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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

I was cautiously optimistic when Blizzard introduced their plans for healing in the new expansion. The idea that we’d have to heal intelligently, put thought into our heal choices, and once again be something more than bubble-bots or Rejuv-spammers sounded appealing.

As I watched the implementation, I was a bit concerned; all the changes that would make healing “interesting” and content “hard” seemed to boil down to “If anyone screws up, they die”. Fine but…. how to tell the difference between “that mage screwed up” and “the healer screwed up”? I was worried we’d start in on the blame-the-healer game.

And truth be told there’s been less of that than I’d feared. I hear healers being harder on ourselves than most tanks or dps are hard on the healer.  I also hear of a lot of us taking abuse, not directed at us or probably intended for us at all, but abuse. If a tank refuses to cc, well honestly it’s not him who shoulders the responsibility of the more difficult pull, but the healer. And so healers need to speak up and tell them to bloody well use sheep.

But as I’ve started to do raid fights, and getting raid geared, I’m noticing what I feared most; healing in this expansion has no in between setting. It’s either “oh god oh god we’re all going to die”, or “Oops, sorry, I forgot to jump on the dragon there because I was alt tabbed out reading blogs, yawn, wake me up at a real fight”. Honestly my healing experiences have been vacillating back and forth between utter boredom and I-just-can’t-do-it, depending on how geared my party was. Healing for Reversion? I’m /afk on Facebook. Healing for Reversion’s undergeared second bear? A full stack of HOTs and rolling Nourish and I can barely keep him alive between Swiftmend cooldowns. And that’s someone who knows every cooldown his class has, uses them, uses crowd control, and is hands down the best tank to heal that I’ve ever played with. Ok I may be biased but it’s still true.

There just isn’t a way to make healing a moderate challenge. I’d like to go in and have a heroic run where I have to work, yes, but it’s not “execute this perfectly, don’t get unlucky, or wipe” level. I want “Let’s practice being really mana efficient, a few moments where I have to use the right spell at the right time” level challenge.

Making me run out of stuff doesn’t give this level of challenge, although parenthetically I noticed I was asked to step in on a Magmaw fight this weekend for another guild raid, as a boomkin, and while my dps was bad, my situational awareness was incredible; I was the first to move out of fire, the first on the worms, got my knockbacks in at just the right time and place – not to toot my horn but when I was the first to switch sides of the room by a good two seconds that says something. I’m biased as a healer toward thinking the meter that matters most is not “damage done” but “damage taken”, and on that meter I did really darn well.

Anyway. Back to what I was saying. Another option I have is to dps while healing. I’ve actually enjoyed my priest’s Smite spec; but it feels more organic than hurling Wraths on my druid. I would have to ditch my boomkin spec for one with free Wraths, and that would make life harder for me while I’m trying to do dailies.  I am considering it, but, gosh darn it, if I want to dps I have a mage that I like very much. I want to heal on my druid, thanks, and I’d like a proper challenge for my chosen role.

At least I have an interesting job in raids. That keeps me going, keeps me doing my daily heroic or helping gear up friends. Because in there I really do have to work. It’s incredible; I love it. Halfus is going down, this weekend, he’d better. And I’ll be challenged there – picking the perfect time to pop tree (actually on Halfus it’s a no brainer; I do it almost on pull to get through the first dragon, then when it’s back up it’s usually a good time to get people topped back off) – managing my mana, working with my team to keep people from the brink of death. Even the trash in Bastion  is a good challenge, mostly because of the silences. Maybe you can’t have that level of challenge without redundant healers.  I’m not sure.

I love healing; my brief stint as raid dps the other night taught me that. In end game, that’s my role. But I wish I didn’t feel burnt out on heroics already.

I’ll blame it on Lost City. I’ve done that place a hundred times, it seems like. I hear there’s this place called Deadmines that’s a lot of fun, but apparently it’s not in my random dungeon queue…

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Loving the expansion. The dungeons are hard. Nicely hard. So far the only person I have heard saying how easy they were is a cocksure tank whose boast were not quite loud enough to drowned out the whimpering that was his healer, over in the corner, rocking back and forth moaning ‘oom… oom’.

FYI to all tanks, if you think you are doing great but your healer is a nervous wreck then you are not as good a tank as you think you are.

But this one is not about tanks… or rather it is not ONLY about tanks.  I just read another blog that had a nice description of some of the trials of these new runs. It mentioned that they wiped a lot due to OOM but that she thought they had actually covered for some lesser experienced players. No offense to the other blogger but those statements are a contradiction.

The healer’s mana is everyone responsibility

There is a lot of damage in these runs. LOTS of it… however, a huge proportion of it is avoidable. It is up to every single person in the run to do their part in avoiding it. Anything less and you get OOM heals and a graveyard run. These new runs will require everyone to learn all the little tricks of their class that they never had to learn before. Everyone should recite this mantra, ‘there is ALWAYS something more that I PERSONALLY can do to make the run better’.

Breaking the habit

I have now done every run on non-heroic and many of them several times. I have done all my runs with good players. They were mostly long time players with alts and varied experience. But even running with high class players I STILL see things they are not doing or not doing well enough. For example there are lots of things mobs do to us that are interruptible casts but very few people are interrupting them. The attitude of ‘just DPS as hard as you can’ is very very hard to shake. I know we did not really need CC in the last expansion, but it is much more than that. We needed almost none of the extra tricks DPSers could do and hence no one remembers they have them.

Learning the true meaning of Christmas helping the party

I always found discussions ironic and funny about ‘tanks versus dps’ or when people were whining about DPS not getting respect. I lost count of how many times some mage would say something like, ‘I do more than just dps, when at add comes after the healer I frost nova it and blink away.’ I just wanted to pound my head on the table and shout ‘That is not helping!’ I didn’t usually because it took too long to explain the reasons why that was a bad idea.

There are things DPS can do to help. Lots of things. Very few dps seem to know what they are or when to use them or how. This is not surprising. We have not really needed those tricks. How many druids here know where your hibernate button is and that it works on dragonkin? Just yesterday a VERY solid kingslayer boomkin had to go find it in her spell book because she had never used it. How many hunters here know that distracting shot is a ‘forced attack’ and works VERY well with frost trap to CC stuff by pulling it out of the melee? A couple runs back I taught that trick to an outstanding hunter that had played one since vanilla beta. This is not to toot my horn. I only know a few tricks, mostly from classes I have played a lot. There are lots out there.

I find myself in runs where over half the classes have spell interrupts or silences but I seem to be the only one using them. I probably missed seeing some of them, but that is not my point. My point is that even very good players need to be racking their brains and burning up the internet for more tricks and tips on what THEY can do to make the fights better. Learn more CC tricks. Dig through your spellbooks for long forgotten abilities and see what they can do. And…

DON’T STAND IN THE FIRE!

As I said above most of the damage is avoidable. Some of it is only BARELY avoidable so you have to move fast. We need to hit ourselves in the head every time we find ourselves doing our rotation while standing in the bad.

Speak up

I have said in the past that more people need to be willing to point out the mistakes of others. I really believe that you don’t learn to play better until something pushes you or someone gives you a tip. I have learned plenty that way and I like to think I have offered a lot of helpful advice that way. And now is truly the time for it. There are so very many things in these instances that need to be pointed out to people. If you see someone doing something wrong please tell them. It is not being a jerk, it is being helpful (if you say it nicely). If someone can’t handle being told not to stand in that stuff then you should not be running with them anyway. And don’t assume because someone is a good player that they don’t have room for improvement.

Listen

This goes for all of us. There are always more tricks to learn and more skills to get. There are always new ways to use the skills we already have. If you think you can do more, ask. If someone makes a suggestion, listen.

Earn it

Some DPS whine that tanks and heals don’t give them enough respect… Time to go earn it. I don’t care what your meter looks like. If you are standing in the flaming whirlwind while not using your interrupts, mitigation moves, stuns, et cetera then trust me, it is not the healer’s fault she has no mana.

Do you die a lot? Maybe swap in a tanking trinket for a mitigation cooldown. Or grind some first aid. If the healer is leaving your health low he might have decided you are too expensive and expendable to heal up. So pop a bandage and a potion and help him out. Above all you should be focusing on getting your skill at avoiding damage up. In fact you should be focusing on that concept more than you focus on getting better gear.

Now tanks and dps say it with me all together, “The healer’s mana is my responsibility.” Put it on a post-it note and stick it to your screen. Tattoo it on the back of your mouse hand. Learn it, know it, love it.

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There’s been some brouhaha in the blogosphere recently about the role of DPS classes in 5 mans. Are they just supposed to obediently follow the tank, should they be given more consideration, does the healer regard them as nothing more than useless mana-sinks? Really it’s the sort of thing I don’t think we’re going to be talking about any more once the expansion hits, at least not for a year or so, because we’re resetting the gear curve and things are going to be hard again.

That’s my theory, see: ease of content is promoting an attitude of “I can do it all myself, what do I need these other four losers for?” even in basically decent players. How many stories have you heard of a tank-and-healer out-dpsing the three dpsers – and laughing at them? Or the hunter who did 12k, pulled the boss off on himself, but got the pet to tank it so it was fine?

In less than a month we’ll be back to the old dance, where everyone had to know his part and follow it. But for now, here’s some thoughts. First, from my uber-geared-healer side: Shut up and follow the tank. That’s what I’m doing. Maybe he’s nuts and pulling three groups at once (Hi Reversion love) or takes forever to pull just one, or is going some really non standard way – I once had a tank go RIGHT in Nexus, can you believe it?

But he is standing between me and nasty big things with teeth and curses and I will let him do that. If you stick near us, you’ll get heals. I throw them at anyone who is in range. If you aren’t? If you’re on your own optimal path, or see some side path you think needs exploring? Don’t expect me with you. This is for your own good.

No, really. See, when you pull more than you can handle, you’ll die. If I’m there, maybe I can keep you alive. Maybe I can’t. Either way the mobs are going to attack me too. Then I die. Then we have a long run back.

However, if you die nicely where you are, maybe the tank and I will come and rez your butt.  Heck, I might even innervate you if you’re a mana using class. I won’t need that spell for myself until Cataclysm.

See, there’s only one of me. Even if I could guaranteed keep you and me alive – what happens to the tank in the meantime? Or the other two dpsers? There’s four of you. Assuming you all come into the instance and run in different directions, I can only be with one of you at a time.

Now, the other side of things. This weekend I ran a Deadmines on my level 20 hunter alt. She’s heirloomed up, she has two different pets to choose from, she kills things so fast it ain’t funny. I get a group: there’s a priest healing and a druid tanking. There’s also a paladin and a shaman.

The druid goes tearing along like you expect. Then he gets to the room with the first boss. Somehow everything gets pulled at once (no it wasn’t me doing it) and he dies. I switch my pet to growling, keep aggro off the healer, the healer keeps us up, we finish, we rez the tank, who says something really dismissive to the healer. And then the tank rolls Need on the cloth gloves that just dropped, that the priest rolled on.

The priest asks the druid not to roll on intellect cloth. The druid says, and I kid you not, “I use mana too”. And then again criticizes the priest’s healing.

I chime in to say that intellect is spellpower, now, and a tank doesn’t need it. I get told to “shut up huntard” and asked whether I know how to druid tank. I refuse to play this epeen-waving game and we continue.

The druid now is in cat form. He stays in cat form the rest of the instance. The paladin throws Righteous Fury up and soaks a lot of aggro, I keep my pet ready to growl things off me if I can. However, I’m doing so much damage that basically every mob runs over and beats on me.

The healer does an amazing job and I don’t die, but my damage is now terrible because, well, I’m a hunter and all these things won’t stay at range. So now the tank starts mocking me. I point out how if he was doing his job I could do mine. “Learn 2 hunter” is his reply.

What exactly should I do? Feign Death? Don’t have it. Freezing trap? Don’t have it. Misdirect? Don’t have it. Disengage? Don’t have it.

At some point we finally get out of combat long enough that the priest is able to initiate a vote kick, reason “ninjaing loot”. I vote yes. The vote fails.

“Stop being loot whores” is what one of the other two dps say. I sigh.  The group continues.

This is the incredible thing to me. The healer is being mocked, when his skills are actually above average. He’s not getting most of his loot. He’s dealing with inconsiderate, jerkish people. Me? I would have sat down and not gone any farther, or let the tank die, or something. But he didn’t.

As a low level dpser, I had two choices: drop group or keep putting up with this crap. I stayed. Maybe I should have dropped  but at that point I was rolling need on spell drops so I could give them to the priest. It felt like I’d be abandoning a comrade in a pit of suck to leave now. So I shut up and followed the tank.

On thinking about it, I am depressed but think it was still the best choice. It was that or leave, and it didn’t really violate my principles enough for me to leave in a snit. What I didn’t do was head off on my own and kill something I’d decided needed killing, because that wasn’t my job and because that would have made it harder for the healer, who at that point was the only person in the instance I thought was innocent of blame. Even though the tank was wrong and he sucked, I could only have made the situation worse by independent action, not better.

But I don’t think I’m going into lowbie dungeons without at least Reversion again. Two of us makes a powerful force against stupidity.

Still, I think all of us need to steal a motto from somewhere else. I’d suggest “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You”, but man, that  one gets harder all the time. Maybe “First, Do No Harm” would work?

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Warning: the following post is full of broad, sweeping generalizations that are only true of me, and maybe not even then.

Imagine this as one of those “tell-all” articles featured prominently on the cover of Cosmopolitan, “Things Your Healer Won’t Tell You”, or “The Things You Think You Know (but don’t)”. Actually, don’t imagine it that way. I’ve never actually read one of those articles and they might be really lame.

I’ve been reading some blogs about what healing is going to be like in Cataclysm, posts about what Blizzard wants it to be like, and that has me wondering; are we healers all just plain nuts? There are things I do, things I think, and I’m not sure how they’ll match with our new healing methods.

  • When you die, I feel guilty – no ifs, ands, or buts.

There’s a reason why we joke about “Oh, no heals for you” – because we can’t do it. Once you’re a healer, in that mode, it’s almost impossible to let someone’s health bar drop low without trying to heal him. Often, we don’t really recognize any health bar as a particular person. We know which ones represent the tanks, we have things organized so we sort of know who is where  – but when I’m in the thick of things, I don’t ever think “Oh yeah I was going to let xxArthaaasxxx die, he’s a jerk”.

In Cataclysm, we’re going to have to let people sit at less-than-max health and that is going to be really really hard. All my instincts say “Heal that bar!”

  • Healing is my thing

The same pleasure a rogue in super-epic-ilvl277 gear gets in topping a dps meter, I get in ending a fight with everyone alive. I like healing, I find it fun and challenging and the only job in the game that reaches out and grabs me by the throat. I’ve dpsed and tanked 11/12 fights in ICC – meh. I just don’t care to do that regularly. But I’ll heal ICC over and over and over again, because when I’m healing, every fight is different every time. You are fighting a boss and his minions: I am fighting death itself. Your scorecard is the amount of damage you put out; mine is the number of people I saved. If we wipe, you get upset with other people for screwing up; I get mad at myself for not saving them anyway.

  • I find healing fun even as it is

But I do see their points – because I find healing fun in 10 mans and not so much in 25s. Spamming Rejuv on groups 3-5 is not really super fun. Spamming rejuv on the whole raid, looking where to place Efflorescence, rolling Lifebloom on a tank, checking to see if I need to spend a whole two seconds casting a single Nourish – that is fun, and I get to do that in ten mans. I’m worried that they will be crippling me by making me worry about mana. I’m going to give it a try, and learn how to roll with the punches. I mean, I was concerned that I wouldn’t like druid healing after the changes and now, other than missing my tree, I’m ok with it.

  • I don’t really want to dps

I’ll qualify this. When I outgear the content, sure, dropping Hurricane is fun. But I want encounters to be hard and expect me to focus on healing, not hard and expect me to focus on both healing and dps. Maybe some people like this, but please, Blizzard, give us a way to avoid it. I have an off spec, I use my off spec, let me dps in that.

  • My toolset is awesome! All except for the wonky egg seperator…

Blizzard has given all the healing classes a range of tools to use. Some classes have a billion, like Holy Priests. Druids have about 9 and that’s more manageable. Still, I eye them a little suspiciously. It’s like my utensil drawer. There’s my trusty spatula and a good knife, and then a whisk, and I guess I use that peeler sometimes if I’m using my knife for something else, but what is that weird plastic doodad anyway? And why does anyone need an asparagus trimmer?

My heals are like that. I love how Mastery works with druid hots. I love, love the way Efflorescence triggers off Swiftmend – it just feels right, like you’re blooming the heal and causing life to grow. But we have these nice fast or instant cast hots – and then we have long, comparatively slow casts of Nourish and Healing Touch and they just don’t feel right. I feel like one of them should be shorter, and one longer. Then we could really pick and choose what to use. As it is, I still am not using HT; if I have to cast anything, it’s Nourish because I almost always have a hot on the target already (and thus, get my mastery bonus plus the backed in bonus to Nourish). Healing Touch is that egg separator – it’s just taking up room in my drawer, I feel a bit embarrassed about it, and maybe one day I’ll use it but I won’t be bragging about it to my friends.

  • We’re gossipy little backbiters

If your raid has more than two healers, I guarantee you at least two of them whisper each other multiple times during the raid. It’s like a rule. “That tank had four stacks of X””. “Healer Y is using THAT spell, can you believe it?” “Why won’t the mage decurse? Ok we’ll work around that”. I’m getting worse, too. I used to just gripe at my husband; now it’s whispers. Why don’t we say these things out loud? Well, sometimes it’s a healer-related FYI kinda thing. Sometimes it’s because we don’t want to sound accusatory. Also I think healers have a bit of an inferiority complex and we’re afraid that if we say “X did Y” that what the raid hears is “I’m a lousy healer and I can’t deal with this”.

(Someone please tell me this is really universal. It has to be, right? I’m not always the first one to start whispering…)

  • I’ve played games that are like spreadsheets. Healing isn’t like playing a spreadsheet

Yes, there are bars on your screen and you spend a lot of time looking at them. No, this does not make WoW into “Excel with sound effects”. If you want that, go play EVE Online. If you think we have that, go play EVE Online. Now there is a game that has spreadsheets. Yeah, so sometimes I miss cool effects or visuals. Tough. I like my little squares of healing. They are the source of my power.

  • I don’t want to worry about mana

But I will. I get that. I’ll learn. I just don’t want to – I’m terrified that every wipe in Cataclysm will be twice my fault – once because I let people die, once because I ran out of mana. That if I were  a better healer my mana would stay full even when the dps is not doing their job. I want more enrage timers on bosses. Make it obvious why we failed. Don’t blame it on me! There is nothing worse than staring at people dying, and your empty mana bar.

  • I’m still going to heal

Even if I do have to use my egg separator, worry about mana, deal with guilt complexes, whatever. Because that’s what I love in this game.

Bring it on.

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My first main was a mage, through all of BC and a bit of Wrath. I love my little gnome mage – still do. Throwing fireballs at peoples’ heads is fun. At the end of BC Reversion and I leveled a pair of druids and I started healing as we went. Once we hit Outlands we basically leveled in dungeons with me healing and him tanking. Analogue the druid was my first healer character; I hadn’t played other games with the dps-healer-tank trio, I didn’t know that I’d like healing, so it was a surprise when one day I woke up and realized that not only was this druid my main, I was a Healer with a capital H.

I leveled  a paladin up as ret/prot, tanking my way to the top. Then I realized I needed her offset to be Holy. I still like tanking 5 mans on her – I don’t enjoy trying to heal parties as a paladin – but when I raid? I want to heal. Beacon, Shield, Holy Light spam is more fun than whacking things in the face and taunt-at-five-stacks.

I have a priest at 72, a shaman at 60, both dual specced, both with one really solid healing spec and one questing-dps spec. They are my most anticipated leveling projects. I want all four healing classes at max, and I’m not the only player I know with that desire. I read the druid news coming out of Cataclysm beta and I’m afraid I won’t like druid healing, so what is my reaction? Not “ok, maybe I’ll be balance” but “ok, maybe I’ll be a shaman.” My identity is not as a druid, but as a healer.

Why? I’m not really the most nurturing person ever. Actually I’m more of a bossy older sister who knows what’s good for you and will tell you so. I’m not an angel of mercy, swooping in and soothing your brow; I’m the “you screwed that up; here’s a bandage now get in there and do it right” battlefield medic.

I heal because I can fix everyone elses’ mistakes in ways that dps and tank roles don’t let you do; because I have to micromanage everything; because I can count on myself and never feel like I can count on every single other person in the raid. That’s why I like raid healing, too; when I see those dps health bars drop I want to swoop in and Swiftmend them.  It’s why I pug, even though I have to deal with morons. I heal through stupid, because I can and because honestly I expect it.

I heal because it’s binary; they live or they die. Eaking out 10 more dps doesn’t appeal to me. Striving to keep one more person alive, that does.

I heal because it’s more fun. It’s more complicated than switching to adds, or waiting for phase 2 to drop your cooldowns. Second to second, the situation changes and you don’t have time to breath or someone dies.

I heal because apparently I’m perfectly content to stare at a matrix of health bars instead of the lavishly-designed boss fights. Perhaps in another life I would have been a whack-a-mole champion.

I heal because I feel like part of a team, taking things down; when you aren’t actually smiting the evil, it’s harder to forget that the other people in your group matter.

I heal because it’s the most fun part of the most fun game I’ve ever played and until something can be as fun as this, I’m not likely to switch.

Yeah, some of those are contradictory, some of those don’t make sense – but gosh darn it,I love healing! And no matter what they do in Cataclysm I know one of my alts will find a niche to shine in. Maybe it’s the hour of the disc priest or the resto shammy?

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Tragic Dilemma

Greetings,

DinoTam here. I have been getting a lot of negative criticism about what others see as a ‘carefree’ life style. It is readily apparent that others simply do not understand me and the agonizing dilemmas with which I contemplate every day. Far from carefree, I find myself torn between enticing opportunities which constantly contend for my industry.

To better help the ignorant masses I have commissioned this work of art to capture the essence of what it is to be me. I hardly imagine it can succeed to communicate such depths to you but perhaps you may get some glimpse into my soul. I doubt it.

 

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I’ve been having a great time playing Starcraft 2’s campaign this week – I was really bummed to only get one mission done last night but I had some trouble with it and had to restart. Sure, I’m playing easy mode but I still feel like I’m playing the game.

Anyway as we’re getting flashbacks and cinematics explaining who Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades, is, and what’s she’s up to, little “this seems familiar” bells are going off. Powerful female warrior, risks everything in defense of her cause, then defeated, left to die – but no, it’s worse, instead she is transformed into what she most hates and becomes the embodiment and leader of it? Hmmm. Sylvanas, is that you?

Now some Forsaken loyalists may accuse me of being unfair with my further characterizations here but bear with me.

I’m a writer. I work on novels sometimes (like in November; plug for http://www.nanowrimo.org, National Novel Writing Month). I’m totally into characters and characterization, and I’m loving Starcraft for the amount of character interaction they put into each little cut scene. Each character is recognizable and different and the way Raynor interacts with everyone on his ship is great – each interaction is slightly different. He doesn’t talk to his old friend the way he talks to a new ally. It’s awesome.

So why, oh why, are the very few female roles so – well – weak? I’m not talking about how apparently women are medics or fly med transports (or, yes, the Banshees. Yeah.) Or the way the medics speak – dripping with innuendo even in innocent lines. Whatever. The Thor sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger; they’re not going for realism.

So far in Starcraft, I’ve encountered three females: one mercenary who I had a mission to pay off (she was creepy as hell and hasn’t been seen since), the aforementioned Queen of undead Blades, and a scientist chick who I had along for a while. Now, when it came time for her to leave, I had a choice of missions and I picked the one that lead to her [spoiler!] getting turned in a zerg and killed. So that doesn’t help my perception of the game so far.

Then look at World of Warcraft. I can think of precisely two female leader-hero type characters: Sylvanas and Jaina. Jaina may not be a victim-villain-bitch, but she’s not much to recommend her sex either. We’re talking about a character whose defining characteristic is “I used to date Arthas and I abandoned him at Stratholme and feel guilty as hell about it”. Realistic character? Maybe so; I think feeling guilty is reasonable and I liked Jaina just fine up until the Halls of Reflection, where she went all angsty -“No, I must know if he can be redeemed!” Since then, I’ve seen her once, showing up after we kill Saurfang and being Varian’s cheerleader-slash-mommy, simultaneously patronizing the leader of the Alliance and demeaning herself.

Where are the women with stories as complicated and interesting as Thrall, as Tirion Fordring, heck, even as compelling as Thassarian or Varian Wrynn?

My guess is it just doesn’t occur to the writers that there’s anything missing. Kerrigan, Sylvanas and Jaina are all powerful women. They lead factions or movements, wield power, stand toe-to-toe with male counterparts, yes – but as characters, they are ridiculous caricatures. And they don’t have to be. Blizzard does an awesome job creating stories in a medium that doesn’t lend itself to real character development. You’ll never confuse Thrall with Garrosh, Tirion Fordring with Darion Mograine – so could they take just a little of that ability, maybe talk to a woman or two, and create a woman who isn’t a victim?

Or am I just being overly critical?

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If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If, Rudyard Kipling

First stanza of Kipling’s famous poem should probably be on a sticky note on every healer’s monitor. I’m not saying that the other roles in the game don’t require laser like focus and attention to detail, but I know I personally have to be totally in the groove every GCD to heal at the top of my game. On my mage? Hit Arcane Blast a billion times, pop cooldowns when they’re available, don’t stand in fire. On my druid? Watch for who needs a heal, who needs an emergency cooldown, who is about to take damage and should be Rejuv’d … and still stay out of the fire.

More than that, I don’t know if it’s a me thing or a healer thing but if I’m healing the raid and we wipe, I feel guilty. Really guilty. Like “that was all my fault if only I’d been a better healer that wouldn’t have happened.” I don’t feel nearly as bad tanking, and dps? Psssh, not my fault. I did my job. But when I’m healing, I feel like I ought to be doing everyone else’s, too.

And what about when people are saying it’s your fault? Do you just let them, or get defensive, or even say “yeah, it was me”? Like the poem says – you have to trust yourself, but if everyone is saying it’s your fault, you have to look at yourself and make sure that’s not true. Not trusting yourself will lead to wipes. So will not trusting your partners – the other healers, the tanks, the dps. A druid throwing Nourish on a tank when she should be trusting her Disco priest buddy can wipe the raid easily – or save the day if the priest got distracted. What do you do?

So: some specific strategies that I use. What do you use? I’m always looking for new tips.

Keep a Cool Head – learn to accept and react to a situation rather than panic. Important when you’re out of mana and the tank just aggroed two more pats. If you panic, you die. If you can quickly prioritize your problems and do things in the right order, you live. Slap a shield or an instant HOT on the tank, blow your “get mana back” cooldown, drop a big cooldown on the tank to get him back up, and play triage.

Zen and the Art of Raid Maintenance – watch the raid like a mama bird watches her stupid, half-blind, flightless chicks. They’re going to try to fall out of the nest, choke themselves on half-eaten worms, and go play with that friendly hawk perched at the top of the tree. Don’t let ‘em, but don’t get mad at them when they do. Heal through the stupid because you can.

Screw it, I don’t care if the mage dies – the opposite of the above. After the nth time that warlock life taps right before combat or the mage runs away from the tank in order to frost nova mobs right by you – they’re too stupid to live. Think of it as evolution in action. Let them die that others may live. Mentally pretend their health bar is already gone, stop wasting mana on them, and concentrate on the tank and the ones who aren’t being stupid.

Honestly, if you’d just read “Hogwarts, A History” – know the fights better than anyone else. This is important if you’re pugging but comes in handy if your raid leader is one of those odd ones who doesn’t know doesn’t care about healing stuff (like the first time I fought Saurfang, the Disc priest asked if there was a strategy for her and was told to ‘just shield the tanks'; we didn’t down him that night but if the raid leader had known to have her drop shields on the Marked victims too, we might have.) The theory here is that by knowing the fight, you can drop hints to others on your healing team and then, assuming they do as you say, you don’t have to worry about them. I’m guilty of not doing this as thoroughly as I should; to date I still haven’t actually, you know, watched an LK fight video. /embarassed

It’s easy enough to discuss strategies like this but implementing them is something else entirely. For that, I practice in 5 mans. Deliberately keep your mana low so you can learn to assess priorities and how to regain mana fast when you need to. Let a warlock die (it’s good for their souls anyway). Think two steps ahead of your party members and have them shielded or hotted before they take damage.

The most challenging situation I think a healer can be in, as far as state of mind goes, is the pug raid healing job, where you don’t know what you’re going to get. Often you won’t know anyone, or many, in the raid. The leader may or may not know anything about healing. Your healing team may not be optimal and probably hasn’t worked together. You can make one of two fatal mindset errors here: you can decide it’s all up to you, or you can decide it’s all up to them. In fact it’s neither. You are not responsible for the success of the raid as a whole, but you are responsible for doing your part.

One thing I’ve often found in pug raids is that the leader will give some vague directions like “druid heal ranged shammy heal melee pally on tanks”. Ok… but how do you easily tell ranged from melee? Nobody sorts groups these days… Well, I have Vuhdo set to show “class colors” as the health bar for each person in the raid. So mages are light blue, paladins are pink, etc. I can instantly tell class by looking at my Vuhdo setup. Makes following that sort of vague instruction easier.

I’ll whisper other people on the healing team and ask relevant questions. If I’m on my paladin and there’s another holy pally, I’ll ask “Who are you Beaconing?” and then Beacon the other tank. If there’s another druid, I’ll set up Rejuv priorities (“You do groups 2 and 3, I’ll do 4 and 5, both of us do tanks”).

Anyway, those are my strategies. Anyone have any they can share?

And if all else fails, and your concentration goes to hell and you lose it entirely – well, the run back from the graveyard is a perfect time to practice your deep breathing and work on your patience.

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How to improve at WOW

WOW is a big game. Lots of people play. Some people can have their gear tweaked out to the fifth decimal place and some have Int on a rogue. It take all kinds… but how do you get to be  better at it? How can you, no matter what your personal skill or experience level, get better at playing your class?

There is a lot of good information out on the internet. The trick is figuring out how to use it. What do you search for, what do you do with what you find. How do you make sense of it all? That is what this post is all about.

You can

First off you can do it. Seriously. Chances are that if you even think you can get more out of your character, you can.

You don’t have to play more

You don’t have to be a ‘no lifer’ or a ‘min-maxer’ or any of that. Those are things people use as excuses for not getting better. You will (probably) not have to radically change how much you play. You will also not have to spend huge amounts of time doing it.

Admitting you have a problem

Admitting a problem is the first step. Let’s face it, we ALL can find a way to get a few more points of damage/threat/healing out of our character. The problem is many people get into a comfort zone and don’t want to break out. Or they imagine improving is some huge hard thing that will consume their life. When they think this they make excuses and stay at their current level. I know because I have been there.

It is an attitude

The thing to realize is that improvement is a never ending goal. It is not about some magical thing you do and then you are uber. It is about recognizing that you COULD be better and trying to get better. That ‘trying to get better’ does NOT have to consume your life or your play time. It can even be done as a onetime exercise in character improvement. But even if it is a onetime thing you need to approach it with the right attitude.

But I LIKE how I play the game

That is fine too… But even within your own personal ‘style’ there are probably small things you can change that would make a large difference. Just because you hear the best spec for your class is one you don’t like does NOT mean you should give up on ever being better. Just about every spec is capable of great things. Also what is ‘best’ changes all the time and even varies based on what level of gear you have. Don’t let the attitudes or suggestions of others affect your goal of getting better. You are doing this for YOU, not them.

Getting started

Identify the problem:

It might be that you suck at PVP. It might be that your DPS is just low all the time and people are starting to complain. Or maybe you stand in the fire too much. Or maybe your tanking is just not working out.

Try to focus in on the specific issue. Don’t be egotistical about it. Don’t be defensive with yourself. This is not the time to make yourself feel better. This is the time to rip off the bandaid of ego, stare at what you are doing wrong and say, ‘ok, I can make this better’.

The areas of improvement:

There are a lot. Here is my list: Gear level, Itemization, gems, enchants, Spec, Glyphs, ability rotation, tactics, strategies, Interface, control usage.

Wow, that is a big list isn’t it. Let’s run down them briefly.

Gear Level:

This one is a TRAP! It is an excuse and a red herring. Yes, getting higher level gear can improve your numbers, but it is the LAST thing to worry about. Gevlon’s Undergeared project proved that you can down the whole first wing of ICC and multiple bosses beyond that in BLUE gear. This is just one of many graphic examples of how your gear does not improve you. Yeah, if you give a high end race car to any driver they will go fast. But so what? That does not mean you can race. Give every NASCAR driver a YUGO and they could hold a pretty impressive race. Give the first few dozen people off the street a NASCAR and you will have a lot of death and destruction but not a race…. Ok maybe that is what people go to races for, but you see my point. People that do poorly point to gear level as an excuse. DON’T LET IT BE YOUR EXCUSE.

Sometimes, just sometimes, you will hit a limit of what you can do with your gear. But the vast majority of the time if you have a performance issue it is not your gear. Using gear as your excuse paralyzes you and blinds you do all the things you can change and improve that are FAR more easy to fix.

(Yes, I know many raids might not let you in without a certain GS. Ignore them, they suck anyway.)

Itemization:

This is a biggy. If you just throw on a bunch of gear you will not have a good set, maybe even if you pick pieces that seem to be right. Heck even if you pick the pieces you read in a gear guide somewhere. Itemization is not as simple as that. I will get back to this later. Just don’t assume your itemization is right. Don’t assume anything when it comes to improvement. DO know your rule of thumbs: if you’re a healer, spellpower is good, if you’re a rogue, don’t stack intellect! But it gets tricky beyond that and you need to know your class. A gifted priest healer who just rolled a holy pally for the first time might not know that spirit is useless to her.  A new bear might not know that the defense on tanky trinkets doesn’t do that much for him. Learn your rules of thumb so you don’t waste time on evaluating a piece of gear that just isn’t right.

Gems and enchants:

Same with Itemization. Don’t assume. Have you ever put an expensive enchant on only to find out later that it was totally wrong for your class and play style? Yeah I have. Most of us probably have, though maybe not all of us have realized it. Some people simply don’t care. If you want to improve don’t be that guy. Make sure the enchants work the way you think they do! Mongoose might look appealing to a hunter – but since it procs off of melee swings, a good hunter won’t get much use out of it.

Spec:

Your spec can probably be improved. Almost certainly there is a point in there somewhere that could be someplace else. It might be of little importance or it could very well be the thing that makes or breaks you. Even if you had your spec right when you respecced last chances are your play style has drifted and there are changes you could make.

Glyphs:

Research your glyphs, major and minor. If they seem confusing, look for a guide to what glyphs are best for your spec. There might just be three that stand out as “must haves”, or five that have situational uses. Don’t be afraid to experiment and get the best set for your playstyle.

Ability Rotation:

This one can be huge. And it can be subtle and tricky. It can be as simple as finding out your are missing some skill you should be using or as tiny as using them in a different order. It can make a very large difference in your damage/threat/healing. Very large. For most players there is improvement they can make here. For many players there is a LOT of improvement they can make here.

Tactics:

Tactics are the small choices you make during combat. This covers all the buttons you press that are not simply doing your ‘rotation’. Target selection is tactics. Pulling tricks? Tactics. Healer Triage? That is tactics too. This area is pretty broad and it can be a lot harder to pin down your mistakes. Unfortunately there is a good chance that your mistakes are here. Most people could use an upgrade in their tactics.

Strategies:

Strategies are the bigger picture things. Stuff that over-arches everything. It is more vague than tactics and touches on a wider variety of ways you approach your character. There is not much I can say about this area because it is so big. Just remember there are larger things that can be areas of improvement too.

A final note before we get started…

Many of these actually work together. If you make a change to your tactics you might start using a new ability in your rotation. That might cause you to want to change a glyph and that decision effects what your spec should be. Don’t focus on one area of improvement and ignore the others. Try to remember what else can be effected.

Disclaimer

I have had many times where I realized mistakes I was making, things I over looked or stuff I totally did not know. If you think I am writing this because I am elitist, you’re wrong. Unless seeking to get better at the game makes me an elitist…But heck, everyone can be that kind of elitist.

Starting

Before you wade out in the internet, keep in mind that much of the advice out there is aimed at a specific sector or area. For example almost all Talent builds are aimed at someone with max level. There is a good chance that you actually want some other build while leveling and want to respec several times on the way up to move points around. The same goes for stats on gear, glyphs, lots of things. How you play the game is not the same as how others play the game.

And, to make things worse, it is not always obvious. For example a guild to tanking might fail to mention it is totally focused on raid main tanking and that if you are tanking heroics only you might want things a lot different. A PVP guide won’t be much good for doing PVE, and vice versa.

I am going to start with gear, go through them categories of improvement. Keep in mind that if you change something later it might affect things in you already looked at. Never assume you are done tweaking things.

Gear

Leveling gear

The gear choices you make while leveling are different then what you look for near max level.

Don’t waste a lot of time on it.

The first thing to say about leveling gear is ‘don’t worry about it much’. While leveling almost anything will do. But, sometimes it is a trouble area so here is how you take a look.

Find your worst items and look for a replacement. This is pretty straightforward. It is just what is says. You go down your list and look for the slot that is lagging the most and find something new for that. Let’s say you are 23 and looking over your gear you see you still have grey or white boots. That is a pretty good candidate for an upgrade.

Avoid the auction house. But if you do hit the AH, don’t buy the bestest thing you can find. That is a waste of money. Like with most things in life you can usually find something 80% as good for 20% the cost. Buy the Toyota, not the Lexus. You are going to replace it in a few levels soon anyway so don’t waste much on it.

Quest drops

You can avoid the AH by looking for a quest drop. Use site like Thottbot or WOWhead to find a quest reward that replaces your item and go run that quest. Another way to upgrade gear is to grind instances for a while. Go check the information on what drops there though. Thottbot, Wowhead, even WOWwikki all have boss drop information. Don’t forget to get the quests for that instance. Those often reward gear.

If you are above level 60 your best bet is quest drops. Bliz did a much better job from 60 to 80 of providing a steady flow of gear upgrades for people leveling. This is extra true for someone who just hit Outlands level of Northrend level. Do your research on what quests rewards you need and go find them.

Craft your own.

Do you have an higher level crafter alt or a friend who can? Heck you can even spam trade for someone and get them to make you a cheap green replacement for any slot you have that is really lagging.

Max level gearing up

There are four stages to max level gearing up.

Gearing up Stage 1: 200-219

Stage one of gearing up a lvl 80 character is to replace your quest greens and instance blues with item level 200 or 219 blues and purples. This involves running NON-heroic versions of all the level 80 instances. All of them except TOC, FOS, POS, and HOR drop item level 200 blues from each boss and Item level 200 purple from the final boss. This is decent stuff. TOC drops 200 purples from each encounter including trinkets but not including any weapons. FOS, POS and HOR drop 219 purples from all bosses and some random packs including trinkets and weapons. I recommend making a list of all the 200 and 219 gear you want from those top 4 places and running them all until you have most of that list.

Gearing up Stage 2: 232-245+

Badge gear and heroic ICC 5 man drops are what you are going for next. Start by grinding random heroics until you have a few pieces of badge gear (232). Once you have a few of those you can add some focused runs of the top 3, FOS, POS, and HOR. As you are working on ‘stage 2’ you can start also working stage 3. As you run out of things that drop on instances or from triumph badges you will have moved fully into stage 3.

Gearing up Stage 3 is ‘Best in Slot’

This is the stage where you start paying attention to gear guides and finding that one piece of gear that will be best in that slot until and unless you get a raid drop or a zillion frost badges.

Find a guide. There are a lot of great gearing up guides out there. But make sure your guide is up to date. If you find one that looks good but is actually from patch 3.1.2 you will waste a lot of effort and not have the best gear. Many blogs and other sites have made gear guides specifically tailored for showing you the best non-raid gear you can get. Find one for your class and keep it handy. Check off each slot as you get it.

Gearing up Stage 4

This is all about raid gear and frost badges. There are actually various levels of gear from raid drops and badges so you have to do your own research as to which you want. Also which you are working on will depend on what sort of raids you are getting into. You might be 12/12 in 25 man hard modes or you might only get the occasional weekly runs. Or it could be anywhere in between. If you are regularly in 10 man pugs that get 5-6 bosses down then you can easily compile a list of gear you are likely to see drop off of those bosses. If you check this list against what you can get with frost badges you will be able to have a master wish list of what you are working toward.

Gems/Enchants

These depend on your spec. First off never leave anything ungemmed or enchanted. If you are not sure what is best min-max slap a cheap enchant or gem in there until you go find out what is best. Don’t waste Epic gems on less than phase 3 gear. Put those high gold cost ones on gear that you expect to wear a while. Also keep in mind what gemming and enchanting you want will vary based on other factors.

Step By Step Powering Up

Step 1: Rotation, Talents, Glyphs

The biggest areas of ‘problem’ you can have in your character revolve around your Ability Rotation, your Talent Build and your Glyphs. These three end up being a LOT to cover. But since they are tied tightly together it is hard to fully separate them. Chances are if you make a change to one you will want to change the others… but since it is impossible to talk about them in a lump lets break them down.

Rotation

What might you be doing wrong with your ability rotation? There are two big ways to screw this up. There are other ones but these to cover most of it.

Using the wrong abilities.

There are a lot of abilities out there. Even in one spec there are a lot to pick from. BUT they are NOT all appropriate for you to use. As you level up you end up with abilities that are intended to replace other abilities in your main rotation. Also as you apply talent points you increase some abilities and decrease others. In a given fight there is a limit to your mana/rage/energy and also to the number of global cooldowns and seconds you have to use abilities. You can’t use them all. You have to pick which to cast and which to not cast. If you pick one over another you might be picking wrong. No, don’t tell me that you prefer to play that way and don’t want to change. That is nonsense. Some abilities are flat wrong. For example if you are a Prot warrior you should not be using Sunder Armor. For Prot warriors the Devastate ability completely replaces Sunder Armor. If you did not notice this you might go on using the wrong one. This is just one example and there are a LOT of others. Another example is that for a Survival hunter Explosive Shot replaces Arcane shot. There is pretty much no reason for a survival hunter to ever use Arcane shot once he gets Explosive Shot. That is just how the game is made.

It is critical that you find out what abilities make sense for your spec and which do not. It is also important you understand which abilities are interchangeable depending on situation. For example a warrior can use Heroic Strike or Cleave. They both (pre Cata) go off on the next strike so you get one or the other in a given swing but not both. So you pick which you want depending on the situation. It is not just spamming buttons. One is good for certain situations and the other is good for others. If you are just randomly hitting whichever you feel like or if you just use one because it is your favorite then there is a VERY good chance you are often using one that is not the best choice.

The scope of this article is not to tell you which is best. There are FAR to many choices to cover all that. The point is to get you to go look.

DO – Find out what abilities people are recommending for your class and spec and find out WHY they are recommending them. Don’t just find one guide and do what it says. It could be wrong or it could be out of date. Read several, check for counter arguments and debate. Check the dates on what you are reading.

Using abilities at the wrong time or in the wrong order.

There are efficient rotations out there. People with a head for numbers and a lot of time on their hands have worked out what rotations of abilities make sense for particular specs. If you trigger abilities in the wrong order, or prioritize one ability over another you can see very large changes in your damage/threat/healing. Even if you are using all the ‘right’ moves but are not using them in the right proportions you may be wasting a lot of your potential. I had the experience of realizing I was not using Maul enough on my bear. I was using it. I thought I was using it a lot. But when I studied up I realized I needed to be using it EVERY SWING. So I went and made macros so it triggered every time I pressed any of my other hot keyed attacks. My DPS/TPS shot way up. I knew Maul was important, and I was using it a fair bit. But I did not realize just how important it was or just how often I needed to be using it. Had someone told me ‘maul more’ I might have scoffed and said “I do that”. It was only when realizing I had a serious PROBLEM with my DPS/TPS and that I needed to make a serious change that I finally did the reading I needed to really see what I needed to change. VERY often small tweaks like this can make a large difference in damage/healing output. Don’t assume you have to make big changes to see big differences.

DO – Read up on proposed rotations. Make sure you check if they are intended for bosses, or trash or what. Rotations vary based on the fight. Read more than one version and look up enough to understand WHY they suggest those rotations. Compare that to what you do. I mean REALLY compare. Find a target dummy and practice. What you think you do for a rotation and what you actually do may be different in subtle and important ways. If the rotations you read about have a ‘priority system’ make certain you understand what they prioritize when and why.

Analogue inserts – this is even more important for certain class/specs. For instance, the paladin tanking rotation is a very tight rotation of abilities we call the “969 rotation”: you use an ability with a 9 second cooldown, then one with a 6 second cooldown, then 9, then 6,  repeat til things are dead. If you do, you have insane amounts of aggro, control the fight, everything’s beautiful. If you don’t, you flail around, don’t have a good pattern, and your healer dies.  Not every class plays like this – for instance my healing druid might cast any spell at any time depending on what needs doing.

Talents

There are a lot of ways to screw your talents up. Some are small and some are large. Sometimes when you vary from the conventional ‘wisdom’ in your talent build it does not matter and sometimes a few misplaced or missing points can completely hamstring your build. Let’s look what what you can do wrong.

Mistaking PVP and PVE talents

Are you a PVE DPSer? Then you don’t want to be wasting many points on things that up your HP or give you more dodge. There are a LOT of talents that are aimed squarely at PVP. If you are a PVPer and you don’t have some of those you will find you are squishy and get owned a lot. If you are a PVEer and put points into many of those talents you will find your dps/heals/threat is seriously lagging.

Points you forgot about

Play styles change. You might find you are never using a certain spell but you put 3 points into making it crit more often. Oops. Don’t let your Talents sit around forgotten. Check up on them and compare what you see to how you currently play the game. If you are 80 and are still using your leveling spec to run heroics and raids then you probably have some really poorly spent points.

Key Missing Points

Many trees have some points that really make or break it. It is not always obvious what those are. For example as a bear there are 3 points you HAVE to take or you can’t be a serious tank. I was ‘bearing’ at max level for a couple weeks before I went back and did my homework and realized what I had missed.

Here is a key point: Sometimes those critical talents are not in your main tree. In fact every decent build I have ever heard of has points in other trees that are important. I have never heard of good build with 71 points in one tree. But you see this mistake a LOT. The only way for that to happen is if people do not read all the available talents and weigh what things will and will not matter for how they play. Don’t be that person! 71 points in one tree is a sure sign of a noob. Fix it before people start to point and laugh.

Listening to ‘conventional wisdom’ in place of thinking

This can really hurt you. Don’t listen and turn off your brain. I lost track of how many level 60ish DKs I ran into that had all their points in frost and were trying to tank. Why? Because you use frost presence to tank. Clearly that means you must need to put all your points there, right? Wrong. If you don’t know why (and you are a DK) you either have not read what your talents say on them or you have not read anything on the internet about DK tank builds. Probably both. There are plenty of examples of this. Like putting all your points in to BM on a hunter because someone said it was good for leveling. Well it is good for leveling but don’t put your points there just because someone said something. Read up for yourself and do your own thinking.

Leveling without respeccing

There are some great builds out there for when you are max level. You can look one up and use to assign each point as you go. But that is almost certainly a bad idea. Because what you need while leveling is not the same. It works better to assign them as you go based on what you are currently using, and everyone so often, respec completely to move some points around that you don’t need anymore.

Always be ready to respec. Any change to your play style can change what points make the best sense for you.

Using a cookie cutter build

This can work… or it can be suboptimal. If you don’t know WHY they chose those talents then you will not know if they are actually best for your play style.

Reading the text for yourself and deciding based on just that

Wait… what? That is right. If you just go off what the text of the talent (or ability) says then you can get really screwed up. Why? Because Blizzard is BAD at percentages and uses the English language ambiguously. I am an engineer who deals a lot in contracts and requirements. Those contain specific language that is intended to be completely unambiguous. If two people read one thing and come up with a different idea of what it means then that text is BAD. Blizzard, in their descriptions of what talents and abilities do, makes this mistake a lot. A WHOLE LOT. Some of the text can be very misleading. A good example of this is taunts. If you read the text of ‘mocking blow’, ‘growl’ (bear), ‘growl’ (hunter pet), and Distracting Shot and tried to explain how each was different, without doing some extra research, you would be almost certainly completely and totally wrong. And the ways you would be wrong could be life or death in a party.

I am not saying you are too dumb to figure it out. I am saying those ability tool tips can be VERY misleading. I had to explain to a warrior one time that Mocking Blow was not a taunt. But it says right there in the text that it taunts. Except it doesn’t. It is a forced attack and not an ‘attack’. This is a subtle but very critical distinction and can lead to all sorts of headaches while tanking if you are depending on that ability. When your own judgement contradicts what is out there on the internet do NOT assume you have it right. Don’t assume the internet has it right either. Keep researching until you are SURE. If you find yourself saying ‘this has to be wrong because the ability says…’ stop right there and go research more. (And if you are totally lost about those taunt descriptions then go read my posts on tanking)

I have run into this first hand. For a long time I read the text of aimed shot as applying a debuff that makes other shots hit harder. Does it say that? Well not really, but it could be argued that it does. When I figured out how wrong I was I felt pretty stupid. This leads me to another point…

Since this post has gotten too long I will make it my last point.

Don’t let ‘feeling stupid’ get in the way of getting powered up

We all hate to feel like a buffoon. There are a lot of things about powering up that can make us feel that way. If someone gives us some criticism we mentally reject it. That sort of thing make us feel bad. Don’t look at it that way. Find a way to see their point. This means EVEN if they were a total asshat about it there might STILL be a point in there. In fact even if they way they worded it was WRONG there still might be a point in there somewhere if you look at things from all angles. If you are serious about getting better you need to start treating all criticism as a chance to improve your game.

Changing your rotation? Makes you feel awkward and clumsy.

Changing spec? Makes you feel totally lost and confused.

Reading that some other ability (that you ignore) is important. Makes you feel defensive, and annoyed with yourself and others.

Finding some advice that counters your thinking on gems or enchants? Makes you want to defend your side of things, or to call ‘sour grapes’ on their thinking.

There are many ways that trying to power up can get us defensive, or feeling stupid. Do NOT let that get in the way. You are in control of your own mind and emotions. Don’t let them control you and do NOT let them send you pack to your old less effective way of playing. It is easy to convince yourself that you are good enough. This is a crutch we lean on when getting better seems to hard. Most of that ‘hardness’ is mental and not real. Don’t let your natural reactions get in the way.

They are natural reactions. I am not saying feeling stupid is stupid. We ALL feel dumb when we realize we have been making a mistake. That is normal and perfectly ok. It does not mean you are dumb. It is only dumb to let that feeling rule you. Harness that annoyance and make it motivate you to get better.

It is VERY easy to let this sort of thing get in the way. Many times I have seen an issue with something and resisted actually doing something about it. I would slog forward for a while until the problem blew up in my face or the slog got so annoying I had to fix what was wrong. Have you ever done that? Ever realized your spec was bad but did not bother to fix it for a while? I think we have all been there at one time or another. Just learn to recognize when you are trying to avoid fixing something. It is usually a good indicator when you find yourself thinking up an excuse for something.

 I had intended this post to give a case study of one character I did some ‘powering up’ to. But it has turned into such a huge wall of text I will save the practical examples for other posts. In the future I will try to document an actual ‘power up’ session and post what resources I use.

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Big Bear Butt just posted an outstandingly good post on what the real meaning of being in a party is. It is important for all of us to have the attitude of ‘what can I do to make this party succeed’. The points BBB laid out are very solid and cover each of the three rolls in general. I will look at hunters specifically.

Why? Because I like hunters. I do a lot of druiding these days but I still feel like my hunter is my main. Plus hunters have a lot of tools for helping the party succeed.

Do Good DPS

Of course everyone knows that roll of a good DPSer is to DPS well. Right. But how? Hunters have three very different specs each of them use different abilities as part of their regular rotation. Just because on spec uses a skill a lot does not mean you have any business using it in another. The thing is that hunters are very easy to suck at. By that I mean you can get by and even do somewhat ok while not being any good at all as a hunter. Part of this is because they can do some ‘ok’ damage with just autoshot and a pet. And because their pet keeps them alive a hunter might not be challenged to kill things with any speed. Some classes find it harder to get to 80 while being completely bad at their class. Hunters can do that.

So don’t do that. Take the time to find out what rotation works well and use it. Being ‘good enough’ is not good enough. Doing just find a few shots and say ‘oh but I like how I play’. Just because your damage is high enough to not get your kicked does not mean you are really doing your part to help the group. Yes you can still play Beast Mastery even if that is not the bleeding edge highest DPS. Play any spec you like. But at least take the time to play that spec WELL. Find out how you can tweak your build to get more out of it. If you are mostly doing PVE content, know what talents and glyphs are not very useful for PVE and avoid them. There are a lot of skills that are intended to be mostly useful in PVP. For example talent points that make you and your pet more durable. Those are ok solo. But know that those are almost completely a waste if you are running a lot of instances.

Turn off your pet growl

Seriously, just do it. No, removing the icon from the pet bar is not how you do that. Right click until that glowing boarder goes away.

Get a DPS pet

In instances your bear or turtle are not as effective as a cat or raptor. Look up what pets do better damage and tame one. Don’t chose your pet based on the look of it. Chose based on its damage output. You can swap back to your favorite looking one when you get back to town.

Manage your threat

Hunters played well do gobs of threat. That is why Bliz gave us such great agro management tools. You should get a threat meter and use it.

Keep Feign Death on a handy hot button and be ready to hit it.

Macro your Misdirect

No, just using it sometimes at the start of fights is not enough. Make a macro for it. It is really easy.

First type /macro in the chat window to bring up the interface.

Next click the new button.

Name the macro.

Don’t bother picking an icon, leave it as the default question mark and it will select the right one for you when you are done.

Now, in the big area on the left type this:

/cast [target=focus] misdirect

You are done. Put that on your bar somewhere handy. Now at the start of each run, select the tank, right click them and ‘set focus’. Now any time you press your MD macro it will do it on the tank. There are other ways to set up a macro for it. If you know another one, use that. You can even set one up so it will hit your pet instead if there is no tank focused. Either way, do it.

Why? Simple. Because for a long fights, where you are doing good damage, one MD is not enough. And for rapid pull runs your MD might not be off cooldown at the start of a fight. With a macro you can quickly and easily use MD during a fight without almost zero impact on your DPS.

Just Fake it

Use Feign Death. Use it a lot. Watch your threat meter and use it BEFORE you pull threat. Make sure you stay dead long enough for your threat to drop. If you just hit the button and then start shooting right off it might not have taken effect yet.

Trap Stuff

Learn how to use your traps and be ready to use them. Keep in mind that a particular tank might not like having a target trapped. If they complain, don’t argue, just change what you are doing. No the tank is not to be worshiped or anything, but you are doing this to make their life easier. Anything that helps the tank stay focused and not get thrown off stride is good. If the tank says trapping stuff is messing up his pull then don’t trap stuff. Simple.

Watch that Tab!

Tab target is a handy feature. However, when combined with autoshot it is very dangerous for hunters. Be careful! And be ready with the FD.

Control your pet

The pet is an extension of the hunter. If it goes running off after something it is your fault. No, it is not blizzard’s fault for giving you a crazy pet. There are fast and simple ways to control your pet. Use them. In addition to the button bar three are easy macros and there are also key binds. By default pressing ctrl-2 will cause your pet to return to you. If it starts to run somewhere you don’t want it to, press ctrl-2. Yes, pets can be buggy. But if you had time to reign your pet in and failed to do so then it is not blizzards poor programming that is at fault. It is your fault.

Know how defensive, passive and aggressive settings work and use them as appropriate. Don’t just leave your pet on passive. The pet is a VERY large chunk of your damage output. Leaving it on passive to make things easier for you is lazy and a huge disservice to your fellow party members. Don’t do it. If you can’t control a pet, go roll a mage. You will find if you try that controlling your pet can become second nature. But you can’t get better if you don’t try.

For most situations, putting your pat on ‘defensive’, being fast with ctrl-2, and carful with tab targeting things will solve most pet control problems.

LET THE TANK PULL

Misdirect is great. Super great. But it lets us hunters get away with doing some amazingly rude and annoying things. It lets us start fights and not instantly die. Try to avoid the temptation to do that. You can push it a little by starting shooting just as the tank engages but try not to start shooting just BEFORE the tank engages. Doing that may throw the tank’s pull off. Most of the time it is no big deal but it can be annoying to the tank and that is simply not helpful. You are making harder the hardest job in the party. Don’t do that for a few extra points of on the meter. It is just not worth it.

Cut it close? Sure! Learn the tanks rhythm and pull style and adapt your play to it. You can be right on their tail with some nice hefty damage but reign it in just enough that you ARE following their lead and not setting your own pace.

Being an Asshat or being an Asset

With MD and FD plus wearing mail (to say nothing of traps) hunters can get away a very large amount of being an asshat without actually dying. Don’t do it. Just because you lived does not mean you are not on the rest of the parties ignore list now.

Those same tools can be very effective and helping a party succeed. You can save a healer with traps. You can really boost a poorly geared tank’s threat output and keep agro on them. You can MD whole packs of adds that the tank failed to notice and get them over to the tank. You can be a tanks best friend or their worst enemy. Instead of taking pride in only your recount score and in the tears of QQ why not take pride in saving the day?

There are a lot of hunters out there but only a few really good ones. And ‘really good’ huntering is not defined by recount.

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