Monday, March 30, 2009

7 buffs you need to know about

One thing I think is important for a healer UI is to let you see important buffs. In general I think displaying relevant information is one of the essential features of AddOns, but in particular I think a healer benefits from having an accurate view of the raid's status. This view naturally would include debuffs, as we often need to dispel them or heal people affected by them. But I feel another important part of that view is the display of certain types of buffs:

1. HoTs: Naturally you want to see who has your HoTs active. You may also want to see when people are covered by HoTs, so you know there is some healing coverage there. GridStatusHots provides a great display of these.

2. Shields: Disc priests will want to see who has PW:Shield active, but all healers can benefit from this: seeing a shield lets you know there's less need for immediate heals. An active shield is like a few thousand extra temporary hit points, so you want to see shields to get a proper view of everyone's health.

3. Immunities: Spells like Iceblock and paladin bubbles can be good to see, so that there is no need to focus healing on a target that won't need it.

4. Mitigation buffs: It's very helpful to see when a tank pops Shield Wall, Icebound Fortitude, Last Stand, or a similar skill. It shows that the tank will be taking less damage, and it indirectly conveys info on what kind of damage the tank expects in the near future, and on the condition of the encounter.

5. Lesser mitigation buffs: Things like Shield Wall greatly affect healing, but there are also lesser mitigation effects. Grace, Inspiration/Ancestral Fortitude, and Blessing of Sanctuary all can reduce damage by a few percent: not really vital to know about, since their presence probably won't change your healing decisions, but nice to see. Divine Aegis may fit in here too, as a typically smaller shield spell.

6. Reactive healing buffs: Prayer of Mending and Earth Shield should definitely be tracked by priests and shamans. MendWatch and other mods track these for the purposes of knowing when to recast them, but it's also good to have these display on your unit frames, so you know who can safely take a hit from an add or AOE without losing HP right away.

7. Back from the Dead spells: Spirit of Redemption and Shadow of Death allow players to keep playing even after they die. Most unit frames will show these players as still alive and kicking, even though they are living on "borrowed time." Naturally you want to know which raid members won't be with you much longer!

Other buffs can also be useful to see, from boosters like Arcane Power, to regen spells like Innervate, to encounter-specific spells. They range in important from vital to know, to mere convenience. But I think overall, any healer can benefit from thinking about how seeing some of these buffs will help them.

A rep to remember

The Sons of Hodir
Giants in the snow, with names

Thrusting Hodir's Spear?
Blowing Hodir's Horn? Really?
Who's this Hodir perv?

Do these silly quests
Or buy Ulduar Relics...
Cha-ching! Exalted!

Farewell Hodir's Sons
Hope to see you again soon!
(When my shoulders drop)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Angel Dwarf form!

I just uploaded a header image that I've been playing around with for this blog. Hopefully it is pleasing to the eye!

I chose the Spirit of Redemption form (or as it is more correctly know, Angel Dwarf form) for the header image because it's the closest thing we have to the long-wished-for Holyform. And it is a pretty good form. I had my doubts when it was first implemented, when it was snarkily referred to as "Improved Death." I even tested it on the PTR back then, respeccing and getting myself killed by a boar so I could try it out (and then spending 15 seconds realizing I probably should have tested it somewhere I could actually heal someone).

But I came to love Spirit of Redemption over the years. Obviously it shined most in PvP, where in battleground skirmishes I often was relieved when I died, since now I could heal people without those pesky CC's, stuns, and interrupts. When the glyph of SoR was announced I was excited and I used it for some time, managing to keep Angel Dwarf form going for 45 seconds to a minute, before the glyph was nerfed.

It's true that the spell only comes into play if something goes wrong and you die, but it has nevertheless allowed me to get in a lot of last-minute healing, and pull out some victories in heroics and arenas that otherwise would have been full wipes. And now that I'm disc specced I do miss it. Some day, probably when dual specs arrive, I will become an Angel Dwarf again!

Priests: we heal more after death than most classes do all day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The importance of sound

Every so often, someone will say they play WoW with the sound off, and listen to music or TV while they play. I don't really get this... I can do that while I'm mindlessly playing an alt, but I really need sound while raiding or doing heroics.

Part of it is that sound adds a subconscious level of immersion. Playing with the sound off just feels detached to me. Plus it's rather hard to focus on a raid while Mythbusters is on TV! But I also feel that sound is an important part of the user interface, and I think that its use should be encouraged and enhanced, and not muted.

There are many built-in sound cues in the game. You can hear a sound effect when you get clearcasting, or when your attack is parried, or when your Prayer of Mending bounces. These are a good start towards building situational awareness, but like the rest of the default user interface, leaves something to be desired. Plus there's the fact that all the ambient sound from players near you and the world all combine into a cacophony of spell effects and grunts and clangs of steel!

So, we extend the role of sound, just as we extend the default UI. Our mods can play sound effects. This is ideal because we can choose which events to single out with an auditory notice, and we can pick any sound effect we like to go with each. Blizzard created a lot of great sound effects, but sometimes there's a subtle sound effect for what is actually a very important event, like a void zone spawning under your feet! When we configure mods to play our own sounds, we can pick distinct and memorable sound effects to go with important procs or debuffs.

A well-known recent example is how Deadly Boss Mods yells "Run away little girl!" when Sartharion summons a lava wall. Interesting that they chose to play a (very recognizable) sound clip when this happens, in addition to showing a timer bar. On the other end of the mod spectrum we have Comix, a mod that plays the old Batman "POW!" sound effects when you crit. Silly yes, but very evocative, and it also plays other sound effects when you get important buffs, and sings "Extra life!!" when you get a battle rez. If the author added funny sound clips for getting Grobbulus's disease, or the different charges on Thaddius, perhaps it would be a required raiding mod!

A personal example is that when learning Sarth 2D and 3D, I had trouble avoiding the Shadow Fissure void zones. With 2 drakes up, between the extra healing demand, the fire walls, and the adds, it seemed I often forgot to look at my character to see if I was standing in a zone. So what I did is write a mod that plays a silly sound effect each time a Shadow Fissure is cast. Once I had this enabled, I was able to make the association: hear sound, look down to see if I'm in a fissure. It has been a great help; I still get healer's tunnel vision at times, but now I have auditory cues for fire walls and void zones.

I think these example show how sound can be used effectively in mods. Sounds are transient, but powerful. Sounds can act as an interrupt, an alarm. This is why fire alarms use sound, why ambulances use sirens, and it's also why someone calling an important event on Ventrilo is often far better than everyone having one more timer bar in their already-cluttered UI's. We are visual creatures, but a full raid UI is already overtaxing on the eyes. Best to use sound as much as we can, to let the ears help us parse information. To only use sound effects for ambience is to miss their power in alerting us to important events.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Twice shy... for now

Bad pugs, like sponges,
Soak up all my healing spells,
And my will to live

The tank has full health
Yet the DPS is dead
Let the tank tank please

Enlightened, we flee
Never to pug that again
'til we need more rep

Oldie but goodie

All the talk of new talents in 3.1 (they finally admitted that we'd all get talent resets in 3.1, as if it was at all in doubt) has got me thinking about how far our talent trees have come.

And that got me thinking back to the best Priest parody talent tree ever. The trees are from way back at level 70, but they still ring true to me.

That set of talent trees is another of the reasons I named this blog Holyform (although "Focused Focus of Focusing" was a strong contender!). They still crack me up every time!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Does Discipline make more use of AddOns?

I recently respecced Discipline for healing, from Holy. I had been holy for some time and it's taken time to get into the Disc swing of things. I had to get used to cooldown-based healing, and I have since set up a few more mods to help with this.

It got me wondering, does healing as Disc encourage more extensive use of mods, or even require using more mods?

Here are some mod features I think any Priest would want:

  • Good raid frames (goes without saying)
  • Out-of-range indicator
  • Incoming heals indicator
  • Indicator for who has my Renew, and how long is remaining
  • Indicator for who has Power Word: Shield (and Weakened Soul)
  • Indicators for missing buffs
  • Indicators for dispellable debuffs
  • Cooldown timer on Prayer of Mending

There's other things you might like, but I feel these are all pretty important. Now, what else would a Holy Priest want?

  • Notice of Surge of Light procs
  • Notice of Holy Concentration procs
  • Notice of Improved Holy Concentration charges left

Those are all things I had when specced Holy. I also might recommend a Guardian Spirit cooldown monitor, especially with the new glyph of GS, which lowers the cooldown. Without the glyph though, it has a long enough cooldown where you're likely to keep it available until there's truly a panic-button moment.

So what would a Disc Priest like to see?

  • Weakend Soul indicator, now extra important!
  • Indicator for Grace stacks (and maybe time remaining)
  • Indicator for Divine Aegis?
  • Cooldown for Power Infusion
  • Cooldown for Pain Suppression
  • Cooldown for Penance
  • Cooldown for Power Word: Shield

Naturally a Disc Priest will be more cooldown-based, being centered around Penance and Shield. To maximize the benefit of these spells can lead to a kind of rotation-like healing, for which you need to be able to see your spell cooldowns. And with Aspiration, PI and PS come down to reasonable cooldowns too, which you may want reminders of.

So, does Disc require more mods? Maybe, maybe not. An attentive player could get by with the default UI's cooldown rings and a good sense of timing. ButI certainly find that having some help from AddOns, with good custom status indicators in Grid and a good cooldown mod, can be a real aid in using the right spells at the right time.

In any case, Blizzard has created a very interesting healing mechanic with Disc's cooldown- and shielding-based playstyle, and I am enjoying learning it, and trying to optimize my playstyle given the new tools I have.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Addition to my last post

I forgot to add a haiku to my last post :)

They gave all fear ward
Desperate prayer, chastise...
Those jealous non-dwarves!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dwarf racial awesomeness

In addition to healing and AddOns, another thing I take seriously is being a Dwarf. Back in the day, being a Dwarf priest was the "correct" choice for Alliance PvE healing. I mean WAY back in the day, when paladins and druids were off-healers, and when there weren't any Alliance shamans. But I was always proud of my Dwarfdom... especially when Desperate Prayer saved me from lava packs and when we needed Fear Ward for Magmadar.

Over time, the game has become more and more balanced. Druids and pallies have multiple raid roles, both factions have shamans, and every priest has Fear Ward. Overall this is a great trend: every class should be equally viable. But hand in hand with this has come a continual decrease in our Dwarfiness! You see, we Dwarves are so awesome, that they've had to share our overpowered Dwarf nature with the other races.

Fear Ward was the big deal at first, and was eventually given to all priests (at the same time boss fears became much less of a big deal). We also lost Chastise, which was Fear Ward's replacement. I don't mind that since anyone could see it was silly we got it in the first place (Hey, let's take away one OP Alliance priest racial, nerf it and give it to everyone, and then in its place let's give Dwarves and Draenei a RANGED INSTANT-CAST STUN/INCAPACITATE. That'll be fair!)

Recently Desperate Prayer, my favorite lifesaver, was changed into a holy talent. I'll miss the Dwarven smugness that always came with using this ability to save myself from some AoE, but at least it's on a shorter cooldown now.

So what are we Dwarves left with, with all Priest racial spells gone? We'll always have Stoneform. Not much, but great in PvP and for bosses that use poisons. Except that all priests are getting access to this too, with a new holy talent in 3.1 that will allow Abolish Disease to remove poisons when cast on yourself. Maybe Blizzard hoped to sneak this in with all the other changes, but I see what's going on:

All the other races are so jealous, that they even want our race abilities. They (correctly) recognize how awesome we Dwarves are, and want a piece of the action. It's okay, it's understandable. Not everyone can be so tall in power despite being short in stature!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Also, haiku!

I'll post haiku too
As many as the snowflakes
or Gnomes in Ironforge

This is my belief:
DPS is a science
But healing, an art

Priest from Ironforge
Who's never short on healing
Is that a Dwarf joke

AddOn Theory

I also wanted to make an early post on the key points of a good UI. I believe being a good healer and having a good UI are strongly linked. It's true that anyone who cares a lot about their class/role will want to tweak their UI for it, but I think healers have a special need for lots of information, and easy ways to act on it.

In fact, that sums up what I think are the two key points of a great UI:
1) Provide information
2) Allow action

This is because everything we do in the game comes down to observing the game world, making decisions, and then carrying them out. And since ideally the decisions should be made by the player (at least the non-trivial ones), that leaves the two areas of providing information, and enabling action, as the functions of a good UI. Good AddOns should help us gather information efficiently, and carry out our desired actions more effectively. This leaves us more time for the crucial decisions themselves.

When it comes to displaying information, there are two issues. First, is all the information you need available? And second, is it displayed in a useful manner? So first of all, does your UI show healing, damage, HP, mana, buffs and debuffs, and everything else you'd want to see? And secondly, is the UI set up so that you can effectively access and use all that information? If we could parse an unlimited amount of info, we could just read our combat logs as they fly by. But we have a limited amount of focus, and so a good UI needs to display relevant information, quickly and succinctly, in a way that's easy to understand.

For example, a good UI should show you if you get a clearcasting proc. Knowing that you can cast a big spell for free is useful information that could affect your spell selection. Now, you could turn on buff notifications in FCT/SCT so you can see that you gained clearcasting. But in combat, will you be able to watch all those buff names fly by, while watching health bars? Perhaps a better idea is to have a mod that pops up a graphic when you get procs you care about. Or plays a sound effect that you can associate with clearcasting. This way the information is there, in a way you can easily observe even while doing other things.

The other side of the UI is how it lets you take action. Once you've made a decision (hopefully quickly and correctly thanks to good information displays), you want to be able to carry it out with a thought. You don't want a multi-step process in order to cast a heal or important buff. You'd like each important action to be achievable through a direct, quick, easy action. Healing or shielding someone or buffing them in combat should only require a click, or a keypress, not a lot of mouse movement to find them, target them, select a spell, and cast it. This is why Emergency Stop switches are large red buttons as opposed to combination locks.

The best example of this for healers is a click-to-cast mod: it's easy to save somebody when you can just click their health bar. But this also applies to making sure all your important spells are assigned to clicks or bound to keys, setting up macros for important tasks, using mods or macros to activate trinkets as opposed to clicking them in your character sheet, and so on.

Overall, in my opinion, the goal of a good UI is for it to display all of the information you need, succinctly, quickly, and parsably, and to allow you to act on that info directly, quickly, easily, and completely.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Healing Theory

Since this blog will definitely have a focus on healing, I wanted to post an introduction to some of my thoughts on healing. I will post more entries on individual points as time goes on but I wanted to come up with an outline of sorts on what I think are the keys to being a good healer.

The basic key of being a healer is wanting to help other people stay alive. This goes without saying. But how?

A good healer should want to know what's going on. Who is tanking what? What kind of damage will they take? What kind of AOE or debuffs are flying around? A healer should want to know what happens in each phase, so they can heal effectively.

A good healer should also want to know everything they can that will affect their healing. Who was just hit with that deadly spell? Who has aggro? What debuffs does the MT have? How long until the boss's next ability? If there's something that will affect the raid, the healer should want a way to know when it's happening. This is where mods come in to being a good healer, but I will post more on that later.

A good healer should want to know their toolbox of spells and abilities. They should not rely on one smart-spell or spam all their spells with abandon. They should want to know which of their spells is most efficient, which has the most throughput, which is best for spike damage, how the spells scale with spell power/crit/haste, and which spells are best for unique encounters. A good healer should also consciously manage their mana, being proactive with regen cooldowns, and properly balancing throughput and longevity with their gear choices and spell usage.

A good healer should want to protect anyone in their care. If they are assigned to heal player X, then they should want to do whatever they can to keep player X alive. It should almost be a matter of pride: whatever went wrong on that last attempt, player X didn't die. If there is another player who seems to need healing, a good healer should want them protected too.

A good healer should be a cooperative participant in a healing team. They should be eager to see that all the tanks (or players with special roles in an encounter) are covered by the team, especially in a way that best utilizes all the different healing classes' abilities. They should come to know the other healers too, getting familiar with their skill sets and spell preferences, so as to better work with them.

A good healer should trust their teammates, but also be interested in keeping an eye on the raid as a whole (to the degree allowed by their assignment), and should be ready to help out with a shield or quick heal on anyone who needs it. If someone dies and it was preventable, they should get upset, and if it happens more than once, they should be thinking about how to avoid the problem in the future.

A good healer should also be willing to expand their abilities. They should take it as an interesting challenge when they have to heal a tank as well as shackle an add, dodge an AOE, do a dance, mana burn a boss, or whatever. They should be willing to learn new skills, DPS a boss if it'll help, use a bandage in a tight situation, and do anything they can to help the raid.

This is not a comprehensive list, but I think it covers most of the things I feel strongly about. These are the points I take seriously as a healer, and so they will form the basis for many of my thoughts in this blog.


As this is a new blog, I figure the first post should be an introductory one.

I am a WoW player, a raider, a healer, and a mod author. I hope for this blog to be a place for me to record some of my thoughts (read: ramblings) on these topics.

As a WoW player, I play a Dwarf Priest, and have been a healer since the closed beta. I started on Whisperwind with my wife and friends; we are now on Azuremyst. We are raiders primarily: my wife is a tank, I am a healer, and our friends are various DPS classes. I am happy with and somewhat proud of my choice to play as a Dwarf Priest (the "correct" race for healing!).

As a mod author, I publish AddOns under the name Wikwocket. I have written a few mods mostly for myself and my friends, but some others have found them useful. AnnoyingBuffReminder and CCBreakWarner are useful mods that people seem to like. I am also the author of CasterWeaponSwapper, which for a time was popular among some hardcore top-end healing raiders, but which has fallen into disuse as Blizzard has discouraged in-combat weapon swapping (and not offered competitive proc-based enchants for casters).

This blog is called Holyform because I thought naming it after a cool Priest spell would be memorable, but I couldn't choose one. So why not use the one they never gave us! I hope the blog develops into something interesting and fun, and just maybe is of interest to anyone besides me. Time will tell!