Thursday, December 16, 2010

Uldum and Level 85

I finished Uldum last night. Pushed through the last of the new desert zone's quests and stayed up about an hour later than I should have. Though it's billed as having less quests than Hyjal or Vashj'ir, I feel like it took longer. Particularly the tail end of the Harrison Jones fork goes slower because you end up doing one quest at a time instead of a two or three at once.

Unlike the other zones, after the initial set of quests and introduction to the main zone hub, the plot largely forks, and surprisingly enough does not come back together again. I found I really liked that, because I could bounce back and forth between storylines. If I ever got tired of one I could vacation in the other, and I did.

The two prongs of the Uldum storyline are the civil war of the Ramhaken, the new race of centaur-like cat people, and the adventures of Harrison Jones. Both are good, though the Harrison Jones branch has some (expected) groan-worthy moments.

Overall I don't think either storyline is as strong as Deepholm or Vashj'ir. Though Deathwing's reach is apparent, the fate of Uldum does not feel like it will help or harm Azeroth as much as other zones. But having choice goes a long way taking away the railroad feel, and Uldum wins points for that.

It also won a lot of points with me for its opening scenario, which involves a couple good laughs as first my character gets slighted by a camel and then witnesses a silly (but apparently effective) escape plan as set forth by Budd.

Uldum is quite possibly the most cut scene rich zone in the game, and by a long shot. Whether or not you like cut scenes may affect your opinion of the zone, but I viewed it as a positive. Amazingly enough, there is one cut scene where your character speaks! It's just a brief one word of protest, but prior to this I've seen very little said that wasn't obviously a scream of pain or some sort of scripted proclamation. It was almost a conversation... almost... in that it felt very natural.

So natural it stuck out because our characters so rarely interact in what should be dialogue.

A portion of the Harrison Jones quest chest is obviously a sendup of the Nazis in the Indiana Jones movies, but I have to wonder if there's a World War II buff on the Blizzard team since I may or may not have been reading too deeply into the quest to capture the Desert Fox and Schnottz's turkey henchman Gobbles. (The Desert Fox being the German WWII general Erwin Rommel, and the Gobbles referring to Joseph Goebbels, Hilter's minister of propogada.)

The Ramhaken storyline, while involving mobilizing a nation to go to war, and even some RTS elements, doesn't strike me as being quite as memorable. I like the Egyptian theme the Ramhaken have going for them, but their storyline isn't as powerful. Even though there is an NPC who is killed that the player could have felt connection to, his last battle and mortal wounding happens off camera, which robs the player of feeling any anger at his death. I could see less observent players not even recognizing that an NPC they met earlier in the zone is now dead by the time they finish.

By the time I finished a little over half the quests in Uldum I dinged 85. I'm terribly undergeared and won't be able to start heroics just yet, but that's okay. I intend to finish Twilight Highlands before I get serious about them, but I'll probably queue for the normal Lost City of Tol'vir and Halls of Origination tonight.

Oh, and one more thing... If you're one of those people who just really likes punting gnomes... even if you're a gnome who likes punting gnomes... there is the gnome mashing quest to end all gnome mashing quests in Uldum. Seriously.

Monday, December 13, 2010

More Cata Impressions - Now At Level 84

Now that it's been almost a week, it seems I've had the time to get a better feel for this expansion.

Overall, questing is much more linear. It's not just Hyjal. There is sometimes a little variation in which order quests can be done, but it seems like some 90-95% of the quests out there are required in order to finish a zone's storyline. This makes it easy to get the questing achievements, but then I'm not sure how easy it is to skip ahead in a zone if there's a quest chain you just really don't want to do again, or you just want to do the "highlights" on an alt.

Hyjal did end better than it started, with more epic moments as the story wore on, though I don't think it ever really got away from the railroad feel. I loved Tortolla the turtle Ancient and hearing the story of how he'd held the line against the Burning Legion and never actually fell. When they dug him out after the battle he simply asked if they had won. Truly a good turtle to hold such a defense. I wanted to give him a big hug. Being able to fight alongside him was more rewarding than with any other Ancient.

The zone definitely has its moments, but I think overall it's been my least favorite of the new 80-85 zones. It's not just the linearity, but I felt there was too much time feeling like peon rather than a great war hero. Even the final quest line, which by rights should have been epic, wasn't as impressive as it was when we'd originally seen the villain. I just expected more chaos, more desperation, and I wasn't getting it.

Also, I thought it was kind of silly that the Guardians of Hyjal all appeared to be druids, but you'd see their forces standing out in the fields in caster form with weapons. It would have been cooler to see an army of cat, bear, and moonkin druids holding the line against enemy forces.

I ended Hyjal at level 82 using barely any rested XP. On future runs with alts I imagine I'll finish at level 83. While this isn't so much a problem with Hyjal, it could be with Vashj'ir.

You see, it's necessary to discover portal entrances in order to do instances in Cata. It's not so different from the pre-dungeon finder days, where after getting a bundle of quests a player might seek out the instance in which they can be complete.

But Vashj'ir is so huge that I dinged level 83, the maximum level a player can still run normal Throne of the Tides (the instance associated with Vashj'ir), before I finished the zone. Granted, I did Vashj'ir after Hyjal, but I also did it running on a minimum of rested XP since I was playing everyday. If I'd been on an alt running completely off of rested XP, would it be possible for me to level out of ToT doing Vashj'ir alone?

It's a discomforting thought, considering that the breadcrumb to go into ToT only appears at the very end of the zone's quest line.

Sure, you can go in beforehand, but you won't be able to do any of the quests. One of my guildies finished Vashj'ir at level 84. He won't be doing the Throne of the Tides quests until he comes back in heroic. Not that he'll never see ToT again, because he undoubtably will, but it's not conducive towards a smooth leveling experience.

Aside from that, Vashj'ir turned out to be much better than I expected considering it's an underwater zone. The speed boost from Sea Legs does apply to aquatic form, so if you're a druid it's quite pleasant coasting about as a seal for short distances. I really only busted my seahorse out for travel that I expected would take a minute or more. Anything else was just my seal form splashing about.

The first part of Vashj'ir isn't much on the wow factor, but once you get to the Shimmering Expanse, the second third of the zone, does it ever get pretty! And the questing gets more interesting. As other bloggers have mentioned, the Battlemaiden storyline is fantastic, and the climax simply awe-inspiring.

And in the third part of the zone, there's a lot of desolation but also an extremely fun moment of insanity. I won't spoil it, but you'll probably know what I'm talking about when it happens to you, if you haven't had it happen already. And don't forget, if you enjoyed all the running and screaming, you can do it as many times as you like until you finally turn the quest in. I took a screenshot to immortalize the moment.

My third zone of the week was Deepholm. I could have skipped ahead to Uldum, but I want to do all the zones in order, and Deepholm turned out to be quite fun as well. Though it also has a very strong storyline, it doesn't feel quite as linear as the previous two zones, because there are at least a couple points where it's possible to go to a choice of different areas before coming back and resuming the main storyline.

I was a bit disappointed though that if you killed the princess in Maraudon that Therazane doesn't say something to you. She mentions her daughter's death, but apparently has no clue who did it or that the killer is standing in front of her. Or perhaps our characters are just smart enough to keep their mouths shut.

Still, I liked questing and doing favors for rock elementals more than I thought I would, and I felt more like I was going after the brains of the Twilight Cultists in Deepholm than I had in Hyjal. There's also the most adorable little rock elemental called Pebble that you can meet in Deepholm. When I first saw him I wanted to keep him for a pet. Alas, it was not to be. But I can visit him at least!

The finale of Deepholm is probably my favorite of the three zones so far. Hyjal didn't feel epic enough. Vashj'ir was fun, but a little overwrought and buggy besides. But Deepholm had a good climax. I liked it and it really felt like the job was done. I could happily go back to questing elsewhere.

Last night I just barely started Uldum. I've heard it described as the zone of cinematics, and perhaps it is, but I haven't been disappointed by them so far. I got a good chuckle out of my introduction to the zone and if the rest of Uldum's like that, I'm gonna like it!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mount Hyjal Antics

Like quite a few people (quite possibly a few million people) I launched into the bright new world of Cataclysm on Tuesday. I didn't get into the game until well into the evening, but finished about half the quests in Mount Hyjal, one of the two starting areas of Cataclysm.

I picked Mount Hyjal over Vashj'ir simply because I'm a druid. Why wouldn't I want to go hang out where all the other druids are?

It feels like a very linear zone, where the player moves from quest hub to quest hub. While it always makes sense, I feel more boxed in than I did in WotLK. It's possible to explore off the beaten path, but I don't feel encouraged to explore. Instead I have the feeling that if I just follow the quests like a trail of breadcrumbs I'll see everything that there is to see.

It's nice, but takes some of the fun out of the exploration bit.

There is a very nice breadcrumb to the new Blackrock Caverns instance though, complete with mole machine that lets you discover the portal to the new instance without having to trek all the way to Searing Gorge to do it! On the other hand, wasn't the point of having to discover the portals so that people don't get lost trying to find their way back to the graveyard? I honestly wouldn't know how to get to the new BRC outside of the mole machine if I ever died!

Hyjal has a lot of plot and lore though, including ever funny moments that can only be had as a moonkin druid. (And if you're afraid of spoilers in the first half of Hyjal, you may want to stop reading here.)

Ferals get forced out of their forms to avoid such silliness as cats riding horses and other such nonsense when a quest calls for mounting up or riding vehicles. But moonkin? Nah...

It's perfectly natural for a moonkin to be riding a giant wolf, right?

But the best part of my night was yet to come. As part of a hero's duty, one of the quests in the first part of Hyjal is to take command of the Eye of Twilight, which gives orders to some rather dim-witted Twilight Cultists. Through a series of events, your character does exactly that, and you're treated to a very nice graphic of your character hovering above the eye and giving instructions to those obedient peons.

Even if... you are currently a moonkin...

I did mention those cultists are dim-witted, right?

I'm hoping the storyline gets more interesting later on. I know it's kind of odd to think about story in an MMO, but I feel like Hyjal is swimming in so much lore that it could benefit from a little more structure, and not the quest design kind. WotLK had some nice moments where a very personal story was told among all the lore, and I haven't found that yet.

The Ancient Lo'Gosh came back into the world through my efforts, but I didn't feel like "All right! I did something really cool!" Replace him with a minor wolf spirit and the quest chain could have been done in Ashenvale.

Epic characters call for a epic quest with an epic story.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Last Minute Pre-Cata Laundry List

Back in July I listed the vanilla quest chains that I wanted to do before the world shattered. I finished all of them with time to spare, but I’ve found that there are still some things I’ve been meaning to do that I haven’t. So this is the remaining list of loose ends that I want finish before the world erupts.

Mind, doing some of this may be difficult with all the fire and brimstone about. I’m banking on the actual world shattering to happen after Thanksgiving though, giving me a little time to wrap these up.

1) Get Bane of the Fallen King

This might not realistically happen, but we are so close it’s maddening. Unfortunately our disc priest has disappeared without warning on us. No longer answers calls, e-mails, nothing. We have a non-raider who plays an awesome disc priest, but he can’t always make our raid schedule so we realistically only have two raid nights before we’re scheduled to take our raid break. It’s a rough time because if we get really close, we’re going to want to push before Cata, but then that means people won’t get a break.

2) Get Gillien his Crusader title

My paladin is my primary alt and I’ve done things on him I haven’t on my main just because it makes some odd RPish sense. Getting the Crusader title as a paladin would be one of them. I only need a few more days of regularly doing dailies for that.

3) Make Jeeves

I’ve had the recipe for ages, but couldn’t be bothered to make the old field repair bots for parts. Also, since Gillien is my engineer and my alt, he didn’t do as many of the Storm Peaks quests and never got around to learning the Scrapbot recipe, which is kinda necessary (just a little bit).

4) Get the Tripping the Rifts Feat of Strength

I only have one rift each on Hana and Gillien from random happenstance. Obviously this should not be difficult now that Phase 4 is in effect, but I can’t procrastinate either since this will only be around for a limited amount of time. I’d like the achievement on my two most played 80s. Anyone else would just be a bonus.

5) Move low level alts out of Dalaran and Shattrath

This is important. I don’t want low level alts to be stranded in high level cities without portals. I’d have to pay a mage to teleport them back. (Can you imagine trying to get my 19 shaman from Dal back to Org without a portal?) On my main server it’s easy to get a guildie to port me, but my non-twink alts are mostly on servers without support and only got to Dalaran/Shatt by paying a mage in the first place.

6) Clean out the vanilla quests on various alts

If there are any vanilla quests leftover in my alts’ logs that I just wouldn’t feel complete without turning in, I need to take care of those now. This doesn’t apply to my 80s, or my two alts in Outland. This is for the small army that runs from level 19 to 44.

I don’t feel I need to clean out every single quest on every single one of them, but some of them due to RPish inclinations or leveling philosophy I want to clean out more before those quests go away.

At the moment I’m focusing on my twink warrior, who is barreling through the Ghostlands with a vengeance. Everything dies so fast and I’m having so much fun I might have to re-kit her out for Cata-era PvP. With cross-realms BGs twinking might be viable again. After her I’ll likely focus on my 29 hunter (also twinked) and my 44 resto druid, with my 19 twink shaman following afterwards. If I get to any others beyond them that would just be a bonus.

I think those six items should cover everything, though I might not have time for them all. Anyone else have last minute laundry lists?

Monday, October 18, 2010

[Paladin] Gut Feeling About Healing in a Post-4.0 World

Cavaet: I have not raid healed since the patch. I have only done heroics. However, I did spend an fair amount of discussion with my guild's holy paladin over his performance in our heroic ICC 10 raid last Saturday, so I think I have a decent handle on what the fuss is about.

And fuss there is. Ghostcrawler wrote a humongous post on the subject yesterday.

After our first post-4.0.1 raid in ICC, our holy paladin posted on our guild forums about his issues with healing that night, most particularly in regards to Heroic Lich King. He was concerned that due to the change in how paladins work, that he might not be able to perform at the level he used to pre-patch. Typically he would beacon one tank, heal the other, and possibly help the raid if GCDs allowed or the situation demanded (disc priest grabbed by valkyr).

Now he's no longer sure that's possible, and he thinks we may have to three-heal H LK. With the improved dps post-patch, we might still be all right.

So, I did some thinking about paladin healing; after healing heroics on Gillien, listening to my guildie's woes and analyzing World of Logs with him, and reading Ghostcrawler's mega-post.

My feeling is that paladins are heading in the right direction. It may be bumpy now, but I like having more spells, more decision making. I was never a big fan of the firehose approach to paladin healing. My crowning moment was solo-healing half the Moroes fight in Karazhan after our priest died, and that was back in TBC. It was a big mess of triage and figuring who could live for a few seconds more and who needed a heal now.

There wasn't really that kind of decision-making in WotLK. Beacon tank. Heal someone else. Make sure the heals keep flowing in even if no one else needs it. It was a little wonky at first, when the beacon didn't transfer overheals at the start of WotLK, but after overheals counted there was even less thought involved.

Running through heroics after 4.0.1 I found I had to change my keybindings. Flash of Light and Holy Shock swapped places, since Holy Shock would be my go-to heal and FoL my emergency quick heal. Holy Shock was now stronger and cheaper than Holy Light, with the bonus of being instant! Building up Holy Power for Word of Glory wasn't a problem, and Word of Glory was another instant heal more or less on par with Holy Shock. If I couldn't use either, then I would consider a Holy Light; Divine Light if the tank needed it. My biggest problem is that I need to set up a good Power Auras for Holy Power so I can better keep track of it.

Divine Light felt a little sluggish, but for heroics it usually wasn't necessary. Flash of Light I barely used and mana troubles were non-existent. After a few heroics I felt confident that I should be able to play my paladin in a normal ICC just fine. The only thing I was not certain about was longevity, since nothing in a heroic lasted long enough to test me, so I wasn't sure how much spirit I would need on my gear.

However, I haven't raided progression content on Gillien in months, and my guild's holy paladin had quite the maddening experience in heroic ICC.

The problem arises from what was expected of him, what he was previously capable of, and what he can do now.

The 4.0.1 paladin is no longer a firehose.

  • Divine Light is more or less the same as the old Holy Light in terms of output, but it's slower.

  • Beacon of Light only transfers half the heal.

  • Holy Light has a low mana cost, but does a low amount of healing, and takes about a second longer to cast.

  • Flash of Light, while quicker, does about 80% the healing of Divine Light at the same cost (still not quite the old Holy Light)

Due to the 50% reduction in Beacon of Light, it's no longer possible to beacon one tank, heal the other, and expect them both to stay up. He actually has to heal both tanks. While that doesn't sound horrific on paper, it is costing him GCDs he didn't have to worry about before, and in our raid he's also the person who cleanses the Necrotic Plague. (We used to have a dps do it, but we found our transitions worked better if he could concentrate on dps-ing so the shambling horrors are up a shorter period of time.)

Our paladin's job is harder, and I don't mean to trivialize his concerns, but I don't think holy paladins are necessarily in as bad a spot as he thinks, or that the people on the forums think.

It might just be a need to rethink strategies.

For instance, on Saturday he ran with a spec without Enlightened Judgements and he was having trouble maintaining his 9% haste buff with the limited range, so when we go back tonight, he's going back to that so he can judge from afar.

He can't heal like he used to, constantly powering through heals that will hit both tanks, but he isn't supposed to heal like that anymore. It might be a case of relearning how to heal, redividing the duties between him and our disc priest, or maybe bringing a third healer. With the post-patch boost in dps we probably can spare that now.

When I looked at our World of Logs report, only one of the four H LK wipes we had on Saturday was due to premature tank death. None were due to the plague not getting dispelled in time. It might have been hard, but considering he was still learning his new spec, he did fine. The plague was getting dispelled, and with one exception it wasn't tank death that caused the undoing of the raid. He was performing just about the same as he was pre-patch.

Naturally, this is just a top level view of our attempts. It doesn't encompass how he's needed to change his play style and how his percentage of heals vs. the other healers on World of Logs has actually gone down. But on the surface he can still perform the job he was assigned to do. It's just harder/different.

Paladins might not be what they were, but that doesn't mean they're broken. I like where we're going. I like the idea of not being a spammer. I like triage. Holy Power's a little quirky, but I'll figure it out.

I'm not going to miss the pug raids where holy paladins fight over who gets to heal the tanks. I'm not going to miss being told that when they were looking for a healer they really meant a priest/druid/shaman who can raid heal. I'm not going to miss the VoAs where I was told to raid heal because they already had three other holy paladins and someone had to do it (which I didn't mind much, though I still beaconed one of the tanks because it was only prudent to do so).

I'm sure there will be people who quit their holy paladins for another class/spec. It's not going where they want it to go. And that's fine. But maybe it won't be that bad either.

A coworker who's also a casual raider, thought about dumping his holy paladin after he heard about the patch 4.0.1 changes. He thought about switching to his level 70-something priest. But he tried the paladin changes and ultimately decided they weren't as bad as he thought. He'd keep him.

Maybe I have too much faith in Blizzard, but I think we just need a little more time for the dust to settle and get used to things. Of course it will be hard for those working on the toughest content, those who will feel every little change and are fighting bosses with razor precision and precious little margin for error. Paladins are different now.

Ghostcrawler said:

We haven't seen too much evidence yet that paladins are much poorer tank healers than other classes, though I understand many of you feel that to be the case. (It also doens't help that the popular logging programs and websites aren't showing Holy mastery yet.) If we do decide Holy can't competitively tank heal any longer, then we will buff them.

Blizzard's watching. If it's really bad they'll fix it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

[Druid] 4.0.1 Live Moonkin Impression

First things first. I have much love for Skywall Horde, and for the fantastic server shut down party we held in the Alliance inn in Dalaran. I also have love for the Alliance moonkin who joined us in all the dancing and merriment. It just goes to show that you can't be an angry person and play a moonkin. There's too much goodwill to be found among those who would play something as silly as a magic-using owlbear.

So, I got into WoW late last night after the long patch install process finished. My first stop was the auction house, to pick up any glyphs I could not obtain yesterday. But no luck. Everyone was gouging. Fortunately the guild bank was well loaded and I got almost everything I needed there. I just need a Glyph of Wrath now and I'll be in business.

For level 80 raiding I selected a 31/0/5 spec. As with all Cataclysm specs, it's more notable what I didn't take since the majority of talents will be found in any given build.

In Tier 2 I skipped 3 points in Moonglow. Though 85 druids are having mana problems in the Beta (problems that might soon be addressed), that's not likely to be relevant to level 80 raiding, especially to those in full ICC gear. I've yet to test this myself since my guild does not raid until Saturday, but the scuttlebutt on Elitist Jerks is that it will not be.

This frees up 3 points that I put into Gale Winds and Solar Beam. These three points? Completely optional. I could also have put them into Owlkin Frenzy instead, except that relies on me getting hit, which I hopefully will not be. Owlkin Frenzy will be helpful while leveling, but I'm not there yet. The ability to have my own interrupt (still good in ICC, especially as a 10m raider) is useful, and the extra AoE is just gravy for clearing out the trash.

The last talent I skipped over is Fungal Growth reason being that there's only one fight where I really wanted a snare, that being Heroic Saurfang, and without Wild Mushroom until level 85, this talent is too uncontrollable. We can have a general idea of where our treants are going to die, but we can't make them die exactly where and when we want. And we can only use them once every three minutes, which makes the usefulness of this talent spotty at best.

Everything else in the balance tree is pretty solid, though it should be mentioned that Sunfire is not working correctly and is not affected by haste in the same manner that Moonfire is. However, moonkin will take it anyway to get to Lunar Shower, which will help with a lot of our movement issues. This is likely a bug that will be addressed in a future patch.

As far as the resto tree goes, without the ability to access Master Shapeshifter (we can only put 5 points in resto) our only real choices are Blessing of the Grove and Heart of the Wild, but they are both dps increases and worth taking over skipped talents in the balance tree.

After having specced myself, I figured the best thing to do to get used to my new moonage was to join a heroic, and while I did queue for one, I saw an ad in Trade for the raid weekly, which was Noth. I decided I'd get some action faster joining the raid weekly than sitting in queue, so I whispered the raid leader and off I went.

The biggest change to moonkin in anticipation of Cataclysm is no doubt the change to Eclipse. It's now a core mechanic of our spec and a part of a young owlbear from the moment they hit level 10, even before they can transform into a boomer proper.

We now have a little Eclipse bar underneath our health and mana bars, which is half purple on one side with a moon on the end, and half orange on the other with a little sun. Upon logging in, there is a little diamond in the middle, the neutral starting position.

The way the bar works is simple. Keep doing nature damage and the diamond moves towards the moon. Keep doing arcane damage and the diamond moves towards the sun. When you hit either end of the bar, you get an Eclipse and do more damage for the appropriate element. Hit the moon and you do more arcane damage. Hit the sun and you do more nature damage.

But as you cast more arcane or nature damage you move the bar back in the other direction and thus the eclipse eventually wears off.

So the way the bar works is simple, but in practice there are things that could be improved. The biggest issue is that the bar is a tiny little thing underneath the mana bar, which doesn't help its visibility at all.

The UI does try to compensate for this. When in a lunar eclipse the Starfire and Moonfire buttons will be highlighted to give you an idea of which buttons to press, but when your field of vision is largely in the middle of the screen, who's going to be looking at a tiny bar in the upper left-hand corner? I don't click buttons either. I'm a keybinder so I'm not looking at whether or not my action bars are highlighted when I'm going through my rotations.

This would be fixable with add-ons, but unfortunately Squawk and Awe, the most popular Eclipse add-on, isn't fully updated for 4.0.1 yet. Andriele has a test version on the EJ forums that adds Starsurge, Sunfire, Lunar Shower, and the new Nature's Grace, but it doesn't do any power tracking. So in the meantime, I will probably try getting the test version running as my dot/cooldown timer and pick up Eclipse Bar Plus for the Eclipse bar. EBP allows the Eclipse bar to be moved out from under the player frame and enlarged so it can more easily be seen. It also allows for power increases to be displayed as numbers or percentages.

Considering how important Eclipse is for moonkin, it's a little surprising that some element of the sun and moon effect were not integrated with the new Power Auras-style alert that splash around the screen when certain abilities proc. I kept seeing these green floral patterns appear on either side of me and there's nothing incredibly obvious to say what they are. It wasn't until I looked at the tiny little buffs in the upper right corner that I realized they were letting me know that Nature's Grace was ready.

Power Auras works because the player personally sets up the icons so even if it's something as odd as a skull or a fist, they know what it represents to them. Green plants on either side doesn't tell me anything. They have no meaning. Well, they do now, but only after I kept staring at my buffs to see what the proc was. For a novice player who doesn't read patch notes or know about the Power Auras mod I can only imagine their confusion.

Oddly enough, while Nature's Grace is covered by the new auras, Eclipse is not, and I managed to hit an Eclipse numerous times without realizing that I had because there is no obvious alert for it and I do not look at my action bars or my character portrait when dps-ing.

I didn't have any add-ons installed when I did the raid weekly, but I believe my dps was reasonably good, because I was the only player to regularly pull Noth off the tank and I did it twice. I did feel very bad for the tank though, as he or she was no doubt trying to get used to class changes just as much as I was, and without Omen I wasn't sure how quickly I was riding up on threat.

Once I get mods set up to better track Eclipse, dots, and the new Starsurge spell (since I don't look at my action bars I don't see it come up off cooldown), I think I should be back in business, and it'll just be a matter of lining up in front of the target dummies and doing a few practice rounds to get the muscle memory set up.

I did change my keybindings a little, moving Typhoon to the tilda key so I could add Starsurge to the 1 button so it could sit next to Wrath (2) and Starfire (3), thus lining up all three nukes in a row, but otherwise my bindings are almost exactly the same. I should be reasonably comfortable by Saturday.

I'll just have to hope that everyone else adapts as easily.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Blog Azeroth: What's in a Name?

I don't normally participate in Blog Azeroth shared topic suggestions, but I realized that I'd never touched on this.

Character names are very special to me. I will never reroll a character on another server with the same name because it just doesn't work that way. The name is not an all purpose alter ego for me. Though I go by Hana in WoW circles, it's only because Hana is my main. For all other internet purposes I use something else.

In June of 2005 I was given a trial run of WoW and knew that I wanted to be a tauren. I picked the druid class and needed a name. I thought about it for a bit and selected Hana, a delightfully concise name with a druid-appropriate meaning. It was immediately accepted without complaint (ah, back in the day when good names were still readily available) and she entered the World of Warcraft.

Hana is Japanese for "flower" and it is pronounced "ha-na" not "han-na" as I often correct people. To my endless amusement, it's also Japanese for "nose" when the inflection is slightly different. Being tauren with a sizeable snout I can't help but chuckle. It's perfect for her.

Gillien's name is a longer story.

I can't create a character without a concept. I don't "I want to play an arms warrior" and then just start one up and go. Each character has their own personality, their own individual mission in life that affects what they do, what quests they take, and so on. If I don't get into their personality I stop playing them.

So I wanted to play a paladin, but couldn't start one until I had a good idea of who he or she would be.

Then, I was rereading an old story of mine which had a particularly machiavellian character named Gillian. The original Gillian was a politician, and willing to do whatever it took to secure his seat of power... so that when the time for disaster came, he would have the ability to do what it took to make sure humanity survived. The original Gillian made his share of enemies and doomed a lot of people, but humanity did survive, and largely because of his duplicity. After their survival was assured, Gillien resigned from his position, no longer trusted by his constituents and his career destroyed. He had been a heartless bastard in many ways, but he'd done everything for the right reasons and ultimately his act was a selfless one.

I realized that I had my blood elf paladin.

Unfortunately though, the name "Gillian" was taken by an orc on Skywall. I think it was a rogue or a hunter. Initially I was disappointed, but then I realized the pronunciation shouldn't change if I just slipped a letter over and made it Gillien.

Thus, Gillien with an "e" entered the world.

Gillien originally hewed closely to the concept that he was the original Gillian if he had been born a blood elf in WoW, but as time wore on he became his own person, the hard edges smoothed and he became more introspective. Much of this was because of my entries into the Blizzard Glboal Writing Contest, but it really started with the conclusion of the Sunwell event, which made the blood elf paladins, who had previously thought they were being all uppity about stealing the Light, realize that they hadn't fallen as far from the Light as they thought.

I don't consider Gillian and Gillien to be the same person anymore. They would have common ground should they ever meet each other, but they would behave differently under similar circumstances.

My final 80's name is a result of what happens when there isn't time to pick a name.

Darkker was created to join a group of coworkers on another server. They told me to reroll Hana on Dark Iron. I said no. Hana was a different druid. The one on Dark Iron would have to be a new one. And since Dark Iron was a PvP server, this was going to be a vicious druid that hated the Alliance (and with good reason considering how much she eventually got ganked). This one was going to be darker.


So I named her Darkker.

Yes, I decided to toss in an extra "k" in there just to change the spelling a little. I'm not terribly proud of it, but Darkker rather suits her name.

I know some people like to have theme names, or start/end all their character names with the same few letters so they're instantly recognizable, but I have to individualize all my characters or it just doesn't work. Even though they're both druids, Hana and Darkker are different people to me and I can't imagine ever going kitty or PvPing on Hana just as moonkin is an impossibility for Darkker.

What's in a name? Quite a lot. It's not just a name. It's an identity.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Revival of PvP Guilds in Cata?

I didn't raid in vanilla WoW, but I did PvP... a lot. My now neglected hunter alt was Exalted with the Warsong Outriders and Revered with the Defilers before the PvP system changed over with the advent of Burning Cursade. During TBC I joined a well regarded twink guild and enjoyed some 19s with my shaman and warrior. Some of my most memorable moments were team-oriented WSG matches against a tough opposing team where we really had to work together to crack them.

I missed that in WotLK.

That's not to say I didn't PvP at all. I had a blast in 59s on my feral druid until the ability to level in BGs kicked in. Then it was either level or stop playing (since static 59s didn't exist anymore), so I leveled.

I also did arena and earned my Challenger title on my paladin. I did have fun, don't get me wrong, but there's something visceral about battlegrounds that I liked; the team effort.

On my druid and hunter I really got a kick out of being able to call out the direction of flag runners, the number of incoming targets, the knowledge that it wasn't just how well I could push buttons, but how well my teammates and I could strategize that made a difference.

I remember hunkering down in the upstairs of the Alliance WSG base with three PvP guildies back when there was no timer and there was no flag debuff, and discussing how we were going to crack their turtle. Our team was half pug, but our puggers were doing a wonderful job of holding the fort, allowing the pre-made portion of us to focus on getting the enemy flag.

Our warrior was deemed the best decoy. He could survive a good beating. Our rogue would be the real flagrunner. On my hunter, I was on support duty with Wing Clip and Concussion Shot to slow pursuit.

The plan set, our warrior dropped into the flag room, grabbed the flag, and somehow, almost by sheer force of will, managed to run just outside of the flag room (graveyard side) before dying. He didn't get far, but it was far enough that he lured almost all the Alliance out to chase him.

The rest of us jumped down.

Bing! The flag was returned.

Our rogue grabbed it and ran down the tunnel, with the rest of us following.

The rest of the match I don't remember. I know we won. That may have been our last flag. But the strongest memory, the one that stuck, was cracking the turtle. We had died multiple times trying to get inside the base. We'd grouped up and tried a charge. We tried the decoy strat a couple of times before we got the one that worked. All told it was probably our fifth or sixth attempt that succeeded.

But when we broke free, it was glorious.

PvP as a guild focus largely died in TBC, especially with the introduction of arenas. Battlegrounds were for farming honor. Arenas were for earning gear.

I still played BGs, but not as much as I had before. In patch 3.2, Blizzard restricted games from starting unless they had a full group of people, and to compensate it was no longer possible to queue for three BGs and just wait to see which popped first.

As a result queue times shot up and I can barely stand to wait in them anymore. I can't remember the last time I was in a battleground, and I liked them! There's no such thing as a quick match before heading to bed anymore. When I need honor I just cash in some Stone Shards because I pick up more than enough of those from doing daily heroics.

I'm hoping that Cataclysm will see a revival in PvP guilds, especially now that we'll have rated battlegrounds and guild achievements that will require a significant number of guildies to participate in a match. If I can manage to find the time in between raid nights, I'd love to move my feral druid into a PvP guild and do some good old flag running again. She still has some achievements to get.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

[Druid] The Sleeping Moonkin Kicked in the Head

With all this talk of Cataclysm being pushed out to December, even January if is to be believed, I figured that patch 4.0.1 would likewise be delayed. After all, aren't glyphs still a little messed or uneven on the Beta/PTR? I haven't heard anything about theorycrafting for them.

Heck, where's the theorycrafting and screenshots of the new Tree of Life? (Wasn't it supposed to get a new graphic?) I would have figured the resto druid blogs would've been all over those.

But this morning I got a rude awakening. Flying boot to the back of the sleeping moonkin's head. Of course, it would be the day after I made my lazy moonkin post.

What's this? MMO Champion says the 4.0.1 patch could be as soon as October 5th or 12th? Well, come to think of it, I guess the background loader did finish. But are we really ready? Are we that close?

I still have things I wanted to do before 4.0.1.

I wanted to beat Heroic Lich King.

I wanted to get my warlock alt to 80 while I knew how to play one. (Just finally in a position where I'm able to use my raid rotation in 5-mans.) Now I may have to learn affliction all over again.

I wanted to get my resto druid alt (my third druid) to level 50 before tree form disappeared.

Well... Bane of the Fallen King doesn't seem to be going away in 4.0.1, so my guild will still have a crack at it. It'll just take a little time for everyone to relearn how to play, but I'm concerned what will happen to the difficulty. Heroic Lich King is already a tough fight. With the removal of the 30% ICC buff, will that make a difficult fight too difficult? Will it be just that much harder or will it actually be a bit easier? What if some of our guildies end up with underperforming specs?

It's mostly for this that I wish 4.0.1 would take a little longer.

Since this wake-up call I looked at the balance druid glyphs and I started thinking about which ones I'll likely use.

Prime: Insect Swarm, Moonfire, Starfire, and Starsurge in some combination
Major: Entangling Roots (insta-CC!), Innervate (to support the healers), Rebirth (still learning H LK so people die a lot), Starfall, and Thorns (if it does enough damage to warrant using on the tank on cooldown) in some combination
Minor: Typhoon (now easily switchable between whether I want knockback or not) and the rest are quality of life issues

I also looked at the talent trees.

These I think are more likely to change leading up to release. Not significantly, but I would not be surprised to see some shuffling and number tweaking still. I'll probably have something like a 33/0/3 for when I finish out level 80. Oddly enough, the talent trees don't feel so much like "What do I choose?" so much as "What do I skip?"

Keeva already mentioned in her 4.0. resto guide that balance has 41 talent points, which is the least of all the druid trees. I'm not sure what happened between now and the last time I tried to build a talent spec on my blog, but it feels much more like almost every talent point I take in the balance tree is a given. The rest will depend on my mana situation and how much I feel I can safely give up for improved snares and roots.

The latter will be good for solo-ing as I level, but is of dubious importance to raiding and I barely even quest anymore.

Well, I guess the moonkin has been persuaded to get off its bum and start fumbling around for what its dps is going to look like. I'm still skeptical about next week though. Maybe october 12th, but the 5th just seems too soon. The PTR is still up.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

[Druid] I am a Lazy Moonkin

I have a white board at work that I often doodle on (in addition to tracking work-related information). Currently it has a picture of a sleeping moonkin oblivious to the world around it. There is a tree dancing on one side of it and a bear with its tail on fire on the other, thanks to my officemate, but the moonkin itself is still sleeping.

That's really been my approach towards Cataclysm news about moonkin. It used to be I tried to keep up, but not being able to participate in the beta made my interest wane because what was once relevent became no loner relevent at all. I know things are changing, patch 4.0.1 is going to land and I soon won't know my right from my left. I'm going to have a new spell called Starsurge and Eclipse is going to have its own UI interface. But how all that is going to come together I don't know or pretend to understand. When I try to read the concerns about moonkin from my more mathy brethren my eyes glaze over and the moonkin in me goes back to sleeping.

I actually understand and am more excited about the changes coming to holy paladins than I am about the balance side of things.

But I don't intend on changing mains. I just feel I'm not in a position where the changes are meaningful to me. If something's broken, I have faith someone else will fix it, because there are wiser moonkin than me and I sincerely believe that if we are woefully underpowered in Cata that Blizzard will do something about it.

It does make me feel a bit lazy though. What's going to happen if we try doing ICC after 4.0.1 lands? Will I be the nubkin trailing on dps because I don't know what I'm doing?

Well, I figure everyone else will be on a learning curve too... I won't be the only one. It'll be okay to be a lazy noob for a while and sleep is good.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Past Few Weeks

My WoW activities have been rather restricted for a while, but slowly time is coming back. First off:

After completing my Blizzard contest entry I went to my writing workshop, a very special workshop given for free to a select group of candidates. As I mentioned in February, I had placed first in the quarterly Writers of the Future competition, which earned me publication in the annual anthology and a trip to a weeklong writing workshop intended for budding professionals. The workshop was taught by Tim Powers (whose current claim to fame is being the author of On Strange Tides, which is being adapted for the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie) and K.D. Wentworth, one of the previous winners and a novelist in her own right.

It was needless to say a fantastic week, well worth the price of admission (which seriously was the postage it took for me to mail in my contest entry). If any readers are budding fantasy and science fiction writers, the WotF competition is now taking electronic submissions. It doesn't get easier than that!

They go international as well. This year's crop of twelve winners (1st-3rd place from the four quarters of the 2009 contest year) had one from Ireland, one from the UK, and one from Australia. The rest were from the US.

Since I'd placed first, this meant I was in the running for the grand prize, which I... somehow... managed to win... The Gold Award was given to me at the award ceremony at the end of the week.

So, it was a good week for me. Very busy. No WoW that week. But a good week. It's weird to be on a first name basis with writers you've only heard about before, or whose works you've read, and find out that they're very interested in helping new writers get in the field. Mike Resnick sent me a message on Facebook, encouraging me to keep writing, after the competition. That's the kind of attention and involvement these folks give you.

After coming back, I rolled into my guild's raid schedule, they missed me, and administrating the guild took about all the free time I had because I was also busy setting up another blog for my writing, another Twitter for my writing, and a Facebook page for my writing. And then, of course, there was the writing itself.

I now write no less than 500 words a day, everyday, without fail. If I come home late and it's 1am, I write. Unless there are complications because of raid time, I make sure I get my writing done before I spend any time gaming. And surprisingly, it's working. I've written over 10,000 words since coming home from the workshop, and I'm still finding time to raid, attend my weekly game nights, and manage a full time job that is currently giving me a lot of overtime. After the initial rush to get all my new sites set up, my free time is coming back to me.

But I do not play as much WoW. It's maybe an hour less on the non-raid nights I still play.

I'm still keeping up with Cataclysm info, though I'm trying to avoid most plot related spoilers. I log on Hana and Gillien 4-5 nights a week to check in with the guild. Darkker is largely on hiatus. I have no time for her at the moment. Most of what alt time I have is currently taken up by my level 70 warlock, which is being leveled to join a group of coworkers in ICC (not sure if I'll get there before Cata!).

And let me say that not being able to queue as a tank or a healer is horrible for someone used to queuing as one or the other (or taking a guild tank). Having access to tank and healer specs for daily heroics has made me entirely too spoiled. Last night I got on Gillien to do the Brewfest boss, decided I didn't want to wait 2 minutes as a healer, so I flopped specs, Divine Plea-ed while in holy gear to get all my mana back, put on my tanking gear, and requeued. Instant success. Go tanking.

I also ended up tanking heroic Lich King on my druid last night!

All our previous attempts we just wouldn't try it without both our usual MT and OT present, but our MT for the LK fight, our bear, had horrible latency issues last night and couldn't stay connected. Just when we were about to give up on being able to run at all, one of our non-raiders showed up (fantastic player, just unable to regularly make the raid nights) and that let our disc priest swap to his mage and I swapped specs to bear. My bear set is almost as good as our MT's now so we made a go of it.

We had all kinds of sloppiness and only made it to 60% last night, but at least we got a night of attempts in, and I can safely say I make a decent stand-in for our regular LK tank.

If you're interested in following my writing, my new writing blog is The Rat's Den. It will not follow a regular publishing schedule and probably will not talk much about WoW, since it will mainly discuss my writing or my thoughts on writing. I think there may be a fair chance of general anime or video game posts though since those are what got me into writing.

As for the story that actually won, the paperback version of the anthology can be pre-ordered on Amazon. There is also a Kindle version as well, and I think the Kindle one may already be available (it doesn't say pre-order).

Monday, August 23, 2010

Timeline of a Writing Contest Entry

As I tweeted out to the Twitter group (I'm HanaMoonfire if you want to find me there!) I submitted my entry into the Blizzard Global Writing Contest for 2010. It has been a long an arduous process, which either says that I'm insane or I'm very dedicated to my fiction.

In retrospect, I thought it would be fun to see how the timeline of my writing process looked. Hint: It's not pretty.

June 23rd (60 days remain) - Blizzard announces the 2010 Global Creative Writing Contest. That afternoon I begin brainstorming and when I come home in the evening I write several possibilities for the plot.

June 24th (59 days remain) - The setting of the story changes from within Icecrown Citadel to a little earlier in the Argent Crusade's march on ICC. I begin writing. It's only two paragraphs though.

June 29th (54 days remain) - I finish the first scene, but I'm not terribly happy with it. That's okay though, because I've learned that the start of a story is generally crap until I have time to revise it.

July 5th (48 days remain) - It's a holiday and I write an entire second scene and half of a third. I realize pretty quickly that the third scene is going to have to go. It's fun and shows a lighter side of life in the Argent Crusade encampment, but doesn't serve the rest of the story.

June 17th (36 days remain) - The first major action scene (and fourth scene overall) is completed while I get my oil changed at a Jiffy Lube. I'm rather pleased I pulled it off without making paladins look silly, but I'm getting nervous because the contest is almost half over and I haven't gotten to the meat of the story.

August 3rd (19 days remain) - For one reason or another I barely write for two weeks and it's another 17 days before I complete the fifth scene. It has a dubious opening that I was not entirely able to rectify even in the final draft since there is not really any lore precedence for what happens.

August 5th (17 days remain) - Despite the impending deadline I have a burning urge to go write a particular scene that does not even belong to one of my existing writing projects. It's not even a germ of new story. It's just a scene that will have to, one day, belong to a large work that I haven't a clue about. I write the scene anyway and the characters and scene bother me for the next few days as I try to figure out what to do with them.

August 10th (12 days remain) - I return to my contest entry. I am now approaching the moment of truth. The sixth scene will be my longest and most important. It will contain the climax of the story. I know what must be done in broad strokes. This must happen, and that must happen, and then there's gotta be a big explosion. The problem is, how is the protagonist going to pull it off? I realize I don't have a clue how my finale is going to occur.

August 11th (11 days remain) - I continue working on the sixth scene. At this point I am terrified of the impending deadline. I wanted to be finished with the first draft at the beginning of August and obviously that hadn't happened. I spend almost every lunch hour at work from here out working on my draft.

August 15th (8 days remain) - The climax finally comes to me. I know what I'm going to do, how the explosion's going to happen, how the protagonist is going to escape. Looking at the day, Sunday, I realize that my overtime at work has cost me so much time. I have been working six days a week at my day job since mid-July. I am very tired and plan to ask for time off in advance of the 23rd. Not only is the 23rd the contest deadline, but the first day of a writing workshop I agreed to attend months ago.

August 16th (7 days remain) - My boss kindly agrees to let me take Thursday and Friday off in advance of my planned vacation. It's not really because of the contest, but because he realizes I need to decompress after all those six day weeks before heading to my workshop. Actual decompression might not actually happen. I run a partial raid with my guild, helping people get their Been Waiting A Long Time For This achievement before bowing out to work on my story.

August 17th (6 days remain) - As soon as I get home from work I sit down at the kitchen table and bang out the rest of the story (I always write in longhand first). The paper draft is complete. I begin typing it in and get as far as typing the first two scenes in before I go to bed. It's 2am and I still have work the next day.

August 18th (5 days remain) - I allow myself to decompress and relax for just one day. I do some revision work during lunch and make good progress. The mess hall scene in the Argent Crusade is definitely gone, but I'm not sure what to do with the opening yet. The evening I spend playing with my usual Wednesday night D&D group. The current story arc is very critical to my character so if I didn't show they might not have played.

August 19th (4 days remain) - The second draft is complete and I mail it out to five volunteers. I end up sending the story out later than I want to, but still at a respectable hour. It really helps that I had the whole day off.

August 20th (3 days remain) - Four of the readers get feedback to me before end of day. I already have plans for the third draft so I don't expect that incorporating their comments will take me as long as they do. As the hour gets late I consider throwing in the towel, but realize that if I do I won't get the story out to the Friday night group in time (different set of readers). When I finally mail out the third draft it is 3:20am.

August 21st (2 days remain) - The last Thursday reader gets back to me, and all but one of the Friday readers. I try not to stay up too late, and bow out of the raid with my guild's blessing, but then the MT disappears from the raid in the middle of the fight with only an extremely panicked "I gotta go!" in vent. I'm called in to fill the last raid spot. I finish the fourth draft and mail it out at 2am.

August 22nd (1 day remains) - I wake up earlier than I expect and I'm in a sunny mood. I read through the morning's comments from the final Friday reader and the only Saturday reader. The remaining issues are largely technical, though I clear up a few story points. I'm quite happy with the way the story has progressed. I have a final copy-editing read which involves me reading the story aloud and "performing" the dialogue to make sure everything sounds right. (It's a very good technique for finding typographical errors.) I spend a little more time polishing up the formatting and then submit the story to the contest.

I really want to thank Cursedhoof, Klepsacovic, Colarna, Puffyier, Sting, Peter, and Denis for critiquing this story for me. It was a crazy-ass ride. Now I just need to pack for my workshop.

Damn. It's almost 1am over here. I'm never getting to bed am I...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Anyone Want to Critique My Writing?

Sometime around 1am last night I finished the first draft of my currently untitled submission for the Blizzard Global Writing Contest. This is a far better finish time than my first completed draft for the last contest (I finished about 3am the night before the deadline--it was horrible). This year's contest deadline is the 23rd.

Because of this, I have a little more leisure time to do multiple drafts and patch up the story. Sooooo I'm looking for a few volunteers with some free time who are able to critique an approximately 6000 word story (subject to change a few hundred words in either direction after the next revision) on short notice. 6000 words is roughly 12 pages single-spaced in Times New Roman font, depending on your display.

My personal plan is to be producing new drafts on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (with a touch-up on Sunday). They will all be mailed out, but not necessarily to every volunteer, unless they really want to read 3-4 versions of the same story. I did that to one of my guildies last year, even giving him two drafts in the same day.

The first round of drafts will be mailed out Thursday afternoon/evening Pacific time, and I would need responses back by Friday night (it can be really late on Friday night) so I can use the results in my Saturday draft. Sooner would be better of course, so I can make use of comments for the Friday draft, but I know this will already be a bit of an insane turn-around time. Later than first thing Saturday morning will be no good because by then the comments will be two drafts behind.

Deadlines would look like this:

Thursday Draft - need comments back Friday night (or before I wake on Saturday morning)
Friday Draft - need comments back by Saturday night (or before I wake on Sunday)
Saturday Draft - need comments back by Sunday morning

If you would be interested in reading any of those drafts, please contact me at . I will be pestering assorted guildies and writing friends and hope to have 2-3 people reading each draft. We'll see who's crazy enough to read for me. :)

Want a synopsis of the story? Well, if blood elves and paladins make you want to throw up this story probably isn't for you, but it involves my paladin Gillien and unresolved personal business he has in Northread.

I will likely send a list of questions to be read after finishing my story that highlight my current concerns and what I'm working on.

Needless to say, this is work in progress and if you volunteer to read, please do not post or forward this story anywhere. It's really creepy when someone e-mails me about my story and I never gave it to them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

[Druid] Forum Comments about Druid Healing Come Cataclysm

I was reading my morning dose of blue posts, when I came across a long discussion between Ghostcrawler and forum posters regarding druid healing. I am not an expert on druid healing by any means, but I was struck by a particular poster that Ghsotcrawler had quoted.

The hot topic of the discussion was what buttons a druid presses to heal in current content, which largely consists of Rejuvenation and Wild Growth, and how Blizzard wants to change this for Cataclysm. Apparently there was the notion that only baddie druids would stick to those two spells.

The difference between good and bad healers is really obvious right now. A resto druid who does nothing but casually Rejuv the entire raid is a bad healer on the vast majority of fights (i.e. non-damage aura fights).

Ghostcrawler begs to differ, saying that druids pushing the toughest hard mode content are still rolling majority Rejuvs + Wild Growth and performing adequately, which sounds appropriate for me given what I've read on the matter.

But then the comment that really got me was this:

Nah c'mon. You can at best be a mediocre druid if all you use is rejuv and WG, and it is unlikely that any such druid would find success doing 10 man hards.

As I said, I don't consider myself an expert on druid healing, but I have healed 10-man hard modes, and the vast majority of my healing comes from Rejuv, followed by Wild Growth, with a sprinkling of Lifebloom, Swiftmend, and the occasional Nourish thrown in depending on the situation.

Personally I feel like a baddie no matter the content I heal, just because I don't feel very comfortable as a tree. It's probably the HoT thing. Back in vanilla and TBC I was very happy being able to choose the right heal for the job and managing my mana pool. But when I can't be sure of whether my HoTs will fully tick out I feel like I'm just blowing heals for no reason. If I had to ration my mana pool in WotLK I'd probably be a nervous wreck of a tree.

But if the content I heal is any measure, I'm pulling my weight and doing just fine, relying primarily on Rejuv and Wild Growth. I can find uses for my other spells, but they're limited. For instance:

Regrowth - If I want to pre-HoT a tank before we start I'll toss this on because it lasts a long time while the tanks get into position. I'll also Regrowth Valithria before taking a portal.

Lifebloom - I throw this on the tanks for extra healing depending on the fight or phase of the fight as extra padding. Whether or not I roll it or even stack it depends on circumstances. Usually it just goes up when I have a free GCD and there's little need to HoT someone else, but if that tank's going to take a lot of damage in the near future I try to keep it stacked and rolled.

Swiftmend - While I like this while running 5-mans, I've found it surprisingly underused in a raid environment. I still use it, but many times I find I can count on my fellow healers to get to the severely wounded first. Unless I'm positive I saved a dps with this, its healing feels superfluous.

Healing Touch - Only in emergency in combination with Nature's Swiftness. Does anyone even use it otherwise? A shame since it used to be the old standby for a leveling druid.

So, yeah, I use my other spells. Would my healing be horribly crippled if I didn't? Not really. Not in a raid. And not unless something happened to our holy paladin and he wasn't there for the night and the disc priest or resto shaman got ice-blocked, prematurely faceplanted, or some other horrible thing.

When that happens I toss on the HoTs and Nourish spam the tank, but 90% of the time a resto druid is fine with just Rejuv and Wild Growth.

Honestly, I think it'll be fun to use more spells again. I feel silly casting HoTs all the time whether the raid really needs it or not. I'm sure I overheal like a maniac and it's considered a good practice, because if I don't, someone might die. They might not, but I can't take the chance.

Paladins often get shafted as the two button healer, but I actually feel much more dynamic in my decision-making and actually press far more buttons healing ICC on my paladin than I do on my druid. On a typical raid fight as a tree I will Rejuv, WG, and possibly two other spells (maybe Innervate or a couple other heal abilities). On a typical raid fight as a paladin I will Beacon of Light, Sacred Shield, Holy Light, Flash of Light, Divine Plea, Avenging Wrath, and Judgement of Wisdom, guaranteed. And then maybe Holy Shock and Divine Illumination if needed.

Maybe my paladin won't be constantly juggling all those spells, but they are cast at some point in the fight. Whereas the druid does almost the same thing the entire time.

I'll try to get some Cata moonkin comments in sometime. Seems harder for me to get a coherent post going on that one instead of just dropping one off the cuff.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vanilla Quest Chains To Do Before Cataclysm

I recently transferred my Alliance warlock alt to join a bunch of coworkers on another server. This warlock was 54 before I started playing her again and I figured with Cataclysm coming I really should relive some of the more epic quests I'd done before, or had never done at all.

For me this meant traveling to both Western and Eastern Plaguelands. I'd really only spent time here on Hana, since she's my only character that hit 60 before TBC. Sure Gillien and Darkker had made brief forays, but Gillien moved on to Outland around 58 and Darkker focused on PvP as she reached the upper end of the 50-59 bracket.

Oddly enough, doing mundane quests in Plaguelands felt like a home-coming of sorts. There was a time when these zones was bustling with activity, and there's so much lore to be found here. I'm pretty sure the majority of WPL is changing and EPL will probably have some significant changes as well.

The following is my list of quest chains to do before I hit up Outland. I don't care if I'm over level 60 by the time I finish them. I want to do them as close to the level I was when I did them originally, or as close to the level I was intended to be in case of the quests I never completed. It's just not quite as epic when everything gets one-shot.

1) Tirion Fordring's Redemption

When I originally met Tirion back in vanilla WoW, he was this old human hermit in EPL and I was struck by how he saw honor to be a facet irrespective of race. As a Horde player, he immediately won me respect, and though he offered tedious kill 30 of this particular monster quests I did them anyway. Gold was hard to come by in vanilla WoW. Doing quests in the later half of vanilla was one way to earn some.

After I finished killing many horrible things in Eastern Plaguelands, Tirion told me his true story for being out there, that he had refused to betray his honor for his station, and that his greatest regret regarding his exile was that he hadn't been able to guide his son into being a better man.

In this quest chain, the player has to gather a bunch of items to remind his wayward son, now a Scarlet Crusader, of what his father stood for and to reunite father and son together. The chain ends with Tirion vowing to reforge the Silver Hand and lays the groundwork for everything that happens in WoLK with the Argent Crusade.

Of course, then he gets all shiny in Northrend and I can barely stand him anymore. But once upon a time I thought he was one of the coolest NPCs in the game.

2) Darrowshire

Darrowshire was so epic back in its day that its finale was one of the few raid quests that did not take place in a instance. There are a couple ways to start this chain. One is from Marlene Redpath's ghost in WPL, and the other is from Jessica Redpath (still living) in Winterspring. Both want you to check up on little Pamela's fate since the town of Darrowshire was overrun by the Scourge.

It turns out Pamela, a young girl, did not survive the attack and her ghost still wanders waiting for her family to come back. As you go through the quest you learn the story of the horrible battle that razed Darrowshire and how Pamela's father had been corrupted by the Scourge and betrayed the town.

The quest chain eventually shifts from finding out what happened, to recreating the battle (which is why you needed a raid--there was a hell of a lot to fight!) so that the spirit of Joseph Redpath can be redeemed.

From my understanding, it can be solo-ed now if a person is careful. Many of the formerly elite mobs have been nerfed, and even the elites have been pulled down to the level of being a "normal" elite rather a "boss" level elite.

Still, it's a very moody quest that really drives home what it was like for the families who were assaulted by the Scourge. Probably one of the best examples of vanilla WoW storytelling.

3) Avenging the Ghosts of Caer Darrow

Scholomance sits above Caer Darrow, a town that has been ruined and his inhabitats butchered. Initially there is a quest chain from a pair of ghosts to destroy their bodies and those who tormented them, which awards the player with a trinket that gives them the ability to see all the ghosts of Caer Darrow.

One of those new ghosts sends the player on a quest chain to return the lich Ras Frostwhisper to his human form so he can be slain. While not quite on the epic scale of the previous two changes, it certainly involves its share of running round to Arathi Highlands, to Baron Rivendare's room in Stratholme, and back again.

I've never done this quest chain before, so I figure I should give it shot.

4) Fallen Hero of the Horde

There are few quest chains that rival the full length of Fallen Hero of the Horde. Only the longest of the WotLK chains can hope to match its 20+ quests (exact numbers appear to vary between Alliance and Horde).

The basic story is that an orc grew tired of waiting for orders that never came and unwisely led his unit into the Blasted Lands where they were overwhelmed by a powerful demon and his followers. Their souls were torn from their bodies and made to serve. Only the Fallen Hero, managed to escape though he still died shortly afterwards.

He asks the player to free his trapped soldiers, then discover the name of the demon. Once the demon's name is known it can be forged into a weapon against it. Finally, by killing the demon's three followers, the player can assemble an amulet that will allow the summoning of the demon.

To do this the player must scour not only the Blast Lands, but enlist help from a demon hunter in Azshara and a smith in Stranglethorn Vale. It's the kind of globe-trotting only a vanilla quest would make a player do.

After all that work, the player can face the demon himself in a hellish battle atop a mountain in Blasted Lands. Judging from comments on Wowhead the battle has been nerfed by a fair margin, but it used to be a 5-man quest that required careful preparation before anyone went up there.

It additional to all its other rewards, the chain also awarded a 16-slot bag, which was the gold standard back then. I still have that bag as a keepsake on Hana.

5) Dreadsteed

This is my first and only warlock, so the dreadsteed quest chain was not of interest to me before, but since the old world's being overhauled, I think there's a good chance this quest will be going bye-bye. Dire Maul is being retuned for a lower level and the level at which the player needs to be in order to visit the all areas needed by this quest won't match with the finale in the revamped Dire Maul (even allowing for the fact that Scholomance will now be similarly low in level).

I know this chain involves stealing a dreadsteed from a very cranky demon and traveling to such locales as Felwood, Burning Steppes, and Scholomance. Personally, I plan to combine the Scholomance run with turning Ras Frostwhisper into a human to save myself a trip.

It's also going to cost gold, but I think I have gold to spare. My alt is extremely rich compared to a vanilla WoW character, thanks to the incredible price people are willing to pay for herbs, so I don't anticipate going broke for a mount I already bought off my trainer. I just want to do the quest for posterity.

And it'll be a good excuse to do Dire Maul West since I've never done it before.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reflections on 10-man Strict

This may be because of Vidyala's post about whether or not not her guild should give up its 10-man strict qualifications. This is also because last night my raid downed heroic Sindragosa for the first time.

Next week we're going to start working on the remaining achievements for [Glory of the Icecrown Raider] and our Bloodbathed Frostbrood Vanquishers. Not everyone is going to get theirs at once. It might take us three lockouts to get everyone their frostwyrms (two rounds of the achievements on normal to cover our eleven raiders, and one more heroic round to cover the people who missed the H Sindy kill), but I hope we get everyone their wyrms in that amount of time.

Our server is not terribly well progressed, so we're actually the second Horde guild of any stripe to defeat Heroic Sindragosa. It's a nice badge to have, especially being 10-strict. I admit it's going to be fun when the group of us park our frostwyrms around Krasus Landing like a bunch of giggling teenagers and people wonder just who the heck is Be Your True Mind anyway and why are they so good they get to have frostwyrms.

Being 10-man strict means that you fly under the radar a lot.

Certain people seem to acknowledge us. The top Horde raid guild in our server seems to think fondly enough of us. I remember getting congrats from a couple of their guildies, complete strangers, after we downed Lich King. We also got grats from someone in one of the top Alliance raid guilds after we downed heroic Sindragosa.

But by and large the general population of our server has no idea who we are. We are in a position regarded as a prestigious among a very select group of people.

Nobody thinks "Hey, that person is in Be Your True Mind! They must be good!" Now that at least thirty guilds on our server have killed the Lich King, Kingslayers can be found aplenty, even in guilds that have never managed the Lich King on their own.

Kingslayer is still a token of respect, but it's not quite a strong as it used to be, especially as Kingslayers leave their raid guilds for more casual pastures. Just because a Kingslayer is in a guild, doesn't mean a guild is good. Certainly, we've seen plenty of guilds take in a Kingslayer so they could start working on heroics before they could even kill the Lich King themselves.

Be Your True Mind has never been about the prestige though. Sure, we like it when we can get it. There's no reason not to be proud of one's accomplishments. But when my 25-man guild broke up, all I could think about was how I still wanted to face the Lich King and how I wanted to do it in the small 10-man environment I enjoyed most. I would have made a 10-man guild even if the strict criteria hadn't existed.

It took months of starts and stops, and we wouldn't have made it if not for former guildies and their friends who so kindly plugged the gaps in our roster until we reached a (mostly) self-sustaining number of eleven. (Sometimes we'll have two absent, but we have more non-raiding members now who are happy to plug gaps.) Even then we lost people to real life, and we've recruited replacements. Out of the group of eleven that became Kingslayer together, eight remain.

We're still a close knit group though. Our former raiders remain in the guild, occasionally come as backup, and two of the replacements are really friends we're raiding with once more. Only one replacement came to us as a total stranger, and though he had some skeptics, he's working out and impressing us despite being the worst geared out of all of us. Finding someone who won't count against us in 10-man strict is hard, and finding someone who is actually good, is even harder. In that way he's a gem.

I honestly don't know if we'll ever down heroic Lich King. I mean, he's the final obstacle between us and having beaten all the content, it's natural to want to bash heads against him, but it's discouraging when I look at the 48 10-man strict guilds ranked above us and see that none of them have beaten him.

Does it mean that it's impossible? Did Blizzard tune this one too high for a 10-man guild in 10-man gear? How far have those guilds gotten? Are they working on Phase 2? Phase 3?

The 30% buff went live last week and it's not going to go any higher.

If I never kill heroic Lich King I won't be disappointed. I already accomplished my personal goal in founding this guild when we killed the Lich King on normal. As far as we've gotten with heroic modes and in working towards our frostwyrms is just a bonus. A bonus I'm totally enjoying, of course, but it wasn't what I originally set out to do.

I'm sure the group of us are going to stay together for Cataclysm. It's fun listening to people talk about what they're going to do. Surprisingly we have at least three people who say they want to become goblins, and our bear druid wants to become a troll (if he does we're going to be able to find him from all the way across the map with those skins!).

I'll still be Hana, the tauren moonkin druid, because she's too much of my WoW identity to change, but I already have a name saved for my baby tauren priest, because I've never played a priest before and I have a fondness for the moo-cows.

Not that I would race change Gillien now that paladins can be tauren. Gillien will remain a pretty blood elf.

Once Cataclysm comes, there will probably be no in-game distinction between a 10- and a 25-man guild, we'll have our progress ranked together. The 25-man teams should still progress faster though due to getting gear faster, which probably means that we will fall in our standings, quality of players aside. If skill and encounter difficulties are equal the guild getting gear faster will progress faster.

Besides, we only raid two nights a week, which already puts at a time disadvantage. Even other 10-man strict guilds generally raid more than us. (I like to think that we manage our quick clears by yelling "Pull! Pull! Pull!" to our obliging tanks over vent.)

We'll probably do well for ourselves in Cataclysm, even with the raid gear and lockout change. If all the Horde guilds on our server broke into 10-man raid guilds we'd probably be in the Top 5. We won't be so unique anymore, and it'll be difficult to earn firsts of any kind, but on the bright side, if everyone is running 10-mans, maybe we'll be noticed for the accomplishments we do earn.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

[Druid] The Fuzzy Swiss Army Knife

As of last night I have now performed as a tank, healer, and dps on every fight in ICC, all on the same class. I can't think that's something common. And honestly it's not something I set out to do.

I started ICC as a moonkin with a bear offspec that I used once in a while, but not very often. Our tanks have good attendance and we had other people with backup tank specs. Our roster at the start of ICC hadn't stabilized but the content wasn't punch-you-in-the-face hard so when we needed a third healer I usually brought in my paladin, despite the fact we already had a paladin healer.

But by the time we killed the Lich King and started hard modes, our roster was stable and we had a spiffy ret pally with a decent tanking offset. It was decided that what we really needed was a backup healer, so I changed my off-spec to resto, and I healed for many a hard mode if one of our healers was missing. I also healed the normal modes of the bosses we couldn't kill on heroic yet. I even did embarrassing things like heal in my moonkin gear because I forgot to swap gearsets. (Did that twice on normal Lich King and once on heroic BQL. We lived.)

Then our ret paladin retired, and a few weeks later our OT was going to be gone for a weekend, so I specced back to bear and tanked for a couple nights.

Since our healer attendance was good I left my bear spec up since I prefer tanking random heroics as a bear to healing them as a tree. I figured I'd just go back to tree when needed. And then last night we ran into a problem on heroic Sindragosa.

We were making fantastic progress, and got within 300k of killing her (so sad!) when our MT's internet gave out. He popped on, he popped off. He couldn't stay connected for more than a few minutes, and Sindy's not exactly a short fight. We only had a half hour left to our raid night and our only backup raider online was our unproven ret pally replacement, currently on trial with our guild. He'd never killed Sindragosa before, not even on normal. Heroic was out of the question.

We made the call to switch to finish the lockout on normal. I would OT and our usual OT would MT. (Two bear tanks. Such fun!)

Sindragosa went down easily enough on normal. It was a little sloppy, but that was because our healers decided to try two healing it for fun.

Then there was the Lich King.

When I play as my off-spec, whether it's as a healer or tank, I always try to fill in the role of the missing person. For something like BQL, where each raider in the guild has a usual spot to stand, I stand in the spot of the healer I'm replacing. It means no one else will have to adjust to accommodate someone being missing. For something like Putridice that means I will be the abom if our DK is missing or the Putricide tank if our bear is missing. It means I have to be flexible, but it also means that I really get to see the different sides of a fight.

Since our DK was the one who couldn't stay online that meant I had Shambling Horror and Raging Spirits duty. And I'd have to say that I'm really envious of our DK's ability to Death Grip the horrors to himself. I hit the first one with FF as soon as I could target it only to find out that it doesn't establish a threat table right away so I had to wait a second to taunt it. I was also terrified that a dps would pull a horror off of me since our more zealous squishies have made the occasional "oops, pulled threat" mistake while our DK was tanking. I consider myself a competent tank, but I can't help feeling a bit nervous stepping into someone else's shoes, because I want my substitution to be as seamless as possible.

We did have one wipe, which was totally random (the healer in charge of cleansing forgot to dispel off the MT going into Phase 2, and that was really unusual of him), but we downed him in short order. The new ret pally won some brownie points for being excellent about Defile, considering that he'd never done the LK fight before. It's really hard to find someone who can play and won't flag as having 25-man experience on GuildOx, so I'm hoping he works out.

Being able to say I've tanked/healed/dps-ed every fight in ICC, probably gives me some perspective. I do know that if I am to set up an alt/non-raider run for the guild (it's been brought up a couple times) that I will want to tank if we cannot get a guildie to do it. But I don't think tanking is the hardest role.

The thing is… once I know what to do as a tank, I might be a bit nervous, but I know what to do. The boss's attacks don't change. Damage is generally predictable. I pot. I use cooldowns. I tell someone when to taunt. The raid depends on a tank knowing what s/he's doing, but once the tank has that knowledge and is capable of executing it, the role of tanking itself is more routine. For an alt run that may include puggers I would want to tank instead of a stranger because I trust myself more than a tank I've never met.

The role that stresses the heck out of me is really being a healer. It might be because of my lack of experience (I only went tree once we started ICC hard modes), but healing hard modes always leaves me feeling like I'm running on a treadmill with a nasty set of spikes behind me. I toss my Rejuvs and my Wildgrowths, the occasional Lifebloom or Nourish, I'll top the meters on heroic Festergut and BQL, but even if everyone lives at the end of the night I'm still wondering if I'm doing it wrong. Perhaps the whole idea of blanketing the raid with hots just doesn't work for me because it's just a tick over time, whereas I'm comfortable with the machine gun style of paladin healing because you know pretty quick whether or not you're "doing it wrong." (Tank death will do that.)

While I hesitate to say that dps is the least stressful job (being ranged dps on heroic Blood Princes will quickly disabuse any notion of facerolling), it's a job I know very well. I can feel like I'm at the peak of my performance and still have the mental bandwidth to call out instructions during raid. Granted, I can usually do the same as a tank (if I don't have boss crotch blocking my view), but I have difficulty functioning as a raid leader if I'm healing a heroic mode. I'm very much a fan of audio alerts because if I'm healing I might not see what's happening around me, but if I can hear there's a good chance I'll react.

Still, there's a part of me that finds it fun being able to fit in wherever the raid needs me. I'd rather dps of course (I love being a boomer and booming is what I do best), but I like the challenge of being able to do whatever's necessary to get the job done. It's something that probably wouldn't have happened back in my 25-man guild, at least not without a lot of consternation, but being a druid in a 10-man there's a real opportunity as a fuzzy swiss army knife.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

[Druid] First Pass 31-point Cataclysm Talent Trees

To the surprise of no one, MMO-Champion has the new talent trees up from the latest Beta build. Blizzard says the druid trees aren't as far long as the other classes, so much of this will probably change, but we can at least see where they're going.

Since I've actually raided as all four druid playstyles now, I figure I can probably talk about all four without sounded like a complete idiot (though kitty remains my shakiest), and the changes to all trees are actually relevant to me.


We can see right off the bat that unpopular or straight dps talents have been kicked out. No more Brambles or Earth and Moon. Even though Lunar Guidance remains in name, it now increases the radius of our Solar Beam and generates more Solar or Lunar energy for our new Eclipse.

I made a preliminary talent spec using the available talents and was pleased to find myself at 36 of 41 points spent, and this was after I'd taken everything I'd considered must have, or even taken talents I would have considered to be so-so just so I could continue up the tree.

For instance, I have a full three points in Genesis now, which is considered fairly worthless for moonkin in WotLK. But when the talents I'm skipping over are Fungal Growth (slowing targets in area of my wild mushroom or expired treants), Owlkin Frenzy (unchanged), and Lunar Justice (mana back from standing in beam of light over defeated enemy that awards honor or exp), is Genesis really that bad anymore?

I spent a full 31 points in the balance tree and those three talents were my leftovers.

On the resto side I spent 3 points in Furor (more or less the same, just with fewer ranks) and 2 points in Blessing of the Grove for increased Moonfire damage. There's nothing deeper in the resto tree that's moonkin specific.

So what to do with my last 5 points? Well, I'd probably pick up Owlkin Frenzy since having situational pushback isn't so crazy anymore and maybe put 2 points into Perseverance in the resto tree to reduce the amount of spell damage taken, since healing's supposed to be a bigger deal now. Or maybe two points into Fungal Growth, because the slow might come in handy.

We actually do have choice, which is kind of nice.

And what happened to moonkin form itself, since it's not in the talent tree? Apparently it's now trainable! Level 40 according to MMO-Champion. That's kinda trippy, and it makes me a wee bit jealous that other druids can /dance in moonkin form without being balance druids.

It might not stay that way though. Ghostcrawler says they're experimenting with whether moonkin form or Starsurge should be the level 10 bonus for specializing in the balance tree.

Feral (Bear)

The feral tree saw a lot of pruning of "X talent increases the damage of Y ability" as well as any pure damage or stat increase abilities. Feral Swiftness and Natural Reaction stay, but Survival of the Fittest is gone, oddly enough, since bears would still need it to be uncrittable. Mangle is now baseline for ferals, as a reward just for specializing in the tree, so that's not a talent anymore. Primal Fury lost the cat component and now looks like a bear-only talent. Thick Armor remains a talent so apparently the damage reduction just from our mastery alone with not be enough to cover us. We'll still have to spec into it.

Fury Swipes is a new talent that gives us a chance at a free auto-attack whether in cat or bear form, which is nice. Pulverize and Endless Carnage will synergize for more threat since the first does extra weapon damage and gives us extra crit based on the number of Lacerate stacks for a limited time, and the second will allow the Pulverize state to last a few seconds longer.

But the feral tree doesn't feel finished yet.

For one thing, Feral Charge is still a talent, when there is a new trainable skill called Skull Bash that does the same thing. The Brutal Impact talent has similar been changed to reference Skull Bash rather than Feral Charge. I doubt ferals will have both since 2 points in Brutal Impact will already reduces the cooldown of SB to a mere 10 seconds, and having two methods to charge and interrupt would result in a crazy amount of mobility while simultaneously locking up casters (though that would be fun). But then there's also an Improved Feral Charge, so… maybe we will have both?

I didn't find quite the room in the feral tree for a bear spec as I had with the moonkin, with 39 of 41 talent points spent, but that's because I pushed up the resto tree to get Perseverance for the spell damage reduction. If that's regarded as optional, then another 5 talent points are refunded (since both the Tier 1 Blessing of the Grove and Natural Shapeshifter are fairly useless for bears). But then what's left to spent them on?

As with balance, it's easier to say what I skipped over than what I kept.

I skipped over King of the Jungle (same as on live), Primal Madness (which I think has a typo, but generates a certain amount of rage when Enrage or Berserk is used), Nom Nom Nom (pure cat talent), Nurturing Instinct (same as live and still pure cat), and Brutal Impact.

With two points left I'd probably take Brutal Impact. More stuns and interrupts are good, and that would take care of all my points.

Feral (Cat)

I found cat to be freer to spec than bear, even taking what would arguably be filler along the way to arrive at my 36 and 41. For cats the key new talents is the lovable Nom Nom Nom, which allows the player to use Ferocious Bite to refresh Rip during the last 25% of the target's health. Primal Madness will increase maximum energy by 20 during Beserk and Tiger's Fury, so there should be less losing of energy when those are activated at less than optimum times, and Endless Carnage will increase the duration of Rake and Savage Roar, all of which makes the cat rotation more forgiving than its current incarnation.

I ignored all the bear only talents in the feral tree, but I put 1 point in Nurturing Instinct as a filler just to go further down the tree, because with healing being harder, getting more heals as a cat seems to work in my own interest. Who knows. There might even be a need for cats to pop out and heal themselves if a fight gets really bad, and since all cats will have Predatory Strikes just to get to the Tier 2 talents, it'll be possible to make that heal an instant.

In resto I nabbed Furor and Blessing of the Grove, the latter for the boost in Shred damage.

With 5 points left to spend I'd probably fill out the rest of Nurturing Instinct and grab 2 ranks of Infected Wounds since I like the kitty PvP, leaving me with 2 more points I'd probably drop into Natural Shapeshifter because of the PvP. Or maybe I could take Perseverance for the spell damage reduction.

Again, there are choices.

But the tree does feel a little lean for me. There are still talents I'm passing over, but they're clearly for bears rather than usually for bears (like Infected Wounds) because they do not operate in cat form. In the bear spec I made for myself I skipped over talents that still had a bear component to them. In the cat spec, there's nothing not taken that had a cat specific affect.

I'm gonna love Skull Bash in PvP though. Ten second cooldown with talents on a combined spell interrupt/charge that increases the mana cost of the target's spells for the next 10 seconds? Now if only cats didn't have to Skull Bash from a distance so we could reliably interrupt on boss fights like rogues.

For a different perspective on the feral trees I recommend Kalon's write-up at ThinkTank. I agree that a lot of the removed talents did things like boost our expertise and increase our combo point generation, but I'm not as concerned about them because expertise can be fixed with gear and even combo point generation might not be as much of an issue if the numbers are changed so our white damage counts for more or when we do perform a Rake or a Mangle the damage is more meaningful.


I'm much less happy as with the resto tree than I am with the others, largely because most of the bottom tier talents really don't have anything to do with being a resto druid in particular. Most of the bonus healing to this spell and that spell is gone, with the higher tier talents introduced in WoLK being pulled in to form the bottom half of the tree, though a few oldies like Improved Rejuvention and Empowered Touch remain in slightly altered forms. Newer "quirky" talents such as Living Seed and Revitalize remain, and there is the new Efflorescence that creates an AoE heal after critting with Regrowth.

But getting back to building a spec, the early talents just feel like filler. Blessing of the Grove's bonus healing to Rejuvenation is the only direct boost to what a resto druid down. Natural Shapeshifter doesn't impact healing at all and Furor effects every form except the caster one. No matter what, the resto druid will be dropping two points in filler off the bat. I suspect this will have to change.

In Tier 2 Improved Rejuvention would be a must have, but its only companion is Perseverance, which feels like it should be optional, except there's nothing else to take at this tier and we've already seen what great options there are at Tier 1, so again the resto druid would be dropping a couple points in filler. Considering that it will no longer be possible to subspec until reaching 31 points in a talent tree, this is quite a concern for someone who wants to level as a healer!

Tier 3 is a bonanza though with Living Seed, Nature's Swiftness, and Revitalize all on the same row. MMO-Champion's calculator currently says that moonkin form is required for Nature's Swiftness, but even if moonkin form is now trainable I'm sure that's a mistake, because balance druids will be unable to get high up enough in the resto tree to use it, and resto druids can't cast heal spells in moonkin form.

Tier 4 only has Nature's Bounty of interest, but because of Tier 3's bonanza I was able to fill more points in there and ignore Fury of Stormrage (chance at instant, free Wrath) which I'm sure is nice in PvP, but I don't do as a resto.

I put full points in the rest of the tree except for Natural Perfection to take me up to 31 points, and then spent 9 points in the balance tree to get Genesis, Nature's Grace, and Moonglow. Swiftmend is probably going away through since that's supposed to be the level 10 ability druids will get just for specializing in the tree.

This left me with a meager 1 point to spent somewhere else, which is maddening because of all the "waste" in Tier 1 and Tier 2. Natural Perfection, with its crit bonus, sounds like a fantastic "optional" talent, but I can't take two points in it without dropping a point from Nature's Grace or Moonglow.

On the other hand, if I could get back the points I "wasted" on Natural Shapeshifter and a lesser degree Perseverance, I'm not sure what I'd spend them on. Perseverance I might have dumped points into anyway, but since I didn't get a choice at the end of my tree it feels like appetizing. Natural Shapeshifter I'm sure I don't need as a resto druid, but the remaining options aren't that appetizing past Natural Perfection.

More than the other specs, the resto druid feels like there's no choice involved.

Though it still could be worse. I actually can't figure out a spec with points leftover as a paladin...

In conclusion I'm probably most happy with moonkin, somewhat with bear, less with cat, and least with resto. But all of this is still early and hopefully there will be some more "interesting" talents to make things fun without us having to maximize dps, survival, or heals. I think the moonkin's optional talents like Fungal Growth are the most "fun" of the bunch and it would be nice if the other trees could take a page from it.