Archive for the Guides Category

Gold Mode Gunner: Temple of the Jade Serpent

Posted in Challenge Mode, Guides, Shadowpriest with tags , , , , on March 12, 2013 by Natarumah

ability_druid_flourishTemple of the Jade Serpent is a good introductory dungeon to try for a Gold challenge mode. It’s not a very long instance, and while there are a few places you really shouldn’t screw up, there are also remarkable areas where you can save time if you’re savvy. There’s a definite advantage in this dungeon for melee and ranged that can cast on the move.

The first pull: from start to Wise Mar’i

All trash up to the first boss should be pulled; if you have a sturdy tank or one capable at kiting, you should pull the boss while keeping DPS on the adds. Use heavy damage reduction cooldowns to survive until the first three adds are down, including the one spawned by the boss. Options are gathering together and using Spirit Link Totem, or having them tanked by an Army of the Dead. Once the boss is dead, rush to the library.

The library

Pull and kill the first group of adds, two Pandaren spirits and a Sha. Kill them and use an invisibility potion to rush over the bridge and stand near the corner. Pull the packs on the bridge and any of the other packs as your are capable of handling. Have someone start the fight by killing the sha-touched book on the ground floor, while the rest kills of the mobs. There’s plenty of time spent in a small section of RP to kill them, and even if you have an add left it’s not a real bother.

When killing the two minibosses here, allow the stack to go up to 8. This will kill them considerably quicker, especially with DoTs ticking. Stop immediately at 8 however, or you risk them getting ultimate power and becoming immune.

Rumble at the courtyard

Rush over to the courtyard, and use serial AoE stuns and fears as much as you can to keep the small adds controlled. When the last add is dying is a good time to use Hymn of Hope and help the healer get some mana.  Fireblossom will spawn, but if the healer needs to drink you can probably help keep up the tank with a PW:Shield plus Prayer of Mending long enough. Vampiric Touch is also very good here, as the boss can have some mean damage spikes.

When the boss is between 7% and 10%, if you have a Hunter in the party, have him or her get ready at the door. Other classes also work, but will require a battle rez. When the boss goes down, this person will aggro the three Sha through the door, and rush to the far left corner. The rest of the party gathers in the right corner. Hunters feign death now, the rest has to die quickly. The moment the Sha are reset, pull the Sha of Doubt and they will be gone as well.

This fight goes much as usual. AoE down the shadow copies when they spawn, and burn him down with whatever cooldowns you have after killing the first spawn of adds.

Enjoy your gold medal!

Shadowpriests specifically

  • Because of the many adds and high mobility, you might want to consider From Darkness Comes Light and the glyph of Mind Spike to put out more damage on the move.
  • As most mobs will be clumped up or running after the tank in front of you, Shadow Jojo (Divine Star) seems the most solid option.
  • Before the challenge mode starts, use PW:Shield and Prayer of Mending on the tank to help out in the first pull, unless your healer is Disc.
  • Movement is key here – Body and Soul is a solid choice for movement if you have any healer other than Disc, where I’d suggest Feathers.
  • Divine Insight or Twist of Fate is a tossup; you will have plenty mobs at <20%, but also multidotting running all over.

Challenge Modes

Posted in Challenge Mode, Guides, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest with tags , , on November 30, 2012 by Natarumah

inv_misc_toy_01pngAs part of a new installment I am going to focus on the role of Shadowpriests in the various Challenge Modes. There will be a page set up specifically for our general role and abilities, considering challenge modes aren’t unlike an arena team in that it literally challenges you to make the most out of the abilities you have. I will give a general overview of Challenge Modes in general (and Shadowpriests specifically) after which I am going to give each of the current Challenge Modes a pass with specific tactics and caveats.

What are Challenge Modes?

Challenge Modes are a tep up from Heroic Dungeons, and are comparable to 5-man raids. While (mostly) the boss mechanics and the dungeon layout remains the same, damage has been amped up and the mobs have more health. This requires sustained DPS, power-pulling and squeezing the most out of class abilities and healer mana. A Challenge Mode typically consists of a Tank, Healer and 3 DPS – but each of the various roles needs to be able to pitch in, thinking outside the box.

When you step into a Challenge Mode (you will have to get into it yourself, no queueing up), your gear is adjusted to an item level of 463 (Heroic). All items are calculated down equally, but gems and enchants remain the same. This way, no matter how you run challenge modes, your gear (once 463+) is irrelevant. This also means that you can easily run Challenge Modes on an alt – it’s skill, not purples that count.

There will be a screen in front of the dungeon (so you can’t go further than the start) with an orb. Clicking the orb causes a timer to count down to zero – and a set of objectives to appear. These are killing the bosses of the dungeon, the number of mobs (trash) you have to kill, and the time remaining. Complete them, and the timer shows your final completion time, which is included in your “personal best” but also in your guild and on the server itself.

Sometimes you can kill trash packs, or use dungeon-specific tricks to easily kill or maneuver past trash. All is allowed – but you need to reach that kill counter. To reset a Challenge Mode, the party leader can reset it from the objectives screen. If you wipe, you have to run in – Mass Resurrection is disabled. But there’s one bonus there: you will not suffer durability loss from death.

Which is good. You will die a lot…

What do Shadowpriests offer?

Shadowpriests offer passively our Fortitude Buff and (in Shadowform) our Haste buff. We also have highly customizable DPS, being able to Single-target burn effectively as well as provide AoE and moderate kiting abilities. Our DPS “on the move” is quite decent, and important point when you’re power-pulling through an instance.

We also provide a Fear (which can be glyphed to cause targets to tremble in place), Horror (1 target), Silence (1 target) and a variety of talented CC. Vampiric Embrace is a strong healing cooldown in a 5man dungeon, especially when glpyhed (more healing, shorter duration). While the healer drinks, we can provide short-term healing through PW:Shield and Flash Heal, with sufficient mana regen and use of Shadowfiend to be back in the action once the healer’s full on mana again.

We have a slow on our Mind Flay (unless we glyph it away for more damage) and can use our Mind Blasts for a root if glyphed as well.

You will find that over the course of Challenge Modes, once you learn how each works, you’re using different glyphs and talents throughout a single run, to benefit of the party. So my first round of advice would be to bring plenty of tomes to respec with – at least a stack.

Synergies

In a Challenge Mode, you will likely want as many of the debuffs and buffs as you can have; this includes Heroism (Shaman/Mage/Hunter) and a Battle Resurrection (Druid/Death Knight/Warlock/Hunter). As you can see Hunters are versatile, but they can bring only a single buff at a time since it depends on the pet they bring.

Second, there’s the concept of “soft CC”. You’re going to a find a lot of packs are made easier by chaining stuns, silences and similar effects to keep them locked down and interrupt them. An example in our own team is our Brewmaster’s Leg Sweep, then our Death Knight’s Winter followed by my Fear, followed by our Shaman’s Capacitor Totem after which our Brewmaster could use Breath of Fire (if Glyphed). While diminishing returns will make the later forms of CC less useful, altogether this is about 20 seconds of burn time with less damage on the tank.

There’s also personal synergy – you’ll need a group with people you can work with, there has to be a “click”. And, like with an Arena Team, you have to discuss your goals for the team. There’s a daily quest for a  certain Challenge Mode, completing that is a goal in itself. Then you can get “medals” for completing the Challenge Mode as fast as possible – from Bronze to Silver to Gold. Completing all Challenge Modes at a certain level of skill will give you a reward, including a set of special transmog gear at all-Gold. But reaching this requires preparation, training and dedication. You have to make sure that your team will be able to go that extra mile to reach it.

Secondary Benefits

Running Challenge Modes is a test of skill – and in the beginning you’re going to have a tough time. You might have to brush up skills that have been rusting since Wrath (Shackle Undead *cough*) or amp up your situational awareness. These are not heroics – these are Shattered Halls Heroic (pre-Nerf) affairs, and it shows. But once you start getting some Bronze medals, things become easier, as your team starts to mesh together.

This also makes you a better raider and PvPer – it will sharpen your awareness, allow you to think outside of the box and puts “clear thinking under strain” on your resume.

Preparation

Investment of time and effort is one thing – but you’re going to need a lot of resources as well. Flasks aren’t a luxury, especially when attempting to reach a Silver score or higher, as is food. Usually you can make do with the lesser (250 stat boost) food, but again at Silver times you might want to use even better. Bring a stack of potions (better yet, two!) and some unconventional items such as:

  • (Lesser) Invisibility Potions, which allow you to skip some trash packs
  • Bandages (yes really!) to spare healer mana between pulls
  • Embersilk Nets if you are a tailor, they might work
  • Off-spec flasks and pots, if you might need to respec mid-way into the dungeon
  • Gear with various stats to facilitate AoE vs. Multidotting vs. Single Target

Note that Challenge Modes are like raids in that you also will need the standard 15% hit, so keep this in mind when choosing gear. The steps above (especially the last two) are extreme, but the closer you pull to Gold, the more you will find a use for it.

Next post: Shadowpriests Talents and Glyphs in Challenge Modes

 

The Cycle of Alts

Posted in Fun, Guides, News on October 1, 2012 by Natarumah

The content added during Mists of Pandaria is already staggering. Even in the starting zone people mill in confusion, while the quests attempt to guide them into the storyline in an orderly fashion. But it’s all nice and good when you try to rush your main to 90 – after that you have an even longer road ahead. You will need to grind reputation with factions – to allow you to grind reputation with other factions. This return to the old TBC model of reputation as the main precursor to raids does have a rather unsettling side effect, namely that you will find yourself actually running out of progress, normally filled in by levelling alts.

That said, the content is much more focused on lore and your character’s role – it allows less for alts. In fact, leveling an alt in Pandaria will be much more of a chore than in Wrath or TBC before. So in the light of most people reaching or approaching level 90, a few tips on how Alts can make your day better.

Levelling alts

The best advice is to get through the starting sequence in Pandaria and then ride on to Halfhill in the Valley of Four Winds. The ride there is with very little danger for a level 85 character, and it gives plenty herbing and mining opportunities if you are so inclined. With the many creatures being killed there daily, skinners will also find it a lovely place to visit. You will find an adventuring gear vendor here (Grummel with a big pack) who can sell some good stuff. After you are done here, you can fly back to the starting zone with better preparation.

If your cooking is not up to scratch, this place allows you to quickly level cooking through “Pandaren Cooking”, where you get specific recipes using Pandaria ingredients to level quickly. A lot can simply be bought at the trainer, for the rest you will either need Ironpaw tokens or materials sent in from other characters or the AH.

Do the starting quests for the farm, and make sure you plant stuff there daily for use in cooking. Now, the trick is that the dailies for the tillers do not actually appear until level 90 – but this place is a good spot to put your hearthstone. And, even if you decide not to level through questing, you can easily use it as a home base while running random dungeons or battlegrounds. If you keep any alts here that you don’t plan on levelling yet, you ensure a steady stream of ingredients for your main’s cooking – and trust me, you will need a lot of them. Once they do level to 90, you can farm crops daily for about 200 rep a day – plus whatever daily quests you do. Once you get to revered, you can start farming special crops. This means that every character you get to level 90 can potentially have 16 farming slots, each with a plant that provides 1 or more pieces of cloth, leather, herb or ore. Even enchanting mats or Harmony can be farmed this way.

This will severely relax the need for farming alts (except that they will be farming literally of course), allowing you to sustain yourself with what comes off the farm. This also means less time spent running after resources, which are then available for people levelling who need them. This also means that the Cross Realm Zones will affect us less, again. Winning all around, but it takes some effort to get the engine running.

Reputations for alts

Lorewalkers, Anglers and the Order of the Cloud Serpent reputation is either less important for alts, or is simply very hard to do without a flying mount. In such cases, only go for these reputations on alts where you feel you must have access to the items they provide. If you want to have a permanent fishing/hunting alt, specifically for providing fish and meat for cooking, then feel free to go for the Anglers reputation.

Black Marketeering

The Black Market is a pretty dangerous place to get to, but if you manage to get an alt there (bonus points if it is a Warlock) and your friends put an alt here as well, you can have a quick summoning stone relay to get mains in to place a bid on items at the right time. Not many people actually come here, some don’t know and many don’t have the money for it. But if you want early access to epics, this place offers an opportunity.

The alts here can be used to check what’s on sale as well, and using a guild form or guild message of the day to report what is for sale will make your guild respond a lot more efficiently to the stock.

Old materials

Right now the Auction House is flooded with low-level materials brought in by levelling Pandaren and Monk characters. New tradeskills being levelled creates demand, meaning prices are outrageous for the TBC and Wrath materials. This is a good stock to cash in on now. Starting materials will quickly stabilize, and Cataclysm materials are in great supply (leftovers), but might rise in a week or two.

Note that the Cata inks are still used to trade in for lower level inks in Stormwind – if you have a scribe make sure to use the cheaper herbs and whatever stores you have left to trade them in for glyphs to sell.

If you have alts running dungeons and have no use for the Justice Points, they can still be used to buy Cataclysm grade materials for a modest profit or levelling an alts’ professions.

Gearing Alts

Alts that managed to hit 90 can be very quickly geared. Level 90 quests and normal dungeons equal the new Justice Points gear, while heroics equal the new Valor Points gear. This means that every option is open to get yourself up to snuff. In fact, many people are currently using the PvP crafted sets to gain their last few skill points in Blacksmithing, Leathworking and Tailoring, and their prices are dropping steadily.

These PvP items are cheap to make, meaning that they are a quick avenue to meeting the iLevel for Heroics. In fact, because PvP sets take up a lesser amount of item budget, PvP gear is almost as good as the PvE gear of the same iLevel. This is good news for newly dinged 90s.

A special note to tailors

Dear tailors,

Northrend cloth farming, or whatever it’s called, works in full force. You will still find many, many additional pieces of cloth and therefore will have no difficulty completing your daily tailoring in the Silk Fields, reaching 600 tailoring or finding expensive lint all over your bagspace. Please consider using it for First Aid on your main (for Cloud Serpent dailies) or on any alts that might need it.

Personally I am sitting on 50-60 bolts after hitting 600 on tailoring, so I might commit the unforgivable sin of actually leveling First Aid to max…

As we prepare for our journeys

Posted in Guides, News, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , on September 3, 2012 by Natarumah

With the release of patch 5.0, the servers have been flooded with people resubscribing to get into the game before Mists releases. There’s something cute about dozens of people milling around in confusion, trying to find out what their talents are doing, whether their class is still competitive and where they can train for pet battles (which they can’t, until Mists launches).

Shadowpriests are in a good spot at the moment. We’re not so overpowered that the nerfbat looms over us, yet we’re not so much behind or broken that we can’t simply play the game. In fact, I would categorize us as the “somewhat boring, safe choice” at the moment. Warlocks certainly had all the goodies, but from their angle I see a lot of complaints about mana issues, restrictive rotations and the lack of DPS cooldowns.

Our basic rotation

Priority one: Keep up Shadow Word:Pain and Vampiric Touch at all times, on all targets. Shadow Word:Pain gives us Shadow Orbs and Vampiric Touch regenerates health and mana for us.

Use Devouring Plague at 3 Shadow Orbs to be safe, or use it whenever the old one starts to drop off (this may be a DPS loss). Mind Blast on cooldown, Mind Flay as filler. Assuming that you took From Darkness Comes Light and Divine Insight as talents, you’re going to see 2 procs:

When your FDCL procs, your Mind Spike becomes Instant cast, costs no mana and doesn’t wipe DoTs. This is the only time I will use MS, and combined with the Mind Spike Glyph it meshes well with Mind Blast. When DI procs, you get an Instant cast, free Mind Blast. So two procs to juggle, not too serious.

Finally, <20% Health you start prioritizing Shadow Word:Death for execution – if you have it glyphed you can use it while on the move even above 20% health, but otherwise there’s little reason to touch it. Its damage is inferior when not in the Execute phase. Multidot when there’s 2-3 targets, above that target your tank and Mind Sear away.

Cooldowns

First off, Silence and Psychic Horror are now baseline. These are great tools while questing and even in dungeons, but they were never worth it to invest talent points in. Rather than including them in the new talent choices (where they would again be ignored, most likely) the Developers decided to add them to our standard toolkit. I am grateful for this, because it also gives us baseline PvP ability right off the bat.

The first tier of our talents are all about control – which you take depends on your personal preference and content. Dominate Mind is great for instancing and mayhem in PvP. Psifiend is of most use when you expect to stay around a single spot for some time – this usually is a raiding situation where you need to keep adds of you – but this is mostly good as healer defense. The Void Tendrils are a good go-to and the one I took for myself – an AoE root around yourself is a great escape.

Your talents will hold a few other choices, most of them up to you. One of the talents I picked up to test them out was our Camouflage, which is simply hilarious. I can’t really judge how effective it would be in a real raiding situation, but in an Ulduar fun-run we had I managed to get aggro on some mobs, and then pop this. They went after my decoy and started hitting it – and by the time it went poof they had to move all over the room to get to me again. This is great as an escape mechanism, especially when combined with Fade, but it will also surprise a lot of people in PvP.

Vital statistics

With the gear chances, Hit isn’t really going to be an issue. We will gain Spell Hit from Hit, Expertise and Spirit now. If you are anal about the hit cap, then the Human race is for you: Expertise bonus with Maces as well as a Spirit bonus. If you are an experienced Shade, 13% Hit will be plenty.

We still favour Haste, but Crit and Mastery are now on a more equal footing. Since they both do the same thing (doubling damage) the only difference is that Crit can help our Shadowfiend cooldown via Mind Flay while Mastery cannot. That said, to prevent gimping yourself due to Diminishing returns, balancing Crit and Mastery isn’t a bad deal. After all – you can have your damage doubled by both a Crit and Mastery at once.

On a personal note: preparations

For alts I often rely on the Darkmoon Faire to get around those pesky sore spots in levelling professions where I’d need to sink in tons of gold. Alas, the Faire’s quests weren’t properly reset this month so that plan went out the window. Since I don’t know whether I want to focus on levelling my Warlock, Death Knight orPaladin after my Priest, I gave them all sufficient shiny gear to survive the starter zone. With my Warrior at 85, I now own an 85 of every class except for the Shaman, which I just never really got into. If I find the energy, I might decide to spend the time before Mists leveling it to 85 just to have a “full stable”

I am looking forward to the pet battles, but I can already see an issue on the horizon. There are quite a few pets of which I have 5 or more copies – in Mists we will be limited to three of each type. As we can’t crate them for trade before Mists actually launches, I worry that some of these pets will be crunched in between “can’t crate it” and “crate or lose it”. With a modicum of common sense, Blizzard will first enforce a “never gain more once you have three of a kind” first and not hard enforce the limit until a month or so passed.

My focus points on the moment are getting my Warlock her droolishious Conquest outfit for mogging, now that it is available for Honor. I was already halfway saving conquest, but things speed up nicely this way. Second on the list is winning that darn Fishing Competition so that I can get my Salty title. Problem is, I am hated by Booty Bay leaving only the Dalaran fishing competition – and that’s a tight window.

The future of Shadowpriests

We are safe for the moment, a good choice. I can see how people from less favored class reroll when they get disappointed about how their classes turned out after the beta. Many times the beta’s start was shiny and new, and the Developers tried lovely new things – only to discard them (like Warlock tanks). But these ideas rooted in the minds of people, as they really liked them. And now that the patch is here, they see their class hasn’t even got half the shinies it was offered.

With Shadowpriests receiving little to no “fun” goodies (less shadowy shadowform? Shadowy pets? Why would I take those?) and is using basically all the old abilities in a slightly modified rotation from before, I think we came out better than I expected. Good damage (but not jaw-droppingly so), plenty mana and a Shadowform that just won’t quit – what more could you wish for?

Learning a class anew

Posted in Guides, PvP, Raids and Instances, Theory with tags , , on August 8, 2012 by Natarumah

When a new expansion is introduced, you will always see people switching their main characters. Either they got tired of their old class, they want to try out a new role, or they believe that that shiny new alt they rolled is going to be a better fit for them. With Mists, you can also add the reason: “help, my class has been completely overhauled”. You will find that there’s a lot of catching up to do, and you don’t really want to wait until the next raiding season to practice all those cooldowns, rotations and gimmicks.

So here’s what you can do: find equivalent practice.

Equivalent practice

In the basics, it’s looking for a training experience equivalent to whatever you are practicing for, except easily repeatable and sometimes secluded for better number crunching. It’s like stepping into a simulator to train your muscle memory for the operations needed to drive a car before setting foot into a real vehicle. You already get the kinks out before stuff gets real.

Training Rotations

The first step in learning your rotations is to map them out: find a good blog, elitist jerks or a skilled friend and find out what buttons you push and in what order. A simple way of doing this is to make a sort of flow chart on a piece of paper, where you put the abilities you cast into boxes and connect them based on 1) what needs to be up in what order of priority and 2) what needs casting based on a prerequisite (such as SW:Deathx2 below 25% health).

You then map out your button bar so that it reflects this chart; in other words, the most important and often used abilities go at the start of the bar, in easy reach. I like to keep Fade and Shield at the back side of the bar, still within quick click range, in case things go wrong. This is a good place for DPS cooldowns as well, such as Archangel and Shadowfiend. Then comes the next step: practicing at a training dummy.

Training Dummies, while awful for finding out what your DPS would be in a raid or the like, are really amiable targets for repeated and continuous spamming. So basically grind out your basic rotations for half an hour or so, trying to get the best grip on it you can. Because there are no mechanics to worry about, you can easily focus on your buttons and bar to work on a good sequence and timing.

Many people would now consider the next step to go into a dungeon – however for reasons I will mention this is usually a bad place to practice these things. Instead, join up for an LFR run. Since with moderate skill you can already do really well there, and mechanics (while present) are not really dangerous, you can afford to spend more time working on your casting sequences. I imagine that this will be no different in Mists of Pandaria, although it does mean you will need to already have reasonable gear for your toon.

Training burst damage and spatial awareness

For these things, the random dungeon finder is awesome (or even better: queueing up with friends). Assuming you know the basic rotations well enough now, this is the place to learn how to apply burst damage and train spatial awareness. Since people in dungeons are often overgearing the place once the raid seasons started, you will have less chance to practice sustained DPS. The more damage the other people are doing in your group, the less time the mob has to live – and the less time you have to practice.

There’s also the matter that low DPS and attempting to learn a rotation while in a random dungeon (especially heroic) is going to make people really edgy. Most people there just want to rush through for gear and Valor points, and they aren’t really waiting for someone who’s still learning the ropes. However, the fact that the heroics/dungeons have proper encounter mechanics to follow means that you will get practice in spatial awareness and performing your role while paying attention to your surroundings.

Survival and creativity training

To be fair, nothing beats learning to survive and creative use of your skills as does PvP. Random battlegrounds are a good start, and you can easily jump right in with a starter kit made by a crafting profession. In the beginning you will die a lot, but as you become more savvy and get better gear you will live longer and be a more threatening target. This is great to learn what possible means of survival you have when playing that class.

Second, since you fight against Human opponents, you need better and more surprising tactics to fool them. This means you will learn by instinct what abilities (and combinations) will work to lock an opponent down or leave them behind while you escape. All skills which will be valuable while raiding.

Class and spec-specific tricks

These are perhaps the only things that can only be learned by using them in arenas, rated battlegrounds or raids. These are either class-specific tricks (Prot warrior charge/intercept, hunter kiting/jump shot, Priestly Hymn of Hope + Shadowfiend) or role-specific (corner pulls, heal stacking, multidotting) and you are going to have to learn them the hard way, by experience. Often it’s these tricks that make the difference between a good DPS and an amazing DPS, and you will learn a lot instinctively and with experience.

Conclusion

There are plenty of ways to train yourself in your class before the raids start – and with Mists of Pandaria bringing in a breath of fresh air for a lot of classes, even experienced players might benefit from a few simple tips on how to (re)learn critical skills for raiding and PvP. If you identify yours now, you can be up and running while your fellows – I mean competition – are still learning to walk again.

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