Friday, August 15, 2008

New Home

I'm still in the process of playing with graphics, skinning etc... but I got the bulk of everything converted. I have to say... I'm really impressed with the Wordpress platform. Getting things over took a couple of steps, but it saved me about 2 days of work to import things.

My new home is: Please find me there. I'll keep this one up while anyone who's linked to me gets a chance to update links. Bear with me over the next week or two while I play continuously with themes and graphics to get the color schemes right. The RSS feed will be updated to reflect the change as well.

Temporary Slow Down

I'm sorry I didn't feel my post on Hunters specs and their raid utility was quite ready yet. Plus I'm looking at some hosting options. I'm enjoying blogging enough to want to get my own site. So I'm reviewing some options to see if I can get one that matches my needs. I'm probably going to be spending a lot of time ironing out that this weekend and then doing a site move next week so posts may be slow for the next week or so.

Also I'm going to be making the jump from Blogger to Wordpress so expect a little bit of pain while I figure out the best way to transfer everything. I'm also planning on messing a ton with skins and templates so if you need me I'll be fingers to the keyboard grinding on new graphics etc... Its a lot of pain, but better now than in 6 months when I've got 100 posts to deal with.

LF1M Graphic Artist who works for Peanuts :p

Thursday, August 14, 2008

10 Man Vs. 25 Man... let the debate begin

I live in the horrendously quixotic place where my mind can see both sides of a picture in a lot of cases, but lets talk for a moment about my personal view on 10 man vs. 25 man raiding in WotLK. If I were to hazard a guess I would say that 10 man content will go on the rise in WotLK and 25 man content will begin to wane. I've heard lots of arguments both ways.

One of the leaders in another guild in another guild I respect very much said to me, "people will become bored with 10 man and will want to do 25 man". I can see his point, but honestly I just don't see that. I started Kara last year in May and most days I STILL FIND IT FUN.

Top 5 Reasons I believe 10 man will surpass 25 man in WotLK
  1. Ease of getting 10 people together.
  2. Top end guild burn out
  3. Flexibility of Tanks/Healers/DPS
  4. Casual Friendly Environment
  5. PUGing FTW!!!

Ease of getting 10 people together

Just look at today. At the beginning very few if any people showed up on the list except for the best of the best. With the growing desire of smaller guilds to do 10 mans, they have slowly filtered into Karazhan. Sure they weren't the front runners, but they got to go. With Attunements being lifted the accessibility of the 10 man content really drew people in. For my group I commonly refer to Karazhan as the "beer and pretzel's run". We all know it inside and out by the point and its just fun.

Every week I have 10 people signed up and 2-6 in reserve. Getting 10 people together is relatively easy for us. Now if we wanted to do 25 man, it would still be easier to run 2 x 10 mans than running a single 25 man instance. Getting 25 people together in a smaller or medium sized guild IS HARD.

Top End Guild Burn Out

I have a friend over in a guild on Shadow Council who used to raid pretty heavily. 3-4 days per week of concentrated raiding was their target. So they made some decent progress. Over time people started to burn out and get frustrated and eventually it just kind of dissolved. They still pull people in for 25 man content, but its become a real struggle.

Look at the news from the past year. Several very prominent high end guilds just completely dissolved. With this trend, and the guarantee that you will have a progression path in 10 man, its less likely that people will continue to "tough it out" in 25 man guilds if they are unhappy.

Flexibility of Tanks/Healers/DPS

Ok lets face it, the jump from 10 man to 25 man sucked for some classes. In 10 man, you needed 2 tanks, 2-3 healers and 5-6 DPS. To fill a 25 man you need 2-3 Tanks, 7-9 healers and the rest DPS. If you were DPS or Tanks you generally got screwed.. it took 3 10 man teams to effectively fill a 25 man raid. Which in essence means that 2/3 of your tanks got screwed and about 1/3 of your DPS has to sit out regularly. With 10 man you have a lot more flexibility to fill roles in the raid. 25 mans of the past seemed to need certain combinations. If you were number three elemental shaman you may see a run once ever 3 weeks. In 10 man you can probably get in every week if you want.

Casual Friendly Environment

I'm all for keeping things nice and laid back. 10 mans lead themselves to being a bit more casual. Its not to say that you can't have intense jaw dropping fights. Far from it, but for 10 man its not such a big deal to fill in a slot if someone has something come up. In a 25 man its more likely that you need a dedicated team of folks who always show up. Getting over the 25 man can be challenging especially if you have dedicated roles such as like the Hydross fight with certain resistance tanks.

10 man in its current iteration lends itself to being extremely friendly to swapping people in and out as needed. I'd imagine that trend will continue as you can't guarantee in a 10 man that you will always have a Shadow priest. So the fights can't be designed to assume anything.


Ok I'm not a big fan of PUGing myself, but I've read enough blogs and things from people to know it not only can be done, but IS being done. 10 man makes it extremely easy for people to PUG and get a group together vs tracking down 25 people who meet your needs for a 25 man.

BETA - Stop the Presses

WARNING!!!! Priests duck and cover... Downranking is no longer and option!!!!

Ok the sky isn't falling, but I'll be interested to see what the world is going to do. With the latest round of changes Blizzard has sent out, it seems that the world that we knew is no longer applicable. Lets look at some of the more recent changes:

  1. You now get a type of Potion Sickness for the length of a combat meaning that you can't chain pot to make it through a fight. So long fights where you don't have enough mana you CAN'T pot early and Pot often. One shot in every combat... so mana or health or protection... take your pick.
  2. They changed how mana on spells work. A level 1 Frostbolt is going to cost the same as your lvl 12 so... there's no point in downranking. With this change you pretty much have to be casting at max level or you are wasting your time.

At this point it looks like the world will be rewritten a bit here. So anyone can tank anything and downranking isn't an option. It looks like a whole host of new strategies and optimization will be required.

I logged in last night and downloaded the latest patch. I was completely surprised to see that I went from being only 300,000 XP away from leveling to being 1.3 Million points away. Blizzard really amped up the xp requirements. So I'm back tracking to Howling Fjord with my main to check out the quests there. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Under the past XP requirements it felt like everyone would be at lvl 80 in about two weeks and then we'd be all grinding in Naxx. I don't mind at all if its going to take me a month or two to get from 70 to 80. It just means I get to enjoy all of the cool quest lines along the way.

Hold onto your hats.... it looks like WotLK will be a fun ride... and as always expect things to completely change before the expansion comes out.

Views of a Raid Leader

Leading like lots of things can happen from many different perspectives. One thing I've learned is that situational awareness is harder depending on what role you fill. The question is where do you want to be standing when things get weird? Well in this particular post I want to explore some of the common roles raid leaders fill and the advantages and disadvantages of those spots.

As a druid I've filled all four roles in a raid. I've been Tank, Melee DPS, Ranged DPS and a Healer. Yes... my altoholic in a box druid has raided in all three main specs. So lets talk about what I've noticed while leading in each of these three roles and their impact on the raid leader's position.

The View From Behind - Tanks and Melee DPS
"I can't squat through my own big fat @#*!!!!!"

As a tank or melee DPS, frequently your view is quite limited. As a bear tank, all you get to see for a lot of fights is big hairy butt for hours on end. With bears in particular, the angle it drops down too and all you see across a third of the screen or more is your own big butt. God forbid you have to back up against a wall!!! But there are some nice benefits too.


  • As a tank you can set the pace of the raid. You control the speed of pulls as well as the amount of down time.
  • You get to pick the tanking assignments. Want to try XYZ boss? Grats you can try to tank it.
  • You get a close up view of the boss and everything going on.

  • Frequently in boss fights you suffer from a limited field of vision. Any fight where you are forced to back up against a wall you can really be limited unless you are very good at tanking in reverse and messing with your camera.
  • You limit the amount of Off tanks and trained tanks you will have. If you always fill a tank slot you really limit how many other tanks can train up in your instances.
  • You may miss some times if adds appear and some times you are so busy keeping people alive you don't have time to call out on TS or Vent for an issue.
Boxed in - Healers
"The boxes... All I see is Boxes... They blink at me in my sleep"

As a healer you gain the advantage of perspective. You are most times not standing on top of the boss. So you have distance on your side for sizing up the situation. Healers come from all perspectives. Druids have the advantage with their healing of being very mobile. I also am a "mouseover" healer. I LOVE mouseover healing for Druids. With most of their spells being instant HoTs its great to just bind them to keys and constantly hover over the raid frames and just press 1,2,1,1,2,1,1,1,2 etc.. I can quickly heal large swaths of people. But from a raid leader lets look at this differently.


  • Not right on top of the mob. You get a much broader view of the fight.
  • You should know at any given moment where the damage is going in the raid. You'll get a very good perspective on where healing needs to go and when spikes occur.


  • Healers can some times suffer from what I call "tunnel" or "Grid" vision. They get so focused on what they need to heal that they can tune out what's is going on around them.
  • It can be difficult to manage lots of rapid fire healing while watching for boss abilities to call out.
  • Depending on your type of healer, you may not be able to move well and get a decent view on a fight.
  • As a tank healer you need to watch the tanks and can't slack off of healing to adjust things in raid. YOU MUST HEAL.
Flying High and Far Away - Ranged DPS
"See him?? Dude I saw him and I burned him down before you ever got a chance to get a whiff of his stench"

Ranged DPS has a unique perspective on most fights. They have to be mobile enough to move when their target moves as well as far enough away to keep out of the range of special abilities. Of the three roles the easiest one I've personally found to play is Ranged DPS. Whether hunter, warlock, mage, shaman, druid, priest, etc... the distance and situational awareness that I have gained as a ranged DPS has dramatically increased my raid leading.


  • You have a broad perspective on the fight. Spotting problems and adds is easier as you are LOOKING right at the boss or other targets on the screen. You also tend to catch when people are out of place.
  • Limited focus problems. Once you know your spell rotation, you only have to really watch what is happening on the screen and where you are on your threat meter.
  • Its easier to catch threat problems on threat based fights. Generally you focus on the threat meter so catching someone overthreating is easy.


  • If you are doing CC, your focus may be split.
  • Your speed and control is in the hands of the tanks and healers. You have to rely on them to pull at a reasonable pace.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Raiding Review: Kara Speed

We did Kara in a speed mode last night. I think it went fairly well. We had a few last minute cancellations, but we had some people swap around and filled all of our slots pretty easily. For anyone who has never done it, the goal of a speed run is to get in and out as fast as you can with all of the bosses dead.

I got to play back seat driver. As the raid organizer I am helping to train up a few of our new raid leaders. So my job is generally to sit down, shut up and just watch as things progress. Its rather like being a normal raider again with more whispering involved. For our speed runs we typically take 7-8 highly geared characters (basically T5 characters) and haul along 2-3 mid tier or starter Kara characters. It works out pretty nicely as we then aren't sharding EVERYTHING just most things.

We started close to 7:20 and proceeded to rip through the front half of Kara. By a little over an hour in we had Opera down and were ready to go to the back door. We've found from past experience that it takes less time to run out of the instance and in the back door than to kill the "money" mobs. So we skip the money mobs and go around back.

We had a little stumble on Nightbane due to some transition problems. Someone healed during the landing phase and that produced a ricochet effect through the raid of cleaves etc... so we did him again. The next time was just flawless. I of course got my DPS numbers thrown in the toilet for this section as I:

a) Off healed Nightbane
b) Hate the mobs near Curator and the library as half are immune to my bread and butter starfire spell and I KEEP FORGETTING!!!

I'm playing a boomkin at the moment by the way. Fortunately the Curator was really nice and for the first time in months dropped the Warrior/Priest/Druid token while I was there!! Ya!!!!! The entire raid ground to a halt in the next area right after the Curator... we had ONE physical DPS and that just mauled us in the Mana Worm section. Even our tanks were Pally tanks so no help there on the dps. Our hunter pulled us through though. Our mage was so proud though... he got a 434 damage crit with his melee DPS weapon!!! It takes little to amuse us obviously.

Moving on we rolled over the rest of the instance. We had one more hiccup on Prince with some bad bad timing and for the first time ever NO bad infernal drops!!! That's almost unheard of in our group. I mean we are famous for having the perfect kill going and then getting three or four just perfectly HORRID infernal drops. But in the end, we did it. 3 hours 28 minutes and every mob was dead. I got extremely lucky in there. I walked away with:

The T4 Druid Gloves
The T4 Druid Helm
Malefic Girdle

Its an awesome opportunity to be one of the "low" dps people on a run full of highly skilled individuals. Have I mentioned lately I have a full Bear tanking set, full Kitty DPS set, full Treedruid healing set and now an almost complete Boomkin DPS set. Yeah... hi my name is Star and I'm a one toon Altoholic!!!! Ok I have lots of other toons too, but hey my main is an altoholic too!!!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kids and Raiding: Balancing Life with Raid Bosses

Casual raids tend to develop with different rules than other raids. As I’ve said in the past typically there are no attendance requirements. What I mean by that is you don’t HAVE to raid. We don’t require you to raid one or two or five or seven days a week. What I do expect is that if you are signed up to go, you will be there or let me know if you can’t make it.

Does that mean that I’m not understanding if someone can’t make it because of work/family etc? No. Far from it, I’m a strong believer in the idea that Life is greater than WoW. Blasphemy!!! I hear you cry??? No I’m a father of three kids, and I’m forced to live in a world of what I call time sliced. So it is important for me to keep focus on things as we move forward.

Impact of Kids

For your raiders with kids, everyone is going to have different schedules and rules. It’s a fact of life. So you have to be ready to adapt to the situations. Some of the impacts that could occur:

  • Little kids listening to TS/Vent/In Game Chat.
  • Raiders needing to leave briefly to tuck their kids in.
  • Raiders suddenly going AFK because their kid did something.
  • Kids reading the Chat
  • Kids screaming in the background during the raid.

Now don’t get me wrong I don’t want to scare you here. There are things that COULD happen not things that WILL happen. Being a father/mother is a 24x7 job which never goes away. So its not like you can expect raiders to be able to always show up without any kids to deal with.

In my own situation I typically have three kids to deal with at least one day a week that I raid on. So on those nights I’m trying to balance getting people invited to the raid, getting my kids ready for bed, starting the raid, tucking some of the kids in etc… all while leading a raid. My wife is extremely helpful, but some nights she can’t be home or is tied up on other things. In other words, Life happens.

Kids and Vent/TS

As a whole, if you know you have kids who may be listening on Vent or TS, just try to be mindful of what you say. You may find it completely acceptable to swear like a sailor in front of your own kids/relatives/friends, but not everyone does. So it’s advisable to avoid just hauling off with a long slur of bad words if kids might be around.

If you have children it’s advisable to use a head set if possible. I found that a head set was extremely effective for making sure my kids didn’t have to worry about any dirty jokes, off color comments, etc, but it caused a problem that I couldn’t readily hear my wife when she needed to get my attention. So I wasn’t able to use a headset all of the time. The second thing you can do if you have kids is make sure you use “Push to Talk” instead of an open mic. PTT ensures that the rest of the raid isn’t listening to the constant drum of kids in the background.

Raiders and their AFKs

As a raid leader your goal should be to figure out which raiders might have kids in your raid. The reason for this is so that you know if that person might have to run AFK suddenly. Does that mean they should be denied a spot in your raid? No. You just need to be aware that their needs may be different than your average raider. Not all kids are created equal either. Some kids are extremely quiet and well behaved. Some kids will pitch a royal fit every time they go to bed.

As a raider, just try to make sure the raid leader knows if you have a certain schedule. If you always tuck your son/daughter in at 8:00 in the middle of the raid, just let them know your expected schedule so they can plan ahead. If you think you will be gone for an extended period, let the raid leader know so they can replace you if need be. Also if something comes up suddenly, be as honest as you can… more than one of my raids has been reduced to a fit of laughing because someone’s child decided to run up and get mommy’s or daddy’s attention in a spectacular way.

The most important thing to remember is that for raiders with kids they’ve got high priority things to deal with beyond just your raids. Their contributions can be great to your raids, but of course they have life to deal with too. Every parent has their own set of rules in their own house and raids shouldn’t become Parenting 101 courses where you try to educate them on what they’ve done wrong or your personal opinion on what they’ve done.

Tiered Approval

I belong to a fairly large guild alliance on Whisperwind known as SLACK. One item that we've found over time is that it takes a great deal of coordination to get people involved in the alliance raiding and getting them to understand when they are prepared for the various tiers of content.

One way we've recently been addressing this internally as of late is to develop the "laundry list" of approved characters. Allow me to outline how we break it down and what the various tiers mean to our raiders. Bear in mind these are the bare minimum guidelines for what we are expecting. These are some what fluid too. We recognize that not all classes are created equal with equal gear.

NOTE: PTD from Part Time Druid brought up a good point. Please don't view these as the "Hard" rules we use. These are meant as guidelines to help our raid leaders from across 6 different guilds judge their characters and players. As always Skill>Gear, but some gear requirements must be met at times or people's skill can't keep them alive through the encounter. Personally even if you meet these standards people need to be reviewed for their individual performance not just, "hey you met a number". Meeting a number and being a productive member of the raid are two entirely different things.
  1. Karazhan Approved
  2. T4 25 Man Approved
  3. T5 Approved
  4. T6 Approved
  5. Sunwell Approved (not yet developed)

Karazhan Approved

I applaud Blizzard generally for making content available. They started out by making content semi difficult to attain. The attunements were generally put into place to ensure that your groups had at least the minimal gear requirements necessary to walk in the door. For our guild, we've found that once the attunement lifted we've been forced to look closer at how we approve people for Karazhan.

For my group I generally allow any raid leader to approve someone for Karazhan. This is for two reasons. The first is simple... I'm not online every night and I want people to have the flexibility of getting approved by a larger pool of people. Some basic guidelines I follow when reviewing a person are:

  • Is their gear more blue than green?
  • Are they wearing the right gear for their class?
  • Are their gem slots at least slotted with green gems of the appropriate type for their class?
  • Do they have at least basic enchants on most of their gear?
  • Are they spec'd appropriately? Are they using a PVE spec vs. a PVP spec?
Gear is probably the hardest one for people to figure out, but the easiest one to fix. The best way I've found as of late to fix the base gear for Kara is to use the new PVP gear that was added to the rep vendors. Other than the resilience stat, the base stats for these blues are very nice starter sets for Kara. They typically come with lots of gem slots too which gives a great deal of customization to the gear as well. Other sources I recommend to people are:

  • Netherstorm and SMV group quests have lots of very nice blue pieces. Some are top of breed pre Kara gear.
  • PVP Arena or BG to get some nice T5+ equivalent purples.
  • Lvl 70 Dungeons. Some specific trinkets and pieces only drop in these dungeons... if you want them you have to go.
  • Rep rewards
T4 25 Man Approved

Twenty five man content is dramatically different than being ready for Kara. It not only requires higher DPS, but it requires a great deal more situational awareness. Approval into the T4 25 man content requires special approval based what we call a "KITT". KITT stands for Know IT all Timer which dates back to the MC days before we all had mods like Incubator and DBM which tell you when trash will respawn and bosses will do special abilities. KITTs also have the responsibility of advising their own people what to expect and when they are having issues with their DPS, Healing, Tanking, Gear, etc.

For our purposes the types of things I am looking for to approve someone for T4 25 man content are:

  • A minimum of 550 sustained DPS on boss fights for DPS classes.
  • Threat awareness.
  • Situational/Positional Awareness
  • Maturity
  • 7000-7500 HP unbuffed
  • 1600 +healing for healers and an ability to heal effectively.
  • A raid leader recommendation

T5 Approved

As you can imagine moving up the tiers really becomes more challenging. Our raid alliance has come up with some general guidelines on what we want to see, but I've found over time that numbers are fine, but you really need to see a person in raid to figure out if they are ready for the next level. Every tier adds new challenges. T5 has a great bit more complexity than T4. There are a great number of fights which aren't challenging from a DPS/Healing aspect, but require a great deal more coordination and movement on the raid's part. These types of lessons have to be learned and web stats won't tell you that.

These guidelines are courtesy of our raiding alliance and were developed in conjunction with several raid leaders and guild officers.

Overall T5 Guidelines

  • Macros set up for spell rotations or very fast reactions.
  • Unbuffed HP around 8k
  • Situational and Threat awareness
  • Appropriate Enchants
  • Blue level or higher gems
  • Appropriate Flasks or Elixirs
  • A PVE spec appropriate for raiding.

DPS T5 Guidelines

  • 650-700 "Raid" DPS which means average dps on boss fights. If you did 900 DPS, but only spent 33% time on target you're raid DPS would be equivalently 300 DPS.
  • Ability to rapidly CC on pulls if necessary.

Healer T5 Guidelines

  • Ability to keep Heal Over Time spells up on multiple people for about 5 minutes (Druids/Priests)
  • Ability to dispel/decurse effects while healing.
  • Ability to Solo heal a tank on trash pulls if necessary.

Tank T5 Guidelines

  • 600+ Threat Per Second (TPS) for warrior/druids and 550+ TPS for Pally's.
  • Adaptablity to changing combat situations.
  • 15k+ unbuffed HP for Warriors/Druids and 14.5k+ unbuffed HP for pally tanks.
  • 60%+ parry, dodge, block pre uncrushable avoidance for Pally's and Warriors.

T6 Approved

With every tier of approval the stakes rise. This should reflect the growing gear and skill levels of your raiders. Basically all of the previous expectations hold true in addition the following higher expectations must be met.

Overall T6 Guidelines

  • 9k+ HP
  • Positional Awareness - T6 fights require some extreme amounts of relocation as well as being aware when you are over certain distance lines etc.

DPS T6 Guidelines

  • 850-900 "Raid" DPS or the ability to raise other's DPS enough to make your DPS equivalent to the 850-900.

Healer T6 Guidelines

  • Positional Awareness.... Sorry its just critical for healers in T6 so we emphasize it for our healers especially.

Tank T6 Guidelines

  • 700+ TPS for Warriors and Druids and 650+ TPS for Pally's.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Trinkets to Whines... There and Beta again

I had the blessed time to spend three solid hours playing last night on the beta. I’m finding myself more and more amazed by the effort that blizzard is throwing into the beta. Lets start with some of my latest discoveries.

Pain and Anguish with Trinkets

Ok for feral druids and any melee dps person dual wielding, give serious consideration to using the Death Knight’s Anguish. I was completely under whelmed when I first saw it. I didn’t figure it would be that great, but hey I’m terrible about using the “on use” abilities on trinkets so I thought I’d replace one of my tried and true trinkets.

First of all, let me say this thing procs all the time. I’ve seen it proc several times per minute and while it may not be nice at lvl 80, 150 Critical Strike Rating is nothing to sneeze at. This basically equates to bumping my crit rating at lvl 73 from ~35% to almost 43%. That’s almost 8% crit rating several times a minute.

Now wait you say!!!! It says it has a chance to proc and stack. How on earth would you proc it all the way up to 10. Ok well bear in mind that feral druids have the lowest attack speed of any melee dps. This means I have 1.0 attack speed and building a full stack including, Mongoose, 1.0 Attacks and Mangles makes it really easy to build up to 10 stacks fast. Then it will last for a bit too. So overall this low level trinket does amazing things.

A great example for you, last night I logged not one, but three separate finishing moves with Ferocious bite OVER 6.3k damage. This was in part due to this trinket which amped my crit rating so high. I’ve never gotten decent crits on Ferocious bites before and last night I logged 3 crits of what I’d almost deem “obscene” proportions.

Engineer’s Cry No More

Ok its my own personal whine here…. If it’s an item you must have for a quest, why would do people feel it necessary to rake people over the coals? There is a quest in Borean Tundra that requires you to get an item that only Engineer’s can make (hair trigger for those of you looking to make a buck right out of the gates in WotLK). This is all well and good except that on the beta the people are RAPING people on price. One listing this morning was at 1500g for a single hair trigger. Now maybe it’s just me, but for something that needs the equivalent of a single bar of fel iron and a single mote of fire, doesn’t 1500g just seem excessive? Hell I wouldn’t pay 200g when I saw them listed at 200g either. I’ve got the dang mats, but hell if I’m paying someone excessive sums of money to buy what has to be one of the cheapest things to make in WotLK.

Grats to the engineers who make it out of the gate first and can make their fortune early. I’m betting the first few days will suck for hair triggers. After that, you will probably be able to buy them cheap. Personally, I’m planning on giving my friendly neighborhood engineer in guild whatever they want to make me one….

Beauty and the Dragonblight

Dragonblight is an Amazing zone. This is probably the first zone that’s almost entirely snowy. Ok there are a few areas that aren’t as snowy, but still its predominantly snowy. The zone though is really well laid out. There are a ton of little quest hubs where you can do sequences of quests all in one area. Now unlike in Burning Crusade though you don’t really gain much from running all over the place getting all of the quests. Quests tend to revolve around a series of smaller quest hubs except for the quests that take you to the next hub. So you are just as well off sitting in a hub doing the 5-10 quests right there and then moving on to the next hub. There is a lot less overlap where you run back and kill the same mob for two or three different people from different quest hubs.

There is one section dedicated to learning the plight of the Tuskaar for the Alliance. In this one you get exposed to their common enemies in the Dragonblight as well as finding out more about their very shamanistic belief system. The zone progresses to include an area for druids and their quest hubs. Again you get to see a ton of new types of quests which tend to have more of a progressive story. Item drops which kick off quests of their own are common. It’s a very nice way of progressing the story.

In the center of a zone is the true Dragonblight. This area has a huge tower dedicated to a dragon alliance. This is the quest hub I’m currently working from. You get to experience some of the new war machine mechanics which are fantastic. The initial quests involving war machines or the like didn’t impress me. They felt unpolished. The further I’ve gotten the more I really like the dynamic of what they are trying to accomplish.

Speed of Development

I’m assuming that this will be toned down, but for the moment the speed of leveling seems pretty insanely fast. It could be that I had full rest xp, but I’m now probably about half way through dragonblight. I started the night with basically zero xp into lvl 73. After 3 hours of play I was up to 1.0 million xp out of 1.3 million xp required. That’s an insanely high xp rate.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tools of the Trade: Druids the Altoholic in a Box

For raid leaders and raiders, understanding the value of the various classes can be difficult. People tend to like to latch onto a stat and really beat it to death. Various tanks latch onto their TPS (threat per second) stat. Some people latch onto their Crit Percentage. Other look at their DPS purely on its own. These same people can fail to mention that they did 800 DPS, but they only had 4% DPS time since they died immediately after the boss fight started due to threat issues.

Lets take a moment to look at some of the various tools you can leverage in your raids and what they really bring to the table.

Balance Druids
"Yeah though I walk through the valley of Doom I shall fear no evil because I am the Harbringer of BOOM"

Buffs Provided


  • Medium to high DPS class capable of producing considerable damage boost to other raid members as well as their own.
  • Reduces incoming damage to Tanks.
  • With the 3% hit bonus they can increase tank threat
  • Can reduce the amount of hit necessary for ranged and melee classes.
  • If they bring an healing set they make very good off healers.
  • Battle Rez


  • Moonkin suffer from threat issues. Without extremely high threat tanks, Moonkin can suffer from less time on target than other classes. Moonkin have a threat dump via Cower in Kitty Form, but by the time they swap forms (costing mana) wait for 3 seconds to tick up 20 energy and then hit Cower (dropping ~1700 Threat) then swap back (costing mana), they probably could have just sat still not casting for 5 seconds and letting the tank gain an agro lead and gaining valuable MP5. (@Thanks to Hammaer for pointing out the Cower, but I've never thought for its effect that its a true agro dump for Boomkin)

Overall Raid Analysis

Balance druids are a nice addition in 10 or 25 man raids due to their buffing potential for casters. Typically Balance druids need to be judged not only on their own DPS, but on the DPS addition to other classes. For instance the 5-6% crit increase could easily equate to 50-100 DPS gain by casters depending on their gear level. That is DPS you should consider added to the Balance druid's base DPS. If they are doing 550 DPS and added 50 DPS to 4 other casters, their DPS contribution to the raid is really 750DPS. Similarly, if they are spec'd into it, they can add 3% hit to the rogues, warrior and shaman who are dual weilding which is a godsend. Balance druids like other classes need to also be careful to keep Insect Swarm up at all times. This has a positive impact by decreasing the amount of hits your tanks will be taking.

Feral Druids

"I walk in shadows... death waits in blood soaked teeth."

Buffs Provided

  • Leader of the Pack - adds 5% crit to all party members who do ranged or melee. Can also be talented to add 4% healing on party members who crit of their base health.
  • Mangle - Targets affected by Mangle take extra damage from bleed effects. In the current iteration, this has more value for the druid itself which relies on bleed effects rather than other classes. Rogues in their current iteration get more mileage out of Combat which uses Rupture in its rotation. (@Thanks to Wolflord for pointing out the Rotation for Combat Rogues uses Rupture... See I learn as much from my raiders as they learn from me :) )
  • Gift of the Wild
  • Battle Rez


  • Druids can provide tanking and Melee DPS in one package and do it well. For instances with fights that require more tanks for one and less for another they are a great asset to provide tanking and then good DPS when not tanking.
  • Can act as Main tank for instance. Decent multi mob tanking capabilities.
  • Feral druids can provide passable off healers for fights where you need more healing than your standard contingent of healers.
  • Feral tanks are relatively easy to gear up for Karazhan.


  • Under the current itemization Feral druids DPS suffers in late T5 and beyond. They have trouble keeping pace with Rogues and fury warriors who are given access to Windfury and Mongoose.
  • Feral druids can't match the multimob tanking that Pally's can provide.

Overall Raid Analysis

Feral druids have the advantage that none of the other tanking classes currently provide to a raid. They can Tank AND DPS. For other classes it may be necessary to swap characters in and out depending on the boss fight. Druids itemization for tanking is strong enough they can tank most if not all bosses. Resistance bosses they suffer on. There isn't enough gear for Druids to effectively tank Hydross to the same level a warrior/pally could, but it can be done. Their DPS is very passable in higher tiers and their ability to shift from tanking to DPS in mid fight can go a long way toward speeding up certain boss fights where full time tanking might not be needed. For instance on the Illhoof fight if they tank the Imp, they can go to Kitty DPS when the Imp dies.

Resto Druids

"My Bark is much worse than my bite!"

Buffs Provided

  • Proactive Healing technique does amazing work to smooth out the damage received by tanks.
  • Their buff for healing affects all healers healing the people in their group. This means one will typically be placed in the MT's group.
  • They make passable raid healers, but their forte is the ability to heal multiple tanks at once. Utilizing two resto druids, you can mitigate large amounts of damage on tanks.
  • A large amount of their healing ticks every second. Instead of waiting for a 2-3 second heal wind up, their heals tick every second providing constant streams of healing to their targets.
  • In Tree of Life Form their speed and mobility is limited. For mobile fights they may have to shift out of T0L thus limiting the buff from Tree of Life.
  • The druid's big heals can't be cast in Tree of Life. The big heals are mana intensive and not nearly as strong as a priests heals.
  • If you want a mixed healer/DPS a hard core resto druid will be hard pressed to fill that role. A modified spec involving what's known as Dreamstate healing can be used, but it comes at the expense of Tree of Life form.
Overall Raid Analysis

Restoration Druids bring an amazing amount of raw healing to the mix. However unlike most other healing classes their healing takes time and tends to be proactive. They do have larger heals, but comparatively they are weak and mana intensive. Resto druids fair best for healing if assigned to heal multiple tanks. They can easily keep up HoTs on 2-3 targets at a time and as long as the other healers are aware of the healing they can cover small spikes easily. If you have two restoration druids you can tag team them on 2-3 tanks with a Pally to back them up and they can cover most of the tank healing.

The hard part for most other healing classes to understand is to just let a druid's healing tick. Lets assume two resto druids have a full lifebloom stack and a Rejuvenation on a tank. If the tank takes 9k worth of damage every 3 seconds, the druids will need some back up, but a typical Life bloom might tick for 700 per second. Just looking at that, you have 700 x 2 x 3 = 4200 healing just from the Lifebloom. The rejuvenation now covers probably another 1k per 3 allowing the druids to heal 6200 of the 9k damage. With pally and their 1.5 second heal you've now mitigated all of that damage in 3 seconds.


Druids can be an amazingly powerful addition to your raids, but as with all classes you should use them in moderation. Your best balanced raids will leverage all of the tools you have available to you. Here is a glimpse into some of the benefits that a druid can provide to your raid in the various specs. Next up next week Friday: Hunters Savage killers or puppy tamers???

Thursday, August 7, 2008

When Volcanoes of Silence Explode: Communication Interrupted

I had kind of a sick feeling all day yesterday... I'd like to say its women's intuition, but as I'm male I think that rules out that idea. I was restless. I couldn't concentrate on work very well and I was just kind of moody. I got home and I really wasn't a very pleasant person to be around. I don't know why, but something was bugging me. I did the family stuff though and that lightened my mood some. Spending time with the wife and kids can do a lot to lighten your mood.

I finally got my youngest daughter in bed and then I headed downstairs to pop on the computer. I figured I'd just log in and do a transmute for a friend before I continued on with tucking in my son and remaining daughter. You very quickly get your mood changed when you log in and see a storm of activity.

The first thing that caught my eye was Officer chat... Officer chat is a rarity in our guild because very few things go on behind the scenes. We tend to have a lot of conversations in the open. Officer chat is usually reserved for personal bitching when you don't want to vent all over the guild. So the first words I saw were, "and then Star .....". For those who haven't been following along, I'm called Star in guild. I scrolled up a bit and realized one of our long term members had just quit the guild. This is hard core altoholic who's logged a lot of time in our guild. It was followed by a rapid fire log in and gquit through the rest of their characters.

As you can imagine guild chat erupted. Everyone wanting to know what the hell had happened and of course... these types of quitting are usually followed by a storm of other people quitting too. In this case it wasn't, but most of us were left just standing there scratching our heads going, "What the hell just happened?" I would really like to say I have any clue of what happened. Unfortunately I don't. I do know this guild member personally so I hopped on over to my cell phone and tried to give them a call. No answer. So I get to sit and wait till I see them to find out what happened. Silence ensues.


I've been guilty in the past of doing a lot of stupid things. I am male after all... I think it comes with the picture. Yes I'm picking on us men, but its somewhat a function of how we were raised. Men are taught from a young age to suck it up and just bite their tongues which in most cases is probably the worst thing you can do. We have a tendency to internalize our feelings and make situations worse in our heads than they really are.

One of the keys that I've learned recently is the lesson of communication. My wife's only been trying to beat it into me for 10 years, but hey men are slow or at least this one can be at times. My guild officers can probably relate stories of the times I've exploded at people. Ok generally I have a pretty level head, but when I explode it tends to end up all sorts of shades of ugly and specatular displays. I recently had an explosion at another guild that was probably 10 times worse in my head than the reality of what actually occurred. Its a learning lesson in how not to approach the situation. So my goals from here on out are to approach situations as follows:
  1. If you're upset enough to want to yell/hit/pummel/flame etc, find a safe outlet, express your feelings as loudly and coarsely as you can. Vent it out and then.....
  2. Take a deep breath and organize your thoughts. Make sure the reason your mad and try to figure out what you are feeling and why. Try to verbalize it to yourself.
  3. Approach the person who got you so mad, and tell them your feelings in a calm manner. Try to be as specific as you can using examples.
  4. Allow the person to think and respond. Don't just lay into them relentlessly. They need a chance to internalize what you said and then respond.


Venting is generally there to ensure that whatever your current emotional state, you won't just run into a person and tear their head off. I've been very guilty in the past of internalizing things that made me mad, but I figured I could rise above them and just ignore them. And these types of things build and build until you are wound so tight that your only choice at some point will be to scream and yell and leave someone laying in the dust.

I've personally ripped people a new orifice more than a few of times who didn't deserve it because they happened to be the one person who ticked me off at the instant I was wound so tight as to explode. This has the effect of leaving the person standing there bewildered going, "What the hell just happened?"

When you have little annoyances or big annoyances, find someone (or many people) who you can just go to and talk openly. They aren't there to necessarily judge you, but more to listen to you talk about it. They are an outlet for your frustration. They are there to hear your pain/frustration/hate so you don't just wail off and hit someone. The earlier you can talk to this person, the better off your emotional state may remain. Remember though this person's job isn't to inflame you or add fuel to the fire. Typically your best people for this tend to be very neutral people.

If you need a vent, then use it. If you catch it early enough, you may never need to leverage it and can always skip to step two.

Composing Your Thoughts

One of the next things you need to do is figure out what is bothering you and why it is. I have occasionally in the past taken verbal aggression out on someone who didn't ever deserve it. I one time vented all over my wife over a small item like picking up towels when in reality I was frustrated and angry about being slighted by my boss. My wife took the brunt of that aggression even though she didn't deserve it. One way or another, you need to sit down, analyze your thoughts and feelings and figure out why or who you're mad/frustrated/sad/etc at.

If it helps, try talking out loud to yourself in a quiet area. Try telling someone what you think they need to hear and then listening to how your voice sounds. Try to get to the point where you can make your point in a calm manner. Don't hold back your emotions on the subject. One technique someone shared with me once is to start sentences as follows:

  • When you said X, it made me feel Y.
  • When you do X, it makes me feel like Y.
  • When so and so X, it frustrates me because of _____

So some campy examples:

  • When Joe called me a idiot, it made me feel like he didn't value me. It frustrated me for all of the hard work I've logged trying to down the raid boss.
  • When you assigned Mary to heal the main tank, I felt like you didn't feel my healing was up to snuff. I felt angry that I didn't get the opportunity to heal the tank.
  • When Jacob makes fun of people with disabilities, it makes me extremely mad because my son/daughter/friend/family member has a learning disability.

Its important that you not only share what action/words etc made you feel upset, but also the reasoning behind it and the emotion it evokes in you.

Sharing your Pain

We did an interesting thing at work. We were all attending a class on project management. It was a class on communication and the instructor asked a simple question. "If you were messing up at work, would you want someone to tell you?" Unanimously the answer was yes.

Some people have been faced in their careers/life etc with having someone just out of the blue tell them for the last 6months/year/many years that they have been doing something wrong that they never ever realized was a problem. If someone had told you from the beginning, would you have been able to correct it and save someone lots of pain? Maybe.

Humans need input. If you don't share your frustrations and emotions, how in the hell are we supposed to guess what's going on? Please women, don't use the phrase... "Oh you know what you did!!":) Just assume men are inherently oblivious and help us out OK??? 95%+ of the people in this world are not Empaths (people able to read your emotions) or Psychic.... so if you never tell them, they may never know.

Sitting down to listen

The last thing you need to remember is to give the other person a chance to sit and respond. So many times people make the mistake of telling someone their frustrations and then failing to listen to the other person's response. The person may have had a good reason for doing what they did and you may never know. If someone just cut you off on the Interstate and you told them off and just left, you may never find out that they had a mechanical failure or saw some debris in the road suddenly. So many times we internalize things as a personal attacks that never are.

Just remember to communicate when you've got problems so that other people are at least aware of the issue. Don't make the mistake of assuming people know what went on and what your issues are. Give them the opportunity to fix a situation before it becomes ugly.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tactics: What happens when Strategy Goes out the Window

I've been accused in my guild of being one of the best strategists we have. Ok that's kind of a cool compliment, but I don't think of myself as a strategist. Sure I guess from one perspective I'm the raid organizer for my guild. I develop the overall Strategies.... such as clearing Kara, getting people through ZA etc. I'm good at reading strategies and identifying ones that might work. What I feel is one of my strengths is being a very good Tactician. Strategists rarely if ever see the road they send their people down.

I have a knack for spotting what I'd deem holes in programming and code. Basically my history is one in gaming where I tend to love playing RTS (real time strategy). There's that misuse of the word Strategy again, but RTT just isn't as sexy sounding. When I used to play RTS games, I would basically approach a mission from the perspective of finding the flaw in the AI that I could exploit. Every AI in every game I've ever played has a weak point. Once you find it, it becomes almost stupidly easy to win every time. You exploit the hole in the system for the easy win. The same becomes necessary in raiding all of the time. Do I exploit holes in coding for easy wins such as wall hoping, or other bizarre tactics? NO. But I don't mind figuring out ways to simplify a boss fight.

Strategy Vs. Tactics

Strategy is what you plan to do. Tactics is what you end up actually doing to achieve a specific goal. Tactics support strategies, but overall they are dramatically different. Tactics tend to change over time as well. What I find is that initially most raids tend to try to leverage what are know as "well established" tactics. These are the ones you get off the Wiki's or other sites. However at some point, most raid leaders will find that what's written and what you face are totally different. The general gist is the same, but where the rubber meets the road is a very large skid mark where your raid used to be.

Adapt or Die
"Who is the larger fool? The fool or the fool who follows him?" - Obi Wan Kenobi

General law of the jungle and evolution. Those who adapt... live... those who don't... will die off or have their numbers reduced. I've stressed this in a post about raid composition, but this is a core skill for a raid leader developing in the world. We've all made this mistake at one point in our life. We throw ourselves into a task and repeatedly fail. Then someone walks into the room asks a simple question which makes us stop and review our position on what we are doing.


It was a very hot summer. Jacob very much wanted to allow the
wind to pass through his house. However the person who had lived in it
before him had made the mistake of painting the windows shut. Inside his
house it sweltered and Jacob toiled to open the windows. On the fourth
day, his brother came over to help him.

"What are you doing brother? Why do you toil?" asked the

"I wish the wind to pass through my house and cool it down. However
the person who lived here before me painted the windows shut. I've spent
three days attempting to open the windows with no luck," Jacob responded.

The brother looked up and asked, "Did you think of opening the door to let
the wind in?"

So many times the simple things are what we must look at to solve our problems. Read the strategies and tactics. Learn as much as you can before you show up, but in the end, as a raid leader you must remember that your people must perform the task. Your people will be the ones to clear the raid bosses and trash. You must be ready to adapt your tactics week to week based on raid composition, skill levels and overall power of your group. Some techniques can't be used for lower power, lower geared characters. Some tactics will require lots of practice and specific group compositions. Some things you'll just have to fake. Either way, your raid relies on you to get them through... for right or wrong... they consider success and failure to rest on your shoulders.