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Wild Speculation: Sylvanus

See, here’s the thing. Sylvanus is a rather clever woman, overall.

So I ask you this: how did she miss something as huge as the betrayal of a huge number of apothecaries that, ostensibly, worked for her directly? How did she miss an entire plot designed to oust or kill her? How did she miss her own right hand demon thing plotting to take over her position in order to carry out the will of the Burning Legion?

I propose that she didn’t miss any of that.

I propose that she was very well aware of all of it.

I propose that she planned all of it.

Consider first the direct consequences of the Undercity Battle.

Let’s say Sylvanus was in charge of the weaponized plague used at the Wrathgate from the start. Let’s say all those “rogue” apothecaries were working for her all along.

What’s the easiest way to prevent all those people from ever telling their story? Why, brand them traitors and kill them all of course.

What’s the easiest way to do that without casting any suspicion on yourself? Why, get someone else to brand them all traitors, and then get someone else to kill them all for you.

Bonus points: what is the best way to test how a given fortification would hold up in a siege?

The answer is, of course, to lay siege to it.

Sylvanus got to experience both what an internal infiltration and an external invasion would look like. Not a small scale, war games invasion either, but huge, full fledged armies battling it out. And she got to see all of that first hand.

Meaning, of course, she can now make modifications and adjustments to the city, having experienced first hand the city’s strengths and weaknesses against multiple forms of invasion.

Consider second that Sylvanus, like any good leader, looks beyond her own personal vendettas. Her primary stated goal is, of course, to see the end of the Lich King.

Explain, then, the massive, imperialistic expansions of the Forsaken these past few years if their only goal is to revengeance the Lich King. Sylvanus knows that the Lich King won’t last forever, that someday he will be extinguished, and then… what? What then?

Sylvanus is in a similar position as the scourge in my last wild speculation post.

Nobody likes the undead. Their enemies misunderstand them and will kill them on sight. Their allies are mistrusting, fair weather friends at absolute best. What happens when the proverbial excrement hits the proverbial fan? For the forsaken, it means they’ll be in a hostile world, surrounded by enemies with no friends.

Solution? Exactly the same thing as the Scourge – make yourself appear to be less of a threat than you really are.

Enter the Battle for the Undercity, stage left.

Sylvanus lost her city, “nearly died”, and then was in such a weak position she couldn’t take back what was hers on her own. She had to go to Orgrimmar and ask, nay, beg for help.

Do you see how incredibly weak that makes her look? Especially to the likes of Garrosh.

By allowing the Undercity to fall, Sylvanus simultaneously places more mistrust on her own people and makes them appear to be a significantly weaker friend/foe.

The reason why more mistrust is good for the forsaken is because it forces the horde to keep a much closer eye on them. All the abomination guards are gone from the Undercity, and replaced with orcs.

Obviously a good move on the part of the greater horde. Placing their own troops in the undercity rather than letting them guard themselves means the greater horde can keep much tighter control over the actions of the forsaken.

Unless, of course, that’s exactly what Sylvanus wants them to think they’re doing.

First major advantage, by allowing the horde to think they have greater control over the situation, they naturally become far less suspicious. If strange things were going on, the guards are right there and would have seen it, right?

Right, of course.

The relative threat level of the forsaken is simply lower. With legions of orc troops in the undercity, the greater horde can rest easy that the Undercity is firmly controlled.

Essentially, Sylvanus has proven to the greater horde that the forsaken aren’t a substantial military threat anymore. This is an unimaginably huge advantage.

It’s gone now, but there was a screenshot showing the forsaken invasion of London (or whatever that werewolf place is called). It showed the forsaken fleet and… the horde gunship?

Again, major win for the forsaken. The forsaken get to keep right on expanding their empire with their mighty military, but the rest of the horde is blinded to it. And lending their military to the forsaken to directly assist them to boot.

Classic strategy, really. The greater horde thinks they’re in control, never realizing just how thoroughly they’re being used, the entire time playing directly into the best interests of the forsaken.

GG, Sylvanus, GG.

/tinfoil hat

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I failed to come up with a clever or relevant post title so I just slapped whatever song was currently playing on winamp in there. Now you know.

There aren’t a lot of cataclysm changes out yet, so there isn’t much to discuss there. We have some talent changes, and a whole bunch of zone things.

I do have to say, I love goblins. Flat out. Best addition to the horde ever. What other race would build a defensive cannon so large it can be seen from orbit? And just look at their sense of style! Banana wallpaper! Golf courses! Pineapple bedsheets!

What do the worgen have to compete with that, huh?

Oh right… top hats.

Those top hats better be available somehow horde side. I desperately require one, so that I may log off in a tux and top hat and look bloody spectacular on the armory. I suppose I could always throw on my haliscan set again. I did, after all, expend some effort for that sombrero back in the day. Did it solo and everything.

(Conspiracy hat mode)

What if, just what if, the Warcraft and Starcraft universes are actually the exact same universe?

Think about it.

It struck me a few weeks back that the draenei and protoss look almost exactly the same. Their body structures are nearly identical. They both have the exact same legs (protoss sans hooves), they both have glowing eyes, and their spines are near identical.

The protoss look like a somewhat stereotypical advanced space race looks like. Spindly limbs, thin body, that just somehow manages to look exactly like what the draenei would look like in a few million years, provided evolution functions in the warcraft/starcraft universe.

(It probably does, though we have no real evidence for it in either case. The Zerg evolve intentionally, and that hardly counts. Both protoss and zerg races were created. Everything in WoW was essentially created as is. Trolls seem to be the only thing that ever actually bothers to adapt to their surroundings. Everything else just says “fuck it, I’m a tiger, I don’t need to evolve” and remains unchanged.)

Consider also that all draenei can heal. They have a deep affinity for the light, and thus even the lowliest of sword grunts with no skills whatsoever can still wield holy magic. On the protoss side, all protoss have a deep affinity for various psionic abilities, where even their lowliest of sword grunts can still summon lethal blades from nothing.

Consider this picture of the Halls of Origination. Now compare that to this picture of the protoss central structure, the nexus.

You could say they look similar due to Blizzard pulling from Egyptian architecture in both cases. I say, there is no such thing as Egypt in-universe for either the warcraft or starcraft universes. So where did the common architecture come from?

Well? Who created most of the stuff on Azeroth? Who built the Halls of Origination? Who went in and created life, leaving behind guardians, elevating the dragons from mindless beasts to powerful, thinking creatures?

They’ve been called makers, creators, they are basically gods in the world of warcraft. The Titans. Effectively, they created Azeroth, birthing most, if not all, of the sentient life there.

Sound familiar? Was there, perhaps, an advanced race of mysterious beings in Starcraft that went about creating life? That created the protoss and the zerg? The Xel’Naga?

I posit that the Titans and Xel’Naga are one and the same.

Consider also the relative nature of the Burning Legion and the Zerg Swarm. Or, rather, the complete and total absence of any difference between the two.

Both the Legion and Swarm are hell bent on conquering everything.

Both are diametrically opposed to the draenei/protoss.

Both, lorewise, are assimilators. The zerg were originally just tiny, sentient bugs. They assimilate the DNA of other races, twisting and evolving them to suit the greater will of the Swarm. Anything that benefits the swarm is incorporated, the rest is erased from reality.

The Legion spread across the universe, either annihilating or assimilating everything in their path. Sometimes they meet a race such as the orcs, and bring them into the fold of the Legion. Everything else is simply destroyed.

Each individual zerg has their will bound to their master, the Overmind. Each individual warrior of the legion has their will bound to their master, Sargeras. In both cases this can be broken.

Sargeras physically led the Legion for millenia, until his physical body was (possibly) destroyed, rendering him little more than a driving will  behind the Legion. Which is pretty much the definition of the Overmind.

Consider also that a cerebrate does not stay dead when killed. Unless slain by a Dark Templar, a cerebrate simply regenerates and reappears elsewhere.

*cough* MAL’GANIS *cough*

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After the Move

I am now moved into my new and shiny place. Perhaps a tad on the small side, but really, the only places I ever use in a home is my bedroom, the washroom, the kitchen and a table somewhere for the computer. I could probably live in a single room quite comfortably.

No internet for several days! No internet since… Saturday? Friday maybe? I can hardly remember. It feels like an eternity. A century cut off from the larger world.

I’m not addicted, I can quit whenever I want provided I can start again whenever I want. Which is usually about thirty seconds later.

My time without internet was actually rather confusing. Every five minutes…

  • I’ll go check up on some webco-DAMNIT
  • Twenty hours of straight Dragon Age. Ehh, maybe I’ll play some World of DAMNIT
  • Conversation about Hitler! Woo! And they’re arguing with me about facts! HA! I’ll fire up ye olde internets to cite my sour-DAMNIT
  • I wonder what Temerity Jane is DAMNIT
  • Erfworld hasn’t updated in a bit, maybe I should DAMNIT

EVERY. FIVE. MINUTES. It was simultaneously extremely frustrating and hilarious.

I tried going to a coffee shop to see if I could get any internets there.

YOU GUYS. This was a horrible mistake.

You know all the internet jokes about those coffee places with wifi? All the hipsters standing or sitting around, looking all aloof with their macbooks and so forth pretending to write an epic novel whilst sipping at their mocha coco banana derp derp coffee things?

TRUE.

ALL OF IT.

I don’t know why anyone thinks it’s possible to write anything at such a place. I even commented to the barista as such. Barista… that is the technical term, yes? I wanted to go with “coffee wench”, but that felt wrong.

Anyway, so I sez “How do any of these people expect to write anything of quality in here? The best one would be able to accomplish is pointless, disjointed blog posts about drivel.”

I ordered a hot chocolate, because I like hot chocolate. And they give you a spoon with which to consume the delightful whipped cream they put on top!

Anyway, so I sit down, bust out my own laptop (not even close to a mac) fire up wordpress and start typing.

The barista arrives several minutes later with my delightful hot chocolate, with a barely concealed smirk on her face, “so what are you typing then?”

I stared at the open wordpress page.

I replied, “A pointless, disjointed blog post about drivel.”

So I closed my laptop (the coffee wench’s laughter still haunting me), carefully placed it back in my bag, and busted out a Safeway flyer instead. Oh look! Cheese is on sale!

Now I have internet again, and I’m typing from the peace and quiet of my own little apartment. Well, not entirely. I mean one of my roomates is watching a chick flick over there, but that is fine as I possess headphones. They are large, comfortable, and noise canceling.

However I have been away from WoW for many days now and haven’t the faintest clue what is going on in this universe anymore.

I guess the closed Cataclysm beta is not far off? MMO-Champ is swamped in Garfield meme? Alpha news everywhere and very promising changes on the horizon?

Oh! I’m in the Starcraft 2 beta! It is rather fun!

The beta is but a small snapshot of the full game, but it is, however, a very clear indication of what the online play is going to be. Lessons are cruel, games can be decided firmly by the three minute mark. I was swiftly reminded that I hadn’t played Starcraft in many, many years, and had my ass firmly abused and then sent to me in a tacky box.

I was Zerg last time, but now… I’m not so sure. I seem to be horrendously incompetent this time around. In the original, I was lean, mean killing machine as Zerg. Barely competent as terran, and my capacity to play protoss was limited to flailing about with a pool noodle.

Now that trend seems to have reversed itself. I’m actually quite good at protoss (though I am still terrible at using the High Templar), decent at terran, and absolutely awful with zerg. And I do mean absolutely, dreadfully awful. A backpedaling mage clicking Ice Lance as a fire spec dreadful.

I’m not entirely sure why this is, either. Obviously things have changed quite a bit from the previous game, and the loss of my beloved Lurkers and Defilers hurts me oh so much, but the basis of the zerg hordes are still pretty much the same.

So why is it that now, my efforts at directing the swarm resemble a child randomly gesticulating at a keyboard?

I suppose I should just accept my fate and play ‘toss for now. They ARE Egyptian ninjas with lightsabers, what is there to dislike?

I’m not particularly fond of Terran, due to that race’s inherent lack of mobility. Both ‘toss and zerg feature a great deal of strategical map movement, and thus map control, the terran does not inherently possess either of these.

It is a weakness I suspect the terran are supposed to make up for by walling in (supply depots, command centers that can become uber fortresses, bunkers, hell, they can even research improved armor for buildings), but such a playstyle simply doesn’t mesh with me.

Random trick for anyone else in the beta: if you’re ever on Twilight Fortress, divide your team into a unit production player and the other into a resource gatherer. The theory is thusly:

Once you reach the 5 minute mark, both players can send resources to the other in any amount. What this means is that, at the 5 minute mark, the two players essentially share a resource pool.

Most maps, teammates have separate bases in different areas. This is not so on Twilight Fortress. Players share a base, and as such it is impossible to attack one player and not the other. There is, then, a strategy whereby one player never builds any units beyond the base gatherer units, and simply harvests.

It works extremely well. One player does nothing but build their primary gathering buildings, units and structures for supply, and then piles and piles and piles of gatherers. As they gather, they send all their harvested resources to the other player, who then spends the absolutely huge surplus on units.

To try and put this in perspective: when me and a teammate first tried this, my resource collection rate was greater than all three other players combined. I had over a hundred probes draining the map dry, dumping massive amounts of resources on my teammate, who reached the supply cap by the twelve minute mark. He had a dozen of each production building, and had all of them building simultaneously.

And even with that, he still had a ten thousand surplus of each resource. On average. Most games ended with him having something like forty thousand minerals and twenty thousand vespene unspent.

Of course, we’re both protoss for this to be at it’s maximum effectiveness. Protoss never has to sacrifice a worker to build anything, and thus can maximize resource gathering. Protoss also features the strongest individual units, thus being able mass produce them nullifies the intended smaller protoss armies.

Net result: you usually end up with more units than both your opponent’s combined, all of your units are stronger than theirs on a one by one basis, and you’re raking in far more resources than they.

If you try this, bear this in mind: the guy on unit production will probably feel like he’s playing with cheats on. All strategy goes out the window when you can build an unlimited amount of anything you want.

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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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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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