Illuminated Healing: An Examination of the Holy Paladin Mastery

What is Illuminated Healing?

Illuminated Healing is the holy paladin mastery. It is, to be blunt, underwhelming. It is a stat that I reforge away from and a stat I do not seek out. How does it work? Well, each Flash of Light, Holy Light, Divine Light, Holy Shock, Word of Glory, Light of Dawn and Lay on Hands heal we cast will take 10% of that heal (plus whatever mastery rating you have) and form it into a shield on your target that lasts for 8 seconds. I have 203 mastery rating, which bumps my mastery from the 10% base to somewhere in the realm of 11%. That’s how little I value mastery; I barely have enough of it on my gear to add a single percentage point to my base amount.

According to MMO-Champion, it’s getting a buff in the 4.1 patch. The shields will persist for 15 seconds instead of 8 seconds.

Not only is this increase in duration just as underwhelming as the mastery itself, but it fails to address the problem with our mastery. Our Illuminated Healing shields do not stack; the smaller shields will be overwritten by larger ones and refreshed by smaller ones.

Why is our mastery a shield effect?

The short answer is this was almost certainly Blizzard’s way of compensating for the lack of Sacred Shield. Sacred Shield was a baseline paladin ability that was introduced in Wrath of the Lich King. Originally, you could cast it on multiple targets at once (I’m not quite sure how I managed to heal through Loken in Halls of Lightning without it!) but this was deemed far too powerful and it was then restricted to a single target.

It wasn’t your typical shield, however. When you think of an absorption shield, you likely think of something like Power Word: Shield, the priest ability. While Power Word: Shield is active, it absorbs all incoming damage up to its maximum amount (which is dependent on the spellpower and level of the casting priest). Sacred Shield was a buff that existed on the target you cast it on and, if that person took damage while Sacred Shield was on them, an effect would trigger. This triggered effect was the damage absorption effect and lasted until consumed or for 6 seconds and could only get triggered every six seconds. (4 seconds with the 4pc Tier 8.) It actually was pretty substantial mitigation over the course of a fight when placed on a tank, when specced properly. It wasn’t perfect, but it was unique and it was ours.

They had also incorporated Flash of Light to leave a heal-over-time effect (HoT) on a target that had Sacred Shield on them, which would tick for 100% of the Flash of Light heal over the next 12 seconds. So if my Flash of Light hit for 12,000 on a target with Sacred Shield, they would receive that 12k healing and then receive 1k per second for 12 seconds.

It was nice synergy.

They removed Sacred Shield for Cataclysm. It’s actually returned as a Retribution talent, albeit in a different form. Still, the idea of a short-duration damage absorbing shield was clearly incorporated into the holy paladin mastery.

Why is Illuminated Healing underwhelming?

You’d think that damage absorption would be a good thing, that you would want to stack as much of this as possible. However, in part due to the short duration of the shields (which is, admittedly, getting buffed in 4.1, as previously mentioned), many of the shields are just plain wasted when cast on the raid.

Even on tanks, where you think it would make a large difference, it just isn’t all that effective. Due to the fact that the shield’s size is dependent on the size of the heal (and mastery rating), in order to get even a shield in the realm of 4000 or 5000, you need to be using Divine Light, our large, expensive heal.

Since 100 mastery only increases our shielding by 0.697% (as per Elitist Jerks), the item allocation points are almost certainly better served by reforging to something like haste, which provides 0.78% spell haste for every 100 haste rating. I’m not a math person, but even I can see that I’m gaining more haste for 100 points than I would gain shield power by adding 100 mastery. Since haste leads to a shorter global cooldown and a faster cast time on spells, I personally feel that haste is a better stat than mastery is. Most people tend to agree with me.

So what would be a good mastery for holy paladins?

Ah, the $64,000 question. In order to answer this, we should look at all the other specs and see what their masteries do.

This Wowpedia page is somewhat out of date as there have been several changes to people’s masteries, but it’s a good baseline.

DPS death knights get increased frost or shadow damage. Appropriate.

Tanking death knights get a shield based on a self-heal. Also appropriate.

DPS druids get increased damage from Eclipse or bleeds. Seems fair.

Tanking druids get increased absorption from an ability. Seems in-line with the Blood DKs.

Healing druids get increased healing if their targets already have a HoT on them. That makes sense; HoTs are the staple of druid healing.

Beast Mastery hunters gain more pet damage, Marksmanship hunters get extra shots off and Survival hunters deal more elemental (soon to be “magical”) damage. All of this seems excellent. I know I enjoy Wild Quiver procs when I play my Marksmanship hunter.

Mages also seem pretty appropriate. Arcane mages deal more damage the more mana they have, which is very much in-line with the spec. Arcane has always been about increasing mana, so it stands to reason that good mana conservation/replenishment would add bonus damage. Fire mages gain more periodic fire damage, which is excellent for them, as they have dots flying all over the place. Frost mages deal more damage against frozen targets, which is a staple of the frost spec. All seems well.

Protection paladins gain increased chance to block with their mastery, which is fair. They have a shield and blocking has always been the protection paladin niche.

Retribution paladins gain extra holy damage from Templar’s Verdict, Crusader Strike and Divine Storm with their mastery. Again, this is a staple of the spec.

Discipline priests have increased shield effectiveness, and rightfully so. They are the masters of mitigation.

Holy priests get an extra HoT effect on their direct heals, once again proving that holy priests are the most versatile of all the healing classes, able to take advantage of both direct heals and HoTs.

Shadow priests gain more damage from their shadow orbs. Not that I know what on earth a shadow orb is, but it’s clearly something that deals more damage. It’s in-line with their spec, whether or not it’s good. (It could be, or it could be terrible. I honestly don’t know.)

The rogue masteries all look good, if not at least useful. Assassination’s increases poison damage, Combat’s procs extra off-hand attacks and Subtlety’s increases damage on finishers and Slice and Dice.

Elemental shaman get a version of the Marksmanship hunter’s Wild Quiver, where they have a chance to proc an extra Lightning Bolt or Lava Burst. Enhancement shaman deal more elemental damage, something that is quite handy given the fact that Lava Lash and Lightning Bolt are core parts of their rotations.

Restoration shaman’s healing (all of it, in 4.1) is increased via mastery. Period. It’s a throughput stat for them.

For warlocks, the Affliction spec’s mastery increases, shockingly, periodic shadow damage. Demonology’s increases the pet’s damage and the warlock’s damage when they’re in demon form. Destruction’s mastery increases fire damage done. Again, all in-line with the strength of the spec.

Arms warriors can proc an extra attack with their mastery and Fury warriors improve abilities that cause them to be enraged, as is befitting the spec.

Protection warriors, the other shield-wearing tank class, also get increased chance to block but also have the chance to critically block attacks.

So, let’s see…

Tanks (no shields): Get absorption.
Tanks (shields): Get more block.

DPS: Get more DPS via extra damage appropriate to the spec or extra attacks.

Healers (shaman, druids, holy priests): Get more throughput
Healers (discipline priests, holy paladins): Get more mitigation

Shaman, druids and holy priests all get more throughput via their mastery, as is befitting their specs. They are throughput healers. Discipline priests get more mitigation, which makes sense because they are the mitigation healers.

Why on earth do paladins get mitigation?

We got mitigation because they did away with Sacred Shield in its Wrath of the Lich King form.

It has nothing to do with our spec or our class.

Paladins are the single-target healers. We are the cooldown healers. Paladins have always been a proc-based class, from Reckoning generating extra attacks to Sacred Shield having to have its actual absorption effect be triggered.

It would stand to reason that a holy paladin mastery would incorporate something proccing, something to do with our cooldowns or something to do with single-target healing.

We don’t need the throughput help, since Holy Radiance and Light of Dawn do a good job of boosting us up on the meters (which is all that so many people tend to care about , which makes me sad — but that’s another post for another day!). We could use more mitigation help, but not something that would be overpowered if we were to stack mastery. It would have to be something that would work on a single target, but wouldn’t require us to focus on the single target, given that so many paladins out there have taken to raid healing and just slapping their beacon on a tank. It would also have to affect more than just one spell of ours.

How about if, after casting Hand of Sacrifice, Hand of Protection or Lay on Hands, you had a % chance to generate a new effect? That effect could be a hefty shield, based on your spellpower, mastery rating and character level. It would be cast immediately on the person you cast the spell on and would last until consumed or for 15 seconds. It would have an internal cooldown of ~2 minutes, so you couldn’t spam it by spamming those abilities. It could be called Sacred Armor or something appropriately “holy paladinesque”.

That’s just an idea, but the fact that it’s a proc and it’s procced from our cooldown abilities ties in nicely with how holy paladins have always worked. An internal cooldown would mean holy paladins aren’t completely overpowered. I’m not sold on it, but I think it would encourage more use of our cooldown spells (which so many people still don’t use!) and would give us a bit more mitigation right when we need it, since we’re casting HoSac, BOP and LOH when we’re anticipating a lot of damage or when we’ve seen a lot of damage just hit.

If you could redesign the holy paladin mastery, what would you do?

Proud GM Ramblings

All right, this is the part of the blog where I transform from a source of holy paladin information into a proud GM and proceed to spend the next 1700 words talking about my guild and being a GM.

We got Cho’gall 25 on Tuesday night.

Let me say that again: WE GOT CHO’GALL 25 ON TUESDAY NIGHT. And then promptly went 5/6 in BWD. Oh, and we did Baradin Hold before Cho’gall. Seven bosses in a single night. Our best raid night ever.

Two years ago, we were struggling to recruit and were literally two weeks away from ultimately calling it. At the time, we thought it was forever. I resigned myself to never leading these people again, maybe never even playing with some people ever again. I transferred toons every which way — Kurn to Proudmoore, Madrana to Bronzebeard. The guild was done, but we didn’t disband. I checked in now and again (very rarely, but occasionally!) and saw familiar faces and old friends and always felt so damn sad. I had let these people down. I’d let my own cockiness and arrogance get in the way of being able to field a strong 25-man group, night in and night out. Not that I was deliberately an ass to people, but I didn’t recruit to replace people I’d lost between BC and WotLK and I let some nasty people be overly vocal and that led to more people leaving. People that we just couldn’t replace because we hadn’t progressed enough to get noticed, basically. I’ve felt that my arrogance and overconfidence was the ultimate reason for our downfall. I probably take too much on myself, but it’s how I felt.

We killed Sartharion — +0. (Although we were 5% away from a +1 kill!) We never killed Thaddius, so we never got to look at Sapphiron or Kel’Thuzad. We never got the key to 25-man Eye of Eternity, so we didn’t get to try Malygos.

Wrath of the Lich King was unkind, to understate it, to Apotheosis and I have basically held my breath since restarting this funny old guild of ours. Until Tuesday night.

I overrecruited, determined not to cancel raids, determined to have a solid group of people to be raiders.

We have had 19 25-man raids and have not cancelled a single one. We rescheduled due to the Superbowl, true, but never cancelled. This meant that when one of our warlocks who typically works graveyard ended up oversleeping, we fielded a 24-man raid until he woke up and joined us. We got through it.

We’ve dealt with the loss of two of our four original tanks on the roster, we’ve lost some cherished old-time members and some newer members to that pesky thing called “real life” and honestly, some people just didn’t end up making the cut. Ultimately, we haven’t had the smoothest six resets ever. Our raiding roster has gone from 39 to 27 and back up to 33.

What we have done, however, is improve. Each week, we keep killing things we killed the previous week and it keeps getting cleaner. I’ve started dropping healers on a couple of fights now that I trust people not to stand in the bad and, last Thursday, we shaved a full minute off our fastest Valiona & Theralion kill.

We had a ninja pull on Tuesday on Magmaw (I think it was a hunter who pulled by mistake, but that’s fine) and you know what? We did just fine. Clean kill, one-shot. Not a problem. Granted, not something I desperately want to relive, but it was fine.

This is in contrast to some of our raids back in Burning Crusade. We could go in and clear 5/6 SSC, getting everyone but Vashj down in one raid night, but the next week, we’d spend half the night wiping to Leotheras the Blind or Karathress. Occasionally, Tidewalker or Lurker.

We eventually got better at consistently clearing content, but the progress we’ve made in our six resets is far beyond what we experienced in Burning Crusade’s Apotheosis.

It’s sort of expected and standard and such, at least for me, to always repeat kills with a lot less effort than the original kill. After spending months in ICC working on regular modes, then heroic modes, I’m very used to wiping a lot and then mastering the fight and it’s on farm.

I’ve never really had that in Apotheosis until now.

Also, while not everyone adores each other, we’re not total dicks! There’s none of that idle chatter full of profanity and perjorative slurs that tend to accompany progressed raid guilds. We do swear (I do a lot!), but there’s no talk of “raping” that boss, or how “gay” something is. There is a lot of mocking of me (and Majik!) but the chatter is fun, harmless stuff. It’s not full of barely-concealed self-loathing or veiled (or not-so-veiled!) references to violence against women.

Of course, none of that is permitted as per our guild policies, but it’s really a striking difference to me. Most raid guilds I was in during Wrath had no such policies (Choice of Skywall is the exception — and they’re recruiting holy paladins! Go apply now!) and it was tiring to log on and hear 20-something year olds talk continually about how “gayly” they were just “raped” by someone. :P

The members are quality people. Good players. Some are still struggling a bit and adjusting, but they’re getting there and everyone on the roster is there for a reason.

And what’s amazing is that we really are turning into a team, where it doesn’t matter that people weren’t there two years ago. We only had ten “old-timers” in on our Cho’gall kill. I’m no longer thinking of people as groups of people I know from other guilds or other servers, but really, truly thinking of them as my guildies. There’s a contingent of four people with whom I raided on Bronzebeard and they brought another shadow priest and another DK along. And for a bit, I thought of them as “the Bronzebeard people”. All six of them were there on Tuesday for the kill and not once did I think of them as anything apart from “my guildies”.

So Tuesday night, I could breathe again. The guild that I had painstakingly reassembled had finally really come into itself. We killed our first end boss of the expansion. Together. On 25-man.

The tension and stress mostly melted away as soon as we got the kill. The guild has momentum. Doesn’t mean I can slack off, but it means that the guild has achieved stuff and I am no longer holding the guild together through sheer willpower. ;) It means that people are invested now. We sweated through Twilight Ascendant Council. We worked on Cho’gall. We nearly cried on Atramedes, I swear. We have in-jokes. We have shared experiences that bind us together.

Five years from now, even if I’m not playing anymore, I will always remember that we always wanted to kill Majik with the Atramedes trash. I’ll always remember priests levitating off the elevator… into Nefarian’s lava. I’ll always remember how Shadowcry fell off the edge of Halfus’ platform or how Dayden and Fog got thrown into the same lava when blown back by adds on V&T trash. I’ll always remember how I was laughing so hard, I could hardly breathe, much less heal through trash, while my guildies mocked my fail computer and likened it to an abacus. I’ll remember how one of our shadow priests was mangled by Magmaw, that one time.

I’ll remember the perseverence the guild showed when we had an abysmal time on Council the week before we killed them, on that rescheduled raid night. We came roaring back the next night and went 5/6 in BWD and then killed Halfus for fun.

I’ll remember the strength of character the raiders continually show me when I swap them out and they step out without a complaint.

We sat eight people on the Cho’gall kill. Tia, Raisa, Andy, Hestiah, Onemanshort, Hulrok, Fidjet and Traellus. It wasn’t easy to sit most of them — although in some cases, lack of gear was the determining factor, which made it a little easier. But I won’t forget that not a one of them raged about it. Not a one of them said anything more than “man, wish I were there with you guys!” and even then, just once, if that. They all recognized that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. They congratulated us.

All 33 people who signed up and showed up tonight are team players.

And if it weren’t for that attitude that is apparently shared by us all, we wouldn’t be sitting at 9/12, with Conclave on the schedule for Thursday, ready to pop us up to 10/12.

If it weren’t for people being there for us, willing to push through things, willing to wipe and learn and get better and willing to sit or swap in or whatever the raid needs, we’d still be failing to Valiona & Theralion or Atramedes.

But we aren’t still failing to those fights… because our people are awesome.

I know the ranks really aren’t that accurate, but WoWprogress says that we’re US 979 for Cho’gall 25, which is something like 2000 ranks better than we ever saw in BC. We’re technically realm third in 25s, but one of the 25-man guilds has split into two teams of 10s, so we’re really the #2 25-man guild on the server. Our rank may say 10th, or 3rd, or whatever, depending what you look at, but we’re keeping up. (Hell, GuildOx says we’re #1 in 25-man progress… go figure!) And even if we weren’t, what matters is that we keep pushing. We pushed progression on Tuesday by not resetting Bastion. We’ll push progression on Thursday when we take on Conclave and play with Al’Akir.

We’re pushing, we’re progressing.

We got Cho’gall 25 down on Tuesday night. I know it’s one of three end-bosses in entry-level raid content and that, a year from now, most no one will care.

But I care now. And I’ll care then.

Because this is my guild, made up of people I’ve known for years, raided with during Wrath or gotten to know because of this blog. This is the guild that I have painstakingly assembled, piece by piece, bit by bit, all in the hopes that things wouldn’t backfire hideously on me.

The first test has been passed: Cho’gall 25 down, Bastion of Twilight 25 cleared.

This might actually end up working after all.

Tuesday Terrific-ness

Here’s some random news!

1) A commenter named Imak pointed out the flaw in my math/gem selection in my meta gem post from a couple of weeks ago. I double-checked the math and gem selection today (since I finally had a few free minutes!) and have edited the post. It doesn’t change the post substantially, nor does it alter my choice to want to try out the Revitalizing Shadowspirit Diamond, but my math on the Bracing and Revitalizing was wrong. I was thinking of the old green cut that was intellect/spirit instead of spirit/mastery, but basically thought the gem was intellect/mastery. It’s actually spirit/mastery. Whoopsiedoodle. So that’s fixed. Thanks again to Imak for pointing out my error and I’m sorry it took me forever to actually fix it!

2) Episode 4 of Blessing of Frost is out, guest-starring the tank officer of Apotheosis, Dayden. It comes in at a massive 95 minutes (!) and I assure everyone that our aim is no more than 1h15m for most podcasts. We’ve just had a lot to cover and we’re still finding our rhythm. Anyways, go listen and rate us up on iTunes if you like the show! :)

3) Madrana’s at 84 and 16%. Gotta finish up Deepholm and then go to Uldum to start Ramkahen rep. I’m really looking forward to dungeoning with the guildies, both normals and heroics. (I may be horrified at the possibility of heroic Stonecore, mind you.)

4) I was horrified to learn that the top guild on Eldre’Thalas, the Horde guild Echelon, is already 3/12. Gah. Time to get our asses in gear, even on 10-man. I’ve set up an unofficial 10-man raid for next Tuesday and I don’t even know WHERE we’ll go, but chances are we’ll try out Baradin Hold (is that even the name of it?!) and maybe play in Blackwing Descent. Time to make a splash!

And on that note, I should spend the next while before realms come back up studying strats for various entry-level bosses…

An Annoyance

Those of you who are long-term readers may recall a post I made over a year ago. On November 9th, 2009, I posted about missing Apotheosis. That followed a post from June 4th, 2009 where I informed everyone to prevent me from doing the whole GM thing again. (And no one did. Typical! ;D)

Basically, I have been working to get Apotheosis back together for over a year.

A year.

While raiding from 11pm-2am with my RL friend the Resto Druid or 9pm-12am with Choice (in need of holy pallies for Cata!), I was also getting back in touch with people. Making plans. Setting up forums. Organizing people. Inviting people back to Apotheosis from my level 4 toon.

When Cataclysm launches on December 7th, that will be the real start of a new era in Apotheosis history. But all the work that went into ensuring there WOULD be a new era in Apotheosis history is crazy. It’s been a long, long road. Assembling officers. Checking in with people. Making sure people are still around and interested. More recently, interviews, loot rules, forums, recruitment videos, 10 and 25-man raids…

I’ve put a lot of effort into this over the last year and certainly a lot since 4.0 hit and I moved Madrana home to Eldre’Thalas.

None of this annoys me.

What annoys me is the people who clearly haven’t put a moment’s thought into expansion plans.

I’m talking about a mage app who applied with a bad spec, bad gems, bad gear and bad grammar who said they’d decided to make the mage their main. Really? Did you decide to make your mage your main five minutes ago? Looks that way from the effort you’ve put into the toon. Nice spirit gems, by the way, and that green trinket is just to die for.

I’m talking about guilds out there who haven’t started retooling their rosters and recruiting. Seriously? How have you not started to prepare, yet? I’ve been preparing for a YEAR and you, yes you, with your raid group that’s 11/12 ICC 25HM while working on HLK attempts, how are YOU less prepared than I am?

It’s true that when you’re running a guild, you have a lot less time to prepare for the future than someone who’s “just” a raider. I’m deluged in emails and private messages this week. I get it. But good leaders don’t assume anything. A good GM and officer team checks in with their members and keeps checking in. Just because I have… 39 people on my Google Docs spreadsheet does NOT mean that come the first planned raid date, we’ll have 39 people ready to raid.

I’ll have to make sure that everyone listed HAS the expansion and is over on Eldre’Thalas. I’ll have to make sure that everyone’s levelling at a reasonable rate or maybe drop them from consideration for that first raid. And depending on how hard it is to finish dungeons and heroics and gear up, we might even have to push our first raid date back a week or two.

This is what annoys me — I’m already working 3-4 weeks down the road and looking at problems that may arise. And so many people aren’t making plans, aren’t trying to work around potential problems, aren’t even bothering to discuss stuff.

I realize that plans aren’t that important in terms of RL priorities, especially during the holiday season, but if you play this game as a raider — or you want to play the game as a raider — how have you not been thinking this stuff through already when I’ve been doing this for a year, now? Raiders and guilds alike, I see so many people completely unprepared and it’s like, well what have you been DOING since Cataclysm was announced?!

The people who haven’t done 4.0 research for their classes just make me sad.

The guilds who haven’t got planned raid dates and deadlines make me facepalm.

These are going to be the people complaining out the wazoo when Cata hits and they can’t immediately queue for a dungeon because they don’t know where the entrance is yet. These are the people who will be mystified that half their guild has left for another guild because they weren’t ready to raid, yet.

I see so much disorganization that is going to lead to a huge wakeup call, which will lead to so much complaining, which, God willing, will not lead to demanded nerfs or buffs.

As a result of this general state of unpreparedness that I’m witnessing, plus my experience in going through the BC and Wrath expansion transitions, here are three predictions:

Fearless prediction #1: Random dungeons will suck for a minimum of 3-4 months, probably closer to 6. Random heroics will possibly suck until people really outgear them, meaning the first raid tier (T11) being available to the general public, so this is looking at when the second raid tier comes out (T12).

Fearless prediction #2: Guilds who have been recruiting and plotting out dates, deadlines and plans will be much better at dealing with issues that crop up mid-January than those who haven’t even started to plan things out.

Fearless prediction #3: I’m not going to feel prepared enough because there’s ALWAYS curve balls thrown at guilds during expansion transitions, but, by golly, Apotheosis will prosper because my officers and I actually care about the people and the guild and we will do what we need to in order to hit those curve balls out of the park.

I feel a bit better for having ranted.

Coming soon: pre-raid gear suggestions!

Progression & Finishing Raid Content

It dawned on me a little while ago that, although I’ve had a very successful run in Wrath of the Lich King on a personal level, something was missing. Something other than the awesome feeling of progressing with Apotheosis, that is.

Back in the day, pre-Burning Crusade, I wanted to finish raid instances. It always pissed me off that we got through Golemagg, and no further, in Molten Core as the guild Fated Heroes. It always pissed me off that we never did get Onyxia down as a guild. I didn’t care much for AQ20, mind you, but I was SUPER happy we cleared Zul Gurub several times — including Jin’do.

In Burning Crusade, as Apotheosis, we finished every instance we focused on raiding, from Karazhan (including Nightbane) through Black Temple. True, we didn’t even get Kalecgos down in Sunwell Plateau, but we’d spent precisely one raid night there actually trying to kill a boss, so I’ll forgive us that. When you realized that we only killed Maulgar and Gruul eight months after the expansion launched, I think we caught up pretty well by the end of Burning Crusade.

The beginning of Wrath was tumultuous for the guild and we stopped raiding officially in early March of 2009. We didn’t get Thaddius down. Nor did we have any adds on Sarth. And we didn’t even have a key for Malygos.

It was the plan to clear Naxx and get Sarth with 3 drakes. It was definitely the plan.

When I went to Bronzebeard to continue raiding, I was joining a guild that had cleared Naxx and done 3 drakes (like, once?) and killed Malygos. The guild was clearing content at the appropriate level, while content was still current. I had never been in a guild that was doing exactly that. I mean, Apotheosis was finishing up Hyjal and Black Temple when other guilds were farming Kil’jaeden. Fated Heroes was wayyyyy behind the curve when you looked at Eternal Force and Epic Again who were chilling out in Naxx.

So it was exciting for me to be part of a guild that was clearing the content. I got T7 cleared, in T7 gear, including Sarth 3D, pre-Ulduar. That was awesome.

And then came Ulduar. Ulduar launched on April 14th.

That night, my Bronzebeard guild got server-first Shutout (world 26th! I know, not a big deal, but still!). The next night, server-first A Quick Shave (world 905. Much less impressive.) and then, after a solid four hour night of wiping on XT, we got him the next night after that, getting server-second Nerf Engineering.

Server-fourth Antechamber of Ulduar achievement, server-first I Choose You Runemaster Molgeim (world 296) wrapped up April for us.

Things were looking good.

Over time, we did the following hard modes:

4-minute Ignis, Knock on Wood, 4 tower FL, Heartbreaker… and that’s about it, really. Never got Hodir’s hard mode, nor Thorim’s. Never even tried Mimiron and Firefighter. Never saw the Saronite Animus. Didn’t do Steelbreaker last. And I wasn’t in the raid when they did 3 Lights for the fail!priest’s forging of Val’anyr.

TOC came out and Ulduar felt half-finished. No way of trying Algalon and half the hard modes weren’t something we were capable of doing.

I changed guilds in September, to my RL Friend the Resto Druid’s guild.

The guild I joined was ranked 190th in the world, server-second, for One Light. A bit of a difference, no? I didn’t join for progression, but I knew I’d get more of it there than on Bronzebeard, since the guild was barely even raiding due to the emo /gquit of the raid leader.

I showed up and we cleared regular TOC 25 on the Sunday raid and spent some hours on the Monday raid killing heroic Beasts. One night. That’s all it took. My Bronzebeard guild had tried 36? 37? times over two resets to do heroic Beasts. The new guild had been finishing up stuff in Ulduar before focusing on hard mode 25-man stuff in TOC.

So heroic Beasts die Monday, then on Tuesday, they die again and we get heroic Jaraxxus. Heroic Faction Champs on the next reset. Then a MONTH before Twin Valks die, on October 26th.

ICC came out on December 8th.

We spent six weeks working on heroic Anub’arak. And in that time, we also took down Algalon on 25-man. It felt good, having killed every boss in Ulduar, even if not all on heroic. With my new guild, I’d also gotten Steelbreaker Last and 3 Lights, but Algalon was dead and that was awesome. It felt like this guild had finished Ulduar and I was a part of that.

Six weeks of work on heroic Anub’arak with a warrior add tank who insisted on tanking all the adds himself and not wearing the proper block/avoidance gear. This was the abusive RL/MT who just wouldn’t cut anyone slack, but it was FINE if he showed up in his stam gear. Seriously.

And then ICC opened. Until the Plagueworks were opened up on January 5th, we were still raiding TOGC, still trying to get Anub’arak down. It was painful. It was brutal. And we never did it.

We did go 12/12 ICC 25 regular. We went 11/12 ICC 25 hard modes. I even went 11/12 ICC 25 hard modes with a second guild.

But no 12/12. No “The Light of Dawn” title. (Still want to see a video of someone with the Light of Dawn title CASTING Light of Dawn!)

So it dawned on me… I basically did not finish the last three tiers of content in this expansion.

That’s unacceptable.

When did 11/12 hard modes become an acceptable stopping point? That’s like spawning Ragnaros and never killing him. That’s like getting right up there to Illidan and just staring at his face. Seriously. I didn’t get all the hard modes in Ulduar. I got to 4/5 TOGC. I got to 11/12 ICC25 HM.

Why on earth is this acceptable? Why are 4/5 and 11/12 considered “progressed”?

US 202 for Glory of the Icecrown Raider (25) was great. But why did we stop there? Why did I leave when they were doing heroic Lich King?

I couldn’t handle the toxic environment anymore. Every day that I stayed in that guild, I fervently wished I were back on Eldre’Thalas with Apotheosis. But Apotheosis wasn’t raiding. So it was off to Skywall I went, where I was welcomed with open arms and people weren’t total assholes. People were skilled players, good people and they were driven. Why did they stop at 11/12 HM? Time ran out. The patch hit. Official raids stopped.

And so it was time for me to come home.

It’s not an easy thing in this game to find a group of people who are skilled AND friendly, who do things at a reasonable pace, who aren’t a full tier behind.

This expansion, Apotheosis will be that. For me, for my officers, for my guildies. We all deserve a place to be where we can chuckle over accidentally BOPping a tank or mocking someone who failed at an elevator boss. We all deserve a guild where we can buckle down and get something done, even if it is on the infamous last attempt of the night. We all deserve the stability and strength from a solid group of officers who know their classes, who know their roles, who work well together as a team.

We deserve it and Cataclysm will be our time to claim success and joy such as we’ve never seen before. It’ll be the exuberance of a guild-first Vashj kill with the efficiency of Hyjal wave kills. It’ll be the laughter from DIing a tank combined with the skill that allows a group of 10 to conquer the Lich King without really having talked about Phase 3.

Four weeks to go.

Bring it on.

Guild Recruitment & Roster Management

Recruitment. Just that one word makes me want to run for my mommy. Of all the administrative tasks a guild has to handle, recruitment is the one I most loathe.

“Is this too many melee DPS? Wait, do we need more ranged? Is five warlocks on the roster really too many? Wait, I thought we had like six resto druids…”

Apotheosis is getting very close to being basically full for Cataclysm’s launch. Actually, we’re probably already sitting at full, but there’s always something that will come up and throw a monkey wrench in our plans. You have to allow for RL emergencies, RL schedule changes, RL issues in general, as well as burnout, general malaise, boredom and the like.

Not to mention the fact that our raid attendence requirement is 75% over four weeks. That means an average of 2 nights a week and then one week where you raid for 3 nights, to maintain Raider status.

So if the typical raid requires, say, six healers, you need a minimum of 8 or so on the roster in order to mathematically make sure you’re covered in terms of attendence.

If the typical raid requires 2-3 tanks, you want to make sure you have 4 who can all do the job at about the same level of competency (ie: not using potentially poorly-geared offspec tanks to start out).

Plus, you kind of want things to be relatively balanced. At least I do. I don’t think five of one spec/class is a good thing, but we currently have five warlocks interested; two destro, one demo, one aff and one undecided. Does five warlocks screw us over? No, but it makes fitting them all into a raid more difficult if every one of them shows up on the same night.

I’m working on a second recruitment/pre-Cata video right now. I hope to have that up tomorrow sometime and a third one up in two weeks. And then a “ZOMG CATACLYSM” video the day before launch.

It’s kind of weird, recruiting for a guild that hasn’t done a whole lot this expansion. I mean, if you want to get really technical, we’ve gotten up to Thaddius in Naxx 25, got Sarth (no adds) and didn’t get Maly.

That’s sad.

In the couple of weeks pre-4.0, we did get to 11/12 ICC 10.

And this last week, we got Lower Spire and Plagueworks down, Blood Prince Council down and Valithria Dreamwalker rescued.

So, really, 9/12 ICC 25 (regular!) isn’t terribly impressive.

Until such time as we get a couple heroic modes under our belts, I’m recruiting based on the success we had in BC. Yeah. Not a lot of people particularly care what we did two years ago. ;)

Still, we’re filling up those spots on the roster and getting there.

I’ve posted to the Alliance recruitment forums (old and new), the realm forum (old), MMO-Champion, WoWhead forums, LookingForGuild.net and edited our info on Wowprogress.

Anywhere else I should post? Like, where do rogues hang out? Seriously. WTB a rogue or two. And an enhancement shammy!

Kurn's Healing Lead Philosophy

Tonight, November 2nd, 2010, Apotheosis will step into ICC 25 for the first time as a guild. Indeed, this will be the first 25-man raid we’ve run together since Naxxramas and Obsidian Sanctum back in February of 2009.

For the first time since then, I’ll be a raid leader in a 25-man group. And for the first time since April or so of 2010, I’ll be the healing lead.

I’m not the most fantastic raid leader. I am, however, a pretty darn good healing lead. I’m good at distributing resources, I’m good at identifying issues the healers may be having and I try my best to assign people based on their strengths both as a class and as a player.

So tonight, I get to test out my healing lead skills (along with the raid leading skills — gah! Suddenly, I’m glad that I did some ICC10s with the guild pre-4.0…) and get to look at (and thus, evaluate) some players for the first time.

While thinking about how I’m going to work things tonight, I thought I’d share a bit about my healing lead philosophy, which seems so different from many others I’ve seen or heard about.

1) Clarity of Instructions. I’m going to give you clear instructions as to who your target is. I will rarely say “you two, you’re on tanks, everyone else on raid”. I will assign you a tank and, taking a cue from my most recent healing lead, if you’re “on raid” I will probably assign you a group or two. If there’s confusion as to where to stand, I’ll assign that as well. (My healers from my Bronzebeard guild may recall the detailed guide I had for where to stand on Freya!)

2) Asking for Feedback. After a new fight (wipe or not) I will generally ask the healers how that was. Was anyone too stressed? Was anyone bored? Does anyone have any suggestions for the next time that would make things a little easier or better spread out? Back when my Bronzebeard guild was learning Yogg, this kind of feedback was invaluable. Same with when my RL friend’s guild was learning LK. Remember that feedback from healers doesn’t mean you have to take their suggestions or anything. It just means being aware of their perceptions of the fight. Remember that sometimes people will see things you won’t.

3) Having a Sense of Humour/Being Understanding. People make mistakes. It’s exceedingly difficult to wrangle 25 people together and do something “right” on the first attempt. The raid group is made up of people, too. I don’t have too much of a problem wiping the first few pulls on a boss, so long as we learn from each mistake. And as long as we’re learning, it’s all cool. If someone stands in fire for the third pull in a row, I’m less understanding. But for the most part, I’m a fairly understanding raid leader and healing lead. Perhaps a little too forgiving, but I don’t want to have an environment where people are afraid. Fear is a terrible motivator. I want to motivate people to do better because they want to do their best for the team, not because they’re scared Kurn is going to yell. (Although when I yell, you better freaking watch out… ;D)

Perhaps the best example of having a sense of humour about things is this one time on Yogg-Saron, where one of our healers didn’t get inside before someone started the fight. I was laughing so hard I was crying, particularly as this priest was using /say to crack us all up. Like /say Knock, knock? and such.

I mean, at that point, you already know the attempt will be more difficult than it should be, and may even result in a wipe, so why not laugh about it?

4) Understanding How the Classes Work Together. This is actually what’s got me a little worried about tonight, since I don’t really feel all that comfortable with the various changes. Obviously, I know how paladin healing has changed and I know chunks about how holy priests and disc priests have changed, but resto druids remain a little bit mysterious to me and I’m basically hoping that shammies haven’t changed much at all. ;)

When approaching a fight, you need to know how to divide your resources, though. Six healers? Who’s on the tanks? Who’s on raid? How do you make that decision? Part of it is what the classes are capable of, obviously. In the pre-4.0 world, you never would have put a holy paladin on anything but a tank (or a single target who is taking obscene amounts of damage). Now, however, druids can do some outstanding single-target healing, so while you probably still won’t want a holy paladin on “the raid”, you can probably put a druid on a tank to help pick up the slack from a paladin’s gimped Beacon of Light, which will allow the druid to help out on the raid as well.

(Probably.)

5) Understanding How Your Players Like to Play. No matter what’s more efficient or what’s “better”, you will undoubtedly run into healers who are not team players and will grumble and complain about how you’re wasting their awesome talents by assigning them to X or Y instead of Z. Usually this behaviour is seen in those who place a great deal of importance on healing meters instead of on their job, which is to keep people up.

If a shaman does terribly at doing anything but spamming Chain Heal, but does BRILLIANTLY at that, then they’re obviously going to be happier spamming Chain Heal and will probably look for ways in order to do that and “cheat” on their assignments. So head it off at the pass and, if you value them as a team member, assign them to what they’re going to do anyways. Of course, if you can swap them out for someone more team-oriented, that’s probably the best choice, but if you can’t (and who has a plethora of spare healers?) then try to work with them.

6) Know What You’re Seeing When Examining Parses. The worst thing to do in terms of evaluating a healer is to look at where they stand on the full report of healing, or even just the boss fights. It’s terrible. It doesn’t take into account anything like movement, assignments, cleansing, etc. What I look at, in order:

a) All healing done during all bosses: Just to get an idea of things. If all my healers are clustered nicely around 15% of healing done, sweet. But they probably aren’t. Looking at this doesn’t mean whoever tops it is godly. Rather, a large spread means that there may be problems in assignments or how the healer followed assignments. It’s telling you what to look at when you look at the individual fights.

b) Healing done on individual fights: Did we lose people? If so, how? Was it DPS failing to move out of the fire or was a healer slacking? Was it a tank death? What was that tank’s healer doing? This is where I get an idea of where the fight went wrong and if it was preventable and what healers were doing at that time. I will dig into the log browser and expression editor here. Was a healer locked out of all their spells thanks to Curse of Torpor and THAT’S why their tank died? If so, it’s a mage or druid or resto shammy fail for not cleansing the curse in time. That sort of thing.

c) Overhealing: Was overhealing a problem? Were people sniping other people’s heals? Overhealing can show if people are respecting assignments or not and can also show you if your assignments aren’t right. For example, if you have 7 healers and all of them have 65%+ overheal, drop a healer!

d) Abilities used: What were the primary spells your healers were casting? Is what they were doing right? Wrong? Unsure?

e) Uptimes: If your paladins aren’t keeping Judgements of the Pure up over 90% of the time during boss encounters, that’s a fail, for example.

7) Communicate With Your Team. If you see issues with your healers, tell them about it! Don’t just assume it’s going to fix itself. And be specific. Don’t be all “yo, dawg, don’t be fail”. Say something like “You know, I noticed that your Prayer of Mending use wasn’t very high, but it’s really something you should endeavour to use on cooldown as much as you can.” Being tactful here is key. And if you don’t understand why they’re doing something, ask them! “Hey, I was wondering, why are you using X glyph instead of Y? I’d love to hear the reasoning. From what I’ve read, X is more efficient, but I’d love to know if it’s not the recommended one!”

Basically, my healing lead philosophy is one that encourages teamwork, feedback, communication and specific instructions. It’s also a lot of work for the healing lead because you have to do your research and talk to your healers, which is something a lot of people don’t have time for, nor do they bother to make time.

I tend to either have the time or make the time for it and all the healers I’ve worked with in this game have noticed it. Trust me, healing leads — that extra five minutes you spend with a healer of yours can be the difference between them thinking you’re a snob who never has time for them or thinking that you’re pretty awesome and you know your stuff.

Live Realms Updates

Just a few thoughts flitting about my brain.

1) I got the ZG achievement today with my brother. The funny thing is that we’d both cleared ZG, many moons ago, back probably during the summer of 2006. I’d even cleared it on my hunter, the toon I’d gone with today. Hell, back in the day, I was one of the kiters of the windserpents you kill to poison you, which poisons Hakkar, blah, blah, etc.

Today, my brother and I went in and killed all the aspects plus Gahz’ranka and Mandokir (no Jin’do, though), then did Hakkar. Remarkably easy, sad to say.

I got the Heart of Hakkar and turned it in — had I done this pre-BC, when I was actively running ZG with Fated Heroes, I would have had the achievement on Kurn already. Anyways, it was nice to go in and kill Hakkar again. I can’t remember the last time I did it.

All that rep plus 18 Zandalar Honor Tokens (from bijou and coin turn-ins) and I am 2130 rep from exalted with the Zandalar tribe. I’ve been running ZG for a couple of weeks, farming the Tome of Polymorph Turtle and for mounts and such, but mostly because Kurn deserves to be exalted. Zul’Gurub was my first raid instance (outside of raid groups for dungeons, back in the day) and it was such an amazing sense of accomplishment to have seen my guild progress from taking 3 hours to kill Venoxis to 20-minute Venoxis runs, from wiping on Jek’lik to clearing the instance, including Jin’do.

I’m going to have a proper post about this, soon, but Zul’Gurub deserves better treatment. Zul’Gurub is the reason I started playing this game (that’s a long story, but I’ll explain it in my other post) and it’s being removed for Cataclysm.

ZG is my favourite raid instance, bar none, and is filled with memories of each and every pull and each and every boss. I can take you there and show you where this one warlock always seemed to fall off the bridge on his way to Venoxis. I can take you there and show you how half the raid always seemed to hug the bat riders. I can show you the first bugged fish we ever saw, who actually followed people up on to land and evade bugged while killing us.

So Kurn’s going to finish repping up with those Zandalarian trolls. And I’m glad I finally got the official achievement for an instance I’ve spent so much time in.

2) Somehow, I keep getting roped into doing ICC10 with my brother on the weekends. This whole “DPS” thing is so very strange. I find myself clicking raid frames to try to cleanse people. Actually having to pay attention to what’s happening on the game field, you know, like adds and stuff? Boss health? hahaha, so very, very foreign.

I’ve gotten darn good at dropping snake traps on Putricide, though, and using Disengage in a variety of situations. Juggling disco balls on BPC, well, I’m getting there. ;)

3) New raid lockout system. I like it. I hate 10s and the only reason I’m doing 10s with my brother is because hey, it’s my brother. So I won’t be bitching and moaning about it. We are stuck with the new system in old content for like, a maximum of two months. I understand it means some 10s or 25s are adversely affected and that’s too bad. But I love the new system’s idea. I wouldn’t have implemented it now, were I in charge, but I think it’s fine. <shrug>

4) In terms of live raiding, we nearly 24-manned heroic Putricide until, at 17%, our third tank got DCed. The wheels kind of fell off the bus after that, even after he reconnected a few minutes later. I know I spent most of the rest of the raid laughing my ass off, which is entirely the fault of my GM and my RL. Hope to get heroic Putricide down on Monday and then work on Sindragosa, really. That would be sweet.

Speaking of my current guild, my GM and RL want me to go to the guild meetup in Vegas next year, which would mean my saying to Apotheosis: “Sorry guys, can’t raid for the next few days, I’m going to VEGAS with my OTHER guild!” This still amuses me greatly, but it’s not why they were cracking me up. Seriously, I’m going to miss casting Hammer of Justice on my GM while one of us is MCed on Lady Deathwhisper. I’m going to miss my RL calling the triangle “panties”. I’m going to miss the vast majority of the raiders in this guild, particularly this one gnome mage, who is definitely my second-favourite active mage and in my top five of all-time mages. (Majik, Tandrace, Dar, then probably this mage and then Kylon, I think.)

5) Apotheosis will be opening recruitment soooooon. We’ve already snagged a few people with whom I was at least vaguely acquainted, but keep your eyes peeled for an announcement at our website:

http://www.apotheosis-now.com/

Okay, time to grab a drink and go lead ICC10.

Being a Woman who Raids

A lot of people have been blogging lately about sort of feminist topics. In particular, Ophelie’s post caught my attention. Not only did she link me (thanks!) but she linked me under “hardcore”. Oddly, “hardcore” is not how I would personally define myself, but that’s a blog entry for another day. (And I don’t take offense, I just find it a curious label. It should be noted that she’s actually changed that heading to read “PvE Progression Focused Female Players” now, though.) Also, I really liked Codi’s recent post about social privilege and WoW and Blizzard being a business.

So in the midst of all these posts (there are so many that I couldn’t possibly link all the ones I’ve read recently), I realized I had a lot of things to say. I don’t really talk much here about being a woman in this game or the strange reactions I get when it’s discovered that I AM, in fact, female, or how I deal with people’s reactions. I also haven’t spoken much about the lack of other capable women at high-end levels. This seems like a perfect time to address some issues and throw my own views out there.

Continue reading “Being a Woman who Raids”

Hunter Stuff

When I first started playing this game, I started off with a male night elf hunter named Kurnmogh. Kurn was my raiding toon throughout Vanilla. Kurn is the toon who did the Tier .5 questline. Kurn is the toon who got attuned to places and cared about rep. Kurn was the toon I was on when learning to raid lead. Kurn was basically awesome, considering the utter lack of content my old guild cleared. To this day, my Rhok’delar quest is one of my cherished memories.

Throughout the years, I have done more and more stuff on my paladin. Three months into Burning Crusade, I was raiding on the paladin, never to look back at the hunter. Sure, I got to get in on our Tidewalker kill on Kurn, sure, I got to get in on our Gorefiend kill on Kurn, but Madrana has been my raiding toon since April of 2007.

And even then, I insisted all those who knew me previously as Kurn continue to call me Kurn.

This blog is called Kurn’s Corner because, well, I like the alliteration, but also because when I play WoW, I really still feel like Kurn is my main. I do all the stupid shit on Kurn. I did all the holiday stuff on Kurn, I’m still working on a screenshot project on Kurn, I did a Sarth 10 3d zerg on Kurn just last week.

Sometimes, it really saddens me to see just how much I ignore poor ol’ Kurn. Haven’t done much more than the weekly and maybe a daily random or two on the hunter for a month, and not even the weekly all that often. I just don’t have the time to raid 12 hours a week on the pally, go through parses, write blogs, do RL stuff AND do anything significant with my hunter.

But I managed to get my four-piece T10 on Kurn today. I have the 251 helm, chest and shoulders and the 264 gloves, plus the Leggings of Northern Lights and, of course, Zod’s Repeating Longbow.

I’m not quite “done” for the expansion on Kurn, exactly — I still have a couple of projects in mind — but I felt such a sense of completion when I picked up my helm today after my daily! Sure, my shaman, priest, druid and mage are all thoroughly neglected, sitting in various pieces of T9, if they’re lucky, but it was important for me to get Kurn a nice gearset of T10. It’s not a matter of ego, it’s not even really a matter of pride. It’s a matter of my remembering my roots, remembering that there was a time when I topped damage in Molten Core, remembering that there was a time when I was the go-to kiter for Hakkar adds, remembering that there was a time when people wouldn’t run with a hunter in my old guild, unless it was me.

Kurn may not be my main raiding character in Wrath. Kurn may not have been my main raiding character in Burning Crusade. Kurn may not even be my main raiding character in Cataclysm. But Kurn is still an important part of my in-game identity and that old hunter deserved the effort I went through to get some semblance of decent gear.

I feel satisfied by the effort I’ve put into the hunter this expansion. I might be a little disappointed that I may never kill the Lich King as a hunter, although I admit that the responsibility of tranq shotting the horrors is more than a little overwhelming. I haven’t been responsible for tranq shotting anything significant since Magmadar.

But as we come to the end of Wrath of the Lich King, I feel like Kurn’s done a lot. I’ve done parts of all the major instances on the hunter — cleared Naxx, done chunks of Ulduar, done the Lower Spire a ton of times, done Ony, VOA over and over again and played in Ruby Sanctum one night.

It’s been a good expansion for Kurn and I like that I have 4pc T10 to show for it.