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:
Attumen

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.


Moroes

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.


Maiden

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.


Curator

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.


Illhoof

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.


Netherspite

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.


Nightbane

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.
Akil'Zon
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.
Nalorakk
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.)

Shade.

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?

Nope.

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.

Apanthrope, Shadow Priest, Champion of the Naaru

There's something different ... what ever could it be?
Apanthrope, Champion of the Naaru
Champion of the Naaru, bishes!


Ahem.

Yeah, I might be a little happy and proud of that one. I only started playing WoW a few months ago, so the pre-BC titles were not available to me. I hit exalted with SSO a while ago, but the “of the Shattered Sun” title doesn't mean anything to me. (Well, beyond “I can run dailies and tolerate the gank-fest-orgy that is Quel'Danas”.)

But “Champion of the Naaru”? That means something.

Specifically, it means:
  • I've downed Nightbane.
  • I've downed Gruul.
  • I've downed Magtheridon.
  • I've beaten 4 of the hard-mode Heroics.
Or, more succinctly:

I totally win at the Tier-4 content!

This title was another one of those things that I thought there was no way I'd see before Wrath put a stop to it. But here I am, and here it is.

I'm beginning to believe.

I believe it might be possible to get my “Hand of A'dal” title. Maybe. I'll need to really step it up if I want it. Shadow Priests seem to be in decent demand for 25-man content on my server. Let's be honest: no guild wants to have to PUG SPriests for end-raid bosses.

Can I PUG my way to Vashj, Kael'thas, and Hyjal? In the next 3 months?

Three months ago I would have laughed at you. Today? I don't know. Maybe. It does seem that fewer and fewer guilds are going for the end-bosses. But at the same time, I can't be the only one that knows the titles will soon be gone.

Maybe.

Monday, August 4, 2008

You are a unique and beautiful snowflake ... just like everyone else

Have I mentioned that I PUG quite a bit? Maybe? I might have brought it up once or twice.

As my Server dropdown list in Ventrillo gets longer and longer, I realize that I am learning something about people: everyone is different.

Yeah, duh.

It may seem like I QQ quite a bit about bad PUGs. I don't mean to QQ — I really just enjoy sharing the horror stories of my bad experiences. Raiding is mostly the same. There are good raid and bad raids. But because there are 5x as many people, you can get a much better sense of the guild.

I want to share some of my insights. Compare and contrast, if you will. Lest I am misinterpreted, let me make one thing perfectly clear before I continue:
I have respect for each of the guilds I mention by name. I wouldn't name them, otherwise. There are plenty of guilds that I do not respect, and they aren't named here.

Got that? Good.

I'll take Origin first. Origin is a very cool bunch of folks. Even though I am not in their guild, most of them treat me like I am. There's a reason I have so many WWS reports with Origin: whenever I need something for a quest, Origin generally steps up and helps out. Even if it's a Heroic Shadow Labs at 3am, Origin is there. That's just cool.

If I had to use one word to describe raiding with Origin, it would be calm. There's a bit of joking around on Vent, but mostly everyone seems willing to STFU and listen to the RL. There are a few people that seem to not like the peace and break it at inopportune times when they should be taking in chat and not Vent, but not many. Everyone is generally respectful to everyone else. I cannot express how much I appreciate this kind of serenity on a raid Vent.

If pressured to say one bad thing about Origin, it would be that they might be too quiet. Because of the low-drama approach to raiding, it seems that some people will occasionally not get it when it is time to listen to a strategy. We'll wipe a few times because people are doing things they were explicitly told not to. Eventually, everyone gets it and comes together, but I doubt Origin will have too many one-shots. In the end, though, that's okay — Origin is also the guild most okay with wiping and trying again. Wipes don't phase Origin in the least. I'd raid with Origin any day.

Raiding with We Raid Naked is the exact opposite of raiding with Origin. It's very high-drama, high-excitement, and noisy. It seems like everyone talks on Vent. Talks, tells lewd jokes, curses other players, etc. Patience is in no way a part of We Raid Naked raiding. If you aren't there 100% or aren't paying attention, you get kicked and replaced within minutes. They are a steamroller, and raids are the road.

But none of that is necessarily a bad thing. We Raid Naked will one-shot many bosses. They have to, as they don't take wipes nearly so well. The RL is strong, and loud, and there can be no doubt when you need to listen. Organization is accomplished with an iron fist, but it is also air-tight and unbreakable.

I've only gone on one raid with Totem Totem Totem, but they seem to be somewhere in the middle of the other two. The Vent chatter is raunchier than Origin, but nowhere near as much as We Raid Naked. Organization and leadership isn't as cutthroat as We Raid Naked, but is still much more heavy-handed than Origin. These guys are more about throwing themselves into the mix and hoping one or two people are still standing at the end. The organization is mostly front-loaded, with the vast majority done before combat and somewhat-controlled mass chaos during combat. They are a "just do it" group.

I've only done a couple of 10-man runs with Gank This, but from what I can see they are no-frills, balls-to-the-wall, get-the-damned-thing-done type people. It is assumed that you know what you are doing and know all of the strategies, so Vent is used mostly for casual chatter. They are cool to raid with, but the speed completely wipes me out for the night. I have to assume that raiding with T6 or late-T5 guilds would be like this.

I guess that's why I don't get all of the turf wars that go on between guilds. Each guild has their own personality, so why don't people get and respect that? Do you want hardcore? N00b-friendly? A Vent to tell raunchy jokes? High or low drama?

I guess that's one more nice thing about being the PUG master that I am: I can choose to run with a guild that suits my mood for the day.

Sunwell trash farming and Kalecgos

I got an invite to do some Sunwell Plateau trash farming last night with Totem Totem Totem. I managed to roll low the entire night and walk away with nothing other than a huge repair bill. But, it was still worth it to get to see new content.

Lots of “Everyone stack on me! Now ... everyone spread out!”. It was a drunkard's ballet.

Oh, and we took a half-hearted shot at Kalecgos and got him to 80%.

Yep. That's my 'leet Kalecgos screenshot. I was too busy trying to keep up with the group given my whopping 2 frames per second to get a chance to take anything better. /sigh

Sunwell is cool. It took 2 hours to clear trash just to the first boss, though. That's nuts.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Magtheridon is now officially on farm

Got an invite last night to do Magtheridon with We Raid Naked. They were very well-organized, and were able to two-shot Mags after a 1% wipe. You might want to glance over the WWS reports for the encounter. Why? Because ...

Yours truly was #1 for damage both for the night and for the kill.

No, I am not quite sure how it happened, either. Sexy though, eh?

I had done my second respec the night before, going to a raiding build instead of a flat PvE build. I reconfigured to put 4/5 points into Improved Mind Blast, reducing its cooldown by 2 seconds, and 5/5 into Shadow Power, increasing the crit chance of my big spells by 15%. The loss of Silence is going to take some getting used to.

I took some time earlier in the night to run out to Dr Boom to practice with the new talents, as the ImpMB changes my rotation completely. But, the time paid off. I managed to out-DPS the other SPriest at Mags by a fair margin, even though he outgears me by roughly 100 +Shadow. Holy practice-makes-perfect, Batman!

The increased crit on the SWD apparently gave a few of the healers heart palpatations, however. I spoke with two of them, independently, and each brought up that they spent a significant amount of their time healing me. It doesn't help that I apparently stood in the falling debris a little too often. (Spell Detail video setting on Low FTL.) Looking at the WWS, I need to figure out how to convince them to ignore healing me directly and just let the raid heals get me.

I think I should have all of my Trial of the Naaru quests done before next week's Mags, which would be the awesomest of the awesome.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Apanthrope, a definition

I'm a word snob. A linguaphile, if you will. I don't apologize for it, but I do apologize that I forget that not everyone else is.

So, for the record:
Apanthrope (AH-pan-throwp): A person who does not feel any compulsion, positive or negative, toward other people and does not actively seek out their company.
See also apathy.
Contrast with misanthrope (a person who wishes other people harm) and philanthropist (a person who helps other people).

Now you know.

As far as pronouncing it ... the last part is one solid syllable. The stress is on the first syllable. If I can get Blogger to embed a Flash Audio clip of me saying it, I'll do that. If it's easier for you, think of it as AHP-ahn-throwp. It's NOT:
  • ah-PAN-throwp (should be first, not second syllable stressed)
  • ah-pan-thro-pee (pseudo-Latin?)
  • ah-pan-thro-pay (French?)
  • AY-pan-throwp (should be a short "ah", not long "ay")
So you can see why my blog is titled "Apanthrope, Shadow Priest". The "Apanthrope" is both my character name, as well as a description.

Update: Well, I can't include an MP3, but it will do video. Goofy, but there you go.
video

Addon: Baldrick

Do you do your dailies? Of course you do.

Get Baldrick.

Baldrick adds a single button to your interface, along with a single (changeable) keybind. But it's a very smart button:
Baldrick
All of those dailies that you do that require some random item? Baldrick automagically changes to suit whichever quest you are working on. It is geo- and context-aware. If you are near Oshu'gun, Baldrick becomes the Multiphasic Goggles. If you are doing your cooking quest, Baldrick becomes the pot. If you are bombing Skettis, Baldrick becomes the ammo. If you are running Quel'danas ... well, you get the point. Baldrick is immensely helpful.

All with a single button that disappears when you don't need it. Never fumble around in your bags again for dailies.

(To be clear, the first shot with the "Nothing to do" tooltip is Baldrick in debug mode. Most of the time, you don't even see it.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Addons: wowmatrix

Let's face it -- WoW is great, but it's missing quite a few features. Blizzard made an interface UI for a reason. I'm going to start doing posts about addons. I've recently started the massive undertaking of cleaning out some of the 200+ addons I had been running. I figured it probably would benefit a few people to see some of the more helpful and obscure addons. Sure, everyone knows Auctioneer and Questhelper. But there are so many more.

Before you can start seriously playing around with addons, you need to get a good addon manager. You can't just install an addon and forget about it. When Blizzard has their patch Tuesdays they almost invariably change something that some addons will depend on. Those addons then need to be updated to account for those changes. Most addon creators are pretty good about updating regularly, but some take a few days. You don't want to have to go out to Curse.com or WowAce.com or whatever your favorite addon webiste is and check to see if anything new has come out.

If you are running even a single addon, you need to be running an addon manager.

I've messed around with a few of them. Don't bother with the Curse manager, it's bloated and buggy and overkill. I used WAU2 (WowAceUpdater2) for a long time, as it is very good at what it does, and very fast. But it doesn't catch all of the non-Ace addons that I use. So, nowadays I use wowmatrix from wowmatrix.com.
wowmatrix
One of wowmatrix's main selling points is that, like WAU2, it is a stand-alone application. There's no installer -- you just run the app and go. You will have to point it at your WoW installation folder, but after that it just does its thing.

Get in the habit of running wowmatrix before you login for the first time each day. I find that it will catch a few out of date addons each day, and dozens after a patch Tuesday. It will automatically check for updates when you run it, so you just need to give it a minute or two to do its thing, then click the "Update All" button. Easy.

The other nice feature of wowmatrix is that you can install more addons without having to fire up a web browser. Click on the "Get More Addons" tab and do a search. Sure, it's not going to be aware of every addon ever developed, but you'll find that it will handle the vast majority of them. And, even better, if you manually install an addon that it doesn't already know about, it will do its best to try and keep that addon up to date.

My only complaint is that wowmatrix is on the slow side. Post-patch Tuesday updates where several dozen addons are being updated can take up to 5 minutes. Maybe I was just spoiled by WAU2 which was lightning fast.

Oh, and wowmatrix works for all you Mac users. Yay!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Magtheridon, round 2, fight!

Tonight was Magtheridon with Origin.
Magtheridon up
Long story short: we totally win at the WoW.
Magtheridon down
I got #5 overall for damage done, and #7 for damage on the final try. I might have taunted the other SPriest, Casprin, a bit too much about not mashing his buttons hard enough. After beating him squarely on the initial attempts, he got me by 3k damage, or about 0.7%. Still, I'm extremely pleased with my performance. I still need to work on my rotation under pressure, but I'm getting noticeably better.

Also, I am now completely convinced that SWD is uber for raids. WWS says that I did 31k self-inflicted damage, but healed myself for 61k. If I'm reading it right, I also gave each of my party just about 20k in mana, or the equivalent of 7 Super Mana Potions each, or 160 MP5. Win!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Practice: Black Morass

We ran regular Black Morass again twice for some more people that needed the Kara key quests. This time, I was pure DPS and tried to work in SWD as much as I could. My rotation wasn't perfect, but it seemed pretty good.

I feel like I've learned something and maybe progressed a little ... but I would also like to hear from someone who has more experience reading WWS reports. How did I do?

The first run with the Paladin tank was rough. He just couldn't regen mana fast enough to hold aggro in the beginning, so was doing a low-mana rotation, which was in turn making it harder for him to outpace my threat. (With Salv and no damage buffs.) Around the fourth portal I told him that the conservative route just wasn't cutting it (I was spending more time /dancing than doing damage), and told him to go all out. That enabled me to put up VE, which got him heals and thus mana, and everything moved on quite a bit faster. Threat was still a problem, and I ended up pulling aggro in the last 10% more than once, but we had the DPS to burn them down.

The second run with the Druid tank was a 4-man effort, but was actually a little easier. The tank had a much easier time holding agrro, so I was really able to go all out on all of the portals.

Thanks in advance for any feedback!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Imba?

I just realized that I've been sustaining a rolling 300 +Shadow gain per month pretty much since I started the game. If I was a naive idiot, I would say that means that I only have 6 or so weeks until I down Kil'jaeden.

Yeah, right.

Seriously, though, thanks to my be.imba.hu profile, the gear threads on shadowpriest.com, and my own data mining, I can see that 1100 +Shadow is realistically attainable. At this point, all it would take is gold for enchant mats and gems.

But here's the thing: I have the raw power, but not the control.

That 1100 number might get me a spot in a TK raid, but quite frankly my skills aren't up to it just yet. I need to practice. Not just practice going all out (Dr. Boom), but also practice running around and dealing damage when I can. Kara runs are good for that, as there is a nice variety between the boss fights — stand-n-spam for Maiden, run-n-dot for Nightbane and Shade, back-n-forth for Prince, multitask for Moroes.

Problem being, it's a week before you can do them again. And how well is your party going to take it if you ask “hey, can you all just stop DPSing and wipe, because I really need the practice”?

I haven't set foot in ZA yet, but maybe it's the same?

Actually ... as I type this out, a thought occurs to me. I'm somewhat ashamed to admit it, as it is kindof a “duh”: I really just need to PUG (or, preferably, guild-assist) every frickin' thing I can. Kara, ZA, Mags, Gruul, and any Heroic I can get into. Is that the answer? Brute force it?

Not that I mind, of course. I've yet to run into any content that I am tired of doing. Heck, I still do 15-25 dailies every single day. I'm even looking forward to revisiting BRD for Brewfest, and I hated BRD when I was leveling.

I don't know where I'm going with this little self-deprecating diatribe. Just still feeling like I've fast-tracked myself to stuff that I'm not ready for. Worried that people are going to figure out that I don't actually have a clue what I am doing.

So ...

Enchants to get me past 1100:
Enchant/ItemDmgGoldSPS
10g
LPS
25g
GPE
11g
Fi
27g
Wa
25g
Ma
17g
Sh
25g
Ne
50g
Runic Spellthread15/+10220g101
Bracers, Spellpower15462g666
Gloves, Spellpower15318g666
Cloak, Subtlety-262g428
Runed Crimson Spinel x218/+8185g
Total:+481447g4128661681

That would drop me at 1106. No, I am not including Soulfrost for now — the mats are ridiculous for the extra spell damage, and I'd rather wait until I got my Badge or Arena (ha!) blade.

From there, assuming no gear upgrades, it'd be 300g for each of 12 Runed Crimson Spinel and +3 damage. Oh, yay. I can't express how much fun 3600g is going to be to farm, all in the name of getting to 1142. And along the way, I'll hopefully be getting new dropped gear.

Oy.

But it's good to at least have a plan, right? It's worked out well this far.

Oh, and I've noticed that I'm getting dead less and less in BGs lately. To the point where it's kindof creepy, actually. In the last couple of days I've managed to take down several Warriors, Rogues, Druids, and Mages much faster and easier than I was expecting. I've had a few zero-death runs. When my Prot Warrior guildmate and I run BGs it's sick how well we work together and the path of carnage we create. Sure, I hit quite a bit harder than I used to, but maybe I'm actually getting better at it?

Kara on Crack

I got an invite this evening to do a badge run in Kara with some guys from Gank This. A scant two and a half hours later I had 22 badges in my bag and my new Handwraps of Flowing Thought.

Yeah, two and a half hours later. W. T. F?

I'm sure it's probably not a world record, but it's certainly a new one for me. The group was, obviously, wicked OP. The Druid tank had 22k health and didn't stop for anything. People went AFK and then had to run to catch up because the rest of us kept moving. The healers were bored, and only one of them ported out with less than 77 Mana Biscuits on him ... and he had 76.

With the exception of my Shackle and the Hunter's Freeze Trap on Moroes, we didn't use any other CC at any point.

I died a few times, but not excessively. Sometimes from my own stupidity (like not waiting for the red beam to hit the tank on Netherspite), sometimes from bad luck (on the trash before the Opera). I uploaded the WWS for the entire run if you'd like. No, I still didn't use any SWD, but based on recent comments, I certainly will now.

Oh, and after the gear upgrade and some more regemming, I am now sitting on 1058 +Shadow. In theory, I could get into TK right now. I don't see that as likely, but it is possible.

Again, I say: W. T. F? How did I get here?

I honestly never thought I'd make it this far before Wrath. And yet ... I keep progressing. It's awesome, albeit very surprising.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Personal WWS Reports

For better or for worse, I've decided to start uploading and making public my WWS reports. Given my limited raiding experience, I'm hoping to use them to see how I could improve.

First item of business: use more Shadow Word: Death. I know, I know. It's hard, healing my way through to 70, then switching to Shadow and expecting healers to keep up with me as I periodically hit myself upside the head. Especially on fights where we're not sure if the healers are going to go /oom before the end.

Yeah, I get that more DPS == more mana for healers, but I'd need to see some pretty definitive numbers showing that there wasn't a net loss in mana due to extra healing before I'd be okay with it. For fights like Lurker where I am guaranteed to not get aggro, sure, maybe. But other new stuff? I'll need to work up the courage, first.

Raiding with another guild

Because of my views on raiding guilds, I end up running almost all of my raids as the only non-guild player in a guild-sponsored run. Lately I have been running with Origin, but last night I needed to get a bit of Kara in and got an invite to run with Alliance Homicide. They needed more DPS for Netherspite and the Prince, so in I went.

Being the only non-guild player in a run has the potential to be tricky. I find that it can generally go one of two ways. If the guild group is at a similar level of progression and has a good RL, then I will normally just STFU and do my best to fill my role. This is by far the easiest, and for me the preferred, outcome.

The other path is the tricky one. If the guild group is new to the content or the RL isn't quite where they need to be, I have a hard time with things.

But I'm starting in the middle. Let me back up.

Why don't I do the raiding guild thing? I used to, just not in WoW. I've played a few other MMOs, but by far the heaviest was Dark Age of Camelot. In DAoC, I progressed to being not just a GM, but one step beyond: the GM for the guild that led the largest raiding alliance on the server. In DAoC, for those that aren't familiar, guilds could join forces into an alliance, giving a shared alliance chat channel and other niceties. Raiding in DAoC was also a very different thing than in WoW — we'd regularly get 200+ people on a raid.

If you think coordinating 25 or even 40 people is rough, try coordinating 200 from 8 different guilds. Multiply your typical guild drama x8. So, after 3-4 months, I burned out. How could I not? Now, with WoW, I'm here with friends to just have fun.

Back to my story.

The problem is that I can lead. I really try not to, as I like being the anonymous face that helps but isn't noticed. But I do know how. When I am raiding with a group that the RL isn't stepping up to do what I think should be done, there is much gnashing of teeth as I try to bite my tongue. Instead, I offer up encouragement and try to motivate instead of pointing out what I think is missing.

Everyone has their own style, and far be it from me to assume that mine is any better. And, especially when running with a guild, I really don't want to step on their toes or make them look bad. The guild is supposed to look up to the RL for guidance, and I don't want to do anything to tarnish that image.

It's rough. Generally, even when I know that we're going to wipe, I'll continue to STFU and let us wipe. I know, that sounds horrible, but I am also a firm believer that wipes are a good thing, as they help everyone learn what not to do.

You're expecting me to say that the RL from the Alliance Homicide was bad, right? You'd be wrong.

The RL, Dytinn, actually did a pretty good job. Several of the players had never been to Netherspite or the Prince, and several were woefully undergeared, and yet we were able to down Netherspite and get the Prince to 2%. That's not bad! And, really, as it always is with the Prince, we didn't wipe due to lack of skill, we just got a few really bad Infernal drops. We kept an eye out and moved proactively instead of reactively, but we just had bad luck.

Through it all, I did my best to STFU and DPS.

But ... there was one thing that Dytinn needed to do that he didn't: he needed to get everyone on Vent. Eight out of ten were on Vent, but that just didn't work. The other two asked if they needed to get on Vent, but were told that it was no big deal. Sorry, but that's the wrong answer. Explaining complex fights like Netherspite and Prince to people that have never been there simply cannot be done effectively over chat and voice at the same time. Invariably, one of the groups is going to miss something. A few of our wipes happened because the non-Vent people weren't getting to where they needed to go.

In the end, my leader-nature got the better of me and I started outlining the main points in chat. "1. Don't ever pull aggro off the tank, so watch your Omen. 2. When you get Enfeebled and turn purple like me, run to the healer. 3. ..." I hope that it helped, but I am not so sure. It's a tough call, deciding where the line is between trying to help and looking like an overbearing know-it-all ass-hat.

I catch a lot of flak for being a non-guildie in a guild run. Some people think I am taking up a slot that could/should have gone to a guildie. Some people think that I am riding on the coat-tails of the guild. Some people are made uncomfortable by my very presence — like they can't talk with an outsider around.

It's cool. I swear. I'm here to do a job. I'll try to disrupt your lives as little as I can. Pretend I'm not here, and just know that the mana, health, DPS, and shackles are coming.

Bad day in WSG

It's never a good sign in your BG when the n00b SPriest has the highest kill count and damage.

Monday, July 21, 2008

SSC, take 2

This weekend marks my second foray into Serpentshrine Caverns. I am not in a raiding or progression guild, but the good people in Origin have been kind enough to invite me along for their last two runs. Good times!

Our Main Tank and guide for SSC was Luxora of Tempest, the #1 Horde guild on our server. She and and Vigaut, her MH, had been brought in by Casprin, the Origin GM.

Let me just say this and nothing more about Luxora: if you want 20+ people, mostly young guys, to STFU and do what they are told, have a smart woman with a soft British accent whisper in their ears, giving orders and telling them to stay calm and that they can do it. It helps if she can tank and hold aggro like superglue. 'Nuff said.

The Friday night run was for The Lurker Below. We'd wiped a few times on him last week, as we couldn't quite get the rhythm down. This run was similarly frustrating, but for a different reason: one of the adds kept bugging and going into Evade mode, teleporting around and one-shotting casters until the raid wiped. This happened twice, and we never could figure out what was causing him to do it.

Our third attempt looked like it was going to be another wipe. Luxora took a bad knockback and went out of LOS of the healers, going down at around the half-way mark. Honestly, though, it was the best thing that could have happened and pretty much guaranteed a win—it freed her up to talk everyone through the encounter. She issued concise orders, calling out timers and targets. The OTs were picked off one by one, but we adapted and knew we had it.

There was a bit of chaos as Lurker went down, as too many people were busy celebrating to remember that we still had adds to handle. Yours truly was the last fall, excepting only a Rogue who Vanished.
Origin downs The Lurker Below in Serpentshrine Caverns
We called it for the night, as it was late and everyone was pretty well fried.

Saturday night found us back at SSC. First target: Morogrim Tidewalker. This fight is similar in nature to the Lurker fight, in that it's all about getting the rhythm down. Luxora called out when the murlocs were about to spawn and we all paused DPS to let her get aggro so that they could be AoE burned down. People cleared Vent and called out when they were hit with the Watery Grave (Priest bubble FTW). We really came together as a group. It took us another 2 wipes to really get it, but again on the third try we got him:
Origin downs Morogrim Tidewalker in Serpentshrine Caverns
While I wasn't the last to fall on Tidewalker, as about half of the raid stayed up, I fell only two seconds before he did. (I suspect that, again, too many people were pre-emptively celebrating and not paying attention to what was going on around them, as I got rushed by what looked like several dozen murlocs.)

From there we moved on to Leotheras the Blind. Unfortunately, the Tidewalker fight had taken quite a bit out of us. I think we were all a little too burnt out and should have left Leo for Sunday, but I am not GM or RL so what do I know? The Leo fight didn't go nearly as well, with another 3 wipes before calling it for the night. Most of us had been told that we would be doing Hydross, not Leo, so almost no one knew what to expect.
Leotheras the Blind downs Origin in Serpentshrine Caverns
But, of course, it was still fun. Thanks again to the guys and gals at Origin (and Tempest) for having me along!

Good weekend, but very long

For now, I am too tired to go into details. Highlights:
  • I am now at 1010 +Shadow, unbuffed, thanks to a major regemming. Yay, 4 digits!
  • We downed Tidewalker in SSC, and got in a few good shots at Leotheras.
  • We ran an amazing Heroic Shattered Halls and got our Trial of the Naaru: Mercy quest done. I still need to go back for the Kalynna's Request questline, though. Bummer.
There's probably more, but I can't remember it right now.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Gear Longevity Chart, Beta 2

I've mentioned before that I've been working on this tiny little data mining project ... that just happens to now have ten thousand characters in it.

Long story short, it has undergone significant upgrades, and is now interactive! There are currently versions for: Shadow Priest, Holy Priest, Beast Master Hunter (Agility or Ranged Attack Power), and Protection Warrior. Gee, which specs do you think my guildmates are?

All of the versions start off showing you just Quest rewards and Crafted items, but can be expanded to include every kind of item available to that spec. Play around! Tell me if you break something.

Unfortunately ... it doesn't work in Internet Explorer 6, and is tricky in Internet Explorer 7. Sorry, folks, but I don't have time to work around busticated web browsers. Use Firefox or Safari or Opera or just about any sane web browser, please. Or, post the CSS workarounds as a comment and I'll update them.

What do you think?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Primal Priest

A comment on yesterday's entry struck home:
"I can see no end in sight to the endless farming for primals"

Yeah. Pretty much.
GearFireWaterShadowManaEarthAirTotal
FSW Shoulders210214
FSW Boots412420
FSW Robe716730
Belt of Blasting1515
SS Hood155155545
SS Legs155155545
Black Void336
Nimble Thought41216
Total624816451010191

191 Primals. Yeah, that's a ridiculous number. Don't try to figure out how much that would cost you on the AH—it would only depress you.

That 191 number assumes Shadowcloth specialty and making your own Spellcloth. If you can find a Spellcloth Tailor that will make it for you for only the mats, you lower your cost for the Spellstrike set by 28 Primals.

In theory, if you are proactive enough, you could specialize in Spellcloth first, before you can even wear the FSW gear. You'd make the 24 Spellcloth you need (12 trips), then respec to make Shadowcloth. The 150g respec cost would almost certainly be cheaper than the 28 Primals you'd save. But if you do that, then you need to not make any Shadowcloth during that time, as you'll be losing the Shadowcloth bonus. I'm not saying it's a good idea, but it is a theoretical possibility.

Unfortunately, I can't really offer any comforting words here. It is what it is. What I can say is that you probably won't farm all 191 of them. Instead, farm enough to get your FSW pieces as they become available to you. Once you hit 70, do dailies instead. Even as a fresh 70, you can pull in 75g+ per hour doing dailies. You won't have to buy all of your Primals, as you'll get a few motes as you do the dailies:
  • Fire: The Throne of Kil'Jaeden quests involve killing Fire elementals.
  • Shadow: The Multiphase quest puts you by Oshu'gun and all of the Void Reavers around there.
  • Water: When you do the Fishing quest, make sure you fish out any pools of fish, especially the Pure Water ones.
  • Mana: The Mana Wyrms in Bash'ir Landing drop these while you are collecting Mana Cells. Or, when you go up to Netherstorm to get your Sunfury Attack Plans, stop by the Violet Tower and kill a few elementals in the area.
  • Earth and Air: Grab these from the elementals in Nagrand when you are doing your Skinning and/or Cooking quests.

At each stop, make yourself hang around for an additional 10 minutes and farm a few more motes. They'll add up over time.

Don't get frustrated with another SPriest or Lock comes along and says something dumb like "omg you can get more primals/gold if you do ...". Ignore them. Almost invariably, people with that attitude have forgotten what it was like to be a fresh 70 with only 500-600 +Shadow. Farming sucks. Period. It doesn't get "easy mode" for SPriests until roughly T5-level, right about the time you don't need to farm Primals any more.

Yeah. /sigh.

There is one exception. Before I started this blog, I made a short 1-minute video showing how Shadow Priests can farm motes of water with a surprising efficiency. Even before level 70, you'll be good enough at it that the spawn rate of the mobs will be the limiting factor, not your skill.

Oh, and as a general rule:
it is very worth it to take the time to make Primal Mooncloth while you are making your Shadowcloth and Spellcloth.
Healers and bag-makers will trade you straight up for it. The primals to make it are almost always cheaper than buying the Shadowcloth or Spellcloth off the AH. As you pass through Shattrath, do a quick advert in /Trade: "WTT your Spellcloth or Shadowcloth for my Primal Mooncloth". If you get a bite, take a few minutes to complete the trade. If not, no harm done and no time wasted.

(Edit: Updated to include Bracers of Nimble Thought.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Downgear, Upgear

We ran regular Shadow Labs last night, as it was the daily and our guild's Hunter is lusting after the [Sonic Spear]. That, and I like Shadow Labs. It and Slave Pens are probably my two favorite 5-mans.

So there we were: a Heroic-geared Paladin healer, SPriest, and Mage, a Kara-geared Hunter, and ... a pre-Kara Warrior tank. Oh, and post-patch server lag that froze several people any time a mob was looted or a trade window was opened.

Long story short, I had to downgear for the first time last night. I ran almost the entire dungeon in my PvP gear (such as it is), which drops me down almost 80 spell damage. Even with that and me doing not much other than DOT and /dance, no MB except for bosses and counting to three between MFs, I still managed to get aggro a few times, even with Pallie Salv. I ended up hiding Omen and just winging it as I got tired of it screaming at me.

It was fun and all, and bosses went down fast and hard, but still quite a bit more work than I had anticipated.

...

On the flip side, I embezzled a bit from the guild bank and gemmed up the [Spellstrike Hood] I had made last night. I still have a bit of regemming to do to supplant all of the old +SpellHit gems I used to need, but I am pretty much done with my crafted gear for now. From here on out it is Badge and Tier loot.

I'm sitting at +926, but I think I can hit +950 on my current gear if I fix my gems and enchants. Not bad for a guy that just hit 70 two months ago, I think.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Metareference

I got my first "this is going to be on your blog tomorrow, isn't it?" comment on Vent last night.

Happy to oblige, but I honestly don't remember what it was in reference to.

First Arena: 1-9

I am a squishy SPriest, and I have the resilience of tapioca pudding.

In 9 of 10 matches I was the very first target. Normally, I was stun-locked and dead before I could get a spell off, my Shadowguard being the only thing to produce damage. I did manage to get a single kill—a paladin, i think. SWD FTW.

After a few matches I did start to last longer than 10 seconds. I got my head on straight enough to Mass Dispel a Paladin bubble and an Iceblock. I finally remembered to Fear whenever the cooldown was up. Chain-dispelling Druids is fun.

But the one thing I am having trouble with: not tab-DOTing everyone there. I know that if I do that then the CC efforts of my team are in vain. But ... staying still and uninterrupted long enough to get off a MB? Riiiight. I did get a few MFs off, but the big blue frickin' laser beam made me a target every time. "Oh, you're still standing? I can rectify that."

And Proximo went crazy on our last game. I'm going to hope it was just a bug and not a hack, but it effectively disabled us as our coordination went out the window.

Monday, July 14, 2008

New trick: Focused Chain Shield

I ran Heroic Shattered Halls this weekend. We had a good group of guys, but we may have been slightly undergeared for it. Two of us needed it for our Trial of the Naaru: Mercy quests—which we didn't get because we wiped far too many times and missed all of the timers.

But it was still a good run. I learned quite a bit on those dozen wipes. I can appreciate a few wipes when learning an instance, and actually prefer it to a one-shot run. When I run it later with a few of my guildmates I am going to know what not to do.

And I figured out a new trick.

The Shattered Halls run had a Mage who was good and was keeping an eye on his threat, but with the number of mobs he was bound to get aggro eventually and often. Especially since we had a Druid tank, instead of a Paladin.

I've been running with a Shaman main healer lately. He's a great healer, but due to the specifics of Shaman healing (lack of HOTs and instant-cast heals) damage and healing tend to be spikier than with other healing classes. When we run with DPS that don't watch their threat, Mages especially, even the fastest reaction from the Shaman might not keep them up.

After we had to rez the Mage a half-dozen times or so, I got to thinking about what I could do to help. I was getting used to throwing out more bubbles lately, as the Shaman healer is overpowered and overgeared for much of what we have been running and tends to pull aggro off of most tanks. I could watch Pitbull for the Mage's threat to go red (meaning he got aggro), but bubbling him meant stopping what I was casting, targeting him, and throwing out a bubble. The Shaman could take a few hits, but the Mage was exceptionally squishy and kept getting one- or two-shotted.

Then I remembered that really neat Shackle macro that we use.

Sure enough, this did it:
/stopcasting
/cast [target=focus] Power Word: Shield

Better yet, the way I have my UI done up, the focus target goes above my own health bar, and is big and prominent. When it flashes red, I can't help but notice it no matter where else I am looking at the screen. I bound the macro to a single key and kept an eye out.

It made a noticeable difference, especially on the last boss fight. The Blade Dance that Kargath does wasn't one-shotting the Mage, but if the Mage already had aggro from one of the adds, he was guaranteed to go down. In that fight I had to step things up even further—instead of being reactive about the bubble I essentially chain-cast it throughout the entire fight. I watched for the Weakened Soul debuff to time out, then as soon as the shield went down I threw up another one, whether or not the Mage currently had aggro. After that, the Mage never went below 50% health.

Yeah, I went out of mana with 5% left on Kargath and ended up wanding my way through the end, but we all stayed vertical.

So now I have a new tool in my toolbelt. I just have to remember to use it.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Exalted, two new areas, one long night

Thanks to running the SSO dailies for the past two weeks, last night I got this nice message:
You are now Exalted with the Shattered Sun OffensiveWhich also means that I now get these goofy messages from the NPCs:
But that's not even the big news. Last night, thanks to knowing people who know people, I made it into some new content.

I was literally one minute away from logging out for the night when Udevil got on vent and said that Origin was running a Lurker raid (SSC) and had several open slots due to a scheduling snafu. (They had both Kara and SSC down for the same night.) I glanced at my whiteboard and saw that the Spell Damage requirement for SSC was 900. I just got my [Spellstrike Pants] the day before and hadn't had a chance to properly gem them, but I was standing at 856. I had just finished a boatload of dailies and had some 350g and 20 Badges on me. It was a theoretical possibility that I might get close to 900. I asked Udevil to confirm that 900 was the requirement, which he did, and the guys thought I should go for it.

Ranii stepped up and offered to cut some gems for me, as the selection on the AH was pretty thin for reds. 300g got me one [Crimson Spinel], and 15 Badges got me a second. Slons offered to whip up some [Mystic Spellthread], and Ranii had the [Primal Mana] for it.

Holy crap, this might actually happen.

Skipping to the good part, it did happen. I was summoned and within a minute had two [Runed Crimson Spinel] and my spellthread. I got off the second elevator in SSC with exactly +900 Spell Damage.
Serpentshrine Cavern 1Hi, ma!Serpentshrine Cavern 2Wicked cool, eh?

Unfortunately, 4 wipes later we still hadn't downed Lurker. On the first 3 wipes I was in the last 3 or 4 people to die (being the very last on the first wipe), so I felt pretty confident that I had it down. But then 90 seconds into our fourth attempt I was the first one down. I was falling into the water as the Spout hit me. I hadn't tried to cut it close -- I jumped as soon as I heard the call. But I hadn't been paying enough attention to DBM and thus didn't have enough warning, as I was only a few degrees off from the tank that bought it at roughly the same time. We were the only two down, but the truth is that we just didn't have enough DPS.

Eventually the RL called it, as the fish had respawned. Everyone ported to Shatt and was told to head up to Gruul's. Awesome!

Maulgar and his crew took three attempts. There was some confusion as to healers and tanks and Hunter misdirects, so the Mage tank kept going down. I macroed a PWS for my focus, set it to the Mage tank, and spammed it whenever the timer was up. I doubt it helped all that much, but every little bit, right?

On to Gruul!
Gruul the DragonkillerGrr! Arrgh!

Gruul was a one-shot. We didn't have much time left on his Enrage timer, and the tank got to the point where he was being hit for almost 10k a shot, but the healers kept him up and the band played on. I managed to avoid most of the cave-ins, only missing the animation on two of them. I ran out of mana literally as Gruul went down: a Flay was cut short with an oom message (stupid bug), so I know I had exactly one left. Gruul dropped a second into it. That was just too cool for words.

I came out in DPS just behind the other Shadow Priest, Caspin, who was the raid leader. For it being my first time at Gruul and not being sure of myself, I'm not unhappy with that.

It was a long night, but it was fun. I honestly didn't think I'd make it into SSC any time soon. I'd been hoping for a Gruul PUG, but this worked out so much better.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Crafting Cooldowns FTL

I've been farming and saving for a week to get my mats for my Spellstrike set. Not being an Alchemist, I didn't know that Transmute: Primal Might has a 20-hour cooldown. D'oh!

wtb TEN Alchemists that can transmute Primal Might.

Long story short: when you start to work on your Spellstrike set, do the transmutes as you get the Primals. Don't save them all up for one big orgiastic transmute party. Because, you know, it won't be.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What (not) to wear, Public Beta 1

Here's the first semi-real version of the chart I mentioned last time. It is essentially a "how long am I going to wear this, and when can I expect to get it?" chart for SPriests. This image just shows the Feet for now so that you can get a feel for it.


  • Horizontally along the bottom you can see the +Shadow damage of the character wearing the specific gear.
  • The vertical orientation is meaningless—it's just an order to make a pretty layout.
  • The width of each gear bar is the +Shadow range for which people are currently wearing that gear. There is at least one person at the very beginning of that range, and one at the very end of that range. (Except for the perfect squares, which mean that only one person has it equipped, but I didn't want a zero-width sliver.)
  • The color theme tells you where you get the item. Bright yellow gear, for example, are quest rewards, while the darker gold are crafted.
  • The color gradient shows you how the players are distributed within the range. In this example, you can see that the Footpads of Madness, while they cover a large range, really only have a few small clumps of players wearing them. On the other hand, FSW Boots are worn pretty much consistently across the range.

I have, for now, intentionally left out how many people are wearing the gear. I thought about scaling the bars vertically based on popularity, but I'm not sure what that would communicate. (And, really, I don't think I want to tackle the logic to wrangle a much more complicated layout.) In most cases you can infer how many people are wearing the gear by looking at the distribution gradient.

I'm hoping that this will help the "what gear should I go for next" and "should I swap out X for Y when they are basically the same" type questions over on shadowpriest.com. I'm sure it won't completely eliminate them, but it's bound to help someone other than just me.

I need more data. Many of these items are only equipped by a single person on our server, which doesn't make for a good statistical population. If anyone would like to drop a comment and suggest a particular server that I should include (this data is from Bleeding Hollow), I can do so.

Also, what do you think? Too much clown vomit? Not enough cowbell?

On Priest CC

I'm sure I am not the only person who has a lot of “if I could get others to understand just one thing about my class” moments. In fact, WowWiki has a whole series on it. This week's lesson that I want to shout from the hills is simple:
Mind Control and Shackle Undead work just like every other form of CC.

I know, it sounds like a duh kind of thing, so let me explain.

First, yes, I can pull with either. Just like a Polymorph or Hibernate pull, there are times when you want to take a mob out of the fight from the very first moment, not giving them a chance to do absolutely anything. And, just like both, some mobs are Immune. With Mind Control, I can probably even do a little extra with the abilities that I gain from the mob. It may be nuking or melee or healing, or in very rare cases buffing.

But that's not the problem. Everyone gets that part. The second part is what non-Priests seem to have the hardest time with.

If the Priest is not pulling, then Priest CC is more like Hunter CC than Mage CC.

Wait, what?

Yet again, the Priest shows a bit of flexibility and versatility. Think for a moment about the difference between how a Mage does CC and how a Hunter does CC. For a Mage, gaining the mob's attention before CC is almost always a Very Bad Thing. For a Hunter, almost all of their CC relies on getting the mob's attention. If the Hunter cannot get the mob's attention, then traps become much harder to work, and we're back into Very Bad Thing territory.

Having said that, let me repeat: If the Priest is not pulling, then Priest CC is more like Hunter CC than Mage CC.

Let me break this down by spell. Shackle Undead is the easiest to explain:

Shackle Undead is the Priest's version of a Freeze Trap.

Just like you expect a Hunter to get the mob to rush them, you need to get used to the idea that a good Priest will do the exact same thing. We'll probably tap them on the shoulder with Mind Flay (the blue frickin' laser beam). Yo. What up? Can I talk to you over here for a second?

Wait, wait, I know: “But you're squishy!”. Very, very true. Unlike a Hunter, we don't have a pet for backup. We're definitely putting ourselves at extreme risk. But, that's just how it is done. We've got our bubble and we're smart enough not to bother channelling all 3 seconds of our Mind Flay. The Shackle will come. Just be patient.

We tap the mob for the same reason the Hunter does: when we Shackle, we want the mob to be as far from the action as possible. We want the Mages and Paladins to be able to AoE without fear of breaking the Shackle. We want people to be able to tab-target without accidentally hitting our trapped mob. We also want to be able to keep our eye on it. Unlike a Freeze Trap, we can preemptively re-Shackle our target. In fact, most of us have a beautiful macro that lets us re-Shackle without ever taking out eyes off of our DPS target. (Ever tried to do Moroes without a Shackling Priest? It's a much longer and trickier fight, I assure you.)

So when the mob you've marked for Shackling runs right past you because it's got a blue laser beam hitting it, don't panic. We've got it under control. Pretend it's heading for a Freeze Trap and that the blue laser beam is just a really, really pretty arrow.

Mind Control works almost the exact same: we need to tap the mob first.

In the case of Mind Control, we're tapping the mob for a different reason: range. See, Mind Control is tricksy. Every tick that goes by the mob has a chance to break the Mind Control early. That chance is increased by the range between the Mind Controlled mob and my Priest body. The first thing a good Priest will do after applying a successful Mind Control is run the mob back to stand next to his Priest body.

Yeah, I know. We're back to that whole squishy thing. But again, it's got to be done. It's better that we take that risk than the bigger risk of letting the mob out of Mind Control early.

Wait, there's something you might have missed. Think about the implications of the range problem with Mind Control.

If you want us to melee with a Mind Controlled mob, you need to kite your mob to our mob.

Yeah, sorry, you have to come to us. We can't come to you. If we're standing around at the back of the fight doing nothing, it's probably not because we're /afk. It's probably because our mob doesn't have any ranged abilities and you've got your target too far away for us to feel comfortable running to.

We know that we're supposed to help out by using the mob's abilities. Promise. You don't need to tell us. But help us help you. We'll come a little towards you, maybe 10 yards, but that's it.

Last thing. I'm almost done.

When you ask us to “chain MC”, expect to hear our teeth grinding and a bit of a sigh. Some Priests will do it, but some won't. You've essentially stepped up from asking us to put ourselves at extreme risk to asking us to tank in our squishy cloth. Yes, really. See, did I mention that Mind Control is tricksy?

Chaining Mind Control is more of a theoretical possibility than a proven reality.

Let's go slow-mo here for a moment and recap what needs to be done to chain Mind Control:
  1. Walk the mob as far from us as we can without accidentally breaking the Mind Control as per the rules above.
  2. Cancel existing Mind Control.
    We could wait for it to end on its own, but at the level you are probably asking us to chain, we'd rather be exactly sure when it will happen. If it breaks even a second too early, we could get turned into paste pretty quick.
    No amount of Fade will help us here. Mind Control creates more threat than Fade can deal with on its own, as we're probably the only one on the mob's threat list.
  3. Bubble.
    We have to do this, as we know that we'll never get the next Mind Control off with the mob pounding on us.
  4. Wait for the GCD.
  5. Cast Mind Control.
  6. Wait 3 seconds.

It's that last step that is, sometimes quite literally, the killer part. Mind Control has a 3 second cast time. Sure, in way, way endgame scenarios (Hyjal, Sunwell) we might be stacking enough Spell Haste to reduce that to as little as 2 seconds. But any time before then, probably not.

In most cases, the mob is free to beat on the Priest for a full 4½ seconds.

Yeah, maybe a little less if we've walked the mob far enough away, but not much. For caster mobs, that's 4½ seconds to nuke us, or sheep us, or whatever. For melee mobs, that's 4½ seconds to tear down our bubble and interrupt our casting. If the mob can Kick, Silence, or Counterspell us, it may well be Game Over.

But wait, it gets worse.

Mind Control is subject to diminishing returns with many mobs, just like most other CC. Since we have little way of knowing when the second Mind Control will break, we're really hesitant to do it. So please, please appreciate why we're reluctant to chain Mind Control. It can work out okay, but the vast majority of the time it does not.

And, of course, just like a Freeze Trap, Polymorph, or other CC, the mob is going to come straight for the CCer when either Shackle or Mind Control is done. Please get the mob off of us. kthxbye.

Remember:
  • Blue Beam → Pretty Arrow
  • Don't Panic. Wait for it.
  • Kite to the Mind Controlled mob.
  • Chain Mind Control is almost always a Very Bad Idea.