Monday, September 22, 2008

[Druid]The awesome: Beta part 2

Earlier I posted about some of the things that I'm excited about for Bears in WotLK. There was a lot I had problems with too, but we'll leave them aside. Because this post? All about the new hotness. And trust me, it's hawt.

For starters, Barkskin is usable in all forms. This isn't a shield wall; you don't prevent a ton of damage like shield wall does. But over time it's as good, and it is situationally better than shield wall in a number of circumstances. For instance, it's a lot better against something like Brutallus with it's 1-minute cooldown. And it's usable as a cat, too! Survivability in PvP just went way up. Really great change, but ya know, we already had barkskin. That can't be it, right?

Nope! Ferals get a new 11-point talent, Survival Instincts. This is the Last Stand separated out from Berserk. True, Berserk no longer gets this, but that's fine; if worse comes to worse use both at the same time. Having it earlier in the tree gives Ferals a nice talent, and man is it nice to have the threat/fear break component broken away from the Last Stand component.

Hmm...where did Feral Faerie Fire go then? Wait a's now trainable. W00t!

And Bash now acts as a spell interrupt as well as a stunner! That means for mobs that are immune to stun (or resist the stun part) it will interrupt their spellcasting, similar to pummel. Finally bears get a spell interrupt at close range.

So if Berserk lost the Last Stand component, isn't it a bit boring? Not any more - because as a bear, it removes the cooldown from Mangle. 15 seconds of mangling that hits 3 targets? And it's only on a 3-minute cooldown? 10 mangles for 15 seconds is pretty hot.

But our tree is bloated! Not any more! Predatory Instincts got reduced to a 3-point talent that does everything the 5-point did AND reduces AOE damage by 15%. Mitigation is always better than avoidance because it's predictable, which means for 2 fewer talent points we get a better overall talent. And what can you spend those 2 points on? If you like, the improved Brutal Impact, which heavily reduces the cooldown of Bash.

Some of the talents sucked before though - like Rend And Tear. Well, Rend And Tear's effect was doubled. 20% more maul damage? 20% more shred damage? Yikes. What was a marginal 5-point talent now is a great 5-point talent, only beaten by savage fury, primal precision (when capped) and LotP for threat per talent point.

With no intellect on gear, there were reports of shifting costing too much. That was helped by adding an 8% mana return based on max mana every time LotP triggers. Best part is that you get the mana back even if you don't get healed for anything. Nice for PvP!

But itemization sucks for druids! We have to wear rogue gear and random non-druid tanking gear! Waaaaah! Well, okay, that kinda still sucks. PvP leather gear is either as good or better than PvE gear for Bears at the same iLvl. Meh. However, we get some new hotness. There's a new blue trinket that beats the pants off of Badge of Tenacity. And then there's an epic trinket that is simply ridiculous. So ridiculous, we will have to have a picture of a bear dancing on a trampoline.

Defender's Code
Binds when picked up
850 Armor
Requires Level 80
Use: Increases parry dodge by 455 (10.17% @ L80) for 20 sec. (2 Min Cooldown)
850 armor? Are you kidding? Wow. WOW. Combine that with a Moroes-like on-use bonus and you've got the best trinket imaginable for druid tanking.

Wait a sec, you say - what's this 'parry dodge' thing? Well, there exist a number of items now that have been changed so that any parry rating is converted to dodge rating if you cannot parry, at a 1-1 ratio. Which means all that wasted parry on gear we share will be non-wasted dodge rating.

With these itemizations we're looking at breaking 40k armor in Naxx-25 gear. With something like inspiration procs, we'll actually be at the cap again. Except this time, Bears will have another 12% mitigation thanks to Protector of the Pack.

The depressed bear in me thinks we'll be nerfed soon. But right now? Things are looking way up.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

[Paladin] WotLK testing: the lack of int and you

I asked earlier what people wanted tested in Wrath. It might be a bit before I get to test everything (in particular, I doubt seriously I'll be able to test anything to do with DKs) but here's the first installment.

CKTucker asked:
For a prot pali How will I get intellect? I have seen the Nax raid gear on MMO-Champion. Have not noticed anything in the talent trees either, although I am known to miss the obviouse according to my wife.
As I alluded to in the comments, this isn't really caring about intellect; this is caring about whether or not a prot pally's mana is going to be a concern when there is no int on the armor. And from what I've seen and played with, the answer is a resounding no.

For starters, there is the awesome Divine Plea:
Divine Plea
Instant 1 min cooldown
You gain 25% of your total mana over 10 sec, but the amount healed by your spells is reduced by 50%.
This takes care of so much of the problem in tanking 5-mans, it's ridiculous. A one-minute cooldown allows it to work seamlessly, and the gain in mana allows for early use after AS/Holy/Conc and then a minute later, if you need.

The changes to how seals/judgments work also helps this quite a bit. In 5-mans, judgment of wisdom ensures that you're doing maximum damage with a tanking seal while still getting back mana from mobs you're tanking. Gone are the days where you have to juggle judgments and seals back and forth.

Another great boon is how cheap hammer of the righteous is. 6% of base mana for a spell that holds aggro well on 3 mobs AND can apply seal of vengeance is really, really efficient. For more than 3 mobs consecrate is still the spell of choice - and it's still very expensive - but this helps a lot on 3 and 4 pulls to keep aggro cheaply.

Yet more awesomeness: the new Blessing of Sanctuary. While 2% of base mana doesn't sound like a lot, this is triggering all the time for a paladin since so many of their attacks are blocked. Basically every single holy shield charge is 2% of your base mana.

Finally, there is the premier single target threat ability: Shield of Righteousness. This only costs 6% of your base mana and does a huge amount of threat at the block values currently seen. This combined with the reduction from Guarded by the Light make this easily spammable.

Anyway, on to actual testing. I found that with my lvl 80 paladin that I could tank multiple mobs easily simply by putting out one consecrate, having hammer of the righteous + seal of wisdom + judgment of wisdom, and doing divine plea. I could do this on 5-6 mobs without going below half mana. If I cut to not using seal of wisdom and just judging I found I would run out of mana around 2 minutes in. This was using some kind of threat move every time I could, usually either shield of righteousness and hammer, with the occasional consecrate and avenger's shield thrown in, along with judging. This was also not using any heals on me that would restore mana at all.

It was a real trip. :)

Anyway, more questions please!

Friday, September 12, 2008

[General] What do you want tested?

I've been accepted into the beta, and after futzing around with a death knight for a few minutes while waiting for Felhoof to get moved over, I'm finally ready to start getting down to business. I have a few things I want to start testing myself. I'm a fairly good beta tester given my profession and mindset. :) However, the best testing comes from a wide variety of people. And above all else I want to make sure that the classes I like are tested well, and feedback that is good is provided.

So I ask you: what do you want tested? What questions haven't been answered completely to your satisfaction?

I'm likely going to have four test platforms to play around with:
lvl 55 death knight, from scratch
lvl 70 druid with T6/Sunwell gear, leveling as I go
lvl 80 druid with pvp gear, raid tanking/dps
lvl 80 paladin with pvp gear, raid tanking

Given that, what are the questions you have? What would you like to provide more concrete feedback on? I'll try to test one thing a day and provide the results to you and to Blizzard.

This is your chance. Let's make WotLK the best we can.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

[Druid] Beta: the awesome

Reader Tomlins made a good point about recent posts of mine (and presumably of others) in a prior post:

There's such a massive amount of negativity being generated en masse in the blogosphere. I guess thats just human inclination.

You know, my posts recently have been negative. Really negative. I've not been all that happy with the way the beta has been showing ferals, I've not been happy with their vision, and I have been pretty vocal about it.

But you know what? There's a ton of good that's coming down the pipe for bears, and it's about time I really acknowledged all of that. Without further preamble, here's the awesome for bears that's currently in the beta!

  1. No uncrittability problems! This is honestly the thing I'm most looking forward to. The amount of time I spend balancing my gear so that I can remain uncrittable with various shifts, enchants, gemmings, trinkets and sets is ridiculous. I currently have 10 different tanking setups in ItemRack. I have 3 full bags of gear. Almost all of these are juggled around so that I can remain uncrittable in some way, and it's never a good time. It's gotten to the point where I've started spending badges on gear I already own so I can have a second set that is enchanted a separate way - one for when I need that for uncrittability, one for when I don't. It's ridiculous. With the new change to Survival of the Fittest, there's no need for suboptimal defense or getting gear with resilience. We can focus on getting mitigation, threat and avoidance gear at all times. Right off the bat, at level 70, this should result in about +20 agility, 20 stamina, some extra armor and another 2% of dodge. That gear can be swapped around without worrying makes it even better.

  2. No crushing blows. This doesn't get enough mention or shakeout. Crushing blows in BC were one of the only ways bears remained balanced, especially in T4-T5 content. Remove those, and bears got crazy good. You can see that on fights where there aren't crushings - feral druids are almost always the preferred tank for them, and it's not a surprise at all; they simply take so much less damage. The removal of raid bosses' ability to crush removes one of the barriers to bear tanking while also making fights more consistent.

  3. Berserk rocks. There's actually a fair amount of complaint on this, but the fact of the matter is that this is a great ability for bears. Combining higher threat and an oh-shit button, it's better than last stand. It's an ability that bears have been wanting for years, and have up until now only been able to simulate via bad consumables and trinkets. Give us more abilities that let us wreck opponents and live longer, and we'll be happier bears.

  4. More drops! While I'm really skeptical that the rogue gear will work for ferals without some tweaking, the fact is that the idea that all rogue gear should be usable by a feral for tanking means a good deal. It means that ferals will suddenly have a ton of usable gear for them in every instance, every raid, every quest reward. And it won't just be for cat, either. Sure, some things will be better than others, but no longer is it completely useless or only useful when you're DPSing. This idea is a really good one, and one I hope they can pull off.

  5. I can has tank. The stated goal for the developers is to have a druid be able to be a MT for every single encounter in the game. While I don't think that's going to be the case - I think there will be gimmick fights just like there are in BC that require a specific class - I think that the vast majority of the fights will be tankable by a druid tank, and that if you choose you'll be able to have good progression with said tank.

  6. Expertise! One of the hardest things to get for a feral was expertise in any form. It came only rarely, and it came on gear that was best for cats, not bears. The feral tier set is loaded with expertise, and if that wasn't enough there's a low-end talent that has more expertise. Finally bears aren't going to get parry-gibbed, or at least they won't as often.

  7. Consumables/interaction in forms. This really should've been addressed a long time ago, but it's a very good thing that they've added the ability for bears to use potions and other weird things in form. This takes away a really large annoying aspect of tanking as well as removing that split-second chance that you accidentally change form and die a horrible caster form.

  8. Entangling Roots works everywhere! More of a 5-man fix than anything, being able to pull with entangling roots and having it, ya know, root stuff is pretty awesome.

  9. Revive! An out-of-combat battle res? Oh, yes. Gimme gimme gimme. Another one of those that is better for 5-mans, but it's still great.
That's my personal excitement for the beta. How about you? What are you most looking forward to when 3.0 hits?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

[Druid, offtopic] Kalecgos down - onto Brutallus

After more than a few close calls, we got our act together and downed Kalecgos for the first time last night.

It's odd in that I'm the one doing a lot of the herding of the cats in that fight. "Group 2, take a portal". "more decursing!" "Less decursing!" (which is my favorite one to yell out, as people get all decurse-happy). Unfortunately I was the only one dead at the end of the raid. Sigh. That happened because I was the only one with a brez available, and instead of taking my portal I ressed a healer. Which basically nuked me about 2 seconds after the res, thanks to arcane blast. I think it was the right choice, but it still felt crappy being dead for the final 20%.

It kind of helped being dead because I could yell at people more and tell them to take portals more. It's a lot harder to announce things when you're trying to decurse, take portals and beat people up. Plus hey, I got to be the loud druid! That's always fun. (in my guild it's almost always a druid of some flavor doing the announcing of various timers/rotations. I don't know why. It's been this way for a while.)

It's a very fun fight, and it's one of those that is really frustrating and really awesome when you accomplish. I love coordination raid fights, even if my guild isn't the best at them. You can outgear DPS checks, you can outheal healer checks, but coordination is about player skill and awareness. Nice to see we could do this one. totally not what Brutallus is all about. Brutallus is a total gear check on everyone's part. There's very little coordination by comparison; you have to move burn victims out of the way of the meteor slash, you have to taunt on a regular cycle and you have to do everything you can to make your healer's life easier.

Some things that I've been learning recently about this fight, from a tanking perspective:

  • Brutallus has only a 1% base chance to miss for taunt's sake. No amount of +hit will help here, but it'll only be resisted if you're very unlucky. Because of challenging roar/shout and the shorter cooldown of warrior/druid taunts, paladins are disadvantaged here.
  • Brutallus does dual wield, but he has no dual wield penalty. Yeah, he's just that bad ass. I actually just found this out today, and it changes a lot of my preconceived notions of gearing.
  • There is, of course, the fun time sunwell penalty, which gives a -20% dodge chance and a -5% miss chance. This makes avoidance a bit more painful to stack.
  • And of course, one of Brutallus' abilities - Stomp, which halves your armor. In theory you'll not take a stomp and then a hit. In practice, it's hard to avoid a bit of damage, and you'll want to have as much armor as possible. Which means being a bit over the cap.
I've been fighting between a full stam build and a mix build of stam and avoidance. The tricky part is balancing this all out with crit immunity, some amount of threat and the armor. I can go with 44% avoidance but not reaching the armor cap entirely and just under 21k health, or I can go with 38% avoidance, 1k over the armor cap and 22k health. It's quite the conundrum. I think that the 6% avoidance is worth the 1k health and armor for now, but if stomps start sucking I'll probably switch.

Any ideas guys? What all worked for you on Brutallus?

Monday, September 8, 2008

[Paladin] Paladin 3.0 tanking build

I have to say, I'm very excited about the paladin changes coming in 3.0. Protection paladins are largely getting everything that was asked for along with some really exciting new facets that make them a strong, fun tank. They're so good right now, I expect they're going to get nerfed a bit. But let's have some fun with the power, shall we?

Some assumptions:
  • This is for BC, not WotLK. Assume this is what you'll be raiding with after 3.0 comes out but before WotLK comes out. This means 61 points, maximum (thanks for that, duckilama)
  • With the 3.0 patch will come the reitemization of tier and non-tier gear. This means no spelldamage will appear on paladin gear, and will be replaced with strength.
  • Scaling with strength will be like it is in the beta. Which means the AP coefficient on all tanking skills will exist, the 1 strength = 2 block value will be there, and in general strength will be good.
  • Assume other raid buffs and whatnot.
With all that in mind, this is what I've come up with:

Holy (0 points)


Protection (51 points)

5/5 Divine Strength
5/5 Anticipation
5/5 Redoubt
1/1 Blessing of Kings
3/3 Improved Righteous Fury
3/3 Shield Specialization
5/5 Toughness
3/3 Improved Devotion Aura
1/1 Blessing of Sanctuary
2/2 Sacred Duty
5/5 One-Handed Weapon Specialization
2/2 Improved Holy Shield
1/1 Holy Shield
5/5 Combat Expertise
3/3 Touched by the Light
1/1 Avenger's Shield
1/1 Hammer of the Righteous

Retribution (10 points)

5/5 Benediction
5/5 Deflection

I won't go through all the talents like I have in the past, but I will comment on a few that I think need a bit of love.

Divine Strength, as you might have guessed, becomes a huge ability. 15% more strength is going to be close to 100 strength in T6 gear, which is a big bonus for both threat and mitigation. That much extra block value alone is worth the 5 points, but that it also adds threat is too big of a win to ignore. With the way gear has been itemized, this appears to be about a 1.5% increase in threat per talent point + the mitigation. That's much better than reckoning or one-handed weapon spec.

Divine Guardian appears not to be needed at this point. At least not for prot.

Reckoning is awesome and is actually quite a bit better with the slower, high-DPS weapons that prot now likes - but there just isn't enough room for it. I'm tempted to recommend it over 1hws for fun however.

Ardent Defender has always been one of those cusp abilities. I love it, but with Divine Protection being made into Shield Wall, it's not as required to have. I could see an argument for swapping this with 1hws however.

Guarded by the light is nice, but not required since so much of the threat a paladin will produce comes from HotR, judgment/seals, and the weapon itself. If you find yourself using a lot of consecrates, by all means, put some points here.

Judgments of the Just is another iffy one. I would really like to take this, as having another tanking class be able to thunderclap would be great - and unlike tclap, this doesn't really cost you anything other than talent points. This is an amazing mitigation skill if your raid doesn't have someone who can thunderclap regularly when you are tanking, and I would recommend taking it if that's the case. If you do have someone who can tclap, however, I'd recommend them keeping that up for you. Where to get the points? Take them out of 1hws.

Shield of the Templar will be awesome at level 75, when you get Shield of the Righteous. As it stands, getting a boost to only Avenger's Shield and Holy Shield isn't worth the points.

Hammer of the Righteous is a great threat move that also doubles as a good AoE ability when you can't consecrate. It will change tanking completely for prot paladins. Of course you want your shiny new toy. :)

[Druid] The warriors are worried about what?

Another good blue comment from the beta forums:

Drop by the warrior forums and you'll see they are concerned they will never get to tank because the druid can innervate and battle rez.
Are they worried that they'll never get to tank because druids can heal and moonfire spam too? Because I know that I do a lot of tanking Azgalor and then when a priest yells for an innervate I drop to caster form, lose 25000 armor, and cast an innervate and then jump back.

This happens all the time.

I don't believe that the warriors are that dumb, but if they are - no, we don't do this, it would be virtual suicide if we did do this on any hard fight, and the only time we might even think about it is if we're about to wipe unless we try something. I think I've done the barkskin/brez trick twice in my entire career. It worked once. And if I tried something like that during a raid, I'd get lynched.

I really hope that this isn't the kind of influence that the beta forums are providing. If it is, I implore you to understand why this isn't at all correct and shouldn't be a concern for any tanking class. Warriors might have reason to be concerned with the removal of crushing blows, since crushing blows were a way to limit druids over paladins and warriors. But because a druid can battle res? Seriously?

Friday, September 5, 2008

[General] What the huh?

When reading the daily blue posts a couple days ago I came across this, and it bugged.

There are a lot of huge changes in the expansion though. Warrior tanks are worried they won't be useful anymore because their big niche (surviving crushing blows) was given to all tanks. Paladin tanks are concerned because better AE threat is being given to all tanks. Death knight tanks are worried that they are going to get nerfed because of the damage they're doing. Druids are worried that they won't have the armor they are used to, and might be inferior tanks because of it. Almost every class is worried that their unique raid buff won't gaurantee them a spot in the raid any longer. We're worried about pulling it all off. :)

The thing of it is, that was never the warrior's niche in the first place. With shield block having two charges in 5 seconds, warriors were almost guaranteed to take a crushing blow every so often thanks to haste or dual wielders or anything that has more than 2 attacks every 5 seconds. Paladins, with their holy shield having 8 charges every 10 seconds, were almost guaranteed to never take a crushing blow in that time unless lag or silence was in play. Of the three tanking classes, warriors were the middle ground between no crushes and always being crushed.

Heck, this is why druids were favored over warriors on Morogrim - because a warrior would quickly be depleted of shield block charges and could easily take a crush, a druid was better simply because if you're going to take a crush, you might as well take as little damage as possible anyway.

This is the sort of thing that makes me really concerned about the direction of tanking in WotLK. I know the devs are smart, and they're good, but they have some bizarre notions of what the classes actually did in the past. The devs seem to believe that feral druid tanking in BC was somehow bad and that a bear couldn't MT things on progression, yet feral druids are advantaged in some way on every single encounter in Sunwell but one, and the top guild in the world (SK-Gaming) has two feral druids as their main tanks. The devs believe that a warrior's niche was the inability to take crushing blows, but the warrior niche in TBC was outstanding top-end threat combined with being the best tank against magic-based bosses. A paladin doesn't care about other tanks getting their AoE abilities, because who cares who is requested for 5-mans? They care about being able to MT, and for that they need oh shit abilities, better threat cycles with overlapping cooldowns, more threat on non-undead/demon types and better itemization characteristics that share both mitigation and threat - and in the beta they've gotten most of that.

Ah well.

Would people be interested in seeing a patch 3.0 Paladin tanking tree? I don't want to do one for WotLK, but a TBC one seems like it might be worthwhile.