Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Best Mod for Tracking Druid De(Buffs)

Over the past few months I've seen a couple mods recommended by other druids, namely TellMeWhen and RoguePowerBars. I tried both and then found something better, Auracle.

TellMeWhen lacks the ability to differentiate between my rip and someone else's rip. Now I don't mind if I take advantage of someone else's mangle or trauma, but I need my own rip.

RoguePowerBars does the job but it is had some serious UI issues. First off when there are no buff and debuffs shown you can't hide the bars. Second, the rogue abilities autopopulate next time you log in even if you remove them all. This causes the debuff bar to appear when I was displaying everythign on the buff bar. Easy enough I made that unused bar really small and shoved it in a corner and made it transparent. Still I had the buff bar taking up real estate when it wasn't being used.

So I did some looking and came across Auracle De(Buff) Monitor. It it very similar to RoguePowerBars in functionality, but it's UI is much better. The add-on consists of creating one or more windows each containing one or more trackers. A window monitors a specific target and a tracker monitors a specific de(buff).

I have two windows set up, one for me and one for my current target. In my player window I have one tracker tracking my savage roar. In my current target window I have mangle, rake and rip.

Each tracker can support multiple de(buffs) and treat them as a single entity. For example my mangle tracker tracks mangle (cat), mangle (bear) and trauma and considers both debuffs I applied as well as others (done with check boxes).

My rip and rake trackers only track debuffs applied by me so if there is another feral druid I won't have to worry about confusing my debuffs with theirs.

Windows consist of an icon for each tracker so they are kind of like mini toolbars. I have both my windows right under my toon's feet and they only appear in combat. It's a nice centralized location so I don't have to look far.

I am also toying with IceHUD so I have the windows just under that. I like IceHUD for in your face combo points mostly, but also for watching my energy and health. I have the rest disabled. Haven't used it in a raid yet still thinking about whether I like it or not. I'm very used to getting all the info IceHUD provides elsewhere.

Back to Auracle though, this is the best mod in my opinion for any class tracking multiple (de)buffs. I'm sure I will use it on my alts as well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Violet Hold Buggy After 3.1

Three times now a portal guardian has fallen through the floor, once resulting in a wipe. Happens on both regular and heroic and things can get interesting when it does. There should be an achievement for dealing with it.

The first time it happened was on the portal to the far right in the front (when standing in the doorway). Had to kill a few extra adds and the guardian popped back up into place and was killed without further incident.

The second time it happened it was the far left portal on the floor. This time the guardian stayed below the floor. This was shortly after the first boss. We made it to the second boss, that etheral dude with the orbs of doom. Halfway through the boss fight things got hairy and we wiped. Didn't help that our healer wasn't on vent and had old mods preventing him from seeing party chat or whispers. Was pretty funny after we found out, he thought we were just being really quiet/ignoring him.

Third time it was the same far right portal again, this time the guardian stayed below the floor too. This time it was regular though and we had an 80 hunter just camp the portal while the rest of us continued. She continued to help whenever there were things within range to shoot.

Something to look out for when running a quick violet hold run that should take less than 20 minutes.

Still it doesn't top Azul'Nerub for the buggiest instance in the game.

Monday, April 20, 2009

3.1 Buffs Cat DPS > 1k

I've not changed gear since the patch except upgrading a blue hit trinket with Grim Toll. I moved points out of master shapershifter and into predatory instincts, 10% larger crits wins over 4% crit any day. Lost that 4% damage increase in bear form too, but threat hasn't been an issue at all.

Since I didn't have to spec into natural shapeshifter either that gave me a point for primal gore, bleeding lacerates more than makes up for a 4% threat loss in bear plus in cat this is a huge buff for DPS with rips that can crit. I had a point left over so I tossed in into king of the jungle. 20 free energy every 30 seconds is nice. It was either that or furor, but 3/5 or 4/5 for furor seems negligible. Took two points from furor to stick into improved mark of the wild, still getting used to that. Sometimes you just want some rage, particularly after mistiming an enrage due to someone delaying a pull.

Lastly I've got marksman hunters in my life again. Trueshot aura is a significant boost to cat DPS and bear mitigation. It would be nice if I could withhold my leader of the pack buff from those stingy survival hunters.

So those being the only changes I have observed an increase of well over 1k DPS. Much more than I would of expected. I'm have a little extra hit now too since upgrading to grim toll so I am sure to eek a little more damage from swapping in a couple more tier pieces or something.

While the news on the DPS front is all good, bears on the other hand got a little bit of a nerf. We lost armor, which is really no big since the armor cap is still within range with ulduar gear. The stamina nerf hurt a little more. There were very few cases where that health was needed, just lowered the time we can live without heals. We still have a lot of health.

Then there is savage defense. I think it added just to make the armor and stamina nerfs more palatable. It doesn't do much and what it does do is rather buggy and unpredictable. For the new hard hitting bosses it is pretty negligible. I have a feeling it will evolve in the next couple patches. If it was changed from a static amount of damage to absorb to a percentage (still based on AP) that would be pretty nice. Right now it is almost too good for light hitters and useless for heavy hitters.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jack of all Trades, Master of All?

My mind has been expanded and I can now tank, heal or dps as needed. Last night I tanked violet hold, healed halls of lightening, dpsed utgarde keep and then healed utgarde pinnacle. PUGs for the most part seeing as very few guildies were interested in running anything on patch day. I would of expected the opposite with all these new specs to play with.

Well I started off tanking a mostly guild violet hold run, had to fill two from the SGA (small guild alliance, providing better PUGs since 2005). By my rough guesstimates I'd say I lost about 2-3k total health and about 3-4k armor due to the druid nerf. Made me a little sad to see that so I didn't dwell. So I trained that new savage defense ability, didn't really notice it; I will assume it works given I had a brand new healer and I didn't have any issues. I was more focused on getting used to a mere 3 points in furor and a full man cost for power shifting. Had to steal points from somewhere to get primal gore and improved mark of the wild. Violet Hold was a great place to test my 60% furor since I powershift more often for rage there than anywhere else. I think it will work for me.

Up to this point I've have pitbull, outfitter and deadly boss mods. I went ahead and added arkinventory and quartz back into the mix while I was speccing my hunter and doing a couple quest hoping someone would want to run something. Sure enough someone dinged 80 and wanted to do halls of lightening for the axe off Loken. I of course volunteered and then we wound up pugging the rest.

So here we are with a freshly dinged 80, a new to tanking tank a couple pugged DPS and me healing as a tree for the first time. Things went well and I had no problems keeping everyone up. There was the one time we pulled the boss while taking out a group of four and we wiped. I was a little slow in using my cooldowns with a new set of abilities and all, but I am not sure it would of made a difference. I've had the same thing happen on a guild run with veterans.
The best part was healing Loken! It was like the final exam for healing school. Of course everyone stayed in and I healed through it without any deaths. More than that we'd been four manning the instance since the boss before. Sure there was one less person to heal I suppose, but we also got a couple more novas than usual with the lower DPS output. Pretty sure I passed since I've seen veteran healers, even other druids, struggle there and be running out of mana towards the end. I was still well over half mana and had an innervate if I needed it. I am definitely liking my mana regen.

Three new people rotated in and I'm off to utgarde keep this time to DPS. It was about this time that I wished I'd enabled recount, but oh well. We blew through it and I definitely noticed I was putting out more damage. I moved points out of natural/master shapeshifter into predatory instincts, primal gore and king of the jungle. Mainly a trade of 4% crit chance to get 10% larger crits, plus a chance for my bleeds to crit. Had one point left so I went with king of the jungle since 20 energy every 20 seconds sounded pretty nice. I was tempted also by primal tenactiy just to reduce my shifting man cost, but I figured I don't shift all that much and improved leader of the pack keeps my mana topped off anyway. I dismissed putting the point in furor right away since 60% or 80% chance is about the same in the end, it might not be there when you need it and it will probably cost 2-3 shifts to get it either way.

Same group, minus our healer was up for doing utgarde pinnacle while we we're there, so I offered to go back to healing and we pugged another DPS from looking for group. A little server trouble getting into the instance, one of our PDS wasn't able to get in till we got to the first boss (we waited a couple minutes there). For patch day that is pretty darn solid. We cut through like a hot knife through butter. Best of all we got the achievement for not letting the last boss cast bane. We of course cheated and DPSed him so hard he never had a chance to cast it. Even with a battle rez after the first boat, someone got a little too friendly with an orb.

So as I figured I would be able to, I can heal pretty darn well. By the end of the evening (beginning of the morning) I was pretty comfortable with all my new abilities namely wild growth and swiftmend. Nature's swiftness was also new to my druid, but I have a resto shaman too so I bound that to the same key. Rest of the spells I was already familiar with as I've healed as a feral spec many times. Looking forward to healing in a raid one day, will be interesting to learn how to heal as part of a team rather than being responsible for everyone.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Bear's Take on Death Knight Tanking

My first thoughts were how complicated the tanking rotation was in comparison to a bear. Bears have a rage bar and some cooldowns to watch while tanking. Death knights have that plus 6 runes of 3/4 different types all on their own cooldowns. For someone new to tanking on a death knight it takes a bit of experimenting to figure out which combinations of abilities can be used sequentially.

For me it mostly seemed a trade off between death and decay and spreading diseases with pestilence. Can't do both without waiting for runes to become available. So it's a trade off depending on the pull. The main deciding factor for me was asking myself if my target would live long enough for me to put on my diseases and spread them; if not then death and decay.

The other thing that I noticed was a lot of a death knights mitigation abilities also use runes, the same runes being used to build and maintain threat. That was a foreign concept to me as a bear where I can blow barkskin or survival instincts whenever I want provided they are not on cooldown. This requires a death knight to keep tabs on runes so that emergency mitigation abilities can be activated as soon as they are needed. Worst case scenario otherwise is a 6 second wait which may or may not be survivable.

I'm sure some of this if not all of it becomes second nature to a death knight tank with practice. I know when I first started my death knight I spent more time looking at cooldowns than I did my surroundings. Good thing death knights can survive an add or two or three without blinking. I am now to the point where I can DPS with minimal rune watching. I was also tanking with a DPS focused blood spec which probably lacked some tanking talents which may simplify things.

The one major weakness in a death knight tank I noticed is what happens if someone pulls off of you in those crucial first few moments. A death knight stacks diseases on one target then spreads them to the rest so if something should get pulled off it won't get any diseases on it. Worst case scenario the mob getting the diseases stacked on it is pulled away and nothing else gets any diseases. Paladins have similar hardships recovering from losing aggro early in a fight as do warriors and bears to a lesser extent, but it seems especially annoying for death knights. Something to think about if you have a death knight tanking for you.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Waiting for 3.1

A lot of people are waiting for the patch to come out for new raid content, me I mostly want dual specs and my bleeds to crit. Looking forward to Ulduar, but that will be a month of so from now when I clear Naxx. I run a 10 man 3 hours a week and a 25 man 5.5 hours a week focused completely on Naxx now and both have a good shot at getting a peek at Saph next week. This week there are sign outs and the Easter holiday to contend with.

Now that my druid is exalted with everyone and save a couple off spec trinkets I don't need any upgrades from heroics either I've been focusing my time on alts. I have a marks hunter and resto shaman at 72 and 70 making their way to 80. Then I have my death knight over on the horde side at 70 which I dabble with when the guild has a "horde night". So far as running instances and such my death knight is stuck with pugs for the most part so tend to stay alliance where there are more guild folks to run with.

Been focusing mostly on my shaman, I'm relatively new to the healing scene so its fun to start learning new skills. Sure I've healed on my druid, but as a feral I don't' have any healing cooldowns to worry about (unless you count innervate) and I've never healed anything difficult where it mattered. I've been leveling my shaman up with a holy priest and a mage running instances together and all so even then I've not gotten a lot of experience healing solo.

A couple days ago though I ran Nexus and Utgarde Keep as the only healer and got to find out what I can do left to my own. Was really good practice and I learned a lot.

For starters I learned that healers should not at all think about DPS, sure there are times when you have extra mana, no one needs healing and you can go ahead and do damage, but healer DPS is so abysmally low it is negligible for the most part. I do about 200 DPS compared to the 800 DPS someone specced for it would be doing at 70 (more if they are geared from raiding in BC). Sure I could pull off more and maybe double that if I spent more mana, but that would cut into my healing reserves.

I also learned that cooldowns are very useful and figuring out when to use them becomes very important. An instant heal with nature's swiftness comes in handy when you have to heal some raid damage then top the tank off. The second boss(es) in UK is a good example of this, the random charge will damage someone which needs to be healed before the next charge since most people will die if they take two. If the tank needs some attention during at the same time then an instant cast can give some time to catch up. Tidal Force serves much the same purpose in increasing crit chance of the next three heals.

Not so much a cooldown, but Nature's Guardian is totally awesome. I notice when healing I tend to ignore myself at times (must be a healer thing since I swear I look at my health more when I am tanking or dpsing). This talent saves my life more times that I can count. Often gives me the time I need to heal myself. I guess I didn't learn that healing in instance so much as solo where it acts as a mana saving god mode of sorts on green/yellow mobs.

Lastly I learned I am a better tank than I give myself credit for. After having healed a couple rather well respected and knowledgeable tanks that didn't seem able to scale their raiding uberness down to a 5-man setting. Like pulling the entire first hallway of UK is bad (unless you overlevel the instance which we didn't), chain pulling 1-2 at a time is good. Probably took longer due to wipes from trying to go faster than it would of if we kept a constant maintainable pace. I may not stop often when tanking, but I do keep pace with the group leaning a little toward the pushing them side to keep things interesting.

So that's what's new with my shammy. My hunter isn't all that interesting to me, I raiding on my hunter almost exclusively in BC so I have the class down. Just a matter of realizing my pet can't hold aggro if I go all out. My death knight on the other hand never fails to amuse me.

Actually tanked an instance for the first time on my death knight; Sethekk halls and I was 69, but I wasn't specced for tanking so it was still interesting. Will have to post a bear's take on death knight tanking sometime.