Friday, January 29, 2010

Mastering a Playstyle

I have been so bad at writing posts lately. I seriously have about a half dozen half-written posts that for one reason or another I just have not gotten around to completing, from how much I love the Blood Princes fight, to the level 32 tank who ran SM Library like he was an overgeared 80, to a set of diagrams on how I think the mechanics behind the LFD system works (for those rare times you end up not being the tank or the healer in a heroic run. yes, a heroic run, as in level 80).

But instead I'm writing this new post off the top of my head because of something Larísa blogged about. She was a little embarrassed to find herself in a heroic Forge of Souls run on her rogue alt, who only does heroics to earn frost badges that can be turned into Primordial Saronite for her main to use. It's not an uncommon practice. I know one guy who has five 80s and tries to run as many of them as he can through a daily heroic so he can get Saronite faster.

What I thought was interesting though, was that Larísa did not feel competent about playing her rogue despite having leveling it all the way to 80. She knows that she could improve her ability to play by reading up on the class and playing with Rawr, but she wasn't interested in that.

She listed her difficulties in playing a rogue and those reminded me of when my feral, Darkker, hit 80 and started doing heroics. The cat "rotation" is a bitch. No one tries to say otherwise. And plus we have to do it from behind. So when the tank's running around like a chicken with its head cut off or he can't decide which way he's going to face the mobs (I've had tanks that are extremely inconsistent about whether or not they'll turn the mobs' backs to the party), my dps shoots in the toilet.

Mobs run out of range and suddenly I'm not doing anything. My Swipe target's out of range, even though other enemies are not, and suddenly I'm not swiping. Or the tank only pulls the mob out of the "bad stuff" far enough that he's not standing in it, but there's not enough room for the dps to attack from behind.

I don't think I could ever be top of my game as a melee dps. Too much moving around.

But past our initial difficulties, that's where Larísa and I differ. Even though I do not expect to raid as feral, I like to "master" my spec, in so much as I can. I have Rawr set up for Darkker. I pulled down the BadKitty mod to track my bleeds and dots. I keep Recount up to see how I perform. I ask myself questions like "Is it better dps to Swipe when there are two mobs or should I single target at that point?" "How long does trash have to last to make it worth putting up Savage Roar?" "Is it better to Berserk before or after a Tiger's Fury?"

The upshot is that my non-raiding feral druid does much the same dps as my raiding moonkin in heroics. (I'm sure pitting them together in raids my moonkin would win because of the longer boss fights, but cat swipe spam is better heroic AoE and Berserk weighs short boss fights heavily in the feral's favor.) Most heroics Darkker dpses these days she's top of the meters and a favorite target of Vigilance from the warrior tanks, though I'm not entirely sure whether or not that's a compliment. I do try to avoid pulling aggro if I spot the risk in time.

And it's not just with my feral druid alt that I try to be a better player. When I went back to my warlock a while ago, after having not played her in months, the one of the first things I did was read up on affliction warlocks at EJ and check out a few warlock blogs. It might not be the best raid spec, but I like the affliction playstyle so I figure if she's going to be affliction she's going to be good at it. Three levels later my warlock is level 54 and loving her fel puppy to death.

Yes, I read blogs and EJ to figure out how I should talent my level 51, now 54, warlock.

But that's the kind of person I am. I like working on my rotations, my talent specs, learning how I can perform better as the class and spec I've chosen. One of my fondest memories was from my scrub days as a warlock (who was my second character ever and started with a ready-made guild of people I knew IRL).

A guildie/coworker found out I was struggling with leveling my warlock and I kept dying. Rather than help kill things for me (like most forms of help high levels give low levels), he took me out to Redridge where there were a lot of annoying gnoll mobs, some of which could not be pulled in groups of less than two.

There he taught me how to handle multiple mobs at once. He taught me how to pull, which spells to use and why. He taught me how to Fear one mob while dps-ing the other. He taught me how to bring back runners with Curse of Recklessness. He taught me how to manage aggro on multiple mobs with my Voidwalker. I would be responsible for killing the mobs I pulled. He'd only intervene if it looked like I was going to die.

I learned to play. More than that, my guildie had laid down the foundations for a potential warlock wrecking machine.

Though I found the lessons to be frightfully hard at the time, it's now common for my warlock to move from one mob to another before the last one's completely dead, and Fear and Death Coil are second nature. My warlock rarely dies while questing anymore, even when she's fighting multiple mobs above her level. She's taken out elites the same level she is.

I don't know what her performance would be in a raid, since she might never reach max level, but I like the feeling that I know what I'm doing, and I want the feeling with any character I play for an extended amount of time. I couldn't go to 80 on a character I didn't want to master. I might never get there, but I like to try.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

[Paladin] Season 7 is Over

I'm a little disappointed in how season 7 turned out for me. My 2s team was just for fun so I never really expected much of it, but after having spent season 6 around 1700 in 3s it was a letdown struggling to make 1350, even if our team make-up stank.

My 5s started up and looked like it would be fun. Even if our rating didn't go very high, the points would have been nice in comparison to how my 2s was performing. Besides, I like the quicker pace of 5s. Dancing around with a resto druid for a half hour for a measly 4 rating points just kind of sucks. With 5s the matches go quickly enough that I consider it the best "casual" bracket, get in there, get out, assuming one can muster the teammates for it. But then our priest faction transferred and that was the end of that.

The theoretical bright star early in season 7 was going to be my 3s team. DK/ret pally/holy pally. The ret pally was a bit nubby by his own admission, but a good player and willing to learn. He and the DK were doing 2s together as double dps and doing all right. But then the DK vanished and for a while I had no 3s team.

Some time later the ret pally came back wanting another go at 3s. Not having another team to play on, I agreed to heal again and the ret pally nabbed a mage to fill in the third spot.

That comp was horrible.

It really made me miss my season 6 team and the control we had. I don't mind losing to a well-played team. I'll be disappointed, yes, but playing with a ret pally and mage made me feel like I was trying to fix a broken sink with only half a toolbox. Everything was unnecessarily hard and teams that would have been pancaked by my old S6 team were now rolfstomping us.

Then finally, far too late, a decent 3s team fell into place. It was only two weeks ago, and we hadn't the time to really devote to burning through the fat to our proper rating. Hell, we didn't even have much of a chance to settle into working with each other, but it has promise. I think we'll stay together for season 8.

It still involves the scrubby ret pally, who, while better than he was at the start of season 7, is still learning not to LoS his healer, but he's gotten better. His spec has improved and he's taken to reading Arena Junkies for advice. He has a full set of furious gear now and relentless where he's been able to get it.

But the biggest help I think has been the addition of Cursedhoof, the hunter from my season 6 3s team. He wasn't going to do 3s this season, but agreed to give it a shot.

So my 3s team is now almost the same as it was back in S6 except that we now have a ret pally instead of an unholy DK. I'm going to miss those AMZs and amazing Death Grips, but the ret pally has potential. He knows how to toss a quick emergency heal if I can't cast and he's quick with the BoPs (for our hunter). With a little more practice so the three of us can better settle into working together I think I might have a real team again.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

[Druid] No Attack Poses with Weapons in the New Armory

Quick post while it's on the top of my mind.

I came to work this morning to find the new armory up. Yay. I play around with the model viewer. Hana's in her feral set so I don't really want to play with her pose until I can see it with my moonkin gear on. I decide to muck around with Gillien a bit. Find something kinda cool and take off his helmet. He looks like a arrogant jerk in the freeze frame I chose (perfect for a BE) which is actually part of the /bow animation.

I go through all the other animations too; casting one way, casting another way, attacking normally, attacking with a special. Nice stuff, though I can't find the falling animation I really wanted (to match the one used in my title banner).

Finally, I move on to Darkker, who's always in one feral set or another. After having seen Gillien posing in attack animations with his mace and shield, I'm looking forward to seeing Darkker in a threatening pose with her polearm. I wasn't expecting to have forms in the armory, it doesn't show off a character's gear after all, but I was at least expecting to have the same pose options as I did on my paladin.


I go through all the social emotes (salute, cry, point, etc.) so I can get to the combat ones and what's this? Casting (targeted), Casting (general), Cast (targeted), Cast (general)... and that's it?! Where are my attack animations?

Okay, maybe druids don't normally attack with their weapons, but I want something to show that she's a feral, something that makes her look ferocious and that she's ready to transform into a kitty bear at any second. Unfortunately my only option with her weapon out is the idle pose.

Sad feral.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dungeon Finder and Dual Specs

I've been mulling over this particular mini-drama ever since I won my Black Heart on Darkker, much to the consternation of the tank I'd been running with. (And before the tanks out there get pitchforks, know that normal ToC is so popular among tanks it's one of the few instances where you can queue as both tank and dps and actually wind up as dps.)

I often queue as tank and dps on both my druids, and usually I end up as a tank; very rarely as dps though it's not unheard of. It doesn't bother me that I end up doing 5-mans more often in my off-spec than my main. Particularly on Hana, even her off-spec is geared enough for chain pulling. Besides, the queues are nice, and I can look at it as doing my part to help more instance runs get going.

But it's not immediately clear what my main spec is to the random pugger. Or, for that matter, what I queued as. (Which is why the Black Heart was a point of contention.)

Normal ToC I had to queue specifically for. You can't get it from the random heroic. I queued for normal ToC on my feral because I wanted the Black Heart, and being that I wanted in faster, I queued for both tank and dps. When I first did that I expected to go as tank to be honest, but it ended up being that about half the time I ran normal ToC I went as dps. Tanks love this place, and only one tank can go at a time.

So I went in, we did well, and the Black Heart dropped. I immediately rolled Need for it. My roll for it was the first one that showed for all purples in the chat log. There was no waiting until the last minute to ninja-roll. I was pretty upfront about it, and no one said anything for several seconds, which is when the tank failed to win the roll. I'd gotten the heart.

Then the party immediately said that what I'd done was not cool, that I shouldn't have queued as dps to roll on a tanking trinket. I explained that I do both and queued as both. In retrospect I could have said something at the start of the instance like "I'm here for the Black Heart. If you don't like it, leave and I'll switch over to my tank spec and we'll requeue for another dps," but I hadn't thought it would be a big deal.

One thing I've noticed is that the rules of needing and greeding have changed a lot since the cross-server Dungeon Finder went into place. If you don't Need, even for your off-spec, there's a good chance you'll be looking at a shard. One run I went on with my paladin I discovered the paladin tank was main-spec holy off-spec prot, just like mine, and he needed on everything. I passed on all the prot gear (not realizing it was the other paladin's off-spec and we had identical off-specs), but the other paladin continued to roll on all the healing gear.

The end result was the tank getting both the new 5-man tanking weapons (we did back-to-back PoS and HoR runs) because I kept passing. He didn't really need two weapons for his off-set, and he got a new healing ring too.

Now was he wrong for doing this? When I found out and brought it up his guildie told me "if you need, you need, even if it's not your main spec." He wasn't being mean. He was just being frank, in a "hey it's no big deal, need if you need" sort of manner.

And that appears to be the rule now. Most of the heroics I go on have behaved this way. Tanks roll on dps trinkets, dps on tanking plate, and so on. There's no discussion about main specs vs. off-specs. And in a way it makes sense, because people can legitimately be specced for both.

Having gone through this environment multiple times, was it any wonder that when the Black Heart dropped I hit Need?

I think for a random heroic, where it's quite clear that a dps ended up there via random selection (from their debuff), they should pass on tank and healing gear unless the tank or healer does not need. It might not be happening in practice, but I think someone willing to wait as a dps for a random dungeon is pretty solidly dps with little intention of tanking/healing and should leave the gear to those who would use it for their role. If the dps is a tank that's taking a break because they're burned out on tanking they probably have everything they need from 5-man heroics. (And if they didn't, they would have queued specifically for the instance they needed and not as a random.)

It might be a bit of a bias, but I don't think it would be wrong for the reverse to happen though, for a tank or healer to roll on dps gear, if it's for their main spec. If I wasn't willing to tank on my off-spec that would mean one more dps sitting in queue and three dps that would have to wait longer for a tank. Each dps who can tank or heal but doesn't is potentially increasing the dps queue by four.

Since the queues are longer for dps, I think tanks and healers who pug in their off-specs are doing a service by allowing queues to move faster (more runs for pure dps means more chances at gear), and they shouldn't be penalized from rolling on gear that would help their main specs.

For specifically queued instances though, people should be able to roll on what they came for, because it's more likely they'll end up in an off-spec role (or off-spec for what they want to roll on). One normal ToC run I did actually had three tanks in it, as I found out when we requeued to replace a dps. The prot paladin queued as only tank, my feral queued as tank/dps, and the holy paladin queued as tank/heals.

Arguably the run would not have happened without any of us, so I would think all three of us would have had legitimate reason to roll on the Black Heart had it dropped. We each took a different role, whatever it took to get the job done, and had circumstances been different any of us could have ended up the tank, but two of us didn't and performed the role given us. If the healer and I had queued as tank-only to ensure we showed up as a tank (as the complaining party said I should have done) we would probably have added to the glut of tanks and worsened the queue times for that particular instance.

I wonder if it would help if the Dungeon Finder would list the other roles the other players signed up for but did not get to play as. That way if someone signed up as tank/dps everyone would understand that yes he has a dps spec, he probably uses it regularly (or would like to use it regularly), and if someone signs up as just dps they can be prodded to wait until after a tank or healer has a chance at a piece of gear.

It also might clear up that ToC/Black Heart nonsense. People might fault a dps for rolling on tank gear, but they probably won't fault the tank the Dungeon Finder assigned as dps.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

[Paladin] Taunt the Adds while Healing on Saurfang

My guild did its weekly ICC run, but still dealing with holiday absences, we ended up being short two of our three healers. I asked our one attending healer, Valiea, how he felt about two-healing it if I came on my paladin (we would have gone with three if we had to resort to out of guild folks), and ever up to a challenge, he said let's do it!

Now I know it's not uncommon to 25-man guilds to do 10-man runs with only two healers, but being that we're a 10-man I'm always a little hesitant to accept that the content is as easy as some people claim. Valiea is also a paladin, which meant that we'd be two-healing ICC without the benefits of hots, chain heals, or priest shields.

If anything, our run last night was a lesson in how to take an sub-optimal group through Lower Spire (we had four paladins in raid, wtf?), but we did it! And hell, it was a lot of fun with just the two of us healing. There were scary moments and I can't say we never died, but it was a very satisfying run.

Aside from healing Lower Spire with two paladins, the biggest adjustment we had to make was our strategy on Saurfang. Our resto shaman wasn't there, so we had no Earthbind Totem (and no Bloodlust!). I was not on my moonkin, so we had no Entangling Roots. Our hunter was still there with his frost traps, but he was already pulling the right add towards him as soon as it spawned, which meant the left add would still be free, the one that I would aggro with Wrath spam and then root if I was on my druid.

We had a mage, warlock, rogue, ret pally, hunter, and cat druid for our dps. Given that set up, we figured the mage should aggro one and Frost Nova it into place. But this turned out to be tricky, and she got herself squished the first time she tried it. The second time she couldn't pull the add off the melee. The blood counters were stacking up.

Then someone said, "One of the paladins taunt it out."

The only paladins at range were Valiea and myself, the two healers. Valiea's better geared since his paladin is his main, and we'd agreed beforehand that he would focus on the tanks and I would get the raid and the first mark. Figuring I had the bigger bandwidth, I hit the wayward add with a Hand of Reckoning and pulled it out of there. If it got out of the frost trap and into melee range of me before the ranged could kill the first add I'd stun it. By then the first add would be dead and our hunter would taunt the second one off me and pull it away.

Being that I'm still using my hybrid raid/PvP spec I also had a 40 second Hammer of Justice, so I had a stun available almost every spawn, just in case.

For a healer that really likes to make decisions, it can be quite a rush to be healing a party member taking steady ongoing damage from Mark of Blood, raid healing with single target heals the sporadic party members with Boiling Blood, and taunting and stunning adds all in the same battle.

I've always been the kind of person that relished these kinds of assignments, where if you screw up the raid's probably doomed, and to participate in add control as a healer on a fight where you just can't let your target die or it'll probably be a wipe... it's something I haven't done before.

It made healing the VoA 10 pug I did later that night incredibly boring.