Friday, January 28, 2011


I've been thinking about leaving my guild lately. This is a tough decision since I've been with this group since the middle of Burning Crusade when Karazhan was still the highest level of content all but the most elite guilds would ever see.

Our biggest problem getting further then, and then in Wrath, and again now, is just members. The guild is tiny. We only have about 10 really active members and with people changing mains for Cata, we don't have a good raid balance, even if everyone can make it. Three druid healers isn't good for a raid. I've been voluntold to heal for the time being which I don't mind terribly, but we're still lacking a strong tank healing class.

Or a second tank for that matter.

Several weeks ago, we'd had a guild meeting and discussed recruiting, but in the intervening weeks, we've not gained a single member. We found a paladin tank that's decently geared that's willing to come with us although not join the guild. So we're able to get in to content now, but this new tank didn't seem entirely comfortable at tanking.

Additionally, our GM has been telling us to watch videos for a fight so we can learn it, and then tries to tell us to do something different which confuses everyone and suddenly people are running all over getting themselves killed. It's been a mess. Poor leadership all around.

So I've been watching trade chat and LFGuild channels to see if I can find a guild looking for a good shadow priest and no one seems to want us right now. It's quite sad.

Tonight is supposed to be a raid night, but I'm taking it off for RL stuff and don't really care. The entire game has turned into nothing more than logging in to do dailies, blow my alchemy transmute, run my daily heroic, and log out. Raiding hasn't been worth it thus far.

So in 2 weeks, my paid time will expire and I think I'm going to let it lapse. I'll see if I can find some friends elsewhere to play with, but so few guilds seem to have my desired raid times or need my class the game hasn't been seeming worth it lately.

Perhaps this will mean I'll have more time to write my book

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

4.0.6 Patch

The patch notes for 4.0.6 are out and, as expected, there's quite a few changes.

First off, class changes:

For priests, I'm not entirely surprised, but they're buffing shadow a tiny bit. Our Mind Blast is going to be "significantly increased". Given I'm already pulling 10k dps, I'd expected they'd feel shadow was sufficiently strong and leave it alone given we're, in a very real way, a utility class, restoring mana and health. Additionally, our Vampiric Embrace no longer has a duration to it. I remember when it had to be cast on every target! Our AOE is currently weak. Even with large pulls (think the whelps right before Sindragosa), I used to be able to pull 16-20k dps. After the nerf, I was doing 5-7 and other classes were consistently doing 12-15. Obviously we're lacking there as our Mind Sear was nerfed into the ground. I got better DPS single targeting. So finally we're getting an upgrade on that. A paltry 15%. Not enough to scale it back to on par with other classes. However, now we can channel it off friendly targets too, so that may help increase overall output some since we won't have to worry about our enemy target dying and breaking our channel.

Discipline priests are also being buffed, but not nearly as much as I'd expected. There's a slight buff to Pennance, making it cost 7% more, but heal 20% more as well. Grace can now apply to numerous targets, but when you're spam healing the tank with mana efficient spells so you don't run out, that doesn't much matter. Shields are getting buffed in a similar manner though. Mana cost up by 31%, but absorbs (and thus, instant heals when glyphed) for 208% more too. Not bad. Our only heal that we can truly cast on a party member quickly, Renew, is getting less expensive by 24% too. I'm wondering if this is being rolled into a talent or will be carrying over to Holy healers as well.

Speaking of Holy, we're not bad in this spec, but there's still room for improvement. On a good boss fight, I'm averaging about 6.4k HPS. This could easily be higher but given the need to conserve mana still, I limit myself in some ways. Our Circle of Healing will be going up 30%. Desparate Prayer will be getting buffed significantly whereas previously it was nearly worthless (although I was still spec'd into it).

My other class I've been playing is my hunter, mostly to level my Leatherworking and help all our leather and mail wearers in guild out a bit, so I glanced at their changes too. As predicted, they're getting some pretty hefty nerfs as well. Which makes sense since they're crazy strong right now. Our Cobra Shot now gets affected by haste, that's good. But our Black Arrow and Explosive Shot are both being reduced in damage and our passive agility (and thus AP bonus) on Into the Wilderness is being reduced by 33%.

So that's the changes for the classes I play. Priest will be getting a tiny bit easier. Hunter a tiny bit harder. Overall, pretty much what I expected.

Now for the instance changes:

When I first started doing heroics, I was not happy with them. Completely new mechanics and tricks made the learning curve far too steep for most players. The DPS gap was similarly prohibitive given that, aside from rep grinding and completing the Cata Loremaster to get all the ilvl 333 items from the end of them, there's not good ways to get gear to be ready to walk into heroics. The ilvl 316 stuff that drops on normal just didn't cut it. So heroics just weren't fun.

Slowly, as people have been getting gear, they've become more manageable. Tanks are finally walking in with 140k health unbuffed where earlier, they'd walked in with 110k. I have that much as a freaking clothie. You're not cutting it as a tank if that's all you got.

Heroics previously had been damn near impossible, now they're just challenging. Some more than others. I still haven't completed Deadmines. The sheer amount of burst DPS needed on Ripsnarl to manage the ghosts makes it impossible for most PUGs even now that many people are getting geared. So I expected some nerfs.

But I think Bliz went overboard. For example, in SFK, Baron Ashbury has 3 skills to worry about. The Stay of Execution, which needs to tick once or twice and then be interrupted, the Mend Rotten Flesh which also needs to be interrupted, and the Pain and Suffering, a DOT that can be interrupted or dispelled if it's not. So essentially what this requires is that your group have 2 interrupts and 1 dispell. It's pretty hard to find a group that doesn't. Getting people to do it properly is a bit harder, but that's fine. People should be required to be on top of their games on heroics and raiding. Blizzard has decided to completely remove his Mend Rotten Flesh. Now there's tons of room for people to fail again since you can double up on the interrupts.

Another over nerf, IMO, is completely removing a pup from Beauty in Blackrock Caverns. This was a pretty tough fight to keep 3 CCs up at all times. But now that nearly every class has some kind of CC, it's not impossible. And if you don't have 3, well, kill a pup. Every group should have DPS. Not super hard.

Ones that make sense? Giving an extra half second on Ozruk's Shatter to allow the tank to get away since there's issues with the dot ticking at the right time as I discussed previously. Tornadoes on Altarius don't knock you randomly around into other tornadoes or off the edge where the boss will kill you instantly. Reducing the flame breath on Valiona (although I had issues last night with it hitting me when I was clearly not in front of the boss; my archangel was at her back foot!).

There's several other small changes, but those are the big ones to me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Holy Heroics

I changed my healing spec to Holy this past week on the advice of a guildie. Keeping a tank up as Discipline was still pretty easy, but Disc lacked any ability to heal DPS without having the tank lose a huge chunk of HP or have to use mana inefficient spells.

With the changes made to Holy, introducing Chakra states, it's become more viable as a tank healing spec for heroics but still is strong with party healing. For those not familiar with the Chakra system the idea of it is that you cast your Chakra, then the next healing spell you cast puts you in one of two Chakra states for the next 30 seconds.

If it's a direct healing spell, you get 10% additional healing from all direct healing and the basic heal refreshes your renew. If it's an AOE heal, then it reduces the CD of our instant cast heal by 2 seconds (out of 8 so 25%) as well as improving our renew's overall healing. So one state is meant for tank healing and one is meant for AOE. And since you can switch between these every 30 seconds, it's made Holy a very flexible spec that's a lot of fun to play.

There's a few other procs that we get too. From our talent tree, we get Serendipity which turns our Greater Heal into a pretty fast cast. Generally, Greater Heal is not great for mana efficiency (Flash = 2.4, Greater = 3.3, Heal = 3.8), but since Serendipity also decreases mana cost, it becomes the most mana efficient non-CD spell we have! This is pretty awesome and since I tend to take an extra second to react to standing in things since I'm staring at health bar, I tend to use Binding Heal a lot, so it's up pretty often.

Surge of Light is another nifty proc that helps a lot. Instant cast, free, big heal? Yes please! Oh, and it procs Serendipity. Cute little chain reaction there.

The last pretty sweet new thing Holy Priests have gotten is our Power Words. The normal mode for this is a strong instant cast DPS spell on worthlessly long CD. But depending on our Chakra state, it can change one of two ways. The first is into Holy Word: Serenity. It changes into this when entering the Chakra state corresponding to the direct heals. This is a pretty large (~10k) heal that's also super cheap, and instant cast! Moderately long CD, but factored into the longer run of keeping a tank up, this is a pretty good boost.

In the Chakra state that goes with AOE heals, it becomes Holy Word: Sanctuary which is a ground targeted spell that drops a healing zone. The zone apparently spreads past the visible boundary but falls off quickly beyond there. I can see this helping a pretty good deal on Assad in Vortex Pinnacle. A lot of players don't like to move too much after the grounding field so chain lightning takes its toll. Popping some AOE heals while everyone's in the next field tops them off well and this well help greatly.

Another bit of coolness we get: Body and Soul. Shield someone and they move 60% faster for 4 seconds. One of the absolute hardest fights in heroic right now seems to be Ozruk from Stonecore. Just after doing his AOE stun he does his shatter. The tank barely has sufficient time to get far enough away to get out of range before, generally being one shot. The timing on this has been pretty glitchy and seems to depend very heavily on the lucky coincidence of the DOT they apply to themselves to break the stun happening just after the stun goes off, giving the maximum time to run. If you're unlucky, you can lose nearly a full second of run time and the tank is doomed. If a healer with Body & Soul can break themselves quickly and toss the shield on the tank, the extra move speed will help them make up for lost time.

Lastly, we now get Inspiration. With a good deal of crit (I'm currently sitting at 9.34%), this can be pretty much kept up continuously. While it's only physical damage, it's still a pretty huge chunk. Since it's a percentage, that means it scales with damage, not your gear! And since a lot of what a tank takes is physical, this is pretty amazing for us.

Overall, the whole field of Holy healing has changed. There's a lot more buttons we have to press and a lot more to think about, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's given us some great adaptability and the result is a fun and flexible build.

I still want to stay shadow as my primary raid spec, but I'm not entirely against the guild needing me for healing now.

Meanwhile, heroics have started to become tolerable again. I'm still dropping about 25% of them within the first 10 minutes when tanks think that AOE pulling and not watching CC's is a good idea, or when some scrub in full PVP gear waltzes in and expects to get carried when they're only doing 3k dps but we can't kick him due to the vagaries of the whole voting to kick system.

I'm managed everything except Deadmines on heroic now. Ripsnarl kills us every time, mostly due to poor DPS. I haven't tried it yet as Holy, but I'm suspecting I'll be able to keep people up much better and make up for their mistakes than as Disc. Time will tell.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

So..... Cata

Cata's been out for nearly a month now and I haven't posted much on my thoughts on it thus far.

I headed out at midnight to get the expansion. I wasn't planning on getting the collectors edition since I'd heard it was pre-order only. Turns out Best Buy had some extras, so I got one. I installed it and waited for the server to switch over.

Release night was crazy. The line to get to the flight master was insane. And when I say "line", I mean "cluster fuck".

After about 10 minutes, I finally got it, grabbed my quest to head to Vashj'ir, and headed out there. Release night was ridiculously laggy. I was having 2 second delays on all spells. Oddly, there didn't seem to be many people in the zone compared to later nights when lag was lower.

Regardless, I leveled through Vash, headed to Deepholm, realized I hadn't picked enough herbs to be able to pick the ones there, headed back to Hyjal, did the quests there, grabbing herbs along the way, returned to Deepholm, and Uldum.

Our resident rogue was our guild first 85, followed by one of our warriors, and then a hunter. I was fourth through the gate, having done quite a bit of healing through instances for that last level.

Since then I worked to get my real life friend to 85, and try to get us both enough gear to run heroics. And dear lord what a pain that has been. The number of places and methods required to be sufficiently geared to run heroics well has been painful. Some gear has come through quests. But the ilvl 333 stuff only seems to come from the end of long quest chains from an entire zone. Thus, I netted the quest achievements for every zone except Uldum and Vash. The former because I just quit for awhile, and the latter because it was bugged and not enough quests existed for the first few days. Seeing that, I left a few undone and apparently they've gone and fixed it, so I need to pick up those last few for the achieve.

Meanwhile, other slots can only be well filled from running non-heroic instances. And some.... well, there's just nothing there for some slots. Want a good set of druid healing boots right now? There's an ilvl 316 pair, but absolutely no 333 pair. Instead, you'll skip straight to ilvl 346 boots. Either you get those from the heroics you won't be able to heal, or you get these boots which only drop from a rare spawn with a 9-14 hour respawn timer in a cave that's heavily traveled by questers. My friend took the latter route. Other gear comes from Justice Points. If you saved some from Wrath, you're a step ahead. But since my friend blew all hers for boomkin gear, she's been hurting for JP gear since she can only get 70 JP a day, being unable to heal most heroics due to poor gear.

As a priest, I haven't been suffering nearly as bad. The healing is brutal, mostly due to severe mana issues. But as I've improved gear, that's slowly being mitigated. Still, I've been having some problems with my regen skills. Hymn of Hope takes far too long to channel. A tank will likely be dead by the time it's done. Shadowfiends have had their attack changed. Previously, they were permanently set to aggressive and would go after whatever your target was. Now, you have to be attacking the target to get it to attack, or actually press another button to tell it to. Obviously, as a healer, I'm not attacking anything, and having to actually tell it to attack both wastes a bit of its time attacking as well as takes my attention away from the people that need healing. I think this was an extremely poor choice.

Alchemy has been a help. The new mana potions are potent, but requiring Whiptail makes them expensive to produce since it can only be (reliably) farmed along the banks of the river in Uldum (also around a lake in Tol Barad, but have fun getting ganked). It's a very limited area and since it's so well defined, you can bet that you'll be competing to get it. Still, this isn't nearly as bad as the Azshara's Veil which only comes from Vashj'ir, and is extremely spread out. Super slow, yet required to make my flasks.

Aside from healer mana issues, heroics just haven't been going well. I've tried running several with PuGs, but generally drop within the first few minutes when it becomes clear the tank still thinks he's playing Wrath, and tries to AOE tank everything and not worry about cleaving the CC, if he even waits for it. Similarly, few people have been paying attention to boss mechanics and people standing in things has been a reoccurring problem, and a waste of healer mana. On the first boss in Halls of Origination, none of our three dps knew the lever mechanics (on normal) leaving the tank and I to be the ones to have to do their work for them.

Sometimes, I can't entirely blame people. The green healing circle druid healers drop frequently does a very good job of obscuring any ground effects from the bosses. The faint blue tornadoes on the first boss in heroic Throne of the Tides blends in with the blue room and are easy to miss when you're staring at health bars. Overall, it's requiring an ability to multitask that many people don't possess nor have the gear to compensate for.

In the meantime, I've also been working on archaeology a ton. I've maxed it out in Eastern Kingdoms, hoping to get the DPS caster staff, but no luck so far. After maxing my alchemy, I switched over to Kalimdor to put together Canopic Jars and attempt to get the Vial of the Sands recipe to turn myself into a Sandstone drake. So far, I've put together one jar and haven't gotten it. I've collected most of the materials, and almost have the 24k gold necessary to buy the Sands of Time.

Cooking has been a pain as well. I've finished leveling it, which wasn't too hard. But getting recipes requires the daily cooking quest. In this case, I wish Blizzard had gone with some more of the variety they had with gear: You get recipes from daily quests, instance drops, chefs in various cities, or reputation rewards. Nope. Instead, there's the painful bottleneck to collect the recipes.

I've been mostly concentrating on fishing recipes and haven't quite maxed that out, but am slowly working on it as I help the guild with the That's a Lot of Bait! achievement. Annoyingly, the main fish I want for the best dps caster buff, doesn't come from pools, making fishing them completely useless for the guild achieve.

Next week, the guild is hoping to have its first raid. I'm quite skeptical that we'll be geared enough. Additionally, we're lacking several spots. One of our tanks plays primarily on another server now and, even if he does sign on to play with us, is now playing a shaman as his main. Our third healer was an alt of another guild's member's, but now that she's concentrating on her main, we don't have her either, leaving me to probably be the 3rd healer for some time.

Another of my real life friends recently started playing and is leveling a Death Knight to be our new tank, but it's a long process. I'm not sure why Blizz didn't extend the cutoff for recruit-a-friend XP since the level cap was raised as well. He's currently 70, but it's probably going to be another 2-3 weeks before he's sufficiently geared to take up tanking, if he can even handle the responsibility with such a challenging difficulty as a new player.

So that's what been going on for the past 3 weeks with me. Overall, I like Cata. It's a good challenge, but there's some annoying oversights, and it's showing just how bad many players really were.