Friday, October 30, 2009

5 Awesome Uses for Thunderstorm

Yes, this is in fact an Elemental Shaman's blog and I'm pleased to finally bring some content specifically tailored to this niche spec. The problem is that I don't want to just regurgitate all the baseline mechanics of the spec because, well, that stuff is posted everywhere. I will instead be bringing quirks, tips and tricks that you may not have learned by simply researching a spell rotation or stat priority.

The highlight of the first entry in the spirit of the Elemental Shaman revolves around the gimmicky (and often glyphed into mediocrity) PBAoE spell, Thunderstorm.

Any raiding Elemental will know that the spell is typically used as a mana regeneration mechanic, cast out in the middle of nowhere where the knockback won't confuse and irritate the raid or glyphed to remove the knockback altogether. The knockback, of which thunderstorm boasts the farthest pushing in the game, does have it's uses. And though most of them take place on the PvP side of the game it can be a very useful utility in PvE as well - if you know how to use it.

So here are the first 5 awesome uses for thunderstorm in both PvP and PvE venues...

1. Auriaya

The Crazy Cat Lady as she's called to hard mode raiders, Auriaya starts out with a host of feline sentinels that will usually be DPSed down very quickly at the start of the fight. Shortly after, however, she'll raise another cat called the Feral Defender. This cat has nine lives, so killing it the first eight times won't be the end of it.

The real pain the Defender brings is twofold. Firstly, it randomly resets aggro every few seconds so it can't be tanked reliably. This tends to force groups to clump up to prevent the cat from bouncing all over the place. Secondly, it will leave a void zone that does significant damage over time to anyone standing in it on the place it was killed so it's preferable to move the Defender out of the raid group just before it dies. However, coupled with it's rapid aggro resets this doesn't always go as planned.

Try watching the Defender's health and once it drops below 10% thunderstorm it away. Often enough residual DoTs and ranged DPS is enough to kill the cat as it's traveling through the air. This isn't a foolproof strategy, as often the void zone can be left where the cat was before the knockback instead of where the corpse actually falls if it was killed in mid air, but in addition to other methods of controlling the Defender's positioning a well timed thunderstorm can mean the difference between a well placed void zone and a raid group forced to scatter.

2. Deconstructor

Have you ever been asked to handle the Deconstructor's adds during a heart phase? If not, then you should volunteer!

When the Deconstructor shows his heart at 75%, 50% and 25% health repair bots that heal the boss and bomb bots that explode need to be handle before reaching the boss. It's well known that blowing up a bomb bot near a group of repair bots is a fast an efficient way to handle adds, but often you'll need to stall for time.

Using a combination of earthbind totem and thunderstorm knockbacks can help significantly in putting more distance between the adds and the Deconstructor.

3. Defending the Flag in Warsong Gulch

Everyone is familiar with the lumber mill in Arathi Basin. This place is the Elemental Shaman's claim to PvP fame - especially since we're at such a horrible disadvantage the rest of the time we PvP.

It's also commonly known that the flag spawn point in Eye of the Storm is another thunderstorm hot spot, but there's a great place for thunderstorm high jinks in Warsong Gulch too.

In each faction's base there are three levels: the ground floor, balcony and rooftop. Generally speaking when your team picks up the enemy flag they'll take it back to your base and wait for the opportunity to capture it. Most teams will keep the flag on the ground floor for a quick capture but this is quite dangerous as the ground floor is quickly accessible to enemy players approaching the base on mounts.

If you can get the flag carrier to bring the flag up to the rooftop you can single-handedly fend off multiple attackers at one time for an extended period with properly placed thunderstorms.

Position yourself near the roof entrance and watch for approaching players. The occasional rogue may be able to slip past you but the vast majority of enemies will be seen coming from a mile away. Once they pass onto the roof make sure you're positioned so that they are between you and the ground floor and knock em right outta there!

Be wary of groups of players and time your thunderstorm to knock off all but one of the attackers if possible. You and the flag carrier can then mop that last attacker up and thunderstorm should be back off cooldown by the time those you sent to the mat can get back up to the roof.

4. Survival

What's the number one rule of DPS?

Don't die.

Granted, most DPSers don't enjoy the ability to heal like Elemental Shaman, but aside from healing thunderstorm is one of our tricks for getting out of a tight spot. The best example of this is the Faction Champions in the coliseum raid instance.

If you find yourself running from a host of mobs and there's no way out, drop a thunderstorm and give yourself some much needed breathing room.

5. Aggro Ping-Pong

I don't generally recommend specifically going out for this as it may irritate your tank if done excessively but you can easily "bat" a mob you've pulled aggro on back to the tank so he can more easily pick it back up.

Once the spell's been cast make sure to wind shock to lower your aggro and make the mob that much easier for the tank to pick back up.

As always, however, you should always pay attention to your threat. Set up an audio warning in your threat meter to alert you that you may be pulling aggro as a preventative measure. This is a great trick, but if you ever have to use it it may mean that you should pay more attention to your threat.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What's in a name.... plate?

Have you heard the term nameplates in WoW before? I hope so, because nameplates are one of the truly indispensable tools available to a WoW player - and they're part of the default UI!

If you don't know what nameplates are just head into the game, find some neutral or hostile NPCs or critters and hit your 'V' key. Assuming you haven't remapped 'V' to anything else, health bars should be popping up on your screen over the heads of NPCs and critters around you. These are the tools of which I speak.

There is an incredible amount of crucial data displayed on screen while you have nameplates active and they don't just work for enemies. The 'shift+v' binding will display friendly nameplates so if you are a healer you can use the nameplates to heal friendly players or NPCs nearby that may not be in your raid window. This is especially helpful in places like Wintergrasp, or for healing pets if you feel so inclined and don't include pets in your raid window setup.

The main function of nameplates, in this blogger's opinion, is to give you an easy visual reference during combat without having to constantly switch targets to check health values. This is especially helpful during the Freya encounter - and I'll refer back to this fight throughout this article.

The Freya encounter provides us with two specific examples of how nameplates can be used efficiently and both relate to how her adds are handled.

Detonating Lashers

To my knowledge this pack of adds has a unique mechanic in how they are presented during the encounter. A large group of them spawn at one time and as each lasher dies, they explode dealing a moderate amount of AoE damage to anyone nearby. Their aggro is also spotty which makes controlling them difficult.

There are other tactics that can be used to manage them, but my guild's strategy revolving around AoE damage until the lashers are at about 50% health, then single target burns following the tank. To keep the lashers all together we stay clumped up in one spot while killing them. This means that we need to exercise control over how quickly each one dies as too many detonating at one time can easily kill a substantial portion of the raid.

Using nameplates on this pack gives you a bird's eye view, showing the health value of all the lashers on screen. This visual reference is key to knowing when to stop the AoE, as you can easily keep track of the entire group at once through their nameplates.

Lasher Pack

Not to be confused with detonating lashers, the lasher pack consists of three different enemies that must die within a few seconds of each other. If all three of the lasher pack do not die within so much time of each other they will revive their fallen comrades to 50% health. This is not impossible to recover from, but it is often hard to throttle DPS sufficiently once the plan has gone awry so the initial killing of the mobs is the most important part.

Much like the detonating lashers, nameplates will give you a birds eye view of the entire encounter and add to that the fact that you can target the lasher through it's nameplate and you have an ultra efficient tool to not only make sure they are all three dieing at a similar pace, but target lashers (or other NPCs in similar encounters) who are at much higher health values in order to help them quickly "catch up".

Tanking With Nameplates

I generally think nameplates are indispensable, they are always on for all of my characters - but tanking is one situation where nameplates are exceptionally helpful.

If you have aggro coloring turned on nameplates will glow yellow, orange or red if you have high threat on them. If you don't have aggro coloring enabled you probably should - even if you aren't a tank. So head on into interface options and get that enabled!

Aggro Glow Coloring
  • Red: Solid threat; this mob is on you and not going anywhere else anytime soon.
  • Orange: Mostly solid threat; this mob is on you, but if you don't show it some love it may change targets soon.
  • Yellow: Nearly solid threat; you have high threat on this target, but someone else has more. If you're not tanking you're about to pull threat if you are tanking this mob is probably beating on someone else.
  • No coloring: Someone else has solid threat; this mob is interested in someone that's not you!
Nameplates are invaluable during tanking because of the coloring feature. Especially during 5-man heroics and raid instance trash it will help you to get a bird's eye view of who you have threat on and who you might be losing threat on.

I've personally almost stopped using Omen altogether on my tank because of nameplates. It makes aggro management almost trivial to be able to view this information so easily. The aggro coloring will allow you to make snap decisions faster; allowing you to notice which target you may be losing threat on and switch to them to quickly build threat before the healer or some stray DPSer gets an unhappy mob in their face!

Other Information

Aside from health values and aggro coloring nameplates also display the name and level of the mob and a castbar with spell icon just below the health bar.

Since mobs that aren't your target or focus don't have a referenceable UnitID they can't be targeted with a standard macro - unless they are your mouseover target. Coupled with the castbar on the nameplates you could, if you felt so inclined, make a macro to interrupt a mouseover target and simply mouse over the nameplate to target them with a mouseover macro.

Some examples of how this would be useful are interrupting the shadow damage attack the burrowers cast during Anub'arak in the coliseum or dispelling the shield from an evoker in Thorim's arena(this would be good for healers, but as DPSers should always burn down the evokers first in the arena it becomes a moot point for DPS since the evoker should already be targeted).

A macro set up this way would look like this:

/cast [target=mouseover] Wind Shear

All in all nameplates are a great tool. If you know how to read them they pack an incredible amount of highly useful information into a very small space. In fact, in patch 3.3 the usability of nameplates will be expanded further as they will no longer sort themselves by default (freeing up more viewing space as they'll no longer stack in a way that prevents them from overlapping) and extending the range and conditions under which they'll be visible over a target's head.

So to sum up in just a few words: If you're not using nameplates, you probably should be!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Raiding 101: Don't Stand in the Fire!

This is the first in a series of raiding guides that will not focus on any particular encounter or instance but on the very basics of what one needs to do to be a successful raider. The first will focus on the most important aspect of any boss kill you will ever complete in WoW: Survival.
Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.
This quote rings true for so many things and raiding in WoW is definitely one of them.

The tried and true method of educating a raid group about a particular boss or raid instance is to post a handful of videos and a recap of the strategy for easy reference. This tried and true method has the distinct disadvantage of not teaching the raider how to fish, as it were. I'm here to tell you there's a better way.

What is this better way? Why, teaching the raider to fish, of course!

There are many raid encounters in WoW alone spanning across three different iterations of the game and 9 (soon to be 10) tiers of difficulty. Each boss has a different strategy and requires a different level of expertise and cooperation. However, everything you ever do in any boss fight outside of your standard class responsibilities boils down to a half dozen or so types of attacks. Learning how to recognize and deal with these types of attacks can make the difference between a pro and a noob.

Types of Attacks:
  • Point Blank Area of Effect (PBAoE): These are attacks that are targeted at the boss and do damage to more than one player in it's area of effect.
  • Targeted Area of Effect (AoE): The more common type of area damage, targeted AoE attacks do the same thing as PBAoE except they are not targeted on the boss. Targeting mechanics differ but most commonly are centered on a player or a key point of the room.
  • Conal Attacks: Conal attacks are attacks that originate at the boss and have an area of effect that widens as it gets further from the boss.
  • Debuffs: Debuffs can cover all sorts of things a boss does. Most commonly they are DoT type debuffs but they'll often have special traits attached to them that can complicate matters.
Location, Location, Location!

Most all of these attacks can be avoided by knowing where you need to stand and when you need to stand there. This is possibly one of the most important aspects to end game raiding a raider could learn.

Especially in Wrath of the Lich King, end game raiding in WoW is an incredibly mobile thing. There are almost no fights where you can just stand in place for the entire fight and sling lightning bolts at the boss - although as an elemental shaman I can't say I would be upset if this wasn't true!

In most situations all of these attacks can be avoided. There are times when they can't and those times are all about testing the healing fortitude of the raid - which is beyond the scope of this particular posting. But knowing when the attacks are coming and knowing where they are coming to is one half of the equation. The other half of the equation is knowing what tools you have at your disposal - not just in your own character but in the encounter as well.

Point Blank Area of Effect

PBAoE effects can be avoided almost 100% of the time. They always start at the position the boss is and cover varying types of distance.

Some examples of PBAoE are cleave attacks that hit everyone standing in front of the boss to thunderstomp type effects that hit everyone in the immediate vicinity of the boss. Occasionally PBAoE can target players at a great distance, but these effects often have other ways of being avoided like interrupting General Vezax's Searing Flame or switching to the opposite color when one of the Twin Val'kyr starts casting their light or dark vortex.

Area of Effect

AoE attacks are possibly one of the easiest to avoid, even if you're targeted with one. Most targeted AoE will leave a splash of damage where the person being targeted is standing. This is where the term "don't stand in the fire" came from! The easy way to avoid these attacks is to spread out, because the more people are standing in one place the greater the chance that one of these targeted AoEs will be dropped in that spot.

And don't wait for other people to get out of your way either because odds are that the plot of land you've laid claim to has already been scoped out by another person in your raid. People are funny things when they don't communicate, they tend to assume another is going to pick up the slack and when they don't it's that person's fault. Never mind that any element in this equation could have easily avoided the situation; It's always somebody Else's fault.

Don't be that guy. Take it upon yourself to keep the distance between yourself and your fellow raid members when the threat of a targeted AoE is looming over your head.

Purely in terms of numbers on any boss with a targeted AoE the target of the AoE is likely selected randomly in the raid group. That generally gives you a 1 out of 25 chance to be targeted by the AoE. If you're standing on top of someone else the chances you'll be targeted have just doubled, so spreading out is really the best way to go in this scenario.

Conal Attacks

Conal attacks can partially be lumped in with AoE attacks in that the best way to avoid them is to spread out.

Conal attacks, like AoE attacks generally target a specific raid member. Unlike AoE, whose damage is concentrated on a specific piece of real estate, conal attacks start at the the boss and push forward directly away from the boss. The area of effect will also expand in a cone shape as it gets further from the boss.

Since these attacks will always issue forward from the boss this provides a danger zone that corresponds to whichever way the boss is facing at the time. This also provides for safe zone on the flank and rear of the boss and these are generally the spots you will want to stand in regardless of whether the boss does a conal attack or not. There are exceptions to this rule, for instance, Auriaya in Ulduar does a conal attack called Sonic Screech that does a high amount of damage split amongst everyone that was hit by the attack. In this scenario you will want to stand in front of the boss to split the damage into manageable numbers, but this is the exception and not the rule.

Most conal attacks will generally target the tank so as long as a raider is positioned to the side or rear of the boss they can generally be considered safe. There are exceptions to this rule as well. The best example of this is Icehowl, the third phase of the Northrend Beasts encounter in the coliseum raid instance. Icehowl will randomly target a raid member when he does his conal attack, a blast of icy breath that freezes everyone caught in it. Because it is randomly targeted you aren't necessarily safe standing behind or to the side of the boss - this is where spreading out comes in handy.

If a conal attack target is randomly selected odds are you won't get your chances of being hit down to 1 out of 25 but the chances can indeed be minimized. The way this is done is by spreading out around the boss. If the raid is evenly spaced out around the boss in a circle, only a minimal cross section of raid members will be hit by the attack. It is especially helpful to keep this in mind if your raid tends to stay clumped up on one side of the boss. If you find this is the case, try to gravitate towards the empty areas around the boss to lower your chances of being caught in the cone. This doesn't necessarily eliminate your chances to be targeted it, but it can exponentially lower your chances of being caught up in a conal attack targeted on somebody else.


Debuffs can have any type off effect under the sun and this is where having prior knowledge of the fight can come in handy. Know what debuffs the boss can leave on you, how they get applied and what, if anything, to do about them.

DoT attacks are one of the most insidious types of debuffs and very often the one you have the least control over.

Through some means, the boss applies a DoT debuff to a raid member and the debuff will start eating away at the raid member a little bit at a time. There are varying degrees of damage caused by DoTs from the fairly innocuous Biting Cold during the Hodir encounter to the devastating stacking DoT applied by the Fire Bomb AoE in Northrend Beasts heroic that can kill you in only a few seconds if you don't escape the fire quickly.

Stacking is another concept applied to debuffs. These special types of debuffs will reapply to your character every time you fail to avoid a certain attack. Sometimes debuff stacks will cap out at a certain point, but any stacking DoT debuffs will do more and more damage over time the more stacks you have.

Most debuffs can be cleansed by healers and casters but many you'll need to be familiar with the boss to fully understand. There are plenty of resources for researching the debuffs on a particular boss but there is no blanket solution for dealing with them. Resources for researching boss fights will be covered in a future post and will, at some point, be featured in a side bar on this blog.


It can be quite comfortable to fall into a pattern of stand in one place and do your thing, and it's easy to pass the buck to another player in terms of positioning than it is to accept responsibility and take the initiative, but if you take nothing else away from this blog entry please take this:

Don't stand in the fire!

Trust me, your raid group will love you for it!

Saturday, October 3, 2009


So I was in the middle of writing a review of the new Syfy show Stargate Universe when I decided I didn't want to keep cluttering up my WoW blog with things that didn't really relate to WoW. In light of this I've set up a second blog specifically for movie, game and television reviews: The Sci-Fi Slacker.

So from now on there should be a much more purist WoW flavor to this blog. If, however, you enjoyed my rants and reviews I invite you to my new blog which will eventually have a permanent link at the side of this page. And above and beyond that I invite you to watch the new Stargate show Stargate Universe on Hulu, as the premier has left me desperately thirsty for the next episode!