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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.