Friday, July 27, 2012

How To Enhance: Heroic Spine of Deathwing & Heroic Madness of Deathwing

We are now in our eighth month in being saddled with Dragon Soul. The 30% buff has been presented to us, allowing some of us to burn even faster through this long-lived raid, and giving others a chance to finally take down what is undoubtedly the two most painful and unsatisfactory end game boss encounters.

Let me be incredibly blunt: the heroic modes of Spine of Deathwing and Madness of Deathwing are NOT the most friendly boss encounters for an enhancement shaman. With the nerfs Spine has become a little more forgiving for us, but the fast paced theme (for a DPSer anyways) of Madness leaves our numbers...well, it's been leaving me rather disappointed personally.

Heroic Spine of Deathwing

As I've said, Spine is not really a fight for enhancement. Our ability to pump out high burst damage on command is dismal. The DPS trinket recommended to use for this fight, the Kiroptyric Sigil, has a base stat of haste (which is complete and utter garbage until MoP). Oh, and good ol' Derpy McDerp Searing Totem would much rather wail away at anything BUT the exposed tendons. His preference target seems to almost always be the Corruptions.

Yeah, not an ideal fight for us.

Now the video above is from a restoration shaman's point of view in the fight. Why? Because of one major thing: the group that I run with has a less than ideal raid composition. There are essentially two basic builds you can go with this fight: A) 1 tank, 2 heal or B) 2 tank, 3 heal. To run set up A your group's tendon burst damage needs to be deliciously high. This means that you have yourself at least one, if not two, sub rogues (in a 10 man), and an arcane mage. Other classes such as warriors and feral kitties are also capable of some pretty fantastic burst tendon damage. We don't have this with my group. Adding myself and an offspec dps warrior unfortunately does not burn the extra 30-40% of the health left on the tendon of our usual burn phases, thus we are stuck with the harried B strategy.

Yeah, Spine is still the one fight that I'm stuck swing healing on. Healing with an agility flask and food buff ftw.

There's not a lot we can do to up our performance with our spec's current dismal performance on a burst fight like this, but there are a few things that can help maximize our potential - not to mention survivability - on this incredibly frustrating encounter.

Spec Changes:
None necessary

Glyph Changes:
Keep your standard Prime Glyphs. (Lava Lash, Stormstrike, Windfury)
Keep your semi-standard Major Glyphs (Lightning Shield, Ghost Wolf, Stoneclaw) If no one is putting out a fire resist aura of sorts, swap out Ghost Wolf for the Healing Stream glyph.

Totem Changes:
None, but you'll definitely want to be twisting in Stoneclaw totem throughout this fight.

1) Get yourself a Kiroptyric Sigil if you haven't already. Reforge the haste into mastery. You shouldn't be needing to reforge that haste into anything else if you're using the other, much more beneficial trinkets.

2) Macro the Sigil in with your puppies. I'm no macro queen, but the following is incredibly simple and works just fine.

/use Kiroptyric Sigil
/cast Feral Spirit

To get really fancy, you can also add in a target + pet attack command in there:

/tar Burning Tendon
/use Kiroptyric Sigil
/cast Feral Spirit
/petattack [target=playertarget]

Again, I'm no macro queen, so if you have suggestions on how to clean up a macro such as this, I'm all ears.

3) If you're an engineer like I am, and have a tenancy to macro your gloves to your wolves, be sure to not use that macro for the tendons. Why? The Sigil trinket and your gloves will set each other on a short cooldown. The Sigil's agility bonus is much greater than the one our gloves give us. For this fight, tie the trinket to your wolves and use your gloves as soon as they're off cd, assuming the tendon is still up. Otherwise you can save your gloves for doing a bit of damage on the amalgamation or while you're taking care of bloods.

4) Get yourself some decent weapons. This is the one fight where a pair of heroic Morningstar of Heroic Wills would possibly be better than regular version of a pair of No'Kaleds. Why would they be better? Well, you have a gem socket for more agility, plus the heroic Morningstars have more raw weapon damage than the regular NKs, plus you can also pick one of the rather crappy secondary stats on the Morningstar (probably the extra expertise) and reforge it into more mastery. The proc rates on the NKs, while delicious for any other encounter, become an unreliable factor for this fight; better to go with consistent raw damage than to rely on a proc.

Heroic Morningstar *might* also be a touch better than heroic No'Kaleds for this fight just because, again, you can net yourself a little more agility through the gem sockets plus you can still reforge into a bit more mastery. However, you do lose out on some raw weapon damage. It's kind of a tight call and I unfortunately do not have raw SIM data in front of me to confirm which would be better for this fight. Personally I'd just stick with my heroic NKs simply because I don't want to gem/enchant my heroic Morningstars. Yes, I'm that lazy/cheap. No I don't think I'll get any legitimate use out of the Morningstars anytime soon. /hangs head

5) As with the choice of going with the consistent damage of a pair of Morningstars as weapons, you want to try and avoid proc-based trinkets for this fight. If you have, say, either a combination of Wrath of Unchaining and either Vial of Shadows (if you're so lucky!) or a Matrix Restabilizer, you'll want to trade out either the Vial or Matrix for your Sigil trinket. Stacking trinkets such as WoU have an incredibly fast ramp up time, so you shouldn't need to worry about anything there. Take out the RNG trinkets, give yourself a little more control over your damage.

There are a few difficult moments that your healers must deal with on this encounter.

1) Super Heated Nucleus; happens just before Nuclear Blast
2) Rolls
3) Searing Plasma + any damage you may be taking

My suggestion is to use a glyphed Stoneclaw totem for the amalgamation pulses that happen just before the Nuclear Blast. Use Shamanistic Rage during the rolls. Use any racial survivability/healing cooldowns you may have if your health is getting sketchy while you have the Searing Plasma debuff. If you feel the need to use your survival cooldowns elsewhere, go for it. Use them liberally. If you're dpsing in a 2 tank, 3 heal composition, your healers will thank you for whatever little help you can give them in the damage reduction department. Even with gear and with this being incredibly nerfed, Spine can be a healing intensive fight towards the end of the third plate, especially if you're having to do double lifts (aka exposing the tendon twice) on each plate.

Wrath of Unchaining - One of our two best in slot trinkets. Get this asap! (May your roll hacks be with you, if you run with a crapton of agility users like I do.)

Overall, this is an incredibly repetitive and boring fight. There is a ton of waiting around, then a mad rush to maximize dps the exposed tendon in a short span of time, then a ton of more waiting. Bring your sharpest weapons, a load of patience, and for the love of all things cuddly, teach your dogs not to randomly dive after a corruption. If you can do those things, you'll be well on your way to experiencing Deathwing's Madness.

Heroic Madness of Deathwing

Ahhhh madness, how frustrating you are. Once you manage to sweat and swear your way through his spine, you now get to deal with what is one of the most anticlimactic encounters you will ever face. Much like Spine, Madness is one of those fights that takes you 10 minutes of waiting around before the real hard parts of the encounter begins. Seriously, this fight is a cake walk until you hit the fourth platform. The forth platform and the head phase are the only really difficult parts of this fight, so you must do what you can to survive until those parts.

Kiss your sanity goodbye, my shaman friends.

Alright, this fight isn't all doom and gloom. Madness is by and large easier on us than Spine is, but it's still a fight that can leave you wanting to pull your hair out at the end of the day. Let's go through a few things that can help to ease yourself away from premature balding from scalpel abuse, shall we?

Spec Changes:
None necessary

Glyph Changes:
Keep your standard Prime Glyphs. (Lava Lash, Stormstrike, Windfury)
Keep your semi-standard Major Glyphs (Lightning Shield, Ghost Wolf, Stoneclaw) If no one is putting out a fire resist aura of sorts, swap out Ghost Wolf for the Healing Stream glyph.

Totem Changes:
Swapping to Magma totem on this fight may be beneficial if you can get it down just before the bloods spawn. If they've already spawned, don't bother wasting the extra GCD. If you see the ground doing it's bubbly thing and you can get over to it before the bloods become target-able, drop a Magma totem on their heads!

Twisting in Stoneclaw totem during heavy moments of damage is definitely recommended.

If your group's composition is a bit light on slows (hunter's ice patch traps, boomkin's mushrooms, DK's chilblains, etc) you'll want to be twisting in Earthbind totem to slow the bloods during the head phase of this encounter.

The Encounter
The  differences between normal and heroic mode are few, but the few differences that are there can be rather deadly. Most groups now 1 tank, 2 heal this fight, which means that a dps must soak impales so that the tank may have his or her cooldowns up at key points, and that healing during certain situations can get rather tight.

If you watch the video closely, I'm often running away from the big bad floppy tentacly thing that spawns soon after the raid engages each new claw/wing tentacle. Why am I running? Because as an enhancement shaman I cannot eat an impale and survive, even with Shamanistic Rage and Stoneclaw totem up. No way, no how, I'm gonna die if I eat that impale. With my raid, we have a hunter soak the first impale of platforms 1-3, and then we have other dps help soak both impales of platform 3. During this time all melee must vacate the melee range of the Mutated Corruption; this tentacle will focus the impale on the person in melee range with the highest threat. Guess what, because of Misdirect a hunter will probably have much less threat than any melee. The same theory applies if you're using a shadow priest to soak. Having a rogue soak an impale is kind of a toss up, but because of Tricks of the Trade, chances are again that they will have less threat than you do as an enhancement shaman.

General rule of thumb: if a dps is soaking the impale, GTFO.

Another difference on heroic is that a random player will be chosen to get a Corrupting Parasite, which will explode when it drops off of the person (it doesn't hurt the person it's on when it drops off). The general rule with this little ball of squiggly death is to drop it in the Time Zone (while you still have it), near the arm/wing tentacle, but not in the tentacle. On the green platform, you can just leave it be and Dream through the damage. If you drop one off of yourself on any other platform though, it is imperative that it gets damaged to at least 30% health. The rule we run with is that if you drop it and you're not a healer, you help damage it (I kind of forgot to on one of my parasites in the video...whoops), otherwise ranged should be able to simply take care of it.

Bolt is another thing that the melee in our group rarely take care of, but I find often that I must run out of melee range of the Mutated Corruption anyways, since the second impale of any platform and the bolt are often timed pretty close together. More often than not I hang around and take out the bolt, unless we're able to quickly kill off the MC so we can completely negate the second impale from going off all together.

Regenerative Bloods and Spellweave procs = the money dps increasers of this fight. Funny enough, not only do the bloods bloat the dps meters, but the Spellweave procs are a vital component to this fight. Ideally the bloods should be brought over to the wing/claw and/or the parasite so that the spell cleaves can do their work. With Spellweave, all of the things should die incredibly quickly. Unfortunately for us enhancers, quickly is not our thing. Our window of time to get out our AoE is incredibly slim, especially with the 30% nerfs in place. Your best bet is to watch your timers, run over to the spawn point of the bloods, drop Magma Totem, Flame Shock the first blood that shows its ugly bubbly head, then Lava Lash + Fire Nova as soon as there's more than four of them out. Unless your raid's AoE is really slow, chances are you probably won't have time to get an Unleash Elements off before a Fire Nova (aka creating a 'Super Nova' for yourself), but if you can manage to squeeze in another GCD before everything dies, go for it.

Head phase: if you've gotten this far and the raid hasn't had to use any battle rezzes yet, you're doing great! Or even if you have, and you've made it this far, you're still doing pretty damn well. /highfive!

This final "phase" is yet another hurry up and wait type deal. You will go from waiting around for certain adds to spawn, to dpsing a bunch of bloods down as quickly as you can mash your buttons, to quite possibly waiting around again to push Deathwing down another 5% health.

Alright, so here's the deal with Deathwing's noggin.

Elementium Fragments will pop out of the ground, just like on LFR/reg mode. If you can Flame Shock cleave them + Fire Nova them, go for it! So long as you won't end up spell cleaving DW too much that is. You don't want to accidentally push him down past 15%/10%/5% before your group is ready to handle the bloods. These fragments will occasionally cast Shrapnel on a random person. If that person is you, simply hit the big green Dream button that pops up. Have another Shrapnel cast on you, but your Dream button is on cooldown? Shamanistic Rage + Stoneclaw totem, plus give your healers a heads up so they can top you off before you get smashed in the face. If you don't do these things, chances are pretty good that you'll end up being dragon soup.

Shortly after the Fragments spawn, two big dudes called Elementium Terrors will pop up, just like they do in LFR and regular modes. Like everything else, these guys can be spellweaved. However, ideally your raid will want to keep one of these guys up, despite their stacking debuff on the tank. Why? Because when the bloods DO spawn, the tank can move the Terror from the Time Zone (where they should be tanked) over to the bloods. You cleave off of the Terror into the bloods, which is much more ideal than getting a Flame Shock on a blood, only to die stupidly quickly from the AoE, and you missing out on hitting a Lava Lash, thus missing out on Nova AoE. Chances are pretty good though that your Terrors will just die very quickly, like they do in my run, and you'll have to suck it up and somehow deal with less than ideal AoE situations.

/grumbles about enhancement AoE on nerfed content

This is what I generally do when bloods spawn. See the bubbling on the ground, Ghost Wolf on over as quickly as possible, drop a Magma totem. You'd also drop an Earthbind totem here, or on another designated spot if your group is short on traps/slows. I *try* to Stormstrike the first one out, just to get some damage rolling, but most often I find myself scrambling to get a Flame Shock on a middle blood (these suckers go down FAST if your group is on the ball with AoE, as they should be) and spreading as soon as that global cooldown swings around. Nova, Chain Lightning, and Stormstrike as they come up.

My raid tends to do a bit push between 10% and 5%, with spawning the blood packs back to back. This is when I use my wolves and Heroism (Bloodlust for you Horde folk) gets popped. The extra Chain Lightnings from our tier 13 four piece bonus is kinda handy here. Our wolves with hero rolling pop Maelstrom procs like it's their job. Utilize that as much as possible when you're unable to Nova.

This fight is all about rinsing, repeating, and being aware of health percentages on Deathwing's various extremities. It's all about control and being on the ball with your AoE. If you and your raid team can master that, this fight is an easy-ish win in the bag.

No'Kaled - Hands down, our best in slot weapons for the expansion. Combat rogues will want one of these bad boys for their main hand for some fights, but these are pretty much custom tailored to suit an enhancement shaman. If a rogue tries to take one of these over you, BITE THEM. Same goes for DKs. Tell them to bugger off, because these things are not only super sexy base stat and raw weapon damage wise, but two of their three procs scale off our mastery, and these buggers proc often. So very, very sexy for us.

So there you have it ladies and gents. Apologies about not getting all of the segments of this guide out in a timely fashion, but I certainly hope that it helps at least a few of you out. As always, if you feel that I need to make a correction, or you have a question/comment/concern, please do not hesitate to leave a message as a response to this post, or to contact me directly through either my email address listed on this site or Twitter.

Good luck guys and may the RNG gods be with you!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fear (Fanfic Doodles)

A howling wind shot through the dusky twilight, hitting the dark-skinned shaman full in the face with its icy knives. Despite the discomfort, the Draenei did not move a muscle towards the warmth of the indoors. Silently, still as the frozen planes around her, she kept her vigil until the last of the day's light had leaked from the skies. Still she stood with her gaze over the open oceans while one of Azeroth's moons rose over the choppy seas. Nothing else on the horizon seemed quite as huge, white, or indifferent as did the full moon that night.

"The fire is roaring, Ambassador. Come inside before the winds freeze you through."

The youth's voice was what finally pulled the shaman from her visions. "Thank you, Valann." Feeling the pins of ice in her skin for the first time, Saz wrapped the cloak that hung about her shoulders a bit tighter to her flesh. The cloak was made from the skin of a grey northern worg, but even the thick pelt seemed to do little against the chilly fingers of the north winds.

Stiff muscles turned her back to the view of the frigid seas, moved her off of the balcony, and into the room that she was temporarily calling her own. The shaman and her charge had made camp in an old inn, long abandoned. Once upon a time the little inn had been a safe haven for frozen travelers, an alehouse for the locals, a place to warm ones hands. Unfortunately the tiny Borean town in which the little inn rested its foundation had been tainted heavily by the plague years and years before. What scant crops that were able to grow there once could take root no more. Many a citizen had died in that town; most who still called the Borean Tundra home claimed that the area was haunted, unsuitable for the living.

Since the moment that they had set hoof on the continent, Saz had been seeking such a place. Young Valann had much to learn about the spirits as well as the elements; what better place to do so than somewhere where the elements were harsh and the spirits that needed their rest were even more unruly?

Gratefully the shaman seated herself before the little fire. Wind continued its high-pitched wailing, whistling its way through the many cracks found in the walls of the inn, attempting to caress the skins of the two travelers with its pin-spiked fingers. The winds attempts were all in vain though, for the pair both had heavy armor, heavier cloaks, thinning but still solid walls, and their cheery little fire to keep them safe.

"I like this place not." grumbled Valann. "The air always screams, always bites. There is no peace here."

Saz nodded gently. "You are right child, there is no peace here. That is why we have come, though it is not the air we seek to calm this time."

She knew that she had peaked Valann's interest, but she could also sense his fear. Surprisingly the youth kept his tongue and waited patiently for her to continue on. It has taken him weeks, but he learns.

"We haven't come to temper the air elementals, nor the waters that mate with the air to make the ice which threatens to stab us through with its fragile knives. We are here to communicate with the spirits."

"The..spirits?" The shaman had taken her charge by surprise. "We cannot speak to the spirits, it is but an old mother's tale."

"All tales have a truth to them. In part, you are correct. Rarely can we commune with the spirits who have found their way to the other realm. To cross into their world is to possibly give oneself to the spirit world, to essentially sink oneself into an early grave. There are very few shaman who are strong enough to cross into other planes not meant for us. However," Saz readjusted her cloak about her, fussing with a chunk of fur that seemed to be coming loose from the pelt. "if a spirit has yet to move on, if it has found itself stuck in our realm, communication is not nearly so difficult."

The flickering fire and the still moonlight was all that brought light into the little room; while she couldn't see his face clearly, Saz thought that Valann had suddenly paled by a few shades.

"Does the idea of speaking with the dead frighten you, Valann?"

"Of...of course."

"Take no fear from something that means you no harm. The rage of the spirits are never actually meant to be directed at you, nor are they caused by you, and you'd do well to remember that at all times. Their sorrow, their pain, it all happened so long ago. They are trapped, searching for the way our of their endless prison of misery."

"Can they not possess?"

"Some of the more willful spirits can at times, yes."

"Then how can I not fear them? How could I ever fight something that controls me?"

Valann's voice squeaked up a few pitches as he said this. Saz turned her face to the young Draenei beside her, and looked him in the eyes. "For one, we never seek to control the spirits, or ever the elements for that matter. For two, if you meet those who mean to do you harm with understanding, compassion, and endless patience, chances are pretty good that they will not do you so much harm to you after all."

"So I don't fight them? I just accept them?"

"Do not fight them, work to calm them. Understand their sorrow, try to help them find peace."

"So I just allow them to possess me if they will, and hope that they leave once they're happy again..."

"Allow them to tell you the story of their sorrow, let them rage until their rage is spent. They may possess you if the storm in their hearts compels them to, but even the strongest of storms must weaken eventually."

"Why not avoid them instead? Why look for them and their problems, prod at them? Leave the wretches be I say, leave them to their miseries. I want no part in their sorrows. It's their choice to stay here in this realm, we needn't interfere."

"Because dear child, a shaman's job is a complex one. We do not set out each day to ignite the bloodlust of man, to reek war and havoc on the world, to slaughter all those we deem to be in the wrong. We are the warriors who are at one with the elements, at one with the spirits; we are the calm that soothes the storm. We are meant to mend what we have destroyed; we are to mend what others have destroyed before us. We are healer, we are warrior. We are adviser and protector. Our spirits are ever entwined with the will of the elements, and with the elements the spirits of our ancestors. A shaman's life calling is not for the cowards. If you cower from those who are in need your aid, even if they scream against you, perhaps it is time we returned to the Eastern Kingdoms where it is warm and safe, and find you a new life calling."

Without looking at the young male, Saz could tell that Valann was sulking. Over the past several weeks she had come to know the Draenei's face all to well. His over sized lips would be pushed out in a pathetic pout, his eyebrows would be raised so that the skin above them would wrinkle against his skull plate, and his nose would begin to run slightly as he held back his tears. He's but a large boy, but there's no time to coddle him. It's high time to see if he's worth his tendrils or if I should return him to his father.

Moments passed. When the shaman spoke next her voice was as cold as the night air. "What will it be, Valann? Run back to your father and hide in the safety of Stormwind forever, or face your ghostly fears?"

Shame skittered across his face as he made up his mind. In a whisper he replied, "I shall stay."

"There will be no running."

"There will be no running..."

"Good. Tonight we begin our fast. Tomorrow night we will speak with the spirits."

Valann responded with nothing, simply nodding his alabaster head in acknowledgement.

"To bed with you then, we shall need more tinder come morning."

"Yes, Ambassador."

As they lay down in their makeshift beds, cloaks wrapped about them, she could hear the youth quietly chanting to himself:

Calm like the rains
Persistent as the winds
Patient as the earth
Vibrant as fire

Spirits, do me no harm.