Category Archives: PvE

The bitter taste of defeat and people problems

You would not believe the hell of a week I had last week. I returned from a 5 day long business trip a few days and so haven’t really had much blogging time (after a 10 hour day in a hot loft space I wanted to kill stuff* not engage my brain for writing). So as I left just after the patch landed last week it was down to my friendly co-editor, Cantor, to give you chaps (and chappesses) a taste of what we were thinking. Now it’s my turn 🙂

The bitter taste of defeat…..

Over the last few months, we have, just like everyone else, been poking around in Firelands. We started a bit late, but managed to get to Ragnaros a few weeks ago. Initially our attempts seemed to be ok. Within 10 pulls we had hit P2, within 15 we were regularly getting to P2. With this in mind I had set up a little poll for my raiders regarding killing Raggy. The choices were;

  1. Kill Ragnaros no matter how long it takes
  2. Poke him for a few more nights and move on if we don’t get anywhere
  3. Drop FL like a hot rock the week DS is released.

Ultimately it had been decided to go with option 1. So we tried some more over a couple of raid nights and frankly we were fucking awful. There is no one person to blame, but for whatever reason the raid just didn’t seem to get the feel for it at all.

I don’t know if it was the distraction of 4.3, the fact that we were doing it simply for completion as the gear would be easily replaced or if was just that my casual raid team was sick of FL and sick of P1 Ragnaros.

Whatever the reason, we suddenly had trouble getting through the first transition phase. People were all over the place, no matter how we tried to organise things, used markers or whatever, the sons just did not get dealt with correctly. The first night I thought it was just a bad night, but after 3 nights of not consistently getting to P2 everyone was getting stressed and it was clear that we were not going to get Ragnaros down easily.

Obviously this was quite a downer as  we had really thought that we would be able to get Ragnaros down, if not before 4.3 then not long after but it was now clear we were banging our heads against a wall. So I took a quick cast of votes from my raiders and we decided to just sod Raggy and move onto DS rather than bang on against him and delay our start of Dragon Soul.

Now to a lot of people out there this is no big deal. The attitude would be “so what? you were not good enough, get over it” and so on.

It isn’t that easy though, we had all worked together no matter who we had (we never force people to change their mains etc, we run with what we have pretty much regardless of balance) and fought our way through Firelands after a delayed start (we didn’t start until the beginning of September) and we had really felt that we were making good steady progress – we had got 2/7 (and nearly had Rhyo) before the nerfbat hit and then we had had a bad four weeks with people on holiday and such that meant I had to cancel 7 raid nights (we only raid twice a week), but despite this we had then gone on to clear 6/7 without too much trouble. We had reached Ragnaros with good morale and what we considered a reasonable expectation of downing him. We had also managed to get a few people through to 6/7 who had little to no raiding experience, and they were pleased they got to see the inside of FL and maybe some loot. So all in all, we were feeling pretty good when we got to 6/7.

However, to get there and then to seemingly hit a wall was exceptionally demoralising. Even though we ended up with no where near as many attempts as other guilds before we called it, the fact that we seemed to have it going ok and then suddenly we lost it was a huge kick in the teeth. It was frustrating that we knew we were decent players, we know our stuff and we have worked together as team no problem for some time now and then all of a suddenly it all goes to shit.

Even though my team is generally very good at not pointing the blame unfairly and they don’t get too angsty with each other, that doesn’t stop me feeling responsible for the team as a whole. After all, I am the raid leader – was the teams failing due to me? Possibly, possibly not, but it doesn’t prevent the paranoia – could I have done more to help the raid through? This is always the problem with a position like raid leading or being a GM; the ephemeral “stuff” about actual leading. It’s easy to identify certain problems with raid team e.g. standing in fire, not add switching etc. However, RL problems are not always as easy to spot and that also makes it so much easy to get paranoid about it if the group fails. So, while we were all unhappy and stressed by not downing Ragnaros, I feel like I got a double helping. /sigh

Then as if things couldn’t get any worse…….

People problems

On my way back to the hotel last week after a lovely Japanese meal (at which I also got a very provincial guildie to try an assortment of raw fish!), I suddenly was bombarded with texts all at once. It would appear that in my absence Otaku ahd decided to implode. I won’t go into messy details, but the short story is that a guildie and the GM have rubbed each other up the wrong way for some time now. As a good friend to both, generally I have defused any major situations and we have moved on. This time however, the GM snapped and just kicked the guildie in question.

In turn this spawned a mass exodus of virtually all the regular guild members and the vast majority of my raid team. So I get back to the hotel and log in to find a barrage of /w, calls to go on vent for one party and calls to go on skype for the other and so on. Basically as a friend to both sides, as well the 2IC and RL  for the guild, I was informed that the direction both parties would take would be pretty much based on my stance on the whole thing. Thanks guys, no pressure.

The reason this was so difficult was that on the one hand I had a guild I have been a member of since only a few months after starting to play (so nearly 3 years), and over those years I had gone from a lowly little warrior who knew nobody and nothing to the player I am today. After my first summer there, I was promoted to officer and then 2IC, between us the GM and I plugged away and slowly built up Otaku into a well known and respected guild with a decent raiding team of friends. If anyone asked, I honestly loved that guild and saw Otaku as my home until WoW died, and even then it would probably still be my home but in whatever game we all moved too. However, with the exception of just a couple of people, everyone I would consider as a true part of that experience had suddenly gone. Suddenly Otaku was a hollow shell with just a name and a few regular people to keep it open.

 So on the other hand, I had a loose bunch of around 12 people who I was friends with IRL as well, who chatted with me on vent, listened to my IRL bitching (and I theirs), who had raided since ICC with me and a whole host of other things. I was close enough to some to consider them family.

What to do? No matter what I chose to do, some people would be upset – either my larger group of friends who felt that they were missing a major part of the group if my wife and I were not with them, or my GM and guild who would feel equally upset if I turned my back on them and left after all we had been through.

So for 48 hours I sat on the fence amidst an ever tangling web of ventrilo and skype conversations, text messages, emails and forum posts. I had told each party that I would not do anything rash or without thinking. I wanted all pertinent information from everyone regarding their plans and how they wanted to proceed either with or without me.

Finally I had to make a decision. In the end I chose to leave Otaku behind and form a new guild with my friends who had left. Was it easy to do? Hell no, I spent over an hour chatting with my GM about this and explaining that ultimately it wasn’t a choice between 2 people, but between a group of 12+ friends and my team on one side, and a couple of people and a pretty dead guild on the other. In a few years time, the guild would be gone anyway, but some of my team I felt would be friends for life. Do I think I made the right choice? To be brutally honest I have no fucking idea. I have never actually run a guild “properly” and I may end up not being that good, we may end up as nothing more than another tiny guild who tries to do as much together as possible, we shall see. Am I happy? Again, hell no. It wasn’t a choice between loosing a eye or not loosing a eye, but a choice between loosing the right or the left. I knew that no matter what I did, I would feel guilty, some people would feel betrayed and let down and I would possibly lose the support and respect of some of my fellow guildies. I really am not a “people” person and social stuff makes me panic like nothing else so this was a few days or sheer hell and left me feeling totally drained and exhausted and still unsure of if I did the right thing.

So we got together and formed Peep Derple, hopefully we will now be able to put this behind us and move on. The one nice thing after the downer that was the two events mentioned above was that the night we formed Peep Derple, we had a little raid time so we hit DS and managed to down the first two without a wipe. Kat even got some MS and OS loot. Further discussions on that will be saved for another day though as we progress further.

Then I realised I still hadn’t updated my guide to 4.3 and that I now had to organise a new website, forum, vent server and so on.

/headdesk

Kat

*by kill I ofc mean heal other people while they kill stuff 😀

Dragon Soul first impressions

4.3 was released this week, and with it came a veritable oodle of new content to slash, stab, transmogrify and store in giant vaults. Most significantly for the raiders amongst us, of course, was the Dragon Soul, the final tier of raid content for this expansion, giving us the opportunity to finally put an end to Deathwing, the Aspect of Death. I’m going to go through my first impressions for the zone below:

Morchok 

The first boss of the zone, and frankly something of a push-over – certainly easier than Shannox was after our first day in Firelands. This guy has a simple tank-swap mechanic (Crush Armour), as well as something to keep the ranged interested with an orb/crystal that will spawn in a random location around him and will deal damage to the 3 closest players after a certain amount of time, which varies based on how far away those players are – a red beam indicates lethal damage, yellow is high-but-survivable, and blue is low. When the orb blows up, it will knock the 3 players into the air. He also Stomps, dealing damage to everyone in 30 yards, and double damage to the 2 closest targets (your tanks). His last ability, Black Blood of the Earth, will deal high damage to everyone in line-of-sight, and will require everyone to run behind the rock shards that spawn in a circle around him.

Basically, this fight is a loot-pinata; everyone’s job is extremely simple here, it’s essentially tank-n-spank – just be ready to run away when he casts Black Blood (he pulls everyone to him before casting it); as a Feral, Stamp Roar is a really useful tool here. On heroic, this fight promises to be more interesting, with the boss splitting into 2 identical versions (Morchok and Kochrom) at 90% health,l which will necessitate your group splitting into 2, and you tanks being unable to reset their debuffs until Black Blood.

Zon’ozz

A Vezax clone, this guy’s another that’s basically tank-n-spank with a couple of important differences – first is a debuff that he throws on to random people dealing shadow damage and knocking them up in the air when dispelled; the second is his ability Void of the Unmaking, which summons a ball of…purple stuff in front of him. This will bounce off of players, dealing damage (split between everyone nearby), and when it hits the boss, it will cause him to get Very Big And Very Angry, and force your healers to start spamming.

I quite like this fight overall – not a great deal to do, but the increased speed from being a Feral is useful as the Void can sometimes start spinning off at a slight angle to where it came from, which means you’ll need to run after it ASAP (if it hits the walls of the room, it’s a wipe). You’ll be able to pull huge amounts of DPS here, as each time the Void hits Zon’ozz, he gains a debuff that increases his damage taken, which lasts for the rest of the fight. As a healer, you’ll need to be on your toes with dispelling, and save your cooldowns for phase 2, when he starts AoEing the whole raid. Try to aim for bouncing the orb a minimum of 5 times, or it’s going to be super-stressful for healing – in 6/7 FL heroic gear, you can probably go up to 9 bounces in normal mode.

Yor’shaj

The first really interesting fight in the instance; the slimes that patrol around his room are inherent to the fight, and their abilities will give you an idea of what to expect when the encounter begins. The boss himself only has 1 ability, a Void Bolt that stacks for increasing shadow damage and will require a tank swap at around 4-5 stacks; however, he can gain additional abilities when he summons slimes from around the room – he’ll summon 3, and you’ll need to choose 1 to kill, while the other 2 will hit and empower him. When the slimes spawn, listen to your raid leader’s call and get over to the slime that’s going to die ASAP – the tank can run as well, as Yor’shaj will channel until the slimes reach him. Additional abilities are as follows:

 Purple –  everyone will be debuffed with Deep Corruption, causing them to explode for shadow damage when they receive 5 direct heals.

Green – poison spit that will deal splash damage (think Chimaeron).

Blue – summons a mana void that will drain everyone dry of mana until it’s killed, whereupon it will explode, redistributing the mana evenly to everyone in 30 yards.

Black – summons adds that need to be AoE’d; they cast an ability called Psychic Slice that deals shadow damage to everyone in front of them.

Red – chain lightning that deals increased damage the further away from the boss you are. Hits everyone in the raid.

Yellow – halves Yor’shaj’s ability cooldowns and his Shadow Bolt becomes AoE.

I’ve pretty much put those up in the order of most-to-least dangerous; purple should always die first, but then you’ll need to look at what other slimes you have. If you have Green, Black and Red, kill the green (as it forces you to spread out, while red and black force grouping up). Trust your raid leader and move fast to kill a slime – even healers can help killing them as there’ll be no other damage going out while they’re up.

I really like this fight – it’s incredibly dynamic, and can change massively depending on what combinations you get; in heroic mode, when the boss summons 4 slimes at once, it’s going to become even more so. Again, Feral has a good advantage here as we can reach the slime that’s been marked to die very quickly, and we can pop Stamp Roar to give everyone else a nice speed boost. Again, tanks and healers can go and kill the slimes too.

Hagara

This one’s pretty interesting, and requires good group co-ordination in phase 1 and phase 2.5 (there are 2 possible phase 2s); basically she starts hacking away at your tank, occasionally using a 5s channel called Focused Assault – if you’re tanking, you can run away from this as she’ll be rooted in place. She’ll also cause ice crystals to spawn around the room which will fire off Ice Lances at people – if your tank is targeted, run in between him and the crystal to start soaking the damage. After a period of time, she’ll either go into her Thunderstorm or Blizzard phases – in Blizzard, run to the edges of the room and move around while staying in front of the moving wall of ice (think of it like a Twilight Cutter from the Halion encounter, except you can always see these and they always hurt), while also killing the 4 ice nodes around the room; in Thunderstorm, have your tank bring the Lightning Elemental that spawns to the north (in 10m at least) to one of the Lightning Conductors – killing it will result in the Conductor powering up, and your raid will then need to position in such a way that you can chain the lightning from 1 conductor to the next. Upon either killing all the ice crystals, or powering up all the conductors, Hagara will be stunned for a while and then resume p1.

This fight’s pretty easy once you sort out dealing with Thunderstorm; I quite like the random phase 2, and using your raiders as little lightning nodes is innovative. Nothing too hard though, so long as your tank remembers to run away from FA. Also worth noting is that in every p1 after the first, she’ll trap 2 people in ice blocks akin to Sindragosa in ICC; just like on normal Sindy, group up on her so you can AoE the blocks and her down at the same time. As a Feral, you’re quick, so you can move between nodes quickly, and easily stay ahead of the Ice Walls.

Ultraxion

After the instance’s most annoying trash, you get to fight this guy. There’s a lot to deal with here, most of which focuses around the Heroic Will button that will appear in the middle of your screen. If it DOESN’T (some actionbar mods will block it, although I was fine with Bartender), then use the following macro:

/click ExtraActionButton1

Put that somewhere on your bars, you’ll need it frequently. Every time Ultraxion casts Hour of Twilight, click this button unless you are one of the designated soakers – tanks, Warriors with Shield Wall, Paladins with Divine Protection, Spriests, DKs with AMS and Rogues with CloS make excellent people to stay in soak damage, similar to Algalon’s Big Bang. The boss will also occasionally debuff the tank + a random other person with Fading Light, which will kill you if you are in the Twilight realm, so click this button when there are about 4 seconds left on the debuff to avoid it. This is your tank-swap mechanic, as it will also reset threat against the boss.

Healers will also need to watch out for the buffs that the Aspects will make available to them throughout the fight – your raid leader will probably designate who will take which. We used a Druid to take Alexstraza’s (+100% healing), a Shaman to take Ysera’s (direct heals are duplicated and distributed evenly amongst friendly targets) and a Paladin to take Kalecgos’s (-75% mana costs, +100% spell haste).

I love this fight while tanking – it’s absolutely frantic to tank swap, pop into Cat, DPS a bit, back into Bear to avoid Fading Light and taunt and so on. For our kill, we had our Warrior MT while I was taunting for Fading Light; something worth noting for Feral tanks is that if you’re NOT in Bear, you won’t get the Last Defender of Azeroth buff from Thrall (halves defensive cooldowns and doubles their duration) and you can be targeted by Fading Light – we had a couple of times when both tanks got hit by it as I was trying to throw out more DPS. While DPSing, however, it’s pretty boring – stand still and nuke, occasionally click Heroic Will, and spam Mangle.

Anyway, at present I quite like the instance, despite it being insanely easy – I don’t like being able to walk in and 1-shot the first 4 bosses and then 3-shot the 5th. If heroic content is a big step up, this will be a problem, where the barrier to entry for normal mode is so low that people get lulled into a false sense of security, walk into heroic and get their faces smeared across Dragonblight. That being said, I think the fights have a lot of potential – Yor’shaj and Ultraxion especially, and on heroic they’re going to be really interesting. I can’t give feedback on Blackhorn, Spine and Madness yet, as we were meant to raid last night (Thursday) and my monitor died, so we had to call the raid; back in on Sunday though (my birthday!) to hopefully go 8/8 ready for heroic-modes next reset.

This instance also feels, as Sunnier Bear mentioned in her recent blog post, like a last hurrah for Ferals – Morchok, Zon’oth and Yor’shaj are both single or or 1.5 tank fights, as the tank debuffs on Morchok and Yor’shaj aren’t a guaranteed application, so they can actually drop off before you’ll need to taunt; a hybrid Bear/Cat spec is really useful on these fights.

If you’ve any questions, you can reach me on Twitter (@Shredable) or in-game (Cantor <Omen> @ Emerald Dream EU)

Are resto druids OP? Discuss.

Tree of Life chilling in Twilight Highlands

I have been meaning to write something like this for a while to clarify certain things about druid healing, and the recent 4.3 changes have finally given me the extra little push I needed to finish it. Before I start, I have discussed this at times with various people over twitter, email and in-game, this is not intended as a dig at them or anything – the intention of this post is to explain to those who are not aware of why druids have such a high HPS at times relative to other healers. So this will not be a discussion of anyone’s nerfs, buffs or anything like that.

Rather than keep listing the different types of mitigation and such, I will use the term “mitigation” to refer to anything that reduces (or potentially reduces) the amount of a healing a target requires; be it through an absorb, damage reduction or whatever.

So then, onto the post proper.

Ever since we druids got some attention and had a buffed tranquilty and WG, got a shiny new mastery and so so on there have been cries from other healers and even some tanks/dps that druids are OP. This perceived OP’ness comes from the fact that we are often topping the meters on pure HPS when compared to similar geared healers fulfilling a similar role.  I have had all kinds of comments in game from various players suggesting that druids are obviously broken, they need nerfed and so on.

However, I do not think this is the case. The various abilities (either activated or passive), talented bonus etc that healers have fall into 2 categories – Raw Healing (heals for XXXXX, +XX% healing etc) or Mitigation (target takes XX% less damage, shield absorbs XX damage and son on). Abilities and bonus’s from both these groups range from the relatively weak to the rather powerful. Some of them are constantly active and are considered a “buff”, others are procs and others are activated for XXX with a CD of XX minutes/seconds.

Below is a list of all the abilities, talents, masteries and such for each that could be considered “mitigation” of once kind or another. The description for each is the standard in-game tooltip for the spell. The list includes only those mitigation abilities that can can be used on or affect players other than the caster.

Holy Paladin:

  • Aura Mastery: Causes your Concentration Aura to make all affected targets immune to Silence and Interrupt effects and improve the effect of Devotion Aura, Resistance Aura, and Retribution Aura by 100%. Lasts 6 sec.
  • Illuminated Healing: Your direct healing spells also place an absorb shield on your target for 12% of the amount healed lasting 15 sec. Each point of Mastery increases the absorb amount by an additional 1.50%.

Resto Shaman

  • Ancestral Healing: Reduces your target’s physical damage taken by 10% for 15 sec after receiving a critical effect from one of your healing spells.
  • Spirit Link Totem: Summons a Spirit Link Totem with 5 health at the feet of the caster. The totem reduces damage taken by all party and raid members within 10 yards by 10%. Every 1 sec, the health of all affected players is redistributed, such that each player ends up with the same percentage of their maximum health. Lasts 6 sec.

Holy and Disc Priests

  • Power Word – Shield: Draws on the soul of the friendly target to shield them, absorbing XXX damage. Lasts 15 sec. While the shield holds, spellcasting will not be interrupted by damage. Once shielded, the target cannot be shielded again for 15 sec.
  • Power Word – Barrier: (Disc only). Summons a holy barrier on the target location that reduces all damage done to friendly targets by 25%. While within the barrier, spellcasting will not be interrupted by damage. The barrier lasts for 10 sec.
  • Pain Suppression: (Disc only). Instantly reduces a friendly target’s threat by 5%, and reduces all damage they take by 40% for 8 sec.
  • Divine Aegis: (Disc only). Critical heals and all heals from Prayer of Healing create a protective shield on the target, absorbing 30% of the amount healed. Lasts 15 sec.
  • Inspiration: Reduces your target’s physical damage taken by 10% for 15 sec after getting a critical effect from your Flash Heal, Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal, Penance, Prayer of Mending, Prayer of Healing, or Circle of Healing spell.
  • Guardian Spirit: (Holy only). Calls upon a guardian spirit to watch over the friendly target. The spirit increases the healing received by the target by 40%, and also prevents the target from dying by sacrificing itself. This sacrifice terminates the effect but heals the target of 50% of their maximum health. Lasts 10 sec.

Resto Druid

  • erm……

As you can see, the entry for resto druid is blank. This is because we do not get a single ability, talent, bonus or whatnot that could be considered a mitigation spell. Every single one of our CDs, talents etc either is a buff solely for us (Tree of Life, Barkskin etc) or is simply based on direct throughput with no mitigation (Efflorescence, Tranquility, Swiftmend and so on).

This means that unfortunately a druid can bring nothing else to healing except a high throughput and raw HPS. Even our mastery is a direct HPS increase. Unlike priests, paladins and shaman, who between them can increase movement speed of targets, reduce incoming damage, absorb incoming damage and level out health pools, we cannot.

As we do not have any of these various forms of mitigation, we have to rely on our high HPS. We use an assortment of ST and AoE HoTs to keep the group alive, with a sprinkling of direct heals in there as well. Sometimes if the going gets tough we pop our various CDs to ensure that our output rises and sees us through the problem.

What all this means is that while a holy priest or resto shaman can effectively reduce their targets incoming damage, a holy paladin or disc priest can shield against some of it, a druid just has to accept the damage will happen and compensate accordingly with pre-hotting and then reactive healing to heal the full amount.

Now, I don’t want anyone to get the wrong end of the stick here, I do not have a problem with this style of healing as a druid. I love healing on Kat. However, as we cannot negate ANY of the incoming damage, or even help people avoid it (like with Leap of Faith or a Holy PW:S) it does mean we have to compensate with more powerful heals which it turn means our HPS may well be higher than a comparably geared/skilled priest, paladin or shaman.

All the various healing classes have to be balanced over different gear levels, encounters, raid healing, tank healing and a number of other factors. This makes balancing healers quite difficult and sometimes more difficult than balancing tanks or dps classes.

This isn’t to say that druids are certainly NOT overpowered – some aspects of druid have been a bit on the ridiculous side; take Wild Growth for one, as I have said before, that did need a bit of a reduction as it was just too good. However, on the whole druid’s are not especially over the top as we need the additional raw healing to compensate for lack of other things.

I am not crying out for other healers abilities and such – I am more than happy for the healers to remain as they are and for druids to stay without mitigation. Though if this does remain, then the players themselves need to be aware of why druids seem to be more powerful healers than the other classes.

I do not complain at other healers for being OP with their damage reduction, mitigation etc and I would simply ask that they extend me the same courtesy – please do not shout OP at me because I beat you healing done/hps despite your higher iLevel, just remember that raw output is all I have 🙂

Kat