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Da Voodoo Doctor is In (Advice 5c)


Explaining Raiding to My Mom
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My mom is not stupid, nor computer illiterate, but she has never played any video game in her life, not even Solitare, and she's 60.  I seem to spend a lot of time explaining raiding to improbable people since my social group includes a lot of non-gamers.  Since this is my mom, I felt there was a lot at stake.  It went surprisingly well.

Dramatic Re-Enactment

Me: I'll probably have someone to ask about the words in that book you gave me since my gaming team just accepted an application a person of [my ethnicity] who is a native speaker.

Mom: You have a gaming team?  What game?

Me: It's the one I told you about, Wow.  Only these days I focus on the team part of the game.

Mom
: How does it work?

Me:  You can play in two divisions.  You can have a team of 25 people or 10 people.  Each person controls one character on screen.  Each character has a different ability, and they have to use their powers together to defeat a computerized enemy.  Some characters fight close up with swords or knives, some shoot enemies from a distance with physical weapons, some use magic to damage enemies, and some are medic types and heal allies. The enemy is almost always a dragon, but sometimes it's a different kind of monster.  It's a fighting game.   It requires a lot of coordination so you have to be selective about who is on your team.  Sometimes fire comes up out of the ground as you're fighting the dragon and then your whole team has to move together.

Mom: Can you see other people's characters?

Me
: Yup.

Mom: Each person only controls one character?

Me
: Yes.

Mom: How do you choose what role you will play?

Me
: You decide when you create your character first, and then you play though part of the game alone, learning your role, and when you're good enough you can apply to join a team.  Some are very competitive.

Mom: So you get the role at random in the beginning?

Me
: No, you get to choose.  Though the description you get on the screen when you begin doesn't give you an idea of what it will feel like once you get to the team part.

Mom: Do you make a new character for each fight?

Me
: No, you get to keep the same character the whole time you play the game. 

Mom: So what is your character?

Me: I play an elf that heals people with magic.

I could tell my mom really approved that I chose to play a healer. 

We talked some more about the social dynamics of the raid group (which with non-gamers I always call "gaming team" because raid group is jargon; gaming team sounds like bowling team and that's the correct idea), about which of my real life friends also play, and how long a raid takes before moving on to the more usual topic of when I'm going to provide her with some grandchildren. 

It might seem weird that I'd even try to explain raiding to my mom.  Because we're first generation immigrants and I spent most of my childhood in the US, there's a lot of cultural gaps between me and my parents and I find myself often having to explain things that normal families might take for granted as mutually understood.  If I didn't try to explain, I would hardly have a relationship with my parents.  Whether I'm explaining how Starbucks coffee works, what Burning Man is, the place of the burrito in San Francisco cuisine, or 25 Man raiding, it's all pretty much equally alien to my parents. 

Stupid Obsessions
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The argument against getting worked up about in-game items mostly boils down to “It’s just pixels.” Well, yes, of course it is just pixels, but if there was no emotional attachment to those pixels, there would be no point in playing the game. Epic gear is just pixels. Rare mounts is just pixels. Even dead Internet Dragons is just pixels. Realm first titles are just pixels.

But sometimes obsessions arise that don’t really make any in-game sense. That even within the somewhat crazy mode of emotional attachment to “just pixels” are stupid.

Pocket Lint

The stupidest thing I’ve ever obsessed about is pocket lint, a gray item that drops from some mobs in Dire Maul. While attempting to work on Loremaster, I found that gray items were piling up in my inventory, and so I found a “sell all grays” macro, and vendored all my gray items. If I was a lot smarter I would have realized what would happen, and written in an exception. If I was a little bit smarter I would have caught my mistake right away and bought the items back.

But I didn’t realize until the next day when the spot next to my Hearthstone was empty. That spot, that ever since level 30, when I was just a noob druid on Darrowmere, was occupied by my lucky pocket lint. Someone jokingly had linked it for sale in Trade Chat and I thought it was the funniest in game item ever, and offered to buy it in all seriousness. An hour later I had it in my mail, 50 silver, C.O.D. I had that pocket lint all through leveling, my brief stint in the level 70 endgame, and all through Wrath.

And now it was gone. A pocket lint shaped hole in my heart.

I put in a ticket but the GM was not sympathetic.

One of my guildmates, sympathetic to my plight, and farmed me up a pocket lint while working on Dire Maul reputation. I know it’s just pixels and it’s the same item, really, only it’s not the same item. Just because it’s fungible doesn’t mean that emotionally it’s the same pocket lint.

The new pocket lint means a lot to me, because it’s a reminder of the old one and a sign of friendship, but it’s not the same pocket lint. In the way that a new kitten soothes the loss of an old cat but does not replace the cat shaped hole in your heart, so the new pocket lint is only a bandage over my wound.

Precious's Ribbon

For the last year, I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about the green-quality shirt, Precious’ Ribbon. It has dropped a couple of times for my guild, but I have never won it. Since it’s a soul-bound green, it’s not even trade-able. I attempted to convince our raid leader at one point that we should use DKP for the ribbon, but he was against it with the philosophy that DKP is for advancing the progress of the whole raid group and by spending my DKP on a vanity item I would be harming the raid. I guess that’s true but there is not a single item I have wanted more than that ribbon in all of Icecrown Citadel.

A ribbon dropped recently and again I didn’t win it. The person who did win it attempted to trade it to me, but of course, could not. I knew that would happen but I guess he did not. I was broken up over it really out of proportion to the importance of the item.

Some days later, I logged on and found I had official GM mail. I was a bit confused since I hadn’t put in any tickets.

It was the ribbon! My fellow raider had opened tickets to get the soul-bound ribbon assigned to me, and, I learned from other people, had to petition multiple GMs before he found one that was willing to do it.

I’m still not sure how I can properly express my gratefulness to my guildy without totally embarrassing him. I’d offer naming rights to my first born child, but I don’t plan to have any kids. Perhaps I’ll think of something one day.

For now, every time I look at the buff “Best in Show” I am reminded that it’s not just that people don’t all suck--some people are really awesome.


Healing in 4.0.1: Is it fun?
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User Interface Issues
A number of Grid plugins I rely on either haven not been updated or are working improperly. Most importantly raid debuffs are unreliable, my HoTs and others' HoTs are not distinguished from each other, and my color-coding of HoTs as they tick down is no longer working. My Grid settings were perfect and living without them has been really painful.

I've been wrestling with VuhDo since it's the next contender but I have a number of problems with it, both functional and aesthetic. Some of it might be inexperience, some of it might just be flaws in the mod. In a nutshell, it has too much flash and motion, not enough customization in the things that matter, and tries to do too much by default. It's better than a broken Grid but damn I miss my perfect Grid.

Broken Grid and imperfect VuhDo has driven me to give Healbot a second chance. Now that I use mostly mouseover macros and a bit of Clique, and the new default raid frames are pretty good, Healbot has nothing to offer me.

The Grid issues have been the biggest fun-suck in my healing world.

Druid at 80
I don't miss tree form as much as I thaugth I would. I feel like healing is slightly more interesting than it was before. For practical purposes I lost Nourish, which I never liked that much. In exchange I got back Lifebloom as something worth casting. Due to Effloresence I'm casting Swiftmend on cooldown, and putting down pancakes of good green stuff is fun. I still feel mobile, powerful, and natury. Druid is alright.

Shaman Healing at 80

Of my four healers, this one seems to have changed the least and is the most boring. Shaman was never that amazing to me, but at it was more fun than Paladin. Since dirty mages and freaking hunter pets now have Heroism/Bloodlust I no longer feel like my shaman provides the amazing raid utility she once did. It's still moderately fun and rather relaxing, but I just haven't been as motivated to raid on my shaman to test out new things because there aren't really interesting new things.

Discipline Priest at 73
I have only begun to scratch the surface of Discipline. I went with a shield-focused spec rather than the Atonement spec where you do damage to heal. Power Word: Barrier feels really fun. There's a lot more to try with the priest, including both an Atonement spec and a Holy spec. I think that shield focused Discipline is not as fun as it used to be. Nonetheless I'm excited about the priest because there is so much left to learn. I haven't tested it as thoroughly as I might because Shadow has been so much fun.

Holy Paladin at 65
The changes here feel the most significant. I went from buff-bot who stands still and spams one spell, to some kind of bizzaro-world rogue in plate who casts instant heals. I love building up charges of Holy Power using Holy Shock and then making a decision about when to discharge them with a powerful (instant! no mana!) Word of Glory. Beacon of Light has been reduced to 50% but at the same time I got a new mechanic that heals me any time I heal anyone else. In leveling dungeons I sometimes had trouble with mana but now as long as I focus on Holy Shock and Word Of Glory, I no longer do. Most importantly I can now practice my preferred healing style which involves a lot of jumping.

So, is it fun?
Yes. Healing in 4.0.1 is really fun. Paladin, the least fun healing class, has been revamped to make it awesome. Druid is still a pleasure to heal with. Shaman is fine and has potential. Priest really has 3 healing specs available and I'm convinced at least one of them will be awesome. I'm excited. I expect I will keep healing mostly on my druid in Cataclysm, since she is my most beloved, but healing in general looks like it will be fun.

Goodbye, Treeform
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A farewell, in ScreenshotsCollapse )



It will never be the same


without you.

Visual Guide to New Raid Frames
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I took a series of screenshots setting up the new stock UI raid frames on the PTR today.  The goal was to get them too look as much as Grid as possible.  Click on the picture to go to a slideshow of the series.




The Great Kodo Revisited
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I have wanted my very own kodo ever since I saw an alliance with one, late in the Burning Crusade.  Today I finally got one!
 



And now, for a related musical number:


One Year With Ever Vigilant
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Yesterday was my one year anniversary of joining Ever Vigilant. On the first official raid night after I joined, I was invited to go to finish the last couple of bosses of Ulduar with the main raid group. I was extremely excited at the opportunity!

It felt quite appropriate, therefore, that last night we spent the second half of the raid on hard mode Ulduar 25. Firefighter, Vexax Hardmode and (oh geez) One Light Yogg-Saron.

I love Firefighter. I love it because it's still challening, because it hightlights the strengths of my class, because even regular Mimiron used to make me cry (literaly, yes literaly), because I mastered it, and because the day I got Firefighter on 10 man is the day I finally got my confidence as a healer. Firefighter is my fight.

Vezax hardmode is annoying for a healer, being that it is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme stress.

We didn't get very far on One Light because a large portion of the raid had never even done the Yogg-Saron fight before. While it was frustrating to wipe to normal-mode mechanics, I was still happy to be in Ulduar, fighting Yogg-Saron.

Resto Druid News from 4.0.1 PTR: Sky NOT Falling; I Drink Your Tears
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After multiple false starts, I had a chance to run a challenging heroic with a good group on the PTR. I’d heart so many reports that tanks were taking too much damage, that threat was broken, that druid healing was bad, that I really wanted to see it for myself.

New Raid Frames

The big, under-reported item of the PTR is the new healing raid frames. They are fantastic and almost perfect.


New Raid Frames




Frames
Clearcasting aura
Clearcasting Aura


The new raid frames look almost like Grid and include the most important features that a healing raid frame should have: Health, HoTs with timers, resource bars (mana, rage, etc), dispellable debuffs, and range. For the first time, I feel that I can heal effectively with the default raid frames.

They are missing some important features, but those are mostly a matter of degree. The big things missing are 1. sizing -- the smallest size still too big 2. movability of frames -- I can’t put them at my feet 3. horizontal groups -- groups can only be vertical.

All this aside, the frames are quite good, and I felt fine healing with them and mouse-over macros.

I started a thread about them on the PTR official forums that seems to be getting some traction. I hope that the developers look at our feedback, since revamping healing is part of the stated goal of Cataclysm and good raid frames are a big part of good healing. [Feedback] New raid frames for healing

Tank Damage

Tanks are taking more damage and they do need to use their cooldowns more. I found that if a tank was not fully HoT-ed up going into a boss, I could not catch up on healing. I suppose to those who only started healing heroics once everyone was over-geared that might feel bad. To me, it feels fantastic. Healing is a challenge and requires focus and appropriate cooldown use from both tanks and healers.

To my surprise, I found that I enjoyed popping into tree form as an important, big cooldown. I used it on the “up the hill” trash pull on Pit of Saron as well as on the last boss. The tank damage was really intense and I was spamming my instant-cast Regrowth (an effect of tree form) and just barely keeping up.

I went through a lot of tanks before I found one who was able to use their cooldowns, pull cautiously, and not completely wig out when they died. I suspect that the complaints are mostly coming from players who are used to over-gearing the content they play.

To them, all I can say is: Your tears are like unto a sweet nectar to me.

Mana


Mana is not a problem. It just isn’t. My meta isn’t even active right now, and I can’t get a new gem to activate it since professions are broken but mana is not a problem. My blue bar still seems permanently stuck in the full postion.

Things will no doubt change for the full Cataclysm release but in 4.0.1, it’s not punishing.

Healing

Druid healing is still fun. I still feel like a HoT user. In fact, I have to be more mindful to layer my HoTs on the tank or it’s game over.

Because the tank requires such heavy healing, I can’t always afford to heal DPS who take damage, particularly if they take aggro from the tank. That feels fine to me. There’s nothing I love more than seeing a trigger happy DeathKnight eat dirt.

Popping into tree form as a powerful cooldown feels surprisingly awesome. Tree form no longer has the snare, so it just feels powerful. Someone on the Elitist Jerks forum described it as a half-strength personal Heroism/Bloodlust.

I pulled healing aggro more than I’m used to, no doubt because tank threat is working a bit differently and the tanks have to get used to it. I was also pre-hotting the tank a lot. I tend to use Shadowmeld and Barksin fairly aggressively and I found that this habit served me well.

Effloresence, the ground AoE heal triggered by Regrowth is really fun. DPS do seem to enjoy standing in the pancakes of good greenery. For fights where the tank is stationary, it also provides yet another layer of tank-HoT, and I like that.

The single-target nature of Lifebloom doesn’t bother me, but I might feel differently in a raid environment. Nourish refreshing Lifebloom is a mechanic I found I didn’t use very much because of the slow cast-time of Nourish and the big hits the tank was taking. The times where I used Nourish to refresh Lifebloom, I found the tank dipped dangerously low. With the advertised bigger health pools combined with tighter mana in Cataclysm using Nourish to refresh Lifebloom may become a more viable technique, but for now it’s not worth it.

Overall

Healing is more challenging and therefore more fun. Tree form as a cooldown is pretty fun. I’d like a new, exciting graphic for it. Maybe we could glow or something. I’d like for it to be really visible for the other raid members, so that when the druid goes tree form, you know shit is hitting the fan and you better watch yourself.

Mew?
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As my excitement about the game has waned, so has my excitement in writing about it.  It doesn't help that bloggers the blogosphere round generally agree that when it comes to the Restoration spec the sky is falling.  I've been despondent about Restoration in Cataclysm ever since I found out about the loss of Tree of Life form as a baseline.

I'm not too worried about having to completely change my healing style.  Frankly, spamming Rejuv every Global Cool Down is starting to give me wrist problems.  No, really.  To compensate for my relatively low frame rates (around 16 in most ICC Fights) and latency (usually ~150), I have to button-mash Rejuv if I'm going to use every single GCD.  Since mana is a non-issue, using every single GCD is pretty much the measure of "good" druid healing right now.  On most fights, it's ridiculously powerful, but it's not very fun.  It also hurts my hands.

Unfortunately, everything I am reading from beta testers about Restoration Druid healing is very discouraging.  The problem isn't that you have to use different spells, or use all of your spells, or triage.  The problem is that due to prohibitive mana costs and extensive nerfs to HoTs, there are again only two spells that it makes sense to use, they just happen to be a different two spells, and they feel quite weak now.  

I fear that I am soon going to have to make a choice.  If I want to keep playing a healer I will need to switch to a healing class which is actually viable.  I already have a perfectly nice resto shaman.  Holy priest also sounds quite appealing, and very powerful.

If I want to keep playing my druid, I fear I will need to switch raiding specs.  I still can't get excited about moonkin.  Tanking might be fun, but I worry I don't have the (emotional) thick skin that it takes, and more importantly last time I tried tanking as a bear, it hurt my wrists (and that's assuming I could get one of the highly competitive tank spots over a more experienced tank, which I probably couldn't).  And that brings me to the kitty.

Kitty druids seem to be getting a slightly more forgiving rotation while remaining quite interesting to play.  Melee DPS spots are very competitive in raids, but with a whole new expansion, gear reset, and new encounter philosophy, I hope that I might be able to compete for one.  

It could be my chance to get out of the healer ghetto, and finally find out if I'm really a good player, or just a good (enough) healer.

I Accidentaly Vedored My Lucky Pocket Lint
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