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Patch Preparation

Posted by Malevica on November - 29 - 2011

I always like to be well-prepared for a new patch, and given that my guild is aiming to progress quickly through the Dragon Soul normal modes, I want to be sure I’m prepared to hit the new content.

I thought I’d share my last-minute preparation process with the world.

Step 0: Get on the PTR

This is down as Step 0 instead of Step 1 because I do regard this as semi-optional. To be as ready as possible it does help to get on the PTR and get a feel for the new content and how your class changes work in practice. More importantly it also helps Blizzard get the game as wrinkle-free as possible before the patch goes live, making for a smoother experience and fewer of those annoying restarts and maintenance issues that we all enjoy so much(!).

That said, some people don’t like playing buggy or non-final content, others would rather not spoil the surprise, or maybe, like me, you’re on a capped, low-speed internet package and an extra 16GB download just wasn’t an option. In which case, make sure you follow the remaining steps even more thoroughly.

Step 0.5: Start the Background Downloader

If you usually bypass the Launcher, or if you have downloads turned off for another reason, make sure you turn the background downloader on in plenty of time to receive the new patch. It can be several gigabytes, and you really don’t want to be panicking about a humongous download five minutes before you’re due to raid.

Get prepared well in advance and let the downloader do its thing, so you’re ready to go on release day.

Step 1: Read the Patch Notes

While there have been versions of the patch notes at the PTR has progressed, it’s always worth checking the official patch notes too, in case any last-minute changes have snuck in.

After that, check the Technical Support forum for any Known Issues lists, and it’s often worth checking Wowpedia’s lists of undocumented changes, which are updated frequently in the early days after a patch comes out.

Finally, you might try reading blogs or posts from other people who have been testing the new patch. Usually the top guilds are very active on the PTR and will test their class in depth, so they are good sources of information. For example, for healing Priests Dawn Moore of WowInsider put together a this great, handy guide.

All of this helps prevent you looking silly when a spell doesn’t do what it used to, or costs more and causes you to run OOM, or your stat priorities have shifted, or countless other ways a new patch can catch you out.

And for raiders, don’t forget to find out about other classes as well; for healers, that means knowing how the patch is going to affect your fellow healers and even your tanks.

For example, Wild Growth is getting a small nerf this patch, while Paladins’ Holy Radiance is being dramatically changed from a caster-centred AoE HoT to a spell with a 3 sec cast time which is placed on a target and which heals them and all group members within 10 yards instantly, and continues to heal them by a smaller amount every 1 sec for 3 sec. What this means is that Paladins now have very powerful (albeit very expensive) burst AoE while the raid is grouped up, and will probably push them towards a raid-healing role in certain fights, rather than being the default tank-healer.

Step 2: Read Up About the New Raids

If you’re going to be raiding soon after the patch is released then you should have at least a basic understanding of what the fights will entail so you can prepare your character’s spec and glyphs, pull out any rarely-used spells, and generally not be surprised when it hits you.

Learn2Raid and Icy Veins are two sites that have PTR strategy guides and videos to read and watch, and there are many more.

Shameless self-plug: Part of my preparation consists of not only reading and watching guides to the fights, but I also like to think about them and then synthesise a new guide; the process of re-writing helps to make sure I understand what I’ve read, and also gets me thinking about how my class fits into the encounter and what affects me the most.

Step 3: Update Your UI

Now you’ve got your knowledge base assembled, but before you log into the game, you should visit the main addon sites and update any addons you use, especially ones you rely on heavily such as DBM.

With boss mods, it’s important to download the alpha or beta package if it’s available because that will have the very latest updates, added sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis. Get it from the authors themselves too, even the beta versions on Curse are several revisions out of date, and that all matters when you’re pushing progression.
And forget about the “release” version. DBM’s release package is usually not updated for as much as a couple of weeks after a patch is released, so that the authors are absolutely sure it’s correct before stamping it with the official seal of approval, which can leave you with a very underwhelming boss mod for the first lockout.

Beyond boss mods, many authors, particularly those responsible for the popular addons will have been on the PTR to test their code and if at all possible they will make sure it works smoothly on release day. And don’t forget to update again before your first raid, because there may well be a number of addons that have been updated during the day.
And don’t forget to tick “Load out of date addons” on the addons page of the character selection screen; many addons do not need more than a version update to work fine with a new patch, but you can always disable those which are problematic.

If you want to be extra-safe you can have backups lined up, just in case one of your addons doesn’t work and hasn’t been updated and you need a replacement. XPerl or Shadowed Unit Frames instead of Pitbull, for example, or VuhDo instead of Healbot or Grid.

And finally on this subject, if an addon you use isn’t updated, don’t go and rage about it, especially not to the author(s). They make addons for nothing, and it’s something they do in their free time. If you can offer practical help that may be welcomed, but otherwise just wait patiently and trust that the addon author is working on it.

Step 4: Make a Wanted List, and Prioritise It

Gear lists abound just before a patch, so they’re a good place to start.

In the early days the priority isn’t to get your Best in Slot, just to get your gear upgraded as quickly as possible; BiS can come later when you’ve got more time to spend. So at this stage you’re looking for the low-hanging fruit, the quick gains, and that means the Auction House, the 5-mans, anything that can be bought with Valor Points and anything you didn’t get round to buying in 4.2 which you can now afford thanks to it costing Justice Points instead.

In 4.3, the new 5-man instances drop ilvl 378 gear, the same as normal mode Firelands, so look down the lists and see if there’s any items that are either a direct upgrade to your current gear or which are better-itemised than what you’re currently wearing. For Tellisa I’m considering going for the Foul Gift of the Demon Lord as an alternative to my normal Jaws of Defeat for a output boost, and perhaps the Scepter of Azshara so I have an acceptable main-hand if an off-hand drops while raiding.

Because of the VP cap the only thing that will be purchasable in the first week will be the wands/thrown/relics at 700 VP each. If you’re running a few 4.3 5-mans anyway you may be able to pick up an upgrade, but remember these are ilvl 397, so if you have an ilvl 391 version already from the last tier you might be better off saving your VPs and getting a bigger upgrade in week 2. I know what I said earlier about ignoring BiS, but 6 ilvl points on a relic slot really is a miserly upgrade.

As for BoEs, don’t count on getting your hands on the craftables (Dreamwraps of the Light and World Mender’s Pants, for healing Priests) in the first few weeks because it’ll take time for the patterns and the Essences of Destruction to drop, and guilds will tend to gear up internally first before putting these items on the AH.

There are some other BoEs listed on Wowhead; although they don’t have a drop location yet they probably come from Dragon Soul trash. For healing Priests the Sash of Relentless Truth looks promising, for example. Early in a new tier the raid trash drops are either very unavailable or very expensive, but if you have deep enough pockets you may just get lucky.
Edit: There is also the Drapes of the Dragonshrine, a drop from the Hour of Twilight, which might be useful if you haven’t got the Avengers of Hyjal cloak yet.

However much or little you need to gather, the key thing is to have a plan so that you can focus your time on the most valuable things first.

Step 5: Log In Early

The final piece of advice I always follow is to log in as early as possible, even if you then /afk in Stormwind while you go off and do whatever it is you usually do before your evening WoW session.

There are multiple reasons for this: you might find you have more data to download, in which case you either have time to download and install it or you have time to let your guild-mates know why you’re running late; there might be a queue for your realm if it’s high population and there’s a lot of people itching to jump back in; you might log in and find your UI is a total mess and needs addon replacement or setting up again; or you might need to respec or reforge.

All of these things take time, and you don’t want to be doing them in a rush because it’ll only spoil your enjoyment of the new content.

Step 6: … Profit!

You’ve done the prep work, you know your class changes and what the new raid, dungeons and other content has in store for you, and your UI is working beautifully. Now you’re ready to get started exploring the new content.

Good luck, and have fun!

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