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

Posts tagged ‘healing’

The Road to Perfection

Joe Perez (Lodur) over at WoW Insider wrote an interesting article about using the new scenario dungeons to create a way for healers to learn/practice on their own, the same way that fancy new DPS dummies in Shattrath simulate a raiding environment by granting raid buffs etc. I’ve also heard that these new dummies are only for beta use and won’t make it to live, but that’s beside the point (and I’m not sure either way).

I used to spend more time with target dummies than I do now. It’s a certain mark of pride for a DPS player – make a new spec, test it out on the dummies. Want to try different gear configurations? Test them on the dummies. Playing a character you aren’t that familiar with? Get a “feel” for the rotation by paying a visit to the target dummies. I remember when I was still pretty new to the game and a player I admired used to say, “Time to go visit the target dummies.” It cemented itself in my mind as something that “serious” players do. They serve a useful purpose; sometimes you want something to attack that won’t just keel over like a regular world mob. When I wanted to figure out what I was doing with tanking, I went out and found some of the big elites in Icecrown and that was somewhat useful but not exactly the same. The premise of giving healers a place to practice healing (especially if they are new) seems to follow along with this notion. DPS players have target dummies, tanks and healers have a harder time “practicing” what they do.

I think that’s a good thing, though. I don’t think target dummies are all that useful, either, as any DPS will tell you. They can give you an approximation of how you might perform in a raiding or boss environment, but we know not to expect those numbers to be accurate. Firstly because the “live” dummies don’t give raid buffs – I hear the ones in Shattrath do, so that’s a step closer to “reality.” But dummies can’t simulate things like movement, or adds, or phases, or distractions from Mumble or otherwise. I know that if I stand there until my evocate and mana gem are on CD I may have done x amount of DPS over the course of three minutes, but during a raid fight it’s going to be a different story altogether. The same is true for healers. When it comes to being a healer, my “testing” usually consisted of asking someone to group with me so I could make sure my UI was correct. There’s always the tried and true method of casting spells on yourself. And Joe is right; in no way does that prepare you for an actual healing situation. You don’t see those bars dropping. You don’t have someone ignoring an important mechanic almost getting one-shot – someone who might be your tank!

At the same time, though, while I can see the value of such a tool I am almost leery of introducing any more of these types of practice activities or zones. Why? Well, because at some point I just want to play the game that I am here to play. I don’t know if this is a reflection of my newer, more casual mindset, but pretend DPS or pretend healing strikes me as the height of boredom. If I want to practice DPSing I don’t go to a target dummy, I’ll queue for a five man or LFR (with or without friends). I’m not ashamed to admit that after I got my Dragonwrath I queued for LFR repeatedly just so I could pit myself against other casters with DW in a raid-like environment. (And no, I never post a meter or boast about my DPS and if you do that there is a special place in hell reserved for you where a voice echoes endlessly, “Is anyone running Recount? Is anyone running Recount?”) When I was learning to heal, I mostly did it with friends in five-mans. Actually, the first dungeon I healed was as a former shadowpriest at level 40 something in Zul’Farak. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I’d never healed an entire group. Someone in my guild needed a healer for ZF and this was before the days of LFD so I was roped into it.

I was practically hyperventilating the whole time. Did someone die? I’m pretty sure they did. Was I perfect? Not even remotely, but that’s how you learn. To me, that’s what playing a game is about. The comments on that article are interesting because some of them say, “We tell our new healers to go practice in pugs.” Other people reply, “How can you DO THAT to your friends? I would hate to be in your guild,” etc. I’m actually 100% behind the first guy. You all know I’m not a stranger to pugging. Pugging is one of the best environments to learn to heal. You have an element of chaos and unpredictability that you’ll seldom find in a “safe” guild or friend run. Yes, it can be taxing and frustrating. Yes, you may leave some groups. But you will leave those groups a better healer than you went in. I like to play a little game with myself. Instead of practicing retribution healing, I make it my goal to keep the worst player in a group alive. Does the group have a melee DPS who’s never heard of fire on the ground, pulls aggro on every pull and then tries to run from the tank? That guy right there is my prime target. In addition to keeping everyone else alive, I will keep that guy’s bar above zero, against all odds. It’s like a mini-game.

That’s why I could go from healing five-mans to healing Naxx to later healing heroic Firelands coolly. Not because I am this awesome super healer, but because I practiced and I wasn’t afraid to put myself in situations where I was at a disadvantage. I’ve been the healer barely able to drink, slamming mana recovery abilities on CD, desperately chasing after my tank and hoping he doesn’t pull an extra group because I’m still clad all in greens. I understand what the article is saying – the punishment for a tank or a healer who doesn’t perform well is usually much more severe than that of a DPS. Many DPS get by simply coasting, and it’s not fair but they are less likely to get called out. There is great power and responsibility in the healing and tanking role and they are hard to step into. You have to cultivate a thick skin. I ran a Zul’Aman pug with a guy once who made fun of me every time I used Tranquility.

“lol why you Tranquility?” he’d say. I grit my teeth and ignored him; he continued. I finally told him, look, it’s a three minute cooldown, not ten minutes anymore. Using it on trash doesn’t hurt you, it heals the group, and will you just shut up about it? If you want, next time YOU be the druid and ignore your Tranquility button all you want. Until then, this is my show.

There will be guys like that. You may need to leave groups. You may be removed from groups. But the only real penalty there is pride. If you leave an LFD group, you may have to take a deserter debuff – play another character or do something else until you can queue again. It’s not really that big a deal. I’m reminded of this book I read a few years back by Carol Dweck called Mindset. Basically, in a nutshell: everyone is one of two mindsets, either fixed or growth mindset. I’m not exaggerating when I say this book changed my outlook and even my life. I grew up with a completely fixed mindset, no question. I was proud of my accomplishments but I also felt that I had to be perfect…at everything. With this mindset, you might find that you attempt less because if you try and fail, you will be a fraud or a failure. It’s better to “play it safe” and do things you know you can excel at. Everyone thinks you are really smart and awesome, and nothing ever happens to challenge that.

A growth mindset is different. It approaches the world and challenges from a malleable perspective – everything is a learning opportunity. Of course you will fail at things and you won’t be perfect at them right away because you have to practice in order to be perfect. Do you see what I’m getting at here? If there was a place for healers to practice in a basically no-risk environment, sure, it might help them to try healing when they otherwise wouldn’t. But I’d argue that it’s a lot better to just dive in and start healing from the get-go. There will be bumps and scrapes, but who cares? It’s not a reflection on your character, it doesn’t mean you’re bad, it means you’re learning. And anyone who has a problem with that can take a hike (or you can leave them in your dust). I was thinking just last night about how Voss and I joined Business Time. Without any hard mode experience and with gear that was only as good as we could get outside of raids at that point, we were more of a liability than an asset. But we promised we’d be able to learn quickly. I studied the Mimiron hardmode video for hours. I took notes. I knew I could apply my skills to that environment. Over the years since then, I’ve taken on tasks I’m not always comfortable doing. I hate messing up and feeling like I’m wiping the raid – and obviously, it’s a continuum. You start out learning in places like five-mans, then maybe LFR, then a raid. You can start PvP healing in a battleground and then move to arenas if that’s your goal. All experience in the game will serve you elsewhere, whether it’s just to sharpen your reflexes or help you fine-tune your UI or whatever.

When 5.0 drops next week, I’ll respec and set up my UI and probably visit the target dummies to make sure all the buttons are in their proper places and get a feel for them. After that, I will want to hit some fives or an LFR or whatever else is going on, because I’ll want to really learn what’s new and the only way to do that is with practice, practice, and more practice. Remember that there’s no shame in being new, or needing to improve, no matter what anybody tells you. Whether you’re playing an unfamiliar alt or a completely new spec or role, you can do a certain amount of preparation on your own but at some point you’ll need to play with other people to really learn and get truly great.

Of Tanks And Healers

This post originally appeared at Pugging Pally (my previous blog), but Twitter was having a “Retro Wednesday” and I thought I may as well just repost it here. So if you read my blog then, it’s old news to you, but I think it’s still relevant!

It’s a special moment, isn’t it? You look into each other’s eyes. You think to yourself, “Now here’s someone who would make a Last Stand for me.” They see a certain something in your gaze, a spark. You might even say, a Flash of Light. You know that this is The One. A tank that you can trust.

There’s a certain something about a tank and healer pair, something that people who’ve never played either might not understand. I don’t mean this to be exclusionary, after all – my main raiding character is primarily a damage dealer. But I’ve been a healer and played many healers and it’s truthfully the thing that often draws me back to healing. I find myself missing it.

The tank and healer must cooperate in a way that no other role does. Tanks work together to coordinate pulls, taunts, and specific tasks. Healers work together to know who’s going to heal who and when. You have to be able to trust everyone in your raid team (more about that another time). Of course the tank is watching out for everybody, if they’re a good tank. But your primary task is to keep them alive, and they know that if you die – their grisly demise comes shortly thereafter.You have to be able to depend on each other.

I’ll never forget the time we went back to Ulduar with a new tank. He was new to our group and the encounters. One of the first bosses we tackled was Ignis. This tank was a paladin, and his job was to keep the angry automaton adds off the rest of the raid. We had a Discipline priest healing with myself (resto druid) so the obvious choice was for me to heal the raid, and the OT. Okay. So I was healing this paladin and he missed one of the adds, which merrily proceeded to try and eat my face. I popped Barkskin, started hotting myself up, and then I called out in Vent, “Add on me!”

He snapped back, “I’m a little busy here.

I made a scoff-choking sound of indignation and rage, and then yelled at my monitor (without pushing to talk, naturally), “SO AM I. I’M BUSY TRYING TO HEAL YOUR SORRY *SS.”

I know that he was stressed out because he was new to the encounter, and possibly he’d forgotten that I was a healer… I used to play a DPS role. But I was left with a feeling of betrayal. This tank and I weren’t headed for a good relationship.

The tank’s just not that into you

All the signs are there. They’re pulling away – way, way ahead of you. She says things like, “Heals?” or asks where you were. Actually, amendent, the tank calls you “Heals.” She’s gone while you’re drinking. He doesn’t taunt when something is trying to kill you, or he AFKs when he should be throwing heals your way. There’s no trust there.

I hope we’re not talking about a tank in a raiding situation – but the tank-healer relationship exists in a pug too. Except that pugging is like the equivalent of blind dating fifty people in a row, each less attractive than the previous. They chew with their mouth open or you split the bill and they don’t tip. So what can you do to foster some good tank-healer vibes, both in the short and the long term?

What we have here is a failure to…

I can’t stress this enough. In a pug, communicate, communicate, communicate. If you’re tanking, ask your healer to let you know if their mana is low. Watch their mana. Ask them if they’re comfortable with you making larger pulls. When in doubt about anything, just ask. The healer will know that you are a responsible tank who wants the group to succeed. And you’ll get to know what you can expect from your healer. Even if you’re only together for an hour, you still have to work as a team to get the job done. Don’t ever get accusatory with a healer who seems to be struggling – a bad situation can go from bad to worse. Perhaps they’re new to healing, or maybe you’re harder to heal. If you ask, you can pace yourself accordingly – or maybe even consider things you could do with spec, gear, or glyphs to make healing you easier if you’re inexplicably squishy.

As a healer, I’m going to say it again, communicate, communicate, communicate. You need to drink? Let the tank know. Make a macro if you have to. I made a stupid one for my druid while I was leveling her that was really corny, along the lines of, “Don’t leaf me behind, I’m watering the plants, otherwise I’ll have to bark at you.”

Yes, I know. I like stuff like that, but you’re here reading this, so you already knew. It was lighthearted and a bit nerdy, but it got the point across. Very simple things like owning up to mistakes and just being forthright with how things are at your end can help smooth over what might otherwise be a nightmare pug. When I got lost, I admitted I was hopelessly lost, and my group helped to find me. When I had to continually ask to stop and drink, I confessed that I’d been having mana troubles lately. Especially in pugs while you’re leveling, everyone is in the same boat. They may have struggled with mana, or something else that led to them dying. Most people are just regular, good people. Yes, there are well-documented exceptions.

So if you need to give the tank pertinent information, or something is bothering you, or you aren’t sure about something, ask! There are no stupid questions (except “Who’s the tank?” There’s a shield next to your name, doofus.)

Going Steady

Maybe you’re lucky enough to be in a guild with a tank you really like, or you just have a tanking buddy you get to hang out with often, or a similarly fantastic healer. This is a great place to be. If leveling a character via pugs is like blind dating, a solid tank or healer you can trust is like a marriage. She leaves toast crumbs on the counter, but you expect them. You know he’ll be your Guardian Spirit and you’ll be there with a Shield Wall when he needs it.

Often tank-healer pairs really are married in real life. My husband plays a tank, and when I was healing him it was great. We’re sitting in the same room, so I could always say to him, “Go ahead and pull these next three packs, I’ve got you,” or he’d hear that chokey yelp noise I make when I’m throwing out HoTs as fast as my branches can toss them and know that he needed to use a cooldown to give me some breathing space – or I would say to him, “Use something NOW.” It’s a pretty handy situation, but you don’t have to be married to your tank or healer to have a good relationship with them.

I’m going to keep harping on about this, but when you aren’t in the same room with your tank or healer, communication becomes even more vital. Use Vent. The more you run with someone, the more you’ll get to know their idiosyncrasies. “Slaphappy always charges ahead when he’s going to engage a group of mobs, I’ll have to make sure to stick closer to melee than otherwise, so I don’t get left behind,” or “There’s a lot of movement in this fight so I know that Shamtastic might be distracted and need me to use a cooldown at some point.”

You won’t always know exactly what’s going on with the other person – but that’s when you ask. I actually went through a bit of these growing pains myself, when our guild was doing hardmode Mimiron. My job was to tank the head in phase three, and at that time our awesome pally healer would switch off and heal me. It was a bit strange for me to be in a tanking role, and I was goofing it up. His healing skills amazed me. He kept up my squishy self through damage I would’ve never expected to be able to live through, even with mitigation talents. But a few times, I died. I whispered him. Guess what I said.

“Heals?”

NO! I said, “Gee, I’m still getting the hang of this. What can I do better?”

He said that my blinking was making it a bit tougher for him to always keep up with me, and that a few times when I had been line of sighting Mim’s head around a corner, I’d left him completely behind. I was more careful the next times to watch where he was before I blinked away willy-nilly, we stuck together, and his healing kept me alive while I was tanking. We made a great team.

Always Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

I’ve met a lot of tanks during the course of my pug leveling. Some have been good, and I connected with and liked them a lot. Some of them have been very bad. (Maybe they thought that about my healing, too). It’s possible to have a positive experience and a tank-healer combo that communicates well in a pug, but I won’t lie, it is more rare especially in these LFD days when many folks queue as a tank or healer simply because they know it will get them a group instantly and not because they enjoy it or actually know what they’re doing.

To borrow my earlier analogy, if pugging is like blind dating, lately the rejection has been starting to get to me. I struggled for a way to end this entry because I realized that the reason I was writing about tanks and healers was that I was weary of feeling I couldn’t trust the person nominally ‘in charge’ of each run. It became clear to me during my last few Mana Tombs run. In one, the DK tank zoned in, pulled all the trash and nearly died although I was healing him the whole time. “This isn’t right,” I thought, although in party I said “um, omg.” He responded cleverly, “omg ur mom.” So I just said, “Why did you nearly die? That was just trash.”

“Oh, my gear is mostly red and yellow,” he said. “Guess I should go repair.”

Yes, DK, I guess you should. He disconnected instead and we voted to kick him, bringing in a marginally less clueless DK.

Another Mana Tombs run saw me zoning in with a different tank – “Misspladin” [sic]. It didn’t start well, beginning with my usual “Excuse me I just have to respec and regain my mana,” statement. “Please hang on a sec while I drink,” I told the tank. She started pulling right away and didn’t stop, period. I was completely OOM, but I managed to type, “Or you could just ignore me and start chain-pulling, that would work too.” By some miracle we managed to down the first big shadow boss guy, and then the tank did a curious thing. In chat, he typed only a sort of wicked, evil emoticon… crashed into the next three groups of mobs, and then bubble-hearthed and dropped group.

“OH NO HE DIDN’T,” I shouted in party chat. I’m not going to dwell on what causes people to do things like this. One of the DPSers said she could get her boyfriend to come in and tank. He was a 70 DK. It’s Mana Tombs. How hard can this be, right?

Hard enough that we all nearly died with the exploding arcane wyrm things. Enough that when I said, “Mana,” he ran ahead and kept pulling regardless and we all did die. Again. I said, “And that’s what happens when you pull and your healer is OOM.”

“Having mana is overrated,” he said to me.

“So is dying repeatedly,” I told him.

Faced with a future of tiresome pugs, Vid contemplates exchanging her healing shield and mace for a metric ton of chocolate.

And I meant it. I left the group, wondering if I’d ever even finishing leveling poor Vid, or just start questing and never look back. I was resolved to do it, but then was prevailed upon to give it one last go.

Mana Tombs again, and this time a bear tank. “Let me know if you need to drink,” she whispered to me, “But I’ll keep an eye on your bar.”

The instance started out promisingly with the usual suspects – a DK who felt that he could go ahead and do all the pulling for our bear. But unlike any other tank I’ve seen in all my pugging, she stopped dead.

“You pulled that,” she said, “You fight it.” She stood there. The DK struggled with the group, flailing around as his health took a massive beating. Taking my cue from her, nary a heal went his way. He very nearly died – oh so close to dead – I think she may have taunted the final mob at the last second, or else he just lucked out. I laughed a lot. “Now, are you finished wasting time?” she asked.

Uber-DK lurched ahead and pulled another group. “Apparently not,” remarked the druid, and we killed his extra group, and then kicked him. The rest of the group was pleasant and easygoing, and the run was completely smooth. We didn’t have any deaths or any problems. My heart wasn’t beating out of my chest, nor was I shouting at my monitor in frustration. I knew when I had to drink I could, but I hardly had to drink at all because my tank was so practiced with cooldowns, surgical with pulls, and threw an innervate my way when I needed it.

In short, it was the absolute most fun I’ve had in a pug in a long while. I could relax and actually enjoy it. We went on to do Sethekk Halls afterwards and it was just as good, enough that someone at the end remarked, “Solid group.” It was an incredibly solid group, unbelievably so, and I firmly believe it was so because the tank and I trusted each other and communicated.

(Incidentally – a DPSer named “Bumpirate?” I don’t have to say anything more about that. This stuff writes itself).

But I have to admit, I’ve been holding back on you a little bit. I’ve told you the story but not the whole story, or the whole truth.

The truth is, I went into those last two pugs knowing my tank. If you ever read my comments here, you may also know my tank – she’s Lara, and she’s awesome. Having no prior commitments and looking for a new server for her character, she chose to move her druid alt to my server. I said that I started this experiment because I wanted to experience the game alongside other people, and that’s absolutely true. Writing about it has been a blast, even if the experience itself has been frustrating at times. Having been able to find a friend I can pug with – that I never would have found if I hadn’t done all that pugging, written about it here – is indescribably awesome. I trusted Lara from the first, and I think we both had so much more fun because of it. So if there’s anything that all this pugging has taught me, it’s that it’s a means, not an end – a way to meet people you want to run with again, so you don’t always have to have an endless merry-go-round of what-are-these-people-thinking. Sometimes the tank or healer you were looking for is closer than you think.

I almost gave up on pugging today, but I’m pretty glad I didn’t. In Lara’s words, “I felt good knowing you were back there with your tuning forks!”

To which I can only reply, there’s nothing like having a bear butt you can trust!

Minipost: Third Time’s The Charm

The other week, one of our priests stepped out of the raid for someone else after a wipe. Inexplicably, his body floated there long after he'd gone. It was creepy. Our rezzes are so powerful they grant levitation!

I just wanted to post quickly to mention another podcast I was on recently, My Epic Heals. Eade and Wolfshade were our gracious hosts and I was there along with Kurn from Kurn’s Corner. It’s an episode about holy paladin healing. We talked about Ragnaros and a bunch of other stuff if you want to give it a listen.

Also note, in case you missed it, my silly paper dolls post from the other day! I probably would have ordinarily saved that post for today, but I’m impatient like that, so instead it was posted a few days back.

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.

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!)

There’s Only One Way to Spell Heals

In Cataclysm, it’s been pretty firmly established that I am playing a mage (primarily) and my Holy paladin is my real secondary character. I have a group of lesser-played alts, none of which have hit 85 yet. It allows me to experience different aspects of the game as it suits my mood. Now that Millya doesn’t need anything from instances, I make sure to pug a heroic as a healer pretty regularly. I’ve also been driving myself crazy trying to get this trinket for Vid but we won’t talk about that. Oh no. I did a whole stint of archaeology over the holiday weekend until I just couldn’t take it anymore and I needed a break.

Then I started queuing for battlegrounds with my guildie Fsob. It’s been a fun experience, I haven’t PvPed with any regularity in ages. And of course, I used to do it primarily as a mage. It’s fun to be able to keep your team mates alive while they kill the other team. Going back into battlegrounds I’ve discovered a few things.

People don’t really change. I’d forgotten about the NERD RAGE that PvP seems to inspire in people. Usually at least once per battle (no matter how well the battle is going for our side) someone is raging in bg chat. “Why are you noobs fighting in the ****ing middle?” and “Way to go you ****,” is pretty much the order of the day. You have to either completely ignore what the people are saying (apart from when they’re calling incoming people) or just maintain a thick skin where nothing anybody says will bother you.

BGing with a friend (or friends) makes for insurmountable fun. When I BG alone as a healer, I usually try to pick a competent looking DPS and stick with them as best I can. The problem is, it’s often a crap shoot as to whether that person notices or cares about what I’m doing, so it often led to frustration on my part. I don’t have this problem when I’m playing (quite literally) someone’s pocket healer. Thanks to slowfall and a chopper I stuck to Fsob like glue and we’d soar off cliffs and rumble down the road, being a pretty devastating team. We used Vent/Mumble (yes, we’re currently sort of in-between on these) to communicate things quickly, like “This rogue is all over me,” or “I’m sheeping the paladin.” It was seriously awesome good times.

PvP can’t get stale the same way PvE sometimes can. At one point we were guarding the flag at Farm in Arathi Basin. There was a warlock on the Horde-side named “Puzzler.” He was a real puzzler, because he charged up to where the three of us were – all by himself, and we killed him in about five seconds. In just about the time it took him to rez and run back, he did this again. Initially we just thought he was a bit slow, but then we realized he was a bot. He’d always run up to the same spot, dismount and begin casting the same spell rotation (shortly before we killed him). It occurred to me that he might as well be an NPC or “mob” instead of someone PvPing, and the difference was incredible. In an environment that changes depending on the players, he was completely static and that made him a joke. He was like a PvE encounter. “The boss will do this at x percent of his health, or he’ll begin to channel this spell.” Sure, real bosses have more RNG. But a real player doesn’t move like that, either. And even if you’ve been in the same BG a hundred times, the people there with you will never be the exact same twice! That’s pretty neat. (a.k.a. this is the stuff I think about while I’m standing at Farm).

In one WSG match, the only people to successfully return the flag (twice) were the two of us. I didn’t know flag running could be so much fun! I think Fsob agreed at least partially, because he said, “This is so much easier with a healer!”

I’m actually trying to adapt my healing to suit a BG as we keep practicing. The nice thing is (from what I can tell) a PvP healing spec and a PvE healing spec really aren’t that different. I ran into a few holy paladins that were obviously great BG healers so I had a look at what they were casting. I still need a good PvP trinket, and I’m pretty sure that PvP gear will help me. Anyway, one thing is for sure, I will be doing this again. I’m going to have to dust off Millya’s PvP set as well and maybe do more mage PvPing. The thing is, it’s not as unique. You can hardly move in a BG for tripping over six water elementals. Yes, I like to be a special snowflake, and I’m okay with that. I’ll be sure to update as we proceed – I might even try arena, something I did for a mere evening back in Wrath. With any luck I’d run into other people with as little clue as I have, and less clue than my arena partner might have. How badly could it go, right?

I don't have a screenshot actually relevant to this post content, because when I'm BG healing it sounds something like, "Oh no, okay, oh what the heck, OH GOD, DON'T DIE." You can imagine it doesn't leave much time for screenshots.

Other minor highlights:

An orc shaman named Mooches that charges up to us at Stables on a Kodo and is promptly annihilated. I see the emote, “Mooches thanks you.”

“What the heck?” I said in Vent. “Why did that orc thank me?” Then I looked closer – I was sporting a pair of bunny ears. I’d forgotten about those achievements! He must have needed a draenei paladin and was just thanking me for being me. Well, I’m okay with that. We saw him again later and I thought we were friends now so I blew him a kiss but he tried to kill me anyway. It seems that what we had wasn’t special after all.

*

I see, “Masterbait has assaulted the Gold Mine!”

“You know, that guy is on our team,” I remark.

“Classy,” Fsob replies. Several minutes later:

“Fsob. I’m healing ‘Masterbait.'”

“You might not want to do that.”

*

“OH MY GOD what are there, eight of them? They’re all killing me!”

“Every single one I’ve targeted has been targeting you, haha.”

*

Facing down an inexorable Tauren paladin in WSG:

“This paladin really, really wants to kill me. Like really badly.” I kited him around the Alliance flag room, back down the corridor, back up the corridor, I bubbled, other people attacked him, he bubbled, he was slowed – and the whole time he just charged on towards me in slow motion. I healed myself, I fled. The whole thing felt like it went on about five minutes. “Seriously, he is STILL TRYING TO KILL ME. Why – won’t – you – just – DIE?” Eventually someone got him from behind and he collapsed at my feet. “FINALLY.” He put up a good fight, though, and he nearly got me several times. Then Fsob stole his wings. Poor Tauren paladin, you put up a good fight!

*

A warrior named “Sniggaz” is raging in raid chat. “CAN WE GET A HEALZ TO LM I’M TRYING TO GET WRECKING BALL.” He continues on for the next few minutes.
“WHERE ARE THE FING HEALZ.”

“I’m not going to be healing him.”

“Really? But he asked for healz. With a ‘Z.'”

“I’m not specced for those. I only give out grammatically correct heals.”

Further Adventures in LFD (Paladin adventures, of course).

A snapshot from Vid's pug life - every single mob in Stonecore descending on us simultaneously.

I ran a pug last night. This is nothing new. Actually, Vidyala – the erstwhile Pugging Pally – dinged 85 some weeks ago and has been quietly running many pugs since then. Of course, I try to run with guildies when available. Guild XP is valuable! But when they aren’t, I pug.

The first pug had me zoning in to Grim Batol, right in front of the first boss, General I-Charge-People-In-The-Face-Guy. This isn’t usually a good sign, because it means that the group probably just wiped on that boss and then their healer left. I assume their healer left, since it turns out that all four other people were from the same guild. I said hello, as I do, and after a few minutes one person said, “No Englis.” Okay. It’s going to be sort of tough to talk about boss strats if nobody speaks the same language, but I figure there’s no harm in trying. Most people know these bosses, yes? Let’s give this a try anyhow.

It does not go well. These people don’t seem to understand the Blitz mechanic, because each time he does it one of them dies except one lone DPS. When I try to tell them of course, they don’t understand me. The tank is not tanking the trogg adds and they are all over me, no matter that I ran them to him. The DPS do not kill them. We all die. I’m starting to understand why they may have lost their first healer.

We pull him again. We lose a DPS to the first Blitz, and then another to the second. At this point it’s just three of us left and almost every Blitz is on me. I hold it together as long as I can but my mana can’t take the length of time one DPS, a tank and a healer will require to kill a heroic boss on their own. I drop group.

Enough time has passed that I’m not on random cooldown anymore so I am able to queue up again immediately and wait ten minutes for a group that I can hopefully communicate with. Soon I see the Vortex Pinnacle load screen.

“Hey guys,” I say. This group all says hi, and then the DK tank declares in party chat, “We have 50 minutes until reset, so lock and load.”

I think, “Oh boy,” but Vortex Pinnacle isn’t a long instance. We’ve got time to do this. What that seems to mean in DK parlance is “Chain-pull forever and never pause.”

I will grant you, Vid is my alt. I do work on and love her as much as I can, but she’s no Kurn or Walks (and nor am I). We have two melee DPS and one mage. There is tons of incidental melee damage in VP. I can keep folks alive, but even using Divine Plea on cooldown is not going to cut it, I need to drink to do that. The resulting series of pulls is something like a snowball rolling downhill and gaining momentum. I am able to regain less mana after each pull, and by the time he pulls the last trash pack just before the first boss, I am completely, 100% OOM. Frustrated, I can’t even start drinking because I’m already in combat. I manage to eke out the pull by judging my face off, Crusader Striking and using Word of Glory as much as I possibly can. It’s not fun.

I say in party chat, “Please don’t pull when I’m completely OOM.” The DK is quick to retort, “I had cooldowns, it was fine.”

Continuing, I say, “I know you guys want to do this fast but we’ll get it done faster if nobody dies.”

“If I had died it would be on my own head,” the DK says.

His DPS DK guildie chimes in, “It will make you a better healer.”

I bite my tongue on any further possible reply and just resolve to do the best I can. I’m pretty mild-mannered when it comes to most pugs – if something is intolerable (people who don’t know a boss that I can’t even explain it to) I might leave, but most times I’ll roll with what’s going on. This riled me.

First of all, it’s the dismissive attitude. Some groups make me feel like a walking first aid station. This casual disregard for what I was saying, “Hey – let me get the resource I need so I can do my job,” made me feel like even less than that. I felt invisible. This was not a tank I could trust. Of course, you can’t have the same affinity with a pug tank you just met that you will have with someone you know and trust. I wouldn’t ever expect that. And perhaps I am spoiled, because the tanks I tend to run with respect their healers.

But for that statement, I probably would have just shrugged it off. It’s as if this guy and his buddies said to me first, “We’ll decide when you need to stop and drink, AND shut up because it will be good for you.”

I heal pugs because I want to be a better healer. There is nothing that forces me to react quickly, think on my feet and become familiar with my tools and tricks more than a pug. It’s why I’m there. I didn’t even need a daily when I ran this VP – I’d done one earlier with guildies. I just felt like healing an instance. So I don’t need some random pug DK telling me what I do or don’t need to do to ‘be a better healer.’ I thought about this the entire run.

Was the breakneck pace and lack of CC making me work hard? Definitely.

Would it ultimately make me a better healer? Probably.

Was I free to leave at any time? Sure, but I stayed out of pure cussed stubbornness. (You’d be surprised the kinds of things stubbornness gets me to do).

Was it fun? Not at all.

Did any of them say thanks at the end for a job well-done? Of course not. I could have been any person with a plus sign next to my name; they don’t care that the intense AoE healing I had to do to keep all those melee up without CC was tough. They’ve already forgotten me, or if they remember me at all it’s to congratulate themselves on “giving that paladin healer a challenge.”

I am ranting about this because it’s not the first time I’ve encountered this attitude. The other day I ran Throne of the Tides with a hunter and mage friend. The paladin tank thought he was pretty hot stuff. Fsob said, “Feel free to mark Moon and I will sheep things,” and the tank said, “It is more fun without CC, I won’t be doing that.”

“No thanks,” I replied, and asked Fsob and Fuzz to CC anyway. Of course they did, and I could actually breathe. This tank did not have the kind of gear or skill to sustain an “all or nothing” approach to current heroics, yet he clearly felt he was entitled to dictate how the run would go. I’m not sure how it would have been without my friends there (both awesome DPS, and both ignoring the tank in favour of CCing). He then proceeded to freak out because “MYYY PAAANTSS!1!!1″ dropped at the end of the run, and then he needed on the +Spirit trinket for good measure, so obviously this guy had deeper problems.

What this all boils down to, as far as I’m concerned, is a simple bottom line: Be courteous to the people in your run, no matter what their role. If your healer says, “Please CC,” and you have CC available – do it. Because not doing it presumes that the healer should work twice as hard because you just want to be lazy.

If your healer says, “Hey, I’d like to drink sometime,” don’t get belligerent and insist that you’re just fine without the healer. I have a newsflash for you! Other people take damage besides the tank. They don’t have cooldowns. They don’t wear tank gear. If I can’t heal them, THEY might die, and you’re just wasting all of our time. I would never, ever pull a mob or group for the tank and then say “It’ll make you a better tank if you have to taunt the mobs off me instead of pulling them yourself.” As a tank, I wouldn’t refuse to taunt something back from a DPS who pulled and say, “It will make you a better DPS.” So don’t flat out refuse a reasonable request I make as a healer, or at least – don’t be surprised when your LFD queue times increase because healers are tired of dealing with this kind of thing and they just wait to run with their guilds instead.

Hello, Paladins.

Hello, Paladins.
Look at your guild tag,
Now back to me.
Now back at your guild tag,
Now back to me.
Sadly, it isn’t the same as mine.

<Business Time>

But it could be if you were ready to put on business socks and apply to mine.
Look down, back up!
Where are you? You’re in a raid instance with the guild your guild could be.
What’s in your hand? Back at me. I have it!
It’s a calendar with an invite to the raid you love.
Look again, the invite is now spellpower plate we’ve been disenchanting.

Anything is possible when your guild wears business socks. (I’m on a pally horse).

Sadly, I forgot to take a better horse screenshot before my horse became an Elekk. (See how easily things become other things around here?)

More plainly, you’ve all heard about my guild. We’re a guild that’s been strict ten since ages ago (April 2009). We’re almost two years old now! We finished out Wrath by achieving Bane of the Fallen King after getting our Frostbrood drakes back on June 1st. We’re currently 10/12 with available content (Al’akir, Nefarian remaining) and will be heading into heroic modes over the coming weeks. We are based on Moonrunner US (PvE, PST) and we raid Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6-9 PM PST.

In a nutshell, we are a tight-knit, small group of adults dedicated to progression raiding on a schedule that actually works with people’s lives. Our members have jobs and other things they are doing, so we pull at start time and not a moment later (or else Voss’ head explodes). When we raid we’re serious about it (I’m really trying hard to avoid making another Flight of the Conchords joke here, so just bear with me). Thanks to incredible stability and very low member turnover, our roster is almost the same now as it was a year ago – no mean feat, I think! The commitment of our members is itself a testamony – BT folks tend to stick around, and we like it that way. We don’t have roster openings very often.

Unfortunately, real life stuff (happy real life stuff such as getting engaged and moving!) is going to be claiming our holy priest in the next while and we’re going to need another dedicated healer (a solid off-spec wouldn’t hurt, either, but we’re primarily looking for a holy paladin.) I’m hoping that since my original blog seemed to attract many awesome holy paladins interested in watching the noob flounder cheering me on, that perhaps some of you still read and might be looking for a great guild. Our current healing roster has two restoration druids, a restoration shaman and a holy priest – so we’ve got no paladin in this role at all. We think a paladin would be just perfect (although if we don’t have luck finding one we might consider a different healing class).

If you have any questions feel free to ask them here, on our website, or you could drop me a line via Twitter or my e-mail (puggingpally AT gmail DOT com). And if you aren’t looking for a guild but you have a friend who might be, please consider spreading the word! I appreciate any mentions or links immensely.

Pugging Pally Tries To Be Bossy Pally

“Gogogogo,” the druid chanted. “We ready let’s go!”

Having just respecced and refilled my mana, I threw out buffs as the DK tank hurled himself headlong at the first group of trash in Stonecore. With a sinking feeling I quickly put Beacon on him and sprinted after. Fifteen seconds later, we all lay dead.

“Rez me,” the same druid said in party chat as the rest of us gathered up again at the entrance. “Rez!”

I’m reminded me of something Redbeard said to me last week, that throughout the course of pugging to level 80 he saw me change. I asked him if he meant it made me jaded. “No,” he’d replied. “Experienced.” He’s right. This pugging pally doesn’t take crap.

“No,” I said to the druid. “You can run back like the rest of us did.”

“Come on, rez me,” he said again.

“Or we could just kick you,” one of the three DKs responded. Obligingly, I pulled up the vote to kick window. Reason: “Won’t run back like everyone else,” I typed.

The vote passed and we stared down the same trash again.

The previous night I had felt like I might lose my supper just at the prospect of pugging. I carefully read through all the paladin changes I’d missed, set up my keybinds (Vuhdo seemed to have forgotten them) and made sure I knew what to cast when, and why. Then, telling myself that I needed to discover the instance entrances – I promptly went Retribution and didn’t even glance at the LFD window. When I finally went to pug, I first asked Voss if he would tank a few normals for me. Rusty, new-to-Cataclysm healing paladin did not want to inflict herself on pugs just yet.

Vid's return coincided with some painting experiments I've been doing. It's not super but it was good practice.

Now I had a few instances under my belt, including Stonecore – but Voss had been tanking it. This tank had the same HP I have as a holy paladin. And as Redbeard had observed, I was not the same paladin I had been. I started putting up raid icons.

“We attack him first, and these guys need to have whatever CC is available. Even a Cyclone would help.” The obliging moonkin that had pugged in to replace the other moonkin agreed. We managed to limp through that trash pack and proceeded at a more cautious pace.

“Which are the ones that do the exploding thing?” the tank asked.

I marked one for him and told him,”It’s the Earthshapers.” Each pull was a bit easier, but they were still intense and mana-draining. It was all going well until the last pull before the boss – the tank, feeling confident, no doubt – ran ahead and pulled the last group while I was still drinking. He died a horrible death but we managed to finish the trash regardless. Old Vid might have just said nothing or apologized. This Vid said, “Those pulls are really tough on my mana, so please make sure I’m with you before you pull again because I’ll probably be drinking.” The tank didn’t do that again.

I don’t know if it’s a question of design or what, but it seems inherently wrong to me that a boss fight should feel like a relief after trash pulls. The crystally worm guy went down without any problems and we moved on to the fun Quake-trash. Here there were some more lessons to be had. “Try not to stand in front of them while they’re flaying,” I told the melee with a smiley. We dodged Slabhide’s stalactite gauntlet without any problems and killed Slabhide himself similarly. (Note to self: Next time throw a raid marker up on the tank. One worgen looks much like another).

The next hallway of trash was impressively orderly. The only misstep we had was when we accidentally pulled a pack of mobs prematurely by way of a Stonecore Sentry. Again, I think firestanding inclinations were not helping my mana situation and I was drinking heavily after each pull. I feel like I really have to re-learn how to be a paladin – how to manage my mana and get it back when I have to. I guess this is something that will come with time, research, and some more experience. Soon we reached Ozruk, and I began to brace myself. The heroic version of this boss is often a complete nightmare for a number of reasons. How would his normal version stack up with my much lesser-geared tank?

It was pretty intense. I think it would have been entirely manageable if 1) the tank had managed to avoid Shatter, or 2) the two melee DPS had managed to avoid Shatter, or 3) both of the above. As it was, my mana was not a happy camper, the tank damage began to be more than I could heal through. It was like with each successive Shatter I could feel things slipping more and more out of my control until finally they went splat. If you want a better metaphor, imagine someone juggling and they throw one ball just a bit too far forward, so they unconsciously move forward to compensate, and all of the balls move just a bit more forward, and in a matter of seconds they’re falling to the floor. It was like that. Astoundingly a last gasp of emergency healing on myself and the remaining DK managed to finish Ozruk off and I was able to rez the rest of the party.

“Without so much Shatter damage on everyone I think that might have been okay,” I told them, and apologized to the tank. One DK said that lag had made it hard for him. I don’t know how hard it is since I’m not dodging Shatters, so he gets a benefit of the doubt pass. I know they’re adding more time to dodge these on heroic, I’m not sure how that applies to normal, but the boss was down and we were that much closer to victory.

We killed the large packs of cultists as we headed towards High Priestess Azil without much happening of note – except that one of the DPS death knights pulled aggro on the second to last pack and died. I tried to make light of it, “Haha tanking didn’t work out for you so well that time,” but the DK didn’t say anything. Apparently there were rising tensions here that I hadn’t been aware of. I knew the aggro situation had been a bit sketchy, but I assume it was because – well, much of the trash is tricky.

Our first attempt on Azil we wiped horribly, spectacularly. The adds were all over the place, many of them were on me, and the ones that weren’t were on the DKs. DPS overall on Azil was slow – probably because we’d all been scrambling around like chickens with our heads cut off. As we all started to run back (nobody was about to drop group just at the end of the instance, not after the time we’d put in) the tank spoke up in party chat. “DPS really needs to pick it up.”

“Tanking needs to seriously pick it up,” one of the DKs retorted, “And get some tank gear and learn how to get aggro.”

I began to reply when the moonkin beat me to it, “Guys, let’s stop the blame game,” he said. I erased what I’d been about to say and retyped.

“I agree, we just need to manage adds a bit better and I know I can do better too,” I added. I asked Voss (who was sitting nearby) what he thought. Maybe he’d have some insights, obviously I’ve never tanked it myself. He told me that getting aggro on all the adds can be tough, and that I could help out by always situating myself so that the adds go into the void zones. I know that having someone looking over your shoulder might not work for everyone, but it definitely helped me to have him there as we initiated the next pull. If this is a question of not just getting out of void zones but also positioning yourself strategically near them – then clearly I had to learn to do better.

“Now go on the other side of that one,” Voss said, “OK great, now move back towards the other.” Since I was the one drawing them towards me with passive aggro, carefully watching my position (while keeping the rest of the party in range) helped tremendously. Perhaps the DPS gave the tank more time to pick up the adds, too, I’m not sure. The end result was that we got a few Justice points, we killed a boss, and then went our separate ways. Success!

I can’t exactly say either “It was a horrible pug,” or “What an awesome pug.” Over the past few days I’ve healed quite a few Cataclysm instances. I’ve run BRC a number of times (druid and paladin), Throne of the Tides (once, as a druid) and Stonecore three times (only as a paladin). I’m tempted to say that this pug was typical for a pug right now from what I’ve seen.

Keep in mind, I have barely scraped the surface of Cataclysm pugging before now and I can’t comment on heroic pugs at all. I have been blessedly enjoying the company of my guildies in that regard. So I am late to the party to observe this – but the complete paradigm shift is astounding. The default mode for Wrath pugs – silent, but largely effective – is dead. I spent a BRC run giving a brief explanation of each boss, because someone said they hadn’t been there. Perhaps there will be a point where pugs will know all of a dungeon’s quirks and foibles and can effortlessly, silently clear one – but that’s not the case just yet. A pug that does not communicate is going to fail, even if that communication is just raid markers and an understanding that “Moon” means “Sheep” (you know it does).

Enter the Slightly Bossy Paladin (I’m not the original, and of course I play my paladin for fun as a sideline). I spent most of levels 15-80 generally going along with a group, healing them, asking for time to drink when necessary. I’ve never been “the dungeon guide,” or purveyor of strats. But if it means the difference between success and failure, then by gosh that is what I’m going to do. I don’t know if I leave group and these guys are thinking to themselves, “Man, that paladin just wouldn’t shut up.” I won’t tell people what to do if they seem to know what’s what. But I also won’t stand idly by while repair bills add up simply because a pug doesn’t want to type a few lines into party chat. The days of the quickie runs are over. It’s not as if pugs can’t coordinate their actions just like a guild can when running together. It’s that we’re all unknown quantities, and that didn’t used to matter, but now it really does. Will the mage Polymorph (and maintain) his polymorph reliably? Can the paladin brute force heal through trash packs that pummel the entire party with incredible amounts of damage? Does the tank have enough mitigation and health to do his job – will he use his cool-downs? These are all things that matter.

The end result is that pugs are no longer a really effective way to level, and I’m going to be doing some more questing. It’s good experience, but not good XP, if you know what I mean. I’ll be very interested to see how things proceed as Vid levels. She’s sitting at 83 now and has many more normals ahead of her before I’ll be looking at heroics (and when I do, despite my newfound pug assertiveness, I hope to do it with guildies). It’s not you, pugs, it’s me. Actually I lied, it’s kind of you in a “none of my dear readers” kind of way, because I’m sure all of you would be awesome in a pug. Better than I am, for sure – I kept forgetting to use my magical paladin wings. For shame!

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!"

Tag Cloud

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,308 other followers