Healing Progression

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been finding the heroics pretty tough to heal in Wrath.  My mana feels stretched even during some of the regular pulls, and during boss fights, I often have to let people die in order to keep the tank alive.  If there are supplemental heals available, I breathe a little easier.  If I’m the sole healer, it can get dicey.  Sometimes, we simply don’t make it through.

I have to remind myself that the success or failure of a run isn’t always a reflection of my skills or my performance. Gearing of the tank, group composition, and DPS/CC abilities certainly come into play, as well.  Over the weekend, I ran a series of heroics with folks from another guild where I was the sole healer.  We cleared Utgarde Keep and the Culling of Stratholme, but couldn’t make it past Anomalus in Nexus.  We called it when the mobs started respawning in the halls on the way there.  I was a little bummed, but I have successfully healed groups through that fight before.  I know I’m capable of doing it.

It’s also been a little tough to get into heroics with the guild, given that we have so many more healers than tanks, lately.  It seems like a group forms early in the day/evening and sticks together through UK, Nexus, and CoT:Strat.  Sometimes I get into the group, sometimes I don’t.  (Depends who’s on.)  If I don’t and the healer has to leave, I sometimes get the whisper to fill in, though it’s usually for a tougher heroic since they’ve finished the easier ones:  “want to come heal heroic Pinnacle?”  Ugh.  Then, if we’re unable to get through it, I feel like it’s my fault.  Rar.  Again, I can’t totally attribute the failures to myself (and they probably don’t either), but it doesn’t exactly boost my confidence.

So, I’ve been relying on pugs to get into some of those easier heroics and it’s definitely paying off.  Sometimes the groups are wipefests, but are still good practice for quick thinking and learning how to pull the group’s collective chestnuts out of the fire.  That’s one thing I did not get much practice with in pre-Wrath raiding, since most of the groups I was healing were pretty well geared and we weren’t doing much aside from Karazhan.  (I did have some challenging runs in ZA, but nothing like these heroics.)  Perhaps even more valuable are the connections I’ve been making on the server through these pugs.  I’m starting to reap the benefits of these in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

On Friday evening, I got an invitation from a DK I’d run a heroic with to come as the third healer on their guild’s Obsidian Sanctum run.  I asked if I was geared for it, they said definitely, and within a few moments, I received the invite.  There were six folks from the DK’s guild and four pug folks.  We all got on their vent server and they got us summoned and ready to go.  They said to the pug folks that they really appreciated us coming along and that we were welcome to roll for the loot.  I was assigned off-tank healing. Very cool.

We got the three lieutenants down with little trouble and then made our first bid at Sartharion.  He kicked our butts, but what impressed me was the guild’s attitude.  They were thrilled by how much progress we made compared to their previous week’s attempt.  They were reveling in it, excited by the prospect of actually killing this dragon on this run.  This attitude energized everybody.  This is what I’m looking for out of raiding.  I experienced only a tiny bit of this before BC because I hit 70 so late into our guild’s raiding career, and really felt it only in those few ZA runs before the lolpatch.  After that, it seemed that we were expected to fully clear whatever dungeon we were running and if we didn’t, something was wrong.

Anyway, it took several attempts (and somebody labeling themself so we could follow them to dodge the lava waves), but we finally downed Sartharion.  Holy crap, it was exciting.  And when that achievement popped up in our guild chat, there was a lot of “OMG” from my guildmates.  Hehehe… I was saying the same thing.  The guild hosting the run thanked the puggers for coming along and said they planned to run that raid every Friday night.  They said they’ll keep an eye out for the same puggers to help fill in the next raids, if we’d like to join them again.  Awesome!

I took a break from my priest for a bit last night to level my hunter (pug story on that a bit later) and toward the end of the night, popped back on my priest to party up with my husband and a friend to knock out some lingering group quests in Dragonblight.  We were finishing up the last one when I got a whisper from a very nice hunter I pugged with a while back.  I’d added her to my friend list, since she was one of the few DPS folks that reciprocated my “keep me in mind if you’re ever looking to fill out a group” offer.

“Not sure if you remember me,” she said, “but we ran a dungeon together a while back.”  I said that I did remember her, that she was on my friend list.  I asked how she was doing.

“Great!  We’re putting together a Naxx run and are short a healer.  Would you like to join us?  It’s a guild run and we’re going to cancel in about ten minutes if we don’t get a third healer.”

I asked if she thought I was geared for it and she asked what my bonus healing was.  (It’s +1433.)  The invitation arrived a moment later.  I said that I needed to pick up some food, repair, etc, and then I’d be ready.

(Zoh mah gahhh!)

I scrambled to cook some Pickled Fangtooth and fortunately had a few Flasks of Pure Mojo that a friend in the guild had given me in the days before.  I only had one runic mana pot left on me, but I snagged some super mana pots from the AH.  (Not ideal, but that’s all there was!)  They summoned me and I joined them in their vent channel.  We buffed up and almost immediately started trucking through the trash pulls.  We hadn’t discussed healing assigments or anything like that, so I just healed the main tank.  Before I knew it, we were at the boss, so I figured I’d better ask where I should focus the heals.  Indeed, they wanted me for main tank healing for this run.  *gulp*

Anub’Rekhan was a right bastard.  There’s certainly a bit of luck with these encounters, with positioning and who the boss targets for their random damaging casts, and he didn’t cut us any slack at all.  In our old Kara and ZA runs, our heals were rarely all that focused.  I’d main tank heal, but sometimes spot heal the raid, and the other healer would to the same.  Didn’t matter — we were mostly overgeared.  There was NO margin for this in this raid (or the previous), however.  Everything I had went onto the tank, or, in a pinch, me.  I used every mana regen trick I had and even made up a few new ones.  It was insane.

And it seemed I couldn’t keep the tank alive.  Just not quite enough oomph on those first few attempts, with heals just not going off quite in time.  One time, I tried casting my holy guardian on him to let him croak and regain 50% health immediately, but the other healers tried to keep him up, the guardian faded, and the tank still died.  Argh.  During the corpse run, the main tank said that the problem was “just not enough heals on me.”

I tried (awkwardly) to explain what I had been trying to do, but reassured that I’d save that trick for a more desperate moment and not try it again without mentioning it.  I really started feeling like I was to blame for all the wipes.  Damn.  And we continued to wipe after that.  One attempt was going really well until I again just missed a big heal on the tank.  My fault again, I thought.  I apologized, but folks were reassuring.  “It’s nobody’s fault,” said the main tank.  “At that particular stage of the fight, we just need all heals on the main tank and everyone else is going to have to take care of themselves.”  Ahh… so not just a message to me.  I felt better after that.  I also got some whispers saying I was doing a great job.  The hunter said they were telling her she should recruit me to the guild as hard as she could.  I was relieved to hear I wasn’t botching things up too badly.

We kept trying.  We had a great fight going at one point until the whole raid seemed to get caught in the swarm.  We adjusted our positioning for the next few fights to avoid the swarm, but I was a little confused because I couldn’t actually see anything hitting me.  I was SO focused on my little healbot window and cast bar that I wasn’t seeing it coming.  I suggested that someone mark themself with a raid symbol perhaps, so I could follow that in my periphery.  Then someone said, “no, it’s just a distance thing.”  They explained you can’t see the swarm; if you’re within 30 yards, it’s going to kick your ass.  OH!  Well, why didn’t you say so… (I felt like a moron for my comment, but if I hadn’t asked I wouldn’t have known, since this was a spur of the moment run!)

One of the features of healbot is that it does also show when you’re in range of your healing targets.  Given that the main spells I cast have a 40 yard reach, I knew I’d be safe staying just within that range.  I did this for the next fight and we downed that big buggy bastard.  Hallelujah.  I don’t think I breathed for the entirety of the attempt either.

Faerlina was a much easier fight.  The main tank explained the encounter, but the DPS didn’t quite understand what to do.  They downed all the worshippers right away, so when Faerlina enraged, we all got destroyed.  Heh… oops.  He re-explained that you’re supposed to DPS (very slowly) the worshippers and then kill one when she enrages.  The second attempt went mostly well, but we must have gone over time, or something, because killing the worshipper didn’t do anything to remove the frenzy effect from her.  Huh.  Anyway, we got it down perfectly the third time.  Hurrah!

And finally, Maexxna.  It was after 1am by this point, and while I was getting very sleepy, I didn’t want to be the one to bail. During our first couple attempts, we sorted out that the range DPS should take care of the Web Wrap effect, because by the time the melee got there, the range folks had released the person.  Folks also started cleansing the poisons, which helped immensely.  On the third attempt, we got her down to 10%.  Folks were really tired, but we were so close that we decided to drag our butts back in there for one more try.  We didn’t get her much below 20% on that last attempt, so we just called it.  It was almost 2am.  I think everybody was exhausted.

Afterward, I spent 10-15 minutes answering whispers.  Seriously, it was all pretty good for my ego.  Very nice to be complemented on my healing, after having some doubts about it recently, and folks said they were adding me to their friend lists in case I’d like to join them for heroics and future raids.  Of course for the Naxx raids, guild members will always be placed first, but they said I was at the top of their non-guild healer list now.  That feels really damn good.

I think somewhere in the back of my mind, this was always part of the plan for Wrath in making my priest my main focus.  I made a big effort to get myself out there and find ways to get geared even if the guild wasn’t running stuff regularly.  I never expected to forge relationships with other guilds though.  I have no plans to leave my guild — I adore them — but I have to say, it is nice to have options as I progress in my healing and through the content.

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Transitions

Now that I’ve hit 80, I’ve found it a bit easier to take time away from the game.  My husband and I have started watching movies again, spending entire evenings away from our computers.  (Crazy, right? 😉 )  Although there are quest lines that I want to do, my energy toward questing has diminished a bit, I confess, and when I’m in the game, I have found myself working toward achievements instead.  Or running dungeons…

My priest has run a few heroics now.  The first one I tried was Utgarde Keep, and while my mana pool dipped to uncomfortably low levels a few times, it really wasn’t too bad at all.  After that, we were feeling ballsy enough to give herioc Utgarde Pinnacle a try and it was (unsurprisingly) quite a bit tougher.  We did make it through to the gauntlet and got past it, but then something weird and buggy happened and the gauntlet reset when we got to the end of it. The rogue decided to go restart the event to see if, being on the other side of it, we could skip much of it.  We were almost immediately destroyed by the storm of mobs that ran out the door next to us.  Hehe… oh well.

Last night, we did a heroic Nexus run.  It was a fairly solid run, though not without wipes.  There was a boss hidden among the frozen mobs in that first hallway and we didn’t get the clerics with him down fast enough.  Mana pools were sucked dry and we just couldn’t outlast our enemies.  There were a couple times where we didn’t use enough CC, meaning that either the tank died because I was unable to heal him enough.  Sometimes other folks died when their CC broke or I died because I drew too much aggro on successive big heals.  There’s so much e-peen waggling out there about how the game is too easy, but these were suitably challenging for our little casual guild, that’s for sure.  I’m sure it will get easier once folks pick up some gear.  I need to work on my mana regen, srsly… but still, it’s all fun.  It’s interesting to see our guild already making the transition from leveling to raiding.  Tonight, they’ll hit 10-man Naxx for the first time.  I won’t be able to go because I have other plans on Wednesday nights, but I wish them luck. (Somewhat jealously, I admit, but I do wish them luck.)

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And part of the reason for not writing much recently is that my RL is in transition, as well!  I’m finishing up everything with my old job, tying up all the loose ends that I can to make the cleanest break possible, and start the next job (and the next year) totally fresh.  My new job has technically started, though I haven’t gotten my first assignment yet.  (This is the writing/editing job I mentioned here.  I sent in my application materials and got an offer from them within a couple hours — woot!).  Once the new year kicks off, I’ll start looking for additional freelance work, as well.  Hey… anybody need some writing or editing done?  I am for hirez!  I rite gud and nede moneys to play wow lol!

80!

My priest hit 80 last night!  I logged in after dinner, did a few dailies, and then headed to Scholazar Basin for some questing.  Some guildmates invited me to run Halls of Lightning (woo!  what a cool place!), and after that we headed to the Old Kingdom to squish some bugs.  This put me at 97.5% toward 80… so close!  So, back to Scholazar I went…

I know some people hate the grind of the Nesingwary quests, but I confess, I actually like them.  So, I started killing 15 of this, 15 of that, collecting 5 meats from the giraffe thingies, all the while chatting away in vent with folks.  I somewhat absent-mindedly turned in one of the quests and -bwoosh!- leveled!  Hee!  I wasn’t quite expecting it so there wasn’t that lovely moment of anticipation right before the Big Ding where I set up my screenshot, etc, but still, it was very cool.

As far as I could tell in game, I was either the 9th or 10th level 80 in our guild.  People are talking about running heroics soon, which will be really fun to try.  I’ll be questing quite a bit with my priest, I imagine, with one eye on the LFG, as I want to continue making connections with other players on the server.  I’ll likely start leveling my hunter soon, too.  I leveled my priest first partly because I had a lot of momentum, having just hit 70 with her fairly recently, but also because I wanted to help contribute to the guild by having a toon available for a support role. Somewhat ironically,  I might not get a raid spot because of this, because so many others had the same idea.  I didn’t think everyone who said they were going to level a healer first would actually do it, but they pretty much did.  Of our 80’s, two are priests, one is a resto shaman, and we also have a tree druid that likely hit 80 after I logged off last night.  (We also have several in the upper 70’s that are healing types.)  The druid leveled as a boomkin though, and in chatting with him, he said he liked that well enough that he might stick with it if we had plenty of healers.  I suppose I could respec shadow for some of our raids, but frankly, my +hit kinda sucks with my current gear.  I think I’ll just level my hunter for pure DPS instead.

So… 80!  Yay!  Now it’s time to catch up on my professions a bit and beef up my bank account to better support my alts.

A New Sense of Community

My priest is now about halfway to level 79.  I imagine she could hit 80 in the next couple evenings of play, assuming I don’t mess around too much.  I’d hoped I’d reach the level cap by next year, but I never thought I would do it in the first week of December.  I guess I do play a lot…

Perhaps the most amazing part is how many zones she has not completed yet.  I mentioned before that she finished up the Fjord, and since then, she’s polished off almost all of the Borean Tundra and most of Dragonblight.  She’s done a couple of the sharable dungeon quests here and there, but most of the other zones remain completely untouched.  Wowie… there’s going to be a lot of gold out there when she hits 80.  The same thing happened with my hunter when she hit 70, but I never took advantage of it since I wanted to raid instead of quest.  This time, I’ll definitely be questing.  This is in part because of all that gold (to make up for the epic flying skill  just bought), but also, some of the quest lines have been amazingly good in Wrath.  Back in BC, I don’t think I ever heard a person say, “Oh, you HAVE to go do this quest line in Shadowmoon Valley.  Do eet!”  I hear this on a nightly basis about Northrend quests (and I’m lucky if there’s not a spoiler to go along with it, but that’s another blog post).

So, how’d she get so far with just a few zones completed?  Not rested xp — that’s for sure.  Instead, I have been running loads of instances.  Thanks to all the pugs I’ve been running with, I’ve connected with a handful of really good tanks for whom I am now their go-to healer.  Seems like every time I log in, I get a tell from one of them: “Oh good, you’re on!  Would you like to come heal Violet Hold?”  Hell yeah.  I’m sure there will come a day when I’m tired of this, but for now, I’m basking in it.  I’m a little disappointed when someone asks me to heal Utgarde or the Nexus for them since they’re pretty far below my level now and I’ve run them both dozens of times, but I usually go anyway.  I can get shards from disenchanted stuff (not to mention those new shards we get if Horde controls Wintergrasp), plus the instances are so short.  It’s not like someone saying, “plz come hael WC, kk?” and you dread it because you know it will take five hours.  With a level appropriate tank, you can get out of most instances in less than an hour.  It’s awesome.

There have been some frustrating pugs, of course.  I have seen the usual loot issues (particularly on some of those very nice blue BoE’s), but my biggest frustration has been the overconfidence that some groups come in with.  I got an invite to run Violet Hold, for example, from a tank that was level 73.  The instance is level 75-77, but with enough DPS, I thought we might get through it.  I joined to find that the rest of the group consisted of a 71 mage, a 73 hunter, and a 75 DK.  Eesh.  I immediately suggested we might have better luck in a lower level instance, but the tank insisted and the DK backed him up: “No, VH is easy.”  Well, if you can actually -hit- the mobs.  It went the way you’d guess: the tank couldn’t hold aggro and the DPS couldn’t get the mobs from one portal down before the next portal opened.  After repeated wipes, the DK dropped from the group.  The tank suggested we look for a replacement, but I called it.  The mage admitted that only 50% of her shots were actually hitting the mobs.

Some of the pugs have been great, however, especially if I’m running with one of my new favorite tanks.  Often I’m the lone pugger on their guild run, which makes me hopeful that I’ll continue to run with them as we all get into heroics.  For these groups, I always ask them to keep me in mind if they ever need a healer.  I always used to do this, but the cool thing now is that people are taking me up on it and I’m online often enough as my priest to take advantage of it.  When I walk through Dalaran, training or dealing with dailies, I’m also amazed at how many names I recognize and how many people wave hello as I go by.  (I keep notes on everyone I pug with via the addon AuldLangSyne, so I can just mouseover their names, too, and see what instances I ran with them.)  I’m feeling like a real part of the realm community.  This makes me want to keep playing this character, instead of leveling an alt.

So, this is what it’s like to have a main… 🙂