Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Archive for the ‘Raiding’ Category

Voss-isms

I’m sure our raid leader, Vosskah, could tell you that there are so many advantages to being bilingual. I can’t actually claim them, myself (while I do understand quite a bit of French, I wouldn’t call myself bilingual). You can live in different places, work in either language (or both) and also you have access to twice as much arts, culture, and history – in the original language!

It’s an advantage for Business Time that Voss is our raid leader, because 1) he’s great at it but also 2) he’s often inadvertently hilarious. Sometimes it’s a matter of a colloquialism he missed, our just a difference in translation, or a slip of the tongue in the heat of the moment. Fortunately for us, he’s a great sport about it. I’m sure that more than half of our “in” jokes have sprung up from some Voss-related misunderstanding. Voss jokes are so much a cornerstone of BT that back when we were working on heroic Lich King one of our members made this video.

The jokes:

  • Voss has a hard time with the word “horrors.” It tends to come out more like just plain old “whore.” Shambling Horrors takes on an all new-meaning, I’m sure you can imagine.
  • Our warlock, Dirtface, had a penchant for summoning mole machines smack in the middle of the raid.
  • Our mage, Fsob, is seldom content to remain in his natural form, leading to some confusion about just who or where he is at any given time.
  • Our erstwhile paladin, Noodlestein, constructed an elaborate fish feast art installation during one of the interminable RP sessions.

Please note: the following video has coarse language and references to gnomes. Viewer discretion is advised.

As it happens, <Shambling Horrors> is now the name of our Horde-side sister guild. Poor Voss’ hapless hilarity doesn’t end there, though. Other things of note:

Our hunter nearly died when we were killing Marrowgar and Voss shouted, “OK, now get Kayla off!”

I had to explain why he might want to choose different phrasing the next time. Similarly, you never know when he might tell us all, “OK, now everyone come on the gnome!”

For some reason, from the first time we fought Shannox, Voss couldn’t help but call him “Shannon.” He wasn’t trying to be funny, the boss was just “Shannon” to him. (Below image credit goes to Searing Shammy).

This image came up in a Google image search for Shannox and I couldn't resist using it. It's from Searing Shammy, it is not my image!

“OK, here she comes!” he’d say. Naturally, this most unfeminine of bosses started a trend. You may be fighting Shannox and Ragnaros in the Firelands. BT is fighting Alice, Beth, Margeurite, and Barbara. Or, as Adgamorix said, “How about – Baleroc as a substitution for Baleroc? It’s catchy, has a good ring to it, and is easy to remember.” (It never caught on, though.)

I can’t even describe to you how hard I laughed the other night when Voss yelled into Mumble as we were fighting Ragnaros, “Alright guys, SPLITTING BOWEL!”

He insists that the difference between “blow” and “bowel” in this case is minimal (after all, if you were hit by Ragnaros’ Hammer you might suffer that effect) but I have to beg to differ. Splitting Bowel is so much more evocative! Given the well-documented prevalence of poop quests in the game, I wouldn’t put it past them to include it as a real boss ability.

I’m really resisting making a “wipe” joke here, I swear. We keep it classy!

Let’s just say that when it comes to having Voss as a raid leader, there’s seldom a dull moment – especially since he himself is so focused and serious. He is the perfect straight man to our admittedly sometimes adolescent humour. Although, he insisted that I had to add in his response to our teasing: “Mangez donc tous un char de marde!”

It means, “I think you are all so hilarious!” (Please note: This is not an actual translation. Don’t repeat this to a French-speaking person unless you want to pick a fight with them. If so, then by all means!)

We love you too, Voss.

What are your raid’s funny (or not so funny) “in” jokes? Is your raid leader, much like Voss, apt to be super serious, or are they cracking jokes along with you? One day we were joking that Voss just tunes us out (“He probably doesn’t even hear us!”) and about thirty seconds later he said, “Huh?” It’s probably the only way he can stay sane.

Update on Settling Into A New Role

I’ve been raiding as a paladin now for just over a month or a little bit longer. It’s been an interesting transition, further complicated by the fact that I feel obligated to re-do many achievements with Vid. I thought it’d be fun to provide a kind of update with how things have been going.

DPS: Now With 100% Rear Boss View

For the occasions when we’ve needed a healer to DPS, I’ve been gearing and working on my retribution spec. Thanks to some help from Antigen and our guild’s protection paladin, I even know what to do (more or less). The only thing I can say is that melee DPS is weird, yet oddly calming. I feel as if I have to frantically spam buttons quite a bit less than as a mage. Oh, I’d definitely be failing if I were just auto-attacking, and that’s not what I’m doing, but it is reassuring to know that my character is always hitting if I’m in range. (Thank you, startattack macros). I’m by no means the world’s greatest retribution paladin, but we still managed to kill bosses with me as a ret (I am the ret). It’s been awhile since I’ve had to go ret for a raid and my gear has improved so I imagine if I were to do it again I would be even better.

I got to hit Rhyolith’s feet and run around frantically! I also went up to attack Beth’tilac, which proved to be convenient because I later went up to heal the tank on Beth’tilac. I got to stand there and DPS Shannox, which kind of feels like cheating to me. Even Staghelm from a ret perspective was almost peaceful, but he was still progression then and so I have only healed for our subsequent kills. I think it’s safe to say that I never imagined I’d be melee DPSing in a raid, but it’s fine. 95% of the time I will be a healer; for that other five percent I’m happy to do whatever is necessary.

"What is this I don't even..."

Achievements

Continuing to work on Vid’s achievements has helped me to feel engaged with her, even when I’m not raiding. To me, Vid (as a character) has been something of a sleeper hit. I made her in 2009 for a lark, did the whole dungeon-leveling thing, wrote a blog about it, etc. I never imagined she’d shoulder her way to the front and wind up a main. I always assumed that if I healed full-time it would be as a druid. I was clearly wrong.

As far as achievements go, her pet collection is up over a hundred now, her mount collection is somewhere around fifty. There are a few pets she won’t be able to get for awhile (Midsummer, Love Is In The Air, etc.) but such is life! I finished the Higher Learning achievement with her as I was writing this post. Up next: continuing to kill poor TB foxes and camping the spawn point for Jadefang.

The biggest trouble I have is trying to catch up with achievements as if I’m on a time limit. I want to catch up yesterday and so sometimes my focus wanders as I try to do everything all at once. I finally, finally finished the last Molten Front “unlocking” and so now will do those dailies until Zen’Vorka’s cache sees fit to give up a pet. Meantime, I have to remember that nobody cares about my achievements except me, nobody cares except me (it’s my new mantra).

Blogging

I’ll admit, I did worry a bit that I might lose readers when I switched from raiding as a mage – and perhaps I did. The funny thing is, though, that very little of my content was mage-specific. I wrote the five-man guides (but never updated them for the Zul instances) and a gear guide, but other than that the things I write about are seldom class-specific. Now I’m in this odd limbo where I don’t feel I have anything to teach or say to paladins, nor do I have mage experience in Firelands. It’s tricky how your personal identity can get tied up into your class identity, so I’m trying not to worry about it overly. I’m just going to write about things that interest me, be they mage, paladin, or guild-related, and hope that they’ll be of interest to someone, somewhere.

Raiding

Make no mistake, switching from being a DPS (especially a pure) to a healer is a big adjustment. I heal five-person content a ton but hadn’t healed a raid in about a year. It says something about my guild’s trust in me that they were willing to let me dive in. Especially being somewhat undergeared for Firelands (I did the best I could, but was definitely behind the curve), healing FL was kind of like performing without a net. It’s been a rush, it’s been exhilarating, frustrating, and triumphant. It’s been humbling. I’m still constantly learning how to be a better paladin, but I’m happy with how it’s gone so far. With my usual zeal for gearing, I’ve managed to squeeze every last upgrade out of non-raid content and I can definitely feel the difference. Especially getting a new weapon and the two-piece T12 bonus have made me feel pretty unstoppable in heroics.

The biggest shift is a mental one, and it’s taken some time. I’ve had to teach my brain to recognize mild stress as ‘the norm’ and not freak out and just do its thing. It was funny when we went back one night to eight-man BoT for valor points. Remember, I didn’t do BoT as a healer, only as a DPS. So we’re on Ascendant Council and I lost range on my tank and my brain just kind of zoned out a bit. There was a part of it that thought, “Gosh, tank’s health sure is getting low.” A few seconds later, the other part of my brain screams, “YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE HEALING THAT TANK.” Ohhh right, that’s my thing!

I haven’t done this in current content, it’s just interesting to me how the encounters themselves (and the way I have learned them) are so intertwined with the role I was playing at the time. When it comes to Firelands, I’ve only healed (or melee DPSed them) and so I don’t suddenly forget that I’m healing; all of my knowledge is centered around healing patterns, incoming damage, and needed cooldowns.

Recruiting

It’s been a long time since we’ve had three trial members at once. It’s not something I like doing, really, because each new person takes awhile to integrate into a group. Because of our relatively small number, an influx is especially unsettling and runs the risk of unbalancing the group paradigm. Also, they may not get the kind of one-on-one attention and feedback that we like to give, but I think we’ve managed well enough in this regard. I still reflexively catch myself going to check out recruitment ads until I remember – oh right, I don’t have to do that right this instant! It’s nice. They have been doing well, and of course time is the most important factor here. Everyone will naturally ease up as they get to know each other, given some time.

“Those” Raid Nights and What To Do About Them

We’ve all been there. You show up ready to raid. You have read the strats for the progression fights. You’ve been talking about how to better execute fights that you’ve already downed. You have flasks, you have food. You have nine or twenty-four other people.

Or maybe you don’t even get to that point. Maybe someone’s internet is down and you can’t get ahold of John to step in. Someone disconnects as you pull the boss or someone has an addon problem or someone makes a mistake on something you’ve done a million times before. Whatever the reason, something is just off. You’re in for one of those nights.

I wish I had the magic recipe to prevent them. I don’t. Sometimes storms are hitting several areas. Tonight the storm was in our area – massive chunks of hail pounding on the roof so hard during Shannox that I had to turn my sound up just to hear the aural cues I am used to! Thankfully we didn’t disconnect, and no one had any technical difficulties. Regardless, for us it was one of those nights.

Call it a full moon, call it bad luck, call it a combination of factors – we’re still getting to know our new raiders, we had one more melee than we usually do, we made a mistake on assignments, we swapped healers to roles they weren’t used to, and tanks to roles that they weren’t used to. We started the raid night with high hopes for a certain number of bosses that we didn’t achieve. It’s the kind of night where you finish and can feel the collective sigh of relief and discouragement over voice chat. Everyone’s demoralized. Where do you go from there?

There are a few ways to handle it. You could cascade into a doubt spiral, second-guessing everything that happened and your role in it. You could lay blame, you could pout or gnash your teeth. Here’s what I do.

Recognize that it happens to everyone

No, really. You may feel like there is no other single raid group that has struggled as your group struggled on that night. Trust me on this – Vodka has nights like this. No one plays perfectly all of the time. I challenge you to show me a raid group that hasn’t had a crappy or an off night. (Okay, an off night for Vodka doesn’t mean the same thing as it does for other raids, but that’s not the point). We all have times where we feel like we didn’t play to our potential, that we could have done better, that we failed.

We’re human. It happens. So then what?

Take a break

Our group takes regular breaks anyway (once an hour for six minutes), so I always seize this opportunity. Some of the things I do during breaks include:

  • Rub the dog’s belly.
  • Run downstairs.
  • Give the dog a carrot.
  • Open the back door and take deep breaths of fresh air.
  • Yoga. (I’m serious.)
  • Make sure I have a big glass of cold water on my desk for the end of the break
  • I’m kind of a hippy like that, so I have essential oils (mint!) and I’ll put a dab on my wrists or neck or temples. Mint and citrus smells can help reduce stress and aid focus. Lavender is calming, unlike the Firelands, which is…well, on fire.

Sometimes you just need to get your body thinking about something else. I like to stretch my legs and move around during breaks if I can. Long periods of sitting combined with tension can lead to muscle cramps or aches. Focusing on something else even for a few minutes can help you to do better when you come back and sit down.

Switch it up

If you’ve been beating your head against a boss wall for hours and you aren’t seeing any progress, don’t be afraid to tackle something new. It may not result in a kill, but at least it’ll present new frustrations. If your faction has Tol Barad, go do a Baradin Hold run. Kill some more trash. Even switch instances if that’s an option and you have the time to do it.

Get some perspective

Was your night really all that bad? For our raid night, we didn’t kill all the bosses we would have liked, but the ones we did kill we killed pretty cleanly. I healed a different tank than I usually do on Shannox; our other tank healer got a chance to experience the damage patterns of the opposite tank as well. Beth’tilac went down very easily, and it was again a new tank doing the “upstairs” task. It could have been worse. We could have killed nothing. Or one less boss, or two less bosses. We got some valor points. Trash went very smoothly. I was mostly happy with P1 of Alysrazor as well. We’ve killed these bosses before. We will kill them again.

Above all else, no matter how many internet dragons did or didn’t die in any given night, I’m always happy to hang out with BT folks and have fun regardless. So I’m not going to dwell on the raid night. As far as I’m concerned, once it’s ‘in the bag,’ it’s over. There’s no sense beating ourselves up about it. That said, though, the next thing I want to do is:

Identify and learn from your mistakes

I already know what was going wrong with Rhyolith. We made some poor calls on assignments. The melee are going to have to put their heads together when it comes to driving duties. I did not do the best I could in my new role. So there’s a few lessons there, but most importantly I want to find out was going on with Baelroc. What was I doing wrong? Why was it so hard at first, and what can I do better for next time?

Depending on how you work, it might be a good idea to wait before you proceed with this step. If you go in still frustrated, tired or upset, you’re liable to just beat yourself up over things you can’t change.

Put that thing to bed

The single best thing you can do, I think, is just sleep on it. You’ll be able to process tomorrow what may seem hopelessly aggravating right now, because it’s still too close. Re-evaluate your performance and the overall raid performance the following day when you have a clear head and a rested perspective. Ask yourself, was it really that bad? Even if it was, it’s still over, and tomorrow is another raid day.

So how about you? What do you do when your group is having one of those nights? Don’t try to tell me you never do, either! I know you’re fibbing.

Healing Questionnaire: Pally Edition

Now, I wasn’t really around then so I don’t remember this, but apparently there was a healing questionnaire thing that happened over at Miss Medicina’s. Saunder from Non-Squishy Heals is starting it up again, and Shintar poked me to fill it out as well. At the end, I’ll be tagging someone else – it has to be a healer that doesn’t play the same class as I do!

DRAENEI holy paladin. Did I mention the draenei part?

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary healer?
Vidyala, holy paladin extraordinaire!

What is your primary group healing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)
Up until recently I was healing five mans like a fiend. Only with the patch (and shortly before it) did I make the switch from being full-time DPS to full-time healer. Now I heal ten-man raids and five-mans and I’m trying to find my feet as a paladin. I think fives are great practice for raiding. I also like to do BGs with friends as a healer, unless the BG is a premade that should really be doing RBGs and they school us repeatedly, again and again.

What is your favorite healing spell for your class and why?
I’m going to have to say Holy Shock. Is that a boring answer? It builds Holy Power, which then lets me use my other fun (free!) heals. The Word of Glory buff has made this even more fun. Of course I used it before, but it’s nice now to feel like it’s actually doing something when I use it. Light of Dawn is still not as good in tens, but I also use it where appropriate. I really like the Holy Power mechanic, I feel it added a whole other dimension to the class. The feeling that I got from other holy paladins as I began leveling one was, “Let’s see if you can make it to level cap without dying of boredom.” I hear it’s no longer like that, and so that’s successful design, I suppose!

What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?
Flash of Light, for sure. It’s a rare situation when one of my other bread and butter heals won’t do, and the mana cost of FH is just too steep to justify it. I imagine they’ll look at making it more useful sometime, or else just conveniently forget that it exists, but in the meantime its button sits alone and dusty.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why?
The wide variety of CDs available to paladins make them such a versatile healing powerhouse. I love that we have something for every situation. I am thrilled with both WoG changes (as mentioned above) as well as Holy Light transferring 100% through Beacon. It freed me up to do a lot of raid healing while still watching my tank. I guess that is the crux of what I think is the biggest strength of the class – the capability to do most healing tasks as necessary. Traditionally paladins were shoehorned only into a tank healing role but I don’t think that’s necessarily a given anymore. I know my friend Walks loves raid healing (although he also raids 25s). Now that we have two paladins in our raid… double beacon is overpowered!

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why?
I think the only sometimes frustrating thing is that our AoE is all so very proximity-based. We just aren’t effective at AoE healing from a distance, given that both Holy Radiance and Light of Dawn rely on positioning. I don’t necessarily mind this, it’s an interesting mechanic and keeps the healing classes with separate flavour, but it can be a hindrance. For instance, yesterday I had to specifically ask all our ranged players to group up (we ended up just grouping on me) when I know they are most used to/comfortable doing their own thing. It’s no big deal though, and you work with it. Keeping them up was much, much easier when I knew they were all grouped around me.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you?
This seems like an outdated question to me! I’ll answer it for both raid formats. I’m guessing from what I’ve heard that most paladins (in both tens and twenty-fives) are still typically tank healing. Beacon is obviously a great tool for this. I do know paladins, as mentioned previously, who enjoy and can make raid healing work for them. What I described was similar – in the case of multiple paladins, Beacon a tank, raid heal and go crazy. I think if I only ever tank healed I’d get bored, so I like to mix it up. It helps when I don’t LOSE my tank in the middle of the fight and blurt into Mumble, “Where ARE you?” I’m so pro, p.s. thanks for nothing, Shannox.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why?
I have no particular preference at this time and am still too new back to healing to really tell you. I can tell you that one paladin and two druids wasn’t exactly ideal. I think, as with most things, a good class distribution is nice. Double Beacon is fantastic, and paladins have enough different buffs that I don’t think it’s detrimental to have two. Priests are another really versatile class, druids have the awesome HoTs and Tranquility. I can’t really say much about shaman because we haven’t had one in ages.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why?
I don’t have a good answer for this. I think that two priests or two paladins works fine, but two druids is not as strong. Any other class on its own I’m sure is great. Even though each class has its own strengths and weaknesses, I’m pretty sure you could make it work with whatever is available to you, and that’s my attitude. I’m not the kind of person who would really be upset or fussed about healing with one class versus another, it’s just not my style.

What is your worst habit as a healer?
I think this probably falls under five-man habits I’ve picked up, like blowing all my CDs too early or forgetting them because they aren’t often needed, or running myself OOM really quickly. Since I heal so often in smaller groups (where I AM the only person who can/will heal) I often want to heal ALL THE DAMAGE as quickly as possible. I need to learn to sit back and wait a little bit and trust my other healers (not that I don’t, but you know what I mean). I think I will improve in this regard as time goes on and I learn who will heal what and what to expect from my teammates.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing?
Pretty much my biggest pet peeve in anything (including DPSing) stems from one thing: lack of communication. I will be the one asking what I should be healing, whether the healing is working out for everyone, whether the positioning works, or if I should change something. This goes with the rest of the group, too. Do they need to be someplace else? Is what we’re doing working for them? Nothing frustrates me more than glib/unhelpful answers. It’s become something of a running gag in the guild to say “his health reached zero,” as an answer to “What happened there?” and honestly I sort of clench my teeth everytime. I am probably humourless.

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing?
Yes, I think so! Obviously Blizzard felt that our mana was a bit extreme – and having healed since the nerfs, I guess I can agree. It’s still manageable, and it must have been a bit high before. Especially if you Judge on CD and use mana regen abilities wisely, we’re still good, and we have a lot to offer a raid in terms of sheer healing throughput, CDs and versatility. I don’t envy any other class their tools, really. I’m happy with where we are at.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer?
I go through our World of Logs looking at things like buff up-time, overhealing, etc. A friend also recently connected me with CompareBot, which is another log analysis tool. I like that it will go through and separate out different things like firestanding, CD usage, potion usage, etc. It’s pretty spiffy.

I also ask paladin friends about things (and I really never stopped doing this). Sometimes the best resource is just comparison and discussion. I’ve mentioned before, but I think that holy paladins have an awesome community that I’ve always enjoyed. It makes me feel fuzzy and happy.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class?
That paladins can only tank heal forever.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new healers of your class to learn?
That’s a good question! Probably (I surmise) it takes folks awhile to get used to being a melee healer at times. I know it sometimes scares or surprises tanks that I am right there in the thick of the action if I can be. The other healing classes are more likely to hang back (and it’s usually a good idea, because of AoE, etc.) but if mana is a concern then being in there to melee is very helpful for us. I love that aggressive dual nature of Holy. You’re healing, but you’ll also hit someone a good one with your sword and can take a hit if need be.

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)?
Pretty high output, and pretty high overheal. It’s something I’m working on. I think I have really solid throughput, but sometimes I also heal when I don’t need to, so right now mana management is my biggest concern. It’s hard to judge because as I said, I’m still finding my feet. I wanted to make sure I was giving it my absolute all. Now that I know I won’t hold our group back, I can focus on some of the finer details a bit more.

Haste or Crit and why?
Haste all the way. You only really need enough crit to make sure you keep up Conviction, whereas Haste is pretty much always awesome.

What healing class do you feel you understand least?
Shaman, definitely. I healed very briefly as a shaman and now mine languishes at 80. We had a resto shaman for a short time at the start of Cata but now we do not have one. The only resto shaman I know are bloggers. When I did run with another guild I was bewildered and intrigued by the shaman. I watched the effects of Spirit Link Totem with great interest. (I hear it’s since been nerfed, though, aw.)

What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in healing?
I am a Vuhdo gal. For awhile our guild was embroiled in an entrenched Vuhdo vs Grid debate, which I think may have settled now. We may even outnumber the Gridders. I also use Power Auras to monitor CDs and buffs, and some of MiksScrollingBattleText, but I am evaluating the necessity of that right now. I could probably get by with just Vuhdo and Power Auras. A bar addon is also a necessity, as I have a Razer Naga and it makes it easy to set up my bars for use with that. All of my heals are either bound in Vuhdo or set-up as mouseover macros bound to my mouse keys. I keep other CDs (Divine Plea, Judgement, etc.) on my keyboard.

Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?
This is an interesting question. Naturally, I stack Int to the sky, but it isn’t like being a DPS where you can just disregard the other stats. I feel I’d be well-served to get some more spirit, for instance, and that’s my current goal. In the past my gearing philosophy was always: regen until I didn’t need it, then throughput all the way. A stat like spirit is funny because it’s really really useful…until it isn’t, if that makes sense. More throughput is always useful, and depending on damage patterns in an encounter, it can prevent the need for as much spirit since you’ve already healed the because of your awesome, beefy healing. It might just be that I like big green numbers.

That was fun, thanks Saunder. I’d like to tag Beru to fill it out next (although I know she did it when it originally came out, I imagine the answers may have changed!)

Now 100% More Holy

You can expect a few smaller “slice of life” updates here over the next week or so. I’m going to be out of town on vacation and I don’t want things completely barren while I’m gone, but I also have to pack and run a million errands before we leave (this compounded by the jerk who threw a rock through our front window last Saturday, but don’t get me started about that).

Anyway, I had my first raid with Business Time last night as a holy paladin. We went to Throne of the Four Winds to do heroic Conclave of Wind again since some people had missed it when we got the kill a bit earlier this week. I was a mage for our first kill, but I’d never healed it before!

To say I was nervous would probably be a fair understatement. The only raid I’d healed in recent history was with another guild, and I knew I could always bow out gracefully if it just wasn’t working out. There was no “out” for this raid, I’d put myself forward as a healer and I won’t play the “I’m sorry guys, I’m not that good yet,” card. I was there to win. (By which I mean kill some pixelated wind lords, not “win” somehow at healing. When dragons die, everyone wins!)

It went well. We were able to repeat the kill. I screwed up some times, other people screwed up some times. I had to learn the rhythms of tank damage. I started out on the Nezir platform healing our bear tank and then transitioning to Anshal, but at some point we made a healing switch and I swapped to healing Voss.

Healing your significant other is interesting. In the past it has served us well, but it’s been awhile. I think it’s good because there is 1) an immediate line of communication since we’re sitting right next to each other, as well as 2) almost a decade of knowing/trusting each other. It also comes along with 3) willingness to say anything because it’s your significant other and not your internet friend. So me healing Voss goes something like, “Okay, moving now.”

“Where are you going? Oh my god, ice patch.”

“You can’t be in front of him!”

“I’m not in front of him!”

“You’re in his frost breath!”

“I’m not in his frost breath! Oh my gawwd use a cooldown.”

“I used a cooldown.”

“I used another cooldown.”

“Okay. We’re good. Okay. I have no mana left.”

“…okay.”

This is a screenshot that doesn't actually include Vid at all, but it's still thematic!

At some point we had a misunderstanding about the way Nezir ought to be moved, as each tank was doing it differently, and we actually pulled off our headsets to run around and do a little pantomime of where we each thought the boss should go. One of our other healers remarked that it was kind of hilarious to see the two of us running in circles and wonder what we were talking about (off-vent) and I suppose it would have been. I realized again that healing takes so much coordination with your team mates. Healer chat was going a mile a minute with questions and comparisons and feedback. Let me say it now:

I loved it.

Really, truly. The cooperative aspect of this role appeals to me so much. I had an absolute blast. I did not play perfectly (far from it) and I will need to make some adjustments to my UI with reminders to use CDs and auras so I can track my own buffs. But still. Holy heck, you guys, I healed heroic Conclave of Wind! I don’t usually post any bragging type things, so it’s not that, it’s really just – I was happy with my performance generally although I know many areas I can improve. Conclave of Wind is really a great acid test because it’s three individual groups each ‘on their own.’ There is no secondary healer to back me up; if my tank dies, it’s on me. Particularly at the end things started falling apart a little bit, but we pulled it off.

After this, we didn’t have much time in the raid so we went and killed Cho’gall (normal) and ODS (also normal). I honestly thought that just because we now have two holy paladins, those bracers would drop, but clearly this is a logical fallacy. (I was not, incidentally, intending to claim them for myself or roll on them in any way). That means Sin, our other holy paladin, killed Cho’gall 15 times throughout this tier of content without ever once seeing the bracers drop. Thank goodness they’ll be available for VP in Tier 12, because that kind of loot “luck” is enough to make me reconsider being a holy paladin, after all.

ODS also did not drop the ring I was hoping for. It’s a minor upgrade (I have one 359 and one 353) but every little bit helps! I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with my VP before we go on vacation. Should I go ahead and buy something off-spec (I can’t afford anything main-spec) since I’m already at the JP cap as well? Otherwise those VP are just going to be wasted, so I may endeavour to get them to 700 so I can snag the Retribution relic, probably. No sense in wasting them. I can already begin to see that gearing a retribution off-spec is going to be dead easy. I picked up two OS pieces last night alone, including a chest from Cho’gall and some bracers from ODS. I don’t anticipate having to play it often, but I like to be ready just in case.

No, this will not become a retribution paladin blog. Ever. It just won’t happen. (Sorry Antigen, it’s not you, it’s me.)

Finally, in my random list of paladin-raiding things that aren’t much related; I’m probably going to drop engineering after 4.2. (I’ll drop it when a viable helm upgrade presents itself, so probably not immediately). I just can’t see it being that strong a profession for a healer without the cogwheel sockets, and the on-use intellect tinker is okay but it’s not constant (as, say, jewelcrafting would provide). I imagine it evens out to approximately the same thing but I had engineering as an “alt-fun thing” and not as a serious raiding thing. I’ll be sad to say good-bye to my roflcopter, and in-character Vid will always be an engineer, but I can’t really stay engineering just for that purpose. I wish they’d introduce another tier of engineering helms. I suppose other professions as well suffer at the second tier – Alchemists may let go of their trinkets, etc. Honestly? I just really like the goofy goggles. They contribute to the paladin feeling of field medic/triage to me.

Or, to quote Voss (anxiously), “You, um. You’re sure a MELEE oriented healer, aren’t you?”

Yes, yes I am. “I’m healing youuu—!” /whack

 

A Main By Any Other Name

I went ahead and did it, folks. I took the plunge. I was writing this long entry trying to explain when I realized, why am I justifying myself to the internet at large?

For the next tier, I am going to be raiding as a holy paladin.

Oh hey. And yes, Vid rocks a Gnomeragan tabard. She is friends with gnomes. I'm working on her tabard collection, though. Achievement points are a sickness.

What precipitated this radical change? What’s the future of Manalicious?

First of all, when I moved from Pugging Pally to this new blog space I deliberately gave it an ambiguous name. Yes, it is like delicious conjured pastries and confection. But it could also apply for any class that uses mana. I knew that no matter what I might play, it would always be a mana user. So you might say I future-proofed the blog, which won’t be changing at all.

I know that many folks read here for mage content and/or have me in the mage section of their blogrolls. That’s fine, because I am still staunchly pro-mage. I never wrote that much about theorycraft here. I don’t anticipate this will have much impact on Manalicious at all.

As for why I did it, I have quite a few reasons. Our healing search was not going well. Our healing team has been extremely unstable in this expansion, experiencing nearly 100% turnover. I wanted it to be more stable. I’ve never raided primarily as a healer in progression content. I’m excited about it. I did run the majority of heroic BWD with a friend’s raid. I’m confident I can increase my skill as a healer, and work well with the other team members. I guess that’s a big part of it, too. As a DPS you may sometimes need to coordinate with the other DPS but for the most part you’re running solo. A self-sufficient spellflinger in the middle of the group, if you will. It comes with its own set of stressors. But the longer I play WoW, the more I realize that I greatly enjoy working with a team. The entire raid is a team, but the smaller microcosm of healers and tanks are also their own mini-team.

I still love being a mage. If I had to DPS, that would be my first choice. I just expect it’s going to be easier to find a great DPS than it has been to find a great healer that is also a personality fit. I’m excited about this change! The reactions I’ve gotten have ranged from dismay through to cautious enthusiasm. I wouldn’t do this if it was going to make me unhappy, truly. It’s just ironic that right after I was writing about how you should be playing your main, I realized that the fact I wasn’t playing mine might be trying to tell me something. I just wish that achievement points didn’t exist. I am going to have to try to stop caring about them, along with my pet collection. Millya’s not going away, she’s just pursuing other things for awhile. I joked that I could be happy playing any character so long as it’s a draenei. Sadly, this is probably true.

My friend Walks once remarked that druid heals are like a hug, and paladin heals are like a punch in the face. The gauntlets are on!

p.s. – We’re looking for a shadowpriest, moonkin, and we’d consider any exceptional DPS. Check us out!

How Playing My Alt Was Hurting My Raiding

I once wrote about how I think that playing alts can actually make you a better player. I still believe that to be true. If you’ve played a class, you’ll often better understand the cooldowns and abilities available. This helps with leading raids and organizing rosters. In PvP, it helps you understand how to counter another class because you know what to expect. I am a staunch advocate of alts! I love getting inside another class and seeing what makes it tick – or in the case of my paladin, making a list of spells with various iterations of Hand, Blessing, and Divine to try to keep any of them straight.

There’s just one possible pitfall, and I’m afraid it blindsided me. I think it’s a fairly common scenario. If you’re a raider, your raiding main is decked out in great gear. You take your main to raids, but other than raids, they don’t “need” anything. So… If you’re like me, you play an alt. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and of course, it all depends. There’s no right or wrong way to play a game, there’s only deciding what’s right for you. But if you are a progression raider looking to maximize your play, I’m going to suggest something radical: playing too many alts might be hurting you, as it was me.

On the surface, there wasn’t a problem. I mean, I wasn’t routinely at the bottom of the meters in raids. I think my performance was solid. I continued to enjoy raiding as a mage. I was just playing Vidyala, my paladin, constantly outside of raids. She was the one who needed Valor Points to upgrade her gear! She was the one who needed gear. I get a bit obsessed with upgrading gear, because it’s such a tangible improvement. I’ve geared alts to the teeth only to completely abandon them once they no longer “needed” anything, having hardly used the gear at all. I just like the completeness of it. It also happens that I enjoy healing, and I enjoy five-mans, and so I didn’t see any detriment to this alting – except when I started to take a hard look at my own performance. With the kind of gear I have, I felt I should be performing better. I’d grown complacent. I wasn’t pushing myself to excel and find ways to maximize my damage output, due in large part to the fact that I wasn’t playing Millya as much as I could be.

I decided that I wasn’t satisfied with the state of my DPS or my play. I wrote a whiny blog post (and deleted it, unpublished). I asked myself, “Do you want to put energy into complaining that your numbers aren’t where you’d like them to be, or do you want to put that energy into figuring out how to improve your numbers?” I checked up on mage resources to make sure that my theorycraft was current. I asked our guild’s other mage, Fsob, to look at my World of Logs. He is both my respected colleague and a wizard (har) when it comes to reading WoL. He gave me some valuable feedback that I used to plan my improvement, but the grunt work would have to come from me. I needed to play Millya as much as possible. One of my problems was not casting enough. Especially when a fight is new, it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics and movement and not nuke as often as you should. To improve this, I was going to have to really focus on it.

I resolved that when I wanted to run a pug, I’d do it as a mage (thirty minute wait be damned). When I ran a BG, I’d do it as a mage. I ran dailies constantly. Tol Barad fears my name. The Argent Tournament is tired of seeing me. I was all mage, all the time – and I got results. Really and truly. Partly through a combination of research and practice, I improved my damage on heroic Valiona and Theralion by 1000 in just one week. I nearly doubled my number of “main nuke” casts, while keeping Scorch casts at the same amount. If you’d asked me before, I would have answered that I was “always casting” on the first V&T fight I looked at. But to see such a marked improvement in such a short time the following week floored me. I hadn’t received any significant gear upgrades in that time. I was just playing better.

"Thanks for killing my worthless minions!"

What Alts Can Do For You

(Doesn’t) Stand In Bad
If your goal is to maximize your raiding performance, in some ways alts can help you with that. Some things are completely universal – situational awareness, for example. High survivability is something I’ve always prided myself on, and that tends to be true no matter what I’m playing. As a healer, I can usually dance out of something oozey and painful very quickly. As a tank, I can neatly sidestep something coming my way. I believe situational awareness is a skill that can be learned, or at least honed – and you can practice that no matter what you’re playing.

You know the big spider forest in Tol Barad, and how those spiders will spit a big puddle of green goo at you? Did you know that you can usually start to move before the goo hits the ground so that it never hurts you? Half of situational awareness is anticipation. The same thing is true of the dark oozes that play a huge part in the heroic version of Maloriak (and it used to be the case for Trial of the Crusader and countless other raids). You can see the ooze flying at you and actually move before it hits the ground. Forget about getting out of bad – how about never getting in it? Of course, this isn’t possible for everything. There are some things that will hit you no matter what you do, and you really do have to move out of them. That’s something you can practice no matter what you’re playing!

At What Level Did I Get That Ability Again?
Another thing that you can do if you love alts and don’t always want to be playing at end-game is to level an alt of the same class as your main. I know tons of people who have done this! Vosskah has something like four warriors. I have two level 85 mages, as does Fsob. I know that Kurn just finished leveling another paladin. Leveling your “own” class can give you insights into it. The game has probably changed since you leveled up for the first time. Even if you don’t level as the same spec, it can be a valuable experience (and still scratch that alt itch).

I’ve had folks laugh at me for having two mages at maximum level. It’s kind of a running gag for people who wonder why you’d ever want more than one character of the same class, but it’s actually more common than you might think. If you’re playing a class at 85, it’s probably because you enjoy it. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of the best players I know have “multiples.” They are so passionate about their class that it’s no chore to make a second one. I sometimes wish I could “unlevel” Millya just to do some quests again and revisit zones that I liked. That’s not possible, but leveling another mage alt might be the next best thing.

Playing alts (especially in pugs) definitely accustoms you to the controlled chaos of a raid. Or at least, it accustoms you to chaos!

What Alts Can’t Do For You

I’m Sure Iceblock Is Around Here Somewhere
My pugging has honed my emergency button reflexes. My instincts have me reaching for Hand of Sacrifice so quickly; it’s like lightning! Unfortunately, that doesn’t help me whatsoever when I’m in a raid, because I don’t raid as a paladin. You might have lightning reflexes that are completely useless if your muscle memory isn’t remembering the right thing. (I also happen to have a lightning-fast Iceblock reflex, but that’s neither here nor there). Experienced alters often mimic a “basic” keybind set-up between all of their characters. So if you’re playing a druid tank or a warrior tank, your taunt is the same button (no matter what it’s called). This can help ease the transition between different characters when you do play them. I think there’s no substitute for playing your own character, though.

In a raiding situation, you can’t look down at your buttons and try to remember where you keybound your emergency heal or health potion. Well, you can – but you might be dead first. The faster you can instinctively reach for your key abilities and cooldowns without even thinking about it, the better you’ll do. You also learn a rhythm for when things are available. It’s weird for me to play my second-string mage, Tazya, because she has less haste than Millya and she feels sluggish. I think the effective difference is only a fraction of a second, but it makes a big difference when I’m playing her.

Being attuned to the nuances of your own class takes time, and here’s the thing… the time we all have to spend on WoW is finite. We all have other obligations, families, lives outside of WoW (hopefully!) It can be a fun diversion to level an alt for awhile, but if you aren’t 100% satisfied with your performance and your main, that’s time that you don’t spend improving and learning it.

Practice Makes…Probably Not Perfect, But Closer

I feel that I need to add a huge, honking caveat here. I’m not saying that “You shouldn’t play alts,” or “Playing alts makes you a bad player.” No. All that I am saying, from my own, highly subjective and biased personal experience is that I wasn’t playing as well as I wanted to, and I think part of the reason was because I was playing too many alts. That’s a decision that only you can make for yourself. If I was in a guild where I could casually top the DPS meters in a raid, I’d probably never have worried about it. It’s only when I thought, “I could be doing better,” and started to seek out reasons why that I hit upon this conclusion.

I’m a big proponent of doing what makes you happy; in life, in WoW, wherever. If hitting the fifty character limit is something that’s fun for you, why not do it? Cynwise wrote a great post about making a low-level PvP character just for kicks. If you get tired of them and want to delete them, no harm, no foul! (I’ve been thinking of doing this…with a mage, naturally). For me, what’s fun is progression hardmode raiding. That is my passion, and it’s one that is shared by the people in my guild. If I’m not doing the best I can, then I’m not just hurting myself, I’m letting them down too.

So lately, if you’re looking for me, it’s a pretty sure bet I’m flinging fireballs at trolls, or freezing Horde to the ground in a BG, or running around a grim island off the coast of the Eastern Kingdoms stealing fish from villagers. I’ve been digging through WoL to figure out ways to increase my DPS, and usually when I’m in-game I’m practicing. Diversions like learning PvE Frost as my raid off-spec have kept me occupied. Far from being bored, I keep finding out things I hadn’t thought of before. Besides, playing a mage is never a chore! It’s my favourite WoW thing to do. It’s been nice to see tangible results, too. I’m sure I will always have plenty of room for improvement.

What do you think? Are you a one-character sort of person, or do you wish Blizzard would increase the ten-character per server limit? Has playing an alt helped you improve your main character’s play in an unexpected way? Zinn over at Jinxed Thoughts wrote some great tips for dedicated alters while I was still working on this draft, and the irony wasn’t lost on me! I’ll admit, I still have and love playing a bunch of different alts, I just intend to temper my playtime with equal dedication to my main!

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