Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rare Skin Spotlight - The Shoveler & Pitchfork of Madness

It's time for me to talk a little about one of the coolest weapons in the game. No I don't mean Twin-Blades of Azzinoth or Shadowmourne, something far cooler. I am talking about The Shoveler. What makes this particular weapon so cool? Well unless you guessed it - it's shaped like a big shovel. What else could one need?

First time I encountered this weapon was when leveling my first warrior. I was some level 30ish and I don't recall how this baby got into my furry hands - whether I found it, bought it or it was given to me - it all mattered little when I realized I was actually fighting with a huge shovel in my hands. I loved it so much I even kept for way longer than it was good. Even when I had found other weapons that were better i just couldn't let it go, it had turned into my precious.

The Shoveler is a blue rarity, random world drop 2handed mace. It requires level 32 to wield and has 15 stamina and 20 attackpower making it good for both arms warriors and enhancement shamans, maybe even hunters who just want to sport a really cool weapon (hunters can't use maces, silly me). Druids can use it too, but since you wouldn't see it in action when they're in bear/cat form that just seems like a waste. Since it is a world drop, the best way to find it is probably to guard the AH like a hawk from the first day you roll any of the abovementioned classes. The Shoveler, being something of a collectible, is one of those items that easily falls into the hands of blue-mongers, people who sift the AH for cheap blues and then try to sell them for extreme prices. This sweetie is definitely worth some 100g in my book, mostly because of the looks, but many people would easily try to get more than that from us desperate people trying to make some questing with an honest shovel.

The only thing cooler than one shovel would be dual-wielding shovels!

In case you're having a hard time to getting your hands on this awesome weapon, or just want to collect additional weapons of this style, I have dug up an alternative that is just about as cool. Unfortunately it has a flaw - it's extremely hard to come by.

With a name that might actually be even cooler than The Shoveler, the Pitchfork of Madness is a level 60 polearm that gives 117 attackpower when fighting demons. Stouting this baby would be something to brag about, since it is fairly difficult to come by. This Pitchfork is dropped by Renataki in zul'Gurub. "Who?" you ask? With right. Renataki isn't one of the regular bosses, but one that has to be summoned. Wowhead has explained the procedure in a good way;

"Renataki is a troll rogue ghost boss that can spawn from the Edge of Madness event in Zul'Gurub. The event requires a Gurubashi Mojo Madness, the recipe for which can be learned by an alchemist from the tablet of Madness located in the area. Extuingishing the brazier with this potion causes one of four bosses to spawn.

The boss that spawns is on a rotating calendar, which will change on the first and third Monday of every month. Each boss [is] active for two weeks, then for the next two weeks another will spawn." -

Not only does this mean you have to have an alchemist along with you (or be one yourself), you also have to time the right week to make Renataki spawn. To make matters worse Zul'Gurub will go away as it is now in Cataclysm, possibly (probably) making this item unobtainable once the new expansion hits us. This means owning this weapon could be real kudos, even setting aside the fact that it's a frickin Pitchfork of Madness!

For the person who likes fakes just as much as the real thing, there are plenty of alternatives. They look just as cool, but we all know they aren't just as awesome.

To find replacement for The Shoveler you could use one of these;
  • Burrowing Shovel - Level 10, drops in Westfall from Master Diggers
  • Goblin Power Shovel - Level 29, drops in STV from Venture Co. miner
  • Silver Spade - Level 41 quest, Venture Company Mining
  • Farmer's Shovel - Level 2, drops Tirisfal Glades from Tirisfal Farmers
  • Kobold Mining Shovel - Level 3, drops in Elwynn Forest from Kobold Tunneler.

Pitchfork of Madness could be replaced with one of these;
  • Pitchfork - Level 20, drops in Hillsbrad Foothills from Hillsbrad Farmers
  • Rusted Pitchfork - No level requirement, drops in Scarlet Enclave (EPL, dk start area) from Citizens, Peasants and Miners. 
Got any weapon you love?
Thanks to the anon contributors at and for the pictures.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    Guide to surviving the random pug

    Taking it out on an NPC could be a good way to release some anger
     When doing random pugs you often get the feeling that it might actually be bad to your health. I know I've had to calm myself several times to not go into a nervous breakdown (just today I was in the group with a rogue who ninja-pulled everything, nearly made us wipe and then left us with the words "Haha fucktards now I ninja everything!"). It has made me develop a set of tools to avoid getting into these nerdrages. Trying to think about these pointers doesn't always work, but it definitely helps. So here are some of my thoughts on how you can try to make the random pug a little less horrible.

    Don't take every fight
    If you, like me, like to talk too much, and especially argue way too much, you might think every statement made by a party member is an invitation to discuss. Rule #1 - they very rarely are. Unless you happen to agree with the person, let it go! Unless it's so ridiculous a statement that you just can't drop it, like something racist or the like, you don't have to start a debate right here and now. The random pug is definitely not the time and place to sort out the rights and wrongs about many things, and if the group is moving forward everything is working ok enough! In either way, you won't get the other guy to change his mind during this short period of a time anyway, so you might as well not get started at all.

    An example: Yesterday I did a random run into SM Cath. The first thing the mage in the group says is "Oh great! Finally an aoe-tank", when she sees that we have a pala-tank. I was just about to open up Pandora's Box on her (it was a female char) on the fact that all tanks have good enough aoe-threat on low levels, that I personally actually think paladins have among the least good aoe-threat since it's so stationary bound and alot of other things. But I didn't. What would it have brought me? The mage wouldn't have agreed with me for sure, she clearly thought paladins were the best aoe-tanks, and why not let her think that? It was probably based on her experiences, and who am I to say those are wrong? Instead we started to casually talk about how hard it is to get a job nowadays, something everyone can agree on (unfortunately). So, pick your fights carefully when in a random pug. They're very rarely worth the trouble.

    Be silent, or say something nice
    Like my mom used to say - if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. Like I mentioned in another post, there is a time and place for when you should and could tell people that they're not doing it right. Unless your group is having serious trouble getting the instance done, or the guy in question specifically asks for it, keep your good advice to yourself. Unfortunately very few people think you're doing them a favor by offering advice, they're just seeing you telling them they're bad. If you really feel it's needed, at least follow my steps in the abovementioned post! If you're going to comment on another player, try to find the good things. I usually always thank people when they do things people don't normally do - even if you might expect them to do that. Like say silence that nasty caster standing over there. Offhealing when the regular healer seems to have gone afk. Conjuring water. Not needing on those pants because they already had fairly good ones (ok, that's not going to happen). It's just as outside of WoW, you do want a thanks for doing something, even when you're supposed to do it! We don't have to go as far as "thanks for tanking" - that's just going to be interpreted as being sarcastic or smug. But giving someone a compliment is rarely wasted time. Saying someone sucks won't get you very much though. Remember the goal of you being here is getting the instance done after all - not getting the satisfaction of telling people off.

    Assume people don't know, rather than don't care
    When someone does something that really ticks you off, always presume they just don't know how to do it the right way. This too is something I've mentioned before. When someone does constant ninja-pulling, needs on everything, uses the wrong skills or just overall makes your life miserable, assume they haven't learned the right way to do it rather than that they're doing it to specifically to make you angry. Unless they're actually telling you so. One of my favorites is when someone in the group goes "Oh look how this guy is geared/gemmed/specced, let's kick him!". Like the gear/gem/spec was a personal insult. I agree in some cases it actually could be, but we've all been noobs sometimes, and we never suck at something to annoy someone else. If the necessity arises to tell someone they need to go about doing things differently if they ever intend to be able to play with other people, see abovementioned post for some pointers on how to proceed.

    Don't take things personal, even when they're personal
    This is similar to the previous pointer, but alot harder to do. This time I don't just mean that you shouldn't take bad playing personal, I mean you should try to not take personal remarks as personal. It's near to impossible, but probably the most important part in trying to keep things cool. When someone tells you you're doing it wrong don't become all defensive at once. I personally suck at not becoming defensive since I really suck at taking criticism. There are two ways people can tell you off (or give advice) and two (proper) ways for you to react.

    Either they can just say "tank/healer/dps you suck". Unfortunately this isn't very constructive, and even more often not even very correct. The main reason the guy is telling you this probably is because you're not doing it the way he wants you to, simply. The best thing is to ignore this kind of comment. Sure you hate the guy who said it, but imagine him being a sad and lonely person who needs to tell people they suck so he won't feel so bad for himself and put him on /ignore and just continue on your way. If he really hates what you're doing he'll hopefully leave group. If he acts an idiot in other ways aka ruining the run, you might want to consider leaving the group. But don't take it personally.

    Or they offer some honest advice. The other day when doing Saurfang on my hunter a guy in the raid whispered me some pointers on how to best handle the Beasts, for example. Instead of taking it as an insult to my intelligence, I was happy he wanted to share his experience on the matter to spare me the trial and error period.
    To this you can either notice that you're actually learning something new and thank for the advice, or if you don't agree with the advice simply say so. "Thank you, but I don't agree :)". Or "Thank you, but I prefer it this way :)". Or "Thank you, but this works for now, I might change it later :)". Well you get the idea.

    Realize the world doesn't center around you
    As a tank I often do think the world centers around me. I still believe with the current shortage on tanks, and the way tanking works that they're doing most of the job, especially in lowbie instances where tanks often also provide half the groups damage. But for your own blood pressures sake, it's best to not try to always have it your way, or the high way. I've tried to play this way for years, and it just gets me angry. I used to be one of those tanks who just let people die if they pulled when I had said I was going to eat/check my addon/wait for the healer to get mana. If someone does that too many times I still might. Or maybe I want to take a certain path in the dungeon or skip a certain boss, and no one else agrees - well it is a group effort (even if you're 80% of the effort). Come to terms with the fact that you can't make people do exactly what you want, so you might as well not hope for it. And most importantly, not be angry about it. I could of course tell them to please do it the way I like - don't ninja pull, wait for me to get mana (when healing or dpsing) and the like. It works more often than you'd think, so it's definitely worth a try. But most of the time I just think "ok this is how it's going to be". I'm not saying it's easy, because it's not but try to suck it up and see it as a challenge instead.

    So everytime you manage to get through the instance without too much emotional hurricanes, give yourself a gold star!

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    25man raiding will not be gone with Cataclysm

    Alot of concern has been thrown around since we got to know about the changes to 25/10 man raiding that will come in Cataclysm. Apparently 25man and 10man raids will be about equally difficult and most importantly, give the same loot. This has never before been the case, where the best loot only was obtainable from doing the bigger raids (or some serious pvp, but in wrath pvp loot got less good pve stats). This is yet another step Blizzard is taking towards the more casual players, as it is arguably easier to find 9 friends to raid with than 24. No matter if people think it's a good idea or not people seem to think this is the death to 25man raiding. Why would you go to the lengths of gathering 25 people for something, when 10 people will give you the same loot? I'm not sure it's that easy though.

    The bloggosphere is being coincidental on me again. Vidyala over at Pugging Pally happened to write about this topic some days ago. In a way I love it, it gives me the chance to see someone elses thoughts on the matter before posting my own and also the chance to link over there in case you'd like to read another post on it.

    I've spent most of my raiding career in a 10 man strict guild, and I enjoyed it overall. It does create a rather tight bond to raid with the same 10 people all the time. Or at least that's what you'd think. About 2 months ago I joined a bigger guild to be able to try some 25man raiding, something I'd only ever done in pugs before that (not counting the occasional 25mans we manage to scrape together back in BC in my old guild). The simple reason was that I wanted to try something new (and my old guild had lost alot of its core raiders anyway, so I thought now might be as good a time as any). And it made me realize that the differences between the two raid types aren't that big, at least not in my experience. Up to date I've done plenty of 10man and 25man raiding in ICC so this is where I can compare stuff, and considering ICC is our latest (albeit running rather old by now) raiding dungeon, maybe that is the best place to start anyhow.

    Firstly, and maybe alot of you people won't agree with me here - the difficulty level difference isn't that big. People say that managing 25 people around is way tougher than 10 people, I don't agree. As I have mentioned before it is also easier to have someone die in 25man than in 10 man, overall my experience tells me that these two factors take eachother out when it comes to difficulty. The difficulty difference in game mechanics have so far not been noticeable, overall they're about as punishing to either setup. And as far as game mechanics go we can only hope Blizzard manage to make them as fair as possible considering they intend the encounters to be equally difficult. In ICC they still intend 10man to be easier than 25man, but as I said even then I don't think there is a big difference.

    But even if it was easier to find a good 10man group than a good 25man group, people seem to be missing the most important point - what do people enjoy the most? Even if 10mans have been around for a long time, 10man strict guilds aren't a common thing. Do all the people playing in 25man raid guilds do it just for the better loot? I just won't think that is the case.

    And all the troubles we have in our 25man guild, we had back in my 10man guild. People who stop raiding, people who don't share the views of seriousness, raids having trouble getting filled and having to replace with non-regular raiders. People who come and go. Since I started out raiding I haven't really been part of a core group for very long. There were some people who've been there since the beginning, but most people actually quit playing (which is one of the biggest reasons I changed guild at all, as mentioned). And if we had some people who stayed all the way, they didn't sign for every raid. And the same thing goes for my 25man guild. Eventhough there are some people who have near 100% attendance, a big chunk of the raid group always seems to consist of those occasional raiders, them who have time to raid about once a week instead of perhaps three times a week.

    One week we have 30+ signs for our raids, and we're thinking "boy maybe we're a little too many now" and the next week we have 20 ish signs thinking "hmm, better start recruiting again". It's like a yo-yo, up and down. Right before a new expansion might be the worst of times in terms of guild stability, but honestly I don't think things stay constant for very long mid expansion either. Maybe during the time when everyone levels up to 85, and maybe even through the clearing of the whole first raid, but then people quickly seem to find other things to do and the whole "recruit?/not recruit?" mess starts all over again. Even if the same people stay they suddenly decide they want to play another class alltogether and the most important healer turns into yet another hunter. I won't force anyone to play anything they don't like, the point is that guilds change all the time no matter if you're in a big or small one.

    It is what happens when you're dealing with people, and this won't change. And this doesn't differ whether you're in a 25man or 10man guild, because in either case you're trying to keep a working amount of people interested in raiding towards your guilds goals.

    Blizzard have even said the amount of drops in 25man will be proportianately bigger than in 10man, which means in a way it'll still be the "better" choice to do 25mans, if it's gear you're after. But personally, I've really enjoyed doing 25mans, and I really wouldn't mind continouing doing so at all, even if there was no "benefit" of it in ways of better or more loot. Even if 25mans won't be more difficult, it does add another dimension, another way of playing, that I really enjoy. Coordinating 25 people doesn't have to be more difficult, and I don't think it is, but it is different. So everyone has to find out whether they enjoy the 10man setup more or the 25man setup. I think 25man raiding is far from dead. I'm just glad 10man raiding will be just a good a choice for those days when you don't have enough people for a 25man. Or simply enjoy doing raids with 9 friends instead of 24.

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    Holy Priest 4.0 Talent Build

    This post is outdated! For latest updates, check here. Comments can still be left here.

    Continuing from my post on how to spec your disc priest in 4.0/Cataclysm, let's take a look at what talents could be interesting for the holy priest. My first impression overall is that disc has changed more than holy, but I am more positive about the fun healing as holy might be in Cataclysm than I initially were. At one point I even considered not speccing holy at all for Cataclysm, because it just seemed like the same old thing, except maybe for Chakra. Alot has happened since then however, and I am sure alot more will happen before we have holy healing set in stone for Cataclysm. Don't forget to bear that in mind for this post by the way, things really do change from one day to the next now and this is therefore more of a general map of thoughts than the definite answer on how to spec your holy priest.

    TL;DR - Suggestion on a build at the bottom.

    As with the disc talents I won't discuss the obvious choices in the main tree, that's for another post. Instead I'd like to highlight the questionmarks, the talents that might need some testing before we can say which way it should be. Something I didn't mention in my other post however and that could be good to keep in mind is that these talents aren't optimized for Wrath, after all they're Cataclysm talents. That means healing might seem off at first, we won't know for sure how we're supposed to do things until the real things hits us.

    The big difference between discipline and holy (except the same old one, disc being about shields and holy being about aoe-heals) seems to be that holy is way less about smiting than disc. As a disc you'll probably want to use smite as part of your standard healing arsenal, see my post on disc talents for more info about that. But as a holy you won't be able to spec Atonement, the talent that turns Smite into a heal, which makes me think we won't want to smite as often as holy. If at all. Also unlike discipline, holy wouldn't want to spend as many points in the off trees, leaving plenty of points for the main tree. Nearly all of them in fact, so even though I'm not entirely sure of the usefulness of all the talents, we'll have to spend points in them anyway since there's really nothing else to take. So let's take a look shall we.

    The main tree (holy) - talents not mentioned here are the ones you probably should talent.

    Divine Fury - Although holy healing still is alot about using instants, Heal will be one our most important healing spells in Cataclysm. Therefore this will be one of the most important talents to keep up with the haste drop (and at all times), and besides, there's not much else better to take anyway!
    Desperate Prayer - Desperate Prayer is a very small heal, and not a great talent. But because Surge of Light is an even worse talent we still have to pick this to get further down the tree. It could be a nice saver when you need it, since it is free of mana and instant.
    Surge of Light - This used to be one of the best talents in the holy tree, until they revamped to proc 6% from all Heals and Smites instead of half of your crits. It might've been too good before, although I don't think so, but it definitely sucks now. Even when raiding, where you'll throw shitloads of Heals, this just won't proc often enough to make any difference whatsoever. The mana efficiency is marginal at best, and I really feel they need to buff this alot before it's worth those 2 tp.

    Lightwell - This poor spell seems to finally get the attention and overhaul it needs. With an increased range, no requirement of targetting and even bigger healing output, I'm seriously starting to think this might become a really good talent. I've always talented this spell (and generally get the response "Oh look, a lightwell!" from surprised people on TS) but that has been more out of sentimental reasons than the skill actually being good. Now it seems Lightwell might be as awesome as it always deserved to be.
    Serendipity - You won't use this often, but when you do you'll be glad you have it. Haste will go down significantly from 80 to 85, and this will be our "oh shit" talent. When the tank is dangerously low on hp you throw two flash heals followed by a Greater Heal so save the situation.

    Spirit of Redemption - The main reason people ever specced into this was for the extra 5% spirit and/or to get down to Lightwell. SoR doesn't provide any of those anymore, and eventhough it can occasionally be useful, I don't like to talent in a way that expects me to die.
    Tome of Light - Only useful if we also spec Chakra and Revelations, but since Chakra is what being holy is all about in Cataclysm that won't be a problem. I am somewhat uncertain as to how useful this talent actually will be, but we have to talent basically everything to get all the way down into the tree anyway.
    Blessed Resilience - The changes to this talent (and the corresponding in the discipline tree, Focused Will) have made them less of pvp-talents, and actually possibly very useful for pve. But maybe still not useful enough to warrant it taking talent points from something else.

    The offspec trees

    Mental Agility - I do believe Renew will still be a big part of our healing, although maybe less so than it is right now. Still this talent also improves CoH and PoM, two other very important spells in the holy arsenal. I also think mana might be more of an issue for holy than for disc (just as now) seeing as disc has more talents to improve mana efficiency than holy does.
    Twin Disciplines - Since it increases both healing and damage done by 6% it is clear disc priests are the ones who will benefit the most from this talent. That doesn't mean it's worthless for everyone else. Like mentioned I don't think holy priests will be smiting very much, so they'll probably "just" be using the extra healing. 6% extra healing straight off is fairly good, and if you don't feel like you're having any issues with mana you could easily take this talent instead of Veiled Shadows or Mental Agility. It all depends on how much mana will be an issue in Cataclysm. Since I am gemmed for disc I have tons of spellpower but low mana regen and could use Mental Agility more than Twin Disciplines. Even in Wrath holies have been among the healers (together with resto shamans) who yell for innervates, but only you know if you're that priest or not! ^^
    Evangelism (and Archangel) - Although it is possible to spec into Evangelism and Archangel even as holy, I don't think it would be something we want to do. Without Atonement we won't have the time to Smite anyway.
    Darkness - Holy has no talent to improve haste. Haste is as important as it was in Wrath so this is a great talent.
    Veiled Shadows - A decent way to improve mana efficiency for holy, but Mental Agility is at least twice as good.

    So my first try out for a 4.0 holy spec would look something like this.
    UPDATE 13/12: Here is the spec I'd go with for level 85.

    That means we will try to keep renews up by using Heals, all the while trying to manage to keep the proper Chakra active and using our different corresponding Holy Words as fillers. Managing our Chakra states will be what will separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to holy healing, so practice, practice, practice on evaluating the situation and choosing the right chakra stance, it will make a big difference. As it is now I personally feel that Chakra: Heal (Serenity) is almost always more efficient than Chakra: PoM (Sanctuary).

    Sunday, September 26, 2010

    Discipline Priest 4.0 Talent Build

    This post is outdated! For latest updates, check here. Comments can still be left here.

    4.0 is "soon" upon us, and with it the possibility to spec into our new and fancy talent trees with all the goodness of new skills and changes to our class that will mean. I have given the different talent trees some thought and realized that the big questionmarks doesn't seem to lie in where you'll want to put your talents in your main tree, but where you'll want to put your remaining talents in the off trees.

    TL;DR - suggestion for a disc spec at the bottom.

    My first thoughts on the new talent trees were based on two misconceptions. First of all I thought we'd keep the system with getting one tp per level. That would mean a whole lot of tp's for what has become rather small talent trees. Our talent trees haven't been this short since Vanilla, and I was wondering if Blizzard had meant us to be two specs at once? Of course not, Blizzard have fixed this by giving us one tp every second level instead, which mean at level 85 we'll have 41 talent points to spend (compare that to the 71 we have today).

    I also thought you'd be free to spend your points anywhere you like, just as today. But to prevent people from doing what I thought people would do, namely spec into several trees at once becoming some sort of freak hybrids, Blizzard have made it so that you have to spec all the way down into one tree before you can spec into another tree (unless the talent calculator on mmochamp simply is bugged somehow and I am completely wrong about this). That means you have to spend 31 tp in one tree before you can start speccing in another, and that also means we only have 10 tp to play around with. On the bright side, it really seems like Blizzard have manage to make these last tps "play around with"-able. They've always said they wanted to move away from cookie cutter specs (aka one best spec) and give us some tp to work with for more individual solutions.

    It probably varies between trees, but every tree consists of more tps than 41, which means you could place all your talent points into one tree. Unlike now, that probably wouldn't even be a totally bad idea, but there are undoubtebly good talents in the off trees of every class to look at as well. I have looked at priest talents, and here are my thoughts on what you might want to talent as a disc priest.

    In fact, because you have to spend so many talents in your "main tree", it's easier to discuss which talents that shouldn't be picked and which talents in the off trees that might be the most interesting. Note that I haven't had access to the beta servers, but I have been reading up some on the current status of healing overall and what it might turn out to be in Cataclysm.

    Here are the talents I am thoughtful about;

    The main tree (disc) - the talents not mentioned here are then ones you probably should talent.

    • Mental Agility vs Veiled Shadows - Even though many reports go on about mana being a big issue for healers on the betas, I'm still not sure Mental Agility will be important enough to spend 3 tps on. 3 tps is alot in the betas (and in Cataclysm), and I feel these could be better spend on a talent like Veiled Shadows (in the shadow tree) which reduces the cooldown on Shadowfiend. If the Shadowfiend is as good as it is today, it's difficult to say which of them would be more mana returning. But I think we'll cast way less instant heals as disc than we do today (see Strength of Soul too), and this talent is probably much better for renew spamming holy priests. (EDIT: Since the tp cost of Atonement and Borrowed Time has been reduced, it is now possible to fully spec into both Rapture, Veiled Shadows and Mental Agility)
    • Inner Sanctum - Yet again a full 3 tps for improving two skills I'm not entirely sure will benefit enough from it. I am sure Inner Fire/Will be much used, as I see we'll switch between them constantly when fighting for optimal healing (I think they removed the mana cost from these two spells for this sake as well). Nevertheless, will 6% reduced spell damage and 6% increased movement speed be enough of a difference to warrant 3 tp? I'm not entirely sure.
    • Inner Focus - My argument for ever taking this talent has always been "well it's just one talent point". But tp's have never been as valuable as they are now and eventhough they've reduced the cooldown on Inner Focus significantly, and it can be reduced further with the Talent Train of Thought, I'm just not sure it will be worth it. It's still just one free heal. On the other hand if you macrod it into being used together with the mentioned heals, you could see it as working as a "passive" mana cost reducing talent (together with Train of Thought that is).
    • Rapture - One of the best talents in Wrath, and yet again since mana seems to be a big issue in Cataclysm this could turn out to be completely crucial. But as I've already mentioned (and will get to again), since we'll be throwing less shields and Rapture only procs every 12 seconds, I think our main mana gain will come from either Inner Focus + Train of Thought combo, or Evangelism + Archangel combo, or maybe using both. I'm choosing between Mental Strength and Rapture here, because it feels like at least one of them might be good, they're basically buffing the same skill, but taking both seems overkill. With enough intellect and in fights where you can expect your shields to be constantly absorbed, Rapture might be the better choice. Otherwise it feels like Mental strength is slightly better since it also works for heals like PoM. This seems like something I have to test properly before deciding. (EDIT: Since the tp cost of Atonement and Borrowed Time has been reduced, it is now possible to fully spec into both Rapture and Mental Agility).
    • Soul Warding - If we'll be shielding less, maybe we won't even need this talent! That seems a little to big a step for me to take right away though, so that's something I'll have to find out before I go that far as to remove it ^^
    • Reflective Shield - I can't see how this talent will become more important for healing disc priests in Cataclysm than it is today. A good leveling talent nonetheless.
    • Strength of Soul - Reducing the cooldown on Weakened Soul sounds like a good thing, but I don't even today feel like the 15 seconds duration on Weakened Soul is a huge problem, so unless they've extended it in Beta I don't really feel like this kind of talent is necessary. Especially not since it's actually kinda counteracting the prerequisite talent Renewed Hope. We don't use Heal much when healing and I don't think this talent will be very useful in the end. I'm not going to use this.
    • Grace - Seems about as useless for the raid healing disc priest as it is today. In 10man, disc priests are often used as tank healers, in 25man seldom so. It might be that paladins, even shamans, will be less good tank healers in Cata and that way we disc priests are supposed to step into the role even more. I've only glanced on holy paladin/resto shaman changes, and eventhough resto shamans actually seem to have been changed quite alot from the chain heal spamming ways, holydins still seem to be the tankhealers of choice. In the end it depends on your raid setup probably - if you're the tank healer this is a great talent. If you're not, this is a bad way to spend 2 tp's. UPDATE 25/11: The most recent changes made to Grace is making it too powerful to ignore. Blizzard has finally realized that for us to want to take it, it must really make a difference. Fully stacked Grace will increase healing on one target by 24%. This is no small sum and I'd now recommend any disc priest - tank or raid healer alike, to take this.

    The offspec trees - remember we can only place 10 tp into holy and shadow

    • Divine Fury - Scorned by healing priests alike since Wrath came out, it seems to make a grand re-entrance as a really great healing-talent. For disc this will be a great talent if you intend to be one of those smite-healing priests (as I do) and have specced into Atonement.
    • Empowered Healing - increasing the healing done on several of your main heals seems like a good thing to do, plain and simple.
    • Improved Renew - Seeing as disc priests probably will have their hands full anyway, smiting, healing and shielding, I don't think renew will be anymore part of our standard healing arsenal in Cataclysm than it is today.
    • Desperate Prayer - It took me a while to notice, but Desperate Prayer now apparently requires shadowform. So nothing for us then. UPDATE 12/10: Seems like that typo finally is gone, and now Desperate Prayer is free for us to talent, if we want to. This is the big issue here. It is a great talent, but only if you use it. It has saved me alot of times, but I could also just practice more on Binding Heal (as disc you have a nice "instant"-heal with shields too already), especially since there are so many other nice talents that we'd want as well.
    • Surge of Light - Might not be a bad idea for a disc priest since we'll probably smite a whole lot. Or so I think anyway, I might be completely wrong! Hope not, I really want to be a pewpew priest.
    • Inspiration - This has always been one of priests (and shamans that have an equivalent talent) strongest talents. I'd like to think it still will be in Cataclysm and therefore good for a disc priest to have as well as a holy priest. Good enough to pick over other talents though? Not so sure.
    • Darkness - 3% haste could be awesome, or not so awesome. Borrowed Time gives 15% haste for one spell already, which means (just as today) that it won't give 15% spell haste straight off, but disc priests will be fairly satisfied with their amount of haste. On the other hand we've lost Enlightenment (6% haste), but it's also difficult to say if haste will be as an important stat in Cataclysm as it is today. I think not. UPDATE 11/10: Disc priests will want 25% haste (all in all). That probably means we won't need much more than what we get from gear and Borrowed Time.
    • Veiled Shadows - Already mentioned above.
    This build is somewhat outdated, look further down for an up to date suggestion on build.

    With all this in mind, my first talent spec try out for 4.0 disc healing would probably look something like the above;
    Note that this is for a level 85 char however, and that 5 tp would have to be subtracted for patch 4.0. This is from the 13066 build and can (and probably will) change before patch release. UPDATE 1/10: Most recent change has significantly nerfed Atonement (healing 80% of Smite damage instead of 120%) possibly making this talent not worth taking anymore. UPDATE 3/10: Yet another change to Atonement, now heals 100% of Smite damage. I'll just say we don't know how good this talent will be, and alot is still changing as we can see.
    UPDATE 25/11: With the buff to Grace, I'd go with this spec for level 80.

    Healing would then be combining Inner Focus heals with Greater Heals, Shields, Smite-heals and SoL procs.
    This means we'll Smite for Evangelism and SoL, use up our Archangel, start shielding and healing, and then go back to smiting. Something like that.

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    ICC Field Report - On Feral Cats, Body & Soul and Putricide HC

    Priest healer Zinn reporting from ICC! Putricide won't let us do the macarena anylonger...
    Time for another wrap up of my recent raiding shenanigans.

    Where are all the feral cats?
    Love is a very lonely cat. He has since he started out playing rarely got the opportunity to play with someone else as serious about feral cats as he is (which might be because he's kinda manic dedicated about it). No one in our guilds has ever mained a feral cat (and raided) so Love has always had to have his nerdrages and hobby theorycrafting to himself. Sure, he tries to involve me sometimes, but feral druids are one of the few specs I've really never given much time to get to know. In Vanilla, feral cats weren't even a real spec (just as boomkins weren't) and so he had to go healing most of the time. In BC we lacked decent tanks and so he focused on that part during that time. It's first in Wrath he's gotten the chance to really get into feral catting, and found himself very lonely in this position. Where are all the feral cats? That is the matter for another post however. We can now rejoice that Love has finally found his match as another, very good, feral cat recently joined our guild. Now Love has someone with whom to compete every fight and best of all, with whom he can analyze fights and catness afterwards. Someone who, just like Love, loves to whine about everything that is wrong about feral cats (and yet clings to the class for some reason), muses over what was, could be and will be. Finally my ears can rest...

    Wait, wasn't I supposed to head the green ball?
    Body & Soul again
    On another matter entirely I've respecced my holy spec into Body & Soul (among other things). I did mention it in some post some months ago, and I have always been divided in my stand on whether Body & Soul is a good talent or not. Well actually it is an awesome talent, but just as with Lightwell I was afraid it was so situational or difficult to use it might not ever get the possibility to shine. Only one way to find out, right? I specced it, along with Serendipity and removed some talents from Empowered Healing, since I rarely cast flash heals anyway (and never Greater Heal). Come to think of it I wonder why I spent talents into Serendipity? I did use it once before but removed because it didn't synch with my healing. I basically only use Flash heals when I get Surge of Light procs. The rest of the time I spend spamming renews, poms and coh. Getting a full stack of Serendipity wouldn't occur often and it would only be good for using Prayer of Healing, which I don't use that often either. Ok, I will have to go and fix that. Back to Body & Soul. The problem/good thing about it is that it requires perfect timing. I don't mind having to practice this, I'm just worried I won't even get the opportunity to get this into my backbone. Like I mentioned last time I rarely get to go holy as it is, but there are some fights where B&S is really useful. Like whoever is chased by the orange goo on Putricide HC for example. And the diseased one in the first phase of LK. And probably in many other fights too. I want to give it some proper testing!

    Speaking of Putricide, he's the main reason we've not had a shot at LK hc for a couple of weeks. We have one shotted Putricide on hc. In fact we had one evening where we oneshotted every hc fight in the instance (except Deathwhisper which we did on normal, and well LK of course). It therefor feels odd that you can go on a horrible wiping streak on the same boss just the week after. It takes its toll on raiding morale. People wonder of course what has changed. And we have had a couple of new recruits lately. They're definitely not bad players, but they do have to learn how this guild handles the fight, which always takes a couple of wipes generally. But people get grumpy when something is oneshotted the one day and then causes us to wipe for three hours the next day. Understandable. When I joined the guild Putricide was currently the progression boss to kill. He went down fairly fast after my joining (totally not coincidental) and we had little trouble with him the following few weeks. Instead we could focus on Sindragosa hc, which we then eventually downed too and we went on to LK hc. And suddenly boom! We get stuck on Putricide again! Damn that old fart.

    It is a tricky fight. Our troubles seem to revolve around two major issues, the handling of the disease and the killing of the oozes (which might sound kinda obvious, but it's always one of the two). Last time we did those parts perfectly though, but then we had trouble killing him fast enough in phase 3 instead. The debuff quickly goes up to doing 20-25k damage to everyone in the raid every other second, and the healers (namely me & Co) just can't handle that for very long. After all the Tranquilities and Divine Hymns have been used, we wipe. Last week we got him to 1%. A couple of times. And just yesterday to 0,4%. But we just have to go at it. Ganbatte us!

    To renew... or not to renew
    Recapping from last time -  did I notice any difference in the gain of 300 spellpower and what did I think of the renew glyph? Unfortunately I haven't got much possibility to use it. We haven't got to LK hc since my last post in this matter so I haven't been able to test myself against the other disc priest yet. I am mildly positive about the glyph however. I can't say I notice a huge difference, but I suppose a glyph won't be game breaking. Faster, bigger ticks are better of course, but only if you can meet two "ifs". It's better IF you can keep it on as many targets (or enough targets to still be useful) as before. Because it is a hot you really want it spread around. And it's better IF you have the mana to recast it all the time.
    So let's look at these two "ifs".

    Reducing uptime from 15 to 12 seconds does give 3 seconds less for me to cast it before I have to start recasting it. That means I have in reality about 1-2 less targets I can keep this up on. Will that make much of a difference? Again I have to use the evil word "depends". You're focusing your healing onto a lesser amount targets, whom will receive a little more of your healing love. Sometimes that is good, sometimes not so good, it depends alot on who else you're healing with and what you're healing. You'll still be able to keep renews on little less than half the raid at any given moment. But don't forget we want to use some gcds for Poms, cohs and Surge of Light procs too. In the end you might be able to keep renews on about 10 targets, at best. This won't differ much from what you'll be able to without the glyph.
    So did mana turn out to be a problem? In the few fights I got to try holy I didn't notice much of a difference here either (that was Putricide normal, Sindragosa normal and LK normal). Mana wasn't more or less of a problem than it always is when you're holy (not a huge problem as with shamans, but definitely not non-ooming like druids or disc priests).

    So what kind of conclusion can I give about this glyph? If you're healing content where continous, huge amounts of raid damage is a problem, this is a great glyph. For heroics or normal raids, where massive aoe damage is less of a problem, this glyph might be less necessary. The alternatives are Glyph of Prayer of Healing or Glyph of Flash Heal. One doesn't use Prayer of Healing that much even when it's healing intense (because of its mechanics in only healing the targetted players group), so I'd probably go with Glyph of Flash Heal in that case. I'm actually thinking Holy Nova might be a better heal than Prayer of Healing... Must look into this as well.

    Stay tuned for more raiding updates!

    PS. I got Love to roll a warrior tank, and he completely loves it. He's a sucker for the whole 1-man army thing, which is why he mains a druid I think.

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    How to! Priest Heal - Lowbie Discipline (WOTLK)

    In these times, more and more people are deciding to level up alts. Here's one little guide on how to go about leveling your discipline priest!

    So you've decided to level as a healing priest? If you also intend to do so partially by questing; congratulations, you've chosen what probably is the most tedious class/spec to quest with. I thought I'd make a little write up on how to gear, glyph, spec and heal with your lowbie healing priest, starting out today with Discipline and moving on to Holy another day (maybe tomorrow if nothing else comes in the way). Note that this is focusing on healing while leveling and will differ to what's optimal in endgame.

    What is disc all about then?
    A brief introduction to what you're about to experience could be a good start. I love priest healing, I have done it for the last 4 years (ish) and I'm still not bored one bit. Whenever a new expansion comes and I have to level my main I've so far always leveled her has a holy smiter (I'll get into this spec in my post about holy healing). On the other hand I've never ever leveled another priest beyond level 70. Considering I am an altaholic this is extraordinary. I have tried, a couple of times, both as shadow or as the aforementioned smiter, but I must tell you - lowbie priest questing can be really boring. Why is this?

    Although Blizzard have made considerable changes to the mana using classes, they still have alot of issues. Paladins and hunters (hunter will soon get rid of their mana anyway) have mana problems too, but since they do alot of physical damage they're not completely left in the shit when they oom. Warlocks can convert health into mana, and even though life tap sucks pretty badly it's better than not having it (at least I think so). Also, warlocks have their pet who can continue doing damage (and usually also tanks them) even when they themselves have gone oom. Mages have huge mana issues at low levels, but they get Evocation at level 20 which at least is some help. Priests on the other hand, and especially healing priests, have nothing to help them with their mana issues until they get their Shadowfiend at level 66 (!). There are some talents that help you out somewhat, and I'll get to that soon, but overall mana is a real issue for a questing healing specced priest. The only ones who come close in mana in-efficiency are boomkins/resto druids who get their Innervate at level 40. I might've scared you off for good now, and maybe you really should consider leveling your priest as shadow instead (at least to level 40, then you can dual spec). But like I said, there is a reason I main a priest healer and if you really want to get to know everything about it, the best thing is to start as soon as possible.

    So discipline, what's that all about? What makes discipline so interesting is their unique way of healing with damage absorbtion as main healing style instead of the regular "heal once the damage is done" healing style of all the other heal classes. As a discipline healer you can heal ahead of the damage, something no other healer can do. This is your trump card and in many ways it makes discipline healing alot easier than the other classes. The drawback of course is that it also can make discipline healing more boring. Blizzard have tried to not make discipline a shield spammer, but in the end this is how disc priests turned out. In endgame healing there are some fights where you don't do anything else than spam shields, and in most fights this will definitely be your core healing. Fortunately for me, I find endgame raiding challenging and intense in other ways (keeping track of game mechanics for example) which means that even if discipline healing can be repetative, it's still an interesting challenge to get it done right. I also have high hopes that Blizzard have made some changes to this healing style in Cataclysm!

    In lowbie instances however, this healing style quickly becomes drably. Yet again though, it's a matter of taste - if you like neat and easy this is perfect. If you prefer to have more tools to work with, this will become tiresome.

    For questing Discipline has several good talents that make things a little easier. First of all - the shield! Yeah, it will be one of your most important spells when you're questing as well. With a talent like Reflective Shield, shielding yourself will be part of your dpsing rotation. Discipline lacks some of the talents in holy that make you do more damage and give quicker casts with Smite, but instead you get talents that increase your mana regeneration and overall haste (which in the end are better since they affect all skills.)At level 40 you'll get Power Infusion which is great for both healing and questing. Your dps rotation won't differ at all from holy, and I doubt there is much difference in killing effectiviness. One thing disc can do slightly better than holy (but still not as good as most other casters) is killing several mobs at once. Since you'll have a powerful shield which also does damage, it'll be easier to fight several mobs. I usually don't use dots unless I am fighting several mobs, and as a healer specced priest you usually won't want to aggro that many.

    Your dps rotation will be really simple and look something like this;
    Shield - Holy Fire - Smite, Smite - Holy Fire as soon as it is off cooldown - Smite whenever Holy Fire is on cooldown - Wand mob to death the final percentages, or use Shadow Word:Death as a finisher (which you won't get until level 62 though).

    Healing in instances will as mentioned focus on using shields. On lower levels Renew will still be a good spell (even if you haven't put any talents into improving it) and can be used as a filler. Otherwise you'll use Lesser Heal/Heal/Greater Heal whenever someone is taking alot of damage (this shouldn't happen all too often) and Flash Heal if you just want to top someone. Shielding isn't useful on targets that don't take continous damage, so if for instance the warlock is life tapping it would be better to throw some sort of heal on him.

    • Shield - Anyone who is taking damage
    • Lesser Heal/Heal/Greater Heal - Anyone who is taking more damage than your shields can handle or to top someone off who has lost alot of hp but who isn't currently taking damage.
    • Flash Heal - Same as Lesser Heal/Heal/Greater Heal, less mana efficient but faster.
    • Renew - To top off someone who has lost a little hp.
    • Prayer of Mending - Once you get this it'll be one of your best heals. Only jumping once it's about as mana effective as a Flash Heal.

    Gear & Stats
    Gearing a disc priest is really easy. As you might have figured out - at lower levels you'll want intellect mostly, and all the spellpower you can come across. Even in endgame these are your two most important stats. At lower levels spirit is an ok stat, and not something you have to avoid, unlike in endgame. Spirit doesn't do much for you as a disc priest, but is a decent stat for any lowbie caster.

    Important stats (in no particular order, because at low levels you'll want these equally much, at endgame spellpower is more important).
    • Intellect
    • Spellpower

    Ok stats
    • Crit
    • Spirit (only when lowbie)
    • Stamina (as always, it's good to be able to survive a blow or two, especially when leveling).
    • Haste

    The ones you should take
    • Twin Disciplines - isn't an awesome talent, but still better than the alternative, Unbreakable Will. Although reduced duration on stuns, fears and silence is good, it's only useful when you're stunned, feared or silenced. You won't be this much in regular instances. Straight buff to all your instant spells is pretty decent. That would be your dots, shields, renew and Prayer of Mending once you get that (at level 68).
    • Improved Power Word:Fortitude - PWF is one of your best buffs, so improving it is very good.
    • Improved Inner Fire - Inner Fire isn't awesome until it provides you with spellpower (rank 8 at level 71), especially not when doing instances where you shouldn't be hit. When questing it does lower your physical damage by quite some, so it's nice to increase the amount of charges on it (charges will be removed in Cataclysm, thank god). If you don't intend to do any questing at all, you might have more use of putting those two talent points into Unbreakable Will (but that means you would have to respec at level 71).
    • Meditation - Increased mana regeneration will be your best friend. You need every drop of mana you can get.
    • Improved Power Word:Shield - You're going to be a shield spammer, so you would want to make your shields as good as possible, this talent is part of that and also prerequisite for one of the most important talents as a disc priest - Soul Warding.
    • Mental Agility - Reduces the mana cost on your shields (and renew and dots, see Twin Disciplines), which will synch very well with Rapture later on.
    • Reflective Shield - You won't use this as endgame healer, but it's awesome when leveling. I really recommend getting this. If you don't intend to quest at all it might still actually be good, because in lowbie instances these kind of crazy tools actually make a difference.
    • Mental Strength - Yet another talent that will synch with Rapture, and also Divine Aegis. The more intellect you have the more gain you get from skills like Replenish (which you don't have personally, but someone in your party might). High intellect is one of the discipline priests trademarks (more intellect = more crit and more regen).
    • Soul Warding - Speaking of trademarks, this is it. This talent is the key talent that will allow you to be a shield spammer, so a definite must have.
    • Focused Power - Yet another talent that increases your damage and healing straight off, which is nice. The reduces mana cost on Mass Dispel isn't useful for you now, but will be later on when raiding.
    • Enlightenment - With this talent and Borrowed Time later on you won't need much more haste as a disc priest. The spirit is just a meaningless bonus :P
    • Power Infusion - Whether you use it on yourself or someone in your group, this is a personalized Bloodlust (with reduced mana cost on spells as a really nice bonus) and an awesome buff. The cooldown isn't too long so this is a great tool to use when you need to push alot of healing.
    • Renewed Hope - More crit synchs with Divine Aegis which is one of your most important talents. The reduced party damage is really nice too, there is alot of "healing" in that.
    • Rapture - One of the most important talents a disc priest can have. If used correctly this can return insane amounts of mana (that is under very special conditions though). when you cross a certain amount of intellect, Rapture procs will actually return more mana than your shields cost to cast (unfortunately they have a cooldown to it now, it didn't use to have that!).
    • Aspiration - Reduces the cooldown on some of your more important skills, and you want that of course.
    • Divine Aegis - Combined with the shield, Divine Aegis will eventually turn into one of the biggest part of your healing. And it is passive in that it is applied when you crit (even Glyph of Power Word:Shield crits) with a spell. The more crit you have the better!
    • Pain supression - The disc priest "oh shit" tool. Even though it reduces threat on the target by a small amount (for some reason) it is most often used on tanks (in pve that is).
    • Grace - When doing instances you'll mostly heal the tank and the occasional life tapping warlock. For this Grace is a great talent. Actually Grace only becomes less useful when 25man raiding, since you rarely get the role as the tank healer then.
    • Borrowed Time - Yet another butter and bread talent of disc priesting. Improves your shields, and by giving tons of haste when shielding it also improves all of your other spells.
    • Penance - Eventhough alot of people think this spell is what being a disc is all about, it's not used that much when healing actually. When doing instances it's probably used alot more than when raid healing, but there is no denying that Penance is an awesome heal. Even with low haste it's a really fast and big heal, and that's always useful.
    • Holy Specialization - Synchs with Inspiration and Divine Aegis.
    • Divine Fury - You won't use this in endgame. If you're questing it's great since it reduces cast time on your two most important dps spells. If you're not questing you should go with Spell Warding instead.
    • Inspiration - A great talent, because it reduces physical damage taken of your targets who've gotten a critted heal from you considerably. Unfortunately, Inspiration does not proc from Glyph of Shadow Word:Shield crits. By the time you're high enough level to take this however you'll probably be doing more than just shielding in instances.

    The ones you could take - these talents are more of a matter of taste and depends a little on how you play.
    • Inner Focus - A talent that becomes more useful later on. You probably won't use this much on lower levels. Most priests actually don't spec this at all, but I like it in combination with Divine Hymn (which is crazily expensive otherwise). But since you don't get Divine Hymn until level 80 you probably won't find much use for this talent.
    • Improved Mana Burn - Quite useless for instance healing, but rather useful if you intend to quest alot (and even more useful if you intend to ocassionally pvp).
    • Focused Will - Most endgame priest spec this because it increases crit with 3%, and hopefully you have realized by now that crit is a really good stat for disc priests! But as a lowbie you could place these talents somewhere else for now.
    • Improved Renew - You won't use Renew at all in endgame, but when doing instances it's quite useful, as mentioned above. Therefore you might want to improve it.
    • Healing Focus - Pushback can be really troublesome, and this is a talent I recommend you to take, especially later on when aoe damage becomes more and more common.
    • Desperate Prayer - Many priests don't spec this, but I find it to be a great tool for survival. It's instant and it's a big heal, so it's like a personalized Nature's Swiftness+Healing Touch/Healing Wave macro! It has saved me -many- times when raiding, and I think it could be very useful when questing, or even instancing. You never know when you want a big instant heal on yourself.

    • Glyph of Power Word:Shield - If you're taking any glyph, this should be it. It should be the first glyph you take.
    • Glyph of Flash Heal - Makes the use of Flash Heal a little less costly.
    • Glyph of Smite - If you intend to focus more on questing than instancing (which would be silly, since that sucks ;)), this is a nice glyph to make dpsing a little easier.
    • Glyph of Penance - A must have glyph of any disc priest, since it improves one of your best spells.
    • Glyph of Fortitude - Since you'll be casting alot of this spell, and it's rather expensive, this is a nice glyph to cut the cost somewhat. That way you won't stand oom when the tank does the first pulls.
    • Glyph of Shadowfiend - Once you get this bugger, this glyph to improve him somewhat is nice.
    • Glyph of Levitate - Removes the reagent cost from Levitate, which means you don't have to schlepp a bunch of Light Feathers around. And don't have to worry about accidentally being without one when you're falling towards the ground in 100 km/h.
    So good luck with your priest healer, one of the most interesting and fun healers and roles you can play!

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    Some instances just bring out the worst in me

    Since I do quite alot of randoms, sometimes I focus on lowbie instances and sometimes on heroics, I often get the feeling that some instances seem to promote bad behavior or bad playing more than others. I seem to get stuck with bad groups more often in some particular instances! Groups in which players don't seem to know what to do, wipe the group or just generally act like poosticks. It made me realize that there are some factors, qualities of an instance if you like, that contribute to these kind of problems arising.

    First I thought - "ok, which are the instances I dislike the most?". I came up with WC, GR, BRD, LBRS, Oculus and PoS (I can imagine Scholo and Strat would suck pretty badly to do with a random pug, but I haven't been that unlucky fortunately). What do they have incommon? Quite alot it turns out.

    Size matters
    The most important factor to whether an instance is going to turn out good or bad is probably the length of the instance. For really short instances like SM GY (most of the SM instances actually), AN, VH, even Ramparts, things can go wrong as well, but since everyone knows they're close to the end they usually stick it out. And the shorter the instance the less things can go wrong. You're simply fighting less mobs and have to deal with less situations so this is completely logical. For the insanely long instances like WC and BRD, not only can alot of things go wrong, but people usually don't have the time or inclination to stay for the whole length. This means you'll repeatedly have to wait for replacements, which doesn't exactly promote a good mood.

    The longer an instance is, the more likely it to be like a fricking maze. That means you might get lost, which will only make the instance take even longer and further increasing the chance of drop-outs. And if someone happens to die he might never find the way back. Which means you have to spend time guiding the lost player around, which in the end probably will turn out fruitless because he'll get so frustrated he leaves instead (or someone else in your group will). They really should implement a "teleport to instance guide" or even better "teleport to corpse" button. Because we all know the dungeon guide rarely knows his way around himself.

    Umm, what do I do here?
    Some instances, albeit relatively short, just rarely turn out well because they require more than the average performance from the group. Oculus is a good example of such an instance. It's not too long, and you can easily finish it in under 15 minutes. Well maybe not easily, and here is the problem. These instances often require the player to do something else than spam that aoe-button of theirs, and therefore makes it more likely that someone will screw up. In an instance like Oculus, one persons slip up could wipe the entire party, and unfortunately this happens more often than I find comfortable. It seems like because people are suddenly riding on a dragon instead of running on their own feet (paws, hooves) they totally forget about essential stuff like not aggroing random mobs when running around. And if one of your party members don't know how to use their dragon against Eregos, the entire party might die. The more people who have to take responsibility for the success of the group, the higher the chances the group will fail.

    The perfect example is the difference between HoR and PoS. HoR is generally seen as the tougher instance. For some, namely the tank and healer, this instance is really difficult indeed. It does however hold very few surprises. It would make things easier if all the dps used utility tools like traps, fears and stuns but my experience say they'll very rarely do this. And it's not needed. You can't overpull in HoR and the tank and healer always know what they will have to handle from one second to the next.
    PoS on the other hand offers plenty of opportunity for overpulls and people to wipe the group. I think since I started doing PoS I've always had someone pull the patrol in the beginning of the instance, for example. There is always someone in the group who forgets he is standing in the path of a patrol, or simply doesn't know. If people don't reset their stacks on Garfrost they'll most likely die, no matter how good the tank or healer happens to be. If someone accidentally pulls one extra group from those horrible packs of mobs just after Ick, it's almost surely a wipe. If someone doesn't stop dpsing when they're marked on Tyrannus, they might kill the tank. These are several factors (of which most have happened to me plenty of times) that contribute to making PoS more difficult than HoR. In HoR you can only fail if the tank doesn't tank, if the dps doesn't dps and if the healer doesn't heal. And that doesn't happen too often fortunately. Because HoR is so linear, it gives little room for mistakes. Giving people choices is what kills us.

    Just imagine what would happen if you could be randomly pugged into instances like Magister's Terrace, where every pull has to be carefully orchestrated and crowd controlled? In wrath, and outside of pvp, when was the last time someone had to touch their cc button? The horror.

    Actually I think the linearity of an instance is the key component to make it easy or difficult. The more surprise factors (aka overpull areas, standing in this shit will kill you), or choices (aka ways to go), the instances offers, the likelier something will screw up. This might sound obvious, but the problem seems to be that the difficulty level rises like the Richter scale. An instance with 3 surprise/choice factors is ten times more difficult than an instance with 2.

    Sit back and relax, with a nice cup of tea (I really like japanese lime)

    The next time you end up in an instance like one of the above, take a quick glance on your watch and your "patience-gauge". If you have enough time (for some of these instances at least an hour) and the patience to go through with it, it can be rewarding. I've done these instances with awesome groups, it's just very uncommon. If you don't have the patience and/or time, tell the group right away - "guys, let's do until X, but then I'll have to go". That way you and the rest of the group have a clear goal and won't waste time running around trying to figure out what to do, this is especially true for the endless instances BRD and BRS.

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Tron (1982)

    A while ago (because this is one of them posts I've been meaning to post for some time now) I saw the movie Tron. The original from 1982 mind you. I didn't actually know they're doing a remake until after I had seen the original one and went to rate it on I'm not sure what hooked my interest on Tron in the first place. Maybe because it was Disney's second ever shot at doing a non-cartoon movie, and since I had enjoyed the first one (The Black Hole) I thought I might enjoy this one as well. It also sports a young Jeff Bridges (mostly known as The Dude from The Big Lebowski), as the main character Flynn/Clu.

    There are many things about Tron that are really captivating and interesting. First of all the esthetics are completely awesome. The movie is played out in the "real" world and the "computer" world. The computer world could most easily be described as what a rave party would look like if it ever had a Vector Graphics theme. For computer nerds this is a gold mine in old computers and computing. Even though my family didn't own a computer until the late 90's and I hadn't seen much of them before that, I still love the whole design of the movie. You've got neon-lights everywhere and the costumes are just... undescribable. It's so 80's! The computer animations are awesome (seriously) and because of the technique used, timeless.

    Secondly, and here be spoiler, Tron is what the child between Matrix and Terminator would be if they could have children (freaky mental pictures). The whole story revolves around the idea of a program gaining consciousness and plotting to take over the world. So far it's like Terminator. The difference is that it works in the world of the programs and can suck regular humans into this program. Clu get sucked into this computer world where he realizes he has special powers since he's not just an ordinary program like all the others. In that sense it really smells like Matrix. In fact the story of Tron made me do some thinking on the whole "oh no computers are taking over the world, we're doomed" theme that was so popular during the 80's and early 90's. When computers and the use of internet became increasingly popular, people were worried on the side effects. Today we talk about addiction, back then people talked about whether technology would take over our lives in another sense. It's interesting to see this technology optimism, because that's what it is really, but displayed in this apocalyptic manner. Technology is going so fast ahead that we won't know how to handle it in the end. A simple computer malfunction, or even worse, programs becoming self-conscious would leave man completely without possibility to defend themselves. We're putting our lives into these machines dude! What will happen if they start using it against us?

    And in Matrix/Terminator style it also tells us that since programs are the creation of man, man will ultimately have the power to subdue program. But not without a cost!

    The view on the doom technology can bring on humanity has shifted somewhat since the climax that was Matrix. Now we've got movies telling us what could happen if we let people get too much power over programs. In movies like "Surrogates" with Bruce Willis and "The Game" with Gerard Butler (both awful movies btw, don't see them) we got humans hurting humans through technology instead. Gone is the idea of technology becoming self-aware, apparently.

    The hopes for what this new computer technology could bring us was high in the beginning of the 80's (in the late 70's we were still stuck on what space exploration could bring us (Alien, The Black Hole)). And since happy, everything-will-turn-out-just-great movies wouldn't do well in the theatres, that optimism had to be turn into action in the way of technology-apocalypse. I want to think Tron was one of the first movies in this genre. It flopped greatly (the game outgrossed the movie though) and Disney apparently didn't do another non-cartoon for another 10 years after that. But it's genre-defining, and that alone makes it worth seeing.

    And now we're getting a remake. Suppose they couldn't let a gem like this lying for long now that we've already had Karate Kid and A-Team (to just mention a few) remade. What other 80's movie would you like to see redone?

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Couldn't we just devaluate our stats?

    I remember back in Vanilla when 200 spellpower was considered awesome, epics where actually epic and a really good tank had nearly 10k hp. 10k was the magic number. If you could get that much you probably were among the best geared tanks on the server. I remember when BC came and Love bought a green staff for like 100g because it had so much stats on it. More stats than anyone had seen on any one item before. And stamina jumped from the average 5k to 13k. I remember that you had to have around 15k as a caster to survive Malacrass in Zul'aman. A really good bear tank could have crazy 30k in hp.

    My numbers could be off (and probably are). In fact considering how much stats have jumped over the last expansions, I find it hard to believe that 10k on a tank once used to be insanely high. The point is though that today 80k is considered a good endgame tank hp pool, 8 times the amount we had back in vanilla. An endgame caster should have close to 4k spellpower. I remember how much I struggled to get up to 2k back in BC and more than a 100 was considered very good back in Vanilla.

    The funny thing is, this cycle of improvement is completely imaginary. I don't kill an endgame boss 10 times faster today than I did back in vanilla. I kill the old vanilla bosses 10 times faster sure, but as we have grown stronger, so has everything around us. So do we really need all these stats? Eventhough I might have a really nice gear on my main by now, I will have a hard time against the regular mobs when Cataclysm comes. If I have understood beta-testers correctly, pulling too many mobs when questing will become very troublesome, and your cool ICC gear will be replaced with greens in the first couple of levels. Just as back in BC and Wrath, the greens will have better stats than your epic ICC gear.

    But if everything around us becomes better along with us, why do we even bother? I mean why can't we just stay where we are? Our stats are only for show anyway. What can we expect to have in Cataclysm? 10k spellpower? 100k hp on a caster? It might sound ridiculous now, but I'm quite sure these are numbers we'll be working with soon. Will it make us twice as good as we are now? No. Theoretically yes, but practically no, since we'll be fighting content twice as difficult. And the funny thing is, eventhough the feeling of improvement is imaginary, we still seem to think that we need it. It doesn't matter if all the mobs around me become better and better along with me, what I really need is the kick of adding those extra stats to my character, although those stats don't actually change anything. Cataclysm will have my character just as good/bad compared to the npcs as all the other expansions have. In fact we're rebooting ourselves. Come Cataclysm even those with über ICC gear will have to start out fresh again and start dressing up in greens, struggling in instances and become overjoyed when some "cool" blue item drops. Doing the first raids and getting that first really good epic item, until we're all epic geared again and start replacing epic items with epic items and... Wrath and BC all over again.

    I don't mind doing all these things all over again. It got me hooked once and it will keep me hooked again. But is stats really the most important aspect of a new expansion? Aren't more of us actually looking forward to new talents, skills and ways of playing our class?

    What would happen if Blizzard actually put our stats back to Vanilla?

    It's basically what they're doing with each new expansion anyway, so would it be so horrible if Blizzard said that to cut some zeros of our stats, they've simply devaluated all stats to the value of one tenth. 4000 spellpower would be 400, but equally good. Do we really need all those zeros? I'd love it if Blizzard could invent some system that didn't just increase all the time, but that was static. In some way. Once upon a time they had to revamp the usage of percentages into rating, because  percentages could be capped too easily. Percentages couldn't handle the constant increase of stats that was inevitable. Rating is a good solution, because it fools us into believing we're constantly getting better without making us improve at all. 10 hit rating at level 1 is like 50% hit. At level 80 it's like 0,5% hit (just rough numbers as an example). So even if we got 50 more hit rating on our way to level 80, we'd actually have less hit than we did on level 1. I'm not saying Blizzard is eviler than Skeletor in "fooling" us this way. They're just giving us what we want. But again, do we really need it?

    One might think "well what does it matter anyway?". Nothing of course. If the stats are equally valuable, no matter the actual number, it doesn't actually matter. But where will it end? Come expansion number 16 and we have one million hp? Why not just reset it with each expansion?

    There is one problem though, what to do with the midlevel gear? If we put our stats back to level 60 it would make level 60 gear really good right? And level 80 gear completely awesome? What if gear worked like inverted BoA - the further away from it's required level you are, the less stats it gives. That means only the gear with the right level requirement for you will be really good. So level 60 gear will be really good, but only around those levels and then you have to switch it. Yeah I clearly haven't thought this trough the whole way as you notice ^^ I don't have all the solutions! Just the whine ;)

    It is clear we need something to differentiate good gear from bad gear. And some sense of individual progression is obviously a really important part of mmorpgs. Maybe numbers really is the only way to make that in an easy to understand way. 10 strength is better than 5 strength (or in WoW rather; epic color is better than blue color). Easy maths. And now Blizzard are trying the new "Mastery Rating" which works differently for all classes and therefor can be used on any kind of gear. Yet again they're trying to consolidate stats by making them more available to as many classes as possible. This also makes it alot easier for them to itemize gear. In BC we had separate spellpower types between healers and casters which then turned into one spellpower type for all casters, and this is just one example of many. But the problem of the ever increasing stat seems to be difficult to get away from. So why not just cut our stats back to Vanilla! We're going there anyway, might as well go "Cataclysm" all over our character sheets too.

    Wouldn't you love to log into WoW and find you characters in stats as if they were level 60?

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Did you get your Venomhide Mount yet?

    Hello you!

    When leveling my shaman I stumbled upon a really fun and interesting quest chain, or rather chain of daily quests - the quest to get the Venomhide Raptor Mount in Un'goro. I knew it existed, somewhere in the back of my head, but since I am no collector (unless you count collecting alts) I had just filed it away under information I wasn't really going to need or use. I actually tend to avoid Un'goro when questing all together, mostly because the quests require you to completely cram your bags full with quest items so that you can't go and do anything else (instances, quest in other areas) until you're absolutely done in Un'goro. But I generally like the area. It has a nice feel to it, and I don't even hate the Devilsaurs as much anymore. I don't know if Blizzard has done something to them, but I am sure that when I used to quest in Un'goro those huge bastards were following me around (just as the Fel Reavers in Hellfire Peninsula). Lately I've had no trouble with them (I still hate the Fel Reavers though).

    So back to the Venomhide Mount. I might as well go and say this at once, before any of you alliance playing readers send me hate mail for having you run all the way to Un'goro for nothing - the quest (and mount) is horde specific. It was implemented in the game as a counterpart to the alliance quest for the Winterspring Saber that has been around since Vanilla days. Unfortunately for you alliance, that quest was designed when Blizzard still didn't know much about how to make interesting and fun quests and so it requires a whole lot of tedious grinding. So does the Venomhide Raptor quest in a sense, so what are the differences?

    The biggest problem with the alliance quest chain is probably that you need exalted (yes you read that correctly) with the Wintersaber Trainers in Winterspring to take it. Becoming exalted with this faction requires weeks of extremely boring grinding of mobs in Winterspring. You don't need any kind of rep with any faction to start the horde-quest however, Mor'vek the quest giver stands by the entrance of Un'goro ready to give anyone of level 48 and above the first quest (and all subsequent ones too).

    I asked Love if he had done this quest, since he actually is a collector of mounts. He has done about 50 runs to Sethekk Halls for the Raven Lord Mount (and got it the other day, I was just thinking he might go crazy in his efforts to get that bird...). To my suprise, he hadn't done this quest. I asked him why and he told me it was just too horrible. As I so far completely love this quest, and I'm the one who usually hate to do dailies (I never ever do them unless I really have to) except the fishing daily, I asked him what he didn't like about it.

    The first part of the quest chain is to obtain blood from different venomhides in the area. As a level 50 ish shaman, getting this blood was extremely easy. Killing the mobs took some 15 seconds or so, and I usually got 2-3 splashes of blood on myself per mob. The quest took some 5 minutes to get done, tops. Love on the other hand had tried this on his main - a level 80 druid. To get any splashes of these raptors you will have to keep them from dying long enough to splash you with some blood. Not an easy task for a level 80, even when naked. Love had struggled to get some splashes, it had taken him far longer than 5 minutes and in the end he gave up since he thought that if this was the repeated daily quest he had to do for the next coming 20 days, he wouldn't bother.

    Fortunately for him, I knew that he was wrong (this is very often the case actually). Getting those splashes of blood is just a one time quest to get your very own little Venomhide Hatchling. And now we're getting to why this quest is completely awesome. You're going to raise your own mount. Blizzard has actually managed to make a quest where I as a player feel a connection with the quest. After some start up quests you're handed a little Baby Venomhide, whom you have to raise over 20 days until he's big enough (and trusts you enough) to be ridden. The daily quests are ordinary enough and primarily focus on feeding the little thing, but since you engaged in taking care of that cute little thing, staring up at your with huge raptor eyes, you gladly do them.

    I find myself actually looking forward to doing this daily quest each day!

    The quests are done in Un'goro and Tanaris, and that is also the only areas you can summon your Baby Raptor (and Silithus for some reason). The mount can of course be used anywhere regular mounts can be used. As far as I know there are four different quests, of which I have done three so far and they all take about 2-5 minutes each. The real trouble is getting to Tanaris/Un'goro every day, but not even that is much of a hassle since you can take the teleport in the Violet Citadel that takes you directly to Tanaris. Or you can take the teleport in Scholazar Basin that takes you directly to Un'goro.

    If you want something to do for a couple of weeks before Cataclysm, I can't recommend this quest chain enough. To quote Signalfirefly from
    "If you're not in love with it by the time it's all grown up... well, I'm afraid there's just no hope for you."

    Hmm, did you grow?

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Top 5 WoW-Myths

    Every game have them - the myths. Things no one is really sure about, whether it's that way or the other. Since I first started playing WoW there has been a couple of things where I thought "wait a minute, is this really how it works?". Or in other cases I've just assumed something until someone told me otherwise and I was completely shocked that I had thought wrong all this time. It is time for my top 5 WoW-Myths, maybe we can clear out some of those misconceptions flowing around in the game.

    5. You can bandage other people in combat
    The interesting thing about this myth is that it isn't a myth. Of course you can bandage other people in combat, just as you can bandage yourself in combat. Some people have misunderstood this however and think that you can bandage someone while they're being hit, in combat. Quite the difference. A reason this myth has prevailed is because people think bandaging is interrupted when whoever is bandaging becomes hit, that's not how it works though. It's very easy to test. I wasn't sure about this one so I simply asked Love to go fight some mob while I tried to bandage him. And sure thing, it got interrupted as soon as he was hit. An easy to refute myth, but it still lingers on and makes it to place number 5 in my list.

    4. Fall damage is a fixed amount
    Yet again, not entirely untrue. Fall damage is a fixed  amount, but not by hp, but by percent. A level 80 takes as much percentual damage (and has the same chance to die from a fall) as a level 1 falling the same distance. This too is rather easily tested. The funny thing about this is that I sometimes think I'll actually take less damage on my lowbies than my highbies, because my highbies feel heavier with all that fancy gear on ^^

    3. Plate wearers pay more repairs than cloth wearers
    Understanding why people think this is true is easy, this actually used to be true. It was changed a long time ago however so I am always amazed that people still think this is true. I think they removed the differences in repair costs between different armor classes already in BC and yet today I can hear people say things like "sucks more to wipe when you're a tank, you casters don't have to pay as much repairs".

    But are they really all wrong? Taking a closer look into the matter show they might not be. It is true that Blizzard have made it so that 1 dur on a plate item costs as much as 1 dur on a cloth item (and the other armor profficiencies too of course). The dur cost increases with the items ilevel, which means that it costs more to repair an item of ilevel 264 than 226, for example. But it doesn't end there. Plate items cost the same to repair theoretically. But plate items have alot more durability than cloth of the same ilevel. Between t10,5 (five items of ilvl 264) for warriors and priest it differs a total 210 dur (540 vs 330). And since you take a percentual loss of dur from your items when you die (10%), a plate wearer would loose a total of more dur than a cloth wearer which ends up in him actually having to pay more repairs per wipe than the clothie!

    Back in Vanilla the differences in repair costs between clothies and plate users differed significantly, so what kind of sums are we looking at today? One durability on an ilvl 264 item costs 11 silver and 58 copper if neutral and 9 silver and 26 copper if exalted, to repair. Repairing the five items of t10,5 for a plate user would cost 21 more dur than the same set for a clothie. 21*11,58 = 2g 43s 18c. That is 2g 43s 18c more per wipe, which isn't a small sum if you consider you could easily die 10-20 times in one single progress run (and that's just counting 5 items).

    I wasn't able to determine whether a plate user, and especially a tank, takes more dur loss during a regular fight than a clothie. One might think that should be the case since the tank is being hit by an evil monster, while the healers/dpsers usually standing in some corner not being hit by an evil monster. That is for another post to determine! A tricky myth that isn't completely untrue makes it to place number 3.

    2. You regen mana and hp faster when sitting down
    I heard about this just a few months into my WoW-gaming. My brother told me "you know you regen faster if you sit down than if you stand up?". "Really?" I said, and I have been thinking about it ever since, too lazy to find out. Well it's time to make sure!

    One could just look at the character screen to see if the mp5 numbers change from standing and sitting down, but that would be too easy.
    I made a really simple test with my mage, who has about 498 mp5. First I timed her going from 0% to 10% mana while standing and then 0% to 10% mana while sitting. The difference was 0,2 seconds, which I think simply is a difference in reaction from me. So we can probably say that this is a myth and there is no difference in regen whether you stand or sit down. I am also quite sure this has never been the case.

    So where does this myth come from? I can think of two things.
    First of all, you have to sit down to eat. Maybe early players didn't know people who sat down were eating, but noticed they regened alot faster than themselves and somehow came to the conclusion that it was the sitting down itself that made the regen go faster.
    The other thing could be that if you stand up for a couple of seconds and then sit down, regen actually will go faster when sitting down since it takes 5 seconds for the 5 second rule regen to get started. This might've made people think that regening goes faster when sitting eventhough it would've gone just as fast had they continued standing.

    1. There is a Cow level
    Well there is if you count Mulgore! The Cow level is one of the oldest myths, and probably the only one that no one believes in anymore except the really fanatical Blizzard fanboys. "I am sure they've hidden it somewhere and one day I'll be the one who finds it!". The Cow level was a very real thing in Diablo 2, a sort of secret area found only if combining Wirts leg with a Tome of Town Portal in the Horadric Cube. The existance of Wirth's Third Leg in WoW is probably what started the rumours. What if you combined this item with some X item in your inventory and stood on a mountain doing /dance?

    When I started out playing there were alot of rumours going about where the Cow level could be, and I remember mages tried to blink their way through different areas to find it hidden behind walls or under the ground. One persistent rumor was that the Cow-Level existed behind the wall in Silverpine Forest, what is now known as Gilneas and a soon playable area. Others travelled to areas of the map not yet "implemented" in the game. The areas are there but they're completely empty. So far no one has been succesful in finding the Cow level, but there is of course no way of refuting something that doesn't exist. You can just say that it's out there, but no one has found it yet. Even if Blizzard went out and said that it didn't exist the really dedicated wouldn't believe them. That is how conspiracy theories work after all. And that's why the Cow level makes number 1 on my list!

    Can you think of any more wow-myths? Or other common misconceptions that have turned into "common knowledge"?