Monday, April 16, 2012

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly - on classes and their pugging behavior.

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Lately, I have been trying to re-establish myself on my new server. That doesn't just mean getting close and friendly with the locals, but to set myself up for independence. Back on my old server I had one alt for every profession, so that I would never have to pay anything but material fee for the most common goods (in the end I was too lazy to relogg for the most common items anyway, but that's beside the point). Anyone who knows anything about me knows I am a very cheap person however, and just moving two characters (and faction change them) was on the edge of what I am willing to pay extra for WoW. They've sucked plenty of money from me already (and more to come when D3 is released). I don't mind leveling alts, in fact that is what I spend the most time doing in WoW by far. Leveling lots of alts means doing a hell of a lot of instances usually, because I can't be arsed to do the same quests over and over (the same instances over and over is a little less boring). Doing instances means meeting people and in the end, after the 150th instance of the month (or so it feels sometimes) you will start generalizing things about those people. We all do it. Every hunter is a ninja looter, every paladin is just face rolling and so on. I like to think that in WoW, there is always a kernel of truth in prejudice. And here is my list regarding the classes in WoW and how they behave in dungeons.

Be warned, the following text will be filled with wild generalizations and ranting, maybe even more than my posts usually are.

Death Knight - Annoyance level 10
What better than to start off with the class that got me into this idea in the first place. There are so many things I want to say about Death Knight behavior in pugs, and none of them are good things, that I barely know where to start. I think the only thing that can be said in favor of death knights is the fact that they don't start pestering you with their presence until around level 58. Unfortunately, they somehow seem to think they have to make up for that fact by being about ten times more annoying than most other classes.

Here are some facts about death knights: they used to be overpowered one man armies and they used to be able to be either tank or dps in any spec. Used to be being the key words here. Dks seem stuck in a mindset that hasn't changed since they were introduced into the game. Few death knight tanks seem to bother with more than being in the right presence, for the most time "tank gear" is a concept that completely eludes them. Their lack of gear doesn't stop them in any way from doing pulls way bigger than any other tank, for some reason, and usually without any knowledge of how to keep aggro on all those mobs or use cooldowns to mitigate damage from all those mobs. At best, the tanking dk will use some runes on Death Strike.

But the tanking dk is nowhere near as annoying as the dpsing death knight. Normally, the tanking death knight is just very bad, and most of the time I am willing to overlook that since the instance is at least moving forward (also usually if I am not tanking I am instead the healer, and a bad tank does provide some challenge *positive thinking*). The dpsing death knight however goes into great lengths to be actively annoying. There are two factors here; the fact that Blizzard have designed dks to be very annoying in themselves and the fact that every player seems to want to play dks in an annoying way to add insult to injury. Seeing someone, who doesn't have the faintest clue about what is going on, basically facerolling their way onto top damage done, is the first annoying thing about Dks. Dks are not an easy class to master, yet similarly to paladins it doesn't seem to require any brain power to get a good result. The problem with this is that it prevents anyone who leisurely plays their dk to ever give a rats ass about what they're doing, because if anyone ever complains they can just point at the meters and say "well at least I am doing the most damage". Which is in no thanks to their skills but to Blizzards crappy programming.

The other part is that Blizzard has provided the dks with a skill like Death Grip. Remember now that people who play dks think they are one man armies who can handle anything on their own, and don't give a shit about what the rest of the group does. They are the ones who get a skill like Death Grip. It is mildly annoying that a dk death grips a mob out of my melee range to be able to hit it whenever he's not in range. Deep down I can understand that, it is lazy behavior and being a very lazy person I can empathize with it. It also only mildly annoying that dks seem to only be able to use DG on melee mobs and never caster mobs which would be ideal. But using Death Grip on a mob you're already hitting on only serves to give you aggro, which is completely meaningless for a dpsing dk. If a dps warrior does it I can think that he did it to get more rage or something, but the dk only does it because he just can't let that Death Grip button go unused!

Warrior - Annoyance level 3
I like warriors, they're usually silent and effective regardless if they're tanking or dpsing. Most warriors don't talk much, something that is common for many melee (except in fact, dks) and I can only imagine that bashing all those keys makes it difficult to type at the same time. People who roll warrior tanks usually take their job very seriously since in the general opinion warrior tanking is the most difficult and usually only done by people who have some previous experience in tanking. Warrior tanks are probably also therefore the stingiest of the tanks by far, sometimes on the verge of cranky divas. Warrior tanks can often be divided into those who have stopped caring and just tank on, and those who won't tank unless the rest of the group behaves exactly like they want to. Fortunately, the latter group often sorts itself out of the system, since few tanks actually ever get into a group where every player will accommodate their every whim, and so they end up warrior dps instead.

Although warrior and dk dps are similar in many ways, they're usually played completely differently. The dps warrior doesn't pull extra groups, rarely charges off ahead and seems to try to focus more on doing good damage rather than trying to pull as many mobs as possible.

Priest - Annoyance level 5
My biggest problem with priests, whether healing or dps, is that it seems that so few people have a clue on how to play them. Many new players probably choose to play healing priests because they think they'll be the easiest of the healing classes, they couldn't be more wrong. Discipline priests are easy enough, shield and smite away to do decent healing. In fact I rarely have a problem with discipline priests. Holy priests however, seem to only understand two spells in their arsenal, Renew and Flash Heal. No other healer ooms as fast as the holy priest, because all they do is throw Flash Heal at any damage.

The shadow priest is usually also bad, but for no fault of the player. Shadow priests have bad mana regen and non-existant aoe for a very big part of their leveling, which make them lose damage done to most other classes (except rogues who also lack a decent aoe for most of their leveling). Most commonly, you will see a priest run around oom for most of the instance, which probably is more frustrating to them than it is for the rest of the group.

Shaman - Annoyance level 2
Whenever I get a resto shaman as a healer, I know I am going to be in good hands. I have yet to encounter a bad resto shaman in a lowbie pug, and this is no exaggeration. It is probably partially because Healing Stream Totem and especially Earth Shield does half the job for them, but also because the resto shaman comes with so few skills for the first 70 levels that there really is very little confusion as to what to do when the tank is taking damage, something that many resto druids and holy priests seem to struggle with.


Most of the time dps shamans don't deal as much damage as most other classes. Enhancement because they don't have any good skills until later on and elemental because they're casters, and casters suck for the most part compared to melee until level 80ish. But on the other hand they don't cause any trouble either. Enhancement shamans can't charge ahead or taunt, elemental shamans can throw a chain lightning into the wrong pack of mobs at worst. None of them have procs that they feel a strong urge to use on the next group before the tank is even close, the way a mage does for instance. The only thing shamans can fail with really are whether they decide to use totems or not, and even then it's not something that is especially noticeable when pugging.

Mage - Annoyance level 2
Mages have become a lot better lately. They deal more damage than they used to and somehow they have become a lot less annoying than they used to. Because most mages get aoes early on, they're usually the ones that will try and nag the tank into doing huge aoe-pulls the most, just so they can one-button use their Blizzard/Flame Strike/Arcane Disco throughout the instance. A year ago I would've put mage at level 8 easily.

But that was the old mages, the new mages are behaving themselves a lot better. They will normally give you water upon request, they even sheep things sometimes, although that is rarely necessary in any instance before level 80. Fire mages sometimes have an OCD regarding using Hot Streak, but that is an urge I can understand and fall for myself quite often. I wouldn't want three mages in my group (which has happened), simply because as casters they still suffer from all the things casters suffer from (mostly running out of mana all the time), but otherwise I rarely have any issues with them.

Rogue - Annoyance level 1
I never thought I'd say this, but rogues are probably among my favorite melee to have in my group at the moment (except for one certain rogue, you know who you are Dazsh). They really never cause any trouble, and eventhough they rarely out dps any class who has a decent aoe, they still get the job done in a nice orderly fashion. Rogues used to be the class I had the most issues with in nearly any context, be it pve or pvp, mainly just because they have so much possibilities to be so very annoying. But most pugging rogues at the moment seem to just fully focus on getting their job done, and I am very greatful for that.

Paladins - Annoyance level 6
Having a generalized idea about paladins is difficult since there is a big difference depending on whether they are healing, tanking or dpsing.

The tanking paladin is usually among the best tanks to have in a pug, since they're so easily played that even a blind hen could get it right. Starting out with the IWIN-threat skill Avengers Shield they rarely have any trouble keeping aggro. The fact that they also have the best self healing abilities of all the tanks helps the matter further, and most of the time I just stand idle when healing paladin tanks. There isn't much the paladin tank can fail with snice they're truly a one man army in lowbie pugs (unlike dks).

Paladin healers are usually among the better healers. Paladins get a few, strong spells and probably have the least mana issues of all the healers at those levels which means most people can play them good enough.

Paladin dps on the other hand suffer from some similar issues to Dks. They're far too simple to play to warrant that good a result and I think the only reason they're not as annoying as dks is simply because they don't have Death Grip. I know this because back when Hand of Reckoning still did damage, every retridin would use it as a damage skill, which meant they'd taunt every eight seconds. Retridins still randomly choose to use Righteous Fury for no gain whatsoever, and trying to get them to turn it off is like trying to explain world economy to an iguana. Retridins and dps dks sometimes make me wish that tank specific skills were limited somehow to the tanking classes...

Hunter - Annoyance level 10
Almost every hunter is as annoying as every dk, because similarly to dks, hunters have so many things about them that give them ample opportunity to be very annoying. The fact that they have ranged, instant skills are among the worst, because most hunters seem to be dpsing by pressing the tab skill rather than any dps skills. Eventhough they aggro everything in a 100 yard radius, often by "clever" use of their pet, they still rarely get above third on damage done. How is that even possible?

The old joke that hunters need on every piece of loot they come across seems to have become a mentality of every hunter I pug with. It is as if they feel like they have to live up to that prejudice now, probably thinking "ah they're expecting me to ninja it anyway, so might as well" or "wouldn't want to disappoint them!". As a tank, hunters are the most annoying class to tank, they make a mess of every pull, can easily save themselves with Feign Death and don't even deal good damage, which I at least get out of most Dks. They more often forget to turn of Aspect of the Pack than they would ever start using any kind of traps other than Explosive Trap.

Warlock - Annoyance level 2
Warlocks are like good shadow priests. Eventhough they don't deal good damage until later on, they can at least keep up most of the time, and many of them will offer you a soulstone or healthstone or at least give you one upon request. A mystery I have yet to decipher is how the difference in pet handling can be so vast between warlocks and hunters, where hunters seem to have no clue at all as to what their pets are up to while most warlocks rarely see their pet come running back with three new packs of mobs in tow. That's not the only similarity between hunters and warlocks. Just like hunters, warlocks have many instant, ranged skills, yet they rarely pull ahead or pull extra packs in the way most hunters will.

Druids - Annoyance level 5
Just like their hybrid friends the paladins, how annoying a druid is usually comes down to what spec they are playing. I've never been very fond of tanking druids, and eventhough I must say I quite enjoy playing them myself at the moment, I still feel like most tanking druids are bad at what they do. They seem lost and confused most of the time, like if they were playing in close to first person view and their big bear ass was obstructing most of their screen. They lose aggro all the time, but don't seem to notice or just don't care. They're slow and don't seem to where they are even half the time.

Resto druids can either be really good or really, really bad. Their hotting healing style should suit a newbie healer well, because it allows you to keep several heals up on several targets and to heal while running. Instead it more often just confuses lowbie healers, leaving them to do nothing in panic. Resto druids also often have a tendency to wandering off aimlessly. Although I have no idea why resto druids in particular do this, and any speculation would just wander into crazy areas.

Dps druids aren't very noticeable, not on the meters and not in the group. They run around, using skills at random as it seems. Most druids suffer from the "hybrid" thinking more than other hybrids, meaning they tend to need on any kind of loot "for their other specs" more than paladins and shamans. Nonetheless, dps druids are almost always friendly and good humored and I enjoy having them in my group.

So my favorite group composition, if I was tanking, would be:
Shaman healer
Rogue
Warlock/Mage
Warrior

And hey, that would be a good composition gear wise as well.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Top 5 Good Looking Gear Sets

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When transmogrification was first announced I raised it to the skies as one of the best ideas Blizzard has had in the past year, throwing sentences around me like;

I can't even express how happy I am about this implementation.

and

Now I'll be able to finally wield my Benediction/Anathema in a raid with pride!

Then unfortunately Blizzard also decided to design tier 13 to not look completely retarded (*cough t11 cough*) so in the end I only ended up transmogrifying my staff into Anathema. As for every other character I've been too lazy to farm any nice gear since I don't care about them much enough to spend time on things like that (although I did still have the starter set for my DK which I then transmogrified into). So far, my usage of the transmogrifier has been, to put it mildly, limited.

However, the first glimpses of the upcoming tier made me think about it again since I am far from certain I want to run around looking like that. Right now I am only hoping things will improve, but in case they don't I need to have a plan B. There are many good looking sets for my priest to wear, but it's a dwarf which really limits my options. Don't get me wrong, I love dwarves and they are by far my favorite alliance race, but they do look stupid in many gear sets that otherwise look really cool - like tier 5, Arena Season 3, tier 8 and so on. Actually most sets unfortunately. This thought process travelled on in my head into "which are the coolest looking gear sets out there that aren't part of a tier set or similar?".

And here you have it, my top 5 list of gear sets that aren't part of a tier or arena set. If you disagree I am sorry, but you are wrong. (Special thanks to wowroleplaygear.com for the pictures).

5. Vanguard 
The Vanguard set is one of those sets that fascinate me because it, as a proof of any violent feminists worst nightmare, looks completely different depending on whether it's worn by a male or female character, especially the chest piece. While male get a sturdy piece of plate, female get a plate bikini barely worth taking into a battle with stranded whales. But Zinn, why must you ruin everything, can't you just let sexy ladies be sexy without wanting to spread your hairy armpits everywhere? Yes, regardless of what the set says about the view of women and men in WoW (because frankly, none of them is especially flattering, with women being nothing but sexy objects and men being nothing but moronic blockheads (yes, I am looking at you Wrynn and Hellscream)), I still think the set looks good. It has a nice design and many varying color schemes for anyone who wants some variety (Lofty, Glorious, Imperial). My warrior would look awesome in it, she doesn't need a body covering armor to kick ass anyway.

4. Chief Brigadier 
The Chief Brigadier set suffers from some similar features as the Vanguard set, by looking slightly different on male and female characters. But that color scheme is to die for. There is no way you can go wrong with fiery red on black, which is why so many people put bitching flames on their bitching Volvos. The only thing I could improve on this set would be the head piece (not shown, probably for that reason), because that raggy looking mail coif doesn't really do it for me. I think the Jaw of Repudiation head piece, or anything that looks similar to it, would fit that set perfectly.

 



3. Taunka Garb 
Probably the most wholesome set in the list, I like the down to earthy style of the Taunka Garb a lot. It is perfectly designed to suit the snow-living taunkas, and I like the simplicity of it, yet it feels detailed and thought through. Most people would probably call it boring and bland, but if you look closely you can see the knitting in the leather. It gives me a wolfy sense of seriousness (don't mess with a serious wolf), and I like how it covers the entire body in a rough and tough looking armor - this isn't some fancy pansy prancing around in an armor barely covering the nipples. Yet again, I am not overly fond of the head piece - it suits the gear but I know most characters look stupid in it. I could live with that however.

 


2. Warped Leather
I remember the first time I found a Warped Leather piece and decided to dress it. I had obviously found Warped Leather pieces tons of times before, it's the kind of gray item that drops from every second mob on lower levels. For some reason I decided to check out what it looked like on my rogue (actually because he didn't have any better gear...), and I was instantly hooked. With a blue-black color combination that looked like a dusk sky, I knew I wanted to have the entire set on my rogue and I wanted it yesterday. Some pieces were available on the Auction House, from the ever lovely people who are bothered with putting up gray items there for no other benefit than making the odd weirdo collector happy. The rest had to be farmed, at which point the drop rate drastically dropped in what is known as the WoW-farming Paradox. When I eventually deleted that rogue and started a new one (don't ask me why, because I don't know) I made sure to save the Warped Leather set. The Warped Leather set is one of those sets that Blizzard have designed to look really good, but it was very rarely put into use. The time I had my rogue as my bank alt I ran around Orgrimmar wearing it, but since it's not transmogrifiable you won't ever see this in combat. Fortunately, the Clefthoof set looks exactly the same, and that is transmoggable! I especially love how it fades between black and blue from top to bottom.

1. Venomshroud 
In a sense I am stupid to put this as my number one set, when there is really just one piece of the set I really like. But then, I really like that piece. The way a cat likes lying on your keyboard while you're playing. The shoulders, pants and actually most of the pieces don't look very good at all, but the chest is completely awesome. Worthy of a tier set, if you ask me, it has a huge spider covering the entire front of the chest (the dress piece, not the vest piece). I fell in love with it immediately when I found it, I even remember which mob it dropped from in Silverpine Forest. And it comes in a few really nice recolorings so you can choose between green on yellow, brown/red on yellow or teal on green and. They all have one thing in common though, they're probably the best looking robe in the game. Simple, with uncommon color combinations to make you look smashing regardless of going to a guild meeting, fighting Deathwing or getting married on the steps of the Stormwind cathedral. A dress for all occasions.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Priest Healing, a declaration of love

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It's time for a rant methinks. The other day (I love saying "the other day" when really it was two weeks ago, but time flies eh) our dear guild leader asked us fellow guildies what we wanted to play come MoP. Most people said they wanted to continue with their current class, a few mentioned they might be interested in rerolling. And me? Priest of course! No questions about it. Or is there?

I didn't have a doubt in my mind as I responded as to what I wanted to do in MoP. I definitely want to continue on my healing priest path. But then a couple of days ago I started thinking - do I really want to play priest or do I only think so because I've always done it? The fact is that ever since I started raiding in beginning of BC I have never mained anything but my lovely Zinn. How long is that now? 5 years? Something like that. I started out as priest, I only briefly swapped to warlock because I thought I wanted to give something else a go but I ran back to healing almost immediately. And I still love it damn it! Although I play almost every other class more often than I play my priest (because I usually only raid on my priest and do dungeons on everything else) I am determined to play my priest in raids. There is without a doubt nothing else I enjoy doing as much in WoW as priest healing in raids and the only reason I eventually stop doing it in dungeons is because it gets too easy frankly. So what then exactly is it I love so much about healing generally and priest healing specifically?

It might go as far back as when I started my very first character, an undead priest named Lahmia on a server I no longer remember the name of. Back then I only had a very basic idea of what WoW was all about and as my brother, whose account I was using at the time, explained the general idea of the holy trinity I recall there being something about the notion of healing that really got to me. I remember my brother describing the healer as something that "every group really needed" and "relied upon". And I definitely wanted to be needed. But that could be said for any of the three roles right? Any group needs a healer, tank or dps (setting aside that tanks and some dps are basically one man groups on low levels). Groups need more dps than healers/tanks, yet healers/tanks always have an easier time finding a group. This has always been so. But that isn't necessarily because healers and tanks are a more important part of the group, only that they're played by a lot less people.

Although I've only ever really mained one class, and cared about knowing everything about that one class alone, I do consider myself fairly knowledgeable about most classes and at least all of the roles. It is true I enjoy some classes close to as much as I enjoy playing my priest, like all of the tanking classes, all of the healing classes and some of the dps classes. Yet there is something particular about priest healing that makes it extra special to me.

One could venture into the dangerous argument jungle of "women always choose nurturing roles". Be that as it may, I'd like to counter argue that no role requires nurturing, patience and herding children as much as the role of the tank. So let's leave that discussion for now.

Variation
I've always had the feeling that healing gives more variety to what you're doing than tanking or dpsing would. But this is only partially true. Let's just focus on endgame to narrow things down at least a tad. There is a range between something being too easy and very damn difficult where you have some possibilities to just fool around as a healer and possibly more so than you could as a dps or tank. But when things are very easy you tend to just use a handful of spells over and over and when things are really difficult, like progression raiding, you end up in a meticulous rotation just like any dpser. I have to carefully plan when to use my cooldowns, and how to use my spells around those cooldowns and mechanics of the fight. When every heal can determine the outcome of the fight, there is little to no chance of doing things in just any way. Just thinking back of how I have been doing progression healing on the last couple of fights in Dragon Soul I know I pretty quickly end up in a firm order of how I use my spells. Sure, I might swap a few heals here and there to accomodate minor changes in how the fight runs, like rng, but that is true for all the other roles in the raid.

All classes have to adapt to mechanics of the fight, things that change between fights and that changes a "normal" dps rotation, making dpsers, tanks and healers about equally varying to play. Tanks don't really have a rotation to start with, yet when it comes to tanking raids I'd say that tanking is the least varying, but that is a side note.

I've had plenty of arguments with other healer classes regarding which healer actually has to use the most spells in a generic fight. I even started a thread on my guild forums about it, which received mild interest from the rest of the healers. This is important damn you! But anyway, eventhough there might be one class which has to juggle the most skills (it's priests btw *cough*), the end result is still that most healers have to think about as much as the other and I don't honestly think any one of them is more difficult to play than the other (that doesn't mean there aint any that is better than the other! *coughpaladinscough*). And all healers usually end up spamming one or two spells mostly anyway. Paladins are currently stuck in Holy Radiance, Priests mostly spam PoH, shamans spam water shield and Healing rain and well resto druids still have to keep things like LB and Rejuv up at all times as far as I know. Paladins have it worst at the moment, but that is just bad game design, normally the meters would show a handful of spells way ahead of all the other skills we occasionally use, for any healer.

Style
If it isn't the amount of spells, or how they're used, maybe it is the specific combination of spells? Have you ever been kickass at one class and sucked ass at another although they're quite similar? I consider myself a decent fire mage, but I was seriously dreadful at destruction warlock. Much of it comes from practice obviously, but certain spells just speak to you more. I enjoy the certain set of spells that priests have, with its combination of hots, aoe healing and point healing depending on how you spec. Of course priests also offer the unique possibility to heal with absorbs. Although I enjoy healing as every class, I couldn't see myself wanting to main any of the others healers because in the end their way of healing just doesn't speak to me. Druids use hots too much, paladins use hots too little, shamans have their annoying totems (but not for long!). They each have their charm, but I love the versatility of the priest, being able to do anything decently and most importantly being able to satisfy my need for change occasionally. Only the priest can offer me two vastly different healing styles in one class. So we're back to variation then, the priest being such a varying style of healer depending on spec, and sometimes even spec within spec (atonement or no atonement) is what has kept my interest for so long?

Teamwork
So we might've found a reason as to why I prefer priests over the other healing classes, but that still doesn't explain why I prefer healing over dpsing or tanking. One thing I've always really enjoyed about healing is the special bond that flowers between you and your fellow healers (which probably is just on my end, but anyway). The way you need to communicate to time cooldowns with eachother, relying on eachother, the trust, the love! I could go on and on, but it would turn into an erotic novella before long. I know it sure doesn't seem like anyone else has this close knit bond, but I also know I'm probably naive to think healers are special in this aspect. The entire raid has to trust every member of the raid to do their part to even get the boss killed. Tanks double-tanking often have to have very strict communication to not actually wipe the raid. And the entire raid has to trust every member of the group to do their job to actually get the boss killed.

But above this raid teamwork, there is also the teamwork of the healing group and unlike the occasional teamwork that can arise between two tanks, two (or more) dpsers or between the tank and a dpser depending on fight, the teamwork of the healers is there for every fight because every fight requires at least two healers. This might explain why I enjoy healing so much in raids specifically, since I must say I don't necessarily think healing is the most fun job to do in dungeons. I can't explain why this aspect of healing is so important to me, but it does give me a further sense of accomplishment I think. Not only did I make my raid proud by not letting us die, I also made the healing team proud by using my mana cooldowns at the right moment, timing my tank and raid cooldowns to make all of our jobs easier and so on. It is a role I thouroughly enjoy and strive to always do as well as possible.

So in the end I can actually say, I enjoy priest healing specifically because of the variation it gives me, the style of healing it has and because of the special sort of teamwork that exists between healers. All of these might sound obvious, but as with any relationship you have to take a moment to ponder what it means to you and why. I am looking forward to yet another expansion doing what I have always done!