Monday, March 30, 2009

How To Win at Kel'Thuzad

Whether you're Enhancement, Elemental or Resto, being able to throw a heal at an ice-blocked target during Kel'Thuzad can mean the difference between a wipe and a successful attempt. Personally I struggled a bit with this, as there's only a FOUR second window in which to 1) identify who's been blocked, 2) find them in your unit frames and 3) cast your fastest heal. More often than not, I failed. :(

Grid to the Rescue
IMO Grid and Clique are the essential tools for successful healing. Even if you're a purely DPS-minded Shaman, having these installed is highly recommended, and your raidmates will love you for it.
  1. Open Grid's config window: /grid config
  2. Open Status > Auras
  3. Type in a new debuff and hit enter: "Frost Blast" (without quotes)
  4. Find the new debuff in the Auras list, change the color to a blinding bright red
  5. Also make the priority 99 (meaning topmost priority)
  6. Open Frame > Border
  7. Check your newly-added Frost Blast debuff to enable it
The next time someone gets ice-blocked, you'll see their Grid frame highlighted in bright red, so simply click-cast your fastest available heal (Riptide, LHW, NS+HW macro, or maybe Chain Heal if two melee are blocked) then get back to pew pew or whatever you were doing before... playing Bejeweled perhaps?

Don't Stand So Close to Me
Also, if you have Deadly Boss Mods installed (which of course you do!), type /range and you'll see a handy little display of those within 10 yards. Move accordingly.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Fifth Element

After my recent primer post on totems I started daydreaming about a potential for a fifth element to be released as part of some future expansion. There's some precedence for the use of Spirit as the fifth Shamantic element, both in lore and the existing game (Feral Spirit). Here are some ideas for new totems/buffs:

Spiritual Focus Totem - increases the caster's and nearby party member's spirit attributes by X (similar to Priest's Divine Spirit ability, but doesn't stack with it). Likely to become the default Spirit totem.

Shadow Resistance Totem - similar to the Paladin aura or Priest resistance buff, increasing nearby player's shadow resistance by X (non-stacking).

Spirit Elemental Totem - summons a spirit elemental into the physical world to attack the casters current target, inflicting X physical damage on a single target and healing nearby party members by Y per strike. Physical damage scales with the caster's attack power, and healing effects scale with the caster's spell power. 20 min cooldown, shared 5 min cooldown with other elemental totems.

Spiritual Link (buff) - when all five totems are down within 10 yards of each other, they form a Spiritual Link, increasing effectiveness of all the caster's totems by X. (I could picture a beam of light connecting all five totems!)

Feel free to comment on your own ideas for this potential fifth element! :)

And no, Gary Oldman isn't a valid new totem type.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Totem Primer

/wave WowInsiders! :)

Here's a little secret about Shaman: we're totally OP in PvE. We can melee with the best of 'em, sling deadly spells with the best of 'em, and certainly heal with the best of 'em. (And sometimes, do all three in the same encounter!)

But there's more... we have totems, too! These portable buff givers are the very thing that define our class and make us the "swiss army knives of WoW."

The Elements
The four types of totems we have match the elements: earth, fire, water and air. Generally these map to defensive, offensive, restorative and hastening (but not always). Lets break down totem usage by level ranges:

Levels 4-9
Early on we're introduced to the concept of totems, starting with Stoneskin (a nice armor buff for lowbies rocking leather armor). For most encounters through level 9, Stoneskin works great, but get used to dropping Earthbind for slowing runners or in PvP, and Stoneclaw for when you've overpulled a mob or two - it's our only "CC" (crowd control) until Hex at level 80.

Levels 10-25
At level 10 we gain two important totems: Strength of Earth and Searing. This era marks the transition towards DPS-centric thinking (ie: down the mobs before they down you!). SoE will be
used all the way to endgame, and should be your default earth totem. Use Searing with a bit of caution, it has a mind of it's own! Here's a handy macro for this level range:

/castsequence reset=combat/9 Strength of Earth Totem, Searing Totem, Healing Stream

The idea is that you'd press the macro twice to get the first two totems, and only use Healing Stream (gained at level 20) when really needed, to save on mana. This "only use what you need" theory continues for the rest of your soloing efforts, but remember in groups you will be expected to (and should whenever possible) drop all four totems.

Level 18 brings one of our most important situational totems, Tremor. Arguably the number one reason to bring a Shaman to your heroic, this totem will clear fear effects, hopefully keeping you and your party mates from running straight into another pack of mobs. Learn which mobs fear and always have it down for those fights.

Also in these levels we get our first cleansing totem, Poison Cleansing, and our first resist totem, Frost Resistance. Start using these early to get a feel for when they should be used. (you may find resistance totems unnecessary until very specific encounters, but practice anyway) Later in life we also get Disease Cleansing, Fire Resistance and Nature Resistance.

Levels 26-29
At levels 26 and 28 we gain our default water and fire totems: Mana Spring and Flametongue. For soloing, you may still opt to use Searing over Flametongue, but otherwise you can evolve your totem macro to something like this:

/castsequence reset=combat/9 Mana Spring Totem, Strength of Earth Totem, Searing Totem

Note the shift of Mana Spring to the front in order to maximize mana return during the fight.

Levels 30-49
Level 30 brings the very important Totemic Call, an ability that lets you kill all your totems and return a portion of the mana spent on casting them. Also at 30 you gain a very nice PvP/anti-caster totem: Grounding. At 32, Enhancers gain their default air totem: Windfury, a nice haste buff for yourself and all the melee in your group.

During this level range you've likely set on either leveling melee or caster, and since you don't always need to drop all four totems while soloing, we've moved the important ones up front:

/castsequence reset=combat/9 Strength of Earth Totem, Magma Totem, Windfury Totem, Mana Spring Totem
(this will be your default set all the way to endgame!)

/castsequence reset=combat/9 Flametongue Totem, Mana Spring Totem, Strength of Earth Totem, Windfury Totem (the last two being mostly for other's benefit)

For those healing-focused, at level 40 you'll gain Mana Tide Totem, but given it's powerful-but-short mana restoration you'll likely want to use it situationally rather than in your default totem set.

Levels 50-63
At level 50, Elementals can gain the signature Totem of Wrath, and should be used instead of Flametongue from now on:

/castsequence reset=combat/9 Totem of Wrath, Mana Spring Totem, Strength of Earth Totem, Windfury Totem

Levels 64+
At 64, Elementals can finally get excited about their own hasty totem, Wrath of Air, and can finalize their default macro set to one that will be used all the way to endgame:

/castsequence reset=combat/9 Totem of Wrath, Wrath of Air Totem, Mana Spring Totem, Strength of Earth Totem

Restos can also finalize a similar set, just with Flametongue instead of Wrath.

At 66 and 68 you gain two awesome situational totems: Earth Elemental and Fire Elemental. Earthy acts as your own personal tank, allowing us to solo elites or taunt mobs off squishies (remember he can be healed, too!). Fire Elemental can add a nice amount of DPS, handy for when you lose a DPS or two and need to push damage.

Cleanup on aisle six!
As mentioned, way back at level 30 we received Totemic Call, important not only for the mana return but also for killing off the totems. Mobs can and will aggro off your totems, so it's important to pick up after yourself! Don't be "that guy!"

(prior to level 30 you can just manually right-click the individual totems under your name plate)

Personally I like YATA (yet another totem addon), as it creates a simple totem bar and a handy set of totem timers. This in conjunction with my default totem dropper macro seems to cover all my totemic bases.

Update: I realized the macros I had previously listed didn't totally match what I was using in-game (notably the reset timer), so I updated the above to reflect 9 seconds on each. The thinking here is that on fights that require movement, sometimes you want to relocate your totems to your new spot - and therefore want your most powerful totems down first in case you can only spare a global cooldown or two.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Offhealer Build Results

In my last post, I wrote a bit about an offhealer build I was going to try out in our Naxx10 runs. Tonight marked the guild's first Kel'Thuzad downing and Naxx clear (/cheer!), so I can finally report on how it worked out along the way.

The Results
WWS parses seemed to show I was able to do ~1000 DPS or so while in combat, but that's a far cry from the ~2600+ I'm able to do as full Elemental. Kind of a dud there. :P

The healing output was noticeably weaker too, and I did run into some mana issues. Probably the biggest issue though was the lack of Riptide, our only instant heal and HoT. Fights like Heigan, Grobbulus and KT almost require it in a Shaman's healing arsenal.

(Full disclosure, I went back to full Resto from Grobbulus onward, as I didn't want to mess around on my guild's dime, so to speak). :)

The Verdict
So it seems that an offhealer build in a 10-man setting is probably limited to "first-half" Naxx, where your guild is just getting their feet wet with the first two wings and you're a little light on DPS output.

Or perhaps if your guild dramatically outgears the content (or in a 25-person setting) there would be more room experimental hybrid builds, but for getting Naxx on farm status and learning the fights, I recommend sticking with full Resto and just carry a DPS set with lots of +hit if you want to pew pew on trash. :)

Now when are dual specs arriving?!?!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Offhealer Build

a.k.a.: The "have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too" build!

Ever since the guild started running Naxx10, I've been toying with the idea of running 2.5 healers rather than 3. As folks get more accustomed to the encounters, less raid healing is needed - and for efficiency's sake, having extra DPS just gets us through stuff faster.

Prior Issues
I've run as full Resto in MP5 gear, but felt practically useless on fights where a little extra DPS comes in handy (Heigan, Loatheb). Without my hit gear on I was missing like crazy, and Lava Burst does a measly 4k (if it hits at all) - compared to 11k as full Elemental. And it just "felt" like we were overstocked on heals.

I've also offhealed as full Elemental in MP5 gear, but suffered from the same hit issues and lacked key talents like Nature's Swiftness and Cleanse Spirit. Healing in this mode was mostly relagated to spamming Chain Heal.

The Build
So tonight I will try something like this. Assuming I'd stay in Elemental gear (full hit cap), the goals of this build are:
Major Glyphs
Potential Pitfalls
Lack of Earth Shield, but with a Resto Druid and Disc Priest as main heals, there's already plenty of mitigation to go around. Lack of Riptide, a very nice insta-heal and the only HoT we have - great for movement fights like Heigan. The flipside being able to sling effective pew pew from the platform and the getting the fight over with sooner.

Will update this post after the run - wish us luck!