Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tossing Heals - Talent Builds by Salanthe

I was invited to my first Naxxramus run a few days ago as a healer, so I was forced to sit down and think seriously about what talent build to use. I've been kicking some ideas around since I first saw the new shaman talent trees, but I haven't posted anything worthwhile yet. Here's my attempt at it and I'd be very interested in some feedback.

After looking over the shaman talent trees, it looks like Blizzard tried to increase a shaman's effectiveness as a main tank healer. Talents like Riptide, Tidal Waves, Healing Way, Earth Shield, and Improved Earth Shield complement each other very well to make a shaman good at single-target healing. This is particularly useful for five mans and has made us, in my opinion, very good five man instance healers. A glyph that works well with this style of healing is the Glyph of Lesser Healing Wave.

There are also a number of talents that work very well to increase our effectiveness as raid healers. Earthliving Weapon, Blessing of the Eternals, and Ancestral Awakening work to spread healing across as much of the group as possible. There are a couple of glyphs that assist in this style of healing, such as Glyph of Chain Heal and the Glyph of Earthliving Weapon.

Blizzard gave shaman some very good tools for main tank and raid healing. We are effective at both instead of specializing in raid healing. Even our Tier 7 set bonuses benefit both styles, rather than promoting one over another.

Talent point distribution is a problem though. While it seems as though Blizzard has made every effort to prevent a shaman healer from being pidgeon-holed in one style of healing, we end up choosing one style through our talent builds. Thus, I've come up with a couple talent builds - one for AoE/raid healing and one for main tank/five-man healing and by using the corresponding glyphs that I mentioned previously, you can optimize your abilities to fit each style.

Restoration for main tank / five-man healing or this if you don't care about threat reduction. This is the jack-of-all trades talent build. It promotes a more dynamic and exciting healing style, where you rely less on chain heal and more on Riptide, Healing Wave, and Lesser Healing Wave to get the job done. Earthliving weapon is icing on the cake and not the bread and butter of your healing.

Restoration for AoE/raid healing (aka the Earthliving build). This is my favorite talent build because I am enamored with the elegance of earthliving weapon. It is designed for chain heal spam and spreading the earthliving HoT over as much of the raid as possible.

Your choice between builds depends on what sort of healing you do most frequently and what meshes well with your style. Shaman can be main tank/single-target healers or AoE healers with either talent build.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

You Can Go No Higher

Salanthe finally reached level 80 last night! I got up early yesterday morning and decided to try and power level those last two levels. I did it, too. 78-80 in one day!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Long Time No Post

It has been a while! Based on my previous post, I think you can guess what I've been up to though!

I've been taking it nice and easy while leveling my shaman. She had some really good rested experience accumulated while I couldn't play her, so I decided to use that as my leveling timer. When she runs out of rested experience, I switch to leveling either Miothe or Zgu for a few days, then go back to Sal.

It's a very good method for me. Miothe is my gathering alt and Sal's supplier of herbs and leather. By switching to her for a day or two, I'm able to level Salanthe's professions as I go. I thought I would end up buying the materials once I got to level cap, so this is much cheaper! I'm also trying to combat leveling burn out, so all three characters are trying different areas, with the notable exception of Dragonblight because I love that zone SO much.

In two weeks, give or take a few days, Salanthe is level 77, Miothe is level 72, and Zgu is level 71. Miyasi, my tauren death knight, is level 60, and Alsa, my dwarf death knight, is level 58 and clear of the starting area. Overall, I've been online less than during Burning Crusade when I was raiding heavily, so this is very steady and good progress considering. I'm pleased!

Now, a word on shaman talent trees. From 70 to 75, I leveled Salanthe as enhancement. I adored it. I was able to solo every non-dungeon elite I came across, except Sarathstra, whom I didn't even attempt to solo. Salanthe killed things very quickly and with very minimal effort and almost no down-time. Instancing was simple, but I always forgot to check Recount at the end of a run, so I don't know how my dps measured up, unfortunately.

When Sal hit 75, I respecced her to elemental (level 77 build). I waited until 75 because I read that elemental dps is poor until the shaman learns Lava Burst at level 75. Based on my experience thus far, I would have to agree whole-heartedly. Lava Burst hits very hard and lightning is very lack-luster in comparison.

Thus far, I'm enjoying elemental. I'm using the Flame Shock - Lava Burst - Chain Lightning - Lightning Bolt - Lightning Bolt - repeat, rotation, which seems to be working quite well. My dps in instances seems to be competitive (averaging around 1200), though I haven't run enough yet to make an accurate judgment. There is more downtime because of mana efficiency problems, but I mitigated some of that by remembering to use Thunderstorm more frequently. I am also able to solo elites like Rattlebore of the Really Big Worm quest without too much trouble, although it seems to take longer than it did as enhancement.

As of right now, I don't want to declare a preference between the two specs. Both feel solid to me and I enjoy playing them. I'd like to try them both out at 80, definitely. Maybe then I will be able to make a more precise comparison. Either way, I would definitely level as enhancement until at least 75. Wait for Lava Burst because it makes all the difference in the world.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's Here!

Hooray! My collector's edition finally arrived from Best Buy! Wal-mart, on the other hand, still has not shipped.

I am really pleased with what I got too. Definitely worth the wait. Originally, all I wanted was the pet, but the soundtrack, book, card game cards, and DVD were all awesome too.

I'm also excited to finally get Salanthe into Northrend and leveling again. Maybe my melancholy with my computer will fade now that my shaman is free to explore the new content.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's Coming!


Or, The Saga of How Salanthe Is Still Level 70 One Week After WotLK Release.

I have two accounts, right? I call them Salanthe's account and Zgu's account. Two accounts means I need two copies of WotLK.

I decided to treat myself for this expansion and get the collector's edition for my main account. Salanthe needs an adorable little frost wyrm pet. So, I learn that Amazon.com is sold out (this is like a month ago, mind) and I go on a mad search across the internet to find a retailer that still has it in stock. My first choice was Target but they apparently don't carry it. So out of desperation, I check Wal-mart and they have it! I order it, select two-day delivery, and wait for the expansion to release.

The day of the release, I take myself down to the local Best Buy at midnight to pick up a regular copy of the expansion for my second account. I come home, install it, upgrade Zgu's account, and all is well. Then I check to see if Wal-mart has shipped my collector's edition yet. Nope.

I spend a week visiting their website daily. They must ship it today, surely! No avail, it still has not shipped. My friends are all speedily leveling past my beloved Salanthe and all I can do is level mining and skinning on my death knight. Finally, the other night, I decide that enough is enough. I will order a copy from Best Buy, chose 2 day delivery, and let the two retailers race. Whomever gets it to my door first gets my money and the other copy gets returned.

Tonight, I finally get the confirmation email from Best Buy that my collector's edition has shipped! I should be leveling Salanthe by Friday! I am so happy! And still no word from Wal-mart. They've had my order about a month now. Did I mention I paid extra for two-day delivery from them? Yeah...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Death Knight Love and Other News

I promised myself I wouldn't succumb. I swore I wouldn't roll a death knight until I had leveled all three of my 70s to a decent level. I vowed that I wouldn't be one of the masses when Wrath of the Lich King released.

I failed.

BUT SHE LOOKS SO GOOD!

Miyasi Ironhide, fallen shaman and Knight the Ebon Blade.

I am in love.

In other news, I haven't leveled Zgu at all. I ran into this problem where I couldn't bring myself to level another character before Salanthe. So instead I'm playing a death knight while waiting for my collector's edition to arrive from Wal-mart so I can unlock WotLK on Sal's account and start playing her. I'm very anxious to get that process underway. Hurray up Wal-mart!

As to the big news I alluded to in my last post, well, I said farewell to my guild of almost a year. It was very hard and I've been agonizing over it for a couple months now. I wanted to cut back on raiding and retire from 25-mans though, which meant leaving my guild.

I was with them almost one year and witnessed 10 guild first boss kills with them. I started as a back-up restoration shaman and rose to the highest officer rank and healing class lead by the time I left. I originally joined because they were willing to give me a chance to prove myself when no other guild would. I owe them so much and it was so very difficult to leave. But I haven't left the server and I only hope that they don't hate me for leaving and will still talk to me. I made good friends that I don't want to lose.

So in tribute, thank you, Ascension, from the bottom of my heart. It was an amazing experience and I owe you everything for taking a chance on a poor resto shaman that no one else wanted. I wish you all the best of luck in the expansion and may you see many server first boss kills. Much love.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pre-WotLK Update

Just a few quick notes before the expansion is released.

Salanthe is in a holding pattern until I get my collector's edition. Her account will get it, so I won't be able to play either Sal or Miothe until it arrives in the mail. Go, go Wal-mart!

Zgu will get the standard copy of the expansion, so I will be leveling her first. Along with my little mage, Keiaz, and my shiny new death knight. I spent some time working out a background for her and deciding on a name. Miyasi Ironhide will be a former shaman (tauren, of course), turned into a death knight. I can't wait to mess around with her!

I also have some big news and a big change in the works, but I don't want to spill the beans until I follow through. Soon, though.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The End

And there it is, the end of the Burning Crusade.

I am so fortunate to have come so far. When I came to Moon Guard a year and a half ago, I never thought I would raid, let alone "beat the game." It's such an odd thing, thinking back on all that has happened. That the cranky old shaman and teacher of The Earthwalkers should find herself standing before the Sunwell after defeating Kil'jaeden... I'm sure Salanthe herself is as shocked as I am!

I joined Ascension because I had something to prove to myself and to others. And for one other very important reason - they promised to give me a chance. They certainly did. I owe them a lot.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Zgu Hits 70!


Just in time for the expansion, my little twink warrior finally made it to level 70. I'm so proud! She's the one character that I actually enjoy playing because I like the style. I love running up to something and beating on it without worrying about my health bar. Titan's Grip is lots of fun and I'm burning through things... Warrior is just a fun class.

Zgu is also exalted with the Mag'har and has their tabard and a tan talbuk. If I could give her brown skin, I'd role-play as a Mag'har orc. She also got the Arcanite Ripper last night in Karazhan so she can rock out occasionally!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Finding a Groove

Learning to be an efficient restoration shaman post-3.0 is not easy, at least not for me. I'm happy with the small changes I made to my gear and mostly happy with my spec. It's the spells that are giving me fits. Hence this post will be a more of a flow of consciousness entry while I write about some of my experiences and observations post-3.0. I don't have any answers yet; so don't look to this as the end-all, be-all of post-3.0 restoration shaman.

Now that the Armory seems to be partially functional, I can show you some of what I did with Salanthe, including changes to her gear and spec. Here's the link to her Armory page. First thing of note, I obviously don't heal with her Riding Crop equipped (at least not all the time; mistakes have been known to happen). I use the Redeemer's Alchemist Stone instead.

The most notable changes I made were to Salanthe's gems and I switched out a few pieces of gear to give her more spell crit. I re-socketed nearly all her blue sockets with Dazzling Seaspray Emeralds for the intellect and mp5. This was done experimentally and I'm not certain if it was beneficial or not. My reasoning was this: Pre-3.0, I stacked a lot of +healing so that I could down-rank more efficiently. With the removal of down-ranking in 3.0 and the important of spell crit for mana regeneration, I thought that I could accomplish two things at once by re-socketing. Intellect improves both healing (through talents like Nature's Blessing) and improves spell crit. By using those green gems, I also retain some much-needed mp5, particularly since some of the gear pieces I switched out traded mp5 for spell crit. As I said, I'm not convinced that this was a wise change, but it seems logical.

I also traded in a couple of my staple pieces of gear for some fancy new pieces. Pre-3.o, I was using the Band of the Eternal Restorer, Earth Living Bindings, and the Sun-Touched Chain Leggings. I replaced all those to gain more crit. I feel confident in replacing the bracers and legs, particularly since it gained me the elemental T6 2-piece set bonus, but I'm less confident in the ring. The proc was really quite nice and I'm not certain that losing the both the proc and the mp5 was worth the gain in crit.

Salanthe's spec feels quite solid to me, although I regret not having talents such as Ancestral Fortitude and Healing Way. I feel it was necessary to pick up those other talents, however.

The one thing that has been troubling the most about raid healing post-3.0 is healing itself. Pre-3.0, I was consistently at the top of the healing meters and out-healing the other shaman by a significant margin. Post-3.0, I am typically sitting below the top 5 healers, while the other shaman are still at the top.

You've heard me go on about how meters don't mean much as long as the raid is staying alive and I still hold to that, but the meters are worth paying attention to because they can point out problems and areas for improvement. The fact that I am performing so much worse than I did previously while the other shaman are maintaining their positions demonstrates that I am not performing to my full potential. I have a few ideas to explain the disparity, but nothing concrete.

One possible explanation is my obsession with over-healing. Pre-3.0, I compulsively down-ranked to conserve my mana and to control my over-healing. Post-3.0, I cannot down-rank at all, so it is possible that I'm not spamming heals in response to either one of those concerns. Examining the meters in more detail, the other resto shaman are still casting chain heal 90% of the time, while I have dropped to casting it about 75% of the time.

It is also possible that I am still struggling with finding an appropriate spell rotation, while the other shaman have found something that works for them. Asking them what they do would certainly illuminate that issue. I tend to try something new every raid and every fight in order to determine what seems to fit the new talents the best, which is quite possibly the wrong approach. One other difference between me and the other shaman is that I seem to be under-utilizing Riptide. I try to keep it up on the MT so I can bomb-heal them with chain heal if necessary, but I'm finding that difficult to time and I'm struggling with concerns of over-healing. It's just frustrating to me that I haven't found my niche yet in raid healing.

Five-man healing is much more interesting and fun with the new talents though, and I find myself preferring them to 25-man raids now, while it was the other way around pre-3.0. I find that shaman are much better equipped to handle 5-man damage than they were previously and it's much more fun to heal with the variety of spells and procs we have to manage. It is much more difficult to control those things in 25-man raids, at least for me. In 5-mans, I feel confident of the changes to shaman healing, while I am very uncertain of them when I'm healing 25-mans.

There is one small observation I would like to make. If you read this blog regularly, you will know that I also have a 70 restoration druid. She is significantly under-geared in comparison to my shaman, particularly for pve. (Her Armory is here, for reference.) I respecced her and have been healing quite frequently with her post 3.0, including some of the same content as Salanthe. In doing so, I've made an unsettling observation: my under-geared druid is much easier to heal with than my very well geared shaman. Mio feels much more in control of 5-man healing than Sal does and I find that very disconcerting. The instances I've run with both druid and shaman with the same group of people were heroic Magister's Terrace (which I'd never healed before on Mio) and AQ20.

I'm not sure what that observation means, but it concerns me a great deal, particularly when comparing their gear. I cannot say if this is a personal preference coming into play or if it really is easier and better as a druid or as a shaman. I can say that even in my gimped state, I am still out-healing druids in our 25-man raids, and our druids are very, very good. I'm not sure what to make of that observation, but I'm throwing it out there in case others have some comments or observations.

On a lighter note, I've been messing around on my warrior again. I pulled her out for some Headless Horseman summons the other night and renewed my bond with her. There is just something so refreshing about playing a dps warrior (fury, for the moment) after healing 99% of the time. And pvp is still fun on her, despite being stomped repeatedly by level 70s in Alterac Valley and Eye of the Storm (Zgu is level 67). Go, go little warrior!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quick Update

There is a lot to write about, obviously. I haven't made a post since The Patch went live. It is very late (or early) however, and I'm not coherent enough to talk about all my impressions of shaman healing post-3.0. I am coherent enough to make a brief update!

Salanthe's guild ventured into Sunwell Plateau for the first time since 3.0 last night. It was an eventful night. We've attempted Kalecgos several times previously and always been stymied. Last night, it took us four attempts to down him. Yours truly got the Protector token and is now the happy owner of Skyshatter Bands. Yes, I got the elemental tier 6 bracers. Post-patch, I decided to use my T6 elemental legs (for more crit), so the bracers give me the elemental two-piece set bonus and the restoration four-set bonus. Overpowered restoration shaman, much?

We didn't stop at Kalecgos though. We had close to an hour and a half of raid left after downing the big blue dragon, so we headed on to Brutallus. Yes, I brought 24 of my friends back to meet him. And we one-shot him. Yes, you read that correctly. We one-shot Brutallus. After that stunning victory, we set up for Felmyst and attempted him twice before running out of raid time.

All in all, it was an amazingly successful night, although I feel like we cheated. It doesn't seem right to one-shot a boss we've never seen before. A testament to the shadow priest that set up our strategy for us and explained the fight! Well, and the nerf.

As far as my knee-jerk impressions of shaman healing post-3.0, let me just sketch them for you.

  • 5-man healing is very fun. Lots of tools to use and it's very easy at Salanthe's gear level.
  • Riptide is over-powered, but don't tell Blizzard game developers that, please.
  • Mana efficiency, as I predicted, is utter crap. Shaman just cannot keep up with the other healers, priests in particular. I am willing to make such a broad statement because the other resto shaman in my guild are having just as much trouble with mana as I am.
I'll hopefully have more to say at a later date and time when I'm more coherent and have some hard data to back up my impressions. Or maybe change my mind about them, who knows!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More Totems!

I sat down tonight and worked out a chart to use for assigning totems when the patch comes out.

Couple things to note: Unessential or situational totems are in brackets, while essential totems are not. This does not take into account spatial arrangement, meaning I have not considered where shaman stand in relation to the rest of the raid or to each other.

Enhancement shaman: Strength of Earth Totem, Windfury Totem, Flametongue Totem, [Poison Cleansing Totem/Fire Resistance Totem]

Elemental shaman: [Tremor Totem/Stoneskin Totem], Wrath of Air Totem, Totem of Wrath, [Poison Cleansing Totem/Fire Resistance Totem]

Restoration shaman: [Tremor Totem/Stoneskin Totem], [Grounding Totem/Wrath of Air Totem], [Frost Resistance Totem], Mana Spring Totem/Healing Stream Totem/Mana Tide Totem


This chart makes a few assumptions as far as spec goes. For enhancement shaman, it assumes that the shaman will have full points in the following talents: Enhancing Totems and Improved Windfury Totem. For elemental shaman, it assumes the shaman will have Totem of Wrath. And for restoration shaman, it assumes the shaman will have full points in Restorative Totems and a point in Mana Tide Totem.

There is one small problem to consider. The talent that improves Stoneskin Totem, Guardian Totems, has traditionally been considered a pvp talent because it also reduces the cooldown of Grounding Totem. It is not a common talent in pve specs, particularly for elemental or restoration shaman.

I would like to see my raid provided with improved Stoneskin Totem, but I have yet to figure out how to manage it without specifically asking an elemental or restoration shaman to spec for it. The problem could be alleviated if an elemental shaman took the talent points for Enhancing Totems and the enhancement shaman would then be able to drop Stoneskin Totem instead of Strength of Earth. However, it would require the elemental shaman to stay in range of the melee.

I have yet to see the specs my shaman will choose for The Patch, so I may modify totem assignments slightly based on their specs. Speaking of, this is the spec I'm currently considering for The Patch.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

TOTEMS!


Three days remain until The Patch. Three point zero point two. Armageddon.

Melodramatics aside, The Patch will have sweeping ramifications on raiding. As one of the few guilds left on my server that still raids and as the shaman class officer, I've been working hard at determining totem responsibilities for The Patch. I've found myself wishing for a shaman version of Pally Power. I am not skilled enough with computers to write a fancy add-on of my own, but perhaps someone will read this blog and see the need!

Why would such a tool be necessary for shaman, though? What changes are coming in The Patch that affect totem distribution?

There are two notable changes. Firstly, totems with a 2-minute timer will be increased to 5 minutes. Secondly, totems will no long affect just a shaman's party. They will be raid-wide. The first change will have shaman everywhere leaping for joy. The second major change, that of totems affecting the entire raid instead of just the shaman's party, will produce mixed reactions, and it is responsible for my sudden obsession with organizing totems.

Causing totems to affect the entire raid instead of just the shaman's party is a mixed blessing, depending on your point of view. One of the oft-stated goals of the upcoming expansion is to reduce a raid's reliance on certain classes. Developers want to give players the ability to compose raids with a wide variety of classes, instead of stacking certain classes within a raid (i.e. resto shaman for M'uru). This is great news, but for a shaman who is accustomed to always having a raid spot by nature of their specialized buffs and unique abilities (Totem of Wrath, Bloodlust/Heroism, Windfury Totem, Chain Heal), it is disconcerting.

For example, my raid usually contains four to five shaman. One enhancement shaman in the melee dps group for Windfury Totem, one elemental shaman in the caster dps group for Totem of Wrath, and two to three restoration shaman for their chain heals and to distribute totem buffs to other groups. In making totems raid-wide, there are more shaman than totems. Granted, it is a very minor concern and is certainly a positive for the vast majority of raiding guilds.

Concerns over my "guaranteed" raid spot aside, let me return to the topic of totem distribution within a raid. Each shaman can buff the raid with four totems at once. There are, I would argue, seven totems that are necessary to have out at all times: Totem of Wrath (elemental shaman only), Flametongue Totem, Stoneskin Totem, Strength of Earth Totem, Wrath of Air Totem, Windfury Totem, and Mana Spring Totem. Important situational totems are Tremor Totem, Poison/Disease Cleansing Totem, Frost/Fire/Nature Resistance Totems, Earthbind Totem, Mana Tide Totem (restoration shaman only), and Healing Stream Totem.

It takes two shaman to provide the raid with every necessary totem, with one water totem spot left over for Healing Stream Totem. And only one of those shaman must be an elemental shaman. The other shaman could, hypothetically, be any spec at all.

It's not that easy, however. Certain specs have talents that improve certain totems. For example, it is preferable to have an enhancement shaman provide Windfury Totem, Strength of Earth Totem, Stoneskin Totem, and Flametongue Totem. You must have an elemental shaman to use Totem of Wrath, and restoration shaman are best for providing Mana Spring Totem, Healing Stream Totem, and Mana Tide Totem.

Concerns such as those are why I wish shaman had an add-on like Pally Power. I could sit down right before each raid, plug in which shaman I wanted to take care of which set of totems, and that would be it! Such simplicity. Instead, I will be busy inspecting each of my shaman to see what talents points they have, taking into consideration their T6 set bonuses (elemental shaman in 2-pieces of T6 need to have four totems down at all times), trying to make sure each shaman has some responsibility for providing totems to the raid, and typing it all out in the shaman channel (and hoping they are paying attention!).

One additional challenge in managing these buffs is range. Totems have a limited range. They only affect raid or party members within 20-30 yards of the totem (depending on talents). This means that shaman will have to learn to become aware of their position within the raid and in relation to other shaman, particularly if they are dropping the same totems.

The best example of this important consideration is for providing totem buffs in a raid setting such as the Illidari Council, where the raid is spread across a vast area. The shaman stationed on the dias will need to provide different buffs for his/her melee than the shaman following the paladin around, or the shaman on the other side of the room near the mage. It complicates fights such as Kalecgos because raid members will never have access to all their necessary totem buffs at once. It makes me wish that add-ons like Big Brother had a totem monitor so I could keep track of totem buffs.

Many, many things to consider and juggle. I am still doing some testing and research, but I hope to have a post soon regarding totems and how I plan on dealing with some of these issues within my own raid. And if any readers have suggestions, please comment!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Random Musings


I have a lot to write about regarding the expansion, but not the will to do so just yet. The one thing on my mind most recently has been to figure out how to organize totems amongst my shaman, since they're going raid-wide. It's trickier than it sounds.

I also want to discuss some of the resto shaman talent trees and talents. I made a post on my guild's website with several different spec ideas, but haven't received any feedback yet.

Basically, I need to do some more research before I write about some of the things rattling around in my head. When I do, I will certainly update the blog.

In lieu of any meaningful posts regarding the patch, beta, or the expansion, let me talk to you about a dare of sorts. As you are well aware if you follow this blog at all, I have a healing problem. Both my 70s are restoration and I have an interest in leveling all four healing classes so I can learn how to heal on them. It is one of the things I find most enjoyable about the game.

I also find it to be one of the most frustrating things and my complaining inspired a friend of mine to suggest that it might be a good idea for me to have a class that cannot heal. Yes, I have the warrior, but she's been stuck at level 66 for a while now. It's not that I have no interest in leveling her; I just have more interest in other things at the moment.

That is how Keiaz the mage became the focus of my efforts. At my friend's encouragement, I've been working hard at leveling her. She's a tailor and enchanter, of course, and I've had brief thoughts of possibly making her my main come the expansion. There are so many reasons I can't picture it though; namely that she is a troll mage and not a tauren shaman. She is a good diversion though.

In other new, I was promoted to a full officer and healing class lead in my guild. Huzzah.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bear *rawr*


Bet you thought this would be about my druid! Well, it's not!

Salanthe got her Zul'Aman bear mount yesterday! The last feather I wanted to put in her cap before the expansion came out. A little thing to say that she was a well-loved, well-cared for character once upon a time.

In the four years I've been playing this game, none of my truly old characters have anything to prove that they're as old as they are. Hravan, my much neglected hunter, leveled to 35 on a pvp server and somehow managed to not earn a pvp title. I didn't raid pre-BC, so I don't have old gear to show off either. But now my main has titles (Champion of the Na'aru and Hand of A'dal), gear (5 pieces of T6), and a bear mount to prove that she's been around for a while.

In other news, I've been pvping up a storm on my druid, Miothe. I respecced her restoration, finally caving to my healer addiction. She is fun to heal with! I very well may take her as my main if healing on Salanthe ends up being a nightmare in the expansion. Only time will tell.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

HoT Me, Baby!

After a few days of battleground healing on my newly resto druid, part of a Karazhan run, and a regular Old Hillsbrad run, I'm finally starting to get the hang of druid healing. I just wanted to jot down a few observations and comparisons between shaman healing and druid healing.

First off, I find druid healing to be a bit more complicated than shaman healing. Shaman cast one heal after another. All you need to keep track of is who has aggro, who needs a heal the most, the end of your cast time, and how much raid-wide damage is occurring. These things allow you to prioritize your heals, both in terms of who is most in need and what rank you need to use, and also when to start your next cast. It's fairly simple, particularly with add-ons like Quartz (large cast bar to help you time heals) and Healbot.

With druids, you have to keep track of aggro, damage, global cooldown, and the timers on your HoTs. The last is most complicated, because a shaman only needs to know when they can cast the next heal, while a druid needs to know when to refresh the two or three HoTs they have up on their targets.

I'm finding that global cooldown (GCD) timing is very difficult. When latency and timing work out just right, the HoTs just roll off my character without a pause. As with my shaman however, I find myself clipping the end of my GCD (or previous heal if on my shaman), so my next heal ends up being slightly delayed because I tried to heal too early. I'm not quite sure how to combat that problem, since I use add-ons like Quartz and Lifebloomer to keep track of that stuff. It may be the one thing that holds me back in healing.

Adjusting to the timing and style of druid healing is not easy. I'm probably wasting a lot of mana keeping unnecessary HoTs up, since I don't have a good sense of how much they heal for. In the 5-man I did, I found that once I applied a full set of HoTs (lifebloom and rejuvenation) on the tank, I could just stand there and watch them work, so there's more down time with druid healing than with shaman healing. In a way, it's more passive, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I've also switched to Grid and Clique on my druid, since Healbot wasn't working very well for druid healing. I think that once I get the system tweaked, I may switch to it on Salanthe as well. I like the versatility and the interface is a bit simpler than Healbot. Jury is still out, though.

I also adore tree form and being able to jump and move while casting heals. When I was healing Karazhan, I had to take my hand off the keyboard during the Shade of Aran's Flame Wreath, or I would have been moving.

I still need a lot of practice to get the hang of druid healing, but I am definitely enjoying it. I'm so glad I respecced my little druid to restoration!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Learning to HoT

I randomly decided to respec my druid to restoration yesterday. She was feral and was supposed to tank. I'm still not sure what inspired me to switch, but I am inspired to play her for a bit.

I chose the standard 8/11/42 pvp spec, since pvp is the only way she's going to get gear. It's also a good way to learn to heal on a druid because healing battlegrounds is less stressful than pve healing. The group isn't going to fail if I can't keep one member alive. Once I get some decent gear and learn to manage Mio's mana, I'll probably try some pve healing.

It certainly is about time I set out to finish that goal I made ages ago. I want to learn to heal on all the classes. I have a 70 druid; I may as well start with her. Then it might be time to level my paladin and priest.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Zgu

My little orc warrior hit 60. I've been working so hard at leveling her (what else do I have to do between applying for jobs). There's talk of weekly Naxxramus runs and the Dreadnaught armor (T3) look SO badass on a female orc. I would kill to have a full set for Zgu. So I'm killing myself trying to get her leveled enough to be able to participate.

Not only that, but she's actually fun! I mean I haven't gotten bored or frustrated yet. I just don't understand. Warrior is the last class on earth that I would have picked for myself, but it seems to have clicked. I still haven't decided what I'm going to do in the expansion (switch mains or specs), but I'm really having fun with this little toy in the mean time. And I am seriously tempted to switch mains despite it all. I just need to try warrior dps out in raids to see if I really do enjoy it. I really like soloing though!

The problem I see with switching mains to a melee dps warrior is that I will be fighting the armies of death knights for, well, everything. Gear, raid spots, group spots... Thinking ahead, I'm much better off sticking with shaman and switching specs if I really hate resto that much. It would be much easier to get gear and easier to get a raid spot. The class really is not very popular and I don't think that will improve with the expansion.The problem is that Zgu is more fun than Sal right now. =/

Well, I suppose I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Rant.

I haven't written much about how I heal in raids. A failing, I know. Let me teach you before I launch into my rant.

Healing for me is a dance. You learn the rhythm of your healing spell cast times and artfully choose which heal to cast on the beat. As a restoration shaman deep into 25-man raiding (6/6 MH, 9/9 BT) and owner of the 4-set T6 bonus, I cast chain heal 90-95% of any given raid.

It isn't a simple matter of hitting one button over and over again. I use Healbot for raid healing and I rotate between three ranks of chain heals. Rank 1 is my primary heal, Rank 4 is reserved for more intense raid-wide AoE damage, and Rank 5 is used only during encounters like Bloodboil, Phase 3 Reliquary of Souls, and Kalecgos (Kalec is as far into Sunwell Plateau as I've seen).

The vast majority of my healing is done with my very efficient Chain Heal rank 1.

Now that you have an understanding of how I heal in raids, let me delve into my rant concerning changes in the upcoming expansion, specifically the removal of downranking.

Yes, I know. Another QQ about how shaman can't heal without downranking. You know, I would actually pay money for an actual restoration shaman raiding the same content as me to tell me that I'm wrong. So please, read on and enlighten me.

The source of concern is this post. Blizzard tells MMO-Champions that they have removed downranking (the practice of using a lower rank spell in place of a higher or max rank spell) from the expansion. Well, more accurately they based the mana cost of lower rank spells off the base amount of mana a player has, effectively making a rank 1 spell cost more mana at level 70 than a max rank spell.

Now, if you don't immediately see the problems here, let me explain a few things about shaman healing mechanics. Shaman heals, even chain heal, cost a lot of mana, have very slow cast times, and heal for big numbers. One of the advantages to downranking is being able to manage overheal (heals that hit for more than is needed), which is the simplest form of conserving mana. High overhealing means that a high percentage of your heals are going to waste, which means the mana you spent casting them is going to waste.

Due to the slow cast time of shaman heals (2.5 second cast time on Chain Heal and Healing Wave, 1.5 second cast time on Lesser Healing Wave), downranking is essential to managing overheal. By casting rank 1 chain heal, for example, I am ensuring that my heals will hit the targets for the lowest possible amount, which accommodates the possible incoming heals from the other seven or eight healers in raid with me. By using nothing but full rank heals, I either resort to having huge overheal percentages (normally I run about 40% overheal in raids with primarily rank 1 chain heal), or I only cast a heal when my target is at low health. Given the slow cast time of my heals, I run the risk of my heals not hitting the target in time if I wait too long. Neither option is desirable.

What about mana regeneration though? Surely my mana pool can support using max rank heals the same way I use downrank heals. All the other healing classes can use max rank heals and manage their mana efficiently.

That is the crux of my rant. Shaman cannot support max rank heals exclusively. Our heals are simply too mana-inefficient and neither our gear or our talents are designed to help.

For example, Priests get Holy Concentration, Meditation, and Serendipity. Druids get Intensity, Omen of Clarity, Gift of the Earthmother, and spirit-enhanced regen. Paladins get Illumination, Divine Illumination, and crit-enhanced regen. All of those abilities are talents that increase mana efficiency of healing spells and regeneration increases directly with gear, particularly for paladins and druids.

In all fairness, shaman have a few abilities that help mana regeneration. We have water shield (a spell) and mana spring totem (a spell). We have a couple talents, too. Tidal Focus can reduce the mana cost of healing spells by up to 5%. Improved Restoration Totems can increases the effect of Healing Stream and Mana Spring totem by 25%. Mana Tide restores 24% of base mana and is on a ten minute cooldown.

We even have a couple new talents in the expansion. Improved Shields increases the amount of mana returned by Water Shield by 15% (80 mp5) and Improved Water Shield gives a 100% chance on a Healing Wave of Lesser Healing Wave crit to consume an orb of water shield (approximately 230 mana with the Improved Shields talent).

There are no additional ranks of totems yet, meaning that my mana spring totem will still return 24-25 mana per tick (approximately 63 mp5) in the expansion. My water shield will return 80 mp5, with the potential of an additional 230 mana on a crit. 143 mp5 between water shield and mana spring. Salanthe's mana pool, raid buffed, sits a little over 12,000 mana. Let's call it 12,000 even for the sake of argument. With that mp5, it would take 420 seconds to fill up her mana bar. With the expansion talents and her level 70 mana pool, and assuming that she is not spending any mana in the interim.

Now, let's look at shaman heals. Lesser Healing Wave (Rank 9) costs 965 mana. Healing Wave (Rank 14) costs 1600 mana. Chain Heal (Rank 5) costs 540 mana. Salanthe's raid buffed mana pool could manage 12 Lesser Healing Waves, 7 Healing Waves, and 22 Chain Heals. It would take 33 seconds to recover mana from a Lesser Healing Wave, 56 seconds to recover mana from a Healing Wave, and 19 seconds to recover mana from a Chain Heal. Those are expensive heals.

Basically, by removing downranking and not giving shaman appropriate mana regeneration talents (gear-based or not), Blizzard has killed the spec. All the other healing classes received improved mana regeneration talents with the expansion. Shaman got a very slight buff to water shield, which is not enough to restore even half the cost of Lesser Healing Wave or Healing Wave if they crit. Not only that, but most of the new talents require spell crit to make them work, which means shaman will be gearing for crit. With the itemization restrictions Blizzard sets, I predict that a shaman will never be able to stack appropriate amounts of crit and mp5 in their gear.

This, folks, is why I'm upset. Restoration shaman are not viable healers in the expansion without downranking.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Looking Ahead

I've been bad. I haven't been playing beta much at all. Instead, I've been leveling my warrior like a maniac. I logged off with her at level 52 this morning. I think a week ago, she was still a 39 twink.

Since I've been making such amazing progress on her, I've started thinking about what to do with her at 70. I made a couple lists tonight; one of pvp gear she'll need at 70 and the other a list of materials to make Bloodmoon and 2 Wicked Edge of the Planes. Both lists are pretty insane, but right now I feel like I can do it. It's just a matter of planning. And spending time on Sal farming materials.

The list for weapons:
14 Primal Fire
14 Primal Water
24 Primal Mana
26 Primal Air
26 Primal Earth
40 Primal Shadow
24 Primal Nether
15 Nether Vortex
4 Hardened Adamantite
36 Felsteel Bar
22 Eternium Bar

The hardest part of that list will be the Primal Nether and Nether Vortex. If I bought all the Nether Vortex with badges, I'd need 225. That is a daunting number since I don't bring in a lot of badges on Salanthe anymore. So I think I need to start running heroics to get the primal nether and badges. I need a tank friend to help me out! (The irony is not lost on me. *sigh*)

As much as folks complain about how Blizzard has made it really easy to gear up characters, I'm glad that I can do that with Zgu. It will still be a considerable amount of work and honestly, I wouldn't be able to do it nearly as easily if I didn't have a 70 shaman decked out in T6.

With the expansion so close, I'd almost like to retire Sal from raiding and work on Zgu instead. I'd like to get my little warrior in excellent shape for the expansion so I can take her to 80 easily. The one thing that confuses me is how did this unknown class take over my beloved Salanthe?

Either way, I still intend Salanthe to be my main in the expansion. As much fun as I have on Zgu, I don't understand the class well and I don't play it well. I have yet to tank on her as well. I'm much more likely to play enhancement on Salanthe (or restoration if they fix it). But it is fun to mess around on a warrior and I do want to get her as much pvp gear as possible before the expansion, as well as those amazing weapons.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I Haz Puppies!

Sal and Mio finally copied over to the beta servers yesterday. I logged on Sal in the afternoon to spec her and mess around a little. Well, that was an adventure.

I heard about the changes to downranking (removed, basically) and I wanted to see the changes myself. I logged on Sal and specced her resto, then proceeded to spam myself with heals. To those of you not familiar with shaman healing, downranking is the only way we survive. Shaman have no talents built around conserving or returning mana, unlike all other healing classes. When I heard the news about removing downranking, my first thought was "How the hell am I supposed to heal without mana?!"

Well, we aren't supposed to heal at all, apparently. Mana efficiency was actually nerfed beyond removing downranking. I suspect a bug, but in BC with talents in improved restoration totems, my mana spring returns 24-25 mana per tic. In beta, with talents in improved restoration totems, my mana spring returns 20 mana per tic. Incidentally, that is the same amount my mana spring returns specced as enhancement in beta. I sincerely hope that's a bug, because Blizzard has basically castrated the spec if they plan on nerfing our only source of mana return and making it impossible to downrank.

On a brighter note, I ran my first instance in beta last night, only I was enhancement. Let me just say, the intellect to attack power conversion is THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER. Sal's AP in BC is about 1600. In beta, she was sitting right around 2000. I wish I had been running dps meters so I could see how her damage was, but alas I wasn't that prepared. However, someone did comment that her dps seemed really good ("things are melting when you hit them!") and I pulled aggro off a level 75 prot warrior numerous times. Oops.

Spirit wolves are kind of fun, though they are still under development. So far all they do is auto-attack. I can't wait to see what they can do once they get their special abilities.

I didn't get a chance to test the lightning shield or maelstrom weapon talents though. Lightning shield looks interesting and I'm curious to see how those talents work. Maelstrom weapon looks kind of dubious to me, but I don't know how lava burst works. I can't imagine an enhancement shaman stopping their melee attacks to cast a lightning bolt though.

Either way, I am really excited about enhancement and very underwhelmed with restoration. I may change my spec in the expansion. *gasp*

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Leveling Grind

I took a big step tonight and dinged level 40 on Zgu. That's right, her 39 bracket twinking days are officially over.

I was bored earlier and decided to work on my mage's professions - enchanting and tailoring. Well, I logged on to her, opened her enchanting window, prepared to level enchanting, and realized I didn't have a truesilver rod.

Since Zgu is my blacksmith, I switched to her and ended up spending a TON of gold leveling her mining and blacksmithing up. After all that money, I decided that I simply had to level her.

Now we'll see if I continue to enjoy her as I slowly grind towards Outland.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Live, From Northrend

That's right. Yours truly got a beta invite!

I'm still waiting on Sal and Mio to be copied over, but I did get the chance to mess around on a death knight for a little while tonight. Got up to level 57 before becoming bored and switching to Zrii.

I haven't done any reading or research on DKs at all, so I was flying blind and just screwing around. My real interest in beta is learning how to play a resto shaman and I can't until Sal is copied over.

First impressions though: Quest lines are really neat. No spoilers, but there's some lovely lore involved in the DK quests. Weapon and armor detail is gorgeous. DKs also have the most beautiful mounts in-game, my goodness.

Back in Azeroth, I spent the rest of my evening sucking at pvp. I started on a pvp server and abandoned it as soon as I could because I hated it so much. I still hate it. For some reason, I keep thinking I'll be good at it. I even went so far as to twink! But I still suck and it makes me incredibly mad. I'm normally a very laid-back, calm player, but when I start pvping and in particular, losing, I get extraordinarily upset. Horde was on a bad streak in WSG and I was getting focus-fired. That isn't good for my temper, so I ended up deserting the battlegrounds on both characters. I can't even describe how upset I get. And it wasn't any better doing 2v2s on Salanthe earlier in the evening. Pvp is the only thing that brings me within moments of canceling my account or deleting Salanthe. I wish I were exaggerating, but it really does make me that angry.

I had hoped that distracting myself by writing in the blog would calm me down somewhat, but I'm still grinding my teeth. I guess I'll have to try for the Gold Medal on Zgu tomorrow instead.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Twinking Shaman

My little pet project is nearly complete! Zrii the twink lacks only the gear that requires honor and marks. After a long morning of transferring money between alliance and horde, I was able to grab the libram for her helm enchant and the belt I've been looking for! Her Armory link is off to the side, but I'm posting it again because I'm that proud of how she's turning out. Zrii's Armory!

I've poured tons of gold and resources into her and even tweaked my playstyle for her. It's a big step forward for me and I hope that as a player, I'll live up to Zrii's gear. Shaman require much more finesse to play well than a warrior.

With Zrii's coming-of-age, it's now time to consider Zgu's future. Honestly, I'm starting to have fun on shaman again, so the warrior seems somewhat less attractive than she did a few weeks ago. I've got cold feet, I suppose, in regards to leveling her. I know I enjoy playing 39 warrior pvp. I'm not so certain that I'll enjoy playing level 70 warrior pvp and pve. I mean, I think I will, but I'm not certain.

Hence I'm still trying to decide what to do with my little warrior. Do I keep her in the 39 bracket, secondary to Zrii, or do I level her to 70, secondary to Salanthe?

At some point when I'm less tired, I want to talk about some of the choices I made for Zrii, both in gear and spec. Talking through it will help me find areas for improvement!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Had a Dream...


Once upon a time when I first began raiding, I used to dress Salanthe up in the tier gear, just to see what she would look like in full T4 and T5. It was to give me motivation to work on her and improve my playing.

Once I moved from T4 to T6 content (I kinda mostly skipped T5, but I did get attuned for MH/BT before the patch and I earned my Hand of A'dal title), I tried on the T6 gear and the matching accessories, again to give me something to dream about.

Well, against all odds, Salanthe looks the way I used to picture her all those months ago. When we downed Illidan a few nights ago, I got the T6 chest and amazingly, the Crystal Spire of Karabor. Now she matches!

On another note, this raiding week was the first time my guild has cleared Mount Hyjal and Black Temple in one week. Prior to yesterday, we had not downed Archimonde since the patch that installed all those invisible walls around the hills. It's a huge coup for us and honestly, it feels like we downed a new boss, even though I've been wearing the T6 helm for months.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Learning to Play

I didn't pvp on Salanthe at all until level 70. No battlegrounds, no world pvp, and certainly no arenas. After a series of duels I lost this morning with my baby shaman, I think that's why I suck so much at shaman pvp.

I'm making this twink shaman to replace Zgu in the 39 bracket. Her name is Zrii and I'm excited about her. I've got her gear planned out and already own quite a few pieces. All she really needs is some leveling. Well, I decided to mess around on her this morning; at least get her to level 10. As I was running through Razor Hill, turning in some quests, another level 10 shaman challenges me to a duel.

I have a level 70 shaman, right? I'm shaman class officer of the most progressed guild Horde-side on the server. I should be able to soundly beat this little level 10 shaman in cloth. Well, I didn't. In fact, I lost three times before the shaman left. How incredibly humiliating! I'm not even sure what I did wrong, except suck.

Now I'm torn. I don't know if it's a good idea for me to make a shaman twink. I'm pretty terrible at it, obviously, and a shaman might be too much pressure. On the other hand, I have this hope that by learning to pvp at level 39, I'll become better at it on Salanthe. And of course, hope wins. I'm still apprehensive though.

So Zrii is on her way to replacing Zgu, gaining 3 levels this morning. Heneli got some attention too, and thanks to a friend running me through RFK, RFD, and SM Cath, she's now level 31. Heneli will get her bony pony with the next patch!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Twinks and other things

It's been a while since I last posted, so I thought I'd better say something, even if it's nothing of consequence. Tl;dr, right?

Well, my little warrior twink has been coming along quite nicely. She's about as good as she's going to get now. Yeah, there are a few little things I could upgrade, but I'm kind of anxious to level her again. I don't want to put any more gold into her.

I did try out arms again, just to see which I liked better. The nice thing about arms is that Zgu hits a LOT harder. I had an execute crit of 770-something this morning on another warrior. She's also doing much better on damage and HKs as arms. On the other hand, it takes her forever to kill something because her axe is so slow, she's constantly rage-starved, I miss piercing howl like no one's business, and her killing blows are low. I'm just not sure which I prefer.

I've been working on earning honor for level 70 pvp gear. I actually got her Vindicator's Plate Bracers the other day. I've already got her level 40 plate gear, too. I'd like to get her Guardian's Plate Belt, Merciless Gladiator's Plate Chestpiece, Merciless Gladiator's Plate Legguards, and Merciless Gladiator's Plate Shoulders before I start leveling her again, but it's almost an impossible task. She would need 67,299 honor to get all of that. On a good day, I can get 1,000 honor on her, so that's 68 days of grinding out 1,000 honor to get that stuff. A little over two months. Which means that my time for leveling her to Outland before Wrath of the Lich King comes out will be very limited.

I don't know... I'm really torn between keeping her as a twink and leveling her. So in the mean time, I decided to level a new 39 twink. This allows me to delay leveling Zgu until I have a replacement ready for her, which means I can continue earning honor and reputation on her (I'd love for her to be Conqueror Zgu, since Zgu, Hand of A'dal won't ever happen).

The new twink will be a shaman named Zrii, a female orc. I've already got some twink pieces for her and I've got most of her gear planned out already. I just need to level her up! Unfortunately, that's the case with all my characters.

Leveling is really burdensome, sometimes. I'd like most of my alts to be at least level 40 by the time WotLK comes out so they don't have that much further to go before the new level cap of 80 is in place. The alts in that category are: Zgu (39 twink warrior), Heneli (29 shadow priest), Keiaz (20 fire mage), and Mirothan (35 ret paladin). I also want to get Miothe to level 70 and get her epic flying skill. She's 65 right now; nearly 66. I just need to spend some dedicated time on her!

I know it's really not that much. 5 more levels on my druid, 1 more level on my warrior, 11 levels on my priest, 20 levels on my mage, 5 levels on my paladin... And the leveling goes fast for those alts under 40! Part of my issue is that I haven't found a dps class that I love yet. Salanthe is absolutely painful to play outside of groups now because she kills things SO slowly as restoration. I'm to the point now where I won't drag my low level alts or do dailies on her at all until Friday or Saturday, which are our raiding off-days and I can afford to respec her to enhancement or elemental. It puts a serious crimp in my efficiency. If I played a dps class, I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

The solution, unfortunately, isn't to level Miothe up either. I don't like dpsing with her as feral and I'm going to bet that balance won't be my cup of tea either. Zgu wouldn't be a fair solution either, and not because I don't think I could grind on her the way I can't with Mio. The problem with both of them is that they are tanking classes. I worry about being "guilted" into tanking. See, Salanthe was supposed to be elemental ages ago, but the lack of healers on the server forced me into healing my way to 70 and now I'm stuck. Don't get me wrong; I adore healing. It's just that sometimes I wish I could respec enhancement for a week and get away with it. I could get ridiculous amounts of stuff done if I could have a week as dps.

Off track a little. I am worried about the same thing happening on Zgu, which is one of the reasons I hesitate to level her. She is a warrior. She is the tanking class. I want to kill stuff when I play her though, not rely on others to do things for me. I get that enough with my main.

Honestly, I don't know what my issue with Miothe is. I never intended Salanthe, let alone the shaman class, to replace my little druid. Ever since I started playing the game three and half years ago, druid has been my favorite class. Until Salanthe. Now when I hop on Miothe to pick herbs or skin leather to supply Sal, I resent playing her a little. She's not as efficient at killing things. I hate how quickly she takes damage and how slowly she kills things compared to Sal. I detest seeing her health bar fall. She's so inefficient and unwieldy in comparison. The only thing that gives me some enjoyment is tossing lifeblooms and watching them bloom when I'm trying to recover health quickly between mobs. And lord knows, the very last thing I need is another healer.

Suffice to say, I'm not sure what to do about any of my alts. I think I would adore healing on Miothe, but she will never catch Salanthe. I would love so smash face with Zgu at 70 and I like to harbor a dream that she will be decently geared and have decent rep with all the factions, but she will never catch Sal either, even if I'd rather she were my main. Then there's Heneli, the priest... Lately, I've been healing Black Temple and wishing that I played priest. Casting a chain heal and wishing it were Circle of Healing. Wishing I had Prayer of Mending and Renew, even Lightwell. I'd simply love to get Heneli to 70 so I could learn to heal and gear a priest. I'd even be alright with her being moderately geared compared to Sal. But that fourth character is just such a stretch...

Eh, I suppose it will sort itself out in time. I predict that Miothe will reach 70 and get her epic flight form; doomed to following Salanthe around and farming for the rest of her life. Zgu will probably stay twinked at 39, unless I get the shaman twinked to replace her, in which case she'll likely make it to the mid-50s before I abandon her. Heneli will likely gain a few more levels; possibly stalling out in the mid-30s, maybe making it past 40. Keiaz might make it to 30, but probably not, and Mirothan might reach 39 twink-dom.

If you made it through all of that, you deserve a cookie! *gives out cookies* I'm still working on that series of totem posts I talked about a while ago, so I promise actual content sometime in the near future!

Monday, June 30, 2008

So Cliché...

But we were prepared.


That's me, faced away from the camera, standing between the moonkin and the levitating priest. No healing gear at all dropped, but we did get one of each token. Good job done by all and the only deaths were from silly things. Can't wait to repeat it!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Leadership

Last night was the first night I got to fulfill my new role as healing lead because the regular healing lead wasn't online. I learned a lot last night and have a better understanding of what I need to do, what to watch for, and when I need to step up to take charge.

I don't have the mental coherency right now to go in-depth, but let me sketch out various events and my thoughts on them.

Inviting healers to a raid: Luckily, not too difficult in our case. We have pretty much the exact number of healers we need online at the start of raid. The unfortunate part is that sometimes those healers are somewhat sub-par. Right now, nothing to be done about it.

Arranging healing assignments: I have Black Temple covered. I can do that. Mount Hyjal on the other hand? Not so much. We one-shot Council tonight with two of our best healers missing and one healer who had never seen the fight before. Then we wiped on Anetheron because there was some terrible issue with the way I assigned healer positioning.

Now I have a better understanding of what needs to be taken into consideration when assigning healers. You have to be willing to take risks (i.e. having an essentially untested priest to solo heal the mage tank) and you have to have some understanding of what your healers can do.

Replacing healers: We had to replace two healers tonight because of disconnecting issues. It's hard to find new healers and it's even harder to step up and tell the other officers what to do (at least for me it is). This is something I will have to work on.

Other things I need to work on:
Paying attention to what the healers are doing during boss fights. I have terrible tunnel vision when I'm healing. I focus on my little green bars, everything else be damned. I need to be more aware of what's going on across the raid to make sure that everyone is doing what needs to be done and that healing is covered if something isn't working right.

Calling out battle rezzes, reincarnates, and bloodlusts. Seriously, I need to be better at this. I really, really need to be better at this. I can't expect anyone else to make those decisions. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to learn those skills.

And I know there are issues that haven't even cropped up yet that I will need to learn to deal with. What happens when I have to ask someone to sit because they are underperforming? There are so many things I need to learn...

Additionally, we seem to have a vacuum of leadership. There are things that need fixing, but I don't feel comfortable enough with my position within the guild to step up and make those suggestions. It's such a difficult place to be in! I learned my lesson about taking on too much responsibility with the Earthwalkers. I don't want to end up as raid leader or de-facto guild leader or any such thing in this guild. I'd rather not have my life revolve around a computer game, despite what my mother seems to think.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Being In-Charge

After an unfortunate raid the other night, the healing lead asked me to be his second as soon as I logged on last night. It's a bit daunting, mainly because the only healing class I understand well is shaman. I have an idea of how druids heal, but not the slightest clue how a paladin or priest should be healing. Consequently, I have a lot of research to do now.

Being a leader in a raiding guild is far more difficult than being a leader in a heavy role-playing guild. The people management skills are much more complex and there is so much more you have to take into consideration and pay attention to.

Not only am I responsible for all the shaman, I am now responsible for all the healers. I have to learn to pay attention to things I've never bothered with before. How do I choose whom to battle rez first? How do I arrange healing assignments properly? How do I monitor the activities of all the healers, as well as all the shaman? Right now, we're raiding with 8 to 9 healers and four to five shaman per raid. Three resto shaman usually, so that's roughly ten people I have to be keeping an eye on. I've never done anything like this before and I feel very out of my depth.

There are so many little issues that need to be addressed too. Like the new resto shaman doesn't have his gear gemmed properly, so I need to work with him concerning that. The enhancement shaman is using lightning shield instead of water shield (along with other issues) and I have to figure out how to get him to change. Let's not forget the small personality conflicts I have with one of the other shaman.

Now I have to concern myself with the other healers too. It's just so daunting. I don't know where to start. I need a course on how to be a raid leader.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Haste

Since maxing out leatherworking (finally!) and discovering the addictive awesomeness of Bloodlust + Drums of Battle, I've become more interested in adding haste to my healing gear. My healing numbers go through the roof when I use the Bloodlust + Drums of Battle combination, so I know it's extraordinarily useful.

Haste is one of those stats that has always confused me though. When I was a baby resto shaman, mp5 was the stat I lived for. Once my gear grew up a little, +healing became more important. Now that we're on the verge of Sunwell Plateau, it's time to think about haste.

Most of what I've read suggests that shaman should maintain two sets of gear - one regularly balanced healing set and one haste set. Unfortunately, I don't have an opportunity to do that. Which leaves me with the other suggestion I've come across - put Quick Lionseyes in yellow sockets.

There is one other important consideration though. A haste resto shaman is dependent on having a shadow priest because they sacrifice other mana conserving stats for haste. Our shadow priests are not that consistent so I don't know if we'll have a shadow priest at all for any given raid. Not only that, but there's already fights over who gets the shadow priests when they do show up to raids.

I think I need to discuss this with the other healing officers and see what they think. If I start adding haste to my healing gear, I will need a shadow priest if they're available. I need to make sure that they are willing to allow that before regemming my gear.

Basically, I'm looking at trading 44 +healing and +20 intellect for 40 haste, which will bring my haste rating up to 68 and reduce my chain heal cast time to 2.4 seconds. I think it's a fair trade-off.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Coming Soon

Real life took me away from the computer for a week and a lot changed while I was gone. I came back to a new leadership structure (involving some drama I won't go into) and a new resto shaman.

Anyway, I have some blog ideas that I'm working on. I'd like to do one on lessons learned as a new class lead and I'm currently working on a long exposé about totems. Stay tuned for these ground-breaking posts!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Four More Points

371/375 leatherworking. Soooooooo close.

I plan to spend some quality time farming fel hide this afternoon.

Friday, June 6, 2008

I HAS A SHIELD!


Yes, yes. The unlucky streak was finally broken this evening when Anetheron dropped the beautiful Bastion of Light. Even ungemmed, it was an upgrade over my old shield. I am at last content. *happy sigh* With the proper gem and enchant on the new shield, my unbuffed +healing is 2402.

Now I won't feel obligated to apologize for my gear!

Moon Guard Versus Illidan

After my guild defeated the Illidari Council, we opened the Black Temple up to role-players. Our guild leader lead a quick tour through the temple (ever wonder where Draenic water comes from?) and then we confronted Illidan just for fun. Apparently the brief attempt was captured on fraps and the result is this little video. Giggles ftw.

Luck

I'm on a lucky streak. Whilst farming leather the other day, The Green Tower dropped. This morning, while farming Obsidian Warbeads for Consortium rep, Four of Blessings dropped. Then I went to Shattrath to do a transmute for someone and I discovered how to transmute Primal Life to Primal Earth!

I am hoping that this lucky streak continues tonight when we head into Hyjal (or failing that, ZA) and the Bastion of Light drops. I will be the happiest shaman in existence. It's probably too much to hope for, particularly considering my luck. But one can always dream.

It's been a very busy last few days. Switching to leatherworking has been expensive and time-consuming. I'm stalled out at 338 leatherworking until either more leather goes up on the auction house (Moon Guard is a small server with a bad economy) or I'm able to farm more leather with Miothe.

I managed to accomplish two of my reputation goals for Salanthe as well. She's now revered with The Consortium and exalted with the Keepers of Time. Now I only need to hit exalted with Thrallmar and she'll be set. It would be nice to hit exalted with Sporeggar too, but that's a distant dream.

Miothe is nearly level 65 due to all this leather farming, which was what I hoped would happen. With any luck, she will ding this evening, unless I spend all night on Sal.

I also lucked out and picked up a few epic leatherworking patterns from Black Temple last night. Once I reach 375 leatherworking, I will be able to craft Bracers of Renewed Life and Living Earth Bindings. If you've read prior posts, you may recognize that the Living Earth Bindings are the ones I'm hoping to upgrade too. With any luck, enough Hearts of Darkness will drop tonight so that I can have my bracers made!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Unintended Consequences

One thing I did not intend upon being promoted to a guild officer was being forced to carefully consider what I put in my blog. I don't want to air the guild's dirty laundry across the Internet for all to see. On the other hand, typing out my situation is the best way for me to think through whatever issue it is that I'm dealing with. I'll have to think carefully about what I type.

Regardless of all that, I'm finally being forced to step into my role as guild officer. I'm not sure why I thought things wouldn't change once I had that new rank after my name, but I did. It's disconcerting to find myself taking responsibility for other people again. It's been so long since The Earthwalkers disbanded that I've forgotten what it feels like to be in a leadership position. Here's hoping I still have the ability to do it well.

On an unrelated note, I finally got Miothe's herbalism up to Outland level. She can pick almost every flower Salanthe needs now. Upon reaching that mark, I decided that it's time to drop herbalism on Sal and pick up leatherworking. After buying out all the thick leather on the auction house this morning, Salanthe is stuck at 269. Let me tell you how irritated I was that I couldn't get that last point!

I will have to spend some time farming rugged leather with Miothe so I can continue leveling leatherworking on Salanthe. Hopefully I'll have Outland patterns by the end of the week.

Monday, June 2, 2008

For Posterity


Because it's a little hard to see, the first screenshot is of one of my crit Healing Waves, which landed on a warlock for 9895. Almost 10,000 health in one shot.

The second screenshot is of our last raid where we spent 4 hours wiping 19 times on the Illidari Council. It's total raid healing for the entire night. What you're seeing is that I did 17% of the total raid's healing and that my nearest competition is a full 1.5 million behind me in healing.

The sad part? I thought I was doing a horrible job last night. As a caveat to those numbers, I did have a shadow priest in my group, so mana was not a huge issue. No matter how well I performed, there are plenty of things to work on. Most notably, I have a real issue remembering to blow Bloodlust on my own. I have to learn to do that without being told. Additionally, I still need to work on my positioning. I could be doing a better job of placing myself so that more people are in range of my heals.

I did practice being more reactive in my healing like the new resto shaman, and I think the results paid off. My overheal is surprisingly low on heals that I primarily cast at full rank, like lesser healing wave and healing wave. That shows that I was healing intelligently and reacting quickly. Not quickly enough for my own tastes, but the numbers show that I was doing better than I thought.

On a related note, Nature's Guardian is definitely worth the five talent points and I won't be respeccing from my standard raiding build any time soon. This WWS parse proves its effectiveness, I think.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Delicious Shaman Tears

While reading about the Illidan encounter, I discovered that during the most healing intensive phase, Phase 2, shaman totems are bugged and cannot be used. My response:

WTF BLIZZARD


I QQed about it on the Illidan strategy thread on our guild forum. One of my friends posted a reply to me saying, "Shaman tears are delicious." Which makes me think that Blizzard rather enjoys the taste too. Other classes don't have to remove all their buffs.

This makes me so upset that I can't even write about it. It will be an incoherent rant about anything and everything that Blizzard has screwed up about my class and I'd rather not subject you to that. Suffice to say that I'm pretty angry right now.

To-Do Lists

When I left my old guild and joined the one I'm in now, I was determined to improve Salanthe and prove myself to the new guild. I spent hours researching and ended up with a very long list of goals, including maxing out professions and weapons skills, hitting exalted with various factions, farming primals, and other more mundane things.

Several months later, I've checked off almost everything on that list and am reaping the benefits. Having maxed out cooking and fishing is completely worth the hours I spent power-leveling them from zero to 375. I have both a netherwing drake and a nether ray to choose from. I have every single talbuk (they all look so pretty!). I can buy flasks from the vendor in my bank and I can get my gear repaired just about anywhere without worrying about the extra cost.

Now that I'm redoing Salanthe's professions, I'm secure in knowing that I don't have any reputation grinds to do. Once I max out leatherworking, I can fly to each vendor and pick up all the patterns I could ever desire. It's very freeing.

My advice to folks leveling up a character for the first time: Take your time and do it right. One particularly well-cared for main character can support all your alts with ease. Yes, you may have to do reputation grinds on alts, but you can neglect secondary professions like cooking and fishing. It saves a lot of time and effort in the long run.

My current list for Salanthe (and Sal-related goals for alts):
Do dailies to have at least 2,000 gold on-hand
Max-out herbalism on Miothe
Max-out skinning on Miothe
Get Miothe her flight form (level 64 to 68)
Train leatherworking on Sal and power-level it to 375
Exalted with Thrallmar on Sal
Revered with the Consortium on Sal
Splurge on twinks!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Blogroll Updated

I spent some time this morning browsing for more shaman and healing-related blogs. I actually had some success this time, so please browse my blogroll for some well-written blogs. Not all are shaman or healing-related.

Small Milestone

I bought a new chest piece for Salanthe tonight, the Wave of Life Chestguard. Socket it with an epic 22 bonus healing gem and it is an upgrade over the Golden Links of Restoration, which I had previously.

The reason I'm posting about this minor upgrade is that the chest piece was the very last thing I could upgrade on Salanthe until Illidan falls, with the exception of her bracers (which can be replaced by Living Earth Bindings or Howling Wind Bracers from Hyjal) and her shield, which could be replaced by anything.

It's kind of an odd place to be at, honestly. There is literally nothing I can do to upgrade Salanthe's gear now. It all relies on boss drops. I used to dream about having the best gear in-game back when I first started raiding, but I figured I would never see it. I'm still not sure I'll see Salanthe in full Sunwell Plateau gear before the expansion, but I do think I'll see her in full Tier 6 (minus the new SWP stuff). To think that little shaman running around in role-playing gear would be what she is now... Not at all what I expected, but everything I dreamed. It's a fun feeling.

(Shaman Salanthe Oatwind in full role-playing gear.)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Resto Talent Builds

I am considering changing my standard raiding spec. Right now, I use 8/0/53, which is a very standard raid build. After looking over some WWS parses though, I'm starting to wonder if the 5 points in Nature's Guardian are really worth it. It procs about once an hour while I'm raiding and it has never saved my life. Hence I am debating the following 8/0/53 build.

Basically, I'm taking those 5 points in Nature's Guardian and putting them in Focused Mind and Improved Reincarnation. I think I will give it a try the next time I respec. It could be that I actually miss Nature's Guardian, or I don't notice a difference with Focused Mind. Only testing will answer that question.

Professions

Salanthe was originally a tailor and an herbalist. Tailoring so she could make bags for her guild and herbalism for money. When her guild, The Earthwalkers, split apart, I decided to pursue raiding and reevaluated her professions. Ultimately I decided to drop tailoring and pick up alchemy instead.

This turned out to be a very wise decision, as one of the best healing trinkets in-game is for alchemists only, the Redeemer's Alchemist Stone. At first, I picked transmutation mastery because that was the one mastery not taken by her new guild's (Epoch Veil) resident alchemists. Recently, I decided to switch her mastery from transmutation to elixirs, primarily because transmutation was doing nothing for me.

Well today I decided to change Salanthe quite drastically. For as long as she's been raiding, she's been alchemy and herbalism. Today I decided that she would be better served with alchemy and leatherworking. I dropped Miothe's 309 leatherworking and picked up herbalism, so my little druid will now be Salanthe's farmer. Once Mio's herbalism is maxed out, I'm going to drop it on Sal and pick up leatherworking. This will give me time to farm leather on Mio as I run through low level zones picking flowers, as well as earn money doing dailies on Salanthe. I have no doubt that leatherworking will be very expensive to power-level.

I hope these choices turn out well!

On another note, according to WoW WebStats, I out-healed my nearest competition by over 1,000,000 last night. O.o

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Patience is a Virtue

A few days ago, I wrote about how the shaman class lead was leaving the game and how I wanted to be the class lead in his place. I didn't know how to broach the subject with the guild leader though.

Well, tonight she asked me. So I am now an officer of the guild and the leader of the shaman class! There are officially five female and six male officers in the guild. How unusual is that?!

I also got to inspect a WWS parse of tonight's raid, so I have a better idea of the healing differences between the new resto shaman and me. It seems as though he is a more reactive healer and doesn't manage his mana as carefully as I do.

For a while, I thought he was making liberal use of nature's swiftness to emulate haste. I knew he was casting more heals than me and that's hard to do because I am always casting. Upon examination tonight, I noticed that he uses lesser healing wave much more often than I do and he uses a very low rank healing wave to top people off. He also uses a higher rank chain heal than I do, though I can't tell if he uses rank 4 or 5 (I use rank 3).

On the other hand, I am a very steady healer. I stick to chain heal rank 3 and up-rank (use 4 or 5) depending on how much damage the raid is taking as a whole. I rarely cancel heals once I've started them because I gamble on them actually healing something by the time they land, which is also why I down rank so much. Why waste a lot of mana on over-heal? I almost never use lesser healing wave, with the Supremus fight as the notable exception. The only time I use healing wave is when I'm healing someone after a rez or pulling a "Hail Mary" heal off on the tank.

So the difference between us is due to healing style. There are positives to both methods, certainly, but we can both learn from each other as well. At this point, I think the one thing I will try to adapt from his healing style is some of the reactivity. I am a little slow to cast heals sometimes, partially because I'm already healing someone else. I'm also not as good at positioning as I should be, so that's something to work on.

It will be very interesting to see how the new resto shaman does when he gets his two piece T6 set bonus. We're already neck-in-neck on the healing meters.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Progression

Yes, you are looking at a screenshot of my guild after downing the Illidari Council. I'm in the middle near the top, looking all large and shamany.

It's an odd thing, progression. What seems like something you will never get suddenly can come together and the next instant your guild is standing before Illidan the Betrayer.
We one-shotted Reliquary of Souls tonight, steamrolled past Mother Shahraz, and kicked the Illidari Council in the teeth. It was shocking really, considering that so many of the new folks hadn't been past Anetheron in Mount Hyjal. We spent so much time outfitting new people in shadow resist gear before taking down Mother... Well, you wouldn't have expected us to actually down the Illidari Council tonight.

It started as one of our many other attempts. I didn't expect us to last long at all, just like the other attempts. But fate and skill seemed to come together in one shining moment and suddenly they were dead! It was amazing. That is why I raid - to experience that feeling of downing a new boss. Sure, we weren't server first this time, but it doesn't matter. We were Horde first and in all honesty, the only things I care about are 1) that my guild trusts me enough to include me on progression fights and 2) that it was a first for me!

See, I have a funny story when it comes to raiding. Once upon a time, I was dating a guy who also plays WoW on Moon Guard. We were in the same guild and in some aspects, he was the one that first helped me learn to heal well. In other words, I respected him a great deal, in addition to our romantic feelings. Well, we broke up and I took about a two week break from WoW. When I came back, I had to start from scratch with this guild we were both members of. Meaning, I had to prove that I was a good healer all over again. Which was stupid, but when you're trying to prove something you don't really complain that much.

Well, to make a long story short, I wasn't included on raids. So I asked my ex-boyfriend (we were supposed to still be friends) why I wasn't being invited and he told me it was because I wasn't good enough to handle the fights they did. You can only imagine how angry I was because despite my occasional bouts of inferiority complex, I know I am a good healer. Maybe even a very good healer. I realized that he was doing whatever he could to get me out of "his" guild. (Funny sidenote: I was the one that wanted to join it when we started looking around.)

Consequently, I quit the guild citing difficulties with my ex as the reason (without going into details - no one cares about that). With a new-found sense of determination, I set out to prove to everyone that I was a good healer. I applied to the most progressed guild on the server and set a list of goals; foremost among those goals was the desire to prove to the guild that I was a good enough healer to be included on progression fights.

I worked really, really hard to improve Salanthe. If you go to her Armory page, you'll see that I have almost everything maxed out. All her professions are maxed out (I hadn't even trained fishing prior to being accepted to the new guild), all her weapons skills are maxed out, she's exalted with a ton of factions... Almost all of that I did after joining this new guild. I showed up to every raid and waited outside, hoping for a chance to come in.

My new guild gave me the one thing I asked, a chance to prove myself. I did everything I could to prove to them that I was worth a raid spot and now I'm invited when I log on. It's a good feeling. And I love my guild for giving me a chance.

Since joining my guild, I've been there for four of their first kills, three of those were server firsts. It is such an honor to be there and I feel incredibly lucky every time I get an invitation for a raid. Corny yes, but entirely true.

With the bosses down tonight, Salanthe got Nadina's Pendant of Purity, a guild first drop. I had been saving my SK spot for a long time, hoping the Blessed Band of Karabor would drop. Well, the necklace was too good to pass up. Sure, I could have saved my spot for Illidan and hoped that the Memento of Tyrande or the Crystal Spire of Karabor would drop, but there are a couple of very minor upgrades I need still and it's not worth wasting an SK spot on Howling Wind Bracers or even the Bastion of Light. So I decided to blow my SK spot on the necklace and hope that those bracers drop while I'm still low on the list, so I can climb up the list again in time for Illidan. Additionally, I passed on the T6 leg token that dropped because my current pants are really a side-grade to T6 and I would rather have the T6 chest from Illidan. Definitely saving my SK spot for the chest.

The other small thing of note from yesterday's raid is a small encounter I had with the new restoration shaman. It started off innocently enough. He asked me about loot rules, so I explained how it worked. I should have done it earlier, but I forgot. Not to mention that he has other friends in the guild that could have told him as well. So I told him about SK and that if he wants to bid on something, he just whispers the master looter. This prompted an odd comment from him. He told me that he wasn't upset that I got the necklace. (Did I even have a reason to think he was? *confused*) Then he said that he didn't care about the loot; he only cared about doing well on the meters.

Yes, you read that correctly. He only cares about doing well on the meters and he thinks that the only way to do that is by getting better gear. He apparently doesn't care about actually keeping people alive... Just, wow. I had no idea how to reply to him, so I decided to take the tactful route and reassure him that he was doing very well on the meters and had no reason to worry.

Honestly, his attitude really irritates me. Yes, I out-gear him. You know what? It doesn't matter. As a healer, you should only be worried about keeping your raid alive, not about topping the charts. If you are doing everything in your power to do your job well and your raid is surviving, then you are doing well. Yes, it is cool to see your name at the top of the meters. It's an extra confirmation that you're doing your job well. But ultimately it doesn't matter.

Edited to add: Something just occurred to me. The new shaman already knew how loot rules worked because he got something the night before and I had explained it to him already. I knew there was something odd about him asking me for clarification. I wonder what he meant by all that.