A Visual Indication of AoE

To be filed under “Why didn’t I think of that” is a post by Brokentree over at Wayward Initiative, performing a very simple and yet helpful service;

Showing the DPS what each tanks’ most common AoE looks like.

The subtext goes back to a recent post there by another of the multitude of Wayward Initiative bloggers, Pugging as DPS.

The post is brilliant; it gives a visual example of what Tank AoE looks like, so that DPS have some idea what to wait for before they unload on the group.

I’m a sarcastic old Bear, so that’s a post I totally should have thought of first.

Why?

Because what it’s saying is, “Hey, you idiots keep pulling aggro off the tank in PUGs, time after time after time, in the first two seconds of each pull, before the Tank has ever even had a chance to reach the bloody mobs. But maybe the problem isn’t that you’re a complete f’ing moron. Maybe the problem is you just don’t know what the AoE effect looks like. So I will teach you. The more you know. GI Joe!”

That’s sarcasm to be proud of.

Look, there’s a foolproof, simple technique that will ensure you do not pull aggro off the mobs on the tank.

It’s called patience.

If you play as DPS, just wait a few seconds for the tank to get it stuck in before you open up. If you still pull aggro, then either tone it down, or wait a few more seconds the next time.

Try, and I know this is a crazy, out there idea, but try to use your skill to adjust your DPS output on single and group targets to take into accuont the current tank’s Threat output.

It may take you a pull or two to figure it out, but just do it. 

Stop with the “gogogo”. Stop with the pulling FOR the tank unless she asks.

Just be patient for a few seconds on each pull.

Mathematical tests have proven* that the potential amount of time you will save by pushing the group and screaming GOGOGO, or by pulling the groups yourself as DPS, does not outweigh the amount of time you lose from wiping and running back in, or by having the tank tell you to shut up or having the tank leave the group in disgust at your behavior or having the healer stop healing you each time you pull something antisocial so you’ll eat a repair bill.

If you are DPS and have a 15 minute queue time, and you want to get each Heroic finished as soon as possible so you can requeue, pushing the speed of a group and destabilizing the run is not going to save you time. 

Neither will screaming “you suck” at the tank if you pull aggro by not waiting, nor will screaming obscenities at the healer if you, as the tank pull half the instance in your 22k health/non-defense capped gear and die.

I will hammer this home until everyone seems to get it;

“Why is there never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to release and run back in?”™

Seriously.

If you’re the tank, learn what you can safely pull and hold before taking too much damage too fast. And go slow enough for the healer to keep up.

If you’re the DPS, wait until the tank has had a chance to tag everything before you open up, and hey, brilliant idea here, how about making your primary target the same one the tank currently has targeted? Chances are excellent that’s the one getting the lion’s share of the tanks threat output.

There are even mods/addons that make it easy. X-Perl unitframes let’s you turn on target of target display for Party mode. You can easily, at a glance, see what EVERY person in the party is targeting.

I love comparing, as the tank, what I’m targeting against what the rest of the group has targeted.

“Oh hey, how about that, every time I mark a Skull, the Mage is on something else and pulls aggro on it. Every time. Let’s see how he likes it when I stopped Growling.”

And healers… well, I’m sorry. That’s about all I got for you.

Oh no, wait, I do have one piece of advice.

If you go Engineering, you can get Rocket Boots enchanted on your feet. It really helps keeping up when the tank thinks his leet 22k health means heals are optional on the next sequence of groups. 

*Based on my slowing down every time I get one of those assholes.

So, Druids gonna see some change, huh?

I’m going to start with an assumption;

If you read my blog, you also read MMO Champion, WoW.com, or the main forums, and are plugged into the “WoW news” scene, such as it is.

If not, that’s okay. I’m sure you’ll get the gist of what’s going on with Druids soon enough.

The proposed Feral changes, such as they were, were pretty good.

Plenty of stuff made me smile in the announcement, not least of which was the announcement of a new AoE threat/damage boosting ability, Thrash.

That’s nice, I think it’ll be fun in execution. However, once again, I refer you to a previous post, wherein I pointed out we have no idea how any change will actually work. The assumption would be that adding a new ability, Thrash, would add to Threat generation. However, in execution, if they dial down Swipe’s Threat/Damage as they add Thrash, balance them out so we need to use both together to equal today’s Swipe… well, see what I mean about not making silly assumptions as to how things will work until we actually get the game changes in our furry little paws? 

What mostly brought a smile to my face was the way the tanking announcements, in general and across the board, all said that the intended goal was to balance damage dealing capabilities across all tank types. To have tools in place so that if any one tank class gets ahead of the pack, they can reign them in, or if one lags behind, they can pull that one up by the bootstraps.

The concern I have is that the term they use is damage, not Threat, when talking about balance. I know that many tanks worry about damage generation comparisons with other tanks, and that there has been a lot of complaining about the high damage output of some tank classes.

I don’t care nearly as much about damage output balance as I do about threat. I really hope that when they are talking about balancing damage amongst the tank classes, they also mean threat output.

The main point to take away from tank announcements is that they are trying to change the underpinnings of the abilities and mechanics so that they have easier tools at hand to balance the classes when they decide it’s needed.

I imagine that’s one of the reasons that the Paladin review is so delayed. Paladins have a very fine tuned, race car style performance when it comes to threat and damage generation. Messing with any of it is going to cause a lot of headaches for all concerned. 

As far as Bears go, with Vengeance, and damage reduction and Thrash and everything, it looks to me that Bears will do about as well as could be expected. Tools are being added to increase the complexity/diversity of the Bear playstyle, increase our group utility (Movement speed buff? Cool!), improve AoE threat generation (hopefully with Thrash) and keep our gear diversity intact.

The only fly in the ointment would be the lack of an announced ranged Silence pull, while in their infinite wisdom they gave Rogues (Rogues?) a Smoke Bomb to force ranged spellcasters to close to melee.

Did I actually expect to get a ranged Silence pull? No, I did not. Bears have so many other tools from Cat using the same gear and (mostly) same spec, PLUS self-Heals, that I figured, from a PvP standpoint, there was just no freaking way we’d get one.

If you don’t like it, play a Pally, right? We’re Bears. Toughen up, sunshine!

I will add that while I like the Smoke Bomb idea for our Ninja leather-wearing brothers and sisters, if you can do that, c’mon guys… hows about giving a Bear a fart cloud? Although, come to think of it, that would be more along the order of a Fear, wouldn’t it?

Hmmm. Actually, a fart cloud that stuns enemies in an AoE would be fun. I bet they can’t do it because you wouldn’t be able to put in diminishing returns for the effect…

Oh well, lesson here is, Bears, make sure your best friend is a Rogue, I guess. Good thing I married one. 🙂

As far as Cats go, they said that there would be no new earthshaking, wonderful new spells. They like the rotation so much, they don’t want to fiddle with it. However, they WILL extend debuff durations and things, so there is a slightly looser window to get each ability off that depends on a previous debuff being in effect on the target, making the rotation a little more forgiving to a slight blunder.

Restoration Druids aren’t expecting to get any new spells either; Blizzard thinks the ones we have fill all the required niches.

I can feel the desire for new shinies, but I honestly don’t need something new just to have a happy button added to my bar. I look at all the excess buttons on some of my classes, like all the buttons for abilities my Mage alt almost never uses, and figure that I’m good with having a tight group of abilities that all work well together.

I don’t play a Moonkin, personally, but I love the form. I would like to say one thing about their new spell.

Why, oh why, do Druids get to be the ones bringing the magic shrooms? Now there’s nothing for it but that I go grind Sporregar rep to Exalted so I can wear the Magic Mushroom purple tabard, proclaiming my hippy druggie status to the world. 

Okay, so I’m laughing on the inside. Trust a Moonkin to look at the enemy and think, “What you really need, what you really need right now, is to get high. Here, have one of these. Oh my, look at the pretty stars. And the lights! The beautiful, glowing, pretty lights. Oh, wait, those are my spell effects as I blow you the hell up…”

Lets move on to what is shaping up to be the big drama of the teasers; Treeform on cooldown.

If you follow Restoration Druid blogs to any extent, you might have noticed a stirring in the branches, as the winds of discontent blow through the community.

Down and dirty, they’re planning on changing Treeform from being a discrete form that Druids shift into, and make it similar to a long cooldown buff. 

This changes it from being the form you are in while being a Healer fully specced into Restoration, and makes it more a “For 30 seconds you are in the form of a Tree, and healing power/whatever is increased by X amount. 2 minute cooldown.”

Or 5 minute cooldown. Or something.

The point is, it goes from being what it is now, a shapeshifting form exclusive to the deep Restoration tree, and reduces it to just another spell in the rotation. 

Now, Druids are unlikely to get a lot of outside sympathy for being unhappy about this. From the outside looking in, it resembles a simple complaint about a cosmetic change, and Ghostcrawler has already replied, saying that if Druids are so adamant about having a Tree form, they could add a Minor Glyph that would leave the Treeform appearance up all the time, but would leave the new mechanic unchanged.

I’d like to try and present a Druid’s viewpoint that cuts to the core of the matter without silly drama.

World of Warcraft has, as a large part of it’s charm, both a romantic and a mathematic side of the game.

The mathematic is represented by all things analytical; stats and mechanics and DPS curves and damage reduction by armor with diminishing returns, and all of the other things that allow a dedicated theorycrafter an opportunity to min/max their performance.

The romantic is represented by the graphical style, the non-combat pets, the rare and exotic pets Hunters can tame, the varying landscapes and cultures to visit, the tabards to wear, the mounts to ride, the clothing and gear that changes your entire appearance, the view of the tumultous sky over the mana engines of Netherstorm and the peacefulness of fishing the pools while watching the Sun set across the sea in Wetlands.

The game is not just stats and power curves and progression. It is not just preparing for, and engaging in, battle. If it were, it would be Squad Leader with a bare bones graphics interface on a Hex map.

It has those elements, that depth of complexity. But it also has the whimsical, the romantic, the things that bring the game world alive and make it so much more to a player than a set of stats on a cardboard placard or a token on a map.

The way the game is designed, and part of the continued draw of the game for me is the extent to which I can develop an emotional attachment to the characters.

It is, at it’s heart, what differentiates an MMORPG from an RTS; that I have a single character whose story throughout the World of Warcraft has some measure of escapist value for me.

Where the problem here comes in, is that from what Ghostcrawler has said, the developers are approaching this issue with only one concern; stats and effects during raids and combat.

Where the players that have Restoration Druids are coming from, is mainly from the point of view of any player with an emotional investment in the character they play.

To us, our Treeform is an ability that shows our heart is in healing. Much like Moonkin form, it is far enough down the Restoration Talent Tree that you don’t just take it as part of a hybrid spec. You have to be intending to Heal as your main function, you have to really dedicate yourself to being a supporting healer to be a Tree.

I know I’m only speaking for myself on this, but to me, I don’t see the lack of offensive spellcasting abilities in Treeform as a detriment to playing my class; I see it as a mark of honor and distinction, and symbol of my dedication to keeping your ass alive.

I don’t ever find myself railing at the cruel fates that have prevented me from casting DPS spells from Treeform. In the rare occasions that I throw down a Hurricane, mostly during the Shifted phase of the wraith boss in Violet Hold to kill the adds, I accept dropping out of Treeform as the cost of dealing damage, and I return to Treeform as soon as my brief foray into causing pain is over.

I know that Ghostcrawler seems to feel that the Treeform mechanic doesn’t add anything to the game, it doesn’t bring anything special to the Restoration Druid’s table.

It does.

What it brings is Treeform itself. What he just doesn’t seem to grasp is that Treeform, for a Restoration Druid, is a goal in and of itself. Not something to be pity Glyphed, but an outwards symbol of a Druid Healer’s resolve.

I truly hope that the developers that are trying to balance this incredibly complex game for raiding and PvP in cataclysm are reminded that there is a lot more to the game then stats.

At the end of the day, what keeps us all playing this rather than Star Fleet Battles on a MUD is our personal involvement with our characters. Our emotional investment in the class that we play.

Character involvement can be a fragile thing, and I truly hope that, before making such a significant change, the devlopers take a big step back and ask themselves; is what we expect to gain by making this change worth all that we WILL lose in terms of player goodwill?

The Retaking of Ironforge

As far as Gnomeregan is concerned, I’m falling in line with the thought that a staged, phased reclamation a la Isle of Quel’danas is the most likely scenario.

Which, let’s face it, sounds pretty cool. 🙂

But I keep thinking of Ironforge.

Cataclysm is supposed to bring flight to old world Azeroth.

That means things are being changed to accomodate that, changes to zone edges and such, things that never had to be worried about before, because players could never actually reach there.

I remember one time, at band camp… no, wait, just kidding.

I remember one time, when the game was brand new, hopping up hills at the perimeter around the Hunting Lodge in Loch Modan, and I made it up and onto the top of the ridge on the northern edge… only to find that the terrain became a featureless wireframe of orange flatness.

I ran and ran for a long time, to the north as I recall, wondering where I would end up. After a while, I turned around and headed back to resume what I was doing; leveling my first ever character, Windshadow.

The urge to explore was strong, to see what was over the next rise, maps being rare and hard to find on the internet, and to be honest, I never imagined back then that the desire to explore would ever be frowned on by Blizzard.

It was a huge game world, and it never crossed my mind that I’d get in trouble for wanting to see more of it. Instead, I assumed that if I could get somewhere, I would be rewarded for my ingenuity with something neat. Finding the quest bear way up high in the mountains of Loch Modan NE of the flight master only reinforced that idea. 

It was shortly around this time, looking on the forums for the suggestions of others on places to explore, that I found the official forums ringing to claims of people being banned for finding ways to reach areas that were not meant to be reached… and sharing the techniques.

There but for the grace of WoW go I. That could easily have been me, in my innocence, posting about something neat I’d found and wanting to share it. If I hadn’t seen that others were being banned for doing that, I certainly would have posted my own experiences.

I remember it well, the main claim was that someone on the official forums was banned from the game specifically for figuring out how to reach the little dwarf airport/landing strip with the cool planes way up above the mountains over Ironforge, using a technique of climbing and gliding with the Engineering-crafted Parachute Cloak. I believe the statement from a Blue poster was along the lines of saying that the Airstrip, and other in-game places like that, were meant to be visual points of interest, and not actual locations to ever be visited.

Ah, the mystique of that little Dwarven landing strip. The hours I spent exploring the mountain chain from both Dun Morogh and Wetlands, trying to scout out the hidden path that assuredly must exist to allow me to visit that place. The drive to climb that mountain, to plant my flag, to be able to say, if only to myself, “Vini, vidi, vici” and take a screenshot.

It was the first little blow to my love affair with World of Warcraft, when I read the claims that players could and had been banned for exploring where Blizzard did not want them to go… when there was nothing I had ever heard of, no warning I had ever read to that time, that said “It’s okay to explore, as long as you only try to explore where we think it’s okay for you to explore… and we won’t tell you, you have to guess. But if it seems hard to get there, don’t try.”

Now this isn’t a bashing on Blizzard, although I’m sure it could be taken that way. For all I know, it was all total BS on the part of players, and nobody ever got banned or suspended for exploring, ever. It’s the official forums, you know what it’s like there. Tons of helpful people, hidden amongst the loud crazy idiots.

The point is, since the very first time I flew over the dwarven airstrip when taking the Griffon from Ironforge to Wetlands, I wanted to get up there, to visit that airstrip, to hop in the planes, to run around like a goofball and see if there was a super-secret quest giver there.

When I think about Cataclysm letting us fly in Eastern Kingdoms, I think immediately about visiting that airstrip.

But more than that, I want the airstrip to become a place where flying players can find new quests to perform. I want it to become that dwarven center of aerial adventure about which I’d long dreamed.

So carrying over from my previous post about the fall of Ironforge, I would be hoping to see something in Cataclysm that would indeed cause the Dwarves to flee, to abandon Ironforge, to take up as refugees in the capital of Gnomeregan… and let adventurers have a new raid, the Retaking of Ironforge, where you cannot enter via the massive front gate.

Oh no, not the front gate for you! The mighty climb to the gates of Ironforge would be shattered, the gates themselves sealed shut, and players would have to fly to that landing strip high up in the mountains, there to enter as a group and fight their way down into the mountain itself.

If you think about it, we’ve long seen signs that we’re supposed to believe there is far more to Ironforge than what we’ve already seen in the game. Towers jutting out from the side of mountains high in the sky, clearly meant to be reached from within.

Perhaps flame elementals, perhaps dragonkin, perhaps the deep down dark iron dwarves, striking a blow for revenge.

Perhaps all three… dark iron dwarves in league with the risen dragon forces to strike at Ironforge from within, aided by elementals erupting from the lava around the great forge, sundering the home of the dwarves. 

Of course, I don’t think it would really happen. I think it’d be super cool, but realistically, we’ve got far too many underground dwarf/dragonkin based raids in the game already for Blizzard to be spending design time making another one, no matter how cool the concept.

Blackrock Depths, Upper and Lower Blackrock Spire, Blackwing Lair… from a game raid design standpoint, I doubt they’ll add Ironforge to the mix.

Sigh.

I still think it would be really darn cool, though.

Pertinent questions on early survival

Had a nice writer send in a couple questions that I thought would be worth sharing the answers on, so here we go;

“Stratus” of the Darkspear wrote in saying;

My son convinced me (in wisdom beyond his years) to be a bear tank a couple of months ago.  I thought to myself, “I’m actually going to have to know these encounters now.”  So, now my main spec is level 80 bear tank.  Fun, fun.  But so much to learn.

1) On Ony 10 – I just run thru Ony and drag her to the back and turn around fight – no problem.  Have done this 6 or so times.  On Ony 25 – you cannot do this.  You die after about 2 hits to the back.  Talk about shocked.  A little background – I use my mouse to move my bear.  I did not grow up with laptop games.  I grew up with arcade games – lol.  So – using the keys to move and strafe and all that – really pretty foreign and not comfortable to me.  So – my question is.  Can’t I just run thru Ony and immediately turn around as Ony turns around and then back up that way?? (Using my keyboard here of course)  These are 25 man raids and I hate to be the one to screw it up right off the bat.

2)  Have finally figured out how to tank Halls of Reflection to where I have at least a 50% success rate.  This dungeon is mob dependant.  Can’t control mobs – you won’t complete dungeon period.  Your blog back in 2007 (tanking mobs) once again opened up my eyes.  Wrath, moonfire?? I never saw anybody do that or read about it but that is brilliant.  Anyway – my question here is – do you have plans on updating that blog in the near future??  Would love to read it.  Without the benefit of learning tanking as I leveled up – I am having to learn very quickly.  Players get a little “testy” when level 80 tanks can’t seem to do the job.

Someone mentioned in that blog commments from 2007,  “good tanks are hard to find”…I wanna be that good tank and I am counting on your blog to be a big part of that process.

Have a super day.

To address question 2 first… I’m glad that someone has already noticed I added that ancient post on Bear Tanking Multiple Mobs on the sidebar… and got something out of it.

I have this tendency to never look back at what I’ve written, I move forward. This is why my sidebar is kinda messed up, and why some things never get updated. I’m looking ahead to writing the next post or doing the next thing, not looking back at something already done.

However, in thinking over topics that would be of help to new tanks, or players for that matter, one of the subjects that I keep returning to is aggro and threat. What it is, how you get it, how you hold it, how you lose it.

I recalled writing what I thought, at the time, was a pretty decent overview of how the actual mechanics of threat in a party, broken down for each party member, worked. Healer threat, DPS, tank… all together in one example.

So instead of writing it all from scratch, I went looking… and found it from when I posted it in 2007. I read it, and marveled at how much had changed since it was written, in terms of Bear tanking strategies.

But the core of party threat generation discussion was still pretty good, and I decided, instead of rewriting it, that it would be fun to add it to the sidebar… with a little (2007) next to the name.

A fun look back at the craziness of years gone by… and hopefully, an appreciation for what we’ve got now.  A reminder that the name of the game is not competing to be a better tank than the other classes, but to enjoy being a good tank for our own groups, and an acknowledgement that Blizzard has done a good job of adding to and changing up our skill set since the old days.

Perhaps also, to serve as a reminder to the new generation that, you know… you might not want to bitch too loudly about having difficulty tanking with the tools we’ve got now, because in the old days, Bear tanks had to Swipe uphill… in the snow… both ways.

And it was a colder snow, and a higher hill than the snow and hills you get these days.

I hope that, for those that take the time to read that post, it has thrills, chills, amusement, nostalgia, and maybe for some a tip or two.

Now, about question #1 – initial squishiness.

You posit a situation where your goal is to intercept and develop threat on a boss that WILL follow you when you move, that is located in the middle of a large chamber, that has a knockback attack, and that does a great deal of damage.

There are several points to moving to the far wall behind Onyxia.

In the first ‘pull’, Onyxia is in ground phase 1.  Her abilities consist of a frontal Cleave, a frontal Flame Breath attack, a frontal cone Wing Buffet that does unmitigated physical damage and knocks you back, and a rear Tail Swipe knockback.

When you initially pull Ony, what you are looking to do is, as fast as possible, get her head faced away from the raid. Because everyone, including healers, is charging in behind you, and Ony is big, the most direct route to this is to run through her so that she changes facing, looking away from the raid instantly.

You do not want to Charge when doing this in most cases, because the healers will be hard pressed to have reach on you… they are not moving directly behind you, they are angling to the side, so as not to be within the arc effect of Tail Swipe.

The only rush in moving Ony around is to get her head away from the raid. You do NOT have to run to the back wall. All you have to do is get through the mid point on Ony’s hit box. Once she turns, you can turn around, and waddle backwards until your butt is at the wall. Your being stationary means she will advance and become stationary, and melee DPS can hit her in the flank without worrying about front cone AoE effects or rear Tail Swipes.

If you are waddling backwards towards the wall, and she does Wing Buffet, all that she accomplishes besides damage is to move you to where you want to be faster. 🙂

In looking at your Armory gear, you’ve got a pretty darn outstanding set of tanking gear. Obviously, the movement impairing trinket and the Expertise gems aren’t contributing directly to tanking survivability, but the sum total of your gear is so good that it really isn’t an issue. No worries at all on that score.

If you move directly to Ony, flip 180° and waddle backwards, that should take care of the insta-gib issue.

Now, to add that extra cushion, there are always a few things you can do.

First, trigger Barkskin when you reach Ony. That will provide a very solid damage reduction. You don’t have the 4 piece Tier bonus on reduced cooldown, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is giving your healers a chance to get stationary so they can use their full repertoire of heals.

Working along with that is triggering Survival Instincts when you reach Ony, so that your max health pumps up for a short time, giving you more of a cushion to eat damage until healers are ready.

You won’t want to trigger Frenzied Regeneration, because the Healers only need a few seconds, and while it’s up you’ll have your Rage bleeding away. In the very first two or three seconds of the pull, you want to be establishing rockstar aggro, not sitting there Rage starved, waiting to be hit or do the hitting to get more back.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of suggestions, but since you state you are successfully tanking Heroic HoR 50% of the time BEFORE today’s nerf, I have to say that this should be more than enough to see you through.

And on the subject of Heroic Halls of Reflection… I was working on a post. Then, today, out of nowhere as far as I was concerned, they nerfed the ghost waves in HoR. I’m gonna have to check my notes, as Riff would say. 🙂

I’m sure you already know about Line of Sighting them into one of the boss alcoves, and also know that the biggest key to each wave is having your group hide in the corner, and YOUR being ready to pound out instant AoE threat to overcome the inevitable Healer aggro since the healer is glowing like a sun trying to top everyone off while you hide there. And the second biggest is communicating beforehand a simple CC strategy, so that, say, the Hunter knows to toss a ranged Ice Arrow at the most distant mob, and YOU know he’s gonna do it so you don’t work at getting within it’s range to aggro it.

Anyway, thank you for the very nice letter, Stratus, and thank you for the kind words. Take care, and enjoy today’s patch!

Crazy Days

As you probably noticed, things have gone off the rails this week in terms of follow-through.

Have no fear, I shall post part two of the gear list (the analysis is done, it’s writing a post that has dozens of bloody wowhead links that takes time) and there shall be more fun posts as well. Assuredly.

Work is simply building to some form of operatic conclusion, and I fully expect, in the grand tradition of any opera, that there shall be tragedy before it’s all over. Perhaps the plant shall burn, while a mezzo-soprano sings about thermal updrafts beneath the wings of her steed.

At any rate, I find myself at work long after I should have gone home, attending to one emergency after another. By the time I get home, all I’d like to do is decompress. It shall get better. Of this, I’m sure. After all, once the plant HAS actually burned down, well… at least they can’t page me for another emergency, right?

Moving on…

As I said, once I do get home, I make it a point to chill when I can be in game.

In the game, it’s been more fun than ever. The game itself, for the last few weeks, has been probably the most exciting and fun that I’ve seen in a long time.

We had a fun event last week, dancing in front of the gates of Orgrimmar taunting the Horde, but mostly, yes, it’s playing with my friends in the new LFG randomness… and flying solo just to see what I get, as well.

You know, before 3.3, if someone mentioned running a PUG in a Heroic, chances were you’d hear the other party say something along the lines of, “Hell no! I’d rather run with my friends than a bunch of random strangers.”

There are always exception, and I know a few folks who have long commented that they love running in PUGs, and never had a problem to speak of.

My own experiences before the new LFG were rather scattered. Sometimes, I’d meet some really nice people that became friends (or at least got added to my friends list), and other times I’d meet, well… the opposite. 🙂

But damn, things have changed. People are openly running in Pick Up Groups a lot since the new cross server LFG got started, and I have to wonder what it is.

I can’t speak as to why other people are loving it. Or hating it, for that matter. All I know is what I like.

First, I like that the rewards for being in a randomly chosen heroic or regular Dungeon are granted simply for going random, and NOT for being with strangers. If you and four friends want to run some heroics, you don’t get penalized for not having any strangers in your group.

Sounds silly, I know, but there was some talk before the Patch went live that you may have to be grouped with randomly chosen players in order to get the extra Emblems. Wouldn’t that have been ridonkulous? 

  • “Sorry Bob, I know we’ve been doing 5 mans together for years, but if we’re going to get Frost Emblems, somebody’s got to go, and we’ve voted you off the run. Tough luck, man.”
  • “But… but I’m the tank!”
  • “Yeah, about that… we never wanted to tell you but… you kinda suck.”

The extra Emblems are a nice reward for being willing to take the luck of the draw on Heroics… and for me, right now, it adds a certain amount of spice. What’s it going to be? Huh? Which one do we get?

The second thing, of course, is that by making it cross-server, there are conceivably more folks available ready to do something. You add that in with the novelty of three new instances with awesome new loot, extra Emblems for going LFG, and a TON of Tier gear available from those Emblems, and yes… right now, LFG is being heavily used.

Give it 3 months, and I think it’s safe to say that things will calm way the hell down. But for now… well, it’s Christmas for runs!

So what happened? Everything bright and wonderful now? All win?

Well, I don’t think so.

I know that I mentioned earlier a warning to pay attention to what’s being needed or greeded in your groups… which some people took in a weird way, but if you really get offended at the idea that folks should be cautioned to follow the rest of the group in how you roll for loot because different servers have different customs, hey, that’s your choice.

Regardless, it’s pretty obvious that there are some bugs in the woodwork in how loot is being handled.

I’ve gotten used to not worrying about loot, since first, I don’t really care, and second, you can trade loot you get with other people that were in the instance with you.

It’s been an eye opener that, at least the times I have tried it, you cannot make that trade if the other person is from another server.

I think this is a bug, because from what I’ve read by Blue posts, you are supposed to be able to trade items so long as everyone is still in the instance together.

When I tried it, our group got a message, “You can only trade conjured items with players from another server.” Or something to that effect, anyway. The conjured item thing is what stuck out, Strudel is fine, just not that shiny Spellpower Dagger the Warrior won through the Greed roll.

Later on, I ran into another slight drawback with the system. Killing the last boss of Pit of Saron, we had three Plate wearing DPS/tanks, a Shaman and me wearing Leather.

A nice Cloth spellpower item dropped… and everyone started Greeding as you’d expect. Well, I wasn’t permitted to click Need. Neither was the Shaman, or the Paladin. And people had already started rolling Greed.

So, sure enough, we had to all roll Greed… and the Warrior got the nice caster Cloth item as well. And could not Trade it to anyone else.

Those are a couple points to keep in mind. Great upgrades for you can drop, and even if you’re not a careless distracted goofball like me, you still may not be able to get it because it’s not exactly the same as your normal armor type.

But with all that, still the LFG is being used aggressively. I know I’m having fun with it.

So, what’s the upside again?

For starters, you want to run something with friends, be it anything at random or something in particular… there is no travel time there anymore. No more waiting for two people to fly from Dalaran to Nexus for the Summoning Stone.

And when you’re done? No more Hearthing to get back to whatever you were doing, unless you don’t want to go back where you were.

By traditional MMO thinking, this is terrible for Blizzard. The idea is supposed to be, isn’t it, that you want the customer doing long, time wasting tasks so that they spend more time in game to get something done, and that corresponds to subscription fees.

No time wasted on a flight? No time hanging around waiting for people to get going?

But you see, isn’t this the best thing? It sends a message to me that Blizzard is so satisfied with the amount of things there are that we WANT to do in the game now, that they’re willing to remove the obstacles that keep us from doing them instantly. 

This teleporting folks into and out of dungeons is just wonderful.

But what else?

I’ll tell you what else.

It’s a people watcher’s dream.

As a Tank, I’m watching all the mobs and the environment with an eagle’s eye, wary for aggro opportunitues.

As a DPS, I’m watching the primary kill target, and planning my next move.

But I ain’t doing the PUGs as a tank or DPS… I’m going as the Healer, bwana.

As a Healer… I’m watching the PARTY.

I get to see what the DPS are doing, and laugh or cry or whine to Cassie on vent, whatever the case may be.

But even better, I get to watch what the tank is doing, and just be all judgmental on his ass the whole run.

This has been a cause for pure joy. Good run, bad run, wacky run, I’m seeing the entire range of personalities and playstyles, and it all rocks.

I get to see the Warrior tank that runs all the time, and pulls no matter where anyone else is, or what mana levels they have. As I like to call them, the “Run far, die fast and leave a splashy corpse” style of tank.

I get to see tanks that mark, and tanks that don’t, and see that, you know what? If you’re in a PUG, the melee DPS seem to like to know who to unload on or chase after, and the ranged don’t care. And the more AoE someone has, the less they think anyone else deserves a kill target mark to follow.

I get to see tanks that run fast as hell from group to group… but pause for that critical split second needed for mana to hit 75% or so before taking off.

I saw one such tank that took heroic Pit of Saronwrap at a dead run… except for when everyone’s mana was below 50%. A brief, just slight delay and then back on the run. And kiting mobs to bigger mobs, based on how his health had been doing and how well I’d been keeping him alive. Great job.

And then there are the groups where you just watch in amazement, as the Rogue posts Recount stats not just after every fight, but even DURING the middle of the boss fights. No, his DPS hasn’t changed, he just posts it over and over, perhaps in case we forgot. He’s died to aggro from various unmarked mobs 4 times before the third boss, and used Jeeves to regain Durability as though he is long used to doing this, too.

There is the Mage that Blinks into the middle of a pack of undead before the tank can get there. Yes, the Mage led the way. Mage tanks, now? What WILL those crazy kids think of next?

There is the Paladin tank that spends the entire time asking in party chat how to tank as a Pally, and whining about his mana regen sucking, and asking the party for advice on how to Pally tank… while he’s wearing all Tier 9 tanking gear with heroic ToC weapons, running Heroic Pit of Saron again.

There are the Hunter’s I’ve come to love, quietly sending in pets, dropping traps, doing damage and getting the job done. It’s easy to miss them, since they’re not causing any drama.

And how about that Shaman, who, after the Brann escort for Halls of Stone is activated and mobs are running into the room in waves, announces in party chat “Oh, I’ve got lag, I’m going to log off” and leaves the party. We 4 manned it easily, but Cassie was with me in that run and we were chatting in vent, and we mutually said “Oh, what an asshat. LOL, who bails AFTER the fight is started?”

There are just so many awesome things to see people do in runs.

Sure, I saw them before. But with all the delays built into the system, it could take all night to get two heroic runs in purely from LFG.

With the new system, you can pop out three in an hour, and end up looking at the clock after thinking, “Wow, it’s only 8 PM? Normally it’d be bedtime by the time I had three runs done.”

I don’t care how bad the run is now… because it took no time getting there, it’ll take no time to get back where I was, and there will be another group coming along 5 minutes after this one. So sit back, relax and /popcorn!

Is that the secret to the success? We’re all just having an amazing time meeting so many crazy people, and watching what happens next?

I enjoy the camaraderie of our guild runs a lot, but in the greater scheme of things… I guess I like watching failpugs from the cheap seats, and people are getting so insanely overgeared from Triumph Emblems that they can get away with the most amazing behavior, and still win.

I love it. I can’t get enough of it, in fact.

In a word… WoW!

Tonight, we went and accidentally did the three new 5 man instances.

Well, it was an accident on the part of myself and Cassie.

I’ve intentionally not read or viewed anything at all about the new instances previous to going. No PTR stuff, no videos, no pictures aside from what was shown at Blizzcon and a few screenshots showing a chamber with a dangling Frostmourne hanging over an altar.

No strategies. No walkthroughs. No “this is what to expect.”

For once I wanted to just see it, cold, up close and get to react to it.

My one regret was that I was in vent and didn’t have game sound turned on for most of it, but hey, I’m a blabbermouth in vent. I fully intend to join LFG as a silly little solo pugger, just so I don’t have to listen to anything other than game sound next time around.

It was an accident, because we expected to take a few shots at the first of the new 5 mans, The Forge of Souls, and see what we could do. After that, we expected to have to leave to put the cats to bed, our son to bed, and watch the season finale of Top Chef.

Just prior to running The Forge of Souls on my Druid as tank, I ran it once on Horde side as a Ret Pally. We set it up, went in, and the rest of the group had seen it the night before, so they had some basics to share. It let me see the fights, and gave me some respect for it even on normal, because the guys I was with are pretty damn good, and the fight against the final boss left two DPS dead at the end, with the Tank dying simultaneously with the boss. And this was on normal mode, and the guys had downed Onyxia 10 with ease a few weeks before. Clearly, something to take seriously.

On Alliance side, I gathered up the same group of us that had wanted to do it last night, and failed from being unable to zone into the instance. I’d promised we’d try a second time, and everyone was up for the challenge.

I went in as the Tank, and it was an unfamiliar sensation to truly know nothing about the actual abilities of the mobs aside from what I’d seen once. But I had a lot of faith that we’d be, well, overpowered.

Improvise, adapt, and overcome. Especially the improvise part.

We went in on the normal setting, looking to learn the ropes, and the thing that really struck me was how long the run up to the first boss seemed, when the groups of enemies are spread so far apart on long, narrow ramps. It really was quite fast to go from the entrance to Bronjahm, but it felt slow, if you know what I mean. It felt as if I should be taking the trash seriously, because of how spread out they were.

One thing I noticed is that the arrangements of the groups meant that almost every pull consisted of some ranged casters that don’t come when you pull, spread out far enough that you can’t blanket them both with a simple ‘run and gun’, or as I prefer to call it ‘charge and stun’ attack.

I found myself, much more than normal, spending my time watching threat levels across all the targets, satisfied that I had aggro and were marking kill orders rather than pin down one mob specifically.

I found it best to mark a ranged caster, charge him and lay down a heavy initial threat level on him, target a distant ranged caster while still Swiping local targets, thrown down a Growl and Feral Faerie Fire, drop back to local Skull to gain some more Threat level distance over the DPS, and then with a safe margin Charge the second or, if there, third ranged caster and pin him down better.

Really, it was group aggro control, the way I liked it from the bad old days of Burning Crusade, when it felt like flying fangs of feral fury spinning around and twisting viewpoints to keep an eye on the two legged lunch and just having fun.

Now, next time I’m going to play with something you may remember… Crowd Control. I think there were many situations where solid coordination and the effective use of Crowd Control would add… fun to the encounters. It’s almost as though they spread out the mobs enough that the designers are asking us to please, just think about using CC. Just for fun.

There are several situations that Crowd Control would have actually added to the smoothness of the run, but I’ll get to that later.

We faced down Bronjahm, I shared the tips I picked up from my horde side friends, and sure enough, easy kill. I was shocked to learn we were getting an Emblem of Triumph for each boss kill. This is normal mode, right? Cool! AND loot? Well, dip me in butter and call me corn!

We moved on, facing the same kinds of trash, with the addition of a couple Spectral Wardens, that are pushovers but they can fear you, so pounding them is not only fun, but a sound tactical idea.

We went on and faced the final boss, and I found that, aside from remembering that he summons many, many, many adds at times, and that he drops puddles of evil goo that you don’t want to stand in, and that he does a mirror soul on a target that causes damage he takes to be shared with the player just like the Eyeball boss of Violet Hold… I couldn’t remember anything else about the fight. 

Still, I had a few plans for what I could remember, such as calling out when someone was hit with mirror soul so we could stop DPS, and to watch for the purple circle that looks like a well and drag the boss away from it, and to call out for everyone to fall in on my position when the army of ghostly adds appears so they all come to me and get their little spirit butts handed to them.

We tried it, and well… I guess it went well, because we won handily, although sadly I somehow allowed dear Cassie to take a dirt nap. Still have no idea what killed her, either.

Well, that was it. A lot to digest, a great new instance, a lot of fun. Time to go.

And Elystia says, “And now we jump in this convenient portal right here to go to the second instance in the chain, Pit of Saron.”

Umm… well, okay. Sure.

In we go… and there’s all sorts of cool stuff, there’s a big ass dragon flying around and a huge wide open space filled with things, and Jaina Proudmoore, and wow, this kicks ass.

It’s day two of the Patch. That’s as far as I’m prepared to go in terms of spoilers.

I will say this.

We are, all of us, in gear that comes from drops in ToC, Heroic ToC, some 10 man Naxx, a few Ulduar 10 drops, and mostly Emblem of Conquest gear. Maybe one or two pieces of Triumph.

We cleared all three instances, in normal mode, without a single wipe, without having any idea of what was coming at us. We took it as it came, we reacted and tried to think our way through (although I think Jardal and Kaelynn cheated and were reading strats from somewhere!) but in the end, we won.

Even that last bit at the end of Halls of Reflection, and DAMN that was exciting and awesome and fun! Woo!

I’ll tell ya, we almost let him kill us just to see what would happen. If you’ve done it, you know what I mean. Damn, that’s tense when you’re all rushing “Kill him now, kill him now, get the fat one, shit Arthas is almost here, crap, go go go! Now RUN!”

God, that’s just a great series of instances to run back to back to back.

Here are some tips for Bear tanking it, for those of you that are raring to get in there, but haven’t yet done it.

First, be prepared to remember the kill order. Don’t hesitate to mark, and remember, if they wear cloth or heal the enemy, kill those bastards first. If they are ranged and don’t pull, you don’t have to get in their grill to hold them, but you DO have to use your Feral Faerie Fire and ranged Growl to keep them on you, and stay over the healer aggro. When in doubt, Feral Charge and make it up close and personal.

When dealing with fast runs, remember your strength; kiting and tanking on the move with your butt, and a moving AoE Swipe that hits 360 degrees. By all means, gather them up and drag them after you. In the Halls of Reflection, be prepared to search for ranged healer or casters, mark them with Skull to tell the DPS to focus only on them at first, and then do a run around the room to gather up the moveable mobs and bear swipe them on the fly and kite them/Feral Charge them into your designated kill target. Make solid use of Growl, because sure as heck if you spend a few seconds gathering up other mobs, the kill target will have time to get off at least one shot on someone else if you’re unwary.

Mostly… have fun in there. It’s a freaking winter wonderland for a Bear tank, and also for a Tree druid.

Mobility is our key strength. It’s our bread and butter. Yes, melee DPS wants us to stand still, and you’re a professional, so do it, and be consistent in how you pull so the other players know if you’re going to be facing the mob, or turning it to put it’s back to your group.

But always be prepared in there to make the fights mobile, to drag them around out of poison and toxic waste and the paths of boulders and wells of souls and gauntlets of adds standing in collapsing tunnels and roomfuls of waking adds and all sorts of other awesomesauce.

I can’t help but feel this was what I was missing. My only regret was in not marking CC targets, and using it in my tactics. I really, really want to do that again. Yes it’s slower… but it always gave me a strong sense of, well, “playing with my food.”

I really miss that. I think I’d like it back.

I hope you’ve had the chance to get in, and to see it all for yourself. I believe that when you do, you won’t be disappointed.

Chill of the Throne thoughts

Thanks once again to the wonderful talents at MMO Champion, I woke up to all of this today.

The critical quote;

For Icecrown Citadel, we are implementing a spell that will affect every enemy creature in the raid. The spell, called Chill of the Throne, will allow creatures to ignore 20% of the dodge chance of their melee targets. So if a raid’s main tank had 30% dodge normally, in Icecrown Citadel they will effectively have 10%.

I will share all of the information MMO Champion shared as posted by Ghostcrawler further below so you can see all the details and reasoning. I just wanted to kick the big announcement out first so you can prime your mind. If you’re all caught up on this already, just mosey on down the post for some discussion!

For Icecrown Citadel, we are implementing a spell that will affect every enemy creature in the raid. The spell, called Chill of the Throne, will allow creatures to ignore 20% of the dodge chance of their melee targets. So if a raid’s main tank had 30% dodge normally, in Icecrown Citadel they will effectively have 10%.

Why are we doing this?

The high levels of tank avoidance players have obtained is making the incoming damage a tank DOES take more “spiky” than is healthy for raiding. Ideally, tanks would be receiving a relatively constant stream of damage over time. This allows healers to better plan their healing strategy, broaden their spell options, and simply give more time to react. Tanks could use their cooldowns more reactively. Instead, the current situation is that if we make a hard hitting melee boss and a tank doesn’t avoid two successive swings then the tank could very well be dead in that 1-2 second window. The use of reactive defensive abilities instead becomes a methodically planned affair, healers have to spam their largest heals just in case the huge damage spike happens.

We’ve been trying to do a fair amount to mitigate the effect of high tank avoidance on the encounter side of things during this expansion with faster melee swings, additional melee strikes, dual wielding, narrowing the normal variance of melee swing damage, and various other tricks. There’s a limit to what we can do, however. So to give us a bit of breathing room we’ve implemented Chill of the Throne. Going forward past Icecrown Citadel, we have plans to keep tank avoidance from growing so high again.

We’ll have this on the PTR soon so players can see the effects inside Icecrown Raid.

Our original estimations for tank avoidance would have worked fine had we not decided to add extra tiers of gear to reward heroic boss kills halfway through the expansion.

The Cataclysm design will keep tank avoidance at more manageable levels. The loss of defense skill counts for a lot right there. We are also considering giving bosses expertise or other ways of baking in Icewell Radiance — basically the concept that bosses scale with gear rather than just hitting harder and taking more hits.

Player comment: It would still be fine if the itemization team had designed the gear accordingly. In a full 258 setup for warrior tanks, precisely two pieces have anything but a 3 way split of pure avoidance stats on them. There’s 3 different avoidance stats on 3 different diminishing returns, and pumping them all up like that can really make avoidance numbers go way out of whack. Meanwhile, we lose out on things like Expertise, and the preciously rare Hit Rating which is available on *1* piece of 258 tanking gear and end up having to swap gear around to cover those deficiencies.
You are making the common mistake in thinking that our goal for itemization is to give you the best possible gear that we can. Itemizing your character is supposed to be a choice. There will be better pieces and worse pieces. There will be pieces that combine stats your really want with stats you don’t really need. Wearing the best gear for their character (which is not the same as wearing the best gear) is one way players have to demonstrate mastery of the game.

This is also why I always preach to take BiS lists with a grain of salt. Merely reaching for the item declared to be BiS by a spreadsheet or system you might not even understand could lead you to making bad gear choices, often of the variety of passing over the good upgrade because it’s not the best possible upgrade.

Player comment: Also, if you’re going to give mobs expertise, can you please make a spell or some kind of method to determine the level of expertise without us having to do parses?
Yes. We would probably just let you see the numbers directly. I consider it a design flaw that players have to experiment to determine thinks like hit and expertise caps. We’re all for experimentation and theorycrafting, but we don’t think it’s fair to require some players to go out and do a lot of work to generate specific numbers that all players feel like they need to know.

Player comment: Putting so much avoidance on gear isn’t a bad idea because other stats are better. It was a bad idea because it causes tank scaling to fail and makes Radiance necessary.
That logic doesn’t really work. It’s like saying instead of nerfing armor pen, we should have just put less and less on higher level gear.

If we had avoided avoidance on tank gear, then every piece of tank gear would have hit and expertise (and maybe crit, haste and armor pen). Stamina and armor are static amounts, and if they were not, then those pieces immediately become the only pieces players would pay attention to.

Player comment: If you want ICC damage to be steadier, why don’t you just walk over to the item team and say “Hey, we’d like less avoidance, can you cut out half of the avoidance from the ICC gear and replace it with stamina?” Or if you’re worried people will get too much stamina, make it Frost Resistance and put in so much Frost damage you couldn’t hope to survive long with TotGC gear alone.

We just don’t think that works. If you put very unattractive stats on gear then players just go back the previous tier of gear and complain that we don’t know how to itemize. If you put bonus stamina on the tier 10 gear, then that means the next tier of gear better have bonus stamina as well. If it has avoidance instead of that bonus stamina, tanks just shrug and go back to the tier 10 gear.

This is not a tank only problem. Casters won’t upgrade to gear that doesn’t have more spell power on it, because spell power tends to trump everything else for purposes of their dps or healing.

We put a little bonus armor on non-armor items (necks, rings, trinkets and the occasional cloak). We don’t put bonus armor on gloves and chests because that gear would be too good.

It’s an item level problem. If we added another raid tier to Lich King, we couldn’t just keep avoiding avoidance and avoid it for every tier going forward. We just need a system where you avoid a Naxx boss 30% of the time and an Icecrown boss 30% of the time, the same way the Icecrown bosses have e.g. 30% larger health bars and thus take 30% more damage to kill. Otherwise the stats don’t scale and bad thing happen (in this case the boss having to land so much damage to account for the fact that it misses so often).

Reasons behind the change
I’ll address this one more time and then leave it because I think players are more interested in trying to turn this into a huge tanking nerf than understand what’s going on.

We would not have this problem if Icecrown gear had been item level 245 or so, as we originally intended. We added a few extra tiers of gear to support heroic modes. We felt like we had to do that to have different difficulty levels and make raiding more accessible overall. We felt like we had to reward the harder modes with the better gear or nobody would have been very interested.

The proportions of relative stats on your gear are not the problem. They are proportional, give or take a little, at every tier except for stats like hit that cap out. The problem is not the class and item teams being out of sync. In fact, they are the same team.

Diminishing returns
The 20% nerf is applied after diminishing returns. That is why I am saying it won’t affect the relative value of dodge and parry. The Icewell Radiance won’t get you closer to diminishing returns by itself.

The whole point of this change is so bosses can hit less hard but more often, for the same damage over time but with fewer deadly spikes. That should feel better to everyone overall. The reason I am reluctant to say that is because some players are going to go into Icecrown, find it hard, and then expect us to buff their class.

It won’t be Brutallus hard, at least most of the bosses and at least on normal mode. We’re not going to be particularly sympathetic to players who find heroic mode too hard.

Stamina less important?
It arguably makes stam less important (though it will always be important for tanks). Many players are probably telling you right now that only stamina and armor are important because if you ever fail to avoid two boss hits in a row that you’re going to die. Under that environment, avoidance loses a lot of value.

If bosses hit for less in IC (which they will, since they will hit more often) then the value of avoidance for purposes of survival increases.

I still expect many tanks will die in two hits until they get geared up a little. But they will, and then the ability to survive two hits in a row won’t be as big an issue.

Effective Health
I am going to attempt to explain the disconnect the community and the developers have over effective health.

When I first learned to tank, long before I came to Blizzard, I learned that effective health is a measurement of your stamina in relationship to your armor. This is a pretty easy number to generate. It’s reasonable to include say shield block and other simple forms of mitigation into the calculation.

However, you cannot directly translate effective health into best tank. Avoidance matters. If it didn’t, we would have no reason to nerf it in Icecrown. Good tanks don’t depend too much on avoidance, but great tanks understand its value.

Furthermore, your estimations of effective health become less and less accurate the more variables you try to factor in. Most saliently, you can’t easily account for cooldowns. You can’t compare a short duration that reduces damage by 80% to a long duration that reduces damage by 10%. Mathematically they might generate the same effective health number, but in reality they work pretty differently and each has their own benefits in certain situations, which vary depending on boss mechanics. (I’d generally take the first one though.)

We purposely made the cooldowns difficult to compare from class to class. You shouldn’t then be surprised when we take your effective health calculations based on direct comparisons of said cooldowns with a grain of salt.

It’s fine to compare health, armor, avoidance or cooldowns. I would not recommend putting too much faith in one ubernumber that you generate by combining all of them.

Icecrown isn’t Naxxramas
I am pretty sure on day one of 3.3 going live this forum will be filled with tanks who died and respond with “I thought bosses weren’t going to hit hard.”

It’s Icecrown. It’s not going to be Naxx.

Avoidance relative value
If you conclusion is that anything that improves your avoidance is now bad as a result of this change, you should think through it a little more. If you didn’t like avoidance before, nothing changes. If you liked avoidance before, nothing changes. You just have less of it now. The relative value should not change, unless you get to the point where bosses no longer two-shot tanks so much, in which case the relative value of avoidance increases. (Source)

The first thing I want to draw your attention to, is the true shape of the discussion. This is not about nerfs or buffs. This is not about discussing how much or to what extent to change things. This is about combat design philosophy and mechanics.

The base issue is the way tanks in general endure damage in an end game raid encounter.

With the combat design system in place, and the gear itemization designs implemented to date, there are two methods of dealing with incoming damage; enduring but mitigating (lessening) the damage from a blow, or avoiding all damage from a blow entirely.

What we are being told is that mitigation is the design that Blizzard prefers to build around for scaling, because it’s easier to streamline.

Avoidance will still have it’s place, but if the current design to challenge tanks and healers tries to include Dodge as is in the equation for damage sustained over time, then if the random number generator decides to clump Dodges and hits taken rather than spread them out, you take more damage in a short time than planned, Healers get stressed more than intended, and tanks die from a situation that was out of their direct control to manage.

That’s the key. They want the encounters to be challenging, but they don’t want success or failure to depend so much on random, uncontrollable events.

We are being told that they will make things more challenging in the short term by reducing one avoidance stat, Dodge, by 20% for the purposes of this one raid alone, but leave us our full power levels for other content.

This is a novel idea. Ghostcrawler addresses changing stat balancing on items, and how if they changed stats allocation on one Tier people would just fall back on the previous Tier as a reason, but that argument neglects to mention one way they HAVE handled the avoidance issue in the past; a global formula change that affected avoidance at all levels of gear.

In the past Blizzard has changed the base formula used to determine how much Agility or other stats contribute to each classes’ Dodge, and they have also changed the base multiplier used in the Dodge calculation formula per class. 

Doing so would affect all Dodge, all across the board. I think they hesitate to do this because then all current Wrath content would be unbalanced except for Icecrown. Good reason? Yeah, I think so too. It’s still something they may decide to do when Cataclysm comes along, if Defense alone is not enough.

This is not about nerfing stats that are too good, this is about trying to find a way to balance end game raid challenges with a preference for mitigation, when trying to handle avoidance is causing balance issues. 

Now, one of the things I’d like to point out as we continue, is a comment Ghostcrawler made about how, in Cataclysm, part of this will be resolved with the removal of Defense skill.

When the removal of Defense was first mentioned at Blizzcon, I think that I, as well as other people, had thought they meant that the mechanic of Defense and how it works was being removed, but that something else was going to take it’s place. Something such as the Druid Survival of the Fittest talent, for example. This would be a direct case of foreshadowing removal of an avoidance mechanic in favor of a mitigation Talent.

I did not actually take the Blizzcon announcement as meaning that Defense skill is being removed with nothing taking it’s place. That’s kinda how Ghsotcrawler’s comment made it sound.

Obviously, if that’s really what they are thinking, then itemization priorities for other tanks will be hit a lot harder than Feral Druids. Just something else to think about.

What I’d like to point out here, is that the intent of this Chill of the Throne change is to cause tanks in general to take a lot more hits, and to have to rely more on mitigation to handle it.

They’re saying, “Yes, we WANT you to get hit a lot, we want Healers to be healing constantly, and we don’t want a tank to be one shot or two shot if we have encounter design that takes healers out of the equation for one split second at the wrong time.”

I’m sure we’re going to see a ton of commentary on this.

What I really wanted to address is how this affects Feral Druids.

I’ve seen a lot of sudden panic that this is a terrible nerf of Druid tanks, that this will hit Druids harder than other tanks based on our love of Dodge.

I’d like to remind you that this is actually a lot easier for us to deal with than you might think.

Remember, looking forward, we already do not rely on Defense skill for the bulk of our tanking survival. If there is a Defense change in Cataclysm, we are already prepared for it mentally.

As far as a Druid reliance on Dodge.

Our gear, based as it is on Rogue DPS leather, as much simpler tanking stat foundations than other classes.

We have armor value that we pursue for mitigation. We have Survival of the Fittest Talent, as well as other Talents for mitigation.

We do have a ton of Agility alongside our Stamina, and we do not have Parry, Block, or a requirement to have Defense Rating for being uncrittable.

Edited for clarity: What this means for us is that, by regemming and changing enchants from Agility and Dodge Rating to prioritize Stamina then we can increase our buffer that gives healers time to bring us back up, and by pursuing trinkets, rings and weapons that have armor value on them, we can work towards increasing our mitigation. I’m sure everyone is already working towards having the highest armor value on leather gear as it is.

So we CAN quickly modify our style to prioritize increased health and mitigation over Dodge. 

Also don’t forget that compared to other classes, our Dodge is huge. Even if we do reprioritize a bit, we’ll still have a big Dodge after 20% is cut off the top.

Yes, moving from loving Dodge to loving mitigation SUCKS, based on historical yoyo bouncing. We WERE the mitigation masters. It’s what we pursued from our leather gear, based on armor value multipliers for years. Just the knowledge that they nerfed the shit out of our armor multipliers and mitigation, just to announce that we really should focus on mitigation, is annoying as hell.

Yes, we know. You changed our focus for us to be the best we could. You know, that mastering the gear aspect? So we mastered it too well, you nerfed it in response, that’s kind of flattering, really. But to come back now and say that everything is messed up because we moved away from mitigation. Grrr.

Still, you deal with the hand you’re dealt. 

Flexibility. It’s our strength.

Let’s read what’s said, remember the lessons ot the past, anticipate how they may again change their minds when they approach future raid design, but always remember that we are the class of flexibility.

Semper Gumby!

Things that make ya go whoops!

Last night, logged in on Windshadow, sicker than hell, thought I’d hang out for a few before an early bedtime.

Of course, the best laid plans, etc, etc.

Soel of Redrum whispered me asking if i could come heal some 10 man Ulduar for a bit.

I plaintively asked for how long?

“Oh, about 3 – 3.5 hours.”

Ummm….. no.

“Well, how long COULD you come?”

About an hour and a half, tops.

“Lemme ask.”

[Insert Jeopardy music while I pray “please say no please say no please say no”]

“Okay, that sounds good. Invite incoming.”

Crap. Now I have to make the little brain cell that’s still alive work.

About two minutes later, Cassie comes downstairs.

“Whatcha doing?”

I’m about to heals in Ulduar.

“Do they know you’ve never healed in Ulduar before?”

They didn’t ask.

“Where are you starting?”

Kologarn.

“Do they know you’ve never seen these bosses before?”

They didn’t ask.

“Aren’t you deathly sick?”

Your point is?

“Okay.”

We teleport straight to the Antechamber, and begin pulling trash. Redrum has done this way too many times before, there’s not much work for a healer on the trash.

As I heal, I’m happy with my new Idol, Idol of Flaring Growth. Sucker is up ALL the time.

Rejuve, pop. Regrowth, pop. Lifebloom, pop. Wild Growth button… Wild Growth button…

Why the hell ain’t there a Wild Growth pop? There’s supposed to be an earth shattering Wild Growth pop!

Son of a bitch, I bet VuhDo’s last update wiped my custom settings!

We clear trash and at a break, I ask for a minute to resolve some, ahem, “Technical difficulties.”

I open VuhDo’s panel, and check out Control, and then look at Right Click. There it is, Wild Growth.

Hmm, how come the other spell names have the word “Spell” next to them on the panel, but Wild Growth doesn’t?

I flip open my Talent panel.

I scroll to the bottom… something I apparently did NOT do when I did my respec testing last week.

Why look, there’s the Wild Growth icon… all greyed out.

Son of a bitch.

You know, the last time I respecced, I boasted to Cassie that I was able to buy every Talent I wanted, I had magically found the pefect spec. Not a single thing shorted a point like usual.

Hmm, I wonder how I ended up with that extra point.

Gee, I wonder.

I then proceded to have to heal Kologarn with no Wild Growth. It was like someone had chopped off my right arm… and then my left arm… and then my right arm…

Look, here’s a screenshot of a moron facing Kologarn! See if you can pick out the Druid without Wild Growth! Woot!

whoops

I proceded to heal Kologarn and Auriaya before we took a break long enough for me to teleport to Moonglade and do a hasty respec. Then it was back in to down Ignis the Furnace Master, and then it was past time for me to go to sleep.

But at least I got to heal Ignis with my damn Wild Growth! Things really heated up once I had that spell on hand.

Damnit, I did that once on my Hunter, too. Respecced Beastmaster moving things around, and said to myself, “Wow, I managed to fit everything I wanted in. I found the perfect spec.”

“Hey, how come I can’t summon my spirit beast.”

“Shit.”

Rare White Elk Day – Answering a Letter

Yeah, I know, I almost never do this on the blog. This was a damn good question, so what the heck. I’ll push back the other four posts I was in the middle of writing to answer it.

Hey there, I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and I have started
down the druid road.  I’ve got 3 toons at 80 already (all of which
happen to be hordies on Kael’thas), but at the prodding of my
guildmates, I made a druid.  Well, it wasn’t so much prodding as me
saying “Druid or Rogue” and the general consensus come back “druid.”
I haven’t played one since the closed beta, but I’ve already enjoyed
it a lot more than I did then.

So, to my inquiry… I can’t find much on the “leveling” aspect of the
class that’s been updated since TBC.  Do you have any generalized
advice or suggestions?  I’m drawn to feral, which is supposed to be
the hotness in terms of leveling and versatility, but I’m kind of at a
loss for which direction to take my talents.  Is it better to lean
bear in terms of leveling and survivability, or is it better to shoot
for raw damage and roll cat-esque talents?

Thanks!

Chris

First, thanks for the letter, Chris. And damn good questions.

Let me first get this out of the way; if what you want is the absolute smoothest or fastest possible leveling experience, I would go with Balance.

The reason is attitude more than anything else. When you start at level 1, you start as a caster, and are stuck in it until level 10. That get’s you accustomed to the gear and playstyle. You have crowd control, ranged attacks, all sorts of fun stuff.

When you get Bear at 10, unless you’re rich from higher level toons you typically don’t totally redo gear choices, and having half caster/half bear gear or spec just sucks from 10 to 20. Plus, Bear is very underpowered in terms of DPS from 10 to 20 compared to caster style. If you DO max out the agi/str/stam/armor value gear and go with Feral Talents, then you’ll do great as a partner of another DPS player as a bear, but you really won’t enjoy the soloing from 10 to 20.

Now, once you are level 20, and you’ve got Cat form, it’s a hard decision. Again, to go Cat, you have to completely regear from your caster stuff with all new gear with Strength/Agility/Attack Power/Crit/Stam as your stat choices.

As a refresher, in Cat and Bear, 1 point of Strength equals 2 Attack Power, and in Cat form ONLY, 1 point of Agility equals 1 point of Attack Power.

I’m going to assume from your letter that you want to go Feral as you said, and my blessings upon you. I chose Feral because I love it… I’m not about what feels easiest, personally. Also, there is a lot more leather Cat gear than there is leather caster gear in early levels, thanks to our friends the Rogues.

Cat DPS is similar to a Rogue, you’ve got Stealth, you’ve got Finishing Moves and points, you use Energy as you use abilities, etc.

The biggest tradeoff is that you lose stunlock capability and massive evil in toying with your pray for the ability to shift out of Cat form to cast instant heal over time spells on yourself, and then shift into Bear to wear multiple opponents down.

I’m writing a series of articles about low level Bear tanking right now, and I wasn’t planning on talking about Cat DPS, because there are several great Cat DPS blogs.

But in general terms, as a player focused on Cat, you’ve got very good DPS. You’re DPS won’t be as big a burst out of the gate as a Rogue, but it will be very good compared to other melee. On single targets you’ll be extremely powerful, and I would level using Talents to maximize that Cat power.

Even so, the Feral Tree combines enough other things that your Bear form won’t just be an afterthought. 

And because of that, by maximizing Cat and keeping balanced Feral Gear, you’ll find that it’s multiple pulls where you’ll really tear things up if you take the time to have fun.

I’ll give you one example.

Say you’ve got three mobs in front of you. By level 30, you’ve got Bear Swipe and Maul, and in Cat form you’ve got Claw and Rip. You’ve also got both Rejuvenation and Regrowth, and of course Entangling Roots.

Assume there is one caster in the group.

You can start in caster form at max range, cast Regrowth on yourself (while out of combat), cast an Entangling Roots at a melee fighting target far from the ranged mob (so you won’t be in melee range while dealing with the caster) and then pop into Bear and activate Enrage, run up to the ranged mob (Demoralyzing Roar) and begin going to town on both targets, using Glyphed Maul primarily on the caster, and Swipe of course, burning him down. 

The caster will die, and the Entangled target will probably be free and on you at this point. If you’re health is getting low, then you can cast Rejuvenation right from your button bar to automatically pop you into caster form, and then decide whether to pop back into Bear and keep going, or into Cat for faster DPS if you think you can take two at once.

Once the second one is dead, flip into Bear if you ain’t already there, Bash the last one to stun it, pop into caster and cast another Regrowth and Rejuve, and then leisurely finish him up.

I say this is a three mob pull, but honestly, I’ve done this for over 15 in a row, in a stream. Using Cat when low numbers of mobs are on you, Bear when you’ve got several, and Bash and Rejuvenation and Regrowth to keep health coming in as you go makes things very fun.

Sound difficult?

If so, then you might not really be cut out for Feral. You’ve got all these tools to use, and you can really use them to screw with the enemy by remembering your strengths;

  • Each form has a purpose.
  • Caster Form has solid DPS ranged spells, but instant cast heals over time that keep ticking regardless of what form you’re in are awesome.
  • Bear form is very durable, has attacks to hurt multiple mobs, especially if you’re geared appropriately and have a Rejuve and Regrowth ticking away on you. Plus, you get Maul Glyphed giving you big whacks on two targets, and a single target Bash stun for you to shift out and cast more heals.
  • Cat form is kinda squishy, but does great single target DPS, and if your health starts dropping, you’ve always got the Rejuve/Bear combo to fall back on.
  • Most of all, fast DPS in Cat at the cost of being squishy, or slow DPS in Bear with the benefit of greater mitigation and higher health from the same gear, gives you the power to use your judgment on the fly to decide what’s best in your current circumstances.

As far as a leveling Talent spec, what I’ll do is invite some of my blog readers that run their own awesome Feral Cat blogs to help you out. I’m really focused on that wierd subsect of people like me, that like to level as a focused Bear tank and play grouped the whole way. I’m not testing leveling a Cat druid at the moment, and what the heck… I’d love to see some attention go to the Cat Druid bloggers that rock.

I hope that some of what I’ve said helps, Chris, and I look forward to hearing more of your experiences as you level!

It's not flat, but it's got a slow leak

Good morning, happy campers!

I am putting aside my animosity towards the “Additional instances cannot be launched, please try again later” issue for a moment, not because it’s fixed on my server, or because trying again later ever actually works, but because I was shocked to actually be allowed to run a single Stockades on an alt after only 5 minutes of humping the gateway yesterday.

I was pretty doggone ticked off at trying to do a Mechanar, Botanica and Karazhan over the weekend with friends, and having it be an blue fail. We eventually did get into Botanica, but even with 5 people spending, what, 30 minutes trying to get into Karazhan, we still couldn’t get in. That’s crap.

But what the hell, I got into Stockades, got 5 quests done in one shot, and can now alt-move on to other things.

I do intensely miss being able to just ‘pop into’ an instance and have fun whenever I wanted. I never took it for granted before, because I don’t think there’s anything there TO take for granted. It’s supposed to always be available, because you get a group together, and then you go do something as a team. The challenge is supposed to be in playing your character well in a group, not in seeing if the group can get into an instance before personality pressures tear it apart.

In some respects, I understand the idea that you can go and do other things… but it’s been going on in my server for over a month. At what point will someone comprehend that there is a limit on other things to do besides what could be argued to be the core of the game?

I don’t know why other people work to upgrade their PvE gear through training crafting, gathering, questing, grinding rep, and such odd stuff, but for me it’s so I can then take that gear and my own happy self into an instance or raid and play with others, and hold my own as part of the team.

If you take away the instances, the playing as a group aspect, well, I just don’t see the point. There’s only so powerful I need to be to kill Murlocs, after all.

And if the point is that at least you can get into level 80 raids and heroics (most of the time), and the rest of the stuff isn’t of any importance, well… I guess message received.

Anyway, they seem to be upgrading or repairing their issues on a server by server basis, at their own pace, and I guess I just have to wait and hope that someday it will be Kael’thas’ turn.

In the meantime, I do feel a little deflated about playing at the top end. Just a little.

The reason goes back to Patch 3.2, Conquest Emblems, Triumph Emblems, and Trial of the Champion. It also goes back to my point on “just how powerful do I need to be to kill Murlocs”.

Everyone plays at a different level of content. And due to various playstyles, sure, different folks will advance at different rates of speed.

I really do appreciate the effort Blizzard has put into making more powerful gear easily available to smaller groups of players and to new alts at this stage of the expansion, helping get people past the “Run Naxx ten times just to catch up to your new raiding guild in Ulduar” situation.

No, I can’t imagine a better way for them to go about it right now. I’m too tired, and I feel very, very ill today. I’m hoping I can push past it. Too much work to do.

What the consequences of the changes have meant for me, personally, is that I have been made aware that a lot of my currently equipped gear, both as a Bear Tank and as a Tree Healer, gear that was more than adequate to smoothly complete every single bit of content we were doing, up to and including full clears of Naxx, is really sub-par.

There are other Bear Tanks in our guild, folks like Faydre, that started their Druid 6 months or more after Wrath was released, that are now far better geared than my Druid is, in both sets, because he’s been able to run Trials and Heroics more often than I have, and has gotten more drops and Emblems.

I’ve never been one to care about who’s got better gear than whom, but it is startling to realize that after playing and raiding and running with my Druid since November in Wrath, and getting drops from both 10 and 25 man raids, that after the release of just one patch, my gear is just so much scrap metal. If we were in a raiding guild, why would they want me to ever tank, when someone else has leaped ahead in survivability so far?

At least, that’s how it seems to have taken the server trade chat.

The point to remember, though, is my gear ain’t scrap metal. The existing content did not get buffed to compensate for the gear upgrades that are available. It’s still the same content. The gear available from running heroics has just been significantly boosted to Ulduar levels.

All that has really happened, is that the new gear that you can get makes the stuff you could already do become that much easier, and if you get enough of it, it positions you to be able to ease into the starter Ulduar raiding lane on the progression highway.

If you’re not getting any of the new gear, you’re still able to do your job at the same progression level exactly the same as before.

This seems to be a point that is escaping a lot of people, at least on my server.

I’ve seen an explosion in pickiness. People looking for more people to join a simple 10 person Naxx pug… that must be in Conquest gear or Trials loot.

What?

Seriously, you’re begging for people to join you, but they’ve got to be in the best casual gear out there to even qualify?

I’ve been running Trials on Heroic a lot, simply because I know that a bunch of folks are eager to get nice neat new drops. I’ve enjoyed seeing and playing through the challenges in various ways and with different tactics, and I think it’s a lot of fun.

Heck, I even got that nice leather tanking/DPS hat the other day, and was delighted. I’d been wearing the same blue quality PvP hat since last November.

No, I’d never gotten the last Wintergraps Marks of Honor I needed to buy the Titan-Forged Helm.

Those Marks I saved won’t go to waste, however. Have you seen those gorgeous new Titan-Forged pants for tanky Druids? /drool! My new goal, ’cause I’m getting in a PvP mood again anyway.

But why did I still have the blue hat? Why didn’t I press on and get the Titan-Forged months ago? It was soooo easy to do! No skill needed, just time in Wintergrasp!

Because I was already tanking just fine, that’s why, even before Patch 3.2 came along.

I understand, for DPS players, the struggle to increase your damage output is an ongoing process.

For healers, being able to heal that much faster, or with that much more Mana to last longer, or with bigger heals to make each heal do a bigger job with less casting, it’s all huge.

But for a tank, there is simply one question. “How squishy am I to heal?”

Sure, the better your gear, the longer you can last without heals… but after a certain point, there is only so much threat you need to generate, and when all the healers you enjoy playing with bitch, piss and moan because it’s too easy to keep you alive, and end up using Hurricane on every pull to have something to do… well, maybe after a while, you can figure you’re geared well enough for what you’re doing. There’s no real need to claw your way any further.

Now here we are, with this big batch of gear available through Emblems of Conquest, Emblems of Valor, and Emblems of Triumph by doing Heroic dailies.

And some folks seem to have decided that, if you ain’t in the very best possible, you’re just not good enough. 

My gear will improve dramatically just by playing with friends doing the same old content, but I just don’t need it. We’re doing fine as it is.

Good lord, we did Loken in Halls of Lightning on Heroic the other day, and in each case, there were two ways to do it; the way the mechanics are designed to deal with, and just walk up, aggro and burn down while standing still at top speed.

We just stood there on everything, and burned it down with no issues. Ate the first bosses’ electrical charge, ate the exploding mud men, ate Loken’s explosion… didn’t matter.

How much more powerful do we have to be? I only have like two or three upgrades from 3.2 myself. Do I really need to be that uber?

I’m thinking what we’re supposed to do is finally shut up about being bored with running Naxx, gear up from Heroics and Trials and get our butts into Ulduar.

Okay, that doesn’t sound too bad, really. Get everyone caught up…

IF (and it’s a mighty big if) running progression raids is the only point of playing.

Me, I’d kind of like to see all the lower level instances and raids opened back up, you know what I mean? I’d really rather not get to the point that Trials, level 80 Heroics and Ulduar are the only instances that we can get into at all.

Oh, and besides raiding, what is the point of collecting up all the shiny new gear?

Heck, soloing more difficult content, of course!

Kinda hard to do that when you can’t get into Kara, though. Grrr….