Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tips for Being a Better Raid Leader

Some might argue that a raid is only as strong as its weakest link. I must admit, that has not always been my experience. In fact, many times, I have seen raids plow through ICC's end-wing bosses with more than a couple weak links in tow. On the flip side, I have seen a raid of decked out hardcore raiders crumble after Saurfang or wipe on Rotface. The difference, some raids have a solid raid leader at their helm, while others do not. In my opinion, a raid is only as good as its leader.

A raid leader is the glue that holds a raid together. If a raid group is a finely tuned automobile, the raid leader is equal parts engine, brakes, and occasionally air bags. Without competent leadership, a raid can quickly devolve into a herd of cats throwing themselves harmlessly at content. With solid leadership an under-geared and green group of raiders can easily find themselves staring down the Lich King at breakneck speed. Below are my top five tips for being a better raid leader in World of Warcraft.

1. Set Your Raid Up For Success

As a raid leader, you have the ultimate say in who comes to the show and who is left on the sidelines. While you might be tempted to use anything that breaths and has a keyboard to fill out your roster, a little extra time spent finding the right raiders can make all the difference. A successful raid setup should have three things: reasonable class balance, good players, and clear expectations.

As for class balance, it is okay to have a couple classes missing from your raid setup, especially in ten man. As anyone who has ever run a raid with all Paladin healers can tell you however, a complete disregard for class balance can tank your raid before it gets started. Not only could you end up missing valuable buffs and abilities like Mark of the Wild or Bloodlust/Heroism, but you are also creating loot nightmares should you somehow manage to down a boss. If you have more than two of a particular class in your ten man or four in your twenty-five (except maybe Paladins and Druids) you might want to make some replacements.

Finding "good players" can and should mean many different things. Generally, you will want to find raiders with their combination of skill, gear, and experience to clear the content you have set your eyes on. Keep in mind that a deficiency in one area can often be made up for in strength in another. For example, you will often be better served by an under-geared Shaman who has defeated Putricide five times than by a Frost Badge gear laden Shaman who has never seen past Marrowgar. If a raider seems shaky, unless you are able and interested in carrying them, don't risk it. There truly are other fish in the raiding sea. Spend the extra time to find one that doesn't smell funny.

The last and potentially most critical part of setting your raid up for success is establishing expectations for your raiders. You want to make it clear not only what you expect from the people in your raid, but also what they can expect from you. First, you want raiders that will be in it for the long haul, so let everyone know exactly how long the raid will last and make sure everyone is available for that amount of time. Nothing wears out a raid like the dreaded search for replacements. Second, set benchmarks for your team. A simple dps or heals per second target can often be all it takes to turn a raiding zero into an Icecrown hero. For that extra bit of motivation, tie it to a tangible reward like loot. Lastly, set break times and stick to them. People need to leave their keyboards from time to time. Setting aside specific periods for these diversions can fend off the dreaded pre-boss ready check fail.

2. Know and Explain the Encounters

In an ideal world, all your raiders will know all of the encounters you will be tackling like the backs of their virtual hands. Unfortunately, the world is not ideal and, at best, you will likely have a couple raiders accustomed to ineffective or outdated strategies. At worst, you may have a couple rookies in your mix.

Taking a pre-boss break to have people watch strategy videos is always a safe bet, but it can be draining on your raiders who do know the fights and severely draws out your raid. Instead, you be the video. If you plan on leading a raid, you should know every aspect of a given encounter and how it will affect your tanks, dps and healers. You should also be able to condense that information into easily digestible nuggets of strategy which you can spoon feed to those raiders who need it.

What separates an effective explanation from an ineffective one is often brevity. Let's say you are about to fight Blood Queen and you have two green dps. They don't need to know about the tanks being linked. They don't need to know the details of your full bite order or even the reasons for it, they only need to know who they should bite, when, and how. They just need to know to run to the middle if they start to flash pink, to run out if they get the purple shadow debuff, and to spread out during the air phase. Don't overwhelm your raid with information. They won't retain any of it. Tell each individual what they truly need to know and then rock and roll. Better to have a "you have to see it to learn it" wipe after a two minute explanation than after a ten minute one.

Also, continue to lead while you are engaging the encounter. Call out dangerous mechanics and remind people of how to avoid them when they are activated. If you have a new player or two, watch their debuffs and call them out by name when they need to do something. Do not micromanage to the point of tanking your own performance, but a little coaching is often all it takes to avoid a soul crushing uber wipe.

3. Keep Things Moving

As many a frustrated raider will quickly admit, a slow moving raid can be a painful experience. Dead time encourages people to go afk and can preclude you even making attempts at later bosses before you are flooded with "I gtg" tells. Chain together trash pulls as quickly as your healers can manage. Once you reach a boss, lay down a feast and get the buffs going immediately. The second the buffs are up and you have confirmed that everyone knows the fight, it is time to ready check and pull. If a wipe happens, have everyone immediately run back and start buffing.

One source of delay you should try to mitigate is loot distribution. Try having a dps in charge of the loot so that your tanks and healers can move on to trash while shiny epics are being handed out. To make things even faster, just pick up the loot and hand it out on the run. Blizzard lets you trade raid loot for a reason. Grab it all and hand it out as you go. There is no reason to just kneel next to the boss's corpse for three minutes while your Retribution Paladin tries to figure out whether that plate helm really is a main spec upgrade. You have trash to kill, no reason you can't do it with loot in tow.

4. Make the Tough Choices

As a raid leader, you have the play experience of several raiders resting in your hands. That is a lot of responsibility and should not be taken lightly. Assuming your goal is clearing content quickly and efficiently, it is sometimes necessary to put the needs of the raid as a whole before the interests of individual members. For example, let's say you find yourself hitting Festergut's enrage timer. Perhaps it is time to stop carrying that 3k dps Warlock. Will he be pissed that you drop him? Hopefully not if you politely explain why he needs to go, but regardless if you keep him around you have doomed your raid. Someone needs to pull the trigger and that little crown next to your character portrait means it must be you.

Similarly, you might have a fantastic performer who continually goes afk or is otherwise disruptive to the flow of the raid. All the healing throughput in the world won't help you reach the Lich King if your entire raid must sit through fifteen minutes of failed ready checks before each boss pull. You can be a nice guy and a good raid leader, but eventually you will be faced with a situation where you can elect to either do what needs to be done or let your raid continue to struggle. A good raid leader does the former. A great raid leader does it kindly without alienating anyone.

5. Be Consistent

If your raiders know what to expect from you and like the way you operate, they will come back again and again. If they don't like the way you run things, you likely don't want them in your raid anyway. If you give the appearance of being wishy-washy, deceptive, or unfair, your raiders will resent you, won't perform their best, and may not even show up at all. On the flip side, if you prove yourself to be a conduit to consistently downing endgame bosses quickly and efficiently, you will have solid players banging down your door to come along.

Have clear expectations for those around you and stick to them. Do not make excuses for your raiders or yourself. A little predictability makes for a smooth run and happy raiders.

Feel free to share your storys about successful and not so successful raid leaders you have had in the comments. What about a raid leader makes or breaks your raids?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cataclysm Alpha Leak Leak Video: Character Creation Screen

Here is another great leaked video from the Cataclysm Alpha. This one shows the Cataclysm Character Creation Screen which has been updated with Female Worgen and Goblin models as well as spell effects for various classes.

I think it is a big improvement and am excited to see the finished Worgen Female textures. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Also, don't forget to Follow the blog using the column on the right to stay up to date with the hottest Cataclysm leaks and updates.

Cataclysm Alpha Leak Leak Video: Abyssal Maw

Check out this leaked video from the World of Warcraft Friends and Family Alpha showing the fantastic, though unfinished Abyssal Maw instance. Be sure to check the main page by clicking the banner above for other great Cataclysm Alpha footage. As always, there are more videos to come!

Cataclysm Alpha Leak Leak Video: Ogrimmar

Managed to lay my hands on another great video from the Cataclysm Alpha. This one features the new Orgrimmar and is a higher quality video than the one of Stormwind. Enjoy!

Cataclysm Alpha Leak Leak Video: Stormwind

Been looking all week for decent Cataclysm Alpha videos and finally managed to find one that appears to be legitimate. The quality is not perfect, but it is still pretty awesome. I present to you, the new Stormwind:

Cataclysm Restoration Druid Talent Changes

Now that the Cataclysm Friends and Family Alpha is live, Blizzard has more than a few leaks on its hands. One of those leaks disclosed an early build of the new Druid talent trees for Cataclysm. Below, I will highlight all the changes coming to the Restoration Tree. For links to information about the Cataclysm Feral and Balance Talent tree changes, check out the links at the bottom of the post.

As these talent trees will likely be updated many times prior to the release of Cataclysm, I will try my best to keep this post updated as well. Last Updated: 05/06/10

Cataclysm Restoration Talents:

New Talents

Blessing of the Grove: Two rank talent which increases Rejuvenation's healing by 2%, Moonfire's direct damage by 3%, and Claw/Mangle's damage by 2% per rank

Perseverance: Reduces all spell damage taken by 2% per rank with up to five ranks

Fury of Stormrage: Two rank talent which gives Nourish a 2% to cause Wrath to become instant cast and cost no mana, also can trigger instant Starfire casts when the Druid hits a target under 25% health with Moonfire

Efflorescence: Regrowth crits now spawn a fifteen yard bed of flowers which heals friendly targets who stand in it for a percentage of the Regrowth's heal over seven seconds

Changed Talents

Improved Rejuvenation: Now also increases Swiftmend healing by 5%

Improved Tranquility: No longer reduces Tranquility's cooldown, but now reduces damage taken while channeling the spell by 25% per rank

Nature's Bounty: Completely redone, now increases crit chance of Regrowth on targets under 25% health by 10% per rank and also decreases the cooldown of Swiftmend by .5 seconds whenever the Druid crits with Nourish or Healing Touch

Empowered Touch: Completely redone, now increases healing done by Healing Touch by 5% per rank on targets below 25% health and causes Nourish to refresh the duration of Lifebloom

Swiftmend: Mana cost slightly reduced

Natural Perfection: No longer increases spell crit chance

Empowered Rejuvenation: Now also improves Swiftmend

Revitalize: Completely redone, now grants the caster 1% base mana per rank whenever Regrowth or Lifebloom's periodic ticks crit

Tree of Life: Now lasts forty-five seconds with a five minute cooldown, increases HoT healing by 15%, increases Armor by 200%, reduces movement speed by 30% and temporatily empowers some of your spells, it no longer buffs raid members and does not restrict the Druid's spell use

Improved Tree of Life: Completely redone, three ranks, now reduces Tree of Life's cooldown thirty seconds and increases damage done while in Tree of Life by 5%

Improved Barkskin: No longer provides dispel resistance

Gift of the Earthmother: Completely redone, now increases Tranquility's healing by 4% on targets below 25% health, increases Lifebloom's bloom by 2%, and adds an immediate, upfront tick to Rejuvenation

Wild Growth: Mana cost substantially increased

Removed Talents

Improved Mark of the Wild


Living Spirit

Gift of Nature

Moved Talents

Naturalist: Moved to tier three

Living Seed: Moved to tier six

Empowered Touch: Moved to tier seven

Natural Perfection: Moved to tier eight

It seems as if Blizzard is really trying to push players to use Regrowth, Healing Touch, and Swiftmend with greater frequency. To be honest, Efflorescence is such a cool talent, expect me to be casting Regrowth whenever reasonable. It is also becoming apparent that the days of spamming Wild Growth are rapidly coming to a close. Enjoy it while it lasts.

I would be curious to hear what everyone has to say about the Tree of Life changes. Please post your thoughts in the comments.

Cataclysm Balance Druid Talent Changes
Cataclysm Feral Druid Talent Changes

Cataclysm Feral Druid Talent Changes

Now that leaks from the Cataclysm Friends and Family Alpha are just pouring out into the internet, I have been able to get my hands on a copy of the test build's talent trees. Below, I will break down all the talent changes coming to Feral Druids in Cataclysm. For links to reviews of Balance and Restoration changes, check out the links at the bottom of the post.

I will keep these lists updated as new changes become available. Last Updated: 05/06/10

Cataclysm Feral Talents:

New Talents


Changed Talents

Primal Precision: No longer refunds energy when finishers fail to hit

Brutal Impact: Now only reduces the cooldown of Bash by five seconds per rank

Survival of the Fittest: No longer increases attributes

King of the Jungle: No longer reduces the mana cost of feral forms

Removed Talents


Moved Talents


Unlike the Balance Druid tree, the Feral Tree has not gotten much loving thus far in the Cataclysm Alpha. Do not worry though, I would imagine Blizzard just hasn't gotten around to working the Feral changes into the Alpha yet. I am certain there are plenty of changes to come, so stay tuned for updates.

Cataclysm Balance Druid Talent Changes
Cataclysm Restoration Druid Talent Changes

Druid Cataclysm Balance Talent Changes

UPDATE: A new Guide to Balance Druids in 4.0.1 has been posted!

MMO Champion has just dumped a ton of Cataclysm Alpha information onto their website including screen shots, profession updates, and talent calculators. Obviously, all the information remains subject to change, but that doesn't make it any less exciting to peruse.

As this is Druid Digest, I have decided to take a closer look at the changes made thus far to the Druid Talent trees. First, I will break down the Balance tree. Check it out below and feel free to post your thoughts and concerns in the comments.

For my previews of the other Cataclysm talent trees, check the links at the bottom of the page. Enjoy!

Cataclysm Balance Talents:

New Talents

Solar Beam: Instant cast on a one minute cooldown which calls down a solar beam on a target enemy which disorients all targets it hits for three seconds, the beam lasts ten seconds and silences anyone inside of it

Lunar Justice: Whenever the Druid kills a target that yields experience or honor, a moonbeam is generated which lasts ten seconds and restores 2% base mana to the first ally who stands beneath it

Starsurge: Two second cast with a fifteen second cooldown which blasts a target for heavy damage and knocks them down.

Fungal Growth: When a Treant dies or a Wild Mushroom is triggered, it spawns an eight yard fungal growth on the ground which slows enemies who cross it for ten seconds.

Changed Talents

Genesis: Changed to also increase Swiftmend healing

Improved Moonfire: Now only improves the direct damage portion of the spell by 5%, effect on crit removed

Nature's Grace: No longer requires Nature's Majesty as a prerequisite

Nature's Splendor: Now has three ranks

Celestial Focus: No longer grants haste

Balance of Power: Now grants 50% of the Druids Spirit as additional Hit rather than the 3% spell damage taken reduction

Lunar Guidance: No longer affects spell power, instead increases the radius of Solar Beam by two yards and causes Starsurge to generate five Lunar or Solar energy

Moonkin Form: No longer reduces damage taken when stunned, no longer regenerates mana on spell crits, no longer buffs party or raid member spell crit

Improved Moonkin Form: Grants 2% crit per rank to raid members, no more additional spell damage or haste

Owlkin Frenzy: No longer restores mana

Wrath of Cenarius: No longer affects Wrath or Starfire, the Druid now gains a 3 second buff whenever moving which increases Moonfires damage by 5% and decreases its mana cost by 10%, the buff stacks up to three times and is refreshed as long as the Druid moves

Eclipse: Old mechanic removed, now increases Solar/Lunar Energy generated by Wrath and Starfire by 12% per rank and causes the Druid to generate Energy when crit

Typhoon: Mana cost increased

Earth and Moon: Spell damage debuff cut from 4% to 2% per application per rank

Removed Talents

Insect Swarm

Improved Insect Swarm

Improved Faerie Fire

Moved Talents

Brambles: Moved to tier five

Nature's Splendor: Moved to tier four

Celestial Focus: Moved to tier three

Vengeance: Moved to tier five

Lunar Guidance: Moved to tier six

Which changes are you the most excited about and which have you concerned? I think Fungal Growth and Lunar Justice sound like pretty interesting mechanics. I also am not freaking out about Insect Swarm, because it is simply becoming trainable.

Cataclysm Feral Druid Talent Changes
Cataclysm Restoration Druid Talent Changes

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Blizzard to Pair with Facebook for New Battlenet

Blizzard has just announced that the new Battle.Net service they are currently developing will integrate with popular social networking site Facebook. Feel free to read the official press release, but don't expect any information beyond what I have shared except that testing is on the horizon.

What exactly this integration will mean for World of Warcraft players remains to be seen. Perhaps my many alts will finally be able to pitch in and work on my Farmville farm, or maybe I can poke that pesky Death Knight who is always hiding under the stairs in Wintersgrasp. I hate that guy....

In all seriousness though, those of you who like to keep your gaming quite may want to start getting prepared. The Warcraft cat may very well be out of the bag come the new

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cataclysm Screen Shot of Deathwing Leaked?

EDIT: Check out the blogs Main Page for brand new Cataclysm Alpha Videos!

Now that the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Alpha is out, it is only a matter of time before delicious leaks start flooding the WoW web. Those participating in the Alpha are subject to an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), so expect some of the earliest leaks to be vague or well hidden. I am not in the Alpha and therefore not subject to the NDA, so I will gather and post what I can here. So let's get to it!

The folks over at MMO Champion have been freaking out all morning about a supposed leaked screen-shot of the Cataclysm character model for Deathwing. The head of the website has squeezed the image out off their servers and is blasting it out of the forums whenever it rears its head. Thankfully, I managed to lay my hands on a copy of the image which you can view below.

Now, I cannot comment on the legitimacy of the image. It is not my image and I have posted it only for reporting purposes. It could very well be a fake. If so, however, it is a well done fake. Also, if it were a fake, I would assume there would be less panic over at MMO Champion. Supposedly, the head of that website got his hands on a Cataclysm Friends and Family Alpha key and is terrified that this image will jeopardize his participation in the Cataclysm Alpha. Those are all rumors though and I'll leave it to you what you decide to believe. Regardless, enjoy the image.

I would love to hear what you readers think. Is this a legit Cataclysm leak, or just another well perpetrated Warcraft Expansion Alpha hoax?