Monday, February 25, 2008

Weapon Types

Andres writes:

The last thing is a strange idea I've been having for a while. The most problematic gear from Arena/PvP is the weapons, since most of them have their stats better allocated than their PvE counterparts. What's worst is the lack of variety in PvE weapons, forcing some to spec out of their beloved specs because there isn't one at their current raiding level.

Although Blizzard stole some of the thunder (via weapons available now via BoJ), I was thinking of some kind of quest like T0.5 (bear with me, I ding 60 a week after BC). The players would gather items from the raid instance to be handed to the associated faction. After a number of items are handed, the player would receive a weapon that doesn't drop from the instance (for example, off-hand swords for TK).

It is an interesting idea, but I think it’s a bit of a Band-Aid fix that doesn’t address the real underlying problem. The bigger problem is that rogues, warriors, feral druids and healing paladins are too specialized when it comes to weapon types.

This doesn’t really matter in PvP, because you get to choose your weapon type, but in PvE you have to rely on drops from bosses. (You could completely change how PvE loot is distributed, but that is beyond the scope of this post.)

Rogues have it worse off. There are four main weapons for rogues: Daggers, Swords, Fists, and Maces. Each of these types works best when you are using two weapons of the same type, and each hand usually has specific desired characteristics. But this makes it harder to gear up, as a Sword rogue has to wait for a sword to drop.

I think that it would be beneficial if rogue weapon specializations were combined. Combine the Dagger and Fist Specialization talents and allow Ambush/Mutilate/Backstab to be used with both Daggers and Fist weapons. Then combine Sword and Mace Specializations together (probably would have to only use the Sword spec ability). This would give each type of rogue more options when it comes to gearing up. A Dagger rogue could replace a Dagger with a Fist weapon and still play effectively.

You could do something similar with Warrior weapon specializations. Make the type of weapon matter a bit less in order to make it easier to gear up.

Feral druids really need a way to utilize normal weapons a bit more. Right now they rely on special druid staves. But the downside is that they can’t use normal weapons, and other classes can’t use their staves. Of course, feral druids have a problem in that they don’t share off-hand or 2H Weapon types with the other melee DPS (aside from 2H Maces).

The problem with healing paladins is that 1H Maces is the only weapon type that paladins used to have in common with the other healers. The other three healing classes share Staves and Daggers, which is why you occasionally see a healing Staff or a healing Dagger. However, with the recent change to allow all Shamans to use 2H Maces and Axes, I have high hopes that we will see some healing 2H Maces. 2H Maces would be a weapon type that could be used by three out of four healing classes (paladin, druid, and shaman).

In any case, my point is that making weapon types matter a lot hurts PvE, because of the way loot is distributed (random, specific drops). You either need to reduce the impact of weapon type, or move to a more “tokenized” model.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ask Coriel: Tanking as Holy

Ron writes:

Just starting to run Kara as a Holy Pally. I noticed your Armory snapshot today has you in tanking gear so I thought i would ask how u find the challenge of holding aggro and pulling mobs with so few points in Prot please?

I am keen to gather an off tank set but wondered what runs u have comfortably tanked as Holy spec with your tanking gear? Heroics, non-Heroics, etc.

I don't really tank much. I mainly tank adds that need to AoE'd down. That's pretty much murlocs on Tidewalker these days. I pull mainly with healing threat on a Life-tapping warlock. For out-of-combat pulls, I have Holy Shock.

As long as you have Improved Righteous Fury, holding aggro is not usually an issue. A full Prot paladin would find it easier, but Holy has cheaper Consecrations, Holy Shock, and extra spell damage.

The big difference comes in mitigation. A Prot paladin would take much less damage than I do. In fact, I *cannot* tank 73+ mobs or raid bosses as I would take crushing blows for 150% damage. You need Holy Shield to be able to tank raid bosses.

As for 5-mans, I can tank regular 5-mans fairly easily (my gear is pretty good). I can probably tank heroics as well, but I haven't really tried.

One thing that I have been trying lately is gearing for Avoidance. For example, I'm trying +8 Dodge, +8 Defense, +4 Defense/+6 Stamina gems, instead of the more standard +12 Stamina everywhere style of Effective Health tanking. EH tanking is really good for slow, hard-hitting bosses, as Avoidance tanking relies on randomness, and it only takes a small streak of full hits to kill you on a slow-hitting boss.

However, for AoE tanking, you tend to deal with lots of small attacks, and the Law of Large Numbers starts to kick in. This means that the odds of taking a killing streak are very low. Plus, paladins are pushed towards Avoidance because we have to gear that way to reach uncrushable status. I'm just keeping on going in that direction.

So far it seems to be working out. I think I do take less damage overall than in my previous setup. I'm not sure if it would be viable when tanking bosses, but as I am Holy, the point is moot.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Ask Coriel: PvP Gear from PvE

Andres writes in:

I wanted to know your opinion on PvP gear available from PvE Raids. I know we don't see exactly eye to eye on the PvP gear, but the latest changes are a turn on from the interesting to the bizarre.

1) The blue gear available via rep is a great step forward to balance the 0-200 resilience race, helping both recent 70s and raiders switching to focus PvP.

2) The T4/T5/T6 tokens will now allow to pick up PvP gear. This change does seems strange. I'm still trying to decide if it's a good change or not. I'm leaning on the not-good side as only particular pieces are better than their raiding counterparts and it gives raiders the edge on the other side of the fence, which is the argument against PvP gear availability. ;-)

I think Blizzard is trying to make it easier for people to participate in both PvP and PvE. Currently, gearing up for either takes a lot of time, and if you really want to do both, you have to spend twice the time.

Since the introduction of S1 gear from battlegrounds, you can use PvP gear in PvE. It's not the best stuff, but sheer ilevel allows it to be decent. S1 isn’t as good as T4, but it’s better than a lot of blue gear.

These moves just allow people to go the other way. If you spend time running 5-mans, you can get some initial resilience gear. It’s not as good as running battlegrounds for S1, but it’s better than nothing.

Similarly, for the high-end people (Raiding or Arenas), S3 isn’t as good as T6 for raiding and extra T5/T6 tokens turn into S2, not S3. You get gear so you can participate, but are a step behind the people who choose PvE or PvP as their main activity. As well, extra tokens can get turned into gear, instead of being wasted.

It should also help out hybrid classes, as it will make it easier to pick up some PvP off-spec gear. The only specs which will need a little extra help are Protection warriors and Protection paladins, as there really isn’t any PvP gear or playstyle that is suitable for them.

All in all, it’s a pretty good move by Blizzard to get more people involved in both facets of the game.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bind-on-Equip Nethers and Vortexes

Possibly the most interesting change to come out of Patch 2.4 is the news that Primal Nethers and Nether Vortexes will change from Bind-on-Pickup to Bind-on-Equip.

A while back, I noted that Nethers were Bind-on-Pickup in order to create scarcity, in an attempt to allow crafters to actually make a profit from crafting weapons or armor. A person wanting a specific item needed to find crafter with the recipe and an available vortex. As far as I could tell, it seemed to work. A Primal Nether went for about 100g, and a Vortex went for 500-700g on Skywall.

However, once Patch 2.4 hits, the crafter and vortex become separate items, making it easier to find them and driving down the price. The price of crafting an item will once again be driven back down to “mats + tip”.

I wonder what motivated Blizzard to change the system. Did the original system not work out? Did too many people skip getting crafted items because of the hassle? Did more casual crafters find it too hard to get Nethers for their own personal armor? Is the availability of Badge Gear having a negative effect on crafted gear? Is Blizzard clearing the decks for the next expansion?

It’s an issue that really has no right answer. Enforced scarcity is an inconvenience to the rest of us. Handling Vortexes is huge pain in my guild. We have to distribute them properly at the moment they drop. With all previous raid materials, we just collected them and put them in a guild bank, and people could withdraw what they needed. But enforced scarcity is also the only way to raise prices for crafters, to allow them to get paid for creating items for other people.

Of all the changes in 2.4, this is the one that I would love to get some insight about from Blizzard, to find out exactly which of the many reasons for or against this change came into play.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fast Loot System

Lately I've been thinking about a raid just using Blizzard's built-in loot system. Set a threshold of Epic and just go:

1. Want the item for your main set - roll Need.
2. Want the item for your off-set or sidegrade - roll Greed.
3. Don't want the item - Pass.
4. If everyone passes, an enchanter scoops it up and disenchants the epic.

I know this system would probably end in drama and tears, but it would be so fast and easy. You could spend more time actually doing stuff, and less time handing out loot. Yeah, someone might win two items over someone else, but it will average out over time.

The biggest issue would be people who raided for different amounts of time. A guild would have to deal with attendance issues apart from the loot system. But that might be a good idea anyways, rather than relying on your loot system to motivate people to show up.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Recap

Things are getting a little confused over the last few posts, so I thought I'd state my positions on raid content clearly:

1. Attunements are unnecessary, and should be removed for every instance except Karazhan.

2. Reward bosses should be buried deep in the heart of an instance, not placed near the beginning.

3. Guilds should do raid content in order, and not chase after "easy" bosses.

4. If you have a choice between putting in attempts on a new boss or farming for extra gear, you should put in more attempts on the new boss.

5. Trash should not respawn.

Hopefully that makes things clearer.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Fallacy of Gear

Dorgol of Boulderfist posts a comment in the previous thread:

Removing attunements will HELP the guilds currently working on SSC / TK by allowing them access to T6 loot.

No, in my opinion, it won't. This is because gear is relatively unimportant in raiding in TBC. The natural progression of raiding prepares the guild gear-wise for the boss they are working on. By the time a raid reaches a given boss, the raid will have enough gear to tackle the boss. The only guilds who are undergeared for the content they are working on are Nihilium and the other Top 50 guilds. That's because they go through content at such a fast pace.

The rest of us are appropriately geared--or even overgeared--for the content we are working on. (Note that I'm talking on a raid level. It's possible to have a few new people who are individually undergeared.)

There are four elements to defeating boss fights. From most important to least important, they are:

1. Strategy
2. Execution
3. Skill
4. Gear

Gear, though necessary, is the least important of these. In my experience, every time my guild has had issues on a fight in TBC, it has been because of one of the top 3 reasons, never gear.

Unfortunately, most lower level raiders do not believe this, or at best pay lip service to it. Tobold called Gruul a gear check. Gruul is in no way, shape, or form, a gear check. The DPS requirements to kill Gruul are easily in reach of a blue-geared character who knows how to play her class.

I have been through the learning process for Gruul with two different guilds (Valarin was drafted to fill out a raid). With Coriel, our first problem was being killed by Shatters, which we fixed by using the safe spots (Strategy error). The second problem involved too low DPS, and that was fixed by focusing on hit rating and proper rotations (Skill error). With Valarin, the main issue was that healers were letting the tank die at about Growth 12 (Execution error). Note that none of these errors had anything to do with gear.

But gear is the only variable that Blizzard controls, without nerfing the fight directly. Blizzard cannot improve our strategy, execution, or skill. So they add in more gear, hoping to compensate for the lack of the other three elements.

You need to spend time on boss fights, improving your strategy, execution and skill. That will serve your guild far better than attempting to gear up for the fight. In many ways, I think that skipping Kael/Vashj for early T6 content is a distraction that will end up hurting T5 guilds, just as skipping Magtheridon for Void Reaver did.

Hard fights teach the strategy, execution, and skill required for even harder fights. Skipping a hard fight in favor of an easy fight does your guild no favors.

If you don't believe me, consider this quote from Ciderhelm's Time Management for Raiding Guilds (a superb article which completely changed a lot of my views on raiding):
What players do not understand is how real a factor time is on the guild welfare as well as their own. Spending time gearing up for new content is almost never as well spent as time actually working on that content. This is especially true in the Burning Crusade, where stat differences and gear progression between Karazhan and Black Temple is relatively small; keep in mind that Nihilum cleared through Black Temple just 3 months after raiding began. Gear is good, but it is not key. [Emphasis mine]

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Attunements and Reward Bosses

Patch 2.4 is removing the attunements to Mount Hyjal and the Black Temple. If you look at the WoW Dungeons and Raid forums, you'll see a lot of angst over this decision. First off, I fully support removing the attunements. In general, I think raid attunements beyond the first level are pointless and end up hurting the slower, less hardcore guilds.

However, the raiders complaining about the attunement removal do have a point, and it's worth considering their perspective. In my view, the issue is not really the attunements themselves, but rather the nature of the bosses right after the attunement.

Remember that for raiders, quality of reward needs to match the challenge overcome. However, it is generally accepted that the first few bosses of T6 content are "easy" and really are not worthy of the quality of loot that they drop. But this is acceptable because Kael and Vashj are so difficult. Early T6 bosses do not just reward you for beating the T6 boss, they also reward you for killing Kael/Vashj.

Essentially, the first few T6 bosses are "reward bosses". There are other reward bosses in the game: Void Reaver in Tempest Keep, the Chess event in Karazhan, the drakes in Blackwing Lair.

But with the attunement removal, you don't need to kill Kael/Vashj, so the challenge ceases to match the reward, and thus there's a lot of complaining. People are allowed to skip the hard content and access the easy bosses with over-generous rewards.

This happens on a lesser level with Void Reaver in Tempest Keep. Originally, you had to beat Magtheridon to get access to Void Reaver, and thus Void Reaver was essentially an extra reward for beating Magtheridon. But now you can go straight to Void Reaver, making his reward (T5 shoulders) greater than his challenge.

Another way to think about it is to look at the Chess event in Karazhan. There is no question that the Chess rewards seriously outstrip the challenge of that event. However, those epics are not just a reward for Chess, they're also a reward for getting that deep into Karazhan. If the Chess event came at the beginning of the instance, or after Attumen the Huntsman, it would make no sense. The reward would be disproportionate to the challenge on every level.

If the first boss in T6 content was the equivalent difficulty step of Razorgore in Blackwing Lair, there would be no complaints about removing attunements. Challenge would match reward, and everything would be fine with the world.

In general, I think that "reward bosses" are a bad idea. They encourage guilds to take shortcuts, to waste time and skip over content that would teach them necessary skills. I honestly believe that having guilds skip Magtheridon to go for Void Reaver has hurt them in the long run. Magtheridon teaches coordination skills that are very valuable in later T5 content.

Reward bosses are an especially bad idea to have near the beginning of an instance. If you have to have a reward boss, it is best to follow the Karazhan model, and drop it deep in the heart of the instance.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Road To Damascus

January 10, 2008:

Retribution is currently terrible in every aspect of the game, even with the best gear currently available.

- Azreal, 70 Paladin, Death & Taxes, Korgath (Yes, that Death & Taxes)



11:04 AM, January 15, 2008:

Retribution Paladins do not have comparable DPS to Shadow Priests. I do not understand where this comes from, as I have never seen a WWS of a major fight with Paladins anywhere near respectable DPS margins.
...
Death and Taxes would use Retribution Paladins if they were good. There's no spite or hatred of the class preventing them from doing so. They simply don't work. If they did, they would be used; it's that simply. Top tier guilds have to take advantage of everything available to them. It would be hindering progression to do otherwise. Unfortunately, at this time, the spec is sub par.


- Azreal, 70 Paladin, Death & Taxes, Korgath



10:26 PM, January 15, 2008:

I just went Ret in 3s, and I took top 10 undefeated.
...
You seem to be really gun-ho on Paladins as a hybrid, and, for the first time in a long while I actually feel like one, rather than a healer / cleanser.

I never really considered Ret as a viable spec until today. I always compared Ret Paladins to other melee classes, and in that regard they fall short. No interrupt, no snare, no healing debuff etc. etc. I'm sure you've heard it all before. After a few games however, I can see how Paladins can still play support as Ret, and the things that make Holy so strong are still there.


- Azreal, 70 Paladin, Death & Taxes, Korgath



Febuary 5, 2008:

By the way, I started Raiding as Ret, it's completely viable.

- Azreal, 70 Paladin, Death & Taxes, Korgath



All teasing aside, this is great to see. Perhaps it will convince more guilds to give a Retribution paladin a trial. For better or worse, the high end guilds do hold a lot of sway in the raiding community, and D&T are among the very top.

I feel like posting a thread to the paladin forums. I'm pretty sure I could get a 10-page flame-war going.