Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Very Quick Update

Hi Guys.

I want to apologize for not having posted since the 6th of December. I am not quitting and it was not my plan to go so long without posting. However, a lot of things came together to make it really hard for me to post for the past few weeks. First the expansion came out and it has taken a lot of time to gear my character up. Second, a lot of things have been happening at work lately which as drawn more of my attention then is usual. Third, I went home for the holidays and spent more then a week there. I had hoped that I would be able to do a post from there, but that proved to be overly optimistic. There was just to much to do and to little time.

Again, I want to apologize for the lack of posts. I have some good ideas for stuff to come and will be updating the gear list. (Yes, the Tattooed Eyeball is wrong. It's based on the older Epic version. I will update it soon.)


Monday, December 6, 2010

Your Helpful Pre-Cataclysm Post

Cataclysm is almost here and I'm sure everyone is excited to get going and level up. A group of guildies and I plan to chain instances starting at 12am PST. I've already got my supplies to help me stay awake, and give me something to munch on. Game wise I have 25 quests completed to turn in right after the expansion turns over, I've also already discovered Blackrock Caverns and have my Hearth set to Ogrimmar for easy training.

A lot of you are probably not obsessing over this the way I am, but I thought it would be a good idea to give you some of my thoughts on how to level and some other good tips.

Leveling Talent Spec:

I plan to start with this talent spec. The first talent point I gain at level 81 will be spent on Master Shapeshifter. After that I will probably sink the final four into mana regen talents. I think most of the choices are fairly obvious but here are the highlights.

  • Mana Talents: I'm generally a fan of Mana talents while leveling. Fewer mana issues, means less down time, which means faster leveling. However, Man shouldn't be a big problem for the first few levels if you ICC gear. So I'm ignoring it first and making it a priority later.

  • Owlkin Frenzy: If you are questing your way up to 85 this is a great talent. I found that it procced quite a bit for me in beta.

  • Solar Beam: Having a ranged silence and interrupt can be a big help in 5mans and while questing.
Leveling Glyphs:

In general our glyphs are pretty bad for leveling. Five out of six of our prime glyphs depend on DoTs and the Sixth is based on a spell that hits random targets. Therefore none of them are all that helpful if you are questing to 85.

However, there are a couple of major glyphs you want to consider:

Glyph of Entangling Roots: This will be a big help in instances when you have to CC. Could also help you while questing if you have to deal with a runner.

Glyph of Thorns: This can be a big help getting you out of situations where you pull to many mobs. It will also help your tanks with threat in the instances you run.

Zone Impressions:

Mount Hyjal - Of the two starting zones I like Mount Hyjal better. It's more linier and less confusing. It has some very interesting quests along the way that aren't your standard bombing runs or vehicle quests. I don't think all of them worked, but I thought there was some nice variety in the zone.

Vashj'ir - I don't think this is a bad zone, but it's confusing. First, your questing in a 3D environment. That made it a lot tougher to find objectives. Plus it's an absolutely huge zone. Overall I just had a hard time finding stuff. To be fair though, there where a lot of bugs when I ran through it in Beta. That may cloud my judgement some.

Deepholm - Very nice zone, but it was tough. I've been told that it was nerfed after I ran through it, but don't be surprised if it's much tougher then Mount Hyjal or Vashj'ir were for you. Play it safe as you go. Try not to pull more then one mob.

Uldum - If you like Cutscenes then you are going to love Uldum. I swear every other quest had a cutscene at the end of the zone. A fairly nice zone. I thought it was a little spread out, but it had some interesting quests. Plus, if you hate gnomes you are going to love one of the Uldum quests.

General Tips:

These are some general tips I'm stealing from a guild of mine Listerine. He wrote a big long post on our forums regarding these and some others, but I will paraphrase them for you.

  1. Complete Every Instance - All of the instance quests are available as you walk into dungeon. Therefore, completing the dungeon with the quests will get you a lot of xp, and some decent items that may help you level.

  2. Equip Cloth and Feral Gear to increase your iLevel - Lets be clear, I'm not suggesting that you should use cloth or feral gear. Just equip it and take it off, if it's a higher ilevel then what you've equipped in the past.

    I know this sounds strange. The reason for this suggestion is to get access to the higher level dungeons quicker. The LFD tool will may bar your access to some instances if your gear doesn't meet a level requirement. However, when you use the LFD tool it doesn't look at the gear you have equipped. It only looks at the highest ilevel gear you have ever equipped in each slot. It doesn't matter if that item is currently equipped or not.

    To be completely honest I'm not sure if this is correct or not. I didn't test it, but it can't hurt to do it, and it may save you time later.

  3. Spend your JP Points - If you're like me you already have 4000 Justice Points. Make sure you spend them before you start doing high level dungeons. There are quite a few good items that are purchasable with Justice Points. They will help you to get into heroics quicker. Plus, once you start running the level 85 dungeons you will start to earn the Justice points again. If your justice points are already capped then you are just letting them rot.

Guide Updates:

Finally, I've posted updated versions of my Gear list and my Raiding guide. I'm sure there are issues with both because I've been rushing to get them out before the expansion. If you find problems, please feel free to send them in the comments of this post, or send them to me in an email.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cata Factions: A Moonkin Point of View

To be honest, I traditionally haven't paid a lot of attention to the different factions in WoW. This isn't to say that they didn't have value, but historically they haven't had a lot of impact on my play.

In The Burning Crusade I hit level 70 several months after most players and the early guilds I was in didn't stress min/maxing or getting the most out of your faction reps. Plus, there wasn't a whole lot of gear available to Moonkin in those days and I was irrationally stuck on leather. Not to mention it was difficult to find groups as a moonkin.

In Wrath of the Lich King, I paid a little more attention to the faction rewards. I tried to grind some of them out quickly but it quickly became apparent that wasn't really necessary. The T7 Raids were relatively easy. I was getting better gear from Naxx and Sarth before I could grind the rep needed to purchase other items. As a result my effort lost steam quickly.

If we believe Blizzards claims, Cataclysm is going to be different. I can tell you from experience that we won't be using a single piece of T10 raid gear when we start raiding in Cataclysm, and the quest greens we receive while leveling are unlikely to be good enough as well. Normal dungeons and Heroics are going to be our primary sources of gear when we try and make the leap to raids, but that is not the only source we should pay attention to. In this post I want to take a look at the different factions being added and what they provide us as moonkin interested in raiding.

(Please Note: Some of the items listed are faction specific. Most of the items have the same name for both factions, but there are a few exceptions. To make things a little easier on myself I am listing only the Horde version.)

Hellscream's Reach/Baradin's Wardens:

These are the Horde and Alliance factions related to Tol Barad, the Wintergrasp style PvP zone being added in Cataclysm. Even though these factions are PvP related the Rep Rewards they provide are not, and there are several good items that a raiding moonkin will want.

The primary way to get rep with these factions is through Daily Quests. According WoWhead there are 34 daily quests that grant rep with these factions, but If I remember correctly you only get access to them or some of them if your faction controls the zone.

The Good Stuff:
[Stump of Time] - In my opinion, this is probably the most important faction related gear option. I'm sure some of you think I'm crazy for being concerned about hit capping, but I like this item for a couple of reasons. First, I think Hit capping is going to be harder then a lot of people expect and picking up a nice big chunk of Hit from a Trinket can be a big help. Second, there are not a lot of good DPS trinket options, and those that drop from raids will be highly sought after by all caster DPS players.

[Hellscream's Reach Tabard] - I think some of you will roll your eyes at me for this one as well, and you might be right. However, I'm a big fan of the teleport feature. Call me crazy if you like, but given that the Cataclysm zones are all spread out I like being able to change continents in the blink of eye. I realize that there will be portals every were to make travel easier, but I also like the peace of mind knowing that I can pop this target or my Moonglade Port and catch a bird to where ever I want to go (except Deepholm).

The Other Stuff:
[Shimmering Morningstar]
[Insidious Staff]

Overall Impression:
I really like the hit trinket and think a lot of people will be using it for most of T11 content. At revered you are also able to pick up a couple of good weapons that could make the transition to raids easier. This faction also has a couple of mounts and pets that don't impact raid, but will be attractive to some people.


This is the Sons of Hodir for Cataclysm, but a little different. You start out as Hated with Therazane but you should be Honored by the time you unlock the daily quests while questing in Deepholm. Once you are Honored, you can gain rep by completing the daily quests or by using their tabard.

The Good Stuff:
[Greater Inscription of Charged Lodestone] - The shoulder enchant will be required of all raiders, but it's only 20 Int and 5 Haste better then the blue version. If you are a scribe then you can get a better enchant from your profession.

The Other Stuff:
[Lesser Inscription of Charged Lodestone]
[Diamant's Ring of Temperance]

Overall Impression:
A necessary but lackluster faction if you as me. The shoulder enchants are the main draw, but the Greater Inscription isn't that much better then the Lesser version you should get just by questing through the zone. If I wasn't a scribe I would probably do the daily quests as much as possible, but save my Tabard rep for other factions.

Dragonmaw Clan/Wildhammer Clan:

These are the factions associated with the Twilight Highlands, one of the new Cataclysm zones. You will gain some rep with these factions by completing quests in the zone, but the primary way you will gain rep is by wearing their tabard in max level dungeons.

The Good Stuff:
[Yellow Smoke Pendant] - Not an ideal choice for a moonkin since it provides Crit and Mastery instead of Hit or Haste.

[Withered Dream Belt] - This is a great starter belt for a Moonkin. It provides all of the stats we will need heading into raids and has a gem socket.

The Other Stuff:
[Band of Lamentation]
[Spaulders of the Endless Plains]

Overall Impression:
Having two usable Epics makes this a great faction for a moonkin. The neck is a bit weak, but the belt will likely be a priority for a a lot of players. The two blue items are decent as short term solutions as we gear up for raids and heroics.

Guardians of Hyjal:

As you have probably guessed this faction is associated with Mount Hyjal, one of the new Cataclysm zones. There are a ton of quests in the zone that will provide you with this rep, but they also have a tabard to allow you to gain rep in dungeons.

The Good Stuff:
[Arcanum of Hyjal] - This is the caster head enchant that will be required of all raiders. It is bind on account so technically you only need to be revered on one toon, but if you Moonkin is your main then this item alone makes this faction important to you.

The Other Stuff:
[Aessina-Blessed Gloves]
[Cloak of the Dryads]

Overall Impression:
Guardians of Hyjal is a pretty mediocre faction for moonkins. If it wasn't for the head enchant I would tell you to ignore it completely. I didn't pay a lot of attention to factions in the beta, but my hope is that quests in the zone will get you most of the way to revered, then just few dungeons will finish it off. Once you hit revered I would switch tabards, because there is no practical reason to take this faction to exalted.

The Earthen Ring:

From a lore perspective The Earth Ring seems to be the primary faction in Cataclysm much like the Ardent Crusade was in WotLK. They are all over the place. They have a large presence in Vashj'ir, Deepholm, and the Twilight Highlands. Plus, they provide the portals in the capital cities. I wouldn't be surprised if they drove the lore behind most of the raid instances as well.

From a more practical perspective they are no different then any other faction. There are a lot of quests that provide Earthen Ring Rep, but none of them are dailies. Again, the primary source of rep will be with the tabard.

The Good Stuff:
Unfortunately the Earthen Ring doesn't have any usable epics for a Moonkin or any enchants that make it worth the effort.

The Other Stuff:
[Leggings of Clutching Roots]
[Cloak of Ancient Wisdom]
[Pendant of Elemental Balance]

Overall Impression:
It does have some decent blue items, but the reality is there are better factions to level. By the time you could get the Earthen Ring to Revered you should have better gear from heroics or raids. This faction should purely be an after thought.


This is Uldum's faction. There are a lot of quests in the zone that will provide Ramkahen rep, but once again the primary way you will need to level it up is with the tabard.

The Good Stuff:
No enchants. No epics. Not even a heroic level blue item.

The Other Stuff:
[Ammunae's Blessing]

Overall Impression:
And I thought that the Earthen Ring was bad. There are only two positive things I can say about this faction. First, if you have a Feral offspec then you will want to level it eventually because it does have the Agi head enchant. Second, if you are interested in riding a camel then you will want to level it because two of them are exalted rep rewards.


HR/BW - As a faction with several good items, I would make doing the Tol Barad daily quests a priority.

Therazane - Important for non scribes, but the Greater Enchants aren't good enough to make it the number one priority in my opinion.

DC/WC - With several good epics and superior items, these factions should be a high priority for any moonkin.

GoH - Because of the head enchant I will probably level this one first, but I will drop it in favor of DC/WC as soon as I get to revered.

TER - Nothing much of value for a moonkin. Skip it.

Ramkahen - Even worse the TER. Skip it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chaotic Meta Requirement Reversed!

I've already written two separate posts on this subject. Might as well give this blue post it's own blog post as well.
The current design has been reconsidered, so we're planning to revert gems that now require more blue than red gems back to their original requirements. Such a change can't be accomplished via a hotfix though, so we'll have to wait to revert these in a future patch.
I'm glad that they are making the chance but couldn't they have decided this before I spent 700g regemming for raid.

New Cata Gemming Strategy:

For the most part, our Cata gemming strategy will be the same as it was in WotLK with a few possible caveats.

Meta Socket: [Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond]

Red Socket: [Brilliant Inferno Ruby]

Yellow Socket: [Reckless Ember Topaz] with Int Socket bonus. [Brilliant Inferno Ruby] with secondary stat socket bonus. The thing to remember here is that secondary stats are worth no where near as much as Int at least in early Cata raiding. An additional 20 Int is likely better then 30 of any secondary stat. In fact, I'm not a 100% sure that a Reckless gem is the right choice when the socket bonus is Int, but I'll need to see some more math before I make that change.

Blue Socket: At least 2 [Purified Demonseye], but maybe [Brilliant Inferno Ruby]
if the socket bonus particularly bad and you don't need the hit.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Meta Gems: What do we do now?

Last weeks I wrote a post on the new Chaotic Meta Gem requirement. Talking with other players and guildies it seems to me that the change is hated by most people if not everyone. As much as this change sucks, the unfortunate truth is that we are probably just going to have to deal with it. In this post I want to explore the different meta gems options and a general gemming strategy we are likely to employ in Cataclysm.

The Options:

[Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond]: I detailed the math on the Chaotic Meta gem in a post a couple of years ago. The theory behind the Chaotic meta gem hasn't changed in those two years. While the 54 crit rating isn't that attractive, the 3% increase to crit damage is easily still the best Meta gem buff. The question now is if it's worth the increased cost imposed by the new meta gem requirement.

Intellect Gems ([Bracing] , [Ember]): The Int gems are just the opposite of the Chaotic meta. Picking up an additional 54 Int is very attractive but the meta buffs are situational at best.
I've seen a couple of people advocating the Bracing meta because they are uncertain about threat in Cataclysm. Personally I have a hard time buying that argument. A 2% threat reduction shouldn't be much of a DPS increase. In most cases, if threat is really an issue then either you or your tank is probably doing something wrong.

The Ember meta gem would have been a much more attractive option a couple of months ago, but mana no longer seems to be a huge issue for Moonkin. If you're not running Oom, then an additional 2% mana is useless.

There are other meta gems that provide Int, but I believe them to be more PvP oriented since they provide bonuses that reduce stuns, silences and such.

[Fleet Shadowspirit Diamond]: I'm a little hesitant to list this gem at all but it provides a unique opportunity. If you've read my blog for a while then you probably remember threat I am a big fan of the Minor Run Speed Increase bonus. I like the additional utility it provides, and I've traditionally picked it up as a boot enchant because the other enchant options are relatively weak. However, in Cataclysm things seem to be changing a little bit. Minor Run Speed Increases don't stack, so it doesn't make sense to have both the gem and the boot enchant. Therefore, if you decide to use the Fleet meta, you can choose a different boot enchant. Most likely the 50 hit rating enchant. These means the Fleeting Shadowspirit Diamond provides you with 50 hit rating and 19 mastery mating if you assume that the Minor Run Speed increase will be picked up in either the boot slot or with the meta gem.

Other Options: There are other options that provide Crit rating and what I think are PvP bonuses. None of these are worth considering in my opinion.

The Math:

Hamlet recently posted an updated version of the level 85 WrathCalcs, and I'm using that evaluate the different options. It works a lot like the old El Jefe spreadsheet which will make some of you happy, and I used it to evaluate the Chaotic Meta and the Bracing Meta.

The gear I chose is all ilevel 359 epic gear. I didn't always make the optimal choice and favored pieces that were easier to obtain when possible. The gear set I used is very plausible at least in the early raiding of this tier. I did make the optimal gem, enchant, and reforging choices, and I used this talent spec.

The Cost: To use the Chaotic Meta gem I have to make some gem choices that would not be optimal without the meta requirement. When compared to the Int gems, I lose 154 Int as a result and gain 100 Spirit/Hit, 54 Crit rating, and the 3% increase to Crit damage. The cost of using Int gem is the exact opposite.

The Results: When I plugged these numbers into the spread sheet these are the numbers I got:

Chaotic Meta:20,663 DPS
Int Meta:20,468 DPS
Fleet Meta:20,319 DPS

As you can see the Chaotic Meta was still the clear winner even with the suboptimal gemming requirement.

The Gemming Strategy:

How we socket our Meta socket may not be changing but it does require a change in how we socket our other gem sockets. It's a lot more confusing then how we've done it in the past, but I will try and outline it as simply as possible.

Simple Version: This version of my strategy makes an assumption that should be true most of the time, but probably not always. That assumption is that you have more Yellow and Blue sockets then you have Red and Prismatic sockets. This assumption isn't true for our T10 gear, but it looks to be true for T11, and think it will be the norm through out Cataclysm. I hope this is the case because it makes the gemming strategy a lot easier to explain.

Red/Prismatic Socket: [Brilliant Inferno Ruby]

Yellow Socket: Socket a [Lightning Dream Emerald] until you have no yellow sockets left or until you have one more green gem socketed then you have red gems socketed.

Blue Sockets: If the number of green gems you have socketed is less than or equal to the number of Red gems socketed, then socket your blue sockets with [Sparkling Ocean Sapphire] until you have one more green gem socketed then you have red gems socketed. At this point your meta requirement is met.

Other Sockets: Now you need to balance the rest of your sockets to make sure the meta requirement is still met. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. For every pair of yellow sockets you have left socket one with a [Reckless Ember Topaz] and a [Lightning Dream Emerald] until zero or just one yellow socket left.

  2. If you have one yellow socket left and at least one blue socket left, then socket the yellow with a [Reckless Ember Topaz] and one blue socket with a [Sparkling Ocean Sapphire]. If you have one yellow socket left and no blue sockets left socket the yellow socket with a [Lightning Dream Emerald].

  3. Socket the remaining blue sockets with [Purified Demonseye].
Ok, that turned out to be more complicated then I thought it would be. However, it can get worse.

Advanced Version: Hamlet made a much more mathy explanation of the system on his Elitist Jerks blog which you can find here. This post and another one of his EJ posts led me to creating another explanation of the strategy using math expressions. Some of you might find it easier to understand.

  1. Let R be minimum(number of red+prismatic sockets , blue+yellow sockets - 1 ).
  2. Put R red gems into red/prismatic sockets.
  3. If there are still red/prismatic sockets left over, put purple in them.
  4. Let Y be minimum(R+1, yellow sockets)
  5. Put Y green gems into yellow sockets.
  6. Put R-Y+1 blue gems into blue sockets -- Meta requirement now satisfied.
  7. For each remaining pair of blue/yellow sockets, socket one blue and one orange gem.
  8. If yellow are left, fill with half green and half orange, favoring Green if odd number. If blue are left, fill with purple.
The only time it brakes down as far as I can tell is if you have all red sockets which is highly unlikely. You also won't be able to have a perfectly balanced meta requirement if you have zero blue sockets and and odd number of yellow sockets that total more then your Red/Prismatic sockets.


The Chaotic Meta gem is still the best meta gem choice by far. The DPS benefits of the other meta gem options just don't measure up even when you take the new Chaotic Meta gem requirement into account.

However, the new Chaotic Meta gem requirement does make our gemming strategy much more complicated then it has been in the past. The strategies I've outlined above will make sure your gear is gemmed optimally while still meeting the meta requirement. That said, you should be extra vigilant when making gear changes to make sure your gemming is still optimized.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Look at Leveling Guides

** Disclaimer: Please Read This - There are a few things you should know before you read this post.

  1. If you click on any of the links to commercial leveling guides in this post and purchase the guide, I will receive a commission for that sale. I am trying to sell you these products, but I am also giving you my complete and honest opinion.

  2. My comments are based purely on my past experience with leveling guides. All of the guides I have used I either purchased with my own money or were available to everyone for free.

  3. I do not have access to the Cataclysm versions for any of the guides, and I have not received anything from the guide makers for free. I cannot definitively comment on the quality of any of the Cataclysm guides. If something changes and the guides lack the quality of the guides I used, I will be just as pissed as you are, because I purchased it with my own money as well.

  4. If you are not interested in what I have to say about leveling guides please feel free to skip this post. I should have a new one up in a couple of days. That said, any comments that are not on topic and basically "unsubscribe" comments will be deleted. I appreciate you taking the time to express your disapproval, but please do it in an email. Comments that disagree with me or provide other options will not be deleted as long as long as they fit a general guideline of decency

Some gamers like the challenge of going in blind and discovering the right path. To these players looking for an objective online is cheating and spoils the fun of the game.

I'm not one of those players. I'm impatient and get frustrated when I can't find something in game and in real life. It annoys me when I do a quest and then find another quest that wants me to go back to the same exact spot I was before. In short, the more time I spend running the less happy I am, therefore it should come as no surprise that I'm a big fan of leveling guides.

In this post I will take a look at what I like about leveling guides, give a critique of the guides I've used, and try and show you why I think leveling guides are still a good purchase.

My Leveling Guide History:

When I first started playing WoW almost four years ago, I literally knew nothing about the game and MMO's in general. I gave it a try because I was a fan of the Warcraft and Starcraft RTS games. Everything I knew about WoW I learned from the official website and what I learned in game. As a result I made a lot of mistakes, like doing one quest at a time and trying to complete zones before moving to a knew one. It literally took me more then a month to go from level 1 to level 30.

Then I found Jamie's 30 - 60 Alliance Leveling guide on WoWpro.com. It was an "Aha!" moment and I realized many of the things I was doing wrong. It was a website based guide so it required a lot of alt-tabbing, but leveling was still a lot faster with the guide. With easy to understand instructions and pictures, it was easily the best leveling resource I had found up until that point.

There was a problem however. It stopped at level 60. I dinged level 60 in February or March of 2007, a couple of months after TBC was released. Unfortunately, Jamie's guide was not updated with a 60 to 70 section until many months after TBCs release, so I was faced with the choice of buying a guide or go back to doing it myself. In the end I chose to purchase the now defuncted Brian Kopp Alliance leveling guide. At the time it was regarded as the best Alliance leveling guide available. As good as Jamie's guide was, Brian Kopps was better. It was better organized, it offered coordinates for almost every objective and overall had less running around. Though it cost me 50 bucks or so I thought it was well worth the purchase and I leveled Graylo to 70 with it and two other toons from 1 to 70 with it.

Then came WotLK. While I was really impressed with the content of Brian Kopp's guide, the format of his guide was out of date. At this time several competing guides were advertising in-game addons and the promise of no more alt-tabbing. As we got closer to WotLK release date I was getting more and more concerned by the lack of information coming from the Brian Kopp people. I wasn't sure if there was going to be a 70 to 80 guide at all let alone an in-game addon version of one.

So, I took it as an opportunity to try something new and I picked up the Zygor Alliance guide (I did not purchase the Horde guide at the time.). For the most part, I have been very happy with the Zygor guide. The format of the guide is excellent. I was never confused on where to go and was always able to move quickly from one step to the next. I think the content and organization of the Brian Kopp guide were a little better, but the differences were small.

I really only have two negative things to say about the Zygor guide. First, I think they listed some steps in the wrong order. A couple of times it would tell you to kill a named mob after it tells you to kill 20 of his associates. I think it works out better in the opposite order. The other issue I had was that the guide didn't provide alternate areas to complete the quest in the beginning. If you've ever tried to play right after a new expansion you know how some quest areas can be cramped with people trying to kill quest mobs. The guide would point to an area that was heavily camped already, but not provide the other locations at which the quest can be completed. That said, both of these issues got better in later versions of the guide. Zygor started grouping steps together more, and they started offering alternate areas to kill mobs. Also, as a player I found a few easy work-a-rounds. I set up the addon to show multiple steps so that I can read a little ahead to see if some steps can be done together. If the guide doesn't provide alternate locations to complete the quest, the in-game quest helper complements the guide well by giving you additional sites if they exist.

Yes, leveling guides still have value!

The World of Warcraft has changed a lot in the past 6 years, and some of you are probably questioning the value of a leveling guide. In truth, Blizzard quest design has improved a lot, and typically provides breadcrumb quests to show you the path. The new in-game quest helper also shows you the areas in which to completely quests. What could a leveling guide possibly add to the equation?

In truth, questing is a lot easier now then it ever has been before, but these improvements don't have all the advantages that an in-game guide provides. In my opinion, a leveling guide still helps quite a bit. I have been leveling up several horde toons on live without a leveling guide and I've been leveling up Graylo on the beta without a leveling guide. In both cases, I have found myself wishing I had a leveling guide for several reasons.

  1. Looking at the in-game quest helper is like alt-tabbing. Granted it is quicker and easier then looking something up on WoWhead, but a good leveling guide addon will tell you all the information you need right on your screen. I can't tell you how much time I've wasted or how many times I've died while I was looking at the map or WoWhead to figure out a quest. In short, looking away from your screen costs time that I would prefer to spend completing more quests.

  2. In a related note to my first point, the in-game quest-helper lacks detail. It's great for finding out where to kill 10 of mob x, but if you need to go to a specific spot it has issues. It will put a marker on your big map showing you where to go, but that's it. If it's in a hard to reach spot like in a cave or up a mountain it doesn't tell you how to get to that spot. You also have to look at the map to find it and it does not provide coordinates for the location. If the quest requires several specific locations, it only shows them one at a time, and you have to look at the map after each objective. A good leveling guide will give you the specific coordinates of where you need to go and an on screen arrow to point you in the right direction. While using a leveling guide I was rarely unsure of where to go and what I need to do next after completing a step in the guide.

  3. The in-game quest helper lacks organization. Blizzard has made it a lot easier to find quests. The bread-crumb quests and the quest giver icons on your mini-map are a big help, but they don't do enough. While leveling in Mount Hyjal, I missed several quest hubs because there was not a break-crumb quest leading me to it and I didn't travel close enough to it to see the quest icon on my mini map. Also, it doesn't give any indication of what order the quests should be done it.

    For example, at one of the Mount Hyjal quest hubs I accepted 3 quests. They were all to be completed in the area around of the quest hub, but two of them were separated from the third by a little bit. What the in-game quest helper didn't tell me was that quest number 3 was the start of a longer quest chain, of which some of the later quests were completed in the same areas as quest 1 and 2. By random draw I chose to do quests 1 and 2 first, and ended up doing more running then I needed to because I had to go back to an area I had already quested in because I did the quests in the least efficient order.

    A good leveling guide takes all the guessing out of the equation. It shows you exactly where to go next so you shouldn't miss any quest hubs. Plus it will tell you which mobs will start a quest if you kill them. When you do have all the quests it will tell you the best order to complete them to minimize your running around time.

  4. Reading Quests takes time. I know some of you love to read the quests for the lore and the story. Personally, I am not that type of player and I get annoyed if I have to read a quest. The quest objectives are usually enough to point you in the right direction, but about 25% of the time they are not. Sometimes you have to collect something to summon the mob you need to kill, or use a quest item on a particular mob to weaken it when the quest objective just tells you to kill mob X. I hate that, because I spend a minute or to looking for mob X, then I take a half a minute to read the quest to figure out what I'm missing. A good leveling guide will tell you the exact steps you need to complete to finish the quest.
The critics of leveling guides are quick to say that leveling guides don't provide any information that can't be found on WoWhead or using some other free addon. It's true that leveling guides don't provide deep secrets that can't be found elsewhere on the web for free, but that's not the value of a leveling guide. A leveling guide is valuable because of the organization it provides. It prevents you from having to alt tab and look something up on WoWhead. It prevents you from having to search for the cave entrance. It prevents you from accidentally not picking up a quest. All of this allows you to level faster, and that is why leveling guides still have value.

Updates vs Upgrades:

I want to explain the difference between guide updates versus guide upgrades. Most of the guide sellers will advertise "free updates" for the life of the guide when trying to sell you a guide. Unfortunately, many purchasers are confused by what that means, and feel cheated when a new expansion comes out and have to buy a guide for the new levels. In a effort to prevent that confusion let me try and explain the difference.

An update is done when Blizzard does something that would change the way an existing guide would function. For example, during TBC Blizzard dramatically reduced the amount of experience needed to level from 1 to 60 and added a new quest hub in Dustwollow Marsh. I was using the Brian Kopp 1-70 guide at the time and he rewrote the guide to take the reduced xp requirements into account and include the new quest hub. I got this update for free as a part of my original purchase.

Another example, would the questing changes coming in Cataclysm. Since Blizzard is redoing a lot of the old world, the guide makers are having to redo their leveling guides from 1-60. As a purchaser of the Zygor 1-80 guide I would getting these updates for free without having to buy the 80-85 guide. This has been confirmed by the Zygor people.

An upgrade is when the guide provides new levels when an expansion is released. Therefore you will have to purchase a new guide for the new levels added in an expansion. I have not seen a single commercial guide that provides free upgrades. If you buy a leveling guide, make sure it includes all of the levels you expect it to, but don't expect it to include any levels beyond those currently available or soon to be available.

Available Guides:

Zygor Level Guides
I used the Alliance guide during the WotLK expansion and got several characters to level 80 with it. I have also preordered the Cataclysm version of this guide.
Pros: Has a very helpful in game addon and is well organized for the most part. It provides the exact coordinates of quest objectives and an arrow point the player in the right direction. I've also experienced excellent customer service. If you purchase the guide after Oct 7th 2010, the Cataclysm update will be included in your purchase.
Cons: It costs money. It also had some organizational issues when first released in WotLK, but I found those problems to be relatively minor and most were eventually corrected.

Jamie's WoWPro.com Guides
I leveled my original Graylo from 30 - 60 with this guide several years ago. I have also used a couple of the starting zone guides, but I have not used their addon or any of their more recent guides.
Pros: It's Free. I have also heard good things about the addon and more recent guides from readers and guildies.
Cons: My biggest issue with the WoWPro.com guides is their availability. I hit level 60 more the 2 months after TBC was released and the 70-80 guide was not released until several months after that. They did provide 70-76 on release of WotLK, but there were only a few updates after that and the guide was never completed to go to level 80. They say they will have the 80-85 guide available on release, but I think you can understand why I am a little skeptical. On a side note, I also found the commercial guides to be a little more organized. Though to be fair it has been several years since I used a WoWPro guide.

Other Guides:
These are other leveling guides that I have no personal experience with. I cannot comment on the quality of any of them. Also, I do not follow their development, so please review their websites closely before purchasing to make sure you know what you are getting.

As best as I can tell the Brian Kopp guide is no longer being updated, but his website has been picked up by another guide creator. That said I have no idea what the connection between the two are.

Team iDemise
Joana's Horde Leveling Guide
Penn's Alliance Leveling Guide
Dugi's Ultimate Leveling Guide

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chaotic Meta Gems in Cata: We have a Problem!

As far as expansions and beta testing goes, some changes are made with big announcements and lots of attention. Others are slipped in and almost go unnoticed by the community. Most of the time the community focuses on the big flashy announcement, but that doesn't mean the other changes are unimportant. Once such change was made recently, and you probably want to pay attention to it.

What Changed:

As we all know, a meta gem's above average bonus comes with a cost. To activate a meta gem, the other gems you have equipped must meet a specific criteria. Typically these meta gem requirements are fairly small like "Must have two Blue Gems Equipped" or "Must have one Red and one Yellow Gem Equipped." For example, in WotLK the requirements for the Chaotic Skyflare Diamond was to have two blue gems equipped. It was a little inconvenient because blue was our worst colored gem for most of the expansion, but needing to equip just to wasn't a big pain because it could be done with Purple gems and it was just 2 gems.

We've known for some time that this was going to change in Cataclysm because the Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond had different requirements, but they recently got worse.

Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond Activation Requirements:
  • Old: Requires more Blue Gems then Yellow Gems.
  • New: Requires more Blue Gems then Red Gems.
  • Not only that, but they've gone back and changed the older versions of the Chaotic meta to have the same requirement as the Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond.

    How it works and what this means:

    As most of you know the hybrid gem colors green, orange and purple count as multiple gem colors. For example, a single green gem counts as both a blue gem and a yellow gem when it comes to meta requirements and socket bonuses. In WotLK his worked to our advantage, because we could use hybrid gems to meet socket and meta requirements, why still getting some Spellpower/Intellect from our favored gem color red.

    If the current meta gem requirements in beta go live, then the hybrid gem colors will actually work against us in most cases and will change the way we gem all socket colors. For every red or orange gem you have socketed you will have to have a blue or green gem socketed plus one additional blue or green gem. Purple gems don't factor into the equation since they count as both a blue and a red gem. Lets take it by socket type and see what the possibilities are (assuming you want to get the socket bonus).

    Red & Prismatic Sockets: Ideally we will want to socket Brilliant/Int gems in the red sockets. This shouldn't be hard to achieve since you are likely to have more yellow and blue sockets then red sockets. However, if you have an abundance of red sockets that can't be balanced by your yellow and blue sockets, you may need to put a few purple gems into your red sockets to balance the Meta Gem requirement.

    Yellow Sockets: Depending on your needs for hit, yellow sockets should be socketed with either a Quick gem (yellow) or a Lightning gem (green). Orange gems would only be useful if you had very few Red sockets and significantly more blue gems socketed then red gems.

    Blue Sockets: Again, depending on your needs for hit, blue sockets should be socketed with either a Sparkling gem (blue) or Lightning gem (green). Purple gems would only be useful in blue sockets if they didn't upset the balance of red to blue gems, as in you have a lot of blue gems socketed but few red gems socketed.

    Why this is a Problem:

    This change is inconvenient for sure, but my problems with this change go beyond me just disliking it as a player. In my opinion, the new Chaotic meta gem requirement is a clear example of bad design. I know that a lot of players like to call anything they don't like "bad design," but I try not to use those words for anything I simply don't like or disagree with. In this case, I think the new requirement runs counter to several of Blizzards implied stated goals and design philosophies.
    1. It creates a trap. When it comes to choosing DPS gems a couple of things are fairly clear for caster DPS at least. Red and red hybrid gems are the best because they provide Intellect our primary DPS stat. After you do a little math it's also clear that the Chaotic meta gem is the best meta gem. Yet, the new requirement sets these two basic rules against each other and creates a situation that is counter intuitive and confusing to players. Blizzard has said in the past they don't like to have traps in the talent trees. If that is true, then they shouldn't like meta gems that create a trap as well.

    2. It works against profession bonuses. In WotLK, Blizzard worked really hard to keep the profession bonuses relatively equal in terms of stats and game play. As a result most of the professions provided around 47 spell power and it didn't matter a lot which crafting professions you had. The problem is that two of the profession bonuses are centered around gems and gem sockets. Jewelcrafting can probably work around it, but it's a big problem for Blacksmithing, since it's profession bonus is two prismatic gem sockets. This means that a blacksmith has to have two additional blue gems as well and may have to down grade another gem just to activate his meta.

    3. It's a higher requirement then other Meta gems. All of the other meta gems have a simple to understand requirement like "Requires at least 2 yellow gems." I realize that the chaotic meta is very valuable for DPS specs, but the requirement is inconsistent when compared to the other meta gems. Tanks and healers aren't being asked to jump through similar hoops. For the Austere meta, the requirement is two yellow gems. It's not ideal, but not hard comply with either. The Eternal meta gem requires 3 blue gems which a tank will have by default. The healing meta's designed along the same lines, and that makes me wonder why DPS is being singled out for difficult to meat meta requirement.

    4. It makes gear upgrades complicated and expensive. Under the new requirement, any gear change could upset the balance of your meta gem requirement For example, if you have a pair boots with two gem sockets and replace them with some boots without gem sockets, then you may have to regem an item unrelated to the upgrade to maintain your socket balance.

    This change is more then just inconvenient. It changes the way Moonkin and other DPS specs will gem their gear completely. It forces us away from our favored stats and creates a situation where the correct gemming choices are counter intuative.

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    A Look Back at Wrath of the Lich King

    Cataclysm is being released in just over a month. The Balance tree seems to be finished for Cataclysm from Blizzards point of view. I've killed every 25man boss on hard mode and completed all of the meta achievements. I am officially in a holding pattern just waiting for Cataclysm.

    Not only am I in a holding pattern in the game, but the blog is in a bit of a holding pattern as well. There just isn't much to talk about at the moment, and looking at the other moonkin bloggers they seem to feel the same way. I took a look back at what I wrote before WotLK came out to try and get some ideas, and the only one that popped out was my expansion in review post. So, lets take a look back at WotLK.

    Favorite 5man:
    The Nexus - To be honest I had a hard time picking my favorite 5man instance because none of hem really stuck out, but I always thought The Nexus was pretty well done. It had a decent length, and a nice variety of bosses with interesting mechanics. I wouldn't say I absolutely loved the instance, but if all the Cataclysm instance turned out like The Nexus I would be happy.

    Least Favorite 5man: It's a Tie.
    Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom - This one is a little funny because I actually listed Herald Volazj as a fun fight in my WotLK first impressions post two years ago. However, I have to include it as one of my least favorite instances, because every time it popped up on the LFD tool, I was disappointed. I could handle Oculus and Halls of Stone without a problem, but Old Kingdom was always a pain in the neck. I think it's because everyone seemed to do it a little differently. I never knew what bosses or trash we were doing, plus I suffered through some truly horrible tanks in this instance.

    Trial of the Champion - Overall it was a horribly designed instance. I am not someone who is against vehicle fights, but the jousting mechanic sucked. It was a basic free-for-all that didn't really require any control or skill. When you finally got off the horses, the three mobs you had to kill were basic tank and spanks. Eadric the Pure and Confessor Paletress were only a slight improvement. The Black night did have a little flavor and complexity to him, but in my opinion it was too little too late. Combine this with massively long RP and this instance became incredibly boring.

    Favorite Raid:
    Ulduar - I didn't like everything about Ulduar, but it was easily the best designed Raid Instance in WotLK. Most of the bosses where well designed and there was great variety. The hard modes in most cases actually changed the way the fight worked. The fights were tuned really well. My biggest complaint about Ulduar is that ToC was released to early and pushed it to the back burner before a lot of good guilds had a chance to complete it.

    Least Favorite Raid:
    Naxxramus - Just so you get a better sense of where I'm coming from, I never raided Naxx before WotLK. My first experience with it was in early December 2008, but Naxx's two big problems became apparent very quickly.

    First, Naxx was way to easy. I understand that it is a first tier raid, but other then a couple of bosses like Thadius it provided almost no challenge. This was before the addition of Hard Modes as a rule, so there is no way that so many guilds should have been able and clear the instance in it's first week of real attempts.

    The second problem Naxxramus had was that it was a relic of an earlier time. Have you ever had a friend or parent tell you how great this old movie is and then not see what all the fuss is about when you actually watch it? That is how I feel about Naxxramus. I understand why they brought it back, I understand why it was great back in the day, but it clearly didn't live up to more current design standards. Most of the Naxx bosses had only one or two mechanics that you really had to pay attention to. If you take a look at Karazhan, Gruul and Mag, you can see that the fights were much more complicated. Naxx was great in its day, but on fortunately it's day had passed.

    Favorite Fight:
    Mimiron - Mimiron is probably going to top almost everyone's list, but I am having a hard time identifying a better fight. On normal mode it was a complicated four phase fight that required a lot of coordination. On hard mode, the addition of the fire made it insane. Having limited and unpredictable space forced the raid to think on the fly and adapt the strategy on an attempt by attempt basis. I was very frustrated at times with this fight, but it was also very satisfying.

    Runner Up: Malygos - I know some of you will disagree with me on this but I thought Malygos was a great fight. Phase one was fun and interesting trying to manage the sparks for additional DPS. Phase 2 was a nice balancing act of keeping your self safe, but trying to kill the disks as fast as possible. Phase three was a great example of a vehicle fight done right in my opinion. It was a little difficult operating in a 3D environment but there were clear ways to succeed and clear ways to fail. Overall, a very well designed encounter in my opinion.

    Least Favorite Fight:
    Hodir - It's a little funny that my least favorite fight comes from my favorite raid instances, but the Hodir fight annoys me to no end. My problem with it was that there was no difference between normal mode and Hard mode. It really should have been called lazy mode and normal mode, because if you couldn't be bothered to figure out how the buffs worked and try and use them to your advantage then you were lazy. The other big problem was that it was easy to fail the hard mode but kill the boss on accident. There nothing like ruining a raid night because your DoTs kill a boss a couple of seconds to late.

    Most Disappointing Fight:
    Gunship - I could easily call Gunship my least favorite fight, but it fails so much that it deserves its own category. I think what's most disappointing about this fight is that it sounded awesome when they mentioned it at Blizzcon, but it turned out to be completely face roll. I think they were trying to make another fight like Karazhan's Chess encounter, but Gunship had several problems Chess didn't. First, a large number of players spent a lot of time sitting around waiting for adds to spawn. I was so bored on one of my kills I spent the entire time trying to see how high I could get on the horde boat as an Alliance Player. The second problem was that all of the mechanics lacked teeth. While the boss and some of the adds could hit hard there was much to worry about for the raid as a whole. Heck, you could stand in void zones and no one would care. Finally there was no reasonable way to fail the encounter other then a mistake by a key player like a tank.

    Best Moment:
    Getting Immortal - Wrath of the Lich King is littered with horror stories about the Immortal achievement. I can probably only look back on it fondly because I eventually completed it while it was still relevant, but it was a monumental effort. We spent weeks on it, and had countless near misses with single deaths KT or some other stupid boss. We finally got it on April 1st just a couple of weeks before Ulduar was released and earned the T7 Meta mounts. It was an awesome feeling to complete that achievement, and clearly showed LoE was an awesome guild despite raiding half the time that most other guilds did.

    A lot of people like to say Immortal was all about RNG. I agree that there is a decent chunk of RNG involved, but to say that it's all about RNG is just an excuse. When we failed one week, we figured out how not to fail like that again next week. If we couldn't trust some one to do what was needed they got sat. Overall, this achievement taught me to think about my own survival. I probably wouldn't be the raider I am today without it.

    What Blizzard did right in WotLK:
    Adding hard modes - The balance and design of Hard Modes hasn't always been right, but the concept is a home run in my opinion. I am not one of those people who thinks you have to be hardcore to see content, and with hard modes it's possible to provide difficult content for those interested in the progression race and regular content for those that just want to see content without being hardcore.

    Balancing on the fly - Before WotLK the philosophy seemed to be that balancing should primarily happen when you release a new expansion. As a moonkin I would look at every patch hoping for a little buff here or a little buff their, but they rarely came. In WotLK the philosophy clearly changed, and it was for the better in my opinion. I love that, Blizzard was willing to make adjustment through out the expansion when they were needed. Now that we are on the door step to Cataclysm, I'm not worried that not all of the issues have been fixed. I'm now confident that Blizzard will continue to look at the problems and make adjustments when necessary.

    What Blizzard did wrong in WotLK:
    Wimping out on Hard modes - As I said above I think hard modes are a great addition to the game, but towards the end of the expansion Blizzard seemed to get lazy in their design. In Ulduar, doing a hard mode actually changed the fight. In most cases the bosses gained new abilities or a mechanic was added that changed the way the fight worked. After Ulduar most of the hard modes could be summed up in one statement: "The boss hits harder and more adds spawn." With a couple of exceptions the ICC strats didn't change much from normal mode to hard mode. So, all hard modes meant was that you were wiping to the thing you killed last week for 13 more ilevel points.

    No sense of progression in WotLK raids - I'm having a hard time describing what I mean. In TBC, guilds progressed from Kara, Mag, and Gruul to SSC and TK, and then to Hyjal and BT. A guild could progress at its own pace and there was a purpose for completing content before moving on to the next one. In WotLK, once Ulduar was released Naxxramus was dead. As much as ToC sucked, it pretty much halted relevant Ulduar progression, and so one. Once a new patch comes out there is little incentive to go back and see the old content in anyway that is challenging.

    Now, I'm not suggesting that Blizzard should go back to the big TBC style attunement quests, but I would like to see something that forces guilds and/or players to progress rather then start again as if the 3 month break they just took didn't happen. I think it would be possible to create a reasonable system with guild wide attunements and possibly restricting them to hard modes, but I think it's a little to easy to get into the highest level of progression currently.

    Future Plans:
    I do have a couple posts planned for the time between now and the release of Cataclysm. I hope to have a new gear guide up before the release of Cataclysm. My raid guide should also be fairly easy to update for level 85 and patch 4.0.3. I also have a post on Leveling guides written that I will post once I know a little bit more about the various 80-85 being sold. I'm also thinking about a couple of other pieces like "Blizzard's unfinished Moonkin business" and a "Cata preview" from my experiences on the Beta.

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Odds and Ends

    Patch 4.0.1 is a week old, and there seem to be lot of little things to talk about. The game is always a little frustrating after a big patch, but 4.0.1 was especially big and was particularly frustrating for me. I'll get more into that later, but lets take a look at the big topics of the week.

    My Gear list:

    I've said this a couple of places before, but I keep getting questions so I will say it again. No, I am not updating my gear list for patch 4.0.1.

    I realize that the patch changed the way we gear quite a bit. However, I don't think it's worth the effort for several reasons. First, Cataclysm is going to be released in less then two months, and very little progression raiding will be done during that time. Second, it's not a simple matter of changing the weights and getting rid of the cloth gear. The stats on all of it changed to some extent, and would require a lot of data entry. Third, if you made the right choices before the patch most of your choices after the patch will be the same.

    I realize that some of you like a clear and decisive list to go by, but I can't provide that to you at this time. Though here are a few simple rules you can follow that should help you make your choices along with the suggestions I made in my 4.0.1 guide.
    • No Cloth: Think of it this way. One piece of cloth is likely to cost you 75 to 100 Int if you have ICC level gear. Also, our gear was redesigned assuming we would have the Leather Specialization buff. Not having means we are weaker in some respects then we were before the patch. Using Cloth gear would only make sense if you were making big jumps in ilevel.

    • The Hit Cap: The new hit cap is 446 hit rating. It doesn't matter if you're Horde or Alliance. It doesn't matter what your raid comp is. The hit cap is 446 for every moonkin and I think every caster period.

      The hit cap is a lot higher then we are used to, but there is good news. We have a lot more tools now to try and get to the hit cap. First, Balance of Power converts Spirit to Hit Rating. Most of the leather gear we avoided now has a benefit to us. Also, Reforging is also a god send for hit capping. Our Blue Gem sockets are now more valuable and there are several enchants with Spirit that are helpful.

    • The Equation: When in doubt remember the stat equation:

      Int > Hit > Haste > SP > Crit > Mastery.

      If you are having a hard time choosing between two items, compare the stats in relation to the stat equation. If you do that you can't go too horribly wrong.
    Moonkin Nerfs and Hamlet's post:

    As most of you know, moonkin came out of 4.0.1 hugely overpowered. If you looked at the WoL rankings you saw several moonkin competing with fire mages and other specs for the top spot. While I'm sure this was fun for a lot of people, I don't think anyone expected it to last and blizzard soon responded with:

    Balance Druids – we lowered the base points and coefficients of several Balance spells, especially Insect Swarm.
    Hamlet then spent a good amount of time to test the changes and posted his analysis on his EJ blog.

    As many people have noticed by now, a number of hotfixes went in after the first night or two of 4.0 raiding, to adjust the wildly disparate DPS values of some classes. I spent a long time last night retesting essentially all of the Balance spells to see how they'd been affected. Here are the results:

    --Insect Swarm base damage and coefficient reduced by 50% (122 base damage per tick, 0.13 coefficient). This one many people noticed right away.
    --The other big one: Moonfury is now giving only a 15% bonus to most spells. To every spell in fact, except for IS and the MF DoT.
    --Also Moonfury is stacking additively with all other additive buffs (Glyph of IS, Glyph of MF, Gale Winds, Blessing of the Grove, probably Glyph of Wrath and Glyph of Focus as well). Not sure if this is new, I may have just missed it before.
    --I heard reports of a Thorns nerf, but I'm not seeing any evidence of that. 0.421 coefficient seems fine. I think people were confusing this with the reported changes on the beta.
    --Typhoon coefficient seems to be up to 0.126.
    --Sunfire is now affected by haste, but is still on a 3 second base tick period.
    --Sunfire does identical damage to Moonfire and is affected by the same buffs. I've a seen a lot of comments on this so I want to clarify.

    You should be able to verify all these if you want, but they predict my damage on live perfectly. A new spreadsheet will be shortly attached to the guide which includes all of these changes.

    I think if we can be honest with each other we would all admit that the Balance tree was overpowered right after 4.0.1 came out. Moonkin were all over the WoL rankings for almost every boss. I'm not saying Moonkin should be weak, but we shouldn't shoot to the top like that either. The question then becomes how should Blizzard ton Moonkin DPS down.

    The first way is obvious. Insect Swarm needed a nerf, and I expect that it will never get as powerful as it was right after the patch. I realize that DoTs are supposed to be powerful, but Insect Swarm was easily 5 times as powerful as our nukes and that just seems out of wack to me.
    The other nerfs seem fair. By just changing how Moonfury impacts our DPS they aren't changing the rotation at all. They are just toning down our DPS. What's nice about this is that it shows how easy it is to to adjust DPS now. If you assume that Blizzard has found a set of mechanics that they like then they can leave them untouched and adjust Moonfury to get our DPS where they want it to be. This is good news for the future because they can change it back if they find we are underpowered at level 85.

    First impressions

    I haven't raided since the patch, but I have tried to test/practice the new rotation on target dummies. Overall, I'm not real happy about having a 5th button in my rotation, and it's going to take some getting used to.

    At the moment if feels awkward. Managing Eclipse and two DoTs requires a lot of attention. Adding a random proc on a cooldown spell like Starsurge just adds another thing to look at. I think I'm getting over it with the use of Power Auras, but I need to get into a raid to really test it out.

    The other issue I'm having is DoTs. I've gotten used to not making them a priority. Getting back into the habit of watching timers is a little more difficult then I expected. I think this is really a function of not having my UI set up right yet. With Squawk and Awe, I had my DoT timer and my Eclipse bar all in one convenient spot. Which made it easy to watch all three. Right now they are a little spread out, I'll have to make some adjustments to see if that helps.

    Changed Guilds

    The other big news of the week for me is that I changed Guilds. I love my old guild Lords of Eternity, but I felt a need for a change and joined the guild Skunkworks on Balnazzar.

    First and foremost, I recommend that you don't try and transfer any toons the day of a major patch like 4.0.1. I started the transfer Tuesday afternoon, but didn't get access to Graylo until Saturday afternoon due to a variety of issues. It was frustrating because I didn't get to experience the OPness of Moonkin while it lasted. I also couldn't get in and test.

    The other big part of the change is that I am now a Horde toon on a PvP server. Having always played Alliance toons on a PvE server this is a pretty big change in my mind. In reality, it's probably not that big of a deal since Balnazzar is a low pop server that is Horde dominated. However, figuring out where things are is strange. I haven't walked into the wrong inn in Dalaran yet, but finding Auction Houses and target dummies took a little bit.

    Anyway, I am excited by the change. Hopefully it will work out.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Cata Build 13183: A Mana Fix?

    It looks like Blizzard is releasing a new beta build soon and MMO Champion has the details. It looks to be a balancing build and does show the Balance tree a little love.

    Mana Changes:
    • Starfire now costs 11% of base mana, down from 16%.
    • Wrath now costs 9% of base mana, down from 14%.
    • Euphoria now restores 8/16% (up from 6/12%) mana when you reach a Solar or Lunar eclipse.
    The big moonkin concern coming out of the beta recently has been mana, and apparently Blizzard has been listening. These changes will definitely help but it's a little early to say how much without testing the rotation.

    I do want to point one thing out about the current mana situation. When we talk about mana issues we are primarily talking about two subjects: Mana Consumption, and Mana Pool/Regen.

      Mana Consumption: As a caster DPS spec we cast as much as possible. So, how much mana we use is dependant on the length of the fight and the number of breaks in a fight. If you look at the Instances in WotLK you will notices that fight length does change from fight to fight, but doesn't really change from instance to instance. Therefore our mana consumption should be fairly constant through out the Cataclysm.

      Mana Pool/Regen: Our mana pool is determined by our Intellect, and most of our mana regen is based off of our mana pool. Therefore our mana pool/regen will be highly variable over the course of Cataclysm.
    These two things are important to remember because they explain a lot of our mana issues in the beta. As we test our rotations our Mana Consumption is near the maximum that it will be since it is relatively constant. On the other hand our Mana Pool/Regen are at their lowest point because we are using gear from quests and a few instances. Our mana issues are going to be at their worst in the very beginning of the expansion for this reason. The changes above are very helpful, but if they don't seem like enough, don't worry. Thinks will get better.

    Thorns Nerfed:
    • Thorns damage reduced by 66%
    This change doesn't surprise me one bit. I know a lot of people will be disappointed by this nerf but I think it is hard to argue that Thorns wasn't overpowered. In my opinion a buff shouldn't do more damage the then any of our DPS spells and that was the nature of Thorns.

    Hopefully this will turn Thorns into a situational spell for PvE. Best use at the beginning of a fight or when adds are about to spawn. When it comes to PvP I don't know what I'm talking about, but I do know this is a pretty big loss. That said I think it still has some teeth.

    Moonfire Buffed:
    • Moonfire base additional damage increased by 50%.
    I'm not sure if this is a significant buff or not. If it just boosts the base damage without changing the spell coefficient then it will have little impact. If the spell coefficient was changed as well then this is a pretty huge buff and puts Moonfire on par with Insect Swarm. We will have to test this when it hits the beta.

    New Tree of Life:

    As a general rule I don't care that much about what things look like in game. I am much more concerned about how things play. That said, we know that Blizzard has an art department, and if they are going to have an art department I want them to produces some things I think are cool to look at.

    That said, I like the new tree of life form, and I'm glad it's not just a reskin of an Ancient. Hopefully this means they will get around to redoing the moonkin forms some time soon much like they did the feral forms.

    Other Changes:

    • Starfire cast time changed to 3.2 sec, down from 3.5 sec.
    • Entangling Roots now has a 1.7 sec cast time, down from 2 sec.
    • Cyclone now has a 1.7 sec cast time, down from 2 sec.
    • Moonfury now also affects Starsurge.
    The Starfire cast time change seems strange and I'll believe it when I see it. My guess is that it is some sort of data mining error or bug within WoW. The changes to CC cast time seem strange as well but I am seeing it on the CC spells of other classes as well.

    Raid Warning Podcast: The Druid Roundtable

    The Druid Roundtable from the Raid Warning Podcast is now available for you listening pleasure. I had a lot of fun being apart of it and I don't think I sounded to bad.

    What I found really interesting was how many moonkin were involved. When I started blogging 3 years ago there were a ton of resto and feral experts, but moonkin experts were few and far between. Of the 13 druids involved in the podcast 9 were noted moonkin and only Lissanna and Hamlet realy did double duty as Resto. We have come a long way.

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Moonkin Guide to Patch 4.0.1

    I've gotten a lot of e-mails asking a lot of questions about glyph, gear, and other choices that will need to be made when 4.0.1 is released. I still dont think it will come out for a few more weeks but I thought I would go ahead and publish this guide so that you guys can get a head start if you want.

    I do want to make one thing very clear though. This is not a level 85 Cata guide. While a lot of these points will apply to Cataclysm raiding, there are some differences. When we get to Cataclysm I will make the necessary changes.

    Talent spec:

    At level 80 we will have only 36 points, and 31 of those have to be spent in the Balance tree before we can put any points in the Feral or Restoration trees. This makes the Tier 2 talents in those trees unreachable until Cataclysm is released. It doesn't have a huge impact on my choices, but I do a few things a little different at level 80 then I would at level 85.

    Level 80 Raid Spec: Link

    Edit: Ok, I'm a wimp and I caved. I'm dropping Dreamstate and Moonglow from my level 80 raiding build. In their place I picked up Owlkin Frenzy and Gale Winds.

    In my opinion there are three debateable choices in this build. They are the two points in Blessing of the Grove, the three points in Owlkin Frenzy, and the two points in Gale Winds.

    In the first tier of the Resto tree I would normally put two points in Natural Shapeshifter instead of Blessing of the Grove to get access to Master Shapeshifter. However, that is pointless since Master Shapeshifter is unreachable until we gain another talent point.

    Mana will be a big concern at level 85 unless something changes, but as a couple of commentors pointed out Mana probably won't be a big concern at level 80. Owlkin Frenzy is a weak talent and Gale Winds is very situational when it comes to actual boss fights. However, they are probably the best DPS options available.

    However, the other possibilities don't offer a lot of utility to a PvE enviornment.

    • Overgrowth - It's still in the beta but there are reports that it is gone from the PTR. I'm not exactly sure what it's status is. Either way it is not a very good PvE talent.
    • Owlkin Frenzy - Still a bad PvE talent since it rarely procs in a raid environment.
    • Gale Winds - It's lots of fun for big numbers during trash, but there isn't a fight at the moment that really needs this kind of AoE.
    • Solar Beam - Primarily a PvP talent. May be situationally useful, but other classes provide better interupts.
    • Fungal Growth - Nearly useless at level 80, since we won't have Wild Mushroom, and we can't control where the trents die.
    • Dreamstate & Moonglow - Will be manditory at level 85, but mana is not an issue at level 80.
    Level 80 Leveling Spec: Link

    In this build I dropped Blessing of the Grove, because it doesn't have much of a DPS impact unless you game the system. Dreamstate is also less important because you can drink for mana.

    I picked up Owlkin Frenzy because it procs quite often while leveling, and the added damage is helpful. I picked up Solar Beam because interupt can be very helpful for leveling. It allows you to pull casters away from other mobs and can save you from taking some damage. You culd also take two of these points and put them in Natural Shapeshifter so that you have Master Shapeshifter available as soon as you ding 81.

    Key Talent and Spell Changes:

    Eclipse: You should know this already but Eclipse has gotten a complete overhaul. It is no longer a random proc or a timed buff. Now, Eclipse is procced when you generate 100 Lunar or Solar Power and lasts until use the 100 Lunar or Solar Power you had generated. In short, Eclipse now comes with charges, which solves many of the Eclipse problems we had in WotLK. Starfire generates Solar power, Wrath generates Lunar Power, and Starsurge generates both.

    Also, the Eclipse buff is now a percentage damage increase for both Lunar and Solar Eclilpse. It no longer increases the crit chance of Starfire during Lunar Eclipse.

    Starsurge: Our new Nuke. There is nothing really special about this spell other then being much stronger then either Wrath or Starfire. It also has a 15 sec cooldown and can become instant cast with Shooting Stars.

    Scaling DoTs: Both Moonfire and Insect Swarm will scale with Crit, Haste, and Eclipse. There are still some bugs with Sunfire not scaling properly, but I expect these to be fixed soon.

    Rebirth: Now has a 30 min cooldown. This means it will no longer be available every attempt, therefore you want to be careful how you use it.

    Thorns: Now lasts only 20 seconds, but is much stronger then it was before. Some are advocating putting it on the tank on cooldown, but I'm not sure this is viable since it is a mana hog. That said, it is a good idea to throw it on a tank at the start of fight or when they are picking up adds.

    Other thoughts:

    • Omen of Clarity and Insect Swarm are now trained abilities
    • No more Mana on Crit
    • Mark of the Wild is now raid wide and has no reagent.
    • Wild Mushroom is a level 85 abilty and not available when 4.0.1 is released.

    Key Gearing Issues:

    No More Cloth: Leather Specialization now increases our total Intellect by 5%, but only works if you are not wearing any cloth. Since Int is now converted to Spell Power this is a required buff. You probably already have at least 4 leather items with your tier set if you are an active raider. If you haven't already I suggest you start looking for leather replacements for your cloth pieces.

    I'm a big fan of the tier pieces for the Head, Shoulders, Chest, Hands, and Leg slots. For the Waist slot, the [Belt of Petrified Ivy] is good and easy to get. The [Cord of Dark Suffering] and [Professor's Bloody Smock] are good if you need the hit. For the Wrist slot you should look at the [Phaseshifter's Bracers] or [Bracers of Eternal Dreaming]. For the Boot slot I would go with the [Boots of the Frozen Seed] or [Boots of Unnatural Growth]. Of course there are other options from other instances and crafted items, but these are the best options from ICC.

    Hit Capping: The static hit chance buffs we currently receive from Imp Faerie Fire, Balance of Power, and Heroic Presence if you're Alliance have been removed from the game. This increases the Moonkin Hit Cap to 446 Hit Rating. The good news is that the new Balance of Power converts Spirit to Hit Rating for Moonkin. Please know that this does not include the base Spirit you get from leveling up.

    It's likely that most of you will have to make some adjustments to reach the 446 hit cap. If you are under the hit cap it might be a good idea to pick up of the leather pieces I mentioned above that have Spirit. I will go in greater detail below, but there are several good changes you can make to your Gem and Enchant choices. You can also adjust your Hit Rating by Reforging your gear which I think will be available in 4.0.1 but I'm not 100% positive on that.

    Reforging: I am not 100% positive that this will be available with 4.0.1, but if so it is a great tool to adjust your stats so that you can better optimize your performance. Here are the basic rules.
    • You cannot reforge to gain or lose a primary stat. (Int, Stam, Agi, or Str)
    • You can reforge any secondary stat (Spirit, Hit, Haste, Crit, Mastery), but you can only gain a stat not currently on the item. For example, if you have an item with Spirit and Haste, you can turn 40% of the Spirit into Crit or Mastery but not Haste.
    Assuming Reforging is available with 4.0.1 here are a couple of strategies you might want to use.
    1. If you are over the hit cap, reforge Spirit and/or Hit Rating into Haste if possible. Crit Rating would be your secondary choice if necessary.
    2. If you are under the hit cap, reforging Crit Rating into Spirit is your best option. Don't convert it to Hit Rating since it is less versatile.
    3. If you are at the hit cap and have some items with Crit Rating but no Haste rating you may concider converting some of that Crit to Haste Rating. This isn't really necessary but will probably boost your performance a little.
    Spell Power to Intellect Conversion: You probably already know that Spell Power is being removed from most of the gear in game, and that Intellect will provide Spell Power instead. As a result Blizzard has gone back and removed all the Spell Power from gear but have adjusted the Intellect levels to compensate for the loss.

    However, the amount of Intellect on an item post 4.0.1 does not equal the amount of Spell Power before the patch. THIS IS NOT A NERF. There are several talents and buffs that increase Intellect by a combined percentage of 16.865%, and the Spell Power to Int conversion that Blizzard made takes these buffs into account. For example, if an item had 100 Spell Power before the patch, then the item will have 86 Intellect after the patch. This equals 100.5 Spell Power and you get the added benefit of additonal Crit Chance. This is actually a slight buff.

    Stats at level 80:

    The first thing to know about stats at level 80 is that there are no more soft caps. The Haste Cap no longer exists because Wrath's cast time was increased to 2 seconds and Nature's Grace was change to be less of a static buff. The Lunar Crit Cap is gone because Eclipse no longer provides a crit bonus for Starfire. However, there are plenty of changes to stats.

    Spell Power: This stat does still exist in the game, but not in the same way that you find currently on live. Most of your gear will have Int instead of Spell Power, and Int is converted to Spell Power on a one to one ratio. That said caster weapons will still provide Spell Power as an individual stat. Many of the Enchants and Socket bonuses are not coverted to Int as well.

    Intellect: This is the new key stat for moonkin. It is converted into Spell Power on a 1 : 1 ratio, but is better then Spell Power since it also grants Crit Chance and is increased by Leather Specialization, Mark of the Wild, and Heart of the Wild.

    Hit Rating / Spirit: For the purposes of a Moonkin these are the same stat. Hit capping is still a priority after the patch but oddly Hit Rating /Spirit are not as valuable as Intellect. If you have to choose between picking up Hit Rating or Spirit, choose Spirit since it is a little more versatile if you ever have to go Restoration.

    Haste Rating: As I said above the Haste cap no longer exists and Haste will be the best secondary stat after you are hit capped.

    Crit Rating: Still a good stat but doesn't pack the punch that haste does.

    Mastery Rating: You are unlikely to have any of this on your gear after the patch, so you shouldn't have to worry about it for patch 4.0.1. That said, it is probably our worst DPS stat. Do not make any effort to pick it up until Cataclysm is released.

    The New Stat Equation:

    Int > Hit > SP > Haste > Crit > Mastery

    This is based upon my simulator using my stats at level 80 on the Beta.


    Your Runed Cardinal Rubies will be converted into Brilliant Cardinal Rubies and provide Int instead of Spell Power. If you have Hit Rating gems equipped they will change color from yellow to blue or orange to purple. You may lose a socket bonus as a result. All of your other gems should stay the same.

    As a general rule I am a fan of matching Gem color to Socket color to get the socket bonus, and assuming you are below the hit cap, going for the socket bonuses makes more sense after 4.0.1.
    The blue sockets are a good way to pickup some Spirit to help you reach the Hit Cap. That said every gem you socket should have some Int on it. Do not use pure Spirit gems.

    I will socket my this way for most of my gear.

    Red - Brilliant Cardinal Ruby
    Yellow - Reckless Ametrine
    Blue - Purified Dreadstone
    Meta - Chaotic Skyflare Diamond

    The only time I found that it didn't make sense to go for the socket bonus was if you have a double yellow or triple yellow item, or if the socket bonus was not Spell Power or Int.


    For most of your gear, you will want the same enchants after 4.0.1 as you wanted before 4.0.1. There are a couple of exceptions though.

    Head - Arcanum of Blissful Mending
    Shoulders - Greater Inscription of the Crag

    In both of these cases you are trading Spell Power for Int and Crit Rating for Spirit. Even if you are over the hit cap that is probably a good trade since you can convert some of the excess Spirit into Haste Rating.

    Back - Greater Speed but maybe Wisdom

    You'll probably want to stick with the Greater Speed enchant in the back slot, but I have heard a lot of tanks complain about threat. There is a possibility that Wisdom might be better because of the threat reduction and it gives you some Spirit.

    Did Not Change:
    Chest - Powerful Stats
    Wrists - Superior Spellpower
    Gloves - Exceptional Spellpower
    Belt - Brilliant Cardinal Ruby in Eternal Belt Buckle
    Legs - Brilliant Spellthread
    Boots -Tuskarr's Vitality
    Weapon - Greater Spellpower or Mighty Spellpower
    Rings - Greater Spellpower - Enchanters Only



    There is quite a bit of debate on which are the best Prime Glyphs. I suggest getting all five just in case, but I would use Glyph of Insect Swarm, Glyph of Wrath, and Glyph of Moonfire. I wouldn't use Glyph of Starfire at this time because it doesn't help much on movement fights were you will be over writing your DoT. A think Glyph of Starsurge is situationally useful if it helps you line Starfall up with add phases or other important DPS periods, but probably not good as a standard Glyph.


    The Starfall and Rebirth Glyphs are manditory in my opinion and I would choose Thorns as my third. However, you could make a good arguement for the Glyph of Focus.

    Minor: Glyph of Unburdened Rebirth is the only required minor glyph in my opinion. Pick what every you want for the other two.

    Add-ons and UI info:

    Squawk and Awe: Since Eclipse has been completely redone Squawk and Awe we currently use will be broken and needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. The good news is that Adoriele is planning a new version that will support the new Eclipse. The bad news is he doesn't expect it to be complete by the time 4.0.1 comes out, especially if it comes out soon. There is a possibility that a stripped down version will be available at 4.0.1 so keep your eyes open, and will link it if I see it.

    Balance Power Tracker: This is a new addon that addresses most of my issues with the standard Blizzard Eclipse UI. It allows you to move and enlarge the Eclipse bar to make it more notice able. It also tells you if your current cast will proc Eclipse and has several other features that should help you manage your rotation. (link)

    DPS and Rotation Strategies:

    There are a lot of strategies floating around but most of them are based upon bad information or just don't make sense. Here are a few basic rules that you can play with until we get a better handle on the more complicated ideas.

    DoTs: Insect Swarm and Moonfire are our to highest DPET spells. Therefore their up time should be as close to 100% uptime as possible. Generally you should refresh your DoTs if they have about a second of time left, how ever, if you are about to proc the appropriate Eclipse it may make sense to wait 2 or 3 second to refresh the DoT.

    Also, if you need to refresh them both about the same time, cast Moonfire first, so that Insect Swarm gets buffed by Nature's Grace. There also looks to be a little benefit to double casting Moonfire, so it's DoT is buffed by Nature's Grace. According to my rough calculations the second Moonfire has a slightly higher DPET then the nukes. Definately do it on the move if you can.

    Starsurge: Should be cast on Cooldown. Starsurge has a much higher DPET then our other Nukes and I have found no rotation were it makes sense to delay its cast.

    Nukes: If your DoTs are up and your cooldowns are down, your nuke strategy is as simple as "Cast the right one." Just remember that Wrath will not generate Lunar power after Lunar Eclipse has been procced until Solar Eclipse is procced. This is also true for Starfire in reverse.

    Cooldowns: Force of Nature should be cast on cooldown or when you need particularly high DPS. Starfall should be cast with Lunar Eclipse if possible or when extra DPS is needed.

    Thorns: Some are advocating casting Thorns on the tank on cooldown. This may be viable, but because it is mana hog I am not recommending it at this time.

    Hurricane: Hurricane is buffed by Solar Eclipse but does not consume it. If you have an AoE phase coming up it is a good idea hold Solar Eclipse so that your AoE damage is buffed by Eclipse.

    Other 4.0.1 Guides:

    Moonkin Guides:
    Qieth's Quips - Moonkin Guide 4.0
    Arawethion/Hamlet on EJ - Balance in 4.0

    Resto Guides:
    Restokin - Resto healing in 4.0.1
    Tree Bark Jacket - Patch 4.0.1 Guide

    Feral Guides:
    Think Tank - The 4.0.1 spec/gear/glyph post