Fuzzy Identities
Dual-speccing has brought about a lot more ease and flexibility into raids, no doubt about it.

Back in the day, when buffs weren't raid wide, it was a headache to try and organize the perfect raid. You had to be a lot more concerned with who was in what group, so that you could maximize the buffing potential of your raids. Now that most of that is generally taken care of, we have the new organization nightmare on our hands - dual-specs.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about this added flexibility. Particularly when you have a particular dungeon on farm, it adds several new dynamics for your raid. The problem is that it is becoming more and more difficult to know what anyone's main spec is anymore. This is beginning to cause problems for us in loot.

We have a tiered loot system, and we set it up in such a way where we make no rules about off-spec or main-spec. So many of our raiders switch back and forth between specs for the benefit of the raid, that it seems a bit unfair to limit them loot-wise when they are enabling us such flexibility - and it gets complicated trying to keep track. Therefore, if you are a holy/ret pally, and you are running holy one night, and an awesome ret item drops, you can feel free to roll on it. It's your call - it's your tier to do with what you wish. This individual agency gives our players the power to choose what they think is best for themselves.

Once people got used to this tiered loot system (and it did take some time), everything was going great - in Naxx, anyway. But now we're in Ulduar, and we are trying to seriously gear up our folks. This is proving to be incredibly tricky.

It's not about individual players being greedy about loot. For many, it's a problem of not having one set role for our raiding team, because it keeps changing. On any given raid week one of our druids may go feral or may go resto, depending on what we need that night. Sometimes it even varies by fight. So essentially, instead of gearing up one character, that druid is trying to gear up two simultaneously. So when an item drops for a feral druid, why shouldn't he or she roll on it?

This hasn't been a problem for all of our dual speccers. Raiding wise, a lot of my holy gear can be used for both my disc and my shadow spec (I switch my off spec around as needed). For Boomkin druids, much of their gear can also be used for resto. But feral/resto, prot/holy/ret pallies, enhancement/elemental shammies, and various other class combinations really feel the gear-up burn.

Unfortunately, the way our raid makeups are created means that we are heavily dependent on that dual-speccing flexibility. Our alliance is founded on the idea of flexibility, of individual freedom amongst a group of raiders. We do everything we can to avoid telling someone "sorry, you can't come, we have no need for your class."

Basically, what it is going to come down to, is that each individual raider is going to have to make a decision for themselves - what do YOU want your main spec to be? During progression, this is a very important decision to make. When we get to the point where we have it on farm, such as we did with Naxx, it won't be nearly as big of a problem - we can clear the instance regardless, so just pick up pieces as you need to fill out either gear spec.

Sure, I could roll on hit gear. It would be awesome to have that for my shadow spec, but at this point in time, it is more important that our dps casters get their gear up than it is for me to get my off-spec up. Granted, I do not run shadow very often, and never in Ulduar so far. But this is why, when we asked some of our holy pallies if they would mind speccing ret for the night, they told us plain and simple - "No, sorry, I can't. My ret spec is not geared." You know what? That is completely fair - and thank you for telling us that. We use wow-heroes to evaluate people's gear, but we can only see one set of gear at a time. I appreciate the honesty given when people politely refuse to respec for a raid night. They know that they have a primary spec they are gearing - and this is a benefit for our raid as a whole.

As raid leaders/organizers, we are not omnipotent, and nobody knows your own limitations, gear, and capabilities better than you as the player do. So if you are asked to respec for a night, but you know that you are primarily working to gear one spec over another, be honest about it. Sure, it might cause some organization difficulties in the short run, but in the long term we will progress much faster, and with much less frustration on the whole. For our part, we raid organizers need to get out of the habit at looking at the sign ups and saying "oh well so and so can come, we'll just ask Treebeard the druid to respec to feral for the night".

Everyone needs to decide once you start attempting progression in a new raid what spec you will prioritize. When we have the raid on farm, that is when you can try gearing up another spec. And then, if you decide you want to play the other spec more, once you have it geared up, feel free to start using that spec instead when we start progressing in a new instance. We will adjust and start making the needed changes. Variety may be the spice of life, and I know people can get easily bored playing one type of role over and over, but as much as I would love very much to tell each raider they can play and do whatever they want, it will lead to frustration on the part of all our other raiders. This also applies to trying to bring multiple toons to raids. Pick one toon, one spec, and focus on that when we begin progression. Once we dig our feet in and have more confidence, that is when we can start trying to gear alts and off-specs.
TRINKETSSSSSS
So if you were to mosey on over to the ElitistJerks.com fora, you would find plenty of discussions regarding trinkets. Trinkets really are a pain in the ass to theory-crafters, because they have so many unique qualities with subjective values - they can be nearly impossible to quanitfy. My friend Finwe has been working on the awesomest spreadsheet in the world to place item value weights on Druid trinkets - and it is a tough job. He told me his spreadsheet would put even me to shame. I stand here, duly shamed.

I have long been wanting to put together a solid, inclusive trinket list for healers. Wowhead is an awesome site that I use constantly, but there are so many trinkets in game, and so many with unique characteristics, that it is very difficult and time consuming to create a raiding healer specific list - the filters just won't do what I want - hard to quantify, remember?

Until the infamous (to priests and druids anyway) mana regen nerf of 3.1 (weep), I was stubbornly using the Blue Dragon Darkmoon card, regardless of the fact that is was from vanilla WoW, long before even BC was released. Trinkets are what, until last night, was keeping me from getting my Epic achievement. The item level and value often does not have a direct bearing on the functionality of the trinket in question. This is changing more and more, but you can still be using an interesting green trinket that is more useful to you than something that drops from Yogg-Saron.

Trinkets are also very flexible depending on personal playstyle. This is one of those things that I find especially fascinating about trinkets, and why it's very hard to tell someone what the BiS trinket is. It kinda depends on you.

There are a couple of ways we can categorize trinkets however.

The first thing to consider is item level. Item level determines budget value, and therefore a higher budget value will allow a higher stat number. What makes trinkets so difficult for even the developers, however, is how to budget unique procs. For instance, look at the following trinkets:
C'mon. These are some pretty cool trinkets. Granted they are not necessarily the best for raiding (although the first one has some awesome crit rating), but the procs are fun-tastic. The problem I have when looking at something like Vanquished Clutches of Yogg-Saron is this: If the proc were not there, how much more stat value for crit, or intellect, or whatever, would the budget value have allowed? Compare it to something like Wrathstone - same item level, different stat distribution. They are supposedly equal. I'm not going to try and do the math here, because zomg math is hard, but you get my drift.

You can also break most trinkets down into two categories: Those that proc at different intervals that you cannot necessarily predict, and those you manually pop when you want to use them. Proc vs Pop is one of the most important things to consider when picking a trinket.

I always forget to use my healthstones. I didn't spec into Inner Focus for a very good reason - it is wasted on me. I never remember to push the damn button. Therefore, for me, trinkets that I have to pop aren't very useful, since I never remember to pop them. ElitistJerks will tell you the mp5 granted for a trinket with the assumption that you pop it every cooldown, and while I could let myself be bedazzled by the amazing amount of regen for the item, the truth is that it is another example of an ideal situation informed by theory-crafting. It doesn't matter how great the item can be. What matters is that, since I never remember to pop those trinkets, the item will be of little added benefit to me in practice.

For healers, and maybe even for other casters, there is an added dichotomy between throughput trinkets and regen trinkets. It stands to reason that regen trinkets function best as a proc trinket, whereas throughput trinkets are best as popped trinkets. This is partially a reference to my previous post regarding crit: the reliability factor. You cannot rely on a proc, but you can rely on a pop - as long as you remember to use it.

Proc trinkets - regen trinkets. Why? Throughout a fight you will generally continually use mana. You should avoid waiting until you are completely OOM before using any tricks up your sleeve to get some more mana. Therefore, regen trinkets work best when they proc because you don't have to think about it. During a fight they will proc at various intervals, and maintain your mana regen and mana pool.

Pop trinkets - throughput. Why? In the same way that fundamentally crit is unreliable for a healer, procced throughput is the same argument. If you cannot rely on that added spellpower for the extra heals you need when you need them, then it's not very useful. However, if you are at a stage in a fight where the tank is suddenly taking a lot more damage, that is a good time to use a pop trinket for throughput. The added boost to your heals is very useful, as long as you can determine when it happens.

Unfortunately, you cannot switch trinkets during a fight. Even so, it is still a good idea to have a nice selection of trinkets, so I do not advise selling or DEing any of your old trinkets, unless you get one that is of the same style and a notable upgrade, bearing in mind the versatility of trinkets. You should keep a couple of regen trinkets, and a couple of throughput trinkets on you. Depending on the fight, you can choose what trinkets to equip. Is it an endurance battle like Patchy? Equip both of your regen. Is it a burst damage fight? Equip both of your throughput trinkets. If it's somewhere in the middle, equip one of each.

One other component of trinkets is that some are great for leveling, and not particularly useful for raids. Even though I focus more on raiding, I am not ignoring the leveling component entirely. If you find a trinket that says "restores such and such when you kill a target that gives experience or honor", these are generally pretty great leveling trinkets (not to mention pvp). However, they are relatively useless compared to other trinkets for raiding, because they will give you no added benefit on a boss fight, and you should not have to worry too much about health and/or mana during trash (although this theory is sorely tested during some of the Ulduar trash, yikes!). Similar arguments apply for pvp trinkets - resilience ain't gonna do much for you in a raiding environment.

I've done a lot of internet research regarding healing trinkets, and it's not difficult to find lists of the so-called BiS trinkets. But really, what does that mean? If it really comes down to playstyle, you cannot depend on someone else telling you which trinket you should use. Thus this long rambling post regarding trinket philosophy. I am currently compiling a list and working on an OMG SPREADSHEET LOL to compare various viable trinkets for healers. Once that is complete, I will find a good way to post it properly, but I wanted to make sure I talked a bit about my reasons behind trinket preference before I posted a trinket list.

Also, spreadsheets make me happy. Mmmmm.
Overpallyfication
When your raids are populated via sign-ups as opposed to being hand selected by officers, you start to notice some pretty interesting trends. A few months ago, we had more druids than we could handle. Then all of a sudden they all disappeared, and we had no druid healers.

We haven't had a shortage of healers in general as of late, but our mix of healers has been less than ideal. One week, of our 6 healers, 4 were paladins. This has repeatedly been a source of some strain for me.

I like to come up with new words, so therefore I have now coined the term "Overpallyfication" - the overabundance of single target healers within your raid makeup, with Pallies being the best example.

It's not exactly new information that "all healers are not created equal". And perhaps I am a little OCD about healer makeup. But, 7 healers (4 of which are pallies) is better than 5 healers at this stage of the raiding game for us. I have actually had to turn healers down because of overpallyfication, but I don't want to continue to do this. At least with the 3.2 pally changes, it will be a lot easier to justify extra pallies, due to the changes in Beacon of Light.

Too Many -insert healer type here-

So what do you do when you have an overabundance of a single type of healer? Interestingly enough, there are some healer types that don't really present too many problems if you have too many. Holy priests are the perfect example of this - because they are the jack of all trades amongst healers, they can handle single target or raid healing without any trouble. If you had 7 holy priests, while it wouldn't be ideal, it would probably not be too much of a problem either.

This is not the case with Discipline priests. Bring 7 Discipline priests, and there is going to be a lot of frustration amongst them. Disc priests are all about teh bubblez, and you can only have one bubble on you at a time. Whereas with other healers, you can get two heals from two different healers at the same time without a problem, you can't have two bubbles from two different disc priests. In addition, disc priests' strength is in the special bonuses they get from healing someone who has a bubble on them. Matticus actually wrote a somewhat interesting article about multiple disc priests on wow.com the other day, but he focused more on whining priests than the actual potential problems of multiple disc priests. I don't think there's a problem with having two disc priests, but once you get more than that, it's going to be a struggle. If you do have multiple disc priests, you need to be very careful to give each priest their "territory" per se. If they don't have healing assignments, they are going to overlap - and bubbles do NOT overlap, so there is going to be a lot of time wasted between the two of them.

With Druids, you can handle a lot more healing druids in a raid than say, Discipline priests. However, like disc priests, Druids have a very interesting healing mechanic - the HoT. The thing about interesting healing mechanics is that they are a really great addition, though in a tight spot you can do without them, and an entire raid based on those "interesting mechanics" will likely not go well. I have no problem with having 2, 3, maybe even 4 druids. If half of my healing team is druids, I don't find that to be a problem - however, more than that and it will be difficult to deal with burst damage.

Of all the healing classes, I will be the first to admit that the one I understand least is the Shaman. This lack of knowledge on my part means that I tend to underestimate the shammy healer. This is partly because we only have one regular shammy healer in our alliance. There's no question that he is a fantastic healer, but I really don't have as much experience with shammies, though I'm working on that. That having been said, like priests, Shammies are good overall healers. They can handle the raid and they can take on single targets. The biggest problem I actually see with too many healing shammies is that the awesomeness of their totems can quickly go to waste due to lack of stacking. This is the only reason why, even if given the opportunity, I would shy away from having more than a handful of Shammies in my healing makeup.

And now we come down to the Pally. A really strong pally can seemingly heal forever, drop spam bombs like nobody's business, and overheal without too much concern anyway. However, with all the raid damage going over in Ulduar, it is tough to have too many pallies, because let's face it - they aren't strong raid healers. Even with Beacon of Light, and even with the incoming buffs to Beacon of Light, it will still be difficult to justify more than 2 or 3 pally healers in a 25 man raid. The good thing is that the various fights in Ulduar seem to require multiple tanking roles, unlike what we saw in Naxx. In Naxx, two tanks and you were pretty much set. In Ulduar, three tanks is cutting it close, in case one dies. Therefore, I give each of my pally healers one single healing target - one of our tanks. In the past I've left their BoL target up to them - with all the raid damage, it's not a bad idea to have themselves set as BoL - and this also helps if you have a shortage of raid healers. However, if you're going to have a handful of Pally healers, they need to be on the ball. They need to be literally spamming their heals, because a tank going 6 seconds without a heal very quickly becomes a dead tank. In addition, if you're going to give each of the tanks only one dedicated healer, those healers should be similarly capable of handling the incoming damage.

Focus on the strengths! /flex

So, in summary, what do you do when you have an overpallyfication problem, with too many single target healers? With pallies, I give each tank a dedicated pally healer, and it's really important to get across to these healers that they need to be only healing their target - don't try to raid heal, or the tanks will die. If I had fewer single target healers, I would double up the dedicated tank healing assignments. Even with dedicated heals, we still need druids and priests to HoT and bubble the tanks regularly. With too many disc priests, you again need to emphasize specific healing assignments. Give each tank a dedicated healer, and if you still have extra single target healers after that, with priests you can let them focus on bubbling specific raid groups, and using Prayer of Healing during phases that include XT's tantrum, or Ignis' flame jets. Disc priests and holy pallies can also handle certain "bomb emergency" aspects as well, such as Slag Pot, Searing Light, and Gravity Bomb. Between Holy Shock for pallies, and BubblyBubble for Disc Priests, even these single target healers have strong mechanics for healing "bomb emergency" mechanincs - as long as their reflexes are strong, and they are paying attention.
Progression, or lack thereof
We've been having a rough time in Ulduar 25.

There are several contributing factors that play small parts in our troubles, but the real issue is that we are not hardcore, and Ulduar is... well, freaking hard.

Due to the nature of our alliance, it can be really difficult to assemble a consistent group that will raid regularly every week. However, for the first time ever, this isn't really a problem for us. We aren't having a problem with not enough people signing up - we have just the right amount. Ocasionally we have to pull 3 or 4 people from friends, but we always check their gear, and so far they haven't been healers or tanks. We've added quite a few new alliance members this way actually, and so far it's worked pretty great.

There are a handful of people, if that, that are not geared for starter Ulduar. However, the few who are in this category are very solid players that are capable of making up for lower gear based on superior skill. In addition, we've been running heavy on the healing side to facilitate learning the fights better.

All in all, the problem is that there isn't really an identifiable problem from what I can see. In fact, I'm starting to think that we're just expecting a bit too much from ourselves for a group that is only a couple of weeks into Ulduar. We've only been able to take down three bosses, and we still struggle with that third one.

I'm thinking that we need a philosophy change. Instead of banging our heads against the wall on a second night, downing nothing new and just getting frustrated and disappointed, we may just need to back off a bit. Have one night for Ulduar 25, and another night for something else - perhaps 2 teams of Ulduar 10, or Sarth 1d/2d, and the occasional Vault run when available.

I say this because we are not over geared - we are in starter Ulduar gear, and we may just not be ready to progress until everyone has used those first three bosses to get a little better gear wise. We are not familiar with all the details of these fights, and so maybe running Ulduar 10 one night a week will help. Ulduar 10 is ridiculously easy compared to 25 in our experience. Knowing the fights in 10 will not make 25 cake, but it will give us some better experience.
Come hoooome!
Dear Ful&Fuu...

While I'm super happy for ya'll and all that crap, and grats on your nuptials and blah blah blah for the love of the light come home. Raiding without you is no fun. I can't write in my blog without Ful to tease me incessantly. Fuu isn't here to help me drink off the raid stress and vent via whisper. I reeeeally dont want to admit to that silly warlock that I miss him leading the raid, so that I can just stick to my quiet background tasks of assigning heals. Get your butts off of the beach and back into Azeroth, you two lovebirds. Srsly.

Love,
Jbelle.
zomg half blood prince drool
What? You want real content?

...

Do you have ANY IDEA WHAT DAY IT IS?


Snape Commission by *makani on deviantART

In honor of my favorite Harry Potter book being released as a movie today (oh yes, my geekiness extends to multiple factions, dear friends – there is no end to my fangirl idiocy), I wanted to go completely and unapologetically off topic and share my love for Severus Snape. However, I can’t even express my ardor in words… so pictures will have to suffice.

...Can you tell I'm a fan of Makani?


hermione has issues by *makani on deviantART

If you are trying to find ways to keep yourself entertained with HBP content while you eagerly wait your chance to sit in a movie theatre... HERE YOU ARE

Tomorrow... back to the WoWniverse... but seriously, what did you expect for today?
Class Q&A: Paladin
I've returned from that far off Texan-land, and it's time to get myself back into the swing of things. Hopefully I'll start picking up where I left off, and what better time to start than during Tuesday morning maintenance, eh?

First thing up: Pally Q&A!

Juicy Healer focused tidbits:
In Lich King up until now, MP5 has not been as valuable to most paladins as say Int, Crit, or Spell Power, and really it wasn’t intended to be. It is particularly relevant that you are hardly ever choosing between Int and MP5. However, we also think that MP5 became undervalued as a stat and as most of you know, we are buffing it for 3.2. Furthermore, we think we have allowed paladin mana regen through Int and Crit to get a little out of control. We don’t want to force paladins to care only about MP5, but we also don’t want them viewing it as a total junk stat, like say Agility, either. Crit is just too beneficial to be strictly a regen stat.

[...]

Q.
Do we feel Flash of Light and the changes in store for it will allow for additional diversification for the existing healing spells available? Aside from Holy Light, Flash of Light, and Holy Shock, are there any plans to provide paladins with other interesting healing spells later down the road?

A.
Later down the road most likely, but it won’t be for 3.2 and it won’t be with something that looks like Prayer of Healing or Wild Growth. We do think paladins will have more of a use for Flash of Light now with the extra benefit to Sacred Shield. The changes to Beacon of Light in 3.2 should make paladins an exceptional dual target healer.
Mmmm... Bornakkdrool... ahem. anyway.

Nothing really too new from this Q&A. My opinion on these Q&As is that it is Blizzard's attempt to look like they are providing more feedback to players about their classes, letting them in on the development mentalities... but really it's not that informative. The questions are not all that challenging - just one place for them to regurgitate everything GC says, IMO. Love him or hate him, at least GC reaches out and talks to the player base about what the hell is going on behind Blizz doors regarding classes. He's the best thing to happen to WoW since... well, priests. :P

Valany'r changes

From the newest patch notes:
Val'anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings: This item's stats and level have been increased to match the power level of healer weapons coming from the Coliseum 25-person normal difficulty instance. In addition, each time Val'anyr is equipped, Blessing of Ancient Kings will be placed on a 45-second cooldown before it can occur.
According to WoWInsider, the stat changes so far are as follows:
  • 3 more Stamina
  • 3 more Intellect
  • 34 more Spell Power
  • 3 more Critical Strike Rating
  • 3 more Haste Rating
I actually like this change, though one of the commenters (TrueHeart) over at wow.com made a very good point when he said "Blizzard, early on, stated that the proc was what made the item legendary, not the stats. " Apparently there have been a lot of bugs in the proc, and instead of fixing the bugs, it looks as though Blizz may have simply decided to change their philosophy on how the the legendary mace should work. I cannot confirm myself whether or not the proc is buggy, but I'm currently looking through forum posts to see if there has been any discussion about it.

And lastly...

Healers all over the world rejoice (and a few aware tanks as well!):

"Mirror Image: Images will no longer trigger the death sound when their time expires."

Halle-freaking-lujah. Gah, mages. Can't live with them, can't have strudel without them.
Home again, Home again
What a strange sensation it is to walk away from something for only a week and a half, and feel completely out of the loop!

I finally leave Texas today and head back home, and I can't even tell you how happy I am that my "vacation" is ending. It's not that I haven't been playing WoW, but I've only been logging in during the wee hours of the morning to run my AT dailies, and working on some of my alts while watching movies with my cousins.

Most of my immediate and extended family don't really "get" WoW. They see it as me being anti-social more than anything. I suppose it seems that way, because they have no idea how very social WoW is. My mom will sit at her computer and play solitaire for hours, and unfortunately, I think too many people think that's what WoW is like.

Why do I prefer social interaction via internet or computer? I hear all the time from people who insist it is difficult to read people over the internet, via what they are typing, etc. I actually don't feel that way at all. Maybe it's because I've been using the internet for communication purposes since I was about 9 years old (you know, back when Al Gore invented it!), maybe it's because, let's face it, I have a talent for expressing myself via words. I'm not sure, but I am the type of person who gets sick of other people and annoyed with them very very easily - yet somehow I don't have that problem when I'm communicating via something like WoW.

I think it might also come down to the fact that I'm a multi-tasker. I can't just sit at a table and chat with people for hours on end. I get restless. I need to be doing something else. What's nice about WoW is that I can communicate and socialize while entertaining myself doing something else. I don't get restless.

All that having been said, I basically checked out of the WoW social atmosphere for a week, and I miss all my wow friends like crazy. I haven't even been checking our website much, whereas before I left I was obsessively checking it every few minutes (shh, I'm a tiny bit OCD). I log on now and we have so many new people, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I don't have the patience to deal with people who can't respect the fact that my WoW friends ARE real friends. That if I "make plans" with them, such as for a raid, it is just as valid as me making plans to go to dinner with girl friends, so no, I will not cancel my raiding plans to go out with other friends. My mother has asked me why I don't spend as much time with some of my older friends as I used to - I don't spend time with people who cannot respect and appreciate my time commitments to other people. Unfortunately, I find that many non-gamers just don't "get" it. They don't consider those other people real people.

The World of Warcraft may not be real, but the people who gather, play, and involve themselves in it ARE. Most of the people I know who play WoW play because of the people and the community - not because of the gameplay mechanics.
Hey folks! If you hadn't noticed, I've not been posting for a few days!

For various reasons, it is unlikely I will be able to post regularly for the next week or two. I am away from the WoW universe, and trekking along the gulf coast with my family. The gods of beach wireless internet apparently have forbidden me from logging in to any character that is parked in Dalaran, so my Shammy and Druid alts are enjoying the attention they are getting for once.

If you want to keep up with what I'm doing IRL, you can try to follow me on Twitter (if you aren't creepy). If I recognize you from comments, I'll add you back.
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