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Archive for March, 2010

Pairs Leveling: The Druid

After doing the warrior post I decided it would be better to focus on the characters I know best. My top level Warrior is languishing at 59, whereas I have two max level druids.

Druids are outstanding pairs leveling characters.  I highly recommend them. They are survivable, have good dps, and have multiple ways they can be leveled. They stand with paladins as the only classes that can be all three roles: dps, healing and tank. They stand alone as the only class that can play all FOUR roles: healing, tank, melee dps and ranged dps.

They make a good choice for if your partner has their heart set on leveling a particular class. Because they are so adaptable you can tailor your play style and spec to match the person you are leveling with.

Overview

Druids are in touch with nature and use its power to obliterate their foes, or smash them in the face, or sneak up and rip their guts out, or, for the nicer druids, to nurture and restore their allies. At level 10 they get Bear form and turn into a baby tank. At 20 we get cat and can do mad crazy dps. Around 50 we can become a tree or boomkin, and either have uber heals or good ranged casting. Because we don’t get to pick those paths right from the start, we adapt our play style over time. This might require respeccing at key points. It also might mean saving a few pieces of gear for an upcoming spec change. How you handle all that will depend on who you are leveling with.

I am going to further break things down into level ranges.

1-10. In this range there is not much variety. Just Wrath things to death with some staff ‘thumping’ thrown in until you hit 10. You will basically be a ranged caster with some melee ability (easier if you have the BOA weapon).

Levels 10-20

At 10 things start to diverge. Not a lot, but they do. You get bear form once you do the level 10 quest. It is about now you have to ask yourself ‘am I going to tank?’The answer to that lies partly in who you are partnered with. You have the choice in this level range of spending most of your time as a bear or as a humanoid caster doing ranged damage and/or healing. You have to decide what you want to do if you are going to run an instance. If you want a fast queue you can chose to tank or heal. You can make that decision in advance and practice the play style by questing mostly as a bear or a caster.

A Bear plays like a warrior. It uses rage is its fuel and the major abilities are all analogous to warrior skills. If you are familiar with warrior tanking a bear will either be comfortably similar or boringly the same. Of course since a druid has an extended bag of tricks you might still love it.

Caster druid, 10-20

One strategy in this level range is to stay humanoid and throw spells around. This is versatile since you can cast or heal as needed. You will not have a large pool of spells but you will have a nice variety.

If you are planning to run instances later as a healer you should probably be getting familiar with your healing spells at this time.

In the future playing as a caster could mutate into Tree or Boomkin (or you can respec completely). If you want to be pure dps and want to be a cat but don’t like bear form, you can stay in a caster spec until you get cat form and then respec. If you plan to do this don’t forget to hang on to a few pieces of agility gear as you level up.

Staying in caster mode is very good if you are paired with a pure melee class. This is even truer if your partner is a tanking class. Casting alongside a warrior or Paladin (or a bear druid) is a very good combo. The pair will be durable as heck and able to take on many foes at once.

Druids are durable enough that you can even distract things while a rogue backstabs them.

With a warlock or hunter partners you can let their pet tank while both burn things down.

Mages are soft and have little ability to keep things off them. They focus mostly on killing things fast, before they kill them. You can both burn things down pretty fast and not have to worry about taking a lot of damage. If you pair with one as a caster you will want to get familiar with your ‘root’ skill and the mage will want to be using frost abilities to slow things up. This will be a pretty soft pair however, so if you get in trouble you might be doomed.

Comboing with a warlock that does not like tanking with their voidwalker will be much like pairing with a mage.

Comboing a caster druid with a priest gives you redundant healing but not a lot more durability. This pair will require more finesse to play.

Comboing with another caster Druid will be similar to the mage and priest.

Comboing with a Shaman will be a little of everything.

Bear druid, 10-20

The main reasons to go bear at this level are to practice tanking or to keep things off a softer partner.

Bear is going to have a little lower dps, so if you are not trying to do one of the above things you might not want to level 10-20 as a bear. One other reason might be so you will be ready when you get cat form. It is not really necessary though, because you can always respec when you get to 20.

One of the nice things about being bear (or later cat) is that you almost always have full mana at the end of a fight. This lets you heal yourself and your partner up for the next round.

One final reason to go bear would be to have both partners have the same range. If you are paired with a melee class it can be frustrating to have everything be half dead by the time your partner gets over to it. Keep this in mind if you are playing a bear and paired up with a ranged dpser. This consideration (and the heals after fights one) makes a rogue+bear pair a good choice.

Basically bear is a good choice to match an melee class played as dps or a soft caster. It is a bad choice for any melee class played as another tank

Recommended pairings: 10-20

Pally + caster druid

Hunter + caster druid

Mage + either

Warlock + either

Warrior + caster druid

Shaman +caster druid

Priest + Bear

Rogue + Bear

Pairs druid, Levels 20-40

Feral druids, 20-40

At level 20 the druid learns how to be catty. Or at least how to turn into a cat. A cat is a baby rogue. It uses energy and is all about combo points and finishing moves. It has a lot fewer abilities than a real rogue so if you are a hard core rogue addict those missing bits might drive you nuts (no vanish, no sap, no fan of knives, etc.). But, if you love all the versatility a druid offers then you are going to love having ‘cat’ in your bag of tricks.

If you leveled up as a bear so far you might want to opt for a cat/bear hybrid. Such a hybrid is viable for either tanking or DPS up until high end lvl 80 instances and raids. I leveled my first druid this way. For most fights you are going to want to be cat. Cats do a large amount of single target damage. But, unlike rogues, they can pop into bear form at any time. If you are leveling with a caster or other soft DPSer you will want to get good at dropping into bear on demand. Even if you don’t get good with bear form it will do you good to know have to work the basics. At a minimum you will need to know how to work your taunt (growl) and some swipe for aoe threat and damage. With just those abilities (and maybe a couple more) you will be able to not die on demand.  Going Bear is not like a pally bubble, but it is fast and effective for either pulling a mob off your softer friend, or being able to take more hits while your friend heals you or dpses the pack down. You CAN live without learning your bear as a feral druid… but it is well worth it to set up its hot bar and learn your way around a few of its moves.

Caster druids 20-40

As you start getting up to 20 and 30 talent points you will, as a caster druid, get pretty far down one of your trees, balance or resto. So you will need to decide how you are mostly playing the druid and take as much healing or dps as your pair needs. Play it by ear and don’t be afraid to respec. You probably will respec at 40 anyway so don’t sweat it. In the past, leveling resto, even in a pair, was annoyingly slow and not really worth it. Today, with LFG, you can level mostly in dungeons where a dedicated healing spec will speed things up, not slow them down.

Recommended pairings: 10-20

Pally + either

Hunter + caster druid

Mage + either

Warlock + either

Warrior + either

Shaman +either

Priest + Feral druid

Rogue + Feral druid

Notice most say either? Here is why… as a hybrid class any druid can heal, and with instant cast hots you can throw at least some healing around very fast. Additionally, unless you put all your points into resto you will still do decent DPS. What this all means is that you don’t want to over specialize while leveling in certain pairs. For example if you are leveling as a caster with a priest you can get away with almost no healing ability. But if you are leveling feral with a warrior you would be well served to get good at dropping out of cat and throwing some heals at your friend. Again, play it by ear. If your pairs keeps dying, practice dropping out and throwing heals.

We’ll talk about post-level-40 in another post.

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http://www.wow.com/2010/03/12/frozen-orbs-to-be-greed-only-in-patch-3-3-3/

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Horde Side

Reversion and I are Alliance players. Oh, we did the BE starting zone once or twice, but we play Alliance exclusively. We’ve decided, though, that we want to see the Horde side of Azeroth before Cataclysm changes it all. Too many references out there to how awful it is to level through Barrens – we want to see for ourselves. So he rolled a snooty male BE Paladin, and I rolled a hulking female Tauren shaman. Heh.

I’m interested in whether there are any Horde quest chains we should definitely not miss.  What are the essential “this made my day” or “this showed me what it really means to be Tauren” quests out there?

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Why Every Healer Should Roll A Tank

Because tanking is harder and if healers realized that they would stop whining? NO. Running some instances as a tank, getting ok at tanking, will make you a better healer, and here’s why.

You’ll know what the tank is going to do next, and why. If you’ve been healing for a while you probably already have instincts that tell you when a tank is going to LOS a pull or charge into the next one, but once you’ve tanked those pulls yourself you’ll know why. There is no substitute for actually doing it.

You’ll know what a tank is capable of, and what he’s not: This will make you more tolerant when he loses aggro,  remind you to keep an eye on those dps-ers pulling 5k damage, and know when to have your emergency macros on hand.

A change of perspective helps: I’ve run Northrend dungeons dozens and dozens of times on my mage and my tree, but it wasn’t til I tanked them on my paladin that I realized certain things, like that some of the portals in VH always spawn groups while some always spawn a single mob.  Or that those stupid orbs on the platforms in OK do LOS. Or that there’s an invisible wall in TOC by the door the enemies come in that they can get through but you can’t, so you can’t hit them.

You learn what healers do that makes tanking harder: I often start dropping HOTs on the tank as he pulls. Turns out it can be a bit annoying when the healer instantly pulls off you when you’re tanking. Makes life tricky. I’ve started looking for other strategies.

You learn just why tanks are always wanting to go-go-go. Oh, rage really is a pain to regain once it’s gone. And Divine Plea needs to stay up, so either start the next fight in less than twelve seconds, or wait out the cooldown til it’s ready again. And the mobs move around, so waiting ten more seconds changes the battle space.  Not that any of these concerns match “healer has no mana”, but maybe if I’m in all tier 9.5 or better and have 70% mana I can handle another trash fight…. yeah, probably.

Because there’s nothing you can’t do: We all dps, for daily quests or leveling. You know deep down you might not be as good as the rogue who tops the damage meters, but you can do it. But tanking seems like an esoteric skill. It is, but no more so than playing whack-a-mole with 25 health bars WHILE staying out of the fire. Give it a try. Most healers will probably find that they still like healing best – I know I do; I think raid healing 10 mans is my favorite part of the game by far. But I can tank, and I can tank pretty well, and just knowing that is empowering.

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I am a jerk

Been reading some other blogs and I guess I am a jerk when I heal. I say ‘gogogo’. It is another way of telling the tank ‘Hi, I am in good shape. My mana is fine. Feel free to continue pulling.’

I also aggro other groups on occasion. I don’t do it if the tank is having trouble holding aggro. I don’t do it if I can’t HEAL through it, and I don’t do it if I expect the pack is going to two shot me. I just heal-tank them until the tank shows up. Yeah. I am challenging the tank and pushing him to be better. If they say anything about it, they usually say that. Or they say how hardcore the run is. Some tanks like a challenge. I don’t do it all the time. And if I mess up and wipe the group I apologize. I will even pass on a few rolls to give the rest a few more G for repairs.

I play tank and heals and dps in pretty equal amounts. I know there is a fine line between being a jerk and not. For example if I pull three groups on my bear, pop cooldowns so I am easy to heal and we AOE the crud out of them, nothing wrong with that. If I was a failtank and simply aggroed two groups and then cussed out the healer for letting me drop I would be a moron. I don’t do that. I do pull two, and often more. I think my record is 4, or two groups and a boss. Depends on the boss though. Still, it is usually my wife healing me so no one can complain. And If I screw up and get the group killed I say ‘sorry’ and I pull more sanely. This is not being a jerk. This is trying to get a run that is not insanely boring to a 5.4+K geared tank specced and gemmed for ICC. I don’t even need heals for any single pull in most instances. So why would it be rude to a healer if I pulled two?

If I am healing and pull a second group back to the tank, what is the issue? No really… if we don’t die, he had no trouble getting aggro, I had no trouble healing, and the dps was all good, what is the issue? If I did it when the tank was AFK or not ready then yeah, that would make me a jerk and I would deserve the boot. But if he is downing the last on in a group and another group comes over, no biggy. I play a tank, I know what groups to aggro and what groups to stay the heck away from.

Oh, I am more of a jerk than that, I also complain about DPS. Yup, I sure do. If I get in a run with some guy pulling 700 dps I say, ‘hey buddy, you should read some blogs or something because you should be able to do more.’ Is that jerky? Some people thinks so. Other people in the group will be all, ‘his gear is bad, lighten up.’ To everyone that thinks that, FYI, I can do 1200 DPS on my hunter naked with just a bow. That is right, in my undies. So don’t tell me that 700 DPS on a rogue with a mix of quest greens and blues is ok. It isn’t. If I let that rogue know (as I did Sunday night) that he should use some finishing moves on occasion because melee and fan of knives should not make up over half of his 700 dps I don’t think that is being a jerk. If everyone is too nice to ever tell him that that is unacceptable how will he ever know not to?

Take the dps warrior I ran with on Saturday. I had to tell him a couple times to stop using Heroic Strike. If someone can’t figure out what they are doing wrong on their own then someone HAS to tell them. I mean, I think it is pretty clear that if the guy doing 3 digits of damage keeps pulling aggro of a solid AOE tanker there must be SOMETHING not right.

But I am an even bigger jerk that just all that. Yeah I even check gear scores! *gasp* I know, total sociopath, right? Not just that but I will tell people that 1100 dps is NOT ok for 4k gear. I am nice about it though. I will suggest reading blogs and such. I will even add that doing that is how I get better when I think I should be getting more out of a class. Oddly, most people either say nothing or thank me. My wife and I use GS to judge people all the time. But not in a vacuum and not before the start of the run. Nope. We wait for a few pulls and compare GS to DPS and often even check their rotation with the recount logs.

Oh it gets worse. Sometimes I even link recount. Or dare to complain about their underranked spells.

I don’t kick often though. No, I usually just try to offer some advice. Gevlon (http://greedygoblin.blogspot.com/), rip up my ‘jerk’ card and stamp ‘social’ on my forehead. Sometimes I do kick though. If someone is really lagging the dps meter, had gear that is way better than his performance, ignores the 9 down ranked abilities that rankwatch is spamming him about and only seem to use 3 abilities in the recount log… yeah those people are likely to see the boot. But we are pretty forgiving. If someone even tries to fix their down ranks and takes constructive criticism with a ‘ok, thanks. I will look into that.’ then they get a pass. Everyone was bad at some point. Show me a glimmer of willingness or ability to learn and you are in. Ask for real advice and I will give you an earful. Come across as genuinely in need of practice and gear and I will invite you on a few runs. And, if you are getting serious performance out of ‘been 80 for an hour’ gear then you will get thanks and praise.

Yeah I judge. But I don’t do it in a vacuum. Some people DO suck. Pretending they don’t will just mean we are stuck carrying them through Cata heroics a year from now, or a year after than when they finally catch back up.

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Pop Quiz!

Dear DPSers: This is your midterm exam. All topics are open-book and may be answered as short essays or interpretive dance, your choice. Signed, Your Healer.

Question One:

Your party comes equipped with a tank. His job is to get the skeletons and dragons to hit him. This is because he has a shield, or shiny armor, or… really thick fur.  You, however, are wearing tissue paper (wet tissue paper, if you’re a mage). Even if you think it’s plate, it’s not, it’s just really shiny tissue paper.

Your job is to shoot things and make them die. Sometimes this makes them mad at you. Then they will come and hit you. I will try to keep you alive but it won’t work very well. At this point, there are three things you can do.

1. Stop hitting the dragon and hope it loses interest in you. This strategy obviously doesn’t work because no one ever tries it.

2. Keep hitting it and hope it dies before you do. This is the preferred behavior for mages and other suicidal maniacs.

3. Run screaming away from the tank while it tries to eat you. For best effect, bring it right over to me! After all, I am there to heal you, probably I’ll be even more able to do that at close range. And if not, maybe the mob will decide I taste better than you do.

Question Two:

Ooops! Now I’m dead. Assuming you notice this, Mr. Shadow Priest, what are you going to do?

1. Continue doing what you’re doing and hope they all die before you do

2. Try some of those weird spells from the “Holy” side of your book?

3. Hmm, what’s this “Shadowmeld” button do?

Question Three:

We survived! But I have no mana. What is the proper course of action?

1. Write a couple jokes in party chat while you wait for me to drink and then stand around waiting for me to heal you?

2. Same as above, except, since you’re a warlock, Life Tap as soon as I stand up?

3. Ask me for an innervate after I have finished eating and drinking?

4. Get bored and pull the next group?

Question Four:

Who can remove curses?

1. Druids and Priests

2. Druids and Mages

3. Druids, Priests, Shaman, and Paladins. This does not take any time at all in fights and if you ever have a curse on you after a fight, it means your healer sucks and should be booted.

Question Five: Why is my queue 30 minutes long? I want to go now!

1: It’s long because there are lots and lots of dps out there, and a lot fewer healers, and even fewer tanks.

2: It’s long because Blizzard hates me

3: It’s long because I have been a bad person and gotten on the ignore list of too many tanks

4. It’s long because sometimes tanks and healers get burned out and want to mindlessly dps things, or decided to go watch reruns of “Star Trek” instead.

Final Question, For Bonus Credit:

As a dps’er, the most important thing I bring to this pug is:

Gear?

Skill?

Situational Awareness, ie, noticing when I have aggro, taking the aggro’d mob back to the tank, picking up healing or tanking if the real healer/tank drops, knowledge of basic instance courtesy, and an understanding of what other classes can and cannot do?

The first two items directly affect your performance on meters. The third is unmeasurable, yet far more important. Your healer and tank may never say they notice, but they do; they always do. And it helps prevent tank burnout more than anything else out there since dual spec.

Reversion’s Bonus questions.
For extra credit answer the following multiple choice. Which answer best describes each of the following abilities.

Feign Death:
A: A great tool for role players for their little charades. Of no use to actual game play.
B: Skill that lets you get some rest and take a break from combat. Good for mana regeneration.
C: Useless skill that does nothing but lower your dps.
D: Skill to dump agro or get stuff off you. Not ever to be used in parties. After all it is the tanks fault you pulled agro, right? I mean blizzard gave that skill to you for… well no reason really, so please don’t use it. Ever.

Invisibility:
(See above)

Fade:
(See above)

Vanish:
(See above)

Army of the dead:
A: Really funny movie.
B: Great way to up your dps numbers at any time and any place.
C: Something tanks whine about when you use it at the wrong time and place. They are stupid liars so ignore them.
D: A great skill to relieve loneliness.

Frost Nova:
A: Freezes things near you and keeps them from moving away from that blizzard you are casting. That way I can build up lots and lots of agro with mobs that the tank may not be able to reach. Very handy for when your ghost needs to get out and some exercise.
B: Ability for keeping monsters from being able to get to the tank. This is useful because it allows the poor misunderstood monsters to take out their aggressing on any rogues, healers or mages that happen to be standing near them when you cast it.
C: None of the above
D: How can a nova be made of ice? Blizzard is stupid.

Final double extra credit question. Essay.
Someone has suggested you need to use a different skill, or update your spell ranks, or that you should be able to get a lot more than 1200 dps with all T9 gear. In 1000 words or less explain how they are clearly dumb, annoying, spamming you, making no sense, or could not possibly know anything about your class or gear. (hint ‘Huh?’ is an acceptable answer). For triple extra credit macro your answer to the number 1 key.

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Mentoring

Last night I took my new pally tank on a badge farming  run with two other  newly 80 alts in the guild; a mage whose main is a priest and a priest whose main is a prot pally. None of us were very geared (well, mine is getting there) and we had a blast, ran about 8 instances and had a ball.

Toward the end, the priest who is a prot pally go in Vent and started chatting with me. He remarked how easy I was to heal and that he was trying hard not to bubble me since I get mana back from direct heals, and then we chatted about prot pally spec and techniques. He looked over my talents, said that they were not quite cookie-cutter but he could see why I’d used the build I did, and then suggested a few changes and exactly why I’d benefit. We ended up talking for a while. Reversion got into the action when we started comparing pally and druid tanking, and it was a great conversation. I ended up re-speccing slightly, changing some of my gearing priorities, and coming away with an even better understanding of paladins.

Mentoring discussions like that are great helps to those of us with alts, who know how to play WoW but are new to a class. And they’re fun when we’re on the teaching end too. It can be hard to give advice to a guildie or random pugger, but when you find someone who wants to learn, give them the benefit of your experience.  My paladin is pulling over 2k dps in most heroics right now, and my gear score is still “low” for today’s standards. I’m hoping to find a group that will let me off-tank Patchwerk for this week’s raid quest and thanks to my guildmate, I’m even more prepared now.

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