Sunday, October 28, 2012

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

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

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

His answer surprised me;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Disc Priest Q&A - MoP Edition

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

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

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

So let's get started!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It only got worse from here

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

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

All (mop)ped up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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