Friday, August 15, 2008

Hello Mr Shoulders in the 1500's

I'm not entirely sure what it is, but this season, even though it's over a month in, I've seen an overwhelming number of full season 3 (shoulders) players in the 15-1700's. Is the general sentiment that grinding to 2050 for the S4 weapons is too hard so people have given up once they've hit 1700 or has the PvP arena population dwindled because of the new rating requirements and your average Joe not being able to get to 1700? Granted, my 2's partner (S4 sword rogue) and I must have tweaked off some teams in blues in the 1500's, but the number of full S3 Sword Warriors and their pet windfury Shamans that we met in the 1700's was just ridiculous.

I like the challenge, but to be honest, I didn't expect to put that much effort in the 1500's as I did last night, fighting a full S3 Warrior/Druid as an Honor Epic'd Rogue/Mage.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

No more downranking and some thoughts on the potential impact

One of the new 'features' of WotLK is that as of beta build 8788, almost all spells that can be downranked will now cost a percentage of base mana. Blizzard has already indicated that they will be looking further into new balancing issues that will arise from this, but I'm not entirely sure this change will be beneficial to anyone with a mana pool. Of course, we're still in beta, and things can change and the interaction between new gear, new talents and changed stats such as spirit have yet to truly be seen.

My biggest issue with percentage based spell cost (PBSC) is that as casters, we are inherently limited in effectiveness the longer the fight, be it PvE or PvP, goes on. Rogues and Warriors have essentially limitless DPS and as such, are incredibly effective at all points in an encounter. An oom caster, while at range, becomes little more than an additional mana sink for their healers, as they are unable to contribute.

Let's describe a scenario: A mage/healer team encounters a melee/healer team. The mage goes oom, trying to pressure the opposing healer into spending alot of mana and uses poly (rank1) to conserve the teammate healer's mana. This strategy can work even when the mage is nearly oom and waiting for a mana gem as poly (rank1) and frost nova (rank 1) cost little to no mana. Let's change poly to a PBSC and now both poly and frost nova are prohibitively expensive. CC's become harder to land and due to the mage being oom, the mage's healer must spend more mana to keep the mage alive while the opposing healer can drink in relative safety due to the lack of pressure. If melee characters had spells that had a reduced rage or energy cost for spells such as hamstring (rank 1) and had a limited amount of rage or energy, you can bet they would never max rank either.

My second biggest issue is that it completely hoses utility spells that were used in PvP only as rank 1 due to mana conservation issues. For a druid, spells like moonfire (rank 1) to kill totems, faerie fire (rank 1) to keep rogue's from vanishing are integral parts of managing opponents. For a mage, frostbolt (rank 1) and cone of cold (rank 1) are amazing control tools used to keep people slowed for minimal cost. Other classes also use lower rank spells to conserve mana while providing utility other than just damage/healing. Just a few off the top of my head:

Stacking debuffs with shadow word: pain, faerie fire, winter's chill
Stacking trash buffs with mark of the wild and thorns to protect innervate from dispels
Spamming healing wave for ancestral fortitude
Spamming arcane explosion, blizzard, hellfire, rain of fire, consecrate, magma totem to expose stealthers
Save mana on expensive totems (windfury totem) while providing essentially the same effect

The list goes on and on. You can see the skill level difference when you see top players use various rank 1 spells as compared to users who max rank spells. Knowing when to max rank and when to downrank is a skill that should be learned and only adds to the complexity of high end play. In addition, this means that offensive and defensive dispels are now worth their weight in gold as any buff/debuff will now cost its maximum to reapply.

My third problem is a bit more esoteric in that PBSC encourages bad play. Let's take a PUG 5 man for example. Tank gets hit hard before cc lands and the healer pops a max rank PBSC heal and suddenly gets aggro. Was this preventable? Sure, the tank could have gotten aggro better, or the cc could have been executed earlier, or the healer could have downranked a heal, but when you are essentially penalized for downranking, to the layman healer, why would they use anything less than max rank? Joe Average doesnt know about downranking and cannot see anything beyond, "ooh big numbers!" Currently, you can make a case of, "downrank because it wont generate aggro and you wont spend mana." but it will be much harder to explain "downrank because your aggro will be less, but you'll waste mana while doing it".

Lastly, I'm wary that Blizzard will forget to consider something that could be highly impacting with this change and we'll all be hosed until a hotfix can come through.

Of course, we're still in beta, and things can change and the interaction between new gear, new talents and changed stats such as spirit have yet to truly be seen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

S4 changeups

Firstly, let's address a question from Zupa about POMPyro's abilities against resilience capped targets:

Against resilience capped targets, generally, youre looking at Warlocks and Priests; ie: classes with no 'outs' and often have to tank melee before they can get their teammates to peel for them. Almost every other class will be unlikely to be running with full resilience, and when youre talking about melee classes, theyre often wearing sub 400 resilience to maximize their damage output. Some druids wear lots of PvE gear and rely on peels/shifting to get away. So the question really becomes: How does POMPyro do against Warlocks and Priests. The answer is: A bit better in some cases and a bit worse in others when compared to frost.

Against any warlock or priest team, barrier/IV will be devoured/dispelled and for the most part, you'll be spamming instants, of which, fire does a bit better. Barrier can absorb some dots before it's removed, and that can be very very helpful. Mana shield is definitely a bad substitute for barrier. When nuking warlocks and priests, a faster nuke (ie: Sorch) definitely helps. This is especially true against LOS happy targets where a 2.5 second frostbolt just wont happen. If you happen to get lucky with Impact procs, you may be able to get either class to a point where your instant nuke chain of POMPyro, ImpCS, Fireblast, Blastwave can score a kill. Many POMPyros use their AP during the instant nuke chain, and often, that's the wrong call. AP + Trinket powered scorches can definitely force cooldowns that may eventually lead to kill.

This past week has been pretty interesting when it comes to the arena. Our 5's team hasn't gotten a chance to play due to schedule conflicts and it's definitely irked some of our players to the point that one of them quit. It does seem as though when playing with older players (myself included) that scheduling becomes a nightmare. Kids, Jobs, etc can all get in the way, and as much as I'd like to focus on 5's this season, I find myself getting dragged back into 2's (ugh) more and more.

During S3, my Lock buddy and my druid got to 2k, but each game was either a long, drawn out affair of drinking, cc's and other time consuming retardedness (hello hunter/druid), or a super fast oomfest (*nod* to rogue/priest). Granted, we had a favorable comp vs all of the billions of rogue/mage teams out there, but it wasn't exactly fun more than it was a job. Some nights, we'd spend 2 hours playing 3 games and just call it because we were mentally exhausted after trying to outlast some teams that were very much into making love to the pillars. I just started doing some 2's with a rogue buddy of mine and while the games arent as long, they are much more fun, especially since I'm specced dreamstate. It's amusing to sometimes see my damage come close to being half of my rogue's and watching S4 rogue weapons tear through a clothy is doubly fun.

This season started off with my lock buddy and I trying to do Warrior/Lock/Druid but it's been a rollercoaster of a time. I'm firmly a believer of synergy and with a Warrior/Lock dps core, there has to be alot of synergy between them. Why? Well, each class covers the weaknesses of the others: Warrior to peel for Mr. Lock and devours for Mr. Warrior. For the most part, the Druid (me) cannot get into melee range due to silliness such as Psychic Scream or double melee swaps. Since I can't defensively dispel, it largely falls upon the dps to support each other. I basically stand back and spam heals while trying to follow up their cc's with my cc's.

Well, this week, it all came to a head when we lost a ton of games in a row and tensions were at an all time high. At one point, I didn't even want to log in to WoW because I knew I was going to get incredibly frustrated. So, we split the team apart. The moral of the story is that you can be an amazing player in your own right, but success really is only going to to come from coordinated effort. Letting a priest chase me around unmolested is just plain wrong. God effing damn it, molest the priest! Think of it as payback for your years as an altar boy.

At some point, I'm going to either try Mage/Rogue or Mage/Priest with my POMPyro specced Mage. It should be fun, but I hope that all the transitioning between classes (Druid and Mage) will see me maintaining my capabilities on both.