29 January 2010

The shadow priest playlist

I need your help with a project please.

Do you ever wonder what songs would be on the soundtrack to your life? I'd like to think mine would be full of self-consciously stylish era-defining tracks like Smooth Criminal and Unfinished Sympathy but have a niggling fear it would be full of Steps and Bananarama. Such is my life.

Anyway, I was daydreaming to the Jason Bourne soundtracks the other day (they make me feel like an invincible secret agent, EVERYONE should try them after a shitty day at work), when I wondered what Merlot's soundtrack would be — or indeed, any shadow priest's.

So I'm on a mission to find the best songs for face melters. Now I know music is very subjective — I am very much a child of the 80s, if you haven't already guessed it, with a strong affinity for electronica, pop, and anything with a strong rhythm. I toyed briefly with rock and metal but it was all just too exhausting. So none of that 'virgin's entrails' stuff for Merlot. Otherwise, anything goes.

Not surprisingly, there aren't that many songs out there about holy people who reject their faith to channel dark magics in pursuit of perfection, but there are lots of songs that evoke an appropriate mode, talk about facets of shadow lore and style, or else just make great tunes to destroy the minds of monsters to. The connection doesn't have to be obvious, but it does need to be there.

Some of my (rather long) shortlist currently include:
  • True Faith — New Order
  • The Double Life — Siouxsie and the Banshees
  • Brain Damage/Eclipse — Pink Floyd
  • Losing my Religion — REM (too obvious?)
  • Rehab — Amy Winehouse
  • Crucify — Army of Lovers
  • Sympathy for the Devil — Rolling Stones
  • Comfortably Numb — Scissor Sisters
  • It's a Sin — Pet Shop Boys
  • Black Hole Sun — Soundgarden
  • Condemnation — Depeche Mode
  • Constant Craving — KD Lang
  • Shadows and Light — Joni Mitchell
  • Bad Moon Rising — Creedence Clearwater Revival (too druidy?)
If you don't like pop this is probably painful to even contemplate, let along listen to, so my apologies if I've offended anyone :) But it's totally a work in progress. You can make a case for dropping any one of these tracks, and suggest a suitable replacement. Over to you please, what should be on my shadow priest playlist?

21 January 2010

The Goldilocks guild

I've been shopping around for guilds ever since my last one imploded. I've got a bit of a Goldilocks complex — it can't be too big or too small, it can't be too hardcore or too casual, it's got to be just right.

Which basically means the guild I'm after doesn't exist. They either don't need a shadow priest, raid too early, raid too late or too often, are too good for me, or not good enough, they're a bunch of jerks or too disorganised, or just don't have the numbers or skill to make a go of it.

The problem is compounded by the situation on my server, which seems to be haemorrhaging good Horde raiders at an alarming rate. Alliance outstrip us 5 to 1 by some accounts, and Horde feels like a faction in decline. With so much doubt, and a lot going on in my real life, I could very easily have procrastinated all year.

So last week I finally settled on a compromise: I joined a guild that doesn't need a shadow priest.

I took along my resto shammy instead and healed my first Icecrown run last night. So far, I'm really happy with the guild. The officers are friendly and mature, but also strong leaders. We started on time and finished on time, and we didn't mess around much inbetween. They run loot council, which means dishing it out was a bit drawn out, but I can live with that. They even offered me the BoE trash pants from Icecrown — on my first run with them — but I declined; I'd rather build up some goodwill first.

So we killed Marrowgar, which was fine if a bit hairy during the air phase (every time I stopped to cast he flew RIGHT AT ME). And we moved on to clear the trash before Lady Deathwhisper. We didn't engage her, just took the trash rep and moved on to ToC. (The sight of her room brought back some very unpleasant memories of Blackheart's room in Shadow Labs.)

It went well for a first run with a new guild. And I can live with healing for now, even if ultimately I'd rather be melting faces. I have a sneaky plan to switch mains if it ever looks like they can do with one less healer. We'll see. Meanwhile, there's plenty I can do to improve Merlot's gear through the Icecrown 5-mans, badges, and the odd pug. And I really need to renew my Loremaster efforts; Merlot the Patient does nothing for me.

12 January 2010

The third glyph

For raiding, the glyph of shadow and glyph of mind flay are no-brainers. But since the third glyph slot was opened up with the base range increase of mind flay, options for the third slot are a little less cut-and-dry.

We have four key contenders. None will do a great deal for your dps, but there's probably a good argument for any one of them. This is just my view...

Glyph of shadow word: pain
This glyph returns one per cent of base mana each time shadow word pain ticks, which for priests at level 80 means 38.63 mana every three seconds (rounded up or down).

If we assume 100 per cent uptime of shadow word: pain, it will return 772.6 mana a minute on one target, or about 64 mp5. That doesn't seem like much, but when you review your in-combat mana regen, 64 mp5 is probably a significant percentage of what you are currently running with.

I think this glyph provides a reasonable amount of mana given that it's a passive drip you can set and forget, but as a base mana effect it doesn't scale, and it's small enough to question whether it is needed at all. It's a slightly better deal if you can keep more than one shadow word: pain rolling at a time, but the boss fights in which you can do that are few and far between. So the question is, do you need the mana?

The answer may well be yes, but I would not even consider this glyph until you are running with 2/2 veiled shadows and know that a three-minute shadowfiend is not cutting the mustard.

Best for: a reliable, passive boost to mp5
Misery rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Glyph of dispersion
This glyph, generally recommended by experts, reduces the cooldown of dispersion by 45 seconds, a huge chunk for a spell that already has a short two-minute cooldown. For that, you get more mana and more chances to cheat death. Or you might just forget to use it and get no benefit at all.

As an active ability that silences you for six seconds, the mileage of dispersion already varies wildly by fight to fight, and by player to player. Most players are naturally reluctant to cast it while they could otherwise be doing damage. So it becomes a useful mana pot while on the move and something to help you get out of trouble and give your healers a break when required.

On mana alone, the glyph is far more effective than the glyph of shadow word: pain, but only if it's used. With a mana pool of 20k, popping dispersion every one minute 15 seconds will net you 5760 mana per minute (480 mp5). But even unglyphed, dispersion provides a potential of 3600 mana per minute (300 mp5). Managed effectively, a talented shadowfiend and an unglyphed dispersion should be enough to keep you going under any circumstances.

Where this glyph really shines is in its damage reduction, and this again is something very hard to quantify. You're not going to need it every one minute 15 seconds like clockwork. Some boss effects even bypass dispersion (and one of these days I'm determined to find out which ones and tell you about them!) And in many situations, your healers are going to be on the ball and ready to keep you up no matter what. But it's a safety net for stupidity if you should find yourself in a tight spot, and with a shorter cooldown there is more room for error in popping it at the wrong time.

Best for: survivability, maximum control
Misery rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Glyph of shadow word: death
With this glyph, targets below 35 per cent health take an additional 10 per cent damage from the spell. It's a poor comparison to most other execute-style abilities in the game, but it's the best we have. So is it any good?

Well, no, I don't think so. In a five-minute fight, assuming no movement or interruptions to casting, you would be able to cast shadow word: death a maximum of eight times during the execute window — and that in itself does not allow for a much quicker burn below 35 per cent, which with mages and locks and shammies kicking around you can almost guarantee. Even on an eight minute fight, you're looking at only 14 or so opportunities.

But all things considered, this is the only option for the third slot that's going to boost your dps, and for some min-maxers that might be the most important consideration. If shadow word: death is something you cast frequently anyway, give it a go.

Best for: min-maxers
Misery rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Glyph of mind sear
This glyph increases the radius of mind sear by five yards. It certainly sounds like it would make spamming our killer aoe a little easier, but the conditions under which you would gain any benefit from this glyph seem so specific I'm not sure where I could use it. You need a boss fight which includes packs of four or more mobs that need dpsing down and which are close enough to be in range of the glyphed spell but not quite close enough for it unglyphed.

Well, to be fair, it doesn't have to be a boss fight, you might want to use it on trash. But who would choose a glyph for trash over one for bosses?

The glyph was introduced in a recent patch to rectify a clear dearth of glyph choices for shadow priests. Most of us were still gimped by the glyph of mind flay at the time and discounted it. Sadly, I'm not sure it's strong enough even now to justify the slot, but it might fill a very specific niche for a small number of shades. the best argument I can think of for equipping this glyph is if you were to swap it in and out like consumables where required — which is a perfectly valid strategy if you have access to cheap glyphs, but I usually have enough to think about before bosses without making sure I'm sporting the right glyphs.

Best for: trash
Misery rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

11 January 2010

The ballad of sad shaman

Given that some people were so horrified by my last admission of stupidity that they've stopped reading my blog, I almost didn't post this. But then I remembered this isn't a blog about making me look good. There would be a lot more epeen and loot linking if I was out to impress.

No, I can assume that anybody looking for nothing but a marginally competent wow player to learn from has already gone elsewhere. And if that sounds vaguely like an insult to you, dear readers, I can only protest that it is not. I know you are all better than me, I just hope you enjoy the tales of my incompetence with a fatherly smile instead of a sneer.

Yesterday, I learned something. The story doesn't paint me in a good light, but it might — just — be news to one or two of you too, so I share it in good faith.

This is a post about my initiation to RankWatch, an addon that looks for players in your party who are using downranked spells and whispers them about it. You already see where this is headed, don't you?

I had caught the odd reference to the addon before, but didn't think it applied to me. After all, I haven't downranked since before they changed the mana costs of spells, and only then when healing.

So there I was in Heroic Pit of Saron on my resto shammy, bravely trying to heal a good-but-undergeared tank and agrowhore dps who didn't care who the mob was hitting when I get a whisper from one of the dps. Apparently I'd just used a downranked chain heal. And then there was another for a downranked healing wave. And then lesser healing wave!

Clearly, I was horrified. I had to halt the group while I scrolled back up and read the reams of info from RankWatch. It turns out there's a bug with duel spec toolbars where the rank of a spell on your unlearned toolbar (the spec you are not currently using) does not update automatically when you learn a new rank of the spell. So if, like me, you levelled with a secondary healing spec but tended to visit the trainer in your dps spec, there's a very real possibility this could apply to you too.

What a really stupid bug, right? I mean, who ever checks their spell ranks? Clearly not me, but if someone felt the need to write an addon for it, I can only hope this problem is more common than I fear. So, for what it's worth, here is another cautionary tale from my adventures of incompetence and proof if any were needed that you learn something new every day.

If I stop drinking, will my brain cells grow back?

The cost of stupidity

This weekend, the GMs restored my stolen goods to a standard that I hadn't even dared hope for. They returned all my gear, gemmed and enchanted. They returned all my gold. They returned all my farmed materials, my stock of gems, cloth, eternals, consumables, badges, bags... they even returned the odd bits of vendor trash that were sitting in my bags. I have a vague feeling at the back of head that something's missing, but I couldn't even tell you what. For all intents and purposes, I got it all back.

So it would appear that the cost of stupidity, in this case at least, is very little — only the memories of a very unpleasant period, and a week without my favourite characters during which I turned, in desperation, to the alliance. (Don't tell my friends but I now have a female gnome death knight. She looks like a really small Pink.)

Thank you all for your messages of support. As some of you pointed out, I should have known better. Now I do, and I have an authenticator on order.

2 January 2010


I thought I was too clever to get hacked, so I guess this was a long time coming.

Just to warn you, if you search google for the eu armory, the current top sponsored link is a pfishing site. You should not get a battle net login screen and you do not need to log in to check the armory. I thought it was a little odd, but fell for it anyway.

Merlot's armory page now shows a character with no gear equipped except badge gear (which of course can't be vendored). As a nine-character gear horder, I have just handed over close to 25k of gold and bank-fulls of herbs, ore and leather to the gold-selling bastards.

An authenticator has been added to my account so I can't even log in to start repairing the damage.

The pfishing site is now on Mozilla's blocked list, but it came too late for me. Boy, do I feel stupid now. Don't get caught, check the links first.