Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sometimes You Just Know

Sometimes, when you're in a pressure situation, your game elevates with the stress of the situation and when things click, you just know that you did something right.

On my day off, I randomly did some 2's games as Rogue/Shadow Priest, with myself as the Shadow Priest. Games were fast and high pressure, rarely lasting longer than 2 minutes. The beauty of it all, was that, having not played as Shadow in the Arena for any appreciable amount of time, we were able to pull out trinkets and defensive CD's to force kills, usually by the second fear or silence. In no time, we were beating 2k MMR teams (not that it's a huge deal, but.. you know.. just sayin')

It just feels good when you figure out the steps to beating an opposing comp and you know that for the most part, success is just execution.

Oh, by the by: 2nd run ever on my Druid in H. Pit of Saron and 2 Battered Hilts dropped. Guess who won one?

Thats right, the Feral with the il200 gear.

Maybe it will bump my DPS from 'terribad' to 'scrub'.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pissin' My Life Away...

Just when you think you've broken free of a soul breaking obsession, certain sequences happen in life that make you run eagerly back to indulge... nay, -feed- whatever addiction that held you so captivated for so many weeks, months or years.

Yep. I'm back playing WoW.

I'll get into what I've been doing recently in a bit, but something happened last night was prompted me to write today.

I was doing VoA 10 PUG on my Priest when a raid member, and complete stranger piped up with, (paraphrased) "Rukuz? What are you doing online?"

Befuddled, I responded with my best 'this is how I respond to strangers shorthand': "?"

The stranger went on to explain that he/she had saw that I had quit playing via my blog.


Wow. Stunned, I quickly explained (in non-'I don't know you shorthand') that a buddy of mine had suckered me back into playing WoW. but that I hadn't posted anything about it.

In a way, I felt pretty good that someone had actually read this jumble of poorly thought out analogies and excessive carriage returns, so I tried extra hard to DPS Archaevon the Stingy* & friends with my janky outdated gear. (*That b!tch never drops anything useful) I was surprised that I broke 3.5k dps. I'm such a bad dragon slayer.

So, what have I been doing? Well, considering this is a PvP blog, I've actually been.. well.. PvPing.

Actually, that's somewhat of a lie. I actually stealth leveled a Warrior from 70-80 without telling friends and ground some honor under the auspices of possibly gearing him out as a new main character. It's quite amusing how the first thought (among my friends, at least), when we get seriously frustrated with our Arena experience, is to change classes. I thought that swapping to a Warrior would make me happier with Arena and PvP overall.

Did it?


The problem that I had/have with PvP is the massive amount of time I have to spend grinding honor. I've said it time and again, but grinding honor is mad stupid. Watching the Nightfall Horde, geared in what digitally resembles used tissue paper, repeatedly fling themselves single-file like lemmings into the Alliance woodchipper is not fun. Playing a brand new 80 and grinding honor while expecting the Horde to not act like a SPED gym glass that takes to kicking each other in the nuts as a good idea, is a decidedly even worse way to work up a whole new level of frustration towards the BG Honor grind system.

So the Warrior got relegated to status: Not Even An Alt, and I started picking up honor on the Druid again to build up my Feral set. I already had my Furious Staff from last season's left over points, so I went to work grinding up Relentless offset pieces while saving up my pittance of points from my bogus weekly throwaway teams. I'll (maybe) comment about Feral in a future post, but let's just put it this way: Even poorly geared, Feral does a ridiculous amount of damage to equally poorly geared BG denizens.

Somewhere along the line, 3.3 came out and Haste got synergized with Dot classes and my Priest got forcibly yanked out of retirement. I will say that I've never actually been good on my Priest. I got carried to 2k+ in 5's as Discipline, and never really broke into the 2k+ brackets as either Disc or Shadow. However, 3.3 is about as close as we can probably get to 'The Golden Age' of the Shadowpriest, and 5 things in 3.3 really make Shadowpriests shine alot brighter (darker?) that before:
  1. Haste affecting Devouring Plague & Vampiric Touch,
  2. Vampiric Embrace becoming an undispellable buff on the Priest
  3. Improved Devouring Plague hitting alot harder upon initial application
  4. Mind Flay range increase without losing the snare
  5. WotF nerf.
The amount of pressure a high haste rating Shadowpriest can generate to force cooldowns is absolutely ridiculous. Again, I'll (maybe) comment about Shadow in a future post, but for right now, melting faces is really, really easy and Rogues aren't as bad as they used to be (however, still a pain to deal with).

So, I'm back for a bit.. still not playing crazy amounts like I used to, but trying to stay positive about my gaming future.

Will this return herald more posts in the future? Tough to tell, really, but we'll see.


Monday, November 2, 2009


Sorry folks.

We're done.

Likely, you've noticed that our blogging has been non-existant for several months now and that's largely due to my waning interest in WoW. I've been playing here and there, but 8 months ago, I embarked on a journey to fix up my life and since then, I've lost about 40#, gotten better sleep, and have achieved a much better outlook on life.

It's a win.

Don't feel sorry for my languishing Arena ratings. I don't.

All that means that I don't have much time to really get fully invested in WoW...which I've realized is the missing ingredient to become and stay competitive in this e-Sport. More on this later.

So what have I been doing?

Well, I have replaced alot of my interest in WoW with fitness and diet health. I've been getting my workouts from the great folks at Crossfit and have cut alot of junk from my diet. I've pretty much cut out all wheat, corn, potato, rice, sugar and pasta products and gone from a near size 38 waist to a 30-31. I even signed up to run a Marathon in January, 2010 with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Before this life turning point, I had never run more than 5 miles, and that was in highschool.

Here's the shameless self promotion link for those that might care to read about the training progression and possibly donate to help the LLS out:


So why did I quit?

Well, the big issue was time and energy as aforementioned. With so many new things to think about, I naturally had less time on my hands. Coming home to cook/eat healthy takes time. Exercise takes time. But most importantly, an active lifestyle begets an active lifestyle. You want to go do stuff. You want to try new things. You want to spread the word about how awesome your new experiences are.

The smaller issue behind quitting was the immense amount of time staying competitive in WoW required. This season started off with a whimper and the honor grind pretty much killed any desire of mine to keep playing. Endless BG's sucked. Poor comps sucked. Poor class design (reliance on Mortal Strike debuffs) sucked. It all combined to literally suck the life out of my WoW experience.

I won't hide it: I like to play with smart players. Sitting in a BG where 90% of the players are both undergeared and underintelligent is frustrating at best. If you've ever been on Ventrilo with me, you'd likely be familiar with the torrent of cursing that usually comes with my Honor grinds and that usually preceeds my sudden logging out of WoW in utter frustration and disgust.

For me, the Battleground or Arena experience should be the reward for your effort. Not the gear. And this is where I believe that Blizzard has ultimately finally & successfully created something that is unsustainable. The reason why an e-Sport is sustainable (Starcraft, CS, etc) is because the reward is the feeling of accomplishment, not something that is only relevant for the current Arena season. I can take my feeling of hitting 2200 in 3's with me forever, but will I remember my Furious Shoulders? Well, that's pretty unlikely.

So, will I be back?

Well, to be honest, I already tried coming back. With some generous help, I was able to level my Warrior from 70-80 and do a little bit of Honor/Arena grinding. It was fun in a way, but ultimately more of the same old, same old. The feelings of frustrating kept coming back and because of them, I haven't been back in the game for a while.

Will I come back with Cataclysm? Maybe. I'm not entirely sure. If Blizzard gets rid of the stupid Honor grind then there's a good chance of that happening. If I break my leg before my Marathon, then it's likely as well. (stay away, all you would be Tonya Hardings) I am looking forward to Starcraft 2 and a little Diablo 3, however, so you might see me pop up there.

So what of the blog?

In some ways, I wanted to be the next Resto4Life or the next BRK, and get widespread acceptance as a go-to person for my class, but my general distaste for raiding and talking about what I view to be mundane (anything not associated to PvP) didn't exactly make me a popular destination with the general masses. I think

As such, It's unlikely that there was -THAT- much traffic here, but from a casual writer, it was a good exercise in expression. I was able to give a bit of info, get a sense of level of effort that some of the more prolific bloggers output, and vent a few frustrations all in one outlet. Hopefully, I was able to do it in a easy to read and readily consumable form. So, thank you, reader(s), for giving me the space to be creative.

I'll probably leave this as the last post until I come back or move on to another MMO or competitive video game.

Any regrets?

Nah. Things are better now from a macro perspective.

Actually, scratch that. I do have a regret.

I regret that by leaving, there will be one less PvP healer willing to subject themselves to the mindless paintrains and that my friends who are still playing this game will be forced to find other healers to help them out.

Because, in the end, it's about the people, not the game.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

3.2 Is Here! Thoughts about Resilience Changes...

And without a doubt, this new patch has generated the least amount of hububb amongst my group of friends than any other patch.

Rest assured, I haven't quit the game, nor have quit this blog, but the game hasn't changed very much to warrant any real substantial thought provoking posts. For me, while content is good, meaningful content is far more desireable. I'm acutely aware of the level of distaste among the general blogosphere readers towards "we cleared this boss this week! Yay us!" type posts, and since I don't enjoy reading that type, I refuse to post such drivel.

Substance is key!

It's like the difference between a hookup with a non English speaking trick and a one that not only speaks English, but can hold their own when discussing ways for Blizzard to overcome the disparity between Arena and Battleground gameplay and their corresponding reward lists. After the deed is done. Of course.

Whatever. Make up your own bad analogies.

I will, however, briefly mention a few things of note: First, I'm finally full Furious on both of my characters, am starting to piece together a Shadow Priest set and have obtained [Just the Two of Us: 2200] as Prot Pally/Resto Druid. Secondly, from recent Blue posts, it's likely that Season 6 will end on August 25th (2 week notice) and Season 7 will begin a week after; August 31st... just in time for all the nerds who don't go anywhere for Labor Day to apply SPF 5000 sunblock in anticipation of monitor burns.

Anyways, let's talk about the Resilience change and how it affects gear and why I have mixed feelings about the change.

Keep in mind that with 3.2, there were two Resilience changes:
1) Resilience affects all damage, not just crit damage
2) You need more Resilience to make up the same amount of mitigation. (15% more)
For the average player, the first change seems huge as playing in full Hateful gear (or even full Deadly if they run enough heroics for Badges of Conquest) isn't often enough to prevent getting gibbed. But, in reality, is this change really that game changing for the average player? Maybe...

Maybe not.

From a personal observation perspective, the majority of the players that I see in BG's are either wearing a smattering of Hateful pieces, a bunch of Naxx 25 stuff and maybe some crafted blues. Titansteel Destroyers are a very common commodity. Going forward, I'd imagine that while the ilvl 200 BoE's will be omnipresent, the ilvl 219 ToC epics will be abound. Regardless, survivability will still be terrible, especially against top geared players in either full ToC25 gear or Relentless (Season 7). Will this new change help players save themselves because they're taking less damage and have a couple extra globals to use their abilities? No. Not in the least for average players.

As a point of note, I often recommend to PvE DPS (ie: Guildies) that are trying to get into PvP to wear their full Uld25 gear and go for the quick gib. Non-Pally PvE Healers get a different recommendation from me and usually that is to spend badges for PvP gear and stack Stamina so that 15k noob Ret Pally doesnt two shot them in a HoJ. For many of these average BG participants, gimping either their damage output or healing ability/longevity for a tiny bit of resilience isn't worth it. They're going to die anyways, so they might as well DPS/Heal as much as possible before they go down.

Let's look at the second change from an average player's perspective: This change, which requires a player to add 15% more Resilience to achieve the same amount of crit reduction, is definitely not going to help the average player, who is often wearing much PvP gear in the first place.

The rationale behind this change is a good one, and that is to encourage players to wear more PvP specific gear to increase personal survivability as opposed to stacking PvE gear. However, when players are sporting marginal amounts of Resilience in the first place, this change won't encourage casual players to start working towards PvP gear. The survival difference between 0 Resilience and 300 Resilience (arbitrary amount) is very small. On top of that, to achieve the same amount of crit mitigation as 3.1's 300 Resilience (which is still a pittance when you consider that many DPS are rolling with 500+ and healers with 900+), players will need an extra 45 Resilience, which is another piece of PvP gear.

So, if these changes are limited in their effect to promote PvP gameplay to the average player, then who do they primarily affect the most? The answer there is: mid to top level PvPers. Top level PvPers are affected by these changes the most as top players will do anything to obtain the best gear to help them succeed. In previous seasons, many top players were mixing and matching PvE gear because they had enough Resilience (at no risk of exploding), creating a gear gap that was often unsurpassable to players who only had access to PvP gear. These changes promote a balanced playing field.

So what about the average player or the starting PvPer? Unfortunately, they're completely up shit creek because they need everything and are at a severe disadvantage from the get go in their efforts to obtain such gear. Off the top of my head, I'd estimate that they need approximately 5 billion honor to get PvP offset pieces and some mainset pieces, rating to be eligible for current/previous season offset/mainset pieces, and/or hundreds of Emblems of Conquest to buy Deadly gear, which will be 2 seasons old once Season 7 comes out. Throughout this time, they're getting crapped on in the BG's and crapped on in Arenas. By the time they get all their stuff in order, Season 8 will be upon them.

Isn't there a better solution to getting people gear so they don't just implode when someone merely contemplates attacking them? To the many players last night who melted to zero, just from my 3 dots (I was playing Shadow), I'm sorry that Blizzard hasn't implemented a system for you to even have a chance to succeed.

I believe, that to get more people into PvP, Blizzard must make PvP gear easy to get... especially if there is PvP specific gear. I propose that Blizzard incorporates PvP rewards with the achievement system. Win 10 3v3 Arena matches? Here's a pair of Deadly Gloves. Win 30 Arena matches? Here's your Deadly Legs. Turn in 10 'For Great Honor' mark turn in's? Here's your Deadly Bracers. Turn in 30? Deadly Belt. 60? Deadly Feet. Ad nauseum.

The rewards are 2 seasons old with Season 7 coming and if Blizz is afraid of Deadly gear becoming ubiquitous outside of PvP, they can make the gear usable only in BG's, Arenas or BG zones such as Wintergrasp. Speaking of which, WG marks are such a poorly implemented function. If you're a new 80 trying to get a full PvP set, not only do you have to grind BG's and Arenas, but you have to be online at specific times to get enough marks to buy pieces of PvP gear that don't even contribute to your main set bonuses. Who has that kind of time?

Intrepid readers might wonder why I'm so concerned about the average player or the starting PvPer? The reason is as such: For anything to be successful, it needs participants. The more players that use the BG's or the Arenas, the better the competition and gameplay. It also stands to reason the Blizzard will spend more development dollars on something that is more widely utilized than someone only a small percentage of players even acknowledge. Right now, the barrier of entry is just way too high to become competitive.

Also, I now have a 62 Shaman and I'm already dreading the gear grind.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Q n A

8thDragon, a reader, recently asked me this:

My situation is this: I have a fairly well geared priest, but my 2v2 partner is a ret pally that has trouble tracking debuffs and using freedom / cleanse on me. This results in lots of CC chains that leave one of us dead. I tried 3's with him and an enhance shaman, only to get frustrated by how
easy it is to get tunneled to death by 2 melee on the other team.

So I started leveling a druid myself. She's up to 72, and I'm starting to question my decision. It seems to me that a druid is better able to self-sustain in 2's and 3's, but giving up on my 5/5 deadly priest (with all the furious off pieces) makes me want to start breaking keyboards.

What do you think? Find a rogue (or a mage, or both) and profit?


8thDragon, my initial gut response here is that the problem is two fold, as these kinds of issues are often unable to exist with some mistakes on both sides. Let's address each of the scenarios and point out some things that you and your partner(s) can adjust to make playing your Priest more enjoyable.

2v2: Ret/Priest. Before going into what your Ret buddy is doing, ensure that if you're playing a comp that's trying to kill your Paladin before you, utilize LOS as much as possible while trying to get your Psychic Screams off whenever you can.

Ret Paladins are quite mana sensitive if they spam Cleanse and so they need to pick and choose when to use their GCD's to cleanse you to stop a cc chain or when to play defensive. Recognize, first, that Cleanses weakness is that it can affect three different types of debuffs: Magic, Poison, and Disease, and that it only removes one application per Cleanse. That acknowledged, there are two scenarios in which Cleanse could benefit: If the CC effect is protected by alot of magic/poison/disease debuffs or if the cc is not protected by many debuffs.

The first situation comes when you are playing against Warlocks, Ret Paladins, good Frost Mages, Unholy Deathknights, or Mutilate Rogues who like to sit on you. As these classes can easily and quickly apply debuffs, it may not be worth the GCD's, mana, and time for your Ret Pally teammate to cleanse as their likelihood of hitting that cc debuff is quite low. In such cases, if it looks like your partner is going to die while your trinket is down and you're getting chain cc'd, your partner needs to play defensively to try to interrupt the cc chain with Hammer/Repent and/or your partner needs to learn how to get out of LOS of the opponents so that he can pick up a heal once you get out of the cc chain. It's cruicial for DPS to avoid the tunnel vision syndrome in order to recognize when they need to gtfo.

The other situation comes about when you're playing against Priests, Survival Hunters, Frost DK's, who are not paired with one of the classes from the first group. In this case, the likelihood of snagging the CC on the first or second Cleanse is very high and as such, should be a priority for your Ret Pally buddy to remove. I highly advocate creating separate macros that auto-target teammates for both yourself and your buddy for dispel purposes. A simple /cast [mod:shift,target=partnernamehere]Cleanse;Cleanse macro is a great way to quickly dispel your partner without having to manually target them.

Additionally, I would recommend practicing calling out every cc that you get hit with or specifically asking for a Cleanse. Optimally, your partner should be dispelling the moment he sees the cc land on you, but that can be difficult to see unless he a) uses a mod to tell him when you're cc'd or b) is expecting it. It seems as though he isn't expecting it, so I would recommend having him configure a mod or two to help him keep track of things. This is especially cruicial for Hand of Freedom as it can save you from many a Kidney Shot or Hammer of Justice.

In 3's, tunnelvisioning melee cleave teams are currently plaguing many battlegroups. The weakness of 2 hybrid melee teammates is that you have neither a Mortal Strike effect or multiple chainable cc's. However, you should have superior mobility with both Earthbind Totem and Hand of Freedom to help you remove snares so that you can escape. Your Shaman should Frostshock to help peel stuff off you and your Paladin should force defensive play through swaps. Force your teammates to save their Freedom effects for you as you will need them for every Rogue, Warrior, or DK that likes to sit on your face and take a big steaming ... yeah you get the picture.

With respect to your DPS teammates, since their damage is healable, they need to prePurge their swap targets and swap quickly and often. Repentence, Hex, and Psychic Scream can be and should be chained as much as possible, and depending on opposing healer, can be either used offensively or defensively (Tree's can't be Repented or Hexed). If your swap target is a healer, dump your cc's into their main peeler. If your swap target is a DPS, dump your cc's into the healer and try to pull out a Trinket. If you can get that healer to pop his trinket, either immediately swap to him and cc the DPS or play super defensively and wait until the cc chains comes back up and do it all over again.

What about the Druid? Well, if you have spare time, level her up. Druids have a very, very, very different game play from Priests and with the right classes can be a super easy faceroll to whatever rating. However, some people prefer the offensive power of a Priest and the safety of defensive dispels. Go with what feels right to you. I will say that both classes are incredibly fun when played correctly, so either way, you can't go wrong there.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Another Milestone

A funny thing happened on my way in today... somehow, we hit 100 posts.

...and while every writer wants their milestone posts to be insightful, funny, helpful and memorable, I've got nothing.

It feels like doing stand up comedy without a prepared set of jokes...

But, in an effort to keep our posts marginally weekly and to break through the drought of posts due to wanting to create an uber 100th post, today I'm going to touch upon where I'm at in the game, some reflections of the current season and my future prospectives.

My Priest and Druid are both well geared, fun to play and primarily specced for healing. My Priest has predominantly been involved in the 5v5 bracket and sporadically through the smaller brackets. The Druid has been mostly just been playing 2v2 with my Warlock buddy. In previous seasons, breaking 2k was a milestone, but this season, it hasn't felt quite the same. I can't put my finger on it, but I believe that part of it has to do with the new rating system. I don't particularly like it when new teams are created and have nothing to lose, because they don't have any real rating. Since they have no real rating, all it takes is for a lucky streak of wins to ramp their MMR up to the point so that when they do fight me, I have a huge risk of losing alot of points if I disconnect or make a bad call, to their zero risk (real rating <>

With regards to my future PvPing through WoW, I'm really looking forward to competitive Battlegrounds. Hopefully, Blizzard will make good on their plans and not take forever to make them a reality. The new Battleground should be a good time and it seems reasonably complicated. However, I hope there are no aspects of it that make a mockery of mentally challenged players like the Flag does in EoTS... I swear that flag is the biggest noob magnet in the game.

Looking at my Priest, I don't think I'm that great of Disc Priest yet, as playing the Priest class to it's utmost potential has been a difficult learning curve. I am slowly picking up Shadow gear as my hope is to play a little bit of DPS with the next patch. Healing all the time can get pretty old and since I've completely cut out raiding from my schedule, another distraction will likely be a positive experience. I'll still heal with both classes with 3.2 and Season 7, but I need to mix things up a little bit. Blizzard, please give Triple Specs. Dual Specs just isn't enough!

As for my Druid, it will always be Resto. I'm not a fan of Feral, although I do swap to kitty to complete dailies quickly and Boomkin largely escapes me as it has very few tricks beyond Cyclone and Typhoon. I'm hoping to find a strong 3v3 and 5v5 team next season that can use the strength of my Druid. We'll see if that comes about.

I do have some alts on their way up: a 76 Mage (will probably go Fire PvP) and a level 50 Shaman (will probably go Resto). Recruit a Friend is an amazing tool if you want quick alts. Definitely worth it if you have a few extra bucks and a few less hours to level.

Last point: It looks like the
Egotistical Priest is closing their doors and with that, another blogger is leaving my 'Blogroll'. Sad times, but moving on is a part of life. Hope they find enjoyment wherever they go.

Well, that's it, folks! Thank's for sticking with me for 100 posts and cross your fingers for a few more (and Pandaren in the Expansion!).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Just a Couple of Thoughts

Re: 20% healing debuff on Permafrost and Improved Mind Blast:

Healing debuff effects (a la Mortal Strike), even if it's only 20% for casters doesn't address the issues of melee consistently trumping casters in the Arena or in BG's. Limiting healing effects on players strains healers and their mana pools. It doesn't make casters any more viable than they currently are. For anyone thinking that this will improve casters or move casters further into the limelight in the 'cleave' dominated Arena needs to think again. Warriors, Rogues and Hunters are all far better at applying the debuff, which, coincidentally is also far stronger.

Re: Caster viability

Making changes to allow for all casters to become more viable from an average player's perspective needs to center around instant AOE snares/slows and movement abilities, both on a reasonably short cooldown. The snare needs to be an AOE because multiple melee can truly lock down a caster now that nearly every melee has an interrupt, pushback and/or other forms of cc. In addition, movement abilities need to also be on a reasonably short cooldown to allow for escape. I'd argue that movement abilities should also almost guarantee a reasonable distance gained strictly because of the need for casters to actually cast.

Blizzard has already taken steps to move in this direction, but there are a few issues that need to be resolved, also coincidentally to classes that are very under represented in the Arena: Shadow Priests, Warlocks (Affliction/Demonology), Boomkins all need AOE snares. These classes have virtually no escape options if multiple melee get on them. Shadow Priests also do not have any short cooldown movement abilities that guarantee distance. Fade is not a solution.

While I realize that some classes are designed differently and function differently in combat, there needs to be a bare minimum with caster class parity or even homogeneity when it comes to dealing with melee. With classes scaling differently with gear/abilities as we move through the various expansions, it becomes more and more important that the bare minimums are met throughout all of the caster classes purely for survival, if nothing else.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Faction to Faction Transfers = Comp Racial Homogenization?

Edit: Nethaera just answered some questions regarding the Faction Change service. Answers to some questions are in red.

If you've been actively following some of the blue announcements across the WoW forums or through the blogosphere, you've undoubtedly heard about the upcoming service to switch factions. What isn't known about this service are the specifics:
  • Whether or not a player will be able to change races, but keep the same faction. No. Players will only be able to switch to a race of the opposite faction.
  • Whether or not a player will be able to choose a specific race in their new faction, regardless of their original race. (Unlike the Orb of Deception) Yes, but you will only be able to switch to a race that has your class type available to it. So, if you play a Human Paladin, you'd only be able to change to a Blood Elf Paladin.
  • What about switching back? No. You'd only be able to switch back to your originally chosen race.
  • Whether or not accounts will allow a player to have both Horde and Alliance characters on the same PvP server.
  • What the cooldown of this service for a single character will be. We do not have any information to share on this at this point in time, however, we will have restrictions on the frequency by which players can change their faction.
  • What the impact will be on servers with existing faction imbalances due to raiding popularity.
  • What the impact will be on battlegroups with consistently lopsided starts due to faction imbalances.
  • What the impact will be with regards to comp racial homogenization with respect to Arena trends.
While the first five questions will likely be answered soon (yep, 4 of the 5 already), the last three are unlikely to be answered until the faction change utility goes live. What I am intensely interested in is the last potential issue.

From a comp and meta game perspective, racials can make or break a fight. For example, RMP (Rogue Mage Priest) mirror fights, teams with triple Undead players generally have a short term advantage as Will of the Forsaken functions to nullify the first Psychic Scream of the opposing Priest. Likewise, if, through the upcoming changes to Resilience, Warlocks become dominant again, classes that have the option of playing as Undead for WotF will fare better in the long run.

On the Alliance side, with the nerf to Stoneform, the 'talent-fication' of Desperate Prayer and the change to the Human racial from on demand Perception to a two minute cooldown trinket (Every Man For Himself), Humans have become one of the more popular races across the board. As Humans are able to utilize an additional trinket, they often have more burst or utility depending on the trinkets available to them. In the past couple of seasons, especially in the 2v2 bracket, this has been a pretty huge benefit as burst damage has often surpassed the average mitigation capacity for the average player.

When it comes to race to race comparisons across faction lines, certain racials tend to be more beneficial to the teeming masses than to top players. One example is the Night Elf Shadowmeld compared to the Tauren Warstomp for Druids. While top pros can use Shadowmeld to avoid a fear or other form of CC through good timing, I believe that the average Druid would benefit far more from Warstomp, if anything to get Cyclones off on interrupt happy melee or to stun multiple players in an attempt to break a train.

So, what do I think about this? I think that IF Blizzard allows you to choose your new faction's race AND if Blizzards allows accounts to have characters of different factions on the same PvP server, there will be a definite shift in faction for specific comps. This will be particularly true if players a) focus on 3v3 instead of 2v2 and b) stack resilience, thus creating a slower, less burst-centric game. Paladin healer based comps will likely go Alliance for the Human racial. Priest healer based comps will likely lean towards Horde for WotF. Shaman comps will likely sway towards Horde as well due to the Orc/Tauren racials being favored over the small heal over time and +hit aura from the space goats. Druid healer comps are likely to go either way depending on their DPS' favored classes.

Honestly? I don't want to play a Night Elf chick or a Human Priest, because I abhor the animations, but if the crew swaps factions, I may have to tag along.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wintergrasp Instanced = Poor Judgement

Back in City of Heroes (CoH) Issues 7 and prior, there was no end game content to speak of.

Well, almost no end game to speak of.

What CoH had was
Hamidon. Hamidon was this outdoor raid boss that was essentially an ernormous cell complete with various 'mitochondria' (mini raid bosses) that performed various functions. Due to the ridiculous number of hit points, the regen rate and the mez resistance, Hamidon required nearly an entire zone (only level 47-50 allowed) of heroes to defeat, with the whole process taking a substantial amount of time. However, at the time, Hamidon loot was the best in the game so people would plan their evenings around these Hami-Raids. For many servers, Hamidon was not a feasible raid encounter for one Supergroup (Guild) to take down by themselves, and as such server wide raids were often scheduled for maximum participation.

The problem with the Hamidon encounter became clearly evident: Due to the high powered rewards from a relatively easy boss, everyone on the server that was eligible to participate in the fight would attempt to join in. This generated immense latency due to hundreds of players grouping up in the same location with the server processes grinding to a near halt as it slowly performed all of the necessary combat and reward calculations. On the Virtue server, the last 5 minutes of the Hami-Raid looked like a bunch of people standing around a dot as the server wasn't able to render Hamidon, any of the attacks that were being auto spammed, or even fellow Heroes a mere 10 yards away.

Why am I telling a tale of an old encounter from a different MMO?

Because the problems that plagued the Hamidon encounter from several years ago will continue to plague Wintergrasp even after its upcoming fix.

From the Blizzard Staff:

To provide players with a more transparent notification of when Wintergrasp battles occur, as well as better control zone population and stability, several changes have been made:
-Players now have the option to queue for Wintergrasp from a Wintergrasp Battlemaster in any capital city or by simply entering the Wintergrasp Zone.
-Queuing will begin 15 mins before each battle. If chosen, you will automatically be teleported to the zone.
-Any players in the zone who have not been chosen from the queue will be teleported out when the battle begins.
-The queue system remains active for the entire battle. As soon as a player leaves, a new one will be chosen from the queue.
-Trying to enter Wintergrasp during an active battle for which you have not been chosen will teleport you out. Please note that, as you are now able to fly over Wintergrasp, you will only be
teleported out if you try to land and join the battle.
-Level 80 players get higher priority in the queue than lower level players. In addition, a random selection of queued players will be taken from both the Battlemasters and the zone itself.
-The queue will accept 100 players from each faction, resulting in a maximum battle of 100 players at a time.

I believe that Blizzard will only be creating new problems with this patch and sadly, these are problems that will increase the apathy towards Wintergrasp and the possible world PvP opportunities it brings to the table.

Problem #1: People will be forced into non-participation as the queue is a random selection.
Tuesdays after resets are key for any players who are holding off on grinding Battlegrounds for Honor based rewards (Furious T1 weapons count as well) because they know they'll get 10k+ honor from completing the 3 basic Wintergrasp quests (Win Wintergrasp, Kill 10 of the opposite faction, Destroy/Protect 3 Siege Vehicles). Not everyone wants to nor can wait for the next Wintergrasp as many players have schedules, such as planned raids or real life obligations.

Granted, the argument can be made that the weekly quests can be done later, but aside from Algalon, this is the only other content in the game that doesn't guarantee participation. Strangely enough, this seems to go against Blizzard's motive to create content for widespread consumption. Unfortunately, this is going to create a lot of angst from people that set aside time on Tuesdays to 'get Wintergrasp done' only to be randomly prevented from participating. Consider that player that resides on a server with a very high population of his/her faction and doesn't randomly get selected for Wintergrasp twice in a row? What about missing out three times in a row?

Still not convinced? Let's draw a comparison to raiding. If you're short just 10 Badges of Heroism to be able to purchase a piece of badge gear and the game prevented you from joining a raid , you'd be pretty peeved right? Same deal. You could go do Battlegrounds for that 10k+ honor and you could go and grind PuG Heroics, but it's far more lucrative and consistent to Raid Naxx or participate in Wintergrasp.

Problem #2: Latency will still be a problem.
Latency occurs when many players congregate together and the server cannot handle all of the simultaneous actions by that many players in such a short amount of time. On my server, Tuesdays after resets can generally get 4-5 full raids of players Horde side. Tops. Granted, the Alliance side is far more populated and as such, they're likely at 7+ raids, however, at those numbers, when even half of the Wintergrasp population congregates at the gates of the Wintergrasp Fortress, the latency sets in. Even a late night Wintergrasp last night with barely 2 full raids on each side created some latency, because everyone sat around by the Fortress gates. That's 80% of the proposed population maximum.

Problem #3: Still no incentive to not camp the gate.
The implementation of the tower mechanics have pulled some people away from camping the front gate, but it's not enough. By camping the gate, players that are in a raid can: a) rank up faster than those assaulting/defending the southern workshops and b) obtain more kill honor, even at 1 honor/kill. It follows the Battleground Zerg Paradox: where players that zerg from node to node obtain more honor than those who defend nodes, thus forcing the defenders to zerg if they want a piece of the kill honor pie. Gate camping = latency and we're back at square one.

Problem #4: No way of dealing with AFK'ers.
Every Wintergrasp has its share of AFK'ers. You can find them on both factions hidden in alcoves around the Fortress front gate cannons just soaking up kill honor. Right now, there's no issue with them as the huge numbers of players on both sides generally reduce the impact of non-participators. However, with a possible cap on players in Wintergrasp, the impact of their inactivity may soon be felt.

All of these sticking points in Wintergrasp were prevalent in the old school Hami-Raids of CoH, even down to the 200 player cap on every zone. However, the problems persisted to the point that the developers completely revamped the encounter and limited the specific encounter zone to 50 players. The big difference with CoH is that when one zone is full, another identical zone can be spawned, effectively allowing for continuous consumption of content. Unfortunately, WoW doesn't utilize this technology, so we're looking at what amounts to a Battleground that can only be accessed by 100 players of your faction every 5 hours. 5 hours? Yep. Because, if you're like me, you really only care about cranking out that quick Offensive Wintergrasp win once a week.

So, do I have any suggestions to solve the problems that currently or will soon plague Wintergrasp?



The inherent design of Wintergrasp is far more suited to a Battleground than a PvP zone. Amusingly, the new Battleground (Isle of Conquest) seems more suited to a PvP zone than Wintergrasp.

However, my best suggestions to alleviate some of the server stress during the early week Wintergrasps would be as follows:

1) Allow for all of the quests to be completed independent of an offensive or defensive Wintergrasp battle. Better yet, allow them to be completed without any battle, so players don't feel the need to go to an Offensive Wintergrasp to have the best chance of completing the Victory in Wintergrasp or the Defend 3 Siege Vehicles quests. This will remove most of the people who are there just for the honor the current quests give.

2) Give a node defense honor bonus like what is proposed for Battlegrounds in 3.2.

3) Create teleporters at each Workshop that allow players to quickly travel from their faction controlled nodes to other faction controlled nodes to defend them from attackers. Create zone wide notifications when a node is about to be lost. Most defenders hate to mounting up to ride to a node only to have nothing show up. It's a waste of time and a waste of potential free honor while standing by the front gate. Do not allow teleportation to the Fortress from the various nodes.

4) Remove the destructable nature of the southern towers, turn them into capturable nodes a la EotS. If the offense faction controls towers, weaken the Fortress gates/walls for each tower. Think reverse Tenacity. If the defensive faction controls towers, speed up the timer. If there are no players near a tower, immediately set tower to neutral (middle point of the capture slider).

Will these suggestions fix all of Wintergrasp's problems? Probably not, but I believe that attempting creative fixes to adjust player gameplay expectations is a far better course of action than the anticipated implementation of a very heavy handed random queue system.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Patch 3.2 - Arena Changes

There are alot of big changes coming so lets get down to brass tacks.

Edit: How did I miss this one?

Resilience: No longer reduces the amount of damage done by damage over time spells, but instead reduces the amount of all damage done by players by the same proportion. The other effects of resilience (reducing critical chance, critical damage and mana drain effects) have not changed.

Wow. Just. Wow. This makes resilience HUGE. This also makes long term classes like Melee/Warlocks much stronger if matches can be drawn out long enough through defensive play. Inccoming Season 3 all over again? Hrm. Time for everyone to reroll Druid imo.

3.2 Arena Changes

-The newest season of Arena gear can only be purchased if you meet the requirements with your 3 or 5 player team rating. Rating requirements form 2 player teams can still be used to purchase previous season of gear.

This is probably the biggest change as the 2v2 Arena bracket has been the go to bracket that most of the Arena population plays due to the ease in which people can come together to get games in. Naturally, 2v2 is inherently imbalanced as many comps live and die by the comps of their opponents. A renewed emphasis on 3v3 and 5v5 will likely encourage players to compete in a seemingly less Rock/Paper/Scissors type of environment. However, this is only conjecture as it seems to be harder for casual PvPers to coordinate some of the larger team sizes as evidenced by the complete dearth of teams in 5v5. In addition, casual players may continue to flock to 2's as they may see the Season 6 (Furious) gear as 'good enough' and as such, keep the 3v3 and 5v5 ladders relatively bare.

Remember, the strength of a bracket is completely dependent on the number of active teams. Only time will tell to see if the casual crowd embraces these other brackets and if Blizzard lowers the rating requirement of the next tier of gear to tempt causals. My best guess is that Blizzard would create 2 tiers of Season 7 gear, one that the casuals can easily obtain and one that the pros will want, much like the tier 8 and 8.5 gear from the raids. Let's see if I'm right.

-Dalaran Sewers
--The Entire Arena has increased in size by 25%

Good. This should give people more room to work with both on top of the platform and while running around the edges.

--Mounts can now be used in this Arena

Great. Not being able to charge into combat sucks. Not being able to catch up with a travel form Druid pillaring you with the entire map sucks.

--The position and collision of the crates on the central platform has been modified

Awesome. There have been times where, due to the geometry of the crates, I've had failboat fears or had others LOS my cyclones while still blatantly in LOS. This should help eliminate those issues and make it less random or prone to the effects of latency.

-Ruins of Lordaeron
--Alcoves have been removed from the starting chambers

This is an interesting change as it prevents players from kiting between the two starting chambers, LOS'ing and drinking. Naturally, this will make RoL a faster map and reward teams that seize control of the central tombstone.

--Two line-of-sight tombstones have been added to the slime pool on the southern side of the map

I'm not sure how large these tombstones will be, but it seems they will be a good place to run towards if the other team dominates the tomb with AOE snares.

--The collision around the central tomb has been smoothed out to prevent players from becoming stuck on the terrain as often.

I have mixed feelings about this change as the current tomb showcases experienced players from complete nublets from the way they move across the tomb. This change will likely allow melee to stick to their targets easier, speeding up the match even further. I think in the end, this will be a positive change as people will likely complain less with regards to the map geometry.



Staying True?

Upon meeting a fellow WoW player, the first question that is invariably asked is "What class do you play?" Many of us become identified by the classes we play to the point that we know that Joe is the Paladin, Bob is the Warrior and that mysterious Blood Elf mage named HermioneX, but never talks on vent, is probably a guy masquerading as a girl.

Sad, but true.

To get to the point where we players become identified or self identify as a particular class, we spend countless hours playing that one character and/or favoring one class over others. Typically, we call this character/class our 'Main' and refer to others as 'Alts'. However, with the cyclical nature of class strength, there are times in which our favored classes outperform others and times where a raid spot is more of an active charity than of actual need. The same applies to the world of competitive Arena PvP where class success for an average player can vary drastically from season to season. As an example, back in Season 5, Survival Hunters were absolutely ridiculous, but after a heavy round of nerfs, have dropped back down to obscurity.

The question that begs to be asked is: What makes one stick with (or abandon) a certain class when it's average success rate is consistently average to below average across multiple seasons (or raid tiers)? In this case, I'm not talking about weak classes that are being piloted by pros to the top of the ladders, as pros will succeed regardless of class strength. I am referring to an average player comparing themselves against other average players.

I happened to choose two classes that have been perennially strong since Season 2 (Priest/Druid), however, Season 5's Paladin dominance made me question the choice of my classes. The 3.1 buffs to my classes and nerfs to Paladins have rekindled my desire to continue playing my characters, but I was on the precipice of rerolling if the demographics didn't change. Unfortunately, I have friends who have been affected by the dominance of other classes over their preferred class across multiple seasons and some are to the point that they are struggling to find the fun in the game. Yes, there is probably an overemphasis on class comps and on Arenas with it comes to determining class viability in WoW, but shouldn't there be parity when it comes to having fun regardless of the activity that is chosen?

It just so happens that my friends are staying true to their relatively weak classes because they enjoy the gameplay of the classes more than the gameplay of their alts, but I suspect that without positive changes to their classes, this may be a subscription cancelling point.

I hope it doesn't come to that but from my experience with Season 5, I can see where they're coming from.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why I'm Not Going to Blizzcon

I thought about trying to nab a ticket to Blizzcon and taking a trip out to California, but for whatever reason, I couldn't justify it. I am, however, completely cool with not going because my twisted imagination has me thinking that the random conversations out there would resemble something like this:

Me to neighbor prior to the PvP discussion panel: Hey, nice to meet you! This panel should be pretty interesting. I hear Ghostcrawler has some interesting points to bring up about the weakness of casters against melee.
Neighbor: Eff that, ganker. I hope they announce that they're removing the Arenas and BG's. You griefing assholes ruined my game!
Me: ...


Me to dude wearing a Boomkin costume: Nice costume! What are you? Some kind of demented WoW Furry? You know there's no real life achievement for pretending to be the product of a Pigeon, Deer, Bear 3 way, right?
Boomkin: ...


Ghostcrawler: We're buffing melee!
Me: ...

Regardless of the possible exchanges with tardtastic WoW nerds, the underlying sentiment that completely nullifies any possible justifications for buying a ticket is that the game as developed a pattern in it's production/development cycle. Due to that established pattern, there is no real anxiety for me to go as I can pretty much anticipate what's coming next in WoW. To explain this, let me give a broad and reasonably vague example.

In the world of software, a typical business model for generating a continuous revenue stream consists of 3 phases: Implementation, Maintenance and Renewal. The implementation phase is where the software company installs their software and trains the end user how to manipulate the program to their benefit. Teething issues are worked out and eventually the software goes into the Maintenance phase where the software company supports the continued use of the product. When the next version comes out, the company works to secure continued use of the product (via the upgrade) and the cycle repeats itself: Implement new version, Maintain new version, sell next version. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

WoW has gone through this cycle once already from Classic to TBC, and now from TBC to WotLK. Heroic 5 mans? Check. Badges for Gear? Check. Entry level 10 man? Check. Entry level 25 man? Check. Completely borked first Arena season? Check. Completely stupid Honor grind? Check. How many people suspected that there was going to be a 'New Isle of Quel'danis' in WotLK? I know I did.

The bottom line is that the formula for Blizzard's last two WoW expansions works. It's generated record sales and subscriptions and has consistently produced excellent consumable content for a variety of gamers. To me, this formula is also stale and unexciting. As Blizzard is the master of taking what works and building upon it, I can already predict how the next expansion will play out and unfortunately, going to hear presentations on their upcoming content (ie: how they're tweaking their established business model) doesn't excite me or make me anxious for future releases.

And that is why I'm not going to Blizzcon.

Actually, that's all a big fat lie. I could justify it, but I totally forgot that the tickets were going on sale and happened to be away from the computer.

... Sorta.

P.S. I would totally wear a Boomkin costume for some hot cosplay action.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Discipline Priest PvP Glyphs

Note from the author: Sorry about the lack of posts. Plants vs Zombies has eaten up a lot of my free time. It's that addictive.

With the advent of the Glyph system in 3.0 and the new glyphs in 3.1, there's been quite a bit of talk as to the Major Glyphs to use for PvPers of all classes. There are a number of excellent Major Glyphs that are consideration worth for Discipline Priests, so let's work our way through them.

Glyph of Penance: Reduces the cooldown of Penance by 2 sec.

If you're a Discipline Priest in PvE or PvP, this glyph is an absolute must have. Penance, with a 10 second cooldown, goes down to 8 seconds with the glyph. With 2/2 Aspiration, this 8 second cd goes down by another 20%, to 6.4 seconds. In many BG's and Arenas, the Priest is horribly trained upon by melee and anything to help them stay up like the now self-castable Penance is a huge help for personal survivability.

Glyph of Pain Suppression: Allows Pain Suppression to be cast while stunned.

This is another outstanding glyph considering two things: 1) the amount of burst damage a team can dish out and 2) the number of stuns present in the game. In 3's and 5's it's invaluable as most teams will play a cc game on healers over focusing them as the main target. Either way, however, this glyph will save your butt and you will be glad you had it.

Glyph of Inner Fire: Increases the armor from your Inner Fire spell by 50%.

This is an excellent mitigation glyph as it increases your armor against physical damage by a pretty huge amount. As Inner Fire is no longer dispellable, if you find yourself constantly trained by melee and your teammates aren't peeling well enough such that you fall behind on healing/mana, consider this glyph.

Glyph of Power Word: Shield: Your Power Word: Shield also heals the target for 20% of the absorption amount.

This glyph is a great utility glyph. With the new talent Soul Warding, chain bubbling people is a great way to mitigate alot of incoming damage and provide a minor heal at the same time. If you find that you bubble multiple targets alot or your teammates aren't great at playing defensive, give this glyph a look.

Glyph of Dispel Magic:
Dispel Magic spell also heals your target for 3% of maximum health

This glyph used to be the go to glyph, as it is similar to the Glyph of Power Word: Shield. Unfortunately, while PW:S is quite consistent in it's utility, pure throughput (offensive/defensive) has become far more desirable than a possible heal off of a defensive dispel. Furthermore, as cleave teams become far more prevalent, spending a GCD on a defensive dispel isn't going to be that great, as only one melee puts up enough magic debuffs to warrant this glyph (Ret Paladin).

Glyph of Smite: Smite spell inflicts an additional 20% damage against targets afflicted by Holy Fire.

The premire glyph for Priests that play in a comp that has enough control or damage avoidance to allow them to nuke. Primary comp partners are Rogue and Mage. With this glyph, Smite becomes a very legitimate threat, often pumping out 4k+ of holy damage. With Focus Magic and/or Tricks, the Priest essentially becomes a DPS class when needed.


Glyph of Renew: Reduces the duration of your Renew by 3 sec. but increases the amount healed each tick by 25%

This is an underappreciated glyph, as it is generally outshone by other defensive glyphs. However, the additional healing is quite consistent, which, if it is kept on multiple targets, can help mitigate aoe DPS such as Affliction Warlocks and Death Knights.

Glyph of Mass Dispel: Reduces the mana cost of Mass Dispel by 35%

Unfortunately, this glyph was recently nerfed from a 50% mana cost reduction to 35%. Back in it's previous state, it was a wonderful tool in 5's to strip an entire team of buffs for less than the cost of a Dispel Magic. Sadly, with the nerf, the utility of this Glyph has pretty much gone down the toilet.

So, which glyphs am I using? Well, as a Discipline Priest, I have to go with the Glyph of Penance because it's just sheer awesomeness. The other two glyphs are really the ones up for debate. Personally, I prefer the Glyph of Pain Suppression and either the Glyph of Power Word: Shield and the Glyph of Inner Fire. I was a skeptic of Glyph of Pain Suppression for a while until it started paying off in spades across multiple brackets. In 2's I'm often focused by double DPS teams, of which 99% of them feature a Rogue. In 3's and 5's, I'm more likely to be cc'd, but swaps to me do happen quite frequently. If I can Pain Suppression the first coordinated nuke, Hand of Protection usually helps me survive the second and either we win because the opponents have just used 2 sets of offensive cooldowns, or the match lasts long enough that either Pain Suppression comes back up, or I run oom. When looking at most of the top teams, it becomes apparent that many have a stun that is either used to cc me or to bring me down in a coordinated burst: Charge, Intercept, Kidney Shot, Gnaw, HoJ, Deep Freeze, Shadowfury, Intimidate, etc. The list goes on and on.

As for the last glyph, it really depends on the trend of melee and how well your teammates peel. If melee starts stacking Armor Penetration, the additional armor provided by the Glyph of Inner Fire may prove to be useless. Warriors using Grim Toll have given me problems as they bring me down to zero armor in a hurry. I usually bite it once Pain Suppression and Hand of Protection are down. In this case, a passive healing glyph like Glyph of PW:S may be better as it can give you a little bit of a boost to keep the target away from Execute range as you set up your next heals. If your teammates can peel very well, you may not need the extra armor from Glyph of Inner Fire as it is likely that your PW:S will last longer. In nearly all cases, avoidance is better than mitigation.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New Druid Cat Forms - Answered Prayers!

A few posts ago, when the new Druid Bear forms were exhibited, I humbly made this request to Blizzard:

To the Blizzard artists who are in charge of creating the various Tauren Cat Forms: Please change the Tauren Cat Form face. It has the same face as the flight point Windriders and looks flat out downsy. It's a wonder that I can sneak up on people in my tard-lion form without them hearing me mouthbreath across the Arena.
My prayers have been answered!

The new Tauren Druid Cat forms are amazing! They're sleek looking with Tauren-esque horns and murderous looking eyes. This is a far, far cry from the current Cat Form design, which essentially looks like the lion example from National Geographic's little known series, "Inbreeding in the Animal Kingdom."

Which color kitty/bear am I going to sport? I'm really digging the black colored version of both, because I think it will be harder to discern the nuances of its movement but the white/polar version does lend itself to a 'louder' fashion statement.

Such a dilemma!

Check them out on www.mmo-champion.com

Friday, May 29, 2009

Loltrains and 3v3 First Impressions

While getting in games last night to grind our 3v3 team up in rating (a.k.a.: QQueueing), we fought 2 predominant team compositions across the MMR spectrum from 2k MMR to 1300 MMR. Some we won, some we lost. In all, it was an incredibly angsty time with lots of heavy sighing.

That's MatchMaking Rating for you not in the 'know'.

The 2 teams were:

1) C
leave (2 melee, 1 healer)
2) RMP (Rogue, Mage, Priest)

We play Death Knight, Warlock, Resto Druid and games usually went like this:

Melee brings the pain train on Warlock or Pet
Warlock Dies
Game Over


Rogue opens on Warlock or Tree Druid
RMP forces either Barkskin or NS on Warlock
RMP reopens on Druid before Barkskin comes back up
Druid Dies
Game Over

The only time we were able to pull off wins was when I (Druid) was able to rotate cc's on both melee, but if my cc chain was interrupted, either I'd blow up post Barkskin, or the Warlock would be nuked something fierce.

I know we're definitely playing the comp wrong, but when the strategy in 3v3 is simpler than anything we'd try to pull off in 2v2, i.e.: train1 target until it blows up, there's something very, very wrong with the game design.

There's much work to be done in this here bracket, y'all, and come hell or high water, we're gonna git 'r done.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Druid News and PvP Related Possible Changes

Over the past few days, there's been quite a bit of news about Druids. If you subscribe to the various other blog feeds or WoW news feeds, I'm sure you already know, but let's list them out.

First off, Blizz announced that Druids will be getting different animal forms based on their hair color (Nelfs) or their skin color (Cows) at the next major content patch. Sadly, this coloration/art change won't be coming for a few months at the very least, as Blizz has mentioned that Icecrown (aka Arthas) and Season 7 will be the next major patch content. Seeing as though most Arena Seasons last about 4-5 months or so, we still have approximately 4 months to go, so look for the Rainbow of (Care) Bears around September.

Just an educated guess, people.

I'd like to make a request, however, to the Blizzard artists who are in charge of creating the various Tauren Cat Forms: Please change the Tauren Cat Form face. It has the same face as the flight point Windriders and looks flat out downsy. It's a wonder that I can sneak up on people in my tard-lion form without them hearing me mouthbreath across the Arena.

Secondly, there are some impacting changes across the board.
  • Improved Barkskin: This talent now also grants 80/160% additional armor while in Travel Form or not shapeshifted.
  • Improved Tree of Life: The armor bonus to Tree of Life Form from this talent has been reduced to 67/133/200% bonus armor. This is down from (80/160/240%).
Overall, I think this is yet another buff for PvP Resto Druids as 160% armor while not shapeshifted will encourage Druids to get into the mix and cast Cyclone/Entangling Roots more instead of spamming HoTs in ToL Form. Granted, its a loss of +40% armor (240% to 200%) at the top end of mitigation so that ToL won't be as good against melee teams, but keep in mind that Armor also has diminishing returns, so it grants less mitigation per point of Armor as your Armor value climbs. I will be gladly trading +40% of ToL armor for +160% Armor while running and casting.

Here are some pretty impacting nerfs that may change the PvP landscape:
  • Overkill: Talent redesigned. Now increases energy regeneration by 30% while stealthed, and for 20 seconds after breaking stealth. This talent used to reduce the cost of the opener and abilities used within 6 seconds of breaking stealth by 10 energy. This is a huge nerf for Rogue burst, effectively reducing their initial burst by 1 to 2 abilities.
  • Juggernaut: This talent now also increases the cooldown on Charge by 5 seconds. This is a pretty big nerf to Warrior mobility. It's not huge, but it will definitely slow Warriors down a bit. Charge has been nerfed quite a few times, ever since Juggernaut allowed it to be used in combat. This brings the cooldown up to 20 seconds, or perhaps to 18.6 seconds with the Glyph of Rapid Charge, though it's probably not worth it.
  • Death Knight PvP Gauntlets: The chance to refresh a Frost Rune when casting Chains of Ice has been removed. When equipped, these gloves now generate 5 additional runic power whenever Chains of Ice is used. Awesomely huge nerf. Death Knight CoI spam at range is/was/will always be ridiculous. With the current PvP glove bonus, a DK has a pretty darn good chance to proc a third CoI after the first two, but this will force DK's to manage their Frost Rune usage. This should help against DK/Resto Druid teams, where the DK could create huge openings for his Druid to drink and do silly Druid tricks.

I'm glad that Blizzard seems to be on top of completely overpowered class functions, although I'm a bit scared of when the time comes that Ghostcrawler decides that both of my classes are going to be utter crap.

Oh wait. That was Season 5.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dru/Lock to 1850 & What's Wrong With Locks

Last night, my Warlock buddy and I went on a win streak to get the rating for our T1 Furious Weapons. We would have gone 9-1 for the evening (stopped because of mental exhaustion due to a long work week) but suffered a couple of extra losses due to mistakes on my part: 1 DC and 1 silly pre-hot mishap. The one team we were far from beating was a well coordinated Priest/Rogue team. Try as we might, there was virtually nothing we could do vs Priest/Rogue on the Ring of Valor map.

The fight started out with the Rogue tunnel visioning my partner with double Wound Poison while the Priest spammed dispels on both of us. To keep my buddy up, I was forced to full HoT him, ensure that Abolish didn't fall off, and use Swiftmend every time it was up when Wound Poison was temporarily off. The Priest was chasing me the entire match, forcing me to waste mana by going into Bear Form to avoid Mana Burns and threatening me with Psychic Scream through superior positioning, which essentially shut down my casted spells. Lets face it, there's no where to run and no where to hide in Ring of Valor. Due to the low (and very dispellable) damage output my Warlock was doing with the Rogue making him a virtual a prison bitch, the Priest even found time to drink while letting me cast some cc's on the Rogue, only to have them either trinketed, Cloaked or Vanished.

It's entirely possible that we played that match up all wrong, but after playing Dru/Lock for 3 seasons, we've come to the conclusion that Priest/Rogue is as big of a counter comp as we'll ever get. After the laughter subsided (we're both good natured about impossible fights), we tried to think of a solution to that fight and ultimately decided that, unless we got good double fears off and/or cc chains on the Rogue first with the Priest second, and were able to force the Priest to heal instead of Dispel, we'd lose every single time.

Through our games up to 1850, I've come to the realization that Warlocks are inherently flawed with their class design that prevents them from being competitive in the hands of the average player.

I know that this isn't a Warlock blog, but here are my top issues with the class in PvP.
  • Too much emphasis on dispellable damage.
  • Overly reliant on pet for survivability
  • Movement buff is reliant on map obstacles to succeed in mitigation of damage.
Let's talk about each one, shall we?

Too much emphasis on dispellable damage.
Both Affliction and Destruction are relatively weaker against dispel heavy teams than their fellow caster counterparts. Aside from 2 instant DoTs, the Affliction Warlock must cast Haunt and Unstable Affliction to really pressure their opponents. Even if UA is up, a few rounds of dispels are all it takes to remove several GCD's worth of time spent on the Warlock's part and a few thousand potential damage. Theoretically, it is completely true that if a UA lock is let loose on an unsuspecting team that allows him to freely stack DoTs, the Warlock can do alot of damage, but let's be serious here, who allows a Warlock to roam free? UA burst damage? Unless you get back to back Nightfall procs, its a slow and arduous process. Searing Pain just doesn't cut it anymore.

Destruction Warlocks fare a little bit better when it comes to burst damage, but they are entirely dependant on Immolate not being insta-dispelled to provide their burst via Conflagarate. In the design of Conflag, Blizzard mentioned that the concept behind the ability was to essentially create an inverted Swiftmend, which relies on either a 2 second cast Regrowth (which can be applied from the safety of LOS) or the instant HoT of Rejuvenation. The unfortunate part of this corollary is such that while a Druid's Regrowth/Rejuv is often protected by 2 or more Lifeblooms, which essentially function as instantly applied dispel protection, Destruction Warlocks have no such protection other than an instant Corruption. Even if Regrowth or Rejuv is dispelled, Rejuv is instantly reapplied and Swiftmended. Unfortunately, Shadowflame's weaknesses of a) being a short range cone aoe and b) having a 10 second cooldown, limits the 'I need burst right now!' options. A Conflag'd Shadowflame also does less damage than a Conflag'd Immolate.

Overly reliant on pet for survivability
While Soul Link is an incredible concept, that of a shared health pool between the Warlock and the Demon pet, it becomes a liability if the pet does not scale with the Warlock's own personal survivability. Granted, the Felhunter (predominant PvP pet) is an amazing offensive and defensive support tool with Devour Magic and Spell Lock, it pales in comparison to both the Death Knight and Hunter pets when it comes to self survivability through Huddle or Lick Your Wounds. However, regardless of the pet's inherent survivability, neither the DK or Hunter are reliant on the pet for survival. Their survivability is inherent in their gear and their class abilities/Talents. For the DK/Hunter, the pet essentially becomes a bonus, not a requirement, as it allows the DK/Hunter to keep players in combat with no direct disadvantages if the pet was allowed to die.

Unfortunately, well played teams can focus down a Warlock's demon pet in seconds. In fact, common strategies are to ignore/sap the Warlock at the start of a match and train the pet. Often, a single cc on the healer, who is spamming heals to keep the pet up, is usually enough to get a pet kill and force the requisite Fel Domination. As we all know, a Warlock who's used Fel Dom is a Warlock that typically must play defensive and ensure the survival of his pet, lest his team is able create a window for him to summon another after the second pet is killed. Yes, Health Funnel is a good ability, but as a channeled ability, forces the Warlock to stop DPS to ensure his own survival; often moving into LOS of his opponents to get the channel.

Movement buff is reliant on map obstacles to succeed in mitigation of damage.
Unlike other casters, Warlocks have the only positional based movement ability: Demonic Teleport. Unfortunately, Demonic Teleport has a pretty short range and is currently bugged on Ring of Valor. Due to this short range, Warlocks essentially must play a positional game and often cannot overextend their position against certain classes/comps as an overextension (outranging Demonic Teleport means no escaping a Bladestorm) essentially means taking alot of unnecessary damage.

Possible Solution(s)
The inherent problem is that Warlocks, if given even a minor buff could explode in viability. Their gameplay, especially for Affliction Warlocks, is so wildly different from every other class that their damage potential could be through the roof if their tanking abilities improve drastically. With that in mind, here are a couple of possible ways to give Warlocks a little bit of a push:

1) Balance Out Armors: Demon Armor should be the go to Armor for PvP Warlocks and Fel Armor should be PvE based. Remove Spellhit from Talents and add it to Fel Armor, removing the 2% health/5 sec. Keep the Spelldamage from Spirit trait. Demon Armor should provide the current Voidwalker Sacrifice Ability to any pet that the Warlock chooses to use; putting a damage shield around the Warlock while doing a certain amount of damage to the pet. It may be prudent to remove the '30% increased Healing done to the Warlock' aspect of Demon Armor.

2) Pet Death Interactions: Build in a new talent that is linked to a PvP specific ability such as Demon Armor to dissuade pet killing. Something such as Improved Demon Armor would grant the Warlock additional Armor or damage mitigation for a certain number of seconds after their pet is killed. Conversely, build new talents that encourage the Warlock to sacrifice their pet for various effects such as an undispellable vulnerability to the Warlock's spells or cooldown resets or escape options.

3) Utilize Demonic Teleport: Give the Warlock more option with Demonic Teleport. Some ideas are possibly to give the Warlock the option, on a 1 minute cooldown, to sacrifice their Demonic Teleport Beacon for a few seconds of snare immunity and applying a cooldown to teleport beacon placement. Another idea could be to give the Warlock the option, on a reasonable cooldown, to sacrifice their Demonic Teleport Beacon for a new pet, while also applying a cooldown to the teleport beacon's placement.

Regardless what the solution is, balancing out Warlocks is tricky because their class design is so capable of focusing on bringing down multiple targets at once. However, if Blizzard's design is to make the Warlock pet's survival mandatory for success, then at the very least give the Warlock some abilities that allow creativity with pet management.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Average Priest hits 2k in 2v2 - A Story and a Thought

For me, Season 5 was all about figuring out how to play the Priest and getting the macros/binds down as it was my first season piloting the class. Theoretically, I understood the class and the gameplay, but my execution of the class was beyond terrible. As I've been playing a Druid for the better part of a year and a half, I tried to play the Priest like a Druid and constantly found myself in hot water. The key misunderstanding was that I thought Priests needed to position defensively (aka Druid-esque) as opposed to positioning offensively. As such, I don't think I was able to maintain a 1700 rating as either DK/Priest or Warlock/Priest.

Season 6 gave Priests a little bit of a bump, but more than the increased efficiency to PW: Shield and a lower cooldown on a now self castable Penance, the biggest change to Priest viability was the overall lowering of burst damage and the nerfing of Paladins' mobile healing options. With those two big changes, Priests weren't getting gibbed in seconds any more while their partners would now be able to pressure opposing DPS.

With this extra time to live, average Priests have recently had the option to play offensive with Dispels, Mana Burns and added DPS, instead of frantically spamming heals in survival mode. This has resulted in Priest representation skyrocketing past their numbers in Season 5. I use the term 'average Priest' because top Priests with top teammates could always make time in Season 5 to play offensive while average Priests struggled to stay alive. Top coordination and gear can create openings for that Burn or Holy Fire.

Me? I'm an average Priest and the Season 6 changes have helped me in an overwhelming manner to overcome the feeling of 'OMG I'm gonna die!' and have given me options in my gameplay. My Ret Paladin buddy and I started our team at zero rating and for the first week, ground up to around 1500. In retrospect, this was a huge error in judgement as it only allotted us ~200 Arena Points for the first week. Even though we hit 1900 in the second week of play, the points gained didn't allow us to buy our Tier 1 Furious weapons until week 3. We'll have to remember this for Season 7. By week 4, we had hit 2k and did it in less than 150 games.

Overall, I believe Ret/Priest is quite a powerful composition. Double defensive dispels, chainable CC and ridiculous burst offers a pretty workable solution to many of the other comps on the way to 2k, but it wasn't until ~1900 that we had to play fast. Playing fast meant that it was necessary for my Pally buddy to Hand of Freedom/Dispel me instantly out of Kidney Shot or Hammer of Justice and necessary for me to instantly Dispel Fears, Sheeps, Divine Shield, Innervate, etc. Prior to 1900, we could play sloppily and the comp strengths would help us out of the various situations.

The need to play fast is due to the fact that teams at around 1900 start to play quickly as well. Opponents at this rating level generally know what they're doing and are often using every GCD to their advantage, trying to push for a little extra momentum that can force a defensive cooldown that can eventually lead to a kill. By playing quickly, you can either force the momentum in your favor, remove random factors, or force the opponents to waste their offensive cooldowns.

Here's a few examples: There were a few times where I didn't dispel the opposing Priest's Shadow Protection fast enough and that resulted in a random failed Psychic Scream and a loss. One or two Holy Paladins swapped auras to Shadow Protection Aura as I ran towards them, which led to resisted Fears. Warriors know how to intervene and reset fights and Druids start learning how to pre-hot, kite and Bear Form to avoid burns.

Throughout the grind to 2k, I started wondering how we could speed up our gameplay and one of the revelations I've come up with is this: DPS often expects healers to perform instantly: instant dispels, instant buffs, instant CC's, making sure Tremor Totem is down, Shock/Ground/Shock combos, Cyclones, prehots, etc. Often, the expectation is that the DPS shouldn't have to ask for these types of supporting actions; the healers should automatically be performing these actions. However, we healers should expect the same kind of support from our DPS. If I didn't have to ask for HoFreedom, Dispels, Intervenes, Fears, focus Pummels/Kicks/Mind Freezes, etc. our gameplay would be much, much faster.

Granted, certain defensive cooldowns should be coordinated, but is it unreasonable to ask our DPS to have the same level of global awareness as us?

I don't think so.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Arena Priest 2's Update

Hello, 2k!

I've missed you so much.

3.1 PvP Lifebloom Change - Not So Bad?

Awhile ago, when the 3.1 Lifebloom changes were announced, I wrote this post which highlighted why the change was terrible, horrible, no good, very bad change to both PvE and PvP Resto Druids. While it is still technically a nerf, I feel that it's time to come clean, admit my mistake and explain why I actually like the change.

I'd even call it a buff.

Typical Druid PvE Player Base: "Gasp!"

For PvP, of course.

Typical Druid PvE Player Base: *collective sigh of relief*

If you don't PvP, feel free to keep picketing BlizzHQ on that dirty Lifebloom nerf while I extoll the virtues of this wonderful change.

To understand why the Lifebloom change was a buff, let's talk about Arena gameplay from a design perspective. In previous seasons, around Season 3 and 4, Blizzard started seeing the effects of Resilience, mana regen, and crowd control. These seasons were dominated by Druids and Priests being paired up with Warriors, Warlocks and Rogues and interestingly enough, survivability was at such a high point that matches often lasted an incredibly long time. Back then, my buddy and I played Warlock/Druid and some nights, after spending 90 minutes on 2 matches, we were both mentally and physically exhausted from what amounted to the WoW equivalent of chess. People complained, QQ'd, and whined about the over calculated-ness of Arena PvP.

Blizzard took notes and in Season 5, changed their design philosophy 180 degrees to the point that no matches took longer than a few minutes. This change was brought about through intense burst damage on the part of many DPS classes. Naturally, complaints came about again, albeit far faster this time and Blizz tweaked the offending classes. Arcane Mages, Survival Hunters, Ret Paladins, Destruction Warlocks and others got their burst DPS lowered over the course of several patches and hotfixes. I emphasized the word hotfix because it's quite impressive that Blizzard is now willing to make on the fly changes to improve the quality of life in the Arena instead of waiting for the next patch.

Where are we right now? Well, we're 3 weeks into Season 6 and burst damage, which still quite strong when executed by a coordinated pair, is, for the most part, (reasonably) healable with the help of cooldowns, peels and pillars. Granted, some class comps such as Rogue/Mage are still incredibly strong against certain healers, but that's just the way some class matchups happen to fall.

So, how does that impact Lifebloom? Well, when burst damage becomes (reasonably) healable, damage can be (reasonably) anticipated. When damage can be anticipated, one can roll a specific number of Lifeblooms to match the anticipated incoming damage. If the periodic healing is needed, the Druid can elect to keep the stack rolling. If burst healing is needed, just let the stack bloom. 14k crit blooms aren't unheard of and they go a LONG way against double DPS opponents in 2's. Interestingly, Nature's Splendor, a talent many PvP Druids take is both a benefit and a hindrance. On one hand, it increases the duration of Lifebloom, meaning it takes longer to bloom when you need it to, and on the other hand, it increases the duration of Insect Swarm, a huge DPS ability that many Resto Druids are glyphing for. However, the masses tend to agree that the positives outweigh the negatives and as survivability goes up throughout S6, the periodic healing of Lifebloom will increase in efficiency; thus spending 1 talent point on Nature's Splendor is justified.

While this aspect of the Lifebloom change is good, the Tree of Life change also helps the gameplay of Resto Druids. For those not in the know, ToL now grants the mana cost reduction to HoTs regardless if the Druid is in ToL form or not and the cost to shift into ToL is no longer crazy expensive. This opens up gameplay options for PvP Druids who essentially need to use Balance spells to either set up for a kill or keep someone alive. As such, casting Lifebloom in caster form is no longer prohibitively expensive.

As I look to the future of PvP Resto Druids, the upcoming drinking change (more mana/drink tick) and the Innervate buff will, in my opinion, put Druids back up on top.

Things are definitely looking up for the crafty shape shifters.

As an aside, I finally got tired of having most of my screen blocked by some weirdly proportioned Man Cow. Therefore, my Man Cow is now a Girl Cow.

My eyes are much happier.