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Business Time Raid Guide: Heroic Chimaeron (10)

This is the second post in a series of heroic tens encounter guides. The first one covered Heroic Halfus. It’s called a Business Time raid guide because that’s my guild. I don’t take credit for the strategy contained herein;  I have written it out and compiled it based on guild member input and our forums. In fact, entire sections here were written by guildies . The tank healing section was written by one of our resto druids, Ullariend. The tank taunting section was written by Autoriot, our rogue, and reviews and information were contributed by other healers as well. Theirs is the toughest job on this fight, so it is only natural that they had more to say!

Overview

Chimaeron is generally accepted as the “next” heroic mode to tackle following Halfus. Your mileage may vary; we actually defeated both Heroic Maloriak and Heroic Atramedes before getting a handle on Chimaeron. This fight is very similar to the normal version of the encounter and puts a lot of pressure on the healers and tanks. It is a definite gear check. If your healers do not have the mana regen and the throughput to last the fight and keep your raid and tanks alive through Feuds, you won’t succeed. If your DPS is not able to put out enough damage (especially in phase two) it will likewise be impossible.

What’s unique to this fight is that a “Break” or tertiary tank is not optional. This can be any plate-wearing DPS (DK, Warrior, Retribution Paladin) or possibly a cat druid – any class that is able to taunt. This player serves the function of taking the Break debuff so that your real tanks don’t have to, because there’s another twist. During Feud on normal mode, Chim is too busy fighting with himself to attack your tanks directly. In the heroic version, Nefarian interrupts Chim and admonishes him to get back to the business of killing your raid. This means that you’ll need a tank for each Feud that does not have the Break debuff.

The other change from normal is that past 21%, Nefarian emits a shadow aura that will damage your raid for 2K damage each second. As in normal, the raid is unhealable and so this acts as a soft enrage for the battle. If you trigger the final phase with your raid too low in health, you won’t have enough time to DPS him down before you die from unavoidable damage. The key to this encounter is managing your healer cooldowns, tank taunting, and carefully coordinating when you will push the final phase, at which point it’s all on your DPS.

Abilities/Effects

These are Chimaeron’s key abilities.

Caustic Slime – Deals 270480 Nature damage and briefly reduces chance to hit for all enemies in an area. Damage is split between all enemies within 6 yards of the impact crater.

Massacre – Inflicts maximum damage to all players.

Feud – Unable to perform melee attacks while his heads are fighting each other – until Nefarian interferes.

Break – Chimaeron attacks viciously, breaking through his target’s defenses. Increases Physical damage taken by 25% and reduces healing done by 15% for 1 min. Stacks.

Double Attack – Chimaeron will strike twice on his next attack.

Mortality – Chimaeron goes into a rage, rendering him immune to Taunt effects but increasing the damage he takes by 10%. Reduces healing effects for all enemies by 99%.

Special Notes

This fight is unique in that it requires a DPS player to act as a tank. Make sure that the person handling this task is comfortable with their taunt button and understands the mechanics of the fight so that they know when they need to taunt and why. Tank gear is not necessary and in fact will likely make it impossible for you to beat the enrage at the end. Your DPS can wear their normal gear and spec, but they may need to swap stances or forms in order to taunt. Our warrior stance dances from Defensive stance to perform his taunts. Because of their role tanking, your Break tank is likely to be one of the first to die when Chimaeron switches phases. This is actually of great benefit to you if you have a battle rez available. Once your Break tank goes down, have a (druid, preferably) battle rez him or her. They will join the action at full health, and their additional DPS will prove invaluable.

An alternate strategy is to actually have three geared and specced tanks – giving one additional target for Chimaeron to chew through in P2. This isn’t the strategy we used but could be a viable option, although it will put additional strain on your tank healer who will have to top off not two but three tanks just prior to the transition. The battle rez in this case would be saved for the first DPS to die in P2.

Raid Composition

  • Two tanks
  • One Break “Tank”
  • Three healers
  • Four DPS

Healers that have strong AoE healing are very helpful for the Feud phases, and DPS that are able to reset aggro or delay pulling help with the final phase. In our case, we have two mages that save Mirror Image, and a rogue that can evasion tank for a time after the tanks have died. Any delaying tactic could make the difference between a kill and a wipe here! Note that this does not include kiting; it’s not possible to kite Chimaeron and so you may as well stay put with him.

See below for legend.

Positioning

Everyone needs to maintain a minimum distance of 6 yards because of Caustic Slime. We position one healer in a central location (indicated by the green circle). This is where the raid will stack for Feuds, and that healer never moves. Put one of your least mobile healers here. Other healers arrange themselves nearby and the rest of the ranged DPS are arranged around the room (I always go to the far left because it’s easy for me to Blink into the group). The dot marked with a purple diamond on the left is the “Break” tank and the other tanks are in green. We only have two melee DPS at a time but if you have more you may need to adjust positioning to ensure everyone is six yards apart. His hit box is gigantic, so this shouldn’t be a big issue.

Strategy

Your Break tank should begin the fight by talking to Finkle Einhorn. Here is what the tanking should look like from that point. (You have a Break Tank, Tank A, and Tank B).

Fight starts, Break Tank (DPS)  is tanking everything but Double Attacks.
Tank A taunts to take every Double Attack (watch the timers).
Break Tank taunts back immediately following the Double Attack (it looks like a big swoosh in the air). Be careful not to taunt too soon!
Feud starts, Tank A tanks everything and uses a CD for Double Attack. Tank A does NOT collapse with the rest of the raid. All healers must keep the raid close to full as usual, plus heavily focus on this tank.
Feud ends, Break Tank is tanking once again
Tank B now takes Double Attacks.
Tank B will now tank everything in Feud, using a CD for the Double Attack and staying away from the collapse point.
Repeat, always rotating the Double Attack/Feud tank each time so that their stack of “Break” falls off.

The RNG of this fight is how often feud happens. They can happen every 2-3 massacres (not counting the one right after Feud), so if you get them back-to-back too often, you’ll run out of tank and/or healer CDs. This is what the tanks will be doing, while the healers are spot healing members with Caustic Slime and then keeping the raid alive for Feuds. This healing is very intense and all DPS raid members should consider glyphing or talenting anything that will increase their healing received or grant them a self-heal. Draenei are able to use Gift of the Naaru, and our entire raid bandaged during the Feud phases. Feuds should happen more or less often enough to allow you to bandage each time. Every little bit counts!

Once Chimaeron has approximately 25% of his health left, the timing gets tricky. Ideally, you want to push him into the next phase at the very end of a Feud so that your healers are able to top everyone up (but prior to a Massacre). If you wait too long, the raid will be too low to execute Phase 2 correctly. He transitions at 21%. We DPS right up until about 24%, wait for the next Feud, and then time it so that Phase 2 begins before he can Massacre.

At this point, all healing is useless. Your healers should go into “DPS mode.” Your tanks should try to live as long as they possibly can. Use heroism and any other DPS cooldowns, and as mentioned above, have a plan for DPS to juggle the aggro long enough to kill him. If you are a mage, you should use Mirror Images at the very beginning of the encounter and then rather than using it on CD, save it for this phase. If your DPS can BURN HIM DOWN, you’ve won!

Healing! Slime! Orange Fog! Our healers tell me this is their absolute favourite fight! Honest.

Tanks
Timing is everything for this fight, and watching your aggro. This isn’t something a tank usually has to worry about, but when it’s not your turn to be the active tank you must ensure that you do not pass the current tank’s aggro. Even if that means you have to stop white-hits, that’s what you have to do. If you accidentally pull Chim before your turn, you are likely to receive a stack of Break or a Double Attack making it impossible for you to tank when it IS your turn or killing you outright. We have someone announcing who is the current Double Attack tank at each transition so that healers always know precisely who will be taking the heavy hits.

Use a cool-down as soon as Feud begins. The healers (at least 2/3) will be moving into place and preparing to heal the raid. You will be taking heavy damage. This was one of the major blocks we had to deal with as we were learning this fight, and we would often lose tanks at this crucial phase. If you are using your CDs appropriately to help healers and coordinating with your fellow tanks, you’ve got your part of the fight squared away. If you have any cooldowns available to you at the beginning of Phase 2, use everything you have to live as long as you can (but not at the expense of skipping out on these CDs during earlier Feuds).

DPS
I’m going to be honest with you here: Prepare to be bored as your raid learns this fight. There will be many learning wipes, and it will feel out of your control – because it is. Your primary goal is to 1) live, and do everything you can to keep yourself alive and 2) do not push the transition into P2 early or late. You won’t get to practice that until your raid actually gets here, though. Once P2 begins, then it’s all up to you and you must kill him and kill him as quickly as you can. You will learn the rhythm of the fight and when to use your cooldowns so that they’re available to you in the final phase when you most need them.

As our gear has improved, we spend some time standing around at the end; the first part of the fight isn’t exactly a DPS race (although of course you want to get him down to 25% ASAP). The fewer Feuds your raid has to deal with, the better your chances. Above all, remain patient and remember that your tanks and healers are juggling some pretty crazy feats. If you are a hybrid DPS, your services may be useful in off-healing during Feuds (Healing Rain, Tranquility if you are a druid, etc.) Coordinate these with the healers.

Soon, it will be Phase 2. An incredible amount of burst DPS is needed to push Chim from 24% to 21% at the end of the last Feud. If you push him too soon, the raid might not be healed up. If you don’t push him quickly enough, a Massacre will happen and it’s game over. Once you’ve successfully transitioned, check Omen and your raid frames so you can see who is still alive, and who has threat, and whether a really big hydra is soon headed your way. Plan to use any threat reduction you have to live as long as you can.

Healers
This is a somewhat gimmicky healer fight. Some healers enjoy that (most of the healers I’ve talked to hate this fight). There’s something about seeing almost the entire raid at 1% health that gives healers the shakes. You’ll want to give specific healing assignments as well as have a plan in place for coordinating healing cooldowns on the raid during Feuds.

  1. Healer – Tank healer
  2. Healer – Raid healer/Targeting Group 1 for low health
  3. Healer – Raid Healer/Targeting Group 2 for low health

The RNG of this fight makes it impossible to determine exactly when Feuds will occur, but you can plan a sequence for when they do occur. This will vary depending on what healers you have available to you. Our raid plans for one druid to use Tranquility on the first Feud, and the second druid to use Tranquility on the second. Discipline Priests could of course use Power Word: Barrier (and Discipline priests in general could buy you some extra time in the final phase, because “reduced healing” does not apply to shields, and such a priest could shield the whole raid.) The healing for the final Feud is something that will vary depending on your group’s overall DPS. I’ve been told that when DPS is high enough, it deemphasizes the need to have the entire group at maximum health (because the burn will be completed before the soft enrage). If your group’s DPS is a bit lower, you will definitely want to make sure that healing CDs are available to top the raid off as much as possible before the second phase.

The Caustic Slime can sometimes hit two people in the same group. If you are assigned to heal Group 1 and no one in your group is affected, you should help out the other healer and try to discuss beforehand how you will do this. (i.e. make sure your raid frames show people in the same order and agree that outside of your own group you will heal the person lowest on the list, or similar. It doesn’t matter how you arrange it, just so that all of the targets are covered!) I would add that making sure your frames are set up to display relevant debuffs (Caustic Slime, < 10K health) is pretty much mandatory here. You will need to get a feel for which of your heals can bring someone above 10K without wasting too much mana, because when learning this fight mana can definitely be a concern.

Paladin Specifics
Our paladin recommends using Avenging Wrath for the first Feud, Divine Favor for the second and then continue to rotate the two when they are off CD (but it’s unlikely you’ll have a CD for each). He recommends saving Guardian of Ancient Kings for the final “top-off” Feud. Beacon should be placed on the Double Attack tank.

Paladin healers should also activate Righteous Fury for this encounter; this will generate aggro throughout the fight so that you will be the next target after the tanks die. What you’ll want to do is at the start of P2 run to a corner, when he gets aggro on you let him run towards you and BoP yourself. He will run back to the stacked group, cancel your bubble and he will run back to you. This helps buy the DPS some valuable time.

Druid Specifics
Our raid healing druid recommends Glyph of Regrowth for additional healing. As mentioned above, strong healing CDs might be needed at the last Feud, and our druid used Tree Form along with Wild Growth and Tranquility at this point. The following is also druid-specific, but focused on tank healing.

Tank healing

Your responsibility will be to keep the Break Tank above 10k, to top up the tank following Double Attacks and Massacres, and heal that tank during Feuds.

Break Tank: Chimaeron has a 5 second swing timer, so you will need to heal 10k every 5 seconds, except where the Break Tank skips a swing due to double attack. Lifebloom, so long as you don’t let it fall off will be enough to keep the break tank alive. It does cut it pretty close, but there have been two times in all of our attempts where Lifebloom hasn’t been enough. Unfortunately, I can’t give advice to other classes for the best spell to rely on for this

Tanks: The tank taking the Double Attacks must be completely topped-off after a Massacre before the next Double Attack. If the tank is missing any health, and does not avoid or block the first swing, it can take them below 10k causing the second swing to kill the tank.

During Feud that tank should be healed as quickly as possible after the Massacre and kept topped off. The tanks should be using cooldowns during this phase, but they can still take a huge amount of damage very quickly, and the closer they are to full health the more likely they are to survive.

Massacre Timer Awareness

These two jobs sound simple enough, but it can be difficult to get healing out fast enough to get the Tank topped up in time, and to have enough mana to maintain the throughput for the full duration of the fight.

The key to getting through the fight is watching the ability timers in whatever bossmod you use. You should always be aware of when the next massacre will be cast. Doing so will allow you to do two things:

1. Get a head start on topping off the Tank by pre-casting your largest heal on the Double Attack tank so that it lands immediately after the Massacre hits.

2. Save mana by knowing when you don’t need to top up the Tank. When a Double Attack will be followed by a Massacre you don’t need to top the Tank off, just get them to 10k. If there are less than 10 seconds till the next Massacre when the double attack happens you will be okay.

Druid Glyphs for Tank Healing

I strongly recommend Glyph of Healing Touch for tank healing. Since you will be using Healing Touch so much, this Glyph will reduce the CD of Nature’s Swiftness so that it is available every Feud. A +50% instant Healing Touch is very helpful for topping the tank up following the Massacre that begins the Feud.

Glyph of Regrowth is often recommended for druids, but I have found there is little benefit to it with the healing strategy I have described. You will not need to use Regrowth on the Break Tank to keep him healed above 10k, Lifebloom plus passive healing like Healing Stream Totem and Vampiric Embrace will do this on its own, so casting Regrowth on the Break Tank is wasted. The Tanks will rarely have the Regrowth HoT effect on them when they take damage as you will be relying on Healing Touch to top them off as Regrowth is too mana inefficient for that task. (Regrowth should pretty much only be used to trigger Nature’s Grace every 60 seconds)

Pro-Tip: Don’t have the “Interact with Target” function bound to the same key as your Push-to-Talk key. When you are standing within melee range and try to say something in vent, fun things happen. And by ‘fun things’ I mean everyone dies.

Conclusion

Heroic Chimaeron is a gear and coordination check for your entire raid. Most wipes will happen as your tanks grow accustomed to the taunting and timers involved, and as your healers learn to balance intense healing with mana conservation. If you can execute the first phase of the fight and learn to anticipate and manage Feuds, you’ll soon be tackling P2 which is a really easy burn comparatively. Good luck, and if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments!

Business Time Raid Guide: Heroic Halfus (10)

First, a brief preamble. It’s been brought to my attention that there aren’t many heroic tens guides out there – or many guides assume that you are a twenty-fives guild (with a twenty-fives roster to draw from) for these heroics. There are, of course, many strategies and what you choose to do will be based on the classes you have available to you. I’ve never written an actual boss-strategy guide, so bear with me here. This strategy may not be the one that your guild uses, in which case, feel free to offer your suggestions below. Keep in mind, though, that I run a troll-free operation. If you aren’t respectful and constructive in your remarks, they’ll never see the light of day.

If these prove useful to folks I might consider writing more; your feedback is welcome as to format and key information! Guides are so much more work than any other blog posts; this post alone has taken me many hours to write and research. Thanks to BT members that read and reviewed the strat for me; I wanted to make sure it contained key information for all roles.

Overview

So, your guild has cleared all of the normal mode content in this tier! Or maybe you haven’t, but you’re working on Nefarian and you’ve killed Cho’gall and you think, hey, maybe we could do some of the easier heroics. Well, Halfus has a reputation for being “the easiest,” and once you get a handle on it, it’s definitely doable by most ambitious raid groups. It is intense, and requires coordination from everyone to understand what’s going on. Heroic Halfus varies from the normal mode encounter in that you don’t have specific “active” drakes week to week. They are all able to be active. Everything does more damage (duh, I know). After six minutes, Halfus will use Berserk and the fight is effectively over, this is the enrage. This guide assumes that you are familiar with the normal mode Halfus encounter and all of the abilities.

The key to this encounter is the debuff Dragon’s Vengeance. After you kill one of the dragons, Halfus will take 100% more damage. This ability stacks up to five times. The fight will start out incredibly hectic and become much more manageable as each dragon dies. Less damage will be going out, and Halfus himself will take more. At the end, when Halfus has a full stack of this debuff it is generally easy to bring him down.

Abilities/Effects

These are Halfus’ key abilities. Where applicable, variations applied by releasing a drake are noted in blue.

Frenzied Assault – Increases the caster’s attack speed by 120%. Nether Scion: Nether fog blinds Halfus, reducing his chance to hit, attack speed, and damage done by 25%.

Malevolent Strikes – Halfus’ attacks wound the target, reducing the effectiveness of any healing on it by 8%. Stacks up to 12 times for a max reduction of 96% to healing. Slate Dragon: Once every 35 seconds or so, Halfus will occasionally become stunned for 12 sec.

Shadow Nova – [0.25sec Cast] Dark magic is unleashed, causing 47500 to 52500 Shadow damage and knocking back all enemies within 50000 yds. Storm Rider: Slows the cast speed of Shadow Nova by 500% (to 1.50 seconds) and makes it possible to interrupt.

When his health is below 50%, Halfus will be able to cast Furious Roar – [1.50sec Cast] Halfus roars periodically, inflicting 19000 to 21000 physical damage and knocking his enemies to the ground.

Activating the Time Warden allows the raid to dodge fireballs, and activating the whelps decreases the amount of damage done by the fireballs.

Special Notes

You’ll want someone in the raid providing Shadow and Fire resistance. Sub-50%, someone has to be able to break out of a stun in order to interrupt a Shadow Nova, as Halfus will cast Furious Roar. He roars one, two, three times and then immediately begins to cast Shadow Nova. A mage can do this if positioned far enough away from Halfus that a Blink will land you facing him. (You can practice this on normal, too). I count his roars aloud, and on the third roar (immediately after I’ve been stunned) blink and then counterspell. Our raid has two mages doing this so we’re double protected. A human can also do it using Every Man For Himself, but regardless of how your raid handles it, someone has to or you’ll be eating Novas in that phase.

Raid Composition

Two tanks (three tanks)
Three healers (four healers)
Five DPS

It is worth noting that our initial H Halfus kills were accomplished with a slightly different layout than this; we used one Atonement/smite specced priest in place of a DPS, bringing the number of healers to an effective 3.5 or so. This additional healing allowed us to survive longer and we were still within the enrage timer, but better gear has allowed us to do it with only three healers. Another factor to consider is what type of tanks you have. A paladin is able to cleanse stacks of Malevolent Strikes off him/herself. Our paladin healer can do the same for our warrior tank, but not for both a warrior and a bear. This ability is huge in this situation. I’m sure it’s possible to use another composition (I’ve heard of both three tanks and four healer compositions, although naturally you can’t have both three tanks and four healers). This is the strategy that worked for us, it is by no means the only option.

See below for legend.

Positioning

Your tanks should be close together to facilitate AoE damage to drakes and whelps and for ease of taunting. The rest of the raid should be loosely spread out on the right side of the room. Not so far as to be out of range of healers, but for much of the fight you can’t dodge fireballs and so should arrange yourselves accordingly. If you stand on a buddy, you will get fire dropped on his head.

I made the diagram above to illustrate this. Here’s the legend:

Skull: Storm Rider

Cross: Nether Scion

Star: Whelps

Square: Time Warden

Orange Circle: Halfus

The DPS on the far right is someone releasing Nether Scion and then joining the group. The melee DPS by star is someone releasing the whelps; he/she will then move in to begin DPSing skull.

Strategy

Your goal here is to kill one of these dragons so fast they don’t even know what happened to them. Ideally, you want to kill the second two in rapid succession/simultaneously. The longer the drakes are active, the greater the chance that something will go wrong with the tank swaps and your raid will be taking heavy AoE damage as well so you need to burn them down. We use the following drake order:

1. Storm Rider – the off-tank releases Storm Rider at the beginning of the fight, and it is the priority kill target. All DPS focuses on him.

2. Nether Scion – Someone has to release Nether Scion at the same time; I usually do this and then blink towards the group (but not INTO it). Our hunter misdirects to the OT; but in the absence of a hunter we have also used healer aggro to draw the dragon across the room and have the OT quickly taunt it.

3. Whelps – Released simultaneously with Storm Rider and Nether Scion. A special note about whelps; their ability isn’t particularly noteworthy however it is worth your time to kill them, and many classes are capable of doing so while simultaneously killing their primary target. Hunters and rogues have excellent AoE for this purpose, and fire mages are absolutely ridiculous. If you can get a good Combustion rolling on Storm Rider and then use Impact to spread it to the whelps, you will be laughing. Heavy AoE can bring the whelps down almost exactly when Storm Rider goes down, and so you already have two stacks of the debuff on Halfus!

4. Time Warden – Released only after two drakes are down.

5. Slate DragonIgnore, do not release, although on our very first kill of this our OT ran over and released him and the subsequent stun on Halfus allowed us to get the kill. Use at your own risk, but 5 stacks of the debuffs are not necessary to complete this encounter.

I’ll get into specifics for each role after this, but basically the fight goes like this: Chosen drakes/whelps are released. The tanks will do some swapping. Storm Rider dies. Nether Scion and the Whelps die (likely together). After two drakes are down, Time Warden can be released. Once Time Warden is down, DPS Halfus. Below 50%, he begins to roar – but so long as you make sure to interrupt his shadow novas (and even if you miss one, perhaps) you win!

This is what "winning" looks like. I PROMISE.

Tanks
One tank will be tanking lots of things (many whelps, handle it). This tank handles Storm Rider, Nether Scion, and the whelps at the same time to start the fight. The challenge here is maintaining aggro on all of the targets and using your CDs simultaneously so that you don’t keel over. Any debuff you can put on the whelps and dragons to reduce their damage done will also be a boon (Demoralizing Shout, Thunderclap, etc.) All of the adds and Halfus should be tanked in the same area to allow for easy taunting.

The other tank initially handles Halfus. Note if you are a warrior tank (and usually charge to begin the fight) do not charge towards Halfus. Pull him and make him come to you at first. The reason for this is because the Halfus tank will be gaining stacks of Malevolent Strikes quickly. If you acquire these before Halfus receives the debuffs from the released drakes/whelps, a dead tank could result! With MS stacking, this tank can’t take Halfus for too long before becoming unhealable. If your main tank is a paladin, then they can let their MS strikes accumulate to ten and then cleanse them by quickly using bubble and then canceling it. Here’s a macro to help you handle that, straight from Rhidach. You have to hit it twice.

/cancelaura Divine Shield
/cast Divine Shield

The tank will begin to gain fresh stacks of MS. At five stacks, the OT will taunt Halfus off of the main-tank and the MT will taunt the two dragon targets (It can be too messy to pick up whelps, but for a short time the OT can handle Halfus and the whelps).

At this point, another exchange is performed when the MT’s five stack drops off naturally (after thirty seconds). If you have access to any other spec of paladin, they can use Blessing of Protection (quickly followed by Blessing of Freedom) to ‘cleanse’ a stack of debuffs from a non-paladin tank, thereby easing the difficulty of one of these exchanges. The “quickly” part here is important; every paladin healer knows what happens when you just BoP the tank!  Learning how to handle the tank swapping is a major obstacle in the fight.

The other factor here is Shadow Nova. Our raid is geared enough now that we can afford to leave one melee DPS on Halfus throughout the entire fight (and this is what we do). Their sole responsibility (in addition to damaging Halfus) is to interrupt Shadow Novas. In the absence of the raid DPS necessary to accomplish this, tanks can now more easily interrupt Shadow Nova, but beware of Shadow Novas going off during a tank swap. It’s extremely helpful if ranged DPS in particular focus Halfus and be prepared to back-up Shadow Nova interrupts during the first few minutes of the fight. The damage from these is punishing, and can wipe your raid if even one goes off (considering the other AoE and heavy tank damage going out).

DPS
Your task in this encounter is actually fairly straightforward: kill the first and second dragons and whelps before they can kill your tank. Initial aggro here is going to be shaky – we’ve had some clumsy wipes from pulling aggro on Halfus himself before we really figured out the encounter. DPS on Halfus hardly matters, especially initially. Don’t even attack Halfus right away. Give your tanks time to position all of the drakes. Your first target is going to be Stormrider. Depending on your class, you may also be responsible for releasing one of the drakes (I always release Nether Scion and blink, as noted. Our rogue usually releases the whelps and then uses Tricks to direct them towards the OT). If you’re a hunter, misdirecting Nether Scion to the OT is incredibly helpful. Once the tank has aggro on Storm Rider, we use Heroism/Bloodlust.

Classes with the ability to do incidental (cleave, DoT) AoE damage to whelps and other drakes are invaluable here. As a fire mage, it is no DPS loss to use Impact to spread your DoTs to the whelps – in fact, it will help you to do ridiculous DPS (upwards of 50K). The reason for this is also because of the way the damage debuff stacks on Halfus, you can attack Halfus and chain your DoTs to other dragons to do 100 (200, 300%) more damage as the fight goes on. I’m not going to speak to every class’s abilities, here – I know our rogue does very high AoE in this encounter, as does our hunter. One thing to note though is if you are using a method that allows for direct damage on Halfus and splash damage on the dragons, be careful. His health drops very quickly; and if you mistakenly push him below 50% while your group is still handling drakes and whelps, you will very likely wipe. I usually swap around targets after the first drake is down to make sure to not push Halfus too far while still gaining some benefit from his debuff.

Other than that, be aware of the kill order, watch your aggro and be prepared to use any threat drops you have available to you. Help with Shadow Nova interrupts if at all possible; I use the following macro:

/cast [modifier:Alt, target=focus, exists, nodead] [] Counterspell

This will interrupt your Focus target if you hold down Alt as you press whatever key it’s bound to. Replace “Counterspell” with your interrupt of choice.

Healers
This is not a kind fight to healers, especially initially. Everything is happening simultaneously here. You have two tanks, both taking heavy damage. They are also trading a debuff that makes them unhealable. On top of that, you have an incredible amount of raid damage happening in the form of fireballs hitting the raid. They can’t be dodged until Time Warden is released. Make sure healers are assigned to specific roles, and plan to use any cooldowns you have to keep the tanks and raid alive in this crucial first phase. You’ll want:

  1. Healer – Halfus Tank
  2. Healer – Drake Tank
  3. Healer – Raid Healer
  4. Optional: Fourth

Another option is to just assign one healer to a specific tank. I conferred with one of our guild healers for this section of the guide, and he wanted me to mention that a four-healer strategy is highly recommended and will help with the significant raid damage going out until Time Warden is released. You will, of course, need to have the DPS to compensate for the loss of one healer, and if you have the option of something like an Atonement priest, by all means use it. They do DPS and healing. Also, as a healer, use any mana regen abilities early on. You will get a brief reprieve (before Halfus hits 50%, and after drakes have been dying) and you won’t need much mana until phase two at that point. Paladin healers should save their personal bubble for phase 2; much like a mage’s Blink it can be used to escape Furious Roar and begin healing immediately.

Our paladin, Sinpree, describes H Halfus as a pretty basic fight from a healing perspective. The biggest thing is maximizing mana regen at the beginning and making sure you put out the HPS to keep everyone alive, and then leaving yourself enough mana to finish the fight.

Conclusion

Heroic Halfus can seem like a very complicated fight with so many things happening. You will probably wipe most while your tanks and healers sort out the initial damage and taunting mechanics. Above everything, keep your cool and remember that if you can survive the first portion you are well on your way to defeating the fight. Apart from interrupting Shadow Nova in P2, it’s all downhill after the first few drakes have died! Good luck, and if you have any questions feel free to ask them in comments. Here’s to more dead internet dragons!

Cataclysm Recruitment

I’ve been the ‘recruitment officer’ in some capacity for my guild for almost as long as I’ve been in the guild. To be fair, this means something different in a ten-man group than it does for a big twenty-fives guild. We don’t need to recruit constantly or usually more than one person at a time. Because of our niche, recruitment has always been interesting. In some ways, it was harder because the vast majority of folks were looking for a “real” raiding guild (i.e. not tens). In other ways it was easier because there were very few tens-only guilds to serve the needs of those who were seeking them specifically.

More often than not a year ago I would have to approach people who hadn’t indicated a preference for twenty-fives, on the off chance that they were open to either raid size. Sometimes this worked and we gained an excellent guild-member because of it. Other times the person would scramble to specify, “I meant twenty-fives!”

The balance of power has shifted in the recruitment forums. An explosion of ten-man guilds scramble alongside twenty-fives to try and fill their rosters at all levels of progression. The way that guilds snap at the heels of any prospective applicant is a pretty strong indicator that it’s a buyer’s market out there. Happily, the number of people looking for a tens guild is about evenly matched with those seeking a twenty-fives guild. This is good for us. Unhappily, hardly anyone is viewing my ads.

Forum Organization

Since Battle.net was integrated with the official Warcraft site, the forums have also changed. A change I’m really not happy about is the way that the guild recruitment forum was rolled into one biiiiig forum. It used to be that there was some division between Horde and Alliance forum. I can see why they did away with this – after all, since faction transfers exist there are many people willing to switch sides for their guild of choice. It’s okay to me that Alliance and Horde posts are mixed together, but I still think this forum needs vast improvement.

Despite there being many other sites that have tried to fill the recruitment niche, none of them have ever really been as useful as the official forums. It’s a simple numbers game – if 80% of the population doesn’t know about or use your tool, then it’s not even worth the time it takes to register on the site. People ARE using the recruitment forums, but they’re a big mess.

I propose that the forums ought to be divided into at least two sections – one for people seeking a guild, and one for guilds seeking people. I wonder if they haven’t done this because it would reduce visibility for guilds advertising? I’d accept that sacrifice in exchange for an easy way to browse through the ads of individuals rather than the hundreds of other guilds I don’t care about. There are external sites that work to alleviate this problem, which is kind of telling. If you need another website to navigate your forums, it’s possible your forums could use some tweaking. They could even sub-divide the forums: one subforum for 25s raiding and one for 10s, and maybe one for PvP/Other (although I’m pretty sure most RP folks aren’t using the official forums for the majority of their recruitment. An RP guild would have better luck on the ‘realm’ forums).

The Many and The Few

The other obstacle facing recruiting guilds right now is a simple matter of supply and demand. So many new guilds sprang up for Cataclysm that competition for available players is fierce. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been browsing the recruitment forums for over a year and I’ve never seen it quite like this. If you aren’t one of the first people to reply to someone’s ad, chances are that your interest will simply get buried in the deluge of ad spam that follows.

It’s great for the people looking for a guild! There’s never been a better time to locate a guild that matches every criteria you have – server type, raid type, size and attitude. The flip-side of that is that it’s a difficult time to be a guild seeking personnel. As a guild leader or recruitment officer, you need to think about what makes your guild so different than the others also trying to attract a person’s attention. Are you more progressed, do you have better times for them? You know your guild is awesome, but you have to convince this person of that enough that they will apply. This also brings up the issue of quality. I’ve seen applicants advertising themselves that have, let’s say, 9/12 experience (with normal mode encounters). Which is fine! I’m not judging. But this same applicant will advertise that their guild of choice must have “at least” 6/13 hard-modes down. I can understand wanting to find a guild a bit more progressed than you are, especially if you are at a progression block in your current guild. You want to know that the guild you’re joining is pushing the content you want. But I can tell you now, if you personally have only done 9/12, there’s no way you are geared enough for doing the later hard-modes, at least in a ten-man guild. You would be a liability to that team until they were able to gear you further, and also until you actually learned the encounters. But these people will inevitably find a guild with that kind of progression, because that’s the way recruitment is right now. This is still a bit of a red flag for me, though – I wouldn’t want someone making those kinds of demands to join my guild. I’m pretty sure our attitudes towards perseverance and progression wouldn’t match up. It’s not that I wouldn’t recruit someone who hasn’t done any hard-modes, I might consider it if the personality and attitude were a match. Encounters can be learned. But in that case you are the one that has to impress me, not the other way around!

Something Wicked This Way

I can’t write a post about recruitment without mentioning another trend that’s really been disturbing me. It seems to be completely acceptable now as someone seeking a guild to post your Real ID e-mail address in your recruitment ad. I’ve seen folks casually say more often than not, “Here’s my Real ID contact information, so message me this way.”

First of all, are these people crazy? Posting up your Real ID in a public forum is just begging to be hacked. Hackers know it’s the same e-mail address you use to login to Battle.net in the first place, and you’ve just given them a key piece of information. So there’s the fact that it’s a security risk. Secondly, Real ID is intended to be a method of contact between real-life friends. It uses your actual name, unless you used a pseudonym when you first registered for Battle.net (You can’t change your name in the system without phoning a customer service rep, I looked into it). So you’re giving complete strangers access to your account e-mail and your real name without a second thought.

I’ve seen recruiters that also include their Real ID information along with, “Here’s how you can get in touch with me.” Well, this is a fine pickle. I’ve actually been frustrated to see that potential applicants are having conversations via Real ID before anyone has even posted a “reply” to their ad. The advent of Real ID being used this way might mean that I miss out on potential applicants to my guild – and so be it, because I am not going to be giving out my first and last name to a complete stranger just so that I can ask them some questions about their tanking spec.

In-Game Guild Finder

This is the newest development in the guild-seeking and finding scene: the in-game guild finder! Scott Andrews over at WoW Insider wrote an article for GLs about how to set your guild up to find applicants this way. This is what the interface looks like:

The description section has a harsh character limit. Hence, I could not put a period at the end of that last sentence, or use the entire word "apply."

That’s what ours looks like. Any requests your guild receives show up in the “Requests” tab where an applicant is also given space to send a message (although you can send a request without any message at all). So what do I think of the new tool? Well, any tool designed to bring a guild to the attention of prospective applicants is a good one. We’ve had a number of “requests” this way, but none of those people have actually joined the guild. There’s actually an “invite” button on the tab, and maybe some guilds would be happy to invite a member just on the basis of three sentences, but we’re not going to be changing our outlook on that anytime soon. People still have to go to our website to fill out a “real” application, and so this tool is an intermediary at best. Still, it increases visibility and might sometime gain us the right applicant so I don’t mind it. I hope they refine some things such as the “availability” section. Plenty of people are available on “weekdays,” but are those weekdays the days my guild is actually raiding?

Hanging In There

Having said all of the above, though, all of our recent recruitment has been quite successful. When we needed a new tank we had to look at an unprecedented five(!) quality applications, and it wasn’t an easy decision. We found our holy paladin healer back in February reasonably easily (and I don’t think it was my clever ad that attracted him either, more’s the pity). Recently we had our fury warrior swap to healing and subsequently recruited a friend of an existing guild member to fill the slot. This is naturally the ideal – never having to resort to “cold” methods of recruitment at all. If you can find quality people via word of mouth or existing contacts you are reasonably assured that the applicant will be a good fit for your guild at least in personality, and you also have someone to vouch ahead of time for their quality of play.

As it happens, BT is still recruiting for two members at the moment. We’re looking for ideally a moonkin and an excellent healer; either paladin, priest, or restoration shaman. If you want to read more about the specifics you can do so on our recruitment ad or our website. I’m also happy to answer any questions here. (Hey, it’s my blog, a little advertising never hurt anyone!)

The Tortoise and the Hare: It’s Okay If You Aren’t Raiding Yet

The other day I read this post by Oestrus over at World of Matticus called Keeping Up With The Paragons. It touched on something that I’ve been thinking about pretty much since launch. It’s easy at this point in the expansion’s life to feel as if you are getting left behind, will never accomplish what you want to accomplish – or if you do, it’ll be so long after the fact that it’s irrelevant. It’s not true. The expansion just came out – approximately yesterday! Really. You have to dive in at your own pace, not the pace of everyone around you. Not everyone is going to have server firsts, or world firsts – in fact, I think the majority of us are comfortably someplace in the middle. The guilds that are blowing through content like tissue paper are impressive, but they make sacrifices and commitments to be there. That’s not a criticism, it’s a fact. Finally, the content isn’t going to go anywhere. You still have time.

It’s okay if you aren’t raiding yet, honest.

Time Well Spent: Always Includes Cookies

The expansion has been out for twenty-eight days, or exactly four weeks. Of those days, depending on your beliefs – at least three were likely holidays. (The twenty-fourth, fifth, and first of January, for anyone keeping track). That leaves you with exactly twenty-five days that you could have been playing WoW, but I’m probably being generous there. In my case, my brother was here from out of town for Christmas. I don’t see him more than once a year – and the once is if I’m lucky – so I sure wasn’t going to be playing WoW in the evenings when he was here. Several of our guild members had other obligations; travel, family, holiday. One of them moved across the country in the middle of December, a few more went home to another state to celebrate the holidays with their families.

I’m not here making excuses. (“Oh, we absolutely would have been server-first at xyx if only we’d had the time!“) But the fact is, the expansion is still quite young. Presumably most folks had to attend to that pesky work-thing for a good chunk of December. I know that being behind the leveling curve can be frustrating. I started playing WoW pretty late in Burning Crusade, and it felt like an eternity before I could catch up to play with the “big people.” When Wrath came out, I was bound and determined not to be left behind, and I wasn’t. This time around I’ve been much more relaxed. I leveled at what I consider a reasonable pace, and my reasonable pace is probably different from yours. At least two guildies were 85 quite literally overnight. I wasn’t among them, but that’s okay. We’re all going to be raiding at the same time.

In my world, Gingerbread Draenei Cookies > Blackwing Descent, if only for the month of December.

Expectations and Priorities: We can’t all be first.

Only you can know when you’re ready to raid. You should raid when you’re ready, and not a moment before. If you aren’t raiding right now, it doesn’t mean you’re lazy, or bad, or slow. It means that you made different choices. You chose (or had no choice) but to use your time in a different way. Now you’re hearing reports of all these first-kills rolling in via Twitter, or other blogs, or whispers from friends, and you start to feel panicky. “Why isn’t that me? Did I wait too long?”

Not everyone is going to be first, even though the competitive WoW culture is a bit obsessed with it. It can be nice to compare yourself to other folks to see how you measure up, and can serve as a form of recognition for the effort you’ve put into your character and the game. But it’s important to recognize that those kinds of achievements require a sacrifice. To use myself as an example, we could have pushed the guild harder to be ready on time. I could have made sure to run more heroics over the holidays instead of going out for supper (and sushi lunch!) with my brother and my family. I could have done that, but I didn’t want to. I’m not passing judgment on people who would have made a different choice – I’m not in their shoes! Maybe they don’t celebrate the holidays, or their family was out of town. I can’t possibly know that. I do know that I’ve chosen to be in a guild of people who are adults. They have children, jobs, and other obligations. We’re also a small guild (by choice) and so we have to wait for our full roster to be ready before we can dive into ten mans. I know some twenty five-sized guilds have been able to work on tens. They have a “head start” on us, and that’s fine too.

We expected to start raiding in early January, and that’s what we’re doing – right on schedule! I know a few of our members would’ve preferred for us to start sooner, but the sacrifice didn’t seem worth it. We have a great group of excellent raiders with real-life obligations that prevented us from raiding sooner, but we know that when we do raid we’ll be ready. One ill-fated Blackwing Descent evening back in mid-December proved that. Gearing, gemming, and enchanting don’t happen overnight. The only possible problem is when your expectations and those of your guild don’t match up. In most cases, I think that if you wait a month you won’t be disappointed. Everything feels very urgent right now, but raid progression will settle as we all get a chance to get to it.

Inevitable End: This, too, shall be patched.

As Wrath proved, Blizzard is firmly committed to making sure that everyone who wants to see end-game content will be able to do so. Whether your guild raids once a week for kicks, or five nights a week, you’ll get there. Even the heroics that folks have alternately lauded and complained about will become easier as people acquire raid gear and are more willing to pug. There’s no knowing when the next content patch will be. Clearing what’s available at a reasonable pace is something everyone has to decide for themselves, much like leveling. You can have raid goals even if you haven’t started raiding yet. You can meet those goals. I’m confident in our particular group’s ability to learn quickly, and I think the time spent gearing while people rested and went on vacation is better spent than if we’d tried to rush into raiding too soon. The frustration would have outweighed any imaginary benefit to be achieved from “doing things first.”

Regardless of when you start, if you have the will and the people to make it happen, your raiding will be successful. What successful means is something only you can decide for yourself, and don’t let the accomplishments of others cast a shadow on your own. Congratulate your further progressed friends (sincerely!) and rest assured that your time is coming. That tortoise knew what he was talking about.

Hey, never understimate the benefits of fishing for your guild and raiding! That's something that has to be done slowly.

Pre-Raid Mage Gear List

A few weeks back (because he’s on top of things like that), a guildie of mine compiled a list of mage gear, following in the footsteps of other folks on the Mana Obscura mage forums who were getting ready for Cataclysm. I read it, said “Hey, that’s great!” and filed it away for future reference. I didn’t think I’d be needing it immediately. I was wrong.

I’ve found myself referring to his list often over the past few days, but I’ve also started squirreling away information of my own, and so this edited list was born. My favourite style of pre-raid gear list was defined by the excellent Gearing Your Feral Druid at 80 guides by Allison Robert. I am following in her footsteps by categorizing the drops because sometimes you can’t depend on drops, and it’s nice to see at a glance what you can use in a pinch. I’m not really doing the level of analysis that Allison did with those guides, though, because what’s BiS for one spec may not be quite so for another. Naturally, you’re going to want to prioritize hit until you’re capped or near it, and then chase specific stats as your spec and playstyle demand.

A huge thanks to Fsob for his original work and permission to use his list as a starting point. If you just want to know about all the very best gear, here’s where you can find that list.

Please note that this list covers Reputation items, BoE profession items, items that can be bought with Justice Points, and 5 man heroic drops. It does not cover BoE raid drops, PvP items of any kind, holiday items, items bought with Valor Points, Archaeology items, or profession specific items, enchants, or gems.

All Reputation items are from Alliance reputations. Horde have the exact same items, just with different names/reps.

I changed the formatting a little; assume that all instances refer to heroic drops UNLESS otherwise noted. For all of the items, you can assume that the normal drop of the same item is a solid choice while leveling, or will at least stand you in good stead until you can replace it.

Do you have your head in the sand about your gear? Refuse to admit it's time for a wardrobe update? We can help!

I intend to use this list to focus my efforts and identify weak spots in my gear that can be improved. I’ve tried to make it as relevant and thorough as possible, adding parts in where I thought they were missing, but I make no claim of 100% accuracy. Feel free to mention any additions you feel I’ve overlooked, I don’t want to have misinformation! Each slot is divided into four categories: Purchased/crafted items (including Justice Points), drops, quests, and faction rewards. What is best for you will depend on your spec.

Please note that all instances referenced below refer to heroic versions.

Head

Purchased/Crafted
Cowl of Pleasant Gloom – 2,200 Justice Points

Drop
Crown of Enfeebled Bodies – Grim Batol (Erudax)
Blinders of the Follower – Shadowfang Keep (Lord Walden)
Helm of the Typhonic Beast – Halls of Origination (Setesh)

Quest
Kata-Mary Crown is a decent option as a quest reward from the quest Gnomebliteration in Uldum. Plus, you can hum the Katamari song when you wear it…

Faction
This helm is available at Honored with the Earthen Ring. Save yourself some justice points and pick up Helm of Temperance as a good starter helm. It’s almost identical to the normal version of Crown of Enfeebled Bodies, and it has a meta and one socket as well.

Enchant with Arcanum of Hyjal (Guardians of Hyjal, Revered).

Neck

Purchased/Crafted
Eye of Many Deaths – BoE, crafted by Jewelcrafters with a skill of 525
String of Beaded Bubbles – 1,250 Justice Points
Charm of the Muse – BoE zone drop in Heroic Halls of Origination

Drop
Pendant of the Keep – Shadowfang Keep (Baron Silverlaine)
Pipefish Cord – Throne of the Tides (Neptulon’s Cache)
Tauntka’s Necklace – Lost City of the Tol’vir (High Prophet Barim)

Quest
Eye of Despair – Reward from the quest Eye Spy in Twilight Highlands

Faction
Lightning Flash Pendant – Requires Wildhammer Clan – Exalted

Shoulder

Meadow Mantle – 1,650 Justice Points

Drop
Mantle of Master Cho – Lost City of Tol’vir (Siamat)
Mantle of the Eastern Lords – Shadowfang Keep (Lord Godfrey)

Quest
Clan Heart Shoulders
- Reward from quest The Loyalty of Clan Mullan in Twilight Highlands.
Blight-Lifter’s Mantle
– Reward from The Source of Their Power (dungeon quest) in Lost City of Tol’Vir (normal).

Faction
There is no good reputation option, unfortunately.

Enchant with Greater Inscription of Charged Lodestone. (Therazane, Exalted).

Back

Purchased/Crafted
There are not any viable options that don’t require Valor Points.

Drop
Periwinkle Cloak –  Throne of the Tides (Lady Naz’jar)
Shadow of Perfect Bliss – The Vortex Pinnacle (Asaad)

Quest
Stone-Binder’s Cloak – quest reward from The World Pillar Fragment in Deepholm.

Faction
Cloak of Ancient Wisdom – Requires The Earthen Ring, Revered
Cloak of the Dryads – You can also pick up this cloak from the Guardians of Hyjal at Honored. It’s not the greatest (spirit, ick) but you can reforge a bit of that until you’re able to replace it with something better.

Enchant with Greater Critical Strike or Greater Intellect.

Chest

Purchased/Crafted
Robes of Embalmed Darkness – 2,200 Justice Points

Drop
Corsair’s Overshirt – The Deadmines (“Captain” Cookie)
Inquisition Robes – Blackrock Caverns (Rom’ogg Bonecrusher)
Robes of Arugal – Shadowfang Keep (Baron Ashbury)
Robes of Rampant Growth – Halls of Origination (Ammunae)

Quest
Overly Intelligent Robes – Reward from the quest Skullcrusher the Mountain in Twilight Highlands.

Faction
Robes of Orsis – Requires Ramkahen – Revered

Enchant with Peerless Stats.

Wrist

Purchased/Crafted
There seems to always be a dearth of available bracers. If you can’t snag any of the other options, these two tailored resilience pieces are almost identical except for one stat: Emberfire Bracers has haste while Fireweave Bracers have mastery.

Drop
Armbands of Exiled Architects – The Deadmines (Vanessa VanCleef)
Sand Silk Wristband – Lost City of the Tol’vir (Augh)

Quest
True Archaeologist’s Bracers – Reward from quest Doing It The Hard Way (dungeon quest), Halls of Origination

Faction
No options.

Enchant with Precision, Greater Critical Strike, or Greater Speed.

Hands

Purchased/Crafted
Gloves of the Painless Midnight – 1,650 Justice Points

Drop
Mnemiopsis Gloves – Throne of the Tides (Neptulon’s Cache)

Quest
Corruption Resistant Gloves – Reward from quest Magmalord Falthazar, Twilight Highlands.

Faction
Flamebloom Gloves – Requires The Earthen Ring, Exalted
Gloves of Atherial Rumours – Wildhammer Clan, Honored

Enchant with Haste or Greater Mastery.

Waist

Purchased/Crafted
Dreamless Belt – BoE Crafted by Tailors with a skill of 525 (but these are going to be pretty dear until enough time has passed for people to level tailoring and acquire cloth).
Incense Infused Cumberbund – 1,650 Justice Points
Triple-Loop Belt – BoE zone drop, Halls of Origination

Drop
Beauty’s Silken Ribbon – Blackrock Caverns (Beauty)
Stratosphere Belt – The Vortex Pinnacle (Grand Vizier Ertan)
Girdle of Nobility – BoE zone drop in Dead Mines (Heroic)

Quest
Pillarbind Waistguard from quest in Deepholm The Middle Fragment.

Faction
Cord of Raven Queen – Again, another spirit option that isn’t ideal but if you happen to have a ton of Guardians of Hyjal rep, it’s better than nothing (Exalted, Guardians of Hyjal).

Add an extra socket with an Ebonsteel Belt Buckle.

Legs

Purchased/Crafted
Breeches of Mended Nightmares – BoE Crafted by Tailors with a skill of 525
Flame-Ascended Pantaloons – BoE Crafted by Tailors with a skill of 525
Pensive Legwraps – 2,200 Justice Points.

Drop
Legwraps of Astral Rain – Isiset in Heroic Halls of Origination.

Quest
Narkall’s Leggings from quest reward Narkall, The Drake-Tamer in Twilight Highlands

Faction
No viable option unfortunately.

Enchant with Powerful Enchanted Spellthread or Enchanted Spellthread.

Feet

Purchased/Crafted
The crafted options here are not as good as quested, and the BoE drops will be very rare initially.

Drop
Slippers of the Twilight Prophet – The Stonecore (High Priestess Azil)
Corpse Rompers – BoE zone drop in The Deadmines (heroic)

Quest
Magma-Proof Sandals – quest reward from A Fiery Reunion, Twilight Highlands

Faction
Desert Walker Sandals – Requires Ramkahen – Exalted

Enchant with Lavawalker, Mastery, Haste, or Precision.

Fingers

Purchased/Crafted
Abandoned Dark Iron Ring – BoE zone drop from Grim Batol
Ring of Warring Elements – BoE crafted by Jewelcrafters with a skill of 525.

Drop
Anthia’s Ring – Throne of the Tides (Mindbender Ghur’sha)
Band of Rays – Halls of Origination (Rajh)
Lavishly Jeweled Ring – The Deadmines (Admiral Ripsnarl)
Rose Quartz Band – The Stonecore (Slabhide)
Spirit Creeper Ring – Lost City of Tol’vir (General Husam)

Quest
Red Dragonheart Ring – Quest reward from Battle of Life and Death, Twilight Highlands

Faction
Band of Singing Grass – Requires Wildhammer Clan – Revered
Diamant’s Ring of Temperance – Requires Therazane – Revered

Trinkets

I was fortunate enough to have a jewelcrafting trinket for this slot. Trinkets are notoriously difficult to obtain but look to the quested options if you are unlucky with drops. The three listed here are all fairly decent.

Purchased/Crafted
Darkmoon Card: Volcano – BoE, obtained by turning in a Volcanic Deck or by purchasing from someone else who did.

Drop
Anhuur’s Hymnal – Halls of Origination (Temple Guardian Anhuur)
Gale of Shadows – Grim Batol (Erudax)
Sorrowsong – Lost City of Tol’vir (Siamat)
Tendrils of Burrowing Dark – The Stonecore (Ozruk)
Witching Hourglass – Blackrock Caverns (Ascendant Lord Obsidius)

Quest
World-Queller Focus – Quest reward from Once More Into The Fire, Twilight Highlands
Talisman of Sinister Order – Quest reward from Firing Squad, Uldum
Stonemother’s Kiss – Quest reward from Audience with the Stonemother, Deepholm

Faction
Stump of Time – Requires Baradin’s Wardens – Exalted

Wand

Purchased/Crafted
Wand of Dark Worship – BoE zone drop from The Stonecore
Cyu’s Ornate Wand – BoE world drop

Drop
Cookie’s Stirring Rod – The Deadmines (“Captain” Cookie)
Corla’s Baton – Blackrock Caverns (Corla, Herald of Twilight)

Quest
Beach-Sweeper Wand from quest Landgrab in Twilight Highlands

Faction
Nothing. Squat (diddly).

Two-Hand Weapon

Purchased/Crafted
Staff of Solemn Secrecy – BoE world drop

Drop
Cerith Spire Staff – Throne of the Tides (Commander Ulthok)
Emberstone Staff –  The Deadmines (Foe Reaper 5000)
Staff of Siphoned Essences – Grim Batol (Erudax)

Quest
Very Manly Staff - Quest reward from the Crucible of Carnage quest chains, Twilight Highlands

Faction
Insidious Staff – Requires Baradin’s Wardens – Revered

Enchant with Power Torrent or Hurricane.

One-Hand Weapon

Purchased/Crafted
Beak of Julak-Doom – BoE drop from a world boss Julak-Doom
Elementium Spellblade – BoE crafted by Blacksmiths with a skill of 520
Fire-Etched Dagger – the lesser BoE crafted option from Blacksmiths with a skill of 425

Drop
Biting Wind – The Vortex Pinnacle (Grand Vizier Ertan)
Blade of the Burning Sun – Halls of Origination (Rajh)
Modgud’s Blade – Grim Batol (General Umbriss)

Quest
Salhet’s Ornate Dagger, quest reward from Salhet the Tactician in Uldum

Faction
They’ve got nothing.

Enchant with Power Torrent or Hurricane.

Off-Hand

Purchased/Crafted
Dungeoneering Guide – BoE crafted by Scribes with a skill level of 510
Hermit’s Lamp – a steal at 950 Justice Points, if you have a decent main-hand

Drop
Beauty’s Favorite Bone – Blackrock Caverns (Beauty)

Quest
Skyflight Beacon – Quest reward from Doing It Like A Dunwald, Twilight Highlands

Faction
Sadly nothing.

Enchant with Superior Intellect.

Conclusion

Quest through Twilight Highlands if at all possible, because some of the best quested gear is from there. Then you can isolate your weakest points and upgrade those, or see what drops. If you’ve already acquired a normal dungeon drop in one slot, maybe you’ll spend Justice Points or count on crafted gear to fill another.

Again, huge thanks to Fsob for putting in much of the grunt work to compile this list, and for generously allowing me to add to and edit what was already done. It would’ve taken three times as long otherwise. As it is, I’m going to use it to help me with my own gear, and I hope my contribution is some small help to any other mages (or cloth DPS folks).

There are some other great guides out there; Poneria at Fel Concentration has done one for warlocks. Let me know if there are others I’ve missed and I’ll be happy to add them!

…I’m on a seahorse.

Voss and I were in line last night at 11:30 along with other hapless Canadians, shuffling in place and freezing our feet to the ground. It was actually not ridiculously cold – about 17 degrees Fahrenheit, for you US folks – which was cold enough by the time midnight hit! Fortunately this year (unlike the Wrath release) the game store folks let us wait in line inside. This was greatly appreciated by all.

I retrieved my Collector’s Edition (the only real reason to be standing in line instead of downloading it digitally) and then came home to get ready to play!

One of the things I love about a new expansion is that there are so many different possible approaches. For me, primary goal is to get Millya to 85. That is top priority. Other folks were rolling a worgen or a goblin or trying for a realm first with professions or other things. I know some folks had trouble logging in, for us it wasn’t bad and we were online at about 1:20 AM.

We started leveling through Vashj’ir initially and it was a mess. There were creatures and people everywhere – and the quests unfortunately (while interesting and fun) have a heavy focus on gathering or finding specific mobs or items. It was not a recipe for success. I stopped playing at 4:30, only a single bar away from level 81 but unable to push on.

Today we quested for a very short time before deciding to give Hyjal a try instead. As a leveling experience it’s much easier; it’s more linear and there are fewer gathering quests so far. I recommend it. Especially if you’re leveling with a partner or friend, the gathering quests in Vashj’ir are a killer and it’s easy to lose track of your buddy once you get this fellow:

Now look at your mount. Now back to me. I have a copy of that game you love! This is the mount your mount COULD be if you were questing in Vashj'ir. I'm on a seahorse.

Just for that, Vashj’ir was worth it. I have this reaction with some things in WoW – perhaps because others are difficult to attain or require a long grind… It’s like, “You’re going to give this to me? You’re just… you’ll just give it to me. Right here? …What’s the catch?”

I felt that way about Withers when I first got him. “They give you a pet!? Just for doing the quests? …But why?”

Not that I’m complaining.

My impressions of the expansion so far are immensely positive. I have professions to level, zones and quests to see, and I’m loving the new instances. I’ll try to keep posts fairly free of spoilers, but I can’t make any guarantees. I am loving the content and I want to talk about it!

What have you loved about Cataclysm so far (or not loved, if you prefer!). What was the first thing you did?

 

The Hybrid’s Dilemma

With Wrath winding down and Cataclysm just on the horizon, everyone’s mind is on the future – fresh new raids, leveling, and this strange broken Azeroth we all inhabit now. We’ve been focused on making sure our roster is “set,” and it pretty much is. We have some player shuffle; no one is leaving but several folks have switched characters. We have a druid migrating to a warrior, a hunter becoming a shaman, a paladin becoming a rogue, and a moonkin becoming a mage (that’s me).

What you might observe there is a distinct lessening of hybrid classes. We’ll lose a healer who could also DPS, and a DPS who could also heal. Especially in a ten-man setting, these hybrids can be crucial. Being able to off-heal for our group was the major motivating factor behind my switch to Moonkin – I’d actually planned to be more or less full-time resto, but it so happened that we recruited an awesome resto druid that week. Three resto druids isn’t exactly a stellar combination, so mostly I was an owlbear. And it was okay. (I did enjoy the “forest for the trees” jokes, though). But there were many things that were less fun about it, and I’ve been thinking about why I’m more or less okay with our group losing some hybrids.

"What, there's a dragon behind us? Never noticed."

Jack Of All Trades, Master of None…

For some people, not excelling at any one role wouldn’t really be a problem. They embrace their versatility (and it’s wonderful). Don’t get me wrong, I flatter myself to think I was a decent hybrid player. When I healed, I wasn’t standing in fire. I did the best I could. But I could never quite match our “regular” healers. Even though they didn’t think so, I always felt that I was a handicap and that we’d do better if we had a “real” healer for that night. I know, it’s a mental obstacle – but it was there.

Likewise, when you are a hybrid that plays both your hybrid specs, it can start to affect your play in either role. I felt that my DPS always lagged behind where it could be on many encounters. It was just never quite there. Keep in mind, I’m talking about raiding when it was actually still tough (before the thirty percent buff was finished rolling out, and while we were still working on heroic modes we hadn’t yet downed). Every point of DPS counted, every HPS could be crucial. I was actually healing for our guild’s first Sindragosa kill, and that was pretty fun. I healed it for a few weeks – and the first time I DPSed it I didn’t know exactly what I was doing.

Yes, I knew my rotation – but it’s the subtle nuances of a fight that are hard to remember when you aren’t in it that make the difference. Can I use my Treants at the very beginning and have them ready again by the time we use Heroism? Should I put a DoT on the iceblock while I’m dodging (the answer, by the way, is no… At least it was that time we narrowly avoided being blasted into oblivion by a block that broke a bit early). It turns out I was also meleeing it with my staff. Don’t judge me.

The Landscape of an Encounter

I was trying to explain this to Voss the other day and I hit upon a metaphor that really works for me. Imagine that each encounter is a landscape with specific challenges. Perhaps they are hurdles you have to jump over. As a DPS player, you approach that encounter from the perspective of: “Anything that causes me to stop casting at any moment is the enemy.” So movement is your hurdle, as well as other mechanics. Depending on the encounter, you might have specific tasks, and there are things that will force you to move. Let’s take heroic Blood Queen Lana’thel as an example.

DPS: We arrange ourselves in a loose circle, with the center area being reserved for folks who are linked. Don’t stand too close to someone else because of the proximity damage. Perform your rotation as hard and fast as you can because this is a DPS race. Your obstacles are:

  • Movement: Plan ahead for what you can cast while running to another player if you’re linked. Make sure you have an eye for where your shadow flames will go if you get the debuff for those (if you’re a druid, keep a cat-dash macro handy).
  • Planning: If you are the first DPS bitten, you’ll need to make sure you know where the next DPS is standing and not be too far from them. If you are to be bitten, try to get near (but not too near) to the bitten person.
  • Be ready to scatter when she flies up in the air and casts her fear. Don’t be near anyone else. Hit it like you mean it.

That’s the fight from the perspective of a DPS player. If you’re following along with my simile, picture it as a tophographical map with mountains you have to jump over, and valleys you have to avoid stumbling in. You’re running over the ground and those mountains and valleys fall at fairly predictable places. You know them. You don’t have to look to keep your footing. Suddenly, the healer is unavailable for that night. Guess what, hybrid with the gear to do it? You’re healing! Here’s the fight from that perspective:

Healers: We still arrange ourselves in a loose circle and don’t stand too close to anyone. Depending on your assigned role (are you tank healing? raid healing? HoT spamming?) your focus will be different. Let’s assume you are a raid healer. AoE damage is crazy in this fight – something I really didn’t know until the first time I healed it. So you have your own topographical map… Let’s say the healing version has boulders being thrown at you from above, which is really what it feels like the first time you heal a fight you don’t know. I knew there would be boulders hurting the raid. Did I have any idea where they’d come from? Not a clue.

  • Movement. You still have to run to linked players, but you also have to heal yourself while you’re doing it, or hope another healer is covering you. Likewise, if you are tank healing and you get the shadow flame debuff… nobody is healing those tanks while you’re running unless the other healers know to do so (they’re dropping boulders on the taaanks!)
  • Planning: Like the DPS, you will always be casting, but you’ll be HoTing the heck out of the raid. Suddenly, you can’t just ignore the people who are linked if they aren’t you – they need healing now!
  • Still be ready to scatter when she flies, but also be ready to heal everyone because damage from this phase is heavy.

The first time I healed this fight to fill in for a missing healer was, to say the least, intense. I don’t know how the healers were doing it with just two at that gear level, and I understood why it was so hit-and-miss. We pulled it off, I’m not saying “I wiped the raid!” The learning curve was steep. That’s just one fight, and yet the mechanics affecting a DPS or healer are in some respects completely different. It’s a different mindset – a different landscape, if you don’t mind my tortured metaphor. You can learn to navigate both landscapes and even switch mindsets if need be, but it’s a rare player who can pull each one off seamlessly or as well as someone who knows that landscape intimately. I’ve caught myself bracing to throw HoTs in a heavy-damage phase only to remember “Duh, you’re DPSing right now,” or preparing for heroism only to think, “…You don’t do anything special for heroism, you’re healing. Keep healing.”

You will have players who thrive on this challenge – the multifaceted challenge of knowing an encounter from more than one perspective, but it’s not easy. Some fights present less of a challenge than others, but switching mental gears (at least for me) was the largest obstacle.

This was the second largest obstacle.

Can I Have That For Offspec?

In our raid, everyone is expected to have and gear a respectable offspec. Even the pure players have two viable PvE specs that might be better suited to different encounters. I know our other mage is itching to go Frost for Cataclysm, and that’s fine. He’ll probably keep another spec. There are some differences between spec gear priorities that can crop up for pures, but it’s nothing compared to what it used to be like for hybrids. We’ll have to wait and see how that shakes out for hybrid classes in the expansion, with spirit to hit conversions and etcetera. Even with that in mind, though, hybrids will still have a “main” spec, and it takes time and many drops to adequately gear up an offspec properly. I have teased Voss because the one night he had to possibly switch from tanking to DPS he was “not prepared.”

Later that night, he shamefacedly admit that he hadn’t gemmed his DPS gear for a pretty good reason. He needed nearly twenty cardinal rubies to do it! As someone who has kept two sets of gear “raid ready” I sympathize with this wholly. Having plenty of alchemists and jewelcrafters I could afford it, but it’s still a considerable expense that other folks might not incur to the same extent. By the end of Wrath, my moonkin’s two gear sets were equally awesome – more or less equivalent to other folks in either role – but of course I was never going to take gear from “main” spec healers in order to do that. (Our healers were very generous with me, though, and so this is no gear complaint. They’d say, “It’s a sidegrade for me, give it to Shae,” and the cooperative spirit was a big part of the reason I was able to be so well-geared for when we needed it.) Still, things like trinkets are rare enough for main specs – it takes a long time and great fortune for an off-spec to even sniff them, which is as it should be. But it’s part of the hybrid handicap that prevents us from being as good as main healers when we need to be. Your gear can be “the best you’re able to get,” but it will probably still fall a bit short in one spec or the other until the content has been on farm for quite a long time.

Neither Fish, Nor Flesh, Nor Good Red Herring

Ultimately, the burdens and rewards of being an excellent hybrid player depend on the individual. Some people might thrive on the challenge and not mind the confusion and gear lag. In my case, I loved being a resto druid, and I loved being able to help the raid when it was needed. Unfortunately, I just didn’t love being a moonkin. It was tough for me to admit that to myself (and my fellow raiders, who had put the time and effort into gearing a character I no longer wanted to play at the end of the expansion). I still regret that and worry that folks may have seen it as selfishness on my part or a desire to gear a character then move onto another. I had concern that two mages was less useful for the raid than a moonkin and a mage – and in a way, that’s true, but what is most useful for the raid is people playing what they love. I’d rather have ten people truly passionate about their class and role – with less raid flexibility – than a few hybrids who really don’t want to be where they are but will do it “for the good of the raid.”

So we’re going to be a bit less flexible when we start raiding in Cataclysm, and we’re going to have to lean more heavily on our full-time healers. I hope that it turns out fine – and if we’re coming up short, we’ll recruit, because I’m confident in my character choice. I could be a hybrid, but at the end of the day I just don’t want to – and I think that’s okay.

Whenever I'm tempted to be a hybrid "for the good of the raid" Voss yells, "NO. Now, we're short on healers, what do you do?" "Well, I have a paladin that..." "NO!"

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