Thursday, December 28, 2006

One Year Mark!

It's been exactly one year since I started this blog. It's been an interesting year. I've travelled across three different servers, joined multiple guilds, become a raider, gotten epics, and gone through Molten Core and Blackwing Lair.

It's interesting, looking back at the old posts. My first post (after the introductory post) was about what a paladin is, and the idea of a "5th man" class. It's somewhat ironic to see that post as the old paladin is being changed into something that more easily stands inside the tank-healer-dps trinity.

It's also interesting to see how my attitudes towards paladins in raids have changed. At the beginning, I'm very much inline with the conventional wisdom that paladins need to be healbots, standing back and spamming Flash of Light. And somewhere along the line that changed, to the point where I'm rather militant that a paladin--regardless of spec--should be on the front lines, swinging her hammer in between tossing heals.

I think I've learned a fair bit about other issues as well. High-end guilds in WoW are governed by this strange interplay of game mechanics clashing with human nature, and it's been extremely interesting and enlightening to see how the two interact and what results.

Anyways, thank you to everyone who's read or commented on the blog. It's been great to have such illuminating conversations with everyone.

Thanks to Scumdogs of Eitrigg, who introduced me to the joys of raiding, even as I was a casual noob. :)
Thanks to Wandering Alliance of Eitrigg, who showed me how much fun being a paladin in raids could be, if only I was willing to stand on the front lines.
Thanks to Asperity of Skywall, even though I did not get to join you, thanks for showing me what a very successful high-end guild was like.
Thanks to the Winter Court of Skywall, for showing me how hard it was to recruit and start up my own guild, and how truely important basic logistics are.

Special thanks to Excommunicated of Skywall, my current guild, for being what a raid guild should be, pushing hard and killing bosses with a minimum of drama, even though it would be very easy to stop and wait for the expansion.

Special thanks to Defender of the Crown of Bronzebeard. Thanks for shepherding me through the first part of WoW, thanks for letting me go to find my own way in this crazy WoW endgame, and thanks for always welcoming me warmly whenever I ventured back.

Here's to another interesting year!

Nefarian and the Hybrid Paladin

As an example of what I mean by hybrid style of the paladin, consider what I did on our first Nefarian kill last week. Remember that this was really our first night of Nef attempts, and while the content may be old to many of you, it was cutting edge to us. Certainly not farm content.

In phase 1, I was assigned to the blue drakonid door, so I stood back with the non-melee people and spot healed. I had Righteous Fury up. When a drakonid got loose and ran to the cloth, I blasted it with Judgement of Righteousness and dragged it back to the warriors and AoE spot.

When Nefarian landed, the priests ran to cover the main tank, and I started healing full-time as the raid cleaned up the remaining drakonids.

After the drakonids were all killed, I started meleeing Nefarian, keeping up Judgement of Wisdom, and using Seal of Wisdom to get back mana from phase 1. I was spot healing occasionally, cleansing during the mage call. When a priest/druid call came, I dropped back and started pouring heals into the main tank. After that call ended, back to meleeing.

At phase 3, when the undead zerg came, I fired off a Holy Wrath and healed the raid until the zerg was destroyed. Then I went back to hitting Nefarian until he was dead.

("This cannot be! I am the Master here! You mortals are nothing to my kind! DO YOU HEAR? NOTHING!")

Nefarian is the prime example of how I feel a paladin is best played. I off-tanked a bit, healed a lot, and melee-ed a lot, seamlessly switching between the roles as needed. Was it the single most efficient use of the paladin possible? Maybe, maybe not. Was it effective? Yes. Was it fun? Heck, yeah!

In the new specialized world is this going to be how a paladin plays? Or are the Holy Paladins going to heal with the priests, the Retribution Paladins do damage with the warriors and rogues, and Protection Paladins tanking the drakonids or even Nef himself?

Of course, weighted against my experience is that fact that many other paladins in other guilds went through Nefarian casting a single spell, Flash of Light. If this change, this specialization, enables the vast majority of paladins to do more than spam a single spell, it will be well worth it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Price of Specialization

I was looking at the Paladin Tier 5 armor on, when it actually struck me that paladins have really changed in 2.0/Burning Crusade. There are three different versions of T5, one for each tree.

Previously, in my opinion, there wasn't a lot of difference between the paladin talent trees. Sure they changed how you did things, but in the end you ended up in the same place. Melee a bit, heal a bit, off-tank a bit.

This was a great situation for me, because I loved respeccing and playing with new talents. The fact that I may have respecced Protection just meant that I would be more likely to be casting Kings or Sanctuary on the raid. Otherwise, I'd still be meleeing/healing/off-tanking, same as if I was Holy or Retribution. Maybe slightly better at one aspect than another, but not enough that it made a real difference.

But now we have real specialization in talent trees. And armor to back up that specialization. Armor which will cost DKP and significant amounts of effort. This means that it is coming time to pick a specialization and stand with it. No longer truely standing outside the tank-healer-dps trinity, but taking up a spot within it.

I'm sure the prospect delights a lot of paladins, who were in guilds which never really understood them, and tried to force them into the trinity. Now, their path will be laid out, and expectations will be clear. Yet I'm going to miss the paladin of old a little bit.

Part of this is that Protection is my favourite tree, and the one I was planning on speccing into for the Burning Crusade. Yet, when I saw the armor, I realized that I was not sure I wanted to be a tank. Previously, I would have just been a protection paladin, and would still be doing paladin duties while someone else tanked the boss. Yet the Protection armor is not just armor for a paladin, it is armor for a tank. Someone who's role in a raid is fundamentally different than that of a paladin today.

Tomorrow I will have to choose: am I a healer, a tank, or a damage dealer[1] ? Yesterday, I was a paladin. Nothing more and nothing less.

On the whole, specialization is a big gain, yet I think that we will still lose something in the process. But judging by the reaction of my fellow paladins, this too seems a price worth paying.

[1]Well, whatever Retribution is supposed to be. Maybe it's damage, or maybe it's the one tree that corresponds to my current vision of the paladin.

Edit: Why does everyone miss the "price is worth paying" part?

I will miss the hybrid role of the paladin, but I was one of the few paladins who really got to play as a hybrid. (And this was deliberate. After my first raid guild, I sought out guilds that would allow me to play as a hybrid.) Most paladins got pidgeonholed as healbots, and didn't even get a chance to hit things. For them, this change is an unmitigated win.

Heck, if you look through the comments on this blog, there are a lot of comments disagreeing with me, and asserting that paladin-as-healbot is the best and most efficient use of a paladin in a raid.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Legend of Leeroy Jenkins

Pretty much everybody that plays World of Warcraft has heard of Leeroy Jenkins. (If you haven't, here's the video clip.) It's one of the defining moments of WoW history, and references to it have even appeared in places like Jeopardy.

It begs the question: why did this video become so popular? When all is said and done, staged or real, it's just a video of a wipe on Father Flame in Upper Blackrock Spire. I'm sure that there's been hundreds of wipes filmed, on all sorts of bosses. Why did this one become a touchstone of WoW culture?

It is a funny video, and the name "Leeroy Jenkins" as a battlecry has a style all of it's own. But I think the real reason Leeroy Jenkins became so popular is that it captures a deep truth about World of Warcraft.

In many ways, instancing in WoW is a cold, mechanical endeavour. We plan, laying out everything in minute detail, for maximum success. And sometimes we wish that we didn't have to plan so much, that we could just charge in and revel in the chaos and battle. But charging in recklessly usually leads to wipes, and so we restrain ourselves, giving ourselves over to the methodical process for success.

The first part of the video illustrates the cold nature of instance planning amazingly well, even down to the absurdity of calculating the odds of survival. The fact that the plan is terrible is just icing on the cake. We've all been in this situation, where we keep going over and over a plan to a degree that is simply unnecessary.

This is the duality that the Leeroy Jenkins video captures perfectly: we are terrified of being in a group with a Leeroy Jenkins, someone who runs off and wipes the group needlessly; yet at the same time we want to be Leeroy, to have the guts to throw caution to wind, and charge in recklessly, a battlecry on our lips, with our friends charging behind us.

That too is an important part of the video. If the rest of the group had just stayed outside and watched Leeroy die, I don't think it would have been anywhere as popular. We would have chuckled, called Leeroy stupid, and forgotten about the video the next day. But Leeroy cut the planning short and led his group into battle, and into WoW immortality.

And if it ended badly, well, at least Leeroy had chicken.

(That could possibly be interpreted as a metaphor for life in general, but sometimes chicken is just chicken.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dry Runs

My guild killed Nefarian for the first time tonight. Almost precisely two months after we killed Ragnaros. This accomplished our major goal of clearing Blackwing Lair before the expansion. So the guild was happy. No shaman loot dropped.[1] So the guild was estatic.

One interesting thing about this guild is that our raid leader spends a lot of time explaining things and going over the fight. He makes us do things like practice running to different spots during transitions. We spent over half an hour going over the full Nefarian strategy. (We earlier spent 15 minutes on Phase 1 only, because the raid leader thought it would take us a few tries to get to Phase 2.) Heh, sometimes I joke that the reason we do well is because we want to avoid going through the lecture again.

But it really works. It's one thing to be told, "When X happens, run to the collapse point", and quite another to actually do it. Actually practicing the moves before the fight starts helps give you an idea of how long the transition will take, and what the range will be like (very important for healers, who need to keep a moving tank alive). Dry runs are a very useful tool, and this is the first guild I've been in that has really made use of them.

[1] Unlike Ragnaros last week - 2x Ten Storms Legs for the loss. :(

Sunday, December 17, 2006

PvP'ing with my Warlock

I've been PvP'ing a bit with my warlock lately. I figure that given the new Honor System, I should be able to get him some decent gear. I probably won't be able to play enough to get him any epics--work is very time-consuming lately--but I should be able to get him his blue PvP set.

I went Affliction spec first. Affliction spec is insanely powerful. There were many battlegrounds where I would be number one or two in total damage done. However, you are very fragile, and you really need the gear to back it up. In particular, hunters were absolutely destroying me. I really think that, for a somewhat geared PvP'er, Affliction spec is the way to go.

As an aside, I had two points left over when I was making the build, so I took the talent that decreases the cast time of Howl of Terror. I didn't realize it made it instant cast! That is such a powerful talent.

But since I'm not geared, I respected to Demonology. This is a pretty good spec in general, but it is very good for an undergeared warlock, like mine. I last quite a bit longer. I may not do as much total damage anymore, but at least I don't die every 15s.

Heh, I may have to change tactics with my warlock. I usually defend, often running into Drek'thar's room at the end. I fear the puller, hopefully into all the warmasters, who run outside and proceed to wipe the Alliance raid. It is--or perhaps I should say was--a good tactic. Today, I tried the same thing and managed to trick the Alliance into pulling four warmasters at once. However, the Alliance raid killed all the warmasters! This, quite frankly, shocked me.

Maybe the alliance had insanely good tanks and healers up, but prior to this patch I would have sworn that pulling four warmasters at once would lead to a wipe. Ah well, I'm going to have to change tactics a bit.

A Warlock's View of the New Paladin

I love warlocks. They're slightly insane, but every so often they come up with something that is absolute genius. From Slark, of Shattered Hand, comes this description of the new paladin (exactly as posted on the WoW Forums):
i dont even knwo what paladins are doing anymore

when im up against a paladin theyre throwing gigantic shields in m yface hammers are falling from the sky on my head hammers are being tossed to hit me in the face their blessings lag my entire computer while hammers are hitting me from every direction and shields are preventing me to run away b/c apaprantly magical shields stop u from running

combine that with their immune shield and shields and hammer s being tossed at u from god knows i dont evne knwo what the @!@! is going on anymore i npvp when i face a pally

A brilliant description of the new Paladin. We're now shiny, and that is the best change Blizzard has made to us.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Raiding with the New Spec

I finally managed to attend a raid (Molten Core) and try out my new spec. All in all, it wasn't much different than my previous spec, save that I hit Crusader Strike whenever I remembered about it.

It's pretty hard to tell if you are actually doing more damage, or if Sanctified Crusader helped. I think it helped, as mobs seemed to die faster, but that may also have been because we are gearing up, or the new specs. I did get a 1K Crusader Strike crit in healing gear, so that's good enough for me.

I really wish I had a meter running for the last few raids, though. I find it hard to actually tell how my damage is changing in raids, mostly because I'm usually paying more attention to the raid's health than to my character. Actually quantifying the change would have been a good idea.

Spiritual Attunement is awesome. I was not running out of mana at all. I even switched to healing with Holy Light for most (non-ranged) fights, and I didn't really have issues with mana.

Actually, healing was kind of weird in this raid. Perhaps it was the HoTs stacking, but health bars seemed to change in a different fashion than normal. Normally, they fall and increase in visible chunks, and in this raid they seemed to be a lot more stable. For example, a rogue would drop to 75% and I'd Flash of Light her, expecting another priest to drop a Flash Heal or something. However, the Flash Heal never really came, but her health would not drop further, maybe even increase a few percentage points, but not a great deal for the rest of the fight.

I think the priests and druids were using HoTs more heavily, resulting in a different rate-of-change for health bars than I am used to. It was oddly disconcerting. I switched to mainly casting Holy Light every so often, with longer intervals between casts. It seemed like a good strategy, especially with the mana provided from Spiritual Attunement.

The lack of decursive was amusing. I'm out of practice, but it's not too bad, especially since I use sRaidFrames, which dims people who are out of range to you. The one thing we need to work on is tunnel vision. For example, on the Sulfuron Harbinger fight, we were concentrating so much on keeping the tanks cleansed that I think a couple of priests died from DoTs. But so far it doesn't seem that bad.

I am thinking about trying a click-cast mod, and binding Cleanse to my right mouse buttons so I just have to right-click the correct frame. Of course, most mods seem to be in a state of flux at the moment, so I may have to wait a few days.

Hopefully, I'll be able to give this spec a whirl in Blackwing Lair sometime soon. I should also find a decent damage meter so I can actually quantify performance.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Burning Out in Zul'Gurub

I think I'm beginning to suffer a little bit of healer burnout. Curiously, it's not because of Blackwing Lair or the high-end raiding, it's because of ZG.

My guild does casual ZG runs, and I've been on several of them. Lately though, I've begun to not want to go on these runs, even though ZG is probably my favourite raid instance. The problem is that we now outgear ZG--basically just running it for fun, reputation, and profit--and so people are slacking off.

And when other people slack off, the healers have to step up and pay even more attention. And this is kind of annoying. It seems excessive that I have to be in full raid healing gear, or spamming Holy Light, for a ZG run. But it's nuts, people pulling aggro, mages suicide AoE'ing*, not bothering with crowd control, etc. And because we do outgear ZG, and the healers step up, we survive this silliness.

Personally, I find efficient runs to be more fun. Crowd control, tank properly, and focus fire. Killing swiftly and efficiently. Minimize the amount of healing, and the number of people to be healed. Take care of the little things, like making sure the bat boss is tanked far enough away from the raid so that the casters aren't hit with the AoE Silence.

As an example, take the Bloodlord fight. My guild likes killing the raptor first, and then healing the tank through the Bloodlord's Enrage. This strategy, while it does work, is hell on the healers. Yay for an enraged Bloodlord running around 2-shotting people! I find having a couple off-tanks ping-pong the Raptor between them while the rest of the raid kills Bloodlord to be so much easier and less stressful. But because the previous strategy is simple, and we have the gear and healing power to do it, it's what we do.

I've really begun preferring the harder raids. Maybe ZG is easier, and we wipe more with higher repair bills, but people are trying their best, and not making the raid harder than it needs to be.

The worst part about it is that I know that the people in the raid are better than this. That if they actually cared about having an efficient run, we could go through ZG like a hot knife through butter.

* Honestly, if you died the first three times, maybe that's a sign that this is not a good tactic.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Patch Day!

It's Patch Day! Here are some quick notes:

Spirtual Attunement - This works with overhealing!!! Greatest paladin ability ever!

Enchanting menu - much, much needed change. Being able to sort enchants by slot was sorely needed.

Looking For Group menu - looks pretty nice. As always, depends how people use it.

New paladin animations - Blessing of Wisdom is so pretty. I like!

Faster backwards walking - rather unexpected, but pretty nice. Much easier than doing strafing tricks. Should be nice with a mage and Frost Nova.

Buying new spell ranks automatically upgrades your icons on your bars - I love this. I missed this so much when I rerolled from warrior.

Buffs automatically cast correct version on low rank people - Yay for drive-by buffing!

More detailed character info - Very, very nice. More information is always good, and this should stop the debates and guesswork about things like Int to Spell Crit.

All in all, it looks like a very solid patch. Lots of little changes as well.

I respecced 10/0/41, but haven't really gotten a chance to try it out. I have high hopes for Sanctified Crusader and Improved Sanctity Aura. I may end up switching back to something else, but none of the other paladins seemed interested in going Retribution. I really want to see the effect of Sanctified Crusader in a raid.

The biggest decision is still to be made: do I enable my PvP title (Knight-Captain) or not? It is a good rank to display, and has a good sound to it (Knight-Captain Coriel), but it's not a very prestigious title (like Grand Marshal, for instance).

Heh, I haven't even looked at the options for my warlock yet.

Friday, December 01, 2006

BWL Progress

I've been working a lot lately, and haven't been able to play as much WoW as I'd like. It looks like the reshuffle of the schedule did the trick, as we've downed Vaelastraz the Corrupt, Broodlord Lashlayer, Firemaw, Ebonroc, and Flamegor over the last 3 nights. It looks like we might give Chrommaggus a shot if we get enough people on Saturday.

I missed a lot of the kills, but was present for the Broodlord and Flamegor kills. I was even the 6th paladin on Flamegor. I love being the 6th paladin, because then I can go crazy with Blessing of Sacrifice. I really, really wish the tactical blessings didn't overwrite the Greater Blessings.

As an aside, does Flamegor even do damage to non-tanks? I was meleeing him for JoLight, and the only damage I was taking was Sacrifice damage. I thought he actually did damage to the rest of the raid, but I may be confusing him with another of the drakes. Or maybe it was because I was in full FR gear. (He's named Flamegor, I figured it was a reasonable precaution.)

The funniest part about the Broodlord kill is how I joined the raid. I got summoned to the raid while the raid was inside the Suppression gauntlet. I don't even think I had a chance to change into most of my raiding gear before I was plunged into combat. Heh, my guild is slightly crazy, but it's all good.