Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spirit and mana regen in 2.4

The first thing I did upon logging in as Elk last night was to check my character sheet and look at the mana regeneration stats. According to armory (which I checked before I logged in), my mana regen before the patch stood at 391 mana per 5 seconds (mp5) while casting and 167 while not casting. The only buff on me at this time was Arcane Intellect, giving a total Int of 486 and total Spi of 506.

When my character FINALLY loaded and I was able to see through the lag-generated haze, I checked out that same stat: mana regeneration of 570 mp5 while not casting and 221 while casting. That is without AI present (INT: 446, SPI: 506). Later on that evening, I was able to get a friendly mage and priest to bless me with a divine spirit and arcane intellect. Mana regeneration jumped to 651 mp5 while not casting and 245 while casting.

With that much mana regeneration, I think it is unlikely that Elk will ever run out of mana even during the longest, most heal-intensive boss fights. This, of course, begs the question: Why does Blizzard feel that this change is necessary and what impact will it have on the balance of the game as it stands? Are they planning boss fights that are going to last fifteen and twenty minutes? Are mana draining abilities like viper sting and drain mana going to become less effective PvP tools? Time will tell, I guess...

The Shattered Sun Offensive in Outland

Well, patch 2.4 went live yesterday and I dutifully took Elk and Loeria out to Sunwell Isle to check out the new zone and quests. I have not, as yet, ventured into Magister's Terrace, but should be able to do that tonight or tomorrow. There is more to the Shattered Sun Offensive than the operations on Sunwell Isle itself. Shattrath, as is appropriate, is a major center for new quests and dailies to support the newly formed union of the Aldor and the Scryers.

A couple things to notice: There is a new NPC standing just below A'dal in the middle of Shattrath, gives you a quest to head to the newly established Shattered Sun Staging area on Sunwell Isle. Then there are three new NPCs in Shattrath City (in the open circle outside A'dal's chamber) who give you daily quests that can be completed in Outland. One is only available to crafters: gaining the advantage. Wow Insider has a nice little writeup on that quest to get us started on it. The second quest is called Sunfury attack plans. All you have to do for this one is head to Netherstorm and kill some Sunfury blood elves. Any of them. Anywhere in the zone. Eventually, one of them will drop a set of attack plans, which you return for 10g and 250 Shattered Sun rep. My experience on this was that the plans don't drop easily. I took Loeria and killed dozens of elves for about 45 minutes and didn't get anything resembling attack plans from them. Five stacks of netherweave cloth, two arcane tomes and thirty sunfury signets later, I quit. The third quest you get in Shattrath is a lot easier: The Multiphase Survey has you don a set of goggles and go to the Spirit Fields around Oshu'gun, look for multiphase disturbances and zap them with your goggles. The disturbances look like big round transluscent orange globes that are just laying on the ground.

Once phase 2 opens (which happened last night on Feathermoon), a fourth quest will be available: Intercepting the mana cells. It involves flying up to the northern plateau in Blade's Edge Mountains and killing the Bash'ir ethereals there. They drop a device that allows you to see the mana cells. Collect a bunch, return to Shattrath for your bag of supplies and hope for a badge!

Returning to Outland from Sunwell Isle, I got a quest to find a missing magistrix. The quest itself was simple enough and unlocked two more dailies: Blast the Gateway and Blood for Blood. Both were easy enough and could be completed right there by the magistrix at the Throne of Kil'jaeden in the northern part of Hellfire Peninsula. The spawn rate for the elven quest target for the second of the two quests was hot-fixed this morning and it shouldn't be nearly as camped tonight. The question I have is: what did they do with the original inhabitants of the plateau, including the raid encounter?

All in all, there are tons of new quests to do, lots and lots of rep to aquire and more money to get than you can shake a stick at (how's that for mixing metaphors? *grin*)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Feral druid tanking

I am not currently a feral druid, but I levelled Elk as feral (60-70) and subsequently built a reputation as a half-way decent tank and pretty good cat DPSer. This blog article is going to contain some of my thoughts concerning the strengths and weaknesses of the feral druid, a single feral talent build that will serve both a cat and bear druid, some discussion of the attributes and stats most important to ferals; so be prepared for a relatively lengthy read.

Feral druids are comfortable in cat form or (dire) bear form. The former, acquired at level 20, will be the major DPS form the druid will find himself in while levelling all the way until he (or she) gets to the level cap. It has an incredibly fast attack speed, 1.0 sec, faster than any weapon available in game, and is limited only by the regeneration speed of his energy (20 energy every 2 seconds), much like a rogue. Bear and dire bear forms increase the armor and stamina (and hence the health) of the druid by a fixed percentage modifier. One thing not reflected in the tooltip is a 30% inherent increase in the threat generated by the bear's attacks (this means that every 100 points of damage a bear does will be perceived as 130 by mobs). These changes make the bear a very capable tank.

Threat is a very important concept to understand as a tank (or as a DPSer or healer, for that matter). Any action taken by any character in game generates threat. How much threat a character has determines whether or not a mob will attack him. A tank's job is to build threat on one or more mobs, so that they will continue attacking him while ignoring the rest of the members of his group. There are excellent write-ups on the subject elsewhere on the web (Wowwiki), so I won't go into it any more than I already have.

Tank tools are split into two categories: threat and mitigation. We have already discussed a bit about what threat is. Mitigation is equally (if not more) important to the tank. The more damage you mitigate, the less damage you take and the easier it is for your healer to keep you alive. Conversely, as you take less damage, you generate less rage and so are unable to generate as much threat since most abilities that build threat use up rage. So it's a delicate balance. When compared to warriors, beartanks have some advantages and disadvantages. Bears have higher armor and more health than equivalently geared warriors, but the warriors can parry and block so they have slightly higher overall mitigation. This, of course, is a gross oversimplification, and I may go into it in more depth in the future, but is enough for this current project.

Concepts a beartank should become comfortable with include threat and mitigation, discussed above, but one should also be aware of the numbers that feed into those concepts: attack power and crit % for threat and armor, defense/resilience and dodge for mitigation. Balancing these numbers on the character info pane is a delicate process. Here are how the numbers stack up:

2.36 defense rating = 1 defense
25 defense = -1% chance to be crit by level 70 opponent,
25 defense = +1% dodge
39.4 resilience = -1% chance to be crit by level 70 opponent,
39.4 resilience = -2% damage from crits
39.4 resilience = -1% damage from DoTs
1 agility = 2 armor
14.7 agility = 1% dodge
1 agility = 0.1% chance to crit
1 strength = 2 attack power
14 attack power = 1 dps

So what are good numbers to shoot for? 11,000-13,000 health unbuffed is not an unreasonable starting point. 24-26,000 armor is also relatively easily doable. The only magic number for a feral druid is, in my opinion, the most important one: 415 defense. Mark that one down. 415 defense. At that point, in conjunction with the talent "Survival of the Fittest", a druid tank becomes uncrittable. And because beartanks can neither block nor parry, being uncrittable becomes the single most important milestone for a newly minted 70 beartank.

The typical talent spec for beartanks is a 0/47/14. This contains all the talents necessary to tank well and many that cross over to make cat form a powerful dpser. Some time in the future, we'll talk about how to use all the tools at the disposal of the bear to grab and hold aggro.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Worker Woes

Just a brief note to explain my absence: work has been cutting into my blogging time lately. As a small update on the raiding scene: we managed to get Vashj down to 16% last Sunday with a solid effort to get through Phase 2. It was difficult, but things seem to be gelling nicely. As always, stay focused and keep in touch

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cyclone nerfed

From the latest patch notes for the upcoming 2.4 patch:

Druid The range of Cyclone has been reduced to 20 yards. (was 30 yards before)

While this is not a huge change to anyone that plays a druid primarily in PvE , it comes as a major blow to the many druids that make their living in arenas and, to a somewhat lesser extent, battlegrounds. Along with the nerf to the "bloom" part of Lifebloom, it serves as a reminder from Blizzard that they are trying to balance PvP so that no one class has an overwhelming advantage. A few days ago, Kalgan (WoW lead developer) posted in the Warlock forums suggesting that in 2v2 and 3v3 arena teams that had a score over 2200, druids were overrepresented to the tune of 276% and 184% respectively (100% being what they would expect representation to be given the information they have regarding the class). By comparison, druids were *under*represented in the 5v5 category, coming in at only 80.5% (source). I don't claim to be anything resembling a PvP guru when it comes to druids. In fact, my own arena rating is extremely poor. Which is why I am rather offended when people suggest that it takes no skill to PvP as a resto druid. If it took no skill then those of us who are primarily PvE spec'd and geared, should be relatively successful in arenas, while I know from experience that this is not the case. Having stated my credentials (see last paragraph) I can still make some speculations as to why resto druids are overrepresented in some successful arena brakets and underrepresented in others:

  1. Powerful HoTs like Lifebloom and Rejuvenation can be cast on the run from 40 yards away and continue to tick for 7 to 12 seconds. This is pretty much an eternity in PvP, especially when there is not enough damage being concentrated on a single target to overcome those HoTs, like in smaller arena teams.
  2. Cyclone is a powerful, but short crowd control method that can only be broken by bubbling (paladins only) or trinketing out of it. At 30 yards, it's range is outside rogue's shadowstep or any number of other class abilities so can often be cast with impunity.
  3. Entangling Roots does not share diminishing returns with cyclone and is very effective at removing melee DPS from any given fight unless they can remove it somehow.
  4. Druids can effectively kite melee classes by switching to travel form and casting HoTs on themselves while moving.
  5. Druids are generally unable to stand up to focused fire from several characters at once, since their HoTs are unable to overcome the massive amounts of damage which they are subjected to, hence the underrepresentation in the 5v5 arena category.

Of course these are the speculations of a druid who does not often find himself in PvP situations. If anyone else has any insights, I would be glad to hear them and even include them in this article.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Improved Mark of the Wild vs. Furor

In the last couple of days there has been a discussion on the druid forums about the relative merits of the two top tier restoration talents. Both Furor and Improved Mark of the Wild are 5 point talents so taking points in either one will allow you access to the juicier tier 2 talents: Naturalist, Nature’s Focus and Natural Shapeshifter. Let’s look at the two talents in detail first and then we’ll get to some of the arguments made in the discussion:

Improved Mark of the Wild: increases the effects of your Mark of the Wild and Gift of the Wild by 7/14/21/28/35%. At level 70, an untalented Mark of the Wild provides 340 armor, increases all attributes by 14 and all resistances by 25. When augmented by a full 5-point IMotW this becomes 459 armor, 18 to all attributes and 33 to resistances.

Furor: Gives you a 20/40/60/80/100% chance to gain 10 Rage when you shapeshift into Bear and Dire Bear Form or 40 energy when you shapeshift into Cat Form. Normally, you would have to wait for 4 seconds after shifting into cat form to accrue that much energy and you would have to do white damage or Enrage after shifting to bear form to generate rage. The arguments made to support IMotW in the thread:

  • At least 1 druid in a raid should have it to buff the raid
  • PvE resto does not need Furor, while IMotW has its purpose in raids

The arguments made to support Furor:

  • It is indispensible in PvP for shift to bear --> feral charge combos
  • Resistances from MotW do not stack with buffs from other classes
  • IMotW is a very poor use of 5 talent points
  • Can be used to shift to cat --> cower [I do not agree than any PvE druid should ever have to do this - RE]

There was very little argument in the thread, even between those druids disagreeing about which of the talents to take. The general concensus was that Mark of the Wild is a very weak buff that scales not at all and that IMotW is a marginal talent not worth a single talent point, let alone 5. However, while MotW and IMotW are so weak, Furor provides little to no benefit for a raiding restoration-spec'd druid.

I must say that I have to concur with these assessments. Pre-Burning Crusade, MotW was a relatively strong buff, comparable with Prayer of Fortitude and Arcane Intellect. However with the advent of Burning Crusade, the buff received from the spell has become marginal, at best. In trying to do everything, it ends up contributing almost nothing. If the resistances provided by MotW stacked with those provided by other classes (totem of fire/frost resistance or paladin auras), it would be something at least. As things stand, there is little enough reason to even cast MotW, let alone spend 5 valuable talent points to give it a 35% buff.

Furor, on the other hand, contributes nothing to a raid. If a druid is engaged in endgame content and not interested in PvP, there is no reason to take this talent. So a 35% increase to something very small is preferable to nothing at all. Don't get me wrong, I think Furor is a GREAT talent. But for a druid that spends their time in 10- and 25-man raids, it has very little, if any application at all. A raid leader may ask for IMotW, but, if they are not a druid, they may be ignorant of how little it actually helps: 119 armor and +4 to all attributes is not something to write home about.

In the final analysis, it is up to each individual druid how to use their first five restoration talent points. If one is a feral, Furor is a no-brainer. For balance druids (rare as they are) IMotW is marginally more useful than the nothing they get from Furor (unless they pvp). Restoration druids have to make the choice between a talent that is useful only to them or one that has a marginal usefulness to their raid.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lifebloom nerf reversed

In the last patch notes available for the 2.4 PTR, the druid section read:

Lifebloom: The bonus coefficient on the final bloom effect has been reduced by 20%. This spell will no longer cause error messages when interacting with Spellsteal or while the Druid is under the effects of Mind Control. Regrowth: The mana cost of this spell has been reduced by approximately 20%.

Being primarily a PvE healy druid, I am very happy with this change. The HoT aspect of Lifebloom remains unchanged, while the bloom is nerfed somewhat. As I explained before, the HoT is very important to druid raid healing because we can roll it (meaning, continually refresh a stack with minimal effort) on several tanks, while the final bloom is much less of an issue. This is a much more serious development for druids that are a lot more into PvP. The final bloom is always an issue since players have many different ways of keeping themselves alive and can survive, long enough for that final bloom to be a lifesaver, even though the 200 or so health provided by the HoT every second is not as important. If my reasoning is flawed here, please forgive me; my PvP skills and knowledge is sadly lacking.

The second change is something that I would like to touch on also: the cost of regrowth has been reduced by 20%. Regrowth has long been a bane of the resto druid's mana pool. At a whopping 845 mana, it can chew through a large mana pool in seconds. This change sets the cost at 540 mana if cast while in tree form. This is a HUGE change. The spell suddenly grows a lot more attractive to use in long boss fights when it would normally be overlooked. Phae, over at resto4life (the definitive resto druid blog, check it out if you haven't already) has an interesting analysis of it here:

Phae makes some rather compelling arguments for using regrowth a LOT more than we currently do. I tend to agree, but don't think we will be scrapping rejuvenation or lifebloom any time soon

Friday, March 7, 2008


A couple of nights ago, I dusted off my shaman and started playing him again. I'm not sure I had even logged onto him since before the Burning Crusade was released. I respent his talent points heavily into enhancement and set off to do some quests in Tanaris. I was somewhat surprised to discover (or rediscover) that he was able to cut through mobs at a very rapid pace. His burst dps would have mobs two levels above him dead almost before they landed three blows. My problem was efficiency. I had to stop to drink after every other pull and in three hours of questing, I went through almost five stacks of water. Has anyone else had similar revelations with characters you haven't played in months or even years?

Raiding last night...

On January 27th, our Mythos and Leviathan (commonly called Mythiathan) raid downed Fathom-Lord Karathress for the first time. One of our raiders made this banner to commemorate the event.
Twenty five of us went into Serpentshrine Cavern last night. Just the same as on Tuesday. The results however, were markedly different. We cleared 5 out of 6 bosses in under three hours. Hydross the Unstable, the Lurker Below, Leotheras the Blind, Morogrim Tidewalker and Fathom-Lord Karathress were all the victims of Mythos/Leviathan one-shots. We wiped once, on an ill-fated double bog giant pull. But we had the bosses' numbers. We had a few more of the regular raiders there than we did on Tuesday, but, by and large, the rosters looked very similar. I think it has a lot to do with humility we were taught on Tuesday. Ventrilo was a lot quieter last night, not as many flippant comments, not as many strategy suggestions from the peanut gallery. We listened and we executed. This was SSC as it was meant to be conducted. It was a marvel to behold. My congratulations to our raid leaders Ritavu and Asashin and all involved in the raid. See you on Sunday when we will behold the fall of Lady Vashj.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Say NO to the lifebloom nerf

I am joining this blog to the growing number of druid blogs out there that are opposed to the upcoming nerf to lifebloom that Blizzard is contemplating for deployment in patch 2.4. At first glance, the 8% decrease in the value of the HoT tick is not anything to whine about, but consider this: RunningElk's lifebloom currently ticks for around 224 every second. When three-stacked (as it normally is on tanks) it ticks for 675 or about 750 if the tank is in my group and benefitting from my 600+ spirit (raid-buffed). Fully stacked lifeblooms are the main source of the healing I provide a raid or 5-man group. An 8% decrease in the tick value will result in a 3-stack of lifebloom ticking for 618 (with tree buff) or 690 (without tree buff). Assuming that I am rolling lifeblooms, as I should be, and that I keep full lifeblooms stacks up on two tanks (which is easy) or three tanks (tougher), my healing output will be significantly compromized. In order to get back to where I am now, I would have to upgrade my gear to Black Temple levels, i.e. +healing over 2000 unbuffed. Frankly, I don't think it's reasonable to nerf a core PvE ability in order to fix a perceived PvP imbalance, especially in a way that does nothing to the way that ability is used in PvP.

Hydross pwns Mythos

Last night was brutal. We have been downing Hydross on a weekly basis with minimal trouble for the last couple of months but something was off last night. We wiped on him a total of five times before calling the raid for the night. I know Ritavu (our raid leader) was disgusted with our performance and for good reason. We were uncoordinated, standing all over the place, catching tanks in water tombs and generally being unfocused. Myi (one of our mages) blames it on a sunspot. I think it was a sobering reminder of what being arrogant can result in.

Everything starts small

So here is my first post. I've never tried this blogging thing before, but I am going to try to keep up with it and post a couple times a week. I think I am mostly going to concentrate on, as the blog title suggests, my journeys through Azeroth in World of Warcraft, but I will probably put up some comments about real life issues from time to time that strike me as interesting or important. We'll see how this develops.