Sunday, August 23, 2009

The new TBJ is finished!

I'm so worn out, I've been working on this thing day and night to try and get it done.

I've really tried hard to make it a better site this time around, which better features, a cleaner layout, and easier navigation.

I had some problems with different browsers, but I think most of the issues are sorted.

Please update your links :)



Come on over: www.treebarkjacket.com

Edit: My host is having a few issues presently so things might be shaky for a short while. But it's up. :)


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Decided against the Blizzcon live stream.

After agonising over it quite a bit, I've decided I won't be getting the Blizzcon live stream this year.

I really wanted to do it so that I could post any druid-related news as it is relayed, and without relying on sites like MMO and wow.com to post transcripts to copy/paste.

(It's not the end of the world, I just wanted to be able to do it myself, not just re-post the other sites' news.)

There are a few reasons why I decided not to do it:

  • I'm working hard towards my RL goal of buying a house, and $50 counts!

  • The panels I want to see are at 6:30am on Saturday and Sunday for me. That's not a huge deal, I've been up early for WoW commitments before, but it's still a factor. If I wanted to post things as we hear about them, I'd have to be up really early to catch the panels (I don't care about the archives/replay).

  • There's no guarantee that they won't cut to random stuff like behind-the-scenes or interviews, meaning the few segments I want to see may be cut short. I would be very cranky if they cut to stuff I didn't care about. Lots of people have asked about this, but no answers have been given by Blizzard, and if it's the case, I think that's pretty crappy, to be honest. If people are paying $40 ($50 here) they should be able to choose which "channel" (stage) they want to watch. It's not difficult to do.

  • Australian internet isn't the greatest, and I live in a rural area, making it worse. There's a very good chance it will be very poor quality - especially if my connection forced me to use the low-def version. I guess I should be grateful that I have internet - but boy is it suck compared to a lot of other countries! Australia really needs to get its A into G, as we say here. Give us better internets!



So all up I would be paying $50 for poorly streamed (due to my connection) video, at 6:30am on Saturday and Sunday, and the coverage may not stay focused on the 3 panels I want to watch, anyway. I really wanted to catch the news live, but I can't justify $50 for about 3 hours of panels that could be cut short and may well be very low quality due to my backwater internet.

So I'll just have to suck it up and deal with compiling druid info from the main sites. It's disappointing to me - I would rather be posting it first-hand, but it's not the end of the world.

To everyone on their way to the con itself - have a blast! Wish I could be there with you!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It's spelled L-O-R-E, not L-A-W.

I've been spending most of my spare moments working on the new blog (and it's coming along very nicely), but I had to take five to expand on the speculation about the coming expansion. We're only a few days away from Blizzcon now, so we'll find out very soon if it's true or not.. and I'm quite excited.

If you read this blog, and hate spoilers, I've probably already spoiled stuff for you earlier, so uh.. sorry about that. But just in case -

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS


What amuses me is the number of people getting REALLY upset about the possibility of changes that go against the lore of Warcraft.

I certainly respect their opinions and their passion for the story, but what people need to understand is that lore is a history, it's not a set of rules. The past can't be changed (well, unless we head over to CoT and mess around!), but the future is an open book. Just because something has been a certain way for thousand years does not mean that it can't ever happen.


Night Elf mages: WRONG WRONG WRONG.. right?

The possibility Night Elf mages seem to be causing the biggest uproar. Evidently Night Elves can't be mages because:

From http://www.wowwiki.com/Night_Elves
Their powerful magic was recklessly unleashed by the quel'dorei,[2] who believed they were superior to other Kaldorei and practiced magics far beyond the considered norm.[citation needed] This careless use of magic may have allowed the Burning Legion to invade the world, and finally led to a catastrophic battle known as the War of the Ancients. This battle changed the face of Azeroth for all time, and resulted in the creation of the continents of the world, tearing the land apart and forming the vast nexus of energy at the center of the ocean known as the Maelstrom.

...the Well of Eternity imploded in a magical cataclysm, sending untold numbers to their doom. Many Kaldorei were dragged to the bottom of the sea, only to be twisted and transformed into the sea serpents now known as the vile naga. The catastrophe tore the continent apart into three sections, and left a permanent storm known as the Maelstrom where the well once stood. With the majority of the Highborne dead, the kaldorei turned away from their arcane legacy and began a new culture focusing on attunement with nature and their surroundings.

The TLDR version is that the Highborne dabbled in magic that they shouldn't have, which led to the destruction of the Well of Eternity, which in turn turned many of the Night Elves into Naga, tore the world into several chunks, and created the Maelstrom.

Basically: bad things happen when you play with magic.

So the Night Elves are a little shy (to say the least) when it comes to dabbling in the arcane.

But does that mean they'll never do it?

What if something REALLY big went down, and they were forced to reconsider? They are, after all, avoiding magic mostly by choice - they're not incapable of it, right? They can just change their minds, no sweat.

Oh, wait:

From http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/encyclopedia/508.xml
Afterwards, arcane magic was outlawed on pain of death, but the Highborne arrogantly continued their dangerous sorcery.

Rather than execute their defiant kindred, Tyrande and Malfurion sentenced the Highborne to exile. The exiles journeyed over the sea to Lordaeron, where they founded the kingdom of Quel'Thalas and began calling themselves high elves.

Okay, so, it's outlawed. Fair call. But if the Highborne can break the rules, is the idea of the Night Elves changing their minds really so inconceivable? Sure, it's been quite a while, they're creatures of habit now.. but is it such a massive leap that a cataclysmic event might drive them to change their ways?


Forever changed (again)

This already happened. We just weren't around to see it. Something really big DID go down, we just didn't log on until the dust had settled.

Is it time for round two?

I LOVE the idea of the world going through a massive, cataclysmic event that changes zones dramatically - destroys some, sinks some, tears some in half. That something so massive, dramatic and violent tears up the world as we know it, and the people have to rise up and find new alliances and new ways to fight back. I got goosebumps just now as I was writing that.

Posted by Irem on wow.com Aug 15th 2009
This is why I want for this to be true. As players, we've often only got Blizzard's word to go on that we've lost something. "The Scourge has killed thousands of people!" That's not our loss. Those thousands are just words on a screen. "Bolvar and Saurfang the Younger are dead!" Suddenly that's our loss because they're characters we knew and liked and will never see again.

If they really want to make us feel something powerful while changing the old world, they have to actually -change- it. Make us feel that punch in the gut when we log in and the places we leveled and played in are altered permanently, and when we realize that things we took for granted seeing every day are gone. Force us to own our place in the world by actually taking something away from us. That's the kind of immersion a time-frozen-from-character-creation game world can't provide, and I applaud Blizzard for not playing it safe, if this is all in fact true.
This. This, this, THIS.

This is exactly how I feel, and I couldn't possibly have said it any better.


Caving to the whiners, or building on the story?

Most people seem to be in one or the other camp.

Is Blizzard relenting to the whiners who want gnome healers and to fly in Azeroth, or are they putting the boot up this game and shaking it up?

Is it a lazy plot device to accommodate player wishlists, or the next step in an ever-evolving tapestry?

Is it lore-breaking, or lore-expanding?

If the speculation is true, they're going to have to spin some really fantastic stories to explain it all and make it believable. As long as it's done properly and not someone waving a wand and saying, "BOOM! Garrosh is the boss of you guys now, trolls can be druids if you want, and Night Elves got over their silly aversion to arcane magic. As you were."

As I said above though, I don't consider lore to be "the rules". I consider it to be a history book of what happened once before. Who's to say it can't change?


Phasing - oh please let it be phased

If this is all true, I have every finger and toe crossed that they use phasing. I have to say I would be very sad if the geographical changes were brought in and simply made permanent for every player, old and new. I would be sad to lose the ability to go see the old barrens, and i would miss Orgrimmar so, so much.

I hope that they leave the old world how it is for new players (and new alts), but perhaps once you hit a certain level (maybe trigged by a questline), the world changes to post-cataclysm. If it's true, I hope they put in a device like speaking to Alexstrasza at the Wrathgate - something that allows you to go up to old Orgrimmar and say "show me what happened here". This game needs more Wrathgates. That will never, ever get old, and I get goosebumps every time I watch it.

I'd love to be able to roll an alt and go see "old Orgrimmar", and take a picture and preserve it Postcards from Azeroth style.

A small, worn and neatly folded card, tucked carefully into my Orc's armor; that she might glance at it occasionally while looking over what is now left of Durotar - remembering what once was.

Oopsie, slipped into lorenerd mode for a sec..

Please Blizzard - if you're going to change the world - use your magic phasing powers for good. Make us another Wrathgate-type video to make all the little hairs on my arms stand on end.






PS - I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but I jumped on the possible-Tauren-paladin bandwagon and reserved "Holycao" (which is a play on the name of my first druid, Caoimhe). I couldn't resist!

Bring on Blizzcon, and the truth!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Are druids being trolled?

MMO-Champion has done what they do best and served up some datamined info about the next expansion.
None of the information below has been officialy announced by Blizzard, this is only a compilation of information gathered from reliable sources. Just keep in mind that it takes a LOT to make me post something on the front page and I'm definitely not speculating here.

Here's the exciting part, if it's true:
The expansion doesn't have any new class. Instead, Blizzard will offer more race and classes combinations to players, some of them have been datamined on the 3.2.2 Test Realms.

* Human Hunter
* Orc Mage
* Night Elf Mage
* Dwarf Mage
* Blood Elf Warrior
* Dwarf Shaman
* Undead Hunter
* Tauren Paladin
* Tauren Priest
* Gnome Priest
* Troll Druid


Troll druids? Or Blizzard trolling us?

I don't think I would swap to a troll, I like my Tauren, but it would be great for us to get a couple more races as druids.


Then again, if this was our Dire form, I think I would be tempted..

I think I'll be taking this with a grain of salt - MMO say they have reliable sources, but here's the part that made me a little doubtful:

Flying in Azeroth
Part of the redesign of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor is the introduction of flying to the two continents, allowing access to many new areas and quicker travelling across the large continents.

I could be wrong, but I find this very hard to believe. Blizzard have always said this would be a mammoth effort, with a lot of recoding to do, and they didn't want to put that much effort into revamping old content (they prefer to spend time and money on new and exciting content). Edit: If the follow-up info that MMO posted is true (about a lot of 80-85 stuff happening in the old world), then it would make sense to allow flying, I suppose..

So.. I'm not sure. As Matticus said recently, these news sites don't post "news" flippantly, they have reputations (and therefore, revenue) to preserve. But Blizzard have always been adamant that flying in Azeroth would be time and effort better spent on developing new content.

As usual, I'm taking the stance of, "I'll believe it when I see it."

Besides, we all know that Undead cannot play hunters.

Some new druid races would be really great (without mangling the lore, if possible). If the above is true, I can only assume they haven't "found" the second Alliance druid race yet - otherwise it might be a bit unfair. Although I love my Tauren and doubt I would reroll (other than for fun - hey, a 6th druid might be good for a laugh), it would be nice to have a choice.



Friday, August 14, 2009

Progress report: the new TBJ

A few people have enquired about the progress of my new blog, so I thought I would give a quick report.

I had some problems with the initial WordPress install and a bunch of 500 errors. My host has been really fantastic though, and fixed them quickly for me.

Back in May I had a crash course in WordPress when I created my (now abandoned) guild website. It wasn't too difficult. I used to dabble in web design, but that was about a decade ago, and I never sat down and learned any of this new-fangled CSS stuff. Steep learning curve.

No matter. I might not know a single thing about CSS, but I'm pretty darn good at opening up a template file, reading through it for something that vaguely resembles the part that I want to change, fiddling with the settings, saving, and then checking to see if that changed what I wanted. In fact, I'm a champion at this. I am a VERY stubborn person, and I won't walk away until the template is doing what I want it to do. I've been able to stumble through and get it to look how I want - I'm quite proud.

The original template author would probably cry if she saw it, though.

You should feel for my friends too, it's been a rollercoaster ride with me alternating between "!@%$@%!### I HATE THIS THING ITS BROKEN I CAN'T MAKE ANYTHING WORK WHY WON'T IT WORK THIS IS RIDICULOUS" and (2 minutes later) "I am amazing. I'm so thrilled with how this is looking."

They must be so tired :P





Anyway - here's the deal:

- domain and space acquired (stop trying to peek!)
- WordPress installed
- theme butchered to my liking
- plugins added: contact form, related articles, etc
- lots of stupid test posts made


To do:

- put the static pages together (About, Blogroll, etc)
- transfer old content over (?)
- test that everything works
- put stuff in the sidebar
- little stuff like a favicon, wowhead links, etc
- ??
- profit


I'm not sure about bringing the old content over, or whether I should just start again (I would bring over particular guides etc, however).

Obviously, bringing it over means people will be able to search the older content.. but I worry that it's going to be a pain in the butt to do. WordPress has that annoying problem where it strips out your superfluous p and br tags, meaning that you have no extra line breaks between your paragraphs. I use those a lot.

150+ posts, no paragraph spacing.

On one hand, having ALL of my content on the new site is logical - all in the one place, for people to search. On the other hand, do I want 150 posts that look like ass? Is it better to have an archive of all the posts, and have them looking kinda bad.. than to just start fresh and say "go here for older posts" and point back to blogspot? I'm not sure what to do. I'm leaning towards "of course you have to import it" but ugh..

I suppose I won't know how bad it is until I give it a try!

At any rate.. I still have quite a lot to do before the new site can go live. It is a gradual project, at the moment.

:)



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Community spotlight: Recent posts that I enjoyed

Here are a few great posts that you might have missed:

1. HoTs Tree - Ulduar Healing Guides for Resto Druids (an index)

Aertimus has gathered together a whole lot of the druid healing guides for Ulduar, and put them in one place as a quick-reference.

Best of all, they're not one-sided guides from a generic wiki or website; they are guides written by bloggers from their own perspective, so you get a player's-eye view of how the fights work, and some great druid-specific tips.



2. Twig Heals: HealBot (setup 1)

Healbot resources are rare and very hard to find. Twig Heals shows you the first few steps to getting your Healbot set up and ready to go.



3. Heal With It - Screencap Quality and You

WoW screenshots can look a little bad if you don't know how to change the capture quality. Heal With It shows you how to improve the quality of your screenshots - which will be especially important if you want to show them off to the world!



4. Healing in 3.2 – Blog guide updated

Lissanna from Restokin has updated her well-known druid healing guide for patch 3.2. In it, she covers:

- Tank healing – Nourish supported by HOTs
- Tank healing – Lifebloom strategies
- AOE raid healing – Wild growth and other HOTs
- Recommended talent spec(s)
- Glyphs for tank & raid healing
- Set bonuses and Idols
- Consumables & enchants

It's a really thorough guide, and a great resource, especially for newer druids who aren't sure how to use all of our healing tools. If you've ever asked, "what rotation should I use?" then you should check out Lissanna's guide.



5. Dreambound - Raid Icons

This one speaks for itself - a guide to our available raid icons, and the best ways to use them.


6. HoTs & DoTs - Patch 3.2 Resto Druid Gear Guide: for the Casual/10 Man Raider


This is Part 1 of a planned two-part series from HoTs & DoTs. This part covers:

- The casual player who runs heroics with friends & occasionally PuGs 25s
- The fairly serious 10man raider who occasionally PuGs 25s
- The 25man raider gearing up a Resto alt or dual spec set
- The player back from a break, who wants to get back into 25man raiding



7. Mad Cow Chronicles: WoW TCG Fundamentals

Llanion has set out to teach us a little about the WoW Trading Card Game. If you'd like to give the TCG a go and you're not sure how it works, this is a great primer.

The second installment can be found here.


Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Val'anyr - and why I want it to just go away

Warning - this has nothing to do with item mechanics, healing, theorycrafting, or anything remotely informative. This is purely a personal post about things near and dear to me as a player, and will probably just end up as a silly ramble more than anything. Feel free to skip over it if you're not a big fan of that kind of thing.


I wish we could put items on ignore. Once upon a time, it might have been Foror's Compendium of Dragonslaying.

These days, it's Val'anyr, Hammer of the Ancient Kings.

I don't want to see it, I don't want to hear about it. I don't want to see it linked, I don't want to see screenshots, I don't want to read about buffs or nerfs or anything else that has anything to do with it.

I want it to go away.


It's not sour grapes

You're probably already thinking I'm sulking because I don't have one. Classic sour grapes, right? I suppose it looks that way to most people. Straight-up jealously probably forms a small part of my feelings, I'm sure.. I think it would be silly to try to claim that it has nothing to do with it. But the jealousy over not getting a shiny weapon is a tiny, tiny part of why I feel so bitter when I see it. Few people would believe that, though, I suspect.

The truth is, only a few people close to me would probably appreciate how I really feel about that weapon, what it really means to me, and that I'm not just pouting because I'm not sporting one (and I probably never will).


I never set out to earn it, but I believe I did

I did a lot for my guild. A lot. I didn't do it to be rewarded, or thanked, or celebrated. I loved helping, and teaching, and serving. I enjoyed researching fights, spending hours creating diagrams and plans, stocking the guild bank, and helping people with quests. I helped to keep the forums running, and over time seemed to fill the role of "guild PR".

I helped the newbies, I ran some guild events, dealt with problems in whispers (sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much), ran the recruiting threads, and spent time being a "good influence" on the forums and in dealing with other guilds. I farmed for potions and fish, I brought spare consumables for the healers, I sat out or passed on gear to new people, and I always carried candles, symbols, pet food, bullets, and campfire materials, so that nobody ever got stuck mid-raid without something.

I'll never forget the day in Black Temple when the tank ran out of bullets for pulling, asked if anyone had any, and I put some in a trade window. Better, though, the confusion from the tank and half the raid - wondering why on earth I was carrying bullets around with me. But it was precisely for moments like that - I loved saving the day, making things smoother.

I gave away large amounts of my own bank supplies to help guildies level professions or buy mounts, always loving it when someone asked 'has anyone got a ......' and being able to say, "I have it on an alt, I'll go get it for you". I kept the guild bank tidy, and helped to sell BOEs and other materials to keep our gold supplies up. I ran instances that I didn't want to do and had no need for, purely because someone needed my help.

Everything I had, I gave freely to the guild.

I loved helping, teaching, being a shoulder to cry on or a spare ear to listen, saving the day, coming prepared, supplying what we needed, greasing the guild's wheels, being someone to look up to, and keeping things running.

And while I never, ever did any of that because I wanted recognition, a trophy, a pat on the back or a medal... I believe I deserved that mace the most, and I defy anyone to say that I didn't.


I nearly lost it to a /random

I envy the guilds who are able to unanimously agree that Bob the priest has been around for 3 years, never missed a raid, is a tremendous healer, and he just deserves it hands down, no question. I had to campaign for it. I had to stand up and say no, I'm sorry, but I don't agree with a /roll between all healers, or even a /roll between the "finalists".

There were three of us. All long-standing members of the guild. All with excellent attendance. All good healers, in our different classes and styles. So the majority of the healers said that we were equal and should just /roll.

At the risk of sounding like a brat who wanted the shiny for herself, I put my foot down. All things were NOT equal. If our attendance, dedication, and skill were too difficult to separate, then why wouldn't it come down to the person who had done far and away more for the guild?

Wasn't it obvious?


Val'anyr is more than just a shiny weapon

Even worse was that - even after it was finally agreed by the officers that I would receive the first mace, Blizzard released the patch a week earlier than we expected and I could not get time off to raid on the Wednesday, or I would risk losing my job. The inevitable happened, as I knew it would - a shard dropped, while I was stuck at work, so it defaulted to the only finalist who was able to raid that day, because he didn't work during the day.

I had to fight to convince one officer in particular that it was unfair to then change things and give the entire set of shards to that person purely because he was lucky enough to be there on the day - during a raid time that was not the norm. If I had missed a normal scheduled raid, that would have been my fault - but I could NOT get time off work (and having a sick day would risk my job), and he wouldn't accept that.

The main arguments were "If you really wanted it, you would have found a way to get time off," and "Why is it such a big deal that you get the first one? What does it matter?"

I think that was what drove me crazy, really. Well, two things.
  • that people couldn't recognise the MASSIVE effort I had put into the guild, which in my mind would mean I was the obvious choice, all other things being equal; and

  • that you're DAMN RIGHT the first one is important, how can anyone say that?

It's not just a cool weapon - and I suspect the above argument is typical of people who are more concerned with loot than other issues. That weapon was not important to me because it was orange, or cool looking, or because I'd have lots of people /inspecting me on the Dalaran steps.

It was a testament to just how much I had poured into that guild.

And it hurt so much that I wasn't the obvious choice.


25 fragments short of a guild

But the guild split up. We never killed Yogg without a watcher. We didn't even get to kill him with all of the watchers.

Everyone went their separate ways. Some to hardcore guilds more progressed, others to play with friends. Some quit entirely.

So I will never get my mace. I will never get my trophy.

Instead, I have five fragments sitting in my bag. Five fragments to remind me of the fantastic team I was once part of, that I poured my heart into, but will never get back.


To some people.. it's just a silly weapon in a fleeting game. It doesn't matter. But to me, it symbolises friendships, hardships, hard work, good times, bad times, triumphs.. and everything I gave to my team. It was a small token to say "thank you for everything you've done for us."

You may think it's silly to put so much emphasis on a trivial pile of pixels.. but to me it means so much more than just another item in the game.


And that's the story of Christmas

So, ex-guildmates, friends, rivals, strangers... that is why I get sad when I see those fragments, or see other people with their new maces. It's nothing personal - but I can't help but feel a little bitter, because they have two things that I had, but lost:-

a shiny, orange "we couldn't have done all of this without you"..

..and, more importantly, a family to belong to.

Official word on Vezax and no more Clearcasting

To follow up on my previous post about the apparent nerf to Clearcasting:

Blizzard wrote:
We wanted to make players aware of several changes made to the General Vezax encounter upon the release of patch 3.2, which weren't noted in the official patch notes.

These changes affect both 10-player and 25-player modes. First off, when considering the hardmode of the encounter, the mechanics were overly favoring groups that made heavy use of Restoration druids (Omen of Clarity procs) and “Enhancement” shamans using healing gear (Shamanistic Rage and Improved Stormstrike) to circumvent the mana restrictions. Omen of Clarity will no longer proc for Restoration druids, and Enhancement shamans receive a healing debuff similar to the ones Retribution paladins have had since the encounter’s initial implementation.

Recognizing that this would make the encounter far more difficult for raid groups that have come to rely on those mechanics, we also made changes to ease the overall mana burden when attempting the hardmode. The health of General Vezax and the Saronite Animus was reduced by roughly 25%, and the Animus will now spawn after six Vapors, down from eight, assuming none have been killed.

In addition, prior to 3.2, General Vezax could be very erratic in the use of some of his abilities, leading to long gaps between Shadow Crashes in particular. His behavior in this regard is now more consistent. As a side-effect of this change, in 25-player mode in particular, he will also cast Searing Flames slightly more often – whenever his Fire school isn’t locked out by player interrupts, essentially. Finally, because the “more consistent” Crash use ended up being a bit on the frequent side, a minor hotfix recently increased the period between Crash casts.

(my emphasis)

Edit: oops, it wasn't GC - force of habit! Also edited to include the link.

So there you go, trees - it's official. Any tree-punching on this boss will now be purely for entertainment purposes.



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wild Growth bug fixed! Wait, no..

Resto druids have a long-standing (it's been months, now) problem with Wild Growth not playing nice with our mouseover macros. The digest version of the story, if you're not aware, is that if you have a dead or out-of-range person targeted and you try to cast Wild Growth using a mouseover macro, the Wild Growth won't fire (you'll just get a "your target is dead" or similar error).

There are ways around it, specifically a /canceltarget macro:
/canceltarget
/cast [target=mouseover]Wild Growth
..but it's incredibly annoying to have to use clumsy workarounds when the issue shouldn't be hard to fix (GC even said that himself).

Edit: the above macro may not be correct - if it doesn't work, try this one:
/cleartarget
/cast [target=mouseover,noharm,exists] Wild Growth
/targetlasttarget

This one comes from Restokin from a while ago. (PS - ignore my comments on that Restokin post - I thought my own macro at the time worked, but it turned out I was just lucky enough to go a long time without noticing the problem.)


After months and months, druids are still wondering what's going on. Why isn't it fixed? What's the hold-up?

Then GC said this today, and I had to laugh:
I was going to post that we fixed this, because we did. But I'm glad that I didn't because sometime during the 3.2 patch it broke again.

Sometimes when we don't address simple things head on, it's for reasons like this. We'll try to get it fixed (again) as soon as we understand what happened.

It's a serious issue that we want fixed.. but this really made me giggle. Glad they finally gave us word on what's going on, though.

Back to waiting!

I don't think it's much to ask..

Along with big changes rolled out in every patch, there are usually a lot of tiny changes and seemingly insignificant changes to the game; but often these tiny changes are often some of the most anticipated and celebrated.

Recent triumphs in the "finally" category:

- moonglade mailboxes
- being able to track quests that don't have any "objectives"
- turning off XP at will
- updated feral forms
- an extra stable slot for hunters
- flight form affected by Crusader Aura
- potions stacking to 20
- the ability to swap items after a misloot
- Ravasaur mount


With that in mind, here is my list of little things that I really can't see as being terribly difficult to implement.


Blizzard - I don't think it's much to ask:
  • ..that our characters to be sortable on our character collection screen.
  • ..that we have a tabard storage system similar to pets and mounts.
  • ..that we have a better pet/mount UI, with a search function.
  • ..that we have another druid race per faction. It's about time.
  • ..that we might upgrade our original 16 slot backpack.
  • ..that "lowbie" mounts could scale to the speed of our epics.
  • ..that we have a search button on our achievements.
  • ..that Blizzard fix our ongoing mouseover macro issue with Wild Growth.
  • ..that we have a 2000 Fish achievement.
  • ..that we have a 100 pet achievement.
  • ..that Chillmaw be made to be a summoned NPC.
  • ..that we could display the number of quests remaining in Kalimdor and Azeroth by zone.
  • ..that Australia would get its own servers (ha!)



What are yours?

What are the things that you wish would be implemented, and you just don't understand why they're not in the game already - after all, it's not much to ask, right?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Raptormania Part Deux: When Boredom Attacks

Got bored. Went to Wailing Caverns to farm raptors, despite having earlier said something to the effect of "screw Wailing Caverns, I hate that place, I'll just buy the pet."

But I was bored, and an instance is the one place that you can farm by yourself without five billion other people camping the mobs that you need - so I figured I'd give it a shot and see how easy it was to do. As much as I LOATHE this instance, I discovered that the part in which you farm the raptors is right inside the instance door, and you just run in a big, straightforward circuit. You don't need to go deep into the bowels of the instance (as I had feared). The whole thing takes around 5 minutes per run and is actually FUN.

I know - I was shocked, too.

Without further ado, here's my ultra top secret method for farming Deviate Hatchlings:

  • Ignore all of the raptors outside the instance portal - they don't drop the pet. The ones you want are immediately inside the instance.
  • Turn thorns OFF.
  • Remember: nothing in an instance will leash. Run through every raptor you see. The room is basically a big rectangle - just run right around the whole thing, gathering every mob.
  • When you have them all, Hurricane or kitty Swipe as appropriate.
  • Loot the sparklies.



Result:

Now, I may just be crazy lucky, but those three came from just two runs, out of 5 runs total (I got two on my fourth run, and another on my fifth run). I kept one (that makes 87 pets) and I am going to sell the other two while the prices are up. Obviously these are one of the easier raptor pets to farm, so the price of them probably won't stay very high for long (at the moment - 2000g to 4000g). I suspect they will plateau somewhere in the low hundreds - it's still annoying to have to go to WC in the first place, after all.

I don't really intend to farm for the ones that drop from elites.. too many people camping them already, and it's too stressful to sit there and watch the spawn point for hours, waiting to mash your moonfire button. I'd rather do a few days of dailies and buy them at inflated prices, to be perfectly honest.

(If you're on Cael and you have one to sell, drop me a line. I buy and trade!)


Isn't he cute?


Aww, bless.


DISCLAIMER: I cannot be held responsible for any raptor-related maulings which may result in injuries ranging from feelings of mild discomfort to death. Raptors are wild animals and should be respected (I recommend paying particular respect to their pointy ends).

Remember: raptors run at 10m/s and they do not know fear.

Boy howdy are they cute though! /chin tickle

Sunday, August 9, 2009

General Vezax - no more clearcasting procs

Disclaimer: Everything I can find about this issue points to it being an intended change, but I can't find an official word on it - or even on the fact that his health has been lowered and the Animus spawns after fewer vapors.

The fact that his health has been nerfed and the Animus spawns sooner (which I doubt is accidental - you don't nerf a boss' HP by 25% by accident) says to me that the clearcasting nerf is deliberate, but I can't find actual confirmation, so I've edited the post to more speculative, and to add this disclaimer that we still haven't had official word on it.

PS: I also heard Onyxia deep breaths more - but this is also unconfirmed. ;)


EDIT:12/8 - this has been confirmed as an intended change.


Ulduar raiders - something you may not be aware of is a recent possible "stealth" nerf to General Vezax and the strategy used by many druids to supplement and sustain their mana over the course of the fight, usually in hard-mode.

I'm referring to tree-punching, of course.

The General Vezax fight seems to have been changed so that it is no longer possible to use clearcasting procs such as Omen of Clarity to get free casts off. This affects all clearcasting abilities for mana users. As far as I have read, ferals are ok.. but I can't find an official word on this.


The (defunct?) Tree-Punch Method

If you weren't aware of this method until now, here's basically how it worked:
  • Stand with the melee.
  • While going about your normal healing business, tree-punch the boss until you get a Clearcasting proc.
  • With clearcasting up, cast a Lifebloom. This will cost 0 mana.
  • When the Lifebloom expires, it will return part of its base cost. (not as much as usual though - I think it is 25%)
  • ???
  • Profit.

Figure 1: BAM.

Because the Lifebloom cost you 0 mana to cast, but refunded you some mana, this method means you are gaining mana every time you do it. Alternatively, you could use that clearcasting to cast say, a free Regrowth.

It was a very effective way to sustain your mana, particularly on hard mode when you aren't able to use the saronite vapors to get mana back. It also meant that you could sit with the melee and stay out of the way of Shadow Crashes.

Unfortunately it seems that no mana users can use clearcasting anymore, and if this is the case, this method will no longer be viable.

(Insert sad pandas here.)



Figure 2: This is actually just Figure 1 with a big red X through it.


Other changes to the fight

Vezax's health has been nerfed, and in hard mode the Animus' health has been nerfed too (it now also spawns after 6 vapors, down from 8). This means that the fight is shorter, so it should be less of a strain on mana.


No more melee tree?

Some people choose to continue to use the "Shadow Crash Dance" method - casting Lifeblooms from the puddle (which reduces the cost by 75% but also the ticks by 75%) and allowing them to bloom for a nett gain in mana (particularly if you are wearing 2pc + Spark of Hope etc).

It has been argued by some that the mana gain is too small to bother using this method - but on hard mode, if we can no longer punch our way to free healing in Phase 1, it may become a more commonplace strategy to sustain our mana.

Could anyone confirm (or would someone like to test) whether Fel Mana Potions still work on this fight? They were working pre-3.2.



Just a heads-up, it may mean no more tree punching on this boss.



Saturday, August 8, 2009

Raptormania

I've started my quest for a Whistle of the Venomhide Ravasaur. Horde characters can do this quest, it is basically the equivalent of the Alliance Wintersaber - but nowhere near as grindy, contrary to what many people assume.

I'll sum it up:
  • Go to Un'goro Crater, speak to the trainer to get the quest.
  • Take off your clothes and go aggro a handful of Venomhide Ravasaurs. Being naked helps the mobs stay alive for longer.
  • The raptors' skin is full of poison - and you have to get splashed by it by hitting them over and over (you can't just stand there). Keep hitting them until they have splashed poison on you 20 times. Note: if you are grouped, you will get credit for other people in your group getting splashed - so group up!
  • If you go with a friend and aggro a handful, it will only take 5-10 minutes. If there are lots of people competing for spawns, it may take longer.

  • Hand in the quest and get your baby raptor. He will give you a random daily quest each day for 20 days - for example, go kill 20 dinosaurs and feed him the meat. Very simple.
  • At the end of the 20 daily quests, return to the trainer with some extra materials (80g 20 Runecloth, 20 Rugged Leather), and you get your mount.

That's it!

Note: if you are soloing this quest, you'll need to be at least around the level 50 mark, to be able to kill the appropriate mobs. However, this mount can be used from level 40 and up - so if you have some higher level friends who can save you from being eaten by things in Un'goro, you can let them do all the poison-soaking while you get credit too. (I can't find anything that suggests there is a level requirement to accept the quest, so I assume a level 40 can do it)

As an aside - have you bought an Obsidian Hatchling from Breanni in Dalaran? He's adorable. But the little Venomhide hatchling is even TINIER! Of course, he won't be tiny for long; only 20 days if you quest for him every day - then he'll grow up and let you ride around on his back.

Aside from Breanni's, There are also a number of other baby raptors that you can adopt as pets. They are BOU (bind on use), which means you may find them on your local AH.


Keeva keeps a watchful eye over her new charge.

Now, as cool as it is to ride around on raptors and have them as baby pets.. frankly I'm slightly perturbed. Did we learn nothing from Jurassic Park? These animals are SMART. They learned how to open doors. I think we need to ask ourselves - are they just biding their time until they can rise up and eat our faces?

You won't be cooing, "aww, cute" when that happens, will you?



Non-combat pets my foot.

In the meantime, if you're happy to be lulled into a false sense of security, here are some resources to help you:

Wowraid's quick guide to the Ravasaur quest
MMO-Champion shows you which raptors drop the BOU pets

Enjoy!



(but when your new pet eats you, don't come crying to me about it.)


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The new Empowered Touch - will you use it?

I actually always liked Emp Touch for the huge Healing Touches I could belt out if I needed to; but it wasn't very economical when Healing Touch is used so rarely (unless you're a HT glypher). Two points for something that I would use usually once per fight at most is a stretch. I loved those big (cue fanfare) "I'LL SAVE YOU!" moments, but two points to boost ONE spell that I use so rarely.. it was hard to justify.

Of course, this ties back in with my article on black sheep talents and the fact that you need to weigh these things up for yourself and your own situation.


What I'll likely do

I had a leftover point in Natural Perfection, with the reasoning that "1% crit is better than an empty slot." Concrete argument there ;P

I would have had 1/2 Emp Touch but I (currently) use HT so infrequently that it just wasn't warranted. It's a weak argument, but I went with 1% crit on Regrowth, blooms, and the occasional Nourish, over a boost to HT which I rarely use. I did miss my big emergency heals, though. I see this buff to Emp Touch as an excuse to get my big NS heals back :P Hooray!

So that was one point to pilfer, but where to get the other?

I'm likely going to drop a point in Living seed, making it a 66% chance of a seed rather than 100% chance. My overall talent spec would then look like this.

I don't like dropping a point from Seed because I really like it, but in the end, I prefer to put a point into something I can rely on to be boosted every time I use it (even if that is not very often), rather than an additional 33% chance to proc Living Seed, a spell that:
  • can only come from a portion of my heals (the direct ones);
  • is rarely valuable in a raid-healing situation;
  • after proccing, may expire without being used;
  • may or may not end up entirely as overheal; and
  • is of unreliable size.
There are too many "ifs" in there. I would rather know that my point is helping a particular spell full-time (even if that spell only gets moderate use), rather than applying to something only when the stars align themselves nicely.

Plus, a 66% chance is still quite a high chance - I'm not losing the whole talent. I will still get some Living Seed buffers when I direct heal.



A hybrid within a hybrid

It's important to note that the spec I mentioned is basically a "hybrid" resto build.


Look Ma, an analogy!
Original photo credit to Redken on Flickr.

By that, I mean that it doesn't focus on raid healing or on tank healing specifically. It's an "allrounder" spec.

I choose this middle-of-the-road option because I am mostly doing earlier raiding content, heroics, etc. I don't need to hone my talents or have them specialised for either raid healing or tank healing. I don't need to max out all of the tank healing talents at the expense of the raid healing ones, and vice versa. I've gone for a balanced spec that will serve me well in a range of situations.

Check out Restokin's post about 3.2 healing builds - it explains your options for more specialised raid healing and tank healing builds a little more, and where you might want to pinch those points from.


FYI, why I didn't drop the others

Nature's Grace - I've dropped points here before and there's a noticeable difference (and I don't like it). It feels slowww. I think NG makes a difference and I will avoid dropping points from here.

Revitalize - I like this one too much. I enjoy bringing something to raids that nobody else can. It's certainly not mandatory, your raid will do okay without it - but I like bringing it along.

GotEM - This was where I actually wanted to drop a point from, but I don't have the haste to support that yet. More importantly, I am still getting upgrades over blues and greens at the moment - I don't want to play around with this talent if my upgrades may cause my haste to fluctuate all over the place in the next few weeks. Plus - we all know how much I hate math and calculating ratings and whatnot.


What about you?

1. Are you going to take Empowered Touch, now that it also applies to Nourish?
2. If you didn't have it before, what talent points will you rearrange?
3. How does your usual assignment, play style, raid size and level of content affect your decision?


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Farewell, you fugly feral forms (except you, purplecat)

Patch 3.2 is upon us.

Never again will we glance upon the twisted visage of a Tauren "cat".

No longer will our bears' jaws sag and droop like so much saggy, droopy stuff.

Our feral forms are finally being replaced with shiny new models, after years of complaints (mostly about rampant, chronic lockjaw). It's not just a reskin, either - this is a full revamp. We're getting more polys.

I have to say, I'm slightly sad. Don't get me wrong - I'm very excited for the new forms, I think they look great; but I can't help feeling a little sad about losing the look that we have had for such a long time. Definitely want them gone - but still sad to see them go!

So, I decided to give our old forms a bit of a send off. I shipped all of my Caelestrasz druids (yes, all four of them!) to the Barrens for a bit of a photo opportunity. All of my Cael girls in the one spot, together, to say goodbye to the forms we have lived in and loved (or perhaps endured, loathed, switched to first person mode..) for the past few years.

And, through the magic that is Photoshop, I can share the moment with you all.





From left to right:
Keeva, my beloved Tauren; Drucie, my baby feral; Caoimhe, the Elf who started this whole crazy thing; and Kiiva, the newcomer.



Farewell, you fugly forms (except you, purplecat). In a strange way, I'll miss you.

A plaintive request: Chillmaw and friends

Dear Blizzard,

The Threat From Above quest is very poorly designed.

I am tired of rocking up to the little snowy plateau to find 20-30 people all "waiting" for their "turn" (and I use these terms VERY loosely) to tag Chillmaw.

Now, waiting I can handle. That's fine.

What I can't stand is a bunch of random people standing around, racing each other to tag him, then a mess of people tagging the cultist NPCs (either on purpose or by accident with AOE), meaning that the group who tagged Chillmaw has missed out on one or all of their adds, and will now either have to steal from another group (thus perpetuating the problem), or wait until the end and do the quest all over again. The "cycle of hate continues," as one forum poster put it.

If that doesn't draw out the process long enough, invariably some group will have 5 members but one is still dawdling at the Crusade area, so they'll do the quest, then the 5th turns up and they decide do it all over again for that slow member, while everyone else has to wait (again).

The other day I was invited with a friend to join a group - we were told "we have two spots left", so we dropped group and asked for an invite. "Sorry, 1 spot now :(". So we didn't bother to join, and chose to wait and do it ourselves after that group had finished. But when they ENGAGED Chillmaw, there were only 3 people there. Not a full group of five. Halfway through, another DK turns up, and the group has to do the quest over again because he didn't get full credit.

Friendly players will also try to help, but inadvertently tag the adds with AOE or otherwise. I am guilty of this - I hit kitty swipe and then realised my folly. It was an accident, but caused the group to have to start over. This kind of thing happens a lot.

Then there's the completely innocent, random stealing of adds: yesterday I was standing off at a distance, minding my own business (waiting) and one of the cultists ran all the way over to me and started belting me. Not wanting to "steal" the mob from the group, I shadowmelded, and luckily after a few hits from someone else, it was re-tagged to them. I must have looked at that one funny.


Why this quest just plain sucks

One mob for 20-30 people who want to kill him at any given time.
Deliberate and accidental tagging of the adds.
No "queue", just people jostling to have their turn.

Add in the warlock standing on the hill deliberately griefing by tagging over and over, and this really has to rank as one of the worst designed quests I've ever known.

Please make it a SUMMON quest, so that you don't have to wait around for it to respawn and then miss out because some jerk ninja-tagged it for the 5th time. And make the adds automatically link to tagging the dragon, so people can't rob you of credit and force you to do the whole thing over again, or incourage people to steal from the next group in line.

Please think really hard before ever making a quest like this again.

Love, Keeva



Monday, August 3, 2009

Moving (soon). Do you have suggestions for TBJ?

I bit the bullet and put things in motion, I'm going to move my blog to my own space (sometime soon), which will give me more control over the format, and make it less of a "dear diary" blog and more of a helpful and informative resource. That way I can have static pages that I can keep updated - rather than links on a sidebar to old posts that slip away into the void. Side bars are nice, but I prefer tabs. I see side bars as incidental info - a place for things like your blogroll highlights, some icons/banners, a quick blurb about something, your recent achievements. I don't like having my guides sitting in my sidebar, getting lost.

Anyway.. I was going to do this all in secret, revamp the site, and then say, "TADAAAA!" but I realised that this is probably the perfect opportunity to ask if anyone has any particular suggestions. It would be an opportune time to squeeze things in and make changes now, since I'm working with a new template and whatnot anyway.

So.. are there particular things you'd like me to add in? I'm looking to add things like recent/featured/related posts; a list of categories.. and I've just added a chatbox.. what else is missing?
What would you like to see?
What would be helpful to you?
Content wise - would you like to see more articles about (XYZ)?
Are there things you've seen on other blogs that you wish I had on mine?
Have you seen cool widgets that I probably have no idea even exist?
Is there anything that bugs you about the current site, that you hope won't be duplicated?


It's difficult to know what to change without knowing how other people see the site. For example, back when I first started, I think my blog was only allowing comments from registered members. Some bloggers prefer that - but personally I would rather open the floor up (while still having control). I get frustrated when I have to go through all sorts of hassles just to send a quick comment to someone. The point though is that I don't comment on my own site, so I wouldn't have known there was a problem until someone said so!

Have you noticed any annoying niggles like that about my site? Do you have any display issues with the text or graphics? Any and all suggestions and (gentle) criticisms are welcome. :)

I can't make any promises - any suggestions will still have to fit into the template I have chosen, obviously.. but I'm really keen to make my blog into less of a diary and more of a resource - so now is the time to ask what it's missing - and get it right from the start! I'm not sure how long it will take me to put everything together - I want it to be very polished before I open the new one up again, and I'm super busy (in real life, in the game, and blogging), so it may be a project over a number of weeks. I love projects.

One of my goals will be to be diligent in setting up and using categories, and then each week try to do at least one piece that fits into one of those categories - for example, Technical (UI, mods, macros, etc), Community (new blogs, interviews, links), Theorycrafting (talking about healing).. so that I have a reliable and constant stream of meaty articles mixed in with the other random bits of news, my characters, and non-druid posts. I haven't made use of Categories before and I am regretting it - so that is definitely one thing I want to implement. It would be much better to be able to click "Technical" and see a list of all of my UI/mod related posts, instead of relying only on keyword searches.

This kind of hindsight is great; now that I am revamping, I have an opportunity to fix these kind of problems.. but I know I'm probably blind to other things that I should be doing on the site. My blog hasn't even been around for a year yet, so I am still learning some of the basics.

Maybe you've noticed something missing, or there's something you would like tweaked or added?

Thanks in advance for your help! :)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The race I would most love to play is...



I think Vrykul are awesome. Apart from being undeniably inherently awesome, they also look fantastic - especially the females. They're not stick-thin, "pretty" girls like the other mostly-humanoid races in the game (humans, elves, etc). That's probably why I love orc girls as well - because they're not pretty.

I don't like to play ugly girls, I do like them to be feminine.. but I prefer characters that don't necessarily look like fashion models. Vrykul girls look like girls.. but they still have that warrior look about them. They're attractive, certainly, but you probably won't find then dancing on letterboxes for gold - they have better things to do than to have men fawning over them.

Like.. making necklaces out of your entrails.

(I was never really into the whole arts and crafts thing, myself..)


Figure 1: Vrykul girls will kick your ass six ways from Sunday.


I LOVE Vrykul and wish I could play one.



It's your turn! Which race would you love to be able to play and why? Choose any race you like (even if doesn't exist in the game). Include a picture if you can.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Jousting guide redux

A couple of days ago, Turpster posted a video on WoW.com explaining how to do the Argent Tournament jousting quests.

Ever so slightly annoying is the fact that I had actually planned to update my jousting for beginners guide, and make a video of it - just a day before he posted his. Darn it. So now I look like I'm riding around on his coattails.

But I don't care, I'm gonna do it anyway!

Not exactly as polished as his, though :P

My small criticism of Turpster's video is that while it does go through each of the abilities and explains what they do and how they all tie in together, it doesn't really show you how to move around while you joust - there's a bit too much close up melee mashing, and the inset Turpster screen often obscures your view of what's going on. I think being zoomed in to almost first person mode doesn't really help you get an idea of what is happening. Basically, what he's telling you to do and what you're seeing on the screen don't match up very clearly.

I wanted to show the method that I think the majority of people use, showing the positioning and movement (zoomed out), plus give a few tips that I have picked up from others.



Three methods for three skill levels

There are probably a number of ways to do this, but here are three methods catering to various skill and experience levels.

Note: For all methods, you need to begin by facing the center of the ring.


Method 1 - for absolute beginners
(or for those who just can't seem to win!)

1. Get 3 stacks of Defend up.
2. Talk to the NPC.
3. As he runs away, throw a Shield-Breaker, and then run towards him to close range (or he will charge you). If he took off any of your Defends, reapply.
4. When you are in melee range, spam Thrust.
5. Whenever the NPC runs away, throw a Shield-Breaker and then follow him to get back in range and to stop him from charging you.
6. Get back into melee range and continue to spam Thrust.

This method can be summed up as "never let the NPC get range on you to charge or shield-break, and slowly whittle them down with melee attacks."

It's slow, but it is pretty much guaranteed to get you through the quest in once piece.


Method 2 - Intermediate (the common method)
1. Get 3 stacks of Defend up.
2. Talk to the NPC.
3. As he runs away, spam Charge until it goes off.
4. Swing around in an arc, and throw Shield-Breaker as you move back around to melee range.
5. Get back into melee range and spam Thrust.
6. Whenever the NPC walks away from you, back up and spam Charge until it goes off, then repeat steps 4 and 5.

The basic idea here is that anytime the NPC walks away, you want to Charge and Shield-Break them to remove stacks of their defend. Charge also does bonus damage. Then once his shields are down, you can spam Thrust as much as you can until he walks away again.

Optional: some people prefer to begin by throwing a shield breaker and THEN charge the NPC. This will nett you more damage, because you're removing one Defend with Shield-Breaker before you charge, which then makes your Charge do more damage. So this is a good way to do it.

However, I don't do it this way because of my high latency - I can't time a shield breaker AND a charge before the NPC decides to charge me instead. On the other hand, it is extremely easy to mash my Charge button, then shield break afterwards. It is still a very effective method, and you're only missing out on a small amount of damage at the very start.

If you have high latency, or you're not so great with keybindings, charge+shieldbreak is probably going to be easier for you than shieldbreak+charge, and it won't make a huge difference.


Method 3 - Advanced (very fast method)
1. Get 3 stacks of Defend up.
2. Stand behind the NPC to talk to him.
3. As soon as you have hit "I am ready to fight", hit Thrust.
4. Back up a few steps as the NPC runs away, throw a Shield-Breaker, and then Charge.
5. As you charge, hit Thrust again, to do additional damage on the way past.
6. Swing around in an arc, and throw Shield-Breaker as you move back around to melee range.
7. Get back into melee range and spam Thrust.
8. When your Charge cooldown is almost ready, run away from the NPC, then do a 180 degree jump-turn, and Charge him. Hit Shield-Breaker on the way back around, as above. Get back into melee range, spam Thrust, and repeat this step.



Remember to try to keep your stacks of Defend up as much as you can. One mistake Turpster makes is that he says you should "mash" your Defend button - don't do this. It will put your Charge and Shield-Breaker abilities on cooldown. If the NPC removes one or more of your charges of Defend, reapply - but don't mash this button otherwise, there's no need.

I've made a very quick and dirty video showing how to charge/shield break at the start, as well as jump-turning and charging. It's not as shiny and pretty as Turpster's, but it shows the basics, I think. Try to ignore the pet birds in the background, and be gentle about my blatant keyboard turning in some parts (I actually use a weird hybrid method of half keyboard, half mouse turning).


YouTube video: Jousting - how to (1:33) NB: Volume may be a little loud - sorry if it is!


Another excellent video can be found here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIE8RiFqpSI&NR=1.
It's nice and clear, easy to see exactly what the player is doing, and he steps you through everything.

And another:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hSCvj6uBsY
This one is in slow-motion to show you exactly what to do, and shows you the jump turns also.

The above two videos put my little one to shame.. but I made mine to help people who have problems with charging and moving around. When I was first learning, I was frustrated by how wide the turning circle of my mount was - which usually caused me to have my Defends taken off, and I would take a lot of damage. I didn't realise I could use this sweeping circle to my advantage to hit the NPC with Shield-Breaker on the way back (something that I hadn't tried until blog commenters mentioned it). It's something that beginners may like to graduate too after using the "safe" method.

It's a very amateur clip - but hopefully it helps someone :)




If you have other tips - feel free to comment and I will add them in.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Black sheep resto talents - and why you shouldn't (necessarily) write them off

It seems black and white with most talents.

This talent is good; this one is useless - don't even think of picking that up. Good talents, garbage talents. Take these talents. If you pick that one up, you're terrible. This one is mandatory; that one is a waste of points. Straight down the line. Simple.


If you take this talent, you're a bad druid.

Many people will categorically state a number of our talents to be "useless" or "terrible" for raiding. I'd like to talk about why I think it is a mistake to take these kind of statements as gospel. Most often they will be quite correct; but it's important that you make your own judgments and not just follow blindly the statements of others.
It is all too easy to rubber stamp an ability as "useless" because everyone says so - without considering and exploring the possibilities of how it might actually be an asset to your healing..

..or to another player, whose playstyle and content level do not match your own.

Now, obviously, many WoW blogs that set out to teach their respective classes are aiming at the raiding level of players, so most statements will be made with that in mind. If they state that a particular ability is bad, you can usually tack "..for PvE raiding" onto the end of the statement. And if you're getting your info from a knowledgeable and trusted site, then they're likely to know what they're talking about.

But I will always try to frame my statements and advice as "here's how I do it" rather than "here is the best way to do it, period." I prefer to give people options, rather than dictate what is right and what is wrong. Give them the pros and cons, and let them apply that to their own situation, and make up their own minds.


Be open to new ideas

As players, I think it's important to avoid developing long-term biases towards our talents and spells. Not only can this cause a lot of heartache and frustration if those talents and spells are changed, but it also makes you blind to the possibilities that some talents may give you for different encounters. I'm not here to force anyone to change their ideas; but I myself have changed the way I look at certain things, and it really opens your eyes to new strategies, styles, rotations, and gives you more ideas for how to adapt in particular situations. Abilities once labelled "garbage" might actually be incredibly useful if you open your mind to the possibility that they might not actually be ignored by default.
Remember when Regrowth was "bad" (expensive/ineffective/etc) and only bad healers used it (much)... and then with talent and encounter changes, suddenly it was THE go-to spell?

Remember when Rank 4 Healing Touch was almost our sole heal (until HoTs could stack)? Healing Touch all day? For many people it is now just an occasional clutch heal - and a running joke in my old guild. Doesn't get much airtime anymore, the old Healing Touch.

Remember when Lifebloom was so amazing, then it was nerfed, and changed in such a way that people had to change how it was used, and many even stopped using it altogether?

The point is that things are always changing; a talent that might have been considered useless 6 months ago might suddenly become super amazing after a patch, or extremely helpful for hard modes. Don't become too set in your opinion on what's terrible and what's good.. because changes to talents (or to gameplay and fights themselves, or the introduction of new content) may find it very hard to accept that you need to dust those spells and abilities off.

But as raiders - especially hard mode raiders - you should also be careful not to dismiss something as terrible; it might actually be awful for most fights, but incredibly powerful on one particular hard mode. You may think, as a min-max hardcore raider, that the widely-accepted cookie cutter builds are the best you can get - but you never know when something once labelled a waste of points will turn out to be valuable.

Keep an open mind, basically.


The pie is a lie (sometimes)

In particular I believe that it is far too easy for us to get caught up in meters, spell breakdowns and Recount pie graphs when deciding whether an ability is good or bad. It just doesn't work like that. We're not DPS classes; we can't just look at a spell, see that we cast it X times and got 7000hps out of it, and decide it's our best spell. A spell cast only a few times per fight may be just as crucial in downing that boss, but look terrible on paper because we only got 10k total healing out of it for the entire night.

It's important to look at all of the facts, and yes, meters and reports ARE important. But numbers aren't everything - and you should never simply look at a pie graph and decide that the smallest sliver represents a terrible ability. It just doesn't work that way. It's important to examine things from all angles.


Trash or treasure?

So let's talk about the black sheep talents that people are always beating on. I'm not talking about weighing up whether to drop a point in GotEM now that you have XYZ haste and a boomkin in every raid, or whether or not Nature's Grace will make you clip your Nourishes. I'm talking about talents that, at some point in their life, have been labelled "garbage".



Are they really terrible?
Should you give them a wide berth? Are they useless for everyone? Or do they have some merit?


Improved Tranquility



When I first hit 80, Keeva had 2/2 Imp Tranquility, despite the fact that most people said it was rubbish. Why? Because I was doing heroics, lots of heroics, and having a 4 minute CD Tranquility at my beck and call was sooooooo good.

But as I moved into raiding, it became less valuable, and rarely used.

The thing to remember about Tranquility is that it is usually most valuable for smaller groups, and least valuable in large raids. In a 5 man group, it heals every person (in range). The whole group, all at once. In a 10 man, it heals half the raid - still pretty great, and I would consider having Imp Tranquility if I was mostly doing 10 mans. In a 25 man though, it only heals 20% of the raid (at best), and since 25man raids often have people spread all over the place, its effectiveness is reduced even further. There are just fewer times that Tranquility (even if you DID have it on a 4 minute cooldown) is useful, in a 25 man raid setting.

But it's definitely NOT a garbage talent - if you spend more of your time in 5 and 10 man dungeons it can be really great. Definitely do not write this talent off if you are a more casual player and you mostly run in smaller groups.


Tranquil Spirit



Tranquil spirit reduces the mana cost of your Healing Touch, Nourish and Tranquility spells. Previously it only affected HT and Tranquility, so it was seen as a pretty bad talent (because HT and Tranquility are used rarely, therefore there was no real need to pour 5 points in to save mana). Now though, it also affects Nourish, and as more people are now using Nourish, it is better value.

Obviously, the more you use Nourish (and HT/Tranquility), the better the investment. But before you decide to invest 5 points in it because you're a tank healer and it makes sense - stop and ask yourself if you are having mana troubles first. It's kinda like "stacking" regen on your gear - you want enough regen to get you through the fight reliably - and not much more than that, or it's a waste. If you're not having mana problems, why would you need to invest 5 points in a mana-saving ability?

Also consider the encounters and your usual assignments. Your mileage may vary - particularly as you move into hard modes. Do the fights require lots of Nourishes? How does your usual assignment affect this? In the end, the question is - How much economy will I get out of these 5 points? Do I need a mana discount, or can I get by without it?

Now, I'm not saying this is a rubbish talent, not at all. If you are using these spells a lot, then it can be great. Just don't blindly say, "I use Nourish a lot so I should take this talent." This talent is basically only useful if you find that you need to save mana - otherwise it is poor to useless. Examine whether you need the mana savings first, or whether those 5 points (or some of them) may be more valuable placed elsewhere.


Natural Perfection



NP is generally seen as a PvP talent, and I think it's a pretty fair call. It is one of the talents that I would put at the bottom of my list of priorities.

Some people will argue that crit is more valuable to us now that we use more direct spells, which is true; and that it goes on to benefit us through other talent synergy, for example Living Seed and Nature's Grace, but unfortunately it is still of limited value - we are still first and foremost HoT healers, meaning that the majority of our healing does not benefit from our crit rating. Obviously, the more direct healing you do, the more you'll get out of your crit rating, but it is still towards the bottom of the list of our stat priorities, and 3 points is quite expensive for 3% crit.

BUT - Blizzard wants crit to be more useful for us as resto druids. There may be changes on the horizon that may make this talent more useful for PvE raiding. Sometime. Something. We're not sure. All we know is that they've said they want crit to be better for us.

For now, I treat this one as more of a "I have a point left over, 1% crit is better than an empty talent slot" kind of talent. I don't think it's BAD.. but I think there are better places to put your leftover points.

Future patches may dictate whether this talent becomes more attractive for us for PvE raiding.


Revitalize



The Revitalize rollercoaster. It's great. It's awful. It's broken. It's sex on a stick. It's garbage.

It's hard to keep up!

Certainly it's a better talent now that A) it's not bugged, and B) it also procs off your WG ticks. Team it up with the Wild Growth glyph to hit up to 6 people, and it really increases those procs, particularly if you are a dedicated raid healer. Remember, too, that it will return power to your target even if they are at full health and the HoT tick is counted as overheal.

The problem though is that far too many people simply compare it directly with other mana replenishment abilities. They size it up next to Replenishment and decide that it's terrible. The strength of Replenishment will dwarf Revitalize, true, but I think it's a mistake to just put them side by side.
Things to remember:
- It isn't overwritten by Replenishment - you can benefit from both, you know!
- Revitalize isn't just for mana users; it helps your melee boost their DPS through extra rage, energy, and runic power
- Smaller raids and guilds may not have the luxury of a Ret pally (etc)

Now, if you're usually on the tank, and you tend not to throw many raid heals around, Revitalize will probably be a waste of points for you. On the other hand, if you are more of a raid healer, you (and your raid) will benefit much more. It's not a constant pulse of power return, because it still relies on you to cast the spells, and then for the procs to happen - but if you're a raid healer you will likely have Rejuv and Wildgrowth on most of the raid a lot of the time, and there will be a fairly good return from it. Add the WG glyph, toss on the melee, and they will love you.

If you really can't spare the points, then you'll get by without Revitalize. The raid probably doesn't need it to succeed. But I enjoy being a utility/support class, and bringing abilities and talents that can benefit others in the raid (outside of me just keeping them healed).

As usual, I don't have numbers for you, but Dreambound has a great writeup from last week showing returns for different classes over the course of a raid night. Have a look, and hopefully it will give you a more practical view of how well it works. Usual disclaimer: your mileage may vary according to content and raid makeup.


Improved Barkskin



I wanted to give this one a quick mention. It is clearly directed at PvP, but it's a good example of unconventional talents that you just might find very useful for particular encounters.

In this case, I know that some high-end raiding druids are starting to use this for some hard modes, because they are finding the extra mitigation to be invaluable on high-damage fights. The less you have to worry about damage on yourself, the more you can concentrate on keeping the raid up.

This is a perfect example of why you shouldn't be too quick to label a talent as bad for PvE. It definitely has limited value most of the time - but shines in a few fights. Worth keeping in mind!


Living Seed



Many people don't really understand the value of this talent, to be honest. I see so many people spitting on it and saying it's useless.
It really drives me nuts when I see people whip out a chart or report and say something like, "Living Seed only made up 3% of my total healing for the night! It's terrible!"

You can't just look at it like that.

Druids don't have any "buffer" abilities. We don't have shields or anything we can put onto a tank to help reduce damage taken (as much as I have campaigned for a barkskin we can cast on others). Aside from HoTs ticking, this is our only buffer ability, such as it is.

Now, it's still probably not going to make up much of your healing "pie". It's never going to look very good when you size it up next to the numbers from Rejuv, Regrowth, Nourish, etc. But then, neither is Swiftmend, for example - but the majority of druids know how great Swiftmend can be in a clutch situation. It doesn't matter that it doesn't look very big on paper - but if you are in a tank healing situation, particularly where the tank is taking big, fast hits, then it can save them. Most people (I say most because I am aware of some druids who don't take Swiftmend) wouldn't toss Swiftmend out of their spec because it only made up a small proportion of their healing on the night. I believe it is the same with Living Seed.


Living Seed: A talent that only worked a measly 3% of the time,
or a spell that may have saved my tank a number of times tonight?

I compare it to Glyph of Rejuv. Pretty crappy on a whole lot of fights, but then simply amazing when the job calls for a bunch of Rejuvs on a whole lot of people who have low health for extended periods. Living Seed is mediocre-to-useless if you're a raid healer; but if you're a tank healer on a fight where he's taking chunky, sustained damage.. that's when it shines, because it has the potential to save that tank over and again. It may not do much in the way of total healed, but how many times is it going to help save your tank?

You have to weigh up how much tank healing you're going to be doing, and whether or not those buffer heals are going to make a difference *at the time*. I remember back learning Sarth3D and it I would watch 5K Living Seeds land on the main tank when he was very low on health, and it was a huge relief to have 5K "free" heals backing me up (and that was in Naxx gear - the seeds are going to be even bigger as we progress through content).

It's not how much healing it does on paper at the end of the day, it's whether that healing is enough to smooth the damage and get your tank through whatever hardmode it is that you're learning (or whatever). Are you going to be assigned in a way that will have you chain-casting direct heals on someone who is taking lots of damage? Or will you be healing raid members who won't usually be hit twice in the space of 15 seconds?

Like everything else, you need to weigh up whether those 3 points are worth investing, based on how much direct healing you'll tend to be doing, and whether or not that could potentially make or break the fight/s for you.



In conclusion

Throw out the pie (well, mostly) and consider the encounters themselves. Deep in resto we do have a number of talents that are situational - and each person will get different mileage out of those talents according to the raid content, their guild, the number and type of healers in your team, assignments, the tanks' gear levels, etc. If you look at all of these variables and still don't see much benefit in that talent, for YOU, then toss it and grab something else, absolutely. Just remember that numbers aren't always everything and you can't simply look at a graph and say "this spell is useless".

Remember that many blogs and resource sites are going to be dictating the best choices for min/max hardcore raiders. You need to consider whether this actually fits you, your guild, your raid size, and the level of content you are tackling.

Don't write things off permanently as garbage - they may turn out to be extremely useful down the track. A talent may be less useful for your current content and style, and you may get better economy and results out of investing your points into something else. But sometimes the bad PvE talents can be very useful (for example, the druids using Imp Barkskin for hardmodes)


A small disclaimer to round things out

I'm not here to tell you how to play.

I'm not trying to sell you on talents that are generally considered bad, or uneconomical. I'm not telling you to go invent some crazy unconventional spec and try to force it to work for you.

I do hope people understand the intent!

MOST of the time, cookie cutter builds and most talent advice will be sound. They will be the best route to take (especially if you min/max). I'd just like to urge people to keep an open mind, consider your personal circumstances, and don't write the "bad" talents off permanently.. because they can be useful.

Perhaps not most of the time, and not for min/maxers.. but they're not all entirely useless. Not always, not for everyone.

Spring cleaning

I tidied up my side bar a little, and added a chatbox. Feel free to use it to say hi, leave a message, or ask questions!

(This is about as close as I'll get to Twitter)

I condensed a few things that I had at the side, to make it tidier. Moved a few things around, too. I think it's in a more logical order now.

Then I realised I'm missing a couple of blog banners - how have I gone this long without a link to Restokin there? I feel so bad. I can't list ALL of the blogs I read, but I do like to list my particular favourites. I need to look at my blog list and see if I've missed anyone else that should be bannerized! My "blogroll" (such as it is) needs to be updated.

I'd like to shift to WordPress (and my own space) so that I can have more freedom with the layout - I really loved putting together my guild's website - but A) I'm kinda lazy and B) I wouldn't have a clue where to start. Blogger is really great.. but I do like having full control of how things look :P Wordpress also has shiny gadgets like Armory info and latest achievements.

Not only that, but I'd love the ability to have "pages", so I don't have to shove a lot of info into a side bar. I could have tabs! Wonderful tabs. About, contact, guides, all that stuff. I'm sure a lot of bloggers would understand when I say that as your blog gets older and bigger, it starts to get a little unwieldy if you don't have a place to put your static information, separate to your day-to-day musings. Guides, etc, would be what I would really want to put into a static page, so they don't become "lost" in the archives, or end up becoming a long, long list in your side bar.

I'd really like tabs and pages. And to be able to have better control over the layout. And maybe those cool "featured article" type banners.

Maybe a project for sometime a little later.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Half gnome, half bird, all wrong

This is not a trick picture.

In Icecrown, Frazzle Geargrinder will give you a daily quest to use her Jump Bot to jump all the way to the highest point of a nearby mountain, and then plant a flag (Alliance or Horde flavoured, depending on your persuasion).

Along with having a whole lot of bouncy fun, I also got a cute surprise when I tried to shift to birdy form to go back down the mountain. Now, as we know from most other vehicles, shifting doesn't usually work. It just spits back an error message that you "can't do that right now" or similar. I always do it anyway.. mostly out of habit.

But this time, I found that it did work.

Well, almost.



I couldn't fly (much to my extreme disappointment), but oddly my shadow took on aspects of my forms when shifting. Cat form gave me a tail (*shudder*), bear form large paws, etc.

Cute? Disturbing? I can't quite make up my mind. The shadow makes me think of the winged monkeys from the Wizard of Oz, or something. Gives me the willies!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Healbot v Grid (final) - better late than never!

Disclaimer: this writeup comes from experimenting with Grid and Healbot earlier this year (up to about March). If there have been improvements since then, they will not have been included in this post. If you know of a particular improvement that has since implemented, please let me know and I will edit in a comment to reflect the change. For example, if I say that Grid doesn't let you put your tanks together, and you know that there has been a change or a new module to change this, let me know and I'll include it.

However, with the many features constantly being added and improved upon, it would be too much work for me to keep updating the post as each addon evolves. Much like my "How to get 50 mounts before WotLK" it will be fairly static; it won't be a dynamic, evolving "guide", but a comparison of the addons in their current forms.

(This is basically to prevent comments in 3 months' time telling me I'm wrong because Grid CAN do XYZ and Healbot CAN do XYZ... which I bet will still happen!)

Also, once again - these are my personal opinions of the various features and drawbacks of each addon. I have endeavoured to be as fair and objective as possible. Please do not take any negative criticisms against your preferred addon as an insult to you and your choice! Any nasty comments will be deleted. Feel free to disagree - but be constructive, please.

Also, I'm going to have to say it before I hit post: Yes, I do know about VuhDo and I may give it a try sometime - I just haven't had time to have a look. :P




So - in the category of:

"Out of the box" functionality
WINNER: Healbot

Out of the box functionality - meaning how quickly after installing the mod you can jump into healing with it - is a huge factor for many people when deciding between different addons. Many people are happy to spend hours tweaking their UI to be perfect, but others prefer to hit the ground running with addons that are ready to go as soon as they are installed. You can have the most super awesome mod in the universe, but if the default looks terrible and it's difficult to set up, then many people will steer clear.

It's very cut and dried between the two addons in this case: for a healer, Grid has limited functionality out of the box - at the very least you will need to change the size of the boxes to be able to fit names properly and see health information. Fine for DPS/cleansing classes, but not good for healers. In fact, I think the addon would benefit greatly if the author was to add a couple of pre-packaged layout frameworks, one for DPS (similar to the current default) and one for healers, with the bar-like format that many healers prefer. This would make it much easier for healers to use "out of the box", and prevent a lot of people from being scared off by Grid's overwhelming customisation options.


Healers need to tweak Grid a fair bit in order to have an easy-to-read frame display.


On the other hand, Healbot comes out of the box looking pretty darn shiny; and while there are a bunch of things that I personally would want to adjust to suit my own personal style (can't stand the way it fades bars - I only like faded bars for people who are out of range), I could easily use Healbot in its default state and do a respectable job. I wouldn't be able to do the same with Grid in its default state.


Healbot's appearance when you first unpack it, showing tooltip



Customisation
WINNER: Grid

Grid wins in this category, but not by as great a margin as most diehard Grid users might think.

Grid does have options that Healbot doesn't, for example corner dot indicators, extra icons, extra texts, and of course the flexibility to change the placement, size and colours of each. Healbot really has everything you need to build a good frame display, it's just that Grid goes further and gives you many more options so that you can truly customise the display to suit your own personal taste.

However, for many of these options, you will need to install additional Grid modules. While this makes for a far more customisable set of frames, the downside to this, obviously, is the need to find and install the modules you need, and keep them updated. As Healbot's options are all built-in, you only ever have to keep one addon up to date to have them working.


Some of the additional Grid modules available at Curse.com


The big benefit here is that if you have some kind of catastrophic UI failure (we've all been there), you're more likely to be able to get back on the horse as a Healbot user, because you won't have to spend time doing the simple things like changing the size of the bars to make the raid's names visible. From running with Healbot users and listening to them, there seem to be a few random minor problems with the addon, whereas Grid seems to be more stable on a daily basis; but if you lost everything, it's going to be much easier to recover Healbot than to recover Grid, particularly if you rely on a lot of the additional modules.

Basically, Grid gives you tonnes of display flexibility in exchange for a bit of hassle setting it up and keeping it running. Healbot gives you all of the basic things you need to see - health, buffs & debuffs, heals, HoTs, and so on - and you can customise these to a point - but you don't get all of the extra bells and whistles that Grid gives you.

But Healbot has definitely come a long way and is surprisingly customisable. I think a lot of die-hard Grid fans would be shocked at what you can do with Healbot - it's definitely not the clunky, boxy, rigid set of frames that I expected.



Navigation and ease of use
WINNER: Healbot

Ease of use ties in with the previous category, logically. Grid's extensive customisation options mean you also have to navigate.... extensive menus. Depending on what you prefer, of course, I found Healbot's tabbed windows to be much easier to navigate than Grid's drop-down style. But then, I think this is due in part to the fact that some of Grid's options (to me) seem to be put into the wrong categories, and I often wish I could get in there and rearrange things a little.

Once you've been using Grid for a while, you'll know where to find each option in the menus; but even as a seasoned user, I still often find myself getting a little lost in the long list of options in each section. With so many options to customise, it's only natural that there are lots of boxes to check and fields to fill in, but I do think that Grid's menus may need a bit of a tidy up so they are less overwhelming. I'd love to see give tabbed menus a try. Whether or not they would be just as overwhelming if they tried to cover the same options, I'm not sure; but surely a whole tab devoted to say, HoTs, would be a nice logical way to customise your frames.



Aesthetics
WINNER: Grid

I feel that Grid wins this category because it just gives you so many more options to customise the look of your frames, meaning that you can have a really slick looking setup according to your tastes.

BUT Healbot has come a long way, and does have quite a few customisation options. It has a couple of options that Grid doesn't: the ability to display your frames in a single column (old-school style on the left or right of your screen), and the ability to show health bars as green progressing through to red according to health deficit, as a slow colour change. Grid allows you to set thresholds for the health bar to change colour and warn you (eg 85% or below = yellow, 50% or below = red) but many Healbot users enjoy that gradual colour change.

Overall though, Grid just has more bells and whistles, more options to change fonts, colours, icons, indicators, and other layout elements, making it more flexible and giving it the potential to be as attractive as you want to make it.



Information display
WINNER: Grid

Both mods display their information nicely, but I think Grid edges ahead, both because of it's level of customisation, and because it has the ability to present more information in the same space.

Grid can show various triggers as:

- frame colour
- border colour
- corner indicator (and with extra modules, extra indicators on the sides and more in the corners)
- icons (and with extra modules, extra corner icons and side icons)
- texts (up to 3 texts, I believe)

It also has a better custom debuff system but I will go into that later.

Healbot does frame and border colour, two texts, and icons, but doesn't have any corner indicators or as many options for changing colours etc. As far as I'm aware it has no options for adding extra texts and icons.

I'd like to stress that both mods will show you everything you want to see; they both display all of the important information that you need. Grid just gives you more options to display it in a way that you want, meaning that if you react faster to colours, you can set it up so that colours are one of your main triggers. If you work better with icons, Grid has the standard center icons but also corner and side icons. Grid makes it very easy for you to set up your frames in the way that YOU will interpret the information fastest - which might be completely the opposite of how someone else likes to see information - but you get the flexibility to choose.



HoTs
WINNER: Grid

In the past, the general opinion that I heard about Healbot was "fantastic healing addon.. Although probably not so great for druids." During my time experimenting with Healbot, I found this to be true, for one main reason - the most important thing that druids should look for in a UI, in my opinion - HoT tracking.

I have to say that if I had to list what was most important for me to see in a frame mod, the health bar/deficit would be first (obviously), and HoTs would be second.

Grid's HoT Trackers (GridStatusHoTs and GridStatusLifebloom) do a brilliant job. They allow you to put numerical, coloured counters in the center, sides or corners of the health bar, so that you can track each HoT. The timers can be a set colour, or can be assigned to change colour as the timer runs low; in the case of Lifebloom, you can also assign colours to stack numbers, so a single stack might be a red timer, and 3 stacks a green counter.

All of this information is displayed clearly, but does not obscure the rest of the information on the frame. This is where Healbot falls down in its HoT tracking; in my experience I found that trying to display the HoT icons on the bar meant that the name and health information was obscured. Making the icons smaller (to be able to see the bar) results in not being able to identify the spells very well (as the icons get smaller) and trouble reading the timers, as the texts of the counters are ultimately linked to the size of the icon. Similarly, if you increase the size of the font, it can also obscure the icon itself, making it hard to see if you're looking at Regrowth or Rejuv, for example.


I found Healbot's HoT timers made it hard to see information beneath them;
if made smaller, then the icons and texts become hard to see.
This means your frames overall have to be quite large to accommodate
the HoT counters and show the player's frame clearly.


Healbot's HoT icons look great. But in practice, they make the health information difficult to see (on a moderate sized UI), and scaling them down makes the HoT hard to see. You have to try to find the happy medium between icons that are large enough to see which spell they are (in turn allowing for decent sized timers), and still being able to see the person's frame under those icons. With Regrowth, Rejuv, Lifebloom and Wild Growth all up on someone's frame at once, I found it difficult to see the health bar, and this would make me very nervous in a raid. Grid's timer information never obscures health information, so you can still make judgments on when to throw an extra emergency heal.


Comparing Healbot and Grid HoT displays when
both mods are set up to have similar sized frames.

As you can see, Grid's HoT timers do not obscure the rest of the information in the frame. I found Healbot's timers to either be so big they obscure the frame, or too small to read the text. The alternative then is to increase the size of the frame to allow for good sized icons without obscuring the other information - but this ends up making your raid frame quite large. I like my frames to be neat and compact.

Also, Healbot lays down the HoT icons in the order cast, not in a specific placement, which means that you can't even get used to Regrowth being say, the one on the left each time - you still need to rely on being able to see the icon properly, as the icons will be in random order on each person's bar. I find that Grid's layout, with set positions for HoTs (that you choose according to your own prefences) makes it easier to interpret timers because you can rely on each spell always appearing in a set position. You can use icons if you want, or simply use colored dots or texts, plus the option to have these colors change over time. You can use the standard green/yellow/red, or choose any colour you like; you can also choose the time thresholds for these color changes to occur, to allow for your own style. Healbot does not have this depth of customization.

If I had to pick one major fault (for druids) with Healbot, HoT tracking would be it. I can honestly say that I could manage swapping from Grid to Healbot if the HoT tracking was improved. It's definitely on the right track, but needs some changes so that HoT information is better displayed. Because we have 4 different HoTs at our disposal, often on many people at once, we need to be able to view and interpret tracking and timer information extremely quickly, to be able to make snap decisions. If the icon is obscured, the display order is random, and the text is difficult to see, then this reaction time suffers. This is a big problem. You don't want your HoT displays to slow down your reaction time.

Any HoT tracking is better than no HoT tracking; but I strongly feel that Grid's tracking options give you a much clearer view of your spells at any given time, they don't detract from the rest of the information, which allows you to process the information faster. A druid with no HoT timers can perform well; but a druid with great HoT displays can really maximise his/her output and fine-tune their timing down to miliseconds.

Basically - if you're serious about excelling as a healer and you're doing difficult content, then you need a really good HoT timer to streamline your performance and improve your reaction time. Healbot is almost there - but Grid just does it better.



Buffs
WINNER: Healbot

This is another category where both mods can show you what you want to see, but in this case, Healbot has some cool features that Grid doesn't.

Both will show you buffs present and buffs missing, depending on what you prefer to see. For example, I prefer to see a pink dot on every frame, denoting Mark of the Wild, and if someone is missing a dot, they need the buff. It's just what I'm used to seeing. Other people prefer to only have a dot showing on someone who is missing the buff, which you could argue is more logical, since it is easier to see one person out of 25 who has a bright pink dot, compared to one person with no dot, out of a sea of 25 people. It's just personal preference.

But Healbot goes further and has alerts for when a buff is about to run out - including sounds. I thought that was a really cool little feature. Most of the time I buff by default, and don't need a reminder, but perhaps there are shorter duration buffs like Thorns that you forget to rebuff. Or it's a special fight and you need to remember to give people Amp Magic or Shadow Protection.

Of course, Grid does have a little more customisation in that you can assign buffs to corner icons and whatnot, but I don't think this is particularly noteworthy in this case. If your frame can show you a buff (or a missing buff) it probably doesn't matter too much how it does it.



Debuffs
WINNER: Tie

Standard debuffs (curses, poisons, magic etc) are basically identical in both mods, aside from (once again) a little more flexibility in display options with Grid. Both will show you debuffs as a centre icon, border, or frame colour. Grid goes a little further and lets you have corner/edge indicators and corner icons (with extra modules). But both mods will show standard debuffs fine.


Poisons & curses - set to display as frame colours (my preference!).
Note: both mods can display these as icons, which many people prefer.


Grid edges forward a little for me personally with its custom debuffs. Healbot still allows you to display custom debuffs (for example, by changing the frame colour or adding a border), but if you want to use frame colour as your indicator, you can only use one colour for ALL custom debuffs. Most people would probably say, "so what?" but this is something that I am particular about, so it stood out for me :)

I like to be able to colour particular custom debuffs particular things (and sometimes with a particular priority). This is especially important in fights where there may be multiple custom debuffs that I would like to track. For example on XT002, I might colour Gravity Bomb bright pink, and Light Bomb bright green. I need to know who has each, but I also need to be able to discern between the two very quickly. Of course, many people just use icons, but I ditched that method long ago when I found that some curse icons looked like poisons (and vice versa). I find it much easier to react to colours than pictures.

So really it is an extremely trivial and TINY edge that Grid has over Healbot - and it will ONLY matter to you if you like to use frame colour AND have separate colours for each debuff.

Apart from that it is basically a tie.



Mouseover macro/Clique compatibility
WINNER: Healbot

Both mods are compatible with click-casting and mouseover macros.

In the case of Grid, you will need to download and setup another addon, Clique, for this functionality. I have seen many Healbot users criticise this fact in the past. In reality though, many Grid users don't use click-casting, so this doesn't matter to them at all.

If you are a click-caster, then Healbot comes ready to go - with no extra modules or setup required; you simply have to assign your spells accordingly. Many people see this as a big plus.




Summary

Healbot was once considered by many to be an "ezmode" healing addon that chose ranks of spells for you, which earned it a bad name as a mod that created lazy healers. Things have changed. It is now a powerful, feature-packed frames mod that shows you all of the things that Grid can show you. It is far easier to use "out of the box", has easy to follow menus, and is easier to keep up to date. Its main failing for druids is the clunky HoT display; but I am confident this will be improved over time.

Grid simply offers many more options for customising your frames, according to how you want your information to be displayed. It has far superior options for HoT tracking, which is essential for druid healers to excel in their healing. It requires some setting up before use, and quite a lot of tweaking to suit personal taste; adding more modules will also mean more and more extensive dropdown menus, but this is the tradeoff for seemingly limitless options for customising the look and layout of your frames.

I think one of the most common arguments against Grid is that "you need to install so many extra mods to go with it!". In reality, I think I have 3 extra modules - which is hardly a big deal at all. You could potentially have hundreds of extra modules installed - which would be a bit of a nightmare to keep updated manually - but what non-Grid users need to keep in mind is that while it may seem like a pain to have to use addons for an addon, this is where Grid gets its massive level of customisation.

And on the flip side, I don't want a whole lot of non-druid addons included by default. Why would I need totem timers, or rune tracking? That would just be bloat, and extra options in my menus that I don't need to see. With Grid you can "build your own mod" by picking and choosing your addons accordingly.

Many non-Grid users see this as a negative. Grid users understand that it means that the mod only includes options that we choose to use.



Really, I could write about these mods all day - I've barely scratched the surface of both. But I do hope I've given people a basic idea of some of the main features of each. The best way though is to give them a try and see what suits you. I believe more druids prefer Grid for their frames, but many use Healbot and swear by it.

If you want a mod that requires only minimal setup and shows you all of the information you need, with click-casting built in, Healbot is great.

If you prefer to tweak and customise your UI to exactly how you want it, including HoT timers, extra texts and icons, and custom debuff options, then Grid excels.


There is no right or wrong mod to use - it's all about whatever helps you best.

Happy healing!