Friday, January 8, 2010

I'm Back

Well, after over a year, I've decided to bring my WoW Druid blog back. I don't know if I can maintain commitment to it - I've historically been full of fail at blogging regularly - but I think it's time to give it another shot.

I recently started playing again after a month's hiatus, albeit on a far more casual basis, and I feel like I have a lot to say about the game. So, here I am.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Badges? Yeah, We Got That.

Last night's Karazhan run consisted of one tank (Protection Paladin), one healer (Restoration Druid, that's me!), and eight DPS. And we demolished that place. Full clear, including Tenris Mirkblood, in 90 minutes.

I fall a little bit more in love with Wild Growth every time I use it. It is such a fantastic addition to the Druid healing arsenal! I worry, though, that it's too much of a "win" button - instead of having to roll Lifeblooms or Rejuvenation across multiple raid members, I can just push one button. In five-man instances, I've been taking care to position myself between the ranged DPS and the tank, so that by casting Wild Growth on myself I can heal the entire party. On Priestess Delrissa in Heroic Magisters' Terrace, I've been able to keep the entire party up with Wild Growth plus a few strategic Lifeblooms, and using Direbrew Hops and Essence of the Martyr consecutively to give me forty seconds of massively increased healing.

As a side note, those two trinkets now share a cooldown. That was not the case pre-patch, and I am somewhat unhappy with that.

After Karazhan, we weren't sure what to do with our time, so we put together a ZA group. We had to PuG a couple of DPS, since a few of our people weren't available. We still cleared the place in an hour, and it still managed to drop no upgrades for me. Well, the Grimgrin Faceguard dropped, but I like my Nordrassil Headdress and its Relentless Earthstorm Diamond (not to mention the two-piece bonus that will be fantastic for levelling) too much to roll against a Rogue for a sidegrade.

We were now sitting on 24 + 14 = 38 badges, and still the night was young.

Five of us decided to clear Heroic Magisters' Terrace, which with no wipes and very few deaths took less than forty minutes. And then, since my Thrallmar rep still needs some work (I'm going to get the Nethercobra Leg Armor pattern just in time for the expansion!), we ran Heroic Hellfire Ramparts and Heroic Blood Furnace, about thirty minutes each.

So, at the end of the night, I had earned 48 badges. Not bad for five hours' work, no?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rotations vs. Priorities

I touched on the subject of tanking rotations in my previous post. Since then, I've done some more reading and thinking on the subject, and I think that Blizzard is trying to push a change in mindset on more classes than just Feral Druids.

An example is the Shadow Priest. They've never had a strict "rotation", per se - theorycrafters generally describe the spells Shadow Priests should cast in terms of priorities, a list of debuffs listed in order of which should be kept up first.

With the recent changes to Enhancement Shamans (the addition of Lava Lash and Maelstrom Weapon), I understand that they operate more on a basis of priorities as well. Discussion in my guild's Shaman forum has turned up the following priority system, to be applied on every global cooldown:

1) If Stormstrike is available, use it.
2) If Maelstrom Weapon is available, use it.
3) If a Shock is available, use it.
4) If Lava Lash is available, use it.

Let's try applying that system to Feral Druids tanking a boss.

1) If Mangle is available, use it.
2) If Lacerate is not stacked to 5, use it.
3) If the Lacerate stack will expire soon, use it.
4) If Faerie Fire will expire soon, use it.
5) If Demoralizing Roar will expire soon, use it.
6) Swipe.
* Use Maul as needed to consume Rage.

You can skip steps 4 and 5 if another raid member is keeping those debuffs up. And since Maul isn't on the GCD, it doesn't really fit the priority system - just use it when it's available and you have the Rage.

This is more complex than the "Mangle, Lacerate x3, repeat" that more or less summed up Druid tanking until now, but I think it is also more interesting. A priority system requires the player to keep his or her brain in the On position, constantly aware of cooldowns and buff/debuff timers. I'm certainly enjoying it :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Bear Among Trolls

Our guild went into Zul'Aman last night, and I decided to be the main tank. We had a perfectly good protection warrior with us, but I wanted to get a better sense of what raid tanking is like for a bear (and those plate-wearing shield monkeys can actually churn out respectable DPS now!). The short version: it's pretty darn good.

The change in Feral Instinct from +15% threat in Bear Form to +30% damage from Swipe has definitely changed Druid tanking rotations. I've been struggling to figure out how to use the two (down from three) global cooldowns between Mangles, given that Lacerate is no longer a clear winner over Swipe in a single-target situation. The strategy I've settled on is this: get five Stacks of Lacerate up, and then only use Lacerate again to keep them ticking (like Faerie Fire or Demoralizing Roar). Other than that, all GCD's should be used on Mangle and Swipe.

One big reason to bother with Lacerate at all, despite the higher damage from Swipe, is Rend and Tear. It increases the damage done by Maul on bleeding targets, and when you have a surplus of rage (as is often the case in boss fights), Maul is your go-to skill.

But to be perfectly honest, I don't think I bothered with Lacerate in a single trash pull all night. I held rock-solid threat using only Mangle, Swipe, and Maul on trash pulls.

The Hex Lord Malacrass encounter is an empty echo of what it once was. Previously, our strategy involved the MT pulling Hex Lord to the entrance of the room and tanking him there while the raid kept the adds CC'ed near their starting positions, and one by one the OT would pick them up and the raid would DPS them down. Execution was everything - if crowd control broke early, if the healers didn't spread their attention appropriately across the raid, if the RNG just kicked us in the shins, the fight could go downhill. That made it nerve-wracking and yet exhilarating, an encountered I dreaded and yet relished.

In comparison, last week, our prot paladin just ran in and tanked Hex Lord and all four of his adds while the raid AOE'd them down. I felt like playing it a little more cautiously, so I picked up Hex Lord with adds 3 and 4, and our OT picked up adds 1 and 2. We did still go with the strategy of AOE'ing down the adds, and Hex Lord only got off two or three volleys of Spirit Bolts before going down.

Zul'jin was an easy encounter for us even pre-nerf, and he went down easily. We did wipe once - our only dispeller was a priest who's somewhat new to raiding, so we had some issues with Creeping Paralysis the first time around. The second time, though, it was a smooth and quick downing. I decided to have our warrior tank him, so I could get a taste of feral DPS.

And then I realized I had forgotten to spec into Shredding Attacks.

I've been respeccing quite a bit lately, and I guess I was in a rush when I last went Feral, because I missed out on a CRUCIAL talent for Cats and a pretty important one for Bears. I'm already suffering in Cat Form because of taking Berserk over Omen of Clarity, and with Shred costing 60 Energy instead of 42 ... well, it wasn't pretty. That aside, though, Cat DPS is pretty similar to how it was before (Savage Roar at level 75 will certainly change this), with the exception of having two cooldowns to keep using.

The first is Tiger's Fury, which restores 20 Energy for each point in King of the Jungle. At 3/3, you can summon up an instant 60 Energy every minute, which is very nice.

The second is Berserk, which reduces the Energy cost of all abilities by 50% for 15 seconds. I saved this for Zul'jin's Eagle phase, and it was fantastic! I got knocked back by a tornado during that time, but thanks to Feral Charge - Cat I was right back on Zul'jin.

Overall, I would say that Feral is in a very good place right now. Our tanking is more fun, with more buttons to push, more options in case of emergency, and better threat and mitigation overall. Our DPS has become more interesting as well, and has been buffed to be more raid viable.

I'll be going to Karazhan tomorrow, most likely as Resto. I might even be single-healing for a single tank ... so we'll see how that goes!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Restoration Post-patch

First, I'm a little frustrated with myself for starting a blog with high hopes of posting regularly, and then forgetting about it for eleven days. There's some epic fail for you. I'll try and be more punctual with my updates :)

I had a chance to try out post-patch Restoration in SSC the other day. My guild put together a PuG to take down Fathom-Lord Karathress and Lady Vashj for those of us working on the Medallion of Karabor and Vials of Eternity. I wish I had saved a WWS report for some detailed analysis, but the best I can give you are my surface impressions.

Wild Growth just blew me away, and I had to struggle hard not to simply blanket the raid with it instead of healing intelligently. It's fantastic to finally have an AoE heal! I would be excited to give this a spin on Hex Lord Malacrass, if it weren't for the fact that the raid nerfs mean that our "strategy" on that fight boils down to a prot Paladin tanking everything while the DPS AOE's them down. It was helpful in SSC as well, especially in Vashj Phase 3, when people were getting rooted in Sporebat poison.

Single-target healing is just as potent, too, albeit a little more mana expensive. Considering that I was almost unable to run OOM pre-patch except in the most intensive healing situations, this seems fair. Buffed with an Elixir of Draenic Wisdom, Brilliant Mana Oil, and Prayer of Spirit, and with a pair of Retribution Paladins keeping Replenishment more or less continuously up, I had absolutely no mana worries for the raid.

I healed a handful of heroic instances the next day, without any trouble at all. My strategy remained more or less the same as before - 3xLifebloom + Rejuvenation on the tank. The main difference was that I could throw up Wild Growth for party-wide damage, or even for just a little extra healing on the tank.

Depending on guild availability this week, I'll either be healing or OT'ing our ZA runs. I haven't had a chance to be a tree in ZA since the patch was released, so hopefully I'll be able to give it a spin tonight.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

First Impressions: Bears in 3.0.2

TLDR version: Bears are amazing and tanking is fun again.

After the talent point refund, I decided it was as good a time as any to return to my origins as a Feral Druid. I decided to go for a pure Feral build so that I could get as many of the exciting new talents as possible while remaining viable as both a DPS Cat and a tanking Bear. Here is the result:

I'll freely admit, I spent most of my time last night ripping through the 50's on my baby Ret Paladin (52-56 in five hours!). But as the night wore on, my guilt at leaving Sol all alone, logged out in the Scryer Bank, gradually dissolved the bloodthirsty fog of RET RET RET that had clouded my eyes.

I've been avidly following the development of the beta and all the resulting game changes for months, but I still took some time to review the important bits on Feral Druids before I joined some of my guildmates for a Heroic Slave Pens run. Here's a list of a few things that struck me as particularly worth noticing before I even zoned in:

* Fully talented, Mangle is down to a 4.5 second cooldown. That means you only get to use two abilities between Mangles, not three.

* Our armor has been reduced, but the flat 12% reduction from Protector of the Pack more than makes up for it. Pre-patch, I was capped at 75% mitigation from armor against a level 70 mob. Post patch, my mitigation from armor was reduced to just over 68%, but the additional 12% from PotP brings me to a whopping 80%! Rawr!

* There are more skills! Survival Instincts and Berserk are new, and Barkskin is now usable in Bear Form. I made sure to keep these three buttons on the actionbar next to my trinkets (Badge of Tenacity and Moroes' Lucky Pocket Watch) and my Drums of Battle.

* Swipe hits everything in a frontal cone. This makes it dramatically easier for Druids to tank more than three mobs at once.

* Without Furor or Intensity, I can't start a fight with 40 Rage. I warned my (typically overzealous) DPS to let me get off a Swipe or two before they opened up.

I should mention that Slave Pens is my Heroic instance of choice. With some of the better players from my guild DPS'ing and healing, I have cleared that instance in just over 30 minutes. When I was in a hardcore raiding guild and aggressively farming badges for feral gear and epic gems, I cleared Heroic SP every day as part of my farming efforts. This place is definitely part of my stomping grounds.

My DPS for the run included a Retribution Paladin, a Fury Warrior, and an Arcane Mage. My healer was a Restoration Druid.

On the very first pull of three Bogstroks, I didn't try anything fancy. Since a 4.5 Mangle cooldown threw off my old rotation, I went for a simple Mangle, Lacerate, Swipe. I noticed that my Swipes hit much harder than they used to, which was to be expected, given the changes to Feral Instinct. Our (especially overzealous) Ret Paladin, Trekand, pulled the third Bogstrok from me while we were still working from the second, but given the wild damage done by Divine Storm pre-hotfix, I don't feel too bad.

For the second pull, still full of Rage, I decided it was time to try out Berserk. And it was then that I truly fell in love with the new Feral tree.

When I was cranking out three-target Mangles as quickly as the global cooldown could let me for fifteen seconds and spamming Maul to boot, I didn't need Omen (still broken at the time) to know that my threat on all three mobs was absolutely One Hundred Percent Rock Solid. The thrill I got from unleashing that level of power was simply incredible. And despite Trekand's best efforts, I held aggro through the pull without a problem.

The next pull was a pseudo-four-pull. I had to keep aggro on four mobs - a melee Naga, a melee Broken, and two caster Broken - but defeating the Naga would cause the Broken to become Neutral and flee the instance. I decided to leave Lacerate out entirely this time. I feral-charged in, opened up with a Swipe to get everyone paying attention to me, and then went to a Mangle, Swipe, Swipe rotation. I loved seeing numbers pop up over four mobs at once! It was fantastic. I decided that I'd leave Lacerate out altogether in favor of simply Swiping and using Maul as appropriate.

I used Berserk again against Mennu about ten seconds into the fight and giggled gleefully as I saw his health bar tick downward even more quickly for those fifteen seconds. Being able to summon up that level of damage and threat on demand was fantastic. We continued to clear smoothly through Rokmar.

The pull after Rokmar consists of three Naga and a Sporebat. I used to start the pull by Hibernating the Sporebat, shifting to Bear Form, and immediately activating and cancelling Enrage to get the instant 10 Rage from Intensity. This left me three mobs to hold - just right for the old Swipe - and let me start the fight with 20 Rage.

Now, I don't need to worry if I'm taking on more than three mobs - Swipe can cover it. I also don't have the benefit of instant Rage (although when I have more talent points, I will once more). So I simply charged in and worked it like any other pull. We burned down the Sporebat before it could fear anyone, and the pull went smoothly.

Emboldened by our success, I didn't bother waiting for the patrol of two Naga to return. I decided to repeat the strategy of "run in and spam Swipe" with the next pull - four Naga and one Sporebat.

I'm not sure what happened, but somehow, even though he never had a chance to cast a heal, our healer was the first one to die. Alas, poor Natama, we knew you well. And then, for the first time in the instance, my mouse flickered over to my "oh, snap" toolbar and started clicking.

Badge of Tenacity - up. Moroes' Lucky Pocket Watch - up. Dodge chance is up through the roof. Keep spamming the Swipe button, keep everyone on me. Frenzied Regeneration - no lack of Rage, and I'll need the HP. Demoralizing Roar - less AP for them is good for me. Barkskin - I have mitigation on demand, wow! Start backpedaling, can't deal with the pat like this. HP's still dropping too quickly, pop Survival Instincts - holy crap, where did all that health come from?

As soon as we had taken down one of those mobs - a few seconds - Trekand began healing me and I got to experience firsthand how potent Retribution healing can be. Sheath of Light really is everything it's cracked up to be. Everlyse and Brynden kept burning away at the mobs, and as soon as a second was down, I popped Berserk and let the Mangles flow freely against the remaining three mobs to finish them off.

Total time - maybe thirty seconds. I took a second to catch my breath and realized two things. One, if it weren't for having an awesome group, that would've been a wipe. Two, if it weren't for an incredible new array of survival-on-demand options for Bears, that would've been a wipe. I was dumbfounded that we managed to pull through; it was as inspiring a moment as the first time I popped Berserk.

The remainder of the instance went off without a hitch. We ended up clearing in just about 30 minutes, and decided to go to Underbog since things were going so smoothly. It was actually a very similar experience - smooth clearing punctuated by one terrifying moment of the healer dying first on a large pull. Once again, I pushed all my buttons and Trekand saved the day with his heals. The clear took just over 35 minutes.

Overall, I'm extremely satisfied with my tanking, and I'm excited to try solo-tanking Karazhan later this week or next.

I Have A Blog!

Hi! Welcome to my blog, a place where I will discuss World of Warcraft, with a focus on Druids.

"But Sol," you ask. "What kind of Druid?"

Well, I'd like to talk about all of them! I've had the most experience as Feral, but I'm no slouch when it comes to Resto or Balance, and I've been switching back and forth pretty often lately - hence the name of the blog (which is also the name of a lackluster Restoration talent).

I've been playing WoW for just over a year, and I've been involved in endgame raiding with varying levels of intensity for about eight months at the time of this posting.

I'm no good at these introductions, so I'll hop right into the content with my next post! Thanks for reading!