Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Winter Veil

This ol' cow is taking a break from raiding and other WoWness over the seasonal holiday, but will be back to chew the cud on all things druidic in 2008 (unless anything exceptionally exciting happens before then). So, happy Winter Veil to my fellow druids, and, yes even to the rest of you who may not be wise enough to have at least one shapeshifter in your armory of mains and alts!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The pull of the arena

Eternal Brigade's raid progress has hit somewhat of a stumbling block this week. After surviving the departure of some raiding members (see earlier posts), we managed to keep two teams in Karazhan, with the second team having some good success. This showed some great guild spirit and I was really proud to be an officer in our fantastic wee guild. This week, however, things took a strange turn. Now I am always one to err on the side of melodrama I know, so please take this with a pinch of salt.

I am bored of Karazhan. Well, that is not strictly true, but something is amiss. Ok, let me explain a bit. As I said, EB kept two teams in kara and, as usual, the first team (i.e. it was established first.... we use "Sid" & "Nancy" as our team monikers in an attempt to negate any feelings of superiority and adverse competition that may arise from the more charged "team 1" and "team 2".... well, that and the fact that I love being one of the "Nancies")... sorry, where was I? Oh yes, the first (Nancy) team was well on its way to clearing kara at a fairly relaxed pace (we had some new Nancies after the recent re-shuffle), clearing all bosses up to and including the Wizard of Oz in a couple of hours on the first raid of the week. Our second raid eve then began on Sunday with Nightbane instead of the big robot, which provided interesting drops (another post needed for that one) before we made our way through to the Curator himself (T4 hands for me... to be included in that as-yet theoretical "another post", too), through Aran, Chess, and finally the Prince (satisfyingly down in one attempt even with awful luck with the infernal placements). This was to leave Netherspite and Terestian Ilhoof for the third and final raid night of the week.

Monday night came around and I logged on a bit later than our 19.00 E.R.S.T (estimated raid starting time hee hee) due to some technical problems. I was quickly informed by our raid leaders and officers that there would not be enough people online to finish our Kara run (people not already saved to the "Sid" kara team). My first reaction was one that surprised me: I was not that disappointed not to be clearing up Kara (despite Ilhoof and Netherspite being two of my favourite fights to heal). As we cobbled together a raid group to attempt the first boss in ZA to make up for the lost kara night (we sooo got our asses whooped on the final trash pull before the bear avatar rofl), I started wondering.... am I fed up with raiding or is this a mere bump in the road?

Now, this kind of brings me to the title of this post - albeit in a very roundabout manner - as well as to an good point about raiding and raid healing/tanking per se. OK, so I came to the conclusion that there were two main factors bringing about my raiding/kara malaise. Firstly, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I have been getting more enthusiastic about the arena (the challenge, the shorter duration, the difference to PvE etc etc.) and this has coincided, funnily enough, with our MT and my Arena 2v2 partner's increasing boredom with tanking even in Karazhan. Which leads me on to the "secondly" part: this boredom with tanking that my MT professed is not, it became apparent in our conversation, all about the fun or not of tanking. Instead, it could be much more accurately summed up as "burnout". Of course, I had heard about hardcore raiding tanks and healers (and I'm sure a few dps too) suffering from the stresses and strains of keeping a group of 10/25/40 people alive and happy, but I never really expected it to happen to me so soon. After all, we have only been raiding kara for around eight weeks, so I was not expecting to get tired like this.

All of this dissatisfaction/frustration/tiredness could of course be, in fact, boredom. After all, all of us, especially druids it seems, long for constant novelty, shapeshifting, respeccing and all the rest of it.

I will get around to the post about Kara gear that I promised above, which also, conveniently enough, brings me back to the still unresolved questions about spirit, Mp5, and raid healing assigments that I brought up a couple of weeks ago. Until then... grumble grumble, winge winge, moan moan *wink*!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Raid Healing Gems

Athinira over on wow-europe forums has stated concisely what I think might be the best gem combinations for resto raiding:

"My suggestions if you want to boost your +healing:
Red Sockets - Teardrop Living Ruby (18 +healing)
Blue Sockets - Royal Nightseye (9 +healing 2 mp5)
Yellow Sockets - Luminous Noble Topaz (9 +healing 4 int)"

Now, after MT healing and raid healing in Kara, I have come the conclusion that I am more suited to being the duration healer (I am usually the last standing if a boss fight goes a bit awry... i.e. we screw up a bit) out of our group - Pally MT healer, Priest OT healer + target healer (e.g. sacrificed or charged target), Druid (me raid healer). Hence I get out of the 5SR more often than some druids and rely on spirit quite a bit. However, I am also of the opinion that if the MT/OT is taking spiky damage on some encounter, that I need more mp5 and +healing. SO... I think that overwhelmingly tempting socket bonuses aside, stacking Royal Nightseyes is the way to go for me, relying on nicely weighted spirit on my gear stats to do its job (I don't think I'm lacking in spirit and can even afford to lose my Bangle in shorter boss fights).

I'll have to give more thought to PvP gemming and also Heroics (although I doubt I will ever gem specifically for heroics as my +healing should increase enough with the same raid gems to raise my HT to a nice amount (max crit 8700 so far).


I have just had the pleasure of seeing my little blog being namechecked by Phaelia over at one of my fave Druid blogs, Resto4Life

Thanks for the mention Phaelia! :-D I will of course be pouring over your blog with an even closer eye now that I am finally getting into arena resto fun with my orcish mate Grogrun!

A whole lotta shakin' goin' on

Phew! It's been on hell of a week on Burning Steppes (EU), and I would have quite a lot to write about. I fear, though, that time nor energy levels will give me the staying power to squeeze everything in one post.

I just flashed back to my second blog entry and noticed my still persistent quandaries, but I am going to have to set these aside for another time.

So what has been going on?, I hear you ask.

Firstly, Eternal Brigade has seen some fairly major upheaval over the last week. The guild drama centred on the guild's unofficial mission statement and the tensions surrounding it. EB has always been a fairly casual guild and yet has been, with lots of good results, getting steadily more organised in terms of raiding & recruitment over the last couple of months. With all the Kara-related enthusiasm and the unbounded success of our first kara team (this week clearing kara in 2 nights), we got somewhat carried away in establishing the second team that so many of our members were clambering for. Now, I'm not going to go into all the details here, as this is primarily a druid blog and not the journal of a Guild Officer, but the long and short of it is that after several 'unilateral' invites dished out by our second raid leader ("join our guild and you will jump straight into kara"), there were quite a few disappointed long-term members, whose hope and dreams of stepping through the hallowed wooden door to Karazhan (tongue firmly in cheek here), were rather abruptly dashed.

And so, as the last week of raiding came to an end on Sunday evening, said raid leader and some of the newcomers entered into a heated argument (discussion was dismissed even before it was allowed to begin) concerning the direction of the guild - they were trying to pull us into a more "hardcore raiding" direction - and the balance of the two kara teams. Things came to an ugly climax (lots of uncalled for personal badmouthing) and the troublesome raid leader and his small band of followers /gquitted without so much a word of explanation to the rest of the guild.

Sadly, these events somewhat overshadowed the great success that our first kara team had, but thankfully not entirely. Great work all - kara on farm now that we got our Netherspite tactics down to a T.

So what else has this druid been up to other than trying to settle the nerves and allay fears of a guild disbandment (Never!!)?

Well... as previously mentioned, I have been further exploring my love of respeccing and have combined this with experiments in the arena. I spent some of last week as a Moonkin for solo grinding and for some needed dps backup in a guild instance run or three. For the rest of the week, raiding duties aside, I stepped into practice arena skirmishes with my partner and fellow druid, Aikon, (she's much more adept at PvP than I am) - dying a lot in the process. I also had lots of fun dishing out nukes and healing in premade BGs, and then, finally, after having convinced our PvE stalwart prot Warrior to respec MS and enter the arena with me, getting my first 2v2 team off the ground.

What have I learned/observed from all this spec and PvP fun? Well, firstly, when it comes to Moonkin, I noticed two profound things that I had not before (primarily using Moonkin to solo-grind/farm, doing the odd instance when I had worse healing gear). 1) My tank pointed out that I am an aggro machine - worse than fire mages in his opinion - in instances. I've been trying to work out whether this is to do with my lack of caster dps experience in instances, not having an aggro-shed trinket or talent as in feral cower, or, whether there is something inherently aggroish about Moonkins?

I was playing with my healing set on, with the addition of caster trinkets (Skyguard and Xiri's Gift), giving me +55o spell dmg and around 14% spell crit. This did not lead me to expect any aggro problems and yet they came... even though I was below Cobalto, our BM hunter, on the damage charts when we did a few SV/UB/SL runs. Any thoughts?

The second piece of Moonkinism that caught my attention was how quickly I died in the Arena. Yes, I know that I am undergeared and have little/no arena experience, but I was surprised to see that in the skirmishes that Aikon and I attempted, our opponents mostly went straight for my throat and ignored her, the healer! Is this normal? Again, if there are any PvP Moonkins that care to enlighten me about why this happened and/or what I should do to avoid such imminent death, I will be most grateful.

Slightly downhearted about my Balance efforts in the arena, I respecced for PvP resto (with a hybrid pve twist 3/11/47) and stepped in the throws of carnage with Grogrun, my newly PvP specced warrior friend - suffering from the same PvE epics dominated gear issues as myself. In the beginning we really sucked and died all too easily to all kinds of combinations. However, after some quick tactical reassessments and with the realisations about the potentials of our newly acquired talents, we set about demolishing 4 of the 1o or so teams that we subsequently faced. Not a bad start, even tho our season beginning 1500 rating dropped quite quickly - LOL! Interestingly, we proved ourselves to be the slayers of warrior-paladin teams! On the downside, we got obliterated by our guildmates (a certain female druid and her fire mage compadre) and other combinations besides.

Two things that both Grogrun and I noticed: 1) you really do need some good resilience gear, but having epic pve gear does not make the arena impossible, and 2) after practice and determined effort, the arena can spark passion and excitement in even the most pve-oriented of players!

More on my team's arena progress and learning curve in posts to come! (Hopefully, my one single piece of S1 gear will be added to soon).

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Clearing Kara and gearing up

Last night, Eternal Brigade's first kara team cleared Karazhan when we downed Netherspite in 4 attempts. This journey started out around four or five weeks ago - i could check... but... - when we first ventured into Kara with little or no clue about how geared up we were for the task. There had/s been lots of talk of kara being progressively nerfed etc etc. but the reality is that as a fairly casual guild, with few members with raiding experience, we really did not know what we were letting ourselves in for. Now, I won't go into assessing and talking about the gear development of the other raid members - save to say that those who started with one or two greens as we downed Attumen for the first time (what a great feeling that was), have now replaced those either with Kara drops or other epics/high-end blues - but, instead, I will focus on my own quest to improve my healing gear through our kara exploits.

The day that we stepped through the gates of kara was the day that I had specced resto for the first time in a long time. We were unsure of the final kara lineup until almost the last minute and I was, up until then going to be the OT to our prot warrior. However, our lack of healers (either not geared, not attuned, or just not online) meant that I flew to Thunder Bluff, stripped my tanking gear off and slapped on the healing gear that I had assembled.

I don't remember every piece of gear I had at the time, but it looked something like this.
Watcher's Cowl
Moonglade Shoulders / Mantle of Autumn
Cloak of Whispering Shells
Scarab of the Infinite Cycle
Moonglade Pants
Ring of Spiritual Precision
Bangle of Endless Blessings
Sigil of Shaffar
Boots of the Glade Keeper
Idol of the Emerald Queen
Imbued Netherweave Robe
Staff of the Redeemer
The rest of my set was made up of quest greens and blues that I don't recall. All in all, I don't think that I had a bad set. My mana pool was in the region of 8k and my +healing just under 1000 if i recall correctly. I was certainly glad that I had done so much instancing while feral and had picked up some nice healing gear (my guild thankfully saw the bigger picture of so many drops coming my way). Our healing setup at first was me, Anisha, our undergeared holy pally - although all that grinding SL for the healing drops started to quickly change that - and Shagal, our ever-willing PvP-oriented resto shaman. We did not struggle as a healer group and did pretty well all the way up to Maiden. As a group we struggled on Moroes for a while, but this was mainly due to a periodic lack of priests and hunters, but as healers we were doing a good job- only going oom at the very end of fights. I was certainly relying on pots quite a lot and innervate was saved for myself - not that the casters minded too much - but all in all, healing was ok on the level of getting us through those first few runs.

I certainly learned a lot about healing in the beginning of our kara runs, with many a hard lesson learned. At first, I found it very odd working with other healers and tried to do way too much: Given the nature of HOT healing, I felt comfortable enough throwing lifeblooms and rejuvinations around the raid as and when they were needed, but I also noticed two distinct problems: 1) other healers not understanding hots, resulting in lots of overhealing, and 2) my own frustration at not coping with spiky damage to the raid too well. I will go into both of these issues at another time, as for now I will return to the topic of gear.

As we started working our way through kara, I carried on improving my gear at a steady rate. I picked up some valuable upgrades to my weaker items from normal and heroic instances, badge of justice rewards, and the first few kara drops. Items of note are:

Hammer of the Penitent & Lamp of Peacful Repose
Mitts of the Treemender
Necklace of Eternal Hope
Moonglade Robe
Boots of the Pious

A debate that I had with myself, also seeking inconclusive advice about, was the balance/weighing of spirit and mp5 and, to a lesser extent, stamina.

Stamina first: I began kara with self-buffed hp of around 7500, which rose with buffs to a more health 8k+. However, with all my gear upgrades, this has not improved dramatically. I now have a self-buffed hp of around 8600, some 1k improvement, but I'm wondering is this still enough for a healer going into Gruul? My instinct says yes, as I very rarely get enough aggro to receive unhealable damage, but I'm not sure and this requires further investigation. Also, regarding any forays into the arena that intend to make, I have the feeling that stamina is an area to improve while I work on securing more pvp oriented gear.

Mp5/Spirit: While hotting multiple targets, I find that I very rarely get outside of the 5-second rule (5SR), and so I have been focusing on mp5, especially with gems. However, in single target healing on bosses, I felt that my increased spirit gear (i gemmed my moonglade shoulders with spirit gems and tweaked some other gear too), gave me far better mana lastability. So, I'm wondering about the benefits of gemming for swappable items with emphasis on either mp5 or spirit rather than striking a balance with both. Well, we'll see.

I have done quite well out of kara so far and I hope that key areas of my gear will continue to improve - notably my moonglade set (I have 3/5), which I intend to replace bit my bit for more pure healing. I passed on the Maidens' shard mace so that our pally healer could get rid of her crappy green mace of the something, and unless the Prince gives up Lights Justice, I think I will stick with my Gavel rather than wasting honour on a Season1 weapon even if it might mean a slight upgrade.

My big gear upgrades to date have been getting my T4 head (which, aside from being a stat improvement, is the first 'good-looking' head since my Stylin' Purple tanking hat), and my Cord of Nature's Sustenance from Terestian Ilhoof, replacing the crappy cloth belt from heroic slave pens. I also replaced my offhand with Aran's Soothing Sapphire.

At the moment, I feel like investing more time into my healing gear, and for this reason I will spend my honour points on S1 resto gear rather than putting it towards my feral set. From what I have seen of Sarmon, our feral OT, and other feral tanks in our guild, the set that I had worked on prior to kara will be more than good enough to tank kara should I get the desire/opportunity to do so in the future.

Monday, December 3, 2007

There can never be too many...

...Druids and druid-related blogs?

Motivation is a word that's been buzzing around my head quite a lot recently. And, so, perhaps beginning this fledgling Druid blog by means of explaining my motivation for doing so not only seems apt, but also kind of the "done thing" when it comes to matters of bloggage.

As a druid-obsessed WoW player and avid reader of other Druid blogs and such like, I wanted to write something that might come from a different perspective. I am neither a 100% tank, kitty-dervish, healerator, or owl, and although I am currently much more into pve raiding, I have recently gotten more interested in the mano y mano (yes, i know there are weapons involved too) pvp pleasures of battlegrounds and the arena. In addition, I have tried almost every druid spec there is, excluding some of the stranger ones... sealion spec comes to mind (great post on wow european forums if I can find and link), and this brings me to my point. While there is many a great blog and guide about specific aspects of druidism - see my links for my own personal faves - there are few (none come to mind.... please enlighten me i if you are/know and good ones) druids writing about the whole spectrum of life as one of the most, if not perhaps even the most, diverse classes in WoW.

And so, the motivation for this blog, which forms my aim in writing it, is that druids of all shapes and flavours (firstly in the guild in which I am an officer) can perhaps benefit from my internet trawlage and in-game experience of the many-splendoured fun that is being a Druid. So there it is, in a nut-shell.

A bit about me then. I am not a WoW pro or hardcore raiding type, but I do enjoy the game a lot and try and get as much out of it as I can. I am, cough cough, also a post-TBC player and so there are still many things that I have got to learn about my own class as well as everything else WoW-related. Nevertheless, having said all that, I do think that I know my class pretty well and take great pleasure in helping out my fellow druus and trying my damnedest to convince people of the druid's indisputable uberness (one of our Guild's warrior MTs is very much feeling the pressure from his Feral OT... hee hee).

I am currently resto specced (I recently respecced for pvp-viability from full raiding spec ToL), but, as I said I have and still do spec and respec whenever I get the urge. I spent my fledgling levelling days as mostly balance and then, frustrated by the slowness, respecced to a feral dominant hybrid build, which I liked a lot. However, when I started doing instances more regularly, I started to get the taste for tanking and specced full feral from levels 30-70. During that time I did spend the odd week or two as either Moonkin or Resto for a change of pace, and I very much enjoyed all aspects of druid play. Since our guild started doing more lvl70 instances together, the odd heroic and then started to raid Karazhan, I've been mostly resto (since 2.3 I've also gotten the taste for owl from time to time...+spell dmg on my healing gear is nice). I have now healed all the way through Karazhan (After we one-shotted Nightbane, we only have Netherspite left.... he's going down in tonight's raid though!!), and am looking forward to what the future holds for this big cow of mine.

Some more about my style: I am a gear obsessive moo moo, lootaholic some may say... including myself, but I am not a number-cruncher. I've read a fair bit about theory, especially in terms of tanking, but, once again, I'll leave that to the Feral specialists. My healing knowledge is getting better all the time, and is something that I really want to get more deeply into, and healing is perhaps a good example of how I want to approach this blog. I intend to write this mostly in the form of a journal, recounting my experiences and observations and leaving the math and factualism to my esteemed colleagues to the left of this post. For example, as I mentioned, Eternal Brigade is now going really well in Kara and I intend to relay the experiences I have garnered as a junior raid healer from beginning to end (from wiping a lot on Moroes, to downing prince in only 4 attempts), and also those of the more concerted foray into the arena that I hope to begin soon. In doing this, I am going to share with you my successes and failures, my revelations and confusions - and I really hope that any constructive comments would come my way so that I could further advance my own path to druid enlightenment!

That's the intro over I guess. I hope that anyone that stumbles across this li'l blog o' mine will enjoy reading it.