Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tidewalker Down!

I forgot to take a picture, but my guild killed Morogrim Tidewalker tonight. I got to be the pally tank for the murlocs, and even got to respec Protection.

We've been bouncing around from boss to boss for the last few months, so I'm really happy to see my guild buckle down and just work on a new boss. Hopefully this trend will continue, and we can get back to serious progression.

As for Tidewalker, I think the vast majority of the wipes were my fault, until I evolved tactics that reliably dragged the murlocs to me. We had some issues sorting out healing and positioning, but I think it finally clicked and we just took him down. We did stack the raid with an excessive amount of healing (11 healers!), so we have to learn to do the fight with a normal raid group. However, as I think I have nailed down tanking the murlocs, we should be able to do it with a more normal 7-8 healers.

It was really awesome to be able to do something other than spam heals in a raid. I've really missed just doing different things in a raid. We're probably still too healer-light for me to go Prot full time, but I hopefully that will change soon.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ask Coriel: Seal of Command vs Seal of Blood

Larry writes:

What's your opinion on SoB versus SoC as it pertains to Retribution Paladins (especially in PvP)?

Both scale based on AP and both can crit, so they are both potentially good Retribution Seals. Now, SoB does 35% of weapon damage every hit, and SoC does 70% of weapon damage at 7 ppm. If I assume a 3.6 attack speed weapon, you get 16 attacks (rounding down) in one minute. On average 7 of those will proc SoC. If you're doing 800 damage a swing (white, non-crit), you'll do 12,800 damage. With SoC 12,800 + 3,920 = 16,720 damage in one minute, without crits and ignoring all other variables such as miss, parry, glancing, etc... If you use SoB, you get 12,800 + 4,480 = 17,280 damage in one minute.

Theoretically SoB does slightly more damage than SoC at the cost of dealing a percentage of that damage to you. SoB is also significantly cheaper in terms of mana than SoC, and in a PvP environment is (in my opinion) more reliable, though the self-damaging component is more of a negative. Another thing I'm taking into consideration is how often Vengeance can be proc'd. It's essentially 9 extra attacks a minute that can stack Vengeance. Obviously, the usefulness of this changes depending on your crit rate, but I assume most Retribution Paladins are sitting in the vicinity of 30% crit.

Now, in PvE extra crits for Vengeance isn't that great - you get 3, and it's staying up until the mob is dead. The extra procs might get you to 3 marginally faster, but as the fights are much longer and more likely to be consecutive, it's not a huge deal. However, in PvP, where you might only be fighting one or maybe two people, getting to 15% is more important. Obviously, there's times in AV where there's plentiful targets, but I think the extra attacks are worth it.

Finally, the Judgment damage. It's higher on SoB in general, but you take a decent amount of damage, and with SoC it's fairly low unless the target is stunned. Which means if you start an encounter by Repentancing a target, then you can unload a lot of damage in a few seconds, but after that, it's barely worth Judging.

For now, I'm using SoB. My Judgments are higher and the damage is more consistent. The possibility of huge bursts of damage is nice with SoC, but anyone who's been fighting and had a string of non-procs knows that frustration, especially at 3.6 attack speed.

The final consideration, which is more of a PvE thing - is down-ranking the Seals, as the Seals themselves worth off of a percentage of weapon damage; only the Judgment portion suffers from lowering the rank of the spell.

I think you are fairly correct in your assessment of SoB versus SoC for PvE. However, I'm not sure that the extra chances to crit are really worth using SoB over SoC in PvP. Sources of crits include:

1. White attacks
2. Crusader strikes
3. Seal procs
4. Judgements

You only affect one category of these by using SoB, and you give up burst damage, and you take more incoming damage. In my PvP experience, burst damage is what kills people. Not to mention that it's far more likely that people can be stunned for extra JoC damage.

As Vengeance lasts for 30s now, I think there are enough opportunities to refresh it, that using SoC over SoB will not hurt you. However, I have not really played in a high-resilience environment, so that may change things.

As for PvE, SoB is outright better than SoC. As you noted, it does more damage, and is more consistent. Additionally, the self-inflicted damage actually ends up having synergy with Spiritual Attunement, giving you mana back from splash healing, which increases your longevity. As well, SoB allows you to use the weapon with the highest DPS, as opposed to using the weapon with the highest damage range. That makes you a bit more flexible when it comes to gearing up.

Imo, SoB is a very good Seal. It is different enough from SoC that there are situations where SoC is better than SoB and vice versa. Really, Blizzard should remove Seal of Vengeance and give all paladins Seal of Blood.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Rewards, Time, and Skill

jrodman, in a comment to the previous post, remarks:

You seem against systems that measure time instead of skill, but the whole honor-marks system measures time instead of skill. The old peak-system *also* measured time instead of skill but measured how much time you spent in a single week instead of cumulatively.

I am not necessarily against systems that measure time. For example, Reputation is a very good system for rewarding time spent. What I am against is reward systems which encourage "incorrect" behavior.

If time is the behavior you want to reward, then reward time. But in Battlegrounds we don't want to reward time, we want to reward people participating in PvP. The hard part is defining participation in PvP. In particular, it's very hard to tell if a person is defending a vital node, or is merely slacking. It's very easy to over-reward attacking, which leads to all offense, no defense games.

So we use time as a proxy metric for participation. But it's not a perfect match, and the AFK'ers exploit the difference between time and participation.

Imagine if AV had zero rewards. No honor, no reputation rewards. How would people play? Most people who actually bothered to go to AV would go there to win. There would be no point to being afk (unless you're a weird passive-aggressive griefer). People who need to go afk because of real-life concerns, would still go afk.

People only go AFK in AV because of the way the reward system is structured. Multiple quick losses can be worth more than a drawn-out win. You don't lose anything for indulging in negative behavior.

Secondly, when it comes to PvP, I believe that rewards should bias to the skilled. I think the Arena system is a fairly well done system (with the exception of being able to "sell" high-ranked teams). It rewards the highly skilled, but is still attractive to the less skilled.

Arena rewards victory, and time spent. But the reward for time spent is not linear, you don't get more arena points if you put in more games. You just need to do a minimum amount of time, and then victories determine the scale of your reward.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

AFK in AV

I think that while the steps Blizzard has taken to combat people who enter Alterac Valley and then sit in the cave and go Away From Keyboard are a start, there's still a ways to go to fully solve that problem. The central issue is that a person who is AFK in battle either ends up with a gain in honor, or at worst, they stay level. There is no actual penalty for being AFK.

Sure, there is an opportunity cost involved. The AFKer doesn't gain as much honor as she could. But most likely she is doing something else, a non-WoW activity such as watching TV or surfing the net, that would prevent her from actively participating. The potential scenarios are:

1. Watch TV, don't have WoW running.
2. Watch TV, sit AFK in Alterac Valley.

In the worst case, the rewards for the second scenario are equal to the rewards for the first scenario. So there is essentially no reason not to AFK while watching TV if you can.

It all comes back to Coriel's First Law of Skill:

If the metric used to measure skill cannot decrease, you are not measuring skill, but time.

Honor cannot decrease. Thus it measures time, and people will come up with ways to make it look like they are putting in the time.

The AFK Debuff needs teeth to be useful. It needs to have an actual honor penalty in order to make scenario 1 preferrable to scenario 2. Unfortunately, this might open the doors to griefing as sub-groups in AV try and declare other people AFK when they are not. An example might be a group of 70s trying to declare any non-70 in AV as AFK, in order to force them out.

Ask Coriel: Healing Shields

Kashinboner of Aman'thul writes in:

Noticed on your armory that you have the Triptych shield...I got the 33 badge healer shield already when that dropped last week. I ended up deciding not to swap and the shammy got it for his healing set.

Wouldn't mind you thoughts on the relative strengths of the two...I am trying to stack MP5 at the moment, so it was a bit of a wrench letting the 8 MP5 go.

[Triptych Shield of the Ancients]
[Light-Bearer's Faith Shield]

Triptych is probably slightly better than the Badge shield. You lose about 13 +healing in exchange for 8 mp5 and a touch more sta, int, and armor.

That being said, they're very similar, and it's arguably better for your raid for you to keep your shield and let the shammy have this shield. That way your raid has two epic healing shields rather than just one. I'm a fan of spreading the wealth and trying to minimize the amount of loot sharded or disenchanted.

Now, if the Triptych was going to be disenchanted, then grab it, but I'd let other people take it (even for offset) first.

Realistically, the next major shield upgrade is [Aegis of the Vindicator] off Magtheridon.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The New Alterac Valley

I love the new Alterac Valley. The reinforcements mechanic is excellent.

In my first game (as Alliance), we swept down to Frostwolf Village in an old-school rush. It did not work out well, as the Horde recaptured the towers and graveyards behind us, and the waiting defense shredded our offense. So we went back on the defensive, but that ill-fated attack put us behind by 100 points or so. Finally, as the game wound down, we were losing 40-150, when our second offense managed to punch through and kill Drek'thar. It was a great, nail-biting game.

The best thing about the new AV is that healing feels so much more worthwhile. Intellectually, I know that healing is quite powerful, and keeping my team alive is the best strategy, but the cost of death used to be so low that it was hard to really see, especially when I could have more fun swinging a giant hammer. In the new AV, every player I save from death is another reinforcement that we have. The cost of death has increased, and that makes healing more valuable.

The new reinforcements mechanic would go very well with Warsong Gulch. If WSG had about 50-75 reinforcements, it would stop the stalemates that drag out forever. In general, I do think battlegrounds need a time-limit. Having alternate paths to victory is also important, as it allows you a variety of strategies, but one of the paths should be a time-limit. The reinforcements mechanic is a good one, as it increases the cost of death and makes people play more strategically.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Karazhan

From Sussemilch of Sanctum Patria, Moon Guard (via the WoW forums):

Attumen taught us not to waste time.
Moroes taught us that everyone needs to be paying attention.
Maiden taught us that some strategies are better than others.
Opera taught us to expect the unexpected.
Nightbane taught us to look out for each other.
Curator taught us that there's a time for everything.
Aran taught us to never give up.
Illhoof taught us to think about who we bring along.
Netherspite taught us that sometimes you should just run away.
Chess reminded us to have fun.
Prince taught us that sometimes bad things happen to good people.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ask Coriel: Improved Righteous Fury

Alfred writes in:

Love the blog! Keep up the great work. Was just wondering though...I noticed you have Imp Right Fury. Does this only apply to offensive holy spells for the increased threat or to healing spells as well? Did you just grab that for soloing? Im guessing you don't have this up while healing correct?

Righteous Fury does apply to healing spells. However, paladin heals are innately lower threat (50%) compared to priest, druids, or shaman heals. And because we run with at least three paladins, I always have Salvation on.

A paladin will have 0.5*0.7*1.9 = 67% threat. A priest with Silent Resolve would have 0.8*0.7 = 56% threat. So you have a bit more threat, but not that much more. Plus, I find it's better to be higher than the other healers on the threat meters. That way, if an add does get loose, it comes to you rather than the priest. With plate and Imp RF, you can take a couple of hits.

Keeping Imp RF on gives you 6% damage reduction all the time, which helps with splash damage. Salvation will "muffle" the effects of Imp RF. So you can keep RF up pretty much all the time in raids if you have Salvation. If you don't have Salvation, you should probably turn RF off.

If you need to watch threat, or if you don't take any splash damage, you can always turn RF off. For example, Nightbane is a fight I wouldn't run with RF, because when Nightbane lands, threat can get tricky, and I don't want to pull aggro and wipe the raid.

As well, it's useful when soloing or doing PvP, and it helps me to tank 5-mans without needing to respec. In the end, there's not a lot of better choices for those 3 talent points. I could drop Imp RF and Blessed Life and pick up Imp Might, but other than that, I don't think there's any other talents that would be more useful.

One last caveat, if you melee to keep Judgements up and you use RF, use Seal of the Crusader rather than Seal of Righteousness. You don't want extra threat from the Holy damage of Righteousness. You probably won't pull aggro, but better safe than sorry. For example, I keep Judgement of Light up on Void Reaver, so I put up Righteous Fury to help mitigate the pounding and run SotC. SotC also has the advantage of speeding up your swings, so you can spend more time healing.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Guide to Blessings

Table of Contents

I. The Basics
II. The Blessings
III. Blessing Priority for each Class
IV. How to Organize Your Paladins
V. Mods



I. The Basics

Blessings are powerful buffs that paladins can cast on allies. In raids, Blessings are the most desired contribution of paladins, and most 25-man raids bring at least 3 paladins in order to maximize the number of Blessings.

A Greater Blessing lasts for 30 minutes, costs a reagent, and is cast upon an entire class at the same time. The normal versions of the Blessings last for 10 minutes and are cast on a individual. A paladin can only cast one Blessing on a player at one time. If she casts another Blessing, it will overwrite her first one. Each player can have a blessing from each paladin. Thus, if there are 3 paladins in the raid, each player should have 3 Blessings.

There are also three "tactical" Blessings: Protection, Sacrifice, and Freedom. These blessings last for 30s or less and will overwrite other Blessings. Paladins often forget about these Blessings, but they are useful in specific circumstances. However, the rest of this guide will only consider the long-term Blessings.

I'm a firm believer that paladins are responsible for determining which Blessing should go on which player. Multiple people crying for different Blessings is tiresome. It's okay to remind a paladin if a Blessing (especially a normal one) wears off.



II. The Blessings

Blessing of Salvation reduces the threat generated by the target. Salvation is the first and greatest of the paladin Blessings and should almost always be the first Blessing cast. Salvation is not a safety net, it is a "damage-enabler". It allows DPS to do up to 42% more damage. They can start earlier, hit harder, and not waste time/energy/mana on threat dumps. Some DPS (rogues, mostly) will try and complain about Salvation, and request Might or Kings instead. My philosophy is that if you don't need Salvation, you aren't doing acceptable damage.

Blessing of Might adds Attack Power, both melee and ranged. It will generally add more damage than Kings, even accounting for the additional crit. Thus it is usually the second Blessing of choice for classes that rely on Attack Power.

Blessing of Wisdom adds significant mana regeneration. Again, the amount of mana returned is generally much more than the extra mana gained through Kings, and it is the second Blessing of choice for the mana-using classes.

Blessing of Light increases the healing done to the target by Paladins. It's usually the second Blessing placed on tanks, and the fourth or fifth Blessing placed on the raid. It does add a large amount of +healing, but only for the paladins, so it's value greatly depends on the number of paladins in the raid. As a rule of thumb for blessing tanks, if you have enough paladins to make Light useful, you have enough paladins to cast both Kings and Light.

Blessing of Kings increases all stats by 10%. It is the 11-point talent in the Protection tree. Most healing paladins will dip into Protection to pick up Kings. Kings is the first Blessing placed on tanks because it increases the tanks' health. It is generally the third Blessing placed on the raid. Kings is a very powerful Blessing, and is the reason most raids use at least 3 paladins. Unlike the other Blessings, Kings scales with your gear. At the very high end, it may be a better choice than Might or Wisdom.

Blessing of Sanctuary reduces incoming damage by a small amount, and deals Holy damage on a block. It is the 21-point talent in the Protection tree. It is important to note that Sanctuary's damage reduction comes before armor. Usually, only a Protection paladin picks up Sanctuary, though a Holy paladin will sometimes go 40/21/0. While it isn't a bad Blessing, it isn't as useful as the other Blessings. It is helpful on a tank handling adds that are to be AoE'd. I also prefer Sanctuary over Light as the fourth blessing on the raid, as it helps dampen the effect of splash damage, which non-paladins are usually healing.



II. Blessing Priority for each Class

Warrior (tank) - Kings, Light, Sanctuary, Might
Warrior (DPS) - Salvation, Might, Kings, Sanctuary, Light

Druid (bear) - Kings, Light, Might, Sanctuary
Druid (cat) - Salvation, Might, Kings, Sanctuary, Light
Druid (other) - Salvation, Wisdom, Kings, Sanctuary, Light

Warriors and druids usually cause the biggest hassles when organizing buffs. DPS warriors do not have ways to drop threat, so Salvation is very important to them. At the same time, putting Salvation on your tanking Warriors ends extremely badly.

As for healers, I generally prefer to put Salvation on them first. It's safest, and you don't want to lose your healers to adds, or if the tank gets incapacitated.

Hunter - Might or Wisdom, Wisdom or Might, Kings, Sanctuary, Light
Hunter (Survival) - Kings, Might or Wisdom, Wisdom or Might, Sanctuary, Light

Because Feign Death is a complete aggro wipe available every 30s, hunters do not need Salvation. Additionally, not having Salvation will give them more control over trapping and improve the effect of Misdirect. Might will usually do more damage on short fights, but Wisdom will do more on long fights.

Hunter pets get the same Greater Blessings cast on the Warrior class. This is a source of great amusement to paladins.

If you have a Survival hunter with Expose Weakness, Kings can provide more DPS for a 25-man raid. The hunter needs at least 800 Agility for this to be the case.

Mage - Salvation, Wisdom, Kings, Sanctuary, Light

Paladin (tank) - Kings, Light, Sanctuary, Might
Paladin (DPS) - Salvation, Might, Kings, Wisdom, Sanctuary, Light
Paladin (healer) - Wisdom, Kings, Salvation, Sanctuary, Light

Paladins are all over the map as well. Since paladin heals are innately low-threat, you can get away without Salvation. As well, paladins wear plate, so if a healer must pull aggro, it's better to let a paladin do so.

Priest - Salvation, Wisdom, Kings, Sanctuary, Light

Shaman (healer/caster) - Salvation, Wisdom, Kings, Sanctuary, Light
Shaman (Enhancement) - Salvation, Might, Kings, Wisdom, Sanctuary, Light

Rogue - Salvation, Might, Kings, Sanctuary, Light

Warlock - Salvation, Wisdom, Kings, Sanctuary, Light

Warlock pets get the same Greater Blessings cast on the Warlock class. If the warlock uses an Imp, make sure that Phase-Shift is turned off while Blessings are being cast. A phase-shifted Imp will not receive any Blessings.



IV. How to Organize Your Paladins

Given all the conditions in the last section, setting up paladin blessings can seem like a daunting task. This is the system that I use to assign paladin blessings. You don't need the full 5 paladins. If you only have 2 or 3, just drop the remaining Blessings.

Paladin 1 (should have Kings and Improved Wisdom)
- Greater Kings on the Warriors. If you have a third paladin, cast Greater Light instead.
- Greater Wisdom on Hunters.
- Greater Salvation on everyone else.
- Cast individual Salvation on the DPS warriors.
- Cast individual Kings on the paladin or druid tanks. Again, if you have a third paladin, cast individual Light instead.
- Cast individual Kings on Survival hunters. If you have a third paladin, stay with Greater Wisdom on all hunters.

This position is the most annoying one in the raid, as you have to make sure that the DPS warriors have Salvation but the various tanks do not. If necessary, you can use Blessing of Sacrifice or Freedom to "clean off" Salvation. If you don't have any tanking warriors, you can cast Greater Salvation on the warriors.

Paladin 2 (should have Improved Might and Wisdom)
- Greater Might on Hunters, Rogues, and Warriors.
- Greater Wisdom on everyone else.
- cast individual Might on Retribution Paladins, Enhancement Shamans, and Feral Druids.

Paladin 3 (should have Kings)
- Greater Kings on everyone.

Paladin 4 (should have Sanctuary)
- Greater Sanctuary on everyone.

If you don't have a paladin with Sanctuary, just use Paladin 5

Paladin 5
- Greater Light on everyone.

If necessary, paladin 4 or 5 could also cast individual Wisdom on Retribution Paladins and Enhancement Shamans.

This system makes it easy for paladins to buff. There's only one complex buffing strategy, that of Paladin 1. All the other paladins are responsible for one or two Blessings at most. So give the extra responsibility to your paladin who is best at remembering to rebuff.

Finally, remember that Blessing priority can also change on specific fights. If there's a lot of splash damage, you might want to prioritize Kings over Might/Wisdom. If threat is not an issue in the fight, you should drop Salvation to the bottom of the priority list.


V. Mods

I recommend the mod PallyPower to keep track of your Blessings. You can assign Greater Blessings by class, see the time remaining on each Blessing, and the range of people in each class. You can also see the Blessings being cast by other paladins who are using the mod. You can cast individual Blessing by right-clicking, allowing you to easily rebuff people who die.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Odds and Ends

Trinket Macro

Mystic Chicanery posted an absolutely beautiful macro for those of us who juggle multiple sets of trinkets. Simple and elegant. You see it, and it's an immediate "I can't believe I didn't think of that" moment.

Raiding as DPS

I got roped into a Gruul's Lair raid on Valarin. We got High King Maulgar down, and a decent attempt on Gruul. It was an interesting experience as DPS. It's a lot less stressful than healing, but there is a distinct lack of feedback. I would rank my performance as pretty poor (~400 DPS, was doing Curse of Tongues/Shadows), though to be fair I haven't put a great deal of work into Valarin. No enchants and 55 hit rating makes me sad.

The other thing I find that drops my DPS significantly is having to switch focus. I had to banish/enslave a felhound once or twice, and I'm pretty sure my DPS plummeted during that time. As a healer, I'm used to switching targets on my interface, and not selecting targets in the actual game (or even Tab-targetting). It's a skill that I really need to improve.

The other thing that was interesting was seeing a guild that had not really learned how to raid yet. I really pity the paladins in that guild. Everyone was demanding different buffs. Also, there were a couple wipes from mistakes like people accidentally aggroing mobs. I think Tharok put it well when he said that people "have not learned to respect the encounter". Simple things like running beside the wall while positioning, maintaining maximum distance from the mobs.

The best part, though, was that my repair bill was less than 5 gold.

A'lar the Phoenix God

My guild is attempting A'lar at the moment. We have Phase 1 down, and are working on Phase 2. It's a neat encounter. One of the biggest things in this encounter for healers is range. Trying to maintain range while tanks are switching off is pretty hard. I might have to go get a UI mod which visually marks people who are out of range.

Advertising

I'm experimenting with Google Adsense, and have put an ad on the sidebar. I think it doesn't clash with the visuals too greatly. Adsense is fairly easy to use. My biggest concern is that I can't seem to block goldselling/powerlevelling ads. As it isn't really very lucrative, I'll probably end up taking it down in a week or so.

Time

I've been thinking a lot about the difference between Time and Difficulty in an MMO. Which should be rewarded more: beating a difficult challenge, or beating a challenge which requires a lot of time? Is there an equivalence point? Does it matter if game time matches real-time? Is there a difference between a task which can be accomplished in 5 hours at a stretch or one where you have to spend an hour a day for 5 days? Which of those two options should get a greater reward?