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Comments on Cata

Posted by penuruloki on February 16, 2011

It’s over 2 months in, so it’s time to comment on Cataclysm. I haven’t leveled all my alts, but I think I’ve gotten enough of an impression to put my feelings into words.

I’m not thrilled. I’ve been feeling disappointed in the changes since 4.0.1 went live in October. The one caveat was that it was balanced for 85, not 80, so we were told to judge it at 85. I’m not any happier at 85, really. The numbers and balance is different, but the core issues haven’t changed.

Details

Cata is essentially a failure in low-level design. The basic goals were simple and elegant:

  1. 1)Boost survivability in pvp to combat burst.
  2. 2)Nerf aoe and buff trash mobs to bring Crowd Control back to pve.
  3. 3)Boost tank Effective Heath, lower tank avoidance, make high-thoroughput healing more costly to place more emphasis in healing on mana management instead of dealing with damage bursts

They have, in fact, largely accomplished these goals. The problem is that so many details came out so clunky, the game often ends up becoming frustrating than fun.

Tanking

I didn’t get a beta invite, so I didn’t know what was brewing before 4.0 launched. Knowing that CC was coming back, I turned first to see how the game handled my biggest issues with CC in TBC: tanking around CC’d mobs without breaking CC.

Even running the aoe-friendly Tankadin, I always marked for CC if it was available. It reduced healer mana use, and it gave the dps something to do while I pulled, positioned and build aggro. Tankadins were unusual in TBC for their reliance on reactive damage. Losing aggro not only meant using your (long CD) taunt to get it back, it meant you were in trouble on holding it for the rest of the fight. If it stopped hitting you, you stopped building threat, while the healer (and possibly dps) were still generating their threat. Even waiting for it to run back could be enough to lose aggro again. Your only constant source of threat was consecrate, an aoe that broke CC on anything nearby. It was a positioning nightmare when you were dealing with casters that wouldn’t pull.

Patch 2.4 made an important change to Avenger’s Shield that seemed to have passed to all multi-target (hits X mobs) abilities. It would choose from among all non-CC’d mobs available before it would break CC looking for additional targets. I tested most of them in 3.3 and they seemed to be using the same code. Repentance one mob in a group of four, and AS,HotR.Cleave, etc. would all ignore the CC’d mob and hit the other three instead. I was reassured that tanking with CC should be painless, needing only to watch the situation so you didn’t use an ability that hit too many targets, and picked up mobs as CC ran out or broke. A few adjustments to some tanks would make things easier, but should be, strictly speaking, unnecessary.

Instead, patch 4.0 made Cleave much harder to use (rage starvation), HotR became an aoe (while they nerfed consecrate into near-uselessness). Druids lost the ability to spam swipe, and received no good multi-target ability to use (just the suddenly more expensive glyphed Maul). Only DKs came out ahead here, getting a 3-target HS with the changes. Guess which one I leveled to tank with.

The Wrath system of tanking was actually _better_ for working with CC than Cata, where CC was supposed to be coming back! All that needed to happen was a reduction in aoe damage (especially for dps so they wouldn’t want to use it so much), and instead they screwed it up.

Blood

So having noted my disappointment with tanking in general, I will now discuss the tank I did level to 85 and gear for heroics (not yet for raids). Blood spec is now the only tank spec for DKs. Dual specs has superceded the old model of tank/dps in any tree. That makes sense. I miss Glyphed Howling Blast for tanking, but I can live with the compromise there. Once again though, they screwed up important details.

Blood used to have a talent that turned your Frost and Unholy runes into Death Runes (can be used as any rune) when used by certain abilities (Death Strike and Obliterate). In Wrath, this made sense. Blood DKs did much more damage with two Heart Strikes (BB), than either of the other abilities (FU for either one), so it was a dps/threat gain to get those Death Runes, aside from the flexibility. In Cata, Blizzard addressed issues with damage spikes on DK tanks by giving them an absorb shield, much like what Druids have. Unlike Savage Defense though, which has a chance to proc on any crit, by any ability, Blood Shield has a 100% chance to proc off _1_ ability, Death Strike. From a survivability standpoint, that means you want to use DS(FU) as much as possible, not HS(B). You no longer want to turn FU runes into B runes. You want them as FU runes! Couple that with recent changes to make diseases more important (FU to apply both when Outbreak is on CD), Bone Shield and D&D using Unholy runes, and the Death Rune scheme becomes counter-productive. You don’t want FU runes to become Death runes anymore, only now the ability is automatic when you choose Blood Spec. That’s right, one of Blood’s “features” is effectively designed to trick inattentive DKs into getting themselves killed by burning FU runes on HS and missing their shield ability! /facepalm

Why does Bone Shield need an Unholy rune anyway? None of the other tanks’ 1min CD abilities have a resource cost, only Bone Shield. The obvious answer is that DKs have a 1min CD ability to turn a B rune into a D rune. Bone Shield cost an Unholy rune simply to burn this ability so it can’t give you a rune to keep up your DS rotation. Stupid.

One last note. In Wrath, HS was designed to be a straight replacement for Blood Strike. They both used B to cast and hit one target, but HS did much more damage. In Cata, HS isn’t a direct replacement anymore. HS hits three targets, while BS hits one still. Thing is, sometimes you don’t want to hit three targets (breaking CC for example). Guess what, BS is still less single-target damage than HS. Using BS instead of HS to avoid hitting addition targets also means a dps/threat loss on a single target. In a small way, this continues the design of assuming aoe is ok, when we’re supposed to be using CC and single-target dps instead of aoe. It’s an easy enough problem to fix, but I’m not going to hold my breath for a change to the HS talent to bring BS up to the same level against a single target.

Holy Power

Paladins got a new resource in Cata, called Holy Power. It acts like combo points in that certain abilities give you one, certain abilities spend them. They exist on the Paladin rather than the mob though, and only stack to 3. Yep. Some abilities even require exactly 3, or scale such that using less than 3 will reduce effectiveness. I feel like I’m in a Monty Python sketch. “And the number shall be 3, no more, no less…” Add in some randomness to HP gains, and it something more that needs to be watched and tracked. It has an important role in healing, but it’s nothing but a nuisance to distract Ret and Prot Paladins from their jobs. Even after more than 3 months of dealing with it, it still chafes. Too clunky, too high maintenance, too random; too important to ignore. Ugh.

I did note that it plays an important role for Holy. Basically, it provides the mechanism to fix the FoL problem. Spamming FoL was always too cheap and too easy for Blizzard to allow Healadins to rely too much on it. With Cata, they replace it with a rotation. Pre-Cata FoL spam -> HS/WoG/HL mixture. They accomplish the same task, but the added requirements of mixing HS (6s CD) with WoG (HP ability that costs no mana) and HL (cheap but slow and small) allow Blizzard to give it a little more bite. In practice, it’s not much harder than FoL spam was before, but it’s more engaging and a definite improvement.

The problem with Holy is how they adjusted regen. Paladins were getting out-of-control regen from Int stacking + Divine Plea, Divine Illumination, Seal of Wisdom, and somewhat from Illumination (though this was nerfed in Wrath). All healers get their SP from Int now, so all stack it to some extent. The rest of the equation got kneecapped. Illumination is gone entirely. DI got replaced with a haste/crit CD ability. Divine Plea and Seal of Insight got their regen slashed. No other class lost so much (or any, really) active or class-based regen. Paladins went from OP regen to pretty much no active regen overnight. That isn’t a direct problem. It just means that their mana usage has to be balanced to require much less mana to accomplish the same tasks. This comes primarily from the above noted rotation. Therein lies the danger. The low cost of their HS/WoG/HL cycle has already caused issues where good raiding Paladins end fights with a nearly full mana bar, just from not needing to use their expensive spells. Shift the numbers too much though, and mediocre Paladins start running oom before any other class (in likewise mediocre hands), simply from lack of tools to recover from a crisis. Paladins are once again the outlier on regen, as with every other expansion. Blizzard’s track record of dealing with these outliers isn’t very good. We’ll see if they do better this time. They’ve already nerfed the cheap healing  rotation, and made it less fun as a result.

Not Playing the Game

No, I’m not quitting yet. Just scored our first kill on Magmaw, actually. If you read through the above complaints, one theme seems to stand out. It’s a familiar cry to anyone who’s healed in this game (or any game like it). See, healers all experience the same frustration as the play the game. A large part of their job requires watching health bars, not monsters. The fundamental flaw of MMOs, is the tendency for play to shift from playing the game, to playing the _interface_. As the game gets more complicated with more CDs, more different types of resources, and more procs to watch for, gamers spend less and less time enjoying their character moving and acting in the world, and spending more time adjusting, modifying, and fighting with their UI trying to get something done. Watching HP, Runes, Mana bars, Rage bars and Health bars is UI management, when most players really want to watch their toons, their enemies and the environment around them. It’s been a healer complaint forever and instead of trying to fix the issue, it seems to be spreading in WoW.

In the beginning, the challenge was finding info and gear. Game changes and the web community changed that. Then the challenge was learning fights. Now we have youtube videos. Blizzard seems desperate to keep some difficulty and mystery in the game to keep people engaged, but their latest efforts seem to be focused on forcing player to monitor more UI elements and making abilities more difficult to use (properly or at all). This is not a positive direction. People want to be engaged in the game around their toon, not the UI. We want to play the game

Fishing

It’s trite, but I have to mention it. Blizzard made fishing a success in wrath by making it easier and more worthwhile to use. In Cata, their choice of balance is to have basically 3 grades of fish. Good fish has a low catch rate from fishing any appropriate water. Mediocre fish have a 100% catch rate from pools, and poor fish have a high catch rate in any appropriate water. Poor fish, thus are basically vendor trash. They give no buff when cooked, just heath and mana. Worse, the recipes cost tokens from the cooking daily just like buff food. Who wants to spend tokens on a recipe that gives no buff? You can _buy_ food to accomplish that without wasting your time. Clearly they felt that a high catch rate made it too easy to stock up on the most desirable fish. I understand that, but they could have at least made all the fish useful! Make the more rare fish produce the best primary stat food (90 each), the pool fish the best secondary stat food (90 each, but the stat is haste/crit/etc, instead of Agi/Str/Int/Spi), and make the common fish produce the lesser foods (60 each stat instead of 90). That would at least have made all fish useful, allowing you to use up your common food on trash and easier 5 mans and saving the best stuff for raiding. They could have made the common fish produce no buff food, but made the recipes trainable, so you could level up with them and then buy the recipes you want with tokens. No, they had to make the most frustrating decision possible. They made the common case junk, literally for one fish for the first two months. The common saltwater fish had no recipe that called for it from 4.0.3 (Cata release) to 4.0.6 (first full patch). Even now, the recipe isn’t worth buying. Why put more junk in the game? Makes no sense to me.

The whole issue is just one final, trite, but simple demonstration of how they could come up with all the right ideas on a macro level, and screw up the details, much to our frustration.

I still want to like Cata, but I’m not having nearly as much fun as I did in Wrath. I’ve already switched mains from my Prot/Holy Paladin (main since I started almost 4 years ago) to a Fire Mage. Less responsibility, fewer obligations, less impact if I decide to back out more. I have leveled a Blood/Frost DK and Resto/Enhance Shamen to 85 and geared them for heroics, but I feel far less enthusiastic or optimistic than I did in Wrath. Burnout? I don’t think so, just frustration.

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Am I good tank or a bad healer?

Posted by penuruloki on October 21, 2009

Last night I got to tank in our 10 man Ulduar run. The only time I’ve ever gotten to tank in Ulduar before was on Razorscale. I’d been on all the boss fights we faced last night on previous runs, but always as a healer. My first toon was a tank from the first talent point I spent, so getting to step back into tanking on fights that still challenge the guild, even for just a night, was an exciting opportunity. I haven’t gotten to tank consistently since our first guild heroics last December.

And we did pretty damn good. We dropped five bosses in two and a half hours, with no wipes (we did have some downtime from bios and afks). After all the wipes I’ve healed when we’ve tried to do Ignis on prior runs, Geofon and I tanked it for the first time (it was the first time she faced him at all), and we dropped him in one go. We only had one death on the fight at all (Warlock in the slag pot). Last week it took 2 tries each to drop XT, Razorscale and Ignis, and 3 tries to drop Kologarn. This week we dropped them all on the first try, and with lesser geared tanks and healers too.

That begs the question, why are we struggling so much on our other runs? Certainly we had top notch dps last night, and that always helps. Low dps causes more problems than people realize. Most people place all the credit/blame with tanks and healers and ignore the problems of longer fights or shorting the group on healers to compensate for low dps. That said, you do have to look at tanking and healing, and I have two reasons for being suspicious of our performances there.

First, although we have a lot of tanks (half the raid had a tanking spec/set last Sat!), we don’t have stable assignments. We switch tanks a lot, and it’s hard not to notice differences in results (sometimes dramatic) when we do. A big problem on our raid last Saturday was tank deaths. Some of this was tanking assignments not being clear or not being followed well enough. Aside from that major problem, the stats also showed a significant difference in damage taken over the other tanks we’ve had on that fight (about 3k-5k more per hit, and not avoiding nearly as often), for reasons I still haven’t completely settled. The tank in question is not unskilled, but he was consistently taking more damage than I could handle for an extended duration of time. Being able to compare performances, there clearly had to be an issue with that tank (on that night anyway). Right? Apparently not all tanks are created equal, and not being a bad tank doesn’t make you a great tank. Or maybe not being bad is good enough?

Am I a problem as a healer? I’ve gotten used to being complimented on my healing, going all the way back to the days of off-spec healing in leveling dungeons, but how sincere are the compliments, and what am I being compared to? I’ve given my own reasons for healing, but someone else gave their view over at World of Matticus recently, and in both the article itself and the comments that followed, “I’m good at it” seems to be a prominent reason. How do they know they’re good? They know because people tell them. People tell them because they drop bosses and get loot. But is that really the full story? Two things can make you above average: you can be really good compared to others, or they can be really bad compared to you. Considering that healing is probably the hardest job in the game, and gets harder or easier based on the quality of the rest of the group more than the fight itself, it’s entirely possible that the average healer really isn’t very good. It’s also possible that healers that are merely average get thanked and complimented just to keep them healing so that people can get runs. Like tanking, the question becomes, does merely not being bad make you good?

Add to all this that I still haven’t been in on an Assembly of Iron or Freya kill (they were dropped on runs when I wasn’t there), and I’m left to wonder if I’m really all that great at healing after all. Certainly I’m not a bad healer, but maybe I’m only mediocre, despite compliments.

So given the stark contrast of last night to prior runs, what conclusions do I draw? Do I assume our tanks aren’t as good as I thought they were? Are we letting low dps sabotage our efforts too much? Or are our regular healers (including myself) overrated and not up to the challenge? Am I a good tank or a bad healer? Or is my contribution to success really not all that significant altogether?

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Healer Comparison

Posted by penuruloki on October 10, 2009

This is the first of my class comparisons I intended to do as my personal project in WoW, and that I promised to write in my last post. My healers at the level cap all have comparable gear, and I have reasonable time healing 10 man raids and heroics on all of them. I intend to write about tanks too, but I’d like more time and better gear on my DK before I do so, so I’m starting with a comparison of my healers. This is from my personal perspective, not based on meters or spreadsheets. It is all my own opinion and I welcome comments and rebuttals from those with different viewpoints. I don’t pretend that any of it is definitive.

Long Post ahead.

Before I start talking about classes, I need to discuss a little bit about healing theory (at least from my viewpoint). Healers don’t really have spells to be compared against each other. They have different “toolkits”, or abilities that healers combine to perform a “task.” An example of a task might be tank healing or raid healing, the most common two listed (never forget that there might be more to do! My Resto Shaman managed 90% of the interrupts on one ill-fated Assembly of Iron attempt). A toolkit for tank healing might be a “small heal toolkit”, built around supplementing a steady diet of a smaller, faster heal in the spellbook, or a “large heal toolkit”, built around making heavier use of a larger, slower, more expensive heal. Raid healing is primarily focused around “AoE healing” where you apply smaller amounts of healing to many raid members at once, and “spot healing” where you apply more small to moderate amounts of healing to selected members of a raid. Direct comparisons of spells don’t really matter. It’s all about how (and how well) you accomplish the tasks assigned to you, and the quality of your toolkit to perform the task.

Paladins

I have to start with Paladins. My main is a Pally, I started healing on a Pally, and I have the most hours in on my Pallies (they are my #1 and #2 /played toons individually, nevermind combined playtime). Fact is they are clunky. They have limited healing options that amount to selecting between a small hammer and a big hammer. No AoE healing at all makes them extremely limited at raid healing. This isn’t an accident. They are specifically designed and designated to be tank healers.

Their toolkit is a mixed bag for even that. They have the most efficient small heal in the game, Flash of Light. It’s got good scaling, but starts, and stays, very small compared to other healers’ small heals. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t get much help. You can throw Sacred Shield (an absorbent shield that absorbs small amounts over a longer duration) on only 1 target at a time. Flash of Light on the target with SS places a Heal-over-Time (HoT) spell on that target that’s based on the size of the FoL (and is therefore also very small). That’s pretty much it for the small heal toolkit. It’ll cover 5 man tanking and raid fights that are less tank focused, but it just won’t cover all your tank healing needs. Fortunately, for the large heal toolkit, Blizzard pulled out the stops. Holy Light is expensive (all the big heals are), but it’s also fast, especially when you chain it. More importantly, Paladins have the best toolkit to generate the mana to keep throwing it. Divine Plea cuts healing in half while it’s active (15s) but regenerates 25% of your mana pool on a 1 min cooldown (CD). Seal of Wisdom gives a chance at a hefty chuck of mana when you hit a target (usually around the cost of a HL every time it procs!). Divine Illumination cuts your spell cost in half for a short time (nice to pair with DP above so you can spam HL to keep up without spending everything you regened). Illumination, even after the recent nerf, returns 30% of the mana spent on all heals that crit. What their small toolkit lacks in power is made up for with a powerful large heal and the regen to use it.

Raid healing is likewise a mixed bag. No AoE heal spells at all. They have an AoE effect from Glyph of Holy Light, but that requires you to cast the expensive spell, has strict range requirements, and isn’t smart about picking its targets, so no guarantee that the people who need healing get it. Spot healing is another matter. Beacon of Light has been buffed since its introduction to become a Pally’s signature spell. Simply place the Beacon on one target, and it will produce a “copy” on that target of any heal you throw on any other nearby group member. This gives you the ability to freely apply spot heals on group members without interrupting healing on the tank. It allows you to hit two tanks at once. It also copies heals from up to 60 yards away, while normal heal range is 40 yards. It doubles the raw healing of just about every heal you throw. Beacon has its limits, but it can be very powerful.

Bottom line for Pallies is that they are clunky,wielding their spells like hammers to shove massive amounts of health onto group member. It really shows in 5 man content where you have to make the clunky toolkit cover all scenarios. They work, but they work poorly sometimes and they’re not much fun. They have real power in raids though. Not once, but twice (OS+1 and Ignis) I turned a set of wipes into a kill just by switching to my Pally healer, and then just to get the range and dual target healing boost of Beacon of Light. The raw healing of Beacon + HL may be unmatched, in the healing you can apply, the speed you can apply it, and the speed with which your mana pool plunges when you do it. Pallies usually worry much more about their mana recovery afterward than they do about being able to lay down the healing. Add in all the utility and CD stuff in their spellbook and they shine in raids, especially 10 mans where you have a small core of healers that can balance each other’s weaknesses, but need to be able to produce rapidly in a crisis.

Druids

Druids are famous as HoT healers. Almost every spell they throw is/has a HoT. They are the Neocon healer. It’s all about the preemptive strike. Preempt comes from the latin phrase “to buy beforehand.” That’s exactly what druids do. If damage lands and the target doesn’t already have a HoT on them when it lands, you’re doing it wrong. A lot of the HoTs you throw end up as wasted healing. Their cost and effect is set knowing this, to encourage you to keep throwing them. They are meant to be used liberally. Throw heals around like Dick Cheney would throw around the US arsenal and you’ve got the basic premise.

Their tank healing is all about the small heal toolkit. Their small heal is Nourish, larger that FoL, and only slightly more expensive. Not only do they have a plethora of HoTs to go with Nourish (Rejuv, stacking Lifebloom, the HoT portion of Regrowth, Wild Growth), it even scales upward with the number of HoT effects on the target if you glyph it. The varied and limited duration of the HoTs makes refreshing them all a tricky business sometimes, but in 5 mans, you can stack so many HoTs you can often omit the small heal altogether, and if you’re tank healing in raids you can stay focused on the tank to keep it all going. Large heal is another story. Swiftmend lets you drop a good chunk on a target with a HoT up already (buy beforehand!) on a short CD (15s), but the spamable large heal (Healing Touch) is too slow to be worthwhile (or not a large heal at all if you glyph it for speed). Most druids keep it around coupled to the long CD Nature’s Swiftness (2m CD) as an emergency measure.

Raid Healing is more their forte though. Cheap Rejuvs on individual members, short 6s CD Wild Growth to throw a 7s HoT on 5-6 people with 1 cast, and a reasonable base healing on Nourish for spot healing make them great raid healers. Their utility comes from the ability to throw Innervate on others for mana regen (note that Pally regen is only for themselves), and the ability to Rez a fallen raid member in combat to finish the fight.

The plethora of cheap HoTs makes them good, if busy, 5 man healers and very good raid healers, especially in 25 man raids where they can really focus on the raid. They can handle tank healing, but their limit is on pure Heals-per-Second (HPS) when it hits the fan. They’re better at buffering incoming damage during a long fight than handling damage spikes in a shorter window during the fight, especially on multiple targets. You definitely stay busy on a druid, and the HoTs help maintain control over a fight, but it can be hard to recover on a fight if you’ve lost control. Regen is so good on a druid that they mostly ignore it. They generally can’t spend mana fast enough to worry about draining their pool all that quickly, and their regen covers a pretty reasonable amount.

Shamen

Compared to those two accounts, Shamen are the balanced healers. Better buffering than Paladins (for tanks and raids); better recovery than Druids. Their toolkit is well tuned to handle a variety of situations. They worry about regen like Paladins, but mostly at the gearing level, by stacking MP5 and Crit (for Water Shield). Their only major move for regen during a fight is Mana Tide Totem, restoring 25% of your mana pool, and everyone else in your party, on a 5 min CD.

A good example of their flexibility is their small heal toolkit. Earth Shield offers a buffer for a single target (basically a tank) and also boosts the healing on the small heal (Lesser Healing Wave) when glyphed. It has charges that fire off a small heal when the target is hit. There’s an internal CD on having charges go off, so it ends up being a periodic effect that needs refreshing only occasionally, like the Pally’s SS. They also get Riptide, which offers a small jolt of healing, and has a 15s HoT after it. Works for spot healing, but also provides a HoT for buffering and it works like that on every target, not just the one with ES. They also have procs built in. Any heal has a chance to proc Earthliving, which places another HoT on the target, and all Crit heals place Ancestral Fortitude on the target, reducing incoming damage by 10% for the next 15s. That’s a lot of damage buffering, mostly with little effort, and not all of it limited to a single target like Paladins. LHW itself is again larger than FoL too, but also notable more expensive. The large heal is mostly worthless like the Druid’s, attached to a CD as an emergency and ignored from there.

For raid healing, their iconic heal is Chain Heal. Hits 3-4 targets if they’re group together, giving a moderate heal to the 1st target and tapering off. This is a good recovery heal. In 1-3 casts you can easily clean up moderate damage on the whole group. They also get Healing Stream Totem. Often ignored, it pulses for 300-400 healing every two seconds on all party members. Lasts for up to 5 min. That’s right. If you’re not running around too much, you can can put a 5 min HoT on your party in a 5 man. It’s only about 1/4th what Wild Growth will give you, but it requires a refresh only if you move, something destroys the totem, or 5 mins elapses since you dropped it.

Oh yeah. You drop other buff totems for the raid. They care about that too. And Heroism, the unique shaman buff that boosts raid output (dps and healing) for 45s. I popped it for Loken in Heroic once with Windfury totem down in a group that had me, a Warrior tank, a Hunter, and 2 DKs. We dropped him in 34 seconds. Heroism outlasted the fight by 10 seconds. Add Tremor Totem to remove fears, Cleansing Totem to remove poisons and diseases from the whole (5 person) party at a time; the list goes on. Shaman have great, and unique utility.

Shaman get a bad rep as the most mediocre healer in raids. They may not top meters much in raids, but good recovery healing and flexibility make them valuable. Their biggest worry is their limited mana regen and the cost of their spells, which tends to hover in the same cost territory with no super efficient moves like FoL or Rejuv. Where I love mine most though is in 5 man heroics. On any fight, ES the tank before the fight, drop HST plus your other totems at the beginning of the fight. Riptide the tank as soon as he takes enough damage for his bar to drop (ES may eat the 1st hit on its own). If you get lucky, it’ll crit, you’ll get the 10% damage reduction, and the healing from HST, ES, Riptide, and Earthliving (if it procced) will cover all the damage from the fight. Go make yourself a sandwich. Check back before you mix your drink, in case you need to refresh ES and throw another Riptide on the tank 1st. Healing heroics on a shaman is embarrassingly easy when the group doesn’t screw up. Even when they do, you just start hitting people with Chain Heal until the fight is over. It’s dead simple.

Priest

One day I’ll finally finish leveling my Priest and be able to comment on them. Until then, feel free to leave your perspective in the comments.

Summary

Overall, all the healers work, despite occasional advantages and disadvantages. They work best in raids if you blend them, instead of stack them. That’s a good thing. Their differences show most in 5 man content where you can’t blend. You have to handle it all by yourself. They do each have their own flavor in 10 and 25 man content as well though.

Ultimately, I like all of them enough to stick with them, and I don’t plan to “retire” any of them from healing. They’re all fun. I tend to avoid 25 man raids though, and do mostly 10 man raids and heroics, so that has to affect my preferences.

I can’t argue with the results of bringing my Pally. Either I’m just too experienced with him or he just brings that much to a 10 man raid that I can’t help but keep him as my raiding main. He’s simply missed too much when there is no other Holy Pally in the raid.

For 5 mans, my 1st choice is the Shaman, because they’re just so easy. =) Nothing like facerolling a heroic quick to unwind. My druid is my 2nd choice for 5 mans, and the better option if you start to get bored. Their preemptive nature keeps you busier.

Druids probably shine better in 25 mans where there are lots of targets for WG and Rejuv, but in 10s I tend to miss the raw power of my Pally or Shaman, especially during a damage spike where I have to spam Nourish to keep up anyway and feel like a neutered Paladin. Unlike 25 man raids, 10s tend to require you to handle both tank healing and raid healing at the same time. Lucky (or bored) is the healer in a 10 man raid that has no tank assignment, so the druid’s raid healing ability can’t always show itself off as well anyway.

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Class Comparison

Posted by penuruloki on October 10, 2009

Yeah, another WoW post. This is technically still a personal blog and not a WoW blog, but there’s not a whole lot else going on in my life right now, so I’m not going to fight it anymore.

This is mostly a background intro to explain what my purpose is here. The actual comparisons will be posted later.

My first toon (and my main once again) is a Paladin I leveled as a tank. My thought process when I rolled him was “survivability first” and a plate wearer with healing capability fit the bill. When I got talents at level 10, I did some research, and decided he was a tank. He would be built entirely around the ability to take a hit and shrug it off.

I didn’t have any level capped friends on the server, so I took my time leveling, slowing down to work on my Blacksmithing (both my skill level and the quests involved – I still have the trinket that summoned my first epic at level 40), and especially running every dungeon I could. I was specced for tanking, but I often found people asking me to heal, and I found I could do that too without much difficulty.

So after I did hit 70 (cap at the time) I turned around and leveled another Pally to heal. After I did that, I found some of my friends that had joined since were leveling, and I hopped on my neglected Druid to level with them. He also reached 80. I had a harder time adjusting to his healing (which was much less straightforward than the Pally), but I did take to his tanking.

Thus began the project. Having marveled and thrilled at exploring the differences between the classes for tanking, I decided I wanted to try them all. That soon expanded to healing as well, as I got better at healing on both hybrid classes and found myself doing it more. In more defined terms, I wanted to have all 4 classes to cap, geared, and skilled enough to handle heroic 5 man content (you can’t keep up multiple raiding toons without excessive effort; I tried).

I’m not there yet. My priest (Holy/Shadow) is only 63 and healing Outland content. My Warrior (Prot/Fury) is only 42 and has only tanked Deadmines and Scarlet Monestary. I’m not going to draw conclusions for those classes when I don’t have full access to their abilities yet. Wouldn’t be fair. I do however have the previously noted Paladins and Druid, as well as a Shaman and Death Knight leveled to 80 since I envisioned the project. Since I have no idea when I will actually start working on the Priest and Warrior again, I might as well lay out my experiences with the different classes thus far.

[EDIT] The Healer comparison is now posted HERE. A comparison of tanks will come later when I have a little more experience with my DK.

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Back to Raiding

Posted by penuruloki on October 8, 2009

Finally got back into Raiding this week, mostly in Ulduar. I do have to say I’m a little bit jealous. We took Mama along at first. She got the Energy Siphon off FL (which I didn’t care about), but it meant that Pureity wasn’t there to bid against me on the Pulsing Spellshield (which I badly needed) from XT. I paid her back though. I reminded her that she wanted the trinket off Razorscale, and she switched to Pure. It dropped, she suicided from almost the top of the list and got it. Looked up the loot lists and she switched back to Mama for Kologarn, and sure enough, the Spirit Trinket dropped. Pure picked up the crit trinket she wanted, AND _two_ nice iLevel 219 trinkets for her new priest as well. I’m not jealous that she got gear I wanted (Energy Siphon and Eye of the Broodmother are both sidegrades for my Pally, I’m happier they found a good home with Mama), but that she somehow got lucky enough to have them all drop for her. I’m lucky if I see a decent item drop (and I do consider myself lucky to get the shield I needed so badly). At any rate, we dropped the 4 easy bosses, put in a wipe on Auriaya, and called it a night for Tuesday.

Wednesday didn’t go as well. First they wanted to go into ToC 10, with 2 healers no less. I need to segue into a complaint here.

There’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed a lot since the patch. Elitist hardcore raiders like to complain about casuals/socials/M&S wearing good gear from easy to obtain badges. They claim that it ruins the raiding experience by putting said casuals/socials/M&S on the same level as those who actually work for their gear. The reality is that badge gear actually makes it harder on competent casuals and socials (M&S is always going to benefit from easy gear and make the lives of those around them miserable). It means that people gear up faster than they skill up. It means that people have no gear upgrade outside progression raiding, so they insist on going to the hardest content when they and/or their groups aren’t prepared for it. Wearing gear they haven’t “earned” isn’t a status issue, like the elitists make out. Skill isn’t about good or bad. Wiping on “easier” content doesn’t make you M&S. It means you’re learning. Avoiding that content by using badges doesn’t make you bad, but if you find yourself skipping hard fights and gearing off easy ones, you’re not going to be ready for progression content. Hardcore raiders don’t suffer much. They figure out quickly if a recruit can’t hack it. It’s the casuals and socials that deal with the gear/skill mismatches.

Based on that rant you can guess how our night went. We wiped over and over on the Northrend Beasts in ToC. We only made it to the 2nd phase once, and we were racing to finish phase one with 6 dps in the group. We barely made the dps race with 6 dps. The rest of our attempts were too tight on healing. One snobold on a healer left the other one to handle the tank and the whole raid. We had no safety net, and the group wasn’t tight enough to run without one. When I got a snobold on my back, and announced it in Vent, it stayed on my back for a long time.

After failing miserably there, we moved back to Ulduar. It only took us a couple couple wipes to drop Auriaya (surprisingly), but we wiped a few times on Ignis (even with 3 healers) and called it a night. One boss. Just over two hours, and only one kill. No one in the raid was bad, but we weren’t prepared. If people don’t take their tactics and their rotations more seriously than their gear, we’re not going to succeed at raiding. We need to work on Ulduar, our current _skill_ level, not ToC, our current _gear_ level. It would be easier with a more consistant group, but that’s one of the first casualties of casual raiding. Hopefully our next foray in will be better.

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On Fate

Posted by penuruloki on October 30, 2008

Random life is random.

After stumbling out of bed late again today, I managed to put the battery charger on my car during my shower, giving it just enough charge to start and take me to class today. This has predictable consequences, right? The question becomes, which consequences are predicted by that action?

After I left class, the internal mumblings of my mind for some reason turned to my time at the UR. Not exactly inexplicable in its own right, as I rewind and reconsider the past frequently. When I got out to the car, it didn’t start. Remarkable. I started to walk home.

Passing in front of HFA, I saw someone who looked eerily like Paul Carlson, a former coworker at the UR. He seemed to deliberately take the path toward me, as though he was setting up a collision course. As he got closer, I saw him smile. Could it be? He didn’t just look like Paul, it _was_ Paul.

I was so amazed to see him on campus that I didn’t know what to say. He’d been in Japan so long, and I really wasn’t expecting him back. He said he was just in on a visit. We exchanged small talk for a few minutes, then he had to go meet someone. Two not quite random ships passing in the night so to speak.

And yet the encounter raises questions. To have chanced up someone in that fashion required both precision timing, and a deviation from my routine. I would not have been in that spot at all if my car had started. True fatalism would suggest that the car _couldn’t_ have started, because the meeting was fated. A more subtle possibility is that the meeting became “fated” through collective choice. The meeting and my car not starting are both avoidable consequences of freely made decisions on my part (and of course Paul’s). There is also the possibility of random chance, augmented by the law of large numbers (a statistically insignificant chance is guaranteed to produce a positive result if enough samples are tested).

All of these possibilities are valid, and the question doesn’t have a provable answer. The other interesting data point is that I was already thinking about the UR (including Paul) as I left class. This has relevance only because of the chance meeting (a correlation to the law of large numbers – similar data points that have no relevance to outside events are ignored) but could also imply premonition. Having determined the near term future events by actions already taken, there exist the possibility the mind can foresee otherwise unpredictable events and prepare for them.

All of this relies in some sense on a definition of time. My semi-snide, semi-serious response to the almost flippant question “what time is it” (“the time is now”) is meant to challenge the idea of time as a concrete dimension withing the universe, instead supposing that time is a dimension of the mind that allows the dull of life to be broken into smaller “snapshots” that limited mental facilities can more easily understand.

I don’t favor fatalism in principle, preferring _some_ role of free will in the unfolding of events, but I don’t subscribe to simple randomness within life either. The casual coincidences of life make for an interesting thought exercise anyway.

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Sleepless Meditations on Work and Friends

Posted by penuruloki on July 27, 2008

After going to bed exhausted all week because I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep, I finally got a day off (Saturday) got a good night’s sleep (though I didn’t “sleep in”) and now, I can’t sleep. =(

Confidence in building toward something or not, the desire not to go in, or quit outright grows daily. It’s spreading too. Andy took the next two days off, and is making more noises about wanting to leave too. He claims boredom mostly (and he comes home in a foul mood most frequently when posted to Pod Control). My desires are rooted in something less direct.

When I left before, one of my motivators for going back to school was a distinct feeling of isolation. The people I worked with did not have the same interests, or the same mentality that I did, or that my friends did. The best jobs I had were defined not by the job I did, but by the people I worked with. The people I worked with were _friends_. The people at PCF are not my friends. I don’t just mean the inmates, I mean the staff. Even though I have good friends that work there, I don’t work with them, and I couldn’t say for sure that they are my friends while in that environment.

To some degree, I’m not sure I feel like the friendship extends to that sphere. I’ve been at social functions hosted by Pete, with other people from the facility (his friends) there, and felt distinctly uncomfortable. The expression of his personality with that crowd was too foreign and uncomfortable to feel like I had any friends there, including Pete. That isn’t to say that the Pete there isn’t Pete, it just isn’t the same expression of Pete that I became friends with. Frequently, our gatherings are set up with mutual friends, whether the link was made initially through him (Jesse O, James L, Katie, Tim, to some degree Ben) or through me (Andy, Sam, Erik, Rachael, Jenn, James B.). Being close to the “link point” (i.e. being closely linked to a majority of the group) generally means that the mood and activity suits me well, and I feel comfortable. Having hung out with people from work who were distinctly _not_ my friends (though not disliked by any means), the experience leaves the impression that it is to be endured rather than enjoyed. I skipped a bonfire in April after the CD7 Convention, partly out of this feeling (not expressed at the time) and now another one comes up on Aug 2nd. I want to go to be with a good friend, but not sure I would even get to be with the person I am friends with, even if I go.

In a more professional sense, enduring people we don’t like is part of having a job, or is it? We make such sacrifices to further a career, support the family, or pay the bills; but what if you didn’t need to work the job to pay the bills, and didn’t have a family or a career? For that matter, with no family and limited material aspirations, do you even need a career?

When we are young, we’re told to pick a career we enjoy, so that we will be happy with our jobs. The focus is placed on the activity. Yet it seems like everyone’s biggest complaint at their job is the people they work with. Why shouldn’t we prioritize organizing our lives around career flexibility, the ability and financial freedom to change careers or jobs to find the most pleasant environment, rather than limiting our options based on chosen task? I’ve very deliberately tried to limit my liabilities to keep my options open, but never really for _career_ flexibility. I was more focused on having options about where, and how, I would live my life, but maybe that view needs to be expanded.

Ultimately, most of this is simply venting and trying to justify a strong urge to quit. Mixed in is a sense of resistance against looking for a job “in my field,” just because I will (soon) have a college degree. The urge is to downgrade to something that simply demands less of me, while conventional wisdom (and most advisers) say to look for something that demands (and rewards) more.

If I have any level of foresight left, I think my days at PCF are numbered, and this time I won’t be going back. I knew when I left that there would be only one opportunity to return, and that once used would be spent forever. The same sentiment might be true for Morris. Having stayed this long and been led only back to PCF, it might be time to plan my exit. As usual, I will let the omens guide me, but this is what I am sensing at the moment. Comments from friends are always welcome, so feel free to give advice.

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Someday…

Posted by penuruloki on April 17, 2008

Someday I will learn to start writing my papers before the day they’re due. That day is not today.

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If you had RSS set up, you would be reading this post today

Posted by penuruloki on April 14, 2008

Went to Geek Prom this weekend in Duluth. The event itself was cool, insofar as a any geek event can attain that descriptor without reaching sarcasm or irony. I had two distinct motives for going, so it makes sense to treat them separately.

First, I wanted to connect with some old friends. Along with Jenn and Sarah, who live in Duluth, Sam came up from the Cities. Rachael and Alex also came out with us. They still live in Morris, but I don’t see much of them these days. It was good to see them, but with only one evening, contact was fleeting. I really didn’t get to talk to Sam all that much and it wasn’t really a forum for _doing_ anything, so we didn’t do much either. It was nice to see him, but I wished the weekend had been longer. Jenn was busy most of the time, so we didn’t get to talk much either, but I did get to talk to Sarah for a while. Sarah is one the people that I wanted to have gotten to know better, but didn’t get the chance. She graduated not too long after I met her at the UR, and even when we worked together, I was still a new arrival getting adjusted, and she was established with the core group. I’ve seen her a few times since then (with Jenn), and it’s nice to be able to talk to her. As they say, “you can never go back,” but to be able to make new contact with old acquaintances brings a sense of reality to the fantasy of memories. Pete was there with Laura (his fiance) but he was busy (and under the influence) most of the time as well, and she seemed out of place, like she was enduring rather than enjoying the festivities. Perhaps we can only ask for so much out of a gathering, but I was left wishing I had been given more time for old friends.

The second reason for going related to the decision I had to make earlier this year. With the prospect of finally graduating, I could start to think about what I was going to do afterward. I strongly considered Duluth (and may yet move there) but eventually decided to stay in Morris. I didn’t have the language at the time to express my thoughts, but ultimately I was pining for the social atmosphere of a Valhalla like Duluth, but not yet ready to leave the stability and limited demands of Morris. Grad school remains a possible future option, but the future looks increasing far away; not in the sense that it looks less achievable (in some sense the opposite is true), but because it’s starting to feel like I have time. It seems odd, with 30 fast approaching, but as time passes, pressures on time sensitive goals get less immediate. They become less realistic, and the energy can be focused on pursuits over larger time scales. Morris is less immediately fulfilling than Duluth would have been, but within a larger scope, offers a smaller pond to experiment in, with fewer demands and distractions. A chance to visit Duluth helps with perspective, keeping the debate (which does not end with the decision to extend my stay in Morris) grounded in a certain reality. With any luck, I’ll find time (and money) after school ends to make more journeys to Duluth and other destinations that tend toward idealization in my thinking, to keep a proper perspective.

The cost of the time spent going is that the process of cleaning and reorganizing Silicon Row into a respectable dwelling and activity center has ground to a halt. With two papers due this week and a convention next weekend, I don’t know how much progress can be made either. We set a hard date of graduation to complete the effort though, so the battle will recommence soon.

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Does It Make A Sound?

Posted by penuruloki on July 3, 2007

If a blog post hits the Internet and no one is around to see it…

Once again I find myself wishing to blog more, but not really succeeding. That begs the question of why blogging is important to me. I guess the real reason I’m sensitive about the subject is that I feel less and less connected in my life in general.  In many ways beyond blogging, I feel my connection to the real world collapsing.  My local world used to be interconnected. I saw my friends frequently, and my “work” (school) created an area of common interest. It wasn’t that I was friends with my classmates, but simply that my friends had a common understanding, a common environment that created a solidarity across which to share ideas and partake in common interests.

Now I spend most of my time at work, where I don’t really care to make friends. Talking about work hardly sustains friendship (or interest) for very long, and I doubt my interests dovetail with those of my coworkers very well. In a lot of ways, I miss academia. I never found my balance, but it certainly felt like I belonged there. While I like my job most nights, every once in a while I start wondering what I’m doing there.

I also haven’t done a very good job maintaining my social network. I get to see my close local friends about every other week, but there seems to be a pall that hangs over the meetings. The old energy is gone. My friends that have moved are even further away. I keep promising to call Jenn and James, but the appropriate time window always slips by. A promise I keep making to myself, repeatedly broken. I want to talk to them the way that I used to, but maybe I’m worried (or simply know) that the conversation would have the same pall, with the most relevant part being the silence of all that is left unspoken.

And then there’s the blog, symptom of my ailment. It was supposed to be part reflective journal, part editorial. Instead I’ve been ignoring it, partly out of a sense that I have nothing to share (or can share). Or perhaps my situation feels too static. I don’t think it’s much of a surprise that I don’t see myself as a CO for the rest of my life, and yet movement toward a new path is painfully slow. My efforts last fall met with failure, and what I can offer this fall is uninspiring. Past that things get hazy. In any case, I want to be able to report some grand new direction, but it just isn’t there at this point, so I generally say nothing here.

They say opportunity knocks (and sometimes just waits around to be noticed), and I feel like I’m peering out the front window, like I’m waiting for the postman to arrive. In my life I’ve had the wonderful luck to have opportunity follow closely the inconveniences that come up, as a seeming bounce when I hit the pavement. Now it seems like opportunity is overdue.

I know that some people say that you have to make your own opportunity, but anything along those lines requires a pretty big, capitalized Master Plan at this point. Or maybe I just need more patience.

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