Sunday, January 30, 2011

Surprises from the Sky

I have a bad habit of procrastinating more and more, the longer I am away from something. I keep telling myself "I need to take the time to write a post" and "there's nothing really keeping me from writing another post" and yet... days kept slipping by. I even had ideas, I just didn't seem to be able to get up the willpower to drop my other distractions and actually sign into blogger to share them.

Bad Kae.

Well, this morning I got the proverbial kick-start, in the form of an unguilded death knight dropping down on my head in the far corner of the world.

"Kae! :D "

I was out in Silithus at the time, having just finished collecting a survey node out in those horrible ruins full of poor, tormented druid NPCs, during my seemingly never-ending quest to make Tyrande's doll. I tilt my head slightly at the new arrival, mousing over her (female character), guessing that she must be one of my guildies' alts. Especially when she announces she has gifts for me. I have guildies drop me basilisk livers and potions at unexpected times. And an unguilded alt may just be passing me herbs or something to dump in the guild bank. All reasonable guesses, right?

I was wrong in my guess. He was Sakaki of Azgalor, author of Tree Sproutling, come along with some shiny gifts just because he felt like saying hi to me.

Stalker. *heart*

This was probably the best possible incentive to get me to sign into blogger and make a post. Thank you, Sakaki, for the minipet, for the dress, and for the motivation, even if it was unintentional! Was great to meet you :D

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Healing Chimaeron: Part 2

So after a lot of really good discussion on this topic and another kill of Chimaeron, I felt it a good idea to follow up on Monday's post with more consideration of healing this particular boss fight.

What I find most fascinating is the different ways druids have found to handle the situation:
  • a) Lifebloom on tanks per normal, and spot-healing with regrowth/nourish and rejuv+swiftmend for the Low Health debuff.
  • b) Lifebloom on tanks per normal, and spot-healing with HT.
  • c) Rolling 3-4 lifeblooms in a group with a nourish rotation.
Each method has its merits, though I find I prefer method C for its lighter mana cost.

2 Holy Priests + Druid?
I have now done the fight with a priest/pally/druid team and with a 2priest/1druid team. I found the paladins best for tank healing of the three classes: with two priests, we decided to see if I (druid) could focus on the tanks while rolling a 3rd LB on myself, but there were unfortunate occasions when a double-strike came too soon after a massacre and I couldn't get the tank's health high enough. My suggestion for mitigating that comes down to that tank's communication: if they know it's coming soon and don't think they'll survive, calling out for cooldowns (NS+HT, or other healers' help) could aid in preventing the necessity of a battle res. It's hard to call, though. We had this tank-gib happen twice out of 7 attempts; one of those times was on our successful kill attempt, where a battle-res brought the tank back up in time to get back in there and continue. So, it is manageable, but unpleasant compared to a more dedicated tank healer. The priest in the tank-party was helping where she could, but she also needed to prioritize clearing the low-health warnings from those not covered by the lifeblooms.

Alternatively, the druid could focus purely on tank healing, and the priest in that party will cover the rest. Tossing out the third stack of lifebloom gives the druid more time to cast bigger heals on the MT without needing to restart their refresh cycle of nourish casts. Might try that out next week, if we have the same healer composition!

2 Druids + Priest?
Jen of Stories of WoW asked me (and anyone else willing to ponder on it) for suggestions on how to heal this fight with two druids + priest. I haven't raided with a second resto druid yet this expansion, as our moonkin is now dual-specced as a tank, but I think having one of those two druids using the lifebloom healing rotation (3-4 lifeblooms rolling) and the other focused purely on tank healing could make this work. The priest would probably need to cover PoH on both groups during the fued/massacre to help the druids out, though.

I would probably set it up like this:
  • Druid 1: LB both tanks (2 targets), alternating with other tank-specific heals. Purely a tank-healer.
  • Druid 2: LB on both resto druids and their 5th party member (3 targets), using the 3-stack healing rotation I posted earlier this week. Use the 4th block of the cycle to throw regrowth/4th LB/swiftmend to tanks: swiftmend should be easy if the first druid is keeping up rejuv/regrowth on the tanks.
  • Priest handling the other party on their own, and aiding the tank party as necessary during fued.

Thoughts? Discuss :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Healing Chimaeron

Most of the bosses I've faced so far have been dealt with in a similar fashion for me:
  1. Keep lifebloom on a tank.
    Pop ToL if I want to roll lifebloom on two tanks. Refresh it with nourish or, if necessary, HT. I'm pretty comfortable with rolling two lifeblooms, though sometimes fumble them from range or spell pushback.
  2. Rejuv and swiftmend on raid damage
    ....trying to place the green puddles appropriately for maximum healing effect. Nourish, lifeblooms, and NS+HT if necessary and the tank doesn't need it more. Pop ToL if I need to spam lifebloom across the entire raid.
  3. OoC procs for regrowth or HT.
    As the most expensive heals, why not make them free?
  4. Tranquility!
    ...if the raid is spiraling the drain, and WG if it's less dire.
Generally speaking, it's worked, if a bit underwhelming on the mana management when I need to raid heal. THIS DID NOT WORK FOR CHIMAERON.

Chimaeron took my healing methods and said, "Okay, let's see how much I can screw with you. RAID HEALING, GO!"

I panicked. An entire raid constantly near death is a healer's nightmare to begin with, but the concept of just keeping everyone afloat above 10k health is a manageable one after you spend some time seeing everyone constantly drop to 1 hp and not die, due to Finkle's Mixture. You adapt; you say, "okay, as long as I keep you above 10k hp, you'll all live." I added a little Grid debuff warning for the Low Health debuff.

But I still was panicked.

This was not the standard healer panic of seeing lots of low health bars... no, this was the panic of facing a fight I didn't think I could, in current druid mechanics, handle. The raid damage was too high, and my HoTs weren't ticking fast enough to top people past 10k before the next health-dropping ability splatted them to the stone floor. And in my attempts to make it work, I was going OoM by 90% boss health.

I was upset. I was frustrated. And then my raid leader chucked me in a vent channel with the other healers and said "make it work."

Silence. My frustration boiling over, I waited for the others to speak first. Was this boss even possible for us right now? I wasn't sure. I didn't know if the others could handle the raid healing, and I knew that I alone couldn't handle the tanks.

You know what?

We made it work.

Props to Togopan (holy priest) and Draukadin (holy pally): I was the third wheel in that fight.

We grouped all of the ranged DPS in one party with the holy priest, who was chain-spamming Prayer of Healing in all its party-only glory (edit: yes, it can be cast on other parties, but we had him focus on only one party). He set up a lightwell in melee range. We put the other two healers (me, holy pally) with the melee (one cat) and the tanks in the other group: two healers dedicated to this group. And while Draukadin used Beacon and Protector of the Innocent and Flash of Light and Holy Radiance and all those wonderful paladin spells, and while the two tanks taunted the boss back and forth during the double-strike to keep from being sliced in half by Chimaeron's claws, I built a healing rotation and stuck to it.

A healing rotation.

Healing Rotation: Backstory

To truly appreciate my situation, you have to understand something about healing rotations. I was once told, back in Wrath, that I was a horrible player because I didn't use a healing rotation. This was coming from a sub-50 alt whose main was a caster DPS class, of course: a player whose entire world is focused on damaging a mob, not healing someone. Not triage. The concept of not using a casting rotation was a foreign, evil, wrong, bad, ludicrous idea to him. Of course, him saying I was bad because I didn't use a healing rotation to triage my raids became a huge running joke in my guild. Me with my Bane of the Fallen King title, world-2nd 10-strict guild to get it, was bad because I don't use healing rotations.

Healing rotations don't work, generally speaking. Healing is a more fluid creature, reactive to the health pools, aggro, gear, and decisions of the raiders around you as the combat situation shifts, new creatures coming in, walls of fire charring people, aggro being stolen or swapped, debuffs being gained, and so on. Healing is a triage situation: who is taking the most damage, and is more important to the overall survival of the raid? What spell is best for the situation: how fast are they dieing, is the mana use worth the cost or is it sustainable, will it leave me unable to save someone more important later? Rotations were not for such dynamic situations. Rotations were for healers who weren't capable of quick thinking, healers who couldn't do their jobs.

So, healing rotations were a joke. Something we laughed at.

The irony of the situation struck me hard last night, as I started testing how many lifeblooms I could roll and what I could fit into the refresh cycle during a break in the raid.

The Rotation

With party 1 covered by the priest, the paladin self-sufficient with his own heals and the tanks half-covered by the paladin as well, that left me 2 people I absolutely had to keep up, and then whatever else I could throw at the tanks. Okay, I know I can roll 2 lifeblooms: why not a third, if that's all I'm doing?

Shortly after the pull, I popped Tree of Life and got my lifeblooms rolling: four to start, with a focus on keeping three main ones up. If the fourth dropped, I didn't sweat it. I told the paladin which of the tanks I was keeping a constant lifebloom on, and that's all that really mattered. Lifeblooms on me, tank1, and melee cat. These are the three I would try to keep up come hell or high water. While ToL was still active, I popped lifeblooms on tank2 and anyone else I could reach, and started my nourish rotation. I went straight down the last three players of my grid frames because our alphabetical arrangement made it pretty easy.
  1. Nourish self.
  2. Nourish tank1.
  3. Nourish melee cat.
  4. Cast something shorter than nourish/HT: regrowth, or instant casts. WG, or lifebloom on tank 2, or regrowth on a tank, or on someone who had lingered with Low Health for too long. I could, if I was tight in my GCDs, cast two insta-casts (rejuv + swiftmend, or two LBs) before needing to refresh the cycle, but this was risky.
  5. Rinse, repeat.
With this, I could have kept 4 full stacks of lifebloom rolling by using LB on tank 2 and nourishes on the other three, and at times I did have this going. But I appreciated the flexibility of the fourth block of my rotation to sometimes cast regrowth during an OoC proc, or use WG, or swiftmend, and letting the 4th lifebloom bloom itself on tank2 was often beneficial.

On the plus side, I had absolutely no mana issues: nourish and lifebloom are our cheapest heals. It was only when I fumbled the stacks and lost one (or all) and I had to use the more expensive heals instead until ToL came off of cooldown and I could restart my lifebloom stacks that I then had any sort of mana problems. In future attempts, I will be looking to cast my innervate on the poor OoM holy pally instead.

Beyond my Heals

Due to the cast-heavy and time-strict nature of balancing 3-4 lifebloom stacks, it was beneficial that I was chosen to be the stack target for Fued. They stuck a big orange circle on my head and I stood near melee with the lightwell and it wasn't until about 20% boss health that I moved even an inch from that spot. Everyone would periodically move over and hang out and give me hugs while spamming their own survival/healing cooldowns (feral's tranquility, moonkin's tranquility, etc etc) and I kept chugging along with my healing rotation. They'd flee as the bot came back online and massacre was cast and poisons would start flinging around, and I was still standing there, trucking along through my rotation.

And then at 22% or so: I pop ToL again. I spam lifeblooms across the whole raid afresh, and tranquility, and get everyone as high as I possibly can because come the 20% mark, there's no more healing.

I look up. I see the boss before me, the Mortality debuff bright near my minimap, and I gulp. "Well, here goes," I say to myself, and start DPSing. I smile to myself that I have no DPS rotation. I spam wrath, and try to keep moonfire and insect swarm on the boss, while everyone in ventrilo is going wild with trying to survive as long as they can and DPS, and when it's finally my turn, I'm bearform and using frenzied regen and barkskin in vain hope of surviving more than a couple seconds, strafing away to keep my furry tail from his claws, even as I'm tugged across the room by a priest's lifegrip and Chimaeron swipes out and double-strikes my face.

An interesting fight. One that challenged me, as a healer, in brand new ways. While I would hate having a "healing rotation" as strict as that become the norm, it was a challenge that I enjoyed, simply for its deviance from the norm. I know better, now, my limits on how many lifeblooms I can roll at my current haste level.

See you next week, Chimaeron. I won't be panicking this time.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Two Weeks of Crazy

Incoming long ramble. It's been a while since I've posted, so I'm giving fair warning :)

I have greatly enjoyed my resto druid in Cataclysm. She has her strengths and weaknesses, as I have found, and they've led me to feeling rather happy with her as she provides a challenge for me. The weaknesses, of course, provide some entertaining lessons of their own.

CC, lol.
Healers have very low if any +hit. Avoid promising any CC to the party if you value your health bar. If you absolutely MUST use CC (because of running with a group of, oh, 3 warriors and a deathknight) then get your hots rolling on the tank before attempting to root/hibernate/cyclone/whatever! Or the tank will keel over dead because you were too busy running around screaming with your CC target chomping on your tail.

So, avoid being assigned CC as a healer. Of course, you can still use CC if you have the mana and time to spare... I find a quick cyclone can tie up a wildly swinging melee mob and give the tank's health bar a breather while DPS focus-fire down another mob.

Ultimately, though, my most-used CC has been Nature's Grasp. I have it bound to a mouse button in a lovely little barkskin+grasp macro that pops me 3 chances to root an offending melee mob that is trying to nom my furry hide. Yes, tanks should be rescueing their healer, or even a friendly helpful DPS with their own CC, but sometimes they're busy or distracted or dead or have things on cooldown because you know what? Heroics are hard. Or, sometimes, they're just blind idiots. Regardless, it's a CC I've found I want very quick access to.

AoE Healing? no longer our forte. Wild Growth has a monstrous cooldown, and Tranquility's is even longer. Swiftmend has a cooldown for its use and subsequent green puddle of aoe healing, but the puddle itself is insufficient for healing more than a sliver of health at current gear levels.

...and ToL
Treeform has become my "OMG RAID HEALS NAO" cooldown as I then spread lifebloom across the raid like a rampant infestation of kudzu. If I need to pop treeform to begin rolling lifebloom on two tanks, I try to time it to coincide with an early point of a boss fight where I can make use of that extra lifebloom love I can share with the raid. Like with the Ascendant Council when Fluvi-whasisface starts novaing and for some reason beyond my comprehension we don't interrupt it immediately. I should probably go look up why we don't immediately interrupt the first cast, but I've been busy so I'll just type out here a note to myself to go look at it later. ;)

I do enjoy that we can roll lifebloom on multiple targets after ToL ends, by refreshing one or another with HT/Nourish. What I do not like is when my nourish cast, in an attempt to refresh it on said tank, is interrupted or fails due to the tank running out of range, or due to some giant monster leaping through the air and landing on my head, only to send me flying across the room as though I were a gnome to be punted. I think that this particular circumstance is a racial punishment brought down by the evil gnome overlords in vengeance against tauren kind.

Mana mana. Doo doo, de doo doo. Yes, mana is an issue, and as Scythe so adequately described it to me, healer mana has become the raid's built-in enrage timer. If the tank pulls while I'm drinking back at the last trash pack, I usually let them die. If I go completely OOM, I have been known to run around bandaging players.

If anyone is taking unnecessary damage, I think it's okay to let them die or yell at them to pop cooldowns, healthstones, potions, bandages, etc. Or to, I dunno, GET OUT OF THE FIRE. Or maybe move when a debuff says you should move or you'll die horribly: is red light, green light really that difficult of a game?? Or when there's a flayer sitting there clawing wildly at the air and people think he's gonna give them a nice facial rather than attempt to julienne their bodies into dinner. Even tanks can move out of that, you know.

Pug Tank Egos.
....ugh. Okay, here's the scenario: guild group of DPS + healer, all with Bane of the Fallen King titles, gets a pug tank. My guildies know to CC when given a mark or directions, but this particular tank seems to think he can take everything. Mind, we're all in varying levels of blues as is the tank, and this is Heroic Grim Batol with massive packs of easily CCable targets, and have the CC available to use. So he runs in, nearly dies on the first few pulls, bitches about "Don't be Bad" when he looses aggro on things because he's got terrible threat (ahem, when healer gets aggro on things), and I sit down to drink after a pull. I say, "mana." He crosses the bridge and pulls one of the hardest roaming trash packs in the first hallway while I'm drinking down the hall at half mana.

You can imagine where this leads. I scurry across with my half mana and quickly try to save him with my limited healing cooldowns and getting hots rolling on him, while he's not using a single one of his tank cooldowns, and then, predictably, he dies from massive amounts of raw damage. He sighs and the group wipes and we start running back, DPSers beginning to suggest maybe we should CC something? His response: "Heal more. Stop being bad."

Me: "O_o're joking, right?"
Him: "Not really."

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I growl, literally, and initiate a vote-kick on the tank.

Unfortunately, the vote-kick tool may have somehow bugged, as it didn't give my fellow guidlies a chance to vote before it "failed" and went away. We're all in vent together at the time, and I simply said, "I am not putting up with this tank," and I left the party. I suggested they leave, too. We could find another tank. In fact, one of our guild tanks offered then to fill in for us.

Meanwhile, back in the party (I am hearing this over vent), the dpsers told the tank he shouldn't be pissing off his healers. His response, as I hear, was that "You guys can leave too, I don't care. I'm not the one with the 40-minute queue." Obviously, he missed the fact that they were queuing WITH the healer, who had a maybe 3-minute queue. Oblivious ego tank is oblivious. The DPS then vote-kick the offending tank from the party; this time it is able to actually be voted upon, and the tank is swiftly removed from the instance with a massive, ethereal boot.

Initiate re-invite of the seething Kaelynn and a helpful guild tank, we warp back into the instance, and clear the entire place without any problems. Of course, we all blacklisted the first tank to our ignore lists.

Who would've thought I had an inner paladin? RIGHTEOUS FURY!

Holidays with a Puppy
Travel/guests explosion. This was the first long-distance overnight trip with River, who at almost 6 months old, is a 60-lb puppy who can't sit still for long in the car. She tried sleeping in my lap during a 3-hour drive and that didn't work; she had to settle for just resting her head in my lap while I sang along to Glee soundtracks.

Both sides of my family have dogs of their own: dogs that don't quite know how to wrestle and play with other dogs. These dogs are people-only dogs that tolerate the presence of other canines as long as they leave each other alone.

River is not like that.

River is a puppy who thinks that every dog she meets will want to play with her, unless they're just old and grumpy. Ironically, the one dog we found she got along best with is a tiny little dachsund/chihuahua mix who is 14 years old and nearly blind: she just growled at our massive puppy and River backed off.

The others, sadly, mistook River's attempts at play as attacks. The youngest had been attacked by another dog before, so she freaked out every time River made a play-lunge at her, though to her credit she did TRY to play with River. She even play-bowed and brought toys over to my puppy. It was torture to River that every time she tried to play back, the other dog would then freak and snarl and turn it into a real fight. The other dogs just had no interest in playing chase or tug-of-war or wrestling, and would straight-out snarl and try to fight, misinterpreting River's overtures of play.

It was a learning experience for me, and for River. All of the dogs River has met prior to the family's are dogs that know how to play with other dogs. They wrestle and bite at each other in play, and chase and tumble and run into each other. Whether bigger than her or tiny, none have ever gotten hurt. It is play. But some dogs just haven't been socialized to be able to play with other dogs. I am glad I have been able to socialize River with other dogs, that she knows how to play with them: but I am going to have to teach her that not all dogs are willing to play with her.

Aside, she did get photos with Santa.

Shortly after the whole hectic holiday travel (in driving snow and ice, no less) I had to take River to get fixed. This means: cone of shame.

Contrary to most dogs, however, River seems oblivious to the cone of shame. Like, completely oblivious, to the point that she's nearly taken peoples' faces off while romping past them. It is merely a diversion that makes loud noises when she catches it on walls, doors, cabinet handles, corners, bowls, toys, sticks, bushes, the floor, the crate, people, etc. Something that makes chewing on her bone more of an interesting challenge. Something that, in itself, is a challenge to chew on. And, occasionally, an annoyance that she can't lick at her healing stitches.

Yes, I will get pictures up. I promise.

Now, the healing wound also requires that we try to keep her calm and docile, and not go up and down stairs, and be restrained by a leash while doing her business to keep her from tearing around the yard. Leash-walking a half-grown malamute who's been cooped up in "recovery" is an feat in itself, nevermind when it's done on a steep slope covered in snow and ice. It also doesn't prevent her from going absolutely bonkers when she's back inside, much to the amusement of the three guests we had over New Year's weekend (hi, Jae and Lundrac!)

New Years'
Lego Harry Potter, Rock Band, geeky movies like Dorkness Rising and Avatar, karate training (perks to having a 3rd degree blackbelt visit for a few days), and a giggly Kae after the others found she didn't mind the taste of rum + coke, provided it was properly diluted (I usually despise the taste of alcohol). All while wrangling a boisterous puppy with a massive cone around her collar who wasn't technically allowed to run and jump and romp and zip circles around the TV room, but did anyway.

I am still recovering from the past few weeks. I would like a day to just hibernate. But, alas, the "work" monster returned so I'll have to wait until Friday for that :)