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

Posts tagged ‘raiding’

Mage Revival

I don’t know if anyone else’s guild works like this, but ours seems to go in phases of popularity. I swear, for awhile there all I saw when I logged in was druids. Or paladins, druids, and warriors, which actually gave rise to the phrase “warrior warrior,” later adapted into “mage mage.” Anyway, I think it starts when someone has a lot of fun playing a class. Other people see the fun happening and think, “Wow, look at the fun they are having! I’ve never tried that class/I haven’t played my character of that class in awhile,” and suddenly the guild roster is positively awash in blue mage names.

I love it. People talk about leveling specs on the forums, gear levels, pugs giving us a hard time about when to use Time Warp (seriously, what IS it with this? When I am in a pug I’m just happy if all my fellow group members generally know where their keyboard is and are pressing buttons. I don’t ever give people crap about when they are going to use something like Time Warp, I’m just happy they know where that key is located and opted to press it. These people who get all bent out of shape because I used TW at the start of Jin’do must spend their lives angry because their expectations are pretty high. P.S. You don’t usually get TW at all on that fight because I’ll use it on Zanzil but absentmindedly forgot. WAY TO GO, MAGE). Anyway, I digressed a bit there, because my original point was:

1) Mages are awesome

2) Mages are contagious.

I’ve now been raiding as a mage again for several weeks, an endeavour that has not been without its minor mishaps but by and large has been awesome. Last night we beat our Baleroc record by a whopping one second so I feel that I contributed positively to that. Groups being held back don’t beat records, do they now?! There has definitely been a learning curve as I realized that I know very little about what DPSers are doing in most of these fights after healing them for months. It’s a good thing I’m not giving the fight explanations.

“So, um, on this one you’ve got to… I’ll be – Look, I’ll level with you, all I do is take a feather. I know that’s very important. And then I chase Voss around in circles. I look at the fire and make sure not to get hit by it. But mostly I see this green bar. It looks pretty much the same as it does on the other fights. So why don’t you just – I’ll be over here. The green bar and I.”

No, I’m not slighting healers. It’s just that I had to re-learn my role for DPSing, while at the same time growing accustomed to a new spec. Initially, gear was definitely holding me back because I was unwilling to relinquish my T11 4-set until I was able to get 4-set T12. Well, last night I got it, and raided for the first time! It was awesome. I’m almost at the same gear level now with Millya as I was with Vid; actually better because I got both a weapon and an off-hand last night. Three piece heroic tier gear in the amount of time I’ve been raiding is a bit ridiculous. Vid had one piece of heroic tier! I’m actually glad she didn’t have more and that I kept passing on stuff in favour of the other healer (I knew I’d be DPSing for H Rag anyway) so that when I switched it hardly mattered or affected anyone else’s gear level at all. But yea, verily did the loot gods look down upon Millya and smile, beam and begin to throw mage gear in her general direction. I know that doesn’t necessarily matter, but it is pretty nice. I’ve been fortunate.

Another story from the mage front; actually it requires some backstory first: One of our former raiders invited a work friend of his to play WoW, and so he joined our guild a few months back. He was completely new to the game, I think he’d played LoTRO or something but had never played WoW before. I seriously love him. He will ask questions like “I’m dueling this guy and he disappeared, how do I kill a guy like that?” (Freaking rogues, right?) Or he’ll say, “Hey, this Argent Tournament thing is pretty fun! Have you guys ever tried this?” (Oh, if only he knew). There’s something pretty awesome about knowing a person as they experience this game for the first time. We’re all so embroiled in the nuances, or jaded by the long grinds and hours we’ve poured into it, that sometimes I think it’s easy to lose sight of that magic – these “worlds we inhabit together,” as Metzen put it.

This guildie is level 84. It’s taken him a good long while to get there, and there’s no “end” in sight soon because he got distracted doing Loremaster (first of Outland, now I think he’s going back to do Kalimdor/Eastern Kingdoms). He’s not in any rush to “finish.” He’s just enjoying the journey and seeing what the world has to offer. He’s also the only one who laughed when I got the “My Sack is Gigantique” achievement the other day, so I love him for that too. (Come on, I spent 1000 G on that joke!) Anyway, so that’s to introduce you to my guildie, that’s the back story. The actual story is that I logged in yesterday and was running a dungeon as Millya (needed to get the last VP for those tier gloves!)

He said, “What are you up to?” and I told him, “Killing some trolls, taking their stuff,” (he laughed, how can I not love this guy?) and then he said, “You know I didn’t know that was an alt of yours.”

“Oh no? Actually, she is my MAIN!” I replied with great glee.

“Oh yeah,” he said, “I thought you were different people when you were playing Vid and Millya.” (Pause) “I always thought Millya was friendlier.”

I laughed and said I was sorry if I’d been a jerk when playing Vid, and he said no, you were nice, just Millya was friendlier. He’d clued into the connection between my characters when I asked Voss to make Millya the guild leader again the other day (so annoying not being able to do guild leader things on the appropriate character). So he had gone to work to ask our mutual friend if I was the same person. I had a good laugh relating this story to Voss, who just shrugged.

“Playing Millya makes you happy, so you’re friendlier.”

I don’t want to harp on about this, but Shintar mentioned that I had been a bit negative about Millya before switching. I tried to think back and remember this and I couldn’t (I know I could read blog entries, but I didn’t). What’s interesting about keeping a blog like this is that it’s highly filtered information. You only know as much about me as I choose to tell you, and also, I only tell you what I believe to be true. In other words, it’s possible for me to hide things from myself, convince myself something is true, or try very hard to convince anyone reading that something is true. What’s funny is that I’d written about “how playing my alt was hurting my raiding” only a few short weeks before I switched, and I’d been playing Millya non-stop (and loving it, honestly). I tried to spin it around and say “Oh well, I guess I was playing my alt for a reason!” but I’m afraid I lied – mostly to me, but by extension, to you guys.

We had an interesting thread on our private guild forums the other day where we talked about /played time and tallied up our totals for all to see. I liked it because it was interesting to see how much people have played (and which characters), but also because the inevitable, “I don’t know how I should feel about this number,” came up and there was no shaming, only agreement that we enjoy this game and have enjoyed those hours, too. I don’t tally up the time I spend reading or doing other hobbies and I don’t feel any guilt about those – why should I? As with WoW. So what was interesting about my numbers was that they were completely skewed. I’ve played 141 days as a mage. My next closest character doesn’t even come close, clocking in at a mere 50 (my druid) and poor Vid way behind at only 39 days played. I have played more as a mage than my other characters combined! My next closest character is almost 1/3 the time. I think that’s eloquent in itself.

The truth is, when we needed another healer, I sincerely felt I could help in that regard. I didn’t dislike playing a mage at all. The other other truth is, though, that I have sometimes been frustrated as a mage because I always feel I’m not as good as our other Super Mage, and that everyone is always comparing me to him (to my detriment). It’s tough to be in the shadow of someone you truly respect and you know is an exceptional player. I think that I’m a pretty good player, but not like he is. So there’s that. At the time, we also had our ridiculously good warlock and I was having a hard time keeping up with the two of them. It stung. I guess it was an ego thing. And I’ll be completely honest with you – I wanted to avoid the issue of The Legendary.

Fortunately, Dramawrath didn’t really cause any in our guild. At the time, I felt like an argument could have been made for either myself or our awesome mage, (who is indisputably an amazing DPS and also does a lot for the guild). Our shaman is also stupendous and ended up being second-in-line by virtue of guild seniority and steadiness. I hope we’re able to make one for him, too. He’s almost done with the cinders portion of the chain. I think I am no slouch of a DPS and I also do a lot for the guild. But I think it meant more to our other mage. (And I know he’s going to read this and if he’s reading it I want him to know this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me. I wanted you to have this, and I still do. You deserve it.) He said to me when we talked about it that he would rather not have it, if it was going to cause drama. I couldn’t agree more. I have the kind of personality that unfortunately can be avoidant. Especially as a leader I have to consciously push myself to confront issues sometimes when I’d rather pretend they don’t exist – or maybe, when I’d rather just duck out of the way altogether, as I did when I switched to my paladin for one very specific tier.

I will admit, privately on the internet in front of everyone, there’s a part of me that’s a bit sad about the Dragonwrath. Caster legendaries don’t come along all the time, it’s a pretty neat thing to have, etc. etc. I was watching at Blizzcon when they announced that they would do a legendary staff, and I cheered so loudly. I see other folks getting theirs or read about their progress on blogs and I feel a slight pang. But I don’t regret my decision because I think having me as a healing paladin did help us in this tier. Yes, I missed playing my mage, and I am happy to play her again. Perhaps sometime during the next expansion I’ll see if I can solo any of Firelands and get an outdated Dragonwrath. The more essential thing, to me, though, is not Dragonwrath itself, and I’d actually like to invite you to think about that for a moment.

There are many Dragonwraths. Yes, it’s an “orange” item, but every raid group is making one (or more). Some raid groups will have several. It’s not Dragonwrath that matters at all. That staff is a visual representation of the teamwork and devotion of ten to thirty people. They painstakingly gathered all of those cinders, those embers, those shards, to put that together. I’m deliberately leaving out the “and then gave it to you” part here. Because in a way, that almost doesn’t matter. It’s an achievement that everyone can be proud of. That team work, that drive, it’s humbling and awesome. Braving the challenges of the Firelands night after night, through tension and tedium, elation and success, that is what’s truly legendary. I’m proud of the guild for doing it (we’re about one week away from completing it) and I couldn’t think of a better wielder of that honour. I’m really glad he will have it, and I’m also really glad to be a mage again (although it’s not like playing a paladin was bad). After all, I’m friendlier, which is probably a good thing!

The Hybrid’s Dilemma: Part II

Way back when, in the ICC days, I wrote about the troubles I faced as a hybrid player. At the time, I was playing a moonkin with a side of resto. You can read that post first if you like, I think a lot of it is still relevant to the problems that hybrids continue to face. It’s not entirely comprehensive, this is more of a personal viewpoint thing.

After my experiences as a hybrid moonkin, I swore that it wouldn’t happen again. When I switched to my mage, I was very “mage for life,” and I poured my efforts into her achievements and her mount and pet collecting. Unfortunately for me, even over nine thousand achievement points isn’t an effective deterrent when it comes to character switching (and it was a big reason why I knew I should never be a contender for something like a legendary weapon – I am too fickle). That is why, at this point in time, I find myself coming back to the same issue – only it’s as a paladin.

Tens and the Hybrid Dependency

It must be tough to design encounters effectively for a ten-person raid. Any raid has a set number of “required” tanks for an encounter, although it can be flexible. Some encounters can be tanked with one less tank or one more tank depending – For instance, we did Heroic Halfus with two tanks and three healers, but I’ve heard of guilds that preferred to do it with three tanks and two healers. It all comes down to what you have available to you. A raid team can only be made stronger by having flexible people willing to change roles when need be, but at what cost? At what point does asking players to switch roles become unreasonable, untenable, or even counter-productive?

The biggest obstacle to this is roster size. The majority of ten-person guilds are smaller (deliberately so). Some guilds will maintain multiple tens teams and perhaps a bigger bench, but by and large we don’t have the luxury of world first guilds that could just bring x number of available moonkins because their abilities trivialize an encounter. Sometimes we can have recourse to people’s alts, but for the most part we just make do with what we have.

The design of encounters in this tier has not been friendly for juggling the number of tanks and healers. As a friend of mine has complained, very often the second tank was expected to switch to DPS because a fight simply didn’t require another. Rhyolith is like this, as is Majordomo. An ongoing issue for us after the heroic nerfs was how many healers does a fight need? Historically, we’ve switched between three and two healers at different times and for different content. ICC was largely two healed up until the point where that wasn’t possible, and the roster was adjusted for three healing. We’ve stayed with the three healing model up to and through Firelands, when especially in later Firelands it becomes evident that three healers aren’t necessary or even possible for quite a few of the fights.

That leaves us with a problem – four active, main-spec healers on our roster and only two spots for healers on most nights (with the exception of Beth’tilac, and perhaps it will become more two healable for us but at the moment it’s more of a three healer thing). What this means is that on any given night, we either have a healer going off-spec DPS, or we bench a healer. I don’t think our healers signed up to raid for just one night a week. The other option is for a healer to switch roles entirely. All of these solutions hang on one question – what is the Dragon Soul going to be requiring in terms of healer and tank balance? We’re trying to plan our roster for the new tier of content but we aren’t sure what we should be aiming for.

The Unhappy Ret

We’re fortunate in that some of our players enjoy tanking and DPSing fairly equally. Our excellent druid is happy to boom it up with his laser beams for some fights, and our paladin tank plays ret without complaint. As a moonkin, I liked to heal (but I didn’t actually like to moonkin). Now I am a main spec healer, and I’ve been finding out that I don’t especially enjoy raiding as retribution. Actually, that’s an understatement. I’ve been doing it so much that I’m starting to loathe it. I’m not really great at it, so it’s stressful. I’ve chased heroic Rhyolith’s legs around for hours. Each week I’ve been Ret for Alysrazor – last week saw me dying to a fire sprinkler just before the fight ended. This week I didn’t die, but my DPS was the lowest by a great margin. When I’m DPSing as ret, I always have a niggling feeling in the back of my head that if I would step out for another (better) DPS, it would make fights easier, and I wouldn’t be holding the group back. I love DPSing. I don’t love ret DPSing. And as was my problem previously as a hybrid, I want to be the absolute best I can at what I’m doing. Off-speccing Ret and DPSing a fight doesn’t allow for that. The only solution would be to DPS even more as ret, which just pigeonholes me into a corner where last week I reached the breaking point and turned to Voss and said: I COULD get better at ret. But I really don’t WANT to.

I could practice art of warring until the cows come home, but ultimately it’s not why I’m playing a paladin. Now this is an entirely personal thing – nobody’s been “making” me play ret, but the fact is that we have all these nights with too many healers, and so somebody’s got to do it – or else healers sit to allow DPS to step in. I realized that I would rather sit than work on H Ragnaros as ret. It’s just that simple. I don’t learn the fight from a healing perspective as ret. I probably will hardly even see what’s going on in the fight itself, because I’m too busy hitting the buttons and hoping my Inquisition uptime is high enough and looking to see what’s procced and what hasn’t and what oh that’s fire it’s burning me ow.

I realize this probably sounds very “I’m taking my ball and going home,” and petulant, and I hope you’ll bear with me there (as I insist and reiterate that this isn’t a problem with my guild or anyone in it). I’ve come to the realization that doing most of the fights in a spec I don’t like instead of a spec I do like has been killing the fun for me. It’s not even, “Oh, I’m lukewarm about this,” I logged off last Wednesday and I was probably the closest I have ever been to saying: I am tired of raiding. It is the opposite of fun for me.

So nobody should have to play a spec or a class or a role they don’t like. I wouldn’t do that to someone else, why would I do it to myself? After taking the weekend while hardly logging into any of my main characters (and enjoying a lovely Thanksgiving, thank you) I realized that I had to make this known to both our other officers and my guild. They aren’t mind readers. It’s certainly not fair to them to stew quietly, getting frustrated with my position until one day I’ve just had enough and I don’t even want to raid any more.

The Hybrid Advantage

I still think that being a hybrid is awesome. Having them on a roster is even better! But you absolutely need to know that the people in the hybrid positions are willing and enjoy doing it. Some people are cut out to be hybrids in both aptitude and attitude. They genuinely have no spec preference. I guess, when it comes to my hybrid roles, I’m not really one of them. I’d rather be a holy paladin. But the way that encounters are designed, it leaves a great big question mark for ten person guilds in particular about each tier. Will their tanks be spending a lot of time DPSing? Will their healers be twiddling their thumbs, or will someone who is DPS need to swap to heals for a fight or two? We just don’t know, although the raid cooldown nature of the tank T13 bonuses seems to suggest that there will be a lot of damage going out. I will be happy to go into the next tier as either a healing paladin or a mage, but I don’t want to go as a ret paladin. Alts tend to slow raiding down so it’s not advantageous to swap from one alt to another depending on role needs. Our raid needs hybrids – the question is, who will they be? We never have been able to find an awesome moonkin; the biggest thing for us right now is that our roster is actually over-full. Only two of our healers are willing to DPS (out of four) and I know the others feel guilty about it. But really, why should they have to DPS? Is it a better model to just start sitting healers for a “real” DPS?

If I move to a DPS role it means fewer available DPS positions. We may be doing some more shuffling, with having someone else move to tank and our current tank move to DPS, which would open up a position for me to do that. Overall, though, it’s frustrating. Speaking as someone who loves playing a “pure” DPS, it’s unfortunate that we have nothing to recommend us but our DPS, when the smaller raid size is so favourable for hybrids. Our raid would probably be perfect if we had an ele/resto shaman, a boomkin/resto druid, and plate DPS that was willing and able to tank. We have a fabulous elemental shaman, and he just doesn’t like healing. I can’t blame him! I don’t like melee DPS. I can’t expect him to do something he doesn’t like and probably wouldn’t be good at, and therein lies the problem. Finding 10-15 people with the appropriate specs, personalities, skills and willingness to swap roles is an almost indescribable juggling act. We shouldn’t be unduly penalized for having two mages, or two paladin healers, or whatever. Except that we are. One of the big reasons I am thinking of switching is because two paladin healers for one ten man team is often not just less than ideal, it’s nearly impossible. Neither of us has the raid healing strength to fill that niche. The upcoming changes are working to address that, but it remains that our holy paladin would be better off healing with any of the other three types of healers by his side – not another holy paladin. That’s frustrating, and it’s disappointing to me personally because I love paladin healing.

That’s not really what this is about, though. What it comes down to is that it’s usually better to have a hybrid, but when you’re a hybrid that hates your other spec you aren’t much use as a hybrid, and then what do you do?

I hope you’ll forgive the somewhat ranty nature of the above post. I have put off writing about this because I didn’t want to be too much of a whiner (hence the radio silence for the past two weeks while I quietly seethed). I want to do the best thing for my raid team, but I also want to do the best thing for myself, because if I’m not having fun then my priorities are severely skewed.

Edited to add: Beru over at Falling Leaves and Wings wrote an excellent post this morning about this very problem, from a broader overview and 25s perspective. It behooves you (har) to go check it out!

100th Post: Paladins, Mages, and Something In-Between

So it’s been about three months now that I’ve been raiding as a paladin, and it happens that this is my one hundredth post at Manalicious! I’ve been waffling about what to write, considered doing a blogaversy style-retrospective of my favourite posts, but I think I’ll save that for my actual blog’s anniversary. I did also want to mention I have been horrible about replying to comments lately, and I’m going to try to get better about it. I do read and enjoy every single comment, and usually I try to always reply to them, too.

On Being A Paladin

This is a preview of a graphic I've been working on for ages with intention to put it on the blog. Secret unfinished image!

It’s ironic and sad for my husband, Voss, that he has such a rivalry going on with paladins. Every Friday when he is able to tweet more, he picks a fight with the paladins on Twitter. It’s actually hilarious to me that most of the people he talks to on Twitter are 1) Blood Elves and 2) Paladins. The cherry on the paladin sundae is that he’s married to someone who also plays a paladin. But, I don’t feel bad about it because being a paladin is fun. I am really starting to settle in to raiding as one. The healing style is in my fingertips, if you will. I have fixed some issues and bad habits and I think I’m doing a better job than ever before. So that aspect of being a paladin is going well.

I think I make better use of my toolbox. My gear has been steadily improving, although both Ragnaros and Domo have stubbornly refused to drop tier tokens while I’ve been in the raid – so now I’m at the point where I expect we’ll be getting heroic shoulder token upgrades and neither myself nor my priest friend will be able to upgrade them because we never got the normal ones. Naturally, I’m unhappy about this. I don’t really have a solution in mind, but four-set doesn’t look like it’s in my future anytime soon. I’ve heard that it’s really not “all that” anyway, so perhaps that’s fine. My fellow paladins may disagree.

Paladins have many neat things that I wind up missing when I am playing a mage (and vice versa). The two speed bursts make up for not having Blink, in my book, while in Retribution spec the Long Arm of the Law gap-closer makes me happy. Playing melee is interesting and it’s definitely been a change from the DPS I’ve been used to in the past. I find myself reaching for Crusader Aura when I am playing any character that does not have Crusader Aura. (Despite world-wide flying, there are still places like the Molten Front where it is incredibly useful).

On Having Divided Character Loyalties

I eased off on trying to re-complete achievements for Vid, realizing that I was burning myself out by trying to regain ALL THE THINGS that Millya already had. Instead of trying to rebuild a pet collection, I collected some more pets until Millya was able to get the Celestial Dragon. Right now I’m doing Brewfest stuff for both of them, but the only thing Millya needs to do is get drunk in Dalaran and then fall off something, so she just needs Brewfest clothing. Vid hasn’t done the achievements at all, but Brewfest is one of my favourite holidays so I don’t mind doing them all again. I also did just enough to get my druid (the original drunkard of my “crew”) a Brewfest Keg Pony.

FOR PONY.

I think I’ve come to the point where I am resigned to the fact that I’ll never have the one character with all of the achievements and things the way that some people do. (Voss, for instance, has all of his raid achievements on Vosskah because he never plays anything else). Me? I will have different achievements depending on the character, and I may go back and re-do some if I feel the urge but I can’t let it bug me too much because I’m too variable to only ever play one character. One of my guildies was teasing me because I said during the My Epic Heals podcast that I would probably play my mage again, and that she is my “true” main. What I really mean, but can’t explain, is that my strongest loyalty lies with her, raiding aside. Raiding is only one aspect of the game, after all. I’ve been playing Millya devotedly for three years, while Vid has only even existed (at max level) for about 1-1.5 years. But her name is also my online identity and I first started blogging while writing about her so… I guess, what it comes down to is that they’re just different. I’m sure I could never abandon either of them. I didn’t expect Vid to become my raiding main, but she has, and she is awesome.

On Being A Mage

My avatar on Twitter.

The Molten Front dailies suck. They really do. The second time around, they suck in a way I can’t even describe for fear of being sucked into a whirling vortex of suckitude. I’m doing them again with Millya because she likes achievements but seriously. 150 Marks to reveal more dailies. Then another 150 until you’ve done the same thing. Then 125…three times over? It just seems excessive. Even the first time, towards the end I was really losing steam with these dailies. And I am someone who really likes dailies. I did the Isle of WTF for weeks back in the day. Anyway, Millya will get some more pets and a mount, but I reserve the right to complain about it a bit at the same time. (I know, I do it to myself).

As far as maging goes I have delved into LFD a bit more with Millya as Vid routinely caps VP through raids primarily. I don’t actually mind the DPS wait too much. I do mind the way that groups often treat DPS, like expendable (and stupid) movable artillery. If you’re unclear about which Hatcher you want killed, you don’t get to yell at me when I kill the “wrong” one when you weren’t smart enough to go pick up the hatchlings, regardless of where they spawned! And the reason we wiped on the last boss is not because I “used Time Warp in the Lynx phase and should have saved it for Dragonhawk.” It’s because you are a terrible tank that wasn’t using your CDs, and the healer was a pretty undergeared and slow druid who let you die. Also, when one DPS does 40% of the damage in a run, you should stop giving him/her a hard time.

Most of my LFD runs go well, and are fun. After healing a lot of the time I find it’s nice to relax back into exploding things with fire in the face, fire on the ground, extra big fire, little fire…! By contrast, when I’m soloing and running around the world it will usually be as Frost. My water elemental and I, Speak, are an inseparable team. I actually did go Frost on the last boss in ZG when our group was struggling, though. The added control on the Spirits made a big difference, and I wish I had thought of doing it sooner!

By the way, my elemental’s name is Speak because of this video a friend inflicted on me years ago. Now, I pass it on to you. Don’t blame me if it gets stuck in your head, though. I dun wanna war. Yee, c’mon.

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Nerfs

I tend to be a bit slower to comment publicly on news – especially contentious news. It’s not that I don’t have opinions. But especially when my reactions are strong ones, I usually want to sit on them for a bit, sift through why I am reacting so strongly, and only then can I express that reaction coherently.

When word of the upcoming T12 nerfs (to both normal and heroic modes) hit, I was spitting mad. I hit Twitter in a frenzy, posted on my guild forums, logged in to commiserate with my guildies. My nerd rage was at an all-time high. I thought it was unfair, I felt cheated – and didn’t understand why they would nerf content that is, to me, “mid-tier.”

Of course, I recognize that we’re missing some key pieces of info. We don’t know when T13 is coming out, how long it will be on the PTR and exactly when this tier will become obsolete. I was on vacation when T12 came out and so to me, it’s had a run from July to September. Two and a half months feels really short. I didn’t understand why they’d sweep the proverbial tier rug out from under our feet.

But do you want to know the real, naked and honest truth? I was upset because we were late, and I knew it, and I hated to admit it even to myself.

You’re seldom going to see a blog post where someone admits (especially a guild leader) that their progression just hasn’t been going the way they’d imagined. Granted, I don’t usually say much about my raid team anyhow; kill shots aren’t exciting for anyone but the people in them. When we achieve a particularly awesome kill I might write about and exult in it a bit (I was so proud when we downed Heroic Lich King, nothing could have prevented me from writing about that). This is the other side of that coin; the dirty, reluctant and secretive side. The uncertainty, the disappointment – yes, dare I say, even shame and guilt. I was the guild leader of a raiding guild that hadn’t killed a new boss in a month. That is the secret that I wouldn’t write about. It was eating away at me.

There are certain acknowledged risks that go along with pushing that big red button.

The Green-Eyed Monster

I could go into all the reasons (excuses) why BT was stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels, although it’s a timorous beast. Who can say exactly why a raid team may stall? It’s seldom any one reason. Was it the roster changes? Scheduling conflicts? Lack of interest? It’s almost impossible to pinpoint just one thing, and anyway, excuses are tedious and boring. But you start to doubt yourself, and you feel others’ doubt beginning to build, too. Please don’t mistake me. I am incredibly proud of my team and the people on it. The other reason I didn’t want to write this was because I never wanted to make them feel bad, or as if I had lost faith in them. Quite a few guildies read my blog. To write about how we’d been struggling felt like it would be a betrayal, and incredibly demoralizing. It could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If your guild leader expresses doubt about you, wouldn’t you start to doubt yourself too?

Yet it’s been agonizing, and I know it’s been hard on all of us. It got to the point where I hated even opening Twitter, hated to hear about the successes of others, each new kill announcement feeling like it was aimed specifically at me, shouting, “We killed this and YOU DIDN’T.”

It’s not a pleasant feeling. It’s even worse feeling like your own self-doubts and frustrations are making you act like the worst version of yourself. I’ve always been (or tried to be) the kind of person who is honestly happy for the successes of others. In order to do that, you need to come from a strong sense of self. You can’t let your confidence be shaken, nor start to feel like others’ successes are a reflection of you. They aren’t, unless you let them be.

But the fact is, we’d still only downed Heroic Shannox after a month of work on other heroic bosses. It eats away at a person, and it eats away at a guild, slowly eroding the confidence that lets you move on to other kills. The longer you’re there, the deeper you become mired.

When the nerfs were announced, I read “nerf” and what I heard was “failure.”

“These nerfs are for you, because you haven’t downed the content in the allotted time frame. You are the intended audience and you need them.” I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way. Whether you are working your way through normal or heroic mode raids, it’s hard not to feel as if nerfed content is a pronouncement on you. For me, I found myself wondering, what is a heroic raid guild that doesn’t kill heroic bosses? I had to think long and hard about this, and the answer I came up with is that it’s a heroic raiding guild that could, perhaps, at this time – benefit from some nerfs.

Whatever the reasons – and I don’t want to delve into them here, because our group is in the process of stabilizing once more – we’ve really struggled to move through this tier. We mowed over the normal modes for the most part and had great momentum going into heroics. It’s as if we were caught somewhere in the middle; quite strong for normals, but maybe not quite strong enough for all of the heroics. So, I was immediately angry, and then slowly started to drift towards acceptance. As I read some thoughts that other people had on the subject, I realized that I have to focus on what is important: the long-term strength and success of the team. We faltered somewhat in T11, not completing the heroic tier (something we’d not failed to do since Ulduar), and that was a blow to morale. We’d hoped to make a strong start in Firelands (and I think we did) but it’s tough to predict just what is going to happen – who is going to leave, who is going to be out of town, whatever. I’m not looking to point fingers at my people. The funny thing is, the guild has changed completely. It’s not the same guild it was even a year ago. Many of our long-term members stopped raiding, replaced by new people who – no matter how awesome – need time to click, and build a new team.

This whole process has helped me to realize some truths.

Sometimes it’s better to pick yourself up and build something for the future. So we weren’t on the bleeding edge of content for this tier. It’s a fact. But so what? Tons of guilds haven’t even made it this far – they’ve folded, collapsed, or exploded. We still have a full raid group. We’re still here. We’ve consistently cleared through Ragnaros for many weeks in a row, and our raid has been gearing up nicely as a result.

Success is all relative. A week ago, I was upset because we couldn’t move past 1/7 heroics. None of us joined this guild to only kill 1/7 heroics. The announcement of the nerfs and other changes we’ve been making really galvanized the team last night and we had a breakthrough of sorts – finally pushing through to kill Heroic Alysrazor. Nerfs or no nerfs, we’re going into next week with one more kill under our belts. That feels good, it feels like progress, which is why I play this game. Will I be puffed up and brag about our progress post-nerf? Probably not, because I will know that these kills will be much easier than kills made while the content was still at full-strength. But there’s a difference between not boasting and not being proud to complete things at all. These nerfs may be just what we need to continue pushing and have challenges to face leading up to T13 – and when T13 does come, we’ll have all the gear we can muster, and the experience of this tier, and we’ll be ready for it.

This time around, they nerfed the content when we were 28% of the way through heroics (or 42%, if Domo goes well this week). If next tier they pull the “to the ground, baby” move again, I’ll consider it a success if we are further through that tier than we were this one. Measurable, steady improvement is highly underrated. I’m still proud of my team and what we have accomplished, and what I know we will accomplish in the future. Besides that – we can’t be the only group that didn’t go extremely far. There has be a good reason for Blizzard to be nerfing the content before it’s truly through. Maybe guilds that only want to do normals couldn’t get as far in them as they would have liked. Maybe, with reduced raid schedules, not everyone is able to go through the whole thing. Obviously, Blizzard thinks so, and they’re taking this action as a result. It’s going to benefit my guild, and I’m okay with admitting that. It turns out that maybe – if you shed light on such a secret – it might not be so shameful after all.

Voss-isms

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

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

The jokes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We love you too, Voss.

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

Update on Settling Into A New Role

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

DPS: Now With 100% Rear Boss View

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

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

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

Achievements

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

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

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

Blogging

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

Raiding

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

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

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

Recruiting

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

“Those” Raid Nights and What To Do About Them

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

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

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

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

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

Recognize that it happens to everyone

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

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

Take a break

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

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

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

Switch it up

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

Get some perspective

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

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

Identify and learn from your mistakes

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

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

Put that thing to bed

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

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

Now 100% More Holy

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You can’t be in front of him!”

“I’m not in front of him!”

“You’re in his frost breath!”

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

“I used a cooldown.”

“I used another cooldown.”

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

“…okay.”

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

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

I loved it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Main By Any Other Name

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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