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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.

Moving On Up

I have mentioned before that I was working on a goblin priest for an alt, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. That priest is finally level 85, and heroic ready… but the process was a little bit different from the expected.

Originally, my thought was to try to level through the dungeon finder to work on healing skills as I had never healed on a priest before. It worked out well for quite a while until level 41, when I got too frustrated at other people and then decided to just take the plunge and quest with a shadow spec. This ended up being a good plan, as I now have the basics of both specs down.

The thing that was scaring me was the idea of healing Cataclysm instances. On my druid, I have done all of them multiple times (excepting the new Zandalari ones), so it wasn’t that I didn’t know the fights. I had the simple fear of failing at something that I set out to accomplish. Many times I’ve been in a group where there’s been one member that was doing a very bad job at their role and I was afraid that one day I’d turn into them.

Once my item level was high enough – unfortunately heirlooms make this a bit difficult, as they’re an item level 1 – I decided to give it a try. From when I first made my priest, I decided to use discipline as my healing spec since it looked like fun, and so far it has been. Having the multiple methods of damage prevention and utilities make it so I have more tricks up my sleeve, and hopefully will make the run go smoother.

All in all the regular instances went fairly well. It didn’t stop me from being nervous through all of the runs, but at least we were able to make it through them. The hurdle now is the transition into healing heroics.

I’ve done a number of heroic runs with my shadow spec, getting drops and justice points to improve my gear before I try to heal them. As of last night, I am at the point where I think my gear is ready to go into a heroic. There are a few fights that I’m worried about that have high levels of damage, and whether I’d be able to cope with the stress.

Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of forgetting to use cooldowns at times. The biggest problems are two of the best cooldowns a discipline priest has: power infusion and pain suppression. Huge increase in healing throughput and huge damage reduction, and I forget to use them? I have to set up some power auras to help me remember, the same I did for my boomkin stuff.

My priest has yet to heal a heroic, but I think I’m ready for it. If not, that’s why there’s the option for a dual spec.

Outland and Northrend, redux

Here we are, 4 and 2.5 years after the content was released, and I’m doing a review of the Outland and Northrend areas of World of Warcraft. Timely reporting, right? In this case, it actually is – I just finished getting my former-lowbie priest up to level 80 and blazed a trail through the two former content areas. As I adventures through these places, I was reminded of things that I liked and things I certainly didn’t like.

With heirlooms, I actually didn’t go through all of the zones for each continent. (As an aside, I was using the heirloom shoulders, chest, cloak, weapon, and trinket.) Even without, I know that I could have skipped some areas. It is nice that the leveling process has been eased as time goes by through these old areas, as what was once the best part of the game is now some of the worst.

Outland and Northrend are now suffering the “middle child” disease, being forgotten and overlooked. Cataclysm brought us a completely redesigned Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms (less a few zones, coincidentally from Burning Crusade), and going from levels 1-60 in the “old” world is now very exciting and fun. Prior to Cataclysm, people would power their way through the Vanilla content so they could get to the better things in Outland and beyond.

Now the two continents are relics of an old design philosophy. Cataclysm has brought so many new quest mechanics and storylines that it’s truly fun to play through the zones and see what all is going on. Outland and Northrend have many of the same thing over and over again with little deviation.

Outland

My progression through Outland started with Hellfire Peninsula, going through half of Zangarmarsh, and then finishing most of Nagrand before hitting level 68. With 25% experience bonus from heirlooms and an extra 10% from the guild perk, the levels flew by – so much that I was level 73 before hitting Zangarmarsh. I only did two instances, and that was my wife running me through Hellfire Ramparts and the Blood Furnace. This time I was going for efficiency in leveling, and wanting to get through as fast as I could.

One relic quest design that still exists in Outland is the amount of Elite/Group quests. Fortunately, as I was playing a Shadow Priest this time around it was actually fairly easy and I was able to solo a majority of them. There were the few that I needed help with, like Arazzius the Cruel and Durn the Hungerer, but more often than not I was fine.

Nagrand is my favourite zone from Burning Crusade. The looks of it were just amazing, along with very good questing design for the most part. However, this zone suffers from quest hub-itis. There are five places in the zone where you get quests (mostly), and three of them are in the same area – for the Horde side at least. This means that while you can grab about 7-12 quests at once, there’s a lot of travel time involved from place to place. As much as down time is necessary to regroup and calm down, there’s a lot of travel time involved in Nagrand.

All in all, Outland isn’t a bad place – it’s just boring to me. I’ve gone through Outland numerous times and it’s still the exact same as it was when it first came out, with the exception of how long it takes to get through it. There are many great views, quests, NPCs, and other things to see along the way. I just ask that Blizzard update things to make them better. If someone has never gone through the continent before, I think they would enjoy it.

Northrend

Going through Northrend was also a lot quicker than at first, mainly due to heirlooms and guild perk. I started in Howling Fjord, did all of Dragonblight and Zul’Drak, then about halfway through Storm Peaks is where I ended up hitting level 80. Through this I only did two instances, both through the LFD tool, coming up with Utgarde Keep and Halls of Stone (of course).

Normally in my quest to level alts, I end up getting stuck around the beginning of Northrend. I can usually make it through the first zone, usually Borean Tundra, but by the time I reach Dragonblight I get bored very quickly. In a WoW Insider Show, they had likened the province of Manitoba as being the Dragonblight of Canada, and I have to agree – Dragonblight is just boring.

As I said, I normally start from Borean Tundra so the first area I hit in Dragonblight is Agmar’s Hammer. Since I started in Howling Fjord this time I did the Venomspite quests first, which is what I believe made the difference. It wasn’t much of a change, but any change is welcome in boring content.

Similar to Outland, there were a number of Elite/Group quests that were out there. Also similarly, I was able to solo most of them and only needing help with the ones that had mechanics that were harmful to cloth-wearers. The travel time to get to different places still was a big factor, but not nearly as bad as Outland. By this time, Blizzard seems to have learned that people don’t like having to fly somewhere for five minutes before getting to the quest objective.

During my initial time in Wrath, I didn’t really have a favourite zone. This time, Zul’Drak really stood out to me – the story of an empire that wanted to fend off the Scourge so badly that they killed their own gods out of desperation. I would love to see the zone the way it was before, as the pinnacle of a troll empire.

Right now Northrend is still too fresh in my mind from Wrath. Cataclysm has only been out for five months, so it hasn’t been long enough for me to get over it. The zone and quest design isn’t bad, but I’m glad it’s not the current one anymore.

Conclusion

Many times through my leveling experience, I was extremely thankful for the ability to have a flying mount. Originally, flying wasn’t available in Outland until level 70 and in Northrend until level 77. Having to run through all the stuff before was painful enough, I am so very glad that I didn’t have to do it again.

Last year I wrote up some retrospectives about Vanilla, Burning Crusade, and Wrath of the Lich King. Going through the two expansion contents, I’m reminded about many of my original observations and my overall conclusion from them: I’m glad that I was able to play through them when they were relevant, but I’m very glad that it’s the past. What’s done is done, and I’m glad the game is moving forward.

It shows how much Blizzard has done to improve the game over time. Anyone who says that the game was better during Vanilla, Burning Crusade, or Wrath is a liar. The game as it is today is far more superior to the previous content. Blizzard will always improve their work.

I’m very glad to be back in Cataclysm content. Hyjal, here I come!

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.

Screenshot of the Week – May 7

It’s still Saturday!  Time for a SSOTW!

Click for full size

This is a great perspective of Zangarmarsh as I was flying through while leveling my Shadow Priest.  It’s still one of the best zones in The Burning Crusade content.

Melting Faces and Taking Names

Once upon a time, it was said that Shadow Priests can melt faces. After testing out this theory for myself, it turns out that the information presented was indeed correct. For the first time in my World of Warcraft career, I’m playing a “squishy” class without actually being squishy.

When Cataclysm hit, I had my sights set on making a goblin priest. I’m not sure why exactly I wanted to do that specific race/class combination, but it seems to be working for me so far. The first bit I decided to try to level entirely by using the dungeon finder, and it worked – for a while.

Levels 15-35 were fairly uneventful, with decent groups being able to go through a dungeon in a good amount of time without much drama. After that, it seemed every second group would either be completely full of idiots, or people who don’t know what they’re doing. If I was really fortunate, it would be a nice mix of both. I was really hoping to continue leveling through the LFD tool to work on my healing, since I would likely be doing this once I hit max level. However, this didn’t end up happening, and at level 42 I decided to start questing again.

Unfortunately, since this character had been parked in Orgrimmar from levels 15 to 42, I didn’t have any flight paths other than Bilgewater Harbour and Razor Hill. Thankfully I had epic riding skill, so the drive down to Dustwallow Marsh to pick up the Thousand Needles breadcrumb wasn’t too big of a problem. I changed over to my dual spec of Shadow, and promptly began to melt the faces of Grimtotems, pirates, and anything else that stood in my way.

Since then there has only been one circumstance when I switched back to my Discipline spec for use, which was to heal a tank so we could duo Durn the Hungerer in Nagrand. Apart from that, I’ve only switched over to spend the talent points that I had earned. Fortunately, there hasn’t been any need to do so.

While I was leveling my enhancement shaman I found I was able to solo most things, including some group quests which I had never been able to do before. Out of curiosity, I decided to try this in Hellfire Peninsula on my priest. I had gotten the feel of the class by this point, and was comfortable in what to do for an elite mob. After some preparation and making sure I had the proper buffs, the giants for the Colossal Menace quest were destroyed efficiently.

I was honestly quite shocked – a clothie that can solo group quests this easily? It was different from what I had expected. (For the record, I have leveled a Warlock previously and they did well for group quests – but having a Voidwalker or Felguard will help quite a bit! Warlocks aren’t that squishy, but I don’t have any experience with one since originally leveling through Outland back in Burning Crusade.) Not having a pet or something to tank an elite mob, while I was able to still do very decent damage and have self-healing… it was a nice feeling.

Going through Outland, I was able to solo all group quests in Zangarmarsh and Nagrand (with the exception of Durn). In my brief time in Howling Fjord I’ve been able to solo the one group quest that has come up which has always presented me with problems on other characters, which is March of the Giants – elite giants who do heavy damage, along with a hard-hitting damage over time debuff placed on you. Fortunately a priest’s arsenal includes Dispel Magic, which saved my hide a number of times through the course of that questline.

I was able to hit 70 before completing the quests in Vengeance Landing and Camp Winterhoof in Howling Fjord the other night. Originally, I was expecting to level by healing the dungeon finder groups I found with a Discipline spec. I’m extremely glad that I decided to make the switch.

It will be interesting to see how things go through Northrend and Cataclysm content. I’ll be wanting to get more healing experience, but being able to melt faces is just so much fun. Rolling this priest as an alt seems to have been a very good idea.

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.

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.

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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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