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Archive for July, 2009

Positioning can influence everything... including the pull.

Positioning can influence everything... including the pull.

They say that the three most important things about buying a house are location, location and location. Positioning is pretty similar, in that a healer’s movements and position can influence everything from extra work for raid healers to the amount of DPS being thrown out. It really is the most important thing to master in a raid, so I’ve decided to bridge the gap between my last article and the updates on the guide (I promise, that Naxxramas Bosses section looks sweet) by talking a little about how you can avoid screwing everything over for your raid!

Step One: Know The Fights

Each and every fight requires different positioning – sometimes it’s general, like “spread out 8 yards” and sometimes it’s very specific, like standing underneath the boss on Vezax or stacking on the tank for Auriaya. However, you can’t execute this positioning correctly if you don’t know what it is. Generally speaking, unless you’re in a very casual guild, “not having read up on the fight” isn’t an excuse. Hell, I knew the tactics for Mimiron two months before I actually did it, just because I was interested.

If you haven’t read up on the fight, raids go slower. The encounter has to be explained before every boss, and then you need to spend two or three wipes getting to grips with it having only been given a sketchy description (and I quote: “there’s some lightning and stuff” on Thorim). Sometimes, even people who have read up on the fight miss things – while not exactly positioning-related, Hardened Bark on Freya for my current guild springs to mind. If you’ve read the fight, you’ve got advance warning of all this stuff, and you’ll have a much better chance of not screwing up.

Step Two: Consistency

Whatever the positioning required is, you need to execute it for the whole fight. People move around, people get feared or mind-controlled or rooted and so on – stuff changes during a fight. So unfortunately, we can’t just stand in one spot for the whole fight. Instead, you need to check (ideally every few seconds) to see if you’re still fulfilling the requirements. Range-checkers and the like from DBM definitely help here, and are pretty much essential for fights like Kel’thuzad 25, where there’s a lot of people in quite a small space, and the 10-yard spacing between players is non-negotiable.

Getting stuff right at the start is important. Getting stuff right the whole way through is key. More on this later.

Step Three: Stay in the Middle

More a general rule of thumb than chapter and verse for healers, step three says that you should always be in as range of as many people as possible, and so the reflex reaction is to stand in the middle.  Staying in the middle of the raid means that you’ve got 40 yards of space on either side in which you can heal – whereas if you’re standing at the edge, you’ll only have access to roughly half the raid. Top tip for working out where to stand is to enable Frame Alpha on your grid settings for anyone who’s more than 40 yards away from you. This will “fade out” their raid frame when they’re far enough away, so you can see at a glance how much of the raid you’ve got covered.

As a Discipline Priest, this is especially important. A Holy Paladin might only want to heal the tank, but we want to throw out shields on the raid – and because I do my shields by group, (complementing Prayer of Healing,) I need to be in range of everyone at all times.

Step Four: Don’t Be a Rabbit

I used to be a Rabbit. I was the kind of guy who would move around while he was healing, because standing still just felt boring. I’d jump or move slightly to the side while I was shielding. In reality, this is completely and utterly pointless! I didn’t need to move, and I was just doing it because it felt like standing still made me more open to Bad Things happening.

If you’re standing still in a good position, nothing can go wrong. You don’t need to move. But the second something changes, and suddenly you know that position will be bad in a few seconds’ time, then you start moving. Move to where you need to be, and stop. Don’t jump around and make your other guildies adjust their spacing/position unless you need to avoid damage. Don’t be a Rabbit!

Step Five: Think Ahead and Pay Attention

Step five ties in with Consistency, from earlier. The trick to avoiding unnecessary damage is to know what’s coming, when it’s coming, and what you have to do to react. Think of it like an old Zelda boss from the N64 – he charged up some attack, it was really obvious, and you moved to avoid it. So why would WoW be any different? We get big, flashing neon signs from DBM when stuff like Lightning Nova on Emalon happens, or Sarth throws us a Flame Wall. There’s a massive targeting circle on the floor when Mimiron fires a rocket. We get customised timers to tell us when bosses’ abilities are off cooldown.

So in theory, we should never take unavoidable damage! The main reason that healers take damage like this is because we’re all too busy looking at other people’s healthbars. I’ll be honest, I suffer from Grid Syndrome on occasions too –  we all get it from time to time. Just try to tear your eyes away from it for a split second every few moments, look at the screen, be aware of what’s happening and what you need to do, and I guarantee that your time spent alive will increase dramatically. 🙂

I’m roughly halfway through Naxx bosses (doing each boss’ portrait in Paint seemed like a good idea, but it takes forever!) and I’ll do my best to speed up. Hope this all helped – as always, feel free to leave comments.

— Roble

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So, the long awaited first Ulduar 25 raid is here! And probably my last, for a while. I’ll keep it short, but the guild and I had some disagreements and we decided (mutually) that I wouldn’t continue with them. We were both at fault in different ways, so I won’t drag them through the mud. But what I will say is that this raid was responsible for me taking a week’s break from raiding – on the gaming front, I levelled an alt, tried out some arena and bought a new game (Prototype, first impressions of which are “it’s quite good”) and hence the delay.

Instead, I’m going to concentrate on what matters to you, and that’s what I learnt from the experience! I certainly had a lot of fun on the encounters themselves, and got to see some sweet new content – we downed everything except Yogg-Saron, so by my standards it was a pretty successful raid for me, and I was more than happy with how I performed.

First off, for the stat junkies, here’s my stats from that raid;

Healing Done for Ulduar 25

Healing Done for Ulduar 25

The first thing I noticed is that no, I don’t use Binding Heal. I need to get that sorted out, it’s right there on the R keybind and I should really use it a lot more. But hey, I’m not perfect! Also, where’s Greater Heal? That’s right, just like I said, Flash Heal figures a lot more prominently here, and probably far too much of that was on raid members (it’s a reflex reaction, honest!).

Point One: Pre-emptive Healing

I always used to think pre-emptive healing was for pansies. I figured that as Penance is on a cooldown, it should be used reactively, so that you get the maximum healing done from each cooldown. Turns out that pre-emptive tank healing is pretty much essential for many 25-man Ulduar encounters, the best example being Phase 3 of Yogg-Saron, on which the tanks take so much damage so quickly that they can drop to 20% in a flash… and then you’re just going to panic, and the tank will die. I very quickly learnt that casting Penance on every cooldown isn’t actually as bad a thing as I thought. Certainly in 10-mans it’s acceptable to leave it until it’s required, but in 25-mans it’s much better to use it a lot, regardless of the situation. Quite often I found myself trying to sync the first tick of Penance with the boss hitting the tank to get the speediest healing possible.

Point Two: Intellect Gems are NOT necessary!

I’ve got 20k mana unbuffed and used a +45 intellect potion as one of my pair for the majority of the fights. Including raid buffs, this brought me to roughly 24k mana. I didn’t go out of mana once, not one single time, and I used a total of one mana potion. And no, I hadn’t cut down my shield usage! I was still getting through a minimum of 1 group/maximum of 2 before raid damage on most fights, whilst keeping the tank up and throwing out PoHs. This made me realise that between good cooldown usage and some sensible gear, intellect gems and the like really aren’t necessary. While they can help if your gear is severely lacking for the instance you’re going into, they’re by no means essential to any gear setup. Concentrate on how you use your cooldowns, and you might find you’ll be able to spend those gem slots on something a whole lot more useful!

Point Three: Staying Alive

This is a very important lesson, which wasn’t quite as essential through Naxxramas (although it did hold some serious weight in OS +3d). A dead Priest is a useless Priest. Ulduar, especially the Mimiron and Yogg-Saron encounters, made me realise that it’s very important to concentrate on staying alive, and monitoring encounter-specific stuff like Sanity. When somebody dies, it has a bigger impact than you might think – and if somebody gets mind-controlled on the YS encounter, it will normally spell a wipe. While your job is obviously to stop people dying, remember also that the less avoidable damage being dished out on the raid, the better. And that includes you, sunshine!

Point Four: If in doubt, Shield

An example of this is Yogg-Saron. I ran through the fight in my head while we were rebuffing outside the door, and there wasn’t much obvious raid damage that immediately came to mind.

Wrong!

This is Ulduar, and in Ulduar, people will invariably take damage. It surprised me on Yogg-Saron how quickly other raid members than the tanks could take a large chunk of damage, and on the second try I was immediately pumping out shields onto raid members when phase 2 hit us. The reason it initially seemed so counterproductive is that the raid damage was very unpredictable – I like stuff like Flame Jets and Shockwave, because I can look at my DBM timers and think “I should probably start advance-shielding now”, and unpredictable damage means that shields could be wasted. But then I thought again. “Wait,” I thought, “I’m not having any mana problems. Also, each shield lasts 30 seconds, and chances are that Bobby Shaman or Dave Hunter will take at least some damage during that time.”

In short, shielding in a fight where there’s raid damage – even if it’s unpredictable – is never a bad thing, provided you’ve got the mana for it. If in doubt, throw some shields out!

Hope this helps you guys tune your 25-man game a bit, and I’ll be working on a write-up of Naxx/Ulduar bosses next, so keep an eye out for that.

— Roble

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Wise words: a healer without mana might as well be dead. In the last week or so, I’ve really noticed a striking difference in how comfortable I am with my mana bar in both 10 and 25-man raids. Whereas before, I was almost getting afraid to roll shields at all in a 10-minute fight, now I almost don’t have to worry – simply by making a change or two to my playstyle and changing a few pieces of gear around. As a result, I can stick a few more crit/SP gems in my gear and I even went and got the Icewalker enchant on my boots (I felt that the Spirit was near to useless, such was my mana regen). So today, I’m going to start from the ground up on how you can tweak your gear, gems and playstyle to get the most out of Discipline while still keeping that nice blue bar suitably refreshed!

Step One: Cooldown Usage and Potions

The first step to maximising your mana over the course of a fight is to use your cooldowns and potions correctly! This is the cornerstone to keeping your mana refreshed since 3.0 stopped us chain-using mana potions. A Discipline Priest’s main tools are Shadowfiend (roughly 50% mana back) and Hymn of Hope (roughly 14% mana back to all party members). If, like me, you’ve rolled a Blood Elf then you’ll also have Arcane Torrent (6% back). Now over the course of a 10-minute fight, that’s a lot of mana you can get back when you consider that you can use all these things more than once.

The trick is to use these spells early and often. As a rough guide, the first time you should use each is the first point at which using it will restore you to full (or near to full) mana. You get maximum benefit from it, and it starts the cooldown sooner rather than later. There’s no downside!

Also, make sure that you’re using Runic Mana Potions. These help a bundle and if you’re not using them, then you can’t really say you’ve got mana problems – they’re your own fault!

Step Two: Gems and Enchants

Aim to get yourself a helm with a metagem slot as soon as possible. This can be filled with an Insightful Earthsiege Diamond which gives a 2% chance to restore 600 mana on any spellcast (even stuff like Levitate!). It’s got a 15 second internal cooldown, but this doesn’t stop it from giving back a hefty chunk of mp5. It’s more than you’d imagine, and will go a long way to solving those mana problems.

If this still doesn’t solve all your problems, you can consider getting some +16 intellect gems in the yellow sockets which will give you a nice regen boost, and also consider getting the intellect/mp5 enchants on bracers/chest respectively, as well as the spirit enchant on your boots (although that’s the more common choice anyway). Consider also the Revered mp5 arcanum from the Wyrmrest Accord and the mp5 shoulder enchant from Sons of Hodir.

Step Three: Regen Trinkets

Trinkets are really cool things – they often give really nice boosts to your throughput or regen as a healer, and DPriests are no exception to this rule. There are quite a few dud trinkets for Discipline Priests out there – stuff that looks really good on paper, but in practice isn’t right for us. An example of this is the Egg of Mortal Essence that’s purchaseable for 40 Emblems of Heroism in Dalaran. Don’t get it! It’s a trick! Sure, it’s purple and shiny and it’s got a large number next to haste. But on examination, it doesn’t do a whole lot. Firstly, remember our haste cap for shield usage? It’s quite low. Much lower than that trinket gives in extra haste – so that proc is pretty useless, only serving to speed up the spells with a casting time.

Secondly, and more importantly, it’s a random chance to proc.

Let me tell you something about “chance to proc” (let’s call them CTP) trinkets. For healers, with a few exceptions, they’re rubbish. Even if I needed the haste boost, I’d much rather have control over when I used it. Tank dying, or lots of raid damage incoming? Going to need a few extra heals pronto? You can pop your trinket and heal up quickly. But on RNG trinkets, there’s no control over when you get it. What if it procs during Mimiron’s Laser Barrage, or a Razorscale air phase? You don’t need it then!

Now regen CTP trinkets are a bit of a different story. Sure, they only proc randomly, but we’ll pretty much never be at full mana so that’s okay.

Mek, Ensidia’s “premiere Resto Shaman” explains it a little more concisely;

The problem with many trinkets is that a “chance on cast” to gain either Haste or Spell Power is often completely useless because you cannot control how it’s used. You could cast one Riptide on your tank and proc +1000 Spell Power but you have absolutely no need for it at this time so it’s a waste. You will however never be on full mana so I much prefer these kind of regen proc trinkets.  //  Mek

Some suggestions for trinkets you can aim for;

  • Je’Tze’s Bell: A nice little mp5 trinket that won’t go amiss in your collection. Definitely one of the better pre-Ulduar trinkets around, and can be picked up off the auction house for the sort of money that I could probably get in a couple of days… if I could be bothered. Do as I say, not as I do, kids! Upgrades for this are available from Thorim 10 hardmode and (eventually) Yogg-Saron with 0 or 1 watchers up.
  • Spark of Hope: I know what you’re thinking. “But Roble,” I hear some of you cry, “this doesn’t look all that impressive!”. And yes, it looks quite mediocre at first glance. But just consider that trinket for a second… 42 mana off every spell we cast. Well hang on, most of our gcds are down to 1.0 seconds – and we’re spamming spells. That’s… 42 mana per second? Okay, so it doesn’t quite work out like that, but this baby solved any remaining mana problems I had in one majestic swipe.
  • Majestic Dragon Figurine: The regen version of the infamous Illustration of the Dragon Soul (”LFM OS25, Illustration reserved”) which drops from Sartharion 10-man. Once you’re in full swing, it works out at 180 spirit, which I think works out at ~58 mp5 – thank you very much, spirit nerfs. Still a respectable trinket until you can find something better. I used this for a while!
  • Soul of the Dead: Drops from Sapphiron 25 and is quite interesting in that the mp5 returned during a fight scales with your crit. Can go from anything between 60 mp5 to 100 mp5, and someone in the Wowhead comments section has said that this restores a similar amount of mana to the Insightful Earthsiege metagem. Also, a nice 2% extra crit. I won’t argue with that! And finally…
  • Meteorite Crystal: No, you’ll never get this. I’ll never get this. But let’s drool over it.

There’s a trinket or two I haven’t mentioned, like the Spirit-World Glass that drops from Gothik 10 and Pandora’s Plea, which just gives a straight over-100 intellect boost (that’s 1.5k mana). But I’m sure you get the idea! Your trinkets give you enormous control over how your mana bar/spellpower looks during fights, so chopping-and-changing those trinkets when you’ve got enough mp5 or too little mp5 is key.

Step Four: Shield Usage and Playstyle

Still not lasting the length of that fight you’re working on? Well, something’s badly wrong. It’s time to look at your playstyle, because chances are you’re overextending yourself. What I do is to scale the number of shields I put out on the raid against the length of the fight. If it’s a really long fight, like Iron Council or Kel’thuzad, I’ll throw out much fewer shields than on a short, throughput-based fight like Kologarn or Emalon. Sure, your job is to reduce incoming raid damage and give the other healers an easier time – but if the other healers are coping fine, chances are you can cut back a little. Stagger your shields over the course of a fight, because if you blow them all at the start then you’ll be out of juice at the end and you’ll wipe!

Another spell to watch is Prayer of Healing, which will take a 2k chunk off your mana bar – make sure you’re not spamming that! Use it selectively, ideally only when it’s essential in order for people to not die. Even two PoHs and a shield every 20 seconds on Loatheb is enough to drain my mana bar to its minimum by the end.

So, I hope that helps, and if you’re still having mana problems… well, get a Druid to innervate you. And don’t take no for an answer!

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