Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Starved for a Healing Outlet

There's a certain level where I'm pleased with my new 10-man guild's progress. We raid twice a week. Mondays we farm ToC. Saturdays we do Ulduar hard modes. We've taken out FL+4, XT-002, and Iron Council hard modes in our two nights in Ulduar, and got achievements for Ignis, Razorscale, Kologarn, and Auriaya that count towards our Rusted Proto Drakes. Sounds good, right?

But we're a wee bit short on healers. We've been pulling from our ex-Oporotheca friends ever since we formed up, and while we've been gradually reducing our dependence on them, we're still not self-sufficient and this is the last gap in the tank-dps-healer trinity we need to fill.

My moonkin main is a dps powerhouse that makes our rogue grit his teeth and continue to push himself in a quest to overtake me (and I'm happy to push myself to stay ahead), so no matter how much I entertain the thought of helping out the raid by hopping on my holy paladin… I can't. Not for any fight that matters. My co-raid leader tells me that while I'm a good healer, we can't afford to lose my dps, and while I love being a moonkin, I'm starting to miss healing.

This wasn't really a problem back when I raided more and we did 25-mans, because what happened a lot of times was I would do 25-mans with my druid, and the 10-man hard modes of course, but in between the first stabs at learning the 10-man fights and starting the hard modes, I'd be playing my paladin. And on rare occasions my paladin would get to come along for 25-mans because of a healing deficit. I joined a friend's 25-man Naxx pug before and it wasn't so bad.

My server is not well progressed though, so people don't pug anything beyond Naxx, VoA, and Ony (barring the occasional Flame Leviathan-only Ulduar pug), and I'm starting to get that healing bug. Healing 5-mans just doesn't cut it. They're either too easy or harder than they have to be due to braindead puggers. I don't feel like I'm getting a chance to shine.

Granted I could fix this by respeccing my druid's off-spec from bear tank to tree druid for raid healing, but I'm quite frankly ignorant of how to play a good resto druid now that we don't roll Lifebloom all over the place. (I mean, I read resto druid blogs, 4 Haelz, Tree Bark Jacket, and choice articles at Restokin, but every time I think about how I would gear myself or how to heal in a raid my brain just flies out the window.) I know how to play a holy paladin though, and I'm comfortable with it.

So now I'm trying to figure out how best to get my healing jollies on my paladin.

Try to get into VoA and Onyxia pugs. I guess that's one way. It's not a crazy difficult raid, and might get some more loot, but it'd be a case of being all dressed up and no place to go. I love getting gear upgrades as much as the next person, but it would be nice to go somewhere other than a 5-man heroic with all that gear.

Get into a 3s and 5s arena team. It's not raid healing, but damn it's healing. I'm rather irritated this season because my 25-man guild meltdown has also meant the loss of the resources needed to build a good (maybe not great, but at least good) arena team. My former guild leaders were on my 3s and 5s team and while I wish them the best in their post-WoW life, it does mean that my arena antics of last season are not so easily repeated. The survival hunter who was on those teams with me is now my 2s partner and we're doing so-so.

I don't really blame him because I'm not specced right for 2s (prot/holy is still powerful despite Blizzards nerfs) and a holy pally and a hunter aren't a duo with any kind of synergy. The two of us had hit 1600 in Season 4 back in TBC, but I'm skeptical of that happening this season. We're in a weird spot right now where the fights are either retardedly easy or retardedly hard. Nobody facerolls us, which I suppose is a good thing, but if we don't faceroll ourselves man those fights are grueling.

I think the problem is we're relatively well geared having come out of 3s and 5s with our Challenger titles and 1750+ rated gear, so as a 2s team with a crappy MMR (we didn't really play 2s last season) we're facing people who don't have the same amount of resilience as us. It makes us a pain in the ass for them to whittle down. But for our part our offense is not really good. Holy paladin dps is pretty non-existent, so it's up to me to interrupt the other team's healer (preferably at a crucial moment) so that the hunter can solo dps him down. If the hunter can't solo kill the healer (or the dps) then we're screwed unless they screw up.

The other night the two of us were in a match against a rogue and a resto druid that lasted for 24 minutes. I bubbled maybe 4-5 times that match and it got to the point where I knew the rogue's damage wasn't going to kill me so I would let him poke away while my Divine Plea ticked and I got mana back. Then I would bubble at around 15-20% health and leisurely heal myself up with FoLs while the rogue sat there and waited for my bubble to wear off.

The rogue was seriously not a very good or very geared player. I was telling my partner over vent that I didn't want us to lose to such a crappy rogue. The problem was his druid buddy was master of pillar dancing and we couldn't put out the dps to kill either one of them before he would heal (and LoS). We finally won when we managed to trap the druid, burn the rogue, and the rogue made a terrible decision of running behind a pillar to not only LoS us, but LoS his healer, where he died to the hunter pet that was still pounding on him.

It was a victory, but reinforces my incredible dislike for fighting resto druids in arena, and despite being a victory I felt more worn out than excited about it. I need more excitement.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

[Paladin] Would you want two holy pallies in the same 10-man raid?

As I mentioned, I'm in a 10-man guild now and we're still recruiting for a couple roles. ToC is on farm, but we want to go back and do Ulduar hard modes. Our attendance for ToC is spot-on, but we're trying for Ulduar tonight and it's looking a bit weak. Part of it is that even though this night works for most people, it doesn't work for our favorite resto druid and one of the shaman who usually runs with us has a prior commitment for this particular Saturday.

We had a very good disc priest who signed up, but he had to cancel as of last night, leaving us with our new holy paladin recruit as the only guaranteed healer for the night, and a holy paladin is actually the last of the healer classes I wanted to recruit because I already have a holy paladin that I'm happy to swap to if the raid needs it. But the thing is, I can't be on my pally and my moonkin at the same time and all else being equal the raid needs my dps more than my heals, so having a good paladin healer should still be desirable.

So tonight... We have the tanks, we have the dps, but we need a second healer. I'm the only one with a healer alt geared to perform in Ulduar, but even allowing for the loss of my dps, that would mean two holy paladins in a 10-man raid, and that just strikes me as a horribly uncomfortable way to duo-heal a hard mode.

And it occurred to me that this is probably the only double healing class setup that I would balk at. Two shamans? Sure. Two priests? Not a problem. Two druids? Sure, as long as one of them is set up for tank healing.

But paladins don't have that option. They can heal two targets at a time, max, and they can keep a HoT on one target max, and that target is probably going to be a tank since Sacred Shield has to be on the target in order to get a HoT.

Okay, in a raid of ten people two paladins could in theory be healing four targets at the same time, but in practice it's probably not going to work that way. In a two-tank fight there would probably be a beacon and SS on each tank and then the pallies would be playing whack-a-mole with the rest of the raid, but in a one-tank fight the beacon's going to see limited usage. Either both beacons will be on the tank or one beacon will be under utilized because whoever it's sitting on won't need the heals as much.

If the two paladins are very good, this could still be doable, but desirable?

I know Blizzard likes to talk about bringing the player rather than the class, but holy paladins are still the most limited healer class. We make great tank healers, but there's not really any such niche in a 10-man, especially when you only want two healers in a the raid period. The paladin has to help raid heal, and with the 3.1 version of beacon it's not going to risk the tank the way it did previously, but the thing is a paladin's ability to raid heal is still limited to one person beyond the beacon.

We have no Chain Heal, no Circle of Healing, no Wild Growth. Not even an emergency one like the druid's Tranquility.

I don't miss not having one when I'm healing a 5-man, or even when I've been healing a 10- or 25-man, but for the raids I've usually been paired with a different class of healer, or multiple different healers. Duo-healing with another paladin? I did it a couple times before, but it felt very odd, and it wasn't for progression content.

And it bugs me that I only feel about paladins this way.

The simpliest solution is to give paladins an AoE heal, but that does't sound like a Blizzard solution. It doesn't fit the paladin "kit." So what would work?

I think maybe if holy pallies could have an improved version of Judgement of Light, maybe one that stacks with other holy pallies' JoLs and is boosted by spellpower, that would help a lot. That would give the raid a lot more passive healing (since everybody except for the other healers will regularly be whacking the boss) without resorting to giving paladins an AoE heal. It would be like a HoT except that paladins won't have to cast it on each individual since the raid will keep it up on itself.

Blizzard wants us to keep pressing buttons to keep things interesting, and keeping up a judgement every 10 seconds can be trying for the healing-focused paladin, but the pay-off would be so worth it for more raid healing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Meet Darkker

Meet Darkker. This is the feral druid alt I've mentioned a few times on the blog. Isn't she lovely? I admit I've been wanting to take that screenshot for a long time, wearing her Warlord set standing in front of the Dark Portal like she just arrived in Outland. Of course, she's already been there for profession training purposes (heck, she's even been to Northrend to learn recipes), and her hearth has been in Shatt since level 30-something, but visiting the Dark Portal is a proper step forward for restarting her journey as a leveling druid.

Darkker has long been my guilty pleasure alt. Because she's on another server nobody looks for me over there, and I play her so sporadically that even if someone were to look for me there's no guaranteed time I'd be on. I started playing WoW because of some coworkers of mine who actually favored Alliance. I couldn't turn down playing a tauren though, so much to their disappointment I rolled Horde on the same server as them (Skywall), so I could at least wave at them when we passed by.

Then they decided to try rerolling Horde, but on a PvP server. I was reluctant to join them as I already had Hana on Skywall and I hate getting ganked (or PKed as I called it back then), but I did. I wanted to play a druid still, so I figured I'd make another one, but with a different talent tree, and Darkker was born as my feral. Whereas Hana is a peacenik who shuns trouble with the Alliance, Darkker actively looks for it.

The "Dark Iron Experiment" as it came to be called eventually failed and everyone went back to their other servers, leaving Darkker abandoned at level 30-something. I don't recall when or how I started playing her again, but I did, mostly after Burning Crusade started, and I continued to play her in spurts every now and then. She initially spent a lot time in 39 PvP, where she was the favorite WSG flag carrier in an era where 39s still did not have mounts. I didn't have any twink gear, or any enchants other than what I got for free, but I had a lot of fun and at some point the PvP bug took hold. If we'd had achievements back then she would've earned Ironman multiple times over. I was real good at running flags.

I'd spent some months in 30-39 and then Brewfest came out. It didn't have anything to do with PvP, but I decided that I should get Darkker a mount and seeing as Hana already had a kodo I figured Darkker should get something else. At this time, it was possible to get a Brewfast ram mount just by doing dailies. There was even a 60% speed version (now retired). So I did the dailies and earned the proper amount of tokens, but there was a problem. I couldn't ride at 39. So I dinged 40 and ran about on my new mount. That mount would be the source of many whispers in the months to come, as I was almost always the only 49 or later 59 Horde to be riding on one.

When I joined the 40-49 bracket properly, towards the later end of the level band, I remember thinking that it was a mistake to have leveled up. It was Alliance dominated, and the regulars that I remembered from 39 (and who had also moved up to 49) weren't playing much and then stopped all together. This bracket saw me at the height of solo-gearing myself though. I stealthed into Maraudon to solo a rare-spawn elite to get one of the best blue chestpieces for my level and succeeded. I tried to do the same with a boss, even bringing along elixirs, stam food, and a Luffa in my attempt to get a similarly nice pair of blue shoulders, but failed on that one. I also bought a nice mace off the AH and used the Warden Staff as part of my flag-running set up. Though Darkker is not a server with any of my mains to help, she has been nothing if not self-sufficient. She made a fair amount of gold crafting gear while waiting for games to pop.

Sometime before Wrath, Darkker left the 40-49 bracket and ran some instances as a tank or more rarely dps. She tanked all of Sunken Temple, including Hakkar, which may not sound remarkable except if you consider how many people don't really like ST and why they don't like it. The Hakkar encounter is particularly difficult for a pug that's unfamiliar with it since it involves free-for-all looting and people putting out fires instead of mobs. There's really nothing quite like it in the earlier instances and many people don't even do the encounter since it's such a long quest chain.

After some PvE fun, I came back to the BGs with her and settled into 50-59s with a vengeance. I had a full set of level 59 "of the Bandit" and "of the Beast" greens collected from the AH and I put them on. Leatherworking allowed me to make my own +8 stam kits. When I was self-buffed in bear form I hit a beefy 7k (3-4k is the norm for non-twinks). I wasn't much of a twink, still lacking the crazy enchants and stuff, but I would do.

While I'm not sure exactly how long I stayed in 50-59, I know I was already comfortably in the bracket by the time Wrath came out, because I remember how it changed when the death knights came out. With faster mounts than any other class they could have destroyed the 50-59 bracket, flag carriers hated their Death Grip ability to no tomorrow, but people learned to fight them and they eventually became (a little) less common. Granted it was still hard. All else being equal a DK could kill Darkker, but it would take some effort and I could beat the weaker ones. Over time I racked up quite a few WSG and AB achievements, and I have most of the hard ones now (others are just time consuming and I'll get those eventually as long as I keep playing). My favorite to this day was earning my Ironman against a field of 8 Alliance DKs.

I wish I'd had more time to roll around in 59s, geared enough to survive, but not OP, but with patch 3.2 killing the 50-59 bracket the choice to level was made for me, and I guess I've staved off leveling long enough. One notable benefit though? Flight form.

Eat my tail feathers world PvP!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Though we may go to different guilds, we're still friends…

Since the implosion of my old guild I was left in a bit of a daze. No surprise there. A lot of us were similarly confused, especially those who had been long time guildies since our Bloodl├╝st days in TBC. Though I didn't stop playing entirely, I found it difficult to log in and spent a lot of my time going back to my old console RPGs, my gaming genre of choice up until WoW interrupted my life.

Some people moved on to new raid guilds, some joined "placeholder" guilds while sorting out their personal feelings, others decided to fly solo. Since I had been given guild leadership of our old guild, I mostly sat in guild, feeling positively miserable while I logged in, especially whenever I saw yet another person had left, but I felt I had a certain responsibility to close up shop.

The other officers and I had mutually decided to dissolve the guild, and we divided up the assets in the guild bank among all the guildies according to their ranking on EPGP, so the people who had contributed the most, got the most of what we left. I stayed long enough to make sure everyone got their share, then handed GM leadership to an old twink alt of mine (so I could change the guild MOTD and leave instructions for those who may come back after a long hiatus and wonder where people went). And then I left myself.

Even without a common guild, many of us are still friends and keep in contact with each other, which was the nicest thing about Oporotheca. I met some really cool people there and we still swap whispers to see how we're doing, still wave at each other in Dalaran, and vouch for each other in pug VoAs. Some of us who didn't move on to 25-man guilds (and even a couple who have), decided that we'd like to keep doing 10-mans together, and the result was a 10-man ToC run that resulted in an Anub'arak one-shot the first week he was available.

We're now running 10-man ToC every Monday and hoping to do Ulduar hard modes. A little over half of that group has now rebanded under the new name of Be Your True Mind. (I like the Persona series, what the hell. It's what I spent all my away-time playing.) Our new guild is dedicated to 10-man raiding with the idea of seeing all the content with a small group of reliable people.

While it might not be as glamorous as 25-mans, when I look back and think about what I was most looking forward to with WotLK, it was that 10-man raiding of end game content would be possible, and I was looking forward to the idea of playing every week with a small group of people I enjoyed. I actually hadn't the foggiest idea when I joined Oporotheca that our guild leaders intended to ramp up to 25-mans. I thought it was just going to be a small group of friends from Borean Tundra to Icecrown.

25-mans are fun, don't get me wrong, but I know that personally I would not be able to run such a large guild, and I know from conversation with the other Oporotheca officers that they don't have any interest in running or helping run one either. The other 25-man guilds on my server either don't raid when I'm available or they aren't compatible with what I'm looking for. So for better or worse, 10-mans are what I'm looking at. I know some people at this point would just switch servers, but I'd rather not leave Skywall, and really it doesn't matter to me whether I'm facing down the Lich King with 9 or 24 other people, just as long as I am facing down the Lich King.

Content is king, isn't that what they say?

And honestly, I'm finding I really like the free time I'm finding myself with. When we're only raiding one or two nights a week I'm able to actually play other games outside of WoW and spend nights completely game-free. I'm an amateur writer of more than WoW fiction and I'd be lying if I said my work hadn't been impacted by my playing of WoW. It would be nice to get back in the habit of submitting my writing for publication again.