Saturday, February 9, 2013

Prepping for Herald of the Titans

So, you've seen this nifty title around town, Herald of the Titans. You've looked it up, sort of, and have found out that in order to acquire this this title you must have a level 80 character. Beyond this little tidbit of information, you're finding yourself in need of a little help. This article is here to lend you a hand.


Edit: This achievement was temporarily bugged to where a group of 90s could gain this FoS/Title. DPSing down the boss before it could register the gear and levels of the group can be considered an EXPLOIT, as it is not intended for level 90s to be able to achieve this Feat of Strength. It should be known that using/attempting to use an exploit is a bannable offense according to the Terms of Service that Blizzard has in place, thus isn't something you should be attempting. This bug has also been hotfixed, so stop trying to find a way to circumvent the system that's in place.

The Herald of the Titans is a title acquired by a team of level 80 characters, all in gear of item level 226 or less, taking down this star guy called Algalon. Algalon is remembered as one of those bosses that straight up resonated with all players, both lore-wise and with his encounter. His is an epic fight to experience. Originally Algalon's encounter had a 1 hour time limit in which you could make attempts on taking him down attached to it, but this is no longer the case.

Herald of the Titans has been moved to a Feat of Strength. It is still obtainable however, and the title is account-wide. For a short while after the account-wide titles became a thing, it was thought that this was one title that would forever remain character bound. It turned out though that this was just a bug. Once you achieve the Herald of the Titans FoS, you unlock this nifty title for all of the characters on your account!


Locking Your Character at 80
Freezing your character's XP gain is fairly simplistic. If you're Alliance, you'll want to visit Behsten, who is located in the Stormwind Keep. For Horde, you'll want to speak to Slahtz, who is located in the Valley of Honor. Both of these fellas are stealthed level 19 rogues, though you shouldn't have much issue tracking them down if you click on the provided links.

If you wish to continue on leveling your character after you receive your title, you simply talk to these guys again to turn your XP gain back on. The cost to either toggle the XP gain on or off should only be about 10g.

Gear
In order for the group to qualify for the achievement, everyone must be sporting gear of an item leveling of 226 or lower in all slots, with an exception for weapons, which may be item level 232. Crafted gear, BoEs, and Justice Point gear can all fill gaps quite nicely, and in some cases turn out to be best-in-slot items.

Best-in-slot gear is not required for the achievement, but the more 226 gear you can get on your character, the better. Shoot for making your character sport at least all epic items prior to attempting this encounter.

Gemming
For this Feat of Strength it is preferred that all participating characters to be gemmed with the epic quality Wrath of the Lich King gems. For *most* classes, folks will want to gem their primary stat (Agility/Intellect/Strength) with the exception of possibly tanks and/or healers, who may prefer a mix of their primary and preferred secondary.

Enchanting
Like gemming, it is preferred that all participants have their characters enchanted with the best enchants available to them. It is understandable if a character is on a server that a player may not have a dedicated enchanter to provide materials/enchants for the Herald character (assuming that the Herald toon isn't an enchanter his or herself), however all participants should at least have some sort of enchant on every piece of their gear. Keep in mind that these days many enchants can and will scale. Here is a very useful spreadsheet detailing which enchants scale and in what ways to help you determine what may be best for your level 80.

Professions
Professions, while not 100% required, can be a huge help in both gearing and optimizing your Herald character. Like at max level, crafting professions (Tailoring, Enchanting, Jewel Crafting, Leatherworking, Black Smithing, Engineering, and possibly Inscription) are generally preferred over gathering professions (Herbalism, Skinning, Mining). Again, not something that is absolutely needed, though if you have the resources available to you to level up your Herald character's professions to the Cataclysm level, it can help out immensely.

Food
Cataclysm foods are permitted for the Herald of the Titans achievement. It is advised that you stock up on some Cataclysm foods in your primary stat for personal use in the event that a feast is not able to be provided.

Flasks/Potions
Again, for this achievement Cataclysm consumables (in this case, flasks) are permitted. Since group cauldrons are no longer a thing, it is advised that you come prepared with a few flasks in your primary stat.

Likewise you may use Cataclysm potions for this event. While a full stack of a potion of your choice (for DPS this would be a potion that provides your primary stat, for healers this may be a mana return potion, and for tanks this may be either a healing potion, an armor increase potion, or an Agility/Strength potion for increased DPS) probably won't all be needed, it is advised that you have several of these potions on hand. For those of you familiar with double potting, that will not be necessary for this encounter, as the time from entering combat and the time that Algalon actually engages is nearly the full duration of the initial pre-pot. Save your potions for the burn phase!

Reforging
For a Herald character, reforging can be a bit tricky. If you are aware of the exact number you need for your hit and/or expertise caps, using a site such as WoW Reforge can come in pretty handy. In the event that you're not completely aware of what your caps are, an addon called ReforgeLite can help you out greatly. If you need any help with figuring out how this addon works, you can refer to my ReforgeLite post.

Before you begin reforging, it is advised that you research which secondary stats your class/spec prefers. For most level 80 classes, Mastery tends to be the most powerful stat available regardless of the level 90 preference of said class/spec. However, for DPS specs it is incredibly important that you must first reach your hit and/or expertise caps before you begin to stack Mastery or any other secondary stat. Tanks, it is likewise advisable to look into how important it is to reach your hit/expertise caps for both threat generation and resource regeneration.

Rotations
Spell priorities and rotations for most classes can be gleaned from their level 90 counterparts, and guides on these spell priorities/rotation may be found on various blogs and/or sites such as Icy-Veins. Naturally, as a level 80 you will not have all of the nifty spells that a level 90 does, but you should have most of the meat and potato spells for your spec. Make minor adjustments as needed.


The Gearing Process
There are several ways to begin the gearing up process, many of which may need to be employed depending on how lucky you are with drops.

1) Crafting - There are several pieces out there that may be crafted for a Herald character. However, these recipes are often subject to droprates, so if you personally or your guildmates do not have the recipe, it may be a bugger to find the right pattern. For 226 specific gear, there are belts and boots available for crafting. If you're in dire need of a chest and glove filler, 200 gear is likewise available for crafting, provided you have the recipes.

2) Wrath 5 Mans - Queuing up for heroic Wrath of the Lich King 5 mans is not necessarily the most efficient way to go about things, unless you have a ready-made group of five. The option is there, however, to have a level 90 solo these instances for you. While most of the heroic-mode 5 mans either sport gear that is rather low in item level (200 or so) or too high (the ICC heroics sport 232 gear), they can provide some decent fillers. Here are some instances that you'll want to focus on to get your filler gear:

Heroic ICC 5 Mans: While most of the gear in these heroics cannot be used for Herald of the Titans, what can be used are the weapon drops. Remember, weapons of ilvl 232 may be used! These heroics will provide that.

Normal ICC 5 Mans: The gear that drops in the normal version of these dungeons drop 219 gear, which is perfectly acceptable. Easily chain farmed if you have the time available to you.

Heroic ToC 5: This instance will provide you with 219 gear on heroic. While still not the easiest solo for even a level 90, it is doable by some tank and DPS classes.

Regular ToC 5: Soloable by most level 90 classes, ToC regular provides ilvl 200 gear. While not the most optimal, this instance provides Heralds characters with an easily obtained/farmable trinket. Most of these trinkets were desirable up into even Icecrown Citadel if a raider at that time was unlucky.

3) Cataclysm Dungeons
Justice Points can be used to purchase a variety of gear from the vendors found in Dalaran. Some of these purchasable items are BoE, so they can be bought by another character who has excess JP laying around. However, many of the items are BoP and will require farming on your Herald toon.

There are two Cataclysm dungeons that are available to level 80s: Throne of the Tides and Blackrock Caverns. Queuing up for these randomly, at least one per day for your daily boost in JP gain, is pretty much the best way to farm for your needed Justice Points.

Given the fact that you'll be farming these two Cataclysm dungeons over and over again, chances are you'll end up with two different sets of gear; one for farming, one for Herald of the Titans. It is perfectly okay to wear items that are above the 226 requirement while you are farming for your Herald gear. As a matter of a fact it's encouraged to have a higher item level set, especially if you're having a friend solo instances for you, as it greatly increases your chance of survival in some situations. If you're running with a gear group through Ulduar, wearing higher gear generally yields higher damage output, which naturally speeds up the farming runs a bit.

4) Ulduar
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, farming Ulduar for gear is another option. There are a few things to remember though:

- Ulduar 10 provides 219 gear from normal modes; 226 gear from hardmodes and Algalon
- Ulduar 25 provides 226 gear from normal modes; 239 gear from hardmodes and Algalon, which is not usable for Herald of the Titans
- Be sure to not save yourself to Algalon the week you plan on attempting the achievement. Remember, the lockouts have changed. If you kill Algalon on 25 man difficulty, you will also be locked out of Algalon 10 for the week.
- Be mindful of possible lockout issues if you were to participate in a partial run through Ulduar. While lockout issues should not occur if you were to say, kill 3 bosses and someone else cleared everything besides Algalon himself, it is possible that funky things could occur. Just play it safe during the week you plan on attempting the achievement.

If you happen to have either a second account with a max level character on it, you could very well solo a good  chunk of Ulduar for gear as well, with your Herald toon in tow. If this option isn't available to you, if you happen to have a friend who is generous with their time and is a capable soloist, they could potentially run you through the instance as you try to keep yourself alive. Again, a few things to remember before you attempt duoing this with a friend or yourself:

- Ulduar 10 is mostly soloable by several level 90 DPS classes currently as well as most level 90 tank classes, with the exception being Thorim, who takes some tricky engineering work to get around.

- Ulduar 25 likewise should be soloable by a level 90 DPS or tank type, though mileage may vary depending on gear and skill.

5) Other Raids
If you really need gear with a quickness, do not forget to run Naxxramas 10 (ilvl 200) or 25 (ilvl 213), Malygos 10 (ilvl 213) or 25 (ilvl 226), Obsidian Sanctum 10 (ilvl 200/213 with bonus drakes) or 25 (ilvl 213/226 with bonus drakes), and Onyxia 10 (ilvl 232 weapons).

The tier 7 set bonuses are often decent and can/should be used if you're unable to get yourself a 2 and/or 4 set tier 8 bonus.

Naxx 10: Should be fully soloable by most LFR geared DPS and tank classes
Naxx 25: Should be fully soloable by most tank and high-burst plate DPS classes; some DPS classes may struggle with Patchwerk/Instructor Razuvious, though the rest of the instance *should* be soloable.
Malygos 10/25: 10 is easily soloable by most DPS classes, 25 is doable by those who are semi decently geared, have some higher burst abilities, and those who are capable with the drakes in phase 3.
Obsidian Sanctum 10/25: OS3D 10 should be soloable by most higher burst classes who are at least sporting some LFR or normal mode t14 gear. 25 should be doable by some high burst classes that have either full normal mode gear with 4 piece bonuses or are in heroic mode t14 gear.
Onyxia 10: Soloable by most DPS/tank classes even at level 85 (with Dragon Soul gear), let alone level 90.

6) BoEs
Remember to check the auction house if you've already tapped all of your raiding resources, because BoEs drop from Naxx, OS, EoE (Malygos), and even Ulduar itself. These BoEs can certainly fill in a space in a pinch, and generally only go for a few hundred gold at most these days.

7) Extra Sources of Justice Points
Edit: With making this guide, I completely forgot about the conversion of Honor Points to Justice Point. If you had leveled via PvP, you may trade your extra HP for JP at the Honor vendor in your faction's main city. Below is a quote from one of our commenters, Evlyxx, advising us on how to gain even more HP to trade over for JP:

However, 1 vital source of Justice Points is missing from the guide, the PVP quests in Venture Bay, which give 200 honor per day that can be converted into Justice Points every other day. Not a lot by level 90 standards but the return per minute is huge as the biggest unforseen problem I and my friends encountered was getting Justice Points as the Wrath dungeons didn't reward any.


The Fight
Alright, so you've got the gear and it's all dazzled up, you've got your required raiding consumables, and you're ready to get down to business. As it is with current end-game raiding, it's wise to look at the fight ahead of time. Here's the original Tankspot guide on how to tackle this encounter.


Looks a bit complex, eh? Try not to fret too much, as the encounter is actually much easier, thanks to our little friend called Mastery. That's right, because of this one little (and rather potent) stat addition, overall DPS *should* be higher than it was when Algalon was current content, healing throughput *should* be a bit stronger, and tanking likewise *should* be a bit smoother. I strongly accentuate the word should simply because often Herald toons are not sitting in full BiS 226 gear, nor at Herald toons generally a class someone plays as a main. Despite everything, Mastery as a whole tends to help make up the differences of both skill and lack of BiS gear.

While yes, the fight is much easier with a group of twinks and semi-twinks, do not allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of "this is easy" however. For most groups, it will take several pulls before everyone is acclimated to how the encounter feels on their particular character. If everyone has prepared correctly though, the learning process and achievement gain should be fairly painless.

I hope that this post has helped a few of you out! As always, if you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to ask. I wish you all luck with your gearing. Now go have yourself some fun!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Healing As Enhancement

If you're just now returning to the game, or if you're leveling an enhancement shaman for the first time, you may be wondering "How the heck do I heal?" Enhancement healing is relatively simple, yet can seem a bit complex at times to the untrained shaman.


Some of you old-timers may be wondering about where the heck Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave ran off to. Well, both of these spells have decided to get permanently hitched to our restoration brothers and sisters, effectively dumping us. That's right, our only actively cast healing spells are now Healing Surge, Chain Heal, and Healing Rain. I see you giving Healing Surge the stink eye; try not to judge it quite yet, it's more potent than it looks.

Please note that I will only be covering the spell modifiers (mainly talents and glyphs, not necessarily procs/secondary stat scaling) that directly effect healing. There are several other glyphs/talents that boost resistances and help to dispel, but I will not be including those within this article.


Unless you're hard casting Healing Surge for some odd reason, this spell is more than adequate for the pinch healing that you'll need during leveling/soloing/raiding. Trust me, this spell has been saving my shaman butt for months now. Check out these modifiers that makes Healing Surge more potent for us.

Modified by:
1) Maelstrom Weapon - For each stack of Maelstrom Weapon, Healing Surge will both cost less mana and heal for greater amounts.
2) Healing Storm - This glyph will cause your healing done to be increased by 20% per Maelstrom Weapon stack.
3) Echo of Elements - This talent can cause your Healing Surge to "echo," effectively casting Healing Surge a second time without any extra effort from you or resource cost. Both the original spell an the echoed spell can crit independently.

Might not be so bad, eh? Now let's break down some of our other healing abilities.


Chain Heal is not a spell commonly cast by an enhancement shaman unless said shaman is within proximity of several raid mates and their healers are struggling. Remember, it is your job as a dps to do damage, not play healing hero. In the event that your healers are oom, you may use Chain Heal and Healing Rain as last ditch efforts to save your raid team long enough to make a kill. If you need to save yourself in the event that you accidentally stood in the bad though, use Healing Surge. Chain Heal doesn't heal for a ton single-target, and can unfortunately only bounce so far.

Modified by:
1) Maelstrom Weapon - For each stack of Maelstrom Weapon, Healing Surge will both cost less mana and heal for greater amounts.
2) Healing Storm - This glyph will cause your healing done to be increased by 20% per Maelstrom Weapon stack.
3) Echo of Elements - This talent can cause your Chain Heal to "echo," effectively casting Chain Heal a second time without any extra effort from you or resource cost. Crits will behave as if you had cast Chain Heal twice, meaning they'll do their own thing regardless of what the original spell did.


Much like Chain Heal, Healing Rain is not a spell commonly cast by an enhancement shaman unless said shaman is within proximity of several raid mates and their healers are struggling. Healing Rain can help to stabilize a group's health, though overall doesn't do a ton of healing. Remember, it is your job as a dps to do damage, not play healing hero. In the event that your healers are oom, you may use Chain Heal and Healing Rain as last ditch efforts to save your raid team long enough to make a kill. If you need to save yourself in the event that you accidentally stood in the bad though, use Healing Surge.

Modified by:
1) Maelstrom Weapon - For each stack of Maelstrom Weapon, Healing Rain will both cost less mana and heal for greater amounts.
2) Conductivity - Causes the duration of Healing Rain to be extended when certain abilities are used; more on this later.
3) Healing Storm - This glyph will cause your healing done to be increased by 20% per Maelstrom Weapon stack.

Patch 5.4 Edit: Healing Rain is no longer affected by the glyph Healing Storm. Due to this change, Healing Rain's effectiveness has been severely nerfed for Enhancement.


Healing Stream Totem
This totem has been a healing staple for us shaman for quite some time now. While it has had a bit of a makeover since Cataclysm, this totem can still put out a good little bit of healing. Currently this totem is a single target smart heal, and prefers to target those in the shaman's group who have the lowest health. The Mists of Pandaria version only lasts for 15 seconds at a time and has a cooldown, but said cooldown is relatively short (30 seconds). If you're in dire need of a second Healing Stream Totem, and fast, you may reset the cooldown if you're specced into Call of the Elements (3 minute cooldown on this talent).

Modified by:
1) Call of the Elements - Resets the 30 second cooldown on this totem. Usable once every 3 minutes.
2) Rushing Streams - Causes your Healing Stream to heal two targets (up from one) for an increased healing amount of 15% per tick.
3) Totemic Persistence - Allows you to have up to two totems per school activated at the same time (Healing Stream + Healing Tide = Whoa totem healing, Batman)


Healing Tide Totem
It's a totem and it's a "major" healing cooldown! As of patch 5.4, Healing Tide Totem is now a baseline ability for all of the shaman specializations, as opposed to being a talent choice prior to this patch. More healing utility for us, huzzah! This bad boy is great for re-stabilizing the raid in a pinch, or even saving your own butt in a soloing situation.

Modified by:
1) Passive talents that only Restoration has which boosts all of their healing, including totems.
2) Haste plateaus, which Enhancement doesn't shoot for.
3) Totemic Persistence - Allows you to have up to two totems per school activated at the same time. (Healing Stream + Healing Tide = Whoa totem healing, Batman)


Ancestral Guidance
This particular talent currently offers us dps shaman types the biggest bang for our talent point...assuming we can swat at things. Ancestral Guidance yields the highest output while we are in our Ascendance form, though please keep in mind that tying the two together may result in a complete waste of Ancestral Guidance, unless there's an increased damage taken and received phase, such as the gas phase on Will of the Emperor normal mode. For soloing purposes however, if you happen to pop AG while in Ascendance, you could very well see yourself go from nearly dead to full very quickly. Stormstrike/Stormblast, Lava Lash, Lightning Bolt, Chain Lighting, the initial impact of shocks (meaning NOT Flame Shock's tick, just the impact when you first cast it), and Fire Nova all essentially become means of healing through this talent for a short duration.

Modified by:
1) The use of dps cooldowns in conjunction with this ability.


Conductivity
This talent has received a major overhaul with patch 5.4. Conductivity now extends the life of our Healing Rain by 4 seconds each time Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, Earth Shock, or Stormstrike is cast. The Healing Rain has a maximum duration of 40 seconds. Between this change and the removal of Healing Rain from our Healing Storm glyph, this talent has pretty much become useless for us Enhancement types.


Feral Spirits
That's right, even our wolves heal us! Just us though, they really don't like anyone else. Every time they attack, 150% of the damage they deal heals both them and us. Pretty neat, eh? But that's not all! If you have Glyph of Feral Spirit in, they deal another 40% in healing, which is to say pretty darn potent. Yeah that's right, our wolves aren't just a little damage cooldown that looks all flashy, but they're also a fairly decent self healing cooldown as well. Pretty hard to take us down when we have our wolf pals out!

Modified by:
1) Glyph of Feral Spirit
2) Mastery - The Feral Spirits attack using a spell called Spirit Bite, which deals nature damage. Due to our Enhancement Mastery, the more mastery we have, the stronger our wolves will attack. The stronger their attacks, the more healing we receive.
3) Battlegear of the Witch Doctor (4pc) - Tier 15 (Throne of Thunder) The cooldown of your Feral Spirits is reduced by 8 sec each time Windfury Weapon is triggered.
4) Assurance of Consequence - This is a trinket that comes from the Sha of Pride in Siege of Orgrimmar. Our wolves are one of the cooldowns affected by this trinket.


Glyph of Flame Shock
You will personally be healed by 30% of the damage your Flame Shock does. If you were to spread your Flame Shock via Lava Lash and had multiple Flame Shocks rolling at once, you'll receive healing from those Flame Shocks.

For single target, this glyph isn't all that powerful. However, in situations where you're able to spread your Flame Shock around, it does a decent little bit of healing. I find myself running this glyph often enough (though generally one of the first I switch out if utility calls) because hey, extra passive healing is always nice.



That's everything we have currently. So let's break it down into simple terms, going by what is typically specced for and glyphed:

Personal/Single Target Healing: Healing Surge, Feral Spirits, Healing Stream Totem, Flame Shock (with glyph)
Party/Raid Healing: Chain Heal, Healing Rain (not ideal), Healing Stream Totem, Ancestral Guidance (or Healing Tide Totem)
Healing Glyphs: Feral Spirit, Healing Storm, Flame Shock

Also, don't forget your professions and racials. If you're an herbalist, Lifeblood can help you out in a pinch (plus the extra haste is pretty neat) and if you just so happen to be a Draenei, Gift of the Naaru can restore 20% of your (or a friend's, or Tsulong's) health to you (or your friend, or Tsulong even) over the duration of 15 seconds. Can't beat free healing!


I hope this article has helped you out some, even if it is rather lengthy. Remember, enhancement shamans have a ton of healing utility within our bag of tricks, so there's no need to feel helpless if you're hurting!