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Is the class always greener on the other side?

In my many years of playing World of Warcraft, I have spent a considerable amount of time as part of the theorycrafting community, especially related to druid class design. However, I turned my attention to the mage class for the first time in Mists of Pandaria and put my druid into hybernation from serious raiding (though I still do play my druid from time to time). In switching to a mage as my raiding main, I thought I would finally have the wonderful damage superiority that “pure” classes promised from their much greener hill on the other side of the hybrid vs. pure divide.

What I found, however, was just simply another class with the same problems, related to a lack of movement DPS, talent issues, outdated mechanics, and ability bloat. In my many years of being envious of the mage class, I quickly found that everything wasn’t all that I thought it would be. While I am still raiding on my mage, and haven’t dedicated much time to the druid this expansion, broadening my expertise to understanding the mechanics of two classes gave me a much better sense of perspective about the fact that every class in WOW has design limitations that can make it difficult or frustrating to live with on a day-to-day basis.

While I needed the change in perspective, and I don’t regret my class switch, I have overall been more selective in terms of what minor problems I’ve come to live with, versus understanding what major problems I think should still be addressed (such as healing mushroom’s development in early MOP for resto druids, and the continuing problem of the mage level 90 talents).

As we start to ramp up for another round of beta testing and feedback, I think it is still important to remember that a side-effect of theorycrafting and class balance is that other classes likely have just as many serious problems in this type of game. In addition, while classes all have strengths, and the game as a whole is substantially better than it used to be, it turns out that the class we play isn’t the only one that is potentially in need of fixing.

With that said, I really do look forward to picking apart both mage and druid weaknesses as we ramp up into the next expansion over the next many months. Just remember – that other classes don’t necessarily have things all that much better at the end of the day. The game balance as a whole, however, is still much better than it used to be in the dark days of Vanilla and Burning Crusade.

Posted in Cataclysm, Druid - General, Mage, Warlords of Draenor, Written By Lissanna

Shadow Priest Mastery: Shadow Orbs Explained

This round of “Voices from the Community” is brought to you by a shadow priest named Snakeneyes. He is in Undying Resolution on Elune (yes, that’s Lissanna’s guild), and he may be joining Restokin more frequently with shadow priest hints and tricks.

Understanding the Mastery of Shadow Priests is critical for determining which spells need to be cast and when. The priest mastery is called Shadow Orbs.

Although the Shadow Priest Mastery is on the complicated side, there are only 3 stages to think about. The current stage you are in will determine which actions you should follow up with.


  1. No Shadow Orbs are revolving around yourself.

  2. 1-3 Shadow Orbs are revolving around yourself.

  3. You have the Empowered Shadow buff on yourself.

It is important to note that stage 3 can occur at the same time as stage 1 and 2.

Stage 1

A typical combat encounter begins with the player at stage 1. The goal of the shadow priest is to cast Shadow Word: Pain (SW:P) and Mind Flay (MF) to gain at least 1 Shadow Orb. SW:P and MF have a chance when dealing damage to trigger 1 Shadow Orb.

Stage 2

With at least 1 shadow orb floating around, casting Mind Blast (MB) or Mind Spike (MS) will cause you to gain Empowered Shadow. A higher number of orbs will cause Mind Blast and Spike Spike to deal a higher amount of damage. Once Mind Blast or Mind Spike is cast with at least 1 orb, you will gain Empowered Shadow.

Stage 3

Congratulations, you have Empowered Shadow! This is a self buff that allows all of your periodic damaging spells to deal more damage. This includes Shadow Word: Pain (SW:P), Vampiric Touch (VT), Devouring Plague (DP), and Mind Flay (MF). The buff becomes stronger as your mastery stat increases. But does not get stronger with more Shadow Orbs.

The Mastery stat effects 2 major areas of our DPS. Mastery increases the damage boost that each individual orb gives to Mind Blast and to Mind Spike. Secondly, Mastery increases the damage boost that Empowered Shadow grants periodic damage spells (SW:P, VT, DP, MF). While Shadow Orbs increase the damage of MB and MS depending on how many orbs are stacked, a higher stack of Shadow Orbs does not increase the damage benefit Empowered Shadow gains. One Shadow Orb grants the same Empowered Power buff as three.

Keeping track of your mastery is essential to playing the Shadow Priest class well. If you do not have a Shadow orb, SW:P needs to be on the boss and MF needs to be spammed until the first Orb shows up. As soon as you see you have that first orb, cast MB to gain Empowered Shadows. Next, cast your remaining DOTs (VT and DP). Make sure to only refresh VT and DP if the Empowered Shadow buff is present.

Posted in Cataclysm, Priest, Voices From The Community

Guest Post: The Art of Doing 700 Things at Once

Today’s “voices from the community” guest post is written by Aunaka, a resto druid from the Aunaka Heals blog.


As healers we are given, in my completely biased opinion, the hardest job in game. We’re in charge of anywhere from 4-24 other peoples health, if we’re lucky we have a couple of other great healers to help us with it, but it is still a rather daunting job on paper. One that, mind you, I would never give up.

I’ve noticed over the years that there are aspects that separate good healers from those that are great, and certainly from those that are bad. When it comes down to basic healing, all we have to do to be called a healer is press a button.

Anyone can push a button, hell I’m fairly certain they taught a goldfish how to push a button and they only have a 30 second memory.

Whenever anyone has ever asked me if they should play a healer, my fist question is, can you mulit-task? If you can’t multi-task you will never be a great healer. As a raid healer you are going to need to think of a minimum of 5 things:

  • Actually healing people
  • Boss Mechanics (Which should really count as 2 or more.)
  • Personal Cooldowns
  • Raid Cooldowns
  • Positioning (Look at your damn feet!)

Standing in Fire Gives You a Buff

I’m hoping that everyone knows what raid awareness is, but encase someone doesn’t I will give you a quick quote from a former Raid Leader.

Raid Awareness, is the act of being aware of your surroundings, your own buffs/debuffs, and any boss mechanics.

Raid awareness is a very big part of being a healer, it’s something that we should strive to naturally work into our healing rotation. It’s not another button to push or a Global Cooldown(GCD) to watch, but it is just as important. Going hand in hand is being knowledgeable about the fight, 15 minutes of research before a raid, can mean the difference between a wipe and a kill. When you use both of these resources I promise that you will find healing to be much easier.

As an example I will use Heroic Blackhorn, since that’s currently what my guild is working on, and it’s the inspiration for this post.

For healers this fight has many added “benefits”:

  • We are partnered up with another DPS and you have to be able to run at a moments notice to stand in a Twilight Barrage.
  • There is fire that spawns on the floor.
  • There are things Mobs charging random players, including you, that you have to move out of.
  • Ever 30 seconds there is a Twilight Onslaught that everyone needs to stack up on and you have to be able top everyone off right after.

That’s just Phase 1.

This fight is chalk full of raid awareness opportunities. It requires you to time not only your own personal cooldowns so that you are taking as little damage as possible, but you also need to time your raid cooldowns so that you can use them in Phase 1 and Phase 2. You can’t cast Tranquility, as an example, near the Deck Fires, they will spread and burn you alive. Which is, I’m told, the opposite of what we want.

Which is where a little research comes in, and there are so many resources online that you can use to “Learn Yo’self”.

Healing is not for everyone and it takes a special person to really excel at it, but if you can do it, it will be one of the most rewarding game play experiences of your life.


Posted in Cataclysm, Restoration Healing Trees, Voices From The Community

Symbiosis and the Dark Intent problem

So, when the new talent tree updates were released, we also got some new information about how Symbiosis will work. You can read about the mechanic details here, if you haven’t already.

Lets take a look more specifically at the examples of abilities they gave us.

Here are some examples of spells gained through Symbiosis. The spells shared focus on utility, cooldowns, and survival.  (Adding Fireball to a Moonkin’s rotation sounds cool on paper, but wouldn’t actually be fun in the long run.)

Balance: Chains of Ice, Mirror Image, Mass Dispel
Feral: Feign Death (Play Dead!), Frost Nova, Soul Swap
Guardian: Ice Trap, Fear Ward, Consecration
Restoration: Ice Block, Hand of Sacrifice, Leap of Faith
Hunter: Dash
Warlock: Rejuvenation
Holy Paladin: Rebirth
Arms/Fury Warrior: Enrage
Enhancement/Elemental Shaman: Solar Beam

What does this mean? Well, these are a mix of baseline & specialization abilities. They are all mostly cooldowns & utility things. Moonkin for PvE would be able to pick up mirror image from mages to get a damage increasing cooldown relevant to their role in a raid. For PvP, maybe they want mass dispel or chains of ice. Remember that your specialization will have 10 possible abilities to choose from (one from each of the 10 classes). I’m personally really excited to get mirror image for my moonkin in PvE, and I’m going to start recruiting more mages to make sure I can have mirror images in my raid in MoP, since we only have one mage right now.

This is going to be really nice for druids if the allow symbiosis to potentially plug holes in our toolsets (ie. soulswap for feral druid bleeds, iceblock for resto PvP survivability, etc).

The Dark Intent Problem: As part of Symbiosis, you give a spell to the other class you linked with. This is likely going to be the most problematic part of the entire talent. If you were to give the other person things that changed the amount of DPS or healing they do in a raid situation, that could actually cause problems with class balancing (see: dark intent). In my raids right now, I usually complain when I’m moonkin DPS and I don’t get my dark intent, because that impacts how much DPS I can do in my raid. They are actually changing how dark intent works in Mists of Pandaria because of how it caused balancing problems for the caster classes.

However, Blizzard somehow didn’t learn from their mistake with Dark Intent, and are implementing symbiosis to give a whole ability to the class you cast it on. This problem is potentially worse than dark intent because the ability quite dramatically changes depending on who you cast it on. It may also limit how your team lets you use it. For example, in a PvE situation, you may benefit the most when you give it to a warlock, but your raid could require you to give it to a fury warrior, instead, because that benefits the raid the most (maybe your warlock doesn’t really need Rejuv in return). In PvP, giving dash to your hunter is going to be more beneficial than giving battle res to your paladin, although you may benefit more from the ability you would get from the paladin than the hunter. While Symbiosis as a whole is really awesome, it is going to cause all sorts of balancing issues that we need to be thinking about before the system goes live. It might just be better if the druid got an ability but didn’t give anything to their target, even though I think it would be fun for druids to have a super overpowered ability that everyone in your raid wanted. :)

I think that letting druids borrow abilities from other classes is perfectly fine, and is really neat. However, giving abilities to the other classes in return may cause problems and is something we should really think about as the development process goes on.

Posted in Cataclysm, Written By Lissanna


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