Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Lowbie PUGs - fun and profit (sometimes)

Frequenty PUGing of level 80 heroics has made me a bit weary of the responsility of tanking or healing, so I've been dabbling with my lowbie dps-with-utility alts, namely Crennick (level 34 mage) and Adanadel (level 66) hunter.

The first thing you notice about lower level groups is that they're more friendly and helpful than the end game groups. Perhaps they're playing for fun (after all, if they were power levelling they'd probably not be there) rather than running the instance mainly for badges.

The other thing you notice is how different instances are at different levels. In Scarlet Monastry you only see two or three mobs per pull, so as long as you pull and don't charge in, and watch for patrols, you can't really go wrong. This is probably a good thing - the tank we had there was clearly DPSing with a two-hander and not really tanking at all. Since he'd handle perhaps two mobs at a time this let me play utility - sheeping the extra mob, nuking them off the healer or counterspelling a caster - so was more fun than pure dps, although you've got to feel sorry in general for groups that "tanks" like him end up in. Perhaps just he's queuing as a tank for a shorter queue, perhaps still learning - the only drawback to the latter is that nobody seemed to be pointing out his mistakes, so how's he going to learn? Perhaps the Dungeon Finder has taught us to be too deferential to tanks?

After Lich King and classic instances, Burning Crusade instances come as a bit of a shock. You forget how big some of the pulls are in those places, and how groups used to expect at least one - preferably two - of the DPS to have crowd control. The problem is these days everyone forgets in instances that they have CC abilities, so the tank gathers all the mobs up, DPS AoE them down - and quite often the tank dies.

As a result Adanadel's Mana-Tombs group got through three tanks (a druid, a DK and a warrior) and three healers (a druid, a shaman, then another druid) before eventually clearing the place. In a group with a mage and a hunter this really should never have been a problem, but it's rarely any good using crowd control once the tank is already dead! Lesson learned (or more correctly re-learned) but it just shows how lazy we've all become compared to the "bad old days" of BC's sometimes brutal instances.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Heroics no longer fun

Disclaimer - yes, I've installed Gearscore. But only for these reasons -
  • When I'm tanking, I'll have a quick idea of how badly the DPS outgear me
  • I'm curious to know what my own gearscores are (for Grulnak and Grulgok), so that I have some reference point for the numbers that are bandied about in chat.
I've never voted to kick anyone because their gear wasn't up to scratch, only ever based on their attitude.

Anyway, onto the real point of this post.

The other day I signed up to tank a random heroic, and as is often the case all of the other players significantly outgeared me. I'm not badly geared, having unbuffed 556 defense, 22.9k armour, 26.9k health and a combined dodge and parry of 37.8%. Along with 23 expertise and 156 hit rating I'd once have been considered pretty well geared for a heroic tank.

Because (I assume) of my gear level, the random was an "old" heroic - Utgarde Pinnacle - which we proceeded to faceroll through. There was a slight moment of tension when only myself and one other wanted to kill the first boss - the remainder wanted to get on and get their Frost emblems - but presumably because I was the tank they hung around for an extra few seconds and killed her too.

The sad thing is, this wasn't challenging, or even particularly fun. The run was messy and displayed all sorts of bad habits - but it didn't matter because of the gear levels involved. I wondered at times if a tank was even needed - perhaps just a plate geared DPS on the boss fights, perhaps not even that.

I usually enjoy - and occasionally get wiped - when healing the ICC heroics, but the "old" Wrath heroics are just pointless for overgeared players. I'm almost pining for the original WoW days, when raiders simply didn't run heroics.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Treading water

My wife and I have a new baby (now 3½ weeks old) so my raiding has come to a sudden halt, and WoW is very much on the back burner.

When I have had the chance to play it's been the occasional daily heroic to gather up those non-raid healing upgrades available to Grulnak, some heroic tanking and my ongoing alt angst.

In the last couple of days I've got the Arcane Loops of Anger and the Drape of the Violet Tower. A couple more emblems will net me the Band of the Invoker, which is my last clear Emblem of Triumph upgrade, and then time will tell whether I continue to gather Emblems of Frost for further upgrades, or when / if I can get back into raiding.

Having satisfied myself that Grulgok can competantly tank heroics (although definitely with room for improvement) my question is how much I want to tank heroics for PUGs, and how much effort I want to spend gearing up a second character to ICC 5-man levels.

And then of course there's the eternal alt question, which really boils down to whether I want / need a character who's more human / "generic fantasy" in motivation and appearance.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Why chose a shaman?

Alterac Volley did a piece giving a thumbnail description of the classes. I'm not quite sure who the audience were for this - experienced players probably have a pretty good idea of what the classes are about, and new players will get more value out of the Blizzard descriptions (whatever their well-publicised shortcomings) and are more likely to find them. Two things did strike me though about these descriptions:
  • they are applicable to levelling and PvP (where good players exploit the full abilities of their class) but not really to end-game raiding where players are far more pigeon-holed. In fact, very little prepares a new WoW player for what the end game has in store.
  • the shaman description is way off. Are shamans really this little understood?

So, with a view to my audience (primarily me, and my constant alt indecision, with a view to who my main should be for Cataclysm), here's my view of what makes a shaman.

We're a damage / healing hybrid, with the emphasis on the damage. Sort of a reverse priest.

We have a strong healing spec, especially in small groups - we're better group healers than a paladin, better tank / burst healers than a druid.

We have good damage specs, and no aggro dump... so we probably cause tanks more problems than any class other than dps warriors! Elemental is a bit boring, and doesn't scale that well at high gear levels, enhancement is melee and therefore Blizzard (and raid leaders to a lesser extent) hate them. Still, we can do good damage, in distinctive and flavourful ways.

But what keeps me coming back to my shaman?

Reincarnation - with credit to Babasyzygy the "method school of acting feign death". The single thing that I miss most when not on my shaman.

Wolves - Ghost Wolf, especially instant GW, is my second favourite shaman ability. It's odd that I don't really have much interest in druid and their forms, but Ghost Wolf always cheers me up. Spirit Wolves are also deeply cool.

Water Walking - especially now that we can ride on water too. I have fond memories of walking across Darrowmere Lake as a shortcut to Scholomance, and since then it's never got old.

Totems - I wouldn't say that I "like a class that uses totems to support your attack", and their lack of mobility is a bit of a pain, but I'm rather fond of my cleansing and tremour totems. It's just nice to be able to drop these and forget about poisons, disease and fear (to some extent). If dispelling becomes less spammy in Cataclysm their advantages may become less clear cut, but they're invaluable at the moment.

To me those are the highlights, and the first two especially means I'll struggle to ever demote Grulnak from being my main.