Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Great Keybinding Project: Part I

So, this post is a wee bit late in coming; this Project was really part of a greater Mists of Pandaria Preparation project I put together at the last minute. Still, it was a valuable experience, so belated or not, I'll share it.

It all started with a jolt of inspiration, garnered from reading Jasyla's blog and trawling the healing forums.

Playing all five healing specs at max level, I'd long been aware of the similarities (and differences!) between their various abilities, and sort of hap-hazardly tried to keep their abilities in 'about' the same places, so that it made sense to me. This was more or less successful, with some noteable failures- I was a frequent victim of 'where did I put cleanse/dispel??' as it was sometimes on a shift F modifier, sometimes on a shift 1 modifier. This depended on whether the class I was playing had one or two AoE heals. Somehow, I could never get Prayer of Mending to be in the same place on both Holy and Discipline.

And let's not even think about how cluttered and awful and non-intuitive my DPS bars were; even if I knew what I was doing on any given DPS class, my setup was so bad that I'd probably do sub-par deeps anyway.

In addition, my use of Bartender was different across each toon I had. None of my bars was consistent- I had set each class up in whatever way happened to make sense to my scattered brain at the time of creation! So for one character, maybe trade skills were a strong inclination- they'd be right above vital attacks. On another, the hearth stone would randomly be at the end of my primary action bar- this is something I used to do when I was new to the game.

For a healer who plays all classes, all specs, it can be a real problem to lack organization!

So, looking at Jasyla's beautiful spreadsheet... I felt the compulsion to do something with it. And thus, the Great Keybinding Project was born.

I began by opening up Excel and quickly plotting my reachable keys- 1-5, 1-5 with a shift modifier, and 1-5 with an alt modifier. I also added, to the end of each 1-5 row, my 'f' key and assorted modifiers. Now, technically I also could have throw up 'ctrl' modifiers for 1-5 and 'f', and I could also have added other alpha keys to my bindings- but binding other alpha keys in the past has ended poorly for me (I accidentally bound the 'b' key, and was constantly frustrated trying to use it to open my bags- this happened with a great number of keys whose original functions I couldn't recall when creating the new bindings.) I haven't yet felt the ctrl keys are necessary, though I'm not opposed to using them.

Of course, I need more than 18 abilities- but the others can be clicked on with the mouse. Surely I won't need to use more than 18 keys on a constant basis, in a raid situation! My muscle memory couldn't take it!

I also opted to provide myself with a half dozen 'Aux' bars for abilities that maybe didn't see so much use; most of those bars belonged to the 'non-combat' section, but certainly not all.

I will go into more detail on how I set things up, in installment II!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Welcome to Pandaria!

Pandaria is out! No more Dragonsoul ever again!

Argentum Legion: Having My Cake and Eating It Too?

Lots of people are talking about taking their time, seeing the content, enjoying the scenery and the new, fresh, shiny content. Most of my guild has been more on that side, though there were a few attempts at various server firsts- poor Fari missed out on server first archaeology, and Rhys was literally seconds away from server first fishing.

But I don't like taking my time, I don't like going slow- I had six max level characters from Cataclysm (don't even ask why I have two holy paladins, yes, I clearly hate myself) and there will be plenty of time while leveling them, to read the quests and pay attention. I rushed like a madwoman, trying to be the first person in the guild at the new level cap- a feat I managed last expansion.

This expansion, however, the guild has far more than 5-8 active people. We're actually one of the boomingest medium-rp guilds out there, ever since Borean Kilted Yaksmen folded into us to form a heroic raid team on Wyrmrest, and since we've really put focus on in character recruitment for RP. It was actually one of my fellow former BKY-ers that beat me to the punch- Napkinz, our resident lazerchicken, was the guild first 90, and more power to him!

I managed second, which was nice. I might have been first if I hadn't come down with a nasty cold and decided to wallow by drinking an entire bottle of wine and watching an online corgi cam for hours on end. I think that lost me the lead, haha.

I feel cautiously optimistic that this blend of heroic (competent!) raiding and role playing might work this time. I have, in the past, tried such a thing- but it has never ended well for me, leading me to the conclusion that raiding and role playing are best left separate.

However, with the Argentum Legion taking on Ziras and, with him, most of Borean Kilted Yaksmen's Dream Team- we just might manage it. I'm crossing my fingers, but in the mean time, my shaman will remain a not-roleplayed character, just in case I need to put her somewhere else.

New content! Shiny! Ohmuhgerd things to do!

In spite of rushing and the constant implications that someone who takes levelling at a breakneck pace can't possibly enjoy the content, I actually greatly enjoyed the whole leveling process- I'm only a couple of quests away from finishing up the Wastes and achieving Loremaster of Pandaria.

What's even better is that it has been incredibly enjoyable- and now that I'm max level, I find that I am forced to do dailies to obtain the gear I want so as to be the best raider I can be. Normally, I'd be very annoyed by that; to a small extent, I still am, mostly because I have to obtain revered with the Golden Lotus before I can start on Shado-Pan, and Shado-Pan has so much gear that I want! However, these dailies are actually fun. Once I've finished my 'obligatory' dailies, I find myself actively looking for others- the Tillers have been unexpectedly entertaining, as have the Anglers, and I'm not even close to max level fishing!

And the heroics!

It's been since the beginning of Cataclysm since I actually found heroic grinding fun, yet these dungeons are fun- it's amazing! The one thing, however, that is driving me a little nuts, is tanks who feel the strong need to chain pull ALL the things while being very, very squishy; when I was just barely geared to heal the heroics, it was harder than it is now. Even so, I'm in mostly blues- I need a moment to stop and drink, people!

Still, that griping aside, I am pleasantly surprised to find a very different atmosphere than there was in Cata. Heroics are challenging, but they aren't beyond doing- not by a long shot. They're fun again, without being impossibly difficult- I can do them in a PuG and not want to end myself!

New abilities! Shiny! Ohmuhgerd buttons to press!

Another wonderful change for a Restoration Shaman is that we now have cooldowns! We have more than one cooldown! We have many cooldowns! This, my friends, is fantastic!! I am loving the versatility, the interactivity with totem use- I love becoming an Ascendent, I love my Heal All The Things totems, I am loving the shaman class as a whole! I am excited about the level 90 talents I am using that makes my elementals empower me, and I feel that my class has a lot of very interesting abilities.

Grind All The Heroics?

But there was a downside, at least for me, personally.

See, I got so into running heroics, that my AC cable caught on fire. I had 'fixed' it after our houserabbit decided to give it some love nibbles, by taping it with scotch tape. This fix has lasted for months, but it decided that, in the middle of the Gates of the Setting Sun, it was to both stop providing power to my laptop, and also spark and smolder and burn through the scotch tape.

So now I have to wait until Monday or Tuesday for the new cord to come in.

I'll be over here QQing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tens and Twenty Fives: The Social Perspective

There was an interesting discussion on WoW.com today, about the slow death of 25-man raiding. It really made me consider what I thought was ‘epic’ versus ‘faceroll’.

My origins were in ten-man raiding. In BC, the guild I was in was a perfect example of a small, somewhat casual raiding group getting bottle-necked by the size difference between entry level raiding, and all the other raids excepting Zul’Aman- which was very difficult to get to in only Kara gear. So week after week after week, we ran Karazhan, until the raid group fell apart.

Now, perhaps we could have recruited more raiders and moved forward- but, in my long-standing tradition, I was more of a role player than a raider. As such, I was in a role play guild- we were not going to recruit raiders into the guild, and our pool of people interested in raiding at all was very limited. 25 mans simply were not going to happen for us.

So you can imagine that my newbie-raider heart was tickled pink when Wrath announced the advent of 10-man raiding as a viable path, alongside 25s; it was this announcement that got me further than toe-dipping into the raid scene. If this hadn’t happened, I doubt I ever would have gotten into it. I was not a PVE all-star, I would not have been pulled into other guilds’ raids, and my motivations weren’t that raid driven- not until after I caught the raiding bug, did I realize I liked it and wanted to be the best I could be.

Still, with my origins being in BC where all the Really Awesome Raiders did 25s, it seemed inevitable and natural to me that 25s were the hard-core raids, that 25s were the epic raids. I guess that’s an assumption I’ve held ever since- cemented further by the gear differentiations, and my own dabbling into 25-man raid coalitions.

See, back in Naxx days, my guild was still a scrappy little RP guild that struggled with Naxx 10. Every Saturday morning, I’d wake up bright and early to log on and be our only Steady Healer, while we struggled our way through dread halls of Naxxramas; our team was a revolving door of people raiding for the first time, realizing they liked to raid… and invariably moving on and moving up from our not so stellar raid team. Because we were almost always training new people in the Ways of Raiding, I had to be very good to compensate for my teammates; and because I came to be a Very Good Healer, I came to be noticed. And what had never happened in BC, happened for me in Wrath- I was invited to join a 25-man raid coalition.
Now, let’s compare my very not-so-good raid guild that struggled, hard, in Naxx 10- with this raid coalition of Much Better raiders whose DPS was never a big question mark, who knew how to spec and gem and enchant their gear… add that with gaining better gear in those raids…

Years later, now, even though the vast majority of my raiding has been ten man, and even though this expansion attempted to put tens and twenty fives on the same level- I still think of 25s as more ‘HC’ than 10s, regardless of whether or not this is true.

I am quite sure it was this assumption that motivated me to apply to a 25-man guild, as opposed to a 10-man; I thought it was more epic, more advanced, more boast-worthy and the highest skill-level possible. Looking back on my stay with Apotheosis, I can honestly say I feel that they were absolutely some of the best players I’ve played with, and hands-down the most well-planned and well-run raids I have ever been part of. But…

For all that they were skilled and disciplined, I never really felt like I was fitting in, like I was a valuable part of the team. I assumed this was because of my own insecurities, but I found I actually wasn’t even having fun, so much as just feeling stressed out and isolated.

This is hardly the first time I’ve felt that way in a social situation, and especially around a new group of people. I know myself well enough to know I need to grit my teeth, smile, and bear it out; and I tried. Really, I tried. At first, I rolled alts, made a whole plan- and spent an immense amount of time on my New Server. But the longer I spent time with them, and the less I made friends, the more awkward and unhappy I felt to be there.

Now please, let me clarify- Apotheosis is a fantastic guild. It’s not that people were being rude or in any way unfriendly to me; it’s just that I, as a person, feel very awkward, very frequently.

Here I am, in the raid guild of My Dreams, and I do things like- mess up sometimes. Fail to be in the top three on the healing charts most of the time. I feel like my performance is at the bottom of the pack, and I’m embarrassed- in another guild, I’d likely whisper an apology to my cohealer(s) for any slack they had to pick up. But in a 25-man, there are five other healers- there’s no One or Two people to talk to, it’s all or nothing, or just pick someone at random. I didn’t feel important or vital to the team; I felt like a liability, a handicap.
And worse, I had no way to apologize or take responsibility for it, without more humiliation than I was willing to stomach- especially if it was just me feeling weird and out of sorts and I was overreacting to every little mistake and then I’d look like I was crazy! (I am, a little.)

Again, no one made me feel unwelcome. But it was so big, and I felt adrift and isolated…

Ultimately, I think my choice to leave Apotheosis was because it was 25-man; I didn’t feel like a valuable part of the team, I didn’t feel like I fit in. I don’t think I could have done as poorly as I felt I was doing, because I did end up making Member about a month before we stopped raiding.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that I think 10-mans are better for me. It’s just too easy for me to feel lost and out of place in a 25-man environment. I’m going back to my roots, to my scrappy little RP server and my scrappy little RP guild, where I know people and people know me. And you know what? Maybe it doesn’t make me a worse raider, for preferring it that way.

Maybe it really is just a matter of choice and not of prestige or lack of prestige.

There are lots of things I’ll really miss about Apotheosis, and it’s hard to say whether or not the content is ‘easier’ or ‘harder’ on ten or twenty five. My experiences have been so wildly different between the raid-sizes- I can say quite honestly that my new ‘Dream Guild’ would involve the crazy-great organization of Apotheosis, the professionalism of it while still having a great time with one another, but it would be a ten man team with at least a few people I already know. That, for me, would be perfect.

Just my thoughts.

This isn't to say that I would never be part of a 25-man raid group again- just that, before I chose to do so, I'd need to look long and hard as to whether or not I'd really find a way to feel like part of the team. 10-mans have an intimacy and an appeal that I won't be so quick to shun again!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Project: Heal All The Things - Advice to New Lowbie Healers

So lowbie druid isn't quite so low level any longer, sitting at level 59 and waiting impatiently for me to pick her up again!

Along the way I've managed to boost her herbalism and skinning to about much higher than is needed for where she is- both are over 350 now, though I haven't kept track of how many mats I am in terms of completion of a Leatherworking kit for when she's max level.

I have had some interesting experiences healing PuGs along the way. The vast majority of groups were fine, but I have to be honest- the few bad experiences I had really soured it for me. While I can sit back and feel great about my ability to heal at the end of the day- if these were my first or only healing experiences, I don't know that I'd have the heart to continue.

This post is for all you low level, new-to-healing healers out there- keep calm, and carry on.

People Sometimes Provide Inaccurate Feedback

I'll give you a hint: Anyone whose feedback to your healing is 'Healz u suck', probably isn't worth listening to.

Even as an 8/8 heroic 25-man raiding resto shaman, whose druid healing experience is 7/8 heroic Firelands and associated meta-achievement- there are situations that my cloth-heirloom-wearing sub-Outlands restoration druid just can't handle.

If the first thing your groupmates do is lambaste you for how 'fail' you are, it's probably not worth sticking around to be abused. Even if you are genuinely not a great healer- yet, mind, yet- that doesn't excuse that kind of behaviour, and, unless you're able to let the words roll right over your back and keep trying, I'd strongly suggest leaving. Etiquette suggests you should wait for a lull in pulling before dropping group, but if the tank refuses to stop, inform them that you are dropping and then do so once they've had time to see it.

If it's just one person in the group, then just put them on ignore. This can be accomplished by right-clicking on their name and choosing the 'ignore' option; this will also prevent you from being put in a group with that character again. The 'ignore' function can also be used for tanks who overpull, or players who abuse other members in the party.

Occasionally, if the person spewing vitriol doesn't get the reaction they want- and their goals can be anything from getting you to 'get mad', or forcing you to drop the party- they may escalate to bad behaviour, such as overpulling intentionally to wipe the group. You can try a votekick; if it doesn't go through, then I'd suggest saving yourself the grief and just dropping. It isn't worth dealing with.

Remember: Even if you have made a greivous error, you still don't deserve to be treated that way.

On the other token...

It's Okay To Not Like Things, But Don't Be A Dick About It

In one of the truest (and catchiest!) internet songs ever created, you can disagree with someone all you like, but it doesn't mean it's alright to be a dick about it.

Even if someone else starts it, nobody wins arguments on the internet- you'll only have succeeded in making the group unpleasant for your other party members.

Nobody wants to be hollered at or cursed out in a PuG. You would be amazed at what a little bit of politeness can accomplish, though! It doesn't always work, but it's sure as hell more likely to work than obscenities.

'Hey, -tankname-, could you pull a little slower/smaller groups/wait for my mana, please? It'd make it easier for me to heal.'

I've even solved some loot disputes just by asking nicely and not raging at the 'dumbass huntard' that just took 'my' spirit/int necklace.

'Hey, -hunter-? Could I have that necklace? Spirit and intellect help me to heal, and they aren't good stats for your class!'


'-Priestname-, those legs you just rolled on were leather- could I have them, please, since you can't use leather?'

Honestly, most of the loot disputes I've noticed so far were actually accidental, not people 'failing' at knowing their class or intentionally being jerks. You really do get a lot further by asking politely than by being passive aggressive or cursing folks out!

Protip- People also prefer it when you use their character names, rather than their class or role. I don't quite understand, as I've never really cared either way, but it's a big pet peeve for a lot of folks, so it's best just to use the character name for politeness' sake. You're more likely to get what you're wanting that way anyway.

Be Your Best!

Unless you've already got healing experience, I would strongly suggest queuing for dungeons while actually having a healing spec. Yes, a boomkin or a shadow priest can heal dungeons, especially at lower levels- but it isn't what they're meant for, and there will  be a noticeable performance difference. At the last boss, in Shadowfang Keep, at level 20 and in balance spec- I had to drop a group after coming to terms with the fact that I just didn't have the healing oomph to keep up with the damage.

On the same token, wear gear that is appropriate for your spec- I'm looking at you, holy paladins in strength gear!

While it can be difficult to acquire healing gear, it is made much simpler if you just give up on having your maximum armor class for every slot. Holy paladin gear before level 60 is almost unheard of; the only benefit you get from wearing your correct armor class is... armor. Until level 50, anyway, when you get armor mastery, which is good, but still difficult to attain until midway through BC. So go ahead and roll on cloth!

One caveat: rolling on cloth is well and dandy, but try not to roll on anything with hit rating- even if it has more intellect than what you currently have, unless there are no casters in your group. Things with crit or haste are iffy if there are casters in the group, but things with spirit are completely your domain, and you should never feel bad for rolling on something with spirit.

Do be aware, however, that non-spirit cloth can be difficult for casters to obtain at low levels; don't get mad if a mage or warlock rolls against you, at least not until later levels. Another thing to be aware of is that it is pointless to get mad at a shadow priest, balance druid, or elemental shaman for rolling on spirit gear- they all convert spirit to hit rating, and will Need it just as much as you do because of that. Remember that loot is just loot, and will likely be replaced soon anyways.

On the same token, don't roll on things for your DPS spec that players queued as DPS need!

I know it sucks to level as a holy paladin, or at least it did when I tried to; even so, that fury warrior in your group waited in his DPS queue and it's incredibly impolite to roll on strength gear against him. You can acquire a decent off-spec set by questing or keeping a sharp eye on the auction house; sometimes you can get dungeon drops too, but make sure no one else needs it before you Need, and let the group know it's for your off-spec so that they don't assume you're a ninja.

To minimize this problem, shaman and druids can make their DPS-specs elemental and boomkin, respectively- it's much easier than carrying around two sets of gear, and if you don't like dpsing as that spec, you can certainly change at max level, or whenever you acquire a full set of gear for the spec you'd like to try. All kinds of priest use the same sort of gear, but holy paladins are out of luck- there is no effective DPS spec that uses healing gear!

Important note: Definitely be roling only on your maximum armor class by at least level 70.

PuGs are excellent learning tools!

The best thing about PuGs is that they are wonderful practice, even- or especially!- as a low level, inexperienced healer. If you heal your way to max level, you are intimately aware of each ability as you get it, and you will learn how best to use it- although admittedly, some abilities are less intuitive becuase of how late they come into play- I'm looking at you, Lifebloom.

Lower level dungeons are typically pretty easy. They can be made delightfully challenging if your group isn't good at what they do- instead of getting angry when someone does something woefully incompetent, look on it as a chance to improve your game! The great part is that if you wipe, you can let the group know what it is that caused said wipe, and feel no remorse for not being able to keep up with the tank in cloth with a two handed weapon, or the hunter who charged off ahead to pull the next four packs for you- how considerate! Nothing quite beats the feeling, however, when you can rise above the odds and salvage the situation... you might even get thanked or told 'great heals', though don't hold your breath on it.

I look on bad groups as an opportunity to prove my excellence, to learn new ways of being my very best- and it helps me stay sane. Relatively speaking.

In Conclusion,  without the LFG tool, it was so much harder to get groups for lower level content. and learning the basics was often delayed until much later levels. While there may be some folks who like to use the LFG to spew hatred and obscenity on other players, and while you will encounter groups that make you amazed that they can breathe and play at the same time, just remember that you can always leave if it becomes too frustrating.

Never forget that Warcraft is just a game, and you can log off at any point. Even a great healer knows their limits!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Raiding: Team Play

For many of us, I think raiding serves an essential function on a social level.

Maybe we didn't always get picked first for sports in school. Maybe the thought of participating in a group project elicits shudders and groans. Maybe one's place of work doesn't offer much of an opportunity to feel like more than an isolated worker, an anonymous drone among dozens, doing one's job with little feeling of 'teamwork' with coworkers or in general.

Personally, I never had that feeling much while growing up, nor do I tend to feel it in a professional work situation. There have been moments when I really felt like part of the team, but they tend to be short-lived and end with whimper, not with triumph of any kind. Call me arrogant- I am, a little- but I have a hard time finding a team that feels like it pulls as hard as I do; trust in my colleagues is limited, at best. What I have in common with most of them is that we all like getting a paycheck. It's no secret I've never worked a 'dream' job, though.

In school, I was never good at sports, being uncoordinated and deeply unpopular. So I don't know that I can adequately describe to you what it felt like to raid Karazhan for the first time, alongside friends, and being able to surpass the challenge of it- as a proper team.


I couldn't have done it alone. It literally would have been impossible for me to do it alone, in fact; and these were all people I knew and liked. Not only that, but I respected their performance as players too, and really felt like everyone was inputting effort into it! Something that school or work projects have consistently missed in trying to teach 'team play'- either the team gangs together and does something admirable, with me feeling awkward in the background and contributing little, or I step up and do it mostly on my own while trying to figure out what to delegate and not really trusting anyone else to do things 'right'. Neither option teaches teamwork.

But clearing Karazhan for that very first time, it finally clicked- so this is what people mean by how good it feels to rely on others!

And yes, it's just a video game. But for a middle school dork who had headgear and little social grace, to a fifteen year old kid in college, to a tech support phonemonkey in a call center, I finally had the chance to really experience teamwork like I never had before.

This wasn't something where I could overly compensate for others making mistakes; I had to focus on my own game, and, quite frankly, I was terrible back then anyway, so my ability to 'compensate' was highly limited. While I was very much focused on my own thing, there were nine other people there alongside me, also focused. One person made a mistake, we'd all suffer for it. It's the sort of thing that, according to previous experience, should have made me groan and squirm miserably; instead, I loved it.

It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't play, just why I would dedicate nine hours of my week to slaying internet dragons. After all, this is just a game, right?? Why would I bother to take it so seriously?

But the closest way I can think of to even begin to explain what raiding does for me, is to equate it to a sport. A hobby sport, and one that I do while sitting down, but a sport, nonetheless; when I do something challenging, with nine or twenty four other people, and work hard and play to my best ability in order to be a productive part of the team- it feels good.

To raid or not to raid

When I was faced with the choice of quitting raiding and having more free time, or finding a new raid guild- and all the anxiety that would bring alongside it, trying to integrate into a new social fabric, proving my competence, all the things I probably shouldn't worry about overmuch but do anyway- at first I thought I'd just drop it and be done. After all, this is just a game, right? It's silly to spend hours a week on a game in so rigidly scheduled a fashion, I was told. What, is raiding a second job to you?

Silly or not, though, I did miss it. I missed it intensely. PuGing just didn't have the effect, for the same reason that the LFR doesn't satisfy the raid goblin on my back that wants to do all the things- playing alongside strangers isn't satisfying, and neither is lack of challenge. And I don't think of raiding as a job- it takes casual sports teams rigidly scheduled times for everyone to make it, right? Because otherwise, how would you play with your teammates?

I want to have to work at something, and I want to do it with people I like and respect. One of the things I really love about Apotheosis is that it is a serious raid guild, that there are expectations and bad behavior won't just be consistently overlooked. It's really incredible for me to play with others who have similar goals to me, whose dedication to excellence is as high or higher than my own.

Raiding fulfills a human need that, before I'd experienced it, I didn't know I was lacking. And no, that need is not pixelated dragon violence, but rather, working together with other people.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tens and Twenty Fives: Different Attitudes

A consistent question inquiry on most questions asked in my application was how I felt about tens versus twenty five man raids, and how it might impact my healing.

When I applied to Apotheosis, I honestly didn't feel terribly picky about whether I ended up in a ten or a twenty five man guild. I'd done both in Wrath, though my twenty-fives career ended when my computer was just too crappy to handle the graphics. I'd always had an impression of twenty-five-man raids as being the upper crust of raiding society, simply because they were a tier higher of item levels back in Wrath; I was interested, but as I hadn't yet discovered that separating raiding and role play yielded best results, it was out of the question for me to find a 'real' twenty five man raid guild.

I knew I did well in LFR, and that my computer could handle LFR twenty-five man graphics; I didn't have a strong preference either way. Besides, with 25 people, I can hit more players with chain heal and healing rain- it seemed like there could only be bonuses!

I'm only two weeks in, and doubtless I'll have more insights later, but so far there are several differences that I hadn't accounted for when I considered the choice between ten and twenty five.

Numbers: Working for others versus doing what I do best

In a ten man, obviously your composition is limited. You will always need to be aware of who your other healers are, what they do best as players (and as their class) and how you can help them and your raid have the best chance at success. If I am co-healing with the holy paladin, I need to know if he's mastery heavy or haste heavy, I need to know if he favors holy radiance spam or tank healing, and from there I can pick up the pieces he may be leaving behind. If I'm with a discipline priest, I know I'll need to be heavy on the raid heals and can safely ignore the tanks; with the resto druid, keep the direct heals rolling while his HoTs do the rest, and with a holy priest, pay a bit more attention to the tanks than I normally would. Different players have different styles, and who I was healing with was a huge portion of how I healed the team. It was never a conscious thought process; just 'having a feel' for the team.

In a twenty five, we typically have at least one of everything, if not two! I am not trying to compensate for weaknesses, nor stepping back where others have strengths; it's up to me to do my job to the best of my ability. I feel that as a shaman, I have great versatility in my class, something that I really enjoy! But now is my time to show what I can do, and do it as best as I can.

Cooldowns, cooldowns, cooldowns!

Something that I'm still growing accustomed to is the sheer number of cooldowns we have available for use in a twenty-five man setting! While I still favor my Telluric Currents build for gaining mana, it sees much less use than it did in ten man because of the sheer number of regen cooldowns we have. We usually have at least one healing and one shadow priest, we always have replenishment- not always so in a ten-man!- there's more healers to pick up the slack if you need to pop a concentration potion... so while there's more to heal, there's also more help to maintain mana while doing so.

But it isn't just mana cooldowns; it's healing cooldowns too! We have one or two cooldowns available per nasty event! Things that I used to just have to power through alongside my other healer(s) now have mitigation or throughput assistance, for every Big Nasty Ability! This is fantastic- but it also means that my cooldowns become less of a 'use it when it is needed' and more pre-planned. There's less room to deviate when everyone needs to work precisely and communicate what is happening and when.

Raid Frames Are Important.

This was something I definitely had not anticipated, and partly the importance comes from how Apotheosis organizes its twenty five mans. I don't really have experience in other twenty-five man groups, but it seems pretty evident that it is much more necessary to have greater coordination and organization than a ten would require.

As I mentioned, when I was asked to heal 'group three', I found myself in a bind because I didn't have raid frames that allowed me to sort by groups. Having adjustable, modifiable raid frames is a huge boon to the twenty-five man healer, and something that I would strongly urge anyone transitioning from tens to twenty fives to look in to- preferably before your first raid with the new group! I really didn't realize just how important it would be until after the fact, which led to that awkward situation where I had to hastily memorize my group's names and locations on my alphabetical default UI raid frames; not optimal in the slightest!

Even if I hadn't been asked to heal a specific group, I still thinking switching to custom raid frames was a smart choice for me. The ability to adjust where my frames are and how much space they take is quite nice; the default UI makes twenty fives take up about a quarter of the left side of your screen. That means your eyes are always to the left, more vertically oriented, and not paying as much attention to things like 'fire' and 'timers'. In tens, I hardly looked at my frames- I had no specific assignments, I just healed folks that needed healing.

These are just the differences I've found so far, after two weeks- the things I didn't anticipate in shifting. I did anticipate correctly that I wouldn't be able to heal the meters into quiet, whimpering submission- that I had been a large fish in a very small pond, and now I'd be a small fish in a big pond. I did correctly anticipate that my single target spells are less frequently used now than my Healing Rain and Chain heal spam, and that both spells are now more commonly utilized to their best advantage, instead of accidentally chaining to just one person or laying down a healing rain that no one finds their way to.


Update on Project: Heal All The Things!

Clemyntine, my druid, is now level 40 and her skinning and herbalism are lagging behind, but will soon be caught up! I have PuG healed my way to great victory, rolling on healer cloth the whole way through because hahahahahahaha what is spell leather?!

So far my esteemed fiancee and I haven't yet managed to roll our priest/warrior duo- he wants to be a warrior now, not a bear. I'm not stressing about it too much, as I've been busy on Clem anyhow.

I was a balance healer up until dual spec at level thirty, and the difference between balance with okay healing talents versus resto was enormous; my average rejuv tick at level thirty as balance was 93. As restoration, it was 134. Everything suddenly became easy and I wasn't OOM all the time. 

I'm not sure when I'll pay attention to specializations. I happen to have cloth heirlooms, but not caster leather, and I'm loathe to give up my bonus experience, so I may just stick to auction house cloth once the LFD stops letting me roll on cloth drops...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Trial Raider Highs and Lows

So far, transitioning from raiding role player to role playing raider has been bumpy.

As with any new social experience, I don't quite know where I fit, and what sort of jokes are alright to tell, and how things work. I'm trying to ride the line between being quiet and getting a good feel for the group, while also being a presence at all.

Too Loud, Too Quiet?

Back in Wrath, I was the non-guilded member of a guild raid group for ICC 10. They advertised for a 'sassy' healer, so I gave them sass in spades- my family was very much a tease-or-be-teased sort of group, I can both dish out and take a good thorough sarcasm and insult-fest. I thought it was all in good fun, and I didn't feel that I was being any more insulting than anyone else- certainly I was only joking around, and I thought I'd expressed to them how impressed I was with their skills and how happy I was to raid with them.

But then, later, I saw that raid leader looking in trade for a different group, for a different guild, months after the previous group had fallen by the wayside. I whispered him to see if he'd consider me for a stand in, and was told that I was highly skilled, but a 'total bitch'.

I was shocked and hurt. I suppose I'd just... misinterpreted the feel of the group. I never meant to hurt anyone's feelings, I thought I was just playing around, like the rest of the group. I've always been very sensitive about the feel of a group, quick to adapt.. But somewhere, apparently, it went horribly wrong, and my sensitivity must have failed me.

After that experience, I've been more careful. Much, much more careful. I have a wicked sense of humor, but I hesitate to use it with anyone I don't know very, very well anymore. Sass is reserved for good friends only- certainly not strangers, certainly not new raid groups I'm trying to impress.

The quiet tack worked alright in Borean Kilted Yaksmen. I developed a self-effacing sense of humor, when little I did speak- and it was justified, considering as I was learning the fights. I was happy to reinforce any positivity, but I didn't trade insults with anyone. Even by the time I left that group, I think I was thought of as the 'shy' druid healer, which is a step up from a 'total bitch'.

But in Ten, 'shy' went to 'silent', and 'silent' wasn't very good. While everyone else bonded, I sat back and quietly did my job, which was alright until it became noticeable- I'd be forgotten, and, as far as group dynamics went, I seemed to have no personality whatsoever. There's not much of a point in raiding with a dedicated group, if you don't consider your fellow raiders to be friends- and vice verse. I spoke up. I got louder. I traded insults, was occasionally raucous, but never forgot the lesson I'd learned- always, always, always more positive than negative.

That's a rule I'm still careful to adhere to. The difference between ten and twenty five is very noticeable. This is also the most well put-together group I've ever raided with- it's a little more serious than any other group. I don't want to be that trial shaman who has 'no personality', but I definitely don't want to be 'that bitch' either. I listen. I watch. When I do try to joke, it's goofy- not mean, ever, even if other people are doing it, which is generally a good rule for a new person in a group anyway! I don't know if I've made much of an impression, but I'd rather play safe and careful than accidentally break the rules I haven't yet learned about how the group works.

Raiding: The Good

I was more than nervous, my first day raiding. We went 6/8- two new bosses from my 4/8! It was then that I discovered that Blizzard's default raid frames, while fine for ten man, were not fine for twenty-five. 'Heal group three!' had me blinking in bewilderment, then frantically memorizing the names of my party, relying on their proximity to tell who I was supposed to be healing, relying on nerve-wracked memory to figure it out. Definitely not ideal.

Hagara was stupidly simple, with Apotheosis' strategy, and easy for me to pick up on how to do it. Blackhorn, my other new boss, was complicated by copious quantities of deck fire, but I managed to make a good showing of myself, in spite of not knowing the fight first hand. Overall, I was incredibly relieved afterwards. I had done well. I hadn't made many mistakes. My numbers weren't at the top, but they were nothing to be ashamed of, either. Several people told me I was doing well, which was incredibly gratifying, considering how shot my nerves were; I ended the raid on a high note, not having any major screw-ups on a fight I hadn't seen before.

That week, they downed heroic Deathwing, and I was on standby, cheering them on. It was joyous!

Raiding: The Ugly

Then, next Tuesday rolled around and the same nerves happened. I'd just installed raid frames and was now healing down at the bottom of my screen instead of to the side in the middle. I was trying to learn what the different dots on Vuhdo meant, even though I'd set them up myself. I had hoped I could maintain at least middling performance, if not my very best; instead, I made every mistake possible.

I didn't heal myself and died. I ressed without waiting to be told. I got the mage killed while ressing myself unauthorized. My numbers sucked. I stood in the bad- I never stand in the bad! I died on Ultraxion for not pushing the button! I got myself killed by deck bombs on Blackhorn, and got hit by his ground cone effect, twice. I didn't drop Spirit Link Totem.

By that point I was almost in tears and I knew I was just off my game, and badly so. I whispered Kurn and said if she wanted to replace me, I was herpaderping in a serious way; but they wanted to see how I would perform on Spine of Deathwing. I was given fairly simple instructions as to when to drop my Spirit Link Totem.

In our two tries and then kill on Spine, I dropped it precisely never.

Every time I was supposed to throw it down, I missed it, and badly. My timers weren't where I was looking, as I tunnel-visioned intensely on my unfamiliar raid frames and danced in and out of sticky fire. By the time it was supposed to have gone down, the time was past and my frazzled brain would groan.

I could have done worse. I could have fallen off the dragon's back. But this didn't make me feel any better.

By raid's end, I wanted to curl up and cry for humiliation and anger. At myself, primarily. I wanted so badly to impress these people and I'd just floundered like an LFR noob through the entire night, proving every negative stereotype about role players who raid in one fell swoop.

But fortunately for me, I hadn't managed to blow it.

Why Trials are Three Weeks, Not One

I was sent the information about not using one's battle res without it being called for- something which I'd neglected to read, icing on my cake of personal failure. It was then that I finally caved to the desire to offer some explanation. I don't like making excuses; my actions should speak for themselves. But I had to say something. I was better than that. I had to tell them I could do better.

I explained that I'd changed my UI and it had messed me up, that I was feeling off my game that night, and that I understood what and where I'd done wrong. I apologized for my poor performance, but resisted the urge to add that if they wanted to kick me, 'I'd understand'- they don't need my 'understanding' to kick me, if they want to do it, they'll do it regardless, and it betrays a deep lack of confidence to say so. Not that I was feeling particularly confident after that fiasco, but ah well.

Instead of being told 'yeah, you're bad, we're asking you to get out now', I was instead told that this is why trials are three weeks; that nerves and off feelings were normal. I was offered help fixing my UI to become useable, since it had been such a problem for me, and I was told that they were bumping the schedule so that I'd be attending Deathwing's fall on Thursday, for the guild's very second kill- so chin up and be ready!

The positivity of the message gave me heart, and I was determined to prove myself, hungry to show I could be competent, that the previous raid day had been a fluke!

First pull on Deathwing and my numbers were not what I was expecting. They weren't godawful, but they were off; I managed to handle the mechanics of the fight well, and didn't do anything deeply unintelligent, which was heartening!

Then I realized I was wearing my elemental gear.


I swapped gear, piped up in the healer channel that I'd been wearing the wrong set, and cracked my knuckles... then settled down to business.

By some miracle, and by healing my face off, I managed to rock the charts and succeed at the mechanics of the fight. Obviously charts aren't everything, but it was a good feeling! We downed him our second go- not bad for the first kill having been the previous week- and I felt absolutely invigorated. I had done well again. If my failures had been noticed, so would this.

Week Three Comes

So now it's been two weeks, and I am officially 8/8- something I never thought to accomplish so easily. I am a little disappointed that I didn't get to be part of the struggle, of the wiping and the fighting for it. But if my trial is extended or turns into an invitation to Raider status, I will use the coming weeks and months to prove myself capable, reliable, and an asset to the team- and I will have found myself a fantastic raid team for Mists of Pandaria and all it will bring.

Let's just hope this week goes better than last!