Monday, December 28, 2009

The end of the line of casual upgrades

Enter 3.3. Emblems of Triumphs available for farming.

Fast forward a few weeks to today.

I've got no further upgrades to look forward to as a tank.

Not true. I do have a few left, but the list is incredibly short.

1. Farm the new heroics, hoping to get a Battered Hilt and then win the following need roll by everyone. I mean, it's worth so much that anyone will roll need even if they already have it to sell it to someone else, just like any BoE epic. In effect, I can do it as long as it is fun, but I don't have any desire to farm every mob in there just to increase my chance of it dropping by 0.01% per run.

2. Fly around and get Titanium, smelt Titansteel, and get crafted BoE gear that requires Crusader Orbs, purchasable with Emblembs of Triumph. However... titanium is a rare spawn node... Bah. Boring. I do grind sometimes on off-hours, though.

3. Buy stuff. Always an option. But then I'd have to grind gold. Bah. Boring. Can quest, though, there are some storylines it would be neat to finish before WotLK ends.

4. Join pug raids, particularly Onyxia 25-man, Icecrown Citadel, TotC 25-man, TotGC or VoA. Hope for some drops. I'm actually geared enough to tank ICC 25 now.

5. Get 2 frost Emblems of Frost every day from the random heroic, and 5 from the weekly raid. Slowly upgrade stuff. Next will probably be the +226 stamina trinket. 2.5k extra health? Now we're talking.

Meanwhile, I'm spending my Emblems of Triumph on ilvl 232 PVP gear. Joining an arena team now ... about time. I've got the solution to my schedule problem: I'll join a 2vs2 and 3vs3 with the same two guys. When I'm not available, they'll go with their 2vs2. When all are available, 3vs3. Then I don't need to drag down any arenamate relying only on me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

When the blame hits the fan...

Imagine the following situation. You've just wiped. The tank died first, and held all threat until he started hugging the ground. He did no obvious mistakes like standing in the fire.

In almost any pug, 5-man or raid, the first question that will pop up is: Whose fault was it? The healer(s) or the tank?

I've encountered the situation several times. It's just as embarrassing and annoying every time.

The blame game

The main problem is the focus of the group: The focus should not be "whom to blame?", but "what can we do next time to prevent it from happening again?". It's freakin' hard to admit you did any mistakes when you need to eat through a heck of a lot of mean words in addition to the weight your conscience is already putting on your mind. Most people prefer to remain silent in such a situation, and that's a very bad starting point for finding out what could be done differently.

There are times when you just need to replace someone in your pug. However, that ought to be plan B or C, not plan A. Plan A should always be to try again, improving from last time.

The people that like to blame are also prone to leaving whenever something goes wrong. Just yesterday, we did the weekly raid quest to kill Razorscale in Ulduar 25. We waded in with no plan whatsoever and wiped at 2%. People started leaving. What the heck? 2%? It's nothing left. We were practically guaranteed to get him down on next attempt, and we did. Similarly, when the new 5-man instances just were released, I wiped with my group 5 times on Garfrost because people insisted on doing it as a dps race. While that is possible, it requires Frost Resistance Aura, Frost Resistance Totem, a very special setup consisting of only classes capable of removing debuffs including a paladin healer, or lots of lucky resists. Several people came and left. Only me and one other persisted. And we learned the encounter the hard way, how we were supposed to hide behind the boulders to clear the debuff stack. We got him down. It felt just as good as downing any raid boss the first time.

Some people cannot be unbroken

There might be some reasons for replacing people, however. Unwillingness to learn is the primary reason I want to kick people. People insisting on repeating the same mistakes despite a different strategy being agreed on in the chat. I'll give another example.

We wiped times and times on the 9th wave in Halls of Reflection. The healer complained that I was taking too much damage, he couldn't possibly keep up. He wasn't superiorly geared, but neither was he particularly undergeared for the instance. He said I wasn't usually taking too much damage, except when I got stunned. Not strange. I got almost 60% avoidance normally, but when I get stunned I avoid 0% damage. That means I take more than twice the normal damage. We discussed in party chat, and decided on killing the mercenaries first. It worked like a charm. Except for one rogue, who insisted on killing the priests first, because "that's what had worked for him earlier". That meant I had to maintain lots of threat on two targets rather than one, and it took longer to burn down the primary target. Annoying. We were, however, successful. However, I dislike people doing it like that. At the very least, he could've protested on party chat, letting us know he disagreed before we actually got into the fray.

Call me undergeared, huh?

Another thing that annoys me is people entering the group, taking a look at my unbuffed health (about 32k now, was around 30k earlier) and leaving. They consider me undergeared because I don't have 40k health. That buggers me seriously off.

Before my current career as a DK tank, I was a druid tank and healer. Once I was pulled into a group in Trial of the Champion heroic, as healer. The tank was a druid with 45k health self-buffed. Great, I thought, the tank is well equipped, this ought to be easy to heal.

It wasn't. It was actually harder to heal than most other tanks I had healed. Why? It turned out he had skipped on all kinds of avoidance to buff his health sky-high. That meant he took much more damage over the instance than one who had had more balanced stats.

Consider it this way: Let's say the tank is going to take 1 million damage before avoidance but including mitigation (armor). If he avoids 30% of the damage, he will take a total of 700.000 damage. If he avoids 50% of the damage, he will take a total of 500.000 damage. That's 28.5% (the difference, 200.000, divided by the total, 700.000) less damage taken, a huge difference. Note that the difference is more than 20%, the actual difference in avoidance.

I go with balanced stats. That yields me less health than tanks going all-out stamina, but allows me to take less damage over the instance. While it is less effective against magic damage, there are almost no encounter that does not combine magical damage with physical (avoidable) damage. take Koralon in VoA 25. He hits for a lot of unavoidable magical damage with his meteor fist. At the same time, he auto-attacks. If I can parry or dodge on of those, I'll have better chances on getting healed in time compared to a tank who avoids nothing but has more health to soak the damage.

No, you can't depend on avoidance. At the same time, you can. The waves in Halls of Reflection heroic hits for a lot together. Since they hit separately, you get a lot more attacks incoming per second than a single boss with the same total damage would've given you. That's where you can depend on avoidance: As you take more hits, the number of actually avoided attacks get closer and closer to the number on your character sheet. See the difference between how much damage the tank normally and when he's stunned on those encounters, and you'll see.

I do have the Black Heart myself, but I've skipped it in favor of an avoidance and a mitigation trinket of higher item level.

When healing fails

Sometimes, though, it's just not enough. You've got a properly equipped tank, he's not taking unnecessary damage, and he's holding threat on all mobs. Blizz has in the latest 5-mans added a lot of abilities which hits a random target member. You need to keep everyone alive while not losing the tank.

There are a few things that can be done differently. Talents might matter. Sometimes they make a major difference. Once we had trouble with an encounter, I (tank) died first every time. The healer was a bit underequipped, but not horribly much so. He shared his frustration with us. I inspected the druid healer to see that he had skipped Nature's Grace, one of the most hardcore tank-healing talents. However, in most cases, talents are not the problem.

However, priority often seem to be a problem. Many healers overreach themselves. Some need to be told that while healing, the tank and the healer is priority. If they have trouble keeping up, let dps die first, not the tank. In particular, this holds true when dps takes excessive damage. Not moving out of the AoE on the ground? Dpsing while everyone else hides? Let them die. Sometimes the healer can carry them through their mistakes, but that's not how it is supposed to be done. If the healer has trouble keeping everyone up, they should die and usually will die first.

There might be some parts of the encounter that someone in the group is not familiar with. I've beat encounters with seriously underequipped people as long as they know exactly what to do.

Often a dps can do something different that can change the outcome of the fight. CC a mob? Use a different totem (like Grounding Totem or Cleansing Totem)? Change Aura? Stun more, even at the expense of dps? Put a pet on a mob, letting it "tank" it and die rather than letting the tank take more damage?

Finally, most encounters are impossible to do without enough dps. If dps is lacking, it's neither the healer nor the tank's fault.

How to spot "problems" and solve them

I have three primary tools.

First, inspect. It will give you an idea of what gear level the tank or healer is decked in, and what talents he is using. A Blood tank is going to bring a lot more self-healing, but less AoE-threat. A paladin tank will usually take less damage from most hits because they block so much, but have no particularly defense against magic.

Second, recount. It will tell me what kind of spells the healer is using. Is the healer having trouble keeping you up? Perhaps he's not using Nourish at all (many druids seem to rely only on hots and Swiftmend, scarily enough).

Third, chat. Communication. This is and will always be the primary way of solving any kinds of problems. Talk with the group, acknowledge their frustrations and problems, and work with them to solve the problem you're facing.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The other side of the fence is hereby desecrated

I have now tested out a lot of specs, in the following order: Unholy, Frost 2h, Blood, Unholy and Frost DW.

First and foremost, I found that I love the Glyph of Anti-magic shell. If I got it on before I get hit by a CC, I can ignore any attempts to CC me using magic for 7 seconds, often enough to drain half my opponents' health. Interestingly enough: It also allows me to run away from non-combat rogues. Combine Toughness, Da Voodoo Shuffle and Enigmatic Skyflare Diamond, and all movement-impairing effects last only half the original duration (actually: 53.55% of the original duration). Crippling Poison actually fades from me during the AMS duration, allowing me to safely run away, leaving a chained rogue behind.

Frost PVP

Supposedly, frost offers superior control compared to Unholy and Blood. I found the main controlling ability, Hungering Cold, to be a one-shot pony. Of course many would trinket it, but that's to be expected. However, since I'm mainly in BGs, and BGs usually are less than perfectly well coordinated, Hungering often broke almost immediately. Not only because of others attacking the targets directly, but because the targets were dotted and cleave damage.

I could put out a decent amount of burst damage if I could stay in melee, but PVP means you run in and out of melee range all the time. I have mixed feelings about the proc system; It's handy when you get a Killing Machine proc to know that you're going to deal a hefty crit with your next Frost Strike or Howling Blast, but unless I also waited for a Rime proc I would waste some of my dps. Technically. So I spent Killing Machine procs as they popped up. The problem is that killing machine seems to proc only on auto-attacks, and PVP has way less auto-attacks than PVE.

I missed a burst ability. A garantueed crit every 2 min is not much burst compared to Dancing Rune Weapon and Summon Gargoyle. Naturally, I also missed a pet, but that was not unexpected.

The worst part is that I felt very squishy. More so than Unholy. Unbreakable Armor looks like a nice cooldown for both dps and damage reduction, but requires a Frost Rune. Frost Runes are what is often lacking in PVP because I need to use Chains of Ice to stop my target from getting away after a Frost Nova or the like. Death Strike has no synergy with the rest of the tree, and heals for only 10% my total health. In addition, Unholy has three diseases that needs to be cleaned instead of just two, a clear advantage when facing dispelling classes.

I liked the fact that Iceblood Fortitude lasted so long. Owned several rogues with it. I also liked the snare, very handy. Howling Blast is also a good ability in itself, especially with the glyph, but it's not able to carry Frost alone unless you like the rest of the tree.

I never tried it as PVE dps. Proc watching like that is not my cup of poison.

Blood PVP

On paper, Blood offers increased survivability compared to the other two. 15% health back regularly, Rune Tap for 20% at a mere 30 sec CD, Mark of Blood, Vampiric Blood... I didn't test Improved Blood Presence and Bloodworms.

Blood was not too bad, but it had a few serious disadvantages. I liked the fact that Death Strike crit like a truck as long as you've got 25 runic power, regardless of any diseases. Having diseases up merely increases the healing it does to you. I also liked the fact that most abilities require a blood rune, which does not mess up your Frost-Unholy rune moves. In addition, with Death Rune Mastery you've got plenty of Blood Runes and Death Runes available. Vampiric Blood -> Rune Tap -> Mark of Blood anyone? For BGs, one of the best features is that Blood has almost no downtime at all. The snare from Glyph of Heart Strike works for its purpose well, but does require that you start any attack with Heart Strike despite having no diseases up, just to apply the snare. Dancing Rune Weapon was awesome for burst damage, especially since it has only 1.5 min CD. The problem, though, is that if you're CCed, the blade does not deal any damage either, so you need to time it well. Compare that to Unholy: The Gargoyle's damage is fire-and-forget.

The disadvantages... Blood is very dependant on staying in melee range. Frost also requires melee to do much, but you can deal ranged damage with Howling Blast (and Death Coil, if you're desperate) and diseases tick for a decent amount. Unholy's diseases hit hard, the pet will often be in melee range even if you're not, and Death Coil can deal good damage from a range. Blood, however... it's diseases ticks as hard as rain and have short duration (you don't have talent points for both Epidemic and Endless Winter). Death Coil hits for way less than Unholy.

I also found the sustained dps a bit lacking. I've read that Blood is very dependant on Armor Penetration. I've got a decent amount of it on my PVE set (around 30-40%) but in my PVP gear I only have 10%.

In addition, any healing reduction like Mortal Strike and Wound Poison hurt like heck. They destroy the advantage Blood has in survivability. Truth to be told, outside of lower downtime, I never really felt the advantage Blood has in survivability over Unholy. In fact, I felt tougher as Unholy.

Unholy PVP

Now I'm back to my roots again. Unholy works best for me. I feel tougher than any of the other two specs. Why? I've tried to think of a few reasons.

Against magic damage, 6% less damage taken all the time and 100% of spell damage absorbed by Anti-Magic Shell actually makes a difference. Anti-Magic Zone is good, but I often use it as a desperation move on my part, as it requires me to stand completely still. Need to find out how I can use it better. One of the cases I know of is when I get frozen by a mage, entangled by a boomkin or rooted by an elemental shammy; Then I'm not going anywhere anyway.

Each of the three trees have their own 1 min tanking cooldown. However, Vampiric Blood and Unbreakable Armor need to be used when you're under attack. Vampiric Blood is effective even on low health, Unbreakable Armor is not. It's also useless against magic damage. Bone Shield, however, can and should be buffed up in advance. It even lasts 5 min. Since there's a CD on 2 sec for each bone, it lasts a minimum of 4 seconds after the first attack. That means that for any surprise attack by a stealth class, I'm taking 20% less damage the first 4 seconds. That's actually a fair amount of damage avoided, especially since you can't trinket the Cheap Shot, you need to save it for Kidney Shot and sometimes for the following Blind.

When we're on the topic of rogue stuns, On a Pale Horse is a good PVP talent. 20% less duration on the stuns, combined with the above, translates to me actually having a fair amount of health left after a rogue or feral druid opener. It's also good against warriors (especially protection, bloody annoying bastards).

The permanent ghoul is also helpful. In particular the stun. I actually put it on auto when defending a node. Hello, rogue, want to stun me? Have a taste of your own medicine. In addition, Death Pact is easily available.

Improved Unholy Presence offers a solid 15% movement increase. That's actually a pretty serious upgrade, and does make a difference. Among other, I can outrun a warrior who is bladestorming me, given that he does not start on top of me. I didn't have any speed enchant on boots when tseting the there specs, which makes the comparison a bit unfair. When I don't have a healer, I'm usually PVPing in Frost Presence. I did try the other two in Unholy Presence, but felt it compromised my survivability too much. Frost Presence offers much longer time to live, and longer time to live means longer time to deal damage to my opponent. In the end, I deal more damage over my total lifespan. Against healers I switch to either of the other two, though.

And then there's Army of the Dead. With the other two specs, that's once in a while. As Unholy, I can use it more often, every 6 min. Nothing rocks calling those up when defending an Arathi Basin flag. I've even seen enemies turn away and head for somewhere else when I start bringing up my army.

A minor difference might also be the combination of stronger Death Coils and Lichborne for self-healing. However, it does not really compare to Blood's Rune Tap.

Finally, Desecration is a much better snare than I first gave it credit for. After all, it's automatically applied to everyone in the area. It allows better kiting of multiple enemies. While it is bad at stopping a single enemy from running away from me, it is probably better for allowing me to run away from an enemy. Besides, I've got Chains of Ice to stop someone anyway.

Aside from the survivability, there are also two other properties of unholy I love. First, the passive damage, namely the dots and pet. I can actually kite and bring a single enemy fairly low using dots alone. Kited a rogue all the way through the Warsong Gulch tunnel, only getting into melee with him for about 4 sec total to hit him with my Plague Strike and refresh Blood Plague on him, using Anti-magic shell to avoid getting snared myself. He did slow me with Deadly Throw, but couldn't catch up because I retaliated with chains myself.

Second, the burst capability. I've macroed Berserking and a trinket to Summon Gargoyle. As long as I can prevent the enemy from running away, the gargoyle deals really serious damage. Even better, it keeps firing even when I get chain-CCed. Has allowed me to win battles despite running around like a feared chicken because it kept firing.

On an unrelated note...

Disarming. It sucks. Royally. Death Knights have one semi-defense against it, though: Rune of Swordshattering. But that would mean sacrificing Rune of the Fallen Crusader, which is a serious dps upgrade. However, without it, rogues eat me for breakfast. Shadow priests and smart warriors too. If I get another identical weapon drop, I can have two different runes depending on the type of enemies I meet.


It's fun playing around, but Unholy really is my game. Not only mine, but 90% of the arena DK population, from what I can gather from reading various forums. With that said, many seem to play it as a support-spec, just applying pressure and allowing their team to set up the kill, often harassing a healer. Mind Freeze + Strangulate + Gnaw + Death Grip to keep healers busy for a long time.

Death Grip, you ask? Yes, it's a trick I learned from watching a PVP movie. You know paladins using Aura Mastery? Immune to silence and interrupts suck, huh? You can still stun them (though DKs are not the master thereof), but more importantly for us you can still Death Grip them. So when they use the mastery, move a bit away, and death grip right before the cast is finished. With good positioning, you can also pull them out of line of sight or range of their healing target. Fun, fun.

Posts I want to write:

  • Tanking specs testing results

  • When is it the healer, when is it the tank whose at fault?

  • When you no longer have access to any gear upgrades

Saturday, December 5, 2009

More DK talents, oh joy!

I apologize to those of you with no interest in this. It's just stuff I sort of think about anyway, and writing them down helps the though process, thus I might just as well make it public. Perhaps some other guy somewhere in the future has the same problem.

First, in my previous post I said that Endless Winter was the PVP talent. While this still holds true, I forgot that in taking it, you usually also take Toughness, Icy Reach and Lichborne, all great PVP talents. Losing out Endless Winter hurts. Losing all of them hurts practically too much.

I've boiled down my options a bit. Focusing on which specs can double for two purposes, I've gotten six possibilities.

Just a word of warning: I've had the 3.3 changes in mind while writing this. The Glyph of Icy Touch will in 3.3 buff Frost Fever by 20%. Scourge Strike will hit harder, meaning Reaping and Epidemic will provide more dps increase.

Option 1: Blood tank/PVP

Combining the PVP and tanking talents for blood, I get something like 51/17/3. Compared to a true tank, I lose Will of the Necropolis and only get three points in Anticipation. Further, I have only 3 points to put in Subversion, Death Rune Mastery and Sudden Doom combined. Both Sudden Doom and Subversion get better with Death Rune Mastery, as it provides two extra Heart Strikes during a 20 sec rotation at the expense of a Death Strike. However, since you both in PVP and tanking regulary take damage, perhaps the loss of a bit dps is offset by the gain of a bit more healing?

Generally, I think this build loses out too much mitigation for tanking and too much dps for PVP.

The other spec would 0/51/20 Frost DW or 17/5/54 Unholy dps.

Option 2: Blood PVP/dps

51/17/3 provides the essential Blood dps talents, and adds 17 in Frost for Endless Winter and 3 in Unholy for Virulence. Actually a fairly balanced build. The two points in Improved Blood Presence could be put anywhere else as well, for example Rune Tap and Scent of Blood (for PVP, mind you).

The loss of Epidemic hurts, though. I've played with the thought of only putting 11 points in Frost and the rest in Unholy, losing Endless Winter. However, that's going to hurt in PVP.

The other spec would be Frost or Unholy tank. Linking to the awesome site Gravity has a much better grip on pure tanking specs than me.

Option 3: Frost tank/PVP

9/55/7 succeeds in getting all essential tanking and PVP talents for frost, as far as I can see. Looks like an interesting option. Alternatively, 9/57/5 switches out the Glyph of Frost Strike with Glyph of Howling Blast, for a single-disease rotation. It drops Epidemic. I put the two spare points in Chill of the Grave, but an interesting option is to put those two points and a single point from Scent of Blood into Acclimation, but then you risk getting seriously Runic Power starved regulary.

The other spec would be 51/0/20 Blood or 17/5/54 Unholy dps.

Option 4: Frost PVP/dps

A suggestion here is 0/51/20 Frost PVP/dps, which includes On a Pale Horse. I don't have the weapons nor the talents points to spare to get DW dps.

The secondary spec would be Blood or Unholy tank.

Option 5: Unholy tank/PVP

It might work with an Unholy tank/PVP build. However, the main problem is that you lose Wandering Plague, only get three points in Blade Barrier, and lack Ravenous Dead, meaning your pet is a heck of a lot easier to kill, and only usable for keeping other players in combat. It's not a combination I would recommend.

The secondary spec would be 51/0/20 Blood or 0/51/20 Frost DW dps.

Option 6: Unholy PVP/dps

I like Unholy for PVP. I'd say something like 0/17/54 is the way to go. It'll serve moderately well as a dps spec as well. Includes On a Pale Horse.

The secondary spec would be Blood or Frost tank.

Playing what I like

All of the above are options that might to a lesser or greater extent work. However, that's only one part of the question what to do. The second is what I like to play.

Listing what I like about the various specs in various roles.

Blood is awesome for the self-healing, particularily in PVP. I'm not sure I like it as a dps spec all that much. For tanking, I like the skill cap resulting in being able to use Death Strike at the correct time. For max threat you will need to spam it. However, for survival, it can be handy to wait some seconds with Death Strike until you take damage. I've had success doing this with boss abilities that are announced in advance, such as Meteor Fist on Koralon and the big AoE on Emalon.

What I don't like with Blood is that it isn't so good for AoE, but then again I'm comparing to Unholy which rocks the AoE hard. In PVP it's also much more physical damage compared to the other two, meaning I don't tear through pallies and warriors as easily.

Frost is great for tanking because of the extra mitigation. It's also great to have Icebound Fortitude lasting 16 seconds, particulary in PVP where it means 16 sec of stun immunity. I like Howling Blast because of it's snappy aggro. What I don't like about Frost is that I need to watch for procs all the time and align them correctly for max dps. Fortunately this is less of an issue for a tank, and for PVP you can't afford to wait with procs, you blow when you get the chance. However, I'd like to try DW tanking in 3.3, and only Forst can offer that without a serious threat loss. I don't think Unholy can put out enough threat while dual-wield tanking. If I do that, I need to go with option 2 or option 6, combining PVP and dps with my other spec.

Unholy is great for having a permanent pet, great AoE, powerful dots and great debuff. In addition, I find the rotation fits me fine, much more than Blood and Frost. It feels like they're slightly less tough as tanks against physical damage, but way better against magical damage. I think Desecration is a kind of bad snare. It takes so long to kick in that the target has time to get out of the area, provided they're moving in a straight line. Without Chains of Ice to fall back on, I'd have given up Unholy for PVP a long time ago. For PVP it's also great that Ebon Plague counts as an extra disease for removing diseases.

Conclusions... sort of

Of the six main options below, I find option 5 to be the worst. Option 1 and 3 combines tanking and PVP, but at the expense of dps. I might end up sacrificing so much dps that I have trouble bringing my enemies down, and that's going to hurt.

I want to test out what I like about a single-disease Howling Blast glyph Frost build somtime, option 3. Perhaps I like it, perhaps I don't.

For the moment, I'm using Option 6, Unholy PVP/dps and Blood tank. It works out well, but I'd like to try the other options as well. If I don't find any I like, I'll return to Unholy PVP/dps. It rocks.

I also think that tanking and PVP are the two most important aspects of the game for me. If I deal 500 or even 1000 dps less (as long as I'm above 3k) it does suck a bit. Howevever, if I take 10% more damage as a tank, it's downright devestating. Similarily, if I can't stick to the enemy (in effect, get snared all the time), I'm going to end up so annoyed I might just skip out of PVP alltogether. That means I'm much more inclined to go with option 2 or 4, since they don't sacrifice anything from the tanking spec, and effectively go dps with a pure PVP spec.

I'm going to pay a lot in respeccing and reglyphing in the following weeks.

Friday, December 4, 2009

WTB Triple-spec

Blizzard has stated that they don't intend to implement anything beyond dual-spec anytime soon. I can see some logic behind their reasonings; If you implement 3 different specs, why stop there? Why not 4? And then some would cry for 5... Better to leave the beast alone by only giving two specs.

What bothers me about the dual spec system is that I enjoy three aspects of the game. PVE dps, PVE tanking and PVP. With only two specs, I will have to choose either to optimized for two purposes and lacking for the last, or optimized for one and compromised for the two others.

With my druid, it was even worse. Ideally, I wanted five specs with my druid. Tanking, PVE dps, PVE healing, PVP dps, PVP healing.

For the moment I'm running a
Blood tanking spec and a Unholy PVP spec. It works out fairly well. I use the PVP spec when going dps, and still manage to put out above 3k thanks to my gear. I'm wondering if I can reach 4k with the last gear upgrades and a hardcore dps spec.

However, I'd like to experiment with other specs as well. If they don't work out too well, I can always return to status quo.

For tanking, I need mitigation and avoidance talents. No matter what tree I spec into, I'll need Toughness, Improved Icy Touch, Anticipation and Blade Barrier. I don't need all of them to tank 5-man, but for any pug raid I join they're essential. In addition, there's the tree-spesific tanking talents.

For dps, I need the dps-talents of the tree, which various greatly depending on what tree it is.

For PVP, I need a mix. Survival is important, so is utility, but you need dps as well. However, no matter what tree I spec into, Endless Winter is almost a nescessity, along with a more permanent snare. Blood has Glyph of Heart Strike, Frost has Chilblains and Unholy has Desecration. In addition, Virulence can make all the difference in the world against some classes.

For all three aspects of the game, Epidemic is a talent I love. Cleans up rotations, makes losing the enemy in PVP for a few seconds less painful, helps keep up AoE threat... I love it.

Finally, I'd love to have One a Pale Horse in one of my two specs. It's so handy to have an on-demand 20% extra riding speed, both in BGs and when travelling generally. However, only Unholy specs get it easily. Blood or Frost tank specs can't get it at all. Blood and Frost dps specs can get it without sacrificing too much, by sticking at least 17 points in Unholy.

Note that my PVP is limited to BGs and WG for the moment. Might go arena sometime, have a friend I can go with, but we haven't worked out a good schedule for it yet.

I've thought of a few combinations that might work.

A Blood tanking/PVP spec might work, if I sacrifice Endless Winter, but take the Glyph of Heart Strike. Even a tanking spec can attain almost all dps talents in Blood. Tons of survival.

A Blood dps/PVP spec might also work. Less survival, but more dps thanks to the talent points freed up to go into Unholy. Still need Glyph of Heart Strike.

The problem for me with Blood PVP is that with 51 points spent in blood, I don't have points enough for both Epidemic and Endless Winter. Endless Winter is generally more important for PVP, making 51/17/3 the spec of choice for a pure PVP spec. However, that spec lacks the mitigation talents for tanking, and has to chew to a lot of suboptimal dps frost talents to get Endless Winter. However, it is a possibility in the same way as my current Unholy PVP spec. Unholy does, however, benefit more from +10% shadow and frost damage than Blood does.

Frost have a ton of choices connected to it. Unlike Blood, you can successfully go DW or 2h, either might work. I'd love to try DW tanking sometime. However, that sometime will have to wait 'till 3.3. I don't have the gear to attain 540 defense without the Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle. 3.3 will add a similar Rune for one-handers, called Rune of the Nerubian Carapace.

Further, since I lack two slow and solid one-handers (above ilvl 200), I'll have to go for 2h until I can get some solid 1h upgrades somewhere.

The next choice for Frost is the Glyph of Howling Blast or not. It allows a single-disease rotation, ignoring Plague Strike and Blood Plague completely. It allows 5 obliterates during a 20 sec rotation rather than the normal 4, but each hit for less. However, that's another 15% chance to proc Rime. It is not a valid choice for a hardcore dps specs. The loss of the damage from Blood Plague hurts, and throwing a Howling Blast from the very start in AoE might steal aggro from tanks that need a bit time to get proper threat on all enemies, particulary other Death Knights.

However, for PVP, for the price of a some dps, you gain a ranged AoE snare with Chilblains. For tanking, you gain even more and snappier AoE threat; Howling Blast -> Blood Boil -> Death and Decay. For either, you can completely avoid casting Icy Touch at all provided Rime procs on one of those Obliterates. No need for Epidemic at all.

So... Frost can offer a HB glyph tank/PVP spec, or a non-HB glyph tank/PVP spec, or a non-HB glyph PVP/dps spec.

Unholy... well, to be honest, Unholy PVP completely sucks without Endless Winter. The snare from Desecration takes a few moments to kick in, and on a moving target often doesn't kick in at all until they're out of the desecrated area. The snare does have it's uses, but it's not completely reliable. That means I don't want to attempt to make a PVP/tank spec. The spec I have now, PVP/dps, works fairly well, but not exactly superb for dps.

So... I'll try to boil down the options I have. It's a safe assumption that if possible, I'd like to delve into two different trees. Before I had tanking gear enough to tank seriously, I ran Unholy dps/Unholy PVP, but it's kinda fun to have different options to fall back on.

  • Blood tank/PVP, Frost dps

  • Blood tank/PVP, Unholy dps

  • Blood tank, Frost PVP/dps

  • Blood tank, Unholy PVP/dps. My current setup.

  • Frost tank/PVP, Blood dps

  • Frost tank/PVP, Unholy dps

  • Frost tank, Blood PVP/dps

  • Frost tank, Unholy PVP/dps

  • Unholy tank, Blood PVP/dps

  • Unholy tank, Frost PVP/dps

Choices, choices...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bad dps

As noted, I've dinged 80 with my third character. I noted something very interesting this time, which I hadn't before.

My first two characters were both geared up as healers. I ran instances as healer, rolling greed on dps gear I needed. As a healer, I could solo stuff, but didn't do much dps. I considered 1.5k dps "good", 2.0k dps "great", and anything above that superb. Why? Most dps I ran heroics with was around 1.5k, some of them lower. When I got a dps that could pull out somewhere above 2.5k, I was amazed.

At some point I got dual spec on my shaman, and could suddenly pull out quite decent dps as elemental. I joined a Naxx25-man, doing somewhere around 2.5-3.0k dps. I was very satisfied. Not that I topped the charts, but I was definitely far from the bottom. I assumed it was because I'd gained so good gear while healing... many ilvl 213-pieces, even.

When I levelled up as bear, I had tanking spec- and glyphs. I could go cat, but I had trouble breaking 3k, even mostly clad in ilvl 219-gear with several pieces higher. I was happy breaking 2k while tanking in bear form.

Now, when I levelled my DK, I did so with a heirloom axe, chest and shoulders, and with a Unholy PVP spec. The most important dps talents, but also stuff like On a Pale Horse, Improved Unholy Presence, and 17 points in Frost to get Endless Winter. 17 points in Blood would've been much better for dps.

At lvl 78, in Culling of Stratholme, I broke 1.5k dps. I'd like to repeat that. Two levels before 80 I did more dps than most dps I had ran with when I was healing at lvl 80. Apart from the heirloom stuff, I had quest blues and greens.

At lvl 80, I quickly broke 2k dps, after respeccing to a pure dps spec. I did 3.5k dps on Onyxia 10-man, but that fight hugely favors Unholy DKs due to the AoE damage on the whelps. Fast forward a few upgrades. Interestingly enough, upgrading from the heirloom axe with Crusader (which hardly does anything at lvl 80) to the ilvl 219 axe from TotC heroic with Rune of the Fallen Crusader was less of an increase on my dps than I'd expected it to be. Unholy is much less dependant on weapon damage than Blood and Frost, I believe.

At the moment, I've got a gear score of around 2000 in That translates to mostly ilvl 200 gear plus 4 ilvl 219 items and three items below ilvl 200. I pull 3-3.5k dps on single target fights in 5-man. Above 4k raid-buffed. Much more on fights featuring adds and cleaving. I pulled well above 7k dps on Onyxia 25-man, but that fight isn't the best to check that kind of stuff.

I've got a fairly good knowledge about death knights, but I'm far from mastering it. I still make noob mistakes like forgetting to save a blood rune for Death and Decay when it's coming off cooldown on AoE fights.

The conclusion I pull from this is that many of the dps I've met lack knowledge of their class. They lack knowledge about what makes the better upgrades, priorities on their attacks, they forget to use cooldowns, and so on. Or to say it with a word: They suck.

Dps is a way more forgiving job than tanking and healing. You can get away with much less knowledge about your class and gear than you can as a healer or tank.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On nice people

Disclaimer: When you read "nice guy" in this post, substitute "nice guy/girl".

With a handful exceptions, I've pugged all the instances I've done. Well, if it's also pugging when I ask a guy I've met earlier if he'd like to join in.

There are a lot of different people you meet when pugging. I'd like to speak of one specific personality type, one I was a member of myself for my first years of WoW.

The nice guys. The ones that seem to stick around no matter how bad things go, and will accept almost endless amounts of "nerd rage", blaming, accusing, unreasonable favors (like a guy asking to be ressed when the entire group wiped without any reason at all) and other negative communication.

Incidently, the nice guys very often end up as healers, tanks and often also group leaders. Not necessarily the group leader as the tank getting the party leadership to mark targets, but the one that put the group together, was first at the stone to wait several minutes for the next one to show up to summon and so on.

Healers seem to be the most common role for these guys. They want to help. They want to be important to the group or raid force. They want to make a change. Healing is a natural response to that "need", as they're critical to the group, can contribute without competing on a damage meter, and get the warm fuzzy feeling when they succeed on keeping everyone alive, or at least prevent a wipe, despite the odds.

One of the most striking features; They usually don't complain. They feel they shouldn't.

Now, they have a problem. I can describe one of the most common sympthoms. Previously, said person have been working hard for weeks/months, avoiding complaining when psosible, and always done what was best for the group(s). Suddenly he or she burst out in furious anger, and seemingly creates a huge conflict over something others consider small or trivial.

The best example I know of was a raiding druid who let out his rage on the official forums from the time I was a regular there. He was a raiding resto druid at lvl 60. His guild was doing great, downing bosses east and west. A physical dps leather item dropped, and he wanted it for his feral set. The guild leader gave it to a rogue who had recently joined the raiding force and needed it as a minor upgrade.

The druid in question spent half an hour screaming on vent and cursing on guild chat before leaving the guild and the raid force. I don't know what happened afterwards.

Now, the problem was not that the guild leader gave the item to the rogue. It was only the last drop which caused the glass to spill. At best, giving the item to the druid would have delayed the problem, but it would have happened later instead.

The problem didn't necessarily have only a single cause, but I can imagine some. The druid had persisted through lots of wipes without complaining. He had set his own needs aside for the raid force's. He had probably swallowed a lot of frustrations, not wanting to 'cause problems' or 'create drama' until the moment he was unable to swallow it.

I'll go as far as to say there are quite a lot of similarities between this and several break-ups. One person, often the girl/woman, remains silent until she suddenly can take no more. After the following break-up, the partner is unsure what happened.

What can be done to prevent such problems?

The short answer is Communication.

The long answer; There are several means that can help.

The best mean may be for the person to learn to talk about it. It may sound strange, but just getting your problems acknowledged by someone else helps immensly. There's a reason why you feel the need to complain to others when you've experienced something annoying or uncomfortable. It helps even more if you can talk to a person who is in some position where he can understand well what happens. In the case of WoW, a fellow WoW player is better than a random person. A guild member may be even better. A person that participated in the scene that caused the frustration will be even better. Best is probably the if the person him/herself that caused the frustration can acknowledge the problem. Shared first place might be the raid/guild leader.

Getting your problem acknowledged is first step towards solving it. How to solve it will vary with what kind of problem it is and who is involved. In the case of raiding, an officer might make a change, even minor, that can ease the frustration.

But before you can think of a solution, you need to actually identify the problem. After all, this personality archtype doesn't complain in the first place. That's why others, everyone that can, should react to signs that there's something wrong. In particular, the leaders. Asking if everything's okay won't necessarily help.

There's a skill straight out of the child psychology book that can be applied to much more than just children; Achknowledging by describing.

Consider the following situation I participated in yesterday. Simplified for the example.

I was dps, pretty average. We had a moderately well equipped tank. We had a superior healer. We had a superior mage dps. We had a average rogue who was a bit annoying to me. Let me put it this way; Who will ask for a res in TotC heroic after a wipe?

The healer suddenly had to leave after the first boss was down. It's hard to find a healer, harder when you've already downed a boss and you don't get the loot/emblembs/champion's seals.

I calm the group down, and say I'd find a new healer. I had assembled the group in the first place.

I've got black belt in random whispering, saying something like "We're in need of a healer for Trial of the Champion herioc (5-man). We've downed the first boss, then our healer had to leave for a raid. Would you happen to have time and interest in joining us?" to all healer classes at lvl 80 which isn't in a zone that dictates they're doing something I'm disturbing them in.

I come across a priest healer. He doesn't want to join, he'd just had a very bad experience with a pug. He's definately one of the nice guys archtype. I didn't get all the details, but I belive it was somthing like he had stuck around for wipe after wipe with a terrible tank, people leaving and cursing and blaming. I can completely understand that feeling after having "been there" myself several times. While going on whispering others, I reply to the whisper by describing how frustrating that can be, and how I understand he want to take a break from PUGs. Meanwhile I get a 20-30 declines on my offer to join, most of them polite.

After a few minutes, the healer I'm whispering with says he'll join us after all. He says I sound like a guy he'd like to pug with. I graciously accept his offer.

Fast forward. We wipe two more times before finishing the last two bosses. The tank stands completely immobile, and doesn't move out of the Desecration the death knight puts on the floor. Neither does the rogue. I do, leading to a serious downtime in my dps.

When we last succeed, it's with only 3 people standing. The priest ran out of mana healing through all the damage on the desecration. He was "correctly" equipped for the instance. While an overgeared healer might be able to heal through that without a sweat, this priest did nothing wrong and still ran out of mana. We did ask the tank after each wipe to kite the black knight around, not to get caught in his desecration.

The tank and the rogue leaves. The three of us stands around for several minutes. I tell the mage how I appreciated his dps despite the zombies in phase 2 swarming over him, and how we I don't believe we'd succeeded in the first place without his dps. I tell the priest how I saw that he managed to pull it through, despite the tank and a dps taking much more damage than intended by the instance.

What happens next? They open up and talk. A lot. Letting out their frustration and letting me know how they appreciate grouping with me, despite the fact that I was tied for the lowest place in dps. They even go so far that they share the names of their alts with me, hoping to group with me again. I'm not sure they would've opened up if I've asked 'Everything okay?'. Most likely, they'd answered something like 'yes, we're (finally) done' or something.

I believe both of them walked away more satisfied than they otherwise would. Imagine the difference; several wipes, and noone mentions a word about the hard work you put in to make it finally work. Alternatively, several wipes, but someone saw you and what you did, and tells you how they appreciate it. It's different from a 'Good work'. Someone saw exactly what you did, not just that you collectively succeeded.

Neither of them have their problems solved. But they have had some of their problems and work appreciated.

Some ways to solve problems might be for you nice guys to leave the group if it doesn't work with a warning in advance, or perhaps even kicking the 'problem player' if they've got the leadership. Don't hesitate to do that. It's not punishing the player. It's letting him or her know the consequences of his or her annoying behaviour. Just be sure that you share the view with the majority first.

Don't hesitate to talk. You're not causing a problem if you're telling what's bothering you. If you've got a guild leadership who think you are, you're in a very self-destructive guild. It's going to blow up, or rather, implode sooner or later. Guild quit and find a place where you are achknowledged.

I'm no longer one of the nice guys. I'm one of the guys that take responsibility for myself.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

PVP strikes back

I had, for quite a while, neglected a part of WoW I really used to love so much. PVE has lots of fun factors. In particular, I love the cooperation required to bring down bosses, and the excitement of succeeding together. However, playing only one aspect of the game will burn it out faster than playing all aspects.

With the "birth" of my death knight, I played a bit PVP along the way. And heck, what fun I've missed!

While levelling up, my DK has the heirloom PVP shoulders, heirloom PVP trinket, heirloom chest and heirloom axe with Crusader on it.

BG 50-59 was a bit of a joke. More than half of all players joining were death knights. In fact, it was joked that "whichever side has the most death knights wins", something that proved painfully true for all rounds I participated in.

Come 60 and lowest level in BGs. Interestingly enough, I didn't feel underpowered. Quite the opposite, it felt "just right". Most likely because of the superior gear I had for my level (DK starting area blue gear is about equivalent of lvl 65 greens, I think). Of course, I was feeling a bit squishy, so I played all the time in frost presence.

Here's the thing: I don't like following all the stupid sheep that races towards the stables, Balinda or just mindlessly fights in the midfield in Warsong Gulch. I stick around in our base to defend our flag in WSG, I stick at a base in AB and defend it, I try to keep Galv alive, get our towers back and prevents stealth caps in AV.

I'm used to playing a healer. What happens when a single healer sticks around a place to defend? Well... at best I can survive until my mana is all gone. That's the limitation of my abilities.

As a DK, I'm able to succeed on my own. At least some of the time.

Now, I've hit 80 with my DK. There are a few problems.

I'm painfully reliant on a good weapon, and I'm STILL running around with my heirloom axe. It helps a lot being unholy -- I did 4.5k dps in quest blues in the Onyxia 10 pug I joined. Superior AoE, anyone? With a bit of luck, a new weapon will drop sooner or later in TotC heroic.

I still only have two specs to play around. I want three (at least). PVE dps, PVE tank and PVP. For the moment I don't have all that good tanking gear, so I've got PVE dps and PVP. Considering tanking with my PVP spec. It has Toughness, Magic Suppression, Anti-Magic Zone, Bone Shield and even Glyph of Anti-magic Shell, so I'm only lacking Anticipation, Blade Barrier and Improved Icy Touch of the core tanking talents. I can even afford two points in Imp Icy Touch in my PVP spec without losing anything important.

Other than that, I'm gearing up my third character. At a point I got really tired of it and switched back to my shaman for some PVP. It took less than a single AV to recall what I liked about my DK.

  1. The get-out-of-jail-free cards. In particular Anti-Magic Shell and Icebound Fortitude, but also Strangulate and Chains of Ice. Together, they allowed me to survive for quite some time alone with an enemy. Except retribution paladins, bloody annoying bastards. They stun me for 5 seconds before I got the runic power to get off either AMS or IF.

  2. Just being a tank. Standing around defending a node in frost presence, and a rogue fires up his arsenal at me. But hey, I've got tons of armor, I can survive for quite some time. Compare that to a shaman, even with a shield, whose only defense is trinketing out of a stun or die before the stunlock is up. Well, almost.

I like being a tank in PVP.

Delicious cookies! All mine! Muhahahahahaha...

... and another blog bites the dust?

Yes, it did. I ought to have made a post telling you why I stopped blogging.

However, I'll start again. This time with a slightly different focus.

What has happened?

Something like this:

  • Played my shaman for a while, gearing her up for raiding (3.1). Did some pug raids, lots of fun.

  • Got tired of only healing, wanted to tank again.

  • Fooled around with a paladin for a bit. Got it to 71.

  • Returned to my druid, levelled it to 80.

  • Geared up my druid for raiding. Lead a few Naxx-raids.

  • Applied, got accepted into a raiding force. Pretty serious 10-man force with good people. However, they were full on druids and wanted shammies.

  • Geared up my shammy again (3.2)

  • Raided one night. Found out I can't do it and function normally at work the night after. Bed at midnight, up at 6 AM. I'm a zombie half of the following day.

  • Got a bit depressed. Considered stopping WoW entirely.

  • Returned to my druid for a bit, played a bit without any specific focus. Tanked some pug raids, including Koralon 25 right after he was added.

  • Tried a death knight. Got hooked.

Status quo: DK at 74, fairly speed-leveled. Having fun meanwhile, though. Had a few short breaks to the seasonal stuff. Knowing myself, I will sooner or later want to return to healing. Which class? Don't know, thus I do the seasonal stuff on both my 80 healers (druid and shammy).

So, future stuff will most likely be centered a bit around death knights and leveling stuff. Not much raiding stuff to be expected here, I'm afraid.

I'm going to spend a bit less time writing each post. I expect a post a week, sometimes more often.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The glyph shuffle, shamanic version.

3.1 brings a lot of changes. Dual-spec, for example. Personally I'd prefer a Quadruple-spec (Healer PVP, Healer PVE, dps PVE, dps PVP), but I'll take Dual-spec over single-spec any day. When dual-spec hits the "shelves", I'll have at least one of the builds as a resto-PVP build. I'm debating whether to have elemental PVP or resto PVE as my second build.

But it's important that you also get two set of glyphs. Because of that, I'd like to take a closer look at the various glyphs that can be useful to resto builds. For all of the glyphs, I'll rate them either 1 (rarely/hardly useful), 2 (handy), 3 (very handy/critical) for each of these purposes:

  • PVE Chain Heal: Where Chain Heal contributes 90% of your healing done. Mostly translates to 25-man raids, some 10-man and rarely 5-man.

  • PVE Mix: Where you use a mix of various heals and not only chain heal.

  • PVP Arena: Where you'll meet a limited number of enemies who usually are well coordinated, and their objective is to keep you from breathing. Mana is a secondary problem compared to just staying alive.

  • PVP BG/WG: Where you'll meet lots of uncoordinated enemies, and the objective isn't nescessarily to kill you. Running out of mana is a concern.

The newcomers

Glyph of Earth Shield: A straight-foward buff offering +20% more healing on Earth Shield. I'd consider it pretty stupid to take this glyph without also speccing Improved Earth Shield and Improved Shields, as they stack together. Buffs each charge of Earth Shield by something between 300 and 500, depending on spellpower. This is what I'd consider a handy ability for all purposes, but nothing critical for either. Check your recount values. Find how much effective healing Earth Shield provides (discarding overhealing), and multiply the number by 0.2. This is a rough estimate of the increased healing done by this glyph. Score: 2 all around.

Glyph of Riptide: 3 more sec on the Riptide HoT. Each tick of Riptide heals for something between 600 and 800, depending on spellpower. On a non-crit, this increases Riptide's total output by about 11%. on a crit (with Ancestral Awakening), about 8% more output. For this to be useful, the target must actually have less than full health at this final tick, which is 18 seconds after you initially cast Riptide on someone. In PVP, chances are high that you have to overwrite the buff early because you need the instant potion of Riptide right NOW. The glyph doesn't really convince me. There is one redeeming feature, though. Extending the HoT also extends the window in which you can cast Chain Heal on the target and get a 20% buff. But still... meh. Skip this. I'm 90% certain we'll see this glyph buffed sooner or later. A simple +5% crit rate on Riptide would be better, or perhaps "lowers the global cooldown after casting riptide by 0.5 sec". Current version: 1 all around.

Glyph of Hex: Increases the damage a hexed target can suffer by 20% before hex breaks. Similar to Glyph of Entangling Roots and Glyph of Frost Nova. I can't actually see who would want this. In any sort of group PVE, it's in 99% of the cases broken by the tank (often through AoE) and while it's a bit more incoming damage on the tank, it's nothing really bad. After all, by breaking it, the tank is sure to have aggro on it. In PVP I find that the most common reason for hex breaking being the PVP trinket. The second problem is that the target simly runs away, if it has any kind of intelligence between it's ears. With a 45 sec cooldown, it's a poor return for a glyph. 1 all around.

Glyph of Stoneclaw Totem: Shields you when you cast Stoneclaw Totem. According to a poster on wowhead, this shield aborbs 4340 damage no matter how much spellpower you have. On current PTR, the shield amount is unaffected by Earth's Grasp. In effect, another instant heal spell, but with a few limitations. 30 sec cooldown like the totem. Probably range-dependant meaning it stops working if you move more than 30 yards away from the totem. Possibly disables you from using Earthbind Totem or Tremor Totem for the same time the shield lasts without loosing the shield. The bright side is that being a totem, you can use it despite being counterspelled/silenced. It also has the other advantages of shield spells. And 4k extra health on demand isn't such a bad deal. Handy in PVP. There are few cases where I see the need for this in PVE, versus just healing yourself up. PVE: 1. PVP: 2.

The old fellows

Glyph of Chain Heal: Makes Chain Heal hit four targets instead of three. This has two effects. First, it improves Chain Heal's average throughput by 1/14 or 7%, given that it's always a fourth (wounded) target in range. Second, and harder to measure, it provides another target that potentially can proc Earthliving. If you're raiding 25-man (and possibly even if you only raid 10-man), Chain Heal will usually contribute most of your healing done. This will provide a nice increase. PVE Chain Heal: 3. PVE Mix: 2. PVP: 1. The effect of this glyph is further amplified by...

Glyph of Earthliving: Increases the chance to proc Earthliving by 5%. Notice, though, that there are several cases where this does nothing. First, Earthliving never procs if you heal a target at full health. It can proc if the direct heal brings the target to full health, though. Second, with Blessing of the Eternals you will have a 100% chance to proc Earthliving on a target at less than 35% health without this glyph. Finally, earthliving doesn't stack, but merely refreshens the duration of the last earthliving if it procs again on the same target, making it less useful if you spam heals on one target (like the tank). But still... I think this is a rather solid glyph. Most of the cases you will be healing people at between 35% and 100% anyway, and it can proc on any direct heal, making it an work just as well in 5-man and 25-man. It's nice for PVP too, since there's a chance that the last earthliving was devoured/spellstolen/purged/dispelled/whatever. I rate it 2 all around.

Edit: As drug pointed out, Earthliving is a minor part of healing done for a priest mainly relying on Chain Heal. I agree with his comment, there's probably better glyphs for a chain-healer.

Glyph of Healing Wave: Heals you for 20% of the amount Healing Wave heals your target for. I have sometimes, but not every time, experiened that this extra heal triggers even when I'm the target of my own HW. Possibly a bug. Personally, I love this glyph. Since I favor using Healing Wave as much as possible, I rarely ever worry about my own health in PVE groups. In fact, between this glyph and ancestral healing, I often heal area damage without using Chain Heal at all. Of course, it does rely on you using Healing Wave. Since shorter casttime = less chance to be interrupted/kicked/silenced/etc, not to mention higher chance that my target is alive when the heal hits, I mostly favor using Lesser Healing Wave in PVP. However, there are times when I can use this, and I try to maximize those. PVE Chain Heal: 2. PVE mix: 3. PVP BG/WG: 2. PVP arena: 1.

Glyph of Lesser Healing Wave: Increases the amount healed by Lesser Healing Wave by 20% if the target has Earth Shield. This is *the* PVP resto shammie glyph. Don't leave home without it. It both increases throughput and mana efficiency of your most used PVP healing spell, but only if the target has earth shield. More handy in arenas than in BGs, but it is always handy because you can earth shield yourself and spam Riptide -> LHW -> LHW -> move/root until Riptide is ready again for maximum chance of survival. It does have some use in PVE as well, but since Earth Shield will almost always be up on the tank and HW is preferable to LHW as a tank heal if you've got the talents to support it (mainly Imp Healing Wave, Imp Water Shield and Healing Way), it's usually better to stick to HW. However, if the tank needs heal right NOW, he may not have the extra second it takes to cast HW. PVE chain heal: 2. PVE Mix: 2. PVP BGs: 2. PVP arenas: 3.

Glyph of Healing Stream: Increases the amount healed by Healing Stream Totem by 20%. It makes little sense to take this without Restorative Totems. I'm a personal fan of Healing Stream totem in 5-mans myself, as it provides a nice steady return to health for everyone, meaning I can just ignore everyone with less than 2k health missing. However, since it's party only (unless I've been missing something, which reminds me: WTB raid-wide Healing Stream totem), it is significantly less effective in raids, especially 25-man. I rarely ever use it in PVP. PVE chain heal: 1. PVE Mix: 2. PVP: 1.

Glyph of Water Mastery: Also called glyph of 30 mp5, at least as long as you have Water Shield active. A solid glyph if you ever run into mana problems. PVE: 2. PVP BG: 2. PVP Arena: 1.

Glyph of Shocking: Reduces the global cooldown of all shock spells to 1 sec. This one is for the PVPers, especially at higher levels of arena. Of course, it does require that you rely on shocks as a source for interrupts/snares/burst in the first place. PVE: 1. PVP: 2.

Glyph of Frost Shock: Increases the snare effect on frost shock to 10 seconds. PVP glyph without doubt. Without Reverbation, which few resto shammies have, Frost Shock has a duration of 8 seconds and a cooldown of 6 seconds, meaning you technically can perma-snare someone. This is easier said than done, and another two seconds help a lot. But more importantly, pretty much every melee'er who would want to stay on your face beating you have access to some talent that reduces the duration of snare effects by 30%. That reduces the duration of non-glyphed frost shock from 8 to 5.6 seconds, meaning you can't perma-snare someone. With the glyph, this increases to 7 seconds. Like the glyph of shocking, this is a good glyph if you can't find any other for a PVPer. PVE: 1. PVP: 2.

Glyph of Mana Tide Totem: Increases the amount restored by Mana Tide Totem by 1% per tick. It will now restore a total of 28% of total mana instead of 24% of total mana. Last time I checked, Mana Tide Totem was a very low part of the mana restored during a fight, and so I consider this a minor upgrade. However, redeeming trait that it affects all party-members. This glyph provides an additional 20% of total mana across all affected, which isn't bad.

To tell the truth, I don't like this glyph. I don't like any type of glyph that provides a buff to others (versus just your own healing), because the raid might end up forcing you to take it. No, I'm dead serious. Let's now say that Uldar really brings mana troubles for mana users. The raid leader might require that all priests run with this glyph because it helps with the mana trouble. While it's nice that the priest in question can help others, he has to sacrifice a glyph slot which could be used for some other glyph he'd rather want to have. It might cripple his own healing somewhat, while helping other healers.

But min-maxing, it's not a bad glyph for PVE. PVE: 2. PVP: 1.


For a PVE raider relying primarily on Chain Heal, the primary glyph is Chain Heal. Good choices for the last slot are Water Mastery, Healing Wave, Earth Shield, Lesser Healing Wave, Mana Tide Totem or Earthliving.

For a PVEer that relies on a mix of heals, especially in heroics, I'd strongly recommend Healing Wave. If you regulary user either, Healing Stream, Chain Heal or Lesser Healing Wave can make good choices. If neither are too much used, go with Earthliving, Water Mastery, Earth Shield or Mana Tide.

For a PVPer that stick mostly to battlegrounds, wintergrasp and other world PVP stuff, there are a lot of choices. If you have trouble with survivability, go with Stoneclaw, Earth Shield and Lesser Healing Wave. Mana trouble? Water Mastery. Neither? Healing Wave, Shocking or Frost Shock all make decent choices if you rely on those spells. Finally, Earthliving is always handy if you can't find anything else.

For an arena healer, I strongly recommend Lesser Healing Wave. As with BGs, if you have trouble with survivability Stoneclaw and Earth Shield could help you. Depending on what partners you run with, Frost Shock can also be tremendously useful, also in reducing incoming damage because you can slip away from your enemies slightly easier. Shocking is a solid choice if you're good at watching your enemies.

For an all-rounder, Earthliving and Water Mastery might be the best bets. If you use Healing Wave a lot, it's a good glyph, otherwise Lesser Healing Wave.

Monday, March 9, 2009

If you could pick one WoW ability...

... to have IRL, I'd picked Reincarnate. If I could pick two, I'd pick Cleanse Spirit, or any other disease-removing ability next.

Sorry for the lack of posts. Even though I weren't sick that long, work was piled up when I got back. Working on the next post now.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blizz healing spell design philosophy.

New theories incoming, this time about heals.

Basically, I believe all healing spells fit more or less into these three categories:

Baseline aka Bread & Butter: Spells that have a clear defined purpose and are straight forward.

circumstantial: Spells that are better than the bread and butter spells for various special purposes. Most group heals fit in this category.

Cooldowns: Spells that are so powerful and good that Blizz gives them a cooldown to prevent only using them.

Blizzard tries to make every healer use as much as possible of their reportoire. Some spells are much better fit for either PVE or PVP, but they often try to buff the spell for the least used aspect. The baseline spells will be almost garantueed to always have a use. The cooldowns can pretty safely be buffed straight, as the cooldown will limit just how powerful they become.

For the circumstantial spells, though, they follow a different strategy. It can potentially be very dangerous to straight buff a circumstantial spell (as in more healing throughput without adding to mana cost), because you might end up it being completely superior to other tools at disposal for the same purposes. That's what happened to Circle of Healing. They can't balance it by giving it a high mana cost, because the players still will use the spell and then complain about mana. The way they end up buffing these spells are usually by adding secondary effects to them, or give them additional situations in which they might be useful. Adding another situation where the spell shines makes it less circumstantial, as the circuimstances in question show up more often.

Let's take an example, Binding Heal. When it was first introduced in Burning Crusade, pretty much every PVE priest shunned it. While it could outshine Flash Heal in throughput (healing per second), it had no significant advantage in healing per mana (especially compared to Greater Heal) and risked overhealing twice. In serious arena, it was much more common for the enemy team to focus one player rather than split the damage, and it offered no additional benefit to focused damage. Of course, there were occassions where it would shine, but it was very circumstantial. Blizz couldn't straight buff the throughput, as that would've made it put out more single-target healing than Flash Heal. They tried lowering the mana cost, which helped both in PVP and PVE. But since it still was too circumstantial in PVE, they gave it very low threat. That helped. Suddenly priests used it in heroic on threat-sensitive fights, or early in pulls before the tank had proper threat on all mobs.

Fast forward to WotLK. Blizz is talking about changing how healing works. At the same time, they can't mess up too much the existing healing style, as there is no way to garantuee that a new healing style will be better than the old. Read: More entertaining. It's hard to please most of the crowd, impossible to please all.

From the 3.1 preview, it said that holy priests now will have a faster Greater Heal after casting Flash Heal. Fairly unoriginal as it's basically the same idea that they used with both Discipline and shaman Resto end-talents, but it works. It changes Flash Heal so that instead of being a pure bread'n'butter spell (discounting Surge of Light procs), it will also be a circumstantial spell. At the moment, you get the highest throughput of healing as a holy priest by spamming Greater Heal. In 3.1, you will do better alternating Flash Heal and Greater Heal, perhaps Greater Heal several times if a single flash heal will give a stack of buffs (like Tidal Waves gives two faster Lesser Healing Waves/Healing Waves, not only one). In addition, you can also throw in a flash heal early so that you'll already have the buff ready when you need it.

What they do is give spells additional circuimstances in which they'll be better than (other) baseline spells. I offer two observations to Blizz approach in making spell more interesting.

First observation: By adding circuimstances such as the above, Blizz tries to reward planning and foresight. While combat in WoW always will have random elements, most of what happens can be anticipated. At the very least, it's easy to anticipate that the tank will take damage. Then you might also anticipate that he or she's going to take spikes, and that the rest of the group will take AoE damage from the spell the boss mob is just casting. While I think it is a good thing to reward anticipation, it leads to one of two problems. First case, fights might be tuned so hard that the healer is required to be very familiar with the fight in order to keep everyone alive. Second case, fights will be tuned so that it still is possible to improvise and catch up, in which case they might be too trivial for a healer familiar with it. Of the two evils, the second is the lesser and the most likely Blizz will follow.

Second observation: There might be problems at the horizon if you keep adding stuff to existing spells. Specifically, you will "need" to press your cooldown-heals at every possible cooldown to be an optimal healer. That, in turn, makes the healing game feels very spammy, and less dependant on good decisionmaking. Let's take an example, Riptide. For the moment, this spell has all of the following functions:

  • A direct instant heal.

  • A HoT that lasts 15 seconds.

  • A buff to your next Chain Heal with the Riptide target as a primary target which removes the HoT.

  • A self-buff to the caster, Tidal Waves, reducing the casttime of the next two combinations of Lesser Healing Wave and Healing Wave.

  • A chance to proc Earthliving Weapon, a second HoT that lasts X seconds.

  • A chance to crit, thus proccing Ancestral Healing.

  • A chance to crit, thus proccing Improved Water Shield.

  • A chance to crit, thus proccing Ancestral Awakening.

Pretty hefty list for a single spell. Why is it so long? Blizz has more or less stated that they considered it a problem that every resto shaman in a raid did nothing but spam Chain Heal all day. They wanted to buff Riptide so that it was worth the GCD to cast it for a resto shaman. In the process of buffing it (which also included buffing it's direct throughput), they added a lot of circumstantial reasons to use it. Now it is almost at the point where I feel that I need to cast it as often as I can while healing 5-man heroics, provided anyone in the group have taken damage. Holy Shock is very similar in the regard that it also has a lot of circumstantial effects attached to it.

The bottom line, I think we'll see even more of the circumstantial stuff for healers in the future. Consider the healer abilities in the Aces High daily, same as the last phase of Malygos.

(By the way, sorry for the lack of posts. Like WoW, a blog's priority is well behind both job and private life)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The healery arts of bursting

Pretty much every healer have the potential to put out some burst damage on demand. There will be moments in both PVP and PVE where this is handy. Mostly in PVP, of course, where the ability to burst down an enemy can be viewed as healing saved. But not exclusively, there will be times in PVE when bursting is handy. For example if you pull aggro on some add and it is mostly dead already or have low health, or on bosses which have vulnerability periods in which every point of damage counts. Take the Headless Horseman, to take an example a lot have experienced.

The main difference between bursting in PVP and PVE is the risk of getting counterspelled/kicked and thus getting that school of magic locked out. This is only a serious problem on your healing school (holy or nature) and only on spells with a cast-time. Actually, it's often an advantage to get your non-healing spell school locked, because whoever blew that cooldown can't immidiately counterspell you again. In both PVP and PVE you risk getting your casttime extended by damage taken for non-instants.

For all of the bursty combinations, you want to maximize the damage output for the given amount of time. The question is, how much time do you have? You can make several combos depending on how much time you have at your disposal. There's also an advantage to put an instant at the end of a chain, because it hits the same moment as the cast-time right before it, and the global cooldown triggered doesn't "count" towards the time the combo takes. In PVP, many enemies will hit defensive cooldowns if they take incoming serious damage. By making the damage hit at the exact same time, they won't have time to react between the nukes.

I ignore spells with long cooldowns. Though you can get a nice burst as a shaman by for example using Nature's Swiftness and Chain Lightning, you usually want to save those for other purposes.


A quick and safe 1.5 sec combo is Mind Blast -> Shadow Word: Death. If you don't risk getting counterspelled, Holy Fire -> Shadow Word: Death will probably yield better damage for a holy or disc-specced priest, at a lower mana cost.

You can of course drop both for a twice as long combo, Holy Fire -> Mind Blast -> Shadow Word: Death. I like using Holy Fire first because it packs a dot, slightly longer cooldown and better damage if you can't finish the combo.

If you're discipline, you also have the option of dropping Penance into the fray, of course based on the assumption that you don't immidiately need it for healing. If you're holy, pray for a crit and drop an instant Smite in there.

All in all, priests got pretty good burst potential, and at a neat 30 yard range. Use it well.


Druids are lacking in the bursting department. First and foremost, the problem is that to deal any kind of damage (except Thorns) you need to shift out of tree form, which means that the mana cost of the combo is sort of increased by the mana cost of shifting back to tree form.

The next problem is their spell selection. I don't assume any healer specs Starlight Wrath. Starfire deals decent damage and doesn't include any risk of counterspelling, but at a 3.5 sec casttime. Wrath deals pretty low dps without serious talent investment into the balance tree, risks counterspelling, and still has a 2 sec cast time. Moonfire deals very abysmal damage compared to it's mana cost when only looking at the instant part.

There's always the option of Moonfire spam, which has the advantage of being only instants. However, mana cost and low dps doesn't make it a too powerful burst.

The only option they have is to chain Starfire -> Moonfire or Wrath -> Moonfire depending on how long time they have.

All in all, druids are seriously lacking burst potential, in my opinion.


Shammies have some interesting options. First and foremost, Lava Burst is a garantueed crit as long as the enemy has Flame Shock on them. Lava burst deals better damage at a significantly lower mana cost than Chain Lightning, even without Flame Shock present. In addition it's handy that it's not from the nature (healing) school, in case of counterspells. Like Lightning Bolt it has a travel time, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

The special thing about shocks is that they share the same cooldown. In PVP, if you *need* your enemy snared (Frost Shock) or the shock cooldown ready to interrupt a spell (Earth Shock or Wind Shock), you won't have the option of chaining Flame Shock into Lave Burst. In PVE, you might often be better of using Wind Shock to reduce aggro rather than use it for a nuke. There's also the problem with range, 20 yards (barring gear bonuses) rather than 30 yards on cast-time nukes.

All in all, there's a lot of different combos for different needs.

First, let's look at Flame Shock -> Lava Burst. Since you have to wait for global cooldown after the first, the combo takes 3.5 sec, barring haste and interruptions. While Lava Burst is a garantueed crit, without Elemental Fury it's only a 150% crit, and the initial hit from flame shock is nothing great. In effect, while handy, this isn't a superior combo. The redeeming trait is that you only need to stand still to cast in 2 of those 3.5 seconds. Glyph of Shocking reduces the time of this combo by 0.5 sec.

If you spend 4 seconds, you can chain Lava Burst -> Chain Lightning -> Earth Shock. Frost Shock at the end deals a bit less damage, but snares if you need that should the combo fail to kill. The advantage of this combo is that Lava Burst have travelling time while Chain Lightning and Earth Shock hit instantly, meaning they can hit in very short amount of time (<0.5 sec), giving an enemy player very little time to react, provided you're at max shock range. If you're in melee, this isn't such a good idea. Of course, there's the risk of getting Chain Lightning counterspelled. Just Lava Burst -> Earth Shock is a quick and safe combo, in the sense that you can't get nature counterspelled.

Given the nature of Lava Burst, the best option for bursting is setting up a killer combo by casting Flame Shock earlier, then load up a double or triple nuke so that you get a second shock in. This is easier said than done in PVP, slightly less so in PVE.


Since pallies lack any casttimespells, their nukes are limited only to the instants they have. The interesting part is that Judgement of Justice (or any of the other judgements) is off the global cooldown, meaning you can that and another instant in at the same moment. Seal of Righteousness is probably the seal that causes the best damage on jugdement for a holy pally. Enlightened Judgements give judgement a lot of range, in fact more so than most other offensive spells in the game.

The primary nuke is Holy Shock, which has a few disadvantages. Only 20 yard range, for a start, and the fact that you might need it for healing rather than damaging. The bright side is that you probably have a fairly good crit rate on this, and using it with Divine Favor still grants the instant Flash of Light when used offensively, thanks to Infusion of Light.

Chaining Holy Shock and a judgement gives a fairly good nuke, and is completely instant. From 3.1 you can also throw in Exorcism, which will then be usable on all targets rather than just demons and undeads. See here for more details if you missed the change.

Last words

I believe Blizz doesn't dare to give druids a baseline high-damage, low cooldown ability like Holy Fire, Mind Blast and Lava Burst because they're afraid that it might make druids overpowered in PVP (again).