Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Community spotlight

Here are a few great blogs that you may not have visited yet. Some are new, others have been around for a while but I have only recently stumbled upon them.



Druid Heal

Raaff from Druid Heal describes himself as a "hardcore casual gamer" - unable to adhere to a hardcore guild's schedule, he wiles away the hours playing with stats, talents, and gear (to our benefit!)

Druid Heal is home to the Resto Mega Guide, which covers everything from talents to idols to gems. Updated 24 March. Also check out his mana regen calculator here (updated for 3.1 as information becomes available).

This is the blog I lean on when I don't understand the numbers (which is always). :)

Nerf this Druid

Nerf this druid is a relatively young blog - it has been around since October last year but has been gathering a lot of momentum in the last couple of months, with some great posts about the upcoming changes in 3.1.

Another druid who isn't afraid of numbers (yay!) - she was kind enough to put a lot of us out of our misery and finally test the Nourish glyph to see if it stacks with 4pc T7 - big brownie points right there.

Passport to Shandris

Passport to Shandris has been around since 2007, but I only found it recently :(

Recent posts include a fantastic wrap-up of the 3.1 changes (so far), and an ongoing guide to different facets of druid healing. Check out this guide to the best raid heal to cast.

Restokin

Restokin is a brand spankin' new blog written by Lissanna, a druid who is well-known on the official forums and beta/PTR forums for posting helpful and informative threads.

She got a huge plug on WoWInsider today (prompting a few bandwidth hiccups, I'm certain..) with particular emphasis on the guide to 3.1 healing.

From the caliber of her forum posts, I know this will definitely be a blog to watch.

Upyursh

This is another fairly new blog - another Aussie druid! Check out this great guide for the G9 mouse and G13 gameboard.

So far, lots of great druid-centric addon, macro, and peripheral info. Nom.

Another blog to watch :)




Do you know of any other great druid blogs (new or established)? Let me know and I will highlight them in another Community Spotlight post in the future.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ulduar "Immortal" to be per-boss, not per-lockout period

Hurrah!

The Undying/Immortal achievements in Ulduar have been created on a per-boss basis; that is, you don't have to do the entire instance without anyone dying; you can keep working on the achievement over as many raids as you need to.

The Undying, Part Two has been renamed to "Champion of Ulduar" and now require you to kill each boss without dying, but not necessarily during the same reset Title Reward: Champion of Ulduar.

The Immortal, Part Two has been renamed to "Conqueror of Ulduar" and now require you to kill each boss in Heroic difficulty without dying, but not necessarily during the same reset. Title Reward: Conqueror of Ulduar. (Source).
While I do think this "dumbs down" the achievement a little, I really can't get away from the hatred I feel towards the current Immortal achievement. There's just too much random luck involved; too many times that you are put at the mercy of a bad internet connection.

Previously, I would have (sullenly!) sat myself out of a raid rather than risk the title for others. In Ulduar though, it won't matter - because I won't be jeopardising an entire week's work for 24 other people by disconnecting on the final boss; at worst, it would stop them from getting one boss. That's still not good, of course, but it wouldn't be the way it is now - slog your way through the entire instance for several hours, allllllllllmost get the achievement, and then have someone disconnect in a void zone, YAY! This time around, if they disconnect and die, it hasn't ruined the entire week's effort - it just means that there's one last boss to finish off for the achievement.

Some quick notes, as summarised on the WoW forums:
-2nd attempts in the same reset will not count, only first try
-Can be done over multiple resets
-Algalon is not apart of this achievement, which is intentional
-The titles are currently placeholders and should change when the patch hits
-Naxxramas Immortal/Undying will not change, this is for Ulduar only


I'm all for tough achievements and skill and whatnot, but the Naxxramas Immortal is horrible, stressful.. I hate it. The fact that Ulduar is per-boss actually makes me WANT to do it, rather than dreading it - I'm actually looking forward to it now!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Raid frame challenge: an in-depth view of Healbot

This is the third installment in my "Grid vs Healbot" series. I had planned this to be a multi-part experiment and feature the other raid frame heavyweights such as Pitbull, XPerl, and so on, but really it's such a massive job to look at them carefully that I don't think I can commit to doing another one - not for a while at least.

But the most important challenge, I think, is definitely Grid vs Healbot. So many people ask, on a weekly basis, "Which is better, Grid or Healbot?" The answers given are often incorrect (due to people not understanding the capabilities of the other mod) or simply, "Try them both and see which one you like best" which is actually probably an excellent answer, but not what a lot of people want to hear.

So, without further ado, here is my attempt at giving those people are more definitive answer. This entry will be about Healbot's features; then I will follow with another to compare the two mods directly (I need to separate the two posts because of their length, I don't want to overwhelm people too much).


Legend

Once again, here are the symbols that I will be using to show what each mod requires to get them working to my satisfaction (legible, useful, and attractive, etc).


Note that the green check marks come in two flavours: ready to go, and ready to go (but you can adjust the display).

Some features are ready to go by default, but are usually set up in a way that isn't very attractive or just isn't quite what I want. For example, poisons will show up, by default, as an icon in the center of the frame, and a corner square also. I don't like that - I prefer my frame to turn green to indicate poisons. I could certainly get by using the icons, but I prefer to use different display options. So, technically I could install Grid and have poisons showing just fine - but the options are there if I want to make things a little more attractive or to suit my tastes better.

A plain check mark, on the other hand, means that the feature is ready to go and presents in a way that is nice and easy to read, and doesn't need tweaking to be attractive, and can be left as-is.

Remember - the final goal will be to be able to assess whether I could disable Grid and be satisfied to use Healbot instead. That, as a druid, Healbot can show me all the things I need to see in a raid, in a way that is both easy to interpret, and aesthetically pleasing.


Healbot

healbot
-noun
1. a bar-style raid frame addon displaying target health, buffs, debuffs and other information.
2. Informal. a healer who follows his/her target around and acts as their personal healer:
Keeva is my healbot for PvP.

-verb
3. Informal. to act as a personal healer:
Keeva healbots me in PvP.


Old Healbot
Healbot has been around since vanilla WoW; unfortunately, while being very useful, it gained a bit of a negative reputation because it would actually choose the "correct" rank of spell according to how much health your target was missing. This was obviously quite handy, but it did give the mod a bit of a bad name for "playing the game for you" - which is why I never used it. I don't like mods that make decisions (such as spell ranks) for me. Your opinion on this may vary.

Healbot: Simple, beautiful
But, that nasty business aside, Healbot is well-known for being simple to use "out of the box", meaning that as soon as you load it up, you can pretty much run with it. This makes it perfect for people who want a solid raid UI but perhaps don't know much about customising UIs - with Healbot you can just install and run, with minimal tweaking.

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucius

Healbot does have some pretty nifty bells and whistles, but its biggest sell point, I believe, is this simplicity - that you can use it immediately with almost no knowledge of addons or UI customisation. If you want to load a raid UI mod and run, Healbot is definitely a great choice.


Alright, let's get started on the nitty gritty.

1. Aesthetics

So, how is Healbot when you first fire it up? Pretty darn... well, pretty. The bars are a fairly good size, text is good.. and it has a really cool tooltip that shows you what your buttons are bound to, and what your heals should land for (how cool is that - especially if you're like me and don't run with any spell buttons on your UI).


Healbot when first loaded - showing tooltip

So if you wanted to walk into a raid right that second, your frames would be a decent size, legible, and attractive, even without tweaking them or personalising them to taste.

Let's rate things in the same way that I assessed Grid.


There's really not much to fault here. In terms of basic aesthetics, Healbot is excellent, and it is excellent with very little initial tweaking.

Despite its simplicity, Healbot does have a lot of options for changing its appearance. For example, some people prefer the green bars (that change colour gradually according to health deficit). I personally prefer my bars to be coloured by class, so at a glance I can see the class of person taking damage, and make split-second decisions - ie, triage.

Contrary to popular belief, Healbot doesn't have to be green bars and only green bars - you can set it up to be coloured by class (like Grid), if you want to, although I think many Healbot users will call me a heathen for doing this :)


Healbot and Grid, both set to display frames by class colour. Please don't hurt me.


You can also change the size of the bars, number of columns (something you can't do in Grid), font type and size, border, background, group headers (and customise those as well). When it comes to displaying buffs and debuffs, you can choose between border and frame colours as well as the standard icons. Not as many options as Grid, but whether this matters to you will depend on the number of things you need to display on your frames at any given time. And.. I think we should pay attention to Mr Confucius' wisdom above - keeping things simple isn't a bad thing.

Healbot can show you 5, 10, 25 and 40 man groups. It shows pets, although I am disappointed that you can't force it to show pets coloured by owner type. I like to see hunter pets as green, warlock pets as purple, for example, so that I can prioritise healing. That is not a huge problem, only a slight niggle.

Another small problem is that there is no background to the individual frames (perhaps this is something I missed). Grid allows you to set a customised background colour (eg red or black) to make health deficits easier to see. If you use the green bars on Healbot this is not a problem, because the bar will change to red as the person loses health; but if you are like me and prefer class coloured frames, this isn't the case. I like to have a colour behind the bar to show me more easily how much health is missing. But - this is more a personal preference than anything.


2. HoTs and HoT tracking


HoT counters are now built into Healbot. They are shown as numbers on top of HoT icons on the target's bar. Very attractive and simple. My main gripe here is that the counter doesn't show up until the time remaining has dropped under double digits (ie, 9 seconds or less). This annoys me because I prefer to see exactly how much time is remaining, so that I know how many other things I can do before I need to refresh my Regrowth, for example.

I also found that the counters are quite cluttered on the icons; in order to make the counters legible, I had to increase the size of the icon and text, and this obscures the person's frame, meaning that if they have a health deficit, it can be difficult to see. This would not be an issue for someone who chooses to display the HoTs off to one side (not on the frame itself) but as I prefer to have my HoT counters inside the frame, it is a problem for me. I found that having several HoTs on a target made things very cluttered.

Left: Healbot, set up to my preferred frame size, and showing all four HoTs. Disclaimer: different frame configurations will make your HoTs easier to see; this is merely to demonstrate that on my chosen frame layout, the HoTs are quite cluttered.

I don't like that there isn't a set position for each HoT; they are just put up in order of casting.

The Lifebloom counter also doesn't count down with a decimal place; it only counts in whole seconds. If this is what you are used to, you will probably be quite efficient, regardless; but having fractions of a second display can make your Lifebloom rotations much cleaner and tighter.

As a druid, I think that the HoT display is possibly the most important thing on our UI, and as such, this is what I really focused on when I was looking at Healbot. I will go into this more in my comparison of the two mods.


3. Buffs and debuffs


Healbot shows missing buffs, rather than showing everyone who has a buff. You can choose a colour to display when someone is missing a buff, for example, red for someone who is missing Thorns. You can tell it who to check for these buffs - by class, by type such as 'healers' or 'ranged', and of course, the tanks. This is brilliant. Basically, you set it up to tell you when the tanks are missing thorns, and if they are, it turns them red. When they get their buff, they go back to normal.

And on top of that, you can have Healbot play a warning sound as well - in case you missed them changing colours.

I definitely give Healbot an 11/10 for "missing buffs display".

However if you want to display who has particular buffs, then it falls down a little. Again, this is personal preference - some people like to be able to see if there is a renew on the tank, or weakened soul, etc - not necessarily their own pre-combat buffs. A minor issue for most, but probably something that some people don't want to do without.

Custom debuffs, another important part of my UI, are also handled fine with Healbot. You can enter your own debuffs, such as Frost Blast, and have it display in a special colour (and again, a warning sound if you like!). The colour can be set to the border, icon or frame colour (but not to corners as with Grid). The only minor problem is that you can only choose one colour for all custom debuffs; if you want two different debuffs to display as different colours, you can't do that.


4. Other


Most of these things are built in and turned on by default (or require a quick check mark or slider bar adjustment). I can't find the low mana alert (if there is one) or feign death warning. Death is shown as an empty bar (zero health), but I prefer DEAD to show on the frame.


Overall

I'll go into better detail when I write the final installment comparing the two mods, but for now, my super brief summary would be that Healbot:

- is really attractive out of the box, has plenty of great features and requires little tweaking

- has pretty good HoT display options built-in (no need for extra modules)

- has quite a lot of options for changing the appearance of the mod - and would probably surprise a lot of die-hard Grid fans. Still not as flexible and customisable as Grid, but it honestly has all the main stuff that most people would need.

- would be good for UI newbies and seasoned healers alike

Overall, Healbot shows you a lot of buff, debuff, HoT and healing information as soon as you load it. If you want to spend a little more time on it, you can pretty it up even more, but if you don't have that time, you'll still have just about everything you need as soon as you start.

Stay tuned for the final installment - Healbot & Grid side by side (dun dun dunnn).



Do you know of a great How-To guide for Healbot? There are a few out there for Grid but I had problems finding an up to date guide for Healbot. If you know of one, please let me know so that I can list them here to help out Healbot users.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Empress' New Clothes

Look what Matticus and Pike pointed out, if you missed it - Blizzard have given Phae her own Ulduar epic, from Iron Council (25man):



Isn't that wonderful?

I remember when Breanni got his in-game tribute, very cool. I think it goes without saying that you have to make a massive contribution to register on Blizzard's radar and have them place something in the game as a tribute - that's a pretty big deal, wouldn't you say?

Grats Phae!

PS - This item was already in the game as Vestments of the Sprouting Seed, but has been changed to be a tribute to Phae. Now I think it begs the question - did they choose this item for her because of its name and the fact that she is expecting?

I didn't know whether to laugh or groan when that dawned on me. Maybe it's just a coincidence...


Friday, March 20, 2009

Possible change to ToL talent - no need to be "in tree" to get cheaper HoTs

A recent quote from GC regarding PvP as trees:

One change we are (probably) going to make that will help Resto PvP a little is this:

The Tree of Life talent currently grants bonus healing to group members and reduces the cost of your hots in tree form. We would like to change the talent to say "Reduces the mana cost of all your hots and also lets you go into tree form, which grants bonus healing."

In other words, you would not need to be ToL to get the cheaper hots (in PvE or PvP) so long as you had the ToL talent. In PvP, you could still use tree form when you wanted to be more tanky but your efficiency would not be so bad when in caster form.
So, basically, if you are specced into ToL, you would ALWAYS have cheap HoTs and good efficiency, even if you're not in tree form. The benefit of tree would then be the bonus armor, ToL aura, and extra healing from ToL and Master Shapeshifter.

This has been made as a change for PvP, but I can see benefits for PvE - there are times in fights when I need to do a little DPS, but I feel like I have to keep shifting into tree because I'm drying up, fast. With the changes to Lifebloom (and, to a lesser extent, OOFSR regen), this would be handy. Not a huge deal for PvE, but handy.

I wouldn't be running around often out of tree form - but it would be good to not have to have to worry so much about wasting mana if I do happen to be out of form and casting a heal or two.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Can't make it to Phae's farewell

I can't make it to Phae's farewell tomorrow on Scarlet Crusade because I am working at my second job. The different hemispheres and whatnot make it so that it falls in the middle of the afternoon for me. Bah. Gotta get me a laptop..

BUT - let's just say that while I can't be there, my character will. In spirit.




... thanks to a level 2 boar. *grin*

:)

Tier 8 & 8.5 stats released

Another quickie for you - the 10 and 25 man Tier 8 item stats have been released, thanks MMO as usual. Click for larger versions of these images.

Tier 8 (10 man):


Tier 8.5 (25 man):



There's also mention of Tier 8 idols, with the resto one being:
Druid T8 Restoration Relic -- Increases the spell power of your Nourish by 187.


I wish they would reverse the sets - I think the brown 10man set looks the best. But - I like both sets, so that's okay I suppose. I used to lament the amount of brown in our gear, but the Tier 8 set looks really nice. Perhaps because it's more brown and gold rather than just dull brown.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fun and silly guild activities

Still piecing together my healbot writeup, but it's been a super busy week (in real life and in guild-land), so it's not ready yet. In the meantime I thought i would share a fun guild even that I am running (again) on Saturday. I did this back in October when we were 70 but had just got all of our new talents and abilities, and it was great fun.

It's just a guild event this time around (although friends are welcome to come along!), but I am considering some server-wide activities for later :)



It's a fairly straightforward competition - people form up teams, we all assemble at the front of Kara, and when I say go, they all rush in and destroy the place as fast as possible. Here are the best boss kill times from last year:

44s Attumen
55s Moroes
29s Maiden
27s Opera
2m27s Nightbane
48s Curator
36s Illhoof
48s Aran
48s Netherspite
1m12s Prince

The bosses themselves only take about 10 minutes; the bulk of the time is actually spent travelling through the instance, and I suspect this time it will be much faster because at level 80 it will be easier to bypass a lot of trash. Plus, the trash that can't be bypassed will probably be nuked down in a few seconds, so I'm kinda picturing this long winding train of players and mobs weaving through the halls of Karazhan....

Here are the basic rules, if you're interested:

A WWS/WMO must be provided after the event to verify that you killed everything.
I'm not pointing fingers, but some people like to be "creative" and.. skip things. Every boss in Kara must die - except the silly animal boss.

Your team, your classes, your specs, your choice. Stack 7 shamans if you feel like it. WHEE!
Can you tell I copy/pasted this from my October entry? Oops.

All teams zone in at the same time.
There shouldn't be anyone else at Kara opening the gate, so the best way to do it is to have both teams standing back while I stand at the gate, yell GO! and open it for them.

You can skip pulls where necessary if you would like to. I really don't care how much trash you kill or don't kill.
It's all about the bosses. Skip as much as you can.. then just pray you get BBW for Opera :P

Prince must be the final boss. Other than that, you choose the boss kill order.

Teams must share a vent channel! This is for added fun and laughs.
This is a social event to help ease up some pre-3.1 tension. We're raiders and we're bored. A little friendly competition, perhaps a couple of small wagers under the table.. and being forced to share the same vent space. It's hilarious to listen to all the bluffing that people do to try to fool the other teams.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: When Prince dies, official confirmation MUST be given in the form of a screenshot clearly showing server time on the map. NO SCREENSHOT, NO WIN. NO EXCEPTIONS.
I ask for a WWS and a screenshot just to be sure. It used to be easier back at 70 when some people hadn't finished kara (?) so someone would get the Karazhan achievement as soon as Prince died - easy to spot the winners there. But now.. not so easy, unless you have a rerolled character in your group.

Plus, the WWS lets people see the crazy dps numbers and the insanely short fights.

And the booty:

WINNERS
For this challenge I will be donating 1000g prize money (of my own), meaning that the winning 10 people will take home 100g each. Additionally people might like to place their own bets on the side, I'm certain. Definitely encouraged!

LOSERS
The losers will each receive absolutely squat.

AMG BONUS PRIZE!!!!!111
500g bonus prize (50g each to each team member) for the fastest Maiden kill. MUST BE VERIFIED WITH A BOSS MODS SCREENSHOT - eg the message that says "Maiden down after X minutes Y seconds". No screenshot, no win.

The guild time to beat on Maiden is 29 seconds. Looking forward to seeing what happens this time.



I've run a few fun guild events in the past and I have a few up my sleeve for later in the year - currently in the planning stages. If you're interested in running one of your own, check out the Guild Relations forum - players have submitted a bunch of great ideas for fun things to do.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Big Innervate Fix + Drucie comes back

With the 40% nerf to spirit-based regen, Innervate has taken a big hit. On the PTR it no longer gives you back a full bar of mana, but around 75%.

Now, before they announced the changes to Lifebloom, I really didn't mind too much - I don't often use my own Innervate, so it wasn't the end of the world. But now that mana really will be a lot tighter for us, many druids are calling for Innervate to be added to the spells that were improved to compensate for the nerf. Our while-casting regen talent, Intensity, has been improved so that our regen while casting is around the same (or ever so slightly more), but Innervate got the nerf bat to the face, and the best we've heard so far is that Blizzard will consider changing it.. maybe.

Well, never fear, druid friends - Blizzard comes to the rescue today and quells our mana fears in the updated official patch notes:
Innervate: This spell no longer costs mana.
TADA! All fixed! Thank goodness!

...../tongue in cheek

Also, not remotedly druid-related but something that has annoyed me for a long time - in the category of "...finally!!!":
Badges and Emblems looted off of any dungeon bosses by a member of the party or raid will automatically be given to all eligible party or raid members. Party or raid members must still be inside the instance to receive Badges or Emblems.


Random baby druid update

Drucie is making a comeback!

Drucie is my "baby" druid. I have always liked to have a "main" druid, specced resto for raiding, and that is how they stay. But because I love soloing as feral SO much, and because I enjoy farming on a druid, I have alt feral druids.


When they announced dual specs though, I thought, "what's the point?" What's the point of levelling a second druid if Keeva will have access to the best feral gear in the game in Naxx and eventually Ulduar, and she can swap specs at a moment's notice? So sadly, Drucie has been sitting, unloved, since patch 3.0 (she didn't even have her talents re-entered).

I eventually changed my mind because I was so bored on Keeva. Once I was locked into raiding for the week, I couldn't do alt runs with the guild (having no 80 alts). And only raiding for a night or two a week was just NOT meeting my healing "needs". I have urges, you know. Healing urges.

Once upon a time I used to take off part of my gear to go do heroics. I healed them in my blue overalls, partly for the laughs, but also because it felt like much more of a challenge when you shed 1000 healing. I miss that, and I think I would really enjoy having a second backup druid to heal instances and raids, should the guild need it.

So I thought - Drucie is 64, why not keep levelling her, do some alt Naxx runs, and heal on her in my spare time when I feel like I haven't had my fill? Not only that, but let's face it, herbing in flight form is so much better than doing it on my hunter.. so having a druid farmer makes sense.

I'm having a lot of fun. It's been a long time between Mangles.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tasty Tier 8 bonuses

Good old MMO, what would we do without you?
Druid T8 Restoration 2P Bonus (Class: Druid) -- Increases the healing done by your Swiftmend spell by 10%.

Druid T8 Restoration 4P Bonus (Class: Druid) -- Your Rejuvenation spell also instantly heals your target for its periodic healing amount.

Before you have a heart attack over the 4pc, it's not an instant heal for the entire amount that RJ heals for; rather, an additional tick as soon as you cast it, rather than the spell having to be on the target for 3 seconds to start ticking.

It's understandable that you might read it as the entire heal, I think Blizzard's tooltips often leave a lot to be desired. I blinked at it, at first :)

Very tasty - having Rejuv start ticking instantly will be great for tank and raid healing alike - particularly raid healing.



But.. I can't help but worry that people will complain that druids are sniping heals by throwing 2k insta-juvs around the raid to patch up small amounts of damage before anyone else can get to it. Wild Growth + Rejuvs = unhappy Shamans, at the very least. I think rejuv may be headed for a nerf sometime.



Hey - I needed to edit this to say something.

I have two words for you:

Frost. Blast.

:D

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

T8 designs

Final Tier 8 designs are out! Click for the large versions:






Visit MMO Champion for the rest of the sets.

MMO has also updated their list of Ulduar loot to date. Enjoy!

Lifebloom: my turn

This is a brain-dump on the proposed Lifebloom changes, inspired by Bell's post on how the changes will mould druids' playstyles. It's short but sweet, and spot on. Go look.

Bell explains that there will probably be four styles after this change:

- ditch LB altogether
- keep on rollin' (just on fewer targets)
- allowing LB to bloom most of the time, for maximum longevity
- deciding on the fly whether to roll or refresh


My "new" style

It's a little hard to say how I'm going to roll (no pun intended) until we get into Ulduar and see A) how taxing the bosses are for tank healing and B) just how much pressure this puts on my mana.

I am predicting that for most fights where the tank is taking moderate damage, I'll still have full HoTs up. Depending on the damage on the tank vs the raid, the "free time" inside that rotation will be filled with either extra heals on the tank, or WG/spot heals on the raid. YUM! This is what I want.

There are some fights that I might normally keep another stack up on an offtank - say, Sartharion for example. I think I will be swapping to the "roll on the MT, slow stack and bloom on the OT" style. Of course, depending on the damage, I may use the micro-management style on the OT - slow stack to 3, then when he's about to run out, make the decision to either refresh to keep those ~1300/sec ticks on him, or allow it to bloom for a ~10000-15000hp heal in a hurry.

I've said from the start that other than on fights with predictable, timed damage (eg Maexxna, Loatheb, Malygos even), it's going to be near impossible to plan ahead to use the bloom - but we will have the option of assessing at the last minute whether to keep rolling, or let the stacks drop for a chunk of healing.
Mods such as GridStatusHoTs, Healbot's HoT timers, HoTCandy, Lifebloomer etc will be VERY important to people who want to use this style of Lifeblooming - because there will be a lot of last-minute decisionmaking, and an accurate timer will make a big difference. If you haven't used a LB timer addon in the past, I suggest you grab one now and familiarise yourself with it. They really do make a massive difference to your rotations and healing overall.

A test of skill, or a pain in the butt?

At first I was upset, because I would be losing the ability to roll LB on several people at once, refreshing each at JUST the right moment - precision timing takes skill to pull off, and it's extremely satisfying to keep those green numbers rolling while you are seemingly doing 10 other things at once. To lose that made me very sad - but then I realised that I would be making the same kind of decisions and using the same precision timing.

This time, though, I'll be adding in another decision - do I refresh this or let it drop? I think that many people won't bother with this kind of decision-making, they will simply use LB as a set-and-forget heal - stack it up and let it bloom without giving it too much thought. I doubt that will be my style, I think I will lean more towards watching the secondary target/s carefully and making decisions on the fly. Rather than just refreshing on auto-pilot, I will have to quickly consider whether to refresh or allow it to drop. So it may work out to be more quick thinking required, not less. That makes me happy.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want LB to be double the cost, I think that was a little heavy-handed. But I love the idea of having to make split-second decisions, so the "to bloom or not to bloom" question will keep me on the ball.

It's a little exciting. I like adjusting and thriving in the face of dramatic changes.


"I'm not dead! I feel happy..."

Personally I think that the people loudly proclaiming that LB is now useless are getting a little carried away just now.

That is precisely what they said pre-WotLK, when we got wind of those LB nerfs - I think I remember someone saying something to the tune of "only a moron would use LB now" and basically said that on beta, druids were just spamming Regrowth. Take LB off your bars, they said.

I think this is the same kind of deal. We'll need to adjust, definitely, but LB is still going to be just as powerful, just not as efficient, especially over several targets. So if there's still moderate damage hitting your tank, it will still be important. It's still going to provide the same health buffer as it does now, that hasn't changed.

I also see a number of druids saying things along the lines of Nourish doing the same healing as LB, for less mana, and you don't have to wait. When I see that, I think, "That's nice, dear, but I'm a HoT healer, not a Paladin." I want Nourish to be PART of my rotation; not THE rotation.
Disclaimer: If glyphed HT works for you, do it. If you enjoy Nourishing rather than rolling HoTs, do it. If you think LB is pointless and something else works well for you, go for it. We have a lot of versatility now, there's no real right or wrong way. Personally though, I play a druid for our HoTs, to provide that buffer on the tanks, to be a support healer to the tanks and to the raid as well. I don't want to be a tank healer or a raid healer. I want to be a support healer, and our HoTs are fantastic support for the other healing classes.
I don't see my HoTs as "stealing" healing from the pally or disc priest on the tank. I don't see my WG as a tool to raise my HPS by getting in before the shamans. I see these things as something I cast to help those other healers out - to give them a buffer on their targets so they can finish the job.

And I love it! I LOVE being support. I love being the assistant to the other healers. I don't want to be the star of the show (although I do love shining on particular fights, such as high-mobility fights or Maexxna for example), I truly love being the one who can race around helping the entire team in different ways.

It's what's so great about being a druid! I don't want to stand on the spot and Nourish someone over and over! I want to refresh my HoTs at the last second while I duck and weave and toss a WG on the raid and NS+HT someone who is about to die and refresh that LB again throw a quick Regrowth and let the OT's LB bloom because he needs the health right now...

*pants*

I really adore our healing style. I love having HoTs with direct heals to complement them. I don't want it to be the opposite, direct heals with HoTs on the side (if that is your style though - that's fine!).

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Maybe it's stubbornness, but I would like to think it is common sense when I say that I will continue to roll LBs (providing, of course, that the tank is taking damage enough to warrant it - there are some fights now that I don't bother to HoT the tank because the boss doesn't hit hard). LB is still a great tool. So it will be more expensive - so what? It will still do the job it is doing now, still healing for the same amount. It will still be a 1300/sec (your mileage may vary) buffer to smooth out that damage on your tank. That is not "useless".

Just use your discretion and adjust your style according to your mana constraints, the incoming damage, and the number of targets taking damage. Does the OT really need your LB? If he does, will slow-stacking and blooming be the way to go? If the damage is constant, LB will probably be valuable (even if you have to allow it to bloom, to save mana). If the damage is spiky and hits are widely spaced, perhaps consider Nourish or Regrowth instead.

Above all - be versatile - it's what we do!


PTR druids have NOT abandoned Lifebloom

Finally, for those of you who may be concerned because you have heard that PTR druids have abandoned LB altogether in favour of Nourish and other spells, please consider:

1. Until a few days ago, LB was bugged and instead of returning half the mana cost to the druid, it would return it to the TARGET. Would you use a spell that was double the cost but never gave you the mana benefit? No wonder they weren't using it much.. OOM-o-rama. Probably made some mages really happy, though... in my guild we have dubbed this bugged LB "ninerbloom".

2. Claiming that PTR druids have wholly abandoned LB in favour of other spells is poppycock. I've seen a few parses so far and they've all had a decent (20-30%) chunk of healing attributed to LB. Evidently it is not "useless". Obviously a lot of these testing guilds would be in the best gear around, so mana will be easier for them than someone in starter gear, but it's clear that they haven't shelved LB.

Some paraphrasing from the EJ Resto PvE thread:

I'll be the first to admit I was extremely worried about the LB nerf on top of the OO5SR nerf. But after downing Deconstructor on the 3rd attempt, most of my worries are relieved. I rolled LB/RJ/RG on the MT only and raid healed. As for mana, it got a little tight at the end on the last two attempts so I switched to slow-stacking LB when the boss was around 10%. I never ended any attempt completely OOM and gave away my innervate to a boomkin on the 1st attempt. The closest I got to OOM was 5k left.

GC stated he wanted us to force us into decisions on LB rolling usage. It felt good in there. I had to mind my mana and switch to slow-stacking LB at the very end when it felt tight. My fellow druid said the same thing, mana regen didn't feel as tight as he anticipated.
and:
The first attempt I went with how I am used to healing(constantly rolling on MT as well as aggressive raid healing) and I ran OOM quite quickly. However, after that attempt I was a LOT more cautious about "wasting" casts(IE I canceled heals on people that got healed up before my nourish/regrowth/etc finished) and refreshing lifebloom(I was actually doing what GC said... Watching to see if I should let it bloom or not). I also found that slow-casting lifebloom was the "best" way to do it.. at least for deconstructor(raid damage was heavy).

I still topped all meters(no priests in the raid); not that topping meters is the most important thing.

Honestly, the increased mana to lifebloom may be a pain in the short run, but it did make me a more alert and tactical healer.

All in all, after thinking the sky was falling its not near as bad on ptr. If you havnt given it a shot yet, I would. It took me one encounter to adjust to the changes. We even hit the enrage timer(on purpose) and at that point I was still at half mana with my innervate up.


Now, I won't lie, there ARE a lot of parses from the PTR showing druids using upwards of 60% Nourish, sometimes with 0% LB. That makes me cringe. On the other hand, some druids (such as those above) are testing on the PTR and adjusting to the changes, and reporting that it's not so bad. I've seen a lot of negative reports.. but just a few positive ones are enough to satisfy me that I will be fine, and LB won't be useless.

I still think double cost is too much. I wanted to state that for the record. I don't want people to think that I believe this change is awesome and justified. BUT - I'm going to assume that Blizzard has made up their mind, so rather than waste my energy stressing about it, I'd rather work out how to tackle it. If they end up reverting or adjusting the cost down (which is still a possibility), that will be a nice little relief - but for now I will just assume this is going live and I will need to adjust accordingly.

__________


So chin up, trees - Lifebloom is not useless; it's still powerful and valuable. It's just expensive now, and we'll have to find ways to tweak our styles to accommodate that.

We'll have to be more discerning, and ask ourselves whether LB really needs to be up on our target. LB might be a little pointless/inefficient on SOME fights, but it's already like that now - there are a number of fights in Naxx where I don't even bother healing the tank. If the same is true in Ulduar, I won't care, as long as this is not the norm. If a fight needs Lifebloom up on the tank, it will be up there - but the cost is something we will have to be mindful of.

As long as they don't take away the ability to roll on the MT, I will adjust. Double mana is a blow, but I do not believe it will be so restrictive to warrant shelving LB for good.

Viva la Lifebloom!



Busy busy

I just wanted to post to let everyone know that I haven't dropped the Healbot vs Grid project - I just haven't had time to do the final stage, which is running both Healbot and Grid simultaneously in an actual PvE raid setting, the purpose of which is basically to see if Healbot does all the things that I normally have Grid do for me (that I now consider "must-haves" in my raid UI).

Unfortunately for the past two weeks I have disconnected on almost every boss in Naxx, which is frustrating to say the least. Infuriating? Depressing? All of the above.

I always used to disconnect on 4H when the first meteor came down, but whatever they did to Naxx to "optimise" it has made it absolutely unplayable for me. Obviously as a dedicated raider, the prospect of not being able to do Naxx anymore is rather upsetting. I only have a couple of upgrades that I still need, but mostly it's just the idea of having to sit out of raiding AGAIN. It's so boring. I really hope this week is better.

It's not my mods, I know this for certain, but running two raid UIs at once is probably pushing my luck a little.

Luckily most of the info has been pre-gathered, I've already taken a lot of comparison screenshots showing how both mods display things like debuffs etc. Once I have my bonafide raid test sorted it will just be a case of putting everything together in a meaningful way. So it won't take long, it's just Naxx's weird prejudice against me that is holding things up.

Last week I was booted from every single boss, and several times in between, excluding the bosses that I logged off for entirely so I didn't mess up Immortal for my team. I missed out on "Shocking!" - curses. The only boss I didn't disconnect on was KT. We finally got Immortal, despite chronic disconnection problems plaguing me and another healer, random disconnects for other people over the course of the night, and another healer being severely ill - but still soldiering on. What a team!

Still, I think I would relinquish my title and rewards if someone could just give me a guarantee that I could stay online for Naxx. It's like Felmyst all over again - but an entire instance. Makes me a very sad panda.

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On a brighter note, shortly I'll be jumping into work on strats for Ulduar (mostly for my guild, but I'm sure I'll end up posting them here too). That is something I have been looking forward to ever since we stopped doing Sunwell. I'm itching to Photoshop me some diagrams...

I've also been super busy with a bunch of guild-related work, annnnnd I'm going back to my second RL job soon, so I have a bit to juggle. Lots of irons in the fire.

But I really love being this busy! :)

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I'm really looking forward to finishing this part of the experiment though, so if Naxx goes well this week, I'll be able to finish my comparison post. If not, I may be able to test it on Sartharion, but I'll just have to wait and see how things go. If all else fails, I will go do a 10 man to test it out.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Very quick undocumented changes in 3.1

Just a very quick note on some additional changes to the new PTR build.
Nature's Grace now increasing your spell casting speed by 20% for 3 sec. (Old - Reduced the casting time of your next spell by 0.5 sec.)

Tree of Life mana cost has been changed from 28% of base mana to 13% of base mana.
Please note that these are not confirmed.

The NG change is possibly due to the raising of Nourish's crit rate and the subsequent clipping of the GCD since Nourish is such a zippy heal to cast.

I'm not entirely sure why they're lowering the cost of shifting to ToL - I'm guessing for PvP. The only time I'm out of form in a PvE fight is when I happen to throw an offensive spell (and how often is that?). I have to admit I am entirely ignorant to the needs of PvP druids, because I don't ever PvP - but I'm assuming that's what this change is about since PvP druids have been asking for mana fixes for a long time.

Anyway - unconfirmed, so keep an ear to the ground for new info.

Addendum: an equip effect has been added to Val'anyr, the legendary healer mace:
Val'anyr Hammer of Ancient Kings - Equip Effect -- Your healing spells have a chance to cause Blessing of Ancient Kings for 15 seconds allowing your heals to shield the target absorbing damage equal to 15% of the amount healed.

WTB more info ASAP! At the moment that equip effect makes it lean more towards the direct healers and away from druids (QQ), but we'll have to wait and see the stats and any other equip/use effects.

We need more clarification on the wording, though - it could be interpreted as once the weapon procs, for the next 15 seconds any healing (I'm assuming effective healing) on the target will shield the target for 15% of that total effective healing. So if HoT ticks count to that total healing over the 15 seconds, it would still be good in the hands of a druid. Interesting stuff, but I won't get excited until we know more information.

I really hope they make this weapon viable for all of the healing classes, rather than pigeonholing it and making it a "pally weapon" or "disc priest weapon" by having particular stats or effects that point more to one class than to the others.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Healbot fans: I need your help

Healbot and Grid stuff again!

I'm nearly done with my side-by-side assessment of Healbot and Grid, and whether Healbot can do all of the things that I like Grid to do for me.

But aside from that, because I'm not an expert on Healbot, I am POSITIVE there are some cool bells and whistles that Healbot can do that I don't know about.

So - Healbot fans: what are the features of Healbot that you just can't live without?

I want to gather together a list of "must haves" in Healbot and examine whether Grid can do them, and if so, how well. I've already found a few things that Healbot can do that Grid can't - but I'm sure there's other stuff out there that Healbot can do a little better (or that Grid can't do at all).

Can you help me find them? Because I don't have the time to be able to get into all the nitty gritty cool stuff, and I want people to know all the cool things that the mod has to offer. The more info that we can give people on the two mods, the better they will be able to choose what suits them.

The main problem is that I know what *I* like in Grid, but if I were to go through all of the options and things that you could display, it would take me forever. Instead, it's best if I ask people what they can't live without, in case it's something I don't use and haven't covered.

If you can point me in the direction of the cool stuff that you just adore, and a quick idea of where to change the settings, that would be great.

Thanks in advance everyone! :)



Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Ulduar 25 man badge gear - sneak peek

MMO Champion has released screenies of the new 25 man badge gear available on the PTRs. Here are the healer-centric items - click for pics:

Leather belt
Leather legs
Leather gloves

Cloth belt
Cloth legs
Cloth gloves

Spi/haste neck
Crit/mp5 neck

These items are purchased with new tokens - Emblem of Conquest.

Just like Heroism and Valor tokens, these Emblems will be used to purchase your Tier items, as well as "Runed Orb" (the next version of the Frozen Orb), Deadly Gladiator gear, and Emblems of Valor (1 Emblem of Conquest can be exchanged for 1 Emblem of Valor). Current prices are here if you are curious.

Couple of nice items. KT refuses to drop his legs and I'm way behind other people on DKP so I doubt I'll get them anytime soon; these new badge legs are a nice upgrade on my current legs. The belt might be good for a haste set (I find particular fights call for haste, but at other times I don't care much about it), but I lose regen. I need to reserve judgement on my regen needs until I see how much the Lifebloom changes affect me.

I am also still waiting to confirm whether or not the Nourish glyph stacks with 4pc; if it does, I'll need to stick with my T7.5 gear; if it doesn't, I'll be free to pick up new gloves, for example. Half of me is hoping for stacking for chunky Nourishes; the other half is wishing it wouldn't so I could wear my BiS shoulders, chest, and helm (which is finally going to be buffed in 3.1). I would hate to have them gather dust in my bank.

_________________________

I'm impatient, I want to start planning my Ulduar wishlist, and have a revised "best in slot" list. I'd like to follow the lead of Phae, Sydera and others who have put lists together, and perhaps have a BiS guide for each level according to the content you have access to, eg:

Quests + 5 mans + BOEs + crafted gear
Heroics + Heroism badges
10 mans + Heroism badges (some people can do heroics but can't do 10 mans)
25 mans + optional hard mode drops

I can see a table in my head with the content levels across the top and armor slots down the side, so rather than having 4 separate lists, it's all together in one table.

Another project to piece together over the next few weeks :)



Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Raid frame challenge: first impressions of Healbot

BIG DISCLAIMER: Please see this and future posts on the subject for what they are: experiments and exploration, a chance to test out the other mods and report back to you on A) how easy or difficult they are to understand at first, and B) how they compare to what I want out of a raid frame mod. Yes, I love Grid to bits, I think it is fantastic. But I am perfectly capable of examining other mods and giving an honest and objective assessment of their cool points and failings.

PLEASE DO NOT leave comments attacking me because you think I am insulting your choice of addons.

This is a project to help the healing community get more of a balanced idea of the old Grid vs Healbot debate, the main points of which are usually "Healbot can't do what Grid does" and "Grid is stupidly complicated and takes hours and hours to set up." I'm here to actually give you an honest and frank assessment of what I think of the other mods, and where possible, compare the features (as much as I can as someone who hasn't used them for a long time).

Certainly if you think I have made a mistake, that I've missed a feature or said Healbot can't do something that it actually can, feel free to let me know, but please don't frame it as though I am launching an attack on Healbot. I am actually doing this to dispel the old idea that 'Healbot is bad and Grid is good and if you like Healbot you're bad'.

I DON'T HATE HEALBOT. I'm doing this to help, so please don't get your knickers in a knot over it.

Thank you.

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Well, so far I'm impressed with Healbot out of the box.

I wanted to approach it without reading any instructions, how-tos, or anything. A complete Healbot newbie. I wanted to see how easy it was for me to set it up considering that I have never touched the mod before - so I could see through the eyes of someone who is new to UIs and may be looking for advice on which mod to use.

I won't go into big detail because I'm still in the middle of trying to set it up to be a second raid frame to use this week, but I have to say I really like how simple it is. Some things I like so far:
  • very simple menus; everything is in front of you on tabs, rather than in dropdown/hierarchy lists, which can be a pain to remember and navigate

  • detailed tooltips at your cursor tell you exactly which heals are assigned to your buttons

  • the entire frame can be displayed as one column (as many old school raiders prefer), or in as many columns as you prefer. Grid is not as flexible in this way (I believe you need an extra addon, if this is even possible). I prefer a grid, but I know lots of people prefer to have one vertical column of health bars on the side of their screen, so it's good to have that option.

  • it's also extremely easy to swap between traditional "green health bar" style frames and by-class colouring (I prefer the latter). By using a few slider boxes and checking a couple of buttons, I made my Healbot's basic bar layout look just like Grid (ignore the HoTs!):


Healbot and Grid side by side - Healbot changed to look like my Grid settings


I would estimate that making Grid look like that, if you hadn't played with the mod before, would probably take close to an hour to find the right options and then get everything done by trial and error. Most of the time would be taken trying to find which of the menus to go to for each option (again, though, this is mostly related to the huge number of options Grid gives you). The ability to immediately find and change the look of Healbot really impressed me.

At first glance it seems that my assumptions (and what I've heard) were correct - the level of customisation isn't as great as with Grid. I can tell that immediately; all of the basics are there (and that's all that a beginner would need), but I can tell that I wouldn't get anywhere near the customisation options. The tradeoff, though, is that you can virtually use this mod immediately (after you assign your heals and cleanses). This would make it extremely easy for a complete UI beginner to use.

I'm also not sold on Healbot's HoT display; to a beginner it is probably great, but to me it is inflexible (I can't choose to separate them to different corners) and cluttered. But I will go into that in more detail when I actually do the write-up.

So far though, I'm pretty impressed. Looking forward to tweaking it more and actually testing it out.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Undocumented change: I've been hit with the nerf bat - to the face, evidently

So I logged onto the PTR to check that it downloaded ok and that I didn't have another patch to install etc. This is what I was met with.

BEFORE


AFTER


I believe this is what is referred to as an unacceptable slap in the face. I'm cancelling as we speak!