Psynister’s heirloom guide (pre-Warlords)

For anyone who’s interested in leveling alts between now and when everything turns upside-down for Warlords of Draenor – and hasn’t seen Psynister’s heirloom guides yet – and is looking for information on “what to buy” when picking up heirlooms for power-leveling an alt, GO HERE:

FireShot Screen Capture #013 - 'Guide to Heirlooms_ Mists of Pandaria I Psynister's Notebook' - psynister_wordpress_com_2011_05_02_guide-to-heirlooms-4-1

[Psynister’s Guide to Heirlooms]

Amazingly enough, I recently started a new dwarf Protection paladin (to the complete/genuine shock of the entire world, I know…), and I immediately went to Psynister’s site for heirloom info. Psynister, to my knowledge, doesn’t play WoW on a regular basis anymore, but he has made attempts – at least, up through the enchanting changes in 5.3 – to keep his heirloom guide up to date.

Psynister is a long-time leveling aficionado, whose articles I have devoured for a long time. He loves leveling, and it was through him that I learned (after a short hiatus from everything-WoW) about the Ironman Challenge (after it kind of had already happened…) in 2011. Every piece of heirloom gear in this post is linked to Wowhead, which makes it a very nice resource for checking out the pieces for yourself and finding the vendors and required currency for said items.

I generally don’t use heirlooms – particularly during what is, for me, the leveling sweet spot of questing (TBC/Wrath) – but I’ll often use them to get to that point. Whatever your PvE-leveling method, Psynister’s site is a great resource for gear info, so I thought I’d pass it along. Check it out!

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Thanks for reading this PSA by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Alts: what do you do best, and where?

Second attempt on Armsmaster Harlan. Yes, you read that right.

Second-attempt kill on Armsmaster Harlan. Yes, you read that right.

During each week, I have certain priorities that I like to complete on my main:

  • Cap Valor Points
  • Kill a Celestial and Ordos
  • Be supplied and ready to raid
  • Raid

Additionally, there are professions to take care of on a daily basis:

  • 2 Blacksmithing cooldowns
  • 2 x 2 Leatherworking cooldowns
  • 1 cooldown each for Alchemy, Engineering, Enchanting, Jewelcrafting
  • 2 Tailoring cooldowns
  • 7 x farms
  • Check raid/food supplies and shuffle items accordingly

Beyond that, though, my time is basically mine to use as I wish. Since the second week of 5.4, I’ve mainly used it to play my Resto druid, although my Prot warrior has gotten some love lately, and I’ve played my mage on and off. One thing I’ve noticed is that, although I’m moderately proficient with each of these toons in certain areas, there are certain places where I do well, and others that I enjoy less.

Healing

This really started to come to mind when I began taking my druid into heroic dungeons for Valor Points recently. Until a couple of weeks ago, I had healed exactly zero dungeons. I had tanked a couple of dungeons early on in the expansion with that toon, but virtually all of my healing has come in LFR. Since the druid is an alt – and therefore Valor Points are not vital – I’ve simply gotten my healing fix in LFR and left it at that.

However, I have healed a few dungeons recently. And there have been mixed results.

Don’t get me wrong – I am overgeared for these dungeons. Grossly overgeared. I’m geared enough that I can heal in wing #1 of Flex (and have done so, a little) and not do too badly. This means that when I go into a dungeon, usually one of two things happens: A) if the tank is overgeared for the dungeon, I’m bored. B) if the tank is grossly undergeared for the dungeon, or does things he/she can’t handle relative to his/her gear, that tank can still die… much to my chagrine.

In my limited experience thus far, I’ve mostly run into tanks who are fine and can handle whatever they try. However, last night I ran into a Prot paladin who had 387k health (buffed), but played like he had twice as much.

Pro tip: if you’re at the level where most of the gear that drops for your spec in heroic dungeons is still an upgrade, and you’re the tank, chain-pulling and repeatedly going out of line-of-sight of the healer is not going to be a good recipe for continued survival.

Things came to a head in this instance – which was Heroic Scarlet Halls – when we got to Armsmaster Harlan. I was still halfway up the stairs across the hallway when this tank jumped down into the pit and lost almost all of his health. I barely made it into the room before the door shut, and kept him alive, but then he was smart enough to get caught up in Blades of Light (and died). He also did this on the second pull, although the DPS managed to still kill the boss. The DPS then kicked him, and we finished the dungeon with our DK, who switched to Blood and pulled things in a more manageable fashion.

Anyway, I was frustrated with the tank, but I was also frustrated with myself, because I couldn’t keep him alive. Then again, I suppose that even great healers might have a problem with a tank in bad gear playing badly.

LFR/raiding is a different story. I think I enjoy it more. Perhaps I would feel differently if I were running dungeons with friends, but that doesn’t happen anymore in my circle of friends/guildies – if any such grouping happens, it’s usually for LFR. And whether I’m running with friends or not, I generally enjoy LFR more on my healer. LFR still sucks – don’t get me wrong – but since it’s not imperative that I finish it, and I’m doing it because I want to rather than because I have to, I can just go in and do heal-y stuff and not worry about it too much.

Gekkan bites it in a timely fashion

Gekkan bites it in a timely fashion

Tanking

Things are pretty much totally opposite for me when it comes to tanking.

I’ve always preferred tanking dungeons to tanking raids, especially LFR. I can generally tank just fine in any situation, but I prefer dungeons because I’m in control. It doesn’t matter if there’s someone there with a legendary cloak or if everyone else’s average ilvl is 450: the dungeon will be completed if the tank is moderately skilled, around or above ilvl 500, and doesn’t make boneheaded mistakes.

As a tank, the group goes through at my pace, and I’m comfortable enough with both the dungeon and my own familiarity with Protection warriors that I can gauge how much we can pull at one time, which way we’ll go, and how to handle emergency situations on the fly.

Of course, I’m to the point where I’m tired of all of these year-old dungeons, so I’m not the dungeon-running nut that I would like to be at this point in the xpac. However, if I’m in the mood, I can do a few, snag some VP, and have a decent time along the way.

This is my preferred tanking mode. I’m just not interested in tanking enough to do so in LFR. I expect many tank-players feel the same way. If necessary, I would tank in normals or flex, but that would involve coordination with familiar players, which has its own enjoyable qualities. And at this point, I’m not needed for tanking.

Ranged vs. Melee DPS

I play a hunter. I’m pretty good at it. I enjoy the ranged aspects of playing the class. I also enjoy not having to be up close to the boss’s hit box* in order to be doing damage.

*Obviously, you have to be close to the boss to tank. But if you’re tanking correctly, the boss wants to be close to your hit box, so it’s a win-win situation.

While mages have a different toolkit than hunters, I do enjoy playing my mage, in part because it’s also ranged, so I don’t have to deviate much from my positioning habits in general as I play. With both my hunter and mage, I am proficient at both raids and dungeons. So I don’t necessarily have a preference, although I will say that I’ve usually taken my druid into LFR rather than my mage, in part because of queue times. But if I’m going with a group of friends, I’ll bring the mage along, and he’ll do fine.

Melee, on the other hand, is a different story. At this point in the game, just about the only melee I enjoy playing is as a tank. Perhaps it’s because I’m out of practice, or because I’ve only tried it on a warrior this xpac (I suck at warrior DPS, period). But in general, I’m not a fan of the limitations of melee. Perhaps it’s something I should explore more, perhaps in PvP…

Anyway, if I’m going to DPS at this point, I’m either going to DPS at range, or I’m not going to DPS at all.

“Conclusion”

Things are pretty clear for me, with regard to the alts I play the most.

DPS: I like ranged, without question; doesn’t matter where.

Healing: I’d rather be raiding, but I can heal dungeons I suppose.

Tanking: Dungeons all the way – unless I’m tanking with a friend-tank. Which rarely happens.

Here’s my question for you. What do you do best, and where?

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Should hunters really be first in line for a 6.0 revamp?

...or should warriors top the list?

…or should warriors top the priority list?

Much has been made over the past few months about how hunters need to be seriously revamped in 6.0, and the next expansion (which is something that I am referring to with tongue in cheek as BC2). Many hunters have voiced opinions and concerns about this, ranging from The Godmother to Arth and Frost at the WHU, people on the forums and twitter, and other fine bloggers.

Among the topics: hunters have too many DPS buttons. Hunter specs are too similar to one another. Hunters aren’t top DPS, and one of their specs is at or near the bottom, but we’re “pure DPS” so that sucks. Hunters don’t bring a raid-wide cooldown. Pet issues abound. And so on. All valid issues.

The list of issues is long. Arth at WHU is working on a Hunter Community Expansion Revamp Project (HCERP), whereby the community collectively brings issues and suggestions to the developers’ attention in a mature and organized manner, which is a fantastic endeavor. And Ghostcrawler has even said that they are likely to look at revamping some classes in a manner similar to the warlock overhaul in MoP, and that hunters are possibly at the top of the list.

Now, for some people this can be scary, if you don’t see the problems, or don’t care about them and just want to play the hunter you love. For others, these issues are of vital importance, because they are issues that frustrate them about the class as it is today, both for themselves and for other players.

I’ve written about a couple of issues that I hope can be fixed, but I’m generally not contributing to the conversation at the WHU because I don’t think that I have anything original to offer; nor do I feel that I can explain things better than some of the folks who are more heavily involved in contributing. I generally just state my opinions here at Mushan, Etc. as the spirit moves me, and leave it at that. We’ll see what happens.

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Meanwhile, outside the bubble that we hunters tend to live in, there are other classes that are hurting.

I read an interesting post on Monday by Zellviren, at Unwavering Sentinel [Edit: Zell has consolidated Unwavering Sentinel into Bastion of Defence; the link has been changed and still works], whose main is a Protection warrior. In it, he talks about how the Prot warrior has sort of fallen off the map as a preferred tank.

For those of us not in the know, there appears to be a general consensus that monks, death knights, and paladins are the tanks of choice. Druids are viable… and warriors are viable too, but druids generally have a distinct DPS advantage – which comes into play on fights with tight enrages – as well as self-healing advantages over warriors. For much of this expansion, warriors have been at the bottom of the DPS and self-heal totem poles, and the changes in 5.3 and 5.4 to warriors and tanks in general haven’t really changed the fact that warriors are still struggling.

In his post, Zell laments Ghostcrawler’s comment about Blizzard’s intentions for the hunter revamp, in light of the most recent hunter population data compiled by Cynwise. According to Cyn’s research, hunters are the most popular class in WoW. This is completely understandable, since hunters are easy to level and generally very fun to play. And on the other end, rogues and warriors have serious problems. If you’re not familiar with the problems that warriors have been having, go read the last several months of The Care And Feeding Of Warriors columns by Matt Rossi at WoW Insider. I can’t go into them all here, but he does a good job talking about all of the specs. This post in particular, which is something of a Call to Arms / plea for warriors to get out there and tank something/anything, illustrates how things have been so bad for warriors this expansion that the perception has become even worse than it should be (when people are surprised that a warrior is tanking a dungeon, things have gone too far).

And getting back to Zellviren, here’s that telling comment from his post:

“My class of six years is broken.  As most of you know, I’m always complaining about warrior design and we arrive at the Siege of Orgrimmar to find that, actually, it’s not been fixed.  Sure, the class is doing better than it was but it still suffers from endemic design problems that are going to persist into the next expansion as well.  Blizzard seem happy enough with the gutting warriors got in Mists and there was a blue Tweet saying that they intend to put most of their design iteration into making hunter specs feel more different.

“No, you read that right.  The game’s most popular class is going to get the most design time.”

Obviously, his post/comment is drenched in understandable disappointment. And I feel a lot of sympathy for his position and his feeling of resentment. This is just one person, but he is vocalizing a sentiment that has become common among warrior players. I’ve read about many warriors who have switched to tanking with DKs or monks, or paladins. While warriors have myriad issues, monk tanks are very strong, with some even calling them the best designed tank in the game, followed closely by DKs. So there is definitely a problem: warriors are frustrated with warrior tanking, while other players see them as weak, and/or inferior choices for progression tanking.

At any rate (read the post, and Cynwise’s post, and check out Rossi’s stuff, for reals), I have to wonder if Blizzard will actually make hunters a top priority for 6.0/BC2. Generally, we’re going to see lots of changes to all of the classes, but I wonder if making hunter spec-uniqueness a top priority is really the best thing for the game in general when there are some core problems with warriors (and other classes) that probably need to be fixed – for the overall good of the game – before hunters are revamped.

Hopefully, they can do it all: improve classes like warriors and rogues while also giving hunters some constructive love. But I’ll be honest and say that, while I do think hunters need some work (and I’ve written about some of the issues, as I said), I also feel like we’re in a nice, competitive place right now. Hopefully, Blizzard will get things “more right” next time, giving players more freedom to play exactly the class that they want to play while also making the improvements and changes to the game that are supposed to make the next expansion Awesome(TM).

***

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Echoes of a Big Bear

Ana killing a Mushan >.>

This morning, I read Big Bear Butt’s post from yesterday, about his decision to stop trying to force himself to be a bear tank. I won’t quote it or copy it, so go read it if you haven’t already. Basically, he is letting go of his guardian druid, and his hunter will be his raiding main. Sound familiar?

Anyone who has followed BBB for a while – like I have – knows that he has long been both a passionate advocate of bears and one of the foremost progenitors of furry-bottomed face-tanking, in-game and in the blogosphere. With experience comes wisdom, and he has much of both. I found it very interesting that many of his thoughts echo mine with regard to my own druid.

Once Mists of Pandaria launched, I leveled my hunter in about 30 hours. A week later, my druid hit 90 as well. I’m currently working, off and on, on my warrior, who hit 88 yesterday. The hunter was the most fun. There were very few situations that I had problems with, and it was undoubtedly the toon that I am capable of leveling the fastest.*

*This includes choices that I’ve made; I could have leveled my druid as a feral druid, and I could level my warrior as arms, but there’s no way I could have done so with the apparent recklessness and efficiency with which I approached many of the Week 1 situations I found myself in – not with either toon.

Leveling the druid was brutally slow. She’s a guardian, which was what I had planned. For those who remember my post a while back about leveling her to 90 with my Cataclysm gear, here’s the update on how that went: at roughly level 88 1/2, in Townlong Steppes, I gave up the idea. Item level 387 was not cutting it. Level 88 mobs took a minute to kill sometimes. The damage was punishing. I was missing too much, and reforging put my survivability in even more jeopardy. So I gave up the ghost, went back to Stormwind, rotated in what green/blue gear I had collected, reforged and slapped on cheap enchants (yay profession leveling!), and went back for a much, much more reasonable experience for the final 30-ish bars.

Once I hit 90 with her, I ran Direbrew to get the trinkets, and am currently wearing the Brawler’s Trophy. Her gear has stagnated a bit, though, as I’ve been working on the hunter (of course) as well as leveling the warrior.

Droignon versus the Stag

Leveling the warrior has been interesting and fun. He’s protection, of course, and his gear experience began a little differently than the druid’s. When I was leveling Blacksmithing on my hunter, I procced no less than four very usable ilvl 415 plate blues that were immediately equippable. One or two of them had Crit or Haste on them, but the Strength and Stamina upgrades over my 378 gear were so nice that they were definite wins. When I got to Jade Forest, I was absolutely crushing stuff, which was fun. I’m still wearing a couple of the pieces, and things have evened out as I’ve leveled him, so the rate of kills has slowed down considerably, which isn’t surprising.

Druid tanking is a cousin of warrior tanking, although the warrior tends to have better movement as well as spell reflecting abilities, while the druid has more in-combat healing ability. When I’m on one, I tend to miss the advantages of the other from time to time.

However, one thing that has been on my mind lately is how different they can feel as classes. By feel, I don’t necessarily mean the differences in abilities, but rather the way that I connect with the characters when I’m playing.

As a druid, there was something inspiring about being there with Hamuul Runetotem and Malfurion Stormrage during the battle against Leyara. Hamuul, burned and broken, shapeshifts – in what must be a painful situation for him – and goes “all-for-the-cause” bear-apeshit on her until she’s dead. Come 5.0.4, we bears turned into guardians, like the Guardians of Hyjal. I felt, and feel, kinship with him to a point.

However, as a warrior, there is something so visceral about what is essentially the most physical class in WoW. It’s a humanoid with plate, shield, and sword/axe/mace, leaping into the fray and taking all comers. Listening to the sounds of combat on my warrior, it feels physical: the slamming of shields and swords, the boom of Dragon Roar, the crash of Thunder Clap. And the visuals are great too: the warrior balances on his toes, slices with his sword, slams his shield in his opponent’s face. It feels very personal.

As much as I try, I can’t make that personal connection with the druid.

As feral, I was a cat. I was a hunter pet with free will. As a moonkin, I was a fat chicken, which is a look I have never enjoyed. As a healer… well, that has never felt comfortable to me. And as a bear, things feel visceral to an extent, but not as much as on the warrior.

As a warrior, you have your gear and your colors. You look sharp and ready to go. When the battle begins, the warrior charges in and fights for his life and those of his friends. He proudly continues to display his colors and fights until victory is assured or until all is lost.

There’s something that feels definite and permanent about my warrior. Perhaps it’s because of the shape-shiftiness of the druid. It can be a bear, or a cat, or a chicken, or a stormcrow, or a stag, or an orca. It can heal or rip or call down nature’s elements for purposes either deadly or life-giving. At the end of the day, a druid can potentially be a lot of different things.

On the other hand, a warrior is a warrior. Mine has never fought or killed any enemy as any other spec but protection. He is a rock, covered in plate and flashing steel weapons. He is nothing more, nothing less.

Right now, all of that appeals to me. And the druid appeals to me much less.

I haven’t started a monk, in part, because I am so happy with my warrior.

And so this gets me to my point, which is that I, like BBB, am also thinking of letting go of the druid as a seriously played toon.

The plan for MoP was to raid on the hunter, maybe to tank on the druid if possible, and to enjoy my protection warrior in limited play. But lately I find myself thinking of making my warrior my main tanking character: gearing him, getting him set up with all of the factions, tanking dungeons, and bringing him along if we ever end up running an alt raid.

With warriors, there is no pussy-footing around. We smash. We survive. We do what we have to do. With my druid, I’ve been gearing as a guardian while also trying to heal BGs because I don’t want to PvP as a feral druid. Neither has been the most fun. The warrior has been enjoyable. And that’s what this is all about, after all.

- – -

In closing… I will write an update as things progress. Right now, we aren’t yet raiding. After I finish this post, I’m going to hit up Raid Finder on Mushan.

I’m a little behind where I want to be gear-wise, in part because I took four days off to go visit with family during the second half of last week. I haven’t completed three of the heroics yet, due to issues such as having Scholomance completely reset on us (and disband the group) after killing the second boss the only time I’ve been in there, as well as a lack of luck with the dungeon finder. Thus, I’m not using any of the pre-raid BiS trinkets, but I am otherwise 463-plus in every slot. I have the Sha of Anger boots, the Valor neck, the crafted gloves and chest, the belt from Raid Finder, and Direbrew’s trinket. So I’m in decent shape, but hopefully I’ll be in better shape after this week’s reset is over.

I’m not sure when we’ll start raiding. Right now, from what I can tell, we have one tank, one healer, and some DPS returning from our Dragon Soul team, so we have some definite needs. I’m chomping at the bit to get at it, but we’re nowhere close to being ready, and as my girlfriend pointed out, the expansion is still new and we have plenty of time to get in there and kill all 16 bosses in this tier. I have to confess that I’m a little jealous of the people who are downing Mogu’shan bosses already – my girlfriend’s guild already has two down as of last week’s lockout – but I’ll just have to use the time to prepare myself as much as possible, and to be patient in the meantime.

I’ll write more when I have more!

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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Rage tank improvements in Mists of Pandaria; problems with early judgments about redesigns

Some thoughts about rage tanks and how making decisions based on early beta info can, at times, lead to undue worry and poorly-made choices…

Droignon is happy to hear that Shield Slam, his favorite ability, hits like a truck in the MoP beta.

Protection warriors (Guardian druids are also mentioned)

Matthew Rossi, warrior guru at WoW Insider, posted an update on the states of Protection and Fury warriors in beta last night.  It gave me some hope for my warrior*, who is one of three toons that I have who can play a tank spec (I don’t have a DK…).

*My warrior, Droignon, is the only toon I’ve ever brought 100% to max level solely with a Protection spec, and I plan on continuing that trend with him in MoP.  So while he’s an alt that I’ve never really raided with before, I’ve enjoyed playing protection immensely, and hope to do so in MoP.  I may even use him as a real tank.  So the warrior part of this post is pertinent, I assure you!

Early returns on MoP rage tanks have been that their damage was terrible, that they’ve been overly-gutted of rage-generating abilities – passive and active – and have been much more boring to play in beta than they are live.  After I posted a while ago about possibly running as a straight PvP/PvE Balance druid for the first time ever in MoP, I played (for a while) with the idea of making Anacrusa a Guardian.  However, a little bit of research left me feeling less than confident in the state of Guardians in MoP, and Prot warriors were looking similar.  Not coincidentally, both specs use rage as a resource.

Rossi’s article from May 12th, however, gave me hope for both classes, despite the fact that he did not write about druids in his post.  While he has serious concerns about Fury warriors on beta, he seems to be pretty satisfied with the updated state of beta Prot warriors.  It looks like Prot damage is getting better, rage generation will be less of a problem than originally anticipated, defensive abilities – both old and new – seem to be working well, and the spec seems both interesting to play and very functional.

This is good news – a sigh of relief, actually.  And it gives me hope that changes to Guardian / Feral druids in beta will also make that class more exciting to play.

I’m not in beta, so I’m not testing anything myself.  I’ll have to do that when the pre-expansion patch drops.  Therefore, I have to rely on the expertise of others in these types of cases, and that leads me to my next point.

Making premature judgments (a cautionary reminder – mainly for my benefit – for players of all classes)

Next week, the beta will celebrate its two-month birthday.  Well, perhaps there won’t actually be any celebration; however, the date is notable because we’re likely approaching the halfway point of the beta itself, and while nothing is really finalized, we’re starting to get better pictures of how our classes will play.  It’s exciting to see spec redesigns turn a corner and start to really come into their own – particularly when they started off looking awful – and it looks like the Protection warrior could be doing just that.  I’m hoping that I’m proven wrong with druids, too – perhaps when 5.0.1 drops, we’ll find that Feral and Guardian specs are not just viable, but are also exciting and fun specs to play.  Here’s to keeping fingers crossed…

This is a problem, though, in this day and age.  I’m not referring to beta testing and player feedback – that stuff is priceless, and I think the games we play are much better, in general, for it.  However, from a personal standpoint, I find myself latching onto certain “design priorities/goals” that the development team articulates or demonstrates (or both) in early beta.  If it seems like a shitty idea to me, particularly with a spec like Feral druids (i.e. the developers’ constant desire, both spoken and test-built, to tone down special attacks in favor of white – or sustained – damage, which has been going on for years now), the history combined with that idea can make me inclined to abandon the spec, however premature that may prove to be.  It’s a trap I’ve fallen into multiple times, although I think that it’s not entirely without merit that I do so.  However, early betas are probably coloring my impressions of certain classes more than I should be letting them.

It’s something to think about.

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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc.  Comments are welcome!


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