29.7.11

Images of Azeroth - July 2011

Sunset over Mount Hyjal


The Waterfall of Ashen Lake,  Hyjal


The Mists of Elwynn Forest


The Barrens by Moonlight


Click images to embiggen.
  

24.7.11

Holy Paladin Basics: Getting Started

I am often asked the question, "How do you heal as a Holy Paladin?" It is a question that is hard to explain in the space that Twitter gives, or even within the space of a single post. Often, the guides that are written are done so with max-level characters who are tackling heroics or raiding content in mind, and the new, low-level Holy Paladin is left in the dark. Holy Paladin Basics is a continuing series of small, specific posts aimed at teaching new Paladin healers how to effectively use the tools that they're given to tackle any situation.

SO YOU'VE DECIDED TO BECOME A HOLY PALADIN
The wet snow was still clinging to the young Dwarf's tattered and mismatched hand-me-down chainmail as he nervously stood in front of Azar Stronghammer, the Paladin who had been his mentor since leaving the comfort and safety of his home in Anvilmar. "Ye've done well, young Paladin, ta make it this far," Azar said, a stern, yet approving look on his weathered face. "But the dangers o' Dun Morogh are jus' the beginning of yer journeys. It's now time to choose which path of the Light ye're to follow. Choose wisely, young one, but choose quickly! Me ale needs me attention!"
Kneel. Kneel before Zod Uther.
At level 10, the fledgling Paladin is faced with the difficult choice of which talent specialization to pursue. Unlike most classes in World of Warcraft, the Paladin has three completely different roles that he can fulfill: Tanking, Healing or Melee Damage Dealing.

Putting the first Talent Point into the Holy Tree and choosing the life of a healer means that you are taking upon yourself the responsibility to keep those around you alive. It means that you are going to thrive in groups, and there will always be an insatiable demand for your services at every level and in every situation.

A Holy Paladin is one of the most powerful healers in the game. Equally at home in small groups or large raids, they bring lot of unique abilities and utility spells in addition to their healing. In a raid setting, a Paladin's natural niche is healing the Tanks, as the direct nature of the healing spells coupled with Beacon of Light are excellent for keeping up a single target taking extreme damage. A Holy Paladin is certainly capable of healing the Raid as well, but has fewer tools to do it than the other healing classes.


HOLY PALADIN ABILITIES

All Paladins get the following abilities as soon as they choose the Holy talent tree:

Holy Shock

An instant cast, multi-use spell as it can be used as an attack or a heal. It generates one point of Holy Power upon use. As an attack it does a moderate amount of damage and is a very useful addition to the admittedly limited offensive potential of a Holy Paladin. This spell, when used in a Holy DPS build, gives that spec it's name: The Shockadin.

As a heal, it is an exceptional spell and forms the backbone of our healing arsenal. Healing for a decent amount and generating Holy Power, this is something that a Holy Paladin will want to cast as much as possible. It has a short 6 second cooldown, and because it is instant is one of the few heals that a Holy Paladin can cast while moving.

Meditation

Allows 50% of your mana regeneration from Spirit to continue while in combat. This ability is a freebie that every healer gets, but it's absolutely crucial for a healer to be effective. Ignore all of the other abilities - this, more than anything, is why a Holy Paladin will be better at healing than a Retribution or Protection Paladin at the lower levels.

Walk in the Light

Increases the effectiveness of healing spells by 10% and removes the cooldown while increasing the effectiveness of Word of Glory by 30%. Another ability that makes a Holy Paladin a much stronger healer than the other specs.

Illuminated Healing (Mastery)

This ability places a shield on the target of each of your Direct Heals (as of 4.2: Flash of Light, Holy Light, Divine Light, Holy Shock, Word of Glory) for a fixed percentage of the heal. It is augmented by Mastery Rating, which can increase the size of each shield. Trained at level 80, this ability is not going to matter much to a levelling Holy Paladin.


LEVELLING AS A HOLY PALADIN

Regardless of your class, levelling as a healer is not a challenge for the faint of heart. Questing will be a lot slower and more difficult than with a Retribution or even a Protection talent specialization. Enemies of all sorts will chuckle as you tickle them for virtually no damage with your weapon. Holy Shock will be your best friend, but enemies will seem like they take forever to die and it's likely that you will become intimately familiar with each of the questing zones many graveyards. You'll probably know the Spirit Healers on a first name basis.

On the other hand, a low level Holy Paladin is a beast at healing in dungeons.  As such, your best levelling path is through instances using the Random Dungeon Finder starting at level 15.

If your plan is to heal once you reach Level 85 (and I can't imagine there is a reason to level as Holy if it isn't), there are several advantages to levelling through Dungeons:

1) Low level dungeons are easy to heal and provide great experience and gear. Even without any guild perks or heirlooms to help boost Experience Point gain, a single dungeon run at low levels will provide a sizable chunk of a level, if not more. As well, the dungeoneering Paladin will almost certainly be clad in the best gear available for any particular level, which makes healing even easier.

2) Levelling as a healer will provide a greater understanding of the healing dynamics of the class. Rather than levelling as another spec and choosing Holy later, someone starting as a Holy Paladin will be able to spend time with each ability as they are learned, and will be able to see how each spell relates in function to the other spells in the toolbox. It is the best way to get an intuitive knowledge of all of the spells in a class's arsenal, and will ease the learning curve in the higher-end content.


GEAR & STATS FOR LEVELLING

Gear

Paladins have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to levelling gear as they are able to wear any type of armour available. Mail armour is preferred until level 40 when it's possible to train Plate. However, until level 50 when the Plate Armor Specialization ability becomes trainable (which gives an additional 5% mana when wearing all plate armour), a Holy Paladin can and should use any armour type that is an upgrade.

Holy Paladins are unique in that they are the only class to have an armour class all to themselves. Plate with Intellect (or Mail with Intellect below level 40) is not desired by any other class that can use it, consequently it can be somewhat harder to find. The advantage is that in a group or raid there will be less competition for that gear, giving you a better chance to get it.

Holy Paladins are also one of only two healing classes that can use Shields, although they can also equip any type of off-hand item other than weapons. Shields with healing stats (Intellect, see below) are rare and precious objects while levelling, and it's more than likely a shield will get replaced much less often than any other type of gear short of a Relic (which you won't see until around level 50).

Stats

INTELLECT is your highest priority stat, and should be on every single piece of your gear. Get used to stacking as much of this stat as you can, because it is your best friend from now on. This stat not only determines how much mana you have, but also your spell power which increases how big your heals are. In addition, Intellect factors into mana regeneration. More Intellect is always better.

While levelling, all the other stats are relatively meaningless and Intellect should be prioritized over everything else. My personal strategy is to equip any gear that has more Intellect, even if it is a lower item level or has worse secondary stats. Until you hit Northrend, no other stat matters.

However, since you're going to get secondary stats regardless, it is useful to know what they are and what they do.

SPIRIT is your regeneration stat. It allows you to increase the amount of mana you regenerate both in an out of combat. It's a very good stat to have if you are having problems with your mana when healing dungeons. Never, ever stack Spirit instead of Intellect as Intellect contributes to your regeneration as well.

HASTE is a throughput stat that increases the speed of your heals and lowers your Global Cooldown, allowing your to cast more spells in a given period of time. This is a great stat to have, but at low levels you will never be able to acquire enough of it to make a significant difference.

CRITICAL STRIKE RATING increases the chance that your heals will land as a critical strike which will make them heal for 100% more. This is nice to have, but it's unpredictable and most healers tend to favour the predictable healing increases that Haste provides instead.

MASTERY is a stat that you will start seeing on gear once you hit level 80 and move into the Cataclysm levelling zones. It increases the effectiveness of your Illuminated Healing shields. As such, it isn't something that you need to worry about for a while, but once you're at level 80 it's generally regarded as the least important of the secondary stats for a Holy Paladin.

Other stats, like STRENGTH, AGILITY, HIT RATING, SPELL PENETRATION or DODGE are stats that will not help your healing at all, and so have very little use for a Holy Paladin. STAMINA will increase your Hit Points, and therefore your survivability, but is not something that a Healer should go out of their way to gear for; your Tank should be taking the large majority of damage in an instance.

We will discuss the various different Secondary Stats from the level 85 perspective later in MASTERY CLASS: GEARING AND STATS FOR ENDGAME CONTENT (coming soon).


NEXT HOLY PALADIN BASICS CLASS:
The Holy Toolbox: Spells and Spell Selection
  
  

21.7.11

Addons: Tracking Illuminated Healing

Ever since Patch 4.2 handed us a very lovely buff to our mastery, Illuminated Healing, it seems that Holy Paladin mastery fans are starting to crawl out of the woodwork like an infestation of termites. A strategy that is heavily reliant on gearing for Mastery is beginning to gain a measure of acceptance as a very specialized method of Paladin healing, and that makes it more important than ever to know what those little invisible shields that Recount insists are there are doing; because the default user interface does a horrible job in telling you who's got 'em and how big they are.

TRACKING ILLUMINATED HEALING

There are three things that a healer needs to know when it comes to keeping track of Illuminated Healing bubbles: Who has the shield, how long it's going to last and how much it's able to absorb. Technically, all of this information is presented in the default user interface, but it's poorly implemented and not available at a glance.

I am using three different Addons to get this functionality upfront and easily accessible: Grid, Power Auras Classic and the useful Ingela's Absorb Tracker.

Power Auras and Ingela's Absorb Tracker working
together to show me what I need to know.


POWER AURAS

I've set up Power Auras to display the Illuminated Healing icon above my target's cast bar when the shield is active, along with a timer showing me exactly how long it's going to last. I have it configured to only show my own shields, although it could be configured to show any Illuminated Healing bubble.

Here is the Power Auras configuration string. Feel free to modify it for your own usage.
Version:4.21; icon:Spell_Holy_Absolution; buffname:Illuminated Healing; x:354; alpha:0.5; owntex:true; mine:true; groupOrSelf:true; size:0.1; y:-144; targetfriend:true; timer.b:0; timer.g:0.6; timer.UpdatePing:true; timer.Texture:Crystal; timer.enabled:true; timer.cents:false; timer.Relative:CENTER; timer.UseOwnColor:true


INGELA'S ABSORB TRACKER

Immediately above my Power Aura is the latest addon to fill up my Interface folder: Ingela's Absorb Tracker. It's an exceptionally elegant little piece of programming, designed to track the amount of absorption of the different shields that are available; including Power Word: Shield, Divine Aegis, Illuminated Healing and Blood Shield, among others.

IAT is very easy to set up, only requiring a minute or two to position it where you want and choose which absorbs you want to track and on which targets.

I have mine set up to track only Illuminated Healing on my current target, same as the Power Aura. As I switch targets IAT and Power Auras seamlessly switch with me, letting me know the bubble status of that particular target at a glance.


GRID

What these two Addons can't show me is whether or not people in the Raid other than my target have Illuminated Healing shields, which is where Grid comes in. I have always been a big fan of the customizablility of Grid and how a tiny little box can be configured to show so much useful information. In fact, my own setup is incredibly simple compared to what Grid is capable of. To see an insanely cool and useful Grid setup, go here.

Grid showing Illuminated Healing shields on the Druid and Priest.
I have configured Grid, along with the extension GridSideIndicators, to show me a red dot on the Top Middle of each health bar to indicate the presence of an Illuminated Healing bubble. Simple, but effective in showing the status of my shields on the entire raid at a glance.
 
 

16.7.11

Shannox Down - Identifying the Problem

A lot of people read my whining about Shannox in my last post and offered a lot of great tips on getting through the fight. Thank you everyone for your advice and comments.
Dead.

However, frustrated with our lack of success in Firelands, Mountain Top put together an off-night raid last night to take another crack at Shannox before the weekly reset. Sadly, both myself and our regular Death Knight Tank were unable to attend due to family issues.

They one-shot Shannox and killed Beth'tilac as well for good measure. Grats, Mountain Top!

The difference, as it turns out, was changing tanks. The Protection Warrior that replaced our regular DK tank was able to block a great deal of the incoming damage that was insta-gibbing our DK, which made the healing in the last phase a lot smoother and easier to deal with.
Also dead.

Don't get me wrong, our DK is a great tank and there is no one I would rather heal when the going gets tough, but reading the Blood DK forums over on Elitist Jerks confirms that a lot of DK tanks are having problems coping with the damage spikes in this encounter. The self-healing that the Blood spec uses to tank is seemingly less effective during intense, burst damage than the reliable mitigation from blocks that a Paladin or Warrior can expect.

It's no excuse, and it doesn't really change anything for next week when our Death Knight will be back getting beat on by Shannox. We'll still need to figure out a way to prevent him from dying.

But the bastard and his dogs are dead, and that makes me a happy Paladin.

Next up: Admiral McSpinnypants
 
   

14.7.11

This Week in Raiding: Shannox the Raid Killer

Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change - this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress. - Bruce Barton
Putting together a new raid team can be tough, and I don't envy Raid Leaders who have to do it.

There are countless pitfalls to deal with: Schedules to coordinate, divergent personalities that need to mesh, boss strategies to learn, communicate and change on the fly. Each wipe that occurs is a disheartening experience to a new group, shaking it's confidence in itself.

Unfortunately, that's what Mountain Top is going through with it's raiding progression right now.

I hate you, Shannox. I really, really do.
MOUNTAIN TOP v. SHANNOX
(or, How To Kill Morale in 27 Excruciating Pulls)

Oddly, it wouldn't be so bad if we were wiping early or doing something stupid like standing in traps. Quite the contrary, as once our Tanks got the mechanics of stack-dropping down (The Doggy Dance? The Crystal Trap Two-Step?), the first part of the fight became simple and our raid group is getting through it cleanly and reliably.

Our strategy is to burn Rageface down as soon as possible, then get Shannox to between 35% and 40% and kill Riplimb. The doggy poop really hits the fan for us when Riplimb goes down and Shannox freaks out; gaining two stacks of Frenzy and doing 60% more damage 60% faster. This is ouch-time for our Main Tank and the time for the Healers to do a gut-check and earn their paychecks. Invariably, it's where we've been failing.

We're so close, though. 9% wipe. 7% wipe. 4% wipe. A freakin' sub-1% wipe. Tantalizingly, terribly close to seeing him die like the mongrel that he is. Getting within a dog's whisker of success means that we're doing something right, but the repeated failures also means that we need to be doing something better. Keeping the Tank alive during the Frenzy phase would be a good start.

Once that last dog dies the healing strategy needs to completely change. Efficiency goes completely out the window and it's Wrath-style healing again: Spam big heals or else your tank is going to die within seconds. Mitigation cooldowns such as Hand of Sacrifice must be utilized, but it's often hard to spare the global cooldown in order to cast it. The reactionary, triage style of healing that we've been trained to use throughout Cataclysm needs to be quickly forgotten; by the time you see and react to damage it's probably already too late. Sadly, the realities of mana management do not make this style of healing practical any longer, and healers with their mana tanks drained can't keep anyone alive.

A fight like this requires very good coordination, communication and rapport between healers, something that a new Raid Group like ours isn't likely to have built up yet. A strong role leader who can analyse problems and implement solutions is also a luxury most new raiding groups - particularly more casual ones - won't have. I'm not going to sugarcoat things, it's been a really difficult and demoralizing test of our new team. We're all good healers, but we don't know each other well enough to really push each other or properly hold each other accountable. I would love someone to tell me, "You suck. This is what you did wrong and here's how to fix it." That's easy; it's much harder to have to try figure it out for yourself.

Of course, the random connection issues and weird happenings that have plagued us haven't helped much either. We've had to call raids two or three times now because of gigantic, crippling lag spikes on our top DPSers. The opening of the final Harry Potter movie cancelled tonight's raid. More than a few pulls have been delayed due to baby aggro from the Dwarfling and our Death Knight's two kids. Not to mention having one raid memorably and frighteningly cancelled due to a real life emergency which ended with an ambulance trip to the hospital. Lady luck, it would seem, is not on our side.

ENOUGH COMPLAINING, ALREADY
(or, So What're You Gonna Do About It, Pally-Boy?)

Keeping the tank up during Shannox's Frenzy is tough, but that clearly is the problem and the main reason we've been unable to down this boss. I think that better coordination of the healers and their cooldowns is all that we need. The Tank simply can't go for more than two seconds without a major heal.

I think I am going to suggest a more coordinated approach. We have two Holy Paladins healing, so you would think that we wouldn't be having this problem, but with both of us healing independently- and using our cooldowns independently - there are gaps in the incoming heals. Looking at the death logs in recount after the fight shows that the Tank can go from full health to a fine, bloody mist in a mere three seconds, so any gap in large, incoming heals will be invariably fatal; especially as the stacks of Jagged Tear begin to mount up.

I am going to do two things: Firstly, I'm going to suggest to our healers that we setup a Cooldown/Heal rotation. I envision having one Paladin spam Avenging Wrath/Divine Favor boosted Divine Lights on the tank while the other uses cooldowns such as Hand of Sacrifice and Aura Mastery to try prevent damage, at the same time healing efficiently with Holy Light and Holy Shock. When the first Paladin gets low on mana, they switch. This should prevent any gaps in the incoming healing and at the same time help prevent both Holy Paladins going out of mana at the same time. This in itself should be enough, but...

Can a Mastery Build Save the Day?

The other thing I am going to do is experiment with a Mastery build. There has been a lot of talk about Illuminated Healing builds lately: Rohan, Enlynn, Adgamorix and this thread on the official forums have all been talking about how it's a great, but incredibly specialized tank healing build that shines in encounters like this at the expense of virtually all versatility. I even talked about wanted to try out it's viability when I talked about the changes to Illuminated Healing.

I think that this build is ideally suited to this fight: Insanely heavy incoming damage where the shields will shine. Enlynn of Bubblespec wrote a great, detailed post on this style of play and has inspired me to finally try it out. I hope it will give us the boost that we need to finally put this boss down, permanently.

How has your raid group dealt with the Shannox Kennel Club? Any tips? Did you make any changes to your healing composition or style that you felt made a difference?
 

13.7.11

Elusive Purple Wrist Candy

It's no secret to anyone of the Holy Paladin persuasion that bracers were a huge problem in Tier 11. Only 4 sets of PVE Intellect Plate bracers were available when Cataclysm first launched: two heroic level 346 bracers, a set that dropped from Cho'gall and finally a heroic-only set that dropped from Sinestra. None of these were terribly common drops, and throughout the entirety of Tier 11 not a single one dropped for me.

Not one.

Early on I had picked up the blue PVP bracers as a stop-gap. Even with the utterly useless Resilience, the Intellect upgrade was more than enough reason to choose them over the iLvl 333 Bracers of Umbral Mending that I was sporting since regular Grim Batol. They were not ideal, but I figured that they would do until something else dropped.

I wore them for six months.

And it's not like I didn't have opportunities to get them, either. I ran Grim Batol until my eyes were bleeding since the Dungeon Finder had a particularly evil habit of choosing no other dungeon for me. The bracers never dropped. Cho'gall didn't drop his either, but since I only ever got him down two or three times it's not nearly as surprising.

Fast-forward to Patch 4.1 and the Zandalari Troll instances and we see two new dungeons, dropping iLvl 353 gear that was designed to fill in the gaps between normal Heroic gear and normal-mode Raid gear. I was very excited when I learned that the Bracers of Hidden Purpose would be available in Zul'Aman; even more so when I learned that it would be off Akil'zon, the first boss in the instance. No more struggling with end bosses to get the nifty Plate Intellect bracers!

I figured I'd have them in a week.

Sadly, the same, familiar story was repeated with these bracers, only with an twist. The Dungeon Finder, with it's cruel, anti-Holy-Paladin bias, would choose nothing but Zul'Gurub for me when I would queue up for a Random Zandalari dungeon. And the odd time that it did choose Zul'Aman I would invariably zone into a group who had already downed Akil'zon and thus not even have a chance to get them. In the whole time that Zul'Aman has been back as a 5-man dungeon I think I have seen and killed the Eagle Boss 3 or 4 times total.

It's enough to drive a Dwarf to drink. Not that we need much of an excuse, mind you.

Jump ahead again to 4.2 and a new guild: Taking my own advice, I was running a lot of guild groups into the Troll-roics and I finally managed to snag the ever so elusive purple wrist candy. I should have been excited as I enchanted them for our first raids into the Firelands, but I wasn't. I was fairly ambivalent, actually, because I knew that not 5 days later I would acquire enough Valor Points to simply go and buy the Bracers of Imperious Truths.

So after eight months of struggling to get decent bracers, within the span of a week I now have two. Admittedly, the new Valor Point bracers are vastly and unquestionably superior, but since they are Bind on Equip the temptation to sell them for a ridiculous amount of gold is extremely hard to resist. There are none of these on the Auction House on my realm, nor have any been listed to my knowledge. Can I live with these troll-rific bracers for another week or so to get a huge, potential payday right now?

I think I can, as long as the money is truly, epicly ridiculous.

So I put them up on the Auction House. I couldn't believe I was doing it even as I was clicking the Post Auction button. The thought of 50,000 gold makes a boy do silly things.

As a responsible raider, however, I set the Auction to time-out just before our raid starts tonight. If they don't sell - and at 50k gold I figure it's a low probability that they will - I'll enchant and reforge them and rock them in Shannox's face tonight.

And if they do sell, then I'll try use the money to craft some of the great gear that's available. I'm sure it won't last long, but the start of a Patch like this is a golden opportunity to cash in. It's not like these bracers will be hard to obtain, after all.

UPDATE: For better or for worse, the Bracers of Imperious Truths didn't sell for my rather ambitious asking price before our raid last night, so I equipped them for our fight against Shannox. The irony is, of course, that Shannox - should we ever kill the fucker - drops bracers too.
 
 

8.7.11

The Dwarfling: The Cutest Dungeon Group Ever

What do you get when five people in the World of Warcraft Twitter and Blogging community all have babies in a short space of time? Why, the cutest dungeon group in the world, of course!

Nymphy, one of the writers of D/E the Tank has written up a breakdown of our little 5-man boss-stomping band of adorableness. I think out of all of the readers of Battle Medic and Dear Dwarfling she is the Dwarfling's biggest fan, and tends to squee louder than anyone when I publish a new Dwarfling post. I think that these two-foot tall dungeon runners are in good hands with Nymphy chronicling their adventures!

Check out Nymphy's post where she breaks down their classes and roles in such a way as to absolutely melt even Frost Lord Ahune's heart. Vestments of Transcendent Cuteness, indeed!

Cutest Little Babies in the World (of Warcraft)

Be glad she's a healer and not a DPS, because her cuteness crits every time.
 
 

6.7.11

Tag, I'm it! 20 Questions for Healing WebRing 2.0

Saunder over at Non-Squishy Heals has resurrected an old blogging meme originally started by Miss Medicina, one of the great, lost luminaries of WoW blogging. The original 20 questions circulated back before I started writing Battle Medic, or even reading WoW blogs, so I didn't have a chance to participate or read any of the old ones. Saunder has tagged me to help kick things off, and I'll tag two more people at the end to carry on.


1. What is the name, class, and spec of your primary healer? 

My main healer is a Paladin by the name of Thosif. He is, confusingly enough given the title of my blog, a human and not a dwarf, although I'm very tempted to change that.

2. What is your primary group healing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)

I am a dedicated PVE healer, so my main healing environment is anywhere people are trying to kill Internet Dragons. I enjoy raiding in particular, and I love the intensity and accountability of the 10-man raiding format where there isn't anyone else to cover for me if I make mistakes. It's the most delightful kind of stress imaginable.

3. What is your favorite healing spell for your class and why?

Lay on Hands, or as I like to call it: The Reset Button. It is the most deliciously overpowered spell in the game on a measly seven minute cooldown when properly glyphed and talented. There is no other spell in the game that can instantly reset a Tank's health and give the caster a huge chunk of mana at the same time. There is no greater feeling of exultation than a perfectly timed Lay on Hands that saves a person from imminent death. I look for any excuse I can find to cast it.

I just wish it could Crit and transfer through the Beacon of Light. I miss those days, but if there ever was a spell that was overpowered, that was it.

The biggest problem with Lay on Hands is when I accidentally hit it a split second too late to save the target. I have Auto-Self-Cast set to On, and so if I cast LoH just a split second too late and my tank dies, it automatically casts it on me, usually wasting a large majority of the heal. I've had to create a macro to only cast it if my target isn't dead to work around the problem. My Tank will still die, but at least I don't blow a long cooldown for no reason any more.

4. What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?

Flash of Light. It's definitely the Holy Paladin's most useless spell. It's better now that Infusion of Light makes it instant, but it's still too expensive relative to the amount it heals, and it's cast time isn't fast enough to justify ever using it. I admit, however, that I do use it occasionally when a raid member is on the brink of death. It's a rare occasion when I do, though, and it normally means that the person in question is a single stiff breeze away from being a floor smear.

5. What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why?

As far as healing in Cataclysm goes, the Holy Paladin's biggest strength is Mana Efficiency. This point is proven every single patch as Blizzard frantically nerfs us to bring Holy Paladins down to the same level of efficiency as the rest of the healing classes, and each time the plate-wearin' battle medics just roll with it and keep bombing the big, expensive heal. Holy Paladins simply have a staggering array of unique methods that regenerate a silly amount of mana - Divine Plea, LoH and Judgements - in addition to options like potions and trinkets that are available to all classes. I continually find it astonishing how quickly I can make a dire mana situation comfortable again by just intelligently using the tools available.

6. What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why?

Raid Healing, no question. With only Holy Radiance and Light of Dawn to add a tiny amount of AOE healing to a raid setting, Paladins are hard pressed to keep up with the other classes when the raid is taking a lot of damage. And if everyone is spread out then we're completely screwed.

Interestingly, Blizzard started Cataclysm with the goal that each healing class would be able to fulfill both tank and raid healing roles, and yet it seems that each change that they make pushes Holy Paladins back towards being specialized Tank Healers. I don't mind this because I actually like the idea of a degree of specialization in the healing classes, but I do find the inconsistency in Blizzard's approach a bit annoying. Am I as a Holy Paladin capable of being a Raid Healer that is as effective as a Shaman, Druid or Priest? As of 4.2, the answer is no.

7. In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you? 

In light of what I discussed in the previous question, my best healing assignment is on the tanks. We have a lot of flexibility and utility when it comes to Tank Healing that we simply can't bring to the raid. A single, skilled Holy Paladin can go a long way towards keeping two tanks up - although he will need some help.

8. What healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why?

I adore Paladin healing. There is a spell for any situation that can come up in an encounter and the Holy Paladin's answer is not necessarily limited to pouring more healing onto a target to solve it. Got too much threat? Hand of Salvation. The mage pulled aggro again and is about to die? Hand of Protection. Your tank is about to take a staggering amount of damage? Hand of Sacrifice. Ooops, the Tank is about to become worm food? Lay on Hands. Need an eight second vacation from all worries? Bubble, baby.

9. What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why?

Well, I can't say that I'm an expert on the other healing classes. Aside from the Paladin, I have raid healed in WotLK with a Priest (both Holy and Discipline) and done low-level dungeons with my Shaman. My druid is still languishing at level 20, so I wouldn't say that I have a good grasp on tree healing yet.

Each of the different healing classes feels different, and I appreciate each one for what they do best. I enjoy my priest, and miss the days of the bubble-spamming discipline style. I also really like the little Shaman: There's nothing quite like healing with bouncing laser beams. And while I haven't got a good feel for Druid healing, I have always loved Heal Over Time spells, and that style of healing really appeals to me.

To avoid sounding like a complete cop-out, though, I suppose that the class that has the healing style that I like the least is probably the Shaman. I find that having all cooldowns tied to totems needlessly complex compared to the simplicity of the Paladin abilities. Having to turn off one ability - Healing Stream Totem, for example - to activate another and then remembering to reactivate the first one seems a lot more clunky than could possibly be fun. I can see myself healing a raid as a druid, but I'm not sure if I can keep all the various totems straight to the point where I could be effective on a Shaman. Time will tell, I guess.

10. What is your worst habit as a healer?

Well, one of the officers of my guild would say that it's letting Enhancement Shaman die too frequently.

As with most healers, I can tend to focus on my raid frames too much and not be as aware of what's going on around me as I should be. It's killed me more times than I can count. I call it getting Gridlocked.

Also, every now and then I'll accidentally hit the Whisper Reply button while healing and get stuck in the chat box and unable to heal or move. It's easy to tell when this happens to me, because I'll die and then immediately say, "11111111111wwwwwwqqqqqqqqq333333333" to the raid. It's kind of embarrassing, honestly. I can already see the comment section filling up with people telling me to switch to Clique.

11. What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing?

My biggest pet peeve when it comes to healing is when a Warlock Life Taps himself to the brink of death and then expects me to heal him mere seconds before a pull. This is why you guys are so squishy! Life Tap is a great tool, but it's not designed so that you don't ever have to use water to regenerate mana. All you're doing is forcing me to drink after I heal your lazy ass.

12. Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing?

If by well-balanced you mean ridiculously overpowered, then yes.

Seriously though, I think that Healing is in a good place right now and all of the healing classes are well balanced right now. Healing numbers in the raids that I've seen have been very close, and any healing class can top the meters on any given fight. A rare victory for the Bring the Player Not the Class concept.

13. What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer?

I use Recount, and I look at my spell choices and performance after most boss fights, particularly the wipes. I haven't really used World of Logs much, although I understand it's unrivaled as far as deep performance analysis goes.

But the main criteria that I use is the ol' Did my Healing Assignment Die? method.

14. What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class?

The biggest misconception that people have about Holy Paladins is that they seem to think the we're not absolutely awesome in every way. Flaws are for other, lesser healing classes.

Another misconception is that all Holy Paladin players become extremely arrogant once they put on Intellect plate, and I have no idea why this myth keeps persisting. It's a mystery.

15. What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new healers of your class to learn?

The thing that most new Holy Paladins have a hard time getting used to is that one of the most fundamental things that must be done constantly has nothing to do with healing: Judging. Casting Judgment returns a significant amount of mana and gives us our Judgments of the Pure buff. The one thing it doesn't do is actually heal, so it's a little counter-intuitive that a healer should be wasting a Global Cooldown on it. Once that lesson is learned, mana problems tend to become a lot easier to deal with.

Also, it takes a long time for a new Paladin healer to get used to all of the utility spells that are available. There are a lot of them, and they aren't going to be something that will be used every single fight, but are extraordinarily powerful when used at the right time. Believe me, the Mage that's topping the meters will adore the Paladin that casts Hand of Salvation on them to help reduce their threat so they can rock out even more DPS.

16. If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a healer via recount, what sort of patterns would they see (i.e. lots of overhealing, low healing output, etc)?

They would likely notice that I strictly follow my policy of never healing Rogues. Just kidding, I love my stealthy, backstabbing brethren.

A very close analysis of my healing logs would show a very good usage of short-term cooldowns such as Judgement and Holy Shock, and an appallingly poor usage of long-term ones. I admit, I'm awful at using my throughput cooldowns like Avenging Wrath or Divine Favor. It's a flaw that I'm working hard to overcome, and just put together a couple of new Power Auras to remind me to use them and let me know when they're available. I'm just always afraid that I'll use a cooldown and then not have it available when I truly need it. As far as flaws in my game go, this is probably the biggest.

17. Haste or Crit (or Mastery) and why?

I have always been a Haste fan. I like the responsiveness that haste allows, and the throughput benefits in undeniable. I ate, slept and pooped haste in Wrath of the Lich King.

However, with the changes to Mastery in 4.2, let's just say that I'm crit-curious. At some point I am going to experiment with a Crit/Mastery build and see how that goes. I'm pretty sure that the pure healing numbers will be great, but I'm not sure about how it's going to feel: Is it going to feel so slow and clunky as to make healing no fun? Are my heals going to arrive a split second too late all the time? I don't know, but at some point I'm going to give it a try.

18. What healing class do you feel you understand least?

Druids, for the simple reason that I haven't ever really played one before - at least not in any meaningful content. Although I do keep up with a lot of Druid bloggers, so I think I have a decent theoretical understanding of the class.

19. What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in healing?

I don't do any healing at all if Grid is not installed. It is my minimum requirement as far as addons go. Thankfully, the developers seems to respond quickly when Blizzard breaks it with a patch and it's downtime is typically very minimal. I also have GridManaBars and GridSideIndicators installed and customized. I have it configured just so, and it is a warm, fuzzy blanket of comfort when I step into a new dungeon because while the encounters may be unfamiliar, Grid is always there for me.

I also use Deadly Boss Mods, Mik's Scrolling Combat Text, Power Auras, Stuf Unit Frames (not the Raid Frames), Recount and Omen. I try to keep my user interface relatively stock and basic - it's more patch resistant that way - but I've been noticing that more and more addons have been creeping in as I try to improve my healing performance. But I really try to make Grid and Power Auras do most of the heavy lifting as opposed to having more addons.

20. Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?

A Holy Paladin that isn't stacking Intellect these days is an rarity, certainly. The secondary stats are more up in the air, however the vast majority of Holy Paladins came down on the side of Spirit and Haste. Unfortunately, until patch 4.2 our Crit and Master simply weren't good enough to bother with. Now that our mastery has been vastly improved there is a little more wiggle room for out-of-the-box thinking.


Well, there we go. 20 questions answered - some more thoroughly and less glibly than others, but answered nonetheless. I hope you enjoyed it or, at the least, didn't find it offensive. Now to tag two more healers representing different classes to pass it on.

I throw it over to Angelya of Revive and Rejuvinate and Oestrus of The Stories of O. I can't wait to see what these lovely ladies have to say.

EDIT: I also tagged Glorwynn of Heavy Wool Bandage to answer this questionnaire as well. She has answered here from her unique perspective as a dedicated, but low-level healer. Give her a read!
 
 

2.7.11

Fitting Into a New Guild

"Céad míle fáilte" - Irish Gaelic greeting
Imagine being invited to a party and walking into a room full of people you've never met before who are chatting amongst themselves as if they have known each other their whole lives, but the person who invited you is no where to be found. Finding oneself in a new social setting can, for a lot of people, be one of the most intimidating social nightmares possible.

Well, you know that new druid in the questing greens and blues that just joined your guild? That's what he's going through right now. He is the WoW equivalent of the guy standing in the corner of your guild's party trying to pretend he's interested in the photo of your Great Aunt Olga that's hanging on the wall. Which, depending on the expression on his face, can be extremely uncomfortable for everyone involved.

I started this article while dealing with helping new recruits fit into a very old, established guild as part of my role as the recruiter. Ironically, I now find myself in a new guild as well, trying to make new friends and fit in. In this article, I'm going to talk about this topic from both perspectives.


THE RECRUIT'S PERSPECTIVE
Or, Making Friends for Fun and Purples
"If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone. A man should keep his friendships in constant repair." - Samuel Johnson
Join the Right Guild in the First Place

The first step to fitting into a new guild is to make sure that you are compatible with each other. Sadly, while Blizzard has added a lot of new functionality to make finding a guild easier there is no such thing as eHarmony for guilds, so finding a good match takes a bit of work.

Before joining up with that guild with the cool name that you've been eyeing up, do a little research to find out what they're all about. Whisper one of their members and ask what type of guild they are. Do they PVP, Raid, or just sit around in Guild Chat telling dirty jokes in character? No one is going to think less of you for asking questions about their guild, and they are likely going to be asking some questions about you as well. It's important stuff to know, because joining up with a guild that doesn't do what you're looking at doing is just a waste of everyone's time.

Blizzard's new Guild Finder tool is decent, but doesn't really tell a potential recruit much about the inner workings of a guild, and certainly won't help you determine if you'll fit into their culture. By all means, send in a Guild Request using it, but follow that up with a PM or in-game mail to the recruitment contact of that guild and ask them some questions. If nothing else, it shows that you are genuinely interested and not just clicking the Apply button randomly.

Don't Join a Guild Hoping it Will Change
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." - Leo Tolstoy
A player that is mismatched to the guild they're in is an unhappy player who is unlikely to stick around. A guild with unhappy players is an unhappy and drama-filled guild. The best and happiest guilds are the ones which have a membership that is all on the same page as to what they want to do in-game.

As a potential recruit, make sure that the guild you are looking at joining is doing the things that you want to be doing before you join, and don't expect the guild to change just because you show up with different plans. A casual guild will always be casual, a PVP-oriented guild will always want to eat the opposing faction's faces, and coming into that type of guild with a different mindset will eventually cause problems.

Be Social!

As a recruiter, nothing annoyed me more than inviting someone to the guild and then have them remain stone-cold silent in Guild Chat only to quit the guild the next day. Going back to the party metaphor, if someone walks into a room full of people and then doesn't make any attempt at all to interact with the other guests... well, it's kinda creepy.

What I always want to see is a new recruit start interacting in Guild Chat immediately, even if it's just something simple as introducing themselves or asking more questions about the guild and how things are done. It's very hard to jump into a new social group and instantly be the life of the party, and no one expects anyone to do that, but the only way to begin to fit into a new guild is to start talking to people.

I think that the internet has skewed normal social rules to a degree, and it's become normal when going into a new social situation (forums, for instance) to lurk for a while to get a feel for the culture. Imagine yourself back at that party and the new guy is hiding behind a potted plant listening to your conversation: what would be considered strange and abnormal behaviour in the context of normal, face-to-face social rules is now the norm on the Internet. I understand the desire not to jump into a social scenario until you understand the dynamics, but Lurkers in a new guild tend to forget one, simple and important fact:

These people wouldn't have let you join if they didn't want to talk to you.

So talk to them! Ask questions about the guild, or about their Raiding or PVP habits. Tell them a little about yourself. Ask them if they like kittens or puppies or My Little Pony. Jump into a conversation with a joke or an observation. Just say something so that you're not just another anonymous and silent name in the guild roster.


Forums


Virtually every guild has a webpage with forums, and every guild that has forums complains that their members don't use them enough. 

If you must Lurk or feel more comfortable getting the lay of the land before jumping into a conversation, the Guild Forums are a great way to get an idea of your new guild's personality without having to actually communicate with them. The variety of posts will tell a new recruit whether the guild is serious and business-like or whimsical and fun-loving. Most times the forums will also let you in on a lot of the inside jokes and past accomplishments of a guild, helping a new recruit feel more a part of it.

The forums are also a great place to post an introduction to yourself so that the guild can get to know you. Oftentimes it is easier and far less intimidating to post something like that rather than typing it in Guild Chat or saying it in Voice Chat. If your new guild has an introduction thread that other people have used, so much the better, as the previous posts will give you a good idea who these people that you've signed up with are, and what they would like to know about you in your own introduction post.


Groups

Of course, the best way to get to know people in a game is to play together. There are many different ways to group up with your guildies: Dungeons, Raids, Battlegrounds, Arenas or questing, among others.

Sharing an activity is the easiest and most comfortable method - in game or out - to get to know someone. It gives everyone involved something in common to talk about which, given time, will allow openings into other, non-activity related conversation topics. And if nothing else, grouping with your new guildies and sharing a gameplay activity will show them what kind of a player you are, even if nothing is said.

It's unlikely, depending on the guild and how friendly and welcoming they are, that a new recruit will be swamped with group invites upon joining. In my experience, most guilds are friendly to new people but don't go out of their way to try to immediately include them in spontaneous guild activities, and it's left up to the recruit to find a way in. This really is a horrible way to welcome a new member into your social group and in my opinion, the worst mistake that most guilds make with their new recruits.

The best way that I've found to get involved in your guild is to simply ask. Let people know what you're doing and ask if anyone wants to join you. Or, if someone is organizing a group for something, offer to join in. I feel that a brand new recruit in guild is still queuing for Random Dungeons or Battlegrounds by themselves without at least asking for company in Guild Chat is not doing themselves any favours - both in terms of fitting in socially and showing the guild that they are a team player.

Remember, if you've done your homework right and are in a guild with compatible goals to your own then there should always be people willing to join you in doing whatever it is you want to do. All you need to do is ask.

Voice Chat

Ahh, Voice Chat. For a person who is nervous or uncomfortable in new and unfamiliar social situations, chatting in Ventrilo or Mumble can produce a lot of anxiety. Who do you talk to? Which channel? Is it okay to listen into a conversation in a channel, or will you be thought of as that creepy guy behind the ficus tree again? Is it okay to jump into a conversation between two people? Oh god, oh god what the hell do you say?!?

Every guild will have a different culture when it comes to Voice Chat, and it's a lot harder to generalize than Guild Chat. Some guilds will use it only for organized guild activities such as Raiding or PVP, others will use it as the primary means of communication, with a dead silent Guild Chat and a buzzing, lively Voice Chat server.

Everyone knows that Guild Chat is public and available to anyone in the guild to see and therefore the rules are understood to everyone without being spoken. Voice Chat can seem like it's completely different, but it really isn't. Here are some basic things to keep in mind:

Get in there and start chatting! It's surprising how much of some guild's social interaction goes on in Ventrilo or Mumble. If your guild is like this then get in the channel and jump into a conversation!

Voice Channels are public forums unless they are marked private in some way. Normally, as a member of a guild you will have every right to join any of the public channels in your voice chat server. Any channel that you're not supposed to be in will be marked Private or password protected. These are normally reserved for Officers or specific functions, but often there will be specially marked channels for people who want to have a private conversation.

If you interrupt or join a private conversation, the people involved will either stop talking, find somewhere else to chat or ask you to leave. It's important to remember that this doesn't mean that they're anti-social or that they don't like you, it simply means that they are talking about something that should have been done in a private channel. You had every right to be in the channel, but out of respect for the people involved it's best to say sorry and find a different channel. In this scenario, don't worry about it if they're a little rude asking you to leave; you don't know whether or not they are talking about something personally upsetting.

There's no point to being in Voice Chat if you don't talk. If you're in Voice Chat, by all means, say something. Even if you just break in now and then to offer a comment on what other people are talking about. Talking to someone is the best way to get to know each them, and they you.

Don't worry about it. Seriously, there is nothing that anyone can say to you in Voice Chat (or Guild Chat for that matter) that will change who you are. If someone is saying or joking about something that you don't like, simply leave the channel. If you say something stupid that you immediately wish you could take back, don't worry about it - ignore it or make a joke about it or apologize then move on. I guarantee you that everyone you're talking to has said something completely asinine themselves at one point or another.

Surviving the Trial Period

Most guilds will have a Trial or assessment period of some sort, and all of them will have different rules on how they run it. It's a good idea to know about these before you join, or at least ask about them after.

Offering specific advice on how to survive the trial period is impossible because each guild is looking for something different. A Raiding Guild will evaluate you based on raid performance while a PVP Guild will rate you based on how proficient you are at melting Horde faces. Study up on your class, Enchant and Gem your gear the best you can and play as well as you are able is about all you can do.

Outside of game performance, however, there are things you can do to make yourself stand out, and a lot of it is simply following the advice I've detailed above. Be friendly, have a great attitude and play your best. Regardless of performance, it's much harder to kick a friend out of a guild. It may not help you get your raid spot, but a good, friendly attitude will never ever hurt your chances.


THE GUILD'S PERSPECTIVE
Or, How Not to be a Dick to the New Guy
"Ah, beware of snobbery; it is the unwelcome recognition of one's own past failings." - Cary Grant
As an established member or officer of a guild, there are a lot of things you can do to help a new recruit feel at home. Most of them are common sense and blindingly obvious, but rarely done. I can't even count the number of times that I've invited a new person to a guild only to have Guild Chat remain frustratingly silent and unwelcoming.

Include the New Guy

Assuming the goal of guild recruiting is to create stable, happy, long-term members, the most important thing that a guild can do to make their new members feel at home is to actively go out of their way to include them in guild activities. A new recruit that is invited to a Raid, or a Rated Battleground or even a simple Random Dungeon will immediately feel more comfortable and have a much greater likelihood of sticking around than if they were left to their own devices. Think of it as offering to get that new person at your house party a drink when they arrive instead of just pointing them in the general direction of the fridge and telling them to figure it out for themselves.

One of the most intimidating things that a new member of a guild has to do is ask to be included in group activities. Since a recruit doesn't really know who any of the people in the new guild are, running a dungeon or a battleground with a guild group is not a whole lot different than a PUG. And while it's in the recruit's best interests to be sociable and start or ask to be included in groups, it's much friendlier if the guild offers and attempts to make the recruit feel welcome and included.

Engage Them Socially

What is a recruit to think when the rousing and encouraging chorus of "Welcome!" that he gets in Guild Chat when joining is followed by nothing but intimidating, icy silence? Just as with grouping, starting a conversation with a new group of people is intimidating as the new person. It's much more natural and comfortable if the established members of the guild take the initiative and try to get to know the new recruit. Even simple questions like, "Where are you from?" or "How long have you been playing?" will go a long way to breaking the ice and help the recruit feel more comfortable.

This is especially important in guilds that are old and established or composed primarily of real life friends. Guilds like these are very hard to fit into successfully for a new person. Inside jokes fly around constantly, leaving the new recruit on the outside with no idea what anyone is talking about. Large guilds that have been around for a long time also tend to have cliques - groups of people who primarily talk within their own group - which are extremely hard to break into as a new recruit. If a guild like this doesn't make an effort to include the new recruit in some way or give him some kind of acknowledgement that his input and participation is desired, the odds of him sticking around and making the large effort required to be accepted by these groups on his own is slim.


Tell Them How Things Work

You've been a great host at your party so far, you've pulled the new guy away from starting at Aunt Olga and introduced him to a few of your guests and they're chatting away like old friends and getting to know one another. But then you make a mistake and say something like, "Help yourself to a drink in the cooler, but don't take one of Jack's or he'll rip your teeth out with a Yellowstone National Park commemorative spoon". Great advice, unless you neglect to mention which drinks are Jack's.

Having a new recruit that is fitting in but that doesn't know the rules or how things work in your guild is asking for trouble. Let them know the things that they need to know. Are there any restrictions on using the Voice Chat server? What are the Guild Bank rules and does the recruit even have access? If not, when will he? How do the promotions work? How does one sign up for raids? Is there something to never bring up around Jack lest he go postal on your bicuspids? Whatever taboos or unusual policies your guild has should be communicated to a new recruit. Most guilds will have a post on their forums detailing a lot of this stuff, so make sure that the recruit knows where that post is.


CONCLUSION

The guests have left, your house is a mess and your liquor cabinet was emptied around 2am to create a "Super Cocktail" in your dearly departed mother's favourite fruit bowl, but the party was a rousing success. Judging from the fact that one is passed out in the corner with a lampshade on his head and drooling into the azaleas, the recruits fit in fantastically, had a great time and left Aunt Olga's picture unmolested.

Fitting into a new guild, or helping a new recruit get comfortable in an existing guild really just boils down to commonsense and friendliness. The best way to get accepted by any new group is to simply be social, and conversely, the best way to make someone feel accepted is to talk to them and include them in activities. Remember that the people on the other side of the computer screen have the same fears and insecurities that you do. Being friendly and open will, in the long run, make everyone feel that the guild is a safe, comfortable home that they would be crazy to leave.