Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm Sorry You're Superfluous

I've been leveling my new worgen priest as disc/holy since I am most interested in healing and don't like the idea of being a shadow priest. Perhaps I'm weird, but shadow just seems evil; it took me rolling a blood elf to justify making a warlock. I guess I'm ok with overcoming an inherent evil taint in my toons so long as they didn't actively choose it and try to overcome it by doing good. My blood elf warlock was forced to fel magics to survive, my death knight had no say in being resurrected as an abomination, and I suppose worgen to some extent also didn't have a choice in what they were to become or what they did before being "cured". So going shadow just doesn't work for me. That said I decided early on to make my disc spec my "DPS" spec and focus entirely on healing for my holy spec.

Turns out disc does pretty decent damage at lower levels, even at 48 I am still competitive with other DPS in pugs. When I flush out the disc tree and get to take a few points in shadow I'll be able to use spirit for hit and with any luck be able to hold my own in normal dungeons. Apparently I'm also ok with tossing the occasional shadow spell in the heat of battle; chalk it up to the worgen curse, but embracing shadow fully is where I draw the line.

So given that I know I can put out more that my fair share of damage I don't feel the least bit guilty about checking that DPS checkbox when queuing for a random dungeon. I always have healer checked as well, but apparently once in a while the DPS queue is shorter and I get into a dungeon as DPS. So I focus on maximizing damage instead of healing when that happens which pretty much means I use my penance for damage and apply dots instead of tossing a heal to accompany my smite and holy fire spam. In either case atonement does a ton of healing and under normal circumstances covers all the healing. Only during a particularly bad pull is any direct healing required; therein lies the one problem, what does the healer do when I DPS?

One of three things from my experience: roll with it and take a nap, do some DPS in the downtime or throw a fit and drop group. The latter is usually quite hilarious, but I can't help but to feel a teeny bit sorry for them; while I am laughing of course. Honestly there is nothing funnier than a healer just blowing up after a few pulls and typing something profane along the lines of, "screw this, you guys don't even need me", and dropping group. That's like the DPS dropping group because the tank is doing all the damage, which I have seen happen. Although the tank and healer above all the DPS is pretty amusing to look at, but I've never seen a DPS drop because the healer is beating them.

Disc priests just got stuck in a really awkward position, When we heal it's like there are 4 DPS and when we DPS the healer becomes a 5th wheel unless they also go DPS. Really a disc healer is like having 5 DPS at lower levels because tanks usually beat out most the DPS for damage. It all balances out for the end game from what I've heard/read, but while leveling it's pretty overpowered. Really any group without a disc healer is at a disadvantage and for purposes of min/maxing disc is hands down the best spec for regular dungeons.

I guess I am a little greedy for checking DPS to occasionally shave that little bit of time off my dungeon queue, but if I can do my job as good or better than the rest of my group and on top of that indirectly keep everyone healed up, how is that my problem? When I first got atonement I thought how crazy overpowered it was as I smite healed my way through dungeon after dungeon while topping the DPS meters by a fairly large margin. I told myself this can't possibly last as I continued to level only having to actually heal when I got into a dungeon slightly over my level and even then only a few times total. Then they buffed atonement to work with holy fire as well and I got even better. My relative damage has tapered off a bit, but I can still generally get first or second for damage on boss fights. We'll see what happens once I hit outlands, but the way things are going it looks as if DiscPS will remain not only viable, but flourish.

In fact when I was leveling up my warlock I had a disc priest not only heal and DPS, upper blackrock spire, they tanked it as well. They had obviously queued with the tank and the pally tank hung back and healed while that disc priest tanked everything and held decent aggro as well all things considered. I'd seen tanking classes tank worse. I get all giddy with excitement thinking that I will still have that much power in 10 more levels. I may step on healers toes without hesitation, but I still usually let the tank do their job for the most part. I've always been known to pull as a healer when my tank is going slower than I would like and being a disc priest has certainly only encouraged that behavior. I remember I did cause a tank to drop for doing that in Uldaman. I just continued to tank/heal/DPS until we got another tank from the queue (that next tank did a much better job).

There certainly is a lot of leeway in a regular dungeon for what a good player can get away with. On one hand it is kind of stupid that tanks and healers can be made obsolete without any real consequences, but on the other that is the price we pay for having content tuned toward learning how to play instead of tuned to be challenging like heroic or raid content. I remember fondly running dungeons in outlands with 5 death knights before the dungeon finder.

Obviously the point of all this is that you shouldn't be discouraged or upset by someone doing better than you, or even outright carrying you, in a learning environment such as regular dungeons are. If you are the tank and people are tanking for you without any ill effects then just use the time to practice. It's a no pressure environment, you can try pretty much anything you want and it won't matter. If you are the healer and no healing is needed then work on seeing how much damage you can do or perhaps even flip specs and heal from a DPS spec as needed. Healers are given the opportunity to DPS more often than you'd think so getting some practice with it isn't a bad thing. Regular dungeons are just as much learning to deal with the strengths and weaknesses of other players in your group as they are about how well you can perform at your role individually.

I just get so excited thinking about my disc priest, they are like the caster healer/DPS equivalent of the melee tank/DPS hybrid role that feral druids fill. Not quite as flushed out on the DPS side, but it's as close as any other class/spec comes to filling two roles.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Secondary Specs Opening Doors

It's when you have absolutely nothing planned that some of the most interesting things can happen playing warcraft. Yesterday was a wonderfully boring Monday; I stayed at work a little later, followed the lawn mower around the yard (self-propelled), had some dinner and finally logged on to use up some of the rested XP I've been accumulating. After getting from 45 to 48 on my priest last week from just two random dungeons I was curious how far the rested xp would get me on other toons, not as far as I thought, but it was fun anyway.

As an aside, is it just me or is the horde side in general ruder, cruder and all in all less refined than the 13 year olds on the alliance side? I'm used to people being total asshats in random dungeons, but when I play my two horde toons people seem to go that extra mile. On the alliance side your tank goes offline and you see a comment like "offline" when someone goes to kick them, horde side I saw not only once but twice, "offline and a fag". Perhaps it's a horde inside joke, but this was two entirely different groups from entirely different realms; I checked because it was just too weird to be coincidence.

Back on topic, after I was done playing around horde side for a while I hopped over to the alliance side, where I actually have a guild with more than three people logged in, and was working on leveling my paladin that one last level to 85. For some reason I was enjoying it too, must be something similar to Stockholm syndrome. Really I just had to appreciate the sturdiness of a ret pally doing the chain to unlock the twilight highlands for the 7th time. Then on my way back to turn in the last couple quests to open the portal back to Stormwind I saw a request for a healer for the last two bosses in Ulduar in guild chat.

Hot diggity, I was actually working on Uldaur achievements for a while back in wrath, but never got to finish since the group I was running with wasn't able to run on the days I was available. Better yet it was just the last two bosses so it was practically handed to me on a silver platter. All made possible because I have retained a healing spec I hardly ever use. I can honestly count the number of times I've healed on my druid in Cataclysm on one hand, and yet I maintain the spec and a set of gear just for those unexpected moments when being a healer can open a door that would otherwise be closed. The feral hybrid/resto spec combo is like a casual dream come true. I give up a little bit of damage to focus on being all the bear I can be and as a result I am able to tank, heal and/or DPS at the drop of a hat.

Back in Ulduar healing for the first time in quite literally months (I like to jump right into things) I wasn't all that rusty. The healing throughput requirements were also half of what they are now so that helped quite a bit. I had some pretty serious mana issues on Vezax (who I wanted to call Venoxis), serious being I ran out and died. Luckily the rest of the group finished without me and got the achievement.

Then we ran in and tried to 8 man Yogg, which didn't work out so hot so we actually gave everyone the opportunity to get into the room the next attempt and got it down on the second try (third if you count the accidental pull). That fight is ridiculously busy. I think I could down it 15 more times and still find new things.

Then after that we headed to down Alganon which I had always wanted to see and as it turned out I was the only one in the group with the key, so it was good for everyone that I tagged along. That fight was everything I hoped it to be and more. I hadn't been so impressed with a boss since Mimiron and before that I can't even think of a boss that impressed me other than when I first started raiding in BC and was impressed by almost everything. So I got my starcaller title because of random chance and that I still remember how to heal. How's that for a random evening? Now I feel the need to find a group and go back and knock off disarmed for my mount seeing as it is the only achievement I have left to do for it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What Do You Look For in a Class?

Oh my, I asked a question. It's like I actually care about what all three of my readers think! It's no surprise that I write more for my own amusement than anyone else's. You know when the guild forums are slow and you just really need to have a good wordgasm before your head explodes? No? Good, me neither; moving on.

Working with the increasingly more accurate assumption that all classes are as good at filling their potential roles as any other, it becomes clear that the most important choice after deciding whether you want to tank, heal or DPS is how you want to do it. DPS is most obviously grouped into ranged and melee both with wildly different feels, but after that it's just the little things that make the difference.

Lets take my favorite class as an example, druid obviously. You can do whatever you want right off the bat, that's a great start. I originally chose to make a druid for that reason along and also because changing forms looked really fun. Little did I know that it would take me a year and a day to actually get any of those forms when first starting out. I actually made a hunter and got that to max level first just because druids are such late bloomers. Had I known that at the time I probably would have stuck with my druid.

It wasn't until I got cat form that I really started to enjoy my druid at that used to be at level 20. I like instants, cast times make me sleepy, so most all casters don't really hold my attention long. So 20 levels of casting spells that I wasn't even taking talents for was pretty lame. Glad they fixed that in cataclysm. Sadly cataclysm also took away my druid's ability to heal nearly exclusively with instants. I just had a wild idea of all druid healing spells being instant with different mana costs and cooldowns. That'd be sweet.

What I didn't know about druids when I started, but really appreciate now is that lack of (self)buffs to maintain. Paladins have an aura and a seal and a buff, rogues have three different weapons to poison, shaman have weapon enhancements and the list goes on. Who want's to keep track of all that crap? It's not like you get to do perform any better than classes that don't. Druids have their one buff which lasts an hour and if you are lucky you can even pawn it off on a pally or another druid (there always seems to be a plethora of them in some combination). Having a buff to watch/maintain as part of a rotation makes things interesting. Having a buff that you never think about because it's on for an hour or more without any action on your part is just stupid.

At the other extreme there is the abilities that aren't annoying because they are easy to forget about, but because they are like a blinking idiot light on your dashboard. Ooh, ooh, hit this button, now this button, now this other one again. It's probably mostly my personal preference, but I don't enjoy playing whack-a-mole with my action bars. I like a sense of priority between abilities and cooldowns or dots, basically something that you can see coming and anticipate. Obviously I abhor paladins right now because thier action bars light up like a Christmas tree to some pagan RNG holiday. There is enough of that in boss encounters, don't need to add to it. Again, why deal with more hassle when it doesn't make you any better than any other class? I used to refer to these types of abilities as things that needed babysitting as you had to continually watch them to see if they would need your attention. Nowadays of course they light up quite obviously so there is less attention needed, but I still find it equally annoying.

Last but now least I look for flexibility, not to be confused with the versatility of being able to fill a number of different roles, but being able to fill one role well in different situations. We all know the distinction between ranged friendly and melee friendly fights. I love to be able to cross that barrier and perform well on both sides of the fence. Feral druids do that in a couple ways when we can't always be in melee range: we can make sure to keep bleeds refreshed to last while we are away and we have an energy resource that allows us to buffer attacks for a few seconds without losing anything but a few auto attacks.

So I look for versatility, instants, lack of busy work, lack of babysitting, a lot of utility and last but not least flexibility.

The thing that got me thinking of all this to begin with was AOE though. Specifically my shaman and other classes compared to my druid. Shaman have to put up flame shock and hit fire nova, plus totems and if your elemental earthquake, that's a lot of crap to do to compared to a feral druid who hits one button and does better than you with a totally minimal effort. Even balance druids have those stupid mushrooms on top of their previously equally trivial hurricane so not even all druids have it easy. Aside from a channeled blanket AOE or spammable button everyone else is just doing more work than everyone else for absolutely no gain. Class homogenization is often looked upon as a really bad thing, but I think I just found his evil twin brother. There has to be some sort of happy medium where the effort required remains constant while preserving the uniqueness of each class, channeled vs instant burst vs AOE damage over time abilities pretty much do that now.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Target On Mouse Down

I'm sure most non-mouse-over healers have noticed this even if they didn't know why. You click on a raid frame to switch targets and cast a spell, but your spell ends up going to your previous target. You know I came across this very same issue back when I started using the SnowFallKeyPress add-on which caused my hot keys to cast on button down instead of button up. I just figured the change made it faster than the target switching and got used to it over time. Then SnowFallKeyPress broke and I never bothered to fix it and eventually Blizzard made it's functionality part of the game and I was back to the same issue.

Turns out the root of the problem is that clicking a raid frame doesn't actually change targets till you let go of the mouse button. So when your spell cast happened when you released the key and the target flipped when you released you mouse button the two events always happened in the right order. Change the ability to cast as soon as the button is pressed and the targeting is going to lag behind.

Once I realized what the problem was I started looking for solutions. The healing specific add-ons like Healbot and Vuhdo had apparently figured this out way before me and already had the ability to target on mouse down. Pitbull however did not much to my surprise and I spent a little bit of time looking through the LUA code to rectify that without getting anywhere. Then I remembered another add on I'd used before, Clique. I downloaded it and installed it to find that the very first checkbox in the options did exactly what I wanted.

I suspect that Blizzard will notice the benefits of targeting on mouse down in time, but in the meantime I've got a solution in hand before I got used to hitting my action buttons later to compensate again. I can't believe I didn't catch this the first time I went through this, but I suppose I wasn't healing as much at the time and was mostly impressed by the faster reaction time when DPSing, interrupting in particular.