Monday, December 27, 2010

Heroic Halls of Origination: a DPS DK Perspective

Time for another heroic!
Like I said on the last one, I probably won't get through all of the heroics, but I'll review a few of the ones that seem to give people trouble and make some suggestions on optimizing your DK play in heroics while gearing up. If you have a particular instance you want me to review or suggestions, let me know!

With many guilds starting 'regular' raids soon (my guild has downed 5 bosses so far in 10 man, starts 25 man raids this week), I may start reviewing raid bosses as well once I have a feel for them.
Halls of Origination (HOO) is a long and fairly challenging 5-man in sub-359 gear. I think it's a little easier than Grim Batol, but still more difficult than VP (Vortex Pinnacle). It's an Egyptian-themed instance carrying on the desert motif of Uldum. Nice artwork, fun layout. In general, a fun instance, but again, fairly long.

Instead of a separate article for each boss, I'll just put in a few comments for each boss from a DPS DK perspective. In this instance, you can pick the order of most of the bosses, and one boss is optional. I'll also not review the four gatekeepers since they're better referred to as minibosses and essentially have only one elemental attack. I've died on most/all of them at some point, but for the most part just stay out of bad and kill them. I'll focus here on the 'actual' bosses of HOO.

Temple Guardian Anhuur:
This boss unlocks the instance and lets you find Brann. He's a Tol'vir who stands on a platform in the middle of his room. A review of his abilities made me scratch my head (oh, so that's what he does? hmm). Even on heroic, as a dps you just need to stay out of obvious 'bad stuff' when dpsing him and you'll be fine. No mechanics that will wipe you, really. The key to this fight is that after a while he'll put up a Shield of Light which makes him invulnerable. I've usually done this on heroic by having the whole group jump down to the left switch first. As a plate-wearer, I usually Death & Decay and blood boil to keep the switch person from being hit and then start running for the right side switch. Those snakes' damage can add up, so try to stay in line of sight for your healer. Hungering Cold is win here. Other than that, though, no real tricks to it. I burn my cd's right after we interrupt Anhuur's cast, but each phase is fairly short so there's no way to avoid 'wasting' some of your cooldowns.

Earthrager Ptah:
Ptah is the optional boss that's 'outside' in a courtyard. He's a Bone Wraith (looks a lot like Marrowgar) that summons adds. Things that will kill you: inattentiveness. The Earth Spike hits pretty hard on heroic. It won't one-shot you, but if your health is down a bit, it will kill you. As usual with this sort of thing, the spike has a crumbly, dusty spot on the ground shortly before erupting. If you get hit with it, not only will your nether regious hurt like the dickens, you'll be launched in the air and take fall damage upon return to earth. As usual, stay out of bad. To maximize dps, fight from behind the boss but be ready to adjust to either side for spikes. When the adds come, give the tank a moment to collect them, then spread diseases and full aoe rotation. I like to pop my cds here, but you certainly can burn them at the beginning of the fight as well.
After dancing with the roving packs of troggs and killing the elemental mini-bosses, Anraphet comes out and finishes off the troggs. The Big Meanie (aka Titanic Watcher) does two things which can kill you quickly as dps. First, the Alpha Beams. They target a random player, and channel nasty circle of death. Move fast, naturally. The second occurs during his Omega Stance. This aoe can hurt, but I usually use either AMS or IBF to help. A guildie said that moving or jumping helps reduce damage. I can't find anything written about this and can't prove it (comments, anyone?), but I've found myself jumping like a bean during this phase anyway. :) Generally, pop cd's at pull and use them when they're back up. Nothing special, although he hits hard and the aoe can hurt, so try to kill him quickly, save some defensive abilities for Omega Stance, and then try to have some for the last 30 sec when his Alpha Beams start to cover the floor.
Seats of the Keepers:
The next four bosses can be killed in any order.
Isiset is the construct of magic; like all four keepers she is a Titanic Watcher. As with most heroic bosses, there's a lot of aoe that can drop your health so you'll want to keep an eye out, but no big fight mechanics that can one- or two-shot you. Pop cd's at pull. Since you can do this for all four keepers, my current sequence looks like this:
Hit on use str trinket (JC boar figurine for example) while running in. Before you reach her, outbreak your diseases on her. Unholy Frenzy. Even with no preserved runic power, once you Scourge Strike, Festering Strike, SS, FS, you'll have the rp to summon your gargoyle. Use any Sudden Doom procs in between. Blood Tap. SS and FS and now use any remaining rp to try to get Dark Transformation up quickly. I can usually get my transformed ghoul up before UF wears off. Frost can be similar - although wait to use POF at least until the first melee hit so you don't waste it. Then normal priorities from there.
At any rate, when Isiset does her supernova, you can spin around or just step through her - both work fine. When her little starry adds pop out, I usually just pestilence to them, but if your group wants you to, pestilence, then switch to them and kill them, and then back to boss. Sometimes I also put my pet on the adds and stay on the boss myself. For Frost, your HB should do the trick nicely to aoe the adds. We kill the Astral Familiar first, but I don't think it matters much. Overall, a fairly simple fight for DKs.
Ammunae: the construct of life. Pop cds at pull as above. The big key to this fight besides not getting yourself killed, is killing the seedling pods quickly. Just kill them asap. You can pestilence to them, but they tend to die pretty fast, so you can just OB/SS them quickly down, and return in time to keep diseases up on Ammunae. As the pods proliferate, send a pet to kill stray ones as well. As with Isiset, no insta-kill mechanics, just a lot of attrition for your healer to keep up.
Rajh: the construct of radiance. Rajh does a lot of targetting a player or area and attacking. Just like in martial arts, the key is not being there when the attack arrives. Interrupt Summon Sun Orb. With how many interrupts are needed in heroics, endless winter is a nice talent in here. In any case, try to prevent an orb from being summoned, run away otherwise. Save AMS for Blessing of the Sun, while he's aoeing. Even in blues/greens, this barely tickles with AMS up. Obviously, pop cds at pull, avoid bad, win.
Setesh can be a bit of a challenge. Probably the most difficult boss. He's the construct of chaos and he tries to overwhelm you with void Wurms, Void Seekers, and Void Sentinels. As I'm sure you know, Setesh can't be tanked so the tank's job is to tank the Sentinels. Most tanks I've run with can kill the wurms pretty well and need only a little help on Seekers (we usually assign a ranged to this). Your job is to #1: kill Portals! (Yes, Jaraxxus-style) Portals need to die fast. In between, dps the boss. This is a race against time in current gear, with the soft enrage being some time around the 6th portal (tank/healer will be overwhelmed and die).
Ask your team if they have a heroism/bloodlust; if they do, they'll probably use it at pull. If so, use your str or on-use trinkets and summon gargoyle, but don't use unholy frenzy yet. This is becuase you'll waste a lot of the UF effect due to being overcapped for haste. Save the UF until heroism is down and you have a ghoul ready to DT. Obviously, frost can use POF and all cds with heroism.
So there you go! Oveall, less raid-like mechanics in here than in Grim Batol, but still a visually pleasing instance, and some fun fights.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Heroic Grim Batol: a DPS DK Perspective

Similar to my raid posts looking at the role of the DPS DK in in ICC, I'll do some reviews of the heroics that most people are gearing up in for Cataclysm.
I know, some folks have moved on to raids, but I know the majority of players are still leveling and facing the challenge of heroics in their leveling blues and greens.

So, while it won't be long before epic-geared players are rofl-stomping the heroics for their random daily valor points, until then there are a few things that undergeared players need to know. I don't know if I'll do this for all the 5-mans, but I thought it might be helpful to talk about a few of them at least.

Grim Batol is a challenging 5-man in sub-359 gear. It's definitely doable, but each boss fight has several elements that make it more like a regular raid than past 5-man instances. Make a mistake, and it's easy to go from 100% to 0% very fast! Given the tuning and the raid-like mechanics, I have to say I really like this instance! In difficulty I'd put it about in the middle, somewhere between Stonecore (very DK/melee unfriendly) and Vortex Pinnacle, in which the boss fights seem quite easy (at least to me).

Instead of a separate article for each boss, I'll just put in a few comments for each boss from a DPS DK perspective.

General Umbriss:
  The first boss you'll face in the instance, he can be a tricky one for inexperienced/undergeared groups. Like all of the bosses in here, there are several things that will cause damage to you, but unless they're specifically a 'death mechanic' (they'll kill you instantly if you screw up) I won't say too much about them. Umbriss is a black dragonkin. He does two things that can kill you quickly. The first is Ground Siege which does a lot of damage in a frontal area - just move behind him when he starts casting it and you'll be fine. The second is Blitz - he'll target a group member and start to cast Blitz. As long as you move to one side about 10 yards you won't get hit. The third major element to this fight is when he summons a group of troggs. (Why did it have to be Troggs?) Most of the troggs can essentially be ignored - if they get on you, merely kite them to the tank and let splash damage kill them (feel free to pestilence/death & decay). But one of the troggs will be bigger and have a purple haze around him - a Malignant Trogg. These MUST be killed away from the boss because if they die close to Umbriss they'll frenzy the boss. In addition, they do a nasty aoe blast when they die. Be careful; if your AMS is up, use it. If not, hit them with chains of ice and move away before they die. There's no reason any ranged couldn't take care of the Malignant Troggs, but it seems I've always been asked to kill them.
If you avoid the two main attacks that will kill you, and control the Troggs, this fight will go much easier.

Dragha Shadowburner:
 The fight opens with a fairly quick burn on Dragha. Don't waste cds on this part, as it's pretty quick and of very little danger. The only thing to be aware of is the Invoked Fire Spirits that Dragha summons. There will be a fire patch that spawns the Spirits. The tank should kite the boss away from the patches and you should stay away until the Spirit appears. When it does, if it targets you (by a fiery line attached to you), run away! If not, hit it with a chains of ice, then run to it and kill it quickly. If it reaches it's target, people die.
After Dragha is dps'd down a bit, he calls his dragon, Valiona. When Valiona lands is a good time to pop your cooldowns. He hops on her and you'll need to continue dealing with Invoked Fire Spirits, as well as avoiding bad stuff on the ground, and staying out from in front of Valiona who does a conal flame attack to the front that can wipe you. Once Valiona is down, Dragha returns and is fairly quickly killed.
The main things to remember are quick target switches from killing the boss to the Spirits, and staying out of the fire/pools/cleave.

Forgemaster Throngus:
  Throngus is a giant ettin pathing past several smaller chained ettins. Be careful clearing the trash as he can pat to your group and fighting him and his trash simultaneously is often lethal.
Open with your cds and dps away. For the first 20 sec or so it's just a tank and spank. Then Throngus will emote that he is picking a weapon. Mostly, the tanks and healers will want to be wary of what he's doing, but as a dps you'll just want to be aware of what could kill you.
If he picks a mace, the tank needs to kite him slowly around the ledge. If you pull aggro here, you'll die as his mace hits hard. Also watch the fire patches on the ground. If he picks a shield, there will be aoe damage to the group, but not too scary. If he picks two swords, the damage to the tank will be high, but it won't affect the dps too much. Be on the lookout for falling rocks/ceiling throughout the fight as the damage can add up. In a pinch, you can pop army of the dead towards the end to keep him occupied. I finished a fight from 15% after the tank died by popping army and the shammies popped earth elementals and we survived barely. As a side note, be aware that while AotD doesn't taunt raid bosses, they DO taunt every 5-man boss in Cataclysm I've used it on.


  The final boss of GB is a Faceless One. Start in the middle of the room (doesn't really matter too much where), with normal dps. He does some aoe, but nothing big. When he drops a Shadow Gale focus in the room (looks like a dark whirlpool), the whole group stacks IN it to avoid dying to his Shadow Gale. As soon as the Gale is done, Erudax summons two Faceless Corrupters. They'll come from the hall you entered from. One each will head for the eggs. They need to be slowed and dps'd hard. If they're not dead when they get to the eggs, they'll start casting Umbral Mending. Try to interrupt it and/or finish them off quickly. If you don't, they'll heal the boss to full fairly fast. If your dps on the adds is fast enough, you can pop your cooldowns on the pull, otherwise save them for add phases. You should be able to kill Erudax within 2-3 Shadow Gale/add phases, but it can be done in more phases as long as you kill the Corrupters each time.

I hope that helps, and I hope you enjoy Grim Batol as much as I have!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Random thoughts on levelling a DK in Cataclysm

One word: OOOOhhhhhh YEAHHHH!!!

It was a ton of fun racing to 80 - as I mentioned Monday, once I stopped trying to get there first.

So here are some thoughts I had during levelling and reflecting on the process of getting to 85 and the first things to do when you get there.

1. Frost spec works like a charm. As I mentioned prior to expac release, I was going with a 2H Frost spec for levelling. It worked fine for every situation I found myself in. Generally speaking, mobs died before I'd expended all my runes and runic power, even in Twilight Highlands.
Start off with maxing Frost, then add bladed armor, and from there take your pick of talents. You get burst, mount speed, and don't have to worry about diseases. It still works very well in 5-man levelling dungeons. In fact, howling blast on trash packs is a wonderful thing, and overall the rotation was pleasing and easy to maintain! For questing with normal mobs, all you do is drop off your mount, preferably next to one mob while you death grip another to you. make sure they're both in front of you, howling blast, obliterate, frost strike if full of rp, and obliterate/FS until they're dead. There's a good chance you won't even need to use your blood runes, but if you do you can toss a few blood strikes in there.

2. Stick with an area till it's done. Technically, you can go to Deepholm when you hit 82, but if you're not done with Hyjal/Vashjir, I recommend staying until you have the loremaster achievement. Do the same thing in each zone. Several reasons for this: quests are linear, and quest rewards get better later in chains. Also, you want to get as much 'free' (non-grinding) rep for each faction as you can.

3. Find each of the 5-man instances as early as possible, and run each of them at least once. First, they're fun! Also, as you enter each of them, there are a number of quests just inside. These have nice xp and often item rewards. Finally, you'll get familiar with each of them before you come back on heroic difficulty, and it will help you a great deal to know what to expect. Many people have written that it's not efficient to level by farming 5-mans and they're right. If you really love instances, feel free, but running them over and over is a slow way to level, especially if you're not using rest.

4. Keep every meat drop you get. Eventually you'll use the meat for cooking (or if you refuse to cook, sell/donate it, but do not vendor it). Especially crocolisk tails. This meat is used for the best individual buff food for dps DKs. Side note: the best place I've found to farm this is next to the Tol Barad keep in the swamp. Any other suggestions? There are lisks up and down the banks of the river in Uldum, but they're farther apart.

5. Buy the highest speed mount you can afford. Travelling fast has always been and always will be the biggest boon to levelling. And if it feels expensive, it's really not too bad. From 80-85, if you have nice big bags to allow you to vendor greys, keep boe greens for disenchanting, and so on, you can easily make 5-10k gold! I had 7 thousand more gold at 80 than 85, and that doesn't include enchant mats or my mining. I leveled fast, and sold the first 20-30 stacks of each or I got in part to make even more gold, which I did. Even now, where there are plenty of gatherers out there, you'll make plenty of cash if you level a gathering skill (side note again: I'm dropping mining to level LW this weekend). Random thought #5 could easily turn into its own post about making gold, but suffice it to say that you'll make plenty of money while levelling, so don't be shy spending it!

6. Get ready to raid! You can do this even as you level. By doing the daily level-appropriate 5-man, you'll be getting justice points. If you're maxed out, buy gear and stockpile it for when you're 85.
    6a. Level professions. If you're on Elitist Jerks, you know that JC/LW are the 'ideal' way to go, but most professions have something to offer. Level them as quickly as you can so that by the time you're raiding, you can have one or two nice epics to go with your justice and heroic gear to help you succeed in that first 10-man. JC gives a nice trinket that's worth using, and of course LW allows you to do leg and bracer enchants.
   6b. Grind reputations. If you're questing, finish off each zone. You'll get really nice reputation for questing for each faction. While most factions have something worthwhile, in particular you'll need:
        -Therazane. They're your Hodir as many have said; your shoulder enchant unless you're an inscriptionist. They're easy to max. Unlock their dailies via questing in Deepholm, then do the dailies. DON'T wear their tabard; I was exalted with them three days into the expac following the above. The shoulder enchant is pretty cheap - buy several and put it on every upgrade once you hit 85.
        -Wildhammer. They're your dps head enchant. It will take a little longer, but I recommend doing their dailies (in northern Twilight Highlands) and not wearing their tabard either. Why? Because...
        -Ramkahen is probably your other most important rep. The epic neck you get from them at exalted will last you until heroics in Tier 11. Right now there is only one daily, so as soon as you get enough rep from questing in Uldum, get their tabard and wear it.
    The other reputations aren't as important, as they can offer some decent stuff, but none of it will last that long, so feel free to level them at your leisure.

Once you're 85, do both the normal and heroic daily. If you're having trouble with heroics, do normal 5-mans until you have enough justice points for a few items - it won't take long. Heroics can - as has already been written about many times - be very challenging, with raid-like mechanics, but with familiarity, gear, and practice, they're all very doable.

It may take a little time, but you're goal should be the achievement Cataclysmically Superior (blue superior item in every slot). I got mine just yesterday, and am now officially ready for raiding!

Good luck to all in leveling and preparing for raids!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cataclysmic Week

No, the week was not a catastrophe for Hine.
Ironic, that Azeroth's loss has been our gain.
Regardless, the past week has been one of entering new territory, seeing it, and conquering it (and being conquered, over and over).

No, I didn't blog this week, the first week of Cataclysm, I played the game.
A lot.
I will plan to write a bit about leveling a DK in the near future. Suffice it to say for now that
1) leveling as Frost works like a charm. I'm sure it would generally be just fine as Unholy, less so as Blood but still feasible.
2) While predictions were as low as 9 hours for leveling to 85, without the benefit of being in the beta, a more reasonable estimate for most folks is probably in the ballpark of 20-24 hours. With rest and less bottlenecking it may be shorter.

I did, however, post in various forums about my experiences. So, I decided to paste a few of them here to give you a few reflections on the Cataclysm experience so far.

WARNING: There are some very minor spoilers in here. I'll try to keep them to somewhat of a minimum, or at least cryptic, but if you don't want to know anything about what's ahead, don't read. :)

On the question of How goes the leveling? (late Tuesday):
"I did NOT get any server firsts, as my lack of beta access clearly bit me in the butt from the start. The bottleneck quests in Hyjal quickly became a nightmare as dozens camped specific spawns, and then in Deepholme, when I simply couldn't figure out a few quests. In any case, once I relaxed I had a good time, hit 85 4th for DKs on the server and messed around with professions. Made about 18k from mining so far, hope to finish up about 30-40k more before I start my own JC leveling.
The zones are beautiful, and I thought the questing in Uldum was superb. TwiHi wasn't as bad as many said (in terms of mobs hitting hard) and almost all of my gear was replaced by 85 (only things left are helm and Shadowmourne). Awesome trinkets from quests. I though Hyjal was too bottlenecked for release, and Vashj is pretty but slow and too distracted (side quests all over). As good as it is, Uldum could be renamed 'cut scene zone.'

I've done almost all the 5-mans and they're a blast.

Hope you're all having fun. Good night!"

"Cindermaul was an example of a quest that should never, never, never be repeated.

I was stuck for 45 min on that one despite the fact that I was in a 5-man the whole time.

We got fed up of being ganked by hordies after the first 5 min and enjoyed killing the 'top' guild over and over and over after that.

By the way, on that and several like it, aoe does not tag the mob. After we finally figured it out, I macroed the mob name and howling blasted like a mother and got that one and the next pretty fast."

On the guild leveling issues:
"Fun in't it?

We had our guild xp reset several times, so we've made level 2 at least three times, only to get it put back to 1. ;("
On the difficulty of Cataclysm heroics:
"Pugging can be pretty rough. I don't think I've fully completed a heroic in a full pug. It can certainly be frustrating to spend 2-4 hours wiping over and over on a 5 man boss!

This is where we say be careful what we ask for!
We asked for more difficult content. We asked for cc to count. We asked for non-faceroll challenges, and here we go.
Even the lowest level of multiplayer content is now challenging. In current gear. It will be faceroll easy very soon for raiders.
OTOH, I personally have found them quite refreshing and enjoyable. I've heard and even said a few times that many of the 5-man bosses actually have raid-like mechanics and require players to actually utilize raid-like strategies and awareness. It's been great learning these. I've completed almost all of them on heroic now - as I said, always with at least one guildie with me - and it's been a blast.
If you do have trouble with a specific fight and don't want to read forums or wikis, feel free to post and I'll help when I can."
On the 'New Healing' (in which the OP expressed frustration in general but also that dps that don't self-heal may not get heals from him/her):
"Early early early.

I've already notice regular 5-mans getting easier. I think it will be a pretty fast progression to heroics being easymode too.

Just like dps, where so far I'm barely cracking 10k in 5-mans (and no dps I've been with has). Our crit is horrid, we aren't hit capped, etc. These things will ramp up really really quickly and at least in 5-mans, mana will be less of an issue fast. In raids? It will/should (I hope) take a little more time.
As a dps, I have to take issue with your assessment though. You obviously have to triage, but forcing dps to self heal - except in emergencies - is a waste of our resources. My self heal is a rather weak death strike. Even 'per mana' your heals are far far more efficient. My assessment would be: don't try to keep dps topped off (try to keep them alive) If they pull aggro or don't avoid damage they should be avoiding - then let them die. Of course, if you're oom, then of course you have to self heal and tank heal first, but don't simply refuse to heal dps if they 'aren't' self-healing...."
"I know Xxxx wasn't saying he wouldn't heal dps.

And I'm not advocating healing stupid.

Just tonight, while healing Throne (on my shammy), the same hunter stood in green three times.

I didn't heal him the third time.

Yes, healers are having to smite/shock/whatever to have the best mana management right now. And it's hard.

So dps need to not make it more difficult.

I should leave it at that, but I won't.

Saying dps self-healing is the cutting edge? Not really. You know that I do what I can to mitigate damage. Like knowing when to ams and running out, etc. But a Death Strike, just one, fucks me for the rest of the fight by throwing off rune pairs. It's a really really crappy heal, and it's going to make the whole fight last longer (oooh, and require more healing/mana from the healers) because my dps will drop significantly. That's the opposite of the current game mechanics that require a healer to dps to be effective. If I self heal, I'm drastically decreasing my effectiveness over the fight.

Does that mean you won't see DS on my logs? By no means. I'm well aware of the correct order of things. If the whole group is low and about to die, healer self-heal, then tank, then dps. SO I'll bandage, DS, or whatever I can. Don't worry. And of course I'm well aware of dead dps don't. So I prefer to dps by staying alive, just that self-healing is really truly only an emergency thing to do for dps, while dps is part of the current plan for healers."

On our log of Blackrock raid (we did kill the Tol Barad boss earlier):
"I looked over the logs last night and quickly noted a few things:

1) dps is decent. Could be a little better but already on target.

2) Players in general lasted reasonably long into the encounter, particular in the latter half of our 23 recorded attempts, but at that point healers often tended to be the first to die. Not sure what to think of that.

3) Interrupts of the arcane dude are crucial and we did much better on that. However, every dps that can interrupt, should. I saw zero interrupts from one of our shammies.

4) I personally took a lot of damage (behind the tanks), but I lasted long enough, often to tank a boss for a few seconds and had only one bad death in the last 10 attempts. But I will still look at taking less damage.

5) I think we can still do better with that aoe fire attack from magnotron - trying to keep him still and all players finding the safe 'lanes' to sit in.

side note: I love the trinket (I got the boe epic Fury of Angerforge), but until it's fixed it's probably not better than the blue trink I had before. Even going back to dual-wielding didn't seem to help much. I commented on wowhead about this under 'Hirohubris.'"

All in all, a fantastic week!
More to follow. ;)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Cataclysm Eve!

To all you EU players out there: less than 8 hours till launch!
To all of us US players, tonight is your night, bro! (hurrah for ancient Schwarzenegger/DeVito references)

I know we're all excited, and, I hope, prepared.
I've talked about my preparation several times, so the tl:dr version now is:

I'm frost 2H for leveling; one can pretty much howling blast/obliterate/frost strike spam everything that's non-elite, at least until Uldum/Twi Hi

I have my flasks and food prepared.

I will mine when I can, but my primary goal is leveling, so you will likely not see another post here, nor will I level cooking, rep, or anything else until I'm 85. Once I'm there, I'll have the remainder of the week to work on those things.

Good luck all, have fun, and See you on the Other Side!