Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Raiding and Recruiting

Tobold is sure that the raiding population is in decline. I am not sure I agree with his assessment, and he does not really provide any sort of proof that this is the case.

First of all, it's still fairly early in the life of TBC. People are still levelling and working on 5-mans and all the non-raiding content. Raiders are used to devouring content, so it may not seem like a lot, but there's a lot to do.

Secondly, I'm not sure that the actual number of people raiding is decreasing. Judging by the Guild Progression sticky on my Realm forums, I would say that there's at least the same number of people raiding as there were pre-TBC. The only difference is that they are spread across three or four times as many guilds.

However, one thing that is not in doubt is that existing raiding guilds are having troubles recruiting. All raiding guilds suffer from turnover, but there used to be a constant stream of new recruits that would make up for it.

What I think is happening is that people are not leaving their levelling guilds. Pre-TBC, your average levelling guild would maybe get up to 10 level 60s. They wouldn't be able to do anything however. A few would quit the game, a few would reroll alts, and a few would apply to the raiding guilds.

But now, that group of 10 70s will attempt Karazhan. Maybe they won't do very well, or proceed at a much slower pace than the raiding guilds are used to, but it's preferrable to having to leave your friends in the levelling guild.

But the downside of this is that a significant source of recruits for the raiding guilds has dried up. And raiders see people leaving their guilds through natural attrition, and no new players joining, and so complain that there is something wrong with TBC content. That raiding is dying.

But it's possible that raiding is healthy, and may become more popular than ever before.

In any case, what should a raiding guild do for recruitment? My only real thought is to conduct recruitment on a guild level. Allying with a guild that is doing one run of Karazhan could probably net enough people to do the 25-mans.

I think that before we can substantively conclude that "raiding is dying", we need more solid proof. It's possible that raiding is indeed dying, but it is also very possible that the situation I have outlined above is correct, and raiding is healthy. It also accounts for the perception by raiders that raiding is dying.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Goal for the Paladin Class?

There are a lot of posts on blogs and forums--including this one--arguing for "fixes" to the paladin class, and changes to the various talent trees or spells.

Rather than spelling out specific changes we'd like to see, let's look at it from another angle. What is the goal for Blizzard? What should a successful paladin class look like?

Here's my definition of success for the paladin class:

Everyone expects a Holy paladin to melee.

If whatever changes Blizzard makes results in this, I will regard those changes as successful. If the changes do not result in this, those changes will be unsuccessful in my view.

For those of you who would like to see changes for the class, what are your criteria for success?

Specs and Fun

It's interesting how much difference your choice of spec makes. Not just in terms of effectiveness, but also in terms of playstyle and fun.

Holy is boring me out of my skull. It's fine when I'm in a group, but is terrible when soloing. Judge/Seal every 10s, Holy Shock every 15s. Attacking only one mob at a time. I'm so looking forward to going back to Protection or Retribution.

I've also run into this same situation with a Rogue. I rolled a Rogue to act as a farming alt for Coriel, but I didn't like the way it was playing and abandoned it at level 20. Up till then I had been speccing into Assassination, with an eye on getting Mutilate.

I was thinking about picking the rogue up again, and I realize that what I didn't like about the rogue was that it moved so slowly while in stealth. I was avoiding stealth because of this, pulling with a gun, and generally not playing a rogue effectively.

So I looked at the Rogue trees, and noticed that there's a talent in Subtlety that increases your speed in stealth. One respec to Subtlety later, and my rogue is fun again, and I stealth all the time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

2.1 Focus Macro Update

Patch 2.1 apparently changed how conditionals are handled, so here is an updated version of the focus macro I posted a while back:
#showtooltip spell
/clearfocus [target=focus, dead][button:3]
/focus [button:1/3, target=focus, noexists]
/cast [button:1/3, target=focus][button:2] spell

Patch 2.1 Impressions

Or the alternate title: Why Coriel Will Never Get an Epic Flying Mount.

So with patch 2.1 out, I decided to respec. I was having a really hard time choosing between 0/49/12 with the new Improved Holy Shield, or 0/19/42 as discussed in the previous post. In the end I decided to try out Retribution.

I respec, which costs me 35g. I accidentally assign the very first talent point to Improved Devotion Aura instead of Redoubt, ruining the build. So I respec again, 40g.

The build is really nice for soloing, questing, and killing single mobs. Even with my pathetic Ret gear, stuff was dying really fast. I really like the new Vengeance. I only have around 15% crit, but I was achieving perma-Vengeance easily (well, on elites and mobs that actually took some time to kill). The build is less survivable though, especially when taking on groups of mobs.

As well, the new debuff timers are pretty spiffy. Very nice for reapplying debuffs. I can't wait to see them on my warlock.

Right before Karazhan, one of the officers contacted me and told me that two of our healers would not be able to make raids for the next little while, and would I mind respeccing. I went back to Stormwind and respecced quickly to 50/11/0, 45g. Ironically, I ended up speccing Improved Devotion Aura. I wasn't expecting to spec to Holy, so I didn't have a good build in mind and ended up tossing 5 points in Improved Seal of Righteousness. I completely forgot about Improved Blessing of Might, which is my standard use for the extra 5 points when going Holy.

Heh, I'll probably end up respeccing Holy again, but this is sufficient for now.

I healbotted the raid. (Yay, #1 on the healing meters. Boo, #1 on the overhealing - 18%, I'm out of practice.) It's really hard to tell the actual effect of the Illumination nerf with the new spec and improved gear.

I must say that healing is surprisingly more fun when giant green numbers are popping up over the heads of other people. It's feedback that you are affecting the actual game, and not just the interface.

I'm not too thrilled by the new "greying out" of buttons. I very often have the mob as my main target, then press the button (while the previous heal is casting), then choose my target for heal. I find it's a good tactic for melee-healing, and for watching what the boss is doing and who he is targeting. But it means that a lot of buttons are always greyed out, which is silly.

Other than that, I think the Blizzard raid UI is finally up to a decent standard, with the introduction of Main Tank windows, and showing people's targets. I'm probably going to ditch sRaidframes/oRA2/CTRaidAssist, and just use the default UI.

I haven't had much of a chance to check out the new quests. I'm looking forward to those, but right now all the early areas are so crowded.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Retribution Off-tank Build

First, let's make the assumption that there is a warrior or druid MT, and the paladin is the OT. Would a build like 0/19/42 be better than the standard full protection build?

Retribution OT Build: 0/19/42

(Switch points from Anticipation to Precision once you have the necessary defence from gear.)

The big difference is that the Ret paladin is not going to be crush immune, but the Warrior/Druid MT is the one going to be handling the bosses and worrying about crushes. Combined with decent tanking gear, this build is more than sufficient to handle all non-73 mobs.

And once tanking duties are finished or not necessary, this build can pull out a 2H and add significantly more damage. If the paladin is in a DPS group, they can even switch to Sanctity Aura and boost everyone's damage.

(Just to be clear, if you are tanking anything during the fight, you are wearing tank gear, not Retribution gear.)

I don't think that this build will be sufficient to MT anything, but given that most groups already have a warrior (or druid) MT available, this build might be a more useful OT build than a Protection build.

You could also do a similar build but go Holy. However I don't think it would work as well, due to limited mana and +healing in tank gear. As well, if a normal 10-man has 2 tanks/3 healers/5 dps, one tank fights would be better off as 1 tank/3 healers/6 dps, rather than 1 tank/4 healers/5 dps.

The increased damage Retribution brings synergizes well with generating threat as an OT. This build would also bring 3% crit for the raid, allowing you to get the increased threat from Judgement of the Crusader at the same time, and Sanctity Aura for the DPS group.

I'm seriously considering respeccing to this build. I'm generally last on the tanking depth charts for my guild, so I never actually need to main-tank. This would make it a lot easier to maintain threat right behind the main tank, as well as be more useful in a fight like Shade of Aran.

The biggest thing stopping me from respeccing is 5-man play. Would this build be enough to tank a 5-man, or what other role would I take up? I am leery of a Ret paladin's viability in an actual DPS slot, at least with the gear I have. (Let's put it this way: I think I have less than 1000 AP in my DPS gear.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Musings on Spell Damage

Something about the way +spell damage and healing works has always struck me as wrong.

In the current system, the amount of bonus an individual spell gets is given by a coefficient which is related to the cast time of the spell. Specifically, it's cast time divided by 3.5. This means that all spells get the same benefit from +spell damage over time. You get the same benefit from spamming Flash of Light for 15s as you would for spamming Holy Light.

And that seems wrong to me. Holy Light is the more powerful spell. It should get a bigger boost than Flash of Light. Indeed, the fact that both spells benefit equally from spell damage makes Flash of Light the better spell, in a way. It's cheaper to get the benefit of spell damage with Flash of Light.

Take a look at Blessing of Light. Blessing of Light gives a small bonus to FoL, and a much larger bonus to HL. This feels right. There should be an advantage to using the more powerful spell.

I think that rather than using cast time to determine the coefficient, a different metric should be used. To me, the best measure would be the amount of mana spent per second while casting the spell.

If you spam HL, you are spending 840 mana every 2.5s, or 336 mana/s.
If you spam FoL, you are spending 180 mana every 1.5s, or 120 mana/s.

Eyeballing that says that HL should get about 3 times the benefit in spell damage that FoL gets (on a per second basis). Intuitively, that seems reasonable to me. HL is our power spell, represented by its higher cost, and it seems right that our powerful spells should get more benefit from spell damage.

Blessing of Light tracks this ratio. BoL grants HL roughly 3 times the benefit it gives to FoL.

Because benefit is not linked to cost, +spell damage biases the caster towards cheaper spells. Restoring the link between benefit and cost will make using more powerful spells more attractive.

Old Posts About Hybrids

In light of the current discussions about hybrids, I'd like to point to a couple of my older posts. These were written back in December, after patch 2.0, but before TBC actually came out.

I think they sum up a lot of how I am feeling about the paladin now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Relative Power Level of Fluid and Modal Hybrids

Kaziel posts a response to my previous post about fluid and modal hybrids:
Fluid hybrids cannot be equal power to single purpose classes, for game balance. In raids, underpowered classes or specs would (and are) shunned. Balanced fluid hybrids would never see endgame except in limited circumstances. Making hybrids modal allows them to be brought up to similar or equal power as a single purpose class without disturbing game balance too much, thus allowing them a place in endgame.

Here's the problem with this statement: being a hybrid (regardless of type) is in itself an advantage. If a modal hybrid was as good as a pure class, why would you bring the pure class? And if the pure class is better, why would you bring a hybrid?

If the hybrid is fluid, the fluidity is the reason you bring the hybrid. Sure the paladin may be a worse tank than the warrior, but she can off-tank an add, and after the add is killed, can help heal the warrior through the enrage. Fluid hybrids allow a raid group to adapt to multiple stage fights better and more smoothly because the hybrids can take a different role during each stage.

But if the hybrid is modal, she is a tank for the entire fight, and after the add is killed, becomes pretty much useless. In this case, why take the hybrid tank at all? Why not just take another warrior?

WoW sidesteps this problem a little bit by re-defining the pure classes (warrior, priests) as hybrids, thus allowing them to drag the other hybrid power levels up. But there is still a lot of sentiment that "priests should be the best healers". But if this was the case, why would you bring paladins? If priests are the best healers, modal healing paladins cannot tank, cannot dps, and would have worse healing than a priest.
  1. Modal hybrids must be equal to pure classes at the given role, else the pure class will be preferred over the hybrid for that role.
  2. But if they are equal at the given role, the hybrid is better because it is a hybrid, and offers additional options for the player.

This is a paradox. Blizzard has resolved it by redefining all tanking and healing classes as hybrids. Paladin healing can be as good as priest healing, because priests are modal hybrids and can become DPS.

A fluid hybrid does not need to be as good as the pure class. But they do need to be good enough to perform their part. And that is where historically that WoW has failed. Allowing hybrids to be good enough to, say, off-tank a mob while still retaining their fluidity to help heal after the mob is dead.

And the reason this is so, as most people pointed out in the previous post is because of gear.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hybrid Theory: Fluid vs Modal

This post is inspired by a thread on the WoW forums. Unfortunately, I can't find that thread anymore. I really should start bookmarking good threads.

Imagine you have a DPS warrior in a lower level instance. Suddenly the tank goes down. What do you do?

You swap in a shield, taunt, and take over tanking. You probably aren't as good as the tank, but you can substitute well enough to finish the fight.

In this case, you are acting as a "fluid" hybrid, able to switch from one role to another while in the same fight.

The other extreme type of hybrid is a "modal" hybrid. A modal hybrid can switch from one role to the other, but not in the same fight.

A lot of people roll hybrids because they want to be fluid hybrids. To be able to equip a shield and take up tanking if the tank gets into trouble. To be able to drop back and support the healers. But, increasingly WoW hybrids are becoming modal hybrids. Your paladin can be a healer for this fight, or a tank, but you have to choose before the fight starts.

Indeed, the fluid hybrid disappears totally at endgame. All that's left is modal hybrids.

I think this theory goes to the heart of my current dissatisfaction with the paladin class. I rolled and played as a fluid hybrid, especially in 5-mans. But now, hybrids are almost entirely modal. For this instance run, I am a pure tank. For this boss fight, I am a pure healer.

The interesting question becomes why have hybrids in WoW gone almost entirely over the modal side?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Quick Background on WoW Combat

This is in response to a couple of comments to earlier posts. It's a quick, simple explanation of how the hit table works in WoW. It should provide enough background for the previous few tanking posts. I posted this as a response on the WoW forums. If you want additional information, check out the tanking guide Fortifications by Ciderhelm.
Imagine that everytime the mob swings at you, there is a table of possible results and a number from 1 to 100 is rolled. The number rolled is matched to the table entry, and that entry is the result of the attack. For example, a simple combat table might look like:

Roll Result
----- ------------
41-100 Hit
26-40 Crush (150% damage)
21-25 Critical (200% damage)
16-20 Block
11-15 Parry
06-10 Dodge
01-05 Miss

This is basically what happens in WoW when a mob attacks you. As you increase your defensive stats, the chances of each event change. If you have 490 Defense, criticals disappear from the table. As the block/parry/dodge/miss entries grow, they "push off" the upper entries.

So after getting a lot of tanking gear, the table might look like this:

Roll Result
----- ------------
91-100 Crush (150% damage)
51-90 Block
31-50 Parry
11-30 Dodge
01-10 Miss

Notice how hits have been pushed off the table entirely? And now you only have a 10% chance to get crushed?

If you got 10% more block/parry/dodge/miss, crushes would be pushed off the table entirely. You'd still take damage, because you take damage everytime you block. But you wouldn't take non-blocked hits, crushes, or criticals.

Because crushes are the last things to be pushed off the table, achieving this state is called being "uncrushable".

Best Lore Post Ever!

From Sylan of Gilneas, on the WoW paladin forums:
Lore changes. Evolves.

After Uther died Paladins lost their confidence. Paladins realized that they were mortal. Vulnerable. This fear has pervaded since Uther's demise and shows up in every aspect of the Paladin class to this very day. In fact, Paladins are so shaken that even their god-mode bubbles have begun to falter. At first Paladin lost their ability to use both bubbles back to back but as time went on things got worse. Priest learned of how shaken the Paladin faith was and learned to twist their magic to the point that they are now able to completely remove the god-mode bubble.

It is rumored that Uther's death may also cause Paladins to lose some of their ability to regenerate mana.

It's all in the lore if you know where to look.

Wow. That explains so much!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Musings on Tanking and Paladins

There are four essential tanking stats, or groups of stats:
  1. Avoidance
  2. Mitigation
  3. Health
  4. Threat

Of these, the top three are the most important. They are what separate a "tank" class from a dps class. After all, there's a reason we don't let the mages tank. While Threat is important, a tank is the class which can deal with incoming damage in the best manner.

Initially, Avoidance is the most important of the top three stats. Avoidance is the route to eliminating Criticals and Crushing Blows. However, once Criticals and Crushing Blows have been eliminated, Avoidance becomes much less vital.

This is because pure Avoidance (miss/dodge/parry) is probability-based. Raid fights are long, with many attacks. It is highly probable that a tank will take an unlucky streak of hits at some point during the fight. A tank needs to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Unless you have 100% pure Avoidance, Murphy's Law will inevitably bite you.

Now looking at these three categories, it immediately jumps out that--unless something significantly changes--paladin tanking will always be an inferior option for raid boss tanking.

Why? Because paladins are inferior to warriors in all three important stat categories.

For Avoidance, warriors have Shield Block, which allows them to eliminate Crushing Blows much faster than paladins can with Holy Shield. This also has the additional effect of allowing a warrior to reduce the importance of Avoidance earlier, and get an additional lead in the other two important categories.

For Mitigation, warriors have 10% melee mitigation from Defensive Stance, versus 6% from Improved Righteous Fury. They have 16% spell mitigation, while a paladin only has 10%. Finally, because so much of a paladin's Avoidance is gear-based, a paladin loses a significant amount of Avoidance when switching into resistance gear. A warrior loses far less Avoidance because her Avoidance is an innate ability.

For Health, a warrior simply has more base Health than a paladin. Additionally, while the paladin is still gearing for Avoidance, a warrior tank can start gearing for Health, and increase her lead over the paladin.

Even Threat is not a clear-cut victory for the paladin. The paladin is a clear winner in AoE Threat, but warriors can actually put out a significant amount of single target threat. I am not yet willing to judge that paladin single-target threat is better than for warriors. For AoE or front-loaded threat, paladin threat is superior.

It is interesting to compare druid tanking with warrior tanking. Druids are clearly inferior in Avoidance, as they cannot parry or block. But they have superior Health. And Mitigation is close to a draw, as druids do have much higher armor, but no innate Defensive stance. Because druids are actually competative with warriors in two of the three categories, they are a reasonable alternative to warriors.

There is one situation where paladin tanking can be superior to warrior tanking. A fast attacking boss can eliminate the warrior's Avoidance advantage, giving the paladin superior Avoidance for a portion of the fight. However a warrior still has superior Mitigation and Health.

Finally, paladins require a fifth stat: Mana. Unlike warriors and druids, paladins need a stat unrelated to the true tanking stat categories to fuel their offensive and defensive abilities. Because of this, paladin tank gear will always be inferior to warrior tank gear as some of the total item budget must go to the fifth stat, reducing the amount available for the true tanking stat categories.

It is my conclusion that--for cutting edge content--paladins will always be sub-optimal tanks compared to warriors and druids. Paladins are inferior to warriors in the three most important stat categories, at best have a slight advantage in the fourth category, and--unlike the other tanks--require a fifth stat category in order to function.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Tanking Itemization

I've been working my way towards uncrushability, and it's pretty hard going. I'm currently 13.44% away. And it's not like I have bad gear. For the most part, my gear is pretty decent. It would be good enough for off-tanking if I was a warrior.

Admittedly, I could stand to get a better belt and shoulders. But it looks like I'm going to have to respec into Retribution and try my best to pick up the +5% Holy Shield block Libram. That will still put me at 3.44% away, but there are several incremental updates I could hope to get.

Half the problem with gearing a paladin is that paladin gear is almost always inferior to warrior gear. And that makes sense when you look at the categories of stats on gear.

For warriors:
  1. Avoidance (defence/dodge/parry/block rating)
  2. Mitigation (armor/block value)
  3. Stamina
  4. Threat (strength/block value)

For paladins:
  1. Avoidance (defence/dodge/parry/block rating)
  2. Mitigation (armor/block value)
  3. Stamina
  4. Threat (spell dmg)
  5. Mana (intellect/mp5)

Paladins have five categories that item budgets are allocated towards, rather than just four. It makes sense that the paladin totals will be lower than warrior gear for the categories which the two classes share.

However, we also need so much more mitigation to reach uncrushability that we basically just take items with the highest Avoidance (when first building a raid tanking set). Which is warrior gear.

I think paladin tanking itemization could be tweaked a little bit. What I would like to see is:
  1. Avoidance - equal to warrior gear
  2. Mitigation - higher armor, less block value
  3. Stamina - equal to warrior gear
  4. Threat - about half the budget allocated to warrior threat
  5. Mana - about half the budget allocated to warrior threat

That's how I would build paladin tanking gear. I'll try and find some iLevel values and show a demonstration.

Another option might be a talent that converted Intellect into Avoidance. Perhaps it could replace Weapon Expertise up in the top of the Protection tree.