Healing in a Shattered World: Patch 4.0.3a

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Every so often, I get a heal craving. It’s much like a chocolate craving – you feel like eating that moist gooey chocolate cake much in the same way you feel like throwing out some yummy heals. I had one of these heal cravings in the past week, but funny thing was instead of leaving me fat and happy at the end of it, I was left scratching my head over my heals. Was it just me or did Nourish not seem that awesome? Was it just me or did I actually see my mana bar move when I cast Rejuvenation? Should I have used *shudder* Healing Touch there instead?

And so I grabbed my chocolate cupcake, and settled down to take a good look at what our heal spells look like in the best way I know – reread those tooltips! Grab a cupcake and join me =)

I might be stating the obvious here in listing the spells, but it was helpful for me to just take a step back and re-evaluate the restoration healing arsenal. A lot of our spells look the same and sound the same but work very differently in their duration, mana costs and amount healed. They’re essentially new friends. I’ll be referring to the druid changes in Patch 4.0.3a – here’s a link to the druid changes to keep handy.

Heal-over-time Spells:

Rejuvenation: In Patch 4.0.3a, its mana cost was increased by 30%. The spell now costs 26% of base mana making it a pretty expensive spell to use. At level 80, the mana cost is in the 1k neighbourhood.

Lifebloom: One of our cheaper spells that costs only 7% of base mana. The catch is that we’re only allowed to put this on a single target at a time…unless we’re in tree form. Its our staple heal on the tank and a powerful raid healer when we unleash the tree.

 Wild Growth: Costs a whopping 27% of base mana – even more than Rejuvenation. It is, however, a smart heal and really our one powerful AoE heal spell. Use it wisely and well.

Cast-time Heal Spells:

Healing Touch: I’ve begun to take a second look at this spell, despite writing it off during Patch 4.0. This used to be the famous healing spell druids rarely ever used, and now at a cost of 30% base mana with a base 3 sec long cast still doesn’t look appealing. But, it still heals like a truck compared to the newly refashioned Nourish.

Nourish: Not really sure what to do about this one. Nourish costs a lovely 10% of base mana, but it now has a cast time equivalent to that of Healing Touch and heals for a significantly lower amount. However, it has the perk of refreshing Lifebloom if talented into. I can only see this being good for topping people off but its long cast time is rather deterring.

Regrowth: If you thought the rest of the spells were expensive, well this one takes the cake. It costs 35% of your base mana…and yet it delivers. Its quick, it heals and if you’re not careful it’ll kill your mana before you know it.

Other Spells:

Swiftmend: My best friend – made more powerful when glyphed. This guy costs a humble 10% of base mana and brings people up in a flash – faster than Regrowth.

Efflorescence: The circle of green goodness that procs from Swiftmend. Its healing is dimished when over 6 people stand in the circle but its still a great effect in that we can AoE heal by targetting a particular area.

 Tranquility: I admit I put this in purely for the sake of being thorough. This costs 32% of base mana and remains our “oh crap” spell.

The Message:

  • It’s loud and clear to me. No more blanket healing. With the mana costs of Rejuvenation and Wild Growth, its really not an option to just HoT everyone up preemptively. This is not a bad thing – it just means that as a druid I need to get to know my heals more intimately. Know how much they cost, know how much they heal for – assess the damage incoming and make your decision on what to put out there.
  • Since infinite mana is definitely out of the game, it’s more important to heal selectively and to put a cap on overhealing as much as possible. This is more than just knowing your how much spells cost – it also requires you to know where you’re healing who for how much. Yes that was an awkward sentence, but it gets my point across hopefully. =P 
  • Nourish versus Healing Touch is still up in the air. In Patch 4.0.3a, mechanics were changed to allow Healing Touch to refresh Lifebloom on the target as well. Nourish doesn’t have much going for it at the moment apart from its low mana cost. This is one of those places where I would keep both spells handy and then decide on the situation. Would a Nourish cut it or should I go Healing Touch? And do I have the mana for it? Its one of the many things that make healing interesting in this new world – no more easy answers. It now requires evaluating and consciously deciding one over the other. 
  • Keeping tracks of procs such as Omen of Clarity and Nature’s Grace are also important. I use the Omen of Clarity proc to mean a free Regrowth mostly. Timing specific mana-heavy heals with such procs adds up in keeping yourself from going oom. Nature’s Grace is a great proc to keep track of when someone is going down fast. The increased haste after casting regrowth immediately translates to a faster Healing Touch to get them back up.

My impression after taking a good look at the spells was pretty much out with the old and in with the new. Our spells and mechanics have changed and healing like we did in the past simply won’t work anymore. Healing is now a very interesting game – it keeps us on our toes as we evaluate damage and make our decisions about which spell to use, all while carefully watching mana and cooldowns. Not to say that healing in the past wasn’t interesting – oh no, it was great but it was also a whole different game. And now, the game and rules have changed yet again and  to heal well requires a very different style.

In my opinion, the Shattering is all about letting go of the past and approaching the new world with an open mind. It happened to our beloved zones and quests… and healing is no exception.

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The Shattering: First Impressions

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I was blown away. On maintenance day, I was mostly excited and a wee bit nostalgic, but really, mostly excited. When it finally happened and I logged on, I don’t think anything could’ve prepared me for it. I was mostly in awe and at the same time, deeply saddened by what I saw… and not really because I missed the old quests particularly, but more because I saw the destruction of something that held so many memories. I expected this post to be about the changes brought to healing, to talents and glyphs and so on, but it soon became apparent that I was nowhere near ready to talk about it. We surprise ourselves sometimes.


Auberdine:

The ruins of Auberdine are quite a sight. I am impressed with the amount of detail and effort Blizzard has put into revamping Azeroth – it is no easy feat, and I think they deserve a round of applause. My awe, however, is mixed with sadness as I learned not all of Auberdine’s inhabitants survived – some of which I knew. In a chilling quest, I was asked to search for survivors and well, I came across some familiar corpses. Terenthis… I helped him combat the corruption of furblogs, and Barithras Moonshade… he sent me to gather cave mushrooms in that (formerly) naga-infested cave. The good news is that not all perished, other familiar elves such as Cerellean Whiteclaw and Volcan made it through.

Shan’do Stormrage:

He’s back, reunited with Tyrande! And in what I assume to be his uber druid form. As a good druid, I promptly went and showed them my respect. The lore behind his return in the Stormrage novel – I personally read the summary featured on WoW Insider. Its a story I highly recommend reading since the lore takes place outside the game although its effects are clearly felt.

Tree of Life:

This is probably the only really awful part of this patch – in my humble opinion. It is one of the ugliest forms I have ever seen – not to mention blatantly male. I’m not sure how female druids are supposed to warm to the idea of wearing beards. They really screwed this one up. I remember seeing the earlier pictures and thinking, “oh thats awful” but let me tell you, it goes to a whole new level when you watch yourself turn into it. I promptly obtained Glyph of Treant, with a definite sense of urgency. While it is of some consolation, I’m still slightly offended that female druids have a very obviously male model thrust upon us by default. That’s my two cents.

Well there you have it. Rather a mixed bag isn’t it? Despite my surprise at my own reactions at Auberdine, I’m rather impressed that the destruction and quests are powerful enough to evoke such feelings. It doesn’t happen often. *cough* Next time, I promise some analysis on healing, talents and all that other good stuff =)

Farewell Old World!

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This is it. The Shattering is upon us. I had my final attempt at the mounts in Zul’Gurub the other day and well, it was fun! =) I’m incredibly excited to roll the new class/race combinations and can’t wait to dive into the thousands of new quests which await! I sense a second Loremaster in the making. That said, I’m taking one last look at the familiar world with its obscure quests and expansive zones that I have come to love. The zones I shall miss the most are the ones I “grew up” in, which felt like home to me. So here’s my farewell to you “old world” Azeroth…

Walking through the forests of Ashenvale one last time before the destruction begins.

A view of Auberdine, familiar and tranquil – one of my favourite places to quest.
The Shatterspear trolls – only viewable from the flight from Moonglade to Teldrassil. I wondered about them ever since level 10, when I first flew over their village. These trolls will soon disappear.
Dream Bough in Feralas – one of the four places where the Nightmare Dragons sometimes appear. They have, however, left this world for good now. Way back, I was endlessly curious about those strange dragonkin with ?? above their heads.
This little whelp became my companion by pure chance and good fortune. I was there for less than an hour, and lo and behold, there he was! Thank you, Ysera. I’m not sure he will be obtainable after the Shattering, so for now, he is my little reminder of the world I’m leaving behind.

Well there you have it. I was rather surprised at the places and things that came to mind for me as I recalled my old world experiences. No more endless trips to Blackrock Mountain, no more searching for that darned Satyr Horn…and hopefully, Zenn Foulhoof’s trickery is at its end. Goodbye old world Azeroth, and thank you for the fun and laughter.

To the new shattered world that awaits, I have but two words: Bring it!

PS: To those of you who owe me muffins from the last post on the shattering – I haven’t forgotten. Infact, now would be a perfect time for me to munch on those muffins as I contemplate my new characters… =)

4.0.1 Analysis: Grid vs. Default UI

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I have a confession to make. Shortly after Patch 4.0.1 was released, I uninstalled Grid and all the peripheral addons that went with it. As a healer, that’s big – Grid (and its other addon equals) made heals possible in the past: the bringers of information in a smooth and easy interface where healers effortlessly swapped between numerous targets in raids. Healing a 10 or 25-man raid without Grid (or any equivalent raid frame addon) bordered on the ridiculous. Patch 4.0.1 however, revamped our options in the default user interface, and I returned to give the interface another chance. I was impressed with what I found.

I healed through battlegrounds, heroic dungeons and raids with my new Gridless setup, and compared it to my past experience. While I  was healing, I was constantly thinking about its utility: Does it give me the information I need as a healer? Is it limited in use or customisable? Where does it have an edge over Grid and where did Grid trump this setup?

What Grid did for me:

To start off, here’s what my setup looked like back when I had my beloved tree form and the default interface for raid frames was, in short, terrible.

As a healer, the following things were important to me: aggro indicators, incoming heals, displaying class colours, and icons showing my HoTs and their duration with brownie points if they showed stacks. Somehow, I could never get used to the system of having tiny coloured dots in the corner being indicative of stacks. If you’ve ever used Grid, you know that Grid never comes alone – there are a dozen other addons that add to its functionality like tracking Prayer of Mending or showing spell icons around the frame. But once you had it all set up, it worked like a charm. You backed it up and hoped you’d never have to spend hours to do it again. 

New Raid Frame Options:

Perhaps the best thing about the new default UI is that it does everything I need as a healer (and I imagine many others) in a simple, easy-to-use interface. A single page of options pretty much covers all that I needed from my previous Grid-related addons – hence, setting it up or changing it on the fly takes minutes and isn’t a time sink.

A few things about these options made me smile and say “oh there we go!” when I first started customising it:

  • “Display Only Dispellable Buffs”: Perfect. I don’t need to go through check display poison and uncheck display diseases for starters. A neat little perk is that it has little icons to show up on the upper right corner to tell which kind of dispellable buff it is…and those icons get the message across well. No more green on top means poison whereas blue on the bottom left corner means magic. Checking that box just took care of it. 
  • “Display Incoming Heals”: Very useful as a healer to co-ordinate heals with others.
  • “Display Class Colours”: Useful for me – I like to know if that person with aggro is a cloth wearer or a plate wearer. 
  • “Display Aggro Highlight”: Again, very important to know who’s getting beaten up. It showed this as a red lining around the raid frame. (You’ll see this in future screenshots). 

 Above is a screenshot of my groups in an Obsidian Sanctum 10-man raid. I checked the “Keep Groups Together” option just because thats what I’m used to. Since I like my frames small and compact, I left the adjustable height and width at their default minimum. The two grey wedges sticking it out are what show when you unlock the frames. You can use these to position your frames overall, as well as to adjust whether you’d like to them stack them vertically or horizontally.

A couple other options of note with the interface are:

  • displaying power bars (mana, rage etc)
  • displaying health text (either as percentages or numbers)
  • having seperate frames for the raid’s tanks

Above is a screenshot of the raid frames while raiding. It worked pretty well for me – the aggro highlight is around the tank which is where it should be! =)  The interface automatically shows me HoT icons, stacks and duration – and a it never hurts to see each raider’s role either.

The Bottomline: Grid vs. Default UI

I’ve talked about how the default UI meets my requirements as a healer in doing everything Grid did for me. However, Grid can still go where the default UI can no longer reach in terms of customisation.

Grid’s advantages over the default UI: 

  • Customisable fonts and raid frame textures: the default UI offers no options for this apart from showing class colours. With Grid, you have a choice.
  • Customisable borders.
  • Options to place spell icons around raid frames: by default, the icons appear on the bottom of the raid frame. With Grid, you have the option of placing them at the top, bottom, or on the sides.
  • More flexibility in the height and width of individual raid frames: If you like your frames small, and the minimum values for height and width are both too big for your taste, then you’re out of luck with the default interface. And I can definitely see this since I don’t consider them the default size particularly small. Grid on the other hand, provides a lot more flexibility. 

 Default UI’s advantages over Grid:

  • Significantly easier to set up. This, this, this. I cannot emphasise how much of a difference this makes. Especially if you heal on more than one character and you have to tweak profiles for each of them. It takes you less than 15 minutes to set it up and be on the road.
  • Easy accessibility for quick, on-the-spot changes. With a single page, its easy to change options fairly quickly during a mana break or at the summoning stone. Lets say you didn’t like seeing power bars in the last fight – it was too distracting. Open options, uncheck and you’re merrily on your way. Grid’s interface for options is far from straightforward and definitely not recommended to mess with during a raid. 
  • Dispellable Buffs notifications more effective. I’m a visual person, and I’ve never been a fan of audio notifications other than my usual DBM-get-out-of-fire alarms. The dispellable buffs icons are perfect – a skull for disease, a stinger for poison – it’s just plain easy, and you can spend your attention more on heals.

My take? I’m sticking with the default UI for now. Customising textures and fonts aren’t as important to me, and thankfully, I don’t find the default smallest raid frame size available to be too large.  The fewer the addons I have to update and deal with, the better. I have to say the dispellable buffs and the automatic icons with stacks and duration won me over. This may be because I remember the tricky business it was to get icons to show up right for me in Grid – I simply refused to be content with solid colour-coded squares in the corner of my frame. Granted that a few hours isn’t an eternity but I prefer to spend more time healing than getting addons to work. With that, I will march bravely forward into Cataclysm, and heal dungeons, heroics and raids using the default UI!

The Shattering: Whats your guess on 4.0.3a?

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He’s coming! And to be honest, he does look a bit scary.  It’s anyone’s guess as to when this monster will hit our beloved Azeroth and burn everything to ashes. With Patch 4.0.3a going live on the Public Test Realms, it seems as though the ominous time is closer than ever!

The looming question: is it going to be on the 23rd of November before Thanksgiving or on the 30th, after the feast?

There are good arguments for both dates. The 30th makes sense so Blizzard employees  can take a breather for Thanksgiving, although the 23rd seems equally likely since it is WoW’s 6th anniversary of its original launch and having two weeks to iron out bugs before the expansion makes sense.

I’m going to go ahead and put my muffins on the 23rd. Thats right, I gamble with baked goods and this time it happens to be those of the Banana Nut kind.  I’m boldly willing to put my muffins on the line because I feel it is impossible to overlook the kind of poetry or irony (depending on how you look at it) that the world will be forever changed on the one day that WoW actually came into existence. Ofcourse this means I have maybe two shots at the Zulian Tiger left, and honestly, an extra week and a couple more tries wouldn’t hurt! But my muffins are the 23rd, nevertheless. What about you?

Roleplaying Outfits: Sets and Tier Gear

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There’s a certain special element about wearing a fully co-ordinated set while roleplaying. While leafy outfits and creative kilts look great, sets and tier gear have a completely different effect. They’re class specific and often named after great entities in lore, and they always have something unmistakably druidic about them. And they’re particularly fitting to wear if you’re on say scouting mission for Cenarion Circle, or representing the druids at an event etc.

On this fine morning of server maintenance, I will share the sets that I’ve collected as well as the sets I would’ve liked to get had I more bank space! (*hint *hint Blizzard!)

Cenarion Raiment

A set named after the demigod Cenarius himself! The highlights of this outfit are the leafy green shoulders and the unmistakable antler head-piece. I decided to get this set not just for roleplaying purposes, but also as my one complete set from vanilla WoW, as part of my pre-Cataclysm bucket list.

All the pieces can be found in Molten Core:

Cenarion Vestments: Golemagg 
Cenarion Spaulders: Baron Geddon
Cenarion Leggings: Magmadar
Cenarion Helm: Garr
Cenarion Boots: Lucifron
Cenarion Bracers: Trash Mobs (BoE)
Cenarion Belt: Trash Mobs (BoE)
Cenarion Gloves: Shazzrah

Here is a zoomed in version in the hope of capturing more of the details of this outfit. I love the little things here like the tiny leaves in the headpiece with the matching spaulders…not to mention the brown leaves on the gloves and bracers. Did I mention leaves yet?

Feralheart Raiment

Another set that ranks as one of my favourites. Its a little different from the Cenarion Raiment as it takes more nocturnal colours with a celestial theme. No leaves here but we have the moon, the stars and a lovely blue to match.

The Feralheart Raiment can be obtained by upgrading the Wildheart Raiment through a series of quests offered by Deliana. (For more information on this, see my previous Feralheart Raiment post).

A long time ago I began the upgrade quests but abandoned them shortly after, and did away with the gloves, bracers and belt of this set. I’ve never been a fan of GM tickets so I sought out decent replacement pieces as I completed my set.

Here is a closer look at the outfit in a different light as I walk through Ashenvale.

For the belt, I’m wearing Belt of the Raven Lord (from Anzu in heroic Sethekk Halls). For the hands and wrists, I’m wearing Ceremonial Leather Gloves and Ceremonial Leather Bracers respectively. These seemingly ordinary pieces surprised me with how well they matched the set.

The sets below are the ones I don’t currently have but would dearly love to, sometime in the future. *Cough* bank space *cough* (The images below are courtesy of WoWhead).

Wildheart Raiment:

Also, known as Dungeon Set 1, the Wildheart Raiment is similar in design to the Feralheart Raiment. I love the colours in this outfit – the subdued blues and pinks work very well together and they provide for a good off-beat colour scheme. The pieces themselves are relatively easy to obtain:

Wildheart Vest: General Drakkisath (UBRS)
Wildheart Spaulders: Girzul (BRS)
Wildheart Kilt: Baron Rivendare (Stratholme)
Wildheart Gloves: The Unforgiven (Stratholme)
Wildheart Belt: Scholomance and BRS Trash mobs
Wildheart Boots: Mother Smolderweb (BRS)
Wildheart Bracers: Stratholme and Scholomance Trash Mobs
Wildheart Cowl: Darkmaster Gandling (Scholomance)

Conqueror’s Nightsong Garb/Regalia/Battlegear:

Another stunning set to have. The detail of the robe and shoulders just blow me away while the crescent moon headpiece is fantastic to mix and match with other outfits as well. These pieces are obtained by turning it tokens that drop from various bosses in Ulduar (25-man). Note that the head and chest pieces can be bought from the Leather Armor Vendor in Dalaran using Justice Points.

Shoulders: Yogg-Saron
Hands: Mimiron
Chest: Hodir or Justice Points
Head: Thorim or Justice Points
Leggings: Freya

Well thats it for today. There are many sets out there but these really sum up my favourites in terms of aesthetics (well what else do we look for anyways? =P ) I had a lot of fun putting together these outfits and can’t wait to see the new ones we’ll have in Cataclysm! As always, thanks for reading =)

Cataclysm Launch Event: Elementals Incoming!

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My previous snapshots barely got posted up before more chaos began to unfold. You know what they say…the calm before the storm? Well, my previous snapshots were definitely the calm…and this is definitely the storm! The elementals struck with great fury and power…they definitely want the city destroyed!

The sky went dark and it grew chilly. The attacks slowly began and amidst the chaos orders were given to evacuate the city. Frightened citizens screamed to be let out of the city.
The elemental attack in full force. This is but a fraction of the chaos that befell capital cities. 

Closing the rifts, securing each area of the city (all while freeing trapped citizens and preventing flooding) and pretty much successfully fending off the attacks gives rise to certain portals. WoWhead has an in-depth guide on the mechanics of this here. While those portals are active, one can queue for the special bosses via the Dungeon Finder. The Bosses are: Crown Princess Theredras, Grand Ambassador Flamelash, Kai’ju Gahz’rilla and Prince Sarsaun – all in all very fun to fight and drop some yummy ilvl251 loot. Time to polish your sword and defend your home city against the elementals!