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A fond Farewell

October 24, 2010

Hi folks.

I got to first apologise for leaving this blog hanging for so long. My friends ingame have seen how little I’ve been playing recently, and that’s due to a lot of real life calls. As with most blogs as they wind down, the responsibilities and pulls of that vast game of real life are now getting too much to manage alongside the life of my Paladin. Something has to give, and really, it has to be this blog as a project. I’ve very much enjoyed writing for all of you and the attention this blog has received, but the fact of the matter is I have a suffering parent to look after, a full time University course with plenty of overtime to manage, and my enthusiasm for playing Zal since the patch has just gone down the drain.

Tam gave an excellent summary of how healing feels for him, and indeed myself since the patch in his post ‘Back to the Drawing Board’, especially his comments on Paladin healing. I can enjoy the new Paladin healing in 5 mans, but in raids, it just doesn’t fit in anywhere. Not strong enough to tank heal, not effective enough to group heal. At least speed is no longer a problem, making us excellent PvP healers. But as I’ve stated before, I’m not a fan of PvP healing without intelligent people on my side.

I’ve been popping onto Zal and various alts when I can grab a few minutes to try my luck on the Headless Horseman, and spent an enjoyable Friday evening with Els and the guild gang blasting through old world raids. It was all very enjoyable, but it highlighted to me the nicest part of the game now for me is the social side of things, rather than playing my characters. I’ll be social in Cataclysm, in all likelyhood, trying leveling in the new old world and chatting to the guild. I’ll miss out on the new raiding scene, but I just haven’t got the time or motivation anymore.

I’ve left this blog intact, as I have plenty of fond memories around it, and it stands as a testament to the peak of my WoW lifetime. I’m also leaving up all the resource pages, despite the fact that the all of the class guides and even the Things you might not know series will be defunct very soon, with the incoming Shattering of the world.  If I break a leg next year or something similar, I may be back and posting regularly again, but don’t hold your breath. I’m still contactable through twitter, and any major announcements about this Blog or whatnot will be made there. Again, don’t expect a hive of activity, just pointing where to go!

Best wishes to all of you, I hope you enjoy your WoW experience through Cataclysm and beyond. It’s been a pleasure.

-Zal, logging off.

Holy PTR Impressions

October 4, 2010

Ok, I managed to get back on. Character recopied, respecced, fully TEG’d, infact. Well, close. I can’t seem to get rid of old Glyphs using the new Vanishing powder, so my Light of Dawn is annoyingly nerfed. However, I’m sure that’ll be fixed for live.

Throughput:

It appears to have shifted to a more dynamic system. I didn’t think I’d like this when I read about it, but this is why actually trying these things is so important.

Current Model: Spam Holy Light on healing target for big numbers. One Beaconed target can be forgotten about till Beacon needs a refresh. To save mana in low damage phases, some Flashes of Light and Holy Shocks can be used.

PTR Model: Holy Shock every time it’s off cooldown for reasonable and instant heals. Daybreak allows for multiple Holy Shocks. The resultant Speed/Infusion of Light Procs from these many Shocks means speedy spamming of Holy Light laced in as filler healing, and increased speed Divine light for maximum top up. Word of Glory at 3 Holy Power is nice and powerful, and basically a free and instant Flash of Light (the new beefy one). Beacon can no longer be forgotten about, but can instead be healed for insane Holy Power generation. And… healing with lasers (see below.)

Mana:

Well, I really can’t imagine the values are in. I healed 3 heroics on the PTR, and didn’t drop beneath 95% mana. And to cap that, there were no deaths, even after insane dpsing Hunters and Ele shammies pulled aggro multiple times. PTR model is more versatile, more effective and more efficient. I’m thoroughly impressed.

Buffing:

Kings and Might as raidwide reagent-free instant cast hour long buffs? I think I’m in heaven. Seal of Insight uses the animation of Live’s Seal of Light, which is pretty awesome (that is to say it is both awesome and pretty.)

Healing with lasers:

As the image at the top of the post shows, I love the new heal: Light of Dawn. Contrary to most bloggers and articles comments I’ve read about the spell, I had no trouble remembering to and finding decent uses for this spell. It looks great, and has a cool sound effect. What’s more, as far as I can tell, all the healing you do with it adds up into one big heal that goes onto your Beaconed target too, so if you’re worrying if you can fit it in whilst tank healing, you sure can! I was healing about 3-4k with that stupid Glyph I couldn’t get rid of. You may think that’s not much, but once you start putting up all sorts of things like spell power and crit buffs, it can go a bit further. It’s basically like a slightly weaker Holy Light on everyone that’s caught in it, so a lovely tool for topup.

What I can’t test:

Cause this is PTR and not Beta, I can’t test Divine Radiance. As versatile as Holy Paladins feel now, the AoE healing spell will fill the last niche Holy Paladins currently lack; group healing. Light of Dawn is a top up, not a reliable restorative spell for persistent AoE damage. That’s where Divine Radiance comes in (or so I’m told.)

Heal on, my friends. The Sunset of Spamming is sinking into the distance, and we can now eagerly await the Light of Dawn. (See what I did there.)

-Zal

Foolish Mistakes and Wild Successes

October 2, 2010

I know it’s been a while. I’m a busy person now. I’ve yet to figure out my life enough to feature all the things I want it to, so I’m sorting what I can, when I can. Fear ye not, I haven’t abandoned you all.

Raiding. Whether you find it hard or easy, stressful or relaxing, some things never change. And that is people’s tendency to make extremely badly timed mistakes. I don’t know what this is, whether humans breed some kind of ‘Doom Gene’ that makes you trip up at your wedding, forget your Graduation speech, or (more relevantly) press DI instead of Divine Shield when targetting the main tank and with the boss at 5% health.

No, don’t worry, I didn’t do that.

But amusingly enough, I did do this:

Yes. That is me, chaining ice blocks into the raid at 0.6% of the bosses health. 10 seconds earlier and I would have cost us the kill. As it was, there were enough people left to take off the last of her health, earning us the kill, achievement, and Rank #6th Guild on the server in terms of progression. And I nearly screwed it up. I don’t know how I managed it. As you can see, I wasn’t even healing at the time. I just thought I was in the right place, and I was wrong. Thankfully, in the joy of the kill, it was all pretty much forgotten. The people I’d locked down, and myself, were freed, and many celebrations were had.

But I still screwed up!

That fight is a tough one, but I could tell you the tactics back to front and would probably have had a less than friendly attitude if one of the other raiders had done it. Except it was me, and I don’t know how it happened.

The other foolish mistake of the evening belonged to a particular Warlock. As a treat for the guild after our first SG HC kill, we were taken to Ulduar to have a crack at Algalon the Observer (a fight I only recently did on 10 man, and never encountered on 25.) We gathered round the sparkly chap, in all his glory. Our raid leader started spooling off the tactics for people like myself and others who hadn’t ever tried this before. We listened intently, and he was about halfway through when suddenly – Algalon started yammering away about our presence, and how it was illogical. In other words, someone had engaged the encounter. There was a lot of swearing and hasty buffing, and we launched into the fight half prepared.

However, I always keep one eye on the screen when I’m listening, as people often add decent advice into the chat to go with tactics… and a particular Warlock minion wandered forward, took one wide axe swing at Algalon, and wandered off again. The master of this errant demon seemed to have no idea how it happened either, and didn’t stop apologising till way after it went down.

Everyone seems to do that sort of thing at some point. There isn’t a raider I’ve seen that hasn’t, at some point in their raiding career, done something so mind-bendingly stupid that wipes the raid (or seriously disadvantages them). I’ve seen respected and sensible people auto-run into bosses. I’ve seen bosses pulled through auto-shoot, Blink and Eye of Killrogg. I’ve seen accidental DIs, taunts from melee dps, heroism popped on trash and so on. I myself have probably made every mistake in the Paladin book. I have DIed a tank before now. I have cast Hand of Sacrifice on a tank when my bubble was on CD, one shotting myself. I’ve used lay on hands on a Hunter Pet that got in the way as I clicked on a tank. As a HEALER, I managed to accidentally taunt Sartharion.

Who knows what makes people do these things? Answers on a postcard, please…

-Zal

PTR Pictures (4.0 Ability Spoilers and Pic heavy post)

September 27, 2010
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Hallo all. As you may have noticed from my last couple of posts, I was more than a bit peeved that I wasn’t able to bring you some decent PTR stuff. My impassioned cries did not go unheeded, and my dear friend Huntyman sent me over his PTR screenshots, complete with his exploration of the buggy world and the experiments him and I did with our character abilities, before they were wiped. Enjoy!

This early stuff is before the main characters copied – the Azerothian sea was gone!

This here is an example of what I call an ‘Interesting Programming Bug.’ Somewhere in the process of allowing Flying mounts in the Old world on the Cataclysm beta, they removed the restrictions on using them at all. Thus, you could use all flying mounts like 100% ground mounts. I like it, personally.

Aura (except someone had stolen that name, curse them, so rechristened Amythiel for the PTR) with all her lubly shadow army destroying target dummies.

And then Hunty suggested I put on a Gnomeregan Pride. I like the cut of his gib.

And a surprisingly random visit from Omar the Test Dragon… don’t ask.

With many thanks again to Mr Huntyman for his pictures. Sadly, neither of us got to test it that long before the wipe, but at least he documented it!

-Zal

An update for my dedicated readers

September 20, 2010
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I would like to apologise from the lack of posts recently. My WoW time, and indeed my leisure time, has been reduced by roughly 90% what with me starting University. I’ve barely managed to play at all, so I have no massive personal updates to give. I have just about enough time each day to log in to try for the random LFD Brewfest – I managed to get Zal a Kodo (which he already had) and three Tankards o’ Terror, which I hope will sell well. I also enjoyed Pirate Day, and the costume persisting through death now.

On the Beta front, there are lots of interesting changes that seem to pour in every day, I’m starting to lose track of them all. I’m not really in the best situation to tell you about them, as I am neither in the Beta nor have I got the patience to hang around for a slot on the overflowing EU character copy for the PTR (which recently blanked all previously copied characters, incase you didn’t catch my last post.) If and when the massive class changes come to live I will blog till my heart’s content about them all, having many alts that will be affected by these changes as well as the Zalduun himself.

Don’t expect any major posts from BoF for a while, as I will not have settled into anything like a regular schedule until the start of next week at the earliest. Busy times!

-Zal

PTR… or not

September 19, 2010
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I was going to bring you a long and interesting post about my recent forays into the updated Public test realm, complete with Screenshots, witticisms and more. However, they’ve wiped my characters. I assume everyone has had this; I certainly have. I’m not going through another 13gig of download and a possible two day wait for character copying again when I only have today left to enjoy myself!

So.

I can only give you a rough, and sadly entirely text based impression from the time I spent on it yesterday, the few hours I got that came between the hideously long character transfer wait and before it went down for maintanance :

Holy Paladins

Scarily changed. Several spells seem to have swapped roles. The power of our healing across the board seems to be down, but with Holy Shock, Daybreak and Word of Glory, we can put out rapid healing faster than before. Light of Dawn looks shiny but heals for pathetically insignificant amounts. We’re still not very mobile healers, and I doubt we will be till we can level up in the expansion and grab Holy Radiance. I have no idea how well I’ll do at healing in a raiding situation yet, seeing as the only way I can put out the same amount as Live Zal is to drain my mana in 20 seconds or so. Hmmm.

Retribution Paladins

I don’t know what’s going on here. Or rather, I do, but I have no idea where I’m going wrong. I had recount up on the PTR. I know how Rets have changed, and the principles behind their new rotation for both single target and AoE. I believe I was specced correctly. There were no obvious omissions to explain why my DPS dropped by more than 4k from live to PTR. I can only hope recount was broken, seeing as my dps did not improve after an hours close study and practice, with an average ilvl of 271. I may have to hand in my Retribution badge.

Shadow Priests:

Now with even more ways to make your life a misery! Not content with stuns and disarms and silences, there’s also now a 4 second stun after a Mind Blast crit! Hurrah. The big new draw of Shadowpriests is however the Shadowy Apparition talent, or ‘My little army of darkness.’ When this hits live, you’ll see what I mean.

Hunters:

Crashed in Dalaran. Wasn’t able to get back on him. Yay.

And that’s about it. Hurrah for forebodings! I’m hugging the live realm like anything now, I’m not certain I want these changes to come… Glad I had the chance to find it out.

-Zal

Balance and barking up the wrong trees

September 16, 2010
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Balance in this case meaning the much sought after design of class which is equally powerful in any scenario you care to dump it into. This post is not about balance between the classes; that’s a more simple rant: X class is more powerful than Y class, and the next month it all gets shaken up again. Generally, these things are down to how well you can play your class (despite the fact that many Paladins moan on the forums about Retribution Paladins having no gap closer or interrupt, it doesn’t seem to have hindered my PvP progress.) No, what I’m talking about today is the balance within each individual class, so that it performs well in both PvP and PvE.

This is a nightmare to get right, and I’m not completely certain why Blizzard still persist in it.

I’ll give you an example of a very PvP centric spec – Frost Mages. Through TBC and a lot of Wrath, this was the premier Mage PvP spec. No-one took it for raiding; it was a clear 2k dps behind Arcane and Fire in Wrath. Did this mean that it was a terrible spec? No. Frost’s skills lie in keeping the enemy in place, and if they get to you, making sure you can get away or protect yourself. Skills like these are irrelevant in raiding, as all casters stand at the back and throw their magic at bosses and adds without any fear (hopefully) of attracting a bosses attention. The ironic thing is, if you did overaggro as a Frost mage, you couldn’t even defend yourself against a boss. Most of them have inbuilt CC and slow resistance to stop any abusive mechnics (such as taking 25 dps with slowing abilities and infinitely kiting.)

Later on Blizzard mentioned Frost amongst the specs they felt they had really failed at. I haven’t got any direct quotes, but it went something along the lines of ‘We would love to have all specs of all classes effective in both scenarios (PvP and PvE) and we feel we didn’t deliver that to everyone in Wrath.’ They also mentioned Beast Mastery for Hunters and Subtlety for Rogues as specs they felt did not shine in all areas.

I don’t wish to be rude about Blizzard, but I feel they’re barking up entirely the wrong tree with this. (I had it pointed out to me that this might be a Britishism that doesn’t translate, I mean I think they are pursuing a foolish idea and will continue to do so. Also it’s a funny pun because it’s barking up the wrong tree… harf harf harf.) Trying to balance specs for PvE and PvP is a veritable mine-field.

Take Shadow-priests. Earlier in the expansion, they were laughably weak. They could be splattered down in a few seconds, their defensive abilities could be broken through very fast and their only real method of saving themselves was Dispersion and Trinkets. This is… kind of still the case, but the whole setup has changed. With the simple fact that Shadowform caused DoTs to benefit from haste (not all of them I think, but the significant shadow ones) Shadow Priests became insane in PvP. They are still fairly squishy, but it’s not a squishyness you can take advantage of in a 1v1 scenario. They can stack you up with a line of dots, maybe a CC or two so you don’t remove them or heal, and you’re dead. With the slowing part of Mind flay and the Psychic Horror (stun and disarm), and indeed their own special brand of instant cast AoE fear, they can lock down virtually any target and nuke them to death.

You might say ‘So what? They’re having their day, like every class does. It won’t last.’ Maybe not, but it’s an inescapable truth that Shadowpriests became this way because they were under-performing in raids. You barely ever saw a raid with a Shadowpriest in before, even the top guilds in the world only took one for whatever buffs they bring. But now, you see a lot more of them. The haste change brought them in line for damage for PvE, and yet it translated into PvP as a major nuke bomb.

You may think I’m overstating their powers, or I don’t know how to counter a Shadowpriest properly. I’m not certain there is any way to counter a Shadowpriest for me. A Shadowpriest of any gear can lock me down and have me nearly dead by the time I get to them in a fair fight, regardless of the cooldowns I use. And they can remove my Bubble, stop me healing, and if I finally raise my axe above their squishy head, they break into their component molecules and speed away. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve killed plenty of them, but it’s never been whilst I’ve been their primary target of damage. I’m not complaining about their amount of control, or there massive toolbox (much, although Mana Burn can go jump in a lake) more that their damage is so overtuned right now a Priest in Blue gear that can find his primary damage buttons, and the control ones mentioned above, can kill me with ease.

This may seem like a bitter tirade, and you may have a point, so I’ll launch off on a different angle, this time from the opposite direction. When I first started Paladin healing, they had a bigger toolbox. Now that toolbox is all tangled up in each other, unable to use one cooldown without locking out the rest. I’ll give you an example. Take the Kel’thuzad fight. The tank tanking Kel takes a lot of damage. Healable through, obviously, but it was a fair amount in the day. There’s also a lot of stuff to watch out for on the outside, including Ice Blocks and Void zones (I forget the precise names.) Just imagine a couple of nasty things happened to me at once. I’m on low health, something is about to go boom nearby me, and the tank is on 10% HP. Panic! I bubble, use Lay on Hands on the tank, then pop my Avenging Wrath & Trinkets Macro and spam heal myself, my Beacon of Light meaning I can safely save both me and the tank. Overpowered? Maybe. Was it hurting anyone by being overpowered? No. Did it mean that raids were flooding with Holy Paladins? No. There was no issue with it. But look on the other side of the coin…

Retribution Paladin is chasing you in PvE. Say you’re a Warlock for example. You’ve DoTted him up, and then feared him and started to Soul Drain. You’re on 45% health, but he’s about to die. Suddenly, your debuffs on him are wiped clean as he spins around, a massive bubble protecting him from all harm. He proceeds to Lay on Hands back to full health, pop all his cooldowns and nuke you down from within complete invulnerability, and you die. He comes out with full health, and you come out dead, no matter how you both started. This is bad PvP – a nasty bullet you just have to take because there’s no way for your class to get around it (like fighting a shadowpriest). Other classes whine on the forums about how overpowered that is. Developers realise the truth in this, and they make it so that Avenging Wrath cannot be used whilst bubble is up, or 30 seconds after, and so that Lay on Hands puts a bubble debuff on you, so you can’t use Avenging Wrath OR Bubble for another minute or two. This is all fine in PvP, and probably what was needed to bring them in line. But you push down on one end of the scales…

Myself as a poor raiding Paladin on p3 of heroic Putricide 25. A few people are dead, and someone managed to get Malleble goo all over MY SPOT. No-one is to invade Zal’s spot as Zal cannot move from his spot because Zal cannot heal P3 Putricide whilst moving, but someone didn’t realise how important Zal is to the success of the fight (ego trip) and got him covered in Haste killing, damaging ooze. Bummer. I pop my bubble. In that global cooldown, plus the heal I got halfway through casting before realising what had happened, the tank might well have gone from 100% health to 10%. Previously, I would have been able to use Lay on Hands and then pop everything I had to keep him up. Now I have a choice between praying that another healer is a microsecond away from landing a massive heal, and start one of my own massive heals, or using an instant (but crap compared to tank health) Holy shock. Whatever I choose, the tank might die a few seconds later, simply because I had to try and save myself to try and save them. Why has this happened? Because they had to give our abilities all these inbuilt links to stop them being overpowered in PvP.

Is it just me, or is that plain wrong?

The way I’d do it? I’d have it so there was one spec you could ONLY use in PvP. It could come in the form of Tabs for your talents, much like Dual spec is today. PvE one, PvE two, PvP. You could only challenge someone to a dual, queue for a BG or Arena if you were first in your PvP spec. Likewise, you could only enter a raid instance or use the LFD tool if you had one of your PvE specs on. This would cause a firestorm from the community, as everyone loves things how they are etc etc etc, but I truly believe that would be a MASSIVE step in the right direction for making this game more popular to play. They could even make the specs auto-switch. I’d happily hand away any of my specs to PvP. If they told me Paladin’s Holy spec was going PvP only, and for PvE I’d only have access to Prot and Ret, I’d be alright with that. At least I wouldn’t be being jerked around by something that didn’t affect me.

I mean, they could even do it in a way that didn’t affect anyone. How about a PvP mirror for your Dual spec? If you’re doing PvE, you have a Holy spec like it is now. If you’re doing PvP, you have a different talent tree to fill out. This would mean upkeep of 60 trees for Blizzard, which sounds daunting. But they make money through the wazoo. I don’t doubt if their lead designers though this was the way to go that they couldn’t finance the extra developers and whatever else.

Whatever it is, I’m tired of having my favourite playstyles jerked around in the name of fairness. (In the past, Beast Mastery Hunters, Holy Priests, Blood Death Knights, and now Holy Paladins.) I fully understand the need to keep people level in both PvP and PvE. I just wish they were seperate ballgames, because sometimes a class starts to lose its appeal when it has its already limited powers cut down even further because of the way the system works.

-Zal

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