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

Posts tagged ‘raiding’

Business Time Raid Guide: Heroic Halfus (10)

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

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

Overview

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

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

Abilities/Effects

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Notes

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

Raid Composition

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

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

See below for legend.

Positioning

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

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

Skull: Storm Rider

Cross: Nether Scion

Star: Whelps

Square: Time Warden

Orange Circle: Halfus

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

Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

/cancelaura Divine Shield
/cast Divine Shield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Character Hierarchy: Who’s the boss?

I’m always interested in discussions about which character people consider their ‘main.’ I know people who have two mains, one they raid with and one that is their achievement/collector. Is your main your oldest character? The one you love the most? If you’re an RPer, perhaps it’s the character whose story you are most invested in. Changing mains can lead to mixed feelings and even a confusion of identity. I know it sounds dramatic, but it’s true! My friend Rades has been playing his death knight character primarily since he was unhappy with the hunter changes, but his identity in the WoW community is still pretty strongly a burly green hunter. After all, his blog is called Orcish Army Knife.

Millya's (and my!) first raid ever. I love this screenshot; I can feel the tension I felt at the time being told "Go stand here," while we waited to pull - and to me Millya looks as if she feels the same way. (p.s. Spellfire set and PvP staff, so retro).

I remembered being flat-out shocked when Wrath came out that people would change “mains” at this time. This was naivete on my part, to the tune of, “But you are a priest, how could you level your druid first?” Plenty of people I know switched characters at the beginning of Wrath (from a bear to a paladin! from a priest to a druid! from a hunter to a death knight!) I had to reconcile myself to the fact that people won’t stay the characters you expect them to stay. The death knight was especially rough because we had to wait for him to catch up to us at max level. The new expansion was a valuable experience, though, because when Cataclysm was coming out I knew to expect it and I started the conversation in-guild really early: Who are you going to want to be playing in Cataclysm? Several people seized on that opportunity, and of course now I understand at least partly why. If you are dissatisfied with your class or just want something new, nothing levels the playing field like the gear reset at a new expansion.

I’m continually surprised by how even when you think your main is clearly defined, other characters can sneak up in the rankings and even dethrone the long-time king or queen. Unexpectedly during Wrath, I dropped all of my max-level characters to play Shaedra – a character who was level forty when I was raiding Naxxramas turned out to be the healer I brought into Ulduar. I really fell in love with being a druid, and the character herself (as I was still on an RP server at the time) was a ridiculous amount of fun to play. Her personality was outrageous and she made people laugh, and I think that was a large part of why she became my “main.”

I took many screenshots of Shae because she was fun to photograph. She's posing here with what was actually a feral staff from Ulduar but it looked so neat I used it for screenshots.

As a confirmed altoholic, I have to admit that there’s always a certain shuffle going on with my characters. I had to play a healer because of raid group requirements, and I found that at the time I preferred to be a druid. I’ve since done this several more times. I remember one of my RLs famously remarking, “You can bring anything you want! But, can you bring a healer?” (Sorry, Saif!) It’s not that I didn’t enjoy healing, but at the time I had an awesome partner. It was fun to rock through Naxx with my druid buddy, two-healing everything. We were a great team.

My later experiences with Shae in Ulduar didn’t really match up with that. No one else in our group wanted to/was in a position to heal, so every week we’d be pugging again. There was the priest who asked whether I was a guy or a girl on Vent (okay, I know I don’t have a high-pitched voice, but I think I still SOUND like a woman), there were healers who would DC, there were healers who clearly had no idea what the heck they were doing. In one week’s run, I did sixty percent of the healing, the other healer did twenty (twenty!) and the rest of it came from other sources. On the one hand, it’s kind of fun to feel superhuman. On the other, I’d finish each raid with a crazy tension headache and started bursting into tears for no reason. This is when we realized that we were not succeeding at running a raid group, and I was burned out on being a healer.

My poor Holy priest, she is the epitome of "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride." I have since race-changed her to be a draenei and she really doesn't have a story of her own.

So, I was happy to begin raiding as a mage again when I server transferred and moved to Business Time! They needed a mage. I had kept Millya’s gear at around T9 level because I can’t bear to let my beloved characters languish. BT didn’t really need a warrior but they accepted Voss grudgingly on my good merit (and conjured cakes). The truth is, I played a healer because a healer was needed, but I’m not sure any character was ever my true “main.” They are powerful second-string characters and sometimes I play them, but for me, there’s only really one true main.

Millya's triumphant return to Ulduar hard-modes - i was absolutely floored by some of the scenery in later Ulduar. Please ignore the fact that she is wearing pants, something that would never, ever happen if she had a say in it.

My screenshots folder tells the tale. As I rummaged through looking for good shots of all my characters, I saw the amount of documenting I had done for my behooved spellslinger. There are shots of her in every raid instance, dinging level 70, level 80 – learning how to polymorph people into pigs and wearing the worst Burning Crusade fashion choices. In a way, she’s my least exciting roleplay character because she is me. My other characters are often fun because I deliberately try to make them different – an outspoken booze hound/hedonist, a determined inventor, etc. She’s a bookish intellectual with a temper – not really my most creative decision given my personality. This doesn’t mean I never get confused about the main/alt issue. As recently as this week I’ve thought about playing one of my healing characters because it’s what the raid group needs. This time, fortunately, I faced up to the reality that even if I did it “for the good of the group” I would always miss her. If mages had a healing spec (a la Rift) I would not hesitate! I would chloromance the heck out of my raid group. But that’s not an option.

My feelings towards individual characters is a shifting thing. I haven’t been as excited about Shae since she is no longer a happy tree healer. It’s sad, but true. She’s languishing at level 83. Vidyala became such a favourite that I seriously considered playing her in Cataclysm, but she never quite made it. She is the queen of pugs and possibly an eventual alt run, but she isn’t my main.

Vid-on-ice. Or is that in ice? Anyway, you all know the fight. I guess my pathetic magic had betrayed me.

She is my top pick for when we’re branching out into alt-territory, though! This tier of raiding doesn’t seem very pug-friendly so I’m not sure how much raiding she’ll do, and I’m okay with that. I don’t have time to maintain two “complete” characters. Besides, if I weren’t running LFD pugs, how would I get crazy pug stories to write blog posts about?

Fireballing M.A.G.E.

I knew that when I felt a rush of relief at not having to switch characters to fill a healing slot that it was the RIGHT decision. I don’t want to not be a mage! I don’t know if it’s the class so much as Millya herself. If I could change her class and keep my mounts, titles, and achievements, I might consider changing her to a priest. Barring that, I don’t see it happening. Incidentally, I’ve heard that they are introducing the option to rearrange your characters on the character screen and I am so happy about this. It’s actually okay because Millya is at the top – I deleted my 58 Death Knight just so that she would be at the top. I don’t know why, I am OCD about some things. Now I will be able to put seldom-played alts at the bottom and arrange my other characters in the true pecking order.

How about you? Do you have one main forever? Did you find yourself switching when you least expected it? And why does your main hold the title?

Kill It With Fire: A Pyromaniacal Mage Flowchart

I have to thank Runzwithfire for the idea of making a flowchart – although I hear he’s more Runzwithfrost these days. I didn’t want to make a frost chart, so I made a fire one instead.

Read this with a few caveats.

  1. This is primarily for single target fights. The chart does mention adds in a roundabout way, but they are not prioritized. This changes for special cases, e.g. Halfus Wyrmbreaker’s heroic mode. Because of the debuff on Halfus and the nature of Impact procs as well as the need to DPS the whelps, Impact becomes much more important in this fight. But for the majority of boss fights, this is what you’ll do.
  2. I’ve never made a flowchart before so it may not work in a perfect loop. When in doubt, cast Fireball, and never stop casting something.
  3. The initial “rotation” works because it’s stuff you can do as you are moving into position. Scorch on the move, put up LB, summon your orb and your mirrors and then go to town. Always keep as many dots as possible. Never cast Combustion without Ignite. If you’ve been very unlucky with hot streak you may cast it without Pyroblast, but never without all your other buffs!
  4. I assume any on-use trinkets will be used along with your main nuke. It’s beneficial to refresh DoTs when a trinket procs to give you more Int/Spellpower but that’s beyond the scope of a flow chart.
  5. Combustion Helper is an excellent addon for fire specs to easily manage all those DoTs, I highly recommend it.

It burrrrns us.

So there you have it, my first flow chart! Thanks to Voss for help with Visio thing (ridiculously easy to use). They’re fun! It got a little bit silly at the end there.

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

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

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

Time Well Spent: Always Includes Cookies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inevitable End: This, too, shall be patched.

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

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

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

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!"

I Am A Damage Dealer

 

That's why I wear a hood, because it makes me look mysterious and dangerous.

We are the “bad boys” of Warcraft, the mavericks, the devil-may-care, aggro-stealing, reckless ne’er do wells.

Everyone knows we only ever look at our damage meters. Threat? What’s that? Oh, you are threatening me if I don’t stop pulling aggro. I understand that, but I can’t take my eyes off the “two” key long enough to listen, sorry.

I know that I should beg pardon of the tanks and healers because they are the ones with the important role.

DPS are a dime a dozen. Replacing a DPS takes three seconds. Any mouth breather can DPS!

I am not buying it.

Perhaps it’s because these attitudes perpetuate from 5-mans and random pugs with strangers that they seem so prevalent, but anyone who actually believes this BS is missing a key concept in the notion of a team.

As a DPS player, I and my compatriots research our classes tirelessly. We practice on target dummies, we adjust our gemming, our gear, our talents – so that we can do the most damage possible. Yes, there is pride in doing “the most” damage. There is pride in beating your personal best. Without someone damaging bosses (and I’m talking challenging raid content, here) they wouldn’t die.

I have been in guilds where the prevailing attitude was “If we are failing, we need more healers.” They did treat DPS as interchangeable cogs in the wheel. And to an extent, we are. After all, yellow numbers are universal, right? Damage is damage. Incidentally, the “add another healer” approach didn’t really work out for that guild. What they needed was better DPS. Sometimes a boss fight goes on so long and people start to die and it’s easy to misdiagnose this. “People have died,” becomes “Let us find a way to keep them from dying,” leads to, “We need more healers to heal them.”

I am fortunate enough to be in a guild where I feel that all members have the mutual respect of their team-mates. Don’t mistake this declaration as being opposed to tanks and healers. I have played all roles in this game. I didn’t choose to be a damage-dealing class because I’m lazy, or because I’m dumb, or simple, or can’t handle the responsibility of the other roles. I started playing the game as a healer. Around level forty we fell into a regular group of dungeon runners (long before the days of LFD).

In our little group, we had: two holy priests, one protection paladin, one protection warrior, and an arms warrior. I kid you not when I say we spent more than four hours in Sunken Temple. It was ridiculous. We had more people who wanted to tank and heal than who wanted to actually kill things. I re-rolled as a mage, and I set out to be the best damn mage I could be. First I had to level to catch up with my group. I had a lot to learn, and I have been learning it for years.

It’s easy to assume that because many classes can re-spec and do respectable damage with their off-spec gear that “DPS is easy.” Sure, in a sense, it’s easy. You target a creature (hopefully the same one as the tank is targeting) and you kill it. But you might compare an off-spec player with someone playing the same class and spec and see a huge a discrepancy. Why? Because the DPS player practices all the time. He or she knows what they are doing. They have read strats, they know how to maximize their damage for a particular encounter. Believe me, they do, and they think these things all the time. Not because it makes our “e-peen” grow, or because we think that it really makes a huge difference if we cast just one more instant spell as we’re moving instead of just moving. We do it because it’s our job and we are going to do it WELL.

My fellow damage-dealers: there’s a notion floating around that we should be pathetically grateful when a tank deigns to tank for us, and when a healer throws us a pity heal. Receive these boons humbly, but don’t forget that you are also important. We are greater in number because more of us are needed. We are three parts of a five-man, and at least five parts of a ten man, possibly more. Take pride in the work that you do and don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t matter to the success of a group. You often matter more than they know.

Healers: I have the utmost respect for you and the difficult role that you play. I will gladly receive your heals when you see fit to give them to me. In addition, I will try not to take them for granted. I will do my best to survive on my own – through my self-heal, through bandages, through the tools of my class. Please remember and appreciate that I would take a hit for you if I had to – that I keep an eye on you and would frost nova to help you in a pinch, crowd control an angry creature, or kite it away from you. I think of you often and love you when you BoP or shield me, or give me Blessing of Salvation. Without you, there would be no group.

Tanks: I recognize your very difficult job. You are patient when we are overzealous, and we have a back-and-forth power struggle we can’t really escape. When you are doing well, I can unleash the full powers of my devastation. If you are newer, it is my responsibility to hold those powers back so as to not make your life difficult. I thank you for every taunt and all the aggro that you generate. I’m proud to stand beside you when we have killed things together.

We overcome the challenges in this game as a team, for a reason. Whether a group acknowledges it or not, we all have some say in how group play is conducted. DPS may follow along meekly because the tank and healer have a stranglehold on the group, but we aren’t your pissing boys; we are not an endless parade of replaceable cronies.

Perhaps we’ll gain some respect if we claim it for ourselves and show it to each other.

I am a damage dealer, and I’m proud of it.

Been Waiting A Long Time For This…

I don’t often blow my horn about my guild. (I don’t think I do, anyhow, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). I do write about my guild’s experiences where they intersect with something I want to talk about. Every now and then, though, I just really want to go on about something significant.

Many thanks to Draos from my guild for a number of screenshots used in this post.

Six months ago we were finishing up our last heroic ICC kill. Things didn’t look promising from there – heroic Lich King is a fight that was highly tuned for a strict ten guild. That’s not to say that none have done it (I know of at least two and one is an awesome blogger)!

As the months went on, it began to look like an H LK kill would slip through our fingers. We were plagued by personnel issues as we flailed against the Summer Boss. There were vacations (including Voss and I going on vacation in October). We were demoralized. We actually decided to stop working on H LK, period.

Longtime readers will remember how we discussed and wavered about whether or not we would keep our strict ten ranking. Ultimately, we decided to drop it. It was more important to us to have all our guildies in one place. Many of us “stricters” went out and tried ICC 25 in the weeks that followed. Most of us didn’t get any loot, anyhow. We no longer “ranked.” We’d decided to let H LK go. It gnawed at me a little bit, but I wasn’t going to force the guild to do something that they didn’t want to do.

One night, I was flying around Icecrown with Voss doing Argent Tournament dailies. He told me he was whispering with one of our paladin tanks, Meraxis. Mer had gotten a whisper from a guy in a 25-man guild on our server. They’d been armory stalking us and wanted to know if Mer, Voss, and Pan (our discipline priest) would like to join their H LK attempts. I remember sitting silently for a few minutes and then turning to Voss.

We should be doing that fight,” I said to him. “We shouldn’t be doing it with some other people. We should be doing it together. Do you think anyone else still wants to do it? That is so wrong.”

“Let’s ask,” he said, and we asked in guildchat. My visceral reaction was one of simple wrongness – that our guildies should be working on such a tough achievement with some other random people, instead of their raiding guild. Everyone who was online at the time (some six or seven of us) wanted to do it. We made a forum post. Nine out of fourteen people responded with a resounding yes and two more told me later they didn’t realize they had to post for it to be understood that they wanted to do it. We wanted to do it. We started working on it again.

It was not easy to get the team together. Scheduling hated us. Vacations and timing hated us, but we kept at it, extending our lockout, re-clearing for more chances at gear that might make an infinitesimal difference on the fight. As the weeks ticked by we increasingly felt the crunch – there was a hard deadline for this achievement and we were staring it down. Last week’s attempts ended on a high note – we got him to thirty-eight percent, our best attempt yet.

This week, we got him to thirty-three percent. On our next best attempt…

I am not sure I breathed for the last five minutes of the encounter. It was all a blur of desperate, focused intensity. Our first Harvest Soul went without a hitch. We followed our paladin tank and danced the dance and our healers were incredible and we came through. Everything was going fine until the second Harvest Soul. Even that went fine – we came out, but our paladin tank dropped quickly.

“Can we get a battle rez on him?!” I blurted into Vent. Ulla got him up but then we went back into Shadowmourne and this time lost our holy priest. No one said anything in the tension but you could FEEL us all focusing. It was getting down to the crunch. As we came out, our poor unbuffed paladin ate another Soul Reaper and went down again.

“HANG IN THERE,” I yelped as Voss quickly picked up the big bad.

“Two percent left, come on guys,” our paladin said.

Living Bomb, Scorch, don’t get hit by Vile Spirits, yesss pyroblast, fireball, fireball, come on, come on…

Yes, you heard me. DEAD.

DEAD. The sound was deafening. We annoyed everyone by sitting and watching the cinematic again. No, there is no heroic version. But the incredible feeling of succeeding at this lent it extra emotion to me.

I have never been prouder of our guild. We didn’t get this kill earlier, and that’s OK. We didn’t even get it while we were “ranked” strict ten. But there is no one who has 277 gear (aside from our rings, naturally). We’re all dressed pretty much exactly as we were when we were still as strict as can be. In our hearts we’ve never been anything but a tens guild, and this is a great triumph. I’m immensely happy. I’m excited to go back and do it again since everyone was not there.

It also bears mentioning that this kill holds significant personal significance for me, for one very good reason:

I did it with my main. Not a single member ever complained to me that I swapped moonkin for mage post-4.0. Originally the intent was for people to “try out” new specs and classes, I’ll admit that I seized the opportunity to play the character I have missed since January. It was selfish of me. Millya’s gear isn’t quite as good as Shae’s was. But damn it, she is my Millya. She is Bane of the Fallen King, and I know who my true main always will be, and I couldn’t have done that without my generous and uncomplaining guildies. I don’t think I was holding us back in the final kill (for any WoL nerds, like me). But this story doesn’t have a star. Everyone tonight was awesome and essential to our success. I am so proud I could burst!

Congratulations, Business Time! Tonight you were all down to just your socks.

Oh, he's fallen all right.

When the going gets tough

Kae wrote a really fantastic post about Heroic Lich King. It’s worth reading even if your guild isn’t necessarily working on Heroic Lich King because it applies to any tough raid encounter that’s going to take your raid group a long time to beat successfully. Since I’ve been in Business Time, we’ve had a few of these albatrosses. In a funny way, when you overcome an encounter like this through perseverance over a period of time – your raid is that much more prepared for the next to come. Perhaps to make myself more clear, I need to get retrospective:

Firefighter

When I first joined the guild, they had done quite a bit of hardmode Ulduar. They had completed the hard modes for every encounter – up to Mimiron, and Yogg-Saron. If you aren’t familiar with Firefighter, I’ll lay it out fast and dirty for you. On his normal difficulty, Mim is a Four-phase fight. When you push that red button, he becomes a four-phase fight of WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN. The hard mode adds the mechanic of spreading fire on the ground that is being put out by robots that can and will kill you or knock you into something that will kill you, along with heavier damage from all of his abilities, and targeted abilities on the raid members that could nearly one-shot us if we didn’t get urgent triage from a healer. But despite all of that – the frustration of a grueling and unforgiving encounter, it’s not what I remember most about Mimiron.

Firefighter was like a marathon. We started running it together and night after night we’d be in there listening to his screechy voice, just happy to have made it that much closer to phase three, that much closer to phase four. I kid you not, I dreamed about Firefighter. We learned the dance, we learned the positioning, we learned how to manage the fires, and eventually it all came together. But before it did, we had some casualties. No, they didn’t die to Mimiron’s fire.

It was the only fire I had access to, okay? It's dramatic.

One

We caught one of the guild’s tanks standing at the Ulduar summoning stone on an unguilded alt, heading into Ulduar after he’d set himself unavailable for our raid. (Incidentally, we were also short people that night). When we whispered him to ask him what was going on, his reply basically amounted to: “Going to Ulduar with my alt’s guild, have fun with Firefighter lololol.” Our guild leader at the time booted him on the spot. Obviously he didn’t want to spend the time with us working on hard content. Firefighter had claimed its first victim. He lacked the commitment.

Two

Healer tension between a Holy paladin and our then-Holy priest came to a head that culminated in the paladin leaving. He felt that we were not going to improve at the fight as long as she was there. Granted, she did have a tendency to die to situational things, which was the kiss of death for that encounter. We had our second Firefighter casualty.

Three, Four

The other thing holding us back with Firefighter was overall DPS was low and some people had a tendency to stand in the fire. The next two losses were a bit uglier, because we had a warlock who just… wasn’t getting it. His DPS was low. He claimed it was because he was taking utility talents, but I was routinely leaving him in my dust (by a large margin) and his gear was significantly better than mine. (I recognize this sounds very “Look at me, I’m so awesome,” I’m not a jerk; I was actually embarrassed to be in the position of making him look bad as “the new kid.” I really wanted him to improve, too.) He proved resistant to any suggestions as to how to improve his DPS. His friend (the aforementioned priest) was very protective of him. The unfortunate combination: They both ended up leaving. I don’t want to get into the messy, dramatic aspect of this. It’s all water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned. I think they probably found a place where they are happier. But statistically, they are important.

Five

The last raider was someone who just didn’t see the point in hard modes. He didn’t leave the guild (then) but he did later. He just didn’t want to do them, felt they were a waste of his time – he came to Firefighter once, but hadn’t watched the videos and was a giant liability. I was just as happy when he stopped coming.

Didn’t You See The Sign…

So that’s five raiders broken by the challenge of Firefighter with our guild that opted to go elsewhere. I discuss them not because I mean to say “Haha, we beat this encounter, even after they left,” but because I want to highlight just how intense this kind of progression can be. I think some people thought we’d never successfully complete Firefighter. We all got tired of it. Conversations I’ve had since included talk about how boring it was, how tiring it was to do it for hours, night after night – to always know it was there, waiting. But those conversations also include the awesome, inimitable feeling of FINALLY DOWNING HIM. When we killed Firefighter we screaaaamed. The sound in Vent was overwhelming and awesome. It’s that feeling that makes your hair stand on end. It’s the reason why Firefighter was the single most satisfying encounter of Wrath for me. If you ask me what my most memorable kill was, it’s going to be that one every time, without hesitation. We worked so hard for it, and we earned it.

In the end, it took us one hundred and twenty-one wipes before we beat Firefighter. That’s only times I was there for, since Voss and I joined. In the course of beating it, we lost five raiders (actually seven, if you count spouses/friends who left with various people). With a roster of fifteen, that’s more than a third of our total fighting strength. That’s huge. Its significance was more than just being short-staffed, though. It marked a turning point, if you will. A schism. Those who stayed were¬† people who were willing to really throw themselves against a brick wall until it was the wall that gave, and not them. Those who left were people who, for whatever reason, didn’t think we were the team to do it with, or didn’t want to do it at all.

From then on, when we were recruiting people we emphasized attitude and willingness to wipe on hard content to learn it – for weeks, yes, months at a time. In a way, it doesn’t matter what encounter specifically you are facing down. Let’s face it, they are all somewhat interchangeable pixels. You dance out of this fire, and you target that thing – those are the mechanics that stand in the way of success. But what really can prove to be the greatest obstacle is the attitude of the group. We’ve been fortunate to assemble a really awesome group of people – dedicated people who have stuck with us through fire and youurrr pathetic magic will betraaayyyy youuu. The summer boss hit us pretty hard so we were set-back, but we’ve been resuming H LK with a vengeance and seeing some tremendous success since the patch changes. More than ever I know this fight is within our grasp. Our best attempt was 38%, which means we’ve SEEN Phase 3, previously we hadn’t. I know that we can do this because I believe in our people. They are the team that came through the fire and were strengthened by it, not broken. We don’t stand in the fire, though. Never that.

Blinking For Fun and Profit

 

But wait...

Ah, Blink. You are the ability that mages and their fans and detractors both love, and love to hate. You were the topic of a question at Blizzcon, even. A slightly whiny mage asked the devs when they would be able to stop the dreaded Blinking Backward – because it was killing him in arenas.

Fairly predictably, their answer was: “Blink in the right direction.” More seriously, they added that the “backwards” blink happens in reaction to (as mages know) slightly uneven ground, an obstacle, or some other landscape abberation. It’s an unavoidable reality of blinking. They encourage people who find these landscape issues (read: almost all of the landscape) to send in the specific location so that they can pay attention and fix it!

Partly, I think they’re actually serious, and partly I think we just learn to live with it. But despite some of its flaws, I am here to tell you non-believers or those who just don’t know… Blinking is awesome. You learn how to do it at level 16, and you shouldn’t stop once you do. Here are some things you should know about blink.

Here, There, Everywhere

Blink isn’t static. That’s a mage joke, there. (Because it moves, get… nevermind. OR even better it’s like anti-static cling, because we wear robes, right…?! Nevermind). My point is, you can alter the way Blink behaves through the use of talents and glyphs.

Glyph of Blink will increase the distance of your blink by 5 yards. I actually used this glyph for a brief time for a specific PvE encounter. It can be situationally useful! The only risk with it is that if you are used to blinking and have played your mage for quite awhile, it can completely throw off your rhythym. Additional distance might have some PvP application as well, this one’s up to you.

Improved Blink (in the Arcane talent tree) is now actually a very interesting talent. Previously, this talent reduced your chance to be hit by spells/attacks by a percentage after you blinked. It might have been useful for PvP but was largely passed over by any viable PvE build. Improved Blink nowadays is quite a different matter. It increases your movement speed by a whopping 70% for three seconds, every single time you blink. Anyone who has had to run out of fire or move during a fight knows how invaluable this can be.

A word of caution to all you enthusiastic blinkers: Practice blinking around after talenting into Improved Blink. You can and will drop yourself off the edge of the Lich King’s platform like a complete doofus. I’M JUST SAYING. Not that I know anyone who would have done something like that.

Where did that mage...

Oh, The Places You’ll Blink

Firstly, I am far from the first mage to write about Blink. In fact, Euripedes wrote a great guide to using Blink and Slow Fall - over a year ago. I read it at the time and remembered it now – he covers raid content from Naxxramas through Trial of the Crusader, but of course ICC wasn’t yet out when his post was written. Here’s where I like to blink. (Please note: all of my remarks refer to the heroic versions of these fights, but in most cases apply equally to their normal counterparts).

Trash
When you are the unhappy target of the spidery creatures that like to web wrap people – if you pay close attention you can blink out of their trap. You have to blink before you’re actually “wrapped” otherwise you are stunned, but if you blink soon enough you’ll never be trapped at all.

Lord Marrowgar
The implications here are pretty far-reaching and obvious. Blink will move you away from Marrow’s bonestorm, fast. It will also bring you back to huddling up behind him quickly so you can get back to DPSing, as well as allow you to move over an inconvenient patch of coldflame. Blink is invaluable for this fight.

Lady Deathwhisper
Useful for moving around, you can blink to the opposite side of the room from a vengeful ghost – or quickly out of a Death and Decay. Use blink to keep up with the tanks as they drag LDW towards the stairs for the last phase.

Gunship Battle
Use blink to not be in anybody’s whirlwind. Actually blink has limited applications here. I tend to be so busy nuking things I don’t have to move very much.

Deathbringer Saurfang
Blink is excellent for making sure you don’t get your face eaten by a blood beast you’re trying to burn down. When in doubt, use blink to buy yourself a few precious seconds.

Festergut
If your team collapses in the centre as ours does, you can use blink to easily group up for spores (or save it and use it to quickly blink out again once you have the buff). It’s perfect for an emergency drop-off of a spore in melee range, should both spores happen to affect ranged DPS or healers. There’s no one better for this than a mage!

Rotface
Previously very useful for ooze delivery and general movement – blink has been completely broken in this room since 4.0 (at least that’s the earliest we noticed it). Blinking anywhere here will cause you to move precisely nowhere. Is this one of those specific locations Blizz was asking about?

Professor Putricide
There couldn’t be an encounter more suited to rapid movement! Use blink to close distance when you have to swap diseases with someone. A mage affected by the green ooze’s targeting snare can also pivot and blink AWAY from it to buy the raid group precious time to DPS it down. Please note: exercise caution when using blink this way. Since damage caused by the ooze’s explosion is shared via proximity – if you blink away and your group is caught off-guard, you may end up dying alone rather than buying precious time. Blink is an obvious solution when you’re running from an orange ooze (and recent changes to fire have made it so that you can really DPS the thing even as you run!) Throughout phase 2 and 3, use blink to avoid Malleable Goo, ooze puddles on the ground, and to remain within range to DPS Putricide at every opportunity.

Blood Prince Council
I think blink’s uses here should be pretty self-evident – if you are a mage, you’re probably helping to keep orbs up in the air. Especially in the heroic version of this fight, where regular movement stacks a painful shadow debuff – blink really shines. I was once able to blink over and just barely catch an orb about to hit the ground. It was fabulous!

Blood Queen Lana’Thel
Blink has limited application here because much of the fight is spent reasonably stationary. When you’re linked with someone else, you CAN blink towards them but I find that for reasons of lag it’s often better to just run instead. (Blinking completely past someone and extending the length of time you both have the debuff can put you and your team mate at risk). Do feel free to make use of Ice Block to thwart Swarming Shadows, though – and a desperate blink can save you if someone is a bit too close to you when Lana’thel is up in the air throwing blood bolts! p.s. – It’s not blink, but Slowfall is a nice gesture to drop down the hole after the fight. The courteous mage considers their friends!

Valithria Dreamwalker
Let’s face it, this fight is just about adds for us. Blink can be a great way to close distance between you and some Suppressors, though. Back when I wasn’t playing a mage, my mage buddy would blink towards them, frost nova them to the ground – and we’d both quickly AoE them down. A mage with any form of slow (arcane and frost and even fire’s blast wave) can also kite one of the exploding guys. I can’t remember their name’s right now.

Sindragosa
Everyone’s favourite hoarse-voiced dragon, the ability to blink laughs in the face of Sin’s Blistering Cold. Let her pull you in and then happily blink away. In the heroic version, if you’re affected by Unchained Magic, you can blink away from your team to your assigned spot, but keep in mind it’s adding to the damage you will take. Watch that timer carefully – just because you can blink out of danger doesn’t mean an untimely explosion from UM can’t hurt the people around you. Blink responsibly!

The Lich King
Blink can be used in the first phase, but again with potential for risk – if you’re dropping off Necrotic Plague, you risk overshooting and being crushed by the frontal abilities of the Shambling Horrors. You can use blink to get to the outside edge with potentially disastrous results (see earlier) or more reliably, as a safe way back to the center, and an easy way to spread out for or avoid stepping in Defile. In phase three, use blink to help avoid damage from exploding Vile Spirits.

More Than Just Movement

Those were specific blink usages all throughout Icecrown. I’m not going to detail every place in a heroic where blink comes in handy, or in PvP – I think these are fairly self evident. Rather, I’ll just mention a few specific things Blink is useful for in general terms.

Kiting

Every frost mage’s best friend, blink is a simple way to put some distance between you and any enemy (or group of enemies). When used in combination with a frost nova you can immediately have the range you need to burn unsuspecting creatures down.

Surprise

I’ve actually found in PvP that blinking towards someone can completely disconcert them (especially with use of Dragon’s Breath or any other kind of frontal cone ability). Keep in mind, I don’t do arenas, so I have no idea there. But in a battle ground, surprise is an advantage however you get it. I’ve managed to burn some unsuspecting people who never thought the mage would blink…towards them. Obviously a judgment call, it’s not going to do you much good if you blink to your inevitable demise, but it has its uses.

Quick Landing

A somewhat lesser known use of Blink – if used while in the air, it will “transport” you to the ground. This can be used in conjunction with slow fall, although sometimes you just end up blinking forward and floating weirdly. It works more often than not, in my experience!

Break Free

Blink will break you out of many slows and snares, and stuns. Not all of them, unfortunately – but there’s no harm in trying, and usually harm in not trying! Mage pro tip: The last fight in Utgarde Pinnacle is a joke for us. Each time you are stunned, you can ice block (once) and then blink each subsequent time. You should have approximately enough time for blink to be off cool-down again by the time you need it. If you’re a human mage you’re laughing all the way – you can use Every Man for another of the stuns and definitely escape them all. Enjoy DPSing while your group hangs around and you do the dirty work.

Eat, Blink, And Be Merry

Love it, hate it, or use it on the edge of the Lich King’s platform and plummet to your inevitable death – blink is one of the spells that is most unique to mages! It gives us our incredible mobility and is useful in so many situations. I’m sure there’s some I haven’t thought of or mentioned (mages are so ingenuous). What are your favourite uses for blink, or your best blink stories? I look forward to hearing any I’ve missed, otherwise – happy blinking!

 

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