Monday, December 15, 2008

Loken is toast!

I owed him. Last time I went to heroic Halls of Lightning the bastard made me look bad. But revenge, as they say, is a dish best savored cold.

Lets get a bit of background on this. As far as lore goes, Loken is one of the titans (i.e. creators of all the world) and leader of the Iron Dwarves in Northrend. At some point, he bacame disillusioned with the pantheon and was swayed by Yogg-Saron, one of the old gods. He is a big part of the troubles that have brewed in Storm Peaks and one of the reasons the earth giants there (Vanir, also known as Sons of Hodir) are at war with the Storm Giants (Aesir

In game terms, he is the last boss in Halls of Lightning, the higher level of the two five-man instances in Ulduar. He is also responsible for killing more players than any other boss, even those in Naxx - Patchwerk makes #6 on the list. So what does he do that makes him so lethal?

Well, a couple of things. Three actually:
  1. His first ability is called Lightning Arc. It is a stacking debuff that does damage to the target and has a chance to apply the debuff to any other characters within a short range.
  2. Then there is Pulsing Shockwave. This is a damage wave thatpulses every three seconds and does more and more damage the further one wanders from the boss.
  3. His last ability is his most lethal one: Lightning Nova. Every thirty seconds, he will start casting this spell. Once he is finished, everything within a 15 (or maybe 20?) yard range of him is generally annihilated.
So all these abilities combined mean you shouldn't stay close to him and yet you shouldn't get too far away from him either. Of his three abilities, Lightning Nova is easily the most devastating. Anyone caught in it will be lucky if they are left with anything more than a sliver of health and will need immediate, blow-every-cooldown healing to stay alive long enough to get back to where they are supposed to be because of the Pulsing Shockwave.

The strategy I have found works the best is this: ignore the Lightning Arc. That's right. Ignore it. Stack on top of each other. The other characters are your friends. The healer is your BEST friend! Most healers will be able to use multi-target heals (chain heal, circle of healing, wild growth) to keep everyone alive through the damage done by the Lightning Arc. While he channels Lightning Nova everyone needs to move TOGETHER in the same direction to get out of it. If one person goes in a different direction, they will likely die to the Pulsing Shockwave. Staying together accomplishes a couple of things. Everyone stays in range of multi-target heals and it minimizes the time spent in range of the Pulsing Shockwave since, upon finishing his casting, the boss runs to the tank just as the tank runs to him. Rinse and repeat until Loken bites the dust.

Other than encounters where sheer damage output absolutely crushes gear level (Lady Vashj, anyone?) this is, hands down, the most difficult encounter to heal that I have encoutnered in the game. I imagine it would be even more challenging for a healer that cannot heal on the run (the way tree druids can) like a restoration shaman or a holy paladin.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Restoration druid itemization

I'm not sure if I'm back yet. I was looking at some spreads in Wowhead trying to decide what items held the most value for me as a restoration druid as we progress through 10-man Naxxramas and stumbled across an oddity in the itemization for druids.

There seems to be an issue here: there are exactly 3 items at level 200 (item level that drops in 10-man Naxxramas) that do not have wasted stats on them for a resto druid. Only one of them is leather: the tier 7 helm that can be exchanged for the token that drops for Kel'thuzad. The other two are cloth (one priest-only).

What am I calling wasted stats? Haste, crit and hit rating are wasted stats, in my opinion. Haste and crit are not *truly* wasted since they do modify our stats, but their value is minimal when compared to mp5, spirit and spell power. And it seems that the vast majority of items, whether meant for dps casters or healers sports *either* spirit *or* mp5. Not both, except in the very rare occasions I mentioned. Instead, copious amounts of +haste, +crit and +hit are applied to items: in the same subset of items (ilvl 200 items) there are 19 that sport spell power, spirit and haste and 26 that have spell power spirit and critical strike rating.

This isn't a post whining about druid itemization. The point I am trying to make is that Blizzard obviously thinks we should be stacking something on our gear *other* than what I had thought we needed to be stacking. But what? What is our playstyle supposed to be? A session in Naxx last night showed me that we will be spending very little time outside the 5 second rule. And given that our spells cost more, there is no more chain potting, mana becomes an issue that it never was in BC.

Perhaps what we are supposed to do is separate our spirit from our mp5. There are 16 items that have spell power and mp5 without spirit (including a fair amount of duplication: 3 rings, 3 cloaks, 2 helmets and 2 chestpieces) but fewer than that are not more appropriate to other classes than healing druids and priests (and lets be realistic: no raid is going to look kindly upon looting an item with +hit (for example) to a healer when a dpser can use it, and for good reason).

There is a large number of items that have spirit and spell power so stacking spirit is not going to be a problem. But since we will be spending less time outside the 5 second rule, spirit becomes less important for mana regeneration (though still valuable for spell power since tree form adds a percentage of it to our healing power).

How do you guys see it? How should we look to gear ourselves as we get further into the raiding scene? This question is also valid for the other healing classes, though shamans and paladins probably have more choices available to them in mail and plate and I know +crit is a lot more valuable to them than to restoration druids. But I think the question is also valid for priests, since they also tended to stack more spirit on their gear pre-Wrath.