Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Dreaded AFK Beast

Our guild leader got back into town, and I finally had a chance to share with him my experiences from last week's raid, and ask about things I could do better, especially in terms of keeping AFK's to a minimum, and he shared some interesting advice that I thought I should share with you, Internet.

Share Your Raid Plan Early
The first thing he asked me was "Did you tell everyone what order you'd be doing the wings, at the beginning?" Of course I hadn't, I didn't know myself! I'm supposed to have a plan? Of course I am, and I should, because if I had told my raiders "We're doing Spider, then Plague, then Abom, then Deathknight" then they could've planned their AFK's for times that aren't right before bosses.

Take a Scheduled Break
Question number two was a real obvious one: "Did you break halfway through?" Huh, I totally forgot. "It's more efficient for everyone to pee at the same time" he told me, which strikes me as a creepy amount of scheduling, but totally true. Make sure that this break does NOT overlap looting, as you want to make sure everyone gets their smoke break, etc.

Start Planning Your Boss Fights Early
By the time you get to the boss, you should be ready to pull. Waiting to swap groups for Gothik is a raid-killer, because people take pauses as good times to wander off, so if you let those pauses fall just before boss fights, thats when they'll wander off, and you'll be forced to wait for them before pulling. Instead, while you're clearing trash, you should be doing any group rearranging you want to do, assign any roles that are vital (priests for Instructor, etc), so that during the last trash pull you can be giving any last minute instructions, and ready to pull by the time any re-buffs have gone up.

Carry Some Respect
This one isn't from my leader, it's something I've observed about him, and the groups he runs. The people we run with *respect* him, his skill in playing and in leading, and as part of that respect, they listen to him better, and complain less. I think that a couple more weeks of raids, with improvement each week, will get me no where NEAR his level of reputation, but at least start to build myself one of my own.

Good luck all you other newbie raid-leaders out there, it's a bigger job than I imagined, and takes a lot more coordination and patience than I thought.

Monday, January 12, 2009

If You Can Die To It...

...I have, tonight. I've stood in walls, I've pulled aggro on blazes, I've been caught in a fissure. I have even pulled aggro from Sartharion on the pull. The only thing I HAVEN'T done yet, is to pull aggro on a drake. Goal for after we re-clear trash! ;)

edit: shortly after I posted this... I pulled aggro on a drake. Thankfully feign to the rescue!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Bacon *not* The Best Substance On Earth?

Everyone's heard Ghostcrawler talking about B(e)acon of Light over it's many iterations while Lich King was in beta, but I have to confess I didn't pay a whole lot of attention. I was a ret paladin swapping to a hunter main at the time, and I was much too busy waiting to see if Divine Storm really was as amazing as it seemed, and whether my trusty cat, You, would be by my side or not, once the patch landed. But that was then, and this is now, and between the two, I've leveled my paladin to 80, specced and geared her for holy and ret as needed, and am currently using her to be an extra body in the 2nd 25 man raid my guild runs. So I've spent some time trying to figure out exactly what Beacon of Light is actually good for, what it's not, and how and when to use it effectively.

The Good: Beacon can, under the right circumstances, double your healing output. It's best when 2 people are taking damage in about even quantities. Patchwerk seems to have been *made* for Beacon of Light. Toss the beacon on the main tank, heal the hatefuls, and watch your throughput soar. Sapphiron is also an amazing place to use Beacon. Cast it on yourself, and heal the Main Tank, and you can stand in chills if needed to get that extra heal without putting extra healing stress on anyone.

The Bad: Beacon is expensive! It costs 35% of your base mana, compared to 29% for Holy Light, 18% for Holy Shock, or 12% for Sacred Shield. This may be a bit less of an issue once you're running full 25-man T7 gear, but my lady is at the bottom of the gear totem-pole and her mana pool is not up to casting it frivolously. It's expense only goes up when you realize it's only got a 60 second duration, and so needs re-cast mid-fight at least 2 or 3 times, usually more.

Beacon only works in certain situations! For single target tank 'n' spanks, Beacon is totally useless. There's no one to reflect the healing onto, so why should you spend the mana to cast it? It's also useless to Beacon if you're not actually getting any heals to land. Overheal does not mirror over to beacon healing. If your Holy Light is 1/2 a second behind the other guys, none of that huge Holy Light crit will become beacon healing, potentially.

The Ugly: Beacon is Noisy! I'm sure someone in the raid has noticed the piston robot noise eminating from your beacon target every time your heal anyone in 40 yards. I cringe every time I hear it, and it actively motivates me not to cast Beacon unless absolutely necessary. I know some people play without sound, but this one ranks right up there with the "ding" noise that fire mages make when they get instant pyroblasts from Hot Streak.

The Good News: You'll notice my list of complaints is pretty extensive compared to my list of benefits from Beacon, but it's still a VERY useful spell, in situations. So, when do you use it? My rule goes something like this: If the tank is the only one taking damage, don't bother. If you're dealing with AoE damage, beacon the guy who will take the most damage, or yourself if you won't have time to tend to your own healthbar, like Sapphiron. In a dual-tanking situation, if you can keep the tanks within 40 yards of each other beacon one and heal the other. Be sure to watch (0r listen for) when your Beacon expires, because you'll need to be re-casting it!

Be sure to macro up your Beacon! We don't have time to be swapping targets to get it up. My beacon macro looks like this: /cast [target=focus] Beacon of Light but I have another one that points directly at me, and I keep a 3rd that is not macroed, in case I need to toss one onto someone random. This's very similar to my Misdirect macro set, and I find it works pretty well.

Bacon of Light, as a 51 point talent, is an interesting new spell. It's got potential to be useful without being overwhelmingly powerful. If it were slightly cheaper, and greatly less noisy, I think I'd call it perfect at what it does. Keep in mind, however, that it doesn't do everything, and must be used with strategy, otherwise it's just a mana sink!

Raid Retrospective

The Good: We cleared everything in about 3 1/2 hours, give or take. We never (technically) wiped. We got GREAT KT loot, although if I ever see another Calamity's Grasp, it'll be too soon. Loot was distributed to folks who could use it, for the most part, and even our alt players got a little something for their time and effort. I had a group of folks who were from the other guild before the merger, and I'm happy with the amount of teamwork that I saw between people in both groups.

The Bad: The Wednesday night raid poached one of our tanks, leaving me to have to take a player who won't normally be able to raid with us, and who has proven to be a less than stellar tank. We ran into some massive lag at the start, supposedly due to Lake Wintergrasp. Also, I learned that if I invite someone to the raid, when they're not fully loaded, it crashes their client! Mwa hahaha. I had a lot of tanking loot go to that player, instead of where I REALLY wanted it to go, onto an alt with us who will probably become our replacement-tank when we get tight.

The Ugly: Our tanking was just plain bad, and I'm not sure what to do about it. Trash pulls weren't pulled back, whirlwinding mobs were tanked in the healers, adds weren't picked up smoothly, threat wasn't high enough to keep our fury warrior from being a pancake most of the evening. It was just a rough night, in terms of trash deaths, healer deaths due to pulling aggro... I even had a tank go AFK on the 4hm pull. One of the guys doing ranged tanking in the back picked the loose boss mob up and tanked him back to his spot, without dying. It was an impressive recovery, but not one that should've had to be made in the first place.

I also had a bit of trouble with discipline for lack of a better term. Folks AFK'ed a lot, and seemed to think no one would mind. I'm not sure if the right thing would be to yell at them, or what. What I ended up doing was leaving them behind. If you have to go, fine, take care of your shit, but keep it to a minimum, and don't expect me to wait if I can help it, at all. That was bad enough, but by the time 11:00 was rolling around and we were on Sapph and KT, folks were getting whiney as well. I had arguments over whether or not to attempt the 100 Club, and the KT achivement, after one of our mages kindly (purposefully) pulled a full cubby of aboms and nearly wiped us when the ranged didn't clear the skellies out before they got to the meleers. Add to that some portal roulette causing a TON of vent chatter while I was trying to distribute loot, and you had a cranky raid-leader, by the end of the evening.

Part of the problem, I think, is that while I'm an officer in function, I'm not the one making the judgment calls in the guild. We're a benevolent dictatorship, for lack of a better term, and our fearless leader is off skiing in Tahoe. Which leaves us with control, but very little actual power. We can say "yes" or "no" but we cannot really enforce it. I have no tools for positive or negative enforcement whatsoever. I can yell over vent and make people feel bad, but that's not really my style, and I don't think it's a good way to get folks to have fun playing the game, either.

Conclusions: I'm happy in general. We accomplished all the major goals I had for the evening, although somewhat at personal cost for a couple of our members. I think I need to maintain a little more control of some of our more unruly members, and if the tanks can't get things situated we may need to swap folks around. All in all, though, I'm pretty pleased with the first 25 man raid I've run without anyone else around to hold my hand.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tonight Is The Real Test

Late in Burning Crusade, (like, October or so), my guild merged with another guild who had the skill to raid, but not quite enough bodies, and certainly not the leadership. We were lacking a few bodies ourselves, and so we all teamed up. The merge went well, for the most part, but between members of that guild returning for the xpac, and members of our guild doing the same, we're
quite a large group at this point. Large enough that this week we're doing an experiment. The "can we run 2 naxxes a week?" experiment.

Our first group ran last night, and was somewhat successful. I ended up respeccing my paladin to ret to fill in a spot, (we've got folks travelling for business this week which caused some absenses), but everyone who should've been there was, and with one exception, no one who shouldn't have been there, was. Unfortunately they poached one of the tanks we had scheduled for tonight, but we've got an alt that'll fill in nicely, so no harm done.

Tonight, then is the real test. If our run fails, then we've "proven" that we can't run two groups. Not really, but in the eyes of our raiders, and that's even more damaging. "Why should I show up, we're going to fail" is a raid-killer.

In all likelihood I'll be leading this shin-dig, and I'm kind of irrationally worried. My roster is a mix of players I'm quite confident in, and those who are a bit less skilled, but everyone's willing to try. My healing core looks a tad weak, and that worries me, but hopefully everyone will be on their game tonight. The damage maybe looks a bit light, but since I'm huntering, and I've got our best-geared fury warrior, we should be alright.

Wish us luck, Internets!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Number One Sign You've been DPSIng Too Much

Your tank pulls, and is 3/4 dead before you remember you're the healer in this group.

In my defense, I wasn't up there meleeing, I was futzing with blessings, casting my seal, thinking about whether I needed someone beaconed (and dear god, I do NOT love me sum beacons, athough that's a rant for another time), setting my tank frame (I like to focus the tank so no matter if he's healer or not, he'll be RIGHT where I expect his frame to be.) It was about then I realized that I was hearing the sounds of fighting, and that my tanks health was precariously (relatively speaking for a bear with some 40k hp) low.

The moral of the story? Just say NO to 2:30 AM heroics!

On the bright side, though, I did get not 1 but 2 healing helms, bringing my collection to 3.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

If the Patch Ever Lands, What's a Dwarf to Do?

So, I'm wondering what I am going to do with my hunter when the patch lands. I can't imagine that I'm the only person facing this decision, so here's my take on the whole situation.

First of all, we all know steady shot is being nerfed. That's gonna hit all three specs to some degree or another, (with marksman being hit the least). In addition, they're toning down a lot of the beast mastery talents that directly buffed pet damage. They're also buffing explosive shot, which is the survival 51 point talent, and fixing a few marksman-related bugs that were keeping the steady shot glyph from working properly.

What this all rounded out to, before yesterday afternoon, was that Survival was going to be the new king of the mountain, with Marksman coming in a solid second, and Beast Mastery pulling up the rear. I'd resigned myself to speccing survival, regemming all my gear, reenchanting a few pieces, and continuing on with life. Until yesterday.

What happened yesterday? Ghostcrawler came around to throw a monkey wrench in all of my best-laid plans. He talked about a few things, the most interesting being that explosive shot was probably doing too much damage and that they'd likely reign it in a bit. He also mentioned that all the specs should be doing "about the same amount of damage". Which leads neatly to my dilemma.

So, now I have 3 choices:

Stay Beast Mastery, respec to something approaching 53/some/5 or 7, and see if You and I can wreak some havoc as the underdog spec. The lazy woman in me says "omg, yes!" BM is probably the easiest spec to command, although it'll become a bit more complex with the addition of arcane shot to the mix. The downside is watching my DPS plummet on fights wehre my pet is ignored (Thaddius, Loatheb), or abused all out of proportion with her ability to survive (KT fissures, Sartharion). Also, theorycrafting puts BM as the lowest performing spec, post-patch, even with survival being toned down.

Respec to Marksman, and become a chimera-flinging foo. This is attractive mostly because it means I could dodge the re-gem/'chant bullet, and keep the gear I'm currently wearing. With the exception of a few pieces, the best in slot gear is the same for any spec, so nothing I have will really be wasted, although I may end up looking for a different piece or two. The downside here is two-fold. First of all, I'm not really that fond of the chimera-shot mechanic. It has the potential to be neat, and maybe I just need for it to grow on me, but I kind of see it as more annoying than anything else. Secondly, when I've specced MM previously, I've had trouble controlling my aggro. BM is nice, because since your damage is split, so is your threat. Marks and Survival shift the damage and threat much more heavily onto the hunter herself. (Mostly this boils down to, suck less, noob!)

Respec to Survival like I was planning originally. This has the advantage of providing some raid utility in the form of replenishment, so that we aren't forced into a 2-ret-pallies required raid composition. Also, it's solidly in the lead, currently for DPS, but we've already established that might not be the case for much longer. Downside of survival is also two-fold. First of all, to eke every bit of DPS out of the spec, you need to do something called trap-dancing. The basic concept is that every survival hunter has Lock and Load, which is 2 free explosive shots with no cooldown associated with them. This talent procs whenever one of your traps is triggered, or rarely when Serpent sting is (applied/ticks? not sure which). The trick is to stand at min range, take a step forward, drop a trap, take a step back, and use your forced Lock and Load proc every trap cooldown. This, to me, seems like it was not an intended mechanic, and also a huge PITA! The second issue also has to do with LnL. Basically... it's annoying. It ensures that your regular rotation may be disturbed at any point in time.

So, internets, what do you think? Right now I'm leaning towards going Survival for awhile, since my raid-leader was pretty excited about more replenishes, but the thought of re-gemming & 'chanting my gear makes me very unhappy, and I outright refuse to dance at min-range to get more LnL procs. I LIKE Beast Mastery, but I like topping DPS charts more, so I think that is probably out, especially when you consider the problem where BM is awesome in some places but falls on it's face in others. Marksman is somewhat annoying, and its rotation grows more complex than ever with the patch, so even though there's the bonus of not regemming, I'm not convinced it would be a performance upgrade to spec it, for me.