This Week in Raiding: Healing Magmaw as a Holy Paladin

This Week in Raiding is a (hopefully) weekly feature discussing the raiding encounters that my guild tackled this week, the lessons learned from them, as well as any news or thoughts on raiding in general. This week we have the Magmaw encounter, with some specific thoughts on healing as a Holy Paladin, although many of these ideas can be applied to other healing classes as well.  This article specifically talks about the 10-man normal version, but should be the same for 25-man normal.  If you would like a more detailed description of the fight, please check out WoWpedia's write up and Tankspot's video.


Depending on what strategy that your raid group is using, healing the Magmaw encounter can be an intricate affair requiring split-second timing and the reflexes of Spider-Man or it can be a simple stand-in-one-place-and-stare-at-GRID snoozefest.  While I really enjoy the challenge that a truly intricate fight brings to the table, if I have to spend more time watching the ground for an effect than I do watching the health levels of the raid, then I'm going to take any opportunity that I can to simplify the encounter.

The main mechanic on this fight that will give healers problems is Pillar of Fire, which will target anyone out of close melee range and hit hard and fast for a lot of damage.  In order to avoid this, people need to move out of its way extremely quickly.  This can be very hard for healers who are focused on their raid frames and who, frankly, have more important things they should be worried about.

The very simple way of getting around this is to stand with the melee.  Pillar of Flame will not target you, and if you have a good group of DPS, the Lava Parasites will not bother you either, allowing you to focus on healing.  You need to stand in very close though; get used to hugging a great big, glowing red worm.

There are a few other things to be aware of:

Magmaw will ignite half of the room and then smack his head on the floor causing damage to anyone within.  You'll see smoke coming from the floor if he's targeting your section (and I'm sure DBM and your Raid Leader will be screaming at you as well) and you'll need to run away.  The best strategy is to run to the tank's position.  Using Holy Radiance at this point for the Speed of Light boost allows you to get out the fire quickly and heal at the same time.  Once it's over, quickly run back to your original position.  Stay as close to Magmaw as you can while running to avoid becoming a Pillar of Flame target, as well as a cautionary example of what not to do.

These spells are very powerful in this fight.  With everyone except the tank and (typically) one DPS clumped up, it's very easy to hit a lot of people with your AOE spells.

There are two potential Beacon of Light targets on this fight: the Tank or the Pillar of Flame DPS target.  I beacon the tank, but there are a couple of compelling reasons to consider putting Beacon the PoF target.
1) If your PoF target tends to get hit occasionally or is getting hit by the Lava Parasites a lot, then Beacon can help heal him while you focus on the tank.
2)  Range:  Depending on where your PoF target is moving to after a Pillar of Flame strike, he may move out of range of your heals.  Beacon of Light's 60 yard range ensures that he is always in range and always receiving heals.
The choice will depend on your particular group and their strengths.  If you Beacon the tank, you will be spending a majority of your time healing the raid instead of direct healing the tank.  If you run with two tanks on this fight, Beacon the one that is tanking Magmaw at the moment.

During the transition phase the Tank is going to be Mangled until Magmaw gets chained down.  This hurts like hell, so be ready to heal through some serious damage (and hope your DPS are on the ball with getting the chains taken care of).  This is a very good time to use Hand of Sacrifice in addition to Divine Protection, Hand of Protection or Divine Shield.  I normally go with Divine Protection (not glyphed) which will reduce the incoming damage on me by 20%.  I hesitate to use the more powerful bubbles here because a) the redirected damage is fairly easy to heal through using Protector of the Innocent's passive healing and b) I prefer to reserve them in case any Lava Parasites get into the melee group and start chomping on my bottom.  Once you bubble they will go find a different target that can (hopefully) deal with them better.

*Edit: It was pointed out in the Comments that you can directly Hand of Protection your tank.  This will, of course, prevent all incoming physical damage.  Just make sure that you communicate to your tank that you're going to do this, since it will prevent him from attacking, and he will likely lose aggro until the effect wears off or is clicked off.

Your tank will be taking a lot of initial damage during the pull, so I find it's very useful to pop either Divine Favor or Avenging Wrath as soon as I get into position.  It is a good idea to save a cooldown for the heavy tank damage of the Mangle phase, and Guardian of the Ancient Kings is an excellent spell for this since you'll be casting your heals directly and only on the tank during Mangle.  Otherwise use Divine Favor and Avenging Wrath on cooldown.

This fight can last awhile if your raid decides to burn down the parasites as opposed to kiting them, so mana management becomes very important.  However, there is a built in mechanic that makes this a lot easier.  In Phase 2 when Magmaw is chained down and the DPS are going nuts on him there is virtually no incoming damage.  This is the ideal time to pop Divine Plea and any other mana regeneration trinkets or potions that you may have.  Also, you're standing in melee, so don't hesitate to throw out a Crusader Strike or two to generate some free Holy Power for when the damage starts coming again.

It's important to ensure that everyone is topped off and close to full health during Phase 2 because Mangle will wipe all of the tank's threat, so that when Magmaw breaks out of the chains he will switch targets to the next person on the aggro table.  Quite often this will be the healers, but can often be the top DPS as well.  On 10-man normal it can take a DPS from full down to less than half health, so it's key to ensure that everyone is as topped up as possible beforehand.

Of course, we can all claim that we're killing raid bosses to help save Azeroth; doing good and noble deeds because we are paragons of virtue.  Balderdash.  We're in it for the shiny purple loot.  For Holy Paladins, Magmaw drops Breastplate of Avenging Flame, a wonderfully itemized little outfit, perfect for the stylish Paladin this season.  With Spirit, Haste, a red and a blue socket and a +20 Haste socket bonus, it's well worth getting.


It’s Nice to Be Needed... But Not Too Needed

When you are in a Raiding Guild, it is nice to be needed. 

I really enjoy my guild.  Even though I am a relative newcomer (I've been there for just shy of a year now), I feel like I have been accepted into their bizarre little family and have become one of them.  I have seen the highs and lows of progression with them; stood defiantly in front of the Lich King as he decimated our raid, exulted with them in triumph when we overcame that fight, and was there to see my guildmate Bomba break down in great, heaving sobs every time someone mentioned the phrase "Ulduar Hard Modes".  

When I joined Shadowgarde I was a complete noob when it came to raiding.  I had actually never even set foot in a raid before, but I knew that I wanted to.  I did everything I could to get my gear up to par (including PUGing Trial of the Crusader, which was equivalent to getting a 10-man and a 25-man root canal every week) and eventually I was invited to heal our guild ICC run.  There were a lot of growing pains as I learned the ropes, and my guildmates were great in helping me through it.  I think that in the end I evolved into a very good raider and that I've earned my raid spot.

It is a little disconcerting, on the other hand, to feel completely indispensable.  

Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that any time there is a raid called I get an instant invite.  I love being a go-to healer and someone my guild can count on to always be there.  But if I can't make it for whatever reason (say, like having a pregnant wife have a mental meltdown on a raid night), I don't want to feel like I'm the sole reason that the raid gets canceled.  Frankly, I can't take the guilt.

It's not just me, either.  At this point we are so hard up for healers that we don't have enough experienced, raid-ready healers to allow much flexibility at all.  If one of our regular healers miss a raid, it's a good bet that it will end up being canceled, or at least significantly delayed while we scour tradechat for a PUGer whose knuckles don't drag on the ground.  We have picked up a new recruit who has been raiding with us for a few weeks now who looks like he's going to work out really well, but we need more.

We are a very large guild full of all sorts of people from raiders to PVPers to casuals and socials.  It's not unusual to have 25 people online at raid time and still not have enough people who are interested in or geared for raiding.  Being such an incredibly diverse guild is a double-edged sword; on one hand the interaction and feeling of family is wonderfully comforting and compelling, while at the same time it's very discouraging to feel like you're PUGing within your own guild.

So... Any healers on Sargeras looking for a new guild?



Blogservations: Random Thoughts on Writing and Warcraft

This post is a desperate attempt to find a reason to use the term “Hodge-Podge” in a way that doesn't require double-quotes.  Success is by no means assured.

I have been blogging now for about six weeks and have recently been dealing with a minor bout of writer's block.  It's my first, so I'm not entirely sure what to do with it; is there a protocol or tradition for dealing with your first bout?  Are you supposed to frame it and put it on your wall like the first dollar that a fledgling business earns, to forever be a reminder that, yes, things have sucked worse than they do now?  Or is the inability to get past the blank word document a dirty little secret that you need to take to your grave, since talking about it is considered a grievous faux pas like mentioning a no-hitter during a baseball game?

As a complete non-sequitur, I really like abusing semi-colons.  I feel like every sentence deserves one.   Besides, I think that commas are overworked and that it's a good idea to give them a break unless they start a revolution and overthrow the world's governments.  I, for one, welcome our new comma overlords.

It's not that I don't have any ideas on what to write, I have lots of ideas for posts.  In my drafts folder on blogger, on my work and home computer's word processors are snippets, thoughts and orphaned titles of posts that are germinating in my brain but can't seem to get out of the grey matter.  There is no greater feeling of creative helplessness than staring at a blank page or canvas without the faintest idea of what to fill it with.

Even the Blog Azeroth Shared Topics, normally a goldmine for any Warcraft blogger that is feeling lost for a topic, have eluded me.  Last weeks topic “An Open Letter To…” stumped me for a solid week, and after each attempt was mercilessly aborted for being completely awful, I just threw up my hands and walked away from it.  I thought that a topic with completely endless possibilities would be fantastic, but the lack of direction ended up taking my mind in so many directions that physicists are going to have to create a few new dimensions just to accommodate them all.

At least with the current one “Are Five Levels Enough” I can simply say, “Yes” and move on.  Hey, does this post now count as my response?  I can already feel the link love.

After six weeks of writing for my blog, I've managed to observe a few things.  First of all, this project really is the first real writing I've done since university.  I worry that my style has become, well, rather staid and boring at times, having something to do with the fact that the major source of actual, real writing that I've done for the past ten years have been professional letters for work.  Inserting some personality and humour into a serious post can be mind-numbingly frustrating, and at the same time I wonder if small, throwaway posts like this one aren't worth the bother since why waste everyone's time?  There is always the nagging self-doubt hanging in the back of my mind that when I am writing something personal nobody is really all that interested in reading it, and that I'm not enough of an expert to write the IMPORTANT POSTS.

Still, I've really enjoyed writing again.  It's always something that I've enjoyed but never did, so this has been a wonderful outlet for me.  To both of the people who have read this far, I truly appreciate it.

Another thing I've observed is that Twitter is enormously distracting when you want to get any real work done.  Want to sit down and write a post?  Oops, Twitter has a new message.  Need to do the job you get paid for?  Wait, what is twitter saying about Wil Wheaton?  I always feel like I'm missing something vital and game-changing when there is a new, unread Tweet.  I get this weird burning in the back of my brain when I can't click on it to find out what it's all about.

In the past, whenever I've been feeling creatively stagnant, there have always been a few places I could go for inspiration.  For my photography, I could go to an art gallery or peruse any of the dozens of books that I have on the subject.  If I just wanted a buzz and a boost to my overall creativity, I would read U2: At The End of The World, which for some reason works on my brain like putting a packet of Mentos into Diet Coke:  everything gets all fizzy and starts spewing out uncontrollably and eventually you'll end up sticky.

For writing, however, there really is only one book worth picking up; only one book that energizes me enough to face the demon of the blank Word document.  (There you are Semi-colon, my pretty.  I've missed you).  Douglas Adams's The Salmon of Doubt, which in a sense is not a proper book:  merely a collection of writings from one of the most brilliant minds to ever postulate that sticking a fish in your ear was a good idea.  The articles in the book itself are wonderful to read, but most importantly, The Salmon of Doubt shows me how to be a writer.  There is no trick, you just have to write.  You need to write all the time, about whatever comes to your mind.  Vomit it on the page (or in this case laptop... who writes longhand blog posts?) and see if there are any undigested chunks of good writing in there.

I picked it up last night and started reading it, and well, 900ish words later here we are.  In case you haven't guessed yet, this post has nothing to do with WoW and the title was just to draw you in (I'm sneaky, aren't I).  But as a new blogger, and a person who only recently started to think of themselves as a writer, I felt I needed to get this out.  I think there are at least one or two readable bits here, although I'd be careful... it might just be some corn that I ate last night.


An Intimate Conversation with my Level 1 Self

There was an interesting Breakfast Topic posted over at wowinsider a while ago.  The questions was, "What Would You Tell Your Level 1 Self?"  I posted this in my guild forums, but I thought I would share it with the blogosphere as well.

Personally, I would take my new and shiny level 1 and take him into Anvilmar, sit him in front of the fire and have a long talk with him.  The Thunderbrew Ale would flow freely and the conversation would touch on many things, lasting far into the night.  We'd cover such topics as…

- “Youngling, log out and delete your hunter.  Just… just do it.  Having a dwarf with a gun is not nearly as cool as you think it’s going to be. You are really going to enjoy healing.  Seriously, DPS is for suckers.  Go get yourself a Priest or a Pally and thank me later”

- “Same thing goes for a Gnome Warrior.  The thought of a Gnome in 2 tons of armor is funny, but it’s gonna get old.  Oh, and Tailoring seriously is a stupid idea for a warrior. Really.  You can buy all the bags you want on the auction house.”

- “Don’t be scared of dungeons and groups.  Yes you’re new and have no idea what you’re doing, but everyone else was there at one point.  You’re going to make mistakes and you’ll embarrass yourself occasionally, but you’ll learn faster and there are lots of people who will be willing to help you out.  This ain’t a single player game, buddy”

- “Kill any horde rogue on sight. Kill the Alliance ones too if you can figure out how.  You will learn that there is an extra-burny place in hell for rogues.”

- “WOW is fun when you play it drunk.  Do this often.”

- “Oh, that thing you told your wife about not letting yourself get addicted to this game… yaaaaah… you’re wrong.  You might as well apologize to her now and get it over with.  And she will never play it with you, so don’t bother trying.”

I’m sure it would end up with both of us drunk, singing Dwarven drinking songs in front of the fire.  I would not want to be either of me the next morning.

What would you tell your Level 1 self if you could go back?


This Week In Raiding: Magmaw, Omnotron and Maloriak.

Welcome to the first post of This Week In Raiding; a (hopefully) weekly feature discussing the raiding encounters that my guild tackled this week, the lessons learned from them, as well as any news or thoughts on raiding in general.  I am hopeful that this feature will be full of a lot of useful information and general thoughts from my perspective on raiding, with less focus on "Oooo, look who we killed this week" and pretty kill shots.  

That being said, that's totally what the first post is going to be.

This Sunday was the first raid for our new raiding group led by Xzidor and Oath.  Our first target was Blackwing Descent.  Our guild had downed Magmaw last week with a different group, so this was the first time seeing this boss for a few of the raiders, and the first time that this group with these Raid Leaders fought together.

Magmaw went down after a few attempts with very little trouble. Our only real issues were coordination and getting people to move at the right time in the right places.  We again used a one tank strategy that allows the healers to pretty much stand still and focus on their jobs without worrying about the Pillars of Flame.  Next week on TWIR, I'll detail our Magmaw strategy in more detail.

On we went to the Omnotron Defense Council. This was the first time that a lot of us, including myself, had seen this fight, and it showed.  We had a lot of issues trying to get everything under control.  There were lots of mistakes all around, but everyone kept plugging away and we eventually had a couple of very good attempts. We even tried having our Resto Shaman solo the bosses for a while, but decided that probably wasn't going to work out so well.  Things got much better once the Holy Paladin (that would be me) stopped running around the room with Magmatron's giant laser beam on him, wiping half of the raid.  The biggest problem was with the blobs of poisoned poop that Toxitron spawns, which gave most of our raid fits while trying to avoid them.

We reconvened on Monday night, but started an hour late due to the fact that I was running incredibly late getting home from work.  This raid group has a hard time cap and stops the raids at 10pm server time, meaning we only had an hour and a half to get whatever progression we could before the reset on Tuesday morning.  Luckily, they only called me a few nasty names in raid chat before we were off and running.

It's amazing what a difference a day makes.  Knowing we had limited time we quickly called for resets as soon as we ran into a major problem, so we managed to get quite a few attempts in a short amount of time.  A lot of the mechanics that we were having so much difficulty with the day before worked themselves out very quickly.  Target switches were crisp and quick, AOE damage from shields was minimal and Poison Protocol was less of an issue with the slimes going down quickly and people actually managing to avoid them long enough for the DPS to burn them down.  Within an hour of starting we had our kill.  I was very proud of our Raid Group when those pesky golems finally toppled over.

With only about 30 minutes left until our time ran out we moved on to Maloriak.  If you have never done this fight, it's a complex encounter with adds and a spread-out/collapse mechanic that is on a semi-random pattern.  So there is a lot of movement and a lot of buggers adds that want to beat the off-tank into the ground who, of course, can't be tanked anywhere near the boss or else everybody pretty much dies instantly.  I know this because we failed at all of these mechanics at one point or another.  That being said, our final attempt of the night got Maloriak down to 31%, which I am very pleased with, considering our limited time working on him.


I'm very glad that my guild waited for me on Monday night, as I would have regretted missing the raid, especially since we got Omnotron down (still no loot-love for my Holy spec yet, though).  However, it should never have happened... I should have been benched and replaced by another healer so as to give the raid more time to have better chance at moving our progression further forward.  The sad truth is that as of right now we have very few raid-ready healers and need to recruit more.

If you are on the Sargeras-US server and are looking for a good, yet casual raiding guild, send me an email at symbology AT rocketmail.com or apply at Shadowgarde.net.


Images of Azeroth #2

Sunset over the Swamp of Sorrows

Blackwing Descent Statue

Omnotron Council Victorious

Moonlit Tree on the Dun Morogh Mountains


Battle Medic is on Twitter

I have finally given in and joined Twitter.

If you haven't hear of Twitter yet, then you are likely living on a different planet.  It seems to be everywhere.  It's like a little clique that constantly tells you that you're not cool if you're not part of it.

I admit that I have avoided joining or even paying attention to Twitter for the longest time.  I did understand what it was - 140 characters to tell the world what you're up to - but I admit that I really didn't see the point or understand what people used it for.  I figured that there would be far more "I just ate a bannana" type posts.

But after reading a post on Disciplinary Action talking about using Twitter to help people know when the blog has a new post up, I figured I would give it a try.

Now I understand why people consider this equivilent to cocaine.  It's very hard to see the little Tweet indicator and not check it.  It's a compulsion.  I need to know who is eating that banana.

Anyway, please feel free to follow me on Twitter.


On Heroics: When Is The Nerf Bat Appropriate?

Yesterday was a very interesting day when it comes to Heroic Dungeons. 

Rohan at Blessing of Kings did the WOW blogging equivalent of sticking a hand grenade in a hive of killer bees, calling for Heroic Dungeons to be nerfed.  This follows Ghostcrawler’s informative, but rather oddly timed post where he says that yes, heroics are hard and that's what Blizzard intended.  Meanwhile, the 4.0.6 patch notes are released detailing a very long list of nerfs to the very same dungeons that Ghostcrawler was talking about keeping difficult.  As Janyaa at Muradin Musings aptly pointed out, it seems like Blizzard is giving us an inconsistent message

Rohan’s point (and I encourage you to read his post if you already haven’t) was that Heroics are positioned as a “necessary stepping stone” to raiding, and as such the difficulty level is simply a barrier that a large percentage of the player base are unable to get past and is therefore being turned off of raiding. 


I can understand where he is coming from, and I have seen people who have been intimidated enough by the difficulty of the Heroic Dungeons that they have either switched to an easier role, given up raiding or given up the game altogether.  In our guild, for instance, we had 7 people say that they planned on healing in raids come Cataclysm, but now that we're here we have only 2, plus one other who stepped up and respeced when the lack of healers became evident.  In each case, the people who have stopped healing did so because healing in heroic dungeons was difficult enough so as to prevent it from being fun.

I’m sure by now most of us have had the experience of entering a random Heroic and spending 2 hours running up against a brick wall.  The inevitable end result of these evenings is a feeling of frustration and that you wasted your time and have nothing to show for your effort.  I can only speak as a healer, but depending on the gear level of the group, it can be bloody murder going through a dungeon when you have 2 or 3 people who are undergeared.  And as Rohan pointed out and we I'm experiencing with my own guild, this can deter people from even wanting to step foot into a raid.

One of the major drawbacks with using difficult Heroics as a gear gateway to raiding is the time that it takes to run them.  Spending 1 to 3 hours (sometimes more) on a single dungeon run is frustrating and restrictive when you are a player with limited play time.  And that is made worse if you don't get a drop from it.  Making the dungeons easier would speed things up and allow people to run them more frequently, thereby getting more drops and more Justice Points and allowing a quicker journey up the gear ladder.  

However, the biggest problem with heroics right now is that some encounters have specific ability requirements that can make it completely impossible to complete the fight without them.  Baron Ashbury is a great example of an encounter that is essentially impossible if you do not have at least two players with a reliable interrupt.  As well, without two CCers, Lady Naz’Jar or Beauty are very difficult if not impossible to defeat.  It is not fun to zone into a dungeon and know that simply because of the class make-up of your party that you cannot hope to complete it.  Nerfing encounters to be more accommodating to a wider variety of group compositions is a good change.


On the other hand, the thrill of getting a great group together, random or not, that can persevere through the difficult encounters (Commander Springvale, I’m looking at you) is fantastic.  There was nothing in WotLK short of raid bosses that compares to the exhilaration of downing a heroic boss or figuring out a mechanic that your random group of strangers has worked on for an hour.

There are other benefits of very difficult heroic dungeons as well, especially if you look at them as a gateway to raiding.  It stands to reason that a player who does not take the time to learn the skills needed to successfully make his way through heroics has no business stepping into a raid in the first place.  Heroics that are difficult teach players teamwork, communication, how to deal with boss mechanics and most importantly, patience.  These are all essential skills in raiding, and a player who lacks one or more of them can be a hindrance to a raid until he learns.  Easy heroics teach impatience and the infamous “Gogogogogogo” attitude that we had to deal with ever since the Dungeon Finder was introduced.

Also, it's important to know that these heroics do get easier the more you do them and the better your gear gets.  The difference (at least for me) of doing heroics with an average gear level of 329 to doing them with a 341 average has been astonishing.  The interesting thing about my experiences is that I have had the worst luck with Holy Paladin drops in Heroics.  Most of my gear has come from high level normal dungeons, faction reputations or Justice Points.  It is actually very easy to get a level of gear that makes heroics much less terrifying and frustrating without ever setting foot in one.

Of course, knowing the encounters tends to help as well, and the more you run them the more comfortable the mechanics will become.  Given the amount of information that is available on the fights in these heroics, there is no excuse to walk into a dungeon without at least a passing familiarity with it.  If nothing else, ask if you don't know the encounter.  A vast majority of the time someone will tell you want to do and what you need to avoid.  


In my opinion, an encounter should only be reduced in difficulty if an average group in appropriate gear would find it nearly impossible to complete without perfect play.  It makes no sense to nerf encounters so that any random PUG can get through it with no difficulty, particularly if there are undergeared people in the group.  On the other hand, just because well geared and coordinated groups can breeze through an instance does not mean that it is too easy, either.  A properly tuned encounter should require communication and coordination but should not require a specific class or ability, nor should it be so difficult that you need to be wearing full heroic gear in order to have a reasonable chance of success.

I hope that Blizzard is not downgrading these heroic dungeon encounters to cater to people who get the minimum item level requirement for heroics and expect to breeze through them like we all did in Wrath.  At 329 these heroics should be bloody hard!  As it is designed right now, once you are at the minimum item level, it is still in your best interests to continue questing and farming normal dungeons until you have enough gear to make the heroic runs a lot smoother.  A lot of people will jump straight into heroics because that's how it was done in Wrath and its what we're used to.  As Ghostcrawler pointed out in his post, there is a lot of great iLvl 333 gear that's available in the Twilight Highlands quests and in the higher level Normal Dungeons, and getting this gear makes running Heroics much easier.

However, if an encounter is legitimately too hard for an appropriately geared group, then the Nerf Bat should start a-whackin’. 


Heroics do not need to be nerfed.  They do, however, need to be tweaked and rebalanced to allow for the realities of the Random Dungeon Finder.  I think it is important that any reasonably geared group of any composition should have the ability to at least have a chance of completing a dungeon.  The heroics will still be hard, just not so dependant on group composition, the evil Random Number Generator or other things that are quite often out of the players control.

Looking at the changes that Blizzard is proposing, I don't think they are doing anything so major to these encounters so as to reduce the difficulty back to Wrath of the Lich King levels.  The era of silent zergs with random strangers is still a thing of the past, at least until the gear levels escalate and the Loot PiƱatas start popping.


More Paladin Changes on the Patch 4.0.6 PTR - Patch Notes

Courtesy WOW Insider, new patch notes have been released today for the 4.0.6 PTR and there are some very interesting changes coming for Paladins.  Of course, it’s best not to get too excited over these changes just yet, as these changes may not make it out of the Play Test Realm.

Forbearance:  The duration has been lowered to 1 minute, down from 2.
Forbearance, of course, is the debuff that Paladins are given when using one of our major cooldowns (Divine Shield, Lay on Hands and Hand of Protection), preventing the paladin from chaining together very powerful spells for a certain period of time, currently 2 minutes.  The reduction of this effect to 1 minute is a lovely “Quality of Life” improvement for paladins, allowing us a great deal more flexibility as to when we can use our major cooldowns.  The 1 minute limitation still prevents us from casting the wonderfully overpowered Divine Shield/Lay on Hands combo (every PVP paladin’s dream, I’m sure), but doesn’t restrict us unduly from casting our cooldowns when needed. 

This is a very nice change that I would love to see make it onto the live servers, especially because…
Lay on Hands now causes Forbearance on the target.  It used to only cause it when cast on the paladin.  This was an old design from when Divine Protection caused Forbearance and the paladin didn’t want to prevent a tank from using their defensive cooldown.
From the perspective of a group with a single paladin healer, this is no big deal.  I only have two Forbearance causing cooldowns that can be cast on other players, and they typically would go to different targets anyway.  Where this will affect things is in a raid with more than one holy paladin.  I suspect that this is to prevent raids from gimping boss fights by allowing the tank to ignore a mechanic and take a huge amount of damage, knowing that there are two 100K heals available at a moments notice to pull him through.  Chaining two Lay on Hands back to back on a tank could allow the tank to survive an insane amount of damage, possibly completely neutering certain boss mechanics.  This could lead to a situation where the optimal way to do an encounter would require that there be two paladins healing the raid, which is the exact situation that Blizzard is trying to avoid.  The reduction in duration to Forbearance, however, should still allow two paladins to heal together in a raid effectively without being unbalanced or prone to “Unforeseen Creativity” from the perspective of the developers.

This change is too bad, but understandable from a balance perspective.  Let’s let inflating gear levels neuter the bosses, like always.
Lay on Hands cannot be a critical effect and will not be affected by most abilities which modify healing (such as Beacon of Light).
D’oh!  This one hurts.  One of the most beautiful and elegant things that a holy paladin could do was to cast Lay on Hands on a DPS, have it crit and then have half of that healing to go the Beacon of Light target.  Seeing that many large, green numbers show up on my scrolling battle text gave me a severe case of the giggles most times.

Again, from a balance perspective, I can understand this one.  But I don’t like it.  I don’t like it at all.
Rebuke can now be trained by all paladins at level 54.  Exisiting characters will need to visit their trainer, even if they had talented Rebuke before.
This change has been out for a while and has got some people very, very excited.  It’s absolutely fantastic for Protection Paladins since they’ve desperately needed a real interrupt ever since… well, forever.  It also allows a Holy Paladin to add even more utility to their arsenal.  My only question is where the hell am I supposed to put yet another button on my action bar?

The interesting thing about this change is that if a Holy Paladin wants or needs to be using Rebuke, they are going to need to heal within melee range of the boss.  This is interesting since it would also give us access to Crusader Strike to generate Holy Power.  Given the very short radius of Holy Radiance, the melee nature of CS and Rebuke, I’m wondering if that is exactly where Blizzard wants Paladins to do their healing. 
Protector of the Innocent heals for 30% less.
And the nerfs just keep on coming.  With Protector of the Innocent healing for the amount that it does right now, I am almost completely able to ignore my own health bar and focus on the group.  I doubt that this is an intentional design; hence we get this reduction in PotI’s healing.  No big deal, really.  Frankly, I think the biggest result of this change will be a large decrease in my Overhealing Done numbers.

I think these changes, added to the ones that we have seen previously add up to a lot of not much. The reduction in Forbearance is nice but not game-changing, as is the change to Divine Plea and it’s associated Glyph that we heard about last week. I think Paladin’s are in a good place right now, and the minimal changes that Blizzard has proposed really amount to not much more than a simple fine-tuning.


On Magmaw and Pre-Raid Jitters

As I mentioned in my last post, Shadowgarde took on Magmaw in our first official guild raid.  We spent a solid hour and a half working on him over 7 or 8 attempts, but we finally got him down.  It was quite the thrilling finish as well:  Our tank died at 13% to a Mangle so we had to either kill Magmaw while he was chained, or else it would more than likely be a wipe.  Everyone stepped up the DPS, and even the healers started throwing all they had at the boss.  Magmaw died just at the last instant and we had our kill.

We did a single tank strategy on this fight, which put the pressure squarely on the healers to keep the tank alive.  Our healing team was myself, another Paladin and a Holy Priest.  For the most part, we were able to keep the team alive long enough to hit the enrage timer.  The strategy also called for the healers to stack with the Melee, which kept it much simpler and really allowed us to focus on the job of healing, and not dodging Pillars of Flame and those awful Lava Maggots.

I took my own advice and had a guildie craft the Elementium Stormshield for me before the raid began.  It felt very good to be fighting with a shield again, as opposed to a book.  I'm not sure how much of a difference it made, but it certainly gave me a tiny bit more confidence having a shiny purple equipped.

All in all, my pre-raid jitters were completely unfounded.  I think I did just fine. 


After the raid I took a look back at Recount to go through the numbers and analyze how I did and found a few things:

- I learned that you need to save your log quicker if you want to upload it to World of Logs.  Oops.

- Either Recount doesn't handle our Illuminated Healing Mastery properly (which is likely), or our mastery is completely and utterly broken.  According to Recount, in a 9 minute fight I had one single solitary shield that absorbed 2121 damage.  That simply cannot be right.  I wonder if I need to get an upgraded version.

- I gained back a total of 244000 mana.  Mainly from Seal of Insight as you’d expect, but I also got from Divine Plea, Glyph of Divinity, Corrupted Egg Shell and a Mana Potion.  Being able to recognize the slow damage period (which is fairly obvious in this fight) so you can slow your heals, hit Divine Plea and regenerate your mana is very key.  I managed to hit Divine Plea three times in that fight and my Corrupted Egg Shell at least twice.  Due to the healing reduction, I am reluctant to hit Divine Plea as often as I’d like, but I certainly can get better with using the Egg for mana regen.  It's a two minute cooldown, and I could have used it at least twice more.

The Innervate from the Druid and the Divine Hymn helped as well, of course.  Mana was my foremost concern for the entire fight, but I ended up managing it pretty well, I thought.  Blizzard wanted to make it matter, and they certainly have suceeded.

- Right now I do not have Lay on Hands glyphed to reduce the cooldown.  However, if Raid Boss fights are going to last this long, I'm definitely going to change that.  I could have used it twice in that fight, and it would have been extraordinarily useful a second time around.

- When you have a mechanic that requires everyone to bunch up, Holy Radiance is godly.  It ended up being my #2 heal after Beacon of Light.  I only remember popping it 5 or 6 times, but it ended up accounting for 16% of my overall healing.  Also, the Speed of Light boost saved my bacon in this fight three or four times when I was required to get out of the fire. 

- 53 Holy Shocks in a 9 minute fight seems a bit low.  Ideally, you could squeeze in 90, plus whatever Daybreak procs you get.  I need to improve on this.

- 21 Flash Heals and 9 Divine Lights.  I'm actually surprised that I managed to do with that few Divine Lights. 

- Only 16 Judgements.  Wow, it really felt like more.  If I was Judging on cooldown, I could have done 67, returning more than 150000 mana.  That’s a lot of mana left on the table and while you can't expect to perfectly judge every time it's available, I can definitely do better than this.


It is hard to draw any real conclusions from a single raiding night, but I think that I can say two things:  my healing style is not yet as efficient as I would like it to be, but I am ready to raid.

Bring on the bosses.


Raid Ready (?)

Our guild is preparing to step into our first organized Guild Raid tonight and truthfully, I’m a little nervous about my gear.  I have what I would consider the bare minimum level of gear for raiding and while it’s all enchanted and gemmed, it’s still just the minimum.  I would really like to avoid a situation where I feel like I’m being carried by my guild or the one raider who is holding back the group due to gear.  I don't want to be that guy.

Thosif is completely equipped in Blues of level 333 or higher, an average iLvl of 341 and I think that I have a very good feel on how to use the toolbox that Holy Paladins are given.  As well,  at least in Heroics, mana regeneration is not a large problem any longer.  This was always my benchmark for stepping into a raid, but now that it's imminent, I'm wondering if it's enough.  

On the other hand, according to this survey from WOW Insider, this level of gear in raids in not unusual, so hopefully this is just a little bit of stage-fright or performance anxiety.  

I’m looking forward to seeing the new raids.  I’ve been watching some videos on Magmaw and Halfus Wrymbreaker and they look really quite interesting.  I love the ‘chaining’ mechanic on Magmaw, which looks like a fun fight.

Our guild (which is a very tight-knit group, most of whom have been together since vanilla) has been becoming antsy about get raiding started, and some have been quite vocal about it.  It’s caused a minor amount of drama, but hopefully once we start getting Boss attempts under our belt things will start getting back into a rhythm.  As I’m sure is the case with a lot of Casual Raiding Guilds, the raiding break for the expansion has wreaked havoc with our raiding schedule, and it will be good to get back at it.


There is still so much left to do before I am truly happy with where Thosif is, gear-wise.  The holidays are finally over, so I’m hoping that I can get most of this done in short order over the next week.

-  Get Exalted with Therazane.  I have the lesser of the Shoulder Enchants that you get at Honored, but I still have a ways to go before I can get the main one.

-  Replace PVP items with PVE items.  I have 3 PVP items equipped:  Bracers, Gloves and Relic.  The Relic and the Bracers are actually really quite good considering the other available options, but the Ornate Pyrium Gauntlets have got to go.

Suck it up and buy the damned Elementium Stormshield already.  It’s best in slot and I have the money, so why not?  There is plenty of gold to be had by questing, the Auction House, doing dailies and going to…

Tol Barad.  I need to do the Tol Barad dailies with more consistency.  The Mandala of Stirring Pattens is going to be just too good and too readily available to pass up.  I find it a little difficult to get motivated for questing, however, because I just really hate playing my Retribution off-spec.  I am considering changing my questing spec to Protection – not for tanking, but just for a more engaging play style.  There is something “right” about bashing a mob in the face with your shield.

-  Heroics.  Find a way to add 3 or 4 more hours to the day so I can run more heroics.  This could be a tough one, as the laws of physics will probably prevent it. 

Reputation.  I am very close to Exalted with the Earthen Ring, which gives me a nice new set of gloves, but the reputation grind is moving along very slowly.  Time constraints allowing only one heroic a night (successful or not) has seriously limited the reputation gains from Tabards.  It seems like this faction is taking forever.  And then there is Ramkahen yet to do for the Sun King’s Girdle.


AddOn: GAKGrunt-B-Gone for Guardian of the Ancient Kings

A couple of weeks ago Cathedral of Tainted Souls posted an AddOn guide for Silencer, a mod to remove certain annoying sound effects from the game. Gun sounds, Worgen Sniffles and other things can be removed from the game so that they no longer irritate you.

I posted this comment regarding the Guardian of the Ancient Kings:
Is there a silencer mod to shut up the Guardian of the Ancient Kings? He makes a grunt noise every time that I cast a heal and it's driving me up the wall.
Truthfully, I expected a negative response and not much else. What I got, however, was this:
taintedsouls says:
January 7, 2011 at 10:59 am 
I asked the maker of Sniff-B-Gone if he could make one to handle this and he was kind enough to take the time to do so. 
I present to you GAKGrunt-B-Gone by JimboBillyJoe: http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/GAKGrunt-b-gone.aspx
If you enjoy it, please leave him a thank you in the comments.
I would just like to take this opportunity to thank Taintedsoul for taking the time to help me on this, and really going above and beyond the call. It was very unexpected.

Of course, I would also like to thank the Author, JimboBillyJoe for taking the time to do this for all Paladins everywhere. My sanity shall return now that I don't have to hear Disco Stu grunt at me every time I use that cooldown.


What Makes a Main?

(or Why There Are Distressingly Few Dwarves Mentioned In Dwarven Battle Medic)

I imagine that anyone who is reading this blog with any regularity has noticed that it has a very distinct Holy Paladin slant to it and that there seems to be a decided lack of Dwarves around.  Oh sure, there is a picture of a Dwarf in a dress at the top, and a nice shot of Ironforge in the background, but the Dwarven Battle Medic seems to talk an awful lot about Human Paladins, doesn’t he?

So where the hell are all the Dwarves?

The answer is simple enough:  My main character is Thosif, the Human Holy Paladin.  Fannon the Dwarf Priest is an Alt.  This blog and I are named after an Alt. 

This really brings up an interesting question:  How do you define “Main” or “Alt”?  What criteria do you use to define who your main is?  Is there a difference between your Main Character and the Character that you personally identify with or are identified by?  This question was asked recently by the lovely and talented Endyme of (Un)Holy Randomness and is one of those philosophizing topics that I find endlessly fascinating.

(or My Definition Of A Maintastic Play Style)

Every person is different, of course, and you would likely find that there are as many answers to this question as there are World of Warcraft players.  The only thing that twelve million WOW subscribers have ever agreed on is that THEIR class is underpowered and YOURS is overpowered and should be nerfed.  Of course that is untrue -- except in the case of Holy Paladins, who are clearly underpowered and should be buffed. 

My definition of a “Main” is the one character that, above all others, dominates your thoughts.  It is defined by passion.  It is the character that you speak of first when someone asks you “What do you play?”  It is the character that you log onto first when the new content drops.  It was the character that you were most excited to level to 85 in Cataclysm.  More than likely it is the character that you want to raid with, if you’re a raider.  It is, simply, the character that you are excited about and want to play when you sit down at your computer after a long day at work.

Who did you log onto first on December 7th?  Odds are that’s your main.

Mains can change over time, and there are as many reasons as there are people playing.  Interests change:  You may be bored of tanking and want to try damage or healing, you may become enamoured with a different class’s playstyle, or perhaps you created a new character of a different race that has caught your imagination.  There is no way to know what factor will come into play that will cause you to emotionally switch from one Main to another.

There is also a difference between your Main Character and the character that you are identified by.  I go by the name Fannon because that was my Main when I joined Shadowgarde and it’s the name that I have chosen to identify myself by in the blogosphere as well.  The name you go by can change over time as you meet new people who only know you by your new Main’s name.

Of course, emotional attachments run deep and sometimes it is hard to let go of an old main.  Many times the player will be the last person to realize that their main has switched or only realize it long after the emotional switch.  When I declared my new main on the Shadowgarde forums it was a case of “We know” and “about time you admitted it”.  Sometimes you have to just realize that it’s OK to switch Mains.  (Really, Endy, it’s OK).

It is this emotional attachment that led me to naming this blog Dwarven Battle Medic even though my new main is a human. 

(or Captain Obvious Visits Obviousland)

An Alt then is straightforwardly defined as any character that isn’t your main.  People will have Alts for many different reasons; banking, trade skills, PVP, different roles or play-styles.  Sometimes people will have a separate account so they can play two characters at once.  Some people will have an army of Alts with multiple max-level characters while others will have a stable of lowbie characters so that they can experience different things.

Really, there are no rules when it comes to Alts.  Alts are there to fulfill the player’s desire for variety or provide access to something that their main can’t do.

(or Where The Hell Did The Last Two-And-A-Half Years Go?)

I rolled several different characters (including Thosif) before I finally rolled one that resonated with me enough to finally, truly call my Main Character.  This was Fannon.  I rolled my priest so that I could play with my nephew and was so enthralled by the play-style that he became my first level 80.  He was the first toon that I did dungeons with, the first character that I took on a raid, and the first toon that I took through Icecrown Citadel, going 11/12.  It was through my Dwarf Priest that I learned how much I enjoyed healing and Sindragosa 10, my most satisfying boss kill to date, was done on him.  I joined my guild during this time and so I, of course, became known to them as “Fannon”.  By other names too, but those aren’t appropriate for polite blogging.

In what is likely to seem a familiar story, during Wrath I dabbled with other characters to try and experience everything this game has to offer.  Thosif, who I had created very early on but had let languish for a year at level 19, finally caught my eye and I decided to level him to 85.  I was originally going to level him as a tank since I already had my healer, but a guildie was levelling a Protection Warrior at the same time, so I decided to respec Holy so we could run dungeons together.  The first dungeon I ran as a Holy Paladin was a revelation.  The Paladin healing style was far more simplistic than a Holy or Discipline priest, but incredibly and fantastically fun.

I was still raiding with Fannon at this time; steadily progressing his gear through ICC 10 and 25-man raids, but when I got home from work at night, the first thing I wanted to do was play on my Paladin.  I blitzed through Outlands and Northrend to get to the level cap and jumped into heroics to start gearing up.  Meanwhile, I was discovering and devouring every Paladin blog on the internet to learn how to best play him.  The Priest was more and more becoming an afterthought. 

The exact moment when Thosif became my Main is unclear, and I certainly didn’t recognize it at the time.  At some point I started asking for my somewhat undergeared Paladin to be included in our ICC runs.  Oh, it was just Alt runs at first, of course, but soon I wanted to bring him into our progression runs as well instead of the Priest.  It was Fannon who got Sindragosa down for the first time, but it was Thosif that killed the Lich King.  It was in between those two events (which sadly happened a long time apart) that my Main switched, at least emotionally.

When Cataclysm dropped, I couldn’t wait to log onto Thosif and start levelling.  Fannon is still sitting in Ironforge in 251 epics collecting the Rested XP bonus at level 80.

(or I Can’t Believe You Read This Far.  Seriously.)

I would like to offer a bit of an apology to anyone who made it this far.  One thing I wanted to avoid with this blog is a lot of pie-eyed ramblings about my characters and what they had for breakfast that day.  I know a lot of people don’t find that kind of thing interesting, so I try to avoid it wherever I can.  In this case, however, I thought a little history of my own experience with the Main-change would be relevant.  I hope you found it interesting at least.

How do you define your Main?  Have you ever changed your Main?  If so, at what point did you realise that it had changed, or was it a conscious choice?


Divine Plea Buffed From the Brink of Irrelevancy? (PTR)

Patch 4.0.6 is heading to the Play Test Realm according to MMO-Champion.  This is not a content patch, so no new raids or anything, but is a bug fix and update patch. 

For Holy Paladins, there is not much in the way of changes coming.  As with Ghostcrawler’s post last week, it looks like Holy Paladins are in a good spot right now. 

One small but significant change is coming down the pipeline, however: Divine Plea is getting buffed.

Divine Plea now lasts for 9 seconds, down from 15. It grants 4% mana per tick, instead of 2%, for a total of 12% mana, up from 10%.

In addition: Glyph of Divine Plea now adds 6% mana, for a total of 18% over 9 seconds.  Up from 5%.

This is a nice, small buff to a good ability that will make it substantially more useful. Couple this with the new glyph and we have a real winner here.

The biggest problem with Divine Plea the way it is now is the 50% healing reduction while it is active. This buff gives us more mana returned in a shorter period of time, thereby reducing the impact of this limitation. The extra 8% 3% mana is just Awesomesauce flavoured icing on the cake.

In this healing environment there is seldom a time when 9 seconds of reduced healing will spell the death of a tank. And within the space of that time, there are many other things that a Paladin can do that aren’t heals and won’t be affected by the debuff. For instance, depending on Haste you would have 6 or 7 global cooldowns during that time so you could cast:

Judgement, (1.5s GCD)
Holy Shock, (1.5s GCD
drink Mana Potion, (1.5s GCD)
Cleanse, (1.5s GCD)
Hand of Salvation, (1.5s GCD)
Judgement, (1.5s GCD)
Holy Shock, (1.5s GCD) and then resume healing normally.

In this particular example, the Holy Shocks are used less for the amount of healing they would do, but rather to build Holy Power for an immediate Light of Dawn or Word of Glory when Divine Plea is finished. Of course, there are any number of different utility spells you can throw into that 9 seconds: Hand of Freedom, Hand of Protection, more Cleanses, Aura Mastery, etc. Even spamming Holy Light with its extremely low mana cost would be an option.

All in all, I’m very pleased with this tweak. I think it will go a long way to making it worth hitting the Divine Plea button again. I hope that it survives the PTR.

On the nerf side, our Blessings are getting a bit of a mana cost increase:

The mana costs of Blessing of Might and Blessing of Kings have been increased by approximately 217%, making them roughly equal to the cost of Mark of the Wild.

Since Blessings are normally cast outside of combat, this is mearly a “Meh”. I don’t suspect that this will change anybody's playstyle, except I may be slightly more reluctant to rebuff in the middle of combat for a Battle Rez.


Second Lesson from Heroics: Hard Choices

As a healer, I take it personally when someone in my party has their health bar dip.  It’s my job, after all, to ensure that they survive so that they can do their thing.  With the new realities of healing and mana management there are limitations to what a healer can do to keep people alive.  This leads to the healer having to make some hard choices when prioritizing who gets what heal and when.

(As an aside, how has no one coined the term Mana-gement yet?  Mananagement, maybe?)


With very expensive yet weak heals relative to health pools, it has become normal for people to be at less than full health during an encounter.  Therefore, a healer needs to be mentally balancing three fundamental things constantly:

1) The Tank’s Health
2) The Healer’s Mana bar
3) The Party’s Health as a whole

Thinking of the party in these terms simplifies the scope of healing.  You don’t need to worry about 5 different health bars so much as you have to worry about three things:  Keep your tank at a survivable level of health, keep your mana bar up, and keep enough, preferably all of the party alive to finish the encounter. 

Striking the successful balance between these three important factors is at the heart of the Cataclysm healing paradigm.  Sacrificing any one of these elements generally means a wipe, while a properly balanced approach should be successful.  For example, if your tank is low on health but not in critical danger of dying, spamming large heals to top him up at the expense of your mana reserves means that you will not be able to last long enough to finish the encounter.  Likewise, keeping your mana high is pointless if everyone is dying on you.

Yes, this is normal.  Don't Panic.

The Needs of the Many…

A great example of this balancing act occurred last night during a Heroic Throne of the Tides run.  It was a partial guild run with myself, the Tank and a Shadow Priest in the group which was rounded out by a Mage and a Rogue that we found using the LFD tool.  It was a great group, actually, and the run went quite smoothly.  It’s amazing how much easier Lady Naz’jar is with proper crowd control.

However, during the Commander Ulthok encounter I ran into one of these hard decisions that really crystallized this whole balance idea in my mind.  If you have not done the encounter, Ulthok creates Dark Fissures on the ground that expand throughout the fight, similar to the Lich King’s Defile.  There is nothing that can be done about these, you simply need to avoid them and is the key mechanic with this fight.

One mistake that our tank made was that he allowed the first Fissure to be dropped in the centre of the room, which eventually seriously limited the space that we were able to safely occupy during the encounter.  After the first one, he tanked and kited the boss around the edge of the room properly and everything was proceeding fine.

However, about halfway into the fight, I notice one of our damage dealers standing in the middle of the room taking damage from the first Fissure and not moving out of it.  It was the Shadow Priest from our guild, who is a very good player, but it left me with a dilemma:  Do I heal him or not?  In Wrath it wouldn’t even have been a question; I would have spammed big heals on him and the boss would have been dead before it became an issue.  Not so, now.

I chose not to heal him.

That felt really, really wrong, but it was the right call.

In order to heal him, I would have had to start casting my fast, expensive Flash Heal just to keep up with the damage.  It would have saved him, at least for a while, but it also would have destroyed my mana reserves in very short order; jeopardizing the entire encounter and violating the principle of balance.  By recognizing that the Priest was beyond help unless he moved allowed me to focus on what I could save, and ultimately get the kill.

The Lesson

Cataclysm heroic dungeons (and I assume Cataclysm raids, even though I’m not there yet) force you to rethink who you are healing and with what spell.  Many people will tell you that as a healer, you must prioritize the tank and yourself and screw the damage dealers.  I feel this is a flawed strategy, as a party with no damage won’t kill much of anything.  You must strike the balance and keep all three parts of the party alive and functioning.  Sacrificing one-third of your damage to save the whole is one of the hard choices that you’re going to have to get used to making as a Cataclysm healer.