Monday, August 24, 2009

PvP Musings

You know, for the longest time I forgot that Lambda had Ethereal Bacon. I won't make the vain promise of every other blogger in the industry ("OMG! I will totally update for regulars this time!"), but this does give me a place to store some random WoW thoughts. Which is quite therapeutic, even considering that readership for this particular blog are Lambda members and heavy-breathing internet stalkers (Yes, I'm talking about you, Leather suspenders do not belong on anatomically-correct Tauren plushies!).

Ahem. Onto musing subject #1: PvP.

It took me about three years to get into WoW PvP. There are a few benign reasons for this; being in a casual guild and busy all the time in real life, I found that the standard PvE content kept me pretty well satisfied until the next expansion. I just barely got into instances during the WoW classic years, and just barely got into raiding during the BC years. WotLK was really the first time when I got to see all the raid content, inside and out, and time pressures kept me from an endless cycle of alt creation.

Even then, however, I didn't exactly heed the siren call of PvP. Other games had taught me the golden rule of internet gaming: you will always play against 13-year-olds with infinite time and a desperate need for validation. There are corollaries to this central theory; you would often find yourself getting trash talked with about a thousand euphemisms for dick, but when you occasionally won, your opponents would politely point out that you were either gay, a hacker, or the dreaded hybrid class, the Steampunk Cockmancer.

The turnabout for me wasn't Blizzard's endless cycle of class balancing, but rather their matching systems. Every year or so, I'd forget the lessons of the previous cycle and run into some arenas or a battleground, and get prompted steamrolled by coordinated teams from other servers. Thankfully, the trashtalk element was largely removed by faction differences and relative anonymity, but the whole experience felt like a boxing match that pitted T-Rex versus baby. Most babies don't learn a whole heck of a lot about fighting once they're summarily eaten.

Until one year when I played AV and had a blast. Gone were the organized-teams versus pug matchups... battlegrounds suddenly became a place where contests of roughly equal skill could happen. Baseline resilience gear further narrowed that gap, giving my glass cannon a few more seconds to figure out what was going on before collapsing into a pile of gristle. That small space was all the difference between losing in confusion and losing with a plan for next time (and from there to winning with an even better plan waiting in the wings).

It's not that Blizzard's tinkering with class mechanics and balance hasn't helped, either, but by and large the micro-changes that they do now simply aren't "for" me. I read a bunch of RSS feeds, and it seems not a day goes by where someone complains that one class is utterly overpowered and crushing the PvP rankings. Sometimes its even true; once you filter out the standard whine machine, there are still players with articulate concerns on the role of crowd control, healing, and damage output. These inequalities, however, are really only glaring in the rarefied world of top tier play. In the slog of 1500-rated teams (home to the vast majority of players, the comfortable single standard-deviation), you die in an arena because of a failure in judgment. The wrong escape, the wrong target, the wrong set of tactics. Which is how it should be, really.

This is all preamble to the fact that I'm genuinely enjoying 3v3 arena play, and hope to collect some more thoughts on the subject in the near future. There are a few interesting gear choices to be made out of combat as well, primarily concerning the all-consuming stat vortex that is Resilience... how many points of INT and spellpower must be sacrificed to the volcano before we start hitting a little thing called diminishing returns? Pushing 900 right now and I don't think I've hit it yet.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

DPS: not just a number

One of my personal pet peeves is that DPS (damage-dealing) characters are judged solely on the number they put out. Admittedly, some of this peevishness comes from the fact that one of my 70s is a shadow priest, the ultimate in auxiliary usage -- but people actually do seem to appreciate shadow priests a lot, and I haven't found myself often turned away because someone wants more DPS. But it's not just shadow priests -- in fact, I would argue that in a raid setting, or even more so in an instance setting, intelligence trumps damage (and especially, trumps gear.) If you really want to be a successful DPS instead of just a high-damage one, every class has things they can do to really help out the group:

Hunters: Misdirect is one of the best spells in the game. Use it well. Here are some ways you can use it effectively: at the beginning of a pull to draw enemies to the tank or ramp up the latter's threat quickly (especially good with a warrior/druid), to get enemies off the healer (you'll want a macro for this), and to reestablish aggro after an aggro wipe (a specialty of many hard bosses.) A good misdirecting hunter will make everything a hell of a lot simpler. Also useful: good pet off-tanking, and of course good trapping (especially emergency/caster trapping.)

Mages: Here's a nice move that requires some coordination: if a mob is on the healer, frost nova it, and have the healer step away. Inform your healer than you may do this. Of course, good sheeping is important, but pretty easy to do for the most part.

Warlocks: Keep that soulstone up! The number of warlocks who don't do this is baffling. Other than that, you have a fear and a banish -- use them effectively to control panic situations. Obviously the former is a double-edged sword, but a well-timed and -placed fear can prevent a wipe just as easily as a poorly- one can cause one. Banish is the only crowd control in the game not broken on damage: don't be shy.

(retributive) Paladins: Cleanse. You have the best anti-debuff spell in the game; use it. Wake up people who are asleep. Nullify noxious poisons. The healers have their hands full with damage a lot of the time; don't be afraid to help. Because of your gear, you won't be a great offhealer, but occasionally you will see a chance, and of course there's always Lay on Hands. Divine Intervention is there for wipe protection, but every paladin worth their salt should be familiar with this. Finally, Hammer of Justice and Blessing of Protection are there to defend your healer. Use them. Hammer is also underrated at preventing damage spikes at the beginning of pulls. A 1-minute cooldown means that it need not be a panic button; use it early and often (but, of course, not befre the tank has placed the fight.)

Rogues: Stuns are the main tool that can be used for great good or great evil. Tanks hate nothing more than to see you open with Cheap Shot before they have aggro on the target or before they place the fight (especially true for paladins.) On the other hand, see that caster who isn't coming into the fray? Go over to him and stunlock him or kick him and bring him in. Between kicks, gouges, and stuns, any rogue should be able to solo a normal at-level instance caster. Your abilities are ideal for neutralizing these types -- for instance, a second non-crowd-controlled healer is a huge danger -- and you shouldn't necessarily wait for the tank to instruct you to do so.

Shamans: Earth shock, earth shock, earth shock (free tip: rank 1.) Also, choosing the right totems to help your group out the most (instead of, perhaps, just you) makes a big difference, and keeping them up will ultimately prove to be a win for your side, even if it means sacrificing a bit of DPS. Obviously, some offhealing helps, which elemental shamans are better at by virtue of gear.

Warriors: Disarm! Even many bosses (e.g. Attumen the Huntsman) are vulnerable to this trick, which your tank will thank you for. Also, consider using Commanding Shout instead of your usual Battle Shout, depending on the fight. Finally, some sunder armors on the target may work wonders depending on group composition. If you aren't a particularly threat-generating person, drop some sunders on and watch the boss's health bar dwindle. In caster boss fights (e.g. Shade of Aran), don't be afraid to strap on a shield and interrupt using Shield Bash. Really.

Druids: Druids are blessed with amazing in-combat versatility. Something on your healer? Consider going bear form. Healer down? Switch to caster form and start healing (with some changes to the feral combat tree, cats are now better at this than before.) The cat is actually in a fantastically versatile position: because their normal ability doesn't use mana, when they pop over to heal, their mana bar will be nice and full. You can dump this mana tank and then promptly switch back into cat. It's a very nice benefit to the group. Of course, the X factor in many fights is the druid's battle rez: using this well (perhaps not rezzing a DPS in case a healer goes down, or perhaps just being twitchy) will often give your group a much larger margin of error. Finally, Cyclone is certainly underused, both as a healer defense mechanism and as a mitigation tactic.

Shadow priests: Shadow priests have some amazing features. Of course, they can pop out of shadow form to offheal when necessary (try a Prayer of Mending pre-pull, too), but even more amazing, they can cast Power Word: Shield while in shadow form. Do not underestimate this -- I can't tell you how many wipes I've saved by popping this button, giving a 1500-2000 hp buffer while the healers catch up. Aside from maybe misdirect, I think this is the single best non-dps, non-crowd control spell available to damage-dealers. It's an instant cast, of course, which is huge. Aside from this, dispel magic, like with the paladin (although not quite as powerful), is a nice tool to help out. Finally, you have the fear, to be used only in emergencies, but a nice way to save your healer out sometimes.


The problem with this, of course, is that you can't very well tell whether Joe Druid who is messaging you will be good at this or not. You can check out his gear on the Armory, but you can't tell if he will be a good offhealer on instinct, or how his bear reflexes are. Maybe with the achievements coming in WotLK you will be able to check out his success in past endeavors, but I wouldn't count on it. So, ultimately, these skills won't help you get into PUGs, and if you are with a particularly blind group who just checks damage meters, won't help you make friends. But those probably aren't the kind of friends you want anyway. So, be a better player: maybe a bit less damage, but many fewer wipes, and a nice experience for all.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Partial derivatives, part 2: Tanking

This will be a very long and ultimately mathy post about tanking, so I'll start with the qualitative part before moving onto the quantitative. Ignoring the issue of threat gen for the moment, assuming uncrushability (this post will focus on warrior and paladin tanks), there are four attributes that matter to tanks: hit points, armor, block value, and avoidance (which I define as dodge + miss + parry.) You may recall in the first partial derivatives post, I noted that the best strategy for melee dps is a mixture of hit and crit. The conclusion of this discussion is that for tanks, it's actually better to stack either avoidance or armor+block value, depending on the level of gear and the speed of the mob. Lack of diversity is the goal here.

Before we get to the numbers, let's give a recap of what these four things do for a tank. Fight examples will be drawn from heroic instances and Karazhan, as I have not yet progressed beyond that.

Hit points: Obviously, the more hit points you have, the less likely you are to die. However, in long raid boss fights, the issue becomes one of throughput; you only get the value of your max HP once, while increased mitigation happens all fight. Nonetheless, higher HP is still good in these fights (in a fight-dependent way) for some potential non-mitigation-related reasons: 1) in fights against hard-hitting bosses, if you fail to avoid several hits in a row hit points can be a guard against the law of small numbers; 2) if you or your healer(s) are stunned or feared or whatever, you need to be able to survive a period without heals; 3) the more HP you have, the more consecutive seconds a healer can spend ignoring you, meaning that 3a) healers can spend time outside the 5-second rule and regenerate mana, and 3b) healers can afford to have their mental focus off of you for enough time to heal someone else without worrying that you will die during their mental switch time or GCD.

These are not negligible considerations, especially large in some fights (e.g. Maiden of Virtue (Kara), Blackheart the Inciter (SL), Terestian Illhoof (Kara)).

Armor: Armor mitigates every physical attack by a certain percentage, and is applied before block value. This makes it good to have against hard-hitting mobs. Also, armor as opposed to avoidance makes for a dull, less bursty wave of incoming damage. This is particuarly useful when your healer is a priest or especially druid, since if their HoTs are enough to keep you up consistently, they can slap them on you and then worry about other targets. Less burstiness is also better when you have to tank either single really hard-hitting mobs, or multiple hard-hitting mobs, where survival is important and burstiness can kill that. This is also useful in cases where you are potentially incapacitated, since your avoidance and block is not helping you there. Some good fights for high armor are Nightbane (Kara), Aeonus (BM), Warlord Kalithresh (SV), Warp Splinter (Bot).

Block value: Block value mitigates every unavoided physical attack by a certain number, and is applied after armor. This makes it good to have against fast, weak-hitting mobs (e.g. rogue-type bosses), essentially because it procs more (your incoming damage is reduced by a constant every time you block), or against multiple mobs which presumably are not as fast-hitting. Examples of fights where block value is great are Moroes (Kara), Mekgineer Steamrigger (SV), Kargath Bladefist (Shattered Halls).

Avoidance: Having higher miss/dodge/parry chance allows you to escape attacks unscathed. This is obviously the best-case scenario for an attack, and is especially useful against mobs which either apply a debuff on hit or have a debuff applied physically, of which the most noxious is Mortal Strike. Examples of fights where this comes up are from adds to Priestess Delrissa (MgT) or Moroes (Kara). Also, note that (importantly) putting stat points into here instead of any of the other categories frees up other stat points from block rating (the cheapest way to become uncrittable), allowing you to recoup a secondary benefit.

Finally, while specialization is mathematically good (see below), there are two advantages to being well-balanced. One is being able to tank a variety of fights well, because all of these factors are more relevant at times. Another is that items with bonuses to more stats give more total bonus (due to Blizzard's itemization formula) than bonuses to fewer stats. However, there are still cases where one has an outright decision to make (e.g. gemming, or deciding which badge reward to get, or whatever.) That's where my mathematician will take over.

Assuming an uncrushable tank, the formula for (physical) damage is simple: f(a,r,b,x) = (1-a)(g(r)x - b) per attack on average, where a = avoidance (miss + dodge + parry), b = block value, and r = armor. g(r) is the amount of damage that gets through given r armor; against raid bosses this is equal to 11960/(r+11960). Let's start with the sign pattern of the Hessian (matrix of partial second derivatives) of this function:

a r b
a 0 + +
r + + 0
b + 0 0

Assuming that all three stats start at zero (and this is true for any other "minimum base values" of stats), the possible options to spend some number of remaining itemization points comprise choosing some avoidance and armor values, and spending the rest on block. This makes the feasible region representable as a right triangle in the first quadrant:


| -\
| -\
| -\
-------- r

Holding x (how hard the mob hits) constant for a second, our goal is to minimize f(a, r, b, x). Our first result is that holding armor constant, it is always right to go either all-avoidance or all-block. This is implied by the submatrix of the Hessian given by avoidance-block:

a b
a 0 +
b + 0

For any function with this sign pattern, the minimum is either achieved at the maximum possible value of a or the maximum possible value of b (this is easy to show using rudimentary calculus or common sense.) Intermediate values in fact do strictly worse than one would expect given linear interpolation. This is easy to see with a real world example. Suppose that Arthur the Paladin is tanking a boss who hits for 100 damage per hit post-armor. He has three choices: 20 percent avoidance and 0 block, 10 percent avoidance and 10 block, or 0 percent avoidance and 20 block. Then the first choice will give him an incoming dps of 80 percent times 100, or 80; the last choice will give him an incoming dps of 100 percent times 80, or 80. The hybrid choice actually underperforms either monomaniacal strategy! It has an incoming dps of 90 percent times 90, or 81.

Note also that the dominant strategy depends on how hard the boss hits. If the hits go up to 150 per hit (either by facing a harder hitting mob, or by having worse armor), suddenly the avoidance strategy performs better: 120 dps as opposed to 130 for the block strategy (or 126 for the hybrid strategy, again worse than the average of the other two.) If the hits go down to 50 per hit, the block strategy wins: 30 dps as opposed to 40 for the avoidance strategy (or 36 for the hybrid.) So having more armor swings the pendulum towards block value. We will return to this observation later.

At any rate, given a fixed value of r, we know that the optimum value of either a or b is zero. This reduces the region we need to consider to the union of the hypotenuse and bottom edges of the triangle shown above.

Consider the hypotenuse first, where block value is zero. The formula for percent damage taken is now equal to (1-a)(11960/(r+11960)). Suppose that 1 percent of avoidance is equal in item points to 265 armor (this is approximately correct.) For simplicity, we will let r from now on denote the number of 265-points allocated to armor, making this formula: ((100-a)/100) (45/(r+45)). We can minimize this function along the hypotenuse by setting the a-partial derivative and r-partial derivative equal to each other:

(-1/100) * (45/(r+45)) = ((100-a)/100) * (-45/(r+45)^2), or r+45 = 100-a, or r+a = 55.

This is a surprising magic formula. What this says is that for fixed a+r and no block, the values of a and r are irrelevant when determining your best choice! If r+a > 55, then avoidance wins; if r+a < 55, then armor wins. Essentially, the better gear you have, the better you are putting it into avoidance. Note that in all real-world situations, r+a should be greater than 55.

Of course, this is not quite accurate because of block value in the case where we don't start with zero item points, but rather with some prescribed set of gear (like, I don't know, a shield.) This extra term adds a correction term of +(1/100)(kb) to the left side where k is some factor dependent on how hard the mob hits. However, as r gets lower (aka mob hits harder), note that this term decreases in importance. This means again that the minimum damage taken is always achieved at one endpoint of the hypotenuse. Since the point with zero avoidance will be discussed in the discussion of zero (or min) avoidance, we are left with only having to compare the max-avoidance (min-armor, min-block) point with whatever the maximum from the armor-block-only strategy.

For this strategy, the value of avoidance is obviously irrelevant in the maximization, so we need only consider the damage taken per hit, (45/r+45) * x - 29 * b (in itemization points, 1 point of avoidance rating is approximately equal to 29 block.) However, the value of a mob's hit, x, is relevant. Using partial derivatives again and setting them equal, we obtain:

-45/(r+45)^2 * x = -29

or r = sqrt(45x/29) - 45.

Essentially, the number of itemization points dedicated to armor increases with how hard the mob hits. The interesting thing is that this does not at all scale with the total number of itemization points available, although if x is small enough (less tha 1315) this will be negative (meaning that we should pursue as much of an all-block strategy as possible.)

Here is the optimal value of armor under the armor-block strategy, depending on how hard the mob hits:

x / armor (265r)
2k / 2840
3k / 6160
4k / 8950
5k / 11420
6k / 13640
7k / 15690
8k / 17600
9k / 19390
10k / 21090

Finally, we have to compare the armor-block strategy to the avoidance strategy. This result will depend on how hard the mob hits. Let's consider the following (fairly realistic) parameters:

-- We start with 40 percent avoidance, 12k armor, and 200 block. We have 10 points to itemize. What is the value of x at which the armor-block strategy wins? It turns out to be at or below 3885. So if the mob's unmitigated hits are less than this, prefer the armor-block strategy; if they are more, prefer the avoidance strategy. Note that all raid bosses hit for (much) more than 3885, but the armor-block strategy generally has the benefit of having less burstiness. A typical raid boss might hit for 10k unmitigated; the avoidance strategy will result in 1920 incoming damage per hit while the armor-block strategy will result in 2330 incoming dph. This is a big (20 percent) different, but perhaps not insurmountable.)

-- Let's consider my real-world tank, Abdelnaby. He currently stands at 53.50 percent avoidance, 15925 armor, and 336 block. What should I be focusing on? It turns out that Abdel's break-even point is 3927, meaning that if I plan to fight bosses with more than 3927 per hit, I should stack avoidance, while if I plan to fight things with less than 3927 per hit, I should stack block rating. Again, considerations of real-world issues may shift the spectrum towards armor/block, but it looks like my general strategy of focusing on avoidance is a pretty good one.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


At this point I consider myself a Karazhan veteran. I've seen the place repeatedly from three different perspectives: tank, hunter, and shadow priest. I really like it -- the fun part is that the bosses present a variety of challenges. Each fight places the focus on a different sector of your group, and I like the flow and feel of the bosses fitting together. Here's a quick walkthrough of the bosses for posterity, in the usual order that a very well-geared group will do them:

Attumen: This is a tank gear check, plain and simple. Midnight and Attumen are both tank and spank; if your tanks can take damage, you win, otherwise, you lose. A good warmup.

Moroes: This fight is about crowd control. Basically, if you keep a couple of guys under control, it lets the healers rein in their aggro, and makes the fight much much easier. If shackles or traps break or are fumbled, you're in big trouble, with many adds capable of rampaging. A coordination check on the raid.

Maiden: This fight is about dispelling reflexes. The only real obstacle to this fight is Maiden's holy fire, a nasty DoT which needs to be cleansed quickly. A good trigger finger on the dispel squad and you should be okay. (It helps to have a clueful paladin keep up blessing of sacrifice, of course.)

Opera: Three different possibilities:

The Wizard of Oz: This fight is really about the tanks. Fearing Roar is not hard; kiting the strawman with fire is not hard. But one tank needs to kite the tinman around, and he hits hard; the other tank needs to tank Tito and maintain secondary threat on Roar. Well, not needs, but attentive tanks who pick up the adds when they spawn will make this fight a win for you.

The Big Bad Wolf: This fight is about the healers being ready to spam heals on Little Red Riding Gnome. Secondarily, it is an individual responsibility fight, as people have to be ready to run.

Romeo and Juliet: This is one for the spell interrupters; the fight is more or less trivial as long as Juliet's heals are interrupted.

Nightbane: Another (optional) tank gear check, with some personal responsibility mixed in. The tank also needs to be good about positioning and churning out threat quickly on his relanding, because he can and will 1-shot dps serially until you do.

Curator: This fight is about dps, who need to switch to the flares quickly and eliminate them before they drain the healers' mana pools. Secondarily, it is about the healers cleaning up after the chain lightning. Incidentally, this is the easiest fight in Kara to tank; because the DPS are mostly after the sparks, you basically have to do nothing more than keep your uncrushability up. Yawn.

Illhoof: This fight is about dps, similar to Curator: nuking the demon chains super fast = win. This is harder than Curator, because the sacrifice is more urgent and less frequent than the sparks, so it's more about reflexes and less about intelligence.

Shade of Aran: In my opinion, this is the hardest fight in Kara from a coordination standpoint, dealing with the elementals, who always cause chaos and interact poorly with each of Aran's special abilities. This means that the main people under duress will be the healers, who have to be prepared for bursty damage on anyone and complete chaos during the elemental phase. Secondarily, spell interrupters need to do their job.

Netherspite: This is an incredibly well-rounded fight. You need teamwork, gear, and individual smarts to prevail. The most fun fight in the instance, bar none.

Chess: This fight is about relaxing and picking up two easy badges.

Prince: Despite the fact that this is the last fight in Kara, it's mostly a luck fight. If the infernals don't drop between Prince and the door, this fight is really, really easy. If they do, you're in for a world of unavoidable pain (especially if you have lots of melee.) This is a really easy fight to heal; either people die after enfeebling, or they don't. It requires some gear, but less than either Netherspite or Nightbane; I would say that it's much more straightforward than any fight in Kara with the exception of Attumen.

Anyway, it's a fun ride, one which I look forward to doing many more times.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Patch Highlights 2.4.0

Well WoW 2.4.0 is now live. I was bored at work yesterday (like really bored) so I read the patch notes (ok not all of them, but the important stuff). And I'm bored again today, so I figured I'd go through them and pick out a few of the highlights, for the benefit of those who have less time on their hands than I do.

  • The Sunwell Isle is now available for play. This area includes a new quest hub and 5 and 25-player instances. (New areas and instances are always good. . . even though I umm. . . still don't have a 70 to make use of them.)
  • Characters will now retain talented spell ranks so when they retalent they do not have to relearn the spells from trainers. (Yay! Of course I just did this two days before the patch came out and had to spend money on re-training!)
  • Spirit-Based Mana Regeneration: This system has been adjusted so that as your intellect rises, you will regenerate more mana per point of spirit.
  • Weapon Skill: Points will be gained faster in weapon skills for levels 1 through 59.
  • The Daily Quest limit has been increased to 25. (I guess that's good, but I've never even gotten close to 10.)
  • Nurturing Instinct increases your healing spells by up to 50/100% of your Agility, and increases healing done to you by 10/20% while in Cat form. (Very exciting! My feral druid's bonus healing more than tripled over night. To bad the bonus to inbound healing doesn't effect bear form too.)
  • Regrowth: The mana cost of this spell has been reduced by approximately 20%.
  • Blink, Slow, and Spellsteal have all had their mana cost reduced.
  • Icy Veins no longer increases the chance your chilling effects will Freeze the target, but now increases the chance to avoid interruption caused by damage while casting any spell by 100% while active.
  • Mana Shield: This spell will now get a percentage of the Mage’s bonus to spell damage as an additional effect.
  • New Talent: Molten Shields will cause your Fire Ward to have a 10/20% chance to reflect Fire spells while active. In addition, your Molten Armor has a 50/100% chance to affect ranged and spell attacks.
  • Avenger’s Shield: This ability will no longer jump to secondary targets which are under the effect of crowd-control spells that break on taking damage. I.e. Polymorph, Sap, etc. (This seems like a pretty big deal and excellent news for tankadins.)
  • Holy Shock: The healing, damage, and mana cost of this spell have all been increased.
  • Turn Undead(Rank 3):This spell has been reworked and has been renamed to “Turn Evil”. It will now work on Demons in addition to Undead. Turn Evil is subject to diminishing returns, and lasts 10 seconds in PvP. (Turn is very situational, but this is a nice little buff nonetheless. And it makes sense, lore-wise.)
  • Chastise no longer disorients the target, but now is instant cast and roots the target for 2 seconds. (Not sure yet whether this is good or bad.)
  • Mass Dispel now affects a maximum of 10 targets, increased from 5.
  • Power Infusion: Infuses the target with power, increasing their spell haste by 20% and reducing the mana cost of all spells by 20%. Lasts for 15 seconds.This will not stack with other haste effects, such as Heroism, Bloodlust, or Icy Veins.
  • Reflective Shield: The reflective damage from this talent no longer breaks crowd control effects which break on taking damage.
  • Sap mechanic changed from “Incapacitate” to “Sap”. This will allow more humanoids that were previously immune to Sap to be vulnerable to Sap, but still immune to Gouge. Note that anything that removed Sap previously will still remove Sap after the change.
  • (There's some other Rogue stuff, but I don't know enough about the class to determine if it's important or not.)
Shaman (apparently this is the singular and plural form)
  • Earth Shield: Mana cost reduced roughly in half, and charges reduced from 10 to 6.
  • Ghost Wolf: Cast time reduced to 2 seconds, down from 3. (Does that mean it can be instant with talents? I haven't tried but it sounds like it. . . that's sweet!)
  • The Global Cooldown of all Totems has been reduced to 1 seconds, down from 1.5 seconds. (Moderately helpful.)
  • Shamanistic Rage is now a Physical ability instead of a Magic spell, and thus is no longer dispellable. It now reduces all damage taken by 30% and gives your successful melee attacks a chance to regenerate mana equal to 30% of your attack power. This lasts for 15 seconds with a 2 minute cooldown.
  • Totem timer icons will now show up under your player portrait when you cast totem spells. Right-clicking a totem timer icon will destroy that totem. (One less thing to use an add-on for. And the ability to selectively destroy a totem is long over-due.)
  • Ritual of Summoning can be used to summon players into instances if they meet the instance requirements. (This is good news for everyone!)
  • Cleave: This ability will no longer strike any secondary target which is under the effect of crowd-control spells that break on taking damage. i.e. Polymorph, Sap, etc.
  • Honor will now be instantly calculated, and available for player use.
  • Arenas
    • Queue times for arena matches have been reduced. Players will now be able to enter matches faster than previously.
  • Battlegrounds
    • If a player dies 50 times or more in a battleground, they will no longer be worth honor for the remainder of that battle. (50 times?! Ouch!)
    • Warsong Gulch
      • When both flags are held, the flag carriers will receive 50% increased damage done to them after approximately 10 minutes and 100% increased damage after approximately 15 minutes. (I've been in some looong WSGs. . . this is an interesting approach to take to addressing both teams turtling with the flag.)
      • Flag carriers can now be tracked 45 seconds after picking up the flag.
  • Dungeon and Group Quest Experience: The amount of experience awarded for dungeon and 5-person group quests in Outland has been increased in almost all cases.
  • Increased the slots on Old Blanchy's Feed Pouch to 8. (It's about time!)
Dungeons and Raids (None of these mean much to me yet, but they seem important.)
  • All 25-player raid bosses have had their cash drops increased!
  • All 25- player raid bosses that drop set tokens will now drop an additional token!
  • Badges of Justice have been added to all raid bosses who did not previously have them!
  • Players will no longer require an attunement quest to enter Hyjal.
  • Players will no longer require an attunement quest to enter the Black Temple.
  • You may now fight Prince Kael’thas and Lady Vashj without first killing all the other bosses in their respective dungeons.
  • Non-corporeal Undead and Mechanical creatures are now susceptible to bleed effects. (Hmm, this strikes me as an unnecessary and questionable--from a basic logic and lore standpoint--change. But I haven't been into any raids or high level dungeons, so I really don't know.)
  • Hellfire Citadel: Magtheridon’s Lair
    • Many gameplay elements of the encounters in Magtheridon’s Lair have been changed to decrease their overall complexity and difficulty. (Again, I haven't been in here. . . but it's been made easier. Was it too hard before?)
  • Karazhan
    • Players will no longer need the Master’s Key to enter Karazhan. The gates to Karazhan will still require the Master’s Key to be unlocked. (I know getting "Karazhan keyed" was a big deal before, so this sounds pretty significant.)
User Interface
  • The Interface Options screen has been completely redesigned. AddOns that interact with the Interface Options screen will need to be updated.
  • Players will now be able to inspect other players via their chat link.
  • The friends list now has a notes field per friend. Click on the note icon to add a note for a particular friend.
  • There is now a UI option to display free bag space. When turned on, your backpack will display the total number of free spaces available in all your bags. (About time. . . another add-on bites the dust!)
  • You can now link quests into the chat log by Shift-Clicking on the quest name in the quest log. (This is way past due! Thanks, Blizz.)
  • In Master Loot mode, all players in the group will see sparkles on corpses that have loot above the master loot threshold. This lets everyone see what the master loot items are, though they cannot interact with them. Only the master looter can loot those items still.e quest log.
World Environment
  • A mailbox has been added to the inn in Darnassus. (Seriously, what took so long?)
  • The Ratchet bank now has access to the Guild Vault.
Bug Fixes
  • Ogri'la Peacekeeper's weapons have been scaled to a size more appropriate for keeping the peace. (Don't know what this means, but it made me laugh anyway.)
  • Zeppelin Master Zapetta will no longer become confused about whether the zeppelin in Orgrimmar is arriving or leaving. (Another funny one.)
  • Sending mail to a non-existent character will now result in players getting the message, “Cannot find mail recipient”.
There are some conspicuous differences between the PTR patch notes and the ones that went live...

Present in PTR but lacking in live:
  • Hunters: Multi-Shot: This ability will no longer strike any secondary targets which are under the effect of crowd-control spells that break on taking damage. i.e. Polymorph, Sap, etc.
  • Shaman: Chain Lightning: This ability will no longer jump to secondary targets which are under the effect of crowd-control spells that break on taking damage. i.e. Polymorph, Sap, etc.
  • Druids: Swipe: This ability will no longer strike any secondary targets which are under the effect of crowd-control spells that break on taking damage. i.e. Polymorph, Sap, etc.
  • Warlocks: Felguard Cleave: This ability will no longer strike any secondary target which is under the effect of crowd-control spells that break on taking damage. ie. Polymorph, Sap, etc.
Curious (and frustrating) that some classes got a very nice CC-related multi-target change and others did not. I hope it's just because Blizzard was having problems with some of the abilities and they'll add it in a future patch (2.4.1 perhaps).

Sunday, February 24, 2008

How to Befriend a Tankadin

As one of our guild's two resident tankadins, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about how to best interact with various dps classes. Basically, two big factors distinguish paladins from warriors/druids:

1) Most of our threat generation is passive, resulting from AoEs or being hit. This means that if you draw aggro, it's much harder for us (if our taunt is on cooldown or the mob is untauntable) to get it back.

2) We use mana instead of rage. Since we regain mana from being healed, the important part of this is that we need to be taking damage in order to produce threat -- even more so than a warrior, I believe, although I do not have a level 70 warrior tank to compare. Initially, it may seem like it's the other way around, since the link between warrior damage and threat generation is one step instead of two, but I believe that it is even more important for a tankadin to be taking damage.

A couple of things you might want to know: we start many pulls by throwing our shield, which produces a lot of threat on three enemies -- less if it misses one, never more. The shield moves in what I believe is a deterministic way, but it's not always obvious which enemies it will hit. Also, our taunt has a longer cooldown than a warrior's: 15 seconds instead of 10. Compensating for this: we taunt all enemies off a given ally instead of just one, and we don't need to be in melee range to do it.

With this in mind, here's a rough guide on how to interact with DPS classes:

1) Rogue: The worst thing that can happen to us is to have a rogue stunlock the main target. Because our threat generation is passive, we need to be getting hit to maintain aggro, and also having the enemy stunned means we are taking less damage. If you are a rogue and you want your tank to like you, don't stunlock the main target or really anything; you will have it stuck to you, and a quick vanish just means that your healer will die instead, because we haven't gotten a whole lot of threat on it. Obviously, stunlock can be useful for temporary mitigation, but be sure your tank approves. Meanwhile, the sap presents an interesting challenge, in that we have to make sure that the shield doesn't hit it. This is usually difficult, because the best way to do this is to sap something in back, which is harder. I usually facepull when sap is in effect, which of course means dps needs to back off a bit and the healer needs to be ready.

2) DPS plate: No particular ramifications. If there is a ret paladin, they should make sure to slap on a seal of the crusader (improved) which they were probably going to do anyway, and sanctity aura (same deal) -- both of these results in us doing more holy damage, which is most of our damage, and which via Righteous Fury means tons of threat. Life should be pretty easy with a ret paladin around as far as threat goes. For fury and arms warriors, no real special treatment.

3) Hunter: The hunter can do many clever things which will help us. Because we're weak on ranged, misdirect pulls will often come in very handy for line of sight; the holy shield has a 30 yard range, instead of 35 for shooting. Note that the hunter can MD you and then you can scamper out of sight for an instant line-of-sight pull. If you have a particularly excellent hunter, they can MD, give you lots of threat on the primary target, and then trap a secondary target. MD also obviously combines well with a sapped enemy for line of sight pulls.

Freezing traps present a problem for the shield. Optimal, obviously, is to not have the shield hit the freezing trap. If there are 3 or fewer enemies, or you don't know where the shield is going necessarily (I believe it jumps to the nearest enemy with ties broken by distance to you, it hitting the nearer one, but this may not be reliable and distances may not be easy to ascertain), this may not be possible. Hunters need to generate more threat on the target than they may be used to from warriors -- a Distracting Shot and a couple more hits should do the trick.

We have an advantage on trap resists, since we can taunt the mob back from afar; of course, if we threw our shield, the hunter can just feign death and we'll get the mob back.

4) Mages -- the shield throw is huge here. If you hit the to-be-sheeped mob with your shield, then the sheep will come to you if it breaks or is resisted, instead of the usual beeline for the hapless mage. I'm not sure how aggro generation for an enemy in sheep form works -- I think there is none, which means that if you have hit it with the shield, no matter how many times it's resheeped, it will likely come for you when it's done. Also, because the target is dazed, it comes for you slowly, which means the mage has plenty of time to sheep it before the mobs come into where you have placed the fight and will be concentrating. This is an excellent dps class for a paladin to work with, not even counting the oh-so-useful biscuits.

5) Warlocks -- warlocks can go more nuts with us than with warriors, because of the threat we generate on all the mobs. In particular, a warlock can usually get away with a DoT or two on each mob. Obviously, don't overdo it, but your tankadin should be able to hold threat with one or two torture devices in place. Banish is also a nice device, because you can consecrate through it. Seduction is quite iffy, on the other hand, because it's hard to maintain it in place since there is an interval in between and the mob is likely to run into our consecrate in the meantime.

6) Shadow priests -- you're in luck. Your Vampiric Embrace will no longer cause all the mobs to hate you. Also, when you mind control a guy and it fails, we're there to save the day instantly with a taunt. No need to thank us -- that mana we're getting back from VE is more than enough.

7) Shamans -- no particular notes, as far as I can tell. Mana spring totems make us happy.

8) Cats -- see rogues, minus comments about sap.

9) Boomkin -- no particular notes. It's worth noting that I haven't run nearly as much with the last three items on this list, so there may be ramifications I'm completely missing.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Curator Down!

Eight Lambdas and two esteemed colleagues waltzed into Karazhan this morning and downed Attumen, Moroes, Maiden, Crone, and Curator in just about 3.5 hours. Nice! Many phat lewts were obtained, including Legacy for our hunter friend and T4 gloves for Crushey.

First, the obligatory "Curator down" screen shot:

Plus, a bonus group photo: