Sunday, May 31, 2009

Healer Friendly UI Mods on the Way?

Last night, Ghostcrawler, one of Blizzard's more active blue posters, hopped into a thread griping about Warcraft's default User Interface. Though he did not address any specific changes or even confirm that changes were incoming, he did mention that the default raid UI is something Blizzard is "discussing a lot right now." He also indicated that he wanted to get additional feedback on using the default UI specifically with regard to healing. Feel free to check out the thread here and share your concerns.

The ridiculous number of UI mods floating around has always been a testament to the inadequacy of Blizzard's default, but really, that is no surprise. Azeroth is a complicated place and Blizzard has many, many mechanics which require scrutiny and attention. Of course dedicated fans who are limited as to what they can modify and have unlimited time will be able to produce something more sophisticated and in line with player desires than Blizzard can ever hope to. Even if Blizzard modifies the UI to be more accommodating to raid healers, I would expect that changes will suffer from Equipment Manager syndrome. Sure it will be better than what we had before (nothing), but it will still be an inferior product to the add-ons Blizzard tries to copy in the first place.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hot Video: Kil'jaeden Death Animation

Kil'jaeden is an exceptionally cool looking boss with a rather epic death (kind of) animation. Unfortunately, because Fury of the Sunwell was released relatively close to the advent of WotLK, many players never had the opportunity to confront the Burning Legion's acting Demon Lord. So, if you have not seen the Demon's defeat, you can either get together some comrades and take a long and arduous journey though Sunwell Plateau, or you can watch the video below.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Druid Forms Art: Part Two

As promised, Blizzard has followed up its revealing of the new Tauren Bear form models with pictures of the new Night Elf counter parts. Feel free to check out the official preview page here.

The new models definitely hold on to the general aesthetic of the old one while managing to look cleaner and better detailed. In my opinion, the new Tauren forms are superior as the glowing eyes of the Night Elf Bears are simply less interesting than the more "realistic" Tauren Bear eyes. If you disagree, take a look at the new black Tauren bear and see if you change your mind.

New Druid Forms Art: Part One

New Druid Forms Art: Part Three

New Druid Forms Art: Part Four

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Best 2v2 Arena Classes

I received an email the other day asking about which classes fared best in 2v2 Arena Matches and which classes would be represented in an optimal 2v2 Team. In my opinion, any combination of classes can have at least some success in the Arena with good communication and lots of practice. Unfortunately, that is a much less interesting and engaging response than some crazy, point-in-time number crunching sprinkled liberally with speculation. So here we go:

What I Looked At:

To help identify the best classes for a 2v2 Arena team, I decided to use a measure that is rather hard to argue with: success. Basically, I looked at the current top 2v2 team for every Battlegroup and what those groups' makeups were. I not only looked at what two classes were present on each team, but also looked at the spec of all hybrid class team members to see what roles were being filled.

Which Classes Were Found Most Often:

Setting aside class makeup and looking only at the composite group of classes spread out amongst all Battlegroup leading teams, nearly half (12 out of 26) of the characters on the top 2v2 Arena teams are either Discipline Priests or Rogues (6 each). Druids are the next most common representatives on number one teams (4 out of 26). There were 3 Death Knights amongst the points leaders and only 1 Shaman. Warriors, Warlocks, and Paladins each had 2 representatives on the leading teams and not a single Mage or Hunter was to be found.

What Was the Most Common Group Makeup:

There was a great deal of variety in the composition of the teams sitting atop the 2v2 standings with one notable exception. 4 of the 26 first place 2v2 Arena Teams were Rogue/Priest pairs. The only other combination seen more than once was a Druid/Warrior combo used by 2 of the top 26. Other combinations included Rogue/Rogue, Paladin/Druid, Death Knight/Paladin, Death Knight/Priest, Warlock/Shaman, Druid/Death Knight, and Warlock/Priest.

What Was the Most Common Role Setup:

Only 1 of the 26 teams at the top of a Battlegroup's ratings did not have a dedicated healer. That team was a Rogue/Rogue combination. Every other team had one and only one healer and all four healing classes were represented. Presumably to accomodate the need for healers, with the exception of a single Retribution Paladin, all classes capable of healing in top 2v2 teams were spec'd to do so. Not surprisingly, no tanks sat atop the Battleground rankings as of my review.

So, What Are the Best Classes for 2v2:

If we are to assume that the best 2v2 classes and class combinations will naturally rise to the top of their Battlegroups, a Rogue/Priest Arena team would seem to be the clear front runner. At the very least you would want to create a team that paired a damage dealer and a healer to maximize your chances at success.

For an individual player looking to create an Arena Champion, a Discipline Priest seems to be the way to go. If you are looking to fill a different role, Rogues and Death Knights are the predominant death dealers. As an alternate healer, Restoration Druids are in relatively high demand.

What's Wrong Here:

This way of determining what classes are best in 2v2 is obviously not without its flaws. Popularity and other non-performance related factors will obviously trickle up and affect the makeup of Arena teams. However, if we are to assume all else is equal, I can thing of few better ways of picking "the best" when forced to do so than looking at who the best currently are.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New Druid Forms Art: Part One

Blizzard finally unveiled its plans for more personalized Druid shape-shifted forms today. The good news: each faction will see ten new druid form textures for a total of twenty new textures. The bad news: only Cat and Bear forms are being updated. Check out the official page here.

Blizzard plans to slowly reveal the new textures one form at a time building up to their in game release at the next major content patch. For now, check out the updated Tauren Bear forms:

According to the information released by Blizzard, which feral textures you have are dependent on your character's hair color for Night Elves and skin tone for Tauren. If you do not like the texture you are assigned, you can simply change your characters hair color or skin tone (a new feature for Tauren in the upcoming patch) at any barber shop.

Even though the new models differ only in terms of color pallets, they still look nice and offer a variety of different looks for your Bear. I am sure the coming Night Elf Bear forms and both races' Cat forms will be proportionally engaging.

It is unfortunate that neither Tree of Life nor Moonkin are getting makeovers as of now, but not incredibly surprising. Every Druid, regardless of spec, has access to the Feral Forms. It only makes sense for them to be at the front of the line for upgrades.

For now, start hoping that you do not need an ugly skin tone/hair color to get the Feral textures you prefer and keep your eyes open for Night Elf Bear forms to be previewed later this week.

New Druid Forms Art: Part Two

New Druid Forms Art: Part Three

New Druid Forms Art: Part Four

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Not so Epic Drops

I was running around on one of my low level alts today when I stumbled across no other than the infamous Sludge Beast, an oozy rare spawn who patrols the Sludge Fen in the northern Barrens. Crossing my fingers hoping for a shiny new green, I made quick work of the disease spewing beast before any other lowbies could swoop in and steal my find.

As I bent down to loot my fallen adversary, something miraculous happened. Hidden amongst the slime was not one, not two, but three precious green items met my eye. Nestled next to some Slimy Ichor were Grunt's Bracers of the Bear, a Prospector's Sash, and a Bandit Cinch of the Boar. My temporary diversion for a single piece of BoE goodness had yielded more fruit than I could of imagined.

Sure, it was only three pieces of lowbie loot, but the real reward was defying the odds and stumbling across a bit of fortune you do not see every day. Sure, a single BoE Blue would have netted my little Orc more coin, but it would never have struck me as exceptional. I certainly would not have taken a screenshot of it.

Also, just in case you were wondering, the Grunt's Bracers of the Bear looked quite fetching on my budding Warrior.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hot Video: Lich King Intro and Sum 41

It is amazing how music affects the tone of a video. Case in point, see what music from Sum 41 manages to do to the Wrath of the Lich King introductory cinematic. It is not quite Pink Floyd over the Wizard of Oz, but it is still pretty darn cool.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Is Tree Form Fun?

Earlier today, Blizzard poster Ghostcrawler started a new thread on the Healing Forums. The thread posed the question, "Is Druid Tree of Life form fun?" In his own post, Ghostcrawler pointed out the forms lack of distinct abilities and limited mobility as drawbacks when compared with Bear or Cat forms. He also indicated that although no major plans for changing tree form were in effect, "it's something (they) have been discussing lately."

The answer from Druids was a rather resounding, though not unanimous no. Many added cosmetic gripes to Ghostcrawlers criticisms and echoed his sentiment that the form was nothing but a superficial tool to allow Restoration Druids the mechanical benefits they need to heal on par with other classes. Of particular interest were a handful of posts which discussed Tree of Life forms role in evolving the Druid class into a place where there is little benefit to being in caster form. Curious.

I personally enjoy the form and I hope that it not removed. Obviously some unique abilities would help quiet the nay-sayers, but I am simply thankful that the speed debuff has been canned. As for the cosmetic concerns, I am hopeful that Blizzards seemingly interminable work on new Druid form graphics was not limited to the Feral arena, though I am not overly optimistic.

Despite Ghostcrawlers caution to the contrary, I take this as a sign that change will be coming to Tree From. Odds are any meaningful changes are several patches down the line, but it would be rather silly to ask for community feedback and then simply pitch it in the garbage.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Making Gold from Level 1

These days, it is somewhat rare to find a genuinely "new" character. Most of the exceptionally low level toons you see running around Ironforge or Orgrimmar fall into one of three categories: bank alts, twinks in progress, or alts in training. Behind each of these lowbies you will generally find a high powered benefactor bankrolling his or her extravogent lifestyle of BoE Greens and ridiculously well developed crafting professions. In this world of virtual sugar-daddies, how is a truly solo lowbie to survive?

First and foremost, if you want to have any semblance of a bankroll during you first 20 levels, take Hebalism as one of your professions and sell everything you gather. Though the WotLK gods may have cursed you with bloated Auction House prices, they have also blessed you with the introduction of the Inscription profession. Inscriptionists Mill stacks of five herbs to generate the materials needed for their craft. Unlike Jewel Crafters, Inscriptionists will not stumble across needed materials in the game world and must Mill to advance their professions. This means that a player who want to adopt the new profession will need tons and tons of low level herbs and will be willing to pay through the teeth for them. The other gathering professions simply will not offer any where near the same bang for your buck as Hebalism currently does.

Once you have made a bit of cash, resist the urge to by that level 8 green weapon and invest in bags instead. Bag space saves time and money in a number of ways. First and foremost, you will not need to visit vendors as often to clear up space. Second, you will be able to leave nothing behind, assuring that every last piece of vendor trash you come across can be converted to precious coin. Lastly, your questing will be quicker and more efficient as looted quest items will no longer mandate inefficient quest turn in detours. When you decide to buy bags, check the Auction House first. There is no shortage of bags in Azeroth, so it is safe to expect a decent selection of options at reasonable prices. Do not drain yourself completely, but you can be confident that your investment in bags will return dividends in the long run.

The last key to finding financial success as a true lowbie is to not adopt the spending habits of the alts and twinks which surround you. It will be tempting to buy yourself a new set of greens every five levels, but resist the urge. You will grow out of those pieces so fast it is simply not worth it. Through questing and instance runs, you will have a wardrobe more than sufficient to get you by. The immediate increases in performance you would see from twinking yourself out will quickly be overshadowed when you find yourself unable to afford your first mount or, god forbid, short on cash to training new skills. Remember, nobody likes a beggar.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Patch 3.1.2 Drops

Blizzard quietly introduced Patch 3.1.2 today after weekly maintenance. Check out the patch notes here.

Of particular interest, the Equipment Manager promised for 3.1 has finally been delivered. Also, expect Wintergrasp to be much more cold and barren in the days ahead. All of the zones daily quests are now on a weekly timer (granting additional Stone Keeper's Shards of course) and bonus honor related to the event has been decreased. Vehicles in the zone also now scale according to the item level of the player just as with vehicular combat in Ulduar. Could this herald the end of Wintergrap's tyranny and a return to the Battle Gounds? It remains to be seen.

As far as class specific changes, most were relatively minor, although things mostly fell on the nerf side of the balance sheet. Warlocks saw some appreciable mechanical changes with how Conflagrate and Sacrifice work, but most other classes saw only numeric changes to cooldowns and percentage modifiers for various spells and talents. Druids also saw a mechanical change with Innervate now generating a set amount of mana, rather than affecting the targets regeneration rate.

Here's hoping that the new patch hiccups are kept to a minimum.

Picking a Server

Bringing a solo character from level one to eighty takes a lot of time and effort. Why waste your work by planting your toon on a server you will ultimately be disappointed with. A little bit of homework can go a long way in avoiding a scrapped character or a $25 transfer fee.

First things first, do some preliminary research. Pick your initial targets by identifying servers of a type, size, and timezone that meets your needs. Next, check the forums of any server you are targeting on the World of Warcraft Community Website. This will give you some sense of the server's "tone" as well as an idea of who the power players are. Go a step further and peruse a few of the major guilds' websites. Even if you are not planning to be an endgame raider, you will be sharing Azeroth with these people.

If the server seems to mesh well with you thus far, it is time to make a toon. However, do not get too invested yet. Do some initial leveling and then spend a fair bit of time in one of your faction's major cities. What is the conversation in Trade Chat like? Is there a lot of activity in the Looking for Group Channel? Are people looking to fill spots in groups that correspond to the role your toon will ultimately play? Next check the Auction House to see how the server's economy is doing. A healthy server economy will have wide variety of goods available and healthy competition amongst sellers.

Doing this initial investigation will go a long way to saving you headaches down the road, but keep in mind that no matter how diligent you are things can change. Free server transfers can change the complection of a server literally overnight. It is always a possibility that your new server will be a far different place by the time you hit level 80. However, you will always be better served to assume a good server will stay good as opposed to betting on a bad server turning things around.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Your Own Best Wild Growth Target

Simply put, Wild Growth is an amazing healing spell. Since mana conservation is largely a thing of the past, many Restoration Druids have taken to using this handy group heal whenever the six second cooldown is up. The cast is not cheap, but if you are able to land the buff on five (or six with Glyph of Wild Growth) needy targets, Wild Growth is an exceptionally efficient heal. The only real question is, who should you target with this tasty AoE HoT morsel to get the most bang out of your buck.

In raiding situations, especially those marked by periodic raid-wide damage, there will rarely be a situation in which there are not at least five targets within 15 yards of each other who need your love. This could be a pack of ranged dps and healers or, more often, it will be a pool of melee dps crowded near your tank. In raids, unless your ranged units are grouped and you are tasked with keeping them up, your tank is almost always a safe target. Generally speaking, in a 25 man, it is much harder to cast Wild Growth on a bad target than it is to find a good one.

In heroics, five man content, and PvP, however, it can be more difficult to assure that there are five recipients within range of your target. Generally speaking your ranged units and healers will not be within 15 yards of your tank and melee pack. Also, if you manage to find five or more people in either group, something bizarre has happened and I would like to see the screen shot.

In a smaller group situation, it can then be tempting to view your Wild Growth target selection as an "either-or" proposition. Either you heal the ranged or the melee. Fortunately, there is a middle ground between your ranged and melee group...literally...and if you stand in it and hit yourself with Wild Growth, everyone can feast on your healing goodness. Enabling Auto-Self cast in your Combat Configuration menu or setting up a macro to target yourself and cast makes things all the easier. Keep in mind that the name of the game with Wild Growth is to hit the maximum number of targets every time. Often that simply means taking positioning into your own hands and casting it on yourself.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Higher Learning Achievement Guide

One of the most confusing and ultimately rewarding Achievements is Higher Learning which tasks you with tracking down and reading eight missing volumes of the Schools of Arcane Learning scattered throughout Dalaran. In a perfect world, this achievement could be completed in one flawless circuit of the floating city. Much more likely it will take days, if not weeks, of meticulously scouring the books' individual spawn points to land the reward.

Higher Learning nets you The Schools of Arcane Learning: Mastery which is your ticket to purchase a Kirin Tor Familiar. The Kirin Tor Familiar is, in my opinion, one of the coolest pets in the game. He is basically a little arcane Void Walker which follows you around, occasionally casting entirely superficial arcane explosions. What makes him particularly exceptional is his size, which is roughly that of a gnome.

Each of the eight books you must find, with one exception, spawns in one and only one location in Dalaran (the exception spawns in two locations). These, however, are no ordinary spawns. Each book's spawn point has a chance to spawn either the book you need for the achievement or one of a number of junk books. Which appears is entirely random. Where the frustrating part comes in is that each spawn point generates a book only once three to four hours after the last book to appear there disappears. This means that even if you manage to catch a spawned book, if it is junk, you will have to wait at least three hours to try again.

There is, however, a shining light in how the books despawn. Rather than disappearing after a single reader, the books instead despawn exactly two minutes after being first read. This means multiple players can take advantage of the same spawn if their timing is right.

Now on to where and how to find them. Here is a quick rundown of where each book spawns:

Introduction: On the floor in the Teleportation Crystal Room (2)
Divination: On the floor in the Violet Citadel right next to the portal for the Caverns of Time (5)
Necromancy: In the bookshelf in the bedroom on the top floor of Ledgermain Lodge (3)
Transmutaion: In the bookshelf on the lower floor of the Ledgermain Lodge near the Northern enterance (3)
Conjuration: In the Violet Citadel on one of the bookshelves directly to the right on the first floor (5)
Abjuration: Either on the Floor next to the bookshelf in the Teleportation Crystal Room or on the floor in the Dalaran Visitor's Center directly between the two bookshelves (2, 6)
Enchantment: On a box on the second floor balcony of Threads of Fate (4)
Illusion: On the boxes right next to the daily dungeon quest giver near the entrance to the Violet Hold (1)

As for how to find them, you will want to run a circuit through Dalaran that hits each spawn point. Use the map below as a guide:

Try to shave off extra seconds wherever you can because you will be making this run many, many, many times. For example, hop off the balcony at Threads of Fate (4) rather than running back through the shop.

Odds are, you will come across your first several books rather quickly. As you start to gather the books, modify your rout around the city to cut out the spawns you no longer need. Even if you are not intensely pursuing the Achievement, making a single lap of Dalaran whenever you find yourself there should eventually net you the prize. As another tip, try always logging out at one of the book spawn locations. That way, when you log back in you can instantly check for a book you still need. Lastly, check immediately after server maintenance and during off peak hours to increase your chances of landing a spawn.

As you begin to need fewer books, the process slows dramatically and finding junk books is all the more disheartening. Keep in mind though that when you find a junk book, you know the hour window during which the spawn will repopulate. Use that to your advantage. You may very well need to camp that last book or two, but it will be worth it in the end. Good luck!

Blizzcon 2009 Tickets Round 2

The first wave of Blizzcon 2009 tickets has reached its end. The initial batch has been sold and those still eager to party with Blizzard's head-shed will need to wait until the second round drops on Saturday, May 30.

In past years, if you were willing to shell out the dough and paid attention, odds are you could lay your hands on some tickets. I would not expect this year to be any different. This initial offering was likely small to prompt quick sellout and get the fan base rabid for future waves. I would anticipate more than four additional bundles to be released within the coming months. I would keep your ear to the ground, but if you happened to miss the first round, there are still plenty of tickets to go around. I would not head to Ebay just yet.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hot Video: Keyboard Cat and World of Warcraft

One of Azeroth's most infamous adventurers gets played off by the feline viral sensation. Sure, Keyboard Cat is a poor man's Dramatic Chipmunk, but that doesn't mean this video isn't funny.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

BlizzCon 2009 Pet

Blizzards has finally announced the in-game reward for attendees at this years BlizzCon and it's a pet Murloc with a gauss rifle. Seriously. If you don't believe me, check out the official thread.

Now feel free to call me an out of touch purist, but "Grunty" seems to be just past the line which separates the fun from the absurd. The team at Blizzard has gone out of their way to create a well rounded world framed by largely consistent lore. Obviously, Azeroth is far from believable, but it is at least largely consistent. The idea of a bunch of miniature Murloc Space Marines running around just serves to distract from the feel of the game.

I know we already have Rocket Chickens, Gnomes in santa suits, and even a Zergling running around, not to mention the goofy Blizzard Bear, but Grunty just seems to cross the line. I am all for fun and games, but Azeroth is a big enough place to pull convention goody bag ideas out of, why not go with something more fitting with Warcraft's setting.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Spellpower Effect on Restoration Spells

Spellpower is an interesting stat because the actual impact which it has on an individual spell is not constant across your spell book. Instead, a percentage of your total spell power is applied to each spell, or part thereof, based on values Blizzard has assigned. These percentages are invisible so it can be difficult to know what impact an increase in spellpower will have on each individual cast.

Below, I have broken down the baseline percentages of your spellpower which are applied to each Druid heal except Tranquility as of this posting. You will also find available mechanics which may be used to alter that percentage. Keep in mind that the boost from spellpower is generally applied before other effects which increase the power of your heals (such as Gift of Nature).

Lifebloom: 9.5% of your spellpower is added to each individual tick and 64.6% is added to the bloom. Those percentages are increased to 11.4% and 77.5% with Empowered Rejuvenation.

Nourish: 67.3% of your spellpower is added.

Healing Touch: 161.0% of your spellpower is added. It can be increased to 225.4% with Empowered Touch.

Rejuvenation: 37.6% of your spellpower is added to each individual tick. This can be boosted to 45.1% with Empowered Rejuvenation.

Wild Growth: An average of 11.5% of your spellpower is added to each individual tick. This goes to around 13.8% with Empowered Rejuvenation.

Regrowth: 53.9% of your spellpower is applied to the initial heal and 18.8% is added to each tick. The percentages can be pushed to 64.7% and 22.3% with Empowered Rejuvenation.

Keep Rolling Lifeblooms Post 3.1

All you Trees out there can stop having a coronary, because I do not mean what you think. Obviously since the change in Lifebloom's cost and mechanics, each cast must ultimately result in a bloom for the spell to be even remotely efficient. The days of building up a three stack and keeping it "rolling" are over. However, there is still a great deal of merit to "rolling" your stack up to three as I will explain below.

A single cast of Rank 3 Lifebloom, negating spell power and any other enhancements, heals 371 damage over 7 seconds and then blooms for a 970 instant heal. The initial mana cost is 28% of base, but with the 50% refund at the bloom, the aggregate mana cost is 14% of base presuming you let each cast result in a bloom. That means for an isolated cast without any modifiers, Lifebloom gives you 1341 in healing for 14% base mana.

Now, let's introduce a second Rank 3 Lifebloom. Let's say you are spamming up a stack and there is only a global cooldown pause between your applications. In that scenario, everything doubles: the heal over time, the end bloom, and the mana cost. The buff now ticks for a total of 742 over its 7 second life and blooms for 1940 equaling 2682 in total healing for 28% of your base mana.

What if, however, we roll our initial Lifebloom buff by waiting to cast our second stack until the moment before the first one blooms? At that point, our initial buff will have already completed its heal over time and healed your target for 371 damage. When we cast the second Lifebloom not only is a second seven second heal over time applied, but the buff from the first cast is granted another seven second lease on life. While the two stack ticks, 742 in additional healing is applied. After the bloom of 1940, by rolling your stack up you have done 3053 in healing for your 28% base investment, rather than the 2682 in healing you get from spamming.

When a third Lifebloom is added, the benefits of rolling become even more pronounced. If spammed, the third cast simply triples both the healing and the mana cost of a single cast. This results in 1113 in healing over seven seconds and a 2910 bloom or 4023 in healing for 42% of your base mana. If, however, we roll the three stack and cast the second and third Lifebloom just before blooms, we get the 371 in healing over time during our single stack and the 742 in two stack healing all before the third stack is even cast. After the third cast, we get 1113 in healing over 7 seconds and the 2910 bloom. By rolling up to our three stack, we have generated 5136 in healing for our 42% base mana investment, over 1000 more than the 4023 we would get from spamming straight up to three.

All said, rolling up a full stack of Lifeblooms and then letting it bloom makes the spell over 20% more efficient than rapidly laying down a full three stack. Obviously, the math reflects a world without overheals and with perfect timing, but if you are looking to completely maximize your efficiency, the numbers speak for themselves. Rolling Lifebloom is back and better than ever!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Classic Video: Big Blue Dress

This classic song about a powerful Mage in not so powerful looking attire always made me laugh. If you have ever seen a better Warcraft music video with a trio of gnome backup dancers, I would love to know about it. Also, this is a good opportunity to check out what used to qualify as massive Pyroblast crits. Good times...

Friday, May 8, 2009

When to Innervate

Back when I was younger, we Druids had to spec for Innervate before walking to Upper Blackrock Spire. It was uphill both ways and we did not have anything to equip in our feet slots because of the depression. Kids these days have it easy, with Innervate being trainable for all at level 40. Unfortunately, this gem of a spell often sits on Druid cast-bars all across Azeroth unused for precious downtime saving minutes.

My advice, blow that cooldown! If Innervate is available and you are sitting down to drink, ask yourself why. Unless you are in an instance and you know there is a mana intensive boss/pull less than six minutes down the road, pop that baby and pop it now. When you are flying solo, give your self this gem of a buff anytime where its duration will not be wasted. As long as your mana is sufficiently low or you are using mana sufficiently fast that the buff will expire before your bar is full, it is good to go. As much as it may cut against your survival instincts, saving your cooldowns for emergencies is generally consumate with wasting them. Go on, Innervate yourself. It's perfectly natural and it feels great.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Watch the Typhoon Please

As a word of warning to all the budding Moonkins out there, while in a group, please use Typhoon sparingly. Positioning is often critical to your tank and dps both in terms of maximizing their damage, avoiding non-targeted attacks, and preventing wipes. As a result, scattering a pull around like a fallen house of cards will rarely lead to anything but frustration and death.

If you plan on using Typhoon in instances, use it smartly. If you want to use it simply for AoE damage, consider the Glyph of Typhoon. I would, however, steer you away from that course unless you are certain as the knockback can be exceptionally useful when applied properly. For example, a well placed Typhoon at maximum range can be the perfect tool for knocking a mob who is charging your healers/ranged dps right back into the tanks lap. It is also a reliable interrupt which can hit multiple casters at once. Though again be weary of undoing the work your tank did bunching all those caster mobs up in the first place. Just keep in mind that Typhoon is useful, but generally speaking, only in small doses.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Life Bloom and Feral Dual Spec

As a quick tip for those of you Druids who happen to have Feral as one of your dual specs, be sure to throw a full stack of Lifeblooms on yourself or someone else right before activating your Feral talents. The mana refund at the bloom will give you just enough of a boost to let you shape-shift without any drinking or downtime. Trust me, your group will thank you for it.

Classic Video: BOOMKIN!!!

A classic video detailing a patch which, ever so unfortunately, was never meant to be. To truly enjoy it you must enjoy loud voice overs and be able to tank five gorillas.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Things that Make You Go Bloom

Lifebloom is not dead post 3.1, it just comes with a little extra baggage. Namely, the spell is simply no longer even remotely mana efficient if each cast does not ultimately result in a bloom. This means that once you hit three stacks, consider it patience time. Throw around some raid heals, refresh buffs, eat a sandwich, do anything other than trying to add that ever elusive fourth stack.

It may seem appealing to keep that three stack rolling for another seven seconds as that is how most good trees were raised, but it is not worth it. Generally speaking, even if your bloom will be 100% overheal, take your mana and live to cast another day. Even when your target is taking heavy damage, let your stack bloom and throw up a quick new three stack if need be. Obviously a slow build gives you the most bang for your buck.

The key to making the most out of the new Lifebloom is proper planning. Let your targets health dip in anticipation of any bloom and neither healing nor mana will be wasted. One, two, or three stacks at a time, Lifebloom can still be an important part of your rotation, just let it bloom baby!

Spec Switching = Spell?

I happened to notice the other day that switching from one spec to the next using dual specs triggered an Omen of Clarity proc. I was hopping into Resto so I used the free cast to throw Rejuvenation on myself in the hopes of getting a couple Revitalize ticks to save me a fraction of a second of drinking time.

I have observed these procs before when switching forms or buffing, but since 3.1 this is the first time it has come up on a spec change. Do any readers have any interesting ideas on how best to spend the rare spec switch free cast? The best I have come up with is topping off health, proc hunting, or shifting forms. Also, I am certain there must be other mechanics which could have interesting results when interacting with what is apparently the switch spec spell. I would be interested to hear your experiences.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hot Video: 28 Patches Later

If you have not seen any of VoodooRayDruid's videos, prepare to be impressed. The combination of live action footage and some of the most ominous Moonkin shots you will ever come across will get you excited for the next installment of this budding series. Be sure to check out his other videos and give him the props which are certainly due.

Bad Ret Pallies and How to Not Be One

Every one who has ever run an instance with a PuG (Pick up Group) has met that guy. He is the one who the group openly ridicules and the source of the many wipes which ultimately lead to your tank "restarting his computer" indefinitely. There is a that guy for every spec of every class. Put simply, that guy is a bad group member.

Being a bad group member does not involve having bad gear or not blowing consumables, it simply entails not doing things to help your group and doing things which harm them in the process. Below I take aim at PvE Retribution Paladins laying out the dos and don'ts of contributing to your party as a dps spec which is so hot right now.

On Helping your Tank:

Your tank, absent direct instructions to the contrary, wants only two things from you. First, do not pull agro. Everyone in your group is sufficiently impressed with your massive Paladin dps. While pulling agro amongst your friends might be a point of pride, in a pickup group it is frustrating at best. If you start moving two far up the agro table, lay a few blows on another target and/or Hand of Salvation yourself. Your tank will love you for it.

Second, keep track of your positioning. As a melee dps, you are on the front lines of the eternal struggle against the enemy of the day. The risks of you stumbling too near a roving pat or nearby bunch of mobs is always high. Whenever there is doubt, err on the side of caution and stay farther away from nearby mobs than the tank. That way, if he is not pulling them, neither will you. Along the same line, try not to stand in front of mobs. Many of Azeroth's denizens have crafted nefarious means of slaying all that stands before them. Try to see that you do not become one of their victims.

On Helping your Healer:

Though you may not be a tank, you are wearing plate and with great power comes great responsibility. You are always your healer's second line of defense right behind the tanks. If a mob makes a break for the healers time to bust out Hammer of Justice or Repentance. If your crowd control is on cooldown, throw a little bit of dps the mobs way. Generally speaking, a mob is not going to pound on your healers unless it is relatively agro free. This means you are only one massive crit away from being the mobs new best friend. Keep in mind you are only a temporary distraction, do not pile on the dps and bring the mob promptly to the real tank. Many an avoidable wipe has been caused by a Ret Pally afraid of getting hit.

The second way you can help your healer is to reduce his work load by healing yourself. The Azerothian gods gave you Art of War for a reason. Go into your interface settings and enable auto self-casting and use those massive holes in your rotation to instant cast Flash of Light yourself. Since, your instant heals no longer reset your swing timer and mana regeneration is a breeze, there really is no reason not to.

On Helping Other DPS:

The same advice about protecting your healer also applies to your fellow dps. You should be the hardiest of your damage dealing brethren so if someone other than the tank is doomed to take a blow, make sure it is you. Though it may take a bit more to pull a mob off an agro hungry dps, never forget that you are just a temporary target so keep it as easy as you can for the tank to reestablish agro.

Also, stay on top of your buffs. Paladin buffs, when combined and properly used, are fairly potent and can make a noticeable difference in your groups damage output. Give your group members the buffs they want, not the ones you think they should have and refresh them before they expire. If you find yourself frequently being asked for a rebuff, you are not doing your job.

On Helping Yourself:

One of the best way to serve yourself and your group is to not die every other pull. PvE Ret Paladins are notorious for getting cut down enemy mobs. Defy the stereotype by keeping your self bubble handy and watching your agro. The extra dps you gain by jumping most of your tanks first attacks will never equal the dps you lost by being dead for 99% of that one pull. Resurrecting you takes time and mana. Take your time, be prepared, and watch your positioning and you will see the end of many battles.

Lastly, spec for success. You are, no doubt, born and bred to be a dps juggernaut, but you are also a team member. When selecting talents keep in mind that your contribution to a group is measured not by your place on the damage meters, but by how you raised your group's damage and survivability on the whole. In the long run, you and your groups will benefit.

Druid Minor Glyph Breakdown

Minor Glyphs are not designed to be game changers, but they should not be a waste of your slots either. I have set aside some space below to discuss each of the Druid Minor Glyphs offering my thoughts on which Druids should and should not choose each. More so than most other things in Azeroth, what Minor Glyphs you select are largely a matter of personal taste though, so take my recommendations with a grain of salt.

Glyph of Aquatic Form

Who should take it: Regardless of spec, if you are leveling up through questing, this Glyph can save you an appreciable amount of time. Obviously, Sea Blob is a highly situational form and you will not be seeing constant mileage out of this one, but when you head off to search the sea for chests, lobster traps, herbs, or quest mobs to kill you will be glad you have it.

Who shouldn't take it: Very few people at endgame will find much use for this Glyph. Also if you are grinding your way to 80, it looses some of its lowbie appeal. At 80 I would avoid it unless you spend way to much time in Arathi Basin, have an insatiable need to harvest aquatic herbs, or cannot think of anything better.

Glyph of Challenging Roar

Who should take it: Bear tanks should always choose this Glyph.

Who shouldn't take it: Anyone who is not a bear tank should never choose this Glyph.

Glyph of Dash

Who should take it: PvP Feral Druids will not want to go without this Glyph and really any PvP Druid, regardless of spec can benefit from it. Mobility is gold, especially in Battle Grounds, and being able to Dash 36 seconds sooner could easily make a world of difference . In PvE it can be helpful when leveling to escape bad pulls and the enemy faction with greater frequency.

Who shouldn't take it: Aside from the levelers listed above, most PvE Druids won't find much benefit in this Glyph. Even for PvE feral druids, Dash is such a novelty that you will rarely, if ever, take advantage of the diminished cooldown.

Glyph of Thorns

Who should take it:
If you are solo leveling, regardless of method and spec, take this Glyph. While playing on your lonesome there is no reason not to have Thorns up on yourself at all times. Over the course of your trip to level 80, you will save yourself hundreds of casts which incrementally saves you mana and downtime. These same benefits also apply if you are still doing some heavy solo questing at 80 (such as farming dailies). Bear tanks should also consider this Glyph as, if you are the only Druid in your group, shifting to caster form every 10 minutes to buff yourself gets old quick.

Who shouldn't take it: Any PvE Druid who spends most of his or her time in groups likely won't be self-buffing with Thorns, except maybe bears. Also, this talent is a bit of a waste for PvP Druids as if you are getting hit enough to warrant having Thorns up, odds are you will not be alive for more than 10 minutes anyway.

Glyph of Typhoon

Who should take it:
Obviously only Balance Druids should ever even consider using this Glyph and even they would be wise to heed the reservations below.

Who shouldn't take it: No Resto or Feral Druid should ever use this Glyph. Similarly, PvP Balance Druids should not take this Glyph as the knockback and the interrupt associated with Typhoon are delicious. The same applies in PvE, but if you happen to be experimenting with an AoE focused raid Moonkin build, this talent will keep you from frustrating your raid mates with Typhoon's knockback. This Glyph will save you less than 100 mana per cast so only use it to disable the knockback, not to conserve mana.

Glyph of Unburden Rebirth

Who should take it: This Glyph would be more aptly named "Glyph of Bag Slot" or "Glyph of Pocket Change," because that is what it gets you. If not having to purchase and carry around Starleaf Seeds appeals to you, carry around this Glyph instead.

Who shouldn't take it: Anyone who values one of the other Glyphs more than the value of not needing a reagent to combat res should trust their instincts and look elsewhere.

Glyph of the Wild

Who should take it: Any Druid will benefit from this talent. Less mana spent buffing equals less down time for both you and any group you happen to be in. If you have an empty Minor Glyph slot and do not know what to stick there, take this one. You will not come across many Druids without it.

Who shouldn't take it: Once all of your Minor Glyph slots are open, every Druid should probably have this Glyph.

Revitalize Working as Intended?

Resto Druid talent Revitalize has both its fans and its critics. You can consider me a fan. I cast Rejuvenation and Wild Growth all the time, so anything to make them better is a plus. Also, considering I only use Healing Touch when paired with Nature's Swiftness, I had some extra talent points to throw around.

Unfortunately, the other day I noticed something slightly disturbing about the controversial little talent. Apparently, ticks which are completely foregone as over-heals have no chance of causing a proc. This appears to be because HoT ticks which occur while the target is at full health are never even processed and therefore do not even count as over-heals.

Though you arguably should not be throwing Rejuvenation on full heath targets just on the off-chance it may proc some energy (though why not if you have the mana and the time), the fact that over-heals never proc seriously changes the equation for judging Revitalize. You can check out one version of those numbers as crunched by Kae over at Dreambound Druid.

Keep in mind I tested this only with respect to 1% mana procs, it may not hold true for other procs such as Rage, Runic Power, or Energy. Also, there is a one in a billion chance that this was a statistical anomaly in that I just happened to not see the 15% chance manifest over the course of a couple dozen Rejuvs. I will not be dropping the talent yet as there is plenty of periodic raid damage to keep the proc chance up, but consider my days of full heath proc hunting suspended.

Edit: Thankfully this issue has been hot-fixed so feel free to resume throwing around those needless Rejuvenation buffs whenever you find yourself bored and high on mana.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Welcome One and All

As the title aptly directs, I bid you a warm welcome to the unveiling party of the Druid Digest. My vision for the direction of the Blog is to create an informative, collaborative, and entertaining space to celebrate all Azeroth has to offer. If you came here hoping to learn the secrets carved into the living rock of Stone Henge, look elsewhere because these pages are all World of Warcraft.

As the name may suggest, the information here will lean slightly in favor of all of our favorite jacks of all trades, Mr. and Mrs. Druid, but there will be plenty of other nuggets for any class to much on. Reader participation is encouraged and feedback is always appreciated, as are generous gifts of cold hard internet cash.

Stay tuned and hopefully after some Wild Growth, we can convert this party to a raid. Double equip your leg slots because your in for a wild ride.