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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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Discipline Healing Tips

Posted by Malevica on December - 15 - 2010

From following the EJ Discipline Compendium discussion, and from occasionally painful experimentation, I’ve settled on some basic tricks for getting started with Discipline healing in Cataclysm.

Spec

I’ve settled on a 33/8/0 spec, although the two points in Inspiration probably ought to go in Veiled Shadows Darkness instead. I’ve taken Inspiration to help the raid out.

Those two points have come directly from dropping Strength of Soul, and I’ll explain why.

Power Word: Shield is either used on the raid to mitigate predictable damage spikes, or on the tanks to keep Weakened Soul up. In both cases, reducing the duration of Weakened Soul can actually be a disadvantage, which is why I’ve not taken any points in Strength of Soul at all.

What’s more, with Train of Thought and Inner Focus macro’d to Greater Heal, the HPM of GH and Heal are essentially the same. As long as it won’t be overhealing, GH is the heal of choice because you need fewer casts and less cast time to put out the same healing, leaving you more time to think, or to do other things.
Limited Heal casts also reduce the value of Strength of Soul.

Early theorycraft suggested putting one point in Strength of Soul and using one Heal in the rotation in order to make the best use of the Rapture internal cooldown, but all that achieves is making PW:S closer to mana-neutral. It’s not necessarily wrong, but it’s not a big win either, and that point can be used elsewhere.

Raid healing

As much as it pains me to say it, you’ll probably find it easier to just suck it up and go Holy. I succumbed last night and the difference when I’m dealing with multiple targets is night and day.

(Cue the best part of an hour resetting all my bars from Shadow, trying to figure out how to make Holy Word: Chastise work, and setting up VuhDo and PowerAuras again.)

If you’re stubborn like me and really want to stay Disc, or you need to fill in the raid healing role in a pinch, here’s some basic rules:

  • Prayer of Healing heals for basically the same as Heal on each target, but costs just under 3 times as much. So if 3 or more people will benefit from the healing, use PoH. Remember that PoH can be used with Inner Focus to save you a chunk of mana, and you can use it with Power Infusion to speed up the cast and reduce the cost significantly.
  • If only one or two people will benefit from the healing, stick to Heal/Penance. It’s slower, but more mana-efficient.
  • If you can foresee damage PW:S isn’t a bad spell to use, especially if you can make use of the Rapture internal cooldown every 6 12 seconds. You certainly can’t spread this around the way you used to though, Rapture is what makes PW:S remotely practical.
    (Incidentally, I’m looking for a decent internal cooldown monitor, preferably without having to install ForteXorcist. Suggestions welcome.)
  • Renew is quite situational. It’s not as mana-efficient as Heal/Greater Heal if you have time to cast them (for me, 2.4HPM for Renew with Inner Will vs 3.33HPM for Heal), but it’s good if you’re on the move a lot and especially if you glyph it and drop a couple of points into Improved Renew (if you’re focused on raid healing, there are points you can free up.) [Edited, thanks to Aventera for the experience].

The thing that makes Disc more difficult in a heroic dungeon, where you’re filling both the raid and tank healing roles, is that unless you’re very good at anticipating damage you’ll probably end up using much the same tools as Holy for raid healing, only they’ll all be weaker than their Holy equivalents.
Add to that the fact that you’ll have 20% less combat mana regen and probably won’t have Replenishment to make use of Disc’s bigger mana pool, and it’s not an easy ride at all.

Oredith on PlusHeal summed it up neatly:

[Disc is] definitely viable, but you’ll work harder to make it so. If you decide to go that route, no one will fault you, but just keep in mind that there’s a path of lesser resistance.

Tank healing

Tank healing is a little more straightforward for a Disc Priest. Here’s my simple decision rules:

  • Start with Prayer of Mending and Power Word: Shield before combat, as always.
  • Get Penance on cooldown as your opening heal.
  • Keep Weakened Soul on the tank, and keep Penance and Prayer of Mending on cooldown.
  • If you can use Smite/Atonement, use that as your filler with Greater Heal when you need a catch-up.
  • If you can’t use Smite/Atonement (because the tank’s too far out or the melee are stealing your Atonement heals) use Greater Heal as your filler spell, waiting to cast it until it won’t be wasted. If the tank just isn’t dipping far enough to justify a Greater Heal, either just regen some mana or look for someone else to help out.

I intend to keep persisting with Discipline, feeling it out and refining my technique. It’s more work than Holy though, so I’ll be using both specs, following that path of lesser resistance, depending on what’s best for the fight. Ultimately, my guild comes before my attachment to a single spec.



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Categories: Advice and Strategy

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

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

Venturing Forth into the Cataclysm

Posted by Malevica on December - 9 - 2010

I noticed after posting that this week’s Blog Azeroth Shared Topic is “Initial Thoughts on Cataclysm” (suggested by Jaedia of Jaedia’s Menagerie. So if you’re looking for a range of opinions and views from across the blogosphere, you could do a lot worse than to look there.


First, in case you’ve not noticed, and in case you’re interested, I’ve got very rough strategies for most of the new raids hammered out now (I don’t have Blackwing Descent finished, or a Sinestra strat yet).
You can find them in the menu above, or they have their own index page. I’ll update them, but I’d appreciate feedback from anyone who experiences the content on Live before me. Leave a comment on the strategy page!

First impressions

My early experience of Cataclysm is a good one. I played through each of the zones on the beta but bugs prevented me from really experiencing the flow of the new zones, so it’s been really nice to see how well the quests link up to tell you a story as you progress through a zone. The variable respawn rate on quest mobs seems to have been refined pretty well, so there’s not many bottlenecks to overcome either.

People, though, are a constant source of frustration. I’m absolutely not a competitive person by nature, so spamming a target/SW:P macro to try and be the first to tag a slowly respawning mob isn’t fun for me; but I can only be so patient before I start getting annoyed at the people who don’t seem to understand that if someone’s at a spawn point before you you should a) try and group with them, and b) let them go first. Special mention goes out to the people who try and ninja a quest mob spawned using a quest item you get given

Levelling

The pace of levelling seems about right to me. I logged in briefly at Tuesday lunchtime to find that we already had a handful of level 85 players and a Realm First tailor who had started at midnight and not slept, but since I’ll be levelling in the evenings only it’ll probably take me until the weekend to ding 85. I made 83 last night in Deepholm after about 9 hours of play time.

I’m levelling as Discipline, which is working out quite nicely. The healing from Atonement means I have to try really hard to get killed, and the DPS isn’t too bad either. I’ve always levelled as a healing spec, and I just accept that it’ll take a bit longer to kill things. Since I intend to use my second spec for Holy once I’m 85, I really don’t want to reconfigure all my bars for Shadow only to have to put them all back again in a few days’ time.

Instances

I haven’t run many instances yet on Live, partly because of a shortage of tanks and surplus of healers in my guild, and partly because I just prefer to level solo, always have.

But my guild will be running guild 5-mans on our regular raid nights for the next couple of weeks, so that’s what I’ll be doing this evening, and of course I’ll share my thoughts.

Early priorities

Well clearly I’m aiming to get to 85. Preferably on Saturday so I can spend some time at 85 on Sunday and maybe run a few heroics.

I’m also keen to get my Guardians of Hyjal and Therazane reps up fairly quickly so I can get access to the Arcanum of Hyjal and Greater Inscription of Charged Lodestone head and shoulder enchants.

Then comes the rest of the gearing for starting to raid. I’ve been glancing at gear lists on other blogs, so my priority after getting my Guardians of Hyjal rep to Exalted for the Cord of Raven Queen will be the Earthen Ring, to fill in a few more gear slots.

I’m not levelling my professions especially aggressively yet though. I’m not selling off my mats for obscene amounts of gold, but I’m also not buying materials either. I doubt I’ll have Alchemy maxed for a while, since I’m one of the huge number of double-crafters lulled into a false sense of security by the low material prices of WotLK. I’ll get there when I break out my alts.

I’m doing the cooking and fishing dailies religiously though, and making a nice stash of cooking mats in my bank for when I have enough tokens for the new recipes.

What I am slightly obsessed with is Archaeology. I’m having to fight the urge to run around the world digging up artefacts rather than questing. Getting XP for every find I make means it’s not actually too bad, but it’s not getting me gear, and at this stage of the expansion my focus is on getting into those first raids.



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Categories: Anecdotes