Monday, 31 January 2011

Conclave of Wind Heroic Video!

A quick post today, with my Heroic Conclave of Wind video!

A quick note before the video, I'd really appreciate additional reads on my post on druid healing, particularly the post on the WoW Healing Forums - I'm really hoping some devs as well as players will give it a read, as I do feel the issues discussed are really important for druids (and also for Shamans, who are in a similar situation at the moment). Any constructive comments on the post are appreciated, whether joining in the discussion if you agree or disagree, have a good idea of your own, or just chiming in to say if you like the ideas or not :D It will bump the post as well in a positive way and might even get some good ideas brewing!

Back to the video! I recorded our Heroic Conclave of Wind kill last night and finally got to make the video for it - I've been wanting to do this for a couple of weeks now as I had a specific set of music I really wanted to use in the video. Very different music than my other videos so far, and fits very well I think! I also managed to get this one uploaded at 1080 HD, continuing to work to improve my vid quality (though think I may hit a point where maximum quality videos may actually require a better computer).

Anyhow, without further ado, Conclave of Wind Heroic! (Watch in HD!)

For those interested, I actually run a different spec for this fight, 8/2/31, picking up 3/3 in Perseverance for the 6% reduced spell damage. I also still max out Gift of the Earthmother to help keep my Rejuvs frontloaded and as I tend to let my Lifeblooms bloom a fair bit more on this fight, since I'm mostly jumping around a lot healing many targets and myself as needed (rather than being on a set tank target the whole fight, as there's no tank on the East platform and I'm only briefly on the North platform). I drop Nature's Cure (as no dispels are needed in this fight), Swift Rejuv (simply as it's not a crucial point in here so I feel I can spare it), and only take 2 points in Efflorescence to get the 3 for Perseverance. That last point feels a bit difficult to drop, but, given how mobile people are on East, most will not be standing for long in Efflorescence, let alone stacked up in it, and the stacked healing for the North platform specials are boosted by many of the other healers being there with their AE heals plus Power Word: Barrier, glyphed for 10% extra healing while in the barrier as well as the damage reduction.

The video also shows nicely just how crazy that East platform with Rohash can get with Tornadoes (and how much they can affect visibility, seen towards the end of the video) and Wind Blast. Timing and awareness really has to be sharp on the East platform, and I always have an eye watching that Wind Blast timer, as well as keep Rohash focussed to see what he's casting.

I also save Tree of Life for the East specials for the instant Regrowths and multiple LB stacks during the special - I pop it when Rohash is at about 80 energy or so in order to maximize how much use I get out of ToL, as I always shift into cat form for the fall. On normal mode you may survive dropping while not in cat form, but it's an excellent habit to get into, as it is highly unlikely you'll survive full fall damage and are consequently targeted for a Slicing Gale attack (especially if your debuff stacks are high). If I can as well I'll use ToL as a DPS cooldown at the end (as I do at the end of the video).


Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Current and Future State of Druid PVE Healing

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while as I’ve been feeling through my healing since Cata Beta and on into Cata dungeons, raids, and now Heroic 25 man raids. Part of me wanted to wait for the upcoming patch, however, with changes already announced (and all pretty positive so far), I decided I could instead focus on some of the other areas.
In particular I’d like to touch upon:
- Some thoughts/suggestions on current and patch druid healing
- ’Why bring a Resto Druid to our progression raid?’ - what is needed to gain positive answers to this question.
- A few suggestions for adjustments to the Resto tree, particularly to help alleviate talent bloat.

ETA: Also posted this on the WoW Healing Forums, Current and Future State of Druid PVE Healing, join the discussion! :D 
Current and patch thoughts on druid healing:
Overall, druids are doing reasonably well when looked at of their own accord (ie not comparing with other healers). Nearly all of our spells see good use, and clever healing with good use of our innervates and Omen of Clarity procs makes for good mana management. I feel able to meet the challenges of heroic raid content and below and, again through use of smart healing and mana decisions, I am not in fear of going OoM each fight or feeling unduly restricted by it.
The changes slated for 4.0.6 are positive steps in the right direction overall. The buffs to Wild Growth will hopefully bring our raid healing back up to par. I’m interested to see just how the reduced WG cd combined with reduced Rejuv cost and the Symbiosis buff plays out in progression content - theoretically it’s looking like a positive change, though as ever we’ll see how it plays out when it hits live servers.
Regrowth is still a bit of a problem child, even with the upcoming changes. Its inclusion in Empowered Touch is potentially a positive change, most useful I foresee when instant Regrowths are used in ToL so you don’t lose LB stacks when popping Regrowth on OoC procs, as well as for some quick heals on a tank without losing your LB stack. The changes to Nature’s Bounty are more interesting and potentially appealing for the hasted Nourish casts it provides for Raid and Tank healing. Just how many points are worth sacrificing for this talent remains to be seen. 
The bigger issue lies with Regrowth itself. As our ‘flash’ spell - a quick, expensive heal - it doesn’t measure up to the corresponding flash spells of the other classes (quickly checking on my own Priest, Flash Heal ~14k, Shaman Healing Surge ~10k, Pally Flash of Light ~14k). The HoT component is of course part of that - our main hit healing for ~7k with an additional 2k over 6 seconds. The main issue is that in general when that quick heal is used, it is precisely because an immediate heal is needed - in the majority of situations where that’s needed, it’s an emergency where a lot of healing is needed immediately, hence why we would even want to risk that much of a mana expense to begin with. The HoT component is negligible and usually quickly overwritten in instances where several quick Regrowths are needed in succession on the same target.
I can understand the desire to keep Regrowth different from the other classes’ flash spells to keep the Druid flavour, but currently the only real distinguisher for Regrowth is a weak HoT tacked to the end of it. The simplest fix would be to just increase Regrowth’s initial heal, roughly 10-10.5k direct base heal at 85 would be reasonable, with the HoT component’s 2k over 6 sec settling Regrowth right amongst the other flash spells. 
An example of the shortcomings of Regrowth (apart from its lack of punch in emergency spot- or tank-healing) is Chimaeron - those ~5 second windows between Caustic Slime or Massacre hits are crucial for quick heals to get targets above 10k heath. The other three classes can achieve this with one of their flash heals without needing the heal to crit or for a HoT to tick. By contrast, a druid has to rely heavily on the initial Regrowth heal critting or hope there is time for those HoT ticks to carry that last bit of health before the next attack. While it may not be devastating and other heals can be utilized, or even assigning the druid to tank healing, you can see where the inequalities can be spotted (which can correspondingly be seen with other heals in comparison to the other classes).
Why bring a resto druid to our raid?
The biggest concern with current Druid healing is it’s very difficult to give a positive answer to this question, ‘Why bring a Resto Druid to our raid?’ This topic was discussed some by Xaar of Paragon in his excellent post on the EU Healing forums (The State of 25-man Raid Healing). Apart from the healing disparity issues discussed by Xaar in his post, some of which have already been addressed in the upcoming patch (namely WG buffs and the Mana Tide Totem changes), the biggest issue is that a Resto Druid brings nothing of real significance to the raid along with their healing. 
The things a Resto Druid can bring to a raid are: 
-Replenishment (easily covered by other classes, especially in 25 man settings) 
-Battle Rez (provided by other druid specs) 
-Innervate (provided by other druid specs, albeit obviously stronger from Balance than Feral)
-Tranquility (provided by other druid specs, again strongest with Balance over Feral, though also good with cats specced into Nurturing Instinct). 
The flexibility of the class is of course a key component and I by no means wish for any changes for the other specs - simply highlighting that although a druid is still very desirable in a raid, specifically as a healer it looks like a lackluster choice.
Guilds heavily in progression content have primarily been stacking Holy Paladins and Priests for their healing comps. Pallies and Priests have risen as a choice above druids for several reasons: For straight healing output, especially at higher gear levels, those two classes have been extremely strong (which will hopefully even out some among the four healing classes with the changes coming in 4.0.6). Holy priests have been performing better on raid heals and have a valuable cooldown in Guardian Spirit. Although Disc priests have been a bit sub-par currently, they are still extremely useful for Power Word: Barrier, Pain Suppression, and, in some specific fights (ie Halfus Heroic), do immense healing through Atonement specs.
Although the Druid tank-healing toolset was upgraded in 4.0 and has a good mechanic using LB+Empowered Touch et al, in terms of tools it falls behind Paladins as a strong choice for tank healers - a Paladin has many +healing cooldowns (Avenging Wrath, Guardian of Ancient Kings, Divine Favour), damage reduction cooldowns (Hand of Sacrifice, Aura Mastery), Beacon, and Lay on Hands. The druid can pop Tree of Life but has only this cooldown, whereas the Pally can chain cooldowns throughout an encounter if desired. As one of our healers described, druids seem like half-assd paladins’. We do have a bit of a haste cooldown/proc in Nature’s Grace, however, this talent has its own issues for Resto, discussed later in this post in the Talents section.
Although Shamans are having some similar difficulties to Druids in current content, these are sometimes overlooked in order to bring a Mana Tide Totem for the Pallies/Priests. I’ll leave thorough discussion of Shaman concerns to someone more involved with the class, though.
So what could druids have to make them more competitive and useful for raids?
One solution would be to provide Resto Druids with either a damage mitigation cooldown or a raid cooldown. Arguably we have a raid cooldown with Tranquility but, as addressed earlier, this is easily provided by the other specs. Again, this is great for the flexibility of the class, but still not a reason to bring a specifically Resto druid to a raid. 
The most obvious damage mitigation cooldown one could give to Resto Druids (and has been suggested by others I’m certain) is to give Restos the ability to cast Barkskin on other targets. Making this a deep Restoration talent would restrict it to healers only. 
Another option is to bring back a form of the Tree of Life aura, granting a +x% increase to healing received to raid/party members within range. This could be a part of the ToL talent - speccing into ToL could provide both the ToL cooldown (unchanged 3 min cd) and provide a +healing received aura which would be active both in caster and ToL form. This would also realign Resto with Moonkin Aura and LotP.
There are plenty of other potential options and I’m sure many have some creative ideas. A raid damage mitigation cooldown would be a massive ability though may require an additional/new talent/idea. Something perhaps in a druid theme could be an ability, say, ‘Nature’s Guardian’ in which ‘the druid calls upon the forces of nature to surround his allies with roots and leaves, reducing their damage taken by 20%’, etc. This could be a deep Restoration talent.
Other talent tree suggestions
There are a few talents I also think could use some adjustments. There does seem to be some bloat in the Restoration tree. The expressed desire by Blizzard to have us make some difficult choices in our talent trees is there, and some are fun and effective - we have to make conscientious decisions on, say, mana conservation talents in the other trees vs +healing talents in the Resto tree(ie, what to drop for points in Moonglow? in Furor? etc). 
There is a fair bit of extra talents in the Restoration tree though where we’re simply having to decide what to straight sacrifice as there are simply not enough points, rather than making more ‘fun’ decisions. Currently Gift of the Earthmother and Nature’s Bounty seem to be the either/or for the chopping block in many talent trees, with NB being the one more frequently dropped it seems (hence the upcoming NB changes). We’re having to make choices like this, and though there’s certainly decision-making occurring (and even healstyle analysis occurring - ‘How do I, personally, use Rejuv and LB? Is Regrowth worth the points in NB?’), I think many would find these the less fun decisions, as opposed to ‘Can I pick up Fury of Stormrage and do some damage for this fight?’ Another talent ever-increasingly dropped is Nature’s Swiftness (a further knock to our tank-healing toolset) as many are finding it not worth the point. 10 man raiders could also argue for Nature’s Cure being a frustratingly necessary dropped point, as they may not have additional dispels in their raid comps to compensate (25man raiders generally will).
With this in mind I’ve been considering the Resto tree and have the following ideas for our talents:
Living Seed/Efflorescence
Many have suggested this already - these two talents should be unlinked. Efflorescence is a good talent but people are increasingly feeling the 3 required points in Living Seed are too heavy a cost for it. 
Living Seed itself is lackluster. It accounts for extremely little of our healing done and is an extremely costly talent at 3 points. Although the concept is fitting for a druid (a heal blooming after a hit), it is also much less useful than damage reduction talents like a Priest’s Inspiration or Shaman’s Ancestral Healing. Certainly, the Living Seed is useless if the hit it was going to bloom on actually killed the target because none of the damage was mitigated. Adjusting this talent to a damage mitigation tool would be much more useful, particularly in the context of our tank healing tools. Perhaps it may be better to simply overhaul or scrap the entire talent, or drop it down to 1-2 points rather than 3. In the very least, though, it would be extremely helpful to unlink this talent from Efflorescence. Certainly I’ve found myself wanting to (and actually doing so) drop a point or two in Efflorescence for points in abilities like Perseverance for certain fights (ie Heroic Conclave).
There is likely concern that no one would take Living Seed if it were unlinked from Efflo, though this itself should really bring up red flags about the value of the talent. Another possible solution to revamping Living Seed would just be to do away with it as a separate talent and instead perhaps combine it with Efflorescence, so 3 points gets you both talents instead of spending 6 for them.
Malfurion’s Gift
I mention MG in the context of the upcoming 4.0.6 changes to Omen of Clarity and MG. With Clearcasting procs from Omen of Clarity set to only proc on healing spells by speccing into MG, this talent essentially becomes mandatory for all Resto druids. I would be shocked if any Resto would choose not to spec it, and even more shocked if they felt they didn’t need to spec it. This then essentially takes all the choice out of this talent and it’s simply stealing talent points.
A solution which could help reduce some of the talent tree bloat would be to simply remove MG as a talent and grant its ability (OoC for healing spells) as one of the Restoration specialization abilities. This would free up 2 talent points for some more customization in the rest of the tree. 
Another solution would be to incorporate another ability into the talent, however that may simply bog down the tree even more than it already is.
Nature’s Grace
Strictly speaking a Balance talent, though it has good uses for Restoration druids as well. I do think it could use some minor improvements for Resto use. It already had an update for Resto (adding in Regrowth to trigger the Haste proc in addition to MF/IS) which was very helpful, particularly in a PVE progression healing context in which the GCD and mana for a MF/IS can’t always be spared. 
The biggest issue for Resto at the moment is the ICD on the Haste proc - the ability has a 1 minute cooldown which Balance druids can reset through Eclipse. Resto druids can’t reset the cooldown, which makes this a difficult talent to make full use of. Although it’s possible to time gaining the haste buff for certain events in an encounter, the nature of healing will often require the use of Regrowth in situations outside of when we might want the haste buff. Consequently we are locked out of gaining the haste buff again for another minute. This then restricts us to either limiting our Regrowth/IS/MF only to times when we want the buff (preventing us from using RG as needed), to using our RG as needed but locking us from the haste at key times, or to attempting to keep track of the ICD. Perhaps the latter is intended, but it feels restrictive, again in particular when compared with abilities like Tidal Waves, Serendipity, Borrowed Time, Infusion/Speed of Light, Judgements of the Pure. The changes to Nature’s Bounty may assist in providing druids with a comparable ability (depending on how the talent works practically on live and how many points can be worth spending in it), however I still feel the ICD for Nature’s Grace needs to be adjusted for Resto druids.
These are just some of my current thoughts on Druid healing and really only a small portion of the ideas and discussion circulating at the moment. Druids are certainly far from bad at the moment and can perform well in Heroic content. The spec and our ability strengths still need some adjusting, and the mass data from logs et al after patch 4.0.6 goes live will be the most useful in determining how successful the upcoming changes are in bringing our heals closer to par with Priests and Paladins. There are definitely movements in the right direction, but there is still a ways to go. 
Crucially, I feel Resto druids could do with an ability to increase their value to bring to a raid. Certainly in the context of the expressed desire for raiders to bring ‘the player, not the class’, druids are harshly behind Priests and Paladins (and arguably behind Shamans as well w/o MTT to contribute) in terms of what they can offer apart from just being a healer. Even assuming equal gear, equal player skill, and (assuming relevant buffs/nerfs upcoming in 4.0.6 across the 4 healing classes) equal healing output, druids will rarely, if ever, be preferred due to lacking the cooldowns/abilities possessed by Paladins and Priests. While it’s good to keep the different classes unique to a degree to prevent any homogenization in healing styles and strategies, the classes should still have some equality in terms of each bringing effective healing and abilities which can contribute positively to the raid and encounter. 
Assuming the status quo, there is also a potential argument for simply increasing the strength of all of the druid’s heals so that they are superior to the other classes’ heals. This could theoretically even out the desirability of bringing a druid, as although they lack raid cooldowns et al, the increase in healing would compensate. Personally, I feel the utility of some sort of additional cooldown would be a more valuable change, as I imagine simply increasing our healing strength would ultimately be a poor decision for class balance. If the heals were increased too much it could just as easily lead to stacking druids, as the healing would just be more valuable than any cooldowns provided by other classes. 
Ultimately, the best aim is for a roughly equal balance so that a reasonable mix of all the classes are included, rather than stacking of a particular class. Of course, this is extremely difficult to do, but I hope that ideas like those above will help to lead things in that direction.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

User Interface and Power Auras Exports

I've had a few questions about my UI and which addons I use, so I thought I'd make a post for easy reference. I grabbed a still from my Maloriak video and a couple of other screenshots to mark up so it was clear which addons are doing what. I've listed them all below including links to their page on (Permanent page set up on the right-hand side links here.)


1. Vuhdo - Healing and Raid Frames
2. Power Auras Classic - Customisable notifier (de/buffs, spell CDs, procs, etc)
3. IceHUD - Customisable HUD
4. Parrot - Scrolling Combat Text
5. Deadly Boss Mods / DBM Spell Timers - Boss Encounters
6. Omen - Threat Meter
7. Recount - Damage Meter
8. SexyMap - Customisable MiniMap skins
9.  Quartz - Cast Bars
10. Chocolate Bar Broker Display - Bar for Broker Plugins

11. TipTac / TipTac Talents - Customisable ToolTips / Displays target's talents (0/0/0)
12. (not visible) oRA3 - Raid assist
13. Tidy Plates - Customisable Nameplates
14. (not visible) Simple Raid Target Icons - Quick customisable raid target marking
15. RoguePowerBars - Buff/Debuff tracker and timers

Power Auras Import Codes

For those of you using Power Auras Classic who would like to use my setup, I'll include the Power Auras import codes below. To set these up, all you have to do is bring up the Power Auras editor in-game by typing /powa. You can then import this setup directly by clicking the Import button and pasting the code in.

Resto Power Auras
Wild Growth cooldown

Version:4.9; icon:Ability_Druid_Flourish; buffname:Wild Growth; x:-45; customname:48438; bufftype:15; alpha:1; isResting:0; inVehicle:0; spec1:false; customtex:true; combat:true; size:0.15; y:-160; texmode:2; ismounted:0

Nature's Swiftness cooldown

Version:4.9; icon:Spell_Nature_RavenForm; buffname:Nature's Swiftness; x:45; customname:17116; bufftype:15; alpha:1; isResting:0; inVehicle:0; spec1:false; customtex:true; combat:true; size:0.15; y:-160; texmode:2; ismounted:0

Omen of Clarity proc w/ Timer

Version:4.9; icon:Spell_Shadow_ManaBurn; buffname:Clearcasting; customname:16870; alpha:1; isResting:0; inVehicle:0; customtex:true; combat:true; size:0.15; y:-160; texmode:2; ismounted:0; timer.h:2; timer.Texture:WhiteRabbit; timer.enabled:true; timer.cents:false; timer.Relative:CENTER; timer.Transparent:true

Tree of Life Timer - (Credit to Keeva at TreeBarkJacket for the base for this aura, from her Power Aura Exports post.)

Version:4.9; b:0.9765; icon:Ability_Druid_TreeofLife; buffname:Tree of Life; r:0.9922; customname:33891; alpha:0.2; isResting:0; inVehicle:0; exact:true; spec1:false; customtex:true; combat:true; size:0.15; y:-115; ismounted:0; anim2:1; finish:0; timer.h:2; timer.Texture:WhiteRabbit; timer.enabled:true; timer.cents:false; timer.Relative:CENTER

Power Torrent proc

Version:4.9; icon:Ability_Paladin_SacredCleansing; buffname:Power Torrent; texture:172; alpha:0.7; isResting:0; inVehicle:0; spec1:false; combat:true; size:0.49; y:-50; ismounted:0

Feral Power Auras
Tiger's Fury cooldown

Version:4.9; icon:Ability_Mount_JungleTiger; buffname:Tiger's Fury; x:-45; customname:5217; bufftype:15; alpha:1; isResting:0; inVehicle:0; spec2:false; customtex:true; combat:true; size:0.15; y:-160; texmode:2; ismounted:0

Berserk cooldown

Version:4.9; icon:Ability_Druid_Berserk; buffname:Berserk; x:45; customname:50334; bufftype:15; alpha:1; isResting:0; inVehicle:0; spec2:false; customtex:true; combat:true; size:0.15; y:-160; texmode:2; ismounted:0

Predator's Swiftness proc

Version:4.5; b:0.0588; g:0.0235; icon:Ability_Hunter_Pet_Cat; buffname:Predator's Swiftness; alpha:1; isResting:0; sound:11; wowtex:true; combat:true; size:0.75

You will likely need to do at least some minor tweaking to these Power Auras even if you don't want to adjust the size/positioning/etc. The biggest thing to note is these Power Auras are customised to my spec - the Resto ones only trigger for my Resto spec, which is my second spec. If you bring up the edit option, you will see the following:

This is the edit window for the Wild Growth cooldown. This one is set to trigger only when in combat. You can see at the bottom of the edit window that the box next to 'Spec 2' is ticked - this means this will only work in my secondary spec. If Resto is your main spec, simply tick Spec 1 instead of Spec 2 (or tick both if you have two Resto specs), and so on as needed for the other codes.

If you already have some Power Auras set up, it's a good idea to back up your current PowerAuras so that you don't lose any of your own settings. To do so, simply type /powa to bring up the PowA window and click 'Export Set'. Simply copy/paste the code into a text file and save it to your computer. Should you lose your Auras, you will be able to hit 'Import Set' and paste that saved text file in to get them all back.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Slayer of Stupid, Incompetent, and Disappointing Minions!

A quick update; we got Heroic Maloriak down last night, and I was actually recording for once so I have a video of our first kill!

Video: Our Heroic Maloriak 25 man kill.

Despite taking ages to upload and being recorded in 1080 HD it for some reason is only showing up in 720 HD on youtube, so I'll have a poke at that later after raid time to figure out why that is. A bit annoyed at that and hoping it won't be too difficult to amend, as I've been trying to improve the picture and overall video qualities as I do each one. Added a little intro lead-in for the site, will be playing some more with those sorts of things as I go as well. Also, if anyone has recommendations for new music to check out, always interested to hear some new stuff! The videos so far have some similar soundtracks, though I do have some very different music in mind for an upcoming vid (ideally a Conclave vid if I can get one recorded).

The Heroic Maloriak fight is quite a good one, with the primary difference from normal mode being an additional phase in which Nefarian adds Dark Magic to Maloriak's cauldron. You can see in the video that this results in a lot of additional adds (the dark swills), dark patches on the ground which deal a lot of damage if you stand in it, and a debuff cast on the tank called 'Engulfing Darkness'.

The Engulfing Darkness debuff is very important as it reduces all healing taken by 99%. You can see in the video I have Maloriak focussed to watch his cast bar and have the debuff icon appearing on my Vuhdo - it's a 3 second cast with an 8 second channel applied on the tank (and any who happen to get in front of him) which applies the debuff. It's very important that the tank is healed to full in those few seconds before the debuff is reapplied and any necessary cooldowns used by/on the tank as needed, as healing will be ineffective while the cast is channelled.

I'll be trying to get a full raid guide up for Maloriak soon to go with the video, including some more information on the heroic mode abilities. I've also had some questions about my UI so I'll see about doing an updated UI post as well.

One of the most fun things about the Maloriak hardmode is you receive the following awesome (yet sadly  temporary) title:

You also get a fun debuff:

Unfortunately, both disappear when you die (including if you die during the encounter itself), so more incentive to stay out of bad stuff and remain alive!

We all quickly lost our titles though as our raid leaders forgot to set the instance back to Normal mode. We were a few minutes into Nefarian when we suddenly realised 'hm... why are people getting mind controlled?.. OMG IT'S STILL ON HEROIC!!' One day no one will realise it when that happens and maybe we'll end up with an accidental heroic win.

More to come soon!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Heroic Chimaeron Video + Raid Guide Update!

I recorded a video of our Heroic Chimaeron 25 kill last night! Working on improving the videos as I go, I'd still like to up the sharpness some more, though you can still watch this and the Omnotron kill in HD. I had a comment on my Omnotron video to see my cursor during a fight so you can see a bit more what I'm doing, so I tried that out for this video. My primary focus on this fight is on tank healing.

I have also updated the Raid Encounter Guide for Chimaeron with information on the Heroic version of the fight, including the Heroic mode abilities and additional tanking and healing suggestions.

You can see the updated guide here: Raid Encounter Guide - Chimaeron.

In other amusing news, there is no running from the trash in Blackwing Descent - they've learned to use the lifts!

This gives whole new meaning to deaths to the lift-boss! A guildie aptly described these drakes as like velociraptors, learning to use lifts, they'll be learning how to open doors next... Run while you still can!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Raid Encounter Guides - Omnotron Defense System (Blackwing Descent)

Video: Our recent Omnotron Defense System Heroic 25 kill. Information on the Heroic mode of this encounter is below the Normal mode abilities towards the end of this post.

Omnotron Defense System

The Omnotron Defense System is one of the first bosses you'll encounter in Blackwing Descent, and one of two bosses you will need to defeat in order to access the rest of the zone. Included in this guide are the boss abilities, strategy suggestions, and a video of our heroic mode kill and some info on the heroic mode abilities.

This fight is a council-type fight against four constructs with a shared healthpool - Magmatron, Toxitron, Arcanotron, and Electron. The constructs become active in a random order and you can face any combination at one time. You will fight against all four constructs in this encounter, however, only two constructs will be active at any given time. Spatial awareness and quick target changes are key to succeeding in this fight.

Each construct has an energy bar which starts at full when it is activated and decreases over time. At 50% energy, the construct will activate a shield specific to its abilities and become invulnerable and another construct will activate. The construct will deactivate at 0% energy and will remain inactive until reactivated by the encounter.

You can tell which construct will be activated next by a beam connecting from the forge in the back of the room to a deactivated construct. The beam will be a different colour for each construct - a red, magma-looking beam for Magmatron, a green beam for Toxitron, a purple beam for Arcanotron, and a blue lightning beam for Electron. Each construct has its own unique abilities.

Abilities (source)
-Power Generator: Summons a Power Generator under a random friendly target. This generator increases damage by 50% of all friendly and enemy targets within 5 yards. Lasts 1 minute.
-Arcane Annihilator: Inflicts significant Arcane damage to a random enemy target. 1.5 second cast time. Can be interrupted.
-Power Conversion: Power Conversion converts damage against the target to be converted into additional Magic damage and increased cast speed. Purge, Spellsteal, or stop DPS.

-Lightning Conductor: Targets and effects a raid member for 10 seconds, causing them to inflict Nature damage to nearby allies every 2 seconds.
-Electrical Discharge: Inflicts Nature damage to up to 3 enemies within 8 yards. Damage is increased by 20% between each jump.
-Unstable Shield: Attacks against the Unstable Shield cause a Static Shock at a nearby enemy's location. Stop DPS.

-Incineration Security Measure: Inflicts 14000-15000 Fire damage every second for 4 seconds to the entire raid.
-Acquiring Target: Acquiring a target. After 4 seconds Magmatron will channel his Flamethrower on a target, inflicting ~35000 Fire damage every second to all enemies in front of him for 4 seconds. The Flamethrower appears as an obvious red beam directed onto the target.
-Barrier: Absorbs 150000 damage and, if the barrier is broken, it releases a gale of flame, inflicting ~76000 Fire damage to all enemies.

-Chemical Bomb: Fires a Chemical Bomb at a random target, causing a Chemical Cloud at the location. The chemical cloud doubles damage taken and can affect Constructs as well as raid members.
-Poison Protocol: The Poison Protocol creates Poison Bombs that will explode after coming in contact with its target or after being killed. Poison Bombs will Fixate on random raid members and move towards them and will explode on contact. Poison Bombs can be snared and slowed.
-Poison Soaked Shell: Applies Soaked in Poison on melee and spell attacks which inflicts 5000 Nature damage every 2 seconds. Stacks. Will increase damage done to the target, however, it will also stack and inflict damage on any raid member effected.

You will only need 2 tanks for this fight as only 2 constructs will be active at any one time. The fight will begin with only one Construct active, the second Construct becoming active when the first reaches 50% energy. The order of the constructs is random; you could start with a different construct each pull and have the remaining constructs activate in any order and in any combination. One construct will deactivate while a new one activates, freeing the tank to pick up the new boss.

Each construct has two unique offensive abilities and a third Shield ability which activates when the specific construct hits 50% energy. Quick target switches are key in this fight due to these shields - all of the shields will result in increased damage to raid members if they are DPSd. The shields are activated when a construct's energy reaches 50% - this is also the time a new construct will activate, so it is simple to change to the newly activated construct when the shield is powering up on the previous target.

Arcanotron's Power Generator forms light-coloured puddles on the ground which increases the damage of anyone standing in them and will regenerate mana for casters. The raid should move into these puddles when they can for the damage gain, though raid members shouldn't stand in them if it puts them in danger of an ability from a different construct. These puddles will also increase the constructs' damage, so the constructs should be moved out of them. Arcane Annihilator is a hard-hitting cast which should be interrupted. It may not always one-shot people, however, it will do significant enough damage that you could easily lose raid members if they are hit by this and another ability in quick succession.

Damage to Arcanotron's shield will give a haste buff to the Annihilator cast, so it is essential that DPS switches quickly and any stacks are Purged or Spellstolen.

Electron's Lightning Conductor affects a targeted raid member and causes them to shock nearby raiders with electricity. Any raid member affected should move away from the rest of the raid. Electrical Discharge is simply a chain lightning - you may find it easiest to spread your raid out whenever Electron is active to mitigate this damage, though it is not strictly necessary. Depending on your group and the composition of the two constructs active, you may find it more useful to keep your raid stacked together for AoE heals. If stacking, people should be aware of the chain lightning and healers prepared for quick top-ups so that you don't lose raiders to a combination of chain lightning and another ability.

Damage to Electron's shield is extremely dangerous - DPS to his shield will cause Static Shock which can quickly lead to a raid wipe. This includes the tank's damage! The tank will need to stop attacking as well when that shield goes up. ETA: A good note from our Bear Reesi (of The Inconspicuous Bear), even abilities like Demoralizing Shout/Roar will trigger this shield!

Magmatron's abilities are pretty hard-hitting and unavoidable. Incineration Security Measure inflicts an AoE Fire Damage to the entire raid. There is no way to avoid it - it must be healed through. Raid-wide cooldowns may be helpful, such as Power Word: Barrier and Aura MasteryAcquiring Target focusses a Flamethrower (a giant red beam) onto a random raid member. The targeted member must be healed through it. Other raid members should ensure they are not caught in the beam or in front of Magmatron or they will be hit as well. You can choose to have the targeted raid member run away from the group or simply have the rest of your raid shift to avoid them. Having your raid move (rather than the target) may better help prepare you for Heroic mode, which I will touch on shortly. Certain abilities can avoid Flamethrower: Cloak of ShadowsDivine ShieldIce Block.

Magmatron's Barrier shield will inflict massive AoE damage to the entire raid if it is DPSd and broken.

Toxitron's Chemical Bomb creates a green chemical cloud on the ground, doubling damage taken by anyone stood in the cloud. This includes damage the construct takes - if you are able to carefully position an active construct in the cloud, you can increase damage done to it significantly. Toxitron also summons adds called Poison Bombs. These are non-elites which will fixate on random raid members and explode for significant damage should they reach their target. These adds can be slowed, so abilities like Frost Trap and Earthbind Totem are extremely helpful. DPS must kill these adds before they reach their targets. Melee are best off retreating to range to ensure they are a safe distance away from the adds in case they are targeted, however, if they are not fixated, they can carefully assist in DPSing the adds as well. No one should use any aggro-dropping abilities such as Feign Death if they are fixated by an add - the adds will reset aggro and fixate on another target, which could result in the add fixating on someone who happens to be right next to them.

If you position Toxitron on one side of the room and your raid on the other, this can help to funnel the adds in a specific direction, making it easier to AoE them and to ensure they pass through any Frost Traps which may be down.

Toxitron's shield is arguably the least dangerous, Poison Soaked Shell applying a stacking Nature damage debuff. The debuff can be cleansed. This debuff will actually cause people to inflict additional Nature damage with their attacks, however, it will also inflict damage on the affected raid member. If your healers feel they can handle it, you may be interested in letting a few DPS remain on Toxitron a bit longer, though it may not be worth it. You will still need to change targets to the newly activated construct eventually.

The only ability which you may find you need to spread out for is Electron's chain lightning, which can arguably be handled while stacked up anyway. This may make it easier for targeted raid members (for Lightning Conductor and Fixate) to move out of the raid or for the raid to move away from them (such as for Magmatron's Flamethrower). Stacking up when you can may be helpful for raid healing and cooldowns like Power Word: Barrier to assist in healing. This in particular can be helpful in Heroic mode.

Heroic Omnotron Defense System
In all of the Blackwing Descent heroic modes, Nefarian appears to liven things up a bit and add difficulty to the fight. In addition to regaling us with his rather, er, eccentric presence, Nefarian generally adds a type of Shadow magic to the fight, giving the bosses additional abilities.

For the Omnotron Defense System, Nefarian adds an additional ability to each construct. Nefarian's meddling is on its own cooldown separate from the constructs, so you may find yourself faced with any of the new abilities depending on which constructs are active and when his cooldown timer is up. Some of these combinations can be particularly dangerous depending on which constructs are active at the time.

Shadow Infusion: Nefarian causes Electron's Lightning Conductor target to become fused with Shadow. Causes Shadow damage to allies, inflicting damage based on the distance from the Shadow Infusion target.

The Lightning Conductor will still tick for approximately 5 seconds while the target is becoming Infused with Shadow, so the target should move out of the raid initially. Once the Lightning Conductor turns into  Shadow Infusion, though, the target must immediately re-stack with the rest of the raid (priest's Leap of Faith is excellent for whipping a target quickly back into the group) to reduce the damage. Damage from Shadow Infusion increases the farther people are from the target, so your raid must be stacked up to mitigate this damage. If a tank has to be out of the group for whatever reason, it is advisable to use external cooldowns.

Encasing Shadows: Nefarian holds Magmatron's Acquired Target in place, preventing them from moving.

This ability roots the Flamethrower target in place, preventing them from moving. This is why it's advisable to practice from normal mode always having the Flamethrower target remain in place while the rest of the raid moves to avoid the beam, so everyone is prepared should the target find themselves rooted by Nefarian.

Arcane Blowback: Nefarian fires shadows at a Power Generator pool left by Arcanotron, causing it to expand and explode, inflicting Arcane damage to anyone caught in it. (TY to Haast for pointing me to the name of this ability!)
Raid members need to be very aware of these pools when standing in them, as they can expand very rapidly when Nefarian targets one and the resulting explosion will severly injure, if not kill, anyone caught by it.

Grip of Death: Nefarian ports to the centre of a Chemical Cloud and grips the entire raid into the cloud.
This can be a particularly dangerous ability, especially if it happens to be timed with Incineration Security Measure. The raid needs to move as quickly as possible back out of the cloud. It is also extremely important that adds are slowed and killed quickly. If any adds are still up and catch their target while the raid is gripped into the Chemical Cloud, you will likely wipe.

Heroic mode makes the normal mode spatial awareness and target swap requirements even more important as any losses can be extremely costly. You may wish to run more healers than you normally would to help deal with the significant raid damage.

Ultimately this Heroic mode comes down to knowing the different boss abilities and Nefarian's meddlings - raid members need to be able to react quickly and correctly to whichever Nefarian ability is active. The fight can quickly appear to become chaotic as people lose track of which constructs are active and which Nefarian ability is likely to be next. You can begin to figure out which Nefarian ability to expect based on his timer, though - as his cooldown finishes, you can plan to expect one of two abilities based on which constructs are active. For example, if Toxitron and Arcanotron are active, you can prepare for either being gripped into a Chemical Cloud or for a Power Generator pool to blow up.

Keeping the raid stacked together can be extremely useful for ensuring as many raid members as possible benefit from AoE healing and raid cooldowns like Power Word: Barrier, which you can see used frequently for the Incineration Security Measure in my Heroic video at the beginning of this guide. Similar cooldowns such as Aura Mastery and Divine Guardian can also be extremely helpful. There is a lot of damage both on raid members and on the tanks in this fight, and you may wish to run more healers than you would use on Normal mode. DPS does need to be strong, however, as there will be a 10 minute enrage timer on the Heroic mode of this fight (effective in Patch 4.0.6).

Good luck and have fun!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Raid Encounter Guides - Cho'gall (Bastion of Twilight)

Apologies for the delay in updates and getting these updated guides up - preparing for a move, so I've been very busy! Again, much of the information from the Beta Raid Previews I wrote up is still relevant for the fights which have not had a new guide posted yet.

Let's take a look at the end-boss of the Bastion of Twilight - Cho'gall.


This is one of the easier end-bosses, however, it does still require raid members to have good awareness and target swaps when needed. Avoiding unnecessary damage is particularly key due to the fight mechanic Corrupted Blood.

Abilities (source)

Corrupted Blood - Your blood is corrupted! Increases damage taken from Corruption of the Old God by 3%. Stacks to 100.

Throughout the fight you will have a graphic on the lower centre of your screen symbolising the amount of Corrupted Blood you have. As your Corrupted Blood increases (and the graphic fills up), you will gain the following additional debuffs:

Corruption: Accelerated - 25% Corrupted Blood. Your Corrupted Blood has gone to your heart and is accelerating, causing 2 stacks of Corrupted Blood for one minute. Magic dispellable.
Corruption: Sickness - 50% Corrupted Blood. Your Corrupted Blood has made you sick, causing you to vomit and inflict 39000 - 41000 Shadow damage to friends in a 5 yard frontal cone. Also causes Corrupted Blood.
Corruption: Malformation - 75% Corrupted Blood. A Malformation has grown out of your back which casts Shadow Bolts at nearby friendly players.
Corruption: Absolute - 100% Corrupted Blood. You are transformed into a Faceless One, receiving 100% less healing but inflicting 100% additional damage and all your spells become instant casts.

The following abilities in the fight all cause Corrupted Blood (amount caused in parenthesis).
-Dark Sickness (5)
-Accelerated Corruption (2 every second)
-Spilled Blood of the Old God (+5 every second while in it)
-Sprayed Corruption (5 every 2 seconds)
-Congealed Blood of the Old God (2 each melee hit)
-Corrupting Crash (10)
-Depravity (10)
-Festering Blood (5)
-Debilitating Beam (2 every second)
-Corruption of the Old God (1 every tick)

Phase 1 (100%-25%)
Fury of Cho'gall - Cho'gall blasts the target, inflicting 30,000 Shadow and 30,000 Physical damage and increasing Physical and Shadow damage taken by 20%. Cast on primary aggro target. Last 45 seconds, stacks.
Conversion - Cho'gall causes a target to channel Worshipping onto Cho'gall, causing him to gain Twisted Devotion every 3 seconds. Can be interrupted.
Twisted Devotion - Worshipping increases Cho'gall's damage done by 10% for 20 seconds. Stacks.
Flame's Orders - Cho'gall calls the Flames to his aid, adding 20,000 Fire damage to each melee swing and spawning fire patches.
Shadow's Orders - Cho'gall calls the Shadow to his aid, causing Shadow AoE damage to the raid.
Fester Blood - Cho'gall festers the blood of Corrupting Adherents, causing the Blood of the Old God to form from the congealed blood of the slain Adherents. Cause Corrupted Blood on melee swings; cannot be tanked but can be rooted, snared, and slowed.

Summon Corrupting Adherent - Cho'gall summons Corrupting Adherents to aid him. Adherents have the following abilities:
-Depravity - Inflicts Shadow damage to enemies within 50,000 yards and causes Corrupted Blood. 1.5 second cast, can be interrupted.
-Sprayed Corruption - Inflicts ~30,000 Shadow damage in a frontal cone and applies Corrupted Blood.
-Corrupting Crash - Fires a shadow missile at a target, dealing Shadow damage to all enemies near impact. Causes Corrupted Blood to those struck.
-Spilled Blood of the Old God - The slain Adherent spills corrupted blood, inflicting Shadow damage to enemies standing in it and causes Corrupted Blood.
If Corrupting Adherents are not killed before Cho'gall casts Fester Blood, the adds will spray Corruption everywhere, dealing ~40,000 Shadow damage every 2 seconds and causes Corrupted Blood.

Phase 2 (25% to 0%)
Fury of Cho'gall - Cho'gall blasts the target, inflicting 30,000 Shadow and 30,000 Physical damage and increasing Physical and Shadow damage taken by 20%. Cast on primary aggro target. Last 45 seconds, stacks.
Corruption of the Old God - Cho'gall inflicts 4000-5000 Shadow damage every 2 seconds to everyone in the room.
Darkened Creations - Cho'gall sumons 4/10 Darkened Creations to aid him which have the following ability:
Debilitating Beam - Reduces healing and damage done by 75%. Inflicts 4875-5125 Shadow damage every 1 second and causes Corrupted Blood every second. Lasts 10 seconds. Can be interrupted.

There are two crucial keys to this fight: Avoiding incoming damage to keep your Corrupted Blood levels low, and quick interrupts on Corrupting Adherents and Darkened Creations and on those raid members channeling Worship.

Raid Composition:
Your usual raid composition will likely suffice for this fight, though it is key you have reliable interruptors in your group. Classes with AoE interrupts or stuns can be useful for mass interrupts of raid members channeling Worship. You will also need interrupts on the Corrupting Adherents and Darkened Creations in phases 1 and 2.

Two tanks will suffice for this fight - your tanks will need to taunt Cho'gall in order to get rid of the Fury of Cho'gall debuff. If timed right, you should be able to do a tank swap on Cho'gall as each Corrupting Adherent spawns, freeing a tank to pick up the add and allowing him to clear his debuff. In 25 man you could also run three tanks, leaving a tank free to focus solely on adds.

Positioning for your raid can vary based on your group and their strengths, however, you may find it easiest to keep your raid stacked together for the majority of the fight. The primary strength in this is it allows for greater ease in dealing with Conversion on raid members. Two raid members will be mind controlled with Conversion in 10 man and three in 25 man.

If the raid is stacked up, it's very easy to use an AoE stun in order to interrupt every raid member channeling Worship. You could do this with a priest's Psychic Scream, a warrior's Intimidating Shout or Shockwave, a Destro warlock's Shadowfury, etc!

Rotating abilities like these for each Conversion provides a quick means for interrupts, which is crucial for keeping tank and raid damage down - Twisted Devotion can stack up quickly and will increase Cho'gall's damage significantly. It is good to have back-up interruptors as well for any raid members who may be outside of the group and begin channeling Worship, whether they be hunters (who may need to stand back just outside the main group) or simply when raiders invariably need to become a bit more spread when each adherent is summoned.

Phase 1 (100%-25%)
Phase 1 will have the raid alternating between DPSing Cho'gall and the adds and interrupting the raid members mind controlled with Conversion.

Cho'gall will summon one Corrupting Adherent at a time and you will face two Adherents before Cho'gall casts Fester Blood. If you tank Cho'gall in about the centre of the room, you will easily be able to bring each Adherent to the steps in the entrance of the room. When the Adherent dies, it spills a dark pool of corrupted blood, which is what will spawn the congealed Blood of the Old God adds when Cho'gall casts Fester Blood. By positioning each Adherent's death in that narrowed space at the entrance steps, you can force the congealed adds to funnel in a specific region as they travel towards the raid. This can help immensely with positioning snares such as Frost Traps and Earthbind Totems to slow the adds. You may also find a knockback such as Typhoon may be helpful on these congealed blood adds to prevent them from reaching and meleeing raid members.

It is crucial to have interrupts on the Adherents and to kill them quickly. Depending on your DPS, you may find it effective to either have all of the DPS turn to kill the add or to assign some to remain on the boss at all times.

Melee DPS need to be particularly careful when the Adherents die and may wish to move out just before they die so as not to get caught in the spilled pools of corrupted blood.

The raid should also spread out just enough when adds spawn in order to help them see the crash points of the Corrupting Crash launched by the Adherents. The target location is marked by a purple swirling patch on the ground.

After two Corrupting Adherents spawn, Cho'gall will cast Fester Blood. Congealed Blood of the Old God adds will spawn from each blood pool left by the dead Adherents and travel towards the raid. These adds only cause Corrupted Blood on melee attacks so slows, snares, and knockbacks help immensely in keeping them out of the raid as they are DPS'd down.

All adds must be killed - if Adherents are alive when Cho'gall casts Fester Blood, they will deal AoE damage to the entire raid which will likely lead to a wipe.

Flame's Orders will increase the incoming tank damage and Shadow's Orders will increase raid-wide damage. Both can be increased by Twisted Devotion.

Phase 2 (25%-0%)
When Cho'gall reaches 25% health he will push into phase 2. In this phase he will deal constant AoE damage to the raid with Corruption of the Old God and tanks will need to continue taunting off each other as Cho'gall will still be applying Fury of Cho'gall.

The key part to this phase is once again the adds and interrupts - Cho'gall will summon Darkened Creations (4 in 10 man, 10 in 25 man). These adds look like eyestalks and channel Debilitating Beam. This beam reduces all healing and damage done by 75%. This must be interrupted and the adds killed as quickly as possible. There is no 'ignore the adds, DPS the boss' part in this fight - the adds MUST die. If you attempt to leave them up you will either hit the enrage or your healers will be overwhelmed. It may be helpful to assign DPS to begin DPSing the Creations in certain areas first - i.e. group 1 targets North Creations first, group 2 targets South Creations first, etc.

Some raid members may have Corruption: Sickness by this point in the fight; if they do, it is extremely helpful that they face themselves away from other raid members to avoid vomiting on them and dealing more damage to the raid. Healers may find it easiest to simply face themselves out of the raid on transition to phase 2.

While the fight may sound a bit confusing when seeing all of the different abilities, it is a pretty straightforward fight in practice. Overall, the fight follows a simple cycle of DPS boss, DPS adds, DPS boss again, DPS adds again, etc. The simplest way to think about the Corrupted Blood is simply avoid damage to avoid increasing the corruption. Almost every ability that causes damage to raid members will increase Corrupted Blood levels, so avoiding the Shadow crashes, the blood pools, etc, will keep your corruption levels down.

Apart from avoiding unnecessary damage, quick interrupts on adds and mind controlled raid members are crucial, as are efficient killing of adds. If you can succeed on this, you will win the fight!

Good luck and have fun!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Patch 4.0.6 - Updated Patch Notes for Druids

There was an update to the 4.0.6 patch notes along with a new build released on the PTR with some additional updates for Druids!

Most of the changes for all three specs were PvP-oriented, with most of our CCs getting a reduction to 8 seconds in a PvP environment. Entangling Roots (and Nature's Grasp) and Hibernate have a PvP duration of 8 seconds, Skull Bash's lockout has been brought down to 4 seconds (from 5). The only Feral-specific change mentioned in this update is another PvP change, Infected Wounds now has a PvP duration of 8 seconds. Moonfire has also had its mana cost reduced to 9% (from 18%) and, in a nice change, Soothe is once again an instant cast (down from 1.5 seconds).

Our Troll and Worgen brethren will also finally get their new flight forms which will be implemented in the next patch! This includes Troll's new bat form.

There are quite a few additional Restoration changes, though, so let's take a look!

Updated Resto Changes

Wild Growth
We've already seen a reduction in the mana cost for Rejuvenation (from 26% down to 16%) which is a very welcome change. Alongside this now is a big boost for our raid heals, Wild Growth healing has been increased by 30% and the cooldown has been reduced to 8 seconds (down from 10 seconds). Definitely a good change here, as our raid heals were really suffering (you can read the full rundown on some of the current healing imbalances in my last post here). I definitely can feel Blizz on wanting to avoid a return to the Rejuv/WG spam of Wrath, it's something I'd like to avoid as well. Whatever way you cut it, though, our HoTs are important and Rejuvs and WG are really crucial to raid healing. Hopefully this will put us back on the right track and get us back in line with Priests on raid heals (as opposed to behind, where we generally are now, even with equal gear/skill). 

Lifebloom on multiple targets
The last set of patch notes informed us that Regrowth will join Nourish and Healing Touch in the talent Empowered Touch, they will all refresh Lifebloom stacks on a target. The new change with this update is that now it will no longer be possible to maintain Lifebloom on multiple targets outside of Tree of Life form. This was a decent little trick with the Empowered Touch talent - simply, if you used Nourish or HT to refresh the Lifebloom on a target, you could do so indefinitely on multiple targets outside of ToL. Clearly this wasn't an intended ability, though, and it will no longer be possible to due so with this patch.

Honestly, I'm not too bothered by this change. Although it could theoretically be useful, especially if focussing on two tanks, it was a tremendous pain to maintain in most fights. It would eat up a lot of GCDs, time, and attention, so I'm really not too disappointed to see the back of it!

Tree of Life
Some small nerfs to the Tree of Life cooldown, though nothing too huge. For our PvPers, ToL no longer grants immunity to polymorph. ETA: Looks like the ToL polymorph change has been reverted, as a new change (shapeshifting no longer clears the druid of roots, but will clear movement impairing effects) has been implemented.

For everyone, the duration has been reduced to 25 seconds (down from 30). The Natural Shapeshifter bonus has been reduced to a 3/6 second increase to ToL (down from 5/10). So with two points in Natural Shapeshifter we'll see a 31 second ToL. Not too bad, they likely just thought it was a bit too long of a healing cooldown. We saw a similar nerf from the original cooldown, which used to last 45 seconds.

Mastery (Symbiosis) Buff
This is a decent change, the Symbiosis benefit has been increased by approximately 16%.

All in all, we're continuing to see some decent buffs to Resto, so hopefully that trend will continue! Similarly, hopefully they won't overdo it and actually achieve a roughly equal balance among the healing classes rather than having some just completely overpowered than the others. Pallies and Priests have some small reductions incoming so far and Shamans are getting a bit of a boost, so hopefully things will begin to even out.

Mana Tide Totem has also been revamped so that it now 'no longer multiplies the Spirit of those affected by it. It instead gives a flat amount of Spirit equal to 400% of the casting shaman's Spirit, exclusive of short-term Spirit buffs affecting the shaman when dropped.' This is a good change overall, really, and most likely from PvE imbalances (rather than PvP, which a number of the upcoming changes are adjusting). MTT combined with Spirit /use trinkets and additional factors was becoming extremely overpowered in raid settings (and poor shamans were basically being used only as mana batteries for priests/pallies), so hopefully this will again contribute to more equalising of the healing classes and encourage mixed comps rather than the need to stack specific classes.

I would still like to see some additional tools for our tank healing, mainly at least in some sort of cooldown (likely a damage reduction one if not another healing boost one) or perhaps a damage reduction incorporated into a talent. Druids can definitely be viable as tank healers and do a good job, but if Blizz really wants us competitive with Pallies (and, indeed, priests with PainSupp/GS) we could really do with something to help us measure up.

I am very pleased with the boost to our raid heals, though, with the upcoming Wild Growth and Rejuvenation changes. We should be a lot stronger on raid heals with the changes and help bring back some of our previous strengths in raid healing. The changes should also help us a lot in benefiting from our Mastery (which is also getting buffed) - with more Wild Growths going out (from the reduced cooldown) and more Rejuvenations going out (from the reduced mana cost), there should be a lot more potential overlap of our HoTs and heals, which should then trigger our Mastery a lot more. Hopefully this is what we'll see! As ever, though, we'll see how it plays out in practice.

Positive signs ahead, though!

ETA: There was also a very interesting post by Ghostcrawler on the difficulty of heroic dungeons, which is definitely worth a read. Check it out here: Wow, Dungeons are Hard!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Patch 4.0.6 PTR: Upcoming Changes for Druids

First off, a Happy New Year to everyone! I hope everyone's had a good start to the new year.

What better way to start than with the announcement of a new patch finally on the horizon! Patch 4.0.6 has been deployed on the PTR, along with a lot of updates and changes pretty much across the board. I think they were waiting on a patch until after the holidays, but this should update and fix a lot of things, as well as apply many client-side things that were hotfixed but not fully updated (mainly things like tooltips, quest texts, etc). There may also be several new things broken in the new patch, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

There are a lot of druid changes coming up which seem to comprise a mix of buffs and nerfs. Full patch notes can be seen here.

Let's start with Resto changes.


Nourish / Healing Touch: Healing Touch is now trained at level 78 (up from level 3), Nourish is now trained at level 8 (down from level 78).
This is a nice little buff for levelling druids. Healing Touch seemed to be too expensive of a heal at low levels, so this swap should ease mana concerns some for levelling Resto druids.

Omen of Clarity: OoC can no longer trigger from helpful spells (aka heals) unless the Restoration talent Malfurion's Gift is chosen.
This is an interesting change which seems to be their solution to prevent OoC from accounting for too much mana savings. This basically means Malfurion's Gift will be a must-have for Resto druids. I'm not positive whether OoC will only have a chance to proc from Lifebloom (as MG right now causes Lifebloom to increase the proc chance) or whether it will change so that all healing spells have a chance to proc it when talented. I'll have to check that on the PTR or closer to/on live release date. If anyone has seen it on PTR already and knows with more certainty, do let me know.

Rejuvenation: Rejuvenation is now trained at level 3 (down from level 8) and its mana cost has been reduced from 26% to 16%.
This is a pretty big change and one I'm very glad to see. The high mana cost on Rejuvs at the moment is really mana intensive and can really limit druid heals, particularly on the raid. I realise they have been hoping to get away from the Wrath era of Rejuv spam, but such a high mana cost really took it a bit too far and was more limiting than anything. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction towards fixing that, and should also help druid raid heals more but also hopefully help make it easier for us to benefit from our mastery.

Regrowth: Empowered Touch now also affects Regrowth, and the Glyph of Regrowth now causes the HoT effect to refresh itself on targets below 50% health (up from 25% health).
This is a somewhat interesting change, clearly trying to push druids to resume using Regrowth, as many (including myself) have found it to be much less valuable, especially considering the high mana cost and low healing punch. Honestly, I'll likely continue using Regrowth primarily as I do now, which is largely on OoC procs during Tree of Life for the instant free Regrowths. This change will actually be quite nice for that - casting the Regrowth on a target with a LB during ToL will refresh it now, so you don't risk losing some of your LB stacks out on the raid during ToL.
While the buff to the glyph is nice, I still don't see that glyph as being particularly useful. The only fight I really see any potential value for it is Chimaeron, when the entire raid spends so much of the fight below 50% or less health. Even then, it's such an expensive heal in an already mana-intensive fight, that apart frm ToL OoC procs I again don't see it as more valuable than other glyph choices.
The Regrowth changes do make it at least a bit more interesting though and perhaps it will come into play a little more. This also leads us into our next change,

Nature's Bounty: Nature's Bounty no longer affects Swiftmend, but now has a new effect in addition to the increased Regrowth chance. When the druid has Rejuvenation out on 3 or more targets, the cast time of Nourish is reduced by 10/20/30%.
This is an interesting change to the talent Nature's Bounty and actually has me in a bit of a spec dilemma when this goes live. Currently I don't have any points in Nature's Bounty as I just don't feel it's useful enough, as Regrowth doesn't pack enough punch to make the increased crit chance worth it, especially with the high mana cost. The reduced cast time on Nourish is a very nice change, though, and should hopefully boost our raid healing a bit more. Assuming we have 3+ Rejuvs out on raid or party members, the reduced Nourish cast time allows for some quicker heals, which will likely be benefiting from those Rejuvs boosting both the Nourish and our Mastery. Combined with the reduced Rejuv mana cost, this should theoretically help our raid healing some. How this ends up in practice, though, is less certain. Certainly still our raid heals are in serious need of a boost, and though this might help, it's not a full fix. But more on that later.


Rake / Rip: Rake and Rip damage has been reduced by 10%.
Pretty straightforward reduction here on our bleed DoTs. I've heard some of these reductions have been for some additional PvP balance, which may be the case.

Shred / Mangle: Shred weapon damage percent (at level 80+) has been increased to 450% (up from 350%) and Mangle weapon damage percent (at level 80+) has been increased to 460% (up from 360%).
In contrast to the Rake/Rip nerfs, we have a decent buff to Shred and Mangle, so hopefully overall these changes will balance out.

Berserk: Berserk no longer breaks Fear or makes the druid immune to fear.
This was a pretty straight PvP adjustment, which is quite disappointing for PvE I feel. I can understand it for PvP balance, but there are definitely PvE encounters both when DPSing and tanking that the fear immunity/clearance is a great help. It would have been nice if it simply didn't work against player-cast fears, but that may have been more difficult to implement. Either way, we're stuck with it now!


-Barkskin is no longer dispellable.
-Mount Up guild perk now applies correctly to Flight Form and Swift Flight Form.
-Wild Mushroom is now instant cast and the radius of detonation has been increased by 6 yards and damage done increased by 15%.
-Night Elf racial trait Shadowmeld and the Tauren racial trait War Stomp can be used while shapeshifted.

There have also been some changes for our Bears (mostly decreased Mangle (Bear), Maul, and Lacerate damage) and Moonkins (Shooting Stars buff duration has been increased).

Overall, some decent changes so far. From what I've heard (hearsay from friends and guildies) this patch will likely go live around the 25th of January, but I haven't seen any official dates yet (if any have been posted, I've completely missed them). That also means that there's still time for some of these things to change. With that in mind, I won't be updating the guides until these changes go live. The feral nerfs and buffs will hopefully balance out so there's not an overall net loss to our PvE damage.

Resto Changes and PvE Healing Imbalance

The Resto changes are a step in the right direction, but I think there's still a ways to go in that area. While healers are seeming decently balanced in the 5 man dungeons and heroics, the four healing classes are definitely not balanced when it comes to raids, particularly 25 mans and 25 man heroics.

There was an excellent post by Xaar, a Resto druid from Paragon, on the EU WoW healing forums, which I really hope the Blizz devs have looked over. You can see the full post here: The state of 25-man raid healing.

In short, he discusses the imbalances that many of us are seeing and feeling in raids amongst the healing classes. Both druids and shamans are fairing poorly in raids, particularly when compared with paladin and priest (holy) healers. Shamans are a bit fortunate in that they provide Mana Tide totem, which can grab them a spot in raids, but many are finding they feel like mana-batteries for the priests and pallies. Druids unfortunately do not have such luck (and innervates are easily supplied by feral and balance druids) and, particularly in high progression guilds, are having a hard time being valuable to raids. While our tank healing tools were greatly improved, we lack the external cooldowns in damage reduction on tanks or increased healing that pallies have, so pallies will likely always be the preferential tank healers. The high mana cost to Rejuv and longer cooldown on Wild Growth is hitting our raid heals and holy priests are pulling ahead on raid heals. Although Disc priests are a bit below standard at the moment (they will be getting buffed in 4.0.6), Atonement discs have their place in certain fights and priests still provide external cooldowns in both specs (Pain Suppression and Guardian Spirit).

What we'll likely see happening is raids will begin stacking priests and pallies, especially for heroic modes, and both druids and shaman will likely get the bench. Shaman may still get in to provide a Mana Tide, but, as Xaar also mentions, as players attain more gear and mana conservation becomes less difficult, they too may end up by the wayside. Overall it ends up as very low balance in PvE healing, and both druids and shaman are in dire need of buffs. There are several paladin and priest buffs also slated in this upcoming patch (the priest buffs seem to be in reaction to PvP imbalance, where they were lacking), so there will likely be even more catching up to do for shaman and druids.

I'm really also in favour of some additional changes to druid healing. While Tree of Life now gives us that boost to healing cooldown, we're still lacking in what special things we can really bring to the raid to validate that raid spot. In the very least, especially as our tank-healing tools have been boosted, we need some sort of damage reduction ability. This could be in a similar vein to Shaman's Ancestral Healing and Priest's Inspiration, damage on the target is reduced by 10% for 15 seconds after a critical heal lands. In the very least this would be helpful, as we currently have no ability that reduces damage taken, which really knocks our tank-healing strengths. Living Seed is arguably a similar ability, but a damage reduction would be much more valuable in terms of aiding tank survivability. In fact, Living Seed would be the perfect talent to adjust to either include or change to a damage reduction ability.

Another option would be, as many have mentioned, to provide a deep Restoration talent which would allow Barkskin to be cast on another target, ie to be used as an additional external cooldown for a tank in the same vein as Pain Suppression. I certainly see this as being a very valid option and, if there are concerns about balance with such an ability, it seems there's automatic balance in keeping Barkskin on the one cooldown - the resto druid would only be able to cast it on one target, so they couldn't throw it on a tank and also use it on themself, they'd have to choose one or the other.

So, there's definitely a ways to go on druid healing, though hopefully the Rejuv changes and potentially the Regrowth changes will be a step in the right direction for us. We'll have to see how it plays out and, as more data and feedback comes in, especially as more players and guilds are able to get in and experience the new raid content, hopefully there'll be more changes in store. Certainly at the moment it's feeling like Lich King Heroic all over again - stack priests and pallies, maybe a shaman for mana tide if you're lucky, but druids are by the wayside.