Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Idolatry

This post was requested by Kathryn in the comments of a previous post.

The two idols we're comparing are Idol of the Black Willow and Idol of Flaring Growth. Let's give them a quick once-over.

The Idol of Flaring Growth is an idol almost every Resto Druid owns by now, costing 25 Emblems of Triumph. It has a chance to grant a 234 Spellpower buff everytime Rejuvenation ticks. This proc rate is so high that often the buff will have a 100% up time with even one Rejuv ticking on a target. As soon as it procs, the buff is complete and immediate, and almost never drops off so long as Rejuv is rolling on a target. If Rejuv is rolling on two or more targets, you will never lose the buff.

The Idol of the Black Willow is an idol introduced in 3.3 and costs 30 Emblems of Frost. On every tick of Rejuvenation, the idol will grant the Druid casting it 32 Spellpower that stacks up to 8 times, granting a total of 256 Spellpower. It has no RNG; it will stack or refresh during every tick of Rejuvenation. It will have a 100% uptime so long as one Rejuv continues to tick.

It seems pretty obvious which Idol is better, as it should be. The difference is, however, only 22 Spellpower. While some argue that the ramp up effect makes the Idol of the Black Willow less appropriate for PvP, it is more reliable and less reliant on RNG (if we're talking about a single Rejuv). It is true that, once it procs, Flaring Growth has no build-up phase, but Black Willow should be easy to stack with the continuous Rejuv that should almost always be on a Druid or their partner(s).

However, as was stated earlier, the difference is only of 22 Spellpower. The Idol of the Black Willow is not a make-or-break piece as Flaring Growth was in the time of ToC. It is not a big deal to wait to pick this Idol up later, after you have completed more expensive purchases. Especially now that Emblems of Triumph are everywhere, it is more prudent to buy Flaring Growth and wait until you have no other uses for your Frost Emblems to invest in Black Willow.

So, in summary, Black Willow is obviously better, but not so much that you can't wait on it while purchasing other items with your Emblems of Frost.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Admit and Apologize

It hurts to look at something you've put a lot of work into, and realize you've done a bad job with at least one part of it. It hurts even more to realize you've been trying to ignore it, though it's been staring at you this whole time. Though people are reading it and you're confusing them, messing them up. And instead of fixing it you start avoiding it.

I've done a lot of things with this blog that I'm proud of. A lot. That being said, I've also done a lot of things I'm not. I've written things with completely faulty information. I've written things that were just plain wrong. I've gotten mad at stupid things, and looking back on a lot of what I've written I'm glad to see that I've come a long way. I don't always do well, or hit the mark, but I've done at least a decent job.

The regemming for haste post has bothered me since I hit "Publish Post." I knew I wasn't thinking about it enough, that I didn't have any real support for it, that it was just plain bad...and I published it anyway, so I could have something written and done between the time of finals and when I'd have some more time.

You've all noticed how poorly thought out, supported and reasoned it is. And I refuse to remove it, because people have made great points in comments. I've tacked on a disclaimer so people know not to trust what they're reading on it. But I feel it needs a little bit of follow-up past just rewriting. Especially as, well, the rewriting is going to take a while.

I am working on a rewrite to it. Unfortunately, part of the reason that post was so terrible is that I am not in a good place right now, both in and out of WoW. A huge deluge of real life problems and personal issues are pulling me away from WoW, which before was my haven from these things. I don't have a raiding guild anymore, and I don't feel it's responsible for me to apply somewhere when I can't commit at this point in time, and when you can't do what you enjoy in a game, it really sucks. But I still want to keep playing and keep writing, because it's still a nice break from things when I just can't deal with another problem blowing up in my face.

If there are other posts that come before the Gemming Haste rewrite, understand I'm not putting it off, it's just going to take a lot of work to try and do it right, and other things may get written in the meantime. I have posts owed other people, and I want to make sure they get done.

I don't know if this seems over-dramatic for a single post, but this blog and the information is contains is pretty important to me. I enjoy writing in it, I enjoy helping people, and when I print something so poorly done, it bothers me (and it bothered many of you). Please know I'm working to correct it, and if you want to keep commenting on the old one, please do. It can only help, and as soon as I can I'll address and fix everything.

Though it's likely not needed to be said, I request that those of you who know the specifics of some of the personal/real life issues mentioned briefly please not post any details of them in the comments.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Just Because It's Easy

With the random dungeon finder, I've been getting in a lot of groups where people don't know what to do, don't understand, have never been in a heroic before...and hey, that would be fine.

See, I have no problem with people being new to an instance. That's totally cool; everyone starts sometime, somewhere. The problem is people don't try to learn.

What am I talking about?

Well, let's take three anecdotal examples from my experiences, shall we?

First, Oculus. Yay, Oculus! Some of you may know that I love Oculus. However, Blizzard has nerfed Oculus into the ground so hard I literally had a group member stand on the electrified floor without moving out of the sustained breath-beam-thing of a sky captain with little to no heals without dying. This is really teaching people get out of the fire skills, tell you what.

But I digress.

See, the whole group but me (on Sugarcake; almost all of my bad groups are on my huntard) and the Paladin healer had never been to Oculus before. So, the Paladin and I attempted to explain the layout, the bosses, how to avoid pulling a zillion blue drakes, how to use the drakes...and we got through everything by brute-forcing it, until we got to the last boss. Continual explanations, drake shifts to give them something easier weren't helpful. The tank couldn't even find the drake vendor, still, after wiping multiple times. No one was paying attention, at all. It's not even "vehicles are hard" at that point; it's "you're not trying to learn."

And then...Old Kingdom. Oh my goodness, Old Kingdom. I got this instance twice in a row, and both times I had to leave early because it was just not worth the repair bills anymore. I felt bad about it, but I just couldn't stay.

The first time, the tank had no idea where he was going. This is okay; everyone has their moments when they're learning an instance. But he wouldn't listen when the group tried to show him the correct way to go, instead running in circles around the first boss's area, pulling extra packs of mobs that actually ended up wiping us a couple times (because, hey, no one is controlling the insta-kill spell flingers, and when I try to freeze them in place the mage is purposely breaking my CC). It didn't help the healer was continually AFK (or unglyphed HT healing), either.

The second time in OK, the tank was "undergeared" (i.e. in blues). Now, obviously these heroics can be accomplished by "undergeared" people; we did it in the beginning of Wrath. However, this tank played like he was in ToC epics, pulling without worrying about control or even threat, really. So, of course, spell flingers were eating people, lots of wipes were had. After the second boss, the DK DPS pulled a second pack of adds for no reason and killed everyone but the rogue and I.

As the Rogue and I talked, we discussed how if we didn't Misdirect or Tricks the tank, the adds wouldn't get picked up; but if we did, then he would die. My CC would get broken. No one was using defensive cooldowns. The Holy Paladin was apparently half-awake, and the tank liked to die in a blaze of glory. Half the time the rogue was evasion tanking or I was kiting or my pet was tanking.

When the tank pulled an extra pack of mobs on his way back in, I apologized to the Rogue and left the group.

It is becoming somewhat common that I find people think just because it's easy, they can do it without any sort of thought or care. They try to brute-force everything because many things can be brute-forced. They don't take into account that their gear can't handle it, that some things still will one-shot them, that they need to pay attention.

I could see how the current content would breed that mindset. After all, I remember logging in early when ToC first came out, getting extra consumables and reagents and feasts and preparing myself to stay on late, because this new boss had to be hard. After all, it was after Ulduar, and with only releasing one boss at a time, it was going to require some work, right?

We killed Beasts in 2-3 shots and went back to Ulduar. This left us totally unprepared for Hardmode, as we'd been lulled into a false sense of security by the ease of normal.

Some of it could also be that people skipped the "hard heroics" like OK and Oculus with gear resets, and now think they can just merrily romp through collecting their badges with no idea what they're doing. Which is, in essence, the same thing.

Just because something is easy doesn't mean it can't kill you.

Just because something is easy doesn't mean you don't have to pay attention.

Just because something is easy doesn't mean you can slide through it.

Just because something is easy doesn't make you immortal.

So pay attention. If you don't know, ask. Do your own investigating, even if that means simply reading the text supplied to explain how your dragon works. Slow down. Mark groups. Don't break CC. Look where you're running. Listen to your group members. And remember:

Just because something is easy doesn't mean you can't mess it up.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Regemming Haste? Don't Do It!

As an important note, please be aware that this is probably the worst thing I've ever written. I'm not removing it because people have discussed some important things in the comments. I am, however, working on a rewrite that is being slowed down by the holidays. You can keep reading this and writing comments, but please be aware that much of it needs revision, clarification, deletion and editing.

Being unable to access the PTR, I never really got to experiment with haste differences before the patch went live. Aware that I'm sitting pretty compared to a lot of other Restoration Druids at 610 haste, I knew I was still under the cap. I would have been a little better off if I could have gotten the chest from Heroic Faction Champions, but it only dropped once and I didn't win it.

So, Saturday, my little-PUG-who-can hopped into Icecrown Citadel 25 man. We one-shot Marrowgar, five-shot (I think) Lady Deathwhisper, one-shot the Gunship Battle, and then had to call it on Saurfang on account of having waaaaay too many ranged (we only had about five melee; made spreading out impossible). During this time I got to play around with both raid healing and tank healing, i.e. doing both in a fight, and I found, insanely enough...

My timing is off.

I'm down to just fractions of a second more than the one second cooldown, with 610 haste and Celestial Focus, and my rhythm was still disrupted. Not terribly, not so that I couldn't heal, not so that my healing suffered. It was just an annoyance, a tic; when I was hitting my buttons now was my internalized one second GCD, and I just wasn't there anymore.

Delleyentar asked me just yesterday if I was going to regem haste or go Celestial Focus. I'm convinced, however, that regemming haste is not the way to go. Besides being expensive, it's a serious blight upon your Spellpower numbers, which are the biggest boost to a Restoration Druid's healing.

To take Bellwether for example, she has 15 sockets. Out of those 15 sockets, 13 are straight 23 Spellpower gems, and two are 12 Spellpower, 12 Spirit (gaining three socket bonuses along the way; +9, +7 and +5 Spellpower) . That's 347 Spellpower, including the amount gained from the Spirit. At 610 haste, I would need to regem 246 Haste to reach the fully-raid-buffed cap without Celestial Focus, which is 12 sockets of pure Haste and one socket of Haste/Spellpower. Fully regemming would get me to 910 Haste, but I would lose all that Spellpower and Spirit for a few seconds shaved off my GCD.

It's not worth it.

It's not worth it at any level; when you're low haste or high. Unless you're just a few points shy of the 1 second GCD, you're losing more by going for Haste gems. Spellpower is still priority. I'm going to be re-tweaking my Gemming Guide to explain this in detail, but I thought this deserved its own section, as well.

The one second GCD is not the be-all-end-all of Druid healing. Is it handy? Yes. Is it necessary? No. Can you raid heal without it? Yes. Is respec'ing into Celestial Focus helpful? Most definitely.

Don't gimp yourself trying to reach the one second GCD. You won't perish without it, and neither will your raid.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bell Iz Teech U 2 Boomkek LOL

Iz 2 Big 4 Mah Blog ONOES. U haz 2 click 2 see!
<-- CLICK IT NAO



IZ U CLICKING YET



NO?



U IZ FAIL SAWSE



BOOMKEK IS 4 WIN OK

Friday, December 4, 2009

Being Extraordinary

Let's face it; the current game can be largely brute-forced. Unless you're doing some select hardmodes, you can rofl-faceroll your way to victory. There may be some wipes, some frustration, but eventually the stars will align and you will be teh winnar. And it's this kind of situation that reinforces the "good enough" mentality. This works, kind of, so it's "good enough."

But, seriously, who wants to be just "good enough"?

If you like being just "good enough," sliding through content and so forth, you can feel free to stop reading now. There's no shame in it, you just won't find the rest of this post interesting.

If you're still here, I'll assume you want to push past the "good enough." Maybe you're working on hardmodes or are entering a srs biznas raiding guild. Maybe you just want to be more than "good enough" because you're an over-achiever. Maybe you wish to be hyper-critical of any advice I post here! Whatever your reasons for sticking around through my rambling drivel, I salute you.

So, what does it take to be a better-than-average healer? Many things. However, there are some basics that first must be met before you can even start healing. These are:
  1. You must understand your spells. If you don't understand the mechanics upon which your healing operates, you cannot heal.
  2. You must be willing to adapt based upon what situation you are facing. Not every encounter behaves the same way, so neither can your healing follow a singular routine.
  3. You must be able to quickly react to a changing situation as it occurs, in hindsight, and in foresight.
  4. You must have OCD that operates upon a switch and has a shiftable focus.

Those are the basics. And, no, point number 4 is not a joke. I am quite serious.

Let's break these points down a little more and explore the differences between "good enough" and "super awesome" before going further, shall we?

First up is understanding your spells. This seems like a no brainer, but if that's true then I'm not quite sure what some healers are using to operate their characters. Perhaps a sea sponge? I digress. But, really, don't just read the text and go "Oh, huh. Neat-o." Actually attempt to understand what you're reading. Look at how the puzzles pieces fit together. The spells don't have labels on them (yet) telling you which situations they fit. They don't come with a manual. There isn't even a "healing dummy" that can give you practice. Outside of actual implementation, you need to understand the basics of each spell before you throw it into the fray.

Of course, you also have to be able to adjust this understanding with each new patch or hotfix. Just something to keep in mind. Moving on!

All right, adapting to situations! This is key. We don't have a "threat rotation" or a "DPS rotation" like the other members of our raid (the non-healers). We have certain spells that do certain things and make no sense to be used in a rotation (usually). And, as every encounter has its own unique "quirks," these need to be met with an ever-changing arsenal and selection of spells. Sometimes this can be predictable, sometimes it won't be. You have to be prepared for both.

The next part is your ability to react to change, quickly. QUICKLY! TOO SLOW THEY'RE DEADWTFMANWHEREWERETHEHEALS?!

Sometimes, things just go wrong. Or they go correctly but someone does something stupid. Sometimes RNG just spits in your face and then curbstomps you to the ground. And you, the healer, need to heal through that curbstomp as best you can so you can tell RNG to go fornicate itself inappropriately. You have to be ready for the melee to scramble through poison and void zones and lightning bolts. You have to be ready for the tank to forget his cooldowns or not have one up. You have to be ready for a sudden wall of white orbs bearing down upon your black-aura'd group mates.

Yes, you. Don't sit there and go "Oh the others will cover it." Maybe they will, maybe they won't. You don't know because this is an unexpected situation. You should react as quickly as you can to remedy it within your capacity as a healer and without neglecting your assignment. And you have to make that decision in a matter of seconds. Less than seconds. RIGHT NOW!

Too late.

And, the final part of the basics, your healer OCD. You must obsessively, compulsively, follow health bars, boss mechanics and fire-huggers. You must be able to shut this OCD off during boss fights in which it is inappropriate (see Anub'arak). You must be able to shift the focus of this OCD based upon your assignment. And you must be able to control this OCD to allow for trust upon the other (hopefully exceptional) healers.

To check a healer's OCD, raid leaders should follow this procedure: invite someone to the raid, who is not near the instance, with less than full health. Count how many frustrated healers begin roaming around the room, exclaiming in Vent and clicking/jamming buttons frustratedly. You hear that? That is their OCD on overtime.

All right, that's the basics. But that will just make you "good." Remember, we're going for EXTRAORDINARY. In caps. So, what do you need to lump on top of those basics?

It is not "I can't do this," it is "How can I do this?"
There is no such thing as a fight you cannot heal. There may be people you cannot heal, there may be healers you cannot work with, but there is no encounter you cannot heal. None. Zero. Don't even start with me because I have healed every fight and I say you can too.

There was a time where I was under the impression there was some stuff I couldn't do. Like healing people through Ignis's crotch pot. My HoTs just didn't tick fast enough! Well, I was wrong. I had to adjust my view. I had to think about it. I had to refresh my knowledge of my skills and my current gear situation. After all that, I adjusted so that I never allowed a crotch pot victim to die where I had a choice.

If something is not working, adjust. If the adjustment doesn't work, adjust some more. You can heal it. No ifs, ands or buts. It's like that cheezy can-do attitude stuff you learned in Kindergarten, only it doesn't apply to things like believing you can be a dinosaur.

You may hit some sort of wall, like your tanks need more mitigation or your DPS starts believing that standing in fire gives a buff. But that doesn't mean you can't heal it, it doesn't mean it's impossible.

Now, I know you can eventually bash your head aganst content and it'll fall over and give you its loots out of pity, but that's the "good enough" way. We're working on being extraordinary. Never forget that.

Use Raid Awareness to Precast
There will always be damage you know is coming. It's not about intuition or psychic powers, it's about a boss having scripted mechanics. Koralon is going to Burning Breath now, Gormokk is going to Impale now, XT is going to throw a hissy fit now. You know when it's coming because you have DBM or an equivalent/better, or you simply watch the boss. You know these things are coming.

So, what do you do with this knowledge? Precast.

You know that Koralon's always going to do Burning Breath before he does any Meteor Fists. There should be HoTs ticking all over that raid before he even fills his lungs. You know Onyxia is about to breathe fire on the tank because she's pulled her head back. Your Holy Light should already be processing. Gormokk's about to stomp and cut off half the melee's HP. You're already channeling a Chain Heal, cutting it off if it's about to be wasted, right? Of course you are, you're extraordinary.

Learn the Difference between "Aggro" and "Attention"
Many addons used to create special healing frames (such as Healbot and Grid) have the option to adjust themselves visually in some way when a character has aggro. This is incredibly helpful to healers because tanks often don't call when they're grabbing Gormokk (because they like watching their health dip?) and you can quickly adjust to healing their uncommunicative butt.

However, this also lights up when a raid member gets the boss's "attention." This isn't aggro, this is simply the boss switching to target them for a moment to cast a singular spell, usually a debuff. They then immediately return to the tank. This can be seen on Jaraxxus or Onyxia during the air phase.

Why is this important? For starters, someone who gains boss "attention" is about to either receive damage, or do some damage to others. Paying close mind to these "attention" warnings can give you anywhere from a split second (instant-cast debuffs) to a few full seconds of preparation time. When Onyxia is in the air, people who gain her attention have a few seconds before they, and the people around them, are victims of a fireball and splash damage. This gives you time to prepare with either a HoT or precasting a spell.

"Attention" is a common mechanic used by many bosses. XT, Jaraxxus, Onyxia and Icehowl are just a few of the bosses who utilize "attention."

Never Discount a Spell Completely
There are spells many classes scoff at, say are worthless or useless. For Druids, this was Healing Touch. Only wanted if his girlfriend, Nature's Swiftness, was doing the talking, he otherwise never got invited to the parties. He chilled alone with Tranquility, but at least Tranquility was cool on the 5-man scene. Healing Touch, he couldn't catch a break.

Then along came a boss called Hardmode Anub'arak and this guild, Apex, and they decided HT totally needed to come to the party, just so long as he was fast. And, indeed, with the proper glyphs and gear, HT was cast in under 0.8 seconds and verily did Anub eat much dirt.

Never, ever, take a spell and throw it out the window. Never assume a spell is pure trash. Somewhere, somehow, there is a purpose for that spell. It may not have been invented yet, but its day will come. And then won't you feel foolish when you have to go digging through the dumpster and apologize to it?

Don't Fall Into the "Good Enough" Trap
Be wary of the healer rut. You can get so used to something that "works" that, when you come upon the antithesis of your working model, you break down into blubbering healer tears and mutter disconsolately at the shattered pieces of your bubbles and earth shields. That's when the warlocks gather your tears and sell them on the black market. And you really don't want to give 'locks extra income.

If something doesn't work, you have to stop hitting your head against the wall. To really be extraordinary, you can't play by the "eventually it will work" rules. You can't think in terms of "good enough." Being extraordinary is a state of mind; it's in your approach, in the swish of your hips as you walk into the boss's room and tell him he might as well hand over your trinkets now because he is your bitch.

You got all that?

Good. Now go be extraordinary.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Trust Issues

So, what I can decipher according to the replies on my previous post, I am a control freak with trust issues towards other healers, and that's why I can't just DPS. And, yeah, that's pretty much hitting the nail on the head. I don't trust other healers. Not ones I don't know. My friends who are healers I'd trust to heal me through anything, but PUG healers make me nervous, make me crawl out of my skin, make me rant excessively to five different friends in different IM windows.

Terrible healers are why I can't relax as DPS.

Last night, I joined a friend's raid on my Hunter. I knew one of the healers, and trusted her. I didn't know the Resto Druid, but he was in her guild, so he couldn't be terrible, right?

No, wrong. So, so wrong.

His most used healing spell? Nourish. It accounted for 60%+ of his healing. Rejuvenaton almost never broke 20%. There was a fight where he beat Wild Growth healing with a single Healing Touch. Living Seed was his third most effective heal.

This was a conversation we had:

"I use Nourish on Twins because I need fast heals to cover for a lot of raid damage." says BadDruid after a wipe due to raid damage on Twins.

"It'd be better if you blanketed the raid with Rejuvenation, Wild Growth on cooldown and used Swiftmend." replies Bellwether, trying to be helpful.

"HoTs won't tick fast enough. I'll just use Nourish." BadDruid shrugs.

This is why I can't just relax and DPS.

He explained to me that Nourish was faster and stronger than Rejuv, and he was boosting it with HoTs. What HoTs? He barely used Rejuv, and Lifebloom either never registered or was near last. No Regrowths either. Oh, Wild Growth? Yeah, you're not using that either.

You want to know what attempted to heal off my Incinerate?

Gift of the Naaru. Neither of the healers being Draenei, it means one of the DPS or the DK tank tossed me that heal. Not a single HoT, not even a Nourish. Of course, this wasn't entirely his fault and I'm not making it just his fault; my Priest friend didn't heal me either.

So I spent over an hour wiping in ToC 10 before we finally cleared it. The last time I wiped in ToC 10 we were adjusting to using just one tank. Oh, wait...no, I went as DPS to kill Anub on a ToC 10 where the healers couldn't keep the tanks alive during Leeching Swarm.

I get so frustrated with bad healing. I try to be helpful in whispers and help them see why what they're doing could be improved, even just a little bit, by adjusting something here or there. I'm not rude or mean. I don't curse at them or bitch them out. And yet, they just keep going, spamming Nourish.

I won't even talk about how those tactics are reinforced through easy, brute-forced content. That is a post for another day and another time.

It's been suggested I shut off Recount, ignore health bars, just do my own thing...but when we're wiping I want to know why. And when I figure out at least some contributions to the wipe and make suggestions to fix it and they are ignored...I can't relax. I can't enjoy it, because I'm constantly worried if I'm going to die because the healers aren't paying attention, aren't on top of their game...I miss my guild healers.

And why, just to hurt me, do they always have to be Resto Druids? /cry

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Locked Into Healing, Revisited

In my previous post about being "forced" into a healing position, I was left an intriguing comment by Leafshine.
I think people sometimes get pigeon-holed as healers. They just get used to you, the player, being a healer, and assume you won't mind taking that role.

I took this, and a lot of other commenters in mind, when I tried to join groups and look for PUGs the past few weeks since writing the article, to see what happened. I monitored others' reactions and requests, as well as my own, to gauge the situation. A lot happened over that time period to give me plenty to think about.

Certain situations spring to my mind rather quickly. I was whispered to join a ToC 10, and was asked "which of your healers do you want to bring?" It wasn't "which of your characters" it was healers. This person was aware I had a hunter, but that wasn't what they wanted. When I joined the group on Bellbell (because Bellwether needs nothing that doesn't drop off of a Hardmode ToC 25), it was empty of anyone but him, me, and another healer, so it wasn't just a case of needing a healer.

Another raid was an Onyxia 25 in which I had finally been invited as Retribution DPS. Some guild members were tanking and DPSing, but it was mostly PUG. And then it is revealed...we have only four healers. All PUGs.

I should have kept my mouth shut. I shouldn't have asked "just four healers?" I should have just kept going as DPS. But I didn't. I said "just four healers?" and immediately my guildmates frantically requested in guild chat, in the spirit of not wiping, for me to switch. Of course, I caved in with much grumbling and sourness of mood. And we downed her first try, I "won" healing meters by a wide margin, and I died inside a bit.

Following that we went to ToC 25, and I was invited along as a hunter. With no pressure on me, with no one requesting it, I ended up switching to Bellwether to heal the instance because we couldn't find other healers. We just couldn't keep more than four online, and I switched. And again, I did 10-15% more healing than any other healer there. The one following most closely was a guild member's alt who had just hit 80 with an ilevel 175 blue mace.

When I finally got into an Onyxia 25 on my Hunter, I was excited. Finally, I have my DPS in a PUG raid. And then, as the fight progressed, I felt...helpless. Unable to account for anyone else's fate but my own and my pet's, I felt like I couldn't save the raid. I couldn't keep the tank alive, I had no cooldowns, no panic buttons. Not for anyone but me. I felt...isolated. Even with me coming in the top 3 of both DPS and Damage Done, I felt like I was less of an important piece than if I had come on one of my healers. I looked at the dead and wondered "could I have saved them?"

I did note with pride that I was in the top three of Damage Done and DPS. Even though there was no Ret Paladin in group, so the raid received my Ferocious Inspiration buff, I felt singular and replaceable.

Then, in a VoA 25, we downed both Koralon and Archavon. Yet, we wiped twice on Emalon before I left. Switching was slow to the Overcharged, and with several people (Warlocks, even!) doing 1k DPS, they weren't killed fast enough. And though I hit every cooldown I could and topped both Damage Done and DPS charts, I couldn't cover for those slacking people. When someone has low HPS or Healing Done, I can cover for them. I can pick up the slack and throw out heals left and right. But I can't push someone else's DPS, even when I'm hitting 5k+ myself.

So, what is really locking me into the healing role?

Well, one could argue its my environment. People expect me to heal. They know I'm a good healer. They want me to heal because not having good healers can cripple a raid in a most obvious and drastic way. I feel pressured to be that healer, to make the run go smoothly. What happens if I don't switch, and there's a wipe from insufficient healing? Is that, indirectly, my fault?

But, there is definitely blame lying squarely on my shoulders. That ToC 25 I was in on my hunter? No one asked me to switch. They told me I didn't have to. But I did anyway, even though my Hunter is the one who really needs the badges and Trophies, so my boyfriend's Shadow Priest could come in the raid and so we didn't have to wait for healers through the disconnects and random leaving due to impatience.

I still heal because I enjoy it, certainly. It is fun and dynamic and involved. But I also heal because it's what's expected of me. I heal because it often gives me more control over the outcome of the raid. I heal because it takes less time than trying to PUG a healer. I heal because I don't trust PUG healers. I heal because it makes me feel useful. I heal because I want others' runs to go smoothly.

While it might be easy to blame others for pushing me into this position, it wouldn't be fair to deny the role I've played in locking myself into healing.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Play Like a Girl?

Many of you know I have a Hunter. She's a female Dwarf named Sugarcake, and her pets are all named similarly silly things, like Sprinkles, Cinnamon, Gumdrop, etc. It is very, very (speaking in stereotypes) girly. Extremely girly. Like, Princess Lollipopsparklelips girly.

At first, I was kind of...well, kind of leery about the name. I honestly don't like attention focusing on my gender. Unless I know the people (like my guild or friends) and know they are joking around, it just serves to make me uncomfortable and awkward. I don't mind people knowing I'm female, just them making it into some sort of big deal or focus of conversation. Of course, writing an entire blog post about the subject undermines the idea that I dislike attention focusing on it, but I am able to disable that to explore something that intrigues me.

For example, a ToC 25 in which I was healing on Bellwether, my first comment in Vent brought about "cute" comments and "OMG A GIRL." Seriously, guys. Cut it out. Maybe pay attention to healing so I'm not doing 20-30% of overall healing done? Maybe? (I am not kidding about this).

The thing is, when I'm not in Vent, I'm automatically assumed to be a guy. Bellwether is perhaps somewhat neutral, but Bellbell and Sugarcake? Those are pretty cutesy names. I've seen a few guys with humorously cutesy names, but it's pretty rare. So what, then, is it that causes my characters to automatically be filed into the "male" category?

First and most obvious would probably be the prevalence of male players to female. Though there is not a huge, impassable gap, characters tend to be controlled by males more than females. At its end, I was the only raiding female in Vigilant, and one of three or so in the guild. We're by no means an endangered species, but we're certainly the less likely variety.

Next would be some stereotypical expectations of female players. One such expectation is us needing our hands held through everything. We will be bad. We will be low on DPS (LOL GURLS DONT DPS LOL). We won't be able to keep up. We will need special attention because we just don't know what's going on. Since I've been in a top raiding guild, and done very well for myself, the above doesn't apply. In fact, I am often the one leading the raid or group. I am the one giving the explanations and assignments. I am obviously not the princess-in-another-castle waiting for my plumber boyfriend to map warp his way to me.

Another expectation is in the way girls communicate. I know some of you have been in raids with sugar-sweet hyperactive flirty girls who punctuate every sentence with some word like "cute" "cutie" "sweetie" "<3" ";)" etc. They flirt with any player willing to respond (and some unwilling), whether they know them or not, and make any excuse to "pout" or inject sexual innuendo. Yeah. You all know what I'm talking about. In small doses or with friends and guildmembers, sure, that's cool. Everyone likes to be a little silly/flirty at times. But it's those who make it into their entire personality and force it upon strangers, who take a huge flashing sign and say "AMG I R A GURL PAY ATTENSHUN" that make me twitch. Gender does not make you special.

Like one of my previous, previous guildmates who alternates between acting like a concerned, condescending mother and an overly-flirty 13 year old, who dances naked/scantily clad at the South Bank and makes exaggerated squealing noises over anything "cute." While, you know, hitting on everyone and everything with two-handed weapon specialization. She also can't do anything wrong, is easy to upset, and likes to play damsel in distress. At the very least, she is a decent healer.

I don't act like that (I hope I don't act like that!). And thus Sugarcake and Bellbell and Bellwether are assumed male until proven guilty. It's odd to me, to realize my concerns about possibly being discriminated against because of my name (or even harassed, which has happened before with people who knew my gender) were completely irrelevant, because I don't "play like a girl." It's at both times a welcome relief and a concerning realization.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Like A Sucker Punch to the Gut

I logged in this morning to find I have no guild.

There's nothing on the guild website explaining. Nothing telling me what happened. No one's online in the guild.

No warning. No discussion. Nothing. I just have no guild.

I don't know what happened, if I was kicked by accident, if my guild just disbanded, if it was ninja'd and everything's gone...

Just a rude way to wake up on my way to finish my Pilgrim's Progress achievements.

EDIT: Apparently our GM got hacked. But my guild was hanging on by sheer willpower due to some unfortunate recent events, so it's not getting back together. A bunch of our core is transferring to Horde today, so I'm not sure what I'm doing...

EDITEDIT: We may be getting back together. If you're a member of Vigilant (the former one, not the one the trade troll has), please get in contact with me, Grym, Conrad or Blob so we can work on sorting this out.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shameless Bid for Attention

This is actually just a shameless bid for attention (see title), so if you're not into that you can stop reading. It's okay, I won't be upset.

Still here? Man, you're a glutton for punishment.

All right, down on the right sidebar, at the very bottom, you'll see a cat, much like the one on this post. He is grinning, and I can't decide if he's adorable or creepy. That being said, you'll notice, he is a link!

A link to where, Bell? Obviously, I'm logging your keys. But you all have authenticators, right? Right? But besides logging your keys, the link goes to my DeviantART account. I did warn you that this was a shameless bid for attention.

I just started drawing again. And by that I really mean I just stopped being lazy about going to the school computer lab for the scanner. Since I don't have a lot of experience with scanners, often they come out pretty wonky. But! That's not the point.

The point is, my school doesn't let non-majors/minors take art classes. So...my only possible way of getting better is if you guys look at the stuff I post and rip it to shreds mercilessly. To make it easier on you, a lot of the art is WoW-based, though only some of it is using references so I don't know if that counts...

Anyway, this is a hobby of mine. I'm not doing it seriously. However, I really do want to improve. So, please, if you're artistically inclined and feel up to it, dig through my gallery and tell me what you like and don't like and please, make suggestions. I'm working off of free tutorials and trial and error and the process is oh. so. slow.

Thanks in advance, five people who stuck around til the end of this post that is just a shameless bid for attention.

EDIT: I should probably add that though my gallery has nothing NSFW in it, my favorites section does. Just a heads up.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Buffing For Paladins 101


...should seriously be a class all Paladins are forced to take. It would entail mandatory downloading of Pally Power and a passing A grade to be allowed to raid as any kind of Paladin, as well as credits in Advanced Buffing, Buffing Theory, and Advanced Buffing Theory. Why? Because, honestly, a lot of Paladins don't get it right. (HEY GUYS THIS IS A RANT JUST IN CASE YOU DIDN'T KNOW)

Take last Tuesday night. I set up Pally Power for an Ony 10 man...and then the Ret Paladin goes in and changes it as soon as I buff. He puts me on giving out Kings, him on Might and the Prot on Sanc. Okay, I say, who is spotting me Wisdom? Because you don't have free assignment checked, and you're not doing it.

Do it yourself, you should have the 30 minute Wisdom glyph, he responds.

Then I won't have Kings, I point out. So then we do this convoluted thing where I buff everyone with Kings and then buff myself with Wisdom and then the tank buffs me with Kings and the Ret does nothing. I could have Sanc, Wisdom and Kings if he would have spotted me the Kings, but apparently I really need his improved Might buff.

Pally Power was set up perfectly until the Ret screwed with it. And, if he'd had Free Assignment checked, I could have organized it so that he got his improved Might and I got my Improved Wisdom and everyone got Kings and Sanc. But no, he went through and started putting it so that the Hunters got Sanc instead of Wisdom and I was giving out Kings instead of improved Wisdom and AUGH.

Wisdom is a bigger DPS increase than Sanc for Hunters, by the way, since the Hunter should not be getting hit! He doesn't need the damage taken percent decrease, he needs mana so that he doesn't have to spend as much time, if any, in Viper. The Prot Paladin is doing Kings, you're giving him Might, and I'll give him Wisdom. Stop changing it so the Prot Paladin is doing Sanc! Sanc is the last buff anyone should get (of the buffs beneficial to them) unless they are a tank.

Stop touching Pally Power if you don't know how to use it. And if you have mastered the rudimentary controls of Pally Power, make sure that you don't assign the Holy Paladin to have to give themself their two most important buffs. Because Paladins can't buff themselves with more than one blessing.

I know it can get annoying for Paladins to listen to the raid repeating ad nauseam "I need this buff." "Why don't I have this buff?" But I can say that I play a Paladin, and so long as you have Pally Power and understand the concepts behind your buffs, its really not that hard to make sure you never hear it. Set up any scenario and I will tell you how to buff with (a) Paladin(s) to maximize DPS, health or healing. You don't even really need Pally Power, it's just easier. So, come on, guys. Get on the ball here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Locked into Healing

I've come across this dilemma with Bellbell time and time again. I levelled her to be Ret. But she is, most definitely, Holy.

The problem started as soon as I got to 80. It was just easier to get groups as a Holy Paladin, so that's what I did. It was easier to get raids started if I chose to heal, it was easier to be involved in anything. So, in order to get things done, I continually switched to her Holy spec.

Well, common loot rules being what they are, your main spec is what you're raiding as, and those upgrades for the DPS set take a while to accumulate. It eventually came to pass that while her Holy set was nearly all ToC 10 and 25 gear, she was still wearing a blue hit trinket and Ebon Blade reputation boots, and a tournament badge sword.

I finally bought her two pieces of badge-only T9 ret gear...and she's never had an occasion to use it. In fact, it's almost like clockwork; as soon as I equip her Ret gear and switch to her Ret spec, a friend needs a healer. It's come to the point where I only play her to help other people (thus the lack of Bellbell-flavored posts).

Now, another Paladin in my guild has the exact opposite problem. He's been running only as Ret because that's the only gear set he has (he apparently didn't do what I did and save up every random piece of offset gear while levelling), but all he wants to do is tank or heal. So while he's sitting with the sword off of Onyxia bemoaning his lack of a healing trinket, I'm silently sending envy waves at him.

It seems like dual spec didn't really change anything for me, besides not having to pay for Bellwether's respecs to PvP. It made Bellbell's situation worse, because eventually to do the content I wanted to do, I had to play her "secondary" spec. I don't have the time to continually farm for her to keep her DPS spec up to snuff, and the fact that healers are always in demand and plate DPS is everywhere, there's just nowhere for her to fit in.

For example, the ToC 25 I ran on Saturday? Along the lines of three or four ret paladins, two warriors, and three or four DKs. Completely detrimental to the group for me to say "Screw healing, I'm going to overload our melee even more."

Well, who cares? Tell one of the other Paladins to switch and get your Ret on.

For one, I'm not a jerk. I'm not going to say "one of you respec just for me so I can bring in my eclectically geared ret paladin." The other paladins have tank offspecs, and we have plenty of (sometimes too many) tanks for my alt ToC 25 run.

For another, it gets groups together, and faster. I don't know how many times groups have fallen apart because we couldn't find a healer. Eventually, even if I'm in a PUG, I'll have to admit that I can switch to healing after we sit in LFG for half an hour with no bites. I don't have time to sit around in a LFG channel; with all the other things going on in my life, if I'm going to run something I need it to start quickly.

There's also healer guilt. "We wouldn't be sitting in LFG if I just switched to healing." "Time is wasting because I want to DPS." "They just need a healer...I suppose I can do it." "If I switch to my healer then maybe the tanks won't die."

It's not that I don't like healing. If I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't have kept the spec. It's that it's not what my character was supposed to do. It was just for me to experiment with other types of healing. But I made a mistake at level 80, and even with the gear I have for Ret, if Bellbell ever sees Arthas, it will be wearing the wrong kind of dress.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bell's Guide to Application Failure

There have been some applications to Vigilant in the past month or two where I've just hung my head in shame because, well...what in the world were these people thinking? It's like they took every rule for applying to a place you wish to join, chucked it out the window and decided to be a special snowflake and just, well, put us off entirely.

So, now, I'm going to illustrate to you just how to get your application rejected from a high end raiding guild. Enjoy!

Step One: Ignore the application format.
The application format is obviously just a set of guidelines. It's not really information the guild needs to know, it's just stuff we want to know and, well, you can't always get what you want. Make sure to ignore half our questions, make up your own and don't answer anything fully.

Step Two: Log out in PvP gear.
Even though it says specifically on our site to log out in your PvE gear and spec so we can inspect it and ask questions, just log out in your PvP gear and spec anyway. Or equip your fishing pole. Or wear your RP set. Anything so long as it's not what we asked for. We will be very impressed by your full Judgment set.

Step Three: Tell us your opinion of our questions.
Don't like a question? Think it's pointless? Let us know. We think it's really important for you to pick apart our application process. This doesn't reflect badly on your character at all.

Step Four: Show us your care face.
Nothing's better than reading an application going "I just dropped x profession but I'll get y profession up right away" and then watching the skill level never rise. We also enjoy reading "yeah, it's unenchanted and I'm gonna enchant it soon, I'm just being lazy right now." Be in gear two tiers behind without having even pugged ToC 10 as well. This shows us you really care and really want to be a part of a guild working on ToGC 25.

Step Five: Bother us in-game.
Your application has been up for four hours and no one's said anything yet? Make sure to send us tells, lots of tells, in-game to anyone of your class who will listen. Let us know how many views your application has had, ask us our opinions on your chances of getting in, and definitely bother us during raids. We really like this.

Step Six: Reference people we don't know.
I'm glad someone on your server recommended you to us. We don't know who that person is, really, but that's okay. You could even be making them up! Especially as no one with that name has ever been in our guild, and if they had they probably would have told you their original name. This makes it look suspiciously like your application answers were copy and pasted from another guild's application, but who cares?

Step Seven: rite liek this.
U no WoW is just a gaem so gramar & spaeling dont mater rite.

Step Eight: Lie.
Lie to us. We really like when you've misrepresented yourself on your application. It starts building that foundation of trust right away. We'll know we can count on never counting on you to be truthful, and that's important.

Smiley - Facepalm Pictures, Images and PhotosSmiley - Facepalm Pictures, Images and PhotosSmiley - Facepalm Pictures, Images and PhotosSmiley - Facepalm Pictures, Images and PhotosSmiley - Facepalm Pictures, Images and PhotosSmiley - Facepalm Pictures, Images and PhotosSmiley - Facepalm Pictures, Images and PhotosSmiley - Facepalm Pictures, Images and Photos

That's about all that has recently occurred on our application forums. The sad part is, there may be a part 2 to this somewhere down the road...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lifebloom Needs Love

And, no, I don't mean from the developers. I mean from you, fellow Tree Druid. You need to love Lifebloom again. I am also, of course, talking in the strictly PvE sense, as those who've done any sort of PvP on a tree know that Lifebloom is the noms. But, to continue (and continue I shall, in quite an extended form)...

Lifebloom has changed, it's true. It grew up. It evolved. And, unfortunately, many have rejected it for what it has become. You know who were also rejected for becoming different? The X-Men.

Yes, I am comparing Lifebloom to the X-Men. Deal with it.

Like the X-Men, Lifebloom is powerful, yet misunderstood. The majority of the population shun or actively speak out against Lifebloom, and though no one's built Sentinel robots yet I'm pretty sure we're close to it.

Lifebloom is powerful, the problem is you have to think about how you use it. It's not the Burning Crusade spell, AKA the "brain dead heal." Yes, you had to keep an eye on time to keep it going, but, let's be honest; how many of you, like me, made three /target [tank name] /cast Lifebloom macros and just hit those in succession for fights like Mother or Bloodboil? I know I did, because, hey, it was my healing assignment, it was what I was supposed to do, and it worked. And it was completely and utterly brain dead.

Now, though, if I tried to do that I'd drain my mana pool dry in under a minute (and also waste heals because of increased duration blah, blah, you get the point). It "lost" its "purpose" even with the mana return, because if you rolled the stack you'd never see the return, just the drain. Though, really, it didn't, it just couldn't fulfill said purpose in the same way.

And therein lies the problem. People are notoriously resistant to change, and this was a big change. Most Druids will say they cut it out of their spell rotation completely, others will say they use it for a fight or two and that's it. I'll be honest, it makes me a little sad to know that many Druids look to Lifebloom with the same scorn they do Healing Touch (Healing Touch and I have gotten reacquainted in the last couple of weeks and we're starting to see eye to eye, but that's a story for another day).

So, all right, perhaps I've managed to convince you with that huge, rambling introduction to give Lifebloom another shot. Great! But how, you ask? I suppose since I am in the habit of explaining things on this blog, I should say a bit about that, huh?

Your usage of Lifebloom will depend on a few things, the majority of them falling under the wide categories of gear, situation, and assignment. All three of those working together will determine your average Lifebloom usage.

For example, your gear denotes your mana pool size and regen capabilities. The smaller your mana pool and the weaker your regen, the less helpful it is to throw out Lifebloom casts without having an Omen of Clarity proc. That being said, it should be obvious that when you do have an Omen of Clarity proc, that, if at all possible, you use it for Lifebloom!

Why?

Well, if your mana pool is small and your regen needs to work out at the gym more, every cast of Lifebloom applied during an OOC proc that is allowed to bloom is a return of 489 mana to you, and you're still healing someone. It's awesome! You should be doing it! Why aren't you? Yes, you. You know who you are.

So, what if you don't need to worry about a small mana pool? Well, in that case, casting Lifebloom shouldn't bother you, right? At the very least, always start a pull with Lifebloom on your tank. You know when they just charges headlong into the boss, outranging your heals in the flash of a Feral Charge or, in some odd cases, rocket boots of doom (you know who you are, because you use both)? Yeah, that's a good time to have a fast-ticking HoT working on their hide. You know when you don't have anything to do, because no one in the raid is taking damage? Get Lifebloom (and your other HoTs) on the tank. A big boss cooldown is coming up and you've got Rejuv and Regrowth already ticking on them? Get Lifebloom on the tank.

Noticing a theme here?

Well, you said it had something to do with assignment and situation, right? Well, yes. You need to be able to judge when Lifebloom is appropriate. Obviously, when the raid is taking heavy damage is not when you should be Lifeblooming them or the tank, but using your harder hitting heals. Someone gets tossed in the crotch pot of Ignis? Give 'em a Lifebloom. Quick ticks will buffer the damage they're taking, a bloom will add to that, and it'll tick twice before Rejuv ticks once.

Is it about time to run in for Vezax? Have your tank give you a ten second countdown. Pop your Innervate, HoT him up, and don't forget the Lifeblooms. Even though OoC procs on Vezax are a thing of the past, those Lifeblooms you precast will still return mana to you on their bloom, taking care of whatever your innervate didn't cover to refill your mana bar and give your tank, essentially, free heals.

Is your assignment tank healing? It's a rarity, but it happens, especially in guilds full of Druids or in 10 man guilds (and hey, in 5 mans, too). If you're tank healing and you're ignoring Lifebloom, you're doing it wrong. Sorry, you just are. The problem here becomes one of Lifebloom management. To illustrate, you must understand this important information about Lifebloom, the spell:

The application of Lifebloom is preventative, while the "bloom" is a reactive decision.

The preventative aspect is easy to understand, as all HoTs function this way. You apply the HoT not necessarily because the target is taking damage now, but because you anticipate future damage. HoTs are buffer and slow-recovery heals. The initial application of Lifebloom works exactly like this; its goal is to provide a buffer for incoming damage or slowly recover from damage taken.

What Lifebloom has that is different from any other HoT that exists in the game is a "bloom." This bloom removes the HoT but heals for an amount that increases with each stack of Lifebloom applied. This is an instant chunk of health, most often associated with straight-heal classes like a Paladin, who use reactive heals that heal a chunk of past damage taken.

The bloom of Lifebloom is a reactive decision because you have a choice to make: do you allow it to bloom or do you apply it again, extending the buffer period. This is a simple choice hinging upon several questions that must be answered quickly: Will the bloom go to waste due to the tank not missing a chunk of health? Will he need that fast-ticking buffer soon? Can your mana sustain continuous rolling or do you need the return from the bloom?

The decision has to be made the split second before the bloom goes off. Which many people find difficult, so they go one way or another: simply ignore Lifebloom use all together, or allow it to bloom every time. Which is lazy, really.

But many of you might say "But I do fine without it, why should I care?"

I dunno. Why do you care if you get a B instead of an A? Most of you, I assume, read blogs because you want to get better at being a Druid. You want to excel, you want to do your absolute best. If you don't understand the possibilities of every spell in your arsenal, from the gimmicky or situational to the established or untapped, you're not really playing your Druid.

Just think of it this way: when you watched X-Men, and thought those guys were uber awesome, and you got so frustrated with the people picketing against them and reacting to them with fear and loathing and Professor Xavier was like "They fear what they do not understand," you were all like "That'll never be me!"

It's so totally you, Lifebloom haters.

The X-Men are completely copyright by Marvel Comics, I'm just borrowing them for the lulz.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Not A Meme but a Survey

So there's been a non-meme going around lately by the wonderful Ms. Medicina, a Priest blogger to the scene who's pretty much taken over the blogosphere with her survey/questionnaire (and whom I am sad that I have not discovered before this!). I'm a little late to the party (as usual) and I'm not sure if anyone tagged me, but since her site features and open invitation to anyone who wishes to complete it, I decided to give it a go. Or if you did tag me and I missed it, it's because I'm bad and I am sorry.

Unfortunately I do not know who to tag, as I'm pretty sure everyone else has already been tagged. If you haven't, well, get to writing as I'm obviously tagging you.

* What is the name, class, and spec of your primary healer?
Bellwether, Resto Druid, Too Many Different Specs To Count

* What is your primary group healing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)
I spend most of my time in 25 mans, and the majority of my scheduled raiding time in Heroic ToC 25, but I'm also a 10 man, 5 man, and PvP healer.

* What is your favorite healing spell for your class and why?
Lifebloom. I love it. I think the "nerf" just means you have to be smarter about how you use it, and adds a learning curve to the class.

* What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?
This used to be Healing Touch, but messing around with a Healing Touch spec has been interesting. Now, it has to be Tranquility; I only use that for third phase of the Black Knight in H ToC (for laziness).

* What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why?
In traditional specs? We're raid healers. But our specs can be adapted to do whatever you want without leaving the Resto tree too much. We're able to cover for weakness in gear through strength in our talents by moving them and adjusting accordingly.

* What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why?
We have no "save the tank" cooldowns. We have Nature's Swiftness, yes, but it's a reactive and pretty weak cooldown; we never fit into a cooldown rotation like a Priest or a Paladin. It makes me slow on my Paladin's cooldowns when I'm playing her.

* In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you?
Raid Healing. Though I've done tank healing before, and it's obviously possible on a Druid or 10 mans would suck, with Rejuvenation, Swiftmend, Wild Growth and even (when used properly) Lifebloom and Regrowth, we're great at mitigating damage for the raid.

* What healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why?
Paladins. Even with multiple tanks, they've got it covered. I get to concentrate on the raid, they get to concentrate on the tanks, I give the tanks a Rejuv, they splash the melee with Holy Light glyph. It also helps that my boyfriend is a Holy Paladin!

* What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why?
I've never been with a class I don't enjoy healing with. It's always the person behind the class, never the specific class.

* What is your worst habit as a healer?
Not knowing when to use my cooldowns on Bellbell (my Paladin), or communicating them well. I could pop a cooldown a second before the Priest throws up their wings, and then there's no cooldown left for the next big attack. Craaaaap.

On Bellwether, though, it's not being more mindful of my Swiftmend cooldown. I'll go to use it and be informed "Oh, hi. Yeah, I'm not ready yet." And that's wasted seconds where I could be healing.

I'm also just getting my PvP legs back, so there's definitely that to work on.

* What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing?
Blaming healers for your own stupidity, or telling a healer how to heal when they're obviously doing their job. Once had a huntard tell me to heal him through Flame Wall so he could DPS more on the boss. Um. What? No. Though, rapidly, I'm beginning to detest the annoying "Rejuv!" call over vent whenever our DKs want some Runic Power. I know we're on Anub. I know you need Revitalize. I am doing something else at the moment STFU.

* Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing?
Yep! We're in a nice spot, well suited for whatever. Though Druids often need to respec/reglyph for specific things, it's a small price to pay.

* What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer?
Recount, World of Logs, other healers (not to call them tools in any sense of the word, but rather to signify that I judge myself based on them). Did my assignments live? Did they live because of me or was someone covering for me? Were the deaths preventable to my knowledge? Is there something I could be changing to be better? Am I doing more than I should/less than I should? How is my mana? Am I wasting heals?

* What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class?
All we do is faceroll Rejuv and Wild Growth LOLOLOLOLOL. If all I ever used was Rejuv and Wild Growth on any boss but Twin Val'kyr, there would be quite an issue with my healing...

* What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new healers of your class to learn?
We have a lot of tools and it's difficult to know when to use them and why. Lifebloom is now the heal with the steepest, most mana-expensive learning curve, and unfortunately it is often ignored rather than utilized. Also, many people come to healing from a different background and have to be disabused of the notion that there is some sort of "rotation" to healing. Otherwise, it would be understanding your talent tree and how your job and spell choices may vary (at least in high end raiding) based upon what spec you pick.

* If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a healer via recount, what sort of patterns would they see (i.e. lots of overhealing, low healing output, etc)?
Well, there's always going to be high overheal now that HoTs tick even while the target's at full health; Druids can't help it and trying to throw out preventative heals for possible raid damage can shoot it up. My position on Recount fluctuates per fight. Twin Val'kyrs I'll be at the top with 9-10k HPS, other fights I'll be middling, and on Anub I would look like, at a glance, to be the worst Resto Druid in the world. A lot of it will be based on assignment and fight mechanics. If you look at what spells I use, Rejuv will generally be top, but what follows from it will depend, again, on what fights we're on. Sometimes, Lifebloom will be in my top 3, othertimes Nourish, sometimes Regrowth and other times Swiftmend. Wild Growth is generally in the top 3 as well, but can be replaced.

* Haste or Crit and why?
Haste. /drool Haste. I suppose I am a minority of the Druid community in that I never undervalued haste. I hit the cap for one second long ago, and continued to adore the stat. Unlike crit (we get enough passive crit from our talents that naturally occurring stats on gear can cover the rest), I've never seen a moment where I go "aw, damn, more haste." I even ranked Vestments of the Shattered Fellowship ahead of Malfurion's Robe of Triumph because of the extra gem socket and the haste. Even if it's not decreasing our GCD, it's still making those times where I use Nourish or Regrowth speedier (and during times like Incinerate or Penetrating Cold, it's nice to be at 600+ haste!). I know soon a lot of Druids are going to be jumping on my Haste boat as soon as we need more and the hasted Rejuv glyph will make Rejuv tick faster, and that's awesome.

* What healing class do you feel you understand least?
Shamans and Priests. I tend not to understand a class until I've played it, and my Shaman is 44 and my Priest is 35.

* What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in healing?
I have a Nature's Swiftness macro for Healing Touch and for Nourish, but otherwise everything is mouse-bound for use with Healbot and Decursive.

* Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?
I used to be much more into balance, but the tier I'm at right now the gear supplies everything you need, so it's more effective to stack Spellpower. Sometimes, for a nice gem bonus I'll go Spellpower + Spirit (since Spirit translates into Spellpower) but otherwise, it's complete Spellpower.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Anger Isn't Helpful

We were doing ToC 10, and by "we" I mean me and another guildy were in someone's PUG ToC 10, me on Sugar and him on his Tankadin. Group got together, entered the instance, and we downed it without wiping. I got a pretty new sword and thus was rather pleased with the whole experience.

However, during the process of the raid, there were some issues. A certain Mage within the group had never been there for more than Beasts before, and kept having some issues. Many of which were loudly pointed out and bashed upon.

On Beasts, he died in the beginning in a fire. Which, you know, is generally bad. After the fight everyone seemed to be rather upset with him, telling him not to die the next fight and how could anyone die in a fire? And, since they had apparently missed it the first time I said it in chat and we weren't using Vent, I said, again, "He got headcracked in the fire. That's why the snobold was chasing you on the ground and not humping your face after he died."

Okay, I didn't say the last sentence. But I should have.

Anway, people shrugged it off and we go to Jaraxxus. The Mage speaks up: I've only watched the video for this. Now, honestly, I'm pretty impressed. PUGs without experience generally don't even bother looking up strats or videos, so at least he tried to do his homework before the beginning of the raid.

Here's where the problem enters: since we're not using Vent and the raid leader is trying to get this done as quickly as possible, he gives the Mage the most extreme annotated version of the boss strats. Basically: red fire means stay, green fire means go. And the Mage, suspiciously, asks if we're messing with him (this is legitimate; I have known many people to joke about how "standing in fire gives you a buff"). I whisper him giving him the full details; if he runs out with incinerate he's likely to kill us because he'll explode, but if he stands in green fire he'll die.

Now, of course, having never played a Mage or Shaman on the fight, I forgot to tell him to spell steal the buff. In fact, no one told him to spell steal the buff until we were halfway through the fight and suddenly my Tankadin friend is raging at him in raid warnings. And just at him, not even at the DPS shaman who could have been purging.

It is rare to find a PUG who tries to prepare before a fight and readily admits "I don't know this boss, please explain." So, once again, I jumped in and said how it was not only his responsibility to purge it off, and no one told him to do it when he asked about his job for the fight.

What in the world does yelling at him for it do?

The rest of the raid I spent the time between bosses whispering the mage to explain the boss fights in more extensive detail than what the raid leader was managing. After all, expecting someone who has never done Twins before to understand "switch colors and shields when you're supposed to" is possibly putting too much faith in their psychic abilities.

The Mage never messed up for the rest of the raid. Afterward, he thanked me for my help; apparently a lot of people weren't even willing to give him a chance.

I've gotten angry at PUGs before. It's pretty easy, especially when they challenge you when you point out their mistake, or are annoyingly obtuse about their own failings. Hell, I fail plenty of times, but I always try to admit it, as I'd honestly rather own up to it myself than have someone else point it out. Sometimes they won't even tell you they don't understand the fight and just assume they can pick it up as they go. That, really, is probably the most annoying thing a PUG could do.

So what made this PUG different?

They had tried to learn before the raid. They had admitted that they didn't know. And when they were given proper, detailed instructions? They did well. They never blamed their problems on someone else, nor did they whine or pout because they were being yelled at. They didn't make excuses; telling someone "you didn't tell me I was supposed to" when they had specifically asked pre-fight what their job was is not an excuse, it is a legitimate point.

Getting mad at them was pointless. Just a waste of energy and emotion that could be channeled into actually helping them, and therefore helping the raid overall.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Because Pike Did It

So apparently Pike decided that it was time for her to talk about being a Resto Druid. She does a great job (but she's Pike, what did you expect?) and should STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT GOSH.

But Pike talked Resto Druids. My job, therefore, is obviously to talk about my BM Hunter, Sugarcake. Except, well, while Pike actually knows what she's talking about, I'm running around going "OH MAN HOW DOES THIS WORK CRAP MY PET IS DEAD WHY IS MY DPS SO LOW GUYS STOP MAKING FUN OF ME."

Sugarcake has been 80 less than two weeks and probably doesn't deserve all the gear she has. She also needs new pants. I've actually been looking over Pike's hunters' armories to get a basic idea of gemming, skimming through her articles, trying to find a Google search for BM hunter information that isn't a millenia old and adjusting my bars and rotation, but the actual time I can put into her is limited due to also, you know, working on Grad School stuffs. Which sucks, 'cause, I mean, Huntering is way more important than that obviously. I need to get my priorities in order.

As a side note, did you know levelling pets sucks? I'm trying to get Cinnamon, my Devilsaur, to 80. I did every single Nessingwary hunt and kill quest from start to achievement and my Devilsaur went from a bar and a half into 77 to a bar and a half away from 78. Not one level after massacring about 100 animals. And as soon as Cinnamon is 80, I need to get my wolf, Sprinkles, there from 75. Augh.

Until I get this huntard thing figured out and start doing at least 3k DPS consistently, I've respec'd three times, picked up Improved Hunter's Mark and glyphed it, so there's a reason to take me along besides pity, as long as there's another hunter. I'm messing around with FemaleDwarf.Com (how appropriate!) but my inexperience with spreadsheets (you can't really spreadsheet a healer) has me more often than not going "That's great! How come I can't do that..." and scratching my head in confusion.

I have learned a lot though. Like, putting Cinnamon on aggressive when Anub'arak burrows in ToC is hilarious and fun while removing the need to manually target the scarabs while also knocking down frost orbs. I need to tell Cinnamon to "Stay" at the bottom of the stairs in Thorim's gauntlet so he'll despawn when I jump down. Paletress likes to nuke him which, while really sucking for my DPS, is I suppose better for the group as a whole (especially PUGs). Koralon likes to set him on fire? Everyone stop beating up Cinnamon, geez.

I have also learned that someone's hunter is an orb hog. Yes, you. Jerk.

For now, I'll deal with Sugar being on the receiving end of all the jokes (my Resto Druid did 1.7k DPS and I was told "Congratulations, you've out DPS'd your hunter!" Her DPS is not that bad, butt heads). I'll keep working on her when I have time, adjusting her as I go, and trying out these things called "macros" perhaps. Besides my Bestial Wrath/Rapid Fire/Mark of Supremacy smash macro.

That one's fun.

EDIT: Stop is following the crowd as well. I wonder if this is gonna keep chaining? Whatever you do, don't jump off a bridge, Pike. At least two people would follow you!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Behind the Learning Curve

This post's alternate title is "Everything you already knew about Arena that I'm just catching up on." Because I'm a total and complete scrub who, as my boyfriend ever so gently puts it, has "no PvP instincts whatsoever."

So! I've been doing arena for two weeks now after stopping in the dying throes of Burning Crusade, I'm a winner all over the world as of last night, and with such triumphant traveling comes this great knowledge I will now impart unto you. Ready for it?

1. Not Understanding How Your Partner Can Help You Will Lose Games
So, Warriors have this thing called Bladestorm where they spin like a top and smash into you and hit a lot and hard. You can't Root them, you can't Cyclone them (or my unlucky Immunes were flukes!) you just have to run away. Or, you know, drag them by your Warrior partner who can disarm them and make them simply a pretty, ineffectual spinning ballerina. And if you don't know this? Well, unless you can get away, you're kind of probably maybe going to die (it hurts). Guess what? I died.

2. Panicking Gets You Killed
Yes, the warlock just crit you for 10k despite your Resilience. Yes, he's also got DoTs ticking. Running in a straight line away from him when you could simply LoS him by jumping off the platform because you're in a state of blind "OSHI-" panic is not going to help. It's going to get you killed. Just like the slow-running bimbo who trips and falls in front of the axe murderer, only you don't even have to trip because the fire can SEE YOU.

3. Talking Is Really Important
Unless you and your partner are telepathically mind-linked, you kind of have to speak up about what you're going to do. I have trouble with this. I think of my arena partner/boyfriend as all knowing (he can be quite scary with how often he gets unsaid stuff right, too) and so I just...well, I don't speak up. He can obviously see I'm dying to the Rogue behind the boxes while he's trying to focus down the Paladin because I've already had to use my trinket once and Barkskin is also down. OBVIOUSLY. I am working on this.

4. Cyclone Is Awesome. Cyclone Also Sucks.
Forgetting to use Cyclone is a terrible thing. Cyclone is "rigged" in that you can stop someone in their tracks, wasting their cooldowns and healing, get away from them and frustrate them. Knowing when to use it requires some experience and communication with your partner. I once Cycloned a Ret Paladin for the full duration of his wings cooldown. We lost that game, but at least I felt like I may have pissed him off. But you can also completely screw the game over by Cycloning a target just as your partner pops all his cooldowns, and then you've got a full duration immune target laughing his ass off at you.

5. Warlock Priest teams are EVIL
Warlocks hit like a truck. My HoTs are getting eaten and dispelled off all the time. I can't keep anything on my partner. I HATE THEM.

Moving on...

6. Just Because Your Comp Is Really Powerful Doesn't Mean You Can Completely Faceroll
Last night we went into a match against a Priest/Mage, supposedly one of the toughest combinations to beat. I mentally resigned myself to this being a doomed "practice match" where I'd just try to keep myself and my partner alive as long as I could.

And then we won. I LoS'd, kited, Bashed, Cycloned, Rooted, Moonfired, Insect Swarmed, and, of course, Healed my limbs off (it is hard to kite with no limbs) and my Warrior partner smashed in faces with his brand new Aesir's Edge and did his Warrior thing (see point number 1) and we won. Though we are in the little leagues (have only played 20 games so far, so we haven't exactly broken into the area where you start losing points), knowing that powerful comps are truly killable at least makes me feel a bit better.

7. WARLOCKS SUCK
Do you guys just get used to winning games in the first ten seconds? I mean, holy crap. I'm also looking at you, Enhance Shamans. I've only met one of you my first week but you just exploded everything into a pile of sticky gore.

But at least I'm wondering "WTF do I do to live through this??" instead of crying "AMG NERF NAO QQ"

Friday, October 16, 2009

Loot Rules Make PUGs Complicated

Every weekend, at 12PM server (3PM Eastern), I run a 25 Tournament of the Crusader for guild alts, applicants, raiders who were sat/unable to make the main raid, and, inevitably, PUGs. These runs have been very successful, and even on the worst week we never failed to down Anub'arak. Now I have people whisper me throughout the week, people I barely know, to ask "When is the raid? Is it always at the same time? Can I have a calendar invite?" and I check up on their gear and achievements (I don't require full achievements but I like to see at least some ten man experience) and then I say "sure" and add them to the list.

To make my life "easier" I came up with some simple loot rules, and had them approved by my guild leader (as it is technically a guild run). The rules are as follows:
  1. Your main spec is what you are here as. If it is for your offspec, you do not roll unless no one needs it mainspec.
  2. Roll for patterns only if you have the skill to make it. Does not count against you.
  3. When you have won a piece of gear, people who have not won anything will be given preference over you. I am keeping track.
  4. If everyone rolling for an item has won something, it will be given out normally (highest roll wins).
  5. Crusader orbs are reserved, All other loot is fair game.
  6. If you win an item uncontested it does not count against you but don't be greedy.
  7. Do not talk in raid while loot is going out.
Simple, straightforward, macro'd and spammed at the beginning of every raid before the first pull. Crusader orbs are reserved because, since this is technically a guild run, they're transferred to the guild bank where they are then distributed to raiders who need them for crafting raid gear. Also, this ensures they get used, whereas the first time I tried it with Runed Orbs, they were later found on the auction house when I had stated to please only roll if you need them for crafting.

Lesson Learned.

You would think with such a set of rules, loot would be a relatively simple thing to distribute. Yet every. single. week. something comes up to give me a pixellated headache. Regular members of the raid try to tweak my rules by adding things like "if you fail, you get no loot." Which would be fine if a) I was a competent judge of all class failures and successes and b) you didn't wait til the !@#$ encounter started to modify my loot rules. And yet there's pressure for me to add that clause in, as everyone hates for loot to go to people who pulled aggro on the worms and got the raid spewed or ran out with Incinerate so people couldn't heal them or blew everyone up on Twins.

I'm pretty sure that's going to bring about plenty of arbitrary and opinion-oriented loot arguments, so I'm still fenced about that.

And then there's things like item trading. Last week, someone who had used their main spec roll then decided to trade the piece to another raider, without telling me at the time that they had decided to pass. This other raider narrowly missed beating someone else out for a main spec roll, and I only know about it because the original person later rolled and won on a trophy, and when I went to pass them the whole thing came to light. So now I need to make a clause about trading items and using your main spec roll because this is just annoying, honestly.

It seems the more rules you have, the more rules you need. And every week I get someone(s) unhappy over pixels. It's the most ridiculous thing ever. I've given my loot away to other people without returning my own main spec roll. I've watched items that would have been amazing upgrades for Bellbell vanish into the inventory of a healer who did half her healing and gone "Oh well." So perhaps it's just my damage, but getting so many complaints week after week over loot confuses me.

Or maybe my damage is that, despite this, I continue to set these raids up every week...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lord Jaraxxus, Hardmode (25)

This fight against Lord Jaraxxus is one of the easier fights in Tournament of the Grand Crusader. There are, of course, a few changes designed to make the fight more difficult. Those are:
  1. Mistress of Pain will now cast Mistress's Kiss.
  2. The Portals and Volcanoes that spawn adds must be DPS'd down before they will stop spawning adds.
  3. Everything hits/ticks harder.

Setup
Before the start of the fight, you want to arrange your healers and ranged DPS in a circle around the outside of the middle. Don't stand on the points of the stars; they're misleading and too far removed from the raid on the opposite side of the circle. Stand a little away from the inner ring, inside the triangles. Separate your healers first, then your ranged DPS; ranged should stand on healers, no more than two to a healer. The boss should be tanked in the middle, and after the pull it should look something like this:


Obviously, you can utilize the triangles that work the best for you, this is just an example. As you do this more and more, you'll notice healers and DPS getting territorial over their triangles. This is perfectly natural. After all, the Northeast triangle is mine, and my DPS is Francesco the mage and occasionally a Warlock. It's my spot.

Before you pull make sure your ranged directly South and your melee stand away from the boss so they don't get smacked in the face and one-shot.

Execution
Once the boss is pulled, a lot of the fight depends on your DPS and their ability to change targets quickly to the portal/volcano and DPS it down so there are not too many adds. It's especially important for the portals, as more than one Mistress of Pain can lock up your healers very quickly, especially if you're running with a bunch of Paladins. The Kiss can be counteracted, true; just target Jaraxxus or a Mistress and start casting Starfire as a Druid, or a Shadow spell for a Priest or a Fire spell for a Shaman (remember, it has to have a cast time!). Paladins, only having Holy spells, are SoL as soon as Kiss lands on them. Their choices are to cast something, take the interrupt and the damage but be locked out for less time, or to sit out the fifteen seconds of the debuff, which is not recommended.

More Mistresses equal more Kisses equal more locked out healers, as even Priests, Shamans and Druids can become accidentally locked out if the Kiss lands on them while they're in the middle of casting something. If your DPS is having trouble getting the portals down while only spawning one Mistress, consider going to five healers and having an extra DPS; we did this for our first kills and, despite the loss of one healer, it was easier without the Mistress running rampant.

Believe me, any girl whose signature kink is the 360 Pain Spike isn't someone you want to be locking lips with, extra arms or no.

Getting the volcanoes down quickly is also important, as too many Infernals can start wrecking your raid. A couple ticks of their channeled AoE followed by a chain lightning from Jaraxxus and you could be looking at a lot of dead people. Get away from them, even if you have to abandon your spot. Your spot will be there when the infernal goes away, I promise. Unless someone dumped fire in it, and then maybe you should think of getting a new spot, because your spot currently sucks.

Your tank will round them up, the DPS will knock them down (no interrupts for their inferno nor banishes to keep them in line; you have to just work with them), and things will go back to business as usual. Healing Incinerates is of paramount importance because if people blow up, so does the raid, even more so than in normal. Likely, if not everyone dies, a lot of people will be dead at the end. If people are locked out from Kiss, heal the Incinerated people harder. Blow your cooldowns because the tank won't or shouldn't need them. Just get them healed ASAP.

Make sure you run out when you're affected by Legion Flame, so you're not dropping fire on your group or the melee or wherever you are with fire. However, please realize: you don't have to run all the way to the wall! Get to the outside of the group, then start this rotation: pause. drop a patch of fire. move. pause. drop a patch of fire. move. repeat from the beginning until the debuff is gone. It's not a constant drop, and running all the way to the outside just leaves a perforated trail of fire through the raid and you start ranging healers, as opposed to leaving a nice, consolidated patch outside the ranged that's easy to avoid and not nearly so hazardous to your health. And, for goodness's sake, don't run out for Incinerate. Recognize the difference! Red Fire means STOP, Green Fire means GO.

That's it! Adjust to AoE's and fire, don't get locked up by the Kiss if you can help it, and heal! Then he should die and you'll be ready to face the Faction Champions.


Yes there are a lot of bones. This was our first kill. Subsequent kills have been far more successful and bone-less, unless you count having to get a DK to respec for corpse explosion just so we could clear out the boss's annoying, non-despawning corpses.