Friday, August 29, 2008


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!