Archive for September, 2011

Chapter IV – Wake up and smell the coffee

It was a quiet sunday morning and I was running through my usual WoW routine – checking the AH, making sure add-ons are updated and reading my favourite blogs/news sites – instead of doing actual stuff when I ran into this, the list of Tier 13 set bonuses.

Usually I am a bit skeptical towards these early announcements, especially when there’s nothing on the PTR yet. However, I fancied doing some commentary while the news is still hot for a change, so… here we go.

TIER 13 SET BONUSES PREVIEW – DRUID

Restoration, 2PAfter using Innervate, the mana cost of your healing spells is reduced by 25% for 15 sec.

Thumbs mildly up. I like the Cata model of having a mana regen ability as the two-pieces bonus for healers. You can get it reasonably early and it’s always useful, both at the beginning of the gearing process and later when you start reforging spirit away. The fact that it’s a set bonus means that it doesn’t take up precious itemization stats.

It’s interesting to notice that the two-pieces bonus for both Resto Druids and Shamans procs from a mana-regen ability (Innervate for druids and Mana Tide Totem for Shamans), while it procs from healing output cooldowns for both Priests and Holy Paladins (Power Infusion/Lightwell and Divine Favor respectively) instead. On the one hand, I like having it tied to Innervate as often the healing-intense part of a fight is not at the beginning; thus you can wait to Innervate before a heavy raid damage phase, when you have consumed some of your mana bar and will make good use of the mana discount.

On the other hand, Innervate is the only resto spell with a cooldown comparable to those abilites from other classes (only Power Infusion has a 2 mins CD, rest is 3 mins), which was a very simple reason for the developers to pick Innervate, I guess. Wait, Tranquillity has a 3 mins CD as well, but it wouldn’t make much sense to tie something like “After using x the cost of your spells is reduced by 25% for 15 sec.” to a channeled spell.

Restoration, 4PYour Rejuvenation and Regrowth spells have a 10% chance to Timeslip and have double the normal duration.

I am not sure what to do of this one. I will assume the exact meaning is that when you cast Rejuve or Regrowth you have a 10% chance that the HoT will last twice as normal. The one from Regrowth is pretty much irrelevant. If you get a proc when casting Rejuvenation, that means you will have a 24 seconds HoT which of course heals for twice as normal. A 24-seconds Rejuve on the tank doesn’t sound exciting but it’s not bad either – you will save one second of casting time and the mana needed to recast it, as you usually want to keep Rejuve rolling on the tank.

A 24-seconds Rejuve on a raid member does sound bad though. Even with the Cataclysm healing model, in fights where there is a substantial amount of raid damage you can’t afford to spend 24 seconds to top a player’s health out – you will have to supplement it anyway with Wild Growth, Efflorescence or something else. As much as a stronger Rejuvenation might sound good, it’s not very useful if it procs on raid healing – it won’t make the difference and will result in heavy overhealing. I’d rather have a chance to see Rejuvenation heal for twice the amount in the same time span, although that might be a tad too strong.

So… I guess that for the time being, this deserves a thumbs down. It would be nice to know how the 4-pieces bonus exactly works with Gift ot the Earthmother, by the way.

– – –

While I was at it, I took the time to look at the Warlock set bonuses. I still keep an eye on all things warlocky even after changing my raiding toon, and secretly hope for Mage nerfs which will not come.

BONUS TIER 13 SET BONUSES PREVIEW – WARLOCK

2P — The duration of your Doomguard and Infernal summons is increased by [15|45] sec and the cooldown of of those spells is reduced by 4 min.  (45 for Demonology, 15 for non-Demonology.)

Not a fan of the different duration/cooldown for Demonology. I love that spec dearly, but does it need a buff compared to Affliction and Fire, I mean Destruction? Four minutes less of CD means you’ll be able to use it twice in most fights. At least it makes sense with Demo being all about, well, summoned demons.

Anyway, unless there’s an incoming nerf for Demonology, I don’t really understand the reasoning behind this one. I do like the fact that you get a plain dps buff with two pieces, although I am not sure how much of a dps increase this will actually be, especially if you’re not demo. Btw, this just made me notice there’s a typo in Zharym’s post. >_>;

4P — Soulburn grants a 10% increase to your spell power for 10 sec.

At a first glance, I was all thumbs up for this. Soulburn clearly has not had the impact Blizzard expected it to have and is trying to make it more meaningful. Then I realized there are multiple issues with Soulburn-related procs.  Although the cooldown is fairly short at only 45 seconds, Soulburn is a dps cooldown with a finite number of ‘charges’ per fight. Demonology managed to find a use for Soulburn-powered instant-cast summons as doing so provides a notable dps boost under certain circumstances, while Affliction is still stuck with empowered Seed of Corruption.

That means Affliction players will have to start using an ability (soulburn) which is pretty much useless at this moment unless on an adds-heavy fight, while Demonology warlocks will have to gauge the impact of pet-swapping vs. 10% more spellpower for a limited time. To add insult to injury, Soulburn is the only way for the former to get their pet back up quickly in case it dies, while the latter can already do that at no cost thanks to Demonic Rebirth (feel free to notice how little I know about Destro *sigh*).

If Soulburn had no charges but maybe a longer cooldown, this set bonus would make more sense, although it still wouldn’t be balanced for all specs. Overall, while I like the reasoning behind the design (making Soulburn feel like it’s actually one of the signature Warlock abilities), I feel that this Soulburn ‘buff’ is actually a few months late, and not very well thought-out.

Chapter III – PotPourri

Another couple of weeks have passed and WoW news sites have been kept pretty busy. Patch 4.3 seems to loom closer, despite not being on the PTR yet, and bits and pieces and fat chunks about its content and the changes it will bring have started to surface on Blizzard’s very own website.

Just to get this out of the way: I know there were nerfs to tier12 content. Although they do irk me somehow, discussing them irks me even more as I actually rewrote this post a couple of time before deciding I had already wasted enough time on things that marginally affect me or my guild.

Same old song and dance?

The first bit of news about 4.3 is actually almost a month old, as fashionable WoW players have had the time to appreciate the new transmogrify feature and start looking at every possible set (and if you were still wondering, Blizz just made a list of official notes about how transmogrification works).

Your favourite slothful healer, ça va sans dire, is not fazed by this particular bit of  news as looking for pretty gear would mean actually spending time outside of raids. Also, I am not really interested in gear for its looks unless there’s a set somewhere that makes you look like this.

However, I can agree that it does add a nice touch of customization to the game, and it’s something players been interested in for a while. After transmogrification was announced, more polishing  features were revealed over the days – void storage, the ‘all new’ Darkmoon Faire, Worgen ponies, new tiers and Blizz admitting Blood tanking is gimped and will be fixed soon. I choose the word ‘polish’ intentionally as patch 4.3 seems to follow a pattern started roughly with dual speccing and walked by Cataclysm, as quality-of-life improvements take precedence over radical changes to the game.

Quality-of-life is a notion Blizzard themselves recently mentioned in the class feedback threads; as I see it, it’s the concept that the difficulty in WoW should be determined by the actual content and not by gameplay issues which might prevent you from enjoying the content in the first place – see warlock shards pre-cataclysm.

While some players complain that Cataclysm was a disappointment because of the lack of actual changes to the game, I agree with Blizz and others that there isn’t really a way to bring substantial upgrades to a seven-years-old game, and at this point it makes more sense to make sure that what we have is as smooth and enjoyable as possible; think of the revamp of 1-60 zones or the Void Storage feature if you want a couple of examples.

However, something Blizzard are expected to improve and innovate are raid encounters. As much as the Gunship Battle in ICC was basically tank and spank with some twists and free loot, I liked the fact that it managed to advance the story in a way few boss encounters did before (fighting the horde while trying to reach the upper Citadel). For that reason I am really looking forward to the Deathwing encounter, which seems to involve many different mechanics wrapped into an epic showdown. If the fight ends up half as fun as it sounds on paper, my guildies will see a very keen tree on the day we finally face the aspect of Death – as long as there is no swimming out of lava involved.

Domo, Majordomo-sama.

In other strictly related news, we killed Staghelm last week. We just did it again, and it looks like it could become farm content faster than Aly (which still isn’t for us), even without the nerf. I love this fight, not strictly because of the mechanics, although it’s reasonably well designed and fun; what I like is that I have to make the most out  if every spell in my arsenal – bar Nourish, sadly – if I want my team to have a chance to succeed, and that’s especially true in 10 man because you are responsible for pretty much every health bar in your range. From healing the tank hard to managing your raid cooldowns to keeping an eye on damage taken by orbs ‘tanks’, it always keeps people on their toes and prevents me from being stuck on the ‘keep hots rolling on the raid’ mentality.

Speaking of which, I did not actually take the time to answer Blizz’s questions, but I enjoyed reading the feedback from other players and seeing so many diverse opinions. I will admit I really like resto healing at the moment. I don’t have any bias, having started my healing career in the midst of tier 11, and at the same time I don’t have the experience either, so that I can’t compare resto as it is now to what it was in, say, ICC.

It does feel great, though, for the reasons I listed earlier taking about the Staghelm fight. The fact that we lack the ability to quickly top off a health bar or the ability to reduce incoming damage makes healing more challenging and fun.  As other bloggers have pointed out, we should not ask for abilities that do not belong in our spec or that are trademarks of other healing classes. The mark of a good healer is the ability to work with and make the most of other healers’ strong points and cover for their weaknesses. If you learn to do it for your fellow healers, they’ll do the same for you.

That is expecially true for us resto because our healing style complements others so well.

Anyway, I love resto so much that I will probably get a second resto spec – shouldn’t be an issue seeing how many dailies I do – so that I can try those few changes I have wanted to make for a while. Namely, I want to see how much Living Seed is valuable in 10man; I know it’s a weak talent on paper but I want to see if it can make a difference anyway in those fights where tanks have to move around a lot and might end up out of healing range.

I’d probably drop Nature’s Bounty, despite it being so good for me, and see if I can bring the Regrowth spam outside of tree form a bit down, as my gear certailnly doesn’t allow me to use it liberally yet (and hopefully never will). I have certainly toned it down with progress bosses becoming farm content, but I am still wary of what reckless regrowth usage can do to my mana bar.

…Same old song and daaance~~~

Another week and Rayze manages to do it again – another wall of text without actual substance into it. That means I’m probably giving up on the thought of a second Four_dot_two post and you can look forward to a nice guide to the TellMeWhen add-on for my next column.

Toodles!

Interlude – Useful reference post

To my guildies who have supported this crazy idea of mine: thank you. You people are awesome. (How awesome? This awesome). Many thanks to Jasyla of Cannot Be Tamed and Lissanna of Restokin, whom I randomly e-mailed asking for advice; instead of trashing the missive like I might or might not have done instead, they took the time to look at my blog and offer some nice, helpful words. After reading their replies, I went over my previous post, found some bits I wasn’t happy with, made it neater, and hopefully learned a thing or two about blogging.

Before my next wall of text, I’d like to catch my breath, gather my thoughts and share some of the resources I feel were a sort of cornerstone for my Firelands deeds . Last time I mentioned Elitist Jerks as it were THE source to look at when you need an update on your class. Now, I don’t take everything EJ say for granted, but their guides are very often quite informative and exhaustive, that’s why I recommend checking them every time a new patch comes out. Surely that’s not the only place to look for guides on our favourite kind of tree, though. Another comprehensive guide I really like is Myrrar’s over at the MMO-Champion boards. While I am definitely not a fan of MMO Champ, that’s another guide I really dig with a bit of everything you need to know and some nice theorycrafting on crit and mastery.

Some of my favourite bloggers also took the time to put down pointers for us tree newblets all over the interwebs. Guides can be found at both Restokin and CannotBeTamed. These are particularly helpful as not only you will get tips on the usual stuff like what talents to choose, how to reforge etc. but they will offer a nice walkthrough of what is actually resto healing in Cataclysm.

Something I enjoy and I feel really helped me improve is looking at WoL logs after the raid is over (I should do it the day after instead of looking at graphs and numbers at midnight – it really takes a toll on my beauty sleep). Having access to and being able to analyse boss fights logs is very important as you can readily see what spells you are mostly using, how much damage you could have avoided, your Harmony uptime and a lot more. Jasyla of CannotBeTamed has an amazing guide on how to evaluate healers with WoL; Katarnas of Resto is Epic and Glow of Glow’s Branches also wrote about how to read your logs and learn from them.

I have seen around some nice guides to Power Auras, especially focussing on specific encounters. I use TellMeWhen instead – one of my upcoming posts will be specifically about that add-on – but I will list them anyway, as I feel they are valuable resources and you need either PA or TMW to manage your cooldowns and buffs/debuffs. If you like PA better, check these: Power Auras by Beruthiel of Falling Leaves and Wings, Power Auras by Garnaph@Restokin and Power Auras by Jasyla.

Lastly, many of the blogs I have listed above have resto-centric guides to Firelands encounters. Those are helpful for a couple of reasons: first, resto druid is the only healing spec without any kind of damage mitigation spells, thus you might need slight adjustments to healing strats commonly found on IcyVeins, Tankspot or similar. Second, seldom-used abilites you might not even have on your bars can be actually useful on specific bosses; you will need a resto POV if you want to know when to pop that kitty or bear form.

That’s it. There are other exceptional reads on the blogs/websites I listed if you want to know more – browse them at your leisure; also try to follow links to other healing blogs as there’s always something you don’t know or might not have thought about, and sometimes that useful bit of advice will be in the most obscure blog or website you’ve never heard of.

– – –

And now for something completely different or not so much… a list of 378 gear available through Valor points, Avengers of Hyjal reputation and Leatherworking recipes, sorted by itemization. Comments below.

Spirit/haste:

Spirit/crit:

Spirit/mastery:

Mastery/haste:

Mastery/crit:

Crit/haste:

  • Firescar Sash (waist, Avengers of Hyjal reputation – honored)

I haven’t listed trinkets, which of course need to be evaluated separately and that’s something beyond the point of this list. I didn’t list Flickering Shoulderpads either, as it’s randomly itemized and as such it really doesn’t belong there.

I did include the Boomkin tier shoulderpiece because it’s itemized for pure healing output – crit and mastery – thus making it appealing when you don’t really need that extra haste or spirit anymore… which brings us right to the next point.

In my previous post, I stressed the fact that while there isn’t a lot of spirit/haste stuff available from vendors or through Leatherworking – not to mention 4.2 craftables aren’t exactly cheap to craft – there are quite a few of them available through Firelands boss drops. Thinking it over, is that a really good thing though? For people who are still worried about the 2005 haste threshold, it probably is. Except half of those spi/haste shinies drop from bosses quite far into Firelands, when you will be more interested in pure output stuff (crit/mastery). While I don’t really see a fail on Blizzard part’s as far as gear distribution and itemization go, I can see how people who are more inclined to min/maxing can be somehow annoyed by this. I know I am not, but once again I have yet to take a hard look at my gear, as I have been mostly busy trying to get raw stat upgrades so far.

Chapter II – Four_dot_two

A quick word before we start. My guild chose to take a summer break of two months from raiding, for reasons I am not going to discuss here, and we only just went back to elbow dropping baddies like it’s 1988 again. That doesn’t mean we stopped raiding altogether in that time – in short, I could say that we had a bit less planning than usual, and more going with what we had. Due in part to that reason, many of the topics I am going to tackle are not exactly breaking news, like I said in my previous post. My intent is to consolidate information and offer my take on common topics, thus I hope that you will forgive me if I seem to take some things for granted. I will assume on the reader’s part knowledge of the latest EJ guide for our class and spec or similar, and a general understanding of how we have evolved through Cataclysm so far.

That wasn’t so quick, was it? Well, my guildies learned fast not to trust everything I say. I am sure you will in time, too.

Now that roughly two months have passed since Rage of the Firelands was released, we will go back to the first days of 4.2, look at how we adjusted to the changes it brought and what are the options available to us to adapt and keep trucking through Firelands. Yes, there is a chance that will take a couple of posts or three or six.

At first glance, the big news for us resto droods was the reshaping of our mastery, the innervate ‘nerf’ and the bigger impact of healing critical strikes – from 150% to 200%. Now, if you think about it,  there is another quite obvious change every raid patch infallibly brings us : higher ilvl gear, which means more intellect, the paramount stat to us resto druids, and higher secondary stats.

– – –

Let’s focus on that last concept for a moment, and look back at the final days of the previous tier. As many of you are aware, one of the goals regarding resto gear in the previous patch was to reach that magical number that is 2005 haste, which means one more tick of Wild Growth and Efflorescence. Although that might have taken a while for some of us, we could reasonably expect to have reached that by the end of the raiding season. Of course there are exceptions – not everyone raided the whole six months of patch 4.0.6/4.1, not everyone had access to the Alchemy trinket which made things considerably easier, or people were just unlucky with drops. With the coming of patch 4.2 there is really no excuse though, as you can now buy with justice points gear which previously required valor. Even though you still can’t buy the resto tier 11 headpiece (spi/haste itemized), you can easily buy gear like the boomkin tier 11 pants which are spi/haste itemized, and the spi/haste boots.

I know that many of you might be looking at the gear currently sold for valor – ilvl 378 stuff I mean, especially offset – and be worried that you will not be able to maintain 2005 haste as you slowly replace your 359 gear. However, while most of the 378 gear you can buy is indeed spirit/mastery/crit itemized, many Firelands boss drops have haste on them, meaning you shouldn’t have to worry at all. On the contrary, you will be able to juggle your gear more comfortably around the haste threshold and eventually start reforging away some of that excess haste (as you don’t need more than 2005 – any amount above that is wasted).

– – –

That takes us right to next topic: the balance of spirit, crit, and mastery. Previous to patch 4.2, most of us needed spirit on every piece of gear, mastery was a very strong choice after the haste ‘cap’ and crit was regarded as the weaker secondary stat. Nowadays crit is much more valuable, roughly on par with mastery, and spirit seems to slowly take the backseat as we get more intellect due to the increase in gear item level.

Spirit is the stat whose impact is the hardest one to gauge, as it’s the only stat we can’t really evaluate in terms of healing output (yes, I don’t like the word throughput. You can unsubscribe now if you want to, it’s ok.) Basically, what spirit does is slowly renewing your mana bar so that you don’t run out of healz. Intellect does the same thing tough – and much more. Crit and mastery make your heals more powerful, meaning that, on paper, if your guildies manage to stay out of the badstuffonfloor you will have to cast less of those as your gear improves. In the end, the value of spirit is something very personal as it depends a lot on talents choices, gear available, choice of spells and raid composition.

Now, I don’t agree 100% with the notion, as endorsed by some, that if you have mana left at the end of a fight, that’s a wasted resource – that you should have used it, or that maybe you have too much mana regen. You as a healer are not a machine, and neither are your guildies: you might have a bad night, the tank or a couple of dps might as well, and you might spend on a certain boss encounter a lot more mana than you previously did when you downed it with a smooth kill, by having to cast more heals or having to use your expensive heals more liberally. Of course, if you consistently end boss fights with a lot of mana left, that means you should look more at your other secondary stats rather than spirit – personally, I like to have some solid empirical data before doing so.

My final advice, very similar to what other healers would suggest, is to judge the subject of spirit by your personal experience. Look at your options: Malfurion’s Gift and Revitalize are mandatory talents, but what about Furor? If you dropped it for Genesis and find yourself struggling for mana, maybe you should revert back – or if you have plenty of mana left at the end of boss fights, try dropping Furor for Genesis. Remember to use Tree of Life as often as you can when boss mechanics allow you to, as it will save you a lot of mana with Clearcasting procs and the healing buff. Talk to your fellow Shaman and Priest healers and learn how their raid cooldowns work for mana regen; discuss together how to coordinate and have them available when your healing team needs them most.

– – –

Evaluating crit and mastery is a bit easier, at least from an output standpoint. As said earlier, crit has been buffed and is now roughly on par with mastery as our preferred secondary stat, assuming we have enough spirit and haste. When making a choice between the two, we have to consider two factors: how they affect our healing spells, and talents choice. Efflorescence benefits more from mastery; Rejuvenation and Swiftmend benefit more from crit; while the rest of our spells – i.e. Wild Growth, Lifebloom, Tranquillity, Healing Touch, Nourish, and Regrowth – seem to benefit equally from both. Living Seed is not accounted for and, if taken, makes crit slightly more appealing for those who like their direct heals… like someone who is often on tank healing duty and thus has probably already taken Living Seed (I love circular logic and yeah, before you start making Vizzini quotes, I know exactly what that means).

Is there more to it? Yes, if we are willing to take into account the RNG factor of crit, and accept that we are using RNG as a way to discuss gearing/talent choices. As a personal preference, I hate the idea of somehow relying on random numbers. If we look at the list in the previous paragraph, though, Rejuvenation is one of our strongest, most used heals, and druids with Living Seed will probably prefer crit to mastery. In the end, again this is something you’ll have to try out for yourself, in order to come up with a definite answer (hey, I never said this blog would actually contain useful info).

As for me, in the end I gave the nod to mastery. I also scrapped Living Seed and went with this spec. I’d love to explain my reasoning behind that speccing, but I do realize the wall of text above is thick enough with food for your thoughts; plus, I do not feel we have a lot of choices right now when it comes to talents, and I will explain those few questionable choices by looking at how they paid off in the Firelands. That is something for my next post, though! Also, expect a list of 378 gear sorted by itemization – I haven’t seen something like that around yet and I know it did a lot for me .

Until then, may Beth’tilac drop Cowl of the Clicking Menace for you – stupid bug still has to choke that up for me even after five kills.