Wednesday, November 5, 2008

[Druid]Why the armor change was necessary

One last thing on this subject, I promise.

From GC's post:
We are making this change because armor is such a good stat for bears that it makes taking pieces with bonus armor a non-decision and we don’t want acquiring these pieces, which tend to not be common, to be so much of a barrier to a druid who wants to tank a raid.
This is the essential reason, and I agree with it completely - but what exactly are we talking about here? It ultimately came down to one thing: trinkets with armor.

With the rings, amulets, cloaks and weapons enough alternate or slight downgrades existed that it really didn't matter whether you had a best-in-slot item; there was always something you could get that could fill the void, even if it wasn't perfect. For instance, while you hunted for the Keystone Great-Ring and Nerubian Shield Ring, you could be happy with the crafted Ring of Earthen Might and the quest Iceforged Battle Ring. While you waited for Kel'Thuzad to drop Boundless Ambition or Heigan to drop Amulet of Autopsy, you could get crafted a Titanium Earthguard Chain or buy a Torta's Oversized Choker on the AH. Same goes for weapons and for cloaks. And yeah, you'd gain some stats, but the armor gain wasn't so amazing that it mattered; usually we were talking somewhere between 50 and 75 armor, which is about the same value we got from upgrading from a blue to an epic anyway.

But with trinkets it was ridiculous. Trinkets aren't itemized like other pieces and follow a certain pattern in general:
{Stat bonus}
{Equip: bonus}
{Use: bonus}

Where there is zero to one of each of those. That means in general you won't find a trinket with (for example) stamina and dodge on it. The flip side is that the itemization tended to spend a LOT on that one stat if it was on there. This is why trinkets like Essence of Gossamer had so much stamina; because it spent its item budget on only one stat, it gained 111 stamina for that stat.

What happens if that one stat is armor? We get things like Defender's Code.

This isn't a problem by itself. It became a problem because of multiple factors in WotLK coming together:
  • Druid leather not having bonus armor. Without bonus armor, hitting the armor cap became basically impossible. That meant that two armor trinkets became ideal and it magnified the loss of having only one armor trinket.
  • No alternatives. There are a total of 6 trinkets with armor in the entire game. Of those, 3 are from pre-Burning Crusade.
  • No stat is worth more to a bear than armor is on a per-itemization point level. So that 111 stamina? Not worth nearly as much as 550 armor before the buff.
With all of these things, it meant that before Naxx-25, a bear could only have Badge of Tenacity and Offering of Sacrifice, a total of 858 armor pre-buff. Together those made up 4177 armor after the buff. Bears would have to be balanced around having these things. Furthermore, if the bear got Defender's Code they would get an additional 2802 post-buff armor compared to those two items.

But what if they didn't get lucky? What if they didn't get any badge of tenacity or offering of sacrifice, much less defender's code? That would mean compared to the lucky bear that they would be down 6979 armor. At those levels, that's about 20% of the armor total.

That is equivalent to a warrior or a paladin without a shield entirely.

A bear had to be balanced around the worst case scenario, where they got lucky and all the gear dropped for them. But that would necessarily gimp them if they didn't get lucky, as they'd take way too much damage without those trinkets. If you balanced the druid around not having any armor trinkets, the ones with those armor trinkets would essentially have an 'extra' shield and get way too close to the armor cap (this is, by the way, why druids got nerfed to 370 bonus armor). Neither one of these things could really work.

Now clearly, there were other solutions they could have done. Removing armor from all trinkets and never allowing it is one possibility for a solution - but this screws up death knights as well, and it completely restricts them from designing gear with it on there at all. Stopping trinkets from getting the bonus armor from bear form is another option, but it's a bit clumsy. Neither of these things solves the central issue, which was that armor on gear was so far advanced that all gear with armor on it had to be carefully considered and balanced against the druid's broken mechanics; it would just make the items with really silly armor broken and make it even harder to wean yourself from high-armor items with poor stats to good overall items with less armor.

So they decided to remove the bonus from all of it instead.

After thinking about it more I think the QQ from the druid community may be large enough to force them to simply remove all armor from trinkets so that people can plan on gearing up accordingly instead of having this nebulous 'we're changing, but we're not going to tell you what' thing going on. That would be the easiest solution for them, would require very little change in the game and would probably make people mostly happy. But it's a very short term fix, as the overall issue with armor being too good wouldn't be solved.

Anyway, that's why I believe some kind of change was necessary. If you like, it's change I can believe in.


Karthis said...

What amuses me to no end is that Ghostcrawler spent an awful lot of virtual ink trying to convince the druid community that bonus armor was not the be all and end all of item stats (pre-nerf). I guess the prolonged bludgeoning finally got the message through.

Anyways, as I blathered on my blog, I like the thought of not all bears being cookie-cutter. Actually having gear choices will be a wonderful thing.

Nelson said...

I'm pretty bummed about the change myself. I trust Blizzard that I'll end up at the same damage mitigation after the change as before, OK. But it seems like yet another homogenization of the tanking classes. It used to be items with bonus armor were the special druid tank items, the things that were uniquely good for us. I remember how excited I was when I first understood the Badge of Justice, a unique item just for us!

Now all the gear is the same for all the tanking classes. What's the status of that parry -> dodge conversion, anyway? --Flyv

tomlins said...

Haha you write a bit like you're looking back from a vantage point of great wisdom and experience two years down the line. Last time I checked my calendar, wrath hasnt even been released yet :P

Anyway, that aside, interesting analysis. I'm glad we'll have more options above all else. I do think the badge of tenacity is pretty lame. Sure it was fun back in the day to blow 900g on a top trinket and boast to my friends... but 9 months and 3 raid tiers later, still best in slot??? There's something very wrong with that picture.

Phil Jackson said...

I just want to know as soon as possible as to what type of gear I'll need. Also, I'm still a bit worried in terms of how will we progress stat wise. As we get more Agi/dodge we get less returns from those points, so couldn't there be a point where feral tanks just don't have the same mitigation as other tanks with more stats to go after?

Olvar said...

I have to admit that my first reaction to the news was shock, but with a little thinking I came to the conclusion that it could be a good thing, when the designers don't screw it up.

I did a quick and dirty evaluation on my gear yesterday, and I think I'd need roughly a 6-times bonus for the bear to get the same armour that I had with my special tank equip before.

This means they either have to push the bear armour bonus to 500% or (another possibility) greatly increase the bonus of the Thick Hide talent. I think the latter one might actually be a good way to have another difference between bear and cat specialisation.

One of the really cool effects of the new design would be that there is almost no difference between cat and bear leather. I already have quite some overlap between my cat and bear equip (the complete heal equip and various different trinkets eat up enough bag space), but there is still a big difference in bear due to rings, cloak, weapon, and trinkets.

I think there will still be a difference between a druid in bear equip and someone in cat equip switching to bear form. The new fashion of bear equip probably will be Stamina trinkets, as with most of the other slots, while cat obviously will go for attack power and crit.
So there will be noticably less Stamina, but at least we won't feel so naked as before, because the armour in cat and bear equip will roughly be the same. And with crit immunity via talents and crushing blow practically gone, it's quite possible to off-tank in cat gear or even take over in a boss fight, when the main tank dies.

Another nice addition is the fact that Protector of the Pack won't scale with party members anymore, although I guess that it'll be nerfed a bit, otherwise the PvP factions will start to whine about the immortal bear.

Alas, done right this could be a very nice thing indeed.

One of my gripes now is that a lot of tank equip is centered on Strength, Defence, and Parry (apart from Stamina, obviously). Strength is not bad for aggro, but Agility would suit more uses. Def isn't totally wasted, but not essential anymore either. Parry is rubbish, unless there might be translation from Parry to Dodge, or Ferals finally learn to parry, like all those other animals.

Last but not least, I have to repeat Phil Jackson:
It would be really nice to know how items will be adjusted, because my bank is full already and there is simply no way to keep all the stuff that might become interesting some day.
It would really suck to have sold a "vendor item", just to find out that it was changed to the next Earthwarden in a patch.

To sum it up:
If done right, this could be a very nice change, but I still fear that some aspects of it might be screwed up, not to mention that there probably will be nerfs again, when the first PvP folk begin to complain.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the desire for more armor choices. It has always been the case that certain items were the very best for a slot in a certain tier, and it will always be so. And we will all work our little furry fannies off to get ahold of those items.

Sure, it's a boost to the extremely casual, kind of, as they can get any old leather drop and use it as tanking gear in theory, but I don't think that any of us are planning on spending all of our raiding time in naxx for the entire expansion, and if we are, well, what a disappointing state of affairs.

The attitude I'm seeing suggests that you guys don't think we'll be min/maxing in wrath. I think you're just whistling in the dark.

Kalon said...

Hey Karthis, thanks for stopping by. :)

Bears not being all cookie cutter is a good thing. Being able to gear more for avoidance or more for effective health without being tied to any given set of gear is also a really good thing. Both of those things are abilities granted to every other tanking class but the druid in Wrath. It'll be nice to have that again.

Hey Flyv - thank you as well. :) While I can see it as a homogenization of tanking classes, the 'niche' of bears having only one set of gear they could possibly want wasn't really a flavor I liked all that much. And all the gear isn't the same for us; we don't particularly want block value or block rating right now and we don't care that much about strength, either. The way armor and avoidance for bears were before, where agility was ridiculous and armor was everywhere, led to bad hacks like Sunwell Radiance. I think designing away from that is a good thing.

The parry->dodge conversion (which I speculated about) was apparently a typo; the item with parrydodge was fixed to have only dodge. Real shame, that.

Anyway, on unique items - they're trying to go away from unique items for everyone. That being said, at least for now feral staves are about as unique as you can get.

Hey Tomlins :) Yeah, I've written about it like a historian. I think a lot of that is that I've been dealing with this specific issue on the beta for the last two months, so it does seem like old hat. And if you think the old Badge was lame, you should really thank your lucky stars that its bigger brother won't be so necessary.

Hey Phil - thanks for commenting, and nice blog! In terms of gear, while I can't say whether there's going to be some other form of conversion stat, I can say that agility, stamina and expertise are going to be top on leather gear, and dodge, defense, expertise are going to be good on non-leather gear. The list I put out earlier should still be quite useful for a level 80 raider, and none of it will be bad. I'm frustrated too - no one likes planning their gear ahead of time more than I do - but that list should be good, if not perfectly optimal. What I would recommend doing is going for the quest/BoE items on that list and not busting your butt on any heroics until after the fix is in.

Jason - thanks for coming by. I don't think I'm deluding myself that there won't be best in slot items. That's how WoW works. This doesn't change that; what it changes is the relative penalty for not having best in slot items. Without this change you were looking at a potential 7000 armor difference between a bear who got one good drop in Naxx-25 and a heroic and a bear who didn't. That's two pieces of gear. The problem was simply there wasn't an upgrade path for these items, and when there's no upgrade path it causes a lot of problems for balancing.

This change means that you can pick up that ring without armor and use it for a while and not be significantly disadvantaged. Sure, it's not as good as the ring with armor is, but it's still good. Before you might as well not have bothered with the ring without armor because, well, you needed that armor from that ring so badly. The same goes for leather armor as well.

In BC, when wanting to gear for (for example) avoidance over effective health, you needed to basically have two sets of tier 6 gear - one gemmed for avoidance, one for stamina. But you were stuck with T6 gear because of the armor. Even if something had higher agility or dodge or anything it didn't matter if it didn't have the bonus armor on it. Now you can actually take the better piece on its own merits and for its own purpose. Having sidegrades available is a good thing. So is having multiple upgrades.

And Olvar - I'll get to your comment in a bit :)

amf said...

Is Zandalarian Hero Badge [] worthy at all?

Kalon said...

Hey amf, thanks for commenting. The answer is really 'no'. Let's actually make the trinket better and assume it's 2000 armor and 50 defense for 20 seconds, period, every 2 minutes. With that it means you're effectively getting 333 armor and 8 defense for the whole time. Except that value goes down every time you take a hit, reducing it even further.

Now it is nice in that it's a on use trinket instead of a random proc, so you can do it when you need to, but it's otherwise pretty poor, and when you compare it to the on-use ability of badge of tenacity it's got no hope at all. Good question though - I had totally forgotten about that one.

Olvar - thanks, and sorry for not replying sooner. :) I pretty much agree with everything you said. You should definitely check out Darkmoon Card:Greatness for a trinket with massive agility that should be great for a bear. And I think that having a 600% modifier on armor will honestly be too low; we got a lot more armor from non-leather items than that. Otherwise, great comment, and thank you for making it. :)

Olvar said...

Don't worry about the reply time. I see you spent it well on cat equip research.

600% armour increase was an estimate:
My bear in 4xT4, badge equip, Greatfury Wildstaff, Badge of Tenacity, Mark of Tyranny, Violet and Stalwart Protector, divided by humanoid in cat equip.
I won't complain about a better multiplier, but I guess we can agree that anything below factor 6 would be a nerf.

I still think that a buff to Think Hide would be a nice way to distinguish those willing to specialise in bear from out cat brothers.

As for Darkmoon Card: Greatness, very interesting indeed!

Thanks for all the analysis work you are doing. It's greatly appreciated.

Loorii said...

I think this is an excellent change, provided they come up with a new way to make the rogue gear we will likely be rolling on useful in mitigating damage(I think someone alluded to an AP==>AC type deal).

The range of items for tanking druids in bc heroics and entry level raids was rather horrific. I think the only gear I obtained for my feral druid up to SSC was the stranglestaff, while my warrior compatriot was getting multiple drops everywhere. Running through a ZA gearing one of our tanks the other night, he got a drop off all bar one of the bosses. As far as I know there is only a single item that could even be considered for tanking druid in the entire place.

Twill be interesting to discover what they plan to do to alter these issues.