Tuesday, November 1, 2011

[Druid]Pandarian Talents, cat bugs, and legendaries

So hey - I have another child. That seems a lot more pertinent than anything else I could post. He's more than a month old and is one of the easiest babies ever. Welcome to the internet, Joshua. It's a scary place, but at least there are lots of boobs everywhere you could look.

State of the current game: more broken crap

On cat bugs: I haven't seen this reported nearly enough, so I'm doing my part. Reesi of Inconspicuous Bear found a wonderful bug where bleed buff effects other than Mangle do not actually boost shred damage. This is especially important if you have a rogue putting up hemo, as hemo overwrites mangle. Note that trauma does work, but tendon rip (hunter) does not. As of this posting they have not addressed or fixed this. So cats - if you've found your damage dropping suddenly when a rogue switches specs for some reason, now you know why. The 'solution' if you want to call it that is to yell at your rogues or, more likely, put up mangle manually every time it drops. And yes, that messes up all sorts of things like Ovale.

Mists of Pandaria: fare thee well, Antitank

On MoP: I was not particularly impressed. Mostly because I think Blizzard didn't do a very good job selling it to the raiders. Lissanna loves that we don't know who the end boss is, but this also means there's not a lot of excitement about who the next boss is. This is the first patch announcement ever (expansion or patch) that does not focus on the raid as the primary thing to deal with. So if you're a raider there wasn't a lot of info for you as far as things go.

I will miss the bearcat ability. I will especially miss that ferals are no longer both bear and cat in word or deed. This was a feral's identity for their entire lives, and it is no longer the case. It can be incredibly frustrating as a tank to be balanced around cat abilities (and vice versa) and it caused all sorts of pain in pvp. Rationally I understand the change and realistically it will not make a lot of difference, but emotionally it makes me a bit sad. Goodbye, antitank.

I do not like the talent tree removal. I am happy with the new talent tree system to a point, but I like in games when they have a clear differentiation between people who know how to play and people who do not. When all you do to differentiate yourself from the countless other class/spec combo is pick 6 choices that don't mean a lot, it's not really that great. Furthermore, choice with consequence is a Fun Thing in gaming. That's ultimately what a lot of gaming is all about - making choices and then seeing if they work or fail. And they're removing that.

Monks: what druids have always wanted to be, sorta

Drunken tanks that look like bears but have cool animations? Melee DPS with lots of movement and no autoattack? Healers that get into melee and have good defense? Wow, that sounds great!

For druids, here's something that's going to be interesting: I will bet you a shiny nickel that there will be at least one legendary that will be usable for ferals this expansion. Why? Because I believe they will make sure monks get a legendary, healers already recently got one, they've already done the two paired weapon idea and a legendary agility staff makes a lot of sense as far as a Mighty Quest. I could be wrong; they could go for a legendary awesome sword or something. But for monks their iconic weapon is a staff; I think we'll see a legendary for them that also happens to be usable by ferals.

The meat - the new talent tree and how to make it right

But I don't want to dwell too much on this; what I want to talk about is the new talent trees and how they can work for hybrids. Multiple druid authors have talked about how the talent trees presented for druids do not offer particularly interesting choices for most specs, and that is ultimately a weakness of this model and hybrid specs. It's easy to offer choices for rogues when all three trees are DPS, but how do you offer choices that matter for a class that can tank, DPS and heal?

We've seen some similar options for things like Guardian of Ancient Kings. That's a model for one of the three cooldowns on a given tree, but it's going to feel a bit annoying if that's what it's always like except for four modes. Still, it's a starting point. Keep that in mind.

Here are some rules as to what not to do:
  1. Do not force a form. Anything that requires or puts you into a specific form is immediately unusable for a bear (unless it puts you in bear form). It's also unfun for most everyone else; why does a moonkin want to get stuck in cat randomly? These things hearken back to the days where warriors could only do certain essential things in certain stances. It was something they thankfully removed and should not do here. This sadly removes two of the three movement related abilities in the first tier right off the bat. The good news is that those abilities would be totally fine if they simply removed the 'in cat' part and this would make a good tier for druids. This is probably the biggest 'loss' throughout the tree; multiple tiers focus on 'cannot be cast in x' or 'when in y'. Don't do that!
  2. Do not focus too heavily on one spec. Tier two (an instant healing spell and a special healing spell) both do that here. Cenarion Ward should be part of the resto kit, not a talent that anyone can take; why would a cat or moonkin take this most of the time when they could instantly heal themselves 30%?
  3. Have a PvP 'tier' but make something useful for PvE. This is not a choice if there's only one thing remotely valuable for PVE. I'd be actually fine with an entire tier having nothing but PvP value talents - but do that!
  4. Shapeshifter: sorry, but shapeshifting as the 'thing to do' for druids is no longer a mechanic and hasn't been one since BC days when T5 came out. It's been 4 years since this mattered. Please don't force moonkin to go cat. (not that bears or resto care about that either). I actually like the 'emergency awesome druid' as a cooldown, but that needs to be put in some kind of tier where all the fun things are. It really shouldn't be the level 90 tier; that tier should be the OMG awesome tier where every talent is amazing and you want all of them.
So based on that, what works? I'm using the calculator over at wowhead for reference.

Tier 1 has one talent that is okay - Feline Swiftness. The rest would be fine if the cat functionality was removed. This in general is exactly the sort of talent tier that druids should have; everyone wants movement abilities, but short cooldown vs. long cooldown vs. passive boost are all useful in various places.

Tier 2 is entirely too healing-centric. The only one that is generic is Renewal. Nature's Swiftness is not good enough compared to it and Cenarion Ward is far too specific and too healery. Realistically Nature's Swiftness should also massively boost some DPS ability so that it can also be a DPS cooldown or make it a group heal ability instead of the personal heal of Renewal. Cenarion Ward should be replaced with something along this vein.

Tier 3 is actually almost fine. Faerie Swarm needs to not be bear-centric and be great in all forms (resto doesn't care). Mass Entanglement needs to be castable in bear or cat, though it's not that useful for cats. Typhoon is perfectly fine and usable regardless. I would like to see Faerie Swarm have more use in general and specifically for resto use.

Tier 4 is almost perfect except for Wild Charge. Wild Charge really should be in the movement tier. Incarnation and Force of Nature are both fine Guardian of Ancient Kings-style CDs that could each have their own pros and cons. They need a third ability like this. Wild charge is a perfectly great ability but it doesn't belong here.

Tier 5 suffers the 'usable only in form x' issue. It's flavorful but not good game mechanically. The abilities are also kind of useless outside of PVP or tanking as well; these (like tier 2) are far too tied into a specific form. Bear hug should be specific to tanking and be a tanking-talent (if that), Ursol's Vortex is probably a good pvp talent and demo roar is really something that should be baseline bear. This entire tier probably should be reworked.

Tier 6 is...offensive. If you look at other T6 abilities for other classes they get things that are simply amazing. Just...wow. Death knights get a LK ability. Paladins get three great CDs. Priests get two great CDs. Rogues get shadow dance and killing spree. Warlocks get three talents named after the biggest badasses of the burning legion.

Druids get the ability to become emergency crappy druids, to force you to shapechange to get maximal DPS (hah!) or to heal yourself, which they already saw in another tier. Really, disentanglement should be nerfed and replace Cenarion Ward in T2 ( make it 10% health every 30 seconds and it's probably good enough to compare with Renewal). But these other two choices? Bah. Becoming herobear every 6 minutes is neat, but it's not exactly something you're looking forward to doing. Master Shapeshifter is horrible in every way possible; a bad idea and a bad implementation of a bad idea. This whole tier needs considerable work. Probably the best thing to do is make the T4 talents really really great and move them to T6 so that you're looking forward to your amazing CDs that you can get then. Then, change T4 to be a fun tier, have Heart of the Wild stick around as one of the two talents, and add two more 'herobear' level talents there as well. What those might be? Not a clue right now. Possibly Nature's Swiftness as one candidate (in all forms). Maybe some incarnation of Cenarius that turns you into a centaur and allows you to do all casting while moving while also granting bear/cat some boost?

I do think that this talent system can work, but they're going to have to be very thoughtful about how to do it for hybrids. Paladins, Druids, Monks and Shamen are all going to be tough. Warriors, priests and DKs a bit less so.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

[Druid]Feedback for the devs

I'd recommend everyone go over to the battle net thread and post constructive, meaningful feedback for their class/spec of their choice. Lissanna has been doing the resto/moonkin stuff, and it's great. Here's mine, reposted from the forums.

[i]What type of content do you focus on? [PvE/PvP/Both][/i]PvE

[i]If PvE, what type of PvE? [Heroics/Raids/Other][/i]Primarily heroics. Some raids when I have time or when I can fill in with my guild.

[i]If PvP, what type of PvP? [Arenas, BGs, Rated BGs][/i]

[i]What are your biggest quality-of-life issues? For instance, no longer requiring ammo could be considered a quality-of-life improvement for hunters[/i]. For bears, it is a lack of meaningful interaction with other party members or with the mobs. Aside from berserk attacks feel less than interesting and there is very little visual or behavioral change when doing attacks on mobs. Because it requires shifting out of bear there is even less interaction with the rest of the party while tanking.
Rage gain is poor and inconsistent, and ultimately meaningless past the first few seconds.
Too little control over incoming damage. Savage defense works, but there's no control over it - and that's all a bear has other than the long-term cooldowns.
Too little raid utility for a bear. Faerie fire is basically it. Innervate, tranquility and rebirth are all unusable while tanking.
Cats: poor options when attacking from the front. A very long buildup time for maximum dps means that anything that dies quickly doesn't die from cat DPS. Positioning in general appears to be fickle and odd at times. Charge takes long and doesn't actually go to the target if the target is moving. Compared to other classes ferals do not have a lot of burst DPS CDs to use regularly.
[i]What makes playing your class more fun?[/i]The mobility of a cat/bear is awesome. The transformation into multiple forms and activating different abilities in those forms is great. Flight form is awesome. Being able to do things like hibernate is great now.
[i]What makes playing your class less fun?[/i]For the bear side, the fairly boring rotation and relative lack of interaction with mobs other than hitting them. The lack of root/fear breaks. Missing out on all the druid abilities and being locked into just bear stuff. The gearing is also fairly boring and is very ilvl-dependent; it would be nice to care a bit more about things other than stamina or agility.
For cats: fewer burst options , fewer mobility options than other classes. Less raid utility (thoguh the raid utility I have is awesome, there's just not that much of it). No sign of gear in forms aside from a very small set of pieces. Having to deal with multiple mobs is not so fun. Having to have multiple debuffs on a mob to start optimal DPS isn't fun either. Having no real satisfying 'nuke' is kind of sad too.

How do you feel about your “rotation”? (Rotation is the accepted order in which abilities are used to maximum efficiency.)For bears: it's fine, if a bit boring. Multiple target rotation is dull and robotic. Single target is fine, particularly maximizing mangles. Would be nice to have something else to do for actual tanking other than demo roar.
Cats: requires external tools to track well, but it's fairly nice after that. I miss the complexity of WotLK. I miss wanting to do something other than rip or savage roar. The ramp up to get to the rotation is long as well.

[i]What’s on your wish list for your class?[/i]For ferals to be actually designed from the ground up. Ferals feel to me like an organically created class, where they have been built up from a poor foundation. Abilities feel tacked on that don't seem to make sense (savage defense, blood in the water, tiger's fury) and don't work that well together (lacerate/pulverize). Gear choices, especially for tanking, feel flat and lifeless; there really aren't exciting pieces for cats or bears any more other than weapons. Compare to warriors or paladins where everything is at least designed thematically well if not working perfectly in execution and it feels like ferals are duct-taped together. Things work, but they aren't nice. I would also like more druidry in the feral tree. Not being able to use any spells in forms is a drag. Getting things like wild mushroom as the 'big' spell this expansion and not having any use for it as a bear or cat was disappointing, especially compared to Guardian of Ancient Kings.

I would also like to see more interesting animations for cats and bears. Particularly bears. Bear tanking doesn't feel mean and hard. When you shield bash or shockwave it looks impressive; when you pulverize it looks fairly boring. Cats are a bit better but only just.

[i]What spells do you use the least?[/i]As a bear, I don't use challenging roar very often; it tends to not work well enough when I'd need it and that it aggros everything tauntable (including the boss) is problematic. As a cat, I never use pounce or start in stealth.

Monday, June 27, 2011

[Cat] Stat weights and you part 2:it doesn't matter

Following up from an earlier post and Alaron's great recent post on the topic, I thought I'd talk about the futility of changing secondary stats given the current model.

So before - in that time when Alaron talked about the difference between Agility and Arpen - secondary stats varied all over the place. Agility was not as good as it is now (it only offered 1 AP), strength was fairly good, and the real debate for high-end druids was whether to go arpen-crazy or go agility. Arpen was an odd, nonlinear stat that gained value as you got more of it, which meant that having 1000 arpen was a very different value for arpen compared to having, say, 300.

This was all confusing and odd, but it meant one big thing: stat weighings really mattered.

But now? Now primary stats rule all, for everyone. The primary stat is the best stat by a long, long margin for all but the most confusing specs, and ferals aren't a shiny example. In this case, agility is 3 times better than the next secondary stat.

3 times!

So there's never a question about what to gem for: it's agility. There's never a question about sockets, really - unless you're getting 3x the value of agility, it's always worth it to get agility. In practice this means any socket bonuses get ignored unless they give +20 agility or are a red/prismatic socket. So as far as your gear goes - it's all agility, all the time.

That means for the most part DPS classes have almost no flexibility in what they gear for. There aren't many options for DPSers. They almost always have to get 4p of the latest tier, then they get one offpiece, then usually have a choice of one set of boots, belt and bracers or maybe two if they're lucky. They have one weapon that's king, perhaps two. Trinkets are very rarely make it or break it and don't offer reforging ability or gems most of the time anyway. Rings, amulets and cloaks are also one or two per slot at best. Now those things offer some customization, but most of the customization is in reforging and swapping one or two pieces, maybe.

How much does that really matter? The answer is...not a lot.

Let's take a current 372-geared raider like Reesi. Here are their total secondary stats:
haste: 503
hit: 398
crit: 1310
expertise: 780
mastery: 1667
dodge: 717

The total value for all secondary stats here is 5375. (for these purposes it doesn't matter that she reforged to dodge, since it's only the raw values we care about).

Now, let's take the preweighted values from wowhead for this:
Agility: 1
Mastery : .35
Haste: .32
Expertise : .29
hit: .28
crit: .28

Those are older weights from the 4.06 days, but for this experiment they'll suffice.

Let's do a thought experiment here: what if you could convert all secondary stats to the absolute best secondary stats possible. Let's say your gear was perfectly ideal (in this case haste/mastery on everything). We'll even split it 60/40 in favor of the best stat. What value do we get?

5375 * .60 * .35 + 5375 *.40 *.32 = 1816.75

That's the best we could possibly do.

So what's the worst? Well, we went for full hit/crit (and for this, we'll assume no hit capping). In that case, since they're the same value, you get the following:
5375*.6*.28 + 5375*.4*.28 = 1505.

So it's a huge difference, right? The optimal is 20% better than the suboptimal, and...

Oh, wait. That's just the value of the secondary stats. As far as a DPS gain, you can assume that one Hit/Exp correlates to about 1.0 DPS, which means that the difference here between the best possible value and the worst is...

1113 DPS.

So if you got the absolute perfect gear you would be 1k DPS better than someone with the worst possible gear choices. Which, given current DPS levels for most people at that gear level, is less than 5% difference.

This is why Alaron says things don't matter; it's not just that things are so close to each other that it really isn't a big deal one way or another. It's that realistically there's just not that much you can do with your gear. Your gems are spoken for you. Your gear doesn't have a lot of variety. As long as you're not going above hit/exp caps, stats aren't going to be wasted or horrible one way or another. This wasn't the case back in the day; gear choices and going full arpen could make a 20-30% difference in DPS. Now? not so much.

Note that this does not apply in one special case: Unheeded Warning. Thanks to the direct damage scaling increasing so much in the 4.2 patch this trinket is getting a large boost too; it is competitive with the heroic agility trinkets. Once again, ferals are going to likely be using a trinket that is from a prior tier well into the next one. Just don't use it on fights with tons of adds.

What this really means is that how well you do on a given fight is very much dependent on the fight itself, and not your gearing choices. If you do a lot of AoE, you'll find hit/exp/crit to be better than haste/mastery. If you do a lot of start & stop of fights (like Atramedes) mastery will be better. If you have a standup fight haste is going to be better. More berserks? Haste will shine. Lots of target swapping? Hit/exp will do better.

Ultimately this also suggests something else, which is that for progression fights where it really matters reforging should be done. It won't make a huge difference - the math above says that the upper bound of your difference can't be more than 5% no matter what - but when every little bit counts, that's a place to go. Understand what your role is and how to best do it.

Also note that if you care a lot about consistency, hit/expertise are going to win almost always. They are similar to stamina for bears in that while they're not optimal all the time they're never, ever wasted and make life easier. Given how close things are, you won't see much of a hit to your DPS and if you're not an amazing player chances are you'll see significant gains even on fights that don't punish misses.

Friday, June 17, 2011

[Cat] 4.2 stat weighings and you

So, remember a while back when I wrote about what it would take for mastery to be awesome and haste to be less awesome?

So in 4.2 cats have been buffed and changed around. Strength has been reduced to providing 1AP, which (with raid buffs) is about a 1k AP loss. However, Savage Roar has been buffed to give 80% more damage (from 50%), every direct attack does a lot more damage and scales better with weapon DPS (and thus AP), and ferocious bite has been improved to do more damage for less energy.

While it's still up for debate as to the end effect, there are some good indications that haste, not mastery, is going to be the best stat to stack after getting a good weapon. Haste had already started surpassing crit as the second-best stat, though the stats (other than mastery) were close enough to each other that almost any secondary stat was fine.

Now, though, it's looking more and more like haste is the winner. Why is that?

  • Bleeds got stealth-nerfed. While direct damage got improved across the board, bleeds got actually hurt a little by the strength nerf - and didn't get re-improved. End result is that when 4.2 hits your bleeds won't do quite as much damage as before.
  • The T11 2piece bonus is going away in 4.2. Okay, it's not going away - if you have it, it'll still be there. But chances are you won't have it for super long, especially if you weren't raiding heroic raids. That knocks rake damage down too.
  • The T12 2 piece bonus adds even more direct damage. Yay, shreds hit even more! (though there are issues with this bonus, as it probably won't be rolling damage and will overwrite itself).
  • Seriously, everything got buffed like whoa. A 20% boost to melee damage, a 15-20% increase in scaling for shred, mangle and ravage. It's a huge deal, and one of the things that it (sadly) does is make Unheeded Warning pretty awesome well into heroic raid gearing. If you don't have it already, make an attempt to get it before 4.2 arrives - because when 4.2 arrives chances are you won't see many of 'em on the AH.
  • Swipe doesn't get affected by mastery. Because missed swipes don't refund energy and get zero benefit from mastery, any time you're using swipe a lot all that mastery doesn't do jack for you. In fact, hit/expertise are far better for swipe if you can help it, and are the best stats for aoe-friendly fights. The next best stat? Shockingly, it's haste, as it allows for more OoC and more swipes in a given time.
Anyway, long story short is that mastery may be getting close to the point where it is not the best stat ever, and bleeds are not 40% of our overall damage relative to direct damage. Conversely, this is the point where haste overtakes mastery as a better stat per point. In some tests haste is significantly better than all other secondary stats (by 30%), in others it's neck and neck. Ultimately use mew, run simulations, and test based on your gearing. We'll get more clear ideas of what is best based on profiles of 378 and 391-geared ferals soon enough.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

[Bear]Oh, the joys of savage defense continued

I've talked about how Savage Defense likely would work and how good or bad it'd be, how it works on the PTR and how it continued to work there, how SD uptime works, how good and bad it is against specific fights, and then later comments on SD in cata, especially after we found out that the combat logs are probably bugged.

To be clear: I don't like the mechanic. I don't like that it is a static amount of damage in a world where almost all other mitigation mechanics are percentages. I don't like that it has weird interactions with multiple mobs (though at least that is better with 4.1). I don't like the interaction with vengeance.

But today: I really don't like how weak it is, and I really don't like the bugs in it.

I did some study on the mathematical importance of having Pulverize and having good pulverize uptime, and the results really shocked me. You can find the long topic at the wow forums, but the basic info is that I wrote a simulator that would simulate a boss attacking and dodging and then tested a few sets of values of avoidance, hit, crit, expertise to see what would happen - specifically what would happen when you assume pulverize isn't there and you lose the 9% crit.

I expected that it wouldn't be that big a deal in terms of uptime of savage defense. And boy was I wrong! Pulverize, depending on your gear level and avoidance/crit/cap levels, is equivalent to having about 5-6% block% for a paladin or warrior. In other words, you block 5-6% more of the attacks that land with pulverize active 100% of the time.

That's huge! That'd be a big, BIG bonus for a paladin or warrior. It sounds great! And for the first time I have a nice, simple way of testing various uptimes of Savage Defense in a way that is actually simulated and not entirely theoretical.

Then I dug into it some more. That 5-6% block? Well, on a boss that does 70k damage after armor (which would be one of the more harder-hitting bosses in the game currently, like Atramedes, but not as bad as Nefarian) this would be the equivalent of reducing the average attack damage (average after avoidance, blocks and not blocked) from 35.5k to 36.7k. And that's assuming a 20k shield - which as you'll see isn't a fair assumption.

Huh. That's...disappointing. And that's on something that hits every 2.0 seconds for 70k. For things that hit harder, it gets worse. For things that hit more often it gets MUCH worse; many many more missed attacks means that blocked attacks are even less frequent and less useful when they do happen.

Okay...so it's not as great as we thought. It's not as great as Tangedyn's spreadsheet would indicate or my prior calcs indicate or Rawr indicates. That's not the end of the world, and we never thought it was THAT good, right?

Then today there's a post on SD being 'nerfed'. And the usual folks say logs or GTFO, and that's fair, so they're actually produced. And you see things like this:

[00:55:48.039] Beradon gains Savage Defense from Beradon (Remaining: 18267)
[00:55:54.475] Beradon's Savage Defense is refreshed by Beradon (Remaining: 15009)
[00:55:56.929] Atramedes hits Beradon 54922 (A: 21286)

That's right; SD got refreshed by a later SD proc, but because vengeance was lower the SD shield it created was actually smaller. In other words, it'd be better to not have attacked during that time. That means that any streak of avoidance actually hurts mitigation down the road. Bleh.

There are countless other examples in that post about SD not working the right way with multiple mobs, but we don't know whether that's an actual bug or just issues with the combat log. It effectively makes it impossible to determine the actual usefulness of savage defense from log parses, however; either the log is telling us the truth and SD is bad, or the log is lying but we don't know how badly.

Man, do I hate this ability. So very, very much. I guess the good news is this: Savage Defense is going to be less and less relevant as we get better gear and as we face bigger mobs, so after a while it won't be worth worrying about.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

[Cat] In case you weren't pumped up for Fireland raiding

One thing I missed from blizzard's various previews of Firelands in the last couple days is this gem from Kotaku:

This time around they have, however, resulting in some sexy Ragnaros-styled armor, a new non-legendary version of his mace, Sulfuros, and a druid staff that drops off one of raid's other bosses that transforms the wielder into a molten cat.

The new dungeon even boasts three new mounts; one for competing all of the raid achievements, one random drop, and a special mount that drops every time Ragnaros fails. Just don't expect him to be a pushover this time around. Judging by Stockton's laughter at my suggestion, 25 frost mages isn't going to cut it.


I might want that. Just a little bit.

ETA: one interesting part seen in the blizzard videocast at 10:10 is that he mentions that the staff will allow you to change into Staghelm's feral FORMS. He mentions the cat, but we know Staghelm has at least two forms - cat and scorpion. I suspect but do not know that as a bear you'll get to turn into a molten scorpion.

Friday, April 22, 2011

[Bear] The flood of bear gear in 4.1

You've probably seen a bunch of posts on the great set of gear you can get from ZA/ZG when 4.1 hits - how there's finally some bracers that aren't blue, or another shot to get a weapon when malevolence hates you. Or heck, how to get twice as much VP per week from heroics as you could before.

All of that is true.

But that's not the real source of awesome. The real source of awesome comes from this little gem:

Conquest Points are now purchasable from the Valor Quartermasters at 250 Conquest Points per 250 Valor Points.

What does this mean? It means that you can now get any pvp item that doesn't require any rating no matter who you are, provided that you have the VP for it. Which turns out to be a fairly substantial list of gear. So hey, no more pvping for pve gear! You can now pve for pvp gear instead. Which...I guess you'd probably use for pve.

Here's the comparison with gear obtainable outside of pvp. Some interesting highlights:

  • The PvP helm, with mastery, is a great bear helm and better than anything non-heroic. This is a hard spot for a lot of people to get anything, and that it beats anything you can get until really rare drops makes it pretty nice. At 2200 conquest points - the same, essentially as legs and chest - this is a good deal, especially considering that the best alternatives come from drops from heroic Nef and Cho'gall (and Al'akir, kinda) Note that if you have Tsanga's Helm the difference is probably not worth getting it.
  • Similarly the PvP shoulders are a pretty nice deal and better than anything but heroic gear. If you get the head and the shoulders you also get 70 agility, which is a nice little bonus. It doesn't make it better than getting heroic pieces, but it should salve having two pieces of PvP gear. This isn't quite as great a deal as the helm given that you can get good shoulders off of Omnotron, but it's still pretty good - especially if you're not doing a lot of heroic raiding. The difference here is actually higher than the helm for the comparable nonheroic piece, so still reasonable to consider. They're also a huge upgrade from the troll drop.
  • The pvp chest is interesting; it's a very big jump between it and the normal tier chest (which is pretty badly itemized for bears) - bigger than the jump between the normal pieces and the pvp pieces in the head and shoulder slots combined. At the same time, you already likely have the tier chestpiece. Still, consider it; it's a nice piece of gear that is priced to move.
  • The PvP gloves are about as 'better' as the 359 best gloves as the helm is - so it's a decent upgrade. The big advantage is the energy/rage cost reduction of skull bash, which is great if you're the interrupter. Thus, these are a pretty good buy at some point even if you're just replacing Liar's Handwraps.
  • The pvp bracers are actually worse than the normal drop, but they're also very easy to get. And they are significantly better (about 5%) than the troll drop.
  • Fasc gets his own boots, but they're significantly worse than the BoE valor boots and much much MUCH worse than the PvP boots. Somehow, I think Fasc would have wanted it that way - to be beaten by pvp gear.
  • The pvp weapon is about as good for a bear as the troll weapon due to the lower ilvl on it and the wasted resilience. Of course, the real win here is the BoE Mobius' Halberd, which drops from the rare worldspawn and is just slightly worse than Malevolence
  • Finally, the relic slot is actually best in slot now for bears in pvp land. The haste on the other relic is essentially worthless, and the slight gain in agility and stamina make up for the lost stat otherwise.
Most everything else is a slight upgrade in the slot - the boots, belt, gloves are all slight upgrades and the legs are basically a wash. But that should give you plenty of things to consider spending your valor points on for a while, especially if you're working on some hard hitting content like Nef and want some easy upgrades for tanking.

As to cats? It's not quite as simple. Every troll piece beats the corresponding PvP piece as far as a cat is concerned. And honestly, most of the time it's not even close. All that wasted secondary stat really hurts. Even on the wrists, though it's close. So unless you're very unlucky or sitting on a lot of valor points, getting this stuff isn't as good as just going to troll town.

Friday, April 1, 2011

[Bear] The best case for Savage Defense

TL;DR version:
If you take anything from this article, take this bit: to maximize SD uptime make sure that mauls happen on your special attacks' cooldown, so the rotation for multitarget mobs looks like this:

Obviously you can do demo roar or lacerate or whatever on that mangle bit, but maul is the key thing here. That also means to maximize your SD procs now, you should be doing something like this:
Though in practice this doesn't work as you need to have the swipe & thrash right away to get the best threat.

Anyway, onto the article.

Savage defense is getting a nice buff in the 4.1 patch, in case you hadn't heard. It will go from having one charge that is used up regardless of attack strength (more on that in a second) to an absorption shield that will absorb the same amount of damage maximum that it could before, but will not go away with partial hits.

So yay! It's now a fully fledged PW:S that only works on physical attacks! That's awesome, and it fixes bears and makes it just as good as shield block or DK heals or...

Okay, that's not true. Sadly.

As Ahti put it very well on the tanking forums recently:

The problem is that the upper bound on this is set extremely low compared to
blocking (and compared to Blood Shield, I guess, although I'd prefer to stick
with the blocking comparison for simplicity's sake). And many encounters already
have add situations that push past that upper bound.You don't need that many
adds hitting you (and they don't need to be hitting that hard) before you reach
the point where the probability is that every single Savage Defense proc is
consumed before you can possibly generate another one. Past that point, you'll
continue to take more damage, but Savage Defense won't get any better - whereas
for a warrior or paladin, block will scale upwards indefinitely.

Yep. But what is that upwards bound? Let's go with the best case scenario here.

Let's assume that you get an SD proc whenever you can. That means you get one every 2.4 seconds (minus haste) for each autoattack, and you get one every 1.5 seconds for every special attack, and you get one every 3 seconds for every maul. This averages out to a SD proc every 1.03 seconds. Note that this is insanely optimistic - it assumes a crit on each of those attacks AND a SD proc on each crit ,which is only 50% of the time. But again - this is the maximum upper bound you can possibly get.

For ease of computation we'll go with a 20k shield. That means every 1.03 seconds we can absorb 20,000 damage intake before taking any more physical damage. Again, sounds pretty awesome - and then it refreshes magically after that 1.03 seconds later. (note that it doesn't; SD doesn't happen every 1.03 seconds but happens on attack boundaries, so you can get times where you don't have much happening and then times when you have many procs - but 1.03 seconds is the average and will be easy to work with.

Now, let's go comparing to a blocker, who always blocks 30% of all damage. They're block capped, so they will always reduce damage by 30% no matter what.

Where do these things become equivalent? That's pretty easy to figure. It's simply when 20k/1.03 seconds = 30% of incoming DPS. And that turns out to be 64.7k DPS.

This means that whenever you're taking more than 64.7k DPS, no matter what, Savage defense will be worse than block. Of course that changes as you add more SD shielding.

The real trick is that the above is completely insane with respect to the number of expected procs, especially in a single target scenario. For a multitarget you can expect multiple crits per swipe/thrash, so you'll often see a shield every 1.5 seconds. But you'll also be without a swipe/thrash every 4.5 seconds - and you're not guaranteed to get a shield even when you swipe.

Realistically how many shields do bears get? It's tough to say. Another problem is that shields can get overwritten without being used at all, especially on attack boundaries where the normal attack lines up with the special attack. And since Maul always lines up with a special attack, any time you get a crit with the special attack and a shield with it (like with swipe) chances are that you're not going to get two shields worth anything.

Actually, that's a good point: to maximize SD uptime on multimob packs you should always - ALWAYS - time it so that a maul happens when both swipe and thrash are on CD. So it should look a lot like this:
swipe/thrash and maul/swipe/mangle and maul as the rotation for trash.

But realistically you get one every time you swipe or thrash and then one kinda randomly after that. The random part is the most frustrating part; some times shields will be completely wasted as they get refreshed every .6 seconds or so, like this:

[19:23:22.825] Maeltne Mangle Halfus Wyrmbreaker *30730*
[19:23:22.878] Maeltne casts Maul on Halfus Wyrmbreaker
[19:23:23.148] Maeltne's Savage Defense is refreshed by Maeltne
[19:23:23.228] Maeltne Maul Halfus Wyrmbreaker *18089*
[19:23:23.666] Maeltne's Savage Defense is refreshed by Maeltne
(this one is fine, as both the mangle and the maul procced SD)

[19:23:50.678] Maeltne crits Halfus Wyrmbreaker *12134*
[19:23:51.194] Maeltne casts Thrash
[19:23:51.448] Maeltne Thrash Storm Rider *8881*
[19:23:51.448] Maeltne Thrash Nether Scion 4456
[19:23:51.448] Maeltne Thrash Halfus Wyrmbreaker *9167*
[19:23:51.285] Maeltne's Savage Defense is refreshed by Maeltne
[19:23:51.590] Maeltne's Savage Defense is refreshed by Maeltne
[19:23:51.590] Maeltne's Savage Defense is refreshed by Maeltne
(this one's more frustrating, as that second SD proc just goes to waste)
All those refreshes are basically wasted here.

Ugh, this is making me mad about SD all over again. This is also why it's much more important to look at SD uptime and not number of SD procs when doing SD analysis. Or if you like, just look at the amount of damage SD absorbed.
Anyway - the important thing to note is that while having partial SD absorbs is nice, it doesn't fix a lot of the issues with SD. SD still doesn't scale infinitely like block does, so at some points it simply will be worse than block for mitigation of damage (like on heroic Nefarian currently). At other points it will be better. Sometimes it (like WotLK-era block) will be WAY better than avoidance or partial blocks, as it will reduce far more than 30%; a great example of this is when you can assume you'll get a SD shield every 1.5 seconds and you won't get physically attacked for more than your shield strength, you'll be effectively invulnerable during this time. When 4.1 hits, try out going to Kara and seeing how silly it is. My gut feeling is that you'll be able to do most trash that doesn't have heavy magical components without losing almost any health.
This, among other things, makes old-world content far easier. 15k shields every 1.5 seconds when you're taking 15k damage every 1.5 seconds sounds a lot like most heroics from before and some raid content. This wasn't nearly as good when one hit removed the shield and then the rest piled on (though with latency and the spell reflect bug, that wasn't always the case and often many attacks got absorbed), but now it should be significantly better.
But for current heroics and raids, it doesn't help a lot. The cases where you are going to get a shield and the shield would have been not used up AND would not be refreshed before being used up are small in raids. Most multimob scenarios in raids have mobs hitting for 10-12k each, and while it adds a bit more value here it doesn't add so much as you could reasonably expect to have a shield up fairly quickly. On mobs that hit for more than the shield strength anyway (Mal adds, as an example) this change does literally nothing for you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

[Druidl] Antitanks in Cataclysm part 2: enchants, gems, gear and reforging

Continued from the last post.

While Reesi and Tangedyn (note: no guarantees they'll stay in their feral spec/gear) did an awesome job about what to do for the spec and glyphs for a hybrid build, I didn't see a lot on the gear. And...I still don't. Probably because it's a lot harder to evaluate.

Also a note on the glyphs: don't be afraid to take a stack of disappearing dust and swap glyphs as needed. You should be doing this on a case-by-case basis anyway. If you don't use feral faerie fire, the glyph for it is not great. If you're not hitting multiple mobs, why take maul? The prime glyphs are almost always going to stay the same for any fights that have you using hybridity, but if you're just tanking swap them out!

For this I'll give two choices: max DPS and max survival. The Max DPS will give some credit to survival (and vice versa) but ultimately what you need is up to your role; if you're primarily DPSing with occasional tanking light stuff max DPS should be fine. If you're tanking all the time you'll likely have to go with maximum survival.

Gear choices:
The best stat for a hybrid set is agility. Everything should have it. That's true for DPS or survival. The second 'hybrid' stat is mastery. This is the best secondary stat for cats and the second-best for bears. So far, not a lot changes, though your gemming priorities may change somewhat (favoring agility gems over anything else and disfavoring stamina over agility/hit gems).

For max DPS go mastery above everything else. For reforging, the primary reforging target should be mastery if the gear doesn't have mastery. The second one should be expertise (if below the dodge cap), then crit, then hit. Why? If you're planning on being a bear expertise is going to benefit you from a threat perspective and from a savage defense uptime perspective more than crit or hit as long as you're below the dodge cap. After that crit and hit are fairly similar. As has been shown recently, going hit/expertise/crit/haste/mastery is really a matter of choice more than massive changes in overall DPS value for a cat.

For survival, the best secondary stat is dodge. Reforge the highest non-mastery stat to dodge whenever you can, favoring haste, then hit, crit, expertise in that order.

Avoid tanking rings, necks and cloaks. They'll be basically horrible for dps and do not give enough survival gains to warrant their value unless they're significantly higher ilvl (2 tiers) more than what you have.

Tier pieces:
On Tier pieces: the 4 piece for cat is very, very strong when going cat 100% of the time. The problem is that whenever you switch out of cat the buff disappears completely. That means that on any fight where you're switching back and forth every 30 seconds the buff is just going to not be worth it; using 3 GCDs to mangle just to have the buff for 30 seconds isn't going to be as good as having suboptimal stats for bear or cat.The 4p is pretty nice for bears too, but the actual pieces really vary, and for hybrids (especially ones caring about survival primarily) the biggest importance is ilvl over basically anything else. If you have the choice of getting a heroic non-tier piece to replace the nonheroic tier piece - for a bear, this is a good choice. For a cat it's a harder choice but likely the right one.

Note that the 2p for cats is just perfect in this setup as the rake will keep on ticking while in bear form. Yay threat!

In terms of what nontier piece or pieces you should have, it depends. For non-heroic content, Tsanga's helm is the best. It is the only helm with mastery. The tier helm has hit and crit, the offset from Cho'Gall has haste and expertise (ugh). A second choice is the Poison Protocol shoulders, which also have mastery. The Double Attack Handguards are also not bad compared to tier; at least they don't have haste.

For heroic, the best bet is the Sark of the Unwatched, which has crit and mastery vs. haste and expertise.

The best tier piece is the legs, which have crit and mastery and nothing is better at either level. Then the head, then maybe the chest due to the socket bonus being better. In a perfect world I'd go for (non heroic) Tsanga's helm, Double attack handguards and purchasing Morrie's and then going for tier legs and shoulders. For folks getting most of their gear via valor points by necessity you'll likely pick up the tier chest; buy a helm and then work on shoulders and buy Liar's handgrips. For heroic mode go for tier legs and helm, then Double Attack handguards, Sark and Poison Protocol shoulders.

Trinkets are interesting. Ideally you will swap trinkets as needed for certain fights and use others for others, but there are some 'much more better' ones than others here and there.
Max DPS:
  1. Fluid Death has high agility and a reforgeable hit to mastery. Good stuff.
  2. Essence of the Cyclone has the raw agility but the proc is almost completely useless for bears.
  3. Unheeded Warning has lower agi than many of the choices here and has a proc that is completely useless for bear survival (it doesn't even affect SD). Still, it's one of the highest DPS trinkets that exist.
  4. Tia's Grace is almost as good as Fluid Death for cats and actually a bit stronger for bears on most non-Heroic Nef fights due to the extra mastery. (But don't use it for Nef tanking!)
  5. Quicksilver Talisman has tons of agi and reforgeable crit. The potion part isn't particularly useful but it's a good alternative for a second trinket.
  6. Prestor's Talisman also has high agility but has a meh proc for bears.
  7. DM: Hurricane is similar but even more useless to bears.

Max survivability:
  1. Fluid Death has high agility and a reforgeable hit to mastery. It's likely the best hybrid trinket.
  2. Tia's Grace is almost as good as Fluid Death for cats and actually a bit stronger for bears on most non-Heroic Nef fights due to the extra mastery. While Fluid Death has more overall agility the mastery can overtake it, especially when taking smaller hits. (thanks, Nica!)
  3. Mirror of Broken Images only has a survival proc, but that it is mastery as the main stat helps both specs and the actual on use ability is amazing for this tier's raiding content.
  4. Vial of Stolen Memories is horrible for DPS, but between the high stamina and the huge dodge use (which will be very high in an agi-centric gearout), it can be very good - especially on magic-heavy fights.
  5. Symbiotic Worm is a good but not great stamina trinket; use it if you don't have the vial or need a ton of stam for some reason.
  6. Quicksilver Talisman has tons of agi and reforgeable crit. The potion part isn't particularly useful but it's a good alternative for a second trinket.
  7. Prestor's Talisman also has high agility but has a meh proc for bears.
  8. Bedrock Talisman is good for survival but completely useless for DPS.
  9. Essence of the Cyclone has the raw agility but the proc is almost completely useless for bears.
  10. Unheeded Warning has lower agi than many of the choices here and has a proc that is completely useless for bear survival (it doesn't even affect SD). Still, it's one of the highest DPS trinkets that exist.
  11. DM: Hurricane is similar but even more useless to bears.
For me personally the choice is clear - Fluid Death is a win for both specs. An alchemist is probably in luck too. After that the generic one would be something like Unheeded warning or Prestor's talisman depending on what you have. For harder fights swap to a stam trinket + mirror of broken images. Trinkets are the easiest, best way to customize your gear on a fight-by-fight basis, so really do collect them all.


While 90 stamina is quite hefty you may be fine with the stamina you have - in which case the 60 agi beats 35 dodge rating any day. The haste is useless for bears, but it's okay for cats. Note that this is a very good place to get a ton of stamina cheaply, so consider doing so if you need more health.


While the Unbreakable Quartz enchant is solid, getting both agility and mastery makes up on the hybrid side compared to both. Again, if you need the stamina go with stamina - but otherwise this is a good place to compromise in favor of DPS and avoidance.

Max DPS/Max Survival: Peerless Stats
No real debate here. The stamina is nice but this gives enough overall value that it's worth it.

Max survival: charscale leg armor

Okay, so technically the dragonscale leg armor wins for DPS - but it's much closer than you think. 55 agility gives 110 AP as well as crit; based on weighings right now that's about 85 EAP vs 55 EAP, which is way smaller. So is 30 EAP worth 145 stam? In most cases you're not going to be able to find a better tradeoff than that. So I'd recommend in either case to go with the charscale legs.

Max DPS: Major Agility
Max Survival: Assassin's step

If you can afford it I'd go with assassin's step in either case, but technically major agility is better for cats since they gain nothing from the movement speed increase while in cat form. Lavawalker is also a good choice for a hybrid that favors a bear.

Max DPS/Max Survival: Enchant Bracer Agility

Easy choice here. For leatherworkers it's a bit more tempting to go for the stamina enhancement,but I'd recommend going for the superior agility there as well.

Max Survival: Glove reinforcements (old world)

Yes, the glove reinforcements are still just that good for bears. Sigh. The mastery enchant isn't too bad though.

Max DPS: Greater Agility (old world)
Max survival: protection
For this I'd recommend having two cloaks if you can or going max survival here; the old world enchant is not super strong (22 agi isn't huge) and 250 armor is quite good for bears (it's worth about 40-50 agi for bear survival depending on the fight).

Max DPS/Max survival: Mighty Agility

Fortunately this is an easy choice.

The primary goals for both specs is getting agility whenever possible. Where things differ is mostly in which hybrid gems you use and which sockets you go for.
For max DPS go for these choices:
Red: Delicate (agi)
Yellow: Adept (agility/mastery)
Blue: Glinting (agi/hit)

For max survival, go with these:
Red: Delicate (agi)
Yellow: Polished (agi/dodge)
Blue: Shifting (agi/stam)

Then we get to the metagems. And that's a problem. The metagem for DPS is at least a 3% dps gain overall; no single item or enchant or gem comes remotely close to how good it is. The metagem for tanking, however, boosts the one thing that bears are great at - armor. While that's a clear sacrifice, the second sacrifice is that the tanking gem also requires having multiple yellow gems, which are also a somewhat contentious choice. Ultimately what you choose is going to have a big effect, and since helms are hard to come by this may be really tough. Since I think that the hybrid build is about tanking first, DPS second I'd likely go with the austere - but either is a reasonable choice. Just make sure you understand what you're choosing.

[Druid]Antitanks in Cataclsym

(the antitank image from that article oh so long ago - because russian dogs with explosives strapped to them charging tanks needs to be shown at least one more time)

Recently we've got a lot - and I do mean a LOT - of various bloggers talking about the joys of feral hybrids and the greatness that is being able to do tanking and DPS in the same spec and the same gear. Reesi and Tangedyn from the Inconspicuous Bear do a great job of illustrating where it's useful and what the tradeoffs and considerations are for doing it. Alaron brought it up again (and that came from Wowinsider too). Even Jacemora got into the mix.

Hell, it's not like I hate it. I talked about it way back in the day. (Ironically the build is actually a bit less friendly now than it was then for this sort of thing.

It's all the rage! It's awesome! It makes you 100% more awesome than just having flight form!

And it's also really, really bad for some folks who want to play ferals. But I'll get to that at the end.

Here's the build I'd use (and am likely to switch to soon), if you were curious. The biggest pain point is the loss of feral aggression, which hurts. For doing dailies having nothing that boosts ravage also hurts, but not so amazingly. Because I took nothing that boosted FB, I did not take Blood in the Water either; while it is a DPS boost it is not such a tremendous one that it's required, and more importantly the chances to actually use it when you're tanking and swapping are pretty low, as you're not usually able to get a rip up and then reapply it with the CP necessary. The primary reason I'd switch is simply to get an idea of how to play a moonkin.

Here are some guidelines on when it is good and when it's not that useful.

When it's good:
  • When the tank is not tanking 100% of the time. Any time that you have downtime on tanking and would otherwise DPS is a time when the hybrid gear/hybrid spec can be significantly advantageous. As Reesi points out, doing 8k more DPS than the next tank is a good reason to bring you over another tank. Being able to do that regularly means that you can either afford to bring an extra tank and drop a DPS slot with little loss to raid viability or be able to bring more utility and survivability in your DPS and make up for raw damage with what you can bring. There are a lot of encounters in this tier where there are significant portions of the fight that you aren't actively tanking and which threat is not a primary concern (such as tank swaps) and Reesi does a good job of talking about them.
  • When you need to tank only for short amounts of time. Any time you're only tanking for a small chunk of time and that time can largely be covered by defensive CDs is a good time for a hybrid build. Druids are great for this because of things like barkskin.
  • When your raid for whatever reason likes letting tanks die. This is the herobear case Alaron talks about above, and it's vanishingly rare to happen - but if you find it happening a lot in your raid, consider this as a very useful piece of utility.
  • When bosses don't hit for a lot or avoidance is otherwise awesome. This one is crucial. This was the primary reason it was okay when I talked about the antitank stuff for WotLK - because bosses hit for almost nothing and avoidance was great since druids hit their stamina check very early, avoidance was much better - and because of that, agility was a big win. Aside from heroic Nef, the bosses this tier don't hit for a huge amount. As a result you can simply adjust gear slightly (using things like stamina trinkets) and have enough health to deal with most bosses while actually taking less overall damage. And since mana is an issue right now, this is a Good Thing.
Now the thing is that all of these things are true right now. That's good to realize. That's good to understand. But it's not necessarily going to be true in the future. Encounters will be designed with all tanks in mind, and those other tanks don't do things like get gear loaded with strength and crit on it. Bosses will hit hard enough to scare those tanks who are stacking stamina. Keep that in mind and make sure you understand when it's bad.

When it's bad:
  • When you're tanking 100% of the time. If you're the single tank with no swaps, there's not a lot of advantage to being a hybrid. You have more avoidance thanks to your gear selections, but you could have done that anyway if it was better - and chances are that you've reforged primarily to mastery, not dodge, which isn't as good. The difference between a bear in DPS gear and a bear in stam gear in terms of damage isn't so amazing; you get your dividends in dps not from doing it in bear with dps gear, but from going cat. So you're tradiing utility and potentially damage reduction (especially if you skipped infected wounds or perseverance) for...nothing.
  • When you're DPSing 100% of the time. Herobear notwithstanding, you are losing DPS if you're speccing this way. Even with pure DPS gear you lose somewhere between 5-10% DPS just from going this route depending on your talent choices. You can also lose some utility that most will expect from you - Nurturing Instinct is often the one that goes by the wayside, and a NI-powered tranq is about twice as good as a non-NI powered tranq. In this case, you're trading DPS and utilty for the ability to not get crit when...nothing attacks you.
  • When specialized gear really matters. Being able to hybridize is mostly a function of gear choice, not spec choice. The spec differences are fairly minor, and the glyph differences aren't going to necessarily kill you (though the 'important' ones are almost all kitty), but the gear choice is huge and is easily a 20-40% difference in damage for a cat. Between the meta, the enchants, the gemming and the reforging it's a very large swing in stats. If as a bear you need to have 200k health and a ton of dodge and mastery doesn't matter (like, for example, if you're going up against heroic Nef as the MT) being a hybrid won't help you. This was the primary death of the antitank in Ulduar times - things just hit too damn hard.
As Reesi illustrated above right now the number of encounters that require a 100% tank is not nearly as much as the ones that don't. And the fights that benefit from more DPS from a tank are more common than the ones that wouldn't. Right now, it makes quite a bit of sense.

Except...well, except the bad parts.

What are the bad parts? They're basically TBC all over again, is what.

If bears are the best tank to do things like tank some of the time, they will almost never be the tank that tanks 100% of the time on fights. If you like being a tank on every single encounter, this is bad news for you. If you like tanking 100% of the time on a single encounter this is also bad.

In raid guilds, bears will be deprioritized for tanking gear over the 100% tanks - and rightfully so. Why should they get that awesome tanking trinket if they only use it half the time? This is tough to deal with for some.

It's sometimes going to be a fight to get gear as a DPS as well. Why give it to you when you're just using it for offtanking? Shouldn't it go to a DPS who will use it to do more DPS more often?

Bears already have a prejudice towards them as being 'bad' tanks (mostly for their AOE threat and AoE mitigation). This isn't going to help.

And if you like being a cat - it's also bad news. If you don't care about tanking at all, if that's not interesting to you whatsoever and you like being a feral cat, chances are this is a huge hit. Feral DPS was already meh - but having the trend being doing DPS while not tanking and then tanking something? That's what raids are starting to expect from ferals. Being an awesome offtank means that a lot of time that's what they'll expect from you. They'll want that to be the case and want you to go tank and if you suck at it, or don't like it, or whatever - that'll be a knock on you.

And yes, it sucks hard for heroics. You'll miss having things like IW or skull bash on a 10-second CD, you'll miss that utility, and it'll not feel right. That's not a big deal, but it's something to consider; it's something I went through when I had my awesome spec for HAnub that didn't have 5 rage reduction on abilities. For HAnub it didn't matter; I was getting tons of rage and I didn't need it early. But for heroics? Ugh, it was like molasses.

And honestly? Feral DPS is so meh in raiding right now and ranged is so awesome that it makes a lot of sense to go feral hybrid/moonkin as your two specs; it gives a lot more flexibility while doing a hell of a lot more damage when not tanking. That's sadly the way it is this tier.

For me, personally, this is fine. I enjoy tanking, I enjoy DPS, and I plan on doing both in raids when I'm raiding. If it makes sense to go hybrid on fights because of tight DPS checks, then it's great. Being able to make other tanks cry unfair can be fun.

But it can also be fun being the main tank. And it can also be fun being competitive with rogues and warriors on DPS. And as long as hybrid builds are possible and having 'high dps while tanking some of the time' is a feature, it will be very, very hard to get improvements to tanking or DPS for ferals. Keep in mind that for every TBC-era feral that loved being the best offtank and loved being able to do tanking or DPS depending on what mood fit them and loved the herobear, there was a feral that was pissed off their class wasn't being considered for MT and didn't want to screw around with being a DPS - or a feral that loved being a cat but didn't want to tank at all. Hell, in Fire and Blood we had all three kinds of ferals at the same friggin time.

I guess that's where my animosity comes from (if I have any) - from remembering the arguments from people in my own guild that said that I clearly couldn't get the things like barkskin or shield wall or even a reliable interrupt because I can dps, and you shouldn't be able to both be as good a tank as anyone AND be as good a DPS as anyone. The niche of being the best offtank is not the most fun for a lot of people, and there is some genuine frustration there. Or not being able to be buffed for DPS because hey, you can tank! That changed quite a bit in WotLK, but there's a chance that things are going back to the old way.

My gut feeling is that because this is the opening tier things aren't hitting super hard - but they will. That tank damage and danger will start ratcheting up, and EH will start ruling the roost once again. When that happens and stamina, armor and resistance start making more of a sway on gearing choices I suspect that it won't matter on hybridization, and if you're a hybrid you'll be doing tanking only very rarely because you'll need two tanks who can be hit like a nail. But that's just a guess.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

[Bear] Agility vs. stam? No, that's not right

This got inspired by a comment I made on the wow forums.

Most bears these days don't gear exclusively for stamina like they used to - and that's the right choice. Stamina has always been a big win back in the day when the following was true:

  • All that mattered was that a tank could take big, crushing hits one after the other but then get healed up almost immediately after a certain point
  • Tanks were getting routinely smashed by nonpredictable damage (such as crushing blows)
  • Bears got 25% more health from stamina (or more) compared to other tanks, making it a major gain for them
  • Healer mana wasn't an issue
In Cataclysm virtually none of that is true. Sure, a tank needs to be able to survive the Giant Damage of Doom here and there, but after that stamina doesn't do much. It can increase your vengeance damage (and thus savage defense shields are better) but not nearly as much or as reliably as simply having more AP and more crit. Healers aren't going to heal you to full most of the time and certainly aren't going to be able to do it in one GCD or two at most. And bears (sniff) don't have a stupid OP amount of extra health compared to other tanks.

So it's clear that the strategy should be go for stamina until you have enough, then go for agility. Right? Good, so we can move on and...



This may shock you, but there are more choices to make than just agility vs stamina.

In particular, the advantages of armor and resistance continue to be massively understated for bears (and tanks in general).

Now I've talked about some of the secret advantages armor had over stamina, but that was just talking about effective health. Armor's primary advantage is shared with agility or any other avoidance - a reduced attack does less damage and thus requires less healing. This is a Big Deal in an age where mana matters for healers and tanks are left at partial deficits for longer periods of time. But now, I have some easy math to showcase this.

Thanks to Tangedyn's spreadsheet over at Inconspicuous Bear, I have an example of this. Namely, me. While I'm not remotely geared to the gills or anything of the sort, the changes should not be significant between me and a very well-geared bear - especially as far as armor is concerned. I'll play with it later with a more geared tank at some point in the future. And if you look at that spreadsheet, 1 point of bonus armor is worth .18 points of agility.

So clearly agility wins out, right? Well, that's where it gets tricky. Things like Bedrock Talisman have a veritable ton of armor - 1285 to be precise. That's equivalent to 231 agility on its own - but it also has a large chunk of avoidance that could be useful at various points and would cause a big reduction in damage too. Many of the other agility trinkets like Essence of the Cyclone have a ton of agility but nothing particularly useful for anything else.

But the big thing that wins here is that armor is predictable. While avoidance is nice - good even - being able to consistently mitigate damage from every single physical hit is very nice. Being able to plan on that incoming damage on a regular basis is great.

So how does this compare to the two best agility trinkets out there - Tia's Grace and Fluid Death?We'll assume reforging to dodge.

Tia's grace: 340 agility effectively + 171 mastery + 114 dodge.
Fluid Death: 380 agility effectively + 193 hit + 128 dodge

According to the spreadsheet, mastery is worth .2782 agi, dodge .9110 agi, hit .0838. So we get a total value of:
Tia's Grace: 491.42
Fluid Death: 512

Okay, but what's the value of the proc on Bedrock? In a perfect world you'd get 963 dodge for 1/3rd of the time (which is unlikely), meaning you get 321 dodge.
Bedrock Talisman: 1285 armor *.1808 + 321 dodge *.9110 = 524

Huh. So that means that in a perfect setting where you get procs all the time, Bedrock Talisman is actually better for time to live and dtps than Fluid Death or Tia's Grace. (at least for me).

How about someone more geared? Well, while it's not perfect let's go ahead and use Sejta from Paragon. (it's not perfect because while they're more geared they go for mastery and stamina over agility and dodge primarily)For them, bonus armor is only worth .1632 and dodge .8322 agi. Mastery is worth more (.323) as well, so for them the values of Bedrock are a bit lower - Bedrock, even in the best case, is still not as good as Fluid Death for Sejta. (And I'm sure that breaks his heart).

Still, the value of armor's predictability combined with the value of the mitigation is quite nice and something to consider. Especially if the pattern of damage would give you that high avoidance in spikes. Heck, even something trivial like Heart of Thunder can be good if the cooldown is more useful than avoidance would be (for instance, on something where you take predictable chunks of large magical damage.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Congrats Fasc!

Just saw over at MMO-Champion the loot lists for Zul*, and lo and behold Fasc - a longtime contributor to bear tanking and general tanking theory and help - got an item named after him.

Congrats, Fasc!

What's awesome about the loot list: a freakin wrist item!

What's not? No feral weapon.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

[General]Site update, general thoughts

I've simply stopped posting much any more. Really, I've simply stopped writing much altogether about WoW.

This is mostly to do with me not raiding any more. Cataclysm hearkens back to the days where heroics were decently hard and raiding was challenging, and while that's awesome and everything I wanted improved, it's not nearly as easy to balance farming, rep grinding, valor point capping, and doing all the other things I like doing while also keeping a schedule of 4 hours where you do nothing else but play.

So raiding is done, at least as a srs bsns raider.

The theorycraft and news side of me has been...well, pretty down too. Part of it is that honestly, Alaron and Yawning were doing such a kickass job that anything I'd add would be largely irrelevant. With them taking up most of what was needed there just haven't been that many topics to discuss.

With them likely to be (or already) taking a hiatus, though, don't expect a lot more from me. The thing is that - and Yawning alluded to it - that feral has left me somewhat cold this expansion. Bears haven't grabbed me like I had hoped the dynamic rotation would have, and while it's not quite as boring as it used to be it's still not feeling like my abilities really...well, do much. And cats...well, I spent a lot of time on Alaron's blog talking about why I'm not really thrilled with ferals, but allow me to quote myself as I think this is the clearest indicator:

If you switched cata and wotlk in order, here are the buffs ferals would get:

-bleeds would be reduced in duration to increase the value of being on the target as well as making the rotation more potent.

Mastery changed to a scaling reduction of the opponents armor.

FB changed to use all available energy and do significantly more damage, buffed by bleeds and bleed modifiers.

Blood in the watermremoved to increase difficulty of rotation.

Swipe buffed by approx. 300%

Savage roar increases all damage instead of just autoattack, increasing it’s performance in the rotation and making the time on target more important

Berserk removes fear.

Shifting forms removes slows and snares

Fury swipes removed; it was not useful to have so much of the rotations damage on a noninteractive autoattack. This has been readers as damage to other abilities.

Instead of some attacks scaling with weapon damage all weapons have a ‘feral ap’ stat, allowing all feral attacks to scale with weapon damage naturally.

And that’s just off the top of my head. Yes, it’s nice to not be bound so much by arpen. Yes, skull bash is nice. The rest has been nerf after nerf, affecting either overall dps or simply the fun involved.

Add to this that ferals are underperforming both overall on DPS and in the melee group aside from one fight (Chimaeron) and you don't have the most compelling experience. At least I haven't. Things are easier, there's less to actually do, and it's not as fun for me. Other ferals differ, and that's awesome. But it's a good reason why I've been so malaise-y.

Then there's the 'we can't have nice things' function of PvP. It's amazing how much I miss removing snares by shifting. This was a really class-defining ability that really, really makes me sad to lose it. I don't pvp, and i don't care that much about pvp balance, so it's doubly sad for me; it's like I can't have nice things because out there, some other cat is thumbing his nose at people. Same thing with zerk removing fear; it's shocking how often I ended up using this in PvE. It's not something that's required, or something that's really awesome. It's just something that is nice, and you miss it when it's gone, and makes the class that much less fun to play.

But anyway, to answer some long-held questions that I seem to get all the time:

On weapon DPS: the weapon DPS is the best stat to 'stack' if you can for ferals; nothing comes close. But weapon speed or weapon damage don't matter in the slightest. All 200 DPS weapons are exactly the same as far as a feral is concerned. This is also why Unheeded Warning became so amazing for ferals.

On warstomp: sadly, it does have a cast time - and that means it can be pushed back on and (more importantly) you can't dodge while doing it. It's still very good for some things, but it's certainly not as great as you'd hope as a bear. It's actually a bit better as a cat, assuming you don't piss off the tank by doing so.

On stam vs. agility as a bear: stamina isn't nearly as awesomesauce as it was. Bears get roughly the same multiplier that other tanks do, so getting more doesn't help. Bears don't get a whole lot of gain from vengeance with that high stamina either; you get far more AP from agility. Most importantly, stamina marks in heroics are fairly small in terms of what you need to survive big hits. Longtime readers will remember that this was also the case for the Naxxramas era, and that didn't survive very long. I don't know whether or not stacking agility will be better in the long run, but if I had to bet on it I'd always bet on harder encounters having bigger hits to stress out everyone.

On capping hit/expertise as a bear: the only reason to do this now is for threat and to a lesser extent, skull bash (which is going away as a reason in 4.1). That being said, threat is kinda sketchy for bears and no other stats are remotely nice.

On capping hit/expertise for a cat: theoretically it is the least important thing to do. Realistically a lot of people have a much easier time with a rotation with high hit and expertise. Ultimately the difference between a hit and exp-capped feral vs a mastery/haste/crit feral is fairly small, so as long as you're stacking agility over everything else you'll be fine.

On the state of dps and ferals - yes, ferals are low. Yes, the simulators and the actual results agree. No, you probably won't see this as an issue if you're not in highly competitive raiding guilds. But statistically and mathematically this is entirely true: ferals are both doing poorly relative to overall DPS and to melee DPS (which is completely getting hosed so far this expansion). Any argument otherwise is essentially baking the numbers in a really quirky way. For instance, looking at the top 10 ferals and seeing that they are performing close to the top 250 overall (on a fight that favors ferals, no less) and thus declaring ferals are doing fine. Err...no. That being said, it's not hard to fix ferals to be more competitive: give them much better AoE and give them more base damage from either white damage shreds, or make their startup cost a bit cheaper. It's really not that hard to fix and ferals aren't so broken that they require a complete change.

On blue posts and ferals: no, ferals aren't getting a lot of attention. I don't know why either. I do know that it's much, much faster to bring up an actual broken problem to a person who knows a dev than it is to bring it up on the forums. One has a chance of being fixed. Another...almost never does.

I'll still very rarely post, and if you do have something you'd like me to talk about I'll be happy to. Otherwise I wish you the best of luck in Cataclysm. :)