Is my Shaman turning into a Paladin?

2 06 2009

  So, I’m making progress – slowly but surely – with my gear upgrading post-Naxx. While Manch was by and large BIS (and therefore not upgrading a whole lot) before Ulduar, there are plenty of nice new loots out there that I can target and incorporate. So far, I’ve been lucky enough to acquire these three things amongst my new goodies:

(Yes, I know one of those isn’t Ulduar. It just took me a while!) 

All of them represent upgrades to me, at least according to the rankings and stat weights that I use. However, there is a common thread that is developing here – Haste is out, Critical Strike is in.

  Not that I’m completely sideways about this. In Naxxramas, Chain Heal was king. In fact, that was probably about 80% of what you’d cast in most raids. With CH, haste is the best driver. The spell isn’t affected by Tidal Waves, so to keep pumping out the Jesus Beam, you needed to speed it up. Ulduar is showing a very different side of Shaman healing, with a lot more emphasis on single-target heals.

  I’ll be honest, I think that Ulduar has made me a lot better as a healer. My Shaman is well geared, and has a lot of playtime – but she’s still only a year old. Ulduar has done a lot to teach me about the value of staying in touch with your Tidal Waves procs and maximizing your casting delivery times while selecting spells appropriately enough to minimize overhealing and reducing mana waste. So now, I’m casting a lot of single target heals with short casting times while stacking crit more and more since critical heals return mana to me (by choice, or otherwise).

  Sound like any other class? Yeah, me too. Still, I wouldn’t trade Shaman healing for any other class. Besides, while we don’t get to wear plate or bubble, at least we get cool totems and a viable raid heal! Several of the new pieces are admittedly odd to me anyhow – Resto 8.5 helm + gloves without MP5, for instance. Ouch, my longevities!

  Still, with an instance this size, there are plenty of options. Add to that, the loot table for Ulduar is absolutely spectacular in scope and size – if you’re patient enough, you can likely skew your gear in any particular direction you want.

  It’s just that right now, I kind of feel like I should have banana shoulders.

They do nothing.

They do nothing.


Have you ever had one of these moments?

30 05 2009

  …One of the moments where you enter into a boss fight (or whatever, really) with something to prove, someone to shut up, or something to rectify? It happens intermittently – not too often, just intermittently – with me. Usually, it happens when I PuG with Noobz. I could probably have BIS Ulduar 25 gear in every slot with her, though, and still get that sort of pushback because of the name. A few days back, I got into one of these situations with Manch – and those don’t happen too often.

  It was in a VoA-10 run, pure PuG. We decided to do Emalon first, and cleared to him more or less alright. Warrior and Death Knight tanks, myself as a Shaman healer, plus a Druid and a Priest. Priest was the Raid Lead.

  So, we’re getting setup for the Emalon attempt, and it’s the usual – “does everyone know the fight”,” I need AI”, etc. The Priest decides that he’s going to heal the DK (who is tanking adds), and I’ll have the Warrior. Druid heals the raid.

  Now, given the mechanics of this fight, it’s pretty important that I get my Totems all down. Nature Resistance is an absolute must. Stoneskin and Mana Spring aren’t far behind, and Flametongue – well, it helps. Anyhow, we readycheck it, get ready for the initial pull / run-in and away it goes. DK gets initial aggro, runs left. Warrior gets Emalon, runs right. I run down to the base of the stairs, drop Nature Resist – and by now, the Warrior is in serious trouble. For some reason, his health is just getting crushed. I used my NS macro (it’s bound to Chain Heal, but that’s still an absolute minimum of 10,000 on the heal) and Riptided. Before I could get off a Healing Wave – or set up a second totem, even – the Warrior got folded like a tent.

  All of this looks really bad if you happen to be me; it’s a classic case of “bad stuff happened, blame the healer.” Predictably, the Priest starts to question me in raid chat. “Can you heal the tank? Are you sure?” I don’t know if he even bothered to look at gear before, but mine was better than anyone in the raid had. That, and this guy who is calling me out has the word “Shadow” in his name, and he’s telling ME how to heal? Ok, whatever. I’ll be a sport about it and not complain, just layout my Fish Feast and assume the position. He’s bagging on the Druid too, though – “Atter, did you know that you’re in PvP gear?”. Well, said Druid – Atterburg – happens to be in my guild. I know that he’s a hell of a good PvP player, but never raids much because he has a family commitment in the evenings. He’s more than ok to do the healing job, and it’s not like it’s lvl 78 crafted PvP gear. He’s in epics.

  Anyhow, go-round #2. No problem with healing tanks now – I *did* inform our RL that Shammies can’t heal on the run, so we at least HoTted the Warrior for the pull – but the issue comes down to DPS. Low enough, in fact, that they can’t get the second Overcharge. Well, at least I know it’s not me. That Death Knight over there in unenchanted blues and greens, who is wielding a Runeblade of Demonstrable Power? Yeah, he might want to gear up. strangely, he’s not mentioned in raid chat. Attempt #3 is more or less a mirror of #2, just on a longer timeframe. Bottom line: DPS fails, Overcharge asplodes, we die. Lucky for us, a certain DK disconnected after this. I guess he was hoping for better boosters. 😦

  While they’re looking for replacement DPS, I volunteered that I could swap over to Ele. Once again, I’m certain that the Raid Lead didn’t think I’d have the output – though in his defense, it is easier to get anothr DPS. Anyhow, we finally did land one – a Ret Pally (with gear, yay!) and proceeded to wreck some face. One shot, downed boss once the DPS switchout was made.

  My vindication (part 1)? That Paladin put up DPS / Healing meters after the fight. Top healer, by about 3%? Me. Second? Druid. Third? Priest. I wasn’t just healing my tank, either. I bailed his out a few times and got the Jesus Beam off into the raid on several occasions – including once on the Rogue when he was reduced to less than 5% health. So take that, Shadow Healy Guy. On to Archevon.

  We all know that Archevon is a total joke anyhow – no way he’s going to justify three healers. I made a command decision at this point and told the raid “I’m going to my Ele spec for this fight.” Time to prove some more points.

  While it would be my hope that he inspected my gear after I changed out sets, or at least noticed that I’d pulled an iLevel 226 item like Voice of Reason out of my bags for an offset, I doubt that Mr Shadow Guy was very aware of the cards I was holding. Long story short, though, we blew Archevon away (surprise, surprise.) That Paladin put up the meters again afterwards – #1 DPS, at about 3450 and more than 200 in front of the Ret Pally at #2 – me again (and Atterberg topped him on the Healing Meter again).

  I didn’t say anything to him afterwards, just “thanks for the run” and left the group… but I know damn good and well that he was aware of his mistake in judgement. And you know what? As smug, cocky and selfsure as it might have been for me to feel that way, I felt pretty damn good about it.

I fixed my shield problem.

29 05 2009

  Lo and behold, when I got back from work last night and logged in to check the AH, what should I find but a tasty little nugget just ripe for the taking. Funny thing is, I wasn’t aware that it was BOE – lucky me.


  Of course, it set me back a little – 3750 gold, to be precise.

  Given that I won’t be replacing this until the next major content patch at the earliest, though, I figured that the expense was justified. As an added bonus, I can finally retire one of the silly BC trinkets that I was using to make the Def Cap (one to go!) and use Defender’s Code as a full-time piece now.

  Anyhow, it’s funny how things work out. I had yet to see that shield in the AH prior to last night, and the majority of the Ulduar-25 BOEs have been listing for outrageous amounts – usually 5000-9000. Add in the bonus that I get to incorporate some better gear, and it winds up that the whole Wall of Terror Incident wound up costing me $3750 to rectify – but it works out.

  The added fringe benefit is that this allows me to run someone other-than-Eusko through Naxx 25 next time if I choose, or at least cuts down the number of runs which he’ll need to get more or less geared. Now, I need to get down to the business of making back my investment money…

Raiding Doldrums

28 05 2009

I’ve been so bad about posting lately, so apologies. Further apologies for being a bit rambling in my catching-up.

  Suffice to say, things have been rather slow for no apparent reason. Immediately after we had our first week of real successes in Ulduar-25 – the next lockout period, mind you – we started running into attendance issues. A couple of attempts were made at bosses past Flame Leviathan, but at this stage it proved to be less than feasible for us to be attempting them with 20-21 people. Thus, until this last raiding week, I haven’t been back in the 25 man version for much of anything.

  Fortunately, the guild appears to have stepped up their efforts to ensure that we’ve got the bodies to get involved. Mentoring / gearing efforts have been offered to some of the people who are newer 80s, or those who have always been around, but not in a raiding capacity. I think that it’s safe to say, as long as we can cull2-4 of them per week, we’ll be good.

  A side effect to this all has been a pronounced lack of 10 man Ulduar as well. I haven’t been raiding with MiM as much on their regular signup periods in order to keep my ID clear, as we’ve been told that the nights when 25 man attendance falls short may be diverted into 2×10 raids. Unfortunately, other things have happened in those timeslots as well. A lot of it was productive, such as under-21 Naxxramas. Some of it is just alt runs. 

  Fortunately, it looks like the worst is behind us, and a corner is being turned. We were able to launch a 25-man raid Saturday night, marking the first time in three weeks where the numbers have been there. Possibly due to rust, possibly to newer people in a few slots to make numbers, we had a more or less pedestrian result. Flame Leviathan was a predictable one-shot, nothing spectacular. On a personal note, Manch was *finally* rewarded with one of the drops that I’ve been coveting, the Steamcaller’s Totem. I think it’s pretty amazing, as a side note, that the difference between this and the Totem of the Bay is greater than Bay vs Empty Slot.

  After that, we moved on to Razorscale and things got messy. A few people had to leave here and there as we made attempts, but we just kept getting borked on the grounded phase. When we’d exhausted everyone’s patience with her, after about 6-7 attempts, the call was made that this would be our last try for her and we’d be moving on to something else – and wouldn’t ya know, we downed her. I think the key was adding a 4th tank into the mix; while we didn’t really have too many issues with 3 tanks and the adds, if something unlucky happened and one got killed before the grounded phase, it left no margin for error. On top of that, Razorscale does have a bit of a habit of catching people at bad moments, and we lost tanks on every attempt – including 2 of 4 on the kill. Still, I think that wiggle room was the difference.

  Things were running late at that point, so we moved on to Ignis, which was a one-shot success. Sadly, the next night found us with 23 as a couple of usually reliable raiders had connection, computer or RL problems and couldn’t join us. Apparently, ISPs in Australia are dodgy as hell.  As a result, we went back to do Malygos and OS+1 for grins. Both down successfully, and I was finally able to collect on my Heroic: Judgement at The Eye of Eternity loots. Yay!

  As I still had my 10-man ID open, I joined an impromptu guild run on Sunday, which went very well. We skipped Ignis, but in 3 hours pushed all of the way to Freya – whom I’d never seen before – and got in a few attempts before hitting “raid time” and disbanding for the night. All of the bosses were successful one shots, and most fights were very…. comfortable. It’s feeling a lot less chaotic in there these days, and I like that.

  Outside of Ulduar “progress”, though, I’ve been smashing along on the toons. Zuggzug has joined the 80 pantheon (now 6 strong), leaving just 3 toons and a bank alt left below 80 (76,71,71 – just 22 aggregate levels!). With Inyaki moving up to 76, I’ve also finally got a Blacksmith available as well – he’s up to 442 now.

  Noobz ran a full clear Naxx-10, which was great for experimenting with a Demonology Raid spec, and Eusko managed to get through an entire Naxx-25 for once and I picked up some great loots for him, which is really helping me to get him rounded into form. He still needs a run or 2 more before I’m completely comfortable, but it’s safe to say that a lot of the rough edges have been removed.

  The only real bummer for gearing was on Kel’Thuzad; we were running 3 tanks (myself on Eusko, a DK and a Druid) and he dropped the Wall of Terror. Predictably, I just about crapped myself since the other 2 tanks don’t use shields. We did have a warrior in the raid who has a Prot dual spec and sometimes tanks Ulduar, but he wasn’t interested. Good for me, right? Wrong. When it comes time to roll “Need- Main Spec” I roll – and so does a Paladin Healer. Guess who lost? Yup.

  Now, the person who won this has apparently paid the 1000g to dual spec, but that’s about the only tanking cred that I’ve seen. In every raid that she has been in where I’ve also been along, she’s been a Healer (and I miss very, very few raids). On top of that, there are a few other things to consider – that the shield is the DEFINING piece of gear for a Prot Paladin, and also that this is friggin Final Boss Loot. Her rolling on that is about as asinine in my mind as me rolling on the Torch of Holy Fire (which also dropped, and no I didn’t) because I offspec Holy. It’s silly because it undermines the raid, and does nothing more than grant her a nice shiny purple for her bank, or to run heroics with if she can’t find a tank. It’s a waste, because it won’t see the light of day in 25 man content, where it counts, because she raids Holy – like I raid Prot on Eusko.

  She’s done it before, too, popping into a raid at the last minute to get the 7.5 head when a Priest (and a good one at that) who had been on for the whole run also needed it – and that player actually wound up /gquitting over the incident. I guess what I can’t get my mind around is why she was allowed a “Need” roll on this – we’d all been rolling “Greeds” for offspec loot prior; additionally, those of us with offspecs that realistically won’t get played much (like Eusko as Holy) had been defaulting to “only before shard” position by our own requests. Yet, there she goes. I could probably complain that it shouldn’t have been Master Looted to her either on that grounds, but I think that the ML was feeling more than a little drained after a long 2 nights (we’d brought along some new raiders and alts for gearing / practice) and just decided that it was one less headache. Life goes on.

  Coolness note for the Eusko run, though – when we took on Kel’Thuzad, I was slated to be one of the add tanks in back along with the Druid. Now, the gal who plays the Druid is a knowledgeable player who plays her class fairly well. However, this was her first time facing KT. Easy enough, we said – pick up 2 adds and hold em. Wait for raid to kill KT. Well, cool me moment #1 came prior to the add phase. I know it’s mundane to most, but it’s the little things that you do which keep raids going on. In my case, I had moved up to the front a tick to stun someone who had the Chains of Kel’Thuzad thing on them; as I was running back to the rear, our Shadow Priest got Ice Tombed. I’d been targeting people throughout the fight with FoL on the blocks to help a little bit, so I flicked over to him – and three things just happened at once. I noticed his health bar had dropped to about 25%, I heard the call over vent saying “I can’t get you, you’re out of range” – and I saw Mariah Carey. (click that link, BTW to know what I’m talking about.) As a guy who usually plays the Healer – man, that felt good. Anyhow, back to the adds – they came out, we each got our two – and my Tank partner died in a Void Zone. Couldn’t see it under the Guardians, I guess.  Anyhow, I was able to acquire both of them straightaway and hold all four. Fortunately for me, we had a Battle Rez available to bring her back into the equation. She got rezzed and buffed, and peeled two of the Guardians off me, one by one. Crisis averted? Nope, she died in a second Void Zone. Kel’Thuzad hates add tanks, I guess. Anyhow, I was able to grab em both up again and – between the efforts of myself and my healers – stay alive til the end! I suppose that it’s worth noting, the elation I felt at pulling off the 4-Guardian feat certainly added to the letdown with the whole shield thing, though.

  I guess that the other real bummer about the last month comes on the Guild front. Despite the fact that MiM isn’t a real cutting edge progression guild, we’ve got a lot of very good players – just not enough to do much in the way of 25s. However the core players have all been around for a long time and are by and large very skilled. I’d wager that MiM’s 10 best can hang with just about anyone on the server’s 10, but for the fact that we don’t have the gearing opportunities from the lack of 25s.

  ** Anyhow **

  We’ve recently lost a few people who were (are) both good raiders, good friends and good people. I don’t know all of the “why” as to their departures, and even if I did it wouldn’t be appropriate to air it out online. One was a Hunter who had been in the guild over two years, and who has known the many of our core people since high school. The other departure was a husband and wife team, Prot Warrior and Holy Paladin. All of these players were skilled and valuable from a raiding standpoint. From a social standpoint, they were well-liked, amusing and a large part of the guild identity. Losing them has hurt on all of those fronts; I know that people leave, but it’s pretty rough when the people who do the leaving are 2 years+ as members. I’m concerned about how this affects our raiding viability, and I miss seeing them in the /G text. I hope that things improve and we persevere, though; already, we’ve had a few good players return to the guild after long absences, and that helps.

  I guess that the only other news, really, is that my wife’s Shaman is getting fairly close to 80 now. She was always Elemental in BC, but now that she’s playing the Mage all the time, wants to go Resto with her. to that end, I’ve whacked together a pretty fair healing set for her that should allow her to step right into Naxx-25 level stuff once she learns the mechanics. Maybe I’ll list off the gear later, but it’s a better entry-level set than I had, that’s for sure!

  Anyhow, that’s the bulk of it for now. If you’ve made it this far, congratulations – hopefully I’ll have something more interesting next time!

My Little Peanut Selected Speedy for Children’s Week.

9 05 2009

  My wife and I have called our baby Avery by the nickname  “Peanut” since a point very, very early in the pregnancy when we didn’t even know what gender the baby would be. Since it has been Children’s Week and all recently, I thought that I’d share a picture of our Peanut (yes, that was the pet of choice for all of my alts that didn’t have it yet!), who seems to be more in favor of Speedy the Turtle. You can’t really read it, but the t-shirt even says “Speedy”, with a little turtle on it to boot.

  …and yes, I’ve totally been saving this t-shirt in the closet for this event. Also, this is marvellously off-topic and I’m quite at peace with that!

Peanut and Speedy

Peanut and Speedy

 Oh, and another thing: yes, the blue thing in the background is part of a dinosaur that I painted on her wall. Little girls can like dinosaurs too, right? Of course!

The Great Ulduar Nerf: Why it *HAD* to Happen.

8 05 2009

  After a little bit of time to reflect on the changes to Ulduar – and even enjoy the instance, for once – I got back to the business of philosophizing about the place again. Was it really that hard, and so uber-tuned to the point that Naxx-25 + Dragon gear was just meeting entry requirements, was it the new tactics of the place that we were still learning, or was it more about our abilities as raiders? I think that it winds up being a bit of each, but let me elaborate for a bit.

  Firstly, with regards to gear: it is, and it isn’t. Initial forays into Ulduar probably wouldn’t have been too much more successful if you had a Naxx-25 geared raid versus a Naxx-10 + a few goodies, and this is mostly from the standpoint of party endurance. There are an awful lot of ways to die in Ulduar. Despite the fact that nearly everyone is sporting 20,000+ health when you’re raid buffed – a number that is nearly incomprehensible by BC standards (my Druid Tank, who was very well geared, wasn’t over 20,000 in some Kara / ZA runs) – 20,000 doesn’t matter a lot when every hit you take is for 7-12k. You make one mistake, you might live. Fail to recognize and correct your error in ~2 seconds, or make another mistake? WTB rez, lol. Thus, while gear might have placed your ranged DPSer at 23,000 health instead of 20,400, how much did that matter in Ulda week 1 or 2? Not so much, unless you knew where to go.

  Of course, gear affects your tank mitigation, healing throughput and DPS too – but the reality is, unless you knew how to move or what to do, those numbers wouldn’t get a chance to bear themselves out. Naxx 25, Naxx 10 or Quest Blues, if you couldn’t get any Siege boss besides Flame Leviathan below 80%, it wouldn’t matter anyways until you look at the repair tab. If you *did* have the top shelf gear, though, then it was a matter of tactics.

  Ulduar wasn’t like any previous content. PTR testing was fairly sparse, and the amount of knowledge out there just couldn’t provide as accurate of an illustration as a raid would need in order to understand and execute the fights. People were going to have to die, raids were going to have to wipe repeatedly,  and only then could we as a community begin to gather the knowledge necessary to successfully execute the encounters.

  I think that part was equally enjoyable and frustrating. Enjoyable in that it really did represent new territory for us to move into that couldn’t simply be referenced in a Brady Games guide; frustrating because we’ve all collectively had so much success in Naxx, and the rest of WotLK, and the days of running up against the Unmovable Object were kind of fading from memory. Hubris. Of course, being the natural competitive SOB that I am, frustration more than won the day for me…

  But really, what it comes down to is tactics. We all got soft before Ulduar. With the possible exception of Malygos, and a few other  select fights, there was not a lot of need for anything resembling advanced tactics. For the entirety of content, we’ve all learned one thing for our approach: Round it all up, AOE it down, and brute force wins the day.

  It all started with the WotLk Heroics; never was something so misnamed. In BC, Heroics were serious business. Bad pulls, failed CC, deviation from the kill order or a mistimed cooldown could all get you killed, even once your gear got to the point that you were well past finding a use for the heroic rewards. Stuff in there was flat-out dangerous. Think about it, every instance had some major trash wipe points. The dual Bog Lords before Hungarfen, or those Coilfang Defender pairs in Slave Pens. The Screamer pulls in Steamvaults. The Six-pull in Magister’s Terrace, and the Gargantuan Abyssals in Arcatraz. We all knew these pulls, because they all sucked to do. You had to approach them just-so, and frequently with the use of a lot of different abilities from your 5-man party to make it happen. If you didn’t, it was often a corpse run.

  BC Heroics were also a bit more exclusive from a gear standpoint. It wasn’t easy to bring a fresh 70 in there, unless you were skilled at CC and the 3rd DPSer. Healers, and especially Tanks, had to do some legwork beforehand in order to get up to snuff. In short, when you got there – you either deserved it, or you had some really nice friends and guildies.

  In WotLK, we all got into heroics more or less from the moment that we hit 80. Not only that, but the tactics needed in them were vastly different from those in BC. All of those skills that we had honed through endless Slave Pens runs, Zul’Aman or whatever? We lost them. No longer did any single trash pull have the wipe potential that the BC trash pulls had. Sure, there are moments – everyone still hates Slad’ran, or that Ethereal prick in Violet Hold – but those moments are few and far between. Quick, what’s the most dangerous trash pull in WotLK Heroics? Maybe the big Vrykul guys in Halls of Lightning, but that’s about it. There just isn’t anything to fear in Heroics anymore.

  The Raids didn’t get much tougher. Archavon? That guy is a loot pinata. Obsidian Sanctum was ridiculously easy for any raid to knock over regardless of gear, once they hit 80. Only when it got to 2 and 3 Drakes up did that content become difficult. Malygos was more of a gear check to push that enrage timer, plus the learning curve for the phase 3 gimmick fight. Naxxramas? Precious little was pushing raids there.

  Part of the problem with that is that Blizzard just recycled an old instance, with old bosses, and buffed them up to be calibrated versus level 80 players instead of 60. The issue with Naxxramas, though, is the boss mechanics. When 40-man, level 60 Naxxramas was introduced, these fights were revolutionary. By the time that we had progressed through BC content, we’d seen those mechanics re-used and adopted to different bosses. Gruul took on Patchwerk’s mechanics. The Lurker Below is more or less Noth with a Spout.

  A few fights still required coordination; The Four Horsemen, for instance, was murderous until people got the timing down. Once they did, it was surprising at how little damage that a raid sustains in that fight. Kel’Thuzad was tough the fist time or two that you saw him – but once everyone got the hang of spacing and Ice Block healing, he became farm content quickly.

  In short, outside of Sartharion + 3 Drakes, there was nothing left to challenge our raiding skills – and along came Ulduar.

  Ulduar showed us what we had all forgotten about raiding. Some of it harkens back to lessons taught as long ago as Molten Core. Some of it is more reminiscent of BC progression raids. None of it – outside of Flame Leviathan – really resembles what had been available in WotLk content before. It was something far greater in scope and complexity than we had grown accustomed to.

  Take Razorscale, for instance. She’s one of the very first bosses that you face, and was very difficult to handle. What had been seen recently that was like that? Maybe Gothik, if every wave was two Death Knights and a Rider – and if he was always dropping AOE DoTs on the room from the balcony that would kill you in 2-3 ticks – which is to say nothing of the ‘grounded’ phase (although that one is far more easily managed). If your raid was like mine – and judging by the numbers, as less than 10% of raids downed her in week 1, it was – then you spent a lot of time running back, rebuffing, and wiping all over again. When it was done, and you got a chance to look back and say “what happened there?”, an obvious answer arose – our skills have eroded to the point where we couldn’t execute the encounter.

  This is the heart of the problem, and the primary reason that Ulduar had to be nerfed. You see, once you’ve had that moment of clarity and realized why your raid is sucking, you come to step 2: where can we relearn our skills? Nowhere, or at best precious few places. Naxx is so easy that 12-14 competent players and a batch of imbeciles can knock it over. Even if you try to make it tougher, it’s difficult. the most cohesive 25-man event that you can possibly pull from it is getting your group focused enough for an entire run to get “The Immortal” – and after the first random death to whatever idiocy, you can kiss that focus goodbye. Not that it would do you any good, since you’re still not learning to handle angry adds, CC trash or focus specific targets among many. It’s still Naxx. Malygos? You might be able to glean a little bit from there that tightens up your performance, but so much of that fight hinges on the gimmick, while the rest of it is largely a simplified variant on either the “stand where you are and pew pew” or the ever-present “adds” themes. Sartharion +2-3 Drakes is a possibility, as it will focus intense needs for add control, movement and all three facets – Tanking, DPS and Healing – to be successful. Even more importantly, you can’t stand in fire and / or void zones. Still, that’s once a week unless you call for a raid wipe at 5% or something. What’s left, run Heroics in greens to make them tougher?

  No, the issue is that Ulduar is merely the second step in major progression raiding for this expansion. If WotLK follows BC for numbers, then you can expect three more tiers (SSC -> TK -> MH -> BT -> Sunwell for BC, so Naxx -> Ulduar -> ? -> ? -> ? for WotLK, one of which is Icecrown Citadel). Thus, Ulduar had to be at least accessible for people in order to allow for those further tiers to scale upwards without being ludicrous. Do I fully expect Icecrown Citadel (or whatever the top tier winds up being) to be on par for difficulty with Ulduar, relative to the raid’s gearing. Yes. Do I expect them to nerf it? Not until the next Expansion.

  However, Ulduar proved to us that we are not ready for higher content yet, loud and clear. It walked right up to us, smacked us in the face and said “get your crap together and do it now, because this Naxxramas cakewalk stuff is over!”, and then it quietly nerfed itself to an acceptable level where it remains challenging without being insurmountable. As it stands,  it now presents as fine of a location for you to relearn all of those old raiding skills as you could hope to some across, with a bevy of diverse encounters that will push you to develop your raiding abilities to a level that you have either forgotten, or did not know that you could reach.

  You will do this because you must, if you ever intend to advance beyond Ulduar – the next raid won’t be so compassionate. Ulduar has been kind enough to provide you with a stern warning about the state of your game, and an amazing field of battle in which to hone your skills. Use it, and learn from it – and you will prosper. Keep on employing the same strongarm tactics that have ruled WotLK until now, though, and you will be excluding yourself from the future content.

  Ulduar was your wake-up call. Recognize that, embrace that, and make the most of it – because now is the time for true progression guilds to separate themselves from the rest.

Status and Progress Update

5 05 2009

Moving right along, been able to hammer a few more levels out on the 4 remaining sub-80 toons. I’m perilously close to having everyone into Northrend now; I could actually do so if I elected to, but I’m keeping Inyaki in Outlands until 70 just to make things easier on me.

Inyaki – level 69 – I put some time into him in the last few weeks; he’s all the way up to 69 right now and just about ready to transition into Northrend. Thankfully, I already cleared what I feel are the biggest hurdles for him by getting Mining to 375 and Blacksmithing over 350, so that I can use Wrath mats to level it further. I’m interested at the prospects of using him as a tank soon, so he’ll likely get dual specced into that for tanking instances and DPSing through quest leveling.

Eltorogrande – level 71 – I actually dusted off the Big Bull last weekend and got him a level, up to 71. That makes well over a year between dings for him, since he was my first 70 – but he’s moving up again! Cycled the Gorilladin off to the stables in favor of ChompyChompy as well. I think I might get a Bear (and name it “Riblet”) once I’m leveled enough to grab one from Grizzly Hills.

Bubbahotepp – level 71 – Nothin’ doing. Bubba remains stagnant, and I’m guessing that he’s the last one to 80. Just a hunch.

Zuggzug – level 71 – She’ll probably see some trigger time again soon as the ol’ rested XP bar is back up to full. I tanked regular UK with her over the weekend, first time trying her in that role. Given that I’m Blood spec, lacking Tank talents or gear and basically just used Frost Presence and skill – it was really easy. Just had to get the hang of how to get AOE threat when my talents aren’t inclined to do it. We wiped once, on Ingvaar (phase 2), probably because I wasn’t Heart Striking enough to help out my healer. Good experience overall.

Noobz – level 80 – Haven’t done a lot since 80. I’m going to dual spec her, initially into a Siphon Life / Felguard build for soloing and then try out a Demo / Destruct raiding build for the time being since I can cheat up a lot of spellpower on my gear with that spec. Probably swap that over to deep Destruction w/ some Affliction once I’ve got gear to support it. Right now, her DPS sucks – about 1500 – in the SL / FG build, so I need to bring more to the table if I want to be in Naxx-10s and such.

Hiltzaile – level 80 – Switched over to a Mutilate build, but haven’t tested it yet. Been too busy, honestly. That said, I’m not sure how much priority she’ll get for raiding as I’m much more of a Ranged DPS person than Melee DPS from a preferred playstyle standpoint.

Ribeye – level 80 – Took Ribby into Naxx-10 on a lark as Resto. Suffice to say, there’s work to be done. I still need to pay to dual-spec him, but I’m not entirely sure what lean I want to give him for the two choices. I’m still very much considering Moonkin for the first time ever, but I’ll need to get some runs in for gear if I want to do that.

Euskogudari – level 80 – He’s been getting some time lately. Basically, if Manch has an ID for it (or if there is a need for a tank), he’s been the toon of choice. We (MiM) had a smash-up run of Naxx-10 over the weekend, I MT’d it on him (first time as Main Tank on Naxx!), and it went off beautifully. I realized after the fact, we had only 4 deaths during the entire run, and we weren’t even trying to get the Undying. Even better, though I only dropped one piece of loot, it was the best one that I could get – Slayer of the Lifeless. Because of that – and badges from the run which allowed me to get the belt – I was able to rotate out several pieces of gear for superior ones and make him even better. Overall, I’m very satisfied with his performance and viability; Paladin Tanks are definitely solid right now.

  I’m hoping to be able to find him some kind of a Naxx run at least 2 weeks of every 3 if I can; I really want to get into OS more with him as well to try for the legs and the chest (which drops from +1), as those are currently my target slots for item improvement.

Manchego – level 80 – Here and there, making progress on a number of fronts. I’ve been fishing a lot lately to raise that skill and gather mats / achievements, even after getting her turtle. The big change for Manch, though, was Ulduar.

  Last raiding period, after once again meeting with frustration on Ulduar-25, we came up short for night #2 and decided that we’d try to push some 10-man content instead. It was, without a doubt, the turning point for us in 3.1 raiding. We crushed Flame Leviathan and Razorscale on one-shot tries. Ignis was about 3 attempts, and Deconstructor went down in 4 or 5, I believe. We marched right in to Kologarn and made serious headway – getting him as low as 14% – before calling it a night. In short, we were finally able to accomplish what had eluded us before – solid, tangible victories over Ulduar bosses. It was a much needed morale boost.

  This week, I was honestly hoping that we’d continue with the 10-man push and ride that momentum. Had we done so, I was fairly certain that we could clear Siege and Antechamber, and probably 2/4 Keepers or better. Instead, we opted to push into 25 man again.

  Let me be clear – we have not had any success at all in 25 outside of FL prior to this week. I think that the lowest that we got any boss to was about 85% – it was seriously disheartening. Whether it was the new nerfs, increased focus, experience or spirit, I don’t know. The bottom line for this week, though – we succeeded in pushing into Ulduar, and it was wonderful.

  After the usual Flame Leviathan one-shot, we tried Razorscale. Attempt #1 went well until something got buggered near the ground to air transition and people started dropping – but you could see that things were beginning to click. On try #2, we again messed up something early on and didn’t even get to the grounded phase with more than half of the raid alive. But try #3, things just happened. We got her to the ground with the whole raid up, did some damage and she took off – but adds remained under control. Raid damage was managed well. Devouring Flames were effectively tanked away from the body of the raid. She landed again, we burned her some more, and it continued. Where we had wiped before, we were still standing now – and before we knew it, she was grounded.

  None of us had ever been here in 25 man, and the tanks did there best to kite her around the circle on the ground while we shredded her from the center. The inexperience on the phase showed, though when we lost the MT with a substantial amount of her health left. No problem, 2 Offtanks continued the kite. When one of them dropped, the 4th tank stepped into the rotation and helped kite her. When we lost one of the two remaining tanks – leaving one – she was around 5%, and you could tell that nobody wanted to let this slip away. DPS and Heals all picked up their games enough that she dropped – and we had our first 25 man kill in Ulduar. It was a great feeling.

  We moved smartly through the trash for Ignis after that, pushing to the pools where that stupid flame debuff could finally be exorcised. Ignis, though, would prove a tougher nut to crack. After 4 or 5 tries, people were getting a bit fed up with him – but then it all clicked again. Now, when he would sound off his emotes, people knew what ability it was tied to. Casters didn’t get locked out anymore. People were saved from the Fiery Crotchpot with ease. Golems were run off to be shattered like an assembly line – and what do you know, Captain Crotchpot ate the floor too – with nearly the entire raid still alive.

  We had a few attempts on Deconstructor that night without success, but it didn’t matter – we’d already pushed far beyond what we had all expected, and now night #2 was something to look forward to. It didn’t disappoint.

  The Raid Leader came to the fight with a complex strategy to arrange all of us around the Boss in six different and autonomous groups. Basically, we could ignore the Gravity Bombs and heal through the Light Bombs without splashing them all over the Raid, or forcing movement and lost DPS. Again, it took a few tries – and again, it suddenly clicked and everything was perfect, comfortable and in control. We had cleared Heroic Siege.

  The path to Kologarn, though, was a bit more difficult than it had been in 10 man. A few people died on the first and second trash pulls, enough to let us know that this trash meant business. We downed the first Overseer after he killed 2/3 of the raid; the second one? He wiped us three times. Trash is serious business. Eventually, we got him too and on to “Oblivion!!1!!!1!11!!”

  After a week to reflect on him from my last experience, I proposed that we more or less ignore the eyebeams on him – treat the targets of them as we would someone in the Slag Pot. If we could execute it, this meant that there would be no risk of the targeted person dragging the beams across others as they fled, and the damage is not that hard to heal through. On the first try, it nearly worked – we got him to 40%, and at least 15 people in the Raid had never seen him before. There were some issues with the AOE from the Rubble adds, and a couple of other unlucky breaks. We failed on a few more attempts before the magic came back once again around attempt #5 and we downed Kologarn, too for a very upbeat ending to our weekend.

  I can’t explain it really, other than to just say that the same feeling came over me on each kill attempt. Instead of chaos, I felt order. Instead of praying for a lucky break, I felt like we were in control and dictating terms. I felt certain that we would win, instead of the dread of another run back, repair and rebuff. It was really and truly amazing to see it all finally come together into a working unit, to see real progress where only frustration had been for the last two weeks. I think I might have procced an Omen of Clarity.

  Now, where I was more or less dreading going to Ulduar-25 the last 2 weeks, I’m very excited to see what we can do this week. Whether we have the attendance to do 3 nights’ content in 25, or it’s one night of 10 and then some 25 for the next 2, I don’t know. What I do know is, Ulduar has transformed from frustration into a very, very enjoyable challenge.

  As luck would have it, i didn’t get any loot out of the weekend. Deconstructor did drop the Quartz Studded Harness, which is arguably Best-In-Slot. However, I have the Maly-25 chest already, so I passed it (I would have had it on DKP priority) to another Shaman as it represented a greater upgrade to him. In my mind, everybody wins there – our raid gets stronger as he gears up, and I get to save some DKP for what I’m really after – any of three BIS-or-damn-near things (Totem, Neck, Goggles) off Flame Leviathan, or the mace from Razorscale; I’ll happily spend it on those things! Besides, there will be plenty of Deconstructor kills in the future!

  At any rate, I’m a happy panda right now. This was the weekend that Ulduar became fun for me…