Thursday, July 30, 2009

Raid Survivability: A Rant

I don't know why but this has been bugging me lately. I'm sure most if not all of you have heard this quote:

If the tank dies, it's the healer's fault. If the healer dies, it's the tank's fault. If the DPS dies, it's their own damn fault.
I bet that this quote was first made in some form of jest, but some people now seem to take this quote as unquestionable truth. Most of the time when I hear this quote, it's from a tank or healer with a ton of superiority, but I have heard it from raid leaders and other DPSers in the past.

Well, I call BS.

In this post, I'm going to rant a little bit, but I would also like to take a look at some of the things I have done to try and improve my survivability.

This is not an Excuse:
I want to make one think clear. I am not trying to make any excuses for poor play. If a DPS stands in the fire and dies, its their own fault. If they pull aggro off the tank and die, its their fault. If they don't follow instructions and get separated from the group and die, its their fault.

But doesn't this hold true for tanks and healers also?

I realize that when you compare DPS to Healers to Tanks your not always comparing apples to apples. For instance, in some cases its better for the tank to sit there and take the damage. However, there are also times when the damage should be avoided. Take the flame wall in Sarth for example. Sure a tank can survive it with dedicated healers, but he is putting an unnecessary strain on his healers and forcing them to use Mana and Cooldowns that maybe important later.

Of course, healers also have to avoid obvious hazards, but it goes beyond that. Over my two years of raiding I've heard healers excuse their death because they pulled healing aggro like they couldn't do anything about it. They may be right, but at the same time I find it unlikely that there was nothing they could do any of those times. NE Druids have Shadowmeld. Priests fade and other long cooldowns. Paladin's have bubble. Obviously, I am not a healer and could be completely wrong here, but I have a hard time believing that there was nothing those healers could do to help themselves.

DPS Survivability:
We, as a whole, tend to give tanks and healers a little more of a break when it comes to their deaths, but for DPS the automatic question seems to be "why were you being stupid?"

In fact, I was in a raid a while back when after a wipe one of the healers said "You guys better have used your healthstones." I completely agree that DPS needs to try and stay alive as best they can, but it isn't always cut and dry on when you should use your survival buttons. DPS in general have limited options on what they can use when. Here are the options:

  • Heavy Frostweave Bandage: First off, If you don't have your First Aid leveled up so that you can use these, shame on you. Every raider, if not every player, should have their first aid skilled up. It is the one secondary profession that I have on all of my toons.

    There are several advantages when it comes to bandages. They heal 5800 damage. That is more then any other non spell form of healing. They are also available to every player, and you can use them multiple times in a fight. The down side is that it takes you out of the fight for 8 seconds and it is interrupted if you take any damage.

    Bandage are good, but they are unlikely to save you when your taking a lot of damage quickly.

  • Runic Healing Potion: There are several options here but this probably the most standard. The benefit to a healing pot is that it is a quick heal that can keep you alive when your taking a lot of little damage ticks. The down side is that you have only one pot per fight, and my guild is instructing us that we need to use DPS potions on DPS races. On top of that, the amount it heals for varies but on average it will only heal for 3600 damage and could be as low as 2700. When you have 23k health as I do, that isn't much.

  • Fel Healthstone: How you feel about healthstones depends a little bit on your class, but they are great for moonkin. The smallest version heals for 4280 and it is an instant heal. On top of that it doesn't share a cooldown with anything that moonkin us regularly. Mages have bigger issues because it shares a cooldown with Mana stones. The down side is that you have only one. So, the question when you should use it some times comes up.

  • Lifeblood: I list this only because I am an herbalist. Currently its not a very good heal since heals for 2000 health over 5 seconds, but it is getting buffed some in patch 3.2. Its nice if you have it, because it is an instant non mana heal. Also you can us it multiple times during most fights because the cooldown is only 3 minutes. That sad its got the down side of being a HoT and being fairly weak. Gift of the Naaru would fall into this category as well in my opinion if your a non-druid.

  • Barkskin: This is a great ability and has several advantages. The first is that it is on a relatively short cooldown of only a minute. The second is that you can use it while stunned or incapacitated in some way. The downside is that it is a damage preventer rather than a damage fixer and therefore very temporary. Its good for giving your healers a little bit of a break or giving them a little more time. However, if you get low and stay low, your likely going to die anyway.

  • Healing Spells: Moonkin always have the option to heal themselves. The great thing about healing spells is that most don't have cooldowns and are a little stronger than the other options. The down side is that we are not specced to use them efficiently and a majority of druid heals are DoTs. I think moonkin and other classes that have the ability to heal, should always be ready to heal themselves. However, if a DPSer is having to heal them self a lot then there is a problem going on some where.

The Balancing Act:
Lets assume that we are playing well by not standing in the void zones, pulling aggro, or being generally stupid. On the surface it looks like we have a lot of options to keep our selves alive, but if you look closer its not always cut and dry. Each of these abilities has a down side that you have to weight against the situation.

The biggest question I have is when should I use my healthstone?Of all of the things that can help me stay alive its the best, but I can use it only once. When is the best time to use it? How long should I wait for a heal before I use it?

If your a really perceptive player, you may be able to identify when raid healing will be low because a healer is incapacitated for some reason. If that's not the case though, how long do you wait for a heal before popping the stone?

If you go from full to dead in less then 2 seconds there probably wasn't much you or anyone else could do about it. Above that it starts to be a question, and to be honest I don't know the answer. If I go from full to dead in 4 or 5 seconds it becomes a real question of why I didn't pop a healthstone or cast a heal. This goes against the grain a little bit, but I also think it is a fair question of why I didn't get a heal from a healer in those 4 or 5 seconds. I'm not saying they necessarily did anything wrong, but they are just as capable of an error as I am.

What I Do:
Don't take what I say here as gospel. I have struggled with raid survivability times and I am always looking for ways to preform better. To be completely honest some of the suggestions I am going to make here are good but I'm not 100% affective in implementing them. This is still a work in progress.

The best thing I ever did was to make macros. I have made multiple macros that will cast a heal or use a bandage on myself with out switching my DPS target. This can save a lot of time in those stressful situations where your trying to stay alive.

The next thing I try to do is to use my cooldown abilities early and often. I'm not always the best at this, and I am particularly bad at using bandages but the less stress you put on the healers the better.

With Barkskin, I tend to use it in more a reactive manner, but I'm trying to be proactive. Being reactive isn't necessarily bad, but being proactive can make the healers job much easier. There are several fights where you know when significant damage will be coming in. A couple of good examples of this is Tantrum during XT or Ground Tremor during Freya. Playing this way will mean that your health won't get so low at times and your less likely to die to bad RNG.

When it comes to Healthstones I've adopted a "better safe than sorry" philosophy. Unless there is a specific time when I know I'm going to need it, I tend to use my stone the first time I feel in danger of dying.

Finally, I'm try and think ahead, and frankly I'm not always good at it. Try and think about the fight and what damage you will be taking before hand. One of the great things about being a druid is that several of our HoTs are instant casts and can be used on the move. Since most of our damage spells can't be used while moving, it is a great idea to heal yourself while moving.

XT Hard Mode is a perfect example. When you get Gravity Bomb or Searing light you take quite a bit of damage and have to run away from the group. If she casts Tantrum at the same time it can be really difficult for the healers. So here I am, taking a lot of damage and not being able to DPS because I'm running. I should be putting a full stack of lifebloom on myself and maybe even a rejuv. I only recently thought of this and I feel like a little bit of an idiot for not having done it sooner.

In Conclusion:
It is important to look at premature deaths truthfully. I do think DPS get a bad rap when it comes to deaths, but that is not an excuse to be sloppy or to not improve. It is really important for us to find that balance between DPS and Survivability. Any good Raid Leader will be very willing to sacrifice a little DPS if it means you live.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mailbag: My UI

I've been on vacation for the past week and have been unable to post. So, what is a better way to start than to answer one of the questions I receive most frequently:

What addons do you use? Can you post your UI?

I want to make one thing clear up front. In no way do I think I have an awesome UI, or that any one should mimic it. I do not have an overall design plan for my UI as some people do, and there are probably several ways that my UI could be improved if I knew about the addons and had the desire to maintain them.

My UI "design" is the product of two very simple concepts. 1. I have a problem. An addon helps to fix the problem. I use the addon. 2. Important info in the center, Secondary info on the sides, with on exception.

If you have a suggestion on how to improve my UI, or think I left something out, please post them in the comments. I think that will be helpful for everyone. Also, please post a link to your UI.

The Picture:

The Addons:

Power Auras Classic - I love this addon. If you have any issues with situational awareness Power Auras will help. To quote the WoWInterface page: "This addon was created to provide visual cues (auras) when you gain buffs, debuffs and many more." I use it for several things.

  1. Raid Buffs and Debuffs: I started using it with Hodir so that I would know when I had the various buffs or when Bitter Cold started to stack to high. Then I started to see all these other fights where it would be useful. This aspect is very nice for any fight where you have to run away from the group.
  2. Health Warning: You can set it up to warn you when your health gets below a certain level. I've tried to use other addons for this with mixed success, but I think PAC does it best so far.
  3. Cooldowns: One of my big problems as a raiding moonkin has always been watching my DPS cooldowns. I wouldn't see them come back up and I end up using them a minute late if at all. You can set up PAC to show you when an ability is available. Above my HUD you will see two little icons. The totem next to Squawk and Awe is my Force of Nature indicator, and the Fireball underneath the IceHUD text is my Starfall inicator. You can also set it up to look for "On Use" trinkets.
IceHUD - This is another survivability addon for me. It allows you to put all of your Player and Target info right in the center of the screen. I originally picked it up because I wanted to have my health bar closer to my toon to help recognize when my health was low. It took a while to get used to and I had to turn off the Blizzard Unit Frames to force myself to use it, but I think it is working well know.

Some of you may be thinking that XPeral or Pitbull is better. I tried both of them and personally didn't like either. I found both hard to configure and very cluncky.

ORA2 - This is a raid management tool. Some of you may be thinking "I am not a raid leader, therefore I don't need it." Wrong. It is true that a majority of its fuctionality can only be accessed by a raid leader, but a lot of that functionality only works if the raid members have the addon. However, it does have uses for a the average raid member. The Tank list is great for switching targets and monitoring progress on fights like Mimiron phase 4, but I think the best part is the long cooldown timer. As a druid it is important that the raid knows if our Battle Rezs are up. If every druid has this addon then the Raid leader should never have to ask who has a rez up, and can give instructions more clearly during raid. If you guild requires this addon, do them a favor and get it,.

Omen - If you're a raider and don't know what Omen is then you need to figure it out quickly. Omen is a threat meter. I have put it on the right side because it takes up a lot of real estate, and I generally don't have to worry about threat. However, if threat is generally an issue for you I suggest you put it some where else or come up with another way to manage it. IceHUD has a threat bar that you can include in the UI and I find it is helpful on the few situations where threat is a big issue for me.

Squawk and Awe - This is probably the most commonly used addon for moonkin. It does several things but I use it for only one reason. It is a great addon on for managing your Eclipse buff and cooldown. In 3.1, this addon or something like it is pretty much requred for maximizing DPS. In 3.2, it will be much less important. I will probably still use it to help identify which Eclipse buff I have and others will continue to use it for the DoT timers and such.

ButtonTimers - I use this addon as a DoT timer, but it is kind of an Action bar addon as well. The buttons on your screen are clickable if necessary and it can work with an addon like OmniCC to show your cooldowns. It is a little hard to configure, but I really like it.

Decursive - This is a required addon for a moonkin. We can now Decurse and Abolish poison in Moonkin form therefore if it is asked of us we need to do it. In the screenshot I have it over on the far right, but in a fight where I am expected to decurse I move it to above Squawk and Awe. What I like about it is that it shows me who needs to be decursed and I just have to click the box. Its a bit like playing wack-a-mole, but very easy.

Quartz - This is a fairly standard cast bar addon. Whats nice about it is that it shows you how latancy affects your cast so you can cast your next spell a little early. It also has DoT and Buff timers, but are a little hard to read. I also use it to see my target's cast bar. That way I can make better use of Barkskin and rooting bomb bots.

Recount - I used to hate damage meters. My damage sucked, and most people seemed to only use them to stroke their e-peen. However, they are helpful for a couple of reason that many people over look. The primary thing I use recount for is Death information. If I died early I want to know why. Could I have prevented it? Is there something I need to be more careful to avoid? It's also good to see why your DPS is abnormal. Who is dispelling? Who is taking to much damage? Basically a lot of good info to help your raids be a little more successful.

OmniCC - This is a very simple little addon that "adds text to items/spells/abilities that are on cooldown to indicate when they'll be ready for use." It adds a number to your abilities that are on cooldown instead of the shadowy clock animation that Blizzard uses. It allows you to dafinatively know how much time you have left on your cooldowns instead of estimating.

MultiShot - It takes a screenshot when specific events happen in game. You can configure it for multiple events like, levels, achievements, or boss kills. I picked it up for the blog, but I am thinking of dropping it. It will fill up your screenshots folder quickly. I have to go in every month or two and clean it out. Also, most of the time I don't have my camara pointed in the best direction for a screen shot, so a lot of the photo's are useless.

Auctioneer - If you want to be a goblin this is a required addon. Heck, I recommend it even if you don't use the AH much. It's nice because it gives you info on average prices and such if you look at the item fairly regularly. On top of that it makes posting items on the AH very easy. I love it because I can post a stack of Flasks as individual flasks in less than a minute. Warning: Turn this addon on off while you raid. I only have it turned on for my bank alt, because it takes up a lot of memory.

Lightheaded - One of the best questing addons you will find. It allows you to see the quest comments from WoWHead ingame. It can also work with addons like Tom Tom and Cartographer to show you where your objectives are. Turn off while raiding.

Doublewide - This may be irrelevant after 3.2 is released, but I will list it anyway. The current blizzard Questlog is horrid and Doublewide makes it managable.

Zygor - I only list this one because it is an addon and I use it. This is my leveling guide addon on. You do have to pay for it, but I think it is worth it. Some people prefer addons like Questhelper, because they are free. I tried Questhelper and hated it.

Cartographer - Some people love it, I hate it. I only have it because Zygor uses it. Don't get me wrong. I think it has some very nice features, but it seems to cause a UI errors for me. I know that Cartographer is not necessarily the problem, but getting rid of it fixes the issue. Therefore I don't raid with it.

My Raid Frames:

I want to make a quick comment about my raid frames. For those of you that don't know the raid frames at the bottom left of the screenshot is from the Blizzard UI. I've thought about using Grid or somthing else, but they all sound like they are more trouble then they are worth. The only problem I have with the blizzard raid frames is that I can't lock them down.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Blue Post: Druid Q&A

For the last couple weeks Blizzard has been publishing some Q&A's regarding each of the classes and Druid Q&A was just released. For the most part there doesn't seem to be any big revelations. I am not an expert on the other trees, but most of the answers given seem to be fairly standard or restatements of prior blue posts. That said there is one comment in the Q&A that may cause a lot of trouble for raiding Moonkin:
Q: Have we considered providing more tanking leather and to prevent extra loot clutter possibly finding ways for Balance and Restoration druids to use solely cloth item since they often use them already?

Ghostcrawler: No. Druids are a leather-using class. We are just going to have to make three types of leather (melee, ranged and healing). You have to understand that even though we have pushed bears and cats farther apart, we still consider them to be part of the same spec. We can’t get into the business of itemizing for niches within a particular spec or we’re just going to have too many items per tier. I can see the argument for having tanking and dps leather and making the casters use cloth. That’s just a different design and we currently like for certain classes to be associated with certain types of armor. We like that druids look different from say priests or mages (even ignoring the forms thing). We like that we can kit druid tier piece armor to look a certain way.

Also note that if we buffed bear mitigation through more tanking-oriented leather that we’d just have to nerf them in other ways. In my experience, most bears end up with “tanking leather” anyway because they want to gem and enchant their bear gear differently. Having one set of gear that you wear as cat or bear isn’t really feasible in Ulduar.
This comment doesn't address the Cloth vs Leather debate directly, but expect a lot of clothies and raid leaders to use this comment to exclude druids from rolling/bidding on cloth.

However, lets focus on what Ghostcrawler actually said. He said "Druids are a leather-using class." He did not say that druids should only use leather, or that druids should not wear cloth. He is saying druids are designed to use leather and I think we all know that. If there was quality Leather gear similar to the cloth equivalents then I would freely pass. However, a majority of Cloth gear is better itemized for Caster DPS then the Leather equivalents. On top of that the quantity of cloth gear is significantly higher especially at the high item levels.

In the end GC's comment probably won't change much in how guilds are ran. I am fairly sure that if GC came out and said moonkin are designed to wear cloth, then clothies would still say they should have first dibs. This is one of those debates where the sides are fairly well entrenched and I don't think anything could move them.

Other Comments:
There are the other Moonkin relevant comments from the Q&A:
Community Team: Let’s take a look at the Balance talent tree. Eclipse is a crucial talent for players who are looking to perform a damage dealing role and invest in the Balance tree. There has been a lot of discussion though regarding the gameplay it provides as there is a lot of randomness involved. The buffs to a solar rotation were very well received, but the lunar rotation still has to wait for a critical strike to happen as well as an additional random proc to occur which can lead to some long gaps of nothing happening. Then when these finally fall into place players have complained about threat issues which force them to slow down or having to move to avoid something which ruins the procs they have and significantly hurts their overall damage.

Q: What are our thoughts on how Eclipse is functioning and do we have any plans to change how this talent works?

Ghostcrawler: The goal of the Eclipse talent in the first place was to give moonkin a more dynamic rotation that involved the player paying attention and responding to the environment rather than falling into a monotonous rotation. The Eclipse in 3.2 should less strongly favor one half of the Eclipse over the other since the cooldowns are independent. Ultimately however the problem we are trying to solve is that Wrath and Starfire are just too similar. In PvP you get a little bit of interest out of the fact that they are in different schools, but in PvE by the time talents are factored in, the two spells just become fairly quick (but not instant) nukes and it’s easy to math out which one to use and which one to ignore. Long-term to fix this problem we need to add another spell, separate out Starfire and Wrath from each other a little more, or make one of the other spells, like Moonfire or Insect Swarm, more dynamic. I’ll give a couple of example of caster rotations that “work” in our opinion: Destruction warlocks want to Immolate before they Conflagrate, Frost mages can proc a Brain Freeze and throw out a fast Fireball.

Community Team: Another aspect of Balance talent tree that has seen a number of discussions lately is the survivability of Moonkins while in a Player vs. Player setting. Many players agree that they have a very low survivability rate and that a spell like Typhoon doesn’t provide enough help to prevent classes like Death Knights and Rogues from doing some serious damage to them.

Q: How do we feel Moonkins are doing in PvP and do we have plans to improve their survivability?

Ghostcrawler: We don’t think Moonkins are quite there yet, though
we’ll see how they look after 3.2 ships. Some of their problems are not
limitations with the spec so much as they are ramifications in other parts of the PvP environment, such as some classes being able to burst them down too quickly. Of the casters, and as of this writing, only Frost mages really seem to be a potent PvP force, but it requires multiple forms of CC and escape mechanisms to get there. We really don’t want to go down the road of every caster needing that many unique tools – it homogenizes the classes and makes the mage tools less compelling. We understand some players are desperate to play Balance in PvP, but our priority is on getting underperforming classes viable before we worry about the second or third spec of classes that already have a strong PvP presence. We’ll get there.

Community Team: Players have also been discussing how they feel the overall playstyle of a Moonkin is just not very exciting. The best damage dealing rotation for them requires very few spells and a deep Balance spell like Starfall doesn’t help them very much.

Q: Are there plans to make any changes to the general spell rotation for deep Balance/Moonkin Druids?

Ghostcrawler: As I mentioned above, we do want to improve the spell rotation of Balance. We think the spells are interesting when considered alone (expect for perhaps Starfire and Wrath) but they don’t necessarily play together in interesting ways. You don’t try to save up a Starfall for example for great synergy with another spell. We have no problems with Starfall itself -- it is an AE with smart targeting that doesn’t require channeling. It is basically just bonus damage. Often players with a gripe about Starfall are wishing that it still proc’ed stuns with Celestial Focus or was a stealth remover. But those uses meant players saved Starfall for only those specific situations instead of using it when they needed extra damage, which was the original intent.

There is nothing huge here. Most of these comments have already been made before, and anyone that follows moonkin closely has already heard them. That said, there are some interesting comments made regarding the moonkin rotation.

He reiterated that the problem with Moonkin rotation is that it involves too few spells and that those spells are too similar. What is interesting about his comment are the possible solutions he suggested.
Long-term to fix this problem we need to add another spell, separate out Starfire and Wrath from each other a little more, or make one of the other spells, like Moonfire or Insect Swarm, more dynamic.

First off, please note this is a list of possibilities, not a definite plan of action. If the next expansion comes without a new DPS spell don't go and say "GC lied to us."

That said, I like the idea of a new spell. I had always thought about it as giving us a direct damage spell that doesn't interfere with Eclipse, but adding something to be a more significant part of our rotation would be interesting also. The big question is can they create a spell that is desirable but doesn't trump any of our existing spells?

I also thought it was very interesting that he suggested that they might "separate out Starfire and Wrath from each other a little more." I would love to know what options they are considering, since these spells are critical for Eclipse to work. Since Eclipse is such a big part of Moonkin DPS changing either of these spells significantly would have a huge impact on Moonkin DPS. I'm not saying it would be a bad impact, but it could fundamentally change the way the spec is played.

The comment about making the DoTs more dynamic seems to have been in practice for a little while already. It started with the addition of Improved Insect Swarm. Now they seem to be expanding the concept with the new set bonuses. In fact 4T8 and 2T9 could be a trial runs for a new talents that might come later.

While all of these comments provoke some thought don't expect any changes anytime soon. They are definitely not coming in 3.2 and I would be extremely surprised if we saw any hit of them in 3.3. My guess is that these comments are an outline of what Blizzard is thinking about for the next expansion that is likely to be named at Blizzcon.

Mailbag: A Twisted Explination

I have raided a moonkin for a little over 2 years. I know some of you raided as a moonkin back in the dark ages, I mean during vanilla WoW, but I think 2 years is probably a lot longer than the average. I think that experience is one of the things that makes my blog successful. On the other hand it is sometimes very easy to forget that what seems clear to me my not make immediate sense to some one that is newer to the spec.

So when I got an email from Sydera from World of Matticus, I realized I may have made a mistake. Lets take a look at her email.
Hi Graylo,

As always I love your blog, and as our guild has lost our moonkin to summer school woes, I'm going to be changing over from resto. I have used your site to figure out what I need to do currently, but my question is about 3.2. You are suggesting a "Twisting" rotation. I'd like more exact details on that. If you get on the PTR (or once it goes live) can you sticky a little guide with EXACTLY what to do (moonkin for dummies, if you will). I haven't played moonkin long enough to intuit what the changes to my rotation will be, or even what I'll be looking for on Squawk and Awe now.

I'm not quite sure I understand how both Eclipse procs and both cooldowns will function.

Great question. First, lets take another look at what the change to Eclipse is doing.

With the old (3.1) Eclipse, you have two buffs on the same cooldown. The best example that I can think of to describe it is the old Potion mechanics used in TBC. You could have multiple pots in your bag for Health, Mana, or DPS, but once you used a one, all of your pots were on cooldown for 2 minutes. So you had to choose which was most advantageous to use.

With the new (3.2) Eclipse. you will have two buffs on two connected cooldowns. The perfect example of how this should work are "On Use" trinkets. Back in TBC I had two "On Use" trinkets, and both trinkets had a 2 minute cooldown. If I used trinket A it went on cooldown for 2 minutes. Trinket B would also go on cooldown, but only about 15 seconds. This prevented me from using both trinkets at the same time, but could effectively use both trinkets in a fight without losing any of the benefits.

Basically, we are currently choosing which Eclipse we uses. After 3.2 we will use both Eclipse buffs.

So when I call our future rotation a "Twisting" rotation I mean that it switching or changing rotation, where we will "twist" or switch which of the Eclipse buffs we use with each proc.

I took the name from the old Shaman practice of Totem Twisting. Because of how the Windfury totem worked it was possible to have the Windfury buff and that of another Air totem for most of the fight. The practice is dead and gone, but when I was looking for something to call the new rotation Twisting seemed to fit.

So, how exactly will the new rotation work?

Actually, it is fairly simple. You will start your rotation the same way you do now. FF, IS, MF, Wrath until Eclipse, Starfire. The change comes when your Eclipse buff drops off. At this point you continue to cast Starfire until Eclipse, and then switch to Wrath.

What about DoTs:
The big question that no one really has a great answer for is when do you refresh DoTs. Obviously, you don't want to refresh DoTs before the old DoT drops off. You will always want to refresh your DoTs when neither buff is up, but there is some debate on what to do while you have an Eclipse buff.

Some people say, that you should never refresh DoTs during Eclipse, but that doesn't seem to be a popular opinion. I presented the most common opinion back in February with this post. The basic theory is that you refresh DoTs early in the Eclipse buff, but wait if they don't drop off right at the start of the buff. I don't think this is bad advice, but I'm no longer convinced that it will result in the absolute best DPS.

When I looked at this question before, I looked at it as if I was losing a Nuke GCD when I cast the DoT. However, I now think it is more of a trade. I'm casting a DoT now instead of in 8 seconds from now, and I will be casting a nuke 8 seconds from now instead of right now. So the cost of casting the DoT now is not the entire cost of the GCD, but only the change in DPS between a Nuke now and a Nuke later.

I will have to sit down and do the math some time, but this idea has changed the way I reapply DoTs. I will now reapply Dots very late into an Eclipse buff. As long as I have about 5 seconds on the buff I will reapply the DoT. I don't have any solid evidence to support my opinion yet, but I think the logic is sound.

Addons like Squawk and Awe (SnA) are going to be much less important with the new Eclipse. The most important piece of information that SnA provides is when the Eclipse cooldown is up. After the new Eclipse that won't matter.

This doesn't mean that SnA won't still be useful. If your using it as a DoT timer then that benefit will still be there. It will also be good for reminding you which Eclipse is up since the Blizzard animation fades fairly quickly. There also may be a couple of times when it is good to know when a buff is off cooldown.

I plan on keeping Squawk and Awe for the foreseeable future, but you could get the same benifit from a more global addon like Power Aura's or Scrolling Combat Text.

Monday, July 13, 2009

WoW.Com Response: The BiS Trump Card

As I was browsing through (formerly WoWInsider) today, I came across a familiar topic. Should players be able to bid on gear below there max armor type even if it is BiS. Link to the post in question: (Link)

As many of you know I have covered this topic before, but I would like to inject counter points to those presented by Scott Andrews. I can't argue debate from the Plate vs Mail stand point since I have very little experience with either armor set or the classes that use them. So, I will look at this argument from my traditional Leather vs Cloth point of view.

Just so you know, Scott did say Balance leather is one of 3 sets where Blizzard has had difficulty producing well itemized gear, I highly recommend that you read his post before you go on. Classes limited by armor type would be at a severe disadvantage

Counter Point: By limiting classes to their max armor type you maybe putting them at a severe disadvantage. Here is a link to all of the gear with a 239 ilevel currently in game. There are 21 pieces total, 10 of them are unaffected by armor type, 7 of them are Cloth, and 4 are leather. If you limited Moonkin to just leather drops then the most they could wear is 2 so that they could maintain the set bonus. A cloth wearer could use 3 and still maintain a 4 piece set bonus. I know its not the cloth wearers fault that there are limited options, but it's not the Moonkin's either. Higher armor drops would go to waste.

Counter Point:
This assumes that the Higher armor type has drops that are similarly desirable. Lets compare [Footsteps of Malygos] to the [Boots of Haste Revival]. The FoM are ilevel 213 and the BoHR are iLevel 226, yet both are rated about the same in terms of DPS. Yet, I would be denied cloth upgrades even though my other option was not an upgrade. Granted in this case there is some crafted gear that would be better then most of the options but that is not always the case. From a moonkin point of view the spell leather available is almost always inferior to the Spell cloth available. So, just because there is a leather options, that does not mean it is a good option. For some classes and specs, the BIS list changes frequently.

Counter Point:
Doesn't this argument cut both ways? It is definitely possible that the BiS list of any class could change, but why should the player with the higher armor type be punished while the player with the lower armor type not be. It is just as easy for a moonkin's needs to change from one patch to the next as it is for any clothy.

Obviously if the changes are already known, then those changes should be taken into consideration. However, you shouldn't punish some classes because of an irrelevant uncertainty. Finally, the loot system would put a massive burden on the officers to know which items are BIS for every slot, for every spec in the game.

Counter Point:
I agree with this statement but not the conclusion drawn. Of course we can't expect raid leaders to understand the gear needs for every class and spec in raid, but how does limiting Moonkin to leather limit this problem.

You already have 3 classes wearing cloth. The needs of a holy priest are different then those of a shadow priest, who's needs are different then a Mages and so on. Since we've already said we don't expect the Raid Leaders to know the gear needs of every class and spec, so the problem already exists. If the problem already exists, how do we currently manage it?

The answer is unsettling to some, but really quite simple. We trust the players to know what gear they need and to bid/roll responsibly. Many high-end guilds take this a step further and request that their members fill out a gear plan on the guild forums. This way the leaders know what the raiders are thinking, and the raiders can know what other players need.

Most importantly though it openes the door to communication. You don't know how many loot arguments I've heard that could have been prevented with a little upfront communication. Most players are not loot whores, and most raiders will pass on a piece of gear if it is better for the raid. However, they have to know the situation if they are going to make that choice.

On top of that all players need to be considerate of their fellow players when bidding/rolling on gear. A few weeks ago the [Boots of Fiery Resolution] dropped off of FL hard mode. They are my BiS boot, and I had the most DKP of the casters in guild but I passed. I did so because I had won the [Staff of Endless Winter] the week before. It would have been easy to argue that I had put in the effort to earn those boots, but after a little thought I didn't think it was fair that I had two pieces of hard mode gear while a vast majority of our guild had none.

Limiting Druids to leather or Paladins to plate are very popular rules for loot distribution systems. However, most of the arguments used to support the limitation can easily be reversed, and cause dissatisfaction with in a guild. Rules are not enough to make a loot system run smoothly, because there will always be a difference of opinion some where.

The way to make your guilds loot system run smoothly is to encourage communication between the members. When someone one seems to be getting out of line or tries to game the system, talk to them first. Most likely they will back off.

Friday, July 10, 2009

General Update: 7/10/2009

Ok, I've been a bit of a slacker lately and haven't posted much. My life has been very hectic with holidays, work stuff, Raiding, and even some trips to the hospital (don't worry everything is fine). So, I will try and give a general update of what is going on in my WoW life.

The Gear Guide:
I've updated my raiding gear guides to include every item in Ulduar. So, it should now be complete until 3.2 comes out. I want to point out that this list is still based upon a pre-3.2 Lunar Rotation. I probably one updated it for 3.2 until right before the patch is released.

Regarding the guide don't expect any serious changes. It is very similar to previous lists, and most of the changes were due to the addition of Algalon gear. Basically, its not important to study the new list. If you already have a good gear plan it is still probably good.

I must admit that Raiding has been quite draining lately. My 25man schedule is the usual 3 nights a week for 3 hours, but my 10man group now raids for another 2 or 3 hours after that. To some of you 15 - 18 hours of raiding a week may not seem like much, but it is tough when you combine the late nights with my family responsibilities. Hopefully it won't go on for to much longer.

The 25 man group is doing well. We have 4 hard modes down and are working on a couple of others. Despite our success I am starting to feel a sense of urgancy. Time is running out on the Meta Achievement and I want an Ironbound Drake before they are removed. The four hard modes that we have could probably be considered 4 of the easier ones leaving most of the heavy hitters to still be downed.

The good news is that our 10man groups are going very well. My group is only missing the Vezex and Yogg hardmodes. The guilds other 10man is just missing Yogg +1 and they got the Ulduar Undying achievement. So, we are in a very good spot to complete the meta on 10mans, and the additional experience we are getting on 10mans should help us meet our goals for the 25man raid.

The other positive sign is that both 10man groups are working on Algalon. My group has worked on him for 2 weeks now, and he is hard, but maybe not as hard as he seems.

Algalon feels like a break through fight. There is a lot of stuff that gets thrown at you very early in the fight and when you wipe after just a few minutes it sometimes feels like your not making much progress. However, that feeling can be misleading. There is so much to adapt to from the very beginning of this fight that it is hard to pick up quickly. Healers have to deal with the huge raid damage when a Star dies. Cosmic Smash is much more difficult to avoid then your standard void zone. The freaking constellations running around beating on people. Figuring out how to survive big bang and at the same time dealing with the massive damage that the tanks are taking.

That is a lot of stuff that all of that happens in the first minute or so. So, as you try to hone your strategy it may feel like your not making progress because most of your attempts don't' last more then a couple of minutes still. However, when we make a break through the fight will be come much easier. Our attempts will go from lasting 2 minutes to testing the 6 minute enrage timer very quickly once we figure out how to deal with everything. So I am happy with our Algalon progress. Hopefully he will be down soon.

My Inner Goblin:
I've been reading the Greedy Goblin for quite a while and I have often wondered how much gold I could make on the AH if I really put some effort into it. I don't really need the gold because I made plenty while leveling 3 toons to 80, but I'm interested in the challenge.

I started my experiments in the Flask market. Specifically the [Flask of the Frost Wyrm] market. I am kind of risk adverse when it comes to this sort of thing. I didn't want to get really far out on a limb with a lot of stuff and lose a bunch of gold, so I selected this market for my first attempts. The average cost to produce a flask seemed to be less then the average flask prices on the AH. Plus, I am an Elixirs master Alchemist so the procs mean added profit, and if my effort completely failed I could always use the flasks for my raid consumables.

The next two businesses I picked up for dual purposes. I hate not having my professions leveled up all the way to 450. It looks sloppy and I hate finding out that I can't do that enchant because my skill level isn't high enough. So I got into the Meta Gem business with my warlock and into the bag business with my priest. The results were mind blowing.

The Meta Gem business is easy. [Skyflare Diamond] were selling for 25g - 30g on my server and [Chaotic Skyflare Diamond] were selling for 50g - 75g on average. You do the math. I've decided though that this is a weekend market. The cut gem prices seemed to go down quite a bit on raid days. It seems to me that the real money to be made is on the weekend players.

The bag business is a little more difficult because you have to look at several different mats to figure out if it is profitable at this time, but for some odd reason it also seems to be a less developed market on my server. There never seems to be a lot of bags on the AH. For that reason undercutters don't seem to matter. I seem to be able to put my bags on the AH at my prices and they will sell even if there are undercutters with posted for a 25% discount.

Not all of my efforts have been successful. I've tried buying Eternals and selling Crystallized pieces and that hasn't been that successful. People on my server seem to be a little more savy in that regard. I also bought a ton of Shoveltusk flank before patch 3.1 was released for personal use and as an investment but Fish Feasts seemed to have killed that market. I have been focusing on the raid nights so far. I'm going to be switching to the weekends here and hope I have better luck.

All in all, I've made several thousand gold over a week or so with just a couple of hours work. Not bad, but I'm not going to be hitting the gold cap anytime soon at this pace.

Other Toon News:
Outside of raids, Graylo has been working on the Ardent Tournament stuff and getting his rep up with the different alliance factions. All in an effort to be able to access my bank once every 8 hours and help my alts to level up a little big quicker. Indicated above Graypal and Grayfel have been forced into business. I would love to raid both of them if I had the time but, given my already busy raid schedule its just not possible.

Grayvik has also suffered some due to my renewed interest in the Ardent Tournament. He is up to 53 right now, but he would easily be a couple of levels above that If I wasn't spending so much time on Graylo doing the Tournament stuff. On top of that, leveling has become more difficult for him. I am now about 2 and a half levels ahead of my guide. All of my quests are green and on occasion I have to fight grey mobs. He is in searing Gorge at the moment but I am going to look at jumping ahead again once I get out of the zone. I guess the good news is that 58 is just around the corner and then I can jump to the easy Outland leveling. That will be a great day.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Patch 3.2: Updated 4T9 Set Bonus

As several of you have noted there was a change to the 4T9 Balance set bonus in the most recent PTR build. For those of you that haven't seen it:
4 piece: Increases the damage done by your Starfire and Wrath spells by 4%.

At first glance I am happy. Its a new set bonus that is not an inferior copy of a previous set bonus. Plus, this set bonus is a buff when compared to the 3% increase to crit chance. However, there are a few important things to remember.

While the change above is nice, the best news from this PTR build is that 2T8 hasn't been nerfed yet. As Hamlet, and several other posters have pointed out, the 4T9 set bonus really doesn't matter while 2T8 remains in its current form. The 2T8 set bonus is so good with the New Eclipse, that Blizzard would have a very hard time creating a 4T9 set bonus would compare without escalating our expectations for future set bonuses. So, Blizzard has to break the cycle. Hopefully they will do that by not considering 2T8 when they create future set bonuses, but leave it as is, but the other option is to nerf it. I think I speak for almost all moonkin when I say I hope that doesn't happen.

Another important thing to remember is that currently we don't know if this is an additive buff or a Multiplicative buff. If it fits the normal pattern then this is an additive buff because it affects specific spells. Therefore a 4% buff is not really a 4% buff. In reality it will be a little less for a couple of reasons. The obvious reason is that we cast more spells than Wrath and Starfire, and those other spells are unaffected by the buff. Also, since we already have other additive buffs like Moonfury and Solar Eclipse then the impact of 4T9 will be reduced when they are combined.

The Math:
As you might have guessed, I ran these changes through my model a couple of different ways to compare 2T8 and 4T9. I ran my model without either buff first to come up with a good baseline. Then I ran it once with 2T8, once with 4T9, and then once with 4T9 and some added stats from the gear up grade. Here are the results.

Adding the 2T8 set bonus increased my model DPS by 6.1%. That is huge if you didn't know and it is obvious right off the bat that 4T9 cannot compete with it buy itself. Adding the 4T9 set bonuses into the model showed that increased my model DPS by 2.5%. However, 4T9 does not come by itself.

Moving to 4T9 will upgrade your stats as well as change you set bonus. Since the difference between 2T8 and 4T9 is so great, I jumped right to T9.258 when adding the additional stats to the model. I also assumed that the two pieces of T8 we would keep are the Legs and the Shoulders. I chose these two items because the T9 Helm and Chest seem to be the best, and I wanted to limit the amount of Hit rating I got from the T8 set pieces. When I compared the legs and shoulders between the two sets I saw that T9.258 had the equivalent of 132 additional Spell Power, the equivalent of 29 additional Crit Rating, and 43 additional Hit rating. To be conservative I increased the Spell Power amount on my model 153 assuming that half of the additional hit rating would be converted into SP some where, and increased my crit chance by 0.64%. The additional stats combined with the 4T9 set bonus this increased my model DPS by 6.9%

Some of you may be surprised by this result. A lot of the rhetoric I've seen passed around on the internet seemed to assume that 2T8 was unbeatable. Well, it is not, and we all new that some level of gear would make it irrelevant. I just don't think anyone expected that T9 would be that gear level.

However, lets try and look at the bright side. This is a great argument for Blizzard to not nerf 2T8.

So let me try and summarize these results.

The new 4T9 is an improvement over the previous versions, but 2T8 is so good that Blizzard would have a hard time come up with a reasonable set bonus to compete with it. When you compare 2T8 to 4T9 directly, the 2T8 set bonus is clearly better by a wide margin.

However, if you upgrade to 4T9 your picking up more then a new set bonus. The additional stats you will pick up along with 4T9 will close the gap, and according to my model eliminate the gap if your using the highest iLevel of T9.

It is important to note how close the two numbers are. This shows that there is very little difference between using 2T8.226 and 4T9.258. It also indicates that you probably shouldn't upgrade to 4T9 until you have a full set of the 258 iLevel tier set.

Side Note on the New Eclipse: PTR testers on the EJ forums are reporting that the new Eclipse has been fixed on the PTR and is working as described in the patch notes.