Being Boomkin

One of the nicer consequences of finally being able to fly in Legion is the gift of time. My very unscientific personal experience so far is that I can do approximately twice as much now in the same amount of time than I could do without flying. I am talking about activities like world quests, profession leveling and mat gathering, and of course the 7.2 Broken Shore dailies.

I have taken advantage of the extra time to pay some real attention to my druid. Back about a year ago, when it seemed possible that I would actually give up my beloved hunter in the face of what I perceived to be the total Blizz sellout of the hunter class, my first choice for a new main was my druid. I have always been fascinated by this class — the only one to offer every role in the game including both melee and ranged DPS — but I have never really gone beyond dipping a toe into it. When I first rolled my druid — years ago, as my second alt in the game — I did it as Resto. I got kicked from my first dungeon for being terribad and was so put off by the whole thing that it was years before I ventured into another instance with my druid. Mind you, the group was completely justified in kicking me. I had not grasped the whole steady-stream HoT method of healing and was trying to just react to health hits. The disaster was predictable, and one further consequence was that I came to think of druid Resto healing as very difficult.

Thus, when I leveled my druid in Mists I switched to Balance, mainly because I have always been most comfortable with ranged damage dealing. I had Resto as my secondary spec but really did not do much with it. I enjoyed Balance in Mists, and I came to really value the sheer versatility of the druid class, especially its wide array of defensive spells. I did level my druid in WoD, but I hated the Balance play style in that expansion — to say it was slow is a real understatement, especially given what at the time was a fantastically flexible and fast-paced SV hunter style that I had as my main. Still, I remained intrigued by the class, and I even ran a few alt run raids as Resto.

With my background of dithering between Balance and Resto on my druid, I was intrigued when Legion came along and introduced the attunement talent. As I am not really by nature a melee damage dealer, and I have never tanked, I was of course drawn to the Balance-Resto attunements. I got both artifact weapons and intended to  play as Resto, but I found the damage options — even with Balance attunement — to be far too puny for realistic soloing (world quests, etc.), at least for my taste. So I reversed and opted for Balance with Resto attunement.

After I first hit 110, I considered just dropping the whole idea, because my boomie seemed very squishy and almost as slow as in WoD. It was frustrating to play. But as I have geared up and gotten into my 7.2 artifact traits, I am finding it more palatable. It also doesn’t hurt that I have actually done some study of How to Boomkin (finally understand that whole solar-lunar power thing) and spent considerable time with target dummies and live target dummies (aka LFR). I am still not what I would call well geared at 880 ilevel, and of my two equipped legendaries, one is the mostly useless crafted one — good really only as a stat stick with 3 gem slots — but I can see the potential if I can manage to get to maybe somewhere around ilevel 900 or so. (This may depend on the good will of my guildies in carrying me on some Mythics.)

I am a bit slow on getting artifact traits because I am trying to keep my Resto artifact within 2-3 traits of my main spec Balance one. And most of the time I have to play my druid comes on the weekend, so it is not exactly a fast process even now with flying. (This is not good for LFR runs, though, as of course the weekend ones tend to be worse than the Tuesday or Wednesday ones.) My goal is to be a useful ranged DPS for our alt raids when we start them up, and to be a reliable fallback healer if needed. Also, I am hedging my bets for the next expansion — if Blizz once again really screws hunters, I want to be positioned to go with another main if necessary.

Probably the most tedious and annoying aspect of gearing up my druid is the whole class hall and profession chase. (It took me weeks to even find my way around the druid class hall, although now that I am comfortable with it I find it to be vastly superior to the hunter one.) I still am confused by what seems to be an endless number of quest lines and achievements necessary to get your champions, your third relic slot, your artifact research 7.2 addon, your class hall research, and so forth. I think I have gotten most of the important ones now on my druid, but I have not even begun to think about artifact appearance quests. (This is a holdover from my BM hunter, where I pay almost no attention to them because they are pretty bad and don’t even affect Hati.)

I have finally gotten level 2 on all my alchemy flasks, but I am not sure I will get the level 3’s just because of the hundreds of flasks you have to craft in order to get the rare RNG drop of the next level for each. And I am still working on my last herbalism level 2 — just can’t seem to get that dreamleaf quest to drop for me.

But overall, I feel like I am on my way to being able to play a decent Boomkin, and to be able to make myself useful as a healer as well. Balance seems solidly in the middle of the pack in terms of DPS charts, I doubt if there is any chance it will be a sought-after spec for top raiders in Legion, but I am fine with that. I only intend to do alt raiding with it anyway. And really, I am having fun with it, which of course I tend to forget is the point of this whole game.

When you think about it, what could be more fun than turning into a tree and healing your friends, and then turn around and start killing monsters as a giant chicken? And in between, turn yourself into a cat for quick getaways or a bear for maximum protection or a raven for soaring? It just doesn’t get much better than this!

Confessions of a ranged DPS

For the past few days, I have been trying to gear up my level 100 combat rogue a bit. It’s been an enlightening experience, I must admit. Before I go on, let me point out that:

  • This is my first and so far only max-level melee character.
  • He is my only existing male alt.
  • I only decided to roll a rogue out of spite, because I have vowed to not play SV hunter in Legion, having said that if I wanted to play melee I would have rolled a rogue. So I kind of felt I had to…
  • I boosted him to 100 once I got to level 60.

So, basically, this is a class that I have absolutely zero idea how to play, and that for the most part has never interested me. But I found I was intrigued by the play style while I was doing his basic leveling, and so with some time on my hands lately, I decided to try and get to know it better. I visited icyveins to get some pointers on talents, glyphs, rotations, secondary stats, etc. and then headed off to put in some quality time with the target dummies.

My plan was to gear him up as best I could with Baleful and crafted gear before venturing into instances or LFR. This turned out to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated. It took me two days to wade through the pros and cons of dual wielded weapons, specifically how to deal with the varying opinions on main hand versus off hand weapon speeds. In the end, though I doubt it will make any real difference at my level of play, I went with having 3 crafted weapons — two slow ones and one fast one — and making a Blade Flurry macro that switches to MH fast/OH slow when I engage BF. Otherwise I opt for slow weapons in both hands. I really have no clue if this is useful or not, and I note that Ask Mr Robot always wants to insist I equip the fastest weapons in both hands, but I am ignoring him.

(Of note, the fiery visual effects of Mark of Warsong on my dagger/axe/hammer are undeniably cool!)

The rest of initial gearing was uneventful. I used up my stash of Baleful leather gear and got maybe 3 optimal stat combos, the rest are sub-optimal but still a vast improvement over my boosted green 640 set. I had enough apexis crystals to put all my Baleful gear up to 695, but haven’t upgraded them any further as I don’t have much valor yet. My weapons take up 2 of my crafted slots, and I am still debating about the best use of the third. My helm is my only remaining green, so I may go with that. There is also the conquest PvP route for some useful gear — I already used that trick on my second ring, and may go that way for a helm, not sure yet.

My next challenge was to finish silver proving grounds so I could start on my legendary ring. This, too, proved more complicated than I had anticipated. I have said before that PG have dismally failed as a concept that had a lot of potential, and I have pooh-poohed them as a useful gate to heroics. But I am not so sure after my recent experience there.

Recall that for silver, you have to defeat 8 waves of mobs in timed sequences. I had spent enough time with target dummies that I had no real problems with the first 6 waves, but the last two stymied me for quite a while. (Hours, not minutes, but beyond that I am too embarrassed to say…) I have to admit that the process I went through to finally finish really did help me to become more proficient with my rogue, especially with movement mechanics. So I suppose for someone clueless as to how to play their class and spec (like I was), PG do have some marginal utility. But the key word is “marginal” — there are more efficient and less frustrating ways to teach class basics — and I see that Blizz, realizing this, just announced there will be no PG in Legion. Yay.

So, armed with my huge 689 ilevel and PG-induced overconfidence in my proficiency, I ventured into Sky Reach normal to complete the initial part of my ring. My gear level carried me through easily.

Putting off the round of three required heroics for the next ring step (I detest 5-man pugs), I decided to jump into HFC LFR. The experience was not bad — at least I did not get kicked for disgraceful DPS, and no one even made any snide remarks — but it certainly gave me a completely different view of every boss and trash mob.

Really different.

The thing that was especially enlightening is how much less of the fight I could see and/or keep track of as melee. I am used to ranged after all, and especially with mobile hunters you can see pretty much everything that is going on in a fight. What I mostly saw as melee was butts. Butts and distracting seizure-inducing visuals cluttering up my whole screen. I found that I needed to keep my camera at a fairly close distance in order to see my rogue and determine if the boss or my targeted mob had turned and was now behind me instead of the other way around. I could not tell if I was doing any damage at all if I couldn’t see myself, but in order to do so I had to zoom in so far that I almost couldn’t see anything else.

Maybe this will change as I get more melee experience, but I did not like the effect. I have always had a lot of respect for melee fighters, and now I have even more. I still think ranged damage dealers have the easiest time of anyone both in groups and solo, which is why I am puzzled as to why more damage dealers don’t select ranged.

The other big thing I noticed as melee is that if the tank is not especially competent and cannot keep the boss away from fire, melee has almost no place to go. Tanks may survive standing in bad, but melee — especially leather melee — not so much. The choice is run out of melee range in order to survive or keep hitting and hope you can find a safe couple of pixels and that the healers have good aoe heals for the melee group. (Which reminds me, I may experiment with sorting my Healbot groups into ranged and melee on my healers, might help me respond better to boss mechanics.)

Anyway, I will probably keep at my rogue, even though combat spec will morph into outlaw spec, greatly changed, in Legion. (I seem to have a gift for picking specs Blizz hates and feels compelled to drastically change every few months…) Though I don’t think I will ever be a great fan of melee as a play style, I am definitely benefitting from getting a different perspective. This can only make me a better ranged damage dealer, I think.

New play styles

A few days ago, at the suggestion of someone I respect, I decided to just bite the bullet and switch my main hunter to Marksman spec, even though I said I would never do it. It hasn’t been an easy transition so far, either mechanically or psychologically. And as if that weren’t trauma enough, last night I rolled a new brewmaster panda.

The hunter change has been more dramatic than I expected it to be. I mean that in both a good way and a bad way. I first tried it with a pet, taking Focusing Shot as my Tier 7 talent. My initial practices, unbuffed, at the target dummies yielded 3-4k improvement over my best Beastmastery efforts and a good 7-8k improvement over the sad Survival spec. And this was with me really not having a clue how to play MM.

Trying a few Apexis bonus areas was “interesting.” After weeks of mindlessly blasting through them as BM, I found I had to actually *gasp* be a little more careful as MM, since my pet has less power and I have more. Meant I had to actually key bind my MD-to-Pet macro and spam it, else I felt in danger of getting overwhelmed with my normal 15-20 mobs. Since MM has pretty puny AoE, I found myself relying more on things like my zone artillery strikes and some of the engineer-produced explosive gizmos. I also found I really missed the instant gratification of spamming Arcane Shot to dump focus.

In general, it was hard for me to start to wrap my brain around the idea of a hunter having to stand still a lot and wind up most shots. (As a minor aside, I was slightly annoyed that the tool tips refer to the wind up time for shots as “cast” time. Hunters are not/not casters. The fact that devs are content to use such language in tool tips indicates to me that they really do not understand the hunter class very well.) Not counting Kill Shot, our only real MM instant shot is the signature one, Chimaera Shot, and being it is a signature shot it has a 9-second cooldown. Both Aimed Shot and the focus-resto shot have a greater than 2-second shot wind up time. It feels tedious and slow.

I had gotten used to Focusing Shot when I used it for my SV hunter, and I did not find the stand still requirement for it to be limiting. But when combined with the Sniper Training requirement, I feel very restricted. Mind you, I don’t know if MM actually is more restrictive, since Sniper Training is fairly generous in its movement allowance, but I know that I was conscious of the requirement and consequently felt as if my feet were nailed to the ground. Add in the lack of instant shots, and I felt like I was playing my destro lock, except without the decent AoE.

I did not feel like I was playing a hunter.

Still, my damage was noticeably improved. Even more so when I took Lone Wolf instead of Focusing Shot for my Tier 7 talent. But again, much of my hunter identity is tied up in my pet, and not having one felt just wrong somehow. But the damage increase is undeniable.

Bottom line is that I will undoubtedly feel more comfortable with MM as a spec the longer I play it, and the better I get the more damage I will do, but I doubt if it will ever feel “huntery” to me. I am pretty sure I will go back to SV or even BM as soon as Blizz decides to make either of those viable again.

Regarding my new panda, I had fun doing the initial leveling in the Panda starting area. I had forgotten what a fun story that is. It’s too bad you can’t go back there once you leave it, just like it’s too bad worgen can’t go back to Gilneas.

I decided to level a new melee class rather than respec one of my hybrids, because I think it will be easier to play if I grow with it as I level. I have tried switching my mistweaver to use its windwalker secondary, but I find it a tad overwhelming at level 100.

I don’t know if I am psychologically suited to tanking, but it has always seemed to me to be the most challenging group role, so I thought if I tried it in some low level instances as I level it might be a bit less intimidating than jumping in at level 90 or 100. Pretty sure I have been in some groups with tanks who have done just that, and it is not fun. Honestly, the thing I am most worried about is getting lost, as my sense of direction is really horrible! I have spent my game life following tanks, either as a deeps or as a healer, and I frequently get lost if we wipe and I have to run back. So I foresee a lot of study even at very low levels before I subject a group to my baby tank.

In the big picture, though, it’s good to challenge yourself, shake things up every once in a while. Even if neither of my new play styles pans out for me in the long run, it’s fun to try.




Odds and ends

No great topic for today’s post, just a bunch of thoughts, most of which are unrelated, but none of which are well developed enough to merit a separate post.

After a huge amount of dithering about my hunter spec — for both hunters — I finally just decided to stick with Survival as the main spec for both, with Beastmastery as a secondary. Much of my gear on one hunter has mastery as a secondary stat instead of multistrike, but I’ve decided to pretty much ignore secondary stats, certainly not going to go to any great lengths to get 670 multistrike gear  if I already have the same piece of 670 gear with mastery. It’s just not worth the annoyance for a few hundred or a thousand DPS difference. I would rather spend my time honing my SV skills than chasing gear I may never get. In my opinion Blizzard has completely screwed up the whole stat system. I need to take my own advice, which I always give to other hunters when they ask what spec they should play, that is, play what you love.

Think I posted that I did finally pick up a secondary spec for my destro warlock. Went with demonology, but I gotta say I am having some difficulty getting the hang of it. It seems very complex to me for some reason, whereas destro seems very straightforward. Most of that is due to practice I am sure — I mean I did the 5.0.4 Green Fire quest which required in my case over 100 battles that used every talent and spell a warlock has, and I did it as destro, so I am very well practiced with that spec. More quality time with the target dummies is clearly in order before I even venture into LFR with my demo spec.

We are having what is becoming a huge debate about loot in one of my guilds. Most of the raid team favors personal loot, but the Raid Leader is bent on group loot. I see the pros and cons of both opinions, but what it comes down to for me is that personal loot eliminates the drama. Period. The RL insists that group loot will ensure more equitable distribution of loot and improve the raid team overall. In theory this is correct, only it never ever works out that way. Our raid loot system is roll 300 for main spec, 100 for off spec, and you only get one successful main spec roll per night. Loot master reserves the right to redistribute as he sees fit. But one problem is that we typically only down 1-2 bosses per night, sometimes not even that. We have some people who are uncannily lucky and some who almost never are — the lucky people pick up loot every night because they always get a main spec roll every raid night, the unlucky people tend to go weeks without getting loot. We also have some people whose only gearing up mechanism is guild raids, so they are always pitifully undergeared and of course are the ones who need gear most. The people who work hard at gearing up outside of guild raids tend to get penalized for doing so because someone else always needs the gear more. We also get people who do not normally raid with us but like to cherry pick bosses they need gear from, so they will jump in on a night they think we’ll down that boss and get the same chance at group loot as the ones that have spent hundreds of gold on repairs after several nights of wiping.

So our group loot scheme is really no better than random luck, except when the loot master intervenes to award one of the slackers with gear “because they need it more.” My point is, since it is really no better than random luck anyway why not eliminate the drama and go with personal loot?

Speaking of loot, it looks like I have just as rotten luck with follower gear as I do with my own gear.

And speaking of follower gear, I think I read that in patch 6.1 the Salvage Yard will no longer award follower gear. You will only be able to get it from the Dwarven Bunker. Which begs the question, why even have the Salvage Yard any more? The odd transmog pieces, crummy personal gear, and paltry few mats along with all the grey junk just don’t justify it any more. I wonder if Blizz is planning on increasing the drop rate of follower gear from the bunker as compensation?

And while we are at it, why can’t we trade in all those useless 615 pieces of follower gear for 630 or 645? Or trade a weap upgrade for an armor or vice versa?

Still haven’t worked up the courage to go back to healing with my monk after my disastrous effort in normal Skyreach. Got to make myself do it, but I am not looking forward to it.

Finally started to level my mage. As Frost, but I am not liking it. Think I will go back to Fire/Arcane spec sets. Kinda the same thing as my SV hunter decision. I just don’t enjoy playing Frost, never have. Not that I am very good at any of them, mind you. Mage is not really my thing, but I have to admit they still have some of the coolest visuals of any class.

Thinking about starting a melee alt. Every time I’ve tried this before I have deleted them by about level 30, just can’t seem to like the whole  melee play style. But humans are basically optimistic creatures, so maybe this time it will work??  I suppose I could just configure a Windwalker spec for my monk, maybe that would work out better for me. I’ll see.

My new computer arrives today, excited about that. But I know it will take a couple days to set up, not really excited about that part.

Took a couple hours last week and went back to Pandaria. Needed some ghost iron, so I went back and flew some of my old mining routes. It was great! I swooped and soared and had more fun than I’ve had in weeks in this game. Blizz really has to bring back flying, I miss it tremendously. Also stopped in at my humble little abode in Sunsong Ranch, got kinda nostalgic. It was never fancy, but it was cozy and it was mine. I miss having my own place and no, garrisons are not the same. Not even close.

Oops, UPS guy was just here with my computer. Later, all!