Thursday, June 30, 2011

First Impressions of 4.2

The patch is now two days old. I've done some raiding, I did a few dailies also, and I haven't written a post in over a week. That means it's time for me give my first impressions of this patch.


"Oh my god there is a lot of trash" was my first impression of the Firelands instance. It actually wasn't so bad when I got past Shannox, but it seemed like we were killing trash forever just to get him to spawn. Combine that with the Starfall buff that was causing it to hit trash not in combat and it got hairy at times. Unfortunately for me I discovered this sad fact when we were standing near the death turtles. That was not a good time.

All in all none of the trash packs weren't too bad on there own, and they dropped lots of patterns for us, but the quantity of them was overwhelming. I didn't count at the time, but we killed at least a dozen packs of trash (and probably more) before Shannox spawned. I'm glad that they increased the respawn rate on that center trash to four hours, but that's not enough in my opinion. They need to thin it out a little bit and have Shannox spawn more quickly. As it is, I think it's worse then the BoT trash, which is not a the way you want to start an instance in my opinion.


Going in to the night I thought Shannox would be the easiest boss we tried. Turned out he was the most difficult of the three we attempted. The fact that all of the mobs are now untauntable threw us for a little bit of a loop like most guilds. We also used only two tanks when it sounds like a lot of guilds were using 3 or 4. However, none of that really impacts me directly.

From my perspective, I had this vision of multi doting nirvana going into the fight. Yes, there is a strong don't stand in the fire element, but that generally isn't a problem for me so I wasn't expecting big issues. It didn't work out that way. First off, the traps are tiny. When one was put directly on me I could barely see the teeth around my feet. If a trap is put in front of me, I might not see it at all due to being an overweight moonkin. As a result I got trapped a lot more then I like to admit. Second, my guild is very heavy on DoT classes. We have two moonkin, two shadow priest, and four warlocks. Not all of them were in raid at the same time, but having so many multi-doters meant we didn't have as many people consistently on Rageface as we thought and it made Face Rage a little more difficult then expected. You wouldn't think getting a 30k hit on him with an increased crit rate would be that difficult, but with only a couple DD classes, range issues, and traps it proved to be more difficult then expected.

All in all, I thought it was a good fight, but not quite what I expected going in.

Lord Rhyolith:

As a moonkin I found this fight to be quite annoying, and lot simpler then I expected. Our biggest problem of the night was accidental pulls. Without those we would have had him down in just two or three pulls. After that the big issue was multi-dotting the legs. We thought that doting both legs would increase the damage without making the boss harder to turn. We were wrong. Once we stopped doting the legs the fight was easy. My job was just to kill the adds, and once his shell came off it was a simple tank and spank.

As add dps I found the fight to be quite boring. I had quite a bit of down time waiting for adds to spawn, and the burn phase didn't feel all that threatening. On the other hand, the GM of my guild (who is also a moonkin) really liked the fight. He was helping with the steering of the boss and I can see how that could be a lot of fun.


After reading a few strats and looking at the boss abilities I thought this one would be hard. The fight has two levels with lots of adds. I though the coordination of the fight would cause a lot of headaches, and it did until we realized a couple things.

Our first issue was controlling the Drones and the Spiderlings. We didn't organize our efforts much at the start. The spiderlings were getting to the drone, and all hell was breaking lose. To fix this we started trying to control the Spiderlings from their spawn point, and Moonkin are pretty well designed for this. With the typhoon knockback and Fungal Growth we can slow down the spiders quite a bit. The problem then became DPS on the spiderlings. Since I was starting at zero power my mushrooms, typhoon, dots and hurricane were weak, and there is no good way to get to solar quickly. As a result I had a hard time getting my set of spiderlings down in time. I'm sure with more practice I could get it, but it wasn't obvious to start.

Then we realized the second important fact. DPS on Beth'tilic doesn't matter in the first stage of the fight. Once we left all of the DPS on the ground and only sent a tank and a few healers into the web it was easy. The second stage was once again a simple tank and spank.

Lunar Shower:

First of all, there is a nice discussion going on at EJ regarding Lunar Shower. I suggest you check it out if you haven't already.

Originally I had expected to keep Lunar Shower since, I didn't have a good idea of what to spend the talent points on, but after realizing that Shannox would be a first boss of the night I ended up dropping it to improve my multi dot potential.

Obviously I can't make any lasting conclusions based on three normal bosses, but the impression I got from my first night of Firelands raiding was that using or dropping LS didn't really matter a ton. Not having it on Shannox made multi doting easier, but Shannox was more about control and personal responsibility rather then DPS so multi-doting wasn't critical and may have caused a little tunneling. On Lord Rhyolith, the fragments can be dotted, but they don't last that long, so dotting might not be ideal. Other then those adds the fight is completely single target. Beth'tilic has plenty of mobs that can be dotted, but my role in the fight was centered around control rather then DPS. On the other hand having Lunar shower to proc Solar Eclipse in the beginning could have helped. At this point I'm still up in the air.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Pre-4.2 Blog Post

All signs point to the Firelands being released next week. Therefore it's probably a good time to take a look back and remind everyone what's coming with the new patch and to update my guides.

Lunar Shower:
  • While under the effects of Lunar Shower, Moonfire generates 8 Solar Energy, and Sunfire generates 8 Lunar Energy. The amount of Lunar/Solar Energy gained does not change based on the number of points spent in the talent, or stacks of Lunar Shower. Those druids who wish to delay transition in or out of an Eclipse state should now cast the one of their two basic attacks which will not move the Eclipse bar (either Starfire or Wrath)
After 4.2 Lunar Shower will still increase your Movement DPS potential, but it how has the above caveat attached. There has been a lot of talk about this change, so I won't make a big detailed comment.

This change has turned Lunar Shower into a "blah" talent. On movement heavy fights having the moving DPS will be nice despite the asymmetric way it generates power. On multi target fights it definitely makes sense to drop Lunar shower to make multi-doting easier. However, I suspect that most fights will fall between those two possibilities and won't have much of an impact one way or the other. At this point I am not planning to spec out of it, because I don't have a better way to spend those points. That said, I will drop it in a heart beat for any fight that favors multi-doting.

Nuke Buffs and 4T11 Nerf:
  • The 4-piece Balance druid tier 11 PvE set bonus, Astral Alignment, now provides a total of 15% critical strike chance with 3 charges, decreasing by 5% per charge, instead of 99% decreasing by 33% per charge. This change was made because the set bonus proved so valuable it was not possible to upgrade out of the set into tier 12. To compensate, changes have been made to Starfire and Wrath.
  • Starfire damage has been increased by approximately 23%.
  • Wrath damage has been increased by approximately 23%.
This is the other big change of this patch cycle. In an effort to prevent a Tier 8 situation, Blizzard nerfed the 4T11 set bonus so that players would upgrade their gear in tier 12.

I am a big fan of this change. I didn't like how Astral Alignment complicated our casting rotation and the net result of these changes should be an overall buff. This change also simplifies our glyphing strategies a little bit. Glyph of Starfire is falling to the bottom of the pack. Glyph of Wrath will be best for single target situations and Glyph of Starsurge will be better when Starfall can be fully utilized.

One final thing, I've seen some people question what impact this change will have on how we use Starsurge. As far as I can tell it won't have any impact on Starsurge. At this point I will still be casting Starsurge on Cooldown no matter what phase of my rotation I am in, because Starsurge is still our highest DPET nuke.

Other Changes:
  • Innervate now grants an ally target 5% of his or her maximum mana over 10 seconds, but still grants 20% of the druid's maximum mana over 10 seconds when self-cast.
  • Glyph of Innervate now causes the druid to gain 10% of his or her maximum mana over 10 seconds when Innervate is used on a friendly target, in addition to Innervate's base effect.
Blizzard thought that healers were getting to much mana from Innervate so they nerfed Innervate for everyone but the druid casting it. The change to the glyph is intended to be a neutral change where where the druid casting it gets the same mount of mana before and after the patch.
  • Wild Mushroom: Detonate can now also trigger Earth and Moon, in addition to Starfire and Wrath.
  • Earth and Moon's duration has been increased to 15 seconds, up from 12.
My guess is that this change is being made to make life a little easier on 10mans, and improves moonkin utility a little. I doubt this will have any impact on 25man raiding, but this is a big boost for 10man guilds that don't have a DK or Lock able to apply the spell power debuff.
  • Fungal Growth spell visual effect has been updated to be less visually intrusive and more aesthetic.
  • Solar Beam has a new spell effect.
The Solar Beam graphic is still a little blinding, but these are two good quality of life changes.
  • Many crowd control abilities no longer cause creatures to attack players when they are cast.
  • Entangling Roots and the equivalent spell triggered by Nature's Grasp no longer deal damage.
Another quality of life change designed to help 5man dungeon groups. Should make CCing in raids a little easier as well, but druids aren't major CCers in general.

Gear Guide Updates:

Overall, the updates to the gear guide are what you would expect. I would like to bring your attention to the point for point valuation of Hit Rating/Spirit.

How we value Hit Rating and Spirit is highly dynamic with regards to gear level. Since the amount of hit rating we need is capped at 1743, it's point for point valuation below that cap goes up dramatically as our Int, Haste, Crit, and Mastery increased. Since we are moving from T11 to T12, I am assuming a higher gear level when I evaluate the options and the value of Hit Rating/Spirit increased dramatically. By the end of the tier I expect it will be more valuable then Int on a point for point basis below the cap.

Please keep that in mind while reviewing the list. As always you can't take every item at the top of the list because that valuation is based upon a high valuation of Hit Rating. It is up to you to manage your Hit Cap and to make the right choices to stay as close to it as possible.

Raiding Guide Updates:

The raid guide didn't change all that much, but there were a few changes that needed to be made to accurately reflect the 4.2 raiding environment.
  • Talent Section: I now treat Lunar Shower as an optional talent.
  • Glyphs: I limited the third Prime Glyph choices to the Glyph of Wrath and Glyph of Starsurge since Glyph of Starfire has fallen behind. I also updated the Major Glyph section to include a few more situational choices.
  • Professions: This section was changed to account for the longer internal cooldown on the Lightweave buff. I also was a bit harsh on the Engineering buff and have adjusted my valuation as a result. Finally, I added a small section on the Race choices available to Druids.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Patch Notes: Starfire & Wrath Buffed - 4T11 Nerfed

This change was announced late Friday, so I'm sure most of you have already seen it. Just in case you have not, this is what you missed.
  • Starfire damage has been increased by approximately 23%.
  • Wrath damage has been increased by approximately 23%.
  • The 4-piece Balance druid tier 11 PvE set bonus, Astral Alignment, now provides a total of 15% critical strike chance with 3 charges, decreasing by 5% per charge, instead of 99% decreasing by 33% per charge. This change was made because the set bonus proved so valuable it was not possible to upgrade out of the set into tier 12. To compensate, changes have been made to Starfire and Wrath (listed at the top of the druid class section). (src)
The current live version of 4T11 is very strong. So much so that there was some talk that it might be best to ignore the T12 set and stick with T11. I don't think that would have been worth while in the long run, but clearly it's a situation Blizzard wants to avoid after the 2T8 issues we had in WotLK. The question is how effective is this change?

I've tried to look at this change from a couple of different angles and it looks like the results are favorable. First, I looked at the WoL parses of five different moonkin over a series of fights to see what a 23% damage increase would do to the parse results. When I applied a straight 23% buff to Starfire and Wrath it increased the total damage of the parses between 5.16% and 7.77%. That is a pretty wide margin and a significant portion of the variation seems to be due to the presence of Dark Intent, which fights are included, and player skill. This of course doesn't account for the nerf to 4T11, but I think it's obvious that 23% buff is a significant increase.

I also tried to compare the change using WrathCalcs. Hamlet has created a version that takes these new changes into account and I compared the results I got from the PTR version to the current live version using the same set of gear, glyphs, and rotation. When I compared the two versions of WrathCalcs I saw a 3.01% buff to overall DPS from these changes. EJ poster Berthold also ran the changes through SimulationCraft and had favorable results. Using standard glyphs and rotations, SimulationCraft showed the change to be worth a 2.13% buff. If you changed a few changes he showed a 4.87% buff.

All and all it's clear that this is a positive change from a purely mathematical point of view. However, it's also a great change from a quality of life point of view. This will simplify a few things while we wait to pick up our T12 set pieces. For example, using Starfall around the start of Eclipse will no longer be a DPS loss due to losing Astral Alignment charges to Starfall hits. In short, this change not only buffs the overall damage of a moonkin but it also simplifies the moonkin rotation a little bit which I think is a good thing. However, there are a few ripple effects from this change that we should consider.

The Glyph Impact:

Of the Prime Glyphs, Glyph of Insect Swarm and Glyph of Moonfire will still be the two dominate glyphs, but these buffs will change the debate about the third glyph a little. Glyph of Starsurge will still be the best Glyph when you have multiple targets and can cast Starfall on cooldown. In fact, Glyph of Starsurge is probably buffed a small amount because we no longer have to worry about using it during Astral Alignment, and it can get more of a buff from Lunar Eclipse.

The changes occur in Single target fights and in fights where Starfall is unlikely to be cast on cooldown. In 4.1, many of the top moonkin preferred Glyph of Starfire in these situations because it allowed us to cast Moonfire just once per Eclipse transition and most if not all of our MF/SF dots would be buffed by Eclipse. However, a buff to Wrath is also a buff to the Glyph of Wrath, and according to the calculations I did with WrathCalcs, in T12 level gear the Glyph of Wrath moved ahead of Glyph of Starsurge in these single target situations.

In my opinion this is a happy side effect, because it's another simplification of the Moonkin rotation which I think is a little overly complicated at the moment. Not using Glyph of Starsurge should make it a little easier to track and reapply DoTs, because the dot durations should stay aligned.

Is Starsurge Worth it?

I hadn't considered this possibility when I first read the change, but some observant people wondered how this change would Starsurge and our over all cast priority. In patch 4.1 we saw a significant nerf to Starsurge. In patch, 4.2 it looks like we are going to see a significant buff to our other nukes. On top of that, the 4T12 set bonus, diminishes Starsurge in terms of Damage per Energy. Considering all of this together you have to wonder if Starsurge is worth it in 4.2 raiding.
Hamlet has already made a great post on Elitist Jerks considering this question. What Hamlet says is that from a damage perspective Starsurge is still a strong spell. Starsurge has "the damage of a Starfire in the cast time of a Wrath," Therefore it's still stronger then both of the other spells from a damage perspective. When you consider Energy production and usage Starsurge is still favorable in all situations up until you have the 4T12 set bonus.

Once you get 4T12 the situation gets a little more complicated. With the 4T12 set bonus Starsurge will generate slightly less Energy per Second then Wrath or Starfire outside of Eclipse. As a result there are some situation where casting a Starsurge could extend the down time of Eclipse longer then necessary. However, as Hamlet indicates, this shouldn't be a big concern. The chance that Starsurge will extend your Eclipse down time is fairly small, and the mental math you would have to do to determine when Starsurge isn't advantageous is pretty complicated. Therefore, it's probably best to simplify your rotation and just cast Starsurge on cooldown as we do currently.

Other Concerns: Lunar Shower

The new changes do not impact the debate over skipping Lunar Shower in patch 4.2 at all but I want to take another look at it since we are getting pretty close to the patch being released.

In case you've forgotten when 4.2 is released "while under the effects of Lunar Shower, Moonfire generates 8 Solar Energy, and Sunfire generates 8 Lunar Energy." This change has lead to many people questioning if we should spec into Lunar Shower at all. I honestly thought we would see another change to Lunar Shower before 4.2 is released, because I don't think this is a question Blizzard wants to leave up to the player. However, since we've seen no change in the month since this patch note was announced and all indications are pointing to 4.2 being ready for release, it's a question that we players are going to half to answer.

From my point of view, there aren't a whole lot of positives for specing into Lunar Shower when 4.2 goes live. On a movement heavy fight it can still be a significant source of DPS. Yes, it will cause you to use up your Eclipse power and move out of Eclipse more quickly, but that is somewhat mitigated by the fact that it will also allow you to move into Solar Eclipse. Unfortunately that highlights the problem that Moonfire's energy generation is asymetric. Moonfire will generate Solar energy when your out of Eclipse and moving towards Solar, but generates no energy when out of Eclipse and moving towards Lunar.

However, the problem with skipping Lunar Shower is that there aren't any good alternative talents. Even when we do spec into Lunar Shower we still have 6 points to spend on optional talents that provide minor DPS gains, mana or utility. From my perspective, I don't have a big need for additional talent points to pick up utility.

In the end I think speccing into Lunar Shower is going to depend heavily on what fight is being worked on currently. If there is a fight that encourages a significant amount of multi-dotting with low movement, then you will see a lot of people getting out of Lunar Shower so they don't consume Eclipse with their Moonfire casts. However, outside of a big multi-dot fight, I don't see a reason to spec out of it. On single target fights without much movement Lunar Shower shouldn't have any significant impact, but none of the other available talents would either. On a fight with heavy movement Moonfire spam may be very beneficial.

Monday, June 6, 2011

10 vs 25: A Year Later

A little over a year ago I wrote a series of posts about Blizzard combining the 10man and 25man formats into a single lockout with the same loot and other rewards. As I'm sure many of you guys remember, those posts generated a lot of comments. Some people agreed with me, most disagreed. In the end the nay sayers where predicting doom and gloom, while the 10man fans were predicting sunshine and rainbows.

For obvious reasons, it was impossible to say who was going to be right and who was going to be wrong, but here we are a year later with 6months of Cataclysm under our belt and the first tier of Cataclysm raiding nearing a close. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at my reaction and the reaction of some of my commenters and see what ended up happening.

Quick Disclaimer: I'm assuming that tensions over this issue (and the way I titled one of my posts) have calmed down quite a bit over the past year. I don't expect any of the drama that resulted last time. However, in an effort to prevent any issue I want to acknowledge one thing. Most of my "evidence" comes from personal experience or observations I've seen on the servers I've played. I do use some numbers from, but none of it is scientific.

Personal Experience:

The Concern: My first reaction was very negative. Most of my 10man experiences in WotLK were very positive. My groups were filled with 25man raiders so we overgeared the content, and we had a lot of funny joking around in a way that wasn't really possible in the 25man raid. After a little thought I still had my doubts, but I also saw some of the potential of the change. I could man a chance to raid an alt in a meaningful way or just sleep more once the allure of the 10man rewards was removed.

The Result: A year later and a year wiser, I must say my second reaction was much more correct then my first. When I wrote my first reaction post the best days of my 10man groups were behind me. My 10man group like my guild saw a lot of turn over and we had trouble building a group. We did eventually end up killing heroic Lich King, but that was only after a massive effort from a few dedicated players and was months after it should have happened. In the end, it was the people that made my 10man experience so great, and that couldn't last forever.

The second reality is that I don't have much of an interest in maintaining that type of schedule anymore. To do the 10mans, I was staying up to one or two in the morning several nights a week. On the other nights it wasn't unusual for me to stay up late leveling an alt, crafting for my AH businesses, or doing some other activity. I didn't sleep a whole lot and it had an impact on my life in the game and in my normal life. There are still nights where I stay up very late playing the game, but not having the 10man raid has removed the obligation to doing so. If I stay up late one night, it's likely that I will go to bed early the next. My play time is much more balanced now, and that is probably for the best.

Balancing: Can 10man Equal 25man?

The Concern: I and many other 25man supporters questioned if Blizzard could balance the 10man and 25man formats to be relatively equal. While the gear ilevel difference was the main balancing difference between the two formats in WotLK, it wasn't the only difference. Converting a 25man raid to a 10man or vice versa isn't a simple fix where you just have to adjust a bosses total health. Spread out mechanics favor smaller groups because they have more space to work with. It's unavoidable that Room design and boss abilities will have different levels of significance for different sized groups. Some mechanics will be easier for 10mans because they have more room to spread out or fewer targets to deal with. Other mechanics will be easier for 25mans because they have more people to fill the needed rolls and players are allowed to specialize their responsibilities more. Skeptics like me were unsure if Blizzard could counteract these inevitable balancing differences between the two formats.

The Result: With Tier 11 raiding, Blizzard did a pretty good job. I've done very few fights in the 10man format, but what I'm told by people who have raided in both formats is that the lead up bosses are fairly well balanced, but there are/were a few balancing issues with the end bosses. Nefarian and Cho'gall were much tougher in the 10man format and had their damage nerfed significantly in patch 4.1. On the other hand Al'Akir is significantly easier in the 10man format, and several 25man guilds have gone in and killed Al'Akir on 10man to get the kill and ranking just as some of us skeptics worried might happen.

All in all, I can't really expect Blizzard to do a better job then they did. This type of thing is never going to be perfect the first time. I'm also pleased that they errorred on the side of 10mans being to hard (though I don't know if this was by choice). The fact that 10mans were a bit harder on some of the end bosses may have prevented a mass exodus of progression guilds switching to the 10 format.

Destabilization of Guilds:

The Concern: Organizing 10 to 15 people is easier then organizing 25 to 35. There are a lot of tasks involved in running a guild/raid that just get harder with the addition of more people. It's more people you have to evaluate, it's more people you have manage, it's more whispers and PMs you have to respond to. The question was, why would a GM stick with the 25man format when they can get the same rewards from the 10man format with less work and few problems. Not only that, but a 25man GM could take his best 10-15 players and form a more successful 10man they they could have at the 25man level. It seems like a perfect situation for guilds to abandon the 25man format for the more accessible but similarly rewarding 10man format.

The Result: There has definitely been some movement away from 25mans to 10mans. In the past six months I've seen several 25man guilds reform as 10 man guilds due to recruiting and other issues. I've also seen very few new 25man guilds form, but I've seen many recruiting posts for newly formed 10man guilds.

That said the 25man format definitely isn't dead. Progression raiding still seems to favor the 25man format, while 10man seems to be favored by casual raiding. Looking at numbers from WoWProgress this division is clear. Of the top 100 guilds in the world only five are 10man guilds and of those only one is in the top fifty. The 25man format also has a much higher participation rate in the heroic modes then the 10man format. This is probably an indication that many of the historically successful progression guilds have stuck with the 25man format.

The question now is how is this going to change in the future. Is the 25man format still in decline or has has it stabilized? How many of the 25man guilds in WoWProgress are dead guilds that failed after a couple of months of raiding and won't be active in Firelands? It's going to be really interesting to see the progression numbers at the end of Tier 12 progression cycle. It's my guess that 25mans will still be the dominate format in progression raiding for a couple of progression cycles. However, it's quite possible that the 10man progression guilds needed the Tier 11 cycle to get organized and come out and take the T12 raids by storm and dominate the 25man format.