Saturday, November 24, 2012

Status update!

My monk finally blew past my paladin and she's lvl 90 now. So that ended the long, painful grind of leveling and begun the long, painful grind for gear and rep.

While there were definitely some good gear out there to be gotten from completing quest chains, that's not me. I'm all about instances, so I slammed those and finally, this past week, got every piece of gear at ilvl 450 and above. The only one that's not above is my alchemist trinket.

That's good enough to get back into some raiding, so this week with the guild, I jumped into some LFR and got 4 new pieces of gear out of it. It was pretty nice to raid again, even if LFR has serious nerfs and most of the mechanics can be safely ignored. Either way, our raid lead explained many of the mechanics as we went along and some of them were pretty interesting. So I look forward to encountering them in a real raid.

In the meantime, I've been helping guildies get leveled and geared. One of my real life friends is still struggling to 90, so I spent several hours blowing her through instances. Another one was trying to get sufficient gear to make it into that LFR group, so we spent the better part of two days doing nothing but heroics and I picked me up a pretty decent set of healing gear along the way. The two of us switched off between tanking and healing (both monks), and I realized something embarrassing: I'd leveled all the way to 90, spent several weeks at that level and had never once realized that I had a ranged AOE threat building ability. It completely slipped by me that I had Dizzying Haze. I'd always charged in and used Keg Smash and Spinning Crane Kick. Never had a problem.

After hitting 90, I also went ahead and leveled my Alchemy/Herbalism. I've gotten my cooking up, and still haven't really started Archaeology, First Aid, or Fishing.

The transmogrification feature is also new since I quit. I hadn't really looked at it too much, but most of the helmets for monks are UGLY to put it nicely. So I finally did get a nice looking Samurai style helmet I like. I need to sit down and really explore some other options.

I did go back last night and start playing my original character, the priest. I have a few friends that play alliance, so it would be nice to be able to play with them, so I think I'll finish up that character at some point.

Random fact: I still have a level 5 rogue that was the first character ever created on my account. I didn't create it. My ex-girlfriend did when she was getting addons configured for me. I've never deleted it. She long since quit playing, but when I popped on my priest, she was online. We chatted for a bit. Can't believe that was 5 years ago. Can't believe I still have the little rogue.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Outlands ho!

My monk made it to outlands last night and I'm up to lvl 64. Things finally feel like they're starting to come together with the class.

As usual, I'm doing a great deal of grinding in instances. The level of dumbassery has decreased slightly. Other monks tend to no longer be too much of a problem. As long as I get a hit or two on something, the threat is high enough that I don't worry about them pulling threat.

The class that does tend to cause me the most problems is death knights. They still aren't terribly well balanced in terms of DPS. While most classes will be doing 800ish DPS, DKs will be pulling 1,700. Keeping aggro against that is tricky. At least they're plate wearers and can typically kill something before they are hurting too badly.

Another headache that's cropped up has been a bit more of people not understanding itemization of drops. I've had an appreciable number of tanking items ninja'd from me by DPS. While I can understand something that isn't properly itemized in its stats being an upgrade (I've had several instances where a healing head was just way better than what I was wearing presently), it's always polite to ask the person in your group that could actually use the item if they need it. In the end, it doesn't matter too much since I'll run through every instance 4-5 times and will likely see the drop again, but it's still annoying that there's a lack of altruism in the game.

When I have been questing, I still feel my single target dps is somewhat lacking. I don't mind doing the quests where I just have to pull a bunch of things and kill them, but if they're too spread out and I can't pull 4-5 at a time, it seems to take forever. But I ventured into Nagrand last night and started on the Hemet Nesingwary hunting quests which all start off with killing 20 of various types of animals. I could pull 5 at a time and DPS them down with little trouble. The exception was the the Clefthoofs which have a stun attack. Getting a few of those untimely chained becomes a bit scary.

In that case, I'd typically end up below 30% health after a pull and lacking a good healing ability, this was annoying but finally at 64, I got the Healing Sphere ability which serves for a pretty good out of combat heal. Technically, I suppose I could use it in combat, but it takes a lot of energy (60 to be precise). It also helps that there's been some ability I got (not sure exactly when) that makes me create little green healing spheres during combat. I'm not sure what's driving that (perhaps when I crit?), but they heal pretty well. Unfortunately, it means I have to be able to see them and on large enemies, or large groups, they're often inside them which means I have to run around aimlessly to happen upon them.

I have a strong suspicion that this is an intentional sort of annoyance however. As I noted in a previous post, the cone on Breath of Fire is annoyingly narrow. To use it effectively means having to do a lot of movement anyway to clump up enemies and get them in its effect. As such, the class as a whole seems to be centered on lots of minor movements, which fits the feel of a squirrely monk, flowing like a river or some such nonsense.

I did run another instance on my paladin last night. I still feel like their tanking is far superior, both from being able to get threat, but also their survivablity. I think the hope is that the Stagger ability will continue to mitigate more damage, making it easier to survive, and that the ability to shrug off that stagger DOT will effectively make monks have an active 20%+ mitigation. However, that skill to dump the damage doesn't come for another 10 levels. As such, it means I'm still taking the damage in the long haul.

The bigger problem I see is that the stagger DOT never gets to the level where the shrug off would really be important. There's three levels of Stagger: Green isn't bad. Yellow is like a real DOT from a strong enemy, and red is just pain. Well, supposedly. I've never gotten it to red and only on a few occasions has it gotten to yellow. As such, it's just not picking up that much of the damage.

There's ways to improve that. At level 80, it looks like I'll be getting a mastery which picks up a percentage, and Fortifying Brew dumps a big extra 20% in while active. I'm not sure how those will factor in just yet since I haven't gotten there, but I'm hoping those small bits will add up. My impression is that big bosses at endgame will push through enough damage to make Stagger pretty impressive, but right now, I just don't feel it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Closing in on 50

Tonight I hit lvl 48. For whatever reason, I feel like leveling has slowed down a lot compared to my paladin I just took through this level range and is now lvl 65. I'm still doing the majority of my leveling through instances which may be part of the problem. As I pointed out in my last post, there's a lot of idiots out right now and I think that's slowing down the instances. My biggest gripe is people being completely oblivious of their aggro range.

On my paladin, if someone pulled, I could run over, drop a consecrate on the healer, and walk away. The residual ground effect would get light aggro on everything enough that they'd come to me and I could hit them with Hammer of the Righteous and all's good. But with a monk tank, I'm pretty light on what AOE effects I have. I have the Keg Smash, which is actually pretty good. It deals a good amount of damage and thus, gets strong aggro, but it doesn't leave a lasting effect and has a fairly long cooldown, so if I miss one (which happens), it's hard to pick that one up before it mushes the healer.

Breath of Fire is another decent one, but it has a frontal cone. The trouble is that it's a very hard cone to manage. It dies out in a short distance, and at the near end, is very narrow. It also blows through your chi, so you don't get too many chances.

Meanwhile, I reiterate my position on Monks feeling pretty squishy as compared to paladins. My paladin is in Nagrand and I just with through the Nesingwary quests. I was able to pull 5-6 mobs on level or 1 higher than me and AOE them down without fearing for my health at all. If I dropped below 50%, I could always hit Word of Glory and was healed completely. My Holy Power would be back in no time flat.

That same skill proved amazingly useful in many instances. Healers afk'd, disconnected, or otherwise stopped healing for a time, and quite often, I was so busy chain pulling everything I could find, that I didn't notice until several pulls later and I never worried about my health!

So what is the monk equivalent? A Paltry Expel Harm. As of right now, it seems to heal for < 10% of my overall health. Pretty measly. We have a self shield that costs 2 chi and absorbs a pretty impressive amount of damage, but given the weak AOE, weak leather armor, and lack of a smooth rotation (at least at this level), AOE grinding is looking pretty impossible.

My other gripe has to do with Blackout Kick which procs Shuffle. This is a super important buff to have up pretty much all the time. It's a huge boost to your mitigation (which is what monks are all about as tanks) both through not being hit, and shrugging off the damage with Stagger. At least, at present, I don't have the skill to drop all Stagger damage yet, but come time, that's going to be huge, dumping that much damage into it only to make it disappear. But that can't happen unless the Shuffle effect is up. But it only lasts 6 seconds.

Given that the global cooldown on most spells is 1 second, once Blackout Kick is cast, it takes at least one more GCD to get enough chi to use it again, but typically two. So four left. If you use it on another important skill (like Breath of Fire to keep that AOE DOT up), then that's another down. Two seconds left. Typically, you now need to get two more chi building attacks in, but what has happened by now is you're out of energy to be able to use those chi builders.

So the methodology seems to stall there. Either monks will need to have a skill to build energy a bit faster to get in more chi building, attacks will need to generate more chi outright (which Power Strikes helps considerably), or the chi requirement of one of these spells needs to be reduced. Until then, the rotation has a lot of bottlenecks.

This is not to say the class isn't rather fun to play. Being able to use Roll as a way to jump into a pack of mobs on a pull is pretty great.

Friday, September 28, 2012

It's Like Death Knights All Over Again

The post title was a comment I made in an instance last night regarding people playing monks.

Back when Wrath of the Lich King was released, there was a proliferance of Death Knights. I never created one (still haven't), but as they all hit level 80, suddenly the instances were filled with them. Unfortunately, they hadn't figured out how to play the class just yet and they were using Death Grip on everything they could because it was just so cool to do. Quite often, they'd do this when they were DPS, before the tanks pulled getting themselves killed in the process and making mobs go everywhere.

The new class also apparently brought out all the idiots. Every one that played a Death Knight had apparently forgotten how to play the game in general. They forgot that standing in fire was a bad idea. They forgot that running everywhere without paying attention to aggro range was stupid. They forgot that you should keep an eye out for patrols.

If you saw a Death Knight in a group, you had about a 90% chance of them being a complete dumbass.

The same is true for the monks.

While they don't seem to have nearly as many annoying talents that get them aggro after the tank pulled, the people playing them seem to all think they're tanks. With Death Knights, at the very least, they would be plate wearers, so they could take a bit of a beating, but the monks wear leather and it's only the skills of staggering the damage that make Brewmaster (tank) monks viable.

But most monks I've been playing with seem to just charge right in, and nearly get themselves killed. When playing with non-monk healing classes, healers have seemed to keep up. Disc priests are still my favorite healer to see with me. But monk healers at low levels have just seemed woefully underpowered. As I hit level 30 last night, they seemed to get a very notable increase in their healing power, although I'm not yet certain what it was. I did make my offspec Mistweaver, so I'll be trying healing myself sometime, but I haven't collected enough suitable gear just yet to want to try it out.

Ultimately, I did find one good group last night and they stayed in group while I queued for 3-4 instances in a row. At level 20 and 30, monks get a quest to go back to Pandaland for some spiritual training which results in a bonus 50% xp for an hour with a daily quest that does another 2 hours. So with this buff and some instance grinding, I made it to level 37 last night. I'll probably be doing the same tonight, but once I start hitting the upper 40's I start going through the annoying dungeons like Black Rock Depths which are huge. Already I've had several Gnomeregan runs which is a pretty dreaded instance. For some reason, people just can't figure out their way around it, even with the map. At least with BRD, I know my way around because I solo'd it a large number of times for rep on my main Tia.

Still haven't tried out the pet battles and I can't wait to start hunting the new pets. I heard rumor there's a giraffe. I think I need him. And every other new pet. But I'll get there.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

And We're Back

After letting my account expire last year, I took a year off playing. My long time guild had fallen apart. I'd joined a new one and had some fun for awhile, but they too had problems getting groups together consistently. I'd finished most of the achievements, including the difficult It's Over Nine Thousand!. It got boring.

So I quit. I played Old Republic for several months, but the extremely poorly organized launch with servers that were utterly barren killed that game. The raids were not too bad, and it's actually a very fun game to level in, but the endgame just wasn't there.

Then a few weeks ago, one of my friends in the real world completed heroic Deathwing and suddenly I missed raiding. So I resubscribed (sadly, I didn't use a scroll of resurrection), rerolled on her server (Aggramar). I considered transferring my characters, but to both server transfer and faction change was ridiculously expensive, so I started over.

I considered going the familiar route of Shadow/Disc priesting as I had with my old Tia, but the class has changed so much from what I loved about it, I decided against it. When I began, somewhere around the middle of Burning Crusade, classes only got one spec, and I went Shadow. At that time, Shadow wasn't much of a DPS spec. They were very weak, but their main value was as a support class. While they were weak themselves, they were able to help replenish the mana of others in their party. This meant mages and warlocks could DPS balls to the wall and not worry as much about running out of mana. This boost in their DPS ostensibly made up for the lack of DPS from Shadow Priests.

But eventually other classes got this ability, and Shadow Priests DPS gained, and mana became a non-issue in most cases. Shadow Priests became just another ranged caster class. So I figured there was no reason for me to continue. Instead, I created another paladin, although I did keep the trend of keeping "Tia" in the name as "Tiadin" as I'd done with my previous paladin.

I made it to lvl 65 before Mists of Pandaria was released yesterday, and it was time to try out the new panda monks. So far I've made it to lvl 19 and I've got a few first impressions.

Thus far, I've only had the chance to run one instance. I ended up in Deadmines, with a group of, surprise surprise, 3 other monks and a shaman healer. As a monk tank at lvl 15, I had a lot of troble maintaining aggro. At that lvl, monks only have one multi-taret damage attack to keep AOE threat and it has a long cooldown. However, the damage from the 3 DPS monks was so high, things were dying before they could do any damage worth mentioning, so threat wasn't really that important.

I'm not at lvl 19, and at 18, gained Breath of Fire which is a very strong ability that does a front facing AOE. It also combos with the previous AOE (which applies a debuff, slowing enemies) by lighting them on fire for a hefty DOT. With these, I have far less worry about maintaining aggro.

The other issue I've been noticing is that, at least with the gear the quest chains have been providing, monks on level have difficulty hitting their targets. I'm sure this will resolve itself with better gear and levels, it's extremely difficult as it's made killing quest mobs far more challenging than it should be otherwise.

I also feel painfully slow. With the Paladin, at lvl 15, I could pick up Pursuit of Justice which increases my base movement speed my 15% + 5% more for each charge of holy power. Since I tend to have quite a bit leftover after a battle, that's a 25% speed increase pretty much all the time. Sure, it's not a mount, but for those 5 levels between 15 and 20 when I was mountless, it was great. The same thing in caves or instances where I can't use mounts.

Monks, on the other hand, get a Roll ability which is a short speed boost. Much like Link's in the N64 Zelda games. But it has a very long, 25 second cooldown, although you can use it twice. At lvl 15, you can get the Momentum skill which gives you a stacking, 25% each time you use roll, which means you have a temporary speed boost. But the cooldown is pretty killer. Plus you have to engage it actively. Not a huge boost.

I'm pretty close to 20, so I'll get my mounts back. Which is fantastic. I really like that pets and mounts are shared across the entire account now. It's made moving to a new server much more bearable. Especially given that I'm such a huge pet collector.

Speaking of pets, I'm quite excited to try out the new pet battle system, but am not wasting any time doing so until I've maxed my monk. I'm excited to get back to raiding and hopefully I'll be having fun with my Kung-Fu panda.