Archive for the ‘zen’ Category

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Invitation to readers and fellow bloggers

03/22/2010

There are been occasions where I have to responded to other people’s blogs here, usually to make additions or factual corrections to other people’s entries.  As such, I’d like to state publicly that I’m open to such things from others.  Conversations where we don’t all agree are what make life interesting.  Note, of course, that I reserve the right to respond right back and that counter-arguments that aren’t backed up with proof will probably not be given the full weight you may think is due.  I have no problems being proven wrong so long as there is actual evidence for me to look at.  Stories and feelings are not empirical, therefore can’t be used as evidence.  My less factual offerings (generally available under the “zen” tab) usually have a factual basis to them, but are a bit more lax when it comes to interpretation.  I still like to discuss such topics, so readers should feel free to lay into me on those subjects as well.

I have at least one major post coming up, but this has been an unfortunate week for me of few raids and less free time than planned.  Both my birthday during the weekend and the death of my favorite great-aunt have left me scrambling and more than a little… well, disdainful of internet-based emotional turmoil.  I should be back in full swing soon, with at least the one substantial post to enjoy.

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Raiding mindset – other people say it better

03/18/2010

I confess, this is a pretty zen post, mostly because the new Dragon Age expansion is out and every spare moment I’m not raiding is dedicated to that.  There, I admitted it.  I’m a terrible blogger.

- re: Social Difference in Raiding (and theorycrafting) -

Bellwether has an excellent post over at her blog that really explains quite clearly the sort of mindset a person needs to be a positive member of an organized raiding group.  I’ve always favored comparing raiding to playing a team sport, as that truly is what you’re doing.  It’s you and 24 other people trying to accomplish something together.  When I used to play soccer for fun, you can sure believe there were times when I didn’t want to go to the games (and I never wanted to go to the practices!), but I did it because not showing up would be self-centered and horrible.  Guess what?  Soccer is just a game, too!  There’s no good reason why something that wouldn’t fly for my soccer team should fly for my raiding team.

How does this relate to theorycrafting, you ask?  Because that is the “practice” that I do for my raiding team.  Two of the biggest things I hear from people about why they don’t like theorycrafting is: a) it takes too much time and b) it is too hard.

I’m going to tell you a secret…  In any given week,  I spend maybe 30 minutes on theorycrafting.  That’s an average, since some weeks I barely do that and during patch weeks I tend to do an hour-ish as I wait for the servers to come back up.  I’d probably spend far less time doing it if I didn’t feel the need to theorycrafting for all of my healers.  Included in that time is watching videos and reading strats for new fights.  So… 30 minutes a week is really too much?  You can’t spare that much time to make yourself a better raider for your own sake and the sake of your team?

The argument that theorycrafting is too hard for some people seems a little much to me, too.  Let me use an example of some theorycrafting someone emailed me about recently, since it’s fresh in my mind.  The question was if Blessing of Wisdom was better for healadins than Blessing of Kings.  I popped open WoWhead and searched for Blessing of Wisdom to see it gives 92 MP5.  I open my little computer calculator, add 20% to that for the improved version and got 110.4 MP5.  At that point, I opened up a post on my own blog to find out how much MP5 I get per point of INT (because I’m lazy) and then round down to .75 MP5 for the sake of argument.  All I do then is divide 92 and 110.4 by .75 to find out how much INT it would take to get that amount of MP5.  (122.7 INT and 147.2 INT, respectively)  Since Kings gives 10%, you just multiply that by 10 and viola!  The INT threshold where Kings is better than Wisdom is 1227 INT for regular and 1472 INT for improved.

I literally used nothing beyond the math I used in middle school for the entire operation.  The most complicated part of it was finding for X in: x * .75 = 92  Searching for the information certainly wasn’t hard; if I hadn’t had that post on my blog, I would have just used the search function on ElitistJerks.com to find out the same thing.  It would have taken me probably 5 extra minutes, but it certainly wouldn’t have added to the difficulty.  Heck, I just googled “mp5 from int paladin” and there was my blog post with all the information you need, right there at link #4.  So even navigating EJ isn’t required.

- Let’s just be honest -

The bottom line is that people don’t theorycraft because they don’t want to.  It doesn’t interest them, so they don’t feel like putting forth the energy.  Part of me shakes my head at that, at how lazy that seems, but then I keep on doing the crafting for them anyway.  I… can’t really make a moral judgment against it, since I’m just adding to the problem!

Not knowing about why and how things work in WoW is like being part of a choir and not knowing how to pronounce the Latin you’re singing.  Sure, one person who doesn’t know won’t have a -huge- effect on the whole, but can you imagine an entire choir of 25 people singing who don’t know?  You might be able to fake it enough to be okay, but imagine how much better it would be with all of you singing in crisp pronunciation.  Raiding is much the same way.  If no one really knows how their class does things, you could do alright in slogging your way through.  But just imagine how much better it would be with 25 people baring skill and knowledge!  Even worse would be you being that one person in the back, faking it and letting the others cover for you because you couldn’t be bothered to look up how to say “ora pro nobis”  or who to give what buff to.

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Trauma – Who should get it and how to use it

03/09/2010

I know, I promised this long ago, but it’s hard to slog through WoLs to find all the recent numbers.  Just be glad that Blizzard fixed the proc on Trauma or else this post would have been very short.  (“Don’t use it.”)  I’m going to go class by class, as it’s just easier to discuss that way.  The proc, by the way, is called Fountain of Light if you’re looking for it on your own parses.

- And now it’s time for a breakdown -

Druids:  You want to pick this mace up, you really do.  Trees are absolutely the best class to use this mace, especially as you only lose -one- throughput stat (haste) in taking it, where the other healers lose two  (crit and haste).  It will proc off of HoT ticks, so being haste soft capped with the proper casting rotation is key to really having this bad boy shine.  On fights without aura damage or where the raid is spread out very far, you’ll still see at least  4% of your total healing from the proc.  On aura fights, you’ll see that number jump to about 10%.  To really maximize Trauma, make sure that you’re using the 4T10 bonus and pick up a Glyph of Rapid Rejuv.  You’ll see the usefulness of the proc jump a full 2% that way.

Shaman:  I’ve been hearing that this mace is considered best-in-slot, despite being behind in HEP.  From what I’ve seen, it can be a very good mace depending on the fight and on the healing assignment.  Generally, any fight with constant raid damage where you can roll CH through groups of people is a good time to use it.  At those times, you’re likely to see the proc sitting at about 6-8% of your healing, which is a decent chunk.  However, if you’re not in those optimal circumstances, you will see a big hit in Trauma’s usefulness.  Lucky for you, most of the hard fights can utilize the proc, if your healing lead does assignments correctly.  Have a chat with her/him to make sure they’re up to speed.  I’d suggest also having a crit/haste weapon in your bags as well, for those times when chain casting CH on clumps of the raid isn’t feasible.  If you’re really looking to maximize your Trauma, make sure you’re using 4T10 and casting Riptide every cooldown (but not “eating” it with a CH).

Holy priests:  There are two varieties of this spec and one is very much better than the other at using Trauma.  Holy priests using Emp. Renew are going to see some decent usage of this proc, especially if they are making sure to use CoH on cooldown on the melee or a similarly bunched up group.  Remember to keep PoM on cooldown, too.  Generally, a Renew using Holy priest will see about 5% of their healing from the proc under the best conditions, falling to about 3% on non-aura fights.  Like shaman, proper assignments are necessary to really get the most out of the proc.  A FoL specced Holy priest will not see -nearly- the numbers here.  You might be able to squeeze some more out of it if you glyph PoH, but in general you’ll only be seeing about 1-2% of your healing from the proc.

Disc priests:  You poor, unloved souls.  This weapon is really bad for you since you use no HoTs and it doesn’t proc off glyphed PW:S.  The parses I’ve seen have shown most of them with less than 1% of total healing from the proc!  You do have the added bonus that the only true throughput stat for you is spellpower, so if you end up getting it for just a spellpower mace, make sure to keep PoM on cooldown at all times.  If you get the chance to use Divine Hymn once in a while, that’ll help you out, too.  (To clarify, the loss of crit/haste/regen for a Disc priest is extremely minor if there’s a decent spellpower upgrade to be had.  PW:S scales horribly with anything but spellpower.)

Healadins:  The lack of throughput stats on this is a major issue for you with the added bonus that you need very careful healing usage to get anything out of the proc.  Fights with aura damage are a must.  You’ll have to be casting Holy Lights (it procs off the glyph) where all of your splash will hit the melee.  This means either all the melee is grouped up on the tank (ie. Festergut), one tank is standing close to the melee (ie. BQL) or you’re just pure spamming the melee itself (ie. Sindragosa).  Keeping the FoL HoT up on the tank is generally not going to help maximize Trauma, as forgoing any HL spam is just going to decrease its effectiveness.  Even under those circumstances, you’re likely to see no more than 5% of your healing from the proc.  Healadins with FoL builds should pretty much avoid the weapon altogether, as they’re likely to only see 1% of their healing from the proc, if that.

- So who gets the thing? -

Hands down, druids should get it first as it is best-in-slot without question.  After that, shaman should pick it up, followed by Holy priests.  After that, I’d most likely give the thing to Disc priests, since spellpower is such a big deal to them and the loss of crit/haste/MP5 on a healadin’s weapon is going to be a bigger loss for them than for just about any other healer.  It should be noted that the only healers who should be using Trauma on all fights are druids and possible Holy priests, if they are given proper healing assignments.  A note that all these numbers are from 25-man raids.  10-man raids will show a marked drop in the usefulness of the proc, due to fewer people to proc on.

I should probably put this in bold, but…  Do not replace Val’anyr with Trauma!  You shouldn’t be replacing the legendary with -anything- at this point, in fact.  The proc on it scales with healing, so even if the stats on the mace seem to be lacking, you’ll still be getting 10% or more of your healing from it.  And that’s effective healing, as the bubbles that aren’t used aren’t counted in the log.  Heck, I have seen fights where my #1 heal was the proc.  (No lie!)  If you are not happy with the amount of Val’anyr procs you are getting, you should examine your healing style first and foremost.

The final thing to keep in mind if you’re using any proccing item:  The real key is to cast as much as possible.  Cheers!

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Day 2 of Zero Add-on Project

02/05/2010

Okay, this isn’t -quite- the same as the other day, as we don’t have official raids on Thursdays, but I did run about a million VoAs and I did something I never thought I’d do.  I PvPed without add-ons.  Madness!

My initial impression of druid healing with base UI was actually more in line with how I felt about healing with the priest, in that it was actually easier than on the paladin.  I think the main reason for that is there are no life-threatening abilities that must be maintained or you wipe.  Druids are able to just go down the line, Rejuving, and pause to cast a Wild Growth or a Lifebloom on the tanks every few seconds.  Very similar to priests, actually.  Once I got into the rhythm of it, I found that very little had changed from healing with add-ons.  Maybe I’ve internalized those HoT timers by now or something.

Doing arenas and battleground without add-ons sucked a bit more.  I was harder pressed to keep myself alive, especially in the BGs, because my health bar was way up in the corner.  That was quite annoying.  It wasn’t such an issue in arenas, as I was running twos, so I had my partner and I pulled out right in the middle of my screen.  In arenas, it was trying to target the enemy healer to Mana Burn or whatnot that gave me issues.  Not to mention that you get used to your UI being set-up exactly how you want it and changing it for something as reactive as PvP just makes you nuts.

Oddly enough, when I was going some random 5-mans last night, I found that healing those with the base UI was -more- annoying than healing raids.  The group interface is really terrible, especially when you play with small buttons.  All the health bars are smooshed up in the top left corner where it’s completely out of the way.  I usually have the tank focused and pull the focus frame to the middle of my screen, but I keep having to glance up to look at the group’s health.  Annoying as all get out.  At least with the base raid frames, you can move them and put them directly in the middle.

Tonight is more raiding for me, this time probably on the druid for ICC-10.  (She’s my strict 10-man character.)  We’ll get a good view of how hard it is for raid healers to heal without any bells and whistles.  So far?  I’m finding this whole experiment to be a true test of skill, but I think it would be utterly doable for any healer out there, given the time and effort.

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Day 1 of Zero Add-on Project

02/04/2010

So the first day of raiding sans any add-ons has passed and I’m left feeling rather headache-y from it all.  I like having my hotkeys as small as possible, since I don’t need to actually -look- at them, but the side effect of doing that in the base UI is the raid frames are made tiny, too.

Screenshot or it didn't happen.

Screenshot or it didn't happen.

We did ICC-25 up to Festergut and the weekly raid boss (Ignis), so I didn’t get the chance to see what it was like on the difficult encounters yet, but so far, not having PallyPower is the most annoying thing in the entire world.  Having to click on each class in my raid frames to buff them every 30 minutes is just terrible and annoying, especially as we only had one warlock and one mage.  Terrible, terrible.

My raid leader was more concerned with my not having DBM, but that actually didn’t turn out to be all that big a deal.  Or at least it wouldn’t have been, if the raid frames were a touch -bigger.-  You can see the tiny debuff icons in that screenshot there, how small they are.  By the end of the night, I was doing better in dealing with them, but at first it was really hard to watch for the right icons.  I had to give the other healers the cleansing/reactive healing assignments at first because of that.  Without DBM popping up a warning on which people have Mark or whatnot, it was hard for me to react with my usual speed.  The only fight that gave me issues on this is Saurfang, though, and I’m pretty sure that by next week, I’ll be back up to my usual speed.  (My not missing DBM is probably helped by the fact that I didn’t update that add-on until very late in ICC.  I was raiding without it for about a month.  Shh!  Don’t tell my raid leader!)

Another add-on I was bemoaning the loss of was PowerAuras.  I never realized just how much I had come to rely on that little puppy.  I found myself way over-refreshing Beacon of Light in utter paranoia of it dropping at a bad time.  The lack of my usual buff bar add-on didn’t help, either, as the buff icons for your target in the base UI are incredibly small and incredibly badly placed.  But some wasted mana on over casting the silly thing was worth not having to worry about getting a tank killed.

Not having Recount made me a bit nuts, too, if only because I had to keep asking people to link me the DPS meters.  Not to mention that I never had any clue if I were slacking or if my assignments were crappy, since I couldn’t see the healing meters.  Not something that made healing any harder, just made me bite my nails.  Speaking of nail-biting, not having Chatter had me living in -terror- of making badly timed MTs.  I have so many different chat channels and some of them are a little… adult and hilarious.  MTing from one into raid chat because I just hit “enter” and started typing would have been so embarrassing.  (Getting a screenshot where I wasn’t talking in one of my secret channels was a little difficult.  Thank goodness for NPC chatter!)

After 25-mans, we did a quick 10-man for the weekly raid and I raid healed on my Disc priest.  It was surprisingly easy to raid heal without add-ons, at least on her.  (I assume I’ll be healing on my druid before the week is through.)  All I had to do was to watch for Weakened Soul to drop off the raid frames and then see if there was any spike damage to deal with.  Very, very easy.

Overall, the night gave me a headache.  It… doesn’t seem to have effected my performance much, though.  (I’m starting to understand why we can five heal Festergut so easily.)  Most likely this is helped by the fact that I have always been a fan of hotkeys.  My healing will probably be up to full strength again by Saturday night.  I can only hope that I can deal with the eye strain by then, too.

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Healing on the Run – Minimizing the Nightmare

01/23/2010

There was a post asking for advice on this subject in one of the LJ communities I follow, so I thought I’d give a bit of advice on the matter.

- There’s always some sort of introduction to my posts, since they’re so long. -

Having to run around during difficult progression fights is no fun for any healers.  Sure, it’s easier for some than others (hi, Rejuv spamming Trees!), but it’s still a general pain in the butt to have to watch hitpoint bars while running around like mad people.  I’m going to give specific advice for some of the hardest movement fights, but let’s start with some basic advice.

1) Be aware.  If you know your fight mechanics and know when you need to move, you’ll suffer from less flailing, not to mention less stress.
2) Be attentive. Sometimes it’s hard to pay attention to so many things at once, but it is absolutely necessary. Watch your feet, watch your debuffs and watch your vicinity. Don’t tunnel vision those happy green bars.
3) Be calm. You have the ability to beat these crappy running fights, so believe in yourself.
4) Practice! And no, I don’t mean in the actual raids. Find fights in heroics or easy raids that have similar mechanics. Better yet? -ARENAS.- Arenas, arenas, arenas. Heck, even battlegrounds can help you get used to running around.

- Run to the wall! -

These are the fights where you get X debuff and have to book it away from the rest of the people around you.  Fights in this category would be the Gravity Bomb in XT-hardmode, the disease on Rotface, the debuff on Freya, the disease on Grobbulus, the fire debuff on Jaraxxus, the curse on Deathwhisper trash…  It’s a pretty darn common mechanic.  Because it’s the most common, let’s hope it is also the easiest for us healers to deal with.  But let’s give some tips, anyway!

1) Go as far as you have to and no further. The biggest issue I see is that the person with the debuff runs -way- past where they need to. Running away from the other healers is a really bad idea, as we all know. If you run directly to where you need to be, you’ll most often have time to get a heal off on either yourself or someone else before the debuff expires and you run back to your position. Spending less time moving is spending more time healing.
2) Communicate that you have the debuff and have to move. It’s for times like this that Vent should be kept clear. Even if you’re a raid healer and there isn’t any real danger of your assignments biting it, it is always best to know when a healer is having to run away. If you’re a tank healer, it is absolutely necessary so that the other healers can cover for you or so the tank can be ready with a cooldown.
3) Don’t forget your instants. Every class and spec have them. Keep a sharp eye on your own HP as well as that of your healing assignment and pop that instant if either is getting low.

Class specific advice:
- Paladins, I know your finger is hovering over that bubble, but don’t let bubbling be your first reaction to this situation. Divine Shield should be your -last- resort, not your default response to anything. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use it if you’re going to explode from that debuff and die, but your other tricks should be first. Sacred Shield, Holy Shock, instant Flash of Light if it procs, cancle-aura Divine Sacrifice, Aura Mastery if it’s elemental damage, Lay on Hands if things are dire. We are a class of many tricks, but if none work and your fellows are letting you die, bubble.
- Priests, I used to never suggest taking Desperate Prayer, but I’ve seen the light. If you’re Disc (or there’s no Disc priest in the raid), Powerword: Shield is your friend. I also suggest Prayer of Mending yourself as well as putting a Renew up. If things look bad, Pain Suppression/Guardian Spirit is your friend.
- Druids, this is exactly what Barkskin is for and let me tell you, the short cooldown on it means that should be your first reaction to taking any damage. Other than that, you’re the least likely to die. Get to casting Rejuvenation and Life Bloom on yourself, with your finger on the Swiftmend if you need it and you’re golden. -Really- in a bad way? Nature’s Swiftness with Healing Touch.
- Shaman, you’re kinda screwed of all of us. (Sorry, but it’s true!) Riptide yourself like crazy and be ready with that Nature’s Swiftness with Healing Wave macro. If your Earth Shield isn’t on anyone important, like the tank, you can use it on yourself to try to not, well, -die.- Other than that, you’re at the mercy of your fellow healers.

- Run away, little girl! -

Ah, kiting fights. Probably the most stressful of all the healing on the run situations. The three big fights where this is a factor are Professor Putricide, Blood Princes and Anub’arak. The main thing about this mechanic is that you have to run and -not stop,- no matter what. That doesn’t mean that you stop healing, though. It’s really, really hard to keep a cool head with instant death running at your heels (and heals, harrharr).

1) Have a “flight path.” (Harrharr!) This means you should know where you’re running to and have your movement mapped out in your head. For Anub, you’d know where the ice patch is and the route you should take to get there. With these fights, the direct route is generally -not- the correct one, as you’re trying to use the corners of the map to get the most “kite time” as you can before it switches to the next person.
2) Communicate. Just like the above, this is what Vent is kept clear for.
3) Work those instants. Your assignments are still important, so don’t completely lose track of them, especially tanks.
4) Have a Holy Priest with Body & Soul. I’m not kidding. It’s so -nice.- Make sure it’s clear that no one else should bubble the kiter.
5) Go to Karazhan. No, I’m not kidding. A group of all healers should be able to clear to the Opera if you have a healadin to tank. If you get the Big Bad Wolf, don’t kill him. Just practice running away from him while healing. Profit from the past, my friends.

Class specific advice is pretty much the exact same as the above, only use those instants on your assignments. Bubbling for paladins should pretty much never be done, as it’ll cause the kited object to turn to someone else, giving a high chance of raid wipe.

- I just never get to stand still! -

Constant moving fights are every so much fun. I have vivid memories of learning to heal Hodir. This is probably the easiest and most useful type of movement healing to learn, as elements of it can be useful in every fight. Professor Putricide and the Blood Princes stand out most in my mind for it, but these are skills that are very useful all the time.

1) “Run, stop, cast, run, stop, cast.” That’s the pattern that I use when trying to move and heal, even as I’m running from one side of the room to the other. For instance, when the tank is moving Putricide to the other side of the room, rather than chasing after her and trying to keep her alive with Holy Shock, I’m taking the movement in chunks, stopping to cast heals between steps. I do this -proactively.- If the tank has had a good stream of dodges and doesn’t need the heal, I cancel my cast by stepping forward a few more paces and then start casting again. Unless your target is flat-out sprinting away from you (aka. they’re breaking the Be Calm rule), you’ll be able to stay in range of pretty much anyone you need to this way.
2) Fight Keristrasza. No, really! She’s great practice for this sort of healing! You can do Nexus on normal if you’re really rusty and just heal while never getting more than a single stack of the debuff on yourself. I should have done this back when we were doing Hodir-25-hardmode, so learn from my mistake and take advantage of this great learning tool.

- Running sucks that much. -

In the end, the key is to maximize your healing and minimize your movement.  I’ve given as many pointers as I can to help you out with that (long post is long!), but this really falls onto the skill end of my “knowledge and skill” slider.  Thus, the first four general suggestions will be key.  In ICC, movement is present in most of the really hard fights, so we simply can’t avoid it.  So many bosses have kiting to do or things to run away from; fights like the Blood Princes or the Putricide have multiple types of running all wrapped up into one!  So don’t be surprised if there’s a steep learning curve in all that movement.  Even the most hardened of healers will suffer from failures at times.  Just grin and bear it as best you can!

And run arenas.  Seriously.

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Keeping it all in perspective

01/14/2010

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a raiding snob with a low tolerance for the emotional.  When people tell me that they “feel” a certain way about raiding, I sometimes have a hard time biting back my preachy nature.  “Proof!” my brain screams inwardly, “I want proof!”  The internal strife becomes even worse when someone simply isn’t pulling their weight to my standards.  Admitting this to you probably makes me seem like an egotistical bastard, but I’m here to tell you that I’m not.

I can be a really crappy healer at times.  There, I said it.  I’m not the greatest healer of all time, nor do I believe myself to be.  Heck, I usually view my Number Two as a far better healadin than I.

Why the sudden need for self-flagellation?  Because I royally sucked it up yesterday in ICC-10 on my priest and it made me realize that I can come across on this blog as terribly self-centered.  This isn’t to say that I don’t still stand by my opinions, just that I felt the need to let the hundreds of people (where did you all come from?!) who read my blog every day know that I’m not unaware of myself.  Since I’m baring my soul here, let’s get to the meat of this post…

- You’ll all hate me, but it’s true. -

I suck at PvP.  Wait, this deserves to be in caps….  I SUCK AT PVP.  Seriously, take a look at my arena scores, I’m bloody rotten.  For the last two seasons I’ve been carried by a variety of my friends, mostly because while I’m an eyesore when it comes to skill, I’m incredibly amusing while being so.  At least that’s what I hear.  I have no idea why else they’d put up with me, if not for the “arggg!” and “amgamgamg” over Vent.  And I’m going to admit that I suck at PvP because it is so heavy on the skill side of the “skill and knowledge” slider.  I hate trying to heal people as I have to hide behind pillars, keep myself from being CCed and running too far out of range of my teammates.  It’s all so unplanned and chaotic, yet requires instant reaction times and flexible problem solving.  Which I completely suck at.

That’s why I do it.  That’s why everyone should do it.

Arenas are a love/hate thing.  You either love them or you hate them and vow to never, ever step into one ever.  Ever.  But you know what?  You can learn a lot from doing arenas about healing, about raiding and, heck, even about yourself.  In arenas, you absolutely cannot be caught standing around looking at health bars.  Having tunnel vision will get you killed very quickly.  Attention needs to be widened to the full field, to what is going on around you and to what your teammates are doing.  All of your cooldowns are important and you have to learn to use them in an intelligent manner.  Your brain has to make order of the chaos so that you can get things done.  Which my brain rebels against, I should add.  Chaos and I, we aren’t pals.

Before I get people shaking their fists at me, telling me that it’s idiotic to say that everyone should do arenas, let me point to the above list and ask, “What in that list isn’t applicable to PvE?”  All of it is, of course.  On fights like Rotface or Professor Putricide, the lessons arenas bestow on us are incredibly useful.  (Hey, look, it’s Hand of Freedom!  Keen!)  We all should do arenas, not because they’re required to be a raider, but because they make us -better- raiders.  My Number Two trumps my skills because he’s a great PvPer.  That’s the simple fact of it.  I want to be a better raider.  So I do arenas, much as I sometimes hate them.  Er, often hate them.  Okay, okay, I pretty much always hate them.  But like in real life, doing the things I hate can be the right call.

No, I don’t require that everyone on my healing team do arenas.  I’m not a complete and utter slave-driver, believe it or not!  Lucky for me, I don’t have to, as almost all of them have recognized just how much of a character-building experience they are.  In fact, only our newest Tree doesn’t do them, if my memory serves.  Heck, guess I’d better get to recommending some PvP to him.  If it were in my power, I’d recommend PvP lessons to our DPS, too.  Being able to shoot things while running around is important and I’ve seen enough orb-dodging fail on Twins-25-hardmode to know that… well, paying attention to their surroundings isn’t something they’re terribly skilled at.  Not that I’m any better, really, I’m just better at hiding it since I can just immediately heal myself afterwards.

But I’ll improve.  I’ll do my weekly arenas until those lessons are pounded into me and I can dodge flying things with the best of them.  Because it’s important to me to be the best healer I can possibly be.  The lessons I try to learn from arenas, slow process that it is, are meaningful because it’s part of me trying to not let my teammates down.  Anyone who doesn’t feel the same way about my team as I do, I don’t want healing with me anyway.  “Good enough” is never good enough for my friends.

In my case, I get another lesson tacked onto all the other things I learn from beating my head against PvP: a lesson in humility.  I think that’s a lesson a lot of other bloggers could use, too.  Just sayin’.

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re: Tanks and Healers Should Get The Biggest Rewards

01/12/2010

There has been a whole lot of hoopla about this guest article over at World of Matticus (I’m slow, what can I say?), with many different replies, some of them very angry.  (My favorites:  Angry Healers, Troll Bouquet, Looking for More, Spinksville, The Noisy Rogue, Artisan Elitist, and Blessing of Kings.)   Let me first say that I have large issues with the language of the article.  No one likes to be called “meat” or told that they are a dime a dozen.

- Rewarded?  REALLY? -

Rohan at Blessing of Kings really hit on part of the reason healers and tanks -should- be rewarded. It is about retention of a talented minority of an already minority role. Acknowledging the members of that hard-to-find group will encourage them to stay with you, even if they’d rather be doing something else. (Like DPS!) While the original article speaks only to loot as this reward, I think that other rewards should be considered. Very rarely do healers and tanks get told how well they’re doing or how much they are appreciated. Positive comments tend to revolve around how fast mobs are being killed and about DPS numbers. Unfortunately, the support classes tend to only get their performance commented on when they do something wrong. Rewarding your tanks and healers with verbal praise in front of their peers can go a long way. If you want to go a step further, perhaps a guild policy of buying raid or buff mats for your healers might be a small gesture to show how much you appreciate them.

My belief about gear has always been one of “for the good of the raid,” which I’ve talked about before (right here), but given the current context of new bosses/gear it should be touched on again. When a raiding group moves to harder content, the first members of the raid to really “carry” the group are the tanks and healers.  Even on fights that take high DPS like Festergut, the first brunt of the learning requires tanks and healers to be well geared. In this example, having your DPS decked out while your support classes lag won’t help you when Festergut two shots your tanks because they don’t have enough health or because the healers don’t have the throughput to keep them up.  Having enough DPS to be able to wipe out Festergut in 3 minutes doesn’t do you a lick of good if you have no survivability. In this situation, “rewarding” healers and tanks with preference when it comes to gear isn’t really about the people or roles, just about what is good for the team.

In the end, it is more about rewarding quality than raid roles. Giving an upgrade to a mediocre priest over a fantastic mage does more to hurt the raid than help it. It is very much about doing what you can to help the group, therefore the true assets should be the ones who put in the time and effort, no matter what they play.

- But who’s job is more difficult? -

This is one part of the discussion that I have to agree with the original article about. I’ve read many replies of people who argue that being a support role is not more stressful than a damage dealing role, nor that it takes more skill. To quote Spinks in one of her comments, “Being great dps also seems harder to me than being a great tank or healer, it’s not always obvious how to improve.” I’m going to have to completely disagree with that statement, as someone who has raided progressively as both DPS and healing.

The main difference in difficulty between roles lies in what you are responsible for. DPSers are responsible for themselves, for staying alive and for doing reasonable damage to a boss. If they are not meeting this responsibility, they have only their own actions and rotations to improve upon. A healer, however, is responsible for every single person in the raid, including themself. They have to take into account mana efficiency, speed of heals, reaction times of the various members, watching the health of multiple people at once without tunneling and getting killed by fire themselves… In plain language, it comes down to: “I died in a fire. Next time, I should Disengage out of it.” vs. “That hunter died in a fire. Could I have been faster on a Flash of Light without endangering the life of the tank through Beacon fail if he died anyway? Was he out of range of the other healers and if so can I move closer to him without putting myself in danger of Gormok’s spell lock-out?”

I support the claim that being a healer is more stressful than being a DPS, with the caveat that being a -great- healer is more stressful than being a -great- DPS. Being satisfactory at your role, no matter what it is, isn’t stressful at all. Being top of your game is much more so. The main reason stress lies on the healers more is, again, on the placement of their attention. Great DPSers work inwardly, even when they’re doing things like Kidney Shotting things that want to chew on the clothies. They look inwards to their own abilities and strengths, which builds up as focus more than stress. At the end of the fight, they are able to look at their numbers to see that focus in a competitive form, an immediate pay-off to their ego that requires no other person to inspire. Healers on the other hand have to work together and trust that the 5 others in their section are doing their jobs. You have to worry about what 25 other people are doing at all times. There is very little leeway for a healer to screw up; if you make a mistake, someone will die and sometimes everyone will. If I miss a Hand of Sacrifice timing on the tank, the tank dies and so does the raid. If my hunter uses her Rapid Shot at the wrong time, I lose some DPS. Add to this that there is very little ego pay-off for healers, as what little we have requires other people to inspire, an unlikely event.

Being a support class really is a thankless job. No one comments with awe about the TPS being put out by the tank. No one gives props to the healers sweating bullets as they dance around orbs while still pushing their HPS to the max. No, they look at the DPS meters to see the rogue pulling 10k DPS on Festergut. Yet, if that rogue does something stupid, nothing really is said. If the tank or the healer does, their mistake is analyzed minutely. That is simply the way it works and support classes accept it. To say that the disparity doesn’t create a disparity in stress levels doesn’t stand to reason.

- But what about 5-mans, Codi? -

Wait, all this discussion is supposed to be about -heroics?- Wow, did I miss the boat on that one, then. From the original article, it seemed to me that the topic was about rewards in raids! I’m actually surprised that there’s this much thought and discussion going into it, then. From what I can see, there already is a reward for queueing as a healer or a tank. That would be the instant group.

I’ve carried 5-mans before. I’m pretty sure all decent players have. That’s just going to happen with PuGs. Queueing for a PuG and then expecting to finish hAN in 8 minutes with no deaths (my current record!) is just silly. Any healer or tank queueing up should do so with the expectation that the group is going to suck royally. If they don’t, it will at least be a pleasant surprise. When I get PuGs where I don’t out DPS people (as a healer) or I don’t end up just tanking at the same time as healing, I’m happily surprised. I go in, get my two badges of Frost and then I’m done for the day. Simple and clean.

Are 5-mans such deadly serious business that all this hoopla is necessary? I guess I’ll go log on my lowbie warrior and tank a random, then. With nothing but Thunderclap. Ah, low levels…

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Are you ready to heal ICC?

01/06/2010

I get a whole lot of search hits on my blog from people wondering if they are geared enough to heal ICC or if they have enough HPS.  Figured I’d touch on it a little so that people can decide for themselves if they’re ready.

- The question of gear -

People hate hearing this, but gear really doesn’t matter all that much for normal raid content.  It matters a little, sure, in that a paladin wearing Spirit gear isn’t going to be much help, but past that it gets pretty hazy.  During this epidemic of gear score madness that seems to be going around, the simple fact that good gear doesn’t make a good raider seems to be lost.  I speak as someone who is very much into min-maxing my raiding experience!  I nitpick my gear choices, trying to squeeze every last drop of healing increase out, but at the end of the day even I realize that the difference it makes is small.  Skill is what really makes a good raider, especially a good healer.

Let me tell you a story about a little Disc priest named Nikkal.  She hit 80 not too long before 3.3 came out with its shiny new raid and her gear was largely made up of ilevel 200 blues and epics.  A group of her friends really wanted to run around ICC-10, but they had no healers for it.  So Nikkal grabbed her like-wise newly 80 and ilevel 200 wearing Tree friend and her PvP healadin friend.  The three of them rocked the place!  All four bosses downed!  Three healers who should have never been able to pull it off because of their atrocious gear made up for it with skill.  Nikkal walked away with a couple yummy upgrades for all her hard work.

Okay, that story isn’t “the norm” and I’ll freely admit it.  All our three healers were the alts of very skilled people (I can call myself that without being overly egotistical, right?) and had the support of other highly skilled people on alts.  We also had in our favor that we all knew the fights well, had a good healing comp for the fights and just in general trusted each other to do our jobs.  But the fact remains that gear wasn’t the factor that let us clear the place.

So, for those of you who came here looking for nothing more than a quick answer, I’d say you should be in as much ilevel 232 gear as you can for ICC-10 and ICC-25.  If you’re trying to run 2 healers for ICC-10, I’d suggest full ilevel 232s.  If you’re trying to run 5 healers for ICC-25, I’d suggest nothing lower than ilevel 245s.  For those of you who are still reading and really understood the story of Nikkal and her friends, you’ll know that in the end it doesn’t matter too much.  If you have skill and knowledge, the rest is icing.

- The question of HPS -

This is much harder for me to answer, as you -do- need enough healing in order to make it through encounters.  The problem is there are so many different factors to consider, such as  class, healing comp, fight mechanics, DPS, how aware your group is to fire, etc.  If it were more specific, something like “what is the minimum HPS for a healer during Twins-25-hardmode with 6 healers, adjusting for absorption,” I could handle it.  (I’d say 5k HPS minimum for that situation, by the way!)  But for ICC, we’re talking about an -entire raid- that I need to think about.

For those more interested in a flat number, I’d say that for ICC-10 with 3 healers, you’d want no lower than 2.5k HPS overall per healer (adjusting for absorption).  If you’ve got 6 healers for ICC-25, I’d give a ballpark number of 3.5k HPS per healer (adjusting for absorption).  Just as with gear, though, giving a number like that isn’t accounting for much.  Allow me to stratify a bit.

Having a healadin with high HPS who can keep up the tanks on Marrowgar and two people with Marks on Saurfang really helps and this place is really great for healadins.  Disc priests are well suited to ICC, as they can bubble and spot heal the bone spikes on Marrowgar, as well as keep the tanks up on Saurfang while minimizing gains from the Marks.  Shaman are just in general fantastic for ICC, since they’re so flexible, and should have some of the highest HPS of the group.  Trees and Holy priests are a little at a disadvantage, as there isn’t much of the constant ticking damage they do so well with, so they’ll be a bit further down the charts than what you’re used to seeing, but if they’re good on their feet at dealing with spike damage (or tank healing!), then they’ll do just as well as everyone else.

In the end, ICC on normal isn’t really all that hard.  If you know the fights, know your class and know each other, you should be able to pump out enough healing to keep people alive.

- Because people come here wanting to know -

We all know that I like numbers, yet there is a surprising lack of them in this entire post.  And there are so many anecdotes, which I tend to avoid!  The reason is that the things people seem to come here to find just can’t be answered in a general way.  If you come here asking “am I good enough to do XYZ,” there are just too many questions I have to ask in return to give you a yes or a no.  I have seen people with Val’anyr and other high level gear who just can’t keep people alive, even with 5 other healers in the raid.  I’ve seen people who push to top 10k HPS, most of it overheal, and then pat themselves on the back for “topping the charts” despite the raid wiping.  Both of these people should be “good enough” to heal whatever content is out there.  Shall I give them my seal of approval just because?

I feel like an old school marm, trying to hammer the principles of “skill and knowledge” into people’s heads.  But that’s what it comes down to!  If you have the skill and knowledge, the HPS will fall into place.  If you have the skill and knowledge, you’ll be maximizing the stats on your gear, even if it is only ilevel 200s.  If you have the skill and knowledge, you will succeed!  Huzzah!

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re: Gear Pollution

12/05/2009

I just read a great post over at Planet of the Hats in regards to what the author calls “gear pollution.”  It’s a fantastic read and I highly encourage everyone to go and read it.  There are charts, too!  Mmm, charts…  Oh and I realize that I’ve touched on this topic on several different occasions.  Raiding is really all I do in World of Warcraft these days and this is a large consideration for me as a raider.  Hence you get to read about it multiple times.  Grats, as they say!

The most major thing I have to add to the article is in regards to the Rewards section.  The author talks about how gear is Blizzard’s reward to raiders for clearing content, which is true.  However, there are two other rewards that are primary to raiding:  challenge and the “ooo” factor.  It is in balancing these three in the correct combination that raiding appeals.  Raiding in WotLK has seen things tip very far towards the gear side of the rewards pyramid, with huge amounts of ilevels being handed out in the course of a single expansion.  What we have seen are more epics for less time.  Whether this is a positive thing or not is up to discussion, however it is a fact that the difference in tier levels is far larger than in either Vanilla or TBC.

“Ooo” factor is what I call that feeling of doing something new, exciting and special.  It was that feeling when you first stepped off the boat in Northrend or when you earned your first mount.  I got it when I got to tank Kiggler the Crazed on my hunter and I think back on it fondly.  Sadly, it is the “ooo” factor that has been decreased most in WotLK raiding.  Most raiders now begin by doing 10-mans, as they are infinitely easier to organize and run (not even taking into account actual raid difficulty), which means that there simply -is- no “ooo” incentive to ever trying the 25-mans; all the content has already been seen.  Add this to the fact that many people raid both difficulties, making raid burn-out that much more likely as there isn’t even a change of scenery to be made to break up the week.

Some might not see challenge as its own reward, but it really is for a raider.  Pushing yourself and your friends against something difficult until you reach that success is a very sweet reward.  It is a fantastic feeling, saying “I am finally a Hand of Adal” or something of the sort.  (I never got the title because I never did the pre-raid quests for it!  Yes, I know, I’m strange and my raiding group always likes to point it out.)  During WotLK, this reward has almost totally been pushed onto hardmode content.  As many other bloggers like to say it, Blizzard has created content that is the same fight only now we need to do it with one hand and blindfolded.  Is it more difficult?  Yes, so at least some of the challenge reward is maintained.  Unfortunately, in order to achieve the challenging content, a raiding group needs to slog through several weeks (at least) of normal content.  Even once a fight’s hardmode has been unlocked via the gated system, the raider will still need to spend quite a bit of a time farming easy content for gear, as most hardmodes constitute little more than a “gear check.”  This aspect of creating more challenge is flimsy at best.  For most of the fights in ToC-25 hardmode and for all of the fights in ToC-10 hardmode, the challenge consists of having decent enough gear to win.

What has ended up happening in WotLK is that the institution of raiding has coming to rely almost solely on the reward of more and better gear, whittling away at the other two pillars that helped hold up the end game experience in Vanilla and TBC.  People aren’t going to go to a new, possibly more difficult raid for a slight gear upgrade.  Blizzard has to make the upgrades large enough to be tempting, creating an even greater divide between tiers, especially with the addition of hardmode level gear.  Anything from the last tier becomes nearly worthless, especially with the supreme ease with which people can get current raid level gear.  With the challenge level as low as it is, everyone is expected to be in at least 10-man normal epics for just about everything, feeding the monster that is “gear score.”

I’m well-known for arguing that raids are too accessible now, that PuG raids being a viable option at end game is a travesty, which has labeled me an “elitist.”  (I hate that word for purely non-WoW related reasons.  Call me a “raiding snob” if you will, just leave that poor word alone!)  I feel that hardmodes are just about the worst idea Blizzard has had, as it allows them to tune the difficulty on normal raids down to the point where people barely have to be awake to succeed.  This is especially made true as the gear from normal modes is almost a requirement for success due to the huge gap in ilevels between tiers.  (Having hardmodes being gated doesn’t help much, either, as all the content must already have been seen in before even getting the chance to attempt anything challenging.)

There seems to be a lot of out cry right now to make 10-man gear the same as 25-man gear, something that makes me simply want to throw my hands up in defeat.  25-mans should be and are harder to run than 10-mans, if only from a logistics point of view.  Shall we also make the rewards for 5-mans the same as those from 5-man heroics?  People would simply stop running 25-mans altogether, as the rewards for time spent would be incredibly unequal.

So what I my suggestion for a solution?  Simplify.  Just looking at the chart for WotLK progression gives me a headache and reminds me of raiding in EverQuest just before I quit.  The death of MMOs, in my opinion, come when the game simply collapses under its own weight.  WoW right now wants everyone to be able to raid which means that everyone -is- raiding and that raiding is losing a great amount of interest.  Let’s get rid of hardmodes, thereby getting rid of many ilevels, and have the actual raids be difficult again.  Let’s have a different end boss in 10-man and 25-man or a different story for the lore.  Let’s get rid of the idea that obscure achievements are enough to keep bringing people back.  None of this is very difficult to do.

I’ll be waiting for Icecrown Citadel with my fingers crossed.  I’m hoping to get some “ooo” out of it for a least a couple of weeks.

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