Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Reasons for Hating Oculus

That poor, lonely instance Oculus. Its looking for group channel is always dusty and vacant, its loot is scarcely touched. The bosses chill out with impunity, which is rather a difficult task to master (but they've had the time). The drakes have plenty of time to make more whelps. The empty holes in Glory of the Hero mock those looking for a group, even as their friends respond to their requests for help with whispered obscenities and PTSD-like symptoms.

So what is it about Oculus that inspires such horror and loathing?

The first could be the requirements for Heroic achievements. You'll need to go no less than three times, and perhaps more depending upon the lifespan of your drakes and if you can get from the first boss's dying throes to the last boss's dramatic collapse in under 20 minutes. Not a single boss in the instance besides the last has any achievement attached to it. And there is simply no way to get all the achievements done in less than three runs with the inclusion of Experienced Drake Rider (and your drake must be alive at the end of the fight to receive credit).

Another issue would be that this instance, at least on the final boss, relies heavily upon coordination and competency. It also requires adaptation and understanding of your mount's abilities. You have to have five people working together with an understanding of how to function in varying levels of various drakes, and it takes a lot of trial and error. Last night I was in a five Amber Drake group (to get Ruby Void and Emerald Void in one go) and though we eventually got the boss down, it took some coordination, failed strategies, and consultation with those who had done it before (thanks Aegus and Iliana). We rode our drakes naked so we didn't rack up too much of a repair bill, and tweaked our strategy until we had it. But even with experienced raiders along, there were deaths and adjustments until we got used to the strategy and our drakes.

I suppose the main reason people dislike Oculus ("dislike" being used in its most extreme form here) is that, no matter how geared you are, how far you have progressed, or how you spec, it won't matter for the final boss fight. Your Drake will never have more health than your party can buff it (at the expense of buffing their own Drake), your moves will never do more damage than they do, you will never heal for more than you do, you will never shield from more than you do, at the first moment you step into Oculus to your last run. The Drakes are an equalizer, so that a healer can DPS, a tank can heal and the DPS can tank. Your spec can be terrible, and you can ride a Drake and win.

In some ways this is good. While the first three bosses need some decent DPS, they are manageable with people under 2k. While not all the achievements can be completed with low DPS, many of them can because on Drakes it just doesn't matter. All that matters is that you understand how to use the Drake in coordination with the other people (and therefore that they understand how to use their Drake as well).

However, people dislike Oculus because they have no control over improving their Drake. They do not get to choose what their Drake can do past color, and sometimes not even then (due to group makeup requirements or achievement purposes). This lack of control is frustrating and puts a lot of people off. They do not like having to "learn a new class" while riding a Drake, because, for all intents and purposes, that's what you are doing. It's impossible to cover for someone; if the only Emerald Drake dies, then you're SOL where healing is concerned. No one can off-heal. This rigidity can be irritating.

I personally enjoy Oculus. The first three bosses are just complicated enough to require environmental awareness and precision, while not completely blocking you from the rest of the instance. Also, since your own gear does not affect your Drake's performance at all, you are free to remove the gear and eliminate a lot of the penalty for wiping. It's unique and fun to learn different strategies and Drakes, in my opinion, and I look forward to going back.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Weekend of Achievements

This weekend was a roller coaster of awesome and not-so-awesome, highs and lows. Luckily, it ended at a high point and only started at a low point.

The problems included being locked for heroic groups that bugged out (Skadi despawning at about 20% health for no reason) or replaced me with their "original healer" who was camping the instance anyway, or a very rude mage telling me I was a horrible healer because I didn't heal him for 30 seconds while dodging around the center to avoid Loken's AoE thing. His guildmates apologized for him, but never going to run anything with him again, that's for sure.

But, the awesome part...

Achievement Extravaganza!

This weekend I received:
On the Rocks, Split Personality, Chaos Theory, Share the Love, Abuse the Ooze, What the Eck?, Lodi Dodi We Loves the Skadi, Heroic: The Oculus, Timely Death, Zombiefest, Shatter Resistant, and Lightning Struck. This led to Champion of the Frozen Wastes. I also ended up getting The Argent Crusade, The Argent Champion, Second that Emotion, 1000 Fish, and 500 Stone Keeper's Shards, and Sugarcake got Level 60, and Bellbell finished Veteran of Wrathgate.

Perhaps the one I'm most excited about is Heroic: Twilight Duo!

I hope you can understand why there's no continuation of the PTR Lifebloom today; it will be up soon, I promise!

Best part of the achievements was that, at the end of Abuse the Ooze, only me and the ret paladin who bubble taunted were alive. I got a whisper from one of the shadow priests along for the ride about how good a job I did healing. I was feeling miserable at that point because three people had died! How could that be a good job? But he assured me that with his other groups he couldn't even get close.

So I went from being trashed at the beginning of the weekend to being praised at the end.

Thanks, Araiti. You're a kickass Shadow Priest as well.

Friday, March 27, 2009

RP Friday Five: Parts of the Whole

My first time responding to the RP challenges routinely presented by the Anna part of Too Many Annas. And in the spirit of things, I'll respond as per Button.

What color are your character’s eyes?

Violet, actually, and rather a unique shade at that. Flecked with white, when it catches the light it almost looks like a luminescent lavender.

What is your character’s skin like? Does he or she have freckles, tattoos, or other noticeable markings?

One of the reasons Button wears his goggles so often is a hairline scar running down his right eye, trophy of the battle against Ner'zhul and his death knights on the steps of the Black Temple. He also has a tattoo across his shoulderblades in some archaic language that reads "Loyaulte Me Lie".

How does your character smile?

Button has a genuine smile, reserved for his friends, that is rarely seen. Most of the time his grin is a sadistic one, full of savage glee as he hacks at the kneecaps of this tauren or other.

How does your character carry him or herself when walking around? What is his or her posture like?

Button is as proud a Gnome as there ever was, though he has little time to actually associate with his brethren. He stands proud, with his weight evenly distributed on both legs, fingers flexing, always ready to attack or defend.

Describe your character’s hands.

Scarred and calloused, used to years of warfare, holding a weapon. Powerful fingers, for a Gnome.

And there you have it. That was actually sort of cathartic. I might have to do this more often.

- Button

Guest Post: Loot Differences Hurt the 10-Man Guild

This post was written by a long-time reader and commenter, Kayeri, who is active on many Druid blogs. She writes now about a concern that affects her personally, and many others.

This is something that has occurred to me from time to time in various forms and I’ve even seen it referred to on some of the many blogs I read, without ever addressing it directly. So Bell has generously allowed me to air my concerns and perhaps we’ll get back some ideas worth thinking over. What really catalyzed this post was a frustrated comment made the other night by our guild’s best tank, a protection paladin, before she logged for the night.

“Without 25’s I can’t improve my character and if I can’t improve my character, why play the game?” This concerned me deeply, because in the year I have known her, I have never once seen her express such intense frustration. If someone like this can be driven to that level of frustration, it’s time to get this out in the open and talk about it.

When Blizz first announced it was implementing the dual 10/25 man tracks for raiding, I was thrilled. I’d always felt a sense of incompletion in Burning Crusade as my guild wasn’t (and isn’t) large enough to do the 25-man content and complete the story arc of that expansion. That was not going to happen in Lich King… hurrah for Blizz! Then they told us 25-man loot would be better than 10-man. I shrugged it off at the time, because undoubtedly 25-man content would be more difficult than 10-man. I was still riding the high from being able to do the entire expansion storyline.

Well, the more difficult encounters at 25-man never really happened. The encounters, for the most part, are on par in difficulty. Yes, there can be slightly different mechanics or additional adds thrown in for the larger raid, but in overall difficulty per player, IE how hard each player works during each boss fight, is not significantly different in 10 and 25. With the exceptions of Patchwerk and possibly Kel’thuzad, I really am working no harder in a 25-man than in a 10-man.

So why the loot difference? Encounter difficulty is the crux for me. Better loot should be rewarded for more difficult encounters which means I should be working harder in 25-man encounters than 10-man to earn that loot. It is definitely more difficult to coordinate 25 people than 10. That’s a given. Herding 25 cats is obviously harder than herding 10. But is there any other reason? During the encounter, you’re doing pretty equivalent work whether its 10 or 25. Is that what Blizz intended with the dual raid track? I don’t know, honestly.

The effects on the 10-man raid guild are not good. People leave because they can’t get top flight gear. The last 4-6 weeks have seen the largest population drop we’ve ever experienced. People, including me, have started pugging more to get better gear. That means less time working together and the guild’s teamwork has suffered for it. Also, 10-man guilds are recommended as ‘gear-up-and-move-on” guilds, and that’s not what we want to be. Worst of all, it has been seen in general chat when assembling pug raids on our server, “Don’t bother psting me if you’re in that 10-man Naxx crap!” It’s not frequent, but it is happening.

So is there a way to balance things so the 10-man track can access the gear they need to be the best they can be without reversing course and hurting the 25? The one thing we all have in common is we want to be the best player/raider we can be. To do that, we all need the best gear we can get our hands on. 10-man raiding guilds are handicapped in that by size alone. And the plain fact is, I love my guild. I’ve cultivated genuine friendships there. I’ve hosted guildies in my home and visited other in theirs. It’s an atmosphere I feel comfortable in and that matches my needs. I don’t want to leave and I won’t. If there is a balance point out there, I’d love to find it, because I want to enjoy my guild AND have the best gear I can get my mitts on.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Light at the End

Restokin just recently wrote a post about healing in Ulduar, citing a Blue post by that infamous Ghostcrawler talking about healing styles of two druids on two boss fights in Ulduar. It's a very nice post, with some large concerns about Regrowth and its lack of use during raiding on the PTR, and I encourage you to read it. However, it inspired me to talk about something I have a few times before, and that is healing meters, judgments and perceptions.

With WWS reports, it has become almost an obsession for some people to delve into them, see who tops the meters, who has done the most dispels, who uses what spells in what ratio during what fights and omginformationoverload. And anyone who has taken a statistics course understands that too little of this information scrutiny and making correlations can become omgmisinformationoverload.

Don't understand? Here is what I mean.

People have different ideas of what it means for a boss kill to be successful. Some think that, as long as the boss goes down, it's a successful kill. Others look at a boss that was killed with three fourths of the raid dead due to standing in crap or bad tanking or ineffective heals and not think it as a true "success." There can be boss kills where everyone lives (or the majority, anyway), yet this healer worked twice as hard with less overheal to cover for this other healer and tank x blew cooldowns because tank y's threat rotation was flawwed or DPS A skyrocketed to the top of the charts by attacking inappropriate targets or ignoring instructions that would improve their chances to survive (but would keep them from beating on a target for thirty seconds onoes). Are those successes?

I have met Druids convinced that glyphed Healing Touch was the best glyph choice for an 80 raider because they always topped the charts. I've listened to the worn-out complaints of a healer pushed to their limit because they are covering their own assignment and half the assignments of others. I've found healers thinking they are doing a bad job because they are low on the charts, yet they are covering their assignments, doing all they can and always trying to get better.

No one uses the exact same rotation, spec, or gear set. Every situation brings something different. Some places HoTs shine, other places you need the big straight heals. There is so much experimentation going on in 3.1, presenting only a few choice cases can only skew the data. Learning new boss fights while simultaneously adjusting to changes in a spell, combined with differences in healing assignment, dispel demands, mobility, skill, glyph and spec choice, plus preference, the results are going to be varied, different and can be interpreted differently, and even understood or represented in a way someone wishes them to be.

I have done my best on this blog to focus on positives, on how to adjust to changes, and how to keep playing and having fun, because in the end, there are only two choices: keep playing your Resto Druid, or stop. I wish to keep playing my Resto Druid, no matter the changes, until she ceases being fun for me. If these changes go through (and it is looking more and more like they will), what will you decide? Keep in mind, if the Resto Druid is no longer fun for you after these changes, it's completely fine. It's a game to play, a game to have fun with, and if you're not having fun, then frankly you're doing it wrong.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Can't Believe It Was THAT BAD

Vault is easy, right? Right. Nothing can change that. It is four pulls then a boss that requires minimal coordination and staying off steps and out of clouds. Simple, right? Right.

So, it starts with Vault 10. I'm leader. We have a tank, a healer, and DPS. We quickly fill the other spots until all we need is an OT. A person leaves after I invite a friend to OT, meaning their friend won't get in. No big, he was DPS. Fill the spot, go in. Get whispered during the first pull to kick "some scrub" so jerk DPS who left can OT with his friend healing him. Um, no. We're full. Bye.

Vault 10 goes down without a hitch past the singular whisper.

25 is where it gets ugly.

I'm filling spots, doing my best to get this moving smoothly. We have plenty of time, so no rush. I get all the necessary people and then it's just DPS. The raid pretty much went downhill from there.

The following occurred in painful fashion:
  1. Rogue attempts to get me to kick another rogue so he can have sole shot at rogue gear. I refuse, and he demands to be given any rogue gear that drops. I tell him loot will be given out based on rolls, and if he doesn't like it, he can leave. He stays.
  2. I have to kick a shaman out of the raid because I didn't notice I had invited someone from a guild known to be complete and utter asshats and ninjas (and be proud of it). For the record, if you play on Dark Iron (US) Alliance side, do not group with Scorpion Kick members or you will regret it. And please, stop giving them the attention they want. If you have to say anything, simply state that they are ninjas, and then ignore them.
  3. First try at Archavon the OT d/c's twice, leaving the DPS helpless and dead. The boss enrages, we go down, people leave.
  4. Turns out that the rogue who the other had wanted to kick has only done 800 DPS. As a rogue. At level 80. They leave, and I feel torn between the fact that they really did not belong there at all and that I had done both the right and wrong thing by not booting them because the other rogue asked me, but diminishing the raid by bringing along someone who could not pull their own weight.
  5. Second try on Archavon, DPS on the steps bug out the boss so he evades the new OT's taunts. DPS die, we wipe. Start over, have to get more DPS for people who leave. Instance is close to reset.
  6. Invite a hunter who will not get off the steps despite raid warnings before engagement and three during the fight. He is removed from the raid.
  7. Archavon goes down with less than three minutes to distribute loot before instance reset. Loot is handed out quickly, people are rezzed as fast as possible, and everyone gets everything before we are ported out.
  8. Upon porting out, it's found that, despite the Master Looter having clicked her name prior to being ported, a priest did not receive her robes. Or her badges.
  9. I die inside.
Both the priest and I filed GM tickets in order to get her robes. Through out the process, the priest was the nicest ever even though she had to live through two wipes and the possibility she could not receive her robes or emblems. Through talking with a GM and sorting through a misunderstanding (the GM had mistakenly closed her ticket thinking it was a raid-wide issue; thankfully the same GM talked to me, realized the mistake and reopened it), her ticket has been escalated and she should receive that which is due her.

This disaster stands in stark contrast to the PUG 25 and 10 I lead two weeks before, which went off without a hitch and everyone was nice, did what they were supposed to and stayed connected. It seemed like the night of the pushy individuals, as when we did pug OS 10 (no drakes) later, the healer who "had to leave in 20 minutes" kept trying to boss the tank around.

At least I got my Protodrake Whelp this morning out of my very first egg.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Like a true internet dork-geek-nerd, I read webcomics. Lots and lots of webcomics, about everything from the high school dramaz to the delightful adventures of whacked-out carebears, from seriously cute veggie heads to thought-provoking stick figures, from that magical duo that made my server so popular to Bear's fave warlock of doom and everything in-between. However, when I switched computers, I forgot a lot of old ones and picked up a bunch of new ones, and have been expanding my horizons.

One of the ones I "lost" is called Awkward Zombie, a collection of largely non-sequitur comics about Pokemon, Super Smash Bros., the artist's life, and, of course, World of Warcraft. The Stoppable Force or Llanion (I unfortunately don't remember which...) linked to this comic in Blog Azeroth chat, and I was excited; I had missed them but forgotten the name.

Going back through the archives, I found one comic in particular that left me in stitches for about ten minutes, and so now I share it with you via link.

The Root of the Problem

Enjoy! I know I did!

Monday, March 23, 2009

PTR Lifebloom, Part 4: Beginnings

This is part four of a multi-part discussion of the suggested changes to Lifebloom on the PTR. Please note that as this change is not live, the information within the post is subject to change, and the series could end abruptly if the changes are rejected. This is not, and will never be, a rant upon the changes, but rather a frank look at the different facets and uses, as well as a preparation for their possible implementation.

These next installments are largely based upon speculation.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

PTR Lifebloom, Part 4: For the Beginner and Newbie
What does this Lifebloom change mean for those who are just now starting to level a Resto Druid, are contemplating it, or are just about to reach 80?

Well, to start, if you haven't had a Druid before now, you won't have to go through the messy process of relearning the class and how to play. Congratulations! You get to come to this change with no real practical knowledge of how it was beforehand (at least none put into practice) and therefore will have a much easier time adjusting. There actually will be no adjustment; simply learning. Most Druids now probably envy you.

That's great and all, but I'll give you a little more information to go on, yes?

Talent Specialization
A good spec for levelling while still being majorly focused on healing is what is often called "Dreamstate." This spec involves going deep enough into the Balance tree to gain Dreamstate, a mana regeneration talent, and then putting the rest of the talents into Restoration for more healing efficiency. This also allows for the Druid to do more damage, levelling faster than a non-Dreamstate Druid (in theory). A Dreamstate spec can look like this:

Though it is by no means the only way to spec Dreamstate, it gives a general idea of how this spec would be planned out.

The focus of a Dreamstate spec is an intense amount of mana regen, some damage dealing capabilities, and competent healing. It is generally considered sub par for anything beyond five man instances. It does not have the ability to reach Wild Growth or other bottom tier Restoration talent. However, it should allow for a player to gain the confidence in rolling Lifeblooms (if that is the desired style) with less penalty on the mana pool. It will also aide those with less than impressive stats to maintain a ratio, and provides a boost in spellpower through intellect to cover for some that is lost without three points in Improved Tree of Life.

It should also allow for some more utility in the form of Healing Touch (especially glyphed) being a shorter cast time, though in the end it is best used with Nature's Swiftness if it is not glyphed.

For levelling, especially with a Dreamstate spec, Glyph of Healing Touch is actually a very viable option. At 80 it is frowned upon (especially with the advent of the Nourish Glyph being upon us), but with a levelling Dreamstate spec it is certainly usable. This is especially true if you choose to put the talents into improving Healing Touch.

Until you reach Swiftmend, the Glyph, though amazing, is useless and should come later. If you find you are still having mana issues, it may be prudent to invest in Glyph of Innervate. Rejuvenation could be an option, but I have found it plays only a small part in healing, and how many glyphs you can have pre-level 70 is too limited for it. Extending the time of Lifebloom's ticks is not really necessary until you are raiding, and you do not receive the spell until level 74 64 (thanks Jeremiah). However, if you find you need the extra second, try glyphing it. Nourish is not available until 80, so that Glyph(PTR only) is also pretty pointless.

Actual Healing
So, you've got your Dreamstate spec and your Glyph of Healing Touch. What now?

As you level, you'll get used to using Rejuvenation and Regrowth, with some Healing Touch "flash heals." When you gain Lifebloom, however, it may be difficult to start introducing it into your rotation. However, this is the best time to begin experimenting with what works and what you can handle before being put into higher pressure and more gear-dependent (and spec dependent) situations. Because Lifebloom is such an expensive spell, slowly working it into a rotation is your best bet. Druids have always been about finding your personal rhythm for each separate encounter, just like the other healer classes. There is no tried and true rotation, though you will find some things work better than others.

Keeping a Dreamstate spec while you experiment with Lifebloom will allow you a little more freedom where mana is concerned while you build up your gear set and gauge what you can handle. Can you keep Lifebloom rolling on multiple people? Is just one stack killing your mana? If it blooms, do you fall too far behind on healing? Can you make the split-second judgments required to micro-manage blooming or rolling? Do you find it more effective to ignore Lifebloom for the most part? Many styles can be dictated not only by gear, but by preference. However, be aware that just because you like doing it one way, it may turn out to be less effective than it should be, and you will need to adjust.

Of course, do not get discouraged if it does not work out. Continue trying; it takes a long time to develop a stride while still remaining flexible. I'll be honest; I still don't have mine down!

The next part of this series will focus on being newly 80 and how to adjust to switching to a more raid-oriented talent spec, and how the different casting styles fit in.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Return of the King

That's right, it's time, and he's back. The king of all gnomes, the pint-sized powerhouse, the midget madman, the hostess with the mostest. Wait...that last one....nevermind.

Anyway, I finally got around to re-rolling my favorite of my characters, Button, affectionately subtitled "the World Eater" by his former guildmates. Due to an unfortunate incident with an old friend (who turned out, oddly enough, to not be so much friend as "jackass"), my old account, containing the original versions of both Button and Sannhet, was rendered inoperable.

I since, as you (hopefully) know by now, rolled Sannhet again, this time reincarnated as a retadin rather than one of those pansy healer-types (<3). I've rolled other alts too, but as the stockpile of warrior related heirlooms stockpiled-up in my bank, I realized that even subconsciously I missed the old short stuff.

I have a lot of memories of the little bastard, and he even had his own brief stint as a recurring personality in the infamous Dark Iron trade chat (it's better than Saturday Night Live and worse than Catwoman...stop by some time, you'll see what I'm getting at). He lead a guild, raided BT, and even hit a decent rating in the arena. Basically...he was just a lot of fun.

Although I play....well let's just call it not very often....when I do pop on for a minute or two I log in to Button. I haven't touched my main, except to send Button gold, in the better part of a month, and to be honest, I don't care. In fact, I'm not even sure what the point of this post is other than to share the fact that I started an alt that was formerly my main that I missed and has nostalgia oozing from every pore.

I'm sure we all have that one character, class, zone, dungeon, raid, item, etc. that just brings back old memories. Sure, it's a game, but there's real emotions, up and down, tied to it, whether in a small or large way.

And so, I leave you with this, a warning to NPCs, raid bosses, and Horde everywhere: Button's back.

Hail to the king, baby.

- Button, The World Eater

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I was tagged by Braids over at Out of Mana to do this. It's kind of a lame attempt, but I gave it a shot!

To tag others to come up with something much better...

Tree Bark Jacket
Druid Heal!
Tree Burglar
Treebound Cat

And never fear, Part Four will be up in the next few days!

Friday, March 13, 2009

RP Friday Five: After the Fall

This is in response to the Friday Five challenge put forth by Anna over at Too Many Annas. I actually suggested the challenge due to an experiment of my own. The basic premise is: how would your character change if they died and were raised by Arthas as a Death Knight? How would they react? Think? Behave? How would they take the betrayal? Could they adjust back into the Horde or Alliance societies? The following is the story of Bellipotent, the Death Knight incarnation of Bellbell. In fair warning, it is not the normal sarcastic but light reading of normal Bellbell posts, and should be read with caution.

Everything was pain. Delicious, perfect, pain. There was so much of it, so much everywhere. My own pain called out to be harmonized with that of others and so I drew my sword and slit throats, hacked limbs, eviscerated torsos. I felt blood splash on my face and in my mouth; I tasted it and rejoiced. Sometimes it burned with the fire of the Light; this I sought most of all. This I desired above all others. The tangy, sharp, cauterizing drops of dying hope and fervor drove me into a frenzy. I always wanted more. There was something akin to the feeling, like I was gaining vengeance and vindication, all while I craved more, more.

I tortured them for their answers, and I tortured them for their screams. I pretended I wished what paltry knowledge they had to offer. I pretended to think them liars. Sometimes, I did not pretend. I let them know they were dying, forever dying, so that I could let that sweet liquor run from the lacerations. I disturbed even the Vampyrs with my bloodlust and laughed at their weakness.

All the while my king whispered wonderful words in my mind, telling me the secrets of death and pain. He told me of the pain those I destroyed had given me once, in some faint time ago. Of the shuns. Of the harassment. Of the cruel intentions, of the hatred. He told me why I wanted revenge, and I listened. The words were too sweet, too seductive, and they rang true. So, so true. I had always known they were corrupted. Arrogant. I made them beg. I made them cry, and weep. Whether they wept tears or blood or both, it mattered little to me. Whether they died defiant or frightened, I cared not. I brought bodies for my master, fuel for his cause, and he let me loose among them.

I cried in anguish when he called for me to ride his frost wyrm. So high up I could not feel the rapidly cooling splash of blood across my face, or watch their faces contort in terror. Still, the promise of more crusader blood gave my temper patience. I sliced open the top of my tongue so the blood, diseased as it was, would pool in my mouth and cool my fervor until I could dismount and run my blade through warm flesh and snap strong bone once more.

When I joined Mograine, my armor still dripped icicles. He nodded in approval to me, but I did not seek his approval, only his power. His power to attack this hated place. This pinnacle of resentment called to me, told me I was not wanted, that even when I had been one of them, I never had been one of them. The gifts I had been given were never enough. Now, they would appreciate my new gifts.

I made them bleed. While Mograine wasted his breath on the betrayal of his sword, I took my blade to the chest of a guardsman. I strangled a young man with words of healing dying on his lips. When Mograine called for a retreat, for us to stand down against the power of the Light, it took three pairs of black gauntleted hands and a boot firmly pushing my head into the muck to cease my struggling. I watched with seething fury as the king failed in his goal. It mattered not that the others felt betrayed; there had been no betrayal for me. He had given me what I wanted. I had no care to survive, so long as many died with me.

When it was decreed we should join the fight against the king, my mouth was the only one that wailed. Mograine negotiated for my survival, yet I did not care. I did not want to fight alongside these Light abominations. They reeked of blood unspilled, of vengeance unsought. I was banished to the hold, and forced to fling my frustrations into Patchwerk. His blood was coagulated and of mixed sources; it did not taste sweet.

Other knights were sent to Stormwind or Orgrimmar to aid their factions. Mograine could not convince me of its purpose. He wished to be accepted, to achieve revenge on the king who had betrayed us. I wished for revenge as well, but not upon Arthas, not the one who had given me what I wanted.

Eventually, I saw the wisdom in playing along. I grit my teeth and let the living pass unmolested. I took jobs which called for death. I murdered in the dark of alleys and learned how to cover my tracks. I killed Horde. I relearned to play and cheat the game so I could satisfy my bloodlust. But I was never satisfied.

And then, that day in Icecrown, I was sent out with a group of knights and paladins. We were to end the existence of the Val’kyr in a remote region, so the Crusade could expand their base. It was there I heard the lovely call. There was my king, once more, whispering to me that I, the faithful, could return to him if I only fulfilled my desire. He only asked that I do what I wished; how could one deny such a thing?

I turned upon my companions and slew them. The thrill returned to me as the burn of the Light-blooded splashed my face. My king’s might filled me and I tore them apart. There was no escape. There was no warning to be brought back to Fordring. No sign or trace of our party. The knights were raised as lowly, shackled ghouls; the paladins were warped into a single abomination. I was brought back to my king.

He gave me what I desired. A continuous parade of slaughter and blood, crimson and cooling in the chill air. He knew I was fit for nothing else.

Mob Mentality

Where one goes, others will follow...

This is especially true in WoW. How many times has it happened that one person is doing something, and another joins? And then another, and another, and another, all doing the same thing, until it's a huge mob of people?

As WoW players, we love to do it. We love to get in mass mobs of sameness and terrorize the countryside, or terrorize instances. I've witnessed the great Mammoth March, and though I was unable to participate on my diminutive Ram mount, I was able to run alongside, snapping photos. Horde and Alliance alike merged into a relatively single-file line, following the leader seamlessly, even as he went around corners and cut through the middle.

It can be started by something even so innocuous as sitting AFK. Two players, a tauren and a draenei, sat side-by-side on the edge of the landing, mounted on bronze drakes. I didn't have anything to do or any place to be, so I mounted up and say next to them. Then others would run up to us, mount up, and settle around the perimeter. One tauren, lacking a drake, mounted his netherray or danced in bear form. The blob morphed from short line to pyramid to long line, with drakes, protodrakes, wyverns, netherrays, flight forms and hippogryphs, though the majority were always bronze drakes.

Druids, however, are perhaps the most notorious of mobbers. Two druids dancing in a form will suddenly call into existence half the population of Dalaran to appear and dance along with them, forms changing and tranquilities going off, and double hurricanes adding atmosphere. What you aren't always aware of, however, is that we use these groups to discuss current, on-going and troubling issues, as well as to prey upon other classes.

Can you pick out the Horde druids?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

PTR Lifebloom, Part 3: Glyphs and Talents

This is part three of a multi-part discussion of the suggested changes to Lifebloom on the PTR. Please note that as this change is not live, the information within the post is subject to change, and the series could end abruptly if the changes are rejected. This is not, and will never be, a rant upon the changes, but rather a frank look at the different facets and uses, as well as a preparation for their possible implementation.
Part One
Part Two
Part Four

PTR Lifebloom, Part 3: Glyphs and Talents

Though much of this is common knowledge for the experienced Druid, I hope the following information on how glyphs and talents will factor into the new Lifebloom can help newer Druids plan, and make the transition a little less daunting. It does not cover all synergies, such as reduction in cost of other skills and (therefore conserving mana for your Lifebloom), but rather talents and glyphs which concern Lifebloom or mana specifically.

Mana Regeneration
Intensity - "Allows (10/20/30)% of your Mana regeneration to continue while casting and causes your Enrage ability to instantly generate 4 rage." This is a talent every Resto Druid should already have, and with the expense of Lifebloom, it's going to become even more invaluable. It's easy to get, at only the third tier of Restoration talents, and only takes three points to max out. On the PTR, Intensity is being retooled to be 17%/33%/50% mana regeneration while casting, making it even better able to compensate for the regen change (thanks Anonymous).

Living Spirit - "Increases your total Spirit by (5/10/15)%." Once again, this talent is one that every Resto Druid should have. Though Spirit is being tweaked in the PTR, at the very least Innervate still functions off of Spirit, and thus will improve your mana gain from the skill. Though the talent is further down the tree, it still comes before Tree of Life, and should not be difficult to fill. As it only requires three points, again, to complete, it is also not very costly.

Dreamstate - "Regenerate mana equal to (4/7/10)% of your Intellect every 5 sec, even while casting." Dreamstate is an oft unutilized talent by Restoration Druids due to how deep one must go into the Balance tree to reach it. However, it is much more viable in Wrath, as one can still reach the Tree of Life talent with Dreamstate, though not much farther than that. For someone who wishes to continue rolling Lifeblooms, combining Dreamstate, Intensity, Living Spirit, Omen of Clarity and Tree of Life, an intense amount of mana regeneration and conservation is possible.

Glyph of Innervate - This glyph will give you 100% mana regeneration when cast on another person, or 600% increase in spirit-based regen and full mana regeneration while casting. With the expense of Lifebloom (without letting it bloom), needing innervate becomes a real possibility, where Druids could simply give it away before. With this glyph, even if you do end up having to give your Innervate away to someone else, you can still receive a benefit, albeit a small one.

Mana Conservation
Omen of Clarity - Omen of Clarity is a talent basically every Druid gets; gaining free spells for doing what you always do is a nice perk. Besides, this talent is very near the top of the Restoration tree and only takes one point. Micro-managing the clearcasting proc could actually not only conserve, but gain you mana if you use it to toss out a Lifebloom, thus costing you no mana in the cast and gaining you half back when it blooms (if that is your goal), or can defray the cost of Lifebloom further.

Tree of Life - This is the ultimate form of a Restoration Druid; in reference to Lifebloom, it will defray the cost by 20% of each cast (though the mana returned from casting will remain unchanged), and increase all healing in the HoT and bloom portions. The cost of shifting into form is also being decreased on the PTR (from 28% base mana to 13% base mana) so, though having little effect on PvE druids, will be a great help in conservation for PvP druids. Though Tree of Life can also be improved, be aware that improving the talent only increases armor and spell power, not the reduction of casting cost.

Lifebloom Extension
Nature's Splendor - This will increase the duration of all your HoTs, and Lifebloom specifically by 2 seconds. Though originally this was used in order to squeeze out another Lifebloom in your rotation, it can instead be used to space Lifebloom stacking out, refreshing at the very last second in order to spend the least amount of mana possible while not letting stacks drop off (unless the bloom is efficient and desired at that point). This talent is only one point, and only ten points into the Balance tree, making it not difficult at all to reach, even for non-Dreamstate druids.

Glyph of Lifebloom - This also extends Lifebloom past its original length, doing much the same as the above, giving you more time between refreshes. And if you keep Lifebloom to only one, or perhaps two, targets, it becomes even easier to manage the cooldown. Something to consider, however, is that if you are on raid healing, your main goal may be to let Lifebloom bloom, and extending the time it takes to reach the bloom may not be effective.

Global Cooldown Modification/Haste
Gift of the Earthmother - "Reduces the base global cooldown of your Rejuvenation, Lifebloom and Wild Growth spells by (4/8/12/16/20)%." Though the reduction in global cooldown's original purpose was to allow rolling of Lifebloom on more targets while also freeing up time for other moves, now it will allow for closer timing to the end of Lifebloom's duration to maximize the time spent not using mana on Lifebloom. It's very far down in the Restoration tree, even past Tree of Life, and costs five points to fill out. It's before Wild Growth, however, so it is likely that you'll have points for it if you're heading for that spell.

Celestial Focus - "Gives your Starfire spell a (5/10/15)% chance to stun the target for 3 sec and increases your total spell haste by (1/2/3)%." This talent will give you a flat 3% haste increase, not give you a 3% increase on the amount of haste you have. It is equivalent to about 100 haste rating at level 80. Spell haste affects both GCD and cast speed; however this reduction in GCD will be less noticeable if you do not have much haste on your gear. This will be more beneficial to those who will not be using Lifebloom as much, or planning on letting it bloom, and will want spells such as Nourish and Regrowth to cast faster. Though it only takes 3 talent points, it is about a third of the way down the Balance tree, and some Resto druids may not wish to sacrifice the points if they are not going for a Dreamstate spec.

(PTR)Nature's Grace - "All spell criticals have a (33/66/100)% chance to grace you with a blessing of nature, increasing your spell casting speed by 20% for 3 sec." This talent used to reduce your next cast time by 0.5 seconds; however it has been changed to reduce your next cast-time spell by 1/5th of its time. For those allowing Lifebloom to bloom, especially in five-mans, it can make the next Regrowth, Nourish or Healing Touch come faster to cover for the HoT portion. This is not as far down the Balance tree as Celestial Focus, but it is only questionably good for druids who do not stack crit or who are not Dreamstate.

(PTR)Glyph of Nourish - Though it does not directly relate to Lifebloom or mana, I thought it would be helpful to mention that this glyph will benefit from Lifebloom, thus making Nourish more powerful with at least one application of Lifebloom. This gives incentive for at least one Lifebloom to be active on your main target much of the time.

In the next part, I'll look a little more in-depth at the playstyles, specs and glyphs in combination, as well as imagining rotations, situations and the effects of gear level.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mana Regen Nerf Reported by Eyonix

(Click to make larger)
Source is MMO-Champion, referred to me by Eranthe of Zul'jin (US).

With the increase in the cost of Lifebloom and this new nerf in raid buffs, things are looking a little more difficult. Part three of the PTR Lifebloom Discussion will debut tomorrow, with this incorporated in where applicable.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

PTR Lifebloom, Part 2: Playstyles

This is part two of a multi-part discussion of the suggested changes to Lifebloom on the PTR. Please note that as this change is not live, the information within the post is subject to change, and the series could end abruptly if the changes are rejected. This is not, and will never be, a rant upon the changes, but rather a frank look at the different facets and uses, as well as a preparation for their possible implementation.
Part One
Part Three
Part Four

PTR Lifebloom, Part 2: So, how should I play?

The changes upcoming in Lifebloom, according to the PTR, can be somewhat intimidating. However, there are several different ways to cope with the change and adapt your playstyle. The following examples are some adaptations, and the pros and cons of each.

Lifebloom Boycotters
This playstyle advocates a vast reduction in Lifebloom use. Lifebloom would be used sparingly, and when used most likely only in one stack (to give Nourish a bonus). This lack of Lifebloom will be compensated for with other heals. When it is cast, to conserve mana, it will most likely always be allowed to bloom. This playstyle would possibly be employed by Dreamstate druids, whose strength isn't mostly in HoT heals, players who do not like the change, those who, at 80, still use Glyph of Healing Touch, or people whose gear cannot support rolling/stacking Lifebloom for too long without going OOM. This could vastly reduce HPS, but greatly increase longevity.

This playstyle advocates a continuation of simply rolling Lifebloom, only allowing it to bloom when forced to (i.e. stunned, out of range, silenced, etc.). In order to not go OOM, however, the stacks of Lifebloom would be restricted to fewer targets than before (rather than three or four targets, two at most would be rolled on). This playstyle could cause mana problems for the druid; however, some have reported that, fully raid buffed and even with the mana changes on the PTR, they are still not having trouble with their mana. This may indicate that this style is only possible, however, for long periods of time with the "best" gear. They may extend the time of Lifebloom with all available talents and glyphs in order to create the greatest amount of time between applications as well.

This playstyle advocates stacking Lifebloom, mostly on one target, and allowing it to bloom. For the most efficiency and least mana issues, it's possible they would only stack Lifebloom to two applications instead of three. This would supply a large bloom without taking as much mana as rapidly as stacking and restacking three applications, would provide a larger HoT while Lifebloom is active than simply one Lifebloom stack, and still give Nourish a decent increase to its output. However, many of the blooms could still be overheal. Mana may be more manageable; each time Lifebloom blooms at two stacks, your next Lifebloom is basically "free." And monitoring OoC could increase efficiency.

Micro-Managing Multi-Taskers
This playstyle advocates exactly what the title implies: a player using this style will both roll and bloom. Their targets will be limited, again (where Lifebloom is concerned), in order to monitor health bars and Lifebloom timers. Lifebloom rolls will be continuous, refreshed at the very last second possible, or they will be allowed to bloom based upon the tank's current health or the druid's mana pool. Omen of Clarity procs will have to be micro-managed as well, using them to refresh Lifebloom where possible. A quick GCD will be necessary due to timing of last-second bloom refreshes, and a good grasp on the player's latency will help determine where that last second truly is. This style could be, at times, a combination of all of the above styles, depending upon gear, raid make-up, and encounter. This style will be especially difficult during highly-mobile fights, where many different boss mechanics may make it difficult to split attention, or even to do what the player 'plans.'

The above styles are only four of what could be many varied, unique styles. Tomorrow, I will take a tentative look at glyphs and talents in part three.

Monday, March 9, 2009

PTR Lifebloom, Part 1: What's Going On?

This is part one of a multi-part discussion of the suggested changes to Lifebloom on the PTR. Please note that as this change is not live, the information within the post is subject to change, and the series could end abruptly if the changes are rejected. This is not, and will never be, a rant upon the changes, but rather a frank look at the different facets and uses, as well as a preparation for their possible implementation.
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

PTR Lifebloom, Part 1: What in the World is Going On?

If you've been away for a while, or are just catching up, then you may not know what's going on where Lifebloom is concerned. If you have been all over the blogosphere and already know the lowdown, you can feel free to skip today's post and come back tomorrow for the next part.

Blizzard is attempting to fundamentally change the way Lifebloom works. On the Live realms, it works like this:

For a more in-depth understanding of the current mechanics of Lifebloom, read Lifebloom 101.

However, on the PTR Blizzard has modified Lifebloom so it now works like this:

If you aren't entirely sure what that means, let's take a look.

Original Lifebloom cost 14% of base mana, while PTR Lifebloom costs 28% of base mana. "Base mana" is what your mana pool is without any modifiers. By default, a level 80 druid's base mana is 3496. Below is a full comparison of the Lifebloom (Live and PTR) mana costs (click to enlarge):

On the Live version of Lifebloom, the "bloom" portion of Lifebloom (the straight heal that occurs when Lifebloom's HoT portion expires) remains unchanged no matter how many Lifebloom (1, 2, or 3) you have stacked upon a target. However, in the PTR version, the bloom portion is increased by each stack, and you will also receive half of the mana spent on casting Lifebloom (ignoring the reduction of cost provided by T7).

That is what is happening with Lifebloom on both Live and the PTR (as of 3/8/2009). Tomorrow, in Part 2, I'll discuss the possible playstyles that could arise should this change go live.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

LFM To Kill Horde in XRoads

Today I'm going to talk about something near and dear to my heart: world PvP. Yes, yes, I know some of you are thinking "ye gods, whyyy?!", but I don't care. Okay, I do, but why won't you love me? Q.Q

Anyway. World PvP has been one of my favorite things in WoW since I began playing all those many eons ago. Previously I had played Ragnarok Online, with set times for such things and very little in terms of "world", as much of the game ignored physics to begin with (lolz my arrows fly sideways...and diagonal!).

The ability to change the outcome of a battle by using differing terrain to circle kite, LoS, slow your opponent, or even outright kill them; the epic feeling of finally looting a node or skinning a baddie after fighting tooth and nail; these things still get my blood pumping. I would never have gotten mining to 450, or subsequently ground out enough gold for my Darkmoon Card, if not for the epic fights while farming saronite and titanium in Sholazar Basin.

I understand that a lot of people hate world PvP, both the ganking that comes with it and the more enjoyable 1v1 you walk into on occasion. Although there are servers designed for people that feel that way, I understand people roll on servers for their rl friends and such, so I've never been one of the harpies touting the "lolz pvp on a pvp server" mentality.

In my mind, this style of world PvP is what sets WoW apart from other, similar MMOs. There are, perhaps, some that do it better (at the expense of involved, engaging PvE), but its still the most interesting part of the game for me.

But seriously, stop killing my hunter in Darkshire. Please?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Haelz iz 4 Fite?

Is there anything you've ever wanted to do in WoW, but no one would ever give you a chance?

For me, it's been tanking. I've always kind of wanted to tank as a bear. It looks so awesome, but no one ever gave me a chance. The three times I can remember tanking are as follows:

I was spec'd feral and running Sunken Temple. I wasn't the tank; a paladin was. However, this was before all the nifty treats paladins received for tanking, and it was difficult for him to hold aggro. My first reaction for when the mob ran to the healer was to shift to bear and taunt it off. This caused me to receive the most surprising temper tantrum from the paladin, who was intensely pissed off I would even dare offtank (as this meant he was not doing his job as main tank) and I, therefore, stopped. Thankfully the priest never died.

My only two others were with friends who couldn't be convinced that I needed them to not mess around because I had no idea what I was doing. But they didn't listen and it stressed me out to no end, so I set up my bear bars for resto PvP and haven't looked back.

Now, with dual specs coming out, I'm preparing a feral set. I want to try tanking again, and I've made friends agree to not go overboard and let me get a feel for it. I'm excited; it should be something new and fun. Resto will always be my main spec, and something I love, but there's a lot to be said for being able to try new things without completely screwing up your action bars or feeling like it's a waste of money.

Has anyone else been looking forward to dual specs (or even something else) to give them the chance at doing something they've always been locked out of?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Um, Hi. Purplez Pl0x!

Does anyone know why exactly you kill Sartharion? As far as I know, there are no quests connected to him. We know very little about him besides the Black Flight has been interested in getting Netherdrake eggs (eggs that were, at one point, their own and then abandoned in the Outlands by Deathwing), yet beyond that…what?

Sartharion seems to have little to no lore about himself. We don’t know why it’s so imperative we go wreck his face other than he’s all we have by way of a decent challenge off the PTR and his loot table that only takes about an hour to access, tops, if you kill the other drakes. Otherwise, what’s the point? Why do we care?

I know not everyone is into the RP aspect of the game, and many people shut the quests without reading past the “okay, I need to do what to get what? Got it” (and some not even that much). However, I personally get really confused when we do things just for the sake of purple pixels. I like to think there’s a point.

Well, lore buffs, do you know why? Or is it all just for the loot?

Perhaps it’s just dragon racism.