An Appreciation for Humulus, The Paladin

Welcome back to me! Just kidding, although I do tend to let the blog get a bit dusty. Laeleiweyn from World of Lae started alt appreciation week where bloggers are asked to focus on a class for that particular week. I think it’s no accident that I just found this activity during Paladin week. In honor of that discovery, I decided to play along. Oh, and um…I’ll try to leave this as a draft until I can get home and add some photos (something I sorely lack in all of my posts).

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Humulus with his first set of tier gear and first heroic loot drop!

Although my first toon was technically a Warlock on Azjul-Nerub back in BC, I don’t technically count that toon. I don’t think I even got to level 30, and I thought using his sword on auto-attack was a good idea as a filler spell. This was a 3 month affair and then I hung it up, because I simply wasn’t having fun.

A friend invited me back to the game and I accepted and rolled my “real” first toon. This was the first one I’d give a shit about anyway. I rolled this paladin having every intention of raiding, even though I didn’t even know exactly what happened in a raid. I just knew my friend did it 3 times a week and he loved it, so by the gods, I was going to do it too!

Memorable Moments With Humulus

I’ll never forget one of my first mentors for my pally. A woman in our guild who raided with a Resto druid had a Prot/Holy Pally. I wanted to go holy for my off spec and she walked me through my first few dungeons as a healer. I healed all the way from 75 – 80 in random dungeons, and I did ok at it. This wasn’t the memorable part though. When Cata launched, I had switched my main to my Resto Shaman, but Humulus was the first alt to get the nod. I decided I wanted to learn to tank on him. I leveled all the way from 80 to 85 by questing as a Prot Pally. I had a few folks whisper me along the way and ask why I was doing it that way, and I could only respond that I was trying to get comfortable with my abilities, and this was the best way to do without putting a whole 5-man in awkward situations. I already knew that early Cata Heroics were absolutely brutal on healers, so I didn’t want to be that noob tank when I finally got there.

As luck would have it, Dreyhana (the mentor I spoke about earlier) had also switched mains to her Pally as Holy. So here’s the memorable part. When I finally dinged 85, I asked in guild chat who wanted to come with me for my maiden voyage, she volunteered to heal. After completing Deadmines (really? My FIRST heroic is freaking Deadmines?!), she whispers me: “you’re brave. Even I don’t have the balls to tank this expansion.” Of course I reassured her that she was a great player, but I have to admit I felt really good that we made it and got feedback from a player I admired. Humulus has been a main spec Prot Pally ever since, even helping lead an inexperienced guild through all of Cataclysm content, after I had taken a step back from hard core raiding on my Shaman.

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Humulus on the most badass mount in the game.

Yeah, we’re stepping backward a bit on this one. Back to WotLK. So after being really bad in the few times I got to raid with the guild, I finally showed enough improvement to where I was granted a legit trial spot on the raid team. On the last night of ICC before Cataclysm launched, the GM decided we would wrap up mount achievements on 25 man. I was so damn excited. It was my first (and coincidentally only) raid mount I earned while content was current. In fact, I flew that mount all the way through Cata, and have only recently switched to the Violet Proto Drake as my main flyer, and that’s really only because I finally earned it this year, after completing Children’s Week.

Where is Humulus Now?

Well, he’s still there. I just leveled him to 90 two weeks ago, and I’ve been lazily playing him since then. I’ve actually decided to dedicate him to earning reputations because he has 30 exalted reps and none of my other toons are even close to that. I’ll tank with him in LFR’s, older Tiers, or Flex raiding, I’m sure. He’s also my miner, and has always been my miner, so I do travel around picking up nodes on occasion. But the days of him being my main have come and gone.

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Humulus with his first prot tier set!

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Prepare Ship for Ludicrous Speed!

More big changes for the Big Nasty over the last couple of months. I don’t think I can approach the blog without having something in the way of changes to talk about. That’s ok though. We all deal with constant changes in life anyway…why should WoW be any different?

Guild Leadership

As I indicated in my last post, there were many challenges that came with the mantle of GM on top of raid leading. I knew these components would be present, but I didn’t anticipate the level in which I needed to be involved with them. This was especially frustrating because even out-of-game, I had to place so much focus into what the raid team’s needs were and how to go about filling those needs.

One conclusion I came to is that I really don’t like the Korialstrasz server. While there are great players on the server, the talent pool looking for raid teams was never very promising. You see, I had a few folks who I knew were actually holding the progression back. However, to fill their spots (or force them to play better to keep theirs) was like pulling teeth! Especially if you’re trying to min-max your buffs and debuffs.

Basically, the level of mediocrity within the raid team and on the server was driving me bat-shit. It wasn’t fair to the few of us who were better than our team dictated. It got to the point to where I was spending so much time out of game, trying to solve problems in game that my work was suffering, my grades in my Master’s program were slipping, and I was just not having fun in the game I love so much.

At this point, I reached out to a couple people I trust in game and talked to them about the problems I was having. We agreed that it would be a good idea for me to leave and try to find a replacement raid leader before I did so. Why leave and not just find the replacement? Because I just didn’t feel like I could be on the team in a different role. Plus, I felt like I was relied upon so much that I needed a break from that pressure. I wanted to find a team where if I needed to miss, it wouldn’t be a show-stopper.

During this time, I had reached out to the GM of the very first guild I was ever a part of. If you go back to my very first post and maybe even a couple after that one, you’ll know that I came to this guild by an invite to the game by a really close real-life friend. I left that guild for time constraint reasons and no matter where I went in my travels around the servers, I always felt that they were “home” to me. I told him my situation and that I was interested in coming back to that guild if they had a spot available. Over the course of 2 weeks or so, we both reached the conclusion that I would be a good fit back into <Ludicrous Speed> of Skullcrusher. The added bonus is that I get to be a black-hearted Hordie again!

Behind the public eye in my old guild, I was still working with come people to try to transition leadership over to them. There was a problem though: nobody wanted it. It came down to the last day when I was going to make my departure announcement that night. Only 4-5 people knew my plans, so I knew that it would be letting others down. I struggled with that part of it, because I don’t like to let anyone down at all. Raid was scheduled for 7pm my time as always. At 1pm, my co-tank and fellow officer finally texted me and said “why shouldn’t I try to do it?” I was so happy! I responded “there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try!”

After raid was formed that night, I made the announcement before pulling trash. I transferred GM to him and gave raid leadership over to him that night so I could still be there, but not in that role. After raid, I said my goodbyes, and transferred back over to Skullcrusher.

Even More Change!

I transferred over to my old/new guild not as a tank, but as a main spec Moonkin! This had been my off spec since Mists and I truly enjoy it, but I had never played it as Main Spec so I was really excited for the new challenge. It being my OS, I came into the guild being the least geared by a large margin (13 ilvls—a whole tier’s difference). I hadn’t realized how important tracking a few things were (DoT’s, Nature’s Grace, and their relative position to eclipse). The good news on that is that there is another Boomkin there who I could compare my logs with. I’ve since added some things to my UI that has already proven invaluable to helping me keep an eye on the things that will potentially help me maximize my DPS.

There is some good news and bad news regarding my former guild—the one I created and raid led. They only lasted one raid night after my departure. That saddened me, but on the upside, the good players from that team have since moved on to other servers and guilds, where they have all enjoyed further progression in their new teams, myself included (I had the luxury of being a part of my new guild’s first heroic Elegon kill, which was my first Elegon kill period). We still keep in touch via Battletags, and we have sometimes met in our old vent server to chat while we do dailies or whatever.

And In the End…

“Breaking up” was hard to do, but it ended up serving us all better in the end. Good raiders are now seeing progression, others who lost interest have no obligated feeling to keep logging in, and for me personally, I can concentrate on my class and learning the fights versus trying to troubleshoot 10 people’s performance all the time.

Oh happy days.

First Impressions of Mists of Pandaria

So, here we are one week into Mists and I must say that I am really having a good time overall. I think the continent was very well put together. The landscape is gorgeous, the quests are very fun (the stories—more on other parts in a bit), and everything just makes sense!

Cataclysm was good times for reasons which were mentioned before. But there never was any sort of excitement around the expansion as a whole. My GM mentioned a few months ago that she hated Cataclysm simply because of the lack of color diversity. Not Mists! Even my wife who is on the verge of hating WoW was looking over my shoulder the other day when I was doing Cloud Serpent dailies and said “wow that’s very pretty.” I was very shocked to hear this coming out of her mouth but she was right!

Questing

I took the whole week off for the launch but I could not do the all-nighter thing because I still had to get up in the mornings and get my kids ready for school. Plus, because my job in M-F, 8-5, I took advantage of the time off and made appointments for things I otherwise wouldn’t have (fucking dentist!).

Because I knew that everyone and their sister would be in the starting area for launch, a few of us decided to do dungeons for the two hours I had dedicated to playing before going to bed. It helped us gain XP, and allowed us to avoid the masses in the Jade Forest. When I woke up the next morning though, GAME ON!

I really enjoyed how Blizzard mixed the Cataclysm questing (leading you from place to place) with older style questing (find ! on the map). I also appreciate how if you open your map, you can see quests you haven’t discovered yet. What I enjoyed most, though, was just being in the continent. With the exception for the Dread wastes, which is an absolutely dismal place to be, just viewing all the sites while questing was plenty of entertainment. There weren’t too many cut scenes, but there were enough to provide some background on whatever quest you were doing. And Trolls!!! I wonder what they’re up to in this expansion? More Zandalari to deal with in a future patch, I’m sure.

Although my overall impression of leveling was very positive, there are a couple of things I really did not enjoy about it. The biggest thing I didn’t like is something I think most people are complaining about (those who are complaining that is): quest mob HP. This extends past the leveling experience and into the Daily-grind too. I can understand that level 90 quest mobs for dailies may need to be a bit harder to take down so they’re not entirely faceroll as soon as you ding 90, but I don’t understand nor agree with the fact that level 87, 88, etc leveling mobs take so damn long to kill. It really takes away some of the fun that I’m having otherwise. The only GOOD thing for me and any others who may be leveling in their tank spec is that I could tag anywhere from 3-5 mobs and never worry about getting hit too hard. Sure, it took a couple minutes to down the entire pack, but I didn’t have to wrestle other players for them.

The second thing that I really didn’t enjoy about leveling was how the quest rewards system was working. I didn’t really want to quest in my Bear spec, but I was sort of forced to if I wanted to have the gear to run heroics when I reached 90. Boomkin kills things much faster of course, but the way the loot system was working, your rewards were based on your current spec. Sure, there were a few options here and there along the way that benefitted my Balance spec, but overall not much at all. Now, if I had reversed that and stayed Boomkin to level, my Guardian gear would have been shit instead, which was something I wanted to avoid.

Dungeons

Ok, so at first I was a little irritated over how incredibly easy the dungeons had become, but after a few days, my mind is changed. I think it’s almost necessary to make these 5-mans this “faceroll.” Why? I haven’t met anyone really who plays WoW specifically to run 5 mans over and over at max level (or leveling). They are either a means to get folks some entry level gear, a way to stack achievement points, something to do to kill time, or just getting VP/JP (formerly badges or emblems). In my opinion 5 man dungeons shouldn’t be the three hour Grim Batols we had a few days after Cata launch. For some, 5 mans will be the extent of their PVE end-game experience for a variety of reasons. The only ones who will really be annoyed with their ease will be the hard core folks and they’re most likely looking for challenges in raiding, not 5 mans.

That said, I do like some of the mechanics of some of the fights. Engaging and entertaining (think barrels on Ook Ook).

OMFG Dailies!

Well, what can I say about these that hasn’t already been said? There are just far too many of these and way too much of a required feeling to them to make them really enjoyable. Having a full-time job, I had to choose last night whether I wanted to run some dungeons for more gear, or if I wanted to dailies. I could not do both. Not if I wanted any good sleep anyway. Instead of having a central vendor for JP/VP items, I need to grind the rep out for all the factions in order gain access to their items. Can this stuff be ignored if we jump right into raiding and are successful in our Dungeon blues? Of course! But some of us are not jumping right in, and many more people will most likely need the boost from the Revered Epics in order to be successful in Normal mode raids. Why make it so gated? As I said before: it feels too mandatory.

All About the Choices

It was said that MoP would be more about what the player wanted to do. Well, this is largely true considering the amount of choices we have right now. Which cooking school do you want first? Which faction is most important? Are dungeons or dailies on your priority list? Do you want normal, heroic, or challenge mode? How are you going to utilize your Spirits of Harmony. It adds flavor to the game for sure. Just seems overwhelming at the moment.

Where in the World is Nastiest San Diego?

Wow! What a trip I’ve been on the past few weeks. And I’m not certain that it’s over yet. As you know from my last blog, I left <Adapt> of Spirestone at the end of September to trial with a guild called <Something Novel> on Blackrock. The server itself is a fantastic server just loaded with talented players. Being the noob to the guild, I of course sat out my first week with them as they were progressing on Heroic Ragnaros (25 man). I listened to them on Mumble and was impressed at the level of professionalism and more laid back demeanor while concurrently setting expectations and holding people accountable. That’s the way it should be, in my opinion. Leadership does not have to belittle in order to get the point across. I did sort of laugh under my breath at a comment made by the GM on October 3. After being so close to a kill on the 2nd, when the raid began on the 3rd, he simply said “if you guys are going to dick around and clutter up Mumble tonight, I’m just going to log and go to bed.” Plain and simple. This was about 30 minutes before the raid started.
 
Being in Mumble before raid starts gives players an opportunity to talk to each other about whatever they want to discuss. Sometimes it’s srsbsns, sometimes it’s not. Listening to these guys talk about their classes was just awe inspiring. The details and the “if-thens” they discussed was at a level that was both above anything I had experienced so far, and very welcomed.
 
After a couple of attempts, I had dropped out of Mumble so I could focus on finishing my VP cap for the week. About 45 minutes later, I saw the achievement spam we were all waiting for. Heroic Ragnaros. They killed him, securing US 49th 25 man. Although I was not part of the kill, I was very excited for the guild and couldn’t wait to get the opportunity to kill rag with them. After about 15 minutes or so, I started seeing a lot of folks talking about quitting. I saw things like “I don’t know where I’ll go,” etc. Then, I was seeing the yellow system messages “(player) has left the guild.” Saw that a few times. I immediately passed it off as people joking. I whispered one of the officers about what was going on and he responded with “were you not in mumble?” Uh-oh. “No, I had dropped so I could do other things while you were working on Rag.” “The GM announced that he got a job offer that will make him work too early in the morning to continue raiding. We knew for a couple weeks but were waiting for a new RL to step up. Since nobody did, we’re discontinuing raiding.”
 
W.T.F. I couldn’t really even respond. I was instantly angry. Why was recruiting still happening 6 days before the guild died? Especially irritating was that the officers knew what was going on and most already had other guilds lined up. I felt stuck and lost. Now what the hell do I do? Because of my work schedule, I’m pretty locked into an 8pm PST raiding guild. There aren’t that many out there that I feel compelled to apply to.
 
The next night was a Tuesday and they decided to do one final raid together. I got to do all the bosses with them and picked up a couple items in the process. Of course, they decided to kill Rag on normal just to have an early night.
 
The Journey Continues
 
On the <Something Novel> forums, there was already talk of a separate 10 man run going on Tichondrius with a guild called <Damage per Second> (US 6th 10 man). I was invited to go over and raid with them on a second group and I did that for a night. The idea behind the group was not to be an alt run or casual run but a 2nd progression team. In case future tiers were not linear, it would give the guild an advantage as both teams could be progressing on different bosses. We did 4/7 HM on our first night and I must say that I really don’t know if I like the 10 man environment or not. I had told the team there that I was still apping to 25 man guilds because that’s where I was the most comfortable. In fact, now that I had seen what it was like raiding with best in class people, I was only apping to guilds on that same level. Most of them were in no need of a Resto Shaman and all of them responded that while my app looked good, they just couldn’t justify another Shaman. T12 hasn’t been so nice to us.
 
At this time, I thought I was going to have a massive overhaul on my availability (again), making me available earlier in the evening. So…I went out on a limb and applied to <Blood Legion>. A day later, they want to interview me! Wow! What an honor. Bad news? The schedule change I was anticipating once again fell through and I had to regretfully withdraw my app. Hopefully, if things ever do change long term, I can reapply with them and see what it’s like to progression raid at that level. I’m confident that I can do it.
 
Finally, I started getting some responses on my LFG thread on the forums. <Eternal Reign> even responded but their raid times don’t work with my dookie schedule. One that caught my eye was a guild called <Late Night Pain Train> on Ysera. Their progression was similar to where I was and they were on a PvE realm. I moved over there last week and I’ve raided with them once to get to 6/7 so the regular comp could continue their attempts.
  
So What Now (Revisited)
 
I haven’t the slightest. I need to see what this guild I’m in can do for my personal goals. Don’t mistake that for selfishness. I’m happy to help a guild progress with its goals too. But we’re all in it for some measure of personal satisfaction too, right? I may stop raiding progression. I may move back to Tichondrius. I may take an “alt run in the mean time” offer from another top 50 guild.
 
Either way, I really want to finish this tier 7/7 heroic.
 
Nasty

Offspec Proficiency

If you’ve read my blog to date, you may recall that my current guild is my 2nd guild ever. That means I’ve only completed 2 guild applications. But….I have seen a few out there and all of them seem to ask 1 question that I’d like to evaluate a bit today: “What is your offspec, and can you play it as well as your main spec?” With all the apps I’ve seen, the vast majority of them indicate that yes, they are proficient in either. Some are up front and disclose that they are not as familiar with it or that they don’t have proper gear for it, etc. Most of the time a healer MS will have a DPS OS or a DPS will have a Heal or Tanking OS, etc. About the only exception to that I see are non-hybrids or I’ll see Priests with dual heal specs. Why is this an important question? Well, I didn’t really think too much about it until recently to be honest. But, it really can prove to be detrimental if you’re terrible at your OS.

This past Thursday, we had an issue with attendance. Normally, we have 30-35 raiders on with a healthy bench This week we had exactly 25 raiders online but 9 of them were healers. Not ideal. It was an important night as we were looking to down Heroic Domo and end the week at 5/7 for progression. I was asked to go Enhance for the fight and a couple other healers were asked to go to their respective DPS specs. I was pretty nervous about raiding in Enhance, actually. Sure, I leveled a bit enhance and I use it for dailies…I like watching quest mobs literally melt to the will of my axes! I’ve been fortunate enough to pick up some really solid AGI gear in our raids, including lots of 391 (heroic) stuff. I have a 3 set now and am aiming for gloves to complete my Enhance 4 set. The bad part? As of the time of this writing, I’m not hit or expertise capped, I have not properly reforged to the correct stat weights, nor was I specced appropriately. The good news? I was able to actually be pretty competitive with the other DPS. I was still about 3k behind the actual Enhance Shaman but was beating out many of the other MS DPS raiders. Naturally, I was a bit excited (and obviously I’m bragging just a bit :p) about that but I knew deep down that I wasn’t maximizing my potential.

There were 2 issues which came from that night that really prompted this post.

1) One of the other healers who went DPS was pulling far less than even half of the top DPS numbers (41k vs. 19k).

2) We were hitting enrage timer, meaning we understood the fight and were executing the mechanics but were just taking too long. The excuse we had as a team was “next week when we have all main spec DPS’ers…” Well, I agreed with that up to the point where I was reading an app from a new applicant to the guild and there was that question regarding offspec. If we all answered that question with the indication that we could play our offspec well, where is the validity in the excuse?

So, here’s my charge to anyone who comes across this post: Study up on your offspec. Practice it. Know it. You may be called to use it and when you are, you need to be competitive.

T12 Thoughts and Back in the Saddle

Wow. It’s really been 2 months! I don’t have many followers but I do like writing so I feel as though I’ve cheated myself a bit. I’ve got a few topics I want to go over over the next week or so, which means I’ll finally have some junk on my blog. Hell, I haven’t even taken the time to READ my favorite blogs lately. Thing is…I’ve been back to raiding 5 days a week (sometimes 6, depending on what we’ve got going on). My Tankadin (primary alt) is 6/7 normal and 1/7 heroic already and has 4 set. My main is only 2 bosses ahead really. Is that sad? I’m actually having more fun on my Paladin lately to be honest. Perhaps that’s due to the more laid back atmosphere of the “alt run.” It seems the stressors of this tier keep me sort of agitated on my Shaman most of the time. Not that the tier itself is hard…it’s just things have/are changing within the guild and my personal life which cause me to stay a bit more stressed than I like. Oh well.

So what do I think of T12? I think it’s far too “CD Rotation” heavy to be honest. Too much single target healing to feel like Shaman are competitive. Sure the burn phases really allow us to shine since we’re all stacked up nice and pretty. But then that even changes depending on difficulty. Let’s take Majordomo Staghelm for instance. On normal mode, we take 10 slashes in Scorpion 1, 7 in 2nd, and 5 in 3rd. During those times, we can really pump out some HPS. On cat phases, the spread is generally too great to take full advantage of how we’re built. By contrast, heroic difficulty strategies put the raid in Cat phase for the vast majority of the encounter. This completely changes a Resto Shaman’s approach to the fight.

I do want to talk a little about Shaman healing in general here and how it relates to the “spread out” phases of the tier. Sure, we arguably have the absolute best single target burst potential, but we’re really not designed that way are we. One ould argue that we’re all healing rain and chain heal in 25 mans and I’d agree with that to some extent, but if you really get down to it, those are not are best true healing spells, regardless of how they show on the meters. They’re our best stabilizing spells. They don’t hit for much at all (maybe when hitting a riptide/ES target or both, things change) but they keep everything nice and level. What those spells REALLY do for us is provide that Earthliving tick and buy us a little time for single targets. That, in my opinion, is what Shaman healing boils down to. Stabilization and Earthliving HoT’s.

So where does this tier fail? The 4 set. The Shaman 4 set is wrapped around not losing a GCD really. We all know that Riptide target is going to greatly increase the overall throughput of the chain heal we cast. That’s fantastic for Beth’tilac burn phase (longest time advantage of the tier), it CAN be great on Rhyolith depending on the heroic strat your raid adopts, it has short spurts of greatness on Domo on scorpion stacks, has no value at all on either Shannox or Baleroc, and can be valuable exactly 3 brief moments in time on Ragnaros (normal) if you get 3 seed phases. There certainly exists the argument out there that one can “train the raid” to be a little more grouped but I’ve found that to be a futile endeavor.

I think the fights are fun and provide unique challenges to the raid as a whole. I actually enjoy the tier. I do think Shaman were a bit shafted witht he tier bonus though. That’s not necessarily a QQ moment for me. I still get raid spots and deal with it. I would just like to see some changes on the next tier.