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 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.