August 2009


Robin Torres of WoW.com just finished the posting process on my interview from the VIP dinner. This is really an awesome post. I am stoked that others are as excited about the lore questions and answers I got as well as just sharing the whole experience with everyone.

http://www.wow.com/2009/08/27/blizzcon-2009-laguna-art-museum-vip-dinner/

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http://s611.photobucket.com/albums/tt198/kyliaar/

I am on my last vacation day before work sitting here with sore legs confronted the fact that I have to go back to the real world tomorrow. This weekend was a friggen’ blast!

Not only did I get to experience the convention but we had the added bonus of getting to go to the Laguna Art Musuem benefit dinner. I posted some fairly brief thoughts about a bit earlier.

Blizzcon was amazing. That is about all I can say. Cataclysm sounds like something entirely revolutionary as far as MMOs go. It is said to say but I feel more inspired to spend my free time playing WoW now. It is like coming back from a Tony Robbins convention or something.

I met up with some people who playing Alliance way back in Classic but re-rolled horde. I used to talk to them a lot on our server’s IRC channel and had partied and even guilded with them. It was nice to talk about old times. I really think a key feature at Blizzcon is the realm meet-up tables. What happens at those tables usually either makes or breaks the experience for me. I think it could be a worthwhile investment for Blizzard to figure out how to make them occur earlier for all realms rather than making a lot of players have to wait until the second day. I met up with several other friends as well… the social aspect of Blizzcon is a big one for me. You can start random theory-crafting conversations with just about anyone and have relevant input on both sides without it turning into a flame war.

Jay Mohr was awesome. He is getting better and better as a host. I missed the last Blizzcon but I saw him host his first one. He still has jokes that developed during the first one that have become running gags. For instance, when he is on stage, he refers to the person who has the Ed McMahon type job (from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson) as God. This is something that came up out of the first Blizzcon he hosted. The thing about Jay Mohr is that his performances are far from polished but that adds to his charm. He busted his chops in the improv world so he knows how to just react to the moment and spin off things occuring with the audience or the show. This makes him a very warm host, even for the roughest of audiences – gamers… a crowd with a very high percentage of mid-level teenagers who think they know all the mechanics of any game and RL itself of course and who want to appear jaded (because jaded is cool). I hope to see him coming back year after year but even more importantly, I hope to see him hosting bigger venues, such as the Emmys.

Seeing Ozzy perform was kick-ass. He really enjoyed the crowd there. However, there are two things on this that get big minuses.

  • Hall D for a concert? C’mon. The acoustics are horrible there and there is a much smaller number of ‘good seats’ in that sort of space than something like the a sports arena. I can understand the logistical problems with trying to host concerts there with a convention that has double the attendees of such a venue. What about clearing a space outside? There is that big field right across the street? Can some deal be struck there? I may be thinking pie in the sky here but Hall D concerts aren’t very workable from my experience.
  • The band formally known as L80ETC… I am not a fan. A few of their songs have started to grow on me but I would appreciate either no opener or something more mainstream. I am sorry. I really am. I know I should worship you guys… but you guys are at best, a decent garage band… not an opening act for Ozzy or the Offspring.

All of the World of Warcraft changes coming with Cataclysm sound fanastic. I really look forward to exploring the new, old world. However, I am just guessing but it is probably a good idea to get those lore acheivements done now because it sounds like they are going to be completely changing the quest hubs there. Of course, that just might make those acheivements easier, especially since they talked about account wide acheivements vs. just character acheivements.

Here are some more photos I took. These are all available in higher resolutions if you want any particular one. Just contact me.

http://s611.photobucket.com/albums/tt198/kyliaar/

Pictures: http://s611.photobucket.com/albums/tt198/kyliaar/

I don’t have a lot of time to write as we are about to head out to try to get back to Blizzcon on time for the start of the opening ceremonies, where all the cool announcements will be made.

The VIP dinner was very interesting. It was much different from other benefits I have attended. The food was buffet style so we were given some period of time to stuff our faces and partake in the open bar. There were five selections of art that were up for silent auction and the musuem and Blizzard people had some brief words about art, the exhibit, the love, etc.

Shortly after that, someone came up to our table and asked us who we wanted to talk to out of like three choices. We chose to talk to a Producer and so Carlos Guerrero spent some time with us. He explained his team was largely responsible for coordinating successful launches and managing all of the different elements (art, software, hardware, etc) involved in that so everything stayed cohesive. Sounds like a bunch of cat herding to me.

After that, I browsed around seeing who else was there. The most fascinating person to talk to was Evelyn Fredericksen who is the lucky person whose job is to basically serve as the continuity checker for Chris Metzen’s creative work on the games. She was also a very animated story teller. When I sat down she was explaining the different levels of orc and their various levels of demonic corruption. From there, she gave us a history of Dalaran and the Kirin-Tor, going all the way back to the Highborn splitting off from the Night Elves to become High Elves. She also talked about the Guardian of Tirisfal, Medivh and some of the newer lore from the comics.

I started asking her about the Old Gods and the link to Lovecraft mythos. While she was talking about this and confirming the link, I suddenly realized that, in that mythos, the ancient ones are a relatively low level in the heirarchy in that they only deal with a single planet. I realized that this chaotic influence from the old gods could be responsible for much more on a broader scheme even though they have only been referenced in WoW lore as those 5 beings the Titans imprisoned. I questioned her on this and I got a bit of freeze up and was basically told they were still working on those concepts. I definitely got the sense something was there.

I went and talked to Chris Metzen about it briefly right at the end of the night. He basically confirmed that there were discussions regarding the extent of the Old Gods elsewhere on other ‘prime material’ worlds. I found it interesting that Chris Metzen referred to Azeroth as a prime material world. It took me a while to realize that this was the terminology used to talk about the different planes in Dungeons and Dragons with the plane of the player characters being the Prime Material plane. This leads me to believe that he has a far more detailed concept of how the entire WoW mythos is laid out, beyond just Azeroth, Outlands and the Twisting Nether.

Pictures: http://s611.photobucket.com/albums/tt198/kyliaar/

This may just be my own thing but I have found my enjoyment of WoW is largely based on what guild I am, how they operate and how I sync in with them. This makes sense to a large degree because a lot of the attraction of WoW is the interaction with other players of the game. Normal RPGs (such as Oblivion) usually get boring for me fairly quickly. One notable exception was Fallout 3… love that game.

Since the group you play with has such a large impact on your enjoyment of the game, I figured I would share some thoughts on things to think about in deciding what sort of group to play with. The amount of benefit you will get from being in a guild is directly proportional to how much time you spend with them and how long you have been with them. Thus, it is very worthwhile to find one you enjoy and stick with it.

That being said, I have not found it valuable to stick in a guild when it has stopped being fun for me. There are many factors that can cause a group to stop being fun for you. Don’t be afraid that you will loose friends (real friends won’t care) or not be able to find another guild just as good, if not better.

What are your goals for the game – current and future?

This is the primary question to ask because your choice of guild should support your own wishes. There are many different aspects of the game:

  • 10/25 man raid content
  • PVP
  • Leveling … either as alts or as a main
  • Social – hanging out with friends and family
  • Role Playing – I would assume these types of guilds exist on the RP servers

A guild will choose to emphasize certain of these factors over others but will usually have one stated focus that contains one or two of these factors as what they are trying to achieve as a goal. I would rate the importance of these factors for yourself and find a guild that appears to have a similar level of importance in each area.

For instance, my first guild was a levelling guild. It was during the first few months of the game and there were not a lot of 60s around. As I approached 60, I realized that raid content was what I wanted to focus on and switched to guilds that had that focus. I have never been much of a PVPer but social aspects are important to me. I want to be around people that make me feel good.

From my own experience, I can speak about the mechanics that I have found favorable in managing PVE raiding within a guild. I can not give such detail about PVP or more social guilds as I have not spent as much time in them.

Advice for selecting a PVE raiding guild

I would put PVE raiding guilds into three main categories, which are really just points on a spectrum and most guilds will be somewhere between these.

  • Hard core – These guilds are machines. Their goal is to be the first to down that boss, get that hard mode achievement, etc. They will optimize as heavily as they need to for this.
  • Medium – These guilds are interested in progression through PVE content but also interested in fairness to less skilled/geared members.
  • Casual – These guilds are more of a social gathering place than players that have any focus on trying to organize raids against progression content.

Any guild is going to be somewhere on the spectrum from hard core to casual. I think a lot of players would immediately look at this and say ‘Oh, I want to be in a Hard Core guild! Where do I sign up?’

The short answer is you usually will have to post an application to that guild’s web site. The best source of data on what guilds are looking for new members will be the Forum Boards for your server:

http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/child-forum.html?forumId=11119&sid=1

The fact that you are submitting an application to a guild which will usually ask for specifics about your character and you in detail should alert you to the fact that your ability to join a hard core guild will be based on your level of gear and skill as well as their need for someone like you to fill a slot. The more hard core a guild, the harder it is going to be selected. If you do have this goal, realize that you are going to have to build up to it by increasing your knowledge of your preferred role, your class and getting more gear.

Well, how do you that if you aren’t a member of a guild? There are a lot of people always looking to do 5 man content or even quite a bit of 10/25 content that will be announcing this in general or trade chat. There is also the LFG/LFM interface. You will be able to do a certain amount of content through these methods without being in a guild and get gear and experience that will make you a more attractive member for a guild interested in PVE progression.

I do not recommend trying to join a guild just for the sake of getting geared up so that you can hop to a more advanced guild as soon as you are able to. Most guilds are alert for this and will see the signs either in your application or in your behavoir in the guild. Also, usually there are systems for awarding gear and raid spots that prevent someone from abusing this. In my opinion, trying to do this is going to be counter-productive for a lot of reasons, one of which is that it is just a dick move.

What this means is that you should be looking for a good guild that looks solid which is willing to accept someone like you. Most guilds are very explicit about what they are currently looking for in regards to class, spec and level of gear. In general, I would err on the side of applying to a guild if you see what you want rather than assuming you won’t make the cut.

What characteristics to look for in a PVE guild

How are they progressing through content?
This is all about how far into the set of end-game 10/25 raid instances they are regularly killing bosses. There are many source of comparative data on how guilds are doing in making it through content. One site I found very useful for this is

http://www.wowprogress.com/pve/

You should be able to easily look up the rankings of the guilds on your server. These ratings are done by the relative time that guilds have completed raid achievements. I personally feel this is one of the best ways to get an overall sense of the depth of ability in their raiding team. For instance, here are the ratings for my server:

http://www.wowprogress.com/pve/us/destromath

My guild is ranked 23rd overall and 9th on Alliance. Definitely not the best progressed but a level where I don’t feel that I am loosing out on experiencing content.

Would I be able to raid with them?
It is very important to understand what their raid schedule is on any given week and see how that fits your schedule. Obviously, you will not benefit from the guild as much and vice versa if you are not around for main activities.

Loot policies
Loot may or may not be a driving factor in why you play the game. However, the more serious you are about progressing through PVE content, the more I feel loot becomes compensation for your efforts in progressing the team. Loot can cause a lot of drama if there is not a system that enforces fairness by default. If there is any sort of choice of who gets what other than a well defined DKP system, you open a huge can of worms. There are arguments that it can be good to default gear to main tanks and things like that, especially for guilds that are trying to get a quick start. I personally feel the potential for drama is too great to justify the benefit.

This may not seem to be a factor for you personally. However, you would definitely be impacted if raids were disrupted or groups fell apart over arguments regarding loot so be aware of this factor regardless.

General Management Policies
There needs to be a certain level of organization and coordination in order for a guild to be able to hang together enough to consistently push through content. You should watch out for situations where that organization is not presented in a clear fashion, seems arbitrary, everything is done by only one person, etc.

I am just excited as a baby murloc sucking down his first clam meat!

I was lucky enough to win the raffle for tickets to the Blizzard/Laguna Museum VIP Benefit Dinner. The package includes the dinner itself, a blizzcon ticket, a signed piece of art and tickets to the exhibit.   There will be 200 attendees and 100 Blizzard executives at the dinner so it sounds like there will be a lot of opportunities to talk to them and get my own personal questions answered.  Also, I had missed the chance to buy Blizzcon tickets this year so, just on that level, this was really awesome news for me.  As a sidenote, my birthday is the first day of Blizzcon so I don’t think I could have asked for a better birthday present.

I talked with a friend over at WoW.com (previously WoWInsider.com) and volunteered my services to help cover the dinner and BlizzCon.  She was happy to interview me regarding the dinner and post photos that I took at the event.  That discussion lead to the creation of this blog since it provides a good way for me to personally communicate to the World of Warcraft community.  Look forward to seeing information here regarding my experiences at Blizzcon and in Azeroth.

Another note that I wanted to add was that my guild has gotten together to sponsor sending my guild leader as my guest since I was able to buy two tickets.  I think that says a lot about the big hearts that my team, Covent of Destruction on Destromath, has.  You guys ROCK!

Lots of inside jokes in this one.

Lots of inside jokes in this one.

First off, I think there are probably three main roles a druid healer may find himself in in a 25 man raid. In 10 man and 5 man, needs and expectations are different and I am optimized solely for 25 man raiding. There are cases where, with my preferred build, I will have problems in 10 man without switching out gear, such as mimiron.

The three healer roles that I see that a resto druid can fill are:

1) Specifically targeted tank healing (Healer assigned to keeping a tank up)
2) Tank HoT rotation + supplemental raid healing
3) Pure Raid healing

This is almost like a spectrum.

In order to do targeted tank healing well, it requires you to focus more on your heals with cast time and to probably pick Regrowth or Nourish as what you will glyph for and focus on improving with talents and gear build. However, I think there are other classes that are more locked (Pallies and Disc priests, maybe certain holy builds, too) into this role with druids being better in 2 or 3.

The 2nd role is probably druid specific because of lifebloom. I can’t think of an equivalent strat that would be workable for other healers. This is probably the most common role that people who are knowledgable about druids expect them to follow. This role is done by keeping 3 stacks of LB+rejuv+regrowth on the MT and OTs, with raid healing as permitted.

The 3rd role is done well by druids, priests and shammies. Shammies excel at this and there really is no comparison if the raid is taking a lot of damage… which is the case in most fights in Ulduar. Druids do well with HoTs in this role. Priests do well with CoH and Flash Heal(?), I believe.

Take whatever I say about priest and pally healers with a grain of salt. I know the least about them in healing roles.

So, having said that, I found that my best strat is to focus on either 2 or 3 as the situation calls for. 2 is best for a normal tank and spank with some adds or some damage hitting targets in the raid somewhat randomly (e.g. Mimiron 1st phase). I switch to 3 when I know the raid is about to take a lot of dmg as a whole (e.g. Hodir’s frozen blows, Mimiron 2nd phase, Kologarm’s oblivion).

There are a number of things I do with my build to support this and try to make this as effective as possible.

First, I will talk about what I try to stack as far as stats. The main stats that affect healers are Int, Spirit, Spell Power, Haste and Crit.

For my build, the one that I consciously go after first is Haste. Your goal as a HOTter should be to get your global cooldown down to 1 sec. It is 1.5 by default. This is 50% more HOTs that you can throw out. Here is a link so you can calculate the spec and gear needed for this.

http://www.resto4life.com/2009/02/06/gift-of-the-nerfmother/

In working this calculator, I assume there will be swift retribution and a totem up. This is true probably 90% of the time, if not more.

If you note from my spec, I have Celestial Focus and 4 pts on Gift of the Earthmother. I am to the point where I could take one more point from Gift of the Earthmother and put it elsewhere (probably Living Seed or Revitalize, maybe Tranquil Spirit – all about as equally useful/useless in my opinion?).

http://www.wowarmory.com/talent-calc.xml

Mana regen is important. This role requires constantly spamming HoTs to be effective. (Well, I do use other spells as appropriate so not constantly). Spirit should be your first choice since you should have Living Spirit and Imp Tree of Life. However, don’t think that mp5 is a waste if you have a choice to gem it or if it is on a trinket that has a cool proc (like Living Ice Crystals). My goal with regen is to have enough that I don’t go OOM but not so much that I don’t use Innervate in most boss fights. If I have to use a pot, that is a sign that I might want to buff my regen for that fight.

Spell power, Int and Stam scale pretty well with gear. If I have a red gem slot, I go with a pure spell power gem. With blue, I can go a lot of ways depending on what I currently feel I am lacking. With yellow, well, I haven’t had to fill a yellow slot in a while. If you need help on meta gems, I can throw some advices up on that but I think there are only a limited number of choices that make sense for any casting class. You can probably easily find more detailed information elsewhere about gems and enchants so I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about it.

Crit is almost useless for this build. Sure your regrowths, nourish, lifebloom blooms and other big heals are affected but that usually just contributes to overhealing.

So, the next major topic is strategy. My strategy is entirely situational. I would put situations into a number of categories.

1) Tank damage only with very little raid healing needed. (Worm packs when done right)
2) Tank damage primarily with some sporadic healing needed on raid, usually on a single target. (Mimiron phase 1)
3) Tank damage with periodic heavy raid dmg (Hodir, Kologarn)
4) A lot of constant dmg on all members of the raid. (Mimiron phase 2)

Most fights will contain elements in 2 or 3 of these categories. You should be able to see a correlation between these categories and the roles I mentioned above.

I think one of the primary things that I see as ‘common knowledge’ about how druids are supposed to heal that is wrong is what hots to use on the raid.

Rejuv is usually over-emphasized for raid healing while Lifebloom is under-emphasized.

The main difference between these two spells is their duration and how they tick. Lifebloom has a shoter duration, ticks hit smaller but quicker and there is the bloom at the end. Rejuv has a longer duration, longer tick rate but bigger heals.

The single most important thing to know about most 25 raids is that the healers are constantly keeping everyone topped off. In order to be effective as a raid healer (or even a tank healer) with HoTs, you need to be proactive and use quick healing. This is why Lifebloom is so heavily favored.

I will only use rejuv to either supplement lifebloom or when there is very little damage being taken currently with massive raid damage being anticipated more than 10 seconds out.

You may be saying at this point ‘Kyliaar, what about the benefits of revitalize?’ Revitalize does help members of the raid regen mana, runic power, energy or rage quicker. However, they will still be more effective if they are kept up than if they have a slight boost to their regen. This may be a factor in fights like Patchwerk when it was progression but it is rare for a DPS race to be that tight.

The main goal I have is to anticipate those moments of massive raid damage (e.g. Kologarn’s oblivion) and have lifebloom (1 stack) ticking on as many people as possible.

It is best to have WG go off right as the dmg is taken. WG also has an interesting tick mechanic. It ticks extremely quickly when first cast, then peters out. So, you want to cast it simultaneous to the hit to the raid. However, that being said… don’t save it, cast it on someone (usually melee) as often as it comes up.

Capitalizing on these hits to the entire raid is what will determine how much HPS a resto druid can do. Outside of that, there is too much competition for HPS to be able to make much of a difference. Don’t expect to be able to beat a shammy using Chain Heals because they are more effective in these situations than you can be.

All of this being said, it should be remembered that people not dying is way more important than capitalizing on meters. If you are asked to root or do some other role that knocks you out of tree, do it. Tanks are more important than any other member of the raid – keep them up. Keep your swiftmend, NS+HT macro and other instant heal you may have (Living Ice Crystals) available and close to your other healing key bindings.

For more thoughts on resto druid healing: More thoughts on raid healing as a resto druid