Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Burning Crusade Paladins: Protection

Blizzard has released some of the new spells and talents in the expansion. I'm going to take a look at each tree and give some thoughts on the new spells and talents. I'm going to start with Protection.

Spells:


Righteous Defense
Come to the defense of a friendly target, commanding up to 3 enemies attacking the target to attack the Paladin instead.

The AoE taunt. Looks solid. Pretty good for our role of "protectors of the cloth". If you enable Target-of-Target, it will be trivial to use to taunt a specific mob as well.
Seal of Justice - Rank 2
Fills the Paladin with the spirit of justice for 30 sec, giving each melee attack a chance to stun for 2 sec. Only one Seal can be active on the Paladin at any one time.

Unleashing this Seal's energy will judge an enemy for 10 sec, preventing them from fleeing
and limiting their movement speed. Your melee strikes will refresh the spell's duration. Only one Judgement per Paladin can be active at any one time.

The new Seal of Justice depends a great deal on what "limiting their movement speed" means. If it's an out and out reduction in speed, like Hamstring, this is a great boost. However, it's also possible that it just means that you can't use speed boost abilities to increase your speed past 100%. In that case, it's a small boost, but may be useful with your own permanent speed increases like Pursuit of Justice. Hopefully the side effect of being immune to Fear while affected by Judgement of Justice has been removed.

Talents


Stoicism
Increases your resistance to Stun effects by an additional 10% and reduces the chance your spells will be dispelled by an additional 30%.

This is a decent 2pt PvP talent. Nothing amazing, but the anti-dispel is nice as purge-happy shamans are annoying.
Improved Resistance Auras
Your Resistance Auras also reduce all spell damage taken by an additional 5%.

This is an all-star talent. 2pts for 5% less damage is really good.
Improved Divine Shield
Reduces the cooldown of your Divine Shield spell by 1 min and reduces the attack speed penalty by 100%.

LOL. Sometimes, I love Blizzard. Everyone complains about paladin bubbles, so they give us a talent that makes them even better. Again, much more useful in PvP than PvE.
Ardent Defender
When you have less than 20% health, all damage taken is reduced by 50%.

Now this is an intriguing talent. The paladin boards seem to disdain this talent, but I think it may be good for tanking. The key to this talent is to ask, if I am tanking, when will I be at less than 20% health?

Given that most bosses do steady dps and additional spike damage in the form of special abilities, if you drop to less than 20% health, it probably means that you were just critted by a special ability. In that case, Redoubt will proc and combined with Holy Shield, means that you probably push criticals off the combat table, meaning the next few attacks will not crit. So blocks and half damage should be enough to buy your healers the few seconds they need to complete their big heals.

However, I'm not really sure how this will work in actual play, and it will be very interesting to watch. In PvP, I don't think it will help all that much. It might buy you one or two seconds, but I don't think it will be worth the 5 points for a primary PvP'er, give that you might get dropped from 30% to 0% quite easily, and this talent will do nothing to help.
Weapon Expertise
Increases your weapon skill with all weapons by 10.

Decent talent. Reduces the number of glancing blows and misses against end-game bosses, which will help a lot in generating threat. Again, mainly PvE.
Avenger's Shield
Hurls a holy shield at the enemy, dealing 270 to 330 Holy damage, dazing them and then jumping to nearby enemies. Affects 3 total targets.

The Captain America move! If this talent has a half-way decent animation, I am probably going to spec Protection. This is everything a 41-point talent should be. Fun, unique, and stylish. And it dazes people! Which means you use it to slow runners.

Actually, let's be honest, I'm going to be using this whenever the cooldown is up. About the only downside is that you can't use it to pull. Although you are a Protection Paladin, so pulling 3 mobs at a time isn't that big a deal.


My final verdict is that the new Protection tree is very good. The mid-level has been fleshed out with useful talents, and the end talents are solid. Plus you get to throw your shield at people! The only real downside is that the first tier of Protection is still a little lackluster, especially compared to Holy or Retribution.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Patch 1.12 Experiences

I haven't had a lot of time to play WoW in the last week or so. I did take a quick look at some of the new things in the latest patch.


  • World PvP - seems interesting. Probably will be a lot more fun on a PvP server. Nothing much was happening on Skywall when I checked in. In EPL, the Alliance had already capped all the towers. It's going to really hard for me to complete the 'Capture the Towers' quest at this rate.

  • Cross-server Battlegrounds - Awesome. Wait times have plummeted Alliance-side. I hear it's a little buggy, but it seemed to be working well enough.

  • Battleground Improvements - The automatic raids is really nice. I'm actually seeing some leadership from the highest ranked people in the BGs, and that is a vast improvement. And I don't have to worry about healing or Blessing of Sacrificing non-raid members.

  • Scrolling Combat Text - Pretty good. Looks like a nice, clean implementation. The one item of info I really miss, however, is the amount you healed someone else for, with the overheal separated out. That was a really useful piece of information.

  • Seal of the Crusader - SotC is currently bugged like crazy. It's giving me slightly more than double the amount of bonus Attack Power that it gave pre-1.12. I think that it is adding some +AP bonuses twice. Ah well, should be fun until Blizzard fixes it.



All in all, it was a pretty small patch. Maybe this means that the expansion is not far off.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Options for Raid Guilds

A lot of existing raid guilds are worried because the new raid cap means that they will have to change their structure to meet the new requirements. Here is a listing of the options as I see them.

1. Stop recruiting and let attrition reduce the guild size.

All guilds suffer attrition. People leave for real life or other options. During the levelling from 60-70, you'll probably have some natural attrition, decreasing the numbers in the guild. This might leave you at the proper size, and it might not. If it doesn't, you'll have to use one of the other options

2. Cut the weakest people in the guild.

Identify your weakest players and cut them. This gets you down to the required size, and preserves the strongest part of your guild. However, it's painful to have to leave your friends. As well, this decision is ruthless and may cause a lot of drama.

3. Recruit more and run two raids.

If you recruit a few more people, you will have enough to run two raids. However, running two raids is a lot of administrative work. Splitting people up into an "A" Team and a "B" Team may also cause bad feelings, as people on the "B" Team will feel slighted.

This might be interesting in a winged dungeon, though. Team A could work on one wing, and Team B could work on another wing. The two raids could swap strategies as they defeat bosses, making it easier for the other team.

4. Introduce rotations.

Instead of each person raiding 5 nights a week, each person raids 4 nights, allowing everyone to raid, though at a lesser rate than previous. The advantage is that everyone remains together. Some people may dislike sitting out, though. Progression will also be much slower, as it will take longer to gear everyone up and for everyone to learn the encounters.

5. Set up an Guild Arena PvP team.

Take 4-10 people who like PvP and set them up as an Arena team. While the rest of the guild raids, the Arena team goes out and PvPs. Then when a PvP season ends, the Arena team takes their new toys and is folded back into the raiding team, and a new PvP team is set up.

Advantage is that the people who are not raiding are doing their own thing. They are upholding the guild name and reputation on the battlefield. As well, it provides a nice opportunity for people to experience PvP as a solid team. It gives people an opportunity to mix things up. Hardcore raid for a while, then hardcore PvP. There may be a hiccup in guild quality at the end of each season as people come back to the raiding group, as you have to gear and train the PvP'ers.



Personally, I think I would go with a mixture of attrition and PvP Arena teams. I think it would be the easiest, depending on the length of a PvP season. It gives people an opportunity to try different things and get different gear. Also, it'll give your raiders a chance to go off-spec, and indulge their inner Shadow Priest/Feral Druid/etc. to their heart's content.

As well, I am quite partial to the notion of having a team specifically carry the guild banner in PvP. A good guild has to maintain a certain reputation after all.

Thoughts? Any other ideas on what a raiding guild should do?

Monday, August 14, 2006

25-Man Raids

Time to take on the current hot topic in WoW circles: the new 25-man raid cap.

Unsurprisingly, I think this is a good idea. I have always maintained that the single hardest thing about raiding is the transition from levelling guild to raiding guild. Reducing the number of 60s required is a great help for a new guild to achieve critical mass. I think this change will go a long way to seeing more people trying out the raiding scene, and I think that it is a good thing.

Raiding is fun, and I would love to see more players get a chance to realize that.

Secondly, I don't think the current raiding ecosystem is healthy. Maybe I've just been unlucky, but it doesn't seem like raiding guilds are particularly stable, especially ones that are not on the top tier. There's been some research that beyond 50 people, guild cohesion drops dramatically. I think this is true. Smaller guilds are more tightly knit. Even the top tier guilds seem to be constantly recruiting.

Also, this division into raiding guild and levelling guild is not healthy either. When I levelled my warlock, I deliberately turned down guild invites. I wanted to raid, and I didn't want to join a guild and then leave them at 60 for a raiding guild. Realistically though--unless I was incredibly lucky--that is probably what I would have to do. I think a game that forces this choice on people is flawed. Ideally, I should be able to join a guild, level with them, and move into raiding together. With 40-man raids, I do not think this is truely possible.

However, there is a price to pay for this change, and I don't think that we should make light of it. The current raiding guilds are going to have to change, and maybe make some painful decisions. And I do feel bad for them. It will really suck to have to reduce your raiding force by 15 members, or attempt to juggle 2 raids. Hopefully, guild churn during the expansion--either attrition while levelling or older players coming back or people rolling Blood Elves/Draenai--will lessen the magnitude of change needed.

In my view, though, the new cap will result in many more guilds and players attempting and using raid content, and so the price is worth paying.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Bad Explorer

Continuing the discussion of Bartle Player Types.

I think a bad Explorer is one who hoards knowledge, and delights in seeing other people fail because they lack it.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Blood Elf Paladins and Faction Imbalance

It looks like I was wrong about Horde Paladins and Alliance Shamans being a joke. Too bad. While this move does solve the mechanical imbalance between the two factions, it does so in the least elegant way possible. (Not to mention that the whining has already started about racial abilities.) I'm kind of disappointed in Blizzard, and I still think that making the two sides less unique is a bad move in the long term.

However, a more interesting question is whether this move (and Blood Elves/Draenai in general) will solve the more pressing problem of numerical imbalance. In many ways, the Horde's biggest problem in raiding is lack of numbers. The Alliance has a much bigger pool of recruits to sustain the raiding guilds, and high end Alliance guilds have the option of feeding on lower guilds. But why is there an imbalance in the first place?

If you look at this article at PlayOn, you can see that the Alliance:Horde ratio stays fairly steady. However, there is a significant difference between server types. On PvE/RP servers, the ratio is 2 Alliance for every 1 Horde. But on a PvP server, the ration is 1 Alliance for every 1 Horde. Why is there such a difference?

I think the explanation lies in the Bartle player types. Killers are far more likely to roll on a PvP server. After all, their entire reason to play is to challenge and defeat other players, and PvP offers far more opportunity for that than PvE. So the difference in Alliance:Horde ratios can be explained with the theory that Killers are more likely to roll Horde than non-Killers.

This sort of makes intuitive sense as well. The Horde races project power. They are larger and more brutish. While not precisely evil, they are more likely to be the 'monster' races in other games. So it's kind of natural that a Killer would gravitate towards the Horde.

So why don't the non-Killers like the Horde? There are several possible explanations:

1. Alliance has better PvE racials that attract the Achiever. While this is true, it's very subtle, and really only raises it's head at level 60. As well, the ratios are very steady, and if this was strictly true, we should see the ratio for Alliance rising as more Achievers switch over. Instead, the steady ratio indicates to me that new players are making characters at the same ratio, before they really understand the mechanics.

2. Alliance races are prettier and do not project power. Perhaps non-Killers prefer playing prettier races. In the case of the Socializer, it may be deliberate to get away from Killers.

3. Non-Killers prefer to play the 'good guys'. Maybe a greater amount of people would prefer to what are normally the good guys, rather than the bad guys. As well, the Alliance has Paladins, which are viewed as extremely good characters.

It could also be a combination of things. As well, a lot of people simply follow their friends, so one person who feels strongly about race could influence the choice of a whole bunch of people. My first character was Horde, and I made it because an Achiever friend was playing Horde, and he made his because a Killer friend insisted on playing Horde. One Killer made a choice that dragged multiple Achievers and Explorers along.

But in any case, the important question is 'Can Blood Elves attract a greater portion of non-Killers to the Horde?'

I am not too sure of the answer. Blood Elves are clearly a 'pretty' race, so that may hold a greater attraction. But their racials appear to be more PvP oriented. And a greater mistake may be that they are evil in the mythos. They have paladins, but the paladins are 'evil' paladins (torturing an angel/Naaru and whatnot). If the motivator to play Alliance is to play the good guys, the Blood Elves don't help in that regard.

The problem is that it is fairly obvious why the Horde is more attractive to Killers. But it is less obvious why the Alliance is more attractive to non-Killers, and that will make a huge difference in whether the expansion numerically balances the two factions.

Personally, I would have made the Blood Elves an obviously 'good' race, and if they had paladins, to make the paladins truely good paladins. (The Lore, as Blizzard has proven, is fairly easy to manipulate.) At the same time, the Draenai could have been left as their original evil-ish selves. That way, the people who want to play the good side end up on Horde, in addition to the people looking at mechanics and racial looks.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Bartle's Players Who Suit Muds

I'm working on a rather long post, and I find that I need to provide background information. So rather than trying to work it into the post, I'm talking about it here. Plus, it's an interesting topic in and of itself.

Dr. Richard Bartle wrote a paper, Players Who Suit Muds, back in 1990. Though taken from old-school text muds, a lot of it is still relevant today.

In his paper, Dr. Bartle divides players into four categories:

Achievers - people seek to beat the game, by amassing loot or gear or killing bosses.

Explorers - people who try and find out as much about the game as possible.

Socializers - people who's main interests are in interacting with other players.

Killers - people who seek to defeat other players.

Of course, this is a bit simplistic, as most people have elements of each of the four player types. But usually one style is dominant.

For example, I'm pretty close to pure Explorer, as I'm pretty sure most of my posts have demonstrated. I get my enjoyment from learning about the game, doing new things, and seeing what makes things tick. I do have a bit of Achiever, as I like getting new loot, but I'm pretty far down on the Socializer or Killer scale.

Also, none of these archetypes are inherently good or bad. Your awesome raid leader is an Achiever, the guy who comes up with useful new strategies or advice is an Explorer, the guildmaster who holds the guild together is a Socializer, the best PvP'er in the battleground is a Killer. Loot whores are bad Achievers, drama queens are bad Socializers, griefers are bad Killers. I'm not entirely sure what a bad Explorer would be, maybe someone who refuses to help with old content.

Dr. Bartle's paper is a very interesting read, as he describes the different types in more detail, and the effect each type has on the others. I found that I could look at the personalities and arguments in the game in a different light. Of course, since I am an Explorer, this is the kind of stuff that appeals to me. :)

So which archetype are you?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Ninja!

I had my first real ninja yesterday. I was on a Strat Live run, and [Pattern: Truefaith Vestments] dropped. As there was no priest in the group, we decided to free roll it. After the roll, which I won, a warlock looted the pattern and hearthed.

So I contacted an officer in his guild. It turned out that it was the warlock's brother who was playing the character, and the real warlock sent me some gold in an effort to make up for the ninja, which I shared with the other group members. It's possible that he could have been lying, but I didn't really care.

Apparently the warlock was a tailor, and the warlock's brother learned the pattern for him, which amused me greatly.

All in all, it was an interesting experience. In my mind, it just reinforces the notion that the whole "pass on blues and epics and discuss" is a bad idea. Need/Greed takes care of the vast majority of cases.

As another random observation, the group was really competent for a pickup group. I think dropping the instance cap to 5 has done a lot of good for people's skill levels.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Nefarian, Lord of Blackrock Spire


I've been killing a lot of new bosses these last couple days. Yesterday we downed the Prophet Skeram in AQ40, and got in some attempts on Battleguard Sartura. Today we blew through Blackwing Lair, one-shotting every boss up to Nefarian. Nef himself took two attempts, but he went down nicely on the second one.

Of the new fights, the Nefarian fight was probably the best, followed by Skeram. Vael was pretty interesting, but I got Burning Adrenaline fairly early and died. I was sad that Vael did not do the "Forgive me Coriel, your death only adds to my failure" line, as I probably died too close to an earlier death. But still, it's a neat fight, and I always like fighting dragons.

As for Nef, it's fun being a paladin. I don't have an Onyxia Scale Cloak, but I survived the Shadowflame with a bubble. Also, the paladin class call is a joke. So we stop fighting for a few seconds, it's not that much of a problem. Nef should Hammer of Justice the main tank or something. That would be funny.

Also, I got to melee-heal a fair bit in the last half of BWL: Ebonroc, Chromaggus, and Nefarian. Meleeing on Chromaggus in particular is very helpful, as JoWisdom helps keep the mana up for Cleanse. We had the Timelapse/Corrosive Acid breaths. I really wish I had a single point in Lasting Judgement, though. It would make keeping up Judgements so much easier.

So far, my verdict on BWL is that it is extremely melee-friendly for paladins, as is Skeram and everything up to Sartura. The Sartura fight itself, I'm not so sure about. Paladins meleeing with Seal of Justice, and HoJ rotations might be a good idea, at least on Sartura herself. The AoE from the adds may be too much. Most strats I've seen keep the rogues off the adds, and if the rogues don't go in, it's probably a bad idea for the paladins to. In any case, I think it was only the guild's second attempt at her, so we were basically just learning how the fight works.

Of course, I predict responses saying that paladins should not melee in anything beyond Sartura. It's amusing how the "Paladins Should Not Melee" parts of this game always coincide with the parts I have not done yet. :)

Ah well. It's been a fun couple of days. Hopefully I'll get a chance to kill Ragnaros sometime soon.