My Chars

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Romp Through Ulduar-25 Hardmodes

Last night being a Tuesday we had less than 25 raiders online as is usually the case for us lately (officers are currently busy recruiting so hopefully this sad situation should change in the near future).

After a while the GL asked if we all wanted to go Ulduar-25 hardmodes, I guess the officers also wanted a break from ICC. Since people agreed (we all want the drake :)) the invites were sent out and off we went.

We started out 20 people, luckily a few people joined us (friends etc.) so I think we were 22 or 23 after clearing the trash before FL. FL himself was pretty easy with 4 towers and we one-shotted him even though some of the people had not done it in the past - the increased damage and health from our gear made the difference. Still several people died and we did have people jump on him and stun him once so it was obvious to me that without knowing that tactic we would have wiped.

XT hardmode is of course just a DPS race up to the broken heart phase so that was easy. Once we had the heart broken it takes a while to down him and ranged sometimes slacked a bit on taking down sparks leading to us having 2 up at once but we managed to get things under control and one-shotted him too.

From XT we continued to the Assembly of Iron. This hardmode is still not trivial by far, even with our gear. First 2 bosses are of course pretty easy now but once Steelbreaker is the last one any death will heal him for 20% and the smallest mistake usually leads to a death. So we wiped a couple of times but the third time everyone did the tactic correctly and we downed him.

Next up was Kologarn, this hardmode actually becomes difficult when you have too much DPS as it is easy to make a mistake and kill him without killing both hands together. Luckily our officers were on top of the tactics and required health levels and stopped DPS on each arm as required and we one-shotted this too.

Auriaya the crazy cat lady was easy, with our tanks improved stats they were taking very little damage from cats or boss and the healers had an easy job.

From her we continued to Hodir, this is a straight DPS race so of course was very easy. This is such a caster friendly fight, I went as shadow and placed 8th on Recount with over 12k DPS. Not bad for an off-spec :)

Thorim was much more of a challenge. As few of us had done this hardmode before (I think I did the 10-man version only once), once Thorim and Sif were down the combined lasers, ice-storms and lightning damage combined to take out over half the raid. I'm sorry to say I didn't move out of a Blizzard in time and died before I could heal myself :(
With less than I think 10 people alive and only 2 healers the fight dragged on but eventually Thorim was down, one-shotted even if a bit messily :)

Freya was next and we nearly wiped on one trash pack once, that trash is tough! :)
Thankfully there were only a couple of wipes on Freya due to people having to remember how to correctly kill the 3 big adds that spawn (that lasher will still pawn even a 60k health tank if it hits), or one wipe due to a tree not getting killed. Once everyone remembered the tactic we downed her smoothly and added Knock Knock Knock on Wood to our list of hardmodes.

It was raid end time so we still have Mimiron, Vezax and Yog-Saron hardmodes. I have a feeling these hardmodes will keep us occupied for a while! :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Some Thoughts About Grouping in WoW

About a week ago Stylish Corpse put up this nice post about PQs and Grouping in MMOs in particular. As I haven't played WAR I cannot comment on PQs.

However I do disagree with some of the blanket assertions used by Stylish Corpse regarding Grouping and leveling and I can comment specifically about WoW.

"if you do want to group you have to put up with getting less xp, taking longer to complete quests, and generally getting less bang for your questing buck than if you were by yourself."

S.C.'s main point is that questing alone in MMOs today is better in the XP/hour department and therefore discourages grouping. I agree with this, at least in general. However, it's not so black-n-white, for example there are always group quests in every area of WoW and you'll nearly always see players writing in /1 asking for a group for that. I admit the mechanic for looking for a group for these quests could be improved but the point is such quests do exist and people do find groups for them (I know I have) - so it is not like questing at least in WoW is 100% solo. I suspect the same is true of other MMOs.

"What I would like for the next few MMOs to do is to provide some genuine benefit to grouping..."

Well here's the funny thing, WoW really does have a genuine benifit to grouping. The XP/hour, gear upgrades and everything are really good there. Only it is not for questing, it is when using the LFD tool.

Making this tool cross-server and allowing you to do any instance in your level range randomly however many times you wanted per day has had a huge influence on leveling. I would estimate my Warlock gained about 70% of his XP while leveling from instance runs and this was mostly because I had to wait so long as a DPS (~30 minutes) between runs. Had I been a healer or tank I suspect 90% would have come from them!
The XP/hour is amazing, I would be questing along for 20-30 minutes doing about 1/4 or less of my bar to next level, then the LFG window would come up and in a short 20 minute run I would be doing 1/2 of my bar to the next level. Not to mention gear drops!

I guess you have to experience it for yourself to realize what a difference the new LFD tool has made for leveling. I know I underestimated its effect by a lot before leveling my Warlock to 80.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Heroic ICC 10 Impressions

I wanted to put down on paper, err virtual in this case, my thoughts and impressions of ICC-10 man heroic boss fights. This won't be a strategy guide as the information on the normal websites (wowwiki, wowhead, tankspot) is already pretty good, but I will highlight some things I think are important, especially from my point of view as a healer.

For all(?) bosses one of the main differences compared to normal mode is an increase in health, leading of course to an increase in required raid DPS before the enrage timer which almost all bosses have. Since a larger health pool is a given, I won't mention it below per boss, but you can assume this is the case.

Lord Marrowgar - There are 2 main differences in this fight between heroic and normal mode. The first is the blue flames emitted move more slowly and cause more damage. Our normal tactic on L.M. is for all the raid except hunters to stand right on the boss hit box (behind of course), forcing him to spew those out to his only targets, the tanks (or the occasional hunter who has to stay at range). On heroic this makes it slightly more difficult for the tanks as they need to "dance" more to stay out of the fires. I don't really think this is a huge deal but it did mean more raid damage (tanks moving -> boss moving -> people suddenly find themselves outside hit box and targeted by flames...), so this is something to be expecting as a healer.
However while not a huge deal in the first phase, Bone Storm now becomes a hell of long-lasting, slow moving blue fires covering nearly the entire floor. Add to this the 2nd change which is bone spikes which continue to occur during Bone Storm and you've gone from a 10-man fight you can yawn your way through to one where you probably will be losing people. Pre-HoT before Bone Storm as much as possible and keep yourself alive - a dead healer heals no one. We managed to get Marrowgar down after a few wipes but it was certainly not easy.
I think in terms of tuning the fight for heroic mode, the devs got this one right. Now so easy that the "heroic" tag is a joke, not so hard as to make it impossible.

Lady Deathwhisper - During the first phase, the occasional MC (which does not happen in normal 10 man) can make life difficult for a 10 man team, as it takes DPS away from the adds/shield. We tried 2 tactics, in the first we stood in the platform behind L.D., relatively bunched up. The adds were then killed with AoE used to take down the shield at the same time. While this worked to get us to phase 2, bunching up meant a lot less room for mistakes, leading to wipes due to loose adds or MC'd people killing healers or other DPS before they could be CC'd.
Standing in the normal place in front of the boss, between the add spawn areas, meant more control but much less DPS on the shield so that we had trouble reaching phase 2. That's actually funny as in normal mode we can get her to phase 2 before the second add wave...
Reaching phase 2 just makes the fight harder as adds now continue to spawn, meaning the tanks now have an extra headache to deal with while the healers have to heal raid wide damage due to both boss, adds and ghosts.
I think based on our attempts that actually a solution of standing behind her in phase 1 and spreading out in phase 2 might work but we'll have to see. For now L.D 10-hc remains undefeated by us.

Gunship Battle - Heroic? What heroic? We got the I'm on a Boat achievement for the people who still didn't have it while 1-shotting this so-called Heroic battle. Oh well I guess free 264 loot ain't bad, although it would have been nice to be less bored.

Deathbringer Saurfang - I'm actually not quite sure what differences exist here from normal. The main one is the beasts spawn and cast a raid-wide slowing debuff on the raid (80% I think) which means when they get agro on people, they usually hit (unlike normal where you can usually run away). However D.S. was getting tons of Blood Power even faster than the beasts hitting people would explain, so I am probably missing something (need to read the heroic tactics myself I guess).
Regardless, this fight went from "kill D.S. on normal before a single mark" to "get a mark at 70% and wipe at 50%".
Our best attempt was after we settled on rooting one beast (say the left) while all ranged focus-killed (and slowed down) the right. Only once it was dead was the focus shifted to the right one. I suspect that a combination of better handling of the beasts (sometimes they were rooted close to melee) together with faster taunting of the boss by the 2nd tank when the 1st tank has the debuff would reduce the boss incoming blood power enough to let us win the fight.
Needless to say, the healing load when 2-man healing this fight is very intense and a paladin healer capable of keeping up 2 Mark targets using Beacon is worth his/her weight in gold in this fight.

Festergut - Interesting fight compared to normal, which alas I spent mostly face down on the floor (on the takedown attempt), proving without a doubt that the heroic version too can be 2-man healed, which of course was my intent all along ;p
Unlike the mostly static normal version, the heroic fight is made more dynamic by Putricide standing on a balcony on the right side of the room and occasionally throwing one of his yucky Malleable Goo things in the direction of a raid member. These come in (bounce in) rather quickly, so the approach we took was to stand in the left side of the room so as to give ourselves more time to react. In addition we stood in loose groups (still spread 6 yards of course) of ranged and melee, and a DPSer called out "ranged" or "melee" whenever a Goo was incoming.
As long as you can keep mobile while still paying attention to the regular fight mechanics (spores, etc.) you should be okay. We got him down in the 3rd attempt.

Rotface - I'm used to thinking of Rotface as a much more difficult fight compared to Festergut but the heroic version was surprisingly easy and we 1-shotted him. Like Festergut, Putricide "helps out" by adding an element to the fight, only in this case it was the much more manageable Vile Gas mechanic. I guess an unlucky Vile Gas + spew from Rotface + Infection would have killed someone especially with the increase to the healing reduction effect from M.I. but either we got lucky or 3 healers using 25-man gear are more than enough for this fight :)

Professor Putricide - We only tried a short wipe on heroic mode, so the only thing I know from first hand is that the new disease thing which you need to pass around killed our druid healer so fast it left our heads spinning. I have a feeling we'll be wiping on him for a while ;p

Blood Prince Council - It's hard to know what went wrong for us here. We tried slightly different tactics here on different wipes and perhaps that was a mistake, or maybe we were getting tired or impatient. Regardless, the increase in number and speed of Kinetic Orbs left us struggling to handle them while still keeping up good DPS on the bosses, while the movement-causes-dmg-and-slowing-debuff mechanic was truly a pain in the royal behind, especially if as a healer you were knocked back due to a vortex outside of healing range of the main tank. We lost the tank several times due to this. It's especially bad when you have to run from/to the empowered Fire Orb, but that tactic should still be used, regardless.
Pro tip (I only found out later alas) for all you Priests and Warlocks out there - wanding works very well from what I've read on those pesky Beach Balls. So having an arsenal mostly of DoTs and channeled spells shouldn't keep you from helping out with those orbs. Keep a macro handy maybe? Anyway using a wand as more than a stat stick, who would have thunk it? :)
Hmm come to think of it, rogues and warriors might be able to help out as well with their ranged weapons (guns/throwing-knives)? Nah, they will probably complain of the DPS loss ;)

Blood-Queen Lana'thel - Although we failed rather miserably on her council, B.K.L. herself proved to me more susceptible to our gentle persuasion and succumbed to us after about 5 attempts.
Key to the heroic fight is intense healing. With a 3 healer team our best healer, a resto druid, topped 10k HPS on the fight and I switched from Disc to Holy as I was unhappy with my healing output (I think I topped 7k on the takedown fight). Of course going from 2-man healing on normal to 3 healers on heroic means more pressure on our DPS but once they sorted out things like not biting people on time, we were all good ;p
As usual the Air Phase is where you have the most chance for people to die - If you are a priest like me, cast FW on the pull and it will be ready again for the second Air Phase. I used it on our druid (as he was our best healer) while using my Human Racial to break out of a fear in one Air Phase.

That's it for now, I hope when we take down additional heroic bosses I have more to update. In summary I think the heroic versions of the fights are well done and the fights are appropriately hard, except for the Gunship Battle.

State of the Solid

Been a while since I posted, as I've been writing short updates on Buzz which was enough for me. But I hear I may actually have a couple of readers so perhaps I should update here too ;p

Solidfaith and his guild have been advancing nicely, downing several bosses in Heroic ICC-10 since downing LK-10 opened the way. LK-25 alas remains an elusive target as the guild struggles with people not showing up due to RL problems/priorities.

Solidd - pushed into a healer role in guild alt runs and PuG raids, I've been thinking about buying Frost Emblem gear for him. Till now I've spent his Emblems on Primordial Saronites which I've sold in the AH. Buying raiding gear for an alt seemed a waste especially when I felt strapped for cash. OTOH I seem to have enough cash now for immediate needs unless I want to spend it on a 12k gold mount which would be silly :)

Solidstar - my poor neglected DK. You were such a fun character to level, but doing heroics as a tank compared to my druid Solidd seems blah, Solidd is more fun to tank with TBH. As for DPS off-spec, I never was big on melee DPS and frankly would rather play a ranged... At least I have Inscription as an excuse to log in from time to time :)

Locksolid - Speaking of ranged DPS, Locksolid finally dinged 80 last night. I even went to my first heroic instance run (how exciting ;)) and later joined a PuG 10-man to go to the weekly raid boss, Razuvious in Naxx. Not only did I get Emblems from the quest but he also dropped an iLvl 200 cloth shoulders piece which I happily snapped up - it was an upgrade! :)
I haven't gone to the trouble of crafting Locksolid items or buying him the BoA shoulder enchant (as a head I already use en engineering helmet which comes with its own "enchant") so that is next on my list. I expect I'm going to have a lot of fun doing heroics as a DPS, without worrying about tanking or healing like I usually do :)

That's pretty much it. I've sent Locksolid's BoA chest and shoulders (the chest was replaced with a quest drop) to Solidstate, I want to get him to level 75 at least before the expansion comes as well as max my tailoring and enchanting on him. I expect it will be a bit of a bummer playing a leveling mage after playing my warlock, as a mage is so much squishier :(