Today’s Voices from the Community post is brought to you by Arec, A resto druid from <House of Flying Daggers> on Crushridge (US). Sometimes, it is important to realize that raiding isn’t the only way to play at end-game. Today’s post comes from someone who focuses on 5-man healing, and is talking about his experience with surviving PUG 5-mans in Cataclysm.
“Casual” adj. – not regular or permanent
Casual. It’s almost a dirty word among the WoW community these days. It seems so many players are angered by Blizzard’s steps to make this wonderful game accessible to players like myself. My wife and I work full time, have 4 kids in school, 3 of them active in sports. We have little time to devote to each other, let alone to a video game. One way we do enjoy spending time together is adventuring in Azeroth after the kids are tucked in. I tend to log in more than she does, mostly because I’m a night owl. Sometimes I’ll get a couple hours of play time in the evening. Sometimes I’ll not log in for a few days. I would love to play on a daily basis but reality says otherwise. If this sounds familiar, then we belong to the same club: The Casuals.
Transitioning from WotLK to Cataclysm
I started playing a healing Druid in WotLK. I thought, “Wow. this healing gig is easy. Why don’t more people do it?”. I mean, with instant queues and the power to keep the entire group topped off as we steamrolled a random heroic in 20 mins, why were people saying there was a shortage? Then Deathwing came and brought on the Cataclysm. Oh, how things changed then. Suddenly, I was going OOM and I couldn’t keep the tank alive anymore as he pulled an entire room at a time. At that moment, I wondered if it was me or if I had just been grouped with a chain of terrible players. It was neither. Healing had forever changed and dungeon running would require a little more finesse on everyone’s part…but mostly for healers.
We quickly learned that spirit had went from our most ignored stat to our most important. Mana regeneration was key now; so was crowd control. Dungeon parties had to play smarter – and slower – and I really began to enjoy the challenge of healing. I actually had to make a conscience choice in my casting. The spells I never used, I was now needing. The spells I used to spam, I now had to use sparingly. I quickly realized that my entire toolbox of spells was now necessary to heal successfully. I thought to myself, “Now this is what healing should be.” Running dungeons wasn’t boring anymore. It was exciting! Instead of throwing out my HoTs and going to make a sandwich, I had to think. I had to be reactive. I loved healing even more. Then something changed.
The Cataclysm Learning Curve
I began to see less and less use of crowd control. I never realized that healers had the full responsibility of dispelling. I began to see bigger pulls and more AOE damage from mobs. DPS were standing in fire again. Tanks were chain-pulling and in most cases, breaking crowd control because, “It takes too long” and “It’s not necessary anymore, noob. L2heal.” Discouragement set in. One bad group couldn’t be the voice of the community. Surely most players out there still saw the need for CC, threat management and encounter awareness instead of reverting to the ol’ speed runs. Sadly I was wrong. Group after group, I couldn’t keep up with healing. Wipe. Players were expecting me to heal through their carelessness in an effort to finish the dungeon as quickly as possible. I failed. And from that feeling of failure, I laid down my healing roll. Players really can be hurtful.
I activated my DPS spec and began to queue again. Long queue times ensued. I quickly got back into my DPS rotation but it seemed so mechanical. It was like I was on an assembly line. The same rotation on every mob, the same everything. I wasn’t having fun anymore but I was scared to heal again. Literally. I was not going to subject myself to being berated by other players. I thought, “If I’m not going to queue for randoms, maybe being in guild would help.” So that’s what I did. I joined a guild. I told them I was looking to heal but not in random queues. They welcomed me in and really helped me get my confidence back. Being in a guild was a great feeling. I didn’t personally know these people but they were nice, and helpful.
Preparing for battle, casually
There were times when I would log in and no guild mates would be online. This meant I would either spend my time fishing or doing daily quests somewhere so I decided to take on the random queues again. Before I did, though, I did some reading. I realized that I wasn’t playing the best healer I could. So instead of running heroics, I ran regulars to gear better. I bought all the reputation gear I was eligible for. I enchanted, glyphed and gemmed everything I could. I made sure my talent spec was as efficient as possible and reviewed all my bonuses and abilities. I maxed cooking on an alt and traded the food I needed to my Druid. I checked my action bars for ease of use for my spells and made sure I was completely trained up. Then, I queued. Failure.
It hit hard but I began to watch the other players in the party. I decided my play-style of “keep everyone up no matter what” had to go. If a ranged DPS was standing in fire, I had to ask him to watch it. If he didn’t, he died. Not to be a jerk, but because mana was precious. I no longer had the mana to heal players who chose to ignore game mechanics. The tank must survive. I must survive. I have the duty of keeping the party alive but there are four other players who also have responsibility in that dungeon. Tanks have cooldowns that mitigate damage. They need to know what they are and use them. Most do. Now, I don’t want to dish on DPS. However, that seemed to be where most of the trouble came from. Not moving out of bad things, nuking mobs before the tank had aggro, pulling mobs on their own…things were out of control. I just had to keep tweeking my play style and spell choices. I had to find new ways of survivability and new tricks to stave off a wipe. Epiphany. I admit it: I had to become a better healer, and to do that I had to learn to play better. For us casuals, doing that takes time, patience and most of all, perseverance. Running heroics no longer worries me.
If you’re having trouble as a casual healer, I hope my experience has helped you decide what you need to do to improve. My first piece of advice to anyone is to get into a guild that suits your needs. Guilds are great things because they’re groups of players who are just waiting to meet new people, help you out and encourage you. Find one that fits you. Another thing you can do to help yourself is to gear properly, enchant and gem correctly. Go over your spells and make sure everything is trained and what you want is on your action bars. Check your talent spec and glyphs. Restokin.com is a one-stop resource to help you do all of this. It’s a great start for any casual because the work has been done for you. I honestly don’t use mods. I set up the raid bars from the ingame options solely. VuhDo and Healbot are popular amongst healers as they allow you to heal by hovering your cursor over a target instead of clicking to select. Of course, mods and being geared and spec’d perfectly still wont make you a great healer. That’s where running with a guild will really help. It’s OK to make mistakes with guildies. They want to help. You will still find it necessary to occasionally run a PUG. Don’t get discouraged. PUGs have become a hotbed of negativity and impatience. If you go in expecting it, it wont be as bad.
Finding a place to call home
Heroic dungeons are my endgame. I don’t have time to commit to a raid team so I have a realm full of alts. That may not be your case. There are casual raiding guilds out there that recruit casual players quite a bit. I have friends who play other MMOs and only log into WoW to raid twice a week. WoW can be what you make it so enjoy it your way. One change Blizzard has made in the upcoming “patch 4.2″ to help casual players experience raid content is to move the ilvl 359 epic gear from the Valor Quartermaster to the Justice Quartermaster to make room for the new tier. That’s good news all around.
However, you’ll want to spend those Valor Points before the patch goes live as any Valor Points on your character will convert to Justice Points. While valor points are being converted to justice points in 4.2, there is a cap of 4,000 justice points. So, before patch day, you will want to make sure that your total sum of VP and JP are at or below 4,000.
So, I’m a proud casual player that has watched most everyone else pass by me with better gear, cooler mounts, and more time to devote to this wonderful game that we all enjoy and love. That’s not a bad thing, it’s reality. Some people can devote a lot of time to their gaming. In that way, they’ve claimed that World of Warcraft has become more of a hobby to them. Well, I see it as a hobby, too. I may not have a list of prestigious titles or the hottest gear or thousands of gold to spend on sweet mounts. I may not have several hours a week to invest in my digital hobby. There is one thing, though, that every player in WoW shares no matter their level of play: enjoyment. And that’s really the name of the game.