Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dragonform Druid!

Special thanks to Syrana over at Sideshow and Syrana for this post!

You see, the Christmas gift over there was free ideas for blog posts!  Unfortunately I didn't find my way over there until after the 25th... but Syrana was nice enough to give me one anyway!

@Kaethir – Sure, you can have a topic too! :) It looks like you enjoy your shapeshifting abilities (druids do cheat! *shakes fist*)… so if you could create a new form, what would it be and what would it be its optimal use? :)

That's a tough question, because we already have forms for each of the major roles in the game, AND forms for travel, in three different ways.  So I'll take a different approach and back into a use for it...

Lore-wise, druids are all about being in tune with nature... so in-tune that they can take the form of beasts to carry out their tasks, or even the "elemental" plants.  So, where in nature could we find something that would be both cool to shapeshift into AND have a role that is not one we can already fill?

I thought first about things like elephants (sorry, Elekks) or mammoths, and while there might be an interesting idea there (transforming into a mount other players can use) I didn't think that was quite worthy, at least not on its own.  I thought about rhinocerous, but what role would it fill?  The most obvious would be a tank, but we are already bears.

Moving on, I considered small animals - but what fun would it be to shapeshift into a squirrel or raccoon?  I had a chuckle at the thought of a skunk, but... well, just no.  We already have a "small bird" flight form, and for the life of me I can't think of another interesting use for a small bird.  A BIG bird, maybe... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Tree of Life got me thinking plants...  but that seemed even less interesting than the other options.  A carnviorous plant?  Meh.

I started thinking about game mechanics, and how it could be awesome for druids to cheat even more... and I finally stumbled on an idea that I liked, and thought it would be fun even if it just gave druids another DPS option.

How awesome would it be to be able to fly in combat?  Yet another way us druids could break the rules.  So, what form could we use to fly in combat?  How about a dragon?  Then we'd get to breathe fire and still dish out the physical damage!

Some of you are probably saying that dragons aren't really beasts or animals, especially because they are intelligent creatures in WoW lore, so druids shouldn't be able to shapeshift into one.  A proto-dragon or a drake then, perhaps?

Of course, there would have to be some kind of limitation to keep us from being able to run away from any fight whenever we wanted.  We're already good enough at that.  Also, we'd have to be limited on how to use it indoors so we can't skip areas you have to run to reach, or get to areas we were never intended to get to.  Since I'm having fun with this, however, I'll leave that thorny obstacle up to Blizzard.

I envision the dragon form druid to be a hybrid ranged/melee DPS form - we're shapeshifters, we can gain a little size but we're not going to suddenly become Onyxia or Malygos.  This fits with my earlier assessment about not shapeshifting into the form of an "intelligent" creature, as we can shapeshift into something the size of the smaller drakes or Icecrown proto-dragons.  It would make sense, then, that while we have armor approximate to heavier DPS - armor bonuses of, say, 250%? - we're not going to be able to tank in this form.

Our dragon-ness is what gives us our combination of melee and ranged abilities.  We can swoop in and attack with teeth and claws... or stay flying at range and rain fire down on our enemies.  In the optimum situation, we could do a little of both, and if we are restricted from one or the other, it will hurt our output.  We could engage enemies in flight and really show our talents - continue melee on Onyxia in phase 2 - but we'd be weak if opponents managed to catch us on the ground and root us in place.  Of course, we can shapeshift out of those, but that's precious seconds we AREN'T doing what we want!

Out of combat... perhaps we COULD have another player jump on while we fly around.  Not the most incredibly useful of abilities... unless we're helping a friend take a low-level alt to all the flight masters.  Or even better, ferrying one other player with you to the meeting stone for a raid.  Then you don't have to wait for anyone else to summon!  We'd have to keep our flight speed from swift flight form for this to be remotely useful, but perhaps in combat our flight speed could be slowed.

There would, of course, be a couple other thorny issues for Blizzard to figure out, like how in the world you fit this into the already-crowded druid talent trees, but it would be a great way to make the class that much more fun and continue the time-honored druid tradition of cheating our way to the top!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tier 10 and the Bear

I'd like to take an in-depth look at the stat bonuses on Tier 10 gear and the other items available with Emblems of Frost for bear tanks.  If you've read this blog at all, you probably know already that fairly soon I'll follow up with a look at the gear with respect to trees.

Bear with me, these are going to be long.  Perhaps not quite Bearwalls, but long.

I'll be comparing this gear to the Tier 9 level gear as well as trying to decide what's the best value - the most bang for your Emblem buck, if you will.  Of course, this will depend on the gear you're currently wearing.  If I say a particular piece is the best upgrade, but you're wearing an item from ToGC in that slot and still using blues elsewhere, replace the blues first.

The Tier 9 level I'll be using is the base level - for those of us that did some 25-man ToC (or heroic ToC at all) and may have picked up trophies or heroic versions of gear, remember that your mileage will vary, because your Tier 9 gear is a little better than what I'm putting forth here.  Also note that I'm not examining accessories (back, neck, rings, and trinkets) yet.  If I can work up the courage I might tackle that later.

If you are confused as to any abbreviations, please see the end for a glossary.

Without further ado, let me begin.


Tier 9: Malfurion's Headguard of Conquest
Stats: 485 a, 104 Agi, 120 Sta, M/Y sockets, 80 crit, 64 exp., 129 AP
Cost: 50 Emblem of Triumph

Triumph Emblems: Hood of Lethal Intent
Stats: 506 a, 120 Agi, 136 Sta, M/Y sockets, 82 hit, 165 AP, 64 ArP
Cost: 75 Emblem of Triumph

Tier 10: Lasherweave Headguard
Stats: 517 a, 144 Agi, 144 Sta, M/R sockets, 88 crit, 143 AP, 80 ArP
Cost: 95 Emblem of Frost

Frost Emblems: None available.

I'm going to go ahead and mention something here at the top that I've noticed across the board.  Take a look at the Tier 9 vs. Hood of Lethal Intent.  I didn't put the iLevel of the items in my summary.  Hood is an iLevel 245, while the Tier 9 is a 232.  Something they did with the purchasable gear is that the individual items are generally better than the tier pieces in-slot if you don't raid enough to get the Trophies (or Marks of Sanctification for Tier 10).  The 2nd level non-heroic tier gear is approximately on par with the pieces you can buy without having to raid.  I'm not sure how I feel about it, but that's what you see here.  The only reason to stay with the T9 gear is if you desperately need the expertise...

It is also good to note that the Hood is a bit more DPS-centric, with hit vs. crit and ArP vs. expertise.  The major stats win out though, and you should take the Hood unless you feel that the Tier bonus is worth the stat drop and you can't afford to lose another piece.

You lose expertise for ArP in the step up to Tier 10 from Tier 9, or hit for crit coming from the Hood.  I'm not excited by the loss either way, but the nice step up in base stats - +40 or 24 Agi, +24 or 8 Sta - far outweighs the loss.  If this pulls you off your hit or expertise caps, try to shift your gems or enchants to compensate.  The downside is that it costs you 95 Frost Emblems to do this step - that's a fairly huge cost.  Let's see how that pans out as we go forward.


Tier 9: Malfurion's Shoulderpads of Conquest
Stats: 447 a, 81 Agi, 89 Sta, Y socket, 60 haste, 119 AP, 52 ArP
Cost: 30 Emblem of Triumph

Triumph Emblems: Duskstalker Shoulderpads
Stats: 467 a, 93 Agi, 101 Sta, Y socket, 67 crit, 135 AP, 59 ArP
Cost: 45 Emblem of Triumph

Tier 10: Lasherweave Shoulderpads
Stats: 477 a, 107 Agi, 107 Sta, R socket, 71 crit, 126 AP, 63 ArP
Cost: 60 Emblem of Frost

Frost Emblems: None available.

Here we see again the disparity in items available with Triumph Emblems...  And again, unless you want the set bonus, take the Duskstalker piece instead of the Tier-9.

The step up to Tier 10 nets you +26 or +14 Agi, and +18 or +6 Sta.  It has the same secondary stat set as the Duskstalker piece, which loses haste for crit, an acceptable change as a bear.  It also has a red socket instead of yellow, which I consider a plus for a bear - yellow gives us crit or hit, red gives us Agi or dodge.

To compare spending 95 Frost for the head vs. 60 Frost for the shoulders...  Comparatively, 35 badges gets you 10 to 14 Agi and 2 to 6 Sta (depending on which piece you're coming from for each choice.)  That doesn't seem like a lot, but it's more stats per Emblem used to spend the 95 Frost, provided you're making the same jump (T9 to T10 or Emblem piece to T10).  Not by much, and I'd probably go ahead and spend the badges early anyway to get the boost while I rebuild to the bigger number.


Tier 9: Malfurion's Raiments of Conquest
Stats: 596 a, 104 Agi, 120 Sta, R/Y sockets, 74 crit, 70 haste, 161 AP
Cost: 50 Emblem of Triumph

Triumph Emblems: None available.

Tier 10: Lasherweave Raiment
Stats: 636 a, 144 Agi, 144 Sta, R/Y sockets, 96 crit, 159 AP, 80 ArP
Cost: 95 Emblem of Frost

Frost Emblems: Shadow Seeker's Tunic
Stats: 665 a, 162 Agi, 162 Sta, R/Y/B sockets, 108 crit, 92 exp, 184 AP
Cost: 95 Emblem of Frost

There's a solid upgrade here no matter which way you go, but the Shadow Seeker's Tunic is clearly a MUCH better upgrade than the T10 piece.  +40 or +58 Agi, +24 or +42 Sta, AND an additional blue socket (which equals +30 Sta).

Continuing to examine against the previous most-efficient use of Emblems... I'm taking this over the head item or the shoulders.  It's definitely more efficient than the head, and enough of a boost over the shoulders that it is worth it to me to wait for 95 badges.

I'd also like to point out that I think the secondary stats are better for bears on the Tunic rather than the T10 Raiment.  I want the 4-piece T10 set bonus.  This very well might be the only piece I don't pick up.


None.  Oddly enough, the highest wrist purchasable with Emblems require only Emblems of Valor.  I'm moving on...


Tier 9: Malfurion's Handgrips of Conquest
Stats:  373 a, 81 Agi, 89 Sta, Y socket, 52 hit, 60 crit, 119 AP
Cost:  30 Emblem of Triumph

Triumph Emblems:  None Available

Tier 10: Lasherweave Handgrips
Stats: 398 a, 107 Agi, 107 Sta, R socket, 63 haste, 126 AP, 71 ArP
Cost: 60 Emblem of Frost

Frost Emblems: Cat Burglar's Grips
Stats: 416 a, 120 Agi, 120 Sta, Y/Y sockets, 80 crit, 129 AP, 64 ArP
Cost: 60 Emblem of Frost

I see an interesting dilemma here.  Multiple sockets and 13 better each Agi and Sta, as well as crit vs. haste in secondary stats.  I like the red socket better - I'll use it for an Agi or Agi + Sta gem - but multiple sockets may outweigh it.  It won't outweigh the set bonus in my mind, though, and this isn't enough of an upgrade to make me choose the Cat Burglar's Grips over the T10 piece.

It's also not enough of a bonus to make me spend my hard-won, precious Emblems of Frost here before spending them on the Tunic either, though.  Still going for the chest.


There are no Tier pieces here, and nothing is available from Triumph Emblems either.  There is a Frost Emblem item, and for comparisons of Emblem spending here it is...

Frost Emblems: Vengeful Noose
Stats: 374 a, 120 Agi, 120 Sta, R/Y sockets, 64 haste, 129 AP, 80 ArP
Cost: 60 Emblem of Frost

For me, and the item I'm coming from, this provides a boost of nearly 50 Agi and 25 Sta, as well as another socket.  That's about the same boost as I'd get out of my chest item with 35 less badges.  We have a new front-runner.


Tier 9: Malfurion's Legguards of Conquest
Stats: 522 a, 102 Agi, 120 Sta, R/B sockets, 64 hit, 80 crit, 129 AP
Cost: 50 Emblem of Triumph

Triumph Emblems: None available.

Tier 10: Lasherweave Legguards
Stats: 577 a, 144 Agi, 144 Sta, R/Y sockets, 80 exp, 159 AP, 96 ArP
Cost: 95 Emblem of Frost

Frost Emblems: None available.

Here we get it easy, a straight Tier 9 to Tier 10 comparison.  Solid statistical upgrade in Agi and Sta.  I like the expertise on the T10 item, but I like the blue socket on the T9.  38 Agi and 24 Sta for 95 Emblems is not as strong as either the Tunic or the Vengeful Noose.  This might be the 3rd or 4th upgrade I target from among this group of items.


There are no Tier items for feet, and nothing is available for Emblems of Triumph or Frost.

So, among these items, I'll be targeting the Vengeful Noose first, followed by the Shadow Seeker's Tunic next.  I'll have to examine my secondary stat layout at the time to determine the next upgrade from among the hands, legs, head, and shoulder items.  At that point, I will likely buy them from the cheapest to the most expensive, because there isn't particularly a huge difference in cost to benefit ratio.

Look back soon for the Tree version... or perhaps the Accessories!  Thanks for reading!

Abbreviations Glossary:

a: armor
AP: Attack Power
ArP: Armor Penetration
exp: expertise

Stat Abbreviations:
Agi: Agility
Sta: Stamina
Str: Strength

Socket Abbreviations:
B: Blue
M: Meta
R: Red
Y: Yellow

Monday, December 28, 2009

Yet another Primer Followup

BBB posted an excellent intro to being a bear the other day... you should go read it if you haven't already.

Hope everybody had a great holiday!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We didn't make our 10-man run last night - our guild 25-man, which usually runs on Thursday nights, was scheduled on top of us due to Thursday being Christmas Eve.  Instead of fighting for attendance (and probably losing) we went along on the 25-man and I broke out the leafy goodness.  We went into Ulduar to get Razorscale for the weekly raid quest (and I picked up the Three Car Garage and Shutout achievements along the way).

We moved on to Onyxia and one-shotted her.  I was lucky enough to pick up a Stormrage Cover from her for my healy set, which is amazingly now approximately equivalent to my tanking set despite 95% of my badges going to my tanking stuff.

We downed the Northrend Beasts and Lord Jaraxxus before a couple of wipes on the Champions put me out of time for the night.  I picked up a Ring of the Darkmender as well.  Sometimes, I'm glad I'm not tanking!  Our guild rules would have meant I probably didn't get a chance to roll on at least one of the items I won, and there were very few tankish drops I could have rolled on.

On the blog front, I'd like to link a post from the Big Bear Butt himself...  Hilarious take on the mindset of a lot of tanks out there.  Read it and laugh, and thank me later.  I'm also in awe that he took the time to point out A Bear in the Trees.  In case you were wondering, it was mostly reading BBB that inspired me to start this little endeavor of mine.

With tomorrow being Christmas Eve and family plans over the weekend, I'm not likely to get a post up again until sometime next week.  I've only been going a couple of months, but so far it's been a fun ride and I hope anybody that's found their way here has found some use and/or enjoyment from my inane ramblings.  I'm planning on exploring some thoughts on high-end rings, trinkets, and relics soon - I have a feeling my first 100-150 or so Frost Emblems will be spent on this kind of gear... I don't know yet though, I'll have to dig into the specifics of the Tier10 gear.

I hope everyone has a safe and fun Christmas holiday!  If you're not inclined to celebrate Christmas, then I hope whatever holiday or holidays you celebrate around this time of year are also safe and fun!

Merry Christmas and see you on the flip side!

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm a Druid, and I Cheat

I have an admission to make.

I cheat at WoW.

I can't help myself.  Every time I log in to the game, I just have to take the plunge and give myself an advantage.

Some might tell you that because WoW is an MMO, and Blizzard controls the servers and data, that it's impossible to cheat.  They're wrong.

It's quite simple, really, and even allowed by the rules of the game.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, roll a Druid.  It's the only legal way to cheat.

You can do it all as a Druid - tank, melee dps, ranged dps, and healing - and no matter which one you do, you can fake at least one other long enough to get through most rough spots.

I'm a bear main spec... but if I'm OT'ing in a one-tank fight, I can go cat form and do reasonable DPS, a little better with a slight gear shift.  If there's a fight where only one tank is needed part of the time and a second is needed the rest of the time (I'm looking at you, Onyxia) I can shift to cat for awhile to increase DPS, keep my bear gear and tank it up when the phase shifts.  I know several kitty DPS folks that have beared up in emergencies to finish off fights if the main tank goes down.

My tree offspec uses a lot of spellpower gear...  So in times in fights where there's not a big healing requirement I can shift out of form and throw a Moonfire and a Starfire or Wrath (or the occasional Hurricane) to help out with DPS a bit.  The fact that trees use a lot of HoTs makes this a lot easier to do as well, as you can keep the healing going even when out of form.  The inverse is true as well - I've seen several Boomkins shift out of form to help healers out of a tough spot.

And although it's even worse, you CAN even fake bridging these gaps - every once in awhile I've been in spots rough enough that Boomkins bear up, or kitties shift out and try to heal.  Those are usually desperate situations and often fail... but the fact that you even have a shot to do so is amazing.

The cheating doesn't stop there, though.  You also get swift flight form as a druid - and all those quests that require you to pick something up off the ground, you never have to land and jump off your mount - often this can mean the difference between having to fight something for a pickup and being able to just grab it and fly away.

If we get into a spot we can't deal with... well we can't vanish like a rogue or feign death like a hunter... but we can run away with the best of them.  Cyclone or Entangling Roots and cat form/dash or travel form...

And YOUR Entangling Roots or Frost Nova?  Shapeshift and they are gone.  Polymorph?  Fuggedaboutit.

Jack of all trades master of none?  Try more like master of all trades.

You know you want to cheat to get ahead.  Everybody does.  So just do it and roll a Druid.

Just in case anybody's wondering, I'm being a little facetious.  Druids don't really cheat, it just feels like it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

New Mount!

So I forgot to mention this the other day...

I'm pretty sure it was after our first wipe on Lord Marrowgar, we had released and run back in, and were buffing up the group.

Somebody mentioned, looking at the crazy-looking undead boss...

"That would be a sick mount!"

Universal agreement followed.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

RIP Chris Henry

You may or may not have heard, Cincinnati Bengals WR Chris Henry passed away early Thursday morning.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

The Trash of Icecrown Citadel

I had originally planned on titling this post the Guns of Icecrown Citadel.  Turns out I was a little ambitious in thinking we would make it to the gunship battle on our first trip in.

I had heard that the trash in ICC was rough for any ill-prepared groups.  In ways it was better and in ways it was worse than I had expected... but I'll get to that.

We decided to try to get as good a group together as we could, focusing on getting our best DPS.  We struggled to find healers in our guild willing to come, one of them flat out stating that she was afraid of the place.  We pugged in an excellent but very slightly under-geared priest for the final healing spot...  Here's the breakdown:

Tanks (2):
Me (Bear) and Illorien (DK)

Heals (3):
Holy Paladin (Renakashin, co-leader), Tree Druid and Holy Priest

DPS (5):
Warrior, Hunter, Rogue, 2 Mages


The first thing you encounter on the way in the door is a pair of undead that are pure melee but explode when killed, doing a fairly decent chunk of damage.  Plus, every so often, another one paths in from the next room.  A little mismanagement of this led to us losing a couple of folks while we cleared them out - once you've taken the top of that set of stairs, they stop coming in from the next room.  There's another group of these that run around the room - we pulled them out and downed them fairly easily.  Illorien held them in place, I pulled them out one at a time for the DPS to go nuts on.

We were at last able to begin moving into the room.  It has essentially 5 sets of mobs, one group in each corner and one dead ahead in the back half of the room.  It also has a special secret surprise, that I'll get to in a moment.  The right and left corners closest to the door each have a humanoid Undead caster and three of the Damned - the exploding undead I mentioned previously.  The corners further from the way in each had a spiderlike Undead caster as well as the groups of the Damned.  The spiders throw random web wraps around that players must be broken out of, and don't appear to have a threat table, or at least cast randomly enough that the threat table doesn't seem to matter.  The group in the middle is made up of 2 of the spiders, 1 of the humanoid Undead casters, and 2 non-explosive melee Undead.  Our general plan of attack for the four corners was for the DK to hold down the melee while the DPS and myself burned down the caster, then for me to pull out the Damned one by one for the DPS to burn.

The corners went smoothly.  The casters really don't like to move, and it's impossible to move the spiders via LOS if any member of the raid is in its LOS.  We discovered with the last group that the DK's death grip can yank the spider out and (at least sometimes) not disturb the group of melee.  It worked, though, and we decided to use a similar plan of attack on the group in the middle, singling out a caster at a time for death, followed by the melee.

Illorien dropped a Death and Decay, and I charged a spider.  It was well on it's way to dying when I hear over Vent, "There's a giant coming...  Giant coming!"  I turned around and saw two gigantic undead slaughtering the ranged DPS and healers.  It was the first of our wipes trying to deal with those two giants.  The one spider went down, but that was it.

Those two giants were epic trash for us.  We tried several strategies for fighting them, all of which failed for various reasons.  You can't pull them out of the room - they run back in and reset.  We tried several different methods to split them up so that the DPS could burn one down without worrying about the other one.  We tried pulling them into the corner of the room...  None of our methods worked... they were too close to the other group so we pulled them, or they managed to take out DPS somehow... Illorien noticed that they were using Saber Lash - an ability Lord Marrowgar also uses - that does melee damage to the target (tank) and his nearest ally... which meant that we absolutely had to have the tanks on top of each other to take the Saber Lashes.

When we realized that, we decided to stop trying to separate them.  Illorien and I grabbed them and brought them to the front edge of the room, just inside where they would step out and reset and far enough away not to aggro the other mobs.  Then we turned them away from the raid and let the DPS burn down one target, while the two of us prayed for healing fast enough that double Saber Lash wouldn't do us in.  It worked like a charm.

The last group of mobs, already down one member from our first run-in with the giants, went down with ease.

The next room, smaller than the last, has just one group of adds in the center, but has two of the giants sleeping on opposite sides of the room, and there's not much room to maneuver without almost certainly waking them up.

Illorien was trying to scoot in a little bit and pull some of the smaller trash and one of the giants woke up.  Since nothing else aggro'd, we counted our blessings and downed it.  We were then able to move in to the now-vacated side and aggro the smaller trash while keeping some distance from the other giant.

It woke up after we had started in on the smaller trash.  I picked it up and burned a couple of cooldowns to stay alive while the DPS dealt with the smaller casters, then Illorien pulled everything else with him to stand in front of the giant.  With both us there, the giant wasn't going to kill us by itself, so the DPS burned down the smaller melee mobs and then we brought down the giant.

After a grueling hour plus we had made it to Lord Marrowgar.

 We wiped several times on him before we ran out of time, as our pug healer had to go guild raid on his main, and several of our guild folks were itching to end early due to early mornings.  We learned a bit, and tried a couple strategies, but I think our group as a whole might not have quite been there, gear-wise.  We tended to do alright in Phase 1 - our folks moved out of the fire and broke down the bone prisons fairly efficiently, our healers were generally able to keep up, and things went smoothly.  Then Phase 2 - the whirlwind - came along, and as long as it wasn't badly timed with respect to a bone prison, we usually handled that fairly well.  Usually the issue came at the end of the whirlwind, when we had a little trouble with folks struggling to keep away from the boss while the tanks dragged him back into position while still staying out of the mass of cold fire on the ground.  Several times we lost people as the second Phase 1 started because of how crazily spread out folks were and the healer's need to focus on the tanks.  I think a combination of being a little short in a couple of places lead to everybody needing to be danged near perfect.

We got him down to almost 50% on one run.

For being our first ever time going in to the instance, I think we did fairly well, especially considering basically none of us have any Heroic ToC gear.

I'm not sure if we'll try again next week, or perhaps give a go at Heroic ToC10.  That was pretty rough on us.

Good luck and hope you get a chance to clear it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thoughts on the Dungeon Finder

I've had a bit more chance to use the Dungeon Finder and the new reward system, and as with most changes in WoW, I've found that there are things about it that I like, and things about it that give me pause.

The Good


I've never had it take more than about 30 seconds to find a group, or fill out the last couple of spots in one that's already half made.  Only once have I had an issue because someone refused to go, and I requeued and was in an instance in a few seconds.  Only once have I run into the "additional instances cannot be launched" problem, and with the teleporting into instances feature, we just did that and it launched one and got us in almost immediately.  Plus, with teleporting in at the beginning, there's no waiting once a group is formed, you're in and going.

Teleporting in and out of instances

I was a little wary of how this feature would work, at first, but since I've used it, it's awesome.  No more waiting for people to fly to instances, no more having to run back out and use the stone to get people back if they realize they goofed and need something.  Since it puts you back where you were, if you were in a major city you'll be able to quickly repair or purchase whatever you need there very quickly and disrupt the play of your group less.  Two thumbs up on this new feature!

The Emblem Reward System - Part A

I'll mention a part of this that I'm still wary about later, but I like the fact that you no longer have to loot emblems, or turn in the daily quest, just finish the dungeon.  It's smoother even though it takes a little away from the immersion of doing this for a quest.  I like it!

The Quality of Groups

I was nervous about having random groups/pugs.  In my experience it's all too easy to end up with an idiot or someone who just generally doesn't know what they're doing.  (I'm ok with newbies, but there's a difference between not having done content before or being new to pugging/heroics and not knowing what you're doing.)  If you're willing to accept constructive criticism and especially if you're willing to speak up and say, "Hey, I've not done this before/I'm new at this/etc," instead of trying to push blame on other folk, you'll do well.  Anyway, in my experience pugging with random folks, I've generally found people that are knowledgeable, decently to well geared, and generally amiable.  A far cry from what I expected.

Rewards for more than one random dungeon

You get gold and Emblems of Frost for the first random dungeon... but you get gold (albeit less) and additional Emblems of Triumph for additional random dungeons.  I think my guild has seen an increase in dungeon running because of this...

The Bad

It's FAST!

Perhaps it's been a wash with the increase due the last good point above, but I think my guild, at least, has seen a decrease in guild-centric runs because it's so fast to just queue up and pug a random dungeon.  There's a little less incentive to bother with pulling a guild run together because you don't have to work to find fill-ins.

Communication, or lack Thereof

Although the experience has been generally good for me, I dislike the fact that you really can't screen candidates at all ahead of time.  I dislike it not just for the possibility of getting thrown in with idiots, but because I think the general WoW population has an expectation that everyone knows the fights everywhere, and I think the lack of communication ahead of time could easily lead to newbies getting put down and having a bad experience because of other people's expectations of them.  Am I making any sense?  I don't know.

Teleporting into dungeons you've never been to before

I can't tell you where the entrance to the ICC 5-man instance is.  That saddens me.  I think this distances you, a bit, from the storyline behind it all.  Not a huge loss, but I think perhaps you should have to go to the instance at least once.

The Disenchant Option/Downroll Need Prevention

I've not experienced this myself but I've heard others complain about it.  The protection they put in the game to prevent downrolling has a drawback.  Druids cannot roll need on cloth gear.  Shamans and hunters, I would assume, cannot roll need on leather, paladins can't need on mail... they've prevented need rolls on items that are not your highest available armor type.

I can understand why they did this - I've heard quite a few complaints from cloth-wearers on Druids stealing their cloth loots.  The issue is that in 5-man instances, it's entirely possible that you have a group where the only player that is possibly capable of using an item can't roll need on an upgrade because of this... and with the disenchant option, that item could be destroyed before there's ever a chance of it getting traded back to them, because greed rolls on the same priority as disenchant.

This needs to be fixed.

The Don't Know Yet

The Emblem Reward System, Part B

One issue I've occasionally had in the past is how WoW handles disconnects during boss fights and receiving Emblems for them - usually it's worked ok, once or twice I was unable to loot the Emblems properly.  I have no idea how the new reward system will handle this.

The Disenchant Option

Apart from the issue mentioned above, I've rethought my previous position on the Disenchant option and I don't think it's going to have as drastic an impact as I thought... you do still have to have an enchanter in the party, which means that not everything will be getting disenchanted....

Blarg.  I am ded.

Ok not really.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Impromptu Weekend ToC10

I don't often get time to play much on the weekends - family commitments, time with the spouse, and my other two geek-related time consuming hobbies (Magic: the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons) combine to form just about the ultimate WoW blockage on the weekends.

Last weekend rolled around with no major plans for Saturday afternoon, I figured I had a good chance to get something done.  I haven't had a chance yet to go in to the Icecrown Citadel raids, illness and houseguests had prevented me from having a chance to do ToC last week, and the weekly raid quest was for Lord Jaraxxus's head, so I decided to try to put together an impromptu run for ToC10.  Encouraged by the fact that we had cleared it last week, I was hopeful to get a run in before dinner plans with the wife, and started putting a group together about 2:00.

Luckily for me, the two friends that have been my co-leaders for the raids weren't able to get into a ToC10 earlier in the week, so their mains weren't saved, and another guildie who has been bringing her healer almost every time was able to come, so we had most of the core tanks and heals we brought previously.  We filled in with one pugged healer and 3 pugged DPS and set off.  It took us until after 2:30 to get it all together, but it worked!  The breakdown:

Tanks (2):
Bear (me!) and DK

Heals (3):
2 Holy Paladins and 1 Disc/Holy Priest

DPS (5):
2 Hunters, 1 Warrior, 1 Rogue, 1 Enh. Shaman

I was hoping for 3 ranged DPS.  Lord Jaraxxus is a little easier with more ranged DPS - there's less need for melee DPS to switch to Mistresses, and those pesky Infernals die that much faster - and gives you more chances to survive issues with Anub.  I was confident that this would work, however, so we ran with it.

The Northrend Beasts!

Everyone was familiar with this fight (even though one of the pugs had only seen it on 25-man), so it went fairly smoothly.  Gormok went down like the chump he is - I started with him, the other tank taunted off of me, I taunted back... I think that was the last time I taunted until he had barely 30k health left.  We lost one of the hunters during the jormungar portion...  so when the first worm fell, the other tank picked up the remaining one, and I shifted out and battle-rezzed him.  Druids cheat so hardcore.  Nobody got hit by Icehowl's charge, so he was easy.  One down, 4 to go.

It's difficult, on our server, to pug into good groups for ToC.  One of our pugs commented at this point, "finally got a good group!"  When everybody knows what they are doing and most of them are geared well for the instance, things tend to go well! :)

We moved on...

Lord Jaraxxus!

A little stategery and we're ready to go for the next boss.  Jaraxxus started out normally, although it took a little long to drop the first Mistress - I don't think the melee DPS switched to her right away, but once they did she fell quickly.  The infernals came next, and this is where we started to get into a little trouble.  It was my fault mostly, I think, for not marking which infernal to focus on.  They're already difficult to really hold aggro on (at least for me... maybe I'm doing something wrong...) and without either excess ranged DPS or me marking a clear target it took too long to down them and they ran too wild near the melee, did too much damage, overstressing the healing.  There were still one or two of them up when the second Mistress came.

Things got a little crazy after the second set of infernals came.  We were already behind due to the craziness of the first round of adds, and at some point, I forget exactly when, the DK, the other tank, went down.  I immediately had to stop what I was doing, of course, and pick up Jaraxxus, trying my best to keep the adds aggro'd on me.  We lost a couple other folks - three or four in total - but beyond me trying to keep ahold of them we ignored the adds the rest of the way and we'd done enough damage before starting to lose people that he went down just before things were really about to get out of hand.  It was a little close, but two bosses down, and no wipes yet!

The Faction Champions!

Our kill order: Priest (not Shadow, I don't remember if he's Disc or Holy), healing Shaman, Warlock, Rogue, Boomkin, Paladin.  We wiped once or twice - our first run went pretty well and we downed three of them, especially good considering our hunters forgot to use frost traps and I called out the wrong target after the priest went down.  (I was sloppy that day, I don't know why.)  The DK pestered the paladin, keeping him (or is it a her?) essentially out of the fight.  The rogue went down early the first try due to burst damage, and losing his kick interrupt really hurt.

The champions continue to give us more trouble on our runs than any of the other bosses, and I'm not entirely sure why.  We're getting better with them, though, and I consider that a good sign.

The Twin Val'kyr!

We one-shotted them.  There was a little confusion as to which people were supposed to be on which side of the room, but the fact that we pull the two of them fairly close together in the center of the room made that a little less important - we had a fairly even distribution of light and dark and that's all that really mattered.  None of their special abilities did much of anything, and we didn't have issues with too many of the wrong-colored orbs hitting our guys.

I felt a little bad when I won the Loop of the Twin Val'kyr, as that is just about the only upgrade left in ToC10 for Illorien (our DK and co-leader).

You might think, from what I've said, that we were moving fast!  No, one of our pugs complained because it was taking us awhile in between bosses.  Admittedly, we had a few folks go afk for a couple minutes for issues that probably could have waited, but we don't fly like that.  It's one of the endearing features of our guild, I think, that we understand that people are human and things happen, and we're willing to work with the time people give us.  One of our breaks was because all of us leading the raid were a little under the weather and one of us went to make tea because her throat felt like it was wrapped in ropes of fire, and another break happened because one of the healers had a puppy get into a roll of toilet paper.  I can understand the desire to get through things fast, but please... people are human, cut them a little slack if they can't stay 100% dedicated to a game for nearly 2 hours at a time.


Before we started up the event that drops you into Anub'arak's cavern, our pug shammy opened up a trade and gave me 8 gold.  Luckily I figured out what was going on before I hit the water, and clicked off the water-walking buff he had put on me.  Our DK escaped a similar fate, but I'm not sure if he saw it and clicked it off or had another method.  I gave him his gold back, 'cuz I'm just a nice guy like that, but it was funny anyway.

One of the folks on the raid had never been to Anub before, so we had to explain the entire fight.  Much like our last clear, we had a slightly sub-par healer setup - 2 paladins and 1 priest.  Determined, however, we set out to vanquish our foe!

Our first attempt was doomed fairly early on.  We lost both our hunters to some craziness in Anub's first underground phase.  Our shaman made a valiant effort to use his small ranged arsenal to pick up the slack in dropping permafrost, but we lost a healer as well and had an add still up heading into phase 3.  We wiped shortly thereafter.

Despite our relative success during our demise, we decided to switch one of our paladin healers to tanking the adds, move the DK to Anub himself and I pulled out my tree gear and filled in the healing slot.  In addition to providing a steadier flow of smaller heals for phase 3 goodness, that helped the other 2 healers a bit by providing the Tree of Life aura.

The second attempt was nearly flawless, as we didn't lose anybody until Anub was well into phase 3 and our victory was nearly assured.

It took us about 2 hours in total, and while I was ready (and actually started trying to refill the spots of folks who left) to give ICC a shot, I was out of time.

Tuesday, I expect my little crew will be giving our first shot (or at least, the first shot with me there!) at ICC's 10-man raid.  I haven't even had a chance to do the 5-man in heroic mode yet.  We'll see what happens though, and I'm hopeful we can get through it!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Greed vs. Disenchant...

So Patch 3.3 dropped this week and I got my first chance to run the "random daily heroic" cross-realm instance the other day.  First impression was that the interface was pretty smooth, and pretty quick.  For those of us that can do multiple roles, I'm not sure about the fact that it dumps you straight into the instance - I carry my healing gear with me so that I can change on a moment's notice, but does everybody?  I know you're supposed to be able to port back into the instance if you have to leave but I haven't had a chance to really use that yet.  Other than that (maybe), I like it.

My run went REALLY well.  We pulled HoL, and ran it quickly and efficiently.  No deaths, knowledgeable and highly-geared crew.  Loken fell like a chump.  AoE damage to the party seemed a little rougher and harder to handle, but that could just be coincidence, I'll need some more play to tell if that's really the case.

I also got to use the new option to disenchant loot as it dropped for the first time.

My first impression was that this was awesome - no more spending ridiculous amounts of money every time I need to enchant something, as I should have quite a bit of the mats available already instead of having to purchase all of them.

When I had a chance to think about this a bit, I was more subdued and a little nervous.

This has a huge impact on the in-game economy.  Players will be making less money on average, I think - everybody will now have to deal with the enchanter's eternal issue, do I greed and sell this item, or do I disenchant it, get mats, but no money?  Unless enchanters can no longer disenchant items, enchanters now have a small advantage - they can greed every item and decide LATER if they want the money or the mats.  Maybe that's not really an advantage, but it looks like one to me. 

At the same time, the auction capability of enchanting mats just disappeared almost entirely.  Enchanters can no longer rely on that as a source of income.

How does this affect the rest of the auction house?  DOES this affect the rest of the auction house?  Will there be inflation or deflation due to this?  Am I overestimating the impact?  Am I an idiot?

Don't answer that last one! :)

As far as myself personally, I will be disenchanting everything until I have a decent stock of needed mats, and then going back to greeding until I need more mats.  I suspect that a lot of players will take this track, and it will mean a decrease in gold in-game for awhile, followed by a big upward spike as more and more players stop disenchanting because they don't need the mats anymore.

As far as tanking or healing and mechanics go, I didn't notice a huge change, but I haven't had a lot of opportunity to dig into it.  I'm hoping I'll get more chance over the next week.  Most of my playing time this week and late last week just about got eaten with several different issues, but I should have some more time in the coming week.

I haven't had a chance to try the new 5-man dungeons or either of the raids yet.  I think we'll be going into the 10-man next Tuesday and I hope to have a better report for you then.

Happy patch week everyone!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's a girl!

I can't remember if I've mentioned it here before or not, but my wife is pregnant.

And we found out today, that it's a girl!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Down with the Sickness


Whatever my wife caught, it kicked my arse.

Plus dentist appointment today and ultrasound tomorrow.

Not back as soon as I had hoped!

Hope everyone is having a great week!  Don't worry, I'll be back!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Busy Busy Busy

I apologize for the lack of communication recently...  Work has been busy, and I had a family Christmas party and a Magic: the Gathering tournament over the weekend.

Then this morning, my pregnant wife calls to say that she feinted at work...

She's fine, but we had to take her to the doctor, which made work even more busy!

I'll get back on the horse soon, I hope!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cue the Final Fantasy "Win!" Music

I had a great night last night, and I'm gonna tell you about it.  If you don't want to know, be a grinch and go away.

It all started off with a super powered run through Halls of Lightning for the Heroic Daily.  Three pallys and two druids, all overgeared.  We churned through it in under 30 minutes.  Piece of cake.

Then I moved on to my guild 10-man raid.  Let me back up a little before I get into it.

So I made a raid report a couple of weeks ago with the intention of making it a kind of ongoing thing, something I could write about on (at least) a semi-regular basis, probably because failure is not something people like to write about.  The trips that followed my last post about it were rife with issues and mired in mediocrity.  One night we downed only the Northrend Beasts after wipes on both Onyxia and the Beasts.  Another we got through Ony and Lord Jaraxxus, but could only throw ourselves at the faction champions a couple of times before we ran out of time.

So after the last run, I asked if a schedule change would help, and with some responses in the affirmative, we decided to move the next one to a Tuesday night, after the raid reset instead of before.  Little did I know how much this would work to our advantage.

Several folks who had been mostly bringing alts were able to bring their mains, and some who weren't able to go on Mondays showed up.  We had a whole Epic Adventurers raid for pretty much the first time since three of us decided to start running our own guild raids.  Ok, we started out with one former EA member in the raid, but he was replaced after Jaraxxus due to power failure, and he counts anyway.

We also changed the raid order - more than a couple of us need upgrades primarily from the second half of ToC, anymore, so we went with that first instead of Onyxia, with the plan to go get her if and when we churned through Anub.

The raid composition broke down like this (both before and after the character switch; we replaced a feral druid dps with another feral druid dps!):

Tanks (2)
Bear Druid (ME!) and a DK

Heals (3)
2 Holy Paladins and a Priest (Disc I believe, but may be Holy)

DPS (5)
2 Hunters, 1 each Mage, Warrior, and Cat Druid

We one-shotted both the Northrend Beasts and Lord Jaraxxus - our crew had been through all of these enough times that all we needed was a little communication amongst the tanks and healers and everybody else filled in perfectly.  We had a good showing the first time out against the Faction Champs but couldn't do it, decided to change our strategy a little bit and failed miserably, went back to the first method and powered through.

Against those champions, we were facing the tree druid, the disc priest, the enhancement shaman, the mage, the warlock and the rogue.  I stayed in bear form; I am not convinced that I shouldn't have gone cat, or traded out to resto and let one of the healers DPS, but it worked.  The DK pestered the shaman the whole fight, our hunters put their interrupting pets on the priest to start, our mage did his best to keep the lock and/or mage polymorphed.  Our kill order was druid, priest, rogue, warlock, mage, shaman.

Not sure if that's the best order but it worked for us.  The reason we had an issue the first time around was that our priest got rogued 3 times (2 battle resurrections).

We moved on to the Twins.  I was a little nervous - the only time I had ever even seen the Twins I was on sub-par hardware that was video lagging to the point that I couldn't do anything about the orbs, and ended up disconnected most of the fight, on top of having a bad connection because I was in a hotel.  So I let my co-leader, who has cleared ToC10 several times on non-guild runs, describe the fight.

We wiped once, because I'm a Fail Druid and started before everyone was ready.  Really, my OT said "start it up" and I brought them out and ran in, and pallys were still trying to get buffs up, healers were on the wrong side... it was just plain bad.  The second try was flawless.

I was extremely excited at this point.  We had started late and had barely been going for even an hour and a half and had cleared more than I'd ever really seen in ToC10.

I actually did a reasonable job explaining the Anub fight myself, although my DK reminded me that I'd left out one of the most important things - RUN AWAY from the little adds.

Our first attempt met with failure after a healer went down at the beginning of one of Anub's above-ground phases... the other druid battle rezzed but I mistimed my OS button and went down.  It didn't help that I hadn't done a good job of running away and had more than a couple stacks of the debuff from the little adds.

Our second attempt saw my first ever clear of ToC10...  The phase 3 damage/survival race was a little rough - we lost 6 of our 10 people and ended with a healer, both tanks, and one dps standing.  Pally healers aren't the best bet for that phase, but it worked out in the end.  I properly timed my emergency button that run, and we pulled it off.  Only a little over two hours on the entire run, and time for Onyxia.

Then we went and beat her down, and even had time at that point to go whack the VoA10 loot pinata.  Two hours and 45 minutes, 20 Emblems of Triumph and a few Conquest, a whole pile of loot, and a very satisfying night for all involved.

As always, thanks for reading.  I know this isn't the most useful of posts but success is fun to write about....

See you all on the flip side!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Addons Continued

I'm going to finish up my addon discussion from yesterday and then throw a couple of tools out there that make addon management easier.

I saved these last two addons for a separate post because I feel they warrant a little special attention.  I've mentioned both of them (and talked about one a little in-depth) in a previous post, and my feelings on both of them are mixed.  They are both very useful tools that get abused and used for status instead of as tools.  I'm speaking of course, of GearScore and Recount.

GearScore - Everyone
Recount - Everyone

There are a few differing methods to measure "gear score."  Be Imba and Wow Heroes are two websites that provide you with gear scores, and the GearScore addon is another.  These each differ somewhat in the numbers used and the methods to achieve those numbers (for example, I have roughly a 4700 gear score as given to me by the GearScore addon, and Wow Heroes reports me around 2550), but the purpose of them is the same - to give you a singular number that is supposed to indicate how well geared you are.

Recount is just one of many of the class of addons known as damage meters.  Damage meters in general provide you with a host of useful statistics about your performance.  Recount in particular, for example, tracks damage done, damage per second, healing done, healing per second, damage taken, healing taken, rezzes, cleanses, rage gained, and on and on, for your entire party or raid.

Both of these types of addons are wonderful tools, and if used properly, can help you better evaluate what is best for you or your raid.

The problem is that they are very often NOT used properly.  For many they merely provide a status symbol for themselves - they have to have the highest score, top the dps meter, and feel no problem telling everybody that doesn't match them that their gear is inferior or they need to learn to play their class or whatever other childish thing they can throw out there.

You can usually tell the two types of people apart, although not always.  Folks that ask for meters to be posted to party/raid after every pull, folks that refuse to take anyone who doesn't meet their minimum gear score on a heroic or low raid, folks that automatically blame the person who is lowest on a dps chart or gear score for a failure in a raid... all of these are *probably* going to be irritating or poor teammates.  There are exceptions, but in general I have found this to be the case.  On the flip side, there are folks that use these tools properly, to help themselves learn how to gear and play their class, to screen the general gear level of possible raid participants, to judge themselves on their own standards, and not judge others... these players tend to make good raiders and raid leaders.

I encourage the use of these addons for players who are willing to let them be what they should be, and for everyone else...  please do the rest of us a favor and ignore them.

Moving on...

You may have noticed that I run more than a couple addons.  Truth be told, I could make do without a few of them, but I find them fun and useful.  More than a couple of folks I've talked to don't want that many addons for the simple reason that it means a lot of time spent keeping track of addon versions and updates.  I was the same way before a friend introduced me to one of my favorite WoW tools:

WoW Matrix.

In a minute I'll explain why, but equally important to me now is the Curse client from Curse Gaming.

Both of these are tools that manage your addons for you.  Instead of keeping track of the latest versions of each of your addons, you just start up one of these applications, let them check your addons against the latest versions available and have them download and install the updates for you if they exist.

The reason I use two of them is that I dislike Curse's policies and limitations but I am forced to use their client for certain addons.  Early on WoW Matrix was the only player, but once Curse decided to put their own client out there, they stopped allowing WoW Matrix to access addons stored on their servers, and prevented those addons from being hosted elsewhere, thus ensuring that players would have to use their client.  Then, they made sure that there were 2 levels of their client available for use - the free version, and the "premium" subscribtion based service.  The main drawback (in my mind) to the free version is that you can only download 1 addon at a time.  In the latest editions, you can queue up several downloads at a time for install, but you still have to tell it to update each one individually.  In WoW Matrix, you can update all your addons (that need it) with a single click, whereas the Curse client requires a subscription to do that.

Either way, though, these two tools make a nightmare of management quite easy.  No more downloading individual addons, no more unzipping and making sure things are in the right place.

There are risks to doing this... you're giving an application free reign to write to your hard drive, and even if it's one you trust, that application is getting files from individual users, which is always a risky proposition.  There is that to consider, and I won't pretend that the risk isn't there.  I use these tools, but then I trust myself to fix my computer if something goes wrong, and I run virus, adware, and malware scanners to be prepared for bad situations.

... and that's all I've got to say about that.

Kaethir out.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bearly Useful AddOns

I can't stop bad puns.  They just happen.

So, everybody probably knows that some addons are really useful in WoW.  I'd like to talk about what aspiring bears should check out, a few for trees as well, and a few that are generally useful to all.

Ok, I don't have any bear-specific ones, but some are more necessary for bears than others.

Deadly Boss Mods - All Raiders

The number one must-have addon for raiding is the nearly ubiquitous Deadly Boss Mods.  If you have any hope of making it as a raider, pug or guild, you absolutely must have DBM.  It's nicely configurable, but even straight "out-of-the-box," as it were, it's exceptionally useful and almost impossible to be successful without it.

Just in case you DON'T know what it is, it provides you with warnings when all the things you need to pay attention to (with respect to the bosses you are fighting) happen.  It warns you when you are standing in fire, it warns you when a boss is about to cast something that needs to be interrupted, it warns when you're too close to certain things that will kill you.  It's not perfect, but without a doubt it is the mod that has done the most to make me an effective raider.  It helps in all dungeons as well, providing similar information when needed.

Omen - All Non-Healers (and maybe even them too!)

Omen, according to it's description, is "a lightweight, multi-target threat meter."  Tanks and DPS, especially, need to be able to see who is generating threat on mobs, especially if they are in danger of stealing aggro from the tank.  Off-tanks on big mobs should be #2 on the threat table, and everybody else needs a way to tell when they can't push their DPS any harder without causing problems.  I'm sure there are other threat meters out there, but Omen is the one I've always used.  Easily configurable to show/hide the window for grouping or solo play.

Grid - All Healers/Rezzers/Raid Leaders

As a healer, Grid needs something like Clique (see below) to bring it to it's full potential, and requires some work with it to really show you what it's full usefulness is.  Grid is not the only unit frames addon out there, and I would encourage you to choose the one that you like best, but it's very configurable, very powerful, and has several modules coded up for it that you can use to extend its capabilities.

The short version of what Grid does is display an entire group's or raid's status for you in a single box on the screen, rather than having to drag groups/units out of the raid interface.  With proper customization, it can also display all sorts of information for you - if a player has a raid target icon on them, if a player has debuffs you can dispel (and which kind!) on them, if a player has certain buffs on them (and how many stacks!), if a player has an incoming heal and how much of their life that heal should refill, how low they are on life/mana/rage/energy/runic power, and on and on.

For healers it lets you quickly assess who needs healing, target and heal them (more powerful with Clique! see below), for raid leaders it lets you more easily assess raid composition and dead/alive status for possible battle rez, etc. etc.

Out-of-the-box, Grid is not very well configured, but with a little work it's one of my favorite addons.  Do a search for some advice on customization if you plan to use it.

Clique - All Healers/Cleansers

Clique plays well with Grid and other unit frames addons - it lets you cast spells by clicking the different buttons on your mouse while hovering over the unit frame of the player you want to cast on.  As a druid healer, I can leave my target as the tank I'm healing, and still cast rejuvenations, swiftmends, wild growths, etc. at the rest of the raid.  Requires a little configuration so as not to be annoying, but a big part of the reason I'm an even semi-useful healer.

Let me rephrase those last two addons together, in case you missed it.  With Grid and Clique together, you can cast any spell in your arsenal at any player in your raid without ever actually targeting the player.

There are options to use Clique for offensive actions, but I've not found that particularly useful, myself.  Perhaps I'm missing something.

Those are the really, really important ones I use, and I have a bunch of them that I find randomly useful as well...

Outfitter - Druids, lazy people

A lot of the usefulness of Outfitter has been superseded or made obsolete by Blizzard's Equipment Manager, but I still find some use in Outfitter.  It provides easy methods to switch between gear sets, and for me, I like the fact that it will automatically switch between gear depending on which druid form I'm in, or if I decide to go fishing it will (theoretically...) put my Nat Pagle's Extreme Angling Fishing Boots on without me having to do it manually.  It does integrate with the equipment manager and allows easy updates to sets defined there.

Titan Panel - Everyone

There are other "panel" type addons as well, but what this does is put a bar (or two) at the top (and/or bottom) of your screen which displays information you can configure as you so desire.  I like to use things like the gold meter (records the gold each of your characters have, and shows you the grand total in addition to the individual numbers), the performance (shows you frames per second and memory usage), the loot type (shows you if your group/raid is using Group Loot or Master Looter and what level of item is limited by this), and CritLine (tracks your hits and tells you the highest normal and critical hit for each of your attacks/spells/abilities).  That's just a small sample of what is available in it, and it's more of a convenience feature than anything, but I like it and think it's useful.

Atlas/AtlasLoot - Everyone/Raiders

Atlas is an addon that shows you maps of just about everything in WoW.  It's useful for finding flight paths and dungeon locations and points of interest in the game world, and has annotated maps of every dungeon so you can see where you have to go to finish quests or dungeon requirements.  AtlasLoot provides you with lists of loot available from each boss, in each dungeon - useful for picking out where to focus your efforts to get the best upgrades available to you.

ArkInventory - Everyone

ArkInventory is a bag management addon.  It shows you all your bags in one window, and all your bank + bank bags in one window, with customizable options for sorting how items are displayed in the window.  Makes bag organization a thing of the past.  Also records what is in each character's bags and bank, and shows you how much when you hover over items in addition to allowing you to view each character's bags and bank.  Also provides search capability on bags and banks.  Occasionally buggy, but extremely useful.

Auctioneer Advanced - Everyone

Shows you sell values and projected auction values when you hover over items.  Has a lot of functionality on the auction house, most of which I have not explored.

Gatherer - Miners, Herbalists, and Dwarves

Records the location of items you gather from the map, and displays them in the minimap and on your map interface.

DruidStats - Druids

Provides some information about what items actually mean to you stat-wise in your druid form (as opposed to just seeing the base stats).  It's a bit rough and not as powerful as I would hope, but I find it useful.

FishingBuddy - Anybody working on Fishing

Get this if you're working on fishing.  Ignore it if you don't fish.  If you're in between... think about it.

Tomorrow I'll touch on the two naughty addons, and some other useful tools.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Of Loot and RNGs

Welcome back!  I hope everyone had a fun holiday weekend!

The world is funny, sometimes in what it gives you.  No matter what the odds of something happening are, that slim chance sometimes wins out.  You love it or hate it (or sometimes just have to laugh!) depending on which way the long odds went... and I had an example of this last week that I thought was so ironic I could do nothing but laugh.

If you read about our loot rules last week and thought about it a bit, you may have realized that it's rather difficult in *most* of our 25-man raids to get gear that you have to roll for as an off-spec roll, because there will usually be at least one main spec in the raid that can use it and thus will get to roll first.  This makes it a little rough on those of us that raid in our non-main spec, but it's really probably for the best this way.

That's neither really here nor there.  Since I don't normally get a chance to bear up in our 25-man guild raids (because we have 3-4 designated progression tanks ahead of me), I usually end up rolling on healing gear, which has been mysteriously slim of late, and I don't usually get to roll on tanking loot.

Last week, due to illness, I had a chance to tank on our Ony/Vault/ToC run.  I was ecstatic at the chance to run my main spec in our guild raids as well as having the opportunity to roll on tanking gear as my main spec.

I was disappointed, then, when the only real tanking upgrade that dropped was a sideways one for me - a chest item with identical main stats and gem slots, and a few shifted secondary stats as the one I'm already wearing.  (I passed on rolling for that, since we had folks that could get much more use out of it.)  I had to laugh, though, because two pieces of leather casting gear (that I would have really expected to be snapped up by one of the casting druids on the raid) fell to off-spec rolls, and for a change of pace my rolls were decent enough to win.

Why is it that the RNG decides to ship me healing gear on the one night I'd really like to see tanking gear drop?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Ice Friday

Being Black Friday today, I'm not going to be anywhere near a computer long enough to write a proper post, so I'll just point you over to Icedragon at Druid main and her great post about some techniques useful to bears.

My only comment to her:  SWIPE! :)

I know, I know, bad pun in the title, but I can't help myself.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I'd like everyone to have a fun, happy, and safe holiday!

Don't eat too much!

*Note: Eating too much on Thanksgiving is not the same as eating too much on any other day of the year.  On Turkey Day, it is defined as eating so much that you can't keep it down.  Any amount less than that is ok.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Raiding and Loot Rules

I was wondering if any of the two readers I have would care to share their guild's loot rules for raiding?

My guild has tried a few things, but being the way we are we've always decided to stick with generally simple rules, adding one now and again to further the best interests of progression, fun, or fairness.  While I personally think we have too many rules (and we're considering adding another one!), I do think our system works pretty well, is not too complicated, and is mostly fair to all involved.

Here's our rules:

1.  Rolls are called for main specs first, then off spec.
   1a.  Your main spec is the role you are performing on this particular raid.  If you wish to roll on a different spec, clear it with the raid leader first.
   1b.  If you have already won an item from either of the two main general categories we set out (see #2 below) as a main spec item, you roll as if it were an off spec item.

2.  There are 3 categories of items we separate:  tier pieces/trophies, normal gear, and random stuff.  Random stuff, for example, is Onyxia's Enlarged Onyxia Hide Backpack - everyone can roll on random stuff provided it's something they can use (i.e. they don't already have Onyxia's backpack.)  For the other two categories, winning an item in one category does not preclude you from rolling on an item in the other as main spec.

3.  We are working on progression and feel that appropriately geared tanks are essential to success.  In addition to anyone performing the tank role on the raid, our designated progression tanks get first pick of tank loot.

4. On caster items, +hit gear goes to DPS casters first, and +critical strike gear goes to healing casters first.

We have no other rules beyond that.  The one we are considering is giving first pick rights to different melee classes based on which stats benefits them more, especially on accessories such as rings and trinkets that multiple classes can use - i.e. agility rings go to rogues before warriors.  That is a complicated one, especially for specs such as my main, where it's not agility vs. strength that is looked for, but, in logical terms, (agi OR str) AND stam.

We decided against using tools such as DKP because our guild does not want to completely discourage PUGs or guildmates that don't have very much time to raid from coming - if they don't have time to come 2 nights a week, that's ok, they'll still have their shots at gearing up.

We're a pretty mature group in general, almost always willing to help each other out, and that helps - we have regulars that will step out to let folks that don't get a chance to go every week have a turn, and folks that are willing to pass on items that are small upgrades for themselves to let others get much bigger upgrades.

So... is this kinda normal, or are we way out in left field?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Suspension of Belief - Real Life

So I'm back from my trip and despite getting to play WoW all week last week I don't have much of anything interesting ready to talk about, so I get to tell you a little bit more about my life.

*Gasp!* Yes, I have a *real* life, day job and all.  I know, I know, calm down, it's not the end of the world.

My wife and I were married in February of this year and are expecting our first child next March.  We're extremely happy and can't wait to get on with the business of parenting.  I'm sure we'll do enough complaining when the time comes, but it's a wondrous event for us and something we both wanted.  She's not a gamer, which makes WoW one of the few things we don't share, but don't let that get in the way, she's a great person.  I couldn't ask for a better woman to be with, as each of us makes the other better.  Or so I like to tell myself! ;)  You'll probably hear more about her as this site goes on, but for now that's just a little about her.

What I wanted to talk (read: rant) about a little more today is my truck.  More specifically, I made a bad pun in the title because I'm going to talk about my recent issues with repairing my truck's ball joints and sway bar linkages.  If you really just want to hear about WoW, come back tomorrow or the day after, as I'll have something for you then...  However, if you are curious about some of the stupidity that happens in my little world, read on.

A few months ago my truck started making noise behind the driver's side front tire when I turned the wheel, especially when I was stopped or moving slow, and before the truck had warmed up.  Those of you who know a lot more about cars than I do (or were paying attention just a minute ago) can probably already tell where the issue was, but me being only a semi-handyman asked a good friend of mine who could probably rebuild an entire car from spare parts, to take a look and see what he thought it was.

So, a month or so ago at our weekly dinner/hangout/play Magic at Skyline Chili, he and I went out and take a look behind that wheel.  He grabbed a flashlight, I turned the wheel all the way to the left and hopped out to see what there is to see.

The first thing I noticed was a rusted bolt with no head and a loose plastic sleeve sticking up into midair, about two inches from a bar with an empty hole on the end.

My friend, looking for the source of the noise, had ignored this already, but when I asked him about it he said that, yep, that's a broken sway bar linkage that needs to be replaced, but not likely the source of the noise.  He had me go back and turn the wheel back and forth a few times.  Sure enough, there's grinding and complaining from my wheel assembly.

Turned out that the factory lower ball joint on this 135,000+ mile truck had started to go bad - the boot had been torn up, and being factory issue, when the grease leaked out there wasn't a grease joint to add more back in.  The upper ball joint, just as old as the lower, probably needed to be replaced too, although it wasn't making any noise yet.  So my friend tells me that if I'm going to replace the lower ball joint and the sway bar linkage, I might as well go ahead and replace the upper ball joint too, since it'll need it eventually and it'll save on labor whether we do it ourselves or have a shop go after it... and then he says that being a suspension part, you don't just replace one side, so we're going to replace 4 ball joints and 2 sway bar linkages.

The next day I rolled over to the tire/service station near my house and discussed with them the need to replace the aforementioned joints and linkages, and was informed that the cost would be roughtly $800-$1000 for the entire job.  I thanked them and went to the nearby auto parts store to buy parts.  I spent $279 (ok ~$330 after you include the alignment when done, but still - major savings.)

The Saturday before my trip, my friend rolled over, bringing jack stands, a *good* jack, and his toolbox, which contains a larger selection of tools than mine, and we set to work disassembling the area around the front wheels of my truck.

I'll shorten this part of the story for everyone's sanity.  It was a long, hard day of work.  He and I were both grease, sweat, and blood up to our elbows.  We'd had to take a hacksaw to get one of the sway bar linkages off and a sledgehammer to dislodge the lower ball joints.  The press I had rented for us didn't quite fit right and required jury-rigging (read: more sledgehammer) to properly seat the ball joints.  We did it, though, and it was a job well done.

I can see some of you asking where the stupidity is, in this story.  It's coming.

That all went down Saturday afternoon, and after replacing these joints, I needed to take my truck to a service station to get it aligned before going on my trip on Monday.  I called around to a few places and found one that was open on Sunday, and dropped it off before my wife and I went north to see my family for my sister's birthday.

We got a call later that afternoon from the service station.  I was told that the ball joints were the wrong ones.  They said that when they got the truck up on the rack and the suspension sagged, the joints slipped.  The guy talked to me about how he could look at the database for the place I bought the joints and see they were the wrong ones.  They would be happy to replace them for me, at a cost of $100 parts and $100 labor for each joint - $400 to replace two parts I had paid $60 total for to begin with.

Incredulous, I made other arrangements for travel on my trip and told them I'd pick my truck up in the morning before I left.

A week later, after I got home, I rolled over to the service station I had stopped at originally, the one close to my house, and asked for a front end alignment.  Two hours later my truck was fine, all realigned, and I picked it up.  Sure enough, there was no problem with the ball joints.  My truck is running smoother than it has in a long, long time.

I really don't know if one station saw something the other didn't, or if they were trying to pull a fast one to get some money out of me.  I have no idea if that is common practice or not.  I would think, though, that if you want return business you wouldn't tell somebody they need $400 worth of work, when they don't.  My friend suggested that it might be because we replaced the joints ourselves - that service stations will tend to tell you stuff is wrong because you did it yourself.  Personally, I wouldn't do that - if a person is smart enough and willing to put in the effort to do maintenance on their cars themselves, they're probably smart enough to tell when you're feeding them a line of b-s about something they did being wrong.

Oh well.  C'est la vie.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled program...

Monday, November 23, 2009


I'm back!

Short new post today...

I'd like to ask for folks to keep my guild leader and good friend Kevin in your thoughts, he's in the hospital with pneumonia, or perhaps the flu.


Friday, November 20, 2009

A Primer on Tree Healing (Part 3, Gear, Gems, and Enchants)

Here we go again.


Trees can use both leather and cloth armor, although if we do roll on the lower armor cloth pieces, we often annoy our slightly squishier friends.  I would recommend, if you want your priests, mages, and warlocks to LIKE you, that you pass on that and focus on the leather pieces.

Also, I know that some guilds, like mine, prioritize gear with hit rating on it for DPS casters, since healers do not need that statistic, and crit rating for healers, since it's more important for them than DPS.  Keep that in mind as well when rolling for gear.

In the interests of ranking stats, I've put an importance on each of them below.  But much like with tanking, in my humble opinion the selection of gear is all about finding the right balance.  Thankfully most selections are quite clear; one piece is a strict upgrade over another.  But what separates good players from great players in this department are those that can examine two pieces that are sideways upgrades of each other - lose in one area and gain in another - and make the choice that helps them the most.  As healers, we need to balance our mana regeneration with the power of our heals and the size of our mana pool, keeping in mind that the power of our heals will affect how much mana we need to be regenerating.

All that being said, trees should look for, in order: spell power, spirit, crit rating, and intellect.  If the gear doesn't have spirit, it might be ok if it has MP5 to make up the mana regen difference, but you need to take into account the spell power from spirit in addition to that.  If the spell power listed on two items is the same, but one has mp5 and no spirit, and the other has spirit but no MP5, take the one with spirit.

Spell power is not as important for trees as it is for other casters - but it is still the granddaddy of stats.  There's a wrinkle for us, though, since we get 15% of our spirit as spellpower in tree form.  Thus, when evaluating gear, remember that it's ok to lose a (very) small amount of spell power for a reasonable gain in spirit (quickest, easiest math is 3 points of spell power = 20 points of spirit).  Counting gems for spell power, spirit, or mp5 becomes tricky as there are a lot of options for gems.  More on that later.

Spirit helps our mana regen in addition to our spell power, and it the long fights of both Ulduar and ToC, that's greatly needed.  After spirit, it's important to look for crit rating and intellect.  We already get quite a bit of crit rating for various spells from our talents, but the closer we can push ourselves to 100% crit, the more healing we're going to be putting out and the more procs we'll get out of Living Seed and other abilities.

Intellect increases both our crit chance and our mana pool, and to a much lesser extent, our mana regneration.  Mana pool is important - the larger our mana pool, the longer we can cast continuously without needing mana help.  We should focus more on mana regeneration that mana pool size, because we need to have continuous production over the course of very long fights.  If you have enough mana regen that you can go the length of an innervate cooldown without completely running oom, then focus on increasing intellect.


Gems give you the flexibility you need to make up shortcomings from your gear selection, and while this is true for everybody, it is especially true for the tree.

I mentioned before that gear selection is all about balance for us - tanks generally stack as much stamina as they can, and most casters stack as much spell power as they can, but we need to be more careful if we want to be as good as we can be.  In my bear gear, I often recommended using the 2-color gems, but here I highly recommend using single-color gems matching the socket, to best match your needs, with one possible exception.

Red gems should always be spell power gems.  There really isn't anything else in red that helps us.

Blue gems should be spirit or mana per 5 seconds - the split needs to be determined by your individual casting habits and mana regeneration needs.  I split mine about half and half.

Yellow gem slots are the ones you might consider using 2-color gems for, to get a little more spell power, spirit, or MP5 out of them.  The yellow part, whether a single-color or 2-color gem, should either be critical strike rating or intellect, but I wouldn't place a particular importance on one over the other.

Also don't forget the Unique-Equipped Nightmare Tear for +10 all stats.

I'll talk about how the jewelcrafter only gems play into this a bit later.

There are quite a few meta gems that are available for consideration.  I'm currently using the Bracing Earthsiege Diamond for spell power and reduced threat.  The critical strike rating and mana gem Beaming Earthsiege Diamond probably isn't a bad choice, nor is spell power and intellect with Ember Skyflare Diamond.  Intellect and chance to restore mana on spell cast from Insightful Earthsiege is probably worth taking a look at although I don't think it will rank too terribly high.  MP5 and increased critical healing from Revitalizing Skyflare Diamond is probably first on the list of things I may test if I decide to change.  I'm not a big fan of the minor run speed increase but pair it with spell power in Tireless Skyflare Diamond and it might also be worth looking at.


Not so many comments this time around...
Head - Arcanum of Blissful Mending (Wyrmrest Accord)
Shoulders - Greater Inscription of the Crag (Sons of Hodir)
Chest - Powerful Stats or Greater Mana Restoration
Hands - Exceptional Spellpower
Legs - Brilliant Spellthread
Feet - Greater Spirit
Wrist - Fur Lining - Spellpower (for leatherworkers), Superior Spellpower or Major Spirit (for everybody else)
Back -Wisdom (+10 spirit)
Weapon - whichever spellpower enchant is the best for the weapon you're using


I still like Leatherworking and Jewelcrafting.  Although LW only grants you spellpower, it's a HUGE chunk, and JC allows you the flexibility to select the gem that balances out your abilities.  If you're fine on your spirit and mana regen, you can use your red slots to pump your spellpower, but if you're having issues, say, regenerating mana, you can drop the JC-only spellpower gem down to a normal purple one, and replace a blue MP5 with the more powerful JC-only.  In the bear posts, I was looking at what got me the maximum of something - here I'm looking at flexibility, and that's one of the biggest advantages of JC.

...and once again I'm done.

Still out of town, will be back on Monday, but I can't promise a reasonably decent post then.  I should have something by Tuesday.  As always, thanks for reading, and if you have a comments, flames, or suggestions feel free to let loose!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kaethir has issues (aka More Bear Followup)

I realized when finishing up the tree primer last week, that when I covered my bear enchants I managed to completely forget the weapon slot!

So, here, short and sweet, is the last piece of that discussion.

I have yet to see a good dagger or fist weapon and offhand setup for feral druids.  It may exist, however, and keep that in mind when selecting enchants, but my analysis is based on using two handed weapons (staves and polearms).

I have seen folks go different routes, with Blood Draining or Berserking, but really, in my mind there are only two options, and those are Mongoose and Major Agility.

I've seen somebody with way too much time on their hands do the math, and declare that given average time between procs of Mongoose, the overall benefit over the length of a fight will be better with Mongoose as opposed to Major Agility.  I've used both, I haven't seen a major difference in my survivability.  I'm currently running Mongoose, but if you don't trust it and would rather have a consistent bonus, go for the +35 agility.

Told you it was short and sweet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Raid Composition

The last piece of the tree primer isn't ready yet, so I'd like to throw some thoughts out there about raid composition, how you choose how many and of what type of player to bring.

In my experience it's been pretty standard in 10 man raids to have 2 tanks, 3 healers and 5 DPS.  For 25-man, the formula has been 2-3 tanks (depending on the raid), 6-7 healers (depending on the raid and the strength of the healers), and 15-17 DPS (depending on the number of tanks and healers).

I've run a couple of pugs lately (VoA and Ony) that have eschewed this "conventional" wisdom and run only 2 healers in a 10-man and 5 in a 25-man.  The 10-man was a VoA in which the raid leader brought me - an experienced but not exceptionally well geared druid healer - and a shaman who had never healed a 10-man raid before, along with tanks that didn't know the fights exceptionally well.

In that situation, I considered our 1 wipe (on Emalon) a success.  I was pushing out nearly 3k HPS and the shammy just a shade under 2.  We lost a player or three each boss, but the raid succeeded and most of the players lost were due to factors unrelated to having only 2 heals, such as tanks unfamiliar with the encounters, or DPS going too fast before tanks had aggro.

The Ony raid was unsuccessful, but a number of factors contributed - the advantage of having less heals SHOULD be that you have more DPS, but we still seemed to struggle at times with killing things fast enough.

I don't have any overriding thought on this more than I wanted to put the question out there - am I being overly careful in thinking we should have better than a 1 to 4 healer to everybody else ratio?  Does it depend on the strength of the healers, or the rest of the raid?  Is the world going to end if anybody answers these questions?  News at 11!

err... Something like that.  As always, thanks for coming, and comments are welcome!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Followup on the Bear Primer

It is unfortunate that we must sometimes admit we have made a mistake, but we do, and it is best that we then go back and try to correct these mistakes.

I stated unequivocably that, as a bear, you want to use the two-color gems to tack stamina on any non-blue gem.  While I still think that's not a bad plan, I intend to investigate a new (to me) idea, that I thought of after seeing another bear on my server take a different track.

He had used his 3 Jewelcrafter's gems for Solid Dragon's Eye, to get the maximum stamina from that profession.  His other gems, however, were almost completely stacked with the +20 agility Delicate Cardinal Ruby.  Keeping in mind that this was on a loot pinata raid (aka Vault of Archavon), still the healers had no trouble keeping him alive.  His character sheet dodge is over 30%.  While I don't advocate his plan (at least not yet,) I'm going to experiment with dropping my Shifting Dreadstones for Delicate Cardinal Ruby, at least at some point.  We'll see how it goes, and I suspect that come Icecrown and it's Chill of the Throne reduction to dodge, I may need to go back to Dreadstones, but for now I want to see what this kind of change does for me.

I would think that the best way to go about using something like this would be to aim for my HP to be roughly the same as non-bear high end tanks - ~45-48k buffed - and then stack as much agility as we can find.  It may even allow me to take one or two of my Solid Dragon's Eye +51 stamina gems down to Solid Majestic Zircon and use the jewelcrafter gems for +34 agility...

If I get a chance to really examine it, I'll let you know how my experiment goes.

I'm out of town this week and may have my regular update schedule broken up, but we'll see what happens.

As always, thanks for reading!

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Primer on Tree Healing (Part 2, The Spec and Glyphs)

Following the same path I treaded with my bear primer, I continue with discussions of leafy things.

The Spec

Here is a link to my spec, which I'll step through once again.  This time, instead of mentioning hybrid builds, I'll mention what's most useful for tank vs. raid healing, in addition to points that I'm thinking of moving into or out of, and why.

Much like with the Feral build, there are a few talents in another tree that are useful - but this time it's the Balance tree.  There really isn't anything you want in the Feral tree, so I'll skip that one, but you want to get at least 2 and possibly 3 tiers deep into the Balance tree, so we'll talk through that before digging into Restoration.

Level 1
Starlight Wrath, 0/5: Not even remotely helpful to a tree.
Genesis 5/5: Makes your HoTs (except the not-really-a-HoT Tranquility) better.  That's right, it improves half your healing spells by 5%.  That's pretty good for a 1st tier talent, and it's really your only option to get to the 2nd tier to boot.

Level 2
Moonglow, 3/3:  Reduces the mana cost of half your heals by 9%, including the important Nourish and Rejuvenation.  Worth it!
Nature's Majesty, 2/2:  Crit chance is fairly important for healers, and while Healing Touch is not a very go-to spell for us, Nourish is, and this gives us access to a couple of abilities we probably want in the next tier, not to mention that if you DO want to get to the next tier, you need five points in this one.
Improved Moonfire, 0/2:  You don't do damage.

Level 3
Brambles, 0/3: You don't do damage and the Barkskin ability is negligible in PvE.  You *might* consider taking this for a PvP spec but not here.
Nature's Grace, 0/3: For trees that cast mostly instant-cast HoTs, this isn't an exceptionally strong talent, but I see quite a few 14/0/57 builds that take this to be better at casting Nourish, Regrowth, and the occasional Healing Touch.  I'm considering moving 3 points around to take it, and the biggest reason I haven't yet is that I'm not entirely sure where I should take points away from to do it.
Nature's Splendor, 1/1:  I think 1 point here is worth it for the Rejuvenation and Regrowth boosts alone, and if you're tank healing and using Lifebloom, this really, really helps.
Nature's Reach, 0/2: You don't cast Balance spells, and you don't use FFF.

So much for the Balance tree.  I don't think it's as obvious a must-have as the Restoration tree talents were for a Feral druid, but it's still strong. Moving along, the Restoration tree!

Level 1
Improved Mark of the Wild, 2/2: If the 2% total attributes increase isn't enough, it makes your buffs better AND you need 5 points to get to tier 2, and you aren't getting them elsewhere.
Nature's Focus, 3/3:  Reducing pushback isn't the most super buff for the trees that like so much to cast instantly, but it does help all of our non-instant cast spells, and... well I hate to say this yet again but you need 5 points in the first tier.
Furor, 0/5: This is a Feral talent that happens to be in the Restoration tree.

Level 2
Naturalist, 0/5:  Unless you're one of those rare trees that is just determined to make Healing Touch your go-to spell, this isn't worth it, at all.  In my mind, it's 5 points on this or 5 points increasing all your healing by 4%.  I'll take the other.
Subtlety, 3/3:  This would be worth it for the threat reduction alone; healers really don't like grabbing aggro.  Making your effects harder to dispel makes this an all around strong talent.  Take it!
Natural Shapeshifter, 3/3:  If you aren't taking Naturalist, you get to put 2 points here, and if you're putting 2 points here, you need to put the 3rd in and get Master Shapeshifter out of the next tree and increase your total healing by 4%.  If might not be worth 5 points, really, to get just 4% bonus healing, but if you don't go for it you really have to let 2 points go to waste in the second tier.

Level 3
Intensity, 3/3:  You do a lot of instant casting, which makes this somewhat less cool, but it does help with mana regen (one of the most important things for a healer!), and gives you access to Nature's Swiftness, which you want.
Omen of Clarity, 1/1: To paraphrase my point from the bear post, random free stuff is good mmkay?
Master Shapeshifter, 2/2:  I've kind of already discussed the how and why of taking this, but 4% bonus healing is pretty good.

When I wrote this, I had forgotten that even with instant casts, as far as WoW is concerned you are casting for the next 5 seconds.  Intensity is way cooler than I thought.

Level 4
Tranquil Spirit, 0/5:  A good ability that we don't have enough points to justify taking, unless you're using Healing Touch a lot, and if you are you'd probably rather be using Nourish anyway, which this helps as well, but 5 talent points to reduce the cost of Nourish by 10% is not worth it.  The Tranquility reduction is not huge; as I said before it's an emergency button.  Perhaps if we free up enough points elsewhere, and are focusing on tank healing...
Improved Rejuvenation, 3/3:  Rejuvenation is a go-to spell, plus gives us access to Nature's Bounty.

Level 5
Nature's Swiftness, 1/1:  Part of our emergency suite - most often used to power out a Healing Touch at instant speed.
Gift of Nature, 5/5:  Increases all healing 10% and gives access to Swiftmend.  Strong!
Improved Tranquility, 2/2:  Honestly I should probably spend these points elsewhere.  The cooldown reduction is nice but it shouldn't be something we're relying on anyway.  The threat reduction is really why I took it, but that should be a tank's job to worry about more than ours.

Level 6
Empowered Touch, 2/2:  Excellent for tank healers.  Given the way I have healed I probably should not have this talent, but I'm bound and determined to make myself use Nourish more often.
Nature's Bounty, 5/5:  Much like Empowered Touch, given the way I have healed I should probably move these points, but increasing crit chance on Regrowth and Nourish by a massive 25% is huge, especially for tank healers.

Level 7
Living Spirit, 3/3:  Spirit is goooooood.  More on that with Improved Tree of Life later.
Swiftmend, 1/1:  Awesome for quick recoveries.  Not so cool without the glyph, but still a powerful option, instant heal.
Natural Perfection, 0/3:  I really don't know what to make of this ability.  Seems to me to be more PvP oriented.

Level 8
Empowered Rejuvenation, 5/5:  Bonus healing effects of HoTs increased 20%.  Nice.  Plus, access to Tree of Life form.  Required.
Living Seed, 3/3:  I really, really like random free heals, but if you're looking for points to squeeze out, it might be these 3.

Level 9
Revitalize, 3/3:  These 3 points might get moved elsewhere.  Although it (slightly) boosts everyone rejuvenation is ticking on, except for providing you with a little extra mana when cast on yourself, it really doesn't help you heal.
Tree of Life, 1/1:  In order to be a tree, you have to, well, be a tree!  Note that in tree form you generate an aura that increases healing done to all affected by 6%.  You just made all the healers in your raid better.
Improved Tree of Life, 3/3:  Ignore the armor contribution part.  We don't care (unless we're doing this for PvP!)  We really do care that we get to increase our spellpower by 15% of our spirit.  With upwards of 1000 spirit well-geared, we're getting 150+ free spellpower.  Nice.

Level 10
Improved Barkskin, 0/2:  I mostly view this as a PvP talent.  It can be useful but I think we'd rather spend our points elsewhere.
Gift of the Earthmother, 5/5:  There's been a lot of talk about how this is going to change come patch 3.3 (or maybe Cataclysm, I don't remember), but for now it lets us cast heals faster, and that's a good thing.

Level 11
Wild Growth, 1/1:  Most.  Awesome.  Group.  Heal.  Ever.  I can't say enough good things about Wild Growth.

The Glyphs

There's a lot of good glyphs out there available for a tree druid.  It's difficult to settle on what the best ones are, but I'll take you through my picks and why, and try to discuss the other options with clarity.

I would recommend Glyph of Wild Growth for any tree druid.  It's not as strong in 5-mans but it makes one of your best spells even better for raiding.  I'm not currently using it because it wasn't available when I selected glyphs and I haven't revisited them since.  I'm going to be picking this one up soon, though.

After that, we have a LOT of good options.  Glyph of Healing Touch is the only one I really wouldn't recommend having.

Swiftmend is strong, but not as much as it was - I'm probably going to keep this one when I go about changing my glyphs.  Not eating HoTs when you cast Swiftmend is pretty good.

Lifebloom is also very strong, but as I'm trying to shift away from being quite so focused on the multi-nerfed spell I'll probably pass.  It does give you more time in between rolling blooms and increases the healing output of the spell, but I'm wanting to shift my focus elsewhere.

Glyph of Regrowth is good, but I don't think it's worth it.  If you really like using Regrowth, consider it, but I think you'd rather have Glyph of Nourish.

I'm currently using Glyph of Rejuvenation, but I'm probably going to move away from it.  It's situationally amazing but I'm hoping that shifting my healing style a little bit will make it less useful.

Glyph of Rebirth is a reasonable option, especially if you're going after bosses that are a little hard for your group, as it makes less chance for a freshly resurrected friend to die to random damage.  I'm passing, though, as I'd rather try to keep people from dying in the first place.

Really, after Wild Growth, it will be a battle for my other 2 spots between Swiftmend, Glyph of Nourish, and Glyph of Innervate.  For the long, mana-intensive fights currently out there, Innervate means (when you cast it on yourself) you get ~18k mana instead of ~15k, which can be a lifesaver in dire situations.  Nourish is excellent for tank healers, as is the Lifebloom glyph - you won't often have more than 1 or at most 2 stacked HoTs on anything other than a tank, and you won't often Lifebloom non-tanks.  Making either of these spells better, though, is a very good thing.

I'm leaning at the moment toward Wild Growth, Swiftmend, and Nourish, but that could change.

Whew!  That's a lot.

One of the key things to remember is that the strength of a druid has always been versatility.  No matter what role you want to do - main tank, off-tank, melee dps, ranged dps, raid healing, tank healing - you can do it as a druid.  To be among the best at any of them you have to choose and focus on that one to the exclusion of (at least most of) the others.  If you're like me, you want to be good at more than one role in each of your two available specs - and if you want a PvP spec, you only get 1 spec for PvE.  While I'm trying to refocus my healing spec to be better at both raid and tank healing, I will probably never be as good at either as someone who focuses, because I have to give something up to get that flexibility.

I hope folks are finding this and the bear primer useful!  It'll pick up again in a few days with a post on gear, gems, enchants, and professions!