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Archive for January, 2011

More Raid Status

*** To all RSS readers: sorry about the double post. Ignore the other one. ***

So we had another weekend of raiding and again no bosses down. But there was progress on some fronts.

Friday we went back to Halfus and tried him again. We were very hopeful because we got him down to 7% last week and into the teens several times before the enrage. We had more DPS this week so we were pumped to ‘geterdone’. Sadly it was not to be. We had nearly the same dragon combination but the difference was critical. We had the Slate dragon which gives the stacking debuff. No sweat. You just have to tank swap. Not worth it to wake him up. We also had the Time Warden same as last week. That is the one that gives the aoe fire rain. Ok, so we kill that one. Last was the Storm Rider. He was in place of last week’s Nether Scion. So in place of the tanks taking a little more damage we had raid wide aoe and knockback that that has to be interrupted PERFECTLY. Ouch. This combination was probably the worst possible. The raid damage is quite bad and the knockback is killer on the heals. We pretty much got creamed. We did change things up and bring in a enhancement shammy to help with the interrupts but it was just nasty. In retrospect we could have kept trying and gotten lucky, the DPS was there but the healing was having a lot of trouble. But we didn’t.

For the second half Friday’s run we popped over to Throne of the Four Winds and tried to learn that fight. Pretty interesting stuff. Big learning curve with all the jumping around. We wiped several times to people not getting to the bridge fast enough. And we were having an issue with the warrior tank being too soft. That closed out Friday. In retrospect we were making ok progress at learning it and should have gone back there Saturday… We didn’t.

Instead decided to go for Magmaw. I blame my eagerness to get something down. I was so hopeful about Halfus all week that I was willing to reset the learning curve and try a boss that was supposed to be ‘easier’. That was a mistake. Magmaw I chalk up to raid balance. We were short on hard hitting AOE at first. We had two mages, both went frost for the slowing effect, one boomkin and a lock. We started off having a big problem with the adds, naturally. We knew the theory and tried the basic strategy of moving all the ranged in a tight pack.

DPS was marginal, healing was marginal and our movement and kiting was marginal. By ‘marginal’ I mean it might have worked but it was so close to ‘barely’ enough that every little mistake was mercilessly unforgiving. So we wiped. We eventually swapped to the strategy where everyone is in melee except one sacrifice for the flame to target that Jaded Alt laid out on her blog.The “at ranged” was the lock. He also went to Affliction spec and that really upped his aoe DPS. That strategy started working by the end of the night and we made some progress. We managed to get Magmaw fully chained twice in a row several times, and got him to around 70%. Not nearly enough but good progress. I am convinced that if we had one of the mages go fire spec for more AOE dps (neither had a fire spec at the time. Karius of course went right out after the raid and swapped Arcane for Fire) or had brought in a good hunter that might have worked. Alternately having a DK aoe kite in place of the lock might have helped too. It is hard to say. I think we were starting to get it with a marginal raid makeup. With a slightly different make up it would have been easier. The boomkin knockbacks were very effective as were the mushroom’s slowing and the frost. But I don’t think the two blizzards and the shrooms all stacked… So there is some optimization we could have done. It looked like we were going to have real mana issues all around had we been able to get farther but it was hard to be sure.

Our DPS was looking better than ever this week except on Magmaw where the two frost specs really lowered the average of normally hard hitting mages.

We are still having issues with the warrior tank being soft. This week on the second trash pull before Magmaw we were able to compare apples to apples of damage and see he was taking almost 20% more damage than the bear. Prior to the last few raids I would not have though having a few slots of ‘DPS’ plate verus ‘tank’ plate would have made that large a difference. But apparently it does. Ouch.

Healing continues to be a challenge as is expected in this expansion. Having our healers hit a bit harder will be great as gear gets better, but so will the whole raid getting better about dodging things. On both counts I blame myself a lot for changing what bosses we went after. Next week we are going to pick just one and really cream it. If the drake combination is even slightly better that one will be Halfus. We have done him the most and know him best. If we had last week’s combination again he would have been down.

I was very happy with how well we went into fights raw and hit the ground running, trying things and learning new mechanics. I need to get better with the ‘directing’ side of things as far as calling out abilities or transitions.  I kinda wish there was an ‘observer’ role where I could raid direct without having to actually, you know, raid. Heh. Or at least not have to remember my rotation and cooldowns and what not.  The Throne of the Four Winds is pretty annoying for leading because you can’t see what is going on at all. It is just “Ow. Ah…. I am down” and health bars twitching all over. I should go find videos on each of the platforms… Well maybe later. I want to go after Halfus first next week.

Analogue notes: I am really happy with my healing team. I have three other ladies who run healers as needed for us – usually some combination of two druids and a shaman or two shaman and a druid. I also have Karius as my backup… she’s got a Holy paladin and is gearing up her Holy priest, but it’s hard to turn down her awesome mage-ness! We are getting to learn these fights and I think picking up really well on what we need to do. I’ve started to do combat logging and if I can just figure out how to use information out of World of Raids, we’ll be set. I think our heals Saturday especially were a little light; one of my two shaman are a bit undergeared, but she’s working on it. That dragon combo was kind of killer and it was with that input that Reversion made the call to switch. We just couldn’t keep tanks up, or the raid dropped.

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Hi guys! A message from your friendly neighborhood resto druid here.

(see me? I’m doing VuhDo!)

 

Ok, Cataclysm’s been out for a while and some of you may have noticed healers rerolling as DPS, or complaining a lot, or just sitting in a corner weeping quietly into their tea. Maybe you have noticed. Maybe you laughed, or felt lost, wondering what exactly is going on.

It’s up to all of us to prevent healer burnout! If you’re a raid leader, you’ll want to watch closely for this. Find one of your healers who you can count on being honest with you and ask. Chances are your healers are sharing their complaints amongst each other and she’ll have her finger on the pulse of the heal team. Even if your heal team is two people, it’s important to know.

For everyone else, even people who just run a dungeon now and then, there’s things you can do. Simple things. Things that will make your healer love you.

Buff Up: What buffs do you bring, and do they stack with everyone else’s? If you’re a paladin and there’s a druid in group, give Might. If you’re a lock and there’s no priest, can you pull out your imp for the stamina bonus? Hunters, what does your pet bring to the fight? Focus Magic/Dark Intent – Resto druids will kill for these buffs, and they’re not too shabby for other healers either.

Take responsibility for your own health. Out of combat, eat some food. In  combat, if you use a bandage, Gift of the Naaru, or some class ability to regain health, your healer will love you. Paladins? Word of Glory on yourself. All the time. Let’s do this. Spriests? A quick Power Word Shield at the right time can really take the stress off the healer. Say Baron Ashbury just got done asphyxiating you – toss on a shield and go back to dps. Most classes have some ability to help heal themselves. Even mages can glyph Evocate to return heals.

Help dispel. I can’t say this enough. Know what you can dispel, what your healer can dispel, and watch for it. Short version: Curses: mages, druids, shaman. Disease: priest, paladin Poison: Druid, Paladin. Magic effects: all healing classes, Shadow priests.

If you are in heroic SFK, and you’re a mage and you have a priest healer, when you get to the last boss, remove those damned Cursed Bullets. They are basically impossible to heal through right now, but easy as pie if you just remove them. Please, please remove them.

Interrupt Abilities: Every ability that is interruptable, should be. This is something Reversion is really big on. The more things get interrupted, the less damage the tank and everyone else takes. Most melee classes have 10-second-cooldown interrupts. Use them all the damn time. I don’t care if it hurts your dps; it helps the fight more than words can say.

Stun Things: See ‘interrupts’.

Debuff the Boss: Like the above. It interferes with your perfect rotation a tiny little bit, but that Faery Fire really helps out. Know what debuffs you have and bring them. If you don’t know, make like a mongoose and go and find out.

Related topic: remove enrage effects wherever you can. Druids, hunters, and rogues can all remove enrages. It might take a while to learn what one looks like. This will reduce the damage the tank is taking.

Mages, don’t forget Spellsteal! Any time a mob has something cool, steal it and use it to kill him!

Don’t Stand In Bad -I think that says it all

Crowd Control: If there are five mobs in a  group and you control one until at least one of the other four is dead, you have reduced the amount of damage incoming at any one time by 20% (Rev: It is actually almost 25% assuming you are single targetting things down and you CC one target for the whole fight. I will do the math in anothre post.).  That’s equivalent to healing that amount of damage for the same length of time – so congratulations, mages, you just joined team healer! I know this can be tricky to do, especially if the tank doesn’t believe in crowd control, but ask pretty much any healer and she’ll tell you, crowd control is awesome and amazing. If you crowd control a healer, it usually shortens the duration of the fight noticeably, so you’ll make your daily heroic run faster – much faster than just aoe’ing would be!

Help with Aggro: Yeah, this helps the healer! The tank is designed to take big hits. The warlock is not. If the warlock is taking hits, the healer has to either let him die or keep him alive and too often, that drains our mana. So if you can misdirect onto the tank, drop aggro, or otherwise help out, please do so.

Move Faster: So you are moving out of the bad stuff… Good for you. But you probably can move out of it faster. Most things are timed so that if you move the instant something appears you will take no damage at all. If you reguarly are taking damage from things you can move away from you need to move faster. 

Look, most of this is common sense and I might not be telling you anything you don’t know: but it’s easy to forget and pick up bad habits. For whatever reason we healers are way too willing to put up with a bad tank or bad dpsers not doing this stuff. We shouldn’t, and that’s our responsibility, but just know that even if your healer doesn’t say anything, she probably is really appreciating it when you do these things.

Oh. Yes. And mages? Please always give me mage food. I promise to throw out a table when I’m maging, too.

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Dear Melee DPS

Dear Melee DPS,

This just isn’t working out. I think we need to stop seeing so much of each other. At least in dungeons. We can still raid together. Well, twenty five mans. Ten mans are tricky to work out too.

It’s not you; it’s me. I really love how you’re all up in the boss’s butt, bravely backstabbing him and slicing off his knees. That’s awesome. I really, really love your ten-second-cooldown interrupts and my friend the tank would like to ask you to keep using those every time a boss tries something, please.

But there’s just too many of you. I can maybe handle one of you in a heroic. Two, in a ten man. It’s not your fault at all. It’s just all the encounters out there seem to have splash damage around the boss, short range AOEs, debuffs from hitting things, things you have to run away from. And you guys try so hard, most of you (I’m looking at you, XXArthaassXX. You totally refuse to run away from anything and then wonder why you die. Have fun with the repair bills bud).

And let’s face it; my AOE heals are not what they should be. I know you guys try to stand in the puddle of green…. but Efflorescence and I have just agreed to a trial separation. I fell so hard for that shiny green circle, but it just couldn’t deliver.

But fight after fight, night after night, the mage and warlock are lowest on the “damage taken” meter. How is this even right? Mages are supposed to die in the first ten seconds of the fight, and locks are emo self-hurting goth punk kids. Why are they so much better at not taking damage?

Well, they aren’t. It’s that damn splash damage. Oh, and of course some of you like to stand in front of the boss, where you can get cleaved and parried and stuff. But most of you are better than that. It just seems like, right now, standing near the bad guys is a bad thing.  Should be left to the tank.

And the aggro. Tanks are doing awesome at holding aggro these days – but every now and then they lose their grip and someone else gets nommed. And it’s always you guys. You’re right there, so close, so inviting. No time to react. Boom. Dead. At least if someone goes after the mage, the tank has time to taunt it right as the mage frost novas it next to me and blinks away. You guys don’t have that luxury.

So let’s try cooling things down for a while. Maybe seeing each other as friends. We can work out a schedule for doing things. Or if you bring your friend, that hunter we were talking about. Maybe we could work things out like that.

Or you can roll a mage. Let me know if you want to try that. I’ll even help you gear up.

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I have two main characters.

Analogue became my main during Wrath and probably will remain my main for as long as I play; I’ve just so merged my identity in WoW with “druid healer” that I don’t think I can change it. She gets leveled and geared first, that’s the name I use in Vent and on blogs and, well, it’s my WoW identity. Symbolically, she became my real main when she got name changed to Analogue. Originally she was named Metaphor, but when we moved servers the first time, that name was taken, so I looked for something themically similar and chose Analogue. It works for me.

Then there’s Invariant – who, like Analogue, was originally not named Invariant but Variant. Again, first server move, that name wasn’t available so I changed to Invariant. Either works. She’s a mage. She’s not the first character I rolled, but she is the first that actually appealed to me enough to get past 40. She was my first level 70, my second 80, and my third 85. Poor thing. But despite being leveled behind my priest, I identify with her a lot more than with my priest. Elucidate is just “Analogue’s priest”. Invariant is…. Invariant.

I’ve been able to keep her identity because I use her for very different things. I’m not that into damage dealing these days; I’m too perfectionist to like doing a lousy job, and too haphazard to get 100% performance out of my mage. Oddly I don’t have the issue with my druid… but it’s the role, not the character. I give 110% when I heal; when I’m doing damage I just don’t.

But somewhere along the way Invariant became my achievement runner, my pet collector, my archeologist. It seemed logical enough; mages have some advantages like portals to everywhere. Makes them a lot faster at world achievements. She got 50 pets; then she got serious and scored 75. Now I collect them just to have them.  She has the first mount achievement, and works slowly on getting more. Her archeology is 525 and I’m looking forward to plenty more time with that.

Do you have a dichotomy like this? One character for “fun” and one for “serious business”? Or a PVP main and PVE main, or a different identity for Horde and Alliance?

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Braggart

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This post is aimed at players in our raid but anyone is welcome to comment on it.

First off, our mission statement. We want to run a ten man progression raid that is able to take down current content. We are not aiming for server firsts, but want to be a serious raid. We raid two nights  a week, Friday and Saturday, 7-11 CST, every week.

Attendance and Performance

  1. First and most importantly, the consequences for raid-related behavior are just for our raid. This is not a ‘Guild Raid’. We have neither authority nor desire to impact your standing in guild. If you don’t work out with our raid, or don’t like our raid, you can stop coming and no one from the raid will give you any grief in guild or Vent. We try to play well with the other guild raids but we don’t consider this to be a guild run. The only ‘punishment’ for anything is not getting invited regularly, or at all.
  2. Second, attendance is important but ‘prior notice’ and ‘fair warning’ are even more important. I will have invites out every week early. Please accept or decline as soon as you can. If it’s going to take you to Wednesday to know if you can raid, sign up as tentative, tell me, and then change as soon as you know. Please communicate me if you decline as to why you can’t come; if you are burned out on raiding, I won’t bug you next week. If you just can’t make it this week but still want to be in the consideration let us know as early as possible. Reliability is a factor in deciding who gets invites.
  3. Once you have accepted, I try to set up “confirmed” and “standby” lists before Thursday  so you know. If you are standby, please hold your raid lockout open. Otherwise be free to do whatever you like that evening – as long as you’re willing to step out and join us if we need you. Feel free to ask me what “standby” means in your case: I may be able to tell you how likely you are to get in.

    On a side note: To be a successful reliable raid that is doing progression we have to have ‘standby’ people. It is important to the raid’s viability. No sports team goes to a game without the minimum number of players and expects to win. Likewise we have to have at least a mental list of those we call on when something happens or a fight needs a different strategy. Who is in the initial invite, who gets confirmed and who is on standby is variable based on what the raid needs most and what has the best chance of success. As we start actually making progression we will do what we can to get ‘alternates’ their shot at various bosses so they can keep gearing up.

  4. Raid time is 7 pm. That means be ready to start pulling trash at 7, with your flasks and  food buffs in your bags, not in a heroic, and not asking for a summons. We don’t have any authority to ‘punish’ but we stop putting unreliable people in the initial ‘confirmed’ slot, or will stop inviting them altogether. The raid must go on.
  5. Quitting time is 11 PM server. We plan to rarely pass that. If we have a boss to 1% we might take a vote to try one more time. If we take one you are free to say ‘no’ with zero penalty. The majority of the time we will end as near to 11PM server time as we can. This prevents raider burnout and also helps people keep outside commitments.
  6. Leaving early is frowned on. If you can’t stay the whole time, talk to Analogue about it BEFORE raid time/day. We can make adjustments in some cases but if you drop out early for something that is not an emergency we will take that into consideration the next time we send out invites. The raid must go on.
  7. Raid night is Friday AND Saturday. If you can only make one, be sure to let me know that. You will then have a lower priority for the other raid night that week. If I have to bring someone in to fill a slot on Friday, that slot belongs to them on Saturday if they want it. I don’t want to take advantage of people and get them saved to raids without any hope of finishing. It might take most of Friday to figure something out and it is bad for the success of the raid as a whole to be swapping people in and out too often.
  8. Performance: Gearscore and Recount are tools. We use them. We do not worship them. If you are the top dps but can’t do your interrupts and stand in fire, you are not as good as the guy doing less than you but not standing in bad. Period. Conversely if you are missing gear, we are going to ask that you find a way to fill those slots. A pair of  333 bracers is bad luck at the wrist slot; five pieces of green gear is a sign that you don’t really want to raid.  This is a fuzzy one. We take into account the numbers, the harder to quantify skills but also ability and willingness to learn, adapt or overcome. Attitude is weighed in and so is the vague general ‘fit’. Most of a successful raid is how well people work together. We will not bludgeon, threat, or cajole people to try and force them to fit in or follow the plan. We will just stop inviting them and find someone else.

Requirements for Raiding

  1. Deadly Boss Mods. No ifs, ands, or buts
  2. Ventrilio. You don’t have to talk; you do have to listen
  3. Vuhdo, Grid, or Healbot for healers, configured to show relevant debuffs
  4. One of the above or Decursive for mages, spriests, pallies, anyone who can remove bad things or apply good ones
  5. Gear to have at least cheap enchants and gems. We can help you with those; talk to us if you need enhancements. Armor packs are ok for tanks.  At least the lower level arcanum and inscription appropriate to your spec. This is very minimal. Further gearing up ‘requirements’ will be based on the need of the fight and will determine who gets confirmed and who doesn’t.
  6. Flasks and buff food. We’ll try to have feasts but at least have a stack of fortune cookies or something. You can use the 60/60 buff food, or the 90/90, your choice. Again, if you need things cooked, talk to Analogue.

Raid Composition

  1. Sometimes, for the good of the raid, we may not be able to take everyone who wants to come. If we have four dks who would really like to come, that is probably not viable.  If I have to choose between bringing a third druid healer or a paladin, I will probably bring the paladin. This is not a reflection on anyone. It’s just about getting bosses down.
  2. Sometimes we may ask someone to swap roles or even characters, or step out so we can bring someone else in. This will either be because of some mechanic (we need a knockback, so I have to go boomkin) or we just don’t have the right group composition (nobody with fast interrupts).
  3. These days buffs are fairly homogeneous so it’s unlikely that we’ll have to choose someone just because of a buff they bring. That said, if we have four druids and five plate wearers, we may miss some key ability, or even be running the risk of getting useless drops.  It probably won’t affect the raid as much as ranged/melee/tank/heals balance but we may take it under consideration.
  4. Swapping in and out people to tweak a strategy, fix an issue, improve DPS, increase healing, etc. will be done as needed for the good of the raid. We appreciate everyone having a good attitude about it. Please no drama over it. We value good attitudes. To be honest, someone with lower DPS that is willing to step out for the good of the group is probably more likely to keep getting invites compared to someone who has high DPS and a negative or abrasive attitude. LONG TERM success of the raid is as much a factor as week to week success.

In-Raid Behavior

  1. Everyone we invite is a mature adult (well, in some cases precocious teenagers are invited) who is another actual human being. Everyone deserves to be treated properly. Therefore, there is no insulting of other raid members in raid chat or vent. Mild and good natured teasing is ok; when it goes over the line and becomes attacking, that’s not ok. Use good judgment. If we have to warn you about it don’t be surprised if the invites stop coming.
  2. This includes trash talking. Some people love that stuff and can dish it out and take it just fine… but some people don’t. Don’t post your meters to brag or talk smack. If you want to call someone out for something whisper us about it. If you want to brag, do it in some other chat or after the raid. Our goal is the success of the raid as a whole. This requires a supportive environment where people can excel as a team.
  3. Drama and over sensitivity are likewise discouraged. And ‘blow ups’ are right out. If something or someone bothers you, say so. If you have a problem with someone, whisper us about it. If they stepped over the line tell them calmly, or tell us and let us deal with it. To a point… We aren’t mommy. We are here to raid, not to solve your personal frictions. We are not forcing you to raid so don’t force us to deal with your drama.
  4. Vent is to be kept clean. We’re not going to kick you for a slip of the tongue but swearing doesn’t make you a better raider. No sexist, racist, or hateful speech. I don’t care if you are, say, Polish, making “dumb Pollack” jokes is not all right. You can extrapolate from there to whatever minority group or opinion you like.
  5. Vent is to be kept clear. We won’t be total sticklers here either but during pulls, stay off the air. If the tanks miss a swap because you won’t shut up, that’s bad. If the healers don’t hear “Mana Tide down!” and go OOM, that’s bad
  6. Talking about strategy is fine. We love suggestions and insight. But once we have settled on a strategy, that is the plan for that pull. If we wipe, we can discuss it again later. Do not try to execute your own plan while we are expecting something else.
  7. After a fight keep the discussion to problem solving, trouble shooting, and simplify passing along information. Accusations and arguments do not help us get down bosses. Dispassionate discussion of what happened does. If we have to point out something you did wrong or ask you to do something different to tweak a strategy take it like an adult and don’t take it personally. We all make mistakes. Making mistakes does not get people kicked from a raid. Blowing up when called on a mistake might.
  8. If you don’t know, ask. We are willing to explain things and even re-re-explain them. If you are at all unclear on something before a pull please ask. If you don’t understand why we’re doing something, ask; sometimes the mechanics of a fight are complicated and need more than one explanation.
  9. Keep a good attitude. Wipes happen… in raiding they happen a LOT. We all know this and accept this. Complaining someone got us killed, whining about repair or flask costs do not earn sympathy. If you can’t wipe for hours with a cheerful attitude raiding is not for you.

Loot

  1. Currently, we plan on using priority rolls followed by main spec rolls followed by off spec. BUT, that is later, when we are getting several bosses down. For now things will be a straight single roll for main spec if anyone can use it or offspec if no one can.
  2. For BOEs, we’ve been pretty lax at letting people take them for alts and friends if no one in the raid can use them. That may change. We have people that have alts that are likely to be needed for swapping in and out to tweak strategies. Sometimes we might have to designate BOE drops for those characters. We will try to be as fair as possible.
  3. Don’t be a loot pig. If you get three drops in one run (yeah, not likely any time soon) be courteous and see who else can use them. Depending on the needs of the raid we might let you have all three or we might let someone else have something.
  4. Spirit is for healers. Yes, some dps casters can use spirit but healers get dibs. Hit is for caster dps. Healers can roll if the mages don’t want itRoll on gear that is appropriate to your class and role. If you roll on something that does not match we reserve the right to give it to tell you and ignore the roll. If you think we are mistake about it feel free to ask. We do not fly off the handle. Just being it up in a calm sensible fashion. We can admit we are wrong but we don’t respond well to dramatics.
  5. Veto Power: This early in the expansion we have lot of gear needs to make the raid viable. We, the raid leadership, reserve the right to redirect something based on greater need for the good of the viability of the raid. We don’t much because we are really nice people. The example might be to prioritize one person’s ‘off spec’ over another’s based on what the raid might need them to change to. We reserve the right to do this but in practice we almost never do. This might seem vague and annoying but frankly things like DKP drive me nuts. Way too complicated. And loot councils are cumbersome. We will retain full veto power but will listen to input from anyone that wants to say something. Then we will decide. In practice we just let the roll happen and award the loot. If someone has a really bad need for a particular item we might consider using veto power. I don’t expect this to happen much, perhaps not ever. If it does we will discuss it enough that everyone is reasonably happy with the decision. Just don’t confuse such a discussion with a council vote.

Have Fun

  1. Or else!

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Raid Expectations

It was the best of raids, it was the worst of raids; it was the strat of wisdom, it was the strat of foolishness; it was the pull of belief, it was the pull of incredulity; it was the heal-y zones of Light, it was the void zones of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way

Ok, so, apologies for the Dickens parody quote and from the wrong book at that (but honestly, Great Expectations was a terrible book). It just seemed appropriate for me. The weekend’s raiding was an emotional roller-coaster for me. Hopefully less so for my raid partners.

First off, we are not Serious Raiders. We are not a “raid guild”, nor is our run an official “guild run”. There are no apps and requirements but conversely Reversion and I have a free hand to manage things. Last week was our first raid at all, so it’s not like we have a bunch of super players who were ready the week after Cataclysm. I’m well aware that we’re weeks behind the world first but darn it, I am proud of my raiders because they try hard, they know their stuff, and they’re really pretty darn good. Gear will come; skill is, I think, there already.

So last week we raided only Friday and while we made a few token boss pulls in Bastion of Twilight, we were mostly there for the trash. Our dps was too low, our tanks’ gear was weak, the healers’ gear was lacking…. but we made the couple pulls and started to learn the basics of the fight. This Friday, we headed in with the determination to do some serious attempts.

First, though, I had to deal with my attendance issues. We’d had one raider tell me he just wasn’t feeling it, and wasn’t going to be raiding. One raider wasn’t levelled yet. One had horrible gear issues. One of my healers had to work until two hours past pull. And the other healer…. declined my invite.

Not a problem. I brought in another druid, Elia who has raided with us on her shaman or druid on occasion. I knew she was a solid player who’d have my back and heck, I’m always looking to expand my “healer bench”. Falahla, one of our two pro mages, got her hunter husband Ado to come along. He is a Serious Raider like we aren’t, but he was taking the week off so nothing kept him from trying boss pulls with us.  We pulled in Grom’s paladin, and a warlock who is in the other guild raid (to be specific, the player is in that raid but usually on a different character) and went.

We two-healed the trash without incident. Well, there was the time we accidentally pulled the second patrolling group while we were working on the first. “Everyone out!” Reversion ordered, and we made it…. except for poor Whodowhat the warlock, who had just zoned in and got eaten. Ooops. Elia and I coordinated our Lifeblooms, we used crowd control like the pros we are (if there’s one thing I want to boast about in our raid, it’s our crowd control. Reversion is expert at setting the pulls, our raiders are great at carrying it out and keeping things sheeped/frozen/repented, and as a healer I love that)

So we started making attempts on the boss. We had dragons 1,2, and 5 active, going around from the left; that’s the one that gives the boss an attack speed buff, the one that makes the boss stack a healing debuff on the tanks, and the one that makes the proto-dragon have a Flame Barrage ability. (I think; Reversion will have to correct me if I’m wrong [Rev: I edited it] ) The obvious first one to be released was the one with the attack speed buff. Healers couldn’t handle the tank damage otherwise.  Then we’d do the flame barrage one, so that we could see the incoming fire attacks and get out of it.

Well, long story short, the healing was brutal. Just brutal. We could keep either the tanks or the raid up, but not both. Around 9, our missing shammy healer came on and we asked the lowest performing dps to step out. He, being a good guy and knowing that his gear was terrible, graciously agreed and we brought in Chalandrae. That helped a lot.

Then one attempt, we get the second drake down and the healing gets so much easier. Everyone burns the boss. I throw some Wraths, Chalandrae fires off Lightning Bolts – and at 15%, he hits the enrage timer.

So we go back in, set up again, the tanks die. And again. We do some discussing and the healers all agree that the tanks felt squishier the last few attempts.  We check their gear. Reversion looks ok – well, now;  back at the start of the night, after doing all the trash and our first wipe on the boss, Ado asks in vent why exactly Reversion is wearing his fishing pole. Ooops. Logarithm’s gear has some pieces that are more dps-y than tank-y, and he definitely took more damage than Reversion. We decide that the good attempt, they just somehow used all their cooldowns perfectly and that’s so hard to replicate with our skill level (Rev: We do pretty well with cooldowns all the time but that first phase, if you have just one dragon out, is a real healing race with what the tanks take and what the raid is getting from the fire balls. That one try it just happned that what was falling from the sky, what the healers were casting, and what the tanks were poping, all dovetailed perfectly.) But it’s quitting time anyway, so off we go.

Now, during the raid I determined that I had made a serious error. I had forgotten to put Saturday’s raid on the calendar, and some of my raiders thought we were only going Friday. I had to talk to a few and assure them that we were indeed going Saturday and please not to go with a different group that was rumored to be going.  But all day Saturday I was nervous. We were already having attendance issues and now….

Saturday afternoon I whispered with the healer who had declined our invite, asking him what was up, since I’d seen him online when we were. He said he didn’t think we were geared enough to down bosses; I said that we knew we had some weak slots, and one guy whose gear wasn’t that great and we asked to step out when we had a viable replacement and an obvious need for a stronger raider. He clarified that he meant tanks and healers needed “all 346 and one or two purples”.

Ok, I got mad. If you Wow-Heroes’d me (apparently a favorite of some guildies) you’d see I have a 316 trinket, because I haven’t got the heroic version of it yet and I prefer it’s spirit proc to any of the higher ilvl trinkets that I have. And 333 bracers because, darn it, there’s two pairs of heroic leather bracers out there and I can’t get either to drop. But I had just the night before gotten an epic staff from Bastion trash (it’s so cool; it looks like a Twilight Hammer symbol!) , we were gemmed, enchanted, and darn it we’d hit the enrage timer at 15% to go the night before. Which I pointed out.

Well, we got back after church and the other raid had started – but my core raiders were waiting for us in vent. I got us; seven of us. I added whodowhat, and then…. we needed another healer and a dps. Elia hadn’t come online, but Chalandrae had so I had a shammy healer, but after last night I knew we needed three.

Karius started asking around, and found us some people from her old guild; Squishi the feral druid, and Jhudara the shammy. So we were set. Two shammy healers and a tree sounded good to me!

We went and started making attempts, refining our strategy all night. Finally we settled on three tanking it – Squishi turned out to be a great bear as well as a cat – and releasing two drakes at once, burning them down, then killing the boss. It started being obvious that we could survive into the boss-burn stage with this. Once the healers OOMed and we wiped; I asked the shammies to drop their mana tide totems in a defined order and to call out when they were doing it, and that helped.

By the end of the night we were reliably into the final phase and hitting the enrage timer with 12% or less to go. Our best try was 9%. We discussed trying to two heal, or find a way to get more dps, but we came up against the end of the raid.

Now, this is why I titled my post “raid expectations”. That just seemed the theme of the whole weekend. That raider who didn’t think we were geared enough? The raid he went to didn’t do as well on the same boss; by 10 pm Saturday he’d rsvp’d for next week’s raid. Elia, who heals for the other guild raid, mentioned how much she enjoyed our expert crowd control usage. We’ve been having a discussion with some guildies who just don’t see CC as that important. It’s really funny but those guildies are invariably NOT healers.

Jhudora, the pugged in shaman, kept whispering me about how much she liked our raid for keeping Vent fairly business like and not having vulgarity and mean-ness in our raid chat. I admit, I was sort of taken aback, but then I remembered that that’s one reasonwhy I decided we should run our own raid; because that crude “humor” annoys me so much. I find a lot of women who run with us really enjoy the non-sexist, non-crude, affirming atmosphere. We often has 5 or 6 female players in our raid.

Well, I invited Jhudora to come with us next week too and hopefully she will – she’s exactly the sort of healer I want.

I did decide that the guildie who said we weren’t geared enough has a point (Rev: A small one. An average of one upgraded item per person and we likely would have had the boss down. The raid that person bailed on us to go to wiped hard and broke up early), and this week I WILL get exalted with Wildhammer for a couple epics there, we WILL upgrade some of Reversion’s gear, and we WILL work with our raiders to see a few upgrades, make sure they are enchanted, grind mats for flasks and feasts (we ran out halfway through Saturday night) and hit things really hard this weekend. I want Halfus to come down; then we’ll decide whether to push on or to visit Magmaw or Omnitron.

This already is a wall of text so  I’ll save my discussion of what I want in and from my healing team for later this week. Until then, I’ll just note that this week I have 13 invites out on my raid invites – and 8 confirmed,  4 tentatives.

Oh, and does anyone know a good addon for doing calendar invites and stuff? I want to be able to do Fri and Saturday’s invites at the same time without the hassle…

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So the first few times through H SFK we skipped Commander Springvale (third boss; upstairs right after the dining room boss). Well, we tried him, wiped to adds, didn’t come close to downing him, and moved on. Then someone told us the strategy, and we refined it farther, making it easy.

First, clear the room he’s in. Then, go clear down the ramparts, at least the three guys + pat. You can even go all the way and then come back when you’re done, if you’re in a guild group or expect people to stick around.

Next, have a tank who has some sort of speed boost. A druid works great, the bonus speed in cat form can give a big head start. Also some dps who can CC are valuable but not required.

If you have cc’ers, have them stand by the door to the ramparts. The tank stands at the other door. Mark CC targets. Have the dps apply cc. Roots, Shackle Undead, and Repentance work on undead. As soon as the ccs go out, the tank taunts the boss and runs downstairs, through the dining hall, through the kitchen, and to the courtyard.

While he’s doing this, whoever was doing crowd control run to the ramparts and jump off into the courtyard. Be sure to jump through the right side!

Everyone meets back in the courtyard. The tank keeps the boss pointed away from everyone else so that his aoe shadow breath stuff doesn’t hit. Stay out of the death and decay.

If one or more of the adds comes with him, get the adds down fast. Interrupt the adds as much as possible. Unholy Empowerment is the ability that you want to interrupt. It lets the boss stack additional Word of Shame stacks on people. These are not dispellable and will just kill you dead, or your healer’s mana and then you. They remove 5% of the targets MAX health per 3 seconds – not something you can heal through.

They may fix him so he leashes, in which case you’ll want to cc one add, burn the other, then burn that add, then stay on the boss til more adds come in, but if you don’t have strong dps this will be tricky.

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How To Use Healing Meters

So, my fellow healers, do you run with Recount (or Skada) or not? What do you use it for? I know there are healers who just don’t bother installing a recount-type addon, and I think that’s a mistake since it gathers good data for us. On the other hand, I’ve run with healers who look at their heals-per-second minute as thought it actually means something, or worse, as though “winning” that category in a raid means that they are the best healer.

First Things First: Your heals per second number means basically nothing. Ignore it. It’s a trap. In fact, in many cases the healer doing, say, 11k heals per second is objectively a worse healer than the one doing 7k. Why? Because often the big, heal-meter-padding skills are going to run you out of mana. Cataclysm healing is a marathon, not a sprint. Looking at heals per second is akin to saying “This guy averaged 8 miles per hour, and this guy averaged 5, so the first one wins” in a marathon – without realizing that the first guy dropped out at mile 5 and the second one went on to finish the race. Heals per second only counts the time you actually spend healing. So if you do, say, 100k heals in 10 seconds and go OOM, you just did 10k HPS. But the healer next to you who does 200k over the entire minute-long fight just did about 3.5k HPS. Now, maybe you blew all your mana saving a tank from some unexpected thing, and that saved the day. But it’s more likely that you just blew all your mana and then stood around looking pretty for the rest of the fight.

All right, that’s done. So let’s talk about what you can get out of a healing meter.

First, there’s the DPS/damage done tab. I prefer the “Damage Done” tab in recount to the DPS tab. The damage done will show me the course of the whole fight, not just the average. I can easily see that Mr. Rogue has great dps but poor overall damage because he’s slow getting into fights or dies a lot. The most useful part of this tab is knowing who to battle rez, blow a cooldown for, or give some specific damage-boosting cooldown. In a raid, this will often be called for you but if it’s up to your discretion, this part of the meter can help you out a lot.

Second, there’s the informative tabs – Dispells, Interrupts, Crowd Control, CC Breakers, etc. Now more than ever it’s good to know who is dispelling things, interrupting, or breaking crowd control  – and Recount keeps track of all these things. If you’ve never flipped through the tabs, do it now. You might be surprised that Mage 1 does 95% of the decursing while Mage 2 never bothers. Or remind the Enhancement shaman to use his interrupts.

Third, there’s the healing meter tab. I just said that HPS weren’t useful, but the breakdowns can be. You can see what spells you or the other healers are using, and spot problems in rotations (assuming you know rotations well enough). I like to glance at it and make sure that I’m using a fairly balanced mix of spells, with Lifebloom counting for a lot of my heals. If you think someone is underperforming, this tab can help you figure out where and why.

Fourth, the overhealing tab. Ahhh…. now this one is key. In Wrath I’d often see huge overheal numbers, as a druid. I’m working hard to get those down. A little overheal is not a problem; things like Wild Growth can overheal, as can Lifebloom or Efflorescence or…. but keep an eye on your percentages and try not to have much there. I’m trying to get my overheals below 10%.

Note: Paladins are likely to have a good bit of overhealing due to Beacon of Light and Tower of Radiance, but if you look at their parse and see a lot of other overhealing, you might ask why that is.

And most importantly, to me, the death reports tab. I’ve just started really using this one, but man does it have a lot of information. You can get a tick-by-tick rundown of the last seconds of a fight, showing incoming damage and heals by name. There’s even a way to see it in graph form. So you can see who was healing the tank just before he dropped, and who wasn’t. I’m not saying this so you can call people out better, but for learning. It’s also a good way to confirm what killed someone: “Yup, you stood in the whirlwind”, or “Yeah, the boss was beating on you for a good ten seconds there”.

So if you’re not using it, download Recount or Skada and give it a whirl. If you are using one, explore a bit and see what other tabs you have never really looked at. Right now we need all the analysis tools we can get our hands on as we learn strategies and encounters without the safety margin of inflated gear.

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