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Archive for April, 2010

Exams are done, for better or worse. I hallucinated spiders on my keyboard.

A day and a half to recuperate, and then Friday is moving day. And then no internet until May 5th! Oh noes! Such tumultuous change.

I’ve been awake for all of twenty minutes after sleeping all day (yes, literally) so thoughts are a little polar bear manifesto at the moment.

So two general thoughts.

-=-

I was at a friend’s place yesterday, so I tried out WoW and sure enough there was no lag to speak off. Well, I mean I was on a laptop and they were torrenting and stuff, so I was sitting at around 250ms, but still. No lag spikes, no disconnects. I got to raid again!

As frost.

I could have stuck with arcane, but meh. I don’t dislike any mage spec, and if I hadn’t gone frost a hunter would have had to go Survival. And frankly, having tried survival myself? I would never, ever inflict that on someone. Besides, the hunter in question has been die-hard marksman his entire WoW career. Warlord title, never once specced beastmaster throughout the entirety of TBC, you know the type.

So with a frost spec in hand, I shipped off to Icecrown Citadel and found out the hard way which mobs can be stunned and which can’t. Nothing is as heartbreaking as watching your 26k damage spell turn into a 5 second stun that deals nothing. Imagine blowing all your cooldowns as arcane, slamming arcane blasts into a boss, and then freaking out because everything’s critting for 2k. Then you come to the horrible realization that you’re casting rank 1 arcane blast for some reason.

That is how much it hurts.

Still, having a permanent Dribbles (I call him Dribbles, capital D, and don’t you forget it) to follow you around is plenty awesome. If only he would stop despawning whenever I took a portal or loading screen to somewhere. There were a few times where I noobed it up, forgot to summon the thing, and then he missed out on the wave of raid buffs.

Sorry Dribbles. I shall try to not be a terrible frost mage next time. You know, that little guy is truly the immortal one around here. Standing in whirlwind, casting happily along with 50 stacks of mystic buffet, and doesn’t afraid of anything.

Tangent: raiding as a frost mage is extremely strange, thematically. I am a frost mage, a master of ice and snow, the midnight sun and hot springs. And yet, in order to raid optimally, I have two roots and one snare. Both fire mages and arcane mages have access to those, plus frostbolt, and they can spec for even more.

It is very strange.

-=-

So 10 and 25 man raids are going to be normalized. They share lockouts, heroic modes are chosen on a per boss basis, and even the loot quality is exactly the same between the two, as is the difficulty.

Look, everyone from Tamarind to Honorshammer has bemoaned the fate of the 10man ghetto. You could either raid with the big boys in 25man, get the best of the best loot, experience hard core fights, or go 10man and be held in contempt as scrubs by fellow players and even the game itself.

10man raiding never really felt like raiding an instance for 10 players. Instead, we were traipsing through 25 player content that was lobotomized for us. Whenever we ran into difficult fights, we’d look at and research the fights on tankspot and elsewhere, to find strategies we could use. There we would watch a holy priest with val’anyr effortlessly healing through hardmode Anub’arak using nothing but shield and renew to keep the entire raid alive.

This strategy didn’t work. Not even close. Using nothing but renew and shield to heal someone results in that someone dying four or five seconds later.

It isn’t easy being a strict(ish) 10 man guild in Lich King. Our raid comp is nowhere near ideal (no shaman, for instance), and without the gear 25 man raiders use to carry themselves through 10man content we have to use some extremely weird strategies to defeat bosses sometimes. We’ve had to use Death Knights to juggle kinetic bombs and tank the shadow bolting boss, for instance.

For example, last night I was the only caster DPS in the raid. Me and a lone hunter made up the entirety of the ranged DPS. At least the druid got to be boomkin for the first four bosses, but after that it was full time tree.

Anyway, point is, 10man raiding never really was 10man raiding. It was 25man raiding with less players and worse loot.

I didn’t (and still don’t) care nearly as much as my fellow guildmates do. Being able to raid with 10 people trumps any consideration such as loot; doing 10man raids with 10man gear made for some interesting difficulty curves; and the respect of faceless others is so unimportant to me that the colour of my toothbrush is more important.

It’s easy to see where they’re coming from. Clearing ToC-10 and wondering why an iLevel 200 trinket is still best in slot. Watching strat videos just to watch the elite core of a 25man guild take the best possible raid comp into a 10man instance and crush it effortlessly with gear that is more than twenty item levels higher than your own. On and on and on. That gets frustrating after a while.

10man raiding can be difficult. It has been in the past. Remember Zul’Aman? There was nothing easy about it. Even the perfectly optimized 25 man raiders would head in there and struggle.

I suspect Blizzard’s goal with cataclysm is the same goal they had with lich king: offer 10man raiding as a legitimate thing to do.

Will this change sound the deathknell of 25man raiding?

I posit the question: why on earth would it? People who want to raid 25m do so, and suffer no penalty nor benefit from it. People who want to raid 10m do so, and suffer no penalty nor benefit from it.

Raid leaders shifting from doing 25m to 10m raids in order to lessen the stress of their job! Oh noes! So they have more fun raiding?

People who currently raid 25m, but don’t actually like it that much due to the social strains (or maybe they just do it for the loot), will be able to raid 10m without feeling like a ghetto raider and have more fun with their friends!

People who currently raid 25m and actually do enjoy it will be able to keep doing what they love in huge epic battles!

I don’t see a downside anywhere.

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Technically speaking, all blogs are a form of social networking. I type stuff, you read the stuff I type, sometimes you type me back and I read that too, which prompts me to type more stuff, and so forth.

It is a delayed conversation, akin to a forum. There are regulars, friends, a whole community of people that all share something in here. Some of you are here for magery, some of you are simply looking for a way to delay working. Not that I’m criticizing or anything, I used to spend entire shifts playing bubble bobble and tetris.

Point is, I sort of take the role of head administrator. If this was a church, I’d be the head priest, giving sermons, preaching to my flock of eager destruction enthusiasts, and I’d have office hours open for one on one time.

Note: next time a prospective employer asks what your hobbies are, tell them you’re a “destruction enthusiast”. Guaranteed success!

You, the reader, would come in for the daily sermon, nod to those you recognize in the congregation, listen to my speech, then retire to the main atrium for strudel and discuss the day’s lessons, perhaps pointing out flaws, adding your own ideas, and so forth.

But what happens when that group of people gets too big? Going from an audience of hundreds to thousands doesn’t have too much of an impact, but what happens when that number starts reaching into the area of tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? (more…)

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Yes, this series is probably going to continue for some time. I have to talk about every class, and anything else I think of along the way.

So, druids.

I have not played a druid, nor have I played with one extensively in PvP, so my insights are probably going to be significantly less insightly this time around.

First up, moonkins. Poor moonkins.

Moonkins aren’t in a very good place, overall, and haven’t been this entire expansion. Or ever. Moonkins are generally inferior to their other caster brethren, enjoying limited success in the hands of excellent players in a couple comps in 2s and 3s, and like death knights are shunned from 5s. They do quite well for themselves in battlegrounds, largely because the best way to PvP as a moonkin is to shove people off cliffs, ledges and bridges.

The major problem facing moonkins is that they are a caster trapped in the body of a druid. They have snares, they have nuking capacity, they have crowd control, they even have a half decent defensive cooldown, but all of those are inferior to what their caster brethren enjoy. In addition, moonkin do not have access to something all the other casters have: an interrupt.

Mages, warlocks, shadow priests, and so forth all have numerous ways to shut down opposing casters and numerous ways to avoid being shut down by other players. Moonkins have neither. They have no meaningful interrupts and no reliable way to avoid being shut down by enemy players. To put it lightly, a moonkin is a caster with either no caster tools or weak versions of them.

Every arena comp I’ve played, whenever we come across a moonkin, we very rarely don’t hit the moonkin extremely hard right off the bat. The only defensive cooldown they have is Barkskin, which can be easily dispelled and doesn’t even provide a great measure of help anyway. Other than that, their only real major option is to shift and run away, which frankly suits us just fine.

Similar to how an arms warrior in defensive stance with a shield equipped stops being a major threat, so does a moonkin forced into caster form to heal itself or cheetah to try and run away.

Moonkin damage is alright, which is about the only thing they have going for them. Currently, with Starfall and trees popped a moonkin can deal respectable damage, but without that their damage is merely average. A lack of damage is not what is holding moonkin back from being a great PvP spec, a lack of burst damage is not what moonkin are hurting for. (Though a more reliable Eclipse talent would certainly be a big help.)

What the balance tree needs is some proper caster tools. A few defensive abilities, to use against both enemy melee and enemy casters, would go much further in helping moonkins than anything else. Barkskin is simply not enough, not nearly enough. Buffing the damage Starfall deals isn’t going to fix anything.

Hell, even letting barkskin provide 100% dispel protection while it’s active would be a major improvement. Which, apparently, is coming to druids in cataclysm. Little late for any moonkins trying to compete in season 8.

Ferals are in roughly the same boat as moonkins. A melee class without any of the melee tools. Which isn’t entirely true, as any mage can tell you from trying to fight the instant snare breaking polymorph immune bastards.

I can’t say much about ferals, for I don’t particularly know a lot about them. They are few and far between, the only time I can recall even seeing one per battleground was the first few months after Wrath shipped. Since then, I see one maybe every five or six battlegrounds, and even less often in arenas.

Generally though, their population trend is the same as tree druids. Prevalent in 2s, scant in 3s, and seeing one in 5s is cause for laughter and derision.

All I can really say is that feral druids are very tough melee characters. With numerous bear tanking talents at their disposal, they have higher than average armor, health, and critical strike chance reduction. They can shift into bear form for significantly higher survivability any time, they can shift out and heal themselves, and quite excellent mobility. They can stealth, though they lack a way to regain stealth during combat.

Near as I can tell, the lack of an interrupt and the inability to deal damage in a PvP friendly way is what is causing ferals to lag behind.

Ferals, from what I understand, rely on a significant amount of target uptime in order to get their various buffs and debuffs to actually start dealing heavy damage. PvP does not allow for a lot of uptime, any DPS class typically works in small bursts. Three seconds here, four seconds there. Situations where you can sit on a target for ten or so seconds, just hammering damage into them, are extremely rare.

And so, ferals are forced to do as much damage as they can in a few globals. Which is especially poor in their case, relative to other classes like warriors and ret paladins.

In any case, there aren’t a lot of feral druids running around in PvP. Perhaps because they all rerolled resto years ago.

Tree druids, on the other hand, are quite numerous. You can find them everywhere, really. They are in battlegrounds and a dominating force in 2s. Far less common in 3s, and rather rare in 5s.

This, I think, is due to a resto druid not having high throughput or group based defensive cooldowns. Resto druids have abilities and cooldowns that can defend themselves, but they have nothing to bring to the table when someone else starts getting blown up. The total lack of a magic dispel doesn’t help either.

They have numerous powerful HoTs, but HoTs cannot save someone immediately, they save someone eventually. A resto druid simply cannot keep up with the damage output in the 3s and 5s brackets, something shamans, paladins and priests can all do. In these larger brackets, the damage output teams can do is immense. A player can be taken from full health to a dirt nap in a matter of three or four globals. This is damage output druids cannot easily handle.

Druids can pre-HoT, yes, but their mana pool isn’t deep enough to pre-HoT everyone. Swiftmend and Nature’s Swiftness obviously are used plenty, but even that isn’t enough. Druids simply lack the healing throughput, and they don’t have the cooldowns to offset that. This is also why the only successful druid teams in 3s feature at least one partner that can seriously bolster their power. A ret paladin, for instance, has access to powerful team based cooldowns, shields and his own heals and dispels to help the druid.

However, a resto druid does have access to some offensive abilities. They have crowd control.

This makes them perfectly suited toward small scale PvP. This is why they are so strong in 2s. The amount of damage going out in 2s is far less than 3s and 5s, so the resto druid actually can heal effectively. And of course the fewer people there are, the more efficient crowd control becomes. Druids almost seem tailor made for the 2s bracket. Hardly surprising, considering druids have nearly dominated that bracket since season one.

One final note: Cyclone.

In my eyes, Cyclone is a broken ability for one reason and one reason only: it has no counters.

If you are hit with cyclone, your only option is to trinket. There are no other abilities you can use to get out, there are no abilities your teammates can use to free you.

You could say locking down the druid or using LOS to break the cast are counters, but those are also counters to every other kind of CC in the game. Every CC can be countered by locking down the CCer, breaking LOS or staying away from the healer, or removed once a player is CCd by any number of buttons.

Except Cyclone. Nothing counters Cyclone. This is broken.

Cyclone nullifying all incoming damage and healing is fine. I say, increase the duration of Cyclone to ten seconds, like the other forms of casted CC. However, Cyclone becomes a magic debuff, and thus can be dispelled.

What Cyclone does is fine. CC is CC, but most come with other little effects attached to them. Even locking out immunity buttons during Cyclone is ok, though it does make druids better at CCing paladins and mages than they would be against other classes.

The only issue I see is that Cyclone cannot be countered, which to me is extremely broken.

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Ret Paladins

Ret paladins are not overpowered, and have been underpowered for quite some time. They can put out absolutely huge burst damage against unprotected targets with lower than average resilience, and they have very powerful team based defensive buttons. That’s it.

We all probably remember that one week where ret was ruthlessly overpowered. A ret paladin on the field of battle was a mobile nuclear weapon, capable of completely devastating a target in a manner of seconds. Just like every other class with a DPS spec (except warriors, hunters, and priests, cause screw those guys). But that’s all in the past, and thus irrelevant. Let’s talk about today’s ret paladin.

Ret isn’t even doing that great in raiding. I mean, DKs suck in PvP but have a very strong presence in raids; ret paladins don’t even have that much due to crippling scaling issues.

Today’s retribution paladin suffers from an extreme case of “melee class without any melee class tools”. Namely, a ret paladin does not have any gap closing buttons, snares, interrupts, and other than one extremely restrictive defensive cooldown are the squishiest melee class in the game. Only a rogue caught in the open with zero cooldowns is easier to kill than a ret paladin is.

To put it another way, ret paladins have one defensive ability available at any given time. Technically speaking, they have Divine Shield (total immunity for 12 seconds), Lay on Hands (refills health bar), Divine Protection (half damage), and Hand of Protection (total physical damage immunity). All of those cause Forbearance, meaning the Paladin can only use on of those on themselves every 2 minutes.

Now, for arenas, this means the paladin picks one of those and that’s all they get, really. Lay on Hands is, of course, unusable, and Hand of Protection is usually strictly reserved for other players. So the choice comes down to Divine Shield or Protection, and it’s always Shield. Of course the paladin could use these more liberally if the given arena battle lasted longer than the two to four minutes (or significantly less) most arenas are decided in.

This situation is made even worse as the paladin’s only offensive cooldown, Avenging Wrath, is completely unusable within 30 seconds of any of the above (except, I believe, HoP, though I have never HoPped myself so I can’t be sure) and vice versa. Popping Avenging Wrath is always a huge gamble, because what if you need to bubble in the next 30 seconds? You’re SOL, that’s what.

It’s a slightly different picture for battlegrounds, as Forbearance doesn’t persist though death. Conceivably, the paladin could use Divine Shield and pop Lay on Hands on themselves in under 20 seconds, or even less depending on when they get to the graveyard. I can see how this might create an odd perception, due to the paladin effectively showing up in combat with a fresh defensive cooldown every single time.

Still, Divine Shield can be dispelled by priests and warriors, both very common classes, Divine Protection can be dispelled by anyone with a dispel button, as can HoP, and Lay on Hands is extremely overrated. Technically, yes, the paladin can Divine Shield and use that 12 second immunity to just flat out delay anyone without fear of failure for that entire time span, but… well, technically every single class can do that as long as someone reasonably competent is at the helm.

All this vaunted survivability that everyone likes to attribute to the ret paladin spec is nothing more than player skill. Think about it.

How does a warrior PvP? Charge, intercept, even intervene in some situations to close. Once there, they can use hamstring/piercing shout to stay in melee, throw up a powerful mortal strike effect, extremely huge amounts of damage (provided a decent weapon and ArP rating, which let’s face it all warriors have by now), and if things go haywire they have interrupts and numerous defensive cooldowns to rely on at a moment’s notice.

How does a ret paladin close to melee? They cleanse snares from themselves, perhaps blow freedom, or get out of combat so they can mount and charge. The latter is usable by anyone, the former two easily counterable by anything that actually uses snares (except moonkin, because they suck). Then, they have two interrupts on one minute cooldowns, no snares of any kind, and precisely one defensive cooldown to rely on provided they didn’t blow their only offensive cooldown.

The only reason ret paladins ever survive as long as they do is because good ret paladins think like casters. Ret paladins survive because they continuously duck around corners, constantly pillar hump to avoid damage and let their heals tick, and constantly fight opposing melee class from range.

To put it another way, ret paladin survivability is not a part of how the spec is designed. There is barely any survivability at a ret paladin’s disposal. What they do have are LOS blocks and very strange “melee” abilities.

Look at the range on the paladin’s abilities. Judgement has a 10 yard range. Divine Storm is 8. The only things a ret paladin has to be in melee range to do is crusader strike and auto attacks. Everything else can be used from outside the 5 yard melee range. Paladins beat and out survive warriors because the paladin does his best to never actually be in melee with warriors.

A ret paladin who thinks like a melee character and tries to act like one will fail over and over again. A ret paladin who thinks and acts like a frightened holy priest actually gets results and is called overpowered for it.

It’s worth pointing out that ret paladins can absolutely, completely, totally, utterly destroy the undergeared/underskilled/unattentive players.

Against undergeared… ret paladins scale rather poorly against resilience. Art of War gives rets the ability to heal themselves whenever they crit with certain abilities, thus the less resilience a given target has (read: undergeared) the more they crit, the more they can heal themselves easily, the more “unstoppable” they appear.

Against underskilled… this is self explanatory. As a spec, the ret paladin isn’t a complicated class. Few abilities with few applications means that their strategies are extremely limited and they are very easy to counter. However, the vast majority of players are not PvP savants. They don’t have split second reaction speeds or fantastic spacial awareness. When fighting a ret paladin who does, these people get destroyed.

Against unattentive… again, self explanatory. A ret paladin can bear down on a priest who isn’t paying attention or AFK making a sandwich and obliterate them. A ret paladin who gets to start combat already in melee range against an unshielded/hotted target has a major advantage.

Against anyone of equal gear, skill, and is paying attention? A ret paladin isn’t going to be able to do much at all besides stumble around, cleane their partners and give freedom to their more powerful teammates.

In any case, this must change. It absolutely must. I don’t think a lot of people quite understand how horrific the loss of cleanse is for ret paladins. Cleanse is our primary form of team support (dispelling CC) and a very potent defensive button (dispels snares and things like Immolate), both for the paladin and his teammates.

To put it another way, an arena ret paladin spends something like three out of every five GCDs on cleanse. Possibly an exaggeration? I kid you not, I have Cleanse bound to S on my and I have hit that button more than any other on my keyboard. My average arena rotation as a ret paladin was:

Judgment -> Divine Storm -> Crusader Strike -> Cleanse -> Cleanse -> Judgment -> Cleanse -> Cleanse -> Cleanse -> Cleanse -> Repeat

Losing Cleanse is a huge blow to ret paladins. Absolutely huge. Mages losing polymorph huge.

But as always, Cataclysm will fix it.

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So the power went out Tuesday night. KABLOOEY and right in the middle of playing Dragon Age, too. But who will save Ferelden naow?!??!/1

There was a pretty huge snowstorm here on Tuesday. The wt, clumpy kind of snow, the kind perfectly suited to making snowmen and utterly destroying power lines.

It is now friday, and the repair dudes are estimating it will take another ten days or so before they get power restored. I mean, holy shit, ten days? I mean I knew living a couple minutes drive out of the city had its risks, but… damn, ten days?

Anyway, I’m shacked up with a friend now. Believe it or not I actually do have a couple of those. And I have internet access again! Woo! This is perhaps the most important thing, though I still lack a proper desktop. I’ve been forced to abandon it for now. Sadness!

So lets see if I can summarize a week’s worth of stuff into a single post.

HUNTERS

The hunter focus mechanic has me worried. I have an 80 hunter at which I am reasonably competent, and am extremely fond of marksman. I’ve found BM extremely boring since the death of steady shot weaving, and Survival is quite possibly the worst play style I have ever tried. (more…)

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Damplify Magic is gone, and Frost and Fire Ward are biting the dust, that we know “for sure”. What other magey things are getting the expansion banhammer?

Maybe teleports/portals are being simplified so that we have one button to port/teleport wherever we wish, similar to how an engineer’s Northrend wormhole machine works. Summon one thing, and then just select your destination from there.

Maybe Mana Shield will finally die.

It’s not that I dislike Mana Shield, really, it’s just that it is such a poor ability. And I don’t mean just WoW’s version of Mana Shield, I mean every single rendition of Mana Shield in every single game ever that has featured such a mechanic. Admittedly I haven’t played every RPG ever, but I would be quite surprised to find a game that featured a mana shield mechanic that was actually decent.

Decent as in “balanced and has a point”. The mana shield mechanic in, say, Fable, was truly excellent in that it could make you immortal and give you unlimited experience. WoW has one of the best versions of Mana Shield I’ve seen, but this doesn’t really have anything to do with mana shield itself. (more…)

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Mage + Cataclysm = Squee

The real question is, of course, why are the shamans crying so much?

But I’ll get to that.

For now, some ruminations.

Everyone is getting three new excellent buttons to push. But look at them from a categorical point of view. Us Mages, for instance, got a major DPS utility ability (Time Warp), a skill bragging DPS button, and a major AoE control utility ability.

Look around at what other people got. Death Knights got a DPS utility button and two major PvP utility buttons. Feral druids got a movement utility button. Hunters got two new utility buttons. Shamans have a cooldown that lets them cast anything they want whilst moving. Utility. Utility. Utility.

Sure, there are straight up DPS buttons or healing buttons here and there, but the majority of new things Cataclysm is bringing are centered around utility. That word will lose all meaning so, so I’ll try to avoid utilizing it again. Damnit.

Look at it this way. Every class has a toolbox. Inside that toolbox are tools. (NO SHIT SHERLOCK.) DPS classes open their toolbox to find a series of hammers. Healers have bandaids, gauze and pepto bismol. Tanks have those incredibly annoying safety whistles. (To make things hate them more! eh? eh?) What Blizzard appears to be trying to do is add more variety to everyone’s toolbox.

Sure, we DPS guys are still going to wave around our massive ballpeen hammers, healers are still going to be able to cure cancer with bandaids, and tanks will continue to blow their safety whistles right in your ear while you’re sleeping seriously cut that crap out or I swear to whatever gods will still listen to me I will cultivate an ant farm in your colon. But that’s not all we’re going to be bringing into play anymore. (more…)

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