Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The deep end of healing firelands

I pride myself on being a true hybrid. Tell me which of the 4 druid roles you want me as with enough notice (or which 2, provided you pick 1 feral and 1 caster spec), and I'll perform them as best I can.

That said, Bear tanking is my main spec, and so unless something goes wrong, that's what I do. So far in firelands, I've had the luxury of tanking my ass off, but that came to an abrupt halt recently.

I run with the same 3 healers every week, with no healer subs. Over the weekend my Holy Priest had some RL stuff come up that took them out of action for a few days, and my Holy Pally is unavailable this coming Wednesday. Luckily, this happened as my 3rd tank came out of a break, so I quickly called on both tanks, and promptly respecced resto.

Now, most healers are able to warm up on earlier bosses. Shannox, Beth'tilac... that kinda thing. Haha no such luck. Direct to rag we go 0.o

So after some paniced reading through Lissana's healing guides, most of which I'd already read some time ago, and some careful reforging to the 1573 haste threshold (and strict orders to my warlock to keep Dark Intent on me), I stepped into Firelands.

Now, I healed some T11 fights, most notably Al'Akir, where I performed really well, so I'm confident of my healing ability. I'm just nervous going against our healing heavyweights, with their tier bonuses and weeks of experience in this content.

Thankfully, I'm a Druid, not one of those healing classes that have been broken and re-broken in an attempt to get them balanced for PvP (side note : I recently read that the reason Shammies are still underpowered is because of PvP - GG). Druids are most definitely overpowered at the moment, and it shows. I topped meters on every single Rag attempt while not being 100% sure what I was doing at times. After having a look at firelands rankings, not just for Rag, but all bosses, it's clear that druids are just completely overpowering the other healing classes.

The biggest problem I had was mana. I had to regularly hold back in order to prevent myself from going oom. Coming out of a P2 stack-up (to handle seed explosions) I often found myself looking at a "Low Mana" warning, with no time for a concentration pot, and my innervate CD giving me look that said "haha not gonna happen".

This was made even worse if I died and got a combat res from the lock or the dk. Since they don't have an awesome glyph like druids (blizz, seriously, please fix this), I came back at 25%, and had to find a way to regen mana faster than I spent it. I found myself keeping up a 3 stack lifebloom on the tank, and only using a rejuv or a nourish if someone dropped under 60%. I felt a bit like I was leeching mana from the other healers, but so be it.

The other problem I had was trusting the other healers. Not that I didn't trust them to do their job. Hell, the one is my wife, and the other is a very close RL friend. The issue was more that if the entire raid was on 100% except for one person, I felt like it was my job to rejuv them to get them up, not realising that the other two were charging a Holy Light and Healing Wave as I did so. Learning to know when to step in, and when to back off, was the biggest lesson of the whole exercise. In the end the pally focused the one tank (including his Beacon of Light), while I kept Lifebloom ticking on the other. Even when not tanking, the stacking debuff on tanks can tick for a fair amount, so this system really helped to keep both tanks stable.

Ultimately, a druid has some amazing tools for this fight. When the aoe hits, a well timed WG ticks for a ton. Aiming an effl correctly while stacked will also do the trick, and more importantly, as it's now a smart heal, will save those who otherwise would have died (in the end, of course, this matters FAR more than meters). Convince your two tanks to stay close to each other, and Effl will tick on the two of them almost constantly.

One complaint I have is about Nature's Swiftness. Activate it, and HT is an instant, right? So why is it that I get the "you cannot do that while moving" error? I often found myself looking at a tank on 10% health, while we were all rushing to stack up before seeds explode. I had to stop for a split second, make sure the heal went off, then keep running. This seems like a bug to me.

I must say, I'm loving the Resto setup at the moment. I've been tempted before to change my main spec. It's just too bad that both Bear and Resto are so incredibly overpowered at the moment. I guess I can't do both at once :) I'm looking forward to seeing how I perform on our farm bosses, and actually downing something for once. All those Rag attempts, while a fun learning curve, definitely take it out of you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bear tanking Baleroc

So, all of our Baleroc kills so far had our DK tank solo tanking it, with me using some good old feral hax to get silly stacks from shards of torment (kitty spec with natural reaction + perseverance for spell dmg reduction).

However, with a change in our tanking lineup, and my new pally tank being a highly experienced ret pally, it became time for me to accept that when it comes to 1 tank fights, it's going to be me. Hey, I don't mind, I love my bear - it was honestly a pain in the ass reforging and re-enchanting twice every week because of just one fight.

Here's why bears beat any other tank for Baleroc :

(1) Lower HP. Decimation blade slices off 90% of your HP, and you need to get healed over 90% before the next one hits, or you die. Less HP means that 90% is less, so healers have to heal less to keep you alive.

(2) Silly amounts of dodge. If decimation blade is dodged, it does nothing, and healers overheal with their massive heals they had timed to go off right after it hits. Sucks to be the healers, good fun to see *dodged* show up over and over.

(3) Frenzied Regen (glyphed) for Decimation. Sooner or later, it'll hit. RNG is never 100%. When it does, pop FR for 30% increased healing taken. What, more overheals? Sorry healers, I can't hear you over the sound of me not dying.

And some letter points :

(1) Savage Defence. Blaze of Glory buffs SD absorbs, so we scale nicely with the extra HP now. Then again, Death Strike scales with DMG taken, as does block.

(2) LOTP self-heal. It doesn't seem like much, but since it's a % of health, every 6s. This scales nicely with the extra HP. Combined with the SD scaling, I was just under the 3rd healer on healing+absorbs.

I'm still wondering what are the best trinkets for this fight. I did it with Bedrock Talisman (thinking dodge proc right after a Decimation blade = perfect timing), and Mirror of Broken images, macrod into barkskin, for inferno blades.

I wonder, however, if Fluid Death would be better than Bedrock. The dodge proc is fairly small, all things considered, and Fluid Death's silly amounts of Agi (plus dodge, once reforged), would give me a better chance of the first Decimation Blade never hitting in the first place.

Anyway, short version, bears rock this fight.

The new pally tank

So we've had a few developments lately. My DK offtank, who has tanked with me since shortly after we first killed LK, decided to take an extended break from raiding, due to RL issues.

As a set group, this left us in a very tricky situation. I have dps to spare, but when it comes to tanks and healers, if I lose one it becomes a game of sub musical chairs (player A goes tank from healing, player B goes from healer from dps, and we bring in a dps sub, for example). That kind of setup doesn't work long-term, sadly, and I needed a permanent tank.

Enter Aboutrika, a ret pally that last raided with us a few months ago. He was on an extended break due to a course he was doing that made him unavailable for 2 out of 3 raiding nights every week. As I'm trying to figure out what to do about our tanking situation, he reappears, announcing that his course is done, and he's ready to raid again.

I was left with 2 problems, since I now also had a dedicated raider that I needed to fit into a team that already has 4 melee. Then I realised, the two problems can cancel each other out. He had a tanking offspec that he used to beat DPS queues for LFG, and partially at gunpoint, it was requested that he tank raids for us.

The problem with our guys is they can be a little elitist and judgemental at times. The last time I brought in new raiders, and they took far longer than expected to catch up, I almost had a mutiny on my hands. I planned for a week or 2 of slower progression while he got used to prot spec, and learned fights. Out first raid night ended up being a bit of a disaster due to a number of DPS subs, although I joked at least the new tank wasn't the cause of our problems. We managed to come out of the raid night with 2 bosses down, which I saw as a victory, all things considered.

So we went into the second raid night with a full A-team, and I was still cautiously optimistic, thinking if we got 5 this week, that would be great. In contrast, by the end of last night, we'd had an hour of rag attempts, having stomped all over the first 6 bosses. Aside from Rika doing less DPS than my old DK tank, which resulted in a DPS shift on alysrazor hatchlings, the run was extremely smooth, with most bosses being 2 or 3 shot.

The best part is that our extremely critical raiders were quiet the whole week. Usually a new raider joins and I get whisper spammed with complaints about spec, glyphs, gems, enchants, dps breakdown, cooldown usage, pretty much anything you can think of. Not a peep - not one single whisper.

I don't know if my DK tank is going to return, and if he does, we might setup some kind of rotation - having sub options is never a bad thing imo.

So here's to our new tank, who has exceeded expectations, and in his first week is performing on par with those that have been doing this for years ;)

Now, about surviving that first rag transition...