Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Did Blizzard Screw up? Malygos 10 Commentary

This is not a boast post, but at this point in the game, a month and a half after the release of WotLK, I, a casual raider and PvP enthusiast have completed 5/6 of the game's possible raids. With PuGs. I suppose that you could say that I haven't taken down 25 Naxx fully because I don't care to spend hours upon hours of playing 'lets wipe' with a rotating roster of PuGhhhhs, but really, Naxx 25 is so much easier than Naxx 10, just by virtue of having more DPS. The only hard part is herding the cats to actually start the pulls.

...And of course making sure that the cats aren't brain dead zombie kitties who like to stand in the fire helps as well.

Again, not a boast post, but really, the question is, "What now?"

I'll be blunt here, and please do tell me if my reasoning is flawed.

Blizzard, from a long term financial point of view, did themselves a disservice with the introductory raids and because of this, probably cost them more long term subscribers.

The rationale is as such: Aside from Malygos 25 and OS with drakes up, all of the bosses in the introductory raids are easy execution fights. There are no high level gear checks and as such, there are no extreme DPS or Healer fights. Malygos 10 is somewhat of a gear check, but not entirely. At my current gear point, which is all Naxx 10 stuff with some 25 man stuff, I can easily heal through all of the content. As long as I have competent teammates, there is no overwhelming urge for gear so that I can 'save the raid'. Perhaps for other people, getting all super uber gear is the most important factor, but for me, the casual raider, this is enough.

As a healer, I'm probably seeing this effective cap phenomenon in a different light than most other roles, as my results are largely unmeasurable as compared to the 'damage taken' or the 'damage per second' statistics. However, if history is of any indicator and the stories of Raid participation declining after completing content is true, I'm probably not the only one to feel like there's not much more to shoot for. Ulduar coming out soon? I expect to be able to PuG that, too, on day one because healing Naxx 25 was a joke and if there's content that requires more than half my mana pool in a 25 man raid, I'll be surprisingly amused.

Here's the kicker: If I wasn't a PvPer at heart, I'd probably have quit by now out of sheer boredom, because jumping between the beams on top of Org bank is only fun for the first hundred thousand times. Not Horde? Ever square jump in Ironforge? Yeah, same thing. If I can feel this way, I'm sure there are many others who feel the same.

Scarily enough, this is the closest I've ever come to completing all available content, and it's not a good feeling. Keep in mind that I'm not a hard core raider, nor ever aspire to be, and nearly all of my raid experiences have been with PuGs. If I'm this apathetic about continuing to do completed content when it's not a challenge, I can't even begin to understand what the hardcore raiders are experiencing.

Although I'm all for discrediting Blizzard with their mistakes, I do have to commend them for the Malygos fight. It's incredibly fun and its one of the few fights that really highlights each and every class out there such that a 10 man raid with one of every class would actually do very well. Well, except for Warlocks, but I guess a healthstone is better than nothing. Sorry, Warlocks.

Simply, Malygos is a tank and spank DPS race. It is NOT a healer fight as people have claimed. Yes, there is a lot of damage to be healed in Phase 1 and 2, but its entirely predictable, unless Malygos eats a spark. Guild can't do Gluth? Forget about Malygos (besides that whole key issue). Vortex, for all its vaunted claims of being hard to heal through is only hard if people don't pre-heal with hots. Don't have a Priest and a Druid? Maybe it's time to recruit. Sorry, Pallies.

So if the fight isn't about healing, then what's the difficulty? Well, The key part of this fight is that DPS needs to be very high. 2.5k + DPS is probably the minimum that you want to be able to put out for this fight. That value isn't astronomical by any means, but the only reason why I give this number is because that's what our average DPS was we had an okay buffer for the Enrage timer.

Do you need all epiczzzz for this fight? I used to think so, from all the smack that was thrown about, but the answer is an emphatic "No!" The gear assumption was the amusing thing about my Malygos 10 PuG a few days ago. There were a few blues on most of our raid except for a few characters that had obviously (gear wise) completed this content and I initially thought were were headed to Fail City (population: Us). However, much like nearly every other LK raid boss, its all in the execution.

Our first attempt as a PuG? Phase 3 and we figured out the drakes a bit too slowly. Two more silly wipes in Phase 1 due to DK power spark mismanagement and the fourth pull was all she wrote. We even lost a healer towards the end of phase 2 (not me) and managed to pull out the W.

Anyways, Happy New Years, everyone, and don't do anything that vaguely sounds like a Sons of Hodir daily quest all by your lonesome!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We're Back! First week of Arena

Apologies to our readers, work has taken me to far and distant lands and away from my most popular diversion. That being said, I'm back now, and in time for the Holiday Season. Even though I don't bring in the ho's like Santa (oh stop it, Mrs. Claus!), I'm still committed to bringing raunchy stories and dirty experiences from the PvP floor.

Ok, no raunch.

In the few days that I've been able to log in some serious game time, I've not only ground massive amounts of honor, but also spent both Badges of Heroism and Badges of Valor on mediocre gear. It somewhat feels like re-rolling a character only to hit max level at the start of a season where all you can afford is the Season 1 Honor gear because you didn't save up 5k Arena Points at the end of last season for Season 2 gear. Yes, I know I couldn't have saved up Arena Points as they were all wiped the instant I hit 71, but this awkward transitory phase where no one has any arena gear is quite... amusing. Deadly gear, being a tad out of reach right now is that dangling carrot. I'll get there, but first, I need some way to live for more than 15 seconds!

Last night, out of sheer need for Arena Points, my DK buddy and I got a few 2's games in, and we went 8-0 (there were already 2 games played on that team) for the Achievement [Just the Two of Us: 1550]. Granted, its nothing to brag about because many of the teams just didn't have any gear or any strategy, but we capped off the 2's streak with a 2-0 'streak' in 3's, giving us the [Hot Streak] Achievement. Yay! Crowd goes wild! Well, not really, but it was kinda cool to flaunt that in /g chat. Honestly? 1550 is a joke. Go grab someone, focus fire and grab an easy achievement if you're a badge whore.

/g chat went something like this:

DKbuddy has earned the achievement [Just the Two of Us: 1550]
Rukuz has earned the achievement [Just the Two of Us: 1550]
[Rukuz][Guild]: Just the two of us, we can make it if we try,
[Rukuz][Guild]: Just the two of us, you and I.
[Guildy1][Guild]: LOL!

I plan on copying some more extensive lyrics from Will Smith's tear wrenching hit when we hit 1750 and getting some lyrics down when we get the [Three's Company] Achievement in 3's.

To touch more upon the environment, if you're a raider or just a heroic runner, the Hateful PvP gear can be a good filler for some of your pieces. In addition to being a gear gap closer, for those raiders who have already experienced much of what LK has to offer us in both 10 and 25 mans, which I presume is a pretty sizeable portion of the playerbase as there are PUGS for everything except Heroic Malygos on my server, it's something else to do.

So, if it's so easy to focus fire someone down, how did I stay alive? Well, aside from having ~600 Resilience from some crafted and gladiator gear, it all came down to spec and glyphs. For these fights (2's and 3's) I specced Borrowed Time/Spirit of Redemption (50/21/0) with the Spirit of Redemption (SoR), Dispel Magic and Holy Nova glyphs. The name of the game was personal survival while providing some additional utility and trying to save some mana wherever possible.

Besides the funky things you can do with Borrowed Time's haste bonus, such as casting instants very quickly with the reduced GCD and pushing out some incredibly fast Flash/Greater Heals, the real winners for many of the matches were the Holy Nova glyph and the SoR glyph.

With the Holy Nova glyph: Your Holy Nova spell heals for an additional 40%, but deals 40% less damage, the time spent between your instants (PW: Shield, Mending, Renew) while running from some angsty melee class is filled with the spamming of either Dispel Magic or Holy Nova. Why Holy Nova? Well, sadly, it's the only other self heal that you can cast while on the run. With the Borrowed Time haste buff, the instant heal for ~1800-2100 every 1.2 seconds were enough to keep me alive by a hair in many of the games. Honestly? It's better than trying to cast a Flash Heal through a) Mind Numbing Poison (screw you Deadly Brew) or b) the threat of getting Counterspelled. Give the glyph a try. You won't be disappointed! (But you will run out of mana super quickly. C'est la vie)

Taking a different approach, the SoR glyph straight up won us some games through dumb luck. Flat out won. Why? Well, the glyph itself: All heals cast while Spirit of Redemption is active have a 20% chance to increase the remaining duration of Spirit of Redemption by 4 sec, is ridiculously powerful if you just 'get lucky'. With a few procs of this glyph, I've turned a bad situation into a reasonable one. There's no denying the power of an unkillable healer spamming Flash Heal with the odd Prayer of Mending for 45+ seconds. I think I healed more as an Angel in some of the fights. Sad but true. But hey, I'll take the 'W'. As they say, "Better lucky than good!"

I'm looking forward to continuing to use this spec in future PvP or even trying a deep Holy spec again. One thing's for certain, there's going to be much more honor grinding in the future.

Give the spec a try, and keep in mind the immortal words of the Fresh Prince:

"But yo push come to shove

You was conceived in love"

Amen, brotha.

Friday, December 12, 2008

10 Man Naxx down

Not that it's some sort of extreme accomplishment, but 10 man Naxx = completed.

We also, as a guild, took on 25 man Archaevon with just 20 people, most of them fresh 80's in blues with just 3 healers. Archaevon enraged on the first attempt, hitting all of us with a warstomp that instagibbed the entire raid. We were 8 seconds from enrage on the second and final attempt.

I don't mind the (essentially) free loot, but seriously, shouldnt there be -some- hard bosses in the first tier of raiding? I haven't done Malygos, yet, but I can't imagine it to be that much more difficult than anything else I've seen. Maybe it will be hard with the nerfed CoH. Magtheridon and Gruul, even in their current fixed state, are harder than Vault/Naxx. Hell, even Nightbane is harder.

Honestly? I'm looking forward to Arena Season 5. Playing a Priest should be quite difficult in this world of uber melee, no resilience and sick nasty burst.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

All the pretty trinkets

No ganking stories today as the past few days have been full of just trying to clean up our computer from the viruses obtained accidentally from a wow-heroes (the gear comparison site) advertisement. We accidentally clicked on an ad and it was all downhill from there. Please use protection.

Anyways, we're all cleaned up now and have been continuing to gear ourselves up. We realize that this gear that we're acquiring is equivalent to the Kara gear we started off with at the onset of TBC, albiet acquired much more quickly than a couple of years ago, so we're not really worried about putting in an excessive amount of effort to 'get the best of the best'. We've been focusing on obtaining healing gear and to that end have gotten our paws on some reasonable upgrades from various heroics and raids, both 10 and 25 man. Of the gear that we've been able to obtain, a couple stand out, both trinkets.

Egg of Mortal Essence is the 40 Badge of Heroism trinket and while the bonus 98 spellpower is exceedingly nice, the Haste effect is truly the shining star. With it's high chance to proc, you can almost guarantee that it will proc in the first few seconds of a fight. This amount of haste (approx 15%) will drop a Flash Heal (and your GCD) to 1.275s and a talented Greater Heal to 2.125s. Naturally, if it's proc rate is that dependable there are a couple of things you can do: Cast low cost spells prior to a pull to force a proc and count out the 45s internal cooldown to mesh up with other cast reduction spells or other haste effects.

Badge of the Infiltrator is the second trinket that I'm currently using and while it's green and unassuming, the trinket is an excellent example of a highly desired raiding statistic: Intellect. For those out of the loop, Intellect (Int) drives the size of the mana pool as well as a bit of crit. When looking at the current amount of raid healing that is necessary and the specific average amount of healing needed per raid member, a large mana pool is a must. This is especially true if a raid starts moving towards bringing less healers and more dps to power through some encounters as was the case back at the end of TBC. In addition, one cannot ignore the synergy between a large mana pool and Replenishment (the mana return buff from Shadow Priests/Ret Pally/Survival Hunters), making a large mana pool highly desireable. Toss in Shadowfiend's effect and it suddenly becomes obvious why many a casting raider are going with marginally smaller Spellpower totals in favor for stacking other statistics such as Int, Crit and Haste. This is also why I'll probably be going back to my War Mace of Unrequited Love for tonight's raid over my Titansteel Guardian.

It's all about the mana, baybee.

Well, not really, but we'll get to that in a later post.

Monday, December 8, 2008

How to be an A-Hole

Mind Control someone off of the turtle ferrys when you're in deep water.

Bonus points if you put a snare on them.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Healing Heroics and Naxx

On the day that I hit 80, I was invited to dps a Heroic Nexus run and miraculously won the epic caster mace drop off of Keristraza, edging out a guildy healy Priest. I don't know how I did it because my rolls are usually epic fails. Fast foward a week later, after getting back from vacation, I drop about 4k gold to craft some healing gear, among which are: Titansteel Guardian, Moonshroud Robe and Moonshroud Gloves. Amusingly, I didn't even get a chance to use the War Mace of Unrequited Love and it got vendored amazingly quickly.

Hey, 82 additional +healing is pretty darn sexy. That and the extra Stamina will help for PvP.

Healing a Heroic GunDrak last night, it dawned upon me, while corpse running, that I actually have to try. Also, as a Priest, I don't have Swiftmend and Nature's Swiftness to cover my ass if I didn't happen to anticipate needing a big heal omgrightnow. Since that long corpse run, we've made the adjustment and actually thinking about prehealing and burst anticipation has been enjoyable. It's like Arenas. But not. I dunno. Does that make sense? Whatever. As a reference, healing heroics in TBC as a Resto Druid was a joke because we knew all of the fights inside and out and because of the sheer overpoweredness of Lifebloom/Rejuv/Swiftmend. I had no clue how the fights went in GunDrak, but we powered through regardless. If all else fails, just brute force it, amirite?

Overall, it only took... *ahem* a... few... wipes for me to get my healing bearings on straight and after that, we did fairly well. No drop upgrades but we'll greedily take those badges. We want that hot egg trinket for 40 badges, and we want it ASAP!

Anyways, I got invited to another guild's Heroic Naxx (25 man) run and the following exchange took place after clearing the Spider Wing (all paraphrased):

Raider1: Recount: Total Healing
Raider1: 1. Rukuz: 4600000
Raider1: 2. OtherHealer1: 4100000
Raider1: 3. OtherHealer2: ....
PallyHealer1: There is NO way he did 4 million healing
Raider2: Why not? My Recount says he did 4 mil
PallyHealer1: nono, for that last fight, there's no way he did 4 million
Raider2: Well, of course not. It says Total Healing
PallyHealer1: ... oh
PallyHealer1: but still, how could he have done 4 million?
PallyHealer2: It's probably all overhealing
PallyHealer2: Anyone have Overhealing meters?
Raider1: Recount: Total Overhealing
Raider1: 1. PallyHealer1: 2000000
Raider1: 2. PallyHealer2: 1900000
Raider1: 4. HolyPriest2: 1700000
Raider1: 6. Rukuz: 1000000

I took my headset off at that point and with my hands off of the keyboard (to prevent any accidental activation of my mic) laughed out loud. Now, I completely understand that healing meters aren't a good measurement of .. anything.. but seeing the indignation of the Paladins in the chat when they saw that they were not at the top of the healing meters and that that my overhealing was among the lowest was just pure awesome.

I think people assume that Circle of Healing Priests just mash their CoH button with impunity, and, truthfully, that's very likely the case and is probably what is drawing all of the dev attention to CoH and Wild Growth. However, instead of mashing CoH, I worked on multitasking by keeping my glyphed Renew on the tanks, bouncing Prayer of Mending whenever I could and dispelling Cripple from the melee. I'm still getting used to all the different heals for the different situations and I need to relocate that Binding Heal button. It definitely would have saved me from burning GCD's and mana on 2 Flash Heals. Oh well, live and learn (or die and learn, too).

Honestly? Naxx wasn't hard by any means and I'm totally not boasting about my experience in there, because I'm sure there will be much more Naxx to come (KZ2.0). But, I can boast about my rolling abilities, because I won the Robes of Mutation off of Noth. Which was awesome, because I had JUST crafted my Moonshroud Robe.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Working the Dalaran Street Corner and a Gank Win


ty, ty.

We hit 80 last week prior to our week long vacation to the land of Schnitzel and Bratwurst and haven't set foot in Azeroth until last night. After jumping around in Dalaran looking for something to do, I finally bit the bullet and specced deep holy to get my Heroics grind on. Unsurprisingly, its much easier to get groups as a healer than as a Shadow Priest. We've already healed our first Heroic (Violet Hold), using our silly crafted gear and didn't have much trouble. Of course, since we've been playing as Shadow and been away from the game for so long, remembering what we had hotkeyed to various powers was definitely a trip. It was definitely different from rolling Lifeblooms as a Druid to trying to get out of the 5SR with Greater heals.

As for right now, we intend on whoring ourselves out for rep, gear and class/binding familiarity for PvP purposes, which are really the important things to consider as I see some fun times ahead trying to learn how to heal as a Priest. Yeah, we said it. Whoring. Use me and abuse me, but as long as I get my badges and rep as fast as possible so I don't have to do it again, I'm ok with it.

I'd like to share some experiences with Lake Wintergrasp, but sadly, I've only participated in one so far and it was quite... confusing, to say the least. I'll tackle that in a bit when I get a few LWG's under our (now buckled!) belt.

However, for today, I'd like to share a Gank Win while I was feverishly working on my last half bubble of xp to hit 80.

Triple Threat becomes Triple Death.

We were on our last half bubble of xp, trying to do anything that would give us xp in Icecrown. One of those dailies is very frustrating as a clothy single target dps machine (I was leveling as Shadow): That's Abominable. It's the one where you kill Abominations to get some chilled body part (appendix, goiter, whatever) so that you can make your own explodable Abomination pet to kill a bunch of Undead. Well, I had already died once because I had overaggro'd and the Abomination pet not only didn't kill everything, but exploded next to me, sending me flying into a new pack of Undead. Which. Can't. Be. Feared.


At this point, I'm ready for level 80, sick and tired of grinding quests and what should happen, but a trio of Alliance lands near me and starts killing stuff for their quests. Warrior, Ret Pally and Enhancement Shaman. None of them are favorable matchups.

No biggie, I'll just kill a few abomina... oh... the Warrior is running over to me.

I lay into him with a couple of dots after his murderous intent becomes clear, but, without a trinket and without any Resilience, I'm pretty much mincemeat. I did try to get back as fast as possible since my dots and omgfutileswd took him to 30%, but he had gotten healed to full from either the Pally or the Shaman buddy he was teamed with.

I manage to rez, fly away and heal/mana up, and am about to leave the area to find some other quest hub to get our elusive half bubble when we see a Horde Ret Pally hovering over them. A quick whisper and an /invite has the Blood Elf laying the smack down into the Enhancement Shaman while I'm dotting up the Warrior.

Warrior goes down (yay!) but the two hybrids rip my impromptu teammate apart, even with my heals. I notice that the Space Goat Paladin has used Divine Shield and seeing them heal each other makes me turn tail, mount and get away.


Teammate and I lament about the burst dps people can output these days and while we're chatting and hovering on flying mounts, I notice that the Alliance Trio has moved over to an elevated plateau area and are ranged pulling Frost Wyrms. Melee hybrids ranged pulling means that their tiny manapools are running low and with the amount of damage they've taken (each at around half life with no mana) they're prime targets for a vengeance gank. Oh, and (only now do I notice) the Grand Marshal Warrior is also at half health, presumably because he rezzed and flew over as soon as possible.

No mana means no heals and I charged in and quickly laid waste to the Enhancement Shaman who had a couple of Wyrms on him. I turned to the Ret Pally and while I interrupted his Holy Light with a Psychic Scream and Deathed him for the kill, saw the Warrior trying to run away.

Except we were on an elevated ledge without anywhere to go, unless he wanted to crater.

He got the charge off (sigh) and as my dots were eating him up, he was able to get an Intercept off to bring me into Execute range.


Dispersion saved the day and as I sat there, a purple ball of glowing vengeance, the dots got him close enough that a Shadow Word: Death (button was being frantically mashed so that it would go off immediately after Dispersion wore off) finished him off.

And that's how a clothy ganks 3 melee.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ganking Fail

So, here we are, a couple of days before a nice long vacation with no WoW, but prospects of many fine German beers and we're at 79.25. Just a smidgen more of grinding to 80 and we're there.

In the past few days, we've been dutifully grinding through the remainder of Dragonblight and into the Grizzly Hills. For those of you who have done the Saurfang the Younger quest chain in Dragonblight, I've got to say, that scripted event was amazing and incredibly fun. I spent most of it trying to get the biggest crits possible to boost my Statistics (you know, that alternate tab to Achievements...). I think I'm up to 29k for a trinketed Mind Blast crit.


The other half of the event was spent chiding my Shaman questing buddy (with whom we duo'd through all of the quests in Grizzly Hills) for not being a real Shaman like Thrall. I mean, look at Thrall, wearing his 'looks like level 40 gear' and telling the spirits what to do. He doesn't just ask them to clear the plague, he commands them to clear the area. Thrall's essentially the Chuck Norris of WoW.
  • When Thrall Earth Shocks you in the middle of a cast, you don't just get interrupted, you get disconnected.
  • TwentyFiveNovember was actually the second guild to clear all of WotLK content. Thrall was the first.
  • There actually 3 difficulty levels in WoW: Normal, Heroic and Thrall.
  • Thrall puts the 'laughter' in 'gnomeslaughter'
One of our conversations, while watching Thrall and Sylvanas mow through the Scourge, went something like this:

Thrall: Spirits of the Air, help us blah blah blah!
Me: See? Thrall is the man! Why can't you command your spirits better! I'm ditching you to duo with Thrall.
ShamanBuddy casts Fire Elemental Totem
ShamanBuddy: Spirit of Fire.. uh.. do stuff.
ShamanBuddy pokes Fire Elemental
ShamanBuddy: I think he's broken =(

Good times.

The other fun part of leveling has been dealing with Gankers. Ganking is an integral part of leveling on a PvP server and for the most part the ganking has been minimal. In addition to the minimal ganking, the gankers who have tried assert their egos have been terrible. Two such encounters stick out in my mind:

Encounter 1: I'm level 74 and finishing up the Murloc Quests in Northern Borean Tundra. As I'm starting to run across the water (Levitate ftw), a 72 Death Knight follows me into the water.

Hrm.. not good. I have no idea how to deal with a Death Knight and being in all PvE gear with no trinket means I'm kinda squishy. Maybe if I dive underwater, my Undead-ness of being able to sit underwater for 10 mins will deter him.

Mr. DK dives into the water and starts beating on me.

Figures. I swear, DK's are the new Huntards. Every little kid has one and wants to show off his big epeen.

I get a couple of dots on him, and try to hard cast a Vampiric Touch.

Strangulate. Um. I guess that's a silence effect because I'm now frantically mashing buttons to try to cast something but no glowy hands. Just a little Undead girl getting her face caved in by a big nasty runeblade. =(

Remembering that Dispersion can be used while silenced, we turn into a misty ball of purple stuff to mitigate the damage for a bit, pop out of Dispersion, and Psychic Scream Mr. DK to the surface of the water. Cool! Distance is good! A new set of dots get reapplied and we swim deeper. Poor Mr. DK finally gets out of the fear, feels a bruised ego and tries to swim down to exact vengeance but the Mindflay snare effect keeps him away for long enough to get the kill.


I shift out of Shadowform and start to heal myself and Mr. DK decides that he should now turn into a ghoul and try to finish me off

Ruh, roh.

Shackle. /lol

Heal to full, pop a mana pot, shift back into Shadowform and proceed to rip that ghoul a new one.

We ran around a bit later completely unhindered by him as he meekly avoided any confrontation.

Bet you feel kinda silly there, Mr. No Gear DK, ganking kiddies who won't fight back. Sorry I made you keyboard turn to dive down after me into the water. That camera down button probably doesn't get used alot does it?

Scenario 2: I'm at level 78 and finishing up the quest chain in the Iron Dwarf area of South Eastern Grizzly Hills and as I finish a quest objective, I get Corruption'd. Spinning around, I get Curse of Agony'd and see a 76 Human Warlock charging up a Fear.

Crud, no trinket equipped

I counter by slamming my instant dots on him as fast as possible and Will of the Forsaken the first Fear. We love WotF.

Deathcoil into Fear #2 stops any chance of retaliation and by the time I'm out of the second Fear, I'm at 30%.

The good news is that I'm sporting the Glyph of Dispel Magic, which heals the target every time I dispel something off of the target (must be friendly to get the heal). The better news is that Mr. Haunt Warlock didn't put up Unstable Affliction. Good job, Stupid.

I mash Dispel Magic and *poof* there go all of his dots and debuffs.

This is pretty much the turning point as my trinket powered dots eat him alive while restoring hp via Vampiric Embrace as he frantically decides that now is the time to Drain Life some health back. Sorry, Buddy, that weak-ass drain isn't gonna help you now.

With me back at full health, he goes down pretty quickly and as I'm drinking, he must have been REALLY angry at his failed gank that he immediately rezzes and dots me up again.

Dispel. Dispel. Dispel.

Sorry, buddy, but this isn't a Battleground and your pet doesn't rez with you. With no Soul Link and a half full hp bar, he went down in a flurry of shadow magic and pointed laughter.

I corpse camped him for 3 more kills after that, until he went AFK, each time getting a lucky Blackout proc as he tried to ride away on his little pony ground mount as I landed next to him on my epic flyer.

Mr. Lock with only 12k hp at level 76, why would you pick on someone who can fly? Do you feel like an idiot? I'll bet you do after I flew alongside you across the entire zone spamming my /lol macro.

Tonight's goal? 80. I already have my full Frostsavage set crafted and ready to go. Wintergrasp, lets ROLL!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pining for the Fjords, a look back at the first 4 levels spent in Northrend

Northrend has been a discovery experience for me, mainly because we've been discovering:
  • how much I hate waiting for a quest mob to start, spamming my Shadow Word: Death button with the hopes that I'll tag it first.
  • how much I hate bugged quests. Damn you spores.
  • how goddamn slow the Turtles are (irony, no?) when travelling from Howling Fjord to Borean Tundra.
  • how much I just want to skip all of this leveling bullpoop and just get to 80 so I can spec the way I want and experience real content, not some interim mishmash of talents designed to kill boars faster.
  • how much I would like to quest with friends, but the fact that we're at different points in the leveling process makes it incredibly hard to coordinate quests.
  • how brutally expensive herbs are when youre not an herbalist.
  • how annoying 'Mist Vision' is when doing quests in Borean Tundra. Mist Viking respawn rates need to be looked into.
  • how incredibly ugly the Taunka are. Talk about inbred flat faces. The Forsaken need to engineer some Mad Taunka Disease and wipe them uglies outta Northrend. Better yet, send them to Outlands.
  • how awesome being able to Levitate over water has been while questing.
  • how awesome siege vehicles are.
  • how awesome the art is in each zone when compared to Outlands and Kalimdor/Eastern Kingdoms.
  • how awesome it is to be able to call in the level 80 Warrior Tauren muscle when the Alliance get a bit too frisky near a contested quest hub. Scatter all ye would be gankers, for the cow-lvary has arrived!

Of course, this is just the short list of the things in WotLK that have stood out to me, good, bad and ugly. One thing's for sure, we cannot wait to get to 80. This leveling thing is killing us.

So, how much content have we completed? Well, we started our leveling in the Howling Fjord and we had an awesome time there. The ganking was fairly minimal because HF was pretty much horde dominated. Why? Well, It's easy to go from UC to HF and the lush and visually pleasing landscape doesn't hurt the eyes. Even the crazy cliffs were quite fun to Levitate off of. More than just that, though, is the fact that Blizzard touted the hell out of Stormwind Harbor, and since Stormwind Harbor only goes to Borean Tundra, BT became the unofficial starting point for the Alliance. Thankfully, HF wasn't nearly as Alliance dominated and this definitely helped the learning curve.

As we plowed through quests, we noticed all of the little things that Blizzard did to add realism to a virtual (and quite cartoony) world, such as the headbutting Shoveltusks and targetable birds. Flying critters are no longer as one dimensional as the Chimera of Shadowmoon Valley. We like the little things, oh yes we do, and after we found ourselves wondering where to go next, we picked up the Jame's leveling guide off of and started making sure we got all of the possible quests completed.

One thing we did notice that didn't please us is that the reputation gains in HF and in BT wouldn't really help us in the long run. Sure, there was some fatty walrus rep, but for the most part, the quests and even the beginning instances of Utgarde Keep and The Nexus really didn't give any applicable rep. I would much rather be getting a bit of usable rep while questing than having to grind endless instances at 80. Memories of chain running Shattered Halls for the healing head enchant still makes me cringe. Oh well.

That being said, the beginning instances, while fun, were quite short and exceedingly simple. For both, and for much of the zones that I have seen, the art is amazing. Flame effects are gorgeous and layout/design of the structures are quite ingenious. Sadly, the moment I am able to get Cold Weather Flying, I will be hopping on my flying mount and avoiding all of the mobs between my quest giver and the target mobs. It's a little late now, but I would have liked to have PvP faction controlled flight hubs in each Northrend zone and all flying mounts disabled. Let's bring back a little world PvP, mmkay?

At some point, we got ghetto summoned to Dalaran from some kind Shaman who queued us into a BG from Dalaran and then told me to afk out. My prediction for the future? Dalaran is going to be paaaaacked. The streets are narrow and the presence of profession trainers are going to likely flood the city with travellers. On top of all of that, there are portals to instances in Dalaran. Thankfully, there is no 'Follow Khadgar's Minion' type quest. What a waste of time that quest was, eh?

After trying to navigate Dalaran and buying ourselves an Armored Bear mount to replace our ugly undead pony, we ventured forth to work on the Borean Tundra quests. Questing in BT has been truly hellacious and we're anxious to get out into some more diverse zones without the billions of potential bad players ganking in groups because they can't succeed solo. Literally every quest mob I've attacked as had several Alliance standing and waiting to complete the same (or similar) quest, which, in turn, necessitates staying mounted and at a respectable distance. Aka, the Wuss Syndrome. We don't like playing the part of the wuss, but starting a fight is just wasting precious time that could be better spent getting to 80. We are, however, writing down the names of the jerkholes that we've met while leveling and we're going to camp them later.

Oh, and the geography of BT? Sucks. The looks are drab and the boring color palette reminds me of both the Barrens and of Hellfire Peninsula at the same time. Yes, I know there's Coldarra, but Coldarra = gankfest so we tried our hardest to gtfo as soon as possible.

We're not done with BT yet. We have just a few more quest chains to go, but we hope to get close to 75 tonight. We've heard rumors of Dragonblight sucking a big one, but we'll faithfully follow Jame and his uber guides. Baa. We can be sheep for efficient xp.

So while I'm not a dead parrot, I am hoping that the next few zones will be like the Howling Fjord in both art and questing ease. It would definitely help me enjoy the excruciatingly painful time while I level.

80 or bust!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Money Making (Part 2 of 2): Identifying Entry Points, Diversification, and Situational Markets

Disclaimer: Observations made in this article are based on personal experience. You may have had different experiences. That's great, but what you'll find here is what I've seen and my analysis thereof. Please take it all with a grain of salt and a shot of tequila.

Note: We previously mentioned as one of the core rules, "Don't rely on an auction mod" and there were some comments regarding this rule. The rule is NOT intended to say "Don't use mods" because that couldn't be further from the truth. Mods help us list auctions and quickly find macro trends, but the one thing (unless someone shows me otherwise) mods can't do is provide the reasoning why one should pursue a certain market over another. So, use your mods, but don't rely on them to do the thinking. That's what you're for.

Part 1 of this 2 part series dealt with the core rules, guidelines to follow when attempting to make money through the Auction House (AH). We all know that one could feasibly do 25 daily quests/day and then farm ore/herbs until their eyes bled for gold, but realistically, if you did take that course of action, you would, aside from a vague feeling that you're about relocate to a warehouse in Shanghai, probably quit the game in a few days out of mind numbing boredom.

If you do enjoy labor of the menial type, by all means be my guest, as your hard work fuels my profits. Also, if you want to farm me some herbs/ore, and COD them to me, feel free! I'm a respectful pimp. But, for those who are moderately proficient at math (gasp!), there is a far less tedious means of generating income. That method?

Making money off of the lazy.

If there were no lazy people out there and everyone who wanted that Frozen Shadoweave Robe dutifully leveled their Tailoring up to 375 and only used Shadowcloth from their transmutes with Primals they gathered, there would be no market to speak of. However, people, through lack willingness to take initiative to act on their own behalf are instead willing to pay good money for someone else to go out of their way to do the thinking and the gathering and the crafting to create the final good.

This somewhat mirrors Real Life, but in that capacity, the concept of ability is introduced. In WoW, everyone should have (unless they're just that clueless) the ability to obtain nearly everything that's sold on the Auction House, lucky BoE drops aside.

For someone making money, the person we rely upon for our income is the person who isn't willing to buy an uncut Living Ruby and find a Jewelcrafter for that Bold cut. To that person, we sell a precut gem at a reasonable markup, covering our investment in the uncut gem and rewarding us with a profit. How many people like that are there in the game? A $#!*ton.

The real question for those trying to use the AH to generate a solid cash flow is "Where do I enter the market?"

Entering the Market

For a typical AH'er there are generally three points of entry:
  1. Gathered goods that are in their final usable state
  2. Gathered goods that are components to be used to create something else
  3. Crafted goods, both in component state or final usable state

The order of these points of entry is important, because the further down the list you go, the more lucrative the profits. It stands to reason that if you're looking for Sunfury Signets (Scryer Rep item), all you need to do is find someone to farm them. It's a bit different with something such as Primal Shadow as not only do you have to find someone to farm them, but you have to also compete with other factors such as that raiding guild who just got to Mother Shahraz and needs to supply their entire guild with Shadow Resist gear (of which Primal Shadow is a primary material component). Because of this varying need, wild fluctuations can exist, and often more so than simple farmable items. The ultimate problem with selling both is that essentially, the AH price point boils down to market saturation/the number of people willing to farm the items and demand. It becomes very difficult to set a higher price point as a high sale price generally brings in more farmers because its easy and quick to farm them. This is why Asian gold farmers prefer to sell easy to farm things like Ore, Herbs and Primals.

The final point of entry is my suggested point of entry and unlike the other two points, there's another factor: the skill factor. Not everyone can craft a Glyph of Fear and not anyone can cut that Bold Living Ruby. This skill factor provides another opportunity to increase that price point and while it may be represented by that 5 gold tip for that gem you cut for someone, it may be a 15 (or a 150) gold profit on the AH.

However, finding the specific crafted items to sell does take a little bit of research and a tiny bit of math. What you are going to want to look for are items that
a) can be moved in reasonable quantities and b) have a reasonable overhead. Overhead, for those who don't know, is the cost associated to own the item before you're able to sell it for profit. Overhead increases with each successful/unsuccessful AH listing in the form of listing deposit and AH cut. Marketing items that don't sell often (~one/week) means that even though you may get a reasonable profit from your sale, all it takes is one competitor to completely cut you out of the market.

Let's take a real world (orly?!) example and look at my Priest. Her professions are 375 Tailoring/360 Inscription. Of these two professions, I've chosen to focus on Inscription due to good match to the factors above: Glyphs a) can be moved in reasonable quantities as every player wants to glyph out their characters and b) have very little overhead as glyphs only cost a few copper to list (and c: closely resemble the future of Jewelcrafting in that patterns must be learned over time)

Looking at this point of entry, we cannot be more overwhelmed at the sheer number of trainer taught glyphs that we could sell. Overall, there are more than 10 glyphs per class per game, of both Major and Minor classification, and with WotLK, both types of glyphs will have several inscriptions/patterns that need to be learned over time. However, this is where our expertise comes in to play. After spending some time looking at the profession and the individual glyphs, we notice a few things:

  1. Minor and some Northrend Major glyphs are on a 20 hour cooldown discovery system and seem to sell well regardless of how trivial they may seem
  2. Major glyphs are frequently oversaturated depending on the quantity of individuals leveling Inscription
  3. Some Major glyphs have been able to command a premium price due to their usefulness in PvE, PvP or Both.

So when looking at our potential pool of marketable items, we've essentially narrowed them down to the following items:

1) Any minor glyph
2) Any major glyph that is heavily desired by PvE'rs and PvP'rs.

Pretty obvious, no? Well, naturally, but when you look at the thought pattern that goes into this type of analysis, you can reasonably translate it to work with any profession or niche in the game. To wit, I've applied this decision sequence to Engineering, Jewelcrafting, Tailoring and Enchanting and found some pretty awesome sustainable markets.

Surprisingly, even though there's an absolute glut of Inscribers out there due to the 'newness' of the Profession, there are very few individuals who are willing to stick with the profession for a profit and I often find myself either the sole supplier or one of few suppliers for a glyph that any level 70 inscriber can make. Just because there are people of similar professions as you, it doesn't mean they're actually actively pursuing your markets. This point goes back to the first Core Rule from Part 1, which was: Participate in your markets as much as possible. The more you look at what sells and what doesn't sell, the more you're able to take advantage of it. Anyone want to buy a Glyph of Fear for 40 gold? You may not, but I know about 10 people who did.

The thing to remember is that after you've established your market entry points or your 'core market' (now that you've been in it for a bit) it is generally a wise idea to stick with the market, even if others move to take a slice of your pie. Even if the market completely tanks, realize that you don't have to list anything, but at the very least, keep an eye out for when the rats bail on the sinking ship. When they do bail (and they will), the market will readjust, representing a more reasonable and expected price point. Remember, your average AH'er is a 'rat'. They'll run in when the pickings are good and then disappear when they're faced with adversity. As long as you have a broad enough portfolio of goods to trade, you'll be fine. Which, conveniently, brings us to the last topic, Diversification.

Diversification and Situational Markets

Diversification is the act of spreading your wealth across multiple markets to protect yourself against wild fluctuations. If all you sell are Bold Living Rubies, you're going to be pretty hosed if several more people get the pattern and start undercutting you to steal your market share. However, if you happened to obtain every single Living Ruby Pattern, you'd be pretty well set to weather any influx of traders. That's diversification. Diversification doesn't necessarily have to be within one Profession and it can be through items that you don't even know how to make, but the point is clear, taking advantage of an additional market can help you maintain a constant cash flow.

When we think about other markets to diversify into, often times, we are looking for markets that either have long term stability or have low sales but high returns. Let's give some examples. With my Druid, while able to cut nearly every gem out there, we diversified into Enchanting materials and Spellthreads. By keeping an eye out on the Primal Market, we began to sense when would start to bottom out and buy primals en masse. Primal Earths got turned into Large Prismatic Shards via the Jewelcrafting recipe: Braided Eternium Chain, and Primal Lifes/Manas got turned into Spellthreads. Primals of all sorts got transmuted and cut into Meta Gems or Tailor specific cloths. I didn't necessarily have the professions, but a quick advertisement in the Trade channel often got me a 5 gold transmute (and any associated procs). There were endless (lazy)individuals who were willing to sell their transmutes for a nominal amount, giving us the opportunity to double and sometimes triple (or more!) our initial costs.

The important point with diversification isn't that you shouldn't need go in all hog wild into another profession's market once you've established your core markets. It's just some sort of buffer to sometimes slow market segments. However, if you find that you have extra time standing around in Org or square jumping in Ironforge, and you think you can handle a deeper representation in another market, go for it. What you'll find is that you'll begin to recognize when to shift markets at different fluctuation points and that you're capable of processing the raw materials into whatever the market is demanding. It's sometimes nice when you have a few hundred stockpiled primals and ore to turn into whatever you need at that moment, instead of having to scour the AH or spam Trade chat.

These sudden market demands are what we'll label as a Situational Market. These markets come and go with the changing game environment, such as a World Event or an encounter need. Since these markets are often unstable, decisive action to enter (or not) is needed. Fortunately, with the added risk comes added reward and as such, returns on such successful ventures are quite high.

Let's give an example. With the recent influx of several thousand new Deathknights (our guild doubled over night), the serious levelers will let nothing stop them from acquiring the best leveling gear in their race through TBC so they can join their guild in Northrend. Of the craftable gear, the Adamantite Plate Set, made by Blacksmiths is a superb leveling set with great stats and gem slots for continued viability. A few Primals and a few Adamantite Bars costing ~45-75 gold and one can craft any of the pieces. As the only seller of these items on my server, we've taken advantage of the situation and have easily doubled our investment.

Naturally, the point isn't to boast about sales and profits, but instead to illustrate that with a bit of foresight and anticipation into emerging markets, you can position yourself to create markets and command a high margin of profit for your ingenuity. The difficult aspect of this new market creation is letting people know that the items are there for them to buy. For this, I'd recommend a macro that announces your salable items, preferably directed to the individuals who would need them. Yes, there's a possibility that others might find out about your grand plan, but again, the game is full of lazy people, and 99% of them can't be bothered to go calculate the returns on such items.

So, with all of this new found knowledge or perhaps a tiny refresher of what you already know, go forth and fleece the general population. If the points that I've laid out seem easy and simple, it's because it really is that easy and simple to make gold.

Give it a try!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Money Making (Part 1 of 2): Core Rules

What would you do with 40,000 gold?

Well, besides opening a trade window and showing it off to people (it garners some interesting forms of begging), you can essentially buy anything you want. To meet the 10,000 limit for server transfers, I spent a good portion of my nest egg on epic gems, a couple of Amani Bear mounts and relearning Professions. JC in 1 day for a trinket? 3,000g? Sure! Want to drop it and learn Engineering for that nifty flying mount? 4,000g? Sure! You quickly learn that when you have tons of money, everything is for sale. These days, some guilds are even selling the KJ kill achievement!

So the big questions that I get asked when talking about making money is "How?" and "Will you teach me?"

The answers are, "Sure" and "If you want to learn". To illustrate the points, we'll use the most recent 'gold mine': Inscription, as a reference point in Part 2 of this article. The reason why I like using Inscription as a tool for examples is because the other big money maker, Jewelcrafting (and Enchanting to a lesser degree) is going to follow suit with pattern/design accessibility in WotLK. But, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's talk about some general stuff before we get into details.

For the majority of players, gold is an extremely limited resource which can realistically limit game enjoyment and game play. Have you ever wanted to respec to help a guild run or buy that pattern on the AH that you've been lusting over but didn't have the funds? Understanding the WoW economy and using it to leverage (quite literally) a gold mine of possibilities can lead to lucrative results. As reference, prior to transferring off of Mannoroth (end of Arena Season 3), I had amassed upwards of 40,000 gold and was possibly in a position of making even more when I chose a lower ping environment. Hey, a guy has priorities! The majority of that 40,000? Made off the AH and at some point, I gave up doing dailies because they just felt so pedestrian. With WotLK right around the corner, massive opportunities are approaching to explore a brand new market and establish a presence.

In general, I follow a few core rules when I sit down to try to make some cash and I'll lay them out right here:

  1. Participate in your markets as much as possible. Get up a few extra minutes early every day and manage your auctions. Do it again in the evening if you have time. I prefer to post my auctions for the minimum duration every 12 hours, which happens to work well with my work schedule. This frequent AH'ing gives you two things, a) the ability to see trends in your chosen markets and b) a lower overhead cost if you have to re list stuff. Having to eat a 48 hour listing fee multiple times because you weren't quick enough to catch on to a dying market means alot of overhead. Amusingly, it's also what's giving many businesses the shaft right now, IRL, due to their product financing exceeding low retail sales. This participation also gives you the ability to see trends in your sales so that you can adjust by providing more or less product. If you are using a crafting profession to create your product, constantly check for material prices.

  2. Minimize your undercut. Anyone who undercuts for more than a few silver is smoking crack. They are giving away free money. When someone needs a certain item, they'll always go for the item that's cheapest, often times regardless if its 1 copper less than the next cheapest or 5 gold less. Why give away that ~5 gold? Also, by minimizing your undercut, you maintain the stability of the market for a longer period of time as well as instill an expected value in your segment of the market. A healthy market niche is better for all participants. A completely tanked market niche is of no use to anyone except the one who's watching for when the 5 gold undercutting rats all bail and the true market value can be re-established.

  3. Maximize profits when there is no competition. If you find a niche market, play it smart because you will have competition somewhere down the line. Set a reasonable price and gradually move it up or down depending on market reaction. Over time, you'll get a good idea on how to price it and similar items in the future.

  4. Don't rely on an auction mod. Auction mods are often touted as the way to make money, but while they do make money, the profit margins, unless strictly controlled and supervised by the user, are often much slimmer than they could have been if the user had been paying attention. Additionally, while it may be great when you find a rare niche that could possibly bring in a good return one day ("Wow! 300% markup on Troll Sweat!"), I find that players that rely on a mod such as Auctioneer end up diversifying so much that they don't see market trends. As such, these individuals end up reacting to the market instead of being proactive.

  5. Choose a market and then diversify. If you're constantly in and out of several different markets, it gets difficult to spot trends and can end up hurting your potential profit in the long run. When you do diversify, stick with it for a while and see where it takes you. Obviously, if the market isn't profitable, you wouldn't be there in the first place, but now that you're there, try to see who are the big players and who are hanger on's.

  6. Take risks. If you've got your core business down, take some risks and try to anticipate the market response to world events or other impactful dates such as...oh, I don't know...November 13th. Everyone's heard the story of Small Eggs going for 5 gold/egg when Father Winter rolls around. Why not be 'that' guy who profits from it? Did you have extra gems and enchant mats to sell when Arena Season 3 rolled around and Gladiator gear was purchaseable through Honor? I made 10,000 gold that night. It was like Black Friday, but on a Tuesday. While you take risks, remember that they are risks and that you can wind up in the negative. Understandably, don't feel bad if your guesses aren't as stellar as you would have hoped. It's just a part of the game.
So, those are my core rules and they absolutely work. I haven't made thousands of gold in the last couple of days purely off of my good looks (although I could if I wanted to). The next section will talk more about specifics and managing both the core market and specifics about diversification, just in time for WotLK.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Battleground Suggestions for Newbies. Please take note.

(Author's note: This article was post dated as it's unlikely I'll be writing about BG's for a while once WotLK comes out. May this serve as a reminder as we go into Northrend, possibly fighting the opposite faction for quest mobs, and grinding Honor in Wintergrasp and Strand of the Ancients.)

The litany of curses that my fingers would have typed out during this weekend honor grind count out in the hundreds and while using a blog to continuously rant about the dumb things people do in Battlegrounds could feasibly provide endless material, it's just not fun to read. Also, one of my new guild's rules is 'No Profanity'. And we're trying not to piss people off. But, Lord, it's hard when dumb people join Battlegrounds.

So here's my best suggestion for people who don't PvP very often, and if you're smart, it can make you a better player, regardless of your gear.

Pay Attention, Communicate, and Cooperate.

Everything stems from those three points. If you're paying attention, you can call out incomings to a node and you can see when people are capping a flag. If you have a strategy, you can let people know so others can work with you, instead of against you. If you are a DPS class and you see your healer getting mowed down because the other side has (intelligently) chosen to target your healers first (no way!), you can help better the situation through crowd control and/or selective targeting.

There are a billion more examples I can give to illustrate the merits of the above suggestion, but, really, who wants to read that boring list?

Instead, to the people who don't PvP often, I give you 3 suggestions to help brighten your experiences and those of others when you do choose to join a Battleground.
  1. Mount Up. If you're not fighting and you're guarding a node or you're waiting to see where the opposition will strike next. Mount up. By the time the average call of "inc node" comes through, it's usually too late to mount up and move to support. And if you are riding to a location, take a look at the map before you go. If you see (count them) 10 dots already there, go somewhere else. Go defend somewhere else so that healer can go help deal with your teammates who need healing.

  2. Keep an eye on the flag. No matter how much DPS you can put out or how much healing you can provide, none of it matters if your flag gets taken. Every class has an ability that can interrupt a flag cap, from Moonfire to Rain of Fire to Wanding (you did level up your wand skill right?) so there's no excuse for not tagging the capper except for dying while preventing a cap.

  3. Fight on the node in EotS. It's really that simple. If you don't see a bar that shows the node status, you're in the wrong place.

And for you Rogues and Druids, a special suggestion:

  • Stealthing around does not mean you are doing anything beneficial to the team. If you see an opening, take it. Every second your teammates are getting trained down, while you sit in the comforts of stealth, sipping your thistle tea, is a second of negative participation. You're doing more harm than good. As reference, I had a stealthed rogue sit next to an Arcane Mage for a full 5 seconds, moving back and forth trying to make up his mind, before he decided to cheap shot. During that period, I got Arcane Barraged twice, a POM fireball and 2 Slows applied (I dispelled the first). To survive all of that, I had to pop Pain Suppression, 2 Shields and PI to spam Flash Heals. Angry whispers were exchanged and now he's on /ignore. Before anyone comes to his defense, there's zero reason not to take the opener when your healer is in danger. Need proof? Ask your nearest healer. He'll tell you.

And remember, it's not about gear. I would have rather had a level 50 Rogue who knew how to take the CS into KS into Gouge to save his teammate than the one last night who sported raid gear and the decisiveness of a butterfly.

With WotLK around the corner, if you're on a PvP server like I am, treat each zone as a big Battleground. Save your fellow faction'rs from gankers and travel around in groups. Unspoken truce or not, there's always rogue players who just want to have a bloody good time.

Best of luck!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Disc Vs Holy in PvP: A Comparison and Some Predictions

In the early stages of the game, Priest PvP healing wasn't as much of a specialized spec as it is today. With a game and itemization centered around PvE (pre TBC), Holy was a natural go-to as raiders would just bring their raiding specs to the Battleground and healbot their Dreadnaught clad Arms Warrior buddies after a night of beating back monstrous dragons and their progeny.

However, as time passed, through tweaking by Blizzard, the Discipline tree has been gaining popularity as the default PvP tree for utility and flexibility. Early Arena seasons saw hybrid Disc/Holy specs such as the old standby 28/33 for Blessed Resilience. As gear started to match damage in later seasons, 41/20 Pain Suppression builds started showing up en masse with Priests electing to give up some personal survivability for added situational answers.

To try to predict where all of this will go in the months and Arena seasons to come, it becomes key to understand the natures of the two healing trees, where they excel and where they fall flat. Keep in mind that the Priest is the only class that has two healing trees, so it's pretty unique that there are viable options for a class to spec when dealing with a variety of situations.

There's a couple of overall differences between the functionality of the Discipline and Holy trees in PvP. When comparing the two functions, I find that the best term to describe differences is "Bandwidth vs Throughput". The analogy between the characteristics of these Priest talent trees and the traditional usage of these two terms in the data transmission can be confusing at best, so let's break it down for non-technical people out there.

First, to establish the boundaries of the explanation, there is usually a limiting factor. In data transmission, the limiting factor is usually cost, and to a lesser extent, amount of data to be transferred. Simply, if you're willing to pay for wires that can handle more data, you'll get better performance. To dumb it down even further, we can think of wires as plumbing pipes for data and make the observation that narrower pipes typically cost less than big honking pipes (for proof, go visit Home Depot). So basically, if you have to move .. say .. a large quantity of .. excrement (or Porn), but you're limited in the amount you can spend on the pipes, your options are either one big pipe or several small pipes. The same is with data and (hopefully you're beginning to see the parallels) with healing. (And by using the word 'healing' we're essentially referring to death prevention)

The point, without getting mired in .. crap .., is that these two characteristics are generally proportional. Within the boundaries of cost and amount of data (mana and time alloted to 'save' someone) you can either cast a big heal or several small ones. It stands to reason that the Holy tree is the spec for throughput in that it puts out some really really big casted heals, typically with a higher crit rate, and possibly boosted by procs of additional big heals or even BIGGER heals. By contrast, the Discipline tree represents the bandwidth aspect of death prevention through its effective shields, cheaper dispels, extra haste, shield proc effects and several utility cooldowns.

Interestingly, in PvE, a typical raiding Holy spec can represent both 'bandwidth' and 'throughput' with just a shift of talents, however, this is not really the point of the discussion so we'll leave it for later (if people are even interested in this spec's discussion).

Ok, so where is this all going?

Well, predictions, of course.

Well, as with Arena season 1, the initial set of gear for many fresh level 80's will likely be pretty poor. A mix of PvP and PvE gear will be pretty prevalent and the PvP gear that is present will likely be fairly weak and unable to hit the resilience cap. We will likely see many double DPS in 2's and triple DPS teams in 3's as healing (due to gear) is very unlikely to match up with the potential damage output. In addition, due to poor weapons and low stats, melee is unlikely to perform as well as casters, making caster teams very viable.

As such, with knowledge of past Arena seasons, a Holy spec is likely to be the dominant spec for the variety of 2's and 3's comps where the Priest is the solo healer. I'm not saying that it will be the only spec for solo healing Priests, but it is unlikely that Discipline will have the throughput and personal survivability as compared to Holy to deal with the vast amounts of pure DPS teams out there. Once the healing starts catching up with the burst DPS and more Healer/DPS, Healer/2xDPS and 2xHealer/DPS teams become viable due to better gear becoming available, it's logical that Discipline variants will become more and more popular. This is primarly due to the better efficiency and 'tricks' that are needed to set up a kill on teams that are designed to survive for more than a few minutes

Of course, comps such as Rogue/Mage/Priest or other similar incredibly offensive burst comps would probably benefit from a Discipline Priest over a Holy Priest due to the Haste effects, cheaper Dispels and 0.5 second Mass Dispells for all of those incredibly annoying Divine Shields and Ice Blocks out there. We'll be sure to do a write up on their viabilities once we get to 80 and nab us some gear.

As for right now, we still have 30k honor to grind.


Friday, November 7, 2008


A woman is in NYC for a business trip. She hails a taxi and steps in, hungry for fish. She tells the cab's driver, "Take me to a place where I can get scrod." He says, "That's the first the I've heard that in the pluperfect subjunctive."

Ever since the end of S4 and the general miserable-ness of the Arenas due to the incessant lag, my friends and I have been predominantly spending our time PvE'ing or BG'ing. Now that the lag is gone (you have noticed that right?), there's been some more time spent trying out comps and such in the waning days of TBC.

My Warrior buddy asked me to help him get to 1800 again (all ratings lost on server xfer) so he could get the points and rating for the S3 axe for leveling in WotLK and within 24 or so games, we had the rating, even though the absurd number of Ret/Arcane teams out there made every game a nailbiter.


Let's just make this clear: If you're not a burst team and you get caught against one in the Orgrimmar or Ruins of Lordaeron map, you'd better pray for RNG your way because one of you is going to die... and quickly. I sincerely hope that Arcane Mages are brought under control even though this amazing quote from GhostCrawler made me choke on my Earl Grey:
If Arcane is overpowered at all, it is nowhere near to the level that
Retribution was. Sorry. This isn’t a contest to see who can get the least or
most nerfs.

He's absolutely right.

If you're stupid enough to only use Arcane spells to try to kill someone, Arcane isn't overpowered. Arcane Blast (AB) and Arcane Missiles (AM) are mediocre filler spells. But the fact remains is that Arcane Mages don't just use offensive Arcane spells to rip people apart. Let's count the offensive damaging instants that can be used instead of queuing up a stupid AB or letting people run away while you channel a set of AM:
  • Arcane Barrage
  • Cone of Cold
  • POM Nuke
  • Arcane Explosion
  • Fireblast
  • Icelance

(If you've ever played City of Heroes, its basically like playing an Ice or Fire Blaster, where you spam instants and win)

So the question is, why would anyone use AM or AB when they can do instant damage and protect their spellschools for when Polymorph needs to hit? Answer: Only if they want to proc a Missile Barrage or if their target is cc'd and stuck in line of sight. Which is why every Arcane Mage is playing 2's with a Rogue or a Ret Paladin (the stun King and QQueen of WoW) or another Mage for pure ridiculousness.

So what's the solution to toning down Arcane Mages? Well, it sure as hell isn't what Blizz is planning to do, which is to buff Arcane Blast. No. No no no. Nononononononononono.

Buffing something with a cast time in PvP isn't going to make people want to use instants less. Mobility is king in PvP (eg: Druids), and unless pillars are removed from the Arena, instants will still be far more coveted than casted nukes. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a Destruction Warlock or a Mage hardcast a Fireball in a competitive arena match?

So what's the fix that helps an Arcane Mage with their PvE Rotation? Simple: increase the cooldown. I don't care if the damage scales up or if Blizz improves the damage of Arcane Blast, but there should be no reason for someone to eat back to back to back instant cast Barrages in the span of an Imp Counterspell or a Hammer of Justice or a Kidney Shot.

Break it down by caster? Sure!

  • Boomkin: Starfire has a cast time. Even if the Druid is lucky to get Nature's Grace and Wrath of Elune, it still has a cast.
  • Fire Mage: Blast Wave, FireBlast, Dragon's Breath all have longer cooldowns. None do nearly as much damage.
  • Frost Mage: Shatter Combo 2 hits max unless you combo it into other casts. Brain Freeze Fireball (due to lack of fire talents) doesn't hit very hard.
  • Shadow Priest: MindBlast/SW: Death Combo has a much longer cooldown. No third nuke.
  • Elemental Shaman: Bolts have a cast time, Shocks have longer cooldowns and deal less damage and NS Chain Lightning is once every 3 mins
  • Warlocks: Only instant nuke is a Nightfall proc. Good luck even getting back to back procs. Is Shadowfury/Nightfall possible? If it is, would it be viable? Computer says no.

Wake up, Blizzard!


Anyways, we found out that Blizzard is wiping all Arena Teams and Arena points during Maintenance on Tuesday. This means that if you have Arena points saved up, you must spend them before Maintenance.

Which means my Warrior buddy won't get his axe.

And that's what we call scrod.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

WotLK almost here! I has a sad.

I'm waiting with unbridled anticipation for the arrival of our newest shiny overlord (7 days to go!), but in actuality, I will not have much free time after it arrives. You see, the day after it drops, I will be going on a long weekend vacation out where there's no phone, no Internet, and no computers.

And this break from humanity is greatly needed.

Then, for several days during the Thanksgiving time period, I will be overseas on another vacation, again, without my computer. So while I'm incredibly excited for something new and different to immerse in (likely multi-hour stints), I can't help but to feel a bit jealous for those who will be paving the way to 80 without me.

So, what am I doing these days to pass the few days left before our game inexorably changes (and the 'oldschoolers' will be qq'ing "OMG WotLK sucks, I wish we had TBC back. Bliz, give us TBC only servers!)? Well, I'm short about 40k honor on my Druid and about 55k honor on my Priest. I'm determined to make the Priest my main for WotLK, primarily because Arena Resto Druid healing has become an incredibly one dimensional class, especially in any composition besides 2's (where it is even quite the same as 3's and 5's). Simply put, there's only so much "Sit in Tree of Life and spam heals" that I can endure before I get bored of the class' only viable healing options.

We'll see how that goes, but for now, we are on a quest for Honor, Gold and modest amounts of Glory.

Ok, maybe not glory, but we'll take a nod of recognition...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hooonnnk! Pewpewpewpewpewpew!

"Resto's really good now!"
"Riptide is amazing. You should give it a shot"
"Holy cow! We're getting destroyed in BG's without a healer"

With some finagling and some encouragement, we finally got our resident Enhancement Shaman to give the new Resto a try. He used to be a full time Resto, but lost interest as the old Resto only really worked in two comps War/Sham and Shadowplay (Spriest/UALock/Resto Sham). However, through some encouraging, we snagged ourselves a pretty darn good healer last night for a set of BG's. Healers make everything so much better, even if you're somehow stuck with a team of all fresh 70's.

"Why are you all dead? The BG just started!"
"Why do you all have less than 7k health?!"

We may try to get an article out of our Shaman buddy, but sadly this isn't it. However, since we had a healer at our disposal, the agenda for the evening was to spec Deep Balance on our Druid (4/5 Brutal, Veng Shoulders/Weapon) and run around in BG's bringing the pain.

For those of you who have never yet experienced the pain brought by a Balance Druid (aka: laser chicken, boomkin, owlyak, moonchicken, oomkin, fat feathered freak, etc.), I'd recommend a reading up a bit on them as they're going to be quite abundant come WotLK. Why? 'Cuz Bliz screwed Resto's ability to efficiently deal with/mitigate Burst damage (aka, Lifebloom nerf and reallocation of Feral Charge).

"Oh god, I just got intercepted in caster form. Here comes the Ret pally. Yep, I'm dead."

So how did we spec? 58/0/3 was the tested spec, taking the anti pushback talent in the Resto tree as well as every Balance damage/crit boosting talent and Brambles while skipping Dreamstate and Eclipse. The concept behind this spec (usually an Arena spec) is to put out a ridiculous (take note, kiddies, that's how you spell this word) amount of damage in an incredibly short amount of time, especially if cooldowns are up. The cooldowns in question are Force of Nature (aka: Trees), Starfall, and Typhoon and the proc's to look out for are Celestial Focus Stun, Nature's Grace and Wrath of Elune (4/5 Wyrmhide set bonus).

If all of the cooldowns are up, it's possible to wade right into a battle and start to wreak havoc, dropping Trees, Starfall and making space for your fat feathered butt with Typhoon. However, my typical habit is to start at max range and bring the pain. Getting into melee these days is just asking to be focus fired. Starting a fight off with a Starfire, if possible due to the long casting time, is generally preferred as a crit or a Celestial Focus stun can be very devestating. If that's not possible, a couple of Wraths are the next best thing, especially to stack up Earth and Moon. I equate this to a fire mage stacking Scorch debuffs to prep for a big Pyroblast or Fireball. If you feel comfortable with being closer than max range, Pounce into a cc/nuke chain is very strong as well.

At this point, if there are several opponents on you, it is entirely feasible to pop Trees and Starfall and try to bring as many targets down, but if the opponents have yet to close the distance, Wrath spam can be a very efficient killer. At any point during the Wrath spam, if Wrath of Elune procs and if you have time, crank out a couple of Moonfires to hopefully proc Lunar Grace from the incredible Idol of the Unseen Moon. In addition to this 140 spellpower proc, Moonfire has a 10% greater chance to crit than Wrath or Starfire, possibly proccing a Nature's Grace. What you end up with, if all of the proc's align, is a 1 second Starfire on crack. I procced one last night in AB, while we were pinning the Alliance in their starting area, on a crafty Warrior in greens who almost got past the blockade. 6400 crit to the dome and he made the next rez a few seconds later.

As much fun as big crits are, lets talk about the new shiny spell that's our 51 point talent: Starfall. Typically used in a crowd of opponents, this talent is one of Balance's most amazing PvP talents as it not only has a 15% chance to stun per star (assuming you took 3/3 Celestial Focus), but it also has a 20%+ (assuming 5/5 Wyrmhide) chance to crit per star. Each crit will proc Nature's Grace (assuming 3/3 Nature's Grace), making your cast time's a half second faster, so, if possible, stand and cast as much as possible while Starfall is raining free 'haste' procs. Use it. Love it. Laugh at mace warriors. Mace stun what?

Sadly, looking into the future, there are few talents that a 70 Balance Druid will be able to get at 80 that will further change the gameplay. Intensity, Dreamstate, Omen of Clarity only add some longevity to the PvP Boomkin. Master Shapeshifter and Eclipse will further add a bit more damage, but that's about it. I'd personally like to see Nature's Swiftness affect Arcane spells, too, for some Starfire-NS-Starfire burst, but that's honestly not very likely. At some point, a Pounce into Lockjaw into a nuke chain combo may be viable, but in all reality, the base gameplay has been set. Regardless, we're looking forward to it and hope the nerf bat swings a different way!

/cast Moonkin Form

Friday, October 31, 2008

Holy PvP Testing

Last night, we spec'd Deep Holy (10/51/0) to give it some PvP testing, much as we did with the Deep Discipline test earlier. The goal for this test was to determine the viability, strengths and weaknesses of the Holy Spec, using a ~200 Resilience 900+ spellpower geared Priest. We anticipated that personal survivability and burst healing in a semi-random team situation (BG'ing with buddies) would be better when compared to a Deep Discipline spec. However, we foresaw that mana longevity would be a serious problem.

So, were we on the mark with our guesses?

Absolutely! We were on the mark with both the good aspects of the spec's anticipated performance and the not so great factors as well.

Disclaimer: much of this discussion is really only valid at this point of the game as we only have 61 talent points to muck about with, however, many of the points discussed about now will be entirely valid at level 80 as well.

So, what were the spec specifics? Well, the spec that was tested did not have Meditation, which severely limited my effective duration in combat. We expect this to be marginally resolved with WotLK with the extra talent points, however, we do have concerns as to gear itemization as mentioned in a previous article . We tried to fill in as many of the crit talents as possible, minimized the spirit talents and stacked crit over spirit, primarily through wearing Shadow PvE gear. Additionally, we skipped many of the AoE healing talents, but did take Circle of Healing, mainly because it is instant cast. Gear wise, we didn't expect to survive much longer than usual, with our ~200 resilience, but our spec supported it in that it wasn't tailored for longevity.

The 'shine' of the spec came with countering burst damage and when healing unmolested, big Flash Heals and Greater Heals came through to keep people alive. With a higher crit rate than a typical healing Priest, Surge of Light and Holy Concentration procs came at a respectable rate, granting free Flash Heals and hasted Greater Heals. I greatly recommend getting some kind of proc notification mod to inform you of either proc as they can greatly assist overcoming burst situations or staying out of the 5 second rule. The key thing to remember here is that while the emphasis, talent wise, is on casted heals, the typical instant mitigation abilities available to all Priests (Power Word: Shield, Prayer of Mending, Renew) are almost as strong as those of a Discipline spec. Therefore, the instants are still the 'go to' abilities before chaining casted heals.

While the improved casted heals are able to help mitigate burst, Guardian Spirit (calls upon a guardian spirit to watch over the friendly target. The spirit increases the healing received by the target by 40%, and also prevents the target from dying by sacrificing itself. This sacrifice terminates the effect but heals the target of 50% of their maximum health. Lasts 10 sec) turned out to be an amazingly strong talent, possibly better than Pain Suppression. In a Battleground world, focus fire from several opponents can essentially burn a target down very quickly. In such cases, Pain Suppression may not be enough to mitigate the incoming damage, and often, targets die with under the effects of Pain Suppression. This is where Guardian Spirit shines. While it is on its target, not only does it increase healing done to the target by 40%, but it also acts like a Cheat Death effect if the target dies, and let's be honest here.. how many people hate when their kill target gets saved by Cheat Death? Just as I thought... everybody.

(Note: If the opposing faction comes a rollin' into your city to kill your faction leader, try to time a Guardian Spirit right before they die. It can bring about some wonderful results.)

As an example of the talent synergy, last night, with Guardian Spirit on my target, I cast a 5400+ crit Flash Heal which proc'd Surge of Light and Holy Concentration. This, in turn, gave me 2 hasted Greater Heals and a free/instant Flash Heal. It's these types of crazy proc combinations that keep people alive to turn the tide. Unfortunately, a Bladestorming Warrior and a Ret Paladin proceeded to destroy me for stealing their kill... only to have my broken form turn into a Spirit of Redemption and continue to keep everyone topped off.

My Warlock buddy and I joked that with my undergeared status, my healing in Spirit of Redemption probably outweighed my regular healing and as funny as it might be, it may have seemed to be true. With 200 resilience and less than 9k unbuffed health, Blessed Resilience and Blessed Recovery really didn't help that much. Saving myself in this burst environment was all up to whether or not I prep'd myself with Shield/Mending/Renew and had my trinket up and had Psychic Scream off cooldown and possibly had Guardian Spirit off cooldown, as well.

So, would I recommend this spec? Absolutely. Especially if you're undergeared, give this spec a try. I don't think anyone without max resilience (and a couple of pocket healers) expects to tank multiple DPS in BG's these days, so giving yourself a few options that maximize your 'up' time is probably the best option at this point.

There are a few downsides to this spec and they are the aforementioned mana longevity issue, a much slower Mass Dispel and a reliance on random crits to possibly counter burst. In addition to all of that, there are very few 'tricks' that a Deep Holy Priest has up his sleeves. The lack of Power Infusion, Borrowed Time, and Improved Mana Burn turn Deep Holy into a dedicated healbot, which may or may not fit your playstyle.