Sunday, October 31, 2010

4.0 How to! Warrior tank at level 15

Welcome fellow prot warriors to my guide on how to get started with your tanking at level 15. This guide will focus on information for a warrior who has just dinged 15 and wants an easy way to know how to go about tanking. Alot has changed with patch 4.0, but if this is your first warrior that's nothing you have to worry about. If you've played prot warrior before and just want to read up on the lowbie changes I can say that all in all the experience is about the same! I've adapted my old lowbie guide, which means I've copied the parts that still are up to date, and rewritten the parts that weren't. If you check my old guide out you might therefore find parts that are similar. That's probably a good thing because that means warriors didn't change entirely. If you're curious about how tanking worked pre-patch I recommend you go check it out! This guide however is for 4.0/Cataclysm lowbie tanking.

If you're interested in warrior tanking overall in 4.0/Cataclysm, you could check out my more extensive guide on the matter here.

First of all... prot? Can you even really level as prot or is that just for crazy people like me? There was a time when I would say; no, for the love of God, don't level as prot. But things have changed. Blizzard realized that some specs were just too bad to be viable options for leveling and questing and did some changes. More notably of course the regen changes they've done to caster classes, but prot have gotten some love too. So much love in fact that I'd not only say prot is a viable spec to start out in, but I'd even recommend using it! The few drawbacks are easily outweighed by the benefits. Here are some of the differences;

Not using a 2-hander or two 1-handers might mean a little smaller crits, or lesser damage, but it also means you'll use a shield instead. And with a shield comes alot of other opportunities. With a shield you can silence casters. And most importantly, you'll be able to use Shield Slam. Shield Slam is the skill you get at level 10 for choosing to go with the protection tree, and it is really powerful. I'll write more about it further down. You will also eventually be able to use Shield Block (level 28). At low levels, your block will be so much greater than the mobs average dmg that you'll effectively block every physical damage you've got incoming, as long as you're facing the mobs of course. This actually means you'll be practically invincible during those 10 sec that Shield Block is up. And hey, it's only got 30 sec cd with the right talents. Aoe-killing has never been so easy.

Being in Defensive Stance instead of Battle/Berserker Stance will lower your dmg output by some percent, but it will also lower dmg taken by some percent. The possibility to take on several mobs (like 5-6) and further on even elites without much trouble definitely makes prot a winner for leveling. Also Blizzard have given melee classes the possibility to self-heal, something lowbie melee didn't have before 4.0. Now you will get Victory Rush at level 5, a skill that is quite handy for lowbie tanking and questing.

The biggest change to lowbie tanking, and something that really bothers me, is that we don't have a proper rage-starter until level 20, when we get Battle Shout. Pre-patch we could use Bloodrage to get some rage before a combat, in case we were rage-starved. Since Battle Shout replaced Bloodrage for this use we now have to wait to level 20, when we get Battle Shout, before we can use it in this way. This means 15-19 tanking is characterized by you not being able to use any skills while you collect rage on the first couple of mobs. Rage will be an issue for you your first couple of levels, and since damage has been buffed for lowbie dpsers you might find yourself chasing mobs way more than you'd like. But don't worry, this becomes less and less of a problem (and quite frankly, most classes can tank mobs fairly well at low levels). Warriors hate to have to start a fight without any rage. Fortunately this doesn't last for many levels.

There is really only two addons I could recommend for a lowbie tank (and they both work with 4.0 of course);

  • Optitaunt: Small addon that alerts your party/raid when you miss a taunt or use a cooldown. It's good to let your party know at least, eventhough they mostly don't care much before raids.
  • TargetCharms: An easy to use frame for the different marks, which makes it really easy to mark stuff in groups. You rarely need to mark things when tanking as a lowbie, but if you ever happen to want to do this, you don't want to have to fool around with dropdown menus mid-combat. Also provides a little "readycheck"-button, which I actually wish tanks used more often in lowbie instances.

You won't get your first set of glyph slots until level 25, so this is nothing you have to worry about yet.

At level 15 you're able to pick 3 talents. Unfortunately the entire first bracket of talents are rather lame for a lowbie warrior.

Incite: You won't even get Heroic Strike until level 14, but that still means you'll have it when you start tanking. Because it is very costly, and rage is an issue as a lowbie, it might be worth putting your talent points elsewhere. You won't use Heroic Strike all the time because of this, but as rage becomes less and less of a problem, heroic strike becomes more and more useful. It also deals really good damage (read more about Heroic Strike under the Skills section).
Toughness: Is a great talent since it scales with gear. And we love talents like that. But that also means the lower level you are, the less you'll get out of the talent. At level 15 you can't hope to have more than 500-600 armor. 10% from such low amounts really won't make much difference. This talent won't be really worth it until high-end tanking. It is still better than the alternative however (Blood and Thunder, see below) so you must put a couple of talents here.
Blood and Thunder: This is a bad talent at level 80. People won't wait for you to place a rend and then thunder clap, and rend ticks are too slow threat anyway. But at low levels you won't have much aoe threat to work with. In fact, using Blood and Thunder might be your best option, at least until you get Revenge (level 40) and Shockwave. People won't wait for you to place a rend on low levels either, but loosing aggro in lowbie instances matters way less than in highbie instances. Since Thunder Clap also will refresh your Rend on any target affected, with some nifty pulling you can keep Rend up just by thunder clapping your way through mobs. Taking Blood and Thunder means respeccing later on, but it is worth it.

So our first three choices for talents aren't awesome. I'd go with Blood and Thunder and then your choice of Incite or Toughness.

Strike: Is replaced by Shield Slam at level 10.
Victory Rush: A great skill to keep handy when tanking as a lowbie, at least until you get other skills. You won't get killing blows as much when you're tanking, but whenever you do it's nice to use this as a starter on the next mob.
Charge: Not usable in defensive stance. And no, you shouldn't stance dance, it's more tedious than it is worth.
Heroic Strike: Is more important for your lowbie tanking threat than it used to be. Pre-4.0, heroic strike was a skill that became more and more necessary to use the higher level you became. As your threat became less and less imba for holding aggro, it became more important for us to use Heroic Strike. It is rather costly however, and on low levels you won't use it as much as Thunder Clap, Rend and Shield Slam. (You nearly won't use it at all once you get Cleave at level 24).
Shield Slam: Your primary skill for single target threat, should be used every cooldown.
Thunder Clap: Your primary skill for aoe threat. Thunder Clap is one of those skills that has become the most nerfed by 4.0. Before 4.0 Thunder Clap was instant-aggro. All the way to 80 you rarely needed much more than a thunder clap to keep decent aggro on mobs. This is no longer the case. Thunder Clap has gotten its threat significantly reduced, and it is now about as threating as a Demo Shout was pre-patch. Players getting their damage buffed even at low levels have contributed to this as well.
Rend: In combination with the talent Blood and Thunder and the skill Thunder Clap this becomes your best aoe-skill on low levels. It actually deals a fair amount of damage and will, when properly handled, probably be among your highest damage skills when instance-tanking. You'll probably want to use this at least until you get Revenge at level 40.

There are a couple of stats that are worth having as a lowbie tank. Stamina and agility are the most important ones at low levels. Because of how Vengeance works, collecting as much stamina as possible will always be a sure way to go. The gear collected from instance-reward satchels occasionally have dodge, a nice stat which you should take if you find it. Strength too is a good stat, and any avoidance stat (but you usually don't get those until later on) like parry and block.
In order of importance for a lowbie tank;
  1. Stamina
  2. Dodge
  3. Agility
  4. Strength
As mentioned, you have to start your very first fight by collecting rage "manually", that is by hitting the first mob you see a couple of times. Once you've got rage, try to keep the pace so you don't loose it. At level 15 you won't have skills enough for a complicated rotation;

1. Run in - 2. Pick a mob and Shield Slam it (not always necessary, depends how fast your dps is at nuking) - 3. Rend it - 4. Thunder Clap while being close to any other mob - 5a. Thunder Clap each cooldown - 5b. Shield Slam each cooldown - 5c. Heroic Strike if you have much rage (but don't use up all the rage, you want to save some for the next fight!).

Tanking is about mob handling - you want as many of the mobs to hit you and not someone else. The way you succeed with this goal defines your skills as a tank. This means you have to plan for a pull so that you ideally get all the mobs attention as fast as possible, and keep it (see some pointers further below). Here is a great explanation of how to do this, from a commenter of this post (you can read the full comment even further below);
"Always set your "pivot" point at a ranged mob. After Thunderclap got all mobs on you, drag them a few paces towards that ranged mob in the pack. Melee mobs will always follow you since you have aggro. Practise this until you always have mobs in a nice arc around you. Practise this even when you're outdoors questing. The mark of a good tank is one that can round up mobs quickly and cleanly, without shifting back and forth all the time. Thunderclap, move sideways to that ranged mob, stop and face the mobs. Melee love tanks who can position mobs quickly like that."
You have to calculate to yourself - how many mobs do I want to grab in this pull? Make sure it's never more than you can handle, and you define how many that is (and the healer of course). If there are any mobs that need special treatment, like ranged that won't come to you, you have to come to them instead, or silence them (but you won't get Shield Bash until level 20) or otherwise act so that they get aggro on you and not someone else. This means you have to give each mob proper attention. Enough to make him stay on you, but not so much so that you lose aggro on some other mob. It's sounds a lot trickier than it is, but successfully completing tricky pulls is a big part of what makes tanking so much fun!
Some general pointers as how to make your run as smooth as possible could be good. I'll quote myself from another post I wrote on warrior tanking a while ago, seeing as they still apply;

As a rage using class you don't need mana breaks, but you will most likely be partying with people who do. Remember their mana pools, not only the healer ones! Considering they are the ones dpsing down your mobs, you need to treat their mana pools well. Give proper mana breaks, or at least ask if they're wanted.

If you're doing an instance for the first time, and intend to do it again sometime, take some time to note how the mobs work. What skills do they have? Something to watch out for? Where are they positioned? Do they chain? Do they run? Any pulls that are tricky? Chaining means that when pulling one mob near another you will also aggro the second one. A thumb rule is "the "smarter" the mob, the more likely they'll chain". Humanoid mobs nearly always chain for instance. Beasts don't always though. Learn how this works in every particular instance to make the run as smooth as possible.
and most importantly;

And last but not least, take no shit. You're the tank and these people need you! If you're well geared there is no one else as important in your group as you. If you're badly geared you might need a slightly more humble approach, but keep in mind that most of the people in your group have waited around 10 minutes for you to show up. Make sure they know that you do this because it's fun, and if they ruin your fun you'll go somewhere else. Great power comes with great responsibility of course, and all these pointers are for you to be able to make a nice and smooth run for everyone to enjoy!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Build 13221 - Priest Notes

When I first read about the 13221 build priest changes I made a quick note in my notebook - "Chakra: Renew removed. Good!". Let's look at some of the more interesting recent changes made on the beta servers to priests and some thoughts about them. I know I am talking about these changes like they've already taken place, but they haven't! So don't worry. These are just changes made to the beta servers as of now and can/will probably change again before they go live.

"Inner Fire now increases Spell Power by 531, up from 425."

Straight up buff, nice of course. I don't see where this is coming from though. I thought Inner Fire was a nice buff as it was and I haven't noticed that priests were lacking in spellpower when compared to the other healing classes.

"Binding Heal base healing increased by 20%. From 3295-4237 to 3959-5091. Now costs 28% of base mana, down from 29%."

This is great! Binding Heal is one of those utility heals that is awesome when you need it and that I use way too seldom. If there is something I have to practice it is when to use this. Pre-patch I did use it whenever I expected to take alot of damage, like if I was marked on Saurfang or targetted by an ooze on Putricide. But it was very costly and using it too much made me oom even back then. Although they've only changed the mana cost marginally, I am happy to see they're buffing this spell, and I really hope I will learn to use it properly soon.
"Prayer of Healing now costs 26% of base mana, down from 36% of base mana."

If they want us to use anything else than renews, this is definitely the way to go. Thank you Blizzard. PoH is not so overpowered that it deserves to be so costly. It is way too situational, and since it only heals the party members of your target it is only worth casting when you know everyone will be taking alot of damage while standing close together, like during the last phase of sindragosa. This pretty reduction in mana cost really makes me happy as I am trying to increase my usage of PoH for Chakra: PoH. Which of course will be needed less if they make PoM increase the stance duration instead (see below).

"State of Mind no longer affects Renew, affects Prayer of Mending instead."

State of Mind is the talent that increases duration of our Chakra state when we use Renew, PoH or Heal. Well Renew has been replaced with PoM. Will this change anything? Not really, PoM is already a skill we use on every cooldown, so keeping our stance up with PoM instead of Renew should be about as easy.

"Chakra no longer works with Renew. No longer costs mana. Sanctuary (Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending) now increases healing done by your AoE spells and Renew by 15%. (Old - Only increased AoE spells by 10%)"

Basically they've removed Chakra: Renew alltogether. When I first read about it I thought "great, so renew will be a little less worth casting, hopefully this means the other two spells (Heal and PoH) will be more worth casting". Then I noticed that Renew will still be buffed, in fact even more so, but by another stance instead. So we didn't get away from the renew-spamming after all. On the bright side this means we actually have a good reason to be in our aoe-heal stance instead. I did feel like I sacrificed too much when I switched to Chakra: Poh, because I lost the bonus from Chakra: Renew. Now I don't have to choose! This is awesome! The loss of Holy Word: Renew is minor, if you read my post on Chakra I wrote a while ago you'll see I didn't feel like it brought much to our healing anyway.

"Revelations now has a 40 sec cooldown."

Aww. It might have a bug on my action bars, but I think that up until now Holy Word: Sanctuary didn't have a cooldown which meant you could move it around as you pleased (although that wasn't very mana efficient). Giving it a 40 second cooldown will mean we have to pick our placing a little more carefully. But we've been practicing on that with Lightwell already, so maybe that shouldn't be a problem. If this also means Holy Word: Heal gets a 40 second cooldown it makes me a little more sad. I already felt like it had a pretty long cooldown (20 seconds), but maybe it would be too good to lower it further. But make it longer? It's not that good!

"Rapid Renewal (Tier 4) *New* - Reduces the global cooldown of your Renew by 0.5 sec."

Since we lost the reduced gcd on renew with the removal of Chakra: Renew, we now get a talent that does this instead. This is awesome since it means we don't have to be in a particular stance to spam our renews!

The 13221 made me go from happy to sad to happy. That is because I don't read to the end and start drawing conclusions way too early. First I was happy that choosing any other stance than renew wouldn't be as punished anymore since they removed the renew-stance alltogether. Then I was sad when I realized we were still going to spam renew, just in another stance. Then I was happy when I realized this meant we could spam renews and other heals. They consolidated the awesomeness of the renew-stance into the aoe-stance so that we could do both at the same time! These are great changes, and I really hope they go live!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Two specs - One gear

This isn't a post on how to gem or gear your disc and holy specs respectively, but what you should do if you want to collect one gear for both of them. Ideally I'd say, don't do it ;) It's way better to have one gear for each spec. But the world isn't always as ideal as we wish it was. So if you've ever thought about dual speccing double healing specs, like I have, there are some things you should know. Mixing Disc and Holy gears is probably more difficult than mixing elemental/resto or boomkin/resto specs (except for the fact that boomkins/elementals need hit). In fact, pre-patch it was easier to combine shadow with holy or disc than combining disc and holy. Generally one spec needed mana regen more than the other, and this is definitely the case between disc and holy as well.

Although alot has changed with the new patch, there are still alot of differences between what stats holy and disc want to prioritize that makes gemming and collecting a combined set for both specs difficult. The more you buff the one spec, the more you sacrifice the other spec.

For example, pre-patch stats like haste and spirit were less useful for disc, but really useful for holy. That meant that if you wanted to collect alot of haste and spirit for your holy spec, you'd have to sacrifice crit and intellect that were the good stats for disc, and vice versa of course. Now post-patch we have the same problem. My gear is very heavily gemmed towards disc, and I tend to avoid gear with spirit. That means I have low haste and low mana regen, but high spellpower and really high crit. It doesn't mean my holy healing will suck, but I will oom considerably faster than a "normal" holy healer. As mentioned the best thing would be to keep separate gears of course. And that is still my dream goal. It's just a little tricky to gather a second set of the same gear when there are plenty in my guild who'd like their first set. This issue might even become even bigger once Cataclysm comes, since we might find that holy really needs alot of spirit for mana regen. Right now mana is less of an issue for any healer honestly.

So if you have to choose one spec to gem and gear for, which one should it be?

If you find yourself using one spec considerably more than the other, say some 70%-30%, you should gem yourself towards that spec of course. This is one of the reasons I have chosen to gem towards disc instead of holy, since I mostly play disc nowadays (now we recently got another disc healer in our guild and I find myself playing holy more and more, maybe I have to regem soon...). But if you find yourself playing both specs about the same, you have to identify which of the two specs that would suffer less from having the "wrong" gems.

Like mentioned - playing holy with disc-gear I will be low on haste and mana regen. On the other hand I will have nice crit, which is really important for holy healing. I will also have alot of spellpower, which also is good.
If I am disc with holy-gear I will be high on haste and mana regen. This means I will probably be overcapped on haste (less so post-patch though) and have mana regen for no use since Rapture and Archangel keep me from ooming anyhow. Holy stats on a disc priests are therefore more wasted than disc-stats on a holy priest. Holy stats on a disc-priest are overkill. They don't bring anything extra to the character. Disc stats on a holy priest means you will be short on some important stats, but instead you will have access to other important stats. None of the disc-stats are wasted on a holy-spec.

Because I have mixed these two gears I have kept myself pretty high on haste. Higher than I probably would've been if I'd only played disc. Because even if the disc haste cap is fairly low (but considerably higher post-patch) haste is still not a wasted stat on a disc priest. Especially now there is plenty of room to lower the casttime on heals like Heal and Greater Heal, which we are supposed to use regularly.

So if you have to choose to gem and gear for one collected gear for both specs, I'd definitely go with the disc stats. They used to be intellect and spellpower, but since they're now both in one you're pretty safe off with only intellect. This means you will have mana issues when in holy, but hopefully this drawback will be less of a problem than being overcapped on haste and having unecessary regen when disc!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tier 11 - Aquarium Edition

So we've got to see what the new tiers will look like. Over the years I've been pretty happy with the designs for priest tiers. There is probably not a single tier I really disliked, not even the rather plain looking tier 0,5, which might not even count as a real tier in the first place. But that tier will always have a special place in my heart since that was the first really cool gear I managed to get on my priest (except Anathema/Benediction) and my first taste of the end-game tier-collecting madness that was to come.

Looking back on it I think Blizzard have had a good idea about how to design the priest tiers overall. Most of them are pretty slick, with nothing fancy, but there are some odd-balls. But even when Blizzard went a little crazy on our tiers, it still seemed to make sense. Let's recap.
  • Tier 1, Vestments of Prophecy, made us look like some sort of high-priest of the Scarlet Crusade, but I like the combination of blood-red and white. Unfortunately I never got my hands on any of these because the few MC runs I ever got around to doing always had 10 priests ahead of me in DKP. It's also a shame that Blizzard haven't decided to re-use this nice color-combination.
  • Tier 2, Vestments of Transcendence, started the light-blue fad of priest tiers that became rather commonplace later on. I've only been to BWL once and that was on level 80 and not even on my priest, so I didn't even smell this tier.
  • Tier 3, Vestments of Faith, was rather similar to Tier 2 with the white-blue theme. This is one of the tiers I like the most with the delicate wings on the shoulders. Nothing too extravagant, but just enough to show everyone what they're looking at - a priest. This tier has a spartan design, and I like it. I was really glad to see it return with the WOTLK version of Naxx, because it would really have been a shame to see this gone by basically unnoticed otherwise.

  • Tier 4, Incarnate Raiment/Regalia, was the first tier to be sold as tokens instead of dropped from some boss. The tokens were dropped from bosses instead and several classes could use each token, which meant there was less chance that a drop would be useless to the raid. It was also the first tier that had different names of the sets for healing and dpsing priests. This means of course this was the first time Blizzard actuallt designed a tier for dpsing priests at all. Shadow priests had no business in raids in Vanilla, but come BC Blizzard had changed their minds. This too is a good-looking set that I wore for a long time. Tier 4 marks the first tier I ever collected fully, since BC and Karazhan was the first time I started raiding seriously. Purple is a color that suited my rotting, undead priest perfectly.
  • Tier 5, Avatar Raiment/Regalia, was among the more ellaborate looking priest tiers. Yet again it gives us wings, this time a little more odd looking however, a hood and a halo (which first had been seen in tier 4). Nonetheless I think the complete set is really cool looking. It definitely shows that it is a special collection of gear, and is set apart from all the other gear pieces you'd get at that time. Being in a 10-man guild as I was then, I never got many prieces of t5, I think only the gloves from Leotheras actually. If I ever wanted to collect one tier for rp, this'd be it.
  • Tier 6, Vestments of Absolution/Absolution Regalia, was a step back from the pronounced design of tier 5. Instead we got a tier that made us look like Blackbrother Monks from the middle ages. Nothing wrong with that, one doesn't always want to run around looking like the Christmas Tree of Heaven (tier 5). The contrast between these two sets is huge and maybe also set the point that the ones with the really cool gear doesn't have to brag about it with wings and halos everywhere. I was never even close to getting any of this gear for the same reason I never got close to tier 5.

  • Tier 7, Heroes' Regalia/Garb of Faith, re-used the design of the tier 3 that dropped in the original Naxxramas instance, Vestments of Faith. Since Blizzard had made it so that all raids could be raided with a 10-man guild this turned out to be the second tier ever that I fully collected.
  • Tier 8, Valorous Sanctification Regalia/Garb, Going back to the purple theme used by tier 4, and what was probably among the coolest looking priest tier head piece ever. I mean who doesn't want to look like a ninja while healing?
  • Tier 9, Velen's/Zabra's Regalia/Raiment, was the first (and so far only) tier to be named differently not only between specs but between factions. It was also the first tier to be upgradable through heroic mode tokens. On the various pictures on this blog (when writing this anyway) I am mostly wearing tier 9. It had a head piece much like the one in tier 8, and a rather unusual set of earth-colors, more common among the shaman and druids sets. We had now ventured far from the designs of the first tiers.
  • Tier 10, Crimson's Acolyte's Regalia/Raiment, removed the different names from different factions again. Maybe Blizzard thought it was a little too much to keep track of after all. This is the tier most of us are wearing when I'm writing this. I never collected much of this set since I think the set bonused are rather lame. In fact the 2 set bonus has become even less good now that we use Flash Heal even less often. They should have changed it to affect Heal instead, but that's a side-note. Tier 10 continues the dark design from tier 9 and looks more magey or lockey than priesty really. Also I find the inverted pot we're supposed to wear on our heads looks completely ridiculous and I'd probably refuse to use it even if it was half-decent. Or hide it for sure.

And now we've got a look at what we're supposed to wear for our next tier. Am I happy or sad? Let me just say I am amazed that there is anyone out there who thinks this is a good looking tier. I like the color-choices, but that is about the only good thing I can say about it. It is clear we're designed around the fact that alot of endgame Cataclysm takes place under water. Did they have to make us look like aquariums though? The head looks like some bad copy of some underwater suit and the shoulders... well where should I begin. Who ever thought running around with bird-baths on your shoulders would be a good idea should be sentenced to play the game eternally dazed.

Picture from MMO-Champion, in case you couldn't tell ;)

They usually only give druids and hunters (and occasionally paladins) the really weird/odd/bad tier design choices. The ones that are far out there and that never really should have left the drawing table. The tiers that eventually turn into legends, not because they were so good or the instances that dropped them so much fun but because you looked like a nutter wearing them. Like the Paladin Lawbringer tier (banana shoulders), Druid Stormrage tier (hello there Mr Moose) and Rogue Shadowblade Battlegear tier (can you breath in that mask?). Well there are plenty of examples actually, maybe every class has to get their freak out gear. I just thought priests had it over and done with considering what tier 5 looked like. But that at least kept us on the priest theme. Tier 11 looks like we're trying to dress up as a swimming pool for Halloween. In fact every other tier is cooler than ours.

Death Knight
Although I might question the color choices (green?) for the Death Knight tiers, these are really true to the Death Knight design. Death Knights have always infringed on the warrior tier design trademark, but there are generally a little more skulls here. This is no exception. Where Warriors are supposed to look like moving mountains, Death Knights are supposed to look like armored skeletons. In any case it's working and it looks damn cool.

This is what the priest tier could've looked like! Except maybe for the dead bird on the head. The color scheme, especially the blue one, and the wings are totally stolen from a priest design. Love claims that since the wings have feathers and aren't all light-wooshy they really have nothing to do with priests. In any case these tiers look way more like a priest-tier than the priest tier does. And except for the dead bird on the head it looks ok.

Hunters have always had a special treatment by Blizzard. It seems like Blizzard always try to outdo themselves in weird tier-design when they're doing the hunter tier. I don't think anyone thought they'd be able to outdo the Dragonstalker set (seriously just thinking about it makes me laugh), and no tier 11 isn't worse than that. But wearing a dead Murloc comes pretty close. Even though it's hilarious it's still cool! And maybe also a little sad. Think about all those poor murlocs.

I might be wrong, but I've got the feeling mages never get cool looking tiers. So eventhough I am slightly envious at this tier, which makes them look like The Reaper who fell into a painting by Monet (which is good!), they probably deserve it.

Considering how hideously, horribly, awful Blizzard can design paladin tiers when they set their mind to it (tier 1, tier 7, hoo that makes me shudder) we probably should be very happy about tier 11. It's actually half decent. A little boring perhaps! But it could've been so much worse.

Totally in line with the design choices they've had for rogues lately, this kinda makes them look like one of them Consortium guys from BC. I know alot of people hoped that the Consortium would turn out to be a playable class eventually just because they look so cool. And now I suppose rogues get to try ut out. I think it looks great.

If I had to pick two tiers for Blizzard to redesign (out of the tier 11 ones) I'd first and foremost pick the priest one. And secondly the shaman one. There is nothing wrong about the shaman tier per se. But there really isn't anything about the shaman tier. It looks so plain. Like someone flung a robe over the shaman and couldn't bother to do anything else about it. The color choices are great though! I suppose you only get one or the other.

Some people don't like the warlock sets. That is probably because they play human warlocks and don't realize that they're doomed to look really silly in any gear they put on. I think tier 11 will look totally cool on my warlock anyway (eventhough she is a belf). The unsymmetrical horns is the "dot over i" as we say in sweden. That little thing that really makes it all perfect. And yet again the colors are great.

Did I say walking mountain? That's pretty much it. And I love it! It works perfectly for a warrior and you'll probably feel like the juggernaut you are once you've collected the whole set. I'm a little uncertain about the turquoise set though, but hopefully I won't have to wear that.

This is what Zinn would look like. No wai. (from wowhead)
All in all I think Blizzard have designed some pretty good tiers for tier 11. My guess would be shamans came last and Blizzard just couldn't be arsed to come up with anything cool for them. And the die probably fell on "priest" for when they were deciding who was going to get the ugliest set this time around. I'm just hoping the off-pieces will be good enough for me to wear those instead... What do you think about tier 11?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thorns is Overpowered

I'm really happy druids finally got a thorns that was worth casting. I'm not really sure what Blizzard initially had thought with thorns, it's always been like some sort of bad retribution aura. First of all you had to recast it every 10 minutes and it didn't do nearly as good damage. But as usual Blizzard give druids something that is similar to an already existant spell, only not nearly as good. Until now!

Thorns is still similiar to another spell, but maybe that's unavoidable by now. Any spell to any class will be pretty similar to some other. It now works like a kind of Recklessness. Short duration, high in damage, dealing damage to anyone who's attacking (except casters). Unlike Recklessness, and still similar to Retribution Aura, it still seems to scale with spellpower. This means a resto/boomkin druids thorns can deal som 2-3k per hit while feral cat/bear druids deal around base damage which is some 700-800 damage per hit.

There are many great utilities for a skill like this. Bears can pop it before running into a tank encounter for extra threat. Pvp-druids can pop this to make people less eager to burn you down. This skill has drawbacks however. It is completely awesome, and I am totally glad druids have it. But...

Blizzard also gave this skill to any mob out there who casts thorns. Sometimes when they revamp an old spell, they let mobs keep the old version. This doesn't seem to be the case with thorns however. Any mobs who casts thorns on themselves now seem to use the revamped version. Why is this a problem?

Because thorns is extremely strong! It makes lowbie mobs (those I have encountered so far with this skill) way overpowered for their level. I'll give you an example;

I was leveling my paladin dwarf and doing the Shimmerweed Quest. I've always hated that quest since it's very easy to overpull. Before level 9 you don't even have a heal as a paladin nowadays, which makes questing below those levels more difficult. Luckily you don't stay lowbie for very long. When doing this quest, without any BoA gear mind you, I had about 200 hp. The mobs had perhaps 150ish hp. For once, the caster weren't much of a problem. The Frostmane Snowstriders however turned out to be quite deadly.

I ran in, swinging my little axe wildly, hoping for the ugly troll to die. Suddenly I was the one who was dead. I blinked in confusion. But I had been on max health just a second ago. Seriously! Ok, maybe I was wrong, maybe I was low on health for some reason. Retry, same result. What the... Something's not right here.

This time I started hitting him a little more careful, watchful for any sign of him using some sort of doomskill which seemed to oneshot me. And then it came. Thorns! Ok let's recap quickly - I have 200 hp. Thorns did 50 damage to me every time I hit the mob. 50 damage! That meant I could kill myself within 2 seconds by using Crusader Strike, Judgement and melee swings. The mob hit for around 20 damage every other second, giving him some 10 dps. Thorns on the other hand could deal 100-200 damage to me in a matter of seconds.

There was no alternative. I had to give up hitting the mob as soon as he used thorns. Which meant I had to stare angrily at him for 20 seconds (!), waiting for it to drop off before I could start hitting him again. I used Hammer of Justice to buy myself some time, but it still meant that each Snowstrider  fought got some 15 seconds of free blows before I could retaliate. Do you know how long 20 seconds of in-action per mob feels? Quite long I can tell you. Especially since it made me nearly die before I could start defending myself. I am sure this isn't intended.

So Blizzard, please reconsider. Mobs aren't supposed to wield powers of this magnitude. Non-elites of the same level aren't supposed to be able to kill me in a matter of seconds, unless I wait 20 seconds every fight for their überpowered skill to wear off. Unfortunately I know that lowbies are low-priority for the design team. It is totally understandable since people spend so little time at each level and with most quests.

It is merely interesting to see what changing something at high-end can affect in other areas of the game. You know the whole saying about the "wings of a butterfly..." comes to mind here. I suppose Blizzard weren't joking when they said balancing skills wasn't easy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

4.0 Bugs and Solutions

I've had my fair share of post-patch bugs now. I always do. At first I laugh at everyone else who gets them and then I get them myself and then it's no fun anymore. It seems like everytime Blizzard releases a huge patch like this they also tear something apart in the fabric of their world (aka programming) and the game becomes nearly unplayable for a couple of days. Or weeks. Maybe  we shouldn't be suprised, if we knew all the details about how those zeros and ones make my character jump and dance I'd probably go into "I don't get how this works-coma". Like when I try to understand laser printers. Blizzard has had a huge extended maintenance already and since I can't tell what they fixed I suppose they fixed something really horrible. Stuff that threatened the very existance of our characters or something. Remember the post-3.0 patch where your talent points would reset randomly? Or you'd just lose a few? Honestly the bugs we have in this patch are a notch worse. Here are some and what you can do about them, in the cases where that is applicable.

Extremely slow death-gryphons
Problem: Whenever you die and have to fly somewhere, which most often is when raiding, you either start out alive with 1% hp (which is lucky unless someone happens to be ganking people at the graveyard) or on the regular death-gryphon. But wait, is there something wrong with it? It flies extremely slow for some reason, slower than run speed in fact (it definitely feels like it anyway). This is not what you want to be stuck doing just after the 10th wipe on some boss you're already bored to tears doing in ICC. I can imagine many guilds post-poning any raiding until Cataclysm just because of this neat little bug.
Solution: As far as I know there is really nothing you can do about it. My suggestion is you have some tv-series ready to watch, or scarf to knit, or book to read etc so that everytime you die and have to do that slow-ass flying again you can watch a bit on your series/do something else instead of nerdrage. That way dying won't be as horribly infuriating. Oh, and don't forget to keep soulstones up.

Crashing in instances and raids (and bgs) FIXED

Problem: Randomly (?) crashing upon entering an instance/raid/bg. It can happen after various amounts of time and doesn't seem to have any logic to it. Once crashed it usually doesn't work to log into that instance at all again. Until a couple of hours later.
Solution: An old guildie of mine noted that there is word going around that the random crashes are due to the CWOD - Cog-Wheel of Death. Whenever you mouseover something that is interactable through a cog-wheel, like the pumpkin on Headless Horseman, a mage-table or the like, you have a chance of crashing. Something isn't right about those cog-wheels right now apparently so when they try to send their data to you something has a big chance of going horribly wrong. I tried this myself by mouse-overing the pumpkin on Headless Horseman. It gave me a short freeze-lag, but no crash fortunately. But probably could've just as well. Thinking back on everytime I've crashed so far it was quite likely that I was mouse-overing some cog-wheel. So don't mouse-over the cog-wheels! Let someone else do it for you. If you want mage-food, let someone else trade you and etc. In the above link you can read more about the issue and find macros that will remove tooltips from appearing, which apparently will remove the crashing. I'll repost it here as well, so you don't have to dig it out, but all thanks goes to OP Deyneth. This macro will remove the tooltip when clicked by left mouse button and make it come back when clicked by right mouse button. I haven't tried it myself though.

/script GameTooltip.Temphide = function() GameTooltip:Hide() end; GameTooltip:SetScript("OnShow", GameTooltip.Temphide)
/stopmacro [btn:1]
/script GameTooltip:SetScript("OnShow", GameTooltip.Show);

Nameplates are acting odd - PARTIALLY FIXED
Problem: There are really two problems here - 1. Nameplates don't show and 2. Nameplates show randomly. Although I think they have the same cause, they're not the same problem. Also they affect two different forms of nameplates. The first is the regular nameplates you can see over everyones heads like name, title and guild. The other is the V-key nameplates that show hp and threat for example. The reason titles, names and guilds have stopped showing might be because Blizzard have implemented a new and easier system for detecting npcs that are worth interacting with. Class Trainers, Quest Mobs, Quest Givers and the like are all npc's that will show their nameplates so that you can easily find them among others. Apparently they've made names/titles/guilds not show as a default. This works really well actually. But if you never quest this might be less valuable. The second problem might be due to the above changes Blizzard made to nameplates. It makes V-key nameplates randomly appearing and disappearing, which is extremely annoying if you're a tank and melee.
Solution: For the first problem all you need to do is go into Interface - Names and check the boxes that correspond with the information you'd like to see.
The second problem about V-key nameplates acting like jojos has another solution however. Type /console bloattext 1 in your chat and it should make them act less funny.

I can't see ground textures!
Problem: Although you've got "Projected Textures" on high as always, it seems like you simply can't see ground effects anymore. All you can see is a hint that something good/bad is beneath your feet, at best. This can turn out to be extremely dangerous in some situations where separating friend from foe among ground effects is crucial for your survival. Or where a ground effect can kill you in one shot, like the frost bomb on Mimiron (as I noticed).

Solution: Since there are so many ground effects going around nowadays, Blizzard thought they'd give us the chance to see our own effects better than everyone elses. So they implemented something called "Emphasize My Spell Effects" which will highlight your effects over others. But it seems like this doesn't highlight your effects, it just simply removes the ground effects of everyone else (and your own skills) right now, making it impossible to see what's on the ground. Just go into Interface - Display and un-check "Emphasize My Spell Effects" and the problem should be solved, it was for me anyway. Thanks to my guildie Patrock for this tip!

More might be added (although I hope not)!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Top 5 Best Vanity Pets

It's been too long since I did a list! So why not make one about Vanity Pets, I mean the game is flooding with them by now. I'm really no collector of vanity pets. Unlike Love who has nearly 100 by now, I've only got 17. I rarely show my pets either. Partly because we're not allowed to during raids anyway (they unecessarily lower frame rate) and partly because they're in the way, frankly. Often when I try to loot something my little Vanity Pet comes in the way, just as one example. Or they do alot of weird and annoying sounds. So I'm not big fan of Vanity Pets, but there are nonetheless some I really like. I would use them if I had them, but I don't unfortunately (except for one of them). So here are my top 5 favorite Vanity Pets.

5. Tiny Sporebat
I really like the Sporebats for some reason. Maybe because they make me think about one of my favorite factions, the Sporeggar. The quests for Sporeggar are among the ones that never go dull, at least I don't think so. And the Tiny Sporebats are nice because they don't bother anyone. They just kinda float around, minding their own business. I'm not even entirely sure if they're an animal or a plant. Or something else. Having a little Sporebat around would make me feel comfy, because it's flying around like a little lamp. What could go wrong with a little flying lamp around?

4. Peddlefeet
Peddlefeet must be the incarnation of ugly. I love him because he's just so wrong. A goblin dressed up as Icarus? Shooting arrows of love (?). It makes me think about the Ferengi in Star Trek, and I love those little bastards. I would think having one of these out would make you run faster because you'd try to get away from them. Love was lucky enough to get one three Love Festivals ago. Back then it was among the rarer pets, but nowadays it is much easier to obtain. I could handle one... but hundreds. I still like him because he's so weird.

3. Murky/Lurky/Gurky
They might not be so pretty, but they're damn cute. Ever since I saw the first Lurky I wanted to have one, and I envy every one who does. I was really happy when I got to have some for a short period of time for a horde quest in Zangarmarsh. And their little dance is to die for! Then I got to encounter them again in Borean Tundra, where you are to rescue them for cages, and I never wanted to stop rescue the little things. Whenever I see someone who has this kind of pet I have to zoom in and look at it for a while. The little spin-offs, Murkimus and Grunty (and Deathy!) are totally awesome too.

2. Sleepy Willy
Is it because he can fall asleep in the midst of a heated LK battle? Or because he likes to zap rats with his one eye? Or because he never really seems to know what's going on? Probably all of them. sleepy Willy was also the first pet I got from Children's Week and one of the pets I really enjoyed keeping around. He became more than just a prop for fun, he became my own little Willy.

1. Disgusting Oozeling
Having a pile of goo follow you around must be among the coolest things ever. What I love the most about the Disgusting Oozeling however is probably that he gives you a debuff. No other pet does that (afaik), which makes the oozeling really unique. People grind for hours to get this one and it sells for thousands of gold, and I understand them - it is something even I might actually do to get one of these.

And there are two Vanity Pets I really like but that didn't really make the list. The Siamese Cat, because I've owned real Siamese Cats so it's fun to have one in-game as well. I also like Mojo. Because of the name, because he is from Zul'Aman, a raid I love, and because he turns you into a frog when you kiss him. So many good things packed into one Vanity Pet. Which ones are your favorites?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When ordinary is better than special

New patch, new consolidation of buffs. It seems that every new patch Blizzard takes us one step closer to giving everyone the ability to buff with everything. I notice I don't even have to use Fortitude in raids anymore because Blood Pact or Commanding Shout is already up (ok, fortitude is better than those because of its longer duration, but still)! I am anticipating the day when Blizzard just gives every class a skill called "buff" that simply does everything. Hey, why not just buff every class and be done with it!

This wasn't always so of course. Once upon a time Blizzard intended for each class to bring their own special value to the group. Even the different factions where made special by giving Alliance the paladins and Horde the shamans, who had similiar but not entirely the same buffs. Special soon turned out to be a problem. Blizzard noticed the problem with this system when alliance guilds had a hard time killing Viscidus because they didn't have a shaman with Nature Resistance Totem, Cleansing Totem, Frostbrand Weapon and FROST SHOCK (hah, that doesn't even begin to cover it, few alliance guilds could ever hope to down that boss).

So they thought - Maybe making an entire raid rely on the existance of one special class is a bad idea? Still Blizzard kept this system for a long time. They did eventually spread many of the buffs across the classes and also made it so you could roll alliance shamans and horde paladins (oh the abomination). But still today we have some classes that bring unique and very powerful buffs, yes I am of course thinking of Bloodlust (I refuse to recognize the term Heroism, bah). But not for long! At level 85 mages will also be able to give this buff, but until then we have to accept the fact that most serious raiders would want at least one shaman in the raid just because of this buff.

And not only buffs, roles used to be set in stone too. Back in Vanilla druids/priests/paladins/shamans were healers. Warriors were tanks. There was really little exception from this rule. The only ones who deviated where lucky enough to be in guilds that accepted a little crazyness. A tanking paladin? Haha, don't make me laugh... When I rolled my first warrior, in BC, this concept was so cemented that I rarely got to join a group if I didn't tank. Why bring a warrior that doesn't tank, lol? Dpsing is what we have mages, locks, rogues and hunters for, don't come and take our jobs!

But BC did show that Blizzard had started to think things over and weren't entirely happy with the state of things. They had realized that what they really wanted was to make the class give a unique experience to the player, not to the group. I realize they probably initially intended for each class to feel special and wanted. I admit that when I started out playing my priest I really did feel special and wanted. No one wanted any other healer for Stratholme or Scholomance because I had a nice combination of Shackle Undead, Cure Disease and Dispel that no other healer s. Blizzard noticed that this had an unwanted side-effect however. Some classes were special and wanted, but they couldn't design content that made all classes special and wanted for every encounter. So for some content you just didn't bring a druid/mage/X because they didn't have what was wanted. It also meant that if I wanted to join for Strat/Scholo, I had to do it as a healer.

Just as in real life. We're all special, and that makes some people cool and some people not so cool depending on what you need. If you need someone to fix your computer, the computer nerd will be your best friend. If you need someone to get you into a party he/she might not be as good a friend (generalizing ftw).

Looking back at it I feel like the classes that had trouble getting groups back in Vanilla turrned out to get a special treatment from the Blizzard buff-goodiebag. A sort of compensation for not being cool enough. Just look at druids and shamans. They didn't have a cut position in any raid in the early days of raiding. So Blizzard handed druids Innervate and Combat resses and suddenly they were the center of the party. Then they gave shamans Bloodlust and suddenly no one wanted to go anywhere or kill any boss without a shaman around. I got to join for Starcaller on my shaman simply because I had Bloodlust. I offered my main (priest) with way better gear and skills, but they were sure Bloodlust would compensate it all. And the worst thing is, it probably did.

I welcome these consolidations. Post 4.0 most buffs can be given by two-three other raid members if need be, and I love not having to rebuff spirit, fortitude and shadow fort after each wipe. Someone else always beats me to it nowadays, before we had to tell people several times until something happened because they all waited for someone else to do it. They also removed the reagent cost and suddenly people buff like there was no tomorrow. People you had to yell at for 15 min to get a measly minor blessing from (am I talking about paladins? Yes definitely) are now rebuffing every 5 minutes. It is especially funny because blessing a greater Blessing used to cost around 1s. But lowering it to nothing made all the difference, which is interesting. But this is a side note.

Blizzard finally seem to take "bring the player, not the class" seriously. It used to be the other way around, but this isn't the first (and probably not the last time) Blizzard will dramatically change their mind about some game design choice (just look at dual-specs). Being able to buff your raid with cool buffs is hardly what defines your gaming experience, and honestly I think most of us with special buffs are getting sick at it. I don't think Feral Cat druids were ever very happy about having to interrupt their delicate rotation every couple of minutes to innervate some healer. It makes me wonder, what do we need all the buffs for anyway? Can't we take the final step now and have classes radiate the buffs instead? Priests/warriors radiate fortitude. Paladins/druids radiate kings. And so on. We're nearly there anyway, I am sure this will be the next step.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chakra and Me - A Love Story

The more I play with Chakra the more I like it. Now that I don't automatically crash upon entering a raid I've had a decent chance at testing it out. And I am glad to say my initial impression was somewhat off. Since I had only tried Chakra in instances I got the impression that you'd mostly be in the Renew-stance. This works in an instance where the damage is pretty low. If you want to optimize your healing and mana efficiency in raids however you will have to learn to identify the best stance for each situation and how to time your chakras properly. The same goes with your Holy Words. I can see I'll have loads of fun with this.

Chakra: Heal
I was sceptical about this stance since I've had a hard time finding a good use to casting Heal in our current hc raid content. Also I really dislike it for heroics. But maybe I was wrong. I still don't think Heal is an awesome (or even a particularly good) spell, but after forcing myself to like it and use it some when raiding the other day I actually found that it at least was far from as sucky as I first had believed.

Heal as it is is still pretty sucky, no doubt about that. But used in a Chakra stance it actually become fairly decent. It does require you to "spam" it however, kinda like holydins used FoL pre-patch. Since it is slow and small you can't wait for people to take damage before you use it. Any raid-healer should know this of course, but we have been too pampered lately with all our imba instants and fast casts. Once you're in the stance, just keep on casting it even if you don't really find a target who needs it. You won't oom because it is so cheap anyway and it will proc useful instant/free Flash Heals for you as well (although I noticed 6% turned out to be really low). The Holy Word: Heal is a really good one and I noticed I really have to practice in using it when it's needed. Sometimes I forget it's there since the Holy Word changes with each stance. As soon as I got one into my backbone I have to learn another. Nothing a little practice won't fix. Holy Word: Heal instantly heals for some 15-20k hp, 20 sec cooldown. That can really come in handy. Chakra: Heal is also good to keep renew up on the tanks. When I used it yesterday I tried to alternate between throwing a renew somewhere and a heal somewhere (mostly on the tanks) and it worked really well. Eventhough Istill felt like Heal was way too slow, by combining it with CoH, Renews, PoM and Holy Word: Heal I got high on healing done (which you know is all that matters *cough*). I think this is the point with Chakra, don't let the stance fool you into just using one skill to keep the stance up. The cooldown isn't that long, and it's really cheap to recast. The stance is just to emphasize our priorities, not to cut every other skill from the rotation.

Chakra: Renew
The easiest stance is without a doubt Chakra: Renew. But in a raid it's not so easy as it seems. Keeping this stance up for the entire duration of the fight will probably have you mega-oomed in the end. When doing Putricide hc I was completely oom just about when the boss died, after having used both Shadowfiend and Pot. Admittedly, I am gemmed completely towards discipline which makes my mana regen horribly low (around 600 combat regen fully raid buffed).We can't get too comfortable here, it is probably best to start out with this stance and then once Chakra gets off cooldown, switch to Chakra: Heal to ease up on our mana consumption. Holy Word: Renew is a good hot to keep on the tanks, but I didn't feel like it seemed to make a big difference when used on anyone else. Using a 15 sec cd hot on someone who doesn't take damage continuously seems like a waste. In a way I am glad this stance didnt't turn out to be overpowered compared to the other stances, since renew-spam wasn't the one thing I really loved about holy-healing. UPDATE 9/11: Chakra: Renew is probably going away and being consolidated into Chakra PoH, you can read my thoughts on the matter here.

Chakra: Prayer of Healing
The black sheep of the Chakra-stances. Using this the right way is probably among the trickiest since there rarely is a reason for us to spam PoH. On the other hand you don't have to spam it to keep it up, only cast it every 15 seconds or so (which might feel rather spammy for this kind of spell however). But if you read what I wrote at Chakra: Heal, I think Chakra: PoH best examplifies that we shouldn't be fooled into unecessarily trying to prolong our stance. The best reason to use Chakra: PoH is to increase your aoe-healing for a short period of time, so don't stare yourself blind on your chakra timer. It is ok if it drops off, as long as you keep it up while you really need it. When doing ICC I tried using it during Blood Queen. I popped a new Chakra just before the fear so I was ready to engage it with a PoH as soon as fear wore off (actually we had a tremor totem, so I didn't have to wait long). During the air phase you've only got a few seconds to keep people alive. Start out with a PoH just to get into the stance, then place a Holy word: Sanctuary anywhere. People are supposed to be spread out during this phase, so I think this might work even better during phase 2 of LK where people are to huddle for the Valkyrs and are being affected by Infest. The beauty of Holy word: Sanctuary is that it doesn't seem to have a limit on healing done. It heals anyone in it for a certain amount of 18 seconds, no matter how many people are in it. There is potential for awesome amounts of hps here, especially if you combine it with CoH and PoH at the same time. I marvel at the possibilities.

Once the air phase was over I dropped Chakra: PoH and reassumed Chakra: Heal instead. If you mana allows it you can jump into Chakra: Renew for a while. Your choice of stance also depends on what other healers are with you of course. If you have few tank healers you could become a decent tank healer through Chakra: Heal, if you have few druids you might need to be in Chakra: Renew for more of the time.

The awesomeness about Chakra is that there is no absolute way to use it. It all depends. And your skills in deciding the proper chakra for the proper situation will definitely make alot of difference. I love it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

4.0 Simple Protection Paladin Guide

Here is a simple guide that will take you through the recent changes made to the prot paladins in 4.0. All the tank classes saw alot of changes with 4.0, but prot paladins maybe more than the others. I will take you through the basics, so you can get started with your tanking right away without having to trial and error your way through your new arsenal of skills.

If you're new to prot paladin tanking I suggest you read this guide through to get a general understanding on what prot paladin is all about. You won't have all the skills at level 15, when you can be expected to start tanking, but the essentials are there. There is one big difference though, you'll use Crusader Strike instead of Hammer of the Righteous, since you don't get HotR until level 29. When you start out there are only a few things you need to keep track of;
  • Keep Righteous Fury buff up.
  • Keep Seal of Righteousness up.
  • Use Avenger's Shield to pull and hold aggro on several targets.
  • Use Crusader Strike to do threat on single targets.
  • Use Judgements to regenerate mana.
  • Use Word of Glory if someone needs a heal (which will most likely be yourself).

You've probably heard all about some of the changes already. Holy Power, ramp up times, procs. These are all new things to us, but how important are they to master to do a good job? Let me just say you can relax, it's all easier than it seems at a first glance. The major changes to paladin tanking are good ones, at least in my opinion. Instead of a rigid rotation we now have procs and synergies to keep an eye on.

Threat has become more troublesome however, there is no reason to deny it because you'll notice it at once (unless this is the first time you tank as a paladin). Unlike warriors, paladins don't have a good initial singe-target threat skill anymore, and keeping aggro those first seconds is alot trickier than it used to be. Where a warrior (I don't know about dk's and druids yet) can use Shield Slam we have to combine the use of alot of small threat-skills like Holy Wrath, Hammer of the Righteous, Avenger's Shield and even Consecration for our initial threat. So even if all tank classes have a ramp-up time to high threat, due to how Vengeance works, this seems especially true for paladins since we also have to stack Holy Power for best threat.

Holy Power  
Is a sort of combo point system. We gather Holy Power from using one set of skills so that we can use another set of skills. Holy Power can be stacked up to 3 times and each power lasts for 30 seconds. So if you have 3 stacks it takes 90 seconds before they all disappear. Anyone who's ever played a rogue or feral cat or even death knight knows the deal with this one, although there are differences of course, and it's not particularly tricky.

You get Holy Power
from using Hammer of the Righteous, so this skill is still among your most important. HotR has also sort of replaced Consecration as our main aoe-damaging attack. It deals low aoe damage affecting an unlimited amount of targets around you, much like thunder clap. HotR should be used at every cooldown to gather Holy Power.

We use Holy Power on two different things. Most importantly on Shield of the Righteous. SotR is our main single-target threat skill. The more Holy Power you have gathered with HotR, the harder you will hit with SotR, and trust me you'll hit pretty dang hard with it when you've got three stacks. If you've talented properly, and a suggestion on tank spec will follow, using SotR will also grant you 15% shield block for 20 seconds.

We can also use Holy Power on Word of Glory, which is an instant heal. You will use this skill considerably less than SotR, but it will be damn handy when you're taking alot of damage in a raid environment so it should be counted as part of your tanking arsenal and tanking cooldowns. This is a choice we can make and that we should make the rest of the group (especially in a raid) aware of. You'll either do good threat, or heal yourself, and we'll most likely have to do both in a regular raid encounter.

The skills
Your most important tanking skills will be, by name anyway, pretty much the same as before. But they do new things now, and you have to keep track of them to be able to use them all efficiently.

Threat Skills
Hammer of the Righteous - Like mentioned this is now an aoe attack that deals small damage to everything around you. It is your only source of Holy Power income. With the right talent HotR will also have a 20% chance to reset the cooldown on your Avenger's Shield. You should use HotR on every cooldown.

Shield of the Righteous - Becomes available once you have at least 1 Holy Power. It deals a big blow on a single target making it good for single-target threat. It also increases your block chance by 15% for 20 seconds (Holy Shield). Because of this it is wise to use it as soon as possible. Once you've got your Holy Shield up you can make the choice to stack Holy Power for harder blows or use SotR as often as possible for more, smaller blows. It depends a little on what you're fighting. The thing is that each point of Holy Power increases the damage (and thus threat) with SotR significantly. The first increases by 20%, the second by 60% and the third by 120%. Saving to three Holy Power when fighting a boss for example is therefore more threat than to save only to one for more blows.

Avenger's Shield - Has become a way more important tank-skill than it used to be. Before 4.0 AS was mostly used to pull, because of its long cooldown. Now it is supposed to be part of your standard rotation. It already has a pretty low cooldown and it has a 20% chance to be reset when using HotR meaning you'll often end up using this many times in one fight. This combined with HotR should be considered your new aoe-threat skills. It also no longer dazes targets which tbh only makes me really happy (you can glyph it to do that, but I can't see why you'd want that).

Consecration - Much less important than it used to be. One could say Avenger's Shield and Consecration have switched places in use. Now you often find yourself wanting to save Consecration in case there are some suprise adds. Consecration is still a good way to collect adds however, on fights like Lady Deathwhisper and should be saved for moment like these rather than used as a standard threat skill.

Holy Wrath - Now deals damage to any target, not just demons/undeads (but only stund demons/undeads) and should therefore be used as any aoe-threat skill.

Judgement - Is your source for mana, combined with Divine Plea and the talent Sanctuary. Judging also increases the crit chance of your next SotR by 50% (talents) which makes it a good single target threat skill in combination with SotR.

Survival Skills
People say paladins have become weaker cooldowns for survivability. This might be true, but I also think alot can be contributed to our survivability cooldowns now needing a little thinking before we use them. Instead of one big oh-shit button, we now have several smaller ones. In a way that means we don't have to be as well timed with our cooldowns as we used to be. It means we can use them more often, probably even have to use them more often. Knowing when to use your cooldowns will as always define if you're a good or bad tank, especially when raiding.

Divine Protection - Has been turned into something of a "Barkskin" for paladins. It now reduces damage taken by 20% for 10 seconds with a 1 minute cooldown. If you want to learn how to use this properly you should take a chat with a fellow druid tank, they've used this kind of skill for years. Basically it means popping it at any moment you expect to take a little more damage. If you know when that will happen, save it for then, but don't save it for too long! If you take about the same amount of damage the entire fight, use it every cooldown.
Examples of fights where you can pop it all the time: Marrowgar, Sindragosa, Saurfang.
Examples of fights where it would be good to save it: Gunship tanking Muradin, Deathwhisper picking up adds, LK for whenever adds/boss hits harder.

Ardent Defender - People say it is les good now. Most importantly it now needs you to actually think for it to work, but yes it has also become weaker. Ardent Defender is like a weaker Guardian Spirit. Because it has a longer cooldown it should be saved for when you really expect to die. This is difficult to know of course, and can only be based on experience. Remember that the 15% heal you get from it isn't much at all, so this should be combined with Divine Protection for example if you really find yourself in a situation where you take alot of damage.

We have four different seals to choose from.
Seal of Insight - If survivability is more important than threat, this is a great tank seal as it heals you when you judge and swing. You have to evaluate the situation and decide between more threat or more survivability.
Seal of Justice - Pvp-seal.
Seal of Righteousness - Is replaced by Seal of Truth as a tanking seal at level 44.
Seal of Truth - Just as Seal of Vengeance was the best tanking seal pre-patch, seal of Truth takes its place as the best tanking seal post-patch. They work about the same, doing both good aoe and single-target threat.

Tanking Rotation

There is really no such thing anymore. Instead we have a set of priorities and synergies to keep track of, depending on the fight.

Instances (aoe threat):
Pull: Avenger's Shield - HotR - SotR 1HP for Holy Shield - Holy Wrath - and then;
  1. HotR each cooldown
  2. Keep Holy Shield up with SotR
  3. Avenger's Shield each cooldown
  4. Holy Wrath each cooldown
  5. Judge for mana if needed

Raid (single target threat)
Pull: Avenger's Shield - HotR - SotR 1HP for Holy Shield - Consecrate - and then;
  1. HotR each cooldown, stack HP to 3
  2. Judge before using SotR (preferrably between your 2nd and 3rd HotR cooldown).
  3. Use SotR as soon as you've reached 3 stacks (or heal yourself with Word of Glory if that seems more necessary).
  4. Avenger's Shield each cooldown
  5. Consecrate each cooldown

And of course, use survivability cooldowns where necessary.

As with any tank we are choosing talents that either help us survive or help us do threat. Some talents are needed for the abovementioned synergy effects for example. Here is a suggestion on a tanking spec at level 80.

Some talents are open for discussion;
Reckoning - Ever since Blizzard changed it so that our white damage became less important for our threat generation, this has become a less important talent for us to pick. I am assuming hitting faster would make us stack Seal of Truth Censur stacks faster as well, but I don't think that would make a big enough difference on our threat to warrant putting talents here instead of at other places where they are better needed.
Judgements of the Pure - Similiar to Reckoning, I think haste is a less important stat for prot paladins, since most of our threat comes from skills  and not white damage.
Improved Hammer of Justice - HoJ is with the talent Vindication an interrupt, which means lowering the cooldown on it could be useful. But since we already have Avenger's Shield as an interrupt with only 15 sec cooldown (resetable with talents) it seems like overkill/pvp to want this as well.

Seal of Truth - Gives 10 expertise when SoT is active.
Hammer of the Righteous - Increases damage with HotR by 10%.
Shield of the Righteous - Increases damage with SotR by 10%.

Divine Plea - DP grants 5% more total mana. Since mana isn't much of an issue anyway this won't do much for us, but there isn't much of an alternative.
Holy Wrath - Now also stuns Dragonkin and Elementals.
Consecration - SITUATIONAL: Increases duration and cooldown on Consecration by 20%.
Focused Shield - SITUATIONAL: Avenger's Shield only hits one target but for 30% more threat. Could be good for raid-tanking.
Divine Protection - SITUATIONAL: Divine Protection reduces magic damage by 40% instead of all damage by 20%. If we ever get a fight where magic damage is the big issue, this could become an interesting glyph to have handy.

Lay on Hands - Reduces cooldown on LoH by 2 minutes.
[Free to choose] - The other minor glyphs barely make a difference, but I'd probably go with Kings and Truth.

Stamina has always been among the most important stats for tanks. Now that armor has gotten a nerf and we stack attack power based on our max hp, this is even more true than it was pre-patch. Also, stats like dodge and parry are subject to diminishing returns (you can't 100% dodge or parry), but stamina isn't. We also no longer need defense (and the stat doesn't exist anymore anyway) to become crit capped, but get this through a talent instead. This means gemming and collecting gear towards gathering alot of stamina always is a safe way to go.
Expertise is less important for paladins than most other tanks, since most of our skills are magical and therefore can't be blocked, dodged or parried. This means hit becomes more important for us. Expertise is still an important stat and overall paladins have to collect a nice amount of both. Blizzard have tried to help us out by giving us glyph of Seal of Truth (see above) which gives 10 expertise when using SoT. 10 expertise is still far from cap, but it gives us a chance to focus a bit more on hit. You should try to collect at least 5% hit.
For reforging it depends a little on your current gear. Note that you will want to keep a balance to your stats however. Just because one stat is higher on the importance list than another doesn't automatically mean you want to change all of the one into the other. It is important to keep a nice amount of all of the above. If you're hit capped, hit is a otherwise good stat to convert to Mastery.

In order of importance;
  1. Stamina
  2. Mastery
  3. Dodge/Parry
  4. Hit
  5. Expertise

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Impressions on healing so far

Blizzard is working against me. Server downtimes and random instance/raid crashes has effectively kept me from doing any kind of constructed research on the different healing classes. But I have managed to get a general idea so far, and this is it.

First of all I'd like to really commend Blizzard on their effort to reinvent healing for us healers. I kind of feel it like a special little gift just for us. And they have done a tremendous job in coming up with things that have turned our way of healing upside down without alienating us from our favorite thing to do. So although there will be some whining in this post, I don't want anyone to get the idea that I'd want to go back to how things were before. I don't think any healer is worse off than before, well not really anyway. Well let's get to it and maybe you understand what I mean.

They've made some changes that have affected all healers. For instance they've tried to give all the healers three different kind of heals as a base;
  • Fast, expensive, small heal - like Flash Heal, Regrowth, Healing Surge and Flash of Light.
  • Slow, cheap, small heal - like Heal, Healing Wave, Holy Light and Nourish.
  • Slow, expensive, big heal - like Greater Heal, Greater Healing Wave, Healing Touch or Divine Light.

This way each heal only has one benefit and two drawbacks. It is either cheap, fast or big. And then each healing class has some individual heals to fill the inbetweens like Chain Heal, Rejuvenation and Word of Glory. And then some cooldown based heals like Shields, Penance, Swiftmend, Riptide and Holy Shock.

Holy Priest
Why not start from the top, with the healing class I have got the most experience of. I haven't played holy priest actively for a couple of months, maybe even half a year or so. But holy priest has been a part of my core WoW gaming for several years and will most likely stay that way unless Blizzard seriously do something weird to this class. Because that's just it. All the way from Vanilla I feel like holy priest has been the pillar of healing. Bringing a holy priest to a raid you always know what to expect. Healing as a holy priest you'll always feel at home with your role. Holy priest has developed over the years of course, it isn't much like it was 4 years ago. But it has kept its identity more than any other healing class.

Holy healing has always been fun. I can't ever remember playing holy priest and thinking "Wow this sure is dull". They've never had any real lows. Holy priests have been insanely powerful, but had lost some of that in late Wotlk. That never meant holy healing was bad. But the way resto druid hotting, disc priest shielding and holydin Holy Light spam worked usually made those classes outperform holy priests when it came to straight out healing done. Holy priests had a little bit of everything and weren't best on any of them, except maybe heavy aoe healing. But they did their job well.

Now in 4.0 Blizzard have given Chakra to holy priests. What has that done for us? Chakra is probably among the best working new healing skills currently. It perfectly examples the old saying "easy to use, difficult to master". Like I've been going on about Chakra before, I am sure this will set the casual and the hardcore priest healer apart. The lovely thing about Chakra is that you don't have to know much about it, or even use it at all to do decent healing. But it is an extremely powerful tool when used properly and will be necessary to fully master for the most difficult content. So Blizzard have succesfully implemented a tool that is just tricky enough to not scare the casual player away all the while giving the more dedicated healers something really interesting to put their teeth in.

As you might have noticed I am very pleased with the way Chakra is working. As with every other class I've only had limited possibilities for testing so far, but I did some tries on LK and had tons of fun trying to figure out the best way to use Chakra and Revelations. I really can't find any downside about it. The only thing, maybe, would be that some Chakra forms are better than others, but I think that is more due to Renew still being among holy priests best heal while Prayer of Healing and Heal are a little more situational.

Speaking of Heal, here I'd actually be able to open up a casket of whine. This affects Discipline more than Holy however so I'll go at it there instead.

Discipline Priest
Discipline priests across the bloggosphere are not really sure what to think of discipline healing right now. The only time I've managed to try it in a raid was when Atonement was still bugged, making all my healing efforts pretty uneffective. I have tried some in heroics though and I can just say that it isn't really what I wanted it to be.

I think I speak for many discipline priests when I say that I was really looking forward to the changes made to Discipline priests. I was overjoyed that Blizzard actually dared to make dpsing part of our healing rotation. I think most of us actually have thought Blizzard would put way more emphasis on the Evangelism-Archangel-Atonement combo than it actually seems like they have. I think many of us went in guns ablazing and started to smite frantically all around us thinking our smites would now cure cancer. Well that isn't really how it turned out to be. Setting aside the first disappointment for noticing that Atonement didn't heal at all, I quickly noticed that even when it did heal it was far too unreliable to put too much trust in. 8 yards is no distance at all. In many heroics the tank is thrown away from the boss and might die by standing 10 yards away from your target while you're frantically smiting. Also, trying to keep track of your target, Holy Fire debuff and the right time to pop Archangel kinda gave me a tunnel vision that proved lethal for my friendly vicinity.

No fellow disc priests, I think we have to come to terms with that Blizzard apparently didn't actually intend for us to become pewpew-smite healers. What they wanted was to give us a tool that we could use occasionally to boost our regular healing. By regular I mean it works basically like it always has. You're not supposed to smite like there is no tomorrow, you do the occasional smite while healing, and once you've got your full stack you pop Archangel for some extra healing bonus.

There are several issues
with this however. Blizzard removed Flash Heal as a viable heal-filler, and it has now become an "oh shit" heal instead. We've gotten two new heals to fill the spot of Flash Heal, but none of these work very well. I've already mentioned Atonement. It just doesn't heal good enough for current raid content, not even on non-heroic mode. The other is either Heal or Greater Heal. Let me just dismiss Heal right here and now. Not only is it abysmally slow (nearly 2 sec with 40% haste), it is way too small (some 6k). What am I to do with that? There is no place for such a heal in the current content and hasn't been for a long time. Greater Heal heals enough (15k uncritted), but is also very slow. When doing instances or 10mans this is less of a problem. In 25mans Greater Heal is generally a waste of time and mana. And always has been.

This means they took away Flash Heal, but didn't give us any proper replacement. I notice myself not actually knowing what to do when I've shielded and PoMed my target. I can always use Penance, but only on one target at a time. For the first time ever I have to wait for cooldowns as a healer, just because I don't have many good enough to use.

Another thing, I read that it seems like the 10% healing buff from Archangel doesn't even affect our shields. Excuse me? Then what is it good for? The occasional PoMs and Penances that I throw? Sounds like Archangel is barely worth using in that case, since mana really isn't an issue either. Maybe we should start spamming Flash Heals just so we oom and get some use from Archangel...

I think we have to re-evaluate the plan we thought Blizzard had for disc. Clearly it wasn't in line with whatever we thought they were up to. Maybe once we've realized this, we'll find out how to really heal as a disc priest. Right now I'm not sure.

I am disappoint. And I'm not alone. Until level 81 shaman healing is basically exactly the same as it used to, and that really makes me sad panda. I was hoping so for the interesting resto shaman changes, like an aoe heal and healing while running cooldown. But none of this is available now at 80. Instead we've gotten some tools to help us with mana management, the one thing that always really been a problem for resto shamans, especially when compared to the other classes. With lightning bolts we can regenerate mana and with shocks we can reduce mana cost and increase the effectiviness of our heals. Sure, it gives an edge to shaman healing, but it's definitely not enough to keep me interested when there are other heal classes that have actually become fun-to-heal-with tools.

Also they nerfed Chain Heal so that we would spam it less. And just as with disc priest they've tried to make us use Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave instead. But it's the same problem here. It's too dang slow. So we keep on spamming Chain Heals, they're just not as good anymore. Basically shaman healers just became a little less good and alot less fun. I think I will take a break from resto shaman healing until Cata comes. I am disappoint.

Holydin are among the healers that have become the greatest changes. Part of our healing rotation now is Holy Power. With Holy Power we can use one of our new skills, Word of Glory for an instant and big heal. I've heard that holydin healing output has been considerably lowered since pre-patch. I'm not entirely sure this is solely due to an actual nerf in healing output or due to the fact that holydins are supposed to manage more than one spell nowadays. Since Vanilla holydins have basically only ever had to worry about using a couple of spells on no more than one target. Place Beacon on one tank, spam the other. Keep Beacon up and shield up and you're set. The only difficult thing about holydin healing was to time your Divine Plea well. Which didn't seem particularly difficult.

Now on the other hand FoL is out of the standard rotation. In comes Holy Shock, Word of Glory, Divine Light and Holy Light. Holy Light has the same issue as Heal, it is way too slow and too small to be used in a raid setting. But Holy Shock has a cooldown and Word of Glory needs Holy Power to be used. Divine Light suffers from the same issues as Greater Heal. Slow, expensive and will probably mostly be overheals. Yepp well you better like it paladins. The only alternative to using Holy Shock and Holy Lights/Divine Lights to gather Holy Power is that holydins start using Crusader Strike in melee. Exactly, that probably won't work very well either.

As with Disc priests and shamans there is a gap here. Holy Light and Divine Light just aren't designed for current content and we really have nothing else to use. Holydins have less issues with the slow-ness of Holy Light and Divine Light however due to talents like Speed of Light that increase haste by 30% after using Holy Shock. Priests and shamans could use something like this. Holydin healing has been stumped, but a combination of a lot of instant and fastened heals still make them work ok.

The healer I know the least of are resto druids. That's ok I suppose since 85% of the wow-bloggers seem to play resto-druids ;) I know alot of resto druids are sad about Tree of Life going away as a shapeshift. I can understand them since I suppose the other shapeshifts (cat, bear, boomkin) would be pretty upset if their shapeshifts went away, even if you accounted for the fact that cats and bears can't use their skills in caster form. (Love never liked the shapeshifts however since they always been rather buggy. He suggests a minor transformation rather than a full shapwshift instead). As someone who doesn't main a resto druid however I am glad. The cooldown is a good one, using it at the right time will give good resto druids an edge to the casual player. Also it always annoyed me that the Tree of Lifeses (nice one) looked exactly the same. I hated trying to keep three-four trees apart in my 25mans. If they at least could have different skins?

Resto druids would be in the same position disc priests, shamans and paladins are in if it wasn't for one thing - their hots. The same thing that makes holy priests work better than the other healers in current content is what seems to make resto druids work even better. Sure their Nourish and Healing Touches suck too. But who cares, they never used those anyway apart from under extreme conditions. No, resto druids have rejuvenation, swiftmend (and efflorence), wild growth and lifebloom to play with as well. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what an upper hand resto druids are sitting with at the moment. Hots are the new black. Without them you just won't be able to perform as well, because the alternatives are just too sucky at the moment.

It seems like all the healers have gotten into healing issues with the current content. The way our healing works doesn't rhyme with how damage works. None of us are especially well adapted at dealing with heavy blows anymore, something that unfortunately is a part of how tanks take damage in raids like ICC. I also read that armor has been nerfed, making most tanks even more vulnerable to taking big hits. We no longer have a given healer to heal tanks. I noticed when raid healing that most of us healers probably thought "darn, the tank went low... well, do they want me to cast my extremely slow and expensive heal now or what? Surely there must be a better way?". A combination of Holy Shocks, Swiftmends, Riptides, Penances and Holy Words might work for a while. But it feels like a panic substitute. Priests (both disc and holy) and resto druids still have their aoe-heals, but shamans and paladins are left in the dust.

Holy Priest = :)
Resto Druid = :)
Discipline Priest = :S
Holydin = :S
Shaman = :(

I can only hope things will work better in Cataclysm.