Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Second Singularity

This is a work of science-fiction, based off of and replying to: the Singularity, by Terry Bisson. The original work can be viewed here. I'll still have a WoW-related post on Friday this week.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Layout

A typical reader.
Hey, everyone. New layout for the blog. I tried to keep it as similar to the old layout as I could. As you may notice, however, I failed to make it visually indistinguishable. From my experience with changes to Gmail, Youtube, etc., I know that this will be universally hated. Oh well. There were many minor things I wanted to change, and using Blogger's built-in system was simpler than learning HTML.

New Features
  • Slightly grayer text background, 98% less likely to drive readers insane.
  • Slightly wider main column, the first paragraphs in my posts are now golden rectangles.
  • Added popular posts box on the right. 55% of you were coming here for the DPS guides anyway.
Collateral Damage
  • Blog title now ugly(er).
  • I will be widely hated by returning readers for the near future.
  • That Blogger bar at the top now is now gray, down from blue.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Heroic Madness of Deathwing

Destroyer of Raids.
Astute readers may notice that it has been rather a long time since I wrote about H Spine. Through a combination of general apathy, summer rescheduling and Diablo III, we've been unable to field a raid until this week. Anyway, it's time to write about H Madness!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pimp my UI: Help/Harm Macros

Macros: not this complicated.
Inspiration, yay! Those who read last week's post will know that I've been seeking a topic to blog about for a few weeks now (my post buffer used to be 2 weeks long, and I used it all up). Then, a friend of mine who's leveling a priest sent me a simple whisper asking about help/harm macros. How could I have forgotten to write about something so core to the class? So, this week, it's all about macros.

Macro Basics

While I bet a lot of my readers have heard of macros before, here's a short introduction for those who haven't. A macro is a short program you can write to convert a single key-press or mouse-click into more than one game action. Generally, anything you could do with the chat box is something you can make a macro do, like saying something in chat, inviting someone to your group, or even casting a spell. Unlike most real-world programming languages, macros are designed to be simple, and you don't need to learn a lot to make use of them. Macros are part of the game, you don't need any addons to use them, and they're completely approved by Blizzard.

To make a macro, first, open the macro window by typing /m into the chat box and hitting enter.

Help/harm macros are simple macros you can write to condense one helpful spell and one harmful spell into a single button, freeing up space on your keyboard and action bars. You'll see two tabs near the top of the window, General Macros and Specific Macros. You'll probably want character specific macros for today. Once you've selected the kind you want, click the New button in the bottom-right corner. This will open a smaller window for you to name the new macro and pick an icon for it. Once you've done that, click Okay. You'll now have a new blank macro button in your macro window, and a blinking cursor in the box below labelled "Enter Macro Commands:". Type the macro commands in there (I'll explain this part in a little while), then drag the macro button onto your action bars just like a normal spell.

As I mentioned above, macros can do anything you could from the chat box, and to make it do something, you just put that command in the macro. To do more than one thing in the same macro, just put the next command on the next line. Today I'll be focusing on casting spells, but if you're interested in doing other things, here's some further reading: Slash Commands on WoWWiki (a little outdated, but still good.)

Making a Help/Harm Macro

Help/harm macros are simple macros you can write to condense one helpful spell and one harmful spell into a single button, freeing up space on your keyboard and action bars. Normally, you can't use multiple spells that have a global cooldown in the same macro, but help/harm macros can because they only try to use a single spell at a time.

You make a macro cast a spell like this:

That will cast Flash Heal when you activate the macro. You can use any spell name or item name, and it will try to cast the spell, use the item or equip the item. So far, this macro's not any better than just putting Flash Heal on your action bar. Now we'll make it do something Flash Heal can't on it's own: work when you target an enemy.

This will cast Flash Heal if you were targeting a friendly player, and cast Mind Flay if you were targeting an enemy. Cool huh? Now you only need a single button for both spells. For any macro command, you can put a set of square brackets between the command itself and the rest of the line. Anything between the square brackets will modify how the command works. [help] makes it skip the command if you're not targeting a friendly target. [harm] makes it skip the command if you're not targeting an enemy. You can also preface any modifier with "no" to make it mean to opposite. For example:

This is almost the same as before, but now it will also heal you if you're not targeting anything. (Of course, it might also strip you out of Shadowform if your target dies right before you hit the macro! Oops!) Anyway, using these tags, you can build your own macros to do whatever you need.

Advanced Macro Construction

Here are some more modifiers I find useful:
  • [mod] - Only do this if you're also holding a modifier key (meaning, Shift, Ctrl, or Alt.)
  • [exists] - Only do this if you actually have a target.
  • [spec:1] or [spec:2] - Only do this if you're in your primary or secondary talent specialization.
  • [form] - Only do this if you're in a form (meaning, in Shadowform.)
  • [dead] - Only do this if your target is dead.
  • [mounted] - Only do this if you're riding a mount.
  • [@player] - Use this on yourself instead of your target.
  • [@focus] - Use this on your focus instead of your target.
You can also set multiple different modifiers to the same command. For example:

This will use Power Word: Shield on myself if I hold a modifier key, or use Power Word: Shield on my target if I'm targeting a friendly player. By putting multiple modifiers together in the same set of square brackets, separated by commas, they all apply together. By making a separate set of square brackets, the next set will only be attempted if the first set gets skipped. You can also put [] with nothing in it to make it just try to cast the spell with no modifiers at all if the other brackets got skipped.

By creatively using all the tools I've provided here, you can fit a ton more stuff onto your bars, and make some pretty handy stuff. Soon you'll be making complex macros like these ones that I use:

Friday, May 11, 2012

[MoP Beta] Shadow Priest Update - May 11

Huge rotation-changing, er, changes, are getting less frequent. Thus, these beta updates are getting progressively more boring. If I had something more interesting to write about, I'd probably be writing that instead.

Sources of Shadow Orbs

Currently only Mind Blast and Shadow Word: Death (below 20%) provide Shadow Orbs. This makes Shadow Orb generation very predictable and regular, and as such, Devouring Plague is likely to be used at a very regular interval, much like it is today.

Mind Surge has been reworked, now allowing Haste to shorten the Mind Blast cooldown, which again smooths out Shadow Orb generation, and allows that part of the rotation to scale with Haste. The previous Mind Surge mechanic has been moved to the Divine Insight talent (level 75), so if nuke procs and irregular Shadow Orb gains are your cup of tea, you can spec into it.

Shadow Heals

Like many overpowered things in beta, the Shadow healing spec is mostly gone. Glyph of Dark Binding now applies to Prayer of Mending, Renew and Leap of Faith. Don't get me wrong, it's still a great glyph. It's just not the core piece of a viable hybrid spec anymore. Similarly, Shadow never got Discipline's mana/haste procs; that was a data-mining error. Oops!

Another glyph option, Glyph of Devouring Plague is available to increase your self-healing, but won't help the rest of your raid. It's actually quite sizable, increasing the damage-to-healing conversion from 15% up to a whopping 48%. (The tooltip lies.) On a related note, Devouring Plague has been nerfed into oblivion. I expect it'll get fixed in an upcoming beta patch though, beta balance is always wonky.

Mind Spike Proc

It's back, this time procing from Vampiric Touch ticks with the From Darkness, Comes Light talent (level 45.) This is a fun mechanic, and I was sad to see it gone last build.

Talents now Shadowform-Friendly

Many talents which previously broke Shadowform don't anymore. Huzzah!

Dungeon-Friendly CC

The Glyph of Psychic Scream now also applies to the Psyfiend talent. Also, huzzah!


This isn't Shadow-related, but Discipline just got flip-turned upside-down. Spirit Shell is now a cooldown that converts all direct heal spells into absorbs. Neat! I fully expect this mechanic to change a lot over the coming weeks.

Shadow Overview

The beta Shadow rotation now closely resembles the live one. It's all about DoTs and using Mind Blast on cooldown, with Mind Flay filler. Sure, you can build a proc-filled rotation, or shift focus away from your DoTs, but those are talent choices, and if they get the balance right, will just be a matter of choice. Our scaling looks good, our new mastery looks, if anything, even better than the current one. In general, Shadow is in a pretty good shape right now. Switching from live to beta right now is about as seamless as the shift from 3.3 to 4.0 was. So relax everyone, the sky is no-longer falling like it was when Shadowy Apparitions was our primary nuke.

Friday, May 4, 2012

[MoP Beta] Shadow Priest Update - May 1

Need a new talent?
Why not Zoidberg?
Well, it looks like it's time for another beta post. I know I've been posting more about the beta than anything else lately, but there are just so many changes. Enough to warrant this post.

Recent Beta patches: Tuesday May 1, Friday April 27.

I actually wrote a full rant about the state of Shadow priests after the April 27 patch, which was made almost wholly obsolete by the May 1 patch. You can see that rant here, if interested. If you're wondering why the tone of all my beta posts is so positive, it's because things actually are looking good. That rant is a great example of what I write when things are bad; because they were, and I did.

The New Mastery

Mastery: Shadowy Recall - Your DoT ticks have an X% chance to deal damage twice.

It's like crit rating that only applies to DoTs... or is it? Many of our abilities have a chance to trigger on DoT damage. In addition to behaving like crit rating, this will also increase Shadow Orb procs from MF/SW:P, mana return and Mind Blasts from VT, and Shadowy Apparition procs from SW:P. Also, as we gear up, DoTs will shift towards greater prominence in our rotation. Cool. I like the new mastery's design.

Shadow Heals

With the addition of Glyph of Dark Binding, Shadow priests can now heal without a double-whammy to their DPS from needing to re-cast Shadowform. Combined with a level 75 talent option, Twist of Fate, it will be a damage gain to heal someone who is below 20% HP.

At 0% haste, the buff gained from Twist of Fate perfectly cancels the time lost to casting a Flash Heal, assuming you won't cast any DoTs during the 10 second buff, and exceeds it if you do. As haste levels rise, both the cost of casting the heal, and the benefit to DoTs rises. Not only can you spec to heal your raid, but there's also a real DPS incentive to do it.

In addition to proccing off of intentional heals, Twist of Fate has also been proccing off of SW:D backlash and Devouring Plague heals when you're below 20% HP. This makes Twist of Fate appreciably more valuable than it previously was for Shadow, making it more competitive against the other level 75 talents. (Previously, it was weak.)

Shadowy Apparitions is passive again (and there was much rejoicing!)

Last beta patch, Shadowy Apparitions was our only rotational Shadow Orb-dump. Now it's the same old passive proc from SW:P. Huzzah! See my rant for why this is a good thing. Also, their chance to proc no longer rises while we're moving. Good. Another bad mechanic gone. Finally, the summon limit has been raised to 15, which should help in cases of path-finding errors. Now while several of them stand around useless, at least we'll still be able to proc more on something else.

Devouring Plague is back!

Devouring Plague had been gone since the start of beta, apparently never to return. Then, it returned today as our new Shadow Orb dump. It deals 2.5k per orb instantly, and another about 8.8k per orb per second for 2 seconds. Notably, our Shadow Orb dump still interacts with our mastery nicely. This DoT has two relevant haste breakpoints. It gains an extra tick at 25%, and a second extra tick at 75% (reachable with a base haste of 34.7%, plus Heroism.) 25% haste is likely to be a very important mark for Shadow in early Mists, possibly surpassing hit capping, as haste did in early Cataclysm.

Notably, Vampiric Touch no longer self-heals, but Devouring Plague does. 15% of damage dealt is converted to health. This amounts to a quick ~20k self-heal, which can be used on-demand to soften certain fight mechanics. Nice.

Sphincter Guys

Spectral Guise is slightly improved relative to when I wrote the rant. It still bites, but it now grants stealth instead of invisibility, meaning we can still see our foes. This is a minor step in the right direction.

Vampiric Touch procs stuff.

From Darkness, Comes Light no longer procs from SW:P, leaving VT as the only thing to proc Mind Spikes. Also, we got a new baseline passive ability, Mind Surge, which procs instant Mind Blasts off of VT. While VT was heavily nerfed 2 beta patches ago, it's still a little stronger than SW:P, and more so due to these procs.

State of the Spec

Things are looking pretty good. All of our talents are looking at least situationally viable. We have options for an off-healing spec, proc-heavy rotations, and/or burst cooldowns. We're almost free of all of our known buggy mechanics -- Shadowy Apparitions, while still susceptible to path-finding errors, is at least a minor part of our DPS once again.

Also, scaling looks likely to preserve our rotation as we gear up. Late in Wrath, we had issues with Mind Blast dropping out of the rotation at ICC gear levels, but the new mastery design seems built to reinforce the usage of spells that are already limited: DoTs and cooldowns.