Thursday, December 6, 2007

On Hot Tubs

So as you probably know already, AC downed Lurker Below last night. It was nice, we've killed a few Zul'Aman bosses, but this is our first 25 man progression since our first Gruul kill about 2 months ago now. Things got hectic for the holidays, etc, etc.

So, as a balance druid, here's my take on the fight:

1) As soon as the "Lurker Takes a Deep Breath" emote comes up, get in the water. That 500 damage evert 3 seconds is negligible, really. It would take a full minute or more to kill someone at 9k hit points, and hopefully you're in that neighborhood at this point. On the other hand, a single spout can take you out of the fight completely. If you stay on top of the water, you should be able to continue DPSing. When the spout passes over you, get out - UNLESS the spout started off facing you. Most of the time it'll start facing the tank, but for some reason he occasionally freaked out on us and started somewhere else. The spout turns a little OVER 360 degrees, so if the spout starts off facing you, it'll hit you again on the back end.

2) Practice getting onto the platforms quickly. I found the easiest way to do this was to be on top of the water and use my strafe key to move sideways toward the platform, then jump.

3) When the adds come out, make sure you're in moonkin. You can actually absorb some arrows better than most out there (I was getting hit for ~1200/each). This is a decent time to use your trees if they're up. Burn down the adds on your platform and then whatever melee mobs you're in range of.

4) Range is often a consideration for healers, especially during the whirl. If you notice someone somewhat low on HP and in an awkward place, watch them. If they don't get a heal within a few seconds, toss a HoT on them just to keep them up until a healer is free.

5) During the adds, again, watch out for a little fountain spray/naga appearing near you. That means one of the melee adds just teleported. Immediately hit barkskin to try to mitigate any cleave/direct damage, and get a cyclone ready. As it's casting, let either a hunter know, so they can misdirect the add onto the appropriate tank, or let a mage know, so they can sheep it and buy time for the tank to run over and shoot it. DO NOT DAMAGE IT. This will only solidify its aggro on you and make it much harder to pull back to the tank.

6) Blow cooldowns often and early. Any DPS trinkets, etc. Maybe even start off the fight with a destruction potion - you shouldn't have to be using a mana potion within the first 2 minutes of the fight anyway, and since you can't pull aggro, just let loose.

I like this fight. Once you get the rhythm down, it's almost dance-like, and quite enjoyable. I think it's one of my favorite boss fights so far.

I think that's about it. Otherwise, pew pew, and have fun!

Friday, November 30, 2007

On Me Not Always Reading Comments

I was looking through some past entries and saw some comments that I hadn't seen before. So if you were looking to talk to me about anything, go ahead and repost your request for contact here. Or you can email me at my username at gmail dot com. (Writing it out to help avoid spambots!)

On "Holy Crap, that is so much better"

Warning: rambling post to follow.

I did AB again last night for the first time since level 60. And even then, I hadn't done much. To give you an idea, go look at my "League of Arathor" reputation here.

Yeah, not much, is it?

Now, to give you some background, I tried a bit of PVP, and nothing ever really clicked for me except for AV. I loved AV. Did it all the time. Back when battle tokens were used as quest turnins, I literally ground from about 52 to 54-55 doing only AV. Mostly, I'd just run after the pack, find the tank, and keep him up against the NPCs, tossing a few offensive spells along the way. I had my Crackling Staff waiting for me by the end of that rush. That was my first big push PVPing, and I got to Sergeant Major. I took a break from it around 56 and quested up to 60 (I actually dinged 60 by crossing the bridge from WPL to EPL. Woot exploration ding!).

At 60, I did another PVP push, and made it to Knight rank. I was THREE PERCENT away from Knight-Lieutenant when they changed the honor system so I couldn't make it anymore. /sadpanda

I think what always attracted me to AV was 2 things. First, that it felt so epic. 40 people on either side, NPCs around to make it feel more like you're fighting an enemy army. Cool events that you can do (I'm a big fan of Ivus) and multiple approaches to winning - I've seen wins by rushing straight to the enemy general ignoring everything else, by methodically taking out every tower along the way, by turtling and utilizing turnins to give you such an advantage that you can turn into a steamroller, using ground troops, Ivus, etc.

The second thing is that I could win. Admittedly, Alliance won more often on my old server than Horde did. People will go on about how the map was imbalanced in favor of Alliance, etc, etc. I personally don't believe so - if that logic held true I could talk about how WSG and AB are imbalanced to favor the horde. I just think it was the fact that the scenario was half PvP, half raid, and Alliance simply took better to that.

So, back to my original point, I despised WSG and AB. First, because they felt like old rehashes of FPS games (Unreal Tournament, etc) I've played in the past. Oh look, it's capture the flag. They don't even bother to disguse it by saying "capture the secret enemy plans" or "take an enemy hostage" or something. And AB always seemed to me to favor the initial rush - a lucky break in the beginning could secure a win for a team, barring them screwing up. But mostly, it was because of the premades. There were 5-6 PvP guilds on horde side that I constantly saw in WSG and AB when I tried them. I mean constantly. At least 80% of the games I played were against them.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't mind losing sometimes, or even most of the time. I don't always need to win to have fun. I do need to feel like I have at least a reasonable chance. Out of 40 or so AB games that I did pre-BC, for example, I won exactly 1. Most of those games ended with Alliance at under 500 resources. It was pitiful.

So, back to the original point: our guild did a premade last night. It ranged from 10-15 for AB, with a couple people joining and dropping along the way. And dear god, it was actually kind of fun. Admittedly, after about 4 games, I'd had enough for the night, but I enjoyed myself. We won 3/4, and 5 capped one of the games, finishing 2000-10. But honestly, that wasn't my favorite one. I loved the one before that, where we were neck and neck with the horde most of the way - we had the blacksmith the whole time, and the stables most of the time. They had the Farm most of the time, and the lumber mill and mine kept swapping. It ended with us winning 2000-1780. And honestly, if we'd lost, it still would have been fun. Our guild is neither PVP specced, geared, nor practiced, so I don't expect that we'd win against a real PvP team, but at least we wouldn't make it easy for them.

I guess I'm making what is probably an obvious point, but I figured I'd spout some random thoughts today. :D

Monday, November 26, 2007

On Holidays

First off, I've decided that I will take the cheap way out, and from now on will post the little tidbits of limited substance that pop into my brain. At least it will keep the post count up.

That being said, this is my first holiday with a raiding guild (albeit a casual raiding guild). I'm expecting some slowdown for the holidays. In your experience, about when does it start getting back to normal? I'm guessing it'll probably be about a week after new years, not sure.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On Pity for the Fool

We so win here. Alliance gets Mr. T. Way better than William Shatner any day. Woo!

(For full disclosure, got this link from TJ, but I posted it first, so NYAH NYAH!)

Monday, November 19, 2007


So, we were in Zul'Aman last night, heading to the Lynx boss, Halazzi (probably spelled that wrong) for the first time. On the way there, we hit a patrol of 2 trolls and 2 cats. Our raid leader starts marking, and we're going to kill the trolls first, then the non-elite cats. I chime in my two cents, suggesting that we kill the cats first.

After all, they're the weakest links.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

On Why I Can't Manage to Write in my Blog Consistently

Excuses? Maybe. But here's an idea.

10) "Hang on, we've got to run a new pair of wires from the switch, you're going to lose internet for a minute. Yeah, 3 cables from the switch in the other room to this one. Wait, what's spanning-tree protocol? Broadcast storm? Nah, it'll be fine."

9) "Sorry, Vinny has to head out to a customer site, you're going to be alone on the phones supporting our 148 customer companies again today."

8) "Hi, I think I deleted my internet."

7) "My backup job said it was incomplete! Never mind that I didn't read the actual report to see that the thing it didn't back up was an email from the Exchange server that had been quarantined by the AV since it was spam with a virus. I NEED that virus laden penis enlargement mail on my backup tape!"

6) Get up for work: 7am. Get home from work: 7pm. Go to bed: 12am-1am.

5) Hewlett-Packard Support. Or rather, lack thereof. Same tablet computer, 14 months old. Has been out for service for literally 8 of those 14 months. Took 5 months and shipping it back and forth 6 times to get fixed properly the first time. Second time, still in progress.

4) This guy: "Yeah, I'm pretty okay with computers, so if you just kind of point me in the right direction I can set up a SQL (pronouncing it "squill") connection myself, I'm sure."

3) "Our fax server is down."

2) This lady: "I came back from lunch and logged in, and my desktop is missing, and my emails are gone, and I don't know what happened to it all! I have a closing in half an hour and...oh...oh, wait, never mind, I sat at the wrong desk. Bye!"

1) Actually playing WoW, rather than writing about it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

On Antisocial Behavoir (PVP)

PVP is an entirely different boat than PvE. To be perfectly honest, I'm better at it in theory than I am in practice - but that being said, I'm not bad. So here's what I do know - I'm sure others know much more. This is going to be mostly a smattering of random tidbits I've picked up through experience and conversations with other druids.

As a Balance druid, you have the advantage of your DPS capabilities boosting your healing abilities. Unfortunately, you have the disadvantage of limited crowd control and no reliable spell interrupts.

The first thing to look at is what stats you need for successful PvP. Your focus is going to shift toward spell crit, stamina, and resilience. Spell damage is still very important. Intellect remains important but is shifted back a bit - most PVP battles will be over before you have a chance to exhaust a large mana pool. Basically, the name of the game is to put out enough burst damage to kill the opponent while having enough survivability to withstand his attacks while doing so.

Most of the time in PvP, you are not going to want to be in Moonkin form. True, it gives you 5% crit. But it completely takes away your ability to heal. I know that if I get a good crit heal in, I can heal myself to full. This means that you're in essence sacrificing 5% crit for the ability to double or triple your available health. Healing in PvP > 5% crit.

Surprise is huge. Even a couple seconds of being able to do something to the enemy without retaliation is an immense advantage. One "trick" that I find successful is to start of in cat form, stealthed. This allows you to approach the enemy, find a nice position, and open up when they aren't expecting it. My 2v2 arena team is called "Spanish Inquisition" for just this reason - 2 rogues, 2 druids. As in "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!" The added bonus is that when people are watching out for stealthed opponents, they usually don't expect that opponent to be using ranged attacks. After dropping 200 points and figuring out what the hell we were doing, we've climbed back up to about 1500 and are winning more often than we lose.

If running away is an option, that is one of the druid's strengths. If you're taking a beating, cyclone/root and travel form away. Heal up and re-engage.

Other opponents:

Warriors - Root is your friend here. A rooted warrior can't do much. Just watch out for diminishing returns, kite in cheetah form if needed to let those wear off, and take him down from a distance. Watch out for charges & intimidating shout.

Rogues - Probably the class that I find the most annoying. In my opinion, Cloak of Shadows is overpowered with the 1 minute cooldown. That being said, if you get caught by a rogue with a cheap shot/stunlock, immediately barkskin. Then just target them and spam cyclone. Hopefully you'll survive and get it off, at which point Healing Touch + Lifebloom. Wait a half second or so and start casting roots so it lands as soon as the cyclone wears off. Back of and toss a faerie fire on him, and start DPSing from there, but be ready with your trees. As soon as he goes to Cloak of Shadows/Vanish, throw your trees up just behind where he was standing, so that they run toward you and through where he was. With any luck, they'll end up running straight through him, breaking his stealth. With vanish on cooldown, you can hopefully finish him off.

Warlocks - The initial consideration when fighting a warlock is his pet. You are generally going to see one of 3 in PvP - Succubus, Felhound, or Felguard. Either the warlock or one of the pets should be an immediate target for your roots. If the Succubus or Felhound, root the warlock - Fear only has a 20 yard range - and nuke the pet quickly. If a Felguard, then it is a Demonology lock, and you should root the pet. Immediately drop trees on the warlock, and take a second to decurse yourself if the warlock got a shot or two off. Toss a HoT up and start nuking. If the warlock gets off a drain life, cheetah and get out of the range (30-40 yards depending on spec). If you can manage to deal with the pet and stay out of fear range, you should be able to take out the lock.

Hunters - I almost always like to start by hibernating the pet. If the hunter immediately Bestial Wraths out of it, at least I made him use it early, know he's BM, and I can go cheetah and avoid as much damage as possible while BM is up. Apart from that, use instant cast HoTs to keep your health up while DPSing. If you can abuse line of sight - drop MF/IS/Trees on the hunter then run behind something - that can help a lot. Rooting the hunter can help keep him in a suitable position for a few seconds.

Priests - Holy Priests are squishy, and shouldn't be too much trouble. They may take time to kill though, because of uber healing. On the other hand, your HoTs can probably outheal their damage output. Shadow priests are like mini-warlocks. Avoid letting them heal themselves by hurting you. Trees help, and can make them at least waste their fear. Silence is the only real trick they have up their sleeve, so be prepared to cheetah-kite if you get silenced. Discipline priests are similar to holy priests, except harder to kill. Be prepared for a drawn-out fight.

Mages - Polymorph isn't a huge deal for a druid. Watch out for counterspell on heals - insta-cast heals are best. If you can, use DoTs and LOS to wear them down, by damaging them while they can't do the same to you. Apart from that, not a whole lot to worry about.

Shamans - Elemental Shamans are pretty much in the same boat you are. If possible, draw them away from their totems. They have earth shock to interrupt casting, so watch out for that. Enhancement shamans can be dealt with much like a warrior, just still be aware they can still toss a few ranged things at you and heal themselves some if need be. Resto shamans are just a royal pain to kill, but you should be able to outheal their damage as well. For all shamans, watch out for grounding totem - not a lot you can do about it, just be aware it can be there and take it into consideration.

Druids - Other balance druids are your mirror. There's really not a lot complicated in a fight between us, it's just a bunch of smacking and trying to outposition the other person. Resto druids are much like Resto shamans - you can heal through their damage, and they can heal through yours. Annoying. Feral druids you have a bit of an advantage over - both hibernate and roots work on them. Granted, they can shift out of roots, but that's 2 full seconds and a hunk of mana for them.

Paladins - The bubble is the single most annoying ability in PVP ever. 10 seconds of pure immunity in a fight is just a pain. If they're a healer, there's not much you can do to stop them from using this. If they're a fighter and they're coming after you with the bubble on, cheetah-kite them away until it wears off. Apart from that, Paladins are tactically similar to warriors, so the same considerations apply. You just can't give them as much breathing room, because they can heal themselves as well.

Finally, remember your setting. If you're doing battlegrounds, the object is not to kill the other team. It is to accomplish the objective of the battleground. Don't engage in needless fights. I've helped win AVs by running up to the horde around Stormpike, moonfiring a couple healers, and running away. Do it a few times and 8-10 horde peel off to try to kill you. Evade them, tapping them with a moonfire now and again, and you effectively cut the enemy's forces by that much for however long you can occupy them.

In arena, you absolutely have to kill the other team. Talk to your team, figure out kill orders, tactic, etc. I honestly doubt you can be an effective arena team without voice communication of some sort - use it.

I think that's it. Not very neat or pretty, but PvP isn't typically my game. Still, it's fun now and again. :D

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

On Tankadins (an Alliterative Aggro Addendum)

Okay, since a couple people pointed out the lack of Tankadins in the previous post, let me address them.

They are exactly the opposite of what I said before.

Tankadins start with full mana, like you. Unlike you, they don't have a huge honkin' pool of blue to burn through. They do, however, have abilities that let them regain mana - by being healed, hit, and hitting back. That being said, Pally tanks can have Oom issues. And that's where the fun begins. And by fun, I mean mobs flying everywhere and wiping you.

A pally tank has a much more difficult balancing act than a bear or warrior tank. Bears probably have it easiest - armor, stam, dodge. Strength/AP to do more damage and thus more aggro. That's about it. Warriors have to incorporate block/parry into that, but are otherwise much the same. A pally tank has to balance everything a warrior does, plus int, spell damage, and mana/5. That's a TON of stats to be concerned about. And thus, it means there can be a few different things that you need to be concerned about.

If the pally is well balanced, you should be fine except possibly in long fights. Once you're partway through a long fight, make sure you start paying attention not just to the amount of threat on the pally tank, but the RATE of threat. If that drops sharply, your tank is OOM, and you should be ready to back off. If you can, toss a HoT or two on the tank - this will save your healers some mana, but it will also provide a steady stream of mana back to the tank, which is in general more valuable than a large chunk at irregular intervals. Of course, if a fellow druid is healing the tank, he's probably got this going on already. :D In a worst case scenario, you could innervate, but Paladins are one of the classes which benefit least from this, and hopefully your tank has done his job and balanced his equipment, making this unneeded.

Paladins also generate a lot of their aggro by BEING hit. So, if your paladin tank is having aggro issues but is taking the hits fine, skip insect swarm. More hits = more aggro for the pally.

Also, AOE tanking is where the Paladin's ultimate strength lies. They completely outstrip warriors and druids for holding AOE aggro. This is especially good for healing them while they tank two or three or nineteen mobs. For fun, a Pally friend who was a Tankadin at the time and I cleared the entire lower platform of blood elves on the south platform of Black Temple (after we killed the elite). It was great fun.

Apart from that, the rest of the advice still applies - early on, be conservative, although the tank will probably be generating enough aggro so that you can go a lot quicker at first. Later on, ride the 110%-120% line. And again, to reiterate, talk to your tank! Paladin tanks are perhaps the most complex tanks in the game, but they definitely hold their own.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

On Aggro

The enemy of the Balance druid. Aggro. Granted, in moonkin you can handle it a little better than squishy clothies - but face it, once you start raiding, anything other than trash mobs will likely two-shot you if you're doing anything resembling good DPS. And even some of those trash mobs will destroy you (Phantom Valet in Karazhan, anyone?)

Hopefully this is at least basically understood by everyone, but I'll go through the more specific details. Maybe you'll pick up something helpful.

The math of aggro is fairly simple. Whoever has the highest threat to the mob is the one the mob will attack (to an extent, see below). That is the person who has aggro.

Threat comes from a few different places. Damage is the most obvious - each point of damage you do to a mob will generate 1 threat on that mob. Healing generates .5 threat per point of actual healing done to ALL mobs in the fight. Special abilities generate a variable amount of threat. And of course, tankish classes tend to have things that increase their threat, while stabby/boomy/healy classes tend to have options that reduce it.

Now, once someone has gained the initial aggro - i.e., the pull has been made - the tank should be getting beat on. What you have to realize is that to pull aggro at range, you need to go 30% threat OVER the person who currently holds it. For the record, melee needs to go 10% over to pull aggro.

So, we know all the mathematical ways to reduce threat - Subtlety, the newly available subtlety to cloak enchant, and to do less damage. What I want to look at here is behavior.

Let's take a simple situation. The tank pulls a single mob. Let's say he generates about 2k threat in the first couple seconds. Meanwhile you're charging your starfire, and you drop a 4k-5k crit on the guy. Congratulations, you lose.

The basic thing to realize is that for tanks, threat generation is back-loaded. They need rage to do their thing. In order to get rage, they either need to hit the mob or get hit by the mob. So they start slowly, building up rage, then as they start doing more damage and taking some more hits, their threat generation takes off. You, on the other hand, are front-loaded. You start off with your full reserves and full potential to cause damage, until you go OOM and are then pretty much dead weight. So, what you need to do is build up slowly, and then go all out.

Here's one important thing to realize - as the fight progresses, you can take more and more advantage of that 30% buffer. Take the following examples with completely made up numbers:

20 seconds into the fight:
Tank threat - 15k
Your threat - 14k
Your threat = 93%

2 minutes into the fight:
Tank threat - 100k
Your threat - 93k
Your threat = 93%

For the sake of argument, let's say your damage is about the following:
Wrath - 1200/2400 Crit
Starfire - 2300/4600 Crit

Now, in both of these examples, you are at 93% threat. You probably have at least insect swarm going generating a constant moderate feed of threat. Do you push out the damage or do you hold back a little?

In example 1, you should hold back a little. Why? This early in the fight, a lucky crit or two will add enough threat to push you through that 30% buffer. In example 2, you can go balls-to-the-wall DPS for a bit. The tank is already at 100k, and you would need to generate 37k threat to overtake him, even if he stopped doing anything and just stood there. When it's later into the fight like this, push the envelope. Try to ride around 110%-120% threat if you can manage it without being inefficient and going OOM.

Generally, the start of a fight is a good time to do a couple things. First off, once the tank has aggro, and as long as he did not body pull, it's probably safe to toss faerie fire on the mob as it's running over to the tank. This will lower the mob's armor, which will help the tank's hits do more damage. That means a bit more threat generated early, and every little bit helps. Even better if you have improved faerie fire.

Once the tank has been beating on the mob for a couple seconds - a good rule of thumb is when you see a sunder/lacerate on the mob if the tank is a warrior/druid - toss up your insect swarm. The miss chance will help mitigate early damage a bit, which means slightly less healing. This helps your healers not pull aggro. If that is an issue, you may want to toss a lifebloom or two on the tank - this spreads the healing aggro around so no one healer passes the tank, plus if you let the spell bloom, all that healing aggro gets put on the tank.

Honestly, after I've put up faerie fire and insect swarm, I tend to wait a good two or three seconds before starting my starfire rotation. Your mileage may vary depending on your tank and the exact situation - sometimes I can jump right in, sometimes I have to wait longer. Keep in mind that if the tank has multiple mobs to handle, he won't be generating threat on a single one as fast, since he's probably going to have to toss a couple hits on the other mobs to keep them from going after the healers.

Oh, and one more thing - trees. If there's no place in a fight that you need to save your cooldowns for, toss your trees up ASAP. They hold their own threat list, so if worst comes to worst, they'll just pull aggro and get smacked. Chances are, they'll get to do their thing, and that's another good hunk of damage thrown in at the beginning without having to worry about it adding to your threat.

If you find yourself having issues with aggro, talk with your tank. See if there's something you're doing that is specifically making it hard for him to hold aggro. See if there's something he might be able to do to hold it better. People talk about the tank/healer dynamic all the time. The tank/DPS dynamic should be just as important, especially in fights that come down to a DPS race. And believe me, if you're asking your tank how to make sure he keeps aggro, he's going to love you. The fact that you're asking alone is going to put you above 90% of the DPS out there.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

From the Peanut Gallery

So, this comes to us courtesy of Jerome:

"I am wearing my (bad) healing gear at the moment and am specced resto as of a couple days ago. I was a restoration druid up until level 50 and then I tried out balance (the inability to solo much of anything with a fully specced resto really became evident around that time). I levelled to 70 as a balance druid, and did not have much trouble finding groups (and Setthek Halls is a favorite instance of mine due to the fact that we do actually have some CC on the birds!)

"I've returned to the game after a few months away, and I am wanting to raid end game and get the tier armors (eventually tier 6, which is natural for everyone to want seeing as it is the last tier armor available at the I absolutely adore how it looks!) I had got in touch with a guild leader on this server and s/he explicitly stated that "Balance sux. What is your +healing?" I told him how low it was, and I got no response until I said "How about I get some better gear and let you know" and he said "ok".

"ANYWAY, My question is this: Should I go resto and be a healbot until I'm able to get tier 6 balance armor (at which point I will go back to balance, naturally)? Or do you think it takes longer for a balance Druid to get each of the tier armors because no one wants one to come?
The reason this bugs me is because a few things have gained my attention. Firstly, a new patch is coming with ZulAman (I have no clue when) and I remember someone mentioning that there will be a BUNCH of Balance gear available in the instance (as well as being outdoors like ZF, so we would actually have some CC). Should I be relying on that? Or would it just be a quicker path to the tier 6 Thunderheart if I restoed for my tiers 4 & 5?

Thanks a million, not sure what to do in game until I get some advice from you guys! (although I *hate* not being able to solo anything..even in my damage gear.. with the resto spec)."

I think you've got a couple options here, Jerome, but let me say this first:

Do you enjoy healing? If you do, and you don't mind seeing new content in that role, then so be it. I love my resto druid friends, and I honestly don't mind taking a walk on the tree side now and then if need be. So if you're comfortable joining this guild as a resto, by all means do so. But keep in mind that if you join a guild with that attitude, 9 times out of 10 they're going to get pissed when you say you want to try Balance for a while. Frankly, chances are that as soon as you get your first piece of T6, if you DON'T turn it in for the resto version and get the balance one instead, you'll get kicked. And where are you then? Geared up for Black Temple as a healer, and looking for a new guild, probably having to repeat some content to get back in. And possibly facing the same issue.

So, your options:

1) Cave in and go Resto. (Self-explanatory)

2) Stick to your guns and go Balance, and try to find a guild that will take you. Try this approach - find a guild that is normally running with 3 healers in Karazhan. Say "Take me in as a Balance druid instead of your third healer. As long as your two main healers are decently geared and competent, I will off heal as needed and still bring DPS to the raid. Give it a run or two, and if you don't like it, that's fine." Make sure you have the gear to back up your claim. Mention Zul'Aman - let them know that it's going to be outdoor and roots and hibernate are supposed to be two of the main forms of crowd control. Plus, they'll have Moonkin gear in there, among other things, and if there are drops specifically itemized for you, that means they don't have to worry about you always bidding on cloth.

3) Try a Dreamstate healing Balance/Resto spec. It basically takes the mana regen of Dreamstate and the bonus healing of Lunar Guidance and adds it to a resto build. Look here for an example that relies on Healing Touch. You must downrank effectively for this build to be efficient, but if you can learn that, it can be great. And since it has a 34 points in Balance, it can still be quite viable for soloing.

4) Do what I did and create your
own guild - but that's a whole different can of worms, and probably ended up being a heck of a lot more effort than if I'd done one of the other routes. :) And honestly, it was dicey at points. I'm still surprised sometimes that we've gotten as far as we have.

Okay guys...

My schedule is finally under control. I apologize for the huge amount of downtime, I'll do my best to make sure it doesn't happen again.

At the moment, I'm starting to work on some math comparing Int to MP5/Damage/hit/Crit. This is probably going to take me a few days, as the recursive stuff makes it interesting. In the meantime, if you have any questions in general that won't require a ton of math, let me know!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I live.

Barely. Will be back with more content soon.

*rails against hectic schedules*

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

On Shinies!

All right, continuing our quest for better gear, let's look at gems.

Now, most people usually start thinking of gems by color first. I want to avoid that. Our first and primary concern should be what stats they give us. Only then should we look at the color of the slots we have available and the socket bonus. If the socket bonus is something we don't particularly care for, it's probably better to ignore it if the requirements would make us sacrifice other stats.

So, first, I'm going to look at meta gems. Then we'll tackle each of our desired characteristics: spell hit, spell damage, int, and spell crit. Obviously, there will be some overlap. Also, I'm pretty much going to ignore green gems - these will all be blue quality or higher. I'm also ignoring the purple gems from Black Temple because, well, if you're in BT you don't need my advice!

Meta Gems:

One of the things we face is that there is no Balance gear with a meta gem slot until Tier 4. So drool over these a bit, but don't plan a build around them. :) There are a few choices here, so let's start with the easily craftable ones:

Insightful Earthstorm Diamond - +12 Intellect, chance on spellcast to restore mana
This is one of my favorites. Specifically, the "chance" is a 2% chance to restore 300 mana. Now obviously, this is going to proc a lot more if you're casting spells more frequently. Math wise, it breaks down as follows:

1 cast every 5 seconds: 6 mana/5
1 cast every 3 seconds: 10 mana/5
1 cast every 2 seconds: 15 mana/5
1 cast every 1.5 seconds: 20 mana/5

Now obviously, you're going to get a lot more mana back with faster spells like wrath, etc. But if you figure that even with your standard starfire/insect swarm cycle you'd be getting somewhere between 10 and 15 mana/5, that's some great aid in mana regen.

Destructive Skyfire Diamond - +14 Spell Crit, 1% Spell Reflect
This isn't bad, but spell crit is the least PvE desirable, overall, of our four key stats. The spell reflect might be occasionally useful, but I doubt it would ever be more than a lucky break.

Mystical Skyfire Diamond - 5% chance on cast that next spell will be cast in half time.
This is a decent gem. Overall, it translates into about a 2.5% dps increase. The only catch is that you have to make sure you don't try to cast Wrath instead of Starfire, or the global cooldown will end up eating any benefit you might've gained. Overall, I'd say this is a better gem for mages, but it's OK for us.

Here are some meta gems that aren't crafted:

Swift Starfire Diamond - +12 Spell Damage and minor run speed increase.
This one comes from your faction base in Terrokar, in exchange for spirit shards from Auchindoun. It's okay - really more of a PvP gem, but it's easy to acquire and is certainly better than nothing in the meta slot.

Imbued Unstable Diamond - +14 Spell Damage and 5% stun resist.
Again, not a bad gem, but a bit more of a PvP oriented one. Plus, this one is apparently a real pain to get - you need a group to complete a large portion of the Assault on Bash'ir quest in Blade's Edge. This from all reports requires pretty much a raid group of people, and good coordination. Nasty.

Anyway, those are the meta gems. Now let's look at the others by category:

Spell Hit:

This is one of our tougher stats to acquire. Gems can make a valuable addition to boost it without compromising on other gear.

Great Dawnstone - +8 Spell Hit
This is your meat & potatoes craftable "give me spell hit!" gem. It's nice, but most of the time you'll get better benefits from multiple multicolor gems.

Veiled Noble Topaz - +4 Spell Hit, +5 Spell Damage
I like this gem. It's craftable and thus readily available, it has both spell hit and spell damage. It is your friend. :)

Shining Fire Opal - +5 Spell Hit, +6 Spell Damage
This drops from bosses in heroic Mechanar. I love this gem. The only thing that makes me cry is that it is unique-equipped. *sigh*

Lambent Chrysoprase - +5 Spell Hit, +2 mana/5
A decent mix here, adds a bit of casting endurance to your spell hit. This drops in heroic Underbog.

Vivid Chrysoprase - +5 Spell Hit, +6 Stamina
Another pretty nice gem, especially because it can be used to add more casting power to blue sockets, which generally are harder to find PvE offensive casting stats for (except arguably mana/5). Stamina, as always, helps with survivability.

Spell Damage:

Veiled Noble Topaz - +4 Spell Hit, +5 Spell Damage
Shining Fire Opal - +5 Spell Hit, +6 Spell Damage
Both these were mentioned above, and are great choices.

Runed Living Ruby - +9 Spell Damage
Your standard pure Spell Damage cut. Not bad.

Runed Ornate Ruby - +12 Spell Damage
This costs about 7000 honor, so you could get this in a good AV weekend if you dedicate the weekend to it. Nice solid boost in one slot, great gem. Too bad it's unique-equipped.

Glowing Nightseye - +5 Spell Damage, +6 Stamina
This is a decent bread-and-butter gem for blue slots. Survivability and damage, lots of fun.

Fluorescent Tanzanite - +6 Spell Damage, +4 Spirit
Spirit doesn't give us as much of a useful mana regen boost as intellect, normally. This isn't bad, but I wouldn't make it my first choice.

Glowing Tanzanite & Infused Amethyst - +6 Spell Damage, +6 Stamina
Both of these are useful as well, giving you a good amount of spell damage in addition to the survivability of the stamina. The Tanzanite is a quest reward for killing Nightbane in Karazhan, the Amethyst is from heroic Black Morass.

Infused Fire Opal - +6 Spell Damage, +4 Intellect
Another beautiful gem. This one comes from heroic Steamvaults.

Mysterious Fire Opal - +6 Spell Damage, +5 Spell penetration
As I discussed before, spell penetration is all but useless in PvE. This would be very nice for PvP. You can get this in heroic Botanica.

Potent Fire Opal - +6 Spell Damage, +4 Spell Crit
Pretty decent gem. Drops in heroic Auchenai Crypts.

Potent Ornate Topaz - +5 Spell Crit, +6 Spell Damage
Another honor-bought gem, this one costs 8,500 honor.

Phew! Okay, ran out of time today, Int & Spell crit gems coming tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

On supplementals

So, this week's edition will be on the supplemental stuff you need to eke the most out of your gear, namely Enchants and Gems.

Let's start taking a look at enchants first, by category.


Head - Yes, I'm starting with the head enchants that are available. Yes, I know they're not strictly "enchants" in the sense that an enchanter does them. Sue me. :P Anyway, to my mind, there is nothing that comes even close to the Glyph of Power from the Shat'ar vendor. You'll need revered to get it, but that shouldn't be too much. If you're looking for something a bit more hybridy and you like to mix it up with some feral action sometimes, the Glyph of the Outcast from Lower City isn't bad, but hey, this is a boomkin blog!

Legs - Again, not strictly an enchant, but Mystic Spellthread and Runic Spellthread are the obvious choices for a balance druid. I personally waited until I had some purple legs to splurge on the Runic Spellthread, but that's just me. The mats aren't bad at all for either one, except for the nether - that'll probably cost you 100-150g from the crafter, if you're not a tailor yourself.

Chest - Chest enchants suck. Face it. What sucks even more is the +150 mana to chest that was in Beta never made it through to BC. So what are your choices? I'd go with either the +100 mana or the +6 to all stats. I personally choose the latter, as 6 int gives 90 mana anyway, in addition to all the other int bonuses balance druids get, and the +6 to other stats is nice to have.

Gloves - Now we get into some interesting choices. There are three main contenders here: Blasting (+10 Spell Crit), Major Spellpower (+20 Spell Damage), and Spell Strike (+15 Spell Hit). If you're going to PvE, I think that blasting is something of a waste - what balance gear there is provides plenty of spell crit and very little spell hit. If you're low on spell hit, take Spell Strike. If you're doing okay with your spell hit (say, at least 50-60 points plus your Balance of
Power talent), major spellpower might be a better long-term DPS investment. If you've got a bunch of spell hit (100 or more, plus the talent), then spellpower is definately going to be the way to go.

Boots - There's not a lot of caster options for boot enchants. Vitality (+4 health & mana/5 sec) can give you a bit of a boost with mana/5, but I personally just go with Fortitude (+12 Sta). Remember that as you progress, survivability becomes a lot more imporant. It seems that ~8000hp absolute minimum is the magic number, at least through the beginning 25 man raids. To be safe, I'd aim a bit higher. And believe me, nothing beats being able to laugh at Aran as he fires his arcane missiles at you, and even if you don't resist at all, living and healing yourself. :)

Cloak - There are two readily available enchants that will probably catch your eye: Spell Penetration and Major Resistance. Spell Penetration looks great at first...until you do the math. If you are doing PvE, spell penetration is all but useless. Really. There are only a very few mobs that have resistance that can be reduced by spell penetration - a couple in MC, and the Arcane Watchmen in Karazhan. Those are the only ones I've seen pointed out specifically. And it helps with no bosses, which is huge. So it looks like you're stuck with Major Resistance, which is nice, but somewhat expensive. But wait! Come next patch, Subtlety will be commonly available, which I think is an incredible option for us.

Shoulder - Your shoulder enchants should be pretty obvious, depending on whether you're Scryer or Aldor. Inscription of Discipline and the Greater version of it are from the Aldor, Inscription of the Orb and the Greater version from the Scryer. I personally like the Aldor ones a bit more for PvE, but that's just my preference to spell damage rather than crit.

Bracers - There are 3 enchants that I find particularly appropriate for balance druids: Spellpower, Major Intellect, and Restore Mana Prime. I leand toward Spellpower if you've got a set of bracers that are going to last you a while, but Major intellect has the advantage of being really cheap, so if you're stuck with something you think won't last you too long, go for that. Restore Mana Prime gives 6mana/5, which is a decent amount and could help if you're having trouble with mana conservation.

Rings - If you're lucky enough to be an enchanter, you can get ring enchants from various factions. From the Keepers of Time, you can get a Spellpower enchant to add +12 spell damage to your rings. Best of all, you only need Honored with the keepers of time (I don't think you can manage to get Kara attuned without at LEAST getting honored, if not revered). And the mats are fairly cheap - two large prismatics, two greater planars.

Weapon - And finally, the big one. I see three main choices at this point: Major Spellpower, Major Intellect, and Spellsurge. The first two are a tossup - if you find yourself running out of mana a lot, intellect isn't a bad way to go, and 30 intellect also means extra spell damage, crit, and mana regen. If you're doing fine in the mana department, then go with Spellpower. Spellsurge is an interesting enchant - it seems that with just you alone, it means on average about 8-10 mana/5 to your group. The interesting thing is that it stacks if multiple people in your group have it. I've seen an analysis of a healer, a shadow priest, and 3 other casters all in a group, all with Spellsurge. The mana regen was disgusting. Also, I've seen people advocate trying Sunfire, since if you're doing a Starfire spell rotation the arcane damage applies. I personally don't like this - I don't feel the extra 10 spell damage on moonfire and starfire makes up for losing 40 damage on insect swarm, wrath, and most importantly, losing 40 healing as well.

Anyhow, I'm going to sum it up there for now, next post will be coming today or tomorrow with gems!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

On New Shiny Things!

Well, in this post I thought I'd talk about the upcoming patch, and some of the goodness that will be in it for moonkin.

First, Zul'Aman. For those that don't know, this is a 10-man dungeon in the Blood Elf starting area. Here's the official Blizzard word on it:

--Zul'Aman will be a 10-person raid zone
--Zul'Aman will be on a quicker reset than 7 days (some might call this "casual")
--Zul'Aman will be MORE difficult than Karazhan and drop better loot (some might call this hardcore)
--Zul'Aman will feature 6 bosses and it's our goal that you can kill them all in one night -- perhaps 2-3 hour clear times (some might call this casual)
--Zul'Aman will not have a key requirement. Nor will it have an attunement quest\ (some might call this casual)
--Zul'Aman will have a VERY challenging timed quest for those who choose to participate in it. This *will be* hardcore and will be very rewarding. Players do not have to engage in the timed run (very similar to the Baron run in Stratholme)
--We're tuning the first boss in Zul'Aman to require less raid coordination than some other raid bosses. He will still hit very hard so you'll need to be geared properly but it won't take 15 minutes to explain the fight. It will be a simple yet challenging fight. The other boss fights get more complex and challenging from there. If players want a basis of comparison, imagine the tuning of ZA started around Nightbane/Prince difficulty and ramped up from there.

ZA is a very cool looking zone. It will feature brand new troll models -- Forest Trolls. They are very impressive looking. There will also be a large amount of brand new item art in the zone. We'll get screenshots of this out soon.

I know this question is going to come up so I'll answer it now -- Yes, you can totally skip Karazhan if you're an amazingly elite guild who doesn't have time to key up for KZ yet can face the challenges of ZA without gearing up in KZ. Have fun storming the castle.
Anywho, lots of goodies about this and the other additions in the upcoming patch:

1) Offspec gear! A full moonkin set has been confirmed, and there are rumors of elemental shaman & prot. paladin gear.

2) All loot in Zul'Aman is said to be on par with Tier 5. Very nice.

3) Zul'Aman = outdoors. That means roots, and a more reason for people to start bringing Balance druids along.

4) Of the new flasks, one is called "Flask of Blinding Light." This increases Holy/Nature/Arcane damage by 80. Super nice for Balance druids.

5) Formula: Enchant Cloak - Subtlety will be available. This will be a nice added boost to threat reduction for us.

6) The Hurricane damage coefficient has increased. Useful for when you need to add a bit of AOE to the party.

Hopefully, the moonkin gear will really be on par with tier 5. That will go a long way to making Balance a more useful endgame spec without having to resort to cloth.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Update coming soon!

Tomorrow, hopefully. Goodness for you all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On Needing More Ideas

So I'm scouring my brain trying to figure out what else I can post about being a balance druid, and it seems like everything is scattered into little pockets that are in interesting tidbit for conversation but would take all of 3 lines and not make a very good blog post.

So fire away! What questions do you have? I'll take anything, and if I don't know the answer, so be it. :)

Monday, August 20, 2007

On Loot Distribution

This is more along the lines of guild administration than Boomkin material, but hey, it's my blog, so nyah!

Loot rules are probably the single largest issue that can and will split a raiding guild apart if not done in such a way that everyone is at least content with it. There are some common ways to go about it.

1) Leader-determined distribution: The leaders of the guild determine what loot goes where. The criteria of this is usually "who will this be the biggest upgrade for" and "who has put the most effort into the raid."

2) DKP systems: DKP is some sort of point based system where raiders "buy" loot with points they have accumulated by going on raids, sometimes for providing the guild with rare materials, etc. There are many variations of these systems - some allow people to "bid" points, some have set prices for every item and then require a roll to see who gets to actually buy it, and so on.

3) Straight roll-off: This is pretty simple - anyone who needs it rolls, the winner gets it.

Now, each of these systems has their pros and cons.

1) Leader determined distribution:

This will typically be the quickest way for a guild to advance (barring situations where the leadership are either playing favorites or just plain being stupid). However, it is also the situation which typically causes the most friction. Whether or not it is true, there will almost always be perceived favoritism and accusations of misconduct. It also has the potential to be unfair to those who work the hardest.

For example, say your guild has two raiding mages. One of them shows up to raids regularly, is dedicated to running heroics as often as possible to upgrade his gear outside of raids, and in general makes a great effort. The second shows up for most, but not all raids, and pretty much doesn't do anything else. If the Purple Hat of Magey Death drops, and Mage 1 is wearing the Purple Hat of Magey not-quite-Death he got in a heroic yesterday, then the hat will be a bigger upgrade for Mage 2. And if that is the primary criteria for distributing loot, then Mage 2 gets rewarded for being the less comitted of the two.

2) DKP Systems:

DKP systems take the approach that those more committed to the guild/raid should be rewarded with more loot. The typical DKP system says that you get X number of points for every boss kill. Sometimes this varies depending on the boss. Then people either bid on items, or items are given a set price.

The issue with a straight DKP system is inflation. As more and more points enter the bankrolls of the hardcore, super-frequent raiders, the price for drops gets higher and higher. If you join a guild using a standard DKP system after they've progressed a fair amount, chances are that you're never going to catch up to the leaders in points. So the system is a disincentive for more casual members and new members.

3) Straight roll-off:

While a straight roll-off is possibly the easiest way to avoid accusations of favoritism, and it is theoretically fair over the very, very long term, it doesn't account for how much the players have invested in the guild. Someone coming along on their first raid might win the roll for the Uber Plate Thong of Doom over someone who has been diligently participating for weeks. It also has the possibility of someone consistently winning through just pure luck.

So, before you enter a guild, or decide on a loot system if you are a guild leader, these issues need to be looked at. But first...

YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED. For further details, please refer to Egotistical Priest's wonderful post on the subject.

The one, absolute, imperative part of whatever system you choose - it has to be up front and above board. No favoritism, no nepotism, no "officers get loot first" BS. Now that that is out of the way, I can't make your decision for you. I can tell you what we have done as a guild.

We use a zero-sum DKP system called SWAPS. It is similar to DKP in that you earn points and spend them in an auction to buy loot. Where it differs is that there is little to no inflation. Why?
There are a fixed number of points in the system. When you begin raiding, you're given a "trust fund" of 1000 points. You get 200 of those per raid until you've been given 1000 points. After that, the only way to get points is to be around when someone else wins loot. If there are 10 people in the raid, and I pay 300 points for a piece of loot, my 300 points gets given to the other 9 people evenly, so they each get 33 (the extra is put away in a phantom raid member, and that total gets distributed periodically).

New members can be fully vested into the system with 6 raids. That means that they have a full 1000 points to blow on something, plus whatever they got from the standard point split when other people won loot. So there's no barrier stopping new players from getting involved in the system quickly and fairly.

So that's us. Find what works for you, talk it over with your guildmates, and make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Aetherial Circle downing Shade of Aran

The reason I'm posting this is that, despite it not being from my PoV, you can still get an idea of what I'm doing during the fight - I'm the one marked with the big blue square, so people can follow me around and avoid the blizzards. I spent maybe 70% of the time DPSing and 30% healing, most of that healing time backloaded around the time of the elementals and the poly/pyroblast. We had another balance druid with us, Tredezar, as well, but he's harder to pick out.

The one funny thing I noticed was right in the end, you can see me go moonkin on the left side to escape the slow from the Arcane Explosion. All I can think of is "See ya, bitch!"

Oh yeah, the first sequence before the title screen was our attempts the previous night. Had people breaking the flame wreath, so it was getting frustrating. :D

On Hybriding

So, I thought I'd talk about that thing all Balance druids should know how to do: heal. I've said it before and I'll say it again: a Balance specced druid who refuses to pop out of Moonkin and heal if it is needed is a liability, and should have just rolled a mage.

I'm going to use our guild's Karazhan experience as an example.

First off, we run with 2 healers. I know a lot of guilds do it with 3. Now, we're not the best guild in the world, but we've made very quick progress for a casual raiding guild. I think a lot of it is because we're using that slightly atypical 2-healer configuration.

A lot of people say that off-heals aren't desired in raids, but at least in a 10 man group, it means there's one more person pumping out great DPS if there's not a dedicated healer there. Do I top the damage meters? Usually not, I'm usually about midway down the DPS. If your aim as a Balance druid is to "win" the damage meter contest, again, you rolled the wrong class.

The first thing you need to do is practice situational awareness. Get your eyes unglued from the boss and start looking at stuff around you. How are your compatriots doing? Is one of the main healers getting low on mana? Did the melee DPS just get unlucky and take an AOE crit in the teeth?

To help with this, I recommend getting some sort of healing mod. I personally use CEasyHealer, mostly because I'm used to it and I like the click functionality. Basically, it's just a bunch of squares, one for each raid member. Each square displays the person's health as a percentage, and you just have to click (or ctrl- or shift- click) to cast different heals on them. This makes it a lot easier for me to toss a heal or two without wasting time switching targets. There are a ton of similar mods out there, find one you like. Communicate with your healers. Make sure they're aware that you are going to be spot healing if needed. Let them direct you if they have any specific needs.

You're probably already accustomed to using your innervate on healers, rather than yourself. You can take this one step further and make your priests/shamans/resto druids really love you (I leave out holy pallies, because innervate is nearly useless for them). As long as you're confident you can main heal for 10-15 seconds, let the healer get into the five second rule, use your innervate on them, and start healing while they take a 10 second nap. This means that rather than the 100% mana regen they'd normally get because they're casting, they'll end up with 400% mana regen. That's 4 times as much mana from the innervate. Now obviously, don't try this if the tank is holding on by a thread and will go splat when your inferior heals can't keep up.

NOTE: It's been brought to my attention that my assertions in the paragraph above may be incorrect. I'll have to test it out myself, I haven't done so since somewhere around level 50.

Your best bet for off healing is using instant-cast heal over time spells, maybe with the occasional regrowth tossed in. You're generally going to want to avoid healing touch, as it will just chew through your mana. Plus, it's a big, slow heal. You want to aim more for topping off, or for keeping someone alive until a main healer's big, slow heal can put them all the way back up.

If you're needed to help ease spike damage on one or two targets with HoTs, use and abuse lifebloom. It effectively allows you to triple your +healing. Here's a quick rundown.

In WoW 2.1, each application of Lifebloom adds the full amount per tick, essentially doubling or tripling the amount healed each second. Now this is strong, no doubt, but there are several factors associated with Lifebloom that are what really make it shine.

1.) Once there are three stacks on a target it will stay at three stacks as long as it is refreshed before the Lifebloom expires and explodes, e.g. within seven seconds. By maintaining a Lifebloom triple stack the target will receive up to six ticks of triple healing for the cost of one spell each time it is reapplied.

2.) The amount each stack heals for is set by the +Healing at the time the stack was first applied. As long as it is not allowed to explode, the Druid could even remove all their Healing gear and still keep the Lifebloom ticking for the same amount.

3.) In a stacked Lifebloom, since the amount healed for is triple the normal amount for the spell, the effect of +Healing added to the spell is in effect also tripled. Because of this the +Healing stat gains more impact than it normally does in other situations or for other healers.

The key to success with Lifebloom is that not only can it do a large amount of healing when stacked, but maintaining this only takes 1.5 seconds of cooldown out of every six to seven second casting sequence. This leaves the Druid free to use approximately five seconds of casting or cooldown time to cast other spells in-between refreshing the Lifebloom, and also allows them freedom of movement due to the nature of instant cast spells.
So, a typical spell rotation when you're dedicated to topping off the tank might be Lifebloomx3, Starfire, Starfire, Lifebloom, etc. If you're finding yourself losing the 3 stack, make it Lifebloomx3, Starfire, Wrath, Lifebloom.

So, apart from the math tips, it's all pretty much common sense. Keep your eyes open, follow the direction of your main healers, and keep people alive. Remember, if someone dies because you chose not to interrupt one of your starfire/wrath casts, you just cost the team all the future DPS of that team member for what, maybe 4k-5k of damage if you crit hugely? Balance druid doesn't mean "LoLz I nukzorz you," it means exactly what it says, Balance. You're an asset not so much because you are a weapon, but because you are a weapon AND a team player.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


So just a quick present for everyone. It's a spreadsheet that lets you compare two pieces of gear for your balance druid. Put the levels of talents you have up top, and then fill in the numbers for the two pieces of gear. It will tell you how much total your stats will change - it calculates in things like the fact that intellect adds to spell crit, that you get a percentage of int to spell damage with the right talents, etc.

In the right hand column, it will display all the changes. Green means that switching to gear #2 will net you a gain, red is a loss.

For the record, it is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. I made it in Excel 2007, but I saved it so it SHOULD work in earlier versions. If you have trouble viewing it though, grab the Excel 2007 compatibility pack from Microsoft here.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Heroic you!

Welcome back all. I apologize for the unexpected downtime. The hazards of being employed.

So, on the plate today: You've been level 70 for a while now. You've gotten to revered in all the fun little factions you need to get your Heroic keys. You've gotten pretty much all the gear you can outside of raid instances. Maybe even a couple pieces from Karazhan. What do you look for now?

The answer, of course, is heroics. There's a few dungeons you're really going to want to frequent. Mostly, I'm just going to point out the leather caster gear here - if you're wearing mostly cloth, there's plenty for you.

First of all, you're going to want your Lower City key to get into Auchindoun heroics. The first reason? Epic flight form, of course! But there's another treat in store for you if you do Heroic Sethekk now and again. Terokk's Shadowstaff drops from the last boss in there. Beautiful staff, although it lacks spell hit. It's not quite as good as the Staff of Infinite Mysteries, but it's arguably better for PvP because it has a ton of Spell crit in the place of Spell Hit.

Heroic Mana Tombs has a nice little chestpiece of the first boss: Starry Robes of the Crescent. This is the best leather chestpiece for casters before Tier 4. Again, though, it comes with Spell Crit instead of hit, which can be a concern for those of us who are PvE types.

Back over in Hellfire, Blood Furnace presents us with a conundrum in Moonchild Leggings. While it has great stats overall, it's 21 points lower in spell damage compared to the easily obtainable Kurenai Kilt. Doing the math, I think I'd probably go with the Moonchild, but keep my Kurenai Kilt around just in case I ever ran into a situation where I really, really needed every ounce of spell damage. It's hard to choose +21 dmg over +3 crit, +26 sta, +9 int, and +19 spirit.

We can also nab the Moon-Touched Bands from The Maker in Blood Furnace. These are fairly comparable to the Bracers of the White Stag from Attumen in Karazhan, just a very small step down.

Finally, there Grips of the Lunar Eclipse which drop off Leiutenant Drake in Old Hillsbrad. Honestly, I think these need a large buff. As is, they are MAYBE just barely better than the Starlight Gauntlets. Yes. that's right - the level 70 drop from a heroic dungeon is MAYBE better than the level 63 gauntlets from Underbog. Lame. Very, very lame. At the very least, throw a few sockets into the Grips, and then they'll be worth it.

So yes, that's about it. 4 pieces of leather caster gear in heroics. None of it epic, all blue. What's the point of this?

Moonkin need better itemization, that's what. I know, people always say "just wear cloth, it's ridiculous to expect Blizzard to make more than a couple pieces of gear for a single spec of a single class!" If that's the case, then why is there a plethora of healing plate out there? Only a single spec of a single class can utilize healing plate, but you don't see people telling Holy paladins "You shouldn't wear plate, just wear healing mail or leather or cloth!" Yes, some choose to, but the choice is there for them not to if they so desire.

So yeah, there's my rant. Grab what loots you can, and if people yell at you for rolling on purple cloth (unfortunately, I have the feeling I'll be heading that way myself as much as I try to avoid it), then tell them to yell at Blizzard's developers instead.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Stupid work, getting in the way of WOW

Apologies to all. I'm still trying to get a hang on this blogging thing. I promise more regular updates from now in, as soon as I'm not stuck building !@#*!$@ domains all day.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


So, I figured today I'd talk about synergy: in other words, how you fit in well with other classes as a Balance Druid. Now, we all know what we bring to the party - Crit aura, awesome buff, innervate, off-heals. Let's see what we can take advantage of based on who we group with.

1) Other Druids

Ironically, there's not a whole lot of synergy going on here. Sure, healing druids can benefit from your moonkin aura, and having more innervates to shuffle around is always nice, but there's not much more going on. If there's another balance druid in your group, it's usually best if one of you goes moonkin and the other one stays out just in case off-heals are needed: moonkin aura doesn't stack, so one of you in it works just fine.

2) Rogues

Again, not a whole lot going on. Your faerie fire/insect swarm can help a Rogue out, but no more so than any other melee class. Similarly, there's not a lot a rogue can do that directly helps you other than helping to down the mobs quicker.

3) Warrior

Apart from the warrior holding aggro if he's tanking, there's not a lot going on here either.

4) Priests

Now we get into some interesting stuff. Discipline and Holy priests (or rather, the discipline/holy hybrid that passes for a holy priest with the sucky talents they gave late holy) often have Improved Divine spirit. Each rank of this 2pt talent adds 5% of your spirit to spell damage and healing. Given the multiple boosts balance druids get to spell damage, this is great. Plus, the spell drops an extra 50 spirit on you as well, which helps for both mana regen and yet more spell damage. If you end up with a pure Discipline priest, they may have mana infusion too, which adds 20% to spell damage and healing for 15 seconds. On a side note, priests are normally your best target for an innervate, as they will get the most benefit.

Shadow priests have the lovely, wonderful ability to give their party back mana. If you are lucky enough to be in a party with one, love them, hug them, and call them George. Over a long fight, this can mean the difference between going OOM and plowing through the enemy.

5) Hunters

Not a whole lot here, but there's a BM Hunter ability that increases party damage of all types by 10% after a pet critical hit. The name escapes me right now, unfortunately.

6) Paladins

First off, Blessings rule. My personal preference for blessings is Salvation > Kings > Wisdom. Salvation first, because at least with me, it often means the difference between riding the edge with my aggro and just being able to full-out unleash everything I've got. Kings, because it translates into additional mana, hp, spell damage, and combat mana regen. Wisdom is just the mana regen, but it's still quite nice. Auras, while nice, don't particularly benefit us more than any other class.

If your pally friend is healing, your extra crit % = more Illumination procs for him = greater mana efficiency. Yay!

7) Shamans

Depending on the spec of the Shammy, you've got a couple different things going on.

First off, regardless of spec, Heroism/Bloodlust is great. Make sure that when you get the 30% speed increase, you start using your higher-cast time Starfire, as Wrath cannot benefit from it completely due to the global cooldown, especially if your nature's grace starts proccing too. Wrath of Air totem adds about 100 spell damage, which is great once again because of our added bonuses to received spell damage.

Elemental Shamans can provide the quite nice Totem of Wrath - +3% Spell Hit & Crit. Never something to sneeze at.

Enhancement Shamans have an interesting ability - Stormstrike. This increases the next 2 sources of nature damage dealt to the target by 20%. If there's a shaman thwacking the enemy with this, take advantage of it and start using Wrath more than Starfire if possible.

Resto shamans are great. The best thing about them is Mana tide. This totem is on a 5 minute cooldown and regenerates 24% of the affected party members' mana over 12 seconds. A great save, and in long boss fights it's sometimes possible to pull it out twice, if it is used early and then saved for the very end.

8) Mages

Mages have probably the single best buff for us - Arcane Brilliance. There isn't a whole lot of synergy otherwise, but that more than makes up for it.

9) Warlocks

Not a whole lot here, but watch for Curse of Shadow. This increases Shadow and Arcane damage dealt to the target by 10%, so start using Starfire/Moonfire more.

I'm sure I've probably missed a couple things. Anyone have anything to add?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Had the in-laws over this weekend, and at work I've been on the road for the past few days, so haven't had time to update. I'll be sure to do something by tomorrow at the latest. :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Uber Leetness and You: Your Epic Flight Form

So, you've decided that you want to join the uber-leet squad of people who hang around outside banks and auction houses showing of their mounts in a bizarre online corollary to such social phenomena as "Pimp my Ride." Well, I have only one thing to say to such people.

Good for you! :)

So I'll start at the very beginning. The first thing you need to do is to collect 5000g to train your artisan riding skill. Ouch. Five grand. Obviously, this is going to be very dependent on your character professions and spec, so I'll just give some info that can help anyone - the basics of playing the AH.

First, if you don't use it already, get Auctioneer. Wonderful addon. Basically, every now and then you just need to sit at the auction house for fifteen or twenty minutes, and this addon scans every single item on there and starts building a database. I normally scan once every few days, but when I was making my gold, I'd try to make sure to do it at least once every 24 hours.

Soon, you'll find yourself with a nice database showing average prices for items, etc. Here's where the fun comes in. Immediately after you complete a scan, click on the tab at the bottom that says "Scan auctions" (In the AH window). Change the selection on the left from "Bid" to "Buyout," and set the minimum profit to 5 gold. Hit search.

And blam, like magic the addon looks through its most recent scan, compares the prices of items to what it has established as an "average," and shows you what you could buy for cheap. Example: I've been scanning for about 2 weeks steady, so I'm pretty sure my database is fairly accurate as far as staple items go (herbs, potions, primals, etc). Auctioneer is telling me that the average price for Primal Water is 20g. But some guy just posted an auction of 10 primal waters for 100g. When I do my search, Auctioneer will automatically tag it and tell me that there is an item I could potentially sell for profit.

Now of course, there are potential errors. First, if you haven't seen an item very often, it the price may not be accurate. The addon will tell you in the tooltip for the item how many times it has been scanned. So if the Magical Fez of the Mauve Eyed Barber is a purple, and you've only seen it once on the AH for 8000 gold, the addon is going to tell you the average price is 8000 gold even if it really is worth only 1000g or so. Second, it will not necessarily account for market spikes in either direction, so if you're not absolutely sure you can turn a profit make sure you look at what is on the AH currently. For example, say it's revealed that for some reason, using Shadow Oil on Gruul kills him within 10 seconds. For the 24 hours or so before it is hotfixed, Shadow Oil will be selling for enormous amounts. Your scans will see that, but they will average the new cost with the old ones, and you may end up selling for far less than you could. So do a bit of manual checking now and again.

So, you've gotten your 5000g. You've spent five minutes at the prompt trying to click the button, because OH DEAR GOD I'M ABOUT TO SPEND 5000 GOLD! You've clicked and promptly felt a pit open in your stomach. You drop an extra two hundred gold on an epic mount without thinking about it, because if you do you're going to gouge your brain out by way of your ear while babbling about having to get rid of everything grey after farming. And then you mount up...and epic flight is bliss. If you're a gatherer of any sort, this will improve your outland farming by an incredible amount. If you're not, well, it still rocks.

So, now that you've got that out of the way, what now? Head to the Druid trainer in Moonglade. If you don't know where he is, shame on you! (Pssst...he's in front of the building that overlooks the lake, to the left of the entrance). The quests are fairly self explanatory, but I will make a small note: there are three quests where you have to fight skettis "guardians" holding bird spirits hostage (Hawk, Eagle, Falcon). Each of these is meant to be done in a different form - Bear (Eagle), Cat (Falcon), and Caster/Moonkin (Hawk). As long as you have some decent gear for your off-spec, you should be able to solo them with only minor difficulty.

Now, when I say "meant to," what I really mean is "there is no freaking way you are doing this in any other form." I grouped with a feral druid to try this. Against the first two guys, my normally 3.2k starfire crits (at the time) were doing around 500(!) damage. And they had upwards of 100k HP. I switched to the appropriate forms, and my normal 200ish damage per hit in feral forms was all of a sudden doing like 1000. When we got to the caster vulnerable one, my feral druid friend reported doing about 100-150 damage per hit. On the other hand, I had two 10k (yes, that's 10,000) wrath crits and a 23k starfire crit. So do yourself a favor and do the fights in the appropriate form. :)


So, the last quest is to defeat the Raven God, in heroic Sethekk Halls. First, a note on gear. You should be, at minimum, in gear that is sufficient for Karazhan. Heroics are not forgiving. Sethekk seemed to be a bit more forgiving than some I've been in, but still...very nasty at points. You're going to want at least two forms of crowd control besides your hibernate (which will indeed get used here). We did it with a shackle and a sheep, you can probably replace either one of those with a hunter who is good at chain trapping. Finally, the pairs of ravenguards that stand to either side of each doorway are now immune to crowd control, even cyclone. Watch your aggro. Even in moonkin I could have been 3 shotted. Chances are, your moonkin opportunities will be limited, because you're mostly bringing off-heals rather than crowd control to the table in this instance.

The first boss of Sethekk is pretty much the same as before, except tougher. No real new abilities, although his elementals seem to spam their respective "X Buffet" abilities much more. You clear some more, and then you clear the room before the final boss. We pulled the last pull before the final boss too, just in case.

Now, before you start the fight by clicking on the stand in the middle, be aware of two things. First, let your tank know that the event takes about 45 seconds to start, so he shouldn't enrage right away before you start the event. Second, there are three statues that are going to be spawned, called Hawk Spirit, Falcon Spirit, and Eagle Spirit. These three things are going to be your main duty throughout the fight.

These statue come to life while a druid Heal over Time spell is active upon them. Each buffs your group/hurts the enemy in some way. Hawk reduces damage taken by 500 (before armor). Falcon increases movement, attack, and casting speed by 25%. Eagle does a 300DPS AoE that affects the entire room (enemies only). Now, to take full advantage of this, ponder a simple fact: Rank 1 HoTs have the same duration as full rank.

I set up a macro for each of the statues. The format is as follows

/target Hawk Spirit
/cast Rejuvenation(Rank 1)

Replace "Hawk" with "Eagle" and "Falcon" as appropriate. Now you can simply click on a button during the fight, and you will instantly activate one of the statues for less than 30 mana. Convenient!

The fight has two different "modes." Anzu will spawn, and it will be a tank and spank for the most part. The one thing to watch out for is a curse that Anzu throws on any casters in the group periodically. This curse does about 1k damage and mana burns you for 2k if you cast any spell while it is on you. It can be dispelled as long as you don't try to remove it from yourself. Also, Anzu will whisper to the person he curses, so watch for it on yourself, and remove it from healers especially. I suggest keeping the Hawk and Falcon statues active here. Eagle is not as necessary.

After being beaten down to about 66%, Anzu will summon a bunch of adds (birds) and banish himself. As soon as he emotes the summoning, have everyone run to the center of the room. Now is when you should activate the eagle statue. Keep the Hawk statue up. If you're inclined, keep the falcon up too, but that's not necessary. After all the adds are killed, or after 1 minute (this shouldn't be an issue - the eagle statue alone should kill the adds in 1 minute), Anzu reappears. Lather, rinse, repeat. He does another summon at 33%, and after that it's just spankage.

Congratulations, you now turn into a kick-ass looking bird. Well, at least if you're a Night Elf. My Tauren moonkin brothers, I humbly apologize for the epic flight form granted to you. I don't know why Blizzard saw fit to make your epic flight form look like a roadkill bird that some kid tried to turn into a kite with some leather, a few sticks, twine, and a sewing needle. Don't get me wrong, I like the whole "Tauren/rugged/horned" theme that permeates Tauren forms and architecture, it has its own appeal. But in my opinion, the Epic Tauren bird needs, at the very least, a more varied color palette to really look cool.

When you turn in the quest, at Cenarion in Zangarmarsh, don't forget to talk to the guy again. He'll give you back the summoning item so that you can summon Anzu whenever you feel like smacking him around.

So, in conclusion, I have only one question about my newly beloved epic flight form:

Where's my Dual Plasma Cannons?!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On Scaling

This is just a brief stop for the morning, more coming later. But someone asked me what I meant in the last post by "scales well" and "scaling."

Basically, what it boils down to is that there's a lot of processing going on with Balance druids. Let's take a fairly simple situation: I cast a single Wrath. My spell damage (from gear) is +200, my int is 300. Here's what has to happen.

1) Add 25% of int to spell damage. Spell damage is now 275.
2) If I'm 5/5 Wrath of Cenarius, I add 10% of my bonus spell damage to wrath. That brings it to 302 spell damage.
3) The damage coefficient for wrath (i.e., how much of your total bonus damage is applied to the spell) is 57%, so that means about 172 of the damage will actually be added to the wrath.
4) Top-rank wrath does an average of about 405 damage, so the total damage goes to 577.
5) If I have 5/5 moonfury, Wrath does 10% more damage, so that brings me to a total of around 635 damage from a wrath.

Spell damage has an interesting relationship throughout this process. Look at Wrath of Cenarius and Moonfury, particularly.

If I only have 100 spell damage, Wrath of Cenarius is only going to be giving me another 10 spell damage on wraths, 20 on starfires. Not horrible, but come on, there are potions that give you 24 spell damage + 24 spell crit. However, if I have 500 spell damage, Wrath of Cenarius is giving me 50 spell damage. Much better. And the higher you go, the more bang you get for your buck. Moonfury takes that bonus damage and magnifies it.

Now, look at this in terms of total damage of the spell. I'll use starfire this time to make the math simpler.

Starfire's average damage at max level is about 588. I have 100 bonus spell damage. The damage coefficient is 100%, so that means the starfire will be 688 on average. If I factor in talents, you're looking at the following:

(588 + (100*1.2))*1.1 = 778.9

That means your talents are granting you about 91 damage, or roughly 13% damage from baseline (no talents). Now let's look at it with a higher bonus damage, say, 600. Baseline damage without talents is 1188.

(588+(600*1.2))*1.1 = 1438.8

Now your talents are granting you about 250 damage, or about 21% damage from baseline. As you can see, you get proportionally greater returns the higher you go in spell damage.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Moonkin Math

So, we've got spec out of the way. Let's talk a bit more about gear and habits.

Now, I've seen a couple posts on the WoW forums and elsewhere saying that the order in which you need stats is (in order of priority) Spell Hit, Spell Damage, Spell Crit. Usually, Int/Spirit/MP5 usually are tossed in somewhere after that in varying orders.

The problem that I have with most of these is that, in all the math examples I've seen, they do not calculate in the effect of some of the most essential Balance talents.

For example, Nature's grace. Reduces the next casting time by .5 seconds. Let's say that I'm casting Starfires, and I'm getting about 1600 damage per cast, non crit. My crit rating for starfires is, say, 20%. So, ten casts later:

8*1600 + 2*3200 = 19,200 damage /30 seconds = roughly 640dps.

Now, if we calculate in Nature's grace, we save 1 second of casting. 9,200/29 sec = 662 DPS.

Let's apply it to another 30 second scenario. Wrath this time, say 1000 damage, 2k on crit, over 30 seconds. For the sake of simplicity, let's keep the 20% crit rate.

16*1000 + 4*2000 = 24,000 damage / 30 seconds = roughly 800dps. Factor in Nature's grace, and it becomes 24,000 damage / 28 seconds = 857dps.

So basically, the more you crit, the more the time reduction boosts your damage output per second. Thus, spell crit scales not just because of higher damage hits, but because of more frequent hits.

So, what's most important? I don't think you can say one singular thing, as with our talents there are multiple paths to acheive the same goal. There are, however, a couple things to pursue.

1) Spell damage - Any way you can get it. Because of the large number of Balance talents that boost spell damage you have, moonkin scale very well at 500+ spell damage.

2) Intellect - Raw mana pool, spell damage, crit chance, and mana regen all in one. Intellect is your god. Don't neglect other areas, but make sure you've got a bunch here.

3) Spell crit - because of balance talents, spell crit becomes more valuable to us than many other classes. Doubled crit damage bonus + nature's grace is a wonderful thing.

4) Spell hit - with a caveat. If you have 2 points in Balance of Power, your spell hit will cap out on raid bosses at about 150 spell hit. There is never a reason to get more.

5) Mana/5 - Neglect this at your peril. We've come a long way, but mana issues can still plague moonkin specced druids. Do your math to make sure you have the endurance for long boss fights.

6) Spirit - With appropriate talents, this will add to your mana regen during combat. However, it's a far step down from intellect in most cases.

7) Spell penetration - I've seen conflicting information, and haven't been able to figure out a way to test it myself in any reasonable experiement, so let me just say this: There is a good amount of evidence that spell penetration has absolutely no effect in PvE. There is still some lingering doubts, so don't take that as gospel - but I personally will be investing in Spell Hit before penetration.

My personal take? I prioritize Int and Spell damage, put spell crit and hit on about the same level, though as I gain more spell hit I will be focusing more on improving crit.


So, that's what you're looking for out of your gear. So what is a typical fight like?

There are two cast sequences that I use. Since I generally don't have mana issues, I tend to use the slightly less mana efficent, higher DPS sequence.

Open with Faerie Fire, but do not repeat until it is down
Insect Swarm, Moonfire, Wrath x6, repeat

For a still high DPS, but saving a bit on mana efficiency, go with the following
Insect Swarm, Starfire x4, repeat

Theoretically, the starfire sequence DPS will catch up with the wrath DPS. However, this will be around +2000 Spell damage, so don't hold your breath. :)