Friday, January 30, 2009

And now, we wait

Keeva only needs a few final upgrades now, and to be honest, I'm in no rush to get them. Probably because I know that if she has nothing in particular to work towards, I'll be even more bored as I wait for new content.

As a raider and as a guild officer, I really feel our biggest challenge now is keeping everyone interested in the weeks to come, until Ulduar arrives. It's a big concern for me that our raiders may get bored in the meantime.

A lot of people are turning to alts. And why not; Naxx is easy to run, and even 25 man content is puggable. Now is probably an ideal time to level alts, while we're clearing content in two of our four raid nights and we're often left looking for things to do. Later, there may not be as much time.

I have a few alts. I actually have several accounts; but only a few alts that I play on a regular basis. I have little to no interest in raiding on them, as most people do; they are mostly for farming or crafting, and for a little fun on the side.

Here are my babies:


This is my hunter, Earka. I love female orcs so much, I think she is really pretty (no, really). She is my mining & herbalism alt, and I need to get organised and level her to 77+ so she can spend most of her days in Sholazar. My gorilla, Emma, is a bit unruly and makes me frustrated at times, but she's funny and I love her.

I wish I wanted to do more with my hunter than just farm, because I really like playing her. I just have no desire to do instances or raiding with my alts.


And this is my baby mage, Thawm. He was a Refer-a-Friend baby, dragged around by my feral druid to level. He just hit Hellfire, and I quickly learned that wearing 35 greens and trying to kill stuff in Outland doesn't work so well. It's ok though, I spent some time in the AH and now he has a delightfully mismatched set of gear that is.. adequate. Please, if you feel the need to inspect him or look at my armory, don't judge me too harshly. That refer-a-friend deal is great, but it really makes you look bad when you hit 60...

He is my JC/enchanting alt (read: prospecting slave). He used to live in Dalaran, prospecting ore daily, but I felt like picking him back up and levelling him, particularly with the JC dailies in mind. So he's on his way up - and so far it has been cake. The nerf to levelling 60-70 is very obvious. Pew.

I also have a level 64 feral druid that I miss a lot, but I shelved her after the announcement of the development of dual specs. I used to have double druids because I hate respeccing; so I had a full-time resto druid for raiding and a full-time feral for fun and profit. Now though, why would you - I can pick up unwanted 25man feral gear - epics - and change specs with dual spec anytime I want. But I miss her a lot and feel sad that she got all the way to mid-60s and no further. Oh well.



Apart from these alts for fun and farming, I also fish (for money and stockpiling), play the AH, and do the odd few dailies depending on my mood. I have a few reps left to do (working on Timbermaw at the moment), and some achievements, so hopefully I'll be able to stay interested until Ulduar.

Already though, I feel very antsy and want new bosses to conquer. I don't feel right unless I'm really working towards something, nutting out strategies, plugging gear into spreadsheets, photoshopping diagrams...

*bites nails impatiently*

Monday, January 26, 2009

Grid followup: copy my layout

Since my post on setting up HoTs and Lifebloom in Grid, I've had lots of messages asking how to actually get the rest of my layout. So rather than reply to everyone with the same info, I thought I would post it here.

This is just a basic explanation of how I set up my widths and text and whatnot, I won't go into extra addons like mana bars or how do set up individual debuffs, how to set the border as your aggro alert, etc. If people need help doing these I might do another entry in the near future.

For now though - I'm just going to show you my settings to get the same "look" as my current setup:



You can experiment with things like scale, width, text size etc - but here are my settings if you'd like to directly copy what I have. I've posted pictures of each screen so if you're confused about the options I have listed, you can just directly copy what I have in each screen.

1. Layout
Padding = 1 (space between boxes)
Spacing = 0
Scale = 2
Border = set to 0% opacity
Background = set to 0% opacity



Note: you may find you can't drag the Grid frames around if you have Padding set to 1. If you want to move it, temporarily set the Padding to something higher and then to drag, put your cursor in a blank space between two of the frames and then click & drag. Later, you can reset your Padding.

2. Frame
Center Text Length = 5 (length of names)
Invert Bar Color = checked
(Checking this box makes the frames coloured to match each class. If you uncheck this box, the frames will be dark, with the text matching the colour of the class.)



3. Frame > Advanced
Enable Center Text 2 Indicator = checked
Enable Health Bar Color Indicator = checked
Icon Border Size = (I don't use icons)
Icon Size =
Enable Icon Cooldown Frame =
Enable Icon Stack Text =

Corner Size = 6
Font = Friz Quadrata TT
Font Size = 8
Frame Height = 23
Frame Texture = Gradient
Frame Width = 44
Orientation of Frame = Horizontal
Orientation of Text = Vertical



4. Frame > Advanced > Corner Text
Corner Text Font Size = 7
Corner Text Font = Friz Quadrata TT




The most common question I've had is how to make it so that all your texts fit into your frames without being cluttered. Various things will govern this:

1. Overall Scale (see step 1)
2. Center Text Length (see step 2)
3. Font Size (see step 3)
4. Corner Text Font Size (see step 4)

If your scale is set high and your fonts are all high also, you will run out of space and they will start overlapping with each other. Try experimenting with the font sizes and center text length to see what is best. Some people have the center text only 2 or 3 letters long (because they know who people are in their raid, and don't need the full names). Make sure the names and texts aren't too small - you still need to be able to read them easily - but see how small you can make it to save space and avoid overlapping.

You can also make your frame width slightly wider if you need to fit more information in, or if you need to use slightly larger fonts to be able to see them more easily.

---

It's really quite hard to cover every aspect of Grid in one big tutorial, because there are just so many different ways to do things.

I'm always happy to answer questions though - if there is something specific you'd like to do with your Grid or you're not sure how I've set something up, please let me know and I'll try to help :)



Thursday, January 22, 2009

Waxing philosophical: Healer squabbles

Have you seen the Healing forums lately? Yikes.

Not that it's much different to any other patch or period of change, but I suppose these days we actually have a combined forum for everyone to gather together to get their collective knickers in a knot.

Healers have been at each other for a long time, it's just more evident now that they can all do it in a central location. Before, they had to sling insults across the class forum gap, or venture into "enemy territory" to complain to their nemeses face-to-face.

It's really quite sad to see so much healer hate. We're meant to be a team - not opponents. It's something that has been weighing on my mind for a few months now - well, basically ever since they gave us our new talents just prior to the expansion, and AOE healing went BOOM and I started feeling unnecessary in raids. Naxx hasn't been a whole lot better - it will probably be slightly different with the CoH nerf, but there's still far too many heals for not enough damage. So far, Sartharion and drakes has been the only encounter where I felt like I was actually having to put my hardcore healing hat on and heal my butt off.

Most of the time though, I feel bored and superfluous, and I know that most (if not all) of my team feel the same. We're only stepping on each other's toes because there's nothing else to do.

I remember starting in Naxx and it was already too easy to heal; we run with 6 healers and I think we could do it with 4-5. The competition is high - and frankly anyone who says "meters don't matter" is not being honest. Meters matter to almost everyone in some way. Nobody likes to be low on the meters. You can be objective about them and take various things into account when you read them, interpret them with a grain of salt, but everyone still likes to do well on the meters.

There's constant competition within the raid team, which is magnified by the fact that the bosses are easy and everything becomes a skillless zerg-fest. DPSers push to see how high they can go - which is fun. Healers... well, what's fun for healers if there's nothing to heal? You can only heal as much damage as the encounters do, you can't push higher, unless you start sniping and stepping on the toes of the other healers. And that's what breeds these feelings of contempt between the classes.

I saved this from a while ago, from a priest named Meia of Bloodhoof:

DPS just basically has a target dummy they can throw their all into and that's their contribution and competition. Tanking has threat(or rather did, not sure what it is anymore). Healers actually have to compete with each other since damage is finite and on a limited time. The very nature of it itself is competing with one another, that is what breeds some of this anger.

Honestly, until Naxx, I never really thought of it this way before. It's true though - dps, while competing against each other, aren't jostled around by the actions of other dpsers. The enhance shammy doing high dps doesn't result in the warlock being unable to dps. Healers though - it's not just about our skill, but also the actions of the other healers around us.

I hate healing meters. I really do. I use them to reflect and improve, and that can make them a great tool, but at lot of the time, even though I try not to care, I do get annoyed if I'm not in the top 3 healers. It's frustrating that it's not just my skill that decides where I land on the meters, but who else is in there with me, the numbers, the classes, their abilities and their skill. Obviously if someone has more skill that will push them higher, and push me lower, but not just because they did more, but also caused me to do less. Does that make sense?

If a raid is dps heavy, it doesn't matter how many rogues you have, that is not going to lower the mage's potential dps. Not true for healers - the more healers you have, and particularly if you stack a number of the same class, that can drastically alter each person's performance.

Obviously skill will still go a long way, and good healers can shine even if the odds are stacked against them, but it still seems a little disheartening that you're never truly in full control of your output and performance to the degree that dps classes are.

I don't like feeling resentful of other healers or healing classes, but it's hard not to be bitter occasionally when there's just not much damage flying around and a bunch of healers all scrambling for a piece of it. I heal because I love healing; and I don't think it's unreasonable to feel a little upset if I do my absolute best but still can't be 100% in control of my performance.

And no, I'm afraid that people saying "as long as everyone lived, that should be good enough"... is not always enough. Are the dps just satisfied that the boss fell over, regardless of the dps numbers? Yeah, fat chance.

So why is it such a crime that healers should want to be competitive, too? Why are people scornful of it? Why do you never hear people telling DPS to ignore the meters and just make sure the boss dies?

I don't want to seem as though I am playing the battered healer, but it does seem quite skewed to me. We have fewer places in the raid, finite damage to grab a piece of to heal up, too many healers doing it, AOE heals flying around, and we're not allowed to WANT to be high on the meters. If you're a healer complaining about slipping on the meters, you're either bad or greedy. I still don't like meters very much, but I think it's in our nature and not unreasonable to want to do well on them.

There will always be exceptions - gimmicky fights where you spend half the time running around and reducing your uptime - but wouldn't it be great if meters actually showed you your HPS in a vacuum? If I'm down the bottom, I want it to be because I need to improve or because my gear is terrible or because I wasn't paying attention, not because others are managing to squeeze heals in before I can or because they're bored and doing their own thing despite assignments. If I'm up the top, I want it to be because I'm good - not because I have abilities that trump the rest of the team's. Know what I mean?

I don't want to be at the top because my class has an advantage somehow (occasional domination by a class is fine, just not all the time). I don't want to be up there automatically because my heals are "easymode". I want to know that it's all ME. I want to be up there because I'm GOOD.



If performance was based entirely on your own skill and not on who else is in the raid filling up the health bars before you get a chance to, I think healers on the whole would be less inclined to lend themselves to inter-class bickering.

Something to chew on, I suppose.



Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Best patch ever.

And here's why:



It really is like a laser now. All it needs is a space invaders-style "pew" noise to go with it.



Monday, January 19, 2009

Addons: my two cents

The buzz in healerblog land at the moment is whether or not addons are a bit of a crutch. Not a new topic by any means, but a couple of posts got people fired up, namely Matticus' and Vonya's at Egotistical Priest.

*drags soapbox out and hops on*


I disconnected in the middle of KT last night, and came back in with no Grid (as is the norm if you come back in and you're in combat). Frustrating.

Now, people who know me will know that I am the Grid Queen. Grid Grid Grid, everything Grid. Somehow, someday, I will find a way to have Grid's babies. So, when I lose my Grid, I get upset.

I logged back in and that corner of my screen was blank. BLANK! NO GRID! I couldn't see the tanks, I couldn't see the raid, I couldn't see who was being turned into little orc, undead, and troll-flavoured popsicles.

Sometimes when this happens (which is rare), I have time to do a quick UI reload, but in a pinch I can set the boss as my Focus and heal off his target using my mouseover macros. When the adds come out, I can target the add tank to heal, but also keep an eye on KT's target. The only problem is not being able to see if multiple people get iced - but I can drag the default raid frames out to top people off if necessary. It's ugly and clunky, but I can make do long enough to finish the fight and get my addons back.

Even when my mods have inexplicably exploded mid-raid, I can't recall a time that I have ever held up the raid to fix something. I just go with it, because I know that my mouseover macros are enough. But then, I have all of my abilities bound, and have absolutely no buttons on my screen normally anyway - so even if you took away my entire UI, I would still be able to heal (well, as long as I could see frames!). This is why I recommend mouseover macros so highly - because they don't "break" in the same way that addons can. And even if they disappear for some bizarre reason, you can just paste them back in again.

So if I stripped away every mod I have right now, I could still mouseover-heal the raid and use default frames.

I would HATE it like burning, but I could do it.


My mods

Following suit, here's a list of what I use to heal in raids.

1. Grid
Grid raid frames show me everything all in one spot. Aggro, health, mana, HoTs, debuffs, my buffs, range, who's dead, who's offline.. it's all right there in the one spot.

I use Grid over Healbot, Pitbull, etc. I used to believe that Grid was far and away superior to the others but I believe they are beginning to approach Grid in terms of the information they can display.

In my opinion Grid is still superior, mostly because you can pretty much display anything you like, in any way you like, where the others are not as flexible. Grid is definitely more complicated to set up and tweak to the way you want it, but I think it is worth it. If you want something that will do the job well but you're not very addon-minded, Healbot and Pitbull do better "out of the box".

2. Pitbull
I use Pitbull for my unit frames (me, my target, focus target etc). There are a few really good frame mods out there, I just like Pitbull. I think that as long as you have something to improve the default frames (and move them to a better spot), that's fine. The default frames are far too small.

3. Bindpad + Mouseovers
Bindpad is a mod that lets you drag & drop macros and abilities into a central window and then easily bind them to keys so that you don't need to have those buttons on your screen. I have all of my major abilities bound (but not things like tradeskills etc). I don't need bars on my screen because all of my abilities bound. This also means that if something goes wrong and I have to revert to the default UI, I can ignore the default bars on my screen because I won't be using them anyway.

By combining Bindpad with mouseover macros, you can react very quickly to incoming damage. If I see someone get aggro on Grid (their square gets a pink border), I can put my cursor over them and hit Rejuv "just in case" they take a hit that needs to be Swiftmended, for example. I don't need to change my target or click with my mouse - just hover my cursor over their frame and hit "4" on my keyboard (Clique does a similar thing to this; you bind particular heals to different mouse buttons rather than keyboard buttons).

That's it. I use a few other cosmetic addons to improve the appearance of my UI, but when it comes to healing, I just use Grid, Pitbull, and my macros.



Do you need Addons to be a good healer?

I believe that the game's default UI is lacking, and without *some* addons/macros, a healer cannot perform as well as someone who opts to use these basics. That is not to say that I think default UI users are in some way bad or lesser healers; I just truly believe that with a couple of basic addons, the information on your screen can be interpreted and acted on MUCH faster, in turn improving your performance. By no means do I look down on people who choose not to use mods, but I honestly believe that they could improve their performance (if only slightly) by using a better raid display coupled with either macros+bindings or something like Clique.

I was a good healer before Grid; I'm still a good healer now, but my performance increased dramatically when I picked up GridStatusLifebloom so I could see how much time was left on Lifebloom and when to refresh it. The default UI cannot show me this.

The default UI can show me poisons and curses and debuffs that I have to heal through - but in a very poor way. I can react much, MUCH faster if I have these debuffs displayed in Grid. At this point, decursing or reacting to debuffs is not something I even have to think about - it just happens automatically. I still have to make the decision and hit the buttons, but my UI lets me pick up that information and process it so much faster than the crummy default UI.

Could I decurse with the default? Definitely.. but I can do it much faster, and better if I have Grid.

These are two examples of how addons absolutely do make me perform better as a healer.


Can you survive without your mods?

I am vehemently opposed to any mod or macro that chooses actions for you because I believe this breeds bad habits and makes lazy healers.

We all rely on our mods to a certain extent, but if you are relying on them to the point that you can't heal without them, that's bad. If everything grinds to a complete halt when you don't have a particular mod, that's bad.

If Grid died tomorrow, I would be a very sad monkey - but I would just find the next best thing and deal with it.


Obligatory analogy

Getting comfortable with our shiny custom UIs and addons is kind of like driving around in a car with the seat just so, the mirrors just how you like them, and the steering wheel at the right height. It's comfortable and you can see everything you need to while you drive along.

If your car broke down and you had to use someone else's, you should still be able to jump in and go without too much trouble. It might not be what you're used to and it might not be as comfortable, but you've got a steering wheel and pedals.

On the other hand, if you've been driving around in an automatic for years and suddenly you have to drive a manual transmission... you're boned.

:)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How-to Grid: HoT tracking

I've always tracked Lifebloom on Grid, but for some reason could never get GridStatusHots to work properly for me to show my Rejuv and Regrowth in a meaningful way. Instead, I had a purple corner square and a green corner square, to tell me who had Rejuv and Regrowth on them.

It was an alright band-aid solution, but had two problems; a) I couldn't discern my own HoTs from someone else's, and b) I had no way of knowing how long was left on the HoTs - all the corner dots told me was that there was a HoT active. The fact that it showed other people's HoTs meant that I often saw a purple corner square and thought my Rejuv was still up - when in fact it was someone else's. Not good!

So for a while I used HoT trackers - bar style trackers that would show all the HoTs that you have on various targets. They're great, but it's hard to watch two different chunks of information at once - moving your gaze from Grid to HoT bars and back isn't very efficient and you can't really process the information quickly. I prefer to have all of the data right on Grid, so I don't have to look to different places for different info.

GridStatusHots was updated recently and works like a charm (really not sure why I had trouble before, plenty of people swore by it). So now that I have updated, this post is to show you how to get all of your HoT counters onto Grid (without clutter).

My setup

Here's what I have right now:


As you can see, I have counters showing for Rejuv, Regrowth, and Lifebloom. I don't bother with a counter for Wild Growth because it is so short and to be honest I don't really need to know how long is left on it, just whether it is up. Druids who lean more towards raid healing may want a WG timer for when the patch goes live and you are using WG+Nourish on the raid. This is just personal preference.

From the above picture I can see that the druid has 12 seconds of Rejuvenation, 21 seconds of Regrowth, and 5.8 seconds of a triple stack of Lifebloom remaining. The warrior has two stacks of Lifebloom (yellow) and the pally only has one (red). I can also see who has aggro, buffs, etc.. but that's a story for another day.



Addon modules you'll need

1. GridStatusLifebloom
- shows the Lifebloom counter, coloured by the number of stacks on your target (red=1, yellow=2, green=3).

2. GridStatusHots
- shows your other HoT counters, coloured by time remaining (green>yellow>red as the timer approaches zero).

3. GridIndicatorCornerText
- allows you to add counters to the corners of your Grid squares.



How to set things up

Lifebloom

Edit: I think GSHoTs will do this for you if you want, but I've never used it for Lifebloom and really like GSL. If you don't want to use two mods, you can follow the above instructions for Rejuv/Regrowth and copy them for Lifebloom, but I haven't tried this myself so I'm not sure how it would display.

1. Make sure you have "Center Text 2" enabled. This allows you to have both the target's name and another set of information (in this instance, Lifebloom - but it could be "DEAD", "FD", "OFFLINE", their health deficit.. etc).
Click here to see how to enable.

2. To set up your Lifebloom counter, you need to set Center Text 2 to show "Lifebloom duration".
Click here to see how to enable.

3. Next, check that your Lifebloom stack colours are correct. I set mine to be red when I have only one LB up, yellow for two, and green means I have three stacks and can just keep refreshing them from now on.
Click here to see how to set these colours up.

NOTE: If you use Center Text 2 for multiple things (in my case I use it for death warning, FD, offline warning and health deficit) make sure you set those things to a lower priority (eg 80%) and set your Lifebloom counter priority to 99%. This means that your Lifebloom counter will always override the other texts that you show in Center Text 2. Do this in the same window as your colour settings.


Rejuv & Regrowth

1. In the Frame menu, select "Corner Text Top Left". Check the "My Rejuvenation" button. Repeat this for "Corner Text Top Right" and My Regrowth. Obviously you can pick different corners if you wish.
Click here to see where to find these options.

2. Now for the complicated part. For Regrowth and Rejuv, you'll need to set your base colours and define when the counters should change colour from your base colour to red, to warn you that it has almost expired. I also turn off the option to show how many HoTs are on the target - I find this isn't really useful information for me, but that's personal choice again.



First, click on the coloured squares to set up your colours. The top square is your "base" colour - when you cast your HoT on someone, the counter will show up in this colour initially.

Next, the two other coloured squares are for the colours that will show you that your HoT is running down and will expire soon (by default these are yellow and then red). If you don't want them to change colour, just set them to match the first colour.

Finally, you can adjust the timers that decide when the colours change - so if you would like it to turn red at 1 second left, you can set it to do that.



And that should be it - now you can see Rejuv, Regrowth and Lifebloom on your targets easily, and see at a glance how long each has left, along with how many stacks of Lifebloom you have and when to refresh.

If you're a chronic early-refresher like me, it should go a long way to helping you break the habit and refresh when you should be, saving a bunch of mana. If you have the Regrowth glyph, it will also help to make sure you don't lose your current Regrowth ticks prematurely and lose the 20% bonus.

Happy HoTting! :)

Edit: You should also check out Phae's post at Resto4Life - it's very thorough and goes through a lot more setup options (not just HoTs).

Friday, January 16, 2009

Major glyphs for resto druids: My choices

I want to share my thoughts on our major glyphs.

I won't go into too much detail on the ones I don't use; I see the merit in them for people with different play styles and preferences, but there are a couple that I'm just not interested in personally.

If you're looking for a good comparison of all of the glyphs, check out 4haelz and Elitist Jerks.

Instead, this is more about the glyphs that I choose and why - which tends to be the general flavour of most of my posts - who needs math and science when you've got anecdotes, right? :D

In the beginning, there was Rejuv

Glyph of Rejuvenation. It seemed a good idea at the time, but I was swayed mostly by the fact that nobody HAD the other good glyphs yet. So, Rejuv was it.



I suppose it served me well for a little while, maybe procced a few times on Patchwerk or something. It really is more of a PvP glyph than PvE; I could probably count on one hand the number of times that A) my target dropped below 50% health AND B) Rejuv was able to tick more than once before the target was topped up by someone else.

You could probably argue that the extra 500hp or so (stab in the dark here) helped, but in the grand scheme of things, a major glyph that gives your target an extra 500hp a handful of times in a raid.... is not so great. The slot is definitely better filled by other glyphs available to us. I place this glyph firmly into the "better than an empty slot, but not by much" basket.

Resto staple: Glyph of Swiftmend

Almost every resto druid has this one, no matter what other combination of glyphs they have. This is the glyph I couldn't wait to get my hands on pre-expansion because it was just so yummy.



Before this glyph, one of two things would happen when you Swiftmended your target:

1) you would lose your HoT and have to reapply it, meaning that a) you're using extra mana, and b) you just lost a valuable HoT ticking on your tank. My rejuv, fully buffed, ticks for around 2k. That's a sizeable chunk of healing that you're losing, and fewer HoTs on your target means fewer safeguard against big spikes. Letting a HoT drop, or in this case consuming it, is a big deal if your target is taking big damage.

2) you would consume someone else's HoT and they would be cranky at you. I think we can all agree that if there are two or three druids in the raid, it is VERY handy to be able to have all those HoTs ready to Swiftmend if needed, but we've all had someone "steal" our Rejuv that we intended to Swiftmend.. it's frustrating!

With this glyph, your HoTs are not consumed, meaning you don't drop your ticks and you don't need to reapply - your HoTs can run their course. This usually means a much smoother HoT rotation because everything can run for its entire duration. It means less mana spent because you're not reapplying after a Swiftmend (and a GCD saved for the same reason).

It saves mana, it saves time, and it keeps your HoTs up while giving your target a direct/emergency heal. It really is a fantastic glyph to have.

I must say though, it takes a while to get out of the habit of re-casting a Rejuv immediately after Swiftmending!

Regrowth

I waited impatiently for this one to show up on the AH.



Although it was originally a 50% boost, 20% is still very nice. It not only boosts the direct heal portion of your Regrowth but the HoT ticks as well, so recasting it on your target will increase the ticks to be more substantial (note: this effect does not stack with subsequent applications).

Add in Regrowth's innate 50% crit rate from Imp Regrowth (combined with Nature's Grace for fast heals), the bonus heals from Living Seed (if you have it), mana cost reduction from ToL and Moonglow, the lengthening of the HoT timer from Nature's Splendor and the increase to healing over time spells from Emp Rejuv, and Regrowth becomes a great little tank heal option.

You can either "spam" Regrowth if you need direct heals on your target, or let the HoT run its course, but be ready to cast another Regrowth to counter sudden spike damage if needed. It's easier now to do this between refreshing your other heals - Nature's Splendor gives you plenty of time to cast Regrowth a second time without overwriting the HoT, and coupled with the Swiftmend glyph you won't be accidentally removing Regrowth prematurely.

Regrowth is definitely my staple direct heal, but if you're interested in the pros and cons of using Regrowth vs our other direct heals, Phaelia from Resto4Life has written an excellent article comparing them, taking into considerations various talents and glyphs also.

The last slot

This is where it gets hard. Most people will pick two major glyphs and then have problems deciding on their third. I had trouble picking between Glyph of Innervate and Glyph of Lifebloom.




When Lifebloom was nerfed, many people declared it was now "useless" in its new state. More expensive and less effective, you shouldn't waste your time casting it, many said. Certainly I think that is the case for raid healing - it used to be a decent spell to toss around if the raid was taking damage. It's very weak for that now, but still a great buffer to put on people who are taking consistent damage (ie, the tank/s, usually). My lifebloom ticks for around 1200-1300 buffed and runs for 9 seconds with Nature's Splendor - that's a really solid buffer on my tank/s and I still value that. An extra second would add a lot of healing and flexibility in my rotations.

So, the glyph was a "maybe" - extending by a second would mean more time for other heals, or the capacity to heal more people. But I hadn't really needed that so far in WotLK; I wasn't rolling HoTs on a bunch of people at once, and I wasn't feeling stretched in my rotation.



I was feeling the mana pinch, though, at least at first. I think for a while I was sitting at just over 200mp5 and it was hard. So I went with the Glyph of Innervate, and, as a lot of druids have said, I said that I would probably swap to Lifebloom when I got more regen.

That time came - quite quickly, actually - but I didn't want to give up Glyph of Innervate, it was so nice to have. I certainly don't need it anymore; it's rare that I struggle for mana, and I often don't pot or Innervate. But.. *cling*!

The decision was made for me though, when we started doing Sartharion+3 on 10 man. I have to be a lot more mobile, heal several people at once, and sometimes slip just out of range of the tanks for a second or two. Having one extra second on my rotation would mean flexibility to fit in extra direct heals on the tank/s, toss a raid heal, or not lose the tank if he steps a yard out of my range or vice versa.

The difference felt enormous, I couldn't believe it. You wouldn't believe how much of a difference one extra second on your Lifebloom makes. It really feels like you have forever to refresh it.

So, my new combo is Swiftmend, Regrowth, Lifebloom. I suppose I'll have to wait and see what kind of mana issues they throw at us in Ulduar, but I think this super long Lifebloom would be very hard to give up.

If you've been sitting in the Innervate camp and your regen is pretty solid, I really suggest you test out the Lifebloom glyph and see how it feels. Everyone's style is different, but if you play like me and like to keep full HoTs on one or two people and spot heal, that one little second is going to make a huge difference. Give it a try!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More flagrant self-grats



This was our first real night of attempts - we gave it a couple of tries a little while ago but without a real strat, just testing the water.

Tonight we went with this strat, which I highly recommend. The most important point is not to try to stack a million sparks - just four - and that is all you need to get him down. In fact, it was surprisingly easy - I thought it would take us several nights of attempts.

Still working on Sarth10+3 though, that one is a real challenge. Hopefully Sunday or Monday!

WoW Model Viewer updated at last

For those of you who use WMV and have been "making do" with a fan version for months, the program has finally been updated. You can get the new version here.

Hooray!

Maybe this version will have fingers on my character for all the poses.

(Keeva doesn't look so great without fingers.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Santa was listening - cooking changes

Well, it wasn't quite what I was after - the Northern Spices system hasn't been changed to be less restrictive, BUT, mmo-champion is reporting than the soon-to-be-introduced Fish Feast will now use 1 Northern Spices (down from an excessive 4) and the Great Feast will use 2 Chilled Meat instead of 4.

Every little bit helps, and it will certainly be a LOT easier in Ulduar using 25 spices per night instead of 100.

A minor but welcome change!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Healing Sartharion 25 with drakes

Warning: Long post! I've written this to help druids healing 25 man Sartharion+3. Below are all of the things you need to know as the MT healer for this fight, including a video showing where to stand, where to run to, the position of the waves, etc. It's not the full strategy - if you want an excellent overview of the entire fight, I recommend this video which explains the different stages, incoming damage, and all the things that the raid should expect.

Rather than explain the entire fight, I wanted to be specific and cover the things that you will need to do as the MT healer. It's quite a long post but I think that if you are trying to get this fight down, you'll want every advantage possible, so it's worth seeing if there are things you might have missed previously.


A druid as the MT healer

As resto druids, we are fantastic as MT healers for this fight. The MT basically keeps Sartharion occupied while the rest of the raid deals with the messy business of taking out the drakes and various adds. Frightful business, that.

Damage on the MT is normally fairly predictable but can be spiky, particularly when Sartharion casts Flame Breath and takes a chunk of your MT's health off. For most of the time, our complement of HoTs is great (and very economical) for keeping the MT topped up, and for the times when he takes spike damage, Regrowth, Swiftmend and occasionally NS+HT is perfect.

Anyway, the point is, I believe we are best suited to MT healing this fight, so I'm going to share my tips for doing it. I'm not going to cover the entire strat, there are plenty of places that will give you full strategies - I'm just going to share how I MT heal this fight, because that's probably the role you're going to be put into if you're doing this boss.


Healer make-up

We usually take 6 healers, and for interest our first kill was two priests, two druids, a shaman and a paladin (although our usual setup tends to be one druid and two shamans). This may seem like stretching the healing quite thin, but it is important to get as much dps in the raid as possible to be able to down the drakes fast enough, so it's best to take as few healers as you can - which is why it's good that there only needs to be one healer on the tank.

A priest (or second druid, depending on your composition) can help by throwing additional HoTs on the MT to be on the safe side and guard against a string of big hits. I am usually okay to heal the MT by myself for the majority of the fight (until the point where the drakes are dead and damage is increased), but don't ever be afraid to speak up and ask for a little help from the rest of your team if you feel the spike damage is a little too much to handle on your own.


Heals & rotation

The "rotation" is really quite straightforward:

1. Keep all of your HoTs on the tank at all times (no brainer).

2. When Sartharion leans back and arches his neck, he's going to cast Flame Breath. Start casting a Regrowth and it should land just after the breath, then either Swiftmend or cast another Regrowth to finish topping the tank back up.

3. When running in and out for lava waves, you may need to use Swiftmend on the run if a Breath comes while you're on the move. I also sometimes use Nourish for a super quick top-up before I run back, but that's up to you and what you prefer to use (I tend to use Nourish in 5 mans and PvP, not very much in raiding). Remember also that it is 100% safe to stand in the lava (it ticks for hardly anything) if you need to stop to heal the MT before running back in - just be careful of voids popping up, as they are hard to spot on top of lava.

4. Finally, if the other tanks wander into your range, toss them a Rejuv to help out. Having "range" showing on your raid frames is essential for this.

That's really it. Keep the MT topped with your HoTs, and use your direct heals to top him off following a breath. The hardest part, really, is watching your frames and timers while you keep an eye out for void zones and lava waves.

Note: IF YOU AGGRO AN ADD - call it out. There's so much going on that a tank may not see you're in trouble. But don't panic - you should be able to keep a HoT on yourself while still healing the tank, so you can effectively tank a couple of adds (not the enraged blazes though) until a tank can come and grab it. Just another cool thing about being a druid - we can offtank while we heal ;)


Positioning

This is the fun part. You get to stand by yourself, up the front of the raid, away from the mess and chaos! It almost feels unfair to everyone else.

There's a reason for this position though. If you stand with the bulk of the raid, some of the lava wave calls will force you backwards, a few yards out of range of the MT. This will often prove fatal if a breath happens and HoTs are not enough.

So, instead, you stand on Sartharion's back foot and heal the MT from there.

Be careful not to stand too far towards his tail (a stun on you will likely kill your tank) or too far forward. However, it is better to stand more towards his head than his tail, because towards his head you will be cleaved for minor damage (easily healed with a rejuv), whereas a stun is very serious. BE CAREFUL though - standing too far to the right can get you breathed on, which will kill you instantly.



Confusing? You'll see what I mean when you stand there, don't worry. It's quite a small sweet spot and can be hard to judge (I still get the occasional cleave, and last night I was breathed on), but it is definitely better than being out of range of your tank for a few seconds. Standing by yourself also greatly reduces the number of voids you have to deal with, because voids spawn under people, so logically if there is only one person in a big area, it's going to be easier to spot - compared to everyone behind in the mess of players and AoE.

If lava approaches from the right, take a few steps backwards and continue healing. When lava waves come through from the left, you run through Sartharion to the other side (pause to heal if necessary), turn and run back.






Gear & consumables

Really I'm just posting this because I know some people feel better if they have some kind of stats benchmark - people often ask how much spellpower and mp5 they need for particular instances and bosses. I've grabbed a few upgrades since our first kill, but going back to the gear I was wearing at the time, my stats were:

INT: 870
SPI: 1056
SPP: 1823
MP5: 327
CRIT: 277 (I've since lost 107)
HASTE: 232

This fight is about execution though, and I think that I could heal this fight in much lower gear and still be fine. It's more about the timing of your heals during spike damage rather than having insane gear, so I wouldn't worry too much if your stats are a bit lower. Your job on MT healing is not terribly gear-dependent.

You definitely don't need massive mana regen in this fight, in fact I often don't need to pot or innervate until the very final stages (at which point other healers can step in to help because the drakes are down). So you should be choosing spellpower over say, mp5 consumables - eg Flask of the Frost Wyrm and spell power food to boost your HoT ticks and direct heals as much as possible.

However, like many fights, you'll probably find you go through your mana quite quickly while learning, because you need to get into the rhythm of the incoming damage and tend to overcompensate with extra casts (I know I do this while I'm trying to settle into a new fight). So you might like to use an mp5 flask at first while everyone is learning, and then switch to spellpower later once you've got a hang of how much healing you need to do.

Cupcakes are recommended but not mandatory.


Final tip: Punch that ankle!

Each week I joke that I'm adding extra dps on the boss, but by turning on auto-attack and punching away at Sartharion's foot, I am actually giving myself extra chances to proc Omen of Clarity (especially during times that I am just refreshing HoTs and not healing heavily), since OoC works on both melee attacks and spellcasts. It's not much, but hey, every little bit helps.

Auto attack will stay switched on even while you are healing, so you can toss a heal and go back to punching him automatically. Of course, this will only work if you use mouseover macros to heal the tank and others - if you have to select a target to heal, you'll stop smacking the boss.

So - slap that dragon! Besides helping to conserve mana, it's highly entertaining.


The dance

Finally, here's a short video (sorry it's so quiet) showing you most of the above:

- where to stand
- the approach of each lava wave
- safe spots
- how to recognise incoming spike damage



Hope this helps someone :)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Patch goodies

Some patch notes goodies that I am particularly interested in:

Genesis: Now works with Tranquility and Hurricane.
Hot!

Moonglow: This talent now also benefits Nourish.
Nourish: Wild Growth applied to a target now increases the healing done by this spell by 20% like other heal over time effects.

This makes Nourish more attractive to me, but I'm still not thrilled with it and it will probably continue to be a sometimes food. I tend to focus more on tanks than raid healing, so being able to Nourish the raid after a Wild Growth will have limited application for me. I suppose that since we can no longer hit several WGs or CoHs in a row there may be more of a need to help out on raid healing by tossing some Nourishes around following some AoE damage, but I suspect that the shamans will return to their spot as kings of this role and there won't be much call for druids to do it in 25 mans. Just speculation though.

There will probably be times that I really like using it, and for the rest of the time I will barely touch it. For example, it will be REALLY good for Gluth after a decimate - I run around at the back with the zombie kiters, so when we take Decimate I can hit us with a WG and then Nourish up to full. That's pretty cool and novel and a breath of fresh air if you're feeling tired of rolling HoTs - but still such a situational spell. But I think I like that idea - I like doing things "the normal way" most of the time, and every now and then having a gimmick fight where I have a special job or my role is really switched up.

I think at the end of the day though Nourish will be a spell that will be most effective in 5 mans, good in 10 mans, and quite situational in 25 mans - with limited use if you're focusing mostly on the tank/s. It'll be a fun tool for a few fights, but won't be any kind of staple unless you're on raid healing.

Still waiting for a glyph...

Opening doors and objects should no longer cause shapeshifted forms to be cancelled.
Trivial, but really very annoying. Glad this is being fixed.

Polearms: Now trainable by Druids.
Booyah.. pitchfork here I come.

Wild Growth now has a 6 second cooldown.
Dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnnnnn! Meh, it's unavoidable. Honestly, sometimes I find myself hitting WG a few times in a row ("spamming it") out of laziness or boredom. At this point I am actually looking forward to a cooldown, maybe it will add a slight challenge. And let's face it, druids already play World of Timercraft, so it's not like another cooldown or timer to watch is a big deal.

I think it will just make me use proactive Rejuvs a lot more when I know the raid will be taking damage soon or constantly (although I already do this a lot).


And some random other stuff I'm looking forward to:

Alchemy research down to 3 days from 7.
Higher chances to discover transmutes.
Chance to discover Elixir of Water Walking.
New fishing recipes to allow us to get 160 for the Chef title.
Mining veins now require only one tap to mine.
Ebonweave & Spellweave now created in Dragonblight.
2pc T7 bonus changed to reduce cost of Lifebloom.
That wild mustard under the ground in Dalaran is being fixed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My thoughts on haste (for now)

Kayeri asked me in a comment about my haste rating and it's something that a couple of people have asked me about in-game recently - so I thought I would make it an actual post on my thoughts.

Phae from Resto4Life has just posted on a few of our talents including GotEM and its relationship with haste rating - great post as always. I always feel a bit silly that she throws out the concrete numbers and my posts are more airy-fairy "here's what I kinda think and stuff".. but I can' t ever claim to know the science behind it all, and I won't ever pretend to (or I'll get myself in big trouble, I just know it). With me it's more about saying here's how I do things, what I enjoy, and how it works for me. Of course, I'm always open to new ideas, and if someone shows me I'm way off base, I can swallow my pride and change my ideas. I can pinpoint exact times in my druid career when people have taught me things that have dramatically changed my style of play and healing performance.

So.. with absolutely no numbers, equations or any kind of science to back me up, here's what I kinda think about haste.

Our end game gear is peppered haste (along with crit), so whatever I am sitting at now is purely accidental - I don't go looking for it. High innate haste is something I accept as the current norm but I would rather it was lower and I could trade it back for other stats. My haste is sitting around the 300 mark, which isn't excessive, but it's certainly not a figure I would have been shooting for pre-WotLK.

I think I'm a bit old fashioned, everyone else seems to get excited over haste gear and I don't care for it at all. I don't mind having a bit of it, but I don't get a tingle every time I look at my haste rating or at gear loaded with it. I'm in the "ugh, not more haste and crit" camp.

I suppose it depends quite heavily on your style of play - do you like big HoT ticks to minimise spike problems on the tank, or do you like firing off chunky heals to keep topping people up? I personally really enjoy being the buffer between the "real" heals. I like being the one who smooths out the damage for the other healers to come in with the beefy top-ups - I like being the support healer. My ideal style of play is HoTs on two or three tanks and the occasional spot heal/WG on the raid, which means haste is of limited benefit to me (depending of course on who else is looking after the raid and whether or not it is a strain on me to do that). Someone who prefers raid healing as their primary job (never really my thing) would likely value haste a lot more than I do, for machine-gun raid healing - pew pew heal laz0rz.

I see two main reasons for having lots of haste - healing more people at the same time, or healing one or two people faster. So far I haven't encountered any fights that require me to be healing multiple people constantly - certainly nothing that won't fit into my usual HoT rotation. I was never one to roll lifeblooms on 4+ people, it just wasn't needed - and it isn't needed now, either. Back in BT my favourite fight was Illidari Council because I could heal two tanks constantly while throwing emergency heals on others - perhaps extra haste is nice to be able to throw more incidental heals out between my tanks' HoT refreshes, but I would rather focus on fewer people rather than try to stretch to healing 4 or 5 at once.

There simply hasn't been a need for me to heal that many people, though. And as for sticking to healing one or two people but doing it faster... again, I haven't really run into any problems where I feel that I wish my heals were going off faster on the MT or that I could squeeze in more heals inside my HoT rotation. If I did feel that way, I'd probably pick up the lifebloom glyph for starters, to give me a little more wiggle room.

Maybe this will change with the CoH cooldown though - perhaps I'll need to throw more direct heals to the raid as a result. I definitely enjoy squeezing extra healing into my rotations, but there hasn't been a need to (very much) yet. Maybe we'll see more fights where we can only take a low number of healers and the assignments are really stretched.

It's a bit hard to judge though, Naxx is not a good yardstick because it really isn't a challenge for healers and taking 6 often feels like overkill. Sartharion has been the only fight where we've felt like we are obliged to take only 6 healers and we really have to make it count, kinda like Brutallus, a fight that made every GCD feel critical. Having what feels like too many healers most of the time means I am in no way stretched or required to pump out faster heals, so perhaps it's this lack of a challenge that makes me care little for haste. I'd likely want a "haste set" more for 2-healing 10 mans or doing undermanned runs (20 and 8-man Naxx, etc).. but for "normal" raid content, I just don't need it right now, and I'd rather have stats instead.

If we see a bunch of chaotic fights in Ulduar and beyond that require me to main heal two+ people while throwing out super fast spot heals on AOE damage and running around like a headless chicken, maybe I will change my tune and embrace my haste a bit more.



All of the above is entirely moot if they keep putting haste and crit on almost everything, though - it's not like I can opt out :P