Saturday, January 31, 2015

Taking Holy Out for a Test Drive

To steal a phrase from my buddy BigBearButt, you are getting a Hammerwall (wall of text) today.

Hammer Log 23 January 2015 through 27 January 2015

I'm in a weird spot with Soma. I'm raiding with them, but I'm not in their guild and I'm not keen on transferring to Kil'jaden anytime soon. They are one of better PUGs out there and I guess they think I'm one of the better PuG tanks they've come across (why else would they have moved their schedule)? Still it feels more like a hotel than a home.

One thing I've noticed looking at both the ingame LFG tool and the Guild Recruitment forums is that there seems to be more openings for Healers and Ranged than Tanks or Melee. I love the Paladin class and I don't want to play anything else right now. Ranged DPS isn't an option, but healing is. I'd love to be able to go to a guild and tell them I could play any of the three specs and slot into what they need.

My experiments with DPS as Prot had given me confidence that I no longer needed a Ret spec for soloing so I headed off to Thunder Bluff to switch specs.

(Did you know there’s a portal to Thunder Bluff in Warspear? I didn’t until I found it. )

It took me a minute to find the Paladin trainer. I never leveled as a Tauren Paladin so I had no idea where the trainer was. I knew there was one in Orgrimaar but I felt like it made more sense for me to go 'home' to Thunder Bluff. I'm on an RP server now, I guess it's rubbing off.

I finally found them on Hunter's Rise.

Dear Baine: Why would you put the Sunwalkers on Hunter's Rise? Elder's Rise or Spirt Rise makes so much more sense. The Spirit Rise has all the other healers (shamans, druids, priests).

A few moments later I had traded in the Ret spec for a shiny new Holy spec. I opted for Vuhdo for my healing addon. I had been a Healbot user on my other healing toons but I decided to try Vuhdo this time since it seemed to be a little more popular.

I went out to my Garrison and found the Healing Target Dummy and proceeded to try to get a feel for the spells and their usage. Shock, Holy Light, Holy Light, Shock, Holy Light, Holy Light. I alternated between healing the Dummy and tweaking my UI until I thought I had something serviceable.

Next up was Proving Grounds. I started with Bronze because that’s where you have to start. It turned out my playing around on the Target Dummy proved to be insufficient preparation. Eventually, I got the hang of it enough to get past Bronze, but already I noticed that Holy Paladins seem to struggle in an AoE healing situation. I actually repeated Bronze twice more after my first victory to prove to myself it wasn’t a fluke of RNG and to get a little more practice. Then I kicked it up a notch and went for Silver.

Silver was definitely harder and kudos to the developers for having the Hunter NPC stand in the fire. He doesn’t move until the Mage NPC yells at him. Talk about your realistic simulation! It did make me wonder why the Tank challenges only have you and the healer. Clearly the technology for a party exists because that’s how the Healer challenge works. Wouldn’t it be better to use a full party in the Tank challenges as well?

After several attempts, I started to get the hang of it a little bit and before long I had passed the Silver challenge as well. At that point, I decided to be crazy and try the Gold challenge to see how far I could get. I didn’t see the exact wave we died on, but I think it was 4 or 5. Ironically, the death that ended my Gold attempt was my own. Maybe it’s because I’m used to having others heal me as a tank, or I’m overly reliant on Beacon of Light and the Protector of the Innocent Glyph, but I consistently forget to heal myself. I learned that I’m too conservative with my cooldowns as a healer. I have a same problem as a Tank or DPS. That’s probably an influence left over from my vanilla days when all cooldowns tended to be really long.

With Silver completed, I could queue for Heroics. Now it was time to foist my nascent healing ability (or lack thereof) on some unsuspecting PuG. As my luck would have it, I got Everbloom. It’s a dungeon I’ve run a couple of times as a tank. It turns out there are all kinds of mechanics that happen to the ranged and healers that I sort of never paid any attention to while I was tanking. There is also a ton more bad on the ground than you face in the Proving Grounds. About the only spell I can cast on the run is Holy Shock. Everything else requires me to root myself to cast it. There were deaths, including my own, but the pinnacle of the run was during the Yalnu fight. I went to Lay on Hands the tank, but still learning my keybinds, hit my Blessing of Protection* keybind instead. Yep, I BoPed* the tank. Amazingly, we didn’t wipe. I apologized to the tank but since we didn’t wipe he sort of laughed it off.

So far I had cleared everything I had tried. Next rung up the ladder would be an LFR. I queued up and it popped almost instantly. I set up my Beacons on the two tanks and got ready. I figured if I did horribly I would either get kicked or drop group. We started Kargath and I started filling up healthbars. I had planned to concentrate on the tanks but they seemed remarkably healthy so I played whack a mole with anyone who had taken damage. I checked Skada to see how I was doing against the other healers. There were 5 in our group and I was solidly in position 4 at around 10k HPS. The others were ahead in the 14k range and there was one (Druid?) who was behind at about 7k.

Throughout the run, just like the Heroics, I learned about all kinds of new and wonderful mechanics that I had either ignored or not had to worry about while tanking. I didn’t snag any loot on the run but that was okay. I had used my bonus rolls earlier in the week in Normal.

The next step will be to try healing an actual raid, but I’m not confident I’m ready for that yet, but I’m not sure the best place to get more practice. I’m thinking Heroics because there won’t be any other healers to pick up my slack. It will be sink or swim.

*I know its called Hand of Protection now. Old habits die hard.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The High Imperator

Hammer Log 22 January 2015

The next raid night, we made the decision to go after High Imperator Mar'gok instead of working on other Heroic bosses. The week we went 5/7, the group had returned on the weekend and gotten some work on High Imperator with a PuG tank and had gotten to Phase 4. I was new to the fight and it took me a couple of pulls to learn all the mechanics.

The fight is pretty crazy. I had to keep track of Mar'gok's Accelerated Stacks and taunt when they got too high. We were using 8 as our benchmark. I also had to watch the cooldown on Mark of Chaos because the Monk was supposed to have him each Mark and then I was to immediately taunt him back. When we got to Phase 3, I had to move halfway between our two tanking positions right before the cast so I could taunt, run to the new position away from the Brewmaster and setup shop again.

It took me a couple of attempts to get a good feel of everything. You can read all the strats in the world and watch all the videos you can, but there's nothing like doing the fight for yourself.

Basically, we messed up the fight in just about every way imaginable. It took me a couple of attempts to get a feel for the taunt rotation and we let his Accelerated Stacks get too high. I had him for one of the Marks and melee didn't run out before I blew up. We stepped on mines. Our melee would run too close to the Branded group avoiding a mine and that would bring Branded back into melee and its stacks got too high. Sometimes, Mar'gok would stop on his way to me to cast something and the melee tunneled in and didn't keep moving. When the Brewmaster blew up, they went with him.

After the third time our hunter stepped on a mine, the raid leader told him 'no more warnings'. I wasn't sure if he was threatening to kick the guy or what. I'm torn. I don't like the whole 'mess up and you're out' kind of raid leading, but then again I don't like wiping all night to the same mechanic either.

The main problem seemed to be that we were slow on killing the Ogres in Phase 2 and we had adds up as Phase 3 began. Then when the AoE damage started going out in Phase 3 it was too much.

We never got past Phase 3 all night. I don't know if we need more gear or more practice or what. I don't want to read too much into them getting to Phase 4 before with a different tank, although that concerns me. So much can change night to night when half the raid is a PuG. Mar'gok is a long fight which limited how many attempts we could get it in and again my schedule proved problematic.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Back to Ko'ragh

I'm a little behind in posting. I've got the next 6 days worth of posts written so what you are seeing is actually stuff that happened last week. I'm going to post over the weekend to try to get caught up even though not many people stop by those days.

Hammer Log 20 January 2015

The next week I started back with Café Soma. They've got about 6 guys (or gals, ya never know) who are consistently showing up for their raids and the rest are pugged off Open Raid or the in-game Looking For Group tool. We blew through the first 5 bosses with little issue and before long we were standing before Ko’ragh again. They had run over the weekend and developed a new strategy. We kited Ko’ragh around the edge of the circle on the floor in his room and ranged followed us. It made it easier to deal with the void zones.

We also had a better composition this time around with more magical DPS. The Brewmaster did a great job of picking up the adds and we waited until we had almost of them out before we started killing them. The new strategy worked well and soon Ko’ragh was visiting his personal spirit healer.

It was getting late and we didn’t have time to try High Imperator. As the group decided what to do, I could sense some frustration at my schedule. I’m completely dictating their schedule at this point. They can’t start earlier because I can’t get on any earlier and they can’t go later because I can’t go later, but there isn't much I can do about it.

We decided we didn't have time to try Heroic Kargath. We all exited the instance so we could change the difficulty. It was at this point that Kil’jaden decided to remind Café Soma what a PVP server is. Apparently an ambitious group of Alliance had taken over the entrance to Highmaul. As soon as we exited, we all died. I was having memories of the Karazhan stone on Altar of Storms, and the death run to MC on Dark Iron.

I have to hand it to these Allies. It was a really impressive display of keeping Horde from the entrance: Death Knight gripping, Hunters trapping, Druids cycloning. Kil'jaden is a majority Horde server, overwhelmingly so, but this group of Alliance had managed to take over Highmaul. It doesn't matter how much your PVP server is 'virtually a PVE server', its still a PVP server.

The Raid Leader reset the instance to Heroic and we corpse hopped back in. My run was relatively short thanks to my trusty Bubble and Speed of Light getting me out of a Mass Dispel. I might live on an RP server these days but I was raised on PVP servers like Dark Iron and AoS. One of our group members had been teleported back to his Garrison when he left the instance so it took him a little longer to get back. The Alliance had secured the flight points as well.

Eventually, we got everyone back in and cleared our way to Heroic Kargath. The delay ate up any remaining time we had left, but I agreed to stay so we could attempt him. I would pay for it the next morning.

I was surprised that Heroic wasn’t that different than Normal. One of our guys messed up the Chain Hurl and replaced the Healer who was supposed to go up. Without heals, the Chain group had to jump down immediately. That puts us behind and we never seemed to be able to catch back up. We started losing people and the raid leader called for everyone to go pet a kitty (jump in the tiger pits). After the wipe, we regrouped and pulled again. This time was smoother and we downed him.

I’m now 6/7N 1/7H. Woot for progress.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Making Accomodations

On the raiding front, I had sent a message to the guys from Open Raid (Cafe Soma) explaining why I wasn’t going to sign up for raids the following week (or ever again really). I’ve always heard Raid Leaders and Guild Leaders talk about how they like to know why people left. I explained about the PVP server issue and that they simply ran too late for me to continue running with them. I was hurting the next day after I stayed up late with them.

The next reset I ran with a different group. These guys were on a PVE server and I could tell as soon as I got into their vent, it was going to be a different experience. You could tell they were comfortable with each other and everyone was really friendly. I was given a tank role with a Druid and off we went. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well at first, and we wiped 2 or 3 times on Normal Kargath. The Druid tank switched over to heals and we brought in someone’s friend who had a well geared Tankadin. We one-shot Kargath on the next pull. It amazing what tanks can do. It's like we focus the entire raid, and I could tell from Skada that everyone had raised their DPS about 2k from the last wipe attempt to the kill.

We continued on and two shot Butcher before trying Tectus. Tectus was still at 30% during the first Upheaval stage and the raid leader determined we didn’t have the DPS to kill him. A week after going 5/7, I went 2/7.

Two of the DPS in the raid weren’t hitting 10k. I figured we must be taking some undergeared friends (which would have been totally cool with me), but I was curious and inspected one of them. I saw they were at least 640 iLevel. I can’t imagine how they couldn’t be doing at least 10k with that iLevel. I did 12k to 14k on my first Highmaul run at iLevel 633 and I do 10k DPS soloing as Protection. Other than the group assessment that we didn’t collectively have the DPS no one made specific mention of the two low DPS. Now, maybe something was said privately, or they expected them to realize where their DPS was for themselves. When I struggled as a Hunter on Council of Elders, I knew my DPS was a problem without anyone telling me, but the vibe I got from their vent tells me that probably wasn’t happening.

I had planned to solider on and give the group another go the following reset, but the next day, I got a message from the guys in Cafe Soma. They were willing to move their raid start times to accommodate my schedule. I was really floored. I felt like I really should give them another shot since they were going out of their way to work with my schedule. Sure, the PVP server thing is still going to be an issue if they ever want to go Mythic, but I guess I’ll just have to burn that bridge when I get there.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Patch 6.1 Notes Reaction

Blizzard released the patch notes for 6.1. Paladin specific items were broken down into a couple of different sections but I have combined them all into this post.

Talents

Empowered Seals (Protection, Retribution) has been improved. Liadrin’s Righteousness now increases haste by 20% (up from 15%). Uther’s Insight now heals the Paladin for 2% of maximum health (up from 1%).

It looks like they are trying to make Empowered Seals more attractive. Before this buff Theck and the theorycrafters at Maintankadin had worked out that:

ES is still in last place post-haste-buff. Worse for survival than HS, and not a very large DPS gain over HS either (obv a DPS loss compared to Sera). And again, this is played perfectly juggling all 3 buffs. The penalty for error with ES is probably just as large as Seraphim since all three of the buffs are pretty significant effects. If your uptime on any of the buffs is <75% you're probably better off with Holy Shield. - Source

Given that stance, and the fact we have one less Seal and therefore one less buff, I have my doubts it will be enough to make us want to use it. That makes me somewhat happy because I really don't want to add Seal Dancing to my rotation.

Execution Sentence's healing dealt by Stay of Execution has increased by 100%.

Nice buff to Execution Sentence. That tier of talents is not very appealing. They are all kind of 'meh'. I guess this will make this less 'meh'.

Final Verdict (Retribution) now increases the radius of the next Divine Storm by 50% (down from
100%).

Now kill yourself half as much when you aggro all bears.

Hand of Purity now reduces damage taken by 15% (up from 10%).

I dig the buff to Hand of Purity. It's a nice take on Brackenspore for either yourself or a Holy Paladin who is healing you.

Sacred Shield's (Holy) mana cost has been reduced by 34%.
Beacon of Insight (Holy) now increases healing received by the target by 40% (up from 30%) and moves to the next most injured ally when the target reaches 90% health (instead of full health). 

These look like buffs to Holy, but don't quote me on that.

Glyphs

Glyph of Alabaster Shield has been removed.

Alabaster Shield had already gotten nerfed hard in the hotfix so removing it won't change much.

Glyph of Harsh Words is now only available to Holy Paladins.

Apparently, doing DPS with a shield is a reserved for Gladiator Stance Warriors. I realize they give up some survivability to go into Gladiator Stance, but Paladins using Harsh Words were giving up all their Active Mitigation to do that.

Glyph of Judgment is now automatically learned at level 25.

If you haven't bought it, don't buy it. It will automatically in your spellbook after 6.1.

Protection

Seal of Truth is no longer available to Protection Paladins. Seal of Command is now replaced by Seal of Righteousness instead of Seal of Truth.

Removing Seal of Truth wouldn't have had any impact. We already determined that Seal of Righteousness did more damage than Truth and switched over to using it instead of Truth when we wanted a DPS Seal. It will leave us without a 'bleed' or DoT to put on the mobs, but that was only important in the days when you had a fight where you had to be away from the mob for a period of time (like that one boss in Auchindoun) and aggro still mattered. You needed your own DoTs to keep up with DPS DoTs for threat. Nowadays, we are so far ahead on threat there is little chance DPS will pull if you are away from the boss for a few seconds.

Armor Sets
PvP 2-piece set bonus for Holy Paladins now lasts 12 seconds (up from 8 seconds).
PvP 4-piece set bonus for Holy Paladins has been redesigned. Eternal Flame or Word of Glory now also reduces damage taken by the target by 5% for each Holy Power consumed (maximum of 15%) for 6 seconds. This effect only works in PvP combat. 

I have no comment on the Holy Paladin PVP stuff. I don't play a Holy Paladin in PVP (actually I try to avoid PVP as much as possible, but both changes look like buffs to my uneducated eyes.

Source: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/17561381/61-ptr-patch-notes-1-23-2015

There's a pretty clear message from the Developers that they don't like Protection Paladins doing bottom of the meters levels of DPS. Perhaps next expansion we can get a Gladiator type stance for Paladins.

I will still try to solo as Prot so I can try out Holy in my other spec and see how it goes. I'm going to go ahead and stop using Seal of Truth, Alabaster Shield, and Harsh Words. No reason to get used to something that is going away.

I'm thinking the default tanking load out will be Divine Protection, Consecrator (love that glyph) and Final Wrath. Throw in Focused Shield if you don't need the bounce to pick up adds or Holy Wrath if the stun would be help.

Doing the DPS as a Tankadin

I got the new “3rd Tank” set up and decided to test it out. If you recall from last week, this involved going Execution Sentence, Sanctified Wrath, Seraphim, Harsh Words, Focused Shield, Final Wrath and using Seal of Righteousness. Harsh Words replaced Shield of the Righteous in the rotation.

After I set up my spec, and bought about 25 Tomes of Clear Mind, I went to the Target Dummy in my Garrison. I managed about 12k DPS, which wasn’t too terribly off from what I was doing as Ret. I decided to give it a test in the Proving Grounds. I had already completed the Silver Challenge DPS in my Retribution spec, but I wanted to start slow and fired up the Bronze Challenge DPS. That went well, almost easy. Next up I tried the Silver Challenge. This took me 4 or 5 tries as Retribution back when I first hit Level 100. I remember reading somewhere that the Proving Grounds scale up with your gear so the fact I have much better gear now than I did then shouldn’t have a big impact. It took me about 8 tries, but I managed to beat it and got the “You’re Doing It Wrong” achievement.



One big thing I learned, you can’t sit on a Seraphim. Once you’ve got 5 Holy Power, you’ve got to activate it.

With those two tests out of the way, the next thing I wanted to do was to try it out soloing. The Apexis Daily was “Assault on Skettis”.

This has to be the worse Apexis daily I’ve done so far. First, you have to obtain a Talon Key from the Arakkoa that patrol around. Then you have to free the Arakkoa Outcasts. That activates a reputation bar. Each Outcast has a 5 minute timer. At the end of that 5 minutes they will despawn. Outside the area is a Darkweaver in a bubble sort of like the ones we had for quest givers on the Isle of the Thunder. The idea is to fight other mobs in the area with the Outcast at your side to increase the reputation bar and then turn them into the Darkweaver’s bubble. The higher the reputation bar the more progress you made on completing the daily.

This would work fine expect for one itsy bitsy little problem. You remember that early scene in Top Gun where Goose and Maverick walk into the bar, and Maverick declares “This is a target rich environment”? Skettis has just the opposite problem. It is a target poor environment.



There aren’t nearly enough Arakkoa mobs and they don’t respawn quickly enough. The ones that do spawn are killed almost instantly. You almost have to get lucky running around and have one spawn near you or you pick a spot and spawn camp. To add to the issue, the Talon Keys aren’t a 100% drop.

I finished it for the Achievement progression but I’m keen on skipping it the next time I see that as the daily quest. I don’t need Apexis Crystals THAT bad. The good news was that the new spec performed well. I felt comfortable that I was killing stuff about as fast as I would as Retribution. I can now use my Prot spec for both solo and tanking by changing some glyphs and talents. That should mean I can change my Ret spec over to Holy and give that a try.

Of course, I then learned that the guys back at Blizzard HQ aren't too keen on this idea so this "3rd tank" spec is getting nerfed in Patch 6.1.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Return of the 3rd Tank?

In Burning Crusade era 25 man raiding, 3 tanks were the norm. That's actually how I got my in with a Tier 6 guild. I was their 3rd tank. It wasn't a great job, especially in the days before dual spec, but it was good first rung on your way up the tanking hierarchy in a guild. The idea has returned with the penultimate boss of the current Highmaul raid, High Imperator Mar'gok.

"3-tank Heroic/Mythic Imperator Mar'gok"

High Imperator is a crazy 5 phase fight that challenges all groups even down to LFR. Every even phase is an 'intermission' where Mar'gok becomes unattackable and the raid deals with a set of adds. In the second intermission (or 4th phase) an additional add called a Reaver spawns. The Reaver is a melee and hits like a truck. He needs a tank. At the same time this is happening the two tanks still need to pick up the Warmages and Volatile Anomalies. The Reaver also periodically knocks his tank back and drops aggro. Handling all this feels like trying to dance while juggling chainsaws.

Some guilds have elected to bring a 3rd tank to the fight. The 3rd tank allows the other two tanks to concentrate solely on their adds while the 3rd tank takes care of the Reaver. It's important this 3rd tank does a reasonable amount of DPS during the early phases where she isn't needed to tank. The DPS requirement on this fight isn't so tight that the small amount of DPS you lose for bringing the 3rd tank shouldn't be what wipes you. This is more of a survival fight than a DPS race.

Another application of the 3rd tank would be Brackenspore. Two tank can rotate the Rot debuff while the 3rd tank handles the big add that spawns. This way your tanks never have to deal with the add hitting them plus the Rot debuff ticking at the same time.

I thought about how I would pull this off but, as usual, my friends at Maintankadin had it all figured out. "DPS as Protection Spec"

Glyph load out

I changed my Glyphs to Harsh Words, Focused Shield and Final Wrath.

This build is more single target focused. The options for multi target would Double Jeopardy assuming you were good at cycling between targets every Judgement. Alabaster Shield would be the other option, but it would seem like that counteracts Harsh Words. If you are spending Holy Power on Harsh Words you wouldn't be building any Alabaster Shield stacks since you wouldn't be using ShoR.

Talents

Holy Avenger / Sanctified Wrath
Execution Sentence
Seraphim

Holy Avenger and Sanctified Wrath sim out pretty close but I went with Sanctified Wrath because I feel like it easier. With Holy Avenger you really have to line it up perfectly with Seraphim and I don't trust myself to pull that off just yet.

Initially, you would run Seal of Truth in this build instead of Seal of Insight. But after the nerf, Seal of Righteous does more DPS (even to a single target) than the Seal of Wet Noddle Truth. When the transition to the 4th phase is close, switch to Seal to Insight and replace Harsh Words with Shield of the Righteous in the rotation.

If I can pull this off, not only would it prepare me for a role on Mar'gok, but it would also allow me to use this spec for soloing and I could try swap my Ret spec to try out Holy once I fill in the Holy specific gear slots (weapon, shield, trinket, back and ring).