Archive for Beginners

How information is like water

Posted in Guides, Theory, Theorycraft with tags , , on June 7, 2010 by Natarumah

One of the things that I found an interesting social dynamic in World of Warcraft is the fact that information is actually a rare good. In this case, more than anywhere else, the adage of “knowledge is power” is coming true in spades. Some people seem to be walking Wowhead libraries, able to spout details on even obscure quests when asked in Guild Chat, while others seem to have difficulty comprehending that Hit is not a good stat for healers. In the middle lies the gamut of people, who have difficulties with choosing between Haste or Crit, attempting to decipher the Defense score, or trying to grasp at rotations and procs.

A few basic properties of water that are akin to information:

  • The source of all water is the sea
  • Water evaporates, but also rains down again
  • Water rolls downhill to the lowest altitude
  • Water is the source of life, yet you can drown in it.

The source of all water is the sea

Like water starts its cycle in the sea, Blizzard is the main source of information on the game itself. Whether the game explains you things, the tooltips show you information, or things are clarified on the forum – all basic information is found inside the game or its peripherals.

Now, the cycle does not work unless this information is spread. The greatest weakness of the game is its complexity, and the unwillingness of Blizzard to divulge most basic information. Without external sources, who will let you know Spellpower plate is not good for Death Knights? How will you know what Defense skill you need to be uncrittable? How much Hit do you need to never miss?

Part of this problem is that Blizzard ran the policy that people needed to experiment, and left this information out of sight to make the game more challenging without having to alter its components (Chill of the Throne, for instance). Another part is that knowledge of these stats would make people chase after them, min/maxing to become the best they can be. This is, of course, Human nature.

Water evaporates, but also rains down again

It only takes one clever person to calculate the scores, do thousands of tests or get an answer slipped from an unobservant Blizzard representative to gather this information. Now, if one person would know it, nothing would change. But like water, information becomes publicly available. Theorycrafting sites run rampant to provide calculations and simulations, allowing people in the know to tailor their character to meet the minimum standards (say for Hit) and then crank up all other scores. Once you meet the basic demands, and know you need no more Hit, you can now ignore Hit as a gear choice component.

The rain falls when Blizzard realises that information of this type is released. Content now needs to be harder, conforming to people’s optimized gear and talent spec. Encounter dynamics become harder, but Bossmods tell people what’s happening and what to look out for. This again rains down as encounters become very busy, whirling chaos, with many tasks to keep many busy. Blizzard now assumes every raider uses a Bossmod, so designs encounters accordingly.

Bossmods are now practically mandatory – raiding without it is very hard, and coordination would become a logistical issue.

Water rolls downhill, to the lowest altitude

Hardcore raiders, skilled PvPers and achievement jockeys all need information badly. They need spreadsheets to calculate gear, strategies to follow during raids or in arenas, or information on that one missing Parrot for their “To all the squirrels I’ve Loved before” achievement (incidentally, that’s Un’goro Crater). Some people are real storehouses of information, on several classes and raids, and divulge this to their fellow raiders, arena mates and guildies.

Rolling downhill, information spreads according to the individual’s needs. If the information is not readily available, someone can come up with a link to a blog or forum that has the answer. But some people never get reached by the water.

Some people run the game without addons, finding them restrictive or difficult. Others do not read strategies, wanting to find things out on their own. And some simply never found a kind soul to tell them that being a Hunter in Spirit cloth is simply a laughable idea.

Playing the game is still fun, you can still make a lot of mileage out of it, but basic information on how to play the class, or even roughly what gear you need, is never given.

A final consideration is that water also gathers into lakes, symbolic for guides being sold on the internet telling people how to play, how to make gold, or how to succceed at PvP. Like the self-help guides available from bookstores, many capitalize on the lack of information people have, and the need they feel to better themselves. Many derive a real-world income driven by the angst and ambition of people without realizing that the knowledge can also be gained for free with a bit of work. However, it is generally not possible to get that information by just playing the game and not consulting external resources.

Water is the source of life, yet you can still drown in it

Blizzard has added quest objectives to the game, showing where to go to complete your quests, because without that information people where frustrated at times finding out where to go. Tooltips were clarified in order to show people the real improvements their talents gave to their abilities. Without this, the game became more frustration than a game, and that is why it was changed.

Some more basic info might improve the game. Perhaps class trainers would offer a dialogue option explaining what kind of gear to go after (Gruk the Mighty want plate armor that makes Gruk strong!) or perhaps a basic tanking or healing guide in a help function.

I am aware that Blizzard wants social interaction as well – experienced tanks teach you more about tanking, for instance – but some things you should be able to find out with less fuss. It is so frustrating for a poor new tank to be laughed at in an instance because he’s wearing DPS gear. Who ever told him that he needed tanking gear to tank? Not everyone’s lucky to find a good mentor.

And like with water, information can drown you.

Forums are full of discussions on the minutiae of a talent spec, or filled with pages of math that is too complicated for Joe Average to grasp. Cookie cutter builds are exalted and reviled depending on who you ask, and people have difficulty deciding what to go for – and might give up in the process.


The information flow in World of Warcraft mostly takes place outside of the game. Without the assistance of external help sources, like blogs, fora or addons, it becomes hard if not impossible to access or succeed at certain parts of the game. Beginning players often do not receive enough basic information to get them started, needing experienced mentors or guides to find their way.

In PvP and raids, those with access to correct and up-to-date information often succeed over their less-informed and savvy rivals. This also brings with it a continuous need to keep themselves informed, spending as much time mulling over stats and strats as actually playing the game.

My hope is that starting players come Cataclysm might receive more information at the start, so that their transition into the first few levels become a discovery, rather than a grudge match with impossible (or forced) choices. And finally, I hope that the changes in raids and PvP (some of which have been given sneak peeks of by Blizzard) will allow PvPers and raiders to get more enjoyment out of their game, instead of having to run the rat race.

Into the Shadows: The curtain goes up

Posted in Guides, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest with tags , , , on May 31, 2010 by Natarumah

The second post in a series on raiding as a Shadowpriest, it’s now time to focus on the details that make Shadowpriesting into more than just triple quadruple-digit+ DPS. There’s some tricks and common practices that can really help in getting the most out of your toon, and some of those will only become apparent through practice.

Before the pull

Make sure you have all the buffs you can from your raid. You will want Kings, Wisdom (in that order), Intellect, Fortitude, and Spirit buffs. A lot of times when there’s a few Arcane mages around and they are not making each other happy, you might get a Focus Magic. Make sure you keep Inner Fire and Vampiric Embrace up all the time. Check if you have a food buff and a flask active, those are substantial bonuses.

Opening up

The purpose of an opening rotation for Shadowpriests is relatively simple: you should end up with all your DoTs on the target, and 5 stacks of Shadow Weaving before applying Shadow Word: Pain. Since casting Mind Flay keeps SW:P rolling, you want to make sure it has the bonus from those 5 stacks, so that they stay on all the time.

I personally use the following order: Vampiric Touch, Mind Blast, Mind Flay, Devouring Plague, Shadow Word: Pain.

Some people argue that you should only do 2 ticks of Mind Flay to get DP on the target quicker, and that has merit. Experiment with it and see if you like it.
I don’t for the reason that before I apply Misery, I lack 3% hit and it’s always possible that one spell misses before that debuff is applied, and then I don’t have 5 stacks of Shadow Weaving when I hit SW:P.

Continuing your onslaught

Priority number 1 is to keep your DoTs up, and especially SW:P. The latter is refreshed by casting Mind Flay before SW:P expires. Be careful, as it takes a bit of time before the first damage from Mind Flay starts to tick, so if you refresh it in the last second it might expire anyway. Use it a little earlier to be sure.

Always refresh your DoTs as early as possible after they expire. Never re-cast a DoT before it runs out (“clipping the DoT”) or the last tick of the damage never happens. Refreshing a DoT a little later is less of a loss of DPS than losing that final damage tick. When you are starting out, are a bit unsure, or have some lag, it is usually better to err on the side of caution and refresh a bit later.

Mind Blast keeps up your Replenishment, but is not the most efficient spell. Once you have 4pT10, you might decide to cast Mind Blast less frequently, but do continue using it. Even with obscene amounts of Haste it takes a lot of effort to make it worthwhile to squeeze in more Mind Flays rather than use Mind Blast. Also, we provide Replenishment. And even if other classes bring it, and it seems totally unnecessary, you will cast Mind Blast to provide it. It is our sacred duty.

Trash compacting

Shades have it relatively hard on trash because our single AoE (Mind Sear) does not actually harm the target that we are targeting, just everything around it. This means that while our AoE is powerful, it quickly gets outstripped by Mages, Warlocks and Boomkins as they spam their respective spells.

In order to maximize some DPS on trash, I generally cast Fade just before the pull (as the tank runs in), hit Inner Focus (as the mobs are aggroed) and then bring on the Mind Sear. Doing this, I risk no initial aggro pulling from the AoE (certainly a risk for the other DPS) and using Inner Focus gets me a free Mind Sear which has 25% increased crit chance on its first tick.

After that, I generally cast Devouring Plague on the target that will live the longest (much health, not attacked) and use it as my “Mind Sear Totem”.

Healing with VE

Your Vampiric Embrace (especially if you have 2/2 improved vampiric embrace) will provide quite some healing, but most of it to yourself. This is a good thing, since it means you are a very survivable target. Healers will learn that you need less attention than the other DPS, which provides some good karma.

One thing to remember though is that it only works on single-target spells. When you spam Mind Sear to AoE, you get no healing from it. Zilch. Nada.


Another nice little trick is to use “pre-potting”. This means that as the tank runs in (before combat starts) you use a Haste or Wild Magic Potion, which will give you an edge at the start. The crit bonus of Wild Magic also seems to stick with your SW:P, so it’s double good. They last for 15 seconds, which should be enough to get all your openers in before it expires.

But because combat didn’t start when you used it, its 2 minute cooldown starts running, allowing you to use a second potion somewhere later in the fight. On DPS-critical fights like Lich King, Festergut and Blood Queen, this will come in handy.

Use of Inner Focus

Whole volumes have been written about the use of Inner Focus. It has 2 major benefits: the next spell cast becomes free (no mana cost) and it has a 25% increased Crit chance. Now, there are some factors to take into consideration:

  • Inner Focus does not activate the Global Cooldown. You can make a macro that casts it and another spell.
  • Any spell can be made free to cast.
  • DoTs (SW:P, DP, VT) are not affected by the increased Crit chance.
  • Channeled spells (MF, MS) only gain the Crit on the first tick.

Some people advocate using it with Mind Blast (to reduce its cost), Devouring Plague (to enhance the instant damage post) or Divine Hymn (For large emergency healing).

Dispersion and its many benefits

Dispersion as a raid tool has many functions. One of these is to provide mana in case that we need it, and it also provides a 90% reduction in damage taken in its 6 second duration. There are many fights in which you will have ample opportunity to use this spell while on the move (such as during Rotface ooze explosions, Putricide Tear Gas, Onyxia Deep Breaths and many more).

If you are going to suffer massive damage, such as the large AoE from Festergut or Lich King’s Vile Spirits, be sure to pop it in time. I died a few times when I was slow on hitting the button and lag made the spell go off after I was already hit. WoW is one of those games where spells are cast when you release the button, not when you press it. So if you have sticky fingers, better Disperse a second earlier.

If you happen to have the Glyph of Dispersion (mandatory for Vile Spirit soaking or eating up Algalon’s Big Bang) you also have the benefit of using Dispersion to gain mana when running between trash packs. This lowers your downtime on trash significantly.

Making your healers your best friends

One of the things we often are clamoring against is to be seen as healers. But sometimes an encounter demands a lot more. Fear Ward and Mass Dispel makes the Horror from Blood Queen a joke, and a Divine Hymn during XT’s Tympanic Tantrum every other time makes the pressure on healers a lot less. Mind Control on the Warbringers at Thorim for the speed buff if no less a skill than MC tanking Instructor Razuvious.

The key is to communicate with your healers. Often a raid’s healers communicate through a separate channel, discussing positioning, who heals whom, and in what order life-saving cooldowns will be used. Join them in the discussion, if only to offer a Divine Hymn in crisis situations.

You won’t be expected to cover for a fallen healer, that’s not the point. But having healing cooldowns and using them wisely, while being a very survivable DPS, can earn you the respect of your healers. And this way you can contribute more to the survival of the raid and getting an encounter done, which has a value all its own.

Death and Revival

Sometimes there will be a wipe announced, and it’s time to prepare for your inevitable death-pose. Make sure to run as close to the door as possible (a safe spot to be rezzed) and die quickly. Needlessly lengthening a battle not only eats into the time before you can attempt the boss again, but you run the risk of having any Shadowmelded healers discovered and eaten.

After release, begin running towards the instance portal. Most raids announce the rezzes, allowing you to run in if yours will take a while. If you do get a rez, run to the safe spot with the rest of the group and pop Hymn of Hope near the healers. They will need the extra mana to get everyone rezzed and healed up quickly.


There’s more than meets the eye to being a Shadowpriest, some of the examples I illustrated here. I am sure there are many more tips and tricks, and I will try and get these in a next post. For now, this will do in giving you a head start when beginning your raids, or boosting your performance and reliability to your raiding team.