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.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

[Druid] Typhoon: The Big Blue Blob of Fog

Balance got two new spells to work with in patch 3.0.2, one of which is Typhoon, a 41 point talent. It's the moonkin knockback spell with a bonus of being an instant cast. It's the first instant cast we can get that isn't a DoT and the only one that works as an interrupt. Sure we've always been able to Cyclone, but with a cast time you have to really be on the ball to use it as an interrupt for a specific spell. More likely Cyclone is effective because it takes the target out of combat for a few seconds and the interrupt is just a side bonus (and easily accomplished if the target happens to be chain-casting).

Typhoon, being an instant, as opposed to a 1.5 second cast, should in theory be more useful for an interrupt, but in actual practice I'm rather unimpressed, both as the caster and as the target on the receiving end of it. Let's take a look at it from the caster's standpoint first.

As depicted above, Typhoon is a big blue blob that travels from the moonkin to the desired target. I have no idea why it looks like neon cotton candy, but it does.

This means that even though Typhoon is an instant cast, it has a travel time to get from the moonkin to the target. All things considered the travel item isn't horrendous since most spells have a travel time to begin with, but most ranged interrupts do not. Counterspell does not. Earth Shock does not. At point blank range Typhoon is likely to interrupt someone due to proximity. There just isn't the time for the target's spell to go off. If the target is at max range, there's a fair chance they'll finish what they were doing unless they have a really long cast or they're channeling.

On the bright side, Typhoon will hit multiple targets so there is the possibility of inconveniencing multiple casters instead of just one, which Counterspell and Earth Shock will not do. There is the knockback effect itself as well, where the knockback might be enough to toss an annoying enemy off a ledge, should the positioning be right.

Since Typhoon is a costly spell (twice that of Starfire) and has a 20 second cooldown though it won't be used as part of any regular dps rotation. It's value is primarily in the knockback, not its damage.

Now, one of the ways I tend to determine how useful a spell is, is by how much it annoys me to be on the receiving end of it. After all, isn't that the best way to gauge how strong it is? By losing to it?

I took Gillien into Arathi Basin, 51-point holy specced, and healing like a madman. Unsurprisingly, there was a moonkin running around. And unsurprisingly (given that I was chain-casting heals like no tomorrow), I was hit by a Typhoon.

I was unceremoniously bumped into the air... and I landed... and I started casting again. Typhoon's knockback is only 5 yards. Honestly, that's barely noticeable. I was hit a second time standing between the Lumber Mill flag and the edge of the cliff, and I didn't fall off. That's how negligible the 5 yard distance is. If moonkin are hoping to knock people off cliffs in PvP, don't count on it unless the person is already standing literally at the edge of the cliff.

Also important to note, the period I was in the air was only a second or two. Probably the length of time of an Earth Shock interrupt, but Typhoon is on a longer cooldown. This means that Typhoon is only really useful when there are multiple targets that can be interrupted. Using it when it only has one possible target to hit is pretty much a waste unless that target has to be interrupted as all costs.

For me, Typhoon is going to be relegated to solo-ing duty or for my amusement (I'm actually casting Typhoon at Onyxia in the screenshot). It might still be useful if I accidentally pull too many caster mobs, but it lacks the precision to be used as an interrupt in an instance, and I'm inclined to think that bosses will be immune to knockback effects. If AoE is needed, good old Hurricane (now free of its cooldown) would work just fine.

There are upcoming changes to the Balance tree before the expansion comes out, and since Earth and Moon and Moonfury are being reduced from 5 to 3 point talents, I expect that I'll get my talent points refunded in the near future. I think there's a good possibility that once I respec I'll end up dropping Typhoon entirely for something else. If I PvPed a lot as a moonkin I would consider keeping it, but otherwise I couldn't justify keeping it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Guardian of Cenarius

First things first. Lookie at my new title! :D It's sweet and it's mine.

Back when I just barely had an inkling of what a rep grind was I knew the one faction I wanted to become Exalted with above all others. Since I was a druid, that faction would be the Cenarion Circle.

Of course later I would learn that particular faction was a complete pain in the ass to grind rep for, and despite being a druid I was still only Friendly when the siren call of Outland pulled me away, but the thought always lingered in my mind.

After patch 2.2 the rep grind became easier, and, most importantly, I found out about the Guardian of Cenarius title in patch 3.0.2 that could be earned by being Exalted with both the Cenarion Circle and the Cenarion Expedition. Suddenly, I had motivation. My CE rep was already Exalted and had been for a while now and it only made sense that Hana would be a Guardian of Cenarius, so I packed up all the CC rep items I still had in my bank (and there were a fair bit) and headed for Silithus.

The rep grind was surprisingly easy. I knocked out about 12000 rep my first night, though granted some of that was aided by the leftovers in my bank. Also, in these more modern times, I was able to leave Gillien by the Auction House to buy whichever pieces of Twilight Cultist set Hana needed to summon an elemental templar. With instant mail, filling out the missing pieces was much easier (except when the AH was empty of what I needed :().

The real jump in the rep gain is due to the increased value in the [Encrypted Twilight Text] turn in. 10 sheets of text are now a whopping 500 rep!

Plus, there is a semi-wandering mob on a "relatively" short respawn timer (estimated 20-30 min) called the Twilight Prophetess. She's not worth much to a 70 by herself, but she's guaranteed to drop 7-10 pieces of text, so each time you pop her off she's worth 350-500 rep! She spawns in one of two areas, both near Twilight Cultist camps, so here's a good way to grind:

* Find a Twilight Prophet. Kill and loot her. Win!
* Go to the other Twilight Cultist camp and kill random Cultists for their set pieces and encrypted text.
* Whenever you get a complete set of Twilight Trappings summon the elemental templars and loot their Abyssal Crests
* When Twilight Prophet pats by, kill her again!
* Move back to the other camp.
* Repeat.

Whenever your bags are full, head back to Cenarion Hold and hand in any texts, crests, and sell stuff.

If you happen to have leftover Cenarion Combat, Logistic, or Tactical Badges it may be worth trying to get the an equal number of each, because every time one of each is turned in, that's another 1000 rep. I wouldn't try this if you don't already have badges though.

I went and did some Combat quests because I was short combat badges and even doing four of them at the same time, I wasn't nearly as productive as I was while I was getting texts and crests. Because I could get 1000 rep for turning in one of each on top of the rep for the quest itself, what ended up being a mission to kill 120 silithid for four badges worked out in my favor, but if I didn't already have other badges waiting to be used it wouldn't have been worth it.

And now two side notes...

Note 1: Patching up to 3.0.2 was a pain and I had to clear out about 6 gigs worth of space on my hard drive to give just enough room for the patch to install. Now it's installed and I suddenly have 8 gigs free. What the heck is up with that?

Note 2: I got the Out With It achievement already even though the Halloween event is not scheduled to begin until the 18th. How? I'm an insane person who uses a mailbox as extra bag space. I routinely shuffle a fair amount of items between Hana and Gillien (who, being hybrids, traditionally never had any bag space) and among them those items was a stack of about 17 [Tricky Treat] leftover from last Halloween. :) What I had leftover after getting both Hana and Gillien sick I sent off to my guildies.

Monday, October 13, 2008

[Druid] Spirit for Spellpower

Back in the day, people laughed at Spirit. If a random weapon or armor dropped and its name ended in "of the Whale" we'd snicker (or maybe cry if it was a blue). Even when Spirit got overhauled in 2.4 we weren't totally sold on it, though truthfully it was a crazy improvement. These days my moonkin hardly ever stops to drink while farming.

The thing is... for a raiding moonkin we're typically too busy chain casting to ever fall out of the five second rule and allow our mana to regen based on the value of our Spirit. Spirit wasn't entirely bad (since Innervate is based off of it and Intensity makes use of it), but we really preferred mp5; stable, reliable, and always regenerating.

Patch 3.0.2 gives us a whole new ballgame with Improved Moonkin Form, which translates 15% of Spirit into spellpower when fully talented. It might not be pretty, but it'll pull its own weight. I have 265 Spirit right now pre-patch when self-buffed with Improved Mark of the Wild. That translates into 39.75 more spellpower, just about equal to the Major Spellpower enchant (or it may be equal, depending on whether or not it's rounded up). It's not game-breakingly powerful, but would I turn it down? Not any more than I'd show up to a raid without my weapon enchanted.

Suddenly seeing Spirit on a piece of gear isn't quite the waste it was. Gear might as well read Int, Stam, and Spellpower instead of Int Stam, and Spirit. (Well, not quite, since the Spirit still gives less bang for the buck as far as item budget goes, but it could actually be desirable in absence of actual spellpower.)

A part of me applauds Blizzard's efforts in making a previously wasted stat more useful, even as I cringe at the thought of stacking more spirit. I have this crazy fear that one day I'm going run into a moonkin wearing "of the Whale" solely so he can get more spellpower, and if I do I'm going to be completely mortified.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Look At Balance Glyphs

Inscription's coming up in the next patch and that means the wackiness that involves altering the fundamentals of the spells we already know and love will shortly ensue. Maybe I'm just a little resistent towards change where I can't easily quantify what the trade-off will be, but the changes are coming and I know I will have to make myself competitive, and that means educating myself about these funny glyphs I'm going to be applying to... my body? Just where do glyphs go anyway? Armor kits go on armor. Gems go in sockets. Glyphs go in...?

Major Glyphs for Balance Druids

Glyph of Entangling Roots - Increases the damage targets can take by 20% before the roots break. Obviously not a raid talent, but would be extremely useful for any leveling moonkin. Probably good for PvP as well. If prices end up being reasonably I'll most likely pick this up for my run to level 80.

Glyph of Hurricane - Slows enemy movement speed by 20%. Probably would be fantastic at any of the AV chokepoints, but I can't think of a PvE reason to want this other than perhaps a situational pull where it's an advantage to AoE a group of enemies and have them approach the group very slowly, and even then it would most likely be a feral doing such a pull and not the moonkin.

Glyph of Innervate - Not a Balance spell per se, but with Blizzard making comments about how they want casters to watch their mana again, chances are moonkin are going to be using Innervate a lot, either on themselves or their healers (or even their mana batteries). This gives a bonus 20% mana regen to the moonkin whenever Innervate is used, no matter who the target is (including the moonkin herself), and who wouldn't want that?

Glyph of Insect Swarm - 30% damage in exchange for the 2% less chance that the target will hit. On the surface I like this glyph, because the 2% less chance to hit generally isn't enough to make or break a fight. The occasion I most certainly would not want it would be on a progression battle where the healers are struggling to keep the tank alive. If keeping the tank up is not a concern, then this glyph is a winner.

Glyph of Moonfire - Periodic damage up by 75% but initial damage decreased by 90%. While this isn't good for Moonfire spam, it's fantastic for raiding since it the bulk of the damage has always been in the DoT component to begin with. Now the DoT will be even stronger. There's no way a raiding moonkin should can pass this up.

Glyph of Starfall - Starfall lasts another 2 seconds. I don't know whether or not this allows extra stars to fall. WoWHead doesn't seem to have confirmation on it. If it does, it could be worth it, but if it doesn't, I wouldn't bother for the extra AoE power.

Glyph of Starfire - Increases the duration of Moonfire by 3 sec with each application of Starfire. Talk about a mana saver. A moonkin could theoretically keep up Moonfire indefinitely just by chain casting Starfire, and combined with the Glyph of Moonfire the initial burst of damage that will no longer happen won't even be missed.

Glyph of Wrath - 50% spell interrupt resistence to Wrath. Given that is says interrupt rather than pushback, this could be good for PvP when that shaman/rogue has an Earth Shock/Kick just waiting to happen. For raids? I doubt this would see any use. Even if Blizzard means pushback rather than interrupt, I can't see this being a tremendous advantage in PvE, especially in light of the Glyph of Moonfire/Starfire duo.

At level 70 we will only have room for two Major Glyphs. For raiding Glyph of Moonfire and Starfire are clean winners, with Insect Swarm and Innervate competing for the third slot at 80, but since WotLK is just a month away I'm rather doubtful I'll be raiding much. I might go Insect Sworm and Entangling Roots in anticipation of leveling.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Will I Be Holy Tanking in WotLK?

I joke about this with my guildies, that I'm the holy pally concerned with how well I'll be able to tank in WotLK. Supposedly it'll be easier, because the additional 30% threat from holy damage that is currently given by Improved Righteous Fury will now be hard baked into the regular Righteous Fury, but the Prot tree has been buffed so much in comparision to Holy I'm afraid that it might lure me away. And if the Prot tree is that good, will a tank need all of those talents just to do a 5-man?

One of the reasons I like being a hybrid is that I can do offspec things to allow flexibility in what I do for 5-mans. Seriously, it's so much easier getting a group off the ground if someone can do multiple roles… and knows how to do them.

For example (and a bit of a digression), I was trying to do a normal Magister's Terrace run because I wanted a particular healing drop and I joined a pug. We had three DPS and me, and we were trying to find a tank. I had already tanked the majority of the BC 5-mans as 41/19 (because I hate respeccing and couldn’t figure out where to put the last point) and while I figured MgT would be more difficult I knew I had the gear for it. My group, faced with the possibility they would otherwise not go at all, agreed to let me holy tank it and we'd look for a healer. We got another holy paladin.

As a courtesy, if I holy tank with a pug healer I always let them know I'm off-spec; not so much because I think I'm going to get pancaked and they need fair warning, so much as I don't want them to think I'm hiding something. I always follow this disclosure with a mention of which 70 instances I have successfully tanked with this very spec so they know the level of my capability. This paladin didn't freak out about me being holy, but he asked if he could tank instead. He'd even respec prot. Ordinarily this would sound like a good thing, except that he also told me he'd never tanked before and wanted to try it out.

I had all kinds of concerns, because Magister's Terrace is not exactly a training wheels instance for a first time tank, it's borderline heroic, but we gave him a shot. We died on the second pull. He had respeced, but his gear was unfortunately crap, being a hodgepodge of things he'd found and none of it enchanted/gemmed. He died so fast I barely had time to get off a heal, and it wasn't enough to keep him up. (Tip for newbie pally tanks: Just because you can AoE tank doesn't mean you'll survive it.)

He switched back to holy to heal, I put on my avoidance set (this being MgT I was expecting to get hit enough that I'd need the extra dodge/parry/etc), and even though I was still holy spec, I successfully tanked Magister's Terrace.

Having done so was certainly a feather in my cap, but what concerns me is...

Will I be able to do this in WotLK? Will I be able to tank the hardest normal 5-man as holy? It sounds contradictory considering that I'm not specced for it, but I don't want to tank in situations where I think it'll endanger the party. My tanking gear is all gemmed and enchanted to the same degree I maintain my healing gear. When I tank I use wizard oil and stam food, even though I'm just doing 5-mans. I even maintain two tanking sets, one for avoidance and one for threat, to use based on what the situation calls for. It's just my spec is only 19 points into Prot. My goal was never to be a raid tank, but a suitable replacement in a 5-man.

The change to Blessing of Sanctuary concerns me because I won't have it as a holy tank (and if a prot tank is in the party to provide it, I won't be the one tanking). If that's now a tanking staple, is there the possibility I'll no longer get enough mana back from Spiritual Attunement? Prot pallies might not have to worry about their mana pools anymore, but I will. The change in Seal of Righteousness to draw on attack power in addition to spell power concerns me as well, because I don't what my threat's going to look like. Most, if not all, my tanking gear is going to change.

Of course there's a good possibility Gillien will not tank prior to Northrend now that he has most everything he needs out of Outland, but I'll be terribly disappointed if he gets to Utgarde Keep and can't tank a thing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

…and the moonkin rejoiced!

Yes, there was rejoicing. Ghostcrawler announced a much needed slimming of the Balance tree that will give moonkin everywhere a little more flexibility with their specs.

Moonfury and Earth and Moon down to 3 ranks from 5, but keeping the same overall benefit. That buys you 4 extra talent points to get more utility or fun talents.

We are also going to buff Eclipse's damage a little so that you feel you're paid back for the extra proc-watching (and so I won't feel so lonely when I tell you I think it's fun).

The extra talent points would be much appreciated. I had pretty much given up on including Force of Nature in my Northrend build, which saddened me, but now I think I'll be able to squeeze it in. I also can consider getting Gale Winds and I just might get Nature's Splendor as well to extend the duration of my dots (though I'm sure that'll mess with my cast cycle…).

Happy days!

I still have mixed feelings about Eclipse, even if they continue to buff the damage a little more, but I am amused that Ghostcrawler at least acknowledges that she's holds something of a minority point of view.

What I dislike is that the proc is crit dependant. If I'm chain casting that means I'm already on my next spell by the time I see the proc, and then if I try switching mid-cast rotation to take advantage of the buffed spell I'll probably end up clipping my dots. If I wait until my rotation is done then I'll have wasted what could have been a fair portion of the buff. This just seems like it'll make it extremely difficult for me to maximize my dps. I'll constantly be losing opportunities as I try to adapt.

So for now I'm still going to leave Eclipse out of my talent tree, but if it gets good word of mouth in Live I may reconsider. There's still plenty of time before 80.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Exalted with Netherwing and Gavel of Naaru Blessings

I wasn't going to post over the weekend, but I had an extremely good Saturday in terms of game accomplishments. First, I knew I was in arm's reach of hitting Exalted with the Netherwing on Gillien, which meant that bastard would finally get his epic mount. I don't like to be wasteful, so even though I paid the 5000g for his epic riding skill I didn't buy him a regular epic mount because I knew I'd throw it away once I got his "real" one.

Much to the amusement of one of my guildies, I then spent a few minutes standing around in Shattrath pondering which netherdrake to get. Being that I'm something of an RPer, even though I'm not on an RP server, my debate wasn't "Do I want the green or the black?" so much as "Do I want Malfas or Jorus?" I decided on Malfas, the purple netherdrake (though I think he's more of an indigo or something; that violet nether drake looks purpler to me).

Here's a pic of Gillien with his new partner. :)

Shortly after that, I noticed that the daily was heroic Mech. Now if there's a heroic that any brain-dead pug can manage, it's heroic Mech. I generally dislike pugging heroics because you never know what you're getting. With DPS it's forgivable if one or even two members are under par, but it gives me the chills when I look at a tank and they're all in greens and blues. I don't, and won't, care if it's a normal instance, but I can't do anything if the tank is unable to prevent him or herself from getting two-shotted.

Fortunately, today's tank was mostly in purples. I think there's a bit of a trend lately in tanks picking up PvP gear for PvE, which I find rather bothersome. Certainly this tank had the health and was undoubtedly uncrittable, but he or she wasn't as easy to heal as some of epic-geared tanks I've run with have been. I don't mean tanks in T6 either; just those a mix of T4 and badge gear. I think this may have been because he or she wasn't getting enough avoidance with all the PvP gear.

It didn't end up being a make or break anyway. We finished the instance with only a couple accidental deaths of the dps. Then, being six badges richer, I went and got the mace I'd long saved up for:

[Gavel of Naaru Blessings]

Let me tell you a story, about Gillien and his horrible luck with healing maces.

Back when I was leveling him, I parked him in 51-60 AV for a period of several weeks. I was busy at work so I couldn't raid and my leveling partner was also busy so I didn't want to keep leveling without him. So I whiled the time away in what was currently a Horde dominated bracket.

I earned enough honor to buy the [High Warlord's Battle Mace]. I even enchanted it because I didn't know how long I would be there and I figured I might as well make the most of it.

Eventually, my work schedule lessened, my leveling partner freed up, and Gillien moved on. He got the [Mogor's Anointing Club] from the Ring of Blood quests, but given that the High Warlord's Battle Mace was enchanted, it wasn't as good, and I wasn't about to enchant Mogor's Anointing Club since I would obviously replace it at 70.

I continued leveling Gillien and [Northshire Battlemace] dropped for him in Old Hillsbrad. Again, it wasn't as good as a 70 blue healing mace, and my High Warlord's was better since it was enchanted.

But then I ran into a problem. I hit 70, and much to my embarrassment, I was still using the High Warlord's Battle Mace. Both Shattered Halls and Mechanar refused to drop their 70 healing maces, and random people I didn't even know would whisper me asking about why I was using an old 60s epic. I did my first Kara run as a guest in a friend's guild run and one of their healers asked why I was using it. (Talk about mortifying, trying to explain why you're toting around a 60 pvp weapon on your obviously created after 60 pvp ceased to matter blood elf paladin.)

One kind person informed me of a healing mace with the new Shattered Sun Offensive faction, and so with some reluctance (because my luck in getting a free healing mace to drop in SH, Mech, or Kara continued to plague me) I ground up the rep to Revered and got [Kiru's Presage]. With the spirit it was some wasted itemization as a pally healing, but otherwise it was servicable. Even without an enchant, it was at least better than the High Warlord's Battle Mace, but I still wanted something better.

I ran Kara some more, and more, and I kept accumulating badges. Gillien is now a couple bosses away from hitting Exalted with the Violet Eye and still a healing mace has yet to drop for anyone on any Kara run he's gone on. But he hit the 150 badge mark today. I wager most people don't make crazy jumps from a blue to [Gavel of Naaru Blessings], but I'm not complaining. With my luck, he's going to be toting that thing around at 80 and will have to field a whole new round of questions.

Friday, October 3, 2008

WotLK Balance Spec

Given that patch 3.0.2 is likely to hit in a mere eleven days, the talent trees probably aren't going to change very much, which makes me a little disappointed. My guild has asked me if Hana would still be my main in WotLK, given that I've devoted so much time to Gillien of late, and I think I can quite reasonably say yes, but honestly the new higher tier Balance talents have left me less enthused. The changes to the lower level Resto tiers actually get me much more excited because now every point I put in Restoration will be of use to me.

I remember just prior to BC a lot of people specced into their new 41 talents right away, but I stayed 31/0/20 with Hana and just added more points into Balance as I leveled in Outland. With WotLK I'm 95% certain I'm going to do something similar, and go with a 45/0/16. I'm quite certain that I'm going to want all the low level Resto talents, whereas the higher level Balance talents I may need to hear more about before I make a decision.

You see, in Resto I plan on taking:

Tier 1

Furor (5/5) - I never understood why an obviously Feral talent was placed in the Resto tree. As a moonkin I never gave it a second glance. Now that it's been changed to increase intellect in moonkin form, it's an obvious first 5 points into Resto for me. I still don't understand why it's in the Resto tree, other than as potential encouragement for moonkin and ferals to pick up other talents that might help them as healer, but it's a no-brainer.

Improved Mark of the Wild (2/2) - This used to be my first five points into Resto, but now it's been reduced to a heavenly 2 points instead of 5. Many restos in my former raid guild (R.I.P. Bloodl├╝st) passed this up in favor of Furor so they could by more useful arena, and of course the ferals did as well just because it's common sense for them, so most of the time I was the sole druid in the raid with Imp MotW. I admittedly have some fondness for the talent as well because it's our sole raid buff and I like bringing that extra bit to the table. (Old moonkin with something to prove stigma, I guess.)

Tier 2

Natural Shapeshifter (3/3) - I never had this talent before. In restrospect it would have been more helpful than say Naturalist, which I'd taken to reduce the cast time of Healing Touch (back when I was very reliant on it in order to heal), because it eats into my mana pool when I have to shift in and out to battle rez someone. Tier 2 is not very interesting to moonkin otherwise, because Subtlety no longer affects Balance spells.

Tier 3 (and this is where it gets busy)

Master Shapeshifter (2/2) - This is the first Tier 3 talent that really caught my eye. It's brand new and what moonkin could say no to 4% more spell damage? It's only 2% per talent point! That's just about as good or better than Wrath of Cenarius which is 4% and 2% for Starfire and Wrath only and deep in Balance to boot. No matter what we cast we get more spell damage. Yes, please!

Omen of Clarity (1/1) - This is another talent in the Resto tree that formerly only a Feral would use, because it relied on melee attacks to proc, but now it'll proc off spells too. Occasional spell cast free of mana? Can't pass that up for the meager cost of a single talent point.

Intensity (3/3) - So many good things in Tier 3! Other moonkin debating on various forums have argued whether to take Dreamstate or Intensity, because some people are having problems fitting in both. Generally they favor Intensity, but since I'm not a math person myself I had to think about it for a bit. I eventually decided Intensity would be better because of the fact leather caster gear will have so much more spirit now that it likely outweigh the bonus Dreamstate would get from my intellect. Spirit used to be crap for me, but since the spirit overhaul a patch or two ago I hardly ever run out of mana, and with the consolated spellpower gear in WotLK I'll be sharing gear with resto druids a lot.

I very much doubt that these 16 points will change from now until level 80. Whereas I'm not sure about many of the higher level Balance talents. My spec at the start of patch 3.0.2 will probably look like this:

Of the new talents I'm definitely taking Improved Insect Swarm and Improved Moonkin Form. Most damage rotations I use have both Insect Swarm and Moonfire up so I'll almost always be able to capitalize on IIS, and the spell damage from spirit in IMF is great synergy with Intensity. I'm going to like spirit.

But among the other talents there are a few I just don't know about...

Typhoon - If I have the space for this I want to take it. I don't think it'll have much use in raids, but it might be fun while soloing or in 5-man instances.

Starfall - From what I'm hearing this talent isn't all that awesome, but I like the idea of a mobile AoE that follows me around. Again, I'm not thinking raids so much as soloing. Still, since it's actually a certain number of stars divided among the targets in range rather than a traditional AoE that does the same damage no matter the number of enemies, it might be good for boss fights.

Eclipse - I'll be honest, I don't like this talent. Blizzard means well by it, but introducing some unpredicatability and spell switching by it, but I don't want to be looking for a buff in the upper right corner of my screen to tell me which spell I should be casting. I already switch my spell rotations based on my remaining mana pool, whether or not I expect to keep my Innervate, how fast the boss is going down, etc. Tracking a short buff like this in the middle of a potentially hectic combat with a lot of moving around would just make my head explode. And so of course Blizzard buffs it to make it more desireable, and now I might actually have to take it, but I don't want to.

And of course...

Dreamstate - If I can squeeze it in I will. I like mana regen since I still remember my days as oomkin, but supposedly it's not as good anymore and people are having trouble getting it to fit. I can't at 70, but I might be able to at 80.

I'm thinking my 80 build might end up looking something like this:

No Eclipse or Improved Fairie Fire. No Owlkin Frenzy and I lose my Force of Nature, but I'll have all my regen and straight DPS talents. I think I could be happy with this build, supposing Eclipse really does turn out to be worthless.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Introduction to Hana and Gillien

I don't expect anybody will be reading this since it's the first entry and essentially a test post, but I figure someone might and a first post shouldn't come out of nowhere. So welcome to Flash of Moonfire. I wanted the name of this blog to reflect the nature of my two 70s, a balance druid and a holy paladin, hence the portmanteau of two of their most commonly cast spells; Moonfire and Flash of Light. Hana is my main. I've played since her pre-BC and Gillien was started as an alt during BC (and if the Death Knight class pleases me, they will be joined by a DK named Marno).

Phaelia of Resto4Life and the guys at WoWInsider say that you should know your focus before blogging and I realized that I would not be very useful as a hardcore balance druid blogger. I'm not a number cruncher. I'm not a high level raider. I'm really not comfortable giving advice that random strangers will argue to death with me about. And possibly most of all, I have a paladin alt that I love talking about because of all the zany things that I've done with him that people generally do not do as a holy paladin (like tank Magister's Terrace or dps heroic Shattered Halls; and I did both with the exact same spec I use to pvp and heal raids). So this is a blog that is about both druids and paladins; the only two classes that are capable of tanking, healing, and dpsing, and quite frankly it's that flexibility in them that I like so much. If that makes my focus a little broad, so be it. I'll let my thoughts go where they go.

I don't really recall exactly why I chose to be a druid when I first started playing, but I'm fairly certain it had to do with shapeshifting. The idea that the druid class could mimic the basic mechanics of a warrior, or a rogue, or even a mage through shapeshifting was probably not a consideration of my newbie self. Seeing as I had no idea of what those classes even did in a party, gaining these things called rage bars and energy bars meant nothing to me. I'm quite certain I just wanted the ability to turn into animals. As for becoming a balance druid, the reason for choosing that talent tree was quite simple. The first attack a druid has is Wrath. It is a spell. I got my first talent point at level 10. What to put it in? Why improving the casting speed of what was obviously my main attack of course!

Hana went balance and never looked back. *But*, I believe in the ability of a hybrid class to be a hybrid and that they should embrace their hybridness. Hana healed at least part of every instance she ran on her way to 60. She healed most of the instances on her way to 70. It wasn't until she entered Kara that something changed. Suddenly being a balance druid wasn't just my preferred playstyle because it was fun while I was soloing. If I was going to raid, I wanted to be the best balance druid I could be. I respecced… to balance, but with raid talents in mind. Once I started raiding, I also realized that I wasn't healing as much anymore. When my guild did heroics, I went as dps, and when we first started Kara I quite frankly couldn't heal a heroic in my off-spec healing gear. This was way before the advent of ZA and the T5-level badge gear.

So I created a little sidejob to handle my joy of healing, and Gillien was born. Being part of a Horde guild in early BC we had zero holy paladins since not everyone had had a chance to level one, let alone to 70, and those we had went prot, so I figured this would be a good way to be helpful. My guild at the time broke up shortly thereafter, but I kept playing Gillien, because I found that he could do the two things that Hana couldn't (at least not in high level content); he could heal, and surprisingly enough, he could tank too, even while holy specced. Now he is the only pally I know that has tanked every BC instance from Ramps to Magister's Terrace with 41 points in holy (and I did it while leveling too, so with the exception of a couple 70 instances, they were done in nothing but the blues I got from quests or as dungeon drops).

These days Hana is sitting pretty in ZA/badge gear and Gillien is in a mix of PvP and Kara. Originally Gillien was going to be my PvP outlet… I wanted to be that annoying holy paladin that runs around all the battlefield healing people but nobody can manage to kill him because he bubbles and runs… but I found out that I don't like 70s pvp enough to devote him fully to that.

For the rest of BC Hana has been joining my friends in Oporotheca in attempting to nail a ZA bear mount before patch 3.0 blows that possibility out of the water (we almost got it thus week… almost!). When I'm not playing her I'm most likely on Gillien trying to get another my last few badges for the super nice healing mace, trying to get his epic Netherwing mount, or doing pvp/arena, more or less in that order. Then once WotLK is out, it'll be all about getting my feathery butt up to Northrend to give those bad guys a taste of moonfire. :)