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Archive for the ‘Anecdotes’ Category

Reflections on Heroic Healing

Posted by Malevica on April - 18 - 2012

Now that heroic Dragon Soul is over with I find myself in an interesting position: this is the first time in my WoW career that I’ve completed an end boss on heroic while it’s been current content. It’s been a fascinating experience, and I’d like to talk a little about how heroic raiding and healing has felt to me. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…


Context is King

I’ve been flirting with heroic raiding for the last two expansions, but it took me a while to work my way through the ranks of guilds raiding progressively closer to the cutting edge before finally ending up in a guild that was in the running for the top of the server charts.

WotLK was the first time I managed to join a guild that was running hardmode and heroic content, but we didn’t manage to kill heroic Anub’Arak or heroic Lich King on 25-man, only on 10-man with 25-man gear. Not that I’m not proud of the team I achieved those feats with, we all worked hard for them and they were a great bunch of people to raid with, but I still felt we fell short of what some members of the guild could, and probably should, have achieved in the expansion.

In Cataclysm I only got a couple of heroic bosses down in Tier 11 before rerolling yet again to Oceanic so that was a bit of a washout, and reaching 85 midway through Firelands pretty much put paid to my chances of earning a heroic Ragnaros kill before Dragon Soul (although we did go 6/7H post-nerf after starting the guild only weeks before). So DS with <;Abraxas>; was my big opportunity to really push progression and I’m very grateful for the opportunity and for the victory.

What my previous experience gave me was a sense of what heroic fights entailed mechanically but what I’d missed out on from being late to the heroic party and not raiding heroics relatively early, with less gear and thus at the difficult end of the progression curve was a sense of what those fights require of raiders personally.


Heroics Require Focus

And by this I mean total, full-time concentration. When an encounter is really stretching your team’s limits, when your tank is fractions of a second away from dropping dead and when those green bars just don’t seem to ever want to come up again you absolutely have to pay attention the whole time. Glance at your chat log and someone might end up dead. Fail to spot an enemy spell cast and don’t hit your cooldown in time, someone’s dead. Stand in the fire for a second too long and your HPS will be zero for the rest of the fight.

And it’s not just paying attention, it’s also having to constantly think. There’s so little time that you can spend just mashing the same button and waiting for a big blue DBM warning; instead you’re watching timers or learning to feel the fight so you can be ready for the next big thing to come at you, switching spells and healing targets on the fly, and working out what your fellow healers are doing.

And let me tell you, this gets exhausting. We raid 9½ hours per week spread over three nights which isn’t much by some standards, but we generally raid hard for those hours with quick re-pulls after wipes and as little downtime as possible. By the end of good progression nights I’m quite often completely frazzled and no use to anyone for a while afterwards. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself, but it’s hard work, mentally, and if you can’t keep it up for the duration of the raid then you’re just going to be wasting time by the end.


Heroics Require Motivation

So we’ve established that healing heroics is sometimes hard work and tiring; that inherently means you need to find your motivation.

You can be intrinsically motivated – motivated by your own reasons like killing bosses makes you happy or you have a desire to be the best healer you can be – or extrinsically motivated – motivated by something outside the task, maybe so your raid leader will stop yelling at you, or for bragging rights or a shiny mount – or a combination, and neither is inherently “better” than the other.

Whatever you use, you need to be able to stay motivated because healing heroic raids is not going to be fun all the time. For me, it’s a combination of factors, and they come in and out of play as progression rolls on, for example:

  • At a basic level I want to kill bosses because it makes me happy to overcome a challenge I’ve been set, but I’ll admit sometimes I wonder if it’s worth the stress.
  • I also keep turning up because my team needs me and I don’t want to deny other people the opportunity to raid and beat encounters. That’s partly intrinsic because I know that turning up is the right thing to do, and also partly extrinsic because I’ll lose my raid spot if I leave people in the lurch.
  • I also set myself targets like improving my usage of a certain spell or cooldown, or beating my numbers compared to last week. Those small, measurable, achievable goals keep me coming back even when a boss takes weeks to move past and it’s frustrating as hell.
  • And yes, I want to stand around Stormwind showing off the title and mount that are the metaphorical carrots dangled in front of me every tier. Nothing wrong with that as a motivational tool!

I think that a good team community helps a lot with motivation. If you feel loyalty to your raid team you’re more likely to want to come back day after day to help them out even when you’re not personally having much fun, and some healthy competition and banter can provide side-goals to keep you aiming at something.


Heroics Require a Thick Skin

This is probably the thing that I’ve struggled with the most. We don’t have a culture of yelling at people in Vent as a general rule, but I know when I’ve missed a cooldown or got myself killed or got someone else killed. I am my own worst critic and I set myself standards which are probably too high, and I’m very good at beating myself up when I don’t meet them.

At the end of the day, you need to remember that heroic raiding is difficult. You will make mistakes and you will cause wipes, everyone does. And because of that you’ll probably be the target of other people’s frustrations at times and even if you don’t get yelled at immediately or called out publicly you’ll probably feel it anyway.

Heroic raiding requires you to pick yourself up, acknowledge your mistakes (to yourself or to your team or both), learn from them, and move on.


Heroics Require Flexibility

Unlike normal modes, where the tuning is a bit more forgiving, heroic raids require the right composition. Over the years the definition of the “right composition” has been made a little more reasonable than stacking your raid with Shaman and making everyone take up leatherworking, but (pre-nerf, at least) 3-healing Ultraxion on heroic just wasn’t happening. So you need to be able to adapt yourself to the demands of the encounter.

For healers (and tanks too, probably more so than for healers) that often means being competent at a DPS spec or being willing to sit out for a mainspec DPS when there’s not a spot for you. I’ve sat on a few bosses and I’ve even tried DPSing, albeit without much success. Fortunately we have healers in the team who are competent in their offspecs, and they make up for my inadequacies!

I’ll also mention that you will sometimes need to work harder, and it might feel like you’re being asked to “carry” another role. We’ve all been there, when you’re dropping a healer because you’re hitting a berserk timer instead of giving your DPS the kick up the backside (you feel) they really deserve. Maybe it’s not fair to make you work harder, maybe other guilds manage just fine with 3 healers instead of 2, but you have to at least be willing to give it your best shot. Whatever it takes to get the boss down, even if that means going way outside your comfort zone.

Flexibility also means tailoring your spec and glyphs to the encounter you’re currently working on, and that’s something everyone will end up doing to some extent. Every fight is different and you can’t rely on one spec, one glyph setup and one reforge and never change anything for an entire tier. You need to think ahead about the mechanics, and look back at logs, to see where you can improve or what needs to change.


Heroics Require Analysis

Which leads nicely to the last thing on my list: you have to be analytical. Not your raid leader or your healing lead, you! And by “you” I of course mean “everyone”. You need to analyse your own performance, your raid’s performance and your strategy and also be able to communicate your ideas to the team (or at least to your raid leader) clearly and concisely.

Your raid leader will have an idea of the strategy they want to employ; they’ve watched the videos, read the guides, understood the mechanics and come up with a plan. Yet the boss is still defeating you. WTF?! Your raid leader will have questions you need to answer, and they can’t answer them on their own. Questions like:

  • Why did you die? – Not “what killed you”, plenty of addons will report the proximate cause of your death, but “why were you able to be killed”. The answer might be that you stood in fire for too long, but was there a reason for that? Was everyone too clumped up? Were you preoccupied by too many things to watch? Is something preventing you from seeing the spell effects? Do we need to call out that mechanic? When your raid leader asks a question like this, pretend they’re really asking “how can we help prevent this from happening again”.
  • Why didn’t X get healed? – Maybe X got 2-shot and you couldn’t have healed him up, that’s good information. Perhaps a healer was out of commission (Ice Tombed, maybe) and no one noticed. Maybe someone took an unexpected damage spike and everyone switched off the tank to heal him up. To answer this question well you need to understand your assignment and how it relates to everyone else’s, and bear in mind that those assignments might not be formal, they might just be what the healers expect each other to do.
  • Why is your HPS (or DPS) so low? – Bad answer: “I don’t know”. Worse answer: “<;myClass>; sucks on this fight. Better answers should relate to the strategy or mechanics. Is there too much movement? Are you missing buffs? Are you not maximising AoE (or cleave, for DPS) opportunities? Bad timing for cooldowns? You get the picture.

I’ll repeat myself, because I think this is one of the most important things I’d tell a new heroic raider: When your raid leader asks a question about why something happened or didn’t happen, don’t stop at answering the question they asked. Instead pretend they’re really asking “how can we help prevent this from happening again?” and answer that question.

Sometimes you might not get your wish, but if you never ask then how will your raid leader know there’s a problem at all? They’re only one person, playing one role, they’re not omniscient.


Is It Worth It?

Absolutely, one hundred per cent, without a doubt.

But do bear in mind that heroic raiding will not always be fun. In the words of the great Del Preston:

It will not be easy.

You will get tired. You will get blisters. You will get aches and pains.

But you will also get good.

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Categories: Anecdotes, Opinion

Tellisa, Savior of Azeroth

Posted by Malevica on April - 6 - 2012

There we have it, Deathwing has been vanquished in his most heroic incarnation. His madness is at an end and Azeroth is once more safe from imminent destruction.

For a few months, at least.

Big congratulations and thanks are due to everyone <Abraxas> of Dath’Remar who’s been part of our Dragon Soul journey. There have been tough and frustrating times, but we’ve managed to pull through and it was worth it in the end.

Keep an eye out for my Heroic Madness healing and strategy guide and a retrospective look at Cataclysm and Dragon Soul, and once Blizzard pulls their finger our and gives me my Beta invite I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about that as well.

Finally, if you’re in the market for a guild that raids in the New Zealand time zone (GMT+12) and want to help make us an even stronger force in Mists, you’d be mad not to visit http://abraxasguild.wowstead.com/ and see if you like what you read. We’re on the lookout for people of any class or role to help us farm heroic Dragon Soul, clear up old heroic achievements and help us hit the ground running in Mists.

Tellisa, Savior of Azeroth

Most annoying things: 1) Warlock shoulders, 2) There's a "u" in Saviour, damn it!

Life-Binder's Handmaiden

Congrats to Xillionaire on our first of many Life-Binder's Handmaiden mounts

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Categories: Anecdotes

The Sixth Meme

Posted by Malevica on February - 23 - 2012

The “Sixth Meme”, started by Gnomeaggedon and picked up today by WoW Insider, challenges bloggers to:

Go into your image folder
Open the sixth sub-folder and choose the sixth image.
Publish the image! (and a few words wouldn’t hurt, though I dare say I couln’t stop a blogger from adding a few words of their own).
Challenge six new bloggers.
Link to them.

Well, as far as I know I’ve not been tagged yet, but since most of my blogroll has already joined in I’m going to do it anyway. Sticking it to the system, yeah!

Feel free to tag me retroactively so I don’t appear quite as sad though! 😛

My WoW Life in Pictures

Unfortunately I only actually have five sub-folders in my WoW image directory, which is something of a problem given the meme. So instead I’ll give you the sixth image from each of my sub-folders. Once again, screwing the system. Such a rebel!

  1. Cataclysm Beta

    Malevica over new Cataclysm Beta water, on Frostbrood Vanquisher

    The new Cataclysm Beta water, with my (at the time new) Frostbrood Vanquisher on display

    I took this image early in the beta, simply because the new water texture was absolutely breathtaking compared to what was available in the live game at the time. It was jawdropping.

    Plus, I wanted to show off my new mount, even if it was only the 10-man version, we were really proud to get them.

  2. General Screenshots

    (Almost) Naked nelfs from the Royal Guardians dancing in just our guild tabards

    Myself and my favourite tank as dancing Night Elves in Darnassus, dressing in just our guild tabards

    Back in 2007 myself and my favourite tank were in the Royal Guardians guild on Perenolde-US. One day, for reasons which are lost to the mists of time, we decided to roll level 1 Night Elves, slip on a guild tabard, and entertain the denizens of Darnassus. As I recall, there were games involved too, in particular a sort of tag game with Heavy Leather Balls.

    A nice bunch of people for my first experience in WoW

  3. Strategy

    Lich King positioning diagram

    Oh, the horror of trying to explain this to 25 people...

    This brings back some memories. If you don’t get it, let me explain.

    On the Lich King encounter, there were these Val’kyr who would grab three of your party and fly with them to the edge of the platform and then drop them off. It helped to kill them if you kept them going all the same way so you could AoE stun them and cleave them. The direction they flew was a straight line from the middle of the room to the edge, so where you stood when you were picked up determined precisely where they went.

    This diagram shows why, for a given tightness of group (the white circles), it was better to have that stack point further out than right in the middle. If you stand in the more central stack point but off to the sides of the white circle, the val’kyr’s path could be the edge of the red zone. Whereas if you stand on the edges of the white circle that’s further out, the range of paths is much narrower.

    My contention was that narrowing the possible routes and getting more reliable cleaving and stunning would outweigh the disadvantage of the val’kyrs starting a little closer to the edge of the platform.

    Not visible in this screenshot: AVR scrawls all over the place, showing in no uncertain terms exactly where to run when Defile hit.

  4. Other People’s Screenshots

    Malevica with a Cat Druid looming over her

    Levitated Kitties oscillate between sinister and scared

    This is Malevica, apparently in Shadowfang Keep for the Love Is In The Air holiday, being stalked by my favourite tank, this time in Druid form.

    I’d levitated her, and apparently she’d decided to get revenge while my back was turned. Sneaky!

  5. Miscellaneous

    Unfortunately, we’ve found it necessary to decline your application. There is a problem because you appear to be aging backwards. The rest of us are aging forwards - meaning - one year goes by, and we are one year older.  Back in September of 2010, you stated that you were 24 years old when you applied to “Hordes Most Wanted”. Then, in October, 2010, you were still 24 years old when you applied to “TOB” Then, 4 months ago, in February 2011, you stated that you were 23 years old when you applied to“Horizon” Now, in June 2011, you stated that you were 22 years old in our Mental app.  The rate of your backwards aging is, on average, one year for every 4 months of normal time. So at this rate, in a year and 4 months, you would slip below the 18 year mark. The Mental guild has a minimum age requirement for being 18 years of age. We don’t want to be in the position of having to guild-kick you because you backwards-aged to being less than our minimum age requirement.  Good luck in your search for a guild. Unfortunately, we’ve found it necessary to decline your application. There is a problem because you appear to be aging backwards. The rest of us are aging forwards - meaning - one year goes by, and we are one year older.  Back in September of 2010, you stated that you were 24 years old when you applied to “Hordes Most Wanted”. Then, in October, 2010, you were still 24 years old when you applied to “TOB” Then, 4 months ago, in February 2011, you stated that you were 23 years old when you applied to“Horizon” Now, in June 2011, you stated that you were 22 years old in our Mental app.  The rate of your backwards aging is, on average, one year for every 4 months of normal time. So at this rate, in a year and 4 months, you would slip below the 18 year mark. The Mental guild has a minimum age requirement for being 18 years of age. We don’t want to be in the position of having to guild-kick you because you backwards-aged to being less than our minimum age requirement.  Good luck in your search for a guild.

    An applicant who holds the key to rejuvenation. And not a Resto Druid

    Oh, saving the best for last!

    I can’t claim credit for this post or the detective work that went into it, but it’s a masterpiece indeed.

    The assumption we made was that the applicant had not in fact discovered the secret to eternal youth, but was just a teenager lying about his or her age to get past a 18+ rule that’s as much there for new members as it is for existing ones.

    Kids, if you’re going to do this, at least make it convincing and just add 5 years to your actual age. That way you’ll be consistent even when you tick over a year, and 5 is a nice round number that’s easy to remember.

  6. Passing The Torch

    Here’s the challenge, finding people in my Google Reader who don’t appear to have joined in yet. So I hereby tag the few people below, and anyone else who reads this can consider themselves tagged as well.

    With a Heavy Leather Ball.

    In no particular order:
    Evlyxx of Evangelism
    Gina of Healbot.net
    and Therya of Shaman Nebula

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Categories: Anecdotes

Love Is In The Air

Posted by Malevica on February - 15 - 2012

Last week my favourite tank and I got married! She’s an amazing person and I’m extremely honoured to be able to call myself her husband (still getting used to the sound of that…)

As if that wasn’t enough, when we got back home we found ourselves invited to an in-game party organised by the guild, complete with excessive quantities of alcohol, drinking games to go with it, and of course awesome wedding presents! We’re now the proud owners of his and hers Mekgineer’s Choppers, amongst other things.

Seriously, <Abraxas> is such a great bunch of people. Thanks a lot to all of you for giving us such a fun night!

In-Game Wedding Photo

Tell and Koryll's In-Game Wedding

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Categories: Anecdotes

Back in the Game

Posted by Malevica on September - 4 - 2011

So it’s been an odd few months for me. I’ve moved homes both in my real life and my virtual life, and my WoW time dropped significantly for a few months. Now though I’m getting back some semblance of stability and I feel able to raid and blog once more.

The New Hotness

Tellisa, the pink-haired gnome Priest, and her ghostly companion standing on top of the walls of Stormwind

Tellisa, the pink-haired gnome Priest, and her ghostly companion

So, meet Tellisa. Cute, isn’t she!

My first proper character was a gnome warlock, and there’s just something about gnomes that draws me to playing them, so when my partner and I decided to move back to the Oceanic realms again as we’re in the process of moving to the region we just had to go Alliance.

She reached level 85 about 3 months ago, and in the last few weeks has begun her raiding exploits. She’s currently at 6/7 Firelands, and blasted her way through the Tier 11 content a couple of weeks ago (damn, they nerfed that hard!).

A Fish Out of Water

I’m a healer and a raider, that’s just what I like to do in game. Doing dailies is a chore at best and an exercise in frustration at worst (I’ve probably already complained about Blizzard’s tendency to give high level mobs boosted HP without boosting their damage, thus not making them “harder” but “longer”, but it annoys me enough that you probably haven’t heard the end of it from me!), and there’s only so many Zandoms you can do without going slightly barmy.

Now don’t let me give you the impression I’m ranting about the hopelessness of pugs in the new 5-mans. Actually I’ve generally had good experiences in there, give or take the odd over-zealous tank or under-prepared DPS. (Just one thing though: on Venoxxis, you do have to let me take the middle spot, or I can’t reach everyone).

The problem with doing these over and over again, at least for me, is that after a few runs there’s a dropoff in the amount of new learning that you can do, and learning is what I find the most fun about the game. Valour points are a very poor motivator for me.

Instead, I threw myself into achievements – those are points I can really get into! Malev got to just over 10.5k points before retirement, and while that number is a long way off for Tellisa that’s not going to stop me from accumulating points anyway. I’ve broken the back of Loremaster, and I’m always on the lookout for reputations to bring up to Exalted. I seem to be drawn to the grindier achievements, probably because you can track your progress which makes it somehow more manageable.

Enter <Abraxas>

Being a raider at heart, I was interested in raiding, but being in a very different timezone than your home server doesn’t open up many opportunities. Raiding on Aussie time would have meant raiding right across the middle of the day UK time, which just isn’t compatible with trying to get things done. What I needed was a New Zealand-based guild, and as luck would have it, a promising-looking one started up.

The GM of Abraxas has definitely been there and got the T-shirt, hanging around on Stormwind his Glory of the Cataclysm Hero drake, Blackwing’s Bane title on display, 1/7 heroic in Firelands. He’s also, far more importantly, a nice guy who knows his way around the fights, and who can wrangle a semi-pug raid into a pretty well-performing team. So I have high hopes that this guild can go places.

We’ve been semi-pugging for a couple of weeks, and we’re just about rounding out the team now; I think we’re looking for a good melee DPS with a tanking off-spec, so it’s beginning to feel a lot more like a guild now. There’s even a “gnome jokes” thread popped up on the forums, that’s how much like a normal guild we’ve become!

The only temporary downside is that I need to start raiding at 7.30am or 8.30am depending on the day, but I have an alarm set and when that fails to rouse me I have my loving partner to make my phone buzz in my ear until I get myself out of bed and logged in. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it sooner or later, and in the meantime they’re being very understanding!

Back for Good?

That’s the plan.

Now I’m back playing and raiding again I intend to bring TH4H out of mothballs and resume posting my thoughts on raiding, healing, Discipline, Priest and whatever else crosses my mind, just as before.

I’m back, baby!

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Categories: Anecdotes, Blog Stuff