Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gear Reset and Whining.

I know I haven't posted in a long time, but I feel like I have to weigh in on something that bothers me. Patch 3.2 is going live today. Along with that, all the instances that dropped Emblems of Heroism or Valor will begin dropping Emblems of Conquest. Also, bosses in the new Crusader's Colliseum various raid dungeons will begin dropping a new type of emblem, the Emblem of Triumph. Emblems of heroism and valor will be going away, though the vendors selling items for these tokens will remain since you can still exchange higher level tokens for lower level ones on a one-to-one basis (Conquest-->Valor-->Heroism).

This change introduces a miniature gear reset for players that have not been able to raid thus far in Wrath, or for those whose raids did not appreciably advance in lower level dungeons, since they will be able to collect emblems of conquest from things as simple as Heroic 5-man dungeons and turn them in for ilvl 226 epic gear (equal to items that drop in 25-man Ulduar) which was, up until today, the best gear in the game. This will allow characters to gear up relatively painlessly and experience much of the new content that Blizzard is introducing.

When this feature was first announced a few weeks ago, the forums were inundated with posts from angry raiders that ranted about how their achievements were now worth nothing since now nubs would be able to have equivalent gear to them.

Here's a little personal disclaimer: I describe myself as a raider and an altaholic. That is the bulk of what I do in the game. I have seen every boss in the game and defeated all but a few of them (have never killed C'thun or Kil'Jaeden). I enjoy raiding. I enjoy the camaraderie of it, the challenge, the organizational aspects as well as the coordination and fine tuning that goes with defeating the hardest PvE content the developers have come up with.

However, I do not share the opinion of these other raiders. In fact, as a raider, I resent being associated with it. I simply do not understand the concept of whining because someone else is getting something more easily than you did. The fact that an alt or a new 80 can gear up in tier 8.5 equivalent gear without stepping a foot in Ulduar does absolutely NOTHING to diminish the accomplishment of slaying Yogg Saron or General Vezaxx. A player who facerolled his way to 80 isn't magically going to find the ability to raid just because he is wearing some new and shiny gear. Someone who didn't have the time to dedicate to raiding before isn't going to suddenly find time in his schedule to raid.

I think it is awesome for characters to be able to see all the content in the game. I think it is great that players will get a sense of accomplishment and progression for their character, playing at the level they are comfortable playing at. It's not about us. We should be happy that other people will get to experience the the parts of the game that we most enjoyed. But no! Because of this very vocal minority (I sincerely hope it's a minority), raiders are described as whiny, elitists who will not share their toys. Here's a tip boys and girls: just because someone else has a shiny red wagon doesn't mean yours is any less shiny than it was!

Someone please explain this mentality to me because I just don't get it!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I've been away for a while.
In that time I've made a transatlantic flight, spent time with my family (on both sides of the Pond), worked a fair bit and played WoW. LOTS of WoW. My DK is now 71 and my warrior is 74. I am still raiding with probably the most amazing group of people on the server (Feathermoon-US, for those of you that didn't know) and enjoying the hell out of it. Our latest masochistic experiment is Firefighter, also known as Mimiron Hard Mode.
We have been seriously working on it for two weeks totalling about six hours in the little midget's room. We've made various tweaks to our strategy, the most significant being at the beginning of yesterday's attempts when our raid leaders decided that it would improve our chances of beating the enrage timer to roll with two healers instead of three.
So I put on my kitty gear and proceeded to fill the spot of last DPS. I was happy with my numbers at the end of the night but not so much with my performance. I died a couple of times to avoidable damage, stood in too much fire in phase 2 and overtaxed the healers. I think Ritavu put it best when he said:
The good news is that we seem to have a winning formula that we have to execute. The bad news is that it seems like the threshhold for attention and focus is so high that it's just unsustainable over any extended period of time.
And he's right. Two-and-a-half hours after starting on Mimiron, we decided that we needed a break and went to take down Thorim normal mode. The arena group wiped. We were all so mentally exhausted that we made silly mistakes. Trism (our paladin healer in the arena) got too much arena mob attention and died. I took too long to rebirth him and he never caught back up with the damage being doled around. Keep in mind that this is a fight we have had on farm status for more than two months. Next we attempted a Hodir speed kill since we still have an elemental shaman that is lusting after the shield in his frozen cache. We tried three times. Each time someone different died. On the last attempt, I popped berserk, stood in Starlight and got the storm cloud buff all at about the same time. I got aggro and died. I blame being tired but I really should have been a lot more careful.
We learned enough though that I think we will certainly get Mimiron next week. And there will be much rejoicing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hunter problems

In the spirit of helping out Taura and posting all the Hunter help posts, I have been levelling Loeria (my own hunter) and managed to hit 79 yesterday in Icecrown. I have been having issues though. My main problems have been managing my mana and managing my pet.

I burn through it so fast, I have to drink every pull and sometimes even pop Aspect of the Viper in the middle - and lets not even talk about boss fights. How are hunters supposed to manage their mana and still generate respectable DPS? Maybe things are different at endgame...

The other major problem I have is managing my pet. Following my own advice, I went out and got myself a wolf. And he is great: does a ton of dps, buffs myself and my group (no raids on Loeria yet), and even occasionally takes a bullet for me. But in a group situation, I have trouble using him effectively. Does anyone have any advice in this respect? Are there any macros you use that maximize pet dps uptime? How do you keep him alive? I find that Nighteyes (my wolf) spends more time dead in dungeons than anything else.

Any help is welcome. Thanks,


EDIT (June 29th): I have been playing and raiding with Loeria a fair bit and her gear has improved markedly as well as my skill with her. Mana seems much less of an issue in raids with a replenishment buff going and I have become a lot better with practice at keeping Nighteyes alive. So, I think the moral of this story is "stick with it: practice makes perfect."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mana regeneration and healing post 3.1

The great mana regeneration nerf of 3.1 was supposed to make mana conservation an issue again. I haven't really seen that though. The only changes I have made to my healing is weaving Nourish into the mix and letting my lifeblooms bloom and I finish Ulduar boss fights with 75% or more mana. Apparently, I am not the only one that has noticed it. Yesterday, Ghostcrawler said:

To be honest, despite all of the nerfs, mana regeneration still doesn't seem to be an issue for healers in Ulduar. You can often still afford to cast your largest heals and not care about overhealing because the risk of people dying feels like a far greater risk than running out of mana.

We're not sure that will lead to us making any additional nerfs at this time (and Replenishment would probably be the target if we needed to.) So far we're really happy with how the various fights in Ulduar feel. There are very intense moments (like Frozen Blows) but there are breaks as well (in between Mimiron phases for example). Many of the fights are dynamic -- you heal in one fashion at times (say MT healing) and then another fashion at other times (say raid healing during add moment or big AE spells). There aren't too many times where you're just spamming your spells every cooldown or GCD, and when it happens it's not necessarily for too long.

That said, we think we can still make healing more interesting. :)

Honestly, I think he is right. They can make healing more interesting. But isn't it stressful enough as it is? We are using every GCD available to us and people are still dying. Miss a taunt on Auriaya and your tank gets insta-gibbed, no matter how many HoTs he has ticking on him. Tympanic Tantrum ties my guts up in knots! And don't even get me started on Mimiron!

Another thing I have noticed in 3.1 is how much less significant HoTs have become. Or at least, that's how it feels to me. Our HoTs have always been overwritten to a certain extent, but they don't hardly tick any more. Things may be slightly different when we manage to get a 4-piece T8, I suppose and have that little extra buffer to play with.

Has anyone else noticed this, or am I imagining things?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hunters 101 - part IV: Haste and beyond

In previous installments, we've talked about threat, hit, crit and attack power as well as pointing to some threads on pet selection. Today we are going to look at Haste and how to fit all the information in the other sections together.


At its very basic, haste increases attack speed. However, as with most things, it is not nearly as simple as that. There are abilities and talents that increase your attaack speed by a certain percentage and haste rating, found on certain gear, which also increases attack speed.

Abilities like Auto Shot and Rapid Fire and talents such as Improved Aspect of the Hawk and Serpent's Swiftness provide an increase to the speed of your ranged attacks. The precentages provided by these abilities and talents are multiplicative, not additive. For example, a hunter using auto shot has a 15% increase in his ranged attack speed (115%). If he is using rapid fire and has proc'd 5/5 improved aspect of the hawk and has 5/5 in serpent's swiftness, his ranged attack speed is increased by 222.18% (115*140*115*120). This increase applies to the hunter's auto shot but does not modify casting times or the global cooldown at all.

Haste rating stacks additively with itself (i.e. if you have 35 haste rating on a helm, 65 on a weapon, 40 from a food buff and 35 from an elixir you have a total of 175 haste rating) and is then converted to a percentage that stacks multiplicatively with any other haste percentages as I described above. The important thing to remember here is that at level 80:

32.79 haste rating provides a 1% increase in attack speed.

Haste rating has a couple of advantages over flat haste percentages. Firstly, it modifies melee attack speed as well as casting speed by the same percentage, so the cast time on Steady Shot goes down and secondly and most importantly, it progressively decreases the global cooldown from the normal 1.5 seconds to a minimum of 1 second (you would need 1639 haste rating to reduce the global cooldown to 1 second. This is actually unachievable with currently available gear.)

So what does this mean to beastmaster hunters? Unfortunately, not much. While talents that improve haste are very nice and convenient (a full 30-45% of personal BM dps comes from auto shot) haste rating is the least important of all gear modifiers.

When choosing which gear to wear, a beastmaster hunter should look at the following stats in this order:

1. Hit Rating (up to 263 or 8%)

2. Attack Power considering that 2 AP is equivalent to 1 agility

3. Agility

4. Intellect

5.Critical Strike Rating

6. Stamina

7. Armor Penetration Rating and, lastly

8. Haste Rating

In the next installment, we'll be talking about specs, glyphs and shot rotations. Still to come: controlling your pet and more.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hunters 101 - part III: pet selection

This is more of an impromptu post. Pet selection is not something I planned on tackling this early in the series, but Jessica Klein over at WoW Insider made a brilliant, concise and accurate post regarding pet selection for raiding so I decided to link to it from here as a part of this series.

During her post she refers to a dps spreadsheet made by Shandara over at Elitist Jerks. I will be talking about how to use this spreadsheet and others like it at some point in the future. They are an a amazing tool to help maximize dps.

For now, though, enjoy Lyssana's excellent post on hunter pet selection.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Druids: cat form DPS

Since we started raiding Ulduar a couple of weeks ago, we have come across some problems. Not in the usual places, like healing and tanking, but in the more unusual arena of DPS. We were failing miserably on several DPS check fights (like Razorscale and Deconstructor), hitting hard enrages without being close to killing them. To address this problem, our raid leader recently made a general request of the guild to start forum threads covering DPS in its various forms with rotations, builds and other tips to begin educating our members and aleviating the problem. We are, after all, a casual guild that happens to raid, not anything close to a hardcore guild. That being said, we do have several members that know their classes very very well and are capable of providing guidance for the rest of us.

I decided to take the plunge and write what I knew about druids DPSing in cat form. Here is the result of that effort:

I don't pretend to be an expert at this, but I am getting more and more familiar with the inner workings and theorycrafting of druid dps in cat form as time goes on.

First lets talk about resources: everyone in this series of posts has mentioned Elitist Jerks and I need to give it a nod also. It is, hands down, the best, most in-depth forum for mechanics of any class out there. The only drawback it has is that it may be TOO complicated. The amount of theorycrafting and mathematically intense calculating on the various threads can scare away (with good reason) the more casual player. For those who feel that much of the information at Elitist Jerks is over their heads, there are a number of more approachable druid blogs that handle various aspects of druiding (TM). For cat dps, the foremost blog, in my opinion, is Karthis' Of Teeth and Claws. He speaks very candidly and clearly about the how to get the most out of your cat in many different situations. Due to the nature blogging, finding the answer to the exact question you have may require a little digging, but in most cases, the answers are there. Unfortunately, a few of his latest posts seem to indicate a degree of burnout, so the position of leading cat blogger may soon be vacated.

DPS as a cat is not what it used to be. We now have to juggle a lot of different abilities and are limited only by our energy regeneration. We can't just mangle-spam and expect to do well on the damage meters. And lets face it: when we are dpsing (unlike healing or tanking) our position on the meters is almost all that matters.

The abilities that we will be using to dps are: Mangle, Rake and Shred to generate combo points, Savage Roar, Rip and Ferocious Bite to use them up and Tiger's Fury to generate precious energy. The basic idea of dps as a cat is to get Savage Roar up and KEEP it up while keeping bleeds, dots and debuffs up as much as possible. While Mangle is not truly desirable for its dps potential, it *is* desirable for the debuff that it applies. If we have a feral druid tanking or another cat druid in the raid attacking the same targets, we may talk ahead of time to see whose responsibility it will be to keep Mangle applied to the targets. In the case of a beartank, they will want to be the one mangling because of the threat it is capable of generating. If there is only a second cat (and no beartank), then generally the one with lesser damage potential should be refreshing mangle.

Use Rake early and allow it to go almost its full duration before reapplying. The up front damage is low compared to the bleed aspect of this ability so we want to maximize energy usage by allowing it to go on as long as possible. As soon as the fight begins use Savage Roar as soon as possible, even if it only with a single combo point. That flat 30% increase in damage is too valuable to wait for 5 points. After that, Shred to 5 combo points, then Savage Roar again to get the 33 sec duration up. Keep using Shred, only stopping to reapply Rake or Mangle as necessary then Rip at 5 combo points. Keep juggling these abilites. If (i.e. when) you run out of energy, use Tiger's Fury to instantly regenerate 60 energy and keep going. If you reach 5 combo points and Rip still has a long time left (8 sec or more) and you don't need to reapply Savage Roar use Ferocious Bite instead. Unless you have the glyph of shred (which I don't yet) this should not occur very often at all.

All this requires carefully watching 1. Debuffs on the boss. 2. Buffs on you and 3. Energy reserves. There are a number of mods to help with this DOTimers is a mod originally developed for warlocks but works really well for cat druids. It shows the debuffs on the boss with countdowns showing how close they are to expiring. I think there is a way to make it show your own buffs as well, but haven't figured it out yet, so I am constantly looking at my own buff timers to see how long I have left on Savage Roar.

Use Berserk every time it is up. Use Berserk every time it is up. Use Berserk every time it is up. Use Berserk every time it is up. Use Berserk every time it is up.

In conclusion:

With beartank: Rake-->Savage Roar-->Shred-->Shred-->Tiger's fury-->Shred to 5 combo points-->Savage Roar-->Rake-->Shred to 5 cp-->Rip, refresh Rake, Savage Roar and Rip as necessary.

Without another mangler: Mangle-->Savage Roar-->Rake-->Shred-->Tiger's Fury-->Shred to 5cp-->Savage Roar-->Shred-->Rake-->Shred to 5cp-->Rip. Refresh Rake, Savage Roar and Rip as necessary.

Oh, and watch your threat...

Tell me what you all think.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Finding a new identity

That's what it feels like. I am still a druid. I am still a restoration druid. But I don't have a feel for how to play any more. I feel like a fumbling, bumbling idiot...

My usual Sunday/Monday 10-man group went to Ulduar yesterday. I used Rejuventation as my go-to heal while stacking all different HoTs on the tanks. Then using Nourish to keep them at max health. Pretty standard stuff. But looking at the WWS reports after the raid, I saw that my HPS took a massive hit from pre-3.1 numbers. And it's not all about Lifebloom. I just can't put my finger on what the problem is.

I was responsible for rooting the adds during the Ignis fight so I missed a lot of heals while we learned that fight. But I felt like my HoTs tick too slowly to make a difference and my direct heals were very sad by comparison to either our shaman or our paladin and I don't think either are geared as well as I am.

I wish I knew what I was doing wrong. I think of myself as relatively skilled and knowledgeable about the game and especially about my class. Last night was rather sobering. Perhaps I'm not as good as I thought I was and I was just coasting on an overpowered healing class.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hunters 101 - part II: hit, crit and AP

In the last installment I covered the concept of threat and tools a hunter can use to manage it. It is impossible to understate the importance of understanding and properly responding to threat issues that arise while in a raid.

In this installment, I am going to talk about some more concrete numbers that affect hunters, their pets and their raids.


The base chance to miss while striking a mob is 5% for 2-handed and ranged weapons and 24% for dual wielded melee weapons. This assumes that you and the mob are of equal level and that you have the maximum allowable weapon skill for your level (400 at level 80). For a boss level mob (the ones with the little skull where their level should be, technically level 83) that chance goes up to 8% for ranged and 2-handed weapons and 27% for dual-wielded weapons. That means that during a boss fight, a full 8% or more than one twelfth of your shots will miss. That is a lot of lost damage, time and mana.

There are two major ways to mitigate this. The first is through talents. Most classes, including hunters, have talents that increase their chance to hit with weapons or abilities or some or all of their spells. For hunters, Focused Aim is a three point talent in the first tier of the marksmanship tree. When maxed out, it increases the hunter's chance to hit with all weapons, shots, skills and abilities by 3%. That cuts down the miss chance on bosses by more than a third and can significantly increase your DPS.

The second way to mitigate the base miss chance is by stacking +hit rating on your gear. Hit rating is not the same as hit percentage though the two are directly related. At level 80, every 32.79 hit rating you have on your gear will increase your overall chance to hit by 1%. Since our goal should be to not miss at all, we need to have a total of 263 hit rating to mitigate all 8% of the miss chance on bosses. If we use this in conjunction with three points in Focused Aim we only need a total hit rating of 164 to never miss.

But what about Fluffy? A hunter's pet doesn't wear any gear. Since a good portion of a hunter's DPS comes from his pet, it behooves the hunter to make sure that his pet does not miss much either. Fortunately, a hunter's pet gets a portion of the stats from his master's gear: the more stamina the hunter has, the hardier the pet, the more attack power, the harder he hits. Pets also get 100% of the hit percentage of the hunter, with a couple of caveats: it is always rounded down. So if you have stacked your hit rating and managed to get your hit percentage up to 7.97%, Fluffy's hit percentage is 7%. So she still has a full 1% miss chance, even though yours is only 0.03%. Here is another caveat: your pet ONLY gets your hit rating. Talents like Focused Aim do not translate to your pet and there are no talents in the beast mastery tree or in any of the pet talent trees that increase your pets chance to hit, so your only recourse (if you want Fluffy to hit that boss every single time) is to stack hit rating up to the magical 263 mark.

The term "hit cap" is bandied about a fair bit. If you have read and understood everything in this post so far, you already know what it is. The hit cap varies depending on what talents they have and what other buffs they are receiving from their race and their raids (draenei have an aura that increases hit chance by 1%, shamans have totems that increase hit chance, etc). At it's most basic, the hit cap is the amount of hit rating after which it is wasted. I.e. if you have 280 hit rating on your gear, 17 points of that offer you absolutely nothing. So while it is important to get your hit as close as possible to the hit cap, it is actually detrimental to exceed it by too much since you are forsaking other stats that may help you in other ways.


Every time you make a physical attack with either a melee or ranged weapon there is a base chance of 5% that it will result in a critical strike, commonly referred to as a "crit". Crits deal double physical damage.

So crits are a good thing, right? You betcha! We all love seeing those massive numbers scroll across our screens. Four things affect the chance we have to get a critical strike. First is the difference between the attack rating of the attacker and the defense rating of the defender. For PvE, this isn't very complicated: your weapon skill is probably 400 and, if the defender is also level 80, his defense is also 400. So it cancels out. Of course, boss level mobs are considered level 83, so their defense is 415. When attacking a boss, your crit chance will be lower by 0.2% per point of difference or 3%.

The second thing that affects critical strike chance is agility. This one is pretty straight forward: as a hunter, for every 83.3 points of agility you have, you increase your chance to crit by 1%.

Next we have critical strike rating. At level 80, every 45.91 critical strike rating increases your chance to crit by 1%.

Lastly, talents. There are a slew of talents that increase your pets or your own chance to critically hit. Lethal shots, Ferocity, Master Marksman and others increase your overall chance to crit. Equally importantly, there are talents that proc (proc is an abbreviation that harkens back to the MUD days that refers to a weapon or item activating with the "Chance on Hit" or "Chance on Use" effect) from crits. For example, Cobra Strikes increase your pet's damage in response to your own crits.

When considering all these options together you can see how important critical strikes are as a part of your DPS arsenal. So what is more important? +crit or +hit? That question is a little more tricky. You cannot stack +hit ad infinitum without crippling yourself. On the other hand, if you focus exclusively on +crit, you will be missing so much, your DPS will suffer considerably. My suggestion would be to gear up to 164 hit rating and put 3/3 in Focused Aim. As you become better geared, keep increasing your hit rating to 263, and gradually remove the points from Focused Aim, moving them to Lethal shots.


Your base dps (before haste or crits or special attacks) comes from your base weapon damage, its speed and your attack power. Every 14 points of attack power increase your dps by 1. Most special attacks like arcane shot, serpent sting and others are modified by your attack power. So the higher your attack power, the higher damage your shots and other special attacks do.

Unlike hit and crit, there is no maximum your attack power can reach and no diminishing returns from increasing it. Other than pure attack power modifiers on gear, your ranged attack power is modified by your agility (1 agility = 1 attack power). There are also a number of abilities and talents that increase attack power: Hunter's mark and careful aim for example.

In the next installment, I will cover Haste and probably delve into some of the nuances of shot rotations.

As always, please leave me a note if you found this post interesting or helpful and especially if you find anything inaccurate and/or blatantly wrong. I try to be as informed as possible, but hunters are not my forte and I have been known to make mistakes.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hunters 101 - part I: Threat

I am going to use these first installments to talk about concepts and statistics that affect hunters: threat, attack power, hit rating and percentage, crit rating and percentage, agility, haste, etc. These are numbers and concepts that may seem somewhat nebulous to a hunter that has gone through the leveling process, simply questing away, shooting mobs without worrying about how much damage he/she is doing and what affects it.

First of all, something that is probably more familiar to hunters than to other classes, and likely the most important concept of all to anyone who intends to do any kind of raiding: Threat. Every mob (any computer-controlled attackable monster, creature or NPC) in the game has what is termed a "threat list" or "aggro list". On this list is anyone that the mob is negatively disposed towards: the hunter and his pet, their group, the entire raid, the random healer that walked by and healed you while you were fighting, etc. Whoever is at the top of that list is the one the mob attacks. Behind the scenes, there is an absolute threat number associated with everyone on the threat list, i.e. George the hunter has 1000 threat, while Snuggles, his pet bear has 1300 threat, therefore the mob is attacking Snuggles.

Pretty much everything anyone does affects that number by a certain amount: damage done to the mob increases it by the amount of the damage, damage done to the mob's allies increases it by a smaller amount; healing (NOT overhealing) increases by half the amount healed; buffing someone on the threat list increases threat by an amount dependent on the buff. Certain classes have threat-generating attacks: for example warriors have heroic strike and druid beartanks have maul, which generate more threat than the damage they do would normally indicate; other classes have ways of reducing their threat: every hunter knows what happens when they feign death. Some classes have an innate increased threat (warriors have a +30% threat built into defensive stance, for example and paladins increase threat generated by holy damage by 90% with Righteous Fury) while others have an innate decreased threat (rogues only generate 80% of their damage as threat). Certain abilities, only possessed by tanking classes: Death Knights, Druids, Paladins and Warriors, enable them to force a mob to attack them, regardless of current threat. These abilities, normally called "taunt" - after the warrior ability - instantly bring up the threat of the tank to whatever the mob was attacking at the time it was taunted. It is important to note that hunter pets' growl does NOT work this way. Growl instantly applies a large amount of threat to the mob but does not force the mob to attack the pet. There is an ability that tenacity pets have called taunt, but it has a 3 minute cooldown and is not nearly as useful as the PC tanking family of abilities. It is also important to note that many mobs in raid and 5-man dungeons including most bosses are immune to taunt-like abilities.

So beyond all these complicated threat mechanics the most important numbers to remember are: 110% for melee and 130% for ranged. What do these mean? Well, if you are in melee range of a mob (the way a hunter's pet or a rogue usually is), it will switch aggro (i.e. stop beating on it's current target and switch to you) when your threat reaches or exceeds 110% of the threat of it's current target. If you are at range from the mob (i.e. NOT in melee range, as most hunters will usually be) you have a little more leeway: you have to reach 130% of the threat of the mob's current target in order to pull aggro.

So what can a hunter do to manage their threat? Well, first of all, you need to know who has aggro (i.e. who is holding the mob's attention) at any given moment. Within the default UI (user interface), there is an option to show the target of your target. Under the Combat section of the Interface options, click on the "show target of target" option and from the drop down menu, select "always". This will put a small frame underneath the frame of your target showing whom it is targeting at any given moment. That gives you an immediate indication when the tank loses aggro, which still happens from time to time, but is much less of an issue now than during BC or vanilla WoW.

Another thing that you could do is install a third party addon threat meter. The threat meter of choice these days is called Omen. Upon downloading and installing it in your Addon directory, you will have a bar-chart on your screen showing relative threat for the mob you are targeting (or the one your target is targeting, if you are targeting a friendly toon like your pet). Most raids and even most 5-man groups these days will expect you to have some sort of threat meter installed.

So how do we put all this together? Well, a good rule for all kinds of raiding and group activities and even soloing in WoW is to be aware of your surroundings. Know who has aggro on what. Is that what is supposed to be happening? Do you need to use your pet creatively to pull that extra mob off your healer? Do you need to wipe your own threat by using feign death? Make sure you lay out your key bindings to give you quick access to feign death, misdirection and other abilities such as your pet's growl. One of your most powerful tools for managing threat (your own and your raid's) is misdirection. You can use this to increase your tank's threat when the your raid's DPS is creeping upwards on the threat meter, you can use it to pull a wayward mob running through the raid onto it's proper tank, you can use it to jump start an encounter and pull to a tank, giving the rest of the DPS a buffer while the mob or boss is being properly positioned. If you are creative, it can save your raid multiple times. With only a 30 second cooldown it is the "go-to" threat management tool.

I think that about covers the concept and management of Threat. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please put them in the comments so I can address them in the main post if necessary.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Another WotLK landmark...

...but probably our last till 3.1.

Yesterday evening, a with a raid only 21-strong at raid time, we struggled for two hours but persevered. With 23 people (two more raiders had trickled in as the evening wore on) we managed, for the first time, to best Sartharion, Tenebron and Vesperon together. Finally, after weeks of frustration, we had managed the Twilight Duo achievement.

There was a fair bit of confusion when Vesperon went down, leading to the death of the MT and three healers. We were left with two healers (I was not one of them) and a DK drake tank that was quick-thinking enough to taunt Sartharion before he breathed all over the raid.

It was very frustrating to lay there and watch while half the raid (11 toons) took down an enraged dragon along with all the blazes that spawned, all the while dodging flame waves managing to stay alive. Hats off to Hyce, the surviving DK tank, and Daeloan and Ceta who where the two surviving healers.


I love my guild.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Some Hunter Love

As many of you know, my wife Taura plays a hunter. She just recently hit 80 and has been itching to come to our raids. She's been to a Sarth kill with no drakes up and the other day she went with us on a heroic Naxx run. She doesn't know the fights, but that's not a huge problem since we sit in the same room and I can give her instructions as we go. Overall, it was a pretty poor Naxx run. We had several undergeared raiders with us in addition to Taura and had some avoidable wipes (Gluth was especially problematic).

After the raid, Taura asked me what she could do to get better. Part of the problem was that she is a BM hunter with a level 75 pet. That will of course change. There are several other problems that I could see: a distinct lack of +hit on her gear, a preponderance of her damage coming from Auto Shot and things like that. I pointed her to a couple of sites like Elitist Jerks and The Hunter's Mark since I still play a hunter on a pretty superficial level and BRK is no longer with us.

She read for a bit and then got frustrated at how much of the nomenclature she lacked and how much of the underlying workings of the class she was ignorant of. She told me that while she loves to play the game, reading all the math and the theorycrafting is boring to her.

So I have resolved to help her. I am going to educate myself in the ways of the hunter and write a few posts that will help Taura (and other hunters with similar issues) to get better at huntering without wading through the amazing breadth of information that is out there. I am going to talk to some of my guildies and see if I can get some of them to write some guest posts for me.

Also, if someone has anything that would be helpful, please put it in the comments and I will try to incorporate it into the posts as I go.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Honest Scrap

I've been tagged. Syll over at rollinghots.com has seen fit to honor me with this prestigious award. Here are the rules:

1. When accepting this auspicious award, you must write a post bragging about it, including the name of the misguided soul who thinks you deserve such acclaim, and link back to the said person so everyone knows she/he is real.

2. Choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. Or improvise by including bloggers who have no idea who you are because you don’t have seven friends. Show the seven random victims’ names and links and leave a harassing comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog. Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon.

3. List at least ten (10) honest things about yourself. Then pass it on!

So here goes: I'd like to thank the academy, Blizzard (I refuse to use the Activision part of their name... oh wait... I just did... d'oh!) for coming out with an exceptionally awesome blog-worthy timesink, my amazing guild: Mythos(H) of Feathermoon US for making me want to get online and socialize each and every night of the week, whether we have a raid scheduled or not. Especially though to my wife, Taura for all her support and understanding of my little habit. And of course, to all the thousands and thousands of you (ok... to both of you) who come to this little corner of the Internet just to read my ramblings. It started just from a need to put my thoughts about the game onto paper and thought the weblog was the perfect medium for that. Who knew at the time that it would lead to such an amazing honor as this?

Blogs I find brilliant in design or content... I wish I could throw the honor back at Syll but that's not how the thing works, so here I go:

1. WoW Insider and their great co-lead blogger... excuse me... senior editor Mike Schramm. Technically a blog, but really more of a news and opinion site pertaining to WoW, this is a one-stop-shop for all things WoW.

2. Teeth and claws is a great feral druid blog that I have been following to get better at using kitty form to its greatest deadly potential.

3. The big bear butt and it's author John Patricelli is another amazing druid blog that has shown me that the greatest use of one's face is to absorb damage.

Man... I have entered this game late and everyone I want to tag has already been tagged by others!

4 through 7. As a last notation, I want to acknowledge two people whose contributions have shaped the WoW blogging community into what it is today: Phaelia and Big Red Kitty. These two need no introduction and nothing I could say would do them justice anyway. Unfortunately, both are retired from WoW blogging at the moment and I doubt we will get a response from either of them about this award.

Things about myself:

10. I have way too many alts. All my Feathermoon slots are full and I have started working on other servers.

9. I plan vacations and business trips around my tabletop D&D game (among other things)

8. I am a science geek, as well as a sci-fi/fantasy geek. I hold a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and I actually exersize it trying to cure cancer.

7. I am not American. I am Greek (Cypriot), but have lived in the US since December 28th, 1995.

6. I once got so drunk on Mezcal that I was drunk (not hung over. That came later and, oh boy, was it unpleasant) for two full days.

5. American (U.S.) politics annoy the crap out of me.

4. I levelled my main toon, Runningelk, 1-60 as restoration because I had no clue what else was possible. Then I raided as feral, levelled to 70 as feral, raided Kara as feral, went resto for 25-mans, leveled to 80 as feral and resumed my resto role again. I have spent way too much money on respecs, though not as much as some.

3. My WoW habit has killed my baseball habit. I hardly even follow the box scores any more.

2. My wife and I fell in love over Star Wars quotes in a bar. True story...

1. The light of my life is my daughter, Persephone, affectionately dubbed "Crawling Elk" by my guildmates.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tunnel Vision

Contrary to what some dpsers or tanks may think, healing is not easy. Most of the healing classes have several tools at their disposal to help them heal effectively. Syll, over at rollinghots.com recently wrote and excellent series of blog posts summarizing the healing tools and healing styles available to holy priests, discipline priests, restoration shaman and holy paladins. Those posts talk about how different we are. This post is going to touch on one of the major problems I have while healing. From my conversations with other healers, druids and otherwise, I gather that it is a more or less common issue for all of us. Tunnel vision. When you are locked into healing, you focus on a small part of your UI: the health bars of the raid, 5-man heroic group whatever. As time goes on, my field of vision grows smaller and smaller until all I can see are those little green (woe be upon us if they start turning orange or red) bars. This is all well and good in fights like patchwerk where movement is unnecessary. But there are bosses in the game that punish us for that.

For example, Sartharion with one or more drakes up harkens back to the more traditional "don't stand in stuff" raiding mentality. There is so much going on: void zones, flame waves, whelps, blazes. And each one requires a different action from the healers.

We were doing Sarth+2D a couple of weeks ago. I kept dying. Mostly it was only peripherally my fault: I had to catch up with a tank who was avoiding a falme wave so I ran through said wave or I had too many whelps on me because I didn't stand close enough to the tank's Death and Decay when they spawned; things like that. A handful of times though I died (and consequently wiped the raid - there is VERY little room for error Sarth+2D or +3D) because of stupid errors: I stood in a void zone, I was hit by a flame wave, I even wandered into Sartharion's breath weapon once. All that because of tunnel vision.

Since then, I have tweaked my UI to offer me a more focused view of the important parts of the raid area. My healing bars have moved closer to the center of the screen, my keybindings for things like barkskin and bear form have moved closer to where my left hand normally lies on the keyboard.

Last night we did Sarth+2D again. I did much better. We are still not quite there. Our healing is not quite enough to cope with an enraged Sartharion AND a drake up AND whelps AND blazes. Even with Ritavu and myself both cross-healing on both tanks, it was still not enough.

So what are the strategies some of the rest of you use to minimize the effects of tunnel vision? I can use all the help I can get...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

For the Horde!

I am not into PvP. It's just not the kind of content that appeals to me in the game. That's not to say that I have anything against it. Far from it. I appreciate the effort and especially the skill that goes into it as well as the the enjoyment that can be gained from it when it is done well and successfully.

So when my guild started setting up a super secret raid deep into alliance territory a couple of weeks ago, I thought "meh...". I didn't even think I would participate. As time went on and excitement mounted both on the guild forums and on officer chat (we use officer chat for any non-RP related conversations as /guild is a strictly in-character channel) I kinda had a change of heart. These are my guildies, my friends. There is no reason not to stand by them and help them out to achieve a common goal.

I spoke to Hyce, the mind behind all this and the leader of the raid, trying to find what would be the best way I could help. I would heal the raid, of course, but was there anything more I could do? Everyone in the guild, including Hyce, knows about my psychosis with alts. So he asked me to take my warlock (Nosima, who is still only level 70) into Stormwind and park her in a super secret location close to the King.

On Thursday night, I took Nosima to Westfall, swam up the coast and into Stormwind harbor. There were no players in evidence and the guards were only 65 non-elites. So I was OK. I swam up to one of the ramps on the South end of the pier and walked up. As soon as her feet were dry I mounted her up onto her dreadsteed and rode like the hounds of hell were after her. I managed to get her to the deeprun tram unscathed and parked her there, since I didn't know where Hyce's super secret Stormwind location was at the time. On Sunday night, after our scheduled OS and Malygos 25 and Malygos 10 runs, Hyce gave me coordinates to the super secret location (which I have sworn on a stack of Bibles, Qur'ans and other holy texts never to divulge) so I did some corpse jumping to get to it. I was, of course, easy prey to any level 80 alliance who saw me in Stormwind as well as to the level 75 elite guards that patrol around. The run across Elwynn Forest back to stormwind as a ghost is so long it almost elicits physical pain. But I made it. Three times. Throw in a soulstone resurrection and that makes four deaths.

Fast forward to Monday night. We headed to Ironforge first. Hyce asked for (and got) complete silence on vent. He was the only one we could hear and his instructions were followed. Not surprisingly, there was a summoning team already in situ at Ironforge (as there was in Stormwind). Within moments, the entire 40-man raid was there. We buffed, huddled in a corner, and then ran through town towards the King. AoEs took care of the guards and the Magni was dead within a minute after we got there. I think a grand total of seven alliance players tried to make a show of defense. All they got for their trouble was a run back from the graveyard. A portal got us to Orgrimmar seconds after the King was dead.

At this point, Hyce called for a 5 minute break before calling the continuation of the raid into Stormwind. I didn't understand the decision, given that the only thing it would do was give the alliance an opportunity to muster a defense. They had to know we were coming. It was interesting to watch the chat in /trade as we returned. People seemed excited that the Horde had made an uncommon move. Others bandied about the name "Mythos" (our guild) and yet others talked about a reprisal force of alliance mustering in the Valley of Spirits led by Mixler (a gnome mage of some repute in PvP circles on Feathermoon).

Eventually, Hyce called for Operation Stormwind so I switched over to Nosima. I managed to get a summoning stone up and the two other alts and I that were there managed to summon a few raiders before we were discovered and wiped out by a greater force of alliance that showed up. Thankfully, Nosima was in the process of logging out when they were hit so she managed to get out with just a sliver of health left.

We immediately turned around and were summoned to Auberdine, while planning to hit the Exodar. We JUST missed the boat, so in a snap decision, Hyce decided that Darnassus was the next target. We jumped off the ship before it reached the pier and didn't stop riding until we were inside the temple engaged with Tyrande. The Alliance defended a little more vigorously than they had before and we lost a shaman who got a bit overzealous and ran out of line of sight of his healers (way to go Oopsie!). Strangely enough the defenders allowed him to self-rez and run back into the fight. Tyrande lasted a little longer than Magni had and ultimately perished to a superior force.

Once we were back in Orgrimmar, without even waiting for a breath, Hyce ordered us back into Stormwind. I logged onto Nosima and took the time to bandage her up from the 220 health she was left with before summoning the demonic TV to bring everyone there. This time, we managed to get a sizeable force into the room before the Alliance scouts found us. Again, a number of overzealous (but very capable) alliance-killers (including Oopsie again) drifted forward and actually managed to aggro Varian Wrynn. Ever on the ball, Hyce managed to grab away the King and fight him in a corner while the most of the rest of the raid burned down alliance. We were still not all there. I think the last raider reached the room only seconds before Wrynn bit the dust. Still, this was the most resistance we had seen and Mixler was among the fallen.

Compared to Stormwind, the Exodar was almost a joke. Like in Ironforge, I think we saw a grand total of five or eight alliance that put up a token resistance, but nothing that seriously inconvenienced us.

Now, we proudly ride our black bears through Dalaran and I bet most of us have kept the letter from Thrall denoting our achievement. The experience wasn't truly PvP, I guess. It was more an exercise in stealth and subterfuge as well as a logistical manuever trying to get as many people into an enemy-infested area undetected. I had a lot of fun doing it (and strutting about later on my sparkly new black bear) but mostly I was glad I had spent time with my friends and accomplished something with them. In the end, I think that is the real reason I play the game: to socialize and share experiences with my friends.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Living Seed: Should I spec into it?

Given the changes coming in patch 3.1 and the increase in the value of critical heals for restoration druids, I thought it might be time to talk about this little talent buried deep down in the restoration tree.

As you can see, it takes 35 talent points in the restoration tree to open up the possibility of putting any points into Living Seed. That's a fairly sizable investment of points and indicates a dedication of the character to healing virtually full time. So, like so many others on this blog, this is a post dedicated to restoration druids.

In the last few weeks, I have read a couple of druid bloggers that have mentioned it and debated its merits and flaws. One supported it and one decided it was not worth their time. Unfortunately, I don't remember where I found those opinions. If someone can point me back to them, please let me know as I would really like to link to them in this post.

What follows is a rough analysis of how I feel about Living Seed. During an average raid of Naxxramas, Living Seed generally accounts for between 0.7% and 1.4% of my total healing done.

The stats above came from our latest foray into the Dread Citadel and include all the boss fights for the plague, construct and death knight wings. As you can see, Living seed is responsible for almost exactly 1% of the healing I did on that fight. This much is obvious to the casual observer.

Another thing that is important to note is how low overhealing is for Living Seed. Only 6% of the total healing by it was lost to overhealing. This is important because the heal is actually triggered by damage. So, if it is ticking on a character and they take damage, some (or all) of that damage is immediately restored.

Digging down into the numbers, we can see that it came into play twenty-six times and healed for an average of 1,879 with a maximum of 2,839. The interesting thing comes when comparing that to the number of crits that I had over the same time span. Regrowth crit 58 times for an average of 7,402 while Swiftmend crit 3 times for an average of 11,268. Nourish never crit and I didn't use Healing Touch.

Wait a minute... I crit sixty-one times on heals that qualify for Living Seed and only saw twenty six instances of Living Seed actually healing someone? Yes. And it makes sense if we think about it for a moment. The buff gained by the target when one of our healing spells crits on them lasts only fifteen seconds. If they do not take any damage in those fifteen seconds, the buff fades and the potential healing is lost. Still, only 42% of potential healing happened. Is this good? Well, your mileage may vary. On the particular run we are discussing, I was mostly assigned to raid healing. A druid principally assigned to heal tanks would have a much higher percentage of their crits converted into efficacious Seeds.

Another thing to notice is that the size of the Living Seed heals does not seem to jive with the size of the crits. An average Swiftmend of 11,268 would account for a Living Seed of 3,380. But the data shows that the largest heal I got from a living seed is 2,839. Why is that? It's not overhealing. That would have been reported as such. Well, one of the hidden aspects of the talent is that Living Seed only gets 30% of the amount of the heal that lands and nothing to account for overhealing. Frankly, I think this is unfair, as many crit heals are going to be partially overhealing anyway.

And then I noticed a little note, hidden deep inside the 3.1 patch notes:

So, this problem will no longer rear its ugly head once patch 3.1 goes live. Good!

What does all this mean to us restoration druids? I can't answer that. It depends on individual playstyles and individual conceptions of druid healing. Here is what it tells me: Living Seed is currently a marginal choice for three talent points. When patch 3.1 goes live, it will become slightly stronger, slightly more useful, especially to tank healers, a little less so to raid healers. Crititcal strike rating is still not going to be something that a restoration druid will want to stack, just an incidental marginal benefit from the gear that we choose to get our mainstays: spirit, spell power and mana per 5. Averna had an exceptional post on her blog comparing haste to crit and their value to resto druids. You can find that here.

So what do you all think? Is Living Seed worth it? Why? Why not?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Blog Aesthetics

I have spent a long time in the last few weeks looking over other blogs and taking in a lot of the information that they have to offer. There are some amazing blogs out there that have managed to balance great information with an amusing tone that keeps me coming back.

One thing is consistent though: all the best blogs look great! They all have their own unique flavor and flair that caters to their subject matter, but they are all very pleasing to look at. I'd like to give my little corner of the Internet a face-lift to try to catch up to some of that, but I have no idea where to start. I don't want to start messing with HTML and coding of the templates that I am using, since I don't know the first thing about that, and easy customization options are kinda limited (i.e. not infinite) on blogspot.

So I don't even know where to start. Does anyone have any ideas?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The great Lifebloom nerf of 3.1

Please take this post with a grain of salt. I think I may be overanalyzing things that may or may not translate into the live realms.

So what are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to heal? Tell us Blizz! Every time we think we have it figured out you turn us on our noses and tell us we are doing it wrong.

Single stacks of Lifebloom were a PvP tool. The one that made the resto druid the most feared creature in pre-wrath arenas. No matter what you did, that bloom was going to heal your target and there was nothing you could do about it, short of bursting him/her down or switching to another target.

Triple stacks were the purview of tree druids in PvE. Stack them on the tank and keep them rolling. Do not let them bloom. Do not collect $200. It provided a good amount of HPS (healing per second) and an amazing amount of HPM (healing per mana) giving us both throughput and efficiency. when WotLK hit and we all levelled our healers to 80, we found that higher ranks of lifebloom were not quite as efficient, but still provided both benefits they had enjoyed before. Coupled with a newly useful Regrowth and a recently nerfed, but still useful Wild Growth we learned to respond to burst damage and group damage in raids as well as only bufferring against it.

Enter the great lifebloom nerf of 3.1, stage left. Suddenly, our most efficient heal becomes our least efficient one. Suddenly, the dreaded bloom - the very thing we conditioned ourselves to avoid at all costs - becomes another tool in an already complex arsenal of healing tools. Suddenly, lifebloom in PvP gains a new life and becomes three times more powerful, at the significant cost of its efficiency.

So, I ask again: how are we supposed to heal? Obviously, the Blizzard game developers have something in mind for the druid. But what is it? We are no longer the rolling tank healer that we used to be. The 6-second cooldown on Wild Growth suggests we aren't supposed to be a full-time AoE raid healer. Rejuvenation ticks way too slowly to be an effective response to damage with any kind of burst potential, but can be used, in conjunction with other HoTs as the buffer it has always been thought of. Unglyphed Healing Touch is too slow and too expensive to use continuously and Nourish without a 4-pice Tier 7 set bonus is mediocre both in throughput and efficiency, as Phaele showed in her excellent breakdown a few months ago.

The answer, I think, lies in a combination of all the spells we currently have access to. Will we be the powerhouses of old? No, probably not. We can, if we so choose, continue to roll lifeblooms on tanks, but will face the prospect of spending the second half of any boss fight staring at an empty mana bar. No. Stacking lifebloom will no longer be the answer. Throw single lifebloom stacks around in the raid in a sort of fire-and-forget manner may be more forgiving since their ultimate blooms (whether they heal or overheal) will restore a portion of our mana.

I think the ultimate winners from this nerf will be restoration druids that heavily favor PvP. Their healing is going to see a jump in an arena where efficiency, though still important, takes a back seat to throughput. For the rest of us, Lifebloom in conjunction with a newly crit-friendly Nourish and Rejuvenation, as well as the occasional Regrowth, will characterize our new reactive style of healing and contrast sharply with the proactive approach we were always known for. Time will tell.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Great run through Naxx last night!

This post is just a shoutout to the great group of raiders in the 10-man Naxx I fill in for on occasion. They brought Doomdark along last night and I was fortunate enough to pick up five pieces of gear, including three T7 pieces. WoWWebStats tells us that Doomdark came in last on DPS, just above the tanks, but that was expected. I at least did better than the last time I was there, averaging around 1850dps. Next time will be even better. I think I am going to tweak his build a little bit.

A complete clear of Naxx in just under 3 hours, is a nice achievement. Almost had the Undying too. Had 2 deaths up to Sapphiron, but the bone dragon only had three people up when he died.

So a GREAT BIG thank you to Hyce, Depaul, Sisterlily, Solaerl, Ritavu, Tahkoda, Hodegue, Teimhnean and Daeloan.