Over the Hills and Far Away: Back to the blog

17 October, 2010

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need…roads. — Dr. Emmett Brown

10 August 2010 – The last blog entry I posted

12 Jul 2010 – The last official raid I attended

It’s been interesting sitting back and reading the exploits of fellow bloggers and tweeps as they finish off the last stretch of this expansion. While some are continuing through the 4.0.1 patch, it is the signal for the bell lap on Wrath of the Lich King. This is part expansion recap and part words of encouragement for all raid leaders starting out in Cataclysm.

Blogs of Reflection

A short twenty-three months ago,this is where I stood. Looking out over Naxxaramas from above the alliance fortress nearby, I wondered what my first full expansion as raid leader would bring. Everyone was on even footing. It was like a new sports season. Everyone made their offseason moves and made adjustments that they think made them stand out this time around.

Our goal was to lead alliance progression and at the same time pick off a server first or two. I’m happy that we managed to do that through 90% of the expansion and held our ground as upstart guilds such as Imperative made their mark on both the server and US raiding scene. I would be fibbing if I said I wasn’t upset to be passed and finished out of first place, but all the credit goes to those guys. They stepped up and played their asses off to score a server first Heroic Lich King and high ranking US kill.

What advice can I give to raid leaders at the starting gate?

Set an expectation for when you want to start raiding. For us it was two weeks after release for WotLK. It will likely be similar for Cataclysm though this expansion is releasing late in the year and will butt up against the Christmas/New Years holiday nicely. We were able to complete Tier 7 content just before Christmas with a little over a month to do so. When setting the date, be sure to communicate what that date means.

Does it mean a loss of rank? How are players that pace their leveling and want to take in more of the content viewed against those that hammer out those 5 levels and get to max level in two days? The more you communicate these expectations/terms, the more fair it is to everyone involved. My terms have always been:

  • We’re starting on dd/mm
  • You won’t lose your rank, but we’re starting on that date. If I need to recruit to fill spots, I will.
  • Be ready! (Proper hit/exp caps, etc).
TL;DR: Communicate!
Census Taker

As a raid leader, it’s good to take a quick census of who is coming back for the expansion. No matter what you do, players will quit, players will move on, and some will just like to go full-casual and not raid. Ask for sure responses, and (here’s that word again) communicate that it’s ok if they don’t want to continue. An expansion transition is the easiest time for players to step away (and also the best). Rally those that return, and thank those that move on for the
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Account-Wide Achievements: Rewards For Multi-Classing

20 July, 2010

One of the greatest and simplest tools for learning more and growing is doing more — Washington Irving

Last night I read a great post by Larisa at the Pink Pigtail Inn concerning achievements at an account level instead of a character level. It goes against the grain which I always like to see. It’s what blogs are for, right? She summed up her post with the following quote:

In the end I think the danger of account-wide achievements doesn’t lie in the fraud that it actually is; the problem is that they would detach us from our characters. In combination with the increased use of our real life names as opposed to character names (brought to us by Real ID), it will bring us even further away from the RPG origins than we already are.

We’re [no] longer playing our characters; we’re John Smith, who has done this, this and this feature in WoW.

For me, that’s what it’s always been about. Our guild has a lot of players that function as virtual Swiss-Army Knives, switching up their main class or leveling an alt to assist on a certain fight. We’ve been doing it forever, so it feels like second nature or something that everyone is doing. In essence, we play our accounts, and our characters are just tools.

Though I go by Borsk (or Sov, as a reference to my former long-time main), all of my characters are ‘its’. As a carpenter opens his tool box and sees a hammer, a saw, and a drill, I see my Shaman, Rogue, and Warrior. At the end of a job, one doesn’t appraise the individual accomplishments of each tool (nails hammered, walls painted), but that the house was completed and looks fan-damn-tastic.

The same applies to guild achievements and those group screenshots you take after a first kill. There’s no DPS or healing meter shown (most of the time), it’s just 10/25 happy avatars looking out over the trophy they’ve just earned.

The case against account wide achievements is a solid one and hard to argue against. I took pride in completing Glory of the Raider (10 player) on both my Shaman and Warrior. It was a neat personal achievement to say that  I both healed and tanked it on separate toons. Riding the Plagued Proto-Drake on my warrior always reminds of it, even if nobody else cares (and I’m sure they don’t).

I think we can do better.

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Tree Pruning: Restoration, Gristle-Free

14 July, 2010

If I have to tell you again to back off, you an’ me are gonna go round and round. — Mr. White

Revolutionary Beta Restoration Build

One of the buzzwords that floats around our office after every meeting and training seminar is “The Delta.” Basically, what’s the difference between what we know or do now and what we used to know/do. The delta just refers to anything that’s changed or is different. I thought I would do a typical nerd thing and apply that to the new 31pt talent trees that broke last night.

There’s been an expected avalanche of bitchingcommentary on this newly released info, but let’s give Blizzard the benefit of the doubt and take our time to break it down.



  • Improved Healing Wave
  • Improved Reincarnation
  • Healing Grace
  • Tidal Force
  • Healing Focus (Moved to mastery)
  • Tidal Mastery
  • Healing Way
  • Focused Mind
  • Purification (Moved to mastery)
  • Earth Shield/Improved Earth Shield (Primary Tree Ability, Level 10)


  • Ancestral Resolve – Tier 1 – Reduces damage taken while casting spells by 5/10%.
  • Spark of Life – Tier 1 – Increased your healing done by 2/4/6% and your healing received by 5/10/15%.
  • Focused Insight – Tier 2 – After casting any shock spell, your next heal’s mana cost is reduced by 25/50/75% of the cost of the Shock spell, and its healing effectiveness is increased by 10/20/30%.
  • Nature’s Blessing – Tier5 – Increases the effectiveness of your direct heals on Earth Shielded targets by 5/10/15%.
  • Telluric Currents – Tier 6 – Your attunement to natural energies causes your Lightning Bolt spell to restore mana equal to 20% of damage dealt.

Enhancement Sub-Spec

  • Ancestral Swiftness – Moved up to tier 2 making it accessible to restoration shamans. Improved Ghost Wolf is also rolled into this talent:

Reduces the cast time of your Ghost Wolf spell by 1/2 sec and increases movement speed by 7/15%. This does not stack with other movement speed increasing effects.

The enhancement sub-spec is the same as it was in Wrath of the Lich King, it’s just less talent points.

Elemental Sub-Spec

There still isn’t one for PvE Restoration.

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We’re knights of the round table…

13 July, 2010

Our show are formidable, But many times, we’re given rhymes, That are quite unsingable.–Monty Python

After a weekend of early morning, late night, and mid-afternoon (depending on your time zone) recording, the Raidwarning.net, Shaman Round-Table (aka Totem Recall) is available for download.

I would like to thank Brian and Seven over at Raidwarning for inviting me and hosting this event. It was an awesome time and went by way faster than I thought it would. You guys should have recorded the post-show banter, it was even more fun sharing stories and talking about anything and everything.

Quick shout-out to Vixsin, Pewter, Lodur, and Jhamen for making the (resto) panel pro++.

Hope you all enjoy the show!

Last chance for round table questions!

10 July, 2010

Be sure to submit your questions to be answered on Totem Recall. We’re recording tomorrow!

Current Events: Shaman Cataclysm Preview

6 July, 2010

Son of Odin, Thunder God, Master of War. Asator

The lift of the NDA on in-development Cataclysm content and the opening of closed beta has unleashed an avalanche of information (or tidal wave, I suppose would be more appropriate for this expansion) onto the web. Most of it is a lot of stuff that doesn’t get a big rise out of me anymore. Seeing flyover shots of zones and new NPC models just isn’t very interesting to me. We’ll be looking at all of it for the next 2 years, probably, so it’s nice to leave at least some of it discovery.

I was in the Burning Crusade beta test, and I ate up every bit of released information. Every single screenshot, video, and new dungeon to test. I did it all. For Wrath of the Lich King it was the opposite. My experience with each expansion was largely the same.

Actually, I don’t really want to spend several hours of my day flipping through 20 high res pictures of the same animal in different colors.

The shaman talent tree, on the other hand, is something that is very intriguing. There are a couple changes from the preview that puts a different spin on some of the comments I had before.

Improved Earth Shield

Improved Earth Shield is no longer a member of the Restoration talent tree. Earth Shield is now a 1 talent point ability that will have 9 charges as a base amount. Not an expected change, but a welcome one since adding 2 more charges to Earth Shield by spending 2 talent points is one of the most uninteresting/boring-but-required decisions one makes when filling out a resto spec.

Empowered Healing

In place of Improved Earth Shield we have Empowered Healing, we have a new 3 point talent:

Your Greater Healing Wave spell gains an additional 7%/14%/20% of your bonus healing effects, and your Healing Wave and Lesser Healing Wave spells an additional 3%/7%/10%

Nature’s Blessing is prerequisite for this talent that exists in the bowels of the tree on tier 9. To me it’s a little bit ‘meh’. Basically, you’re going to take both of these talents to make sure your output is at a maximum, so there isn’t much to talk about here. As you’ll see a bit later in this post, you lose nothing by having to take this talent.

Telluric Currents

Another new talent since the first preview:

Your attunement to natural energies causes your Lightning Bolt spell to restore mana equal to 15%/30%/45% of damage dealt.

A tier 10 talent to improve Restoration DPS? Interesting. Well, it improves our DPS by making those weak-ass lightning bolts not hurt our mana pool all that much. Before I give my comments on it, let’s take a look at the beta build I would use if I had a level 85 shaman on the beta: 0/18/58

I haven’t made up my mind yet as to whether or not the current restoration talent tree is a blessing or a curse. Even with this second iteration, a PvE/Raiding Focused Shaman can take every talent that they need to improve their output. Perhaps I misunderstood Blizzard. They once said they would put enough talents into the tree that you wouldn’t be able to get everything you want.

However, that isn’t the case for me. Maybe my priorities of trying to maximize my output for raiding are different from players that might dabble in a little PvP, but it seems like going “all-in” to the resto tree still allows me to get some great utility talents like Enhancing Totems, Ancestral Swiftness, and Telluric Currents (and even Improved Reincarnation if you want to count that).

This isn’t a bad thing, in terms of making sure you’re getting the most out of your spent talent points, but some may say it doesn’t allow shamans to differentiate themselves within a raid (tank vs. raid healing). If you want to do something other than be a primary raid healer, then you need to change classes. Roll a Paladin, maybe test the waters of Discipline within the Priest realm, but don’t cry about (possibly) sub par single-target throughput when you have some of the best raid healing tools in the game on your side.

Fghtin’ Words

Back to Telluric Currents. These days in the land of milk, honey, and “hard mode” content, we healers find ourselves a little bored in some parts of a fight. There is no worse feeling than sitting in a fight as things are going on and not contributing at all. Every fight requires a minimum amount of healing, tanking, and DPS. Unlike healing and tanking, DPS has no maximum. The first thing a raid leader does after putting a fight on farm, or trying to shorten a phase or beat an enrage timer, is find a way to drop the total number of tanks and healers.

Even then, there will still be times as a healer where you’ll stand waiting for the next event so you can heal up. Maybe giving us the ability to provide some DPS will stem some of that boredom, but in the end if it isn’t a meaningful amount of damage (and it won’t be for various reasons) then healers will just zone out anyway. Another primarily-pvp addition which is probably needed.

I’ll take the talents because there isn’t any more to take (output-wise) in the tree. There are various talents like Nature’s Guardian, Focused Mind, Healing Grace, Totemic Focus, Healing Focus, and Focused Insight that other shamans will take instead.

This brings us to the Blue Post on DPSing as a healer:

Opportunity 1: Leveling or soloing. Not every healer wants to use their dual spec on say Elemental or Shadow.

So basically we’re looking at the mythical healer that needs a PvP and PvE healing spec while leveling. Those don’t exist, no matter how ambitious. If you are one of these healers then you get my usual response: just level up. There is no reason to use a healing spec when you’re leveling unless you are paired with a DPS class as a leveling partner (as I did for WotLK). If you are stubborn enough to have 2 healing specs while leveling solo, you get to suffer. With dual-talent specialization, you get the opportunity to do two things very easily. If you want to do 3 things then you have to do what everyone’s been doing since  release. No big deal.

Opportunity 2: PVP. Good healers, especially priests in today’s game, can contribute a lot of damage.

The talents that resto shamans currently get do not increase our damage unless you stripped out a few of the more PvE oriented talents and dipped into elemental. I’m stepping out of my element (pardon the pun) and into PvP so I’ll just move on.

Opportunity 3: Dungeons. This is particularly true when the content is easy and you want to get through it quickly. Healing more doesn’t make things go any faster. Dealing damage does.

DPSing in a healing spec with the talents we have now (beta+) is about as fun or interesting as playing with a paddle-ball blindfolded. If we’re talking about speeding up a 5 man when “content is easy,” then I might get to cast one lightning bolt (maybe two) per pack. How that contributes to speeding up content, I’m not real sure.

Opportunity 4: Raids. No matter how challenging the content, there are moments when nobody is taking damage and you can spare the mana. Your choices are do nothing, tab out to YouTube, or maybe do a little damage.

As a raid leader you can also add “cat herding” to that list (in place of do-nothing). If I wasn’t a raid leader then I’d pick do nothing or YouTube. DPSing as a healer, again, consists of throwing out a base spell and then saying on vent “woohoo a [1/4 DPS spec] damage lightning bolt!” The short version of all of this: if you find yourself really wanting to DPS, use your secondary spec for DPS, otherwise suck it up. That’s why it’s there.

The real way to make healers happy is keep them interested by healing in raids even towards the end of the content’s life-cycle. I’m not sure if that’s possible, so I’ll just consider it a reward for being the hardest working role at the beginning of the tier.

Talent Show: Shaman Cataclysm Preview

10 June, 2010

Don’t let the world deceive you, don’t let their words betray you, don’t let their lies deceive you. Let them do their worst–Killswitch Engage


The drought of New in the World of Warcraft has been long, so long in fact, that I think local authorities were asking people to only read one (two if it’s an emergency) blog posts, 5 tweets, or 5 Facebook updates per day in order to conserve as much time eating content as possible. It’s a long Summer, people. We can’t waste it all in May before it even starts!

Blizzard dropped a rather sizable portion of content on our plates this week as the talent trees for several classes (Shaman, Rogue, Priest, Druid) were revealed. This is our first glance at what the Cataclysm really will do to our playstyles and characters, something that we’ve all been anxiously awaiting since Blizzcon 2009. [Thanks, MMO-Champion!]

Top to Bottom

The Restoration tree was barely touched. All the familiar talents are still remaining and the tree looks like it was copy-pasted, but the subtle changes that do exist are very, very interesting.

Focused Insight (5 ranks available) – After casting any shock spell, your next heal’s mana cost is reduced by 15/30/45/60/75% of the cost of the shock spell, and its healing effectiveness is increased by 5/10/15/20/25%

This new talent, taking the place of our good friend Tidal Mastery (5% crit to healing and lightning spells), will show its true benefit further down this list. This gives restoration Shamans a little something for the Frost Shock kiting that we tend to do whether by design or necessity.

I talked some time ago when the first preview was released about how Blizzard needed to give healers a way to show some skill, show some creativity, and simply have more choices.  As it stands now, I don’t see this becoming part of a “rotation” (as if those exist for healers). The shock isn’t free, it just reduces the cost of the next heal[edit: Wind Shear is not a shock dur].


A high tree PvP talent, the Resto tree is already heavy PvE, so I can’t complain too much about this considering Blizzard’s goals.

Ancestral Resolve (2 ranks available) – Reduces damage taken while casting spells by 5/10%.

Awesome new talent for raiders…right now. In Cataclysm? I can’t be too sure. Right now I spend 90%+ of my time in combat casting. Some fights a little less and some 100%. The ticking auras and the massive amounts of RSTS damage that exist make this basically a flat 10% reduction in damage across the board for Shamans (again, in WotLK). Cataclysm is showing its hand currently as having a different damage output model than what we’re seeing in Icecrown Citadel.

If I’m supposed to pick and choose my heals to cast, so as not to immediately run out of mana, will I get a big benefit from this talent? My thoughts are still up in the air and I don’t think I’ll be able to make up my mind until I’m in a Cataclysm raid. Even if you don’t actually finish the cast, you will still “activate” this talent. Pre-casting and canceling spells will once again be very important in the healing game. The kicker is that you might not actually be taking any damage, and if you aren’t this talent has given you nothing.

Tidal Waves

It will now bump Healing Wave into the 10% category and insert Greater Healing Wave into the +20% buff when active.

Earth Shield and Riptide

Their function remains the same, but the devil is in the details. Same as always except we get a little taste of the mana and spell changes. The base for this spell now reads as costing 8635 Mana and healing at a base 1609 per charge. Putting that into perspective, the current spell heals for a base of 150. Using this spell after a shock would reduce its cost down to 2158 (-6476 mana)! Riptide, according to the post, is 6590 mana (1647 with Focused Insight).

For me, the current numbers for those two spells are as follows (4172 Base Mana):

Earth Shield (15% of Base Mana):626

Riptide (18% of Base Mana): 751


We still like enhancement as our sub spec

The top of the enhancement tree was completely redone.  It looks more like the Arms tree now with 4 tiers of no dependent talents. You have your traditional entry point into the tree with Ancestral Knowledge (still essential), but then you’ll notice 2 things: Enhancement Totems has moved down to tier 2 and Toughness has been moved up to Tier 3, putting into the “attractive for restoration” range. Also sitting pretty in Tier 4 is

Ancestral Swiftness – Increases movement speed by 5/10/15%. This does not stack with other movement speed increasing effects.

Movement speed increase is an essential raiding buff to have. I recommend it to everyone, dps, healing, or tanking, for their boot enchant if they don’t have an talent/inherent ability to make them faster. That little bit of extra speed always pays off. Maybe we can fit this into a resto build with those 5 extra talents…stay tuned…

Noticeable missing is Thundering Strikes. Like it’s sister talent in the restoration tree for Healing/Lightning, this crit increasing talent now has gone the way of the Dodo and leaves Flurry as a talent with no requirements other than 15 invested talent points.

Make the Forest Turn To Wine

My first go at a level 85 build looks like this: [Build 1]

Looking over it I have some second thoughts. Improved Reincarnation is good utility, but not essential. It’s another talent similar to Ancestral Resolve in that it has 0 benefit if you don’t die. It’s an insurance talent, and one I’ve come to like a lot in Wrath of the Lich King. We also don’t really need it to get to Tier 3 so let’s leave it out for now.

+2 Talent Points

Focused insight is something that I sort of adopted because it looks really cool from a 10 man raiding perspective where utility can sometimes be at a minimum. Using some shocks to help gives you a good reward. However, it’s 5 talent points and maybe we can use those somewhere else. We’ve already made it to Tier 4, so let’s fill move on down to Tier 5.

+5 Points (7 Total)

We’ve only spent 4 points in tier 5 so we’ll need to tack on a point back to Focused Insight so we can move down and pick up Purification, a free pass into Tier 7.

-1 Point (6 total)

From here on down we meet head on with a lot of essential stuff, and we still need to get down to Riptide. Mana Tide and Cleanse Spirit are only 1 point talents, we’ll need to back track and put more into something else to move down. We need 3 so let’s put them into Focused Insight.

-3 Points (3 Total)

If we’re looking at the most important 5 points in Tier 8, we’re definitely going for Improved Chain Heal and Nature’s Blessing, no question.  Tier 9 only gives us 3 points from Earth Shield Talents. We left Blessing of the Eternals off our previous Tier so we’ll use that to move down all the way and grab Riptide. Giving us this bare bones talent tree: [Build 2]

We’ll throw in 8 essential points in enhancement (5 for Ancestral Knowledge and 3 for Improved Shields). We have 17 points to spend at the candy store. Where do we spend them?

This is where I spent mine: [Link 3]

That’s a lot of talking to basically say that I moved 4 points, but I wanted to really see what I could get away with in the new “wider with more points” model. As it turns out. Restoration Shamans will have about 17 points to use on utility talents. Throwing 5 more into enhancement to get Elemental Weapons drops that number down even further (12 for those that hate math). There are a lot of considerations for which you would like to use.

  • The 5 points spent in Focused Insight could be moved to Threat Reduction, Pushback Prevention, and even into Ancestral Resolve depending on the situation. None of those are deal breakers from a pure output perspective in an unmolested healing environment.
  • Let’s also not forget some more points could be placed into toughness or silence reduction depending on the fight, again, without impeding your maximum output (unless I missed something, which is fairly likely).

It’s going to be a fun time playing with some of this utility before Cataclysm really hits, and hopefully we’ll get a little preview of exactly what our mana pools in relation to our healing spells will be looking like with the beta coming in the next month or two.


  • We got our Icebound Frostbrood Vanquishers last reset, woo hoo!
  • Decided to finally dive into the world of Twitter a mere 5 or 6 years after everyone else it seems. You can find me @borskzj. Only about…25% of my tweets are related to WoW, but that will likely change as the beta ramps up.
  • The Starcraft 2 beta ended for a while this past week, boredom has once again consumed me as I look for more obscure films to take in (No obsucure, but go see Splice if you haven’t).
  • A-Team. Expendables. Inception.
  • The long wait for football season has officially begun with Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks lifting the cup for the first time in 49 years. Suck it, Flyers.
  • Once I finish the last couple site banners, I’ll post them all here for everyone to look at without having to click our web-page a bunch of times.


I was sort of living in the past when Earth Shock still had an interrupt component. There was bound to be something I would gloss over in this preview! That puts focused insigt squarely in the PvP corner as the chances to use a shock in a raid on a regular basis are pretty small.

As of right now, the talents aren’t really in a state that prevents restoration shaman from getting everything so I’m quite certain they’ll be throwing a lot more changes our way. If they don’t, then that’s a definite advantage to Shamans.