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Mistweaver 101: Back to Basics

December 17, 2013

MW Basics

Hello there Mistweavers and future Mistweaver converts! As I scoured the internet for resources, I noticed that the vast majority of Mistweaver material out there is either woefully outdated or geared toward players who already know the class fairly well. There are guides about how to maximize your output in cutting edge progression, but relatively few that discuss how to get started with the class.

In light of that, today’s post will be an exploration of the basics of Mistweaver healing. This is intended to be an overview that should hopefully get you started with a new Mistweaver alt or a level 90 Monk who hasn’t had a chance to try our awesome healing spec yet.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading the first post in this series on Chi & Mana management. Because our interaction with our resources is so essential for Mistweaver gameplay, it’s important to have an understanding of how Chi & Mana work before moving on to spells.

The Basics

Mistweavers are relatively mobile healers who use two resources, Mana and Chi, to heal their targets. Our heals excel in fights that require a group to be spread out, because our primary healing spells are not area-of-effect abilities (as opposed to a Resto Druid’s Efflorescence, for example). We use leather Intellect gear and can equip either a staff or a one-hand weapon and an off-hand. Spirit is generally less of a concern for Mistweaver Monks than for other healers because Mistweavers rely heavily on our Mana Tea ability to regenerate Mana in combat.

Stance, Statue, & Buff

While it is obviously difficult to discuss a “healing rotation” for any healing spec, let alone for Mistweavers, there are a few things we should remember to do in all situations:

Stance of the Wise Serpent Stance of the Wise Serpent is our healing stance.

Wise Serpent converts our Energy to Mana and allows the use of the majority of our healing spells.  It also increases our healing done, our haste, and makes it possible for us to effectively deal melee damage.  You should always be in this stance as a Mistweaver.

jade serpent statue Jade Serpent Statue should be placed in an area where it will be able to heal the majority of your group.

Unless you are anticipating a very short fight before you move on (i.e. trash packs), you will want to summon your Jade Serpent Statue to help you heal.  The statue has a 30 second cooldown before you can summon it again, it lasts for 15 minutes, and it can target any friendly players within 40 yards.  Summoning the statute is free, so you don’t have to worry about wasting Mana on it if you need to move it during the course of a fight.

Your statue interacts with your melee damage (as we will discuss in the Fistweaving post) and it also will channel Soothing Mist on an injured target anytime that you are channeling Soothing Mist. The statue’s version of Soothing Mist is a “smart heal,” meaning that it will automatically choose an injured party member to heal.  It can heal the same target that you are actively healing, but it does not necessarily do so. You cannot control which person in your party the statue heals.

The statue will continue to heal the same party member for as long as you channel Soothing Mist and will not choose a new target unless you begin your channel again.  For example, if I channel Soothing Mists on my tank and the statue decides to heal me, it will continue to heal me for the duration of my channel or until I cancel it.  If instead I channel Soothing Mist on my tank for a few seconds and then switch to channel it on a DPS, the statue will also select a new target at that time.

Legacy of the Emperor Legacy of the Emperor is the Mistweaver’s group-wide buff.

Legacy of the Emperor increases Strength, Agility, and Intellect by 5%.  This is the same buff as Blessing of Kings and Gift of the Wild, so it will not stack with either of those.  If someone in your group asks to be buffed with stats, Kings, Mark, or paw, they are asking you to cast this buff.

Generating and Spending Chi

By far, the biggest difference between Mistweavers and all other healers is our interaction with and use of our dual healing resources – Mana and Chi.

As a Mistweaver, you essentially have 2 types of abilities:

  • Spells that cost Mana and generate Chi
  • Spells that cost Chi

At max level, you will usually use these abilities, which cost Mana, to generate Chi:

Soothing Mist Soothing Mist is a long, channeled spell that heals for a moderate amount. Each tick has a 30% chance to generate 1 Chi.
Renewing Mists Renewing Mists is a heal-over-time that spreads to a total of 3 targets and always generates 1 Chi when cast.
Surging Mist Surging Mist is a large, expensive heal that generates 1 Chi and becomes an instant-cast if we cast it while we are channeling Soothing Mist.
Expel harm Expel Harm is a self-heal that you should use anytime you are below 100% health, and which generates 1 Chi.
Jab Jab is a melee ability that strikes your target for a small amount of damage and generates 1 Chi.

At max level, you will usually use these abilities to spend Chi:

uplift Uplift is large instant heal that will affect anyone who currently has Renewing Mists on them and costs 2 Chi.
thunder focus tea Thunder Focus Tea can be used once every 45 seconds, costs 1 Chi, and buffs either Surging Mist or Uplift, depending upon how it is used.
spell_monk_envelopingmist Enveloping Mist is a powerful heal-over-time that costs 3 Chi and increases the healing done by Soothing Mist by 30%.
Tiger Palm Tiger Palm is a melee ability that costs 1 Chi and strikes the target for a moderate amount of damage.
Blackout Kick Blackout Kick is a melee ability that costs 2 Chi and strikes the target for a moderate amount of damage.

You will notice that the spells listed above are a mix of both targeted healing spells and melee abilities.  This is because Mistweavers are capable of healing through their damaging attacks, based upon a passive ability called Eminence.  This style of healing, which is referred to as “Fistweaving,” is an important part of our toolkit.  Fistweaving will be covered in depth in an upcoming Mistweaver 101 guide, so we will only touch upon it briefly here.  For now, it is simply important to remember that your melee abilities can generate and consume Chi just like your healing spells do.

Basic Healing Rotation

The following is a very basic set of priorities for healing in a dungeon or raid setting. We will cover both dungeon and raid healing, including introducing Fistweaving into your rotation, in upcoming posts.

  1. Keep Renewing Mists Renewing Mists on your tank.
  2. Use uplift Uplift if multiple players need to be healed.
  3. Cast Surging Mist Surging Mist on anyone who needs to be quickly healed to full.
  4. Use thunder focus tea Thunder Focus Tea on cooldown to either refresh the duration of Renewing Mists Renewing Mists on everyone who currently has the buff, or to double the healing of your next Surging Mist Surging Mist.
  5. Use Expel harm Expel Harm anytime you are below 100% health.
  6. Use spell_monk_envelopingmist Enveloping Mist on your tank if they are taking a large amount of sustained damage or if you need to spend excess Chi.
  7. Channel Soothing Mist Soothing Mist on your tank or on any player who is currently taking damage.
  8. Channel mana tea Mana Tea to replenish your mana as needed.

Above all else, remember that you should always be generating and spending Chi. There is rarely a reason to allow your character to keep Chi for extended time periods, and there is almost never a reason to sit with 4 Chi.  Chi should be spent as quickly as it is generated.

Up Next:  Spell Breakdown

The next post in this series will breakdown the spells discussed above in greater detail.  It will be a slightly more advanced post, targeted to players who really want to get the most out of each of their healing spells and understand how they interact with one another.

Mistweaver 101: Chi & Mana

December 16, 2013

MW Resources

A funny thing happened when I tried to write the much requested “Basics of Mistweaving” post – I realized I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t write a “basics” post because the most basic, most important thing about learning how to Mistweave isn’t a list of spells or a discussion of stat weights or anything like that.  It’s one deceptively simple idea to which you must absolutely subscribe before you can go any further:

The most important thing that you do as a Mistweaver is generate and spend Chi.

Read that sentence a few times and let it settle into your brain.  As backwards as it may seem, this is why we are starting with an overview of Mistweaver resource management before we get into a discussion of the basic spells that we use to heal.  Unlike every other healing class in the game, Mistweavers’ most important mini-game isn’t the one that they play with green health bars on their healing UI; it’s the game they play with the management of their own resources.

In order to get the most value out of Mistweaving (and to do so without running out of Mana), it is essential to constantly generate and spend Chi while you are healing.  Seasoned healers may remember the old rule of “always be casting.”  This Mistweaver Golden Rule is similar.  Regardless of whether damage is actively going out during a fight, we should still always be generating and spending Chi in order to gain charges of Mana Tea, which is arguably the most important spell we have.  But we’ll come back to Mana Tea in a moment – we need to talk about Chi first.

Generating and Spending Chi

All Monks have Chi, which is a combo point system that is somewhat similar to a Paladin’s Holy Power.  Your Chi is stored on your character and not on an enemy target.  Chi does not deplete while you are in combat, but it does slowly deplete once you leave combat.   Monks can have a maximum of 4 Chi at any time.  While it is possible to have 5 Chi if you take the level 45 Ascension talent, Mistweavers rarely choose this for reasons we will soon discuss.

As a Mistweaver, you essentially have 2 types of abilities:

  • Spells that cost Mana and generate Chi
  • Spells that cost Chi

Mistweavers’ spells cost either Mana or Chi.  Most healing spells that cost Mana will generate Chi.  (The exceptions to this rule are your major cooldown spells, which cost Mana but do not generate Chi.)

Because your most powerful heals cost Chi, it is essential that you are using spells which will generate this resource.  That means you will be spending much of your Mana not on exceptionally powerful healing spells, but instead on generating Chi.  This is a pretty big paradigm shift from what most healers will be used to, but it is absolutely essential that you understand this point.  For most healers, Mana is their most important resource.  For Monks, Mana is really only important in that it helps you get more Chi.

To really buy-in to the style of Mistweaver healing, you need to look at that blue Mana bar and think of it as completely expendable.  This can be challenging for seasoned healers who are used to becoming progressively more conservative with their healing as they see their mana dip below 50%.  Mistweaving plays to a very aggressive style of healing, in which you are constantly burning through large chunks of your Mana, and then getting a huge percentage of it back when you use Mana Tea.

Mana Tea

Each Monk spec has a specialized brew, and Mana Tea is the Mistweaver beverage of choice.  Each time you spend 4 Chi, you will generate 1 charge of Mana Tea.  Mana Tea will show up as a buff on your character and you can have up to 20 charges at a time.  Those charges will persist through death, which can be a huge help if you need to be battle-rezed during a fight.  The charges will reset when you begin a raid boss encounter, however, so there is no point in trying to stack them prior to a pull.

Mana Tea also interacts with your Critical Strike rating.  Each time you generate a stack of Mana Tea, you have a chance equal to your crit chance to generate double the Mana Tea charges.  In plain language, that means that if you have a 50% crit chance, then each time you spend 4 Chi, you have a 50% chance to gain 2 stacks of Mana Tea instead of 1.

The one other way that Mistweavers can generate stacks of Mana Tea is by using the level 45 talent Chi Brew.  Since 5.4, Chi Brew is largely seen as a “mandartory” talent for Mistweaver Monks.  Chi Brew has 2 charges, and for each charge it will give you 2 Chi and 2 stacks of Mana Tea.  Each charge has a 45 second cooldown.  You can use the charges back to back and you will have 1 charge back again after 45 seconds, and a second charge will return an additional 45 seconds after that.  This talent is considered mandatory for Mistweavers because the on-demand stacks of Mana Tea and the burst healing that 2 guaranteed Chi can provide makes it superior to the other choices in that talent tier.

But what does Mana Tea actually do and how do you use it?  Mana Tea is a channeled spell that restores 4% of your maximum Mana for every 0.5 seconds that you cast it (or 8% of your Mana per second, for those who prefer nice round numbers).

Let’s go over that again.  Mana Tea gives you back 8% of your Mana for every 1 second you channel it.  That is a TON of Mana in a really short time period, and this is exactly why Mana is a much more expendable resource for Mistweavers than for any other healer.

When we were all first learning about Mistweavers, many people compared Mana Tea to a Potion of Focus.  While this is a helpful comparison in some ways, it is also important to understand why Mana Tea is significantly different and stronger.  A Potion of Focus requires you to find 10 seconds of a fight during which your character can remain completely still so that she will get the full duration of the effect and regain the maximum possible amount of mana.  If you have to cancel that channel early for one reason or another – well, tough cookies.  You now can’t use a potion for the rest of the fight and you didn’t get the full Mana you could have out of the potion you did use.

While Mana Tea also requires you to stand still and channel a spell to return mana, unlike the Potion of Focus you do not lose any charges of Mana Tea if you interrupt the spell before you consume all your current charges.  This means that you can use Mana Tea at any time for as long as you want and there is no punishment for having to cancel the channel.  Getting pretty low on Mana and you’re able to stand still for a few seconds?  Channel for as long as you can and you’ll get nearly all of your Mana back.  Have to run because a boss ability has randomly selected you as its target?  That’s Ok!  Just run off to a safe spot and start drinking your Mana Tea again when you’re able to.  Mana Tea is extremely versatile and because the amount of time you need to channel to get back a huge portion of your Mana is so small, it is much easier to sneak it into your rotation than you would expect.

In Practice

All this is why Mana (and by extension, Spirit) is such a minor concern for Mistweaver Monks.  We go through our entire Mana pool multiple times during a boss fight and not only is that perfectly Ok – it’s how we manage to be effective healers.  We are balanced around that very notion.  For a real example, in a recent 9.5 minute Heroic Immerseus kill, the Holy Paladin in our raid group regained about 200,000 Mana over the course of the fight.  From Mana Tea alone, I regained more than 750,000 Mana in the same span of time.  So if I include the 300,000 Mana that I would have started out with at the pull, that means I could have gone through my entire Mana pool 3.5 times during that fight.

Mana is expendable.  It’s only important to you as the primary way you get more Chi.

At the start of a dungeon or boss encounter, there isn’t usually a lot of healing to be done.  Damage generally ramps up over the course of the fight.  So for most healers, this means that you have some time after the pull to either do a little DPS or perhaps get some shields rolling on your team, depending upon what class you play.

For Mistweavers, that downtime is when we need to build up some stacks of Mana Tea to hold in reserve.  Whether we generate Chi by running into melee and Fistweaving at the start of the fight or by intentionally overhealing the raid, it is important that we start spending that Mana and Chi as early as possible so that we’ll have a few stacks of Mana Tea when we really need them later in the fight.  Upcoming posts will go into greater detail as to how we go about this.

Optional Reading:  Why We Don’t Glyph Mana Tea

I’ve written about Mana management once before and at that time I discussed the benefits of the Mana Tea Glyph.  This glyph makes Mana Tea an instant ability that consumes 2 stacks at a time to give you back 8% of your Mana.  It also gives Mana Tea a 10 second cooldown.  Since Patch 5.4, this glyph is really no longer viable for Mistweavers.  Because our Crit rating can now give us extra stacks of Mana Tea and because Chi Brew is essentially mandatory, we will generate stacks of Mana Tea too quickly to be able to consume if we are using the glyph.

Next Up: Back to Basics

The next Mistweaver 101 post will actually be the basics guide that so many have requested.  I apologize for this long segue at the beginning of the series, but as I explained at the top of the post, understanding how your resources function is really at the heart of being a Mistweaver Monk.  Please don’t hesitate to ask questions or comment on the blog, via email, or on Twitter.

Mistweaver 101: Introduction

December 15, 2013

For those who follow me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been talking a bit about just how much I love the Mistweaver healing style lately.  To expand upon what I said there, I appreciate just how much effort obviously went into crafting a healing spec that truly feels like it is the next logical step for a team of class designers who have experienced 9 years of growth.  It feels like Healing+ to me, which isn’t meant to diminish any of the other healing specs so much as to point out that Mistweavers specifically and monks generally had the benefit of years of design experience without being hampered by any preexisting notions of what this new class “should be.”

It’s challenging, and it has a resource meta game unlike what any other healing class has right now.  There are many risk versus reward decisions that can really set apart a competent Mistweaver from a highly skilled one.

But before we get into any of the finer points of endgame Mistweaver awesomeness, we need to cover the basics.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting several guides for people who are interested in breaking into Mistweaver healing for the first time.  Most of these will be entry level, meaning they will be abbreviation-free and explanation heavy.

I intend to cover my UI setup, including the WeakAuras that I use to make my life a lot easier.  I will certainly discuss leveling as a Mistweaver, and specifically “fistweaving” versus traditional healing.  There will be some detailed information about the Mistweaver resource meta game once we get to level 90 content.  I may also do a live stream at some point to answer questions and demonstrate some of these ideas in action.

But in the meantime, I need some input from those of you who read this blog.  What questions do you have about Mistweaver healing?  What problems have you run into along the way?  What aspects of the spec just really stump or confuse you?  Any and all Mistweaver questions are welcome and appreciated.  Please post them here as a comment, email me, or send me a tweet.

I’ll do my best to fold all the questions I get into my upcoming posts, which will all be tagged with the “Mistweaver 101″ category and title.

Rules of Engagement – A Primer for Discussing Sexism in WoW

November 20, 2013
Jaina does her best Cheris Kramarae impression.

Jaina does her best Cheris Kramarae impression.

Part of being a community is sharing a common interest, language, set of ideals, and at least a basic understanding of how the community communicates.  To be a part of the Warcraft community, you probably need to know something about World of Warcraft.  If someone were to write a blog post discussing “those hobbits that live in Silverforge” or “that soothsayer who played a support role in our 35 man mission last night,” it would be immediately clear to the Warcraft community that the blogger doesn’t actually understand that much about WoW.  We speak the same language and we have a common set of rules for engagement with one another.

Because the WoW community is so large and so expansive after 9 years, it has naturally developed some subgroups along the way.  Theorycrafters, RPers,and PvPers have specific language and tools that they use.  If you are not initiated into or familiar with these communities, you probably aren’t going to have the language or tools you need to engage in a meaningful conversation with them.  Imagine attempting to dispute a theorycrafter who has done extensive math to figure out whether one trinket is better than another trinket in a certain fight for certain classes, but not actually understanding any of the underlying math that supports their conclusion.  Most people wouldn’t do it, and those who would are either trolls or well aware that their path was fraught with peril.  A pretty basic rule of any communication, particularly any type of critique, is to know where the conversation stands and how we got to where we are now.  Rule #1 before writing any sort of research paper or critical analysis is to “know the conversation.”

If one wants to join an existing conversation but has not yet been “initiated” into that particular subgroup’s existing language and framework, that’s Ok!  We need more theorycrafters.  We need more RPers.  We need more PvPers.  AND we need more people who want to talk about sexism as it pertains to World of Warcraft.  But to step into a conversation with no knowledge of its history or the rules that frame it is a bit like walking into a room where a bunch of people have been talking long before you got there and saying, “Yeah, but here’s what I think.”  Without having heard the parts of the conversation that came before, and without asking anyone to help you get caught up, you are speaking with a complete lack of context and perspective on what’s going on.  It’s uninformed at best and rude at worst.

As a woman and a feminist who loves to play World of Warcraft, I’m really happy to see so many people taking this opportunity to voice their thoughts on character representation in WoW.  Unfortunately, I am also incredibly disheartened to see so many voices joining the conversation without having the respect to learn some of the rules of the engagement for feminist discourse first, and even lobbing some criticism at the feminist movement in general that hasn’t been relevant in at least 20 or 30 years now.  You wouldn’t go to Icy Veins and tell them that their understanding of how to gem and enchant a resto shaman is wrong without knowing a good deal about resto shaman.  You wouldn’t tell an experienced RPer that their character’s backstory breaks lore without knowing something about lore.  You wouldn’t tell a ranked arena player that they should use their trinket at a different point in the match unless you had done quite a lot of PvP yourself.  Likewise, it is unreasonable and unfair to attempt to refute a feminist critical analysis of WoW without actually understanding that analysis.  Nor are discussions of sexism in WoW an excuse to declare open season on all feminist discourse throughout history.

People like Apple Cider Mage, who discuss sexism in WoW regularly, are often good enough to provide newcomers with a list of resources to get them started in the conversation.  If you want to talk about sexism in WoW, you should at least know what things like derailment, privilege, and internalized sexism are.  There are plenty of internet resources out there that will provide you with a basic knowledge of these concepts, and attempting to enter into a feminist discussion without that knowledge is very much like stepping into a raid instance with ungemmed and unenchanted gear.  You don’t do it.

All of this is not meant to sound overly academic or time-consuming.  You can have great conversations about sexism even if you’ve never taken a course on the subject or written a paper from a feminist perspective.  But if you respect the people in the conversation and respect the work that they have already done up to this point, it is absolutely your job to understand the basics before you decide to add in your own thoughts.  Go ahead, read the resources on Apple Cider Mage’s blog, at the very least the Feminism 101 post.

Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

So now that you have an understanding of the basics, we can talk about the problems with the counterarguments being thrown around.  I’ll get the easy ones out of the way first.

If your first reaction to a woman who sends out an alarm on Twitter asking other women to be careful because a few of her friends were roofied at a bar near the con is to call this an “unsubstantiated twitter accusation,”  you are participating in rape culture.  You are insisting that it makes more sense to assume that the woman on Twitter is lying or exaggerating what happened to her friends rather than being willing to believe that the use of drugs like GHB is perfectly common and likely during a gathering where many inebriated strangers are hanging around near plenty of hotel rooms.  Don’t do that!

If you believe that feminists should refer to themselves as “equalists” because you believe this better conveys the desire for equality between the sexes (rather than – I don’t even know what you’re going for here – assuming that all feminists are man-hating, misandrist, feminazis?), then what are you actually describing is not a feminist, but a “straw feminist.”  Describing feminists as universally man-hating, angry, and wanting to put women above men is a form of derailment.  The notion that “equalist” wouldn’t be a redundant term for most feminists demonstrates a willingness to make judgments about the community without actually getting to know it at all.

(Additionally, suggesting that it’s silly to insist on women’s representation in WoW because Garona was a product of rape and we should really want to change her story first ignores plenty of discussions the community has already had about the prominence of rape in WoW’s story up to this point.  Bringing up the problematic aspects of Garona’s history is a good thing!  Assuming that no one else is talking about it and holding it against the community – not so good.)

If your entire post consistently refers to women as “females” (or worse, “girls”) then just know that we’re probably going to read the word “females” in the Ferengi voice and assume that you mean it with the same disdain they did.  Generally in feminist discourse, “female” is used as an adjective and “women” is used as either a noun or an adjective.  “Girls” is used when you are talking about very young women, and it should really be used sparingly if at all.

If you evaluate another person’s argument based upon their tone (a tone which is entirely your own inference because you are reading text from the internet and not actually hearing their voice in person), you are participating in yet another type of derailment called tone argument.  You are refusing to engage with the actual critical argument of the post because your perception is that the writer’s tone was too hostile for her argument to be valid.  Similarly, praising a blog post for being exceptionally “calm” or “reasonable,” while ignoring the content of the post itself, is essentially a backhanded compliment for the same reason.

If you tell feminists that they should quit “bitching, pissing and moaning” because it is not our right as players to tell the game’s creators what direction the story should take, well that’s a pretty giant dose of tone argument + you being Just Plain Wrong.  Blizzard consistently asks and seeks out feedback about every aspect of their games, up to and including story, and Blizzard employees have actively engaged in this conversation pretty much since it began.  Not to mention that the idea of “wait and see” because we are still in the early stages of the expansion ignores that Blizzard’s history with women characters is not especially stellar, so we have no reason to believe there will be representation based upon what we’ve seen in the past.

If you truly believe, particularly if you are a woman, that having diverse and interesting women characters in game is not something that is especially important to you, that’s Ok.  But to insist that because you do not find this important means no one else should either, or to attempt to silence a conversation about representation with this statement is more derailment, and probably some internalized sexism too.  Worse still, telling women that they should be “strong” enough not to need women characters, or claiming that it is bad parenting to want positive role models for your children rather than being that positive role model yourself is deeply insulting.  Women can be “strong” and also want to see that strength echoed in the characters presented to us in game.  Mothers can be “strong” role models for their daughters and also appreciate the value of additional women role models in media.  Asking for these things does not mean that we necessarily need media to teach us how to be strong women or mothers – it means we are asking media to properly represent the wide spectrum of who women are and what matters to us.

While we’re at it, let’s take Narci’s suggestion and just toss out the notion of “strong” women being the thing that we really want.  It’s not just about representing women who exemplify traditional (often masculine) values of physical strength, perseverance, and stoicism, but about giving us a diversity of women characters who are more truly representative of the diversity of women in real life.

If you think a lot of the feminist WoW usual suspects are sounding a bit frustrated or tired recently, you’re probably right.  Many of us are frustrated and tired, as Mushan so aptly pointed out, simply because we still have to have this conversation.  But also we are frustrated because rather than getting a chance to really engage and “do work” with the very real examples of sexism in WoW, we are instead being challenged with criticisms of the feminist movement in general – criticisms which have been answered again and again by the feminist movement itself.

Statements like “I’m a woman and this doesn’t bother me,” or “Stop being so angry and people will listen to you,” or “You should really focus on equality instead of trying to make women seem better than men,” do not add to a conversation.  These are not challenges that invite further discussion about the topic at hand, but rather challenges as to whether feminism as a viewpoint is valid (and also gross misunderstandings of exactly what a feminist viewpoint is).  If you don’t think a feminist viewpoint is valid, well that’s a different argument and one that I’m not at all willing to have with you – especially if you don’t know anything at all about the history or current state of feminism.

Still more concerning are attempts to engage feminist criticism without acknowledging or accepting its fundamental premise – that gender inequality is a fact, that it remains a fact, and that we do not live in a society that treats men and women equally.  To quote Apple Cider Mage on this:  “If you can’t accept that basic axis, then you’re not going to be coming into a feminist-minded conversation on the same page.”  To have an honest conversation about sexism in WoW, you must first accept that sexism does exist.

So yeah, we probably are a little tired.  Just as it can be a little tiring to attempt to explain to a non-WoW player why exactly you’re trying to napkin math about whether your 4 piece bonus is better than that Warforged helm you have, it’s pretty exhausting to read repeated criticisms from people who don’t even have enough respect for the topic to get the 101 basics down first.  Dialogue is great.  Communication is amazing.  But please come to the table with a knowledge of your surroundings and “know the conversation.”

Setting up VuhDo for Malkorok

November 19, 2013

Malkorok can be an extremely fun fight to heal thanks to a very unique mechanic that actually prevents healing for the majority of the fight.  Unfortunately, as with so many things, it can be difficult to understand and respond to this mechanic if you are relying on the standard UI for your information.

I have been using VuhDo to heal since the Wrath expansion, and I am always very impressed by how many of the important buffs and debuffs for a new raid tier come prepackaged with the add-on each time it updates for a new patch.  Oddly, the shield debuffs on the Malkorok encounter were not included with the latest update to the add-on, and I ended up putting them in myself.  Below I will explain how to do so, and also how to color-code your VuhDo bars in a way that will draw your attention only to the strength of a player’s shield rather than her current health.  This is what the finished product looks like:

WoWScrnShot_102413_203921

First, we will need to add in the 3 unique debuffs players will receive when you heal them when Ancient Miasma is present during Phase 1 of the fight.  These debuffs are called:

To add a custom debuff to VuhDo, first click the “Debuffs” tab on the option panel, and then select the “Custom” button.

Debuff Panel

Next, type the name of each of the 3 debuffs we need to add into the text field under “Enter new Buff or Debuff name,” and click the “Save” button after entering each debuff name.

This is good enough to ensure that VuhDo is now tracking the Barrier debuffs, but I prefer to take an additional step.  Next we will color-code our bars to show us the strength of the Barrier each player has.

Debuff colors

To do so you will need to select  your debuff and then check the box that says “Bar Color” and pick the color you want to associate to each debuff.  (To keep it simple, I use green for Strong, yellow for normal, and red for Weak.)  The one odd thing about this feature, which may be a bug, is that after you select a color you should NOT hit “Save.”  Doing so will simply clear out your color for some reason.

And that’s it!  Good luck with your Malkorok endeavors and have fun storming the capital city!

The Alliance Superpower?

November 19, 2013

With Blizzcon now a week behind us, plenty of time and words have already been spent discussing all that was said and what it means.  While today’s post will be covering something Chris Metzen said during the reveal for Warlords of Draenor, I won’t be covering that one particular thing that I already have said my piece about on Twitter and on the episode of Justice Points that was released today.  (Though you should certainly go check out the links above for some extremely important discussion about the representation of women in Warlords.)

No, instead I will be fussing about something completely different.  Somewhere amidst a speech about manly orcs doing lots of orc things in the upcoming expansion, Metzen snuck in a comment about the Alliance being Azeroth’s “superpower” after the events of Mists of Pandaria, and culminating with the Siege of Orgrimmar.

What?

What?

So yes, the Siege of Orgrimmar raid did involve a combined army of Horde and Alliance entering the Horde capital by force.  We do eventually remove the current Horde warchief from power, but only after we have essentially received the permission of the other Horde leadership (namely Vol’jin during the Battlefield Barrens questline) to do so.  This is nothing like getting together a group of 40 friends to go storm the Horde capital city and get your Black War Bear mount.  It is not a “rah-rah Alliance” moment; it’s a “cleaning up Thrall’s mess” moment.

This is not the first time I’ve felt that there is a fundamental confusion about what exactly it means for some part of WoW to feel Horde-centric or Alliance-centric.  Siege of Orgrimmar will always be, to me, a Horde-centric raid and storyline because we are fighting orcs in the Horde capital city to advance the Horde’s plotline.  The idea that the Alliance is a superpower seems to come from the notion that we brought the fight to the Horde’s doorstep, as if we had any other choice but to do so.  Garrosh is hanging out in Orgrimmar’s basement with the heart of an Old God.  Our options are to stop him or to let him basically destroy the world.

Again, this definitely not a time to play “Hail the Conquering Hero” as Alliance forces storm the Horde gates.  We are there to do one job and one job only – remove Garrosh from power.  We make no additional gains as a faction based on the events that occur in Siege, except perhaps for Varian to make a few empty threats to the new Horde warchief.  Walking into Orgrimmar to depose Garrosh doesn’t make the Alliance a superpower, especially when the Horde does exactly the same thing.

Obviously it is always appealing to see one’s own faction as the underdog of the story, and Horde players could rightfully do so for a long stretch of time in the earlier years of WoW.  Yet the political attitudes of each faction have slowly developed or revealed themselves over time, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to see the Horde as such.

During the story of the Wandering Isle, the pandaren faction leaders, Ji Firepaw and Aysa Cloudsinger, join their respective factions based upon a very clear set of values.  Ji takes action when Aysa waits to consider the best course.  The Horde acts while the Alliance reacts.  It’s a divide that was present in past plot points but has been growing increasingly true in recent years.  The Alliance seems content to go home, build, and develop whereas volatile elements within the Horde demand expansion and conflict.  These ideals are so ingrained that they’ve even become a part of the way the Horde and Alliance name things.  The Horde has the Dominance Offensive (two strong, aggressive, active words) versus the Alliance’s Operation Shieldwall (words that suggest planning and defense).

All of this is why it rings false to say that the Alliance have had their day in the sun, their moment as Azeroth’s superpower, and that’s why it’s time to give the Horde a chance in the spotlight with the Warlords of Draenor expansion.  Consistently, from Cataclysm onward, we have seen a push to advance the Horde storylines with a lack of similar attention to the stories of Alliance heroes.  Jaina is arguably the Alliance character whose storyline has progressed the most in MoP, but all of her character development is a result of an act of war by the Horde.  Again, the Horde acts and the Alliance reels to pick up the pieces.

The counterargument provided by Dave Kosak seems to be as follows:

Except that that doesn’t ring especially true either.  Are we really expected to believe that the Alliance’s goal walking into Orgrimmar wasn’t merely to depose to Garrosh, but to burn the whole place down?  There may have been one Alliance leader thinking that, but it certainly wasn’t Varian’s goal to destroy (or dismantle) the Horde when he led his army into the city.  There’s no evidence to support this in-game and so the reason for continued fighting between the factions feels increasingly manufactured and nonsensical.

At the end of the day, this idea of the Alliance as a superpower doesn’t bother me because I care about how much acreage the Alliance and the Horde each have in Ashenvale, or because I want Varian to return to his warmongering ways.  What matters to me is screentime and story presence.  I want to find out what Jaina does next.  I want to see whether Anduin’s friendship with Wrathion has changed his views on anything.  I want to learn pretty much anything about Moira.  I want to see Tyrande as a fearsome warrior again (preferably without Malfurion hanging around).  I would love to see the gnomes elect a new leader because, nothing against Gelbin, but gnome leaders aren’t appointed for life and isn’t it about time for some new blood?

These are the stories that are important to me as an Alliance player.  When I hear about an expansion that is essentially about the Horde going back in time to interact with its past, that doesn’t excite me.  Alliance stories have a tendency to circle around the periphery of the main plot thrust, only coming to the center when it becomes necessary for us to react to something.  The idea that we are Azeroth’s superpower, when our story is so rarely central to WoW’s narrative, is difficult for me to accept.

Community Blog Topic: Is Leveling Too Easy?

July 20, 2013
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Never failing to be (more than) fashionably late, here is my response to last week’s Community Blog Topic.  I resisted writing about it for a while, fearing that I would end up being entirely too ranty about the whole thing, and then just gave in to my ranty tendencies.

The notion that leveling has become too easy in a post-Cataclysm Azeroth is so completely presumptuous that it makes me want to go on a Deathwing-style rampage.  The vast majority of players who say that WoW questing has become “too easy” are people who have leveled one (or likely multiple) characters to max level; who are playing with one or several heirlooms; and who are extremely familiar with MMO gameplay and leveling, either exclusively through WoW or through a variety of games.

By and large, long-time players don’t want an extended leveling experience – they want it to be as abbreviated as possible.  While there are certainly some exceptions, most notably those players who invent new challenges like Ironman,  these are much less common than players who quickly push to max level.

WoW is much more focused on endgame content than arguably any other active MMO.  For quite some time now (probably since Burning Crusade), WoW has not been about the journey, but the destination.  Leveling is simply a means to an end, and while we can certainly hash it out over whether that’s helpful or harmful to the playerbase in general, we can’t deny that this is the current climate of the game.

As such, it’s silly to argue over whether leveling is “too easy” for experienced WoW players.  Simplicity doesn’t matter – speed does.  While the two may go hand-in-hand, it’s important to see how one is a by-product of the other.  Fast leveling means a full set of heirlooms, and heirlooms quickly trivialize the difficulty of any content.

If you want to look at leveling difficulty from the only perspective that could possibly matter, ask a player who has never played an MMO before whether they found WoW’s leveling too easy.  Here’s why:

Do you want to keep playing World of Warcraft?  Do you want it to be around for  a few more expansions, and several more years?  If you have any desire to continue playing WoW, then you should recognize that you have a personal investment in new players’ enjoyment of the game.

Many people have come and gone in the 5 years that I’ve been playing WoW, including people who I expected to continue subscribing until the servers went offline.  WoW’s membership has been on the decline since the end of Wrath, and while I don’t believe that’s a sign of the end times for the game, it does mean that we are constantly in need of new blood.

I think it’s a safe guess that the majority of people who self-identify as “gamers” have already tried WoW at this point in the MMO’s lifespan.  Blizzard knows this and has, to the chagrin of some seasoned players, tailored the leveling experience to be friendlier and more accessible to players of all skill levels and gaming experience … and that’s a really good thing.

While it may seem extremely self-satisfying to pat ourselves on the back and reminisce about the days when we had to walk 1o miles uphill in the Barrens to get from Darnassus to Stormwind, this selective nostalgia is often a way to define our experience as better or more important than the experiences of newer players.

What did we gain from having a leveling experience that was especially brutal, grindy, and punishing?  I’m sure there will be those reading this who would reply, “We learned how to play our class!” which simply doesn’t ring true to me.  Perhaps this was the case when we only had 60 levels of talents, passive abilities, and spells to sift through, but it’s difficult to see how it could ever be true with 90.

A level 20 warrior and a level 90 warrior don’t have very much in common.  With the Cataclysm revamp, Blizzard ensured that each class specialization gets some of its flavor early on, but a level 20 character still uses only a very limited number of abilities.  This is how leveling should be – complexity should build as we become accustomed to our surroundings and our character.  It would be entirely overwhelming, particularly for new MMO players, to have all those abilities available at the start.  So while it’s a noble goal to wish that leveling could teach us how to play our characters at max level, the reality is that there is a huge jump in the learning curve when we hit 90 – a jump we only “have” to make IF we are players who want to learn our class in that way.

A prevalent value judgment made by the majority of WoW and MMO players is that, unless you are willing/capable of fully understanding your character and class at max level, you are doing something wrong.  As a community, we largely fail to recognize that it entirely possible to have a blast playing WoW while not necessarily understanding everything you’re doing.

If you aren’t looking to get into hardcore progression raiding or top the PvP brackets, there is nothing inherently wrong with deciding not to min/max your character.  There is nothing wrong with the choice to play WoW casually, at one’s own pace and skill level.  Those who do choose to make their ways into the upper echelons of WoW’s raiding and PvP communities need not act as if that choice makes their experience more meaningful or more correct than the experiences of  those who don’t.  We are all having a great time playing a game that we love, and playing it in the way that best suits us.

Bottom line – questions like this worry me.  When we ask questions that come from the often myopic viewpoints of veteran players in spaces frequented by all types of WoW players, there is a big risk of alienating and demoralizing new players who read the title of this post and think, “Leveling is EASY?”  And, inevitably:  “If that was supposed to be easy, how will I ever be able to do anything at max level?  Why is it worth my time to continue?”

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