Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cataclysm Week 1: Reflections

*Disclaimer: This post is not about reflections.*

Wow, what a week! Leveling dungeons were hard, leveling quests were super crowded, and raids were on the cusp of impossible. Rating conversions dropped, health pools rose, and mana evaporated into thin air. It's been an exciting week, and not just for healers.

Speaking of which, for those keeping tabs, you may think that I'm not a healer. Cataclysm changed that too. Discipline healing is fun again! Heroics are fun and challenging again! Healing heroics has been some of the best fun I've had all year. My first heroic, Vortex Pinnacle, found me gasping for mana and healing on fumes at the end of every boss fight, usually with no more than 20k HP total spread over the entire party. And it was awesome! When I finally (yes, finally, as in, after multiple wipes) defeated a boss, it really felt like I had improved as a player. In heroics! Awesome!

Not only that, but the encounters were interesting! The bosses in there had a variety of important and unique abilities, ranging from 70 odd whirlwinds roaming the room that would knock you around, to an AoE that was absolutely always lethal if you weren't in a particular safe zone in the room (combined with a root effect to prevent you from reaching it!) It was hard! It was fun! Bosses were unique and strategy mattered!

The launch was smooth, servers rarely crashed, bugs were few and mostly unimportant, and the price of new gear and trade materials is still ridiculous.

Healing is very different, particularly at low gear levels (like 329, for example,) and I'll have a post with tips on the new healing model in the next post.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

PallyPower and You

No doubt we've all had this problem before. You show up to the raid, and there's like 6 paladins, and you still don't have the right buff. How does this happen? Nobody knows. Actually, it's a well understood behavioral pattern that often occurs when multiple people are responsible for some task that only requires a portion of them to complete. See: Diffusion of Responsibility. That's all well and good, but sometimes you see things like an Elemental Shaman running around with Wisdom, but not Kings, even with only a single paladin. That's because properly buffing a raid requires a P.H.D. can be difficult, because the correct buffs depend on the spec and role of each individual. So how do we fix this? PallyPower.
PallyPower addresses both causes of poor paladin buffing by allowing the raid leader (or an assistant) to explicitly assign Blessings and Auras to each paladin in the raid that is using Pallypower. Additionally, it makes maintaining these blessings easier for the paladins, with an on-screen indicator showing whether all of their assigned buffs are active or not, and allowing one-click auto-Blessing.
If you don't already have PallyPower, and you're a level 80 paladin, get it now. If you plan to lead raids, or to help lead raids, I also recommend getting it.
Click here: PallyPower on WowInterface, or PallyPower on Curse. (Note: due to some rumors of viruses on Curse, I recommend using WowInterface for the time being.)

So, you've got it set up, loaded it, and now you see this in the middle of your screen:

If you don't plan to lead raids, and you want to just pass out your assigned buffs, then you don't need to know much. The top rectangle is the Aura button. Click it to turn on the aura you've been assigned. Red means you have the wrong aura on right now, and green means you have the right aura. The rectangle immediately above the little green circle is the Blessing button. Left-click to pass out Greater Blessings, right-click to pass out normal Blessings. Red means no one has your buffs, yellow means some do and some don't, or that some are low on time. Green means you've given out the buffs you were assigned. The little green circle is the anchor; it can be dragged to move PallyPower around, and you can click it to lock it in place, so you don't accidentally drag it later. And that's it! Easy, right? (A note: none of these buttons work while you're in combat.)

For raid leaders, right-clicking the anchor will open the options menu. Inside, you can see a chart of the paladins with PallyPally and the classes. Simply click in a cell on the grid to change the paladin's assignment for that class. You also set auras in this chart by using the aura column. Underneath each paladin's name, there is a listing of all the buffs that paladin can give, in the format: Rank+Talents. So, for a level 80 paladin with Improved Blessing of Wisdom, you would see 5+2 next to the wisdom icon.

So what should you assign? Tanks prefer Sanctuary, then Kings, then Might, in that order, unless you have a Discipline priest, and then only Paladin tanks will want Sanctuary. Healers prefer Wisdom, then Kings, but if you have a Shaman specced into Restorative Totems, Mana Spring Totem will overwrite improved Wisdom (you can expect half the raid to whine about not having Wisdom). Warrior DPS prefer Kings; they provide Battle Shout, which is as good as Might (again, expect half the raid to whine about not having Might). Rogues, Death Knights and Feral Druids prefer Might, then Kings. Hunters, Enhancement Shamen, and Retribution Paladins prefer Might, then Kings, then Wisdom. Shadow Priests, Moonkins, Warlocks, Mages, and Elemental Shamen prefer Kings, then Wisdom, the Might (Might often improves pet damage very slightly.) Pets prefer Kings, then Might, then Wisdom (Not because all pets need the same thing, but because trying to buff pets correctly in a raid environment is hopelessly complicated.)

As for Auras, have the paladin with the most-improved Devotion Aura run that, and otherwise use whatever is most useful for the current fight. Remember that Priests provide Shadow Protection, Shamen can provide Fire (instead of Mana or Healing) and Frost resistance (instead of Spellpower), and that Stoneskin Totem stacks with Devotion Aura AND with Gift of the Wild.

Damage resistance buffs, by ICC boss:
For Marrowgar and Sapphiron, run Frost Resistance Aura.
For Deathwhisper and Lich King, run Shadow and Frost.
For Festergut, Rotface and Putricide, run Shadow and Nature. (Shamen and Hunters can provide Nature, but it fucks hunters' DPS to do so.)
For Princes, run Fire and Shadow.
For Lana'thel, run Shadow.
For Valithria, run Fire, Frost and Shadow (in that order).
...and for Trash, make sure someone runs Concentration Aura. It's not needed to clear it, but it will prevent DPS blue balls.

So, there you have it. A basic intro to PallyPower. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ghostcrawler can't shadow.

"...anything with more than 1 mob is a job for Mind Sear." -Ghostcrawler (Source, near the end of post 74)

Fail. While I trust Ghostcrawler to get things right eventually, he does need to be slapped upside the head now and again. I guess I should be glad that he's not telling people to cast it on single targets. >.>

Monday, April 19, 2010

Gear: Not as overrated as I've claimed?

While I often point out that gear discrepancies at max level are drowned out by skill differences, I recently rolled a lowbie holy Paladin on another server, and I can say, the original game is much harder without overgearing. Without access to my usual supply of heirlooms and gold, I was found to be running around in gear that actually was intended for content like RFC. While we never wiped, in a single pull I ran from full mana to dead empty, popped a potion, Gift of the Naaru, Lay on Hands, and Hand of Protection. That all with only 9% overheal, which was mostly from Lay on Hands; my health was higher than the tank's (due to my suboptimal stamina greens from world drops). I can definitely say that at extremely low level, not having heirlooms really makes a great difference.

I was prepared to write a rant about how the Paladin's healing toolbox was innately inferior to other classes pre-level 20, but upon comparison to the spells a priest has available, Holy Light is actually 30% more HpM and HpS than the comparable spells that a priest has available. So, I'm here to revise my claim that everyone should have no excuse for being bad; I had trouble healing RFC, and I did 9% away from as good as you could possibly do with the gear I had, and even that meant letting people fall to under 10% before dropping the heal bomb on them. So, at least pre-level 30, cut people some slack if they damage below the healer, (I was desperately meleeing in between casts to proc Judgement of Wisdom,) or the tank, or if their threat is low, or they can barely heal through pulling three packs and a patrol. Wearing usual newbie gear really does make those things exceedingly difficult to do. I almost can't imagine how a team of level 15s in level-appropriate gear could have handled instances like RFC in vanilla.

/salute to those who came before us!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Discipline: Losing its flavor? (Not really.)

Power Word: Shield tooltip"[We want to] make sure shielding isn't always a more attractive option than healing."

These words about halfway down the Priest Cataclysm preview have sparked a surprising response from trolls and legitimate posters alike: "Discipline is losing its flavor." I'm here to disabuse everyone of the notion that moving away from shield spam is bad for the discipline spec. The non-troll complaints seem to come from two schools of thought: shields are what makes us unique, so they should always be better than healing, or using non-shield spells is much weaker than shielding, so this change will be a nerf to the spec. The first is question of flavor, the second is based on a failure of thinking.

1: Most healing specs (everyone but the druid) have a few direct heals, and then their class mechanics make up the rest of their spells. As it stands, discipline priests in high-end raids are primarily assigned to hit every member of the raid with Power Word: Shield, and then to do it again. Since global cooldowns are 1 second, and the spell prevents shielding for the next 15 seconds, it only takes two discipline priests to cover the entire raid, assuming the shields are being consumed more often than every 15 seconds. If a boss takes more than 15 seconds to consume raid shields, then a single discipline priest is often sufficient. In either case, from a flavor perspective, discipline is strange compared to the other healing classes; discipline typically uses its unique mechanic to the exclusion of other effects. Mechanically, the current state of discipline in high-end raids is that two discipline priests is problematic, and anything more than that simply won't work. That's bad on both counts, and thus, change is good.

2: The second argument is flawed in that it examines the effect of this change in isolation. If we got patch 4.0 tomorrow, and the discipline section read:
  • Discipline's shields reduced to encourage a wider variety of spells used.
  • Nope, nothing else changed in Disc, that's all. Really.
Then, it would be fair to say that this is a nerf to discipline that is not needed, and therefore the change shouldn't be made. But, that's not the case; this is a single change amongst many that will be coming in Cataclysm. I trust the developers (and you should too) to properly compensate the spec in other areas so that the net effect is to leave us on a similar level to all the other healing specs in both tank and raid healing.

Don't do this, trust Ghostcrawler to get it right.

I personally see the rebalancing of bubbles relative to our other healing components as a good thing for the class, and not just in terms of spell variety. Making it so PW:S isn't our primary spell will make more stats viable on gear. As it stands, PW:S scales only to spellpower, which we have little control over. If we commonly use our other spells, we can actually begin to care about things like whether our gear has haste, crit, or mp5 on it. Besides gear selection, the proposed rebalancing was for the purpose of letting discipline be more competitive tank healers. By allowing us more roles in a raid, the spec becomes more entertaining, less repetitive, and more detailed. So, for the reasons I've listed, I think discipline casting more heals and less shields is good for myself and all the other raiding discipline priests.

What would you pay for?

In what could be described as a somewhat controversial move, (by which I mean the entire blogosphere is on fire because of it,) Blizzard recently made a mount that functions like the Headless Horesman's Mount available for $25. It scales to your riding skill, will upgrade to 310% if you own another 310% mount, and applies to your entire account. So why would you want to shell out that much for the sparklepony? Well, personally, I wouldn't. That image there might look cool, but if you see it ingame, the animations are a little messed up, and it just looks off if you see it with Shadowform. So it doesn't even look cool. The main reason I see for wanting it is that you won't need to spend gold on mounts for your alts. The total savings is 161g per alt (1g for regular, 10g for epic, 50g for flying, 100g for epic flying.) That said, that's only a small portion of the cost of riding; you still pay 7110g for the riding training.

But that topic has been discussed to death. I'm here to consider what they could actually offer that I might pay for. So, let's list some criteria that must be met for me to value something:
  • It needs to save me time or gold.
  • It needs to do so without cheapening the existing game experience.
  • It needs to accomplish the above without harming other players if someone has it.
So basically, the second two mean that gear upgrades, or really anything that grants a competitive advantage are off the list. I'm also not going to waste much time on things they already have available that fit the list (like server transfers, for example.)

Bigger Backpacks. Arguably, this makes me a more powerful character than someone without it, but we get by just fine with the currently-available bags. A 32-slot backpack for all your alts isn't going to be a game-breaker for someone else. In fact, in all probability, no one will know who has one and who doesn't. I'd pay $5 to give +16 backpack slots to my whole account.

BoA Flight Paths. I like how the "you need to visit the destination first" mechanic of the flight path system made me explore the world on my first few characters. When I'm levelling my umpteenth alt, however, it's pretty annoying to find out that I need to hike to Tanaris or something. (Actually, I recently got around that problem by taking the Caverns of Time portal from Dalaran.) If they sold an account upgrade that made it so all of your characters had all of the flight paths that any of your characters had, I'd be down with that. I'd pay $2 for this feature.

Hard-Mode BoA Items. I'd pay for a BoA trinket or an item for some other mostly-harmless gear slot that granted a -25% damage/health/healing/absorbtion in exchange for a +35% XP from kills and +5% XP from quests. Normally I find leveling an alt fairly fun, but not as fun as raiding, because it's not challenging enough. These would help with both things I dislike about the leveling experience: it's too long, and it's too easy. I'd pay $10 if I could get one for every one of my alts, or like $4 if I had to be bothered mailing it around between my characters. Add $2 if it increased out-of-combat health and mana regen to something fast enough to make my downtime about equal to the time it takes to run to the next mob.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pimp my UI: Losing my UI

For those who don't know, (and why would you, I've been posting more than usual, not less,) my old hard drive bit the dust about a week and a half ago. I'll be back up and running by midweek next week, but even after that, my finely-crafted UI will be gone. Rather than lamenting the loss, I see this as an opportunity to plan out my new UI.
So, here's what I want from my UI:
  • I need to be able to see the 3D environment.
  • I need raid frames.
  • I need a minimap.
  • I need target and focus frames.
  • I need a personal buff/debuff display.
  • I need a quality casting bar.
  • I want visual/clickable actionbars. (I can only handle/remember so many keybinds.)
  • I want an XP/rep bar. I've grown rather fond of the defaultUI ones.
  • I want a DoT timer.
  • I want to minimize my eye movements.
So, time for a rough sketch...There, done. I didn't find a spot for an XP bar, but then, that's not really all that important in combat anyway. I think I'll find a way to tack it onto the character sheet, like the pet XP bar for Hunters. Similarly, I don't have a castbar labeled yet, I'll play with it and see where I want it; "it" means Quartz, of course. I may try to compress the whole thing downwards, I'm not sure I want so much of my rear blocked.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Reflecting on Wrath

No, the title doesn't mean I rolled a Warrior and pwned a Druid. It means I'm taking today to look back on WotLK and point out what was fun... and what wasn't.

Naxxramas: Fun. Naxx was where I first learned to raid, since a couple forays into Kara the week before WotLK came out really don't count. Because of this, (and the low quality of the guild I was in at the time,) it was tuned appropriately for me. The fights were varied enough to each be interesting, ranging from truly tank-and-spank like Pathcy, to things demaning some strategic contribution from everyone, like Heigan, Sapphiron and Loatheb. Overall, it was an excellent place to learn to raid for beginning players, and every expansion should have something like Naxx.

Original 5-Mans/Heroics (pre-Dungeon Finder): Meh. They were really fun the first time or two through them, but on my umpteenth run looking for Gal'darah's Signet in regular Gun'drak just so I could reach the 535 defense cap for Heroics really sucked. 5mans are fun about twice. Then they're fun on Heroic mode as long as they remain appropriately challenging for some reason other than your party sucks. Being "forced" to run them beyond that is poor design and should be done away with.

Glory of the Hero: Fun! These ranged from "so easy a caveman could do it" to "legitimately challenging with a group of 5 seasoned raiders." It was a fun achievement in ~213 gear. A word to the wise: don't go trying to do this in the Dungeon Finder. It makes you an asshat.

Vault of Archavon: Awful. While it was fun when Naxx was fun, (because I was bad,) it degenerated into something ugly. By putting all four bosses on the same raid lockout, it made it basically impossible for people who need the lesser bosses to actually do them. And really, the only real challenge in the place is being online the one time your faction gets VoA this week. Like the dungeon finder, the rewards were too good; they encouraged us to do unfun, unhealthy things. Also? Never tie raid access to being on the populated side of your server again! >.< Obsidian Sanctum: Fun! Easy enough to show your bad casual friends a raid with no real fear of failure, yet individually punishing even on regular mode (I.E. people who ate flame waves got repairs.) And then the hard modes... wow were those fun in appropriate gear. Granted, I never got to down OS+3 in ilvl ~213 gear, but we did manage OS10+2 after a few weeks, and that was some of the most hectic fun I've ever had.

Eye of Eternity: Not fun. Take a raid, add clunky vehicle mechanics, a mandatory class, (a non-tank DK for Grip-Chains on the Power Spark,) and flying combat, and you have a recipe for a buggy, clunky, awkward raid. It was easy enough, but it just wasn't fun.

Ulduar: Fun! I never full cleared it. On regular. It was plenty challenging, the art and story was truly epic, and it kept me occupied for an entire patch cycle. What more can you ask for in a raid? Another note, this is the first time they did vehicle combat right. FL+0 was tuned easily enough that you could work through the various vehicle UI problems and learn the new controls bring your non-raider friends and still have a fair shot at it. And after that, the farm content wouldn't get tiresome, because you could crank the difficulty to fit your raid group. We did FL+3 in appropriate gear, and it was fun. I also recently went back to tackle the hard mode achievements (in ICC gear) and one of them at least was still hard and fun: Firefighter. To anyone who has never done Firefighter, I strongly recommend going back to do it before level 81. You'll be glad you did.

5man ToC: Fun! While I'll admit that I didn't specifically like the jousting or the Wall-O-Text, neither detracted enough from the instance to make me dislike it as a whole. The epics falling from the sky cause a crash in the Abyss Crystal market, but I think that this was one of the best ways to ensure that newcomers could gear up quickly. Certainly it was much better than ~50 random heroics. The random bosses were a nice touch, and this was legitimately hard in ilvl 200 gear, putting it properly in progression after the original Heroics and Naxxramas.

ToC raid: Mixed. This was fun the first time, and remained fun until we had beated it. Which didn't take very long. The fact that hard modes were separated from regulars was, I think, a bad idea, and thankfully it seems that they have at least somewhat learned from this for ICC. This was the first time they scaled-up the old sources of emblems, to give Conquest. That, I think was a mistake, they should have made most things give Valor, and leave Conquest in Ulduar and H 5man ToC, so that gearing up remained a proper progression in all parts.

Heroic ToC raid: Fun! Still hard, still fun now. Unfortunately, it's not incentivized now. Give it a shot if you haven't before. You'll need a free night and some good players though; out-geared or not, it still won't tolerate sloppy play.

Dungeon Finder: Mixed. It was very novel to be able to group in ~30 seconds, as opposed to ~30 minutes, and being able to chain-run an alt was great... for about a week. The rewards were too big on the Dungeon Finder, and that led to many people running beyond when hey stopped having fun. Please don't use rewards to get us to do something we hate. Use them to get us to try something we might like.

Heroic 5-man ICC: Fun! Challenging, rewarding, full of plot, everything I look for in a 5man. Halls of Reflection was particularly fun with a group of 4 of my ToC25-raiding friends. That said, it's specifically not fun to tackle challenges with people whose skill, motivation and gear are a crapshoot; HoR should never have been a random dungeon, though having it available to queue specifically for it was a good call.

ICC: Fun! Like Ulduar, it had fights ranging in difficulty so that everyone and their alts can see a few fights, while being a true challenge as you get deeper in. I refer to Funship Battle by that name for obvious reasons, and I've still yet to kill the Lich King (mostly for lack of trying; I haven't played since the warsong went live, and we were damn close before that.) I do wish that a full clear wasn't required for hard modes, however; I wish we could set Marrowgar, Deathwhisper, and a few others to medium mode so they wouldn't be so boring.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Priest Cataclysm Changes: Because a million and one other posts just weren't enough.

It would be poor form to comment without a link, so... Priest Cataclysm changes from the WoW forums.

One-by-one I'm going to post my thoughts on the changes.

New Spells: Heal, Mind Spike, Inner Will, Leap of Faith Life Grip.

Heal was "added" to enable a new style of healing whereby healing is less frenetic and a lot more about minimizing overheal. The new (old really, vanilla was like this) healing environment where mana matters and health pools are much bigger than heals will be a nice change of pace, and I think it and the new middle-ground heal spells are good for the game in general. Now the devs will be able to produce more varied fights, the old hard-enrage and heal spamming fights can still work, they'd just need to be short, and if all goes as planned we'll also have more slow and mana-managing fights like Vezax.

Mind Spike is... kind of useless, IMHO. We already have (Improved) Devouring Plague spam for things with very low health, and for anything that lasts even a few seconds, I'd prefer to DoT it up. It only takes ~8 seconds to make my DoTs better than a quick, weak burn rotation. Ah well, another spell for lolsmite and on the off chance that I get spell-locked while shadow, I guess it will be helpful.

Inner Will sounds good. I can't see wanting to intentionally screw my spellpower very often, but I'm sure we'll find a few fights to use it in, and it will make things like the run from the Brann event in HoS to Sjonnir the Ironshaper a little faster.

And finally Life Grip, my personal favorite upcoming Priest spell. Life Grip promises to be riotously full of griefing potential, much like certain other hilariously fun and useless abilities like Mind Control. Unlike certain other mostly-useless abilities, I can see Life Grip being legitimately useful for more than just Instructor Razuvious Must Die! and Who Needs Bloodlust? It can function as another "shield" type heal, by preventing damage someone would have taken had you not moved them, and I expect it will also see use in a few kiting and other movement strategies.

Mechanics Changes

The new version of haste-scaling for DoTs is interesting, to say the least. At the very least, it will improve shadow's hast scaling, but it will also simplify the rotation a bit. I'm okay with the rotation getting mildly simpler if we get mildly stronger, I can view it as a necessary evil. Of course, for healing this changes things a lot, particularly if Radiance scales to haste. I hope something similar is worked out with our Weakened Soul duration being shortened by haste also.

SW:D as an execute? Cool. More to think about if you want to do more damage; exactly how it should be.

Priests as viable good tank healers? Sweet. In keeping with the above mention of using the right heal for the job, multiple sizes of bubble is also nice.

O noes, what ever will we do without our spirit buff? Oh right. Basically the exact same thing we've been doing. I actually like this; you no take candle!

The 5-second rule is gone? I'm not sure if I care about that either. On the one hand, I (sort of) liked the old complexity, since it offered the opportunity to squeeze out extra mana if you pulled off some convoluted strategy, in theory. In practice, however, we've been solidly in the 5sr for ages anyway, may as well just make it official.

Talent Changes

Much of this section I've already commented on above.

Power Word: Barrier. Cool. I hope this means that the role of a disc priest won't be "shield everyone once, than do it again" anymore. Other than that, this is also one of many announced ground-targeted AoE heals (the others are for other classes). This sounds like a fun change, switching healing from Grid whack-a-mole to actually paying more attention to the fight itself.

Chakra. Being able to specialize for many different healing roles sounds good in theory. However, since they posted that they've also mentioned that they intend to have some special UI to indicate your Chakra status, and get an "in the zone" feel. This, I'm vehemently opposed to. New UIs typically break, and broken UIs cause wipes. Please just use something that works. I recommend a few different buffs, one for each state.


Absorbtion: how bland. The mechanic is simple, but it does emphasize what makes Discipline unique, so, bland or not, I think it'll work out alright. This will also be fairly easy to balance, and helps to cover an old issue that there was no gear for priests who commonly get assigned to shieldbot.

Radiance: cool. Again a simple mechanic, but instead of increasing an effect we already had, it tacks on a new effect to spells that never had it. This is also a fairly simple thing to balance.

Shadow Orbs: not enough information. I think Blizzard doesn't yet have a clear idea of what this will do, so I can't really fault them for not telling us yet. As it stands, it sounds somewhat like a graphical version of Shadow Weaving. If executed well, this sounds like it could be an amazingly involved mechanic, if executed poorly, well, we may find ourselves saying "wait for 5 shadow orbs before applying SW:P."

In the hope that Shadow Orbs is awesome, here's a small handful of suggestions for the use of shadow orbs.
  • If they deplete over time, make sure it's not yet another excuse to rush pulls. 40 seconds out of combat seems like little enough time that farming orbs before a boss pull isn't really viable, but long enough time that you don't need to hurry between trash packs or risk wasting orbs.
  • The brief mention of "spending" shadow orbs to empower a single spell or to perhaps cast an entirely new spell sounds excellently fun.
  • There should be a balance struck between hoarding shadow orbs for their passive damage bonus and spending them for the powered-up spells. Ideally the chance to gain a shadow orb would be based off your mastery rating, but the chance goes down for each shadow orb you have. So higher mastery leads to a higher maximum number of shadow orbs, and spending more orbs on spells allows you to gain orbs back more quickly.
  • They should be spendable for a damage boost, so that keeping a balance between the passive boost of having them and the immediate boost of spending some is worthwhile. Ideally this balance should not be "pop an orb whenever you hit the maximum number." It should also not be "pop an orb whenever you have one."
  • They should also be spendable for utility effects, like temporarily making VE raid-wide, making Inner Will look more like Sprint, making Fade get you out of combat, or making Dispersion a real immunity effect. Clearly some of these are pretty powerful, so they should require a large number of orbs, possibly so many that you can't even use some of them unless you have enough mastery on your gear to be able to have that many orbs.
  • Speaking of which, having the maximum orbs vary with mastery, and having certain uses for them that only become available as your maximum increases sounds incredibly fun as well. It's like leveling up and getting new spells when you're already at the endgame.
Well, that's my two coppers on the topic of the priest changes for Cataclysm. Here's hoping for another amazing expansion.

Monday, March 29, 2010

On Expansions

I just read a post by Tobold (yes, I realize I'm behind the times,) about the difficulty of balancing Cataclysm. His central argument it that, in order to "future-proof" the level 81-85 zones, they need to be tuned so that someone who just turned level 80 a year from now, someone in greens and blues with little raiding experience, can handle the world and normal-mode 5man mobs. Trouble is, most of the players right now are in at least 4 piece t9, and have appreciably more skill than a fresh 80, even if I think that amount of skill is a pittance. So we have the challenge of trying to set Cata up to be enjoyed immediately by a group ranging from fresh 80s to 11k-DPS beasts, and later to still be enjoyable by mostly fresh 80s, or even fresh 78s if Cata is to follow the tradition.

So what do we do? Here's my take on some of the options.


Option 1: ...and I jizz in my pants.

Cataclysm follows ICC in difficulty and progression; world level 81 mobs have ~60k HP and deal about 2.5k DPS on cloth.

The reason for even considering this option is because it appeals to me personally. With my about 5k DPS when alone against a low-HP mob, fights would run about 12 seconds per mob, as they do now for a fresh 80 against level 80 world mobs. At 2.5k DPS for 12 seconds, I'd be taking a net 750 DPS (after self-healing, armor and other survival-oriented class abilities) from the first mob, and about 1750 for each thereafter, putting me at risk of dying to a two-mob pull, in need of CC for a three-mob pull, and funtionally dead as soon as the fourth aggros. Add in minor mob gimmicks/avoidable attacks, and the world mobs become a solo raid. For players not at the top-end of current content, 2-3man grouping would render such fights doable to the current average player, and a common 5man team of fresh and unskilled 80s could handle these as well. Personally, this option has my seal of approval; It would be like I just ate a grape.

However, this would make the 78-85 range all but impossible for a truly casual player. Even a good casual would only be doing ~2k DPS when they arrived at level 80, and forced grouping, either in the form of raiding to get up to speed, or grouping in order to finish "solo" quests, would mean progression and remaining casual are mutually exclusive. R.I.P. Option 1.

Option 2: WoW, so easy a retard can do it.

Business as usual, tuned for bad fresh 80s. World mobs have ~14k HP and deal maybe 400 DPS on cloth. No gimmicks, mobs all virtually reskinned clones of eachother (like in WotLK.)
This option is fairly likely; Blizzard's current policy seems to be "Hardmode raids are for the hardcore, Raids are for almost everyone, and world mobs should be soloable three-at-a-time by a retard." If we take a bad fresh 80, we'd find ~600 DPS, possibly lower armor types than normal, and no item enhancements. At this rate, fights last 23 seconds per mob, and the mobs deal about 170 DPS for the first mob, and 320 for each beyond the first. At this rate, this bad fresh 80 can take two at a time from full health, and might even manage three or four if they use crowd-control, heals or kiting.

If this sounds rediculously easy to you... well, I point you to current level 80 world mobs. They have 12800 HP and deal ~250 DPS on cloth; they're even easier. I accidentally oneshotted one of them when I went to go check that data. On my crappy Mage alt. So clearly it's neither too easy for Blizzard nor too easy for the 'tards. But I suppose that's OK; everyone says the game starts at level cap anyway. It could, however, be better than this.

Option 3: Operation Vanilla WoW

Tune for the average player now (t9, 20k HP, 3k DPS,) nerf it later. Mobs would have about 25k HP and deal 900 DPS on cloth.

This was how the old world was handled. Once upon a time you'd have elites wandering around outside every instance, sometimes before you even got to the meeting stone. Places like Moonbrook had mages with a gigantic aggro radius that could pyroblast you for half your health from accross the subzone. Then they buffed players. Then they buffed them again. Then they nerfed the old-world mobs. Then they buffed players again. Then they nerfed the mobs again. And here we stand, with an old world that's so easy a retard could do it.

I actually don't prefer this option to option 2; it's still no challenge to me, and people will whine when they go to nerf it later. In the mean time, some bad casuals may quit because they can't handle it, reducing the amount of money spend on improving the endgame for the rest of us.

Option 4: The only serious one.
Tune the world mobs for the bads, tune the "group" quests for the good casuals, tune the 5mans for the ICC raiders, nerf 5mans later.
This is the "something for everyone" approach, and the approach which has made WoW the massive success that it is. Up until now, they've done it as "world mobs for morons, group quests for morons with friends, 5mans for three morons a tank and a healer, and raids for everyone else," and that's how I expect them to handle Cata. If, however, we can get some of the levelling game tuned for the high-end players, then the game needn't "begin at level cap" and we might go back to enjoying levelling, rather than trying to get it done as fast as possible.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Vanishblock and you.

So, you may be wondering why exactly I'm writing an article on Vanish here in Guardian Spirit. Two reasons, one, it needs to be written since I can't find lore on Vanishblock anywhere, and two, I don't have a 'general purpose' blog.

So, what is Vanishblock? It's a feature of Vanish (and to a lesser extent, Invisibility) that can allow a skilled Rogue (or an insanely skilled Mage) to entirely avoid any one attack for the price of their aggro reset cooldown. The Vanish page on Wowhead makes a reference to the Vanishblock ability in the first comment: "[Vanish] can be used to avoid both physical or magical damage if timed properly." This is, unfortunately, the only reference I could find to Vanishblock anywhere when I went to try and look it up for a Rogue friend; if I hadn't already known more-or-less how to do it, I wouldn't have been able to teach him the secret forbidden lore of the Vanishblock.

We eventually met outside Orgy for some duels to practice with, and it worked exactly as I expected, he could block Pyroblasts, Flamestrikes, Mind Blasts, basically anything he could see coming, either in midair or via my cast bar. When blocked, he would avoid all damage, all associated debuffs, he would prevent me from gaining stacks of Shadow Weaving or healing from Vampiric Embrace, and if the spell had no travel time, it even prevented me from stacking up Eye of the Broodmother. It was as if the spell never happened. What happens outside Orgy stays outside Orgy, I guess. Notably, he could not use it to protect someone near him from an AoE, however if he was the primary target of a spell like Chain Lightning, the entire spell would fail. Targetted healing spells would also fail if blocked, assuming the caster wasn't in the same party or raid.

So, now that I've stated what it can do, I'll post how to gain this amazing ability (and why it's so rediculous). To preform a Vanishblock, simply hit Vanish 0.33 seconds before the ability that you want to block would land. For mages, you want to hit Invisibility 3.33 seconds early (you want to go fully invisible on the same timing as the Rogue's Vanish.)

Now, why is this worth taking the 30 minutes or so to practice with a caster friend? It works on PvE effects. Mark of the Fallen Champion targetting you? Nah, you can just reset your blood meter, thanks. Tear Gas so the raid can pay attention the to RP? Screw that, have a free 20 seconds to stab the old fool, just hit Vanish as the bottle is about to hit the floor. These are the most reliable effects in ICC to block, but I've seen Bone Spike, and Gaseous Bloat blocked too. Since you can't see the target of those in advance, it's a matter of luck, and causing these abilities to fail may wipe your raid.

So spread the word, send your small stabby people here, and let's force yet another Rogue nerf.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The tank is not a tank.

"Did I mention the tank is a tank?"

But seriously, for those who may have been chain running Heroics to gear up their alts, nothing is more annoying than the 5-10% or so of "tanks" that are not tanks. I'm not talking about bad or new tanks, I'm talking about the really crappy DPS that queue as Tank for a shorter wait and then hope someone either: drops group so they can requeue as DPS, but be in a group of 3-4 and so get in sooner anyway, or takes over tanking with their offspec. Do not do this. Wait until you can kick them, and do so. Taking over for them and not kicking them is exactly what they want, and dropping out of the group (if you're not the healer) is a really close second. Don't give them what they want and they'll stop doing it.