Piloting, from hercs to mechs.

Piloting, from hercs to mechs.
A running recap of what I'm doing for fun, between active duty flying, technology, gadgets, and some of my favorite games.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Slow connection woes

OK, I don’t know how many people have been deployed or maybe moved to the country and had to contend with dial-up quality (or slower) connections. Here in Iraq we’ve got satellite internet provided by a civilian contractor called “Babtel.”

For a guy who likes to multi-task, research, talk, link, post, and play—all online and generally all at once—this is a bummer of a connection. Our connection runs about 850 to 1500ms latency during the day when it’s playable. During prime hours, from about 7pm to midnight (zulu +3 hours), it’s unplayable. Our bandwidth during the day is about 18 to 38 kilobytes download, and considerably less upload.

For normal internet operations, this means that it takes well over a minute to load a single profile page on armory or arena junkies, and considerably longer for forum posts or blogs that have pictures or screenshots. Watching videos is completely out of the question, regardless of the time of day. Podcasts? Not a chance. Streaming of any sort? Keep dreaming. Torrents? Oh, now you’re just teasing me. (To download a few megs in WoW patches over here takes hours or all day)

And in-game, apply that same connection…healing becomes a guessing game because you have a lot of stuff happening while your computer gets the data from the server and sends your inputs. Disc healing is better than holy, because you can pre-shield and mitigate damage. (This was a HUGE realization for me, and it allowed me to successfully heal decent groups through Halls of Reflection.) The toughest part of playing here is that what you normally experience as a “global cooldown” is extended based

As for PVP, I haven’t even bothered. Never mind the process of accumulating gear…I have most of the pieces now to at least be better than the average bg scrubs that annoy you, and I have the gold to put epic gems and appropriate enchants on each piece. I need about 100k honor or less more to have a complete PVP set. BUT, with my latency I can’t really enjoy PVP…I can sit in BGs (or even arenas) and throw a heal here and there, but I can’t perform at the level that I would have formerly considered “a bad day for Smoogee” because of our aforementioned connectivity.

This entire deployment has been a fantastic lesson in “delayed gratification” for me. Certainly, looking forward to getting married foremost, seeing family, a promotion to captain…those things are real, and important. And one of the small things that people take for granted is that wonderful DSL or cable modem back home. I can’t even call my wonderful fiancĂ© when I want, much less be on skype while running a bg or instance. I found out the hard way that I can not run 25-man ops, because of bandwidth of all things. SO…you know what sounds really good to this pilot? Taking my fiancĂ© out on a date, treating ourselves to a steak dinner, a good night’s sleep in my own room, spending some time with my family, and having everybody on our business team over for a barbecue. And after that, a 25ms connection, skype, multiple monitors, external speakers, and a 4-hour block of time to raid and pvp once or twice a week! I honestly can’t even REMEMBER what it’s like to be able to play WoW in what I call “real-time” or to be able to press a button and have the corresponding action occur in less than a second.

I find the irony in the fact that my primary soapbox while I’m deployed as a military member is the gaming potential of the Iraqi satellite connection. But, I always keep first things first…this blog simply isn’t about those things, it’s about the gaming potential. Ironic or not, I am really, sincerely looking forward to that beautiful “average” unremarkable cable internet that over 25% of households now have in the U.S.! It’s not the first thing I’m looking forward to by any stretch of my vivid imagination, but when I’m able to catch a little time here to play WoW, that memory of a real-time connection with voice-over-IP, and the ability to surf through web pages with almost immediate loading. The computer geek in me is really looking forward to that again!

PVP Priest itemization...which wrathful gladiator pieces do I buy?

Which Wrathful Gladiator's pieces are right for a PVP Disc Priest?
Edit #1: This post should be titled "crit, regen, or haste...which one works best for a PVP Priest?"
I have pulled up the profiles on many of the top arena and BG disc priests. Here is what I've found from a pool of the top players:
Crit ranges from 11 to 19%, the average is about 11 to 13%.
Haste ranges from 150 to over 1000. The majority had well over 300 haste, but did not exceed 650 haste.
Regen ranges from 105 to over 600. (Spirit ranges from 100 to 900.) The average was 580 to 700, but not much lower than that.
The "average priest" leaned towards the items with haste. Every single one chose at least one of the hit items, which I didn't even think to link! I think this is likely for dispels.

OK...I had a couple thousand stone shards that I just converted into honor. It came out to about 130k honor, enough to make a few honor purchases in Orgrimmar.

I had no idea whatsoever which pieces I should be focusing on! I mean, there are at least 3 viable options for each slot, ALL of them are item level 264:

Wrist (ilvl 264, cost 43400 honor)
Wrathful Gladiator's Cuffs of Alacrity has haste
Wrathful Gladiator's Cuffs of Dominance has crit
Wrathful Gladiator's Cuffs of Salvation has spirit

Cloak (ilvl 264, cost 52200 honor)
Wrathful Gladiator's Cloak of Deliverance has spirit
Wrathful Gladiator's Cloak of Dominance has crit
Wrathful Gladiator's Cloak of Subjugation has haste
Wrathful Gladiator's Cloak of Salvation has MP5

Neck (ilvl 264, cost 52200 honor)
Wrathful Gladiator's Pendant of Deliverance has spirit
Wrathful Gladiator's Pendant of Dominance has crit
Wrathful Gladiator's Pendant of Subjugation has haste
Wrathful Gladiator's Pendant of Salvation has mp5

How do I know which Wrathful Gladiator's pieces are best for me as a Disc Priest? I am going to ask priests and read up on it, but I already believe that I am going to accumulate some more haste-centric pieces based on my research. So, today I'll be purchasing the Cuffs of Alacrity and the Cloak of Subjugation. I'll also pick up the ring.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lessons learned: More heroic 5 mans

Well, I'm limited to 5 man instances mostly, here in Iraq. I'm limited by bandwidth and schedules, so I've been healing a TON of 5 man instances. How many? Well, since I've been here, I've purchased the healing Zabra's gear AND Furious PVP gear, as well as trinket, both rings, and wand. And I have about 200 emblems of triumph left over. I have EVERY single piece of cloth healing gear available. The only 2 healing items I don't have from heroics are the trink and OH from Halls of Reflection (don't get me started).

OK, so, how about some lessons learned from 5 man healing thus far:
1. A tank with a gearscore under 3000 on a heroic is a disaster. If your tank opens up with "I just hit 80 today" you are wasting your time, and you will soon find out why.
2. The only 2 instances that will give the average 5 man any trouble whatsoever are Halls of Reflection (HoR) and Pit of Saron (PoS). This doesn't mean they're "hard" but if you have an average group where your 5 players average about 4500 GS (gearscore), those instances are going to be some work for you as a healer.
NOTE: In PoS, Forgemaster Garfrost and Scourgelord Tyrannus will typically have more damage to heal, as well as the 4 pulls leading up to the tunnel. Garfrost has been significantly more difficult as disc than holy, imo. Tyrannus significantly easier as disc.
P.S. If your group in HoR isn't high on dps, that actually will wipe you. It might look like a healing problem, but dps makes a huge difference. Once again, I've found the 10 waves in the beginning to be significantly easier as disc.
3. I love knowing who is getting us killed. If you don't have Recount, I recommend it as a reasonable way to track who might be failing epicly. If all your dps is doing great, it's never a bad idea to look inward! THERE IS NO INSTANCE THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO HEAL ONCE YOU HAVE A 5000 GS. If your average itemlevel is 219-232, you have all the gear you need to successfully farm any heroic 5 man, and you are well-geared enough for normal 10 man instances, without question.
4. You don't have to take crap from a tank who criticizes you. BUT...don't make the same mistake I have made a few times today and criticize people in your party if they make a mistake. About the time I get all high-and-mighty and feel bulletproof is when our Iraqi satellite connection will drop and I'll wipe another group in HoR.
5. USE COOLDOWNS. Specifically, if your tank pulls 3 groups and proceeds to hold aggro on most of them, do everything you can to keep the group alive. After that, call "mana" and make sure to message the tank and let him know that it was too much and to slow down a tad.
NOTE: on this note, it is one of the most common mistakes of new players to rarely use something that has a 2 minute cooldown or more, such as Pain Suppression, Power Infusion, Divine Hymn, Inner Focus, and Shadowfiend. Use these things! Be aware of your healing threshold, have an idea of what qualifies as "oh snap!" and USE THOSE.
6. Keep yourself alive!!! As disc, you have no excuse. Shield, Desperate Prayer, and yes, use POTS if you need them. In a 5 man, I use Pain Suppression on my tank or my self, pretty much exclusively. I have started using Clique to spam bubbles on my party, and I have Grid set up to simply show when someone has weakened soul on them. I almost ALWAYS have a shield up on me, and I never have mana problems in 5-man instances EVER. Keep in mind, ALL of my gear is from 5-man instances/emblems so far!
7. Binding heal makes a lot of sense. I am trying to find a good button for it that is more accessible than "shift-1."
8. As disc, I gain haste from casting a shield...I LOVE shielding and then ripping through a Prayer of Healing at reduced cast time right after that if 4 or 5 people need to be topped off.
9. In 5 man instances, you don't "dedicate" heals to your tank as much as you might in a raid. It's great to tag a flash heal on someone before a penance so that they have the faith proc...BUT, sometimes you need to use that penance on player other than a tank. Maybe nobody else will have this inclination, but I began using penance almost exclusively on the tank, almost saving it. I LOVE this spell and I now use it on just about anybody. I have also been leaning more toward flash heal now too.
10. If you are playing wow with high latency, like I am (I am usually seeing 900ms to 1500ms in 5-man groups), I recommend playing a class or spec that is not reactive. Holy is TOUGH when you are constantly reacting and you're already at a disadvantage. Disc is a fresh breath of air because much of it is pre-casting shields and Prayer of Mending.
11. 5 mans became healable ONLY after I used the Leatrix latency fix OR when I used an http tunnel...I could NOT heal with 2500ms latency, try as I might.
12. If you need a piece of loot, ROLL...you will likely not encounter those players for the rest of the day, and they would roll if they needed it. On this note, if you are a new level 80 and you are pulling some of the weight as a dps player, ROLL...you need the gear!!! This is how I got decent enough gear to be around 5100GS (average item level 238).
13. If you want really rewarding gameplay, dish out complements to players and if you party with someone from your own server via random queue, add them to your friend list if they are decent! I admit I'm currently reading "How to have power and confidence in dealing with people," but I can definitely tell you how good it is for someone to thank you by name in party chat for healing. Pay that forward and you'll get more recognition for doing some of the hardest work in the instance.

OK, this is the beginning of a list of lessons learned from hours of 5 man play every other day. I typically fly every other day, so I love to log into wow and blow off some steam after a long day of flying in a real warzone.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Circle of Healers survey

OK! Miss Medicina's Circle of Healers is where this all started for me in WotLK, so here is her initial healer survey (meme):

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary healer?

Smoogee, UD Disc/Holy Priest!

What is your primary group healing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)

For now, 5 mans. I have been able to accomplish a few 10 man pugs while in Iraq, but I am severely bandwidth limited. I started trying to be a holy reactive healer, but 1200ms latency made that impractical. I LOVE disc prevention-type healing for my current conditions, so that is where I now put myself. Over time, I expect this entire survey to evolve, btw, especially once I return to the States!

What is your favorite healing spell for your class and why?

I absolutely love PW:Shield. As a holy priest, I was given the good advice that I should not use this as much. So, when I specced Disc a few days, imagine my surprise! What a great bubble. If you don't count PW:S as a "heal" per se, then I lean toward flash heal. I keep MANY spells in my arsenal, though, so don't take that out of context.

What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?

Lolwell, of course. But I'm using greater heal less these days too (and not just for latency reasons). I'm favoring flash heal as my staple "baseline."

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why?

I think our greatest strength is raid utility OR healing on the move. But keep in mind that Disc and Holy are almost entirely separate classes once in a raid.

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why?

We're very squishy. And, maybe it's just me, but I sometimes feel as though I lack the "Oh snap!" power some other healers seem to have. That might just be a "grass is greener" mentality though, and I will NOT switch classes.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you?

I had extensive experience in 40 man raids pre-TBC and some heavy raiding during TBC. My best assignment was always raid healing. I was an outstanding positional healer and raid booster. I never like the pressure of main tank spamming, nor do I think my class was designed for that BACK THEN.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why?

Like most healers probably would say, I like any other competent healer. One important disclaimer: too many bubbles is bad, obviously. I love good shammy or paly.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why?

Another same-specced priest. The redundancy, as far as I've seen so far, in small groups...it's not a plus.

What is your worst habit as a healer?

I click a lot of things because I haven't developed new habit patterns for the new spells that my class has in WotLK. Keep in mind that I just returned and have not raided much since my return.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing?

I do not like being criticized unnecessarily, and I HATE being blamed for a wipe if I was honestly doing the best my class could have done. If I'm not standing in a fire or chaining a cleave, committing suicide, or disconnected...well, then I'm healing my butt off and burning every cooldown and consumable I can to succeed. You want to see an angry priest/pilot... just try placing blame when you should be shouldering the responsibility yourself. I will LEAVE and let you find another healer.

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing?

More now than ever before! I love the disc and holy dichotomy, and I have asked many successful guilds and all of them agree that both priests have a place in most 25 man raids, even at the highest levels.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer?

I evaluate my performance in Holy via meters, but I compare myself to people who have a similar role in the raid. In Disc, I don't have a clue. If people aren't dead or someone says "thanks" then I'm performing well. If it's not a wipe, I performed adequately. (I'm always shooting for better than "adequate")

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class?

The generic expectation that a healer should be able to take a 10% health pool and make it 100% full just by looking at that character. It takes TIME to replace 25k or more health that has been lost.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new healers of your class to learn?

So far, I can only speak from my own perspective, as I am not teaching any new healers the ropes yet. For me, it was understanding how to use your spec effectively in certain environments. As 5 man heroics have been my primary stomping ground since I've been here in Iraq, I had to learn how to effectively heal 5 people with holy, especially with a fast-paced tank. I was using PW:S and getting groups wiped because I thought that the shield was more effective than some of my other healing tools. Well, it may have been good when I was 60, but for Holy in a 5 man with AOE dmg or aggro going nuts...that's a GCD lost on something I wasn't specced for. A very wise pally in a 5 man gave me one simple suggestion that increased my healing effectiveness tremendously..."don't use shield as much, keep renews and ProM up." A world of difference. Oh, and for a brand new healer, understand pacing, where to stand, and when to expect heavy damage...knowing when the party simply must be topped off and when it's ok to pace heals a bit slower. There is a "feel" for healing, I believe, and a good healer develops a knack for saving people consistently. (Sometimes that means educating people on what not to do, but I rarely pipe up)

If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a healer via recount, what sort of patterns would they see (i.e. lots of overhealing, low healing output, etc)?

In years past: overhealing and top of the meters. Now: I have no idea. In Disc, significantly less "healing" but a whole ton of bubbles. I'm always good with dispels, even with high latency. In raids, I typically have been falling short of shammies when it comes to raid healing as holy, but recount would show prayer of mending, circle of healing, and renew as commonly used spells.

Haste or Crit and why?

In Holy: a balance, both are great. In Disc: haste, I think. The jury is still out, and this is a question I'd like the answer to.

What healing class do you feel you understand least?

Druids. I have a marginal understanding of the spells available to each class, although the finer elements and assignments of healers in raids is no longer my strong suit.

What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in healing?

I use Grid. (In Holy, ThankGod shows me my Surge of Light procs) I am currently researching new healing and survivability macros, new Unit Frames, and click casting addons. I have to say that in 5 years of playing, I have never once used a click cast addon, and I may start now.

Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?

As a priest, I am learning that spell power, spirit, and intellect all have a primary role. Haste and crit depend on the spec. I reference Miss Medicina for some great insight into which stats are most important. If you drudge through the WoW class forums you will find people often say things like "Spell Power > Spirit > Intellect > Haste and Crit > MP5. I tend to agree, although I am gemming to boost spell power primarily right now because I feel like I need to pack a heavier punch and I don't seem to have mana issues as a Disc priest.

Edit: I stand somewhat corrected! BobTurkey has an outstanding report for 3.3 on priest stats here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When I'm not flying I'm healing.

I proudly play a Holy/Disc Priest on Smolderthorn-US.
I also proudly fly hercs as a pilot for the U.S. Air Force, currently deployed in Iraq.

About 4 months ago I decided to reinstall WoW, bought a copy of WotLK, and leveled a 70 priest up to 80. Almost immediately after the surprisingly quick grind, I deployed with my squadron to Iraq. For about 2 months, I did not even attempt to log on, because our internet source was unreliable, slow, and had extremely constricted bandwidth. After I stumbled on a "hotspot" that had a more bearable connection, I began playing again.
As I started entering 5 man instances as a priest, I immediately realized that the once familiar dynamics of healing had significantly changed. After resorting to shadow for latency reasons for about 3 weeks, I found a latency fix that allowed me to heal in instances. After wiping MANY groups on level 80 heroics, I began searching the internet for good resources on healing, gear and itemization advice, and consensus on specs and strategies.
I drudged through some of the WoW priest forums, unsatisfied. I tried to navigate Elitist Jerks but had trouble finding specific answers when I had a question. I tried to engage members of my old guild Sad Panda but theirs is not a very active forum or blogging player base.
Then I reluctantly started typing questions into google and, to my surprise, I found that bloggers, of all people, had the answers I had been looking for. The first expert I discovered was Miss Medicina. What a breath of fresh air! Intelligent, informed players apparently have started using blogs as a network to introduce relevant information to their respective communities!
So, after bouncing around a few blogs and thoroughly enjoying the topics and medium of communication, it dawned on me that I might have a unique perspective, as both a professional military aviator and an experienced (albeit novice in WotLK) dedicated healer.
(I will also comment on high latency/low bandwidth gameplay, gearing up without the option of raiding, and playing WoW while deployed.)