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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

Managing your mana while raiding

Welcome to another installment of “voices from the community’. Today’s post was written by Bouridon, a very talented resto druid that heals with Lissanna in our guild Undying Resolution on Elune (US)!

With all of the OOM-related issues healers are having in Cataclysm, I thought it would be good to explain the best ways to conserve/regain your mana efficiently(as a restoration druid)!

Spirit- None of the following will really matter if you don’t have an adequate amount of spirit for passive combat mana regeneration. While you may have to stack some spirit at lower gear levels (346ish iLvl), once you start getting some purple pixels this will become less important as your gear will provide more than enough. (intellect also provides mana regen from talents, so you still want to gem for int).

Side note- Always have your gear gemmed/enchanted for max healing/regeneration. I will not go further into gearing issues at this time.

Overcasting- We all do this at some points (albeit usually by accident) but you really need to be cautious to not overcast(especially HoTs). By this I mean, don’t Wild Growth when only a few people are taking damage and try not to put Rejuvenation on someone if 50% or more of the duration will be over-healed. As for cast time heals:

  • Nourish: Feel free to use this as much as you like as it is our most efficient(and practically free) heal. Try to use this on someone with a HoT already on them.
  • Healing Touch: Primarily, you will be using this much more when assigned to tank healing as opposed to raid healing. There will be times that you need to cast this on a DPS taking a lot of damage, which is fine. However, don’t use HT on someone who can be easily healed with your HoTs/Swiftmend, as it is a waste of mana.
  • Regrowth: I suggest rarely using the current version of Regrowth unless you have an Omen of Clarity proc, as it is very mana intensive(and heals for fairly small amounts). I’ve found using Regrowth on a tank (and sometimes a DPS) may be completely necessary to keep them alive and thus should be done intelligently (don’t spam) and not too often.

Lifebloom- You should always keep a 3stack of Lifebloom rolling on someone (usually a tank). This is because Lifebloom is now the only way to get Omen of Clarity while healing(with talented Malfurion’s Gift).

Clearcasting(OOC)- OOC only lasts 6 seconds now and makes your next cast-time spell free of mana. The only healing spells that will consume the proc are now: Healing Touch, Regrowth, and Swiftmend. Use your best judgement on whether you should use Regrowth or Healing Touch on your target. Never consume an OOC proc with Swiftmend, as it is very low on mana cost.

Innervate- This regenerates mana equal to 20% of the casting druids MAX mana on yourself (or current target) over 10 seconds.

  • For 2+ Restoration druids: I recommend that you each pick up Glyph of Innervate and make a simple macro: /target Bouridon /use Innervate , and set up a chain to get the most out of each innervate. Even if you don’t have 2+ restoration druids in your raid, it is still a good glyph to have incase you need to innervate the OOM Priest/Paladin/Shaman healer(while still getting 50% of the effect).
  • Innervate on yourself: I suggest using it right when you dip below ~80% mana. This will get you another 1 or 2(possibly 3?) innervates depending on the fight. Another thing to keep in mind is that any proc intellect bonuses you get (IE:Power Torrent enchant) will increase the amount of mana you regenerate from this. If you can, wait for an intellect proc and then pop Innervate.

Mana Pots- Always have a stack (or more) of Mythical Mana Potions stocked in your bags before raids as this is a valuable source of mana when you need it! I find myself using them regularly during each raid encounter. I usually use them when I hit about 80% mana after I’ve used my first innervate.

I also recommend that you get some Potion of Concentration for fights where you can take time to regain the mana(IE: Magmaw when he is spiked).

Tree of Life- ToL should be used for 3 purposes(in raid settings):

  1. Solely for increased healing
  2. Low mana/regen + increased healing
  3. LOLWrath Spam

What many druids don’t realize is that ToL should be used to conserve/regenerate mana, as opposed to spamming instant Regrowth and going OOM.

ToL Strategy- If you find yourself needing mana/running low and have Tree of Life off cooldown go ahead and pop it. Now simply sprinkle Lifeblooms across the raid (this will cause a high amount of Omen of Clarity procs). Use Instant Regrowth/Healing Touch on the OOC procs. You will find yourself healing for a lot with relatively no mana cost while still regaining mana through your passive combat regeneration.

Side Note- On a fight like Phase 2 of Chimaeron for example(all healing on everyone reduced by 99%), Tree of Life can be used for boosted 1 sec cast-time Wraths for extra damage on the boss.

If you have any questions leave them in the comments section and I will respond promptly.

Posted in Restoration Healing Trees, Voices From The Community

Raiding on high latency (by Garnaph)

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of “voices from the community” posts at Restokin. I am happy to report that my request for guest writers was very successful! So, this “voices” series is featuring guest writers from the druid community, who will be writing on a number of different topics over the next few months (about once a week). These writers have  a wide variety of experience and opinions. I hope you enjoy their posts!

Hi everyone, my name is Garnaph, I play a Tauren Feral Druid (often raiding in my Resto or Boomkin offspecs) on Twilight’s Hammer EU, run my own guild <The Exodus>, and raid lead a 10 man raiding team, 9 of whom are based in South Africa. We’re currently 11/12 normal, busy bashing our faces against Nefarian.

I’m going to give an overview of what it’s like to raid in a high latency environment. Most players who are based in the US or the EU are used to sub 50ms pings, and refer to anything over 100ms as “unplayable”. I constantly raid on 300-400ms, and that’s a good connection. To us, bad is when it gets to 700ms or higher.

For those unclear on what this means, the ping-time is your return trip time for a message to be sent from your PC to the WoW server, and for your PC to receive a reply. What this effectively means is all of your actions have a “lag” on them, which dramatically alters how the game works. So any action can go off anything up to a second after you intended it to. Your actions happen that much later than you intend them to.

Take a look at how we’re connected to the rest of the world here and here. Within the US or EU, you’re connected to the WoW servers via a large number of land-based fibre-optic connections, which results in extremely fast return-trip times. See that tiny little line connecting to South Africa from Europe? Every single South African player there is, connects to EU servers via that single line, and it is one hell of a bottleneck. There are other lines going live (one is already live), but there are such terrible stability issues with them right now, I’m not going to give them any mention.

From what I understand, South American and Australian players experience similar problems.

Even when connections are stable, there are many raiding problems caused by the consistent high latency…

Loss of DPS/Healing:

You cast a spell as another spell finishes, but thanks to lag, even though you click when a spell appears to finish on your side, it only actually goes off a half second later. Due to DPS rotations being based on the ABC (Always Be Casting) rule, this equates to a DPS/HPS loss.

The solution for this is fairly elegant. Firstly, the WoW client recently had custom lag tolerance added. This means that you can perform an action up to 400ms before you would normally be allowed to do so, and the server will perform the action for you after the previous action is complete. However, since this only accounts for 400ms, it’s not a complete solution for those with over 400ms. Also, it’s impossible to figure out the exact timing from this as there is no UI element showing you when to hit the next ability.

So, in comes an addon that most playing on lag cannot live without : Quartz is a cast bar replacement, and like most mods you can change the size of the bars, move them around, etc. The part relevant to this topic is that it also displays your current ping as part of the bar. So say you’re casting a 2 second Healing Touch, and you have a 400ms ping, roughly a quarter of the bar will display, showing this lag. The moment the cast bar goes into this red area, you can hit the next action, and it will hit the server roughly when the previous action finishes:

Addons such as pitbull also contain this functionality, but I find Quartz the most useful out-the-box.

The result of this, once you get it right, is that you lose the gaps in your casting due to (from the server’s point of view), actions going off directly after each other.

The combination of the in-game lag tolerance and Quartz means you can imagine a further 400ms gap before the red Quartz bar, and you can hit a spell in that imaginary window instead. If you were to hit a spell 50ms into the 400ms window, you’ll be idle for 50ms. It’s not a train smash, but it is significant. However, as mentioned before, if you hit a spell in the lag tolerance window, it goes off immediately after a spell finishes, which results in zero downtime.

Missed interrupts:

Imagine a boss has a spell that will wipe your raid, with a 1 second timer. Someone’s reactions means they hit interrupt 700ms into the cast, and their 400ms lag means it goes off 1.1s after the spell started casting. They hit the button at the right time, but the interrupt failed due to it hitting too late.

This one is a constant pain for high lag raiders. Usually the solution is to find the melee DPS with the lowest ping (normally someone with an expensive ADSL account with 250-300ms), and put them in charge of interrupting said ability. Alternatively, spells such as Curse of Tongues also work wonders to slow cast times so they are actually interruptable. If a boss is immune to curse of tongues, you’re in big trouble.

Our biggest problem in this regard was Maloriak, whose abberations cast time was increased in a patch, and only after that was it easily interruptable by any raid member.

“I was out of it I swear”:

Thanks to high latency, things will hit you in raids that you were not standing in on your screen. The only way around this is to be literally one step ahead.If you have 400ms, think of where you were 0.4s ago. That’s where you still are as far as the server is concerned. We recently had a lot of trouble with this on Al’Akir, where someone would run into the gap in a squall line, and then would get pulled into a tornado halfway through the line (not even the one next to the gap). The explanation of course is the server thought they were somewhere else.

The only real way to get around this sort of thing is to stand in the right position a good second or two before you would normally need to, and let the effect pass you by, rather than running through it.

I’m not going to talk about tunneling (e.g. smoothping) services, as blizzard is in the habit of banning players who use these services, due to their source IP changing without warning (which blizzard identifies as them being hacked). I have friends reporting pings as low as 150ms on smoothping, but I can’t honestly recommend it until blizzard stops the random banning.

Ultimately, the lag is there to stay, and play styles are built around it if you insist on playing wow. As a result we struggle with raid content, can’t compete with low ping players in arena, and some raid content seems entirely out of reach. Until Blizzard decides to start putting localized servers in place to lower the distances involved, we have to accept that this is how things are going to be.

Posted in Druid - General, Voices From The Community

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