Monday, December 29, 2008

What defines a 'main'?



For the few people with too much spare time that have been following my blog, you've probably noticed that I've focused a lot on shaman stuff recently. Hopefully not exclusively.

Some time ago, I had three healers at lvl 70, priest, druid and shaman. I have several times been tempted to speed-level my paladin to 70 as well, but have resisted so far.

When I first started playing WoW, it was in May about 3.5 years ago. A friend "recruited" me. This was my first serious MMORPG. I'd tried both Ultima Online and Anarchy Online, but neither game really caught my interest. I had no clue what a tank or a healer meant. My friend was a night elf druid on Silvermoon (EU), and I also had a few other RL friends playing on the same server/side. (By the way, I have to give him credit for persisting his balance druid when Hurricane was still the 31-point talent.)

I made a gnome mage. But hey, no pigtails, no pink hair. White hair, which I've always been a sucker for (though I'm not awfully fan of drows, if you're wondering). I got to about level 14 before abondoning her. Then I made a dwarf priest. You know, the reason I chose a priest is that I wanted to Resurrect all those bodies lying around. This was at a time where a body would lie there forever if a player logged out while dead, which I found out when I got to level 10. After ressing about 20-30 times without a single success, I learned that it was pretty much pointless. Now I always use the /who function before trying to res someone.

My priest was abondoned at lvl 12, when I realized how bloody immature most alliance players are. In addition, Silvermoon was a "normal" server, which meant people talked crap all the time. I rerolled a tauren druid on Earthen Ring (EU) (RP-server, RP-PVP servers didn't exist yet), and made it to lvl 30. On the way there, I'd participated in starting a possibly legendary RP guild, learned a lot about instancing, and blown out a lot of temper on fellow players. I regret the last part. That's why I deleted the druid in favor of a troll priest. Which I deleted and started a new troll priest because I didn't like the look on the first one.

This new troll priest made it to lvl 60 eventually, but it took a loooooong time. In fact, I logged out outside inns/cities to not get rested XP, so I could have fun with the trip to 60. I was also a casual player, so I had a lot less playtime than the rest of the guys in my guild. Sadly, most of the guys dropped out, one after another. I know a few guys from my guild who still play, but none of the hardcore RPers. I believe RP was dying 1.5 year after WoW launch. Well, except for the total Drama Queen RPers and ERPers, both of which I tend to stay far away from.

I also earned my first raiding experience, raiding Zul'Gurub. Through some strange coincidence, that was also my first experience with problems regarding raidleaders. In retrospect, I made a lot of mistakes, and insisted on stuff I didn't reallly know too much about. But then again, my raidleader was far from perfect. In particular, I was annoyed that we spent so much time on Mandokir each evening, instead of moving on to the mandatory bosses. But no, we needed to gear up. But why would we gear up on a boss that's considered by many harder than the last boss? Bah.

At some point, I started an alt an another server, a newly fired up RP-PVP server. Ayeba, my current tauren druid. Around lvl 50ish, I paid for a transfer to Earthen Ring. I got to 60 just before Burning Crusade hit the shelves.

Interesting fact: I queued to buy the game as the store opened (not the midnight opening, just a regular store opening at 9.00), but waited almost a month installing the expansion? That's how busy real life can be, sometimes.

The first thing I did in BC was rolling a blood elf paladin. Like many other priests, I was tired of being squishy, and looked forward to the EZ mode healing paladins were in vanilla WoW. I was incredibly interested at first. Heck, I even skilled up cooking and fishing as I levelled. My interest lasted until to somewhere around the 30ies, then I was totally fed up with being a pally. Boring! Soloing as a pally is completely void of any button-pressing. It was slightly fun to level as protection and taking on packs of mobs, but it was still held no entertainment value.

So, back to my druid and priest, whom I took some time to level. At some point I rolled Kirba, orc shaman. It was just a result of a bit of shaman envy, but I didn't spend too much time on her.

My druid hit 70 first, but not too far ahead of my priest. I had severe trouble deciding which to stick to, and ended up doing a lot og PVP gearing on both. In the end, though, I lost interest in both, and levelled my shaman instead.

Another interesting fact: Ayeba (my druid) had alchemy 130, I never bothered to skill up further. But since she had herbalism, I got stack upon stack of herbs. I was too lazy to sell them at the auction house, so I just stored them at an alt. Guess who suddenly got a use for them when 3.0 arrived with Inscription. I skilled up to 360 in about a week, with almost no grinding involved.

Me and my wife also spent some time on our alts just after 3.0 arrived, while everyone else went crazy, including my pally. I haven't spoken too much on the rest of my alts, but I got a warrior at 37 (from the time I wanted to be end-game tank), a mage at 23 (which I haven't levelled since vanilla) and probably a dozen characters between 10 and 20. All of them are priests, shamans, paladins and warriors. This is another tendency: I want to be useful. A tank is useful. A healer is useful. A dps is techically useful, but there are often a dime a dozen on LFG.

Observation: Just before BC arrived, I hit 60 on my second healer. Just after LK arrived, I hit 70 on my third healer. If we follow that, just around the next expansion, my pally will hit 80. At the moment, I doubt it, but I shan't deny that it might happen.

Now, for what was originally the main point: Since I hit 60 as my druid, I've had a lot of times when I've announced in the guild that "This is my new main". Many of those have been after both hit 70. I don't want to do the mistake once more. What is a main, anyway? I'd say it's your main investment. While it's nice to gear up alts and stuff, the main is whose going to end up with the most playtime after switching.

All three characters have now set foot in Northrend. My priest as discipline (51/10/00), my druid as feral (0/51/10), and my shaman as resto (0/11/51) so far.

Experiences? My priest has great dps and good healing, but lives and dies by her mana. Drinking is inevitable. She's not good at handling multiple mobs. And hard mobs? Forget it. Part of the mana trouble could be solved by speccing Spirit Tap, though.

My druid also do great dps as kitty and got great survivability as bear. Squishy as heck as a kitty, though, more than my priest (well, d'oh, my priest shields all the time to get mana returns from Rapture and avoid loosing casting time). And healing as feral? Forget it. 3xLifebloom ticks for 98 each second. If I need to heal out of combat as a druid, I bandage.

My shaman, on the other hand, has nowhere near great dps, but no downtime. And since I hit 71 and got Shamanistic Focus, I can throw out shocks at every cooldown without risking going oom all the time. Easy mobs? Lightning Shield, collect a few and Chain Lightning (with the 2-set bonus from the Tidefury set) between shocks and melee. Hard mob? Earth Shield and we're set. Elementals for even tougher guys. Low on mana? Single mobs and Water Shield.

With that said, I've been intending to respec for some time. But I know that 3.0.8 will bring a free respec for shamans (it always does when they reduce the talent point cost of a talent for a class), which might or might not be worth waiting for. Further, what to respec to? Elemental? Enhancement PVE? Enhancement PVP? ... and so I wait a bit until I set my mind.

Now, for the question of main... it was after I spent time to skill up my cooking to 375 that I realized I may have already made the choice. My priest has both cooking and fishing skilled up, but not my druid. Taking the time investment to skill up my shammy might mean something. My priest still has more achievement points, if that counts for something. But Kirba has overtaken Ayeba in achivements.

I also intend to make a Death Knight sometime, but I'm too much in love with healing in PVP to ever make that my main.

I intend to keep levelling my shaman until otherwise decided. But is Kirba my new main? I don't know. Possibly.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Observations, experiences, notes and thoughts on 60-70



Suggestion


Blizz obviously wants Shamans to use Healing Wave. They're buffing Healing Way so that it no longer stacks, but instead gives a 18% healing buff to Healing Wave from the very start.

I think they should move slightly further on. Suggesting the following buff (one of the two):

  1. Make it work like the pally talent Light's Grace, meaning instead of giving a buff to the target, it gives a buff on the shaman which improves healing wave by 18%, refreshened each time HW is cast.

  2. Make Riptide apply the Healing Way buff.


I've posted the suggestion on official Suggestions forum.

Outland revisisted


I'd like to share my observations from levelling my shaman through Outland, lvl 60 to 70, post-3.0 (WotLK). This is the third character I've levelled that interval, but the first one after WotLK. I don't have a DK yet.

Oh, how I hate Nesingwary


I hate Nesingwary. Well, spesifically, I hate how Blizz is more or less forcing all shamans, druids and paladins to get through his quests in order to get a very nice healing ranged-slot item. It wouldn't be so bad if it were interesting quests with a good story and variation, but ... come on! We're talking 6 quests to kill 30 animals each, and then 4 elites. No challenge, lots of monotomy, just a boring grind. I did them with my druid and priest. The wand is very nice as well, but easier to replace than the druid/shaman/paladin-spesific item, as those only drops a few places. The only good thing about the quests is if you are/have a skinner interested in getting lots of skins. Just to add insult to injury, Blizz decided to make it a friggin' achievement as well.

In the end, I decided not to do it with my shaman, and that was only because I was lucky enough to get Totem of the Thunderhead in the Underbog. While said totem is more versatile, it is strictly less powerful when using Lesser Healing Wave as my main heal. Further, I refuse to dance Blizz' achievement dance. I don't do stuff because I get a nice achivement, I want to do stuff because it's fun. Thus, I intend to skip boring quests, boring grinds, and so on.

Want a 'mental or enhanced healer?


I levelled from some 50ish to somewhere around 63-64 as Enhancement, then switched to Elemental. At 69 I switched to Resto. And I've healed a lot of instances, as all specs.

Experiences while healing: Both enhancement and Elemental can heal fine when the tank holds aggro and takes decent amount of damage. None come even close to the huge difference Restoration can make when the shit hits the fan. I'm virtually unkillable when I pull earth shield to myself, riptide and spam Healing Wave. Of course, the group might still wipe, as I often have trouble keeping both myself and the rest of the group up. Very recently, while in the Nexus, we got a triple pull. But a Bloodlust, trinkets, Nature's Swiftness, Tidal Force and Mana Tide later, everyone was still alive. I was proud. Didn't even have to use my elemental, which I would have if it wasn't on cooldown.

Elemental has the best mana regen, probably thanks to Unrelenting Storm. Enhancement has the highest spellpower, as Mental Quickness gives a good chunk of spellpower even in healing gear. Strength of Earth Totem or Horn of Winter, one of which was always up, gave a good deal additional spellpower in combination with the talent.

Experiences while soloing: Enhancement and Elemental both works while soloing. More a question of personal preference. And without any elemental down, both had trouble soloing 3-man elites. While elemental, and unlike my experience as a priest, I literally never sat down to drink. I remember once when I managed to run out of mana. Conclusion: Elemental doesn't have any sort of extended downtime issues. When I respecced resto, my survivability went through the roof, enabling me to solo virtually anything. At the same time, soloing speed went through the floor. Go figure.

Water (glyphs), anyone?


At lvl 70, I have 5 glyph slots unlocked. I'm running Water Mastery, Water Shield, Water Walking and Water Breathing. For the last glyph, I've switched a bit around, using Flametongue Weapon while I was Elemental, Lesser Healing Wave after switching to Resto. I want to trade the last glyph for Healing Wave instead, as it'll benefit me both in PVP and PVE.

I just find it amusing that 4/5 glyphs has "Water" in it's name.

Same NPC, different spell


I also learned that a single mob can have some spells which are interruptable, and others which are not. For example, I couldn't interrupt Grand Magus Telestra's fire bombs, but I could interrupt her time stops. I'm not used to having interrupts at all. I like it. It rises the skill cap of how good I can do in an instance group. I think I'll have to write a separate post about healing styles as the three classes I've seriously experienced.

Revere me, baby


I've reached Revered with Cenarion Expedition, and that's as much time as I'm going to devote to that now. At 80, I'll try to two-man heroic Slave Pens to boost my rep while having fun, but I don't want to spend time grinding now. Besides, I can't even afford the training for an epic flying mount. According to wowwiki.com, a heroic full clear gives 2,319 rep, plus 75 for each Coilfang Armament that drops. I guess I need about 5-6 full clears to get Exalted. If I don't find it entertaining, then it's not worth it. Hello, how much value does a virtual flying chicken have anyway?

On the topic of rep


According to some article I read on Wowinsider, I don't need Outland rep. No? What about the jewelcrafting designs I need? It's not so bad, though. You only need to reach 350 before heading to outland, and that means getting friendly with Lower City, not a terribly hard feat. But since I now have lots of blue uncut gems, many of them from Brilliant Glass, I'd like to skill up on them before starting with Northrend stuff. Problem is, I lack the designs. Most of them are drops, but there are designs to be earned. Where, you ask? ... Shattered Sun Offensive. Why, oh why do you get designs at friendly which require 375 JC, while the earliest 350 one are hidden at Revered and Exalted? What kind of incredibly stupid design was this from Blizz' side?

Bottom line, I need to do a lot of dailies with Shattered Sun, or just move on to Northrend stuff immidiately. The third option is also possible, try to get the drop designs somewhere, but I'm not willing to pay (much) for them.

LFG? ... no. LFAchievement? Sure!


Here's a good thing about the achivement system... while hard, it's not impossible to get people to join lvl 70 instances which I haven't done. I still lack several, but I've gotten Steamvaults, Shattered Halls and Shadow Labyrinth that way. Still need the Tempest Keep instances, but I couldn't ask for people before 70 simply because I couldn't reach them.

Resto-spell or Resto-melee?


This is a honest question: Is it better to level as resto using spellpower gear and playing it like an elemental shaman, or using melee gear and playing it like an enhancement shaman? Obviously, spellpower is better for healing, but I don't mind carrying two sets... I do that anyway, just to have an enhancement set should I want to respec. "Know thyself" and I know that I'll try something else sooner or later.

Ka-zap-zap-zap


I love Chain Lightning. Granted, it's worse than strict AoE spells for AoE pulls in instances and the like, but it's better for a few mobs when soloing. It's not like I can take on too many mobs anyway, resto or otherwise, because I'll run out of mana, unless I'm using my fire elemental to literally burn them down for me. I find myself using it much more than any other AoE I've previously had. I'll try soloing groups of mobs once Magma Totem is buffed, though.

Lvl 70 vs lvl 79


I've ran a few BGs at 70. Normally, that's not a big problem. Of course I die a lot more, but it can still be entertaining. However, did you know that alliance (at least on my battlegroup) already has 79 twinks? You're f'in' kidding me. That wasn't a lot of fun. Especially so since I seemed not to be the only one with that idea, we ran AB with 10 lvl 70s versus 2 lvl 70s on the other side. Needless to say, we got our behinds handed to us royally. Okay, I don't have a lot of resilience either, just somewhere around 100, but that hasn't prevented me from having fun earlier.

I had a lot of fun in AV once, though. Never died a single time, and we won without loosing a single tower. I also learned that a protection pally is a suprisingly good partner in AV. Sure, we couldn't kill stuff, but we could survive insanely long, preventing enemies from re-taking the flags we'd tagged.

And I think I'm in love with shammies. Again. I ran into a standstill where the horde and alliance where fighting heavily. Bloodlust, Earth Shield on a meleer, Trinkets, spamming heals, Mana Tiding, Strength of Earth, Windfury Totem and Flametongue totem to buff everyone up. And it seriously felt like I did the change that made us win that skirmish, allowing us to retake the GY.

Crossroads


Now, I have no less than 3 healers at lvl 70. Well, healer-classes. And for the moment, the shaman is the only one whose feet have touched the icy ground of Northrend. It feels a bit strange. I've had the other two for about 3 years, and my shaman is less than a year old, and have only been played seriously the last few months.

I've decided I want to try the "new" feral tree with my druid, and I'd also like to try soloing as penance-specced discipline priest. However, if I don't like either... perhaps I've found "my" class as a shaman.

By the way, I hate soloing as a priest. I need to drink all the time, can't solo hard mobs, take a lot of damage myself, and can be put in a plastic bag once I run out of mana. Anyone got a good suggestion of a talent build that might help? Discipline, preferably?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Die, Death Knight. No wait, Die again!


Special thanks to Nhani for lending me the picture.

Okay, second attempt. After advice from Seri, I'm writing in Google Docs, and then copy+pasting into Blogspot. Phew... Keep thinking calm thoughts.

Death Knight survival guide


The first step towards defeating your enemy is to "Know thy enemy". Thus, here's a crash course to DKs for healers, with counter-advice rolled in. Terms to notice: DK = Death Knight. Core = abilitiy all DKs have. RP = Runic Power.

Resources


DKs have two types of resources: Runes and Runic Power. Almost all of their abilities cost runes or resources. None cost both. Some special abilities are free. From "idle", a DK has six runes and no runic power. Using abilities which require runes generate runic power. There's also a very common talent called Butchery which slowly generates runic power while in combat.

When a DK uses an ability which costs them a rune, the rune is put on cooldown for 10 seconds. Among the runes, there are three basic types: Blood, Frost, Unholy. An idle DK has 2 of each rune ready. There's also a fourth type of rune, Death Rune, which counts as any of the other. Death Runes are "converted" from other runes using either the core ability Blood Tap (notice the health cost) or through one of the Death Rune-generating talents, of which there are one in each tree. Blood: Death Rune Mastery, Frost: Blood of the North and Unholy: Reaping. Notice that these talents are "passive" in the sense that they work when you use some other ability. Further, all of these active abilities are melee-attacks, meaning the DK has to be in melee to convert other runes to death runes.

Why is this important? Here's the trick: Since each rune has a 10 sec cooldown, they can usually an ability requiring a certain rune twice before having to wait for the runes to come off cooldowns, and then they can't use other abilities which cost the same rune. I'll show in a moment which abilities this is most critical for.

There's also another ability to watch out for: Empower Rune Weapon. 5 min cooldown... but in PVP, you're bound to see it often.

Presences


Like a warrior has stances, a DK has presences. Like a warrior, you have no way of knowing which presence a DK is in unless you see him change it. The three presences are Blood, Frost (aka the tanking presence), and Unholy. Since it costs a rune to change presences and all abilities are usable from all presences, you'll see less stance-dancing than with warriors. In PVP, virtually every DK will use Blood or Unholy presence. The only thing we can really use from knowning this is that they have 1 sec GCD (like a rogue or a feral kitten) while in Unholy presence, which means that you can think of them like rogues in how often they interrupt your spells. Trading GCDs with them only works if they're in blood presence, otherwise you can't out-GCD them.

Diseases


DKs are based around the concept of diseases. A lot of their abilities deal additional damage based on the number of diseases the DK has on you. Note that only the DKs own diseases count, so two DKs or a feral kitties doesn't drastically improve a DKs damage. Good thing 75% of all healing classes can remove diseases... sorry, druids, DKs are meant to be your counter.

The two basic diseases a DK has is Blood Plague and Frost Fever. Unholy DKs also have an additional disease, called Crypt Fever/Ebon Plague. Almost all Unholy DKs will invest enough talent points to get the last disease, which is better. Notice that this last disease always comes with one of the first two. That means; if you remove the first two diseases, you also loose Ebon Plague.

The ability which applies Blood Plague is called Plague Strike. The core ability which applies Frost Fever is called Icy Touch. Frost DKs can also apply the disease using Chains of Ice with the talent Endless Winter, or with their 50-point talent Hungering Cold.

Since a lot of DK abilities scale with the number of diseases, a DKs dps rotation starts with Plague Strike and Icy Touch (or sometimes Chains of Ice in the case of a PVPing frost DK), then moving on to other more hard-hitting abilities. Now, here's a thing to notice. With the exception of Hungering Cold, which in any case costs a lot of runic power, all of their disease-applying abilities cost runes. Translated to a healer: If you remove their diseases, they'll be forced to either reapply the diseases, or use their other abilities without the bonus damage from diseases. In many cases newbie DKs will do the latter, because they don't react fast enough when a disease is removed. That's fine with me, I don't mind they using lots of rune on abilities which nets them far less damage than the optimal. If they choose to reapply the diseases, they're burning runes which they could've used for more hard-hitting abilities, and they may only do it twice before having to wait for runes (barring death runes and the like).

Note that you'll often run into DKs with the talent Virulence, which gives them a bit of defense against disease-removing abilities.

Bottom line; Removing their diseases is worth it. Here's a tip for some shamans and priests: If you don't have it on your hotbars, bind a key to Cure Disease (Shammy or Priestly version) in addition to Disease Cleansing Totem and Abolish Disease. When you first get diseased, use the latter version (which ticks), and then spam Cure Disease on the next disease. Well, at least in the case of priests. For shammies you can argue that it might be better to spam the totem because of the 1 sec gcd rather than 1.5 sec gcd on Cure Disease.

Healing debuffs


Luckily for us, DKs doesn't have a healing debuff (like Mortal Strike). What they do have is the ability to remove HoTs. Plague Strike, the same ability I discussed earlier, is garantueed to remove a HoT. Further, the disease Blood Plague which it applies has a 25% chance on each tick to remove a HoT.

Does this mean that it's pointless to use HoTs against them?

Not nescessarily. A DK can only use Plague Strike twice before waiting for rune CD, and it provides less damage than other abilities. Thus, it's not garantueed that all your HoTs will be useless. With that said, priests, who only have one HoT, should avoid using Renew, as it's often wasted mana and GCD. Shamans shouldn't worry about Earthliving, as it's essentially free healing anyway. Riptide provides half healing up front anyway, and is often worth casting anyway, since you can do it while moving.

Finally, Druids... DKs are your nemises, right? Actually, it's not so bad. Since you can easily load up 5 HoTs on the same target (Regrowth + Rejuvenation + 3xLifebloom), 6 if you really want to (+ Wild Growth), it's still absolutely worth casting them. A single DK is unable to remove them fast enough.

Edit:Comments on this post from Paendorrah and anonymus poster disagree a bit, but it seems that Plague Strike and Blood Plague ticks remove an entire stack of Lifebloom, rather than just one application. That's bad news for druids, of course. In that case, it's not a good idea to stack up lifebloom. Stick to a single application of Lifebloom for the DKs targets.

Paladins, lacking any HoT, isn't affected at all. It all evens out, somehow.

Snares


While DKs have some ranged abilities, most of their damage is from melee abilities. Further, if they can't get into melee, they can't generate a lot of runic power for their signature ranged attack Death Coil. To help them stay in melee, any smart DK will ensnare their opponent. Their only core snare is Chains of Ice, which is rather unique compared to other snares. Note that while you're 100% snared, you're not silenced and can cast anything you want, cast-time or instants. In addition to the snare, a frost DK will also apply Frost Fever with it, with the talent Endless Winter. Further, most Frost DKs and often other specced PVP DKs will have 30 yards range on the snare, thanks to Icy Reach.

So, how to counter Chains of Ice? Moderately easy, actually. Druids can shift ouf of it anyway, priests can Dispel it, paladins can Cleanse it (which also removes a disease, lucky you) or use Hand of Freedom. Shamans... will have to suck it up. Outside of the enhancement talent Earthen Power, there are few ways to get out of it. Sorry.

Also notice that Chains of Ice costs a frost rune, meaning a DK can only apply it twice in a ten sec period. And if they're not frost, that means they can't apply Icy Touch, meaning less incoming damage due to lack of one of their diseases. On the other hand, most DKs will early blow Chains of Ice and Icy Touch, but that means they can't reapply their best snare again very soon.

The other two snares a DK has access to are frost talent Chilblains and the unholy talent Desecration. Chilblains, as I see it, is a PVP talent designed to lightly snare the opponent for a longer duration... as long as Frost Fever lasts, up to 18 seconds with Epidemic. But since druids can shift out of it and all other healers can remove Frost Fever, it doesn't really seem like a giant threat to us healers. The other snare, Desecration, is worse. It seems to work like Frost Trap, which means the only real counter is Hand of Freedom and trying to move out of it.

Pulling


Outside of running up to their target, a DK has one way of getting into melee with an enemy... by pulling the enemy to himself. Enter the evil chain, Death Grip, a DKs staple tanking and PVP ability. Since it is instant and has 30 yards range, there are few counters to it. The only one I know of is Grounding Totem, and it might just as well swallow their initial Chains of Ice instead, as many DKs open with that instead. But that's not nescessarily a bad thing at all.

Though I said there are no counters, there are still something you should keep in mind. While flying through the air, there's nothing but your own reactions that prevent you from casting instants. And when landing, there's nothing that prevents you from running away, unless the DK snared you first. Your first reaction should be to cast some instant which will benefit you while being pulled, and then run right through them while using more instants.

A few suggestions. Paladins: Cleanse or Hand of Freedom. Priests: Dispel Magic or Power Word: Shield. You might also time a Psychic Scream the moment you land. Don't cast Abolish Disease until you actually have a disease on yourself, and priority on removing snares before diseases (unless you can do both at the same time). Druids: Nature's Grasp, Barkskin or shift to Bear, so you can Enrage and Bash the DK as you land. Shaman: Frost Shock the DK so he has a harder time getting you into melee or use Grounding Totem if it's off cooldown.

The huge danger of Death Grip isn't that you're getting pulled to the DK. It's that you get pulled to the DK and his friends. If that happens, you're probably screwed.

Snares... the other way around


Here's one of the DKs huge weaknessess.... they're very suspectable to snares themselves. They have no inherit ability to break snares, and only Death Grip to get into melee. A good frost mage will screw a DK around any day. Unfortunately, priests and paladins can't exploit that. Druids, on the other hand... ready to get your revenge? Root the sorry buggers. Shamans should keep the DKs perma-snared. Unfortunately, Chains of Ice is a better snare than Frost Shock and Earthbind Totem. However, it is possible to build up enough range so that they have to reapply Chains of Ice, or wait for it to come off cooldown. Toughness and Imp Ghost Wolf help a lot here.

Silence and interrupts


DKs, as the only class I know of, have both a silence and an interrupt at their disposal. Good thing they don't pack a lot of stuns as well. I know only of their pet ghoul stun.

First, their silence. It's called Strangulate and packs a 30 yard range and a 2 min cooldown. Okay, I can live with that. But then there's the Glyph. 20 yards additional range? 50 yards range on a silence? Are you kidding me? I don't know what blizz is thinking here. Earlier, they've reinforced a 30 yard base range on most ranged attacks with talents pushing them to around 36 yards, and a few a very few classes/specs being able to reach a bit above 40 yards. Healing has always been set in stone to 40 yards range. And now DKs can silence u s from 50 yards range? ... No, I don't understand what they're thinking at all. Okay, that was a bit of rant. Until they choose to fix it, we'll have to live with that.

Second, their interrupt. It's called Mind Freeze, and has (fortunately) melee range. Except the cost, it's identical to Pummel. Frost DKs can remove the cost completely thanks to Endless Winter. Notice that without being frost, the cost of 20 runic power means that a DK can't use it from the start of combat, and they need to use no less than two attacks to get enough runic power to use it. Translation: If they've got an empty runic power bar, you don't risk an interruption. You still risk being silenced, but juking/fake-casting won't prevent that anyway.

Health regeneration


All DKs have a core ability called Death Strike which will heal them for a serious amount when used. The good news about this one is that they can heal themselves in place of doing a lot more damage with other abilities. Blood DKs have a particular hefty amount of health-restoring abilities.

The important observation: Even if you see a DK on low health, chances are that he can get his health up relatively fast. Unlike a warrior, you can't rely on bursting them down while on low health, but it's still worth trying. Just make sure you keep your priorities in the right order, like trying to stay out of melee. Should they get you in melee, they can restore a lot of health.

Other stuff to know


Defensive cooldowns


DKs have a large number of defensive cooldowns. These are the ones to look out for:

  • Icebound Fortitude: Core ability. Don't waste stuns while this is up.

  • Anti-Magic Shell: Core ability. Prevents any harmful magic effect from landing, and gives the DK additional runic power. Short duration, only 5 sec, so wait for it to fade.

  • Anti-Magic Zone: Unholy talent. Major pain for casters. Here's the big thing: It's stationary, so you can just pull the DK with you out of it.

  • Bone Shield: Unholy talent. Also improves offense. Dispel or Purge it if you can, otherwise ignore it.

  • Lichborne: Frost talent. Don't waste stuns or fears while this is up. Scary how they can chain Icebound Fortitude and this, giving them 27 sec of stun immunity. They're also no longer considered humanoid, meaning Hex won't work on them. But wait! There's light at the end of the tunnel. By activating Lichborne, the DK is considered undead. What does that mean? Good news for a priest or a pally. A priest can then use Shackle Undead on the DK for quality crowd control. For a paladin, some buttons suddenly become usable. Exorcism and Holy Wrath for quality burst damage (sadly, they're immune to the stun) and Turn Evil for crowd control. I haven't confirmed this, but if the DK is feared while Lichborne fades, the fade doesn't automatically break just because they've changed type again. What does this mean? Try to get in a Turn Evil right before it breaks, and watch them run around like chickens.

  • Unbreakable Armor: Frost talent. Nothing particular to worry about for healers.

  • (Glyphed + Improved) Rune Tap: Blood talent. There's no real way of preventing them from using it.



Ghoul self-res


Unholy DKs, and some off-specced Frost and Blood DKs with the talent Shadow of Death will, when brought to 0 health, automatically rise to unlife as a ghoul for a limited time. There is an important delay from when they die to when they're in control of their character again, during which the DK is immune to all damage. When you see it, run away. The best way to handle such the ghoul is to just outlive it, as it will die on it's own in a bit. They can still pack a good amount of damage, but seem to loose all their snares and Death Grip. If you're a priest, Shackle it. If they've got a pet ghoul, it will still be active until they die for good.

Ghoul pets


All DKs have the ability to Raise Dead. For non-Unholy DKs, this will give them a guardian for a limited time which they can't directly control. On the other hand, Unholy DKs with the talent Master of Ghouls will gain a pet without duration, which they can control for additional fun. At least for them. They also gain additional abilities, namely Leap (which means it's hard not to have this guy on top of you all the time), Huddle (which means that it's very hard to focus-kill the ghoul pet of a smart DK) and Gnaw (a DKs only stun).

The ghoul does a non-trivial amount of dps on their own. What to do about the pet? If you're a priest, Shackle it (unless the master is a zombie as well, in which case he makes a better shackle target). Also try to catch both when you Psychic Scream. If you're a druid, you can treat it the same way as a hunter pet, except that you can't hibernate it. If you're a shammy, you can (in BGs, not in arenas) use Earth Elemenetal totem to get him out of your face, but at the expense of other earth totems. Otherwise, you can try to Earthbind both the DK and the ghoul. If you're a pally, you may use Holy Wrath and Exorcism to try to burn it down, or Turn Evil for crowd control. However, the first two mentioned abilities have cooldowns, and it might be very handy to save those cooldowns in case the DK should activate Lichborne (see above). While Turn Evil doesn't have a cooldown, you need to weigh up the result against the risk that you eat a Mind Freeze, rendering all your spells unavailable for 4 sec. Apart from the ghoul stun, the pet is less of a treat against pallies with their high armor.

Mark of Blood


A blood talent which is worth worrying about. It's not dangerous to ourselves as we rarely melee enemies, but it can really be dangerous if they use it on your arena partner. Remove it if you can, otherwise try to convince your ally to hold back for a bit and mitigate damage until the mark runs out.

RP-sustaining abilities


There are two abilities whose duration depend on how much Runic Power the DK has/can generate, namely the blood talent Dancing Rune Weapon and the unholy talent Summon Gargoyle. These two abilities can last for a really long time if the DK can keep generating runic power. They vanish as soon as the DK run out of it.

CC


Apart from the pet stun, a DKs only CC is the frost 51-point talent Hungering Cold. It requires a lot of runic power, but has no inheret cooldown. Try to avoid being caught with your arena partner.

And that's all, folks. Hope you've learned something. I'll probably learn more myself too, in which case I might update the guide.

Edit: Thanks to all commenters, I've added edited the post with the clarifications you've shared with me.

Die, Death Kn.... No, wait, Die, Blogspot!

You ... are ... kidding ... me...

Okay, I temporarily hate Blogspot.

I wrote a long article about facing Death Knights in PVP, and lost everything. Auto-save? Yes, it auto-saved after I accidently removed all I wrote. Bloody hell, it should have a auto-save which allowed you to go back to an earlier version of the document, or at least checked if the size suddenly decreased a lot.

Drat. I'll see if I can rewrite it, but right now I'm a bit annoyed.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

What happened to the fish of Zangarmarsh?



They've been electrified. Why, I'm gathering Unidentified Plant Parts. Can't you tell?

Not so strange, perhaps, since I count 14 full stacks of Grim-encrusted Scale.

The thing is, this time (as opposed to last time I was levelling someone 60-70) I knew that I should wait with the quests from Cenarion Expedition (or for that matter, most other BC factions) until I reached honored. And after I'd done Slave Pens and Underbog about 6-7 times total, I grinded plant parts for Identify Plant Parts.

First I did all the other quests I could find in Zangarmarsh, boosting my Darkspear Troll rep by quite a bit. In the process I got about 100 plant parts. I farmed the rest from the Mudfin Frenzies. I postponed the farming by quite a bit, since it frankly wasn't something of a hurry, and a lot of grinding is utterly boring. It was, however, fun to gather about 10-15 Mudfin (more than that, and I started loosing some because they abondoned me) and use an Elemental Mastery Thunderstorm on them. The word insta-gib just got a new definition for me.

I think I gathered a total of about 30 stacks of Grim-encrusted Scale, for a total of about 600. From the 80% droprate, that means I killed something around 750 of them. Will I do it again? No chance. I've resolved in the past to don't grind unless grinding itself is fun. This was moderately fun, but I'm glad I didn't have to do it again.

Why do I bother with Cenarion Expedition anyway? Well, I figure that I'd like a nice mount sometime in the future, and Cenarion War Hippogryph is one of the better looking ones for how hard it is to get. I don't care much for the achievement.

I'm currently 68 and technically ready for Northrend, but I'm not going there yet. I'll wait until at least 70. Meanwhile, I'm doing all the Cenarion Expedition quests I can in all of Outland. I'm done in Hellfire and Zangarmarsh, with Terokkar Forest and Blade's Edge Mountains waiting. I don't think I've seen Cenarion-guys in any other zone, but who knows.

I'm also running a lot of instances, which is why I'm so high level before I finished Zangarmarsh. I've also, for the first time since WotlK, done an instance with no death knights.

By the way, I don't see any reason to hide my shaman. Her name is Kirba, as seen on the screenshot.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quick delivery, elemental buffed.



Quick delivery, Blizz. You're fixing something I pointed out only yesterday.

Seriously, though, these decisions are discussed back and forth, and they've probably decided them a week ago. Warning: Some of the links here will be broken when they make the change on wowhead.

1) Unrelenting Storm – reduced from 5 points to 3 points. Bonus is 4/8/12% of your Intellect returned as mana.

A good buff. 2 more points freed up, and more mana to play with. I don't mind.
2) Elemental Warding – now reduces all damage (not just Nature, Fire and Frost) taken by 2/4/6%

Handy. Now it's definately a talent I'll take next time I'll respec elemental. 6% less damage taken will aid me more in PVP and soloing than 3% more damage done will. Raiding might be a different matter. It's perfectly skippable, but it's a much better option now than earlier.
3) Elemental Shields – this talent has been removed, since its effects were combined with Elemental Warding.

Fair enough.
4) Storm, Earth and Fire – reduced from 5 points to 3 points, but keeps around the same net benefit. In addition to current effects, also increases Wind Shock range. The damage bonus to Flame Shock has increased to 60% at 3 ranks. Storm, Earth and Fire has been moved up the tree as well.

As I said, the talent was a bit lacking for a 5-pointer. The Wind Shock change makes a lot of sense. The next part, will it be mandatory? If it's no longer a prereq for Thunderstorm, perhaps it'll be skippable for those that don't like it?
5) Shamanism – this is a new 5 point talent in the old Storm, Earth and Fire position. Your Lightning Bolt and Lava Burst gain an additional percentage of your bonus damage. We have not finalized the numbers, but it will probably be something like 10% for Lightning Bolt and 20% for Lava Burst at max ranks.

A talent similar to Druid's balance talent Wrath of Cenarius. But the numbers have a quite different thinking. I imagine Starfire got 20% and Wrath got 10% because of their casting times, 3.0 sec and 1.5 sec respectively, with Starlight Wrath, disregarding any procs from Nature's Grace.

With elemental shamans, you have a slightly different toolbox. With Lightning Mastery, Lightning Bolt has a 2.0 sec cast time and no cooldown, while Lava Burst has a 1.5 sec cast time and 8 sec cooldown. What does this tell us? That they aim for a different goal, namely make us use Lava Burst at every possible cooldown, while boosting elemental shamans' base dps by a less amount. Makes +hit gear even more important, as a few missed Lava Burst really is going to hurt.

I'm also wondering why they don't give any benefit to Chain Lightning. They have earlier stated that they want elemental shamans to have the option of doing some AoE, like other caster dps. If so, why not buff Chain Lightning a bit as well, not just the totems?

Shaman – we are removing the threat component from Fire Nova Totem and Magma Totem and increasing the damage from Magma Totem. This should provide the Elemental shamans in particular with some formidable AE.

I assume this means the "additional threat" component of the two totems. They'll still generate normal threat, or it'd be slightly broken. At least while soloing.

Some people argued that it wouldn't be worth it since you couldn't use Totem of Wrath at the same time. Ghostcrawler answered:

But the change to Magma Totem in particular is substantial. The base points went from 170 to 370 and the coefficient from 0.67 to 1.0. In our tests, the pulses were doing something like 600 damage. You would be hard-pressed to get that kind of increase out of Totem of Wrath, even considering its benefit to the whole raid.

In addition to what he says, there's also the raid stacking to consider. Dwarf Priest wrote an excellent guide. If we look at it, we see that Totem of Wrath is considered among the best available spellpower buffs, but tied with Demonlogy Warlock's Demonic Pact, which doesn't really go away. So you may not loose a lot of spellpower. On the other hand, the spellcrit debuff isn't so easily available. A tier 2 paladin talent Heart of the Crusader duplicates the effect, but on one target only, for the duration of a judgement (10 seconds). And when would you lay down a Magma Totem in the first place? When you need AoE. AoE = Multiple enemies, so a single, or even three or four judgements doesn't really replace the effect.

The good part, though, is that Magma and Fire Nova totem has threat of their own, so if they overaggro, you just lost your mana investment, while you retained your life. Unlike certain other AoErs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Elemental suggestions, my dear Tesla.



After about two levels as an elemental shaman, I've made several observations. I'll spare most of them, and concentrate on something constructive first.

When soloing, I put down Wrath of Air, Mana Spring and Totem of Wrath, throw 2-3 Lightning Bolts, then use Frost Shock to limit the movement, another Lightning Bolt and then decide to either throw the mob using Thunderstorm and keep lighting them up, or just melee the mob to death. Given at least two crits, most mobs are dead before they reach me.

As I said earlier, I find Frost Shock lacking. Well, it does slow the mobs and deal a fair amount of damage. Further, it's not supposed to be a dps-shock, not least since it generates a lot of threat. But there ought to be at least some talent which improves Frost Shock, since we have talents improving both Earth and Flame Shock.

Storm, Earth and Fire is lacking as well. The reduced cooldown on Chain Lightning is very circuimstancal. The improved dot damage on Flame Shock is good, but nowhere near a 5-point talent. Finally, the increased range on Earth is pretty useful, but nothing major.

Thus, here's some constructive suggestions on how to solve both problems.

First, there's one thing which I really don't see why they haven't done already. The range increase on Earth Shock should apply to Wind Shock as well.

Second, the increased range on Earth Shock should be improved to 2 yards per talent point, for a total of 10 yards increased range, thus 30 yard range. Why not? This is the base of most offensive spells. And Flame Shock still trumphs that, with Lava Flows. I think this'd be a minor, but a good upgrade.

Third, I think there ought to be some improvement to Frost Shock from the talent. This change should be something that can be useful while soloing and PVP, but not nescessarily while doing dps... it should be strictly worse dps-wise than both Flame Shock and Earth Shock. The change should be something circuimstancal as well, not to make the talent overpowered. Here's some suggestions:

  • Improve the snare effect from Frost Shock by 2% per talent, for a total of 10% better snare. That means frost shock will reduce speed by 60%. This will make frost shock a better snare than Hamstring and Wing Clip, worse than Crippling Poison, identical to Frostbolt with Permafrost and Chilled to the Bone, worse than Cone of Cold with both talents, better than any frost mage ability without said talents, and identical to Slow, just to mention a few. I doubt that it'd make it overpowered.

  • Apply the range increase from Earth Shock to Frost Shock as well. Slightly boring, but handy.

  • If you hit a target affected by Frost Shock with your Thuderstorm, the target will be rooted for 2-3 seconds after it's been pushed back. The duration of the root must be small, not to make it overpowered. On the other hand, it mustn't be so small that the global cooldown of Thunderstorm eats it all away. I think this'd be one of the most interesting options for an upgrade.

  • If you hit a target affected by Frost Shock with your Thuderstorm, the effect spreads to all targets affected by thunderstorm, and the duration is refreshened. I like the earlier suggestions better, but I'm just brainstorming here.

  • The two suggestions above could also be triggered by Lava Burst instead of Thunderstorm. As long as it's triggered by something that has an inheret cooldown.

  • Casting frost shock on a target affected by Flame Shock can increase the snare by a total of 20-30%, making it a superior snare, but taking some time to set up. At least 10 seconds with Reverberation.




Another constructive suggestion: Make a Glyph of Thuderstorm that removes the pushback, but adds a small bonus useful for PVE. For example, increases the mana restored by Thunderstorm by 2%, or reduces the cooldown of Thunderstorm by 10 seconds. I guess something similiar could be argued for with other pushback-abilities, such as Blast Wave and Typhoon. The big difference is that both of those classes (Mage and Balance Druid) already have excellent AE, and that both of those abilities cost hefty amounts of mana and thus is less useful in PVE, while Thunderstorm is a button you (almost) want to press every time it's up.

Chances are pretty low that devs read my blog, so I may post it on the official suggestions forum.

Edit: Why did I mix up Tesla, Darwin and Watson?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Style vs game mechanics.



There are plenty of differences between various classes.

Lore divides the classes neatly, sometimes even dividing members of the same class from different races. Blood Knights vs Silver Hand paladins, anyone?

Game mechanics of course divides the different classes, even though some are shared. For example, all healing classes have a big, slow, cast-time, direct heal. On the other hand, plenty of other mechanics are different, ranging from armor proficiency to unique mechanics and spells.

The next part is closely tied to the lore, namely the theme of each class' abilities. The names of various abilities are usually a giveaway. Holy Light, anyone? Graphical display of the various abilities are another good pointer. Several of the druid graphics include leaves. I'd also put the look of class-spesific armor and weapons in those categories.

Then there's another game-mechanic side, namely balance issue. What makes a warrior a counter to a druid and death knight a counter to druid? The warrior can be immune to psychic scream and can limit the priest's movement indefinately. Similary, druids can't remove death knight diseases, and death knights can remove HoTs.

To me, the discussion can be summed up as style vs game mechanics. As noted in the title, I'll always envy some class ability of another healer, but that doesn't mean I have to envy the style as well. I try to ask myself, what kind of style feels most correct for me?

Priests' style are based on a mix of between prophets and angels. Armor that looks like wings and ahalo. Spells like Guardian Spirit and Spirit of Redemption. Greater Heal gives a brief display of a ritual circle on the ground when it hits the target. Plenty of abilities with "prayer" in it. All built around the concept of a connection to some higher power. The shadow part is a bit fuzzier. I have two respecs to shadow, for a grand total of about 1 hour of playtime, so I'm not planning to delve too deeply into that.

Druids' style are much more split between the different trees (no pun intended, actually). All are obviously focused around some aspect of nature. D'oh! It's kinda hard to miss that ferals embrace the animal aspect of nature. Restoration focus more on plants and (re)growing. Turning into a Tree is a sort of giveaway, right? Names like Regrowth and Living Seed also helps. The balance part is a bit strange. Part of it resolves around the night elf lore about the stars and the moon (Star- and Moonfire, respectively), other parts resolves around the Wrath of nature and some weather fenomens, such as Hurricanes and Typhoons. Finally, apart from the "Moon" in the name, how does Moonkin aka Space Chicken fit in?

The line between druid and shaman style are very thin some places, but generally, shamans are built on the idea that some people have an inherit ability to sense and communicate with (elemental) spirits, which does not include angelic spirits (those are the priest domain). They also harness their power through totems. Further, restoration shamans seem to be focused around the concept of the ocean and ancestral stuff. For example, (Lesser) Healing Wave, Riptide, Mana Tide Totem and plenty of talents with the word "Tidal". Riptide looks like you're washing someone with water, too. Enhancement are harder to pinpoint, but are at least somewhat focused around storms. Look at Thundering Strikes, Stormstrike and Maelstrom Weapon. Elemental also focus on storms with a bit of volcanic activity added in, from Lightning Bolt to Thunderstorm and Magma Totem to Lava Burst.

Paladins, finally, share some parts of the priestly style, but also focus on a different aspect of them. I will always associate them with the christian crusaders who killed, raped and looted in the name of their god. Which might explain why I don't like them all that much. Even being a blood knight, who care only for the power and not the ideals, didn't really remove the idea in my head. Anyway, paladins also share the angelic and divine aspect of priests, but instead focus more on the ideal of a martyr, a protector and an avenger, respective to each talent tree. More like a divine judge than a prophet.

Inheretly, I like the idea of not pushing your own ideas on others. That doesn't mean you can't share them, but not force them on others. To me, the idea of a judger/avenger/crusader really doesn't appeal to me. It doesn't help that I'm not a big fan of the class mechanics either. There are some, though. I like several aspects of paladin tanking, but find both their healing and dps incredibly boring. While it's nice to be completely immune to everything barring a non-focused priest nearby in PVP, the rest of the abilities are so-so. It got a lot better with 3.0, though. I may overcome my prejudice simply because I like the tanking. Doubt so, though. My desire to tank is a lot less than it was. Healing remains my first call.

That doesn't prevent me from envying some of their abilities now and then, though.

Putting paladins aside, there's three healing classes left which I all feel at least pretty comfortable playing, style-wise. Regarding game mechanics, I can adjust to any of them. Right now, I find priest and shaman most interesting. The primary problem with druids, the removal of endless lifebloom-rolling, has been fixed to a certain extent. I don't know. I'm still not ecstatic about druids. Part of the problem is that I like spells as a part of my arsenal. As a feral, I do technically have access to spells, but they don't pack a squat of a punch. Compare to an enhancement shaman, which is a more hybridish role, and one which I like more. That leaves me with balance and resto. It works, but I don't have a lot of motivation towards them right now.

Then there's the second part, style. Do I like the druid style? I do have a history as a boyscout... I guess I can relate (as opposed to paladins), but I'm not sure...

I like the mechanics of both shamand and priest. I'll just have to realize there'll never be any one class I find vastly superior to the other. I miss dispel (defensive) as a shaman. I miss the serious buffs totem bring as a priest.

What about style? To be completely honest, the priest style is a bit... unclear. Which means that it's hard not to have it appeal in some way. The shadow part doesn't appeal at all, but I've stayed safely away from that for quite some time anyway. I'm probably among an minority of priests that have actually specced holy dps for instancing. It worked quite well, actually, except for the fact that I constantly pulled aggro and had to drink a lot.

I like the shaman style, I think. I'm not more sure than it sounds. It's enough to keep me playing my shaman when I log on. It's probably not enough to keep me away from my priest or druid. There's also one other motivation, but that's more of a defect in my brain. I like shamans because it's one of the least populated classes. As I said, a defect.

Besides, druid is the only class I have that can tank. Unless I roll a DoucheKnight.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

3. LookingForGroup: I'm a healer. Instant invite.



For those wondering why I'm not on my druid or even priest: I don't have Wrath of the Lich King installed yet. I don't even see the point of it yet. Yes, I'll get it eventually and look forward to it and stuff, but I don't see the point in annoying myself by fighting over quest mobs with everyone else when I can have fun elsewhere.

So I'm playing my shaman, now lvl 63. About 2/3 of my XP from 60-63 is from instancing. 2xRamparts, 3xBlood Furnace, 1xSlave Pens, 1xUnderbog. Finding people for an instance has never been easier. During those runs, I've grouped with a rogue, a warrior, a paladin, a warlock and mage. And 23 death knight. Go figure.

For most of those runs, I healed as Enhancement. For Underbog and the last Blood Furnace run, I healed as resto. The last Blood Furnace run was slightly interesting: Apart from myself, the highest level was a 59 death knight. We were actually inbound for Ramparts, until the message: "Instance is full." had flashed on my chat log for a few times.

Some observations as Enhancement, using the glyphs of Flametongue Weapon and Windfury Weapon:

  • As enhancement, I had almost 600 healing spell power with totems up, without Blood Fury. 600! That's insane. With the old spelldamage system, that'd be equal to about 1100 +heal. As enhancement. Wow, that's a lot at lvl 62.

  • Healing Stream Totem was ticking for 70 health as enhancement, which was about 1-1.5% of each party members total health. Nothing will ever remotely come close the the mana efficiency on this baby.

  • 2xEarthliving Weapon meant 36% chance of proccing Earthliving, which ticked for a considerable amount.

  • Feral Spirit is a decent emergency button thanks to their taunt-ability. Still, they don't build up enough threat to really keep aggro away from me, and I guess that's intended. But on the bright side, their attacks heal me, giving me a decent chance of surviving aggro... if only I remember to equip a shield when I get aggro. Caught myself forgetting that several times. Speaking of forgetting, I also forgot Shamanistic Rage.

  • Maelstrom Weapon should in theory make me capable of staying in melee and healing quite well even so (even instantly). However, staying in melee makes it easier to pull aggro and allows less time to react, many mobs have silencing AoEs which can be avoided by staying further away, and I need to heal one more character, myself. On the bright side, water shield procced slightly more often, yielding a bit more mana to work with.

  • I need an addon which lets me know when Water Shield is down.
  • The ability to drop totems while silenced actually means I can do something to prevent a wipe while silenced. Stoneskin Totem, Grounding Totem and the occasional resistance totem can prevent some damage until the resto-buttons flash up again or silence wears off.

  • Speaking of stuff I forget, my resistance totems are so far unused, which is stupid. The last boss on Blood Furnace practically screams Fire Resistance Totem. Okay, what he actually screams is "Come closer... and BURN!". Even if I warned all three of the groups I was in about it, they still get caught in it all the time. Last time, I even got caught in it myself, misjudging it's range.


Some observations as Restoration, using the glyphs of Earthliving Weapon and Healing Stream Totem:

  • When I respecced resto, I lost a ton of healing spell power. With totems up, I only had about 300 healing spell, which meant that Lesser Healing Wave and Healing Wave healed for about the same as when I was Enhancement, and then only thanks to talents such as Purification and Tidal Waves.

  • What I gained, on the other hand, was a healing toolbox of healing tools.

    • Nature's Swiftness + Tidal Force (+ Blood Fury) + Healing Wave = Big instant heal.

    • (Improved) Earth Shield + Riptide + Earthliving Weapon + Healing Stream Totem = stability healer de luxe. Stability in this sense means a constant stream of incoming health to the tank, as opposed to having to rely on direct heals all the time.

    • Survivabilty of another dimension. When I called back Earth Shield to myself, riptided myself and spammed Lesser Healing Waves on myself, I could survive practically anything. The only time I've died as resto was at the last boss at Blood Furnace, and that was because I'd forgotten to heal myself up after his initial AoE. Earlier, I survived a double pull where mostly everyone died, except me and a blood knight.. and he had 104 health left when the last mob was down.

    • Tidal Waves is a fantastic talent. Since Riptide has a six second cooldown, it's practically up all the time. 1.05 sec LHWs? Yes, please.

    • Mana Tide Totem feels like a weak version of Innervate. Then again, it might be because I was grouped with only death knights except a warlock which life tapped anyway. Go figure.

    • I regret not testing out Ancestral Awakening. I'll do so on next resto-respec, dropping Improved Chain Heal and a point from Improved Earth Shield.

    • I will test out Glyph of Lesser Healing Wave and possibly Water Mastery next time I respec resto.

  • Even with Glyph of Healing Stream Totem and Restorative Totems, Healing Stream totem ticks for less than as enhancement. 60/tick as resto, opposed to 70/tick as enhancement. Something feels slightly wrong here...

Some other random observations:

  • I'm in love. Reincarnation is the best ability for a healer to have, ever. With a bit of judgement, it can either be a superior wipe recovery, or a way to make you survive any time of aggro whatsoever. Well, survive is a relative term. You understand what I mean.

  • I used to, but I no longer like multiple tanks. With a single tank, I can precast and if nescessary abort a big heal, to make sure I always got damage under control. With multiple tanks, I often end up loosing one member here and there. I suspect most death knights have yet to learn to switch to Frost Presence when they get aggro. Okay, I don't mind having an offtank sometimes, but with 3-4 death knights, aggro was jumping around like a frigthened frog, making it hard for me to keep up with the healing all the time. I've noticed a trend: The more exercise my Chain Heal button gets, the less good the group is. Not always, but often. With all that said, it's a lot easier to keep up a group where aggro flies around as resto than enhancement. Working as intended, in other words.

  • Death Knights seem capable of getting every physical buffing ability a shaman has to offer, and they don't stack. Horn of Winter = Strength of Earth Totem. Abomination's Might = Unleashed Rage. Improved Icy Talons = (Improved) Windfury Totem. But very few if any blood knight will have both Improved Icy Talons and Abomination's Might. On the bright side, being a shaman, I've got other totems to drop instead. Stoneskin Totem if I'm grouped with a blood death knight, and Wrath of Air Totem if I'm grouped with a frost death knight, at least as soon as I hit 64.

  • Earth Shield is a fantastic ability. I can see why they won't give it to a spirit-based healer class like priests and druids. In combination with my other stability tools, I often get extended "downtime" while healing. If I'd had decent spirit, that'd allowed me to gain a lot of mana back. But being more of an mp5 class, I don't get too much benefit from that. It'd be overpowered in the hands of a priest or druid. I expect there's a similar thinking behind the new paladin ability Sacred Shield.

  • Earthliving Weapon adds a new random factor to healing. Every healer already has crit as a random factor. Druids, depending most on HoTs, have the least amount of randomness to their healing in my book. It's pretty obvious that Blizz wants to change that, though. As it is now, I'm tempted to say shamans have the most randomness in their healing, but I'm not sure if it's true.



I decided that I didn't want to solo as resto, so I went ahead and respecced Elemental and glyphed Flametongue Weapon and Lightning Bolt. Now I'm looking forward to testing out Thunderstorm... especially in PVP. Did you hear a MOHAHAHAHAHA? No, it must've been your imagination.

There's a special thing, though. I'll try healing as elemental at some point (that's mainly why I picked Unrelenting Storm over Reverbation for PVP). When I do, I have to stay faaaar back not to hit mobs with my Thunderstorm when using it for mana regen. It's a perfect tools for pissing off the tank and physical dps, pull more mobs, and ensure a hillarious (or tragical) wipe all a the same time, when applied incorrectly.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Healing self-buffs.



Shamans got Earthliving weapon, which with Elemental Weapons improves healing done by spells by 195. I'm not sure that means the equivalent of improving healing by 195 spellpower (that is, 195*1.88) or just plain 195 healing. That's not the point right now.

Priests got Inner Fire, which with Improved Inner Fire improves spellpower by 174.

Both of these abilities are core. No talents. Further, the talents are in such a place that practically every lvl 80 shaman or priest will have them. Either they're discipline/enhancement already, or they'll off-spec from restoration/holy/elemental/shadow.

Why doesn't druids or paladins receive anything? Does that mean their spells are balanced on having lower +spellpower? From looking at descriptions only, it seems Holy Light vastly outperforms Greater Heal, which in turn outperforms Healing Touch.Finally, Healing Wave is at the very bottom of the scale. Perhaps it makes sense that Shamans got the "best" spellpower buff available (given it actually improves healing spellpower by 195. I'll have to test that.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Res please... no, wait...



When it hurts because you loose someone, that means you loved them.


I haven't had much chance to write. Not only because of the funeral, but that's a major part of it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Journal of a zombie hunter.


At about the same time as I wrote /envy shamans I picked up my lvl 52 shaman again, who had been stagnant since... some time. Before they made it easier to level 1-60, at least. And certianly before Water Shield.

Because of 3.0.2, all my talent points had been refunded. I specced into Enhancement, since I was planning on soloing a fair bit. Then I headed to Western/Eastern Plagueland to make zombes regret their unlife and grind skeletons into dust. At the moment she's lvl 56, with 0/47/0 build.

Some observations:
  • The change to Windfury Totem (from a weapon buff to allies to a flat 16-20% melee speed buff, depending on talents) rocks. Earlier, it was a totem reserved for grouping with warriors and retribution pallies. Now, it's also a superior self-buff while soloing... in addition to benefitting feral druids, rogues, pets... With Improved Windfury Totem, 20% faster auto-attacks... which synergizes with Flurry and Maelstrom Weapon. I love this totem.

  • The change to Flametongue Totem (from a weapon buff that noone ever had a use for to a spell healing/damage buff) also rocks. Another superior buff incoming, especially with Enhancing Totems.

  • The folding of Grace of Air Totem into Strength of Earth Totem is great as well. I don't feel it directly as I used to have Grace of Air totem out while soloing anyway, but now I can have that an Windfury together.

  • I like the change to Flametongue Weapon as well, using it on my off-hand. I'm packing the Glyph as well. Now I get a slightly less spiky and more stable dps, compared to earlier using 2xWindfury Weapon. Besides, bursts on the off-hand is a lot less interesting than bursts on the main-hand, due to the 50% reduced damage on the off-hand. I will have to try 2xFlametongue. More damage on my shocks at the expense of bursts. I wonder if the glyph works twice then, giving total of 4% spellcrit. I could also pick up another glyph rather than the Windfury glyph

  • Lava Lash is a neat spell to have on my hotbar, but doesn't really pack a lot of punch. But it's nice to have an extra button to push. Especially when silenced. More interactivity is rarely a bad thing. With that said, Lava Lash is the last ability I'll use if several are ready. I did skip Improved Stormstrike. 2 sec less on CD is nice, but significantly worse than most other talents. And the extra charges would be wasted, I have trouble spending them already. With Maelstrom Weapon maxed and Static Shock, perhaps I'd see the point.

  • Bloodfury no longer includes a healing debuff. Sweeet! And 2 min cooldown? It's a superb ability. Better than Berserking (which I have on my priest)? The only downside with Blood Fury is that it triggers the global cooldown unless almost every other metaspell, but that's fortunately getting changed in 3.0.3.

  • The change to spell pushback is a major buff. I can now reliably heal and throw out Chain Lightnings. Of course, Maelstrom Weapon makes it even easier, but I only got the first rank at lvl 55.

  • Mana is a nonexistant problem. Water Shield provides most of my needs (especially with Improved Shields), I use Healing Stream Totem while soloing. When I occasionaly run almost dry, Shamanistic Rage, often combined with Bloodfury, fills up my mana bar pretty quickly. Well, most of the time. Often I end up killing the mob within 4-5 seconds, leaving me with 10 seconds of "wasted" rage. No, I'm not complaining! On the other hand, without Water Shield I would have run into a lot more trouble. I skipped Static Shock because I prefer having water shield while soloing.

  • Thanks to the different talents and abilities (described in an earlier post), I'm packing 500 (!) bonus damage when Strength of Earth Totem and Flametongue totem is out. And then I can hit Blood fury for additional bonus damage. That's a lot! I mean, I didn't exceed that until about lvl 67-68 on my priest.

  • The change to merge +dam and +heal into spellpower is great. Now both my healing and damage spells pack a lot of punch. My lightning bolts hit for about 700-750. Compare that to my priest's smites at about 1000-1100 at lvl 70. Granted, she's healing specced, but even so... Naturally enough, my priest beats my shammies healing by heads and toes. Healing Wave heals for about 1500-1600. Greater Heal heals almost 5000.
  • I don't really feel the change to crit and hit gear (merged spellcrit and physical crit into crit, merged spellhit and physical hit into hit), but I know shammies are really benefitting from it. Looking forward to when I actually pick up +crit and +hit gear.

  • The other change, that 1 agility gives 1 AP (as opposed to 0 earlier) and 1 strength gives 1 AP (as opposed to 2 earlier) is also something I don't feel a lot. But it makes the decision to pick up agility gear easier.



Soloing has never been easier. Yellow mobs? With totems out, Stormstrike, Earth Shock and Lava Lash, complete with a Windfury proc and the auto-attack during the same time are usually enough to kill. Orange mobs? Easily soloed, but it takes a bit longer.

I killed a lvl 60 (non-elite) mob at lvl 55. No sweat. I survived 5 equal level mobs, on three different occasions. Only one of those times did I use a healing potion. I soloed a lvl 57 elite at lvl 54. Piece of cake.

I feel a bit overpowered, but I'm having a lot of fun.

Debating what talents to pick up at 62. Until 61, I'll be more enhancement (0/52/0) then I'm a bit less certain. But heck, that's a minor problem.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Healing through walls

Tested yesterday, and it's still possible to heal through the walls using Prayer of Healing. That is, it doesn't check for line of effect, only range.

That's rather interesting. With Holy Reach, PoH attains a reach of 36 yards, almost the same as the standard 40 yards healing range. While there are other spells that have similar effects (Holy Nova and Circle of Healing being the most obvious candidates), none other have such a massive range.

Since you have a wall between you and your healing target, it's almost always safe to blow a full cast-time spell. There's two questions still waiting, though. Does it have enough healing throughput (hps)? How's the mana efficiency?

Let's look at the last question first. Warning, theorycrafting incoming.

PoH efficiency and throughput


Let's look at the best case. The priest in question is specced Holy (which isn't such a bad idea, now that damage is through the roof in PVP. Blessed Resilience is more useful than ever). I include the following talents:


Test of Faith is also a nice talent for this purpose, but doesn't always apply.

I have no idea how much spellpower a lvl 80 healing PVP priest packs, but I assume it's somewhere near 2500, including talents and abilities such as Spiritual Guidance and (Improved) Inner Fire. That is a pure guess, but please entertain me with the thought. That will increase all healing spells by up to 1.88*2500 = 4700. Pretty hefty number.

Now, Prayer of Healing's base healing is (2091+2209)/2 = 2150. A 3-second cast-time spell receives 3/3.5 of +heal, unless the rules have changed. It gets penalized for being an AoE healing spell, divided by 3. Thus, it gets a bonus of 4700 * 3 / (3.5 * 3) = ~1343, for a total of 2150 + 1343 = 3493 before talents. Talents modify this, 3493*1.1*1.1 = 4227 average healing per target.

Base cost is 48%. With Healing Prayers, that's reduced to 38.4% base mana. Healing Per Percentage of Base Mana (hppbm) = 4227 health per target / 38.4 % base mana = 110 health per target per base mana. Healing throughput = 4227 health per target / 3 sec = 1409 health per target per second. The "per target" part is interesting.

Comparing


I choose to compare it to Flash Heal. Part of the reason is that I know of course that nothing will ever come close to Greater Heals mana efficiency given you've picked up all the talents boosting it. The other part of the reason is that Flash Heal is the most likely spell you'd pick for that purpose, apart from ducking around the corner to tossing some instants.

I'll evaluate it to the best and worst case of Flash Heal.

Flash Heal best case



Best case: Maxed out Empowered Healing and using the Glyph of Flash Heal.

Flash Heal, average (1887 + 2193) / 2 = 2040. Incrased by 4700 * 1.5 * 1.2 (Empowered Healing) / 3.5 = 2417. Total of 4457. Further incrased by Spiritual Healing to 4457 * 1.1 = 4903.

Mana efficiency: 4903 / (18 * 0.9 (the glyph)) = 303 hppbm. Compare that to PoH's 110 per target per percentage base mana, and it's almost three times higher on a single target. On two targets, it's 303 vs 220. On three targets, 303 vs 330.

Healing throughput: 4903 / 1.5 = 3269 per sec. Well over twice PoH's 1409 per target per sec on a single target. Getting close at two targets, 2818 per sec, and miles behind on three targets, 4227 per sec.

Flash Heal worst case


No Empowered Healing, no Glyph of Flash Heal.

Flash Heal, average (1887 + 2193) / 2 = 2040. Incrased by 4700 * 1.5 / 3.5 = 2014. Total of 4054. Further incrased by Spiritual Healing to 4459.

Mana efficiency: 4459 / 18 = 248 hppbm. Significantly worse than best case. Compare that to PoH's 110 per target per percentage base mana, and it's still a lot better to use Flash Heal on a single target. On two targets, it's 248 vs 220, pretty close. On three targets, 248 vs 330.

Healing throughput: 4459 / 1.5 = 2973 per sec. Still twice PoH's 1409 per target per sec on a single target. Very close at two targets, 2818 per sec, and again miles behind on three targets, 4227 per sec.


There's one other obvious comparison we ought to include. If you're already planning to heal yourself and one other target, we have a spell for that purpose...

Binding Heal


There's one problem here. I have no clue how well Binding Heal scales. Identical to Flash Heal? Half as good? I'll just have to assume it scales identical to flash heal.

Quickly, best case: (2230 base avg healed + 4700*1.5*1.2 (Empowered Healing)/3.5)*1.1(Spiritual Healing)*1.1(Divine Providence) = 5623 per target. Since it heals exactly two targets, 11246 healing done.

Mana efficiency: 11246 / 27 = 417 hppbm. Healing throughput: 11246 / 1.5 = 7497 (!) hps.

Worst case (still with Divine Providence, since I'm comparing to PoH): (2230 base avg healed + 4700*1.5/3.5)*1.1(Spiritual Healing)*1.1(Divine Providence) = 5136 per target. Two targets = 10271.

Mana efficiency: 10271 / 27 = 380 hppbm. Healing throughput: 10271 / 1.5 = 6847 hps.

Conclusion


Working as intended



Flash Heal is much better on a single target. Binding Heal is a heck of a lot better on two targets if you're one of them. Then there's also the risk of "missing" because unlike targeted heals, you don't get any error message if the intended target is out of range.

That doesn't change the fact that you can surprise someone with this trick, but it remains very circuimstancal.