Thursday, February 26, 2009

3.1 PTR Musings

I haven't really posted anything in a while. Everything seems like the same old thing, like we're just rehashing old arguments from years ago.

Tier 8 looks to be a pretty mediocre set. No big surprise there. It's not as bad as Tier 3/Tier 7 (Redemption), but it's not as good as Tier 2 (Judgement) or Tier 6 (Lightbringer). Suicidal Zebra has pictures. The original concept artwork has a very completely-enclosed, Vorlon Encounter Suit motif. That headpiece serves as the final seal. You can imagine the headpiece coming down and locking in place, completely encasing the paladin in the armor.

This concept didn't transfer that well to the finished armor, oddly enough because the shoulders aren't big enough. So the headpiece lost its meaning, and now just looks like an weird affection. I think the armor would have been better served with a helm that completely enclosed the paladin's head. As well, the female armor entirely exposes the stomach, completely cutting against the point of the concept art.

Ah well, maybe Tier 9 will be the "good" paladin set for this expansion.

I did go poke around on the PTR server tonight. I didn't get a chance to see Hodir, but I went over to the Argent Tournament area and looked around. It looks pretty neat.

The only thing I really dislike is this:

The mount on the left is the Stormwind reward mount. It has the paladin warhorse (level 30 mount) model, but with the paladin charger colours. I think it's too close to the paladin mount. The Stormwind mount should use a different color scheme.

The Gear Manager is simple, but easy to use. It stores entire gearsets (all 16-slots). You can't do partial gearsets like in Outfitter, but it's very easy to set up and use. It's not enabled by default, but enabling it adds an icon in the top right corner of the character pane.

Dual specs look decent. Each spec gets its own glyphs and the bottom left toolbars. The other toolbars are shared between specs. Switching is essentially a five-second cast, but you can't switch in combat or in arenas.

I can't really comment on paladin trees. I think they're in an unfinished state. I built a PvE Retribution build as my second spec. I took all the talents I wanted, and I had 12 talent points left over! That's an awful lot of points for random utility.

So far, 3.1 looks like a pretty good patch.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ask Coriel: The Value of Strength

Zack writes in:
My question specifically has to do with a neck slot item: [Titanium Earthguard Chain]. At first glance, it appears to be a tank item (note the 34 defense rating). However, I've been investigating, and compared with all the other endgame gear, this item may be (at least from my opinion) the best item that a raiding DPS Retadin can get.

My reasoning for this is that socketed with a +16 Strength gem, this neck gives a total of 65 base strength for a Paladin. Once you add the bonuses from Divine Strength (+15% Str) and Blessing of Kings (+10%) that translates to 83 Strength or 166 Attack Power.

Compared to the other alternatives ([Gem of Imprisoned Vassals], [Fool's Trial], [Collar of Dissolution], [Favor of the Dragon Queen] , etc.) for the neck slot, the Titanium Earthguard gives a Paladin 54-56 more Attack Power, albeit at the expense of some serious Crit % and in some cases Armor Penetration and Haste.

Since you seem to be one of the more knowledgeable and vocal Pally Bloggers out there, I was wondering if I could get your perspective on this issue. SO I guess in a broader sense my question is a question of ret theorycraft - which is better Crit % or AP and to what extent?

P.S. While writing this post, I found a tanking necklace with even more strength: [Nexus War Champion Beads]. 100 total Strength after socketed and Divine Strength and Blessing of Kings.

Strength is the best stat for Retribution. However, it is not the only valuable stat. The other stats such as crit, hit, agility do increase your damage, just not as much as Strength.

To see this, let's actually put dollar values on each stat. (This is just an estimate.)

1 AP = $1.00
1 Strength = $2.50
1 Crit Rating = $2.00
1 Armor Pen = $1.50
1 Agility = $1.50

Now, you can clearly see that Strength is still the most valuable stat. Let's compare [Favor of the Dragon Queen] to [Nexus War Champion Beads] for Retribution.

[Favor of the Dragon Queen]:
42 Agi = $63
63 Sta = $0
110 AP = $110
31 ArPen =$46.50
41 Crit = $82
Blue Socket = 8 Str = $20
Total = $321.50

[Nexus War Champion Beads]:
94 Sta = $0
63 Str = $157.50
28 Def = $0
34 Parry = $0
28 Block = $0
Red Socket = 16 Str = $40
Total = $197.50

The Favor of the Dragon Queen is massively better than the Nexus War Champion Beads. If you look at the values, you see that all those extra stats contribute to the total, while the Beads only have Strength. It has a lot of strength, but not enough to outweigh the other stats.

If something is "not the best", it doesn't mean that it is automatically worthless. It still has worth. You should never take statements like "Strength > All" to an extreme.

Now, how do you come up with the values for each stat? I just estimated values above. You can also do a lot of math and theorycraft values, or you can look up values on sites such as Elitist Jerks. But in general, an item that has several stats that increase your damage is usually better than an item which only has a lot of one stat.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ask Coriel: Retribution Questions

Melissa asks:
I was looking through your new wiki (raider101) site at the ret pally rotation. I noticed you put divine storm in the #5 slot (or whoever edited) for suggested rotation.

I question this in the case of running 10 mans or heroic raids if you also equip the Venture company libram which increases your crit strike rating for 7 sec after divine storm. Does it not make more sense to judge, then use divine storm as all further attacks (for 7 sec) will have an increased crit rating? When I do this, I usually can cast crusader strike, exorcism (if possible) and sometimes another judgement while the buff is still up.

Am I misunderstanding this libram or is this just not yet noted? Does thislibram not cause spell crit and only melee crit? I just wanted to make sure my difference in rotation was plausible.

I believe the Libram is both melee and spell crit. The reason Divine Storm is lower is that all the other attacks are higher damage. As well, because Crusader Strike/Hammer of Wrath is on a short cooldown, the more you delay it, the more damage you end up losing.

Don't forget that abilities will come off cooldown after you hit DS. So you are only gaining extra crit on a couple of abilities and only at very start of the fight. That's not enough to outweigh the loss of delaying the higher damage abilities.

However, the difference between the various priority schemes is very small. My advice would be to go test rotations out on the training dummy.

My second question is on my cooldowns. I've been told by many tanks (including pally's) to NOT use Avenging Wrath at the beginning of a fight. I've been told that if I do use it, I will pull aggro off the boss and I should save it for the middle or end of a fight. What's the correct answer?

You should use Avenging Wrath very close to the start of the fight. You do need to give the tank a few seconds to build threat, but good tanks can generate threat very fast. You should be able to pop Avenging Wrath at about 10 seconds into the fight. If you can't, your tanks need to improve. Now if you have to delay, you delay, but you should try to pop AW as early as possible.

The reason you use Avenging Wrath early is so that you can use it again when it comes off cooldown in the same fight. You should be able to use AW multiple times on every fight longer than 2 minutes (which is pretty much every raid fight).

A lot of guilds will also use Heroism/Bloodlust early, so that everyone can pop their cooldowns together, while still being able to use cooldowns multiple times during the fight.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Buff Durations

Mark writes:
Why does Righteous Fury have a duration? As a protection tank, this irritates me greatly, because its one additional thing I need to pay attention to. I mean, warriors shift into defensive stance, druids go bear, and deathknights shift into frost stance. None of them have to worry about whether their threat is going to suddenly fall off because they forgot to refresh a spell.

I realise that the 'stances' that each other tanking class offers advantages and disadvantages, and that there aren't really other 'stances' that paladins have (I do NOT want our increased threat generation to be tied into our auras), however it would be nice if once we cast Righteous Fury, it would stay up until I manually clicked it off. Would that be so game breaking? Its not like its something we have to cast every pull, and its not like it's a major mana sink or anything - it just seems to be an old dinosaur from original game design that should be allowed to go extinct. Having a half hour means that if I'm not paying attention, I could wipe a group simply because I forgot to refresh the spell before a pull.

There are really two issues at play here. First, why do buffs in general have a duration? Second, why is Righteous Fury a buff, rather than a stance, form or aspect?

Let's take the first question: why do buffs have a duration? Buffs have a duration because it tests skill in a very small way. All other things being equal, a paladin who remembers to refresh Righteous Fury is simply a better paladin than one who forgets and lets it wear off. Part of playing a class well is maintaining your buffs.

You can see this very clearly with paladins and Blessings. We've all run with paladins who let their Blessings expire and have to be prodded to re-Bless. Then at the other extreme you have the paladins who keep everyone buffed all the time, who hits battle-rezed players, pets, and even warlock imps. It's a small thing, but---all other things being equal--the second type of paladin is a better player.

Not all challenges need to be amazingly hard. Small, easy challenges such as keeping buffs up are still important. Now, these small challenges need to be kept in check. Overused, they become extremely tedious and detract from more important and fun challenges, as anyone who remembers the days of 5-minute Blessings and 40-man raids will attest to.

On to the second question: Why is Righteous Fury a buff, and not a stance?

In general, WoW design likes to use buffs for mechanics which are purely additive, and use stances for when you make a choice between two effects or for an effect with both a positive and negative aspect. Blessing of Kings is purely additive, adding 10% more stats. Similarly, Righteous Fury is purely additive, adding extra threat. While warrior stances offer a choice between extra damage dealt and less damage taken.

It's more because threat is sometimes a positive stat from the perspective of the player, and sometimes a negative stat from that perspective, that Righteous Fury feels a bit different from all the other additive buffs. Essentially, there's no built-in negative to Righteous Fury. The negative doesn't come from the buff, it comes from the nature of the stat the buff provides. Compare this to Moonkin Form, where the negative--can't cast healing spells--is built into the form, and is not a side-effect of extra critical strikes.

For example, if you look at PvP, Righteous Fury becomes something that is always positive, while Moonkin Form still has negatives.

This isn't an iron-clad 100% rule. For example, Auras blur the lines a bit. You could make Auras work like Blessings fairly easily. But in general, Blizzard likes making effects with both a positive and a negative into stances or forms. But effects which are purely positive show up as buffs with a duration. Righteous Fury is a purely positive buff, always increasing threat, so it fits closer to the buff model.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Warhammer Online: Spread Too Thin

I think WAR should have cut the elves.

Seriously, no elves would have meant that there were only four main areas: Dwarf, Greenskin, Empire, and Chaos. This would have increased the concentration of players in each area. That would have lead to better PQs and PvP. I think that WAR is a game which really needs a minimum number of other players to really work.

As well, Mythic could have spent more time on those four areas and eight classes, adding more polish.

The elves would have also made a really good first expansion pack.

It seems like a lot of video games make this same mistake, attempting too much, spreading themselves too thin and doing a substandard job.

Monday, February 09, 2009

New PvP Rating System

Here is a very informative blue post from Kalgan detailing exactly how the new PvP rating system works. It's a very informative read. Here's my summary of the new system.

There are now three ratings associated with PvP: Team Rating, Personal Rating, and Matchmaker Rating.

Team Rating
  • Visible.
  • Required for rewards.
  • Reset when a new team is created or at the beginning of a new season.
  • Not used for matchmaking.
  • Primarily represents the team's standing relative to other teams.
  • Moves towards the Matchmaker Rating over time. The larger the discrepancy, the faster the Team Rating will move.
  • Looks like a new team will start with a rating of 0 from now on, rather than starting at 1500. This makes Arena less depressing for a below-average team, and allows Blizzard to stratify gear even in the below-average zone. For example, if a piece of gear requires 1300 rating, a low-ranked team can work to achieve that rating, rather than simply restarting the team or playing very few games in order to minimize rating loss.

Personal Rating
  • Visible.
  • Required for rewards.
  • Reset at the beginning of a new season.
  • Not used for matchmaking.
  • Is primarily a control on Team Rating, trying to prevent players from leeching off a high-ranked team.

Matchmaker Rating
  • Hidden.
  • Not required for rewards.
  • Does not reset.
  • Used to match teams against each other.
  • Looks to use a system like Microsoft's Trueskill to rapidly determine your true rating.

A lot of the confusion with the new system occurs because the Matchmaker Rating is hidden, but determines the change in the visible Team Rating. Essentially, MMR is used to match teams, and the result of the match changes your MMR depending on what your opponent's MMR was. Then your Team Rating changes to be closer to your MMR. A visible Matchmaker Rating would allow people to understand the system faster.

It looks like a pretty good system in general, if it works as advertised. The Team Rating is important, because Arena is a team sport, and it is important to be able to compare teams against each other.

One change that I think Blizzard could make is to ditch Personal Rating, and simply replace it with the Matchmaker Rating. This would make the Matchmaker Rating visible and required for gear. The Matchmaker Rating can also serve the same control function, preventing low ranked players from just joining high-ranked teams for gear. This would simplify the system and make it more transparent.

Edit: Any comments about "gear > class > skill" or whatever will be deleted. That argument is uninteresting and irrelevant to this post.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Divine Plea Idea

The details of the upcoming Divine Plea nerf:
Since paladins rely less on Spirit as a mana-regeneration stat, we have to address them in other ways. We don’t want to change Illumination or Replenishment. However, we are going to increase the healing penalty on Divine Plea from 20% to 50%. Divine Plea was originally intended to help Protection and Retribution paladins stay full on mana. It should be a decision for Holy paladins, not something that is automatically used every cooldown.

I am fine with Divine Plea being nerfed. It isn't necessary for current content if you bring a full complement of 7-8 healers. You have to mix in more FoLs and Sacred Shields, but I think once paladins get accustomed to life without Divine Plea, they'll realize it was just a crutch.

That being said, I don't think this nerf is strong enough to stop paladins from using Divine Plea every cooldown. We use Divine Plea to chain Holy Lights, which has absurd amounts of overheal. Something on the order of 60-70% overheal is common. Even a 50% reduction is not going to be much of a barrier to Holy Light.

However, it's very easy to go too far, and flip Divine Plea into the "never use" category. For example, if it reduced the effectiveness of your heals by 100%, Holy would never use it, as it would be far too dangerous. Fifteen seconds of no heals is an eternity.

What I would suggest for Divine Plea is:

Divine Plea
You gain 25% of your total mana over 15 sec. Casting a healing spell will end this effect.

(Where healing spells include Holy Light, Flash of Light, Holy Shock, Lay on Hands, but not Sacred Shield, Seal or Judgment of Light, or Divine Storm.)

This doesn't interfere with Protection or Retribution. For Holy, Divine Plea becomes a skill move. A good Holy paladin can time the ability right to maximize regen for specific fights. If you are just spamming, you can't use it. However, if you use Divine Plea, and it turns out you misjudged, you can resume healing at full strength without seriously hurting your raid. It's less dangerous, and thus paladins will be more likely to experiment with it.

I think this "robustness of failure" is important for a healer. I don't want to wipe just because I made a mistake with Divine Plea.

As well, I think the class designers can play with this variant of Divine Plea a bit more. It's not as binary as the current version. For example, consider:

Glyph of Divine Shock
Major Glyph
Casting Holy Shock no longer ends your Divine Plea.

Usable? Maybe. At the very least it is more interesting, and Divine Plea is no longer an automatic decision, but rather an ability that you want to time for maximum effectiveness.

Edit: Added Divine Storm to the list of non-healing spells to address a concern in the comments.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Upcoming Paladin Changes in 3.1

Eyonix posted the list of changes for the remaining classes. Here are my thoughts on the paladin changes.

Blessing of Kings – this spell is now a base ability trainable by all paladins.

What a long road we've been on to get to this point. Ah well, no more whining about Kings. I wonder what the new Tier 1 talent talent will be.

Exorcism – this spell now causes damage to all types of enemy targets. However, it always critical strikes undead or demon targets. This change should make sure paladin damage doesn’t drop when going from Naxxramas to later tiers of content.

Very interesting. A nice buff for Holy soloing, and normalizes Retribution damage across all enemy types. The only concern I have is that this does add to PvP burst, as Exorcism is now usable on players. CS, Judge, DS, Exorcism, CS is now a complete string of attacks with no breaks in between.

Shield of the Templar now causes your Avenger’s Shield and Shield of the Righteousness to silence targets for 3 sec. The old damage bonus of this talent has been folded into Holy Shield, Avenger’s Shield, and Shield of the Righteousness.

Shield of the Templar becomes a PvP talent mainly. Frees up some points for PvE builds. A 3 second silence every 6 seconds on the highest damage ability sounds a little bit crazy though. I expect this to get nerfed once it's on the PTR.

Ardent Defender, Improved Hammer of Justice, One-Handed Weapon Specialization and more have had their ranks reduced.

Thinning out the Protection tree heavily. The real question is whether these talents will provide the same effect for fewer talent points, or will simply provide a smaller effect. I can almost guarantee you that Imp Hammer of Justice will be reduced to -10 seconds for 1 talent point and become the 11-point Protection talent. It's a solid nerf to Ret PvP, and Ghostcrawler will probably be happy to see us shut up about missing that 11-pointer.

Now, what will happen with Ardent Defender and One-Handed Weapon Specialization is more nebulous. Either way, Protection just got a lot more points to put in the secondary trees.

Guarded by the Light – no longer reduces the mana cost of shield spells, but now has a 50/100% chance to refresh Divine Plea duration.

I'm going to take a wild guess and say that Shield of Righteousness is the spell which will refresh Divine Plea. It's actually pretty elegant, creating a mana-return mechanic around ShR that the Protection paladin should be able to keep up throughout the fight.

Judgements of the Just – now also reduces the cooldown of Hammer of Justice by 10/20 seconds and increases the duration of the Seal of Justice stun effect by 0.5/1 second.

This is the reason I predict Imp HoJ is the 11-pointer. This talent would mean that Protection still gets 30s HoJ, but Retribution does not.

I'm not entirely sure why Protection PvP is being pushed, but I, for one, welcome our new Protection overlords.


On Wednesday, Blizzard announced 3.1 changes to the Priest, Rogue, and Shaman.

On Thursday, Blizzard announced 3.1 changes to the Warlock, Druid, and Warrior.

Presumably, changes to the Hunter, Death Knight, Mage, and Paladin will be announced on Friday.

Traditionally, Blizzard announces nerfs on a Friday.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Dedicated Few

Wheeeee! I even survived Heigan!

Heh, I'll try and put up a real post tomorrow.