Thursday, August 21, 2008

What does it take to succeed in WoW?

The answer is rather simple: don't be an idiot. If you are even half paying attention and aren't a complete scrub, you'll probably get as far as you want to in WoW.

I'm going to do the Aged Grandfather thing and embarrass my guildies by telling stories about them now. The long and short of it is that they aren't scrubs, and don't know how good they really are.

Take Gorgor, our Hunter. He takes no end of flak for being a Hunter. Let's face it: everyone makes fun of Huntards. The class will be forever prejudiced against and stigmatized. But the thing is that Gorgor is actually the exception to the rule — he's a good Hunter.

I'm not going to say that his pet has never accidentally pulled aggro, or that he's never made any mistakes. Instead, his mistakes are so few and far between that you tend to forget that he's there.

Tanks and healers get to be superstars when they save the day, but how often do you think “dude, that Hunter just totally saved my butt!”. Not often. And yet, I can think of a number of times that Gorgor has been there for me, whether it be bandaging me while I DPS because the healer is focused on the MT, or laying down a Freeze Trap between my Mind Controlled mob and my body, or whatever.

Gorgor doesn't raid much — having little kids will do that to you. But after two weeks in Kara he'd picked up enough blues and purples that it looked like he was ready ...

Last night with us, Gorgor ran his very first Heroic.

The dungeon in question was Arcatraz — one of the hard-mode Heroics. Not only did he comport himself admirably, he managed to top the damage and DPS charts. Oh, and he died less often than everyone else. Not half bad, I think.

And sure, it irks me to no-end that this lowbie Kara-level Hunter can out-DPS me. I'm not bitter. Not at all.

But I digress.

Then there's Groosalugg, our Protection Warrior and MT. Groos pines for the days when he was specced Fury, and half-heartedly threatens once a week to respec back for good. He raids with roughly the same frequency as Gorgor, which is to say some Kara and maybe one other dungeon per week. I believe that Warcrafter ranks the two of them within a couple of gear points of each other.

And yet, for that infrequency and Kara-level gearing, Groos is an exceptional tank. He's exceptional to the point that I'll give him my highest praise: even with him in pre-Kara blues and greens and me in all purples at 1175 spell damage, I still had a hard time pulling aggro off of him. Even when I could, he'd almost always get it right back before I got squished.

On his first outing to Kara two weeks ago he was OT for most of it, switching to MT when it made more sense, and we one-shotted our way through almost the entire dungeon. On his first time ever seeing Maiden he was the MT and pulled off the kite-to-pop-the-healer maneuver flawlessly.

I'm lucky to run with such great people. We're calm on Vent. We handle wipes well. We take our time and think things through. PUGging is made all the more reprehensible because I know what it's like to be part of good group.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Arena: still mostly hopeless

This week's Arena record: 2-8. And yet, we still get the occasional gem like this:
We won an Arena match!
Shadow Priest and Prot Warrior — there's a reason our Arena team name contains the word “ludicrous”.

I am trying to figure out if it would be worth it to respec for Arena matches. If nothing else, the lack of Silence in my raiding spec is a major handicap. But if I'm going to respec, why not go Disc so that I can last longer than 15 seconds? Is it worth 100g for the pair of respecs? Napkin math says probably not — at least not until we get serious about Arena and actually care what our rating us. Until then, we're just farming points, and the gold could be better spent elsewhere.

Oh, and this just in: you might want to equip your PvP trinket for Arena matches. Maybe.

Friday, August 15, 2008

How To: Shadow Priest in Karazhan

I've been looking over the traffic reports for this blog, and it seems that many people get here because they are looking for advice on what Shadow Priests should do in Kara. This one's for all of you.

First things first: remember that Shadow Priests (and Frost Mages and Warlocks) have the potential to significantly outgear most other classes at a Kara level. This includes tanks especially. Because we can complete our FSW set at 70, we're sitting on 3 purples the moment we step through the door to Kara. Many tanks won't be geared this well — there are a ton of tank drops in Kara that will help them catch up, but they may not be there just yet.

Because of this gear imbalance, a Shadow Priest will generally have to be extremely careful with their threat when running Kara with a fresh group. When you start to get Kara on farm it won't be so much of an issue, but it definitely is when you are just starting out. Keep an eye on your threat meter (you cannot run as a Shadow Priest without one) and make sure you are never at the top of the list.

Here are some Shadow Priest tips for each fight:

Do what all of the other ranged DPS are doing. That is, give the tanks a few moments to build threat, then go to town and make sure you don't out-threat them. You probably won't need to keep up VE during Attumen, as it should be just the tanks that are taking damage, and they probably aren't in your group.

When Attumen and Midnight join, make sure you stack up on their rear with everyone else. Their charge is nasty and you're squishy.


Priests, Shadow and Holy, can turn Moroes from a nightmare into a breeze. You have exactly one job in the Moroes fight: keep your target shackled. You've got the focus shackle macro, right?

#showtooltip Shackle Undead
/clearfocus [target=focus,dead][target=focus,help][target=focus,noexists]
/focus [target=focus,noexists]
/cast [target=focus] Shackle Undead

Generally, I find that if you reapply your shackle as each of the other mobs go down, you are probably okay. Or, if the rest of the DPS is going slowly, just count out 3 Mind Blasts between reapplications of your shackle. It's better to reapply the shackle far too soon than even a little too late. Your DPS for this fight is almost unimportant — always interrupt your spells to reshackle if you need to.

VE can be useful here to counteract the bleed effect from Garrote, but do be careful that you don't use it too soon and pull agrro from one of the mobs.

Most of the time, I don't SWD for this fight. It's not just the Garotte, but there is also and the potential for a long fight if the DPS is on the low side, meaning you need to be mana-conscious. If you run out of mana, you can't reapply your shackle.


Priests and Paladins are crucial for Maiden. If you are the only one, you are going to have a rough time of things. The DOT that Maiden applies must be dispelled. Again, that means that if you have to interrupt your DPS to dispel, that's okay. It helps to have an addon like Decursive so that you can see and dispel with a single click.

Other than that, just stand with your back to a pillar and go nuts.

VE is useful here, as you aren't worried about threat.

SWD is a double-edged sword: if you can time it right, it will get you out of the silence phase. But if you mistime it, especially if you happen to get DOTted at the same time, you can one-shot yourself. Use it with extreme caution.

Opera: Wizard of Oz

There isn't much for a Shadow Priest beyond DPS here. You might be asked to fear Tito when he comes out, if there are no Warlocks in your party. I don't normally throw in VE or SWD until after Dorothy goes down. (She may not have an aggro table, but the others certainly do, and remember that your VE draws aggro from every single mob, not just one one you are targeting.)

Opera: Big Bad Wolf

You may want to use your focused chain-shield macro here to help the transformed player stay up. Beyond that, do your best to stay away from the Wolf and DPS him down. If everyone can stay away from the Wolf you don't need to be worried about aggro, so VE and SWD as much as you would like.

Opera: Romulo and Julianne

Tank-n-spank. If you know that you aren't going to have mana issues, and have a pair of good tanks, you can DOT up both of them to help get them down faster.


Ignore everything going on around you except Curator. No matter what the RL tells the other ranged DPS to do (kill the sparks), you need to focus on Curator. If the other DPS is slow, you may need to shield yourself if you get a spark, but you shouldn't have to switch targets.

Keep up VE at all times, as there's going to be a fair amount of raid damage. You can SWD for most of the fight, but you may want to drop it towards the end when Curator begins to evocate. At that point you will be doing massive DPS, and you don't want to one-shot yourself.

Shade of Aran

Do not move during Flame Wreath!

Beyond that, do what everyone else is doing. When you see yourself get targeted by Shade, shield immediately — you're about to take a bunch of damage. Don't bother trying to Fade. You can try to fear the elementals when they pop, but don't count on it working 100% of the time.

You probably want to keep up VE for most of the fight, but be careful with it as it comes time for elementals to pop. You have the potential to draw immediate aggro from every one of them if VE is up, they pop, and you SWD crit. It should go without saying that if you see yourself get targeted, that would not be the best time to SWD.


Unlike Curator, for Illhoof you must switch targets to the chains whenever they come up. Yeah, your DPS is going to probably drop significantly for this fight. Beyond that, do what ranged DPS is doing.


Make sure you get a rotation in the blue beam, that you have VE up, and that you DO NOT use SWD when you are in it. Never stack higher than 30 or 35 stacks of the buff before stepping out of it. Give your tank time to get aggro when the banish phase is over — don't do anything dumb before the red beam comes back up.

Oh, and remember to check out your DPS while standing in the blue beam. You won't see that again until Sunwell.

Prince Malchezzar

You may have to help dispel DOTs on the MT — this is especially crucial at the 63% range before Phase 2 is started, as you don't want the tank going into Phase 2 with anything less than full health. If you get the axes on you, shield and ignore them.

VE is normally not really useful until after Phase 1 is over, at which point you should keep it up until the end of the fight. Watch the SWD — if you mistime it and SWD as an enfeeble hits, you're down.


Watch your aggro during the air phases and do not DOT Nightbane during this time. Keep VE up the entire fight. SWD should be timed so that you know you won't be standing in the fire when the backlash hits. That is, it's safer right after a charred earth has just popped and you aren't in it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Blizzard party and raid frames: FAIL

In an attempt to clean out some of the cruft leftover from constantly trying and removing new addons, I wiped my addons folder last night and reinstalled everything from scratch. Well, almost everything. I didn't reinstall Pitbull. For those that don't know, Pitbull is a set of replacement raid and party frames. Similar addons include CT and XPerl.

As I've shown before, I have a rather heavily modified UI, and most of those modifications come from Pitbull.
Apanthrope's Pitbull setup
The big green and blue bars are my own HP and mana bars. The rest of the party and raid are listed beneath that. Each person's target is off to their right.

Compare that to the default frames provided by Blizzard:
Blizzard's default party frames courtesy of Amy Slabach, via Flickr
Besides being more condensed (admittedly, the Blizzard Raid frames are more condensed than their party frames), there are a couple of things that non-Blizzard frames show that Blizzard frames don't:
  • Who has aggro — if a mob is targeting someone, the player's HP bar goes red.
  • What everyone is targeting.
  • Incoming heals — you can't see it in that picture, but when a healer starts casting a heal, I can see the effect of that heal on their target before they finish casting.

I don't have it set up, but I could also see frames for just the main tanks and/or healers, etc.

Those seem like such little things, but they are absolutely crucial. You may not need that last one unless you are a healer, but those first two apply to any class.

Let me put this bluntly:

If you don't have a unit frames addon, you aren't ready to raid.

Your unit frames don't have to be as ugly as mine. Have the pretty pictures, and textures, and borders, and glowy effects, and whatever else makes you happy. But get them.

Yeah, they take quite a bit of customization to get to a usable state. But here's the thing: Blizzard's frames simply do not provide enough information.
  • Tanks, how do you know your healers don't have aggro?
  • Healers, how do you know the DPS hasn't pulled aggro, or that someone else in the raid is about to land a heal a half-second before you, thus wasting your heal?
  • DPS, how do you know you aren't the only one in your party/raid targeting a mob? Or that the mob you have targeted isn't about to be CCed by someone else? Or when you Feigned Death, Faded, Soul Shattered, or Ice Blocked, that the mob headed toward you didn't turn straight for a healer?

Running with the default Blizzard frames last night, I felt blind. I couldn't see any of the useful information that I need to be a productive member of the team. I'll be reinstalling Pitbull tonight.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Zul'Aman 5, Apanthrope 1

I got into Zul'Aman for the first time last night, with Origin as my host. Long story short: 5 boss wipes, 1 boss kill.
Frankly, we didn't have the DPS, the heals, the know-how, or the organization to tackle ZA. Several of us had never been there, and several were also undergeared. (Some, significantly.) We had heart, though, so we tried. And tried again. And again.

But it wasn't enough.

We did manage to down Nalorakk, the Bear, on our third attempt.
In the end, it was a long night and we walked away thoroughly beaten. But I did get to learn a few things and get a feel for the place, so it wasn't a total waste.

And yes, I am still walking around with my name and title visible to me. Give me a few days — I'm sure it will wear off eventually.

At last we meet, for the first time, for the last time!

I've never actually mentioned it specifically, but our guild's name is <Bleeps Sweeps and Creeps>. If it seems like I go overboard with the Spaceballs humor, there you go. We're a small guild of IRL friends that have known each other forever.

Last night BS&C and Origin teamed up for Kara. Our BS&C Prot Warrior and Hunter had never been, and it was about time. Origin contributed the other 7 members, including a Paladin MT so that our guy could learn the ropes. We didn't have a Mage or a Rogue, and the only Priest was my shadowy self. Some of the Origin guys had been once or twice, but hadn't seen all of the bosses. The players ranged from early-T5 down to our two guys, with a nice spectrum in between.

We set the expectations for the raid from the start: this was to be a learning run. We would not be moving quickly. There would be lots of narration and exposition. Everyone was expected to explain what they were doing and why they were doing it. We also fully expected that we probably wouldn't get through a full clear in one night — our BS&C guys were expecting us to split the run across two nights, and only run for maybe 3 hours the first night.

For those that want to follow along at home, the WWS report is here.

As you would expect, the first few pulls were a little shaky. Nothing memorable, just the standard first-timer jitters. Attumen went down in one shot without a hitch — only the Warlock died, as he was the most OP person there and wasn't keeping an eye on his threat. We all had a good laugh about it and kept going.

Moroes went about the same — the Hunters (we had one from each guild) had problems getting their mobs out of the Paladin's Consecrate, but we all recovered and had another one-shot. (Vanish, Shackle, Garrote, Repeat.) I have to say, I love Moroes' voiceovers. “Now where was I? Oh yes ...”

Our first wipe of the night was because our Warrior was too busy looking at his shiny new Moroes' Lucky Pocket Watch to remember that we hadn't completely cleared that first hall before Moroes. Again, everyone knew exactly what had happened even as he was fessing up to it, and had a good laugh over it.

Maiden was completely flawless. The Paladin handed over the MT reins to our Warrior, and the RL explained how to kite Maiden around to pop the healer out of the Silence. Our Warrior was completely on top of it, and had it down the very first time. Our third one-shot.

Our second and final trash wipe of the night was the pull on the way to Opera. We were handling it until we got the patrol. Everyone acknowledged that particular pull was one of the toughest in the instance, and we were up and moving again.

For Opera we had Romulo and Julianne. The RL gave a quick synopsis as the event began, and ... you guessed it, another one-shot. Yours truly, along with 2 others, forgot that you have to loot both corpses and had to run back after making it all the way downstairs for repairs.

Curator — nothing exciting here. Another one-shot.

I will say this, though, to my fellow Shadow Priests: stay on Curator. No matter what the RL says about downing the adds, don't worry about it. The RL is not talking to you. Not only do you need to work on keeping Curator dotted up, but when he goes into Evocate and you get the damage bonus, the extra punch to VE will help keep the party up as they deal with the rest. Just stay on Curator the entire fight and keep an eye on your threat.

By now we had been in for just over 3.5 hours. I checked on guild chat to make sure that our BS&C guys were doing okay. I told them to speak up if they wanted to call it for the night — everyone knew we were going to split it.

Their response? They were digging it. They wanted to finish it all.

Kara. The first hit is free.

Illhoof — another one-shot. We forgot to mention to our Warrior that Kil'rek respawns. Oops. But he figured it out and we got through it. (In this fight, fellow SPreists, do switch to the Demon Chains when they come up. Squishies go down fast, and they need all the help they can get. And, really, you'll probably only get a single MF off so it's not a waste of too much time.)


You're expecting me to say that Shade was our first boss death, right? Between the Flame Wreath and the Elementals and the Blizzard and the Arcane Blast, surely one of the n00bs screwed something up and we wiped, right?


Shade was another one-shot. No one moved during Flame Wreath. I don't think anyone got hit with the Blizzard or the Arcane Blast. A couple of us dropped because we pulled aggro on an Elemental, but that was it. The band played on and Shade went down.

Chess was the usual mass chaos. No wipe, of course. Can you wipe on Chess?

Prince, however, was our first boss wipe. To our credit, however, we had a series of Infernals that dropped right on top of the ranged party. We made it through the first one, but the second dropped only a moment after a Shadow Nova. I didn't make it out in time, and a few others went down quickly thereafter. The third took out everyone but the tanks. To our credit, we did manage to get him to 2% before we all finally dropped.

Prince to 2% on the first try! Not bad!

Instead, Prince was a two-shot. The Infernals didn't come near us the second time and we had him down.

Netherspite? One shot. Explaining the beams to everyoe that hadn't seen it (not just the BS&C guys) was tricky — you've got to see it to really get it. But get it they did. Our Warrior danced in and out of the red beam like a pro, then regained aggro after each Banish phase without a hitch. The Warlock and I got to switch back and forth in the blue beam. I do love that blue beam.

We hit Nightbane at just past the 4.5 hour mark. The clock tower in the background tolled midnight as the pull was made — it was the stuff of RP legend.

Unfortunately, we wiped on out first try, for our second and final boss wipe of the night. We didn't have good skeleton control during the air phases, and they took down first the Lock then me. The rest of the party lasted through to the next air phase, but the writing was on the wall.

The second try, however, went like clockwork. Skeletons went down with plenty of time to spare. Everyone stayed out of the Charred Earth. Misdirects kept the tanks holding aggro. Nightbane went down in just over 9 minutes. Not bad.

The final score: 8 one-shots, 2 boss wipes, and 2 trash wipes. Just under 5 hours total.

Not frickin' bad for an introductory run, I think.

Our Warrior got, I believe, 3 new pieces of gear. Our Hunter, however, was the clear winner of the night with 6 new purples. Best of all, almost all of the lot was uncontested — the rest of the party was geared enough that the drops went quickly to the new guys. We might have had to actually roll for maybe 2 or 3 items? No drama, just lots of gratz. The Origin guys got some gear, mostly off-spec, and I believe we had 10 Voids at the end of the night.

As always, Origin was a pleasure to raid with. I really can't say enough good about them.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Gruul and Magtheridon with Honor Eternal

I ran Gruul and Magtheridon with Honor Eternal last night. While it certainly was not a personal best effort for me, I don't think I embarrassed myself or anything.

Honor Eternal seems like a no-nonsense kind of group. They had their game faces on from the moment we stepped through each portal. The joking and cavorting was reserved for after each boss was down. They had a few hard-line policies, all of which I agreed with. For example, you get one battle rez — if you keep getting yourself killed then you get to lay there for the rest of the encounter. Totally fair. Also, once everyone zones in and you've gotten a summon already, you don't get another. You can run to the raid, which will start without you. Disconnects were replaced within minutes, without slowing down the pace of the raid.

Like I said: no-nonsense, and a solid guild to raid with.

And speaking of battle rezzes, I did manage to not pay enough attention and get squished by the falling rocks at Gruul. n00btard.

For Mags, I couldn't bring myself to include SWD until the last half of the encounter. It's a tough call — it significantly increases my DPS, but if I am running with unfamiliar healers then I don't know how they are going to take watching my health drop to 50% every 15 seconds. I also wasn't in the group with the healers — I was in with the ranged DPS. It's harder to justify the mana expenditure for the heals if I know the healers don't have a SPriest with them.

Generally, I'll run through the first wipe without it, then bring it on in the second attempt if it looks like the Healers will be okay. But, it was a one-shot. Not that I'm complaining!

Oh, and this was my first time raiding with a Moonkin and their Crit buff aura. A 36% Crit rate on SWD, plus all of the typical raid damage buffs ... compared to my pitiful 8k health ... yeah. Fun times.

I did feel bad, though. I was asked to be a clicker at Mags and had to ask to have the duty reassigned.

The thing is, my computer is old. I built it 6 years ago. During 25-man raids I'll generally run at 2 FPS. Yes, two. And I'll occasionally freeze up for a few seconds. In an encounter where a freeze could wipe an entire raid, I know that I should not have that level of responsibility. Getting myself killed is one thing, but wiping the raid? Nope. Not gonna do it. If anyone from Honor Eternal reads this, I am sorry! I hope you understand!

In other news ... I still don't think I am completely comfortable with the decreased CD on MB. I had quite a long time to get used to its CD, and now that it is up 2 seconds sooner, it is throwing me off. I'll get it. Eventually.