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.

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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 – April 9

Spring may have finally arrived in Edmonton. I just got a car wash, so I hope that it’s true.

Click for full size

Today’s screenshot of the week comes from the Goblin starting zone of the Lost Isles, going from the smaller island to the bigger one.  You go across the channel in style, by means of a slingshot-propelled rocket.  What can go wrong?

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.

Continue reading “Rethinking Raiding”

Guilds and Responsibilities

For a great many people, a guild can be a very (if not the most) important part of their gameplay. What good is a MMORPG if you don’t have people to play with? Yes, there are features that help with this like the random dungeon finder, trade chat, official forums, and so on – but there is nothing like a close-knit group of people who spend most of their gaming time together.

A guild should do a number of things for the player, both in-game and out. Even though the reason that it exists in the first place is to facilitate gaming activities, many stories are out there that show how a well-managed guild can be support people in their real life world. Think of it like a workplace: if you’re going to spend a great deal of time with a group of people, getting along with them can be an important step.

Like a workplace, people don’t always get along. The kindest person might rub someone the wrong way unintentionally, and conflict is born. Depending on how this conflict might be handled could make or break a guild’s leadership. Reacting either too soft or heavy could make an officer or guild master lose any sort of respect that they might have.

This is why I personally enjoy a medium-sized guild. At the most through my WoW career, the guild has had a maximum of around 30-50 active members at any point in time. On an average night, there could be anywhere between 10-30 people online, but I knew each one of them. I’ve never been in a larger guild, so I don’t have the experience when it comes to large-scale management.

The guild master and officers should be respected members of the group, and able to handle the responsibility of leadership. Like anyone who is looked upon for guidance and direction, they must have thick skin and be able to be accountable. Someone in power who thinks they are above the law is a bad idea.

Members also have their own responsibilities. Most guilds have their rules and regulations posted in plain sight, so when someone joins a guild they agree to abide by those rules – there’s no pleading ignorance if something happens that goes against them. Members must respect the leadership of the guild, and follow the established protocol for conflict resolution, as I mentioned earlier. If there’s a raid signup, if someone signs up, they had better be there for that raid. Planning raid composition and people who may have to sit out is a tough job, and then if someone is a no-show you have people who miss out for no reason.

A guild is made up of every single member working together. People should have respect for one another, working with the established code of conduct, and being responsible for their position within that guild.

For a great many people, a guild can be a very important (if not the most important) part of their gameplay. What good is a MMORPG if you don’t have people to play with? Yes, there are features that help with this like the random dungeon finder, trade chat, official forums, and so on – but there is nothing like a close-knit group of people who spend most of their gaming time together. 

A guild should do a number of things for the player, but in-game and out. Even though the reason that it exists in the first place is to facilitate gaming activities, many stories are out there that show how a well-managed guild can be support people in their real life world. Think of it like a workplace: if you’re going to spend a great deal of time with a group of people, getting along with them can be an important step.

Like a workplace, people don’t always get along. The kindest person might rub someone the wrong way unintentionally, and conflict is born. Depending on how this conflict might be handled could make or break a guild’s leadership. Reacting either too soft or heavy could make an officer or guild master lose any sort of respect that they might have.

This is why I personally enjoy a medium sized guild. At the most through my WoW career, the guild has had a maximum of around 30-50 active members at any point in time. On an average night, there could be anywhere between 10-30 people online, but I knew each one of them. I’ve never been in a larger guild, so I don’t have the experience when it comes to large scale management.

The guild master and officers should be respected members of the group, and able to handle the responsibility of leadership. Like anyone who is looked upon for guidance and direction, they must have thick skin and be able to be accountable. Someone in power who thinks they are above the law is a bad idea.

Members also have their own responsibilities. Most guilds have their rules and regulations posted in plain sight, so when someone joins a guild they agree to abide by those rules – there’s no pleading ignorance if something happens that goes against them. Members must respect the leadership of the guild, and follow the established protocol for conflict resolution, as I mentioned earlier. If there’s a raid signup, if someone signs up, they had better be there for that raid. Planning raid composition and people who may have to sit out is a tough job, and then if someone is a no-show you have people who miss out for no reason.

A guild is made up of every single member working together. People should have respect for one another, working with the established code of conduct, and being responsible for their position within that guild.