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Archive for the ‘Anecdotes’ Category

The Right Tool

Posted by Malevica on March - 15 - 2011

My favourite fight of this expansion so far has to be Nefarian’s End. Not because of the environment, although the moving platform and lava pouring from the walls is a great setting for a fight, but because in this encounter I really feel like I can flex my Priestly muscles: I go from tank healing in Phase 1, to intense multi-target healing on the platforms in Phase 2 to a mix of the two as we push through Phase 3. It feels good to shift gears during a fight.

Phase 1

In this phase I’m assigned (with a little informal help) to the Onyxia tank. Because there’s just the tank in range for most of the phase I’ve kept hold of my Atonement spec and use a mix of Smite, Penance and PW:S to keep the tank up. Binding heal helps get my health back up after Electrocute, and I can PW:S myself so a Tail Lash and Electrocute combination doesn’t embarrass me.

With Train of Thought shortening the cooldown on Penance and Archangel helping with throughput and a little bit of mana return, it works out as a pretty mana-efficient way of keeping a tank up when there’s no concerns about the heals going anywhere else.

Plus, although I might not do much damage to Onyxia I do manage to crank out around 8k DPS during Phase 1 and every little helps!

Phase 2

Here’s where we really kick it up a notch, and Disc comes into its own in this phase.

Right from the start I throw a Power Word: Barrier onto my platform as I’m jumping up onto it, which is a massive help getting the group stabilised. If you’re taking an Electrocute in this phase though, you might want to save the PW:B for later to make dealing with the damage spike easier.

Once everyone on the platform is safe, then the rest of the AoE healing tools come out. My team assigns a single group plus 3-4 others onto each platform, so I cover the single group with Prayer of Healing and keep up the rest of the players up with Prayer of Mending on cooldown and Power Word: Shield as often as I can afford it. Any PW:S cast without a corresponding Rapture proc is an expensive proposition but also provides extremely high throughput in a situation like this when you know the absorb is going to be used, as well as improving the throughput of the Prayer of Healing. For me it’s a judgement call, depending on how I’m doing mana-wise.

I tend to use my Shadowfiend and Hymn of Hope in this phase to prop up my mana, particularly if I get a lucky coincidence of Lightweave and Power Torrent.

Phase 3

In Phase 3 I tend to be assigned to a tank. On the Nefarian tank Heal becomes the bread-and-butter spell instead of Smite on the tank, because Atonement is too unpredictable with large numbers of other players in close range. On the add tank though it’s really useful to weave Smites in with the Heals to take advantage of the throughput boost from Archangel when the adds’ damage starts getting heavy.
You can also make good use of PW:B or Pain Suppression when Electrocutes are due either on the raid or the tank.

If you are assigned to the raid in this phase, spreading some Divine Aegis around with Prayer of Healing when an Electrocute is due will take the edge off the damage spike.



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Categories: Anecdotes

State of the Cataclysm

Posted by Malevica on February - 2 - 2011

Well there’s nothing like leading a 25-man guild through a new expansion to suck up all of your free time, and nothing like writing up a thesis to suppress your love of writing as a hobby!

Anyway, what pearls of wisdom can I share?

Levelling

I’ve got my Priest and Paladin to 85 so far, and my Shaman is close behind at 83. I levelled Malevica as Discipline and had a blast. It wasn’t as quick as it could have been as Shadow, but I usually find that the time I spend reorganising all my bars and learning how to Shadow just isn’t recouped in time savings while levelling; that’s not to say that’s universal though.

On the other hand, I really regret trying to level my Paladin as Holy. Levels 80-83 were OK, but Uldum and Twilight Highlands were just pretty awful. And the problem was easy to fix: Exorcism just costs too much damn mana. I could keep Inquisition up fine but my main nuke is Exorcism. Exorcism does plenty of damage but just can’t be cast for long enough to kill more than one mob before needing to drink again. Give me a glyph, or even a talent, to reduce its mana cost by half and the problem is solved. It has no impact at end-game because DPS specs shouldn’t be mana-starved now.
But, I hear you cry, you’re doing it wrong! Why not just go Ret like everyone else? Well, I chose to go Holy because I was instancing a fair bit and trying to maintain two completely separate gear sets on an alt felt like just too much work. Plus, don’t forget, I’d just finished levelling a Priest as a healing spec with no problems.

And don’t even get me started on quest mobs with 150,000 HP for no very good reason. If a mob is in no danger of killing me (and in Cataclysm there’s no single quest mob which poses any risk to the player unless you’re AFK) then all you achieve by giving it twice the HP of a typical mob is making me press Nuke No.1 twice as many times. Which is boring, especially when I’m already killing mobs slowly.
Let me be clear, I’m in favour of big scary mobs at the end of quest chains, but what makes them big and scary should be more complicated mechanics to deal with and a real sense that they come close to killing me, not just more hit points.

On the subject of linear questing, I love the story-telling and how the heavy use of phasing keeps the zones feeling less crowded, and since my focus is getting to 85 so I can run heroics or raids the ease of finding quest hubs is a bonus. But I will admit that levelling my third character is feeling a bit less exciting when I know I’ve done every quest before.

Heroics

At the start of the expansion, Blizzard seemed to have achieved their goal of making heroics hard, even taking into account the huge numbers of people carrying around PvP gear or Shadow Priests with plate gear just to game the itemlevel restriction.

What they did well from my perspective is make the encounters problematic if your group tries to nuke ignore the mechanics, while making them fairly manageable if your group avoids the bad, interrupts the Spell-of-Death and kills the adds.

Which leads me to the biggest realisation I had while adjusting to the new expansion, and the best piece of advice I’d give to any new healer:

If the thought going through your mind constantly is “I can’t heal through this!!!”, there’s a very good chance your group is doing it wrong.

Of course, maybe you are just undergeared or not adapting to the new expansion at all, but bear in mind that it’s probably not your fault.
Case in point, my first (guild) run in Lost City was a nightmare. Especially High Prophet Barim (didn’t he use to sell reagents?) and Siamat. Why? We weren’t killing the Soul Fragments in time on the former and we were killing the adds too near to the group on the latter. And no one had the gear to compensate for it.

In WoW, people like to talk about Skill > Gear. Really it’s more like Potential ~ Gear x Skill. If you need a certain level of performance to defeat a boss, you can make it possible by raising your gear or your skill/execution/tactics, or both. Right now, as February dawns, the general levels of gear in the playing community are rising which makes heroics a bit more manageable for the average pickup group, yet they’re still defeating groups regularly if they ignore mechanics, which I count as a success.

Raiding

My guild is committed to 25-man raiding, and we’re 9/12 at the moment (Cho’gall is so dead this week!), making us the 3rd Horde guild for 25-man raiding (the other two are 10/12, curse them!)

I’ve loved the pace of the raids so far. We’ve generally spent at least a couple of hours on each boss before downing them, so there’s not been a Naxx moment where an entire wing drops in a night. Trash is well-designed, often demonstrating the principles of the fights (Ascendant Council is a great example) and making you think, while not taking hours to plough through.

My favourite encounters are probably Chimaeron, for daring healers not to heal and then challenging them to switch gears in a second, and the Conclave of Wind for the incredible scenery as well as the coordination needed of the whole raid.

25-man raids do seem to be in dire straits at the moment though. On my server a lot of the big Horde 25-man guilds either broke up into 10-man guilds around the expansion or have subsequently dropped to 10s. We have no plans to change the format of our guild, but if I were looking to set up a new guild I certainly wouldn’t be trying to start a 25-man guild.
I’m not predicting the death of 25-man raiding though, just a consolidation into a smaller number of guilds dedicated to the format.

Shameless plug

Mental is currently looking for a few more good applicants to top up our roster, particularly a couple of reliable healers. If you’re an EU player looking for 3 nights a week 25-man raiding, you could do a lot worse than Mental!

The Blog

I’m still here and I do intend to post more, especially as the guild/raid leadership demands begin to lower a bit, but I also have a lot going on and honestly TH4H is dropping quite a way down the list.

I will be updating the raid strategies by the weekend though, I know some of them are way out of date. I’ve got up-to-date versions on my guild’s forums that just need converting.



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The First Cataclysm Raid

Posted by Malevica on December - 14 - 2010

Last night, less than a week after Cataclysm went live, my guild mustered up a 25-man raid and advanced upon the Bastion of Twilight.

Ill not keep you in suspense: we didn’t manage to kill any bosses. We were not, as they say, Prepared!

We did learn an awful lot though and I’m pretty sure we’ll get our first kill on Thursday when we go back, once we’ve got a bit more gear and experience under our belts.

Trash

My experience of the instance is still extremely limited, but I like this sort of trash. Pulls of 10 mobs make you think very carefully about what CC you have and where it needs to be applied, but there are also some genuine AoE packs mixed in to provide a bit of welcome relief.

The first few pulls were pretty messy, but it didn’t take long for everyone’s tired old CC muscles to tone up again and pretty soon we were taking down the trash without incident.

Halfus Wyrmbreaker

We got to the first boss after about 45 minutes of trash clearing, and had a look at the buffs. We had the Storm Rider, Nether Scion and Time Warden active, which is a pretty nasty combination for the first week.

Our best attempt was 39%, so we have a way to go but the strategy and execution feels pretty good now. We’ll test it out on Thursday and see, by which time we should have got a bit more gear and practice under our belts.

One lesson that came out of the Wyrmbreaker attempts is the need for communication. We were taking out the Storm Rider first, because his Shadow Nova was extremely disruptive, but we were still losing tanks despite having 4/6 healers assigned to them and only the boss and one add active.

It eventually transpired that the tank healers were switching off their assignments to cover the raid; that was why we were losing the tanks, rather than because the tank healing load was so excessive. Once we realised what was going wrong, we pulled the Time Warden along with the Storm Rider, which dropped the raid damage hugely. Even though we had 3 tanks engaged now rather than 2, they were staying up much more easily because the tank healers could focus much more on their assignment.

So healers: don’t be afraid to say if you are finding yourself healing outside your assignment a lot, it’s vital for the raid leader and/or healing lead to know where the stresses are being applied, and you probably know that better than they do.

Disc Healing

I’ve read mixed opinions on Smite healing from early experiences. From watching other healers, I definitely agree that Holy is the ‘path of least resistance’ at the moment, but I’m a stubborn sort so I’m sticking with Disc for the time being.

At the moment Disc is lacking in ‘throughput’ at current gear levels. The trouble is that with the 5-7% crit available from blue gear we’re not seeing much Divine Aegis, and without a lot of Divine Aegis procs we’re not getting much of a benefit from the Mastery on our gear either. With Disc’s absorbs being low, we’re having to heal more to make up for it, and that’s costing a lot more mana.

Holy, on the other hand, scales quite a bit better at this end of the raiding spectrum.

I intend to stick with Disc for a while though, but I’ll be swapping my offspec back to Holy again and learning how to work with the Chakra mechanics.

While I’m talking about Disc healing, Smite still seems to be suffering from range problems. 8 yards just seems to be a bit too small. I shouldn’t have to keep nagging my tank to move closer to the boss, especially when some bosses are (or have been, at least) twitchy and will overcompensate if you move too close to them.
This isn’t a problem on trash, generally, but bosses have much bigger hitboxes.

Mana and healing in general

Disc’s current shortcomings aside, I clearly have a lot to learn about the new healing model as well! I reforged as much spirit onto my gear as possible, but I still managed to chew through it very quickly, especially on the early attempts, and I’m certainly struggling to last through a 6-minute fight. That will improve though, once I get a few more 346 items to replace my 333s and below.

It’s quite difficult after two years of WotLK to get used to being stingy with heals, but it really is important not to heal when it’s not needed. I’ve put the /stopcasting back into my Greater Heal macro (which also fires Inner Focus on cooldown) so I can both boost throughput immediately and interrupt a cast if it’s going to be wasted, and I’m trying to stick to Smite/Heal/Penance until the tank is under 50% and actually needs that Greater Heal.

The thing is, you really do have to trust that the tanks aren’t going to fall over in the next 5 seconds, that you have the throughput to dig yourself out of the hole, and that your other healers are going to be landing heals as well so it’s not all on your shoulders.

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Northrend any more!



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Categories: Anecdotes

[Leadership] The Influence of Celebrities

Posted by Malevica on December - 10 - 2010

I was reading Kurn’s latest post, and a comment in it caught my eye:

The problem with being a GM who has a blog that’s mostly healing-related is that I have a LOT of healers and they’re all awesomesauce and all chomping at the bit to get in there and HEAL.

Now this is something I’ve observed in other guilds as well; not with bloggers (not that I know of, anyway) but with the GM and Officers in those guilds. There seems to me to be a rough correlation between the high-profile figures residing in a given guild and the number and performance of the members of that same class or role. So if your GM is a healer, you’ll find you tend to have strong, enthusiastic healers around.

I think there are two main reasons for a plausible link:
 

  1. Fame and respect – A well-respected class blogger and commentator like Kurn or someone known around the realm as a good player will obviously attract people to them. And the people drawn to them are more likely to be of the same class or role because we tend to pay more attention to people with similar interests as ourselves.
    They don’t need to be Officers to attract this sort of attention.
  2.  

  3. Representation within the guild – If your Officers are all ranged DPS, you might expect they they’ll have a different, possibly less sympathetic, perspective on the challenges faced by healers or tanks compared to a more balanced Officer team. Your potential recruits might not even be aware of this, but it can still affect them subconsciously.
    I know I consciously looked at the Officers when I chose my current guild, because the last guild I was in with a DPS-dominated Officer corps was not a place that was sympathetic to healers or tanks at all.

 

I’d strongly advise guild leaders to keep an eye on their Officer compositions, and if you have to have a corps dominated by one role or another, make sure you have good strong links with the high profile people from the other roles to reassure people that they are listened to and understood.

Early in my raid-leading days I realise I was guilty of being a bit overly demanding on the DPS, until I spent a few months forced to play Shadow. That changed my perspective a lot. You need to be open to the other person’s point of view, so make some critical friends who will tell you when there’s a real problem.

And don’t forget to pamper and spoil your blogging colleagues, because basically we’re awesome!



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Categories: Anecdotes, Leadership

Cataclys-meme

Posted by Malevica on December - 9 - 2010

Ah, why not. I like the idea of a “time capsule”, and I love looking back a year later and marvelling at just how wrong everyone was, myself included!
This was suggested by Janyaa at Muradin’s Musings, and I heard about it from Enlynn at Bubblespec.
 

  1. Disk or Download?
    Disk. Like Tobold, I’m baffled that it’s significantly cheaper to buy the box retail than to buy direct from Blizzard. I’d accept a couple of pounds more for the convenience, but a 40% higher cost for the direct download is a big difference.
  2.  

  3. Did you experience any difficulties? IE: Login servers crashing, late delivery, etc?
    My box arrived on the Tuesday morning, so I was able to log in and play on the day of release. It’s actually been a very smooth release for me.
  4.  

  5. What are you doing first? IE: Speed leveling to 85, rolling a new race, completely avoiding the new content, etc?
    Levelling to 85 so I can gear up for heroics and raids. I’m also tinkering with Archaeology, which is strangely addictive.
  6.  

  7. Mt. Hyjal or Vash’jir?
    Mt Hyjal – I hate 3D in WoW because I find it impossible to work out where I am or where mobs are relative to me. I can only stand so much “The target must be in front of you” before running off and sobbing in a corner.
    Plus, I love how solid and earthy Hyjal is, compared to the winter wonderland of Northrend and the wierdness of Outland. And flying into the sun from Orgrimmar to Nordrassil and seeing the shadow and flare effects are gorgeous.
  8.  

  9. Worgen or Goblin?
    Neither yet. When I do, it’ll be Worgen because they’re more interesting than Goblins. Although the “British” accent grated on beta -why is it so hard for American companies to just hire a Brit to do the voiceovers? I’ll do it, and I won’t even demand a fee!
  10.  

  11. Questing, dungeons or both?
    Questing. I prefer to level quietly and solo, so I don’t have to deal with the rushing and competition. Although I’ll be doing some dungeons with the guild, and I’ll need them to relearn how to heal.
  12.  

  13. What was the first piece of gear you replaced and with what?
    I had to look this up, but my first upgrade was replacing my T10 legs with Kilt of Reborn Future
  14.  

  15. Did you take any time off from work or school?
    Nope. I’ve just come back from 3 weeks abroad, so it would have been a bit cheeky to take more time off work for WoW!
  16.  

  17. Will you be keeping the same spec and main, or changing to a different toon?
    I fear change! I’ll be sticking with the same toon, and probably with Discipline as my spec too, until such time as it proved to be entirely unviable.
  18.  

  19. What’s been your favorite aspect of Cataclysm so far?
    The upgraded graphics and tightened up zones, I think. There’s so much to explore, and it really makes it feel like a new game.


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Categories: Anecdotes