Double Gearing

Lissanna wrote a really great article last week about gearing your Restokin. Although gear sets are much closer, and many pieces can be shared between restoration and balance nowadays, there’s always a tension that arises when you’re trying to keep two sets in the best shape possible. While I didn’t want to repeat information that has already been covered with finesse, I did want to take a moment to talk about my own experiences with covering a dual role, and how it impacts gear decisions.

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Am I Ready for Heroics?

If you’re asking this question it’s because you don’t trust that nifty little average iLvL in your character pane, and I can’t say that I blame you!

However, I got tired of gearing different combinations of classes and specs in Rawr to find out exactly what each class needed, so the following is a rough approximation for those who aren’t sure if they’re close enough or not.

Check Your Gear

Assuming that you have managed to understand the basic stat priorities for your class then the easiest thing you can do is hover over each little piece in your inventory pane and check its iLvL. You should have no more than three pieces that are less than 333. Why three? Ok, so maybe it is a bit random, but I’m assuming that you will have problems getting either rings or trinkets, and this gives you some wiggle room.

If you have more than three pieces under iLvL 333, do you have any pieces greater than 333? As long as your under 333 pieces aren’t lower than 316, you should be ok if you have some stronger 346 pieces to balance them out.

And before you ask — yes, you can kit entirely in 333 level gear without stepping foot into a heroic or buying anything with Justice Points. It’s called Quests, Regular Dungeons, and Reputation. The fastest way to upgrade gear if you’re sitting at 85 and waiting to do heroics is to run normal dungeons. You get Justice Points, and Reputation which have some of the better (346 level) gear available before heroics/raids.

Is your gear gemmed with at least +30 gems? If not, do this.

Do you have at least half of your gear enchanted? If not, do this. If you can’t stand (or afford) to enchant your entire kit which you are hoping to replace in the next couple of days, make sure that you enchant your weapon, offhand, and pick up the reputation enchants (head/shoulder). Those should give you the best stat bonuses regardless of class/role.

Check Your Stats

Health is honestly the best eyeball indicator on whether or not you are ready to step into a Heroic — if you don’t have enough, you’re either fibbing about your gear level or wearing the wrong type for your class. Healers and DPS should have about 80,000 health when they begin heroics, and tanks should be sporting at least 115,000. Mana users should be running between 55,000 and 60,000 mana.

I will warn those reading this, even this early in the cycle, you may get flak for sporting these numbers; however, they should be solid in terms of ability to complete the dungeon IF you are properly following the mechanics of the fight, and your group is utilizing CC and abilities for things like damage reduction, etc. If you have a group that is “too good” for basic good play, then you might find yourself unable to keep up.

Yes, Yes, but What’s the DPS Requirement?

Finally, as much as I hate throwing out a minimum DPS number, since fight mechanics and actually doing something other than DPS may negatively impact numbers, in general, a minimum of 5,000 DPS should be sustainable. If you’re playing with a dummy, and the best you can eek out is 5,000, then it likely means you need more practice and/or gear before entering a heroic dungeon since almost every encounter, from trash to boss, requires players to be involved in non-DPS maneuvers (running out of the fire) or assisting (CC, emergency healing, etc.)

In the end, whether or not you are ready for heroics depends almost entirely on you. Do you have the best gear you can lay your grubby little hands on? Have you taken the best care that you can with your gear, and made it sparkle with gems and enchants? If the dungeon finder tool is queuing you for heroics and you haven’t horribly messed up your stat allocation, then you can do it! But, it can definitely be painful!

Good luck with your heroic journeys, and if you take my sage advice (haha!) and find that I’m in error, come back and let me know so I can correct things for the next band of hardy adventurers.

 

Talents for Trees

Let’s face it, the restoration tree for druids is pretty tasty, and it might be tempting to fill it up to the rafters and neglect the dipping that can be done in the balance and feral trees. However, since every player’s raid team and healing situation is a bit different, I’m also not going to just provide an explanation as to why you should take some random suggested build off the interwebs (although I’m providing plenty of base builds throughout the text).

Instead, we’re going to build down the tree, and discuss ways in which your build may differ based on your healing situation. Talents I consider vital will be marked as required per tier level, and trade-offs between tiers as you build down will be discussed. Since you must have 5 talents per tier, and 31 points in the build, I’m hoping this will provide a good framework for players creating their builds.

Tier 1 – 3

Required Talents: Natural Shapeshifter, Naturalist, Heart of the Wild, Master Shapeshifter, Improved Rejuvenation, Revitalize

You can easily reach tier 3 simply by taking required talents. However, this is the tier on which a build can founder, because you must now make some decisions based on your healing style and role in groups.

For most builds, taking Living Seed will prove the best choice, since it leads to Efflorescence, a planted AoE activated by Swiftmend. However, in some cases, Efflorescence might not be the right choice for your group. If this is the case, taking Living Seed doesn’t provide sufficient healing to invest three points into, since you do have other options:

  • Blessing of the Grove: A definite incentive to balance druids, BotG also increases healing on Rejuvenation and is an ok choice for last ditch point investments.
  • Perseverance: Damage reduction is always a good place to invest some talent points. On some encounters, and when mana-saving talents are no longer required, Perseverance can become a leading “optional” talent.
  • Nature’s Swiftness: The power of this talent rests entirely on the druid, their healing patterns, and the ability to use the ability. If you seldom proc on demand abilities, or are rarely in a situation where a immediate directed heal is required, skip this talent. However, from a utility standpoint, this can be a firm investment.
  • Fury of Stormrage: I would not suggest this talent to any PvE tree at end-game.

At this point, if not taking Living Seed, you only need 2 points in the tree to continue further; however, in order to finish this build, you will need at least 4 points (and up to 6) in these talents.

Tier 4 – 7

Required Talents: Nature’s Bounty, Empowered Touch, Wild Growth, Gift of the Earthmother, Swift Rejuvenation, Tree of Life | If Living Seed, then Efflorescence
Living Seed Build | Non-Living Seed Build

Whether you chose a Living Seed built or not becomes rather irrelevant at this point in the tree. Virtually every talent is useful, and the choice depends heavily on your mana needs, play-style, and group composition. Optional talents for these tiers includes:

  • Malfurion’s Gift: The mana-saving benefits of Malfurion’s Gift are not huge, nor are they simple. By having additional Omen of Clarity procs, the druid can increase direct healing to a specific target by casting Healing Touch at no cost; however, depending on playstyle or role, if the procs are not utilized, then the talent is a waste.
  • Nature’s Cure: Unless your raid team ok’s this lack of utility, it’s a required talent. For 5-man group play, consider it mandatory.
  • Nature’s Ward: I personally would not suggest this talent. Self-healing on a ranged player, however vital, is just not the priority that improved healing talents, or mana-saving talents can provide.

Balance and Feral Talent Choices

Required Talents: Nature’s Majesty
Investment into the Balance and Feral trees is going to depend rather heavily on the player. Due to increased healing demands and reduced regeneration, maximizing mana pools and decreasing mana cost is a big factor for many restoration players right now.

The Moonglow/Genesis Build

Living Seed Build | Non-Living Seed Build
There are two talent choices that restoration druids may want to pick up in the balance tree: Genesis or Moonglow. In order to reach the second tier, you must invest 3 points in Nature’s Grace. While not a total waste, the benefits of Nature’s Grace for restoration druids is slim since it only procs on Regrowth cast, and is only available once a minute.

The same build can be used substituting Moonglow for Genesis to increase the effectiveness of HoTs and Swiftmend by 6%.

Since most players taking this build are concerned about mana, taking Furor in the feral tree is a good choice, even at 2/3.

The Non-Balance Build

Living Seed Base Build

If you don’t want to invest that heavily into the Balance tree, then you can surely re-invest yourself in the restoration tree. Any of the optional talents discussed earlier in the restoration tree are viable, as well as Furor in the feral tree (3/3 can be taken in this build). The need for a non-Living Seed build also becomes moot if you choose not to invest heavily into the Balance tree — you either have to take the Living Seed points OR invest in Nature’s Majesty without Genesis or Moonglow — and is not suggested.

Summary

Despite the smaller trees, there is still quite a bit of flex when determining how best to build your own spec. Although I’d love to say, this is all you’re ever need to know about restoration druid talenting, I also understand that a number of choices I’ve labeled as required have built-in prejudices based on my own healing style. Since that’s the case, do some more reading by visiting some more experienced folks:

Restokin | Feraltree | Cannot Be Tamed | Balanced Undergrowth

 

Raid Gear Guide: Caster Druids

This is not a best-in-slot list. Slots that had restoration or balance specific items have been split in order to make the list easier to navigate. Items from the Throne of the Four Winds were excluded since they rely produce items with a [Random Enchantment] which cannot be easily categorized. As always, rely on your best judgement! Non-raid items can be found in the leveling and faction gear lists respectively.

Compiled from Wowhead, Wowpedia, and Official Armory.
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Screenshot Sillies: Moonkin and Vehicles

For everyone who took off last week and is returning to the office for the Monday grind today, some funnies until you can make it back to WoW!


HALP! It’s not ME you want, it’s the COW! Beef is the new lamb!


Just because I looked so damn cute on a wolf. Why can’t I ride mah kitty in pew-pew lazer form?


The new camel jockies. Go Go Bear!


Impressions: Vash’jir

Last night saw me finishing Vash’jir, the first time in a game that I’ve spent days in an aquatic environment, surrounded on all sides by little effervesent bubbles, and a riotous mix of colors.

I was a small fish in a giant aquarium.

I really enjoyed the storylines I encountered, and the constant building of different components into a cohesive whole for the region was a joy to participate in. Yet…. while I enjoyed my first visions, and the ease of always knowing where my quests were leading, I also have concerns for future playability since there is a distinctive lack of choice in choosing what quests I wish to accomplish, and which I don’t. In order to open up new quests hubs you must participate in all portions of the story–you can’t decide that gearing up the Alliance is too much bother, and you’d rather work on explosive building with your dwarvish and gnomish friends. Whether or not this will actually be an imposition in the future is too hard to say at the moment, because, for the most part, I didn’t find a quest that I just groaned to ever have to repeat again, but the rigidity of the new system raises questions.

Another thing I wanted to talk a bit about today is the Z axis. Underwater life is much more three-dimensional than our usual wanderings in the rest of the world, even Northrend and Outland which utilized flying, and flying mount quests. My first day, I was bemoaning that third axis as mobs were respawning so quickly and heavily that it was easy to be swimming through a quadrant and have a school of toughs all spawn pratically on top of you with little or no hope of reprieve. Despite my experience playing pilot games and the like, I wondered if I was broken for Z-axis gameplay.

This feeling gradually intensified as I left the packed starter areas and came to more secluded waters. It seemed that I would be floating along marvelously, intuitively understanding the 3-D aspect, and then, out of the blue, I would be stymied by too many mobs pulled from areas I wasn’t expecting when I chose to break out a Starfall. Why was I struggling? I mean, it couldn’t be ME, right?

Then I thought about it some more. Why was I vacillitating between the two modes? And while I hate to do the blame the developer game, I’m darn tempted to say, well, it’s how the Z-axis is utilized by the developers.

In most cases, the X and Y placement of mobs is not a perfect grid, but is randomized throughout, leaving wholes in the web for intrepid adventurers to pass through unmolested if they don’t need thsoe mobs for some reason. Even when an area is heavily populated with mobs, the patterns of mob movement is easily discernible, showing clumps of mobs in a semi-random pattern, followed by giant fields of nothing.

However, when you add that third axis, it both collides and works with the other two. Having a “clump” mentality doesn’t work as well in some respects, because you just end up with a wall of mobs, instead of the nice clean “pack” that you were searching for. For the most part, Blizzard has chosen to layer their Z-axis mobs a bit differently. On canyon walls, the placement is great, giving you an interesting blend of mobs and critters along the face of a wall for example. However, in open-ocean area, the Z-axis is often layered with layer 1, layer 2, and layer 3 being placed on specific grid-lines that have little to nothing to with the environment.

Dependable references, such as quest-givers, are always placed at 0 on the Z-axis (on the floor) or above the action, if not entirely removed from the aquarium by placement in a cave. Likewise, most quests require maximum participation at “ground” level, and little to no movement across the entire Z-axis. When you do find yourself doing something stupid (Starfall) it can be shocking to “discover” that there are more planes than the one you are residing on, because you haven’t moved to Layer 2, or Layer 3. For the most part, Z-axis movement is fluid, but each layer could be considered a “floor,” that you can reach by “flying” instead of by taking an elevator. In many respects, not much different from the flying zones we already know and love.

Now, lest you think Vash’jir is a God-forsaken fishbowl that should be avoided at all costs, let me disabuse you of that notion. It IS fun. I have screenshots galore to get organized and put up, and, I would be gushing over how much I loved the weaving of the storyline if I didn’t think I’d be ruining someone’s immersive experience by discussing it. Yes, I know, Cataclysm is out, the information has been out since God knows when, what’s to keep back? And all I can say is, I got to learn it firsthand as I quested, and I don’t want to take away that experience from someone else, even inadverdently.

Vash’jir Grade Sheet

Quests/Story: A+
Zone: B-
Replay: C
Travel: A