Category Archives: raiding

Post x-pack lulls: Cataclysm versus Wrath

A post on WoWinsider last night declared that raiding guild activity, in-game, is down 50% so far this year. The metric comes from GuildOx and I admit, the way it’s presented is a bit misleading. Activity, per GuildOx, is defined as new boss kills or achievements: farming runs don’t register. A guild stalled out at 4/8H doesn’t register since they’re not getting new kills or achievements.  While the metric is partially indicative of “activity”, it also shows that many guilds that are raiding have completed the level of progression that they’re going to reach. Those guild might still be doing farming runs or alt runs, but they’re not “advancing” since there’s nowhere to go.

Is this different from Wrath? I think, in part, yes. I know we were still working on a LK kill up until a few weeks before Cata’s release…and we finished DS weeks ago. My impression was also that more guilds were working on heroic modes or just finishing progression as we headed towards Cataclysm. Back in Wrath, I would constantly see raiding guilds looking for pick-up players or recruiting, and there was a high PUG raid activity on my server. I only see the occasionally “LFM DS” announcements now and most of the raiding groups I know have shut-down operations largely until MoP.  We haven’t really run DS in two weeks now due to lack of interest; we got our legendary daggers,  our mains are geared, and we’ve full cleared the raid multiple times now.  Not everyone is interested in heroic modes; which is fine by me!

The game feels so much emptier now than it did before Cataclysm. Up until a few weeks before Cata’s release, I was chaining dungeons on Anatevka to get her shadow gear and hoping to alt-hop into one of our ICC runs.  Ana’s been geared via LFR for a couple months now and has nothing to gain from valor points or dungeons outside of normal DS. I’m still having fun in-game, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been leveling a new priest and sporadically working on reps for Rhia. I’ve been working on some RP ideas to prepare for Mists. But I feel more -DONE- in the Cata content than I ever did in Wrath.

I’m not quite sure why that is, either. Are we really just that much better at the game that we’re burning through content faster or was there just that much less end-game content at 85?

So You Want to be a Resto Shaman

I get it. It’s all about the totems. I mean, they’re awesome. They provide useful things like healing or resistance or mana, and great ways to avoid having to use raid markers. Need to stack? “Go hug the totems!”  Also – lots of totems in one place = awesomeness.

Totem explosion from Around Azeroth WoW Insider column – click for source!

Alright, so maybe you have other reasons too.  I rolled my shaman because chain heal looks pretty. So maybe you like healing rain or the style of armor, or you like putting rocks around your tanks.

In any case, here we are and you’re going to be a resto shaman.  Tons of things are changing for us in Mists, so this first post won’t so much be a “do this” or “stack this stat” as much as a “here’s the deal with being a resto shaman.”

The bad news first:

You will have a perpetual inferiority complex.

This sorta goes hand-in-hand with one of our “good news” talking points (Jack of all trades healer). You need to get over right away that you’ll never be a disc priest with shields. You will never be a holy paladin with a beacon and holy radianceOMIGOSH. You do not have Tranquility or a chance to look like a tree. You will not be putting life-saving wings on tanks. Resto shaman have a few unique tricks, but we don’t have some of the “look at that!” bling that other classes get.  We’re getting some new things in Mists, but shaman aren’t balanced around having “omigosh she’s awesome” moments.

You will struggle with mana.

At max level, in a raiding environment or heroic environment, shaman have more mana struggles than almost any other class.  This is the number one complaint from new resto shamans. Your regen depends on keeping a water shield up, using mana tide proactively, and weaving in Telluric currents (which, by the way, means you won’t be healing during those casts). It gets better with gear, but pound for pound, the way a strong healing shaman keeps up those heals is to routinely dump chunks of their mana pool and then get it back. You just get used to the mana pool fight. I think I’ve almost trained my raid leader not to look at my mana pool as a judge for how healing is going. Oh? Spent all my mana during that black phase because we ponged the ball twenty gazillion times? No prob, just gonna lightning bolt for a bit!

You heal better when the group is struggling.

Our mastery works in such a way that we look the best when the raid or dungeon group is having a rough time. The lower everyone’s health, the more we heal for. My parses for wipes are often way better on the HPS metric than for actual kills…mostly because everyone was dying and my heals just kept getting better and better. This also means that as your group improves, you will start getting somewhat less juice from your mastery, as other classes will still be getting mileage out of theirs.

Your class has a bad rap going into Mists.

I hate to say it, but it’s true. There is more venom flung at the shaman healers on the healing forums than any other healing class (“dont play a shaman, they suck!” “LOL you heal??? Look at World of Logs!”) – and not just from other healers. Shaman hate themselves. See point #1.  It’s even in my list!! And the truth is, shaman were in a rough spot at the beginning of Cata and going into the  Firelands. If you’re rolling a healer to be loved and praised at every corner, pick at different class OR be the awesomest shamaning shaman ever. I picked the second, obviously.

The MUCH better news:

You can do pretty much anything**.

Shaman are the perfect example of the Jack of All Trades healer. You can swing between laying down heavy heals on the tank to heavy raid healing with little more than a blink of an eye. A good resto shaman is an asset to any healing team for this specific reason (screw Spirit Link Totem!): they can pick up the slack anywhere. I think one of the reason I’ve settled so well into my shaman and struggle going back to my other healers is that even at equivalent gear levels, they feel so much narrower.  Shaman will never be the best tank healers or the best raid healers, but that would be overpowered anyway.

Mana Tide makes you everyone’s best bud.

Okay, lots of shaman hate that mana tide became a reason for bleeding edge raid groups to keep bringing us back in T11 when we were struggling (prior to a few buffs). In reality, however, other than Hymn of Hope (which requires a channel), we are currently the only healing class with a mana cooldown that can help everyone. On our first Madness kill, I saw the healers heading into the Kalecgos platform with low mana all around. I happily announced, “Dropping mana tide!” (Okay, I might have sounded a little bit too happy) and watched everyone’s bars go up. That’s a good feeling.

You are the Tricksy Healer.

Shaman healers have high utility and a bunch of little tricks that make us…well…us. Back in Tier 11, I used to get a few extra heals off before Valiona used her breath attack and then popped Ghost Wolf to get out of the way before dying. I think I once kited the beams on Atramedes. In ICC, Earth Shield and my ability to kite with totems let me off-tank the weekly quest boss. Did you know that Spirit Link Totem’s healing effect ignores healing absorbs or mortality debuffs? And even though it has a 6 second CD now, you can also back-up interrupt on various attacks.

Oh, and two forms of CC.  Pretty cool, huh?  No matter the changes coming in Mists, shaman will continue to be the healing class with the highest group utility and ability to do stupid stuff.

You get one Get Out of Jail Free card.

We all make mistakes. Oops, stood in the bad! Oops, didn’t hit my button on Ultraxion! Oops, oops, oops!

Other healers – you get to stare at the ground for the rest of the fight (or your 0% health bar on the raid frames) unless you get a b-rez.

Shaman? *self rez and throw off the chains of death*  MWAHAHAHA!

This has caused much hilarity for me. One specific example: We were working on Blackhorn fight in Dragon Soul and had a bit of an oops with people getting to the Twilight Assault in time. I ended up soaking one all by my lonesome and died. My rogue buddy over vent: “Oh, no, a healer’s down — OH, it’s just Rhia.”  He sounded so relieved.  Me: “Thanks for making me feeling so special.”

So, who wants to roll a shaman now? Everyone, right?

Are Shaman Whiners?

I was going to post something about some of the (awesome) shaman changes in MoP – particularly that cool watery chain heal glyph – or maybe some of my adventures in mastering D3.

Instead, I pose that perennial question:

“Are Shaman players whiners?”

Are we constantly accusing Blizzard of “nerfing” our class or saying that we’re the red-headed stepchildren of WoW? Is our DPS just not as good as it should be (in our minds) or our Healing just not as oomphy? Read the rest of this entry

Getting into Raid Healing

It’s not a complete week at the official forums if there isn’t someone popping by the healing forums and posting the obligatory: “I want to heal raids – am I ready? How do I start?” – and usually not in such an intelligible manner! To be honest, this is probably the ideal time to get your healing feet wet, so to speak. Dragon Soul is very accessible for fresh healers between the recent nerfs and the easy access to gear via the Twilight Heroics and Raid Finder. I’d also venture to say that its boss mechanics are largely more forgiving from a healing standpoint and ramp up in difficulty at an even keel, not some of the wacky stuff you saw in Tier 11. (Except Spine. I will always hate Spine.)

As someone who has been raid healing since Burning Crusade (not counting my alt priest in Vanilla), I sometimes forget that getting into raid healing as a complete newbie is often daunting. Back in Burning Crusade, we used to take the new healers through Karazhan and I’d coach them. It wasn’t nearly as demanding as the 25-man content and let completely fresh healers get a feel for how their style of healing would change in a raid environment. Read the rest of this entry

Graduating to Dragon Soul

This weekend, I took my first healer alt through Dragon Soul — my holy paladin, Gilberte (Gilly).

Gilberte is one of my two healing alts…of my two alts; I also have Anatevka, a holy/disc/shadow priest.  Anatevka is probably the better geared of the two; she has full LFR tier, 397 vendor pieces, and LFR Spine trinkets and DW weapons for BOTH healing and shadow. I also have the most experience priesting and definitely have a comfort zone there – whether I’m going as holy (omigosh all the buttons) or disc or even shadow.  Ana has also typically been my raiding alt, while Gilly trailed along far behind her on my preference list.

And yet, I’ve not really wanted to bring Ana into Dragon Soul as a healer. I’d love to bring her as a dps, but  (1) I prefer healing and (2) I prefer healing.  Shadow is a fun distraction, but I get bored after awhile.  DPS is boring. I know other healers who agree with me!  As far as not wanting to heal on Ana — I’m a little tired of priest healing after spending the past few months exclusively in LFR on her. It’s funny; I never get tired of shaman’ing, but I tend to get bored with other healing classes easily. Read the rest of this entry

I am a Bad Healer

At least that’s what some other healers in LFR have told me. Oh, no, it wasn’t because I did no healing. Quite the opposite, actually.

I’ve been accused of “heal sniping.”

“Stealing our heals.”

“Taking both crystals” on Ultraxion.**

Etc, etc.

And all those things are true. (**Okay, to be fair, with the Ultraxion one, I did WAIT 30 seconds after each set of crystals dropped to see if others were going to take them. NO ONE moved from the stack or clicked on the crystals – except for the blue.) Read the rest of this entry

Making the Decision

My RIFT account runs out May 28, 2012. I still haven’t decided yet whether I’ll bother keeping the subscription active, particularly in anticipation of Mists and Guild Wars 2’s release.

A part of me says “Oh, well, it’s just 10-12 bucks a month. Not a big deal. You spend that much on sodas and stuff at work!” Another part of me says, “But why spend money on something you don’t play? At least you drink those sodas and eat those snacks!” Read the rest of this entry

Windows on the World (Shared Topic)

My brain is completely frazzled and fried from work this week, so just to get the cells going again, I’m going to tackle this week’s shared topic from Blog Azeroth! For those unfamiliar, Blog Azeroth is a community for WoW (and occasionally other MMO) bloggers, and they publish weekly “post ideas” to kick start your blogging.

This week’s topic is all about UI’s.

Our UIs are the windows into Azeroth—so what kind of window are you looking through?

A cluttered one? I’m very much not a UI tweaker, but I’m usually a healer so I need to have a lot of information at my fingertips. There’s the usual boss mods “alerts” section, the 10 (or 25) health bars, the section where I have a spot for Death Note/Recount to keep track of what’s going on, but that’s about it.

Rhianon’s UI set-up in ye olde LFR. Boss mod alerts go up in the right hand side of the screen above the health bars.

I pretty much use the default UI. The only mods I have installed currently are Deadly Boss Mods, Recount, DeathNote, WeakAuras, and Clique (for bindings).  I keep on meaning to reinstall my RP mods, but by the time I’m home and get the chance to play, I usually feel like I would rather login than download mods.

I have a bunch of toolbars (bottom and side) showing. I use raid frames for both party and raid, and have them sized so I can see everything I need to see. I once used alot of UI mods and while it definitely made my screen look alot neater, I was also prone to breaking things. Sticking to the default means that there’s alot less I can accidentally screw up.

I think the thing that strikes alot of people about my UI is not only how crowded it is and how unmodified  it is, but also the fact that I don’t have any healing spells on my toolbars (other than Healing Rain, res, and Unleash Elements). I’ve bound everything to keys/mouse buttons, so I don’t actually put the spells on my toolbar.  I think it cuts down on the clutter, but there’s definitely a learning curve to that, particularly when I’m switching between healers.  I try to keep everything “roughly” the same (big heal on one combo, small heal on another, penance/circle of healing/holy shock/chain heal on the same key, for example), but I usually need to spend 30 seconds reviewing my bindings if I haven’t played a class recently.

It was actually really interesting going into the beta and not having my standard bindings available — and I couldn’t make macros either since the macro screen kept crashing me. So, I went back to ye olde standard with all my healing spells on the toolbar and clicking on the individual party members, then the spell. The funniest part of that was not that I wasn’t used to using that set-up  (that’s how I roll in Rift, so I’m totally comfortable with it, even in a raiding environment), but that I didn’t KNOW any of my healing spell icons! I had to think “Okay, that’s healing wave’s icon…that’s chain heal…” and it easily took me the first 10 minutes of the dungeon to get used to seeing the icons.

My buttons are also really mixed up since I don’t really play off my toolbar much, so it’s like “storage” for all the random things I might need. I think my priest still has the Oculus mount command on her toolbar!

Emerald Essence?!? Oculus? Really? That’s STILL on there! Also my bindings set up for Disc, which is fewer than my bindings set up for holy (OMIGOSH ALL THE BUTTONS).

So, my UI is pretty much like everything else in my life — cluttered, mixed up, but I know where everything is!


How to be a Great Healer

Over the past week or so, both Aunaka Heals and World of Matticus have been posing that great age-old question: can a great healer be taught? What makes a great healer? (And alternatively, what’s the great healer 101 I can put my new healers/alts through?)

A good healer is a healer who is, well, perfectly fine. Their output is great. They don’t let their assignments die and they stay on top of mechanics. They know the stat priorities of their class, they’ve read the forums, or barring all of that, they at least know which spells to cast to keep their heals good and their mana up. They’re awesome assets to a raid group and good team players.

A great healer has all the qualities of a good healer, but beyond that, they have that added “je ne sais quoi.” Like good healers, they know their spells, their stats and they stay on top of their assignments – but when push comes to shove, they’re able to throw all of those “rules” out of the window, make their own decisions, and, to quote Tim Gunn, make it work.

Matticus calls this a great healer’s “killer instinct.”

makeitwork

Tim Gunn says, “Make it work!!”

I don’t think any amount of instruction or mentoring can turn a good healer into a great healer. Training is fabulous for transforming an okay healer or weak healer into a good healer, but not so good at informing drive or “make-it-work-ness” (so not a word). Good healers become great healers (sometimes, but not always): they aren’t taught, they evolve.

Evolve? How?

It’s those pugs at 1 AM where the tank pulls the boss plus two trash packs and the thought of a wipe (and therefore a longer time in this group) makes you ill, so you pull out every trick in the book to keep the group alive. It’s being thrown into a raid WAY over your head just after you hit max level and wanting so badly not to fail completely that you do whatever you can to keep your assignments alive.  It’s seeing your other tanks drop dead one by one, only one tank up who’s eating the Melt Armor debuff and tanking an angry fire bird, and gosh darnit, you’re not going to wipe for the tenth time in a row!

Or more recently – you’re down to the last tendon on Spine, everyone’s scraping the bottom of their mana pools thanks to several bad tendon phases, and the tendon doesn’t die so you have to do the hideous amalgamation phase all over again. And you look at the other healers, they look back, and everyone’s thinking, “OMIGOSH, do we have anything left?! How are we going to get through this??”

Make it work.

Cataclysm Retrospective

Back at the end of Wrath, Life in Group 5 and Totem Forest did a fabulous retrospective. Now that we’re approaching the end of Cataclysm, I thought I would take that and tweak it a bit as a way to look back at this expansion pack.

Healing In General

1. What encounter really showcased your [class’s] healing potential?

Chimaeron in Blackwing Descent.

Back when shaman were largely considered back-seat healers to the much more competitive paladins and priests, even the elitest of the elite agreed that this gimmicky fight was tailor-made for the resto shaman toolbox.  And it wasn’t just our mastery that made us kings here, it was the combination of mastery, our perfectly-sized small and fast yet efficient heals (riptide+riptide-buffed healing waves), Earth Living’s HOT, and our heavy burst potential on collapse phases. Oh, and the fact that Spirit Link Totem’s healing effect isn’t really considered healing so a carefully dropped totem can “heal” a tank with the mortality debuff.

In two tiers of early/mid Cata content that made me feel like I was pushing a square-shaped shaman boulder up a hill, Chimaeron was a relief.

2. What was the most challenging fight for you and/or your guild?

Ragnaros.

Although I took a mini-break during Firelands and missed our Fandral kill, once we were progressing through FL, we had some speed bumps but nothing like Ragnaros. Our difficulties with the fight were probably a combination of raid composition and just playing style, but we eventually put him on the back-burner until we were ready to finish the Legendary. And even then, in Dragon Soul gear, it wasn’t easy for us!

3. What was one talent that your class underestimated in Cata beta which turned out to be amazing?

Healing Rain.

I admit, I never thought much of the talent back when Cata was still in beta. It seemed great for some spot AOE, but nothing amazing.

I take that back now. Healing Rain is amazing. A-maze-ing.

4. Were there any changes to the class during Cata that really improved your functionality as a healer?

Can I say ‘actually getting a healing cool-down’? From Wrath to Cata, shaman didn’t have any really major functional changes but the addition of Spirit Link Totem during Cata definitely changed the game for most resto shaman.

On an actual functionality standpoint, Unleash Elements rather effectively plays the role of warning me that I don’t have Earthliving buff up.  Even us old-school BC shaman forget sometimes! We were about 40% of the way through NM Zon’ozz a few weeks ago when I “unleashed” and saw ye olde “There is no active enchantment to unleash”.  I laughed, but I think the raid leader rolled his eyes a bit!

5. What is one thing you personally struggled with as a healer?

The first 2/3rds of Cataclysm really tried my patience as a resto shaman healer. Let me rephrase that:  it tried my patience as a competitive shaman healer — not competitive as in wanting to beat up other healers, but in that I like to perform at my top potential.

As I said in Question 1, I felt like I was pushing a square-shaped shaman boulder up a steep incline. There was the general community backlash against shaman healers (thanks to the very public discussion from Paragon about how shamans and resto shamans in particular weren’t worthy of cutting edge raid slots) and then there was the actual CONTENT  that forced 10 man resto shamans to work twice as hard for the same results as other healers.

I may have been a diehard shaman supporter in forums and blog comments, saying “bring the player, not the class”…

“But the rest of us? We don’t run with the best of the best players. Our guildies may be very good, but there are also average to mediocre players in the raid groups. This minimizes the impact that our class mechanics have on our ability to produce in most casual to mid-core raiding environments. An excellent resto shaman is still a valuable asset to a raiding team, particularly if they know how to play up their strengths and play down their weaknesses. My raw healing output is not always #1 and sometimes it’s near the bottom – but I also am the one who has the fast reflexes to throw out a clutch heal when it’s needed. That makes me, as a player and even as a resto shaman, valuable.” – from my comment on a post on Totem Forest

But the reality was that it was extremely disheartening to me. Dumping my entire mana pool and fighting to get regen from Telluric Currents just to help keep the raid alive on spread-out fights (Omnitron, I’m looking at you) was not my idea of fun.  Being told by pug groups that “shamans suck, reroll” was not fun.  Probably only other shaman who played through the raid content on a progression level can understand the frustration that made many of us more competitive players reconsider our class choice.

My voice of frustration from early Cata days:

“I’m really sick and tired of hearing [shaman do consistently 10-20% less healing than the other healing classes]. What the heck am I supposed to do with that? Reroll or delete the character and class that I LOVE playing? Cry? Beg Blizzard to fix it?”

-source

Whew. If anything, I think Cata taught me more patience with myself and that I don’t always have to be “the best” to have fun. And for good old, competitive “I have to be valedictorian or I suck” me, that’s probably a GOOD lesson.

6. Name one thing about the class that you know now that you would have liked to have known when you originally rolled your toon.

That apparently shaman have a thing for wearing bones, chains and spikes. Where’s my pretty armor?!

7. When was your latest “Ah-ha!” resto moment? What sparked it?

As a 10-man shaman, I never really had much opportunity in raids to abuse riptide HOT buffing chain heal. You know, us 10 man shamans don’t chain heal nearly as often as the 25-mans!  (When I’m chaining and it’s not a heavy stack phase where every GCD is consumed by HR or CH, it’s probably because I’m feeling lazy or it’s trash and therefore not important.)

So I sorta ignored this functionality — until Mists beta. Since chain heal no longer consumes riptide in Mists, I spent some time specifically chaining off of targets with riptide.  I was definitely starting to see why all those 25-man shaman swore on chaining off of riptide targets!

Since my LIVE chain heal still consumes riptide, I probably won’t be using it much until Mists, but it’s nice to gain appreciation for a little-used spell functionality.

8. What’s one spell/talent from another healing class that you’d like to poach, if you could?

Rebirth. Combat rez. I would love to have one! Or a throughput CD like Archangel or Divine Favor/Avenging Wrath.

Shaman-Specific

1. Do you think Spirit-Link Totem filled the gap as our answer to a healing cooldown? Why or why not?

I am a big big fan of Spirit Link Totem. It is all good, in my book. You can treat Spirit Link like an ordinary damage reduction cooldown and then you can make it magical.  We use Spirit Link as one of our Elementium Bolt CD’s on Kalecgos’ platform (Madness) and if I time the drop of the totem perfectly so it’s down for the hit and 5 seconds or so afterwards, it can do amazing amazing things in keeping people alive at the brink of death.  It is the one CD that can instantly do 10% of your healing for an encounter, if you know how to drop it. I love it.

2. INSTANT Ghost wolf indoors: only for baddies who have issues getting out of fire?

Instant ghost wolf is useful. It means I can spend an extra second healing, precariously near the brink of death (ice walls, Valiona breath) and still get out alive.

Also, you can kite stuff.

3. Armor sets – opinion?

I really hate our armor this expansion. As I said, if I had known shaman armor was all about animal skulls, chains and other creepy things, I might have reconsidered! Rhia is completely NOT into that kind of thing, you know.

Priests, paladins. I’m jealous.

4. At the start of Cata, Blizzard said that shaman were a great example of what they wanted healing to be like .They liked our toolbox and our level of healing. How do you think this played out in Cataclysm?

Shaman have always been the versatile healing class, and I think that’s what Blizzard liked. We are the jacks of all trades, master of none. A shaman can pick up the tank healing or do heavy AOE raid healing without much sweat. Can we tank heal as well as a paladin or disc priest? Nope. Can we raid heal as well as ah holy priest or druid? Nope. We can, however, do either job as required of us, and so a resto shaman is a powerful healer in a team environment.

So, Cata began with Blizzard trying to give  “missing” tools to other healers — AOE to paladins, single target strength to holy priests, etc — and ended up with some very lopsided results.

5. Far Sight: did you forget you had this in your spellbook?

I just remembered last week when I was pvping!

6. When players think Shaman they immediately think of Chain Heal; do you think this association with a single defining heal has impacted shaman?

Man, I got so sick of people joking “shaman just cast chain heal and top the meters” in Wrath!  I think the good thing about Cataclysm was that people could see that we do so much more, especially if you’re a 10 man shaman, since chain heal was very weak for T11 and T12.

I also think that the shaman who couldn’t get away from chain heal as their staple spell really suffered as far as strength and versatility in Cata.

7. How have shaman changed in terms of PVP performance, from the beginning to the end of Cata?

Don’t pvp much, but my understanding is that shamans are powerful in PVP and even moreso once they added Spirit Link Totem (which cheats).

8. To compensate for Shamans’ lack of spread AOE healing capabilities, what sort of proactive healing strategies/techniques have you found most helpful?

High regen and abuse of telluric currents to support long-term riptide/GHW/HW twisting.

It’s as simple as that, really. To spread heal at the same level as a priest or druid, a shaman must be able to dump their whole mana pool with Riptide/HW and Riptide/GHW twists…and then get it back at the same time by weaving lightning bolts in between casts.

I think the major technique I would tell any aspiring 10-man shaman is that you can’t be afraid of OOM’ing. Shamans are a class that’s all about throwing the whole kitchen sink at a problem. Totems, unleash elements, nature’s swiftness. GHW. Riptide.

And sometimes your whole mana pool.

That’s why you talented Telluric Currents, isn’t it?