Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Moonkin Tools: Wrathcalcs

I'm starting a new series to take a look at a few of the Moonkin Tools available around the internet. I get a lot of questions asking for advice. I can't use cloth gear, what is my BiS list? Should I pick up this talent? Can I drop my mana regen? These questions are very difficult to answer without knowing the player's situation. Luckily there are several tools available that can help you with these questions if you know how to use them.

This post will take a look at Wrathcalcs. Future posts will take a look at Rawr and SimCraft. These are the primary tools that I know about. If you have suggestions for other tools I should look at post them in the comments.


What: Wrathcalcs is a formulation based Excel spreadsheet that models Moonkin DPS. It was originally created by Adoriele to be the successor to Efejel's very popular TBC Moonkin spreadsheet. It doesn't have all the functionality of the original Moonkin Spreadsheet, but the guts of the calculations are still there and have been improved upon. The spreadsheet is now being maintained and updated by Hamlet.

Where: The best place to pick it up is from the Moonkin PvE Think Tank post on the EJ forums. It is at the bottom of the post. You can find it here.

How to Use: The novice user only needs to worry about two tabs in the spreadsheet, but both tabs provide both input sections and results outputs.

  • Character Sheet (Inputs): This is the primary input section of the spreadsheet. There are multiple sections you need to fill out.
    • Current Stats: Input your stats as you would view them on the Armory. These are your base stats without buffs and not in moonkin form.
    • Gear: Allows you to select set bonuses and idols. Make sure you don't select more than two set bonuses.
    • Other Sections: They are fairly self explanatory. Select the talents, buffs, and debuffs you use in a raid

  • Character Sheet (Outputs): The Character Sheet also displays the Marginal values of Stats, Buffs, Talents, and Glyphs. This can be very handing when making quick gear choices.

  • Rotations and DPS (Outputs): This is the output section of the spreadsheet. It gives you the expected DPET of each spell as well as the DPS and DPM of several sample rotations. It also gives you the marginal value of each stat for each spell available to you.

  • Rotations and DPS (Inputs): There aren't many input fields on this tab, but two of them are very important. The "Eclipse Rotation Type:" is set to Lunar Truncation. This means you are using WiseEclipse or are canceling Lunar Eclipse in a similar method manually. The "Moonfire (Eclipse):" is also set to refresh MF during Eclipse. If you don't do this then you will want to change it.
  • Constancy: The big advantage of formulated results is that given the same inputs the out puts will always be the same. Therefore it is very easy to see how changing those inputs can impact the results.

    Want to know how much of an improvement a new piece of gear would be? By changing the stat section you can get a quick estimation on how it will affect your DPS.

  • Availability: The other tools available require you to download executable files and such. This can be a little confusing for some people and will cause some to worry about viruses and keyloggers. The nice thing about Wrathcalcs is that it comes in a format that a lot of people are familiar with. Also, it is very easy to find and start using.

  • Open source: All of the calculations are open to be viewed by the user. Assuming you have a basic knowledge of Excel, you can follow the cell references and figure out how the calculations are done. This makes it easier for you to understand and modify the results if you so desire.

  • Documentation: Other than the original forum thread there is very little documentation in or about Wrathcalcs. Most of it is self explanatory if you have an understanding of Excel, but I would like to see a better explanation of the spreadsheet from the authors. I don't think it needs to be extensive, but a quick guide on how to get started would be helpful. I would also like to see some explanation of the output fields on the Character Sheet tab.

  • Unuser Friendly: Making changes in the spreadsheet is not quick and simple. Trying to evaluate several pieces of gear requires you to do the math personally and then modify the stats accordingly. This can get complicated if you're making several changes and this will increase the probability of mistakes.

  • Formulated Results: Formulated results are great, but they are not the most accurate results available. Formulated results are based averages and expected behaviour, but have a hard time measuring actual behaviour with the inclusion of random events.

    For example, we don't know when Eclipse is going to proc. We can determine how long it will take us to proc it on average, but actual results are going to vary. That variance will average out on its own, but our spells and abilities don't operate in a vacuum. There will be times when we have we won't extend Moonfire to 24 seconds because we couldn't cast Starfire while trying to proc Eclipse. The precasting phase of an Eclipse rotation will be extended because you have to refresh DoTs. The buff phase of Eclipse will be limited at other times because you have to refresh DoTs or go with out the buff they provide.

    We over come these obstacles by making assumptions, but those assumptions are not correct 100% of the time and affect the results.

Wrathcalcs is a great tool for giving you a ballpark figure when evaluating high level DPS questions. It is also great at giving you definitive and directionally correct answers to those questions. If it says a change is a DPS increase or decrease you can be reasonably confident in the results, and it is widely available on a platform that is well known to many players. As long as you have some experience with Excel you shouldn't have any big issues with using it.

That said it is not the most user friendly method of evaluating more specific questions like which piece of gear is better, and you can find more accurate information on stat valuation using SimCraft.

(edited by Flamedor)

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Illusion of Success

Let me know if this situation sounds a little familiar.
Your guild is working on a difficult boss that you have not downed before. You put a few attempts in, discover a few issues, and refine your strategy to correct for the issues. You're making good attempts and doing better than you expected. It feels like you're very close to downing the boss.

Then your progress stalls. You had an attempt where you got to the final phase of the fight very cleanly, but now you can't get there at all. Your raid ends in frustration because you were so close, but your progress backslid in the end.
I've been thinking a lot lately about guild progression. What makes a guild progress, and what prevents a guild from progressing? The situation above is something I've experienced many times over the past 2 years of raiding, and it can derail your guild's progression if you don't look at it from the right perspective.

Why Attempts Fail:

In my experience there are two factors that cause raid attempts to fail.

  1. Lack of Focus and Execution: I think we all know what I'm talking about here. Your raid knows what to do, but they're just not doing it. Your attempt fails because half the DPS stand in the fire or a boss ability is not interrupted.

    These types of wipes are very frustrating and how you address them really depends on the personality of your guild. However, the solution is always the same. Your raiders have to play better.

  2. Lack of Knowledge and Experience: I am a firm believer that you have to make attempts to learn a boss. Reading strats and watching videos are a great way to prepare you for the general mechanics of the fight, but they will never be able to prepare you for every nuance of the fight. You have to do the actual fight to figure that out.

    For example, when my guild was working on IC hard mode, some of our early attempts wiped because we hadn't worked out where the tank should die with Meltdown. The tanks needed to find the balance of being far enough away not to damage the raid, but close enough so that they can be rezzed quickly. It may take a couple of attempts to figure out but those attempts are not failures. They are valuable learning experiences that will help you in the future.

The Illusion of Success:

It is not uncommon for an attempt failure to be blamed on RNG, but it is rarely credited for your successes. It stands to reason that if you can have bad RNG that makes your attempt harder then you can also have good RNG that makes your attempt easier. Therefore not all of your successes are due to a full understanding of the situation or proper execution. Sometimes you get lucky and do better than you should.

Now, go back and look at the scenario I started this post with from this perspective. After you've had a couple of very successful attempts, it's easy to think that you've got the fight in the bag. Then when you don't kill the boss or even match your progress in later attempts it can be very frustrating. That is completely understandable, but I also think it is important to step back and ask yourself a question. Did your later attempts backslide or did your earlier attempt overachieve?

The answer doesn't really change how you prepare for the next attempt, but I think it is very important when dealing with personal and guild morale. It is important to try and keep your guild morale level in the face of both successes and failures. If your guild over values its successes the impact of your failures will be more significant and hurt your progress. Therefore, I think your best attempt is the one where you learn something to make your next attempt more successful.

(Edited by Flamedor)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Haste Rating Is Better Than I Thought

Edit: I changed to wording in my Gemming section a little bit, to better indicate my meaning.

Ok, I messed up.

When I recently redid my gear list I used a valuation for Haste Rating that I came up with several months ago, without redoing the analysis. I was lazy. I felt confident in the number, because logically lag should devalue Haste Rating a little more significantly then the other stats. Also, my numbers were a little more extreme then those found by SimCraft, but they agreed to an extent. So, I ran with it.

Well, because of reader questions, I decided to take another look at SimCraft and rerun my model to see how things went.

My New Valuation:

Here are my new values:

Stat12.5% Haste With Lag10.5% Haste With Lag
Hit Rating1.8211.721
Spell Power11
Haste Rating0.8161.034
Crit Rating0.7820.795

When I ran the SimCraft numbers, the results were very similar. So, I feel very confident in this valuation. However, I do want make one exception.

WiseEclipse - I haven't modified my model to include this addon, but logically it should devalue Haste Rating. Lets think about what WiseEclipse does. Basically it makes it a lot easier to proc Solar Eclipse with Starfire. If your proccing Solar Eclipse quicker then you will be casting Starfire less often and Wrath More often. Since Haste has a more significant impact on Starfire then it does Wrath, one can conclude that anything that reduces your Starfire usage has the potential to reduce your value of haste. How much I don't know.

Why Was I So Wrong?

In short, I don't know for sure.

It has been a while since I made significant modifications to the guts of my model, but it is possible that I made some changes a couple of months ago that I don't remember now. If I had criting Moonfire ticks procing Natures Grace that might have had an impact, but that seems a little extreme.

One thing I know I did change is the starting stats in the model. In my first run I was using 14% Haste from gear, about 3300 Spell Power, and a little less crit chance. When I ran it a second time I matched it more closely to my in game experience. I upped my Spell Power to 3450. The crit chance was increased about 1%, and the haste from gear was lowered to 12.5%.

I didn't think this would affect the valuation that much, but it could have. Haste is a very sensitive stat when it comes to scaling. If you have to much of it then the value of your other stats will shoot up. If you have to little of it the value of Haste Rating will shoot up. If I had to guess that is what happened here.

The Gear Guides:

I have updated both of the gear guides to compensate for this change. I apologize to everyone that made a choice based upon my recommendations that now turns out to be less then optimal. I guess one good thing is that My best in slot choices stayed relatively unchanged.


First things first, Spell Power is still the primary thing you should gem for. I know that my numbers say that Haste is a little better then Spell Power if you're below the haste cap, but don't read to much into that number. It assumes a level of Spell Power with a lot of Spell Power gems your gear. If you replaced some of that Spell Power with Haste rating it would throw off the balance, and probably make Spell Power more valuable. Also, my values are not absolute. When two values are close it means that the two stats are close in value. It does not necessarily mean that one is better then the other.

That said, I know one question will come up at some point. "Should I Gem for Crit Rating or Haste Rating?

To be completely honest I'm not sure at this point. It could really go either way. Haste generally scales better then Crit Rating, but it is very important to not go to extremes with either stat. As I mentioned before WiseEclipse probably devalues it a little since it limits the amount of Starfire casting you will do. I also think that the 2T8 set bonus devalues Crit Rating a little, but that is in dispute.

I'm going to be very vague and suggest that you try and keep the two in balance. If you think your Crit Chance is a bit low and you Haste a bit high then focus more on Crit Rating. If the reverse is true then focus more on Haste Rating.

What I really need to do is figure out how to make SimCraft use my stats and post a tutorial on the blog so that you can find out what your own valuations are.

Friday, September 18, 2009

September Blues

Without fail, August/September always seems to be a bad time for raiding guilds. My first raiding guild, Full of Crit, broke up in August. I then joined Wandering Alliance who was also having issues, but we worked them out. I ended up leaving them in August of last year in part do to attendance issues. I then joined Lastt Standd and it survived little more then a month. I can't really fault the timing for that one because Lastt Standd was full of fail in the leadership department, but I'm sure it didn't help. Then I joined Lords of Eternity almost exactly a year ago.

Once again, a key factor in me joining LoE was the September Blues. I originally applied in August, but was turned down due them already having a moonkin and not needing a lot of people. Less then a month later they lost a few people including a GM and another officer and drama ensues. So, in September they had a spot for me.

What I find most spectacular about the situation is that LoE has been a very stable guild for the year that I've played with them. Much more stable then my other guilds. We lost people here and there but the core remained strong and we never needed to recruit more then a couple of people at a time. However, in the last 2 months we've lost 9 core raiders for various reasons. The September Blues strike again and our progression slows.

The Systemic Problems:

September is like the Monday of the year. We are just coming out of the Summer (the weekend) and it is time to buckle down and do the normal things in life. Kids have to go back to school. Work generally slows down a little in the Summer, and now it is picking back up. Not to mention all of the other distractions that come back into play, like new TV shows and sporting events.

This is a time of year when people reevaluate there lives and reset their priorities. Therefore, I think it is somewhat unavoidable that guilds go through a rough patch at this time of year. You can't fault someone for rededicating themselves to the things I think we all feel are more important then WoW: Family, School, Work.

However, is it all Systemic?

Blizzard's Part:

Last night our raid was very frustrating, at least for me. Due to a series of player and technical issues we had a little more down time then usual. During one of those down times our Raid Leader decided to make a mini State of the Guild Address. He talked about a couple of different things but I thought one of them was very insightful.

Most of our recent losses aren't people leaving the guild, but people leaving the game. A couple have expressed their dissatisfaction with the game in general, but most of them have sited personal reasons for the departure like work and family. Once again, I won't fault them for those reasons, but I think most of us have personal reasons why we could leave the game. The point was that some of those personal reasons while important and real, are to some extent being used to cover up some level of dissatisfaction with the game, and that if the game was more compelling that some of those people may not be stepping away.

Let's look at the current state of raiding. Honestly, Tier 7 was a joke when it was released. Ulduar was fun and exciting when released, but it has lost its luster like all instance due after repeated clears. The Ulduar Hard Modes still hold some interest for me due to the Achievements, but the once uber gear is now just so so, compared to the better gear you can get from the Loot Pinata that is ToC normal. I don't think Loot is the main reason any of us play, but it is extremely dissatisfying to know that Firefighter is one of the hardest achievements in game, but has lesser rewards then a boss like Northrend Beasts that we could one shot without ever seeing before and reading half formulated strats.

The Quality of ToC:

ToC is the most bipolar instance ever created. First look at ToC normal mode. My guild one shot or two shot every boss in there the first time we saw it. In the 6 or 7 weeks that it has been available 10,055 guilds have cleared it according to WoWProgress.com. By comparison, in the 5 MONTHS Ulduar has been available 8,017 guilds have cleared it on normal after several nerfs. Sorry, but numbers don't lie. Either ToC normal is to easy or Ulduar normal is to hard. I think ToC is to easy, and the fact that you can get 245 ilevel gear for basically just showing up makes it really hard to get motivated for wiping in Ulduar on hard modes.

Heroic, ToC on the other hand is very tough. Only 13 guilds have cleared the instance which is to be expected only a couple of weeks after the instance is available. About 1500 guilds have killed Heroic Beasts. That doesn't seem that out of wack (though I would have thought it would be higher) for what I think hard modes should be, but I have other issues with the instance.

My guilds experience may be exceptional, but judging from the forums and such it isn't that unusual. One of the main problems we've had with Northrend Beasts heroic has been technical issues. Last night, one of our Tanks would DC every time the Snobolds would spawn, making the tank transitions impossible. Other guildies had similar DC issues, and just for the record, there were no commonalities between them. They had different ISPs, lived in different parts of the country, there hardware was different, and none of them have severe DC issues in other instances. I hate to blame the DCs on the instance, but at some point it becomes to much to be a coincidence.

The most frustrating aspect of the Northrend Beasts encounter is despawns. You don't know how many times we've started to make a good transition from Gormok to the Wyrms with everyone alive to have the wyrms freaken despawn. It makes me want to punch babies.

Again, I hate to blame our lack of progress on ToC heroic on technical issues, but how can we work the kinks out of our strategy if technical issues prevent us from playing normally?

My Thoughts:

I think several of Blizzard experiments have failed miserably.

  1. Having 4 versions of the same instance is way to much. I sometimes forget which version I'm in. When we did Beasts on Wednesday I started to get excited by how well it was going after wiping on it all Monday and the previous Thursday, then I remembered "oh yea, this is the normal version." On top of that I have been running both the 10man versions as well.

  2. Emblems for Tier Loot: I liked how I could complete my tier set with badges in Naxx and Ulduar if I got unlucky with drops, but the new system in ToC completely sucks. If your looking to build a set of T9.245 it will take you a minimum of 5 raid lockouts to complete it, and that assumes that your clearing all 4 versions of ToC every week and doing the Heroic daily every day.

    Lets look at it from a more realistic point of view. Currently I'm clearing both versions of normal ToC each week, and kill 3 bosses in the heroic version of the 10man. I also do the daily about 3 times a week for 45 Emblems a week. At this pace it will take me 7 raid lockouts to complete my Tier set. That may not sound that bad, but remember that requires me to run the same instance at least 3 times a week and to do 3 5mans that aren't a challenge either.

    What if I can't or don't want to run 10mans? All of a sudden I'm down to 20 or 30 Emblems per week and it takes me 10-12 weeks to complete a set, and this is without picking up any of the other Emblem loot you might want like the Idols.

    The new Tier loot system encourages you to do busy work and instance below your level that have no value to you other then the emblems. Blizzard has sold the concepts of 10man vs 25man and normal vs heroic by saying it gives players options to play the way they want to play and see content. Well this system takes those options away by rewarding Quantity of play rather then quality of play.

  3. I think Blizzard has put together a strong system for inducing burnout. ToC was released to quick before most players were ready to leave Ulduar. The normal version is to easy, devalues the Ulduar experience, and makes guild management more challenging. Heroic ToC seems to have several technical issues and is probably a little hard for being the first boss in an instance.

    So players are now put in a strange situation. We have Ulduar which is well designed and balanced, but the rewards for your accomplishments are minimal now. We then have Normal ToC which is a cake walk with great rewards but can be cleared in under an hour easy. Finally we have Heroic ToC which is a little buggy and a little hard, but has great rewards. Basically we are being encouraged to clear a set of bosses in under an hour and then wipe on the same set of bosses for the next 8 hours, while ignoring a good instance because of its lesser rewards.


I don't really want to use my blog for guild recruitment, but a small blurb won't hurt. We run highly focused raids 3 times a week for a total of 9 hours, but have success similar to guilds that raid twice as much as we do. We are currently looking for Ranged DPS and Healers but will consider applicants in other rolls as well. If you want more info you can find our recruitment forum here. Our application is here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Addon: WiseEclipse

Have you ever been dpsing a boss and thought to yourself, "I wish my last Starfire cast during Lunar Eclipse could proc Solar Eclipse?" This may sound a little cheesy but I actually have.

We've all been on those long runs where we cast a spell for what seems like 1000 tries and Eclipse never procs. During those tries I often wish I had the 90% crit chance that Lunar Eclipse provides.

Well, my wish has come true with this helpful little addon called WiseEclipse. It was created by Kurohoshi (EU-Minahonda), and based on the macros by Hamlet (US-Mal'Ganis). You can download it from WoWInterface here.

Why You Want It:

This addon increases your Eclipse uptime by allowing your last buffed spell cast to proc Eclipse. Obviously this is really nice when transitioning from Lunar Eclipse to Solar Eclipse because you will have a 75% - 90% chance to proc Solar Eclipse. You may be amazed that this is even possible, but it is. I tried it out on a target dummy and tested it in raid last night. It worked as I expected in both situations.

What the Addon does is compare the time remaining on your Eclipse buff to the cast time of your next spell. If your cast time is longer then the Eclipse buff the addon will cancel your Eclipse buff to allow the opposite Eclipse to proc.

I don't understand all of the technical details to fully explain why this addon works, but I will do my best. The addon works because of Lag. As you play the game some things are done on your computer (the client), and other things are done on the server. If I understand the process correctly the server determines your damage and if the spell crits, but the client determines cooldowns and if the buff can proc or not.

For example lets say you cast Starfire with Lunar Eclipse. When it hits you only 1.5 seconds left on your Lunar Eclipse, and your cast time is 2.4 seconds. Obviously your not going to be able to get another buffed Starfire off. So, WiseEclipse cancels the Lunar Eclipse right as the spell hits. At the same time the server calculates the damage of this spell and is likely a crit due to your 75%-90% crit chance. So, the server sends a message back to the client saying that the Starfire cast was a crit. Because of Lag the client has already cancelled the Lunar Eclipse when it receives this message. Since Solar is not on cooldown and Lunar Eclipse is not up the conditions are met for the critical hit to proc Solar Eclipse, thus giving you back to back Eclipse procs with very high frequency.

The addon has some other functionality as well, like allowing you to automatically cancel Solar Eclipse during Bloodlust/Heroism if the shaman buff has more then 15 seconds and Lunar Eclipse is not on cooldown. I think it is also possible for the last cast of your Solar Eclipse to proc Lunar Eclipse, but it is unlikely due to the way the buffs work.

The Ethics of this Addon:

I think it is safe to say that this addon drops in to a grey area (no pun intended). In my opinion it is not an exploit that severely compromises the integrity of the game, like the old Void Reaver/Mindcontrol trick or the Sarth Reflective Shield trick. However, it is obviously outside the intended design of the talent.

In my opinion it falls into the "Creative Use of Game Mechanics" category. Hamlet compares the functionality and design to the Shatter Combos Frost Mages use, which are fine according to some Blizzard quotes. While I see the similarities I think WiseEclipse is more like the old Idol Swapping macros, where you could get the [Idol of the Unseen Moon] buff as well as increased spell damage from the [Ivory Idol of the Moongoddess]. In that situation you could macro the Moonfire spell and Idol together so that the Idol was equipped right after the spell was cast so that the two GCD's over lapped, but due to lag the the MF cast could proc the Idol even though the idol was equipped after the cast.

In patch 2.4.3, Blizzard killed the Moonkin Idol swapping macros by making it so that swapping a weapon/idol would cancel you current cast. Blizzards explanation wasn't directly targeted at Idols, saying the change was made to prevent PvP casters from swapping high haste and high spell power weapons in and out so that they could get the benefits of the haste and the spell power. However, Blizzard is taking it a step further in 3.2.2. In the up coming patch, unequiping an idol will cancel the buff it provides. This is being done to prevent Feral tanks from having multiple Idol buffs up at the same time.

So, I wouldn't be surprised if Blizzard did something that eliminated the utility of this addon. Cancelling the Eclipse buffs in time probably impossible to do by hand and requires the use of an addon or macro. Since, Blizzard doesn't want any macro or addon to be a mandatory part of the game, it is unlikely that Blizzard will look on this addon favorable. However, even though Blizzard probably won't like the addon, that doesn't mean that they have the time or ability to prevent its functionality. Lets face it, Blizzard has a lot of stuff on its plate, and preventing this functionality might not be quick and easy. So, I could also see Blizzard ignoring the issue for quite a while because the impact is small enough, and the solution is complicated.

What I'm trying to say is that I think this addon is safe to use, but don't get extremely attached to it. I would be very surprised if anyone got banned for using it, since it is very similar to other practices already in game. However, if Blizzard can break it, they probably will eventually.

The "Too Public" Issue:

There have been a couple of comments posted around the web saying that users are worried that this addon will become "too public." The basic theory is that if we can limit the usage of WiseEclipse by the community then Blizzard won't take steps to prevent its functionality. I understand the concern, but it is already to late in my opinion.

First off all, while it is possible that by publishing this post, I am bringing the addon to Blizzards attention, I find it highly unlike. Blizzard has confirmed that they read the EJ forums where this addon first came up. So they probably already know about it.

Second, I realize that by not posting this article I would probably slow its growth and may delay any fix that may or may not come. However, this information is already available from several other sources. I doubt my silence would have much affect.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Moonkin's Weakest Link

Lissanna over at Restokin posted an interesting post today. With the changes to the talent system coming up, it is clear that our talent trees will be changing dramatically. Obviously, there we have no clue as to what is in store for any of the trees, but this is an opportunity to review each of the trees and see what is wrong and possibly how it could be fixed.

So, Lissanna asks us a question. “If you could change one talent in any of the druid talent trees, what would it be?" Here is my response.

My Perspective:

Before I look at the talents I want to give you a little perspective on how I view this question. First off, I am only looking at the talents and only considering their quality as talents. I am not considering Moonkin performance as a whole. For example, I would say something like "Moonfury is a bad talent because it doesn't buff our DPS enough." I will not say "Moonkin DPS needs to be buffed therefore Moonfury should give 20%." I hope you see the difference. The first quote is a comment on the individual talent. The second is a comment on the build as a whole. (For the record Moonfury is a great talent.)

Second, when Blizzard builds the talent trees, I think their design should agree with three rules:

  1. Every talent should be useful to someone, but all the talents don't have to be useful to everyone. I am completely fine with some talents being only useful for PvP or to resto druids. As long as informed players see it has some type of value then I am OK with the talent being on my tree.

  2. Tier advancement should be easy in everyone's main talent tree. Meaning, a balance druid should be able to advance to the top of the balance tree without using talent point on talents seen as useless for their chosen play style. The old TBC Balance tree is the best example of this rule being violated. In the first three tiers you could only spend 13 points in a useful manner for a raiding moonkin. Therefore you had to waste two points on Nature's Grasp, Control of Nature, or Brambles.

  3. If you’re going to put key talents outside of the main talent tree then there should be a clear path for picking them up. Once again, TBC is a good example of this issue. Tier 3 of the Resto tree had Subtlety and Intensity. These were two key talents for a raiding moonkin. Yet, tier 2 of the Resto tree had no valuable talents for a balance druid.

My Thoughts:

If you understand my perspective, you understand why I won't be including some very unpopular talents in my comments. Genesis, for example, is a horrible talent for moonkin, but it is a great talent for resto. Since there is a good alternative to advance up the balance tree I have no problem with Genesis, but there are some situations in the talent trees that violate my rules.

Improved Moonfire: This is my biggest issue with the Druid talent trees. Imp Moonfire was once a good talent but was completely destroyed by the introduction of Glyph of Moonfire. The glyph is a solid one two punch. Since the direct damage portion of the talent reduced by 90% the bonus crit chance has very little impact. On the other side, the 10% increase in damage gets lost in the 75% increase to periodic damage provided by the glyph. The result is a talent that only increases damage by 0.25-0.5% per talent point.

Improved Moonfire has seen a bit of a revival lately with the introduction of Criting DoTs with the 2T9 set bonus, but that will last only for the current gear tier. However, it does give a good indication of how the talent could be fixed. If it allowed your moonfire DoT to crit it would become a viable talent again.

Resto Tier 2: The early resto talents are much better for moonkin then they used to be, but I still don't like the second tier. Tier 3 of the of the Resto tree has Intensity, Omen of Clarity, and Master Shapeshifter. All of them are very good talents for moonkin. Tier 2 of the Resto tree has Naturalist, Subtlety, and Natural Shapeshifter. Naturalist is only good for feral druids. Subtlety has some use for PvP moonkin, but I don't know if it is important. Natural Shapeshifter saves you some mana, but ideally you shouldn't be shifting. On top of that Natual Shapeshifter is a prereq for putting points in Master Shapeshifter.

Blizzard has talked about making shifting a bigger part of how you play a druid, which could make Natural Shapeshifter more important. However, I would correct the problem by removing Natural Shapeshifter as a prereq for Master Shapeshifter. Tier 1 of the Resto Tree is surprisingly good for moonkin. The extra 10% Int from Furor is very nice. Imp MotW is nice both in terms of the better buff and the 2% additional stats. On top of that Nature's Focus is now a really good talent to avoid pushback on Wrath. I would happily take the three points I have invested in Tier 2 of the Resto tree and put them in Tier 1, but I can’t due to the prereq on Master Shapeshifter.

Off Topic Comments:

I wanted to make a couple of other comments that aren't related to the subject of the post.

  1. Haste Valuation: I'm starting to doubt my haste valuation. I think haste rating is better than I'm giving it credit for. The numbers produced by Simcraft rate Crit rating and Haste rating at a very similar level. I need to take a look at my model, but you may not want to avoid Haste as much as I've indicated in the past.

  2. New Blog: Randomsmo has started a new blog. If you don't know Randomsmo, he is a moonkin that has regularly posted on the official forums and Moonkin Repository. He raids at a fairly high level, and is usually a pretty good source of information. He currently only has 3 posts up but I thought they were fairly interesting. If you would like to check his blog out you can find it here.
(Edited by Flamedor)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

General Update: 9/8/2009

Edit: Randomsmo has started a blog and posted on the 2T8 vs 4T9 debate I talk a little bit about below. Since I already gave him credit for sparking idea, I think it is a good idea that I link to his post. You can find it here.

It’s been a little while since I wrote a real post. Since I don't have anything specific I am ready to post on, it is time for a new General Update.

Raid Progress:

Well, Anub'arak became available and everyone marched into the loot piñata that is ToC. Once again, the normal mode boss was pretty much a push over in my opinion. We got him down in two shots, and the first was a 2% enrage wipe. If we had been a little more comfortable with the fight mechanics it would have easily been a one shot.

Granted, one of our 10man groups did get in there on Tuesday and had a little bit of trouble. However, that was primarily due to a flawed strategy that they took from the PTR. Once they figured out it wouldn't work they downed him easily.

So with Anub'arak down, we moved onto Heroic ToC. I will admit my expectations were pretty low for the Heroic version of ToC. Given how easy normal was, I thought we would walk in there and down a couple of bosses. Boy was I wrong. Heroic ToC is pretty darn tough. We had a couple of issues with Group Composition given that some of our regular raiders weren't available, but we couldn't get out of phase 2 cleanly on the 25man version. My 10man group didn't even attempt it because we are trying to finish up the Ulduar Meta for a couple of people, but the other group did get in there and downed the first 3 bosses on heroic.

Heroic ToC is definitely doable, but it will take some practice. Unfortunately this poses another problem. We still have some fights left to finish up in Ulduar. We still want to get the meta achievement in there which means we need to pick up Firefighter, Vezax hard, and 1 light in the darkness. Since we have only a 9 hour schedule it will be a little difficult to work on both the ToC and Ulduar hard modes. Luckily they haven't announced the removal of the Drakes yet so we have at least 30 days to finish it up.

BiS Lists:

In some of my comments and emails, I've had a couple of questions about my BiS choices. I would like to address what I think are a couple of misunderstandings. First off, everyone needs to understand that a BiS list is just a Christmas wish list. Ninety nine percent of players in the game are unlikely to be able to get everything they want before a new tier becomes available. So, basing all of your gearing choices on a BiS list is pretty unrealistic.

Second, I never intended anyone to make loot choices based entirely off of my BiS list or the larger gear list. The list is a tool to help you see how things relate. It also organizes all of the options in one convenient place. What I expect players to do is to take a look at what is available and come up with a gear plan. What choices are best for you given the gear you already have and what is likely to be available.

For example, my back is pretty old. I picked up the [Shroud of Luminosity] from Naxx and have been rocking it for a long time. There haven't been a lot of good upgrades since then, and what there has been hasn't really dropped for us. [Jaina's Radiance] is BiS for me, but let’s be honest. I am nowhere close to being able to complete a ToC 25man tribute run. I can't hold how for that item. On top of that, most of the best items are from ToC tribute runs, so I need to realize that picking one up might take a while. On the flip side, [Shawl of the Refreshing Winds] is number 11 on my list, but it is an upgrade and drops off of Normal Beasts. The next time it drops I will probably invest a significant amount of DKP into it, despite it not being on my BiS list.

Tier 9 vs Tier 8:

I've commented on this before, but I want to take a look at it again, since I've heard some interesting new ideas, and continue to get questions about it.

  • 4T8 vs 2T9: The 2 piece T9 set bonus is better. My math from several months ago showed that instant Starfires were worth about 2.5% DPS while critting Moonfires were worth about 4.0%. When you consider the additional stats from T9 the 2T9 set bonus is an easy winner.

  • Which 2 pieces of T9: This really depends on what items you have and what you can pick up, but let’s assume you have full T8. If that is the case then I would pick up the T9 Chest and Helm. You're giving up 2 pieces of Spirit for two pieces without. Also, you wouldn't be making any big shifts regarding the hit cap by replacing your T8 gear in this way. Your T8 chest doesn't have hit on it and neither does the T9 chest. The T8 helm has hit on it and so does the T9. This makes for a very easy transition.

  • 2T8 vs 4T9: Mathematically, 2T8 is a clear winner unless you’re able to build a full set of T9.258. However, I read an interesting point on the WoW forums recently. (Randomsmo posted his point on his new blog here.) The point was that while 2T8 is better than 4T9 mathematically, 4T9 is a lot more consistent. Every Starfire and Wrath you cast will benefit from 4T9, while you can get screwed by RNG with 2T8. When you combine that with the stat advances you get from the T9.245 gear you can make a good argument for the upgrade. I will have to plug it into the model to be sure but I don't think it is a big DPS sacrifice.

Toon Update:

I haven't done much with the Lock or the Priest lately, because Grayvik my mage has been getting all of my alt attention. He is currently level 69 and I am trying to get him to Northrend as quickly as possible. (I know I could take him now, but I want him to be 70 first. It just makes it easier to use the guide that way.) He has been advancing pretty quickly for a couple of reasons. First, Outland is much more fun to level in than Azeroth is. The quest lines are easy to follow and you can do a lot of quests at once. Also, since I can fly, it's a lot easier to complete some of the quests. Second, I need a herber in Northrend. Since I dropped Herbalism on Graylo, I am at the mercy of the Auction House for my herbs. That's not a big deal if you plan ahead, but I don't like not being able to farm if the prices are unusually high.

Overall his levelling has gone well without issue. I did find one very surprising thing, however. The quests in Nagrand have been nerfed quite a bit. I think I remember seeing a note saying that the animal slaughter quests were nerfed, but it doesn't stop there. My guide lists what it thinks the quest requirements are and what the actual quest requirements are. For almost every quest where I had to "kill X number of this" or "collect X number of that," the number of items or kills needed had been reduced, by between 33 - 66%. That is huge. It has made the zone go a little quicker but to be honest I am a little disappointed. I was looking forward to skinning all of the beasts. Anyway, I am about half way through 69 and should ding 70 in the beginnings of Blades Edge Mountains.

One Quick note: Thank you Myraxa and Tigeris. I was doing the bird quest in Shattrath and couldn't seem to solo it. I was getting through the 3 add rushes with no problem, but the last bird did too much damage and had too much health for me to kill on my own. So I asked for help from the guild. Myraxa and Tigeris helped out, and wanted to be mentioned on the blog.

Goblin Activity:

I am continuing with my AH activities. I've had my ups and downs, but overall I think it is going pretty well. A guildie of mine, Nosismyhero, walked me through Auctioneer and explained a little bit of the functionality that I didn't understand. It has made playing the AH a lot easier.

My bag business has been tough lately. The cost of mats has gone up quite a bit. I used to find a lot of the mats around 4 gold and below, but lately a lot of it has been above that. In addition to that, the price of bags has gone down quite a bit, with prices being between 7g and 7.5g. There is still money to be made but it's not a lot. The flask business seems to be on the rebound. The flask prices have gone back up, but the price of Frost Lotus has gone up as well.

Also, I have a lot more respect for people like Gevlon who have been able to make a lot of money from Inscription. Since picking up the profession, I have tried to make money from it a couple of times, but haven't been able to find the right glyphs yet. I may not have discovered the right glyphs yet, but most of what I make has sat on the AH with little profit. It's definitely not as simple as some of the other professions. With Alchemy and Tailoring there are really only a few things you can sell for a profit so it is easy to figure out. Since there are literally hundreds of glyphs it is much tougher to learn for Inscription.

The bright spot in my Goblinish Activity is that I think I've found a good market to play in. It is the Armor Vellum III market. The volume is high, and the competition seems relatively low on my server. I sold several hundred over the weekend for 100% - 150% profit. On top of that, there is no deposit cost for listing them, so the market has very little risk. If this past weekend is any indication I might be able to make 1k gold a week off of just this item.

If anyone reading this is experienced in the glyph market and has any suggestions, please pass them on.

(Edited by Flamedor)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Gray Matter Survives Another Year

Gray Matter is officially 2 years old today. WOOT!!

It has been a pretty big year for the blog. This time last year I had a small but loyal following. We were all trying to figure out what the new expansion would mean for us, and I was writing a lot of posts each month (a lot for me anyway). Little did I know that this expansion would be a huge boost for my blog.

This past year has been a bit surreal. Moonkin have gone from being the butt of many jokes to being an accepted and viable class in high-end raiding. With that my readership has grown significantly. On top of that two blue posters have made comments about my blog and said that it has had some impact on decisions made. I can't think of a prouder moment I've had about the blog. (Though, as unlikely as it is, to get something named after me would be the awesome. Maybe it could be called "[Graylo's Idol of Eternal Spell Check].")

An Invitation:

So, where is the blog going from here?

It's probably going to be a lot of the same. I'm not planning on doing anything really differently, but I will put one thing out there.

I've gotten several offers to write for, edit, or help with the blog in some general way. All of the offers are awesome, but I'm not really sure how I feel about bringing in someone in an official way. Gray Matter has been my baby and my voice. So, I am a little protective of it, and I don't know what it would be like to share it with someone else. As scary as that is I could probably use a little help if I want to grow the blog. So, here is what I'm proposing:

If you would like to write for the blog please feel free to e-mail me an article. If I like it and think it fits in well with the blog, I'll post it as a guest post. Articles that focus on topics I am unlikely to cover like Moonkin PvP are more likely to get posted then topics I regularly post on. Also, you’re more likely to be published if you can demonstrate your command of the subject matter with Arena ratings and/or achievements. Obviously, if you submit something to me you are giving me permission to post the article.

Does reading my blog leave you itching for a red pen so you can fix all of the spelling and punctuation mistakes? Well, here is your opportunity. Please feel free to copy my posts into an email and point out all of the mistakes. If someone does it consistently, I may give them rights to fix the issues themselves.

Finally, if you do submit a post and I do not use it, please know I appreciate the time and effort it took you to do that. I hope you look at it as an opportunity to start your own blog.

Thank you to all of my readers and everyone who has promoted my blog over the past two years. It is cliché to say it, but my blog wouldn't be where it is today without you guys.

(Edited by Flamedor)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

ToC Horde Gear and other Updates

Ok, it appears that having only the Alliance names is a big deal. Granted after looking at the list again the names weren't as close as I first thought they were. So, I've created two versions of the list. There are links to the Horde version in the Alliance version and vice versa. Hopefully this will stop the e-mail that say "Item X is not on your list" and "Including only the Alliance names sucks."

Alliance - Part 1 & Part 2
Horde - Part 1 & Part 2

I've also updated a couple of the items. There was an issue with one of the crafted bracers where it didn't include the gem socket correctly. I also updated the Trinkets to make the BiS trinket rank properly. If you find any other issues please let me know.

Finally, I've gotten a couple of comments that say my "DPS numbers look low." The numbers next to the names are NOT DPS numbers. They are relative rankings based upon the stats on the item. I can't remember the exact number right now, but if you wanted to convert them to DPS number you have to multiply them by something similar to 1.35.