Archive for cataclysm

Holy Paladin Roundtable

Oh my God, it’s a post to do with holy paladins! Shocking, I know. ;)

Back on August 4th, Megacode invited me, JoeEgo and Ophelie to join him for a Holy Paladin Roundtable. I got a chance to listen to it earlier this week and enjoyed how it turned out.

The ever-amazing, fantastically-talented Walks even made a sweet graphic about it. You can click the graphic to take you directly to the post on Mega’s blog.

You can also find the Holy Paladin Roundtable over at iTunes if you prefer!

Thanks again to Mega for putting this together. It was great to talk with him, Joe and Ophelie about holy pallies!

Speaking of holy paladins, fear not, I shall be putting together a “oh crap, 5.0 is here, WHAT DO I DO?” guide, coming soon. :)

Too Soon, Blizzard!

I’ll apologize for this up front. This is going to be long. This is going to be angry. This is going to be ranty. This is also heavily my opinion and how this will affect me, personally. Don’t be offended if I don’t mention your raid group or your raid size or if I do and I’m mildly disparaging. I am not happy and that’s going to come out here. So I apologize now. This also puts a delay on my response to my own “Is Warcraft a Game?” post and my post about evaluating healers and my post about Paladin feedback.

My first thought upon reading about the upcoming nerfs to Firelands content was “What the FUCK?!” In fact, you can hear that thought in Episode 33 of Blessing of Frost. Note that this post gets angrier, so either click through or move along.

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Voice Communication & Player Atrophy

For about 9 months, starting in September of 2009 until June of 2010, I raided with a guild where we didn’t use Vent, TeamSpeak or Mumble. We didn’t use any voice communications at all until maybe the last few weeks I spent in the guild.

When people hear this, their reactions range from “no way, you’re lying” to “… but.. wha.. HOW?!”, particularly when they learn that we went 11/12 ICC 25m HM. All without Vent. (We eventually started using it, as I mentioned, but that was mostly toward the end of my time there, so maybe late April/early May 2009? And even then, it wasn’t every raid.)

So to answer the “how”… It meant a lot of reading of instructions from the raid leader and my role leader (or a lot of typing for me, since I took over as healing lead for a few months in there). It meant strictly watching my timers in my boss mods and making adjustments to the boss mods (particularly DXE) so that I’d remember that THAT noise at THAT time meant “GTFO”. ;) It was key on encounters like Heroic Lady Deathwhisper because I configured the warning sound for Vengeful Shades to be really distinctive and I KNEW upon hearing that noise to watch for the shades spawning around me.

Raiding during that time meant no call-outs on Vent, because there was no Vent to call out on. And in the abusive, toxic environment it was, if you screwed up, even once, you could get kicked from the guild. No joke. I saw it happen more than once while I was there.

That’s all in the past, but that time in my WoW life definitely left its marks on me. Both bad (obviously) and good (not always so apparent).

I’m going to talk a bit about the good marks left on me from that time.

Cut to today: On Mondays (and Wednesdays), I get on the baby pally and raid with Choice of Skywall. Choice is currently working on the Alysrazor encounter as their progression encounter. Apotheosis, where I spend most of my time and energy, has already defeated Alysrazor three times, each kill being cleaner than the last. So I’m very comfortable with the fight at this point.

It was during Monday night’s attempts that I realized two things:

1) I am pretty damn good at that encounter. Like, really good. I don’t think I’ve been this good at an encounter since Dreamwalker. On Choice’s best attempt last night, I came in second on healing (without leaving Gushing Wound ticking on my tank, thank you very much), popped my Aura Mastery whenever I was supposed to and only took two ticks of tornado damage because I bubbled and healed the crap out of my tank whose hatchling was still up but NEARLY dead on that phase. I ate the tornadoes because I knew I had to help the tank live to get the hatchling down. Once Divine Shield wore off, I could still live through a couple of ticks of tornadoes and as long as I didn’t die (I didn’t), I could pull that off to help ensure the killing of the hatchling.

2) I’m not even paying attention to my boss mod timers because I know how to react to everything and I don’t need 5 seconds’ notice to tell me something’s going to happen. At least, not on that fight.

I got to thinking about my timers and then it dawned on me; I almost never look at my timers anymore. Not on that encounter and not on most. I don’t watch the timers on Shannox; I just pay attention to the bleed on the tanks. I don’t watch the timers on Beth’tilac; I know when to jump up or jump down and when to group up. I don’t watch timers on Lord Rhyolith; I just follow my tank around and AOE heal the best I can while watching boss health. I don’t watch timers on Baleroc; I just know that when the shards spawn, that’s generally my cue to swap to a new target. I don’t watch timers on Majordomo Staghelm; I watch his stacks of Adrenaline.

My boss mod timers were an integral part of my playstyle all through TOGC and ICC. There was no way in hell I wouldn’t have died like a noob a million times over if I hadn’t had my timers.

So why am I not watching my timers now? Probably the last time I seriously watched my timers was Heroic Maloriak so I could try to anticipate the Scorching Blasts.

Part of it is that DXE took forever to be updated and Deadly Boss Mod’s timers have always been okay, but not really ON, as far as I can tell. DXE was just… so amazing in  ICC and especially toward the end of the expansion, it was just so perfect! I was never led astray by DXE!

But part of it is that I’ve just gotten lazy. I’m listening for calls from my officers in most cases. They’ve been calling things out all expansion so far and, although I was initially resistant to them doing so, since I feel it engenders laziness, I now find that I listen for them to call stuff out. And I’m sure people listen to me when I call stuff out — which I do rarely, but have been doing on Majordomo.

I’m also pre-occupied with leaderish thoughts: I’m thinking “how many battle rezzes does that make?”. I’m watching cooldowns through oRA to make sure people are using them appropriately. I’m wondering if we can pull through or if we should call a wipe. And that’s in addition to healing and not standing in bad.

So with all that floating around in my head, no wonder I’m not watching the timers.

I can’t help but think that if I watched them, if I didn’t have people calling stuff out on Mumble, I would be a lot better off as a player.

I honestly feel as though my player skills have atrophied in the last year that I’ve been back on Vent and Mumble. Granted, all my instincts and skills and knowledge were still intact last June when I first joined Choice to finish out Wrath with them and that content was still what we were raiding at the very start of Apotheosis after 4.0 hit, so I don’t think being on Vent or Mumble with Choice or Apotheosis affected me much until Cataclysm launched.

Since I first set foot in Blackwing Descent on December 28th, in our first 10-man “exploratory” raid, call-outs have happened and we’ve been on Mumble and we’ve talked a great deal throughout encounters.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing at all. I LOVE my guildies. I adore being on Mumble with them and mocking Majik or others. I… okay, I don’t enjoy being mocked in return, but that’s only fair. ;) I love kidding around, joking, laughing. I REALLY like that I can give instructions verbally instead of taking the time to type them. I type close to 90 words per minute and sometimes it’s just LONG to type stuff out.

I don’t like what it’s done to me as a player. I feel as though I’ve lost my edge in terms of using all the information available to me to make a good, fast decision. I think I still have that edge when it comes to reacting to stuff on my screen; I can stop healing my Gushing Wound target on Alysrazor, I can manage not to stand in the Immolation aura on the Spark of Rhyolith and, by golly, I can NAIL those tornadoes or throw a BOP on someone who’s about to die.

I still feel as though my play is lacking and although I have all this other stuff to take into consideration (raid leader stuff, etc), I’m not convinced that it’s not just pure laziness stemming from voice communication being available to me.

Take last night’s Choice raid as an example. As mentioned, it was Alysrazor and also as mentioned, I am awesome on that fight. So I don’t need to wait to hear “tornadoes coming” or “Gushing Wound, stop healing that tank!” or any of the other audio cues. By already knowing what to do and when, I can really just focus on my job, which is keeping my tank alive, even if he sometimes runs through fire. ;)

I think callouts on progression fights are what blunt me as a player. Once I know the fight, I can (and likely do) tune people out, regardless of what guild I’m playing with. Is that strange that I don’t want the callouts on the progression portion of the fight? And is it also weird that, even if I don’t want callouts, I can see the necessity in certain situations? I mean, we run out of first scorpion phase on Majordomo at 11 stacks of Adrenaline, so right after the 11th Scythe. I call out 9 and 10 and then “go!” and call out for cat “that’s 4, that’s 5, okay, go!” or whatever. (Of course, all bets are off for Searing Seeds scorpion phases. I AM SO BAD at calling to spread if I’m busy watching my Power Aura for Searing Seeds.)

Ultimately, the point of this post is not to preach that not using voice communications means you’re a great player. It’s not to say that using voice communications means you’re a bad player.

The point of this post is to say that I think voice communications blunt me as a player in new content. I think it makes things a lot easier in some ways and so I look for shortcuts like listening for calls instead of watching timers. I also have a great time on Mumble with Apotheosis and I enjoy Choice’s Vent, too, which is always a good thing. Raiding with 24 other people you hardly know and mostly can’t stand is fine if you’re not forced to talk to them or hear their mouth-breathing, but when we started using Vent in that other guild I was in? It was awful.

With Choice and, of course, with Apotheosis, I really do feel like I’m raiding with friends and players I mostly like and  respect. So I’ll take the slight blunting of my play for the chance to listen to Geng (of Choice) yell at kids to get off his car. I’ll take that hit on my own performance to listen to other people mock Majik (of Apotheosis) and try to get him killed.

So, having rambled about this for 1800+ words, I’m also going to set up my timers properly on Madrana to make sure they’re working and that I can see them and that they notify me appropriately for various things. Just because I CAN listen for callouts doesn’t mean I SHOULD and so I’m going to make an effort to watch my timers more frequently — which means putting them in an easier spot to see.

T12 Bonus Changes, Mana Costs

MMO-Champion has the new T12 set bonuses for us, as well as a post by the blues about why they’re raising our mana costs significantly.

Old set bonuses:

Paladin T12 Holy 2P Bonus: Casting Flash of Light, Holy Light, or Divine Light on your Beacon of Light target has a 40% chance to grant you 2% of your base mana.

Paladin T12 Holy 4P Bonus: Your Divine Light also heals a nearby injured target for 20% of the amount healed.

New set bonuses:

Holy Paladin 2-Piece: Old bonus removed and replaced — Healing with Holy Shock has a 40% chance to grant you 6% of your base mana.

Holy Paladin 4-Piece: Old bonus removed and replaced — Your Divine Light, Flash of Light, and Holy Light spells also heal an injured target within 8 yards for 10% of the amount healed.

My thoughts: (Edited May 14, 2011)

The 2pc is a lot better. 40% of the time you cast Holy Shock, you will only spend 1% 3% of your base mana instead of 9% (which is the current cost) or 7%, which is the new 4.2 cost (at least as of build  14107). Actually, you will probably need to have 7% mana (1640) in order to cast, but when this procs, you will probably get a refund of about 1406 since the real cost will be around 234 mana. Since Holy Shock is our cheapest heal that costs mana in 4.2 (Holy Light will be 12%) and is our primary method of Holy Power generation, this is a nice little bit of mana back. Remember, though, this could be on an internal cooldown, much the way Eternal Glory is!

With this bonus, it seems that they want to further emphasize the use of Holy Shock and so it is now taking Flash of Light’s place as an uber-cheap heal. In the old days, Flash of Light was stupidly cheap and even if you had pretty much no mana whatsoever, you could always afford a Flash of Light.

The 4pc is better, but not a ton, IMHO. They halved the healing of the splash heal to 10% from 20% but let us use more of our spells AND there’s no “you must heal the beacon” requirement. We still have to use a casted spell, but it can be any of the three casted spells. Even with the increase in mana to Holy Light, we’re still going to be using that quite a bit.

Mana Costs

Zarhym said:

We increased paladin mana costs because they were too efficient at healing. In raid encounters, for instance, paladins were sitting at 40% of their mana while the other healers were flat out of mana. Paladins were casting Divine Light as their main heal because they didn’t need the efficiency of Holy Light. You personally may not have been in that situation, but when looking at the overall picture, as well as running plenty of tests, this was our conclusion overall.

To which I say, “you know what? This is what you get when you design mana-free heals. You have now introduced Holy Power to the paladin class and the holy paladins now have two resources with which to heal.” But no other class has that. Blizzard now has the unenviable task of balancing holy paladins between the maximum amount of holy power one can possibly generate (through use of Holy Shock, Crusader Strike, Tower of Radiance and the Blessed Life talent), plus their mana costs and regen rates in current gear levels VERSUS everyone else’s mana costs and regen rates.

Essentially, they’ve screwed up by giving us Holy Power and we are forever going to be overpowered if they tune our mana to what other healers have, but forever underpowered if people don’t make smart use of Holy Power or, perhaps more importantly, don’t smartly generate Holy Power.

It’s still early in the expansion and I’m still trying to find what’s right for me. I like to tank heal. So I have Tower of Radiance. But on a fight like Chimaeron, where I am not tank healing, I don’t pick up Tower of Radiance. Instead, I take advantage of the crazy raid damage that fight has and I pick up two points in Blessed Life. The last time I killed Heroic Chimaeron, I picked up 12 Holy Power that way instead of the 0 Holy Power I would have generated since I am emphatically NOT healing my beacon target on that fight.

There are much better players than myself out there, much more progressed players than myself, who have probably figured out the balance as it works best for them and it’s probably also a very efficient way for them to heal, which is likely why they’re better players than I am. (Though I would challenge anyone to heal through heroic Maloriak, keeping their tank alive, at 3fps at some points, though. I would totally win.)

So my thoughts are that Blizzard has screwed up. We will never be tuned “properly” because of Holy Power, unless they specifically limit the rate at which Holy Power is generated. They’ve already taken steps to do so — Holy Light on the beaconed target no longer gives Holy Power, as it used to with Tower of Radiance. Blessed Life now has an internal cooldown and cannot occur more than once every eight seconds.

There’s already a limit on how often we can cast Holy Shock (6 seconds) and Crusader Strike (4.5 seconds) and there’s a less-tangible limit on how much Holy Power we can gain from Tower of Radiance, due to the exorbitant mana costs of Flash of Light and Divine Light — which are only going to get more expensive.

I don’t think the limits are firm enough, though, and it’s going to make balancing us a really difficult job for the next few major patches.

My two cents.

Illuminated Healing: An Examination of the Holy Paladin Mastery

What is Illuminated Healing?

Illuminated Healing is the holy paladin mastery. It is, to be blunt, underwhelming. It is a stat that I reforge away from and a stat I do not seek out. How does it work? Well, each Flash of Light, Holy Light, Divine Light, Holy Shock, Word of Glory, Light of Dawn and Lay on Hands heal we cast will take 10% of that heal (plus whatever mastery rating you have) and form it into a shield on your target that lasts for 8 seconds. I have 203 mastery rating, which bumps my mastery from the 10% base to somewhere in the realm of 11%. That’s how little I value mastery; I barely have enough of it on my gear to add a single percentage point to my base amount.

According to MMO-Champion, it’s getting a buff in the 4.1 patch. The shields will persist for 15 seconds instead of 8 seconds.

Not only is this increase in duration just as underwhelming as the mastery itself, but it fails to address the problem with our mastery. Our Illuminated Healing shields do not stack; the smaller shields will be overwritten by larger ones and refreshed by smaller ones.

Why is our mastery a shield effect?

The short answer is this was almost certainly Blizzard’s way of compensating for the lack of Sacred Shield. Sacred Shield was a baseline paladin ability that was introduced in Wrath of the Lich King. Originally, you could cast it on multiple targets at once (I’m not quite sure how I managed to heal through Loken in Halls of Lightning without it!) but this was deemed far too powerful and it was then restricted to a single target.

It wasn’t your typical shield, however. When you think of an absorption shield, you likely think of something like Power Word: Shield, the priest ability. While Power Word: Shield is active, it absorbs all incoming damage up to its maximum amount (which is dependent on the spellpower and level of the casting priest). Sacred Shield was a buff that existed on the target you cast it on and, if that person took damage while Sacred Shield was on them, an effect would trigger. This triggered effect was the damage absorption effect and lasted until consumed or for 6 seconds and could only get triggered every six seconds. (4 seconds with the 4pc Tier 8.) It actually was pretty substantial mitigation over the course of a fight when placed on a tank, when specced properly. It wasn’t perfect, but it was unique and it was ours.

They had also incorporated Flash of Light to leave a heal-over-time effect (HoT) on a target that had Sacred Shield on them, which would tick for 100% of the Flash of Light heal over the next 12 seconds. So if my Flash of Light hit for 12,000 on a target with Sacred Shield, they would receive that 12k healing and then receive 1k per second for 12 seconds.

It was nice synergy.

They removed Sacred Shield for Cataclysm. It’s actually returned as a Retribution talent, albeit in a different form. Still, the idea of a short-duration damage absorbing shield was clearly incorporated into the holy paladin mastery.

Why is Illuminated Healing underwhelming?

You’d think that damage absorption would be a good thing, that you would want to stack as much of this as possible. However, in part due to the short duration of the shields (which is, admittedly, getting buffed in 4.1, as previously mentioned), many of the shields are just plain wasted when cast on the raid.

Even on tanks, where you think it would make a large difference, it just isn’t all that effective. Due to the fact that the shield’s size is dependent on the size of the heal (and mastery rating), in order to get even a shield in the realm of 4000 or 5000, you need to be using Divine Light, our large, expensive heal.

Since 100 mastery only increases our shielding by 0.697% (as per Elitist Jerks), the item allocation points are almost certainly better served by reforging to something like haste, which provides 0.78% spell haste for every 100 haste rating. I’m not a math person, but even I can see that I’m gaining more haste for 100 points than I would gain shield power by adding 100 mastery. Since haste leads to a shorter global cooldown and a faster cast time on spells, I personally feel that haste is a better stat than mastery is. Most people tend to agree with me.

So what would be a good mastery for holy paladins?

Ah, the $64,000 question. In order to answer this, we should look at all the other specs and see what their masteries do.

This Wowpedia page is somewhat out of date as there have been several changes to people’s masteries, but it’s a good baseline.

DPS death knights get increased frost or shadow damage. Appropriate.

Tanking death knights get a shield based on a self-heal. Also appropriate.

DPS druids get increased damage from Eclipse or bleeds. Seems fair.

Tanking druids get increased absorption from an ability. Seems in-line with the Blood DKs.

Healing druids get increased healing if their targets already have a HoT on them. That makes sense; HoTs are the staple of druid healing.

Beast Mastery hunters gain more pet damage, Marksmanship hunters get extra shots off and Survival hunters deal more elemental (soon to be “magical”) damage. All of this seems excellent. I know I enjoy Wild Quiver procs when I play my Marksmanship hunter.

Mages also seem pretty appropriate. Arcane mages deal more damage the more mana they have, which is very much in-line with the spec. Arcane has always been about increasing mana, so it stands to reason that good mana conservation/replenishment would add bonus damage. Fire mages gain more periodic fire damage, which is excellent for them, as they have dots flying all over the place. Frost mages deal more damage against frozen targets, which is a staple of the frost spec. All seems well.

Protection paladins gain increased chance to block with their mastery, which is fair. They have a shield and blocking has always been the protection paladin niche.

Retribution paladins gain extra holy damage from Templar’s Verdict, Crusader Strike and Divine Storm with their mastery. Again, this is a staple of the spec.

Discipline priests have increased shield effectiveness, and rightfully so. They are the masters of mitigation.

Holy priests get an extra HoT effect on their direct heals, once again proving that holy priests are the most versatile of all the healing classes, able to take advantage of both direct heals and HoTs.

Shadow priests gain more damage from their shadow orbs. Not that I know what on earth a shadow orb is, but it’s clearly something that deals more damage. It’s in-line with their spec, whether or not it’s good. (It could be, or it could be terrible. I honestly don’t know.)

The rogue masteries all look good, if not at least useful. Assassination’s increases poison damage, Combat’s procs extra off-hand attacks and Subtlety’s increases damage on finishers and Slice and Dice.

Elemental shaman get a version of the Marksmanship hunter’s Wild Quiver, where they have a chance to proc an extra Lightning Bolt or Lava Burst. Enhancement shaman deal more elemental damage, something that is quite handy given the fact that Lava Lash and Lightning Bolt are core parts of their rotations.

Restoration shaman’s healing (all of it, in 4.1) is increased via mastery. Period. It’s a throughput stat for them.

For warlocks, the Affliction spec’s mastery increases, shockingly, periodic shadow damage. Demonology’s increases the pet’s damage and the warlock’s damage when they’re in demon form. Destruction’s mastery increases fire damage done. Again, all in-line with the strength of the spec.

Arms warriors can proc an extra attack with their mastery and Fury warriors improve abilities that cause them to be enraged, as is befitting the spec.

Protection warriors, the other shield-wearing tank class, also get increased chance to block but also have the chance to critically block attacks.

So, let’s see…

Tanks (no shields): Get absorption.
Tanks (shields): Get more block.

DPS: Get more DPS via extra damage appropriate to the spec or extra attacks.

Healers (shaman, druids, holy priests): Get more throughput
Healers (discipline priests, holy paladins): Get more mitigation

Shaman, druids and holy priests all get more throughput via their mastery, as is befitting their specs. They are throughput healers. Discipline priests get more mitigation, which makes sense because they are the mitigation healers.

Why on earth do paladins get mitigation?

We got mitigation because they did away with Sacred Shield in its Wrath of the Lich King form.

It has nothing to do with our spec or our class.

Paladins are the single-target healers. We are the cooldown healers. Paladins have always been a proc-based class, from Reckoning generating extra attacks to Sacred Shield having to have its actual absorption effect be triggered.

It would stand to reason that a holy paladin mastery would incorporate something proccing, something to do with our cooldowns or something to do with single-target healing.

We don’t need the throughput help, since Holy Radiance and Light of Dawn do a good job of boosting us up on the meters (which is all that so many people tend to care about , which makes me sad — but that’s another post for another day!). We could use more mitigation help, but not something that would be overpowered if we were to stack mastery. It would have to be something that would work on a single target, but wouldn’t require us to focus on the single target, given that so many paladins out there have taken to raid healing and just slapping their beacon on a tank. It would also have to affect more than just one spell of ours.

How about if, after casting Hand of Sacrifice, Hand of Protection or Lay on Hands, you had a % chance to generate a new effect? That effect could be a hefty shield, based on your spellpower, mastery rating and character level. It would be cast immediately on the person you cast the spell on and would last until consumed or for 15 seconds. It would have an internal cooldown of ~2 minutes, so you couldn’t spam it by spamming those abilities. It could be called Sacred Armor or something appropriately “holy paladinesque”.

That’s just an idea, but the fact that it’s a proc and it’s procced from our cooldown abilities ties in nicely with how holy paladins have always worked. An internal cooldown would mean holy paladins aren’t completely overpowered. I’m not sold on it, but I think it would encourage more use of our cooldown spells (which so many people still don’t use!) and would give us a bit more mitigation right when we need it, since we’re casting HoSac, BOP and LOH when we’re anticipating a lot of damage or when we’ve seen a lot of damage just hit.

If you could redesign the holy paladin mastery, what would you do?

The First Apotheosis Cataclysm Raid (10)

I am a firm believer in 25-man raids. I love the group makeup, I love the smaller teams-within-the-team and I just outright adore healing in a 25-man with 5-6 other healers.

However, I was definitely starting to get twitchy and so I threw up a post on our guild forums basically saying that I was going to lead a 10-man exploratory, unofficial raid to Baradin Hold (if we had it) and then move on to Blackwing Descent and probably play with Magmaw.

I had a bunch of pre-requisites:

1) People had to have an average item level of 340, which would indicate mostly heroic dungeon gear and a few 333 items. (I am moderately confused as to why I’m sitting at 338 AFTER picking up an epic breastplate, but I was at 340 before the raid started, according to the armory and my in-game character sheet.)

2) People had to have their appropriate helm and shoulder rep enchants. Period. If you didn’t have those (and I’m talking Honored for Therazane, I wasn’t even requiring exalted!), you couldn’t come.

3) People had to be enchanted and gemmed. I wasn’t asking for blue-quality gems, just the greens and no Wrath-era gems. I wasn’t asking for people to enchant anything below 333, but 333+ had to be enchanted. The only Wrath-era enchant that was acceptable was Tuskarr’s. I also didn’t require a belt buckle.

4) Speaking of Tuskarr’s, I required a speed boost enchant or talent. If you didn’t have that, you couldn’t come. (Priests who used Inner Will were exempt.)

5) Had to be as close to hit-capped for special attacks as possible. Melee had it easy, but casters were a little more difficult, so as long as they made a significant, visible effort to get hit-capped, we were cool.

6) Had to be familiar with the fights. I did up a couple of posts combining a bunch of information and linked some videos, so hopefully that was helpful.

I locked the thread on Monday evening after I got home from a Christmas party and edited/adjusted the signups based on people’s new availability.

And then I set about armorying everyone who had signed up.

I think there were a total of two people who had no issues with enchants or gear or whatever. Two. I had both my tanks logged out in ret gear, a healer with a fishing pole equipped (although yay for fishing us towards the Seafood feast!) and then a laundry list of people without enchants, gems and the like.

So I wrote to them all and was like “here’s what’s wrong. Here’s what this means you need to do” and I let them know if I was going to probably have them on standby due to those issues.

In the end, I had 11 people who were raid-ready, who had said they’d be there and they were.

But then I had four others who whispered me or otherwise let me know that they were available. Two of them hadn’t posted on the forums, one of them had plans change after the forum thread was locked and another won’t be raiding with us in January, so I couldn’t prioritize them at all. Not to mention the fact that I hadn’t examined three of them on the armory *at all*…

15 people. 10 raid spots.

I basically discounted bringing any of the four unless I had someone drop, thanking them for letting me know of their availability and that I would call upon them if needed. As it was, I was going to have to play swap-around with the healers, which I didn’t particularly want to do.

So I invited 9 people to the raid and left out a fourth healer, a paladin, with the intention of swapping him in midway through the raid or so. The question was, which healer would I swap out? The disc priest or the resto shaman? Well, there’d be time for that later.

Off we went to Tol Barad! And spent a good 10 minutes looking for the instance entrance. PRO TIP: It’s on the WEST side of Baradin Hold on the southern island! There’s a meeting stone and everything.

Our group at the time was two prot pallies, one holy paladin (myself), one disc priest, one resto shaman, one fire mage, one shadow priest, one frost death knight, one kitty druid and one assassination rogue.

I was quite pleased to see that, according to the RaidComp tool at MMO-Champion, we were only missing one major raid buff; a +% damage buff, since we had no BM hunter, no arcane mage and no ret paladin.

So we went in and I described the fight and made mention of the 5m hard enrage. And then we gave it a shot.

One-shot, yay! And he dropped two pieces of PVP loot.

On to Blackwing Descent!

There was very little trash. Three mobs, two pulls. We still managed to wipe on the double pull, though, but fixed up our strat and then we were staring at this great, giant worm.

I explained that we had to kill the Lava Parasite adds left by Pillar of Flame. And also, not to get hit by Pillar of Flame.

We had a hell of a time controlling the adds with our group makeup and we had some trouble seeing the Pillar of Flame animation.

Our frost DK respecced a bit to help out with the adds and our mage went frost to help control them. Later, he even redid his frost spec to gain better control of the adds.

Meanwhile, it was about 10:30 and we’d had 8 attempts plus the Argaloth fight, so I called for a break and I swapped in the fourth healer (paladin) for the disc priest. I really wanted to make sure that all 11 people who had confirmed before signups closed and who were raid-ready were able to swap in. I had a fifth healer available, but I was a little reluctant to swap out the resto shammy for the holy priest. Apart from anything else, the resto shammy’s mana regen in the burn phase was HUGE, thanks to Telluric Currents, and the shammy also brought Mana Tide Totem.

Truth be told, though, I was on the verge of bringing in the priest when, out of nowhere, we hit the enrage on Magmaw (which happens at about 10m30s, FYI) on attempt 11. So I decided to keep the group intact. Attempt 12 went south after about five minutes, but attempt 13 was our lucky one. No deaths, only one person hit by Pillar of Flame and Magmaw was down after 9m08s.

Guild first (obviously), realm fourth, for an overall Realm 5th ranking. (Granted, that’s currently out of five, but still.)

Our resto shaman got offspec mail pants due to being the only mail-wearer and the other pally and I rolled for the sweet plate breastplate, which I won.

So then we played for about 20 minutes (3 attempts) with Omnotron Defense System. Got that council-style fight down to about 50%, which made me question my initial decision to go after Magmaw first, to be honest, but I’m glad we got a fight that seems more difficult out of the way, first. And that we did it with a group without an ele shammy or a moonkin or a hunter means that we’ll just have a much easier time of it when we do have any of those classes included.

So it was a really good night. Three hours gave us plenty of time to kill Argaloth, work on and kill Magmaw and play with another encounter. We’ve dipped our toes into Cataclysm raiding and had a really good experience.

Here’s to doing some more fun, unofficial stuff next week before the real raids start on January 4th!

(PS: No Blessing of Frost this week due to the holidays and such. We’ll return on December 28th or January 4th!)

(PPS: Yes, I know I have something like 50 outstanding comments to respond to. Soon!)

A Tale of a Heroic PUG

I’ve done quite a few heroics lately, as I expect most of us have. I could tell you about my healing in heroic Halls of Origination, on the Setesh fight that lasted almost 7 minutes because we pulled by mistake when still fighting trash. (Hymn of Hope + even a feral innervate + tranquility + every effing cooldown in the book = win, apparently)

I could tell you about how I “healed” (I use the term loosely, because we died an AWFUL lot) heroic Stonecore yesterday. But I won’t. What I’ll say about that run here is what I tweeted yesterday about Ozruk, which should help out holy paladins everywhere:

I don’t know if this is a hotfix or something, but I found that I got the melee bleed debuff when I’d appropriately judge when he had his Elementium Bulwark up.

When Ozruk says “Break yourselves upon my body. Feel the strength of the earth!” judge at “Feel”. This will give you the bleed debuff for four seconds and you’ll break yourself out of Paralyze.

This was while using Seal of Insight, FYI, and I was at range the whole fight. I knew I wouldn’t survive the shatters if I was in melee range, so I came prepared with Sulfuron Slammers (again, drink them at “Feel”!) which also worked. Bubble works, Every Man works and Hand of Sacrifice (you can cast it on the tank at any point during the “Break yourselves” emote, I believe). But then I noticed I had the bleed debuff and realized it was my judgement that had caused it. So go forth, paladins, and heal Ozruk knowing you can get out of Paralyze very easily with just a bit of timing. :)

Having said all that, I will not regale you with my tales of heroic SFK (two Godfrey kills, no legs yet) or heroic Deadmines (Ripsnarl isn’t really that bad, though).

What I will say is that I did most of H Deadmines in a guild run yesterday as my holy pally and then swapped out to my hunter for the last boss (allowing one of our healers to actually heal the last fight instead of OS DPS) so I could snag the Chaos Orb for the crafting of a guildie’s gear.

I probably should have just stayed in on the paladin because then I would have gotten another 100+ Justice Points. And then would have had enough for my helm, the Crown of the Blazing Sun.

I logged back on to Madrana to see… 2143. 57 points shy of my damn helm.

Crap.

ALL of my heroic runs to date have been with the guild. I don’t know if it’s because I’m the GM or because I’m a healer or because my hunter can actually CC or what, but I’ve never had an issue finding a group in-guild. This is opposed to most of my guildies who complain constantly about the fail pugs/dungeon finder groups they’re in.

So I decided I’d go try a heroic random, all by myself.

Blackrock Caverns. Which I haven’t done on heroic.

Thankfully, at least to my eyes, I get a group of four people all from the same guild on the Akama server. I figure this should be less painful than most, even if the tank hasn’t done this on heroic before.

They’re really good at pulling the trash around the first boss, there’s great use of CC (sheep and sap and repentence) and things are going great.

We pull the first boss properly, after clearing most of the trash and the first thing I realize is the boss occasionally puts on a 25% reduced healing debuff on the tank. Peachy.

Then I realize that Quake spawns adds. Peachy.

All of this is handled okay, we kill the adds easily and then get chained.

We break the chains. I pop Holy Radiance to GTFO… and three people, including the tank, die to the thing the boss casts after he chains you. Sigh.

So I’m like “gotta run out of that, guys. :)” and the tank was like “lol I usually stay in on regular guess I can’t here!” I’m fine with that, no worries.

We go back in and take down the boss properly, now that we’re all aware that there are these crazy-ass adds and that we have to run out, etc. Goes fine.

Everything goes beautifully until Corla, the second boss.

Now, on beta, she had three adds. The way we did it on beta was have people rotating in two beams to prevent those zealots from evolving and just let one of them evolve at a time. But the version I tested didn’t have Corla fearing, nor did things hit quite as hard as they were hitting on live.

The Evolved Twilight Zealots, if you were unaware, have an ability called Gravity Strike and, in conjunction with Grievous Whirl and Shadow Strike, all of this will totally destroy the tank. It was actually a bit hairy to heal them separately in the trash leading up to Corla. So my group was basically planning to ignore the beams, evolve all three adds and I’m like, “I can’t heal that.”

“I’ll interrupt the strike,” said the rogue.

“That’s not the issue,” I said and linked them Gravity Strike.

“oh wow that sucks,” one of them says.

So I tell them I’m going to handle the stacks on the right-most add, which I marked with a circle. The mage says he’ll take the left-most add. The ret pally says he’ll do the middle one.

About thirty seconds into the encounter, the mage’s target evolves.

We wipe, despite a heroic effort by yours truly. The tank also popped his CDs appropriately, using Shield Wall and Last Stand. But the damage was just overwhelming.

Mage apologizes, we give it another shot.

This time, the mage himself evolves. He didn’t watch his debuff and got stacked to 100.

Wipe.

Mage apologizes again. They now inform me that they’re all on their vent and that they’ve got it all worked out.

So we go again. This time, the ret paladin’s target evolves. Apparently, there had been some confusion and he thought the rogue was going to get that target.

Apologies once more.

At this point, I’m like… I have my Justice Points. I literally only came in with the hopes of doing one boss to get the points that I need.

Then they suggest they let the zealots evolve in a controlled fashion. Bear in mind that I’ve had ZERO issues controlling my stacks and the stacks of my zealot in these three attempts, even when things went to hell.

Based on my mana and such on the previous attempts, I reiterate that there is no way I can heal through a zealot up along with the boss at this point, but that if they want to boot me and replace me with another healer, I’d completely understand, since it’s a guild run, basically.

They were like “no, no, that’s okay,” so we tried it again. And promptly died when the mage transformed because he, again, wasn’t watching his debuff and stepped in too soon, refreshing his stacks.

So at this point, it was clear to me that we weren’t going to get the encounter down. I had wiped five times with these people. Throughout it all, I’d been patient and calm. I’d been clear about how to go about doing the encounter. I had used buff food after every wipe.

On the run back to the instance, I basically said, “I think I’m going to take off, guys. Thanks for the run and I wish you the best of luck with the rest of the instance. Take care.”

And I dropped group, grabbed my body, then ran out, got my new helm and that’s all she wrote.

I feel badly about leaving. I feel badly about not being able to heal through an evolved zealot. But I’d gotten what I wanted and I gave it a really good try, educating the group about the evolved zealot’s abilities, giving them the opportunity to replace me to try their strat and basically being very patient with them.

I still feel badly, though. Shouldn’t I be able to heal through an evolved zealot? Maybe, maybe not. I mean, the issue isn’t that I can’t heal through one for 30 seconds, but I can’t continually heal through one up during the entire encounter. 85k mana goes FAST if you’re casting Divine Light and the occasional Flash of Light all the while praying Eternal Glory procs more often. Even with my Big Angry Man out (Guardian of Ancient Kings), I can’t maintain that kind of healing. Not even with a variety of both my cooldowns and the tank’s.

My paladin was always my alt. I’d be pulled into raids if we needed healers, back in Vanilla, but my main was always Kurn. As such, since then, I’ve always been lacking a bit of confidence. “This is my alt,” I used to think, “I have no business healing Molten Core!!”

Obviously, healing through Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King has alleviated the confidence problem. I had no problems being the strongest single-target healer in WotLK ICC25HMs. I had no problems shouldering the responsibility of healing two tanks at once or being the primary reason Valithria Dreamwalker got healed to full.

When I came back to Eldre’Thalas, I knew I was one of the most geared and experienced people in Apotheosis and so I was fine with taking a lot of responsibility on myself in our little excursions to ICC.

So it’s a little humbling to sit there in a heroic 5-man and be like “Yeah, I can’t heal through that.”

Should I be able to? I mean, assuming that the fears and Shadow Strikes are interrupted properly, assuming good cooldown usage by the tank, should I be able to heal through the Corla encounter with a single evolved zealot up at all times? If so, why can’t I? Is it gear? Spell selection? Oh, God, is it really because I’m just not good enough of a healer?

One half-hour spent working on Corla and all my WotLK confidence has flown out the window.

MMOMeltingPot linked to a great post about how healers have no instant gratification from casting a heal and seeing it actually DO something. The poster says “Random dungeons are a front for blamestorms and negativity that make folks discontent, and it’s a bit worse than I expected, but that is just one element in the shitstorm.”

While I wasn’t blamed by my group (they seemed to mostly understand that Gravity Strike is a Bad Thing), I came away from my pug feeling very negative and discontent and, worse, blaming myself. Questioning myself.

So I ask you, my fellow paladins, my fellow healers, my fellow dungeon-runners…

How have YOU done the heroic Corla encounter in Blackrock Caverns? And what kind of a healer did you have?

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