Mana Mana (again)

More mana regen nerfs. They just keep piling up. Spiritual Attunement is the latest victim. And while that isn't a Druid thing, it is nonetheless yet another reflection of the mana destruction we are seeing in WoW.

On the PTR, my Resto mana regen is quite frankly a joke. I am not one to be an alarmist, and yes people are killing the bosses on the PTR with the massive mana regen nerfs in place. But this whole thing seems to really be getting out of hand. And not just a little bit.

I will say it again, not that Blizzard will hear it or get ir if they did hear it, but here goes:


Please please stop it Blizzard! Healing has been more fun the last few months than ever in this game. At least it has in the opinion of this author who has healed from Molten Core days up until now. With raiders being more bored in WoW than ever before, and more and more people just bailing on the game seemingly every day, putting mana users (and *especially*) healers in mana crunching situations like old days, making it much less fun, is a very bad move.

Now I understand the need for balancing. I really do. many things Blizzard did in the past panned out a lot better than it looked like they would. But this time, their actions indicate (to me at least) that they are not in touch with reality here. Er... actually its a video game... the uh, reality of the virtual reality... ah crap you know what I mean!

I haven't had the guts to wear a Boomkin spec on the PTR yet. I am too afraid of what I will see when open the character pane and check mana regen.

When is Starcrat 2 coming out?


Resto Nerfs INC

In case you have been hiding the last week, there are 2 significant changes queued up for raiding resto Druids. The Druid community is quite up in arms. Its not that often that Resto Druids get all bent out of shape. Our raiding Trees are generally a pretty easy going bunch. But oh they are upset now!

First let it be known that I am a mana pig. I use it, abuse it, and drool over it. Some mobs hits me for 15k damage? Oh, he hit me. Some mob steals like 3 mana from me? ITS ON!!

We are getting our spirit based mana regen nerfed. To the ground baby! Its really the out of 5 second rule regen that is getting nerfed though. I don't know about you, but I really don't get much time out of 5SR. I could probably take it, but don't really need to. Heck, I have become quite fond of spamming the crap out of Nourish lately. Its pretty inefficient on the ol' hallowed mana bar, but its really fast. Its great for sniping raid heals, I mean for keeping the raid alive. With Replenishment, I don't have to worry about mana very much. Add in a Ret Pally, and I just don't have mana issues. Some mobile fights I will have to think about mana, but very few.

So is this really going to hurt us? Well geared Resto Druids? I don't think so really. If anyone, it is going to hurt people in quest blues just starting heroics. Remember how bad mana was for you back then? I have tried hard to forget. Mana pig, remember?

This is the one that has me scratching my head over here. Basically, Lifebloom costs twice as much mana! But wait, if you let your stack bloom, you get half the mana back. Huh?? Who came up with that one?

So what this means is that if you keep rolling stacks up, you are going to take the mana cost in the shorts. Hard. Well well, mana may become quite an issue after all.

However, there is a possible silver lining here, one that takes quite a change of thinking to get in to. Its Nourish. Its getting buffed. Could even be Godly buffed. You know that spiffy little talent that makes Regrowth crit practically all the time? Its going to affect Nourish as well! The crit chance is actually being lowered some, but still, the "wow" potential is high! If you ahve every done some Nourish spamming, you know how quick those heals start flyng when you get a good crit train going. Now triple that crit chance. YEEEEE HAAW!

Why the mana regen nerf? Why the Lifebloom nerf? Blizzard thinks both are too powerful. As they watch raids in Naxx. Think about that one a second... Lets imagine for a moment that we are not going to ignore the elephant in the living room, and step back for a more balanced and subjective perspective. Well that will take about .3 seconds for someone with the IQ of a garden salad to come to an immediate and inescapable conclusion:

Naxx is too easy.

Could that be the real problem with mana regen and lifelboom? Nah... couldn't be that. Don't get me wrong, I don't think these nerfs are going to be nearly as horrendous as the doomsday posts on the WoW forums would lead one to believe. I am however totally convinced that they are based on a very faulty premise, and that the root cause is that Naxx is just way too easy.


Wild Growth Nerf: Aftermath

So it has been a little while since the 6 second cooldown was added to Wild Growth, and we Druid folk have had some time to adjust. How much has it affected our healing?

Let's go back to the time before the nerf. On some fights, it was very effective to simply run around the raid in circles spamming Wold Growth. It required little more from a player than 1 working finger, one hand to move your character, and a pulse. In some situations, it was remarkably efffective. This was what Blizzard did not like.

Take Sapphiron for example. In 25 man, 2 Druids running circles could put out a tremendous amount of effective healing on a raid. No skill or brain required, just run and spam. On Lootavon, er Archavon, it was pretty much the same deal, even though all that group healing wasn't needed.

There were however, and are, boss encounters where spamming Wild Growth was not such a brainless non-decision, where it was actually a smart and effective healing strategy. Malygos, when the entire raid gets tossed and spun is a very good example. Wild Growth saved a lot of lives.

The fights we were most concerned about were Sapphiron and Malygos. These fights were where WG made the most contribution, and doing those fights without the WG spam sounded like a bad thing.
On Sapph, there are other options of course. Chain Heals by the Shammys of course could play a much larger role in raid healing. My thinking was that we keep a Pally or two on the MT, maybe with a Priest because they are good at healing anything, and the rest on the raid. Sounds good.
Malygos was an even larger source of worry. How would we keep everyone alive? I guess make sure everyone is topped off, cast what HoTs you can, and hope for the best?

On Sapphiron, much to my suprise, the difference was neglible. Hey whaddya know, Druids have other good heals too! SNAP!
On Malygos, I ended up assigning 'preferred groups' to Druids and Priests. Of those in range during the flying fun, stick HoTs on people in the assigned group first, then any others you can hit. I spread the Priests out across as many groups as we had Priests, so they could PoH the group when we land.
Worked like a charm! To my surprise, we seemed to actually have less chance of dying than before! Huh?!?! It may have been due to healers paying closer attention, or being more focused. I did make a big deal on vent out of the challenge we would be facing; that probably helped too.

How bad is the nerf, now that we have had some time to digest it, adjust to it, and use it?
Not even an issue at all. And I thought it was going to be catastrophic!

Quick Off Topic:
Added the spiffy new header a few weeks ago! The background is actually a shot of Moonglade. I was messing around with some blurs, and accidentally put one on the wrong layer, the entire background. Before I hit the undo button, I looked at it and really liked the almost ethereal feel it gave, so stuck with it.
I used WoW Model Viewer for the caps of the forms. I liked having them all looking at you as you are looking at them. The eye contact thing seemed cool. Except for the Boomkin. He is either basking in his power and glory, or very unhappy about the insanely low spell power coefficient on Starfall, not sure which.


New Hero Class Ideas

There was an interesting thread on the WoW forums the other day, speculating about a new hero class. Believe it or not, it was actually a mostly constructive post, with many cool ideas. It got me thinking about what a Her Healer Class could be like, and I came up with some ideads for one.

Every class in WoW has to be able to solo content, and do respectable damage. This class would be no different.
The playstyle should be highly involving and immersive. Death Knights are the precedent. They are easy to play badly, but quite involved to play extremely well.
It can not be a Frankenstien of existing healing classes. A new class that drops totems, shifts forms, and has a bubble would not work. It has to be something very very different than current healers.
I have no idea what to call this thing. Rumor at one point was that the next hero class would be the ArchDruid. That name won't work, sounds too much like Druid.

  • It would be a melee class. This is not so much for any raid or overall game class balance reason, but for the style of game play. As you read more about it, you may agree that the playstyle would be nicely suited for melee.
  • It is not a tanking class, and would have no tanking abilities per se. It would be viable for soloing the same as any other non-tanking class/spec. Mages for example can't really tank, but do just fine leveling up.
  • There would be no 'dps tree', 'healing tree', etc. This is somewhat like Death Knights now. With DKs, although one tree or another may be favored for DPS or tanking, all contain workable DPS and tanking talents. The Hero Heal Class would be simliar in that respect.
  • All damage done would also do an amount of healing. Perhaps a 1:1 ratio for 'white damage' would work, with specials doing larger amounts of heal per damage.
  • Play would involve building combo points of a sort, with 'finishing moves', or specials, resulting in larger specific heals. Some would heal over time, sone would be instant direct heals. Some would heal a single target, others would heal multiple targets.
  • Heals would directed by use of 'Marks'. A single player can be marked, such as a tank, to recieve the full benefit of each heal. Or up to a specific number of players could be marked, perhaps 3, in which case each would recieve 1/3 of the total healing output. Or, if nobofy is marked, either the entire raid or 10 closest players recieve an equal portion of the healing output.

Again, none of these talent trees would be a 'heal tree', a 'dps tree', etc. Unfortunately, I have not come up with good descriptive names for each without using terms that already mean something else in WoW. Halp meh!

Restorative Tree
I hate to call this Restoration. That makes it sounds like 'the healing tree' which it would not be. I can't think of a better name for it though.
The idea behind this tree is that everyone in the raid can do more of whatever they are doing as a direct result of the Hero Healer.
  • This tree would include talents that restore not health, but other players' mana, runic power, energy, and rage.
  • There would be a talent giving an ability that temporarily increases the regeneration rate of each, perhaps as a finishing move.
  • There would be a talent that restores a flat percentage of each, again perhaps as a finishing move, and/or as a static 'aura' type of buff.

Buff Tree
Well, Enhancement sure would be a good name for this tree, but that has already been used, and means something else.

The purpose of this tree would be to enhance other players' dps/healing/mitigation, etc.
Permanent passive auras would provide buffs in the same way that other auras do, such as Moonkin aura, etc. These buffs would have to be something new, something we don't already have. Things like spell power, haste, etc, are already in the game. I have not worked out what exactly these buffs would be.

This could be the hardest tree to get creative in designing.
Some buffs would be for specific selected targets. A buff on a tank would increase their threat, where the same buff on another target would decrease it.

Other talents could buff baseline attributes, like giving rogues another 5 max energy for 105 instead of 100, or mana users a flat percentage increase to their mana pool, or rage users another 5 max rage.

Reduction  Tree
This would be a bit like the Priest Discipline Tree. The talents here would generally reduce the effect of bad stuff on the raid, and/or individuals in the raid.
  • "Phase Shift" would probably be the big one here. It would phase shift one or more people, making them immune to pretty much everything for a few seconds, whille still able to heal/dps/tank. One version would be used on a tank, as sort of a super bubble. Another version would be used on the 10 closest players. Each would only last a few seconds.
  • Another talent, "All For One", would cause damage taken by the target to be equally distributed across all players in the raid. Tank takes a 100k hit in a 10 man raid for example. Instead, all 10 players get hit for 10k. This would be on a significant cooldown, and only last maybe 3 seconds.

Much like the current hero class Death Knights, our new Hero Healer class would operate under a multiple bar/status system. There would not simply be a mana bar, or an energy bar.

In a blatant ripoff of the Death Knight rune system, there would be a crystal system. There would be a number of crystals that discharge with use, and gradually restore themselves with time. There would be perhaps 10-12. Talents would increase the number to maybe 16. These would be required to use many key abilities. They would all be the same, unlike the Blood/Unholy/Frost runes a DK uses. Talents would also increase the regen rate, as well as player stats (like spirit increases many players' mana regen rate).

In what looks like another blatant DK ripoff, but actually isn't, there would be a bar that charges up as other abilities are used. The "Potency Bar". Many abilities would become more powerful at higher levels of potency. This bar would quickly decay when not being recharged, and would have no upper limit (like 100 energy). Perhaps it wouldn't even be a bar, but something like a gauge. The Potency Bar would also not be a direct source for any abilities; there would be no 'Potency dump'. Its sole purpose is to amplify abilities, not to power them.

Our Hero Healer would build combo points. Max points would be much higher than 5, because we are going to get in to some razzle dazzle here. Many abilities would add combo points like a rogue does. However, combo points also decay at a preset rate of perhaps 1 every 2 seconds. Use it or lose it! Combined with the Potency system and it's decay, this would make for a very active, involved playstyle.

This is where it starts to get weird, and maybe very interesting.

Does WoW need another plate wearing melee class? Probably not.
Does WoW need another cloth wearing mana user? Definitely not. Heck this new class doesn't even have a mana bar.

So then, what type of armor should they be able to wear? Well, it is a hero class. Let's say for now that they can wear any type of armor. Which is the same as saying they wear plate. However, the stats desired by the class would very likely lead to many gear choices that are not plate. Since they can not tank, and have strong heals, they wouldn't *need* plate for anything. ZOMG TEH HEROO ROOLT ON MAH GAERS! Relax.

What stats would be useful to this class? Here is where it gets interesting... Any base stats would provide some type of usefulness! And I don't mean like how Intellect is useful to a rogue if they are leveling a weapon skill, but actually really useful. After all, this is a HERO class we are talking about!

Stamina: Increases hitpoints of course. Also effectiveness increases any health-related abilties, including all healing.
Strength: Increases attack power, which in turn means more healing output. Also enhances some shielding type abilities.
Agility: Increases chance to hit, the hero is more agile thus less likely to miss. Also slightly decreases the global cooldown of some abilities.
Intellect: The hero's increased mental faculties result in slower decay of Potency and Crystals.
Spirit: Increases the chance of abilities that cause gains to Potency or Crystals to 'proc'. Also increases the effectiveness of restorative abilities that grant other players mana/rage/energy/runic power.
Armor: Increases the effectiveness of many damage reducing abilities.

This would make for some interesting and complex gear choices. Lets ignore for a minute the potential drama of other classes getting bent out of shape because someone is rolling against them for 'their' loot. Please.


Queue Queue

(Puts on movie-trailer-guy voice)
On a regular afternoon, without warning, a vanquished enemy makes its return. And this time, its taking no prisoners.
THE QUEUE (subwoofers rumble)
What will you do? Where will you go? Do you really think you can just come home from work and log in to raid? You wil be stopped DEAD by...
THE QUEUE (subwoofers rumble louder)
Its back, its bigger than ever, and it won't go away. It won't leave you alone. It won't give you a chance, because this time, its serious.
(quick cuts from behind individuals that are in front of their computer monitors:
"Aw man"
"What the..."

Yes its back, and it seems to be practically everywhere. The login queue has returned. Its inbred brother too, the dreaded "Additional instances cannot be creater. Try again later."
Many folks in our guild zoom home from work, whip up some dinner and log on just in time to raid. Now they are lucky to get on a half hour after the raid has started. This sucks for them, and hurts the raids. Everyone is losing here.
Heck, I am the guild leader and raid leader, and had to miss a raid the other night because of the queue. I was late, the raid was full. Wouldn't have been fair to boot someone out just so my tardy big Tauren butt could have a spot.

So what's the deal here? Why the queues again so suddenly?

Some think the cause is lots of people off work and school for the holidays.
Some blame Christmas, based on the idea that tons of people got WoW.
There are also of course some wacky conspiracy theories, real tin foil hat stuff.
Others think its a combination of many factors.

Its interesting to note that for such a widespread issue, there has been no acknowledgement from Blizzard that there is even a problem, let alone any info on whether or not they are planning to do something about it.

What can we do about it? For now, about all we can really do is... queue queue.


Druid Predictions for 2009

First let me say that the batteries in my crystal ball went out just yesterday. The timing is uncanny. So I am going to have make all this stuff up.

So without further excuses that I can point back to a year from now when everything I say here turns out to be wrong, in order of the impact they will have, least to most, here are my 5 Druid Predictions for 2009!

Resto will be way overpowered, for a minute.
Ghostcrawler has talked about a healing revamp for all classes, a major overhaul, several times. Although the most dramatic early ideas will get tossed out, some major fundamental changes are going to come down toward the end of the year.
Somehow, someway, Druid healers are going to end up in an overpowered state briefly, like Bears were very early in BC. The nerf, er fix, will come quickly, bringing us back in line with other healing classes. But for a brief moment, Resto Druids everywhere will bask in the glory of God Mode healing.

Bears will become stamina driven tanks.
As we move through Ulduar, post armor nerf, Bears will more and more seek out straight up hitpoints in the absence of the high levels of mitigation they used to enjoy. By the time we get to Arthas (which may not be in 2009), there will be a screenshot floating around the web of a Bear with over 100,000 hitpoints. Said Bears will take atrocious amounts of damage, but will be highly sought after in raids nonetheless. Healers will be using their biggest heal bombs, and sweating bullets.

Cat DPS will flatten out. Badly.
Post Naxx/Sartharion/Malygos, cat DPS will once again scale poorly. Sound familiar? In BC, cats did great DPS through about mid tier 5 content. By mid tier 6, their DPS was so low compared to other comparably geared DPS classes, they became a waste of a raid spot.
I remember topping 6k AP in Hyjal, and struggling to put out 1200 DPS. This was while lesser geared rogues were hitting 2k DPS. Six. Thousand. Attack Power. That was when I hung up the catsuit and went Boomkin.
This will be repeated in Wrath of the Lich King. Scaling, scaling, scaling. Not.

Eclipse will be changed.
Talk to five different high DPS Boomkins, and you will get five diffferent opinions on how good Eclipse is or is not, everywhere from "gotta have it" to "what a waste".
What I would love to see happen, and almost certainly will NOT happen, is this: If you are casting Starfire when Eclipse procs, it gives you the... make sure you are sitting down... the Starfire buff! Same for Wrath! OH SNAP! That makes too much sense. Far better to try to artifically force Boomkins to alternate between Starfire and Wrath in some wacky chase-down-the-proc-ah-crap-I-missed-one-cast-and-GCD-gonna-emo-and-kill-myself-now kind of thing right?
Although they will not use this all too sensible solution, Eclipse will see a significant change of some sort. In the end, after much heated debate and incredibly deep theorycrafting, it will still be no better or worse than it is now.

While this will be announced but not impelemented in 2009, everything is going to really hit the fan as a result.
Remember how we had +heal and +spell damage gear? As you know, that was changed to spell power.
This will taken one more step. Blizzard will announce that Attack Power and Spell Power will consolidated in to one single stat: Power.
That Pally Plate that gets sharded every week will be great for a DPS Warrior. Hunters will be rolling against Resto Druids for gear! WTB Main Hand Warglaive for my heal or nuke set?


WotLK Tuning

Much has been said and written about the tuning of Wrath raid content. Naxx is tuned to be much easier than in its previous 40 man incarnation. I am not going to beat that dead horse. What I do want to go over a bit is the tuning of other elements of this expansion. This will be a rare post from me, one that is not raid focused. Dogs and cats, living in sin... (Ghostbusters reference ftw)

From the starting zones all the way to the last quests you do before hitting 80, most are tuned to be easily soloed, but not crazy hard. Players can blow through quests at a fast pace. And there are soooo many of them! Other then just the difficulty tuning, I have to say I am very impressed with how well the quests are laid out. There are tons of quests where you start out heading for Objective A, along the way pick up a quest to go to B, where you additionally pick up something for Area C. You get sort of lost and absorbed in these great little side trips, with a bunch of extra quests before finally getting back to A.
There are only a few of those chains that send you back in to the same area to kill the guys you just killed, but there are a few. I hate those. Its like "Hey, I just killed a dozen of those things to get to the stuff for the last quest, and now you want me to kill more of them?" Fortunately, there aren't that many.
And the quests are generally a lot more interesting than the standard gather-pig-spleens quests of old. The quests where you ride a dragon, or a boss, or a vehicle are just a blast!
In general, WotLK quests are very nicely tuned, well laid out and fun.

The leveling dungeons are tuned to be easy, possibly a bit too easy. That may not be such a bad thing; lots of people got to see lots of dungeons while leveling. And wow, most of the dungeons are just amazing! The visuals are awesome, and many of the boss fights are more creative by far than the older dungeons.
Once you get to the heroics, difficutly ramps up quite a bit. I was continually amazed at how tightly they were tuned. I was mostly healing the first heroics we were doing. The margin for error was slim indeed. I would run out of mana often right as the boss died, and had very little downtime or margin for screwing up. This was with fresh 80s like myself, all of who I consider to be above average skilled players. Once some heroic gear started piling up on us, the heroics became much easier quickly. The difficulty of heroics is tuned very tightly for fresh 80s, extremely good tuning job by Blizzard.

Pre-Raid Gear
This is another area where WotLK is tuned very well in my opinion. My Druid was wearing pretty much full Tier 6 coming in to the expansion, with several best-in-slot pieces, both Resto and Boomkin. Don't think I replaced any gear before hitting 80. At 80, heroic gear started replacing my old stuff really fast, and rep gear as well.
This indicates to me that Blizzard designed a 'parity point' of sorts, a point that all players would reach where their gear would be close to the same level, whether they entered the expansion geared to the teeth or wearing greens. That point seems to be very shortly after you reach 80. I find this an amazing feat of tuning.
My Hunter is 73 with now, and was geared with Kara and Badge gear. I have replaced 1 piece of gear on him so far I think. The quest reward gear is getting very close to being upgrades. In many cases, the only reason they aren't upgrades is the enchants on the gear he has right now. I am not going to put expensive enchants on leveling gear of course.

Other than the raid content being tuned to be too easy, I think that all other aspects of WotLK are tuned amazingly well. I am hoping that the next raid instance released will be a good chunk harder.