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!

Project: Heal All The Things!

A change of pace from raiding things, I'm feeling pretty optimistic about being accepted into Apotheosis as a permanent raider- and now that we've officially cleared all heroic content for the current tier and are working on wrapping up our meta achievement, I'm looking to the future.

I have all four classes (and five specializations!) of healer at max level who have completed the current (normal mode) tier of raiding. I won't say I am exceptional as, say, a discipline priest- but I can at least carry my weight in a PuG group as any healing spec. This is intentional. I like to know how other healers heal, and I like the flexibility of being able to swap depending on what my raid needs. To be fair, I've never been asked by a raid group to swap- usually swapping is something I do when I go from one raid team to the next. But I like having the option.

I also feel that being a competent healer as any healing class gives me an edge; I have a feel for what my team-mates can do and I know better how to work with them. This is more useful from a ten-man perspective, where I will need to be more flexible about my co-healers' strengths and weaknesses; in twenty-fives, it seems like we've got everything already, and I can primarily focus on doing what I do best, as best as I can do it!

Even so, I'm faced with a dilemna: all of my healing toons except my shaman are on Wrymrest Accord. And worse, two of the three are commonly role played; the third is in a dedicated alt raid. Transferring them would not only be a monetary hardship, it would also be placing raiding above role play- and would make a statement to my friends on Wyrmrest that I am leaving them for good, which is not the case.

In addition, I haven't leveled a character since I finished leveling my much neglected warlock, whose biggest drawback was that I couldn't use her to heal, and thus only grudgingly play on ever these days. So this brings my to my new side project:

Project: Heal All The Things!

In prepping for mists, I will want to have the current four classes capable of healing at max level and ready to venture into the zones. In addition to this, I want to have each healer have one or two crafting trade skills each, without having any duplications in trade skills over all. This is also in accordance with Apotheosis' request that a raiding character have one non-gather skill, which I agree with as a common, good practice if you intend to raid.

This is made both easier and more challenging by the fact that I have a holy paladin at level 83 languishing back on Sisters of Elune, with Burning Crusade level engineering and almost maxxed mining. If I can successfully level a priest and a druid, I will bring my paladin over to Eldre'thalas and finish leveling her and her Engineering.

However, there's only three gathering skills, and there will be five classes of healer for Mists: how will I divide the tradeskills?

Here is my end goal for trade skill division:

Restoration Druid - Clementyne - Leatherworking and Skinning, worgen racial bonus to skinning speed

Discipline/Holy(Shadow) Priest - Vlixx - Tailoring and Herbalism

Holy Paladin - Ashlyra - Engineering and Mining, engineering bonus to mining

Restoration Shaman - Miurne - Jewelcrafting and Enchanting - Intended Main

Mistweaver Monk - ??? - Alchemy and Inscription

So What's The Plan?

I'm leveling these tradeskills in a somewhat unorthodox fashion, in the hopes that it'll make things easier later on.

Right now, I have Clementyne as a skinner and an herber, because, let's face it- druids are awesome for farming. I'm gathering the materials to make 'Tradeskill Kits', which is basically grabbing all the materials from a tradeskill leveling guide and storing them on a bank alt with a guild bank.

Clem is also saving all her cloth for when Vlixx comes ally-side. Oh yes, did I mention Vlixx is starting as a troll? I'll be leveling him (male trolls > lady trolls) with my fiancee, who has never managed to level a tanking druid- until now, of course! Vlixx will claim his leveling partner's cloth as well, hording it away in his bank until he can can become a lady gnome of the same name... muahahahaha!

Once Clem and Vlixx have reached max level and are ally-side once more, I will bring over Ashlyra from Sisters of Elune and max out her mining and engineering. That accomplished, I can then drop mining on Miurne and herbalism on Clem, and use all my horded materials to level Clem's leatherworking and Vlixx's tailoring.

The crafted goods I create from leatherworking and tailoring will then be sent to Miurne, who will use them to level enchanting- a pain in the ass, but a solid raiding profession to have. I will probably also supplement by buying pure enchanting mats off the auction house, and blowing up lowbie dungeons to obtain the mats I need; it's a good thing I'm comfortable with my elemental spec! This also gives an advantage to my intended main. After all, Apotheosis recruited me as a shaman, and, for the moment, shaman is my favorite healing class to play.

I'll be saving all those herbs for my Mistweaver; because I don't know how the different classes will feel to me come MoP, I wasn't sure which class to give the two-tradeskill advantage to. However, I anticipate that the leveling zones will be flooded with new monks when MoP drops, which means heavy node competition. I might as well give the toon I'll be leveling 'from scratch' the advantage so I don't have to compete for herbs or ore!

First Step!

So for now, I'm leveling my druid by herbing and killing things to skin them, while being queued as a healer. I'll probably be forced to actually quest in another ten or twenty levels, but for now, the levels fly by every time I do a dungeon- my herbalism and skinning are lagging behind my leveling.

I'll also need to obtain a bum-load of fancy bags for storing herbs and leather; I plan to keep the materials needed for Clem's Leatherworking in her own bank so I can dedicate my bank alt's bankspace for Vlixx's cloth and my mistweaver's many, many, MANY herbs.

My fiancee has promised me we can start leveling our duo toons ASAP, but he's notorious for his slow pace, so we'll see how that works out. He wants us to be horde because I've never quested on horde much, which means we'll be leveling by questing, not dungeons. My plan is to make my main spec discipline, and when I dual spec, go shadow; double healing specs can wait for max level.

I do worry that it's a little presumptuous to plan so extensively, when I am still in my trial period with Apotheosis... but at this point, if I am rejected, I could still scrap it and try it anew on whatever server I end up on. And, fingers crossed- I think they're going to keep me!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

An Applicant's Story

So there I was, raidless at 4/8 heroic, not knowing where to turn next...

I've always had the secret desire to apply to a hard-core raid guild, just- to see if I could do it. To see if I could get through the application process, and to prove myself, to finally, 'for realsies' step past my humble beginnings and raid with the kind of intensity I'd read about.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I would say that I have almost always been one of the best researched, most on-paper precise raiders in any given raid team. I won't say I was the best player, because I have my moments of fire-standing mouth-breathing pants-on-head 'hurrrrrrr'; but I've always been one of the better players, with a few exceptions, and at times I have been the best, or close to.

And as much of a reputation as I have managed to build among my clique of rp friends, or at least those who have any interest in PVE- it's still a small, limited pond. I take a great deal of pride in how well I perform, and maybe I'm respected in my own social circles, but I want more than that- and after a week of PuGging on all my healers, I finally took a deep breath and decided to pursue it.

What I Was Looking For

It's one thing to be invited to a hard core raid guild on the whim of a friend; as much fun as I had, and as much as I appreciated the opportunity to learn and improve, I never felt like I'd really earned my place. I wasn't happy to have been carried, it isn't something I really feel I can take a lot of pride in... and while I became an asset to the team, I wasn't there when they were pouring sweat, blood, and tears into their progression. I felt like I was just a tag-along.
I guess feeling like a part of the team is important to me. It's one thing I got from my ten-man group that I sorely missed after it disbanded; as often as they drove me nuts, I knew where I stood, I knew I was an asset, and I knew I would work hard- and so would they. At times, I wished they were a little more dedicated, a little less emotional; but even with the problems, it was still some of the most fun I've had raiding, because we had to fight tooth and nail for each kill.

So it wasn't just that I was only 4/8 that led me to wanting to find a guild that hadn't downed heroic Deathwing yet; and it wasn't a lack of friends in the raiding community that led me to apping to a group of strangers.

I wanted what I had, but refined. I wanted people who also researched, the way I did. I wanted to be in a group that wasn't going to give up, that was serious about being on time, and- very importantly- that wasn't ragey, that didn't get increasingly angry and morose wipe after wipe. I wanted a group that saw the way I did. I wanted a bench so that if I missed a day, the raid would go on; so that sometimes, I would be on standby.

The Application Process

I applied to Apotheosis, because they needed a restoration shaman, because their raid times were similar to my previous one, and because two of their healers were bloggers I'd been reading for years as reference material. I didn't know if I'd get in, but I felt I had a good chance.

It took me hours to perfect my application; yes, hours. It's just a game, right? Why would I do that?

Because I wanted it. I wanted it so badly, and I felt that my application would be the first impression they had of me. I'd day-dreamed of applying to a 'big' guild before and my strongest asset as a player without the same level of experience, was my ability to demonstrate my understanding on paper. I had references for raiding ready to go, if they asked. I wanted it to be hard. I wanted to be scrutinized, to be questioned in a way that none of my previous raid leaders had questioned me. I wanted to have to prove myself, to have to fight for a position.

And they did question me. They wanted to know why I'd specced the way I had, why I'd reforged the way I had- and I had never been scrutinized like that before, not by any raid leader! Just by apping, I stepped up my game by realizing a different meta gem brought better bonuses for me at my current gear level. A small thing- and something no one else I'd ever raided with would have even thought to question!

Every time someone replied to my application, I would feel a jolt of excitement- primarily because I am a dork, but also because they were really, seriously thinking about letting me in.

Lessons Learned

If I could repeat the process, I would try to be less neurotic about it. I made mistakes in being too quick to jump to conclusions; when asked about my casting set-up, I went into a palpable emo-fit over being a keyboard turner and let them if they wanted to turn me down for it, I understood and it was okay. I don't know what they may have thought about that, but I facepalm looking back. I should have been more confident, and not quite so quick to decide I was unworthy for them; that sort of behaviour stinks of being obsequious, having low-self esteem, and is irritating besides.

The things I feel I did correctly were having a well-written application, and making sure I had ALL the information- before I apped, I took the time to go run both halves of an LFR and post the data. I notice a lot of applicants who don't have World of Logs information ready, and this just seems lazy; I didn't have data from progression runs, but at least I had something, which is what they were asking for. I made sure I'd read all their expectations and that I was going to meet them without having to modify my gemming or enchanting- with the exception of a run-speed enchant on my boots, which I waited to be accepted to change; if I didn't get in to Apotheosis, I was not going to bother with run-speed.

I also made sure to ask a lot of questions. A lot of folks don't seem to realize that an interview process goes both ways- I wanted to make sure Apotheosis was really what I thought it was going to be. If there were things I didn't like, I wanted to know BEFORE I transferred, so that I could weigh the benefits to the negatives and make sure my decision was well-informed.

I quietly prepared my shaman for a server transfer, but also looked in to other guilds that fit my desires. If Apotheosis didn't take me, I wasn't going to give up- I had several back ups that I was waiting to apply to, should Apotheosis decline me.

However, they didn't decline me. In spite of my slightly neurotic fit about being a key-board turner, and in spite of the fact that I didn't have the experience I would have assumed they'd want, my application was accepted and I was invited to transfer over and receive a guild invite under the ranking of 'Trial'!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

From Wrath to Cataclysm, Normal to Heroic

Last time I posted here was the tail-end of Wrath of the Lich King, and now it is that very same period, one expansion later.

We have several months to go, at the very least, before Mists of Pandaria's eagerly anticipated changes take place, before we have new content to explore. Most of the high-end guilds have downed the last boss of the expansion. With the twenty percent nerf firmly in place, many guilds are pursuing heroic modes.

This time, last expansion, I was floundering away on my RP server, overjoyed to find a raid group that would have me despite my predilection for roleplay. The expansion has changed a lot of things for me, and I have discovered the following-

Role play and raiding are best left separate.

Part of my problem in Wrath was that the character I most wanted to raid on, was also the character I role played on as my 'main'.

In Cataclysm, I tried very hard to make raiding work for me, but in the end, with the advent of guild perks and guild achievements, it was a tough world for a progression minded freelancer. After putting together a PuG group of competent role players (some of whom turned out to be sadly less competent than anticipated,) and watching it turn into a revolving door for folks to get geared and join Real raid groups and guilds, I gave up trying to lead my own. Joining another didn't help; then I had to deal with the fact that role players who raid often feel entitled to be unpleasant and critical in non-helpful ways towards those they feel are inferior raiders. Whether or not their criticisms ring true is irrelevant.

I got an offer that changed the entire face of my raiding career- an off-handed, casual sort of offer, from someone I'd met through role play.

I was invited to come to his server and raid heroic Firelands on my somewhat shabby restoration druid, to replace the one they'd had that left. The caveat was that the group was disbanding in three months, but I immediately jumped at the chance.

A server transfer later and I was experiencing the first hard modes of my life. I was terrified. I had no idea what I was doing. I did my best, I researched a little before hand, but it was all frantic and hectic and, to make it worse? I was two-healing with the holy paladin, who was quite cheerfully carrying my lagging numbers.

But I got better. And I thrived. I won't say I was the best they'd had, because that would probably be untrue. But what the experience did teach me was that I was capable and happy to do heroic content; that my technical knowledge and ability to learn encounters would allow for it, and that I could even thrive in such an environment.

A server first deathwing kill later, and the Dream Team disbanded for SWTOR... I transferred my druid back and hunted for a new raid team, intending to put her in an Actual Raid Guild, since I'd had such a better experience that way.

The next team I encountered included a very good friend of mine, so I jumped to join. They were a small ten man team with an eye toward heroic modes, but they already had a restoration druid.

My poor, neglected Shaman's time had come. Enter Miurne, a lightly role played but mostly abandoned character decked out in 346 heroic gear and never touched a raid since reaching level cap. I studied. I got her prepared. And we kicked Deathwing in the face, with some struggle.

We ended up 4/8 heroic before burn-out happened. The were were some things that I didn't enjoy as much about being in that group. We only had ten players; if any one person didn't show, we wouldn't see progression. If any one person was late, we all waited. There were some disagreements about strategy that turned into passive-aggressive vent dropping; there was trolling intended in jest, that went too far. Feelings were hurt. The team suffered for it, and it made for an environment that was frequently stressful to me; though I distanced myself from both trolling and raging alike, the presence of it got to be distracting and unpleasant.

I thought I'd be relieved, when the group finally collapsed; I was glad to have my evenings back, but as soon as it disbanded, I felt sudden, crippling sadness that I would never accomplish what I wanted to this expansion: Kill the end boss on heroic. I would never live to see my healing potential realized, just like I never got to kill Arthas in Wrath or ever see heroic content while it was relevant and hard.

I also missed my old guildies. Despite the drama and angst, we were quite close.

I knew I had to fill the void somewhere... so I started looking, and I found exactly what I was hoping for...

But would my experience level allow for it? A derpy role playing raider, applying to the guild of people whose blogs she'd read for years?