Thursday, December 31, 2009

The biggest challenge when leveling

How many characters do my reads have? 1? 10? the full 50 available? Every person makes they're own amount, with their own tastes. The great thing about leveling is choosing a "subpar" non-raiding, non-pvp spec that suits all your own tastes.

I play with my now ex-girlfriend on occasion. We have a set of leveling characters that we will NOT play unless the other is there, effectively dinging within moments of each other. She's a shadow preist, and I'm a combat rogue. Because we generally level together, mobs die far quicker than on our own, so we very much build our specs around each other. She's taking aggro reducing talents as mindblast followed by holy fire tends to send things sprinting in her direction, and I'm taking talents that increase any survivablity I have, parry, dodge, what have you.

But what if you're leveling by yourself. Do you want to know whats the hardest part about leveling?

It's levels 40-50.

Didja hear that? Now I'm sure many people will disagree with my about this, but I hold firm in this. I've got around 40 characters, most aren't very high leveled and the few that are decent are floating around this level range. They werent all made the same time, so its not a matter of burning myself out on a specific character, or leveling area.
There's a few reasons and I think I've gotton most of them down pretty well. First off the hubs that start around level 40 (feralas, tanaris) are in the ass end of nowhere. I don't know how alliance doesn't want to kill themselves trying to get there, because I sure do dread the trip, and I tend to hang out in thunder bluff more than any sane man should when I'm a hordie. The second reason I can think of is most classes stop any notable developement for a while. 40 is a HUGE level for most classes, but the levels following them become "play with your toy" levels while they come up for new things to give you. Prot warriors learn shield slam, the corner stone of their tanking, enhancement shaman learn to dual wield, boomkins become just that, etc etc. It's a great level but man will you be bored after that. Whats worse is you don't get much of a consolation if you hit 50. You get some of in my opinion the worst questing hubs, and a minor glyph slot. There's not much to work with, and it's unfortunate.

I hope the mastery system becomes a prominent change to these problems, I want intersting skills AS I level, not just at mile stones, as a carrot on a stick to guide my leveling.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Quality of life changes should be the norm.

Blizzard has been fantastic lately with adding changes that make the game more convenient. They've made a paladin's righteous fury skill last until canceled. They made meeting stones usable by anyone above level 15 and not just in a set range. They've lowered the spell cooldowns on a ton of skills that would be otherwise overpowered in arenas, but removed the ability to use them in arena (Fire Elemental Totem went from 20 minutes to 10 minutes with an additional 5 minute reduction if glyphed which just means it's freaking awesome!) Call Stabled Pet is 5 minutes instead of 30. There's a lot of good coming from it, but sometimes I think they could go farther into the changes.

I've been one to start characters, get to know their style and then drop them because I just wasn't interested anymore. It became tedious to level them. That I got one character to level 80 is nothing short of amazing. Changes should be made that level 80 characters recieve that lower ranked characters don't. I mentioned that a hunters "call stabled pet" is now on a 5 minute cool down. Do you know when a hunter learns it? I'll give you a hint. It's level 80.

That's 70 long levels of toiling with whatever pet you can find nearby. Now if you're like me you have a combination of laziness, short attention span, and perfection. When I level my hunter I want to get a new pet all the time. Most importantly I want to NOT BE LIMITED. I don't want to grab a turtle to level with, hop in the lfg and use that same turtle in the instance. I'm not saying hand us the skill at the second we learn how to train pets, but give it to us around level 20.

There's lots of changes like this that should occur. 80s shouldn't be entitled to anything lower level characters can't do. Show me a level 30 10 man raid, and I'll show you the day I'm happy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Resto Shaman in 10 man raids.

I'm going to start my first post off by saying, I'm a dual specced Enhancement/Resto, with Enhancement being my primary spec; being what I'm fantastic at, comfortable with, and most knowledgeable about and Resto being what I'm relegated to more often than not. So I tend to approach most of my raids as positive and fun experience with a tinge of bitterness that I'm healing.

I've been inside naxx a total of 4 times. 3 times healing, once smacking things in the back of the head. I've rarely gone inside higher level raids despite having a higher level gear than necessary for a given raid. I don't fault anyone other than myself. I picked a "newer players" server when I started, went on the lower population faction, and expected more than 4 guilds to be tackling higher level content. So my advice will be from very casual raid experience and 5 mans.

Resto is a bad spec to heal with. That is my conclusion. Encounter design is almost set to make resto preform badly. I tend to view each class and spec by a defined small set of skills, with notable ignorance often popping up, not to be ignorant but to summarize the general abilities you will use. A Resto shaman consist of 5 heals.

  1. Riptide
  2. Earth Shield
  3. Chain Heal
  4. Lesser Healing Wave
  5. Healing Wave
I'll explain each skill individually listing their pitfalls and advantages, my personal bias, and whatever else I can think of.


This is by far my favorite heal on the toolkit I have to work with. It's an instance cast spell that a decent initial heal (about half of what lesser healing wave does), then leaves a heal over time that ticks for a not insignificant amount. It has a short cooldown, and it should be abused. This is pretty much the corner stone of the entire healing method of Shaman.

Earth shield.
I like to think of this as a "reactive" heal. When you put this on a person, (generally the tank) whenever they take damage, they'll get healed for a set amount. If it comes off a target, it's not a big deal, but think of it as free healing. There's no reason why someone shouldn't always have this on them. Oh small consolation for having it on a target, they get 30% reduced push back from casting spells. Tanks won't make much use of it, but hey, its there. I personally consider it the most useless of our heals in a raiding environment. I put it up only if I have nothing else on my plate.

Chain Heal
This is the reason any class will even give our healing a second thought. This is a fairly powerful smart group heal. Let me explain it in detail.
It takes just as long to cast as our "big" heal, healing wave, but heals for EVER so slightly more than lesser healing wave. Why should you cast it. Well as I stated before its a group heal. When you cast it on someone, it will find people within range of them, and also heal them, for decreasing amounts. The "smart" portion means that it will target lowest health members if available. If you heal someone with 8 people standing near them, 6 of them at 50% health and 2 of them at 10% health, it'll go for the 10%ers. While generally this seems great, it does present problems. Jumping to lower health members who are in no danger of incurring more damage can get annoying. The range is also a bit disappointing as ranged dps tend to hate hanging out near each other, and melee dps tends to be JUST far enough from tanks that they won't benefit from it. Effectively it makes me feel like I have to heal 3 separate groups of people.
There's one thing I neglected to mention about riptide, and I'll mention it here because it concerns chain heal as well. When riptide's HoT is on your initial target, chain heal will consume (read: remove) that HoT and add it to the amount chain heal is healing for on THAT TARGET ONLY. This allows chain heal to act as our "big" heal, while still preforming it's intended role of group healing.
All in all its a very strong, mana efficient heal with some limitations.

Lesser Healing Wave
The typical "goto" heal. It has a short cast time, and heals one person for a bit. There really isn't much to say about it.

Healing Wave
A bigger heal than Lesser Healing Wave, that takes more time to cast. It heals for roughly double, and takes roughly two and a half times longer to cast.

Now assuming you've read everything I've said and had no outside knowledge you'd be thinking as follows:
Keep riptide rolling on different people, cast chain heal when the group is hurt, cast lesser healing wave when one person is hurt, and take healing wave off your bar because its useless, and toss earth shield at someone who needs it if you remember.

While it's SIMILAR to what's the truth blizzard has crammed an amazing amount of synergy into the talent leading up to riptide. Tidal waves is what makes shaman passable healers. When you cast chain heal, or riptide it does a ton of things. It
  1. Makes Healing Wave faster, and heal for more
  2. Makes Lesser Healing Wave more likely to critically heal, and heal for more.
Okay so it's only two things, but they're fairly significant. Healing wave time becomes almost negligible from Lesser Healing Wave, and Lesser is more likely to heal for a decent amount.

With this in mind it makes Shaman very easy to dissect. The basic is idea is to cast riptide, then cast two other spells, and repeat.

Ending thoughts?
I haven't much explained why Shaman are bad healers, although that was the premise of the article. Each of the healing specs are designed to be different and excel in odd ways. Druids are the masters of heals over time, paladins are terrific single target healers, a discipline priest excels in mitigation and prevention, holy priests are the flexible ones, and we shaman, are the group healers.

Now I do love my group healing role, I love being lazy with my heals. I personally glyph chain heal so I can group heal more effectively (it adds an additional target), but situations are VERY rare when it turns out as planned. Encounter design tends to have people standing away from each other. Habits have us standing away from each other. More importantly 3/5 of our heals have cast time (riptide and earth shield) and movement intensive fight RUIN our ability to heal. Other classes have reasons to not be as concerned.
Druids heals are all terrible low cast times, or instant cast. They take a while to get going but they can literally spin circles while healing and do just fine.
Discipline priests are able to use their staple shielding on the go, and their typical role (tank healing) is single target oriented. Shielding allows for a brief moment where they can set up a heal uninterrupted.
Holy priests have ways around movement oriented fights. they possess the shielding discipline priest have although not nearly as good, they can drop a HoT whenever they want, and their circle of healing (also a group heal, very similar to chain heal) is instant cast. I'd say they're in a very good place when movement is concerned.
Holy Paladins might have the most reason to be as bitter as shaman. I lack experience as a paladin healer but from what I understand they have 3 single target heals of various strengths, with the ability to make it dual target for a short while and they're VERY good at healing these specific targets. However their saving grace is they can "judge" a boss to cause ANYONE causing damage to this boss, to give small amounts of life back. Since this debuff happens to the boss, and it's instant cast you can comfortably heal the raid without actually healing them.

Shaman have their place though. Stationary fights with chunks of raids damage being thrown around and a small area to move around in? That's us. 5 mans, we're pretty good at that too.

Still on any encounter I'd rather have any class healing than a shaman. I know our tool kit, and I'm not comfortable being healed by it.