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Good day one and all! I hope you’ve been enjoying the release of 3.3. Today I’ll be going through my thoughts on just about everything 3.3-related, having had ample time to roadtest the patch and raid instances over a few weeks. For those of you who don’t read patch notes, you can find plenty of information about it over at WoW.com’s Guide to Patch 3.3; they’ve been releasing regular posts talking about the new features and their experiences with them, so there’s no excuse not to know what’s going on!🙂

Without further ado…

Priest Changes

There were changes? I must have missed them.

I kid, really. Discipline Priests have seen comparatively little tweaking since the great gcd-shield change of 3.1; the Penance glyph got introduced, Penance got nerfed and… that was about it. This patch, there have been two very small changes for us. Divine Hymn has seen its cooldown reduced to 8 minutes from 10, and Power Word: Shield can now be cast on non-raid/non-party members. The shield change is simple;  if you’ve ever tried to save somebody not in your party who’s getting ganked by a member of an opposing faction, it can be pretty difficult doing it without two of your main spells. Neither Shields nor Prayer of Mending used to work on people outside your party/raid. Now we can save random passers-by! Huzzah. (Although PoM still doesn’t work, because it’s dependant on jumping to other people in your party/raid.)

The Divine Hymn change is slightly different and more indicative of a general design movement by Blizzard. Left, right and centre, abilities with big cooldowns are having their downtime (and often their durations) slashed to fit in with the limited attempts mechanic. The Sated debuff was, in a way, the first step on this road. By introducing the debuff, the cooldown of Bloodlust could be reduced – so guilds running 10-mans with one Shaman didn’t have to wait for the cooldown in between attempts on bosses. Nowadays, with even more importance placed on fewer/higher quality attempts on bosses, it’s obvious that people are going to get bored sitting for those 2 extra minutes waiting for a skill to come off cooldown when they’ve probably already worked out their strategy for the fight in the kind of detail you’d find on the Bayeaux Tapestry. So Divine Hymn is one of a number of abilities (Soulstone, Army of the Dead) that has been buffed as a result!

Dungeon Finder

Generic random dungeon pic!

Generic random dungeon pic!

I’m going to be blunt. I’m pretty sure that the Dungeon Finder is the single greatest non-raid-instance thing Blizzard have put into WoW. Better than arenas, better than dual specs, better than the previous revitalisation of heroics. Simply put, it takes away all of the hassle of finding a group and/or dealing with party leaders who require you to have a given achievement (like Epic, in one notable case I encountered a few months back) while still allowing people to run heroics with appropriately geared party members. And with the introduction of the heroic daily for more new Emblems, the pool of players which you’re drawing from has a much higher average standard of maturity. It’s a win-win situation!

The best thing of all is that search times as a DPS on a fairly well-populated battlegroup are still relatively good. As Shadow, the wait times jump to 7 or 8 minutes most of the time but I’m still always able to get a group at almost any time of the day within 10 minutes, without any effort whatsoever! Oh, and did I mention it’s actually possible to find a group for low level instances now? Levelling alts just became that bit more interesting.🙂

But I think my biggest surprise so far has been the general quality of the groups I’ve encountered. Pick-up groups have a reputation; that of being constantly unreliable. There’s always the Hunter who leaves Growl on, or the tank who can’t hold aggro on two mobs, right? Perhaps I’ve just been incredibly lucky, but all of my groups have powered through them without a problem, regardless of the individual skill levels of the members. This is something that I think many people are missing and one of the reasons that the timing of this has been excellent. In 245 gear and the like, it’s getting to the point where heroics are obsolete other than to gather more Emblems of Frost from the heroic daily and Triumph emblems for those who need to catch up (like me and my recent respec to Shadow; more on that later). Most of us could 2-man a heroic and Prot Paladins can solo them! So if you’ve only got two “functioning” members of your group, chances are you can still make your way through most old heroics without too many problems. Two or three patches ago, PuGs would have a much higher rate of failure and it’ll be interesting to see how this works when Cataclysm arrives.

Icecrown Citadel: Dungeons

Ooh, shiny.

Ooh, shiny.

3.3 has introduced more new instances than any other patch in recent memory. Three new dungeons in a handy one-to-the-next system and the most anticipated raid since Sunwell were all added together in one giant bundle of wonderful. So, what’s the verdict? Be aware, if for any reason you haven’t covered this material and want to experience it without prior knowledge, there are considerable spoilers below.

Well, dungeons first. I’ll be honest, the start didn’t exactly blow me away; although the Forge of Souls has a few spectacular views and some shiny graphics on bosses (so pretty much the opposite of Trial of the Champion!) it still didn’t strike much of a chord with me. There wasn’t much to keep me interested between bosses! After the initial “wow” view of the forge itself, there wasn’t much left to impress me; just a few metal walkways and trash you could pull out of most other dungeons. As for difficulty, I’d say it was pretty well-pitched. We didn’t have much trouble in 245 gear, but I can definitely see the reasons for it being locked out to 80s below a certain level of gear.

Next came the Pit of Saron, where things started to get interesting. The three dungeons follow a linear story; Sylvanas is there at the beginning, end and sometimes the middle of every dungeon telling you what the deal is with what you’re doing. Apparently you’re trying to punch a hole in the Lich King’s defenses and trying to find a potential weakness of his that can be exploited. It’s all fairly standard storytelling and serves well to tie the three dungeons together. Together with their half-hour nature, you can comfortably run them (as I did) with the same PuG group. The bosses here were a lot more interesting; Garfrost and Ick/Krick being particularly interesting. Line-of-sighting stuff is nothing new, but on Garfrost it’s the nature of the debuff that’s fun and as a Priest if someone doesn’t LoS him you can spam dispel them instead during the downtime. Ick and Krick is an encounter that’s just fun. Go and try it, if you haven’t already! It’s one of those encounters like Jaraxxus or Shade of Aran where there’s always something to react to or run away from or similar; the kind that every raider enjoys!

Finally, we were introduced to the end boss’ big bad Frost Wyrm and told to run up a tunnel with falling icicles the entire duration a la Hodir. It might have been an interesting encounter had the icicles actually done much fall damage, but even standing right in the middle of a circle didn’t seem to push anyone’s health back too much that I couldn’t deal with it in a couple of gcds. Still, credit to Blizzard there for trying something new and interesting and I do always enjoy having a little movement challenge to keep my brain busy! The final boss itself isn’t much harder than any other heroic boss, just with considerably more health (having never seen the “million” denomination on a heroic boss’ health bar before, my first reaction was “it’s bugged!”). All-in-all, good fun.

We moved swiftly onto Halls of Reflection.

In Soviet Russia, Lich King chases you!

In Soviet Russia, Lich King chases you!

I must say, Halls of Reflection was by far and away my favourite of the three. The first reaction I had was that the Falric and Marwyn encounter was actually challenging. It’s the first heroic encounter I’ve ever done where I felt under similar pressure to how I feel during a raid. It really is that tough on the healers. At the start I just figured it was your standard add-waves conserve-mana kind of encounter, but when I found myself drinking after wave 8 or 9 because all my cooldowns (and potions) were already used up, I realised that this was pretty aggressively tuned. Without a full 245 or better tank who’s adept at picking up several mobs, expect to be healing everybody a lot. Tanks I talked to also expressed their amazement at the difficulty of both encounters in the instance. Thankfully, the bosses themselves (Falric and Marwyn, who appear after 5 and 10 waves) aren’t that much of a problem and you can comfortably regen mana for that portion of the encounter.

The Lich King encounter is very well designed and I enjoyed it immensely; although as a tank or DPS, I imagine you might be more concerned with killing stuff. I know that several people were worried pre-patch (and pre-datamining) that the encounter would be a 5-man version of the raid instance, but we all really knew that Blizzard wasn’t going to be that silly! In the end, what they’ve come up with is a great, tense, story-building encounter that anyone remotely interested in the lore would be a fool not to play through. It’s fairly tightly tuned but without knowing how close LK has to be to kill you (we never wiped!) I can’t say with certainty how close we ever were to dying.

While Halls of Reflection is far and away the best of the three, you have to play through the previous two to access it the first time; so you’ll get to have an opinion of your own on all three!

Icecrown Citadel Raid / Chill of the Throne

The greatest challenge to organisation yet: Jetpacks!

The greatest challenge to organisation yet: Jetpacks!

It’s true, we can’t really judge the ICC raid yet because of the gated progression system. There’s only four bosses out and no hardmodes, so as more encounters are released throughout January we’ll have a clearer idea of what the raid is like. But the major deal for healers right now (and indeed what my next article will be based around) is Chill of the Throne, the passive zone-wide effect that reduces chance to dodge by 20%. The thinking behind the debuff, as explained in a previous article, is that gear has progressed so quickly that before 3.3 the only way to challenge tanks with humongous levels of avoidance was to have the bosses hit increasingly hard. With this new debuff, a boss’ attack strength can be toned down and it’s supposed to feel more like a constant stream of damage instead of one gigantic hit; the idea being that you can plan your heals better instead of just spamming your biggest heal.

How is this working out? The answer so far: very well. There have been a few encounters already, notably Lady Deathwhisper, where I see my assigned tank’s health at 80% and I know I don’t have to worry. I throw him a PoM or a Renew, heal someone in the raid who’s being targeted by a Shadow Bolt or another tank that’s in difficulty and then go back to my assigned tank. Two gcds later he’ll have taken damage, but it won’t be life-endangering – because a constant stream of damage over 3 seconds isn’t always enough to kill a tank any more! I throw him a Penance and he’s back to a comfortable level of health. This kind of neatness is what makes healing fun for me and I hope it’ll continue to work well when the later encounters are released. Previously if you left a tank for 3 seconds you were relying on luck; now it’s less about RNG and more about logical thinking. Fantastic!

The encounters so far have been extremely fun and refreshing, especially the Gunship Battle. Despite not really being a casual raider, I’ve enjoyed the Gunship encounter tremendously as both Shadow and Discipline, on the guns and off them. It’s a fight with a lot more strategic potential than many people give it credit for; and while it’s pretty easy in its current form, I look forward to seeing how it will change for the hardmode! I’ll do more on the encounters themselves and my impressions of them once more of them are released, because right now it would just be a few lines on each and that doesn’t even make up a part of a decent article.🙂

Finally, a brief note about my recent respec to Shadow; those of you who have armoried me recently might notice my mainspec is now Shadow. I recently joined a new guild and in my application I put “open spec” because I knew they had a fair few Priest healers. They chose Shadow for me and I respecced/am regearing accordingly. Where does this leave my blog? No idea. I’ll certainly continue, but it’s probable that many of my future articles will be based on theorycraft and chats with other Discipline Priests from Kazzak. Haste stacking, what I’ll be writing about next, is something I haven’t had any time to test but which I can see both pros and cons for and I’ll be talking to a few Discipline Priests to get their opinions on it.

Thanks for sticking with me! See you soon for that next post on gemming for Haste.🙂

And now for my next article, something a little different. I had hoped that Icecrown would hit the servers last Wednesday and I’d be able to jump in so I could give you another “first impressions” blog entry, but it would appear (quite fairly) that Blizzard aren’t fans of releasing major patches immediately before big holiday weekends, so that will have to wait. Instead of talking about strategy or UI or how to play a Discipline Priest, today I’m going to discuss Blizzard’s encounter design for healers over the months since Wrath’s release. How have they tackled the big problems that faced them and the complaints that were being made by healers? Have they been “successful”?

Now let me clarify “encounter design”. What I’m not going to be talking about here is the introduction of hardmodes and whether it was a good idea, or the limited attempts system from Trial of the Grand Crusader that will also be being implemented in Icecrown Citadel. Yes, I have my opinions on these matters, but you’re not going to find out what they are! There’s no point alienating half my readerbase straight off the bat by saying what I think of this stuff either way – I think the discussion surrounding these systems is a bit too “polarising” (people get very opinionated about it) for my liking and so I’ll keep my neutrality in tact.

Without further ado, let’s start looking at the problems that Blizzard have faced!

The Great Shaman-Stacking Problem


What Was The Problem?

When Blizzard released patch 2.4 and the Sunwell Plateau raid instance became available to play, it was designed to challenge the best of the best. Blizzard’s modus operandi was to create a raid instance that would keep guilds like Nihilum and SK Gaming (the merger of which became Ensidia) busy until the release of Wrath of the Lich King, or at least mean they would spend several weeks on it. The fights were tuned aggressively beyond belief and required near-perfection to kill. Many hardcore guilds had their entire memberbase reroll Leatherworking for the chain Drums buffs during M’uru, such was the damage output required.

But as we know, where there is a challenge and where a hardcore PvE guild comes across it, they will look in every nook and cranny of the game mechanics to find a way past it. A great example of this is Ensidia downing Hodir in under 2 minutes by spellstealing the Flower Power buff from some other trash; something which many players question the legitimacy of to this day (although, personally, I think it is an ingenious method of beating what was considered a mathematically impossible encounter). For Sunwell, the norm became the stacking of Shamen – mostly Restoration, but any Shamen were good.

Why? There were two main reasons;

1. Bloodlust/Heroism: In Wrath, the Sated/Exhausted debuff prevents anyone from being affected by Bloodlust or Heroism for 10 minutes after it’s used. The debuff is removed on death. The intended purpose of this is to allow a shorter cooldown on the skill so that it can be used again quickly if a guild wipes. In Burning Crusade, however, Bloodlust had no limitations, which is what made it so appealing – a massive, chainable DPS boost? Thank you very much!

2. Chain Heal: Of course, Blizzard had to make the healing just as difficult as the DPS requirements and it wasn’t uncommon to see gigantic amounts of raid damage being put out several times per minute, in one notable case (M’uru Phase 2) damage that wasn’t intended to be healed through forever. With skills like Wild Growth just a distant speck on the horizon, Shamen were the primary AoE-healing class and this made them an excellent choice for Sunwell.

So the fact that there was one class which excelled at AoE healing whilst adding tremendously to the damage output of the raid made them an excellent choice for any raid that was seriously attempting Sunwell.

How Has It Been Fixed?

“Bring the player, not the class”. This, I think it is safe to say, has been Blizzard’s primary motto through Wrath. They saw what happened with Sunwell Shaman-stacking and they didn’t particularly like it – whether a guild was hardcore or not, they shouldn’t be required to reroll an entire character and gear through several instances just to beat a few more encounters (an exception can be made for the world-first guilds who will do anything to win!).

So, class healing has been somewhat equalized. For AoE healing, Resto Druids received Wild Growth and Chain Heal was toned down. In return, Shamen had their tank-healing capabilities bumped up a little (although they are still behind Paladins and Discipline Priests here) and became a “jack-of-all-trades” healing class, something that many of the elite didn’t like. More casual guilds and even more hardcore guilds are able to fit their raid composition around the players available to them for almost every encounter. Yes, there are still some fights (inevitably difficult ones, like Anub’arak hardmode) that require certain healing classes; but by and large, this has been a big success on Blizzard’s part.

The Whack-a-Mole Issue


What Was The Problem?

The nature of healing is that we react to damage or (in the case of good healers) incoming damage. Somebody gets catapulted into a world of pain by some boss and it’s our job to try and stop them from dying. Healers since the dawn of time in WoW have always complained that healing is quite a monotonous affair. We put our raidframes in the bottom portion of the screen, somebody takes damage, we click their little nameplate and press a button; hence the “whack-a-mole effect”.

This, combined with many more casual healers feeling shut out by raid leaders blaming them for the fire-lovers dying, served to create a fairly disillusioned group of players who felt they did a difficult and boring job for not much credit.

How Has It Been Fixed?

The key to ridding WoW of the whack-a-mole effect is to create boss encounters that challenge healers in ways they don’t expect. DPS generally get their enjoyment of the game from seeing the boss die faster and the numbers on their Recount get gradually larger. Healers, on the other hand, don’t have this luxury. Numbers are generally meaningless to us, so the design team satiate our lust for fun by making us think about how we heal. It’s the basis of several great encounters and is most recently present in Anub’arak; see my last article for more on that. Fights like Val’kyr heroic and Beasts heroic are great gear checks but the healing is often frustrating (particularly Gormok, with his tank-gibbing tendencies) and almost feel like a rotation with no thought put into it.

Icecrown would appear to have more of the same interesting new encounters, with fights like Valithria and Sindragosa (will Penance cause three stacks of Unchained Magic?) having healers drooling over their keyboards already. Verdict? A partial success. I’ll admit you can’t always have great encounters for healers, but there are definitely more of them these days.

Instagibbed – Damage Output on Tanks


What Was The Problem?

For those of us who have been unlucky enough to try Beasts hardmode (our guild wiped on it over 250 times before killing it) you’ll know what I’m talking about. The problem is that as gear quality increases, healing throughput does so as well. Your heals get faster, stronger and… crittier? I love that word. Anywho, because of the way Wrath raiding has panned out; with hardmodes offering one or more different tiers of gear for every patch, in effect giving us 7 tiers already, healing started to become a spamfest. My Flash Heals can crit for almost 11k these days, and because of the higher levels of avoidance on tanks, healing becomes exponentially more easy. The tanks take less hits; and when they do, our heals heal them faster.

What was Blizzard’s response to this? They made the bosses hit harder. MUCH harder. Gormok was an extreme case of this, and I may cause some controversy by saying that I think it’s the biggest failure of Blizzard’s design team so far this expansion. When the tank took a full hit from a boss, his health would drop 25k. Combined with Gormok’s damage-increase and unlucky Impale ticks, (and especially given that before the first nerf Gormok was affected by parry-haste,) we lost about 50 attempts to tanks getting what we in the business call “gibbed” or “instagibbed” – killed before the healers could possibly react.

How Has It Been Fixed?

It hasn’t. Not yet, at least, because it’s still 3.2. For tank healers, Icecrown Citadel will be a pivotal point in the analysis of Blizzard’s balance team; they’re hanging their balance on Chill of the Throne, a zone-wide effect in the Icecrown raid that reduces tank avoidance by 20%, similar to Sunwell Radiance. The theory behind this is that allowing tanks to take more hits means that the strength of those attacks can be toned down, and tanks will take more of a “steady stream” of damage rather than 40k-40k-bang-you’re-dead. Will that be a success? We’ll see! Keep your eyes peeled.

So, is encounter design a “success”? The reason I have success in quote-marks is because the word success is polarised. It’s a yes or no question, really. In reality, Blizzard make a great game that keeps me glued to my screen when I have the time to spare for it! There are definitely places for improvement and we’ll see how Chill of the Throne works out when 3.3 goes live, but for the most part Blizzard’s encounter design has been very good this expansion; something that I think is overlooked by a lot of people.

Next article, first impressions of 3.3!

I won’t lie. Right now, Anub’arak heroic is my favourite fight in the game. I can see Valithria hardmode being a lot of fun (spoilers!) once Patch 3.3 arrives, but for now, this encounter trumps Vezax hardmode as what I feel is the most challenging and enjoyable fight for myself and other healers in the game. It’s got to the point where almost every guild is working on some form of the encounter, whether it’s 10-man (Tribute runs or otherwise) for more casual guilds or 25-man for the progress guilds (including my current guild). Today I’m going to be going over the fight itself, as well as how Discipline fits into the healing side of things and providing some tips for both raid leaders and DPS.

The fight varies vastly depending on which version of the fight you are working on (ie. 10 or 25) and there are several different strategies and methods of dealing with Penetrating Cold/Leeching Swarm depending on your raid composition. I’m not going to cover them all, but I will talk at length about the most common solutions. You might want to watch TankSpot’s excellent video-guide of the encounter before reading on, as I will take some elements from that. Firstly, let’s look at the fight itself!

Anub’arak Heroic – The Fight


Anub'arak - Picture from www.wowhead.com

Part One: The Gimmick

Every fight has a gimmick, but the gimmick on Anub’arak is more than just something to be aware of – to understand how to heal the fight, you actually have to understand how it works and that it affects everything from how you divide up your healers to the raid’s DPS. Blizzard have created a fight where the healers have at least partial control over how fast the boss dies. How cool is that?

Let’s skip straight to Phase 3. Anub’arak uses an ability called Leeching Swarm, which drains 30% of the raid’s current health per second (20% on 10-man heroic) and heals Anub’arak. What does this mean? When you heal someone, you’re effectively healing the boss. For this reason, the raid needs to be kept as low as is realistically possible without dying. But don’t worry – the minimum tick for Leeching Swarm is 250 damage per second, so if someone is kept at 1000 health then they’re still 4 seconds away from dying! This can present a big problem for inexperienced raid leaders, which I’ll talk about later.

Leeching Swarm also presents two other big problems; tank healing and dealing with Penetrating Cold – a debuff applied by Anub’arak to several members of the raid which ticks for 6000 damage (3500 on 10-man) every 3 seconds. I’ll talk about these in the next sections.

Part Two: Raid Composition

Whilst Blizzard have always aimed at having a “Bring the player, not the class” system, Anub’arak heroic is one fight that benefits greatly from having a comparatively precise raid setup; but thankfully not back to the days of Sunwell Shamen-stacking or requiring X Priests for Razuvious. Two Holy Paladins are virtually essential for tank healing, and Paladins of other specs are invaluable for both tanking and phase 2 kiting. Other DPS classes with good passive group-wide heals (eg. Shadow Priests and Elemental Shamen) excel here as well, and shield tanks are pretty much required for the blocks on boss/add hits.

So while there’s no hard-and-fast ruleset, you’d do well to think about what you’re missing when you’re putting your raid together.

As for the number of healers, there are a lot of different combinations. I’ve heard of many 10-man guilds that have successfully done the heroic mode using 3 healers; my guild generally uses 2 healers and 6 dps (thus only going through one submerge phase). As for the 25-man, the number of healers can vary anywhere between 5 and 8 (!) but the normal group of 6 healers, provided it’s well-structured, won’t really let you down.

How Does Discipline Fit Into The Fight?

Discipline has historically been about damage mitigation, which means that in a fight where the damage is predictable we normally excel. Anub’arak heroic is no exception; and we can go further by saying that, indeed, this is one of the only fights where we can actually raid heal!

Part One: What’s Our Role?

In this fight, you can take on a variety of roles depending on whether you’re doing 10 or 25. I’ll cover these two separately.

10-man healing can take one of four forms, depending on whether you’re running with a Holy Paladin or not (you should be, really) and whether you’re using 2 healers or 3. Assuming you’re running with a Holy Paladin, you’ll be either asked to respec Shadow to make way for another raid healer or given a free role. You’ll generally be shielding the tanks and concentrating most of your healing on the raid in phase 3 (all of it if you’re running 2 healers). If you’re not running with a Holy Paladin, 2 healers becomes almost impossible to pull off as keeping the tanks alive all the time is tres difficile without plenty of luck and cooldowns coming out of your ears.

25-man healing invariably takes the same form. You’ll be helping out on both tanks and raid members in phase 1/2, dealing with Penetrating Cold and throwing shields around when you can. In phase 3, your attention will switch to the raid and your designated Penetrating Cold target. More on this later.

Part Two: How Can We Raid Heal?

Discipline hasn’t been very good at raid healing encounters in the past. While we can throw out a metric ton of shields and almost trivialise several bosses’ AoE attacks, when it comes to huge amounts of unavoidable damage that needs healing up quickly in a 25-man raid, we just don’t cut it. So how is Anub’arak different? Well, while the damage output in phase 3 is gigantic for the first 6 or 7 seconds, it doesn’t need healing up. We don’t have to get everyone back to full health; we just need to keep them alive, which is where small but precise heals like Holy Nova (your key tool in phase 3) come into their own. Because the actual healing required is restricted largely to Penetrating Cold targets, it might look like you need a Holy Priest or Resto Druid but really the job gets done just as well by a DPriest.

So How Do We Kill Him?

So, down to the nitty gritty.

Phases One and Two

The healing in these phases are pretty simple and shouldn’t take much more exertion than normal. The tanks will be hit slightly harder and the stacking debuff from the Swarm Scarabs gets annoying; but ultimately, the most important thing in these two phases is to kite correctly and this is something that the TankSpot video covers much better than I could.

What you’ll spend most of your time doing in these phases is conserving mana. Because the damage output is pretty low by comparison and because the mana requirements in phase 3 are so heavy, you’ll be wanting to keep your mana in as tip-top a condition as possible. Holy Nova may be extremely useful in phase 3 but it’s mana-intensive to use and the final phase continues for much longer than you might think compared to normal mode. Don’t underestimate the importance of a healthy mana bar in phase 3, and err on the side of caution.

Phase Three

In General: The trick to healing phase 3 is to keep everybody without the Penetrating Cold debuff (and the tanks) as close as possible to ~2000 health. This gives you plenty of time to react to the Leeching Swarm debuff (between ~4 and 6 seconds) and means that Anub’arak doesn’t heal too fast. Tanks and Penetrating Cold targets should be kept at ideally 50% health or higher; perma-blocked hits from tanks give them much more survivability when you do this. Get the raid stacked as close together as possible so your Holy Novas won’t miss targets (and may actually damage the boss and adds, however small the output is) and make sure for the first time on progress that everybody has Frost Protection potions at the ready. Nope, I’m afraid you won’t be getting a mana potion on this fight.

As for DPriests, the only really general rule is not to use Prayer of Mending! It can crit for upwards of 9k on any random target and that’s really what you don’t want in a fight where precision reigns supreme.

10-man: Healing this phase in 10-man depends heavily on your raid composition. With two healers, you’ll probably be raid healing and will thus want to keep a hasted Prayer of Healing in your bag of tricks for the other group of the raid (ie. the one you can’t Holy Nova). There are several little chain-cast tricks that come in useful here: one example would be immediately after Penetrating Cold is applied, a Shield –> Flash Heal –> Shield –> Penance –> Holy Nova –> PoH with the first four casts on the PC targets. Try and weave casts like that to get the maximum haste possible from Borrowed Time. It’s really important here!

You’ll be using PoH and Holy Nova to keep the raid from dying to Leeching Swarm, so your mana will drop extremely quickly. Ask a Druid if he can save an Innervate for you or, failing that, a Hymn of Hope from a Shadow Priest; this will help a great deal. Save your shields and Penance/Flash Heals for the PC targets as they’ll need extremely quick healing (you have to deal with two within a matter of seconds).

With three healers, the load on the raid is decreased considerably. You’ll probably be raid healing; divide the groups between the two of you, assign yourself one PC target each (raid icons help here) and keep your assigned group/PC target alive. Throw a shield off on the tanks when you can!

25-man: Many of the concepts here carry over from 10-man. Normally, each group will be assigned one healer who will keep them up through the entirety of phase 3, with the two Paladins on the tanks. Try and co-ordinate the healers so that if you’re short one raid healer, one of you heals the two groups which already have passive effects like Vampiric Embrace. Each healer will also be assigned one Penetrating Cold target, designated by a raid icon that’s automatically applied by DBM. Make a macro to target that icon, because Grid won’t tell you which of the targets with PC is yours!

Your key tools will once again be shields, Penance on your PC target and Holy Nova, but this time without PoH as you don’t have to deal with another group. Don’t forget to pop your Shadowfiend!

Some Notes for Raid Leaders: Common Mistakes

Having been in a good 50 failed attempts on Anub myself, I’ve heard quite a lot from raid leaders on “where we’re going wrong”. I figured I’d add this section as an appendix of sorts, so that disillusioned healers (or helpful healers) can link their RLs here and make the process a lot nicer for everybody!🙂

Problem One: Asking DPS to offheal

Some raidframes, like XPerl, flash red when someone is on low health. If a raid leader uses a set of raidframes like this, I can guarantee you they’ll have a heart attack when phase 3 arrives. You’re sat there with your precise heals and your calculated casts but all the raid leader sees is “people are dying”. This has led to an RL asking an Elemental Shaman or Shadow Priest to offheal in the middle of phase 3 several times.

It might seem like an inconvenience for healers and you might get a little pissed when someone does it, but just remember; your raid leader may not know the kind of specifics that you do! They’re just trying to keep everyone alive and in check – it’s their job. When we were progressing on heroic 10-man, (sadly we didn’t down it before I went to university,) my RL certainly didn’t know how the healing worked on the first few tries, and neither did the rest of the DPS. Every fight on that first evening you’d see an overeager Mage Ice Block because he was at 3k health, or a Shadow Priest jump out of Shadowform and pop Divine Hymn.

So, how do you know if your healers have the situation under control? Simple! If half the raid is dead, they don’t. If less than about 10% of your raid is dead, unless it’s a tank, don’t worry. People do die here and there on Anub’arak and it’s unfortunate when it happens, but most of the time your healers are still dealing with it. If you start losing healers and it creates a snowball effect, you’ll wipe. But that doesn’t mean that you should divert DPS to offhealing just because the healers are on low health!

Think of it this way: it’s not like a fight such as Kologarn or Ignis, where you can see how your raid healers react to raid-wide damage and analyse it. Raidframes just don’t tell you that on Anub’arak. In this fight, there’s simply a line that separates someone being alive and someone being dead and you just have to place your faith in the healers. If someone’s health is at ~500, nothing has gone wrong yet. If someone’s dead, it has.

Problem Two: “Keep the raid at X%”

I’ve heard just about everything from raid leaders! Do I keep the raid at 20%, 50%, 5% or just spamheal my socks off? The generally accepted “correct” figure – which gives a balance between survivability and lack of healing on Anub’arak – is roughly 2000 health. If you want a percentage, this will work out at between 10% and 6-7% of someone’s health. Tanks and Penetrating Cold targets should be kept as high as is realistically possible, but 50% is a good health count to aim for on them. One of the big communication issues in this fight is different raid leaders hearing different things and nobody knowing who’s right.

Problem Three: Defensive Cooldowns on DPS

A great example of this is Ice Block. Something that reduces someone’s DPS for a gain in survivability. Well I’ve got news for you, buddy! Us healers don’t want you to pop Ice Block (unless perhaps you’re using it to get rid of PC); we want you to kill the boss faster. I remember someone once telling me that “DPS is the best mp5” – well in this fight, it certainly is. You kill the boss faster and let us worry about keeping you alive.🙂

Of course, you should take this with a pinch of salt. What’s a good figure to start worrying about defensive cooldowns and Ice Block and the like? Maybe if you’re one or two ticks of Swarm away from dying – that’d be about 250 to 500 health left.

Anyway, hope this helps. I always have a blast on this boss and it’s a great fight for Discipline. Good luck!

— Roble

Well hello again readers, and sorry for my inexplicable absence! I’ve been beavering away at my Maths degree for the last three weeks and I’m afraid to say I’ve barely even raided, let alone had time to write up a blog entry. But here I am! I’ve got some free time on an afternoon in between more work and going out this evening and I’m using it to make you happy.🙂

I said before that I was going to upload my UI to offer to you guys, and I didn’t lie; without further ado, here it is – the Roble UI (v1.0)! I’ve included a readme in the .rar file so that I don’t have to deal with all the instructions in this post, but what I will say is that it’s very important you follow those instructions and create a backup so that just incase my UI screws up your keybinds or macros or whatever then you can bring back your old UI. It’s a big thing switching between interfaces and not something you should do lightly! Also, note that this UI is for 1920×1080 resolution screens. Those of you with different monitors may have to jiggle/scale the addons around a bit. Finally, the UI was physically created before I came to uni and so some addons may need updating. You’ll find that my setup is probably completely different to yours and it’ll take a while to get used to it. Want to see what the UI looks like? Take a look! (This screenshot is pretty much perfect and illustrates all the major features of the UI.)

So, addons for healers. There’s an overwhelming selection out there and while one person might recommend PitBull for unitframes, someone else might swear by X-Perl. Which do you pick? It’s a tough choice and I can’t speak for experience for all of these addons as I have only ever used a select few. What I’m going to do is explain which parts of the default Blizzard UI you’ll really be wanting to replace and then tell you which one I use, along with a few other suggestions!

But before we start, what’s the first rule of making a healer UI? Maximise space. As a DPS, all you usually need to know is your rotation, some Deadly Boss Mods (DBM) timers and where the mob you’re killing is. Okay, that’s maybe a little unfair! But so long as you don’t have LUA errors coming up interfering with your view of the bosses’ behinds, there’s not a lot that can go wrong. Being a healer is all about information. I do my best to not just watch Grid, I look around the screen as well. Adds coming into play on Anub’arak? I see that happening long before the tank’s health bar starts dropping on Grid. Grid can tell you that somebody’s out of range, but it can’t tell you where they are. What you need is as clear a screen as possible so that you can look around and see what’s happening. The only exception to this rule is Grid, because without Grid you won’t heal much!

Step One: RaidFrames

Roble's RaidFrames

Roble's RaidFrames

Roble Uses: Grid

Other Options: Healbot, VuhDo

Raid frames are the first and most important thing you need as a healer. My raidframes, at a very basic level, give me information on people’s health counts in my raid (with a blue outline when they drop to low mana). But in reality, Grid does so much more than that for me. It has info on who has aggro, (useful on fights like Razorscale for fireball targeting,) who’s got PoM or Renew on them, who’s got Shields, who’s got Weakened Soul, who’s got low mana, who’s out of range and important debuffs are shown on their individual frame. At a glance, I can tell exactly what’s happening in a raid, who needs healing now (and who’s receiving it from someone else) and who’ll need it soon, as well as which heal I should be using on them. As for position, you’ll want it somewhere near your character (I have mine at the bottom of the screen) so that you can quickly glance between Grid and what’s happening to your character.

Grid is near-infinitely customisable and you won’t know how you kept a raid alive without it.

Step Two: UnitFrames

Roble's UnitFrames

Roble's UnitFrames

Roble Uses: Pitbull

Other Options: X-Perl

Pitbull and X-Perl are by far and away the best-known UnitFrames. These replace the Blizzard UI section that shows your health and mana/rage/energy/RP and that of your target (and the target’s target). The Blizzard stuff, while fairly functional, is a bit ugly. I use Pitbull, which is very customisable and displays information much more clearly. The Blizzard UI has very small health and mana bars in which it tries to display a fair amount of numbers/information, which just doesn’t really work. It also displays target buffs a lot more clearly – sometimes I’ll be wanting to do a quick glance to see if X target has, for example, Beacon of Light and the Pitbull frames make this much easier.

Step Three: Action Bars

Roble's Action Bars

Roble's Action Bars

Roble Uses: Bartender

Other Options: Dominos (issues with v1.13 beta afaik) and ButtonFacade

Let’s be honest. The Blizzard action bars aren’t good at “maximising space”. They take up about a quarter of the screen if you have the sidebars/topbars enabled; so from a space point of view, getting rid of those action bars is about the best thing you can do! You can see from my UI screenshot that what I’ve done is minimise my action bars to one key set of cooldowns that I can glance at, tucked away in a corner somewhere. This kind of hide-the-bars-away stuff relies on you knowing your keybinds inside out. I use 1-9, (on two bars, with the mouse wheel to switch between them,) V, Q, E, Z, R, G, C, X, H, the two side-buttons on my mouse, (and the shift- for all of these,) along with CTRL 1-3/side-buttons and F1 through F10. I know what each and every one does! If you can’t commit these kind of things to memory, I’d recommend enabling the action bars and having them as small as your eyesight will allow you to reliably, quickly read them.

Step Four: Boss Mods

Roble's DBM

Roble's DBM

Roble Uses: Deadly Boss Mods

Other Options: BigWigs

Boss Mods tell you what’s happening in a fight and what’s going to be happening. They’re absolutely invaluable to any guild that’s not at the cutting edge of progress (as for obvious reasons, this info is generally unavailable to guilds going for world firsts).  DBM is a very lightweight addon that tells you important stuff. Need to know when to switch Essence on Val’kyr? DBM’s got it covered. Need reminding there’s an Icehowl charge near you? DBM will tell you. Anub’arak pursue message not attention-grabbing enough? Don’t worry, DBM won’t let you miss it.

Essentially, Boss Mods are a tool that either allow healers to concentrate on Grid and other stuff, only stopping to do stuff when DBM tells them to, or it can be used to – for example – pre-shield raid members ahead of a raid-wide AoE on a timer. There’s a lot more you can get out of it than just “it tells you what to do”!

Step Five: Combat Text

Roble's Combat Text

Roble's Combat Text

Roble Uses: Mik Scrolling Battle Text (MSBT)

Other Options: Scrolling Combat Text (SCT)

The Blizzard combat text tells you how much healing you did and how much damage you took. Really, that can be improved on! MSBT contains a plethora of features that will allow you to accurately tell what that debuff on you is doing in damage per tick, or how much your Penance is hitting for. It also tells you when things come off cooldown and has an option (which I run with disabled outside of arena) that tells you things like when you get a new buff or when you go in/out of combat. It also makes overhealing much clearer. Yes, technically you could just modify the existing Blizzard combat text and not find out any of this stuff, but the cooldown support (and trigger support to tell you when something procs) swings it for me. This is the functionality of two or three addons in one nice, small, highly customisable package.

Appendix: Other Raid-Relevant Addons

Roble Uses: Recount, Elkano’s Buffbars, Quartz, Sexymap

And why do I run with these? All these addons make the most of the space they take up. They’re all scaleable to make them as small or as large (but realistically, as small) as you want or can be hidden. Let’s do a quick once-over of what these things do and how essential they are.

Recount: Recount, at a basic level, tells you who did the most damage or healing. But really it’s so much more than that! I normally have this turned off during fights and use it afterwards to look at things like “did I always have PoM on cooldown?” or “which tank took more damage?”. If there’s a question you’ve got about damage done/taken or healing done/taken during a fight, Recount can answer it. Who’s slacking on dispels? Check Recount! One important thing to remember is that Recount does not tell the whole story for Healing Done! I never, ever use Recount as an indication of performance and you shouldn’t either. I use it purely to find out information about a given fight.

Verdict? Hideable during fights and very useful if your computer can support the extra memory taken (remember to reset it regularly!). Definitely worth it.

Elkano’s: Elkano’s is the thing in the top left of my UI screenshot and I use it to manage my buffs. It’s the only aspect of my UI that I actually want to change, and frankly I think it can be downsized; I just haven’t found a better addon for the job yet. Takes up a fair chunk of space but any buff addon is useful.

Quartz: Pitbull includes a castbar for the player as far as I know, but ultimately you’ll want to get something better. Quartz is a moveable cast bar that has the important feature of calculating lag. What do I mean by this? It displays a little red bar on your castbar and when your cast reaches that red section, (or the end if you have it set so the red bit is at the start,) you can be reasonably sure that your next cast will go off when you press the key, even though your gcd may not appear to have finished! This is a lifesaver and can save you a lot of casting time if you’re on a bad connection. Well worth it.

Sexymap: A scaleable map that turns all your minimap icons hidden until you mouseover the map! Great for saving space and making your screen look a little less cluttered/more pretty.

Anyway, hopefully I’ve covered everything here. Sorry for the delay, and next time I believe I’ll be covering Anub’arak 10-man heroic from a healer’s point of view. Ever heard your raid leader ask a DPS to help out healing because their raid frames go crazy? Yep, I’ve been there too. And I’ll be writing a little something you can link your raid leaders to.🙂

Wow, it’s been a whole two weeks since my last article. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind recently and I’ve been slacking on my blog – it’s one of those things that takes a backseat when other stuff gets crazy! My guild disbanded and reformed under new leadership after the officers got sick of the GM and I’m getting ready to go back to uni in a week’s time, so I need to start remembering all that stuff I did last year…

Anywho, there’s been a bit of a ruckus on the Ensidia forums over the last few days. Two threads about Priest gemming, one for Discipline and one for Holy, started off with the usual advice and suddenly descended into a debate (to say the least) about the value of Spirit compared to Intellect for Priests of different specs. These threads made me realise that much of the information in the gemming section of my Discipline guide is a little out of date! While it was more than valid for Ulduar, 3.2 has changed the game when it comes to gemming and I’ll be writing about what I’m doing differently, as well as what Blizzard is doing differently.

Perhaps at this point it would be prudent to go and look through my old advice for DPriests. I wrote a paragraph or two on how to gem your Priest for best possible results and I basically summed it up by saying “screw socket bonuses, gem for spellpower”. This still holds true… to an extent. It’s just not chapter and verse anymore.

How To Do It!

How To Do It!

Allow me to explain.

Back in the mists of time at the release of Wrath, classes and specs were still working out what stats were best for them. Socket bonuses on gear varied vastly between useful (spellpower) and relatively pointless (spirit, crit). The question you had to ask yourself was “would I rather have X spellpower, or Y crit/spirit and Z intellect/mp5/whatever?” where Y and Z were much inferior to X. The answer was almost always X spellpower, because rule number one for Discipline Priests is that spellpower reigns supreme.

Then 3.2 came along. Blizzard realised that pretty much every caster class was gemming for straight spellpower, because that’s what was most useful for them. If the socket bonus wasn’t spellpower, we just stacked more spellpower. Gear in top-end guilds was getting to the point where it wasn’t customisable, (as the socketing design is supposed to make it,) because everyone did the same thing and gemmed for straight spellpower. DPriests were no exception. Something had to be done.

Suddenly Blizzard’s policy on socket bonuses changed. Notice the overwhelming majority of 3.2 set pieces and item drops have spellpower bonuses? We’re being forced to make much more difficult decisions, because there’s finally some carrot attached to that socket-bonus-string.

Say we have a piece with a red socket and a yellow socket which has a +7 spellpower bonus. Here we have a choice. Do we socket it with two +23 SP gems and get +46 SP, or do we go one 23 SP and one 12 SP/10 INT – which gives us the socket bonus? It’s a tough choice. Whichever option we go for, we’ll get at least 42 spellpower. Beyond that, we have to choose between 4 extra spellpower and 10 intellect. And that’s difficult… is there even a cut-and-dry “better” decision? What about 12 SP/10 Crit? Gear becomes less about what’s best for your class and more about what’s best for your current situation.

So, we need a new set of rules. Obviously knowing what stat is good for what will help, so let’s do another quick runthrough of that;

  • Spellpower: Your bread-and-butter throughput stat. You get more of it from better gear, and it pretty much trumps everything – but we don’t want to sacrifice 10 Intellect or 10 Crit for 1 Spellpower. Priest stats are about achieving a balance, remember?
  • Intellect: Your bread-and-butter regen stat. Intellect gives more than double the mp5 per point than Spirit as well as giving extra Crit. We’re never out of the 5 second rule because we’re pretty much spam casting. If we’re not healing the tank, we’re shielding the raid!
  • Crit: Nice for throughput, helps to stack Divine Aegis on the tank. Thanks to the change to Divine Aegis (stacks up to 10k on any Level 80 target) there is no longer a realistic soft-cap for crit. Divine Aegis is now capped by spellpower. Once your triple-crit Penance heals for ~30k (with the t9 4-set bonus) you will start to see small reductions in Divine Aegis throughput. The upshot of all this mumbo-jumbo? Crit is good.
  • Mana Per 5 (mp5): Better for straight-up regen than Intellect, which gives about 0.8 mp5 per point. The tradeoff is that there’s less mp5 on gear/gems and it doesn’t give us any crit. Decent for regen.
  • Spirit: 11 Spirit is roughly equal to 4 mp5 for regen. What does this mean? Well, you’ll find Spirit on gear but DPriests would rather have Intellect and mp5. Don’t pass up gear just because it has Spirit, but don’t gem for it!
  • Haste: Useful up until the soft-cap of just under 5%. You’ll get this just about exclusively from gear.

So, what are our rules going to be? Well, here’s what I’ve started doing.

How Not To Do It!

How Not To Do It!

Rule One: Spellpower Socket Bonuses Are Awesome

In most situations, you’ll want to fulfil your Spellpower socket bonuses. I could see an argument for going straight Spellpower if it was a double socket item with no reds (where gemming for the socket bonus if it was, say, +7 Spellpower would still lose you 15 Spellpower) but a combination of gut instinct and wanting to get the most usefulness possible out of my gear tells me that if an item has an insane socket bonus, I’m going to get it. After all, I can choose what non-SP gems I put into my gear but I can’t choose my socket bonuses.

Rule Two: Don’t Be Afraid of Intellect – Just Don’t Stack It

Intellect is where we get the majority of our regen from. The fact that there’s double the Intellect on gems than there is mp5 makes gemming for Intellect better for regen purposes. The trick is achieving a balance. I can fully understand if you want to gem Intellect to get some more regen, just don’t get too much of it. It seriously pains me to see the kind of thing in the above picture, where someone sacrifices a Spellpower socket bonus for more Intellect. If you’re finishing ToC/Ulduar hardmodes on 10k mana then something is badly wrong – or you outgear that encounter, but you probably already know that if it’s the case. You’re either not casting enough spells or you’re sacrificing throughput, and it’s probably the latter.

Examples. I’m at 27k-28k mana raid buffed depending on what elixirs/flasks I use. I finished Vezax hardmode last night on zero mana. Zero. Zilch. Nothing. But more importantly, I reached that point between 2 and 5 seconds before the boss died. That’s about perfect. If trials in our guild would stop failing on Icehowl charges, I’d be finishing Beasts hardmode on ~3-4k mana. Also perfect, not too much left but still enough to be comfortably healing at the end. I don’t need more Intellect on gear, so I’ll stop gemming for it!

I met a DPriest from a pretty good Kazzak guild today who had a nice chat with me about our respective gearsets. I told him he had a little too much Intellect and he told me he cycled gear for different fights. That’s cool, and especially easy to do with trinkets. My point? Get as much Intellect as you need for the given fight you’re doing, then STOP.

Rule Three: Make Sure to Keep Your Metagem Active

Should go without saying really, but if you run out of blue or yellow sockets on gear then just gem the prismatic in your belt for whatever you need. There’s no excuse to not have your metagem working! Oh, and DON’T get the 2% Intellect metagem. It’s pretty worthless, the mana restore metagem (Insightful Earthsiege Diamond) is much better and gives such an insane amount of regen that you can gem for much more Spellpower. And that is good.

Rule Four: Gem Straight Spellpower in Prismatic Sockets and non-Spellpower Bonus Items

Unless in the situation mentioned above, prismatic sockets are just free Spellpower! As for non-Spellpower bonus items, they’re small enough to be pretty much negligible. Say we have a yellow item with a +4 Intellect bonus like the one in the first picture. Option one, we gem for SP/Int for the socket bonus – option two, we gem for straight Spellpower. The choice is between 14 Intellect from option one and 11 Spellpower from option two. That’s almost 1:1, and I’d rather take the Spellpower in that situation.

THE GOLDEN RULE

Prioritise Spellpower, then get whatever else you NEED.

There’s a simple way to sum all this up into a general rule of thumb. The 3.2 changes to socket bonuses on set pieces and other items allow us to gem for what we need on the majority of our gear rather than just gemming for Spellpower and relying on other sources for our regen. You need regen? No problem sir, find a Spellpower socket bonus and stick an mp5 or Intellect gem in there. Got enough regen but lacking much in the way of Crit? Never fear, just find another Spellpower socket bonus and put some Crit in a socket!

Thanks to Blizzard, there is no longer a “best way” of gemming your gear in many situations. You can realistically gem for whatever you need while still sticking to the framework I outlined above.

Next time – addons! I’m finalising my UI and I’ll be talking about how to create space on your screen as well as what addons are essential for DPriests! I’ve made some sweet changes since Friday’s raid, but click here for a preview! (And low resolution screen users be warned, it’s a bigun.)

While I’ve written a lot about raiding recently, I haven’t talked about the means to do it. Sure you can go with pick-up groups, but for by far the best and most consistent results, you’ll need to join a raiding guild. Between all the drama-laden horror stories about loot and YouTube videos of screaming raid leaders, the guild environment can seem quite intimidating. In reality, it’s the greatest asset of the game! Finding a guild that fits your lifestyle generally allows you to see content with a group of friends at your own pace, and is a much more reliable way to experience the game than PuGs.

Having watched a good 15 to 20 trials in my most recent guild, as well as having been a trial in two guilds myself, I’ve identified some problem areas which prevent people from fitting in and meshing with the rest of the guild. So, without further ado;

Step One: Find The Right Guild!

The first step on your road to happiness and purples is to find a guild whose goals and methods fit your own. Do your research! Anyone can find a guild in /Trade, but the best matches are the ones where the interested party has read up on guild policies, (things like loot policy and raiding atmosphere,) asked guildies questions and generally made sure that it’ll be fun for everyone involved before they join.

Finding guilds themselves can be a tricky process and where you go to find them will largely depend on things like how many times per week you wish to raid. The more hardcore guilds can be found on progression websites (I used GuildOx to find my current guild) or occasionally in General/Trade chat. More casual guilds will generally advertise in in-game channels, but you can generally distinguish between the two by how they word their ads.

Once you’ve found a guild, chances are if it’s decent (read: if it’s worth joining) that you’ll have to go through some sort of screening process. What does this entail? Normally, it’s either an in-game chat about anything from your raiding experience and gear to where you’re from, or an application on the guild’s forums. But applying to a guild which is completely at odds with the way you play the game is a recipe for disaster!

Step Two: Impress!

Making a great first impression is key to getting an invite to your chosen guild. Some guilds will say that they’re full on all classes (or your class) if you choose to apply on their forums, but that shouldn’t stop you persevering – I know from experience that excellent applications for any class are always considered by the management. The three main keys to a successful application are;

  • Be informative, but concise in an application – and use common sense! If the application template seems a little small then the guild probably expects you to buff it out a bit with your answers – if there’s several sections on everything from raiding to whether you prefer your eggs hard-boiled or soft-boiled, they probably want shorter answers. If there’s no template at all, consider everything that you’d want to know about a prospective applicant if you were in charge of a guild. Past raiding experience, explanation of glyphs/gear/talents that might be different from other class members and motivation for playing the game are all great things to include.
  • Keep your spelling and grammar tight. You wouldn’t litter a CV with typos and bad grammar, so why do it on any other application? An excess of spelling mistakes, shortened text (“i gt 2 imprv my gear a lil”) and other basic errors will put any sensible raid leader right off you from the word go!
  • Be honest. In this post-Wrath world, there’s more methods than ever to check what someone has and hasn’t done. If you can’t be bothered to grind your Sons of Hodir reputation, (a huge indicator of in-game effort,) don’t make up some half-boiled excuse about not having the time. Raid leaders can see right through that and it won’t stand well with them. Either set about correcting holes in your profile or be honest about just not wanting to do them.

If you’re just going through an in-game chat, the last two of these points still apply. Don’t spin fairytales about your raiding experience and try to come across as someone who takes pride in what they write, even if you normally cut corners with your text chat!

Step Three: Be There, and Whatever You Do… Don’t Die.

Congratulations! You got invited to the guild. Here’s where the real work starts. Firstly, make sure you turn up to raids. Do it on time, and inform the guild in advance if you’ll be late or not there. I made 10 of my 12 trial raids and 3 optional 10-mans, with good reasons for the other 2 which were given in advance. Follow this example and you’ll quickly gain a reputation as a reliable guy who wants to help the guild progress – the “attending optional raids” thing is great for when you miss a progress raid.

Once you get into the raid, stay focused and concentrate on one thing. Do. Not. Die. These are the three most important words any trial can hear.

Why? We generally get an influx of trials at the rate of about one or two per week. That means that in this situation, you’ve usually got one or two raids to make an impression before the next trial comes along and we’re watching them instead. As a healer, I’ve always found that the new guy’s tendency to stand in the fire tells me a great deal more than their DPS or their healing done on the meters. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that after activity, (a trial got kicked today for joining and then promptly missing his first raid – the same evening – without a reason,) competency at basic execution is what makes or breaks 90% of our trials. We can live with an average DPS or a healer who misses a dispel here and there so long as he doesn’t repeatedly fail. A tank death is generally a much more acceptable way for a raid to wipe than someone screwing up!

Think about it – it’s what separates the average guilds from the bad ones. The bad guilds will wipe over and over when they get to Twin Valkyrs because people won’t pay attention to orb colours. The average guilds (“good” here referring to the likes of Ensidia) will learn within 2 or 3 wipes that orbs of the opposite colour are bad, and should not be picked up. They then have 25 people who execute correctly, and they down the boss. Guilds can down Yogg-Saron in blues because teamwork and survival is more important than numbers on your profile. Your gear isn’t what impresses me in a raid – it’s how often I see DEAD where your name should be on Grid.

Step Four: Get the Basics Right

You’d be surprised how many people in our raids still miss important things when they’re starting. As an Alchemist, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve got “hey mate, need some Wild Magic pots” whispers just after the start of a raid! It’s the kind of thing that people are often embarrassed about, but never learn from.

  • Flask up! Flasks cost next to nothing nowadays and even one round of SoH dailies normally covers the cost of an entire raid’s flasks for a non-Alchemist. You should have that lovely free +125 spellpower buff from start to finish. Last progress try on a boss for the night and your flask has just run out? Don’t go slacking! That kind of dedication – paying 25 gold for 10 minutes’ raiding – gets noticed.
  • Bring plenty of potions! I normally have at least one stack of Crazy Alchemist’s Potions with me for every raid – the Alchemist’s equivalent of a Runic Mana Potion (plus a bit!). If you’re not an Alchemist, bring plenty of mana potions and use them – that’s what they’re there for, and you never know when that mana pot might turn into a Shadowfiend off-cooldown and a boss kill!
  • Take a stack of food incase you miss the Fish Feast, and stock up on candles/reagents for instances where you don’t have easy access to a reagent vendor. Paladins never seeming to have DI reagents (despite it saving them a repair bill) is a good example of this.
  • Keep buffs up! A tank without Fortitude will not pull, and that slows down the raid. Buff early and often – there are several addons that will track who in your raid doesn’t have a given buff when you mouse over it.

To conclude – prepare for raids, don’t just show up first and ask questions later.

Step Five: Don’t Whine

I cannot stress this enough. By all means express your opinion. Talk to your GM or raid leaders about the raid setup, the way the guild is run or your concerns on any other matter. My current guild actively encourages debate as it almost always improves the guild environment (the last major change being a switch from DKP to Loot Council). But there’s a difference between airing your opinion and whining.

You probably know the guy I’m talking about, and as Mock The Week so brilliantly put it: “if you don’t know who it is, it’s probably you”. Maybe it’s about loot, maybe it’s about being told to do something differently, but whatever it is, his response is never “okay” or a sensible argument of his case. His response is to moan, complain with no good reason and generally be the Guild Diva. As a trial, not doing this is especially important.

Let’s start with loot! If a piece of loot drops and you need it, you roll. If you don’t win it (for whatever reason, be it member prio or a losing roll) then say “gz” and get on with your life. It is, after all, just pixels on a screen. If you get told to do something differently then either do it to the best of your ability or formulate a sensible argument as to how a) you can’t or b) you’d have to stop doing something else. Present it in a measured and calm manner. But don’t whine.

Hope all this helps, and best of luck with getting into the guild of your dreams!

— Roble

It took me quite a while to decide what to write about next, but having settled into raiding with my new guild and downed all the Crusader bosses I figured this would be a good time to take a look at what has changed since 3.2 and my impressions of the new raid so far, in much the same vein as my last post on 3.2. Yes, Cataclysm has been announced, but all I’d really be writing about if I covered that would be stuff you’ve probably already read about! Suffice to say I’m really looking forward to the expansion and excited to see how stuff like guild levelling and the Mastery system plays out.

So, without further ado;

Flash Heal

But why?

But why?

Why? Good question.

About a week after 3.2 hit, the Glyph of Flash Heal made its glorious return to my talent pane. I’ve replaced Glyph of PoH with something that I once told you “just wasn’t worth it”. This means that something must have drastically changed – because let’s face it, the PoH glyph was pretty insane back in the day.

The key in this glyph puzzle is the 3.2 nerf to Penance. Back in 3.1 with Penance on a ~6 second cooldown, (6.4 if you’re a pedant like me,) tank healing wasn’t really much of a problem. We could throw a Penance on the tank every 5 or 6 GCDs, and provided we kept Shield/Renew/PoM up whenever possible, keeping that tank alive was an absolute breeze. In 10-mans, we could solo tank-heal no problem. In 25-mans, we could support the other tank healer and have plenty of time to shield the raid, safe in the knowledge that a tank death in-between Penance cooldowns was very unlikely.

But then Blizzard increased the cooldown by one precious GCD. Suddenly tank deaths in-between Penances became a possibility – especially considering Coliseum bosses are hitting harder. What fills the gap between Penances if the tank is in danger of dying? Yep, you guessed it. Flash Heal.

Flash Heal has suddenly rocketed up my healing charts and thanks to the Replenishment nerf, it was increasingly correlating with me running on fumes at the end of hardmodes. Fights like XT and Steelbreaker became battles to do as little overhealing as possible in an attempt to conserve mana. Despite hitting ~26k mana raid buffed with the +int elixir and getting in two Shadowfiends per fight, (along with the odd lucky Alchemist’s Potion double-mana proc,) I was really struggling at the end of those fights. Enter Glyph of Flash Heal, and now I’m just that bit more comfortable.

Trial of the Crusader – Impressions So Far

He's the new Heigan!

He's the new Heigan!

First things first – yes, I hate the artificial gate system too. Maybe “hate” is too strong of a word, but it seems counterintuitive to release one boss per week when the ones you put in are so, so easy. Many guilds are already getting the normal-mode achievements (things like Upper Back Pain and Three-Sixty Pain Spike) just because they “feel like having a go” and proceed to one-shot them. It remains to be seen how difficult the hard-mode bosses are, but I’d imagine they’ll just be the same mechanics with slightly increased damage. Doubtless having said that, Blizzard will prove me wrong – but given the current difficulty and the time we’ve had to practice on them, I still imagine it will be a race for server firsts rather than “the best guilds” getting them.

Anyway, as for what the raid is actually like – it’s really fun! I’m enjoying it, despite the system of progress. Many of the encounters – things like Jaraxxus, Faction Champs and the Val’kyr – strike me as the sort of fights that simply require good organisation rather than good gear to beat. Faction Champions is just about my favourite of the four fights so far, and take note here DPriests, it’s a fight that we absolutely destroy. Blizzard have to tune the fight so that the AI will set up spikes on players, but it can’t be crazy enough to give the healers no time to react. This means that you’ll see when people start to die, all you have to do is shield them – which essentially lowers the reaction time required by the other healers. With the lack of cooldown on shields and the lack of an aggro table for the fight, they’re super-spammable and make the encounter a lot easier.

Jaraxxus comes a close second in that there’s a lot of movement required and I always have to react to something – the style of the fight led me to describe it to someone as “Shade of Aran with adds”. That might not seem too accurate at first glance, but just cast your mind back to Zelda games (if you’ve ever played any). The boss did some kind of special attack, you reacted in a set way. It’s very black-and-white gameplay, as opposed to fights like the Faction Champs or the Jormungar where your strategy needs to be fluent, for want of a better word (we found that Ventrilo was a massive help for those fights). With Jaraxxus;

a) Someone gets a debuff, they run to the wall.

b) Someone gets a different debuff, healers heal them.

c) He casts a fireball, someone interrupts.

etc.

See what I’m getting at? There’s no room for different reactions, it’s just cut-and-dry. I almost enjoy it more that way.

Then there’s the Beasts encounter. This is relatively fun (and kindly asking your tanks to swap at 3 debuffs instead of 5 makes it a hell of a lot easier) and strikes me as “the new Heigan” – see picture. Icehowl is the third phase of the encounter, after you’ve downed the Magnataur and the two Jormungar. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m saying this… let’s face it, Heigan is a unique fight! Two things make me say this – the first is that Icehowl can, up to a point, be killed with as many or as few people alive as possible. The first week of 3.2, my old guild’s first Icehowl kill was with 5 people alive at the start and 4 at the end.

The second point is that in theory, Icehowl’s big gimmick is just as avoidable as the eruptions in Heigan’s dance phase… but people still die to it. Provided you’ve got a Hunter in your group and the tank positions himself correctly, someone dying shouldn’t be a problem. I’m not going to lie, I’ve died to it once! But that was lag on the stun debuff wearing off, so it doesn’t count.🙂

Finally, the Twin Val’kyr. An interesting concept for a fight, but sadly far, far too easy provided your raid has the DPS to break their heal shields and people are quick to react to the floating orbs. I hadn’t popped a single mana cooldown and I was still at half mana when the fight finished! We almost got the 10-man achievement, but a couple of our DPS were offspec and not pushing as much as the guys in our guild’s other raid group, who got the 3-minute kill without a problem on their first attempt. Frankly, I think that if there was no shared health pool, they had to die within X seconds of each other then the fight and there was a strict 3-minute enrage (on hardmode) then it would become much more interesting, but still fairly easy.

EDIT: This was written before the Val’kyr were fixed. The healing in this fight is now what I’d call “stressful”.🙂

The Truth About the Penance Nerf

Something struck me the other day when I was thinking about this post and how I was using Flash Heal more. I imagined myself sat in the Blizzard design offices, balancing Penance. Why would I nerf it? Sure, it was pretty overpowered, but it was the only way we could heal tanks effectively. And that’s just the thing, folks. They nerfed Penance to make sure we were staying in the role they designed us for – a mix of healing on the tank and raid support. Think of that extra GCD as a choice – if the tank needs healing, we can use it to heal him. If he doesn’t, we can throw out another shield.

But gone are the days when we can just main-tank heal in 25-mans. I was put on our Steelbreaker tank the other day and let me tell you, it’s no longer easy to solo tank-heal or be the main MT healer. I got switched to our OT and could suddenly shield the raid a whole lot more – and we instantly made it to phase 3 as opposed to wiping on phase 2. Let’s look at Penance and FH;

Penance: Heals an MT faster than they take damage (net increase on their health)

Flash Heal: Heals an MT slightly slower than they take damage (net decrease on their health)

Imagine, for the purposes of this exercise, the MT is taking a constant stream of damage instead of 20k chunks. We pop Penance, the tank goes back to full health. As the main MT healer, we have a choice here. We can either pause to shield the raid and then have to spam-heal the MT to keep him alive, (thereby completely killing our mana bar and risking a tank death,) or keep Flash Healing the tank to make it much smoother for the MT and not shield the raid. We can only do one or the other now. Remember 3.1, when we could use Penance on every cooldown and be able to throw out some shields on the raid? We weren’t a good raid healer, and now we’re just a slightly worse Holy Paladin as a tank healer.

So there it is, the truth about the Penance nerf. It may have been to make DPriests a little less scary in PvP, but in PvE it was to reinforce where we should be in raids. Ladies and gents, the day I get told by my RL “just do whatever you want” I will be a happy man.

— Roble