Tuesday, December 28, 2010

[Druid] General comments on GC's recent post

Wanted to handle this separately, since it was a Big Deal over the holidays.

Ghostcrawler recently had a very big update on PvE and PvP balance, and actually mentioned ferals a couple times! I know, I was as shocked as you were. The whole thing is over at MMO-Champ, but the important relevant bits of ferals I've copied.

We’ll make a pass to make stats that aren’t attractive (but are supposed to be) more attractive. For example, we don’t want Assassination rogues to dismiss crit or Feral tanks to dismiss haste. We are considering making some physical attacks such as Lacerate, Steady Shot, and Slam scale with haste.

Okay, that doesn't sound THAT bad. Ferals shouldn't dismiss haste like they do now for the junk stat that it is, and improving lacerate and making it scale with haste sounds good, right?

Kinda. See, right now lacerate is the filler attack for bears. It's what bears do when Mangle's on CD and they have rage, or it's what they do to get Pulverize back up while waiting for berserk procs. This works not because lacerate has an awesome bleed, but because lacerate's threat and damage got boosted on the front. It used to be that the actual lacerate attack was pretty insignificant but the lacerate bleed was awesome; they changed that.

Why did they change that? Well, mostly because (I think) they didn't want bears to be doing thrash and swipe as their 'filler' attacks and only use lacerate for the bleed. They also wanted Pulverize to be less of a threat-negative situation.

Right now, haste could make lacerate dots tick twice as often per % and it still wouldn't be worth it. The bleeds just don't do enough damage or threat and the uptime of lacerate is low enough that it's not worth it anyway. Haste could only really improve how often the lacerate dot ticks; it's not like haste can make us gain more lacerate attacks. Thus, the only real way to make haste work better for ferals is to make the actual dot do more damage.

Which would put bears back in the 'backloaded, slow threat' mode that they were. Except...well, bear threat is almost entirely defined by maul and mangle. Pulverize is done almost entirely to make maul and mangle hit harder. Lacerate should be up on the target to make mauls hit harder. So even if lacerate is boosted, it's still a very small portion of overall threat.

As an example of this, let's say for argument's sake that the lacerate bleed component was a whopping 20% of overall threat for a bear. It isn't that - not even close. And it's not been that, either. 1% haste - 128 haste rating - would improve that bear's threat by .2%. If melee attacks are another 20% of overall damage that makes haste give a whopping .4% threat per 1% haste.

Not that thrilling, I know. And because lacerate bleed crits don't proc savage defense any more, you have the fun times of only improving your savage defense via the white attacks.

So...how do you make haste more attractive to bears? Here's a few ideas I had.

1. Make haste also improve avoidance directly. Have a deep feral talent that allows haste to give avoidance at 50% of dodge rating. Intuitive, easy, no real math. If that's too much, make it at 25% or something.

2. Make lacerate ticks crit at an absurd rate and be able to proc Savage Defense. Then improve them via haste. You'd need to get like an 80% crit rate on lacerate dots to make this matter, but it could really help.

3. Make white attacks have a chance to proc savage defense or some other defensive ability.

4. Nerf maul and mangle and make lacerate better.

5. Make pulverize not consume the lacerate stack. This alone would improve the threat of the bleed greatly.

6. Revamp bears to make rage matter for for survival and less for threat.

Of these, I really want 6 to be the case but it won't happen. The main reason that bears don't care about haste is that they don't care about rage, and they don't care about rage because threat isn't ever as important as survival. I don't think that threat is going to be nerfed hugely (though it might be), so it really comes down to making rage actually matter for a bear. What if a bear had to keep x amount of rage to keep their mitigation higher, by improving their armor? Or a bear took 1% less damage for every 10 rage they had stored? Or if barkskin, survival instincts and even savage defense required rage to use? Then we'd care about haste quite a bit.

But bears aren't rage capped. They're GCD capped. And rage only helps with threat. So...we just don't care.

Onto cats: the other statement in the big post was about druids in general (especially for pvp):
Even after we fixed their mastery, Feral druid bleeds still do a lot of damage and are undispellable. We plan to shift some of that damage back to main attacks. They are also a little too hard to control. Given that they are already hard to root, snare, or polymorph, we think the fear immunity from Berserk is too much.

So the fear immunity from berserk is gone. Oh well. Not hugely missed but it was very nice on a few boss fights, especially as a cat. As to shifting some of the damage from bleeds to main attacks - GOOD. 50-60% of damage coming from bleeds meant ferals were really funky on some fights. When they could establish a bleed rotation or at least establish rake and rip and they could tick for a good long time, ferals could rule. If a feral could get bleeds going on multiple targets at once, they could be good. But on fights where there was a lot of down time or rampup time, ferals kinda sucked. They took a while to get rip up, and often rip wouldn't tick for the duration anyway or couldn't be refreshed properly. Target switching was really lame. Haste, hit, and expertise all were ignored for bleeds since none helped bleeds do more damage once they were applied. It was just a bad move.

Really, I want haste to be better for cats. There are two ways to make that happen - either make bleeds scale with haste like they were going to originally or make bleeds do less overall damage and make white and yellow attacks do more. Note that ferals don't have a lot of yellow attacks to do; shred and mangle are basically it, and you don't want to mangle more than every 30 seconds (if you have t11) anyway. Still, haste making things faster and making more OoC procs, more white damage and more shred damage would be a good thing. It really doesn't have to be much to swing it that way either; simply make bleeds do about 10% less damage and make shreds and white attacks do about 10% more.

[Bear] Some early bear thoughts

A couple posters asked me to go back to writing some things about bears.

Well, they're fuzzy. And shouldn't be petted.

K. Happy holidays!

Oh, fine. Real things to consider. Let's start with some basics:

1. Interrupts and taunts cannot miss. Note that the interrupt attack (like skull bash) can miss, but the actual interrupt effect will never miss. This has been confirmed by repeat experimentation a ridiculous amount of times. This means that other than threat (and savage defense procs), there is no reason to gear for hit as a tank.

2. Parry haste does not exist for anyone. For players, for mobs, anyone. That isn't to say that mobs can't parry - or that they don't quite a lot - but it does mean that using expertise to get less of a chance of gibbage is a bit silly. Thus, other than threat (and savage defense procs) there is no reason to gear for expertise as a tank.

3. Haste improves the speed of autoattacks for bears. This improves rage generation slightly, but only slightly. It can slightly increase the number of SD procs you get, but only barely. In theory it will let you maul more, but not a whole lot more; mauls are usually a function of damage intake, not white attacks. Thus, other than threat (and savage defense procs) there is no reason to gear for haste as a tank.

4. While vengeance improves savage defense, it does have a fairly high ceiling. For most bears this means that they are not vengeance-capped (where vengeance is equivalent to 10% of their health). Which means adding more health does not improve mitigation; just because you have more health doesn't mean you'll be hitting for more via vengeance. This will vary between tank to tank and encounter to encounter; I expect that as you get into heroic raids you'll start pushing the limit of vengeance stacking and it'll improve again. But for the most part, stamina doesn't help mitigation (stopping damage intake), it only improves survival.

5. Most of the time stamina isn't helping survival all that much. We are at the point where effective health is not nearly as relevant as taking less damage and being smart with mechanics. Tank healing is pretty simple as long as the tank doesn't screw up a mechanic. Tank survivability is quite high; I've been able to survive for 20 seconds without external healing - and that's with a mishmash of tanking and dps gear. There aren't that many fights where the tank is going to be taking a ton of damage, at least not on normal modes; Heroic Nef hits for about 70-80k on a tank in normal 25-man, and he's by far the worst offender. What this means is that stamina past a certain point is just not that great. Gone are the days where bears got way more multipliers for their stamina, and gone are the days where a stamina gem gives 1.5 times the benefit it does to other tanks. Stamina is not the be-all, end all of a bear's use.

What all of this means is the following:

1. For heroics, don't bother stacking stamina unless your gear level is very low (like, just barely able to go into a random). Stack agility and reforge the highest value to dodge.

2. Understand the fight and be able to redo gear cheaply. Flasks for agility are good (especially since the stam flask isn't as good as it should be). Swapping cheap enchants is another idea. Use justice points to buy second sets of gear and redo them for stam and agility.

3. Threat is largely unimportant right now. If you're really concerned about it chances are you're doing something wrong; on a single target fight it is very, very hard for dps to touch you past 10 seconds.

4. There's no reason to worry about misses on important stuff.

The end result of all of this is that agility is Very Good. Mastery is Good. Crit rating is Good. Stamina is Good (to a point). Dodge (which gives about 50% more dodge% than agility does) is Good.

Hit, Expertise, haste, strength, AP? All meh.

Which, interestingly enough, is very similar to what the priorities are for cats. Other than dodge, that is.

And armor. Oh yeah, armor! If you are going to go stacking effective health despite what others are saying, keep in mind that armor improves both survival and mitigation. Also keep in mind that the best heroic armor trinket - Heart of Thunder - has worse armor than the worst old trinket you can buy - good old Glyph. If you can get your hands on a Petrified Twilight Scale it's well worth it.

Some other fun tricks:

1. Entangling roots is awesome. You're the only tank out there that has not only one CC but two. Both are situational and not perfect, but both are great and are good in a pinch. Know how to utilize them in various dungeons. Get used to them.

2. Remember that you can shift out of snares. There are a TON of snares in dungeons now - Ozrek's paralyze is a good example. Instead of waiting for the damage to free you, why not free yourself?

3. Get used to Line of Sight. You don't have an easy silence but you do have a ton of LoS abilities. This helps a ton with caster pulls. Otherwise casters should almost always be CCed; you can take a lot of physical punishment but don't have the control of caster that other tanks do.

4. Remember that skull bash is a short charge, too.

Friday, December 17, 2010

[Cat] Optional talents (that aren't optional) for cats

While Cataclysm's kept me tons of busy, it's been a fun busy. I love the new heroics and their difficulty level and requirements for encounter awareness and ability use. I love the look of most of them as well. The fights are interesting and fairly hard, and most importantly hugely unforgiving. Trash is hard and needs to be respected. Kill orders need to be followed. CC should be used, even creatively at times.

And normal modes of raiding have gone back to being very interesting in design and scope. Halfus, Maloriak, Theralon and Valiona, Omnitron, Magmaw - all have multiple phases and roles and a lot of movement and raid awareness. They really reward a good druid who can utilize all of their abilities and knows what to do and when to do it. I was very ready to bash Cataclysm's design and the 'coolness' of heroic modes compared to Ulduar, but so far the encounters are really great.

Part of the design for Cataclysm was to give everyone a chance to pick talents that were 'fun' or 'interesting' but didn't specifically boost DPS, because any DPS class that picked a non-DPS talent was obviously wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. In any given build for a class/spec, this means (in theory) that you have 5 or so talent points kicking around that can be used for a preferential talent or two but you don't really 'need' in order to play well.

And today, I'm going to put that to the dirty, horrible lie that it is.

The basic cat build is something like this: the 0/31/6 build with 4 points remaining. Even with that you have some options that people are going to argue about - do you take Feral Aggression, Predatory Strikes, Stampede or Infected Wounds? You have to spend at least 5 points in some of those. Later on, do you take Brutal Impact, Nurturing Instinct, Survival Instincts or Primal Madness? Of all of those, you have to spend at least 8 points in there. And that's not even counting herobear/bearcat mixed specs that use something like Thick Hide or Natural Reaction! So you've got a monumental 12 points to play around with.

So even if we wanted to skip some of these talents we can't. Here's the dirty secret: many really aren't optional. Here's the list of talents that every raiding and heroic-queueing cat must have, and why:

Must haves:

1. Nurturing Instinct. Healing is very, very hard, and anything that makes it easier to heal you is good. However, that's not what makes this talent must-have. What makes this absolutely needed is the huge boost it gives to Tranquility. While it's on a very long cooldown Tranquility is something every druid should be using or ready to use in many situations in raiding, and being able to get a lot of healing out of it is important. It'll never be as good as a Balance druid's version, but it still is much better. Think of it as the new version of innervate; instead of giving mana back to a healer, it's giving mana back to a healer in the form of smart heals that heal for a ton.

2. Brutal Impact. The argument against Brutal Impact was that so many other classes have good interrupts that it's really not necessary. Okay, that's true in 25 man to a point - though there are enough 'random stack on this add' that that isn't quite as true, and it does add a small but significant charge effect.

But what about 10-man? In a 10-man you're probably one of 2 or maybe three melee. The chances of any of them having a good interrupt is fairly low. Chances are you'll have to have an interrupting team - and Skull Bash is just as good for it as anything out there.

Where it really shines is in 5-mans. While there aren't that many bosses that have 'must have' interrupts in 5 mans, there are a few. More importantly almost every single trash pack has interruptable abilities that do a ton of damage or cause chaos. If you can interrupt those, the runs go much more smoothly. Help your healers and tank out and go interrupt stuff. Learn how to do it now - because you will be asked to do it later.

3. Survival Instincts. This one is pretty easy to understand: every 5 minutes it's very, very hard to kill you. Again, another mana-saver for healers, a life-saver for you, and a very easy way to prevent damage by going bear, popping this and Frenzied regen. Get used to using it regularly in boss fights, particularly in heroics. It also helps go herobear and use this too. Raid strategies will be based around being able to use personal cooldowns to survive big attacks - and honestly Barkskin just doesn't cut it sometimes.

Most everyone expects you have this, and you do have it right?

1. Feral Aggression. This was almost must-have. The primary reason isn't the boost to Ferocious Bite (though that is a small DPS increase at 25% and less), it's the applying sunders instantaneously, 3 at a time, for 5 minutes. This is far better than the warrior or the rogue version. The rogue version takes energy, the warrior version takes rage and a GCD. Faerie Fire gets applied at range (usually before the fight starts), cats aren't GCD bound and usually can pool energy without any DPS issues and having all three sunders up early is a great boost. If you don't have this you're going to take up 3 GCDs and 12 seconds to put up all the FF stacks. While the GCDs don't hurt, this means you're going to be doing a decent amount less damage in those 12 seconds. What's worse is that all your friends are too. It isn't a requirement, but given that it boosts personal DPS and raid DPS and is the best way to put up sunders you should have it - just like you forced those warriors to sunder so the rogues didn't have to, you should too.

The rest are pretty much your choice. Note that if you take these talents you basically have 5 points to split amongst the rest of the optional ones - one of which must go into a tier five talent or less.

Some of you might be asking why Primal Madness is considered optional. The reason is that it's a very situational, small DPS increase. For two talent points you get 20 more energy, which by itself is half as good as Tiger's Fury. That's not great but is okay. The problem is that when the buff fades, you lose up to 20 energy right away. It's very rare that you can end at 0 energy just as the debuff goes off, so most of the time it'll be at best a very small DPS gain. You can in theory micromanage it so that you cancel the debuff just as you use the ability that causes you to lose the energy (for example, macroing shred to cancel the Primal Madness debuff) but even then you're likely to lose 4-5 energy simply from latency. It's just not that great.

So the reality is that you basically have 5 talent points to spend as you see fit outside of the above, and at least one needs to be in a tier-5 talent. This is one reason that it's hard to do the bearcat build - you have to skip out on at least one of those talents, and chances are it's either Nurturing Instinct (which is incredible) or Brutal Impact (which is mandatory for 5-mans). Or you gimp your bear slightly, not taking Infected Wounds or Pulverize. It's a hard choice, and ultimately one I can't advocate - even though there have been a ton of times I've had to go herobear and tank something for a while.

That being said - bear gear and cat gear have never, ever been closer. And if you want to be a herobear, all you really need is Thick Hide.

Monday, December 13, 2010

[Cat] Cataclysm heroic drops by slot and by dungeon

This is a quick and dirty list of all the drops that come from the heroic dungeons. I did this mostly for me to be able to see where I should queue if I have a choice of doing only one or two dungeons a day. Note that there's almost no difference between pieces on this list and other pieces at the same ilvl, so don't worry too much about getting the best piece.

The list used.

Cloak of Thredd - Deadmines
Kaleki Cloak - Lost City

While there are a lot of options here, there are almost as many options outside of dungeons. There's the Revered Earthen Ring cloak and a cheap LW pattern cloak that are just as good, and one that's even better from Valor points. So don't run things just for this - it's a nice thing if it drops.

Hieroglyphic Vest - Halls of Origination

Another embarassment of riches here. The justice piece is also good, there's a great LW crafted piece and an even better T11 piece. There's even a reasonably competitive 333 piece from honored Hyjal. So don't bother running dungeons for just this slot.

Crafty's Gaiters - Lost City
VanCleef's Boots - Deadmines

These have much fewer rivals. There's only one vendor piece, and it's a valor cost. The next best thing is off of a long quest chain for Halls of Origination - and it's normal. This is a good one to go for if you want to go for something.

Nautilus Ring - Throne of Tides
Ring of Dun Alguz - Grim Batol

Rings are always in short supply early on. While there's a good ring for exalted with Earthen Ring that's only one thing - and as you'll see you'll want to get exalted with Dragonmaw first. One of the best rings is a JC recipe, but those are going to be hard to get early on since they cost 4 chimera's eyes to make and 5 to acquire. A better choice is Therazane's revered ring, which you'll be going for rep-wise anyway (unless you're a scribe). So do try to get one of these and get the Therazane rep ring, with the aim to go for Earthen Ring later.

Gloves of Haze - Vortex Pinnacle

Ouch. The best comes from Dragonmaw Exalted rep, but that might take a while. The next best is a justice point drop. Vortex Pinnacle doesn't have much, and I'd really aim for getting exalted with Dragonmaw - but if you're unlucky the JP purchase might be the best way to go. Hopefully you get lucky :)


Double ouch. The other option is a justice point drop. Well, or a trash drop from a raid, but chances are you won't be getting that any time soon. Stonecore is a good instance to run for this and for the weapon, so try to get this early. Otherwise it should be one of your earliest justice point purchases as it won't be wasted any time soon.


Another low-drop slot with even less competition than the head - the only other piece is the justice point legs. Note that there are a lot of good 333-level quest rewards for legs and helm, so this might not be as huge an upgrade for you as other slots (notably the hands) - but this will not be wasted. Also BRC doesn't have that much to offer, making this even better.


Not many dungeon drops, but all sorts of weird options abound. There are world drops that are super expensive but awesome, JC recipes (which are also expensive), a Guardians of Hyjal Revered purchase, a justice point purchase and another random BoE. While GoH doesn't have much going for it to get to revered, you might already be close to it if you did Hyjal - so consider doing that. Otherwise go to Stonecore.


Forgot this category in the prior list...oops. So this makes BRC and SFK even tastier. The options you have are an inscription crafted item or the eventual valor purchase. This isn't a crucial slot, so I'd recommend just trying to get it as it comes in one of the two above dungeons.


Another set of short options. The justice point vendor is good for this if you don't get lucky, and there's almost nothing else. This might be a good thing to buy early since chances are you won't have a good set of shoulders from questing, though a decent entry level piece comes from a quest out of Lost City.

Skardyn's Grace - Grim Batol
Tia's Grace - Lost City

The first two are certainly awesome. I'll go more into trinkets when we move into raids, but there's good reason to first go for the quest in Uldum and then go for BRC or Grim Batol.

Darkling Staff - Stonecore
Seliza's Staff - Lost City

Ah, the real reason to do Stonecore - just like you did Violet Hold last expansion. There is a BoE that drops from a world boss, but it's likely that you won't be killing him any time soon. There's also a revered weapon from the Tol Barad dailies, but that will take a while to get just because of the daily limits. Finally, there's an absurdly expensive weapon from blacksmithing, but don't bother unless you really are loaded and want something now now now.

Red Beam Cord - HoO

Yeah, not a lot of drops. HoO is good because of the sheer amount of bosses in it (and thus JP). But there are a lot of options for belts. There's the epic LW belt which will compete until you get to heroic raids. There's a JP belt as well. I'd personally go for the revered Ramkahen belt, since you want revered with Ramkahen to get your head enchant for cats anyway. Finally, there is a BoE belt from random guys in Uldum, but chances of this being around are rare.


This slot has almost no options. One of the 'best' is the PvP bracers from LW. Another is the normal version of Halls of Origination, but that's painful to do just for this (even if it drops from the first boss). So running SFK and HoO should be something of a priority until these drop.

In terms of dungeons, here's how I'd rank the priority of doing them.

Blackrock Caverns:

Legs with no other drop competition, a weapon, a trinket and a ring? Awesome. Number one for me. Heck, it even drops the best relic!

A weapon, a neck, a helm without a drop replacement and a trinket make this a really high choice for me.

Lost City:
Kaleki Cloak - Lost City
Crafty's Gaiters - Lost City
Seliza's Staff - Lost City
Tia's Grace - Lost City

Boots, a decent trinket and a weapon are good reasons to do this one. This gets the nod over HoO simply because of the importance of getting a weapon.

Halls of Origination:
Hieroglyphic Vest - Halls of Origination

So much stuff! There's nothing insane here, but there's a ring, bracers, an okay trinket, and a belt if you don't get the rep one.


Boots and bracers are both hard to come by replacements. The shoulders aren't bad either. Not amazingly great, but definitely good. The relic doesn't hurt matters either.

Cloak of Thredd - Deadmines
VanCleef's Boots - Deadmines

While cloaks and chests are easy to come by, boots are not. Plus this is a fun, fun dungeon. Still, it does take a while and is a beast to pug.

Grim Batol:
Ring of Dun Alguz - Grim Batol
Skardyn's Grace - Grim Batol

The trinket is the only super awesome piece here.

Throne of the Tides:
Nautilus Ring - Throne of Tides

I wanted to be excited about this because it's a great instance, but honestly? Skip it. It takes a while and there just isn't that much stuff there.

Vortex Pinnacle:
Gloves of Haze - Vortex Pinnacle

While gloves are hard to get a replacement for, that there's only one drop at all is bothersome. It's a somewhat fast dungeon but not very pug-friendly.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

[Druid, general] Yeah, I heard there wuz a Cataclysm

No excuses; I've just had too much stuff going on recently. But I'm around. Fortunately, awesome bloggers galore are out there.

For starters, on cat DPS: don't use the built-in weights of wowhead for cat DPS. They overvalue mastery and undervalue agility and weapon DPS significantly. Instead, use the great results that were generated by Mew and provided by Alaron at Fluid Druid. The only thing I've done is save the filter that he used in a link - he did all the heavy lifting, and even did a gear list for cats that is mostly complete.

For your bear needs, I point you to the inconspicuous bear, who really rocks. Hasn't done a gear list yet, but a lot of it looks much like you'd expect it to - stuff with sockets and stamina for leather, stuff with lots of stamina and dodge on jewelry (though the jewelry looks competitive from both dps and tank side). A quick and dirty bear weighing can be found in the Elitist Jerks bear thread for both pre-heroics and post-heroics. As pointed out by Alaron, the important thing isn't to quibble about how close things are to each other, it's to get something in the same tier of good gear - and towards post-heroics there really aren't that many choices.

I've updated the sidebar with the quick wowhead links too.

Why dodge and not mastery? With mastery getting nerfed after 4.01, dodge rates already fairly low, crit rates WAY lower and overall things hitting you for metric butt-tons of damage, mastery doesn't work quite as well. When you can regularly absorb every non-dodged attack by 8-10k, it's great. When it works about 1/3rd the time, absorbs only 8k out of 80k, and isn't reliable? Compared to dodge, it's crap.

On leveling: well, chances are you're already 85, exalted with everyone and raiding. If you haven't started yet, I would recommend (as a druid) doing Vash'jir. It's not nearly as populated and seal form gives huge, huge benefits to a druid in the zone. However, as soon as you hit 82 get to Deepholm and do as much Therazane (specifically, this questline which opens from this one) as you can. Then get 83, do Uldum, then once you're 84 do Twilight Highlands. Don't bother completing each zone at this time; the leveling gulf is brutal, and it's much more efficient to quest in the harder places.

One of the things I'm going to work on is a set of gear that you might miss if you don't do all the quests and where to go for those. That's mostly because I like that sort of thing. If you'd like to see something else, please ask.