Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You've got one fire extinguisher

...and five separate fires. The other day I landed myself in an AB with all dps classes except for two pallies.

Ihrayeep: Please, for the love of...whatever deity you worship...tell me one of you pallies can heal.
Pally1: Nope.

Quick inspect: sure enough, both ret. Seizing the opportunity to crack the inside joke against my guild's pally healer,

Ihrayeep: Ok so...I'll solo-heal this. Should be fine as long as noone gets hurt.
Pally2: I'll bubble the whole game.

We eventually won that game, though I was outhealed by a pair of horde priests (I believe the numbers went 260-240-200(me)k), and this I think is why: For heals especially, it's not about topping the charts in a BG (though I do that fairly routinely) so much as putting those heals in the right place. When you are called on to solo-heal a BG, particularly the three 15-man ones, positioning is important. You are responsible for EVERY SINGLE FIRE. AT THE SAME TIME. It sucks, high stress. Basically, if you are standing still you are losing the game. You have to be constantly moving, because *something* is always under attack, and if it's not where you're at then you need to move yourself somewhere else. You have to be everywhere at once. Frequently you have to make heartbreaking decisions about who to leave to die because there's more than one flare-up. Also this is the one instance where I would diverge from my usual dictum that it's ok to be a healer stranded guarding a node. Because you are *it* for your team, you can't do that. Better (in this case only!) to leave the node undefended. Seconds you spend not healing watching the node are seconds where people are dying from no healing backup. Remember that healers are a force-multiplier in battlegrounds!

Still, there is a plus-side: you get to take sole credit for winning. SOLE. CREDIT. Because if you won with only one healer, you deserve props. And I give you full permission to be an egotistical glory-hog for pulling that out against bad odds. But be a fun egotistical glory-hog, mmkay?

Friday, December 11, 2009

How To Heal a BG, Part 2

Time for part two of this series on how to heal a BG -- if you missed part one, you can find it here. Then, we talked about managing yourself, your addons, and your spells. Today we're talking about something more finicky and unreliable : managing group interactions with your friendly teammates. I am going to center this around a concept I call Battleground Inertia. Basically what that boils down to is: people are sheep. People follow whatever the prevailing mood, strategy, chat settings appears to be. If you are a dominant, take-charge person, you win what Richard Nixon I believe famously labeled the Silent Majority. It's important to remember that it was NIXON who coined this phrase because we all know Nixon was a crook, protestations to the contrary, and I think when he coined this particular phrase he was referencing the fact that he could pursue whatever policy he wanted and then claim that the people who opposed him were just a vocal minority and really, most people supported what he was doing. You shape opinion, by making an opinion. With that in mind, onwards!

Rule #4 : Setting the mood in chat

Conscious of the lack of promised pictures in the last post, I have endeavoured to make up that gap somewhat here, using an EotS match I did this morning. Step One is figuring out who your other healers are in the BG. I try to do something like this at the start of any BG I go into:

Sometimes this helps, and sometimes you get asinine comments like "I can bandage". So you have to be more proactive, for the people who are (remember!) sheep. Take a quick look at the people you have with you in the BG. In the case of my EotS match that went like this:

Now, this is where it becomes important that you have downloaded some kind of unit frames addon like I suggested (nay, ordered, even) you do in part one. Identify possible healers. Disregarding the straight-DPS classes, we have in this BG besides me (I heal, but presumably I knew that already) two pallies, a priest, and a shammy, all of whom could be potential healers. Pallies are easy: look at the mana bar. I don't have mana bars on my raid-frame, but when they're targeted they do. Each of those pallies had between 5-7k mana. That screams RET. Very rarely, they could be tanks, but you don't take tanks into BGs except maybe AV, and in any case, whichever it is, it's not a healer. A pally with 15k mana, on the other hand, definitely is. Similarly, a shaman with 10-12k mana is enhancement, not resto. Unfortunately they have a caster-dps spec (ditto that problem with boomkin druids and s-priests) and so you have no choice but to inspect them. This does not take long. Right-click, inspect, click talents. You don't even have to page through the different trees; the dominant one will come out on top. The shammy I was pretty sure was a healer, from

but I inspected anyway to make sure. Sure enough, he was. The priest, tenfour, also. If you look at my chat pic, you can see that by that point I had figured out who the healers were and had proceeded to

STEP TWO: Direct. Direct with a soft touch. People do not respond well to being ordered. I could have said, "tenfour, go MT -> FRR" but I don't find that works very well. Hence I just asked, with the intention that I would go somewhere else. There's a bizarre law of gravity that Cassandri over at Hots & Dots observed, that healers tend to clump up. It's not intentional, I don't think, but our mass causes some kind of gravitic interaction that sucks us together if you don't take strenuous efforts to avoid it. I regret to say that in this instance, tenfour did not tell me where he was going, leaving me to guess. But most people will respond to a direct inquiry with their name involved. I could have whispered him, I suppose, but I ran out of time here. Whispering is fine, it builds a sense of cameraderie.

Now you might ask : why ask who the healers are, when you can just inspect and find out yourself? This goes back to Battleground Inertia, and serves a secondary purpose beyond gaining knowledge. If you are in a BG where there is no bg chat, nobody will start it. If you're in a BG where there is angry bg chat with people blaming each other and telling everyone else how much they suck, then that will breed more of the same. What you are doing is hijacking the bg chat to serve your own ends. The end in mind here is "use BG chat to win the BG", which theoretically should be everyone's end, but frequently isn't. Set the tone right off: we are going to be helpful, we are going to coordinate. Also it helps reassure the dps, who tend to have bad self-esteem about things like this, that there are in fact healers here who are trying to keep them alive.

Rule #5 : Master the "Charge of Hesitancy"

Dilemma: How do you physically lead, without leading? I am firmly of the opinion that healers must be leaders in battlegrounds, for the simple reason that you stay alive longer than dps (generally) and so you tend to have a better overall view of the battlefield then someone who goes to point A, dies in four seconds, gets popped back over to point B to rez, and then wanders off to point C because point A now holds painful memories for him.

Given that, it is often your responsibility to lead the cavalry in a charge on another node (in AB/EotS/IoC), getting the flag back (WSG), or re-capping defensive towers (AV). However, as a healer, it is not good for you to be in the front because, well, we all know that the first one in is the first one targeted.

So how do you both? *Inertia*. People will rarely leave you to run off to a node by yourself, I find, and particularly at the beginning of one of those node-style games people tend to follow the ones who dash out the gate looking like they have a Serious Plan (even if they don't). So be the lead, charge forward. Here's the key part of this plan: when you start getting close to the node (crossing the bridge to the BS, or halfway across a bridge in EOTS, for example), take your finger off the forward key. Then charge again. Do this repeatedly, in quick, spasmodic stops. What this does is gradually put you towards the back, where all good healers should be, while gradually passing the lead torch to a DPS who, because of inertia, held down his forward key and doesn't know how to change directions or momentum. The point is that you STARTED the charge, and once the ball is rolling the other people will just roll with it even after you are no longer leading it. Like rolling a big rock down a mountain.

Rule #6 : Save someone's life

I generally do not advocate pocket-healing; it's too focused on one person at the expense of the overall picture. I do do it on occasion, as a fun change of pace and because I like people to hero-worship me *cough*, but overall, not recommended. Generally you can get the puppy-DPS to follow you with a short, sustained effort at the beginning. What you are trying to do is raise their awareness of you. To do this, an excellent tactic is to save someone's life, in a dramatic fashion. Standard healing here is not what you're looking for; people notice being healed from 70-100%; they will die for someone who just ostentatiously blew all their cds to bring them fom 1-60-100 (or whatever it is you do). Your healing of them can be subpar after that, or back to regular, but investing a burst of super-effort on someone once in a while goes a long way to making friends. And more importantly, encouraging cooperation. I had a pair of rogues in this game who basically circled me wherever I went like watchful puppies because I had heroically sacrificed myself to save them a few times. It also pays off more if you pull this stunt on classes who have NO SELF-HEALING whatsoever...they tend to notice it more.

Rule #7 : Be Situationally Aware

Use the M key. Seriously. Use it often, and know what you're looking at. Familiarize yourself with the maps, if you're new to BGs entirely. If you know the maps already, the next step is to build a connection between your map, and your raid frames. Particularly, try to keep tabs on where the other healers are, and try not to be there. Another good thing to do is to look for strategic places on the map that are poorly defended. Not that you have to go there immediately to defend it -- maybe it's poorly defended because it's in the back and doesn't need to be heavily guarded -- but mouse over the node on your map and see who exactly is there. Then close your map. Hunt on your raidframes for where that person (or persons) is. Try to keep an eye on that raid frame's health. If they start getting hurt, the node is under attack, even if they didn't call it in BG chat. Run over there and heal them up and protect the node. Call that it's under attack, obviously, since the original defence failed to do that. In this EotS game I was able to stave off an attack on two different occasions doing this. On another occasion I noticed that DR was being guarded by only the resto shammy. Since I knew he was a resto shammy from the beginning, I knew it wasn't smart to leave thim there so I politely asked in /bg for a dps to go back him up, even though he was not under immediate attack. He was attacked shortly thereafter, though I don't take credit for magically foreseeing that happening. The point is you are trying to keep control of the BG and see trouble spots before they develop. If you are not in a vent premade, reaction times go way down because you don't have that instant communication, so PREVENTATIVE action becomes more important, as well as anything you can do to speed up your (and others') reactions.


That's it for this section. Next time, how to fight the bad men!

An Interesting Blog

I found an interesting blog today I wanted to share:

BG PvPer

There was a nice post most of the way down the page about how Hardcore Arena players are not the shizit they think they are and can actually be a liability in a wider-scale confrontaion. Blogrolled!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Complex Thinking

A break from our regularly scheduled "How to Heal a BG" to tell a story. A story about strategic thinking. Like a baby opening its eyes and seeing the world for the first time, I have recently realized that you can introduce a whole lot of strategy into your game, and gain rewards for so doing. I recall reading an article a while back about eliminating the holy trinity tank-dps-heal mentality, and while that was off-topic from today's discussion, they did mention things about positioning that I found intriguing. Now, you just throw the tank at the bad man, and the rest of us stay at range and heal or dps or whatever, moving out of the bad goo on the floor. That article (and damn, that I can't find it now) suggested the scope of possible changes if they got rid of tanks would include positional formations -- putting the plate-clad guys on the outside, and the squishy ones inside. Etc.

Now most importantly, this strategic thinking is something I've noticed on my 2s team recently. When I first started doing arena, the gates would open, and we would blast away at the other team until someone died. Recently, we've been employing more complicated maneuvers. Attack the dps until the healer gets tunnel-vision, and then pull an abrupt swap and kill the healer. Attack the healer until he gets so pressured that he runs away, and then pull a swap and kill his dps when he's out of range. Or the same result by rooting/cycloning the healer and luring the dps out of range himself. Are these standard arena tactics in the not-bottom brackets? Almost certainly. But you never see that kind of complicated maneuvering outside of arena, and me and my partner certainly could not have pulled that kind of stuff off when we first started. It's a nice indication of how far we've progressed.

The story I want to tell takes place in Tarren Mill. Me and four 80 buddies (a surprising turnout for my guild, for pvp) were slaughtering the denizens of this Horde town in a desperate attempt to make them get their mains. Times like this that make me both miss my original realm (a PvP realm), and at the same time kind of alleviates that feeling of loss. Eventually, an 80 dk showed up, but, being sensible, decided not to flag himself with 5 alliance 80s in the area. He was joined by a mage and a pally, but they still would not engage. Goading them is not working so I come up with a plan. Our resident mage makes a portal to SW, very obviously right in the middle of Tarren Mill, then invizzes right as he comes up to the portal and hides. Me and the boomkin go kitty and stealth right as we "go through" the portal. Thus we have split our force, half "porting" to SW, and the poor DK and warrior sitting there. Sure enough, horde takes advantage of our exit to try and gank the tailing end of our escape. Then the druids reappeared, the mage came out of hiding, and we destroyed the now-flagged horde. What followed was a glorious running battle back and forth between Tarren Mill and Southshore; occasionally we had the upper hand, and occasionally they did, but even when we were losing it was lovely fun.

It's not always blasting away at a bad man in front of you. Use the ol' brainbox first, strategic thinking has more of a place in WoW than many people are willing to credit!

Friday, December 4, 2009

How to Heal a BG, Part 1

It occurred to me when I was thinking about the last several blogs that I've enjoyed reading:

cynwise on Wintergrasp
phaelia on Grid
cassandri on Alterac Valley
mortigan on Rules for Raiding

that there's a unifying theme here. Can you guess what it is? That's right, they're all helpful well-written guides. And, with the exception of grid, posts on something I already consider myself fairly well-informed in. So the key is this, apparently. Friends like to read about crazy things you're up to. Experienced players like getting alternative viewpoints, even on something they already know. And new players like to be told how to do things they don't know how to do. And yet, when I go hunting for guides on BG healing I see a collection of bad editing and/or forum flaming without a whole lot of help. Niche window? In one of Ihra's trademark phrases, POUNCE LIKE TIGER!

It is my humble opinion that success in a battleground is all about managing relationships. -- awkward silence, while you all say to yourselves, “But nobody uses /bg chat except to use Rule 69...” --. Bear with me, mmkay, while I walk through three different relationships in these posts: yourself, your friends, and your enemies. Up today, yourself!

Rule #1 : Managing your screen environment

All da lovey pvp stuff, in its own area

Addons. Know them, love them. I don't even care what you use, so long as it is not the original blizzard UI. Just as in PVE healing, you want people's health bars front and center, and – d'oh! -- blizzard puts them off to the side, instead prioritizing your action bars. I hope by the time you're hitting battlegrounds you know which keys do which things for you (or no keys at all, if you've got one of those more-buttons-than-Lolth-ever-intended-mice). Also, Blizzard's unit frames do not identify CLASSES, which means that besides rogues, warriors, and death knights, you have to guess at everything; or RANGE. A raid frame addon is one of the most important things you can do to help yourself out here. I adore pitbull; my wife (who, admittedly, raids and does litle pvp) likes xperl. I've heard some people razzle-dazzling about VuhDo but I've never used it. I would disqualify IceHUD, because it's primarily a soloing addon which is not very group-friendly, and Healbot. I'm a little sketchy on Grid as well but without a lot of experience with that latter, I'm not in a position to comment exclusively on it. I dislike healbot because of the click-casting approach; I find there are too many other things I need to be doing in a PvP-oriented fight for me to spare the mouse-move-click. YMMV, depending how you have things set up or are used to casting.

You do not need raid-centric addons like Omen. DeadlyBossMods, I am told can do some things for you in a BG relating to timers (on towers in AV, or win-timers in EotS/AB) so may be of limited use.

Rule #1b: Managing your spells

If you are just dipping your armor-clad toes into the Bgs, you should know one thing : you have spells you didn't know you had. Seriously, go look into your spellbook, I guarantee you'll find something you'd totally forgotten about. Blizzard has spells that are specifically PvP-oriented, and as a result you tend to mostly-ignore them while levelling, and near-completely-ignore them when healing a 5-man or a pve raid. As a tree, I'm going to pull out these examples : cyclone, and nature's grasp. Both of them are crowd control spells, which is not your role in an instance. I mean, it's not really anybody's role since blizzard gave up on TBC-era 7-pulls (sigh), but if it were anybody's role it wouldn't be the resto druid's. Both of those spells are critical to me in arena, and in BGs as well (though I tend to forget more in the latter), though I wouldn't dream of putting them on a cast bar in PvE. Since I've got an action bar addon (the incomparable bartender), I put all my PvP stuff on a separate little action bar...but if you've opted not to use a mod of that type, seriously consider changing what's on your bars before you go into a battleground. And not just those newly-discovered shinies either – you'll probably find yourself using the spells you already have with a different priority than in PvE. Take my mage, for example:

PvE : arcane blast x 4 (2.5s), missile barrage if it procced (0.5s), or else arcane barrage (instant).
PvP : arcane barrage (ins), slow (ins), arcane barrage (ins), frost nova (ins), arcane barrage (ins)...you get the idea.

Everything is faster in PvP...a LOT faster. Priority tends to go towards faster spells, or instant ones if you have them, even if they do less healing, or less efficient healing. This is because you're either getting beaten on, resulting in a longer time for you to reach the end of a cast, or because of the likelihood of being interrupted by a fearsome array of potential lockouts (listing just the rogue ones would take a page of itself). If you ever go OOM in a BG, celebrate. That means you just performed an incredible feat of endurance, or helped someone else do so...it is very rare that you will run out before you are killed, and that's another reason not to worry about faster, less-efficient heals.

Rule #2: Protect Thyself First

If you die, the heals die. So long as you're alive, the heals keep coming, and everyone stays alive longer. Perhaps it's self-evident and I'm just a selflessly sacrificing nobody, but I have many times gone into situations and heroically tried to save someone at the expense of protecting or healing myself. I believe that is an error; invariably whoever I saved will die a few seconds afterwards, and how much did those extra seconds REALLY buy? Not much, I don't think.

More importantly, and again I mention this because it's something I tend to fall into and I think many other healers probably do too, remember your OFFENSIVE skills. Here I am referring primarily to methods of crowd control. It is a hard-won recognition from my 2s team, that it is almost always better to lock out a dps, then to try to control the damage they're pouring out. I have, let's say, ulduar-level gear; I can heal maybe 2500 hps if I'm straining myself. Let's even improve that gear level and say I could somehow pull 3k. DPS in comparable gear will put out 4k+. Four is greater than three. Now, that's an oversimplification, obviously. Usually, if you're fighting an Enemy DPS, you have a Friendly DPS helping you by, you know, *killing* said Enemy DPS. Or interrupting them, or silencing them, or whatever else DPS does. I'm just a healer. But I know they do something useful for me because the above logic would indicate that people I'm healing should have health bars steadily heading down to zero (though maybe slower than their opponent[s]), and many times that is manifestly not the case.

Look at this another way, then. Say you have a 4k dps. For me as a druid, the cost of cyclone is 1.5s, and it locks them for 6s (at first, subject to diminishing returns). I believe the math equivalent there is 16,0000 healing per second, in terms of damage prevented, which nobody could possibly manage in terms of healing DONE. Yes, idiot pally in my guild who insists he can do that, I'm looking at you when I say it's impossible.

Rule #3: You CAN be Autonomous!

I am here going to rebut Cassandri's argument that healers are not independent and are reduced to being pocket healers for people like pallies or dks, Lolth bless them (or curse them). I think this stems from a flawed perspective about healers being a primarily defensive role. Not that that means you must always remain on the defensive, obviously, because a good healer backing up a roving death squad in AB or EotS can really dominate a match, but we are the counterpoint to dps who kill things: we stop things from dying. What this boils down to, in my mind, is this: DPS takes nodes, healers hold them.

Cass makes the point that a DPS by themselves can run around and cap nodes, and healers, by and large, can't. The missing flip side to this coin is that a healer can sit on a node by themselves and protect it much better than a solo DPS can. Frequently in AB or EotS, when a dedicated attack comes in at a node, your team is not going to hold it with what you have on-site. It's a simple reason -- you don't have a mole on the opposing team so you have to defend everything, whereas they can concentrate their attack. Therefore, successful defence of a node consists not of beating off the attack, but in buying time for people to react from other (quiet) nodes you're defending and send reinforcements. And who can stall longer than a healer? I would argue, the answer is nobody. Cheating death is our entire point in life. So long as you can throw an insta-cast spell every now and then to interrupt attempts at capping, you can stall an assault long enough for a well-coordinated team to come to your defence. If you're on a badly-coordinated team, well, nothing was going to save you from a loss anyway. We're discussing theoreticals in this paragraph, and theoretically there may be some BG pug out there somewhere that knows how to communicate ;-).


Fin, part one. Next time, working with your friends!

With Busy Apologies

For leaving the one-reading community in a lurch last month. I was much preoccupied with :

Finally, after five years of trying...success! Anyways, all that writing does tend to make other writing get...well...put to the side. Bit of a burnout, doncha know. Also I just dinged my rogue to 80 and getting massacred in arenas in my crafted pvp gear does tend to distract the eye. Note to self : how come I can't wipe people out like rogues are always doing to me? What's the deal with that?

But I promise I shall make it up to you : over the next couple of days, a ginormous, pictorially-delicious, three-part post on BG healing. Part 1 to follow immediately after this post.