Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's Tool Time!

Let's talk about low level dungeon running in World of Warcraft.

Specifically, a comment was brought up in the last post, talking about low level dungeons: Christina brought up that "When you're absent many of your key tools at a low level, you're really not learning your role at all."

I talked about dungeon running at low levels, and the abuse we could heap upon players to make them act the way we wanted them to - and I feel like that particular comment needed to be addressed. 

For this discussion, we'll drag Caluna back out here - only she's gotten a tad camera shy, so you'll have to forgive her choice of apparel.

So, Caluna here is level 23 now. I'll confess to you, I cheated - she gained a whole level doing a bunch of the current Cataclysm pre-release event quests.

But, level 23 doesn't offer you much in the way of a spell book. In fact, looking up at the screenshot above, you'll see a bunch of buttons, a few empty spots, and more buttons off to the side.

Using the default UI, I like to keep my main action bar for abilities I use most frequently - there's Power Word: Shield at the 2 key, Renew at the 3 key, Flash Heal at 4. Way over to the right, you'll see what I call my "Panic Button" set - Cure Disease is something I need to think about using - as well as Psychic Scream. Gift of the Naaru and Lifebloom are my panic heals, when things have gotten so frantic, I am scrambling to throw whatever heal I can to keep as many people alive as possible. 

Not necessarily a pretty set up; but functional and clean.

Now, let's take a quick waltz through Cal's spellbook, and take a good solid look at what she has available to her:

This is her Discipline spellbook - the abilities that are grayed out, I cannot learn until it says so.

This is her Holy spellbook. If you wanna feel less nerdy for reading a blog about dungeon running, call it a playbook. Pretend you're John Madden!

Finally, this is her shadow spellbook. I'm linking it for completion and also because pictures are pretty.

I want you to look at all this, not because I spent a million hours in MS Paint blacking out people's names in trade chat, but because you don't get much of an idea of what you're supposed to do - or HOW you're supposed to do it - with such a limited tool set unless you know the general principle behind the class.

In our case, Caluna is a Discipline Priest. As far as I understand it; a Disco Priest is about "Preventative Maintenance" - if making the little bar go to the right is good, making the little bar NOT GO LEFT AT ALL must be better!

(This is horribly simplified because I am a bad Disco Priest.)

A large change made in the recent patch 4.0.1 has governed how classes choose their roles - when you pick a skill tree, you are THERE until you pay in game currency to "reskill" yourself, spending your talent points differently. At a low level, you find yourself thinking about what and how you'll do things - or maybe you pick something because it sounds neat - or maybe you see that you get LOTS of passive talents, and a few special skills and they sound like that'd be useful.

Well, for a Discipline Priest, when you hit level ten, you're granted with a spell known as Penance.

Penance, as I am unable to link the Wowhead tool tip because I fail the internet forever, can heal friendly targets, or hurt enemy targets. It's a channeled spell, which means you can't cast anything else while said spell is in use. (In the above screen shots, Penance is set to number 6)

I don't have a whole lot to work with here!

However, with a little bit of playing about, and reading the in-game description of the class ("Uses magic to shield allies from taking damage as well as heal their wounds.") I can look at my abilities and figure out how they go together.

Renew is a "Heal over Time" (HoT) spell that can be used to help a player recover a bit of life when they aren't being abused too much.

Flash Heal is my current "big heal" - it has a couple second cast time, meaning, you'll find yourself unable to cast anything else before you heal someone for a sizable chunk of their life bar.

Power Word: Shield is an Absorption shield - the damage the player who has been shielded would take is instead ate by the shield. 

In a five man dungeon at level 23, my priority will be to shield anybody taking damage - in theory, this will be the tank.

To avoid taking aggro early on, I want to shield the tank BEFORE the tank gets to the enemies. 

If I don't want to rebubble the tank - or, perhaps, the enemies are dying fast enough that if the bubble breaks, and the tank takes a bit of damage, it's okay - I can then throw Renew on the tank. If I lose focus, and the tank takes a lot of damage - or perhaps, pulls more than can be handled, I can then charge up to use Flash Heal, pulling the tank's life bar back up.

I know a fair bit about other classes - if a warlock is low on mana, I can throw a Renew their way, and they can Life Tap without worry - sacrificing HP for MP, knowing the HoT I've put on them will bring their life bar back up.

I'm not a new player. I don't know if a new player would sit and think about their tools - a new player sure as heck may not know what tools other players have available to them. 

But! Instead of being handed a full toolbox, I'm being given a hammer, a saw, and some nails. 

PW: Shield stays a static part of any Disco Priest's tool box all the way to the end game (and probably into Cataclysm's end game as well!) - this is my hammer. I can not be a successful carpenter without my hammer - but, I can't be a successful carpenter unless I know how to use my hammer! 

The early tools may not let me know how I'm going to play Caluna at level 85. The early tools may not let me know how I'm going to play Caluna at level 25! But, by thinking critically of what I'm doing, by looking at what I've got in my toolbox/spell book/play book, I can be a better player, even at low levels.

And good habits - in work and in play - are best learned early on.

Hastily Added Post Script of Zero Promises: I'll try and get an "In Action" screen shot this week to showcase what it is I'm looking at during a dungeon, to try and explain what I'm doing and why - ideally, this would be posted Saturday or Sunday, so please check back!


  1. This is so good! It's so helpful, I think, to see things from an entry perspective: you don't every Fantastic Spell of Fabulousness; instead, you have to be *smart*. And you've done that admirably!

  2. Good article essence. However, we learn more from criticism than praise, so!

    Your formatting needs work, as does your idea organization. You start out saying, "Let's talk about low level dungeon running in World of Warcraft," but your article is actually you working out how priests work in general.

    When discussing specifics, you'll want to look at mana efficiency, as that is a big part of how the game changes a healer's tactics from 10 to 80. How that correlates to spellpower in particular is pretty important. How a low level priest uses Renew ends up being dramatically different from how a high level druid does.

    You don't have to go into numbers - I think that would kill the jovial, chatty appeal - but you should highlight all the areas that form the basics of what people need to think about.

    I enjoy being called a Disco Priest. :)

  3. I reserve the right to learn how to write.

    I've gone from blogging NEVER to three decent length blog posts (of dubious quality) in two months - there's going to be growing pains.

    As for the actual commentary: I don't know healing at 80. I kinda know healing at 23.

    So; come with me, on my failboat cruise through the River of Puggy Pete's Tears over priests rolling Need on shields. A massive neckbeard, a sock full of poop, and a link to Elitist Jerks will be our Emerald City.

  4. If you'd like me to knock off the criticism, just let me know and I will. I don't intend to be ARARARARAR DOING IT WRONG.