Category Archives: Healing

Proving Your Way to … Rares?!?!

Blizzard added Proving Grounds in MoP. These were solo battles intended to prove your skill with a specific role. But very few people used them. They awarded you nothing other than an achievement, which is not a carrot most people care about.

The progression of leveling/loot currently goes like this:

Level -> Normal Dungeons -> Heroic Dungeons -> LFR -> Flex Raids -> Normal Raids -> Heroic Raids.

Each of the stages up through Flex raids requires an item level to queue unless you are running with a pre-made group. The purpose of the item level requirement is to check that you are geared and prepared for the dungeon/raid you are about to go in. Does this work? Not really. Dungeons, after the first two months of the expac or so, people outgear them, so even a terrible player will just be carried through on the backs of their group. The same goes for LFR. In a group of 25, there are usually up to about 5 or so people who are just completely worthless and they get carried through.

Does this create frustrating or difficult times? Yes. Should Blizzard be attempting to fix it? Yes.

Well now, Blizzard has announced that Proving Ground will be REQUIRED to queue for Heroic Dungeons in WoD as a fix for the above problem. And I think it is not only the wrong fix, but also shows a lack of understanding as to the problem.

My experience with Proving grounds was I walked in, tried the Bronze, one shot it. Cool. I tried Silver. I got to the final wave (10) and was overwhelmed. So I checked WoWhead, and sure enough, as a Warlock, I *have* to spec into certain skills to be able to succeed. Because you can’t out-gear the encounter, you are literally LOCKED into certain skills and talents. I didn’t have tomes, and I didn’t care enough, so I left.

Two other times in WoW I have been in a similar position – The Legendary Nexus quest in Cata and the Legendary Cloak quest in MoP. I was trying a thing, I couldn’t have help, and I needed to literally change the way my character played to succeed. Both times it was annoying, frustrating, and felt like Blizzard was telling me “We gave you all these choices of ways to play your character, but haha, most of those were wrong and this is the only way to play.” Both times it took me several hours of frustration that I was being forced to SOLO extremely difficult content when I had a GUILD full of people willing and wishing they could help. (It’s especially odd when for the Legendary staff, I literally COULD NOT have done the entire rest of the questline without a guild.)

The problem with random groups is not specifically that people don’t know how to play their class, but rather with the ways of gaming the ilevel system. First off, items in the bags count, meaning many people are queuing based on their off spec gear or pvp pieces they have their bag. Or just flat out wearing pvp pieces. Or they will game the system and queue wearing gear that has no business being worn in that instance. (I am not even kidding, I had a tank in LFR one time who was wearing a GREEN 432 weapon – when the ilvl to queue was over 520 – and no one was willing to kick him because of how long it took to find tanks, so we struggled through a 3 hour LFR instead.)

Further this, the kick timers and troll prevention are needlessly obfuscated, and the punishment timer goes on the person doing the kicking and not the idiot getting kicked. In a 5 man it’s actually not hard to kick people. In an LFR it is. I was in an LFR where we had TWO dps who were in tank spec, one of whom was actively taunting off the tanks and throwing off the rotations. We couldn’t kick both, just one, because the people willing to do something all had timers. Another time I was healing, and the death knight tank was THIRD on the healing list. The other people were just farting around. It had ZERO to do with skill and more to do with them not giving a shit.

See why requiring a proving grounds medal does this not actually address the problem?

There are also other reasons, like: people don’t play solo the way they would in a random dungeon or lfr. Proving grounds is also not balanced for all classes and specs. If it’s not an account wide thing, it means people will have to do it over and over again on their alts.

It’s gatekeeping. This has been proven to be a POOR choice every single time it has been used in WoW. Attunement quest chains? Discovering the instance portal? Even the item level thing has not worked out as intended.

What did work? 1. Luck of the Draw. 2. Determination. 3. Bonus Bags.

So what would I do?

First – require all dungeons be completed in normal IN THE ROLE YOU QUEUE FOR. So with this requirement, it’s like the achievement requirements for LFR. First off, it solves the issue of group play vs solo play. A guild can carry someone through. Even if you are running with your guild, if you are healing, you learn a bit about healing the fights. If I want to queue for heroic dungeons as a healer, I have to heal all the dungeons in normal first. To me, this upholds the pillar of multiplayer, allows for help from a guild, and also allows a path for people who play less seriously to get there without the frustration of gear scaling/spec changing.

Second – WoD’s gear “adaptation” is already going to fix *some* of the ilvl gaming going on. But I honestly feel unless an item is equipped, it shouldn’t count. This comes from someone who has BOUGHT blue pvp gear, held it in my bags just long enough to queue, gotten a drop or two, then re-sold it on the AH. Never equipped, but used for the purpose of queuing.

Third – Change the vote kicking system. You should be able to know if you have a timer because of “too many vote kicks initiated”.  For every completed instance, you should get the ability to vote kick without messing up this timer. For every wipe, you should get to vtk without affecting this timer. In LFR, it should take more than 5 kicks in a single LFR to affect this timer. If you are the person kicked, you should get a 30 minute debuff JUST LIKE THE DESERTERS.

 

There are other small tweaks that could be done, but these are big ones. Also, does anyone else notice, this whole thing seems to be “fixing” heroic dungeons when the real problem is LFR, WHICH IS NOT GOING TO REQUIRE SILVER? What are they even thinking? Is LFR going to be removed from the gearing steps? If so, it will have to be the same gear as drops in Heroics, in which case, people will just stop outright, as LFR takes far longer, and you have a greater chance of getting asshats. Not to mention, Heroics drop RARE items… RARES. We have to do jump through how many crazy hoops to get RARES?!? Why? At least in LFR it’s epics! Heroics, even Stonecore, was only awful for the first two months of the expac or so, then the number of people who outgeared it had hit critical mass and it became fairly easy.

Games I Played This Week

I really should have considered prior to deciding that I wanted to do a weekly post about games I played that it does happen I get stuck in playing several games that are very enjoyable.

I am still cracking away on DQ9. I now have multiple grottos available and am clearing out at least 2 every day. Sadly, my characters don’t seem to be leveling very fast. In other DQ9 news, I convinced my mother to purchase the game and she is *quite* addicted at this point. She keeps calling me and asking me questions so I am able to track her progress quite well. This game is definitely going on my list of games to suggest for people who have parents that play DS.

I will likely be grinding on the multiplayer while at home with her in May.

I am also still playing a game or two of the Pokemon TCG trainer every day. I finished with the Fire Deck and I am now halfway through with the Water Deck. I am also noticing that they keep having “overloaded” messages, so clearly I am not the only one who is loving it.

I have been playing quite a bit with my 3DS, mostly showing stuff off at work. Also I am loving the Street Pass, though it makes me long for PAX where there are more people to encounter.

In WoW both my Priest and Shaman are now getting in on Alt runs for Tol Barad. My server has reached critical mass for being able to field successful pugs for TB which is a huge help for my alts. Our guild has also started some TB alt runs. I managed to down Atramedes on two different toons this week, thanks to needing a healer for our 10 man run on Saturday and then needing a DPS for our OTHER 10 man run on Sunday. My guild is actively recruiting.

Joyia finally got bracers from BoT trash and exceptionally luckily managed to get the +spirit wand off Chimareon. Two upgrades in one week! We made some fairly serious attempts on 25 man Elemental Monstrosity, the RNG fight of doom. (Not from Hell, that’s Al’Akir.)

I also volunteered to get a new guild website set up for OLN. I decided to use WoWStead and it took me all of 45 minutes to get everything up and running. Bonus points for WoWStead’s usability.

Finally, I have taken some time this week to start re-reading some Julia Quinn, to inspire me to work on some of my writing. I had a fairly dramatic plot break through on Wasteland, which I hope wraps up the inconsistencies and allows the story to have a conclusion that isn’t completely depressing.

Carrots on Sticks

Even More Update Goodness: I have read several other blogs about the subject, but here is one of the best. His whore analogy is just superb and spot on, and his arguments are valid. The thing is, I understand why Blizz would never do as asked. Maybe they will consent eventually to add raid mounts to the bag (Ashes of Alar might just be enough to drag that bear back in) but for the TCG they *can’t*. If they do, it devalues the TCG and takes away one of the major selling points of the cards. And don’t get me wrong, while I would love to have those mounts available in the bag, it will never happen, because Blizzard makes too much money on the licensing fees for the card game.

I really feel the biggest drawback of this fix is that it doesn’t allow the tank to queue with anyone else. Even allowing the tank to queue with just one other person might take the sting out of it. Pocket healer, trusted cc-er, or just that one person you always play with. You are still taking 3 other people out of the queue, so it is still a win, but seems less… whorish… than it is forcing them to queue alone.

 

UPDATE: Blizz announced that the bags WILL IN FACT BE BIND ON ACCOUNT. As I said “Make the bags Bind on Account so we can pass them off to our alts. (Then I would be 85 on Pandara in a heartbeat.)” my response to the announcement was “BRB LEVELING”.

 

I have talked about the Tanking problem a few times. Since the dawn of the Random Dungeon Finder the players of WoW have developed a skewed vision of dungeon running. I barely remember running a few dungeons on my warlock prior to the introduction of the LFD tool. They were simply too time consuming, too prone to failure, and far too difficult to find a group for.

But LFD changed all of that. Dungeons were readily accessible in a matter of minutes. Loot rained down on the World of Warcraft. It was wondrous. And it spoiled us all beyond repair. Seriously. We are spoiled rotten little children demanding more things when we have already been given the world.

The average time to get a pug group together PRIOR to the LFD tool? 4 hours. And then 2 more hours to clear the dungeon because the chances of everyone KNOWING the dungeon was slim to none. The average time I have to wait in the DPS queue for a dungeon? 40 minutes. Which is just about the time it takes to do all of the Tol Barad dailies, killing every fox along the way.

But nooooooooooo people gotta complain about something, so they chose to complain about their 40 minute queue times. To be fair, the queue times for LFD have been slowly increasing through Cataclysm. I have talked about this before. So Blizzard decided to answer the problem with a carrot on a stick. It worked for Oculus right?

Here’s the thing though… I have a tank. I have debated on leveling her. Why haven’t I leveled her despite having leveled 2 healers and 2 dps at 85? Tanking sucks. I hate random healers who aren’t very good. I hate random dps who can’t wait two seconds. I hate RNG fights where one mistake leads to me dead on the floor. So now Blizzard offers me a carrot. Am I going to level her and roll through dungeons with her now?

Nope.

But I LOVE minipets! I LOVE rare mounts! So why wouldn’t I leap at the chance to get them?!? Oh right, because like MOST other collectors, I collect my pets and mounts on ONE character. I collect them on Joyia. Who is a Pure DPS. If I could tank with Joyia, I would be all over this like a starving man on a steak. Bad DPS, rude healers, wipes would all be ignored with the joy of working towards a rare mount. I don’t want those mounts on Pandara, I want them on Joyia

There are so many other solutions… offer it as a reward for any dps who has to wait more than 40 minutes in the queue. The tanks are already being rewarded, with an instant queue. Make the bags Bind on Account so we can pass them off to our alts. (Then I would be 85 on Pandara in a heartbeat.)

Or they could fix the real problem. Wrath proved that the problem isn’t there aren’t enough tanks and healers. My dps queue during peak times in Wrath was 15-25 minutes, HALF of what it is now. Why was that? Oh right. Wrath dungeons were easier. Wrath tanks had better threat generation, gear, and to be honest, their skills were better tuned. Revert Swipe to it’s old cooldown (none). Give Thunderclap back it’s massive aggro. Increase the threat of Death and Decay and Blood Boil. Revert Consecrate back to it’s Wrath glory. Lower the CD on all tank “panic” buttons. (Just by 1/4th or 1/3rd.)

Or even give classes the ability to tank. Make Beast Mastery like Feral Druids. There are talents they take to get a tanky pet or to get a dps pet. Bam. One more tank. Make Demonology like Bear tanks. Metamorphosis is a form a lock goes into to tank. They have their “big” health pet that splits the damage through soul link, and their skills in demon form generate aggro. Bam, one more tank. Enhancement shamans – they are already halfway there! Give them a few modified skills, and a crit proof skill, bam, tanky tanky.

Another option is to change the group size going into 5 mans. How much of a change would pulling in an extra dps do? 1 tank, 1 heals, 4 dps. Not only would this eat up more of the surplus DPS, but also it would mean less caring when one dps isn’t pulling their weight.

I don’t think their solution is a solution. I think it is a bandaid on a gushing head wound. They need to address the problem, not the symptoms. The problem is role imbalance. And this addition, isn’t going to get more tanks running dungeons. It is just going to get people who *don’t* like tanking and healing to tank and heal, which just exacerbates the problem by having under or poorly geared people, filling roles they don’t know how to play, and causing frustration all around.

 

Note 1: This would be an EXCELLENT time to bring back lost pets like the vampire bat, scorchling, etc etc. It would also be a great place for rare mob drop pets like Gundrak Hatchling, Whelplings, Foxes, Sewer Rat, Crawler…

Note 2: Would it be different if they added super rare/unobtainable mounts back in? (A la ZG Tiger, ZA Bear.) OH HELL YES it would be different. Tank would be leveled and tanking like NOBODY’S business. Not only would I do it, but I would SERIOUSLY campaign for the ability to have a paid mount transfer service.

Hell is other players…

Over the past month many a friend has left WoW. The new expansion was easily leveled and to be honest, really didn’t add much to the game itself. The new zones are fascinating. The new races enjoyable for a while. Archeology interesting for a short while then becoming locked in combat with Fishing for the most boring profession. Now we are back to the grind for gear which has slowed to a glacial crawl due to the difficulty of Heroics and Raids.

First off let me be the first to say, I enjoy a challenge in WoW… for about a week. After a week or two, I am tired of bashing my head against the same old wall and just want to move on to something else. Now, two months after Cata’s release ending up in a Heroic with players who do not grasp the basic concept of “Stay out of the stupid” just makes me get angry and annoyed at the rampant stupidity of other players. Sadly, it seems like a Boolean event too. Either the group is fast, efficient and effective, or they are completely incompetent and you wonder how they even managed to turn the computer on, much less level to 85. The amount of frustration I feel at people who can’t be bothered to learn one really shouldn’t stand in the blinking yellow stuff can’t possibly be healthy.

I try to defend WoW to people who have left, but honestly, I am not sure why I even try. I have been raiding for weeks and have managed to lose every single roll on gear. People who were unwilling to even work to get rep epics are winning rolls on the few pieces I can’t buy or get with rep. When I run dungeons I invariably get stuck with players who don’t understand concepts like stay out of the bad. All in all it is a highly frustrating experience.

So as always, I turn my eye towards the question – How would I fix this?

1. Variant dungeon difficulty, that can be clearly marked by an item level. So we already know the dungeons are “ordered” as you level from 80 to 85. You always do Blackrock Caverns and Throne of Tides first. Then move on to Stonecore and Vortex Pinnacle, then on to Grim Batol, Halls of Origination, and Lost City. Why then are they *wildly* different as heroics? Arguements could be made that Stonecore and Grim Batol are by far the hardest heroics, and yet each one has a fight that is wildly difficult and “group breaking”. This happened in Wrath too (anyone remember AN before the ToC patch? *shudder*). Would it not be more logical to have the heroics progress in the same difficulty curve as the regular versions? This way the instant someone hit 85 they could pick up enough gear to queue for heroics (329) and then would be put in a BRC or ToT, which would be tuned to be *slightly* more difficult than the level 85 regulars, but almost always beatable by a non-idiot group in full 329. Having a second number to hit (335?) for Stonecore and Vortex, then a third number (341?) for the final “tier” of heroics. Not only would it make more logical sense, but it would also help people ease into heroics, as opposed to hitting 329, queuing and getting thrown into a Grim Batol, virtually assuring your group’s failure.

2. Get rid of the random drops (to an extent). I am sure anyone who reads this knows how much I hate random, and to be fair, I usually try to contain it to vanity items. However when you run a Tol Barad and have hunter gear drop (that is items with the class limitation hunter) and there isn’t a single hunter in the 25 man raid… Well that’s just a waste. I was a part of a Halls of Origination run where literally every single item dropped was plate or mail. Much to the joy of our Warlock, Priest, Mage, and two Druids. Really? An hour and a half and not a single usable upgrade? It’s not even like it dropped something useful that everyone already had, that’s at least acceptable. We are talking about every single person in the group choosing to run this instance to get specific items and having every single item sharded because no one could even equip them. I am not saying make the perfect gear drop, I am saying “cheat” the system out a bit so if there are no plate wearers, plate doesn’t drop.

-Heading off the comment – Some might point out that there aren’t that many drops on bosses, so if they weed out all the plate/mail drops then something might increase to a 50% drop. This is easily fixed by simply having more variations of gear. Every Resto Shaman will tell you there needs to be more healy boots. Every cloth wearer will tell you there needs to be more 346 bracers. (There are currently two 346 cloth bracers for DPS in the game and NEITHER has haste.) There are gear gaps that need to be filled. And while we’re at it, what is with all the belt drops by the dozens for clothies? There are two easily crafted belts available at large for clothies and yet there are 6 346 belts, two of which can be purchased from the Justice Points Vendor, not to mention all the early purple belt drops in raids.

3. Tanks and Heals are at a premium and it is only getting worse. We have 4 classes that can heal and 4 classes that can tank. Tanking assures an instant queue. Healing assures a short queue. And yet, every week since launch my queue time as dps during peak hours has slowly risen. It went from 25 minutes at launch to 40 minutes now. During peak hours. I thought, well clearly this means I should be tanking or healing. Unfortunately, warlocks can’t do either. So I worked pretty hard to get my priest up to heroics level and finally got in to heal. And man did it *suck* on so many levels. DPS stood in stupid, tanks couldn’t keep aggro, I ran out of mana faster than a dog eats a treat, and to top it all off, when the +spirit trinket dropped that I so desperately needed, the shaman needed on it saying “Whut? Spirit converts to hit for me…” And of course won it. Is it any wonder Tanks and Healers aren’t wanting to queue?

I understand the desire for a challenge. I really do. But challenge != frustrating. And currently, that’s how it feels for heals and tanks. At the risk of saying, screw the hard core, make it easier… Well, make it easier. The more people who feel they can tank without being subjected to the ridicule of other players when they lose aggro on a mob, the more tanks we will have. In a raid, this is clearly a different situation, but in heroics, we need more tanks. The only way I can see adjusting this for both raids and heroics is to require raids to have 5 tanks, 5 heals, and 15 dps, as if they were broken down into 5 micro groups. I don’t really think that is an answer, as it is already complex enough to get 2-3 tanks geared for raids. I really feel that heroics and raids should be tuned differently when it comes to healing and tanking. A heroic should be able to get by with a mediocre tank while a raid never should. Also, to be fair, a majority of your players are DPS. So they have fun melting faces. Fewer tanks and heals means fewer melted faces.

Also, throw your heals and tanks a bone, add in the ability to offspec roll on items in heroics. When something is very clearly a tank or healing item, the tank or heals should get preferential treatment, since they are putting up with the added stress of healing and tanking. If a +spirit item drops and the healer needs, the dps should only be allowed to roll offspec. This makes it far more rewarding to run as a tank or healer if you are attempting to get that gear, as you are sure if it drops you will get it. As an added bonus this assures that tanks and healers across the board will gear consistently as well, thus overpowering the encounters and making things *easier*.

4. Give us something new. Not to sound negative or anything, because it is clearly still a challenge for some people, but so far Cata’s raiding seems to be “Don’t stand in the fire.” As much as I hated it, at least the vehicle fights threw a bit of a twist on things. But honestly we need more Dreamwalker fights. More Festerguts. Way more Lootships. This that are the norm to break up the don’t stand in the stupid. So far on this raiding tier I have seen little innovation. Omnitron is trying, but really is just 4 bosses thrown together. Conclave of Winds so far is one of the only mildly original ideas… but they drop random stated loot. Yes that’s fun, never knowing what you are going to get. Not to mention that even one death means a complete and total wipe. (Really you should be able to 8 or 20 man all raids once a majority of the people are geared to the level of the raid.)

Even if the new is something old. Deadmines and Vanessa Vancleef – amazing. Very very interesting. So where is the raid encounter? *imagines fighting Patchwerk right after running the raid through Frogger*

5. Overhaul crafting. Okay this isn’t as easy as adjusting some loot code to make loot drops worth it. But seriously. Crafting could be so much more. And it could be the answer to people who really just like to farm, play the ah, and make things. It can also fill in gear gaps, ease entry into heroics and raids, and stabilize economies. Crafting always seems to be the spot that has the most potential, and yet Blizzard seems content to let it sit. Especially if the new crafting takes time and effort, it could be a great boon to players looking for something new and Cataclysm is all about the overhaul.

6. Stack the groups for success. Towards the end of Wrath, I noticed a trend. I wondered if it was just coincidence or if it was intentional. It seems to be gone in Cata, or maybe it just doesn’t work with everyone at such low gear levels. In Wrath, more often than not it seemed like if the tank was *wildly* overgeared, the healer was not as much. If the healer was overgeared, then the tank was not as much. And invariably, two of the dps would be complete and total face melters while the third was always fresh and barely geared. It *felt* like the system was specifically putting groups together that could carry the lesser geared member. Every time my tank queued, I was always paired with a Kingslayer healer. It seems odd, but really, if the system isn’t doing this, it could be. My warlock more and more gets into groups with everyone completely geared, and so they go exceptionally smoothly, while my lesser geared priest gets stuck with people in full crafted pvp sets.

These are just a few ideas I have had on how to make WoW more fun and more engaging without inherently changing the game (except for the crafting). But even so, I almost feel like they are moot points. At the end of the day, the bad parts of WoW are directly related to bad players, with bad attitudes. The social aspects of the game aren’t quite enough to overcome the trolls, griefers, and haters. Everyone starts the expansion with their own goals, play times, and focuses. People aren’t as willing to help or play together because it is all still so new. One hopes as patches are released and players migrate back that we will have lost our singular focuses and return to the group whole. I miss my friends though, because hell is other players.

Tank, Heals, or DPS.

Just recently I entered the newest chapter of the saga that WoW has been for the last 4 years of my life. I transferred severs, and factions, to join a group of friends and in doing so brought my tank to a place where she was not only needed but welcome.

When I first raided, I raided as a warlock. I was a die hard fan of affliction and yet, bowing to guild pressure, became a shadowbolt spammer in Burning Crusade. At 80, I returned to affliction only to be disappointed that I had to work ten times as hard to achieve the same goals. After a time I decided I had hit the cap as far as a Warlock was concerned and looked to changing over to a new class. I had acquired my second account by this point and so set about leveling to 80 with a shiny new Death Knight and Priest duo. The Priest simply followed while my Death Knight ripped everything to shreds. It was quite simple, after all the DK was more than over powered and only required the occasional heal. Once the duo reached 80 I entered the wonderful world of raid healing with my Priest. So this is the point where I feel I am finally able to outline the differences between the three roles.

DPS is very simple. Target the tank. Target what the tank has targeted. Kill it. With a few exceptions or special case fights where you attack other things, for the most part this is how you raid. Stay out of bad stuff and kill the big thing. Specs, rotations and cooldowns aside, you generally use a select few of your major class skills and kill whatever it is that needs killing.

Healing is much harder. You have 25 targets and have to keep all the green bars as far to the right as possible. To be fair, it is a very difficult thing to do and requires a great deal of concentration. But for the most part it is whack-a-mole, especially in a large raid setting. In Dungeons it is a bit easier, with only 5 moles to worry about, most focused on a single player. If people die, you get blamed. However, I have noticed, healers as a whole get blamed, generally not a specific healer. It could be a dozen problems, most likely a squishy DPS pulled aggro or the tank is trying to tank in the wrong presence/stance/spec/gear, etc.

But of the three roles, I have found tanking to be the hardest, most stressful, and least enjoyable.

First, my gear is focused on Defense, so I can never do anything “awesome”. I don’t kill things quickly, I don’t have huge crits. Second, my repair bills are outrageous. DPS and Heals can avoid being hit and thus their gear lasts longer between repairs. After 3 heroics I have a 40g repair bill, without deaths. Third, it is apparently my job to save the stupid idiot who didn’t watch where he was going and aggroed a second group. These are very similar to the DPS who are so focused on being the top of the charts that they ignore the threat they are producing. The worst of these will blame me for *not* producing enough threat, even though they have top tier gear and I have gear two levels below them. If I die, the healer isn’t blamed, I am.

It really comes down to the fact that DPS can hide in a group of 15 (or more) other people, Healers can hide in a group of 8 (or more), but Tanks… well there is usually only one main tank and one off tank. You have your roles and if you fail, regardless of reason, you have 24 people who blame you. All the focus is on you. No pressure.