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Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

Heroic Morchok

Posted by Malevica on December - 15 - 2011

NB: This guide will assume you’ve already read my normal Morchok strategy, or otherwise know the details of the fight on normal mode.

Fight Summary

The key difference between normal and heroic mode is that at 90% HP Morchok splits into two clones, one named Morchok and one named Kohcrom, with a shared health pool. Both have the same abilities as on normal mode; Kohcrom does his approximately 6 seconds after Morchok does his, with the exception of the Earthen Vortex/Black Blood of the Earth, which happen simultaneously.
Morchok and Kohcrom both get Furious at 20% HP.

In addition, the Stomp applies a debuff making you take 100% increased physical damage for 10 sec, so you have to split the raid into two teams spread at least 50-60 yards apart (so that one boss’s crystal can’t spawn in the other boss’s Stomp range either) or risk players, especially tanks, being gibbed. There is no Crush Armor, at least!

This splitting of the team requires some thought: in each 5-man team you need a tank plus someone pretty tough to soak the double-hit from the Stomp, which was hitting our Ret Paladin for ~140,000 Physical damage after armour. Rogues can Feint every Stomp, making them excellent candidates, otherwise you’ll need to keep your soaker well topped-off and where possible give them a PW:S too.

On top of that, you need three players to split the damage from the Resonating Crystal. It is unclear whether this targets only ranged players or just ignores the two closest players to the boss, it was merrily targeting someone on the other side of the map rather than picking on the melee DPS soaker if we lost a ranged DPS or healer. You may need to check, and maybe switch an extra melee DPS for a ranged.

A note on composition: we ended up using 4 healers for this encounter, 2 per side. You might be able to lower this eventually but I’d strongly recommend starting with 4 and seeing how you go, even if you get an offspec healer in they’ll be valuable.

Once you have the two teams sorted out, the execution is pretty straightforward, although it is fairly challenging for healers to prioritise healing where it’ll keep people alive – the long-lost art of triage.

There’s a rhythm to the fight, but the most important thing to remember is that every crystal explosion is preceded by a Stomp, so it’s important that when a crystal spawns you wait and soak the Stomp before then running for the crystal. You have roughly 5 seconds to get there, which is easy as long as the tank isn’t miles away from the crystal.
The number one cause of early deaths was people immediately running for the crystal and not splitting the Stomp.

[EXPAND Click to see this in tabular form, if you prefer it that way: ]Before the first Black Blood:

Time Korchom Morchok
0 Crystal
5 Stomp
12 Stomp
15 Crystal
20 Stomp
21 Crystal
26 Stomp


Time Korchom Morchok
0 Stomp
5 Stomp
8 Crystal
14 Stomp
19 Stomp
21 Crystal
26 Crystal
26 Stomp
31 Stomp
35 Crystal
41 Crystal
41 Stomp
46 Stomp


Note that Morchok’s side takes one additional crystal each time, so bear that in mind when planning teams. For example, if your raid has limited mana restoring cooldowns it might be worth putting more on Morchok’s team.

Remember: when a crystal spawns, wait for the next Stomp, then run out to the crystal. You have ~5 seconds to get there, which is plenty of time.

Spec and Glyphs

This fight, on heroic, really rewards damage mitigation. I’d recommend a Soul Warding spec so you can cover your entire group, or at least the three people taking the crystal. Archangel/Atonement is less useful here because Prayer of Healing, with the associated guaranteed Divine Aegis absorption, is a much more valuable tool for recovering from and preventing Stomp and Crystal damage. Given the heavy weight placed on PW:S and PoH it’s probably worth glyphing those.

Cooldown Usage

Morchok takes a little over 6 minutes. To get a second PW:B in, you need to use it between the first and second Black Blood phases, and it will be available again during the Furious stage.

Pain Suppression should be used to support your tank and your Stomp soaker during the enrage, when they’ll be taking extra damage from the stomp and may not be able to rotate cooldowns for every one. Earlier in the fight, it can be handy if one person on your team is too low before a damage spike.

Life Grip can save someone’s bacon if they’re slow to run out to get away from the Black Blood or especially if they’re too slow getting in for a crystal.

Finally, the Black Blood phase is a good time to use Hymn of Hope, since there’s no damage caused while you’re safely behind the pillars. Shadowfiend is also safe from the Black Blood because it’s AoE damage, yet Morchok himself can still take damage.

Other Tips

Discipline shines on this fight, because there’s spaced-out damage spikes.

Make sure you PW:S the Stomp soaker and use a few casts of PoH to stack Divine Aegis before the Stomp, then while running to the crystal you can get PW:S on the three people that will take the damage. Once you’re back by the boss and in the ~8 sec lull before the next Stomp, bring everyone back up with Binding Heal and PoH in preparation for the next round.

Binding Heal is a real gift on this fight too, it really helps keep you alive while healing other people and it’s a nice quick cast for triage purposes.

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Dragon Soul Difficulty

Posted by Malevica on December - 7 - 2011

The current hot topic amongst the raiding blogo- and twitterspheres is the question of the tuning of the new Dragon Soul raid instance: far too easy and not enough to keep us going for potential 8 months? Tuned about right, when you consider it as a difficulty curve and realise that Firelands was rather flat compared to a strong curve in Dragon Soul. I also commented that I thought the raid was undertuned, but I think I may have been a little hasty in that assessment.

Some Data

<Abraxas> cleared Dragon Soul on Normal this week, taking a total of 20 pulls for the first 6 bosses and then 33 pulls on the last two together, although quite a few of those were on the Spine where we were 9-manning for practice because we had too many people LD that evening. For a better sample (albeit still small), I’ve taken the top 5 guilds on my server and averaged their pulls to kill for each boss for which data were available; it’s not very scientific, but it’s interesting:

First Week Pulls to Kill for Normal Dragon Soul 10-man

First Week Pulls to Kill for Normal Dragon Soul 10-man - Data gathered from World of Logs for the top 5 guilds on Dath'Remar-US

Caution is due here because there may have been server issues affecting guilds on later bosses, or experimentation with tactics, or less information available from the PTR, but this does suggest that there was a pretty strong increase in the difficulty throughout the raid, for whatever reason, lining up with what Rohan observed over at Blessing of Kings.

For additional data, we turn to WoL again, tracking the kills-to-total-pulls ratios for the bosses, again on 10-man normal for comparison:

Success Percentage (Kills/Wipes) for Normal Dragon Soul 10-man - Data from World of Logs for all uploaded reports

Madness of Deathwing has no kill detection so it doesn’t appear, and Spine seemed to have dodgy kill detection earlier in the week so take that figure with a pinch of salt.

With the exception of Zon’ozz who seems to be causing raids a great deal of difficulty, once again you can see a curve there. Morchok is a pushover, but then there’s a good ramping up of difficulty between Yorsahj, Hagara and Ultraxion.

Both of these data sources point to a strongly-graded difficulty curve. Compare that to Firelands:

Success Percentage (Kills/Wipes) for Normal Firelands 10-man - Data from World of Logs for all uploaded reports

Again, a note of caution. Dragon Soul is a snapshot of week 1, whereas the Firelands graph includes the effects of nerfs which I’d expect to have flattened the curve somewhat, but again it’s suggestive of a difference.

So Is Dragon Soul Actually Too Easy?

Initially I thought it was. We’re a very strong but not elite guild and we’ve cleared 8/8 bosses in the first week. And we’re far from alone: on Dath’Remar, hardly a hotbed of hardcore raiding, 7 guilds went 8/8 in Week 1, and a further 8 are 7/8.

However, the situation we’re in is atypical. Guilds like ours, high-ranked but not the cutting edge, benefited from the Firelands nerfs to gain a gear advantage that wouldn’t have been available to us in previous tiers, so Dragon Soul normal probably should feel easy to us. It’s meant to be done in ilvl378 gear, not ~ilvl388 like many of us have, and it absolutely has to be designed that way. By the time we came to the Madness of Deathwing we were very close to the Cataclysm and Berserk timers on several occasions, so a starting position closer to ilvl378 should indeed mean a few weeks of farming would be needed to meet the checks of the later encounters.

In short, I think all is as it should be with the raid, the trouble is more a consequence of the previous tier, and perhaps premature reactions to first nights from surprised raiders like myself incorrectly assuming the whole place is at the same level.

The trouble though, with guilds like us being in this position, is that we’ve lost something important in the raid lifecycle: the “inevitable kill” phase.

Working through normal modes, for a guild like us, is supposed to be something that takes a bit of time while we learn the fight, but which we always know we’re intended to kill. It’s a good feeling, it’s reassuring, and the successes help to lift our spirits and build some momentum. Now, instead, what we have to look forward to are heroic modes which are a far from a certain prospect. We didn’t kill heroic Ragnaros; most of us didn’t make much progress in heroic Tier 11 let alone kill Sinestra; heroic Lich King (even with the 30% buff) evaded many. So every kill from now until MoP is likely to be a long, hard grind, and some kills we may not even get.

You’ll forgive me for feeling a little cheated.

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Categories: Featured, Opinion

4.3 Quick Guide for Discipline Priests

Posted by Malevica on November - 30 - 2011

So, what’s in store for us Discipline Priests in 4.3?

The New Outfit

The Vestments of Dying Light are available in tasteful gold, blue or red, depending on your raiding tier of choice.

After my initial “WTF!” reaction, I sat and looked at the set for a while and it really grew on me. There’s definitely something Priestly about it, but not the gentle, friendly image of a Priest but instead has us putting our serious face on (literally), filling ourselves with smouldering, barely-restrained power of the Light and getting prepared for the grave business of taking on Deathwing.

How badass it’ll manage to look on a gnome though is anyone’s guess…

Set Bonuses

First, the bonuses themselves:

Healer, 2P — After using Power Infusion or Divine Hymn, the mana cost of your healing spells is reduced by 25% for 23 sec.)

Healer, 4P — Your Power Word: Shield has a 10% chance to absorb 100% additional damage and increase the mana granted by Rapture by 100%, and the duration of your Holy Word abilities is increased by 33%.

So, let’s take a look in detail.

The 2-piece bonus is handy, but also a bit of a head-scratcher. It’s been pointed out on EJ and elsewhere that this presents Disc Priests with something of a question: should we be casting Power Infusion on cooldown just for the mana reduction, or should we be saving it for when we actually need the throughput.

PI has a split personality already though, with the throughput and mana saving components. I find myself mostly using it as a throughput cooldown, popping it when I shift to the healing-intensive part of a fight, and since that’s where the expensive spells (PW:S, FH, PoH) hang out, I figure I’m probably getting a good benefit from it.

The thing to remember is to make sure you’re using it vaguely sensibly, i.e. when you’re going to be healing hard, and make sure you get as many uses as practical and don’t leave it languishing on cooldown unless you know there’ll be a point where it’s vital.

It’s also attached to Divine Hymn, which works for the same reasons – we’ll be casting DH when things are getting tight, and this mana cost reduction will help offset the costs of healing people up afterwards.

The 4-piece bonus for Discipline is a bit of a conundrum. The way it works seems to be that one in every 10 times you cast PW:S (on average), it’ll absorb twice as much and give a double-sized Rapture proc when it breaks.

This in itself is a decent bonus: Disc Priests bubble someone at least every 12-15s for Rapture, more often if you’re tank-healing, and in the Dragon Soul you might well find yourself with moments where throwing out bubbles more frequently pays off, so as long as you’re using PW:S regularly you should get the benefit. You will have to be careful when using PW:S as a pure raid-healing spell though, because a larger bubble is less likely to be totally consumed and possibly end up preventing what might otherwise have turned into a Rapture proc. It’s fine for tanks, but on the raid you may want to think about where you PW:S to make sure it will be fully absorbed. Depending on your Mastery you may need a hit well over the 60k mark to burst it.

The Patch

As usual, very little for Priests in the patch notes, although what there is is definitely worth a look:

Divine Hymn now affects 5 targets, up from 3.

Atonement will now account for the target enemy’s combat reach when calculating proper range, enabling it to be used on large creatures such as Ragnaros and Ala’kir.
Divine Aegis has a new spell effect.

Spirit of Redemption has been rebuilt to address a few functionality issues and make it more responsive. Spirit of Redemption otherwise remains unchanged.
State of Mind has been redesigned and is now called Heavenly Voice. Heavenly Voice increases the healing done by Divine Hymn by 50/100%, and reduces the cooldown of Divine Hymn by 2.5/5 minutes.
Guardian Spirit’s healing bonus has been increased to 60%, up from 40%.
Holy Word: Serenity now has a cooldown of 10 seconds, down from 15 seconds.

Glyph of Circle of Healing now also increases the mana cost of Circle of Healing by 20%.


For Disc, the big change of course is the new Divine Aegis bubble! Have some videos:

On the left is the “old DA” applying and then persisting, and my “new DA” video from the PTR is on the right. Unfortunately the old DA procced from a Glyph of PW:S crit, so there’s the PW:S graphic in there to confuse things, but the effect is clear enough.

And here’s the proc effects in close-up, old on the left, new on the right:

That new still is so damn tasty I’m using it as my avatar just about everywhere I can. It looks so sweet!

The old Divine Aegis used to wrap beams of light around the player as the bubble appeared, while the new one sort of expands a rainbow-coloured soap-bubble effect instead. I can see how the old effect could end up looking very flashy and noisy on screen, whereas the new one, while still really cool and colourful, has less point movement and is less bright overall.

I was really thrilled to be getting something all-new, until I noticed that this same soap-bubble effect procs when a Mage uses Arcane Blast (it’s Arcane something anyway) on a mob. Still, it looks damn good, even if it is borrowed. It’ll look better on us anyway!

OK, more seriously, the Atonement change. Finally, two tiers later, Atonement works off the boss’s hitbox rather than the boss’s centre. I presume there must have been something big and scary and technical preventing this change from making it in earlier, or perhaps Ragnaros brought it to a head in a way that Al’Akir didn’t manage to. Anyway, good news.

Finally for us, a small buff to Divine Hymn for all Priests, with it healing 5 targets rather than 3. That should help its throughput for both specs, although Holy gets a much improved version as their new raid cooldown: double the healing and a 3-minute cooldown means Holy has its own Tranquility to play with.

My initial reaction was (of course) to get all angsty and bitter that Holy gets buffed and Disc doesn’t, but actually there have been several fights I’ve ended up staying Disc because of the combination of PW:Barrier and an AoE pulse. Now that Holy gets a powerful raid cooldown of its own the dual-spec option opens right back up again, and that can only be a good thing for the class. It’s no nerf to Disc, just a rebalancing of the specs in the sorts of bursty fights where Disc currently dominates because of a single spell. GC agrees.

Just think of it as another powerful raid cooldown for the rotation and enjoy it.

Other Healers

We need to know how our other healing friends will be changing this patch too, so we know how to work well with them and play to our respective strengths.

Shaman are staying more-or-less the same in terms of playstyle, although they will be getting a buff to their Ancestral Healing talent:

Ancestral Healing now also causes the shaman’s heals to increase the target’s maximum health by 5/10% of the amount healed, up to a maximum of 10% of the target’s maximum health, for 15 seconds. This effect does not stack if multiple Restoration shaman are present, and does not apply to heals from procs.

The wording suggests that this doesn’t need a crit and is a bonus attached to the Ancestral Healing talent, not the buff, so it shouldn’t matter whether the tank has Ancestral Fortitude (the damage reduction buff) or Inspiration on them.

Your Shaman should try to keep up the Ancestral Vigor buff (the 10% HP buff this creates) on tanks. On the PTR, when it fell off it dropped the player’s maximum HP back down again, but also reduced their current HP by the same amount, which was certainly not ideal because it meant that extra healing done while the buff was up was lost again when it expired; hopefully this has been fixed before going live.

Druids don’t have much new this time, although they are getting small nerfs to Wild Growth, they shouldn’t change how they heal much.

Wild Growth healing has been reduced by 20%.
Glyph of Wild Growth now also increases the cooldown on Wild Growth by 2 seconds.

Paladins are getting a revamped version of Holy Radiance:

Holy Radiance now has a 3.0-second cast time, no cooldown, and requires a player target. That target is imbued with Holy Radiance, which heals them and all group members within 10 yards instantly, and continues to heal them by a smaller amount every 1 second for 3 seconds.

This, combined with Light of Dawn, means they will be capable of some pretty loopy (albeit costly) burst AoE numbers when the raid is all stacked up, so bear this in mind when considering healing assignments. It might be that we Discipline Priests shift more onto tank-healing when the fight mechanics favour the new HR, and swap with our Paladin brethren when the raid is more spread out.
Paladins are also getting a small mana nerf because Judgement will no longer return 15% of base mana. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem, and it’ll free up a lot more GCDs for them.

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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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