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.

Objective Complete

The past two weeks have been an interesting time for me. Three different long-time goals that I have had have been achieved, and I’m a little bit lost. These are not just small things, but goals that I have been working on for years.

Four months into a new expansion, and I’m already bored. I’m a Loremaster of Cataclysm, I got exalted with the factions that give me the best gear upgrades that I need, and I do my daily heroic when I have the time. I’ve become exalted with Hellscream’s Reach in Tol Barad and have my awesome dragon from them, and I dread having to grind the daily quests again to get another item.

My long-time goals that I have completed are not even from Cataclysm, but actually from Burning Crusade. I was able to get exalted with the Sha’tari Skyguard and get the Nether Ray flying mounts, and as a result of that also getting exalted with Ogri’la (again for both – I got this on my Paladin back during BC). Shortly afterwards, I finished up the grind to get exalted with Netherwing and get all the awesome dragons.

Finally, this past Sunday I completed a goal that has eluded me for quite a while. Every day for a long time, I would venture into the lair of this foul beast and slay it in hopes that it would drop itself for me to ride upon as a trophy. At long last, it finally happened. I was excited, had a bit of a gasp as I motioned for my wife to see the loot window, and learned the Raven Lord mount.

But… now what?

I do stuff in-game as mentioned before, but it’s not really keeping me entertained. Lately I’ve been working on my goblin shadow priest alt and have been enjoying it greatly, but it’s only a matter of time before I run into the same problem as I have now. I get the priest to 85, run dungeons until I’m raid ready, raid until I have all the gear, but then will I want to do all the extra stuff I’ve done already on my druid? I highly doubt it.

This is the classic symptoms of burnout. The game isn’t as enjoyable as it was and I’m trying to find things to keep me occupied. At the moment, the priest is doing the job of keeping me busy and getting a sense of accomplishment. My main character is sitting in Orgrimmar building up cobwebs, which is dusted off once a week to raid.

I’ve definitely been cutting down on my playtime lately, and trying other games. I recently bought Magicka on Steam and have been enjoying it greatly. It frustrates me many times as I find new and exciting ways to get my character killed, but still lots of fun. Portal 2 just came out, and I’m hoping I can find a way to get it soon.

Looks like I’ll be scaling back on my WoW time. This isn’t a bad thing, as when 4.1 comes out and there’s new features to the game I’ll be rested and ready for them.

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.

Situational Changes Only, Please

There are two major sides to World of Warcraft. Player versus player, or PvP, and player versus environment, or PvE. PvP is battlegrounds, arenas, world confrontation on a PvP server. PvE is dungeons, raids, world bosses that are around in Azeroth. They are two separate parts of the game, but all integrated into that same game as a whole.

However, the key is that these are separate. They are similar, yet very different to each other and have different goals, even within each area. One battleground might have you try to kill the opposing NPC leader, as in Alterac Valley, and another could have you capture the flag three times, as in Warsong Gulch. One dungeon encounter might have you kill a boss, whereas another might have you protect a NPC from waves of hostiles. Same game, different objectives and different rules.

This is the part that frustrates me at times: changes made to the game because of one of these parts that affects the game as a whole. We’ve seen it many times: abilities have been buffed or nerfed because they were overpowered in either PvP or PvE, and the inevitable forum screams because of it. There are times it’s justified, and other times that it’s not.

As a feral DPS druid, this is very near and dear to my heart for the coming patch 4.0.6, as two major abilities are being nerfed because of how they were overpowered in PvP. It has been a staple since WoW was released that a Druid shapeshifting would break all forms of root and slow effects, and the 31 point feral talent of Berserk would remove all fear effects (on a 3 minute cooldown). There can be no reason at all that these were nerfed because of PvE, since it would only help the druid survive longer. I realize that many other classes don’t have any escape ability from roots, but I just don’t see any reason for these particular nerfs to happen. Especially because they target feral druids only, and not balance or resto – both specs still are able to break roots with their shapeshifts, and it doesn’t take a key part out of their 31 point talent.

All complaining aside, this is just a good example for the point behind this all. What is so hard about making changes to PvP without it affecting PvE as well? We have seen Blizzard make changes to affect certain areas only like arenas, which are not able to use certain abilities. If it’s possible to disable abilities altogether, there should be a way to disable certain parts of it as well.

I don’t know which part of the game is used by more people, but I don’t think that it matters. Each side should be equally balanced within its own realm. As a feral druid, I am a sitting duck if I’m rooted – especially in PvP. I find it very funny that the other specs are allowed to break roots on shifts, since they can either do ranged DPS or are able to heal themselves effectively. I can cast heals on myself or attack at range for whopping hundreds of heals or damage.

In a perfect world, the game would be perfectly balanced. We wouldn’t have forums full of people complaining, blog posts with people complaining (such as this one), and so on. It’s not a perfect world, so we let Blizzard know what we think should happen. Constructive criticism is a wonderful thing.

Dear Blizzard: please don’t nerf or buff abililities across the board because it’s overpowered or underpowered in PvP or PvE. If it needs to be fixed in one of the areas, fix it in that area only and don’t hurt people who it doesn’t affect.

Altaholic-ness, Redux

A while back, I mentioned how much I enjoy leveling alts. To this day the trend continues, and unfortunately Cataclysm has made it even easier to enjoy this hobby. The addition of new races, new race/class combinations, and the complete redesign of the level 1-60 leveling process was just a bit of encouragement. Then I go and splurge on all three heirloom cloaks from guild rep, making it that much easier.

My habit has continued, and it has flourished.

One big thing that I’m a bit surprised about is that two classes that I enjoyed quite a bit before have not interested me as much now. The Warlock, my very first class that I got to the level cap with on the Horde side in Vanilla, has no presence on my character list at all. I tried rolling one a few times, but it’s just not doing it for me right now. Perhaps later. The Death Knight, a class that I thoroughly enjoyed back in WotLK, is now my bank alt. I have one that I’m trying to level through Outland right now, but I think it might be more of that continent’s fault than the DK class itself.

My Shaman just recently hit 65 after simmering on the backburner for a while. I wanted to get geared up and ready for heroics and raids before I focused too much on any alt for a little bit. Now that I’m raiding again (woot!), I’ve been slowly working him through Outland. As I mentioned before, it really is a chore to get through the BC content. I remember trying to rush as fast as possible to 58 so we could get away from the junk of Vanilla content – oh, how times have changed.

There’s the hunter who’s in the late thirties. I was going pretty steady with it for a while, but I’ve lost interest in it for the moment. These phases come and go quite quickly with various classes and how I feel with it. On our old server, I was leveling a rogue with my wife and was having a blast. I tried rolling a rogue a few times already, and it’s just not doing anything for me right now. More than likely, it’s too close to the cat druid that I work on mostly right now.

One character that I was looking forward to rolling at Cataclysm was my goblin priest, and she’s been quite a bit of fun. Checking out the talent trees previously, Discipline looked like a great spec to try out for leveling as it had a good mixture of damage and healing abilities. So far I’ve leveled exclusively through the dungeon finder from level 15 on, just to work on my skills so when I hit a higher level I’m not completely out of it. I’m only level 29, so it’s not really too big of a challenge, but it’s been a good experience so far.

Lastly, I have lowbies of the rest of them: paladin, mage, and warrior. I’ve played a paladin and mage to level cap previously and enjoyed it, and the highest I’ve ever gotten a warrior was to the mid twenties. Some of the higher levels that I have right now are going to be DPS and healing, so I’m thinking a tanking warrior would be fun. Heirloom shield please?

I enjoy the different experiences that I have on each character when I play them. Each has their own different feel, their own nuances that I have to figure out – it’s nice to have such flexibility within the game. Plus, this is all on the Horde side. If I wanted something completely new, I’d work on my Alliance characters… maybe.

Dungeon Finder and YOU!

There are numerous stories that could be told about the Random Dungeon Finder.  The good ol’ LFD/LFG/looking for PAIN tool is a wonderful and horrible invention that can be used for good or for evil.  Unfortunately, there are many people who seem happier to use it for the latter.

I have a lowbie Priest who is currently level 23, and has leveled purely through the dungeon finder so far.  Through that I have come across many great players who have been willing to help out others who aren’t as good, as well as many players who have no clue what they are doing and don’t want to accept any suggestions at all.  Of course, this doesn’t go just for the lowbie instances – my Druid main has come across many different types of people through the dungeon finder for regular and heroic dungeons at level 85 as well.

After all my experiences, I think that the most important thing to remember when with any group (LFD or not) is to have good communication.  It doesn’t matter if it’s all guild members, one pug, or if it’s all completely random – if there’s a communication breakdown, failure is sure to come knocking at your door quite soon.

A good example would be a Wailing Caverns run that I did the other day on my priest.  I don’t remember the exact makeup, but the tank was a paladin who didn’t like to listen and who liked to do his own thing.  After killing the first boss, Lady Anacondra, 4 of the 5 of us drop down and proceed to the west side to start the trek to the second boss, Lord Cobrahn.  The tank proceeds to continue around the top side towards where the Naralex event eventually happens at the end.  In chat, we asked multiple times what he was doing and if he was going to come back to where the group was, and he never said anything.  In hindsight, this would have been a good time to initiate a vote-kick.

The group was fine, since we had a hunter with us and the pet tanked just as good as the paladin was, and fortunately I was able to keep everyone alive.  We put up with the tank’s eccentricities like randomly running ahead and getting new packs of mobs before we were done the previous ones, or randomly going afk for 5 minutes without saying anything.   Once again, I’m thankful that we had the hunter’s pet to be a better tank than the one who was in the group.

Don’t be “that guy”.  Don’t be the one that people write blog posts about, or laugh about with their guilds, or complain about to their wives.  As a sidenote, I’m glad that my wife enjoys listening to my dungeon finder stories.  It makes those brutal groups much easier to bear.

Try to help others who are having difficulties.  Don’t post damage meters, because nobody cares (on that note, if you’re trying to see how you’re doing compared to others, you don’t need to announce it to the rest of the party).  If you don’t know your way around, ask.  If someone doesn’t know the way, help point them in the right direction.

It’s really not that difficult.  If everyone puts in a little bit of kindness, it’ll go a long way.  Maybe the idiot from the last group will pick something up from you, and next run will be a little bit less of an idiot.  If during that run, someone gives him a few more pointers, he’ll be even less of an idiot.  Hopefully the idiocy will flush itself out, but that’s just me being hopeful.

Remember Wheaton’s law: “Don’t be a dick.”

Druid New Year’s Resolutions

The new year is finally upon us, and it’s at this time that many people look behind at what was and look forward to what will come.  I’ve done a lengthy series of retrospectives, so I think that can count as my looking behind part.  That being said, I’d like to set myself some goals for my main character, my Druid.

  1. Don’t suck.  I know that should be standard and not necessary to put on this list, but I think it’s important to include here.  There are many ways to suck at WoW, and I don’t want to be one of “those guys” who can’t play his class well.  I may not be the top performer, but I want to do my job properly.  Not only do I have to play my class properly, but I also have to play where I am properly – know the dungeon or raid I’m in, and react accordingly, for example.
  2. Know my role.  Right now my main spec is feral DPS in cat form, which has been my main spec for a few years now.  Thankfully there hasn’t been much change to how things operate and only minor tweaks, so that’s not too much of a big deal.  My secondary spec is restoration, which is quite a bit different for me.  I’ve played a healing class before, and even had it as my main spec on my Paladin back in Burning Crusade – but the playstyle of a Holy Paladin versus a Resto Druid is completely different.  I’m not playing healing whack-a-mole anymore, but learning how to anticipate what is going to happen and be ready for it.
  3. Don’t get frustrated.  Too many times, I see myself get frustrated with some aspect of the game.  I was in a random group on my lowbie priest the other day, and I was getting mad at the tank because he wasn’t holding aggro – but it was his first time tanking, and druid tanks aren’t the best at low levels – and everyone needs to learn.  I’m going to be in this same position when I work up the courage to do a random group as a healer, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be pretty.  (This is one benefit of having a guild – guinea pigs for my starting attempts)
  4. Have fun.  After everything is said and done, this is still a game.  A lot of people seem to forget that, and from time to time I’ve been equally as guilty.  When things get too bad: take a breather, go watch TV, read a book, talk to your spouse, do something to get away from the computer.  Find your happy place, go there, and relax.  Instances, PvP, guild politics, you name it – they can all wait.  This is a game, and treat it as such.  (World of Warcraft is serious business, right?)

I want to get better at the game.  I look forward to our raids, and I’m disappointed if I’m not near the top for my performance.  At the same time, I am glad when I’m not the one that gets blamed for wipes or (even worse) is the actual cause for the wipes.  Enjoyable time in the game is what brings people back, and I think that’s really the core of what I want to accomplish.