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Signature Abilities

There are certain things in the game that scream: “THIS IS WORLD OF WARCRAFT!” Each class has their own special thing that people think of when they picture the class in their head. Some have changed over time, being iconic when the game came out and all but vanished now. Some have emerged over time, starting as a thought and finally being realized.

One good thing is that I couldn’t think of one specific ability that is recognizable for the entire game. There are a few front-runners, but there are many that define each class. Blizzard has done a great job of making each class very individual (with a few exceptions), and you know who you are playing by what you can do.

Shamans get two picks from me: Frost Shock and Bloodlust. Sorry Alliance, but it will always be Bloodlust and not Heroism. In Vanilla PvP, Frost Shock was one of the biggest abilities that the Horde had in their arsenal, as it was a good snare on a short cooldown that did a decent amount of damage. There used to be an addon that would have an audio file of “FROST SHOOOOOCK!” when it was used. Bloodlust, including the roaring-murloc-style sound, is such a great feeling. The very first time it was used in game for my character gave me goosebumps.

(The above is my son being a good PvP Shaman in training)

Druids are pretty straight forward, being that their forms truly define who they are. Not as much as previously, with the removal of a permanent Tree Form, but I believe that Bear Form & Cat Form are truly iconic (and of course the laser chicken). There’s no mistaking what you’re fighting when you have a cat tearing up your face. Being able to be a warrior, rogue, mage, and priest all in one is a nice feeling.

To me, the Warrior’s signature ability was mainly visible in Vanilla as it was before big nerfs. Mortal Strike was a high damage move that also caused the target to receive 50% less healing as a debuff. This was in place for a very long time until it was nerfed to be only 10% less healing, as it was very overpowered for PvP. Many tanks were Arms spec in Vanilla mainly for this ability, so mobs that healed themselves could be mitigated. Close second is Titan’s Grip – being able to wield two two-handed weapons is just awesome.

Rogues are mainly known for one thing: their stuns. They have close to fifty thousand of them (or so it would seem at time in PvP), and used well they can completely lock out someone for a good period of time. By the time the stuns wear off, the target’s health is low enough that they’re as good as dead.

Warlocks also have two great abilities to cause grief to people: Fear and Death Coil. Both mainly in Vanilla again, but the combination of the two spells were great to keep a player or a mob out of the way for a good period of time. The only problem with PvE use of them is that they have a very good chance to pull approximately one thousand other mobs who are close by.

Mages have two things that I believe is their signature, which is Polymorph and the ability to blow stuff up. Polymorph’s history goes back to the early RTS games, and thankfully stays in the game today as a great crowd control device. Being able to have different animals other than sheep is nice for groups or raids with multiple mages, but the sheep is still awesome. Plus, mages can blow stuff up, including Living Bomb. How can you go wrong?

Hunters are definitely known for having their pets and their traps. The removal of Eyes of the Beast, allowing direct control over the pet, is definitely a big loss – it was also the way our guild pulled Baron Geddon in Molten Core back in Vanilla. When pets had their happiness system or needing to tame specific pets to learn specific abilities, or basically how pets were before they were all made generic are what truly defined hunters for a very long time. The traps have become a lot better, as rather than having to place them where the character is, they are now able to be launched to a location without having to sacrifice yourself. Coming close behind is feign death, which is also useful in real life.

I had a difficult time coming up with a specific priest signature ability. Eventually I decided on Shadowform and the ability to be a very flexible healer. Unfortunately with all the specific heals that a priest has, there are too many to narrow down to one signature one, apart from Greater Heal. Bread and butter healing. Shadowform is very different in the fact that it gave priests a way to do very good damage and still be a priest at heart.

Death Knights are pretty easy, as Death Grip is one of the first things that a player uses after rolling one. Being able to yank someone right to you, also acting as a taunt, is a tank’s best friend. Plus, a lot of fun in PvP. Army of the Dead is a close contender, as there are few things more awesome than an army of ghouls rampaging on your behalf.

The Paladin signature ability was the easiest one to come up with. Divine Shield, or the infamous “Bubble”. Unfortunately not being able to last long enough for a full bubble-hearth, it still has the reputation that it definitely deserves.

In conclusion, each class has things that truly make them feel unique. Even the Druid, which “borrows” the styles of other classes, still makes the playstyle their own. Even though they use rage like a warrior, they are not warriors (parrying with their faces takes skill).

As a signature ability for the game? I don’t think there needs to be one. The closest “iconic” one that I can think of would have to be Bloodlust. It is synonymous with the Orc culture, and every time I hear the sound effect I can’t help but think of the Warcraft series.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

There are times when I wish I wasn’t as accommodating.  Yet, I only have myself to blame for it.  I try to do things with the best intentions, but sometimes things just don’t work out.

In this case, it all has to do with my DPS specs.  A while back now, I decided to change from feral cat DPS to a boomkin because the guild needed more ranged people.  I volunteered, because I always wanted to try the spec out and see what it’s like.  One of the biggest problems is that I barely make it to the raids due to real life schedules, so in the end I didn’t really do much to help the guild out with getting a ranged class.

Finding that I was missing being feral DPS, I decided to change my second spec (feral tanking, which I had not used once since I got the spec set up and reforged all the gear) back to a kitty and tried it out in a heroic to see how I would do.  For comparison, as a boomkin I would average around 8-10k DPS – which is not very good at all – by any comparison for my gear level.

My first thought was: “Why in the world did I ever switch?”

After doing a heroic Zul’Aman, my average DPS for the entire instance was around 13.6k, and my highest was around 18k for Nalorakk.  At first I thought it was just that instance, but after thinking more I realized that it’s just something I’m so used to doing that it flows easier.

One thing I was really bad about as a boomkin was my DoT uptime.  There were some fights where I was below 30%, because I just forgot to reapply it with being so focused on my regular rotations.  Fortunately as a kitty, the DoTs that I use aer some of the most important parts of my rotation and come naturally.  That in itself is a great way to make sure I don’t slack.

Plus, I found I was getting bored with being a boomkin.  There were definitely fun parts about it, but altogether I was finding that I was just there and not being very excited to instance or raid at all.  Perhaps that’s how I got my priest to 85 so quickly, because I just wasn’t feeling it.

Whatever the case, I’m definitely back to being a feral DPS spec.  I had so much fun with it through my first instance, I don’t care how many rogues and other ferals I have to beat up to get my gear.  As well, if I needed any other reason, the staff that Fandral will drop from Firelands in 4.2 turns cat form into a fire cat form.  ‘Nuff said.  I’m back to a melee state of mind.

Power Auras for Boomkins

This post will be about two versions of Power Auras – the one that is built in-game from Blizzard, and the addon that inspired it: Power Auras Classic.

A while back, I had installed the Power Auras mod and played around with it.  My raid leader had told me about it, and at the time my DPS as a feral cat druid was lacking, so I wanted to try whatever I could.  I loaded it up, and very quickly became confused with it and didn’t bother trying it again.  Not too long after, Blizzard decided to incorporate their own version of the system into the game itself, with not nearly as much customization.

Basically, Power Auras is an alert system that can tell you a number of things.  Things like a spell alert which is being cast on your target, when a cooldown is available to be used, or if a certain debuff is not on your target are some small examples.  By using these alerts, it can make you that much of a better player by being able to focus on what you’re doing without having to look at too many different places.

Click for full size

I personally use a combination of the spell alerts from Blizzard supplemented by Power Auras.  I know many people who use one or the other, but out of sheer laziness I decided to go with what was given by Blizzard since it would be less work for me to set up.  To set up the in-game spell alerts, simply go to Interface Options, the Combat screen, and enable “Show Spell Alerts” (see graphic at right).  The opacity slider simply decides how transparent or not the alerts are.

There will be a number of pre-loaded things that will happen for certain events, such as Shooting Stars which procs and instant cast Starsurge.  If you haven’t used these before, it would probably be a good idea to use them for a bit so you know where they are on your screen and what they look like.  If you don’t like them then you can customize those events into Power Auras, and if you don’t mind them like me you can leave them.

The spells that are covered by the Blizzard spell alerts are:

  • achieving Solar Eclipse
  • achieving Lunar Eclipse
  • proccing Shooting Stars for an instant cast Starsurge
  • proccing Clearcasting for the next ablility to cost no mana

In my opinion, why fix what isn’t broken?

Power Auras - Boomkin setup

This is my Power Auras setup, which is nothing too fancy.  I’m a big fan of doing as little as possible to clutter up my UI.  Starting from the top middle and working clockwise, this is what the different elements mean:

  • Starsurge off cooldown and available to use
  • Insect Swarm is not on target
  • Force of Nature (treants) off cooldown and available to use
  • Starfall off cooldown and available to use
  • Moonfire or Sunfire (depending on which Eclipse phase I’m in) not on target.

Between the base spell alerts and Power Auras extra information, I rarely ever have to look at my action bar to see if things are off cooldown, unless I want to see how much longer until I need to use it.  I have other mods which tell me specific times on cooldowns that I have as well as duration left on the target, so between these different things I’m pretty much set.

If anyone has any suggestions on ways that I can improve my setup or things that I have missed, please let me know in the comments.  I’m always looking to improve, and would love to hear from you.

Personal Accomplishments

In a persistent world like a MMO, sometimes it’s hard for an individual to see what kind of difference they make in the grand scheme of things. Sure, through the years you have done a bunch of neat things like behead Nefarian a number of times (yet he’s still back, head intact), kill Illidan the Betrayer, and Arthas the Lich King – the grand poobah of evil. But, what did your character exactly accomplish?

Canonically, Tirion killed Arthas with help from a group of adventurers. Maiev and Akama killed Illidan with help from a group of adventurers. Nefarian is somehow alive and ready to be killed again. While your character does help these people out, so does everyone else who has completed these raid encounters. It almost gives a feeling of apathy, since people do like to see their accomplishments and feel proud about them.

I believe that this is one reason why the Achievement system was implemented. I’m sure that Blizzard saw the success of the idea on Xbox Live and Steam, and thought that it would be a great way for people to become more personally invested in the game. Whereas before it was there, why would anyone want to do something out of the ordinary like kill 20 turkeys in under a minute?

With achievements, people know what your character has accomplished. My druid can say he’s killed Arthas, plus he has the achievement to back up that claim. Along with the claims of demise of various raid bosses, it also allows rewards for doing things out of the ordinary – the basis of every tier of raiding having a mount reward. Why in the world would you try to defeat Yogg-Saron with only one of the watchers helping unless there was something in it for you?

From MMO-Champion

In 4.2, there will be a new personal progress in the new Firelands daily quest area. Similar to the Isle of Quel’danas, by doing a number of daily quests and completing goals set out for you, the player will see personalized progress of the area being healed from Ragnaros’ invasion. This is the epitome of making the work your character does over a long period of time actually count towards something. You may be the only one able to see it, but that’s not a bad thing.

This is truly personal progression. With Quel’Danas (and to an extent, the preparations for the opening of Ahn’Qiraj), it was server-based and once again your personal contributions could be seen as not being too much. One person who is just starting will see a seed being planted for a tree, someone who has completed everything will see a massive tree and the area starting to be healed.

Along with this, there is a tremendous amount of single-player content that will keep people busy for a long time. Over 60 daily quests will be available in a random pool, I’m assuming similar to Tol Barad, which will give certain quests per day. At the completion of the area, a new flying mount will be available – the Flameward Hippogryph. Basically, this is like the Argent Tournament but a whole lot better and giving better rewards.

Apart from the nerfs to Boomkins, I’m quite looking forward to 4.2. I’m very happy that Blizzard is giving us so much information so shortly after the release of 4.1.

Ways to Suck Less

One of my gaming New Year’s Resolutions was to suck less. Unfortunately, this resolution hasn’t been something that I’ve been the best at keeping. Fortunately I’m not failing completely, but I’m still in the process of learning my new role as a boomkin, so there is still that curve to adjust to. I was giving some thought to ways that I can improve, and I came up with the following three points:

1. Use cooldowns appropriately

Abilities have cooldowns for a reason – a decision has to be made as to when the most they will be the most beneficial. Don’t just use a cooldown when it’s up, make sure that it is put to the best use possible. Using Starfall in conjunction with Lunar Eclipse is an example of a small thing that can help boost damage without needing to do too much extra work. Along the same line, using Treants during the air phase of a dragon encounter isn’t really the best timing.

2. Many abilities, handle them!

I’m guilty of forgetting to use certain abilities, but at the same time I use certain others that my raid leader has looked at the combat log and said – “… and you threw in a few random typhoons, I see?” Basically, don’t forget what is available. My personal problem is forgetting to use Wild Mushroom, as I started out as feral and always thought it wasn’t a very good ability to use. The damage was low, the mana cost was high, it was useless. Then Magmaw came around, and I was told in no uncertain terms that I could have used them to help with the adds.

3. Be situationally aware

Again, with my switch from melee to ranged damage, this is a big key for me. Know what is going on around you at all times, and what could happen to you. Good practice for this is the first boss in Deadmines, which gives the achievement “Ready for Raiding” for a reason: if you avoid all the junk that he deals, it’s a good indication that raiding is on the way for you.

These three simple things will help anyone raid better, and hopefully I’ll be able to remember these things as well. Any class can benefit from these tips, once I have more experience under my belt I’ll try to make one that’s more boomkin-specific.

Rethinking Raiding

I mentioned previously that I was mulling the idea of switching from my usual melee DPS role to that of ranged DPS. Gradually over time, I’ve been building up my gear and getting to a raid-ready position so I wouldn’t suck too much. After all of my preparation time, Tuesday arrived and gave me the first taste of raiding from a new standpoint. Over three years of thinking from a melee standpoint is out the window, time to rethink and relearn how to raid.

At first, I forgot how much of a change that it was to change roles. Instead of staring at the rear end of the boss the whole time, I get to stay safely away from its cleaves and bad things. Over the past years I haven’t had to worry about anything that happens at range, so I was quickly educated on how not safe I actually was. The bosses we went through in just over two hours on Tuesday night gave me new perspectives of what I mostly knew already.

Read the rest of this entry

Making Decisions

I hate making decisions with a passion. I truly do not like choosing something and being stuck with it, out of fear that it wasn’t the right thing to do. This ranges from the very small things like what to have for meals (ask my wife, she’d be more than happy to elaborate) and things to do, to very big things like buying a house, making a large purchase, or having kids. I like to think, think again, then think even more about all the options and choices that are out there. Even once I’m sure I know the right thing to do, I sometimes still hold off on making that decision.

Previously I’ve mentioned that I’m an altaholic. This definitely stems from my indecisiveness, as it gives me something to do that’s different without having to worry about making a big change for my main character. Even choosing a main character for myself was a very difficult thing to do for a while during the Burning Crusade expansion, as I was enjoying three different classes in different ways. I’m now faced with a similar choice as I was back then, which is how to enjoy playing my main character.

One of my favourite posts that I’ve written was all about my gradual shift from caster classes to melee classes over the years. To this day, a majority of the classes that I play are melee, and I’ve found that I have more fun with them. A shift in our guild has had me thinking about changing it up a bit, to try something that I’ve always wanted to do but never really had the chance to pursue it fully.

The mythical crit-chicken, the boomkin, the oomkin: the Moonkin.

Boomkin power!Over the years I’ve tried the spec a few times, with not the best success. The first time was due to the old eclipse mechanic and the rotation – I just couldn’t get the hang of it. The second time was at the end of Wrath after 4.0.1 came out and the talent trees changed, but my gear wasn’t very good and my damage suffered because of it. Now, with the updated talent trees along with better gear, I’m getting into the groove of it.

My feral druid damage is quite good. Not the best, but on a single-target DPS race I can get in the top three consistently. The problem with changing specs and gearing up again is that there’s the curve where the damage dealt is not nearly as good, and it can be quite disheartening. Fortunately with every heroic that I run, if I’m not getting better gear from drops I am at least saving up for more gear from Justice Points. Right now I still have a few green and blue quest rewards, and a few crafted pieces as well – nowhere near the best gear that I can get.

For the first few heroic runs, I find that I’m having fun with it. To be honest I was almost hoping that I would not like it, just so that I would convince myself to stay with the way things are right now. My overall damage and DPS is decent for the heroic tier, nowhere near ready for raiding, but enough to be competitive.

This means I have to make another decision. Do I help the guild out by giving them a boomkin, since we have no leather casters? If I do, do I keep my second spec as feral DPS or do I try tanking again? Making decisions truly is not my strong spot. Any advice people can leave in the comments is truly appreciated.

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