Cata Questing Content Review (levels 80-85): Vashj’ir

This is a first in a series to review the leveling experience from 80-85. By the time most of you have read this, you probably are 85 already, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sit back and talk about what we thought of the story, game mechanics, and experiences we had in leveling. The opinions expressed in this series are that of Arcanetinkertank unless attributed otherwise, and are sometimes unique from the perspective of a mage. This series is ordered to cover the lower zones of Vashj’ir and Hyjal first, followed by Deepholm, then finish with Uldum and Twilight Highlands.

Welcome to Vashj’ir: The Zone Where Your Group Will Grow to Hate Each Other

Cataclysm launches and I am strolling around Stormwind and POP a quest shows up out of nowhere summoning me to some little island near the keep. No doubt the pivotal role I had in defeating the Lich King has been making the rounds of NPCs so no doubt they thought my awesome abilities could help them with their tinsy little problem. I stroll on over and start a chain which in a short while gives me a vision of Thrall casting something near an awesome whirlpool, gets me on a boat only to be grabbed by a huge tentacle, drug underwater and left for dead, and then begin the nightmare of expansion day spawn camping with everyone else. Zel was quick to join me under the sea, which despite Sebastian’s claims to the contrary, is not better.

It is not better where it is wetter you dumb little crab!

So there are a few problems with groups questing in this zone. First, like most of the expansion, there is extensive phasing making helping friends catch up is kind of difficult. I am going to trust Blizzard’s metrics say this is fine based on how people actually play versus how they say they would like to play.

Second this is a three dimensional zone, so directing your group to where you are now has a whole new element of frustration. For example there is a quest where you have to find something that randomly spawns, this resulted in the following conversation a few times.

ATT: Hey Zel come over here, I found one.
Zel: Where?
ATT: Over here, no come down. No to your left. No Wait you are going the wrong way I’m over here. Look at my screen. Do you see where I am?
Zel: Yeah and I see that Tauren druid taking it.
ATT: Son of a bitch!

Which leads me to the third problem, the abundance of people fighting over things the first few days. This means either every named spawn is camped with people hovering their fingers over instant attacks to tag it, or there aren’t enough people in that particular area the spawn rate is still pretty fast so just as you down one mob another spawns and you are still in combat.

All of this made me realize that I can deal with questing underwater or I can deal with people, but I can’t deal with both. So we agreed this was too frustrating for us and went to Hyjal. Because I had some free time to play this last weekend I went back to Vashj’ir as a solo player. The crowd had thinned a bit and I didn’t have to worry about getting separated from Zel. It has been a much better experience.

With me going back to solo the remainder of the zone to get the achievement, I found the whole zone a lot more pleasurable when the crowds were gone. The visuals make the zone seem other worldly, but not in the way Outlands with the floating islands did. It will take some getting used to the 3D space in regards to quest objectives, generally if you stay close to the ocean floor you’ll do fine. If you don’t see what you need look up to check that it isn’t there. The final zone event for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was a nice final chapter on the Zone.

TL;DR:  my advice for Vashj’ir is do it solo if you do it at all. It is really pretty, and some of the quests are really fun. But if you are trying to run it as a group you need to have a system in place for three dimensional direction which most people don’t have by default, and to be fair the rest of the game rarely makes use of the Z axis before here. The story was well done and the restrained use of cut scenes made the zone quest progression feel natural. What annoyed me most at the start, in retrospect, was the over crowded zones, but by the time I finished this zone won me over as a fun place to level. (Pro tip – if you insist on leveling with a group, put raid symbols over everyone’s head. It will make it slightly easier to find your friends in the 3D space.)

Fixing your Out-of-Date Grid Plugins for the New Tabbed Grid

Remember how we talked about Grid’s New Menu Structure.  The new tabs are awesome!  And now the latest grid released on Curse (not just the Alphas in development) incorporates this menu structure.

However, if you use a lot of plugins, an un-updated plugin can make your “frame” menu look like this:

OMG EW!

Fear not, there is a solution:

1. Make sure all your plugins are the latest version available

This means looking for alphas and betas on WowAce or Curse Forge. Many addon authors have made a small fix to get the plugin to play nice with the new tabbed grid menus.

2. Find The Culprit(s)

All your plugins are the latest version out there and you’re still getting this icky menu glitch? It’s an un-updated plugin. Maybe more than one!

How do you find it?  Disable all plugins and then start enabling them one by one. Don’t just stop at the first culprit. There could be more than one plugin that is not playing nice.

Hint, this will be an INDICATOR plugin, not a STATUS plugin. It will be a plugin that modifies HOW information is displayed or adds an indicator. It will not be a plugin that allows you to show a new status.  Most plugins actually start with “GridIndicator” or “GridStatus”, so this should be fairly easy to spot.

I found that GridIndicatorCornerText, GridIndicatorSideText, and GridCooldownText needed fixing. If you use GridStatusHots with a countdown, these plugins are MUST-HAVE.

3. Fix It

Time to go mucking about in the code.  Are you ready?

Find the lua file. It should be the plugin name with .lua at the end, for example: GridIndicatorCornerText.lua. It would be found in the appropriate folder (in this case “GridIndicatorCornerText”) in your Addons folder (which is, of course, in your Interface folder). Not in your WTF folder.

Open the Lua file in notepad. OMG IT IS A MESS!!!  Haha.  At this point you are flailing around on the floor going OMGWTF.  It’s ok.

Now find

type = "group",

Remember, use your “find” tool for this.  It should be shortly after the plugin name .options – in our example GridIndicatorCornerText.options.

Replace it with:

type = "group", inline = true,

Then save the notepad document. Repeat for any other plugin that is fouling up your tabbed display.

4. Profit

Your tabbed display frame menu now looks like this:

See? All fixed.

What if it doesn’t work?

You might not have identified all the culprit plugins.  Try turning them off and on again.

If things are fouled up beyond that, you can always revert the plugins you modified by simply redownloading them from their respective sites.

Sources

Well yes, I did test this and didn’t just copy off the internet, but I didn’t pull the idea out of the sky either.

  • Comment on GridIndicatorSideText on Curse.
  • Comment on GridIndicatorCornerText on Curse Forge.

This post was brought to you by “OMFG I did srs bzns coder shit and didn’t fuck up my grid, my other addons, my wow install, my blog, or the entire fucking internet, woot!”

Mages Should Help Organize Pulls

If you have been playing WoW for a long time and can remember a pre-Wrath era, you no doubt remember that pulls were carefully dissected before executed. “Okay Mage you got moon, Hunter will ice trap Square, and I’ll tank Skull and X. Single Target only.”
“ArcaneTinkerTank”
“Huh?”
“My name is ArcaneTinkerTank, not ‘Mage'”
“Whatever. CHAAAAAAARGE!!!!”

This kill order was usually designated by the tank, and the party was just supposed to fall in line. The pull went well or it went badly, and there was a 50/50 chance your time was spent griping about the warlock dotting your sheep, or the warrior thunder clapping too close to your sheep.

Well mages, I have good news! We can make the stress of pulling a lot easier with Ring of Frost.

With Ring of Frost, you have this targetable mist that will freeze in an ice block anything that is within its circle for up to 10 seconds. This means for most pulls you can manage to give your team 10 whole seconds to properly pull their target out for CC.

TRAIN YOUR TANKS

The downsides are:

  1. a two minute cooldown, and
  2. you need to train your tanks to single target the mobs they want initially out of the ring and away from the remaining CC’d mobs.

Never should the two circles touch.

This can be done with ranged single target attacks like a warrior’s Heroic Throw, a paladin’s Judgement, a druid’s Faerie Fire, or a Death Knight’s Death Grip. I’m sure there are other things they can do, but they must bring the tanked mobs away from the CC mobs so they can do their normal AoE effects like Thunder Clap, Consecration, Swipe, or Death and Decay with no worry about breaking crowd control effects.

For more thoughts on Ring of Frost, check out Kiss My Alas who wrote on it before I had a chance. I assume she was reading my mind and may in fact be Mentok the Mind Taker.

Alas?

Healing: Stop. Breathe. Think.

You’re healing a level 83 normal dungeon… the tank takes damage.

OMG I MUST HEAL THE TANK RIGHT NAO!

Probably not.

OMG HE IS GOING TO DIEEEEE!

Not in the next 5 seconds, no.

Stop. Think. You do have the time for this.

How about a Hot followed by an efficient heal.

MAYBE? NO! HE WILL DIEEEEEE WHILE I AM CASTING IT.

Probably not.

IT DIDN’T HEAL HIM TO FULL RIGHT AWAY!!

Hit him again with it.

THE TANK IS AT 75%! I MUST TOP HIM OFF OR HE WILL DIEEEEE!

Oh geez, no. Quit it.

OMG NOW THE RAID IS TAKING DAMAGE!

Well, how much damage?

DOES IT MATTER? IN THE NEXT GCD THEY COULD BE DEAAAAD!

Probably not. Will topping them off cause a lot of overheal?

WELL YES BUT THEY MIGHT DIEEEEE!

No, stop that. They will not die.  Leave them alone for now.

BUT BUT BUT.

Seriously.

OMG, NOBODY IS TAKING ANY DAMAGE NOW, I SHOULD PRE-HOT EVERYONE AND REFRESH STUFF AND GET READY FOR ARMAGEDDON.

No. Stop that. Put down the renew and back away from the keybinding.

I MUST CAST! I AM TWITCHY! THINGS CAN GO WRONG IN A FRACTION OF A SECOND!

Well, if you truly have nothing to do, you can cast hymn of hope to regain mana….

OMG I HAVE TIME FOR THAT?

… or DPS…

HOORAY PEW PEWPEWPEW!!!

… if you have taken the appropriate talents so that it buffs your healing in some way…

DOH!

… and it doesn’t use up the mana that you need to otherwise heal through the rest of the fight…

BUZZKILL.

Just sit there until you’re needed.

BUT THAT IS BORING.

Think about puppies and kittens, then.

OH PUPPIES AND KITTENS ARE NICE.

Hunter Alt Bringing out the Girly Side

I have gone from practical to dumb and squealy in about 30 seconds. I blame the Hunter.

Oh, it started innocently enough. I started a human hunter (the rationale being that I’m very familiar with the human starting zones and wanted to see how they had changed). I started out just keeping my starter-pet (a wolf) figuring that in the absence of knowledge about what the pets actually do, I might as well keep what I have.

Then I saw the Redridge Fox. It was so freakin cute. Don’t ask me what foxes do. Don’t ask me the relative advantages or disadvantages over a wolf. I have no clue.  I started squealing “OMG IT’S SO CUTE I MUST HAVE ONE LIKE NOW!!!” and ATT just looked at me like I was a freak.

Fortunately, I was to get the ability to tame a second pet in one level. If it had been many levels, I might have broken something.

It’s named “Box“.

I swear, I’m going to be the worst hunter on earth because I will be picking pets based on cuteness and end up with an attack bunny

I have officially lost my damn mind.

Choices in the Holy Tree or Lack Thereof

I love Holy. I do. The new playstyle is just awesome.

But… there are so many talents that I just despise.  I am not sporting two talents, Lolwell and Improved Death, that I thought I never would touch just so I could shed some equally fail talents and still get 31 points in the tree.

My Current Spec

Wowhead Link

Not a lot of wiggle room in Holy, AMIRITE?

What I dropped like a hot potato

Surge of Light. I used Heal a lot. This still procced like never.  It’s FIRED.

State of Mind.  This used to be cool when…. (1) Chakra had a 1 min cooldown and (2) your prayer of healing would refresh 4 seconds per target hit (so back up to 30 right quick). Neither of these apply anymore, so screw it, right? Chakra doesn’t have a GCD, and it has a 30 second cooldown, so it can be refreshed immediately. There’s no mana or time advantage to extending.

Blessed Resilience is, of course, a pee vee pee talent.

At 85?

A lot of this depends on ye olde disc-smite experiment, but I’m going to assume, for the sake of argument, that smite is better than the rest of the crap in the top of the disc tree and go with a smite-archangel build. Ugh. WHY?

Wowhead Link.

This is all, of course, subject to change based on EJ mathery and any changes Blizz makes to talents blah blah caveats.

Edit 12/13 (now that I’ve played some moar cata….)

1. I hate that 85 spec.  I was basing this spec on ye olde Spiritual Guidance where Dawn Moore said that holy priests would want to take archangel for mana, which I found unconventional but hey, she’s the expert in beta.  However, I’ll probably try something closer to this.

2. Since writing this, I have used Lolwell zero times.

3. Since writing this, Improved Death and my subsequent fail angel saved us from a most embarrassing wipe. I’m beginning to think this talent is quite useful, at least while we’re still learning.

4. Suzushiiro has a valid point that one point in State of Mind gives just enough wiggle room so that you can reapply chakra before it drops off completely.

Testing a Discipline Smite Build in the Name of Science

Ugh, I hate smiting. But ATT is leveling his priest as disc and is just yapping all the time about how awesome it is.

Fine. I’ll try your dumb smite spec.

The Spec

Here it is:

This spec allows me, I feel, to do smite-healing if I so desire (it includes Evangelism, Archangel, and Atonement) but it still doesn’t gimp my healing in times when I can’t work smite into the rotation. It still has all the basic elements of a strong bubble spec.

I gotta say, I tried a few versions of this and spent way too much money adjusting.

This is NOT a srs bzns dps spec. This is a spec that is for healing, with smiting augmenting my healing output.

Why I didn’t take what I didn’t take…

Now, these talents might work for you, but hopefully I’ve explained why they didn’t work for me (and trust me, I’ve tried em.)

Inner Sanctum – With any luck, I won’t be getting hit. If Inner Will proves to be awesome, I’ll have to reevaluate.

Reflective Shield – That’s pvp, yo

Strength of Soul – At first this looked awesome. If you’re main tank healing, you can use Heal to shave time off Weakened Soul, so you can re-bubble sooner. However, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and doesn’t work in practice. If I’m sweating bullets that Weakened Soul is on the tank, and watching the cooldown with anticipation so I can re-bubble the tank, chances are in that horrid situation, I’m not using Heal. I’m using Penance, Gheal, and anything else I can toss at the tank. So in practice, I’m not seeing the use for this, and I decided after trying it out to spec out of it. I’m Ok with Heal, and I use Heal, but it just doesn’t work in this situation. If this talent worked off FHeal, Gheal and/or Penance, I’d be all over it.

Train of Thought – It looked awesome to reduce the penance cooldown. However, I was casting maybe 2 Smites while Penance was on cooldown. There was just too much healing to do in-between. So I dropped this talent.

Focused Will – That’s PvP Right?

Again, I made these choices based on creating a healing spec, not a smite-dps spec and not a leveling spec.

What I currently have but could live without

Inner Focus – Right now, I live by this one because I’m a sole priest in a heal team made up of me and 2 pallies. Even when I’m in disc spec, I need to use Prayer of Healing. So I keep Inner Focus to help pump it up and lessen the mana cost.

Power Infusion – What’s not to like about moar HPS, less mana? Of course I cast it on myself!

Mental Agility – I’ll have to see how the mana stuff plays out as I level up, but I can see myself dropping one or more points out of this if something else is totally necessary.

Darkness – Maybe haste will be awesome. Maybe EJ will advise to skip that talent and get haste on gear instead. I’m keeping an open mind.

The Plan for 85

Something like this:

Again with the caveats mentioned above, depending on whether certain abilities prove to be more or less useful.

In my opinion, Inspiration is a must for single-target healing, and quite useful even for AOE healing. Unless you’re a smite-monkey thinking only of smite, I’d take it.

Surge of Light is failsauce and procs almost never.

Desperate Prayer is OK, but if you’re disc, you’ll be reaching for the bubble, not the desp prayer. If you need both, you are in serious deep doodoo.

The Glyph

You need the Glyph of Divine Accuracy (improves your hit rating for smite only), otherwise you’ll be missing a lot. Like an embarrassing amount. The dummy and I weren’t friends.

The rest of my glyphs are focused on healing. Sure, there are glyphs to pump your dps, but as mentioned above, I’m using smite primarily to boost healing, not to do srs bzns dps.

The Tracking

I just cheated and used Tales of A Priest’s POWA page. It’s far easier to import a set and fiddle with it to your liking than to create from scratch.

The Keybindings

I am using mostly Clique for smite. See, my target and focus boxes are right next to my healing boxes because I used to center wild growth around the mob, so I needed them all close together.  That way I am just click-healing, interspersing smites in there, and I don’t really have to change gears.

The Dumb Advice

Evangelism stacks: Use it or lose it. Repeat after me: use it or lose it.

Anytime the stacks are about to expire and you can’t get them back up in time, hit your fairy wings (Archangel)!  Even if it’s the end of a freakin pull and you won’t pull the next group in time. Why?  It’s free mana.  Don’t let those stacks expire. It’s a complete waste to let them expire.

Sure, Archangel has a cooldown. But it’s such a short cooldown (especially compared to its duration), and you have to build up your stack again… you will never have “this ability is not ready yet.”

Abandon the idea that you need 5 stacks of Evangelism before popping Archangel. You don’t. If you can, fabulous. But if you’re 3 stacks in and starting to have to heal more than smite, pop your fairy wings and get your partial benefits NOW. You can start building your stacks again before the wings even expire. There’s no point in getting to 5 stacks and the fight is over. Pop those fairy wings.

That's totally a pink-pigtailed gnome priest!

Side Effects (Leveling to 85)

Though, as mentioned a million times, this spec is geared toward healing and not dpsing or leveling, this spec does fairly well in the 80-85 grind. Keep in mind that I have ATT as a leveling buddy, so my role is that of mediocre dps and healer-backup. This spec is excellent for survivability (of self and leveling buddy) and sustained chain pulling (mana regen is good) and still provides reasonable DPS, though if you are leveling without a buddy, the kills might take longer than you’d like. If I were leveling as Holy, I might shoot myself.

Conclusion

Smite-heal spec is still lame as a healing spec. My dps is fail while doing intermittent smites between heals (because evangelism doesn’t gain that many stacks) and people need a lot of healing – direct healing.

Smite-heal spec is decent for leveling, but not the most awesome unless you spec more for DPS than I did. With dual spec available and cheap, I’m sure you can find a way that works for you.

I would say to do a smite spec as your disc healing spec ONLY if you can do so without missing out on core discipline talents that would allow you to chain bubble and single-target heal. Because there will be fights where you are NOT smiting, and you need to be awesome in those fights too. Right now I have a smite-heal spec that allows me to bubble-heal like normal… but if that were to change and I had to choose between pure-heal spec and a smite-heal spec, I would not choose a smite-heal spec. It’s just not powerful enough.

Good Priest, Bad Priest (Leveling comparison)

I mentioned that I was leveling a gnome priest as a means towards seeing the world changes from a character level appropriate. Well the experiment is continuing and I’ve passed the level 30 mark which means I can now dual spec for the low price of 10g. This allows me to touch on what Dana said in the comments of the last post:

Thank you so much!  I just rolled an undead priest myself ( my friends and husband insisted horde grrrrr) and was somewhat curious about dicipline.  I ended up choosing shadow because my husband was a shadow preist back in BC and he had fun with it.  I may respec if the damage isn’t too low.

Now while we can all mourn her faction and race choice, since if you have to be a dirty hordie, a Goblin priest is the only way to go, it allows me to revist the comparison of the two specs from a damage and leveling perspective.

One is straight laced and by the book, the other is a loose cannon and always in trouble with the Bishop. Together they are a bad guy's worst nightmare.

When leveling, it is important to remember you are using a different method than you might employ in a raid style boss fight. The keys to leveling is a spec that:

  1. has a good degree of survivability
  2. is capable of respectable DPS
  3. has low downtime.

Let’s stack these two specs against each other and see in the 30s which is better for leveling.

The Specs

To start off here is a link to each spec so you can see what I chose. My focus was towards PVE leveling not min maxing for PVP or running instances as a sole means of experience. Discipline relies as Smite as a main nuke with the goal to maintain a full stack of Evangelism and use Penance or Holy Fire when off cooldown. Shadow relies on applying Shadow Word Pain and Devouring Plague and using Mind Flay as filler and Mind Blast when it strikes my fancy.

Survivability

It is important to note that Shadow Priests cannot get Vampiric Embrace until level 39 at the earliest, while Discipline can start putting points into improved shields in the first tier and can have smite healing themselves with Atonement if they are close to the target by level 29. It isn’t to say that Shadow is a glass cannon, they can always shield themselves in Shadowform and if things get real bad they can always throw a big heal out. But based on my experience Discipline feels more durable at this point since it is designed to be a shield happy smite for healing spec.

Edge: Discipline

Damage Dealt

For this I was using mobs in Hinterlands while questing. I’d chain kill five or six mobs with Recount resetting after each fight. I’d then switch to the other spec and repeat the multiple mob kill test. I did this for a while. The thing that surprised me was that Discipline did just as well as Shadow. Shadow did better on slightly longer fights while Discipline did better on short kills. Discipline was more prone to higher burst damage. If you get a few crits the damage is really nice. This is largely due to Evangelism.

Evangelism is the keystone of a Smite DPS build.

Now when you have five stacks of this you are hitting for 20% on all your key DPS spells, and you are paying less mana for it. This is insanely powerful and something Discipline priests should have talented for by 21. So it seems that on the early half of the leveling curve Discipline has no significant disadvantage to  Shadow for DPS output. I have to think though that as priests get higher in level the DPS output has to cross in favor of Shadow. But as of level 35 it is still anyone’s game.

One other thing to note is that this is from the perspective of just questing. There might be a scenario where the longer fights in instances against bosses might favor shadow significantly over discipline, but since most likely a leveling priest is killing 10 X for NPC Y the fights don’t seem to last long enough for it to pan out like that.

Edge: None

Downtime

When looking at how to effectively quest you want a spec that doesn’t require you to stop and drink every third fight. Here Discipline comes out ahead again. First the mana costs of Shadow’s DoTs are pretty high compared to Smite and Penance.

Second, discipline gets:

  • 50% mana regeneration while casting
  • Evangelism stack means your key DPS spells are costing up to 30% less,
  • Archangel consumes Evangelism for extra mana
  • Power Infusion reduces casting costs

You will not notice your mana bar dipping very fast at all.

While Shadow, I found that I was stopping to drink way more and that time spent drinking is time you aren’t getting stuff done. Now this will probably be mitigated when Shadow can get Vampiric Touch at 49, but that is a long way off, and there are a lot of things to kill between now and then. The prospect of chain pulling is not daunting at all in Discipline, while Shadow will need to be a bit more measured.

Edge: Discipline

Conclusion (TL;DR)

So at 35 I find that Discipline is a better spec for questing than shadow. As I level I will periodically check back and see where it crosses over for Shadow and try to figure out why. All I know is that if Shadow never pulls away and is a clear dominant DPS spec that endgame will see some Discipline DPS due to the utility of having a DPSer who can heal without gimping themselves in a raid.