few days for a standalone page on the blog, which has taken far more time than I thought so rather than neglect the blog, I thought I'd plagiarise a section from it on proper use of cooldowns. There is no absolute answer here, use your common sense, for some fights where there is an enrage or similar, but for 'normal' circumstances this is the general guidance:

Dark Archangel gives a dps boost as well as mana, the timing of its use is entirely situation dependant. If there is no danger of you running out of mana, pop it as soon as you have five stacks of Dark Evangelism and reuse it immediately it comes off cooldown. If you are in danger of mana depletion, use this at around 80%

Shadow Fiend similarly to Dark Evangelism, this gives a reasonable DPS boost, and should be used as soon as possible providing you do not need the mana, should you need to extend your mana casting it at around 80% (not at the same time as Dark Evangelism)will ensure you don't waste any regen.

Mind Blast has been relegated to a buffing spell since 4.0 it doesn't do enough pure DPS to warrant normal rotational use, it does however provide you with a nice buff, Empowered Shadow, giving you 15% extra shadow damage, you should use MB whenever you have one or more shadow orbs up and the buss has, or is about to expire.

Dispersion is primarily a panic button spell, use it to stay alive. It also returns mana with the drawback of rendering you incapable of doing any damage for its duration, if you have to use it for mana, try and make sure all of your DoTs are renewed before casting it.

Shadow Word: Death makes it into this section because it has an artificial cooldown of sorts, you should only use it in normal rotation if you're running low on mana and its glyphed (it should be). Else it should only be used on a mob under 25% health, and not if it'll kill you.

Hymn of Hope & Divine Hymn should be used sparingly, if at all, they have long cooldowns and are purely situational, have them on the cast bar, but only use them if your party is in dire straits on the health or mana front

Class specific cooldowns (beserking for trolls) give a big boost, in my case haste and should not be ignored, usual rules apply on the situation, else it's as early as possible, try to combine beserking with other damage buffs as the increased haste gives a good multiplier.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

WARNING ahead be beasties!

A funny thing happened to me last night, I decided pratting around on a low level alt was preferable to grinding herbs while watching the footy, and after a few quests I found myself in the dungeon finder for a low level dungeon. After about three seconds I was healing in Gnomeragon; my low level equivalent to Grim Batol, I remember many an evening wasted in this horrible place. As with all the low level dungeons it's a damn site easier than it used to be and we set of killing things.

About 5 minutes in we were jumping down to ground level to get to the first boss, if you know the place you'll know where I mean, when the shadow priest in our group hurtled past me and face planted into the ground. We pressed on to the first boss, without her as it's so easy, midway through the fight I noticed the same happened again. Third time lucky with the boss dead and we set off on trash towards the next boss where I noticed a funny noise… it was the sound of a wand being fired!! Looking round in amazement I saw a shadow priest with full mana waving their wand about! I have to admit, my mouse cursor hovered over the vote kick button momentarily, but then I stopped, and I'm glad I did; it's not like me to be quite so trigger happy so after having a word with myself I politely whispered the priest "can I ask why you're using your wand?" I was half expecting a "BECAUSE I R L33T" type answer followed by a torrent of abuse, but to my surprise her response was along the lines of "because I have one, is it wrong?" so a brief conversation later and she was sticking DoTs up properly and Mind Flaying away. We ended up chatting all the way through the instance where I found she was new to WoW (to the tune of 2 or 3 days), having moved from another MMO with her husband, both seemed to be struggling to get to grips with the deluge of information and things to learn.

This struck a few cords with me having recently returning to the game after a long absence, I felt overwhelmed at times, even finding where my mounts had gone, or where the guild roster had gone was a problem (why the hell was that ever moved of the social panel??? Nonsensical!). I still remember wandering round Silverpine Forest after I followed a friend to my first instance, not having a clue where I was or how to get home(no it wasn't last month).

We ended up staying in the same party (she was from a different server) and chatting some more and, I hopefully, gave her some pointers to getting to grips with the game, and I said I'd post a few pointers here as it'll help her out, and double my readership in one swoop, everybody's happy! I'm going to focus on priests, but I guess most of what I write will be applicable to all, here goes:

Starting Areas

When you first create your character you'll find yourself in a starting zone, this is a 'safe' area with low level mobs where you'll be drip fed your first few spells and abilities to help you learn the ropes. Depending on the race you choose you'll start in different areas so if you want to start with a fellow 'Newbie' from the very start make sure you choose players from the same race; if you're the same faction you'll be able to meet up later, but if one choses horde and one alliance you'll never be able to play together.

Zones

As a troll priest (hadn't you guessed by now?) I started in Durotar which has Orgrimmar, the main Horde city in the game to the North, if you start here you'll quickly progress to the Northern Barrens where the main town is the Cross Roads you will generally meet other Taurens. If you chose one of the other races, undead for example, you'll find yourself on another continent, it used to be the case that the quest chains naturally took you to the Cross Roads, but nowadays you'll get so much experience so quickly it'll be possible to skip the Northern Barrens all together.

Travel

You can get about the world in a number of ways, it's improved vastly from Vanilla Wow back in the old days, you can walk (clearly) or at level 20 (it used to be level 40) buy a mount to speed things along. Pretty much every outpost also now has a windrider which, once discovered, allows you to fly from point to point more quickly. There's also a Zeppelin (and sometimes boat) system at most of the major cities and ports which will let you move between the continents, generally the questing system will introduce you to these gradually, but I've found my level getting so far ahead of the quests I'm having to skip whole zones.

Levelling

You can gain experience (XP) to increase your level in a number of ways, the two main ones are questing and in instances (you'll also get quests to go to instances which give you additional benefit). You'll also get an XP boost from things like herb gathering, mining, exploring new zones and a number of other things, but I'd stick to questing and instances.

For quests stick to stuff which appear as green or yellow in your log, anything that's grey is too easy and will glean too little XP, anything which is red will be far too difficult. As a rule of thumb, if you can't kill three mobs simultaneously (from full mana and health) then you're probably in a zone which is too hard. If you're finding most of the quests are grey, look to move on to a harder zone.

Talent Spec

Specs have got a bit easier in my opinion since WoW, once you stick one point in one of the three trees available you're locked to that tree until you've spent 31 points. You'll get a new point every other level, or there abouts for the first few levels then you'll start picking up a point every level, you'll nicely get told of the new spells and talents available to you as you hit each new level.

The only real choice for levelling is shadow (you're not suck with this, and you can change at any time, plus you'll get dual specs which allow you to easily change between roles at later levels but we won't worry about that now).

There are a few mandatory choices in shadow, (actually there's a lot of mandatory talents), as a rule go for things which will improve the amount of damage you're going to do, some are obvious, some are not.

The main thing to aim for is shadow form, but before you can get that you need to open up the higher tiers by picking lower ranked talents.

I'd go for improved shadow word pain 2/2,

then Darkness 3/3, this will open the second tier,

next Twisted faith 2/2 this increases your damage and also converts spirit to hit. I won't go into the full reasons for needing hit here, but basically if you don't hit you don't do damage, there's little or no hit gear at low levels hence this is an excellent levelling talent.

Then improved devouring plague 2/2, this is a big source of damage and is important to have

You'll now have 1 point left to open shadow form, I'd go for improved mind blast
1/1, it's not a great damage spell any more, but it's useful for a buff it gives you when combined with shadow orbs (again more advanced than we really need to be going here)

This will give you shadow form with your next point, and you should have a tree something like this http://www.wowhead.com/talent#bZZG0Rd I'll leave the rest to you, the 'cookie cutter' DPS build for all shadow priests is http://www.wowhead.com/talent#bcZZGbGdMzrd0fo and if you follow this you won't go far wrong for levelling. There's a good guide to levelling builds and other stuff here http://www.wowwiki.com/Priest_builds if you want to read more

Spells and how to use them.

Make sure you always have Power Word: Fortitude and Inner Fire cast on yourself, for damage your main go-to spells for levelling at low levels should be Shadow Word: Pain, then Mind Flay – just repeat Mind Flay till the mob dies. At level 28 you'll get Devouring Plague, use this as your second spell in addition to the two above. You'll then get Shadow Word: Death at 31, use this to 'execute' mobs when they're low on health – be careful, if you use this and it doesn't kill the mob it will damage you too! When you get to 20 points in the shadow tree, you'll also be able to get Vampiric Touch, get it! This is another DoT and should be cast before Mind Flay as it does a lot of damage.

Stats

You'll notice the gear you pick up has different stats on it, some stats are better than others and some are no use to you what so ever, this differs from class to class, and spec to spec. As a Shadow Priest aim to get gear with intelligence, spell power (there isn't many items with spell power on any more), haste, crit and then spirit (in order of priority). Intellect is roughly twice as important as haste and crit.

You may notice that on your character pane you can expand the tab to till you your hit crit and haste percentages along with a whole host of other stats. You'll also notice that if you find an item at level 1 (for example here) with +10 crit on it it will make a huge difference to your crit percentage, the same item at level 85 would hardly be noticeable. This is called scalling as you go up through the levels you'll need more and more of a particular stat to keep the same percentage – don't worry to much about this for the moment, just try and get as much Int and Haste as you can

Tank? Healer? DPS? WHAT???

If you've ventured into an instance by now, chances are you'll know the difference, if not, you may not have a clue. Basically, there are three broad types of role for characters to play in WoW, all classes can be DPS foucssed, some can heal as well, some can 'tank' as well, some (Druids and Paladins) can do all three. This all depends on your choice of talents, and as a priest you have a choice of DPS or Healing. Now you've obviously been paying attention and have specced shadow haven't you? Good. This means you're DPS, at low levels you can still heal (yourself and in instances) but this will become less and less viable as you move up the levels. Tanks are there to stop us cloth wearers being squashed, if you're in an instance and you keep getting squashed, you either need to google "aggro management" or your tank is crap (or both). The healer is there to apply the magic ointment and tell you you're a brave soldier.

Monsters (mobs) and Elites

there are loads of mobs across WoW, keep an eye on their level (the number next to their picture which appears when you click them), in the same way as quests grey is too easy, and gleans no xp, green and yellow are killable, red is hard, a skull means you'll get murdered.

Look out for a metallic dragon round the picture, this means they're elite (much harder) there are different breeds of elite, bronze, silver and gold, each being harder to kill.

Guilds

Guilds are like minded group of people generally set up with a purpose in mind, some are real life friends, others objective is high end raiding, others levelling or more casual. Look on your realm forums, find one with an ethos which suits your objectives and apply to join, you'll get a wealth of information and knowledge from other players

Other Players

Thankfully I can say the majority of the WoW population are nice, friendly, people. Some however are, how shall we put this? well, arseholes. Because WoW is quite a mature game, most players know it inside out and true 'Newbies' are rare on established realms, this is one of the reasons Blizzard sets up new realms occasionally for new players, the dungeon finder circumvents this so you'll come across players on their sixth alt who expect everyone to be the same and won be very forgiving of mistakes. Generally if you explain you're new to the game, and need a little guidance they'll be fine and help out, occasionally you'll encounter idiots who'll be abusive. Remind them, they were there once, it's just like learning to drive…. It's easy once you know how. Forget about them and move on.

Trade Skills

You can do a whole host of secondary 'stuff' in WoW, if you're out to get involved in everything then trade skills are the thing for you (you can have two primary proffessions), some go well together like herbalism and alchemy, others like enchanting are stand alone. You can level without these and pick them up later, or you can start early. Read up on them before making the choice, some of the assumptions you might make about certain skills will be incorrect. http://www.wowwiki.com/Profession is a good place to start.

Addons

Addons are a big part of WoW, Blizzard has now incorporated most of the good functionality into its standard UI, given how much you need to learn, I'd ignore addons completely until you reach a higher level. Curse gaming (wow.curse.com) and wowinterface (wowinterface.com are the two main sites.



Further reading and searching

http://www.wowwiki.com/Newbie_guide

http://www.wowwiki.com/Starting_a_priest

are both good links to read

WoW Insider is an excellent blog site for everything WoW http://wow.joystiq.com

www.shadowpriest.com is for higher levels and is very in depth

www.elitistjerks.com is another good one for all classes

if you're struggling just head over to google and stick in a search, be careful of the crap from previous releases which are out of date, I tend to start all of my searches "wow cata 4.0" and then whatever I'm searching for, for this reason.



And that's it, I've intentionally skirted over lots of stuff so as not to (overly) confuse, there's lots more to learn than I could ever hope to write here, use your initiative and take time to read around areas and ask friendly players who you've met on the way – they don't bite. If you've found this useful, have questions, or would like to see more detail on anything please leave a comment or tweet me @wow_PFtT. Above all, Have Fun!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Hit me!

Something has been troubling me since I came back to WoW, well lots of things have actually, but one thing more than most; hit caps, or the lack of them. My natural instinct when hitting 85 (if you'll excuse the pun) was to ensure that I was hit capped above all else. When you do some reading, and I've done lots, it would seem that hit is no longer the be all and end all of stats. Head over to shadowpriest.com and you'll see that the stat priority is as follows:

Int: 1.0000
SP: 0.7935
Haste: 0.5031
Crit: 0.4040
Mastery: 0.3857
Hit: 0.3741
Spirit: 0.3732

You'll notice that hit languishes just above spirit and the ginger step child in terms of priorities, now normally this would come with some sort of disclaimer along the lines of "hit calculated after reaching cap of xxxx" but no such statement was made. Was this a mere oversight, is hit still as important as it ever was? It seems not! You might have got an inkling by now that I'm not the type of player who takes things completely at face value, I like to know what's going on under the hood as it aids my own sanity, and I feel understanding the mechanics of the game help me to improve. So off I trotted to various forums and Google in my quest to get some answers, not any old answers or opinion, good hard FACT's backed up with some old fashioned honest evidence.


I have to say I was sorely disappointed; I accept that there's always going to be a bit of a grey area with 'the best' way to DPS because Blizzard don't publish their algorithms for calculating damage done, nor should they, and the fact that everyone's gear, lag, play style and a multitude of other factors will be ever so slightly different. As with any scientific investigation it is possible to develop test theories by modelling observations, which is pretty much what the simlecraft community have done to give us the stat priority.

I had a bit of a Google for material, checked the usual suspects, Elitistjerks.com, shadowpriest.com etc. and the official 'shudder' forums which reminded me why I never go there; I swear half of the people posting there still think the world is flat because "it said so in a book, once". Anyways I digress. In summary, I struggled to find the good hard facts I was looking for, I tried to sift out the mere conjecture and the downright idiotic to give me the next best thing to facts, anecdotal evidence based on observations which have log's or models which hold true in most cases. These theories are not necessarily wrong, or bad for that matter, just incomplete, and in lieu of a complete the best we have to work with.

So in an attempt to concisely answer my question of "is getting to the hit cap top priority" I've made a long and rambling post to come to the conclusion of…."possibly not"… sorry. Here is a summary of what I believe are the key points
  • Anything over 17% is (still) completely pointless.
  • The 17% hit cap seems to sacrifice DPS, stacking Int and haste in favour of hit if you're at the 15% level seems to be the way forward.
  • I suspect, hit is suffering from a diminishing return type rule, if you're vastly under the hit cap then its value to you increases – I've yet to read and digest the simlecraft in its entirety and fully get to grips to say this for certain.
  • I'm really not sure why hit is slightly better than spirit on the priority list, spirit gives mana regen in addition to hit, so surely it should be slightly higher (even if this is nominal) rather than lower? – again I need to do more reading as it's far more likely that I've missed something that the numbers being wrong.
  • The general consensus seems to be to always gem for Int and Haste where possible, unless gemming for something else gives you better overall stats by triggering a slot bonus or enabling a meta-gem.

If it is the case that the hit cap isn't vital, is there a sweet spot to which we should aim? 13-14% would seem to be about there, but this is purely speculation. There's also the human factor to it, people like seeing big numbers on the screen, and hate seeing "MISS" blazing up in front of them, whilst not attaining the hit cap may be optimal, I can see a large proportion of hit-cap-zealots carrying on regardless and casting out the heretics who speak otherwise to their mythical round planet... if there is a sweet spot be it the lowest hit you can attain (there will be a natural minimum for your gear set where you simply can't get any lower), or somewhere in between, the only way we can find out for certain is through simulation and modelling.  

A word on statistics  

The statisticians are lurking at this point, dying to tell you that probability is, by definition, a random effect; what happened last time, and what will happen next time have no bearing on what happens now: if I were to win the lottery tomorrow, my chances of winning it next week would be EXACTLY THE SAME, in the same way if you've just missed with a spell, you're next spell has EXACTLY THE SAME chance of missing, it may miss, and you can consider yourself unlucky if it does, but it will happen occasionally. If you don't believe me try tossing a coin 100 times, did you end up with roughly 50 head and 50 tails? Yes? Did they all come in a nice symmetrical order of Head, Tail, Hail, Tail, etc…? no? that's just what probability does for you, given an infinite number of events it will always even itself out, now infinite is impossible, so we have to settle for statistically significant – if you didn't know for a fact that a coin had a 50:50 chance of landing as a head or a tail, you could work it out by tossing it a few thousand times and recording the results (it will actually, in reality, tend to favour tails very slightly, as the heads side tends to be heavier and is more likely to land face down, but that's by-the-by).

Human nature and intuition is a strong factor, even if it is wrong, if you still not convinced, play a little game with me, it won't take 30 seconds, pick me eight random numbers from 0-9 and write them down on a piece of paper sequentially. Then scroll to the end of this post for some predictions which will astound and amaze you…

My other concern is that if you're unlucky miss on a couple BIG spells like SW:D at sub 25% health or similar then, in a single fight, your DPS will be significantly skewed downward, however your average DPS over, say, 100 identical fights would be better – is this a good thing? Is it better to guarantee(or as close to guaranteed as you can get) a minimum dps for every fight being hit capped, or is it better to have a higher average DPS figure overall? 

So what's my point I hear you say? Well it's this, human beings, by nature, try to look for patterns where there are not. Just look up at the moon, see the face on it? Of course you do, but I guarantee it's not actually a face. Don't mistake your single observations over a short period of time for fact, yes how you play the game is crucially important to your ability to maximise DPS, but when dealing with figures try and take the emotion out of it, look at your logs and always try and prove your assumptions wrong, if you can't you're doing the right thing, even your own logs probably aren't statistically significant keep an eye on the simlecraft and other theroycraft posters, or if you don't like maths, or simply don't understand, pick a few bloggers or forum posters who are reasonably active and you trust (hopefully with time, I might be one of those) and pass an eye over their musings once in a while.
 

So there you are, hit caps, probability and human nature in a nut shell. Simples. I don't really know all the answers (yet), but I'll leave you with a final thought: Don't be a slave to the DPS meters; bosses will go down far quicker if DPS spent the time they do trying to squeeze that extra hundred DPS out of their rotations, instead making sure that they avoid that crap on the floor they haven't noticed which is about to kill them.




Mystics predictions (spoiler alert if you haven't read above yet) 


I'll bet you 20 English pennies that you didn't repeat any numbers in the sequence? If you did I'll bet you're either mathematically orientated in your work or schooling (or you've seen this before and you knew I was trying to trick you), or you repeated only one number? If you asked the same of a truly random number generator, the sequence 11111111 would be just as likely as, say, 92583107 to come out, yet human beings can't tend to manage truly random things.

I'll wager another 20p that some sort of pattern emerges in most cases; along the lines of always going higher than the last number then lower, then higher and so on… or never having two number next to each other which occur naturally next to each other i.e. 0123456789? etc. etc.


Monday, 24 January 2011

Not in the Spirit of things

A few evenings ago I ran an instance with a fellow guildie who I've known for a long time (I actually recruited him to the guild back in the day when I was levelling my priest in Stranglethorn Vale, so a VERY long time ago). He was a shaman back then, but sometime between then and now he's rolled a priest. He's one of those players who takes a little time to understand his class, and as such gains respect from myself in what he says, because he's not just repeating parrot-fashion what he's read elsewhere, or what others have told him, without knowing why he's saying it.

Now, we were running my favouritest place in the whole world, you guessed it, Grim Batol…as it happens, we were both melting faces as it was a guild run and one of our shammies decided they wanted to try their hand at healing; THREE healing types in a party, what a waste. We obviously both did the WoW equivalent of dogs meeting at the park boundary before walkies and sniffed each other's arses… inspecting each other's gear as I was mid whisper to him saying "my god you've got a lot of spirit", he whispered the exact opposite along the lines of "where the hell is your spirit man??". This conversation carried on throughout the instance, and spilled over into an impromptu target dummy session in Org afterwards, his gear was slightly better than mine at the time, and I didn't have enough stuff with spirit on going spare to make a noticeable difference by swapping gear sets.

Now I like spirit, I really do, and I wish I could use more of it, but seriously? The only thing it's useful for is the hit it gives you if you stick two points in twisted faith (which you should) and then only up to the hit cap. The mana regen it gives you in combat is about as useful as a one-legged man in an arse kicking contest (thanks to Rowan Atkinson for that gem) due to the plethora of talents a Shadow Priest has at his disposal to regen mana. So in my view, Spirit chosen over any other stat, unless you're not hit capped, is a complete waste. Now I've spent a good few hours researching this (no just this, but stat priorities in general, I'm not quite that sad) and I can't find anything to the contrary. Am I right, and my priestly friend mistaken? Am I wrong and spirit is the best kept secret in the shadow priest's arsenal? Or is it a "you're both right, sorta" kind of answer? I'm more than happy to be proven wrong if I'm barking up the wrong tree, but I know where my spirit is, and it's firmly in the "Spirit blows" camp.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

It’s Grim in Batol

I've had a quiet weekend on WoW front, excessive amounts of alcohol and trying to avoid removing extremities with a circular saw have taken priority (not both at the same time I might add). I've managed a total of two instances this weekend, both of them in bleeding Grim Batol. Let me state up front, Grim Batol is a horrible place, it is my Stonecore… I don't mind doing it providing it's with reasonably geared guildies or friends, but as a PUG, unless you get very lucky it's not going to get finished.

The first boss, General Umbriss, isn't too bad, providing you have the gumption to keep an eye on your deadly boss mods warning and move when he decides to pick on you and you have someone capable of either crowd controlling or killing the purple trogg. My first run was in shadow form, with a guild healer but the rest PUGed saw not one, but two wipes mainly because the tank was under-geared and didn't have a clue (I know tanks get a hard time, but having some idea of how to tank with your class, before pressing the LFG button and clicking the shield icon is desirable). In is customary for PUGs wiping in such fashion the tank blamed the healer, everyone else in the group, physics, and pretty much everything else possible before quitting, as did one of the DPS only not quite as dramatically. Reformed with a reasonable tank, Umbriss was despatched pretty quickly, and we were off to Forgemaster Throngus.

Now Frongus has been my least favourite boss as a healer, since I got bored of queuing and added my holy spec, that was until I realised dispelling the nasty debuff on the tank makes things simpler. Amazingly both as dps and healing this weekend we saw him off first time. I can't ever remember two fights going so smoothly with him. I suppose the source of my dislike for this boss is the fact that being unlucky makes it infintately harder; if you get more than one shield, or get unlucky with cave-ins with a shield and then get swords it becomes very difficult for the healer through no real fault of his own, just random chance. I'm all for encounters being variable and challenging, providing they don't become impossible randomly.

Drahga Shadowburner is the real group killer for me, it's the one where I've seen the most PUGs fall apart and although it's skippable, if you have to skip it you're probably not going to do the last boss either. It is also for me, since I figured out how thick I was being on Throngus, the boss which I'm currently finding the most difficult. There's just so much going on! Generally the tank takes a battering and so is needing big heals, there's adds running around like loons just waiting for you get your spell book out so they have an excuse to aggro you. The little exploding git add which needs to be kited or it'll pretty much one-shot whoever it's got targeted. And then there's the flames, I just can't seem to reliably keep myself outside of them, either I avoid them and the tank dies, or I completely miss the warning because of the anarchy which is ensuing and cop it straight in the face. It has to be said, it's easier with people you know and much easier if people are on vent communicating, but with PUGs it's an almost guaranteed fail. Not wanting to break with tradition, my first trek did exactly this, with a fair stab at it, but sadly a couple of the group just weren't up to it and neither were their replacements as in turn people quit.

The second group, with me healing, decided to skip it all together and head for Erudax, I quite like this boss, as bosses go in Grim Batol, but today was a different story. The first tank, who wasn't bad to be fair to him, had other commitments, made his apologies and left before we had our first stab. The second tank TALKED ONLY IN CAPITALS, said FFS in every sentence, and insisted his strategy which was "the way tankspot say you have to do it" (I checked, it doesn't) lasted all of two attempts before doing us all a favour. Another short wait and an unsuspecting tank later the DPS decided the adds weren't all that important, the idiot healer, ignoring my own rule, decided to stand outside of the crap and promptly died. At which point the hour and a half I'd set aside for a 'quick random' was up and I had to do something I hate and make my apologies. I hope they went on to kill Erudax at the next pull, it's not a particularly difficult boss, but people's minds just seemed to be elsewhere so I suspect it would have been called pretty soon after my departure.



BossGeneralHealingDPS
General UmbrissMove on charge

Stay at range to avoid ground seige/ move when he turns to face you
Fade to avoid addsKill purple add if no CC

Kill other adds if being overwhelmed
Forgemaster ThrongusShield (flames) – get in close, move behind boss

Sword – big DPS on tank

Mace – Kite, stay out of path

Avoid cave in
Dispell tank

big AOE heals on shield, use chakra floor heal if neccesary

Sword – big single target heals – use guardian spirit if needed

Mace – small AOE heals
Drahga ShadowburnerKite add if targeted

Move on flame warning

Avoid crap on floor
Conserve mana where poss

Small aoe heals
Disperse if caught in flame
ErudaxMove into circle to avoid shadow galeAOE chakra heal in circle if needed

Keep players topped up in case of stun
DPS add immediately after gale

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Queue Tips

The length of the queue seems to be a hot topic at the moment, as a Tank you're pretty much guaranteed to be in the instance almost instantly, a healer within five minutes, but as DPS it's anything upwards of 30 minutes. There's nothing worse than queuing for ages, only to be dumped in the middle of an instance in progress which is already falling apart and finding yourself back in Org without a party moments later. The obvious answer to queuing is roll a hybrid class that also tanks or heals, but that pretty much ensures you'll never be DPS, sometimes I quite like to smash things up, and the rogue, hunters, mages and smelly warlocks of the world probably don't want to reroll just for the queue. So you've got the choice, go collect herbs, finish a few dailies, or write your blog, whichever way you need to fill at least 30 minutes.

I chose the latter, and it got me thinking. What could blizzard do to improve the queuing system? I've already seen some people abusing the system, grouping with a friend from a tanking or healing class who have no intention of doing the instance and leaving the second the party is formed just to give their partner a queue jump. I don't claim to know the mechanics behind the queuing system or the account system but it strikes me that Blizzard might be missing a trick. I'm assuming that Blizzard isn't short of the computing capacity to host instances and isn't artificially slowing down the queue – this is implied by the fact that tanks get groups instantly. My second assumption is that Blizzard are quite capable of linking characters from the same account, we know this is possible since the introduction of heirlooms; with these assumptions in mind it's down to 'encouraging' players to enter the queue as a healer or tank rather than DPS. It should be a pretty simple matter to introduce a 'buff' of sorts which could be applied to an account which guarantees the next character on an account to join the queue a queue-jump if another character on that account has successfully completed an instance in the past, say, 12 hours as a tank or healer.

This would allow two things, it would allow players like myself with hybrid classes who enjoy running instances occasionally as DPS rather than always having to heal, it would also encourage those players with pure DPS classes to roll an alt who can heal or tank in order to give a boost to their main in the queue. From my implications you (well, I) can to a back of the fag packet calculations as to what effect this would have on the queue. Let's take the tank as the constant as it's an instant entry so t=1, healers are next at h=4 as (a figure in the air) average wait time of 4 minutes, and then d=30 as an approximate wait time for DPS. This basically equates to a shortage of t, just about enough h and a glut of d. In an ideal world each of our three variables need to be at about the same level. Now actually, when you think about it, d is in fact 90, not 30, there are 3 slots for DPS so a 30 minute waits x 3 per party. This to my logic means there are roughly 90 times more available DPS types than there are tanks.

Let's assume that 50% of the DPS types take advantage of the system so we have 45, and lets break them down into the figures for tanks and healer, so we have t=1+9, h=4+36, and d=90-45; or t=10, h=40, d=45. Now these players who are moving from a DPS class, we've got to assume, are only doing so to get their mains to the front of the queue quicker. Let's assume that roughly half of those people entering an instance as a healer or tank go on to enter as a DPS player within my 12 hour time frame (I'm assuming some won't finish as healers and some wont then add their DPS character to the queue within the allotted timeframe, others may use their queue jump on a class that isn't DPS). This means we need to add 22.5 to d making it 70 (that's right, 45+22.5 equals 70, or at least it does with a little rounding up to help my maths). So taking t back to 1 as our base, we have t=1, h=4 and d=7.

Now as I was working this through, I couldn't quite believe the difference it makes, admittedly there are a lot of ifs, buts, and assumptions, and I'm sure I've over simplified things. Even messing around with the figures and lessening the number of DPS types converting to other classes, increasing the percentage of people taking advantage of the buff or increasing the 12 hour window of use, there's still a significant improvement.

In summary, come on Blizzard! Sort the queue out so these poor people don't have to read my inane ramblings.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Lost: One City of the Tol’vir, if found, please return to…

My most popular post by far, to date, has been my recount of my first heroic journey into Stonecore; so in an attempt to push my readership firmly into the double figures mark on the way to achieving world dominance I thought I'd write a review of another instance. You never know I might even make it a weekly feature.

Into the instance and over the, pretty pointless, bridge you go. General convention seems to be to head to the right round to General Husam. I'm not sure why this is and it strikes me as being pretty leftyist, but I digress. The trash mobs generally come in small groups which can be crowd controlled, don't be lazy, if your group can CC them, then do CC them, they're still capable of wiping you if you get sloppy. Make sure you clear a little past Husam's cubby-hole as you'll need to be moving him around while fighting and you don't want uninvited guests crashing the party.

General Husam

Let me state upfront, this fight is really, really, easy if your party has mastered the use of the W,S,A & D keys (with the possible addition of Q & E) combined with a little bit of awareness of what's going on around you. Sadly it seems that a large proportion of the population of WoW is deficient in at least one of these qualities so the fight can become a bit of a drag.

The main crux of this fight is a modification of my first rule of Cata Heroics "don't stand in the crap on the floor or you'll die". Husam shows complete contempt for the Ottawa Treaty and not only continues to stockpile landmines, but also deploys them at regular intervals. He places these mines at reasonably regular intervals around the area he's being tanked, you're safe to stand near these mines (for the moment) but if you stand on them they go bang. Now this has a couple of effects; firstly, as you might expect, it hurts; secondly it hurls you into the air generally causing you to detonate several other mines not only hurting yourself but also any of your team mates who were stood close to the said mine happily minding their own business; thirdly it really hacks off the healer. Now the second caveat to the rule is that after a number of these mines have been placed they will all explode together. They give you a nice little warning that they are about to explode by illuminating the blast radius in yellow on the floor around them. Make sure you're not stood in this.

The second ability to be aware of is the shockwave where he cracks the ground in a straight line outwards from his position; it's pretty slow moving and easily avoidable at the range a cloth wearing squishy should be (what do you mean you like the Tanks hand during a boss fight?). Just be careful you don't jump out of the frying pan into the, errr, mine, when doing so.

The real killer in this fight is the Bad Intentions ability, this will randomly pick a player (usually me) which he will charge, pick up, and throw against a nearby wall. This in itself isn't generally fatal, unless you're already low on health. However if you're unlucky (or me) there will be a mine at the bottom of this wall, as you slide down and land on it you're back to jumping between the yellow flashing things shouting ouch lots. If / when Husam decides he doesn't like you try and do whatever you can to mitigate damage through Dispersion, Power Word Shield, etc. don't just expect the healer to keep you up automatically. If you are the healer and someone else gets nailed shove some heals their way as a matter of urgency. Be careful not to sacrifice the tank, the final ability, Hammer Fist, can dish out the damage pretty quickly; Guardian Spirit is your friend here.

In quick summary; gear levels don't really matter here, it's all about positioning and awareness. People who are new to the place and have a bit of the grey matter will pick it up after a few attempts, perceiver with them till they get it. If you find yourselves continually wiping here with no improvement you'll struggle with the two final encounters in the instance.

Lockmaw and Aug

These two come as a pair but not together, it's Lockmaw first up, then Aug pop's in to say hi (technically Aug comes first but scarpers before you can tip him upside down and rinse him of his loot). This is a pretty easy encounter for priests and healing in my view, the only problems you'll have as a healer are if the DPS are stooped. As a shadow priest you're never stooped are you? No, good.

Rule 3 all the way here folks,"kill the adds please" randomly a player gets a scent of blood debuff which attracts tiny crocks. Pretty easy to deal with, but if your healer cops it you need to look out for them. Don't stand too close to each other, there's a poison debuff which I handy if someone can remove. If you're stupid enough to stand close enough to his rear end to be tail swiped please stop reading now, turn your computer off, and take it back to the shop.

Aug is a bit more involved so sit down and drink up, stick a new Lightwell down etc. His main threat to us squishies is the dragons breath which will disorient the dank for a few seconds causing him to jump to the second in the threat meter, combined with a spinny-whirly-gig thing he does slapping anything in his path. If you're lucky enough to have a portable vending machine in the group, especially one spec'd fire, he'll almost certainly be higher in the agro stakes than you so will soon be smeared across the floor – just don't stand too close to him. As an aside he does a nasty poison debuff too which you should encourage people to remove if possible – the damage is nasty enough but more importantly it cripples the recipients haste.

Neither the croc nor the pigmy should pose you too much trouble.

High Prophet Barim

This, in my view, is the hardest boss in here. Make sure you've buffed shadow protection before the fight. As DPS it's all about following my rules of engagement… do that and you're on to a winner. As a healer it's highly mana intensive, the Tank is going to get spanked hard, if one or both of you are under geared have a chat beforehand an agree how to utilise your cooldowns for the 50 lashings ability. There's a nasty disease that should be dispelled if at all possible especially if you're shadow and not struggling for mana or trying to keep the Tank alive. Keep out of the swirly vortex jobby, it hurts. There's also a golden phoenix spawns, kill it please.

At 50% health phase 2 starts, be prepared to crack out an AOE heal or two. Forget Barim, he's immune to damage. The tank needs to kite the purple phoenix away from the shards which spawn; ideally you don't want any to come into contact with the phoenix at all. Whether you're healing or DPSing watch out for the circles of crap on the floor and move out of them, they hurt. Once the phoenix is dead its back to the phase 1 abilities, make sure the tanks HP is topped up if you're healing, if you get a lashing early on it'll kill him.

The difficulty in this fight is all in the mechanics, there's so much going on for all of the classes; it's easy to panic and get things wrong. Stupidity = lots of damage = healer oom = squashed tank. Do what you can to avoid damage, help mitigate damage by curing disease where possible), keep away from the adds. You'll generally find you wipe lots here to start with, and lots if you have one or two inexperienced party members. If you have a good group it's quite an enjoyable fight.

Top tip: if it's looking like you'll need to pop Hymn of Hope. Do it early so it's not still on cooldown for the next boss.

Siamat

This is a pretty straight forward fight, pay attention to the adds, the ones which are top priority are the Servants, the others can be 'kited' (more ignored than kited but someone needs to keep interrupting them) or killed, I prefer the latter. Keep a reasonable distance to avoid the chain lightning and stay out of the whirly crap.

While the servants are still up Siamat has a shield which absorbs a high proportion of damage, so the auto-shooting hunter really does need to swap to the adds or his precious dps figures will dwindle… When the shield drops ignore the Minions completely and blast away. If you're DPSing here you should save your cooldowns for this part. Healing you'll need to employ AOE as there's a lot of party damage.

Job Done. Have a biscuit!



Mystic's black book says:



BossGeneralHealingDPS
HusamDon't stand on mines

Move to safety before detonate
AOE heals after detonate

Big heal on player who gets grabbed

Shield yourself if you get grabbed
Disperse / shield yourself if grabbed
LockmawKeep distance from party membersEasy healing

Look after player with debuff

Fade to avoid adds
DPS adds
AugAvoid spinning AOEAOE heal after boss spinStraight DPS
BarimMove out of fire

Move out of Light

Avoid Purple Phoenix
Heavy healing on tank

Needs Big AOE heals

On phase change

Mana intensive – conserve mana where possible
DPS Adds
SiamatSpread out a little

Avoid winds
AOE Heals to top up groupDPS Servants first

Don't dps him with shield up

 

Suicidal Tendencies

Spirit of Redemption is a strange talent, I'm not aware of any other talent in any tree of any other class which is similar. It gives you 15 seconds of unlimited healing upon your death (21 glyphed). Why would anyone in their right mind spend a precious point on a talent which is only useable when you're dead? Well I did! And here's why:





In my view there are two reasons why you would spec SoR
  1. You're general awareness is pants
  2. You're general awareness is excellent
Now the more mathematically inclined amongst you (possibly statisticians, I don't know) may point out to me that my two reasons encompass all players, not so. The middle ground of not being pants, but not realising quite how SoR could be employed exists, here's a nifty little diagram to summarise my thoughts.

It's not so cut-and-dry, I suppose what I'm saying is all pants players will need it lots, because they've done something silly which has killed them, generally this will result in a wipe, but sometimes it'll be just enough healing to let the group kill whatever needs to be killed. Average players, where most of us sit, will drop the ball occasionally and do silly things too; the more you progress towards the middle ground the less you die, the less you need it? True. And the same has happened to me over the past few weeks, I've considered dropping SoR, but then a funny thing happened to me, we were Fighting Lord Walden in SFK, and I was completely out of mana, all my cooldowns were gone and I'd even popped my mana pot (can you tell the fight was going well?). Four of five of the party were alive and Walden was sub 5 % health, as were most of the party, when the green Toxic Coagulant debuff pops up. Veterans of SFK will know this means move around quickly or die (in fact I quite expect to get several comments of purely qqqqqqqeeeeeeeqqqqqqq just from the natural reaction to strafe at the mention of the green nastiness). Instead of my natural reaction to move immediately, my hand froze; I'm not sure this was intentional at this point or just an admission of defeat, moments later I was in SoR form and healing away again the part were back up to fullish health and Walden was as dead as a manic depressive Warlock with a haste buff. The logic is quite simple, commit Hari-Kari, incur a repair bill and have a chance of killing the boss, or don't do it, definitely incur a repair bill and wipe the party. If I haven't upset those statisticians too much to have left by now, they'll point out that this is simple game theory, which can be explained by a two by two matrix (the MBA graduates weapon of choice)

Best Case
Worst Case
Suicide
Death & repair bill + loot
Death + Infinite repair bills (more subsequent wipes)
Don't Suicide
Death & repair bill + loot (kill it next time)
Death + Infinite repair bills (more subsequent wipes)


Admittedly you might wipe, reform, and kill the boss next time, but chances are you'll have at least a couple of attempts before succeeding, or calling it a night. Worst case scenario is no worse than not trying it. So in my view, it's worth a shot. I've employed this tactic on two or three occasions since to good success, there's a time and a place for it and it won't always work, but what have you got to lose? That's right, nothing. There are plenty of bosses in Cata which give you the opportunity to do this, so bare it in mind as a last resort. Don't expect to get thanks for doing it, people will just assume you died, so make sure to brag about being better than them if it comes off, or alternatively just keep quiet and sit back with a smug smile on your face knowing that you rock.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Click the Lightwell not to die!

The Lightwell is a funny thing, much maligned when it was introduced back in… actually I can't remember when it was, but let's just say a long time ago. Rightly so, in my opinion, when it was first introduced, the healing it did was negligible, and you had to be stood close enough to lick it to be able to use the damn thing. This relegated it to nothing more than a glorified range marker and subjected it to the derision of most of the WoW world.

Not so any more, HAURRAH I hear you say… the Lightwell ticks for 6 to 8k with average heroic gear three times, with 10 charges unglyphed (15 glyphed), and more importantly is clickable from up to 18 yards away, and EVEN MORE importantly you can use it while you're stunned, blinded, casting and pretty much any other situation you can think of. This means that it is not only a viable healing option but also, if used correctly, COMPLTELEY FREE, simply stick it down before the fight, and watch you're adoring party colleagues heal themselves, only stopping to whisper you and tell you what a good healer you are! Not a chance. It might be the most efficient healing spell in the game, it might be extremely useful given the movement dynamics of most boss fights, but can you hell get people to click it consistently?

I've tried a number of approaches in getting people to see the light, well, click it, with variable success. Guildies are easy, simply scream abuse at them over Vent until they cotton on J but in PUG's it's another matter. I've tried explaining the benefits of the Lightwells wholesome goodness before a boss fight, nothing. I've tried reverse phycology "you won't want to click the Lightwell and stay alive would you?" and much more. Sometimes people cotton on, wither because they're good players already and understand the changes, sometimes they're even better players and have the ability to learn and adapt (these types of players are the best in my view) but mainly they're completely oblivious.

My current approach is to drop a Lightwell on the first trash pull of an instance and explain what it is in a slightly tongue in cheek manner (me sarcastic? Nooooooooonnonono), then drop it at the star of each boss with a macro that announces its existence. I then proceed to spam another macro which yells to "click the Lightwell not to die" at points in the encounter where DPS not being thick would be desirable. Generally this has a reasonable effect, especially when combined with my relentless mocking should we wipe and the Lightwells still up. I've only once had someone take my word literally and click the Lightwell "not to die" BEOFRE the pull!!?! "But you said I had to click it else I would die" I'm still not sure whether this guy was a comedy genius, or a cretin, I'll leave it to you to decide.

I now understand the pain of the Warlocks suffering, not that they don't deserve it, but for years they've been dishing out health stones, only to see them go wasted as the party wipes with the boss on 1% health, again. We're even further disadvantage in that players can't simply sling it on the cast bar and click it, they have to actively search for it on the floor, make sure they're in range, and then click. (Ok, I take it all back, it's far too hard, don't bother even trying to click it…).

I recently experienced a novel approach to 'coaching for performance' (can you tell I work for a large corporate? J) from a healer at the first boss in HoL whilst brushing the dust off my mage and having a run out. "If you're shit and stand in the blue fire, I'm not healing you" again I'm pretty sure it was tongue in cheek, or perhaps he was just as scarred as I am on the stupidity front, whatever, it worked. So I'm tempted to steal his idea and threaten not to heal anyone until they've clicked the Lightwell at least once.

Ideas for improving the use of a Lightwell

  • Make macro's to encourage its use and spam them relentlessly.
  • Keep it friendly, I've found a little humour goes a long way.
  • Drop one early on trash to acclimatise your party to it, it might be the first time they've seen one…
  • Always drop it before the fight, have a drink, pull boss – free heals.
  • Drop it in a sensible place, where it can be seen and where it'll generally be in range; midway between the melee and the ranged is ideal
  • Don't give up, if at first you don't succeed, bitch and moan until somebody listens.
  • Practice what you preach! You too can click the Lightwell; don't think you're special and thus exempt.
Who'd have thought it, I've written an essay on the damn lolwell, I'm off to petition the government to install 'vote kick' functionality to trains.

Little Black Book

I've been running heroics now for a good few weeks with more and more success, still having great fun, and getting up there on the gear stakes, yet there's still something still bothering me; I can't for the life of me remember strategies for bosses. This isn't so bad when I'm with guildies and it's a simple case of asking for a reminder on vent, generally I'll have recalled the strategy by the end of the first sentence and we'll be off. With PUGs however it's a different matter, it's far slower explaining strategies using text, and I feel a bit slack having been to a place several times before and still not remembering how to do things. I generally have a second computer on the desk next to my gaming pc (I work from home now and then the study doubles as a games room and office) so this has led to me scanning through wowwiki as the party approaches a boss. Not a great issue you might think, but it still leaves me feeling I'm not exactly pulling my weight on the trash, especially as some of the strategies on there are not exactly to the point, or even correct in some instances (I know, I know, it's a wiki, I can edit it… I'm lazy, deal with it )

Back in the day (I'm in danger of getting nostalgic all over again…) when we were running Molten Core, I never had this problem, I'd know exactly what each class should be doing for every boss at any given moment, not a small feat when you consider there were 40 players, so why's it such a trouble now. I'm the first to admit, my short term memory is abysmal and was chatting about it with one of the guildies on vent one evening as I was kicking back and relaxing levelling an alt. He piped up that he used a little roller-deck next to his PC with prompts for each boss. After the initial mocking from all and sundry listening in died down, I realised that this was pure genius, it also struck me why I used to know each MC boss off by heart; I used to write the boss strategies, in conjunction with one or two others, for our guild website. First think I was taught at Uni was writing notes helps commit things to memory, even if you never look at those notes again.

Out comes the A4 notebook, with a double page assigned to each instance, and separate columns for dps healing, and plenty of space left over for alts, each time I've been to a boss since I've added the strategy in troll-short-hand along the lines of "don't stand in blue fire" "move out of laser beam" and "big AOE heals at start of phase 2" etc. Anyone else reading it might think its utter gibberish, but the very act of writing it means I hardly ever now have to even look at my own notes, and when I do it's a 5 second job as we recoup mana and buff up.

Such a simple method and so successful, I'd be interested to know if anyone else suffers the same affliction, and how you deal with it?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Seeing the Light

Spurred on by my first ever comment by my reader (I'm hoping for more, but I'm not sure it's quite plural yet) and boredom of yet another train journey, it's time for another brain dump. Kudos to Tamarind for posting the comment and making my day.

When I left this morning I was well in to the heroics, and had started looking at more advanced ways of tweaking my gear and playing style for maximum DPS, but as I've progressed, and the holiday season has ended there are less guildies available to run instances; I'm not quite sure whether it's my work commitments getting me online at bad times, the increased amount of raiding the guild is doing, or that people have started to realise how bad I am… I'll let you decide.

So anyways, I've started using the dungeon finder a lot, previously it was purely to top up the groups, now it's to find three or four other players. The first thing I notice, if there's a tank in my party you're into an instance quicker than you can blink, with a healer, I've generally got time to nip downstairs and put the kettle on. If it's just me, or me and only DPS, it's thirty minutes plus! THIRTY, three zero, there can't be that many Warlocks in the world can there?

As the handy-man said to his apprentice, "screw this", I'm getting the bandages out.

So off I go to have a read up on specs, I decide on http://www.wowhead.com/talent#bchZfurrRzbkcdoh as my spec and start to have a play with the healing mechanics; the first thing that strikes me is the options available to a healing priest nowadays, back in Vanilla WoW, which is the last time I did any serious healing, I used primarily Greater Heal, Flash Heal, and renew, with the occasional downrated standard heal if mana was an issue, and not much else. It strikes me that there are at least ten spells which will be in standard use, plus the more occasional spells like Guardian Spirit and Hymn of Hope etc. And what the hell is Chakra??? It sounds like some 80's punk rock band… I set up my bars in what seems to be a reasonable order, those of you who read my last post, you'll remember my fingers have long term memory issues and it takes a lot for me to get used to Renew, Flash Heal, Heal, and Greater Heal not being 7,8,9, and 0 anymore.

It just so happens that a few guildies need a healer for a normal instance for their alts, so I volunteer and head along and help out on the understanding I'm popping my healing cherry and am likely to suck…. And suck I did. Fortunately I had the sense to go for a normal where my overpowered gear and lower damage made up for my complete ineptitude. Several lessons were learned; firstly, Chakra is very important, secondly, I need some addons to help out desperately, thirdly, the bigger health pools mean that you can leave the DPS on lowish health for longer than I'd historically be comfortable with if you're desperately struggling to keep the tank up without too much danger.

I find healbot on either curse.com or wowinterface.com, I can't remember which, and set to installing it (I know, I know, "only nubs use healbot" pro healers use grid, I remember grid being a steep learning curve and I'm already feeling battered and bruised from my first healing experience, deal with it). I set about configuring it, so I have Heal on left click, Greater Heal on right click. I latterly add Decurse and Power Word Shield plus a few other bits and bobs, but you get the picture. Heal is my go-to spell, in normal circumstances I keep Chakra up on single target healing which renews Renew for free and makes it extremely mana efficient, I reckon I can keep Renew up on three targets quite easily if needed. My 'oh crap' spell is bound to ' again and I have the Chakra specific spell on 1, Chakra itself on 2, with Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, and Circle of Healing on 3,4 and 5. This way, most of my healing is done by mouse clicks, and anything else is relatively close by my left hand should I need to change tack.

All in all I'm much happier with the healing since I've got this, I've also installed an addon to let me move pretty much anything about the screen so the important 'things to click' are all close together.

Some more general thoughts on (Holy) Priest Healing summarised below

  • Single target healing Chakra with Heal is your main healing, with renew.
  • Swap to Flash and Grater Heal when the going gets tough.
  • Don't forget the chakra specific spell in this form, it's very efficient and improves the Crit of your next heal(s).
  • Keep Prayer of Mending up if there's a lot of party damage; always cast it on the tank.
  • AOE Chakra is crucial for some bosses (more on that in a later post) the specific spell can be vital, but is massively mana intensive.
  • ALWAYS use a Lightwell before a boss pull, its free heals.
  • Consider using a macro to spam party chat with "click on the Lightwell, numbtee" or something similar – the more scathing the better.
  • Talk to your tank – whisper him or her when you first get to the instance and tell them if you've not been there, or you have problems with running short of mana etc…
  • Use Circle of healing sparingly, I'm not sure it's that useful a spell any more, Prayer of Healing is far better for topping off part health.
  • Don't be scared to shield targets, sling a renew at them and then come back to them later, suggest they click the Lightwell too J
  • Be aware that DPS being silly is as likely to make you go OOM from not moving out of the crap as you being "a noob" the finger of blame is often pointed at the "nub healer" in PUGs, don't be afraid to, politely, point out that it's not (always) your fault.
  • Leap of Faith is simply the best spell for annoying the hell out of your friends, work out the most ingenious way of doing so, and let me know what it is… (it's also useful in fights too)
  • Have fun, healing rocks!

Some Shadow Priest Theorycraft, Thoughts & Guidance

I've been raiding for about a week now, in that time I've got to grips more with playing my shadow priest again, whilst the standard dps rotation doesn't differ greatly from what I remember a year or so ago your ability to actually use it to full effect is reduced due to the need to move, and move regularly, during boss fights. The change to the way DoTs clip (or now don't clip to be more precise), means that this is a perfect opportunity to refresh at least SWP and DP, if you're still moving after you've refreshed these SWD might be useful, but bear in mind; if you're moving, the healer probably is too and thus is less able to heal the tank, do you really want to risk damaging yourself and causing him more pain? How about shielding the tank (or other party members) to help out? Is there a lightwell to click? Is the movement phase going so badly that it'd be useful to help out the healing? There are a lot of instant cast healing spells at your disposal even as a shadow priest which may save a wipe.

Key Bindings

I'd also like to point out the importance of key bindings, if I were starting afresh I'd probably go for the spells in order 1-9 which I'd aim to cast on rotation, for historic reasons (sticking spells on the castbar in early levels and getting used to it) I don't have this luxury, even after my year on the side lines I still found my fingers gravitating back to old key bindings.

For example I have 1:MS, 2:MB, 3:MF, 4:SWP, 5:DP, 6:VT, 7:SWD and so on.. now the eagle eyed amongst you will notice that Mind Spike wasn't available till recently, am I a clairvoyant keeping the 1 key unbound for 5 years in anticipation? No, Mind Blast used to be there, but as MS and MB go so well together for trash & questing I decided to shift everything right a step, keeping the same order so my fingers didn't have to do too much thinking. I also have a universal PANIC button which for me is the ' key (the one to the left of the 1 key), I know, whichever toon I'm playing, if bad stuff is happening this is the key to go to, for my Shadow Priest it's dispersion, spec'd holy it's Guardian Spirit (did I mention I bit the bullet and sorted my offspec out?) on my mage it's Ice Block etc. it's usually hit when I've done something silly and am about to die. (over aggroing, or not moving out of the crap on the floor in most instances)

Casting Rotation

On that note, a word on which spells to use, for trash, adds or anything else which goes now before I can get a full Vampiric Touch off (i.e. cast it on the mob and it ticks till it ends) I go MS MS,MB,MS,MS,MS,MB (3x MS after the first MB cast as MB will still be on cooldown), throwing in the odd SWD for good measure; if it's not dead by then simply rinse and repeat (actually you probably want to consider the normal DPS rotation if it's not dead by then).

For longer lived mobs and bosses, I tend to go SWP, DP, VT, MF, MF, MB, VT, MF, DP, MF…. And so on to keep dots refreshed. Now a few things of note here, I only use MB when I have at least one shadow orb, and only if the Empowered Shadow buff has lapsed (or is about to) else carry on Mind Flaying – note the buff is applied to you, not as a debuff to the mob. Make sure you have SWD glyphed, and make sure you start spamming it, health allowing, when the mob is under 25%, there's no point using it unless you're short on mana otherwise (more on mana later). The skill comes in chosing where and when to throw in the longer cooldown spells, like Dark Archangel, Shadowfiend etc. and how to adjust your rotations to allow for it, more on that later.

Clipping

You can clip dots now (i.e. overwriting a dot won't stop the final proc damaging the mob) the new dot will simply extend the time, you still want to aim to cast as late in the dots life as possible though else you're wasting time you could be casting something else. Mind Flay still clips, so wait for it to finish / play around with your lag settings to stop this happening, there's a 'nochan' type macro command you can use to stop it all together but I feel it's a bit restrictive

That's about it for DPS in the instance, the real trick to DPS is in the preparation, know what stats make you do more and plan for it, knowing your stats will also make you more able to work out if gear dropped by bosses is better than your current stuff. Need to work out whether a belt with 100 Int and 50 Haste on it is better than your current one with 110 Int and 60 Crit, here's how:

Stat Weightings

Stat weightings are a normalised figure (that is the 'best' stat is always given the value of 1, so a stat with 0.5 weighting is half as good as the top stat, one with 0.25 is a quarter as good and so on). It is important to note that your stat weightings will change with your gear, so the only way to work out your exact stat weights is to run the theorycraft simulator with your exact gear, and even then your buffs in any given instance will change this. Unless you're obsessive compulsive, or just plain sad, these stats below will suffice (from shadowpriest.com - they're from massive simlecraft tests using t11 gear, they won't be spot on for you but won't differ wildly).

  • Int: 1.0000
  • SP: 0.7935
  • Haste: 0.5031
  • Crit: 0.4040
  • Mastery: 0.3857
  • Hit: 0.3741
  • Spirit: 0.3732


This basically means Int is TWICE as important as any other stat (you don't get much with spell power any more) you should look to reforge from Spirit, Hit (if you're hit capped) and Mastery to Haste and Crit and haste where possible. I've seen some pretty confusing information on hit caps since Cata's release, some pages claiming that you don't need to be hit capped, I'm not convinced on this, I've yet to run the numbers but anecdotally I've seemed to do less damage when I've taken hit gear off, I'll prove this one way or the other sometime soon. Mastery sucks donkey balls for shadow priests, I suspect it will come into its own as people climb up the gear ladder or as blizzard issue patches (it's really important for holy priests so if you're doing any healing look to get a second healing outfit), hit is pointless past the 17% cap – extend your character pane to see your values, the nice men at Blizzard now do this calculation for you. Spirit is like a broken pencil, pointless.

I've read some stuff which suggests as your Haste rating improves, Crit becomes more valuable, I'm yet to test or look into this, I'll update this post when I know, but given the new mechanics on clipping this makes sense in theory.

Mana Conservation & Regen

As I mentioned earlier, there are several mechanics for preventing a Shadow Priest running out of mana, to the extent that if you're out of mana, you've done something very, very, wrong (or silly). In order of importance, here's the spells I use to ensure I (and other party members) always have enough of the blue stuff:

Vampric Touch should be up all of the time, it is one of your main sources of DPS and regens mana of both yourself and your party members.

Dark Archangel consumes your dark evangelism stack and gives you 25% of your total mana back, it's also a dps boost on a shortish cooldown, for long fights wait till you're sub 75% on the mana and hit it (so you don't waste mana), for shorter fights, or if you're confident you won't run out of mana, hit it as soon as you get the stack of 5 evangelism

Shadowfiend – obvious – in long fights cast it early so that you can use it twice (make sure you don't hit 100% mana or it's a waste) it also gives a reasonable dps increase so look to use it even if you won't go oom.

Shadow Word Death should only be used in your dps rotation IF you are short of mana or IF the mob Is below 25% and IF using it won't kill you (or cause major problems for the healer) - it's been changed to a execute spell but is also the shadow priest equivalent of life tap – with the masochism talent any damage above 10% of your HP will refund 10% mana – glyph SWD so you get two cracks when the mob is under 25% if it doesn't die. Now as someone who's spent a lot of time healing, there's nothing more annoying than having a tank on 10% health, the party (or raid) shedding health quicker than anorexic on a diet and an idiot Warlock sat in the corner self-harming with life tap, please don't be a Warlocks, think before you click things…

You definitely also want to glyph spirit tap, this gives you 12% mana if your SWD kills a mob, very handy for trash but exceptionally useful in boss fights where there are adds to kill.

Dispersion is excellent for mana regen, but stops your dps, this should be your last resort, and should be saved if the fight is a nasty one where you need to soak up a lot of damage.

If you're really, really, screwed have the hymn of hope somewhere on your cast bar and hit that, I tend not to use it at all unless I've had to come out of shadoo form to help heal, or the healer is running dangerously low on mana.

Enchanting and Gems

Look to enchant and gem in the same way as you'd look for stats for gear, Int first, then Haste, then Crit. Pay attention to the gem slot bonuses, yes a 30 Int gem is better than a 15 Int and 15 Spirit one, but does fitting the correct colour, lesser, gem to a slot give a bonus? Does having that gem in slot activate your meta gem? etc. Be wary of the knock on effects of your choices. I'm not going to link the exact gems or enchants you should go for, have a look on the database at Wowhead.com, I'm intending to go for the cheaper choices until I start getting the better gear, if you're an Auction House legend an have money coming out of your ears then knock yourself out and go for the premium stuff on that ilvl 333 blue…

Further Reading

For more reading, Shadowpriest.com is a good source of info, however it's desperate for a clean-up and is generally difficult to find the right info for the current patch, it's not for the uninitiated and can be very daunting at first due to the volumes of information on there.

This is an excellent guide on elitistjerks http://elitistjerks.com/f77/t112651-shadow_priest_cataclysm/

Hopefully all the information is correct and up to date, I'll look to make corrections if stuff is pointed out to me, and either update this post, or mark it as out of date come future patches.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Into the breach, well, Stonecore

Time for the first heroic! It's mid-afternoon on a Saturday, the girlfriend is out for the day and I'm intending on spending the next several hours exploring heroic content. I'm not overly keen on the dungeon finder for my first instance, so I gently enquire in guild channel, there's another guy who's just hit 85 with an alt and three pretty experienced raiders who are up for it. First thing I notice is there's no daily, I'm told, instead you just hit a random instance; this I like, far easier than having to go to all of the bother of picking up a quest and handing it in… so I assemble the party and click on random dungeon finder and were off!....

…Or not as the case may be. I get a message telling me my ilvl is too low, BUT IT SAYS 329 ON MY CHARACTER SCREEN!??!! Fortunately the hangover from last night's session was starting to subside and I managed to recollect a post I read about the ilvl being calculated from all the items in your inventory, as I'd been tinkering with a little bit of Alchemy the night before, I had my level 45 Philosophers Stone in my bag which dragged my average down. It seems the ilvl displayed takes the average of your worn gear, but the actual calculation for dungeon finder is taken from all your gear. Panic over, Philosophers stone banked, and we're off.

As a slight aside, it suddenly struck me why I've seen a few instances of people ninja looting ilvl 333 drops, on at least two bosses I can remember a party member waiting till every member had clicked greed and then needed an item even though it was of no use (e.g. a tank taking cloth). I thought at the time this might just be to boost the coffers, but as you can accumulate gold in Cata quicker than a binocular hire shop on the edge of a super model-only nudist beach, it struck me as rather odd at the time; now it makes sense.

Where were we anyways? Ah, that's it, heroics. Stonecore to be precise, I can hardly contain the excitement. It seems I was in the minority; two of the guys chirp up on Vent pretty much simultaneously "I hate this place". Not quite the start I was looking for, but rather than wait 15 minutes to be able to queue again we crack on. Trash is pretty easy and within minutes we arrive at Corborus, I've been having a quick read of the strategies on wow wiki on the laptop as we've been killing the trash and had the strategy explained to me on Vent so I'm reasonably confident. How wrong I was…

Now as I've stated in a previous post, and from more recent experience in heroics, Cata boss fights very simplistically be boiled down to, with a few exceptions, the following: "don't stand in the crap on the floor or you'll die" "sometimes the crap on the floor will keep you alive, stand in it", "kill the adds please", and "if you can't kill it, kite it" easy right? Wrong.

After a near death experience caused by not moving out of the crystal barrage quick enough (see rule 1 above), it strikes me that "just finishing this mind flay" before moving is not a sustainable strategy; at about the same time Corborus decides to go subterranean and suddenly I find myself surrounded by crap on the floor, or more precisely I find my corpse surrounded by crap on the floor. It takes a few attempts, but eventually the two of us new to the instance master the tactics, though I did note that even the seasoned pro's were still falling foul of the dust clouds, and I start to realise why people might not like the place. Just to be different though, I have to say I love it! This is what heroics should be all about, you need to show a little bit of awareness and skill in adapting rotations to suit the need for mobility for the fight instead of just standing still and face-rolling.

Slabhide next, this one's even more tricky to master; a slight adaptation of rule 2 in that we're standing behind, rather than in something not to die, but the principles the same. A couple of wipes later I have a chat with the healer and find that it's mainly a line of site issue on the air phase, because of the lava pools and the need to hide he wasn't always able to see the tank to heal him so I agree to help out on the healing front (I'm nothing if not versatile! And more importantly "I was helping heal" gives be an excellent excuse explanation for why my dps is so abysmal). I try sticking to shielding the tank so I don't need to drop out of shadow form, but even that's not enough so I stick a couple of healing spells on the task bar and a few wipes later there's a dragon sized handbag at our feet.

Ozruk proves to be no problem at all, you want DoTs you say? I can do DoTs! He goes down first time so it's on to High Priestess Azil; this fight I like. The fight itself proves a little problematic as we struggle to quite grasp the tactics as there's a lot going on in the fight, especially as there's two of us with little clue of what to expect. Avoiding gravity wells, big rocks, and giving the adds the run around is a little much at first. More wipes, and I get the feeling if this was a PUG we'd have disbanded by now, but it's a guild run, we're having a bit of a catch up on Vent, and all seemingly enjoying laughing at my ineptitude (it's a favourite past time of the guild, and has been for years). I think we clocked up a little over an hour and a half to finish the dungeon, which I was told wasn't too bad at the time, I've certainly had worse runs since.

Some things that stick out in my mind from the my first run are

  • Be flexible with your DPS rotation to suit the situation, the only boss where you can stand and deliver is Ozruk. You do far less DPS when you're dead; be prepared to sacrifice the 'perfect' rotation to stay alive, which, in this case, means lots of movement and instant / short cast spells.
  • Spam Shadow Word Death when the boss gits 25% HP – change your interface to show percentages rather than total HP to aid this.
  • Pop Dark Evangelism at about 80% mana, follow with Shadow Fiend soon after, even if you don't think you need the mana, the dps boost isn't trivial, if the boss fight lasts any length of time, which it probably will if you're new to heroics, you might get to use them again.
  • Keep the DoTs up at all times, it's simple but I've seen lots of priests who can't seem to manage it, remember the last tick of DoTs don't clip any more if you're too early, the tick will simply carry on into the refreshed spell – this is no excuse to be slack and cast way too early, still aim to refresh as late as possible
  • Mind Flay does tick, wait till it finishes before recasting, if you can't manage that, have a google for a nochan macro
  • Dispersion is your friend! Not only does it refill the blue stuff, it's a panic button for when you are snoozing and didn't notice you were up to your knees in lava.
  • Don't be afraid of healing, I know you're shadow, but you can still be of use, Divine Hymn can be a wipe saver.
  • On a similar note, keep an eye on your party's mana, especially the healer, help them out by casting Hymn of Hope.
  • I'd keep both of the above spells, and possibly more on a secondary cast bar so you can easily reach them in an emergency.
  • If you don't know a boss fight, ASK, there's no shame in it, everyone's been there – but don't slack do have a read of wow wiki or one of the other sites to get a basic idea of what to expect before asking. There's nothing more frustrating than wiping because someone didn't know the strategy and didn't ask.
  • If you have a laptop or smartphone, keep it by the PC and use it as an aid to memory until you have them memorised.
  • Expect to wipe. Lots. You'll need to put aside at least an hour for a Heroic run, probably more.
  • Be forgiving to Newbies, you were one not too long ago, if they're making the effort, try and help them out.