Tuesday, August 2, 2011


I've moved to a new blog at Mace and Staff.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Time Out Button

I've been healing on my pally for a few months, but when I was raid healing on my druid, I'll admit that I didn't pay much attention to my pally's cooldowns and extra buttons. I wasn't a good holy pally.

Now that she's getting more play time, I'm actually using my cooldowns more often.

My favorite has been nicknamed "the Time Out Button".

It started when I was in a ZA with my husband. He got too close to the mobs to hex, pulled, so I Hand of Protection'ed him with 1k hp until I could get the tank stabilized, then I healed him back up.

While I have used it to protect myself from healing aggro, I really hadn't thought about using it on the dps before (like I said, I'm still learning the holy pally). My first thought was that it would be fine for casters, who could continue to dps.

Then I was in another heroic (GB, for variety) and the dps DK kept pulling aggro. I was yelling at him through the screen to stop that, so the next time I cast HoP, which kept him from being able to dps for several seconds.

As a lesson, I think it worked... he stopped pulling aggro, but I didn't have to let him die and slow the group (I am totally that healer). It said "I see what you're doing and you should stop" without punishing everyone else. It's a lot more obvious than Hand of Salvation (and more effective to get the mob(s) back on the tank).

Obviously, in a raid I save this button for it's intended purpose, but when running 5 mans with badly behaved dps, I really like having my time out button!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Circle of Healing

I was touched when I read that I had been tagged by Tzufit from Tree Heals Go Woosh for the Circle of Healing questionnaire that has been going around the blogosphere. I decided to answer the questions from my paladin's perspective, since I'm really trying to get into that mindset! BE the PALLY!

Before I start, I would like to say that it's been awesome to read everyone else's answers (especially the druids who want to HEAL ALL OF THE THINGS - I totally understand your point of view!). Also, I'm still working on revamping this blog. I suspect I'm going to go with something more personal, which will allow me to feel like I can write more often (and less pressure). I'm having trouble coming up with a name, though!

On to the questionnaire!

Here’s how it works:
Post this questionnaire, with your answers, on your blog. Pick the healing class you know most about (or is the focus of your blog) for the questionnaire, and then send it over to another healing blogger you know and love who heals with a DIFFERENT class. Include a link to the blogger who sent you the questionnaire, as well as a link to the blogger to whom you are sending it.

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary healer?
Zaralynda, holy pally

What is your primary group healing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)
Up until 2 weeks ago, it was 5 mans and occassionally filling in for a raid (10 or 25). Now it'll be 10 mans (and 5s to cap VP).

What is your favorite healing spell for your class and why?
It's a toss up between Divine Shield (because pally bubbles are so iconic) and Light of Dawn (because I can't help yelling "FLASHLIGHT" every time I use it... I amuse myself very much). In terms of function AND form, Avenging Wrath. How can you not love a 20% boost to your heals with a great visual (Avenging Wrath gives you WINGS!).

What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?
Probably Guardian because I'm just not sure what are the conditions that I should be looking for to use him, but because he has such a long cooldown (5 minutes), I worry about not having him available if I want him, so I don't use him enough.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why?
Utility. We have a cooldown for EVERYTHING! Movement debuff on the tank? Let me fix that for ya. Dps getting above the tank in threat? I'll help you out there. Want a debuff cleared or a mitigation cooldown? Check and check. We have the best emergency heal in the game (Lay on Hands), plus a variety of auras and Aura Mastery for a short boost.

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why?
AoE/raid healing. We have some tools (Light of Dawn, Holy Radiance) but times of heavy raid damage leave me whimpering behind my keyboard "Tranquility... Tranquility... I miss you!"

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you?
Tank healing, because of our lack of good raid healing tools. We can help out here and there (Aura Master and the like) but it's not a main assignment I would feel comfortable with.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why?
I feel better with a druid in the raid, since everyone seems more stable. I've had that for a very long time and now that I'm not providing it, I've found that I miss it when our druid healer is out.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why?
Whatever class I'm healing on. I like a diverse healing team to handle a wide variety of abilities.

What is your worst habit as a healer?
Trying to HEAL ALL OF THE THINGS. I think it comes from being a raid healer for so long, and in Cata being given the ability to also tank heal. I think I can do everything and now as a pally, I can do a lot of things, but not the throughput of the druid. I have to unlearn that habit.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing?
People calling for heals. Seriously? You think I didn't notice? One benefit of switching to the paladin is that pugs no longer stand in fire, die, and then demand rebirth. If you couldn't stay out of the fire in the first 5 seconds of the fight, why would I waste my time rezzing you?

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing?
Balanced can mean different things. I don't think that all of the healing classes are equal (which was Blizzard's stated design goal). I think that we are closer to that than we were in LK, but we still aren't there. Last night when my raid leader assigned me to the raid and the holy priest to the tank, I literally facepalmed and sent him a fast whisper that those assignments were NOT the best use of our resources. Could we have pulled it off? Probably (since we were running through BoT to get some folks their titles/achieves), but it's much smarter to play to the strengths of the individual classes.

I do think we're well balanced in that a healing team can be made up of very nearly any combination of classes and it'll work. Gone are the days when you must take a pally healer for the tanks, or struggle, and I think we're better for that.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer?
Instant, in game feedback is "did my target die?" and looking at my spell distribution, specifically cooldowns. Right now I'm mostly trying to get in the habit of pressing my bazillion buttons and seeing how they all interact, and once I'm in those habits I'll work harder at making sure I'm pressing them at the right times. For example, I was healing a pally tank last night and every time I Hand of Sacrificed him, he used his Divine Shield (I think? I didn't get any damage transfer through HoSac). We need to communicate better, but some of that is also in getting used to a new team.

Out of game, I use World of Logs to look more in depth at my spell usage and the effect of my cooldowns (to try to plan things out better).

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class?
That the only thing we can do is pump out big numbers on a single target. I'm totally enamored of the cooldowns available (perhaps because as a druid my solution to everything was MOAR HEALZ).

If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a healer via recount, what sort of patterns would they see (i.e. lots of overhealing, low healing output, etc)?

Right now we've mostly been doing T11 mop up and trash runs (I've seen a few attempts on the spider boss), so I've been bored and Holy Light'ing the tank going straight to overheal but putting a shield on him. To play with that mechanic.

I'm not sure how things will even out once we're doing more progression. I guess I'll see on Sunday!

Haste or Crit and why?
Haste makes me more responsive while crit (sometimes) makes me heal harder. I like haste!

What healing class do you feel you understand least?
Priests. I leveled one to 40 in vanilla (when dwarf priests were the rage) and haven't touched them since. Plus, since they have 2 different healing specs, I can't keep straight which spells go with each spec.

Since the husband and I have an open RAF setup (for leveling a pair on a server with some local folks), we decided to roll new toons on the new server so I could have a priest (or maybe I bullied him into it).

I have a shaman at 77, but when we faction changed I made her a goblin and can't stand them. I guess I have to make her another race before I can play her again. So, I haven't played her since Cata and have only the vaguest understanding of shaman'ing.

What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in healing?
The essentials are Vuhdo for frames and mouseover macros for spells. I have a G13 keypad so that I can have a ton of buttons within easy reach (and a joystick for character movement). One of the issues with using the paladin cooldowns is teaching myself where they are! But, the biggest thing I like about mouseover macros is that if I want to rearrange things, I can just drag and drop on my bars rather than having to go into a menu of options.

Other addons I use for healing...

  • Can't Heal You sends a whisper to a target if they're out of range, out of LoS, etc and is SUPER helpful in PUGs, and dealing with the uneven ground in Firelands.
  • Power Auras helps me keep track of what cooldowns are available. Some addons (like ForteExorcist) will show you when they become available, which works for me when I want to use something on cooldown (Holy Shock, Judgement), but other spells with cooldowns that I want to know if they're available (all of the hands, for example), I don't want to have to look and say "well, it's not shown as being on cooldown, so it must be available". I'd rather look in one spot to say "yes" or "no".  I know some folks are switching to Weak Auras (less overhead), and since my computer crashed now would be a good time for me to switch, but I'm hesitant.
  • Quartz to show my my GCD.  This is less important now than it was on a druid in LK (where it was super important!), but it's still a good thing to know.
  • Raven to show my tank buff through a Focus frame (as a druid it was Lifebloom, as a pally it's Beacon).  I use it for all of my other buffs, too, but that's the most important one.

Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?
I believe I'm going to go for balance with everything besides crit and see how that goes. As a tank healer, mastery helps a lot (now that they changed it in 4.2), but it's not worth stacking at the expense of spirit or haste.

And now, to tag a few other healing bloggers … or blogging healers!
I would love to see Tomaj from Holy Troll answer these questions, since I don't know much about priests.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I mentioned in my last blog that I was having some health issues, so I decided to stop raid leading and find a guild with a low key schedule (6 hours/week) where I could just raid for a bit without the responsibility.  It's really the best decision for me.

The guild that I found, unfortunately, wants my holy pally and not my resto druid.  So, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this blog since I'm no longer a tree or a raid leader.

I plan to finish writing about my time in the mega guild (2 more posts, I think), but after that I'm not sure.  Unfortunately, my desktop fried it's harddrives, so my notes on those posts are gone and I'll have to start over (I have the saved drafts for the parts I've already written, but not the notes on the parts I still need to write).

I'm just having a run of bad luck apparently.

Anyway, a shout out to Peon Liberation Front on Turalyon for taking in a healer and a mdps. They seem like a great bunch of folks, and I'm enjoying raiding with them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Patch Notes

I noted on Twitter that I've been having some health problems.  It's hard to write on a blog when I'm getting migraines nearly every day.  It's also hard to lead a raid group, but I'm dealing as best as I can.

Anyway, here are some thoughts on the patch.

Druid Specific Patch Changes

Innervate now grants an ally target 5% of his or her maximum mana over 10 seconds, but still grants 20% of the druid's maximum mana over 10 seconds when self-cast.

I don't foresee this changing the 10 man raiding scene much; how often are there 2 caster druids in a 10 man?  Well, my group had a tree and a boomkin, but as we used him for AoE in a lot of fights, he often kept his innervate.

All healing critical strikes now heal for 2 times a normal heal (+100%), up from 1.5 times a normal heal (+50%).

I'm glad to see this change, but it's not interesting enough to get me to stack crit.

Symbiosis (Mastery) has been removed and replaced with Harmony. Harmony increases direct healing by an additional 10%, and casting direct healing spells grants an additional 10% bonus to periodic healing for 10 seconds. Each point of mastery increases each bonus by an additional 1.25%. Healing Touch, Nourish, Swiftmend, and the initial heal from Regrowth are considered direct healing spells for the purposes of this Mastery. All other healing from druid spells is considered periodic.

The mastery change is really exciting.  In 10 mans, often a WG is enough to prep the majority of the raid for heals, so it's not as good a change as it is for 25 man raiders.  It is still an improvement, though, since no longer do we have to apply a buff (a hot) to someone before getting the effect of our mastery.  The buff that we need to get the effect of mastery (Symbiosis) is applied to ourselves by casting a direct heal.

Many 25 man druids report that they're planning on using SM on cooldown to activate Symbiosis.  I haven't been using SM on cooldown, and I suspect that in the same sized room, 10 man raiders are more spread out than 25 raiders, making it less effective in that environment.  I could just put it on the tank in those cases, to stabilize his health and activate Symbiosis.  I'll have to see how it plays out.

Between the mastery change and the crit change, I'm considering putting more points into Nature's Bounty.  As we spend more time at 85, and our gear upgrades, I've noticed that I spend more time healing similarly to LK - very mobile, using a ton of instant spells.  We've taken advantage of that in my raid team by giving me all of the healing assignments that involve a bunch of movement.  I suspect that I'll be using Regrowth more often (to activate Symbiosis). If I do, I should move points also to Living Seed, I suspect, as I'll be criting a lot more.  I'll probably remove them from Naturalist, Swift Rejuvenation, and Nature's Swiftness.

I suspect that I'll have a full post on my thoughts on our talent choices soon, once I've played with the new mastery a bit.

Other Random Patch Day Thoughts

Molten Front
I'll admit that I've been dreading this patch a bit.  I'm actively playing 3 85s, plus leveling another 2 characters.  Adding a full set of dailies does not sound like much fun, so I've had to decide who is getting the dailies done.  

My mage will eventually get them done for the vanity items and gear.  She is used to being last in priority (still doing TB dailies for mounts, since I can't stand to do them every day).  The only thing that I want for her ASAP is the JC bag recipe, but it may not be such a pressing need since gems are supposed to stack.  She'll get them last, and if I'm already tired of the dailies by the time I get to her I won't feel bad about skipping.

My pally often fills in for other raid groups, but almost never gets gear (since she's an alt, I defer to the raiders in the group and only take what others don't want).  She'll have to do the dailies to get her gear upgraded.  Plus, she's a blacksmith so getting the new BS recipes will be nice.

The druid I'm still not decided about.  I'm working on my gear lists, and there's the possibility that I'll have upgraded beyond the vendor gear by the time I would unlock the vendors (since it's a lower ilevel than raid gear). OTOH, she's killed Chimaeron 6 times or so, and has never even seen the bracers drop, so it's entirely possible that in a month I'll still be wearing some 359 gear (or the 353 bracers).  Right now I'm planning to do them on her.

My Raid Group Specifics
We're having attendance problems, so are trying to merge with another group in guild.  I'm not entirely sure if it'll be a success or not, so I wish we had another week or two to try it out.  I'm guessing that folks will be coming back for 4.2, and if we aren't going to merge, I'd like to recruit for my group!
We also haven't figured out legendary stuff (since it's contingent on if we're merging or not, really).  We'll have to figure something out for Friday.  Headache!

We finished the tier 9/12, but since we only really gelled for 2 months (started in March, got hit hard by attendance starting in May), I'm not terribly upset.  I did fill in for another group on Sunday and got a Cho'gall kill (they had it on farm, so it was not as cool as if I had gotten it with my group).  That was an interesting night, since I had to keep swapping back and forth from my druid to my pally, since the druid was saved to some stuff, but the pally didn't have nearly as much gear.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Anatomy of a Mega Guild: Part II, It Was the Best of Times...

Welcome to the second post in my "Anatomy of a Mega Guild" series!  The previous post described my motivations for joining the mega guild and what I knew about how things would work when I joined.

This post will discuss the advantages of the mega guild structure.  The previous post in this series is Part I: Joining.

Is Anyone There?
There are approximately 580 individual characters in my guild (I'm not sure if the /ginfo is working correctly, but it's currently reporting 210 accounts - a PLAUSIBLE number at least).  I have occasionally seen fewer than 5 people online, but only at weird times such as 6 am on Saturday morning.

With this number of people, I can almost always find someone for whatever I need.  I can ask in /g and almost always get at least 2 other people so we can get guild rep for a heroic (if not a full group).  I can easily find a crafter for whatever I need crafted.  Folks are always doing arenas and pvp (not me, I'm terrible with it).

Specifically for Raiding
As a player it's easy to find groups to sub into on my alts.   My alts are actually doing about as much raiding as I did at the end of ICC.  Both my mage and healing pally are 4/5 in BWD and 2/4 in BoT.  Progression on my server is pretty terrible (we're ranked 115 as a server; no one had Light of Dawn until March 2011 or so).  My server is just not running PUGs right now, so having the opportunity to see these raids through the eyes of my alts is quite amazing. 

As a raid leader, it is much easier to find a sub for last minute (or unannounced) absences.  With the proliferation of alts carried over from LK, it seems that everyone has several alts.  It's a lot nicer to pick up a sub and only have to say "so, as [role] you need to worry about [extra ability]" rather than having to go over the whole fight, since they raid regularly on another character.  

Guild Perks/Achievements
Also quite obviously, it's easier/faster to have access to the guild perks.   We reached level 25 on April 7.  We had the Big Cauldron of Battle (3k flasks) on March 23. I'm not sure when we had Fish Feasts (the interface is only showing our progress towards 50k fish, we have 30k caught).

At this point it's not a terrible advantage.  The leveling perks aren't as big of a deal for a raiding group compared to the recipes (cauldrons, feasts).  If a significant number of my raiding group decided that we didn't want to be a part of the guild any more, we would take those recipes with us to the new guild.   I think a lot of the leveling perks are quality of life improvements (rep gains, faster running when dead, mass rez, etc) and aren't quite such a big deal for raiding progression. 

So, I think leveling in a large guild is only going to be a big deal at the beginning of an expansion when a bunch of things are added.

Dealing with BoEs
The only good thing (in my mind) about the extensive amount of trash in BoT are the epic BoE drops.  Obviously different groups do different things with their BoE, but selling them and funding the raid is a pretty common thing to do.   

One thing that's nice about our guild is that the raid groups often trade BoE loot to help equip their groups faster.  It's roughly equivalent to selling a BoE and then buying the other item, but by keeping trades in guild we avoid AH fees, which is definitely a plus.

Identity and Change
My raid group is being affected by summer attendance woes.   This problem is pretty common, and I was chatting with the leader of another group who has having the same problem, so we're currently in discussions to combine the two groups.  We aren't facing nearly the number of problems as when I've read about guild mergers; we already have an identity as a guild, so there's going to be a minimum of drama.

Also, as people's schedules change and their ability to raid changes, they can change teams fluidly without learning a whole new guild's worth of people or culture (there are culture differences between teams, but it's not as severe as guild to guild culture differences in my experience).

External Management
No one in my raid team has to worry about website or vent management.  When we formed, we were given a sub forum on the website and a channel in vent.  I throw $10 at the guild leader every now and then to cover costs, but reducing the number of people responsible for support functions not directly in the game means that my team has more time to actually play.

Unfortunately, All is Not Sunshine and Roses
That's a pretty big list of advantages for the mega guild structure, but there have also been problems.  I'll cover those in my next post.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Anatomy of a Mega Guild: Part I, Joining

I mentioned earlier that I raid lead one of several raid teams in my guild, so the culture is different from the "normal" one raid per guild structure that most people are accustomed to in World of Warcraft.

This turned into much too long for a single post, so it's broken into several sections.  The first section explains why I originally got into the guild.

Finding Myself Without a Home
As ICC and WotLK drew to a close, I hopped around in several different guilds.  I had left my ICC guild due to personality conflicts, and was searching for a home.  I transferred to different servers and tried out a bunch of different types of guilds, progression, and so forth.  I spent time with a 10 man working on Sindragosa normal, was an officer for a guild just starting out, and spent several weeks with a 25m guild working on Sindragosa HM (we finally got her!).  While I like raiding, I also like a lot of other things in game.  I realized that I didn't want to do hardcore raiding, since that would prevent me from doing these other things.

As the holiday season got closer, my husband's work got busier, and he didn't have much time to play.  He remained on our initial server, and I eventually brought my characters back there.  I joined a casual guild, but raids with them were unsatisfying.  The roster was in constant flux, so every raid was a progression night for several folks.  We didn't get very far into the instance.

I knew that in order for me to enjoy raiding, I would need to find a group with consistent attendance, but a short schedule, and without any window lickers.

And Then There Were Two
My husband loves to raid - it's his favorite thing to do in game.  Unfortunately, he works a weird schedule that keeps him from most normal raid times (he gets up at 3 am, so needs to be in bed around the time most raids start).  In LK, it seemed like there were PUGs going at all hours of the day, and that was fine for him.  It didn't seem like that would be the case in Cataclysm, though.

I realized that if he wanted to raid in Cataclysm, he would have to find a team that raided at a time that would work for his schedule.  And if I wanted to raid with him (I do!), then it would also have to meet my desires as well.

I searched around for awhile, and found a small guilds on the US servers that even met his schedule requirements.  Eliminating the groups that didn't have a stable roster or performance problems (I generally did this based on record), and I was left with a hardcore guild or two.  My husband also works 50-60 hours a week, so that wouldn't work for him, and I just didn't like raiding that much.

I realized that in order to get a group with everything we wanted, I would have to create it.  I'm the natural organizer in our relationship, and I had much more free time.

During my transition period, I had worked as an officer of a start-up guild, so I had an idea what would go into creating a guild.  It's a lot of work....and I didn't really want that.  I like to putter in game (I usually have 20 projects at any given time) and I didn't want to spend my time managing a whole guild.

About the same time, I noticed a post on our realm forums. This would be great, I thought, since I could run a raid team without the overhead of guild management.

The guild was horde (I was originally alliance), so I rolled an alt and spoke with the guild leader about what I wanted to do. While we agreed that it may be difficult to find 8 other people at a time that would work for us, he said that his guild would be a good place to attempt it.  We decided that after the Shattering (when I could be a TROLL!), I would faction transfer.  

What I Would Be Doing... and Avoiding
From those initial discussions, I learned that I would be responsible (or able, however you look at it) for recruiting folks for my raid team, and if they weren't already guild members I could invite them.  I would be responsible for my raid team (and any drama that they created).

My responsibilities also included determining my loot rules, attendance rules, and conduct rules (if above the guild requirements of "be cool"). We would have use of the vent server (and our own channel) and the guild forums (we have our own sub group).  We have a single bank tab.

By starting a group in a guild like this, I can recruit without people worrying about my guild dissolving after a few months like so many start up guilds.  The mega guild is well established and has been around for years (it was created in 2006).

I don't have to worry about managing a social rank of non-raiders.  Especially in the Cataclysm environment, some guilds are taking in extra people to help them level or get achievements.  I haven't had to face that question - we get achievements easily.

I don't have to manage the external sites - Vent or the website.  We have our own area, and the guild administrators take care of it.

It's the least time consuming way to run a raid team when I don't already have a group of folks that I can trust to delegate things to.  I know that if I started a guild, in time I would find trusted people to delegate things like this to, but in the meantime I would have to do everything myself.

Moving Forward   So, these were all things that I knew going into Cataclysm.  The next several posts will break down the specific advantages/disadvantages, as well as address some concerns that people seem to have when they talk about this.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Loot Systems

I've been working on a post explaining what it's like to be a raid leader in a mega guild (we have between 500-600 characters in the guild and 5-7 active raid teams at any point in time). This post started as a tangent off of that post, but it finished itself first. To understand why the raid team is structured the way we are, though, means that you need to know the guild size/structure.

Our First Loot System
Each team is allowed to use their own loot rules. When I was deciding between loot systems, I first listed what I wanted (and needed) out of a loot system.
  •  Manageable in a multi-team guild environment.  While EPGP is actually pretty simple when the addon does all of the tracking/math for you, any addon that relied on storing data in the ingame officer notes wouldn't work in this situation.  Those addons do not seem to be made for guilds with more than one team.  Imagine what would happen if 2 teams used the same system/addon, and someone from the guild subbed into both teams.  The addon (at least any of the ones I could find) can't tell the difference between Team Star and Team Moon.
  • Simple to manage.  Since I couldn't find any addons that would work, I'd have to be able to figure out the loot by hand.  I didn't want to spend 10 minutes giving out loot, so an involved spreadsheet wouldn't work.
  • Loot prioritized to regular team members. I wanted to make sure that loot that dropped would benefit the raid team to help increase progression. This is pretty straightforward, and most organized loot systems do this (by awarding points for attendance, boss kills, or whatever).
  • Not Loot Council. I know it works for some folks, but it seems like too much of a headache to me.
The system that I eventually came up with is a basic random system with Home Team Advantage.

Home Team Advantage gives the regular team members priority over subs.  I use a 75% attendance rate for obtaining HTA - if a sub reaches that level then he's not really a SUB anymore (and I did actually have a tank sub in for us long enough that he simply joined us formally).

As far as tracking goes, I keep an attendance roster.  I note on there when BoE's drop so I know which list of folks to send the money to later, after it is sold.  But the basic attendance roster is the only record keeping I need.

The way it works is that A is a member of the team and B is a sub.  If something drops that they both want, they both roll.  If B wins the roll, the lootmaster announces that A has home team advantage and is awarded loot.  In 2 months of raiding, this happened once (either because the raider actually won the roll and so was awarded the loot anyway, or because it's a 10 man raid and there's not much overlap).

The Drama
The first time it happened it became a big problem and drama spilled out into /g (not when it happened, but later when I was looking for a sub for the following raid week). 

I was accused of not being clear enough with the sub (a holy pally; and I believed that when I explained HTA and further explained "regular members have priority on loot, but any int plate will be yours" that I was clear enough... but I guess not).  The super ridiculous part was that the pally received 2 pieces of loot and a BoE dropped, for which he received just over 1k g in the mail the next day.  I guess that wasn't enough?

I really believe that the drama was caused because we had to say "You can't have this".  Other loot systems do that, but not in such a direct fashion (in either DKP or EPGP, subs don't have enough points to actually win anything that a regular raider wants).

Why Prioritize Regular Raiders?
I did actually have people (including the guild leader!) who told me that the first system was unfair. I honestly do not understand that position, so I'll explain the reasoning behind favoring the regular team members.

First, loot in Warcraft has two purposes. 
  1. Increases character power.  When you gain more of your primary stat or better allocation of secondary stats so that when you play exactly the same, you'll be better at your job (more dps, heals, threat/survivability).
  2. Reward for completing a challenge. You did something special (whether that's Sinestra or Magmaw) loot is the reward for killing a big baddy.
It is important to me that the characters that are regularly in the raid (whether they are subs or alts of a regular raider who switched to cover an absence) gain power (to make progression easier), and I don't care what the power of random members in my guild is.

Now, in a small guild, a casual rank player or alt has a pretty good chance of being in your raid another night, so you could still gain from their power increase.  In a guild the size of mine?  It seems like all of the raiders (1 25m team, 1 10 that's expanding to 25, and 4 10m teams) have an alt or two that can fill in if we need help.  I can easily give a couple of pieces to someone and then not have them in my raid again until the next content patch.  If that loot was useful to someone in my team, I'd like it to go to my team (and be useful the next week) rather than a random guild member where it will never benefit my team (of course if it's not useful I'm glad that we have a sub who can use it - if they're subbing in my raid, often they sub in another raid or two as well, so is generally useful to SOME team).

How Can You Get Subs Like That?
The other question that I've been asked is why would anyone want to sub in my group with rules like this? 

Most folks that have subbed in with us (including one guy who I forgot to explain the HTA to until after the loot dropped! *facepalm*) reason that they are on their alts (since their mains are saved to whatever raid team that they are in), and since the alt isn't played very often, they don't need loot as much as someone who raids weekly.  They only need enough loot to be able to function as a sub occasionally.

Other reasons to sub when a team uses HTA or similar systems...
  • Often 10 man teams don't have loot overlap so specialty items (like int plate) can go to the sub anyway.  They aren't a benefit to the raid.
  • Often 10 man teams (with any history anyway) have seen that item (or similar) before, and no one needs it as an upgrade.  Those items can go to the sub.
  • The only way to get VP capped is to raid. 
  • Some folks (my husband) just like to raid more than any other part of the game; getting to raid more (with or without loot) is awesome.
  • Some raid teams (like ours) are a lot of fun to laugh/joke/chat with, so why NOT be a part of that for an evening?
Looking for a New System
Still, I'm considering switching to a new system to prioritize regular raiders, but which wouldn't require me to say "You can't have that".  Again, it would have to work in a multi-team guild environment and not require a hugely complicated spreadsheet. 

I'm thinking of having the regular raiders roll 101-200 (and subs the basic /roll 100) so that it's clear what is going on. 

Another option would be a Suicide Kings variant where people could roll, and if they lost and wanted something anyway, they could Suicide (I need another name for this!) ahead of anyone lower in the list (and then be moved to the bottom of the list).  If subs were added to the bottom at the beginning of each raid night, then that would allow a regular member priority over a sub once.

I'm not sure.  I'm still thinking about it and talking with various raid members when they're online.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Optimization Discussion

There's been a lot of discussion around the blogosphere over the past week about optimization, and how crowd sourcing of it has changed the game.

Honestly, I think players fall into two categories: Character Builders and Dragon Slayers. Let me explain.

Character Builders
Character Builders enjoy the aspect of the game where they increase their character's power. Power can manifest in different terms - perhaps the best dps, the most utility, a good RP story, whatever. The important aspect here is that the player is invested in personally making decisions to make their character have the most power (however the person defines power) that they can.

This is the type of person who likes running optimizations themselves, and who will balk when criticized for trying out something that has been crowd sourced as "suboptimal" but which the player hasn't proven to themselves is suboptimal (yet). The point of the game to these people is figuring out how best to create character power, and crowd sourcing that solution is taking a shortcut, or cheating.

Dragon Slayer
The Dragon Slayer enjoys aspects of the game where they are given a task and are able to complete it. These tasks can take different forms - quests, achievements, and dungeon/raid bosses. The important aspect here is task completion.

This type of person is more likely to accept a crowd sourced solution for optimization without thinking twice about it. What's important to them is that they go into a given task with the best preparation that they can (and in today's environment, that means researching out of game). Then, the game becomes execution (knowing the boss strategies, and employing the correct tactics at the correct time).

Both groups can play happily along side each other, as long as some understandings are present. Character Builders can quite happily participate in end game content, since getting higher gear increases character power. A Dragon Slayer can work on optimizing his/her gear themselves, if no other solutions are present, or if he/she knows that their personal playstyle or situation is different than the norm. Having the optimum setup means that the task is completed faster/easier.

Presumably, the Character Builder will eventually reach the same conclusions as the crowd sourced optimization - the problem is when the Dragon Slayers criticize the Character Builder in progress (since it's known that the gear/spec/rotation/etc is suboptimal, but the Character Builder doesn't Know it yet - he's still experimenting).

To be honest, I'm a Dragon Slayer. I don't have any problem with Character Builders experimenting in my raids, so long as the boss still dies. I prefer for folks to experiment with new specs and such between raids, or at least keep the previous spec/gear/etc so that if the new experiment doesn't work, they can go back to it. I think it's important to note that my raid group is pretty much a normal mode only group. I suspect that groups pushing progression generally prefer that members be completely optimized before stepping foot in the raid.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with either viewpoint. They are different ways to look at the game and to enjoy different aspects. The problem, as always, is how we as people deal with folks who don't share our view.

For the record, here are a list of posts that I've seen in this discussion (so you can read other viewpoints). They're roughly ordered by date.

Tobald's MMORPG Blog - Fear of Suboptimal (May 3)
Nil's MMO Blog - Phobia of Inefficiency (May 3)
Blessing of Kings - Optimality (May 3)

Blessing of Kings - More Thoughts on Optimality (May 4)
Nil's MMO Blog - Enemy is Not Optimization (May 4)

Blessing of Kings - Optimizing and Fun (May 5)
Spinksville - Optimisation Doesn't Belong in My MMOs (May 5)

Tobald's MMORPG Blog - Extrapolating Optimization (May 6)
The Greedy Goblin - The Choice (May 6)
For The Bubbles - Your Optimal Isn't Mine (May 6)

Srs Business - Optimally Yours (May 8)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Trinkets, Procs, and Innervate

I've been adjusting my gear recently.

Tear of Blood and Mandala of Stirring Patterns

I've been using the (heroic) Tear of Blood, but I was curious about the Mandala of Stirring Patterns. It's hard to compare the two without information about their proc uptimes. So, I wore each of them into Magmaw (which is a lot of damage, but not chaos like Omnomnom while still being a "farm" fight).

Tear of Blood
Static Intellect - 285
Proc Based Spirit - "Your healing spell critical strikes have a chance to grant 1710 spirit for 15 sec."
Proc Name - Cleansing Tears

World of Logs based uptime: about 20%.
Average Spirit over fight: 20% of 1710 = 342

Notes: The uptime was almost exactly for Magmaw, and varied between 15-22% on other fights; the lowest was Maloriak when I seem to spend the whole last phase kiting adds from healing aggro. I'm surprised it's that high, since my crit is pretty low.

Mandala of Stirring Patterns
Static Spirit - 321
Proc Based Intellect - "Your healing spells have a chance to grant 1926 Intellect for 10 sec."
Proc Name - Pattern of Light

World of Logs based uptime: 19%
Average Intellect over fight: 19% of 1926 = 366

Notes: Playing with the Mandala is weird. I'd prehot the tank, during the pull both the Mandala and Power Torrent would proc, and my mana pool would go from 115k to 165k - so I'd have cast 3 spells into the fight and my mana looks like I've burned through 1/3 of it.

Bigger Innervates
Before the raid I had spent some time setting up a power aura to alert me when my mana was below 80%, Power Torrent and Mandala procs were active. I've now switched it to when my mana is below 55% since when both procs are active, even if my mana was full before the procs, a big chunk would be missing. 55% of my mana with both procs (165k) is approximately equal to 80% of my mana with no procs (115k).

An innervate with both procs up gives me an extra 10k of mana. That's a pretty big deal! I set up separate power auras for each proc, so if I felt that I needed to innervate and not wait for the procs to line up, I could do it when only one was up, but I didn't need to (that could be fight dependent).

Static vs Temporary Intellect
I did some testing while just standing in Orgrimmar. I have on Mark of the Wild and my flask (draconic mind) from last night.

Tear of Blood
Rejuvenation Tick - 3723

Mandala of Stirring Patterns
Rejuvenation Tick - 3653

Mandala of Stirring Patterns with Proc
Rejuvenation Tick - 4130

These numbers are just to give a ballpark (which is why I picked Rejuv, because getting a proc while only casting one spell (I didn't want mastery to show up here) is annoying). It illustrates the scale of what's going on. If I'm wearing Tear of Blood, I'm always casting 3723 Rejuvs. If I'm wearing the Mandala, about 80% of the time I'm casting 3653 Rejuvs and 20% of the time I'm casting 4130 Rejuvs. Which means in a fight where I only cast Rejuv, the Mandala is an average of 3748.

That's not terribly helpful. We have a lot of spells with different coefficients (perhaps later I'll use Tree Calcs, and some spell distribution data from WoL, but I'm not up to that right now).

Also, the proc may not line up well with heavy healing needs. I didn't have it happen, but if it had activated while we were in a head down phase, it would have been fine for innervate but not good for throughput.

And, the intellect only affects the hots that you're casting, not the hots already out. I wonder if I had a LB on the tank that was cast/refreshed with the buff, and refreshed it (early, with a nourish or HT) after the buff fell off, would it be rewritten with the lower value LB? I suspect so. In that case, I wouldn't even be getting the full value of the proc.

Overall impressions
I ended the fight with some crazy amount of mana (35k) when normally I'm drained dry by the end of that fight (well, not quite, as we usually end in a head down phase, but I didn't have mana problems once I got into the groove of the procs).

The last thing to notice is that it took a bit of management to get these results out of the Mandala. I like proc based systems (on my mage I love love love fire), so I'm fine with juggling the procs. Someone who hates having to monitor and manage procs would probably be better off with the Tear of Blood's constant throughput and low maintenance spirit proc.

I'm going to keep playing with it. I'm still struggling with mana on some fights (I'm sure it's my love of Rejuv that's causing problems) and the extra mana from innervate turned out to be a big help.

Once I stop struggling with mana so much, I can always reforge the spirit on the Mandala into haste or mastery (I still can't meet the 2005 haste cap no matter what I do, but maybe this and another upgrade or two will do it). That's another plus for the Mandala. A passive intellect trinket with a spirit proc can't be reforged at all.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fears About Call To Arms

I'm still far enough behind in raid content that I'm running heroics most days to cap my valor points (we got 6/12 this week, and are consistently adding a boss every week, so I'm not upset with our progress at all).

I've started to run into tanks who look at my gear (or perhaps recognize the iconic druid shoulders from this tier - which I LOVE) and say to themselves "hey, this healer is raid geared! We don't need any cc!" and they rush in.

And after the first pull goes successfully (because I blew my cooldowns and totally drained myself of mana), they think "hey, she can handle it!" and continue big chain pulls like what we saw in Wrath. Often this type of tank will pull while I'm WAY out of range drinking or dealing with an add that they left behind or whatever. So it becomes this weird situation where I'm blowing everything on trash and not needing it on bosses (which is good, because by then I have nothing).

I've tried talking to them, but they don't listen. "Lol, you're an epic healer you can handle it."

I've tried letting them die, but either they don't get it, or the rest of the party takes the tank's side.

I've finally resorted to vote kicking them. Which means that by now, it takes me 2/3 of an instance to be able to initiate a vote kick.

Even though I can handle it, I don't see why I should be sweating and cussing while the rest of the group sails blythely through. Especially when it's more efficient for a lot of classes to single target the mobs ANYWAY, we don't loose anything by cc'ing one or two for the difficult pulls.

Right now, the Dungeon Finder is a miserable experience for me (and we seem to have a shortage of tanks in our guild, so that's not always an option). Perhaps I just have bad luck and keep getting these Wrath baby tanks? Or folks are feeling progressed enough to start pulling out their 3rd or 4th alt? Or they're getting ready for the Call to Arms feature?

I don't know. But I'm sure that it's going to get worse when Call to Arms is implemented.

I hope by then we're killing enough bosses in raid that I can forgo the Dungeon Finder entirely. And I'll bet that that is not the effect that Blizzard is looking for.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nature's Swiftness Buff

On the PTR (according to the datamined update from Wowhead), Nature's Swiftness has been buffed.

Nature's Swiftness now also increases the healing done by the affected nature spell by 50%.

I did some testing on live, and when I already have a hot, my HT hits for about 23k (without a hot, it's about 20k). I have 7446 spell power and 12.31 mastery.

So, is an additional 11.5k of instant healing on a 3 minute cooldown worth the talent point?

I poked around with the 4.1 talent tree posted on Wowhead and I think that the choice is between NS and Perseverance. Looking at WoL for the past raiding week, I pulled out the magic spells that I took damage from and compared a 2% reduction in damage to the extra healing I would get from NS (considering how many times I could cast it in the length of the fight).

For all of the fights I've done so far, NS came out ahead (in providing more healing than Perseverance prevented). Plus, NS+HT can be cast on anyone while Perseverance only prevents damage to myself, and I can get onto my next spell faster, since I only used a GCD to cast HT, not the full cast time (2.3 seconds for me). On the other hand, Perseverance is a passive damage reduction, while NS+HT requires the use of a GCD.

There is an argument for preventing damage, and resto druids have very few tools for that. Still, I think the flexibility of NS+HT argues for it's use (even if you aren't tank healing, having the emergency cooldown is helpful).

The other possible place for that point could be in one of the talents that buffs Rejuv. I am still horribly abusing Rejuv (and my mana is showing it), so it's hard for me to judge that based on my current performance (if I buff Rejuv, I'll continue abusing it... that's a bad cycle). I know that some of my abuse of Rejuv has to do with learning the fights. As I know the fights better, I'll have more control over my movement and won't resort to instants as much.

I have 3 points in Improved Rejuvenation, and I'm planning to keep that. It buffs Rejuv and SM (and thus, Efflorescence), but Blessing of the Grove and Swift Rejuvenation are talents that I'm not sure if I need for 10s.

I'm planning to review my logs after this week's raiding and will decide after I see my Rejuv use on the fights that I have a better handle on (Magmaw) as well as the fights that I'm still learning.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Building a Raid Team (or a Guild)

My goal with this blog is to post 1-2 times a week, or more if there's a lot going on. I'm already behind; it's been a busy week! 

I'll probably write about raid leading a fair bit; as I mentioned before, I'm a raid leader in a mega guild (7 current 10 man groups, and one is planning to expand to 25 man with Firelands).  I'm responsible for my own recruiting (both in guild and out), and if someone joins the guild to be in my raid group, then they're my responsibility.  So I've spent the past 2 weeks advertising in trade, chatting with folks (in game and on vent) and running heroics with prospects to get a feel for how they're doing (do they stand in fire, use their cooldowns, etc).  So this week I'll write about that process from my point of view, to hopefully help folks who are looking for a new group.  I hope that this perspective will help you see what group leaders are looking for (well, this group leader anyway!).

Making the Initial Contact
By far, I've gotten more interest by spamming trade than posting in various forums and such.  As much as trade spam annoys all of us, it works. I have a macro, and it has the guild name, level, the subgroup name, the time we raid, and what I'm looking for.

First impressions count, and I've gotten a lot of bad first impressions while talking to folks over the past week or two.  Here are some common mistakes that I've seen.

First, I cannot tell you the number of times that I've had someone reply to me and ask me what time I raid, or when I repeat the raid schedule, they tell me that they can't make one or more of those times.  I know it's an unusual schedule (6-9 pm EST, Sun/Mon), but if you read the ad, you should know. Don't waste both of our time by replying if you can't make the raid schedule.

Second, if you are not at level cap (85), or are geared in greens and 318 blues, then I'm not interested.  I'm looking for folks who are ready to go.  At this point in the expansion, you should be geared in 346's or 359's with maybe one or two 333's (I have 333 bracers because the only 346 leather caster bracers refuse to drop for me) if you want to raid.  

Third, if you whisper me with "invite pls", "i do gud dps", or "chk my gear", I'm not interested.  I'm an adult, and I prefer to be around intelligent folks who are thoughtful about joining groups where other folks are depending on them, and the best way to show that thoughtfulness is to talk in complete sentences, with correct spelling.  Certainly, if you want to be in a group with people who don't care to communicate thoughtfully, replying this way will ensure that this mode of communication is acceptable in your prospect group.  To me, it's a sign that you don't really care about talking to me and thus, aren't going to respect your team.

Getting to Know Each Other
After going over the raid team rules (loot, attendance, etc), if everything is agreeable, I go into a vent interview.  I haven't asked a consistent set of questions, and that's something that I wish I had done differently.

The main thing that I tried to ask everyone was what their progression goals are.  If someone wanted to do all of the hardmodes, then my group isn't for them.  If they want a situation where they don't have to commit to attending (my friends are going to the movies and I want to go), then my group is not for them.  I think the expected time/progression question is very important to make sure that everyone in the group will be satisfied with their raiding experience.

Other questions that I've asked have been:

  • What other roles have they played?  I'm curious there to see if someone has done other things so that they have some idea of the other players' experience.  As a healer, one of my pet peeves is when a dps is asked "why did you die" and they were standing in fire, but their response was "I didn't get heals!".  Someone with healing experience understands that there are some mechanics that you just can't heal through, and especially in Cataclysm, sometimes it's better to spend mana on someone who doesn't stand in fire (and become a mana sponge).  That doesn't mean I won't take someone with no other experiences, but I think it's a sign of a well rounded player.
  • Their view on boss progression vs gear progression vs achievements.  I'd like to make sure that everyone is in agreement for whether we should extend the lockout to work on a new boss more, or if we should keep farming bosses that we've already killed (for gear progression) or if we should wipe a bunch of times in a night for a difficult achievement.  My group is striving for a balance between boss and gear progression, with achievements as a distant third (if we get them, cool, if not, then no worries).
  • Research - do they do it, how do they feel about it, all of those sorts of things.  I don't want to spend 10 minutes before each boss reviewing basic strategies (a few minutes making sure that we're using the same strategy is different) nor do I want a mage gemmed for spirit.  
There's usually some free form chatting while we do a heroic together, and we talk about alts or out-of-game hobbies or other games.  The goal here is to get a feel for each other and ensure that we'll be comfortable spending time together.

Evaluating Performance Ability
We then run a random heroic together.  For the healers, I asked my enhancement shaman to get on his pally tank (his average item level is probably around 340).  He's not terribly experienced in tanking, so he sometimes made a few mistakes, and he takes a lot more damage than the raid geared tanks you sometimes see in LFD, so it was easier to evaluate their performance.  Dps and tanks were judged on awareness and cooldown usage (interrupts, survivability, etc), while dps was judged on damage output and tanks on their ability to maintain aggro.  Pretty standard stuff.

After the first raid, I'll be able to go over logs and see how folks are doing.  Some raid guilds ask for a log upfront, but I didn't feel like I needed to for this relaxed group.

Raid Balance
I tried to balance the classes so that we would have most of the available debuffs/buffs to use, and to try to avoid half the raid wanting the exact same loot.  We have a fair mix of classes, and I think I did fairly well here.  The  MMO Champion Raid Comp Tool helped make sure that I had most of the buffs, and I considered loot tables as well (I've tried to not collect 3 or 4 cloth casters).  I also made sure I had an off tank and an off healer for absences and the odd fight. 

Putting It All Together
Our first raid went off with only minor difficulties.  One person didn't realize that 10 man and 25 man raids were on the same ID now, but since I had a fair number of subs listed, that wasn't a problem.  I replaced him and we still started on time.   We killed Magmaw, Omnomnomnomtron, and Maloriak on our first night, which I think is entirely respectable for the first time the team has been together.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hello World!

I was talking with my husband a few days ago and complaining that so much of the resto druid analysis that's currently available on the web (mostly blogs and such) is geared towards folks who are running 25 mans and/or hardmodes.  I realized that I could help fill that niche - analysis and opinions for a 10 man raider who is unlikely to see hardmodes.  So, here I am.

About me:
I've been raiding on a resto druid since early ICC.  I've had a mage since vanilla, but the guild I was in at the time was short healers, so my husband and I RAF'ed some toons and I got the druid to level cap.  I discovered that I LOVE healing, and promptly shelved my mage (for raiding; I still do achievements and pet/mount collecting on her).

I bounced around a lot of guilds during ICC.  My original guild (a small friends and family guild that I had been in since vanilla) disbanded due to lack of ability to raid, so I've tried a lot of different raiding styles with different guilds (from "we can't kill Sindy even with the 30% buff" to killing her on HM in a 25 man group).

My goal going into Cataclysm was to set up a early raid group (my husband has to be at work at 3 am), and we're almost ready to start (I ended up having to wait for some folks to level their alts).  I didn't like the pressure of progression raiding, and am looking forward to relaxing and seeing the content with this group.   We're the seventh group in the guild (it's a mega guild, obviously), and there are a lot of skilled players in the guild; several of which have joined us for this group.

When I'm not druiding, I can be found playing the auction house, achievement hunting on my mage, or leveling alts with my husband.