Friday, February 15, 2008

A little... downtime?

Some of you may have noticed a distinct lack of posts recently and thats because of a few reasons:

1: I'm moving over to Wordpress, with my own host and my own domain. You'll be able to find me at in the near future.


2: I say near future because my house just burnt down... seriously, I just lost my home and everything I own in a house fire.

I know I'm not exactly an established blogger with a vast reader base, so some may be skeptical of my longevity, but I hope you can forgive my absence for the above reasons. I should hopefully be back up and running soon and since most of my posts happen from work anyway, it should be sooner rather than later.

So keep visiting, I'll have more as soon as the smoke clears... :(

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Healing as a Shaman – Talents

There are many ways to approach a new build in World of Warcraft, especially if it’s a build that’s new to you. You can look at the spells, since you’ll need to know them well to do your job. You can look at gear, since that’s the primary way to directly improve those spells. Or you can look at talents.

Personally, I like to start from the ground up. In my opinion, talent selection is the foundation of any good character build as it can often dictate not only which spells are preferred, but also which stats you should be gearing for.

In this guide I will present you with my opinions of the Restoration talents available to a Shaman healer. Your opinions may very well differ from mine, but I’ve been rather successful in my assumptions, so take it as you will.

In general the Restoration tree is very strong and is probably the only tree a Shaman has that 99% of Shamans can say doesn’t really need any work, as such, you’ll often see Resto Shamans with 56, if not all 61 point in the tree.

Tier 1

Improved Healing Wave
Reduces the casting time of your Healing Wave spell by .1/.2/.3/.4/.5 sec.

Quite simply, this will speed up your big heal. How often have you felt, or heard someone say “I almost got that heal off.”? This talent will reduce the number of times that happens. Half a second may not seem like much, but not having it is even more painful. Faster heals = more heals = more lives saved, which is your job.

Tidal Focus
Reduces the mana cost of all your healing spells by 1/2/3/4/5%.

Another simple one, mana efficiency. One of the Shamans biggest banes is mana efficiency and you’ll want to take anything that will help that problem. 5% may not seem like a lot, but it affect all of your healing spells and over the course of a lengthy boss fight, that 5% will add up more than you know.

Tier 2

Improved Reincarnation
Shortens the cooldown on your Reincarnation ability by 10/20 minutes and increases the health and mana you reincarnate with by 10/20%.

While not exactly an awful talent, I find the points are better spent elsewhere. Reincarnation can save a wipe, but it’s often better saved for wipe recovery, at which point the additional 10/20% health/mana is going to be pretty menial. The reduction in cooldown may be more attractive, but if you’re wiping that much you may have bigger problems. If you find yourself doing a lot of soloing (and you die a lot), you’re working on progression content, or you have delusions of popping up in the middle of a fray and saving the day… then this talent may be good for you. I’m a little more practical though…

Ancestral Healing
Increases your targets armour value by 8/16/25% for 15 seconds whenever your healing spell crits.

Your tanks will love you for this talent, so will you and so will the other healers. Priests have a version of this talent as well, though the name of it escapes me at the moment. Crit heals are great to begin with, they increase the efficiency of the spell and often times top up the tank. This is icing on the cake, basically you’ll make the target take less physical damage for 15 seconds, by a fair amount as well. With well geared tanks it’s not uncommon to push them to the armour cap with this effect, however if your just topping up some raid damage, it’s next to useless. While this isn’t exactly a “ZOMG I must have this talent!” talent, unless your assigned to strictly raid healing there’s really no reason not to have it… even then, you’ll probably be wise to take it.

Totemic Focus
Reduces the mana cost of your totems by 5/10/15/20/25%.

Another good one for mana efficiency, but not a ‘must have’ talent. While I would recommend it, since a lot of why people want a Shaman is for totems, the mana saved is going to be minimal, but useful. Dropping a typical round of totems for a boss is probably going to cost at least 900 mana (if you drop every element) so this would save you ~225 mana every 2 minutes, or more if you refresh searing totem every minute. It end up being more than 9mp5 if you drop totems regularly and is worth more for more expensive totems, and worth even more if you change them up a lot during a fight. Personally, I take it if I don’t really need the points elsewhere and if I’m going Resto, it’s not likely I do.

Tier 3

Nature’s Guidance
Increases your chance to hit with spells and melee by 1/2/3%.

This is probably the most useless talent in the tree, but only for Restoration Shamans. If you’re doing a lot of soloing this might be marginally useful, otherwise it’s only there for Elemental/Enhancement purposes. There is absolutely no reason to take any ranks in this talent as a Resto Shaman unless you do a lot of solo work and even then… I wouldn’t recommend it.

Healing Focus
Gives you a 14/28/42/56/70% chance to avoid interruption caused by damage when casting any healing spell.

I often debate the usefulness of this talent oddly enough. It may depend a lot on what you do. For PvP it’s a necessity, for PvE it depends on how often you get hit. If the tank(s) are doing their job, theoretically it should be never. But you need to think outside of the box about bosses and mobs that have AoE, or mobs that can’t be controlled easily. Early on, think of Netherspite and his constant shadow damage, Prince Phase 3 with the axes, Akil’zon with the eagles… there may be more than you think. At the end of the day, I always take it. If you’re serious about healing, any push-back can mean the difference between a wipe and a one-shot. Take it.

Totemic Mastery
Increases the range that your totems affect friendly targets to 30 yards.

Totems are part of your job, so get used to it. They’re pretty well our only valuable buffs and are likely the reason people bring you along anyway, so anything that makes them better, makes you better. While this talent more than likely gets unnoticed by your party, it increases the range of your totems by 150%, which means less often you’ll need to re-drop totems due to movement. It takes some of the pain out of totems, and for 1 point… you can’t go wrong.

Healing Grace
Reduces the threat of your healing spells by 5/10/15%.

Again, this is one that I’ll often debate… probably because we’ve got good tanks. If you do a lot of PvP, then obviously this talent is completely useless. For PvE again it’s situational. If your tanks are good with threat, you probably don’t need it, but for those times where there are a lot of mobs kicking around, it’s a life saver. Another thought though is when you’re competing with other healers for healing aggro… it’s better the mobs pound on your face than the more squishy Priests and Druids… yet better they smack the Pallies around (we don’t like them anyway :P). While you may only take one hit more… it still may be useful. So, if you find you have threat problems, take it, if not it may not be necessary. A word of note though, if you’re still doing a lot of PUG’s… take this talent…

Tier 4

Restorative Totems
Increases the effect of your Healing Stream and Mana Spring totems by 5/10/15/20/25%.

You may look at this talent and think it’s pretty useless, only forcing points in there for Mana Tide totem, but on a closer look we find that it’s much better than at first glance. Due to the recent buffs of the healing and mana totems, this talent also became much better. On boss fights you should be dropping Mana Spring for the increase Mp5 (20 mana every 2 seconds = 50/Mp5!). This increase is by 25%, so 25 mana every 2 seconds which equals 62.5/Mp5, that’s a 12.5 Mp5 increase. Additionally, with this talent my Healing Stream ticks at ~130 health every 2 seconds, so that’s 65/HpS x 5 or 325/HpS so long as everyone in my party is close enough to the totem and needs the heals of course. In any case, you’ll be putting points in here to get Mana Tide (At least you should be), so it’s kind of a moot point. Now you just don’t have to feel so bad doing it.

Tidal Mastery
Increases the critical effect chance of your healing and Lightning Spells by 1/2/3/4/5%.

This talent here is the main reason Elemental Shamans want to spend points in Restoration. For Restoration Shamans it’s still a pretty good talent. While crit healing isn’t exactly viable to gear for, more crit never hurts. If you spent the points in Ancestral Healing then you’ll probably want this talent as well, since it’s nice synergy. Additionally it helps for grinding purposes. Because of this talent and the Tier 8 – Nature’s Blessing, you’ll want to grind/farm/quest in Elemental gear where crit is your best friend.

Tier 5

Healing Way
Your Healing Wave spells have a 33/66/100% chance to increase the effect of subsequent Healing Wave spells on that target by 6% for 15 seconds. This effect will stack up to 3 times.

Another debatable talent. This one is great for group settings and to a lesser extent raid healing, but outside of that it’s not terribly useful. It’s rather useless in PvP as well, since you’re really not likely to be chain casting Healing Wave to get the full use. In a group it’s great since you’ll be using it more frequently… in a raid, it will depend entirely on your role. If you’re assigned to raid healing then you’ll most likely be Chain Healing much more often and probably won’t see much benefit from this talent. That being said however, it’s a great talent to squeeze more healing out of Healing Wave and unless you’re strictly a raid healer, it’s not a bad one to have.

Nature’s Swiftness
When activated, your next Nature spell with a casting time less than 10 sec. becomes an instant cast spell.

For clarification, if you don’t already know, our healing spells are considered nature spells, so yes, this works for them. You want this talent, pure and simple. An instant Healing Wave is just a macro away:

[blockquote]#showtooltip Nature’s Swiftness
/cast Nature’s Swiftness
/cast Healing Wave

That’s it. Bam! You just saved their life. For that same reason it’s great in PvP. For one talent point, it’s well worth it.

Focused Mind
Reduces the duration of any Silence or Interrupt effects used against the Shaman by 30%. This effect does not stack with other similar effects.

Being silenced or interrupted stops us from doing our job; this is bad, probably very bad. I can’t be 100% sure, but I think we’re the only healers that have a talent to reduce the length of silence and interrupt effect, giving us a bit of a leg up on fights like Nalorakk where there are silence effects. Also very handy for PvP considering you’re going to be countered at every possible moment. While it can be situational most of the time, this talent saves lives and is a good place to put some points.

Tier 6

Increases the effectiveness of all your healing spells by 2/4/6/8/10%.

If your this deep into the Resto tree and you –don’t- take this talent… I’m not even going to say what you should go do to yourself… at the very least, you shouldn’t be a healer. Obviously this improves all of your healing across the board. Take it; love it, all 5 points.

Tier 7

Mana Tide Totem
Summons a totem that will regen 24% of the party’s mana over 12 seconds.

You should definitely gun for this talent. Think of it as a free Super Mana pot for your entire party every 5 minutes. The key to this talent is using it well. It’s even good for grinding… reduces down time. Just be sure that if you’re in a raid you let your party know before you drop it so everyone with mana can get into range to get the benefit. At 10k mana (which is pretty easy to get near the end of Kara) this puppy is going to return 2.4k mana over 12 seconds and it scales with your mana pool. This talent will save you gold two fold, by saving you pots and by saving you repair bills (your raid will be happy too!).

Nature’s Guardian
Whenever a damaging attack is taken that reduces you below 30% health, you have a 10/20/30/40/50% chance to heal 10% of your total health and reduce your threat level on that target. 5 second cooldown..

This seems pretty bad ass and it seems pretty lack-lustre at the same time. In PvP this is one of the reasons that Restoration Shamans are so hard to take down. In PvE… well… it’s another situational talent. In a regular instance, or heroic where mobs don’t hit too hard, this can help save your life both by giving you some pinch healing and reducing your threat (which is probably why they don’t like you in the first place). However, if something is gnawing on your face that hit’s pretty hard then chances are this effect will be ‘leapfrogged’ meaning they’ll kill you before getting you under 30%... think of being one or two shot. It can be fun in any case and you’re definitely not going to be wrong if you take it.

Tier 8

Nature’s Blessing
Increases your spell damage and healing by an amount equal to 10/20/30% of your Intellect.

This lets you do more healing… nuff said. At a paltry 334 Intellect that’s another 100 bonus healing. As a pleasant bonus you get some more spell damage out of it, which takes some of the pain out of grinding as Resto. It’s also required for getting our all powerful Earth Shield, so if you don’t get it… someone should set your cat on fire.

Chain Heal
Increases the amount healed by Chain Heal by 10/20%.

In a raid, Chain Heal is your bread and butter spell and for very good reason. At around 1500 bonus healing (very easy to get if your in Kara) Chain Heal becomes the most efficient heal in the game… if it hits the full three targets and barring oddities like Circle of Healing and Prayer of Healing. This talent gives you more bang for the buck out of Chain Heal, so take it.

Tier 9

Earth Shield
Protects the target with an earthen shield, giving a 30% chance of ignoring spell interruption when damaged and causing melee attacks to heal the shielded target for 150. This effect can only occur once every few seconds. 10 charges. Lasts 10 minutes. Earth Shield can only be placed on one target at a time and only one Elemental Shield can be active on a target at a time.

This puppy here is our role defining spell. Personally, I think it’s the best healing ‘spell’ in the game, but I’m sure others would argue, whatever, this is my blog and what I say goes! This is the whole reason you want to be Resto, think of it like a HoT that only works when it’s needed. Some additional things to note is that the healing threat from this is added to the person it is on, not to the Shaman that cast it (unless of course, they’re the same person), so tanks love it, which is who this spell should be on anyway. It also has 3 ranks! So if you respect, don’t forget to re-learn all of the ranks, or you’ll kick yourself later. This is also one of the reasons we’re so hard to take down in PvP and is why you should probably keep it to yourself… healers are targets in PvP. Only problem is that at the moment it’s very vulnerable to being dispelled. In 2.4 it’ll get a little help in the way of a 30% to resist it, but well… it’s not much or enough in my opinion.

And there you have it, the talents that make a WoW Restoration Shaman what they are and why you can see so many Resto Shamans a full 61 points in the tree. In fact, that’s my own personal favourite Restoration build, it includes everything except for Improved Reincarnation and Nature’s Guidance. Another common build is 0/5/56 for 5 points in Ancestral Knowlede (+5% Mana), but most regard it as a waste as it only yields 500 mana at 10k base.

Armed with this information, you can make some good decisions picking the talents that are right for you, of course these are only my opinions of the talents… so you can do with it as you wish.

Good luck, young Padawan.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Improving performance with Macro’s pt.1

An often over-looked aspect of the game is macros. Either you may think that you have to be a programmer or someone with a working knowledge of computer programming, or you may just think that it’s really not worth the effort, that it really can’t make that much of a difference.

It does… Now to what extent can rely entirely on you, your creativity and perhaps your gear.

The quickest and easiest way involves trinkets. You know, all those ‘on use’ effects that you never remember to click, let alone every time their up on every fight? Tying in their use into a macro and combining it with spells you regularly use will take 99% of the pain out of remembering to use them and will help to squeeze out a surprising amount more healing or DPS.

If you aren’t doing this, your not only wasting the full effect of an item with an on use, you also may not be using some talented abilities to their fullest as well, cutting down on your overall performance.

I’ll assume you know the basics of creating a macro, if not; you’ll want to go to the Blizz homepage and dig around for a tutorial. Or check out Priestly Endeavours’ Writing a Macro Series for some great details.

Now for this to work well, you’re going to want to tie it in with a spell or ability that you use rather regularly, or if you’re feeling motivated make a macro for every spell and ability you use. Following the other guides and tutorials (or if you already know what you’re doing) make a new macro, give it a short meaningful name and pick an icon.

I’ll give you an example, here’s how mine looks for my Enhancement Shaman.

#showtooltip Stormstrike
/use 13
/use 14
/cast Stormstrike

Pretty simple, right? All this does is use both of my trinkets and cast Stormstrike every time I hit the button. I simply replace my Stormstrike button on my bar and use it as I normally would otherwise. Now, the only annoying thing is that you’ll get those irritating ‘Item is not ready’ messages, but we can solve that by adding in:

/script UIErrorsFrame:Hide()
at the beginning of the macro


/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear(); UIErrorsFrame:Show()
at the end of it.

So the end result would look like:

#showtooltip Stormstrike
/script UIErrorsFrame:Hide()
/use 13
/use 14
/cast Stormstrike
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear(); UIErrorsFrame:Show()

To personalize this for your own use, simply replace every instance of the word “Stormstrike” with whatever spell you want it to cast. Additionally, if you chose a specific icon for the macro that is not the same as the spell icon, leave out the #showtooltip line, or it’ll use the icon of the spell instead (unless that’s what you wanted). Something to note as well is that the numbers ‘13’ and ‘14’ correspond to the trinket slots on your character inventory screen, 13 being the top and 14 being the bottom trinket. You can also use specific names for your trinkets, but the 13/14 method is an easier catch-all solution and it uses less characters.

Now, this is great for using trinkets, but what about other items you say? It’s just as easy. I personally have The Decapitator that I use for my main hand weapon which has an on use effect that pretty well gives me 540 damage every 3 minutes for free. Is it much, no, but it saves me having to remember to use it. Adding it into my macro is simply adding 1 line:

/use The Decapitator

So my macro now looks like:

#showtooltip Stormstrike
/script UIErrorsFrame:Hide()
/use 13
/use 14
/use The Decapitator
/cast Stormstrike
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear(); UIErrorsFrame:Show()

Now, with the touch of a button I can ensure all of my ‘on use’ items are being used on a regular basis. The problem here may lie in those people that like to micro-manage certain on use items and in fact there may be some items that shouldn’t be used every time their available, but they tend to be few and far between. This is a simple and effective way to squeeze a little more out of your toon, with very minimal effort.

Working in the same way, you can ensure that your other cool downs are being used regularly as well. Talents such as Elemental Mastery, Inner Focus and Icy Veins may suffer the same under-usage as trinkets for those that aren’t as dedicated to micro-managing all of their spells and abilities and your performance can easily be boosted by creating the same simple macros for them as well.

For example, when the whim strikes me to spec Elemental I have this handy macro make sure I’m getting the most out of my Elemental Mastery (free crit damage spell every 3 mins). By using almost the same macro as above, I get:

#showtooltip Lightning Bolt
/script UIErrorsFrame:Hide()
/use 13
/use 14
/cast Elemental Mastery
/cast Lightning Bolt
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear(); UIErrorsFrame:Show()

This will ensure that not only am I using both of my trinkets all the time, but also using Elemental Mastery every time it’s up as well. The best part it: I don’t have to think about it!

Another example is my wife, who is currently playing a Shadow Priest, who makes use of the following macro:

#showtooltip Mind Blast
/script UIErrorsFrame:Hide()
/use 13
/use 14
/cast Inner Focus
/cast [nochannelling=Mind Flay]Mind Blast
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear(); UIErrorsFrame:Show()

This does pretty well exactly the same thing that my Lightning Bolt macro does, only it works with her more Priestly versions. It makes sure that her trinkets and Inner Focus are used and also makes sure that Mind Flay isn’t being channelled before casting Mind Blast (I’ll get into that another day)

The short of it is that macro’s like these can go a long way in improving your performance. The only downside is that such ‘automation’ of use may mean that your trinkets and abilities aren’t available if you need them at a specific time (think Prince Phase 2). I personally don’t worry about it too much, though some trinkets and abilities aren’t very suitable for this kind of automation. For instance I don’t have Bloodlust and Shamanistic Rage in macros, nor do I have Shield Wall automatically cast when I use Shield Block on my tank. It may require some thought, but at the end of the day, it’s a quick and easy way to make sure you’re at the top of your game.

Try it; you’ll thank me in the morning.