First 5.0.4 Raid as a Holy Paladin

All right, I’ve had a night in Heroic 25-man Dragon Soul. I’ve also redone some of my testing and updated some numbers and such in my 5.0.4 guide.

The first thing I did after I recovered from the addon explosion in my UI was try to do an LFR. I zoned in and died on Ultraxion trash because, oh look, my addons were still exploding. (TipTac seems to have been my primary culprit, your mileage may vary.)

Once I got that sorted, I went back into LFR and zoned in for Spine and Madness. Apart from a wee bit of lag whenever the Burning Tendons popped up, things went fairly well. However, I realized two things:

1) Holy crap, I was burning mana FAST.

2) My UI was still insanely unhelpful.

So I did the following before my real raid:

- swapped to Heartsong on my Heroic Maw
- took out my 3x 67 intellect JC-only gems, replaced them with epic reds
- since I wasn’t getting the socket bonus on my pants anyhow, I gemmed all three sockets in my pants with the 67 spirit gems

Without Heartsong active and without any external buffs, that’s 4006 mp5 in combat, according to my character sheet.

With 10 stacks of Heart of Unliving and Heartsong active, that goes up to 4698 mp5 in combat.

I figured I was good to go.

Wrong. I still felt the pinch when I healed a bit too aggressively on Heroic Hagara (frost phase) and Heroic Blackhorn, not to mention Heroic Spine. We didn’t actually kill Heroic Madness last night, although we’ll be finishing that up tomorrow, but on our longest attempt, I felt the pinch on the fourth platform and into P2.

Part of it, at least on Madness, may have been our comp. We didn’t have a disc priest in the raid, so no barrier means more overall damage done since we had fewer people with damage-reduction CDs. (We could have bothered our rets or our prot to use more Aura Mastery Devotion Aura, but I know I didn’t think of it.)

Speaking of Devotion Aura, it’s better than Aura Mastery was, although we pay for that with an extra minute on the cooldown (DA is 3m vs. AM’s 2m). Why is it better? It works on Watery Entrenchment on Hagara. It works on Hour of Twilight on Ultraxion. These are two areas where Aura Mastery did zip.

Back to the instance… I think that it was more challenging than I suspected it would be, to be constrained to 100k mana (102k with the meta gem that grants you 2% extra mana) and to be careful not to overextend myself. I found myself in trouble a number of times. Thank goodness for Hymn of Hope sticking around as well as Mana Tide Totem!

Of note, with the redesign to Blessing of Might, I think all pallies need to bear in mind that we have a crazy amount of mastery just by virtue of being fully raid-buffed now. Illuminated Healing did a LOT of healing/absorption. Part of that might also be because I was making great use of Eternal Flame, which contributes to Illuminated Healing on each tick. (Remember not to overwrite a stronger Eternal Flame with a weaker one!)

I forgot, several times, that Light of Dawn is now a circle around you, not a cone, and I still have Judgment (new spelling) on my bars, although I should throw it away at some point. I’m not sure what I’d put in its spot, though!

So those were my experiences — I loaded up on more Spirit (but maintained an intellect flask with intellect food) and had a couple of sticky situations. I would recommend people be conservative to start their regularly scheduled content until they get the “feel” of the new size of their mana pools, too.

How was your first experience raiding in 5.0.4?

Raiding in 5.0.4

Apotheosis raids on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Lately, we’ve been clearing in about 2.5 hours, at most, on Tuesday nights. I stopped putting signups up for Sunday AGES ago and stopped putting up signups for Thursdays weeks ago.

This week, I knew there would be issues, so I put up signups for both Tuesday AND Thursday.

As such, Tuesday’s raid, post-5.0.4, was probably one of the longest three hours of the entire expansion, to be honest.

- UI issues
- Addon problems
- Connection issues
- Latency/frame rate issues
- Mechanic issues

All of these plagued us in one form or another.

Yet, we actually got through Spine. YAY!

Morchok was okay.

Yor’sahj was okay.

Zon’ozz was craptastic, issues with soaking.

Hagara was fine.

Ultraxion was craptastic, until everyone made sure their DBM was working so that they could appropriately hit Heroic Will when they had Fading Light.

Blackhorn was okay.

Spine was okay, even though someone fat-fingered Heroism randomly early on and even though we had a different tank configuration.

Madness was rough — issues with impales and then P2 bloods.

But I feel good about walking in there, pwning 7 bosses and leaving just one left with another 3 hours scheduled this week.

The most hilarious thing of the night quickly turned sour when we wiped on Madness and were ported to the top of Wyrmrest, then had to take the portal back DOWN to the bottom of Wyrmrest, then had to take a portal to the Skyfire, then a portal to the Maelstrom. I mean, really? Portal boss, hello! We got REAL tired of that.

I don’t have a lot to say about being a holy paladin during 5.0.4 yet, but I’m sure I’ll post soon. I really am loving Clemency and Eternal Flame, though. After running a couple of fights in the back half of LFR, I also removed my 3×67 int gems and put in 3×67 spirit gems and switched to Heartsong. I still felt the crunch here and there, particularly on H Spine and H Madness.

I expect a lot of things to fix themselves in the next couple of days, though, so I’ll post more comprehensively later on.

Overall, a long, but successful raid night for Apotheosis. Still seeking various classes for Mists of Pandaria, so check us out!

Bugs in Dragon Soul

Something that has contributed in my decision to stop playing World of Warcraft after Mists of Pandaria comes out is the buggy nature of the fights in current content. It seems to me (and I could be wrong) that Dragon Soul was released with a ridiculous amount of bugs, many of which mean that if such a bug occurs, it will be nearly impossible for most raid groups to complete the encounter. The bugs do not, of course, have a 100% chance to occur, but if they do…

Warlord Zon’ozz

The Void of the Unmaking’s bouncing mechanic is totally screwy, at least on heroic mode. Ignoring the fact that it often caroms off unpredictably (which, I will grant, may be part of the challenge), sometimes it just never moves at all after a bounce.

Seriously. What is up with that?

Hagara the Stormbinder

Not only is Focused Assault screwy as hell (it will eat a Hand of Sacrifice in the span of 2 seconds if you place it on the tank before Focused Assault starts casting, despite Hand of Sacrifice not absorbing the amount of damage it should) but the lightning mechanic is effed up. Seriously. It chains to pets and totems and is generally spazzy. While you may not notice it normally, that shit is buggy when you try to do the achievement. We tried to do the achievement on 25-man normal (no pets or totems!) and failed something like four or five times. This was the defining reason why: the lightning was selectively jumping to people.

In this clip, you see lightning going through and not going from the bear (Jaymz) to the shadow priest (Srsbusiness). It’s as though the lightning is sentient and is thinking “Pfft, I don’t FEEL like connecting with that individual.” On the PREVIOUS attempt, we’d had them in opposite spots and Jay had to run up to Srs to “pick up” the lightning, but not even that worked here. You also see the lightning stay on a death knight (Division/Chronis) even after he backs out of the 10y range where it was skipping to him directly. We ended up doing the achievement on 10-man, which is ridiculous when you’re a 25-man raiding guild.

Warmaster Blackhorn

On Heroic Warmaster Blackhorn, you have a new mechanic. It’s called Deck Fire. Deck Fire is everywhere. Except, that’s not exactly how the encounter is supposed to go. The fire is not supposed to continue to spawn into Phase 2 and it’s not supposed to cover the entire deck of the ship. While we were learning this fight, we didn’t know that. We thought it was just RNG that determined fire mechanics and crap like that. But no.

If you launch the ship from the top of Wyrmrest, then swap it to normal, then wait five minutes, then swap it back to heroic (there is a 5m timer on difficulty changes), you no longer have insane amounts of fire. Fire acts the way it is supposed to. It despawns when it gets water poured on it. It doesn’t spawn into phase 2. It actually makes the transition to phase 2 really, really easy if you don’t have to deal with crazy fire.

The important part of the “fix” is to make sure you launch the boat FIRST. Do not reset the difficulty before launching the boat. You’ll end up with fire all over the damn deck again. You do only need to do this once per night of attempts (and not before every attempt) at least. And at least there’s a way to fix this fire! But it’s ridiculous that one has to do this “reset” in the first place in order to make sure the encounter goes as it should.

Spine of Deathwing

There are three issues with the Spine encounter that I’ve seen. The first two have to do with the cut scene at the start.

1) Sometimes while the cut scene is loading, people will disconnect. This is similar to the cut scene in Throne of the Tides where people will sometimes randomly disconnect. Usually, the Spine one is limited to the first attempt (so basically, the game will crash while the cut scene is loading). I believe that your toon will parachute down on to Spine as normal and you will be there when you log back in.

2) Also related to the cut scene, if you hit Escape to skip the cut scene too quickly (before it actually has begun to load), guess what? You’re stuck on the boat, unable to move. How do you solve this? You relog. Once you relog, you will land on Spine and will be able to continue the fight as normal.

3) The other major issue I’ve seen on Spine is people not being secured to the spine via Grasping Tendrils and flying off Deathwing’s back. DBM will usually tell you if someone’s missing their Grasping Tendrils buff, but I’ve seen many people get flung off the back while their name is not in that list. This could be a problem with DBM and other mods or it could be a problem with fitting 25 people + various pets in one teeny, tiny spot on Deathwing’s back. I’ve never been unexpectedly thrown off (except that time when we killed a Corruption and a new one popped up in the hole in which we were standing) so I’m unsure, but the number of people I’ve seen thrown off who don’t NORMALLY get thrown off indicates to me that there’s a potential problem with the mechanic.

If you could battle rez people who were thrown off, this wouldn’t be as huge of an issue, but to my knowledge, you can’t.

Madness of Deathwing

Do I even really need to say it?

Thrall, stop dropping people. This has happened to damn near everyone I know, in LFR, on normal and, yes, on heroic. (And no, they can’t get battle-rezzed, either.)

The From Draenor with Love comic kind of says it all: http://fromdraenor.com/?p=233

Surprisingly, I can’t think of any major issues I’ve encountered on Morchok, Yor’sahj or Ultraxion, but five of the eight encounters in Dragon Soul have some awfully buggy mechanics. Lose someone because Thrall dropped them? Yeah, too bad, you’re going to 24-man (or 9-man) Madness. ENJOY! Did the lightning skitter awkwardly through your raid group and kill someone because of an errant pet? There goes a battle rez. Hey, did that Void of the Unmaking carom strangely or, better, not at all? BOOM.

While bugs do happen to even the best coders, the fact that these bugs have not yet been addressed in the seven months since Dragon Soul has been out is, frankly, a shame, and it has absolutely contributed to my fatigue and frustration with the game.

How have these bugs affected you? Have you even seen them? Have you seen any others?

Saviour of Azeroth

(Yes, I spell Saviour with a U. I’m Canadian. Let it be.)

I have been playing World of Warcraft fairly steadily since October of 2005. That is nearly seven years. It is very, very, very rare for me to achieve anything for “the first time”, these days. That’s to say, while I can kill a new boss for a first time, I’ve killed plenty of new bosses for the first time. While I can kill a new heroic boss for the first time, I’ve killed plenty of new heroic bosses for the first time.

This tier has been a challenging one for me, and for my guild. Released just before the holidays, the normal modes of Dragon Soul seemed pretty elementary to those of us in Apotheosis. It took us three weeks to clear all the normal content, and part of that was Spine and Madness each taking a week out of us, plus roster issues due to holidays.

Roster issues. Never in my life have I been happier to have had an overflowing roster going into a tier of content. We have lost: Kamilla, Huntertoga, Hestiah, Mabriam, Tiandrina, Xmolder, Daey, Arolaide, Murran and Dar since the end of Firelands. That is 8 DPS (all three of our warlocks and a legendary mage) and 2 healers. And none of them jumped ship to another guild, those are all people who just decided to stop raiding. I feel most comfortable with 33-34 people on a roster for a 25-man raiding guild. We have been running with around 28-29 people. It’s not always been easy for us over the last few months.

But we kept at it.

Heroic Morchok, Heroic Hagara (server first!), Heroic Yor’sahj, Heroic Zon’ozz, Heroic Ultraxion, Heroic Blackhorn… then Heroic Spine of Deathwing and finally, Sunday night, Heroic Madness of Deathwing.

For the first time in my WoW career, I have cleared all heroic content on the current tier. (4/5 TOGC, 11/12 H ICC, 7/13 H T11, 6/7 H T12 and now 8/8 H T13.)

It’s definitely been an uphill climb. Sometimes, it’s been uphill in the snow (yes, hi, main spec healer doing offspec DPS and main spec DPS warrior tanking bloods for Heroic Spine? A night of work on Heroic Madness with 0 main spec tanks in the raid?). Sometimes, the attendance boss would rear its ugly head. But we usually worked it out and at least got something done, even on those sketchy nights.

This is the reward. Saviour of Azeroth. 8/8 HM. And we did most of our progression at the 0-10% nerf level. While it took us a while to get Spine down (and up to the 20% nerf), we would have had it with another week’s worth, regardless of the increase to 20%. And Madness is just such a joke after toiling forever on Spine.

But it’s such a relief to get it done. We’re not done raiding, but the tough stuff is over. One more heroic clear to ensure everyone gets the title/achievement, then over to “fun” achievements to get the Glory of the Dragon Soul Raider meta achievement and drakes and all that other jazz, before resuming heroic farm.

In the meantime, my “real” life has been competing with WoW stuff during almost the entirety of Dragon Soul. My grandmother broke her hip on December 21st, was hospitalized and only returned home two months later. I started my final semester of university in January. My father was hospitalized in April. I had two killer exams on the same day. I took a couple of raids off with Apotheosis and didn’t raid with Choice on my baby pally for about two weeks in there. The time off did me good and I haven’t spent a ton of time in-game since my exams ended. The time I’ve spent playing WoW has generally been raiding and the rest of my WoW-related time has been spent either podcasting or planning out raid stuff or recruiting. (Apply now!) Obviously, I haven’t been blogging and I’ve barely touched beta (though I really ought to) and I won’t be spending a lot of time playing Diablo III, although I did start a character this morning.

The good news is that my father’s out of the hospital and doing pretty well.

My grandmother’s hip isn’t what it used to be and she’s still struggling at home, but she’s applied to a senior’s residence that is pretty swanky, so we’ll see when they have a spot available. Until then, I’m still playing errand-girl, since I live two floors down from her in the same building.

So real life is settling down a bit. I passed my exams and my classes so I should be graduating on June 18th.

Things are better. I hope to be able to sit down soon and spend more time on this blog with you all than I have over the last month. :)

Heroic Blackhorn

(Before I begin my ranty thoughts on Heroic Warmaster Blackhorn, I’d like to state that my guild has killed him on 25-man and that now that we’ve killed him, we are unlikely to change our basic strategy, so please, no “you should try this” or “no, no, do THIS” comments. Thank you.)

Heroic Warmaster Blackhorn has got to be the worst fight out there for my particular group of raiders.

I know, Heroic Spine awaits. We haven’t had a single pull on that encounter yet. I know it’s boring, monotonous, etc, etc, where nothing you do matters except for like, 18 second burns. However, I believe that’ll be something we’ll be able to accomplish with some time.

Allow me to tell you about some of the uncharitable thoughts I had about my raiders (my officers and myself included) during our 130+ wipes on Heroic Blackhorn.

“How the hell did they fall off the side?”
“… how the hell did they fall off the side AGAIN?”
“Move movemovemovemove goddammit, thanks for not moving and killing me.”
“Oh shit, they’re taking that one?! runrunrun dammit, shit, that’s my bad.”
“How many barrages can you die to in a single night? And whose fault is it if everyone in your group doesn’t go but you do?”
“FIRE IS BAD, JESUS CHRIST.”
“How many times?! HOW MANY TIMES do we have to remind you to MOVE OUT because of Blade Rush!??!”
“A SAPPER got through? SERIOUSLY?!”
“Oh good Christ, no battle rezzes are UP yet?”
“How many times can someone die to Degeneration before I sit them? Oh, wait, I DON’T HAVE A BENCH TONIGHT.”
“Yes, thank you for missing your Onslaught cooldown, now we are all dead.”
“Holy shit, we’re in Phase 2! … crap, that’s a wipe.”
“SHOCKWAVE IS BAD.”
“If you say even one more syllable, I will track you down and eviscerate you and I WILL ENJOY IT.”

This fight took every single weakness we have as a raid team and made it an integral part of the encounter.

1) Positioning. We are bad at positioning, collectively. I basically can’t say “spread out”, I have to draw out maps with specific areas for specific people to go to. That’s okay. I can deal with that. Drawing maps and layouts is part of a raid leader’s job. But we’re bad at it. We don’t clump when we should clump, we clump when we should spread. And, leading in to the next point, we are collectively awful at moving to somewhere we’re not necessarily expecting to be.

2) Dynamic fights. Again, collectively, we are awful at unexpected events, especially when they involve us moving somewhere. Heroic Majordomo Staghelm is a perfect example. I would organize everyone to stand in specific spots, but then fire would invade their spots and people would run around like chickens with their heads cut off. It’s similar on Heroic Blackhorn and Twilight Barrage soaking. I discovered that my entire raid team, myself included, is awful with deciding whether or not to grab a Twilight Barrage and anticipating whether or not someone else will grab it. The sheer number of restrictions as to whether or not someone grabs a Twilight Barrage is absolutely ridiculous. (Is it centered on a beam? Screw it. Is it outside your immediate little box? Screw it. Is a Twilight Onslaught ABOUT to happen? Screw it. Did a Twilight Onslaught JUST FINISH? Screw it. Have we gone through two sets of drakes? Screw it.)

We tried four groups of four, we tried groups of 2 and 3, we tried damn near everything and tried keeping people paired with the same people more often than not so that they could get a feel for whether their partners would grab that one or not. In the end, we had four groups of 3 and two groups of 2 and this seemed a little more workable.

But by and large, people just kept immediately dying to barrages as we learned this fight. Over and over and over again. Generally, all my battle rezzes were used by the 90s mark. Actually, that’s an improvement from the earlier attempts where all three of them were blown by the 50s mark.

3) Decisive action. I am a fairly conservative raid leader. I always have been. I like to weigh my decisions before making them. That includes battle rezzes and calls for wipes. Delaying either on Heroic Blackhorn wastes a ton of time and with only 9 hours of raiding a week, with a total of ~30 minutes of breaks, means we don’t have a lot of time to waste. In the early attempts, I was hemming and hawing a LOT. By the last couple nights of attempts, I was like “fuck it, we are wiping” more often than not. But then, wipes are discouraging things, too. It’s a fine balance and it took a lot of time for me to figure out what was The Best course of action for the raid group.

4) Cooldown rotations. We’re actually not bad at this. We got REALLY good at them during Firelands (you kind of had to!), but incorporating the tank/DPS cooldowns makes things a little more difficult and yes, a little more — you guessed it — dynamic! And the tanks/DPS aren’t altogether used to being called on for CDs so they’ll miss them on occasion. I can’t even blame them — they just don’t always get asked to use those abilities.

5) Target swapping. We have, collectively, never been very good at swapping targets, dating all the way back to Tier 11. There were problems with people switching from Onyxia to Nefarian, for example, or on and off Al’akir’s adds or getting on or pulling off the right tron in the Omnotron encounter… Yet on this one, the ranged go from melee adds to ranged-side drake, to melee-side drake, to melee-adds. And the melee are going from melee add to melee add (not chasing when they Blade Rush), then swapping to the freaking drake, then back to melee adds. Oh! And yes! The Twilight Sappers, too! Not to mention how we don’t even really want to LOOK at Blackhorn funny until Goriona flies off.

It’s as though the deck was stacked against us for this encounter. It has been, by far, the hardest encounter for us to get down this entire expansion. And Spine awaits. Oh, good. ;)

That said, I have to say that the guild did a great job in holding in their frustrations, for the most part. We struggled, we were frustrated, we were angry and yet… we’re still going. We even managed to have some laughs in the face of such adversity.

Behold… the Countdown to Heroism/Wipes? video. It’s comprised of 11 attempts where we called for a wipe just after Heroism was called for.

Thank you to the Apotheosis raiders for making this fight doable with laughter all the way through as we defeated a boss that seemed to be designed to expose our collective flaws!

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