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Thursday Thoughts

7 Jun

Over the last few weeks I have really struggled with coming up with cohesive, relevant blogs that I can publish.  For the first time ever I have more than one draft sitting in my Drafts folder and I regularly add more, only to delete them a short time later.  I haven’t encountered a feeling of writer’s block this strong in quite a while and it only makes me feel worse when I see how other bloggers are constantly posting and how they seem to have no such shortage of things to write about.

To be honest, it makes me feel jaded.  Washed up.  I see myself losing Followers because I’m not talking about things that people initially followed me to hear me talk about.  I see myself not being able to relate to conversations that other people are having, because I either don’t agree with them and can’t find a way to word it eloquently enough or because I do agree with them and they have already worded things better than I ever could.  I just feel like I’m watching people, like I’m watching the community pass me by.  I’m suddenly overcome with ennui and I don’t know what to do about it.

Instead of talking about what I haven’t been able to do or haven’t been doing lately, let’s talk about what I have been up to.

World of Warcraft

I haven’t raided in two weeks.  Last week I posted out because I had just broken up with my boyfriend and I was really in no mood to raid or do anything that felt competitive or like I would have to really push myself to do.  This week I had the chance to go out and do something to take my mind off said breakup and so I took the opportunity to do that and volunteered to sit on the bench for the night.

I don’t miss it.  Let me be more specific – I don’t miss Dragon Soul.  I’m excited about raid testing being made available in the Beta.  I’m excited at the thought of grinding the 5 man dungeons to gear up for new raid content in Mists of Pandaria and then doing said content.

The Beta, as it stands right now, doesn’t have much appeal to me, either.  I have no desire to level a toon from 85-90 and then have to do it all over again when the expansion hits.  I would much rather wait until the premade characters are made available and then go from there.  That’s really where things in the Beta will start getting interesting to me.

Diablo 3

I have an Annual Pass, so I didn’t actually have to “pay” for or go seriously out of my way to get my hands on a copy of Diablo 3.  It’s fun.  I haven’t played it as much as most people have.  My witch doctor hasn’t even cracked level 20 yet and I’m not in much of a hurry to change that.

I enjoy the slow pace.  I enjoy exploring every nook and cranny of the map and breaking every barrel, urn, and spider egg that I see.  I don’t feel like there is a clock ticking that tells me I have to be this level or I have to be this geared in order to do this instance within this timeframe.  It’s nice to just say to myself “I want to kill shit,” and then I log on and do it.  It’s very simple and very mindless, which I really appreciate at this point in time.

Magic the Gathering

I have been playing quite a bit of Magic the Gathering lately and it has brought me the most enjoyment these past few weeks.  I find Magic to be very refreshing and so different from World of Warcraft in many ways.  Here are just some of those reasons:

The community.  Since I started playing Magic again, I have been trying to get a feel for what websites are the best resources for me to go to and which forums seem to have the most decent people posting on them.  I have started to Follow certain writers that I enjoy reading the most on Twitter, striking up conversations with them when I can.  I’m slowly trying to get involved in a community that is unlike what I’m used to and it’s intimidating and yet strangely exciting, at the same time.

One thing that really stands out to me about the Magic community is the sense of meritocracy or the feeling that people who are seen as authorities or who are the most respected have genuinely done something to deserve that.  Something that has really frustrated me about the WoW community lately has been the recent surge in people who have obtained this bizarre form of celebrity for seemingly doing nothing at all.

They don’t play the game.  They don’t raid.  But yet they’re in a position where people look to them to tell them what to do or for advice.  They exist solely for entertainment value and while I can see the immediate benefits of such a thing, it still feels sort of wrong to me.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask that someone actually plays the game that they write or podcast about.  I don’t think it’s wrong to ask someone to share their level of experience with you when they try to give you advice on how to do something.

This doesn’t seem to be the case in the Magic community.  The people who are writing for these websites and that you see out and about can genuinely prove that they have been there, that they are successful, and that they have a reason to be doing what they are doing.  They are there to entertain you, but that comes second to the fact that they have some amount of credibility going for them and I really respect that and I miss that.

The social interactions.  I knew that I was starting to experience some burnout once we had downed Heroic Madness for the first time.  I knew that I wanted to take a break from WoW before Mists of Pandaria came out, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with all that free time.  The possibilities were endless.  I could go back to Rift.  I could try out Star Wars or TERA.  I could throw myself into Diablo 3.

But then I realized that I really missed social interaction with people and I mean face to face conversations.  I started to feel like everything I was doing involved hiding behind a computer screen and like I was becoming very isolated and possibly even socially awkward because of it.  It seemed really obvious to me, maybe even too obvious to choose another computer game to keep me occupied until the next expansion comes out.  That’s when I decided to start playing Magic more and to relish those moments when I’m not tied to a headset or to a keyboard and mouse.

To my surprise, I had become really awkward around groups of people.  I found that I had a hard time remembering the names of the people I had started to play with regularly at my local Friday Night Magic events.  I noticed that I had a hard time looking people in the eye when I was talking to them.  I had to remind myself that I don’t have a push to talk key in real life and that I have to keep some things to myself if I don’t want someone across the table from me to hear them.

I’m getting better at communicating and I’m still not perfect.  I do still rage when people stand over my shoulder and make comments about the game I’m playing or someone plays a card over and over again that I don’t like.  I have to get better at being a good sport, for both when I win and for win I lose.  I need to be able to say that I did a good job, even when I don’t feel like I did or when I feel like I could have done better.  Coming back to Magic has helped me identify all of these things (and more) about myself that I don’t think I would have done if I had just moved on to yet another computer game to pass the time.  I’m really grateful for that.

The freedom.  I don’t feel like I’m bound to a set schedule with Magic, the way that I am with WoW.  It’s not the end of the world if I don’t make it to Friday Night Magic, or if I have to leave early.  I can go to a tournament at this store on Tuesday, or that store on Thursday, or do both tournaments and even a third on Sunday.

I find being able to say what I want to do and what I don’t want to do, without any negative repercussions very exciting.  I don’t feel like I’m letting anyone down if I don’t make it to an event or like I am lagging behind, like I would if I missed a raid.  I don’t feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over again, like when you farm the same instance for several months at a time.  It all feels fresh and new and dare I say it – like a game *should* feel.  It kind of makes me wonder why I have been settling for something else this whole time.

Reading

I got used to bringing a book with me when I used to ride the Amtrak to go visit my boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend).  One of the books that I had picked up was the first book in the “Pretty Little Liars” series.  Needless to say I was hooked.  I’m currently on the third book and I just started watching the television show that goes along with it.  It’s been much easier to avoid spoilers of the books than it has been the television show, but it seems like the show is radically different from the books, so it’s not really hurting anything.

Like I said, I’m hooked.  I squeal like a teenage girl when the cute boy takes his shirt off or he says something close to romantic.  I gasp when something sort of scary happens.  I panic when one episode ends and I have to get up to turn the next one on from my computer.   Completely hooked.

I know this post kind of went all over the place, but I’m okay with that.  Life is good – even if it’s not giving me a lot of things to write about.  I still felt like I should say *something,* so hopefully I’ve accomplished that today.

Thanks for stopping by!

Proud

27 Nov

I’m not proud of the time that I have spent in Cataclysm.

I’m not proud of the fact that I went through three different guilds, to get to the one that I’m currently in and that I don’t know how long I will remain with this one, either.  I’m not proud of the fact that there’s a huge three month gap in my activity, due to burnout, which led me to try other games and to pursue other avenues.  I’m not proud of the fact that I don’t have a single Al’akir or Conclave of Air kill on my record, despite the fact that I’ve spent countless nights wiping on said bosses, but missed out on the kill as a result of poorly timed nights requested off.

I can do better than that.  I know that I can.

Last night, I attended my 10 year high school reunion, and I came back home with a lot on my mind.  It was midnight and I needed something to do, something to take my mind off what I was going through, so I clicked on a link that someone posted on my guild’s forums and found a documentary called “Race To World First.”  It was an hour long film, which documented the competition that exists between guilds like Blood Legion, Premonition, Method, Ensidia, etc. and what goes on behind the computer screen, as well.  As I lay in bed, with a carton of milk and a package of cupcakes by my side, I thought to myself “I could do that.”  Then I asked myself, “Why aren’t I doing that?”

I don’t presume to think that I’m “good” enough to ever get into a guild like one of those featured in the movie, but I definitely think I could shoot for something higher than I have been.  I admit that I wanted something casual, to close out Cataclysm, simply because I missed too much and I wouldn’t have any legs to stand on if I tried to shoot for something better.  But, I think when Mists of Pandaria comes around that I want to go for something bigger.  I would like to be in a high ranking guild, somewhere between the top 250 to 500 range.  That’s the goal that I have decided to set for myself.  Bear in mind, that I am technically in a guild that meets that criteria, but I’m not part of the group that actually got there.  Right now, I’m just a casual ranked member, and I’m OK with that.  Come Mists of Pandaria, though, all bets are off.

I realize that I have a lot of work to do and a lot of time before I can make this dream a reality.  Here are a few of the immediate things that come to mind, in terms of things I could stand to work on:

 

1)  A profession change.  Most of the cool kids don’t keep a gathering profession and a crafting profession.  I would probably have to swap out my Herbalism for something else.  As long as I have an alt that can farm the herbs needed to level Alchemy, I should be OK.  But what profession would I take in its place?  Inscription?  Enchanting?  I don’t have it in me to level Jewelcrafting, so that’s out.  But I would need something else, to squeeze that extra drop of performance out of myself and my character.

2)  A change in perspective.  If I’m going to shoot for something loftier than what I’m doing right now, I have to be more flexible.  I can’t just be a holy priest or a discipline priest.  I have to be a healing priest.  I can still have my preferences and have that spec which I enjoy playing more, but I have to be willing to do what’s best for the fight and for the raid, as needed.  I would like to think I’m already making progress with this, but I still have a lot to learn with getting as comfortable with discipline as I am with holy.

3)  A change in attitude.  Ah, the big one.  I admit that I can be a handful and that I tend to jump to conclusions.  I admit that I don’t always know when to keep my mouth shut.  I work hard, I play hard, but my attitude and people’s perception of me always seems to get in the way of that.  That can’t happen if I’m going to try and hang with a different crowd of people than I’m used to.  It has to be about the work, about the performance.  I can’t let my opinions or my snark get in the way of that.  I can still be myself, but I have to rein it in a little bit.

 

I know I have a long road ahead of me, before I get to the point where I feel I’m ready to do this, and that’s even if a guild is gracious enough to see the potential in me to take me on board.  A number of stars are going to have to align for this all to work out, but I really want it and I’m determined to make it happen.  I want better for myself and I know that I can do it.  My mind is made up and now I have to start plotting out my course.

Who’s with me?

Fun

23 Aug

Ghostcrawler brought up the notion of fun 15 times in the most recent edition of the Dev Watercooler series.  In my opinion, this was about 14 times too many.

Let me explain.

There are many different kinds of fun.  There is the kind of fun that you have when you are going down the steep hill of a rollercoaster. Or the kind of fun that you have when you’re in the car with your friends and you’re all loudly singing along to your favorite song on the radio.  Or the sense of fun that comes from trying out an exotic new type of food at a restaurant.

Fun can also be subjective.  Not everyone would find the examples that I mentioned above to be fun.  Personally, I don’t enjoy rollercoasters and I tend to take the safe, predictable route whenever I go to a new restaurant.  I do, however, enjoying singing along with my friends in the car (albeit poorly).

At the same time, not everything in life is meant to be fun.  You don’t decide that you want to have a baby with your partner because it’s going to be fun.  You don’t volunteer to give a speech in front of a room full of people because it will be fun.  You don’t clean the cat’s litter box because it’s fun.

Sometimes you do things because they are necessary or because they are expected of you.  It’s a means to an end, a way to get past an obstacle that you wouldn’t be able to overcome, otherwise.  It could be something that you need to do, in order to get it out of the way, so you can have some real fun later on down the line.  You do it because nobody else can or nobody else will.  Fun has nothing to do with it.

I would have supported the changes to threat and to tanking, had the groundwork for such a change been rooted in theorycrafting or number crunching.  But having Ghostcrawler’s proposal be based primarily on fun and using numerous examples of what constitutes fun to support this seemed wrong to me.  To me, fun should not be that much of a factor in a decision as groundbreaking as this one.

For as far back as I can remember, everything in the game came with some amount of work involved.  It didn’t matter if you were circling the globe to get the Explorer achievement, or you were grinding Netherwing rep to get your drake, or even fishing.  You were working to some degree to get ahead, to get something that you wanted, and fun most likely didn’t factor too highly into that equation.  Fun may have been an inevitable byproduct of those situations, but you most likely didn’t go into them thinking “I’m going to do a dozen laps around Nagrand to uncover every zone on the map because it’s fun,” or “I’m going to farm up enough fish for a month’s worth of fish feasts because it’s fun.”

No, you got enjoyment from achieving the goals that came with said actions.  Like when you were able to park yourself in Shattrath and show off your new drake.  Or like when the raid leader calls out your name on Vent before the first pull of the night and thanks you for contributing so much to the raid.  Those things feel good.  You weren’t having fun at the time, but you sure were having a lot of fun after the fact.

I guess that’s my point.  People tanked because they loved to tank.  Others heal because that’s what they love to do.  It’s what they were meant to do.  Fun is certainly a part of it, but it’s not why people usually step up to the plate.  It was never about that, at least until recently.

Fun has become the sole motivation for people to place themselves in various situations and if they don’t have as much fun as they feel they deserve or that they were anticipating, they won’t do that certain something anymore.  Fun has become an excuse to ostracize people that you don’t like running with, because they are either having more fun than you or not enough fun as you are.

Nothing made me more sad than seeing talk of the transmogrifying service dominate my Twitter feed and recent blog posts by those I follow closely.  Here we had all of these other developments to discuss, though some were not nearly as fleshed out as this one, and all people could talk about was which classic instances they were going to farm for which particular gear set.  I think people chose to focus on this change, rather than the others (i.e. the last raid of the expansion, the Deathwing encounter) because it’s fun.  Or at least what the mass majority would consider fun.

How did we get here?  How did we get to a point where we place so much emphasis on fun that we have let it blot out hard work and looking forward to a challenge?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we outlaw fun altogether.  I just feel that if we were to create a hierarchy of priorities, in terms of what drives us to do things in the game and what drives the developers to do things, that fun should not be nearly as high on the list as it is right now.  It should still have a place, just not as prevalent of one as it does currently and as it seems that it will continue to have.

I like having something to work for and to work towards.  I was raised with the notion that if I want something in this life that I have to go after it and take it for myself, that I have to make it happen.  Nothing should be given to you.  Nobody owes you that.  Some people may not find this to be fun, but I do.  I just wish others felt the same way.  Maybe the game would be in a different place if everyone took a step back and really thought about the motivations for why they do what they do and how realistic their expectations concerning fun really are.

I think that would be fun.

Waste Not, Want Not

12 Jul

I know I said I was going to put this to bed last night, but I still feel like I have a few things to say about it and so I’m going to do just that.

Let’s begin.

It all started with Kurn’s post on how she felt that it was wrong that we as raiders were being asked to farm Heroics and specifically, Zandalari Heroics to get enough Valor Points to purchase new pieces of gear.  For the record, I agree with her.  It does suck that this has become the new normal for us and that this is what we have to do, in order to be competitive.  I agree with her, in that I am a raider and I play this game solely to raid.  If there ever came a time where I couldn’t raid, I would probably cancel my subscription immediately.

I don’t have a back-up plan.  It’s raiding or nothing.  I’m not good at PVP.  I’m not an altoholic.  I have no idea how to play the Auction House.  This is all I have going for me.  Because this is my passion, because this is my reason for playing WoW, I am more inclined to do whatever I need to do to keep that going.  Including making sure I’m capped on Valor Points each week.

I made a comment on Twitter where I said that if you’re a raider and you don’t end the week capped that you’re doing it wrong and I truly believe that.  This led to a post from Windsoar, where she admits that isn’t capped each week and defends her position on why she chooses not to do that.  It’s a wonderful post and she was kind enough to send me a few messages on Twitter, telling me she was using my Tweet as inspiration and asking if she could do that.  Of course, I said yes.  I’ve followed Windsoar for quite some time and even wrote her a guest post once, so I was thrilled to be included in whatever she had to say. 

However, it was this amazing post that got me thinking and stirred enough things within me to inspire this post.  Here is what I took away from Windsoar’s response.

“9 hours a week hasn’t always been much to me, but it’s also been bloody impossible and a commitment I couldn’t keep even when I sincerely made every effort to be there.”

I feel like this is something that could only be said in Cataclysm, in this era of more accessible raiding for all.  I have been raiding since Vanilla and anyone who raided then or even in Burning Crusade will tell you that back then you couldn’t get anything done with just 9 hours a week.  It took nearly 9 hours just to get buffs situated!  If all you had was 9 hours a week to spare, you were not raiding.  It’s as simple as that.  Raiding was a full time job and it was one that many of us were glad to partake in and remember fondly.  If you were there for that, it doesn’t seem so foreign to put in a little more time each week to get capped on Valor Points.  By now, it should be old hat.

“When I’m killing time waiting for my raid, or just finished a nice, tight 3-hour session, the last thing I want to do is put up with shit from stangers. Ok, even on my best day I don’t want to put up with shit from stangers.”

I find it interesting that people who feel that you should be Valor Point capped each week are seen as “tyrannical” or “elitist,” but yet we are the ones who seem to have less of an issue running with strangers and who don’t feel that such a thing is beneath us. 

I have to admit that I can’t relate to the stories of awful PuG experiences and rage that comes from these groups gone wrong.  I have been Valor Point capped for the last two weeks, which I couldn’t have done without running a few randoms.  I have found groups for both Zandalari and non-Zandalari dungeons through the Dungeon Finder and I can honestly say that I had one bad PuG in two weeks of random dungeons.  Just one. 

Don’t get me wrong, there were groups where you had that one bad apple who didn’t know how to manage their threat or not stand in bad.  But I sat up in my chair, politely asked them not to do that or told them what the boss encounter was all about and it didn’t happen again.  Or it did, I let them die and I had a good laugh.  It wasn’t that deep to me or that serious.  Could I leave in a huff and chastise these people for being fail and not good enough to run with me?  Sure.  What good would that do?

“However, I’m just not willing to sacrifice lord knows how much time (you never really know until you die doing it) in the nebulous hope that my dungeon group will successfully kill things and I will walk away with some extra numbers in my character screen when I can just as easily pursue an activity I already enjoy and am committed to in order to gain those same little tokens, albeit more slowly.”

I’m not really sure what runs people are doing that are so time consuming, but I work 50 hours a week, raid two days a week, maintain a social life, an active sex life, a family life, a blog, a podcast, and I still find time to be Valor Point capped each week.

I raid on Thursday and Sunday of each week.  Currently, we are 2/7 and we have Occu’thar down.  That’s 360 Valor Points from raids that I’m guaranteed, per week.  This means I have to get 620 on my own to be capped for the week (unless we down something else).  Here is how my schedule looks on the nights I don’t raid:

Monday
4:30pm – Arrive home from work.
4:45pm – Dinner/catch up on e-mails or other correspondence.
5:45pm – I log on and tend to get my non-Zandalari Heroics out of the way first.  I’ll do two.  (140)
7:45pm – Do dishes, clean the litter box, write a new blog post, etc.
9:45pm – Bedtime.

Tuesday
4:30pm – Arrive home from work.
4:45pm – Dinner/catch up on e-mails or other correspondence.
5:45pm – Log on and do two more non-Zandalari Heroics.  (140)
7:45pm – Chores/writing.
9:45pm – Bedtime.

Two nights in and I already have 280 out of the 620 Valor Points that I need to be capped for the week.  I can’t get any more Valor Points from the non-Zandalari Heroics, so I’m going to have to do three of the Zandalari dungeons to be capped.  I can do those on my off-nights or before a raid (where I’m more likely to go with my guildies instead of doing a random).  I can’t relate to those who say that this process is time consuming or arduous, because I don’t feel that it is. 

One thing that certainly helps is that I don’t do dailies.  More specifically, I haven’t done the new dailies and I don’t have any interest in doing them.  I don’t need anything from them, loot wise or otherwise.  So that’s time that I choose to put towards farming Heroics instead of doing those.  I think if I were someone who needed to do those dailies more religiously I could see where an issue may arise with having enough free time.  Even then, I would argue that most of the things offered from the new daily vendors aren’t that swell and that the upgrades you could buy from the Valor Point vendors are far better than the ones you would get from the new Hyjal vendors.

“I don’t feel that capping out any type of points was a part of my contract with my guild, implied or otherwise.”

I don’t think it has anything to do with your guild.  I think it has to do with wanting more for yourself.  I’m not in a situation where it’s required of me to be Valor Point capped.  This is something that I’m choosing to do of my own volition.  I want to be the best that I can be for my raid and to give myself the proper tools to do what I do, which is heal and keep the raid alive.  Is that wrong?  Is it wrong to want more for yourself and to want to be better

Case in point: going discipline.  I was asked to work towards a discipline off-spec, in case it was needed in raids.  So far, I haven’t needed it and I haven’t been asked to pick it up for any encounters that we have faced.  But that could change.  I have been very fortunate that holy seems to be keeping up nicely with discipline and even outperforming it on some fights. 

Were there to come a time where I was holding myself back or the raid back by being holy and I could show that my performance was lagging by leaps and bounds, I would be discipline in a heartbeat.  I would acknowledge that I can do better, that I can be better and I would be that.  Without hesitation.     

So I did it.  I spent an entire weekend farming Heroics and learning how to be a discipline priest.  It was awkward, messy and I wanted to quit.  I resented being asked to do it.  But I did it and part of me even grew to like it a little bit.  I had fun knowing that I could do it, that I had pulled it off.  That felt incredible.  I couldn’t wait to run and tell my healing lead that I had a discipline off-spec and that I could fill that role, if needed.  It may have started off as something that I really didn’t want to do, but I became a better person and a better player for doing so.

As a blogger, I think it’s great to see a topic like this inspire a lot of passion in the community.  I don’t think I’ve seen anything really stir people up as much as this has in quite some time.  I have enjoyed reading people’s opinions on this and I’m sure more people will come forward with their thoughts on this topic and I look forward to reading those, too.  There’s enough room for everyone to speak their mind and I think the more persepectives on this, the better.   

Feel free to share your thoughts on this here and let me know what you think!

Fact Or Crap – Priest Edition

7 Jul

Hello everybody and welcome to this very special edition of Fact Or Crap!  I’m Oestrus and I will be your host this evening.  Tonight, we are going to play a game to determine if some of the things you have been hearing about priests lately is either Fact or Crap.

Here’s how it works.  I’m going to read off a statement or an opinion that has been making the rounds, regarding priests in 4.2 and you tell me if you think what I’m saying is a Fact or if it is Crap.  The person who correctly identifies the most statements will receive a prize, to be determined at a later point in time.

Are you ready?  Let’s play!

4.2 Will Ruin Holy Priests
Correct Answer: 
Crap
Make no mistake, discipline is doing incredibly well for itself.  This is mostly due to the changes that were made regarding how critical strike rating interacts with healing spells.  Discipline priests have always had more use for critical strike than holy priests and now they are really starting to reap the benefits of doing so.  Talents such as Renewed Hope, Inner Focus, Divine Aegis and Grace all benefit from critical strike rating and give discipline priests an incentive to have more of it.

Holy priests don’t really have anything in particular that stands to be improved because of the critical strike changes.  We make sure to take Inspiration, but usually have enough innate critical strike rating to get the desired effect from that without really trying.  Lightwell doesn’t benefit from it and neither does our mastery.  The only thing I could see being affected by this change is Chakra: Serenity and by extension, Holy Word: Serenity.

Being in Chakra: Serenity increases the chance of your direct healing spells to crit by 10%.  If you cast Holy Word: Sanctuary on someone, you will give them a temporary buff that increases the critical effect chance of all healing spells on that target by an additional 25%.  It’s not bad, but discipline priests can certainly do a lot more with critical strike rating than that and they don’t need to be stuck in a certain stance in order to do that.  Chakra: Serenity is typically a single target healing stance and tends to not see as much use in raids as Chakra: Sanctuary might.

Here are some logs from the first night of attempts in Firelands that I participated in:

This graph shows the total amount of healing that was done over 11 Shannox attempts, including our Shannox kill and 2 Beth’tilac attempts (which we stopped trying for, because we were facing disconnect issues which prevented us from going any further).  You will see that the discipline priest and I have less than a 1% gap between us, regarding our overall output.  On the other hand, she did nearly the same amount of healing that I did with a 67% uptime as I did with an 82% uptime.  One could argue that this is a throughput issue and that her spells were doing inherently better than mine were.  She may have spent less time actually healing or casting, but was still putting out more healing than I was.

These are the logs from our Shannox kill.  Again, you can see that the discipline priest and I have a narrow margin of healing between us.  You will also see that her uptime was slightly less than mine, but she still put out more healing than I did.  Is it enough for me to say that my spec performed poorly or that things would have turned out differently if I were discipline, too?  I don’t believe it is.  At this point in our progression, we are performing at comparable levels.  If I were to start seeing huge gaps in our healing output, I would first try and determine if other factors may be involved.  Maybe there’s a gear disparity or one of us died earlier than we should have.  I would try to eliminate all other possibilities before I come to the conclusion that I performed worse because I was holy.  Right now I don’t have enough evidence to say that is the case and only by spending more time in Firelands will I be able to know for sure.

Priests Will Have Less Spirit Than Everyone Else
Correct Answer:  Fact
This one is definitely true, but I think it goes a bit deeper than that.  If you compare the off-set pieces that we have available to us in Firelands versus those of other classes, you will see that healers who don’t wear cloth will end up with more spirit than we will.  Even off-set pieces that come from other sources, like Valor Points or Avengers of Hyjal dailies will give us less spirit than druids, shaman, or paladins.  This is due to the fact that there are two other classes competing for cloth spell power gear (mages and warlocks) besides priests versus the other healers who have no competition for spell power gear of their desired type.  On the bright side, the full set of T12 armor for priests has more spirit on it than the complete sets that belong to other classes.

Just because other healers stand to have more spirit than we do doesn’t necessarily mean that they want or need it.  Take shamans, for example.  According to Lodur, shaman tend to fall into one of two camps.  They either stack spirit to help the raid and to buff their Mana Tide Totem or they don’t stack it and focus on their personal throughput instead.  Shamans also have a talent called Resurgence, which allows them to regain mana when their direct heals crit and while they have Water Shield active.  Crit also helps them benefit from talents like Ancestral Awakening and Ancestral Healing.

Paladins have become more interested in spirit lately, due to recent changes that increased the mana cost of some of their spells.  However, they also have other means of regaining mana, like Seal of Insight and Divine Plea.  Another way that paladins can save mana is by casting spells that only consume Holy Power, like Word of Glory and Light of Dawn more frequently or whenever they are off cooldown.

Druids have always been as interested in spirit as priests have, but they also have some other things going for them that may make spirit less attractive as they gear up.  While not directly tied to mana regen, druids do get their choice of two top tier talents in both the feral and the resto trees that can increase their maximum mana and/or their intellect.  Furor increases a druid’s maximum mana by 5/10/15% while Heart of the Wild can increase a druid’s intellect by 2/4/6%.  They also have a talent called Revitalize, which gives them a 20% chance to instantly regain 1/2% of their total mana when they periodically heal with their Lifebloom or Rejuvenation spells.  Plus, druids can bring Replenishment to up to 10 party or raid members when they cast or refresh Lifebloom.  Let’s not forget that druids can also put points into Malfurion’s Gift, which gives them a 2/4% chance to gain Omen of Clarity each time they heal with Lifebloom (this includes periodic healing).

By itself, the fact that priests won’t have as much spirit as everyone else or as much as they’re used to wouldn’t be as much of a deal if they had other things they could rely on.  Again, discipline priests stand to fare a bit better at this than holy priests will.  For one thing, a discipline priest can choose to run with an Atonement build that relies on using Evangelism to build stacks and then consume them with Archangel.  Each stack of Evangelism that the priest gains lowers the cost of the core spells in that build by 3/6% per stack and this can stack up to five times.  When the priest consumes their stacks with Archangel, they receive 1% of their total mana back and a temporary spell power buff.  On a 30 second cooldown, Archangel can be used quite often and can do wonders for a discipline priest’s regen abilities.  Discipline priests also have Inner Focus, which gives them a free Flash Heal, Binding Heal, Greater Heal, or Prayer of Healing every 45 seconds; Power Infusion, which they can use on themselves to reduce the cost of all spells by 20%; and Rapture, which many priests track meticulously and is considered to be a core regen talent.

In contrast, holy priests have Surge of Light, which only seems to trigger from spells that they don’t use very often and that comes with an abysmal chance to proc; Lightwell, which is often considered the most mana efficient heal in the entire game, but only if your raid decides to use it; Spirit of Redemption, which you have to be dead to enjoy; Serendipity, which again thrives off spells that we don’t use that frequently; and Chakra, which only increases our healing output and does nothing to reduce the cost of our spells or to help us get mana back.  This leaves us with the basic cooldowns that every priest has to rely on, which are Hymn of Hope and Shadowfiend.  As you probably already know, those two seem to work best when used together and each comes with a lengthy cooldown.

And lastly:

The T12 Set Bonuses For Priests Are Crap
Correct Answer:  Crap
I find it interesting that most of the people who have an issue with the quality of our T12 bonuses are the same ones who are concerned about the lack of spirit on their gear.  Let’s break it down!

The off-set helm, shoulders, chest, gloves and legs that come from Firelands have no spirit on them.  There are alternatives that you can find outside of a raid instance, but they’re not guaranteed to have spirit on them, either.  If you’re someone who insists on having that much spirit on your gear, you’re going to have to purchase your tier pieces in order to make that happen.  You’re probably not going to achieve that goal, otherwise.  Based on stats alone, the T12 pieces are comparable to anything else out there.

Then you have the bonuses.  Priests are the only healing class whose two piece bonus does not boil down to chance.  Druids, shaman, and paladins have a 40% chance to make ___ happen.  Priests simply cast one of three spells and regain 2% of their base mana every five seconds for fifteen seconds.  I would imagine there is some sort of an internal cooldown, but I would also think that the uptime on that has got to be better than the other effects that simply have a chance to happen.

Our four piece bonus could also save you some mana.  Having four pieces of T12 gives you a chance to summon a Cauterizing Flame when you cast a helpful spell, which will heal injured party members standing nearby for a set amount over five seconds.  Free healing is free healing and I certainly won’t turn that down.  You shouldn’t, either.

At the end of the day, it’s really easy to buy into everything that you see or hear.  It’s easy to fall victim to peer pressure or the mob mentality that can be found on message boards, Twitter, blogs, etc.  What I implore you to do is tune all of that out and find out what works for you.  Don’t stop doing what you’re doing because someone else tells you that it won’t work or that it can’t work.  Don’t get mad about something that’s affecting your class just because someone tells you that you should be angry or upset about it, too.  Do your best to sympathize with those around you, even if feel like you can’t empathize with what they are going through.

Until next time, Azeroth!

4.2.0 Loot Priorities For Holy Priests

17 Jun

With the release of the 4.2.0 cinematic trailer comes the feeling of anticipation and even relief that the next patch is on the horizon.  People seem to be divided on when 4.2.0 will actually be released, though most agree that it will either be on June 21st or June 28th.  Regardless of when it comes, you will certainly want to have an idea of what gear you should be keeping an eye out for and where your next upgrades will be coming from.

I had already started what was supposed to be a two part series on Firelands loot listings when I realized that there were other ways you could get gear and other places you could get it besides the Firelands raid instance.  As of this writing, there are at least five ways you can go about getting upgrades for your character:

Avengers of Hyjal faction rewards
Firelands
Mark of the World Tree vendors
Tailoring
Valor Points vendors

You can also go about upgrading select drops from the Firelands and certain pieces that you can buy with Valor Points to their Heroic versions, with the help of Crystallized Firestone.  Those can be found off any of the bosses in the Firelands instance that you defeat on Heroic mode and each upgrade only requires one Firestone.

Because I wanted to make sure that I included everything that could be available to a raiding holy priest, I decided to start over from scratch and make a new post that would include loot from all five of the sources listed above.  I also decided not to show the chain of upgrades for each armor slot and to just list the pieces that you’re going to want and where you can get them from.  Only items of regular quality will be included in this post, as I don’t anticipate anyone getting their hands on anything of Heroic quality this close to the patch being released.

Let’s take it from the top!

Head

Flickering Cowl
Cowl of the Cleansing Flame

Flickering Cowl used to be a strong off-set piece with a set amount of stats.  Recently, it has been converted to a helm with a random enchantment on it, similar to loot that you may find from bosses in the Throne of the Four Winds.  The only reliable information that we have on it is that it will come with a meta gem socket, a yellow gem socket and a 30 intellect socket bonus.

Depending on how lucky you are with drops and the stats that will end up being on this piece when it does, you may want to stick with you have and hold out for the T12 helm. Most people believe that the helm and shoulder tokens are going to drop from Majordomo Staghelm and Ragnaros, though it’s uncertain which boss will drop which token.  There is also the chance that another boss in Firelands may drop these.  What we do know is that your helm and shoulders are the only tier pieces that you can’t purchase with Valor Points.  So if the Flickering Cowl turns out to be something you don’t want, you will most likely be holding out for the T12 helm and based on the stats, it looks to be worth the wait.

Neck

Firemind Pendant
Heartstone of Rhyolith
Flowform Choker

The Firemind Pendant and the Heartstone of Rhyolith are a lot alike, except the Heartstone comes with more spirit and less mastery.  Personally, I see my Valor Points being earmarked for other pieces, so I would probably take the Heartstone before I spend any badges to get the Firemind Pendant.  However, if you’re not having any luck getting your hands on the Heartstone, either because others are getting it first or it just won’t drop for you, the Firemind Pendant is a wonderful option and could be yours for 1,250 Valor Points.

To me, the Flowform Choker seems like it would be more appealing to a DPS caster, so I would probably let them have first dibs on that before I roll on it.  I also prefer to have spirit on most of my pieces, so the lack of spirit on that would probably make me turn it down, too.  If for whatever reason you can’t get something better or if you feel that you’re at a point where spirit isn’t as important to you, then the Flowform Choker would make a fine choice.

Shoulders

Mantle of Closed Doors
Mantle of the Cleansing Flame

At first glance, it’s safe to say that it’s going to be a while before we see any shoulder upgrades.  The Mantle of Closed Doors drops from Baleroc and we’re leaning towards one of the two bosses after him dropping our T12 shoulders.  They come with no spirit on them and critical strike rating, which I would probably re-forge to haste to go along with the nice amount of mastery on them.  The lack of spirit makes them really unattractive to me, so I will most likely hold out for my T12 shoulders, unless I feel like my regen is in a good place where I can do without all that spirit that I would normally have.  I would also imagine that competition for shoulder tokens is going to be intense, so I may have to resort to taking the Mantle of Closed Doors until it’s my turn to win one.

Back

Wings of Flame
Flowing Flamewreath Cape

In my opinion, Flowing Flamewreath Cape is going to be our BiS cloak, because of the stats on it and because of how easy it should be to obtain.  You can get the cloak from being at Friendly status with the new Avengers of Hyjal faction and for the low cost of only 250 gold.  This compared to the Wings of Flame, which has no spirit on it, comes with critical strike rating and mastery and drops from Alysrazor.  Which one would you choose?

Chest

Robes of Smoldering Devastation
Robes of the Cleansing Flame

Despite the lack of spirit on it, the Robes of Smoldering Devastation should hold you over until you can afford to buy your T12 chest piece with Valor Points.  It comes with red and blue gem sockets, a 20 intellect socket bonus and a large amount of haste and mastery.  Depending on which stat you’re choosing to focus on, you can choose to re-forge the other stat to spirit, if you’re that concerned with not having any on your chest piece.  It also drops from Beth’tilac, which is a boss that some have said makes a great first choice to focus on in the Firelands.

Wrist

Firesoul Wristguards
Wristwraps of Arrogant Doom

Across the board, bracers seem to be one of the most elusive pieces of armor for someone to get their hands on.  For 1,250 Valor Points, you can purchase the Firesoul Wristguards or you can hold off until you reach Majordomo Staghelm and keep your eyes peeled for the Wristwraps of Arrogant Doom, which have no spirit on them, critical strike rating and haste.  Personally, I would go with the Wristguards.  But if your DPS doesn’t mind or you feel like you’re at a point where spirit isn’t a concern anymore, then the Wristwraps may be more up your alley.

Weapons/Off-Hands

Smoldering Censer of Purity  (Staff)
Funeral Pyre  (Staff)

Chelley’s Sterilized Scalpel (Main Hand)
Ko’gun, Hammer of the Firelord  (Main Hand)

Globe of Moonlight  (Off-Hand)
Goblet of Anger  (Off-Hand)

As you can see, you have a few choices for weapons, depending on if you prefer staves or a main hand/off-hand combination.  If Beth’tilac is in fact one of the easier targets in Firelands, then you will probably begin your journey in the Firelands with the Funeral Pyre and work your way up towards something better.

Chelley’s Sterilized Scalpel is listed as a trash drop, so that would probably be your next best piece or your first new weapon upgrade, depending on which bosses your raid attempts to down first or depending on which loot you manage to have drop for you.  After that would probably come the Smoldering Censer of Purity, though I’m not sure who it drops off of or where it comes from.  It wasn’t listed with any of the new vendors or any of the loot tables for the bosses in Firelands, though that could change.  It’s still a strong piece, so try and put your name in the running for it if it drops.

Otherwise, the main hand that should be on just about every healer’s wish list is going to be Ko’gun.  This and the Scalpel would pair up nicely with any of the two new available off-hands, found in either the Firelands (Goblet of Anger) or by saving up your Marks of the World Tree and purchasing one from one of the new vendors at the Molten Front (Globe of Moonlight).

Wands

Stinger of the Flaming Scorpion
Scorchvine Wand

If you’re anything like me and just now equipped an epic wand, after months of  being passed over for Finkle’s Mixer Upper and not having any luck getting the wand from ZG/ZA because you just don’t set foot in those places, then you’re in luck!  Your BiS wand, the Scorchvine Wand, is going to come from Valor Points and you can even upgrade it to the Heroic version with one Crystallized Firestone.  The Stinger, which drops from Majordomo Staghelm is an excellent consolation prize, but to me the Scorchvine Wand is the clear choice for us.

Hands

Widow’s Clutches
Grips of Altered Reality
Handwraps of the Cleansing Flame
Fingers of Incineration

There are four choices that we have for our gloves and only one of them comes directly from the Firelands instance.  What it really comes down to is availability.  The Widow’s Clutches can be purchased with Marks of the World Tree, while the T12 gloves can be purchased with Valor Points.  The Fingers only drop from Ragnaros and The Grips of Altered Reality can be crafted via Tailoring and appear to be pretty pricey to make.

Not only do you need 8 Dreamcloth, you also need 4 Living Ember.  It’s being speculated that Living Ember are the Cataclysm equivalent of Primordial Saronite, which means that other people are more likely to get their hands on some of those before you are.  Because you have two other options that are more easier to obtain, I would let your guildies fight over the Embers and save up your Marks or Valor Points for the Clutches or the Handwraps.

Waist

Embereye Belt
Majordomo’s Chain of Office

The Embereye Belt only requires that you be Honored with the Avengers of Hyjal to purchase it, whereas you can imagine who you have to kill to get the Chain of Office.  Neither one of those has spirit on it, so that’s a battle you won’t win.  I would start off by taking the Embereye Belt and use that until you can get your hands on the other choice.  Re-forge the critical strike rating to spirit, if you’re worried about not having enough (like I am) and enjoy!

Legs

Leggings of Billowing Fire
Legwraps of the Cleansing Flame

The Leggings drop from Alysrazor and have no spirit on them, critical strike rating  and haste and two yellow gem sockets.  Our T12 legs have a red and a yellow gem socket and come with nothing but critical strike rating.  Now I know what they say when people say “You can’t win for losing.”  I suppose I would take the Leggings until I could get the Legwraps.  I would re-forge the critical strike rating to spirit and count the days until my T12 legs became a real possibility.

Feet

Coalwalker Sandals
Endless Dream Walkers

I’m going to go on record and say that the Dream Walkers are looking like our BiS boots right now.  I realize what I said earlier about Living Ember potentially being hard to come by, but I stand by my opinion.  Don’t get me wrong, you can get by just fine with the Coalwalker Sandals.  I mean, the socket bonus is nothing special, they have no spirit on them, they come with critical strike rating and less haste than the Dream Walkers.  But otherwise they should hold you over nicely until you can scrape up the Living Ember and the Dreamcloth necessary to make the Dream Walkers for yourself (or to have someone else make them for you).

Finger

Spirit Fragment Band
Soothing Brimstone Circle
Quicksilver Signet
Crystal Prison Band

The two rings that I would like to end up with are the Soothing Brimstone Circle and the Quicksilver Signet of the Avengers, which come from Valor Points and by being Exalted with the Avengers of Hyjal, respectively.  Depending on how many Valor Points you have available and how diligent you are with your dailies, it could take you a while to get your hands on those particular items.  There are other rings that you would do well with, until you can get those two or if you decide that you don’t need the spirit or would prefer other stats on your rings.   I would still consider the Quicksilver Ring to be a must have, though.

Trinkets

Moonwell Chalice
Rune of Zeth
Fiery Quintessence
Eye of Blazing Power
Necromantic Focus
Jaws of Defeat

Some of these trinkets are clear cut upgrades and others may take some tinkering to get them to work for you or would just suffice until something better comes along.  The Chalice is interesting, as it appears to be the first on-use trinket that grants mastery when activated.  If you find yourself on the mastery side of the haste v. mastery debate, then this trinket could be a great choice for you.

Necromantic Focus also can increase your mastery, each time you deal periodic damage.  If you can get the hang of working Devouring Plague or SW: Pain into your rotation to keep the stacks up, you could have an additional 420 mastery pretty consistently at your disposal.

Rune of Zeth doesn’t immediately stand out as something we would want, due to the large amount of critical stike rating that it comes with.  However, the on-use intellect buff is comparable with the intellect buff from another possible trinket upgrade, the Fiery Quintessence.  While the Quintessence might be more immediately attractive, because of the large amount of spirit that it comes with, the on-use effect from the Rune gives you 128 more intellect.  The critical stike rating on the Rune can also easily be re-forged into 153 of another stat of your choosing.

The last two choices are fairly obvious for us:  the Eye of Blazing Power and the Jaws of Defeat.  The Eye is basically a re-vamped version of Althor’s Abacus and I would assume that the healing from it would trigger our mastery, too.  This makes it an even more attractive choice, to me.  The only thing I would like to see clarified is whether or not the Eye will trigger from each spell I cast or each time I heal someone.  The Abacus was worded “each time your spells heal a target” and the Eye says “your healing spells,”  so I’m assuming that something like Circle of Healing would only have one chance to trigger the Eye and not one chance per however many people that spell healed.

Lastly, the Jaws of Defeat comes with a healthy amount of intellect and an on-use effect that allows you to reduce the cost of your holy spells by 110 for each spell that you cast (up to 10), for 20 seconds.  I tend to not do well with on-use trinkets, myself.  But I could be tempted to make an exception for this one.  I’m curious to see if this one stacks with Shard of Woe or not.

That’s about it for now.  Thank you for taking the time to read this and feel free to leave a comment, if you feel there is something that I missed or if you have a different opinion than I do on a certain piece included here.

Good luck with your drops and check back soon for future posts on alternatives for earning your weekly cap of Valor Points and much more!

Should You Be Pre-Potting As A Healer?

8 Jun

Last night, my guild called the Nefarian wipes the raid about twenty minutes early and our raid leader/GM gave us a brief pep talk which included the news that more guild audits were on the way and stressing the need to get Nefarian down before 4.2 hits.  One of our officers chimed in about a Heroic Conclave run that she was forming on an off night, if anyone was interested and while that was happening, an interesting conversation began in healer chat about pre-potting or more specifically, why none of the healers appeared to be doing it. 

For those who don’t know, “pre-potting” is the term used for working around the usual cooldown on potions by drinking a potion shortly before a fight starts, so that you can use a second potion later on during the fight.  Typically, this is something that tanks and DPS are asked to do, but this will be the second guild that I have been in so far that has asked me to consider doing it as a healer. 

The only advantages that I can see to pre-potting as a healer are as follows:

–  If you know that you’re going to be dropping a Lightwell before the pull, drink a potion to increase your spellpower and then drop it.  Make sure you have Inner Fire up before you do, if you don’t already. 

–  If you anticipate heavy damage coming out from the onset of the pull, drink a potion beforehand to start the fight off with a slightly larger mana pool and more spellpower, so you can throw out bigger heals to those who need it with less strain on your resources.

Being that this is Heroic Nefarian we’re talking about, neither of these situations really applies to me.  It may apply to those healing the tanks, because they can take heavy amounts of damage on this fight.  But I’m typically assigned to pure raid healing and I can honestly say that P1 doesn’t start to pick up for me until Electrocute happens.  I make sure to keep Prayer of Mending going and a Renew on each tank in range.  I heal people after Tail Swipe happens. 

I can’t say that using a Volcanic Potion before the fight starts would do anything other than save me mana when I activate my Chakra and cast Levitate on myself before I jump off the platform.  Don’t laugh, it works like a charm.

Don’t get me wrong, there are fights where pre-potting can come in handy.

Magmaw
Once the fight starts, Magmaw doesn’t hesitate to start unleashing Magma Spew on most of the raid and remember that it hits twice as hard on Heroic mode.  Surviving those initial rounds of burst damage is important and helps you get comfortable with how the damage will be distributed, because it remains pretty consistent throughout.     

Halfus Wyrmbreaker
On Heroic mode, the first minute or two of the encounter are the most healing intensive and stressful.  Once you make it through the initial salvo and blow most of your cooldowns, you can resort to your usual means of keeping the raid or your tank up.

Chimaeron
Healers in charge of watching the tank (or other plate wearer) responsible for waking up Chimaeron are in for a lot of incoming damage to have to heal through.  Most of the other healers will help you out with this, but it’s not uncommon for that person to die accidentally, due to unpredictable damage that people weren’t prepared for.

I took to Twitter, to see if anyone else felt the way I did about pre-potting and I was surprised to find that nobody that I Follow or who Follows me makes a habit of doing this and I tend to keep in touch with a wide variety of people, ranging from those in the top tiers of progression to those just getting their feet wet. 

Some admitted that it may be a good idea for future content, such as Firelands, but that nothing in the current tier of content would really be worth the trouble of pre-potting.  Others had flat out never heard of such a thing and were quick to dismiss it as being wasteful or gold better spent elsewhere. 

What do you think about pre-potting as a healer?  Do you do it?  Would you do it, if asked?  Are you a tank or a DPS who pre-pots?  Let’s talk about it!