The State of Cataclysm(s)

Hello! Long time no see! I haven’t written much because I haven’t had anything to say. Cata healing is..well..it’s Cata healing. I don’t feel like I have a handle on it, although I can do it pretty well, I don’t know if that’s because I overgear it right now or that I’m actually good at it. Maybe both. Thus is the state of healing, I think.

But I’m writing about something else. I’m writing about the current state of the game, and Blizzard basically running face first into the reality of psychographic profiles. I don’t think this is their fault, per-se, and I even think that they thought they accounted for this, but it simply didn’t work.

So…what are psychographic profiles? I’ve been playing a lot of Magic:The Gathering over the last year. I used to play it 10 odd years ago, but I got back into it for a year and a few months. (For those who are familiar, my “return” was the Worldwake pre-release. And yes, I did open a Jace. Traded that to get all the cards to get back into it) Magic for the longest time as a design principle, uses what they call psychographic profiles in order to ensure that they’re making as many players as happy as they can. Different players want different things. Note that I disagree a bit with Wizards of the Coast’s definition of these things. To be more precise, I think they go outside of Magic, and actually can be applicable to all gaming.

Spike: This is a person who is looking for competition. They want to play at the highest level, they’re not only willing, but it makes them happy to do research on what they are doing. They’ll use whatever tools and resources they need (be it specs, rotations, decks, etc.) in order to get where they want to go. Sometimes they don’t need it, but if something is proven to be “better” they’re more than willing to listen.

Johnny: Johnnies are the creative types. They use gaming as a way to show their creativity and uniqueness. They want to create their own specs/rotations/decks/whatever, and be valued for it.

Timmy:Timmies play to just play, more or less. They’re more about the raw emotional feeling, just playing for fun.

Now, to make it clear, nobody is exactly one or the other. We’re all somewhere in the middle, to a degree, although there are pretty pure Spikes and pretty pure Johnnies out there, to be sure.

To put the point bluntly, with Cataclysm, Blizzard kicked Johnnies between the legs and left them quivering on the roadside. There’s a couple of things that did this. Locking down trees and making “hybrid” specs impossible is one thing. Raising the bar in terms of raw numbers required, both damaging and healing is another. It really reduces the ability for players to be truly creative. Skill priority systems and stat orders are much more important than ever before. That’s largely because of as numbers scale, it increases the gap between the Spikes and the Johnnies.

Blizzard didn’t really have a choice in this.

So if you go to the forums, you can see the Johnnies upset about this. They want the ability to go and do raids, as that’s the content they want to do, with their natural psychographic style. But that’s simply not in the cards for them. Even 5-man heroics are often too much for them. Timmies? they’re off doing archeology and getting loremaster on all their characters.

I can’t really blame them, to be honest.

What options did they have? Well, for raiding, people are talking about an easy mode as well. And this is a potential solution, the same mechanics but with healing/damage requirements reduced by a significant margin. But what about 5-mans? And how do you divvy out gear in such a way as to keep people interested? (Like it or not Blizzard relies on keeping people interested).

I also think that T11 is actually pretty bad in terms of difficulty scaling. I don’t think the parallel raids worked very well, and at at that the difficult within the raids (especially Blackwing Decent, in which the first two bosses are harder than the next three.) They could have avoided this by making the intro bosses easier (and the later bosses a bit harder), as well as giving an obvious starting point on where to raid. Allow Johnny groups to get their feet wet with a relatively easy boss or two.

Note. I don’t think that anything I’ve seen (I’m 9/12) in T11 is really THAT hard, mechanically. But healing Magmaw/Omnitron is annoying without gear. They simply do too much AoE damage, combined with random attacks, I actually think this is where Johnny guilds are getting stuck at. Johnny DPS is ill-suited enough. Johnny healing is a disaster.

For my own experience, I’m happy with T11, but I’m in a casual Spike guild, with a lot of players who know their class and play it well, and encourage that sort of thing.

Blizzard is making T11 the Johnny playground come 4.2, and that might solve the issue. But then again, it might not. And it’s something that Blizzard should have taken concrete steps to fix a lot sooner.

Oh, and as for Magic? They’re doing better than ever. They’re endorsing a very popular community created casual format as the de facto Johnny format, making Spikes happy by vastly increasing the tournament scene and satisfying Timmies with a constant stream of pre-constructed decks, including the “Duel Decks” a pair of theme decks specifically created to be balanced.

Blizzard needs to step up what they do for the Johnny segment of their playing base, or they’re going to continue to lose people (mostly to Rift, which in my beta experience is a Johnny player’s dream).

Note. One final thing. Spikes are not all jerks. It has to do with wanting competition, NOT necessarily wanting to smash everybody into the ground. Spikes are often happy when others can compete with them as it makes for better competition. Likewise, some Johnnies end up being jerks about the whole thing, being disdainful of anybody who doesn’t play like they do. You terms such as “poop socker” or “no-lifer” or “netdecker” or whatever.

Don’t be those guys!!

I usually don’t directly respond to other posts and stuff, but this will be an exception. Don’t worry, it’s still related to Warcraft, healing AND Druidom (kinda)

WoW.com currently has a post in their Officer’s Corner series right now, referring to the problems that a guild has had with a new deaf member in their ranks.

Or to be more specific, the problems that a guild has with not being total and complete jerkwads.

In short, a guild had a rule that you had to be on vent in order to receive loot. They recruited a Resto Druid, who happened to be deaf, making Vent pointless. It went fine for a while, as he was an amazing player, until they hit problems, and they scapegoated said Druid for all their failures and basically ran him out of the guild.

There are quite a few problems here, so let me go by them one by one.

The first, is why they had the rule in the first place:

A little background information on the guild, since it is relevant, is that we have a strict rule involving loot due to some people in the past who have abused our requirement for Vent in that they wouldn’t use it, or they’d log in but leave their headsets off. This caused a lot of problems with wipes and caused the officers, GM and co-GM to agree that a rule would be made that was you must be in Vent and actively listening at all times during a raid in order to be eligible for loot. This is what caused the initial problem.

Ok. I like using Vent. It makes explaining things a lot easier, and to be honest, I find it fun. But if there was a reason that someone couldn’t vent, as long as they performed well, it shouldn’t be a problem.

But these folks were consisted of people who thought they were above the rules. Not that there was some technical difficulty or limitation or whatever, they just through they were better than that.

This is pretty bad. But I wouldn’t blog about that.

It gets worse. Much worse.

We’d had a meeting about it a few nights ago and asked the guild for input on our various rules and any they felt needed to be changed, and a few other things. We used this as a quiet way to find out how people felt about the Vent rule. As it turns out, of the 24 raiding members, 15 of them felt that this healer’s inability to hear us calling out for heals or battle rezzes had caused a number of wipes and the fact he was able to get gear was just an abuse of the system.

Let me repeat that. Because it bears repeating. /LewisBlack

15 of them felt that this healer’s inability to hear us calling out for heals or battle rezzes had caused a number of wipes

Let’s get something straight. Calling for heals….makes you a very special type of person. A VERY special type of person. The type of person that myself, who normally is the most pleasant, agreeable, non-violent person…would like to wring your neck. Calling for a battle rez is bad enough. Generally speaking I think people mean well, but usually healers are well aware that someone is laying on the ground face down. Probably more aware than you are. Sometimes druids will call chain rezzes or something like that. And in the heat of the battle, things can happen, you know?

But calling for heals? I’ve seen people do that before. It really irritates the hell out of me. It’s generally a display of entitlement and arrogance, that you should be put in front of the line for heals whenever you mess up. And that’s the thing. People I like don’t do this. Good decent people don’t do this. So please. Don’t do that.

Don’t be those guys.

Just as an addition, I’ll point out that my guild is great and nobody does that. And if we did have somebody who did do that I feel comfortable enough in telling them to not do that, as in we have a whole grove of healers (and non-healers!) who will tell people to NOT DO THAT. Also, there are exceptions to the rule, but you’re not calling for heals, you’re informing your healers of changes in situation. Like if you have to run through the big ooze slimes in Rotface. We healers really appreciate a heads up on that.

Lich King (10) Healing Strategy

Now that my guild has downed The Lich King, I feel comfortable writing a healing strategy for it. The problem is…healing really isn’t THAT important in the fight. We’re challenged, but it’s mostly by one or two mechanics, healing wise. The difficulty is adapting to those mechanics while at the same time having to perform all the REST of the mechanics that the fight brings. Backwards and in high heels indeed.

Phase 1–Don’t Stop Me Now!

Zombie bashing via dancing, and a lot of it. The big thing to worry about, during both phase 1 and 2 are the Infests. This does a mild amount of damage on everybody in the raid, but it puts a DoT on them that increases over time, and is only removed when the person is brought up to max health. If left to fester on someone, it can become unhealable. A Disc priest helps here, as shielded people will have the initial damage absorbed by the shield, and as such the Infest will be removed straight away. Wild Growth on clumps of players, and you might need a Rejuv/Swiftmend/Nourish on the last person to have it.

The tank tanking LK won’t be taking that much damage. However, the tank tanking all the adds after a while may have an enraged guy on him for some amount of time and as such will probably require additional healing. On top of that, if you’re not a druid you may be on cleansing duty for the Necrotic Plague, which has to be removed as the infected person runs up to where the adds are being held.

This phase is actually very easy. Don’t worry. Phase 2 MORE than makes up for it.

Phase 1.5

After running to the edge, (melee players may get hit with a tick or two of Remorseless Winter) generally healing slows down here. However, pay attention as sometimes the Raging Spirits will hit a non-tank, who will need emergency heals (Rejuv+Swiftmend). There will be a bit of raid damage, but it’s nothing that major. Then there will be Quake and it’ll be off to….

Phase 2–Libra Me FROM HELL

This is what took us a month to learn. Phase 2 is rather hard. Again, it’s not so much the healing..it can’t be brute forced healed. It’s all execution, and one slip-up by any one player is basically a wipe. It’s actually enjoyable and a great learning experience. But all the same, don’t take it lightly.

Healers have to deal with Infest, as in P1, as well as a new ability, Soul Reaper (What is this, Bleach?), which after 5 seconds deals 50k damage to the tank. With the current buff and good enough gear, this can be healed through (again, a Disc priest does wonders), however you may want to tank swap as well. But be aware of this, and be ready with a quick swiftmend as soon as the Soul Reaper pops.

Infest, because of the moving that has to be done during P2 because of the Defiles mostly, someone can be out of range during an Infest and when you get to them, the DoT might be too high to save.

Defile damage isn’t too bad for a tick or two, and if there’s more than a tick or two it grows so big it’s a wipe.

P2.5–Don’t Look Down!!!

This is more of a rest phase for us trees. As there is two tanks with the Restless Spirits more quickly picked up and shared between them, the damage is more easily healed.

P3–Soraino Days

P3 actually is easier than P2, but it’ll still take a couple of tries to get down. He no longer does Infest (yay!), however there’s a new healing mechanic to watch out for. A few times, he’ll do a Soul Harvest ability that deals 40k or so over 5 seconds to the target, and you have to prevent them from dying. It’s not difficult actually. Rejuv+Swiftmend or two Nourishes. If they’re already weak it can be a problem and kill them before you can react but there’s nothing you can do about that.

The big healing challenge is dealing with the exploding ghosts that come into play. Pre-Rejuv as many people as you can and use Swiftmend/Nourish to get people out of the danger zone as quickly as you can. We had a tank soak a few of them, so HoTs on the offtank worked well.

You still have to deal with Soul Reaper, but again. It’s not really a healing challenge fight as much as it is an execution fight. The main advice I’d give is spread out for the spirits, as grouping up can cause very unfortunate big booms.

What about inside Frostmourne? Well, I was in there once, and I was in there for like 5 seconds before…..

P4–Final Fantasy Victory Theme

Don’t release, and enjoy the show. There’s no actual healing during P4 so feel free to Moonfire/Wrath/Starfall to your hearts content to feel part of the slaughter.

Overall, LK is a fight which takes a lot of learning and individual responsibility. There have been other fights to challenge us healers specifically in those skills, so it’s fine that the LK really doesn’t. That said, learning the Defiles in P2 is difficult, so don’t get discouraged and keep on working at it!

Meh

I saw the new 31 point talent trees, and I was all…ooooh! More bloggy material!

But nope. The Resto druid tree is messed up and will have to be revised so really, it’s not even close to finalized as of yet. Why? Swiftmend is still on the tree, when it’s a learned ability at 10. Even so, the way the points pan out, if you want Wild Growth (why wouldn’t you?), a full 31 points in the Resto tree at this point gets you pretty much everything. I left out Fury of Stormrage (which is horrible I think. If it was a 25/50% chance of the instant wrath it would be usable), and Natural Perfection, which is more of a PvP talent. Then you have your 9 points in Balance for Genesis, Nature’s Grace and Moonglow. And then you have one point left over to go wherever you want.

Oh, and the first tier of resto is AWFUL. It’s more for feral/balance and does almost nothing at this point for resto. That should really be changed, and probably will be.

Now, the new trees do what they say. Not so much for Resto Druids, but we’re still being worked on. But most trees can max out on output by 35 points or so, then can take the rest with survivability. Also, as you’re leveling (which really is a lot of the focus of the expansion), I think they’ll be a whole lot of fun with powerful talents all the way down. So it’s good overall.

Don’t Panic.

I’ve been mulling this over since some of the discussion from the Cata talent preview. And this is more of a warning more than anything.

Don’t panic. Chances are, Resto Druids are going to be nerfed a bit in several areas. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s the only design decision that Ghostcrawler and crew can actually make. Don’t get mad at them. Don’t take it personally. Look at the big picture.

It’s simple. The damage model in Cata is changing. It’s not just the healing model, but also the nature of incoming damage. In short, larger health pools, but damage amounts are going to remain somewhat similar to what they are today. Thusly, allowing heals to come in at a slower rate, to not mandate heal spam like the game currently does. That’s what they’re saying. I have no reason to not believe them (or GC at least). Even if I don’t agree with everything they do, I think that he’s as much of a straight-shooter as you’re going to see coming from any development community.

Here’s the deal. If our HoTs scale with the larger life pools, we’re going to be WAY overpowered. The biggest limiter on Druid output, is overheal. Namely, a character at full life is a wasted HoT. (I know, I know, that’s not quite true..) Bigger health pools and slower healing mean more chances for HoTs to tick, meaning more healing. Much more healing done. And then put on top of that, our scalability on our HoTs is increasing as well.

So yes, they can, and yes they will reduce the power of our HoTs to a bit below where they are now. It’ll be pretty bad for current content, but for future content, we won’t be underpowered. In fact, with enough skill Druids will be THE healing class.

And that’s a good thing.

Cataclysm Resto v0.1

Hello and welcome to the first of what will be many posts regarding Resto Druid changes in the upcoming expansion. Now that Blizzard has opened the door on a few of the classes, Druid being one of them, I think we’ll start to see the flow of information increase dramatically in the coming weeks and months.

You can find a full Druid tree here already filled out to what I would take from the information that I know. I’m not going to go over the whole thing, as quite a bit of it is unclear without the proper context. Also, quite frankly, the tree is stuffed. The 16/60 build, quite frankly, I think is going to be pretty much THE best raiding spec possible, hands down. Nature’s Splendor, which increases HoT duration has been moved down to tier 4, making 16 points in Balance needed IMO.

There’s one interesting point in Tier 3 of Balance. Two points really don’t do very much for Resto, at all. So I put one point to pick up the new Solar Beam skill. This could have good uses in both PvP AND PvE. I think having an additional interrupt in a group is never a bad thing, even if it’s not what you’re used to doing. So I took it.

On the Resto side, there’s really 60 points worth of talents that are worth taking in my opinion, and that’s pretty much the entire tree, short of Improved Tranquility and a few PvP talents. But a few talents stand out, both for their own abilities, but as well as possibly a hint at the greater vision for Resto Druids (and healing as a whole) in Cataclysm.

Naturalist:Now also decreases casting time of Nourish by up to .5 seconds. Does this mean the base casting time of Nourish will be increased? Or will this basically stick Nourish at the GCD cap forever.

Empowered Touch:Now refreshes the duration of Lifebloom on casting Nourish.

Efflorescence: Regrowth crits put down a “healing fire” in the direct area, healing for 30% of the amount of the regrowth each second for 7 seconds.

Those two abilities combine really tell us how Resto tank healing is going to work. And I’m actually thinking it’ll be not even just viable, but in some encounters it’ll be greatly desired. (Fast smaller hits as opposed to slow bigger hits). Here’s how the rotation will work: Cast your stack of Lifeblooms on the tank. No need to slow-roll, just one two three. Then your Rejuv. Every few seconds, cast Nourish to restack the Lifeblooms, when the target starts to get low, Regrowth to fish for a crit (It has +50% crit if the target is under 25% health), and let Efflorescence do its job to bring the tank(s) and even the melee back up to full. Keep Rejuv up as necessary.

We haven’t seen the numbers yet, but it seems very solid in theory. As an exchange for it, our raid healing capabilities will probably..I don’t even want to say diminished. I just think that Rejuv will be pushing out similar numbers at 85 than it does at 80. Just you know..larger life pools. And slower damage coming in. We’ll still be great raid healers, but not brokenly so.

So that’s v0.1 of the Cataclysm Resto Druid spec. It looks good to me so far. But I’m expecting nerfs. Lots of nerfs. Because it almost looks in some ways too good right now.

Help I’m Alive (Sindragosa)

They’re gonna eat me alive
If I stumble..stumble stumble stumble…
They’re gonna eat me alive
Can you hear my heart
Beating like a hammer
Beating like a hammer
Beating like a hammer
Beating like a hammer

Metric-Help I’m Alive

In the immortal words of my favorite Dwarf Pally (oxymoron?) So Yeah. We downed Sindragosa-10 last night, after working on it for several weeks. It’s been a VERY tough grind, as Phase 1 really is cake. If people can run away from the Blistering Cold, and then during the air phase hide behind the frost tombs, it’s easy. But Phase 2, it ALWAYS falls apart. We lose a healer, then people start dying.

From what I can tell, this is a very common occurrence among guilds learning the mean dragon. We could constantly get her to 15% or so. And in fact, we were kind of regressing. The execution was right…it was just falling apart somewhere.

So I got fed up. Well, fed up as I can get I guess. I asked if healers could be untombed ASAP. If people got rid of their stacks, fine. If not, well get the next one. But healing WAS falling behind, maybe getting healers out ASAP would help.

True Story Time.

We’re about to pull, and me and my wife (who again, is in the raid playing uber-DPS Arcane Mage. She’s not just a mage, she’s an Arcane Mage, full stop) notice a huge flash of lightning out the window. Wicked. First storm of the year. Hope we don’t get disconnected. So we warn the raid, just in case. Maybe that’s a sign?

So we start the pull. It goes well. We force phase two just before she would go into an air phase (with our DPS, it’s VERY close on if it’s before/after the 3rd air phase.) So Phase 2. I get entombed. Over vent, get me out NAO. I get out quickly, heal everybody up to full. It’s a few DPS, our uber-Rogue (See the Forever a Noob link in the sidebar!, I’m sure eventually he’ll have his own comments), works alone to free them so ranged can fully focus on downing her. 15% passes. Lifebars are all still green. Battle Rezs are all still up. Rockin. Keep on going. 10% I’m frozen again. FREE ME. I get out quickly, we’re able to stabilize. At this point I saw she was below 1 mil health. My heart starts pounding. Hold this together please please please. 5%. Another healer is frozen. Free them, keep it together. 400k, 300k. I think a DPS AND a healer got chained. My wife said to me we should just burn. So I called in vent BURN HER!!!!!ONEONE11111ONE!!!. A few seconds later, ACHIEVEMENT SPAM.

Wow that felt good. I think everybody was kinda stunned that it was actually done. I know I was tearing up.

And then our raid leader said. Lets go visit Arthas. Wow. 11/12.

I firmly believe, that freeing healers ASAP is the key to phase 2. Slowballing it to make sure that stacks drop off, result in wipes. Why? There’s too much damage to single-heal. Instability is always put on one healer. So if you have a healer in the tomb, then you’re effectively running with one healer. So you need to free the second healer straight away, to the point where all your ranged DPS should turn and blast the tomb open right away.

Now that we have that down, I actually figure our second kill (we’re extending the lockout to work on The Lich King), will be much easier. Truth be told we weren’t anywhere close to wiping. It was a clean kill.

We spent an hour working on Lich King. The fight is absurdly epic. Phase 1 is pretty easy. Infest is a good test of healers, but if starts to build up, boy it can do a lot of damage. We got to Phase 2, trying to get a good pattern to deal with the dual threats of Val’kyrs and Defile. Never quite got there, hopefully we’ll do better next time. To be honest, I don’t see LK taking weeks to learn and beat.

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