Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cataclysm Shaman Talent builds

Check these two builds out: Resto (0/21/55) and Ele (55/21/0).

Dual-wielding caster builds.

I think I may just resuscitate my shammy.

EDIT: Hrm, not so much.  Looks like every caster weapon in the game is Main Hand, not One Hand or Off Hand.  A shame, that could have been a very impressive boon to the oft-shorted Elemental build.  Though I'll admit a Resto pimping Earthliving and Flametongue on each weapon might have been a tad powerful.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Leveling Feral

So with moving to a new server, one of the first things I did was to get started on an alt.  I mean, I'm not going to fork out the cash to server transfer everyone off Burning Legion just so I can have the benefit of having most every useful profession available to me.  What can I say, I miss my Tailor, Alchemist, Inscriptionist, and my still-in-training Jewelcrafter, so I'm going to have to replace those sooner or later.  Plus, a guy needs something to do in between raids.  So, I cashed in some emblems for a shiny new Repurposed Lava Dredger, and popped out a Druid.

Oh boy.

I'm now 33 and alternating between speed crushing Scarlet Monastery and prowling around Nessingwary's camp in Stranglethorn.  And I gotta say, it's good to be leveling a class with a decent variety of tools again.  I haven't had this much fun questing and world PVPing since I brought up my shaman last year.  I mean, the last two toons I spent any decent amount of time leveling recently were my priest and warrior, both of whom I brought up almost exclusively through the LFG tool.  Within those instances, they were like unto tiny godlings, unleashing their terrible vengeance from Gnomeregan to the Sunken Temple.  Good thing, since questing with either of those was a gruelling exercise.

Not so with the druid.  Sure, I like the occasional instance for some quick and easy blues to speed up my leveling, but really I could do just fine with only questing if I really needed.  I gotta say I'm a bit surprised to admit that, with how haphazardly the old world quests were laid out compared to the Outlands and Northrend options.  I mean seriously, spend some time in Thousand Needles, you'll hate yourself for it.  But yeah, Stranglethorn and Tanaris I can do.  And do well, for that matter.

But that said, I do still throw the dice and use that LFG tool any time I'm due a particularly useful upgrade.  And as often as not, I'm covering for a lackluster tank or healer who thinks they can queue as arms tank or retribution heals.  I mean, I'm under no delusions that I'd be able to solo feral heal, but I at least am able to fill in the gaps on huge pulls.  It's not like I'm able to AOE DPS yet anyway, popping a HOT on the tank is just about the most useful thing I can do in those situations.

And world PVP. Oh boy, world PVP. Prowl and Nature's Grasp just make it totally unfair. Ravage, shred, rake, and rip, then bounce back out of range while nature's grasp has him rooted, instacast a healing touch, and then either finish em off with some wraths while the bleeds do their work, or pop back into cat and refresh my bleeds.  That formula has worked every time so far.

And that's really what I'm looking for in a truly enjoyable class.  A solid variety of CC and utility powers to supplement the damage or healing output.  Something to be able to deal with an overpull.  Something to tilt the world PVP in my favor.  As close to fully self-sufficient as you can get, while also able to adjust to unexpected situations on the fly.  Some classes just have utility in spades; druids and shaman seem right on the sweet spot, as are frost mages and death knights, but rogues, priests, and warlocks are just awful.  Paladins, on the other hand, package up all that utility into one simple bubble that trumps all the rest of their tools.  I mean seriously, with a tool like divine shield, why even bother with hand of freedom, cleanse, or art of war-procced flash of lights.  I'm probably the only paladin on the planet who wouldn't mind seeing it go in Cataclysm, as was hinted with the class preview.

TL;DR version - feral droods r hawt.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Goodbye US-Burning Legion. Hello US-Deathwing

So I bit the bullet and grabbed myself a server transfer last week.  It was a tough call to make, I had a lot of good friends on Burning Legion, and I wasn't able to say goodbye to each of them, but in the end it was a call I needed to make if I was going to keep playing through Cataclysm.
  1. Lack of established raiding guilds which match my schedule.  When I started playing the game, I promised myself that I would be scheduling my WoWing around my RL commitments, and I'm glad to say I've held to that pretty damned well.  This was one of the reasons I tried to start my own raiding guild in 3.2; no better way to match a schedule that to set it yourself, or so I thought.  Suffice to say, I learned the hard way the flip side of that coin.
  2. Burning Legion is on the Vindication battlegroup, which includes the three Latin American servers. I know there are a few quality guilds on those servers who truly know their stuff, but as a general rule, I had to stifle a groan any time I saw a tank from one of those three servers. I don't care how good you are, playing with the 1300 latency from Brazil is going to impact your performance. Add in the language barrier, and all those random PUGs just got a lot less fun. I kept a level 77 green weapon to use exactly in those situations, because I knew I couldn't rely on the tanks or healers to be on top of things enough for me to go full-throttle.
  3. Plain old burnout.  I needed a change of scenery.  The same old people and same old guilds can get, well, old.  And with the amount of turnover guilds have there, the people who I enjoyed raiding with over the past 18 months are scattered over a dozen guilds nowadays.  And that's not even counting the others who've jumped servers before me.
  4. Latency.  The server farm hosting the Vindication battlegroup is located in Houston; Boston's data center is the closest to me.  I checked it out, I can cut my latency in half by moving to a Boston-based battlegroup.
So I did my research, and after a fairly exhaustive search, I have found myself a new home.  US-Deathwing has pretty much everything I'm looking for in a server: PVP, slightly favors horde, medium population, located in Boston.  The guild impressed the hell out of me.  It's a large guild, with amazing longevity, having been around since vanilla.  Accommodating to casual players, but gets down to business when it's raid time.  And those raid slots are competitive as hell, they'll rotate in new players when they need to, but excellence is expected in the main progression raid; they're sitting at 8/12(H).  Very reasonable (and perfect for my availability) two-day raiding schedule, plus SIX (!) ten-man teams go at various schedules during the week.  And the last big selling point to me was the minimum age requirement of 21.

I figure that with the pre-expansion lull and summer lull hitting at the same time, now's the time to make the move.  I'll be looking to earn my roster spot over the next few weeks; there should be plenty of time for me to lock it in before the expansion.  This will honestly be the first real test for me, to see if I'm up to the challenge a world-class guild can offer; I like to think I am, but this will be the time to show it.  I'll miss a few of the folks back on Burning Legion, those who are left there, but this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ruby Sanctum melee trinket.

So the loot tables for the new Ruby Sanctum encounter being released in the next patch are being leaked.  And wouldn't you know it, we melee DPS get another garbage ArPen trinket.

Well, at least this will keep the warriors away from our Whispering Fanged Skulls.

Monday, May 17, 2010

52 bosses.

Larisa posted an interesting topic this morning: a ranking of all 52 raid bosses in Wrath of the Lich King, sorted by difficulty.  Well it seemed like a fun exercise, so I gave it a go.  Here's my completely subjective rankings.  Note that only Normal modes were compared, as I've only had a spattering of experience doing hard mode content.

52. Flame Leviathan, Ulduar - This fight is so simple, it can be two-manned.  After the hell of other vehicle fights earlier in the expansion, this one was so undertuned as to make it downright laughable.

51. Loatheb, Naxxramas - Nothing will incite the DPS to interrupt their rotations more than the promise of an instantaneous DPS jump.  No need to collect a handful of these things before any benefit is obtained, instant 50% crit AND elimination of threat generation, right then and there.  The healing prohibition might have been an issue if he did enough damage to come anywhere close to threatening tank survivability, but it didn't.

50. Archavon the Stone Watcher, Vault of Archavon - Don't stand in clouds, and taunt off when the tank gets picked up.  Pretty simple.

49. Sartharion, Obsidian Sanctum - Normal mode was outright laughable.  Dodge the fire walls, and blast away for a few minutes.  *Yawn*.

48. Heigan the Unclean, Naxxramas - Individually, mastering the dance and staying alive may have been a fairly difficult task, especially for folks with higher latency.  However, thanks to being one of the few encounters in Wrath without an enrage timer, not everyone needed to stay alive.  In fact, our first kill was a 25-minute endurance test with 6 people left standing at the end.  And with how pitifully weak he hit, even if a tank went down in the dance, anyone wearing plate could effectively tank him.  Keep a totem down to take care of diseases, and forget about it.

47. Grand Widow Faerlina, Naxxramas - Speaking of keeping a totem down.  This may have been somewhat difficult with a tank in blue gear; Faerlina did hit fairly hard during her enrages.  But considering you had two extra tanks twiddling their thumbs after the adds were burnt down, losing a tank was certainly not a wipe.

46. Gunship Battle, Icecrown Citadel - Ah, the lootship.  I swear, the quirkier the mechanics of the fight, the easier they tune it.  Malygos excluded of course.

45. Maexxna, Naxxramas - The web wrap during enrage was a nail-biter, but in the days before dualspec, you always had an extra tank or two in reserve.  As long as you weren't going for Immortal, one tank death here was hardly a worry.  And even if you were, it was easy to pop an appropriate CD right before the wrap.

44. Gothik the Harvester, Naxxramas - Assuming your raid leader balanced the sides well enough, this should be a three-minute snoozefest.  And even if an add eats the face off an overzealous DPS towards the end of the intro phase, it's not going to wipe you.
43. Lord Jaraxxus, Trial of the Crusader - There's a lot of stuff flying around here, for sure, but Jaraxxus's health pool is laughably small, making this fight laughably quick.  In your typical PUG, things may barely be starting to get out of control about two minutes into the fight, but by then the boss is down to 10%.  Double the Eredar Lord's health, let us deal with the chaos a little bit longer, then this would be a challenge.  But really, in those first few days of ToC, any group that could down the Beasts could down Jaraxxus.
42. Valrithia Dreamwalker, Icecrown Citadel - Okay, maybe I'm biased on this, since every time I've ever run the fight, we've had a pro Holy pally on staff... me.  But come on.  Dreamswimming takes no time to master (especially if you've been melee DPS on Malygos), and as long as the kill order is understood outside, there's no reason in the world this fight should keep you from Sindragosa.

41. Patchwerk, Naxxramas - Mechanics-wise, you can't get much easier.  I mean, he was basically a target dummy with dual-wielded axes.  But Patch served very well as Naxxramas's gear check, on all fronts.  If the tanks couldn't take the hits, the heals couldn't handle the hits, or the DPS couldn't deliver the hits, it was going to be a wipe.  This fight held us up for a week or two back in the day.

40. Toravon the Ice Watcher, Vault of Archavon - The taunt-off mechanic is incredibly forgiving, the healing requirements are well below the rest of the tier, and the enrage timer is nowhere close to being an issue.  As long as you have a paladin or shaman for frost resistance, and the ranged can do a simple target switch, this can be pugged by literally anyone.

39. Anub'Rekhan, Naxxramas - In the days before a 60-yard Beacon of Light, having your tank healer silenced during Locust Swarm was a very real possibility.  If the tank fell during the swarm, Anub Jr. had an annoying tendancy to wander into the middle of the room just long enough to silence the rest of the healers, and eat a few ranged before an offtank could pick him up.  From there, recovery was a questionable proposition.

38. Noth the Plaguebringer, Naxxramas - Curses.  They're not like diseases or poisons, which can be just totemed off without a thought.  Or magic, which can get popped off in giant AOE batches.  Nope, you're looking at one-at-a-time single targetting debuff removal, one which the two most popular healing classes (at least by my experience) can't take off.  And if you show me a mage who remembers he even has the spell, much less uses an addon that aids its speedy use, and I'll show you a mage with a healer main.

37. Razorscale, Ulduar - Lots of fire, multiple phases, scores of adds, taunt-offs, and a quartet of malfunctioning ballistae.  And this is the second easiest fight in Ulduar?  It was far too easy to lose DPS or healers to marauding adds before everyone overgeared the content.  This fight effectively halted progress for thousands of raiding guilds when Ulduar first dropped.

36. Northrend Beasts, Trial of the Crusader - Gormok the Impaler re-introduced the threat of insta-gib tank death to raiding, the likes of which we hadn't seen since the days of Crushing Blows.  And between fires, interrupts, paralysis, and a giant charging yeti of death, there was plenty of other fun times going on outside of Gormak's spear range.

35. Lord Marrowgar, Icecrown Citadel - The gatekeeper of Icecrown.  To your typical current-tier raider, the fight is an absolute cakewalk, but its difficulty is fairly in line against the other raids' gatekeepers, XT-002 and Northrend Beasts.  We're just more used to the way Wrath's raids work now.

34. XT-002 the Deconstructor, Ulduar - If there was a healer hell last April, this was it.  When you consider that the most intense normal-mode healing most healers had faced to this point was Kel'Thuzad's ice blocks, getting slammed with that level of damage raid-wide shocked the hell out of anyone spending the fight staring at raid frames.  This fight marked where all the BC healers re-learned their craft for Wrath; mana efficiency be damned, throughput became king this day.

33. Koralon the Flame Watcher, Vault of Archavon - The fight was pretty standard fare for Wrath.  Burst tank damage, then burst raid damage, all with random fires on the ground.  I think we've all gotten quickly used to (and sick of) this sort of encounter.

32. Assembly of Iron, Ulduar - I have to say, this is my favorite fight in all of Wrath.  It's generously tuned compared to the rest of Ulduar, but it's easy to let it run out of control.  Full throttle DPS takes a back seat to interrupts, spellstealing, and cleansing.  Incoming damage is high, with an exciting mix of the predictable and the unexpected.  And with how long the fight is, this is one of very few fights where healer mana can actually become an issue.  I think this fight hits that sweet spot of excitement and chaos where the later multi-boss fights (Twin Valkyr, Blood Princes, Faction Champs) miss in one direction or the other.

31. Lady Deathwhisper, Icecrown Citadel - Barring the end bosses of Yogg-Saron and the Lich King, Deathwhisper's adds are arguably the toughest in Wrath.  The fight is more or less the same as Razorscale, just make the adds tougher (and sometimes raise from the dead), and add in mind controls.  And much like Razorscale, once the adds are gone, the fight is a cakewalk.

30. Onyxia, Onyxia's Lair - Speaking of add fights.  Honestly, the only reason this fight is even as high as it is is because it's usually being attempted by random groups of uncoordinated PUGs.  I don't know about you guys, but I stopped doing it the second I got my bag and my head.

29. Thorim, Ulduar - I didn't know of any group that could get Kologarn, Auriaya, and Hodir down that couldn't get Thorim down.  Don't get me wrong, I loved the fight, but he was undertuned.

28. Grobbulus, Naxxramas - The fight's biggest challenge, honestly, was keeping people connected.  This fight had more disconnects for us than any other in Naxxramas, so nearly every time we ended up with a plague cloud dropped somewhere horrible.  Before we started drastically outgearing the place, this was a major stumbling block.

27. Gluth, Naxxramas - Four words: "We lost a kiter."

26. Kologarn, Ulduar - I honestly don't know why we always had such problems with him, but we always ended up losing people to eye beams.  And that lead to not enough damage on gripped people, and that lead to more deaths, and eventually a slow and agonizing wipe.

25. General Vezax, Ulduar - I don't know what to say, we never had any issues with this fight, ever.  It was several orders of magnitude easier than Mimiron or Freya; hell, he was even easier than his trash.

24. Deathbringer Saurfang, Icecrown Citadel - Before Hellscream started helping, this was quite a challenge for our melee-stacked team.  It was no sure bet that we could down those blood beasts before they started devouring our ranged.  But now, with the Warsong buff, we just send our melee to town on the things.

23. Ignus the Furnace Master, Ulduar - Shattering golems was a logistical nightmare.  So unsurprisingly, we opted for the burn method on this boss as soon as we had the output to support it.

22. Festgut, Icecrown Citadel - Sure, he's a loot pinata now, but before the Warsong, hitting that enrage timer was quite a feat.

21. Auriaya, Ulduar - Still the hardest pull to execute in the expansion.  As long as the pull is managed effectively, the fight is a simple one, so it's a testament to its difficulty that the pull alone puts the fight this far down on the list.

20. Emalon the Storm Watcher, Vault of Archavon - People forget how tough it was when this boss first went live.  I think I heard, "Vault is no longer puggable" at least a dozen times that week.

19. Twin Valkyr, Trial of the Crusader - Every player lost early was one less player piling on the damage on those shields.  With the incredible amount of raid damage going out, healers had to be on full-throttle from the pull to the kill.  Remember what I said earlier about mana efficiency versus throughput?  Yeah, this is the illogical extreme.

18. Hodir, Ulduar - I wanted to kill this son of a bitch so bad for stealing a month of my life away with his wretched dailies.  But yeah, so many ways to die, and a very tight (for the tier) enrage timer.

17. Rotface, Icecrown Citadel - I have yet to be part of a group to kill him with more than 10 people standing at the kill.  This is the level of difficulty Jaraxxus would have if he had a semi-decent health pool.  The chaos of the encounter picks off one person at time, which just accelerates the chaos.  It's a thing of beauty.
16. Sapphiron, Naxxramas - Again, this was healing while people were still concerned about efficiency over throughput.  And the bug where iceblocks on a slope didn't block LOS properly caused more deaths than I care to remember.

15. Thaddius, Naxxramas - "lol, MT missd the jump"

14. Instructor Razuvius, Naxxramas - I am not a priest.  I don't know how the mind control spell differs from the crystals you use in 10-man.  Regardless, it's apparently very difficult to control them without the spell dropping prematurely.

13. Faction Champions, Trial of the Crusader - Honestly, this could go anywhere from #10 to #30 based on what composition of opponents you happened to pull.  God help us if we faced the Pally/Shaman/Tree healer combo, with mostly melee DPS.

12. Blood Queen Lana'Thel, Icecrown Citadel - Maybe it's just that I haven't had enough work on this in 25-man, but god damn, it is tough avoiding MCs in this fight.

11. Blood Prince Council, Icecrown Citadel - I've had very similar experiences with this fight as I've had with Rotface.  We get the kill, but only after half the raid is already down.

10. Four Horsemen, Naxxramas - Of all of Naxxramas's fights, this is the one I would have wanted to see the most in the old 40-man.

9. Anub'Arak, Trial of the Crusader - I might be over-ranking this fight, I may just have my perceptions shattered by the many TOGC attempts when it was current, and the failpug trinket runs when it wasn't.

8. Freya, Ulduar - I was part of the realm first Deforestation achievement.  Total accident.  Came from utterly failing on the adds.

7. Kel'Thuzad, Naxxramas - Mind control on the offtank.  Melee standing too close to the main tank.  Mana explosion OOMing a healer.  Healers eating iceblock.  So many Immortal attempts down the drain.

6. Professor Putricide, Icecrown Citadel - Good news everyone!

5. Sindragosa, Icecrown Citadel - A wonderful update on the old Sapphiron fight.  Like I said, I love any fight when you're supposed to not unload 100% DPS full throttle.  I have a feeling when the Warsong goes up to 20%, this fight will be in the same place for us as Rotface and Blood Princes are now.

4. Mimiron, Ulduar - The gold standard for survival fights.  Another wonderful encounter that is yet another reason why Ulduar is my favorite raid, period.  Plus... rocket train!

3. Malygos, the Eye of Eternity - Fuck drakes.  I bet that the ease of Gunship and Flame Leviathan are directly the result of feedback Blizz received from Maly.

2. Yogg-Saron, Ulduar - I've killed him exactly once, making him my least frequent boss kill (tied with Sindragosa).  But damn it, I got him.  And damn it, he's tough.

1. The Lich King, Icecrown Citadel - Gods!  Defiles, Infests!  Adds!  So many adds!  Arthas is certainly a tier above the rest of Icecrown Citadel, and I shudder to imagine him on Heroic.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fail PUG is Fail

Complete AN run.  Love my daily randoms!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

LK Still Up

Not much to say here.  Sindragosa is still dead, Arthas is still alive (sort of).  Last night's raid didn't happen.  Looks like the pre-expansion blahs have already started around these parts.

We've extended the lockout again, on my shaman alt so it's not a huge loss if we can't get a solid 10 together.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Return of the Hybrid Role?

So the blogosphere is abuzz over the question of 10-man vs. 25-man tank capabilities and therefore related healer needs.  The question is, that if 10-man and 25-man bosses hit for the same amount of damage, and their accompanying tanks will have the same gear (and therefore the same health, mitigation, and avoidance), what will the extra tank healers do?  Will we see an explosion of raid damage so that the 25-man 5-7 healer paradigm stays in place?  Forever a Noob makes the following point:
Maybe raids in Cataclysm will have a lot more unavoidable raid damage. I don’t mean more pools of fire/slime/lava/shadow on the floor. Maybe more adds spawning or multiple mobs requiring dps to control/kite/evasion-tank/pet-tank/etc… Remember that all classes are getting larger health pools. It might not be out of the question for a rogue or shaman to have to pick up an add and off-tank for a few seconds.
I like this line of thought.

Now as a general rule, Blizzard has given us hybrids a fairly equitable stake in all raid roles over this past expansion, especially compared to previous content.  But as a consequence, the encounters have all been tuned to having those 15-18 DPS pretty much going full throttle blasting from pull to kill.  So we may be hybrids, but are we actually doing anything a truly versatile hybrid class should?  I mean, we're not popping out healing spells as part of our rotation, unless you count the pittiance from Vampiric Embrace or Judgement of Light.  Our "tanking" is more often than not grabbing a mob's attention and either running or burning, something any pure DPS class can do just fine.

But what if that weren't the case with Cataclysm?  What if we had boss fights that required a significant number of viable DPS/tank hybrids?  Or heal/tank hybrids?  I'm not just talking a DK popping icebound and deathgripping an add off the healers, I'm talking where every arms warrior, retribution paladin, and enhancement shaman switches in a shield to help offtank the onrushing swarms of adds without decimating those vital healer mana pools.  Think of the design space this opens up...

Imagine a boss with a special attack that afflicts a dimensional shift into the Emerald Dream, and for everyone alive in the dream, the boss hits for less damage and can be tanked by progressively defensively weaker classes.  In the dream, nightmare adds need to be tanked, controlled, and survived while the people outside burn the boss.  If you need a healer in the dream, you'll need that healer to take that melee hit... lucky us, both druids and paladins come equipped with a taunt, and the defenses to survive an early hit.  Later on in the fight, we'll have hunters misdirecting to the priests to keep DPS outside, and get those much-needed heals in the dream.

What strategy would be best used?  The retadin goes across first to burn adds quickly while self-healing?  Send a bear-form healer first to maximize early bloodlust/heroism damage on the boss?  And that's just one idea from a rank amateur; just imagine what the folks who do this for a living can come up with.

See, what we know for a fact is 1) that healer mana is going to be a greater factor than ever, and 2) that health pools will be much larger relative to the amount of damage taken.  We can also pretty safely assume that Blizzard wants to keep the proportions of full-time tanks and healers needed for a 25-man raid more or less constant.  So based on that, it's not too out of line to see hybrids fulling an actual hybrid role instead of streamline focusing into maximizing their DPS output.

It might not come to pass like this, certainly, but it's not outside the realm of possibility either.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Death of 25-man a bit premature.

I think the one factor that almost every blogger who has weighed in on the topic has missed is that people raid for easy top-quality loot.  Likewise, people do a daily heroic random for their Frost badges, again for easy top-quality loot.  Back in BC, people flowed into arenas, once again, for easy top-quality loot.  Loot is a tool, a reward offered from Blizzard to get the playerbase to enjoy the game in the manner that they are putting the most effort into.  People (and by people I mean the overwhelming majority of the endgame playerbase) will swarm to the easiest way to get their top-quality loot, to the best of their abilities.

If Blizzard wants to kill 25-man, they're welcome to do so, it's their game after all.  Shifting the effort-to-loot balance towards 10-man is a sure way to do it.  I, for one, don't think we'll see quite the abandonment of 25-man as is being feared... all it takes is one legendary item that only can be earned in 25-man and all the top-tier raiding guilds will jump on that like a puppy on an unattended turkey sandwich.

Not all the information is out.  Don't start making plans to dump 60% of your raid core just yet.  Blizz may yet surprise us.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sindragosa Down

It's amazing what an extra 5% can do.

Our normal rogue is still MIA, but aside from that we had nine of our core ten present and accounted for.  I switched over to my ele shaman and we brought in our backup ret pally, and we flat-out steamrolled the place.  The first wing was fully cleared in a half hour, and Saurfang Jr. went down in just two minutes and five seconds, didn't even get half a bar of runic power.  From there we decided to skip the farm bosses and head straight for the Frostwing Halls.

We had our ret backup go holy for Dreamwalker; it was his first time healing the fight, so he had a little trouble stacking the cloud buffs, but not so much that we had any trouble one-shotting it.  The extra damage outside mowed down the adds so quickly that I had plenty of time to throw a bunch of extra Healing Waves on the boss between waves, and by looking at the meters it seemed that our outside healers had plenty of time to do so as well.  From there it was on to Sindragosa.

We decided to run only two healers, hoping the extra damage on the table would shrink the burn phase enough that we could kill her before the ice blocks and mystic buffet spiralled the fight out of control.  Well, let's say we were about half right on that.  The plan was the two ranged (ele shaman and warlock) would be on ice blocks, giving extra priority if one of our healers got iced; meanwhile, our enhance shaman would pop out a Maelstrom Weapon-powered Chain Heal any time our healers got stressed.  Suffice to say, they got stressed every time one of them was in an ice block.  And even more so when one was in an ice block while Blistering Cold was going off.  Yeah, that happened.  We lost three people due to a misplaced ice block during that, but by then the boss was at 5%, so we called for an all-out burn.

It was messy, it was close, but god was it satisfying.  Next week I'll need to get it on my main.

After that, we cleared out the Plague wing with nary a scratch and called it.  Thursday we'll wipe out the Crimson Halls, then it's on to the Lich King.  Can't wait to see those defiles.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I'm a Tank Again

Lately I've mostly just kept around my Holy spec for the Dreamwalker fight; I don't think I've really healed anything in weeks.  With another solid holy pally around and a top-notch disc priest (not to mention two other pallies with Holy offspecs), there's really not the demand for more tank heals.  And since healing the Dreamwalker fight can be done just as well as Retribution with Holy gear, I decided it was time to dust off my tanking set and respec.  We've been trying to get a second ten-man going, so we'll need another quality tank for that.

My tank gear is unfortunately quite a bit dated, since I was last tank mainspec in the Ulduar days, and have only sparingly added offspec drops.  My health pool is rather pitiful compared to what an ICC tank should have nowadays, my hit rating is an abyssmal 1.8%, and even that is mostly due to socketing Vivid Eyes of Zul in my yellow slots.  What it has in spades, however, is Block Value.  At rest and unbuffed, it's sitting at just over 3100, and that's before the Libram and Trinket are factored in (though admittedly I'd swap in a Brewfest stamina trinket instead of the shield block one in a raid).  So I'm basically invulnerable in heroics, and even with the pisspoor hit rating, the DPS and threat is way up there.  It'll be a bit before it's ready for ICC though.  But with how little gear our main paladin tank still needs, it shouldn't be long before I can start eating boss crotch again.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cataclysm Raid Lockout Change

Oh my.

For those of you who haven't seen the news this morning, here's the meat of it:
  • 10-man and 25-man raids will share the same lockout.
  • 10-man and 25-man raids will drop the same items.
  • 10-man and 25-man raids will be tuned to as close to identical difficulty as possible.
  • To compensate for the logistical difficulties of organizing 25-man vs. 10-man raids, 25-man will drop a disproportionately high quantity of loot / badges, making it the more efficient way to gear more people faster.
  • Blizzard will be distancing themselves from the single epic 12-boss mega-raid, in favor of two or three smaller raids per tier.  More along the lines of TK and SSC, rather than the Naxx/Ulduar/ICC model featured with this expansion.
Huh.  Well, I like it overall, but I can't help but wonder how they're going to tune the specifics. 

Splitting tiers between two or more raids is certainly a welcome change. If my alt is pugging, I'd like to be able to pug more than just 1/3 of the bosses on a tier, then sitting around with a lockout that's never getting touched for the rest of the week.  On a related note, thank god I'll only have to do one raid per week per toon. TOC was horrid, four lockouts per week. Loot pinata or no, that was excessive.

How diverse of a 10-man lineup is raid difficulty going to be tuned to?  If I run three death knights, four priests, two warlocks, and a druid, will I even have a chance?  And if I bring in one of each class with every buff, debuff, and resistance available, will we destroy the content without breaking a sweat?  Not enough info here to make a judgment, but the fact that mages are getting Bloodlust implies that they're spreading the buff love around a lot more, hopefully making it easier to field an ideal 10-man raid composition.

I understand that they are going to need to offer some sort of incentive to run 25-man raids instead of the far more logistically simple 10-mans, so there would need to be a greater than 5:2 loot ratio.  An extra badge per boss almost goes without saying.  But if we end up with Legendary items only acquirable in 25-man in cataclysm, then 25-man will remain the standard for raiding guilds, and 10-man will be largely relegated to PUGs, alts, and casuals.  But hey, maybe Blizzard wants that distinction.

Battlegrounds, Resilience, and the Race to 85

A few of us were chatting in vent the other night about Cataclysm, and the accompanying World PVP hell that was certain to break loose the day it drops.  Now we're on a PVP server, but our guild is fairly heavy on folks who would normally only be found in a battleground with a child in tow, or to prepare delicious pig meat for the more martially-inclined.  Myself, I tend to go where the loots are, so for most of the expansion I've stayed pretty firmly in the PVE realm, with an occasional BG to blow off steam and grabbing the Challenger title with a casual (but rather capable) 5s team.  Nowadays, with the random BG tool, I find myself in there a lot more often.  Arena points for cheap 270s is always fun, plus free gems from honor does a lot to save cash when getting multiple gearsets raid-ready.

But talking about that race from 81-85 the first week or two of Cataclysm pointed out to me just how much getting some PVP practice in now can do for you, especially in Battlegrounds.  Cause face it, if you're on a PVP server, the gank squad will be out en force from day one.  But toss on a full set of Wrathful Gladiator gear, no matter what class or spec you choose to level as, and you'll find it a lot easier to turn the tables on anyone looking to get their frustrations out over not having the expansion on day one.  Or, for that matter, to proactively help secure the prime questing real estate for your faction, if that's your cup of tea.

You don't need a highly-ranked arena team to get 251s or off-set pieces, those will serve you just fine questing.  And if you have a decent PVE set, you'll do fine in a battleground, just expect a few more deaths than you'd see with a similarly-equipped PVP set.  Just do your research on what you need to do on the more complicated BGs, Alterac Valley and Isle of Conquest, specifically.  If you're a high-survivability melee class, just jump right into the fray, blow your damage cooldowns, and try to take as many people out as you can before you fall.  If you're a healer, keep your distance, and surround yourself with as many thugs as possible.  If you're a squishy damage dealer, either pick out weak targets in the opposition to snipe, or go for the opportunity objectives, like any unguarded flags you can find.  Cause trouble.  Even PVE tanks can play along as flag carriers, territory defenders, or most importantly, tanking the enemy general.  Anyone of any class and any spec can be useful in the chaos of a Battleground.

Put in the time now and grab that resilience gear, and you'll be thanking yourself when that 80 rogue whose parents didn't buy him the expansion yet is taking out his frustrations outside the quest hubs of Mount Hyjal.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Try Not, Do, or Do Not. There is no Try.

One-shotting Putricide last night was a great feeling.  With 9 out of 10 returning from Tuesday's nine-boss juggernaut (we brought in a fresh hunter for our missing rogue; a bit of a DPS loss, but the extra ranged capacity was certainly welcome on getting those oozes burnt down), hopes were high and ambitions were higher.  All that stood between us and the Lich King was some pesky bone dragon.

Eight wipes later, she's still there.  Taunting us.  Glaring at us with those vacant frost-coated eye sockets.  Laughing over an ever-growing pile of Tauren, Orc, and Blood Elf skeletons.  Our best attempt clocked in at around 13%, but it was still quite honestly a mess.  It reminded me of my former guild's early attempts at Mimiron back in 3.1.  So much going on, so many ways for a mistake to turn into an early death, and every early death compounded the issues of the encounter.

And that's where the frustration kicks in.  See, our restoration shaman we brought in this week was not running the most top-of-the-line rig in the world.  And no matter what efforts were made to minimize the effect of latency and framerate issues, he simply could not get himself clear of her Blistering Cold in time.  At all.  Over 8 wipes, he got hit with it 15 times, with most of the successful avoidances thanks to a Body and Soul-enhanced PW: Shield.  And when that didn't cut it, Aura Mastery, Hand of Sacrifice, and Guardian Spirit at least kept him alive long enough to Bloodlust at the start of the burn phase.  It's bad when a group needs to use external cooldowns on a non-tank.

Now I empathize with the kid, and up through now he's been a solid backup and a good asset to the guild.  He switched his main from his paladin to his shaman to fill a hole in our roster.  And on fights without such a narrow margin of error, or without the need for immediate reaction he's done fine... below average, but fine enough for farm content.  And he has never complained when he was sat for a regular.  But last night, despite that he himself offered to step out the second someone else logged on (a trademark of a mature team player if ever there was), no one showed up who could fill that 10th slot.  But we all stuck it out, progression bosses need whatever practice we can get, after all, and I (and most of the guild for that matter) are of the mind that it is better to raid and wipe than to have never raided at all.

We'll be picking up the raid again on Monday, hopefully we'll have some better luck.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Raid buffs in 10-man content

Last night, we had what everyone present would easily call a good night of raiding.  Nine bosses in three hours, and only one wipe not on Putricide (and he's dying Thursday, mark my words).  Couple new faces in the mix, alongside our stalwarts.  Our usual resto/enhance shaman couldn't make it, so we shifted our lovely and talented holy priest GM to the hybrid role, letting her dust off her shadow offspec, and brought in a new resto shaman for the raid healer slot.  We also had a new holy paladin in the place of our normal disc priest.  Aside from those two slots, we had everyone else show up, on time and ready to go.  A rarity among the smaller, more relaxed guilds, as I'm sure anyone else in such a position could attest.

We also had on a few fairly consistant backups who had been rather hankering for a slot.  It happens when you're in that uncomfortable spot between 10-man and 25-man.  Now our GM has always given me tremendous latitude when forming raid groups, and honestly if there's one thing I value over all others when it comes to picking the night's raiders, it's consistency, so the ones who I can count on to be on from first pull till we call it 95% of the time are getting in, no questions asked.  And after that, I know the designers have been pushing the "Bring the player, not the class" mantra, but the fact is when it comes to 10-man raids, especially progression 10-man raids, it's "Bring the buff, not the class," especially those vital passive debuffs that don't throw entire rotations out of whack (don't even try to get an affliction lock to drop Curse of Elements, or a mutilate rogue to Expose Armor, unless there's literally no other option).

Replenishment is offered passively by 5 specs, so it's one of the most easily-obtained raid buffs you can get, yet in our normal 10-mans I'm the only one who gives it.  The melee and spell crit auras come from 2 specs each, likewise for melee haste and spell haste.  There's literally dozens of these buffs out there split between every class and every spec, so much so that many raid leaders need to resort to web tools or addons to make sure they've successfully shoehorned as many of the critical performance boosts as they can into their 10-mans.

So when the second ret paladin or fury warrior asks for a raid slot in our 10-mans, there's not a lot I can do to accommodate when the margin of error on the edge of our progression is so thin.  If the choice is between doubling up on a spec already in the raid, or getting Demonic Pact, sorry, but unless there are severe mitigating circumstances involved, the demo lock gets the spot.

Now don't get me wrong, it's great we don't have to stack X class because they pull out the best damage-per-raid-slot, but building a successful raid team is still a balancing act, and the more buffs and debuffs we can balance, the better.

On introductions...

So I had a conversation with myself this morning as I set up this blog.

"Zebb, you've blogged before, on both real world stuff and gaming.  Multiple times each.  Just go ahead and do it."
"Yeah Zebb, but know and I know that we both suck at making introductory posts.  How am I supposed to let any prospective reader know where I'm coming from?"
"Well look at your previous blogs, what sort of introductory post do you have there?"
"Well, nothing really, I sort of just dove right in to my first topic."
"And that won't work now?"
"Well how am I supposed to show my cred?  I mean, there's a million paladins out there facerolling their keyboards, and a fairly sizable quantity of them switched windows by mistake and started a blog."
"So what, you want to differentiate yourself from the masses?  How exactly do we plan to do that?"
"Well, I do it all: Ret, Prot, Holy, PVP, PVE, plus I've been a raid leader, a guild leader, and I like to think I have a fairly good perspective on how most every class in the game works, at least on some level."
"And how do you plan on establishing your cred on all that in a single post?  You in a top-100 guild?"
"No, but--"
"A 2000+ rated arena team?"
"Got the Kingslayer title?"
"Er well--"
"Twilight Vanquisher?"
"Hey, I could get that any time I--"
"Right.  That's what I thought.  Any e-peen drop you try to unload on the interwebs here will be dwarfed by the fact that half the blogs out there are working on their 25-man hardmodes."
"The hardcore guilds just don't fit my style though.  I'm skilled enough to do it, sure, but I like it a little more mellow.  We're in a very good casual-style progression guild, we're just rebuilding a little.  And making amazing 10-man progress while we do.  Nine bosses in three hours last night is great time, considering we had two regulars who couldn't make it, both healers to boot."
"So that still brings me back to my first question.  What makes us different, and how are we going to display it in a single post?"
"Or we could just jump right in."
"Right on in?"
"Okay, I'll give it a go."