Monday, December 28, 2009

A Rant - Down those adds already!

Most guilds canceled their sanctioned raids for this week so Mayhem and I decided to put together an ICC25 last night. Before we were even finished with the random H, we got whispers asking us if we wanted to come join a group. I should have known it wasn't going to go well when we started getting whispers from other members of the raid telling us to hurry up, they were getting tired of waiting for us (to finish a 5 man). When I had agreed to go, I had made it clear we were going to finish up our run and then join the group. We finally did join and they aren't even full, they are still looking for more dps. I get summoned in, and I get prompted to get saved.

I really have only two pieces of gear that need replacing ASAP. Everything else I have is at least 245, but I'm sporting the Naxx shield, so I really should do Marrowgar every week to get that replaced. I was a little disappointed that when I was invited no one had bothered to mention it wasn't a full run (on top of getting random whispers telling me to hurry up when they weren't even ready), seeing some of the names on the raid roster made me wonder just how much fail this run is going to be.

Oh, the fail was... fail. The RL was newer to the fight (which was fine), but there were no solid explanations given. Curses were falling off instead of being dispelled. Adds were multiplying like baby rabbits in a cartoon. Death and Decay was flying around and killing everyone (oh wait. It doesn't move. All you have to do is step out of it and then it can't hurt you). Mayhem "took over" a bit at this point and gave out some solid assignments for groups and some general expectations for this fight. Everyone was complaining because target switches hurt their dps, they wanted to be able to stay on the boss (I've heard that complaint from every class now. Everyone loses DPS when they switch target, quit QQing and down those adds already!) Three our four tries later, they call it because people have to go, which was fine, we never got past the second wave of adds so it wasn't like we had made progress.

In vent chat we heard that they had no plans of continuing the save (they weren't raiding again until after reset), so we decided to put a new group together and get back in there for a couple more hours. It ended up being kinda funny because not only did a handful of people from the first run end up joining us again, but the old RL did too. Mayhem let him know we weren't trying to be shady, we just wanted to keep working on something we had started, and so did he.

Our second group went a lot smoother, although having the DPS to down the adds was still a huge problem. We decided to go with five healers, which scared one of our other healers (usually an awesome ele shaman, he went resto). We whispered each other back and forth, he was most afraid for being blamed for not being able to heal through stupid. I assured him if anyone was dying from stupid, I'd be calling it out on vent.

And I did. Immediately. I only had to say something the first two times someone stood in Death and Decay, because once people realized that they would be called out by name, they hauled ass to not be named. I am not mean about it. In fact, I'm super-sticky-sugary-sweet about it and I've been told that the more frustrated I am, the more patient I sound. Our group was really good with getting out of DnD and dispelling the curse - more than once I was cursed and it was off before I could even ask for it. That's awesome dispelling.

We still weren't able to get her down, because we kept getting overwhelmed with adds. I don't want to blame the DPS for that entirely - it was only certain individuals who were not following directions. When a tank died from a mutant, we called for a battle rez. It was then I noticed that our feral druid was still merrily focusing the boss, oblivious to all the dying (he was assigned to a side, not the boss). In fact, we had a handful of people doing it. Even more amazing is that after we called out certain people by name to not be on the boss while there are adds up, they still did it the next wipe.

Anyways. Lady D is going to be a bane fight until the DPS can outgear it, because asking all 17 to work together is apparently a lot to ask for. I normally don't mock people as blatantly as I have in this post, but the recurring theme with all of my failures this week is "someone else didn't do what they needed to do so I didn't get my badges". It's really frustrating to know you brought your A game and pulled out some of the best tricks in your playbook (with less healers), to see two rogues and a kitty not follow directions because their personal standing on the wipe-meter is more important than the group getting a kill. The lesson learned here is that next time the kicks will be swift. I am patient and understanding about people learning fights, but I have no patience for anyone who refuses to be a team player in an MMORPG. If our strat is bad, let's talk about making it better; abandoning the strat and doing your own thing will always be a wipe. And why are we wiping? Get those adds down so we can get to Phase 2 already!

TL;DR: Healing encounters is easy, healing stupid players is hard. Also get those adds down so we can get our loot already!

This Week In 10's

This week in raiding ended up being a bit unusual (Holidays will do that!). The most notable was I finally got my ICC10 clear. Mayhem and I joined a group with a couple of people we used to run with a few tiers ago and filled in the rest with some randoms. The first night we downed Marrowgar but with three healers, Lady D's adds slapped us around. We switched to two healers but still couldn't get her down because the adds got out of control.

That night I was with a really scrubby druid. At some point I noticed that I was really the only one doing anything, and if I didn't heal it, it didn't get healed. So long as people move from DnD, though, it was working out fine until the adds started to pile up. I've solo healed Phase 2 a couple of times now, where we ended the fight with two tanks, me, and a couple of dps, so we just need to get to Phase 2. We couldn't, even with six dps.

The group disbanded, but we managed to get together again over the weekend with some new DPS and a new healer. I had to practically beg the RL to only do two healers. He was so against it. I would be too, in a true pug situation, but we were bringing in quite a few people from our own guilds (including the other two healers he wanted to bring). I whined till I got what I wanted, and he asked one of his priests to bring his shadow spec. At this point I'm getting myself a bit nervous because if I'm begging to trim healers, I had better not be failing.

I didn't need to worry. We one-shot Lady D, airship, and Saurfang. Encounters are not hard to heal. Stupid players are hard to heal. We had no stupid, therefore, it was easy.

We used the cheat strat for Saur (where you knock the beasts off the ledge), which I heard last night has already been hotfixed and unusable (I'm not surprised, I called it a cheat strat because that's what it feels like). I have a feeling the next time we try the fight we will have to work a bit harder.

The other 10 man I did that was definitely worth mentioning was ToGC. I'm four of five bosses now (still no Anub). We had a really fun group, otherwise. It took us a couple of tries to do Jaraxxus (too many mistresses, sigh), we one-shot faction champs (woo-hoo!), and the Twins was surprisingly not much harder than regular (the damage being thrown around isn't that much worse, they just have an extra special ability which wasn't that hard to deal with since you just have to switch colors an extra time or so). I'm happy we got those bosses down. It's late to get the HM achievement for ToC, but I would still like it, and it's still something to do each week until there is more to do in ICC.

Throughput Vs. Regen

Comparing throughput to regen is comparing apples to oranges. A Holy Light Paladin might feel that there isn't such a thing as enough regen, even though most would consider it laughable that a paladin could possibly OOM. Through my gemming and enchanting (and even trinkets), I've chosen more mana. I have when I was gearing up and now that I'm getting more haste, I'm still looking for more.

I picked up the Libram of Veracity once 3.3 hit and I ended up with more triumph badges than you can shake a stick at. I have played with it a little, but for whatever reason I've still only raided with Libram of Renewal. Now I have two Holy Light librams to use situationally, and it means I should probably decide what situational uses this gear has. At first glance, one is for longevity and the other is for throughput.

The very very simplified approach to "which libram is better" is if you run out of mana, you want the mana-savings of the Renewal, and if you don't, why not switch to throughput? I don't think the 'question of OOM' isn't yes or no, each fight will be different. Even if I have a consistent group - the same tanks and healers every week - there are still a lot of variables that can affect my mana usage and my mana regen through a fight, as well as my eff
ective healing and overhealing.

I started going through some math in a recent parse of Lord Marrowgar 25 and Anub 25.

WoL for Anub 25 (farm kill)
WoL for Marrowgar 25 (Our Guild's First ICC Kill!)

For consideration I've posted two logs - one farm status kill and one guild first progression kill. I created a spreadsheet for each with all the mana spent, gained, and saved throughout the fight. For both fights, I was able to regain/save the mana needed to heal throughout the fight. A better way to state that would be "I was able to spend every bit of mana as fast as I was able to gain it back."

Libram of Rene
wal accounts for 9-12% of my mana efficiency. That's pretty huge for one piece of gear, and I would have to consider other ways to get mana if I wanted to use another Libram. Without a change in playstyle I can not switch to Libram of Veracity without running into mana problems.

However, my playstyle is also built around my having the Renewal (and all other things to make Holy Light fast and plenty). If I were to make a style c
hange and switch to Libram of Veracity, I would have to change a lot of my habits. My Holy Lights overheal for ridiculously embarrassing amounts (58% on Marrowgar, 75.5% on Anub) so the spellpower proc doesn't seem helpful to me. I would have to slow down and shoot for less overheal (probably by casting more Flash of Lights, which could alleviate mana concerns). In other words, the Libram of Veracity could potentially be the strongest in situations where you're casting all three heals on a consistent basis.

When we start discussing playstyle there'
s a lot of room for opinions and room for growth. This parse shows me just how important the Libram of Renewal is to my healing, and it also points out a couple of really dumb things I didn't do. The biggest hole in these parses is my low uptime of Sacred Shield. On Anub I only casted Sacred Shield twice over a seven minute fight. I am specced for the minute-long duration, but that still leaves at least half the fight where I n00bed it up bigtime. My Marrowgar parse shows me casting four Sacred Shields - again, approximately 3 minutes of the fight where my tank did not have this buff (bad paladin!).

As for more opportunities to regain mana, I wasn't working as hard as I could have. During Marrowgar I could have squeezed in an extra two Divine Pleas that I chose not to (I timed my Pleas with Whirlwind), but on Anub I only hit Divine Plea twice (when Anub burrowed), which left room for at least four if not five more Pleas. I could have also squeezed in a couple more Divine Illuminations, although on a three minute cooldown I might not have been able to do so on Marrowgar (definitely I could have gotten one more use on Anub).

My point is - I can work harder at regaining more mana, but the Libram of Renewal is still always going to be 9-12% of my mana efficiency as long as my primary spell of Holy Light. If you're using this ratio of Holy Lights to Flash of Lights as I am (read: no ratio, just lots of HL), you might find similar results as I have found. In new fights, the tanks (and raid) take more damage now than they ever will (shorter, cleaner fights, more damage avoided, and more mitigation from upgrades). I am more comfortable being armed for the worst-case scenario of damage taken and longevity.

For future runs, I might try some balanced casting (all three heals on a regular basis) to see if I can't get some use out of the Libram of Veracity. It's a major playstyle change for a HL paladin, though, so my progression/pug gear will most definitely still have the Libram of Renewal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

3.3 and ICC10

3.3 has been great so far. We jumped into ICC25 as a guild over the weekend, got the first boss down and sampled a taste of the second. We only spent one night raiding, but a smaller group of us started doing the 10 man. I enjoyed the group, and I have always loved 10 man raids. We had three short sessions where we downed one boss each night.

I suppose I should mention my behind-the-curve raiding history. 3.3 is the first level of content that I have ever been ready and waiting to do. Sure in BC I took my priest into the first part of Kara (it was in patch 2.4), but my paladin wasn't 80 till after most guilds had Naxx on farm status. I didn't get into Ulduar or ToC in a timely manner, either, because I declared my priest my "new main" and leveled her to 80, and then I decided I needed a druid. Somewhere in the middle of 3.2 I dusted my poor paladin off, got her into ToC, and joined a raiding guild.

So this is the first time I've ever jumped in and progressed in new content. I can see how in a few weeks these bosses will be "ezmode" but right now we earned our victories. We had to communicate. We had to adopt strategies. We had to push harder/faster. We had so much fun.

There's loads and loads of good information on the new bosses (check out Life in Group 5, Moar HPS!, and Gray Matter, just three examples) and it seems diluted to just agree with players who play more confidently than I without posting something new and interesting about this new raid.

So what is new and interesting about this new raid? For me, it's definitely been the awe and wonder of experiencing the fight for the first time as a group and not letting wipes deter us from jumping right back in and working harder.


I wrote the above portion before we went into ICC10 again with a group of mostly the same people as last week. We one-shotted Marrowgar, 2-shotted Lady D, had a blast one-shotting the air ship (that fight is so easy but jet packs are FUN), and got in a few solid attempts at Deathbringer.

Blessing of Kings has an awesome post about DB and how this will be a really hard fight for casuals as they will get more heavily penalized with marks. I can see it already - the adds can get out of control very easily if you don't have a focused team. I remember some of the casual raiding groups I was in for fights like Saph, Hodir, and Jaraxxus, and I feel for the healers in those groups. DB is going to be hell if you have casual DPS who can only mash buttons at the boss.

I think we have it. When we were doing well, DB gets marks very slowly. It feels like it works like it should. However, there is a fine line between being in control of that fight and not - when we screw up and give the boss marks, we aren't just giving him one, the avoidable marks seem to come in stacks. The difference between a perfect game and the shit hitting the fan is a few seconds when there are loose adds. It's worse when I'm the one who has to kite, because not only am I giving the boss extra marks, now the boss is hitting harder and I can't heal it because I'm running around trying to avoid giving the boss more marks. Several times we were able to recover from situations like these but when it happens before 75% it's demoralizing. I know we could very well wipe if it happened again, or, it's possible that was the wipe and we will just have to let it run its course.

At one point we wiped because the Mark didn't reset on a ranged DPS. No one caught it until we entered the fight and suddenly our hunter is taking 5,000 damage every time DB swings, from the start of the pull. On that pull, we had also just switched to two healers so it felt like it wouldn't be possible with two. Once we figured out it had been bugged, though, we wiped it and started over. I think that's the only bug we've ran into in two ICC runs, which isn't bad. This is a two-healer fight. The healing doesn't get intense until there are marks on the raid, which will happen less frequently with six dedicated DPS instead of five.

I want this boss dead. Normally I'm not a competitive person (although we have a few in the group who have decided that "Group 1" needs to be the guild-first clear), but we are so close and DB's death will be satisfyingly personal. We have a group that can work together, stay focused and keep it easy.

I think that's going to be the success in DB - if we can all make it a priority to keep it focused and easy, it will be. It's possible we just don't have the DPS for it but most of our group is geared from 25 ToC. It seems pretty unlikely we are just failing it as a DPS check - we just need to control the adds better and I think we can do it. We got him to 30% on several attempts, and a couple of those he hadn't even assigned a Mark yet.

We're going back in on Saturday. Honestly, I can't wait and I wish we were going back in tonight.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Aura Mastery - Twelve Uses

This week in raiding I tried to push out extra uses for Aura Mastery in my healing. My list was not as big as I had wished for, however, 12 uses for Aura Mastery in the last two tiers of content isn't shabby for one talent point. They are situational. Their usage and efficiency will depend a lot on the people in your raid.

I haven't gotten in to ToGC10 other than getting my feet wet in NRB, but uses for AM in these fights has been powerful and necessary. It was enough to be really glad I had Aura Mastery for all three phases of the fight. It's disheartening that we are losing 40% of the duration, but I . (Thanks 3.3!)

1. Concentration Aura - Northrend Beasts - Phase 1 - Gormok the Impaler, Snobold Vassal - Batter.
2. Fire Resist Aura - Northrend Beasts - Phase 2 - Acidmaw - Burning Bite.
3. Frost Resist Aura - Northrend Beasts - Phase 3 - Icehowl - Arctic Breath.
4. Concentration Aura - Lord Jaraxxus - Mistress of Pain. Kiss
5. Fire/Shadow Resist Aura - The Twin Valkyr. Surge or I just felt like eating an orb or two.
6. Frost Resist Aura - Anub'arak. Phase 3, Penetrating Cold.
7. Fire Resist Aura - Razorscale. Flame Breath.
8. Concentration Aura - Ignis. Flame Jets. OR. Fire Resist Aura and just absorb some Flame Jets, Slag Pot, or Scorch.
9. Frost Resist Aura - Hodir. Frozen Blows.
10. Fire Resist Aura - Mimiron. Plasma Blast.
11. Fire Resist Aura - Onyxia. Breath. Or Blast Nova.

So there's ten raiding situations where a group could benefit from Aura Mastery. The last reason...

12. Crusader Aura - Speed Boost!

Is entirely a paladin quality of life perk, but it makes farming a bit more enjoyable.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Holier Than I Was Before

Late last week I dropped my protection off-spec in favor of two Holy specs. I've really wanted to get deeper into theory-crafting with my paladin recently so I've been researching what other paladins are doing. My guild has run into a couple of fights were I feel damn useless as a HL paladin (don't get me wrong, when I don't feel useless in gimmick fights, I'm feeling pretty powerful) and decided to salvage what gear I could into producing a FoL spec. I picked up the PvP libram, reglyphed for Flash, and wham - my FoL is hitting a few hundred harder (almost 5k - holy cow!) and critting more often than not. I picked up a couple of upgrades for my main spec and re-gemmed my old pieces with spellpower. I'd still like to collect some better trinkets and a second helm so I can at least get a better meta going. The whole FoL/HL discussion has been happening anywhere holy paladins are talking about healing. A lot of bloggers have made posts on it, particularly, I would like to link the one that inspired me the most:

Paladin Schmaladin: Flash of Light Vs. Holy Light

I specifically loved the talent selections and thought they were pretty accurate for the way the builds work. I was a HL paladin specced 51/2/18 before I joined CM. They asked me to change to bubble-spec (
52/19), so I did (and I kept all grumbling to myself). I thought that the transition would leave me longing for more mana (I lost all that yummy crit, and had to "waste" a whole bunch of points to get to Divine Sacrifice). I honestly didn't notice the lost critical strike rating. I didn't miss any lost mana (I can judge Light or Wisdom with no problems, although I prefer Wisdom). The only thing I have really missed is Improved Judgements, and it's only noticeable during those burn phases where I would be judging and meleeing for SoW/JoW procs. Instead of getting to judge twice, I may only get to judge once. That's still pretty minor, and I am enjoying bubble-spec for my HL build. I have been using Divine Sacrifice (in combination with Divine Shield) as called for by the raid, but I'm also finding uses for it outside of Plasma Blast and Frozen Blows. Anytime there are a handful of people taking damage - to things as obvious as Tantrum to more subtle things like a tank gets too many stacks of -well, anything-, or even just a quality of life spell... ignoring a major boss attack, giving myself a few seconds to move, or offering the healers a few seconds of air. I love it a lot more than I had expected to.

Now that I have a 51/5/15 talent build as my secondary spec, I am finding it's a bit more friendly to non-raiding situations than bubblespec. It does a little bit more damage (more judging, more shocking); it's not DPS level DPS by any means, but it's still a better healer quality of life than bubble-spec for dailies and farming. I also raided with this spec a bit last week... I was definitely weaker because half of my gear is still gemmed with Intellect so my FoL spec isn't ready for cutting-edge use. However, I feel its ready for situations like the General and Faction Champs. The mana efficiency of FoL is awesome in situations where mana actually counts. The mobility of the FoL build is refreshing for fights like Faction Champs... I find there isn't a lot healing, but a need for the utility spells I bring as a paladin - I have my Hands all over the place during this fight and it helps! Paladins also have a very flexible defensive dispel so while our priests are focused on offensive dispelling, I focus on keeping our healers and interrupters free of nasty things that keep them from doing their jobs. While any paladin can do that, I find it easier to keep these things rolling while being able to kite, throwing out Holy Shocks and insta-FoLs as I'm trying to drop the tauren or troll who is trying to do me in.

I'm sure the argument could be made that for fights like the Faction Champs, someone else is doing something wrong if I'm getting focused, if I have to kite, if I don't have time to cast a Holy Light. What it comes down to is that I actually enjoy this fight in this spec, and that, to me, is huge. Much like the time that people spend perfecting their UIs for their characters, knowing how you are going to handle specifics in an encounter and making your keybindings/action bars/addons/talents tailored to the role you play is a large part of the MMO-healer experience for me. I feel a lot more prepared for anything knowing that I have that flexibility with a button press- now to stock up on more Black Jelly...