Tales from the PUG: The Return

Yeah, you know it. Uh huh, that’s right, you know it.

Just when everyone is choking down actual gameplay teasers being released in a flood, here I come with some non-informative post about a PUG run.

Hey, there’s only so much teaser BS a person can take in one day. You gotta have somewhere to go for a laugh, right?

Last night, I returned to the PUG for a turn or two on my Druid.

My lovely, beefy Tauren piece of awesomeness.

As a sidebar, I’d never really noticed how much I had grown to dislike the appearance of my very first, original female Night Elf character. When I started the game and chose my Druid, the male Night Elf options all looked terrible to me, and the Night Elf females looked pretty nice. I didn’t know about the whole “pole dancing” thing yet.

But the face I chose for the Druid just looked… well, vapid. Stupid. Irritatingly so. She looked like a valley girl, like, ya know?

Is it any wonder you hardly ever saw me in anything other than Bear, Cat or Tree?

But my Tauren… ah, my Tauren.

I love him so much, I want to heal in Tauren form. Screw going into Tree, I can’t see those horns!

Okay, anyway.

Oops! First, let me make clear, there ARE Night Elf females I do like. I think my Nelf Hunter Windstar looks awesome. She looks both sensitive and badass at the same time. It’s not Night Elf females in general, it was the choice I made in face design for my Druid in specific. You can’t change faces in the Barbershop. Doing a faction change, for that alone, is almost worth it.

Okay, anyway, anyway. Again.

(You know I do that with my grammer just to torque Kestrel, right? Shh, don’t tell him. Oh, and now some dots, everyone loves my dots…)

((Love you, Kestrel!))

(((Damnit, I spelled Grammar right above… I better fix that… okay, fixed. Moar dots!)))

I’m in a cheerful mood, so watch out, I don’t know where I’ll be driving this bus next!

Right. Where the heck was I? Oh, yeah, right.

[Queue Keanu voice]: Woah.

So there I was last night, all horny and everything, and wanting to build up my stockpile of Emblems.

I created this Hawt Blood Elf Hunter Chick (Which is kinda like a Sexy Blood Elf Biker Chick, but with a reddish colored cat with great big fangs like this ;-<) and she’s got two Heirloom Trinkets, some sexy Heirloom PvE shoulders and a chestpiece, and this big honking double-barreled PvP Heirloom shotgun.

It’s all good, the cute off the shoulder armor with the little red vest is precious, but the shottie? That’s so, like, Dwarf, you know?

Now, if the Shotgun had some taste and refinement, if it had the finishing touches found in a nice Holland and Holland over/under combo, if it came in a fine handcrafted ebony wood case with a few bottles of Mont Blanc, well…

But no, it’s entirely too plebian. It simply will not do.

But I did see just the thing in the latest Tiffany’s collection catalog, this very well shaped Heirloom Bone Bow,  that looked just the sort of thing for a Blood Elf with an eye towards style and sophistication. Perhaps with the 12 1/4″ shafted arrows with Northrend Shoveltusk ivory inlay, silver chased heads and rare black eagle feather fletching?

Yeah, those cost 65 Emblems, and my charge cards are all maxed out. And you don’t EVEN want to go there, but you know, it was Easter, all the stores had their new Spring collections out, what can you do, you know?

So anyway, that’s totally why I need Emblems right now.

Hey, let’s go on a pug!

I went into the LFD tool as a healer, because I pretty much have decided that I will only tank for friends from now on. I play for fun, or to achieve goals for other characters that are going to be fun, and being a tank for the groups I typically get just isn’t all that spiffy anymore.

I love tanking with friends, but strangers? Yeah, not so much.

On the flip side, I try to never be the person that does to other tanks what people do to drive ME to stop pugging as one. You pass it on, right?

I joined LFD, and right away got an Azjol-Nerub group. That’s a good thing, because AN is about as smooth and straightforward and fast as you can hope for in a pug, when it’s all about return on time invested. 5 Emblems, 15 minutes. Sweet!

You suspect it’s going to be one of those runs, when you don’t even have five in the group yet, and the tank has already pulled the first mobs.

You know it’s going to be one of those groups, when you just rounded the corner trying to catch up to “hopalong tankaday”, and you get a facefull of ignored Skirmisher all up in your roots.

So, yay, I self-heal through that, while tossing my HoTs around and begin getting down to serious healing. This group, tank included, are taking just a massive amount of fast damage.

Wow, what the heck?

I’m running the Gearscore addon these days, NOT to judge people’s worthiness to be in my groups, but for just this type of situation. By looking at each player’s portrait in the party, I quickly see I’ve got a Paladin tank with a 5600 Gearscore, I’ve got two players, Death Knight and Shadow Priest with 3K GS (or under, actually, both were like right on the edge of 3K) who are both in the same guild, and a Warlock at around 4K.

By way of comparison, my healing gear on my Druid is pretty solid from Emblems and Heroic PoS/FoS drops, and it’s gemmed and enchanted properly, and I’m at 4.8K GS. I’ve even got a Frost cloak. So 5600 tells me that’s someone in pretty good raiding gear, and 3K tells me a couple pretty new level 80s in mostly Blues and a few crafted Epics or drops, and 4K tells me the player is working their way up nicely.

Notice I make no judgments on skill at all here. I’m simply making assumptions on current gear level, where it may have come from, and set a few expectations on where they might be in terms of DPS and survivability.

It’s handy, as I said, specifically for situation like this. Because the tank actually says, while on the first boss, “C’mon DPS, wake up, you suck.”

Well, no, actually, considering the comparative levels of their gear, they’re doing pretty damn good. I’m very impressed with what the Shadow Priest is squeezing out of her gear, that’s a player spot on.

But okay, whatever, we’re moving too fast for me to type.

Boom, we get down to the next boss area, we’re flying along, killing, clearing, boss goes down, moving on.

We get to the two large mobs just before the last boss, and one of the players, the Shadow Priest I think, is back a ways. They haven’t caught up to us, and wonder of wonders, the tank didn’t just run ahead and pull without them.

But he DOES take the time to get bitchy in chat.

“Are you coming or what? We don’t have all day, get over here.”

I take the time to reply, “Since we’re sitting here waiting and you’re bored, how about buffing me with Kings, since you never gave anyone Paladin buffs yet?”

Yes, that’s right. A tank too lazy, too rushed or too ‘leet’ to bother buffing the group, not even doing the new standard “I’m too good to give you the buff you want, I’m giving everyone Kings” like you see most of the time these days. 

I get my Kings, and he shuts up.

For now. Oh yes, for now. But there is still one more boss, and this pull will tell me something.

Gear or skill? Care or indifference? Phoning it in or in it to win it?

One pull. We’ll see.

We clear the two mobs, we all line up on the King, and the Paladin runs in to pull.

Here’s the test. How did he pull?

He ran straight forward to the boss and stopped dead right there, boss facing the entrance ramp, and stayed there.

This is the loser way to tank the final boss in Azjol-Nerub.

Whether you want to call it laziness, ignorance, or just-didn’t-give-a-shit, bad tanks run forward on the last boss and stop.

Why?

Pound.

The last boss casts Pound. It has a long cast time, and when it goes off, he casts it in the direction he had originally been facing when he started casting. Well, most of the time. Sometimes he bugs and does whirl around if his main threat target is behind him, as the tank is supposed to be.

Oh, and Pound’s key characteristic is it does a shitload of damage to anyone standing within an area the shape of a cone in front of him. It’s a cone-shaped AoE.

It’s almost enough, sometimes it IS enough, to kill cloth or leather wearing players.

By running forward and stopping right there, the tank is leaving it to everyone else in the party to be aware of the mechanic, and run all the way the long way around the boss to get behind him, and during that time, of course, only instant cast spells and attacks are going off.

And if the other players aren’t aware of the mechanic, then when Pound goes off, guess what? Everyone standing somewhere in front of the damn bug king gets a big facefull of WHAM!

So, the tank ran in. Stood there. Kept the boss facing the ramp.

Not everyone ran around to the sides and back like I did. The Death Knight and Shadow Priest did, the Warlock didn’t.

The Warlock’s health plummeted to about 500, and my existing HoTs quickly pulled him back up.

The Paladin, who had run through the boss to get behind him when Pound started casting, lols in Party chat.

He did it on purpose, the worthless little prick, hoping to kill someone else.

Why? Why would someone do something like that?

The run had been smooth. The enemies all died. Nobody ran crazy. Everyone stayed on target. There was no chaos. My heals prevented sillyness and unnecessary deaths.

So why?

I tell the tank in party chat, “How about pulling the boss to face away from the party.”

He announces that you can’t move the boss after he casts Pound.

Well, he has managed to be technically accurate, while at the same time avoiding the fact I didn’t say shit about moving the boss DURING the Pound, I said move the boss to “face away from the party”.

On the second phase, sure as hell, he does it again, and the Warlock eats it again, and doesn’t die. Again, the “lol noob” rolls off the tanks’ lips.

I’m making sure that if nobody actually gets one shot, nobody dies.

Yes, not even the tank.

Phase three comes around, I’ve whispered the Warlock, and the only person that eats Pound is… the Tank. Who immediately throws a Party chat hissyfit.

Guess what?

He moved through the boss during the Pound cast, and the boss did his sometimes-seen bug and whirled around before it went off, nailing the tank.

Amusingly enough, the Shadow Priest, Warlock and Death Knight had all moved to the side during the cast, and didn’t eat it.

Oh, yeah, I was at the side too. Of course.

What? Hey, of course *I* know about the bug, I blogged about it a year ago. Or something like that. Back when it really hurt to get hit by Pound. Like, in Neolithic times, with the dinosaurs and shit.

The tank is hot. He ran through and got hit by Pound anyway, and that’s not fair.

Now, here is the question I have up to this point.

I’m the only one who has said a word, besides the tank, on the entire run. Not a peep out of anyone else while the tank has acted like an immature child.

Do you think the silence was due to not caring what an idiot thinks, or because they were afraid that if they said anything to show they didn’t appreciate the attitude, the tank would leave and the DPS would have a collapsed run on their hands?

Do YOU adjust your behavior, do you hold your tongue when insulted or ridiculed, so you don’t piss off your tank and maybe have him leave you in a fit of childish rage?

While you think of that, I’ll wrap the run up with a fun moment.

When the boss falls, the tank first rolls the Recount log of Damage done through Party chat, and then says, “God you all suck, I’ve got top DPS and I’m the tank.”

I immediately reply, having been primed for this bit of asshattery since the first boss, “You are a Paladin tank with a 5600 GS. The rest of the DPS has nowhere even close to your gear level, so what is your point?”

At the same time, the Death Knight says, “Well, if I was on my other character my DPS would be a little different, lol.”

The tank replies, “Well, the Warlock has 4K.”

To which I reply, “You are a complete moron. A MORON. Goodbye!”

/leave group.

The Warlock has 4K? This is your answer for being a dick about being a tank with the highest DPS? And a Paladin tank as well?

“Oooh, I only outgear you by 1600 gear score, how come I’m top DPS, you must all suck.”

Damnit, there are days, as I said in guild chat, where I just want to bitchslap the world.

Or, in this case, I’d like every tank with this kind of attitude to line up single file, perform a left face, and I’ll freaking ride down the line on a Harley doing 70 with my hand outstretched, to SLAP THEM ALL!!!

Do you do it? Do you eat your feelings and allow yourself to suffer indignities in silence just for the sake of not bruising a sensitive tanks’ ego, challenging his asshattedness, so that you get your run finished?

I now return you to your informative MMO Champion/Blues Tracker game announcements, still in progress.

Shabby PUGs I can stand, but exploits really makes my ass drag!

Name where I got that (slightly changed) quote from that I used as a title, and get a Big Bear shout out… because if you recognise where it came from after I tweaked it a little, you’re definitely my kind of movie fan.

Yes, that’s a hint. The original line is from a movie. Here’s a second hint; it’s one of my favorite films of all time.

Now, on to the show!

A few nights ago I finally achieved my mini-goal of hitting 375 Enchanting on my Shaman, and so I no longer had any excuse not to play her.

I queued up once again as a Healer Shaman, and away I went into LFD.

All I wanted was a quick romp in the Heroic sack with some random PUG I picked up in a bar, but, as Ford Fairlane might have said, “I got the bonus plan.”

I got Drak’theron Keep, and in looking at the group composition (as I always do for Totem adjustment) I saw that three of the others in the group were all from the same guild. A Paladin, a Shaman, and a Shadow Priest.

Now, the first thing I did was laugh, and I mean really laugh at the name of this guild.

Get this; Prophet of Cthulhu.

Why did that get me chuckling? For the answer to that, may I refer you to this ancient post of mine, from May of 2008, wherin I plug John Ringo books, throw down the hate on Transformers, laugh about things that lots of people probably take very seriously, get insanely cranky… and way down at the bottom relate a true story concerning myself, some very serious true believers, and the great old ones of Lovecraftian lore.

Okay, so I’m laughing with the guild name of these three, and off we go.

First thing I do, as I said, is see that one of the three, Lardzilla, is a Enhancement Shaman, and I’m examining what Totems he’s dropping in the first coupe fights so I can set mine not to overlap. I also check to see what the Paladin did for buffs, all the things a Shaman has to do to make sure you drop the right Totems. And of course, I get my Tremor Totem set for later, when the fear, she be a flowing.

This causes me to lag a little behind, but I do my best to keep the heals flowing.

Then we get to some lizards, and I’ve got max skinning and seem to be the only skinner, so again, I’m lagging behind a little trying to get some skinning in.

All in all, I’m doing my best, but I’m certainly not feeling like I’m giving off the impression to the others of being bright-eyed, bushy tailed, and poised to let the heals flow.

We blow through the instance, everything is pretty nice, a few times the Paladin scoops up groups that are a bit larger than I’d certainly like, but some frantic healing and Nature’s Swiftness keep everything just fine.

We hit the end boss, finish him off, and I win the epic Mail healing bracers. Score!

I also ding the 25 Emblem achievement. :)

I thank the group for the run, and make the comment in passing that it does get hard gearing up a new alt all over again.

The Paladin, of all people, comments that he knows the feeling from his Druid.

I mention that at least I’ve got an idea about healing and some good toolslike Vuh’do thanks to my other healer, a Tree Druid, and the Paladin says he hates Vuh’do on his Tree Druid, he prefers Lifebloomer instead, an addon I’m not even sure I’ve heard of before.

Next thing I know, the Paladin says, “Hey, when did you ding?”

I tell him I just turned 80 on Saturday, and it’s been a lot of fun.

Next thing I see, he’s queued the four of us up for heroic Forge of Souls, and says, “Here, let’s get you some gear.”

Well… okay, this is an unprecedented level of niceness from three folks that I haven’t seen before. My healing sure as heck didn’t warrant this behavior.

What does that leave?

It couldn’t possibly be… nice people?

Hmmm.

The Paladin queues us up, and it won’t let him. Why? Because despite my efforts, I still don’t have the gear necessary to let me in.

So the Paladin laughs and queues us up for regular Forge of Souls, and away we go!

We did Forge of Souls, and Pit of Saron, back to back, and they were willing and ready to go do Halls of Reflection, if I hadn’t had to go get Alex ready for bed.

And a nicer bunch of people I haven’t seen in a PUG in a long, long time.

Knowing the fights, the enemy tactics, and the boss encounters from both a Paladin tank and Healer point of view helped immensely in making sure I was proactive in my healing rather than reacting in a panic.

And being familiar with Vuh’do and having studied my spells also helped a ton.

But mostly, I had a very well geared tank and a very powerful group of DPS that killed things before they had a chance to hurt anyone too much. :)

Earlier I mentioned an exploit. Mostly, I brought it up just to be able to use that movie quote in the title. :)

We did use an exploit I had never heard of before, in Pit of Saron, but it didn’t actually make my ass drag. OR make my butt slump.

What happened was, as soon as Ick and Krick were dead, the Paladin said, “Everyone mount up, we’re going to do the exploit.”

I had no idea what he meant, but I know what a mount is. I’m kinda crafty that way. I can haz hoofs!

Loot was taken, but even before the dialogue was over and Krick was dead, we were mounted up… and heading up the ramp.

We reached the top of the ramp just as the two shadowcasters appeared to head down, and they ignored us as we kept on going to the other side and stopped on that first landing halfway towards the tunnel, where it takes a dogleg 90° to the right. The two groups on the ramp spawned after those two reached their positions… and ignored us, safe at the top landing.

We only had the two groups of icicle guys and their minions to deal with before the tunnel.

I don’t mind the ramp, but I’ll admit, I wasn’t crying a river of alligator tears about avoiding that particular fight when I don’t know everyone I was with, and my healing power is a might on the low side just yet.

Anyway, we blasted through the whole thing, I was very careful of my healing during Overlord Brands, and I got the nice Mail healing chest piece, and of course emblems and stuff.

More than that, we chatted a bit during the run, and I really was amazed at how you can sometimes just bump into the nicest people.

Things like this really serve to highlight one lack which I wish Blizzard could remedy.

We already have an ignore list that works cross-server, and if you put somebody from another server on it, it prevents you from being queued with that person in a random again in the future.

That’s all well and good.

What I wish is that there was a cross-server friends list, where if you find yourself grouped with some really nice folks, you could exchange friends lists.

You put them on your list, they put you on theirs, and if the random generator sees two people who BOTH are on each other’s friends list, it matches them up together by preference, if possible.

Just a thought. It’s nice that we can prevent future occurances of playing with the same asshats, but I’d love it if we could increase the chance that we would play with great folks we’ve had fun with again.

So, to Khaotix, Karalov, and Lardzilla of Prophet of Cthulhu, thank you very much for being really nice people, and great players, and for being kind to a complete stranger in a pug.

Bravo. You all rock.

Things that make ya go whoops!

Last night, logged in on Windshadow, sicker than hell, thought I’d hang out for a few before an early bedtime.

Of course, the best laid plans, etc, etc.

Soel of Redrum whispered me asking if i could come heal some 10 man Ulduar for a bit.

I plaintively asked for how long?

“Oh, about 3 – 3.5 hours.”

Ummm….. no.

“Well, how long COULD you come?”

About an hour and a half, tops.

“Lemme ask.”

[Insert Jeopardy music while I pray “please say no please say no please say no”]

“Okay, that sounds good. Invite incoming.”

Crap. Now I have to make the little brain cell that’s still alive work.

About two minutes later, Cassie comes downstairs.

“Whatcha doing?”

I’m about to heals in Ulduar.

“Do they know you’ve never healed in Ulduar before?”

They didn’t ask.

“Where are you starting?”

Kologarn.

“Do they know you’ve never seen these bosses before?”

They didn’t ask.

“Aren’t you deathly sick?”

Your point is?

“Okay.”

We teleport straight to the Antechamber, and begin pulling trash. Redrum has done this way too many times before, there’s not much work for a healer on the trash.

As I heal, I’m happy with my new Idol, Idol of Flaring Growth. Sucker is up ALL the time.

Rejuve, pop. Regrowth, pop. Lifebloom, pop. Wild Growth button… Wild Growth button…

Why the hell ain’t there a Wild Growth pop? There’s supposed to be an earth shattering Wild Growth pop!

Son of a bitch, I bet VuhDo’s last update wiped my custom settings!

We clear trash and at a break, I ask for a minute to resolve some, ahem, “Technical difficulties.”

I open VuhDo’s panel, and check out Control, and then look at Right Click. There it is, Wild Growth.

Hmm, how come the other spell names have the word “Spell” next to them on the panel, but Wild Growth doesn’t?

I flip open my Talent panel.

I scroll to the bottom… something I apparently did NOT do when I did my respec testing last week.

Why look, there’s the Wild Growth icon… all greyed out.

Son of a bitch.

You know, the last time I respecced, I boasted to Cassie that I was able to buy every Talent I wanted, I had magically found the pefect spec. Not a single thing shorted a point like usual.

Hmm, I wonder how I ended up with that extra point.

Gee, I wonder.

I then proceded to have to heal Kologarn with no Wild Growth. It was like someone had chopped off my right arm… and then my left arm… and then my right arm…

Look, here’s a screenshot of a moron facing Kologarn! See if you can pick out the Druid without Wild Growth! Woot!

whoops

I proceded to heal Kologarn and Auriaya before we took a break long enough for me to teleport to Moonglade and do a hasty respec. Then it was back in to down Ignis the Furnace Master, and then it was past time for me to go to sleep.

But at least I got to heal Ignis with my damn Wild Growth! Things really heated up once I had that spell on hand.

Damnit, I did that once on my Hunter, too. Respecced Beastmaster moving things around, and said to myself, “Wow, I managed to fit everything I wanted in. I found the perfect spec.”

“Hey, how come I can’t summon my spirit beast.”

“Shit.”

Trial of the Champion: Yikes!

I may have that name wrong, but if I say that I’m talking about the new 5 person normal/heroic instance, I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It’s been a bit of a busy week, but that’s no excuse for not having set foot in the new 5 person instance. Last night, Cassie and I wanted to rectify the situation, so we asked some folks in the guild if they’d be willing to give it a try.

We went into normal mode first, with Falromord as a warrior tank, myself as a resto healer, and Wetfoot, Cassieann and Pushpin for DPS, a Survival Hunter, Combat Rogue and Death Knight, respectively.

Normal mode was a comedy of errors as I relearned healing on the fly in a brand new instance, after tanking a lot recently. “What does this button do again? Where the hell is the button for Nature’s Swiftness? Shit, I forgot treeform for the whole run! Aw shoot, I forgot to use Swiftmend instead of Nourish again.”

Sigh.

Okay, it wasn’t really that bad, but it was pretty frantic.

About the time I pulled myself together, we’d finished normal mode Trials, and had some interesting perceptions of the run.

Then we went right back in on Heroic mode, and… umm, well, we won? 

I wouldn’t call it a smackdown, but we were still standing and had loot at the end of it, so woot!

Whether in normal or heroic, the first section consists of fighting as a group while mounted with a lance, followed by being dismounted and fighting as a normal team with tank, DPS and healers.

When you enter the instance, there is someone you talk to for starting the fights. Before that, you might look around and notice the lance racks and mounts around the edge of the large circular chamber where ALL of the fighting takes place.

You can come in, if you don’t have a Lance you can grab one from a rack, mount up, and start stacking Armor/Defend.

When you start the encounter, three champions of the opposing faction, races varying per encounter just as Moroes’ guests do, come out. Each has an entourage of three suckups with them.

You get one champion sending a wave of three suckups at you, and once those are down the next three come, and then the last three. Once all the suckups are downed, the three champions come out to get lanced.

As I’m sure you know, once a champion is dismounted, he’s on the ground and stunned for about ten seconds (much less in heroic mode… or maybe it only felt that way). Then he gets back up, and heads for the nearest mount at the wall, ready to get mounted and return to battle.

Once a champion is dismounted, you can run over him with your valiant steed to trample him back down again. There are no special commands, buttons or abilities to trigger. You literally ride over him, and he gets flattened.

In your favor, if YOUR mount loses health and you get dismounted YOU can run over to a mount along the wall and remount and get right back in the fray. Watch out, if you are on foot and they run over you, YOU get trampled. Word to the wise.. DUCK!

One other thing, and something we abused the heck out of… throughout the entire instance fight, whether on a boss or not, whether in heroic or not, if you die, you can release to graveyard nearby and come RIGHT BACK IN IMMEDIATELY.

Warning, if you release and THEN the boss dies before you come back in and gets looted, you might still be able to get your Emblems, but you won’t be able to roll on loot. So folks, please don’t be fast to loot. Remember, rez/recover first.

Anyway, what we did on heroic, that we worked out on the normal run, was to have two designated ‘tramplers’. Cassie was trampler #1, and I believe Pushpins was trampler #2. As soon as the first champion was downed, Cassie just ran over that bastard endlessly.

As soon as the second champion was downed, Push ran over that one. The rest of us just kept repeatedly charging and breaking the third champion. Zero problems.

Zero problems until all three went down, at any rate. We were dismounted instantly, and even though we knew it was coming, we all died from being spread out when the standard part of the fight began.

I think for our next shot, we need to have the person with aggro work on using melee attack to kite the champion to one constant location, while the rest use shield breakers to keep them weak, and make them die in one pile, then rinse and repeat, so that we’ve got one controllable pile. They hit hard enough to damn near oneshot cloth.

Anyway, once we all died on the dismount, we came back in and easily beat them once prepared. Just made sure to kill the Orc (we’re Alliance) first, since his Whirlwind attack is pretty brutal on a melee heavy group.  

Now, I could try and go into detail on fights two and three… but I think this post has gotten pretty long, and I’d rather tackle it a few more times to nail down the ins and outs.

What I will say, is that on the Black Knight, we found kiting the boss around was successful, because when he drops the green crop circle with wisps of smoke, it does a lot of damage over time plus has a big slow effect, and when lots of people are in it, healing the whole group gets VERY tough. It makes bears whine about healing stress. It’s ugly. Also, on the final encounter, Shadow Resistance is awesome, because he does a Shadowbolt volley on everyone that hurts hefty amounts.

The fights stress a healer a ton… at least, in my iLevel 200 gear I felt it stressed me out a lot, I healed my butt off, in many cases simply spamming Nourish on the main tank and letting DPS drop like flies to try and make it through. As I said earlier, we heavily abused the fact you can run in from the graveyard in mid-fight.

Damn, that instance is fun, though.

I’m sure that folks that are in Naxx 25 gear or higher probably do it on snooze mode, which is as it should be considering the quality of gear it drops. But for a 5 person team in Naxx 10 gear and heroic epics and crafted, it’s tuned really well. It’s a heck of a challenge, but you know that it CAN be done, and done well, once you get it down. And it is very fast.

Oh, one other thing if you haven’t done it yet. There are three encounters, but it drops not three epics, but five. The first encounter has one epic drop, and each of the next encounters drops two. Five iLevel 219 epic drops for one heroic run of 30 minutes is… well, expect it to be the new standard instance for an evening, yes?

Share your own tips, let us know the different things that you found that work well on that. I think it was a lot of fun fighting Onyxia in our nightmares… even if she DID fear us all over the place.

Are you a melee master, healing dilettante?

I’ve been told that there is some interest in my experiences picking up healing as an off-spec, and how it’s going, after all my time strictly playing an in-your-face bearcat.

Now, I try not to pretend that healing is a foreign concept to me. I had, once upon a time, played my Druid as a healer in 40 man situations, before there were such things as tree forms, and I didn’t really enjoy it all that much.

I’ll be honest; part of the reason for my distaste would be that I played Feral through ALL previous content, solo and in groups, even in Blackrock Spire raids, and loved it, even if all the real raiders sneered at my feral-ness. “Feral Druids suck”, they’d say, “If you want to raid with the big boys, you need to go heals.”

I bitched, pissed and moaned about it, and made it as clear as I could that my love was feral, but the gear itemization and Tier sets for Druids at the time seemed to side firmly with the raid leaders… go Resto or go home.

I really wanted to see the fabled 40 man content. It was my choice, I could have refused and been benched, but I decided to go ahead and go Resto for raiding with the guild so I could see what was up with all that funky stuff.

And so, 40 man content was how I learned. And it was kinda sucky. In pre-BC raiding, it seemed to me that, in our guild anyway, out of 40 players fielded on a given evening, 25 or so were real damn good, 10 or so were fairly decent, and 5 flat out sucked.

Learning to heal in Onyxia with 5 idiots in the mix was challenging, fun, stressful, and gave one a greater appreciation for the classics.

I don’t care what you want to say, the fact is that if you are a designated healer, you are responsible for the health and well-being of these people placed in your care. You are the angel of life and death… and when one of your charges dies, even from acting stupid, you STILL blame yourself for not saving them.

It’s stressful to watch, helplessly, as idiots die. Although it is pretty amusing after the fact, if you’ve got video.

Learning to heal in Ony and Molten Core also left me with a desire to SEE what was going on, rather than peeking occasionally past 40 health/mana bars on my screen.

Anyway.

As a Feral Druid, I know I’m experienced in how I do things, and it’s smooth and comfortable. The playstyle feels fluid. Maybe TOO fluid.

When picking up an alt, I learn the playstyle of the different class, and, maybe because it truly is a different character to me, I find it pretty easy to keep the button presses and keybinding combinations unique to each one in their own little worlds. I don’t try to Mangle while playing a Shadow Priest. :)

In changing the spec of a character I have only played one certain way for so very long that I’ve worn grooves in the keystrokes, it’s a different story.

I think, in some ways it would have been easier to start a new Druid and raise her as Balance/Resto than it has been to take Windshadow and add a dual spec.

It would have been easier, but not nearly as much fun. :) 

When I decided to try healing on Windshadow, the considerations were;

  1. Getting the best gear I could before expecting others to trust their lives to me.
  2. Getting a healing spec that wasn’t just something someone told me to do, but was a spec where I understood why I had chosen the Talents I did,  and what the implications would be for a playstyle.
  3. Learning how to play.

Thanks to wonderful Resto Druid bloggers such as Bellwether, and brilliant fellow guildies Lady Jess, Jardal and Algenon, the spec and gear choices were the easy parts of that to work out.

Obviously, it was very convenient to be able to main tank Heroics and Raids with one fully decked out gear set, and pick up those healing pieces that other players didn’t need. I could gather up the discards that would have been sharded and build a starter set that is the next best thing to a main set.

With judicious crafting, Emblem purchases, Heroic drops and even Naxx gear, my starter set was a mixed blessing. By being so powerful, my early forays into healing, while successful, did not encourage skill, because high Spellpower and Mana baselines let me use brute force and still succeed. This becomes apparent when you see the advice people have for me on healing Loatheb for the 3 seconds, since timing of Lifebloom blooms is a skill I have yet to develop, and it hadn’t occured to me to test Rejuve ahead of time to know that 1 heal tick per 3 seconds of Rejuvenation shows other things like Tranquility would have been much more effective.

Yes, gear and spec were the easy parts. Learning to play is the true challenge.

The in-depth aspects of learning to play will come as I research each ability more, determine the heal to mana efficiency, and plumb what ticks when, and for how much.

At the very beginning, though, there was a ‘learn2play’ aspect I had to decide on, that would affect the rest of my playing of the class.

To use a healing mod, or not?

In the old days of 40 man healing, Decursive existed and let you easily cast Remove Curse/etc when a player was affected. I know that many folks had far more fancy customizations of it, predictive healing and selective downranking so as to heal just right without a single dollop of overhealing and wasted mana, but I didn’t get into it that far before Blizzard crushed it’s functionality.

Hmmm, let me talk about that for a second. I know how things are now, but when healing in 40 man raids, things were tuned pretty tight on healing and mana. Many of you probably remember this vividly, but some of you might have taken up healing long after this stuff. Here’s a history lesson for how healing has changed.

Prior to Burning Crusade, it was not only common but very nearly required for a Resto Druid to have 4 or 5 ranks of Healing Touch on your bar, and to intimately know where their healing min and max values were when coupled with your +healing, and what their various cast times were, so that you could cast a Healing Touch that would do just the right amount of healing needed, for the minimum Mana cost, with the fastest cast time possible.

One of the signs of a master Resto Druid was nailing exactly the right Healing Touch to top off at the perfect moment without overhealing, because healing meters and overhealing meters were zealously watched for signs of wasted Mana.

Now, of course, with more utility from HoTs, and every HT rank costing the same amount of Mana, and with lesser ranks of spells gaining less bonus from +healing/+spellpower, downranking mastery has gone the way of the dodo. For the most part, so has Healing Touch, except for instant cast heals with Nature’s Swiftness.

Should you care? No, I just think it’s good to remember sometimes how things have changed in all aspects of the game… and how hard it was back in the day to envisage where the changes Blizzard was making would leave us in the end.

I think that, if you look at where we started with healing, and where we are now, and how things continue to change moving forward, a case could be made that we should never, ever expect any changes in a Patch to be the final change. Over time, things are always changed and adjusted, and once those changesd are absorbed into the system and we adjust, another small set of changes are made. Blizzard is, through skill or luck, driving change slowly and surely to an ever more interesting end. I think rather than demanding to know when we have finally reached the destination.. we should instead settle back and enjoy the ride.

Sorry. Bearwall. Moving back on topic…

To use a healing mod or not?

Basically, it comes down to a decision.

Do you want to heal by selecting a portrait and then casting heals on that chosen target, and use focus targets, and point and click on button bars or memorize spell numbers for click-selection and hot key pressing….

Or do you want to install an addon that will let you assign various spells directly to mouse+key combinations, letting you cast mouseovers for everything, but will require you to memorize what the hell all those combinations ARE?

Each one has a basic mode, and then ever-increasingly advanced variations and additions.

With the basic point and click heal, you mouseover a character portrait, click on it to select the person, then mouseover the appropriate spell to cast it, then mouse back up to select someone else, and then mouse back down to click a spell again… or spells…

The next advanced step is to have those spells in numbered slots, and then click to select a portrait with one hand while selecting spells to cast with the number pad/bar.

From there, well, the sky is the limit. Utilizing true keybinds for spells, keybinds for character/target selection, focus targets to have two people selectable simultaneously, hot keys, and macros out the wazoo. You can absolutely master healing without ever using an addon, and there are folks that take pride in doing so.

One argument I’ve heard in favor of this, is that when big patch changes come, fancy addons can be broken for days or weeks, and it’s a sad state of affairs when a player can’t raid because his addon is busted.

Choice two is to go with a healing addon to help you streamline target selection and casting.

Healing addons are pretty much designed to let you easily retain movement of your character by placing both target selection and spell casting in a one button, minimal mouse movement control scheme, all controlled with the mouse hand. The other hand can be using other keybinds and the movement keys, etc.

Addons can either be complex toolkits that will let you do the world… once you figure out how to get it set up, or can be pretty much set up for you like VuhDo. Either way, the biggest learning curve for them is learning an entirely new way to control your character, and memorizing which key/mousebutton sequence controls what, so that when the shit goes down you don’t get flustered and forget your controls. The more commonly used spells need to have the easiest key combinations, and if you’re learning as you go, then when you decide half way into your playing that Rejuvenation really should have been a mouseover left-click and Lifebloom really should have been mouseover right-click, and Remove Curse really should have been moved to Mousebutton 5 closest to the thumb, and Innervate could be Mousebutton 4 away from thumb… well, time to retrain your twitch reflexes, isn’t it?

And if you play multiple classes, each using the healing addon… hehehe.

It’s a big decision. You want to start something that you’ll learn with and get reflexes started quick. It should be EASY to actually cast the Lifebloom, the difficult part should be learning the intelligent time and situation to use it.

When I looked at the options… I chose to use an addon, because I never had before and I had heard great things about how they could help speed up the casting on multiple targets, which is where a Resto Druid shines.

When I went to choose an addon, I chose VuhDo because I studied configuration choices on Clique, and all the additional addons created to modify the base program, and I compared that to the ‘out of the box’ setup of VuhDo. VuhDo promised me that I could install it, and go straight to configuring my mouse button combinations in a graphical interface style even I, a healer come lately, could use. Healbot, I can’t speak on, because although Paraclesis uses it, I’ve never seen it modeled on a blog, so I didn’t try it. :)

See, I still play a Feral Druid as my main. What I wanted was something to quickly bring me within reach of doing healing, without making it the intense focus of my playing. And I wanted to cut down the point and click delay as much as possible. I wanted to be capable of casting a heal faster than the global cooldown would let me, so my slow reflexes were as minimized as possible.

VuhDo allowed me to do that, by letting me setup various mouse combinations and letting me cast all spells as mouseovers on a special health bar setup. I can actually SEE what is going on around me as I heal, and I can even move around and heal on the run after a very short time practicing, not because I’m that good, but because the addon IS a good crutch, and I accept the limitations.

If you are also a Feral Druid, or another melee type, and you’ve been thinking about healing as a dual spec… an addon like VuhDo or Clique or Healbot can certainly give you a jumpstart on doing it with quicker reaction time. You might be gaining that speed by relying too much on an addon, and losing a certain amount of flexibility and professionalism that designing your own network of keybindings and macros would give you… but if it is your off spec, that could be a choice you’re willing to make, just like I am.

Either way, it’s always good to know your options, and to plan what you’re going to do accordingly.

I’d be curious to find out what other healers use to heal, and what they think the strengths and weaknesses of their chosen method may be.

Hmm, since three out of four Sidhe Devils Gone Wild folks have healers, maybe that would be a fun topic for the podcast someday, too. Have people write in their preferences and discuss ’em.

Well, we’ll see.

Have a great weekend!