Wednesday, December 31, 2008

[Druid] Bear-Tanked Gluth in Moonkin Spec

I've always been happy to pitch in with an off-spec function when the situation warranted it; emergency Tranquility on Sapphiron, shifting out to become an extra healer on any number of occasions, and so on. But being asked to pinch tank a raid boss was a new one.

My guild was doing 10-man Naxx since we're still missing a lot of people due to the holidays, and someone had to leave so I was asked to step in. They had gotten to Gluth and their tag team of mage and shaman wasn't able to control all the zombie adds. When I got in, we found a tag team of moonkin and mage with an Earthbind totem nearby still didn't do much better.

Normally we have a paladin or death knight on zombie duty, but both our paladins were prot last night (Gluth requires two tanks) and amazingly enough, we had no DKs in the entire raid. So one of our officers came up with an idea.

Our paladin OT (who is normally our ret pally) would tank the adds, since he already knew how, and I would OT Gluth. Madness? How about the fact I did it primarily in moonkin gear?

I was assured that Gluth does not hit very hard. Looking at WoW Wiki he only hits for about 3500 on plate in 10-man. Moonkin armor got nerfed to 370% percent down from 400% when bear form was also adjusted, but I could get between 17-18k armor (laugh) and just over 20k health if I swapped out my cloth spell power pieces for leather from my feral set. I actually asked if I should go full feral, but was told that I would need to dps in between tanking. (It turns out this was mostly a run for the guild newbies so we really needed to shore up the dps.)

So here's how it went:

The main tank ran in, aggroed Gluth, and dragged him to the far side of the room as normal. The first difference for me was that I ran along with him and stood with my back to the wall next to the MT. I was in moonkin form and dps-ed as normal. After the tank got four stacks of Mortal Wound I went into bear form and taunted the boss off him.

I got hit, but even being crittable the boss didn't hit me hard enough that the healers couldn't keep me up. My threat was fine since I could to work off the lead the MT had built up. After 15 seconds had passed and the debuff wore off the MT, he taunted off me, and I would go back to moonkin form for more dps. And we'd repeat the cycle. The only dps-related issue from the perspective of my own output was that I couldn't easily participate in killing zombie chow since I was also on tanking duty.

Despite that, our unorthodox method was surprisingly effective and I think we would have beaten Gluth if not for the fact that the server ate it when the boss was at 35%. Certain raids and instances hung up without actually booting the people in them offline (we originally thought we were lagged) and after several minutes of watching ourselves idle in place, we called it for the night. Thus ended my glorious run as a moonkin bear tank.

Yes, I was disappointed.

We plan on continuing the raid tonight, but we might end up with a slightly different group make-up, so I don't know if I'll end up getting another shot at tanking, but I'd be happy to try. I think it'll work and it could be a viable option for other raids if the OT has to go on add duty.

Update: We did go back to this fight New Year's Eve and I did OT Gluth again. This time I brought extra leather caster gear with me so I was in full leather for the fight. I had more trouble with aggro this time (just with the other tank, who had to stop dps to avoid pulling off me), but otherwise it was a job well done. Go hybrid versatility!

Monday, December 29, 2008

[Paladin] Relearning how to Holy DPS

My druid is sitting pretty in almost all purples and three pieces of T7, so I've started questing with Gillien again. Thanks to more instance runs with guildie alts I've dinged 71 with him and finally learned that oh-so-tasty Divine Plea.

Solo-ing is a lot different from running instances though, especially for a holy paladin (even one who frequently steps into tanking gear) so there was a little relearning how to dps. I hadn't done much of it ever since the 3.0.2 patch, so I was a little out of shape.

First of all, Holy Shock is much more bread-and-butter than it used to be. A shock every six seconds works out much better than one every fifteen. I use this every cooldown unless the enemy is going to die in a judgement or one or two auto-attacks.

Next I use Seal of Righteousness. Seal of Corruption/Vengeance is nice for tanking, but it gets more bang from AP than spellpower whereas the reverse is true for Seal of Righteousness. Also, there's no need to wait for Righteousness to stack five times to get the most damage out of it (since hopefully enemies are dying fast enough that even using Vengeance to five stacks it would not be on the mob for very long).

I'm tempted to consider building a ret set to see if it's more effective for a holy pally to solo using Seal of Blood in a ret set than doing spell damage in a holy set, but my bags are cramped enough with healing, tanking, (eventually) pvp gear, and misc items to switch in and out that I'm really not sure where I'll find the space to keep one.

Currently when I judge I'm using Judgement of Wisdom, and of course Justice for any running mobs, but now that I have Divine Plea, which is usable once a minute, I'm considering using Judgement of Light. My health bar goes down faster than my mana bar these days, even when I'm using Holy Shock every cooldown.

Another thing I've come to appreciate is: Divine Favor + Holy Shock = more dps. Seriously Divine Favor isn't normally used for healing while solo-ing. Divine Shield is our "uh-oh" button. So why not do a little more damage? I really don't feel like I'm killing things that much slower with Gillien that I did with my moonkin, and a big part of that is the shorter cooldown on Holy Shock. I get to push buttons more often and it keeps me more engaged that watching myself auto-attack until something comes off cooldown.

Consecration is pretty expensive now that there is no downranking, but it's still decent if fighting three or more mobs at once. I don't bother for only two. Retribution Aura keeps them entertained well enough.

And if that's not enough dps and mana is not a problem, Holy Wrath now works on everything! Sure, it doesn't stun things that aren't demons or undead and it has a nasty 30 second cooldown, but that's another AoE in our arsenal.

For pulling a mob we have a much better tool in Enlightened Judgements. Holy Shock's 20 yard range was sometimes only mildly more convenient than a judgement's 10 yard range, but EJ lets us judge from 30 yards, as far as most casters who've yet to spec for improved range.

Additionally, Judgements of the Pure gives us both casting and melee haste from judging, which we will be doing while dpsing. More haste means faster killing. We traditionally have taken long enough to kill things as is, so why take any longer?

I admit leveling as holy will likely become a dying art once dual specs are implemented, but in the meantime there's no reason not to learn how to do good output while playing the spec that gives us the most entertainment.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bros. Before Ho Ho Ho's Before Level 77

I recently completed the Bros. Before Ho Ho Ho's achievement on Gillien at level 71, because I couldn't stand the thought of having to wait until next year to get the Merrymaker title. But there's a slight problem for us Horde.

Brother Keltan is in Icecrown, and not only that, but he's on an airship! Summoning doesn't work (poor sap my guildie tried to help wound up in the Argent Vanguard instead), so what's a Hordie to do?

For those of you who are like me, and tried following the instructions on WoWHead and still couldn't quite figure out if you were in the right spot, I've put together a graphical how-to.

You will not need anyone to help you with this and in theory you could do this as low as level 1, though I'd hate to see the corpse run on that one!

First! Make sure you have your Mistletoe. It would suck to get there and find out you don't have it.

Second! Do yourself a favor and buy a few Dark Runes. Supposedly it's possible to do this without any, but save yourself the aggravation and buy some. It'll save you a lot of time and corpse runs. If it turns out you don't need them, just put them back on the AH for the same exorbitant price you paid for them (or more!). I bought four for 20g (5g a pop) and due to me being fumble fingers I actually used three. If you find you need them but can't buy them, they drop in Scholomance. Have fun with that.



Next, follow the route on this map (click on it to see the full-size version). See that little tombstone where I died? That's where you want to be.

What you need to do is ride up to the Argent Vanguard in Icecrown via the road from Crystalsong Forest. Ride through the Vanguard and into the narrow canyon full of nerubians. You'll emerge from the canyon and find a nerubian base in front of you. You'll have to ride north towards and then around (circling west) the northeasternmost ziggurat. There's a narrow path behind it that will take you to Sindragosa's Fall.

Ride through Sindragosa's fall. You don't really need to hug the mountains to your right, and depending on your level it may behoove you to leave as much room between you and any mobs as possible. The important thing is to head north to where a wide snow path leads up and over the mountains to the other side. You'll know you're on the right track if you see the northern ocean and penguins.

Once you're up on the northern side of the mountain range, follow the wide snow path until it starts to curve back to the south. Don't follow it too far south or you'll fall and the only way back is to ride around the mountain range again.

Just before the steep fall you should see a sharp stone outcropping. This is where you're going to position yourself.



It's a steep outcropping, but it's possible to run up it. From where you see my body you can repeatedly jump off to the north (screenshot is facing southwest). This way you should not fall too far, and you can better control how much falling damage you take. You don't want to jump downhill or you'll risk sliding down the slope and dying too far down.

I found that if I mount up and jump off in a somewhat uphill direction, I could get smaller increments of damage, which is good because if you want to use the Dark Rune method you'll want to get to less than 600 health without killing yourself.

Some people apparently can kill themselves on the mountains around here without using Dark Runes. If you're a warlock, all you'll need to do is stand where my corpse was and Hellfire yourself to death. If you're like me, keep jumping until you're less than 600 health, less than 400 to be safe. Then quickly run high up on that outcropping and use the Dark Rune, making sure you have less than 600 health when you do.

If you didn't screw up, you'll die and this will be the only death you'll have to take.

Fly on the spectral griffon back to your body and then wait over the snow path beside the outcropping. Eventually the airship will come (it takes between 20-30 minutes to make a circle and you can see its location on your mini-map). It's very slow so you'll see it long before you can climb abroad, and it's terrible waiting and wondering if you did it right! But hopefully if you died where I did you'll find out that the airship actually does sink fairly low to the ground at this point and you should be able to fly into the bottom floor, the cargo hold as it were, and once it's close enough to your body you'll be able to ressurect.

And then bingo! Brother Keltan walks clockwise in a circle around the ship. Find the stairs from where you are in the bottom, and start moving in a clockwise circle up the stairs, across the deck, and back down again and you should bump into him.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Arena Season is Passing Me By

Last time around I didn't get my paladin to 70 until just before Season 4, and I don't PvP on my druid main, so I entered the arena game late and arguably suffered for it. My 2v2 team hit 1600 so I guess we didn't suck, but we were pretty sure that if I'd been PvP-ing earlier in the year our BM hunter/holy pally duo would have performed much better.

My partner started the season in the best gear that points alone could buy, and I was in welfare blues I'd bought with faction rep. We finished better geared than that and I did improve substantially over the course of the season, but the later weeks were rougher on us than the earlier ones, especially once arena rating became a barrier to buying new gear. We topped at 1600, but that was three or four weeks before the end of the season and we never recovered.

I didn't want to make that mistake this time around, but because at the end of the day I prefer raiding to PvP, Hana made the trip up to Northrend first and Gillien has only done a few instances and daily cooking quests (because I never learned cooking on Hana and I need someone to make my supply of raid food).

Now the arenas are open, the gear is out, and Gillien is still 70.

I don't want arenas to pass me by entirely, but I have a lot of work to do if I'm going to get a second character to 80 in time to enjoy a portion of season 5 while still attending raids three or four nights a week. I'm still not done with all the quests in Storm Peaks and Icecrown, I have reputations to grind (*cough* Sons of Hodir), and I often get roped into heroics out of friendship or social obligation, which leaves me little time to work on leveling a second character.

One thing I am pleased about though is the spec I've been planning for when Gillien is level 80. Megan from Out of Mana also plays a holy paladin, and since she's earned a higher arena rating than I would ever dream of, I think I should be able to trust her judgment. And the spec she listed in this post is remarkable close to what I've been planning. It's nice to have some sort of confirmation that I may be on the right track even if there are still a couple talent placements I might disagree on.

I know holy/ret is the way to go in PvE, but Gillien was intended to be "that annoying PvP healer." I still intend to be that person, and I don’t think the increased crit from the ret tree will make up for the lack of PvP talents like Stoicism and Improved Hammer of Justice in the prot tree. Arena, and to a lesser degree the BGs, require more than just throughput. Being able to resist stuns and dole them out more frequently can make or break an encounter.

Just like a moonkin does zero damage if her spell misses, a paladin does zero healing while stunned.

Tonight isn't a raid night, so if I can sneak out of heroics and finish my Sons of Hodir dailies uninterupted I'm gonna try getting a few more bars of experience under Gillien's belt. I've seen the new PvP gear and I want it… *drool*

Monday, December 15, 2008

My paladin's a guy, but I'm not

The recent re-customization thing brought up an old conversation I had with someone in-game. I'd run instances with this person several times, and he knew I was a woman who played a male paladin. A male paladin with the semi-androgyneous name of Gillien (pronounced with a hard "G" if you're curious).

This was back during the waning days of TBC and he told me that he heard Blizzard was going to offer gender swapping in Wrath. Whether he had inside info or it was just a lucky rumor he heard I don't know, but in any case I just figured "whatever." Then he said I could change Gillien into a girl.

And I wondered… Why? Why did he think I would be interested?

Just because I'm female doesn't mean I want my characters to all be girls. Most of them are (truthfully, of all my WoW alts Gillien is the only guy), but I obviously made Gillien a male for a reason. I can't think of anyone who's ever claimed to be the wrong gender because they misclicked on the character creation screen.

I know this isn't the case with everyone, but at least for me, all my characters have a token story behind them, a hint of an RP personality, and when I finally realized that I had a character concept for a paladin it happened to be a man. Gillien will never undergo a sex change because he is who he is and changing his gender would make him a different person. If I wanted to play a belf female paladin I would have made one.

I could understand maybe switching genders if the character emotes eventually got to be too much (I know my human female's laugh grates on my ears), or because of repeated harassment (female characters being asked by random strangers to dance naked by the mailbox), or even for a good laugh among guildies, but I've been pretty happy with Gillien, who hasn't faced any harassment beyond the usual fun that's made at blood elf men for being preening egomaniacs.

The strangest thing is... the person asking was a man who as far as I knew only played female characters. I no longer keep in contact with him and I haven't seen him around in Wrath, but now that gender changes are possible, I have a mild curiosity whether or not he's done the swap.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Druids and Paladins in Patch 3.0.8

It looks like the next patch is finally coming. The notes are up on the official site. Oddly enough, it's 3.0.8 instead of 3.0.4 so Blizzard must've gone through a lot of internal builds since the launch of Wrath. I tip my hat to them. They've been busy people.

So what's in store for us tank/heal/dps hybrids?

Druid

  • Feral Attack Power: All weapons now have the potential to grant feral attack power based on their dps (as compared to the best superior-quality weapons available at level 60). Players will see their existing feral weapons grant roughly the same attack power as they did before (+/- 2 or so), but many new weapons will be options for the feral druid. Some feral weapons have had strength converted to attack power to be more appealing to other classes able to equip them. All druids will see the amount of feral attack power granted by an item in the item tooltip, if it grants any, but other players will not see that information.

  • Remove Curse and Abolish Poison can now be used in Moonkin form.

  • Genesis: Now works with Tranquility and Hurricane.

  • Growl: Range increased to 30 yards.

  • King of the Jungle - The Bear effect is now physical, and thus cannot be dispelled.

  • Nature's Grace - Now also effects Revive.

  • Primal Tenacity: Now reduces the cost of Bear Form, Cat Form, and Dire Bear Form by 17/33/50% in addition to its previous effects.

  • Protector of the Pack: No longer changes value based on party size.

  • Savage Roar: The buff now persists outside of Cat Form but only provides its benefits while in Cat Form.

  • Starfall will now be cancelled by any shapeshifting.

  • Survival of the Fittest: This talent now grants 22/44/66% bonus armor in Bear Form and Dire Bear Form in addition to all of its previous effects.

  • Swipe: Swipe (Cat) has now been added at level 71, dealing 260% weapon damage, costs 50 energy with no cooldown. All talents affecting the Bear Form version affect the Cat Form one as well.

  • Wild Growth now has a 6 second cooldown.


  • Most of it involves the promised changes to feral. The change to FAP could be a godsend for ferals. Assuming all the numbers work out, there won't be any more looking for that "special" FAP weapon. Primal Tenacity will be fantastic in PvP. (I sense a respec in my feral's future to pick up that talent again.) I just wish it affected travel form as well. There are few things more annoying in PvP than to pop out to cast, heal, and then realize you don't have the mana to return to bear (or cat, but usually bear is the most important when you're in trouble). Protector of the Pack is nice to prevent the yo-yo-ing of our armor based on the number party members and Survival of the Fittest… wow! My feral will be happy to have her armor back. Ever since the nerf to the base dire bear armor multiplier she's been feeling a little squishy in BGs.

    As far as balance druids goes, there are three items of note. One is the buff to Genesis, which has always been viewed as a talent for resto druids. Now the increased damage and healing will also affect Tranquility and Hurricane. It's not enough to really wow me as a moonkin since I still don't use either for the majority of boss fights, but it should help resto druids and balance/resto hybrids.

    The Starfall change raises a question in my mind though. It says it's canceled by any shapeshifting. Does that include going to caster form? I'd hate to lose the rest of my Starfall because I had to shift out to battle rez someone or bust out an emergency Tranquility.

    The final balance-specific item is that we can now use Abolish Poison in moonkin form, which is fantastic. We've already been able to cast Remove Curse (I've been doing it for Noth and Sapphiron in Naxx), but Abolish Poison will give us greater group utility without having to shift out.

    Lastly, though I didn't quote it above, mobs will be tagged as soon as the player casts any spell to make them aggressive to them. No more casting Entangling Roots or Moonfire only to see the mob turn gray before the first tick of damage sets in!

    And for the other side of me…

    Paladin

  • Avenging Wrath: Divine Shield, Divine Protection, and Hand of Protection, and Avenging Wrath cannot be used within 30 seconds of each other anymore. Forbearance removed from Avenging Wrath.

  • Divine Protection: The penalty has been removed.

  • Divine Shield: The penalty has been changed so that all damage done is reduced by 50% in place of an attack speed penalty.

  • Hand of Reckoning(NEW): Available on trainers at level 16. It’s a 30 yard range taunt that causes Holy damage.

  • Judgements of the Pure: This Holy talent now increases the damage done by Seals and Judgements.

  • Judgement of Wisdom: Now returns a percentage of base mana instead of a percentage of max mana.

  • Sacred Duty: Interaction with Divine Shield and Divine Protection removed, but stamina bonus increased.


  • I'm glad Avenging Wrath no longer causes forbearance. The 30 seconds could still be incredible inconvenient, especially in PvP where my paladin will have to choose between burst output and risking his own survival, but at least in PvE raids and instances where Divine Shield is less likely to be used I can be reasonable certain that it'll be okay to use Avenging Wrath.

    The change to Judgements of the Pure is a step in the right direction after all the previous nerfing to seals and judgements to bring down the ret pallies. A holy paladin's dps anecdotally seems to have been among the lowest of all healing specs for a while so it'll be nice to be able to do more damage. That's good for fools like me who like to holy tank and it'll be nice once I start leveling in earnest.

    Judgement of Wisdom saddens me though because it's my favorite judgement and while I haven't run the math I have the suspicion I'll get much less for it. It seems like I run out of mana often enough as it is (when I'm not instance healing). I continuously use JoW while solo-ing or tanking and my mana pool doesn't refresh as fast as I'd like as is. Though I don't have Divine Plea yet so that could be part of my problem. (Is it wrong to have tanked three Northrend instances and dps-ed one on my holy paladin and still be level 70?)

    The rest of the changes are of little interest to a holy paladin though the new Divine Protection is a nice tanking buff. I'm inclined to think that Sacred Duty is a buff, just based on the fact I've rarely felt the cooldown for Divine Protection and Divine Shield was too long while tanking. And the new Hand of Reckoning is a much needed single target taunt I'm sure I'll enjoy. The change to Divine Shield doesn't really bother me either way since I'm rarely attacking while my shield is up. In a way it could be a nerf since it affects damage rather than attack speed. Previously our instants such as Holy Shock weren't affected by that, but due to cooldowns even holy paladins rely on actual weapon swings to do dps.

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Only Eye of Eternity Left

    Naxx came and went so fast. In a week and a day since we started, Kel'Thuzad fell. And it's weird. We never stopped because there was a boss we just couldn't beat because we needed to gear up more. Every time we stopped it was because it was getting late.

    We knocked out the Obsidian Sanctum too. It was cake.

    All that's left for 10-man is Malygos in the Eye of Eternity, though from what I'm hearing he should be a tough one.

    We're a few short of starting 25s still, but most of that will be made up when the rest of us who aren't 80 yet finally ding. In the meantime, we're starting to bench people, mostly melee dps, for the 10-mans. Last night was the first night we actually had a roll-off to prevent too many melee for joining the raid. (Our winning KT attempt actually ended up with a feral druid doing nothing but dancing on the sideline because we couldn't use him for anything other than his LotP aura.)

    There's some talk about starting a second 10-man group while we recruit for the last few for 25s, and we have the tanks (and soon the healers) for that. I don't think many other guilds are running two 10-mans and it shouldn't be too hard to pug dps to fill out whatever we're short for 25s, but it's an idea and I think it's a good team builder as long as we can avoid the perception that there's the "good raid group" and the "other raid group."

    Personally I like the 10-mans because of accountability. Individual death is more forgiving in 25-mans because each individual contributes a smaller portion of the dps or healing (only tank death is really as bad in 25s as 10s), but 25s is where the loot is.

    And since we're finishing off the 10s so easily I guess 25s is really the next step until the next patch comes out. I hope Ulduar will be a good challenge. At this rate I'll probably be geared to the gills by the time 3.1 lands.

    Sunday, December 7, 2008

    [Paladin] Tanking Nexus at 70 as Holy

    I wasn't going to start leveling my paladin until I finished up questing on my druid (still have Storm Peaks and Icecrown to go), but while I was chugging along a group of lower level guildies consisting of two dps and a healer started a Nexus party, and they were short a tank and one more. All the 80s were on a heroic spree and I wanted to help out, so I offered to switch to Gillien.

    In officer chat I remarked, "This is going to be either interesting or a complete failure." Someone amusingly pointed out that it could be an interesting failure too. My fellow officers know my penchant for doing things off-spec.

    So I logged on Gillien and put on his tanking gear. Sure enough, 490 defense, so he's uncrittable against anything up to level 73, which should be fine for Nexus. It was Kara/heroic gear so I figured I should be all right for mitigation. I had some concerns though, just because I hadn't tanked an instance since the 3.0.2 patch unless one counts the Headless Horseman fight.

    Prior to that patch, I knew exactly where I stood on building threat, because spell damage was something I could easily relate to as a holy paladin. One of my talents even increased it. Now that prot paladins rely on attack power to do holy damage... well, for one thing I'm still swinging [Gavel ofNaaru Blessings] around because it has a fair bit of stamina and I don't have a new tanking weapon yet. Supposedly my threat would still be good though, since the prot paladins survived the change just fine.

    We started the instance all right, but wiped embarrassingly hard on an early pull. I was quite frankly horrified because the first thing that goes through my mind when I die as a tank is that my mitigation is horrible, I underestimated the need for CC, I suck, etc.

    Actually, we just needed to mark the kill order. I hadn't been given lead, so when I suggested that I could mark the targets, I got it, and then progress went much more smoothly. We did have one more wipe, but that was the rhino pet's fault for bringing adds (turn off knockback in instances please!).

    Once we got into a rhythm, tanking became fun again. I felt a little spastic once we got to Keristrasza though. She has a debuff she puts on all the party members where they take damage from cold if they stand still too long. Even though I knew this and had done this fight before as a healer, for some reason my skull got particularly thick shortly after the fight started and I didn't keep moving after I positioned her. Then I wondered why I was taking so much damage and blowing all my emergency buttons just to stay alive.

    After a mental bonk on the head I started shifting around, side to side, front and back. I hated doing that because we had two melee dps and it's rough on them having to reposition themselves every time the boss moves, but once I started dancing around healing me became much easier.

    Overall though, I think it was a good experience. And thanks to a quest that was shared I now have a nice new pair of shoulders. Finally hit 12k health in tanking gear! Haha!

    Friday, December 5, 2008

    Construct Quarter Down! Plague Quarter Next!

    My guild spent its third day in 10-man Naxx yesterday. I had to miss Day 2 when we cleared the Arachnid Quarter and Patchwerk again because of the reset, but I was back again last night when we finished the Construct Quarter, took out Instructor Razuvious for our second time in the Military Quarter, and proceeded over to the Plague Wing to get our first kills of Noth and Heigan. It was a productive night with five first-time boss kills. Thaddius and Noth were even one-shots.

    Our progress is pretty amazing considering the old pacing in raids, where one or even two new bosses would be a good night, and it does make me understand the concerns of the more hardcore raiders that the raids are too easy now. If the difficulty doesn't ramp up soon we'll probably finish this, the Obsidian Sanctum, and Eye of Eternity before 3.1 and we are not among the most hardcore guilds of the server.

    I also made out like a bandit last night. I was the only dps caster so when the [Gown of Blaumeux] dropped off Gluth our only clothie (a holy priest) said to give it to me since spell hit's useless for him. Then later in the night [Dark Shroud of the Scourge] dropped off Noth and we got [Chain of Latent Energies] as a random trash drop, both of which were given to me. I went up a whopping 68 hit rating last night. I'm still not hit capped, but I'm much closer now, and each of those pieces replaced a blue or old TBC epic that I was wearing.

    We also had our new ret pally with us last night so I got to enjoy Replenishment for the first time in a raid situation. I never ran out of mana beyond what a pot could fix, which helped a lot because I could afford to combat res our priest and then Innervate him without worrying about my own mana pool (which I had to do a couple times). Our shadow priest is leveling nicely as well, so between him and the ret pally it's looking increasingly likely that Replenishment will become a regular thing in our raids. If that turns out to be the case, it'll be time to think about speccing out of Dreamstate and into Celestial Focus.

    Tuesday, December 2, 2008

    [Druid] Speccing for 10-Man Naxx

    I came back from the Thanksgiving holiday to a surprise. My guild was starting Naxx. I thought we'd still have a couple more days after I got back, but no, we were going. I logged on right after they started the instance, but partway through a dps had to go so I was asked to fill in.

    I totally was not expecting that we'd be running yet so I wasn't prepared. I still had my leveling glyphs, my last two talent points had yet to be allocated, and I barely had time to grab any reagents before flying my butt out to the instance. Talk about being caught with your feathers down.

    I'd spent less than an hour of playtime at 80 and here I was flying to my first raid. But now that I've begun my first 10-man I know exactly where my deficiencies are and I can choose my spec accordingly.

    So here's what my spec currently looks like:



    As you can see I'm very heavy on the mana regeneration and mana cost reduction talents with Moonglow, Dreamstate, Intensity, and Omen of Clarity. My guild doesn't have the numbers yet for 25-mans, and our erstwhile ret pallies have respeced back their prot and holy tree to carry the raid. We don't have any shadow priests either. It is possible that our hunter will go survival if mana becomes an across the board issue, but he's also our #1 dps so for now I'm assuming that I will have no outside help with my mana regeneration. All four of those talents are critical to prevent me from running out of mana during a long fight.

    Addititionally I put two points into Eclipse. I know I said earlier that I didn't like the talent, but after doing a lot of reading at Elitist Jerks and playing with the model in Rawr, I came to the conclusion that there was really no way around it. I would need to take it to increase my dps. And after playing with it for a couple levels now, I've decided that it's not as bad as I initially thought it would be.

    It's more than just a buff icon in the upper right of the screen. A mini-eclipse graphic also appears directly over the druid's head, which helps a lot with visibility, and the color changes depending on which version of Eclipse of triggered (the same goes for the buff in the upper right). That said though... in the heat of battle it's still possible to miss the graphic and there will be times when it will not be possible to take full advantage of the buff.

    Why only two points?

    The general consensus at Elitist Jerks is that it should be one or two points depending on the individual moonkin's crit rate. Three points is still a dps increase, but doesn't pack much bang for the buck, because the third point only pays to make Eclipse a guaranteed proc that will occur 100% of the time the moonkin crits. However Eclipse can proc no more than once every 30 seconds to begin with, so if the moonkin crits more often than once every 30 seconds then those other crits are wasted (as far as proccing Eclipse goes). Only investing two points provides some breathing room so there's less wasted potential and allows the moonkin to buy other talents with a better return. For me, in my newly 80 gear, two points provides the best dps increase.

    After taking Eclipse, I now have two points left to spend, so I'm looking at:

    Gale Winds - I'm not sure how necessary AoE will be yet in any given encounter, but it could be helpful with trash and possibly specific boss fights. The guys at EJ pointed out that the less time the raid spends on trash the more time the raid will have for the actual boss guy, but I'm not totally sold on that concept yet, since the boss is always what makes the raid give up for the night.

    Typhoon - I was not impressed by this earlier, but it's another form of AoE that might be useful under conditions where there are a lot of mobs coming from a particular direction that will not need to be properly tanked. Someone at EJ whose opinion I highly respect seems to think this has its uses, so it's a maybe for me.

    Nature's Splendor - Adds extra ticks to the Insect Swarm and Moonfire dots. It's a slight dps increase, since the cooldowns saved by not casting those spells as often can used for throwing out more StarFires or Wraths. It's really only worth it though if both Insect Swarm and Moonfire are being used as part of the moonkin's primary spell rotation.

    Celestial Focus - I had this talent once upon a time before it had spell haste added to it. The stun was fantastic for solo-ing, but I couldn't justify it in a raid build. Now with the percentage spell haste it's potentially tasty.

    Prior to entering Naxx I was leaning towards putting both points into Celestial Focus, but after my first couple of bosses my mana predicament became painfully obvious to me. I was running dry at the end of the fight, and in the last few seconds I would end up with nothing to give, even after potting and Innervating myself. That's a horrible feeling.

    Haste makes you spend mana faster than you would otherwise, so in a mana starved situation it does nothing to benefit the caster. You'll do the same damage as you other otherwise. It's just you'll do it faster and then sit around on your duff waiting for your mana to regen enough for a few more casts (and as a moonkin I have quite a formidable duff).

    So now I'm leaning towards Nature's Splendor because I use Insect Swarm and Moonfire in both my boss and trash spell rotations (IS/M/Starfire and IS/M/Wrath respectively), I have [Glyph of Insect Swarm] already, and I'm talented for Improved Insect Swarm.

    For my last point I'll probably go into Gale Winds for the improved AoE. It'll make trash go faster and help with heroics since we're doing a lot of those right now.

    Thursday, November 27, 2008

    Ding! 80!

    I hit 80 this afternoon on Hana. I'm going to be out most of this weekend, but once I get back it's going to be a heroic spree as my guild prepares for Naxx-10. I'm now the fifth 80, and we're expecting our sixth this weekend. From what we've heard, Naxx isn't frightfully difficult, so we plan on starting as soon as we get eight 80s. Then we'll take along anyone else who's close to make up the ten.

    Even though I'm 80, I still haven't switched out all of my gear. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that I'm still wearing my T4 helm.



    I just haven't had anything better drop for me in Northrend yet. I know there are BoE upgrades and quest upgrades from the Icecrown quests, but I haven't gotten to them yet. There's also a slew of gear to be had in heroics.

    Aside from my helm, I'm still wearing my legs and a spell hit ring from TBC, but those were badge items from the Isle of Quel'danas so it's not surprising those are still good since they'd arrived as part of the Sunwell patch.

    Now that I'm finally 80, I'm really looking forward to starting heroics. I also have almost all of Sholazar Basin to finish as well as Icecrown and the Storm Peaks left to quest in. Some of my best in slot gear for Naxx are BoE crafting epics so I'm gonna need the cash to either buy the mats or the items themselves.

    And for those in the US, have a Happy Thanksgiving! I'm going to be heading out soon myself. I'm already hungry... hehe...

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    The Loaded Question: What's Your Spec?

    Back when I first started leveling in vanilla WoW people actually didn't ask this question. Spec was something people only worried about for raids. I seriously didn't care if the warrior tanking for me was Arms, Fury, or Prot, and honestly it didn't matter.

    The Burning Crusade was a bit of a strange animal though. For one thing, classes other than warriors began tanking in earnest, so those paladins and druids that formerly came along as healers or dps could possibly be tanks as well. For another, there were people emerging from a raid environment that expected people to spec for what they do in a party (even a 5-man) and that anything less would be a disservice.

    My early levels in TBC I tended to advertise my druid as a balance/resto hybrid whenever someone asked. If they needed a tank I couldn't help them, but I was more than willing to heal, and I got into several pugs that way. By the time I hit 70 I was in a solid guild and pugs were no longer necessary because I typically ran with a guild group. I became full-time moonkin.

    Now I'm leveling again in WotLK and some nights it seems the whispers don't stop.

    "What's your spec?"

    The funny thing is, I don't even know what answer they want. Sometimes they'll specifically ask if I'm feral, but they never ask if I'm resto, even if that's the spec they're actually looking for. And I know they're guys trying to pull me into an instance rather than asking me for spec advice.

    Usually I'll just answer balance and let them respond with a wall of silence, but if I might be interested in pugging at the moment (because I consider it good practice to pug) I might say something along the lines of "balance, but willing and geared to heal."

    Sometimes they take me, sometimes they don't, but we've finished every run I've healed in Northrend. Which brings me to a couple things I've always believed about playing a hybrid in an instance:

    1) Leveling dungeons aren't intended to be an exercise in min/maxing where it's necessary or even strongly desired for people to spec for their role in the party.

    2) Any spec should be able to perform any role assuming they are properly geared. Underline the properly geared part.


    One of my shaman guildies was kicked from a Azjol-Nerub pug because he wouldn't respec to resto for them. Note that this was not a heroic or even a level 80 instance! So he and another guildie (who was kicked along with him) formed a new pug and they ran the instance in about 20 minutes, everyone at level, and with an enhance shaman healing. Common sense is seriously the most important thing that's needed for a leveling instance.

    Spec can make things easier for the group if everything goes to pot, but it's desirable for most groups to avoid going to pot in the first place, and many healers find it easier to level as feral, enhance, shadow, ret, etc. Just because their spec changed doesn't mean they forgot how to heal.

    I'm much more likely to answer positively to "Can you heal this instance?" than "Are you resto?" or worse "What's your spec?"

    Obviously this changes with heroics and raids, and I don't blame the spec question then, but for leveling instances? Pfft...

    The thing I like about hybrids is that there are other options available if my main spec doesn't cut it or isn't immediately necessary. On my druid I can be dps or heals. On my paladin I can be heals or tank. Two of the three party roles I will be available and prepared for. And if really necessary I can even try the third role.

    I was trying to solo The Plume of Alystros and found I was dying as a moonkin because I couldn't root the darn bird. So I decided to get creative and try to bear form the bird down. I put on all my tanking gear, buffed myself, and got ready to summon him again.

    But before I could, a priest rode up, saw the quest I was about to start, and invited me to his group. A warlock rode up a split second later and was also invited. So here was this balance druid completely dressed up like a tank and a group of three people, two of which were clothies and it was quite obvious neither of them were going to tank for me, and unless they looked at my spec, there's no way they would know I was balance. Every piece of my feral gear was TBC epic or Northrend blue.

    So I decided to make the most of it and tanked that bird. It was not the cleanest fight, since I wasn't used to bear tanking, and I was squishier than I'd hoped to be, but even as a balance druid with no points in feral my threat was incredible! It was much better than when I tanked Ring of Blood back in Nagrand. With some more work on my mitigation I think it may be possible for me to bear tank an instance as balance.

    And that would be an interesting to reply to "What's your spec?"

    "I'm balance, but I could tank or heal if you need me to."

    "........"

    Saturday, November 22, 2008

    The Death Knights are Spilling Into PvP

    I mentioned before that I have a second druid. This druid is not a twink per se, but is primarily for PvP. That sounds a little odd considering that she was not 70 prior to Wrath, and I don't know if she'll get to 80 before Wrath is over. Rather, she's been a fun diversion as I try out the different brackets, because I find it entertaining to see the differences between the classes as players learn different abilities.

    So she spent months being played on and off... 30-39, 40-49, and most recently 50-59. I picked up some honor rewards for her level, but really it was all for fun because I never intended to permanently stay in any one bracket.

    I went into one of my off-again phases just prior to Wrath, and now that it's out, naturally I'm been leveling a lot. But I figured I'd take a short break this afternoon and do a little PvP.

    What I had forgotten about was that everybody's new favorite class comes out of the Plaguelands at level 58, and they flooded the matches.



    Seriously, what's wrong with these people!?

    And that screenshot is a little forgiving. I didn't get the one of Warsong Gulch where it was 8 Alliance DKs vs. 7 Horde DKs and a smattering of other classes.

    As a druid, I consider one of my most important roles to be flag-running. I can stealth into the enemy flag room and grab it while the defenders are distracted. I can streak across the field faster than anyone who's not mounted and break snares just by shifting in and out (which is macroed so it doesn't even take more than a split second). Then once I'm in base I can go into bear form and take a good amount of hits before going down. Being able to heal myself when the coast is clear is nice too.

    I've run the flag dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of times, so I'm used to getting snared, dazed, and all sorts of awful things, but right now I'd have to say that Death Grip has to go down as one of the most annoying abilities ever.

    It was almost like tug of war with the travel form kitty. One DK to the left of me yanked me, then less than a second later, another DK to the right of me yanked in the other direction. Getting away is going to be a much bigger pain, no matter what your class really, if these death knights don't start filtering out.

    But! I did knock a couple off their high horses.

    Despite the fact I like raiding as balance, I PvP as feral. It's been one of the weaker specs, but since the 3.0.2 patch landed it's gotten much better. I have much love for Infected Wounds. It keeps those tasty Alliance from running too far away. And it was also much fun watching this death knight think he was going to finish me off. (Just because, you know, he's a death knight. He thinks he's OP. He's all in blues. Etc.)

    I was in bear form and we'd beaten each other quite low. I could practically see him waiting for his cooldowns to come up. So I popped Survival Instincts, Frenzied Regeneration, and topped them off with Barkskin. It was sweet revenge when he died to the wall of bear! Death Grip didn't get him out of that one!

    And I could justify all the cooldowns because I was also guarding a node. :)

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    [Druid] Reaching the Level 80 Hit Cap As Moonkin

    As I been leveling I find I've yet to replace any of my moonkin gear, but as I transition from my early 70s to my mid-70s, it occurs to me that I'm going to want to start looking out for good gear for myself, lest another [Manimal's Cinch] happen where the pre-raid best in slot is some green that people vendored without knowing better.

    As a moonkin, first and foremost on my mind reaching the hit cap. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, but hit is always worth more than damage. Because if you don't hit, how much damage are you doing?

    And for the math conscious... 1 point of Hit rating is worth 1.09687 Spell Power courtesy of Graylo of Gray Matter. Sure, it's not a lot, but all else being equal, go for the hit. Hit would be especially important beyond the moonkin's own dps if the raid expects the moonkin to provide a debuff such as Improved Faerie Fire for the rest of the raid.

    Most if not all raiding moonkin will talent for Balance of Power which brings the chance to miss down to 13% versus a raid boss. Assuming the raid's lucky enough to have a shadow priest (because goodness knows they were a rare breed on my server), the chance to miss will only be 10%. This means that the hit cap would be 341 or 263 hit rating depending on the presence of a shadow priest.

    Now if we go to WoWHead and look at the leather caster gear with hit rating... wow, there is none prior to T7! Well, we're used to being the neglected spec. There's no reason we can't wear some cloth to make up for it.

    So here's the list of spell hit gear to watch out for (or grind for). Some slots have more options listed than others since I try to go far enough down the list that there is something reasonably convenient to attain in the event heroics and thus badges are in short supply. I'm also assuming [Veiled Monarch Topaz] for all sockets unless following the socket bonus results in more hit or dps. As always, you can socket for spell hit as an option if your gear does not have it natively.












































































































































































































    Head

    [The Argent Skullcap]61 hitIcecrown quest - The Crusaders' Pinnacle
    [Hat of Wintery Doom]52 hit w/ socketTailoring BoE

    Neck

    [Necklace of Taldaram]43 hitAhn'kahet (H) drop
    [Emeline's Locket]37 hit w/ socketIcecrown quest - The Admiral Revealed
    [Amulet of the Malefic Necromancer]37 hit w/ socketIcecrown quest - Poke and Prod

    Shoulder

    [Mantle of the Underhalls]33 hit w/ socketIcecrown quest - Mantle of the Underhalls (Alliance only)
    [Spauldors of the Runeseeker]28 hit Un'goro Crater quest - The Activation Rune

    Back

    [Hateful Gladiator's Cloak of Ascendancy]34 hit 38,000 honor
    [Dark Soldier Cape]29 hit Honored w/ Knights of the Ebon Blade
    [Cape of Seething Steam]29 hit Halls of Lightning drop

    Chest

    [Water-Drenched Robe]76 hit Violet Hold (H) drop
    [Ebonweave Robe]68 hit Tailoring BoE
    [Robes of Lightning]55 hitHalls of Lightning quest - Whatever it Takes!

    Wrist

    [Fleshwerk Shackles]26 hit Icecrown quest - Killing Two Scourge With One Skeleton
    [Soothsayer's Wristwraps]23 hit Zul'Drak quest - Hell Hath a Fury

    Hands

    [Ebonweave Gloves]51 hit Tailoring BoE
    [Lava Burn Gloves]36 hit Violet Hold drop

    Waist

    [Girdle of Bane]48 hit Utgarde Pinnacle (H) drop
    [Plush Sash of Guzbah]45 hit w/ socket40 Emblem of Heroism
    [Belt of Unified Souls]42 hitCulling of Stratholme (H) drop
    [Sash of the Wizened Wyrm]40 hitHonored w/ Wyrmrest Accord

    Legs

    Forget it. There aren't any. Find some good DPS pants and socket hit if needed.

    Feet

    [Leiah's Footpads]51 hit Icecrown quest - The Air Stands Still

    Ring

    [Ring of Northern Tears]39 hit w/ socketJewelcrafting BoE
    [Brunnhildar Runed Ring]39 hit Storm Peaks quest - Making a Harness
    [Shimmering Cold-Iron Band]30 hit Howling Fjord quest - Down to the Wire/Hasty Preparations
    [Voodoo Signet]24 hit Gundrak quest - For Posterity

    Trinket

    [Mark of the War Prisoner]73 hitViolet Hold (H) drop
    [Figurine - Twilight Serpent]58 hit w/ socketJewelcrafting BoP
    [Rune of Infinite Power]55 hitDragonblight quest - Mystery of the Infinite, Redux

    Two-Handed Weapon

    [Grand Staff of Jordan]68 hit 325 Stone Keeper's Shard
    [Chilly Slobberknocker]50 hit Zul'Drak quest - The Champion of Anguish
    [Stave of Youthful Sorrow]44 hit Icecrown quest - Tirion's Gambit

    One-Handed Weapon

    [Flameheart Spell Scalpel]34 hit Revered w/ Kirin Tor
    [Ritualist's Bloodletter]30 hit Icecrown quest - Time to Hide

    Off-Hand

    [Telestra's Journal]39 hit The Nexus (H) drop



    It can take several pieces, but it's definitely possible to reach 263, or even 341 hit rating before Naxx. It's even possible to do it with just quest and rep rewards if random drops just aren't happening or PvP isn't your thing. There's an unfortunate derth of decent hit gear in certain slots (shoulders, wrist, legs, and feet), but those can be focused on for sheer dps with other pieces.

    Keep in mind that I just pulled out the gear with highest amount of hit rating I could find so in some cases there are greens listed that might be better passed over in favor of gear with less hit but more damage, but if you're having trouble reaching the hit cap, this is a good list to start with.

    Final Note: The arena season is not up yet so I did not include any gear that requires an arena rating or arena points. There are a few pieces of very nice hit gear though if you can swing it.

    Friday, November 14, 2008

    Moonkin on a Siege Tank!

    I skipped the midnight launch stuff and opted for hitting Best Buy a little after 10am the next day (due to the luck of having the day off). After travel time, installation, and repatching up to 3.0.3 it was about noon and I was in!

    So here's how my first day in Wrath went:

    The first thing I did was make my obligatory death knight. Not so much because I wanted to level one to 80 first thing off the bat, but I knew it was still early in the day and I wanted to see the death knight storyline before it got too crowded and before it was rendered completely irrevelent.

    It turned out to be a good thing because there is one quest that's made better for having a group of people around. Look at the screenshot below.



    There's a quest that involves an attack wave of death knights, and if you'll notice, most of those death knights in the picture are other players. Much, much cooler knowing that there's a whole mob of people with you.

    I played my DK until the DK-specific quest material wrapped up and then parked her in Org, where she has been from the start of her play time until the end of it, the only female tauren death knight I've seen.

    Then I came back on Hana and sent my druidic butt up to Northrend.

    I chose Borean Tundra to start in because I understand the Taunka are there and I figured Hana would be happy to meet her distant bison relatives. I've since found that I don't like their models very much though. The males look like their faces have been pancaked in and the females are just female tauren.

    The initial set of quests around Warsong Hold didn't do much for me, but once I got past that they were more fun. I understand Borean Tundra was more crowded than Howling Fjord, judging from my guildies who largely ended up going to HF to avoid the crowds, but after the immediate area around and to the west of Warsong Hold it's not so bad. It's also nice seeing Saurfang put in an unexpected appearance in what would otherwise be just a random quest chain.

    The western coastline quests involving the mist? Very cool. The quests themselves aren't so unusual, but the environment in which they take place in is really what does the job. And there are nice touches to other quests where you'll even get transportation form one quest hub to the next.

    Borean Tundra also had Hana's first experience with a vehicle. I'd played with them in the Death Knight starting zone, but I can safely say that nothing prepared me for this:



    Moonkin on a siege tank! Yes, moonkin will not shift out to caster form when riding a vehicle! It was freaking hilarious running around the Plains of Nasam as a moonkin on a siege tank and literally mowing down Scourge. I'm sure they had no idea what hit them. Now if only I could see a druid doing this in tree form...

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    Arena Rating and Point Requirements Borked

    I'm not sure if this is uniformly the case across all servers, especially since the official forums are quite locked down at the moment due to the mail crisis, but at least on Skywall Horde the arena vendors seem to have gone nuts.

    For instance, [Brutal Gladiator's Ornamented Guards] are now a 1850 rated piece of armor, and several of the S4 weapons have no rating at all. I hear of people buying S2 gear completely free.

    Personally there's just one item I wanted to get, more as a momento than anything else with my leftover arena points, but now that [Vengeful Gladiator's Ornamented Headcover] is out of reach. What used to be a 1500 point item with no rating requirement is now 1875 with a requirement of 1850.



    I know Blizzard has a lot going on right now and really this was just a momento I wanted, but still... I hope this gets fixed before Gillien goes to Northrend. I want my paladin halo! Fortunately I plan on taking Hana up first, so if Blizzard needs a few days hammer out the issues I can afford to wait a while.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Defending Orgrimmar



    Snippet of a conversation in game tonight.

    I had other things I was going to write about... pre-Naxx gear for balance druids, properly using Beacon of Light as a paladin, and I'm still working on those, but for now they've been derailed by the start of the Wrath of the Lich King launch event.

    I remember last time with the Burning Crusade this was a crazy ordeal. Kazzak disappeared, some raid demon went roaming, and demons streamed out of the Dark Portal for us to kill. I earned my [Tabard of the Protector] and I'm proud of it.

    So when I was at work this afternoon and the event started going live (me being on the west coast), I was extremely excited. I couldn't wait to get home. Except that I had to pick up a few things from the grocery store first and even then I did get home I still had a few more things to do like prepare for a workshop tomorrow and put out the trash because pick-up's in the morning... Eh, yeah...

    I ended up logging on about 10pm server time (go me), but things were still bustling. I ported from Shatt to Org almost immediately and ran for the arena in the Valley of Honor. There were abomination bodies everywhere, but I was lucky. The event wasn't active at the moment and given that it runs on a twenty minute cycle I was fortunate to arrive in time to catch the beginning of it. I even ran into a couple friends along the way.

    And so I found a small table with Thrall on one side and a much, much more imposing Garrosh Hellscream on the other. Saurfang and Sylvanus Windrunner stand nearby with their own opinions on the matter at hand. At first I was very excited because I moused over Thrall and saw that he had a quest, but it turns out it was only Hidden Enemies, which I'd never done on Hana. Ah, sad face for me.

    Shortly after my disappointment though, the event started up and everyone started spewing text faster than I could read their speech bubbles. Apparently Garrosh has found his prozac since his days in Nagrand and has become an orc among orcs, and for some reason really wants to lead an army of the Horde up to Northrend bad. I'm not sure exactly why he has so much of a personal stake in this, but he thinks he's orc enough to do it and he duels Thrall for the privelege.

    Garrosh and Thrall duke it out in the Orgrimmar arena and it's kind of funny watching them go at it. It just makes me wonder if we ever look like that when we're dueling. And in a way it kind does, but no shaman would would waste time casting a Lightning Bolt and suffering all that pushback while a melee opponent is beating on him. And where are his totems?

    Sadly, Thrall's Lightning Bolt is the only spell that's actually named in their arsenal, which is too bad since Garrosh has this nifty lightning spewing ability that doesn't look like anything else currently in game.

    Their fight is interrupted though before either side can claim a decisive victory (yes, Thrall is down more health when the battle ends, but it's not by a whole lot so I wouldn't say he actually loses) and then when the bystanders run outside the arena the army of frost wyrms and abominations attack!

    I was totally ready to go. I moonkined it up and started shooting Moonfire at the nearest one. Thrall, Saurfang, Garrosh, and Sylvanus Windrunner all joined the fray. At one point I found Saurfang already fighting an abomination and pulled aggro off him, which was pretty funny just because of his over-inflated reputation (now immortalized in my screenshot).

    But after the initial rush of running into battle... I was a little disappointed, and when I said "I'm a little disappointed honestly" I wasn't really talking about Saurfang. I was talking about the event. The abominations died real easy, and the frost wyrms were annoying because they either flew too high or too far away for me to consistently attack them as a caster. I can only imagine how annoying that would have been for melee.

    It was fun watching the named NPCs running around, and they really did a lot of fighting (Sylvanus struts like she means it and if I was her enemy I would totally stay out of her way!), but I didn't really feel like I was making any progress in fighting this invasion. I'd kill abominations and just after it seemed like I was done, another one would pop up over here, or another over there. Frost wyrms kept falling down but I couldn't tell who was killing them because they kept flying around without actually sticking to any one target.



    And then... it was over. I barely caught wind of a conversation with Thrall at the end of it. There was no scream saying they'd been beaten back. Just nothing. The named NPCs stood around the table and then faded out, reset as it were, and all was as it was before.

    I'm hoping that's not all there will be because I was hoping for something a little more memorable. The fighting's only in the Valley of Honor, making it so easy to miss the carnage entirely. I wasn't expecting another plague of zombies, but really, if that had been run closer to the actual release date I would have been happier with it.

    Tomorrow night I'm gonna to hang out on my Alliance alt and watch the Alliance end of things. I won't be online at all on Wednesday, but that will hopefully leave me fresh for Thursday!

    Friday, November 7, 2008

    [Paladin] Healing with a Sword

    There is one side benefit, for arguably cosmetic reasons, that I'm looking forward to now that spellpower has been consolidated, and that is the fact that caster swords that previous benefited mages, warlocks, and even prot pallies will now be worth something to the holy paladin. Sure the shape of a weapon doesn't matter much when it comes to the stats needed to heal, but visually I find the sword more appropriate for a paladin. For a blood elf paladin, it's even their starting weapon.

    Back when I was leveling Gillien in Azeroth I used swords almost exclusively. Spell damage and healing didn't exist for most weapons, and stylistically it seemed the most appropriate.

    But come Outland, where all healing weapons are either maces or staves, and being that paladins can't use staves, the mace became pretty much the only choice for a holy paladin.

    WotLK doesn't have very many caster swords, but compared to the say… zero healing swords available in BC it's better than nothing. Personally I'm hoping to snag a [Jeweled Coronation Sword] once it comes time to replace my [Gavel of Naaru Blessings]. No, it's not the best pre-Naxx healing weapon out there (spirit makes the pally side of me sad), but I certainly won't object to having it.

    And then in Naxx itself there's the Grieving Spellblade (10-man), Life and Death (25-man), and The Turning Tide (25-man).

    Of course it's not likely I'll see any of that soon, but if I can just get one healing sword and for it to be useful for me for a fair amount of time I'll be happy.

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    [Druid] Time to Respec… Again

    Well, when I get home today I'm going to update to patch 3.0.3 and say good-bye to Typhoon. It was... interesting while it lasted.

    The primary changes of interest to moonkin are the reduction of Earth and Moon from 5 ranks to 3 and a similar change made to Moonfury. Eclipse was buffed to do more damage and have a longer duration, but I still don't know if I'll take it just because I know that I'm the sort of person who will need a mod to get any mileage out of it. It is possible I'll spec into it once all the theorycrafting is full bore at level 80, but for now while I'm primarily concerned with leveling I don't see any point to it.

    The four points freed up from those talents and the fifth since I'm dumping Typhoon are giving me a surprising amount of flexibility at 80 where I'm now considering between Owlkin Frenzy (for the anti-pushback and extra dps when I get splash damage), Celestial Focus (for the spell haste), and even Eclipse (for extra dps). Since I have points to spare after getting all my must-have talents, this means that in all likelihood I will have one of them. The prospect of having that option is admittedly baffling for me considering that there really was no choice in TBC.

    A big part of what I eventually choose will likely depend on my experience with the new dungeon designs as I level up, so I'm going to put off deciding on an 80 spec for now.

    When I get home today I'm going to go for this: 45/0/16.

    I think it'll be good for leveling. Good regen from Intensity and Dreamstate will keep drinking to a minimum and all the key dps talents are still there. I won't have Earth and Moon or Starfall right off the bat, but they'll come with time.

    Monday, November 3, 2008

    [Paladin] Forbearance with Your Avenging Wrath

    By now it seems just about every paladin blog has touched on the nerf to Avenging Wrath. It causes Forbearance again.

    The fact Avenging Wrath had lost Forbearance at all for patch 3.0.2 was a cause for celebration by many paladins because it freed our best damage increasing ability from Divine Shield which also causes Forbearance. When it comes to which ability a paladin would rather take the penalty of Forbearance for the 12 seconds of immunity wins out in the majority of cases.

    Prior to 3.0.2 there were two occasions I would use Avenging Wrath, both in PvE.

    1) Boss fights while tanking

    More damage means more threat and prior to 3.0.2 a tank would never Divine Shield unless it was in the form of a macro to do an emergency breaking of fear and Divine Protection would never be used at all.

    2) DPSing in instances

    I've done everything with Gillien as holy. What can I say? In order to stay reasonably "competitive" with my guildies while we were running through heroics I learned to use Avenging Wrath every time the cooldown was up. Sure, holy dps wasn't all that, but I could at least beat the tank (and though that's a minor accomplishment, think of how many times you've gone with a pug dps who couldn't even do that).

    I never used Avenging Wrath in PvP, even when there was no one around to heal besides myself, because of Forbearance. A dead paladin does no dps so I would always save it for Divine Shield. And besides, it could be Spellstolen and what sane paladin would be comfortable risking the remote possibility of some mage running off with her Avenging Wrath while leaving her with the Forbearance? It's an ugly scenario.

    After patch 3.0.2 I still was not comfortable using Avenging Wrath for much other than the two previous examples. Even when I needed to do a crazy amount of healing in a short amount of time I fell back on Divine Illumination to reduce the amount of mana I spent and used the Divine Favor + Holy Shock combo to force a proc of Infusion of Light and give me a quick Holy Light. It might have been because I just wasn't used to thinking of Avenging Wrath as a healing spell, but I still have yet to work it into a healing boost.

    I did use it offensively in post-patch PvP though, and did the exact thing that Blizzard has now nerfed the paladin's ability to do. I Divine Shielded myself, popped Avenging Wrath, and then proceeded to demolish a mage who sadly couldn't do a thing to stop me except Blink and try to run away (but with Enlightened Judgements getting out of my range isn't quite what it used to be).

    Was it overpowered? Maybe a little, but when someone is fighting me they're fighting a holy paladin who 9 times out of 10 will prefer finding someplace to safely heal someone else in a BG. I rarely dps in BGs (though I will in arena, if they would only start working regularly again). If I was ret and actually specced to do damage I could see this getting out of hand.

    I don't want to get on the bandwagon lamenting why Blizzard didn't fix this earlier, considering how much they've been nerfing ret ever since the patch came out, but I find it a little odd that for this particular nerf it seems to be viewed as a nerf to all paladins and not just ret. Yes, as a holy paladin I've used these two in combination, and yes, it is a nerf, but it's not a huge nerf to the entire class.

    It will once again remove the use of Avenging Wrath in PvP no matter the paladin's spec. But as far as PvE goes there's not much difference for holy and prot. Sure Avenging Wrath + Divine Shield might be nice if the holy paladin has to go on a healing binge of epic proportions in order to save the life of the party without drawing aggro or taking damage, but that would be a situational instance and blowing them together in such a situation would mean a minimum of three seconds of GCD that the paladin is not healing.

    For a tank the paladin would lose the ability to use Divine Protection as an emergency button, but if the tank can't last the two minutes for Forbearance to wear off the fight probably wasn't meant to be won. And in the next attempt the tank could just not use Avenging Wrath to start off the fight. Threat generation is so much better post-patch Avenging Wrath might not even be necessary for all but the best geared parties.

    Am I disappointed with this change?

    A bit. I have two paladin guildies who are enjoying every bit of being ret while they can. One used to be holy and the other is hot-swapping between prot and ret depending on whether or not we need him to tank. They're having a good time and I'm happy for them.

    On a more personal level I was happy with the removal of Forbearance, but honestly I barely used the Avenging Wrath and Diving Shield together and hardly used Avenging Wrath at all, so I won't notice what I missed... much. Probably what bothers me the most is that Forbearance is now two minutes. Pre-patch it was one minute. Then it was changed to three. Given the change to Avenging Wrath I figured it was a fair trade. But Avenging Wrath is back to what it was pre-patch (except with the bonus to healing) and Forbearance has only been shortened to two minutes.

    Friday, October 31, 2008

    Official Class Forums - Lost and Back Again

    Originally I'd written a post about the class forums being condensed into three new forums, but then Blizzard reversed their decision and I deleted my post almost immediately. After a little more thinking, I figured some of what I'd written worth still worth saying, so here's a slightly shorter version of it. First, what Blizzard originally said was:

    With the upcoming release of Wrath of the Lich King and the many changes the expansion brings to classes and mechanics, we have decided to rearrange our forums to make it easier for players to hold constructive discussions. To that end, we have created three role-based forums -- Tanking, Damage Dealing, and Healing -- in place of the class forums.

    The new structure provides central places for players of diverse classes and specs to discuss their common roles. Until now, there was no one obvious forum for a holy paladin to discuss Arena healing tactics with a restoration shaman, or for a protection warrior to talk tanking mechanics with a feral druid. This often led to splintered, fractured, and redundant discussions. In addition, the original class forum structure never properly took the impact of talents into account, lumping together a shadow priest and a holy priest (for example) when that didn't necessarily make sense.


    I agree that a place for common roles is good. How many times have I seen a post from a raid leader unfamiliar with how a spec works ask in that respective class form for help in using this person in a raid? This would allow the sharing of more general guides useful for everyone. After all, there are sites like TankSpot and PlusHeal that appeal to people involved in those very roles and they don't discriminate between class. But, the problems was, Blizzard also announced that:

    The current individual class forums will be active until Thursday, November 6. On that date, we will be removing the individual class forums.


    Perhaps it's because I play hybrids, but I found it would be remiss to cut off feral druids from resto druids or retribution paladins from protection paladins. As a hybrid it's important for us to know what the other side of us is capable of, and for a player who is new to their class, the official forums are often a first stop. I like to talk about tanking as a holy paladin and I learned almost everything about gear selection and spell rotations from those forums or from links provided on those forums. I didn't go there originally for lessons in how to tank. I was looking for a holy guide and happened read the prot guides because they were there and well written and I thought they were good to know.

    What turned out to be one of my critical talent decisions for my old pre-3.0.2 41/20/0 holy tank spec (to take Anticipation) was made because of a question I asked on the official paladin forums. Would I have gotten the type of feedback I wanted if I could only ask in a forum dedicated solely to tanks or solely to healers? "Hi, I'm leveling a holy paladin in Outland and I want to be able to tank too. Where would you recommend I put my last eight talent points given these talents to choose from?" Could anyone other than another paladin have honestly answered that question?

    We were going to have ten classes (with the addition of death knight) condensed into a mere three forums. More than three times the traffic would move in less than a third of the space. A frost mage could still hold a discussion with other frost mages in the damage dealing forum, but a smaller percentage of the visitors to that forum will even care what a frost mage has to say, especially if it's detailed shop talk about a particular talent.

    Sites like PlusHeal and TankSpot work because even though they are themed around roles in a party, they have sub forums devoted to the different classes as well as places to share what they all have in common. Given the traffic load of the official forums I just don't see how someone who needs specialized help would have gotten their voice heard above the crowd, and that's why the class forums are needed. They have to be there for that level of assistance, and thankfully Blizzard seems to understand this now.

    I don't mind forums for tank talk, healing talk, and damage talk. What I did mind is the prospect of losing the class forums themselves. I don't call myself a tank or a healer or dps. I call myself a druid and a paladin.

    Tuesday, October 28, 2008

    [Paladin] Sold on Enlightened Judgements

    When the new talent trees came out I was a little disappointed with Holy. The Beacon of Light sounded decent enough (more on that in a future post), but getting up to Beacon required taking a lot of other talents, and the new talents leading up to Beacon looked… lackluster to me. Still, I was thinking of PvP when I was respeccing myself and one thing that always bothered me was failing to judge the old Seal of Justice on a druid or a shaman before they travel formed or ghost wolfed away. 10 yard ranged attack = suck.

    Enter Enlightened Judgments from the Holy tree. When I first saw it, I was not impressed. I couldn’t see any reason I'd really use this in PvE. After all, for solo-ing I'd pull with Holy Shock. For boss fights? When would I find the bandwidth to throw out, let alone maintain, a Judgement?

    But for catching those nasty druids and shaman… I could use the extra range. (Much as I love being a druid, I absolutely loathe facing one in 2v2.)

    So that was pretty much the reason, the only reason, I took Enlightened Judgements.

    Now that I have it, I find myself actually happy to make use of it. My guild did Kara for the Scourge event boss (and then some) and since I didn't need to heal full time I was actually able to help dps with a JoW/Holy Shock rotation in between heals. I didn't work on maintaining the Judgement. Heals always came first, but while I wasn't healing I was still able to contribute, whereas before I couldn't do anything aside from tossing out the occasional 15-second cooldown Holy Shock unless I was willing to risk getting into melee range. In older days even priests could contribute to burning a boss down by doing a little wanding.

    And then last night we went out Necrotic Rune farming. Even though it was no longer the weekend, it was still a madhouse with people fighting to tag kills. I had a lot of trouble on Hana because moonkin only have dots and the 1.5 cast time Wrath with which to tag mobs, but as a holy paladin with Enlightened Judgements Gillien had three ranged instants; Exorcism, Holy Shock, and Judgement of Wisdom (I was tagging so many mobs so fast I needed to keep my mana up). I never had felt so completely overpowered as a holy paladin as last night. I ended up with 50+ Necrotic Runes after my first undead spawn point.

    So the verdict on Enlighted Judgements? I'm gonna keep it. I can't say I like its companion Judgements of the Pure yet (with the idea that holy paladin uses Enlightened Judgements to judge from afar for haste bonus), but doing ranged dps in raids and 5-mans is welcome, and for tagging as many mobs as possible without dragging them all over the place. Rounding up mobs for AoE farming's going to get easier with this and it dovetails nicely with my desire to be able to do more as a holy paladin.

    Monday, October 27, 2008

    [Paladin] Headless Horseman Totally Tankable as Holy

    Next time somebody says "LF tank for HH" I just might be tempted to volunteer.

    I was invited on Hana to an HH run by some out-of-guild friends, former Bloodl├╝sters, and we did our five runs. It was late in the night so I doubted I'd go on another run with Gillien, so I offered to bring him in for a sixth summon. Our tank was convinced to switch to his mage so we could get a seventh summon by his girlfriend, who has been on several of Gillien's holy tanking runs. When he asked who would tank without him, she replied, "Gillien will tank!"

    This was followed by a short exchange about whether or not Gillien was still holy to which I replied that I always tank as holy. I'm not sure he realized I wasn't joking. (Though to be honest, once dual specs come out, Gillien will have an actual prot spec.)

    So we ran in there and though I was initially a little concerned about how much damage I would take, it turned out that it was completely unnecessary. A holy paladin in Kara-level tanking gear and no damage reduction or avoidance talents can totally take Headless Horseman.

    And wow the threat! This was Gillien's first real fight as a tank since the patch and his threat was through the roof. I remember as my party members got better geared I used to have to struggle to stay on top of threat. Now it's all cake, and I don't have Holy Shield to give me reflective damage.

    I hadn't tanked much post-patch, just because there hasn't been a need to. One of our druids that dinged 70 decided he'd go feral for PvE and one of our officers decided to go prot with his warrior so we've been oddly stuffed with tanks of late (not that I'm complaining). It's not like it was when I was leveling Gillien and I tanked every single instance in Outland because we otherwise wouldn't have one. My post-patch tanking prior to Headless Horseman was limited to an UBRS fun run to get the Jenkins title.

    So I wasn't sure how my new 53/8/0 spec would do for tanking. I chose it for PvP, more specifically arena, in hopes of getting another piece of S4 before the xpac lands (so far, arena stability has sucked so I actually can't tell if my spec is working :P), and I was lacking the Toughness talent to increase my armor. My 8 points in Protection are for Blessing of Kings and Stoicism. Not exactly tanking goodness there. Fortunately, the increased threat formerly from Improved Righteous Fury is now hard baked into the paladin's base Righteous Fury so I was only missing the 6% damage reduction by not taking it.

    Though I did manage to tank all the whelplings for my Jenkins title, fighting an actual 70 boss would arguably be tougher, especially since the Headless Horseman was, at least last year, considered the same difficulty as a heroic boss, and I'd never tanked a heroic as holy.

    But it all worked out.

    I'd kept multiple tanking sets prior to patch 3.0.2 and as expected, post-patch the stats on them changed a lot. The downside was, out of my three tanking sets (avoidance, threat, and middle of the road) only my avoidance set allowed me to remain uncrittable. I anticipated losing the 20 points of defense from the change to Anticipation, but I didn't think I would lose more than that, which is what actually happened.

    The main issue I think is that I need a new tanking weapon since spell damage just doesn't seem to be where it's at anymore. I tossed aside my old [Crystalforged Sword] and used my [Gavel of Naaru Blessings] against Headless Horseman because it would give me better threat (even though it was still spell damage) and stamina, but what I could have really used is something more strength on it.

    For holy tanking Seal of Corruption seems to be where it's at now, much like prot tanking. Even in my old threat set where I have more spell damage, it still makes sense to use Corruption over Righteous, which makes me wonder if that seal even has a use as holy dps anymore. I'll have to try running some tests when I'm in my full holy set. It'll be useful to know come Northrend.

    Friday, October 24, 2008

    The Plague Has Reached Me

    I don't really RP much, Skywall is not an RP server, but I like to think of my characters as being characters, and not just an extension of myself. They have personalities and their own quirks that will effect which quests I take and which factions they are most interested in pursuing (and now that titles exist, which titles they want).

    So now that the zombie plague has totally infested Azeroth, it's only natural that Gillien should get mixed in some holy smiting whether he wanted to or not. I haven't been playing him much lately since most of my WoW time has been consumed by Hana trick-or-treating all over Azeroth (and getting exploration achievements at the same time) or killing the Headless Horseman, but my 2v2 arena partner wanted to try doing some matches last night so I logged on Gillien to test out how stable the arena servers are (not very, yet).

    People being as people are, the arena masters got infected after we did about seven matches and we ended up fighting zombies immediately after exiting our last one.

    I consecrated them to death, which was much fun, but my partner and I had gotten infected during the fight.

    No problem, I thought. I'm a paladin. I'll just Cleanse myself and… That's funny. I thought this was a disease.

    I looked at the debuff.

    Yes, it is a disease.

    I cast Cleanse again. And again.

    OMG, get it off, get it off! My Cleanse isn't working!

    I think I got a bit of a feel for what it must've been like for those poor paladins in WC3 that couldn't stop the Scourge. I mounted up and ran my butt over to a Argent Healer and got myself properly healed (much to the disappointment of my arena partner who was only too happy to have been turned into a zombie).

    From my understanding now the disease can be Cleansed, but it's difficult to do so and may take several tries. Knowing that I'm gonna be spamming Cleanse over and over again next time to make sure it goes away. I heard that the Argent Healers are starting to disappear now and the disease is incubating faster, and I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. It looks like Gillien's going to have quite a fight ahead of him and as a player I can't wait to see what happens next.

    Thursday, October 23, 2008

    Epic "Mount" Quest Changes in 3.0.3

    Kalon over at ThinkTank expressed his concern over the change to make Swift Flight Form trainable in 3.0.3, because that would mean players can (and many will) skip over the lore-laden quest chain to get it, but that wasn't the only epic "mount" that would become trainable. Warlock and paladin epic ground mounts will also be trainable as well.

    This news was of interest to me being that I have a druid and a paladin that have done their quest chains, and have a second druid and a warlock (both on different servers from my main) that haven't.

    While I agree that the Swift Flight Form quest is fantastic, the final leg of it is dependant on finding a group to do heroic Sethekk Halls. Heroics may be easy cheesey at the moment, but after we're all in Northrend the only people picking through Outlands will be alts, the rare newbie, and extremely casual players (and they do exist, I know someone IRL who has played for two years now and has just barely gotten to Outland). It probably won't be possible to get a group "at level" that is geared and keyed to do a heroic Sethekk run, let alone willing to do it. So that means doing the quest "at level" will be reliant on having higher level friends willing to go back and do old content, much like people get their warlock and paladin mounts today.

    I've always felt sorry for those paladins and warlocks riding around on their level 40 (now 30) mounts at level 65 because they haven't been able to do those quests, and these players were trapped between spending additional gold for training and getting a different epic ground mount now and doing the quest later (and still paying the gold for the materials to do the quest) or waiting on their regular 60% mounts until the time they could get the training and mount for only the cost of doing the quest. Since my warlock has not yet hit 60 herself, this was a decision that had I had pondered myself.

    The Horde paladin quest was ridiculously easy in comparison to the Alliance version or the warlocks' of both factions, which involve multiple instance runs, but all involved returning to old level 60 instances. It's easy to say that people should have a high level friend or two they can drag around to do these, but some of us would rather not inconvenience guildies if we don't have to. Some players in smaller, more casual guilds (or reroll guilds) where they are the high levels might not even have that option.

    From a game design perspective, I don't think the player should be held back from getting their reward because the content it exists in is otherwise outdated. A warlock or paladin could have easily gotten Scholomance or Stratholme runs in classic WoW because they were the level 60 instances and that's what people ran. Heroic Sethekk is not the most popular heroic now, but people will still do it for badges, especially if it's the daily. But the primary reason people visit Strat these days is to farm the Baron or Argent Dawn rep (or both). Will anyone go back to heroic Sethekk at 80? I suppose farming Anzu for the raven mount will still be desirable for some people, but Lower City rep itself is only worth a couple achievements and does not contribute to a nifty title (unless you happen to be just that close to getting "the Exalted" for having 40 factions at max).

    Will people skip the quest chains? I'm sure many will and never look back. Now that I have the option I most likely will skip it for my warlock. It's a pity, but she exists on a server where most of the people I used to play with have transferred off. I only log in on her once in a blue moon, so supposing I were to level to 60 to undergo her mount quest she lacks the support to do the quest at the appropriate level. But that's not to say I'd never do it.

    I am very much a quest person. When I'm leveling I hate killing mobs that are unrelated to my quest because that gives me xp I would rather earn via a quest, and there are more quests in the game than a person could possibly do in a single leveling run. What this change would do is allow me to get my mount (or flight form) when I want to and then do the class quest chain at my leisure, when I'm actually capable or it's most convenient. I don't expect that my second druid will be hitting 70 anytime soon, but when she does I plan on running the Swift Flight Form quest chain all the way up to the point I have to enter Sethekk itself. She'll get her Swift Flight at that point, and then perhaps when she's 80 she'll go back and finish off Anzu for real.

    If people want to do the quests, if they're the type that a good lore-driven quest chain appeals to in the first place, they'll still do them even if they're not mandatory. The people who aren't interested to begin with will skip it, but arguably they wouldn't have appreciated it in the first place. Nothing is being taken from anyone.