Monthly Archives: May 2011

Some thoughts on the Dungeon Journal

So, one of the major changes coming in patch 4.2 is the Dungeon Journal. There is a preview for it on mmo-champion, but  be careful if you are trying to avoid Firelands spoilers there (I’ll avoid from posting those Firelands pictures here).

This dungeon journal lists out information for the 5-mans and the raids. So, if your 5-man group is stuck on a boss, you can yell at them to look at their encounter journal and read about why the 100,000 damage the boss does with X ability is bigger than people’s health pools and that’s why they died.

What is included in the dungeon journal:

  • All the bosses’ pictures and some Lore (so you can know why you are there).
  • A listing of loot from the bosses in the dungeons & raids
  • Descriptions of the boss abilities (such as: X ability spews from the dragon’s mouth, inflicting X damage to nearby foes).
  • Our little blue crabby friend to guide our way (top left corner).

What is NOT included in the dungeon journal:

  • There are NO boss strategies. There are a few things like the note that it would be a bad idea to stand in the Lich King’s defiles, which would be obvious the first second you stepped into the encounter. Other than things like that, they have worked to keep subtle strategy points out of reach.
  • In addition, there is a difference between knowing that the LK’s defile is bad, and having a raid team that is successfully able to move appropriately during the Defile phase. So, knowing that you have to move out of the fire doesn’t mean you have 10 or 25 raiders who will move out of the fire perfectly every time (and if you do, well, then you are probably testing things out on the PTR because you already got through 13/13 hard-mode in this tier of content).
  • I don’t see range numbers (ie. how many yards do I have to stand from X) listed in the previews that I’ve seen (though I don’t have access to the PTR). So, the third-party sites may have some details about the abilities themselves that the Journal doesn’t necessarily always include, since “how far do I need to be?” is probably the question we have to look up the answer to most often during raids (well, maybe second after “what is the name of that thing that just killed me?”)
  • To prepare for raids, I read the spell abilities on wowpedia, and THEN I read strategies there. Then, I hop over to watch a Tankspot video on youtube and read the comments on tankspot. Given that the spell abilities are more flavor-text than helpful text, there is still information that I’ll need about abilities that won’t be in the Journal. So, I’ll still sometimes have to rely on those 3rd party sites (which, in the end, is really fine with me, since the strategy my raid leader decides upon may end up not being in any of the sources I read, anyway).

Why the dungeon journal is a really “neutral” change:

  1. Third party sites and addons did the same thing, but better and with more detail. For example, when @thexerian tweeted me that they were able to replace atlas loot after the change, @atlasloot responded to remind us that their addon has features that the dungeon journal’s gear listing doesn’t. For example, the dungeon journal: “doesn’t provide anything but loot. No chat linking, no filtering, no sorting. No faction loot, pvp rewards, crafting stuff, wish list. You can’t even use the dressing room”. So, if you want all those features, you have to keep using the Atlasloot addon (thanks for the reminder!).
  2. For boss strategies, we’ll all still be watching Tankspot videos. There is a huge difference between learning a fight by reading boss abilities out of context and having someone read out a whole detailed strategy on how to kill the boss, including showing you how they did it step by step in a video. However, after we watch the videos, how many guilds change something about the strategy to make it work for them? I bet most of us have to adapt things and can’t use the cookie-cutter strategy for every boss. For example, when first learning magmaw on normal-mode, we tried one strategy that didn’t work for us (trying to kill the adds) because our overall DPS on our 25-man just wasn’t sufficient. So, our DK tank found out from a source that some guilds were just kiting the adds, and so he gave that a try, and we’re pretty reliant on him to be our add-tank for that fight because it just works for us that way (even though we now have the DPS where we could probably easily nuke the adds).
  3. Most raid groups “spoiler” bosses before they step foot in a raid dungeon AND the groups who don’t read the strats online on purpose can avoid reading the dungeon journal (so long as they have something resembling impulse control). All the info was out in the internet before, and so if you were able to avoid it before, you’ll still be able to avoid it now. In addition, the PTR is actually the worst boss spoiler of all, because it is actually where the world-first boss kills are occurring, and where people are getting a head-start on learning the boss before it goes to the live server. We have accepted PTR as something people are going to do, and a couple months from now, the dungeon journal won’t be a big deal, either.
  4. The dungeon journal isn’t really that different from what we had before, it’s just cooler and in-game. While “straight from the mouth of Blizzard” is considered better, I am predicting that the dungeon journal will indeed have typos or errors somewhere along the way (some of the unfinished boss pictures in some of the previews are just a start, lol). So, while it is a direct source from the game, it’s not necessarily much more reliable of a source compared to the data-mining sites that pull out spell information straight from Blizzard’s code. In fact, the info in the Journal will likely be used to supplement (but not replace!) the other sources of info you are already used to relying upon. So, I’m expecting that it will be a new “fun” toy for the first few weeks, but then we’ll settle into a routine where you add it to your strategy prep: “A. read journal, B. read 3rd party fight description with strategy hints, C. watch tankspot video”. While I like the Journal in theory, because it gives you an easy reference source mid-raid (instead of “hold on while I bring up X website), it’s a supplement to existing information, and doesn’t bring you anything really groundbreaking that you couldn’t eventually find from somewhere else.

So, I’m happy to see this feature finally making it’s way into the game. However, I’m not going to worry too much about it, since it still won’t replace the time and skill that is necessary to find a strategy and implement the strategy that works for your team. The fun has always been in trying to execute and tweak the strategies available to us (and trying to make those cookie-cutter strats into our own strat that works for us). The fun of this game is not about trying to spend hours to figure out what spells the boss is casting, or how many yards you have to spread out to avoid a chain-lightning effect (the fun is in trying to figure out if you should still group up, anyway). Also, it still won’t make your raiders (or people in the 5-mans) move out of the darn fires if their reflexes just aren’t fast enough, but it can distract you with pretty pictures while they do their corpse-runs back to the group.

Posted in patch 4.2, Patches

In Harmony: The new resto druid mastery

So, the 4.2 patch notes showed up with a surprise while I was traveling. They changed the resto druid mastery to a new ability called “Harmony”. Here’s what the new mastery reads:

Symbiosis (Mastery) has been removed and replaced with Harmony. Harmony increases direct healing by an additional 10%, and casting direct healing spells grants an additional 10% bonus to periodic healing for 10 seconds. Each point of mastery increases each bonus by an additional 1.25%. Healing Touch, Nourish, Swiftmend, and the initial heal from Regrowth are considered direct healing spells for the purposes of this Mastery. All other healing from druid spells is considered periodic.

So, Lets break this down. It actually has two effects:

  • First, it buffs all of our direct heals by 10% plus mastery on your gear. Direct heals are considered to be: nourish, regrowth,  healing touch, and swiftmend.
  • Second, you get a buff on YOU for 10 seconds that buffs your HOTs by 10% plus mastery. You get this buff every time you cast a direct heal (including swiftmend!).

Here’s how this will work in practice:

  • You no longer have to “chase HOTs” when healing (ie. you get nothing more if you cast a WG and then follow it with a rejuv on the same person), since we are losing symbiosis. This means that we have to essentially “forget” Symbiosis healing, which will be the hardest part of the change.
  • However,  this also means that casting Nourish on someone without a HOT won’t be nearly as penalizing, since you aren’t getting penalized by both the mastery and the base effect, but instead it would prime the mastery.
  • Swiftmend will keep up the mastery 2/3rds of the time (10 out of 15 seconds) if you use it every cooldown. This means that you only need to cast an actual cast-time heal once between swiftmend cooldowns to keep the mastery up.
  • Sometimes, you will want to use a direct heal to refresh Lifebloom on your tank to activate the mastery. Since LB’s duration is shorter than the proc duration, refreshing LB with direct heals activates your mastery.
  • Between swiftmend refreshing and using direct heals to keep lifebloom rolling, the mastery actually encourages you to have a good healing style that is still incredibly HOT-focused and semi-mobile.
  • This mastery has the potential of buffing every cast you make if you manage it correctly, which is way better than our healing style was working in 25-mans (and you can heal who needs healing the most even if they don’t have a HOT already on them).
  • Instead of opening with a HOT on your tank, however, you will want to prime the mastery with a direct heal and then start your opening HOT sequence on them.

While the values are slightly lower than the previous mastery, this new mastery should be a buff to our AOE/raid healing numbers, and shouldn’t really hurt our tank healing abilities. This is a really nice way to encourage the use of both direct heals and HOTs, and it doesn’t require us to cast very many cast-time direct heals to maintain it, so the mastery really favors a type of healing style that will be very comfortable and natural to our spec (and after a while, maintaining the buff will become second-nature).

In conclusion, this is a really NICE change in mechanic, and it’s really going to be awesome in the long-run.

Posted in patch 4.2, Patches, Restoration Healing Trees

Druid leveling – Vanilla Style!

Today’s “voices from the community” post is a trip down memory lane, written by Nyda <Legacy of the Void> from Perenolde (US). We think this story will resonate with a lot of the people who leveled up in Vanilla, oh so many years ago!

World of Warcraft was my first MMORPG. Pulled into the rich graphical environment by work colleagues, I found myself quickly caught up in this intense world. Admittedly, I began in the starting area with very little knowledge on how to proceed through this game. All I knew was that I fully intended to see the things that I had heard being talked about in office chatter. Thus began my journey from 1-60 as a Night Elf Druid.

Quest lines were boring and interesting at the same time. The furbolg on the hill, whose necklace I needed to steal, turned out to be a mighty foe indeed, granting me a whispy run more times than I considered fair for the tender level of my baby Druid. Far from being an expert on my class, I conserved mana as much as possible and was prone to killing things by whacking at them with my staff. It was laughable that my staves skill was maxed out all the way through the leveling process.

Outside of quests, it somehow seemed natural to me to heal in dungeons, though from 1-50 all of my points were in the Balance tree. I had decided early on that I should just fill in every point in the first tree until I got to the next, not understanding that there was a specific tree for each role a Druid could fill. It wasn’t until I reached level 50 that I was gently told that I was healing with the wrong spec and directed to the forums for answers. That’s when I discovered talent trees! Amazingly enough, healing became much easier after that.

So my leveling career went. And I say career because it took me 40 days played to make it to 60. By the time I reached level 50, I had to survive the break-up of my very first guild. It was emotionally draining in a way I never expected. I was quickly recruited by an admired Druid in a very large guild on our server. He was one of the icons, one of the Druids standing on the bridge in Ironforge wearing a full set of Wildheart (swoon!). The dramatic evening of the guild break-up and recruitment into a new guild resulted in an empty bottle of wine in real life, my beloved character sitting in the bar in Ironforge for the night and an entire log of inebriated comments being posted on the realm forums the next day. The drama over, I became firmly entrenched in leveling and eventual raiding.

With the change of spec to restoration, I found leveling to be even more grueling than it was before. I had learned enough to understand at 50 that casting would result in more damage than melee, but I also had a tendency to drop into bear form when the going got tough with mobs. When I finally reached 60, it became an endless commitment to attunements, coffer runs, jailbreaks and the occasional stealth run into BRD for a Barman Shanker. It was fun to be a Druid! I learned that UBRS and LBRS should never be pronounced as ubbers or lubbers and that being the “bomb” in MC was a VERY bad thing for everyone around you. Every fight in BWL had to be fought facing a corner with my camera pointed down to avoid lag. (to this day, I still don’t really know what the inside of BWL looks like, the walls were nice though!) Decurse and innervate became my best friends and I still managed to out heal every healing class but the almighty paladin.

The job of getting from level 1 to level 60 was long, tough and filled with unexpected real life emotions but it was well worth it. There was a camaraderie in this game that I haven’t experienced since 2005. We knew who we played with on both sides and we loved every minute of it. Well, except for being used as PvP bait….I mean, really…who would love that? 🙂

Posted in Druid - General, Leveling, Uncategorized, Voices From The Community

Building a new Moonkin UI

Welcome to another installment of “voices from the community”. Today’s post is brought to you by: Zosima from Hyjal (US), in the guild Acheron.

Howdy all. I’ll be the first to admit that my normal UI is a train wreck. I’ve been leading progression focused raids for over two years now so my UI has morphed into a giant raid data display. I’ve decided I need to clean up the mess a bit.  So come along with me as I dress up my UI from the ground up and explain what I’m grabbing and more importantly – why.  This will be a really basic explanation and I’ll be happy to share some more information for folks really wanting to go the extra mile.

I think a good UI modification should do two things:
1)Provide useful information
2)Look cool while not being distracting.

I’ll happily admit that for me useful information is much more important than looking cool. There are some amazing UI packages out there, but when I have tried them in the past I found myself watching the UI itself and not using it as a tool to improve my game play. With a little practice, completely customizing your UI can give you exactly what you want.

Starting Off:
Here we have the stock Blizzard UI with a couple changes that can be made via game options. I’ve altered the UI scaling to give me more real estate to work with and I’ve zoomed my camera out to the maximum to allow me to see more of the battlefield in raid. In 4.1 Blizzard allowed players to move their target and character unit frames around the screen. But no matter where you put them, the stock unit frames leave a lot to be desired.

Unit Frames:
The first UI tweak I make on any new toon is changing the Unit Frames system. This is the bit of the UI which shows your character, your target, and even a focus target. The Blizz system is pretty, but it doesn’t show me the information I want easily. I want unit frames which can show both the value and percentage of health and energy when I want it while including a target cast bar. Oh…and it needs to be easy to read at a glance.

I’ve chosen to stay with Pitbull 4. While it may seem daunting at first, the customization options are logically laid out let me build the unit frames exactly how I want them in addition to where I want them. In the pic above you’ll see that I line the top edge with (from left to right) Player, Target, Focus with the target of target for the last two. I’ve set up buff and debuff locations and sizes to show the most critical type of what I normally target.

For my target, usually the boss, the debuffs are small and located under the frame. Buffs however are usually critical (think shields on ODS) and are large and on the side of the frame (shown here with Precious’ Ribbon).

I also swap the Buff/Debuff sizes between the target and it’s target. I want Buffs on the Boss to be large, but I want debuffs on his target (usually our tank) to be large. While this is mainly from an RL perspective, I think it benefits DPS to know what’s going on as well. I’ve intentionally put more space between the Target and it’s target than I did the Focus and its target. My target frame uses larger debuffs and shoes more of them. While it looks wonky with no debuffs, it smooths out in raid.

Many players pull this information down below their character in order to limit where they are looking on their screen…and so they are staring at their feet making it easier to see the big nasty void zone. I prefer them up and out of the way leaving me with room under my toon to place other bits. Also, I would rather be looking around the room planning my escape routes, watching how I relate with other players, and on fights like Al’Akir watch the bad things coming so I can be more proactive in my response. I look around the boss’s room so much that I have no problem seeing my frames up top.

Raid Frames:
I use the new shiny Blizzard UI for my raid frames when DPSing at the moment. Since I use Vuhdo for healing, I’ve been experimenting with a full conversion for DPS which I’ll write about some other time (like if it works). Before Cata, I used grid with about 37 plugins, but as a DPS, the stock frames serve my purpose.

Cast Bars:
Even though I have my Unit Frames showing a small cast bar, sometimes I want something much more substantial for both my own and a target’s casts.

In addition to the small target cast bar I have on the Target Frame, I have a very large cast bar from Quartz for the cast of my focus target. This is useful on multi-boss fights or when there is some Raid Wipe level cast that requires me to react. On Conclave of Wind, I am usually DPSing Rohash. It’s important to know where he is in his cast cycle of the knock back before jumping to his platform. Often I just have the boss focused the larger cast bar but other times I will focus additional mobs that I need to know what they are doing.

I also use a Quartz cast bar for my own casting. This bar makes it easier to adjust my casting for latency and makes continued casting more efficient as opposed to just pounding the button repeatedly. My keyboard isn’t a Power Pad.


Eclipse Management:

Managing Eclipse Power (however we will do that came 4.2) is critical to maximizing Moonkin damage output. As you see in the stock UI post above, the graphical tracker we get from Blizz is functional, but only just. I want something much more customizable in size and location.

In the past, I was sold on Squawk and Awe. Since the introduction of the Balance Power Tracker, I’m no longer looking for anything new. This mod serves all my needs and the ability to show me more things if I want. BPT isn’t shown in the screen shots until the end because I simply forgot it’s an add-on. I have gotten so used to it I forget it’s not what comes stock from Blizz. If you’ve spent much time as a Moonkin, you really should get this little gem.

Action Bars:
I use the stock Blizzard Action Bars. I’ve used Bartender in the past and after huge debacles on Malygos and other ‘vehicle’ fights I just never cared for it. For me, stock works just fine. I use very little of it for my normal abilities as they are all macro’d to either keybinds or mouse buttons (and I’m testing using Vuhdo for all dps functions but that’s another post). Most of the action bar slots (and all of the Right Action Bar) are just visible storage for general macros, “on use” trinket macros, or random things like a button that’s a /combatlog macro. At this point I could go the minimalist route and not even have an action bar show in combat, but the work to setup an add-on for that just isn’t worth it for me.

A lot of folks tell me this is the single greatest shortcoming in my UI. However, I’ve spent and lost a lot of time testing other action bar setups and other than saving some space they haven’t given me anything I needed.

Ability Notification:
As players, we need to know what the Boss is doing, what’s going around in the room, but we also have to know what’s going on with our own character. With talents, trinkets, and a myriad of other things, there’s a lot to try to track. There are good and bad ways to track these things. Back in the day before Squawk and Awe, Eclipse had about 40-45 seconds after it proc’d before the opposing eclipse could occur. Back then Faerie Fire was about the same time. A painful way to track eclipse was to cast FF just after it proc’d and when the FF expired you were due another Eclipse…you can see why we need something better.

I’m a huge fan of Power Auras. Blizzard has done a really nice job of adding the base functionality of Power Auras to the game in the form of “Spell Alerts” but this really only scratches the surface of what Power Auras can do.

I like having a graphical representation of when trinkets proc, durations, cooldowns, etc. There are some great resources which teach you how to use Power Auras and some of the really stellar Moonkin like Calculated have posted their Power Aura exports. I am always changing my Power Aura setup to deal with current progression content, but certain elements are static.

It’s easy to get carried away with adding more and more notifications. The important auras for me are Dots, 4pc T11 proc and counter, Shooting Stars Procs, and finally my trinket procs.

Encounter Warning:
As I mentioned before, there’s a lot going on in a fight these days. The Devs have discussed that they assume players have a boss mod of some sort and design the encounters around this assumption. Knowing that, there’s little reason not to use one.

I currently use Deadly Boss Mods. I was a huge fan of DXE, but since it isn’t up to date, it’s not that helpful. I had it set up visually just like you see DBM below. I have the long term timers over on the extreme right, and then have the timers fly down to my character when they are about to expire.

Omen Threat Meter. Not much more to say there.

In-game Combat Log Parse:
Say it with me, “In-game Combat Log Parse.” Recount is so much more than just a damage meter, although it does that job very well, too. I use recount when I don’t have time or the need to tab out and look at the live parse we run at World of Logs. I often keep it on the “Damage Taken” screen.

Tool Tips:
I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I never liked the way the Blizzard tooltips looked, especially when mousing over other characters. I use TinyTip and TinyTip Options (yes, the options package is a separate mod) to dress up tool tips and character info and put there where I want them.

Target Plates:

My time tanking led me to TidyPlates with the ThreatPlates mod. This mod makes it a lot easier to ID different targets and multi-target health. It’s really helpful on Maloriak, Magmaw, and Chogall (makes finding eyestalks a piece of cake). The Threat Plates theme is helpful in AE tanking situations where you might be about to pull off one mob and can swap to single target for a sec to let the tank catch up on the one you were about to pull. Another really nice quality of life feature from Tidy Plates is a setting in which the target plates are off while you are out of combat and automatically turn on once the pull happens.

The only real advice I can give anyone when they start customizing their UI is simply…the best UI modification is the one that you like and helps you do your job. There are truly some impressive UI packages out there, but I just like being able to put the things I want where I want them. I look forward to reading your comments and hearing your UI mod stories.

Posted in Moonkin Balance DPS, Uncategorized, Voices From The Community


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