Monday, November 2, 2009

Healer Survey

A healer survey from Miss Medicina has been circulating the blogosphere as of late, and I thought I'd throw my Resto musings into the ring:

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary healer?
Exelus, an Elemental (57/14/0) and sometimes Restoration Shaman (0/13/58)

What is your primary group healing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)
Most of my healing time is spent in 5-mans or 10-mans, with the occasional 25-man and rare foray into PvP (battlegrounds). As Elemental, I'm usually assigned to our 10-man raids as "heal-capable-DPS," meaning I spend the bulk of my time DPS'ing while spot-healing and backing-up our two main heals.

What is your favorite healing spell for your class and why?
No, it's not Chain Heal, even though it runs a close second behind my favorite: Riptide. I'm a big fan of damage-mitigation and passive healing (especially on a tank), so Riptide's trailing HoT is an important part of my style. I love the fire-and-forget nature of Riptide, and it also triggers the essential Tidal Waves ability which I try to keep up at all times.

What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?
Even though I'm spec'ed for it and consider it an essential part of my toolkit, Healing Wave seems to get the least amount of action. I think this is because in most cases, a critting LHW or Chain Heal will do the job. Still, with Tidal Waves up, I can go for an extremely powerful 1.5 second bomb-heal when needed, which is a really great option. I also have a Nature's Swiftness + Healing Wave macro for those "tank's gonna die now" moments.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why?
The obvious answer here is "raid healing," but I actually feel that a Resto Shaman's strength is versatility. While our healing kit is very basic (one instant, one AoE, two direct heals with the same effective cast time), with glyphs and spec tweaks I feel that Resto Shaman are very well setup to handle any healing role (tank, raid, 5-man content).

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why?
This is much less of an issues these days, but the lack of a threat dump or "keep 'em off me!" button has always been a sore spot. Priests have Fade, Night Elves have Shadowmeld, Druids have Barkskin/Cyclone/Roots, and Paladins have a bubble. Shaman do have Nature's Guardian, but it's a five-talent point expenditure that most avoid. I've used Earth Elemental before to taunt mobs away from me, but it's so situational and drastic that I don't really count it as a worthwhile panic button.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you?
The ever-predictable raid healing role is best for Resto Shaman in 25+ content: preferably the melee group so folks are clumped-together for Chain Heal love.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why?
Duo-healing 10-mans with another Resto Shaman is great for totem farms and the criss-crossing Chain Heals (ooh! purty!). I also enjoy pairing-up with Holy Paladins or Disc Priests, because I know their single-target forte is a great compliment to my raid-healing abilities.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why?
Our guild has a mix of all classes/specs which participate in our 10-man raids, and I can't say there's any one class/spec that I enjoy healing with less than others. As a Resto Shaman, I can adjust my healing style based on who I'm teamed-up with, so team makeup has never been an issue.

What is your worst habit as a healer?
Aiming heals (usually Chain Heal) at the person with the lowest health: often times they'll die during the cast anyway, so I'm forced to spend the next few seconds re-casting and playing catchup with the others who could've been saved more easily. Along those same lines, I probably don't use Nature's Swiftness enough - I tend to save it for those oh-shit moments, but they are (by nature) harder to predict so it's harder for me to make that snap-decision sometimes.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing?
Avoidable raid damage or over-anxious DPS who divert my healing attention away from the tank. People who ask for rez's after the fight. People who openly question my decision to heal myself and the tank over them. Luckily, these peeves happen outside the guild on PUG runs, which is why I usually refuse to heal PUG raids anyway. :)

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing?
Yes, absolutely. Just a few tweaks here and there (glyphs and spec) and we're well suited for almost anything, and have great synergy with other healing classes.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer?
Recount, WoW Web Stats, and in general, the number of deaths balanced against the successful completion (or wipe) of an encounter. I try not to worry too much about overhealing, but if I find myself going OOM on an encounter I will definitely check those numbers. In PUG raids, I sometimes do a quick healing meter check just to have a look at my performance relative to the other healers.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class?
Contrary to popular belief, only half our keyboard is bound to Chain Heal. We also keep track of Earth Shield charges, Riptide durations, single-target heal with LHW/HW, Cleanse, drop specific totems for specific encounters, etc.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new healers of your class to learn?
Learning when/how to use Chain Heal vs. our other heals. CH has a long cast time, and certainly isn't the best heal in all situations.

If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a healer via recount, what sort of patterns would they see (i.e. lots of overhealing, low healing output, etc)?
They would probably see more overheal than necessary, as I tend to pre-spam Chain Heal when I anticipate incoming raid damage and/or am trying to keep Tidal Waves up. Hopefully they'd see decent healing output, and very few healer-preventable deaths. (I refuse to take responsibility for those standing in the fire!) :)

Haste or Crit and why?
Haste FTW. I may have downplayed Chain Heal in some of the answers above, but in reality I do use it fairly often and since it starts with a talented cast time of 2.5 seconds, anything I can do to get that time down is helpful. I think currently I have it down to 2.1 seconds or so. Haste finishes your current cast faster, so you can get on to other things sooner. Over the course of a long fight, all that extra haste will add up to several more spell casts if your mana can handle it. Also, healing in faster bursts allows for longer regen periods.

What healing class do you feel you understand least?
Paladins. The single-target nature of them was a complete paradigm shift from playing a Resto Shaman and very difficult for me to get used to in a 5-man setting, so I eventually dumped my alt's Holy spec for Prot. In The Burning Crusade I raided as a Resto Druid, and one of my original mains was a Priest, so I feel like I understand them better than their plate-wearing brethren.

What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in healing?
Grid and Clique are essential for me, as I wouldn't be able to (nor want to) heal without them. I feel like one of the biggest problems with WoW right now is the lack of healing support in the default UI. I hope they'll address this next expansion when they announce the Arch Druid hero healing class. :) For macros, nothing too fancy other than auto-popping trinkets and alternate mouse-clicks set up for Nature's Swiftness + Chain Heal or Healing Wave.

Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?
I tend to balance between spell power, haste and MP5 - with a bias towards spell power. I know it's not typical for Resto Shaman to go with MP5, but for the content I heal in and the style in which I do it, I prefer the extra longevity. I may experiment more with stacking Intellect at some point, but I'm fairly satisfied with the setup now.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's a bird, it's a plane...'s a flying human dwarf!

As widely reported, the race change feature finally went live yesterday, and I jumped at the chance to convert Lightus the Paladin over to a more nobler, if shorter, race.

Not that I'm too much into the arpee, but from a role-playing perspective, I saw my human as more of a Holy-type - so when he transitioned over to a Protection/Retribution dual spec, I started to think of him more as a stronger and tougher fellow.

I debated a bit over the Draenei racials (+hit and insta-heal) vs. the Dwarven ones (mace expertise and Stoneform), but I decided that I liked the look of his current gear on the stouter race better, and Stoneform provides a nice mini-tanking cooldown.

Pictured: I celebrated the successful transformation with epic flight skill and a "need" roll on the Culling of Stratholme drake. :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Look Back

One of my favorite writers over at wrote today's Breakfast Topic: Back To Where You Once Belonged, where he talks about his journey over the last year. From tanking in The Burning Crusade, through the current Wrath expansion as DPS, to his recent return to tanking. At the end of the article he asks the readers, "where are we now?" Are we doing what we thought we'd be doing? Hmm... I'm a sucker for nostalgia, let's rewind...

The Burning Crusade
From level 10 through 70, Exelus was Enhancement through-and-through. We were plowing our way through Karazhan, and I spent a lot of time staring at Omen, riding the tank's threat wave and praying I didn't get a lucky string of Stormstrike/Windfury crits. It was an art, maximizing DPS while staying under threat. I still remember my first raid invite like it was yesterday: I was totally freaked out, but the exhilaration of it all sucked me in for good. I also remember doing ~600 DPS and marveling at our Warlock doing 1,000 DPS!

Back then, PvP was the shortcut to gearing-up ("welfare epics"), so I begrudgingly spent a lot of time in BGs L2PvP. Sadly, that intense grind turned me off to PvP, even to this day. I still get the heeby-geebies when I think about Eye of the Storm. /shudder

At some point, the guild wound up short on healers... and due to a horrifyingly bad Hellfire Ramparts experience trying to offspec heal with Ex's "resto" gear, I decided to raid-gear my tree rather than respec. Ciribrus became a Resto Druid, and a whole new world of gameplay opened up to me: standing in the back, keeping my party-mates alive. These were crazy times... remember the concept of "heal aggro?" When a single early heal could literally send an entire mob pack running right towards you, with no way to dump threat (this was before Shadowmeld worked in combat!). The Hypnotist's Watch and Sporeggar cloak became staples of my heroic healing kit.

Wrath and the Transition
We were finally clearing KZ with regularity, and taking our first pokes into Zul Aman when Wrath was released, and we all set off to level from 70 to 80. We marvelled at the new zones, and bemoaned our loss of level 70 epics. I swear I lost a little bit of my soul when I replaced the PvP epics I had previously worked so hard at. Lesson learned, gear is just a temporary tool, nothing to get attached to!

Then, as I was losing my epic Enhancement gear to quest greens, something strange happened. I started noticing (/gasp) caster gear. At some point, it dawned on me that if I collected caster gear, I could possibly be more effective in a dual role someday. So sometime in the 70s, I respec'ed Elemental for the first time, and started lolbolting.

It was weird. I stood in the back, and resisted the urge to run into the fray. It was, admittedly, easier. And more in-line with my aging reflexes, too. :P

Early Raiding in Wrath
As guildies started arriving at level 80, the new meta game of gearing up for raiding began, and I struggled to reach hit cap with blues and random low-level epics. Elemental was borked (couldn't get past 1,500 dps!), but I stuck with it and Blizzard eventually fixed us. :)

By the time we had enough critical mass to start Naxxramas, we found ourselves predictably short on healers, but this time I resolved to stick with Exelus, thus beginning his healing career. By now, Resto shaman tools had grown more sophisticated, too (more powerful Earth Shield, Riptide, supporting glyphs), and therefore more interesting to play.

These days, Exelus splits his time between DPS and healing heroics/Ulduar/Colosiem/etc., which suits both needs to blow stuff up and lend a hand when called upon. It's yin-yang thang, and it's a ton of fun.

The Recap
So a year ago, did I ever imagine Exelus would become a caster DPS with a healing offspec? Certainly not. Did I expect my Boomkin/Resto Druid would languish at 72 with no real incentive to level? Nope. (/sad) Leveling a Retribution Paladin all the way to 80 (toying with both Holy and Prot offspecs) ever cross my mind? Never!

But that's part of the fun of this game, it evolves, just like real life. :)

Viva la journey.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tiered Gear, Set Bonuses, and Abandoning T7

With so much gear flying around these days, it can be rather confusing trying to interpret tier levels, what level of content they're intended for, and what they mean for your toon. Let's take a look at the current state of tiered gear (Patch 3.2):

  • Tier 7: entry-level raiding sets (Naxxramas, Obsidian Sanctum, Eye of Eternity, Archavon). Comes in T7 (10-man) and T7.5 (25-man) versions. Purchasable with deprecated Emblems of Heroism. Since Patch 3.2, there's generally better gear to be had for Emblems of Conquest, so I wouldn't worry about farming this gear if you're a new 80.

  • Tier 8: Ulduar-level raiding sets (Ulduar, Emalon). Comes in T8 and T8.5 flavors. Helm and chest pieces are purchasable with Emblems of Conquest, which drop in heroics and most raids. New 80s will usually want to pick up these two tiered pieces first. There's also a plethora of non-set gear in this range that's quite good.

  • Tier 9: Icecrown-level raiding sets (yet-to-be-seen Icecrown Citadel, Trial of the Crusader, Koralon). Comes in three levels (T9, T9.33 and T9.66):

    T9 pieces are purchasable with Emblems of Triumph (daily heroic dungeon quest, Trial of the Crusader, Koralon).

    T9.33 are purchasable with EoTs plus special tokens that drop from 25-man TotC.

    T9.66 tokens drop from heroic 25-man TotC (and presumably Icecrown when it's released).

    Most level 80 characters - newbies and hardcore raiders alike - will want to save their EoTs to buy a few T9 bits, if not the whole kit - although generally only top-end raiders will have access to T9.33 and T9.66. Also, there's some very good non-set gear available in this range: like the currently best-in-slot Totem of Electrifying Wind for Elemental (and some say Enhancement) Shaman.
Note that you can mix/match gear from the same tier level in order to gain the set bonus. For example, a T8.5 helm with T8 gloves will still activate the two-piece bonus.

Bub-Bye Tier 7
Until yesterday, I had been running around with four-piece Tier 7.5 because of the set bonus (10% bonus to Lava Burst's critical strike damage). So even though I had already bought the two Tier 8.5 pieces (helm and chest), I found a net loss of DPS when initially abandoning the 4p T7 bonus. The Elemental 2p T8 bonus just happens to be rather weak (periodic damage from Flame Shock can now become critical strikes). /yawn

However, with the purchase of the Tier 9 Elemental shoulders and some other recent random upgrades, the question became: will this new mash-up of T8+9 finally overtake the 4p T7 bonus? After some testing, the answer seems to be yes - due mostly to improved Haste (1.5 sec Lolbolts ftw!). I'm also expecting another slight DPS bump when I add the T9 gloves for the 2p bonus (increased duration of Flame Shock by 9 seconds, allowing us another Lava Burst cycle without having to refresh the FS DoT). /cheer

Now, it's important to note that not all classes/specs are equal when it comes to deciding whether or not to abandon your 4p bonus. For example, mages have an excellent 2p T8 bonus (chance for 350 spell power when casting nukes), so it may make sense for them to abandon 4p T7 earlier than I did. I suggest a combination of research (Elitist Jerks) and personal testing to get the right answer for your class/spec.

Shaman Lore Corner: Nobundo and Thrall
In case you're wondering who Nobundo is, here's his story. Although I admit I'd much rather be wearing Thrall's namesake gear (the Horde version of Shaman T9), since he was my favorite character from my Warcraft 2 and 3 days. :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Get a job, Shaman!

A recent article on the lost art of crowd control got me thinking about all the cool tools a Shaman is equipped with, and the specialized jobs we can perform using these tools.

Sure, it's easy enough to faceroll Lightning Bolts or Chain Heals, but any player worth their salt not only performs their primary role well, but is always ready to bring something extra to an encounter.

Crowd Control
For years Shaman have bemoaned the lack of a crowd control ability, and the arrival of Hex at level 80 happened right as we entered the age of "AoE everything in sight." Still, there are definitely situations where we need to get our froggy-style on.

In heroic trash pulls, Hex can be used to temporarily incapacitate a mob as the tank rushes in to establish threat. Certainly the frog will break due to AoE, but the first few seconds of a pull are usually the most critical, where he/she can take a ton of damage all at once. Disabling even one mob for a second or two can mean the difference between a controlled pull and a wipe.

Still, not all trash is AoE fodder - in Ulduar, some pulls still benefit greatly from CC, and I would expect to see this trend continue as we start knocking on Arthas' door in Icecrown Citadel. While Hex cannot be chain-cast like Polymorph (boo cooldown), it can at least be used to tie-up a second-target while the first gets burned-down.

This is where I channel Big Red Kitty, who frequently championed the skill of kiting: a job which involves aggro'ing a mob and having it purposely run towards you while you keep it at distance. Frost Shock with it's threat component and Earthbind Totem is a perfect combo for this job, something I've used many times in Naxx's Gluth encounter.

Elemental Shaman also gain a very useful tool with a specially-talented Earthbind totem, which applies a Druid-style root to those within range. In the Eye of Eternity, it becomes very easy to root a Power Spark exactly where it needs to drop using this root (and has the benefit of being instant-cast, as opposed to a Druid's 1.5 second root).

In Ulduar on the way to the Crazy Cat Lady, there are pairs of big nasty mobs which also send sparks back and forth, which need to be destroyed before reaching the other. A rooting Earthbind is perfect for this job.

Wind Shear recently got a redesign, and it no longer shares a global cooldown with either Flame or Earth Shock. This was both a buff and a nerf, since we lost one of our two interrupts. Still, having Wind Shear on it's own cooldown means it's easier for a DPS shaman to maintain their rotation while still interrupting. This skill can and should be used almost everywhere: against healers in trash packs, whirlwinding Runeshapers, Kel'Thuzad's frost bolts, chain-lightning Dwarves in Ulduar, etc.

Other Jobs
Shaman also make great debuffers thanks to Purge, provide AoE Fear Wards with Tremor Totem, supply raid-wide steroids with Bloodlust/Heroism, can save the day with backup heals, and even provide an emergency tank while the Druid battle-rez's your tank.

We have a lot of great tricks up our sleeves, so don't be a faceroller, do your job! :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Patch 3.2 Impressions

A week ago, patch 3.2 finally hit the live realms after much anticipation. This latest update brought a slew of class tweaks, emblem changes, a new dungeon/raid instance and new battleground. Here are my impressions, gathered during the past week.

Four totems at once
Aside from some very nice buffs to Resto Shaman (facerolling Chain Heal is back!), the largest change to the Shaman class was the addition of a totem bar in the default UI, along with an ability to drop a set of totems from a single spell. This is a fairly significant (and welcome) change, it's every bit as awesome as I had hoped.

Most raiding Shaman by now have used mods or /castsequence macro to drop a "default" set of totems, but until 3.2, dropping all four cost us essentially four global cooldowns. Hence, there were a lot of occassions where only certain totems were deployed... and while I used to do my best to keep all four down, there were definitely situations where it just wasn't practical. Now, there's no excuse to drop all totems, and it's been awesome for heroic speed runs and boss fights where repositioning becomes necessary.

Since we get three different spells to deploy a set of totems, I've built these three default sets:
Interrupts FTW
Another seemingly small update was the redesign of Earth and Wind Shock, however I feel that it's a pretty huge buff - especially for Elemental Shaman on interrupt duty. Wind Shear replaces the former Shock, and no longer shares the same cooldown timer with other Shocks - meaning the Elemental rotation can now be kept relatively intact, without sacrificing a Flame Shock cooldown. This is huge. /cheer

Heroics are back, baby!
Another very welcome change was the consolidation of the Emblem system to Conquests (Tier 8 level) and Triumphs (Tier 9 level). As a result, heroic speed-farming and random guild runs are back with a vengeance. Once again, casual and hardcore players are getting to play together, and this is undeniably a good thing for guild dynamics.

Thus far I've been able to buy T8.5 helm and chest, although I was dissapointed to find an overall DPS loss with the two-piece bonus (extensive target dummy testing with raid-boss rotation), so for the moment I'm staying with four-piece Tier 7.5. Next up I'll be bolstering my Resto set, also with the T8.5 helm and likely the belt for hybrid use between both specs.

"ToC" rant
So we've got this new colosium up in northern Icecrown, containing a 5-man normal and heroic dungeon, a 10 man normal and heroic raid, and a 25 man normal and heroic raid. The only problem? They ALL have the same initials... so "LFG ToC" could mean any one of six group types! Hopefully some standard will settle out like "ToC5" or "Roic ToC10," but for now, be sure to ask questions before joining a "ToC" group. :)

Trial of the Champion
Despite having to joust in the beginning of this encounter, the new 5-man dungeon is actually quite fun, and yields nice Naxx-level rewards in normal mode (read: new 80s can farm this all day long!) and excellent Ulduar-level rewards in heroic mode. Thus far I've been lucky enough to upgrade my main hand and get this haste trinket, which put me closer to the "sweet spot" in the Elemental rotation (neatly allowing x5 Lightning Bolts in-between Lava Bursts).

Trial of the Crusader
The new raid instance was something many of our raiders were interested in trying out, so we gave it our best effort a few days ago, and managed to best the encounter with only three wipes. :) /cheer

There wasn't a lot of information out there yet, but thankfully Tankspot came through with an excellent video so we could get some research in beforehand. Here are some notes on the Northrend Beasts encounter:

Gormok the Impaler (Magnataur)
Since we had an abundance of ranged DPS, we chose to keep the melee on the boss the whole time, with all ranged assigned to take down the Snowbolds as they appeared on player's backs. Seemed to be fairly healing-intensive with DoTs stacking on the tanks, but we have some very skilled healers who were able to handle the load. :) Also having dual Pally tanks with Hand of Protection to clear the DoTs was a huge help. Other than that, stay out of the fire and have ranged stay at max range FTW.

Acidmaw & Dreadscale (Jormungar Worms)
This was undeniably the trickiest of the three beast sets. There are two worms, one applying a slowing/paralyzing poison, and the other an AoE fire debuff which removes the other worm's paralyzing poison. At first we tried to have people calling out in Vent so folks could run to each other, but due to the significant movement (poison clouds ala Grobbulus) and the confusion it brings, we found it easier to designate the center circle as a rendevous point. Whenever someone got slowed, they made their way to the center ring and the fire-debuffed person would just meet them there. We chose to burn-down Acidmaw first and heal through Dreadmaw's enrage, but after a few more tries, the simultaneous kill achievement should definitely be do-able.

Icehowl (Yeti)
After we got the two worms strategy down, the Yeti proved to be relatively easy. Simply note who the boss is targeting for his charge, and run out of the way (and be sure not to cross his path even if you're not targeted). Use Bloodlust/Heroism while he's stunned against a wall, keep your healers spread out so they don't all get frozen at the same time, and it's a fairly simple tank/spank.

It's worth noting the quality of the gear drops here, even in normal mode - item level 232! This alone makes it a worthwile destination for even the most casual guilds.

So tonight we venture back into Ulduar, somewhat better geared and with a raid lockout extension option - hopefully we'll be poking sharp objects at Yogg-Saron before too long. :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Intro to Tanking

I realize it's rather presumptuous for a Shaman to be writing an article on tanking, but it's my blog and I can write what I want to I've learned a few things in the past few months with my frosty Death Knight tank, and hopefully some of this info will help those taking a look at the noble art of meat-shielding.

Basic Stats
So you've dinged level-cap with your new tank and are ready to tackle some heroics and perhaps even dive into raiding. Congrats! Now there are lots of talent-selection and gear-list websites out there on the interwebs, so I'll avoid going into specifics there - but let's take a look at the basic tank stats: your defense, health, and offense.

Defense rating is what keeps you from getting critically hit, which is hugely important for survivability. At level 80, you need 535 minimum for heroics and 540 for raids. There is benefit to stacking defense beyond 540 as it affects other damage mitigation stats like dodge, etc., but generally after 540 you'll also want to look at your overall health:

Stamina translates to your health pool of course, and the rule of thumb here is the more, the better. Each class has a varying number of health needed (for example, Bears need more than Prot Warriors since they have fur rather than shields), but as a rule of thumb, somewhere in the mid-20k's is a decent number to start running heroic dungeons at level 80. I believe my DK started heroics around 23k (unbuffed) and after seeing all of Naxx, is just shy of 30k.

Threat - they say "the best defense is a strong offense," and tanks are no exception here, as being able to output a healthy amount of damage helps to ensure the bad guys are focused on you, and not your party-mates. Offensive stats like Strength, Hit and Expertise are important in this regard - but again, YMMV according to class so be aware of which stats are needed to generate the most threat.

Don't be shy to enchant your blue (or even green) quality gear - both Enchanting and Jewelcrafting offer "budget" versions of endgame buffs that can help push your stats to a better place. My rule of thumb: everything enchanted and gemmed, always. There's really no excuse to slack here, as everyone in your party/raid are depending on your survivability.

So now you're all geared-up and ready to go. Let's take a look at a few classic encounters and how your tanking abilities come into play:

In this day and age of "burning everything in sight" with AoE, painstakingly marking each and every mob for kill order and CC assignments may not be as necessary as it once was, but it's still a good idea to at least mark the first and second targets so everyone starts off on the same page. Skull and X are most typically used, and I recommend making keybindings for all the marks - I use the function keys, so I can hit F1, F2, then pull.

Typically, you'll want to mark healers and casters as first targets, but if you're not sure who's who, look for clues in their names like "Spiritualist" or "Cleric." Mana bars are also a good clue.

Line of Sight
Doorways and Hallways are a tank's second best friend. (First are our healers, of course!) For tricky pulls involving ranged or caster mobs, instruct your group to stand behind the corner so you can make an attack then retreat to where they are. If done right, you can reliably pull an entire group, casters and all, right to you. Have an AoE threat ability ready-to-go when they all reach you.

The Big Picture
So you've executed the pull and the angry mobs are all happily beating on you - great job! But wait, half a second later one of the baddies makes a beeline for your healer! What to do?!

First, let's back up a second and understand that it's important for the tank to be aware of The Big Picture at all times. This means putting your toon, camera zoom and angle in a position such that you can actually see what's going on around you at all times. Pro tip: type this into your chat window to increase the zoom-out distance: /script SetCVar("cameraDistanceMax",50)

So now back to our pull and the loose mob... which by now has started wailing on your healer - it's time to use one of your most important tank tools: the taunt. Each class has a few ways to do this (some single-target, some are multi-target), so be familiar with each method, and when to use which. You'll also want them hotkeyed for quick action! /cast [Insert Your Taunt Here] and phew, that loose mob is back on you.

After burning through a few packs of trash, you've finally arrived at the boss. This big intimidating creature is really nothing but a loot piƱata, so it's time to go collect your lootz. Let's assume that we're in Nexus, and we're staring up at the dragon Keristrasza. /gulp

This particular dragon has a very common ability known as a "soft enrage," where at low health the boss actually gets tougher. (Life's not fair, even in WoW!) Your healer's doing their best, pumping out heals, keeping the party alive and whatnot, but yikes the boss just turned red and hitting faster/harder now. To make things worse, your healer gets knocked out of range and is scrambling to get back to you. Oh noes!

Luckily, you don't just have to stand there and take it ("thank you sir may I have another?!"), you have defensive cooldowns! Every tank class has 'em: some way to mitigate damage for a short period of time. Shield Wall, Icebound Fortitude, Bubble, etc. As a tank you'll also likely have trinkets with handy on-use abilities, like increased dodge or whatnot - so keep all these emergency buttons close, and be prepared to use them often (albeit judiciously). These abilities can and will save your life, so use them!

Practice Makes Perfect
Putting all this stuff together really takes some practice, so don't get discouraged - everyone has a messy pull every now and again. :) Also realize that tanking is highly reliant on the other roles in your group doing the right things, so group with guildies/friends before diving into the highly unpredicatble world of PUGs. Try running dungeons in normal mode first to get a sense of the encounters and pulls before going in heroic mode.

Further Research
I can't recommend Tankspot enough for their highly informative forums and videos on YouTube. As usual, Elitist Jerks have a wealth of information surrounding gear, specs, etc. While learning boss encounters, Wowwiki and Wowhead are great tools.

Happy tanking!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gnome Appreciation Day

For those unaware, today is officially Gnome Appreciation Day. Wasn't sure if I was going to post anything about it until I saw the photo at right. :P

So to my Gnomish homies Pyxia, Mazek, Ereigelu, Gnomesrus, anyone else whom I've forgotten, and to my own little alt Gnomagus, /salute - for your impact is far greater than your height.


Monday, June 22, 2009

New Wings

My first foray into World of Warcraft was way back in 2005, when a co-worker convinced me to pickup a copy and join the guild they had formed in the office.

Naturally, I rolled a Night Elf Hunter (so predictable...), bumbled my way through Teldrassil, got tricked by that Satyr on the way to Dolanaar, found my way through the impossibly-large Darnassus, and finally out to Rutheran Village, where Araes took an incredible flight to Darkshore.

I remember that first flight quite well: being amazed by the speed, altitude and distance! Equally amazing was the winged steed I was precariously perched on, with it's motion-sickness-inducing bob and zany color scheme. I loved it, and took lots of rides back and forth just to marvel at the beast.

About a month later I decided to put WoW on a shelf (not to revisit the game until 2007), and Araes' magical Hippogryph ride faded from memory...

Fast-forward to last night, and the picture says it all:

Cenarion War Hippogryph

Saturday, June 20, 2009

All Red

This weekend I decided to dive into another zany Heroic Naxxramas PUG, prepared for the usual endless wipes, random afk'ing, finger-pointing and loot drama, but came away pleasantly surprised after a totally pro-style full clear.

The addition of Ulduar-level gear has definitely made it's impact on the PUG scene, as we were able to steamroll the place quite easily, picking up these two achievements along the way.

Typically, I try not to set any expectations for winning gear when I do these things, as the random number generator always seems to be in cahoots with Murphy. Instead, I like to focus on having fun, improving my own performance and collecting badges along the way.

In fact, I had been saving EoV's in order to convert my remaining Elemental-flavored blue T.7 pieces into their red T7.5 counterparts: shoulders and legs. (Something about having mismatched gear really brings out the OCD in me, I guess.) But as luck would have it, I managed to pickup both pieces during the run, and didn't have to out-roll anyone else to do it! Good karma FTW.

So now what to do with those EoV's? Oh wait... there's news on the emblem front!

3.2 Emblem Changes
Apparently in the next patch, EoH's and EoV's will cease to drop from heroics and raids, to be replaced by EoC's! There will still be trade-downs available to buy things like gems/orbs, heirloom items, and PvP gear, but overall I'm very excited that raiders will have additional incentive to run heroics again. As I stated before, it's good mojo for guilds to have better-geared toons mixing-in with new 80's and alts.

So currently, Ex has a few EoH, 60-ish EoV and a handful of EoC. With the new system coming, I'll be zeroing-out my EoH's for an orb, and the EoV's can now buy a nice upgrade for my DK's wrists, which will solidify his ability to backup-tank for the guild. Woot! (as long as I remember to enable the right spec...)

And apparently, the new Icecrown instance/raid thingy and daily heroic quests will bring us Emblem's of Triumph - looking forward to seeing what they're all about.

The Alt Report
  • Neverus - the obligatory 80 DK alt now has 2/5 T7 and has tanked most of Naxx10 up through Kel'Thuzad. WTB moar hit rating and expertise, though.
  • Lightus - with improved regular flight speeds incoming (150% up from 60%!), I've stalled his leveling at 78. Just don't have the patience to putter around, nor do I want to drop yet another 5k on an alt! For now, he's sitting in IF, happily disenchanting random greens.
  • Haelus - also stalled at 77, but have been considering a Shadow spec revisit. I've been routinely impressed by their DPS output, and they're always in demand for Naxx25 (uhh bring the player, not the class?). Plus, Nev can craft this shiny new knife for him!
  • Ciribrus - still sightseeing in Howling Fjord at level 71.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Horrifying Thought of the Day

The next WoW expansion may bring another hero class, and has been speculated to be a DPS/healer hybrid - perhaps some sort of leather-clad chiropractic monk?

If Blizzard follows the Death Knight example and allows all races to participate, then a certain branch of the Alliance will finally have all four roles covered: tanking, melee/ranged dps... and now heals.

Do you see where I'm going with this...?

All. Gnome. Raids.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

On Shaman Tanking

Recently I found this neat Q&A between Ghostcrawler and the development team at Blizzard. One of the things that stood out to me was the comment on Shaman tanking, which got me thinkin':

"Once upon a time there was a potential tanking role for shamans as well, but we have pretty much phased that out."

I knew it was a longshot that they'd ever return to the idea of Shaman tanks, but it's still a little disappointing to hear. I understand class balance (and spec balance, since Enhancement is really the only practical place for these talents to go) is always a challenge, but I think some tweaks could really go a long way to making this a reality:
  • Stoneskin Totem could increase mail armor to plate-levels and also dramatically increase a Shaman's overall threat
  • Frost Shock could have it's threat increased and a talented effect to "force the target to attack the caster," for use as a single-target taunt
  • Magma Totem (specially talented or glyphed) could be used for establishing AoE threat, like Consecration
  • Rockbiter Weapon could add defense rating, similar to the DK's Rune of Stonesking Gargoyle
  • Additionally, since there's no defense rating on hunter mail, some talent would be needed to convert existing gear into tanking gear (perhaps converting Agility into Defense)
  • In order to make the use of a shield required, add a new type of imbue: Stone Barrier, which dramatically increases stamina (and maybe defense, too) when applied to the Shaman's shield. This shield imbue idea could be extended to Elemental and Restoration as well, with something like Air Barrier (haste), Molten Barrier (spellpower) or Ice Barrier (mp5 with a slowing effect, like Frost Armor).
Of course there's also the issue of PvP balance, as the ideas have the potential of making Enhancement OP in battlegrounds and arena, but maybe buffing survivability isn't such a bad idea? :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Notes to Self: DK Tanking

When tanking Sartharion and Emalon, do not attempt do so while in DPS spec.

My sincerest of apologies to our guild healers.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Dual Wielding and Hit

Dual-wielding has been on the brain lately, both with a new guildmate leveling Enhancement as well as my DK acquiring his second spec, a Dual-Wield Frost DPS spec (0/53/18). The contrast between the two dual-wielding classes is pretty striking - the melee Shaman relies heavily on spell damage for DPS these days, and much of Lolknight DPS relies on abilities that scale with physical damage and actually making contact with your target.

Hit Rating
When it comes to "not missing skull-level bosses," caster DPS have straightforward goal: reach hit cap, then focus on other stats. For my Draenei Elemental Shaman, this magic number is 342. (source)

For dual-wielders, the hit cap idea is less straightforward. Since there's a huge to-hit penalty imposed on dual-wielding (24% instead of 5%), the actual hit cap for DWers (untalented) is in the 800s (source). Of course, the sheer number of hits-per-minute exceeds those of say a Mage, who's large nukes take several seconds to cast. So at some point, the DW's misses become acceptable, assuming other stats like AP are in good shape.

Thanks to math junkies and spreadsheet jockies (/salute Elitist Jerks), "soft caps" and other hit rating milestones have already been figured out for us. :)

Special Attacks (Yellow Hits)
The first hit milestone relates to special attacks like Stormstrike. This number is very low and attainable almost without trying: 66 for Shaman (33 for Draenei Shaman). (source)

Spell Hit
Since Wrath, spell damage has become a much larger part of Enhancement DPS - so much so that even Magma Totem is considered part of the "rotation," even against single targets. The conventional wisdom now seems to be the actual soft cap for Enhancement is the same as the hard cap for Elemental: 368 (or 342 for Draenei). (source) Melee hits will still miss at this number, but as long as your specials and spells are hitting, you should be free to buff your other stats (AP, crit, haste) - any hit rating beyond that number is bonus.

DK Hit
Death Knights were clearly built around the notion of using large two-handed weapons for DPS and Tanking, so for those of us who "just like the idea" of dual-wielding, we have a large hill to climb. Our DW talent is Nerves of Cold Steel, inferior to a Shaman's Dual Wield Specialization or a Rogue's Precision.

After some Googlin', the DWDK hit numbers I've been able to come up with are upwards of 400-500 (source). Ouch. In my own testing, there does seem to be a significant difference as hit rating is added, but my DKs gear is (at this point) barely passable for heroics, with hit rating in the low 300's and AP only in the upper-2000's. I have a feeling that DW scales better with higher gear levels, so we'll see!

Lots of Other Factors
Whether you're a Titan's Gripper, Enhancement Shaman, Death Knight or Rogue, being a successful dual-wielder ultimately comes down to some combination of things: theorycrafting, talent specs, rotations, weapon imbues, and of course, player skill.

Now if I could buy a third spec, my Shaman could 1) have his cake, 2) eat it and 3) throw frosting at Patchwerk with both hands, too. In the meantime, I'll fulfill my dual-wield fetish with my gimped DWDK. :)

After giving it my best effort of getting my DK to almost 400 hit rating with heroic-level gear (mix of blues and epics), I was averaging maybe 1,700 DPS on a single target. By switching over to a more typical two-hander DPS spec, he can now reliably output 2,200+ in the same gear. Looks like if I really want to get my dual wield on, I have to roll a Gnome Rogue. /sigh

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ulduar First Impressions

Naxx is pretty fun, but getting to see new raid content with guildies takes the cake. The rumors are true: Ulduar is not easymode, coordination matters, and folks need to stay on their toes. I'm sure over time these encoutners will become more trivial, but for the moment, it's great to have a little challenge in front of us.

Flame Leviathan

The Occulus is my least favorite instance. The Aces High daily bores me to tears. Quests with horses and dangling carrots make me nuts. Sensing a pattern? Yep, I'm not a huge fan of fights where you have to assume the abilities of some other thing.

So I admit I went into Ulduar annoyed that the very first thing to do was climb into a vehicle. Luckily, the vehiclular combat turned out to be surprisingly fun! Ex got to ride shotgun in a Demolisher, blowing stuff up on the ground and shooting stuff out of the sky.

Nothing really Shaman-specific to go over here - but becoming familiar with the various driver/passenger abilities beforehand is recommended so you can cover whatever duties your raid leader assigns you to. Also keep your highest item-level gear equipped here, as your vehicle's stats increase with ilevel rather than your personal stats.

When picking through FL's wreckage we found the Firestrider Chestguard, not a bad piece but unfortunately a downgrade from my T7.5, especially considering the loss of set bonuses and sockets.

This brat was our second boss tonight, and we chose to employ the "spread-out" strategy rather than the "clump-up and run-out" one, which seemed best for sustained DPS. Pro tip: use DBMs /range feature to make sure you're 15 yards away from the others (right-click the range window to change radius), and you can stay still to ranged-DPS or heal when infected with the debuffs. Melee enhancers will still need to run away from others, of course.

Add control is one of the keys to this encounter, and since they conveniently make a beeline for the boss, it's easy to lay down Earthbind and Magma totems in their path. One thing to take care with are the robot bomb adds - I'm pretty sure I killed one of our priests by downing one too close to him. Doh!

Even as a DPS shaman, throwing a few spot heals during Tympanic Tantrum can help take some pressure off your healers, as the fight is a little less of a DPS race now that the enrage timer has been nerfed.

There's something especially cool about dragon fights, and Razorscale is no exception. The first half of the fight alternates between taking down waves of adds and working on Razorscale when he's brought down to the ground, and then a kite-n-dps strategy for the second half.

Things can get a little chaotic between multiple adds, fire spots on the ground, fireballs hitting, and Razorscale being close enough to DPS - but keep your focus, stay out of the nasty stuff, and epics shall be yours!

It's been a while since I've had a "whoa" moment in WoW, and the appearance of Kologarn was one of those moments. (I purposely haven't done a lot of previewing fights in Ulduar.) This dude is BIG. So BIG you can target his arms! Craziness.

Lots of nature damage in this fight, so if you don't have a hunter handy consider Nature Resist totem. Avoiding the beams is pretty important, but also don't drag the beams into others. Sometimes I'd find myself boxed into a corner, so some self-healing was useful here, as well as backing-up on raid heals whenever a healer gets gripped.

Was finally able to replace some lame reputation boots with the Greaves of the Earthbinder from Kologarn, which I made into DPS boots using a Glowing Twilight Opal and the Icewalker enchant. The boots do seem to favor Resto, though, with the blue socket and all. Still, a little Mp5 doesn't hurt us Elementals:

Mana Regen
I had noticed the effects of the Great Mana Regen Nerf of 2009 in our recent Naxx runs, but it was especially noticeable in Ulduar. I was finding that liberal use of Thunderstorm was necessary to produce steady DPS over long periods. Also adjusted my rotation on some longer fights, going with FS > LvB > LB spam > repeat, rather than incorporating too many Chain Lightnings and Earth Shocks.

Overall, had a great time, and am looking forward to seeing more of this raid in the coming weeks/months!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Problem with Emblems

Back in The Burning Crusade, we had Badges of Justice which dropped in all heroics and raids, and were used to purchase all sorts of "endgame" gear.

The scenario worked out pretty well, allowing new 70s to run a few heroics to help get geared for raiding, and towards the latter stages of TBC, allowed the purchase of some pretty awesome gear, stuff that was close to the same level as Sunwell loot. For us casual raiders, this meant that (some, not all!) close-to-best-in-slot gear was within grasp if we worked hard enough for it. This was a good thing, as it kept raiders involved with random guild heroics as well as raiding.

Nostalgic moment: I remember working for a looong time to get my dual Vanir's fists, 150 badges total. It's a shame they look so ridiculous, because they're badass. Still have 'em in my bank!

In Wrath of the Lich King, we've got multiple levels of badges... err emblems:
The Problem
I understand the goal of tiered emblems was to appropriately reward raiders with purchasable gear of matching level, but in practical use, for players in casual raiding guilds (which I believe makes up the vast population of WoW players), it causes several problems:

For one, I've completely lost interest in running heroics with my main, as EoH are basically useless for Exelus, who already has two four-piece sets of T7/T7.5 (healing and DPS). I believe this has a negative effect on casual guilds, as the incentive for geared players to participate in heroics diminishes over time.

Blizzards stated goal is to allow even casual guilds to see all endgame content, which is great, but along the way we'll end up with little piles of emblems that just won't be useful for the next/current level of raiding. This is just kinda annoying, since emblems are meant for level 80 players but can lose practical value rather quickly.

  • Add a few next-gear-level items to be purchasable with many lower-level emblems (like Vanir's in TBC!), or an equivalent emblem trade-up program (3 for 1).
  • Make emblems (and Stone Keeper's Shards!) account-bound to help gear-up alts.
  • Make emblems vendor-able for some non-trivial amount of gold (to help with raiding consumables, repairs)
  • Some professions (like Jewelcrafting) use a token or other currency system to buy patterns and mats, so make emblems tradable for these tokens.
  • Allow PVP gear to be purchasable with PVE emblems.
  • Make emblems the currency for Scrolls of Level-Granting!
OK some ideas are a stretch, but we did see some of these types of solutions implemented towards the end of The Burning Crusade, hopefully we'll see similar adjustments as we move through Wrath.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

3.1 Initial Impressions

Dual Specs
...are awesome. Works as advertised, and Exelus is now officially Elemental/Restoration and the young Paladin is now Retribution/Holy. It feels like a huge restriction has been lifted in terms of how I will be able to enjoy the game and help out guildies (and do it with less toons!). Flexibility is at the core of hybrid classes, and we just got a lot more... flexible. /flex

Later this week we have Naxx10 and Naxx25 runs coming up, and I'm very much looking forward to the idea of being able to fill either role of DPS/Heals, even mid-stream! For example, when Elemental Ex is "tanking" one of the Four Horsemen in 10-man he's able to keep himself alive with Lesser Healing Wave spam, but it can get dicey. By contrast, as Resto it's easysauce thanks to Earth Shield and Riptide - also freeing me up throw extra heals on the other ranged "tank" as needed.

Got the Ret (and Holy!) Paladin into Hellfire last night, and was happy to find that Exorcism certainly does work against all mobs now. In terms of DPS rotation, he feels a lot more like a Death Knight now that there's another button to push. I updated my single-target FCFS (first come first serve) macros to this castsequence: J, CS, Ex, J CS. Seemed to work out nicely but I need to verify if it's the best way to go.

Argent Tournament
The new area in northern Icecrown is very cool - from a lore/RP perspective, you certainly do get the sense that something's building, that the troops are preparing for war. This is the Isle of Quel'Danas 2.0, and I'm looking forward to spending more time up there.

New Textures
Certain parts of the Exodar seemed to be sporting a slightly-darker color scheme - to better match the earth-tones of Northrend perhaps. These slight visual improvements are a welcome change, it's good to know that Blizzard is intersted in going back to revisit old zones to keep things fresh.

70s Porn Star
Yes, I know they're coming back (thanks a lot Jason Giambi), but I was surprised to find that Ex grew a mustache overnight. I was so irritated/distraught I took him straight to a barber and dropped 8g on a new face. Apparently I'm not alone, as the "Great Mustache Controversy of Patch 3.1" has spawned a WowInsider post and a dozen-page-long thread on the forums.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Patch 3.1

It appears that Patch 3.1 is being deployed right now! Maybe I had too much coffee this morning, but it's all making me downright giddy.

Dual Specs
Exelus will finally be able to flip between Elemental and Resto at-will, which I'm most excited about. Two-toons-in-one, FTW. Got my glyphs and gold at-the-ready.

My latest alt (yeah another one, get over it) is a Retribution Paladin named Lightus, who is already on the verge of crashing into Outland thanks to these fancy shoulders. It's looking very likely that he'll go Ret/Holy dual spec for soloing and running dungeons on his way to Northrend.

Argent Tournament
The tournament is not something I know a ton about yet, but I've read it's a very solo-friendly event so I'll likely send my DK over to take a look. Plus, this sexy tanking one-hander (pic) definitely caught Neverus' attention. He'll take two, please.

Our raid officers are currently putting a plan together for taking our first peeks into the new raid zone, and I'm pretty stoked on all the preview material I've seen thusfar. Been watching live PTR feeds of guilds trying-out various bosses; wipe after wipe after wipe. /salute to these PTR guilds for giving the new content a try so us casuals have some sense of what to do when we get there!

3.8mb of 742mb... this is going to take a while.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Totems: Raid or Party?

The other night during a guild raid, I asked to be moved into the ranged group so our mages could benefit from my totems - when someone piped-up with, "aren't all totems raid-wide now?"

Uhh... err... wha... I'm not sure anymore!

/equip noobhat

Turns out Rakhman at Flame Shock has already covered the topic and I consider myself smarter because of it. :) The cliff notes from his post:
  • Buffing and Resistance totems are now raid-wide
  • Restorative and Cleansing water totems are only party-wide
  • Grounding and Tremor totems are also only party-wide
Therefore, it's still a good idea to group Shaman with mana-users for Mana Spring (and Tide), but all casters and/or physical DPS (within range) should be able to benefit from your major buffs like Flametongue and Strength of Earth.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Learning to Resto

I'll admit it... I went 80 levels (and a year-and-a-half) before I even thought about healing with my Shaman. So Blizzard releases WotLK and the second-coming of Naxxramas, and (like many guilds) we found ourselves short on healers when raiding resumed.

With a gulp and and one eye closed I hit the "unlearn talents" button and found myself staring at the Resto tab for the first time. It's been a few months now (with many respecs back and forth), so hopefully my experiences can be help those giving Resto a try - especially with dual specs around the corner!

The Tools
Earth Shield - the orbiting poo is usually placed on your main tank, soaking up damage on a periodic basis. Always take Improved Earth Shield, and after 3.1, consider the glyph of ES as well. (Grid users should add it as a buff to help keep track of it's uptime: on my setup I use a little yellow dot in the lower left corner of the unit frame.)

Riptide - an outstanding instant-cast splash heal with a trailing HoT (heal over time), which I use for either main tank damage mitigation or quick spot heals on a single target. Also brilliant for two-left-footed dancers in Heigan. :)

Lesser Healing Wave - a fast but rather inefficient heal on it's own, when combined with the glyph on an earth-shielded target (usually your tank) it starts to approach the efficiency of it's big brother Healing Wave. Excellent for topping-off your tanks, and with a healthy amount of crit, good for triggering Ancestral Healing.

Healing Wave - personally I rarely ever use this spell (except when combined with a Nature's Swiftness macro*), as I'm not really talented for it and I prefer a more twitchy healing style rather than the pre-cast/cancel style (more on this later).

Chain Heal - the defining Shaman heal, excellent for healing melee-heavy groups. The longer cast time means some pre-casting may be required, but it's a very efficient way to patch up two or more people (up to four when glyphed, excellent for raid heals).

Cleanse Spirit - not a heal, but a very important utility.

Healing Styles and Talent Builds
Maybe I spent too much time as a Tree in the Burning Crusade, but I grew fond of the mitigation-style of healing backed-up with fast-cast reactive heals. As such, I've personally adopted a style that keeps ES and Riptide rolling on the tank with glyphed LHW and Chain Heals as needed. My typical Resto spec looks something like this.

The other style which may appeal to others focuses more on pre-casting/cancel-casting big Healing Waves, and requires a slightly different spec. I have not personally tried this one out yet.

If you adopt the mitigation+fast cast style, Mp5 becomes very important since we're hardly ever out of the 5SR (five second rule). Otherwise if you're going for big Healing Waves, haste is likely to be more important to you, since hopefully you're staying inside the 5SR as much as possible.

With so many abilities triggering off crits, having high crit is important: 25% is probably a decent number to shoot for, but if you can get to 30% you're in good shape.

Weapon Imbues
Glyphed Earthliving Weapon, always! Also I read somewhere (EJ?) that the Elemental Weapons talent in Enhancement scales poorly with better gear, but it may be useful early on as you're starting heroics.

Tactics: Typical Heroic Trash Pull
Your tank's about to charge into a typical heroic trash group, CC be damned! If you have time, spam a few LHW's on him to trigger Ancestral Healing beforehand (or better yet use a single Tidal Force macro**), and make sure he's got a full stack of ES and Riptide him just before the charge.

Spikey damage happens, so have your fingers ready to LHW, CH or NS+HW. Try to build a mental database of which mobs murder melee or do big AoE damage (whirlwinds, etc), and pre-cast Chain Heals.

Heroics can get a little nutty if your tank has a hard time picking everything up, so I recommend taking Nature's Guardian and also learning to use Wind Shock and Hex to save yourself.

Tactics: Raid Healing
If you have plenty of healing classes to go around in your raid, chances are you'll be assigned to raid heal, which is arguably our forte:

Bind every key to Chain Heal and roll your face across the keyboard.

I'm halfway kidding - you should also keep ES on either MT or OT depending on who's likely to take bigger damage on a particular pull/boss. Since Riptide has a six-second cooldown I usually reserve it for someone who just took a big hit from a loose mob, but otherwise keep it rolling on one of the tanks.

Main Tank healing in a raid setting is certainly possible and viable, just have to ensure that you're fully spec'ed into Ancestral Healing (have it up as much as possible) and Improved Shields, along with the usual Improved ES and Riptide business.

Handy Macros
*Nature's Swiftness + Healing Wave
This is your tanks-gonna-die-now-unless-you-do-something-quick button.

#showtooltip Healing Wave
/console Sound_EnableSFX 0
/cast Nature's Swiftness
/cast Tidal Force
/use 13
/use 14
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear()
/console Sound_EnableSFX 1
/cast [target=mouseover] Healing Wave

**Tidal Force + Lesser Healing Wave
This macro guarantees a LHW crit, triggering Ancestral Healing.

#showtooltip Lesser Healing Wave
/console Sound_EnableSFX 0
/cast Tidal Force
/use 13
/use 14
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear()
/console Sound_EnableSFX 1
/cast [target=mouseover] Lesser Healing Wave

Both macros above have /use 13 and 14 to auto-pop your trinkets, and have [target=mouseover] since I use these in conjunction with Clique to click-cast my heals. The Sound_Enable and UIErrorsFrame business just keeps the game from spamming you with "that ability is not ready yet" feedback.

Further Reading
Check out Elitist Jerks and

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Shamantics in Naxx10

Between the guild's weekly runs and my zany heroic-mode PUG adventures, I've started to compile notes for the various encounters for the infamous Naxxramas. Below are all the boss fights in Naxx1o from a Shaman's point of view. (In the future I hope to write a followup post to describe some of the differences in 25-man heroic mode, stay tuned!).

Arachnid Quarter

Elementals and Restos, stand in the green circle in the middle of the room and do your thing at max range to avoid the boss's silence, but also spread out from the other ranged. Enhancement, alternate melee between the boss and the major spider add - and if your raid leader (RL) calls for it, run out during Locust Swarm and sling lolbolts with the ranged group. Try to time Heroism/Bloodlust for when all DPS is on the boss - and not during a Locust Swarm.

Elemental and Resto, DSITF (don't stand in the fire) somewhere in the middle. Poison totem can be useful here, but isn't necessary if your healers are on the ball. The RL will likely assign a DPS to take down each add to ~30%, so if that's you, just be very careful not to overshoot. Restos: be prepared to spam heals on the tank during Faerlina's enrage. Hero after the adds are softened up and all DPS is back on the boss.

After the tank runs in and turns the boss around, Enhancers should attack from behind (as usual). Ranged/healers should bunch up a few steps behind to make AoE'ing the adds a little easier (Thunderstorm, Chain Lightning and/or Magma Totem can help). Important for all specs: cleansing poison on the tank is priority, as it reduces healing by some insane amount. Save Heroism for the enrage at ~30%.

Plague Quarter

Tank/spank Noth in the center of the room until he teleports away, when DPS focuses on the adds. Elementals can also soften-up the adds if the offtank starts to get too many while Noth is still on the ground. There are times during this encounter when healing is not very intensive, so Restos could consider wearing a DPS set (high hit rating) for a little extra pew pew on the boss/adds. Watch out for the Plagued Guardians which do a massive AoE, so always focus-fire them down and Chain Heal to patch up the raid. I usually pop Hero a few seconds after Noth teleports down the 2nd time.

Enhancement, stick to your tank as he kites Heigan around the room - don't worry about attacking from the back too much on this one - you don't want to get caught in the goo. If you can, plop a totem down in each safe zone to help give others a reference point. Elementals and Restos will remain up on the platform until the dance phase - let your tank know if he's too close (increased casting times) or too far out (out of range!). Disease Cleansing totem should be down at all times, as well as priority-casting Purge or Cleanse Disease for those who are out-of-totem-range.

The dance phase takes practice, so don't get discouraged, watch a few videos and look for recognizable patterns in the ground where the goo comes up. Restos use Riptide whenever its up/available during the dance, and everyone else concentrate on staying alive. (For dance experts only: it is possible to get off a LHW in between waves of goo, but don't sacrifice yourself doing so!)

20 second cycles, out of which only 3 seconds where healing works. Essentially a DPS race, Restos can consider a DPS set here as well, as long as they're on the ball with heals during the three second healing window. DPS Shaman should be prepared to help out during the 3 seconds also by casting two Chain Heals (pre-cast the first at two seconds out). Restos can Riptide at 12 seconds out, then again on someone else at 6 seconds out, then pre-cast Chain Heal back on your first Riptide target and then another CH wherever needed... and (if you can squeeze it) another Riptide somewhere. Hero after the first two spores have been killed, early on in the fight when everyone's still alive.

Military Quarter

Enhancement can do their usual thing, attacking from behind and watching aggro. Elementals and Restos stand at range and do their thing, keeping an eye on those who get knife-attacked and need extra heals. Restos can Earth Shield whichever understudy is tanking the boss, and otherwise keep them healthy (but not too healthy). If you use Grid, the understudies will show up as pets, with a red dot in the corner to show who has current aggro. Pop hero as soon as the tanks have settled into a good trade-off rhythm, might as well get Raz down ASAP!

The RL will split the raid into a living side and undead side, so keep behind your side's tank to give them a clear view of the incoming mobs and then DPS/heal as needed. Restos need to watch their Chain Heals, as it's a sure-fire aggro pull if the tank hasn't gotten a hold of incoming adds. Save Hero for when the gates open and all your DPS is actively engaging Gothik.

Four Horsemen
The quintessential Naxxaramas fight! In-10 man, DPS shaman are ideal candidates for being a rear tank, so bring a healing set. Be prepared to spam LHW on yourself and communicate with your counterpart on the other side when you have 3 stacks of the debuff. ("back switch!") Since it's proximity-based aggro and only spell damage, you can turn yourself around and face the direction you will be running from the get-go.

If you're in the front left group, stack up on the tank and pop Hero right off the bat. Restos make ideal healers for Korth'azz since Chain Heal counters his Meteor nicely. Other than that, stay with your tank, but watch your debuff bar and move to another boss when 3 stacks are up. Don't entirely rely on callouts in Vent. (note that there are alternate strategies here, including having the DPS stay in place with only the tanks moving to swap bosses, so pay attention to how your RL wants to do it!)

Construct Quarter

The penultimate gear-check for the "second half" of Naxxramas. It's a pure DPS race, so pop Hero a few seconds after the tank has established aggro so it becomes available again at the end if needed. Enhancement may take a dip in the river to lose some health to help avoid being struck by Hateful strike. Otherwise, tank/spank.

If you're Resto, be prepared to keep Riptide and Earth Shield up at all times, and pre-cast glyphed LHW and/or Healing Wave if you're specc'ed for it. If not spec'ed for Healing Wave, I might recommend healing the main tank rather than the hateful tank, as it can get a bit hectic. Don't forget to have casters in your group for Mana Spring and Tide totems.

As your tank kites Grob around the room, always have a spot in mind for where you'll be running if you get hit with the mutagen. Enhancers, attack from rear-side so you don't spawn additional adds which can quickly overwhelm a raid. Elementals are ideal for taking down the spawned goo which your offtank should be holding in place for you. Restos will be making use of Riptide a lot during this fight - try to splash it on someone who just came out of dropping their cloud as they'll need about half their health restored. Do NOT cleanse poison off yourself or a raid member until in a safe spot - doing so early will instantly release the poison cloud.

One of the fights where having a Shaman helps tremendously. Elemental and Restos should plop Earthbind totem right on top of the center grate in back to slow the adds and allow your kiter a bit of breathing room. We usually use a Prot Pally who's spec'ed into Pursuit of Justice, and the two of us can handle the adds no problem. This is a little tougher for Enhancement as they'd have a long way to run, but certainly right after decimate plop an Earthbind down to give yourself a few extra seconds to down all the adds. Restos should be prepared to help out with the DPS on the adds by using AoE totems (after the raid's been patched-up, of course).

Very fun fight, involving two mini-bosses which need to be killed simultaneously before engaging Thaddius himself. (The RL will also pre-assign a positive and negative side to Thaddius, more on this later.) Restos are ideal for the right side mini-boss (Feugen) as he does an AoE attack for which Chain Heal is pure win. After the mini-bosses, take a running-jump off the platform to Thaddius.

Let your tank engage, then wait for Polarity to hit. Polarity gives you either a positive or negative charge, and being near others who have the same polarity gives you a substantial buff (does damage otherwise), so everyone should bunch up a few steps behind the boss on their polarity's side. Thaddius has a large hit box so Enhancers can back up a few steps to make sure everyone on their side is getting the stacking buff. When your polarity switches, immediately run straight throughthe boss to the other side. Restos: this can be a healing-intensive fight if your raid doesn't respond quickly enough to polarity shifts, so be on your toes! Pop hero early while everyone's still alive.

Upper Wing

A classic dragon fight! Enhancers and melee should attack from the back/side to avoid frontal cleave and swipe. Elementals and Restos just need to be back far enough to avoid both. When Sapph takes to the air, he will ice block two random members and everyone needs to use the ice block as a shield from the large blast which follows. As soon as you're in position, try casting Lightning Bolt at Sapph. If it says target is out of line of sight, you should be safe. All specs should also immediately cast Chain Heal on yourself to get those around you patched up. Frost resistance gear is helpful for this fight, as is Frost Resistance totem if you don't have any Paladins. This is one of those "stay alive and you will win" fights.

Final boss in Naxxaramas, congrats! After buffing-up at the entrance be sure to recall all your totems, as adds will spawn in that same location and may prematurely aggro causing a wipe (trust me, I've done it).

During first phase, Elementals (and Restos if they can spare the mana/time) should focus on incoming Banshees and skeletons (CL may accidentally pull more mobs, so stick to single-target DPS), and Enhancement can focus on the tanked Abominations. Elementals can use Thunderstorm if too many skeletons make it through to the middle circle.

Second phase KT will appear, and everyone needs to spread out 10 yards, except Enhancement who should stack up on another pre-determined melee DPS'er. Elementals/Restos just need to make sure they're 10 yards apart from each other. (Use DBM's /range window to see who's nearby - only melee DPS should see other names in the box, and make sure it's not the tank's name!)

Important for all Shaman specs: read my How to Win at KT post for how to deal with the ice blocked people, who will surely die if you do not act!

Third phase brings out two large insect types which will be offtanked off to one side. Make sure a healer is in range as the OT will need stronger heals as the fight goes on. Pop hero once the adds have been secured and focus-fire on KT.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why I'm Re-Rolling Hunter

UPDATE: yes, this was absolutely an April Fool's joke. Are you kidding? I <3 Shaman'ing!

This will be my final post at Shamantics, and I'll be starting a new blog chronicling the adventures of my new Blood Elf Hunter: Hunterantics.

I've been playing a Shaman for a long, long time. Too long. The truth is, I can never find a group anyway ("no thx, shaman dps is teh lolz" or "we don't need no stinkin' heals") so I'm a little fed up of being left out in the cold with nothing to do.

Also sick and tired of bringing up the rear on damage and healing meters when I do manage to ninja my way into a raid. I'm suprised Shaman can DPS their way out of a paper bag, frankly. And don't even get me started about the facerolling-chain-heal jokes. It's not funny folks. (It's our only healing spell, what do you want me to do?!)

Just take a look at the Shaman class forums: it's full of perfectly rational and valid reasons why the Shaman class sucks. For years I ignored all the crybaby QQ that happens in the forum, but in reality, I was just deluding myself. They've been right all along: Shaman are, in fact, for noobs.

On top of it all, whenever I'm rocking Enhancement spec I'm forced to roll on actual hunter loot (thanks for the itemization normalization, Blizz), but since no one seems to believe me, I've actually gotten /kicked out of two Naxx25 PUGs for rolling on hunter mail! WTF?!1 MEh needz! Gimme!!!

So I figure, if you can't beat em, join em.

Me and my tentcity pet will show y'all!!!

p.s.: will mailbox-dance for gold, pst.