Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Worrying About Nourish

It happened over and over. Regrowth Glyph was too powerful, Wild Growth was too spammable, Lifebloom too strong for too little. And so we were changed, restricted, modified and retooled. We haven't turned out badly, but it does bring forth a concern about the next spell I feel is in line for reduction. Nourish.

Why Nourish? It seems like a pretty well thought out spell. It has a decent cast time, heals a mild amount of damage, and the healing power of it is increased by having your HoTs on the target (and more still with glyphs and armor bonuses). Why is it so concerning?

Well, if you look at the WWS reports of my guild's last raid (which are indicative of a trend; every raid's WWS reports have looked similar), you might notice the problem. Names blacked out for privacy's sake, first letters left because I need something to reference them by.

These are the boss healing numbers for successful boss kills of Flame Leviathan (which doesn't factor into the WWS), Razorscale, Ignis, Deconstructor, and Iron Council, with the inclusion of one wipe on Iron Council and two wipes on Kologarn. There was also a Paladin healer, but I didn't include him as it was unnecessary information.

You can see on the chart that myself and Druid T are rather close in numbers. However, there is a huge gap between myself and Druid S, a gap of roughly 1.5 million effective healing and 2% overheal (or 10% in the case of Druid T).

These are my healing spells (same fights, ignoring Potions):

Druid T's:

Druid S's:

Druid S used Nourish 59% of the time, had more effective healing, less overheal, and almost the same focus as Druid T. This focus was large, indicating a great amount of raid healing. With the majority of raid healing being Wild Growth, and Wild Growth being used only for 24% of the other healing, over half the time Nourish was not being used in conjunction with other HoTs. With Druid S's gear and raid buffs, there were no mana issues and no mana potions taken.

This is not an isolated incident. I have spoken with others in different raiding guilds, and their Druid healers who top the charts use Nourish just as much. This seems to be along the same lines as when Wild Growth was in its heyday. It's not mana troubling, it heals a decent amount without needing the modifiers, is quick to cast (especially with enough haste), and it makes a pretty FWOOSH sound. All indicators that Blizz devs are soon going to be looking at it and seriously considering changes, if they aren't already.

This may be paranoia on my part, but no tree who has watched the trends of change to our class and spec of late can say it doesn't bear the signs.

EDIT: Just to clarify, since one of my friends already asked me, no, I am not losing sleep over this or freaking out or anything. I'm not really worried; it's just a title.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why the Wipe?

All comics are linked back to their sources. Click the pictures to visit their sites!

As soon as that call goes out over Vent, it's over. You stand in the fire and die, or run into the eye beams, or make everyone annoyed because you do your best to survive when it would just be faster for you to take the death and run back in. And so you begin that trek back to try again, and the other familiar query is voiced:

"So, what happened?"

General replies fly back. The tank died. Too many DPS were down. No heals. Split DPS. Not taunted in time. DPS in the front. Standing in the fire/voids/ooze/blizzard/runes/poop.

Understanding what causes a wipe is paramount to raiding success. Learning from your failures is a cliche for a reason; it works. If you don't understand how or why you failed, you're doomed to a vicious cycle of repetition and repair bills, with little to show for it but what comes to you from sheer luck or stressed-out raid-mules (i.e. those who carry the rest of the raid).

Sometimes a wipe can be generalized. If too many DPS are dying because too many are standing in the eye beams, it may be as simple as saying "Yo. Stop standing in the dumb." If DPS is fighting in the front and your tank goes down because the boss has just ripped five new pretty bleeding holes from his skin in one second flat, it's obvious your DPS needs to take a cue from the hunter pets and grow a fondness for boss-monster haunch. And if you're pulling whelps, 50 DKP minus and stay away from the tail.

However, it's not always something you can simply generalize. For example, what does the phrase "the tank died" tell you? Absolutely nothing that the raid didn't already know. Of course the tank died, otherwise the boss wouldn't have pranced his happy self through the raid, smashing your healers as he pleased. Why did the tank die?

The first idea may be to blame the healers. After all, if a tank is dead, it must be because he didn't get enough heals. And, truly, this could be the problem. Your healers were possibly not ready for a huge influx of damage, there could have been confusion on healing assignments, they could have just not been ready, or they could have been dead. This is a little more complicated and requires a bit of a finer comb. Are the healing assignments inappropriate? Is someone trying to do more than they should and are stretching themselves thin? Have misunderstandings been cleared up about strategy? Are the healers in the correct position? Are the healers actually using their class and spec properly?

Perhaps it's not a healer problem. Maybe the offtank did not taunt in time, and your main tank's debuff became too high. He goes down in one hit and you're scrambling to catch up. Perhaps they missed something vital in their rotation, and they're suddenly taking more damage than they're supposed to be, at a time when healers are trying to boost up the raid in general. Does the offtank need to taunt pre-emptively? Does the tank need to go back to class and learn how to do a proper rotation? Does the boss need to be pulled out of, or into, some sort of glowwy fire contraption? Did no one warn the warrior not to charge Kologarn or he'll drop off the edge? Are they just not geared enough for the fight?

What about the DPS? Were they dragging eye beams through the raid? Did they not watch their threat? Was there someone with a gravity bomb who just decided it would be a good idea to stay in the raid? Did no one shatter the brittle golem? Were they all dead? Were they not grouped up tight enough so the meteor damage wasn't spread evenly? Did they not move when their charge changed? Was there no interrupt? Were they standing too close, and chained damage onto the tank?

Knowing why a wipe happens when it's something controllable is extremely important. It's the first step in fixing the problem. And there could be a myriad of little issues working together to create one big pile of corpses. Being able to identify the reasons past the generalizations is paramount. And, sometimes, pointing fingers is necessary, so long as it doesn't go overboard. If you don't point out that Rogueymcstabstab shouldn't be DPSing from the front in the fire with the candlestick, he's going to keep doing it. But calling him a weasel-faced toad-licker won't make him fix it, it'll just make him angry and more likely to pull threat and vanish.

Wiping, however, isn't always the fault of the raid. The boss could bug (a serious possibility in this brave new raiding world) and suddenly half the raid's eating dirt. You could get an unlucky chain of gravity bombs on your healers, and suddenly half of them are running out, unable to catch up for sudden damage spikes. A second too slow dodging an eye beam coupled with a sudden swipe of the hand through the raid and you have a dead player. Grobbulus could turn to infect someone in the DPS at the same time he summons slimes from the people in front of him and you have a legion of green snot balls AOEing their way through the raid, and the add tank is the one who's been infected. Or maybe your tank's just diconnected, along with a couple of your DPS and a healer. And perhaps Wintergrasp is going on during prime time and the server lag is so bad that your instant casts are taking two entire seconds.

Though those unlucky instances are not necessarily raid wipers, it is possible that, in combination with some other unfortunate deaths and circumstances (silences, mis-communications, unexpected damage, and so on) can greatly contribute. Most battles are no longer luck-based (like Prince in Karazhan used to be) but still can have "unlucky" elements. Controlling what you can will, however, help you recover from or prevent the bad luck, and hopefully down the boss.

Of course, if you don't, there's always the next time, right? And the next time, and the next time, and the next time...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Innervate: Change Isn't Always Bad

Change to innervate? ZOMG OH NO!

That was my first reaction. I, apparantly, fear change. However, after that brief moment of panic, I sat down to figure out just how much mana we're getting from this skill.

Since it was changed to grant 450% base mana, and a level 80 Druid has 3496 base mana, Innervate should always return 15732 mana by itself. My unbuffed mana pool is about 16551. This would seem an improvement over the other innervate just upon personal return, not to mention it no longer relying upon your target having a large amount of Spirit to function if you're going to hand it out to that silly oom Paladin.

Glyph of Innervate changed a bit, as well. Now it returns 90% of your base mana to yourself if you cast it upon someone else, or combines the 90% with the 450% when cast upon yourself. This means a return of 3146.4 mana to yourself (at 80) when you cast it on someone else, or a total return of 18878.4 mana if cast upon yourself.

I'm definitely liking this.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A New Republic

What a weird title.

As it is, however, I have finally joined a guild, and as they've discovered my blog, I should probably introduce them! I've made my first forays into Ulduar, and it's nice to be able to work with a solid group again. Many I've played with before from my time in Sunder, and two are the leaders of this new guild, Republic. The familiar faces, good attitude and laid-back-but-still-going-somewhere progression just fits well. Helps a lot, too, that my boyfriend joined the guild as well as their new Main Tank (generally), and I find raiding much more enjoyable with him.

In my first week of raiding with Republic, I was able to step into Heroic Ulduar and down Flame Leviathan as a siege gunner. As well, I was in for the guild first downings of Razorscale and Deconstructor. It was thrilling to see fights like Ignis and Kologarn that, though we did not down them, were new and interesting and definitely possible. No Ulduar loot yet for me, but that's to be expected when you're the newbie.

As a treat, here are the pictures of the guild firsts!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Problem With Fish Feasts and Flasks

The arrival of the Great Feast and Fish Feast in Wrath of the Lich King freed up much of the burden upon guild chefs and eased many a headache of raid leaders attempting to ensure every person is food-buffed. Flasks have been around for a long time, providing a monetarily advantageous way to buff yourself for a raid without needing too many elixirs or having to renew them each time you died. However, these methods are not always the best choice, and actively work against min-maxing characters.

Fish Feasts are an easy catch-all. With attack power, stamina and spellpower, everyone in the raid has something to gain from eating Fish Feast. But that does not mean it's what they should be eating. Food that increases hit, crit or haste may be more appropriate, or strength food may give an edge over straight attack power. Expertise food, or perhaps mp5, could also be utilized. But this becomes largely up to the individual, and if they do not have (or do not wish to spare) the funds, or do not want to min-max, it's possible to lose that boost.

There was once a great multitude of Flask choices, but with the introduction of Spellpower and no base stat booster flask, the choices have dwindled down to four: attack power, health, spell power, and mp5. Much like the Feast, they're convenient and homogenized so every class and spec has a generic flask they can choke down and pewpew with.

But with two elixirs giving more of a varied boost, they allow for greater min-maxing of your character. If you need hit, or crit, or perhaps a little bit of a larger mana pool, or some health and expertise, nothing works quite as well as dual elixirs. But it is expensive, needing refreshers after each death as opposed to after a certain time limit. As well, doubling up elixirs may provide with a more even benefit, but they do not provide as much in a single category as a flask, with less spellpower or attack power.

Overall, it is a little up in the air. This is not to devalue the Flask or the Feast. They are intensely helpful, and should always be utilized. But knowing what other choices you have, and that the flask or feast could possibly not be the best (or a good) choice, is valuable information. When your raid wipes at 2% on Deconstructor because he hit enrage, that little bit extra could have made the difference.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bon Voyage, Button

For those of you who were not aware, Button/Sannhet, my co-author, is in the Navy. Very recently, he had to ship out. Due to him wishing to spend all his last moments with his lovely fiancee, he had no time to post here about his departure.

I wish him the best of luck, and hope for a safe, boring, uneventful trip that brings him quickly back home, and back to writing the occasional post for this blog.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

New Class, Same Job

I wrote only a little while ago about how different I found healing on my Paladin to be as compared to my Druid. I've done a lot more healing since then, and I've found it to slowly start losing its stress as I became more competent. I'm still shaky and not completely confident about my skill as a Paladin healer, and Retribution is still my first love on Bellbell, but I've figured out some tips for those who have new alts who do the same job as their main.

It's important to remember, first of all, that even if the goal of your job hasn't changed, a lot about how you go about achieving the goal has. You are not playing your main, so using the same style will not work. The sooner you can break out of the mindset of your main, the sooner you can begin shaping a new one for your alt. For example, when playing my Restoration Druid, I know that when I have HoTs on a character, they will continue to heal, whether I take some time to focus on another character or if I use more healing moves on them. However, with a Holy Paladin, what I heal is what they get. When a Flash of Light lands, the amount that is healed is the amount that is healed, and there is no continuation of healing, no ticks. When the group/raid is taking damage, I cannot just hit Wild Growth and spot some here and there. I have to immediately begin throwing out concentrated, focused heals.

It's also good to remember that you are not going to be the best immediately (barring some exceptions). You've spent years perfecting your Rogue's rotation, adapting to subtle changes, optimizing main hand and off hand, tweaking your talent tree and switching poisons. Moving over to a Fury Warrior, you may not have the rotation down. Your gear will probably be weaker. Be prepared to be slower at adapting to changes, of learning new ways to use moves or different ways to spec talents. Take it slow, take it easy, and let yourself make mistakes.

Don't jump right into the harder instances. You'll be kicking yourself and hating the alt if you go right to heroics when you should be doing 80 normal instances. Your main may have been able to do those instances in worse gear, but, remember, you've known that character for a long time. You've possibly been through several expansions with it. This alt has either been a long time in levelling, or is brand new. Or, perhaps, it's a dual spec you've never given a shot. Don't jump in head-first; use some water wings first.

And, goodness, if it's stressing you out, take a break. Have fun with it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Summer Time!

I'm out of school, my finals are done, I'm home and resting, applying for jobs and getting ready for an internship. It's shaping up to be a busy summer, and I can't help but wonder:

Will this be as difficult as the last summer?

Last summer, the "attendance boss" brought down many guilds. During summer, many more people are able to go outside, and do things other than play on the computer, as opposed to being snowed into their houses. This was compounded by the rapidly approaching expansion, rendering the current content nearly obsolete. Though there is arguably more play time for those of school age, at the same time, those with full-time jobs will be more inclined to spend the hours outside of their jobs enjoying the nice weather. As well, vacations are generally WoW-free times.

This summer, however, has a lot going for it. With the expansion less than six months old, and Ulduar recently released, the temptation to play and conquer the hard modes may be able to counteract some of the sunshine's allure. It's also only a matter of time before even more new content is released, and the urge to stay in the know and on top could pull more people inside.

I personally am going to have a little less time this summer for WoW. With an internship, possible multiple part-time jobs and preparations for applying to grad school, I have a lot on my plate. I'm interested to know what is going to keep people playing during the summer months, and what's going to pull them away.