Posts tagged ‘This is why I don’t write guides’

Don’t underestimate the value of spell hit.

446 is a magic number.

This is because, as casters — untalented, alone, completely naked and bereft of any helpful companions or raid buffs — our spells have a 17% chance to miss an enemy three levels above us.”… But I’m level 80!” you exclaim, brandishing your fiery-enchanted Titansteel Spell Blade.  “What could possibly be three levels above me, Elder Idotyou the Love Fool of Stormwind, Ironforge and Darnassus, Champion of the Frozen Wastes and SomethingelseIcan’tremember?”

Oh, nothing much.  Just every skull-level raid boss in the entire endgame, from the creepy, crawly Anub’rekahn to also creepy but considerably less crawly Yogg-Saron.

In order to minimize — and, ultimately, eliminate — this inherent chance to miss, we stack spell hit, via talents, gear, gems, enchants, food buffs and slavery.  (Oh, you hadn’t heard?  Warlocks can look forward to a new 3.2 ability called “Enslave Shadow Priest.”  I fully intend to name mine Abigore.)

At the current hit cap of 446, our chance to miss is exactly zero.

Sources of Spell Hit

Although our primary source of spell hit comes from gear — such the appropriately named (as in, I will curse you with my dying breath you thrice-damned trinket!) Dying Curse, which waited until the week after I rerolled Shaman to drop three times in the same Heroic Naxxramas raid — …

Wait, where was I going with this?

Oh, right.  Gear is a source of spell hit, but it is far the only source:

  • The Affliction talent, Suppression, grants a maximum of +3% hit.
  • A balance druid spec’d into Improved Faerie Fire will provide the entire raid with +3% hit.  Of course, this assumes that the druid not only (1) survives the encounter, but also (2) maintains 100% uptime.
  • Alternately, a shadow priest spec’d into Misery will provide the same +3% hit with the same caveats.  Note that Misery does not stack with Improved Faerie Fire.
  • The Draenei racial, Heroic Presence, provides an additional +1% hit to party members.  Heroic Presence does stack with either Improved Faerie Fire or Misery, but not both.

This means that a Horde warlock such as myself needs need to make up (a) 14% hit if spec’d 3/3 Suppression or raiding with a properly spec’d balance druid or shadow priest, or (b) 11% hit if spec’d 3/3 Suppression and raiding with a properly spec’d balance druid or shadow priest.

What if you’re not a Horde warlock?  What if you’re something confusing, like a Draenei shaman, a Night Elf druid or a human shadow priest in a xenophobic role-playing guild that is convinced that those loveable Spacegoats are actually Eredar (and wouldn’t be caught dead sharing a raid ID with one)?

First, if you’re not a Forsaken warlock, you totally should be.  Go down to Old Stratholme, eat a plagued muffin and call Sylvannas in the morning.

Second, and as an interim solution, try WoWWiki.  Or ask Amber — very, very nicely — to make a flowchart.

We made a flowchart.  Once.

Our felpuppy eated it.

The Mechanics of Spell Hit

In a recent blogpost, Hydra of Almost Evil advised her readers to avoid gemming for spell hit at the expense of spell powereven if they happened to be under hit cap at the time. With all due respect to our vertically challenged sistren, this is fantastically awful advice.  Don’t follow it … or, at least, don’t follow it blindly.

To understand why, it’s important to understand the mechanics underlying spell hit.

Remember those incredibly dorky table top roleplaying games that all the ner—  … I mean, all the perfectly nice, normal, well-adjusted kids (such as my boyfriend, who I love dearly <3) played in high school?  Those games used dice to determine pretty much everything.

Does my unnaturally handsome, inhumanly powerful, Orlando Bloom-lookalike of a half-elven, half-vampire rogue manage to stab the fire-breathing dragon in the heart with a butter knife?

Roll 2d20 to find out!

WoW works the same way.  The game rolls once to determine if a spell hits.  Then, assuming it does, it rolls again to determine if the spell crits.  If you’re spell hit capped, then your spells will always hit.  If not, they will miss at a rate approximately equal to the difference between the spell hit cap and your actual hit rating.  If you have +12% hit (an amount Hydra feels is sufficient), then you will miss approximately 5% of the time (17% – 12% = 5%) against a level 83 mob.

At a glance, this doesn’t sound too terribly bad.  If you cast 100 Shadow Bolts over the course of a fight, only five of them will miss.  So, if you stack spellpower over spell hit, maybe the extra oomph you’ve packed into the 95 Shadow Bolts that do hit will make up for the 5 that don’t.  Maybe the math will even work out so that 95 Super Shadow Bolts deal more damage than 100 boring old Clark Kent flavored ones.

This is Hydra’s logic — and, to be fair, I’ve seen it repeated elsewhere on the internether, including my own /guild chat.

The thing is, it’s a rather shallow view that doesn’t take into account the synergies that exist between our various stats and spells.

Spell Hit vs. Spellpower and Spell Crit

First, if a spell doesn’t hit, then your spellpower and spell crit are worth exactly nothing.  I’m sure you’ve heard this before: if a spell doesn’t hit, it can’t crit.  This means that if you have +32% crit chance but are 5% under hit cap, then you actually have +30.40% crit chance.  If you have 2K spellpower but are 5% under hit cap, then you actually have 1.9K spellpower.

The Cost of a Miss

Second, and contrary to widely held belief, the cost of a missed spell is not equal to the opportunity cost of the lost cast time.  It’s actually much higher.

For a relatively straightforward example, hearken back to the bygone days of The Burning Crusade, when all raiding warlocks specced shadow-mage and had a wonderfully complex rotation that looked something like this:

Shadow Bolt
Shadow Bolt
Shadow Bolt

If your Shadow Bolts were hitting for 5K and critting for 10K approximately 30% of the time, then it would have been tempting to claim that the “cost” of a miss was 5K + .3(10K) = 8K.  Assuming a 3 second cast time with 5% chance to miss, you would lose approximately 48K damage (or six Shadow Bolts) over the course of a five minute fight.  If by foregoing spell hit you could stack enough spellpower to sufficiently boost each Shadow Bolt’s damage to make up for that … it would be a wash, right?

Not entirely.  The old Improved Shadow Bolt talent caused our Shadow Bolt crits to place a stacking debuff on the target that increased the next four shadow-based attacks (and all shadow-based DoT damage in between!) by 20%.  Therefore, the cost of a miss wasn’t just the lost DPS from the shadowbolt that fizzled and died in mid-air; it was also the lost DPS from reduced uptime on Improved Shadow Bolt.

And that was a straightforward example — one that doesn’t even exist in our current world!  Our rotations are much more complicated now, so the cost of a miss is significantly higher.

The actual math is beyond the scope of this blog (I crunch numbers for a living, so I can’t quite bring myself to do it in my downtime), but the theory behind it is fairly obvious.

Haunt is the mainstay of an Affliction rotation.  It has a cast time, a travel time, deals a small amount of damage, procs Shadow Embrace and increases all shadow-based periodic damage done to the target over the course of its 12 second duration.  It also refreshes Corruption via Everlasting Affliction and returns health to the warlock whenever it expires or is refreshed.

So.  What happens if Haunt misses?

It goes on cooldown and can’t be cast again for 8 seconds.  Even if you’ve attempted to precast it, the 12 second duration and 8 second cooldown mean that the Haunt debuff will fall off your target.  Depending upon timing, it’s entirely possible that Corruption or Shadow Embrace could expire as well.  If so, Corruption will need to recast at the cost of a Global Cooldown.  Your next Shadow Bolt will re-apply Shadow Embrace, but — again, depending upon timing — you may not be able to cast a Shadow Bolt immediately because your priority is refreshing Unstable Affliction (which fell off while you were reapplying Corruption) and then Curse of Agony (which fell off while you were casting Unstable Affliction).

In other words: one missed spell could wreak havoc on your entire rotation, not to mention cost you substantially more in lost DPS than you could have gained from the spell alone.

This isn’t unique to Affliction rotations, either.  A Destruction warlock who misses a Conflagrate in the last five seconds of Immolate’s duration forgoes not only Conflagrate’s base damage but also the 25% boost from Immolate.  Incinerate or Shadow Bolt misses lead to fewer Nightfall or Backlash procs, and — for Demonology warlocks or Demo/Destro hybrids — an Incinerate miss during a Decimation phase translates into lost DPS not only from Incinerate but from Soulfire as well.

The TL;DR is that the cost of a miss is seldom just the DPS from the spell that missed.  This is because for all three talent trees, misses tend to set off a chain reaction of events that could have been avoided had we simply stacked spell hit to cap and then worried about rounding out our other stats.

Diminishing Returns

That said, spell hit does suffer from diminishing returns.  As you approach the spell hit cap and your percent chance to miss decreases, the value of each additional point of hit becomes progressively smaller.  In other words, the less hit you have, the more important it is to stack — whereas the more hit you have, the less each individual point of hit is worth relative to stats like spellpower or critical strike.

This is why it’s so hard to rank gear, and why I personally have never bothered with a “BiS loot list” or a definitive gear plan.  Even for a warlock below cap, an item with spell hit isn’t necessarily an upgrade over an item without it; each individual piece has to be viewed within the context of your entire gear set, and assessed for what it adds versus what it takes away.

Gemming and Talenting for Hit

So, what does this mean for a raiding warlock, struggling to balance spell hit with spellpower, spirit, spell haste and critical strike?

In general, I recommend gemming and talenting for hit until you are spell hit capped from gear alone.  I love socket bonuses — in part because I’m OCD, and in part because free stats are free stats! — so I tend to use Rigid Autumn’s Glow (+16 hit) in yellow sockets, Veiled Monarch Topaz (+8 hit, +9 spellpower) in red sockets and Purified Twilight Opal (+9 spellpower, +9 spirit) in blue sockets … provided, of course, that the socket bonuses are worth picking up in the first place.

It’s also worth noting that one Runed Scarlet Ruby and one Rigid Autumn’s Glow provide the same amount of hit and one more point of spellpower than two Veiled Monarch Topazes — so if you ever find yourself in a position of needing exactly 16 more hit, I’d suggest socketing those in a red and yellow socket, respectively, over stacking two Veiled Monarch Topazes.

Once you are spell hit capped from gear, you can start swapping out hit gems for spellpower gems.

A Hit Set vs. an Output Set?

You don’t need a hit set, per se.  If for some reason you find yourself with two versions of the same chest (like I did, thanks to an overabundance of Conqueror tokens and far too many Undying attempts), and you find yourself tempted to gem one for raw spellpower and the other for spell hit for more situational use … hey, that works!

Personally, I’d recommend looking for one or two hit-heavy pieces (preferably totaling about +3% hit) that you can use in raids when you don’t have a shadow priest or balance druid around to provide hit via Misery or Imp’d FF.  I still use the Ward of the Violet Citadel (combined with the Leggings of Atrophy) for this purpose.  As an offhand, the Ward is especially nice because can be equipped in combat if the critchicken or shadow priest happens to eat a landmine in Mimiron, Phase 1.5.

… not that that’s ever happened to our raid, of course. >.>

In Conclusion …

  • Misses are bad, and the true cost of a miss is often much higher than the DPS of the missed spell.
  • Spell hit has diminishing returns; the closer you are to spell hit cap, the less valuable each additional point of spell hit is relative to other stats (like spellpower and critical strike).
  • Gem and talent for spell hit until you achieve cap from gear alone.  Then revisit your talent trees or start switching out hit gems for output gems.
  • It may be worth spending DKP on a couple of pieces with spell hit that can be used situationally.
  • Critchickens and shadow priests are wonderful things.  Love them.  Cherish them.  (Or use them and abuse them —  but don’t let them catch on!)

June 17, 2009 at 10:47 am 22 comments

L2wipe: A Casual Raider’s Guide to Hardcore Wiping

And finally, we nap.Spinks didn’t inspire me to write this post — it’s been sitting in my drafts folder for a few weeks — but she did inspire me to finish it.

In a recent post, A Tale of Two Guild Hoppers, Spinks waxes philosophical about a friend’s decision to leave his new guild after wiping on Mimiron for two weeks.  “Once he’d gotten into the progression mindset,” she writes, “there was no point staying with a guild that had hit a brick wall and being frustrated when there were other options.”

Although Spinks is much more polite about it than the Greedy Goblin, what she is describing is is essentially the same philosophy that Gevlon once espoused: get in, get what you need (be it loot, an impossible-to-solo achievement or a “My guild killed Yogg-Saron and all I got was this lousy…” screen shot) — get the hell out.

Setting aside the issue of personal progression vs. guild progression (and quoting my own comment on Spinks’ blog): two weeks on a new boss isn’t a “brick wall.”  It’s a learning experience.  We too wiped on Mimiron for two weeks before finally defeating him on an offnight — and then went on to one-shot Mimiron and down General Vesax for the first time in the very next reset!  Mimiron may have been a bit of a stumbling block for us, but he certainly wasn’t a guild-killer cut from the same cloth as, say, Lady Vashj.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that current raid content is designed to be accessible.  What I don’t agree with is the prevailing sentiment that accessible should be synonymous with easy.

Wiping is, quite simply, a part of raiding.  It can be expensive and is often frustrating (although I’d argue that with the right people, it can also be a hell of a lot of fun.  If you’ve ever found yourself laughing out loud — not just typing “lol” in raid chat, but stifling real life giggles — because your guildies decided that killing your mind-controlled raid leader yielded a better return on investment downing the boss, then you probably know what I mean).

While it may not seem like it to those of us who watch the kills come rolling in on the realm progression thread, the truth is that even the most successful of the hardcore guilds wipe.  The difference between these “server first” guilds and my own (much more casual, but still progression-minded) Surreality lies in how wipes are handled and overcome.

How quickly can you recognize and recover from a wipe?  And — more importantly — what can you learn from each wipe to ensure that the same mistakes don’t happen again?

Because raid content is more accessible, an increasing number of players are able to enjoy it.  Some  may have raided “back in the day,” but others are new to the endgame and may not realize that wiping over and over again on a new boss isn’t proof that they and their guild or PuG are “terribad”; on the contrary, it’s all part and parcel of the experience.

Be prepared to wipe.

You will wipe in Ulduar.  It may take two or three tries to defeat Ignis for the first time; it may take twenty.  Come ready to wipe, with flasks instead of elixirs, ample gold to repair and twice as many raid consumables (buff foods as well as class-specific reagents) than you think you’ll need.

In addition to being virtually prepared to wipe, you need to be psychologically prepared.  Remember, everyone learns in a different way and at a slightly different pace.  You may be the type of raider who watches the video or reads the strat, and instantly gets it.  Others may need to experience the fight a few times before it clicks for them.

Don’t get frustrated, don’t lose your temper, and don’t lash out at your fellow raiders.  Be patient.  Be positive.  Strive to create a supportive learning environment.  After all, no one wants to fail, so there’s no point in berating those who do — especially since you could very well be next!

If you aren’t prepared to wipe — if you aren’t willing to invest the time, effort and gold in mulitple attempts on the same boss, with no promise of payout or reward; if you can’t control your temper; or if you find yourself contemplating a strategic “disconnect” after a few (dozen) deaths — then you don’t belong in a progression raid.

When you raid leader calls for the wipe, wipe.

This is the one time in your raiding career when it is perfectly acceptable to die in a fire.  Stand in The Bad®.  Cross positive and negative charges.  Commit suicide by Hellfire.  Unless your goal is a clutch DI (and in Ulduar, it really isn’t necessary for anything pre-Antechamber since the combination of spectral gryphons and teleporters make corpse runs trivial), your responsibility is to do whatever it takes to die as quickly as possible.

If you can save yourself a repair bill without delaying the raid — great!  Go for it.  But if you’re a feigning hunter, vanishing rogue or shadowmelding Night Elf, know the fight before you attempt to avoid the wipe.  Some boss encounters won’t reset properly until everyone dies.

And for the love of all things dark and demonic: don’t waste the raid’s time by running away from the boss after the wipe is called.  Most raid bosses aren’t leashed, anyway.  Chances are, you won’t de-aggro the boss, but you will aggro your fellow raiders. (Especially if they happen to be trapped outside the instance portal, unable to zone in, and surrounded on all sides by the two or three or half dozen 25-man Alliance raids that are forming up at the stone…)

If your raid leader doesn’t call for the wipe, don’t wipe.

Once upon a time, I watched from my favorite lockly vantage point — that is, face down on the floor — as eight seven six healers solo’d the last few percent of Gruul the Dragonkiller’s life.  And, no, I didn’t lose count!  They just kept dying, one after the other, to Hateful Strikes.   But our raid leader was laughing too hard to call the wipe, so they kept at it … and, lo and behold, won the day.

I’ve seen it over and over again: a tank dies and it seems the wipe seems imminent — but the cat-specced druid shifts forms, growls, and kitty-tanks his way to victory.  Or the death knight switches to Frost Presence and takes over, just long enough for the Moonkin to shed his feathers for fur, dash across the field of battle and cast the raid-saving Rebirth.

Or the resto shaman ankhs back into the fight.

Or the shadow priest drops out of ‘form to heal while his disc-flavored counterpart soaks up a Mana Tide.

Or Bloodlust comes off cooldown at the crucial moment.

Or the 7K DPS ret paladin realizes that he has a soul stone, and returns from the dead in the last 20 seconds before the enrage.

My point here is that the fight isn’t over until your raid leader says it’s over.  Trust his judgment: if he doesn’t call for the wipe, don’t die just because it seems like a wipe is inevitable.  It often isn’t.

Coordinate anti-wipes, if necessary.

Although we tend to save our ankhs and soul stones for offensive use in the heat of battle, many guilds choose to use them as anti-wipes instead.  If this is the case for your guild or raid group, try to coordinate their use as much as possible.  The last thing you want is for both shamans to use their ankh on the same wipe, since that’s less one anti-wipe or in-combat rezz that will be available for the next attempt.

Recover quickly to minimize downtime.

Generally speaking, wipes aren’t a great time to tab out or go /afk.  The quicker you can recover from a wipe, the sooner you can get back in and try again.

If the raid used an anti-wipe to expedite recovery, don’t release.  Although rezzing the entire raid can be time-consuming, it’s still faster than running back from the graveyard to some out of the way place (like the Four Horsemen’s room or General Vesax’s chamber).

If the raid didn’t use an anti-wipe and the healers are running back, then you should release and run back with them.  Assuming you don’t get lost in the instance (And I don’t anyone who would do that… >.>), it takes the same amount of time for 25 people to run back that it takes for one person to run back — especially if that one person is then expected to mana up and rezz everyone else.

Know where and when to repair.

In Ulduar, there’s a repair goblin in the Formation Grounds.  Just look for the ogre with the goblin riding around on his shoulders.  (It’s a little creepy, but impossible to miss.)

For other raid instances, your closest repair station may not be very close at all.  Communication is especially important in these circumstances, as postponing successive boss attempts while one or two players run off to repair can really eat away at your raid time.

A few options off the top of my head:

  • For Hordelings in Naxxramas, there’s a blacksmith near the Venomspite graveyard.
  • If there’s an engineer in the raid, she can drop scrapbots and/or repair bots.  I’m not sure about scrapbots, but repair bots are definitely a consumable resource: if one is dropped, everyone should use it so as not to waste them.  (There’s nothing more frustrating than hearing someone call for a repair bot on the very first wipe after you dropped one!)
  • If someone has a Traveler’s Tundra Mammoth, he can mount up outside the instance or in an outdoor zone (including the Conservatory of Life and any of the pre-Antechamber areas of Ulduar) to give the raid access to its accompanying vendors, including a portable repair goblin.
  • Mages can port raiders to a capital city for repairs, and warlocks can summon them back to the instance.  Just be sure to leave at least three people behind (including one warlock!) to manage summons.
  • If even one other person is available to assist you, you can summon yourself from a meeting stone, hearth to Dalaran and then accept your own summon after you’ve repaired.

Figure out what you did wrong —

During the recovery, take a few minutes to discuss what went wrong.

Sometimes it’s obvious.  The main tank died because he accidentally shifted into caster form.  Or the paladin didn’t cancel a Holy Light cast quickly enough and missed his Divine Guardian cooldown.  Or the rogue mismanaged his energy and couldn’t get the kick off.  These kinds of mistakes are easy to identify and correct (especially when your raiders aren’t afraid to ‘fess up).

Sometimes, it’s less obvious.  The healers aren’t able to keep up with raid damage, but no one is entirely sure why.  The tanks were overwhelmed by adds that just weren’t dying quickly enough.  No one can pinpoint a specific reason for the wipe; it just “feels” like healing is off or DPS is slow.

In situations like these, it may be helpful to use the in-game combat log or an external tool like WWS or World of Logs to dig a little deeper.  I’ve been running World of Logs’ live updated during all of our Ulduar raids, and am encouraging our officers to use it to troubleshoot issues as they arise.  It’s a fantastic tool.  The main tank healer complains he didn’t get a heal?  Check the World of Logs parse to see what was happening at that exact point in time!  The arena team is wiping over and over again?  Alt-tab to the Raid Deaths report to see exactly who died, and from what.

—and don’t do it again!

As a wise human once said, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Every wipe should be a learning experience.  It may not be fun (although it can be!), but it should at the very least be constructive.

June 4, 2009 at 1:23 pm 10 comments

How we defeated Sartharion-10 with three drakes

First, please understand that this isn’t intended to be a comprehensive guide to the fight.  This is why I don’t write guides is a blog tag for a reason!

No, my intention here is simply to share how we defeated the single-hardest encounter in the game, and hopefully provide some insight into our strategy, thought processes and basic positioning to other groups looking to attempt it.

For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to assume that anyone reading it is already familiar with the basics.  If not, WoWWiki is an excellent resource.  (Go!  Check it out.  I’ll wait.)

Okay, then.  Very briefly:

  • Sartharion is a typical dragon, in that he cleaves, breathes fire and tail swipes.  He has to be tanked throughout the encounter and will summon three Twilight Drakes at timed intervals.
  • The Twilight Drakes are Tenebron, Shadron and Vesperon.  Like Sartharion, the Twilight Drakes drakes also have a breath attack, although theirs deal shadow damage rather than fire.  In addition, each drake (1) opens a portal to another realm and (2) has an aura that will remain active on the entire raid for as long as the drake is alive.
  • Tenebron lands first, a mere 30 seconds into the fight, at the far west end of the island.  Her aura, the creatively-named Power of Tenebron, increases the amount of shadow damage taken by the raid by 100%.  She spawns eggs in the portal realm that hatch into Twilight Whelps, which must be picked up by the add tank.  Otherwise, Tenebron’s portal can be safely ignored.
  • Shadron lands 60 seconds seconds into the fight, towards the south end of the island.  His aura increases the amount of fire damage taken by the raid by 100%.  He also spawns an acolyte in the portal realm, who increases fire damage done by Sartharion by 50% and renders Sartharion immune to all damage.  For this reason, Shadron’s acolyte is the only one we bother to kill.
  • Vesperon lands 75 seconds into the fight, towards the north end of the island.  His aura reduces everyone’s maximum health by 25%.  Like Shadron, Vesperon spawns an acolyte in the portal realm.  While his acolyte is active, Vesperon gains the Twilight Torment effect, which increases fire and shadow damage taken by 75% and reflects a percentage of all non-periodic damage done to Vesperon back onto the raid.
  • In addition to Sartharion and the Twilight Drakes, there are several AoE effects to contend with: (1) a lava wave that sweeps across the island, and must be avoided; (2) lava strikes that target individual players, deal painful splash damage and spawn fire elementals; (3) the fire elementals themselves, which will become enraged if struck by a lava wave; and (4) void fissures summoned by the Twilight Drakes.
  • When all three drakes are alive, Sartharion’s breath and most AoE effects can one-shot the raid.  Cooldowns like Divine Guardian and Guardian Spirit are absolutely required to save a tank from a one-shot breath.

If it sounds like a lot to deal with at once — it is!  Once upon a time, a resto shaman of my acquaintance described the Illidari Council as the “Superbowl of Not Standing in Bad®” …

Ha!  How naive and innocent we were back then!

Group Composition

We experimented with several different group compositions.  In the end, this was the winning combination:

Main Tank: Death Knight
Drake Tank: Feral Druid
Add Tank: Protection Warrior
MT Healer: Holy Paladin
Raid Healers: Holy Priest, Restoration Shaman
DPS: Elemental Shaman, Fire Mage, Mutilate Rogue, Shadow Priest

As you can see, it’s a fairly straightforward, three tank/three healer/four DPS set-up.

As Ashellia noted, many of the strategies you’ll find online recommend bootstrapping a hybrid to fill the role of two characters.  For several attempts, we tried having a healadin tank the fire elementals and Twilight Whelps by using Consecrate and Righteous Fury plus Flash of Light to keep himself up and hold healing aggro.  The idea was to replace our add tank with a fifth DPS class — preferably an unholy death knight, balance druid or affliction warlock for the +13% buff to magical damage.  Unfortunately, this put us at the fickle mercy of the RNG: if we caught a bad string of void zones or lava waves, then our multitasking paladin would be forced to concentrate more on dodging The Bad® and less on healing.  Lacking the mitigation and/or avoidance of a real tank, he would inevitably succumb and loose adds on the raid.

Switching to a three tank/three healer combination put considerable pressure on our DPS, but also gave us much better control over the fight and the fifteen hundred things (I’m not exaggerating: there really are that many — I counted!) that can go wrong.

A few things worth mentioning about this particular composition:

  • Death knights have more panic buttons available to them than any of the other three tanking classes.  Using a death knight tank meant that we only had to coordinate two other cooldowns to survive what we came to refer to as Sartharion’s “one-shot breath phase.”
  • Protection warriors make excellent add tanks!  It seems to me that many, many warriors are still locked into the old TBC mindset (i.e., that warriors are single-target tanks — period, dot — and paladins are the superior AoE tanks).  This is no longer the case.  Don’t believe me?  Ask Spinks!
  • Our priest was Discipline for our first few (dozen…) attempts.  At first blush, Grace and Pain Suppression seemed too good to pass up.  But we eventually came to realize that a combination of one single-target healer and two AoE healers was vastly superior to two single-target healers and one AoE healer, and so our priest donned wings for the occasion.
  • Two shamans = two Bloodlusts!  This meant we had a Bloodlust available for every learning attempt.
  • A rogue was the lone melee DPS in our caster-heavy raid.  (/tar Ignus /lick).  Not only was he expected to DPS the drakes and tank Shadron’s acolyte during portal phases, but he was also tasked with tranquilizing enraged fire elementals.  The add tank pulled them to the rogue, and the rogue used anesthetic wound poison and Fan of Knives to great effect.
  • (The downside of calling for fan of Fan of Knives is that it inspires the raid to make awful FoK puns all night.  Be warned.)
  • Finally, having only four DPS meant that we had to eke every last bit of damage out of them.  To this end, our holy priest dusted off his Smite button and our bear tank learned how to dance!  (More on that, later…)

Safe Spots & Basic Positioning


Our Death Knight tanked Sartharion in the southeast corner of the island, alternating between the two “safe spots” marked (roughly!) in yellow.  His healer, a paladin, moved with him — running through Sarth to the easternmost tip of the island for waves originating from the north.  (I highly recommend running through Sarth rather than around him, as less movement = more healing, especially for an MT healer without instant casts.  Just be sure to stay closer to his forelegs than his hindlegs to avoid an untimely tail swipe.)

Meanwhile — and this is one of the keys to our success, because it maximized DPS time — our drake tank moved between three tanking postions, from (1) the western edge of the island, where Tenebron landed 30 seconds into the fight, to (2) the southwest corner, a south- wave safe zone, to (3) the center of the island’s southern border, a north wave safe-zone as well as Shadron’s landing point.

While Tenebron and Shadron were active, the raid spread out throughout the island’s central band, in the north-wave safe zone.  For south waves, we ran west (away from the instance entrance).  The drake tank and melee DPS shifted west well.  Meanwhile, the Sarth tank and his healer alternated between the two eastern safe zones (closer to the instance entrance.)

Positions (more or less)

The challenge with this positioning was that it frequently put the MT and MH out of range of the rest of the raid.  For this reason alone, it was absolutely critical that the healers trust each other to cover their respective assignments.  (I was going to elaborate on this point, but Bellwether published an excellent post on the subject this morning, so I’m going to direct you to her instead.)

Finally, once Tenebron and Shadron went down, the entire raid shifted east and alternated between the same safe zones as the MT and MH.

A Walk-Through

We started each attempt with our death knight on foot, and the rest of the raid mounted — or ghost wolf’d, for the sheer novelty of it. <insert wolfish grin here>

The death knight pulled Sartharion into position, closely followed by his healer.  At the same time, the raid road around Sarth (mindful of his tailswipe!) to the center of the island, a north-wave safe zone.  Although we weren’t concerned about damaging Sartharion at this point, the drake and add tanks and lone rogue had 15-20 seconds to generate rage or combo points before Tenebron landed.

Twenty seconds into the fight, our raid leader called “Positions for Tenebron!” over Vent.  This was the cue for our drake tank and melee DPS to peel off of Sartharion and dash/sprint to the western edge of the island in preparation for Tenebron’s landing.

Because he was already in position, our drake tank was able to pick up Tenebron the moment he became targetable and move her around the southwest corner of the island.  This in turn allowed DPS to unleash on her almost immediately, especially if we were lucky enough to catch a south wave.

We typically blew our Bloodlust at this point, with a goal of bursting Tenebron down before she could open a second portal and thus spawn a second wave of Twilight whelps.  Since raid damage relatively light this early in the fight, our holy priest was able to DPS (lolsmite?) until Shadron landed.

… I might’ve cast a Lightning Bolt or two, myself.  Don’t tell my raid leader.  >.>

In preparation for Shadron’s arrival, the drake tank moved Tenebron along the southern edge of the island, towards that central band/north-wave safe zone.  He tanked Shadron here when he landed, and fifteen seconds later pulled Vesperon to this location as well.  (In the 25-man version of OS, our drake tank typically drags Shadron to Vesperon’s landing point and tanks both drakes on the north end of the island, but this strategy caused range issues for our healers in OS-10 so we abandoned it after a few attempts.)   The drakes were tanked on the southern edge of the island for the rest of the fight.

As soon as Tenebron went down, DPS switched to adds and AoE’d them down— providing some much welcome relief to our warrior tank, who by this point was holding at least one wave of Twilight whelps and all of the fire elementals spawned thus fars.

With the whelps slain and fire elementals back under control, DPS focused Shadron.

After Shadron died, DPS and one healer entered the portal realm to kill Shadron’s acolyte, as Sartharion is immune to damage whenever Shadron’s acolyte is active.  We ignored Vesperon’s acolyte (we learned after one particularly heartbreaking wipe that killing both acolytes extends the fight unnecessarily and causes undue strain on healer mana), and simply exited the portal after Shadron’s acolyte went down.

Since Vesperon’s acolyte was alive (and ranting impotently) in the portal realm, the Twilight Torment remained active as DPS began the slow, controlled burn on Vesperon — backing off any time they dipped below 40% health.  By this point, the fight had long-since become a blur to me; between frantically dodging void fissures and lava waves, not to mention healing through constant AoE and reflective damage, I didn’t even notice Vesperon die until I heard Keaton’s perpetually calm voice reminding us not to panic, because this is the fight we’ve done a hundred times before.

With all three of the Twilight drakes down for the count, our bear tank taunted Sartharion and took over as MT and our death knight switched over to DPS.  At this point, the fight became the simple tank ‘n’ spank (‘n dodge The Bad®!) that we all know so well.  The only difference was that we did it while holding our breaths, because victory was seconds away … and history tells us that’s usually when something goes disastrously wrong!

Fortunately — this time — it didn’t.


Some final comments and tips from our experience:

  • Don’t worry about DPSing Sartharion in the 30 second window before Tenebron lands.  First, it isn’t necessary.  Second, your MT will probably be in stamina gear, and won’t have the hit or the swift threat generation you’re accustomed to this early into the fight.  Feral druids, warriors and rogues can take a swipe or two (no pun intended!) at Sarth to build rage or combo points, but everyone else should use this time to get situated: drop your totems or Demonic Circle, familiarize yourself with the safe zones, cast a Riptide on the MT to proc Tidal Waves, etc.
  • The drake tank and melee DPS should already be in position when Tenebron lands.
  • If raid DPS is a little low (and ours was, with only “four” real DPS and a Smite-spamming priest), use Bloodlust/Heroism to burst Tenebron down as quickly as possible.  If he lives long enough to summon a second wave of Twilight whelps, then your add tank can become overwhelmed.
  • Coordinate your tank-saving cooldowns before the fight, and have someone call for each cooldown in a pre-determined order.  If you’re in the cooldown rotation, this is your #1 priority; with all three drakes in play, Sartharion can and will one-shot the tank.  Communication is key, not only to ensure that no one misses a cooldown, but to cover other raid roles as well.  (For example, when it was our holy priest’s turn to use his cooldown, our elemental shaman assisted with raid heals.)
  • You don’t need a plate DPS class to tank Shadron’s acolyte in the portal realm.  Our rogue did it, and was very easy to heal.
  • Have someone who isn’t in the portal realm call lava waves on Vent.  If a lava wave is active or imminent, wait until it passes to exit the portal.
  • Play to your strengths. Don’t feel trapped by someone else’s strategy; assess your strengths — and weaknesses — and adjust accordingly.
  • Don’t get discouraged! This is the hardest fight in the game, and you’re meant to wipe on it … a lot.  It took us close to 20 hours of attempts over the course of several weeks to learn.  Progress can be agonizingly slow and is often difficult to measure, especially because there are so many random elements to overcome.  It isn’t unusual to down two and half drakes in one solid attempt… and then wipe in the first thirty seconds of the next one because your drake tank found himself trapped between a void fissures and a lava wave or your holy priest ate two successive lava strikes.  As frustrating as this encounter can be, it is the cumulative challenge of all these rage-inducing elements that makes the eventual victory worthwhile.  Believe me, triumph is sweet … and it tastes like dragon.

April 8, 2009 at 11:57 am 11 comments

Soloing Don Carlos as an Enhancement Shaman

Don Carlos is a mini-boss in Heroic Durholde who has a 100% chance of dropping Don Carlos’ Famous Hat — which makes sense, because he’s very clearly wearing it!  Of course, given the number of raptors running around without eyes, not to mention humans without skulls, I guess we can’t exactly take that kind of logic for granted …

Don Carlos

Anyway, Don Carlos’ hat is an absolute must-have for any self-respecting shaman — not only because it’s pretty damn sexy in its own right, but because the “incorporeal coyote spirit” summoned by its on-use effect looks exactly like our Ghost Wolf form.  I missed the zeppelin the first time it sailed, because Lil started as a lowly alt; by the time she was leveled to 70 and attuned to the Caverns of Time, all of my friends had already farmed Old Hillsbrad dry and were pretty burnt out on it.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to solo at level 80.

Here’s how I did it (and believe me, if I can do it, anyone can!):

1.  Spec Enhancement.  I don’t think this is necessary, per se, but it’s fun.  After a long week of healbotting friendly things and boring unfriendly things to death, a girl has to get her Windfury on.

2.  Port to Orgrimmar.

3.  Remember that there’s a portal directly to the Caverns to Time in the Dalaran’s Violet Citadel.

4.  /sigh.

5.  Astral Recall to Dalaran.

6.  Wonder if anyone’s started a QQ thread about Shamans being cheated in 3.1 by a 30 minute Hearthstone cooldown …

7.  Be amazed to find that cooler heads do occasionally prevail!

(What were we doing again?  Oh, right…)

8.  Port to the Caverns of Time.

9.  Run a couple of laps around the central cavern, trying to remember which instance is Old Hillsbrad.  (For the record, it’s the one that looks like an Alliance outpost, but not actually an Alliance town.  If there’s a lot of buildings, its Old Stratholme.  If there are only a few buildings, it’s Durnholde.  Trees and swampy things mean you’re on your way to Mount Hyjal or Black Morass.)

10.  Old Hillsbrad is an outdoor instance, so don’t forget to mount up or shift into Ghost Wolf form.  I recommend Ghost Wolf.  You’re doing this for fun!, after all, and nothing says fun! more than romping around naked while scratching yourself and howling.  (Just ask the man in your life.)

11.  NO!  Don’t take the dragon!  He’s all gung-ho to rescue some hapless orcs, or something.  Save that for some sightseeing Children of Wrath; you’re on a mission, here.

12.  Run up the road.  No, the other up!  I mean down.  I mean— …

Why the hell are you asking me for directions?  Did you miss the post in which I confessed to getting lost in the Dalaran bank?  Just … run around, howling and scratching, until you stumble across Don Carlos and his faithful Coyote Spirit.  That’s what I did, and it didn’t take long.

13.  Scamper ahead of the dashing don, and drop some totems.  I went with Windfury, Mana Stream, Earth Elemental and Magma Totem.


14.  … Remember belatedly — and vaguely, from doing this on your level 70 ‘lock — that Don Carlos is ranged, so you while you definitely succeeded in making him angry, he’s still dancing out of range, shooting you with arrows, and (insult to injury!) his pet puppy is chewing on your furry Tauren tail ass.  (Almost forgot; Old Hillsbrad makes you human.  /shudder)

15.  Panic.

16.  Heal yourself.  (Ah, familiar ground!  Flash of Lesser Healing Light works well here, because you will be getting pushback.  Just don’t do what I did, and waste precious seconds troubleshooting your Riptide keybind.  You specced out of it, dummy.)

17.  Run up to him, taking the long way because (damn it!) there’s a fence in the way …

18.  Push some buttons.  If they include anything that procs Windfury, you win!  If they don’t, heal yourself and try again.

(Okay, okay.  I’ll try to be helpful.  “Some buttons” actually means Stormstrike, Earth Shock and Lava Lash, in that order.  Every time Maelstrom Weapon stacks to five, use Chain Lightning or Lightning Bolt for DPS or Healing Wave for a clutch self-heal.  Imbue your main-hand weapon with Windfury on your off-hand with Flametongue.  Also, due to some bizarre math thing I don’t quite understand, the Torch of Holy Fire is currently the best enhancement main-hand in the game … so if you’re fortunate enough to have one, don’t bother equipping that level 75 Northrend blue that you’ve been carrying around in your off-spec set.  Just use the pretty healing mace, and you’re g2g.)

19.  Repeat step 18 until Don Carlos dies.  Then do it again to his puppy (which doesn’t despawn, for some reason).

20.  /cheer! — and pose for the camera, of course!

Seeing double?

March 23, 2009 at 8:38 am 7 comments

To My Fellow Resto Shamans,

To my fellow resto shamans:

Gluth eats zombie chow.  Zombie chow eat resto shamans.  It’s some Circle of Life thing (or perhaps Unlife?  I’m not sure.  Ask a druid.)  If you’re cheerfully chain healing away and a chow-destined zombie decides that you look like a tasty kibble yourself, the appropriate response is not to scream at the top of your lungs. 

Announce it on Vent?  Sure. 

Spam your /w Tank HALP! HALP! It’s eating meeeee! macro?  … maybe.  But you probably want to save that one for the enraged fire elementals in Obsidian Sanctum.  (Otherwise, your pet tankadin may become desensitized to the general panickyness of your panic button, rendering it utterly un-useful.)

But shriek like a gnome mage with her pigtails on fire?  Never.


Zombie Chow on me.
Zombie Chow on me!
Zombie Chow on me!

—is just embarrassing.  Not just to you, but to every shaman who has ever summoned the elements to her command, or even just invited them to a nice vegetarian picnic in Thunderbluff …

What?  I was, like, five.

No.  You, gentle Tauren (or not-so-gentle Troll, Orc or Spacegoat) are a shaman. 

You are, arguably, the second-best kiting class in the game.

And you heal with lasers

So if one of Gluth’s leftovers decide to eat your braaains, and the rest of your raid is too busy tanking, healing, kiting, whacking away at the heels of a giant zombified dog or sitting /afk in the tunnel of Bad Green Stuff® to come to your rescue … this is what you do:

1.  Target the offending zombie.  (Note: Due to some weird bug, it won’t show up on Grid, so you’ll actually have to Clique click on it.)

2.  Open your Spellbook.  Look through the three non-resto tabs (I’d be more specific, but my Spellbook doesn’t actually have non-resto tabs; my alter-ego’s felhunter must have eaten them…) until you find Frost Shock. 

3.  Click Frost Shock.

4.  Switch Recount to show Damage Done rather than Healing Done, scroll alllll the way to the bottom, and giggle with glee.  You DPS’d something!  Go you!

5.  Toggle back to Healing Done to make sure that new tree druid isn’t catching up to you.  (But if he is, don’t worry; he’s getting nerfed again next patch.)

6.  If steps 4 and 5 took a while, you might have to complete steps 2 and 3 again.  Like the ice stone, Frost Shock melts.

7.  Flee! Kite the zombie towards the back of the room.  Try to run him through a hunter’s freezing trap, if possible.

8.  Drop an Earthbind totem.

9.  Hopefully, one of the real kiters will have picked up aggro on the zombie chow by now.  Return to your spot in time for the decimate.  Save the day!

10.  Congratulate the holy paladin on her new tanking pants and the shadow priest on his healing ones, because Protector tokens are a myth.

I should probably mention that if you’re on main tank heals, or if your raid is running healer light, then none of this applies.  Feel free to scream like the aforementioned gnome.

But if you’re with running three resto shamans, two priests and a veritable forest of trees, then there is absolutely no excuse.

You know who you are.

Both of you.

❤ Liluye


P.S. This is an improvement over the emo bear tabard … how?

Liluye, eh?

March 6, 2009 at 2:42 pm 10 comments


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