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.