Monday Musing

I’ve been running UBRS in the vain hope that I’ll get another Devout Dress. I realise now that destroying it as soon as I got an upgrade in Molten Core was  a huge mistake. So far however, it refuses to drop. No doubt that’s karma or something as I got one the first time I ventured in there originally. Anyway, I’ve got this semi crush on Victor Nefarius. He’s got some of the best bad guy lines in-game and whilst his minions might be muppets, he at least understands the importance of killing the healer first (although he obviously forgets it as soon as he turns into a dragon).

On top of that, there is his excellent dress sense. A fiery halo/crown definitely says it’s owner means business. The thought of a dragon with leather working is a bit sick though.

Who are these two and why are they lurking just outside Feathermoon Stronghold? Victims of a shipwreck perhaps but then why not seek aid in the town five yards away.  No doubt they are up to no good.

There are so many of these unused NPCs lurking around Azeroth. Intended perhaps to be quest givers, they serve no purpose. I hope come Cataclysm, rather than just removing them, Blizzard give them something to do.

Finally, why don’t people defend in battlegrounds? Picture this, Arathi Basin. An Alliance held node is under attack, it’s being announced in battleground chat. You res at said node and riding past you see a Priest fighting two Horde. So far she’s in no great danger of dying in the next 20 seconds but it’s obvious she isn’t going to win. What do you do?

Well if you play in Misery, you ride past and go to the safety of a node which isn’t under attack and happens to be already well defended. I could perhaps understand someone not reading battleground chat, but he selected me and surely he could hardly miss the fact that I was covered in debuffs. Nor I would imagine could he miss the two fairly large Horde thumping me in the face. It smacks of cowardice, but why would anyone suffer from that in game? It’s not as if I’m covered in bruises because my Priest spent the morning PvPing. I am however covered in bruises but that’s because I’m an idiot who fell down stairs last week. Dying doesn’t cost you anything in battlegrounds and surely winning is better than dying a couple of times anyway?

In other news, Erinys picked up mount number 74. I never thought I’d like to ride a ram, but I’m rather taken with this one’s evil violet eyes. He looks ever so slightly mad.

My baby warrior is not so baby any more. She’s lv 67 and hating Outlands with a passion. In fact the only thing she hates more than questing at the moment is frost mages. Unfortunately half our battlegroup seem to be levelling frost mages in preparation for the expansion. Battlegrounds are a painful place when skillstorm is on cooldown. I love bladestorm, it’s like junk food or cherry joke. You know it’s bad for you but it’s so much fun, especially when warlocks desperately spam fear into it. At lv 67 being able to do 14k of damage from one ability seems a little overpowered.

Outside WoW, my new favourite thing is a recipe for yoghurt cake. It’s completely foolproof, unlike our stairs and always tastes delicious. This morning I made one with creamy banana yoghurt and lots of banana bits and the whole house smells of baking.

Screenshot Saturday – An Exercise in Frustration

I logged this morning thinking I’d do a couple of Isle of Conquests. Given that the “random” battleground queue favours Strand of the Ancients over all others, I love the battleground weekends as they provide an opportunity to do something different. So there I am in the queue, no time available on the last 10 players and I wait. I wait a bit more and then a bit more. Nothing so I decide to ride down and finish exploring the last few bits of Westfall my Druid is missing. Explore Westfall pings, still no eta on an Isle of Conquest.

Off I go to Redridge, one of my favourite zones.

The sky always looks so vivid above those orange cliffs. I feel the Orcs are missing a trick here, that bridge would be awesome for a spot of bungee jumping. Instead of fighting people all day long they could make a fortune as a tourist attraction.

Definitely vacation spot worthy, little hidden pools with waterfalls to shower under and clear water to bathe in. Although I’m drawn to all zones with lots of water in them. By the time I had finished exploring Redridge and taken the time to jump off the bridge and swim in all the lakes… still no Isle of Conquest.

Into the Burning Steppes I go. Collect some thorium, explore the zone fully, kill a rarespawn and up into Blackrock Mountain. By this point I remember my Druid still hasn’t handed in her attunement to the core quest, so I take a quick dive into the lava (it really isn’t as hot as I remember it being) and get my handful of silver. Sprinting up the chain, it’s out in the Searing Gorge.

Once that is fully explored, off into the Badlands I go.

Pay the creepy dead guy in the crypt a visit. Wonder if the two sidekicks were servants or just passers-by who made the fatal mistake of trying to steal his sword. I love how Blizzard put stuff like this in-game, it serves or at least seems to serve no real purpose but it’s great to discover, especially by chance.

Badlands explored, still no Isle of Conquest. By the time I cross into Loch Modan, I’m starting to get distinctly grumpy. Ride around the lake, find yet more rarespawns and wonder why Loch Modan is called a loch yet all the lakes in the Dwarf start zone are called lakes. If they were sticking with the Scottish theme, shouldn’t they all be lochs? Wondering if it’s due to size and wishing I had paid more attention in geography, I leap from the dam.

Just underneath is one of my favourite picnic spots. It’s quiet, perhaps not surprisingly because not that many people actually seem to leap off the dam (I have to admit, I wouldn’t recommend it without either slowfall, levitate or engineering). Climbing down the rest of the way, still waiting for my Isle of Conquest, I explored the Wetlands in a leisurely fashion. Making sure I took the time to get a good look at Grim Batol and picking up a baby dragon hatchling on route.

Squawk and Awe in action

Having satisfied myself that I had completely and fully explored the Wetlands and by now rather fed up, I crossed into Arathi Highlands. Where, obviously picking up on my mood, the heavens opened. Then just when I was about to log in disgust, an enter Isle of Conquest dialogue box promptly appeared. The game lasted all of eight minutes and was a series of disasters from start to finish, but at least  I got a game, right?

Cataclysmic changes to the talent trees

I was going to rant about RealID but then this caught my eye:

Talent trees will have around 20 unique talents instead of today’s (roughly) 30 talents, and aesthetically will look a bit more like the original World of Warcraft talent trees. The 31-point talents will generally be the same as the 51-point talents we already had planned for Cataclysm. A lot of the boring or extremely specialized talents have been removed, but we don’t want to remove anything that’s going to affect spell/ability rotations. We want to keep overall damage, healing, and survivability roughly the same while providing a lot of the passive bonuses for free based on your specialization choice.

While leveling, you will get 1 talent point about every 2 levels (41 points total at level 85). Our goal is to alternate between gaining a new class spell or ability and gaining a talent point with each level. As another significant change, you will not be able to put points into a different talent tree until you have dedicated 31 talent points to your primary specialization. While leveling, this will be possible at 70. Picking a talent specialization should feel important. To that end, we want to make sure new players understand the significance of reaching the bottom of their specialization tree before gaining the option of spending points in the other trees. We intend to make sure dual-specialization and re-talenting function exactly as they do today so players do not feel locked into their specialization choice.

The full post can be found here.

My first reaction was one of negativity. Losing talent points seemed like a bad design until I had a think about how much garbage makes up the  Holy priest tree. As long as it’s the bad filler stuff that vanishes, this can only be a good thing. Take the current version of the priest talent tree as an illustration. All the first tier are basically things which could easily be built into the spec or given to the class across the board. 5 percent crit, anti-pushback for healing spells and a slightly larger renew, none of which are exciting or class defining. Yet if you were to spend points in all three of them, that would be 10 talent points gone.

Tier 2 isn’t much more better. We have 5 points to get 10 percent less spell damage taken and 5 points to knock 0.5 seconds off the cast time of various spells. Spell warding could be either knocked down to one point or combined with other PvP talents further down the tree. As for Divine Fury, again it could simply require less talent points or be removed as a talent all together. Would there be any harm in allowing all holy priests or even all priests to have a marginally faster casting smite for example? Probably not. Shadow priests wouldn’t use it and if Disc gets penance at lv 10, they probably wouldn’t use it much either.

Basically it’s tier 3 before we get any new abilities at all. Desperate Prayer and Inspiration are the first at all interesting points in the tree. Everything up to that point is utilitarian and frankly fairly dull. There is plenty of room for manoeuvre at the moment. For me, it all depends on what they remove and whether the bits and pieces we lose get baked into the talent tree or to the class as a whole.  I would much rather spend all my talent points in cool, fun stuff and I hope that’s what we get to do in the future.

However I don’t like the concept of having to spend 31 points in one tree. I can understand why Blizzard are implementing it, they don’t want people cherrypicking abilities from two trees but it relies on the whole of your primary tree being worth taking. For example for much of vanilla, the Priest cookie cutter build was something like 25/26. Not because that made us overpowered, but because it was the best of the dubious options available.

The initial talent tree selection unlocks active abilities that are core to the chosen role. Our goal is to choose abilities that let the specializations come into their own much earlier than was possible when a specialization-defining talent had to be buried deep enough that other talent trees couldn’t access them. For example, having Lava Lash and Dual-Wield right away lets an Enhancement shaman feel like an Enhancement shaman. Other role-defining examples of abilities players can now get for free at level 10 include Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst, Shield Slam, Mutilate, Shadow Step, Thunderstorm, Earth Shield, Water Elemental, and Penance.

My future Dwarf shaman is bouncing gleefully at the thought of thunderstorm at lv 10. Wonder if that means Holy Priests will get Circle of Healing at level 10? My cynical side says welcome to a world where you get the current version of Lightwell at lv 10 and have to spend around 20 talent points to make it at all usable. Although Ghostcrawler has made noises which suggests it won’t be Lightwell but I’m not going to get my hopes up just yet. So what  are Holy’s defining spells?

  • Circle of Healing
  • Lightwell
  • Spirit of Redemption
  • Guardian Spirit

None of which are particularly good for an ability you gain at lv 10. The other abilities Blizzard have mentioned are useful in all aspects of the game. Take Earth Shield, it helps you grind as a low level (pushback reduction and passive healing), it helps you heal dungeons and it helps you PvP. What does Holy have which fulfils a similar function? Well certainly none of the four “iconic” spells I covered earlier. After all one requires you to die, which isn’t particularly effective when solo, although it can be useful in low level dungeons and PvP. Lightwell lacks mobility and fails a bit in group content because the group usually refuse to use it. Guardian Spirit requires you or else to come close to death and circle of healing is only efficient when you are in a group. Desperate prayer perhaps but again, it’s hardly exciting or spec defining. One possible solution would be to use the chakra system if it makes it into the game as it would provide both a buff to healing and dps.

All the rest of the points in holy are pretty much modifiers to our existing spells. So as long as their effects are baked in as passives or merged with other points, I don’t see us missing out and hopefully we’ll gain something new and funky as well. Fingers crossed for a interesting Lightwell that’s actually worth using please. I’m definitely interested in seeing what they plan on giving holy priests, holy paladins and resto druids. Particularly paladins, my mind is kind of blank on that front, especially since they said that holy shock would be baseline for all specs.

I fully admit Blizzard are not my favourite people at the moment (RealID grrrr) but if they manage to get this working by the time Cataclysm ships, I’m potentially fairly excited (assuming I overcome my dislike of the way they are forcing us to choose between privacy or posting on the forums and actually buy the expansion). To me they are making all the right noises, wanting to get rid of all the five point talents and add the dull modifiers in as passives is a good thing. Whether they have left it a bit late to get right remains to be seen.

Shared Topic – Go die in a Fire?

Over at Blog Azeroth this week’s shared topic is:

When should a healer let someone die?

suggested by Ecclesiastical Discipline.

Now my first instinctive response is NEVER EVER EVER. Conditioned perhaps by five years of healing groups in WoW, I get upset with myself if anyone or anything dies on my watch. Hunter’s pets, suicidal mages and lifetapping warlocks.. doesn’t matter the circumstances leading up their demise. I always feel guilty. However I realise that is an unrealistic approach. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the good of the many.

My priority list for 5 mans goes something like this:

  1. The tank. Why the tank first? Well if they are at all competent they stand between the other four people and certain death. Why not me first? In five mans, quite often a tank can survive without a dedicated and specced for healer. I’ve healed a couple of heroic fights purely as a ret paladin throwing art of war procs at the tank for example. In reverse though, if your party is a bunch of undergeared casters facing a melee boss, you might not make it without the tank. Luckily spells like binding heal mean you don’t have to make that call often.
  2. Me.
  3. Sensible non-fire hugging Dpsers
  4. Anyone else

Even category four gets a couple of chances to allow for lag and/or mistakes. If they never move from anything bad or never use any relevant cooldowns to help out when things get hairy (like barkskin, cloak of shadows etc), then I’ll start to get a little grumpy. Even whilst grumpy though as long as no one else is in any danger, I’ll keep them alive.

I tend to avoid blanket statements like “If dpsers pull aggro I’ll let them die”. In my time I’ve seen some truly awful tanks who couldn’t hold aggro off a wet paper bag. Paladin tanks who refuse to use consecration because it cost too much mana even when a herd of mobs was rampaging around trying to eat healers being the example which springs to mind. In that case, any dpser who managed to pull aggro would get lots and lots of loving heals. After all better him or her than me.

So are there other reasons why I might withhold a heal from someone? Not that I can think of.  Sure I might get mad if someone was being a complete jerk but I’d rather get through the instance as fast as possible so I had to spend less time in their company. Letting them die repeatedly makes me as bad as them, after all we are both griefing others by our actions. Also I can’t help but think it’s a bit self defeating. What if the most obnoxious dpser in the group is the one doing the best dps? Trying to kill them just slows down the pace.

Midsummer Memories

Across Azeroth the bonfires are dying down, leaving only a few scattered embers glowing in the dust as a reminder of the Fire Festival. Midsummer is over for another year.

The fires are extinguished

Next to Hallows End, Midsummer has always been my favourite festival but this year I ended up with mixed emotions.

The Good

What with the whispers of something cataclysmic coming on the wind, a reason to revisit old areas is always good. I took plenty of screenshots whilst collecting fires, just in case any of my favourite areas vanish under a large quantity of lava any time soon.

The experience buff was amazing. 10 percent extra experience from mobs plus all the experience from collecting the flames and the dailies saw my Gnome warrior rocket up from around lv 40 to 58 really fast. We got to skip zones like Searing Gorge and Un’goro this time around, choosing instead to do things like steal the flame of  Undercity. Have to say I was amazed that the Forsaken allowed two lv 54s to wander around pinching stuff without killing them. Seemed very out of character for the Horde (not that I’m complaining or anything).

My little warrior also got the spirit of summer to keep her company through all the long autumnal nights. That has to be one of my favourite pets, I imagine it’s soft glowing light evokes summer blossoms, warm breezes and the aroma of freshly baked fire-toasted bun. Just the thing to keep the winter blues away.

The end of the Festival party. I love fireworks and those toasting cups are awesome. I want them all year around please.

The Bad

Ahune and his satchels. I killed him every single day of the Festival on two characters. My boyfriend did likewise, which I think makes 60 kills. Neither of us got the pet and neither of us got the scythe. In fact the only people I saw getting anything other than emblems in their bags, were two deathknights and a paladin who all got….. the scythe which they can’t use. I know it’s fairly pathetic to whine about a mini-pet, but I’ve always collected them. I had bags full of cute little critters way before achievements made them cool to the majority. The fact that I couldn’t do anything to increase my chance of getting this one made me slightly sad.

Now I love the queue system, it’s great and hassle free but I can’t help wishing either the vanity items had a higher drop rate or like the mace from the brewfest, they were BoE so those who have no interest could sell them to those that do.

So that’s my whining over until the next festival, although I’ve got sinister squashlings on pretty much every character I possess so the rest of the year should be drama free. We also had some really weird groups for Ahune. I saw at least one mage and several hunters only manage to do around 30 000 damage on the whole fight. They were not surprising out dpsed by the healer. The number of all druid or close to all druid groups surprised me as well. 2 ferals, 2 boomkins and resto… how can you go wrong with that!

Introducing Fauna and Flora

Inspired by Alas and the totally useful awesome killing machine which is DinoTam, I respecced my hunter to Beast Mastery and got myself a devilsaur.

Yes, matching your pet to your hair is important. What is perhaps more worrying is the fact that Fauna’s pants look like they were made from one of Flora’s relatives. That could potentially cause problems.

Pets are people too!

I’ve been thinking about resurrecting my hunter for a while now. She got to 80 sometime last year, did a few instances including alt runs of ToC and then ground to a halt.

Whilst my server was ever so slowly patching itself, I ended up in the dark and dangerous world of the WoW forums. Driven by dreams of huntering again I flicked through several pages of hunter related information until I ended up on the Healing forum. Skimming the list of post titles, I found  a rather heated thread discussing the rights and wrongs of healing hunter’s pets. Naturally with my head full of hunter stuff, I couldn’t resist having a peak.

The general gist of the arguments contained within went like this:

  • My UI doesn’t show pets and I don’t see why it should!
  • It’s the Hunter’s responsibility to look after his or her pet and they have the tools to do the job.
  • The Hunter is just plain bad if their pet needs healing.
  • I don’t have the mana to waste on pets
  • Hunter’s don’t need their pets to DPS.

Going through each point one by one, I noticed a couple of things that I found odd.

My UI doesn’t show pets and I don’t see why it should!

Given that several people pushing this argument admit to using Grid, I find this hard to believe. It takes a matter of seconds to set Grid up to show pets in 5, 10 and 25 person modes. I would imagine this is true for all non-standard party frames.

As for why should your UI show pets, well pets are part of the group. Your interface should always provide an accurate representation of that group. What if at some point Blizzard adds a debuff on some future raid content that can blow people up and targets pets as well as players? Adding pets now means if for any reason you NEED to keep one alive you can easily.

I’ve been in several situations where a hunter and his pet have ended up saving the day. Tank dcs in a 5 man, pet takes up the slack and holds boss until either the tank comes back or the boss dies. Having the pet show on my unit frames made healing him so much easier than having to manually change target would have been, given that the rest of the group needed healing too. Lousy tanks in 10 mans, mobs eating me as a healer. Sympathetic and attentive hunter notices and pulls mob off me and onto his pet. So showing pets can be a good thing. However I can’t think of a single situation where me having the pet bars showing has ever been a bad thing. After all, I don’t have to heal Whiskers the Wolf if I don’t want to.

Healing pets in PvP, especially small scale stuff can be great too because whilst they are trying to bash Cobweb the spider over the head, they aren’t hitting me.

It’s the Hunter’s responsibility to look after his or her pet and they have the tools to do the job.

Of course it’s their responsibility to a degree. I expect everyone to do their best to stay alive and kill the boss. Now in the case of pet classes that also included keeping their best friend safe and well. Mend pet should be used in hairy situations, no one is denying that. To let your pet die without using it would be stupid. However at the end of the day, we as healers also have responsibility for all those little green bars. Throwing a shield out or a rejuvenation will not make or break your mana supply, but it may make the difference between Tybalt the cat contributing all the way to the bad guy’s death or not. Without his contribution the boss will always die slower, which is a bad thing.

The Hunter is just plain bad if their pet needs healing.

Perhaps, two weeks of Ahune have shown me there are some truly terrible hunters out there. My healing Priest has out dpsed every single one I’ve been partied with so far. However there are lots of fights with large amounts of party or raid wide damage. Even with talents to lessen magical damage and the like, I can imagine a lot of content where “mend pet”  might not be enough. Obviously a hunter has more than just mend pet in his arsenal, a ferocity pet could come with Bloodthirsty for example but again, a chance to heal for 5 percent of the pet’s total health isn’t too hot if the animal is taking lots of damage.

If throwing a heal in the direction of the pet doesn’t leave you out of mana, what harm can it possibly do? There are plenty of threads complaining about how boring 5 mans in particular are for healers who are geared, well why not do a spot of extra curriculum pet healing to spice things up.

I can’t spare the mana!

This one I tend to be more sympathetic towards but it depends on one simple question. Why not? If you don’t have the mana because the rest of the group are playing badly and you’re healing full out, fine. The same is true if you’re undergeared and struggling to keep the players alive. However if you’re oom because you’re spamming smite or another dps spell, then perhaps putting a few heals in the direction of the pet first would make more sense. If nothing else, it may make the hunter like you a bit more.

Hunter’s don’t need their pet to DPS.

True they don’t but given that the whole idea is usually to kill the mobs as fast as possibly, every little helps as the supermarket chain says.  Let us consider the Beast Mastery Hunter. Now I know that it’s a lot less popular in this expansion than it was in the previous one, but you still see plenty of BM hunters, especially in 5 mans. There is a talent midway down BM called Ferocious Inspiration, it’s a fairly simple talent but one I would expect all BM hunters to pick up. Amongst other things, it gives a flat 3 percent damage increase to all party and/or raid members who stay in a 100 yard range of the pet. By allowing Chompy the Devilsaur to die because you aren’t willing to alter your UI, not only do you cut the hunter’s dps, you effect that of the whole group. To me, that goes against the whole principle of running instances in the first place. You should all be working together to make the run as smooth as possible. Allowing a source of DPS to die, hinders that.

In conclusion, I think the arguments put forth are for the most part ridiculous. I’m not suggesting putting a pet at the top of your mental priority list, after all that would be pointless but surely there is a spot somewhere in there. My list goes something like this:

  1. Tank
  2. Healer
  3. The nice, sensible dpsers who don’t stand in the fire too much and don’t make nasty comments about the rest of the group
  4. Hopeless the crab
  5. Any remaining obnoxious dpsers

Obviously I’m not advocating the blanket healing of all pets, but they should at least be a consideration and they should most definitely make it onto your interface. The sooner we learn good habits the easier it is to stick to them. Who knows, perhaps in Cataclysm BM will become the hunter spec again giving you added reasons to keep those pets alive. Perhaps raids will require every last drop of dps and pets will become a lot more important to all hunters, regardless of spec. I’m not denying some hunters can try your patience as they attempt to murder their pet every 5 seconds, but it’s easy to ignore them (although I wish Azeroth had a version of the RSPCA so we could confiscate pets from bad hunters only returning them when they learnt the art of animal protection) and / or point out why letting Fluffles the crocolisk run around on aggressive is a bad idea.

Yes, this post probably stems in part from the fact that I feel dreadful whenever a pet dies in a group I’m healing. Especially when it’s erstwhile owner can’t even be bothered to think up a name for him or her. The fact that I may at some point be venturing back into 5 mans with my adored pets has nothing to do with it at all (honest!).

TLDR: Pets are people too! Make friends with your neighbourhood hunters and heal their pets.

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