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!

The cat is OUT of the bag!

Let the games begin!

Allow me to unveil the secret project…

A brand new podcast!

By all means, hurry on over to our new website, and bask in the glory that is;

Sidhe Devils Gone Wild!

Let me tell you exactly what this is.

This is Bre, Big Bear Butt, Ratshag and Lady Jess complete and unedited, in the pure spirit of that classic 70’s porn.

What is our podcast about? Nothing whatsoever, anything you can imagine, and more than we should ever share.

This is  a podcast that is WoW, unscripted. Four people chatting about whatever comes to mind, all messy and blotchy and without airbrushed touchup.

Did I mention the cheesy 70’s porn vibe? Just checking.

We have a vision for our podcast, a mission statement if you will.

“This is a World of Warcraft podcast that makes whelpling farming go a little smoother, and fishing seem less of a chore.”

An alternate tagline would be, “If you’re going to waste an hour fishing, why not listen to our podcast?”

I truly hope you enjoy this as much as we did.

This… this is a mugging of all things professional.

Just think Seinfeld; the podcast.

If people are pissed at how I’ve treated Blood Elf ladies, wait until they get a load of our Night Elf lady logo!

When do YOU like unwrapping presents?

I am, according to Cassie, simply HORRIBLE at keeping a secret.

Well, that’s true to a certain extent.

After all, I’m only horrible at keeping the secrets she knows about. 🙂

The types of secrets I mean, are when I’ve got a present, and I know what it is, and I want to give it to you… and I really, really want to like, give it to you naw, damnit! I want to see the look on your face when you see what it is!

I’m the guy that wants the kids to at least open SOMETHING Christmas Eve rather than wait until Christmas morning.

Tradition? Hey, we can start a new tradition! Open something, damnit!

In Cassie’s case, I’ll buy her something, and then I have a very hard time not cracking early and revealing what it is. Hints and stuff kind of… spill out.

And she gets annoyed because she likes a surprise, and I ruin it!

I’m fighting that feeling right now.

See, I know what the secret project is. And I know that whatever it is, it’s happening tonight. And I know how very, very close we are to unveiling the surprise…

And I want so dearly to bust it open now.

I actually let the kitty out of the bag at the end of the WoW Insider podcast… after the recording was over, but before we shut the mikes off.

After a WoW Insider recording is in the can, the show goes on for a little, just chatting with the folks in the live chatroom.

We were chatting, and I made sure the recording was shut off, and I told the people that had hung in there what the secret was.

See? I can’t keep a secret to save my life.

Well… I said in general what the secret was. The particulars… the devious little particulars are still secure.

I know they are, because the website we designed has encountered zero page hits. It ain’t been found out, nyuck nyuck nyuck.

Tonight, great evil shall unfold. A crime against blogging professionalism will have been committed.

And tomorrow, well, a bunch of folks will have some news to share with you.

Either that, or I’ll be digging out my backup passport from my cold drop and hitting the road, two steps ahead of the law, and a raving horde of pissed off readers.

Heck, either way tomorrow ought to be amusing.

An Emblem of things to come

This is all pretty interesting to me, this whole Emblem thingie.

Both the 10 and 25-player instances of the Crusaders’ Coliseum drop a new Emblem of Triumph.

Any dungeons that previously dropped Emblems of Heroism or Valor, such as Naxxramas or Heroic Halls of Stone, will now drop Emblems of Conquest instead. Emblems of Conquest can still be converted to Valor or Heroism.

The Heroic dungeon daily quest will now reward 2 Emblems of Triumph and the normal daily dungeon quest will reward 1 Emblem of Conquest.

Here’s a basic breakdown of the item levels for each dungeon:

Trial of the Champion (5-player) normal mode: Item level 200
Trial of the Champion (5-player) Heroic mode: Item level 213
Trial of the Crusader (10-player) normal mode: Item level 232
Trial of the Crusader (25-player) normal mode: Item level 245
Trial of the Grand Crusader (10-player) Heroic mode: Item level 245
Trial of the Grand Crusader (25-player) Heroic mode: Item level 258

In addition, successful tribute runs (Trial of the Grand Crusader only) will result in higher item level rewards from the tribute chest at the end.

Emblems of Conquest and Champion’s Seals will not drop in the Trial of the Champion (5-player dungeon) on normal mode, nor will there be a daily dungeon quest associated with normal mode, though the items that drop in normal mode are quite good compared to other level 80 dungeons.

One Emblem of Conquest and one Champion’s Seal will drop off each boss in Trial of the Champion Heroic mode. There will also be a Heroic daily dungeon quest added to the rotation for this dungeon that awards two Emblems of Triumph.

So, correct me if I’m wrong here, but it seems to me this means you’ll no longer be getting rep with Factions from the normal dungeon daily quest, you’ll now be getting 1 Emblem of Conquest.

Currently, there are four possible normal dungeon daily quests, one each for Oculus, Culling of Stratholme, Halls of Lightning and Utgardt Pinnacle. The quests can currently be obtained at level 78.

Seems to me it’ll be possible for a level 78+ player to begin doing the normal daily dungeons and be getting some Emblems of Conquest in before they ding 80.

I’ll grant you, the number of days it might take you to go from 78 to 80 ain’t that much, maybe you’ll only get in 5 or 6 dailies/Emblems of Conquest before dinging… but it’s still something that needs to be pointed out. And of course, for those that are already 80, an extra Emblem of Conquest ain’t nothing to bark about.

The next interesting thing, of course, is the fact that, while doing a Heroic instance will net you Emblems of Conquest as drops from the bosses, doing the daily Heroic instance quest will get you two Emblems of Triumph as well, which will normally only drop from the Crusader’s Coliseum raids. 

Oh, FYI yes, there are currently 12 different “Proof of Demise” Heroic daily quests, one for the last boss of each Heroic Northrend instance. No, I have no idea why there are only four variations of the normal dungeon daily quest. And yes, they are adding a 13th Heroic daily quest for Trial of the Champion.

Let’s look at this new 5 man instance, Trial of the Champion.

Trial of the Champion will have a normal mode and a Heroic mode.

The loot from normal will all be iLevel 200, the loot from Heroic mode will all be iLevel 213. Yes, this is Magister’s Terrace redux. Not bad, eh?

The Newsflash; normal mode will NOT drop Emblems of Conquest or Champions Seals. It will still drop some pretty nice gear, though.

ONLY HEROIC MODE will have Emblems of Conquest and Champions Seals drop from bosses. And of course, no Emblems of Triumph as had been speculated elsewhere.

So yes, Emblems of Triumph drop in 10 or 25 person Trial of Crusader/Trial of Grand Crusader raids… and from doing the Heroic daily quest. That is it. End of story.

It may take a long damn time to get your Emblems of Triumph just from doing dailies… but get them you will. And Emblem of Triumph gear comes in two flavors; iLevel 232 sets, and iLevel 245. Or is it 245 and 258? I can’t seem to get a clear picture if the Totally Triumphant gear will also be purchasable for Emblems of Triumph.

Either way, holy cow.

So start planning your gear lists and priorities accordingly, my friends.

News Flash: Healing Plague Wing bites!

Tanking is sooooo much easier than healing, I swear.

I love tanking Heigan, for example, because all ya gotta do is hold threat, watch your own abilities and use as appropriate, and dance. Bonus points for shifting out of Bear and tossing Battle Rezes and Innervates as necessary, of course, but come on… that’s all part and parcel of being a Bear tank. If you have problems tossing emergency Battle Rezes, you’re probably doing it right in the first place and don’t get enough practise. 🙂

Yes, I do get a lot of practise.

Healing, though… damn, that’s a pain.

Dancing: check.

Throwing heals around: check.

Dancing while watching everybody else’s health bar and tossing heals around frantically to keep everybody that might have a problem with dancing alive: oh, holy shit!

The first shot we took at Heigan, I’m not ashamed to say I bought it on the dance.

I was prepared to just accept that I screwed up somehow, but half the raid bought it at the same time, in the same place, and it really did look like we ate a big, fat lag spike. I dunno, I’d like to blame it on lag, but maybe I just wasn’t on top of the game on that one.

Second shot, and I have to say, I was dancing on pure instinct. Normally, as a Bear tank, I can spend all my time on the phase two dance running from perfect spot to perfect spot, centered in the middle of the safe zone.

As a healer, I spent the entire time watching the health bars and casting Rejuve, Rejuve, Rejuve, Nourish, Rejuve, Rejuve, Nourish, bam bam bam bam. I basically rolled everybody, all da time.

I ran the dance between the zones purely by instinct, because my attention was totally elsewhere. I’m just a natural born dancer, I guess. It is tons harder to heal multiple people and dance at the same time, compared to tanking or DPS, though. far, far harder.

We all almost managed to live through the second one, too. 🙂 We did far, far better and beat in his little pointy head.

Still, whew! That stuffs intense, yo.

And then, of course, comes the creme de la creme of the healers world, with everything but Yul Brenner.

Loatheb. What an appropriate name, because loathing does come into play, here.

I asked for someone to tell me what exactly the role of the healer was here, what with the whole ‘can only heal for 3 seconds’ thingie.

You know, that never sounded good to me. Call me kookie, but I look at my Global Cooldowns, I look at my cast times, and even with Nourish and Swiftmend and Nature’s Swiftness/Healing Touch, I’m just not seeing this happen for a whole raid.

What, study it from a healer’s perspective beforehand? Why would I do that? Our healers have always been so on top of things, I never had to.

I’d just roll on in, ask the healers if they knew what to do, and they’d lift their heads temporarily from the smack they talk in their private healer channel (thought I didn’t know about that, eh?) and make shooing motions for us to get a move on.

So, here’s how it was explained to me last night.

Healing effects only work for that brief three seconds… but you can cast your HoTs on the target whenever you’d like.

SOOO…. if a Tree were to dump a Rejuve on everyone starting at such a time during the lockout that they would still be active for that critical three seconds when the window opened up… and Regrowth for the extra squishy… and you were poised to nail some Swiftmend/Nourish action when you could actively cast and have it work during the three seconds, it’s not that bad.

Really?

Well, heck, I can do that.

I think.

More or less.

Well hell, whattaya know, it worked!

But not without heart failure. And I think Luis died.

But I successfully healed in Loatheb. Luis dying is a small price to pay.

I feel all spiffy now!

I could talk about what a great job the guild did, how much they kicked ass, the healing, the tanking, the blistering DPS… but what the heck, you hear that stuff all the time.

I will say, I do have a newfound appreciation for the job healers do, and a frowny face for the way Blizz likes to stress out healers. It’s hard to look at any proposed healer nerf after seeing stuff like that, and not want to smack someone in the mouth for making their job that much harder.

On the other hand… it sure is fun to win!

Yo man, you look like you could use a sandwich!

I’ve been looking for fun in all the wrong places, looking for fun with too many alts, now, looking for fun….

Actually, I’ve just been messing around with some different stuff for a change.

Love my guild and I ain’t never leaving, but while the summer quietus goes on, and we have a slack schedule to accomodate the real life woes of guildies, I’ve started a few small alts on Horde side for quiet time, doing quests in lore I’ve never seen.

One of those alts, I’m happy to say, is a troll hunter.

“A Hunter?!?” I hear you say?

Yes, that’s right a troll hunter. Yes, yes, I do have a level 80 hunter on Alliance, what’s your point? I love hunters.

I have a lot of druid alts on various servers, placed strategically for optimum play opportunities when my home server goes down (a situation that hasn’t happened for some time), but never before, ever, have I had a troll.

I have rolled various horde alts and deleted them, one felt too slow, one felt too clumsy… but the Troll Hunter feels just right.

How do I define ‘just right’?

Simple. If I can be chatting on vent with folks, having fun, and grinding mobs without minding the leveling/killing at all, if killing poor unfortunate NPCs still feels fun and even amusing after kill #2796, then it’s a groovy toon.

So, anyway… I’ve got this level one Troll Huntard, sans any kind of Heirloom item whatsoever, and I’m going to town in Orcville, Durator, Republic of Thrall.

As I’m rocking along, smiting Orc peons and making them gather wood faster, I’m chatting with Breana on vent, and sharing with her my thoughts on making this toon.

Bear; “So, I wanted to make a Hunter, and various races sounded cool… a Tauren Hunter could be a lot of fun… but finally I settled on Troll.”

Breana; “I’m glad you didn’t make a Blood Elf Hunter.”

Bear; “Oh, I couldn’t do that. The Blood Elf Hunter is so passé. I mean, really, the entire race is anorexic.”

Breana; “I agree, they’re all too skinny.”

Bear; “You know, the fact is they all look like they could use a sandwich, they need some fattening up.”

Bear; “I know what I’ll do, I’ll make a macro that says /say %t, you’re too skinny, you look like you could use a sandwich.”

Breana; “You will not.”

Bear; “Bet me.”

So, whenever I’m in Ogrimmar, moving from Auction House to trainer to bank, etc, I keep my eyes peeled.

My standards are simple. If I see someone that is playing a Blood Elf, that is NOT a Paladin (since they have no choice), and that is female, I hit them with my macro as I pass.

I also carry food with me in my bags. If one stops and say “Wut?”, I open trade and offer them a “sandwich”. (Boar meat and bread).

I have gotten stunned silence, and one guy that thought it was the funniest thing he ever saw… and one guy, level 80 Hunter, that thanked me and took the sandwich fixin’s, and then did a /eats sandwich emote.

I’m finding it more fun to do this, than to actually play.

I think I’ve lost my mind.

Raid jump down go boom!

So, last night was rare white elk day, we actually had a scheduled raid.

It was a notable raid for many wonderful reasons.

First, the entire raid was tanked by two people; Suxtobundr, feral Druid… and by Lady Jess’ Paladin tank!

We did Obsidian Sanctum, Abomination wing of Naxx, and then Vault of Archavon…. and you know it’s gonna be a fun night when one of your tanks gets the “Emblem of Heroism” Achievement on the first drake kill in OS.

Grats, Jess! 🙂

Second was that the entire raid was healed entirely by Druids. Three trees leafing around in the backfield; Jardal, Faydre and Windshadow.

As Lady Jess said at the time, “I never would have imagined a year ago that someday I’d be in Bears’ guild, and I’d be tanking a raid while he healed it.”

Third, Elystia was back!

I’ve missed her terribly, it’s like having your sister move away. Ely and her hubby Cal have been moving to an entirely new home in Canada, and it’s been a long, hard time for them, living rough while renovations have been done. People move all the time, it’s true, and packing and moving and unpacking sucks… but let’s please have a moment’s quiet consideration for poor Ely and Cal, who had to live with Ely’s neo-luddite mother-in-law the whole time, a lady who thinks high technology is using a phone with buttons instead of a round dial. A wonderful woman by all accounts, but she just doesn’t understand that a person has needs… the kind of needs that only high speed internet can satisfy. She’s had no internet for months!

I’d crack. I’m not even remotely joking. I know I would, because in Pennsylvania when staying at a home that barely had electricity, I roamed the neighborhood looking for unsecured wireless networks to ninja, and spent time at the Public Library every day checking mail.

Oh yeah, it was also a notable raid in that we had the most disturbing vent conversation ever. We were recovering from a trash wipe (those pricks after Gluth, the ones with the knockback from heck, they suck when you’re not prepared to handle two of them at once and aren’t all the way in the room for the first knockback) and Penny Arcade’s latest post prompted a discussion that started with their list of phrases that aren’t dirty yet, but that they anticipate WILL be soon… and from there went on to discuss what a Dirty Sanchez is (and people ignored my advice to NOT look it up on the internet, did it anyway, and went eww… why do people not listen?) and then went all the way to discussing the aesthetic merits of Two Girls One Cup.

Warning; I swear to god, I will banhammer anyone in the comments that graphically describes, or links to, Two Girls One Cup. You’ve been warned. Just drop it. And no, if you don’t know what it is, you DO NOT, DO NOT want to look it up on Youtube.

No, really. Please. Just let it drop. Knowing what it is does not ‘enhance your cool’. In fact, I think I lost a gazillion cool points by knowing what it was… I blame listening to the hip hop radio morning show crew on the way to work. They talk about it on KDWB’s Dave Ryan Show all the time.

Who would have thought I’d end up regretting the day I stopped listening to political talk radio. At least Rush Limbaugh never talked about, or described, Two Girls One Cup.

Okay, anyway, moving past that (shudder)… we did not actually describe what it is, but just the thought of doing so was enough to send terror running freely, carrying scissors handle first, down the halls of vent. People typing in [sticks fingers in ears] lalalalalala and all the rest of it.

As far as the raid goes, I think we had a mostly wonderful time. We had some learning curves, which I think is understandable, but it was all learning the fights, we didn’t really have any gear check issues at any time.

You know when you’re fighting something, and you’re having trouble… you can feel the difference between struggling to win based on being undergeared, or struggling based on coordination and understanding of what to do. You might not be able to pin down who ain’t on the program, or exactly what is missing, but you know there was something that just wasn’t right.

As an example, our first shot at Grobbulus was pretty close, just a few slime add issues and a few bad Mutated Injection blooms… and our second attempt was pure running around like chickens with our heads cut off, blind panic.

You just step back and ask yourself, wtf did we do dere?

And then the third shot goes so smooth it’s damn near a record downing with nobody even mussed up.

That’s not gear, that’s poorly described fights and folks that are seeing things for the first time or working together for the first time. Whoops!

Another example is when we did Patchwerk, a fight that is generally a tank and healer gear check.

You might think, with Lady Jess main tanking Patchwerk, and having just earned her first Emblem of Heroism, that there were issues.

Nah. She was just fine. Neither tank ever went below 75% health for more than a millisecond.

Like I said, we had some fun, we fought our way in, had some interruptions but generally closed escrow.

And then we faced Thaddius. Ah, Thaddius.

I love that fight.

I also loved seeing Jess get tossed across the room over and over. That’s hilarious.

Anyway, I calmly described the entire fight, I walked through what we do for the two mini-bosses, the tossing, the threat pause after a toss, the keeping close to lightning generators, the 3 seconds you have after the mini-bosses die to jump off the back ledge and for the tank to engage the boss, the positions to stand for polarity shifts with Negative to the edge of the ledge in front of him, Positive to the vat behind him, running 10 yards apart counterclockwise around Thaddius like moons orbiting a planet to keep seperation, etc etc.

I was pretty pleased with myself. I think I covered it very well, and I felt the group exuding confidence.

We split into teams, and it was smooth as Babs.

Both bosses were DPSed at a nice, balanced rate, they died together, we gathered and jumped, Sux aggroed as the main tank perfectly on schedule, and I cat dashed to be right on his butt for insta-healing. Everyone hit the ledge, we were just nailing every phase. I felt so proud.

As Sux grabbed aggro and I dropped my first HoTs, Thaddius began casting Polarity Shift, and I prepared the raid for it, calling my reminder out over vent, “Polarity Shift in two seconds, Positive to the front, Negative to the rear, get ready!”

Ahem.

Oh, hell yes I did.

Some folks did what I told them to do during our preparation, and some folks did what I told them to do on vent at the time.

Raid go boom!

What’s funny is, I knew we were doomed as over half the raid went down, but I started the chain Battle Rezzes anyway. After all, you never know.

Well, yes, yes I did.

I, the Big Bear Butt, wiped the raid. And when I say wiped, I mean I am the annihilator, baby. Total and complete destruction.

I’d like to blame Cassie for standing over my shoulder distracting me… but she really had nothing whatsoever to do with it. The fact is, I simply let my mouth run on automatic pilot while my concentration was on positioning, wathcing main tank aggro and position, my position, who was alive and who made the jump, and all the other raid leader crap. Oh yeah, and casting heals.

My mouth apparently thinks we like to put the Positive charges on the edge. Who knew?

Brain was not involved at that moment in any way.

In fact, it took me a second or two for what I actually said to filter up into my brain, sink in, and kinda knock around for a moment, saying “Um, excuse me… you might want to run the instant replay on that one chief, I think there’s a flag on the play.”

On the plus side (sorry, sorry, can’t help it) we kicked his ass the second attempt… and then trashed Archavon and Lady Jess got to be lunged, grabbed and have her dwarf tanking butt tossed across the room. One of those moments that just make you glad you’re a tank.

So, a good time was had by all… I hope it was, anyway. I know I never mind the occasional wipe, I find the moments rather endearing.

If stuff is too damn easy, where’s the sense of accomplishment? The struggle makes victory taste all the sweeter.

Good job, everyone! It was a (ahem) blast!

I'm still standing

Sorry for running silent, running deep around here lately.

I’ve got the gear stuff on hold right this second, because, believe it or not, I am expecting a few more changes to itemization weighting before 3.2, things that haven’t been announced yet in their final state. So, if you’re waiting with baited breath… go brush. Whew, stinky!

If you’ve been craving more of the Bear (and after all, who doesn’t) then may I suggest you tune in this weekend (Saturday, around 3PM Eastern time) to the WoW.com/WoW Insider podcast, where they are holding their 100th Anniversary podcast, and rumor has it a certain ursine individual who has a big butt and cannot lie may have been invited to attend.

You know you love hearing me chat with Mike Schramm. It’s okay, you can admit it.

In other news, I’m busier than a one pawed bear in a salmon stream. I haven’t even had much time to log in or play lately, let alone work on blog stuff, because I’m short staffed in my department (in a good way… cut out the dead wood! Woot!), interviewing applicants to fill the opening, and at the same time preparing for some incoming audits by addressing maintenance concerns that must be complete by August 7th.

No worries, just wanted to explain that things aren’t dead here, I’m just spending a lot more time at work late, and at home we’re having fun with Alex and doing more family stuff. As things get addressed, more time will become available to stay up late to write. 🙂

In the meantime… I’ve got the PBeM story churning in my head, DYING to have the next turn written, I’ve got the Ultimate Bear Drinking Storytime to write, and the evil secret project of doom to blossom… evil blossoms! Evil! Like, invasion of the body snatcher blossom flower evil, like flowers that shoot Spock in the neck and make him happy and get laid evil! These are seriously evil blossoming ideas here!

Oh, and when you DO see what the evil secret project of doom is, remember one key thing;

It’s ALL Breana’s fault. ALL of it!

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

A fascinating forum discussion

Over in the tanking section of the official WoW forums, a fascinating discussion (to me, anyway) is taking place.

Lovenectar of Dalvengyr had this to say;

I’m not sure I understand the logic behind using class representation when deciding how to balance classes for PVE. I’ve seen GC, on several occasions, allude that since a lot of people continue to play warriors, they’re ok. It’s as if Warriors are intentionally being left as is in hopes that people will reroll to help balance out class representation. Why is balance amongst class representation pursued? Does it really even matter?

There are also comments being made that guilds are still using Warriors in Ulduar, so they must be ok. This doesn’t make sense either. Yes, they CAN tank the content, but not as easily as other tanks and without providing the equal benefits other tanking classes provide.

The fact that Warriors are still used, despite their shortcomings, makes me believe that there’s probably factors other than class performance that are contributing to Prot Warrior representation.

They’ve been around and been capable of tanking effectively for longer than any other class. Therefore, there will be more just because the amount of time they’ve been available. This extended amount of playtime would also lead to a stronger bond to their toon. A warrior of four years won’t be as willing to reroll because another class is more effective at tanking and guilds won’t can their long time tank just because he won’t reroll… most of the time.

These factors, and I’m sure there are more of them, make me wonder why representation is even considered. Why is a class deemed “ok” because people still play them? If you really want to bring the tanks in line with each other, wouldn’t it be more effective to base any changes or tweaks on the performance of the classes?

This attitude that, even though Prot Warriors have the lowest DPS, TPS and take more effort to AoE tank effectively, are ok because people still play them is a little perplexing to me. It’s like dedication is being punished with massive amounts of inconvenience. Does class representation take precedence over class performance?

I was impressed, I thought that was pretty well written, even if, as usual, a bunch of folks felt the need to do the old ‘beating a dead horse’ wah wah afterwards.

Lo and behold, Ghostcrawler responded.. and responded, and responded.

I think all Feral Druids might be a little surprised by the discussion that followed;

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Q u o t e:
This. If less people are playing rogues than say, hunters, Blizzard wants to know why. Is it more fun? Is it too powerful? Can they make hunter gameplay more fun?
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This is true.

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Q u o t e:
Basically this is what I think of for why they consider it. GC has said that they are afraid of buffing warriors too much because they previously were THE tank class and that perception is still carried by a respectably high number of people. They want to make sure the other tanks are considered equally effective tanks, so they are being very careful how they buff warriors because if they over buff them they will have just destroyed everything they were trying to change about the majority perception within the community. They also take into consideration whether they are being effective in the current content and since they are they haven’t had any need to do anything in an emergency mini-patch way.
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And so is this.

Let’s consider a totally hypothetical example (and I am being serious about that):

Say we did some extensive data extraction from Ulduar and found that only 5% of guilds use Feral tanks when learning hard modes. Assume for the sake of my very contrived example that we could somehow select for those guilds with a potential to beat the encounters, but that the encounters weren’t on farm yet. Assume that the sample size was somehow large enough that the statistics are not at fault in any of this data collection. (I’m trying not to let you Kobayashi Maru your way out of being able to resolve the scenario.)

Now, let’s also assume that we convinced ourselves beyond a shadow of a doubt that using a competent and appropriately geared Feral tank made most of the hard mode encounters significantly easier. Assume that the community also felt the same way — that it wasn’t a dark secret.

The fair thing to do from a balance point-of-view would be to nerf Feral tanks. This will likely cause the percentage of them to drop from say 5% to 2% or virtually nil. A game designer should look at that and say: Yikes!

You can argue that maybe the bear is just a horribly frustrating spec to play and so nobody does it despite its advantages. I don’t really buy that though. Players tend to say that about all of the classes, and I don’t see a lot of evidence that Ferals are somehow unique in this regard. Furthermore, many of our players will do things that are soul-crushingly frustrating if they think it might confer to them a small advantage, which is often why we nerf such things — to save players from themselves so to speak. It’s just hard to resolve how, in this particular example, why more guilds don’t go stampeding towards druid tanks if they are overpowered.

It’s a tough question — what to do with the overpowered but underplayed spec, assuming it doesn’t have any crippling gameplay flaws? What do you do with the spec that is wildly popular but underpowered? Do you make them somehow less fun (even if it’s relative) so players try out the other specs? I think saying “just make all the specs as fun!” is a cop out. We try to do that all the time, but I don’t think that will ever result in as many shamans as warriors.

This is why I say we don’t balance around representation. We don’t tweak numbers until we have 25% of each tank in Ulduar.(Or should the number skew higher towards DKs since they have more than one spec? Or should the numbers skew lower for paladins and druids since fewer races can be them?) But we do have to consider representation when we’re making changes.

Okay, so he says that this is a totally hypothetical example. Nobody needs to get in a frothy blind panic, okay? Not that there is anything panic worthy there, just saying. Some folks seem to rush to the panic stage a teensy, weensy bit.

Let’s be honest here for a moment, shall we?

I play a Feral Tank. I’m not going off of what my friend Bob done told me once while we were in a sports bar about how the class plays. No random word of mouth, no stereotype or perception is informing my views on how the Feral Druid playes. I actually play one myself, and have for a long time.

So, that being said, Ghostcrawler, I’m not sure where you got the concept that nobody plays them because they are ‘a horribly frustrating spec to play’, a position that you then went on to reinforce by suggesting that other people playing other classes could say the same thing so it’s not a compelling enough argument, but I’m here to tell you… I find absolutely NOTHING frustrating, in any way, about playing a Feral Tank. I find it to be a delightful, captivating experience, and compared to other classes I’ve played, I find the Feral Tank abilities to intuitively work together in a clear, understandable way. I personally feel that each ability serves a specific, clearly understood purpose, that the Talents themselves are self-explanatory for the most part, and all things considered, feels to me to be an outstandingly well designed and implemented class. Kudos to you and the entire developer team. Job well done.

Whoever told you we were horribly frustrating to play needs to maybe actually play one. And, if the people complaining are angry with the class because they sucked at tanking with one, rather than blame the class design… perhaps they need to, like, suck less.

Wait, we were talking hypotheticals, right? Oops!

Or were we?

But wait, there’s more!

——————————————————————————-
Q u o t e:
Feral druids are in a similar boat. They’re quite powerful, but there’s still a perception that they’re squishy. Why? I have no idea. People really do have some silly bias against ferals. Granted, these aren’t top-end raiding guilds, but there’s enough out there that the myth carries enough weight that when people are at the character selection screen they think tank and roll warrior or paladin. When they see druid they think, “healer or moonkin.”

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Feral druid tanks are somewhat rare, especially among some of the most hardcore, progression-focused guilds. Now, as I say below, hardcore guilds may be the most likely to stick with their current MT (who to be fair, is likely a warrior because these guilds have been around awhile). There are definitely Feral tanks out there — there are a lot of WoW raiding guilds after all. But if they are as good in 3.1 and 3.2 as some players predict, then why aren’t there more of them? Why isn’t every guild recruiting one? It’s an interesting phenomenon and I’m not sure I could adequately explain it.

Now, this is some interesting stuff… why does it feel like the ‘entirely hypothetical’ situation wasn’t so hypothetical after all? Are us Bear Tanks really that rare? I’ve said before, fairly recently, that I don’t see them that often, when I talked about why we needed the nerfs and mused aloud at the thought that if we were so OP, why ain’t there more guilds looking specifically for them when trying to get pugs going on Trade channel.

This seems, to me, to indicate that not only are they rarely called for by name for casual pugs, but that they’re also pretty rare in established top end raiding guilds, too. I guess I have no way of knowing, because he is talking about the top 5% of bleeding edge progression guilds, and I don’t hang with them folks. They are serious kick ass folks, and I’m, um, not.

For the player he is responding to, though, can I just say that it’s been over a year since I or anyone I talk to just automatically associated them with Moonkin or Healers? That ship sailed in BC.

But wait, there are lots more Ghostcrawler posts to come!

——————————————————————————–
Q u o t e:
Leveling up a druid is probably one of the worst experiences in the game, according to most people I talk to anyway. A paladin only being slightly better. A lot of work has been done to ret to make it into a extremely good damage dealing tree. Which makes leveling one both fun and fast.

——————————————————————————–

Wow, I disagree. I found leveling a druid to be much, much easier than leveling a warrior once you get cat. My warrior leveled on a stack of health potions and a high repair bill. Paladins are trickier, because they have some really nice benefits and some really slow aspects of leveling. I will leave you with the tidbit that paladins are the least likely class to be abandoned at low level. What does that mean? I’m not sure I have any idea.

——————————————————————————–
Q u o t e:
That said, druids have been nerfed EVERY single patch in this expansion. This is not QQ. Its just a matter of fact.
——————————————————————————–

It’s a curious fact though. It argues that we never nerf them enough because we keep having to do it again and again. Does that mean we have a double standard and are too nice to druids?

Be careful trying to use facts like this to prove anything. Number of nerfs or number of patches nerfed are not very informative values.

——————————————————————————–
Q u o t e:
I think the answer is very simple to be honest. If the spec is overpowered, even if absolutely no one plays it, it should be nerfed. Same if a given spec is underpowered. One’s performance in a raid should not be dictated by how many other people play the spec. What I’m trying to say is that over power and under power are entirely independent from popularity.
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I don’t think they truly are independent though, not by a long shot. I can understand that viewpoint from a pure game design standpoint, but I also think if we gave druids a 25% dps buff and it stuck that you would see players flock to them in no time. This is more true of PvP than PvE, but I still think it’s true of PvE. We saw rogue numbers decline in 3.0 when they were underpowered and they have since returned. Now maybe my hyopethetical example above never actually happens, but I sort of suspect it does.

——————————————————————————–
Q u o t e:
If we’re talking about cutting-edge guilds, and the community generally agrees Feral tanks are better, the first reason can’t be it- most of them would prefer the better tank class. The second reason is plausible- an existent tank could reroll to the better tank class, but he’s giving up his epic loot, his epic flyer training, his four “Gigantique” bags and his Traveler’s Tundra Funmoth. And for what? So he can, after a lot of work, be part of the overpowered class du jour? When you have no idea how long that overpowered-ness will last, it’s a risky investment.
——————————————————————————–

It is an interesting phenomenon that some of the most cutting-edge guilds are the least likely to change. Now, they certainly have the resources and mindset to change if that’s required. If we made a boss that could only be tanked by a mage with a half Arcane half Frost build, they would mysteriously produce one. But they tend to be conservative. They have their roster and they know what works for them. If their traditional MT can beat a boss, they will probably do it that way, even if another tank would give them an advantage. They would only use the advantage if they couldn’t beat it the way they wanted to (and this does happen). For less than cutting-edge guilds, they might see more of a benefit in switching tanks. And yet… these guilds are also the least likely to be able to attract amazing players with good gear of other classes at a moment’s notice, and they are likely to see a much bigger improvement just by tightening up their game than they are by changing their roster. This is why I often say tank balance doesn’t have to be perfectly equal. It just has to be close enough.

Okay, so let’s check that out…

First, umm… Ghostcrawler, you DON’T have to nerf them all the time. You just choose to do so, and the reason might just be that you didn’t choose the right things, in the right proportion, the first time. 

May I submit to you the idea that choosing one aspect of a classes’ defense and nerfing the shit out of it, like you did with armor, does not do anything other than reduce the amount of attention we pay to armor as a stat?

And then the next time deciding that bears weight gear with Agility too highly, and so they must need their dodge value nerfed?

Maybe this really means that you are overnerfing one aspect at a time rather than doing a balanced adjustment across the board, and we compensated for your massive armor nerf by going with Agility. We had balanced gear before, and then we adjusted. We’re already talking about how to adjust again. So what will you nerf next? Health from Stam Talents again? 

We asked for a bit of balance when the armor thing came out, and giving us snarky comments about all the changes being needed and maybe you just didn’t hammer us hard enough the first time doesn’t address core concerns. 

If you can articulate what your goal is for a class, and balance the nerfs a little more across the board to achieve it so we don’t have to totally reitemize, maybe it wouldn’t be all nerfs, all the time? Just a thought.  

It’s funny to me, in a way, that the one thing that Ghostcrawler seems surprised about is that people would be hesitant to change characters entirely just for the sake of progression. If a Feral Tank is better, why wouldn’t they switch? If we make them need a Half-Arcane, Half-Frost specced Mage, they’d come up with one, right?

Well, GC likes to point out the fallacy of arguments, so how about this reason… because a high end raiding guild probably already has a Mage, and if the fight requires a change in spec, the player is still playing the same character he or she knows and loves and is happy with, and that uses the same Spellpower/Int/Spirit/Hit Rating gear stats. Modifying a spec a bit, while requiring learning a different way of playing, at least keeps you with the same character.

If a fight requires changing from a top geared Protection Warrior to a top geared Feral Druid, however, those are two entirely different characters… and maybe doing so will require changing who the person playing the main tank is. I don’t know about other guilds, but in the guilds I am familiar with, there are only a few folks that step up and accept the tanking role in raids, and guilds get used to their particular playstyles. There is a comfort zone for the guild. Is it really surprising that which tank classes are consistently played in guilds would remain fairly constant? Unless you change the player doing the tanking, it seems probable to me that the class you have as a tank would stay the same.

The discussion actually, to me, comes down to one surprising thing; Ghostcrawler IS surprised that people don’t swap classes and specs at the drop of a hat for the sake of progression. As though progression really is the most important priority that a person can have, and all else is frippery.

Considering the state of the game, I can understand that. The other stuff is tacked on to keep non-progression players amused while the serious folks get down to the real business. I can understand that… and I don’t have a problem with it, either. I am happy playing the game I’ve got, I feel my casual playstyle has been addressed quite well (comparatively speaking), and I don’t need the focus of the game to change to match what I am interested in. I like being social, and I’m delighted with how much of the game has been expanded for my playstyle enjoyment.

That still doesn’t change the fact that after 80 levels, and some hardcore playing, it’s gonna be ever harder for someone to pop a brand new max level character out and also get skilled enough, and geared enough, to make it feasible to swap one out for another. DKP and Random Number Generator loot, remember? You’re going to want to bring your best guns, and one person with TWO tank characters who is the go to main tank is going to have to make a decision who to gear up first.

Sure, in 10 and 25 man Naxx and stuff, do both. But for the Ulduar raiders and beyond, it’s gonna get back to focusing on one go to character.

Sorry, got off on a tangent.

The point here is, Ghostcrawler is saying that if a class is overpowered, it will be looked at hard for being nerfed, but they DO take representation of the class into account when they make a decision of how hard to nerf.

And amusingly enough, they get surprised when people hold some sort of wierd attachment to their characters, and don’t toss them off the bus the second another class is (mathematically speaking) marginally better at a role.

But we’re going to nerf you damn Druids anyway. 🙂

Hey, I’ve got a question!

If players are not changing characters/classes for hard mode raids based on the mathematically optimal chances for success, but are instead playing the same toons they are used to, enjoy, and have had past success with…

Why the heck does anyone need to be nerfed in comparison to someone else’s performance?

It’s not because of making every tank equal with every other tank… GC said it himself, they think close enough is good enough.

So why? Why waste our time changing the rules and gear itemization? What the heck is the point?

I’ll tell you why, and it’s a good reason.

They do it at this level, because of world firsts and top end raiding guild competition.

They want to make sure that the bleeding edge progression guilds are all equally challenged by content. They want that world first accomplishment to be a feat worthy of admiration, and if a class is under the spotlight of being PERCEIVED as overpowered, there are always those that will marginalize the accomplishments of others based on that perception.

It’s a simple fact, if content is perceived as being too easy with x class, and a guild using x class gets a world first, QQ results.

Class balancing is going to be a fact of life so long as there is a perception that one class is overpowered in comparison to others. Accept it, and move on. All we can hope is that classes are researched and tested extensively before actual changes go live.

Me, at my level of progression, I am not affected much. I do read the news and wonder at the thought behind it, but all I really ask, at the end of the day, is that when the developers are done with this latest round of fundamental class changes, is that every tanking class have the potential to handle the content, so everyone gets to go have fun.

Oh, and one other thing; after this round of fundamental class changes… take a break with the change stuff. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m getting a bit of class change fatigue over here. Leave it alone long enough for people to forget about the last four mechanics changes, huh?

Just, you know, allow us to settle in and enjoy the game without wondering what next months’ class mechanics changes will bring.

I do think it’s silly that things are, what, so bad that every couple months we need some big changes to class mechanics? Really?

And no, I don’t think the problem is that you didn’t nerf us hard enough the first three times, thanks much.