Monday, September 24, 2012

The Final Countdown, and Some Thoughts

As I am writing this post, Mists is less than 24 hours away. I decided to stick with my Shaman most likely, although I may switch to a Monk later on in the expansion, possibly raiding with one by 5.1. Either way, I will be healing the first group of raids on my Shaman, and I am okay with that, to be honest. I really love the Shaman cooldowns(although they would be complete with a good tank cooldown), the new totem mechanics, and I think that Shamans will be extremely strong healers in the first tier, possibly even seen as semi-mandatory in certain fights/settings. I am no theorycrafter, so I really have no math to back up that previous statement, but it is just a general feeling of mine. We will see how things pan out soon enough.

Once things get really going, and I actually get back into the gold making game I will resume writing about that subject. I also plan on providing Resto Shaman specific short guides on every raid boss. Nothing too deep, rather mostly focused on talent choices, glyph choices, and certain mechanics that one should be especially aware of as a Shaman.

Other than that, I am just anxiously waiting for the expansion to drop, ready to log into Orgrimmar, pick up the quest, and get questing in Pandaria!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Shaman or Monk: The Decision

Mists of Pandaria releases in 12 days from the time of this writing, and I am faced with a choice: I have to decide what my main will be, as far as my raiding group is concerned. I have narrowed this decision down to either Monk or Shaman, because I want to heal(or at least have that capability in my class), I am not interested in Paladin healing(never really got it, and the times I have tried it I was not too impressed), my fiancee who raids with the same group heals on her Priest, and we will have at least one other Druid, possibly two of them. That leaves Shaman, which is my current main class, and Monk, the new class coming.

So, my effort here will be in comparing and contrasting the two classes, especially when it comes to healing, or at least more in-depth in that area. Let's begin!

First off, some general observations. Shamans and Monks will both share the same tier tokens, but the gear type is different. Where Shamans wear mail, and have no competition in the spell part of it, other than with other Shamans, Monks will have gear competition with the other spell leather class, Druids. This shouldn't be a big deal, but it is to be considered. Flavor-wise(lore and whatnot) Monks have an edge, at least in my mind. I happen to like the whole Asian flavor thing that they have going with them, and of course, the integration of that class in the story of the expansion is something nice, just like Paladins and DKs in Wrath of the Lich King, and Shamans and Druids(although to a somewhat lesser degree) in Cataclysm. So, as far as general concerns go, Monks are ahead in story and flavor(in my viewpoint, the only one that matters in this case), but behind in general gear competition considerations.

Now, let's talk healing. This is obviously the area where the decision is going to rest, ultimately. Luckily, the two classes are so different in healing style and ability that at least there will be something to consider! The Shaman healing method mostly revolves around effectively using your 3 core heals, interspersed with Riptides to keep the casting time of them low(and crit chance high in Healing Surge). In certain situations/fights/25s the Shaman group heals also play a major part. Combine this with a set of very powerful cooldowns, a smart healing totem, and the Shaman is looking really solid as a healer, although a tad boring, in my opinion.

Monk healing, on the other hand, can be done a few different ways. First, there are the core heals of Soothing Mist(a channeled equivalent of the cheap, efficient heal), Enveloping Mist(the equivalent to Greater Healing Wave, although this is HoT), and Surging Mist(the equivalent to Healing Surge, fast but expensive). Taking them alone, they seem unimpressive, but it is in their synergy that they shine. While casting Soothing Mist, both Enveloping Mist and Surging Mist become instant cast on the player you are currently channeling your Soothing Mist on. This can make for some great tank healing, as you can channel a constant heal on them, and then get great instant burst when you need it. Additionally, with your Jade Serpent Statue out, your channeled heal will be duplicated to a group member that needs it!

But wait... there's more! In addition to those core heals, there is a HoT, Renewing Mist, which initially is just like any other basic HoT(Renew, Rejuvenation), but then becomes a sort of "smart HoT" that duplicates itself on up to 3 other party/raid members. With renewing Mist having a 8 sec CD, there is a cap(although I do not know what that cap is at the moment) to how many people you can have the HoT on at once, but the fact is, the HoT will be smart, and a set-it-and-leave-it one at that, so it will be amazing to use as a raid healer. Just like before with the core heals, there is a synergy that this spell has with another: Uplift. Using Uplift gives a nice heal to everyone who has Renewing Mist on them, and if you use Thunder Focus Tea to augment your Uplift, it also renews the duration of the Renewing Mists you have out.

If you thought that was all, you'd be wrong. In addition to the great tank and raid healing methods I have shown above, there is another way to heal: by doing damage. Think of it like Priest's Atonement, except on steroids. With your Jade Serpent Statue out(which should always be out on boss fights at least), your non-auto attacks heal others for 50% of the damage they do(within 20 yds, which can be a pain on some fights I suppose). Additionally, your special attacks will augment this kind of healing, first with Blackout Kick making your auto-attack damage also heal for 25% of the damage it does(50% at two stacks), second with Tiger Palm decreasing the cast time and mana cost of Surging Mist(your flash heal) by 20% every time you hit with it, stacking to 5, making it a free, instant heal. Combine that with the Glyph of Surging Mist, and you will be able to fire one of those off "smartly" without having to be distracted from your current target. Third, there is Spinning Crane Kick, which will do AOE healing to everyone within range. Depending on how the numbers balance out, this can be an equally viable, or even superior way of healing compared to the ways I have described above.

In addition to having some amazing and varied ways of healing in almost any setting, Monks also have some pretty interesting raid cooldowns. First is Life Cocoon, which will shield the target for a decent amount, and then increase all periodic healing by 50% for 12 sec. Second is Revival, which heals everyone in sight for a decent amount, and also dispels harmful things off of all of them. Third is Zen Meditation, which redirects up to 5 spells cast on group members onto yourself, while decreasing your damage taken by 90%. Now, weighing them up against the Shaman raid cooldowns, I don't think that they really fare that well. Granted, Shamans do not have an absorb shield, but what they do have is a Divine Hymn/Tranquility equivalent in Healing Tide Totem(the best talent on that tier, in my opinion), a group-wide(if they are in range) damage reduction and health equalizer(to minimize spike damage) in Spirit Link Totem, strong group healing in Ascendance, on-demand haste if they choose to take the talent, and 10% increased healing/20% reduced damage taken for 1 minute(every 5 minutes) with the improved Earth Elemental. The Shaman cooldowns, in my opinion, just seem much more impressive.

So, now to weigh them up.

  • Gear Competition: Shaman
  • Flavor/Lore: Monk
  • General healing Style: Monks are much more interesting and varied
  • Raid Cooldowns: Shamans have better ones
Gosh, even with laying it all out like this, it seems that I cannot really make a decision. What do you all think? And please, don't quote numbers or whatnot to show one is particularly superior to another at the moment, because number tweaking is likely to happen at some point after launch, and I would hate to go with one class based on some OP numbers right now, only to find that they get super nerfed in the first patch.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

WoW Blogger On-Air Hangout #5!

Keeping with the weekly tradition(a new tradition, but one nonetheless?), here is the latest On Air hangout!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How the Blizz Ruined Glyphmas

You heard it here first folks: you can still trade Blackfallow inks at the Ink Traders, at least that is what the Known In-Game Issues site says right now. Okay, you probably heard it elsewhere, but here I am writing about it now. What does this mean? Essentially, that the whole stocking up game that some of us have been doing for the pre-Mists patch has basically been for naught.

Well, not so quick. As it is, sure, there won't be the crazy low supply of herbs that makes glyphmas great, but there will at least be a lot of demand, which will still mean more glyphs sold, and higher prices most likely. That stock of glyphs/ink that you have? Well, it will almost certainly come in handy whenever they fix the issue(it is listed as a bug, although it may be intended. Who knows?), or in the first few weeks or so after Mists launches. All is not lost, but I can definitely understand the frustration that some of you must feel.

Myself, I am just glad that I didn't go all out and get like 20k ink stocked up. Only about 10k-ish on me :P I will be just going about business as usual, and keeping the inks stocked up for when Mists launches.

EDIT: I forgot to credit my source, @msherretz on twitter, aka Michael Sherretz, probably best known from the amazing Auction House Junkies Podcast. Sorry about that :P

Goldshield TSM Theme

Just like the title says, I have an insane hubris which inspired me to make a TSM theme today, based loosely on the colors of this blog! May tweak this a little, as it is the product of... lets see... like 15 minutes of messing around just now. Let me know what you think!

Copy this code and import it if you like it!


Pre Pre-Patch Impatience(Plus Some Philosophy)

So, here I am, writing this post in one window, listening to my favorite Pandora station(based off of Two Steps From Hell), and playing the MoP beta on the other window. Man, the maintenance cannot be over soon enough. I mean, sure, I could be happy with the fact that I am experiencing the changes already, in addition to the new dungeons, raids, and a whole new continent. That's all true, but there is something hollow about it all, knowing that everything that I am putting into the beta experience will go away in less than a month from now, at most. Then I think: well, isn't that the case with my regular WoW experience?

Let's face it, although WoW has been going on a long time, and is likely to continue to plow on for years hence, there will come a time when either we get bored or just plain tired of the game, or the servers will go offline, for good. Either way, all the hours filled with frustration, elation, sweat or just boredom will, in the end, amount to nothing but memories, and even those will fade. What are we to say, then? Are we to conclude that this game is a waste, and we should get out while we are ahead?

This sort of existential crisis, realizing the finite-ness of things, then grappling with how to proceed, what meaning to discover or to add, what reasons to keep going, has long been a topic of philosophy. Of course, when they(the philosophers) talk about this they are referring to the finite nature of our lives, of the human species, of the universe itself, but I think we can bring this same process of thought, and perhaps their conclusions, to the game we love.

So, faced with the ultimate end of this in-game experience, what reason can we find to keep playing it? I won't pretend to know the answer to this question, but I have an answer that works for me, and it is the same answer that I apply to the same problem in context of my finite life. I believe that meaning, purpose are not derived from some final tally at the end, some final scorecard. Rather, I believe that we can find reason enough for what we do in the now, in the immediate experience of things. In other words, I am motivated to grind for the awesome Cloud Serpents because I will be able to ride them in the next expansion. There is no consideration of ultimate meanings here, no attempt to tally the final score. I will be content having the mount then, regardless of the fact that I will not be able to have it forever.

Meaning can simply be in a simple enjoyment of the present, of being content in the moment. It can also be in making a name for yourself, as it were, a memory that will go on further than the life of the game. This can be as simple as forming a close-knit group of friends in-game, who you play with in other games after WoW ends, or as complex as running a successful competitive raiding guild. Or, you can make your name blogging, as, obviously, I am attempting to do here, in addition to the hangouts.

This reminds me of Talia Joy Castellano, a very young girl who is dying of cancer. She knows that she is dying, that she will almost certainly never reach her 18th birthday, let alone her 15th. Yet, she does not despair, at least outwardly. She has become a whiz at makeup, and makes amazing YouTube videos. Facing the short time that she has left, instead of cashing out as it were, she has decided to make herself immortal, in a way. She is making sure she will live on in the people she inspires. Her courage alone in the face of her impending death(as a freaking 12 year old!) is enough to inspire myself to find meaning in my life, now, regardless of the length of it.

Now, obviously, the short lifespan of some pixels in a game is not comparable to the very short life of a courageous little girl, but I do think that there is a lesson that even us MMO gamers can learn from her. We can still find satisfaction in striving for those things that we want, even if we know that they will be short-lived. We can realize the very short time we have in this game and make the most of it, or even try to create connections, an identity that will transcend it, and will perhaps incarnate itself in other games. The eventual end of this game is not the end of the meaning, the fun that we can find in it.