Sunday, December 30, 2012

Spirit Kings 10 man Normal Discipline Guide

A little late video guide to healing Spirit Kings as a discipline priest on 10 man Normal. If I ever get around to doing heroic modes, this is one of the fights I look forward to trying the most actually, because in normal it is very simple but you can definitely sense some potential in it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Garajal The Spiritbinder 10 Man Disc Guide

My guide to healing Garajal on 10 man normal. Admittedly this is probably the easiest fight in the instance so not much needs to be said, but there it is anyway (you should watch it for the awesome music ;))!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Feng the Accursed 10 Man Disc Guide

I finally got the opportunity to record some raiding material the other day. I say the other day, although this kill is probably from three weeks back, and I haven't gotten around to finishing it up until today. I hadn't raided for quite some time when I was brought into this raid, and I do some hilarious mistakes - my favorite is probably misclicking Hymn of Hope instead of Spirit Shell during one of the aoes. Fortunately my horrible performance in this fight didn't cause too much trouble for the raid and it's quite entertaining (at least for myself) to see me do all these little screw ups. Regardless of how I manage the fight, doing it allows me to get a general idea of how I should be tackling it, and that is normally what goes into the guide. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Top 5 WoW Moments

WoW celebrating its 8th anniversary prompted me to take a look back at the roughly 7,5 years I have been playing WoW now. Through high and low, there is no denying it has been a huge part of my life, not only affecting my gaming (in some ways maybe even hampering it) but also my irl life for better and for worse. Me and WoW go way back - I started playing spring 2005, somewhere around march or april I think. I first saw my brother play it and thought WoW finally managed to do all those things I had been looking for in previous mmos. Here was a game that seemed to actually provide the player with an immense and immersive world to get truly lost in. And boy did I get lost.

At first I played on my brothers account, with the added fighting about computer time between us that caused, and somewhere late 2005 I finally decided to get my own account. If I remember correctly, my first character on my own account was a warlock named Cassiopeia on the Balnazzar server, I think she is still there. I didn't get far on her however before I deciced to go back to the class I had rolled from the very start - priest. And that is how Zinn saw the dawn of light (well actually darkness since she spawned in Deathknell), somewhere in january 2006. She has been with me ever since, and that is to date the longest relationship I've had - forever alone and all that - and one that has truly never had much of rough times but mostly good, fun memories connected to it.

I don't even want to think about the amount of days I've spent in Azeroth. I'm not sure spending that amount of time on -any- one thing can be considered good. It's not as much as some, but definitely a whole lot. I don't regret a single moment of those days, and I definitely don't regret having put in as much time into this game as I have. I've tried to hold myself to doing things that I actually enjoy, trying to refrain from classical "mandatories" like dailies. If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't do it. It has been a tricky balance at times, sometimes struggling to keep up with people who've put in a lot more time and effort than me, but in the end I think it has been a good choice, allowing me not to burn out too quickly and missing out on all the awesome and fun stuff this game holds because I am too busy doing the boring things (admittedly now I do dailies and quite enjoy them, but that is another story!).

I've been thinking back to some of my favorite memories of my time playing WoW, trying not to pick too many raiding moments since they are often the easy choice. Fidning only five was very difficult, but I have been trying to keep to defining moments, moments when I felt the way I played or viewed the game might have changed a little. So here it is, my list of my top 5 WoW moments;

5. The first epic
I haven't found overly many random world epics, and as any of you who have know, it's a very special feeling when you do. I probably found the most back in Classic, such as Fiery War Axe and some I don't even remember the name of anymore. I do however remember exactly where I was when I found it (I've written a post about it to remind me anyway). None of those epics, or any epic I've got for that matter, had the same feel as the very first epic I found.

When I first got it I didn't even consider it a major thing. It's actually in hindsight that this memory has grown fonder with me. When I first found it I was so new to the game that I had no idea just how rare such a drop was and I just didn't know to appreciate it.

I was questing along in STV on my then main, a druid, when a maxlevel character offered to help me out. I gladly accepted and we grinded some mobs when suddenly a purple popped up on my screen. I didn't react at all, for all I knew purple was worse than gray, but my brother who was standing behind me got all crazy, screaming at me to need on the item asap. Back then the rolling system only allowed for need or pass, but thinking back on it I do find it kind of cheeky of me to roll need on an item I couldn't use let alone had very little contribution into getting. Nevertheless I listened to my brother, rolled need and won the Green Tower. I eventually ended up selling it on the auction house for some 100g (a staggering amount for me at the time) which allowed me to buy my first mount (the level 40 one).

4. Downing Sarth 3D
Sarth 3D was definitely not the most fun boss fight I've done, and probably not even the hardest. But I doubt I've done any fight where we tried harder and been closer than this. We had him constantly on 1%, some tries even on only a couple of thousand of hp before we finally, -finally- managed to kill it. The margins where needle thin and everyone had to push their skills to the max for us to finally be able to get him down, even just a couple of crits extra would've made the difference. We tried to perfectly time our pot usage to get as many seconds out of them as possible in the pull, same thing with Bloodlust.

Another reason this is a special memory for me is that it is one of the few major kills I've done, while it was current content, that I didn't do with my main. For this we brought in my paladin as a tank instead, having one of my old guildies heal. This is my last memory of her as a proper healer, before she kind of stopped raiding seriously - us having been something of the priest healing pair back in BC I was sad to see her confidence and interest go throughout Wotlk. She did an awesome job keeping us alive on this fight however and that's why I really like this memory, my old raid group being at their best, something that would soon change.

3. Getting Anathema/Benediction
I'm not a collector and I have rarely gone out of my way to get anything in WoW. I have a handful of cool items, mostly because they're considered memorabilia now than because they were hard to get at the time. Most people call me out on Mimirons Head, but the item I am without a doubt most proud of having is my Anathema/Benediction. It wasn't the first epic I ever got (see above) or even equipped, but it was my first proper endgame raiding item, and the entire quest of acquiring it still one of my fondest memories.

Pretty goblin too

Getting the items required was actually quite easy. The Eye of Shadow was obtainable from the auction house and for the MC part, Eye of Divinity, I was summoned into the raid instance by a guild who sold it, back when you didn't have to be part of the kill to be able to loot an item. Both items cost me around 750g in total, I think 250 or so for the Eye of Shadow and 500g for the Eye of Divinity. This might not sound like much, but it was back then and for me it was a huge sum and pretty much everything I owned. With the two items you created a quest item, and by completing a certain quest in Eastern Plaguelands you were finally awarded with your epic staff.

This quest, similar to the hunter quest for Lok'delar and Rok'delar, was nothing for the faint of hearted. If I remember correctly you were supposed to save (ie heal) spirits of people from Lordaeron while they were constantly attacked by skeletons. Healing them would give you the aggro of the skeletons, so you had to heal while also dealing with them, running out of the tiny quest area would result in an avenging spirit coming to slay you instantly. Initally you were able to get help from other people while doing the quest, but eventually only other priests were able to join in for it. This quest required a lot of preparation and mad skill to complete, at first it turned out to be almost too big of a challenge for me.

I don't remember how many times I tried, but when I finally completed it was with the help of another priest, from one of the biggest raiding guilds on the server. Some alliance came around to give us a hard time, and he called on some guildies (around ten in the end) to come help us deal with them while we did the quest. In the end we had a massive world pvp fight around us while we tried to handle the quest objectives, it was hectic and unbelievably fun. The reward could not have been better and I really felt like I deserved it. I still transmog into my Anathema/Benediction whenever I can (which unfortunately I can't now since I am mh/oh wielding).

2. Getting into raiding
I did some raiding back in classic/vanilla, mostly whenever some guild was desperate enough to call on my poorly geared and completely unexperienced self for some healing. Because of this I did some of MC and ZG at least once, and did not like it. I can definitely see the appeal of it if you happened to be part of a 40man raid group back then - I did enjoy the feeling of being part of an army fighting the evils of the world. It had the same appeal on me that spontaneous world pvp battles still do, but much else was fun about it. I had zero chance on loot since I had some 7 priest healers ahead of me on the loot lists and the fights often felt more of zerging than actual skill. I know a lot of people consider the classic boss fights among the hardest and they probably were. But you could easily bring a handful of people that couldn't tell back from front (like me) and still down a boss (Naxx was probably the exception).

I didn't get into raiding for real until BC, when I joined a guild I was going to stay in for some three or four years. They needed a healer so I decided to dust off my priest which I had abandoned to try out some dpsing. This was the first time I really enjoyed healing and fell in love with my priest all over again (and have stuck with since). Raiding became one of my favorite things to do in WoW and eventually everything revolved around it, in a good way. Few things I've done, and this might sound sad I don't care, have had the same level of team work and feeling of achievement as being able to down a particularly difficult boss with people you really enjoy spending time with. For all the good and bad fights Blizzard have designed, they at least provided a good foundation for people to have good fun times together, and I absolutely loved it while it lasted.

1. Starting to play
This might seem obvious, or not make sense at all - but my fondest memory in WoW throughout these 7,5 years is those first stumbling steps I took on the very first character I created - a little undead priest named Lahmia. I instantly loved it, the setting, the feeling, the music. Questing, finding people to talk to, the massive world that was out there to explore. Walking into Orgrimmar for the first time, after having traveled for what felt like ages was a truly epic feeling. That city was huge. It felt like a real city, full of people and things to explore and see. No game, not even some of my very favorites, have put such awe and feeling of greatness in me as I had those first months of playing. And eventhough nothing felt like those first steps of exploration, when there were still things out there I had in fact never seen before, the feeling of awe over WoW stuck with me for a very long time.

Eventually I would get to know every nook and cranny of this game better than the back of my hand and having to cross long distances now annoys me more than it fills me with wonder, but I can still find places in WoW where I just stroll around and take in the scenery and simple grandness of it all. WoW is huge, on all scales (and we all know size matters). When I rolled that undead priest in early 2005 I probably had no idea what was in store for me and eventhough I thought WoW looked like a really cool game it beat my expectations ten times over. I still run back to Deathknell every now and then, or reroll a little undead, just to get a wiff of that feeling I had on my very first run. I can still remember what I thought and how it felt to see places like Duskwood, STV, Teldrassil, Darkshore, Eastern Plaguelands, Tirisfal Glades, Silverpine and Alterac Mountains for the first time (some of my favorite areas). I can only hope I'll get to play another game that can have that effect on me as WoW did then, maybe it's impossible - like a game virginity, you only lose it once.

And on an ending note, I'd love to hear about some of your favorite moments in WoW!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

To raid or not to raid - Can I be casual?

A friend of mine, one of the best dk-players I've ever played with, quit WoW a couple of months back. It's not the first time he's done so and for many reasons, in short because irl was taking up more time and WoW was getting less fun for him. With the release of MoP I was talking to him about coming back to WoW, trying to tell him about all the new cool things there were to do and get him to get into the mood for some mmoprg-action.

"Why not come back to WoW?"
I asked. "Even if you don't have a lot of time for it anymore, you could just play it a little now and then".

His answer surprised me;

"I just can't play WoW a little".

He is not the first person to say this to me, and I used to have difficulty understanding how people had trouble simply cutting down, or changing their gaming habits to suit their irl-needs. If you can't raid, just don't. Right?

But then I realized, I myself was struggling to get comfortable in the "casual" (whatever that means) role - is playing WoW just a little impossible? Or is changing your gaming habits that which is difficult?

As you may or may not know, I too have for various reasons needed to cut down heavily on my gaming. Not necessarily the hours I put into the game, that is still quite a lot in every day standards (albeit a lot less than what I used to play, don't tell my relatives). What's changed is not the how much, but rather the when - most importantly my raiding has been heavily impaired by the fact that I work so many more evening and night shifts than I used to. Raiding three times a week is out of the question, if I manage to sign once a week I consider myself lucky.

For someone who has raided pretty steadily at two or three times a week basis since early BC, this has come as a pretty big change in my gaming habits. I used to consider myself a raider, someone who, although far from top of the line, definitely put a lot of time and effort into being the best I could be for my raid group. I couldn't begin to describe how much fun and frustration I've felt during these years, as any of you who raid surely know all about. Most, if not almost all of that, has gone from my gaming now, leaving leveling alts mostly.

See, I could do dailies on my main of course, but since I hate doing dailies in the first place, I am even less motivated to do them when the chances of me getting into some proper raiding are so slim - meaning all that grinding rep for gear just seems close to meaningless to me.

Leveling alts is not a bad thing at all, in all honesty that is probably what I spent 70% of my gaming time doing while I was a raider anyway. But those 30% of raiding might've just been 30% of my time spent, but probably 80%+ of what I identified my WoW-gaming with. I was a raider, everything else was just peripheral stuff that I did to support my raiding. I love my alts, but a major reason for me to level any of them was to have all professions at my disposal and also other characters if needed for the raid groups.

I've been forced to cut away what probably was the most important thing to me in the game, I have been forced to reduce my gaming to logging on to an alt every now and then and do some dungeons or quests, knowing that I will never really get to feel like a proper raider again in the forseeable future.

And this is no ones fault, things like these happen. I am lucky enough to be in a very lenient guild, allowing me to sign whenever and as little/often as I can, and they bring me if they happen to need an extra healer that run. This has allowed me to do exactly one evening of raiding since the release of MoP, which is definitely far from my old self where I used to be in the number one group, leveling and gearing up together so that we could jump into raiding as soon as possible. I didn't even have to wonder if I was going to be picked and I was annoyed at the raiders that didn't take it as serious as me. Now I am not even sitting on the sideline, I am one of the spectators, watching as everyone else do what I once did.

I'm not even sure if I am supposed to be bitter over it. In a way I can't be, since there is nothing or no one to blame for the situation. In a way I can even feel like I am really done with three-times-a-week raiding anyway. Just thinking about the sacrifices I have done, the time I've spent raiding... I loved it then, but I don't actually want to go back to that, so what is the problem?

I am still having fun in WoW, I enjoy logging on every now and then and just do some dungeon on an alt, log off and do something else. I love the fact that I can read about how aggravated people get regarding the dailies issue, and just shrug about it. It doesn't affect me anymore! I hate the feeling when I actually do sign for a raid and I can't really decide whether I want them to pick me or whether I'd be really relieved if they didn't.

Yet I can't, I just can't help, but feeling like I am really missing out. Like there is not even a point to playing WoW unless you do endgame of some sort, like raiding or pvp. I level my mage and I think "why waste my time, because there will be nothing, nothing, for me to do once I hit max level. Just turn around, grab another alt and do it all over again. And why? For what?". It is a creeping bitterness that I am almost ashamed off, feeling like a washed up has-been trying to be cool like the new kids on the block and failing miserably.

Eventhough I was way less geared than the other healers in the group, and had never done the fight let alone raided this expansion, I did very well during that one raid. I held on par with the best in the group, just laying some percent after the one on top. It made me remember all the theory crafting I used to do back in the day, and I immediately went into it again, analyzing logs, differences in gear, spec and stat choices, pondering whether I should reforge into this and that or choose this or that talent instead, reading on blogs for more information and... realizing it didn't really matter to me anymore.

But I still had it in me, I still knew how to do this. And like a reflex, monkey-brain if you like, I just wanted to go back to how things were. Jump back onto the band-wagon and pretend nothing had changed. Except I don't want to. Or do I?

In the end the question isn't whether I am having fun in WoW or not, I am definitely having fun. The question is whether I can get comfortable in my new wow-persona, and that is a lot more difficult to answer. As it is now, I simply don't have a choice so I might as well start liking it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Disc Priest Q&A - MoP Edition

Q: So what is this?
A: Just a little Q&A to get some grip on what priest healing means in MoP. These are typical questions I've had and needed answers to, and I thought I'd compile a little list of information for anyone else curious about these things.

Q: What is this not?
A: This won't be a complete guide to everything priestly, nor will I sport any fancy spreadsheets on mana regen and gains from this or that stat. This will mainly aim at giving you a fairly straight answer, from my point of view. If you want more number crunching I suggest you check out these sites instead (to mention a few).

Elitist Jerks
MMO Melting Pot
Type H for Heals
Tales of a Priest

So let's get started!

Q: I'm totally confused, how has disc priest healing changed from Cata to MoP?
A: The good news are, not much. We've got some new spells, we've got some talents as baseline - but in essence, if you knew how to heal before MoP, you will know how to heal after MoP.

The thing to remember is that healing is always forced to change somewhat when going from the end of an expansion to the beginning of another. Regardless if you've been hardcore heroic raider or just strolled in LFR every now and then, your stats will change drastically when going through the leveling process from 85 to 90, most notably your stats will suddenly decline very quickly and you will probably notice that you're ooming quicker than you used to. Add to this that Blizzard decided to change our mana pools from int-based to fixed, meaning that you might have been collecting stats that are now a lot less valuable.

If you play a disc priest (and I dare say you are if you're interested in this post) you will find that all that juicy intellect you've been stacking is worth way less now, and all that spirit you've scorned suddenly is your new best friend. Until you've had the chance to remedy this by getting new gear, this change will be noticeable by the fact that you just don't have the mana and/or mana regen to go on healing (aka shield spamming) like we could at the end of Cata.

What does this mean? Remember how we were forced to heal in the beginning of the last expansion? If you don't, here is a quick rundown;
  • Renew will be used a lot more than previous, even for raiding.
  • Shield should yet again be considered more of an oh-shit-skill, and to get Rapture procs (less important until you've stacked a decent amount of spirit, I'll get to that further down).
  • Back to Heal spamming, rather than Greater Heals
  • Be pro-active, start healing before the damage is done - Renew, Heal and PoM can always be out there.
  • Because Evangelism and Atonement are now baseline, if you hadn't specced them earlier you should now consider using them. If you had them in Cata, not much has changed. Try to keep up an Evangelism buff to pop for Archangel when shit hits the fan. This doesn't mean spam Smites, just the occasional Holy Fire is enough, since you have more mana efficient heals than your Atonement skills. Getting profficient at when and how to use your Atonement skills, will make a difference for harder fights.
  • Our new skill, Spirit Shell, should be considered a preparation skill. If you know one or more people are going to take a lot of damage, you can "prepare" by throwing on some Spirit Shell shields in advance. A skill with very high potential in other words.

Here is a hobo-list of my estimations of the hpm of some of our skills. Remember that this is based on my specific stats and healing style, but they will at least give you an idea of which skills are mana-drainers and which are less so. I give no guarantees as to its correctness (especially regarding Holy Fire and Smite).

Shield - 4hpm (not taking Rapture into account)
Renew - 6,2hpm
PoH - 2hpm (per target)
Penance - 2hpm
Heal - 5,9hpm
Flash Heal - 3,2hpm
Greater Heal - 3,8hpm
PoM - 1,8hpm (per target, my healing style, not taking glyph into account)
Smite - 3,5hpm
Holy Fire - 1,5hpm (with dot)

Q: What talents should I choose?
A: I've got to hand it to Blizzard, talents have never been as much up to whatever you prefer than now, but there are definitely some talents that are more worth having than others - as always this does depend on what kind of content you're playing. This is the talent spec I choose for heroic instance healing, and I will discuss some of the talent choices;

Void Tendrils - I've found it quite useful to be able to root down any enemy that's attacking you. This might be mostly useful when doing dailies, but also occasionally in heroics, because if the tank doesn't get those adds off you, you want to make sure they hit you as little as possible. The other talents feel less useful in this regard.

Body & Soul - The choice here is really between B&S and Angelic Feather. For heroics I'd definitely recommend B&S, because Angelic Feather requires more cooperation from your team mates to actually do any good, and good luck with that in a pug. In raids however, Angelic Feather can turn out to be a good choice when properly incorporated in a tactic, and should be chosen whenever the raid group finds good use for it. As it is now I mostly use B&S to quickly move myself out of bad stuff, or if I know someone needs a little extra boost somewhere.

Mindbender - Early calculations showed that Mindbender was the best at overall mana return. It only has two drawbacks, one big and one minor. The minor one is that you have to remember to use it every cooldown to get the most out of it, the big one is that the Mindbender, being a pet, does live a life of its own and doesn't always do what you want it to - pretty much what we're already used to from the Shadowfiend. Since Mindbender replaces Shadowfiend you could argue that it's best to have the Shadowfiend and an additional option of mana return, personally I just think the other two choices are so unpractical that unless they change them or I end up in a fight that really works with those mechanics, I am sticking with my little Mindbender (and it is so cute too!)

Angelic Bulwark - This is not a talent where I will tell you one choice is better than the other, because I think AB and Desperate Prayer are pretty much equal in terms of usefulness. DP has the benefit of being an actual heal, AB on the other hand comes automatically after heavy damage which means you don't have to think about it (which might be useful right after a big aoe where you'll probably be busy doing other things). In the end it is really up to what you feel the most comfortable with, and I think personally I will swap between the two depending on fight.

Power Infusion - Out of our choices in this tier, I prefer Power Infusion, simply because of the freedom it gives me to choose whenever I want that extra output. Twisted Fate relies on targets being on a very low health to be useful, somewhere people will rarely be in heroics. In raids TF will probably be more useful, but unless I know the raid will be on very low health for a big portion of the fight I would still choose PI over TF. Divine Insight is more useful for holy than for us disc, and just doesn't provide enough troughput for me to want it over PI. If I knew I was focusing on tank healing, maybe - but probably not even then.

Cascade - All three of these choices are quite interesting and in terms of throughput they balance out ok. In terms of practical usefulness however, it's quite different. Cascade is probably your best choice for heroics. Halo will have you aggro mobs from all over the place since it is basically a 30 yard wide aoe. In my personal opinion, Halo is almost unusable in heroics but could prove to be quite the cooldown in raids depending on fight. Divine Star is too weak for heroics if you ask me, especially considering the very limited amount of targets. Yet again, it could prove to be quite useful for that little extra aoe healing in raids, depending on fight. Overall my recommendation is to use Cascade for heroic instance healing, and for raids choose among the other ones depending on what works for the fight at hand.

That being said, as Grimmtooth pointed out in the comments, Blizzard want us to swap around between skills like never before. This is something you should try and make the most out of, so don't hesitate to change to a different talent if you think it'll work better in a fight!

Q: What should I glyph?
A: Glyphs have a lot less impact on your healing now than they've ever had, but I still have some recommendations.

  • Fade - Especially good for raiding, if you remember to use it.
  • Inner Sanctum - That extra movement speed or spell damage reduction is handy in any situation.
  • Holy Fire - Very useful if you want to sustain an Evangelism buff for oh-shit-moments.
  • PW:Shield - Probably more useful in heroics, where you might want weaker shields for Rapture procs, and extra healing is more important (since there is no one else there to do it for you).

Occasionally useful;
  • Penance - Whenever you know you're fighting something with a lot of running or knock-backing, this could come in handy.
  • Levitate - If movement is crucial, this could be worth gold if used the right way.
Just as with talents however, changing between glyphs is something that Blizzard encourages, giving us a lot of possibilities to tailor ourselves for certain fights.

Q: What are our stat priorities now?
A: The biggest change, as already mentioned, is the one to intellect. Since it now "only" gives us spell power and crit, it is a lot less important than the go-to stat it was in Cata.

Initially, you're most important stat will without a doubt be spirit. Once you feel comfortable with your mana regen, for whatever content you're healing, you can focus on the other stats. Personally I feel like around 9000 combat regen works for me for heroics, try getting over 10k combat regen for raiding.

After spirit, mastery is our secondary stat that scales the best. This does not mean that mastery is better than haste and crit, this heavily depends on your healing style. For heroics, and probably initially in raiding, you will rely a lot less on absorbtion mechanics than you might later on. Because of this, mastery will probably be less valuable to us since it only affects our absorbs. Take a look at your own meters and find out how much of your healing is affected by mastery and work with that. Remember this includes the DA procs from any critted regular heal.

Haste doesn't affect your shield (or PoM, Cascade, Halo), but it does affect all your other heals and is therefor a potentially very useful secondary stat. Crit is a lot more valuable to us now than it was in the first half of Cata, this is nothing new but pretty much the same since they buffed the healing bonus from crits. For disc even more so because a crit means a Divine Aegis proc, but crit is still unreliable in that there is no guarantee but only a chance that you'll get something out of it.

This is further complicated by the fact that the more haste you have, the more valuable crit is, and the more crit you have, the more valuable mastery is.

Personally I am trying to find a balance between mastery and haste (with a slight favoritism towards haste). At the moment I am reforging crit into haste, while leaving mastery alone, meaning my own stats look like haste -> mastery -> crit. Looking around the interwebs you'll probably be recommended to go Spirit -> Mastery -> Haste/Crit, but I must repeat that there is no point to overstack mastery just for the sake of it.

Again - haste, mastery and crit are pretty much equal, and you must find a stat balance that suits your own healing style.

Where does intellect fit in all this? Int is, as mentioned, not the all-powerful stat it was back in Cata. It is still something we want, but not at the cost of every other stat. You can probably forget about the pure int-gems for now. The easy way to think about it is that int is about as valuable as the other secondary stats (except spirit, which is more valuable until you are comfortable with your regen). You don't want too little of it, but don't want to sacrifice too many other stats for it either. Try getting mastery, haste and crit to points that work for you (for instance go for the haste breakpoints) and fill out the rest with intellect.

Q: What should I gem and enchant?
A: Simple answer is to gem and enchant into the stats that you are looking for. Lists of proper gems and enchants can be found here.

It only got worse from here

Q: I've dinged 90, what gear should I get?
A: JP gear is now available without having to do daily quests, so I definitely suggest you start out there to fill out any gear you've gotten in normals while leveling. If you're lucky you won't need much to be able to do your first heroics, where you will probably get most of your gear. The next step is, unfortunately (depending on how you feel about it), to gather rep through dailies and buy VP gear. If you have a lot of money, you can always buy craftables. I could post a list, but other people have already done a much better job than I could ever do, and they deserve the attention - Here is a great list for gear to check out. Tobeume of Nonchalant Priest has written a nice list of gear that you can collect from heroics - check it out here.

I hope this sorted out things a bit. If you have any further questions don't hesitate to ask! All creds for the links go to the original authors, thanks a lot for the work you put in for us in the priest healing community!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

All (mop)ped up

Since I'm on a train and bored, I thought I'd post my first ever post written on my phone. I have no idea how this will work or turn out, but here it goes.

See what I did there? I love word puns in blog titles, even bad ones. Seeing as we've had mop for a week now and most of us have had an opportunity to check it out, I thought it was about time I'd share some more of my thoughts on this fourth expansion.

At first...
I must admit I was quite overwhelmed. Eventhough my class hadn't changed much, the mere thought of those five levels that were looming ahead of me just didn't seem appealing at all. Like I mentioned in my last post, a lot of things had changed in my playing surroundings which meant this levelling experience was looking to be the loneliest and most tedious of them all. Fortunately, this turned out to not be half as horrible as I had worried for. For one I didn't get ganked even once, while my poor bf (who plays a rogue and so really gets to suit himself) got ganked somewhere around 20 times. I dint know what it is, but people tend to stay out of priests way when it comes to pvp, if only they knew what an easy target I would've been. I think it's karma.

Something I did end up having troubles with were the instances however. At first I thought it was due to my bad gear stats, having been disc in cata meant I had basically no spirit and so mana became a major issue for me. I quickly realized that my way of healing was to change as well, since I over used Shields like nothing had changed. With a new healing style, heavily reliant on renews and heals rather than Shields and greater heals, I am doing a lot better. After dinging 90 I really dreaded healing heroics, remembering all the problems I had had in normals and was extremely surprised to see that heroics turned out to be a lot easier to heal in general. I think this might be due to higher great vs dungeon difficulty compared to the lower levels, but in all honesty I must say the heroics are very simply tuned. Just thinking about how horrible some of the first cata heroics were, these are nothing in comparison and as soon a you get the boss mechanic I often have to do little more than keep up renews and the odd Shield here and there.

The Trouble I had in lower levels compelled me to spec shadow again. Part to make questing easier and part so I could dps in instances rather than heal. Shadow hadn't changed overly either so I grasped it fairly quickly and even in my healing gear (healing tier and trinkets most notably) I didn't shame myself on the damage meters. The changes they have made to shadow are great and have made that spec even more fun. In fact, eventhough shadow I'd still a lot about mind flat, I had so much fun dpsing I've decided to remove my holy spec in favour for a shadow one. At least for now.

So then...
I found so many things about mop I really enjoyed. Questing wasn't as bad, healing and dpsing was loads of fun and then I discovered pet battles. I knew I'd probably like pet battles, seeing as I'm a total Pokemon nerd. I didn't expect blizzard to manage to make something quite as fun as this, and I discover new things I like about it all the time. From the old warcraft tunes used as battle songs (genius!) to all the quirky little pet skills that you can discover. There are even things about pet battles I like better than in Pokemon, especially the fact that I can choose when, where and what to battle, rather than having random fights like in Pokemon that get annoying and frustrating so easily.

I didn't think I'd like the world bosses because I thought they'd be on a once a week spawn and thus very exclusive, turns out they're nothing like that. Instead they're massive slaughter fests where no one has a clue what's going on, which is totally to my liking.

But of course...
There is always something that clouds even the bluest sky eventually. When I found out and fully grasped what the whole daily quest rep grinding meant, I was not happy. I hate doing dailies, I've done maybe a handful of dailies (not counting profession dailies) in my 7 years of wow, for a reason. I thought they changed the concept back in wrath for a reason. They introduced the whole championing system because people strongly disliked the endless rep grind. Actually I don't mind if they return things to the way they were in BC where you got certain rep for doing certain instances, but not gaining any rep anywhere except for doing dailies makes me cranky dwarf. Eventhough the quests might be quick and easy, I can't feel but think that it is unjust as some classes and specs have a much easier time with quest farming than others. By allowing dungeons to give rep, any class gets it in the same time. Eventhough a healer might get dungeons more often than a dps, a dps could spend that extra tine waiting by doing rep dailies. Maybe I'm extra cranky because I'm l playing the only class capable I'd having two healing specs, and I don't want to have to use a dps spec against my will. Now I've decided to play shadow anyway but it's beside the point. Also, daily quest grinds are boring, no matter how you put it. I didn't mind doing one a day fire my cooking or jc token, but 20 or more per day? No thanks, I have other things I want to do with my time.

I'm hoping blizzard will realize their mistake and fix this because other than that I think they've done a great job with this expansion so far. Now all I've got left to check out is raiding, I'm quite far off ilvl wise yet and if I keep being this unlucky with rolls it might take a while, but I'll get there.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

First Impressions of MoP - High & Low

We've finally got MoP guys. How does it feel? Do you enjoy it as much or as little as you expected? Well I doubt you would've paid for it if you didn't expect to have fun with it, but anyway. Let me tell you what I think of it.

Lowbie Pandaria
I had the choice of either nerding up my priest to max level as fast as possible or try out the new race and class. Since the former is what I normally do first, I decided for a different route this time, namely swapping between the two rather than just focusing on one. Said and done, I rolled a little Panda Monk, named by choosing random article on Wikipedia (quite handy that, this time it was a tiny island somewhere in the Pacific) and got to it.

At first the quests were pretty meh. By that I don't mean boring or disappointing, but not overly interesting or surprising either. Gather some of this, help some guy out with that, it was a lot like what we had seen already. In fact, when comparing to the Goblin starting zone I thought this was starting out a little bit slow. Obviously you will only enjoy the Pandaria zone, and the new Pandaren, to the fullest if you can swing with the whole Martial Arts and Kung Fu idea that they're all about. Fortunately, I am quite fond of that, and although I can understand and even somewhat agree with the critics who scream "Kung Fu Panda infringement!", I am actually liking the whole scenario.

It did start out slow, and up until level 9ish this post would probably have been more along the lines of "it's ok, but I expected more". But then something happened. Don't worry, this post is spoiler fairly free, unless you consider me saying that I had a blast a spoiler. Suddenly I started getting a couple of quests that were, to put it bluntly, awesomely good fun. Eventhough I am low level, they do require some skill to complete. For the first time since late BC I did not feel like my way was constructed with a newb player in mind. Doing and completing the quests actually made me feel like accomplishing something and I had a thrill doing them. Now I am not saying these quests were overly many, but they were there and they definitely upped the entire experience for me.

It's not just about the quests thought, I think Blizzard did a good job with most of the main-NPC. Some of them got pretty damn close to me feeling like I was playing with friends, and parting with them was a damn hard thing to do when I had to choose between going Alliance vs Horde. I really wanted to choose horde, I did, but unfortunately all my characters on that server are already alliance so having one little horde seemed like a bad idea. It was a choice that pained me however, and deep inside I probably deny regretting it.

I do like the Pandaren area, not as much as I did Northrend or Outlands, but it's still ok. It's beautiful and well designed. At one point a random NPC waves at me and asks me if I want to go listen in on one of the Pandaren telling stories for the kids. I think "sure, why not", run off my quest course and sit down among the kids. I get a song sung for me and a long scripted event telling me more about the lore surrouding the Pandarens. It has nothing to do with the quest I am on, but that's exactly why it makes the world feel alive and me feel special. I only wish there were more of these tidbits.

If I had to say anything bad about the Pandaren starting zone, it would probably be that the Pandaren are not half as peace loving and altruistic as their serene faces want to give impression of. A lot of the quests will have me do things I did not quite agree to, nothing that would compare to the Apothecary Society, but still out of the image I had about Pandarens.

85+ Pandaria

I barely even tried questing on release, for obvious reasons. Just trying to get the first couple of quests turned into a quest, with hundreds of people blocking the quest giver and 5-10 min lags. At one point hundreds of people were huddled together trying to find a quest giver that was actually 100 yards in another direction, but no one knew because we couldn't see what the heck was going on. I tried different things like /tar and binding my interaction button, it worked so-so. And even when I finally did get the quest, completing them seemed near impossible with glitchiness that had me pull my hair.

Trying to get into an instance did not prove to any easier
. The first time I tried it I first got stuck in what easily was a 10 minute loading screen, only to disconnect. After a couple of tries however I did manage to get my first dungeon done. They're short and intense, quite simple on normal as to be expected and quite whacky. I am looking forward to see how they work in heroic (no, I have not got that far yet).

These issues were all to be expected, and eventhough even Blizzard should've (did) expected them I do not blame them or nerdrage on them for not making a smoother launch. This is what the launches have always been like, and since things vastly improved just half a day after launch I am still happy. Other issues like every quest area being swarmed with fellow players either tagging all your quest objectives or ganking (which has yet to happen to me fortunately) is something Blizzard can do less about. They have done a few things however, and I commend them for it. Most "boss" quest objectives can be shared, regardless of who gets the first blow, and most spawns have been cranked up extremely high, for better and for worse. I've been stuck a couple of times having to fight a flood of never ending mobs, but in essence, everything is like it usually is at the start of a new expansion.

I'm not sure what to think so far. I think my problems have less to do with the fact that the quests aren't that interesting yet (and I've only just dinged 86 so there is still a lot to come) and more to do with the fact that my gaming has changed a lot on a more personal level. Most of the people I used to play with have quit playing, or scattered off to other servers, and because of this this expansion is very different for me compared to other ones. Previous expansions I used to level together with a group of friends, people I've either known for a very long time in game, or actual IRL friends. At the end of the leveling, instancing and raiding with these people waited for me and I had that to look forward to. Eventhough I am in a really nice guild now, they can't remove the fact that I still don't know them that well and that I also overall have less time to play.

That has taken a lot of the fun out of the game, so much in fact that I seriously contemplated quitting just a couple of months ago. The guild I am in is the reason I haven't yet, as they have brought back a lot of the fun in the game for me. In the end it just means I will take things slower. Playing as disc is working ok, it's how I've tackled every expansion so far. It does require a lot of smiting (which isn't overly interesting), but I don't think it's that much slower than if I had gone shadow (or that is what I am telling myself at least).

On an ending note, MoP has turned out to be pretty much what I thought it would be, but with the little surprise here and there that upped the experience a notch. I am not throwing myself at it, but I am looking forward to exploring more of it and finding out more about the story surrounding the Pandas, slowly but steadily. All in all, woW is still the good old time killer it's always been.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Theramore and the World Event that wasn't

There have been so many posts on this matter already I doubt any of you can be spoiled about what the new Theramore event is about, but in case of you have been hiding in a closet the last week - spoiler alert.

Let me start off first however with telling you what this post is not. This is not a post complaining about the new scenario (maybe just a little), this is not a post about how I think this game is going downhill and so much about MoP could've been done better. Although I can see where people are coming from with those complaints, I do not agree. I still enjoy Wow a shitload, I'm really looking forward to MoP and I thought the scenario was fun - yes fun. What this post will be about is how bummed I am about the fact that MoP did not receive a proper world event, so there you have it. But let's take a look at the Theramore Scenario;

First we did a little of this, if you were horde.

And then a little of this, if you were alliance.

Like I mentioned, a lot has been said about the new Scenario all over the interblogs. Here are some posts I've read about it and that is probably still just a drop in the ocean;

Tree Heals Go Woosh - The Theramore Distaster
Forever a Noob - Theramore Scenario and Lack of Pre-launch Event
The Light's Wrath - Scenario Impressions
Variant Avatar - Theramores Fall as a Scenario Expansion Tie In
Blog of the Treant - Theramore No More
Drunkard's Regalia - Theramores Balls
Azerothian Life - Scenarios and Awesome Things
Scribblings on the Asylum Wall - Expectations
Typhoon Andrew - Theramore Down

So if that doesn't please your Scenario-reading appetite I don't know what will. Although not all of those posts are negative about the Scenario, the vast majority are. It ranges from issues with the whole concept to lore, and I can agree with a lot of things but overall I think the Scenario isn't that bad. Yeah, we don't know why the heck horde suddenly decides to bomb Theramore, but I must admit I haven't had complete track on why any of the bad guys did the evil things they did - and if you never played any of the Warcraft games or had friends explain it for you, you might wonder why Arthas wants to kill everyone or who the heck Sargeras is. Now, I love the lore in this game but I will not go out of my way (read: out of the game) to find out more about it. What I understand from quests and short cut scenes is all there is to it and in a lot of cases that isn't very much. This has never bothered me, I realize that in games with fantasy concepts people will have fantasy motivations. So Garrosh has suddenly decided that Alliance need to get a kick in the nuts - my first impression was that this was what WoW started out with, the fight between the factions. Isn't his actions just a roll back to whatever we were fighting over back then? I could be completely wrong, but for the moment it is what I am going with and it works for me. We undid the evil guys, Garrosh is bored and needs some action. Why not?

It's working ok, but it could've been so much more.

I enjoy the idea of a non-trinity area, and I think it is working ok. Don't get me wrong, there are still a lot of things about the Scenario I think could be even better. I agree that it is just basically a short questing area as it is now and the bosses are push-overs with totally uninteresting fight mechanics. I think the Scenario overall is a little too stumped, I don't really get involved in what is happening - I don't end up caring. I was kind of hoping of something along the lines of the Darrowshire questline, if anyone still remembers that from back in Classic. For those of you who don't, it was a sort of re-enactment of the Battle of Darrowshire (which the final quest is also called) where you help the now ghosted inhabitants of the once Darrowshire to defend themselves against the ghoul/plague invasion. It was a questline that ended in an epic battle that had a lot of feeling to it, but mostly because of the build up until then. This is exactly how I would have wanted Scenarios to be. I am hoping the Theramore Scenario is but a wiff of what the other scenarios will be like, because it has a lot of potential.

But let's get to the point of this post
- whatever I think of the Theramore Scenario; if I don't get a world event before MoP I will be very disappointed. Incredibly even. The past World Events have been some of the most fun I've had in WoW and I still remember each and every one of them clearly.

The Opening of Ahn'Qiraj WE

Back in Classic, even the launch of a new raid instance warranted a World Event. The launch of Ahn'Qiraj was preceded by a world event so epic, they should write books about it. Called the "War Effort", it required every player on the entire server, regardless of level and faction, to chip in to be able to open the gates of AQ. Thousands of cloth, metal bars, ore, leather, bandages and basically anything you could craft had to be turn in. How about 800.000 Linen Bandages and 96.000 Peacebloom? That's just a fraction of what was needed. The factions had different goals which meant they had to work together to get there. A lot of the hand ins only required a low level character to gather, meaning anyone could help out. The guilds that were hoping to be first into the new raid obviously stood for the major contribution, having players who farmed for days to get the effort done, but the thing was that anyone could do it. Back then I was still a newb, running around on a level 40 something druid, and barely had a clue what was going on. I loved the idea of everyone having to work together to a common goal, and the final part where the actual gates opened had so many people gathered in the same place that the servers crashed continously - good fun and a mega-party. All the following quotes are taken from Wowpedia.

"The event evolved through different phases and included gathering of war supplies by both Alliance and Horde players, epic and hardcore quest chains for the elite guilds, and ultimately a ten hour long war at the Scarab Wall in southern Silithus."

I would kill a gnome for an event like this in any kind of MMO, what better way than to really feel like you're part of something bigger with other, real, live people in it? Have I ever done anything this cool outside of the gaming world? Nope (which might be sad). The only bad thing I can say about the AQ event was that anyone who wasn't in a high-end raiding guild didn't get to reap the fruits of the labor, but it was a small price to pay to be able to part of something so big.

Scourge Invasion
Another raid that got a WE was Naxxramas, in the Scourge Invasion. If you want a thorough explanation of what this event was all about, read here.

"During the Scourge Invasion, numerous high-level zones are under attack by one or two flying necropoli each"

"The necropoli are accompanied by Necrotic Shards, which are visible on the ground near each of the flying citadels. These shards are always surrounded by a large number of undead"

"Aside from the necropolis events outdoors, Scourge mobs will occasionally appear in Stormwind and Undercity. They spawn seemingly at random, causing city NPCs to yell for help"

"On November 10, 2008 the forces of the scourge attacked Stormwind Harbor and Orgrimmar's Valley of Honor every thirty minutes with actively hostile 72 elite Frost Wyrm Raptors and 71 elite Towering Horror abominations. "

This just goes on and on! See back in the day Blizzard actually took a lot of time and effort to make Azeroth seem like a place that was alive with change and things going on whether you were online or not. I'm not saying they're not trying to do that now, I'm saying they were better at it back then, and I am not normally a very nostalgic person.

Opening of the Dark Portal
In this event, preceding the release of the BC and as such the first proper expansion-release-world-event, Kruul was wandering around with a pack of demons wrecking havoc around Azeroth. It all culminated with a massive invasion force coming through the Dark Portal. Imagine another massive slaughterfest where people fought eachother as much as the enemies and you will have a pretty good picture of what was going on. It was hilarious, it was epic, I loved every second and I remember it like it was yesterday.

Scourge Invasion 2
Preceding the release of Wotlk, Azeroth was yet again attacked by the scourge in yet another epic World Event. Eventhough I am a massive fan of the AQ one, this is probably my favorite one yet. I like this one so much because it forced itself upon you. If you really wanted to you could pretty much ignore the previous world events and go about your playing like nothing was going on. This event however snuck into your gaming and made your part of it whether you wanted to or not, and in all honesty that is what I want a game like this to do to me. It started out simple with "suspicious crates" lying around. Many of you will remember this event by now. Soon people were starting to get sick, and eventually - BAM! - turn into zombies.

"Conspicuous Crates appear in the port city of Booty Bay, infecting players who touch them. "

"Plagued Roaches start to appear in capital cities (include Shattrath) and Booty Bay, spreading the Infection to any players who kill them"

"Groups of Plagued Residents begin to wander the lower level zones, attacking other mobs and players at random. "

"Low level quests Investigate the Scourge of Thunder Bluff and etc. added."

And so on, check here to see the full story

Now even if you had no clue about anything and never read any news about what was going on in WoW, you could not help but noticing that something was happening around you and to the game you were playing. Something big was on the move, and you and everyone else were going to be a part of it. This wasn't just a really fun WE that perfectly set up the coming expansion, it was also a really interesting psychological experiment. Some players went full heartedly into trying to infest as many of their fellow players as possible, while others tried to help instead. Blizzard made this into something you couldn't ignore which made it feel like something important, something that you had to care about, and I did.

Oh and this;

"Player avatars in the Forums become zombies. "

They even took it into the forums!

There have been many more WE events besides these three examples - we've got the fight for Sun's Reach in BC and a couple of smaller ones like Operation: Gnomeregan and Zalazanes Fall. Even our latest expansion Cata got a WE similar to the one before BC. So why can't this one get it? The World Events are normally server wide parties, the only time where everyone regardless of level and faction gathers to fight and play towards something bigger, the only time where we get to do something that is even more epic than fighting the bad guys in raid instances.

The only time when the game ever truly feels like it makes justice to the word Massive in MMO.

Not having one for MoP only gives me the impression that Blizzard don't even want to put in the time and effort into their own game anymore. I don't doubt they've outdone themselves in terms of awesome content - like I said I am really looking forward to MoP and think I will have loads of fun. But the WE is a very special part of a new expansion and quite simply, I think MoP deserved one.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Patch 5.0.5 - Not about priests this time

I remember my initial thought when I read about the new talent changes was something along the lines of "wee, new changes to get comfortable with, it's going to be totally fun trying to figure out how to heal again". My second thought, when I remembered the amount of alts I tend to play on a regular basis was "omg, new changes to get comfortable with, I am going to suck ass for ages".

I normally enjoy changes like these ones in WoW, I think a game that has been around for so long needs to revamp itself every now and then. Because of this I haven't really minded any of the bigger changes made, whether it was introducing new stats like heal power and spell power, turning heal power into spell power, making intellect count as spell power, mana and crit (and some other things) and then fixing the mana pools. It's all totally ok with me as long as everyone is playing by the same rules. So what if we have fixed mana pools now? I don't mind, since every caster has to abide by that same rule.

But change means re-learning, at least to some extent. And every big overhaul means I need to check and re-understand (if that's a word) every alt I happen to play (and they are many). That is time I don't always have the motivation to put into the game straight away, and an alt I don't play very often can easily be completely forgotten for another one during times like these. This time around my recently dinged level 85 paladin has gotten the temporary ignore button. I was already losing interest in her simply because she is freshly dinged right before a new expansion, and gearing her up felt kind of pointless at this time. But for some reason, the mere thought of having to re-learn holydin made me want to go back to prot, don't ask me why. We'll see about that.

I have checked out a couple of other alts however, all of which are not max-leveled should be noted and I have noticed one thing, the amount of change has varied quite a lot from class to class. Healing priests for instance have not changed overly much, while a class like warlock has changed completely. I'm wondering if this is due to me being the most comfortable with the priest class, making any change less of an obstacle to be than it is on a class like warlock, that I understand and master a lot less, I don't know. Here are some thoughts on the changes made to a couple of classes.

My first thought logging in to and trying to tank on my warrior was "oh lord, they have ruined my rotation, how will I ever be able to tank again?". Of course I hadn't really looked anything up, but just jumped straight into an lfd hoping for the best. Things got really confusing when I was lacking Rend and using Cleave soaked up all my hard earned rage. And what is this, most of my skills don't even use rage anymore? HOW OP IS THAT?! I don't know about dps warriors, but for a prot warrior I love this change. Rather than having almost every skill use rage, only a couple of key skills like Shield Block and Enraged Regeneration (if you have that talent) use rage. This means a lot of things. First of all, it removes that horrible moment 22 warriors were suffering from that occurred when someone pulled a pack of mob and you needed rage to get aggro but without aggro you got no rage. Even Challenging Shout required rage! Admittedly, with some practice you knew how to solve those situations without too much trouble, but it did turn into chaos-fest every now and then, especially when every dps in the group decided to dps a different target. Now I can Devastate something in the face at any time and I can see this making tanking a lot easier for newbie tanks.

Lightning bitches!
So they removed Rend and pretty much Cleave for me. My old rotation used to be; charge in, Rend and Cleave at the same time and Thunderclap. Worked like a charm, spreading Rend around the group for that extra aoe damage. Now we've got Deep Wounds baseline instead to replace Rend, triggering off of any of your damaging skills. Cleave is one of the few skills that use rage, and because of this I tend not to use it at all since I prefer to use my rage on damage reducing cooldowns such as Shield Block. I like this change though, giving me a real and important choice between using rage on dps or damage reduction.

One part of me thinks they might've oversimplified warrior tanking a little too much, removing a lot of fun skills I enjoyed using in my regular rotation, but on the other hand I am glad they've finally made mitigation vs damage a real choice for us not just while choosing gear, but also while fighting. And now I can Bladestorm while tanking, how awesome is that! (I will go for Shockwave however, but Bladestorm is tempting just for the lulz).

I've had a very on and off relationship with warlocking, going from having mained one briefly in BC (!) to pretty much not looking at it all through Cata. I love the complexity of warlock in BC, lost interest in Wrath when I thought they were too much like mages (ignoring the fact they have pets, shapeshifts and shitloads of cc) and when I tried it again in Cata I found what looked like an sb-spamming spec (demo) and what probably is the most complex rotation I have ever tried to master (destro). I slowly found my way back to warlocking, but it was definitely not one of my favorite alts.

Having played destro the last couple of months (mostly because I thought the other two specs were so boring), I was shocked at the level of change that it had gone through in 5.0.4. Umm, where are my dots? Where is the rotation from hell? My first impression was that destro had just lost two thirds of its skills, but remember that I am playing a lowbie warlock and that a lot of good stuff good just be lying around the corner. At the disappointment of the changes made to destro (which basically meant spamming a dreadfully slow shadow bolt and some chaos bolt) I decided to try out demo - hopefully it would've undergone as much change and hopefully for the better. All I can say is

EHRMAGEHRD METAMERPHERSERHS! That's metamorphosis for you who have trouble reading that. It's like Blizzard just had an epiphany and realized that people play demonology because they want to be really cool looking demons (which totally is the case) and made it possible to be in metamorphosis like all the f*cking time! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

After the initial glee had settled down and I was getting kind of bored of just going into metamorphosis, press Hellfire and sit back and wait, I decided to actually see if I could understand what this new change was all about (except looking really cool and doing aoe all the time). Of course Metamorphosis (which I hate spelling btw) is supposed to be some sort of powerful cooldown, but it does limit your choice in spells which means you have to think about when to use it. You can't just press the button and expect to do awesome damage, as far as I've understood it you need to alternate between forms to get the most out of it. If that is the case, I definitely love the idea. Unfortunately I don't really have the opportunity to test it to the max just doing lowbie instances (where your ability to aoe is what is really valued). Because of this I am curious about re-testing destro again and see if I can figure out how to play that, I feel I didn't really give it a proper chance the first time around. (If you're curious I'm not seeing affliction as an option it's simply because I've never liked that spec). (Ever.)

Another "ehrmagehrd" is really in place here, but I feel like one per post is probably one too many. Suffice to say, I feel like a flame wielding murder machine on my fire mage and I am completely loving it. Fire has always been my preferred spec on mage. I probably don't have to explain why I don't like arcane (hint, it's always been extremely boring) and although I've never had a problem with frost I just felt like there was a little more oomph in fire (not just damage wise, but visually and esthetically as well).

Fire has had many problems however, being heavily reliant on gear and sometimes what felt like pure damn luck. I could easily sway between awesome dps and shit dps just based on my crit streak, and my frustration would follow suite. Fire mage was so good when it was good and so bad when it was bad. Blizzard have realized this and basically, but not completely, given you control over your own Hot Streaks (that is the magic we need for firey mayhem fun) in a way I think is genius. By giving us a skill that is guaranteed to crit, we're able to get that double crit streak as soon as we get at least crit, simply by using our crit-skill, allowing us to fling out the rest of the arsenal (ie Pyroblast and Combustion). Oh and Combustion is on a way lower cooldown, making it more of a part of our rotation than just that extra bang every now and then. But our crit-skill is also used to spread our dots onto other targets, and with a cooldown on it we need to really think about when and how to use it. To get the most dps out of my fire mage now means having fast thinking and fast reflexes and I am loving it. When my dps goes down the drain I don't feel like I can blame anyone but myself, and the rotation and skill usage is just complex enough to feel rewarding when I get it right and motivate me to get better when I get it wrong. I am totally loving it.

So, what happened to my totems? (I wanted to write "Dude, where's my totems?" but I just couldn't) I was pretty bummed when I noticed that the majority of them were gone, but after having calmed down over that fact I realized that I never was a huge fan of totems in all honesty. I've probably had pretty much the same thoughts about them as the rest of the shaman community - they have so much potential, but they just felt like bad versions of other classes buffs. Blizzard have listened and removed, altered and introduced new totems into our arsenal. Some oldies but goldies remain the same, like Searing Totem, some work differently like Healing Stream totem (which works more like a healing cooldown now) and some are completely new like Lightning Capacitor Totem.

With the risk of sounding repetative, I like these changes. I miss my totems in a way (as a lowbie I barely have any) but that is only because they have been with me for so very long. I still remember having to do the totem quests to get them, how you had to carry them around in your bags to be able to use them... Totems now are more like cooldowns or special shaman buffs but it is a change that was needed and a good one. I will gladly vote the totem relocator skill to Best Skill of the Year award right here and now.

Fugly? Or fute...
What about the other changes to shaman? I've only tried resto, since my enhancement shaman is abandoned on another server at the moment, and besides the fact that it is impossible to oom at lower levels healing is very much the same. I have access to skills I didn't have before, like Riptide, but otherwise I don't feel like shaman healing has changed much at all and that's ok - I've got enough to wrap my head around as it is already.

As a tanking druid I have noticed the same move towards dps vs mitigation change that prot warrior got, only it took me so much longer to get. On my warrior I was used to using Shield Block on a regular basis and quickly figured out how the new Shield Block was meant to be handled. On my druid however it first took me a while to notice Savage Defense was no longer present and then even longer to realize that it had been turned into a mitigation skill like Shield Block (only it gives dodge instead obviously). No wonder I was taking so much damage!

In fact, my druid has suddenly got a whole handful of new mitigation and dps cooldowns (to some part depending on which talent skills you choose) that I barely know what to do with. I press one out of the many every bigger pull, hoping to make the healer a little happier. Most of the time I just feel confused, but I think I am slowly getting the hang of this.

One of the things that kind of disappointed me were the skill choices, where few seemed as interesting or good as they did on other classes. I suppose one of the problems could be that most of the skills are usable in all shapeshifts, so that eventhough they're tweaked to work better for some shapeshifts they do work in all and that makes it difficult for me to find one that I think is useful for tanking. I tried the treants, but they didn't really seem to do anything worthwhile. I tried the Typhoon, but that turned out to be mostly annoying (as I had already suspected it would). It's too many choices but because they all feel pretty meh rather than all seeming so good. That could just be me not grasping the idea completely yet, but I'll get there.

Druid tanking has changed about as much was warrior tanking, and overall I think the changes are ok. It annoys me that I need to spec for the charge, but fine - paladins and dks don't have a charge either (they do have ranged aoe threat skills to compensate for that however!). Druids still don't have a ranged silence which is a quality of life change I think we deserved. Druids feel weird, but not necessarily bad and I think I might just have to get comfortable in these new druid shoes first. It's just proving to take a little longer than for the other classes I've tried so far.

On a closing note (omg, finally) I feel like Blizzard have really tried to bring forward the essence of the different classes and specs, making them feel more separated and special and like you're actually achieving something differently from the next guy. Since I've only tried these new classes on low levels (around 50 and druid on 83) I know there is still a lot more to discover and understand before the day is over. I am definitely liking what I have been seing so far however, and can only hope these classes progress on in this direction. Good job Blizzard, thumbs up from me.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Impressions of Disc 5.0.4 - Hopes before an expansion

And all the priests rejoiced and lived happily ever after.

That is how I would like to end this post. And I might, read on and find out!

So I finally did a proper 25man heroic raid to test out the new disc, which in a way is kind of like stomping around in a new pair of hiking shoes at home, because it doesn't give you an idea to whether they'll be any good when actually hiking or not, but it does give you a general idea to whether they fit or not. Too weird a metaphor for you? Yeah maybe. My point is, whatever place priest healing happens to be in right now, it's not until we're actually healing an actual MoP instance/raid that we know whether this is a good or bad place, but at least we can get an idea to whether we like these changes or not.

So do I like it?
Hells yeah I do, in essence and if you want the tldr version of this post - I feel like Blizzard has finally dared to steer disc towards proper absorbtion healing the way I had always hoped we'd be. In the beginning of Cata I was head over heels with the idea of dpsing while healing aka Atonement. That did not turn out the way I hoped, which I've written numerous posts about already. Now, I am head over heels with the new Spirit Shell and how it allows discipline to wield complete control over when to heal and when to absorb, with any spell (!). I'm not going as far as to saying that this is completely op and awesome (but not far from), but I definitely love the idea and the way it makes me feel special about disc healing.

But there was something about mana issues...
I heard a lot of concerns regarding mana, or rather the lack thereof. I had a couple of comments on my previous posts venting some thoughts that definitely had me worried. I can see where these concerns are coming from, more often than not I was struggling with mana on fights I usually had little trouble with before. But I could easily ascribe those problems to me getting acquainted with my new best friend the MindBender (which totally makes me think of Bender in Futurama everytime I say it) and the fact that my gear is so not statted (that's an adjective right?) towards the Rapture change. I see one third of the mana return from Rapture to what I used to, of course that is going to be noticed!

Yes, I had mana issues. I even had to chug mana pots like back in the beginning of Cata! And that is exactly it, the mana issues I have now don't feel anything like the problems we were facing back then. I remember playing discipline and not being able to cast more than two-three shields in a fight without ooming. We're talking about not being to play the class the way it's supposed to be played because of mana issues, and discipline were so incredibly bad back then (because even when you did cast shields, they sucked ass). That is not the case now. I am struggling with mana, but only because I am throwing shields around me like crazy like I used to. Clearly Blizzard wants us to use Spirit Shell to cushion the raid before a big hit rather than spamming out shields, and I like this change, this is exactly the kind of healing I was looking for regarding discipline. Rather than putting all the absorption eggs in one basket by spamming shields, we know have some options.

You keep going on about this Spirit Shell.
Yes, I am, and because it is awesome. With risk of repeating myself - it is awesome because it allows discipline to be all about what discipline always should've been all about - absorptions. The problem with absorptions has always been that in many ways they're better than regular heals. They're preemptive which allows you to brace for impact rather than remedy the damage afterwards. Being able to reduce the damage taken has usually always been considered a better alternative than healing up damage afterwards and Blizzard has always struggled with balancing discipline around this. They nerfed our shields some ways into Cata for this very reason, and then some more. With Spirit Shell they have given us a powerful tool that is totally about absorptions but without being too op (at least I don't think so). Because it is "only" a 15 second shield it still requires pretty minute timing, and choosing what spells to use to shield people up. But with good timing and aligning it with other cooldowns it has so much potential. I am really looking forward to finding good places to use this in upcoming raid fights.

Examples of when it's useful in DS include;
  • Before a stomp/crystal on Morchok
  • In the black phase or on the tank before Psychic Drain in Zon'ozz
  • On someone standing out for Twilight on Ultraxion
  • On tank before Frenzied Assault or during Frost Phase (if you stand in the middle) on Hagara
  • Before Amalgamation explodes or before running into Grasping Tendrils on Spine
  • Before Elementium Bolt explodes or on tank before Impale on Madness

And this is just off the top of my head.

Sounds great, but what about everything else?
Everything else, yes. Fortunately now we really do have everything else. I've always chosen not to use Atonement/Evangelism (see above), but now I get it for free. With the neat buff it has gotten it should totally be used, giving yet another level of tactic to playing Discipline that I really enjoy. Make sure to have that 25% extra healing before something nasty hits your raid and you will do wonders. Spirit Shell isn't affected by archangel, which is a major bummer. I don't understand how, because the tooltip of SS implies it is based on the healing of the skill, basically turning the heal into a shield instead. Bigger heal should equal bigger shield right? Simples, but apparently not. Be that as it may, it still gives us two good cooldowns to make the most out of.

The rest is pretty much the way it has always been, meaning that the core of discipline healing looks the same, but we've got a lot of things to tinker with. Throw in some well timed Archangels, Spirit Shells and Inner Focuses and I doubt you will be bored or have trouble at the meters. For myself I had some issues at the beginning of the raid, and completely smashed the meters on Madness, a fight I normally do the worst at (and because I'm a 'tard I accidentally deleted the logs, you just have to take my word for it). This just shows that Discipline has still got it and it just needs us to adapt and get comfortable to, to get the most out of.

Final Verdict then?
What, hadn't you got that yet? Discipline looks extremely promising! And I am not the only one who thinks so. Blizzard have handed us a bunch of tools that I am eager to learn how to use as good and as much as possible. The problems I had I could easily write off as me not being completely knowledgeable, still trying out new things and styles of healing, and bad stats due to spell-changes. The only threat I see to discipline healing at the moment is the possibility that all the other healers are even more powerful. Shamans did seem to have a field day with Healing Rain, but paladins and holy priests seemed pretty much the same as far as the meters go. Now remember I've only really done one raid to base this on, but at least that raid gave me a lot to look forward to. I'm not worried at all regarding discipline healing, and just hope that Blizzard doesn't c*ck this up somehow before MoP is released. I want discipline to be pretty much exactly the way it is now, and would only like to see some tweaks to some underperforming talent choices (like PW: Solace). Blizzard gets two thumbs up from me for now, and it will be very interesting to see how things turn out in MoP.

Sooo... everyone lived happily ever after?

I don't know! That remains to be seen. But if we're talking for the reminder of Cata, then sure. Now I will have to take a look at holy, for which I think things are not looking as peachy. But those are matters for another post.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Do we need mods/addons?

So it's time to battle the mods again, or addons as I prefer to call them for no special reason at all (but I am gonna keep calling them mods because my autocorrect likes it). Typhoon Andrew asks us what our attitude towards mods are, some refuse to use any, some only use the bare necessity and some use mods to do anything, from mounting to selling to eating stuff in the game. I would probably describe myself as a lazy mod user, I normally don't bother getting a mod until someone forces it on me, either a person or the game, and then I can't play without it ever again. I never update my mods until they break however, which means I always get a message from dbm telling me someone in my dungeon group has a newer version. Some mods are quality of life ones for me, like karni crap which prevents me from picking up items I don't want (like fish scales!) or mods that auto sell all the greys in my bags automatically or with a simple click of a button. Some I consider necessary enough that I probably wouldn't play without them eventhough they don't really improve my gaming, like autobar and bag mods. Some alter my gamestyle enough for me to consider them a core part of the game, like mods that allow me to bind my healing keys and to "click" heal. I used to use clique and now I use vuhdo but I know for a fact I could not play without these mods even if I wanted to. I've known annoyance both when trying to convince a fellow player about the necessity of a certain mod, and trying to convince a fellow player that I really don't need a certain mod.

According to Typhoon Andrew Blizzard are expecting players to use mods when raiding and I can understand that. I don't know of anyone who does any serious raiding without at least one mod that affects their gameplay, be it a warning mod like dbm, a timer mod like dotimers or a key mod like vuhdo. But apparently Blizzard have now started to create fights with this in mind meaning you are now basically forced to use mods to be able to raid properly. I can see why this would bother some people, in fact I am not entirely sure I like that concept myself, eventhough I have always used mods when raiding to some extent and will defend their use vigorously if I have to. I know there are people out there who can be awesome players without tweaking their entire game with mods but the fact is the vast majority of us play a lot better with mods than we do without. But that is because there is just so much to keep track of and so much information to gather and the game just doesn't present it well enough for us in most cases.

Sometimes a mod isn't meant to help us do our job better, it's to make the game do it's job better so that we can do our job better (this is something I've written about before). DBM might help us notice that the boss is doing that special skill, because the in-game cues are just not visible enough. In some cases Blizzard have realized that a mod has been a very useful feature to the game and have incoroporated in themselves - like QuestHelper or PowerAuras. The difference is that the incorporated version often is rigid and stumped compared to the original, probably to be easily used by any kind of player. But going as far as saying that they'll create fights with us using mods in mind just feels like Blizzard agreeing with us that they're not capable of designing a style understandable enough for us themselves but have to rely on amateurs (i.e unpaid people) doing the job for them. Basically throwing their hands up and saying "kay, we're clearly no good at this, so we'll stop trying".

If we need mods to help us manage a fight, does that mean we're lazy and/or bad at playing or that the UI mechanics already in the game are too poorly designed? I'm trying to imagine dispelling on Spine without having a mod that helps me see who has the debuff I need to remove. I know that the Blizzard UI-frames are horrendous when it comes to trying to see a certain buff or debuff, and by the time I have located the right debuff on the right person, the raid is most likely dead. And this is just one out of all the things I have to keep track of in a regular raid to make sure we don't all die horrible deaths.

I can agree that probably 90% of the mods I currently use aren't really necessary for me to play the game. The vast majority of them are there to smoothen out my playing experience and save some time when dealing with one of Blizzard many time-sinks. I know this at least, I don't use mods just for the sake of it, I use them because I think I need them. Normally I get another mod because I've realized I can't handle a certain mechanic the way I need to, and try to find something that will help me do so.  In these cases I argue that mods are crucial for me to be able to handle certain fight mechanics and I wonder - is it because I need to become a better player or because Blizzard need to become better fight designers?