Tuesday, April 29, 2008

[Offtopic] Vashj Down

In non-techie news, Fire and Blood downed Vashj in our first full night of attempts on her. The fight is a real test of communication, organization, healing and awareness, and it was great to see consistent improvement in every single attempt. Congratulations to all of those who were a part of the raid last night. Really great job, all.

My role in the fight was DPS and offtanking in case one of the other tanks got blown to hell or something. In P1 and P3 I pretty much went melee-only. In P2 I focused on bringing Naga elites to the center to be DPSed down and then went to beat them, as they were causing some issues by not being picked up early. I did get the benefit of one of the melee-heavy groups, and as a result my DPS went pretty insane for a while. Our raid doesn't have issues with DPS, especially melee DPS, so when we managed to get to P3 with all of our raid intact it was an easy kill.

But that's the trick, of course - getting to P3 without anyone dying. And it's a very big trick. Even with the good melee DPS we have, it was a challenge to kill the naga elites before the next one spawned. It was a challenge to kill the strider before another one would appear and start wreaking havoc. It was a challenge to keep all of these people healed through random lightning, tainted globs, strider beatings, cleaves, etc while attempting to pass a ball around. For a Druid - especially a feral - there are a lot of unique advantages and benefits to the fight. LotP heals a surprisingly large amount given that everyone is taking small amounts of damage from static charges, entangles and lightning. Entangles are easy to get out of with powershifting, which can be advantageous for tanking Vashj and making sure she does not have much time to multishot. The more battle rezzes, the better, as losing just one or two people can be a wipe in p2. Self-healing is good, huge HP as a feral is good (I used a hybrid set of my tanking/dps gear for survivability, which was good as I ate a cleave)

And of course, if you get caught away from Vashj in the slime, you can always moonfire her to death. :)

Congratulations to Fire and Blood!

Monday, April 28, 2008

[Druid] Rawr

I freely admit: I love Rawr. Absolutely love it.

If you've not played with Rawr and are a feral druid, moonkin, warlock, ret paladin or mage, download it now. It's the best optimizing tool I've yet to find. It is not the best optimizer out there; there are better spreadsheets that do a better job of modeling DPS output than Rawr does, especially on some of the newer models. But what it does, it is stellar at.

For starters, everything is usable with easy interaction and clicking. No web access is needed and it performs faster given that. It also does real-time optimization and evaluation, so that as you change gear you can see immediately what effects that gear has on your items. It incorporates effective health, it incorporates raid buffs that are permanent and temporary. And the optimizer that will find the best gear for you based on what is available to you is stellar.

For me, this was very useful because it showed me I could have more health and avoidance by going for the vindicator bracers instead of the vindicator leather boots, which was the original plan. My original plan was to get the badge bracers, the pvp boots, and gem/enchant for stamina. It turns out that it's better to get the badge boots and the pvp bracers and gem for defense; between the extra stam and armor from the boots and some of the socket bonuses, enchanting for def works out best. Not significantly - we're only talking maybe 300 health and 200 armor - but every bit counts, and it does mean I can actually think about getting the Treads of the Den Mother without destroying my kit.

It's a good thing I did this math early as well, as finally my staff dropped. It has much more stam and no defense, which meant juggling around a lot of things to get enough def/resilience to get uncrittable. Thanks to Rawr, it wasn't hard to figure out which I should do. While the itemization of a feral druid is...well, frustrating, this makes it a lot easier.

What's also interesting about Rawr is doing evaluations both unbuffed and with raid buffs. When you take into account raid buffing, agility becomes much better as your stamina goes further and further up. Shifting Nightseyes become almost as valuable as solid stars. When you start chain-chugging ironshield pots, the value of a lot of equipment changes drastically as well.

What Rawr points out quite quickly is how good the set bonus for Tier 4 is. The 2-piece isn't anything Rawr cares about for tanks (at least not yet), but the 4-piece bonus is a huge value by itself, one that quickly overwhelms almost any other bonus. That makes it a bit tougher to get rid of it, even though it becomes a lot more important to get rid of those pieces as upgrades become avaialable; you simply need the threat output.

That's the only real drawback at this point; there is no 'maximize for threat' option. Or even a consideration of how valuable threat is. I realize that this is totally subjective; how can you evaluate the quality of expertise relative to dodge? Okay, bad example. But it would be good to be able to evaluate how much threat one would do in a certain buildout and juggle as you go. Right now the brooch of deftness is one of the worst trinkets for tanking as judged by Rawr but this is clearly wrong; the hit/expertise helps threat immensely as well as avoiding more parry gibs. The lesson is simply that Rawr is a great tool but you must be aware of the limitations it has.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

[General] The effects of expertise on mitigation

As before, here's the summary: Expertise is the single best stat to stack to reduce the chance of spike damage.

Expertise is understood by most warriors to be their best threat stat. Druids get a lot of good use out of it too. Paladins...well, not as much, threat wise. Since only about 35% of a prot paladin's threat is generated from melee attacks (melee + SoR is basically it) and it doesn't affect taunting, it's not quite as useful as it is to druids or warriors. For druids, all of their attacks are affected by expertise, and expertise is twice as effective as hit rating for threat generation until you reach 24 expertise skill (or 96 expertise rating). It's one of the best if not the best stat to stack for threat.

For Paladins though, it is still pretty useful, and on a per-point basis expertise is almost as good as spelldamage for threat. But that's not the important thing.

For tanks the biggest issue is not how much damage they take per hit; tanking gear tends to normalize to the point where all types of tanks tend to take close to the same damage given the same boss and assuming the same or similar gear levels. What kills a tank is burst damage. In some fights that burst damage can be avoided or otherwise anticipated so that no other damage is taken at the same time; an example would be Magtheridon, where he brings the ceiling down. The raid can stop DPS until after a blast nova, then get him to 30%, cause a lot of raid damage and then resume as normal. In other situations certain bosses will be reduced more by certain classes; Morogrim and Gruul do mostly physical damage, so a druid's high armor comes into play more as a reduction (as an example). Or Prince and a Paladin, where holy shield all but guarantees every attack will be blocked and reduced more. That's one way to reduce spiky damage - make sure that the damage you take is as low as possible.

The other is to reduce the chance of having that spiky damage occur at all. This means we need to understand where spikes come from. One big source is from being parried by a mob. When a parry occurs the mob that parried partially resets their swing timer so that the next attack comes in faster. How much the swing timer is reset or reduced depends on when the parry occurred relative to the swing timer, but in general it's a 40% reduction to the next attack's speed. When this happens, especially in succession, you'll start seeing a lot more spikes of damage - and when this is combined with a boss's special attacks it can quickly lead to too much damage for a healer to overcome. For many fights you can get a parried attack which can lead to two normal melee hits + a special in the space of 2 seconds, and depending on the boss that can be quite a large amount of damage, somewhere on the order of 15-18k. And bosses on average have a 15% parry chance, so this can happen with some frequency. These attacks do enough damage that it's not enough to block them - avoiding them in some way is the only way to reduce that spike. For our purposes, we'll define a spike as being hit by a normal attack, being parried, and then being hit by a normal attack again.

Every 1 point of expertise skill (or 4 points of expertise rating) reduces the chance that you will be parried by .25%. So it takes 4 points of skill or 16 expertise rating to reduce parry chances by 1%. It also takes 19 points of dodge rating to give 1% dodge, which is the best avoidance stat you can stack. So, what are the chances that you will be hit by a normal attack, get parried, and then get hit with another normal attack? The normal attack chance is simply (1-avoidance). The parry chance starts at 15%. Therefore, the chance that you will be parry gibbed is:

(1-avoidance)*(parry chance)*(1-avoidance).

The typical avoidance level for T4-T5 bears and paladins is about 40%. With no expertise at all, you have a 5.4% chance of a parry gib occurring. With each 1% avoidance you reduce that chance by .18%. With each 1% of expertise, however, you reduce that chance by .36%. Thus, expertise is nearly double as valuable as avoidance in stopping a spike from occurring. This pattern holds true for all levels of expertise vs. avoidance:


Admittedly, another great way to deal with spike damage or the chance that you'll take it is to stack health and mitigation so that the spike damage can be more easily dealt with. That is the concept that effective health is built around, and it's always better to maximize your effective health instead of sacrificing it for the purposes of something like threat. That all being said - expertise is the best option for reducing the chances of some types of burst damage killing a tank.

Monday, April 21, 2008

[Paladin] The myth of improved judgment

I've written on this in several places on the net (most notably in EJ and Maintankadin, so it's going to be something of a rehash of previous ideas. If you've already done that reading, the one thing to take from this is simple: Improved Judgment is not as good a threat talent as precision, 1hws or reckoning.

Now, on to the long-winded explanations!

Improved Judgement (2 ranks) reduces the cooldown of Judgement by 1 second per talent point, up to 2 points. The normal cooldown is 10 seconds, so you can reduce this to an 8 second cooldown. For a protection paladin, this means that you should be able to do 25% more Judgement of righteousness, and that's a big deal; Judgement of righteousness is approximately 15% of your total threat. So it's great, it's 25%*15% = 3.75% more overall threat, and it's a great value per point, right?

The problem is that this doesn't take into account the tanking rotation. If you're tanking a main boss, you must keep holy shield up at all costs. Every 10 seconds it must be recast. It is the highest priority to cast. The next highest priority is consecrate; consecrate is the best source of threat and the best scaling threat a paladin has. What these things end up doing is creating an infinite cycle that most prot paladins call the standard ten-second cycle:

Cast Holy Shield
Cast Consecrate
Seal of Righteousness (these last two steps are done together)

Because Judgement is on a 10-second cooldown and you can reseal immediately, there's never a conflict in times. Sure, consecrate comes up when holy shield does, but that's unavoidable. You never have an unsealed melee swing, you never have to worry about casting holy shield or casting Judgement . You even have another 5 seconds and another 3 GCDs to do something else, like exorcism or avenger's shield.

However, with an 8-second cooldown on Judgement , that all changes. Judgement can never directly conflict with holy shield - Judgement doesn't take a GCD. But resealing does, and that's what conflicts. At that point, you have one of two choices: judge whenever you can and reseal at the next best opportunity or wait to judge and lose the benefits of Improved Judgement . Based on that, here is a 40-second cycle keeping in mind these issues that is optimal for the situation (taken from Lore)

0.0 HS
0.0 Judge
1.5 Consecration
3.0 SoR <- lost 3 seconds of SoR
8.0 Judge
10.0 HS
11.5 Consecration
16.0 Judge
16.0 SoR
20.0 HS
21.5 Consecration
24.0 Judge
24.0 SoR
30.0 HS
31.5 Consecration
32.0 Judge
33.0 SoR <- lost 1 second of SoR
40.0 HS
40.0 Judge <- back to where we started

Based on this, we lose out on 4 seconds of sealed swings in a 40 second period. That doesn't account for lag either and it requires perfect timing and reflexes as well as odd things like a holy shield/Judgement macro. This is the absolute best case scenario. Let's assume some more things, like 100 damage per SoR hit, and 400 damage per Judgement . This is the value, roughly, when you're around 200 spelldamage. It scales upwards, but SoR scales more with spelldamage than JoR does over an 8 or 10 second period. At that level of damage, and with a standard 1.8 speed tanking weapon, we're looking at 55 DPS for SoR - or those 4 seconds are equivalent to about 210 Damage.

That means that in a 40 second cycle, you're gaining about 190 total holy damage. Even with improved righteous fury this is a net gain of only 9 TPS - which at the above spelldamage levels is about 1.8% more total threat. And again, this is the best case situation, with the perfect cycle and with odd things like judging when you cast holy shield and no lag. When you factor in lag, it becomes worse. When you factor in that spell hit (which isn't particularly good for paladins) controls JoR but hit and expertise controls SoR, it becomes worse. And none of that factors in the very complicated cycle to maximize the effectiveness here; if you find that you missed a judgment when you could've judged, you've basically wasted that extra threat.

1 point in Improved Judgement makes this much better by comparison; you don't conflict much at all (once every 80 seconds) but you can still judge more often. Still, it results in a complicated threat cycle that must be optimized. I may talk about the 1-point cycle in the future if there's interest.

At this point I should mention that Improved Judgement has its uses. It is stellar when for whatever reason you do not need to optimize for having holy shield up at all costs or cannot consecrate. (an example of not having holy shield up against a boss might be something like Illidan, where you only need holy shield up on shears and know exactly when those will happen) If you need to judge against multiple mobs separately, it's great there too. But this is more of a utility argument than anything else; it is not as good as reckoning or precision for threat.

What should you take instead? Well, Reckoning is roughly equivalent to 1% more threat per point against single target bosses over time, has the advantage of triggering other procs, and requires no messy cycles. It also helps more for grinding and triggers often. The disadvantage of reckoning is the parry gib, but this turns out to be not so special for paladins compared to warriors thanks to the mechanics of paladins and the advantages of holy shield over shield block. Precision, if it's not maxed out, is also better; it ends up being close to 1% extra threat (consecrate is not affected much by spell hit) and has an advantage of increasing your chances of taunting. 1hws is simply an increase to all threat by 1%. My recommendation in general would be to take all of them if you can. 3 points in precision, 5 in 1hws, and 2 in reckoning. 2 points in reckoning will keep it up most of the time against trash while keeping it up a reasonable amount of time against bosses, especially ones that hit with dots.

And clearly, a lot of this is up to personal preference. Reckoning and Improved Judgement and precision and 1hws are all very close to each other in value, and none of them will make or break you as a paladin tank. But the notion that improved judgment is ideal and far better than any other threat talent a prot paladin has is...a myth.

Next up: the effects of expertise on mitigation and avoiding parry gib.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


This is mostly a test post to see what the formatting looks like. If you're here for some reason, cool beans - but there's nothing to see right now. Come back in a bit.

Making sure that wowhead works.