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.