Thursday, 28 February 2008

First Karazhan Run

So, my guild ventured into Karazhan last night. It was the first time we went in there as a guild, but we had eight players who'd already been in there before which made it very smooth.

There were only three members of the raid who were not fully epicly equipped as well, which made most of the instance a total cake-walk.

I had to go as my priest because they were short one healer. A priest from another guild had said they would go, but were in a battleground when the time came and didn't want to leave there, so they got replaced by Sleeter.

The trip to Attumen was easy. We lost one person on the trash, one of our mages over-agroed and got a horseshoe in the face. But other than that it was by the numbers. Killing Attumen himself was a breeze, even with our main tank disconnecting during the fight.

The trip to Moroes was easy also, our AoE wiped out the groups really quickly, which is more than the AoE from the guild I first went in with was ever able to do. Not a fair comparison though, since that guild was actually at Karazhan level, while this guild really isn't, it's a lot further on.

We wiped once on Moroes, which was my fault. I forgot just how often the add needs shackle casting on it, and just how often it resists. I left it too long to re-cast and it broke and resisted twice in a row, which meant I died and then it went through the raid killing everyone.

Kind of sucks to be firstly under-geared compared to everyone else and secondly be the one to cause the wipe. Never mind though.

Maiden went by the numbers and we got her down first try. Then the Opera event was Big Bad Wolf. We lost three DPS but still killed him with ease.

The night was called before Curator. We'd spent a lot of time waiting for AFK players which had resulted in it taking us almost two hours to get to Moroes, even though we were burning through the mobs like they weren't even there.

So, yeah. We will probably get to see past Karazhan really soon, providing we can get enough numbers.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

The morning after...

So, normally after making a bid decissions, such as leaving a guild I've been in for months, that I've helped and tried to nurture, I feel uneasy the next day. I question if the move was a good one. I wonder if I've made the right decision.

Not this time. I think my new guild is going to be great. I have the feeling, right down in the pit of my stomach, that they all know what they are doing and know why they're playing the game. It feels good.

Now, the pessimist in me is wondering where it's all going to go wrong...

New Guild

So, after agonizing over it for too long, I decided to bite the bullet and jump.

I did my best to leave my old guild on good terms, didn't want to burn my bridges there because they're nice people, just not the guild for me.

So, I've jumped ship and joined a new guild, one that is actually talking about raiding Karazhan, has a date set for their 'next' (although might be their first) run through. It's refreshing. The guild leader is in good gear. The officers are all decked out for Kara. It's very positive!

So far we've done a night of BG pre-mades. We did well, only lost one Eye of the Storm fight when we were just starting up. It was also really close, only about 20 points in it.

So, it's just going to take a bit of time to see if they're as good as it says on the tin!

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Boosting

Normally, and in the general order of things, I don't mind boosting. I'd rather not be doing it in most cases, but I understand that some people want the gear without the fuss of having to group with low level players who've not got a clue how to play.

I've even been known to ask for a boost or two myself.

However, I feel it's self-evident that when you join a guild for the first time you want to make a good impression. You don't make a good impression by asking for boosts right after you have been welcomed in. You make a worse impression when boosts are all you ask for all day. You can really add the cherry to this terrible first impression by asking for access to the guild bank, on your first day, after asking for ten boosts.

Seriously, is it that hard to comprehend? Asking me personally wont make it any different either. I'll not boost someone new to the guild because I don't want to waste my effort. Also players who're asking for boosts the whole time are not people I want to share a guild with anyway, so I'm not going to encourage it by boosting them.

How it shouldn't be done...

There are indicators that a group is going to go badly. For example, when one of your number can't access the Durnholde instance, because the attunement process is too complicated for them, you can guess that person is going to be a liability. At best they're going to be the same as having no one at all in their place in the group. At worst they're going to be the root cause of wipes.

Warlocks not being able to find their backside with both hands was just the start of my troubles.

The group contained two of my guild mates, a druid and a hunter. I assumed that the presence of these two would be a good thing. I couldn't have been more wrong.

The hunter kept body pulling. I kid you not, they kept edging up to the mobs until they were close enough to pull them all. Then they'd drop an exploding trap... and stand there while they were being wailed on. To start with I would spam heal him, desperately trying to keep him alive while the tank pulled the agro off of him. This rarely happened because he'd still be attacking things, almost at random. I've never had to use my Fade ability so many times in an instance. Nor have I been in a situation where I've had to Psychic Scream because I have so much hate that fade doesn't get rid of the mobs.

All of the DPS were choosing their own targets, meaning the tank had no chance to tank and meaning I had no chance to stay alive. I was able to heal through the damage, no worries, but sooner or later I had agro that I couldn't Fade or Psychic Scream out of and couldn't heal myself enough.

This instance shouldn't have been as hard as we made it. I've done Durnholde with a group of level 66 - 68 players and we didn't wipe once. This group had a level 69 tank, me healing in epics, a level 70 warlock, a level 66 hunter and a level 67 druid.

I was gnashing my teeth and generally wishing to die of embarrassment when the druid (the guy from my guild) asks if I need help healing. If he'd been in the same room as me I'd have punched him in the face. He was full balance spec. He was wearing Raiments of Divine Authority, various pieces of owl gear, and no item which gave any significant amount of +damage. That was his DPS gear... And he was offering to help me out. I made it clear that I considered his offer to be an insult and that if he really wanted to help me he could follow the marked target order.

I made it clear to the rest of the group's DPS that I would have no problems in the world with healing if only they would follow the targetting order and allow the tank to keep agro. They said they would and then came up with the amazingly bright idea of having the warlock not use seduce (he was terrible at it anyway) and instead help the tank with tanking using his Fel Guard. I said I didn't think the tank would have a problem with tanking if the brainless, slapdash DPS would focus and help her out. She tanked me for noticing that she wasn't a bad tank, I told her that I knew exactly where the problems of the group were.

For one pull, one glorious pull, the DPS focused first on the skull, then on the cross, then on the diamond and finally on the square. I came out of that pull without ever having taken agro, with almost full mana, and with a sense of peace. The next pull was a little looser but it was okay. But the pull after that they were back to their old ways. Fun.

I'm starting to hate my guild

Friday, 22 February 2008

Ghosthoof

I think Ghosthoof is ready for Karazhan. I know Sleeter is ready, because he's been there and, indeed, done that.

Now I am simply waiting on my guild being ready to raid. This, I am slowing beginning to realise, may never happen.

They're a wonderful group of people, but some of the more vocal and influential are making noises about not wanting to raid. Never wanting to raid, even. Because of the horror stories they've heard from casual friends finding themselves in hard-core raid guilds.

I want to raid. I'd like to be in a hard-core raiding guild. I want to raid every night again. I want to run Karazhan again, and this time down Prince. I want to see Gruul, Magtheredon, and Serpent Shrine Cavern. I want to have, on the distant, hazy horizon, Mount Hyjal and Black Temple.

I think I need a new guild. This one may never make it to Karazhan. But there I get torn. We've recently had a paladin healer leave, putting us back a reasonable way on the road to being ready. We now need another healer. If I leave then that will be another step back. If everyone gets to my situation and leaves, then they will never get to Kara.

On the other hand, of course, do I stay because it's the nice thing to do? Should I crap all over my own enjoyment of the game for the sake of others?

I don't know. It's a hard decision to make.

PvP

PvP gives me ulcers.

I sometimes like it. Occasionally when things are going well, or at least as well as PvP goes, it's nice. Sometimes it feels like everyone out there is cheating like crap, except for you.

People running away seem to have some form of speed hack and manage to stay ahead of me in cat form by bouncing along. Sometimes they're right in front of me as they run and I'm hitting my 'do them pain' button and it's telling me they're out of range.

Over and over again it's stated that PvE involves no skill, while PvP involves total skill. I personally think it's not true. Both are about class, equipment and computer spec. If your class has been balanced so that they are better than the class you're facing you win. If your classes are balanced, then if your equipment is better then you win. Finally, everything game-side being equal, if your computer is faster you win.

I don't believe skill comes into it, nine times out of ten. Or at least, no definition of skill that I would recognise. Using your classes abilities isn't a skill, for example, it's your class.

But, I'm probably wrong. Maybe I don't like PvP because I'm not skilled at it. Maybe some day I'll discover something which lifts the scales from my eyes and allows me to see the skill involved. Until then I'll reluctantly PvP, killing some and being killed by others, while I chase gear which I wish there were other ways to get.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Threat

Another in my 'posts for the newbies' collection for my guild. We have a lot of players who are new to the game, and I am sure some of them didn't know this.

Now, I know when I first started I hadn't got a clue about threat or agro, and I suffered because of it. These days I generally suffer because other people don't know about it, but that's a side issue.

Basics of Threat

How much Threat you have is indicative of how much a given mob hates you and wants you to die. If you have the most threat then you will generally be the one who the mob is taking out all of their childhood issues on. The tank of the group is constantly trying to be on to of the threat list, the rest of the group should be sailing as close as they can while staying behind the tank.

Because threat is measureable there are addons to help you gauge how much threat you are causing. Omen is a very good threat meter, and can be found on http://files.wowace.com/ which also contains a long list of other, normally quite good, addons. Omen is good because it will flash your screen when you pass 90% of the tank's threat, and a good visual indication like this is better than a quiet little bar creeping upwards.

The more people in a group that have Omen, the better. Omen doesn't monitor other people's threat unless they have it, so if everyone has it then everyone benefits. If only the tank and you have it then it's still good because you can stay below them and let the other members of the group worry about getting themselves killed.

On a very basic level, threat is accumilated as follows:

1 point of damage = 1 point of threat
2 points of healing = 1 point of threat

Talents, items, enchants and gems can all affect this rate of threat generation. Tanks generally want to up their threat generation while healers and DPS classes want theirs to be as low as possible.

Basics of Agro

Threat and agro are two different things, although they are often interchangably used. One "generates threat" but one "has agro" or "takes agro". Having agro means you are the one the mob is mashing or chasing around and trying to mash.

When the pull is first made is the time when agro is easiest to take, as the tank will not have much threat with the mob(s). If you're a healer and the tank fires his bow at a mob who is in a pack of three, then anything you do will cause you to take the agro of the mobs the tank didn't shoot. This is because the tank has zero threat with those mobs. They will run to him because he is provisionally top of their threat table, but any action which causes global threat (buffing, gaining rage, healing, etc) will pull the agro of these mobs.

Once the tank has started to generate threat with the mobs then you need to exceed the threat he has caused in order to pull agro. For example, (assuming no threat mitigation for either tank or healer) if the tank has hit the mob for 300 hit points with his bow and you heal him for 780 hit points (divided by 2 because it's healing threat) before he does anything else, then you will pull the agro off of him. This is because, as a ranged class, you need 130% of the tanks threat in order to pull agro. Melee classes only need 110%. This means that if you're a rogue and you smack the mob for 330 hit points as it runs past you on its way to the tank, then you will have agro. Congratulations, I just hope red works with your current gear combination.

Only healing which actually replenishes hit points counts for threat purposes, so if the tank was only missing 100 hit points in the above example, then you'd not have pulled agro, because although you hit him with 780 hit points of healing, he only took 100 (50 threat) points worth.

What does all this mean? Try to think about the threat you are generating with specific actions. If you pull agro then the tank has to have 110% of your threat before he gets the agro back. If you've pulled agro by opening with pyroblast, this might mean you need the tank to growl/taunt the threat off of you because you're so many points above him on the table. If the tank growls/taunts the threat off of you and the healer then pulls you could have caused a wipe, because the tank now can't growl/taunt the threat off of the healer because the ability is on cooldown, meaning the tank is going to have to exceed the healer's threat, and the healer is still going to be generating threat by healing herself...

It also means that if you've pulled agro the safest thing to do is to stop DPSing and let the tank take the agro back. If you run from the tank then they can't catch the mob and thus can't take the agro. In instances mobs generally run faster than players which means that while you and the tank are keeping pace with each other, the mob is pounding you a new one. If you're hitting the mob with instant cast spells as well? Well, you clearly want that threat too badly, and who am I, as a tank, to argue with that? Also, chasing you around trying to take the mob off of you means I'm not generating threat with the other mobs, and they're now on the healer, who's having to heal you, and me.

In short, threat is what grouping is all about. Knowing how much you're generating and knowing how much the tank is generating. If you're generating it to the point where you're taking agro, then slow down your DPS. It's far better for you to throttle your DPS than for the group to deal with the chaos of your over-agroing.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Lore

I've always loved the lore behind WoW. When it's there, that is. Sometimes they just write total drivvel, which doesn't count as lore in my books so can be ignored.

I like reading the texts that are lying around the place when I have a spare moment or two. I especially like finding new texts in old places. It has so far made me a little sad to find no new texts in Outland, despite many places where there are books lying around the place.

Some people I know don't actually know any of the lore, which I can't help feel diminishes the game in a number of fundamental ways. When you're fighting something and the lore is informing why you are fighting them, it makes the fight come alive and gives you purpose. Without the lore you're just grinding for gear, with the lore you can be doing anything, filling any number of heroic and not so heroic roles.

What I'm saying is that knowing a small amount of the lore behind certain things can sometimes mean what you're doing makes more sense. A lot of the lore of WoW is focused on binary opposites, which is standard narrative fare, but some of it makes clear that there isn't a right and a wrong side, there's just Us and Them. Some of the books take it as a core premise that We are the ones in the right. When you read some of the other texts they accept that They could have a point. When you read only one you come to one conclusion, but when you read both your perception can change.

Maybe I should be on an RP realm, but the pomp and ceremony I saw on the few I've been on totally puts me off. I like my lore in its place.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Patch 2.4

Big Bear Butt posted this on his blog: PTR patch 2.4 changes to Primal Nether and Primal Vortex?

I have to say that news is making me really happy. It means that there will be a much greater chance for me to get items crafted and for me to craft items for other people. I don't get that many primal nether, so I don't craft nether requiring patterns for other people in case I need the nether myself. So this is going to be fantastic, people will be able to bring me all of the mats for a given pattern and I'll just combine them! Wonderful.

Guild Stuff

So, I'm in a casual guild full of new players. I'm not sure if I should move right off the bat. I'm not really a casual player. I like being on every night. I liked when we were running Molten Core, Zul'Gurub and (later) Karazhan every night. I like that part of the game and I like doing that part of the game a lot.

Why am I still in said guild? Well the people are really nice and they made leveling to 70 quite pleasant. But (and there always is a but) I don't know if this is still a good guild for me to be in. I've been obsessively focused on getting to run Karazhan since hitting 70 and I, in my naive way, thought everyone else would be too.

But it doesn't seem to be the case. Factor in that the guild leader invited me to the guild when we were both level 40 and has only reached 66 in the time it has taken me to level to 70, get Earthwarde, get good enough gear to run heroics and keyed up for Kara long ago. The speed that the guy levels I actually imagine I could level another character to 70 by the time he finally breaks through that milestone.

If that's the calibre of the guild leader, is it really going to be the guild for me? I don't know. I'm starting to think it's not.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Links That I Use

These are some useful links I use almost daily when playing WoW.

Allakhazam to check quest details and spawn locations for certain mobs. Also to check the best grind areas for a primal or other item I'm not used to farming.

WoW Wiki to find out more complicated information which is harder to search for on Allakhazam, or may not be in the comments for the things I am looking at. I also use WoW Wiki for enchant and gem information.

Wowhead if the comments on Allakhazam aren't helpful or if the information looks a little strange. I tend to find there is less information on Wowhead, but what there is tends to be of a higher quality.

Almost everyone knows them, but I wanted to make a post with them in anyway.

More on Arrogance

Maybe I am just irrational, but I really hate people who exclaim about the ease of whatever encounter it is we happen to be about to do. Even if we out-gear the instance and are likely to find it easy. There's nothing that causes wipes more than arrogance.

When I was in my first real raiding guild we did a Righteous Orb run through Strat Living. Now, we'd downed Raggy and Hakkar that week and the guys were talking as if we were immortal. It was a full guild run and they were all laughing and joking about how we should make it at least a challenge and have me (mage) tank.

We wiped on the first lot of trash. We wiped hard.

The warrior said he'd start to use a one-hand and shield. We wiped again.

The healer said he'd stop trying to DPS, we agreed that would be very helpful.

Eventually, after a few more wipes and a lot more humility we managed to finsih the instance.

What I'm trying to say is, instances are easy so long as you respect them and accept that you still need to try.

When you have a mage (as I just had in my run) who seems morally opposed to the idea or re-sheeping, who boasts about how he needs to cut back on the damage because his DPS is so rocking (no, mate, you're pulling agro because you're starting with Pyro on a mob I've just pulled with Faerie Fire), who tells the other members of the run who've never been in before that Murmur is really easy, and who seems totally unable to follow the simple kill order (this is another reason you're pulling agro, you aren't hitting the target I'm actually tanking). When you have this mage in your group, you know it's going to go badly. You can't trust him for a start, because he wont re-sheep. You can't keep everyone focused because he's constantly bragging about how easy it all is. You can't keep the healer alive because you're all over the place trying to tank mobs which should be CCed, which the mage has activated and then Ice Blocked to get away from.

I get annoyed at players who make things harder through their arrogance. I try to approach each instance as if it could kill me, which it almost certainly can if I don't treat it with respect. I find this works well enough, as the tank can have a certain calming influence over the rest of the group. However, some days you're fighting a losing battle and the best you can do is to suck it up and keep swiping.

Bear Meets Kara

As part of my own preparations for going to Karazhan I've been looking at suggested starting stats for druid tanks. I've found some wild variation, but I'm sure with a little digging and a little creative interpretation I'll find a combination that suits me.

Just for a matter of my own record, here are the minimum stats I've been given for druid tanking:

Defence: Most people agree that un-critable (415) is what you should aim for before setting foot in Kara. Some people say that 385 is enough to get started with. However, since I already have an over-abundance of defence which I'm looking to get rid of in favour of agility and stamina, I don't think this stat is that much of a problem for me at the moment.

Armour: Most are in agreement that you are looking at a base of 20k armour. A few say this is too low, but then they would. People like making things hard on themselves. I am over the 20k mark, so I'm happy with this stat for now.

Dodge: Opinions vary on how much dodge a druid tank needs. The low end says 25% while the high end opts for 30%. This is a stat I'm going to have to work on as I am below the low end of the spectrum.

Hit Points: Once again, opinions vary on just how many hit points you need for Karazhan. This is the area they seem to disagree on the most, however. The low end says 12k self-buffed, while the high end wants 18k un-buffed. That's a big difference. I think my health is okay to start Kara with though.

So, with a little work on getting my dodge up, I should be more than ready for Karazhan. Now, about getting the rest of the guild ready...

EDIT: With the addition of a couple of enchants I am now above the 25% dodge floor, not much above it mind, not much at all. I found that I get up to 44% with my own buffs (idol, badge and mark) and Blessing of Kings. Which is handy.

Damage Meters

A lot of people hate damage meters but can't articulate the reason why. They just know, deep down, that the meter is a bad idea.

For me, the main reason damage meters are a bad idea is that most people can't read them. They look at the pretty bars it gives them and that's enough for them to make a judgement.

I had a situation where this became an issue in a Black Morass run I did the other day. There was a discussion over who should take the adds. I mentioned that I'd done it quite nicely with a rogue taking the adds a few times. The rogue didn't like this idea and said that she should be on the bosses because the hunter's DPS wasn't as good as hers. Looking at my damage meter I saw that, yes, the rogue was a small amount ahead of the hunter. However, if you factored in the beast mastery hunter's pet then the rogue was a substantial distance behind the hunter.

"Paladins are better raid healers than priests, look at the meters." Okay, I did. I looked and saw I was 4% behind the paladins. However, then I actally looked at why the rest of the raid had so much healing to their name. You know what? Their healing was actually mostly *my* healing, with a little bit of Improved Leader of the Pack thrown in for good measure. There were a few hundred thousand points of healing which was from my Prayer of Mending, but being counted as other people's healing. Even a few tens of thousands of points which were given to the paladins was actually my healing, my Prayer of Mending.

So, getting tired of people saying how it was such a shame that priests were no longer the best healers based on the damage meters, I did some math. I took all the Prayer of Mending healing (not the over-healing, just the 'enough' healing) away from everyone else, and added it to my count.

You know what? I was top. By a country mile. Even though I couldn't spam a single target for as long as the paladins could, even though I died more often than them because fade isn't actually any good at saving your life in a hell-for-leather healing zerg, I was top on actual healing done.

I told them this the next time they were bragging. They didn't take like it and said my Prayer of Mending and Renew were crap and didn't count. Why Renew had been brought into it I didn't know, maybe they were jealous that a real healer can do HoTs?

Be Imba

I've had a day without WoW. It's been painful, but I've persevered and have, against all odds I might add, prevailed. I finished The Truth by Terry Pratchett and have started Night Watch by the same.

The reason for this WoW-free day? Well, it was the first of my tri-annual formatting days. The day where I trash every little thing on my hard drive and start again. I do this mostly because my computer starts to run like treacle on a cold day and I find I spend a lot of time on full rage and fear I may start swiping...

Formatting day tends to involve much hair-pulling and tears, because, as anyone who does it as infrequently as I do will know, formatting and re-installing is never a pain-free exercise. The machine gods demand you suffer as payment for allowing you to violate the mind of your computer... no, seriously...

Anyway, the part that took the longest was waiting for my girlfriend to remove the files she'd been hiding on my computer. Last time I formatted I'd told her not to hide files on my computer again because you never knew when it might occur to me to just blast the whole lot and start again. However, she did, and so I patently waited for her to rip it all to DVD/CD/Whatever.

Seven hours later we were ready to start formatting.

I can't complain, really. Without her the whole process would be near impossible. I'm not all that computer literate. I'd probably just have taken an axe to it if left to my own devices, then grunted in a cave-man-like fashion when it refused to cooperate and start making pretty colours and stuff again. My girlfriend, on the other hand, is amazing when it comes to computery stuff, a real wizard.

The funny part of the whole process, of course, is re-installing WoW. It's currently estimating that it's going to take 8 hours to download the current patch. Funny? I'm laughing my ass off.

Anyway, something more closely related to WoW, to justify this post. My girlfriend pointed me at this site. It's got a few quirky notions about what is needed by who, but on the whole it seems to be a fairly solid audit of your character and I imagine if it starts to get some traffic then its designers will put more work into it to make it even better... maybe.

It's shown me that not only don't the vast majority of my guild even have the Kara key yet, but that most of them would suck up the place even if they managed to get through the door. /sigh

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Flight Form

When I first started WoW I didn't know anything about the mounts. What had attracted me was the in-depth professions system, combined with the many favourable reviews I'd read about it.

When I discovered you could get a mount it interested me, but when someone mentioned how much they cost I was put off and decided that I'd probably not afford one for a long, long time. Then I hit on a money making scheme and the possibility of getting a horse became a reality. I dropped all of my money on my mount at level 40 (my money making scheme was that good). I was poor, but I was fast!

Then I heard that warlocks and paladins got a 'free' mount. A little digging and I found out that for the cost of a regular spell they got a mount, and I was upset. It was such a huge slice of money to me back then that I felt I'd worked hard for something that other classes got for nothing (or next to nothing).

Then it filtered through to me that they did a quest and got and epic mount, and the unfairness of it consumed me. I took consolation in the fact that my money making scheme was still bringing in the gold and I would have my epic mount money soon enough.

Now I am playing a class that gets Flight Form. I got it at level 68, two levels before every other class. And I got it for 7g. The riding skill and effectively a mount (although, an instant cast mount) for 7g.

I love it! I am not complaining, just boggling at how unfair it is for me to get a 60% mount which can fly and is instant cast, for 7g. Compared to my priest who had to scrimp and save and do a lot of grinding after reaching level 70 in order to get together the 900g for his skill and mount, I think the 7g on mount and skill for druids really needs to be re-evaluated. There are so many advantages to Flight Form that it's just ridicules. For example, you can't be stunned out of Flight Form and you can jump off a cliff and cast it as you fall.

Who would choose a flying mount over Flight Form? No one. So why is Flight Form less than 1% of the price? Only Blizzard could answer that.

King of the Ogres

When I was questing in Blade's Edge Mountains I saw the announcement that someone had become King of the Ogres. Ever since then I wanted to do the quest chain and become King of the Ogres myself.

Yesterday I achieved my goal. I became the ogre's new king. And it was great!

Now, it's not the most amazingly difficult achievement. In fact, it's necessary if you want to work on your reputation with Ogri'la and the Skyguard, although, less so for the Skyguard. However, I was so pleased that I was beaming.

Really, it's a nothing achievement, it simply is the first step on a road to another target. But for me it was always a goal in itself. I wanted it so much, almost as much as I wanted Earthwarden.

The actuality of it was not disappointing either. It was great. I ran around the large party, laughing as they knelt and chatted and danced. I drank some of the ogre beer, then some of the ogre coffee because I don't like the WoW drunk effect.

For something so simple, it was one of the most fun things I've done recently on WoW. It's such a shame it had to end, really.

Monday, 11 February 2008

From the Tank's Eye View

After writing my thoughts on tanks from a holy priests point of view, I thought I'd write my thoughts on healers from a feral druid's point of view. My initial reaction when I came to the idea was: "wow, that's a short post, just 'whoever keeps me alive so I can do my job'", but I thought a little more on it and decided I'd go through each class and give some of my thoughts and opinions.

Holy Priests

Although I am leaving myself open to accusations of bias again, I'd have to say my favourite healing class is the priest. He has such a wide variety of healing powers and such a deep bag of different tricks that, if given full choice, I'd take a holy priest over any of the other healing classes any day.

Priests have their weaknesses, such as how useless fade is, but their strengths more than make up for these short-falls. Being able to have a buff flying around the group, healing for a lot each time people take damage is wonderful, as is the fact it doesn't give the healer threat, it gives the threat to the healed.

Priests may have some longevity issues in a full-on melee situation, but every class will come to a point where they can't heal any more, and the priest will often have done a much better job at keeping everyone's health up before then.

With a priest I feel safe (until the priest proves to be bad at their class). If they're firing off a Prayer of Mending onto me before each pull I feel doubly safe. I have a priest here who knows their abilities and knows how easy it is to snatch agro on the pull with a few heals, so they're giving me the initial heal agro by making their first heal be a Prayer of Mending heal. The only other ability that comes close to doing this to my knowledge is Earth Shield, which is nowhere near as powerful as Prayer of Mending, from my tankish point of view.

Finally, a priest that doesn't know how and when to use their powerful abilities, such as Prayer of Mending, and/or whose gear isn't up to scratch could be a liability to the party, but you've still got a solid healer there and you can coax them into using their abilities properly.

Holy Paladins

All the time I was leveling my priest I was hearing about how paladins were the only healer worth taking anywhere. It made me a little upset that I had put all this effort in (and that there was still more effort to be put in) and that it would all be wasted. So it came as a relief when I still got groups. Moreover it was a relief when I was a good group healer.

From the point of view of a tank, paladins are great, until the crap hits the fan. I have had many wipes because the paladin tried to keep another member of the group alive against AoE damage and didn't get back to healing me in time. I've also had a number of wipes because the paladin's use of down-ranked heals - they were healing to stay on full mana, not keep me on full health, d'oh.

The utility of a paladin healer isn't great. Sure they can heal until the cows come home, and then some, but only in a serious, going-to-keep-you-alive kind of way on a single target. Once you start having them heal multiple targets they have to up-rank their heals and they no longer fulfill on of their major selling points.

Of course, the paladin's real advantage is her bubble. When she pulls the heat off of you, all she has to do is pop her bubble and it will come waltzing right back like some kind of forgetful puppy, with really large teeth.

I like paladin healers, don't get me wrong about that. But I accept they have their limits and that I have to work that little bit harder to make sure they're only healing me.

Restoration Shamans

Shaman fall into two very extreme categories: those who suck harder than a suped-up turbo Dyson, and those who heal like gods.

The defining point separating the two extremes is how they use their abilities. The worst tend not to make full use of all of their powers, don't pop down totems, don't use Earth Shield (indeed, may not have Earth Shield), etc.

I really like being healed by a shaman with skill and understanding of his class. The other shamans can go take the long walk.

Sadly, the good shamans are few and far between and if you find one, friend him.

Restoration Druids

I have a problem with druids. Their abilities seem to be focused on healing tomorrow, rather than healing today. They've a wealth of heal over time abilities, some really strong ones and some fiddly to use ones. But they seem to lack the very thing that makes a paladin great - solid chunks of healing in response to damage taken.

Druid healers seem to have to predict when I'll be in the greatest need for a heal and then place healing on me to fill that need ahead of me taking the damage, which is a precarious position to be in. To be blunt, I don't trust druid healers.

I've had some really bad experiences with restoration druids, and a couple of nice ones. On the whole I'd take a restoration druid, but I'd be thinking about a holy priest.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I'd rank the healers in this order:
  1. Holy Priest

  2. Great Resto Shaman

  3. Holy Paladin

  4. Resto Shaman

  5. Resto Druid

You may well disagree with me on that ordering, but such is life. Everyone has their opinions.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Karazhan, PUG?

Normally I wouldn't answer a request to go on a Karazhan run. Especially when that request comes over the trade channel. However, on this occasion I wanted to go, since it had been so long since I had run Kara.

It seemed like it was going to be an okay run. I'd only seen the one PUG request for one member so I assumed (ass out of u and me?) it was going to be a guild run with one member short. Oh boy was I wrong. I checked three members at random and they were all from the same guild so I left it at that and started the hike to Karazhan.

I should remember to check fully before starting these things. About half way to Kara someone mentioned that they'd already downed a couple of bosses. Now, although this is sub-optimal from my point of view, I can deal with that. Then, as I was flying to Swamp of Sorrows, I decided to start checking which classes we had in the raid. Then I start to notice that I am not the only member of this group in a different guild. Four guilds in total.

So, there I am, on my way to PUG Kara and hating the idea. However, because I'm a bit of a push-over I decide to give it a go. I figure I can just leave if we wipe too hard on the trash.

So, we get to Kara and do what seems to be the obligatory 'waiting for someone to finish their battle ground' (why? If you want to instance, instance, if you want to PvP then PvP, don't try to do both at the same time, please).

Then the really fun part starts. The guild can't remember how far they got last time, so in we run. Attumen? Dead. Moroes? Partying in hell. Maiden? Finished. We run further and further in, past empty room after empty room and this sinking feeling starts in the pit of my stomach. Opera event? Done. Curator? Down. On and on we run, until finally there is no more instance left to run to. The entire place is finished, kaput.

Most of the members are from one guild and they're in uproar. They'd never cleared Curator, so how did the entire instance get cleared? Well, I imagine it's because on of your PUG members had already cleared it. Either that or Blizzard has decided that two saved people going into different raids is bad and it should simply nuke the instance.

On the bright side I got to see the very end of Kara, which my old guild had never got to, so that was nice.

That's soooo easy...

A little rant, since it's one in the morning and I'm feeling a little cranky and tired. I wish people would just keep their belittling comments to themselves. Saying something in WoW is sooooo easy isn't really warranted. Nothing in WoW is brain surgery, or even rocket science for that matter.

Sure, running five instances for Kara attunement isn't akin to planning the invasion of Normandy, but it's a substantial time commitment, which for more casual gamers isn't something to be sniffed at or looked down on. If you have two hours a night/every other night to play in then getting those five runs can take weeks or even months.

Sure, the instances themselves aren't impossibly hard, sure if you have a heroic level character then you're not going to find the normal level instances on that character hard. But they might be a little different and a little more challenging if you're new to the game, as 90% of the guild is (or at least, 90% of the guild plays like they are new to the game, even when they boast about their level 70 alts).

I guess the thing that put me in this fine mood, if I'm honest, is the instance run I just did with a melee hunter... or to use the colloquialism, a melee huntard. It was supposed to be a lovely run, full guild, no PUG members. But, seriously, he was the worst hunter ever. Ever. He fired off three or four shots on the mob I'd just pulled with fairy fire feral, thus snatching the agro from the start. He ran in when I was taking multiple mobs and dropped fire traps and then stood there hitting the mob in melee (62% of overall damage done by the huntard was melee, third highest ability was raptor strike). It was just a comedy of errors.

Fortunately I was a level 70, we had a really good holy paladin healer and the instance was only Slave Pens, so nothing really went terribly wrong.

I find it hard to tell someone not to do something, though. Especially if it's not causing deaths. It means that the thing giving me an ulcer carries on happening, but I can deal with that, sort of. I just don't feel right saying "stop doing X, start doing Y, I know how to play your class better than you do, froob." Mainly because I hate when people tell me things like that (especially since they are normally the people I perceive to be the one causing all the groups problems).

I often wonder if it's normal to feel I can't try to correct someone's bad playing style, just because I am too high level for the instance and therefore able to pull the group through the tight spots that person is creating. If it were a close call each time, in a group of the right level for the instance, then I'd say something for the good of the run. But if I'm boosting/tanking a low 60's instance then I let it go and hold my tongue.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Karazhan Key Attunement

Since we have a lot of new players in our guild I decided I would attempt to write a walk-through for the Karazhan key attunement quest chain. Not that the one on WoW Wiki isn't perfectly fine, of course.

If you want to follow mine, or any other Karazhan attunement guide, I would advise reading through the whole thing before you set off so that you are familiar with the steps you need to take to get the key. For example, if you read the whole thing you'll know you need to run the Caverns of Time: Durnholde (Old Hillsbrad Foothills) instance, but that it doesn't matter at which point you do. This information might mean you can easily slip into a group which is looking for one more, rather than getting to that stage and needing to make your own group from scratch.

The quest chain starts in Deadwind Pass (between Duskwood and Swamp of Sorrows), outside the Karazhan instance. An NPC there, called Archmage Alturus, will give you the quests Arcane Disturbances and Restless Activity. They both involve the same area, just under Karazhan. One requires you to get ten Ghostly Essence, the other requires you to take some readings of a well and a pond. To get the readings you need to go down two hatches near Archmage Alturus, one to the north of the other. You fight your way down the trapdoors and at the end of one underground area there is a well and at the end of the other is a lake. Once you've got your essences and readings you can return to Alturus.

The next step is to take Alturus' report to Archmage Cedric on the shore to the north of Dalaran (the huge candyfloss bubble to the south of Undercity and west of Tarren Mill in Alterac Mountains). This step is easy enough, just a little time consuming as you have to travel from Deadwind Pass to Alterac. These things are sent to try us and we must be equal to the challenge!

Once Cedric has played his minor part you are shipped off to Shattrath to speak with Khadgar (he is located in the middle of the Terrace of Light with A'dal and is the guy who made you follow his stupid elemental guide before choosing which faction in Shat you wanted to work with).

Khadgar will give you the quest Entry Into Karazhan, which requires you to go into the Auchindoun instance, Shadow Labyrinth. If you get a group to this instance and you fail to down Murmur, you can still get the key fragment as you wont agro Murmur if you just run around him to the left, get up on the ledge and open the container. Almost every single group I've ever been in has been more than happy to take out the arcane guardian so don't worry about not getting it done. Even if most of the group doesn't want to help you it's a really weak elite which can be soloed by the right classes. To get into Shadow Labyrinth at least one member of your group must have the Shadow Labyrinth Key or a rogue with a 350 lockpicking level. You can easily get the key from Talon King Ikiss in Sethekk Halls.

Khadgar will then send you off to find The Second and Third Fragments which are in the Steamvaults (Coilfang Reservoir) and the Arcatraz (Tempest Keep) respectively. The Steamvaults doesn't require anything special to get into. The second container is in at the bottom of the lake next to the room in which you fight the first boss. The Arcatraz is a little more tricky. You need at least one person in the group with the Key to the Arcatraz (or a rogue, again with 350 lockpicking), which you get by doing the quest chain starting in Area 52 with Consortium Crystal Collection and ending with How to Break Into the Arcatraz given by A'dal, which requires you to run the Botanica and the Mechanar. You will also need a flying mount to get to the Arcatraz, as you can't be summoned there. The container for the key fragment in the Arcatraz is in a room full of large void elementals, just around the corner from where you enter the room. Both the second and third guardians are easily soloable if your group clears the instance and doesn't want to help you get the fragments, not that that has actually ever happened to me.

Once you have completed that stage, Khadgar will send you off to the Black Morass in the Caverns of Time in Tanaris to get The Master's Touch. To gain access to the Black Morass you'll need to be attuned, which requires you to have completed the quest to free Thrall in the Old Hillsbrad Foothills instance in the Caverns of Time. Entrance into which requires you to have followed an NPC around the Caverns of Time (which you might want to do before you start looking for a group so you don't hold things up).

Once the master has touched your key (or rather, given you his own key) then you just need to return to Khadgar, slap him* for the hoops he made you jump through and complete the quest: Return to Khadgar. Congratulations, you now have your very own, shiny Master's Key and are totally attuned for Karazhan.

The Kara key attunement process can be a total pain. If you want to be self sufficient (as I did the first time I got attuned) then you must run eight instances and do a very long side quest chain for the Arcatraz key. The minimum number of five man instances you have to run is five (you don't have to get the Shadow Labs or Arcatraz keys, someone else will probably have them, not guaranteed, but likely) which is still a large slice of time.

--

* Surgeon General's health warning, slapping Khadgar may be a life limiting move and may lead to, amongst other things: lung cancer, heart disease, brain tumours, obesity, cirrhosis of the liver, skin cancer, kidney failure, kidney stones and fireballs to the face.

Healing preferences

I was often asked as a holy priest which tanking class I preferred healing for. It was never a very difficult question, I'd say druid every time.

It's not that I think warriors or paladins are terrible tanks, they have their place and they can do some jobs very well. However, for general purpose, Swiss Army tanking (such as one finds in almost every instance), I'd choose a druid.

For a start, the druid ability Swipe is much more powerful and versatile than Cleave. Swipe is also better, in my opinion, than Consecration, which I never found held threat off of me well enough while I was spam healing the paladin.

Now, I know I am opening myself up to accusations that I've 'never met a good pala/warrior tank', but is that really likely? Is it honestly possible that I ran instances and healed for months and months, meeting druid tank after druid tank that could keep the agro off of me in almost all situations, and never once met a 'good' paladin or warrior tank? Really? I'll save you the effort, no it's not. I met good paladin and warrior tanks. They just weren't as good as the worst of the druid tanks I met.

"But LFM," I hear you cry, "you are just biased because you are a druid tank!" It could be the case. However, I was answering that question long before Ghosthoof was even a twinkle in my eye. In the argument about this particular chicken and egg, the preference for healing druids came first and the creation and leveling of a druid tank came a shockingly distant second.

I hope that has put to rest some of the initial cries of outrage.

I'd like you to know that my definition of a good tank requires the fulfillment of three criteria:

  • Can take the hits the instance dishes out

  • Can keep the mobs from hitting me

  • Gives me an easy time healing


On all three criteria the druid class reigns supreme. I know points one and three might appear to be the same thing, but point three is more to do with attitude and competence. If the tank constantly pulls the mobs around corners so I can't see them to heal, requiring me to constantly move around to get position, then they fail at point three, while probably being able to succeed on point one.

So there you have it, part of the dual reason that Ghosthoof exists.

Feral Druids, some thoughts

For me there is only one choice when it comes to druids: Feral.

I know balance can put out good DPS and that restoration is good for PvP healing, but neither is as much fun as being a feral druid.

With my feral druid I need one kit (I keep two, but I rarely switch out of my tanking gear). I don't need to switch out of cat form when I'm grinding because Improved Leader of the Pack means I am healing myself for about as much as the mobs I am grinding are hitting me for. I can two-man-tank UBRS and LBRS without a healer for the same reason. Mangle packs a meaty punch and if Omen of Clarity pops are the right moment (as it often does) I can Mangle four times in a row and then either Rip if they have over 3k health left (highly unlikely) or Ferocious Bite to kill them off (max crit on Bite for my Ghosthoof so far is over 3.2k). I often kill level 70 mobs before the 10 second cool down on my Prowl is ready, which is only a problem in very crowded areas.

Tanking as a feral druid is a dream also. With Feral Charge, Mangle and Swipe I find re-acquisition of threat to be easy, while Mangle, Maul and Lacerate mean keeping threat is a breeze. Combine these abilities with Frenzied Regeneration, so I can heal myself in a pinch, Improved Leader of the Pack, meaning I am healing myself for around 600 - 750 (depending on buffs) each time I crit, and the Primal Fury talent, giving me 5 rage each time I crit, and you have a threat generating machine. I can even hit myself up with Regrowth (and Rejuvenation if I feel the need) before I pull, which allows the healer to hold off healing for those precious few seconds at the start, thus keeping all the agro on me.

In my opinion, all of these points taken together make feral druids the best specialisation for the druid class.

Looking for more?

Hello world.

I have started this blog with the intention of posting comments about the feral druid class, the holy priest class and on my experiences in instances with them.

First there needs to be a little about my characters.

My first main character was Samirah. She was a human frost mage on the Kilrogg (EU) server. I experienced my first raids with Samirah and it's a little sad that she is so neglected now. However, I have moved on and she must make way for the New Order of Things. With Samirah I cleared Molten Core, Zul'Gurub and Onyxia, got to the last boss in the Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj and made a start on Blackwing Lair. After TBC came out Samirah went very much onto the back burner where she has remained ever since.

Sleeter is my holy priest. I've run Karazhan with him and we got as far as Prince Malchezaar/Nightbane. I found healing as a holy priest in Karazhan to be a little disheartening until I learnt how to read the healing meters (about which I am planning to post later). After which I was very content with my choice.

Finally I made Ghosthoof my feral druid on the advice of my girlfriend. I absolutely loved being a feral druid and he is now my main. Feral druids have the major advantage of having acres of health and the ability to do good damage even in taking gear. Ghosthoof hasn't been in any raids yet, but I feel I am at a point with him that I can start Karazhan. I thought that following his progress through the dusty halls of Kara might be fun, which was the main impetus behind starting this blog.

Anyway, there is your introductory post. Hello world.