Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rhaina On Crutches

In this thread about dual-spec, one poster makes the common claim that certain mechanics are "crutches" which weaken guilds who use them. Rhaina posts a beautiful response that struck me as being so perfectly right that I took the liberty of reposting it here:

If you lack one leg, a a pair of crutches is an indispensable possession that allows you to move about in the world.

If you have two perfectly good legs, a crutch is unnecessary.

If you have two perfectly good legs, but you injured one, a crutch can be a temporary necessity. Eventually, you don't need it anymore. In my experience, the physical therapist thinks I don't need it before I do. In my brother's experience, the physical therapist is trying desperately to get him to keep using it for a week longer than he thinks he needs to.

I don't think it's at all reasonable for a person who can walk without a crutch to sneer at the one-legged person for whom the crutch is mobility and independence.

There are raids where intentional use of dual speccs makes the raid capable of meetings its specific goals. There are raids where relying on dual speccs is unnecessary and just causes angst for no good reason, and may even make the raid less capable overall.

Unfortunately, we can all look at the one-legged person and see that a crutch is a boon to her. We're not so good at just looking at a person who has two legs and knowing who will benefit from the crutch and who just weakens himself by using it.

Roundup

Ulduar Progression

The guild is progressing steadily through Ulduar. We have killed everything except Mimron, General Vezax and Yogg-Saron. We also grabbed the medium-difficulty version of Iron Council (where you kill the medium-sized vrykul Runemaster last), so that we can start people on the quest chain for Algalon.

I really like the multiple difficulty modes of fights. It allows for much greater granularity, and it allows you to slowly introduce new elements into the fight. For example, Phase 1 and 2 of the Iron Council fight are pretty much identical to the easy mode, it's just Phase 3 which is different.

Boss Names

As a complete aside, it's interesting how the playerbase calls that fight "The Iron Council". The real name--which is the one referenced in the game and fight voice-acting--is "The Assembly of Iron". And yet in almost every forum discussion I've seen, the players refer to the fight by the different name. Is it because "Iron Council" is shorter? Maybe more evocative? Are there other bosses where the players use a different name than the given one?

Ulduar Nerfs

Blizzard has been steadily tweaking the early fights of Ulduar. I don't disagree with a lot of the nerfs. I think Blizzard overestimated the amount of DPS put out by the average guild. Though to be honest, there is a really big gap between the very high-end and the rest of the guilds.

Even my guild is probably averaging 500-1000 DPS lower than the edge guilds, and I've seen parses from a friend's guild where the average DPS is 1000 DPS lower than us. I think the gap is excessively large at this point, and Blizzard should probably look into things they could do to tighten things up.

Predictions Coming True

It's a really interesting experience, watching some of your negative predictions come true. On the one hand, you're happy that you made the correct call, but on the other hand, it would have been better all around if you had been wrong.

I made some predictions about Dual Spec, and I think this Guild Relations thread is solid evidence of the new expectations emerging.

Similarly, a long time ago I posted about the pressure to "do more". Sadly, my guild has decided to add an extra day to the raid schedule, going from three to four days a week, following precisely the logic laid out in that post. The idea is that the extra day will allow us to progress faster, and upping our world ranking and making us a more attractive prospective to skilled players looking for a new guild.

I can't really argue with that logic, because it's probably true, and I can make a four day schedule. But to me, guilds at our level are fairly common. However, they all seem to raid 4-5 nights a week. A guild at our level which raids 3 or less nights is rare, and what attracted me to this guild in the first place. But that of course, might be biasing me. I see a skilled guild which raids 3 nights a week. The rest of my guildmates see a skilled guild which raids 3 nights a week. We emphasize the aspect which is most important to us.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Breaking Tier 7

I've been considering a gearing dilemma lately. The 4-piece Holy Tier 7 set bonus (-5% to the cost of Holy Light) is really, really good. Insanely good, in fact.

However, you can't just wear Tier 7 forever. At what point should you break the set? Should you break it when you get your first upgrade, or should you wait to upgrade a couple pieces simultaneously? Maybe I should upgrade at the first opportunity, but keep the T7 in my bags, and swap back if I am having mana issues.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Retribution System Idea

Exorcism cannot be used on players anymore and Ghostcrawler has put up an explanation. He also states:

In the same patch where we remove the “not on players” limitation for Exorcism, we are going to change the way paladins do damage so that their normal combat moves have more depth to them instead of just using abilities every time they finish their cooldown. This should make causing damage as a paladin more interesting and also less bursty. While we have some ideas on how to accomplish that, if you have suggestions or your own ideas about how this could work, this would be a good time to share them. (As examples of abilities you don’t just use whenever their cooldown has finished, you might look at Conflagrate, Brain Freeze, Rip, Overpower or Arcane Blast.)

It's hard to work with Ret, as you can't make changes that will seriously affect Holy or Protection. Here's an idea I had that's relatively simple, but might tone down Ret and make it more interesting.
  1. Increase the talent Vengeance by 2 points for 5 stacks of 5% each.

  2. Change Crusader Strike to require 2 stacks of Vengeance, and to consume 2 stacks of Vengeance when used.

  3. Change Divine Storm to require 3 stacks of Vengeance, and to consume 3 stacks of Vengeance when used.

  4. If Crusader Strike or Divine Storm crits, they still generate a stack of Vengeance (net loss of 1 and 2 stacks respectively).

  5. Tune the numbers so Ret puts out the damage you want.

This is a very simple system, but CS and DS now eat Vengeance charges, while auto-attacks and Judgment generate them. You can't burst right off the bat, as you have to build Vengeance charges.

As well, I don't know what the optimum time to use an ability is. If you're at 2 charges, do you wait for 3 charges to Divine Storm, or do you Crusader Strike right away? If your Judgement cooldown is coming up, should you delay a special in order to maximize Judgement damage? Will the value of Haste and Crit go up? Will slightly faster weapons be better than slow weapons? There's a fair amount of room for the theorycrafters to play with.

It might even be good in PvP, as you can trade off using an ability right now for a bigger ability later.

Finally, this is fairly simple to implement. We only touch 3 talents in the top half of Retribution. Vengeance is already the heart of the Retribution tree, so making it even more important is not much of a stretch. It doesn't affect Holy or Protection at all. It also works fairly well for a leveling paladin. First they would get Vengeance, which is always good. Then they get Crusader Strike, and that introduces the mechanic at a very simple level. Ten levels later they get Divine Storm and the full range of choice.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Raining Titles, Other Updates

I've picked up a ton of titles in the last week or so:

  • the Argent Champion
  • the Explorer
  • Loremaster
  • Ambassador
  • of Stormwind (from the Argent Tournament)
If you're looking for money, get to the Champion level of the Argent Tournament as soon as possible. Each daily is worth 13g, and you can get an additional 10g from the Champion's Purse. (You can get a Writ instead of the Purse if you want Reputation instead.)

I'm still a terrible jouster, but I will share my super-secret jousting technique: Put up 3 shields and melee the opponent. When they start to move away, Shield-Break them and then close to melee range before they can charge you. Then continue meleeing. It's pretty slow, but it works all the time.

I'm a bit disappointed with the end of the Black Knight quest. It feels like Blizzard squandered an opportunity there.

Fishing in Wintergrasp is awesome. Pretty much the only fish you get are the ones needed for Fish Feasts, so it's the best place to fish for raid consumables.

Uldar is lots of fun. I've killed Flame Leviathan, Razorscale, XT-002, and Iron Council so far. My guild runs with 3 Holy paladins and 1 Resto Shaman, and I can't help but think life would be so much easier if the numbers were flipped.

I've decided to try a new technique of primarily healing with Holy Light and Holy Shock. The new Infusion of Light works out to an extra 6-10% crit rate for the next Holy Light. It seems pretty decent so far, but more testing is required. I'm even considering replacing Glyph of Flash of Light with Glyph of Holy Shock.

Still haven't got enough money for dual-spec, as raiding costs are chewing up the income from the dailies. I'm considering going Protection as my second spec. There's a really intriguing Prot build that skips Spiritual Attunement, opting to use Glyph of Seal of Blood for mana regen instead. It features really high threat and DPS, and its mana does not depend on incoming damage at all, potentially making it amazingly good for off-tanking. The cost, however, is the self-damage from Seal of Blood. But since Blood has been rebalanced away from the burst damage of the Judgement, the self-damage might be tolerable. I have no idea if this build will actually work, but it's a very interesting idea.

Also, I could use some help updating Raider 101 to 3.1. If you're up to speed on the new theorycraft for your class, please consider editing the page or leaving a comment.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Raid Healing Idea

Right now, paladin healing is almost in a good place. The only issue is raid healing. I know that paladins are supposed to be weak at raid healing, but I think the current situation is excessive. Relying on Glyph of Holy Light is insane.

As well, Flash of Light is really weak. It's still highly efficient, but it just isn't powerful enough to handle current damage levels. Holy Light has pretty much become the weapon of choice these days.

Because I like trying to kill two birds with one stone, here's an idea to help both problems:

What if a paladin had a glyph or high-level talent such that casting a Flash of Light automatically cast a second Flash of Light on a injured target within 10 yards. Flash of Light would become more useful, we get a little taste of smart healing, our throughput when raid healing would increase, and we could hit more than one person at a time. I think it would still be weaker than the three other classes at raid healing, but it would close the gap some.

Here's my idea in Glyph form:

Glyph of Light's Mercy
Major Glyph
Your Flash of Light heals an additional friendly target within 10 yards. Increases the cost of Flash of Light by 100%.

So Flash of Light's cost doubles, but we can use it to raid heal somewhat effectively.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Patch First Impressions

I really need to update more.

Servers were pretty unstable on Tuesday, but seem to have stabilized last night. We killed Flame Leviathan and then banged our heads against Ignis for a few hours. Good times.

Lots of little things I like in this patch. In no particular order:

  • Swimming mounts are great! No more getting randomly dismounted.

  • I really like the changes to the Quest tracker. Being able to use quest items--as well as opening the quest log by clicking on the tracker--is extremely nice. As well, allowing multiple Achievements to be tracked is great.

  • Previewing talents is awesome! If you haven't enabled it yet, it's in Interface Options -> Display -> Preview Talent Changes. This allows you to play with your talents before locking them in. Sadly, I forgot to enable it before doing my initial spec, promptly made a mistake, and had to pay 40g to fix it.

  • I like the changes to fishing, especially the daily. Always catching something makes it a lot smoother than before, and using bait to catch better fish just makes sense.

  • The Argent Tournament is pretty neat. I'm rather terrible at jousting, but it's still fun. I really like the shield graphics. Using vibrant colours and graphics in that manner was excellent work.

  • The Exorcism and Shield of Righteousness changes are very useful for Holy soloing. I still haven't scrounged up the gold for dual-spec, but being able to use Exorcism more is a god-send.

  • Also great is moving the page forward/back on the AH to the top part of the UI. Having to scroll down all the time was annoying.

All in all, it looks to be a pretty good patch. Blizz just needs to resolve the server performance issues, and everything will be fine.

As for Ulduar, the only thought I have is that there seems to be a lot of raid damage. We went in there with 4 Holy paladins, a Disc priest, and 2 Resto druids and it was pretty painful until we added a Resto shaman. As well, Flash of Light is almost totally useless now. It isn't even strong enough for raid healing! I was half-tempted to just remove it from my cast bars. Also, I really miss multiple Sacred Shields.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ulduar!


(Video by Cranius and Summergale)

Oh man, I am so not ready for this patch. I don't have enough gold for dual-spec, and I really should have done some fishing last weekend.

Heh, one of the advantages of Blizzard taking so long to release patches is that there's always a thrill of excitement when one comes out. People make movies, there's breathless reporting on everything coming out, everyone is blogging and chattering away. Energy levels are very high.

If Blizzard released a patch every month, I don't think it would have the same impact.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Made Me Smile

I just showed a newbie dwarf paladin how to get from Ironforge to Stormwind via the tram.

Good times. :)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Dual-Specs and Loot Distribution

Karl asks:

What are your thoughts on loot distro for classes that dual-spec during raids? Use dkp, or main spec rolls (but what is main spec now? and is it fair to classes who likely won't change specs? (ranged dps mostly)

It really depends on how your guild handles loot now. The guilds that run on pure DKP probably won't change anything. Pure DKP systems don't disadvantage pure DPS because the hybrids purchase more items, which tends to keep their DKP lower than the pure classes. In my experience, pure classes usually have more DKP than hybrids of similar attendance.

However, guilds with a priority system in place will probably have their members declare a main spec, and use that to determine who gets what. They may add a new level to the priority scheme. For example, "main-spec > off-spec > alts" might become "main-spec > 2nd-spec > off-spec > alts". But they may not, feeling this is more trouble than it is worth.

If you're really min-maxing, say with a Loot Council, you may see gear distributed with an eye to how much time is spent in each role. For example, pure classes might get preference on DPS gear because they will use it 100% of the time. Tank/DPS hybrids might get preference over Healer/DPS hybrids because it is more likely that a Tank will need to switch to DPS for several fights.

I don't think dual-spec will really change loot distribution though. Most hybrids already pick up multiple sets of gear under current systems, and I don't think it is worth the effort to formalize it.

It might cause drama in PuGs. PuGs will probably have to declare what type of loot they are looking for at the start of the run, as a DPS-main might be switching to healer just for this run, but would still want to roll on DPS gear.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Optimizing Judgements in 3.1

3.1 will bring some changes to paladin Judgements. As a result, the optimal way to Judge in a raid is unclear. Here is a breakdown of the issue.

Constraints

  1. Holy can only Judge Light or Wisdom from range.
  2. Protection cannot share a Judgement with another spec because Judgements of the Just will be lost.*
  3. The maximum amount of healing from Light comes from Retribution.
  4. Wisdom and Justice have the same effect regardless of which paladin Judges it.
  5. Wisdom increases the DPS of the raid by allowing DPS to spend more time in full burn mode.
  6. Justice generally does nothing useful.
* I'm not 100% sure on this point, but I think it's the current accepted wisdom.

Solution 1: Ret judges Light, Holy judges Wisdom, Protection judges Justice

Pros: Maximizes healing from Light; no interference with Judgements of the Just

Cons: Relies on Holy to keep Wisdom up, Holy has to judge at least once every 20 seconds, does not guarantee 100% uptime on Wisdom

Solution 2: Ret judges Wisdom, Holy judges Light, Protection judges Justice.

Pros: 100% uptime on Wisdom; no interference with Judgements of the Just

Cons: Much lower passive healing from Light

Solution 3: Ret judges Light, Holy judges Light, Protection judges Wisdom

Pros: 100% uptime on Wisdom; no interference with JotJ; Holy spends the minimum amount of time judging possible

Cons: Slightly less than maximum heal from Light possible; if Protection is not tanking the focused mob, Wisdom is not helping the bulk of the raid.


Personally, I like Solution 2. It maximizes DPS, and leaves healing in the hands of the healers. Large amounts of passive healing is very helpful, but can be compensated for by direct heals. In my mind, ensuring maximum DPS is more likely to win the fight for you than extra undirected healing.

However, there are other opinions. Ferraro argues for Solution 1, insisting that it is not very hard for a Holy paladin to have 100% uptime on Wisdom. I'm skeptical of that claim, especially as the fights get harder. If something goes wrong, Judging is the first thing to be dropped by a Holy paladin, in favor of spamming heals.

Solution 3 is pretty good, but if you don't have a Protection paladin, you end up having to go back to the Light/Wisdom debate. As well, if the Protection paladin is off tanking her own mob in a corner, then the raid doesn't get the benefit of her Judgement.