31 October 2008

Headless Horseman and Magtheridon

Happy halloween everyone! We've been running a lot of Headless Horseman of course. It paid off for me, as I won a roll when the mount dropped. Sweet! But I still want to get a squashling; it's the only thing preventing me from getting the Hallow's Eve achievement.

I also had my second Mr. Pinchy drop. Cool! I've used one wish and got the blessing; here's hoping for the remaining wishes to get me the pet.

But I've been doing some more-meaty stuff, too. I joined a PUG into Magtheridon's Lair yesterday — another first for me. These 25-man PUGs are starting to feel familiar. First, it takes forever to get organized. Then, the big fights usually take a couple tries to get right. And then there's chaos at the end.

This wasn't an exception. We had a wipe on the trash, because someone didn't realize they were sitting in a bad spot and pulled both a patrol and another group. Then we wiped again on Mags, when we had poor coordination on our cube-clicking. The second attempt actually started with a messed-up pull, but we fought past it and got the big guy down with no deaths.

Here's the healing meter information. To be honest, I'm shocked that I did as well as I did, given that I was learning the fight. Fortunately that's easier for healers than anyone else. But there were chunks of time when I was just waiting and looking for damage — probably not being entirely useful. The splash damage was dominant of course, so it's no surprised that the Shaman led the meters. But Wild Growth did a decent job at helping too.

Name       Class    +SP   Tot H    HPS    % of Tot
Sophiablue shaman 1101 922061 1449.6 23.2%
Om druid 1131 848356 1222.6 21.3
Alamein druid 932 781601 1082.5 19.7
Diemaggots paladin ? 560411 753.8 14.1
Ironjaw paladin 1078 371442 767.1 9.3
I don't have good data for Diemaggots. The Armory shows him in Ret spec and gear, and I'm not sure how he healed last night — whether he respecced, put on Holy gear, or both. Otherwise though I was pretty happy with where I came out, given the gear levels.

Here's a look at how my spells worked out. I used a lot of Wild Growth for raid healing, and it worked pretty well. I should have pulled similar stats for Om but forgot; I know he used even more WG than I did (it may have even topped Lifebloom for him if I recall correctly).
Spell       #   Tot H   % of Tot
Lifebloom 645 369050 47.2%
Wild Grow 514 176002 22.5
Rejuv 95 97188 12.4
Regrowth 70 87717 11.2
Swiftmend 5 23496 3.0
Healing T 3 16969 2.2
Living Se 6 6843 0.9
Glyph Rej 9 4336 0.6
It's nice to see Living Seed work a few more times. The healing is still not huge, but by definition it works when it's most needed. The Glyph of Rejuvenation is in the same category.

I also saw a bit more use for Replenish. The Pally tank I was healing got something like 4000 mana out of it, which seems better than before. I wonder, was it hotfixed? I hadn't seen anything. Maybe it's just a case of keeping Rejuv up more.

I'm hoping for more interesting runs like this in the next couple weeks. I'll post back!

Edit: I forgot to add a crucial story about the raid: the loot rolls were totally f'd up. People failed to pay attention and ended up rolling on items they didn't need. Then, the loot master failed to verify who the loot was going to. The T4 Chest token for Druid, Warriors or Priests ended up with a Mage. And the Eye trinket went to a healer who can't really use it.

Fortunately I got lucky and won the [Pit Lord's Satchel] with a 98 roll. I've been extremely lucky with loot rolls on these PUGs. Who knows if it will last...

23 October 2008

I hate Kalimdor

I do love me my achievements. I've been slowly working to get a lot of the exploration achievements and Hallow's end achievements. Yesterday that led me to Kalimdor, to work on both Explore Kalimdor and Tricks and Treats of Kalimdor.

And Kalimdor is a pain in the butt! I had to spend a lot of time on the Draenei lands of Azuremyst Isle and Bloodmist Isle. That's not surprising, since they're starter zones that a night elf typically doesn't see. But the little, isolated corners of places like Stonetalon Mountains and Azshara really drive me nuts. These zones are really spread out and require a lot of riding to get through.

There's nothing wrong with big zones. I like the sense of space, and I'm OK with requiring travel time to get from place A to place B. But there's a point when it becomes tedious. Compare Kalimdor to the Outland zones. Most of the Outland areas are significantly larger — I would guess 25-50% larger in area. The difference is that Outlands zones tend to be rounder rather than strung out. This means that different corners of the zones are closer to each other.

Consider Azshara0. I had to track down two sub-zones: Jagged Reef (52,10) and the Tower of Eldara (89,33). The Tower is the worst; it's at the very eastern tip of the upper peninsula of Azshara. That's a long ride in itself from the flight point in the southwest corner of the zone. But also you have canyons and mountains in the way, so you have to ride a long circuitous route to get there. I'm sure it was a 10- or 15-minute trip. Once I got there, I faced a long ride back; instead I teleported to Moonglade and took a gryphon ride to my next destination.

The gryphon taxis are another example of the changes in Outland. There are more flight points per zone in Outlands than in old Azeroth, and they're better positioned. Kalimdor in particular tends to have these long stringy zones with flight points in one corner. To Blizzard's credit, they have been adding more flight points to places like Stranglethorn, Felwood, and Dustwallow. The new Zul'Aman flight point saved me huge hassles when I had to explore the Ghostlands.

The flights in Outlands take less time, too. I'm not surprised that something like Moonglade to Tanaris takes 15 or 20 minutes. But even something like Moonglade to Ashenvale takes 6 minutes or so. Going from memory, even the longest flight in Outlands takes less than 10 minutes.

I understand the reasoning. Lately I've been interested to see how Blizzard tries to manage the rhythm of play in WoW. It's a balance between periods of relaxed, less-intense play, serious focus, and balls-to-the-wall excitement. That pumping cycle drives a lot of the enjoyment of the game, and they pay serious attention to it.

Travel is one of those rhythm tools. A taxi flight is a serious downtime — the most you can do is browse quests or achievements, swap some gear, or chat with friends. (You can also do a good bit of web browsing, of course!) Overland travel is more focused, because you have to watch where you're going to avoid mobs and cliffs and the like. In a higher-level zone it can be fairly intense; I have fond memories of early quests that require a trip to Darkshire. Those woods were creepy and scary at level 18! Outlands flight is somewhere in between. You have to pay some attention, or you'll miss your destination, fly off the edge of the map, or maybe fly over an opposing-faction town. I still remember flying to the Throne of Elements in Nagrand, getting shot down over Garadar, and crashing into Skysong Lake.

I think what Blizzard has realized is that they just overestimated the optimum downtime when they first designed Azeroth. The biggest reason is that you still do a lot of travel at level 70 or 80. (How many of us Alliance made the long ride to Scarlet Monastery in the last few days?) The travel is a good feeling when you're first seeing the zone, but that one time must be balanced against the dozens of times you'll travel the same route later on.

This reevaluation shows up in a lot of ways: The new flight paths added to old Azeroth. Adding free-flight capabilities for Outlands and Northrend. The design of Outlands zones and flight paths. Changing your first mount from level 40 to 30. All this makes travel less time-consuming and more convenient. It's another example of how they adjust their approach as the game evolves. Despite what you might read on the forums, they're actually pretty good at this and it's a major factor behind their success.

Now, if they can just fix Thousand Needles before I go explore it, that would be great!

22 October 2008

Weird stuff in 3.0.2

I spend a lot of time keeping up with WoW news. I'm usually "that guy" who has details about what's changing, how to prepare, and when it's likely to happen. As usual, I was well informed before 3.0.2 dropped, but still there were some things that surprised me.

Some were details that I'd known but forgotten. A good example is the use of Entangling Roots in instances. Sure, I would have told anyone about it days before or after 3.0.2. The problem is, I've never remembered to use it in instances. I just don't have that habit yet.

Another example is the new entrance in Caverns of Time. This will eventually be the portal for the Culling of Stratholme instance when WotLK drops. I knew that was there, but I hadn't worried about it much, and eventually I just forgot. But last night we jumped in to CoT to do a quick run at Escape from Durnholde. (I was 500 points from Revered and the guys offered to help me out.) I was riding around to find the entrance, and noticed the new stuff there. Pretty cool!

Other details I just hadn't heard before. I didn't know that the battlemaster for Strand of the Ancients was going to be in Shattrath already. I'm already registered with his faction, too. And I hear that the boat that used to go from Menethil to Auberdine is no longer running; I hadn't realized the routes were changing that much.

I was surprised to start fishing up rank VI scrolls in Inscribed Scrollcases. I also heard similar stories about Froststeel Lockboxes. Those are even more surprising because nobody can open them yet; it requires more skill than is possible at 70. At least the scrolls are useable!

Even more surprising was the new food and drinks. I was in Ironforge and happened to visit the innkeeper. I was shocked to see that he's selling Pungent Seal Whey and Honeymint Tea. The tea isn't drinkable until level 75, but you can drink the whey (ugh) right now. Out with the Purified Draenic Water! They're also selling comparable food items, so if you're a non-healer you might pick up some of that too.

But there's just a lot of weird stuff going on too. I'm not talking about server instabilities; I'm talking about stuff that appears to be happening in game, and might or might not be intentional.

The first thing I noticed is that when I shapeshift, my size is... off. I'll shift from cat to bird form, and my bird will start out tiny and grow to normal size. Or I'll shift from bird to elf, and my elf form starts out huge and then shrinks to fit the room. Quite odd. Is it intentional? A known artifact? A bug? No idea.

Hunters are dealing with a more serious issue, though it's one they can work around. Pets are taking off after a mob as soon as the hunter fires a shot. Before, they would wait until the mob was in melee range. The new behavior is dangerous when a hunter is trying to pull a mob away from others, because the pet will be close to aggroing more mobs. Hunters can work around it by setting their pet on Passive, but that's more work. I can't believe this is accidental but it must be difficult to adjust.

I'm also seeing some strange behavior with daily quest drops. Take for example the daily fishing quests. Previously, I would fish for a while before getting the special fish I wanted. Sometimes it would be in the first couple casts; other times I'd catch 15 or 20 fish before I got what I needed. Since 3.0.2, I've caught the special fish on the first cast, every time. Even weirder, I'll catch two things at the same time — the special fish and some other normal fish.The same thing is happenening with skinning and the Nether Residue collection. Before it seemed like about a 25% drop, but now I'm getting it every time. It's kind of nice, but I'd like to know if it's intentional or not so I don't get my hopes up if not.

The honor calculations for battlegrounds have changed quite a bit too. It's actually a bit annoying to me because I'm seeing myself with a lot less honor than before. My fear is that it's because I'm healing and doing other useful things rather than killing. I am usually good about sitting on a flag until it's captured. That's something that needs to be done, but it's time when I'm not fighting; I'd hate to lose honor for it. And there was a fight where I was #1 in healing, yet I took less honor than about half the raid. That's kind of annoying, and I hope that more adjustments are still to come.

Overall, 3.0.2 went down quite well. I'm glad however that I can still be surprised by things even when I do follow the discussions so closely!

21 October 2008

3.0.2 Druid healing: Gruul and Hyjal

Yesterday I talked about my runs into Gruul's Lair and Mount Hyjal. I wanted to give some stats about how I was healing through these runs, to provide more data on how Druids are healing.

First, some background. My Druid is Alamein. Unfortunately the Armory doesn't seem to have updated in weeks, so don't read much into what you see today. (Maybe after today's maintenance.) Her gear is roughly at T4 level; the Gruul's run replaced a couple PvP pieces (helm and shoulders) with roughly T4 equivalents, which slightly boosted her for Hyjal. She should be reasonably geared for Gruul's and somewhat undergeared for Hyjal. And as I had mentioned, I'd never been into either encounter.

I also recognize that the encounters have been nerfed quite a bit with 3.0.2. I believe the stat is that boss health is down about 30%. Certainly we did better than we should expect. Gruul's was a total PuG. Hyjal was mostly a guild run, with four from my guild joining Seditio and a few other additions. This was their first attempt at Hyjal.

So that's all for level-setting. How did the numbers stack up? I have details for Gruul and a quick summary for Hyjal.

Gruul's Lair

As I described yesterday, we had an abortive attempt on Maulgar before restocking the raid with PuGgers and trying again. I reset Recount with tne fresh attempt, which went through all the trash as well as both Maulgar and Gruul. Here's the report:
Character     Class      Tot H     HPS    %Heal
Thaddx Paladin 689198 1242.9 18.8%
Doireann Shaman 529918 1136.6 14.4
Alamein Druid 525971 717.3 14.3
Stastris Paladin 511488 1034.1 13.9
Maxxus Shaman 446992 701.2 12.2
Humansheild* Paladin 317886 410.7 8.7
*Humansheild is a tank, so this represents the first non-healer. He did quite a bit of off-healing for the encounter.

Armory is borked so I don't have a good way of comparing all of us. But I would judge that we were all roughly close in gear levels. Given that — and given that I didn't know the encounters — I feel reasonably good about the healing meters. Obviously the HPS numbers are pretty low, but I suspect that's due to a lot of instant-cast spells and rolling HoTs rather than more bursty heals.

What did I cast? I started with rolling Lifeblooms on the main tank (a warrior named Avith). He was the Maulgar tank for that encounter, and the MT for Gruul. I did 51.9% of my healing on him, mostly from rolling Lifeblooms and Rejuv. He died early in the Maulgar encounter — I'm not quite sure why — and I did a Rebirth followed by some big heals to get him back into the game.

I also did raid healing in between refreshing the above. A lot of that was Regrowth, which I use probably more than I should, and Lifebloom. I also tried to use Wild Growth where it made sense.

Here's the data:
Spell         Count  Total    %
Lifebloom 504 273284 52.0%
Regrowth 85 122565 23.3
Rejuvenation 92 85352 16.2
Wild Growth 78 26043 5.0
Healing Touch 2 9723 1.8
Living Seed 6 5139 1.0
Swiftmend 1 2828 0.5
Glyph of Rejuv 2 1037 0.2
My thoughts on this:
  • Lifebloom still works darn well.
  • I like Regrowth a lot! I'm sure those crits are what spawned the Living Seeds that did proc.
  • My overhealing was 17.6%, which doesn't seem like a lot, though I don't really have a point of comparison.
  • I didn't get much from the Glyph of Rejuvenation. But that's 1000 points of healing that came when the tank needed it the most.
  • Wild Growth is pretty powerful, but I still need to learn it better.
  • Mana was not an issue, though I had to watch it more closely than previously. I used Innervate a couple times, but I don't believe I needed a mana pot at all.
So a bit more on Regrowth. I like it a lot for raid healing, because it gets a good chunk of health back in the initial heal and then keeps working through the HoT. The big problem is that it takes too long to cast. That's a delay in healing received, as well as an opportunity cost in the other spells I could cast. (Note, however, that it's still faster than casting a Rejuv followed by Swiftmend, due to the two GCDs you have to eat.)

Life will be a lot more interesting at 80. On the one hand, we'll have Nourish. That may be the go-to spell in a lot of these situations. On the other hand, we'll have a good shot at taking Nature's Grace in a Resto build. That proc will shave casting time off either spell, making for a fast Regrowth or a blinding-fast Nourish. I suspect we'll be using Nourish a lot, and watch for Nature's Grace to proc; when it does we'll drop a Regrowth into the mix.

Replenish Watch: Like I said, I kept Replenish up on the tank about 90% of the time. The result? 80 rage gained, over the course of the whole raid. Still not worth it.

Finally... I also did 6 rezzes. Yay, Revive!

Mount Hyjal

As I mentioned, I'm rather undergeared for Hyjal. So I wasn't expecting to lead the meters, and I was right. I was #7 on healing done, for 7.9% of the total. I did however do 872.9 HPS. That's up more than 150 from what I did on Gruul. That's probably partly because I had gear upgrades, and mostly because I was just using a lot more of my GCDs. We had no shortage of damage!

There were two resto Druids in the raid, and we were tasked with raid healing. A bit unusual, but I gave it my best. I don't know how it works for more experienced Hyjal guilds, but for this one there was a ton of raid damage. Since I was so busy I used a lot of Lifebloom as a first response to damage. I also tried to keep Lifeblooms rolling on at least a couple of the tanks. That lead to Lifebloom doing almost 70% of my healing — much more than Gruul's. Regrowth was #2, followed by Rejuv. I tried to use a lot of Wild Growth too, but here I think it fell down a bit because it's difficult to spam. I would cast it once, but as I wasn't sure who would receive it, I didn't want to cast it again without knowing who'd been hit by the first. I think there will be WG mods for Grid which will help with this.

On the other hand, I had more Living Seed healing, especially considering how much I used Lifebloom. Regrowth plus Living Seed combines nicely for this type of crazy raid damage. Also, it was nice to be able to rez with Revive between waves. It seems to take a long time though, and I'd find that someone else had already rezzed before Revive finished casting. That's a lack of experience from me as much as anything.

I also did a ton of Remove Curse — more than 100 I believe. I'm not sure how painful that curse is, but I felt it was a useful task for me since I wasn't the most powerful healer there. Hopefully I did some good damage mitigation through that.

All in all, Hyjal was an interesting experience. I certainly felt that I wasn't quite doing the healing I needed to for the raid. On the other hand, I didn't feel useless either. It's a difficult encounter and I can see why it takes some time to learn.

So that's my raiding story. The TLDR reaction: I still feel like Druids can do a lot of good healing. We're still disadvantaged on healing meters, but that doesn't represent our true healing strengths anyway. And despite the Lifebloom nerf, it still works quite well.

20 October 2008

Weekend Fun

Talk about progression! As of last Wednesday, I hadn't been in Kara in something like 6 months, and that was the most raiding I'd done. Now that's all changed.

As I wrote earlier, I was asked to participate Thursday night in a Kara run. It went well and we got through to Illhoof. I intended to join up with them again Friday night, but instead had a nice long dinner with friends, so I missed the last part of the run.

Still, it was fun to be back in Kara.

Saturday night, I was goofing around when I got another request from my pally tank friend. This time they wanted to pull together a PUG for Gruul's. I'd never done a 25-man raid before, so I thought it would be a great experience. Firegrin and I took part.

It didn't start all that well. We took two tries at High King Maulgar, and wiped both times. At this point things looked bleak and we lost about 7 people from the raid. Firegrin and I hung in while the leaders tried to recruit more — including recruiting in trade chat. We weren't very hopeful, and I expected they would call the raid.

After half an hour of recruiting, they were able to reform the group, and we tried again. Trash had respawned so we had to redo the whole instance (not that this is a major hassle). Whether it was because of better gear or better players or just better efforts, we were able to get High King on the first shot. We then moved forward and also one-shotted Gruul. Quite impressive for us and a lot of fun too.

It was a ton of fun and we got very lucky too. Firegrin won his T4 pants from Gruul, and I won both my T4 shoulders ([Shoulderguards of Malorne]) and the [Cowl of Nature's Breath]. So quite a success for all!

Then on Sunday, four of us (me, Firegrin, Cargarios, and Wyrmm) joined another guild for a run at Mount Hyjal. So, wow... in one weekend I've gone from Kara to Hyjal! More than anything this points to how much the raids have been nerfed; they are a lot more accessible now. This guild had never taken on Hyjal before, so it was new to them. The raid leader (who used to lead our Kara runs, months ago) knew the fights and had a good sense of what to do and how to instruct us.

The good news is that after one unsuccessful attempt we were able to kill Rage Winterchill. Everyone seemed pretty laid back about it, but that's actually quite impressive for a first attempt. We took two cracks at Anetheron and couldn't really make a dent in him. I believe we had positioning issues and needed to individually learn the issues and tactics involved. It's one thing to know that Carrion Swarm is coming; it's another to recognize what it looks like and know how far you have to run. We were learning rapidly, but with the night growing late we called it a successful night and packed up.

So how did my healing go? I'll post a look at the Recount reports tomorrow, with the full details. In general though it's about what you expect. When I looked Alamein up on Be Imba (before the Armory went kaplooie with 3.0.2), she'd be rated to perform well up through Gruul's or Magtheridon. And that's exactly what happened. I was near the top for healing on Gruul's, with no serious problems. On the other hand, I was well behind in healing for Hyjal, coming in about 6th place overall on the meters. I'm pretty sure I was useful — I know I did about a hundred Remove Curses, and I still did around 2 million points of healing using mostly Lifebloom and Regrowth.

Spells worked pretty well for the most part. Wild Growth is not giving me a huge boost, but it's somewhat useful; I expect it'll be even better for 5-man runs. The main problem is that it's unpredictable, making it pointless to spam and not very helpful for widespread raid damage. Replenish is still not helping at all; I'm curious to see if that will get buffed, because I'm certain now I won't bother with it.

I'll post more detailed thoughts tomorrow. But for today, I'm going to enjoy memories of my first 25-man runs. Good stuff!

17 October 2008

Druid healing in 3.0.2

I had my first chance to do serious Resto work last night. I'd healed a run in heroic Underbog for a paladin tank a few weeks ago, and we friended each other. Last night, he pinged me and asked if I wanted to heal a Karazhan run. It was a great chance to test out druid healing, so I took him up on it.

I respecced into full resto. (I really wish they had reset the respec fees along with the talent point refund.) Here's the 5/0/56 Resto druid build I took. My one change from my earlier intent was that I skipped Improved Tranquility and the one point in Empowered Touch, in order to take Replenish. This was only because I wanted to give it a real test, and not because I thought it would be helpful.

We had a pretty good pick-up group. Four or five players were from the tank's guild, including my friend Hazek. In about three hours we were able to get Attumen, Moroes, Maiden, Opera (Big Bad Wolf), Curator, and Illhoof. We had one wipe due to an accidental trash pull, but were able to one-shot all the bosses. That was surprising, especially with no crowd control on Moroes; we had no priests along. It's pretty clear that the bosses have been nerfed quite a bit.

We started with two tree druid healers. I don't remember the other guy's name. His skills were fine but he was undergeared; I healed a little less than double his amount. (Due to this, I pulled a lot of aggro and had about 8 deaths.) After the Opera, he had to leave, so we brought in a Holy paladin instead. He said he was a 'raid noob' but he did a great job. I reset my Recount stats when we brought in the paladin, so that I'd get some clean numbers. So these numbers reflect Curator, Illhoof, and the trash in between. This is a good test, because it's got a good bit of raid damage due to the flares on Curator and the mana worms.

I didn't use Swiftmend at all during the run. Just forgetful on my part! I have been healing as Restokin for a long while now so I'm just out of the habit. After the first half though I made a point of using Wild Growth whenever it made sense, so that I could get an idea of how well it worked. Also, I haven't glyphed for anything yet, so nothing to account for there.

Overall healing: it was good. I did 838.9 HPS which accounted for 47.0% of the healing done. The holy Paladin did 34.0%; #3 was the paladin tank at 6.7% — healing after rezzes and so forth. That number is mostly due to better gear on my part, but it supports the point that resto is still very good.

Healing breakdown:My strategy was fairly basic. I used Lifebloom stacks on the tank and off-tank. I also kept a Rejuvenation up on the tank. When someone else took isolated damage, I'd use Lifebloom and/or Regrowth depending on how bad it was. On raid-wide damage I used Wild Growth, followed by other heals as needed.

Here's how that sorted itself out:

Spell         %-tot  count
Lifebloom 59.9% 1294
Wild Growth 14.9% 481
Rejuvenation 11.9% 132
Regrowth 11.6% 108
Healing Touch 0.9% 2
Living Seed 0.7% 10
The first thing I saw is that Lifebloom is still working pretty well. Now I'll note that I outgeared the instance, which may have affected things. And I'd say that Lifebloom was definitely less powerful than before; I had to use more other heals than I'm used to. But LB still gets the job done.

Next: Wild Growth is cool. It does a good chunk of healing and it is an easy fire-and-forget quick heal. The biggest problem is its randomness. I don't think Grid knows enough yet to track who's been hit with it, and so I was guessing on who needs supplemental heals beneath it. I'd kick out a WG and then start dropping LBs on whoever looked in danger. But even with that limitation, it did a lot of healing. I can live with it!

On the other hand, I didn't get a lot of use out of Living Seed. That's mostly an effect of my healing tools — I didn't use much that could crit. I didn't cast enough HTs or (any) Swiftmends, which left just Regrowth to proc it. Now Regrowth is a great spell to use, because talents get it to crit something like 60% of the time. I'm a big fan. But even if LS procs, it won't take effect unless the toon is hit again within 15 seconds. So for isolated raid damage, it'll be lost a good portion of the time. But I can see some places in the stats where it probably helped keep a toon alive. I'll place this in the "continue to watch" category.

Finally: Replenish. I started out optimistic about the spell; it's a very cool concept. But the numbers looked bleak and I turned skeptical. How did it play out?

I tried to keep Rejuv up on the tank all the time, for Replenish as much as the healing. And the result? Over two boss fights and a good chunk of (mana-draining) trash, Replenish gave him 1134 mana. This was 1.9% of his total mana gained. Of course a paladin gets a lot of mana from Spiritual Attunement, but in any case Replenish just didn't make a big difference. I'm guessing that in the budgeting process, Blizzard decides that adding 2% to the mana returned (or rage or whatever) is worth 3 talent points. But in practice, it's so small as to be unnoticeable. If the tank is going to go out of mana, that extra 2% is unlikely to make a difference.

I keep trying to find arguments for Replenish, because it would be a sweet capability to have. But one night's trial just reinforces my existing opinion. I don't think many druids are going to take Replenish. Even at level 80, I think we'll use those points to get into Balance for Nature's Splendor and Nature's Grace. I'd love to be proved wrong!

Edit: I forgot to say something about my mana observations. In short, I noticed a difference, but I could live with it. I had to watch mana but never went OOM. I had the most trouble on Moroes, as we had no crowd control and a lot of Garrotes to heal through. But with a potion and an Innervate I was fine.

Other random thoughts:
Revive still rocks! We had a Feral druid as off-tank and DPS, so we had several chances to use it, including a few where the paladin tank had died and Soulstones were on cooldown. LOVE IT!

Similarly, it's really nice to have a tree that can move at full speed. It felt funny... but in a good way! I'm sure that arena druids are thinking through all sorts of new tactics.

Very nice to have Gift of the Wild hit the whole raid. It's a simple convenience that makes life a lot simpler. I'm going to love it in AV.

I really miss Blessing of Salvation. Of course, 8 deaths due to healer aggro will do that to you. I'm going to have to get in the habit of waiting for more incoming damage before starting my heals.

So that's the story. I think we might try for the last half of Kara tonight; if so I'll post more complete thoughts later.

16 October 2008

3.0.2 Fire Mage Build

I didn't do much productive last night — still playing around with all the new stuff. I need to get Alamein out into the battlegrounds, but last night I needed sleep more.

For the first part of the night, we were bugged. All of Outlands was down for Shandris, so we were limited to any toons that logged out in old Azeroth. I took the time to respec my lower-level toons. The most advanced is Gazala, who's a level 43 rogue; everyone else is a lot lower level than that. So the respecs weren't very informative — though it is interesting to see what talents have moved in each tree.

Once Outlands were back, I logged on to Sali and respeced her too. I know much less about the mage talents — either old or new — than I do about druids. So I'm much less confident that I've chosen a useful spec in any sense. Still, I wanted to share my thoughts.

I don't have my exact spec available, but I chose something pretty close to this: Level 70 Deep Fire Mage: 0/61/0. As with Alamein's talents, I consciously focused on a deep Fire build so that I could understand the available abilities. Based on about 10 minutes of testing, here are my initial impressions:

Firestarter is awesome. It gives you a natural combo of Blast Wave -> Flamestrike, limited only by the GCD. This will be great for AoE farming or damage as a fire mage, providing you can survive a few hits. The knockback on Blast Wave is fun too, and a bit more useful as a mage (compared to Typhoon on a Moonkin druid).

On the other hand, I couldn't really use Living Bomb, because I was testing on lower-level mobs. They would just die before the bomb went off. I suspect this spell will be rather situational, so I'll have to understand more about when to use it. Similarly, I never had a chance for Hot Streak to proc, so I'll have to test with that some more.

Burnout is a weird talent, particularly when you combine it with Master of Elements. Spell crits refund 30% of their cost due to Master of Elements but then lose 5% of that back to Burnout. It works out in the end, which is all that matters I suppose.

Burning Soul is a nice addition. Fire mages never had a lot of pushback protection, so this is a big help. I was also very tempted to take Burning Determination but ended spending the points elsewhere; this is probably more useful in PvP than PvE but still could be nice.

I think in a real build, I will be inclined to take some points in Arcane. Unfortunately none of the Tier 1 arcane talents are very appealing for a fire build, but beyond that there's some nice stuff. Arcane Concentration is a good talent, and Magic Absorbtion looks like it will be powerful. Spell Impact is a nice chunky damage boost on a lot of bread-and-butter spells. Focus Magic looks interesting, but unfortunately only works if you're partied with someone. No benefit for soloing.

So that's a quick look at fire-based mage talents. I'll test them out a bit more and report back!

15 October 2008

Echoes of Doom: First impressions

Pretty chaotic last night! Shandris was several hours late coming back online, and seemed to be unstable at least early on. (I got a 5-minute "World Server Down" while in Ironforge at one point.) But by the end of the night, everything seemed to be working as intended.

Addons were a bit wonky. I got enough running that I could live with — Pitbull and Clique, plus some of Tekkub's pieces and a few other random parts. Some were pretty wonky. For example, Fubar was mostly working, but putting the wrong titles on the drop-down menus. And I'm still coming to grips with the new Cartographer — nothing to do with 3.0.2 though.

But with all that, I was able to get going. Here are my first impressions.

Druid abilities

I specced Alamein into Balance as planned, with a slight variation. I decided to take 3/3 in Nature's Focus, giving me 58/0/3. The resulting spec looks like this. If I were serious about doing damage as Balance, I'd spec differently, but this gives me a chance to try out just about everything in Balance.

I did a couple different things in my play time. After traveling to Moonglade to train and respec, I traveled to Winterspring and killed a few furblogs to try out my damage spells. Then I grouped up with Cargarios, Wyrmm, and Firegrin to take a stab at heroic Ramparts. I was healing with a Balance spec and we only had four people, so it wasn't going to be a clean run. But all of us were also trying to figure how to deal with the changes. Suffice to say: it wasn't pretty! But we learned a lot, which was the goal.

Subjectively speaking, I felt like I was doing a huge amount of damage. My Starfire crits were hitting for 4000+ damage. TopScoreFu wasn't working, but I'm almost certain that's about 30-40% higher than anything I've seen before. I don't know if that's due to talents, changes to the spell, or to the conversion from +heal to +spell power on my DPS gear (which actually uses a lot of my healing gear). From what I heard, everyone else was seeing similar improvements.

Starfall and Typhoon both were fun to play with. They do feel rather situational, and I'll have to play with them a while before I understand when to use them best. Starfall is probably the more powerful of the two. Hurricane is a better pure AoE spell, but Starfall is both instant cast and moves when you move, so it works when you're on the move. That will be nice, but the 3 minute cooldown will keep it very situational. And they key to Typhoon will be understanding when to use the knockback effect, which I'm not firm on yet.

With the passive talents, I was actually impressed with Eclipse. One point makes the proc too infrequent to be worthwhile; I think this will be either 3 points or 0. But the graphic on the proc makes it easy to notice, and it's powerful enough to make it worth following. I was also impressed by Improved Moonkin Form, at least subjectively. I felt like my casts were significantly faster and the GCD change really helped.

Earth and Moon was less showy, and for soloing furblogs it's not really useful. I typically couldn't get off more than one or two casts before they were dead, so no real chance to take advantage of it. I'm sure it will pay off for instances however.

Nature's Splendor made no obvious difference to my DPS — not against furblogs anyway. But in healing it was a huge improvement. The 8-second Lifebloom gave me a lot more time to cast other healing spells before refreshing my LB stack. I really think that a level-80 PvE healing build will spec into this more often than not.

I was surprised by the new audio effect for Insect Swarm... but I like it!

And finally, I had a few chances to use Revive. That felt really good! I used to feel a lot less useful when I had to ask a player to run back rather than get rezzed. No longer!


Of course I knew this was coming, but it still captivated me. I'm sure I'll spend a lot of time on these. I am at heart an OCD completist, and this is a mechanism to feed that part of my personality. I was surprised to have slightly more achievement points than my friends, though in retrospect that's probably because I'm inclined to engage in exactly these sorts of quixotic pursuits.

I started down the path of completing some of the easier achievements before coming to my senses. I did however get the Going Down? and Captain Rumsey's Lager achievements before logging out. At some point I know I will spend a few hours crossing off fishing and exploration achievements.

I also like the announcement in guild chat. It's a nice way to share your activities with guildmates. I just wish there weren't so many achievements that require WotLK.

Other impressions

It was very nice to log in and find my PvP tokens gone from the bank — and into the Currency tab. I was disappointed however that things like Spirit Shards and Arcane Runes weren't included. They're soulbound tokens, used to purchase goods. They should be included!

It was also nice to get my mounts and pets out of the bank. I bought four more pets when I was in Stormwind; I'm sure I'll accumulate a lot more. I'm going to have to find an addon or macro to spawn random pets. I'm not sure whether I'll grab a whole slew of mounts or not. I will probably avoid flying mounts since Flight Form is so much better, but ground mounts are a different story. But that could be a real money pit.

The barber shop is fun, but the hairstyles are very limited. I wish there was a lot more to do with it. I did however get a haircut for Alamein... for the achievement, of course!

I'm disproportionately happy with the new loading screens, title screen, and title music. We spend too much time staring at these, so it's very nice to see some changes.

Finally: Stormwind Harbor is huge! I think I'd be disappointed if I played Horde — they kind of got shafted.

That's a lot of stuff going on. I will soon respec to Resto to check out the new spells there. I still want to visit the sites of Dalaran and Naxxrimas to see what's changed up there. And I'm most excited about the prospect of world events that lead to the launch of Wrath. Lots to explore!

14 October 2008

First draft talent builds: Druid for 3.0.2

Well, it's official: 3.0.2 will arrive today. Official 3.0.2 patch notes are now available, and we'll definitely see all the new stuff when the realms come back up. Remember, all your talent points are refunded — on all your toons. So all those alts will have to respec too. And you'll want to visit a class trainer to learn new spells; some of them are available even at quite low levels, so everyone should train up.

Also: barber shops!

I spent some time last night taking photos around Dalaran and the old Naxxrimas; I'll post some comparisons later on. I'm curious to see how they change things. It was a little wistful, even though I'm looking forward to the new stuff. And that goes for talents as well as terrain; all my familiar specs and builds are out the window. What next?

I specced out three talent builds that I might try using in the next month. I'll share the details, but here are the constraints I used:

  • 61 points: I built for level 70, as I'm only expecting to use these specs for the next month.
  • All spells: I made a point to build out all the way to Starfall in Balance and Wild Growth in Resto. Part of what I want to do is learn how these things work, so I built all the way down.
  • Casual play: I don't expect to do any raiding in the next month, so I'm less concerned about optimizing. When in doubt, I took talents with new mechanics (Living Seed) instead of generic boosts to healing or damage, so that I could learn how they work.
So: my specs.

Balance: 61/0/0

I am still not sure whether the change to Moonfury and Earth and Moon will be in effect for this build — will they be 5-point or 3-point talents? As it stands though, 3 points in each is enough to understand the effects, so I'll stick with that either way.

I didn't take Genesis, because I think that solo play won't give me enough chance to see the effects of more-powerful DoTs. I also didn't take Natures Focus in Resto, even though that's probably an important talent, because I want to understand more about how the new pushback mechanic will play out.

I was very tempted to take points in Resto. Eventually I think it might be important to build down to Omen of Clarity, and maybe even Natural/Master Shapeshifter. Furor could be very nice too. But I couldn't spend those points and take all the possibilities in Balance too.

I suspect that eventually I'll decide to skip Eclipse, and maybe some other talents too. But for now I want to understand how it works, and what proc-watching will entail. So I'll give it a try.

Resto: 5/0/56

This would be the spec I'll use to heal through some heroic instances prior to WotLK. So it's designed to both test out spells but also to make sure I can heal well enough.

I took 5 points in Genesis — unlike in my Balance build — because it should be a major boost to HoT-based healing. At level 80, I fully expect to try a build that goes into Nature's Grace/Nature's Splendor, but I can't spare the points just yet.

I'm a little worried about mana management — it's going to be worse than today, but I'm not sure how much worse. If it's really bad, I might regret skipping Tranquil Spirit. We'll see.

I didn't take Replenish. I'm inclined to second-guess that, because I'd really like to test it out. But I just don't see any way that the talent will pay off. Maybe I'll change my mind and give it a try — to make sure.

Restokin: 31/0/30

I also decided to take a stab at a level-70 Restokin spec. There's a good chance I'll choose something like this as my leveling spec when WotLK hits.

It's nice to see Dreamstate a tier below Moonkin form now. On the one hand, that means you can get 3/3 in Dreamstate with only 31 points in Balance. On the other, it means you could get a non-boomkin Dreamstate/Nature's Swiftness build that only takes 28 points in Balance. It really opens some options.

With both Intensity and Dreamstate, I'm less worried about mana management, so I feel OK about skipping Tranquil Spirit. I'm less sanguine about skipping Furor; I might move the points over from Improved MotW and Nature's Focus. I also might try for a build that takes Natural/Master Shapeshifter. But I'd probably have to skip Naturalist to do that, and I don't think I can give up the half-second savings on HT if I want to heal instances as I level.

So, there's some quick thoughts. I'll probably spec into Balance tonight to try out the fun new toys, but move back to Resto as soon as I can get an instance group together. We might try for an easy heroic tonight to test things out; Cargarios in particular is going to have to learn how to run his Paladin again as they have major changes. Should be fun!

13 October 2008

WotLK: new balance druid talents

OK, I need to complete my four-part series. This time, I want to look at the new talents in the Balance tree. Get a beverage, because this will take a while. The Balance tree has changed a lot.

(I already discussed a few of the talents in my Resto talent post. These are all very relevant to healing, but they're also good for Balance of course.)

Tier 1

Changes start at the top: Nature's Grasp is gone, now available as a baseline ability. Gone with it is Improved NG, as the spell now has a 100% chance to proc. Very nice. This is basically replaced with Genesis, which boosts our DoTs — Moonfire, Insect Swarm, and (I believe) Entangling Roots. Meh, it's decent for mana efficiency.

Tier 2

Control of Nature is gone too. In its place we have Moonglow, reducing mana cost for a host of spells. Another spell that will greatly help your efficiency, but isn't an attention-grabber.

Nature's Majesty is really just the old Focused Starlight, but now also applies to Starfall, Nourish, and Healing Touch.

Tier 3

Brambles is more exciting than it used to be. Along with boosting the damage of Thorns and Roots, it also adds a daze effect to both your Force of Nature treants and to your Barkskin buff. That's going to be extremely nice for PvP, giving us a counter for both casters (by dropping the treants on them) and melee. It also boosts the damage of your treants by 15%, which will help in PvE too.

Nature's Grace is now a three-point talent but otherwise has the same effect. Nature's Splendor, which I discussed in Resto, also adds duration to Moonfire and Insect Swarm. Another example of an ostensibly boring talent that will probably prove to help with overall DPS and mana efficiency in raids.

Nature's Reach has an important change for Balance druids: more than just increasing your range, it now also reduces your threat by 10/20%. That's key because Subtlety in Resto will no longer reduce threat from Balance spells — only Resto — so we needed a threat drain somewhere. This is it!

Tier 4

Celesital Focus replaces its old pushback protection with spell haste, probably due to the changes in the pushback mechanism. Vengeance is basically unchanged, just adding Starfall to its list of affected spells.

Tier 5

Insect Swarm is now found here, rather than tier 3. It will be more of a defining spell for Balance druids now. There's also a Improved Insect Swarm talent here, but it's a bit weird. It's a synergy talent, boosting Wrath damage if the target has Insect Swarm on it. But it also boosts Starfire crit chance if the target's affected by Moonfire. Odd — but it gives you room to play with different spell rotations now.

Lunar Guidance is nerfed by about half, only giving 4/8/12% of your Intellect as Spell Power. Still pretty powerful though.

Tier 6

Fairly stable — neither Moonfury or Balance of Power have changed much. We've been told that Moonfury will be reduced to 3 points (instead of 5) but keep the same effect, to free up some of our talent "bloat". We also have Dreamstate here, down slightly from Tier 7. Speaking of:

Tier 7

Well, here we get Moonkin Form, of course. But the lazer chicken has changed:
                Old Moonkin      New Moonkin           Nerf/Buff
Bonus armor 400% 370% Nerf!
Spell Crit 5% to party 5% to raid Buff!
Melee AP 150% of level none Nerf - who cares?
Mana regen Chance on melee Chance on spell crit Buff!
Ultimately, this is a big buff to the form. I don't know yet how much mana we'll get back from spell crits, but it's got to be better than the melee mechanism we had before.

We now also have Improved Moonkin Form. It's got two benefits: it gives 3% haste to Moonkin aura, and it gives you spell power equal to 15% of your Spirit. Finally, a reason for Moonkin to use Spirit!

To wrap up Tier 7, Improved Faerie Fire now adds 3% immproved chance for spells to hit, as well as buffing your own spell damage on afflicted targets. It's nice that it does good for the Moonkin now, too.

Tier 8

Owlkin Frenzy looks like fun for PvP. It's a 'further improved' moonkin form that, when it procs, will give you both 10% damage bonus and spell pushback protection. Wrath of Cenarius is unchanged.

Tier 9

Typhoon was discussed in the new abilities post. Force of Nature is unchanged. But there's a lot more in Tier 9.

Gale Winds buffs both Hurricane and Tsunami Typhoon, adding 30% to their damage. It also adds 6 yards of range to your Cyclone. The latter buff is nice for PvP, while the former two will depend on those specific spells. Personally, I'm salivating over the AoE-tanking ability of Moonkin with Hurricane.

Eclipse is designed to be a tricky talent. Basically, it's designed to reward proc-watching, giving you a synergy where Wrath crits buff Starfire and vice versa. I suspect a skilled raiding Moonkin will take this and watch carefully for the right time to change rotation. For solo play or PvP this seems rather forgettable. It will however see a damage increase soon.

Tier 10

Earth and Moon is another raid-scale damage increase. This spell (which will, like Moonfury, be reduced to 3 points) procs off Starfire and Moonfire. It grants 13% damage bonus for all spell schools except, I believe, Holy. It also grants you up to 5% increased spell damage individually. This flat DPS increase would make it worthwhile, even apart from the aura affecting other raid members.

Tier 11

Finally! We've topped out on Starfall, which I've discussed previously. This is a spell which firmly falls into "wait and see" territory for me.

Resto Talents

There are also Resto talents that will benefit the Balance druid. Most notably, Omen of Clarity will now proc off spell casts, so it's very intersting to pick up. Along the way you might grab Nature's Focus, which adds 70% pushback resistance to Wrath, Entangling Roots, and Cyclone, along with a slew of healing spells. And Master Shapeshifter will give a tidy 4% damage boost to Moonkin form.

One other possibility to consider. When you reach level 80, you'll have 71 talent points to spend. That opens the possibility of a 50/0/21 build, taking Nature's Swiftness along with 50 points in Balance. You'd have to skip Starfall, but otherwise you could have a full-featured Balance build.


The balance talents are completely torn up and rebuilt. The tree is a lot better for it. I think that solo and 5-man play will be about equal to what they were before, but that was very good so we're fine. Raid play got a huge buff, with the raid-wide aura changes and increased utility. (And don't forget CC with roots!) I can't really assess PvP; it looks like we've got more tools to use but I'm not sure how well they'll stack up.

Hope you enjoyed this. Tomorrow I'll post my first-draft level 70 builds for both Resto and Balance. That's what I'll use Tuesday night when I respec.

09 October 2008

WotLK: Balance druid abilities

Here's a new catchphrase for Alamein: "Balance for show, resto for dough."

Feel free to quote it! I may be goofy, but that's a pretty accurate way to describe my druid experience. Resto is the real payoff for a mana-using druid; it fills the biggest need in either PvE or PvP. But Balance is a lot more showy. I mean, come on... lazer chickens! Don't get me wrong, I love healing, and it's going to be my first preference in groups or raids. But I really have a lot of fun switching back to Balance.

So I did my look at Resto already, but now I want to spend some time with Balance. To be honest, I've spent less time with this, because I think it's easier to learn on the fly, simply because I can't learn healing skills in solo play. (Even with tanking, you can try your stuff for a while on your own. But there's nothing in solo play that's comparable to healing a group — your only practice option is to run battlegrounds.)

New Balance Abilities

There's only two new Balance spells, both coming from talents. I still don't feel like I have a firm grip on how to use them, but they both look like they'll be pretty cool.

Typhoon (talented): This is an instant cast cone attack; it does both damage and a knockback effect. (They should have named it Tsunami, which makes a lot more sense. The visual effect even looks like a wave.) It requires 40 points in Balance, so it's comparable to Force of Nature — deep Balance. It's got a chunky mana cost (36% of base mana) and does moderate damage; it's on a 20-sec cooldown.

This is a killer spell for PvP. The instant-cast damage is good, but its biggest use will be to knock away melee attackers. It'll also be good for interrupting spell casts. The knockback also has potential to be deadly if players are near an edge or cliff; I shudder to think of the carnage on the bridge leading to Dun Baladar, for example.

I'm less sure of its use in PvE. From a pure damage perspective, you'll want to save it for groups of mobs. Against single targets, Moonfire will do a bit more instant damage for 60% of the mana cost. So you about break even on 2 mobs, and get ahead of Moonfire against 3 or more. You'll have to be tactical about the knockback effect. I can imagine a Typhoon-Roots combo being useful against single mobs, or using it as an escape mechanism when you're jumped by a pack. But you'll have to be careful about where the knockback will take your mobs — don't knock them back into another group or (egads!) over a bridge in an instance. They'll come looking for you, and drag half the instance with them.

Starfall (talented): This is the new crowning 51-point talent: the ultimate Balance ability. It's another instant-cast effect, doing pure damage. It operates in a circle around the caster, dropping up to 20 stars on targets within 30 yards. If you move, the effect will move with you. The stars do direct damage to the target, and then splash damage to targets 5 yards around the target. Overlapping circles! Costs 35% of base mana &mdash about like Typhoon — and it's on a 3-min cooldown.

The interesting thing is that this is both an AoE and a single-target spell. If you have one target in range, it will receive hits from the stars every second. (I believe half the stars are 'lost,' however.) But if you add more mobs, the stars spread around, and you also get the splash damage effects. If everything is tightly packed, the synergy will grow quickly, as each target will get its own star and splash damage from all the other stars falling nearby. Damage will fall off somewhat if you can't get things packed in around you, but the stars will do good damage.

This will rock in both PvP and PvE; the only challenge will be the cooldown. It'll mostly be used to deal with groups, but I can also see popping it to up your DPS against a boss or other elite target. It'll be very cool for AoE grinding, except that it's only up once every 3 minutes. And don't forget, it's an instant-cast buff, so you can do other things while it's working. Even better, it uses Celestial Focus just like Starfire, so you can talent for a chance to stun the targets it hits (especially nice for PvP).

There you go — two new abilities. Pretty cool stuff! But there are big changes to our existing abilities too.

Changed Balance Abilities

Entangling Roots (baseline): This now works indoors. Wow — you'll be able to CC using roots in your instance runs. This burden will mostly fall on Balance druids; a druid who can kite and chain-root a mob will be really useful. Also nice in PvP of course. But remember, the target is still awake and active. Don't bother rooting a caster, and make sure everyone stays away from rooted melee.

Hurricane (baseline): Pretty simple, really: no cooldown. Hurricane still uses a big chunk of mana, so it's not like you can endlessly chain-cast this. But it's there when you want it. Nicest for AoE grinding and battleground PvP.

Hibernate (baseline): Now works on Dragonkin, which should help you CC in some of the WotLK instances. No PvP impact.

Nature's Grasp (baseline): Yeah, Nature's Grasp is now baseline. It's also bumped to a 100% chance to proc — no more Improved NG to worry about. This will be great for PvP and somewhat situational for PvE. It also means the damn button will stay on my action bars when I respec. Yay for that!

Soothe Animal (baseline): Now affects Dragonkin too. Um... might be slightly situationally useful in a few pulls in dragonkin-infested instances? I'm struggling here. The only time I use Soothe Animal is when I'm fishing in Terrokar Forest and want the wolves and warp stalkers to leave me alone.

This should really have been with the Resto stuff, but:

Barkskin (baseline) is now useable in Tree form. It's a great change for trees, and also removes the biggest source of druid irony.

So: some significant changes for Balance druids. The new spells are pretty cool, but the biggest effect is going to be indoor roots and dragonkin CC. These won't make Moonkin into CC kings, but they do make us a lot more useful, and will really change our playstyle.

The Balance talent tree has seen a pretty big overhaul too. I'll talk about that next.

07 October 2008

WotLK: new resto druid talents

Yesterday I looked at the new resto abilities, including Wild Growth, the new 51-point talented spell. Today I wanted to look at the other talents, and how they will affect the way we heal. I'm going to focus mostly on PvE, since that's what I know best.

In BC, PvE Resto talent builds were pretty easy: take just about everything in the Resto tree. There are 68 possible talent points in Resto. With 61 points to spend, you'd think you'd have some choice, but not so. Nine of those points are found in Furor, Natural Shapeshifter, and Omen of Clarity, which have almost no relevance to healing. So you could take 59 points in Resto, have all the healing-related talents, and have two points left over to spend wherever. (Natural Shapeshifter was the usual best bet, in case you had to shift out of tree form to cast a Healing Touch.)

That's... kind of boring, really. I would sometimes take 11 points in Balance to get Insect Swarm, to help mitigate incoming tank damage. But the other 10 points in Balance had zero relevance to healing, so really a 61-point resto build was the only worthy option.

That's going to change in Wrath of the Lich King. First, the basic math. You have 71 points to spend, with 78 points in the tree. Similar to BC, except there are a few more options now. First, the new talent Master Shapeshifter has benefits for healing: with two points, it adds 4% to your healing power in Tree form. Not shabby, but you'll have to invest 3 points into Natural Shapeshifter as a prerequisite. I think that most pure PvE builds will skip this, but it's at least viable; 4% additional healing isn't too horrible for 5 talent points.

The other big change is that you'll really debate putting points into the Balance tree. In the first 3 tiers, there are 14 points that improve your healing ability:

  • Genesis (5 points): This adds up to 5% to your periodic abilities — in other words, your HoTs. Pure added healing power.

  • Moonglow (3 points): A 9% reduction in the mana cost of several spells, including Healing Touch, Rejuvenation, and Regrowth. That's a reasonable mana cost reduction.

  • Nature's Majesty (2 points): Adds 4% to the crit chance of Nourish and Healing Touch. That's mediocre, but at least it adds to healing. But this gets you to 10 points in Balance, which opens up...

  • Nature's Grace (3 points): Formerly a 21-point talent, this is now accessible as an 11-12-13 point talent, ultimately giving you a 100% chance on spell crit to cut your next cast time by half a second. Doesn't help your staple Lifeblooms or Rejuvs, but it really helps with HT and especially Regrowth. When you factor in the added 50% crit chance for a fully-talented Regrowth, you're looking at a lot of Nature's Grace procs. That can make for some interesting Regrowth-focused builds. And there's one other useful talent in early Balance...

  • Nature's Splendor (1 point): This adds duration to your HoTs — Rejuv gets 3 seconds, Lifebloom gets 2, and Regrowth gets 6. That's one extra tick for Rejuv and two for Lifebloom and Regrowth. You can count this two ways. If you figure a fire-and-forget HoT, like you might drop on a damaged DPS, you'll get a simple increase in healing done of 20% for Rejuv, and 28% on the HoT portion of Lifebloom and Regrowth. Or if you're keeping the spells active on a tank — casting a new one when the old expires — you'll instead get a comparable mana cost reduction because you cast the spell less often. It's not a simple percentage increase; you don't get the benefit if your HoTs are overhealing, if you Swiftmend them away, or if you overwrite them before they're done. But this talent has the potential to really add to your healing power in a subtle and interesting way.
So that's the Balance tree. With those talents, there will be some Resto builds that take up to 14 points in Balance, which means more choice on the Resto side. But what do those choices entail? Here are some of the new or changed talents that are worth considering.
  • Omen of Clarity (1 point): This used to be the bastard stepchild of Resto: great for Feral builds but useless for healing. No longer! It now has a chance to proc on spells as well as melee attacks, making your next spell free. It's gone from a must-skip to a must-have.

  • Improved Tranquility (2 points): In addition to its old effect, this now reduces the cooldown on Tranq down to 4 minutes. I think this is a big difference, because you'll be able to count on Tranq a lot more.

  • Living Seed (3 points): I'll just quote the text:
    When you critically heal your target with Swiftmend, Regrowth, Nourish or Healing Touch spell you have a 100% chance to plant a Living Seed on the target for 30% of the amount healed. The Living Seed will bloom when the target is next attacked. Lasts 15 sec.
    I think this can be really powerful, but it will be very situational. If you're just using Lifebloom/Rejuv on a tank, you'll never see it. If you top off a DPS-er who's no longer under attack, the seed will expire with no effect. But if you're madly healing a tank with everything you've got, or if you're racing to heal widespread and ongoing raid damage, this is going to get you a 30% extra heal on a regular basis. It's the kind of talent that won't help unless you're really in trouble — but then, it could save your bacon.

  • Replenish (3 points): I used to be excited about this, but now I'm not. Again, to quote:
    Your Rejuvenation spell has a 15% chance to restore 8 Energy, 4 Rage, 1% Mana or 16 Runic Power per tick.
    The problem is that it's a low chance to work and a low amount returned. Normal Rejuv gets 5 ticks. That means, on average, your targets will get 6 Energy, 3 Rage, .75% Mana, or 12 Runic Power from a full-duration Rejuv. (Increase that by another 1/5 if you take Nature's Splendor.) That's almost nothing — it won't even be noticed. If this isn't boosted, I think it'll be skipped in most builds.

  • Improved Tree of Life (3 points): This has two effects. For one, it doubles your armor when you're in Tree form. Nice; it makes Tree very useful in PvP which is cool. But more importantly, it increases your healing power by 15% of your Spirit.

    In some ways, this covers the nerf to Tree form that came with raid buff equalization. Formerly, Tree gave your party members a bonus to healing received of 25% of your spirit. Now the Tree aura covers the whole raid... but it's limited to a flat 6% healing bonus. The improved Tree talent gives you a reason to like Spirit again, and really adds to the power of Tree form.

    I'd like to do the math to compare the two. But you start getting into the Healing to Spell Power conversion, spell coefficients, average spell rotation... in short, it's complicated. That may be a post on its own.

  • Gift of the Earthmother (5 points): This is deceptively simple: it cuts the GCD on Rejuv, Wild Growth, and Lifebloom by 20%. With no Haste gear, that cuts the GCD on these spells from 1.5 sec to 1.2 sec. That will basically get you one more spell stuffed into your Lifebloom maintenance, which is pretty cool. You can't get the GCD beneath 1 sec, so if you're really stacking haste gear, this might become redundant. I don't know whether that will be realistic given the WotLK gear that's available.

  • Wild Growth is the new 51-point Resto talent, but I talked about that yesterday.
So that's it — the big changes in our talent tree. I think the new talents have the potential to change druid healing in WotLK by a fair bit. If you grab Nature's Grace or Omen of Clarity, you'll be watching for procs and adjusting your casts accordingly. Improved Tranquility might lead you to cast Tranq more often. And Gift of the Earthmother could give you time to do more between refreshing stacks of Lifebloom.

More importantly, those interesting Balance talents will lead to more diversity in Resto builds. The default 0/0/71 build will be viable, but so will anything from 5/0/66 to 14/0/57. I think there's some good possibilities for healing builds that go deep Balance too — new Restokin builds and others. More to come on that!

06 October 2008

WotLK: new resto druid abilities

I read a lot of beta discussion posts. Normally I focus on anything with an official Blizzard 'blue post', through the MMO-Champion BlueTracker. Recently, I've started wading into the WotLK beta druid forums directly. It's painful due to the whining found in every beta forum for every class, but if you're willing to overlook the tears, there can be interesting discussions from time to time.

I don't have a beta account, so I can neither test beta tools nor post in the beta forum. I could test on the PTR, and I've been tempted... but I haven't yet. (Maybe in the next cycle.) But I still have thoughts about the upcoming talent changes, and I wanted to write those out. I'll focus on the Restoration changes here.

Overall — and despite the crying — I think healing will be OK. The developers have explicitly decreed that a) every spec should be competitive, and b) hybrid classes will no longer be gimped a bit just because they're versatile. I don't think they're clueless enough to go live with major druid healing deficiencies, and I think they'll address minor deficiencies in an early patch.

(Some history on patches. Burning Crusade launched on 16 January 2007, based on patch 2.0.5. Patch 2.0.6 (23 January) had a few balance fixes, but the big balance patch for was 2.0.10. It dropped on 6 March 2007. So: some quick fixes were released one week after launch, and the serious rebalancing work came about 3 months after launch. I expect a broadly similar cycle for WotLK, but the 'big' balance patch will come sooner — say, early to mid January.)

In other words: druid healers will be viable. How could they not? So for me, the WotLK questions come down to a few different worries:

  • Will Resto druids be better or worse healers than in BC?
  • Will Resto be more or less fun than in BC?
  • What tools or talents will be mandatory or useless?

I'll look at the talents in detail. But today I want to look at our new Resto heals, and how we might end up using them.

Revive (base) will finally give us a standard rez spell; it only works out of combat, and returns toons with minimal health and mana, but there's no cooldown. This will make druid-healed runs go faster than before. It's not going to win more fights for us, but will make life much more pleasant.

Nourish (base) is a new direct heal. It's broadly comparable to a priest's Flash Heal: it's a direct heal (not a HoT), with lower cast time, mana cost, and healing output than Healing Touch. It's designed for situations where Healing Touch will either take too long, or will cost more than its worth. It also has a bonus component if you already have a HoT running on the target; unlike Swiftmend, it doesn't consume the HoT.

The challenge is to make Nourish work alongside Regrowth. Regrowth has all the same components: a direct heal with shorter cast and lower mana cost than HT. But it also adds a small, long-lasting HoT, and with talents it has a big (> 50%) chance to crit.

So why would you use Nourish over Regrowth? It's a tricky balance and one that Blizzard has wrestled with a bit. The biggest factor is that Nourish is a faster cast, by .5 sec. That's not much, but it's designed for the "oh crap!" moments in a healer's life. The other piece is that Nourish now has a significantly lower mana cost, so you can spread a few around without seriously depleting your mana the way Regrowth would.

This is going to be the toughest spell to work into the rotation. Right now, I'll drop Regrowth on any non-tank toon who's taken a chunk of damage. After 3.0.2 I'll probably try to use Regrowth if I expect more incoming damage, and Nourish otherwise. The key question will be whether I trust Nourish to heal them enough for me to go do other things. We'll see if that works as intended.

Wild Growth (talented) is the showiest new spell we'll get. It's our 51-point healing talent — the bold statement that "I'm full Resto and proud of it!" It's 5-man, semi-targeted heal: it heals 5 toons within 15 yards. It's a HoT, but the anti-Lifebloom: its biggest tick is its first, and it tapers off from there. Oh, and it's instant cast.

I still have questions about the mechanics of this spell: how it's targeted, how the AoE range works, who will receieve the HoT, and so forth. So I have only provisional thoughts right now. But this will be a very powerful spell to combat raid- or group-wide damage.

Tranquility is the interesting comparison here, since it's also an AoE group-wide heal. Tranq is a punishing spell: huge mana cost, channeled, with an AoE that players often miss. But it deals out a huge amount of healing, which can really make it worthwhile. What's interesting is that Tranquility got a reasonable buff too; with talents you can bring the cooldown to 4 minutes. That's great — it means you can use it on multiple trash fights in a row, or on several tries at a boss. It's the kind of spell that can uniquely prevent a wipe.

I don't think Wild Growth will be that powerful, but it'll be a more convenient option when there's widespread damage. Today when that happens, we have to choose between spending GCDs on healing our DPS brethren or on our tank heals. Choices include ignoring wounded DPS or risking a tank death. (Or we can pop Tranquility – once — with all the challenges that entails.) Now there's a third way: we can drop a Wild Growth, and we know that the worst-off should get some health even if we can't catch them directly. I predict it won't directly save us from wipes, but it will keep more DPS toons alive — and more DPS will solve a lot of wipes.

Where does that leave us? There's nothing seriously game-changing here, in the way that Lifebloom and Swiftmend completely altered our healing in Burning Crusade. I think that's a good thing. We'll be doing mostly the same things we've been doing before, with a few extra tricks up our sleeve (branch). We'll still stack Lifebloom on the tank, still drop LB or Rejuv when DPS takes damage, still Swiftmend to deal with spike damage. Having done that for a couple years, I'm not sure I'd want to start casting Chain Heal or Flash of Light all the time; it's not what we do. So I'm glad we'll be doing mostly the same things.

So we'll be 90% the same healers we were, but it's that extra 10% that I'm looking forward to. My belief is that Nourish and Wild Growth will give me two tools that cover gaps where previously I had few choices. We'll see how it plays out, but for now I'm optimistic.

(Next: detailed look at the talents we're getting. Builds will be vastly different!)

03 October 2008


I have a few posts I'd like to follow up on.

Inscription: What will it take?

WotLKWiki now has a good starter Guide to Inscription available. It's more advanced than what I cobbled together, but only goes up through 300 skill right now. Here's the list they came up with:
  • 3-5 stacks of Alabaster-giving herbs
  • 2-4 stacks of Dusky-giving herbs
  • 6-8 stacks of Golden-giving herbs
  • 5-7 stacks of Emerald-giving herbs
  • 5-7 stacks of Violet-giving herbs
  • 6-8 stacks of Silvery-giving herbs

Based on this, my estimate of 5 stacks looks a bit low but in the right ballpark. Watch the WotLKWiki guide; I'm sure they'll update it fairly quickly as more information is released.

Current WotLK Questions

Most of these are still unanswered. We did get a bit of an update to the Resto Druid questions. So says the ever-communicative Ghostcrawler:
Here are the changes we're making next patch. See how they feel.

Wild Growth: Coefficient and healing increased. Mana cost decreased. Cost should be about the same as Circle of Healing. It doesn't heal instantly, but will heal for about double what CoH does over its duration.

Nourish: Reduced mana cost by somewhere between 15 and 20%. This is supposed to be your Flash Heal, but we recognize that it doesn't have the same versatility -- you can't just drop one on a wounded rogue or something since you need the hot up first. Hence the lower price.

Druids have quite an arsenal of healing spells now, and it can be tricky to find niches for all of them. :)

That's starting to get some usefulness into these spells. I'm provisionally confident that I'll have to find space for them now, which is a good thing.

Wild Growth looks like it will be our best bet for fighting AoE damage. It's both less powerful and less costly (less mana, no cooldown, no time channeled) than Tranquility, so it will be a less-panicky panic button. I see using it for example when a boss Whirlwinds and starts cutting up the melee.

Nourish will be interesting; it's less costly and faster casting than Regrowth. Nourish will do more instant healing but less overall healing compared to the full run of Regrowth. It will probably be best used when a non-tank's been gibbed, quickly pulling him back from death's door with a Rejuv+Nourish or even a naked Nourish. It'll also be potentially useful when the tank is getting low, to get to a more comfortable zone where you can let your HoTs tick.

So I think both spells will prove to be useful; it just remains to see if they're extremely situational or if they become staples of our healing arsenal. The biggest open question is how hard Lifebloom has been nerfed and whether they'll un-nerf it a little bit.


After looking at my list of trinkets, I was able to delete 7 of them, as well as a [Cache of Mau'ari] I'd been holding. But I also ended up grabbing two trinkets I had missed: [Airman's Ribbon of Gallantry] and [Skyguard Silver Cross] They're both available at Exalted with the Sha'tari Skyguard. They're both great for solo dailies or leveling, either for casters (ribbon) or for physical DPS (cross). The key is the proc: with every kill (giving honor or exp) there's a 50% chance to get buffed with either +80 spell damage or +140 AP for 30 sec. Not quite as good as most on-use trinket bonuses, but this will be up a lot more often. So I'll use other things for instances but this for solo work. It's a good excuse for me to start running Skyguard dailies with Sali.

02 October 2008

Restokin today

Edit: I'm seeing a lot of hits to this page from people searching for a 3.0.2 Restokin build. That's not on this post, but I took a stab at it in my First draft talent builds post.

Let's talk about Restokin. This is the hybrid Balance/Resto spec for druids. I've also seen it called DS/NS (for Dreamstate/Nature's Swiftness). The defining feature is a mostly even split of talent points between Balance and Restoration, usually taking Moonkin form in Balance and Nature's Swiftness in Resto.

I've spent a lot of time in variations on this spec and I enjoy it quite a bit. I don't remember the details, but the last third of my leveling experience with Alamein was as a Restokin. I specced into it sometime shortly past level 50, and kept it up for quite a bit after I hit 70. My first several Karazhan runs were as a Restokin. Since then, I've mostly switched between full Resto and full Balance, with a good chunk of time in Feral learning how to tank. I got tired of constantly respeccing, so last week I jumped back into Restokin.

Let's be clear: a Restokin is a compromise. In most situations you won't DPS as well as a full Balance build, and you usually won't heal as well as a full Resto build. My goal was to get to a single spec where I could heal Heroics, run battlegrounds, and run dailies with equal ease. The Restokin is great at this. I suspect it's good in Arena too, but I'm a total Arena noob so I won't presume to offer advice in that direction.


Here's my current 31/0/30 Restokin build. (Edit: Talent build link no longer works with the launch of 3.0.2.) First, I would NOT recommend this particular build; I tried a few things to be different and I'd do it differently if I tried again. I was going to show my preferred build, but it will be obsolete in a couple weeks anyway. The basic principles, however, will still be the same.

Some of the key talents:


Insect Swarm: It's easy to forget how useful this spell is. It doesn't go BOOM but it still puts out a good bit of damage, and the reduced chance to hit is helpful in both PvP and PvE.

Celestial Focus: I shouldn't have skipped this, the pushback resistance for Wrath is pretty important. I'm curious how this will play out when 3.0.2 hits because the pushback mechanism will change so much.

Lunar Guidance: Absolutely key. This talent means that I have more +heal as Restokin than I do in full Resto. It compensates for giving up tree form and the other Resto talents that add to specific healing spells. It also means that today a Restokin should stack Intellect. Not sure, but that may change some in WotLK.

Nature's Grace: Another great one to have. As a Restokin, you'll be using more Healing Touch and Regrowth than as a tree, so Nature's Grace will help you a lot.

Moonglow: This is an optional talent, depending on whether you want to focus more on pure DPS/HPS or on mana efficiency. It's actually more important for your healing side. If you want this, you'd sacrifice some points from Moonfury.

My current build skips most of the mana efficiency talents. I definitely feel the effects; in healing Heroics, mana has been a challenge but manageable. (Specifically: I haven't gone OOM yet, but I have been using a lot of Innervates and mana pots.)

Dreamstate: Another mana efficiency talent. This can be a huge benefit for Restokin — it's why they're often known as "DS/NS" druids. The synergy between Dreamstate and Intensity is huge. I suspect that with 3.0.2 I'll really want this back again, because mana management will be a lot more important.

Moonkin Form: This is why you're a Restokin. Great for soloing and battlegrounds. Moonkin Form + Barkskin is amazingly survivable, and is the closest thing to a short-term caster tank you'll see. Also not bad if you're healing an instance and adds come calling; it gives your tank some extra time to regain aggro.


Naturalist: You'll choose between this and Nature's Focus. Naturalist is better for instance healing and maybe AV; Nature's Focus is better for PvP.

Intensity: A no-brainer, especially since the lower-tier talents are otherwise optional.

Subtlety: Really useful for threat management when healing instances. I usually end up with 4 points in this. If I were focusing on PvP I might be inclined to shift points into Natural Shapeshifter, but I'd want to think about the dispel resistance of Subtlety, especially for Arena. Don't steal my HoTs!

Nature's Swiftness: Another spec-defining talent — moreso for Restokin than for pure Resto builds. Use this exclusively with Healing Touch. Here's a quick and dirty macro for it:
/cast Nature's Swiftness
/cast Healing Touch
WowWiki has more complex NS macros that are worth checking out. Congrats: you now have a giant instant heal on a 3-minute cooldown. I just loooove dropping this in battlegrounds — there is nothing better for frustrating the opposition — but it's a great panic heal for instances too. And you're already healing in elf/tauren form anyway so you don't have to worry about tree form.

Your remaining Resto points should be spent as you see fit. Gift of Nature benefits everything a little bit. Beyond that, you can focus on Rejuvenation with Improved Rejuvenation, Regrowth with Improved Regrowth, or Healing Touch with Empowered Touch.


You'll heal in elf/tauren form and DPS in Moonkin form. You've got a lot of flexibility to adjust to different situations; make sure to use it.

Solo PvE: Nothing special here: you're basically a (slightly underpowered) Moonkin, and you'll solo the same way. I usually lead with Starfire and Moonfire, use Entangling Roots and Insect Swarm, then Starfire or Wrath as appropriate. Keep an eye on your Nature's Grace procs — it will make the cast time of Wrath less than the GCD, which can mess up your rotation if you're not careful. (I believe this is fixed in WotLK.) Don't forget your NS/HT macro panic button; it should get you around half your health back instantly.

Also: think about using melee on the last 10% of a mob's health to regen mana, as melee regens mana in Moonkin form. You'll kill the mob more slowly and take some damage, but you'll be at (for example) 80% health and 80% mana instead of 95% health and 40% mana. It'll speed up your solo work.

Group PvE: Don't be surprised to find yourself using Regrowth and Healing Touch a lot more than you do as a tree. You don't have Swiftmend and your HoTs don't tick as hard; you'll make up for that with direct heals. Nature's Grace will really help with this, especially with a few points in Improved Regrowth. Mana management will be your biggest issue; expect to use Innervate a lot, along with mana pots and maybe Drums of Restoration too. If you're having trouble, try moving talent points into Dreamstate and maybe Moonglow.

One of the advantages of healing in elf/tauren form is that you can attack a bit on the side, when you can spare the mana or GCD. Your first priority beyond healing should be to drop Insect Swarm whenever you can. The damage is nice, but the -2% hit will help your healing too. You can also switch to pure DPS at the end of a fight if you're OK on healing.

Battleground PvP: You do the most good in battlegrounds if you heal, so make that your first choice. Spread Lifebloom and Rejuv around liberally. Lifebloom is especially nice because it protects your allies from Purges. Use Regrowth for people in combat with more than 50% of their health.

Use your NS/HT macro for anyone who's down around 25%, or lower if they're in single combat. They'll love you for it! Watch for line of sight though. If you target someone who runs out of line of sight, your NS will go off but the HT will fail. Your NS buff is still active: you can either regain LOS and try HT again, or find someone else to give your insta-HT.

Use Moonkin form if you're sucked into melee combat or if the healing is covered by someone else. Cyclone is a great tool; look for someone casting a big spell or with a short-term buff like The Beast Within. Save your Cyclone for someone who's not currently targeted; you don't want to cause your allies to waste their attacks. Spread Insect Swarm around liberally; both the damage and the -hit are useful. If you're not getting pummeled, use Hibernate on animals that aren't being attacked. Hunter pets are an obvious target but cat or bear druids are better. Even if they trinket out of it, you've used up their trinket cooldown.

(There are probably interesting things about running a Restokin in Arenas, but I'll leave that to someone who knows Arena better than me.)

That's the nickel guide to running a Restokin. When talents get worked out a bit, I'll take a stab at what a WotLK Restokin would look like. Hm, would I rather have Swiftmend or Force of Nature? Decisions, decisions....

01 October 2008


Lag last night was pretty hellacious for some reason, so I spent some time looking through Alamein's bank. It's completely full — and I have a guilded bank alt who holds a lot of stuff. Some things are obvious problems, though.

I have 21 trinkets.

I can come up with a lot of excuses why. I won four new trinkets from Coren Direbrew in the last week. I have trinkets for just about every spec: boomkin, tree, cat, bear. I have trinkets for different needs: Mp5 vs. healing power, for instance. I have trinkets for PvP and PvE. I have some fun, funky trinkets. I have two different speed trinkets. And so forth.

The full list:
[Balebrew Charm]
[Dark Iron Smoking Pipe]
[Direbrew Hops]
[Empty Mug of Direbrew]
[Stormpike Insignia Rank 6]
[Badge of Tenacity]
[Barov Peasant Caller]
[Charm of Swift Flight]
[Lower City Prayerbook]
[Medallion of the Alliance]
[Riding Crop]
[Scryer's Bloodgem]
[Vengeance of the Illdari]
[Ancient Draenei Arcane Relic]
[Chained Essence of Eranikus]
[Glowing Crystal Insignia]
[Heavenly Inspiration]
[Hypnotist's Watch]
[Mark of Resolution]
[Oshu'gun Relic]

I can safely delete most of these, I'm sure. Now, which ones to choose...