27 January, 2009

Pally Power!

I haven't posted in quite a long time, largely due to my newfound (or perhaps just rediscovered) appreciation for my tankadin. Sure, sure, I love healing. Honest, I do. I never want to stop healing, but sometimes I could sure use a break. I found this release in rolling my pally from Holy over to Prot.

I have a full set of tanking blues gathered from questing, as my original intent was to spec Prot at 80. I didn't, I specced holy and started raiding as a healer. I certainly didn't regret it, but I still wanted to try out tanking. I took a hiatus from pally healing to switch over to my resto shaman, which was also fun, but it still smacked of healing far too much for my current tastes. So, yesterday, I specced my pally over to Prot. A few thousand gold later, I'm gemmed, enchanted, and sporting a few new BOE epics (what else was I supposed to do with my 31,000 gold bank account but buy fancy new toys?)*.

It's everything I could have asked for and more. It's neat to see the content "from the other side" so to speak. I feel like I'm putting my plate to good use. I wreck, essentially. AOE tanking is a complete and total blasty-blast.

And in response to this post over at Holy Discipline: I'm a cute, shiny little tank and I LOVE IT.<3

All that being said, brb, tanking Heroic Strat.

*Disclaimer: I play the AH like a fiend, and most of the gold I spent today I'll have made up tomorrow, so the 6,000g I dropped into a helm, ring, and gloves will be more than made up for. :P And no, you can't have any.*

14 January, 2009

Healing Tunnel Vision

Last night's run of Naxx25 Patchwerk prompted me to finish writing this draft. I encountered this issue during that fight and it got me thinking again.

Tunnel vision is the disregard for everything but your central task, an intense focus on the one thing (and only that thing) you are engaged in. I see tunnel vision hit healers mostly, and I blame the fact that they typically target raid members, and not the boss. As a tank, I have the boss targetted at all times. I have a much more accurate feel for the boss fight because I can watch his health progress. DPS are the same, but since healers don't usually have the boss' health in view, I feel like they can easily lose track of the fight's progress.

Last night, it was a mess of cooldowns being blown at the absolute worst times. Bloodlust at 3%? Really? Our healers were hurting because they had their faces buried in the tank frames, healing their rears off. Normally that's a good thing, a great thing for them to be so focused on tank healing, but in general, I don't think there's any real need for it.

Let me start off by first contradicting myself. There are fights where extreme tunnel vision is allowed and somewhat encouraged. Brutallus comes to mind. Pallies could not stop casting or the tank would die. One missed heal, the tank would die. For the healers, nothing else mattered besides keeping the tank up, so tunnel vision was ok.

And now the bad. In fights like Patchwerk, which I slightly compare to Brutallus, tanks are the only ones taking any damage, so tunnel vision on that tank is a good thing, right? I say wrong. Heroic Naxx involves multiple tanks taking Strikes, and while you as a healer may only have one tank target to heal, you need to be aware of your surroundings in order to best help the raid. Completely non-healing issues such as the aforementioned Bloodlust example come to mind. I realize, healers, that your job is to keep the tanks alive, but the rest of the raid's job is to kill the boss. I say the same for you that I do for DPS who insist on not having raid frames (They reason because they don't care about the raid's health, they're just here to kill the boss): tanks, healers, and DPS all interact and meld to kill the boss. The tank's job matters to the healers and DPS, the healer's job matters to the tank and DPS, and the DPS's job matters to the healers and tanks. I think we need to start a WoW Environmental Awareness campaign, because this is the second issue I've dealt with now that directly involve a need for greater spacial awareness while playing the game.

Get Your Eyes Out of Your Addons

This post is in response to the "Don't Rely on Addons to Heal" post over at World of Matticus, found here. This is a subject I feel very strongly about. As I peruse the Elitist Jerks forums, I see many UIs posted in the UI threads that are just god-awfully hard to heal with.


"Addons not make one great."

I can't stand people who rely solely on addons because they feel they're a better healer because of it. Healbot, Clique, Grid, and what have you are not the key to being a good healer. I actually argue the opposite. I feel that addons, when used incorrectly, actually reduce the effectiveness of a healer.


One thing I absolute cannot tolerate is people who have fifteen million spell icons and over nine thousand action bars out on their screens. You don't need that many. I guarantee you, you don't need that many spells out on your screen. I for one (and keep in mind, this certainly does not and should not necessarily apply to everyone) don’t need to see my spells to know what I’m casting. I know F4 is Flash of Light, F3 is Holy Light, 5 is Holy Shock, and F1 is my “Ah crap, burst damage incoming” Trinket + Divine Favor + Holy Shock + Flash of Light button. I don’t need to see them to know what I’m casting.


It’s More Than a Feelin’

Heck, I don’t even need to see my cast bar. I may be alone on this as well, but I can cast through feeling. I know how long a Flash takes to cast, likewise with a Holy Light. I know when the spell is about to end and can preemptively hit my next heal at the same moment my current heal goes off. Honestly, in raids and instances, the only things I even care about enough to have on my screen is Grid with the raid health bars and my target’s health bar. I don’t need to see chat (that’s what Ventrilo is for), I don’t need to see my target’s target, I don’t need to see the boss’s health (some say this leads to healing tunnel vision, but that’s a different post entirely), and I certainly don’t need to see half a million tiny spell icons, most of which I’ll never cast during the fight anyway.


Tips for Improvement

Get your eyes off your addons. You’d be amazed at how much more effectively you can heal if you’re actively watching your raid members. You’ll not only see who is taking damage, but more importantly, WHY they’re taking damage. You’ll also see who’s going to be taking damage (that rogue with A.D.D standing in the fire?) and can react accordingly, preempting most of the damage they’ll end up taking: You can start a heal so that it lands just as they finish taking damage, reducing the total time they spend damaged. Your eyes should be centered in the middle 60% of your screen, not roaming the bottom of the screen staring at action bars.


Furthermore, having a plethora of bars and icons and miscellaneous crap on your screen interferes with seeing aforementioned fire. If you die because you couldn’t see your environment, you’re not doing your job. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is as a (former) raid leader when you have players dying not because of the game (Random Number Generator comes to mind) but rather their own lack of attentiveness. If you have a 5 by 5 grid setup that occupies the middle 4 square inches of your screen, you’re doing it wrong.


Look forward to a new post soon about how to reduce UI clutter and make more efficient use of space. For now, I hope I’ve left you thinking about what addons you use and ways you could make better use of them. I’m not telling you to scrap addons entirely, just to use them well, and scrap what you don’t need. When it comes down to it, you should be watching your raid members because you’re healing the player, not the health bar.

11 January, 2009

The Art of Healing: Cooldown Woes

I’m writing this post after conducting a discussion with a friend of mine who plays a CoH priest. He was griping about the CD addition to CoH and Wild Growth, saying that now shamans will occupy the top AOE healing spot. This is my refutation of that claim. I’m going to mostly talk about how the CoH nerf affects Chain Heal and vice versa, seeing as I have the most experience with these two spells.


“That ability isn’t ready yet.”

We all know about the cooldowns coming in patch 3.0.8. Ask any priest or druid; it’s on the top of their list of complaints. I was recently discussing this change with a friend from class that plays a dwarf priest, and he had nothing but bad things to say about the fact that Chain Heal was not getting a nerf as well. He argued that shamans will now be the best AOE healers in the game. I personally disagree.


Targeting issues

I still think priests are perfectly capable AOE healers, and I attribute this to the fact that CoH is still a smart heal. CoH prioritizes who it heals. Those raid members with the greatest deficit health will receive the heals. I think that makes CoH one of the best “fire and forget” healing spells in the game. If you see a bunch of raid members taking damage, you can launch off a CoH and be fairly certain that the raid members who need the healing the most will receive it. You don’t need to even switch from your current target if they’re near the incoming damage. You are only limited by the 15 yard range, which remains nothing to scoff at. CoH is extremely useful in this regard because if your raid members are alert and moving to avoid AOE damage, you can pop off a quick CoH to keep them topped off.


Pay Attention!

Some healers are under the assumption that a shaman can just spam Chain Heal and win, much like priests are doing now with CoH. With Chain Heal, you have to pay close attention to who your target is, as they will receive the most benefit from the heal, and who is standing nearby them to receive the jumps from the heal. The jumps from the Chain Heal are much harder to judge than the smart healing from CoH. You can’t guarantee that the more damaged raid member will receive the 2nd jump, and the less damaged raid member will receive the 3rd jump. It’s not something you can judge easily in combat while a dozen other things are happening around you. Chain Heal IS very powerful because of it’s spammability. If you have a tightly packed group taking damage, like melee dps or the like, it’s a very useful tool for keeping them all up as they move to avoid AOE damage or what have you. Chain Heal is much more suited (post-nerf) to dealing with sustained AOE damage, whereas CoH is now more of a burst damage AOE heal.


Additional Notes

There are a lot of priests who bind every key to CoH and faceroll and top charts doing so. (I’m not saying every priest does this, but there are more than enough that do.) The only thing the nerf will mean for priests is that now you will have to make more efficient use of your heals. PoM is very powerful, as is Renew. Those spells didn’t lose any functionality with the advent of CoH, but they arguably gain some functionality now that CoH has a cooldown. Additionally, CoH is still instant cast. Chain Heal has a cast time. CoH is much more reactive than Chain Heal will ever be. There’s nothing wrong with CoH and Chain Heal. They merely are suited for different situations now.


I’ve always been a fan of laser beam Penance healing, and no, I don’t spam Chain Heal. I’m a Lesser Healing Wave fan myself, although I do realize just how useful Chain Heal is in the right circumstances. I believe there is no “useless” heal. All heals have their place. It is finding a place for each of these heals that makes a healer good.


07 January, 2009

The Life and Times of a Healer

I figured the best way to start off a new blog would be with a somewhat lengthy post detailing my World of Warcraft life so far.

Gaming Background

Even before I had caught wind of a small new MMO called World of Warcraft, I had always been a gamer. I was deep into the lore back in the glory days of Warcraft III and I've even played through WCI and II a few times (mostly out of respect for the franchise). I played myself some DotA, and that experience with online play was what initially sparked my fascination with massively multiplayer online games. I started out small: Star Wars Galaxies. I played SWG pretty hard back in the days before the NGE and CU (arguably, back when SWG was still any GOOD.) I was one of the first couple of people on my server to unlock a Force-sensitive Jedi slot. It's at about this time that I became hooked on the MMO.

After SWG got shot to pieces with the new (read: poor) gameplay, I felt a strong desire to switch MMOs. That's when I picked up City of Heroes at the insistence of a friend from school. CoH was good, honest play. I relate my CoH experience to the first 40 levels of WoW: "feels like new". There was tons of content to explore, and the time I spent playing was valuable experience in how to properly conduct oneself in an online game. (Sounds cheesy, but etiquette in CoH was a big deal.)

A few months after I picked up CoH (and about a month after I hit max level), I heard from another friend about a Warcraft MMO being released soon. We were both dubious about the success of the game, so we picked up Guild Wars. Bad move. Guild Wars wasn't the gameplay I was into, with too much PVP for my tastes. Still, we spent quite a few months playing Guild Wars and hearing about how popular WoW was becoming. Eventually, we bit.

Enter the World... of Warcraft

We picked up World of Warcraft one Saturday afternoon. My friend brought her laptop over to my house, we installed the game, and both rolled humans (she thought the other races were ugly, and we wanted to start in the same zone. I initially wanted to roll a Night Elf). She rolled a priest, I rolled a paladin. Over the next couple months, we both fell in love with the game. It was everything I could have possibly wanted from an MMO version of Warcraft. Vanilla WoW content still harbors some of the fondest memories of any in the game for me. We took our time reaching 60, as the game was still so new and there was so much to explore. She remains to this day one of the only people I know who can level a toon as fast as me, since we've seen this content so many time and love it all so very much.

At 60, I was introduced to raiding. Raiding on a serious scale was something I had never been exposed to before. Sure, we had Planetary PVP raids in SWG, and Hamidon raids in CoH (anyone who's been to a Hami raid knows how lol-worthy they are), but Molten Core was an incredible first experience. I joined a guild that seemed to be progressing well with the new content, and that's when the problems started occuring.

Raiding as a paladin preBC was, needless to say, awkward. We couldn't quite tank as well as warriors, and couldn't heal quite as well as priests and druids. The preBC paladin didn't really fill any niche in particular, not to mention the absolute catastrophe that was Retribution spec. That's when I rolled my first alt.

I don't really know why I went with a priest. I liked wearing plate. It made me feel powerful, like I could wreck through anything. Cloth, at first, felt weak and frail. But I learned to love the survivability of Discipline. Yeah, you read that right: I leveled my priest from 1-60 as a mixture of holy and discipline. Hey, I didn't know any better. Long story short, leveling my priest to 60 went faster and was more enjoyable than my paladin had been. At 60, I rejoined my guild as they began to hit Molten Core content hard.

"Fifty DKP minus!"

We blew through content. We shattered our way through boss after boss, sitting comfortably in first in terms of progression. We were farming Hakkar and Ragnaros before most guilds were running Blackrock. By the time we were entering Blackwing Lair, I had established myself as a healer with a reputation for leaving no man behind. Raiding as the priest class leader during the latter days of level 60 raid content was bar none the best days of WoW for me.

When the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj opened, the Scarab Lord was in our guild. He also was the first to recieve a Thunderfury on the server. Our guild was the powerhouse guild of the server. Our members would be the ones standing in the Ironforge auction house getting inspected constantly. As great as it seemed, some of us weren't happy.

It was around AQ that I started catching a lot of crap from some of the players that weren't having any fun if they weren't getting any loot. They were the ones who were first to blame the healers for wipes. We hit a wall on C'Thun. I don't think I ever figured it out, but my best guess was we didn't have the teamwork necessary to pull all the shield stages off. The shitstorm escalated and tensions ran high to the point that I was considering leaving the guild and quitting raiding. It's a good thing I didn't, because I would have taken most of the healing team with me, and that would have irrepairably damaged the guild.

"Every weapon is a Hunter weapon."

After a few swift gkicks for the loot whores, we were back in business in time to finish clearing AQ with time to spare before Naxxramas. Again, we made short work of the game's hardest content. We had even killed Kel'Thuzad a few times, and I think we were better at the Horsemen than we were at Twin Emps. That's when I burned out. The fact that a new raid wouldn't be coming after Naxx suggested an expansion, and an expansion was exactly what we got.

The Burning Crusade Blues

In a word, I was pissed. I mourned the passing of preBC, and spent the two weeks before the release of BC leveling a mage to work off some frustration. I hit 60 on the mage the day BC was released, and left my priest and paladin sitting to collect dust as I entered Outlands with my mage. I know most of you who've played will know what I mean; I associate a lot of emotion with my characters, and playing my priest or paladin at that particular time wasn't right for me. I transferred my mage to a new server to give myself a fresh start in WoW.

Outlands was, for the most part, fun. At the very least, it was fun the first time through. I powered my way to 70 on the mage and immediately began raiding again. This time, the guild I was in was run much more like a business instead of a family. I really didn't talk to many of the people I raided with, outside of the obvious exception of during raids. We cleared content up to Magtheridon very quickly, and once again, I felt a bit burned out by raiding. The constant 4-5 nights a week raiding from 10pm to 3am got to me. Just around the time we were clearing SSC and moving to Hyjal, I quit my mage and moved back to my priest.

I took the priest back up to 70 and rejoined what remained of my old guild. Most of the officers were still around, but the membership had changed drastically. They were in SSC when I joined back up, which was an ironically good point, considering I had just dropped out at the end of SSC with my mage. We weren't first this time, however. Another guild had overtaken us for first progression guild on the server in the time that our membership was changing around. We still made fantastic progress in BT and were forced to sit on our laurels a bit until Sunwell was released. There's not much to say about BC content for raiding. It was fun, but I still missed the vanilla raids.

As we waited for SWP, I somehow found time to level my fourth character, my druid. I spent a week or two healing with that druid as we farmed old content until the next raid was released. When it came, Sunwell was an easy clear. We were only limited by the speed at which we could open gates on our server (which was painfully slow, with only two motivated raiding guilds to speak of, Alliance side).

Now what?

By the time we cleared Sunwell, many of us didn't really have much reason to keep playing. We were a raiding guild by nature, and a lack of new raids left us very bored. Many went their seperate ways. Some went to Warhammer, some leveled new toons, and some just up and quit until Lich King. 

The announcement of Lich King was a very melancholy time for me. Blizzard had just announced Lich King when we were clearing through Magtheridon, and I felt no desire to conquer the rest of the raid content only to be faced with another ten levels and the infamous gear reset. I guess I didn't realize just how far away LK actually was, but it felt close, and I didn't like it. 

After Sunwell, with most of our officers quitting until Lich King, I began leveling another paladin, Horde side, with my best friend in real life. At the time, I had no idea I'd never play another Alliance toon again.

For the Horde!

Leveling Horde was a magical experience for me. All of the content felt new. Even the old world content that I loved so much had a fresh new spin put on it. The perspective of the Horde made WoW feel like a whole new game for me. The "new" paladin was a blast as well. Retribution, viable? I never would have believed it had I not done it myself.

When my cute little Blood Elf hit 70, I again started raiding specced holy, albeit much more casually. I don't think I got much farther than Magtheridon on this pally, but farming easy-mode Kara for badges in my spare time was a much better atmosphere for me than hardcore, four nights a week progression. I took about two months off before the release of Lich King to just break from WoW, hang out with my in-game friends in real life, and generally just goof around until there was new content to explore.

"Frostmourne... hungers..."

Needless to say, when Lich King was released, I tore through content. I knew I played quite frequently, but I never truly realized exactly how fast I was at leveling until I had my paladin to 80 and rolled a fresh shaman and had him to 60 before most of the people on the server had their mains to 80. I messed around in the lv80 instances, running heroics here and there. I sat in as paladin class leader in a relatively new guild that was progressing well and we cleared 10man Naxx, Archavon, and Sartharion solo as well as one+two drakes up on 10man. 

It was here that I had to take a week-long break to sort out personal problems in real life, and when I returned, I found myself guildless and all of the other officers scattered around in other top-tier raiding guilds. No one ever said specifically what happened, but needless to say, our little guild broke up and the officer staff went elsewhere. 

Currently, I'm leveling my shaman his last 10 levels to 80, respecced my paladin prot, and am just generally enjoying the social experience in WoW. I'm helping two friends level toons as well, one for the first time, another for his third. 

Lv80 raid content? As soon as the shaman hit 80, he's getting specced Resto and I plan to hit heroic raids with a vengeance.

Thank you for taking the time to read all that. I realize it's a literal wall of text, but I feel new readers should have a background on me if they wish to acquiant themselves with my level of knowledge of the game at this point. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me either on Twitter or by email.