Tobold's Blog
Monday, August 27, 2012
The Priest Who Came in from the Cold

My apologies to John le Carré for butchering a title from his books, but after a year-and-a-half of absence my priest feels like he came in from the cold, having been frozen in time. And it is somewhat curious how time solved some of my problems. When I left World of Warcraft in April 2011, said priest was in trouble: I had done all the normal dungeons and was wearing all the gear you could get from them, but when I tried the next step, heroic dungeons, the groups I was in weren't doing so well. Which might or might not have been my fault, but as a healer I tended to get blamed even if it wasn't my fault. And as I couldn't do heroics, I couldn't get geared up for heroics neither, a vicious cycle.

Now I'm pretty certain my skills haven't gotten any better during my absence. If anything, I'm older, slower, and a bit rusty on healing. But it turns out that I can run heroics now. Yesterday I even did Zul'Gurub, which presumably is harder than the first batch of heroics, and I was healing just fine. Okay, I caused one wipe because I didn't know I had to move into the green bubble on the final boss (I tend to stay out of the colored spots, which works fine as basic strategy on most bosses), but on the second try we did it without problems. The only problem I have with heroics now is that they feel very rushed in most cases, so although I have a cheat sheet printed out with what I should do at each boss, I never get the opportunity to read it because the people pull so fast. Even just drinking for mana is difficult to find time for. And yet I'm racking up valor points (after having reached the weekly cap for justice points from normal dungeons).

I don't remember having read anything about the heroics having been nerfed a lot during my absence. Maybe it is simply that the other players are now both better trained and better equipped. If the rest of group is doing well, the job of the healer is getting easier, even if he is slow and undergeared. That allows me to visit the dungeons I haven't seen yet, those that aren't even available on normal, like Zul'Gurub.

Having re-installed a lot of addons I used to have, including Recount, I noticed that there are huge differences in performance levels between dps players; you see everything from 5k to 25k dps. Presumably there are also huge differences in the quality between different players playing healers, or different players playing tanks, but those are harder to measure. And that makes me wonder how heroics will be in Mists of Pandaria. As a rather average player, will I be stuck again after finishing the MoP dungeons on normal? Will I have to wait until the other players have become a lot better at MoP heroics again before I can set a foot into them with my priest?

The reason I wonder is because if Mists of Pandaria heroics are a repeat of Cataclysm heroics, I might want to level up another character as my main. For example my frost mage. I find that one easier to level than the priest (even with shadow dual spec). And let's face it: If you are a mediocre player in a 5-man group, you are far better off with a dps class. Your lack of performance can more easily be compensated by the other players, and even when underperforming you are less likely to be blamed. Generally I do like healing in a dungeon more than I like dealing damage, but if the tuning of MoP heroics and the expectations of the other players require healers that are much better than me, I might have to give up on dungeon healing. Man, I miss vanilla WoW, where I was considered a good player in a hardcore raiding guild beating BWL. The skill required from a healer these days have nothing to do with what was needed back then.

The skill required from a healer these days have nothing to do with what was needed back then.

You're comparing hardcore raiding to steamrolling dungeons. Of course it doesn't ask the same skill.

About the MoP heroics, Blizz has said that they will be closer to the WotLK heroics (that is, not too hard)
If you want challenge, there will be the Challenge Mode. Basically timed runs, with various targets to beat and a realm-wide leaderboard. And no LFD for that.
No. The original Cata heroics got nerfed. As did ZG and ZA. The 4.3 Heroics haven't been nerfed, but they were pitched fairly easy to begin with.

Blizzard have recognized that Random Groups of Strangers + Difficult content don't mix. Which is why the Challenge Modes aren't on the LFD.

Overall a shame. I can understand the Logic, but I remember in Classic when shambolic dungeons crawls with you handpicked groups of Guild/Trade used to add a lot of flavour to the game.

Welcome back - I'm enjoying your 'homecoming' experiences :) I imagine you're enjoying even rushed dungeons much more than ceaselessly slamming your head against a brick wall (which was most people's experience of early Cata heroics).

The most fun I had with Dragon Soul heroics was when they first came out, and people were happy to enjoy the challenge at a much more leisurely rate.
A WoW add-on I found very useful for this expansion's dungeons is RobBossMods. What it gives you is a short summary of the important boss mechanics, either directly to you or into party chat.

Saved me much pain both as tank and healer. And reminders are rarely a bad thing.
There was a blue post from Blizzard which told that initial Cataclysm heroics were tuned for coordinated groups which can learn from their mistakes, and consequently too hard for random groups.
They also stated that htey won't "repeat that mistake" again and MoP heroics will be WotLK-style. Those seeking challenge should run challenge mode against the clock.
I'm not sure what priest spec you run, but have you tried out Discipline ? I've got a few healer classes and in WOTLK raid healed with my shaman, but in CATA found that I really enjoyed discipline healing. Its more of damage prevention/ proactive style than reactive/ throw big heals. In 5-mans I could sometimes just bubble the tank and throw a HOT, then sit back and watch for the idiots who stand in the fire.

And I'm in the same boat being in my 40's, my reaction time isn't as good as it used to be.
The dynamics of returning to a game that has continued to change while you have been away are always interesting. I suppose there is a dividing line somewhere between "just took a break" and "I left, but now I am back" that becomes pretty clear once you have returned.

Waiting for a follow up post with a title like "The Druid of Panama."
A note on mages, they are currently the most gear dependent class. Meaning, while high end raid mages may be topping the charts, a mediocre geared mage will be significantly worse than a similarly geared hunter.

I know you don't care about bragging rights or anything like that, and currently no one is singling out low DPS in LFD groups (if one guy is putting out 25k, who cares what the other two are doing?). But when MoP is first released and every bit of DPS counts, it might be an issue.
You can also try a shadow priest; I'm not sure how will the gear sharing between specs work in MoP but it will still enable you to play a DPS and be able to switch to healer with less effort than if you had a mage.
When you enter the dungeon say at start you are new and want to read up the tactics before pulling each boss and you do so (dungeon journal and/or /p chat). The tank is the one who pulls, and has 2 options: either he takes what you say serious and adapts until you're ready, or he pulls mindless as if he has an overgeared, professional healer who heals with 2 fingers in his nose. The sensible option is the former. The latter will only cause frustration among all players involved, but that is NOT your fault. What IS your fault is if you do not open your mouth you're new (people expect everyone knows what to do this far into expansion), and expect to learn the tactics "on the fly" without reading them up. What also helps when playing with other players is admitting and stating the mistakes you make.

As a healer, you do not need recount for running dungeons. Useless. You should not even look at the healing done either. Because you do more healing when other people fail more or when the tank has less good gear. If you want a good addon, get a bossmod such as DBM or BigWigs for tactics on dungeons/raids and get the addon called GTFO which warns you when you stand in the shit. You probably also want a healing addon.

The reason people were good players in vanilla was because it was zerg. You could've done that content with people being DC and AFK.

As for the roles as a rule of thumb: the tank is the father who leads, the DPS are the teenagers who compete who's best, and the healer is the mother who turns to the wounded. I don't think you're the competing type (it took me a long time to enjoy the competing factor as a DPS), so I think you're better off with healing or tanking. You may find yourself want to level up a druid, paladin, or monk as these classes can perform all 3 roles.
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