Recount fear

23 October 2009 § 2 Comments

Me: “Actually, no, you didn’t die to untanked whelps, you died because you got cleaved by Onyxia”

PUGPriest: “That’s not true, I got eaten by whelps – people, let’s not get punted into the pits”

Me: *links Recount death metre, showing PUGPriest getting cleaved*

Me: “Let’s also try to stand away from the front of Ony, please – chaining cleave is really a bad idea”


One attempt later:

PUGPriest: “I was eaten by whelps again – tanks need to control them better”

Me: “Hmmm no, sorry – you were hit by Ony’s flame breath. She was in an awkward position, but we need to make sure only the tank is in front of her”

PUGPriest: “No, I tell you, it was the whelps”

Me: *links Recount death metre, showing the one shot due to a 25k Flame Breath*

PUGPriest: “Look, Tsark, I don’t care what that mod says – I know what happened!”


I don’t care who you are – whether you are my best friend or a PUG I meet for the first time. I also don’t care how you die: however stupidly you do, I probably have died in a similar way in my past, and quite likely I have died in even more stupid ways. What really bugs me is when you

  1. blame other people, when you are not blameless yourself;
  2. try to argue that Recount is wrong.

In fact, this post is really about the second issue. I don’t think I am a metre fiend. I have never kicked someone out of a Vault group because their dps is too low (and I have left Vault groups that did that on at least two occasions, precisely because I don’t think it’s the right thing to do). I also hate it when people link metres after a boss fight (malus points if they are doing it during a loot roll moment, because that forces everyone to scroll around to see who won the roll). However, I still think Recount is an essential tool to figure out what happened.

During a raid fight, we’re all going to be busy doing lots of things: healing, tanking, dps’ing, moving out of fires, etc. It is highly unlikely that we will have perfect awareness of all that happens, and that goes double if we’re getting one-shotted by an unexpected source. If it’s slow damage (e.g. the fire debuff from Gormok the Impaler), we will notice; if a mob beats on us slowly (e.g. one or two untanked whelps during Onyxia) we will notice; if we are having a lot of whelps flying around, and at the same time Onyxia fire breathes and immediately after fears, then it’s unlikely that we can know for certain what happened. That’s where Recount helps: it tells us exactly what went on. Most importantly, we can check it after the fight, when things are a lot calmer, and we can think back about what happened and how we can improve. Note that what I just said applies even more to combat log analysis sites (e.g. World of Logs, which is the one I use currently), but that requires people to be even more “offline” (i.e. not busy in actual combat) than a simple Recount link does.

Once you see a Recount link, the absolute worst thing you can do is to say “the mod is wrong”. Newsflash: computers don’t lie. Sure, they suffer from GIGO, but that’s a different story. Also, Recount is pretty solid for recording combat logs – and while it’s possible that you died because several things hit you at once, they will all show up on the combat log. Recount is not perfect: sometimes, it will just record your death and little before it, for reasons that are unknown to me. But I’ve never experienced Recount doing a false positive, i.e. recording something that didn’t happen.

Now, of course, there’s different ways to use the information Recount provides. Pointing fingers and assigning blame is never nice – and often counter-productive. Clearly, seeing how people die can easily lead to just that – so as a raid leader I normally try to avoid doing that, unless the raider in question is insisting that they didn’t die from such-and-such, while Recount shows they did. However, if you’re called out and a recount link proves you wrong – the best thing you can do is say “Ooops” and move on. Really, dwelling on it is just going to make the matter much, MUCH worse for everyone – yourself included.


Star people

23 October 2009 § 1 Comment

Tsark 091022 - Algalon killshotA couple of months after we first saw him, and with a raid that is 50% different, yesterday we managed to take down Algalon. Great timing, I must say – my raiding group has gone through some pretty disappointing raids in the last couple of weeks, so hopefully this will be a great morale booster. In typical fashion, we managed to do it on the very last pull of the night (we had 4 mins left on the Algalon timer), and with two raiders replaced just before we started Algalon pulls – one of which is actually only a friend, who had never even seen the room before.

On a side note, Tsark finally has a neat title – “of the Nightfall” is now too inflationed, I missed out on “Champion of Ulduar”, so I had to use “the Diplomat” for the last couple of weeks (which, admittedly, suits Tsark’s personality very well).

On a second side note, yeah I know I said I won’t turn this into a blog glorifying my raid group – but it’s my blog. So I can change my mind. So there.

On a third side note, wow our group sucks at posing for screenshots.


21 October 2009 § Leave a comment

I’m changing some of the links at the bottom of the page – and posting about it, because, yeah, they are at the bottom of the page, not the most obvious and easily accessible resource (just about the one thing I don’t like about my template).

Healer’s Heaven hasn’t been updated in a long time, so it will have to go – I’ll put it back on the list if I see it becoming active again. I did find I Like Bubbles, though, so I added that one in – which means the number of healing links stays constant.

I’m also adding a generic Resource category for links. Aside from the usual WowWiki and Wowhead, I’m also including Epic Advice – it’s a relatively new site, with an interesting (and open community) model: you ask questions, the community answers, and reputation/votes keep the best questions and answers visible. Go check it out if you can – and feel free to vote up my answers, or include my blog in the priest blogroll (I was too shy to self-promote me that way!).

I’m in a healing state of mind

20 October 2009 § Leave a comment

There’s two players in my raid – let’s call them Juggoo and Mahag (because clearly I don’t want people to recognise them, right?). They play, respectively, a Balance Druid and an Elemental Shaman. They are also fantastic players: not only topping dps metres, but playing their character to the full extent of their specs – even going so far as throwing the occasional offheal if one of our healers is down and the health level of the raid requires it. Here’s the puzzling bit: they suck at full-time healing. I don’t think they would mind me saying that, because I’ve often told them to their face. So this made me think – is there such a thing as a hybrid mentality? And is it different from a healing one (or a dps one)? And why would someone make an excellent offhealer and a pretty bad main healer?

(If that opening paragraph made you think of a Sex and the City episode, then we’re like-minded. If I start talking about my sex life, please stop me…)

World of Matticus recently featured a guest post about healer mentality, suggesting that the healer role requires some aptitude, a desire to avoid the spotlight, and a need to feel important. I’m not sure I fulfil these criteria: I tend to like the spotlight, and (as my blog name testifies) I’m actually not sure I am very good at healing – although I know that I’m much better at healing than I am at dps or tanking. I will however agree that healing does make you feel wanted, and no matter how little recognition we get from metres or forum posts, most healers I know like to smile benevolently on the top dps when they brag, knowing full well who stood in the fire and got healed through. However, if I were to test those three criteria against my two hybrid raidmates, I wouldn’t get very far.

Let’s leave aside the aptitude bit – that’s what we’re trying to explain, in some way: why two otherwise great players are not so good at healing. I will however say that one of the two actually does have a healing alt, and he’s pretty good on it too – so clearly (at least for one of them) there is some aptitude. Both of them like the spotlight – but I think that really applies to most everyone in my 10-man raid, and the format allows most people the chance to talk on vent, or be in the spotlight. They certainly should welcome the need to feel important and key to the raid survival and success – in fact, they probably claim more merit than they deserve for many of our achievements, if I were to be totally honest. So we’re left with a healer (myself) which satisfies one criterion, and two hybrids which satisfy one and two criteria respectively but actually perform worse. No disrespect meant to Professor Beej, then, but I think the matter is more complicated than that.

So what is going on? Allow me to throw some ideas around:

  1. Practice, practice, practice. Let’s face it, most of us are not natural born players, who can take up one spec at a given time and be the best at it the next minute. Oh sure, we all know someone who actually is like that, and I envy them – but I think it’s safe to say, they are not the rule, they are the exception. My hybrid targets hardly ever play their healing specs on their main characters, so of course they don’t have the automatic reflexes someone who plays a healer full time might have. Honestly, I know I heal a lot better on my priest than on my druid or paladin, even when considering the gear difference. The fact is, I played a priest for 4 years, and so I know many tricks, and I also set up my UI in a much better way than when I started out.
  2. Facerolling specs. Some healing specs are just inherently easier to master than others. I’m sure I will get some hate for this, but I firmly believe that resto shamans really need to work twice as hard as anyone else to get results – and paladins and (especially) druids are probably on the other side of the spectrum. Priests, imho, are somewhere in the middle: I think it’s a spec that allows you to keep a group up with minimal effort, but then requires some real skill to master. So, asking a shaman who has never done it to switch to healing is probably going to go worse than asking a druid.
  3. Can’t touch me. We all know about healer tunnel vision: players who get so focused on the green bars of their raid members, they fail to notice the big giant fire that spawned at their feet. Well, I think there’s a flip side to that. If you pay too much attention to what’s going on around you, you will have less attention to devote to the green bars. Sadly, DPS requires you to pay attention to your environment, your procs and your target health – and so I think some DPS may actually fail to look hard at the bars to see what needs to be done.
  4. And it gets worse. The previous points mean that a dps who switches to healing will probably not do so well the first time – and this may create a strong negative reinforcement. This is the one point of Professor Beej’s post where I can recognise my own path: I basically kept playing my priest because people kept telling me I was a good healer. If someone is good at DPS, and knows it, then tries out healing, and realises that he’s not as good, he may not be very encouraged to continue the experiment. This means she will get no more practice, and thus fail to improve – and you can see where this is going.

Well, so let’s say you’re in a raid, and suddenly you need to ask one of your dps to switch to healing. Let’s even say that they have been diligent little raiders, and have a healing spec and gear ready to go. How can you try to avoid disaster?

  1. Start them up on easy fights. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to have some spec switching for easy fights, so that people get used to a spec they may need to play in an emergency. This is something I always wanted to do in my raid group, but haven’t managed to yet
  2. Assign them to the easier task for the fight. Throwing someone into the fight with no healing assignment is only going to increase the number of things that can go wrong. If you can focus the hybrid’s dps attention on a few variables, and reassuring her that the other healing tasks will be covered by other people in the raid, will simplify her job, and improve the chances of success.
  3. After the raid, encourage people to check out detailed logs: even if you don’t normally record logs (because it’s content on farm, or because you just don’t), it’s worth recording these fights, precisely because you’re trying to get the most learning out of a smaller number of experiences (Jim March calls this intensive learning, an essential characteristic of learning from infrequent events).
  4. Make sure to debrief them after the raid – you’d be surprised at what they found hard, and sometimes you’ll be even able to pass a trick or two.

In the end, if everything else fail, do like me, and recruit three more people who are comfortable playing both healing and dps roles. I know – easy way out… but sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do, and this way everyone is happy 😀

RL and all that….

14 October 2009 § 4 Comments

I’m not dead! I haven’t stopped updating this blog! I’ve just been swamped by real life and other obligations. I’m away this weekend, visiting Istambul, so I don’t think I’ll manage to upload anything new today – however, things will hopefully get back on track next week….

Also, dieting sucks, but losing 6kg in 3 weeks (that’s about 14 lbs, for you Americans…) is definitely worth it.

Surviving Faction Champions – a PvE priest guide to a PvP(-ish) encounter

6 October 2009 § Leave a comment

Over at World of Snarkcraft, Jov posted about her strong dislike for ToC. I made it clear before that I don’t particularly like the instance either, but Jov focuses on a point that seems to resonate a lot with people, judging from the comments. It seems many raiders resent the Faction Champions encounter, because they don’t want to PvP – and sometimes, they have never done any PvP at all.

I really don’t see why a raiding priest that has got as far as this should have an issue. Yes, this encounter is different, but so are many others – and that’s never stopped a raider before. I suspect (and this is Dr. Tsark, doing his best Lucy Van Pelt imitation) that some raiders may just have a psychological block regarding anything with the dreaded three letters (“P”, “v”, and “P”) in it.

So, as a PvE priest who only occasionally dabbles into PvP (often to the dismay of my team members), I’d like to offer some pointers. My experience stems from 10-man, but I have experienced the fight in 25-man, and I cannot say that things are very different at all.

The fundamental thing

Be mobile.

No, really, that’s just about the most important thing to know. More specifically, you want to a) move away from enemies, because incidental AoEs are never fun; b) if mobs are on you, you really want to move, as fast as you can: if your raidmates are doing their job, most mobs are going to be snared somehow (rogue poison, Piercing Howl, Frost Nova, Mind Flay, most frost DK attacks, etc). That means, you move faster than they do, so getting out of the way is the best way to reduce damage on yourself. Oh, and for added bonus, if the mobs are not snared and catch up with you, you get to yell on vent to your raid mates: “WHY AREN’T THEY SNARED?” This is sure to help you release the frustration you built when your raid mates have yelled to you that you were late with the Mass Dispel *sage nod*.

Right, back to mobility. The fact that you’re going to be moving a lot has one important consequence: always favour instant spells over anything that is cast/channelled. If you can do this, you’re already doing about 50% of the fight right.

Your role

As a priest, you have two roles to play in this fight. The first one is the most traditional one you’ve always known: keeping everyone alive. Emphasis here is on everyone, because damage is not going to be soaked by the tanks. The Champions will focus on someone for a few secs, before either killing this person (this would be bad), or switching to the next target (this is good!). Now, here’s the other twist. The direct damage the champions deal is, for the most part, not too high – certainly doesn’t compare to what you healed your tanks through for Northrend Beasts. However, most of the Champions have some sort of DoT that can be really nasty: the SPriest’s SW:P ticks for a lot; the DK diseases ramp up his strike damage considerably; the moonkin’s Insect Swarm can be quite deadly – you get the picture. So, instead of going crazy to heal through all this damage, make sure that you’re dispelling everything (or abolishing disease as the case may be).

This is in fact a very important point: dispelling is, in this fight, as important as straight healing, if not more so. Think about phase 2 Yogg-Saron with no Mimiron up, to give you an idea – or, if you’re a really old fart like me, pretend you’re back at Chromaggus and your raid leader just designated you as dispeller (as an aside, I actually kept a pure mp5 set for such an occasion – ah the days when mp5 and spellpower just didn’t exist on the same gear!)

Your second role is new, and that is to dispel offensively. Now, this is quite important, because we’re one of two classes who can do that (whereas defensive dispels are more common), and compared to Shaman’s Purge (the other offensive dispel), we also have an option do it AoE. There’s three things in particular you want to look out for:

  1. Heroism/Bloodlust – this needs to be dispelled ASAP, as the Champions’ damage output ramps up exponentially. Most boss mods announce when this buff goes up, so that’s when you have to start spamming Mass Dispel. “But Tsark”, I can already hear you say “how can I spam it if I have the rogue/DK/paladin/warrior/mage/felhunter on me interrupting me and silencing me?” That, my dear readers (all 2 of you), is why you have raidmates to help you out. Team up with a paladin, and have the paladin BoP you as soon as Heroism goes up – this will stop you from getting kicked or interrupted by most melee. If the paladin is Holy, and he has Concentration Aura up, he can even pop Aura Mastery, to make you immune from the felhunter/mage/SPriest counterspells. Heroism normally goes up within the first 15 seconds of that fight, so the paladin wouldn’t have to babysit you too long. Also, if he’s the kind of alert paladin who knows his stuff, he can start using his judgement on whether to use his BoP or not – if no mob is on you, he can save it for a better use.
  2. Paladin bubble: if you have a paladin in the opposing team, he will bubble like most paladins do when they get low on health. Unlike most Alliance paladins, he won’t hearth – he will instead proceed to heal himself (sorry Alliance players, couldn’t resist). This is normally when you get a steady stream of screams on vent all yelling at you because they need your mass dispel NOW. The way you can actually save yourself a panic attack is relatively simple: before you pull, focus target the paladin. When you see his health going down, that means he’s the focus of your raid’s attention. Make sure you see where he is (yes, I just asked you to look away from the raid frames and onto the actual game – scary, huh?). Move within 20 yards of wherever he is, and click on your Mass Dispel button to get the targeting circle. Place it under him, and once he reaches 30%, start spamming away. Now, if someone is beating on you (or if the caster interrupters are still around), you may get interrupted. If that’s the case, just say so on vent, and trust that either someone else will get it, or that the rest of your raid will be happy to burn him down again. In other words, dispelling the bubble is nice, but not the essential action that dispelling Heroism is.
  3. Paladin Wings: if you have the Ret Paladin amongst the champions, it is essential that you take his wings off as soon as he pops them – he may well one-shot people if you don’t. So, fortunately you have him on your focus frames, right? So it’s easy to see the icon of Avenging Wrath pop up, and just shoot him a simple Dispel Magic (no Mass Dispel needed this time, so no chance of being interrupted).

There’s other buffs on the Champions that you can dispel (Thorns on the druid, Earth Shield if the Resto shaman is around), but they are by far less essential than the three I listed above.

Your tools

Important note: Before the fight starts, you need to make sure you have easy access to all the tools I’m mentioning below. Some of them are common tools, some are not – all need to be quickly accessible, hopefully keybound to easily-reached keys. If that requires rebinding some of your keys, consider doing it – although I don’t suggest rebinding keys for just one fight, because you need the speed that only comes from habit, so learning a new keybind won’t work too well. At the very least, know where the various buttons/keybinds are, so that you don’t spend precious seconds looking for them.

Healing Tools

I’m sure you’re all fantastic healers, but the specifics of the fight require some adjustment. In particular, forget about Greater Heal – no matter where you stand in the GHeal vs FHeal debate, in this fight GHeal makes you too vulnerable to interrupts. Power Word: Shield is, as usual, your bread-and-butter – spam it with impunity (no cholesterol in cyberspace!). Prayer of Mending is even more awesome than usual. Remember when I said there are no tanks and everybody gets damage? Well, the consequence of that is that your ProM will not get stuck on the mage-in-the-back-who-never-gets-hurt, and instead keep happily bouncing around bringing lots of healing goodness. Renew is another good spell – again, although it normally gets a bad rep, the combination of being instant and the fact that the Champions often switch targets means that you can use it to help bring people’s health up. Penance is a borderline spell – it’s too good not to use it, but it has a cast time (or a channel time, in this case), which means you risk an interrupt. My personal suggestion is to use it ONLY after you’ve shielded someone, and thus have Borrowed Time up. The same considerations apply to Flash Heal, only more so given that it’s a less awesome spell.

Special mention to Pain Suppression – though not strictly a healing tool, it will save lives in this fight. Don’t be afraid to use it: yes, it has a long cooldown, but the early part of the fight is the one where things are likely to be more chaotic and you will need most of your tools. PS will probably be up again before the end, but by then it won’t matter much anymore.


Dispel Magic and Abolish Disease are your best friends. With a little bit of practice, you will be able to recognise which buffs/debuffs to dispel first – I tend to focus on the damage DoTs first, then the cc’s (Sheep, HoJ, etc), then the snares (Frost Nova, Roots). Mass Dispel is essential, but we covered that before.

Survival Tools

Desperate Prayer is really your greatest ally here – nothing like a good 6-7k of healing as the Champions decided to make you the next kill target. Psychic Scream is good to get a few of them off you. Be warned though: they all have PvP trinkets and some of them can get out of fear in other ways, so don’t automatically assume Scream will get them all off. Healthstones and Health Potions are a godsend.

One tool which is often not mentioned is Fade. The Champions do have an aggro table, they just play with it a lot more than the average boss, randomly assigning a huge chunk of threat to one player. However, the important thing is that Fade will actually get them off you – at least long enough to throw a heal on yourself or drink a potion.

Racial abilities

Just about every race has at least one ability that is useful in a pvp situation: Will of the Forsaken, Stoneform, Every Man for Himself, Arcane Torrent… Just because you don’t use them normally, it doesn’t mean you must forget about them now. Read well the tooltip and make sure you understand when to use it – you’ll be happy to know how it works when it will save your life.

A typical fight

Just to give you an example, here’s how I handle that fight. I pre-shield myself, and 2 dps which always seem to take a lot of damage (warlock and rogue). I also place my Prayer of Mending on another healer, and make sure my Fear Ward is up, before we pull. The first few seconds are the worst: I focus on dispelling the most, and shielding if I see someone dipping below 60%. I also keep my mass dispel button, and start targeting the area with the most champions. Once Heroism comes up, I spam it, while a Holy Paladin protects me from interrupts.  After 2-3 Mass Dispels most Heroisms are off, and I can focus once more on single dispels.

My priority list, if I were to spell it out, looks like this:

  1. Dispel any debuff on raidmates
  2. Make sure ProM is still going
  3. Throw PW:S
  4. Throw Renews
  5. Use other heals (Only if no-one is on me, and I’m reasonably sure there’s not an interrupt waiting to be cast on us)
  6. Dispel stuff off enemies
  7. DPS enemies (SW:P, Devouring Plague, etc)

The extra mile

You can do two more things, if you feel the extra effort will help. One is to reglyph for this fight. The only glyph that may be worth putting in is the Glyph of Pain Suppression. In my experience, you won’t need it – but I freely admit that my raid is really good at saving my butt if I get stunned with a few melee on me.

The other thing is to get a PvP trinket. Before you start howling in pain, let me assure you that it’s actually not difficult to get one. The best way is to find a friend that likes to PvP, possibly a dps, and just pair with him. Just going to a few Wintergrasp battles will get you a very nice trinket that will enable you to get out of one form of cc. Also, contrary to popular opinion, you can play Wintergrasp without any resilience gear: your additional spellpower acts as a nice defense, making up for the lack of resilience (I normally play WG with a mix of some PvP pieces and many PvE ones, these days).

However, let me reiterate that neither of these things is necessary – especially not after the nerf that Blizzard gave to Champions.

Phew, that was much longer than I thought it would be. Well, we’re done now – thanks for sticking with me till the end… and I swear, the next post is going to be much much lighter.

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