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)

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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

20 days of WoW Blogging – Your workplace/desk

Well for once, this 20 days thing is quite easy – neither of my workstations is particularly impressive or anything exciting.

I am quite lucky in that I have two WoW bases to play from – my own at home and my workstation at work where I get to do dailies, level, write blog stuff etc during my lunch break.

Work Desk

So, the work desk is pretty boring tbh, white wall, white desk, black keyboard and black mouse ^^ Only interesting bit is the artwork to the left of the monitor – another drawing from my youngest, this time a family of dragons. She likes dragons. REALLY likes dragons.

Home desk

This is actually not that much of a desk, space is so tight that my monitor and keyboard actually have to sit on top of my bedside chest of drawers along with my lamp (even the speakers are built into the monitor).

The keyboard is a snazzy little MS Sidewinder, it helps conserve space by having a removable keypad.

The printed table above the keyboard is my keybinds for all my vuhdo settings – a 5 button mouse (and using shift and alt) and 5 different healing specs mean there is a lot to remember, and sometimes I find it hard to remember the binds for some lesser used specs (Kairae’s disc spec for example).

The shelf above contains my “easy reading” collection – WoW novels (normal and graphic), Scott Pilgrim books and various other things like that, as well as my other much needed WoW related papperwork (boss notes, my tier gear ticky list and so on), and of course Maneki Neko for luck with boss drops 😀

So, I am afraid they are nothing too exciting really, just a couple of pretty normal boring desks.

Kat