Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Some more raiding into ICC.

My horde guild is now raiding regularly into Icecrown Citadel, we have kept up to two 10-Man raids (3 nights a week) and one 25-Man raid (one night a week) during the two last weeks, which allows everyone to step into ICC and the guild to confirm its first downs.
We have now confirmed on the 3 first bosses in 25 and need to speed up a little to down Saurfang in one raid night. We have also downed Festergut in 10-Man and are working on both Rotface and the Blood Princes.
I really like the Blood Princes fight, it's chaotic, it's intense, it's not easy, but it's a really really cool fight :)

I'll write an Healing Through on Saurfang later this week. Until then I have updated my article about Lord Marrowgar with a new tactic we're using considering raid positioning.

On a side-note some very good news for melee dps who prefer strength to agility. A new Ashen Verdict strength dps ring will appear in the next small patch (probably next week), description of the 4 levels of the new ring on MMO-Champion.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Icecrown Gating, Last Wing in 2 Weeks.

No surprise to everyone, it's official on the live servers, the Lich King will wait to eat your souls in 2 weeks (unless you defeat him of course :P). The official date is February 2nd (US) and February 3rd (EU). You can read the details, as usual, on your best source of live information about WoW, MMO-Champion.
The second wing opens today (yesterday on the US servers) with 2 new bosses: the Blood Princes and Blood Queen Lana'thel. A bunch of vampires, that seem easier than Putricide as the queen has already been downed, though this can be due to the guilds having 2 more weeks of itemization in icecrown. Explanations and information about the gating system and the combined pool of limited bosses attemps can be found on MMO-champion, here.

About my games lately I finally got Saurfang down in 10-Man, on both my paladin and ma discipline priest. I tried a bit Festergut with Syrïel, we managed to keep the tanks alive (with me and two other healers) on 2 attempts (we tried it 4 times), but our raid dps wasn't high enough to pass the enrage timer. It's tricky as the tank/heal team is kind of better in the 10-Man my priest is sometimes, but the dps are way higher in my horde guild :P
On a side note a discipline priest is incredibly effective on Saurfang to limit his blood power. We killed him with 0 mark in 10-Man once I figured that if I have the mana I should just shield everyone at all time to prevent as much blood-producing damage as I could. For the first time my priest went into icecrown she started with Saurfang and had a huge amount of fun, even with her limited gear (not even 230 medium ilevel).
The fight with Saurfang is really much more about control and reactivity than pure dps and/or stuff, which I happen to like. Festergut on the other hand is nearly the whole contrary.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why I like to heal "undergeared" tanks in 5-Man!

Slightly ranty post about my views on healing in "modern" random heroics 5-Man dungeons.

Today I was taking some time to read one of my favorite blogs writer Larisa from The Pink Pigtail Inn. She is a gnome mage (best combo class in the game!) and is currently leveling a druid and had her first shots at healing in LK.
She talks about a recent topic surfacing in several blogs around arguing about more rewards for tanks & healers in random 5-Men.
My view is that more reward isn't what we need to tank or heal for you (which is what I do in this game 90% of my time), it is exactly what Larisa says:
As we separated after UK, as I had to leave for real life stuff, the leader said: “I’m sure you’ll make a fine healer at lvl 80”. It may not sound as anything special, but I tell you, for the terrified newbie healer, it meant more than any drop Gordon could have brought me. I was exhausted from the tension and strain, but my healing heart was glowing with pride.

My simple conclusion is: All you need is love.

Give me a cheer and a hug and I’ll heal my arse off for you in any instance you like. Regardless of what awards it offers.
I'm not attracted by loot, it is useful, I like when it's nice, but I don't mind at all where I am on the meters as long as I do my job right.
I think a lot of "true heart" healers and tanks are the same, we do that because we like it, not because we want more "rewards". There is some pride in the tank & healer role, and that is enough for us ... as long as other players aknowledge we're doing our best with the gear we have and that tanking or healing isn't always a happy funny time.
There is a much direct penalty for an under-performing tank or healer, lack of heals or effectiveness as a tank (survival or threat generation) shows much more than a low dps on the meters. It directly impacts the other members and can cause wipes which cost gold. That is were you can see these roles as more stressful.

That's where I'm going ... ungrateful players.
Larisa cited a post from Calli from Pew Pew Lazers tiled Angry Priest is Angry. Seeing it cited by Larisa, and the author being a discipline priest (like that :p) I went to read it.
Even if it's a bit too ranty probably to convince most, I completely agree with Calli on her point:
People asking for a vote kick of a tank not in 4 pieces T9 in a random heroic dungeon (not Halls of Reflection !) are just pure lazy bums that I don't want to play with.
When LK started tanks were at most around 24K unbuffed and healers were having a much lower spell power. I was there healing, it was harder, and all in all, it was much more fun!

So yes, I'm proud to say that "I love to heal undergeared tanks in 5-Men" !
When I say undergeared it's according to the idea people have that a tank for heroics has to have more than 40K health nowadays ... silly snobs. I've healed a warrior tank friend with my priest, in all random heroics (before 3.3) when he was still all in blues, and we were perfectly fine, he's a good player and a good tank, and if he was a bit short in life my, then T8 geared, priest was more than enough to secure him and the group 100% of the time.
Healing a slightly less geared tank is a bit more work, but it wakes me up, it's fun because there is a little challenge where most random 5-Men are not anymore. And that's what I miss now ... the fun of the challenge in 5-Man.

My pride, and what I'm happy of when I finish an instance, is a 0 death clean ride. When people die I'm not happy, even if it's completely their fault, I still feel like I failed somehow. (Yes you the dps standing in the fire, you can ruin my fun by just being silly. Not because we didn't drop loot, because you died, you idiot!)
If the tank or the group is slightly less geared, and I'm working more, it's even more fun.
I remember of my first runs of Naxramass with my priest, it was with a small guild (her guild raiding ulduar 25 at that time) whose tanks were still half in blues, and the others raid members too, me included. It was a real challenge, yes Naxramass was a challenge ... for the sole reason that we were doing it at the right level of gear.

All in all my view is that overgearing content is nice for fast runs, but tend to really turn players into snobs that don't remember what fun challenge can be, if they ever knew what challenge is.

As sidenotes on this new LFG system, you could find some interest in reading these posts, also ranty in other ways, about what I'd consider as the way of "running with anonymous players" given to us by the cross-server LFG tool:
Dechion on
WTF! Group Ninja?
Gnomeaggedon on If you’re THAT 1337, GTFO of my Random Dungeon!
TyphoonAndrew on LGD Perspectives
You could find them interesting, as I did.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Healing Through: Icecrown Citadel - Gunship Battle

Healing Through: Icecrown Citadel - Gunship Battle
My 25-Man alliance raid got some motivation last Friday and we downed the 3 first bosses of Icecrown (yet again, nothing to brag about but we're a semi-casual guild with a lot of far from optimum players that we still like to play with and bring into raid :P).
So I'm going to talk today about the third "boss" that is more an event than a boss. You got it, it is the Gunship Battle.

Gunship Battle: Trash Mobs.

There are 2 alliance (or horde if you're on the wrong side) groups and one dracolich that you have to fight before reaching the ship. They probably repop at some point but don't worry the ship will be down before they do.

As a fun note, if you ever do this encounter on both sides (horde/alliance) you will fight on the other part of the balcony that you can see when fighting the dracolich. In fact if you kill the undead trash after the dracolich, you'll reach this other side, quite funny :P

Boss Description

As I said before this is not really a "boss". The Gunship Battle is a fight between your ship and the other faction ship via the gunship cannons.
You have to man your canons (2 in 10-Man, 3 in 25-Man) and fire on the deck of the other ship. The canons are easy to use, first ability makes your heat meter go up, when it's near full (without ever reaching full) you can use your second ability for max damage. The first targets for your canons are the opposing "canons" that are rocket launchers on the other side of the ship you battle (Kor'kron Rocketeer / Skybreaker Mortar Soldier). If they still have time when these are down, the second targets are the Rifemen /Axethrowers.
Each 25% of life of the opposing ship, a frost mage will be called to freeze your canons. You then have to board the opposing ship and kill the mage.
Pro-tip: To go on the opponent ship you need to get and equip rocket-packs from your own ship (the npc giving them is nearby your ship captain). But the players assigned to the ship can also take them as they can be used to avoid/kite a mob which would aggro you on the ship.

Send in half your dpsers and one high life tank. The dpsers will *only* target the frost mage and come back as soon as he is dead. The tank will only tank the opponent captain (dwarf/orc depending on your side).
The captain tank should take care that the captain gains 25% haste each time he hits, so kiting is better if possible.
Pro-tip: Take care that firemen shoot at flying targets so kiting by using your jet-pack, which is the best option can be dangerous if you take a hit before launching and then get hit by the firemen. Be cautious also that changing ship reset aggro. If you leave your ship with aggro, healers will die, if you leave the opposing ship before anyone else, he will die.

Raid composition

For 10-Man you need 2 tanks, 3 healers and 5 dpsers. One of the tank and one of the healers will go into the canons and only be active during the frozen canons phase when your team has to board the opposing ship.
In 25-Man you still only need 2 tanks. You can go with 6 to 7 healers, depending if you put one or two in the canons with the boarding tank. Rest should be dpsers, it doesn't matter much if they are melee or ranged, this isn't a very hard encounter.

Advised Build

It all depend on your assignment.
If you're the boarding tank healer (assigning 2 healers on him is more secure), you will mostly only spam big heals (Holy Lights for paladins) on him during the time he's tanking/kiting the opposing ship captain, and you'll probably mana regen in a canon when you're not boarding. Obviously a Holy Light build is better for that.
If you're on raid healing, go for a quick healing build (Flash of Light build for paladins). Your ship tank will take a lot of fast damage, but much smaller than the boarding tank. And the aggro on the adds tend to be tricky which can result in short (hopefully) spikes on the healers.

Paladin Healing Tips

Paladins in this fight are better used as healers for the opposing captain tank, three good reasons for that:
  • Holy Light spam is the strongest single target heal stream any healer can do;
  • using Divine Plea when in the canon will allow the Holy Paladin to Holy Light Spam the whole boarding phases of the encounter;
  • using Beacon of Light on the boarding tank will allow the paladin to *stay on your ship* and still healing the boarding tank.
This last point can seem tricky, but it works wonder, at least as Beacon of Light works in patch 3.3. Here is the reason:
The Beacon of Light target will receive in full any heal casted by the paladin on any raid member no further than 16 meters away from the beaconed tank. The Holy Paladin stays on your ship, on the border near the canons, he will target any ranged dpser boarding the opposing ship and dpsing the frost mage (this ranged dpser needs to stay on the other ship border too so that he's in range for your heals). And all the heals incoming to this ranged dpser will hit the tank (unless he's more than 60 meters away which is highly unlikely).
This allows you to not have to board the ship, not get aggro from most of the ship mobs despite your huge heals, spam heals on your boarding tank even when he's flying towards the opposing ship or back to your ship, avoid any hit on your while flying because you can't cast anything during that time it's considered casting while moving.
Pro-tip: Don't miss to cast Beacon of Light on the boarding tank before he launches to the other ship, he could be too far away for that a few seconds later. The duration of the Beacon will be more than enough for your raid to kill the frost mage and the tank to come back. Talk with your tank to be sure he doesn't leave without it :)

And that's all, congratulations for the loot, this is mostly a "Have fun with rocket packs and get some nearly free loot" reward for having downed the two first bosses.
Enjoy it because serious fights start with Deathbringer Saurfang!

I hope this small guide was useful, see you soon for the 4th boss of Icecrown and the last from the entrance section: Deathbringer Saurfang.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Icecrown Gating, Third Wing in 2 Weeks.

Icecrown Gating

You can read it on MMO-Champion here, the third wing of Icecrown Citadel has been officially announced to open 2 weeks after the second one (aka the 19th of January). By the way the next arena season 8 date, which will be the last for Lich King, has also been announced to be probably on the 26th of January.
The third wing of Icecrown will be the last before Sindragosa and Arthas, so we can expect to see the Lich King live the 2nd of February if they keep with the 2 weeks gating time period. Not that I expect my guild to go that fast (we're just finishing with the entrance wing) but I'm sure all hardcore, or even semi-hardcore guilds will keep up with the pace for normal mode.

Now remember that the last bosses of each wings also have a limited number of attempts you can have on them for each week. This number has been increased from 5 attempts to 10 though, so this week everyone will have 10 attempts on Professor Putricide.

Cataclysm release date thoughts.

Now I'm sort of wondering if ICC will be enough content for players until the release of Cataclysm, even with the artificial increased time need to finish the raid that this gating system creates (pool about that topic on the right side). More than 3 months between a raid is cleaned and another appears is usually too much, but if we have the same "new talents live test period" as we had at the end of The Burning Crusade we can probably add about 2 months to this 3 months period farming ICC.
Still 5 months lifespan only bring us to early July, and I don't think now that Cataclysm will be out before the summer (though I was thinking June before). Blizzard won't release during the summer, which brings us to a fall release.
Now you can understand the announcement by Blizzard about a new raid being given to us before Cataclysm launch. I would expect just before or just after they give us the new talents trees. A new raid adds about 3 more months to the time that can go before the launch without players quitting "en masse" the game. Which brings us to the fall/late fall release that seems to be expected by most people now (preorders even give an early November release date).

What do you think about it? I'm really eager for Cataclysm myself, and would like to see it before summer, even if it probably won't happen I'd like to at least see the "new talents live test period" at this time. The global revamp of the talent trees is what I want to see the most right now, I think the "old model" has done its time.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Healing Through: Icecrown Citadel - Lady Deathwhisper

As I'm getting more used to Icecrown I'll post new Healing Through. As of now I've killed the three first bosses a few times and I'm getting comfortable with healing them. As always I'm mostly raiding in 10-Man, so strats and tips will concentrate on 10-Man raids, though I'll give pointers about the change you can feel in 25-Man.

So for today Healing Through, let's discuss Lady Deathwhisper, the second boss of Icecrown Citadel. You can read all abilities description on the WowHead page, and detailed strategy on the Boss Killers guide.

Lady Deathwhisper's room: Trash Mobs.

There are 4 pulls in Deathwhisper room before you can play with her. You have to clean all of them or you can be sure of a wipe on the boss.

Kind of like Grand Widow Faerlina in Naxxramas you have two cultist packs, they can be pulled separately if you take them from the side, and if you silence/grapple the casters to avoid any aggro-link from the second cultist group. No special difficulty, just take care that the melee mobs can spike your tank hard from time to time.

Then you have the two giant Nerubar (spider like creatures) at the back of the room. Single pull, single tank & spank fights. They cast a curse on one raid member that will hurt everyone around him, stay away from each other, with an empty room it shouldn't be hard in 10-Man. In 25-Man you can alternate to the group together strategy, the one being cursed moving away from the group. That requires more reactivity, but ensure minimal damage to the raid.

Boss Description

Lady Deathwhisper fight has two very different phases. During the first one she will have a mana shield, preventing any damage to her, but any damage will reduce her mana bar. As long as she has mana she will remain stationary and invoque adds to defend her. Once you reduce her to zero mana she will activates phase 2.
Pro-tip: try to not switch her to phase2 if there are still adds in the room, wait for your raid to clean one add phase then move her to phase 2.

I will describe her abilities and what to watch for healing-wise in each phase section.

Raid composition

In a 10-Man raid you should go for 2 tanks (mandatory), 2 healers and 6 dps. Being able to keep-up with the adds spawning is the key of the fight and sufficient dps is necessary.
Moreover you'll need about half physical and half magical dpsers, like 3 melees and 3 casters (hunters can be one or the other as needed).
This is kind of a tricky fight considering raid composition and you can't pass it with an all casters raid or all melee raid.

Advised Build

Healing is very different in phase 1 and phase 2 of the encounter.
Phase 1 healing is all about fast heals and reactivity, there can be a lot of sudden damage spikes on a lot of different targets (especially the two healers). And the boss aoes can bring several characters down at the same time, everyone should be hp topped at all times.
Phase 2 healing is mostly only tank healing, with much stronger hits than phase 1.

As you can see the two phases require very different healing options, and two different builds would be necessary to perfectly fit to the fight. But after some experience, phase 2 healing isn't really very hard for one reason: phase 2 won't last for very long. If you can reach it with full mana (and you should be able to) then you'll be ok even with a fast heals / raid healing build.
My view is to go with a fast heals build for raid healing, a Holy Priest or Restoration Druid will be perfect for phase 1 (characters will be fairly dispatched in the room and a Shaman will probably not be able to use Chain Heal as well as with the first Icecrown boss).
As a paladin, a fast Flash of Light build is perfect for phase 1, and it consumes so little mana that you will easily start phase 2 with a full mana bar which will allow you to spam Holy Lights long enough for phase 2 to end.

Healing Phase 1

Encounter Description:
(extracts from wowhead)

During phase 1, Lady Deathwhisper will have a mana shield that will absorb all the damage done to her. She will attack the raid with Death and Decay and Shadow Bolts - none of which should be too dangerous. On 25-player difficulty she will also mind control a random raid member for a short amount of time - CC them and move on.

She will also summon adds regularly during phase 1. Adds will come in waves from both sides of the room - mix of Adherents and Fanatics. In the 10-player version of the raid, the waves will come from only side at a time, switching sides. In the 25-player one, adds will come from both left and right side - one add will come from the entrance of the room as well.

Fanatics (melee adds) should be kited (preferably by the tanks) and killed by spellcasters. Adherents (caster adds) should be dpsed by the melee dps of your raid. Watch out for adds casting Dark Martyrdom, it means they will come back to life Reanimated in a few seconds.

Healing Tips:

The boss attacks aren't very dangerous, her Shadow Bolts hit for 7-9K and her Death and Decay for 4,5K/s (as long as raiders aren't lame they won't take too much damage from that). D&D can be more dangerous in 25-Man because characters will be more packed, you should assign a Holy Priest and a Druid specifically for that.

The difficulty is the adds. Fanatics cleave (but there should be no melee on them!) and have several regeneration abilities, they also hit hard when transformed if they are not kited/cced correctly.
Pro-tip: Always have one healer assigned to each Fanatic tank (2 in 10-Man, 3 or 4 in 25-Man). For Paladins, having a Beacon of Light on one of them is a very good idea to anticipate any spike on him.
Adherents have strong shadowfrost attacks that can aoe when they get empowered by Lady Deathwhisper. That can result in strong damage spikes on the melee group dpsing them.
Pro-tip: Adherents also tend to focus together on one healer when they spawn, which can result in 2 (10-Man) to 4 bolts targeting the same character, be ready for fast instant healing when they spawn (a Discipline Priest shield should be used on all healers before a spawn in 25-Man).
Pro-tip: You should also watch for mind-controls of a healer/tank and for the adherents curse that puts a 15s CD on all abilities you use when afflicted by it (decursing healers is a top priority).

In the end the first phase is all about being fast and over-reactive. Your raid members can greatly help by reducing the amount of damage the raid takes with proper movement and cc of the numerous adds.

Healing Phase 2

Encounter Description:
(extracts from wowhead)

Phase 2 begins when Lady Deathwhisper's mana barrier has been drained. Try not to have any cultists alive when that happens. The boss will become active and a tank needs to pick her up quickly, as there is no threat reset. A second tank will need to be available to taunt the boss, since she will periodically debuff her current tank with a stacking threat generation reduction debuff. The two (three in 25-Man) tanks taunt off each other every 3 stacks.

Players should be mindful of the Vengeful Shades that will spawn through phase 2 and will randomly chase people - get away from them! These shades are untargetable and will die after a few seconds. Melee DPS might want to set up an interrupt rotation, since Deathwhisper's Frostbolt can cause significant damage (read nearly OS a not well geared tank). She will continue using Death and Decay (and Dominate Mind in 25-player).

Healing Tips:

Healing in phase 2 is much easier, you mostly only have to spam the tanks. All Frostbolts cast by Lady Deathwhisper should be interrupted and even if damage spiked can happen, there should be enough healers to keep the tanks up without too much of a problem.
Shades can result in significant damage, but if raid members kite them properly that shouldn't be too bad either.
The only danger is the Death and Decay, it will hurt tanks and melee several times during phase 2 and a lot of members will take damage this time. Obviously the tanks will move Deathwhisper out of them, but mages and shamans (distance interrupts) need to check-out for Frostbolts at this moment because melee interrupts won't be able to do their job. As for phase 1, assigning a Holy Priest and Resto Druid to heal D&D damage in 25-Man is the best option.

For Holy Paladin this part of the fight isn't hard, just spam Holy Lights, and if you still have the glyph you'll get D&D splash heal as well on the melee raid members.

This fight can be quite hectic, especially in 25-Man, but it's still the one I enjoy the most from the 4 first bosses of Icecrown Citadel.
Have fun with this crazy encounter, and see you for another Healing Through.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Back on the blog.

Hi everyone, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you a happy new year.
I've started to write a post about the macros I use on my paladin, it's going to be posted at some point in the week.
Expect another Healing Through too, I want to advance a little on Icecrown raid healing as the new bosses will be up soon :)

Once again, Happy New Year, wish you all the best.