Heroic Megaera’s Diffusion Mystery

Posted July 9, 2013 by Ophelie
Categories: Boss Fight: Pandaria, World of Logs

Tags: , , , , , ,

EDIT: I updated the numbers in the post following the excellent comments by Vixsin and Lakh. I have very little background with this sort of thing, so the help is very appreciated! I hope no one read the post expecting revelations and great number gymnastics. I’m only a curious healer who tends to fixate on minor details and who doesn’t turn away from a challenge. I have no answers myself, but there are some great comments in the comment section for those looking for information.

Ever since I stumbled across a parse where I randomly did 5 million healing from Diffusion, I’ve been fixated on figuring out how that spell works.

magsspellsbefore

Sadly, after hours and hours of pulling my hair out, I still don’t know.

In theory, Diffusion (available only on Heroic mode) is a debuff the Arcane Head puts on anyone who gets hit by its Arcany breath. The debuff redirects 10% of healing received to targets within 8 yards. It also stacks, which, if I understand right, would redirect 30% of healing received.

In practice, it is certainly a debuff put on Breath takers by the Arcane head that causes nearby players (and pets) to get healed, but how exactly it works is a still a mystery to me, even after I’ve gone nearly bald going through logs.

Anyone who, following this post, has further insight, is welcomed to share it. I’m happy to provide links to the actual logs if anyone wants to give it a go for themselves as well. Maybe I’ll finally get some closure and be able to move on with my WoW life.

Everything under the cut. Also, if you’re looking for guides on working World of Logs, I suggest you check out this post and this post, since I won’t be going into details on the how-tos.

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World of Logs Log Browser meet Player. Player, meet Log Browser

Posted July 8, 2013 by Ophelie
Categories: Paladinning Info, Teh paladin, World of Logs

Tags: , , , , , ,

Protip: You can scroll to the bottom of this post (and click on the “Read the rest…” link if viewing from the main page) for an example WITH PICTURES using Eternal Flame and Holy Power.

Megaera’s stupid Diffusion has been keeping me up at night. (Which, I suppose, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It does means there’s nothing more pressing in my life to ruin my sleep.) But, as a kid, when something bothered me, I was always encouraged to write about it. (With nice handwriting and proper spelling and grammar.) So write about it, I shall. Some day.

It occurred to me first, that I’ve never really written about World of Log’s Log Browser. Since my ripping my hair out probably isn’t the best scenario to cover the basics on (and narrowing in on one mechanic from one fight makes it hard to keep the post up to date), I figured I’d do a little formal introduction to World of Logs’ Log Browser.

Finding the Log Browser.

Finding the Log Browser.

The Log Browser: Why Would I Use It?

The Log Browser is a search tool for the Combat Log.

See, (if it’s still mystery to you,) how World of Logs works is that someone in your raid is saving their Combat Log to a document-type file on their computer. They then upload that file into World of Logs. World of Logs reads it and translates it into those meters, tables and graphs that we love so much.

But! Should you need information that isn’t provided by those meters, graphs and tables, the original Combat Log is still available on World of Logs, through, *drumroll*…. The Log Browser!

Generally I’ll use it for:

Timestamps: When was a spell cast, when did someone take damage, how often does an event occur in an encounter, etc.
Dispels: Who dispelled who, what and when. (Also applies to Interrupts)
Spell Behaviour: If I’m studying a spell and want to know what it did each time instead of the average provided by the spell breakdown page.

And…I’m sure there are other uses, but those are the ones that come to mind. Timestamps tend to be the bulk of my Log Browser usage – it’s the best way to find those extra details about a fight that the basic strat guides don’t tell you.

As for how to get started, use it as you would the “Damage Done“, “Damage Taken“, “Healing Done“, etc. features. Pick a fight (or a boss). In the image above, I’ve got a Heroic Megaera fight selected because blogging has forced my WoW life to now revolve around Heroic Mageara. Then select “Log Browser” from the correct drop down box.

The Log Browser: Think of it as a fancy Google search bar

The Log Browser was probably the last WoL feature I started using because I found it rather intimidating. (I still don’t use the Expression Editor…every time I think “oh the Expression Editor might be useful to answer this question!”, I’m quickly and brutally reminded that I have no basic understanding at all of the language spoken by that Editor.)

Once you get familiar with it, though, using the Log Browser is as easy as Googling yourself.

Your first view of the Log Browser.

Your first view of the Log Browser. I did not censor anything. Please do not stalk my guildies.

The first thing you want to do, before anything, anything at all, is hit “Remove” where is says “Queries Show all events (remove, copy)“.

Reason for that being, until you remove this “Show everything” command, the Browser will constantly just show you everything, ignoring anything you ask of it. This will make you cry (or at least, very, very sad). I have much experience.

As for those buttons along the bottom, here’s a quick translation of what they mean, in Google terms:

1- “Add Query” means “Search bar will pop up”
2- “Run” means “Google Search”, or “Enter”
3- “Copy Query set” and “Paste” are, well, copy and paste options that you’ll find useful if you expect to redo the same search in the future.

So after removing the “Show Everything“, hit “Add Query” to get the action started.

Next step is don’t panic! The form looks a lot worse than it really is.

Using the “Add Query” Form

It looks all tough but it isn't.

It looks all tough but it isn’t.

1- Event Type: This is to either widen your search (example: search for all Summons), or narrow it (example: search through a mage’s casts and only show misses). You can check as many or as few boxes as you want, depending on what you’re looking for.

2- Actor: You would put a character’s name (either a player or an NPC) here if you want to search through all the lines of the Combat Log where that character is mentioned, regardless of whether they were on the casting or the receiving end (example: if I want to look at all heals I cast as well as all heals that were cast on me, I would put my name in the “Actor” field). You’ll probably leave this field blank most of the time.

3- Source: This is where you’d put the name of the character doing the thing you’re interested in (example: if we were to look at all the heals I cast, we would put my name in the “Source” field).

4- Target: You’d put the name of the character on the receiving end of the event you want to study (example: if we want to see all the times I took a fireball to the face, we’d type in my name in the target field)

5- Spell: Enter the name of the spell you want to observe. The field seems to be case-sensitive so you have to type them exactly as they’d be written in your Combat Log (or Wowhead) (example: if we’re interested in Light of Dawn, we’d type in “Light of Dawn” with L and D capitalized).

6- Spell ID: If you aren’t having luck with a spell name (it happens sometimes), you can use the spell ID number. You can find that number on Wowhead in that spell’s URL (example: for Diffusion, use Spell ID 139993).

You can enter more than one name in each field, as long as you separate them with a comma and no space (example: if I wanted to look at Holy Shock and Eternal Flame, in the spell field I’d write “Holy Shock,Eternal Flame).

You can also leave fields empty if they won’t help you narrow your search to the data you want.

Log Browser: The Limits

The Log Browser is awesome, but there are a few limits to what it can do. (The gaps in the Log Browser functions are probably filled by the Expression Editor, but the Expression Editor is beyond my humble abilities.)

– It can only show a certain number of lines, starting at the beginning of a fight/time selection. So unless you’re looking for something that happened very early on, you have to be specific in your searches.
– You can’t automatically search for specific Timestamps. There is no way to see all and only the events that happened between 1min30 and 1min36.
– The Timestamps don’t line up exactly with the times shown in the graphs elsewhere in your parses. The graphs are more like approximations, so expect some discrepancies when comparing log timestamps to graphs.

You can, however, somewhat bypass the first two limits by going to a graph page (Damage Done, Healing Done, etc), selecting a period of the fight you’re interested, right clicking on the highlighted zone and hitting “Set page to selection”. From then on, WoL (including the Log Browser) will look at that selection instead of the whole fight. (Huuuuuge thanks to Kurn for teaching me that. I owe you one!)

And the rest is just practice and creativity!

For visual types (like me), there’s a fun (by my standards) example after the cut.

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A Look at my Heroic Megaera Logs

Posted June 29, 2013 by Ophelie
Categories: Paladinning Info, Teh paladin, World of Logs

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Two weeks ago, I did a fun healing experiment comparing my performances with Divine Purpose vs Holy Avenger. While there could have been a few other factors affecting my throughput, I was confident enough with the results that Holy Avenger became permanently lit up on my talent thingy.

Two weeks later and I’m still satisfied.

The Curious Case of Megaera, the Many Headed Beast

In my experiment post, I wrote the following:

I purposely left out 4 fights, each for unique reasons.

[...]
3- Heroic Megaera: The end result wasn’t consistent with the other fights and I thought the reasons were interesting enough to merit their own blog post.
[...]

A little bit late, but here is that blog post.

I’m aiming to use it as an intermediate World of Logs exercise on comparing healing spell choices. I’m running on the assumption that you all already know how to find your healing spells on WoL because, for the last two weeks, you’ve been playing around with the parsings tool and spying on pros.

I’m using the Heroic version of the fight, but it’s similar enough to the regular version that anyone who’s vaguely familiar with the fight should understand the analysis.

So anyway, when I did my HA+EF (Holy Avenger and Eternal Flame) experiment, this is what happened on Heroic Megaera:

Before Holy Avenger

Week 1
magsbefore

ps. Look at Pally Tank Theck, sniping heals from the healers!

Week 2
magsbefore2

After Holy Avenger

magsafter

When you look at this, your heart sinks, your stomach feels a little queezy and a dark cloud of discouragement hangs over your head. (Or maybe that’s just me.)

But before we dismiss Holy Avenger on Megaera, let’s look a little closer. We’ll ignore CD usage since my CD usage between fights should be pretty similar, other than Holy Avenger, which we’ve already accounted for.

This is what happened during nerf week:

(If your browser makes the writing look all tiny, you can right click on the image to put a larger version in a separate tab.)

magsspellsbefore

See Diffusion?

Diffusion counted for 11.4% of my healing. 5 MILLION. Right after Mastery and Beacon, BAM! DIFFUSION!

Diffusion in a healing spell breakdown, in theory, means you healed someone who just got an Arcane Breath (only available on Heroic!) to the face. It’s supposed to take 10% of the effective healing on that person and redistribute it to others in range.

In practice, it’s pretty random. I spent hours with the log parser when drafting this post, trying to figure out how I ended up with so much Diffusion healing on that attempt and I have no idea. I didn’t even know about Diffusion healing at the time. (If there’s interest, I could write a post about Diffusion Log Parsing adventures but I’ll leave it out of this post since it’s pretty long and boring, and a tad more complex than I want to get into right now.)

Because Diffusion seems to only heal when it feels like it, without involving much control from the player, when analyzing logs and comparing my performances, I’d subtract Diffusion healing from my total healing count.

Next, notice Arcing Light (Light’s Hammer) as my 4th healing spell, for 4.8 million.

Then we see Eternal Flame for 4 million and Light of Dawn for almost 3 million. (Total Holy Power healing = Eternal Flame + Light of Dawn = 4 million + 3 million = 7 million)

Now, here’s my spell breakdown for week 2 of non-Holy Avenger:

magsspellsbefore2

In comparison, Mastery did a tad less healing, Beacon a tad more. Eternal Flame was about the same (4 million) and Light of Dawn a little less (2 million) for a decrease in Holy Power healing by one million.

A major difference would be Holy Prism instead of Arcing Light, which did 1.8 million healing…less than HALF of what Arcing Light did for me last time.

As for my “With Holy Avenger” Logs

magsspellsafter

If you counted the number of healers on the meters, you’d notice that we did this kill with 6 healers instead of 7. Which means more healing to go around, but also more dps and a resulting shorter fight (so we’re expecting a higher Healing per Second, HPS, but the total overall healing could be more or less).

Still, Mastery is my top heal, with comparable numbers to the two previous weeks, with Beacon as a second, again with comparable numbers.

Then Eternal Flame, doing more healing than the past two weeks, but no Light of Dawn, resulting in a lower overall heal from Holy Power (5.7 million).

What really sticks out, though, is the uselessness of Holy Prism here. (And I confess that the only reason I was using Holy Prism was because I had forgotten to respec for the fight.) While I’m sure Holy Prism could do the job if it were cast every 20 seconds, on schedule, I find this fight too busy for regular Prism casts. Besides, Light’s Hammer comes off CD just at the right time for Rampage where its little spidery light tangles shine to their full potential.

Comparing Two Paladins on a same attempt

On my “after Holy Avenger” attempt, my copally, who wasn’t using Holy Avenger kicked my butt on the meters. Solidly. So let’s look at what he was doing spellwise.

magscopally

Our two top spells, Mastery and Beacon, were fairly comparable and his Holy Radiance was only slightly less than mine.

Then his 5 million Arcing Light points and laughs at my 1.7 million Holy Prism.

He did 3.5 million healing with Light of Dawn and 2.3 million with Eternal Flame for a total of 5.8 million Holy Power healing (slightly more than me).

And he got lucky with 1.4 million more Diffusion than me.

The moral of this story is, I guess, don’t use Holy Prism on this fight.

Conclusion: A Lesson Learned

Last night I made sure Light’s Hammer was ready to go on the pull. And I also followed Aladya’s example in planning CDs for Rampage. (Obviously, I couldn’t execute it quite as perfectly as he does, but the general CD timing was there.)

The end result looked like this:

magsnew

Still below our meter whores Druid and Shaman who play meter topping games with each other, but still solid. Especially since I died near the end.

And in closing, my spell breakdown from last night, analyze it how you will.

magsspellsnew

How To Use World of Logs to Spy on Pros (Also Heroic Megaera Holy Pally CD Usage Discussion)

Posted June 16, 2013 by Ophelie
Categories: Paladinning Info, Teh paladin, World of Logs

Tags: , , , , , ,

EDIT: Want to learn even more about World of Logs and Holy Paladins? Lucy over at Intellect Plate has a comprehensive and excellently written guide which touches on this topic and so much more, I highly suggest you check it out! (I wrote this post merely days after her guide was published, not realizing that she had already covered pretty much everything I bring up. I swear this was an unfortunate coincidence and I offer her my apologies.)

I’m always getting told that my World of Logs posts are long and boring, and the only people who would make sense of them are people who don’t need to be reading World of Logs tutorials anyway.

Yes, yes, no one ever words it quite like that. THATS STILL WHAT IT MEANS.

So I am going to try again.

In my last couple of posts, I mentioned creepy stalking looking up the pros and admiring their use of cooldowns. I didn’t go into details on my procedure and perhaps there are people out there at this very second thinking to themselves, “I wish I could look at Pro logs but every time I open World of Logs I get dizzy and sleepy.

To those people, I present: How to Use World of Logs to Spy on Pros

And for intermediate WoL users, those of you who pull up CD graphs but aren’t too sure what you’re looking at, you guys can scroll down to the last section. There we are sipping tea and calmly discussing Megaera rampage CD usage.

Finding An Interesting Log

1) Go to http://www.worldoflogs.com

Simple enough?

2) Select HPS

hps

3) Select your region (US&EU for me) and desired Mode (25 Heroic for me), in that order

findingpros

4) Choose your boss fight and hit “Rankings” (for this post, it will be Megaera)

findingmegs

5) Select the little Holy icon under “Paladin” and choose a recent log from a paladin on server where you understand the language.

selectingapro

I’m sure Афиа is amazing, but deciphering his or her spell names just won’t be worth the trouble. You want to go with a recent log too, as fight mechanics and class intricacies change over time. The more recent the log, the more likely it’ll give you an accurate representation of that fight for your class.

6) Click on a Paladin’s name, and check out their spell breakdown tab before hitting the “Buffs Cast” tab.

spellbreakdown

I’m not sure what general etiquette is for using screenshot’s of a stranger’s logs. To give credit where credit is due, these are Aladya’s (from Method) logs from June 5. I picked these particular ones because the CD timing on them is perfect for teaching. If it’s inappropriate for me to use them, I will take them down and apologize profusely.

7) To view CD usage click on the “#” next to the cooldown(s) you’re interested in

choosingCDs

Note that you can also select debuffs, and under the “Buffs gained” tabs, you can view uptime of buffs or debuffs that are cast on a player by someone or something else. For the sake of this discussion, though, we only care about Holy Pally CD casts.

8) Admire the graph you’ve created

CDgraph

Discussion

First, there’s a graph with pretty squiggly lines. The light yellow one shows damage the raid is doing (we don’t care about that at this time) and the orangish line shows damage taken by raid. If you’re colourblind, you can distinguish them (at least on this fight – and that’s why I picked this fight) because damage taken spikes at 6 specific spots.

Those 6 specific spikes are Rampages.

Under the pretty squiggly graph, there are green bars. Each green bar shows you when a buff was active. If you mouse over a green bar on World of Logs (note, this won’t work on my screenshots!), a tooltip will pop up showing who had that buff on them. Especially useful for assessing Eternal Flame usage, but also helpful if you happen to be interested in Beacon, Hand of Purity or Hand of Sacrifice targets.

From this graph, we can see that our pro paladin has Eternal Flames running throughout the fight on a number of people (the brighter a green bar, the more people that buff is on).

We can also breakdown his CD usage per rampage:

Rampage #1: Holy Avenger, Divine Favor and Avenging Wrath. (Guardian of the Ancient Kings was used as well – I forgot to add it when doing the screenshot.)
Rampage #2: None
Rampage #3: Holy Avenger and Devo Aura.
Rampage #4: Avenging Wrath and Divine Favor
Rampage #5: Holy Avenger
Rampage #6: Devo Aura, Intellect Potion (also Guardian of the Ancient Kings, missing from screenshot)

Avenging Wrath and Divine Favor were used again at the very end of the fight. (Had it taken longer for the last head to die, they could have been used on the last Rampage, but DPS was too high and they weren’t off CD yet.)

I added Divine Plea to the screenshot as well, you can see how it was used shortly before the third and fifth rampage.

Now, when I’m writing Holy Pally beginner CD guides, I always say “Don’t use Divine Favor and Avenging Wrath at the same time, you just get more overheal and less time with an active throughput CD“. I stand by that. For 5s, most normal fights and periods of lowish damage, at least. When damage is periodically intense (such as this fight) and every ounce of healing will be useful, you might as well hit with everything you have. Plus, the earlier you use your CDs, the more likely they’ll be up at the end.

For progression fights – whether you’re doing crazy heroic modes or you’re working on normal Horridon, you can plan your CD usage based on fight length and the time it takes for CD to come up. And then your “Buff Cast” graph can look like this one.

Ending Words

I was going to end this post by adding a few more CD graphs of top Holy Paladins. Then I realized that I’d be wasting a precious exercise opportunity. So go, use the instructions here to find other examples of Holy Paladin CD planning!

Hours and hours of fun, I assure you!

Holy Avenger and EF Blanketing – The Results

Posted June 15, 2013 by Ophelie
Categories: Paladinning Info, Teh paladin

Tags: , , , , , ,

As I was researching yesterday’s post (and by researching, I mean creepy stalking top Holy Pally parsers on World of Logs), I noticed that every one of them was using a healing technique I hadn’t tried:

Holy Avenger on CD, Holy Power built through Holy Radiance and Holy Shock and sunk via Eternal Flame blanketing over as much of the raid as possible.

I checked both 10s and 25s, under the Heroics tab. Both used this trick, though 25s players seemed more likely to blow Divine Favor and Avenging Wrath at the same time as Holy Avenger (time for a macro?) while 10s generally staggered their CDs out more.

So it seems I’m well behind the times (that’s what happens when WoW takes the backseat for months), but I’m sure I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE.

Plus before and after screenshots are always tons of fun.

The Changes

On top of using the Holy Avenger trick, I also started tracking Illuminated Healing (Mastery). I doubt it made a significant difference but it did lightly influence where I would cast my Holy Radiance/Holy Shock/Eternal Flame.

Our healing comp was a bit different than last week too. Last week my Copally was away, and this week we were missing our Monk and Druid S. This would have an effect on how each of us heal in comparison to one and other, but I really don’t think it would account for a drastic change. After all, we rarely use the same healing comp on a given fight from week to week anyway.

In terms of gear, if you look at the past few weeks, my gear will have improved, but between this week and last, the only differences were how I found two pieces that made me to think “I could have sworn I’d reforged these!“, and my weekly VP gear upgrading. So, some influence on my stats, but less than a clear change.

Notes on Throughput and Functionality

This is obviously a post on throughput. Throughput has its place. After all, if healers can’t keep up with the damage or with their teammates, they’re holding the raid back. Plus, guild and healing leads from all brackets (yes, I’ve seen leads from guilds who can’t kill normal Horridon obsess over healing meters) don’t see past meters and HPS. So meter milking is a good skill to have if you want some peace and quiet.

However, throughput is not a replacement for functionality.

A healer’s first priority is to keep the raid (or healing assignment, depending on the team and the fight) alive through every mechanic. Standing still and spamming heals isn’t a luxury most of us have access to. (And even if it were, it doesn’t sound very fun, you know?)

My poor copally, who ended up, without his knowledge (if this were real science, this experiment would never make it past the ethics committee) being a control subject, is by far a better healer than I am. I spend more energy looking up techniques, but he makes less mistakes than me, and doesn’t panic and freeze up the way I do. When it comes to choosing a paladin for exploratory fights, he is the obvious choice.

Once your priorities are covered, though, there’s nothing wrong with taking your art to the next level and squeezing extra out of your character.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Holy Avenger to a freshly-pressed, new paladin. I’d like to see a new paladin healer master Beacon healing, Holy Power cycling and cooldown management before adding yet another CD. Once those are down, then by all means.

For your amusement, here is a list of my screw ups last night as I tried to fit the new technique into my routine:

1- On H-Jin’Rokh, dropped a fissure in the middle of raid.
2- On H-Horridon, almost got eaten by my pink dino (have really no idea how I survived that)
3- On H-Council, drowned in Quicksand
4- On H-Iron Council, got 3 stacks of flame lines, had to bubble, then had no bubble left to mask my inability to handle tornadoes. Also missed my pre-tornado Aura Mastery.

While on the average raid night, I earn no shortage of “that’s not good” and “Rykga, Rykga, Rykga“, the above aren’t mistakes I typically make (except for pre-tornado Aura Mastery. I always screw that one up.)

But enough chitchat. Here are the preliminary results of my healing with Holy Avenger experiement. (Also keep in mind that I was very clumsy with the technique. Imagine what this would look like if my CD timing were perfected!)

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WoW… Oh hei! I still play that!

Posted June 14, 2013 by Ophelie
Categories: Paladinning Info, Teh paladin

Tags: , , , , , , ,

You know you’ve fallen out of the loop when you come across lists of Holy Paladin bloggers… and your name is nowhere to be found. Which is fair enough – I haven’t written anything substantial since that guide from two patches ago, which I never even polished up. It’s just. That. Time. Goes by. So fast. SO FAST. Didn’t I write that last guide post YESTERDAY? OMG.

But have no fear! Newcomer bloggers Paladiner and Lucy have got you covered, especially when it comes to Heroic Mode info. Super busy Getsu also finds the time to post some Holy Paladin thoughts as well (I complain that I can’t update because I’m busy, but he’s like 200 times busier than me and still finds time for Holy Pally philosophy /shame).

And if Heroic raiding and patch notes aren’t your thing, the awesome Megacode is still going strong with his regular podcasts on Normal modes, basics and other must-knows. He’s also done some fantastic interviews with high profile players. (Speaking of Megacode’s podcasts, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say it yet, but I wasn’t told not to say anything and I’m super super excited so I’m going to say it anyway: he has another round table coming up! I can’t wait! I think we should do like a holy paladin cafe once a month, where a bunch of us grab mics, a bunch more get into the chat channel and we just pally talk. No prep, no editing. Just glorious, glorious pally talk. Would anyone else be interested in that?)

So we’re digesting 5.3 sideways, 5.4 is on the horizon (already? WTF) yet all I want to talk about are Bioware games and nerd conventions. That’s just how I am. But still, I will not be left out during these kinda-difficult-but-we’ve-been-through-worse Holy Paladin times.

5.3 and The Great Mastery and T14 4-pc Nerf of 2013

Of Tier Gear 14 and 15

Unlike most, I made the switch from T14 4pc to T15 as soon as I had enough T15 to get a 2pc. The reasoning was that my T14 gear came from a mix of LFR and Normal mode while my T15 was nice and shiny Normal and Heroic stamped.

I experimented by switching back and forth, and once I got used to both, I could get roughly equal numbers. T14, for me, was all about the EF blanketing, while T15 lets me go crazy with Holy Radiance. (Holy Radiancing – something I know many of my fellows are ticked off about. But what can you do? Perhaps it’s just our overachieving tanks, but it seems like the only T15 fight where we need any kind of tank healing assignments is Heroic Mags and MAYBE SOMETIMES Heroic Council. For everything else, there’s Holy Radiance.) As I shifted toward T15 and got deeper in heroic content, I found that my old T14 set just didn’t have the mana regen necessary for today’s modern boss fights. So off to the vendor we went.

Paladiner suggests skipping the T15 4pc. His experience with specific fights doesn’t reflect my own, probably because he runs with a different healer team makeup, and, more likely, he does 10s while I do 25s. But! As stubborn as I am about keeping my shiny 4pc, I do agree that the extra stat bonus from an upgrade from normal-mode T15 piece to a heroic (or better, a Heroic THUNDERFORGED!) non-T15 piece would probably give your healing more oomph than a boost to Beacon.

There are some exceptions – my copally and I cross-beacon on Heroic Mags and we each get a lot of healing out of it. A lot. While we don’t seem to get the same kind of Beacon numbers on Heroic Council, I suspect that when we switch to direct healing Frostbite targets, our Beacons (again, cross-beaconing) have made other healers lives much easier. Otherwise, it seems the other fights in Throne are more raid damage typed, where extra Mastery and extra Spirit to support shiny Holy Radiances would go further than a boost to Beacon.

That said, I creepy stalked some of the highest HPS pallies in the US, and the vast majority (but not all!) were using T15 4pc. Note, though, their healing situations might not reflect that of the average raid. Plus they might swap gear around between fights.

And, what else? Oh yes, Mastery nerfs. Ouch.

Mastery Nerfs and healing styles

I checked my logs after the nerf and I half expected to find myself booted from my guild. It hurt my healing that bad. My copally was healing just fine, though, so I think the numbers may have had more to do with me than with the nerf. I tried harder the next week, and while I couldn’t get to where I was before the nerf, I did manage to not be rock bottom of the meters on every fight.

A couple of pallies asked me if they should change their stat priorities given the changes to Mastery. I don’t do much experimenting with things that extreme – but if anyone wants to give it a try, I’d be happy to look at the results.

I went to World of Logs again and went through a dozen of the highest ranking paladins (for 25 Heroic, mind you) and Mastery was a unanimous priority.

Another unanimous trait was the healing style of Holy Shock/Holy Radiance to generate Holy Power, followed by Eternal Flame blanketing. I swear most of them don’t even have Light of Dawn in their spell book.

(I try to heal like that, but apparently I fail pretty hard. In a fight 90 seconds shorter, Envy’s Finella gets more than twice the Holy Radiances and EFs out than I can!)

A strategy they use and that I hadn’t come across in discussions, is to take Holy Avenger (remember Holy Avenger, the level 75 talent?) and use it on CD. Combine with Divine Favor and Avenging Wrath for extra sexiness.

Simple and brilliant. For 18 seconds, you can get a lot of badass Eternal Flames out. Then you have 72 to 102 seconds to generate EFs the old fashion way.

I’m going to try this tonight.

As for meter rankings for the pros since the nerf, it seems that those pallies who were topping the meters before are now only slightly behind their Disc Priest buddies. Their healing environment is kinda different than the average raider (they have less healers, which spreads damage differently, and their healing aims more for numbers than functionality and bare survival), but the rest of us still have no excuse.

5.4, Flex Raiding, Minor Changes and Beyond

The Holy Paladin of the Future

I was happy to find no trace of those Eternal Flame nerfs everyone’s been panicking about. (Those aren’t hidden somewhere, are they? I’m scared!)

Our class changes are pretty minor. Paladiner’s wringed as much analysis out of our set bonuses as possible. Dedralie at Healiocentric has some discussion on our general changes on her blog as well.

If you want a TL;DR of our predicted changes, here it is: some wording on talents and some tiny number adjustments on Hand of Purity. At the time, I doubt anything will actually be noticeable in game. (Other than, obviously, T16 gear.)

And Flex Raiding!

Flex Raiding

Why is everyone so upset about Flex Raiding?

I think my guildy had the best reaction to the announcement: “Will I be getting an achievement for Flex Raiding?

I can see how a third lockout would be annoying to guilds in the upper-but-not-raiding-24-hours-a-day bracket. Even so, it only takes a couple of weeks for these guilds before everyone has everything they need from pre-normal raid lockouts, weeks where most of us are chained to our computers anyway. And adding a third lockout would probably reduce the number of weeks it takes to get saturated with pre-normal gear.

Personally, I’m super happy about this. I doubt, however, I’ll use it much. For me, I think, Flex raiding is coming too late. For the longest time, I wished there were some way I could help my off server friends with current tier fights without having to built a raiding alt. I also wished there was a way we could have scaling fights, so we didn’t spent more time looking for pugs than actually playing. By now, though, most of my off servers friends have scattered. I’ve lost touch with too many of them and don’t feel comfortable sending a “hey, wanna Flex Raid with me?“. But still, I’m happy the opportunity will be there, should I get the call.

It might also be a way for me to connect with my own guild. During regular raids, I still freeze up whenever someone talks to me (and with my fluttery attention span, it’s very hard for me to concentrate on the raid and chat to guildies at the same time). I tried running LFR with them, but it’s not the same with a bunch of a strangers in our group. So even though I’ve been in the guild for months and am quite happy (the raids are efficient, fair and entertaining, what more could I ask for?), I’m not as engaged as I usually am. Flex raiding would perfect for drunken, no stress guild fun.

What else is coming up in 5.4? Virtual realms?

Virtual Realms or Are we really just looking for an excuse to overreact?

I play on Tichondrius, which, I think, has become the most populated realm after last week’s character service discount. Why everyone wants to move to a server where there are up to 40 minute queues in the evening and where you have to get up at 5 am to do dailies if you don’t want to spend more time getting ganked than playing the game, I have no idea. But long story short, I don’t think I’ll be affected by virtual realms.

As for everyone else, it sounds like virtual realms will help somewhat with the challenges of playing on a low pop server, namely guild recruiting and finding fun things to do with strangers on offnights. Perhaps I’m missing something huge, but I can’t see where the problem is.

There! A WoW post at last!

I think that sums my recent thoughts on the game.

I do still play, I assure you. Cadenza is now 7/13H in 25s. Thankfully, Throne of Thunder calls for waaaay less twitchy movement than, um, that other dungeon who’s name I apparently blocked from my memory. I still die enough to worry about getting kicked. Every time I see an in-game mail from my GM I get all “oh noes!“. (It’s usually just a shipment of raid food, though. Why he does this, I’m not sure. I wonder if his food Auction House alt has a name similar to Rykga and I’m getting them by accident. Or perhaps it’s a quiet hint that I need more spirit. But, you know, I won’t turn down free raid food.)

The mic port on my desktop blew so now I can’t talk on Vent or Skype or Mumble. Not sure if there’s a way to fix that without having to change my whole motherboard. (While I did build this computer with my own two hands, I’m still pretty clueless about how everything fits together.) I’m quite sad about it but not enough yet to dare rip my tower apart. The laptop still works, anyway.

And, um, I’m really trying to find things to write about here. It feels like when I write to my mom: “Dear Mom, I am still alive. I work a lot. Sometimes I go hiking but not very often because it rains all the time. We got snow last week too. I went to the SPCA this morning and walked a dog. I made soup in my slow cooker overnight and it tasted funny. Do you know what I am doing wrong? My computer is being buggy again. You should try Granville Island Brewery’s Summer Mingler pack. It’s quite delicious. That’s all I can think of. Love, Jenn.”

Alright, time to shut off the computer so my eyes don’t hurt for raid. Talk to you all again in like a month!

I’m not ashamed – I liked Dragon Age 2 (plenty of spoilers)

Posted May 22, 2013 by Ophelie
Categories: Dragon Age

Tags: , , , ,

The last couple of weeks have been crazy. I hung out at the Calgary Expo for one non-stop, action packed weekend (and got to meetup with the Calgary WoW crew – Vidyala, Voss, ChawaJen, Darthregis and Kelesti - some of which don’t play WoW anymore but whom I still look forward all year to seeing. Wish I didn’t live so far away.) Then I came home, worked a couple of 12 hour shifts then drove the 3 hours to the airport to catch a plane to visit my parents on the East Coast for a week.

Then when I came back, there was chaos. I swear I cannot come back from vacation in peace. Last time I was away, my then-coworker (and then-manager) spent two weeks trashing the store. I went straight to work from the airport to start cleaning up and making apology phone calls to customers.

This time. Well. The store was impeccable, but I landed into what felt like a CSI episode. (Actually, an almost identical case was apparently featured on CSI not long ago, but I don’t watch the show.) I only needed to make a statement to the police (I don’t know much about crime investigations, but from what I gather, I was some sort of witness.) but it was still shocking. In my line of work, you expect to see criminals. Mostly drug dealers. On a bad, bad day, you might face an armed robber. But a murder suspect? That threw me through the loop. My head spun for a few days. I live in a little happy bubble where murders happen only to people living risky lives in the drug or sex trade. Or on TV. (I was going to add “or to Americans” but according to rumours, the suspects and the victim are American. So maybe this stuff does just happen to our Southern neighbours.) Not among mainstream, non-drug, non-sex trading people.

Anyway, I turned to my favourite coping mechanism: escapism. The world in question: Thedas.

I started Dragon Age 2 months ago, but had only made it to Kirkwall before having to concentrate what little free time I have to WoW. But because we got somewhat of a break from the VP grind during 5.2 (and I refuse to do dailies because the horde on this server insist that I dedicate 90% of my dailies time to corpse runs), I figured that I might as well see for myself what all the hate is about.

And know what? I don’t hate DA2 at all. In fact, I really enjoyed it. I can see how some people find it to be a let down after DA:O (though putting it in the same class as the ME3 ending is totally exaggerating… And now I’ll get people saying that putting ME3’s ending in the same class as DA2 is also exaggerating, ha!) but I confess (that’s right, it’s confession day in this corner of the internet), I wasn’t a huge huge fan of DA:O.

Oh don’t get me wrong! I loved the Origins story, I loved my companions (though they often left me on my hunger, I wanted more, more companion goodness!), I loved Ferelden. In time, I even came to love my Warden. But the gameplay, for an obsessive completionist like me, was tedious and exhausting. I beat the game after 100+ of gameplay and I’m still plagued by flashbacks of how much I skipped.

You have to understand, then, that DA2, in its strengths and, even, in its weaknesses, was so liberating for me.

Hawke

I had an unusual problem with Hawke. It’s a personal thing, a mere coincidence, not a fault of the game, but amusing enough to share.

See, I made my Hawke a long time ago. I just picked the default Lady Hawke because she looked better than anything I could design myself.

Default Lady Hawke

Default Lady Hawke

Then I didn’t play for months.

In the meanwhile, I got a new coworker in real life.

When I went to play again, the horror dawned me…

My new coworker looks almost identical to Default Lady Hawke.

While I certainly like my coworker, it’s extremely awkward to be reminded of her every time I look at my video game character. Plus, any of the adoration I usually shower my video game characters with would be uber creepy.

I was far enough along in the game to not want to start over so I bought the Black Emporium for the mirror of transformation. But giving Hawke a makeover was kind of annoying (for some reason, you can’t modify specific traits on default Hawke, you have to pick another preset and work with that) so I gave up. My coworker went for a new hair cut and colour instead.

But otherwise, I was totally ok with Hawke. I played the Amell mage in Origins, so I was excited Hawke was her cousin (or second cousin or whatever, I’m not good with family titles). I liked how the game followed her life for 7 years (and I’m torn on how she doesn’t age or put on 10 pounds or anything. /third-of-life crisis) and how she slowly becomes a local hero without following the tradition recipe of “THE WORLD IS ABOUT TO END AND ONLY I CAN SAVE IT!”

Her personality was interesting too, though I wonder if anyone ever plays their first Hawke as anything but sarcastic. I mean, you choices are: goody-goody (diplomatic), assface (aggressive) and entertaining. I think there were maybe a dozen times I picked something other than a joke? The best, though, is that the game kind of remembers your choices. While the mechanics setting Hawke’s tone aren’t secret, I sort of wonder if it’s more complex then that. In situations where I couldn’t bring myself to joke (usually around Hawke’s mother) and picked goody-goody choices, the game seemed to understand and Hawke started acting goody-goody in those circumstances without input from me. Maybe it was just an illusion, but whatever, I liked it. It made me very happy that the game “got” my Hawke. It’s always satisfying when you feel the game understands your characters.

The Combat

I’ll have squishy tomatoes thrown at me for this, but in Origins, I really, really disliked the combat. You have no idea. I enjoy strategy as much as the next person, but every time I opened that tactics window, all I could think of is “I WANT STORY NOW DAMMIT!!!”. In a short game, I’ll break my head over strategy (I did play The Golems of Amgarrak on the hardest level – except for the last boss who forced me to give up after like 6 hours of wiping – and loved it), but in a game that takes me over 100 hours to beat? Please! Give me some challenge to pace the story, but don’t have the normal mode make me cry.

Origin really only had like 10 spells too. They just each had 20 different names. Toward the end, I was getting very tired of sifting through my crowded spell bar, jammed packed with dozens of spells that all do the same thing.

So DA2’s “dumbed down” combat was sweet, sweet relief.

DA2 Bar: NOT CROWDED!

DA2 Bar: NOT CROWDED!

I didn’t open the tactics window at all!

I lied - I opened it once to take this screenshot.

I lied – I opened it once to take this screenshot.

My companions were a little stupid about standing in crap (seriously companion! I just moved you OUT of the purple, why are you running back into it?) but otherwise they took care of themselves pretty good. During fights, I’d often directly control Anders (I had him specced similarly to Hawke), I’d nudge Merrill and the rogues if I wanted them to do something specific and I ignored the warriors. I don’t even understand the warriors. Even so, very few fights gave me any challenge on normal mode. AND I LIKED IT.

Maybe next time I’ll scale up the difficulty for a more strategic game (and maybe learn how those confusing warriors work), but for a first time around, I was quite happy to not waste my time with pointlessly complicated combat.

And I was very happy with the spell/ability trees. Less toolbar invading, more passive abilities and upgrades. As it should be.

The Story

I’ll be fair. The story didn’t have the grandiose feel of Origins or Mass Effect. I admit that. But, surprisingly maybe, I liked it that way. After how tired I was after Origins, and how emotionally drained I was after Mass Effect, I’m okay with a game that lets me rest a little while giving me a story that I still care about.

It did seem to me that the writing wasn’t where it could be. There were lots of occasions where I wished I could go deeper into a character’s backstory, or a quest’s circumstances, or even Kirkwall’s existence. DA2’s setting and structure would have been perfect for such indulgences. There were a few times too where I winced, feeling that the dialogue didn’t quite fit. But “not where it could be” isn’t bad. The dialogue, the characters, the story, the lore, Kirkwall, were still interesting and engaging (to me, at least). It hit the target, just not, you know, the bullseye.

Act III was a little weird. I know I lose some of the story when I play games or read books, but I had been following everything very well up until then. Then in Act III, I kept wondering “why are we fighting these guys again?”, “why are these guys fighting each other?”, “wait, did these guys just change their mind?”. It does all make sense in the final battle (or almost), but still, “we’re all fucked because our already over-ambitious leader has an ancient trinket that makes her make us hate everyone” seems like a cheap excuse for some of the things that happen.

Now don’t get me wrong. I had a good laugh when I saw said trinket at the end. Someone who is really into figuring out plots would see it coming, but I was just going with the flow of the game and not overthinking (that’s the key to enjoying DA2, I think, not overthinking), so I totally had an “ah ha” moment before the final battle. It tied Act I and III together in a believable way (after ME3’s ending, “believable way” is something I’ve come to appreciate in stories), and let Act II serve as a distraction from what’s really happening to Meredith.

It works for me.

As a side note though, I must say that the very end of Act II was a little…um… Isabela came back with the relic and one of my options was to let the Arishok take her and his book and just leave. Just leave. After massacring half the city and committing regicide (killing the city viscount counts as regicide, right?), I could just let him go? What? As forgiving as I may be sometimes in games, this seemed a little over the top.

Also, unresolved mystery – the multiplying mages. The game is pretty clear about magic being genetic, and most likely recessive (given their genetics work kind of like ours). And while I’m sure Circles have soap-opera-like atmospheres, I doubt reproduction is something most mages are keen on. Not to mention how many mages get killed by demons, templars and playable characters before having a chance to perpetuate their bloodline. So how the heck are there so many mages? Where do they all come from?

The Companions

My favorite introduction to a character ever, in any story I’ve escaped into, was Anders in Awakenings. I decided at that moment he was going to be Hawke’s boyfriend when I got around to DA2.

He was a little hard to recognize (despite looking almost the same) in his second game, though. Such a shame. I do like my tormented guys in video games. (As a real life rescueholic, I’ve learned the hard way to stay away from lost little boys and save my attention for well-adjusted, terribly boring men, but, you know, all the more reason to indulge in messed up cute guys from make-belief worlds.) I like my tormented guys, but I hate losing my favorite characters. There were some hints of the old Anders (particularly when around Varric – those two play well off each other) but I would have preferred those hints to be more like… suggestions. Nothing too out line – I get it, he’s got a Mr NoFun stuck inside him – but (note that it’s been a long time since I’ve played Awakenings) it seemed to me that his original joking nature was a coping mechanism both to distract him from his loneliness and self loathing and to help him initiate quick, superficial but pleasant interactions with others. At the beginning of DA2, he’s still lonely and self loathing, and seems like he would appreciate a quick, superficial but pleasant interaction, so his old coping mechanisms could have still been used. His down-spiral into panic and obsession would have probably been more obvious too, had his personality really changed throughout of the game, instead of just going from paranoid to more paranoid.

I enjoyed the romance (and could write many fanfictions about the crate scene, with Hawke standing behind him, her hand wrapped firmly around the hilt of her dagger), but the transition from “I can’t do this” to “I’ve been waking up at night aching for you for three years” went waaay too fast for me. Was a tad creepy too. Is it just me? I mean, it’s great he has the hots for Hawke, but does he have to be so…forthcoming? Going a liiiiitle bit slower and perhaps emphasizing more on those deliciously dramatic conflicting feelings he has around Hawke (and sounding less like a pervert) would have been more satisfying. I do hear Fenris puts up more of a chase. Hmm. That playthough will be a goody.

As a side note, before I played DA2 (or Origins, for that matter), I kept hearing how offended people (and by people, we probably mean “straight guys with ego problems”) were by Anders’ gay advances. I kind of scratch my head. Getting hit on by guys you aren’t attracted to is something that happens, like, daily, in the real world when you’re a girl. Are guy gamers really unable to put up with a fictional version of that happening to them? (I’m not a hardcore feminist by any stretch of the imagination, but sometimes I wonder how many guys would be able to survive an hour of a woman’s life.) If the flirting itself is similar to the flirting (if you can call it that) in the actual romance, it’s not the suavest move ever made by a character, but it’s not the end of the world. (Also, while I was really amused by this comic, the complaints about getting Rivalty points if you reject Anders are silly. I pissed Merrill and Aveline off constantly and still reached 100% friendship with them long before the end of the game.)

Wait! I have other companions, right?

I really liked how connected to the story and to the world most of them (and by most of them, I mean Aveline, Isabela and Varric) were. While on a personal level, I didn’t feel any connection to Aveline, I felt that having a companion in the city guard (who doesn’t give up her job to follow Hawke the way companions do in other games I’ve played) did add a lot to Hawke’s experience as a meddling resident of Kirkwall.

The ME2-style loyalty quests were excellent. I can see that formula getting really old really fast, but for two games, it’s perfect. Fenris’ and Merrill’s in particular left me thinking “holy crap, that was awesome”. The only complaint I can have about companion presence is that I want more. More. MORE MORE MORE MORE. I’m sure it’s possible to have too many character-based cutscenes, but it would take a lot of cutscenes for that to happen. Especially if those cutscenes were relevant to plot. (Or better yet, there should be a DLC, kind of like Citadel but that doesn’t unlock everything at once, that adds optional companion indulgence. I understand that not everyone is really into characters, but me, I would pay extra to have more juicy content.)

I also liked how the companions interacted with each other and would have enjoyed seeing more of that. I was very happy for Fenris and Isabela finding comfort in each other (though they deny anything deep). If not for Varric’s ability to bring out the best in Anders during long walks, I probably would have ended up with an extra dead mage (I don’t care that my Hawke loves him and that he’s my best dps AND healer, I can only put up with so much complaining!).

There’s something charming about watching how these characters you come to feel strongly (good or bad) about react to, or behave with other characters you feel strongly about. It’s a side of the story that gets touched in Bioware games (my favorite memory of SW:TOR is fueling the fire as all my companions bitched about each other! And Mass Effect fans speak with delight on how they walked in on Tali and Garrus. Not that I would approve if that happened to me. Sexy Garrus belongs to MY SHEPARD.) but that could be used so much more. The concept of party banter is excellent, but in Dragon Age 2, it eventually broke down to various ways Anders rambles about mages and Fenris tells him to eff off. Or maybe that’s just the game telling me I should stop using Anders and Fenris in my party for every quest.

As for not being able to customize your companions’ gear, well, I was sad at first too. I’m obsessive when it comes to gearing my characters. I probably put more effort into that than into any other aspect of the game. In the end, though, it was a blessing. Even with just 5-6 customizable slots, I spent hours sorting out gear. Hours. I didn’t even reach the required 50 gold by the end of Act I because I kept upgrading my characters’ gear in shops. I think I had like 6 gold left or something. Adding shirts, hats, boots and gloves would have killed me!

So, I, for one, am totally ok with non-customizable gear for companions. It might be nice to change their appearance a little bit, but I’d rather that be done through cosmetic-only means because I don’t think my sanity could handle more gear slots.

The World

So much hate on the small, recycled dungeons!

I can definitely empathize with that and recognize how it takes away from game epicness.

But, me, I’m not a fan of dungeons. So small dungeons were a plus, and I didn’t mind the recycling. Recycling even made it faster for me to get through and out of dungeons, so it may have even been a good thing.

I was fine with the small world as well. I thought that having a story about a city and some of its residents was a refreshing change from the stale “hero has newbie zone, then journeys as far away as possible in search of a distant uber baddy“. So I enjoyed going to these familiar places and have different things happen there. It’s not for everyone, but it worked for me.

It's small world after all. (Yes, I know this screenshot is exaggerating.)

It’s small world after all. (Yes, I know this screenshot is exaggerating.)

And onto Dragon Age 3: Inquisition

I think this may be the first time I’m genuinely excited about an unreleased game.

The bits of news sound really good so far. And it seems that not many Dragon Age fans agree with me, but I felt DA2 (and its ending) really set the stage for a fantastic tale in Inquisition. We have a flurry of dear former companions to weave the games together, we have a deep rooted, complex social issue that just exploded, there’s hints of an exciting mysterious power behind our two favorite heroes disappearing and there has been a lot of observing of fan reactions on Bioware’s part. How can this not be amazing?

If I compare Mass Effect to Dragon Age on a personal level, Mass Effect is much closer to my heart than Dragon Age. But what made the trilogy so wonderful to me is also what will probably ruin every future game set in that universe. The heart and soul of Mass Effect was Shepard and her relationship with her crew. The world without Shepard is pretty boring. The world before Shepard was kind of boring (humans had only recently taken a spot in the galaxy) and the world after Shepard is broken, not matter what you choose. It would take a miracle to pull off another earthshattering (to me) game in the Mass Effect universe.

But Dragon Age! Using a different main character for each story, exploring corners of the gigantic Thedas at a time, leaving threads hanging and stones unturned at the end of each game and having characters interesting and diverse enough to ensure cameos to make the world feel homey when starting a new chapter… The recipe gets you attached to the world rather than to just one character, a big, big world that could take 6, 8, 10 games before getting stale. I fully expect the game creators to give up before the possibilities run dry.

Hopefully, too, there was a purpose to ME3’s ending breaking my heart and to the odd hate DA2 received: to make it clear that us story game fans like our stories. And our details. And our ethical dilemmas. And our characters. And our characters’ companions. A lot.

I so can’t wait for Dragon Age 3!


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